In a relatively short time span, dynamic Cincinnati quintet Sylmar (which formed in 2016) grew into one of the more promising and, increasingly, popular original Indie Rock bands in the city. After a steady diet of regional touring and regular local shows, Sylmar’s ever-growing following helped the group nearly sell out the 600-capacity Woodward Theater a few months back.
The band returns to test local venue capacities Saturday, Nov. 10, as Sylmar plays the recently revived Top Cats (2820 Vine St., Corryville, topcatscincy.com). This time, the five-piece is celebrating the release of a “double single,” featuring two brand new tracks — “Bipolar Ball” and “College Try.” It’s the first new music from the band since last year’s self-titled debut album, and it marks the beginning of a slate of forthcoming recording projects, including a vinyl EP next year and a sophomore full-length that isn’t due until 2020.
On the new track “Bipolar Ball,” Sylmar perfectly showcases the supple charm of their music, which is artfully composed and arranged, rising and falling with a low-key but effectively emotive sense of drama and soulfulness that is often mesmerizing. Beginning with a sparse, rhythmic guitar riff and the alluring vocals of Brian McCullough (whose versatile voice is wonderfully reflective of Sylmar’s musical elasticity), the song layers guitars and keys over a pulsating groove as the tones and hues shift with both a spellbinding fluidity and a creative fluctuation that makes Sylmar so distinct.
The structuring makes Sylmar’s sound a kind of anti-Pop, as they reinterpret the standard, go-to “verse, chorus, verse” songwriting concept. But that doesn’t mean it’s “anti-catchy.” The more impulsive, non-cookie-cutter approach makes Sylmar’s music a more cerebral experience than a lot of Modern Rock. As shown on the narcotic, dreamlike “College Try,” the musicians (and guest vocalist Michaela Miller) collectively paint the canvas in pursuit of eliciting an emotional response from the listener, rather than simply pushing baseline mental buttons via the repetition of hooks. The way it builds and resolves is a great example of the group’s unique grasp of how to use textures and, perhaps most importantly, space to reach deeper into the listener’s head. When you listen to Sylmar songs, you feel them breathing, twitching, living.
Doors for Saturday’s Top Cats show open at 8 p.m. and admission is $10. Local groups Spooky Dreamland and In the Pines open the show.
Sylmar’s new single will be available digitally beginning Nov. 10. Visit thesylmarband.com for more info.