Hartford band Sunspots describes its sound as an amalgam of “the rusting factories, odd urban centers and dairy farms of Connecticut.” We also would have accepted “catchy pop-rock with a touch of soul.”
The band formed in 2009 when singer Kevin Scott recruited musicians (by knocking on lesson-room doors in the local music store where he worked) to play in what started as a country-folk act in the style of M. Ward or Dr. Dog. Sunspots has since veered in a poppier direction undercut with subtle experimentation, as documented on the band’s new self-titled debut.
Recorded by guitarist Matt Sargent over seven months in sometimes unusual locations — the band touts a reverb effect captured “in the hallways and stairwells of a borrowedSamuel Clemens-era Hartford mansion” — the album collects seven songs ranging in length from 2 minutes to more than 7 minutes.
“Rainy Days” pairs chiming guitars with understated keyboards, and adds what sounds like a little horn riff before Sargent’s guitar solo brings the song home. Scott sings through an echo effect surrounded by layers of bold guitar on “Wrong This Time,” while melancholy electric piano and somber bass drive closer “Fade You Out” into an epic guitar-soaked outro that builds for close to three minutes.
Scott sings in a smooth, polished voice that’s occasionally too refined for rock ’n’ roll (opener “New Century” would benefit from a touch of vocal grit), but he never lacks for expressive tone and he’s a natural at locking into close harmonies with Sargent and bassist Alfredo Grado. Charlie Dye rounds out the lineup with low-key versatility on the drums.
Together, they’re off to a promising start on “Sunspots,” a welcome addition to what’s beginning to look like a long-overdue rock resurgence in Hartford.
Sunspots plays a CD-release show with Little Ugly Saturday at Sully’s Pub, 2071 Park St., Hartford. Doors open at 8 p.m.; there’s a $5 cover.