This year is shaping up to be Been Stellar’s biggest yet. Over the past few months, they’ve signed to Dirty Hit, played a slew of shows across Europe, performed at NON-COMM, and have now released their debut album, Scream from New York, NY. Although this is their first full album, bandmates Sam Slocum (vocals), Skyler Knapp (guitar), Nando Dale (guitar), Laila Wayans (drums), and Nico Brunstein (bass) have been playing together for seven years. Their past singles have led to much anticipation for the album, and it’s safe to say that expectations were met and surpassed.

It can be hard to shake off the “New York City alt/indie band” label that many people slap on emerging bands from the city, but Been Stellar manage to embrace their locale while simultaneously transcending categorization. Part of what makes the record so exciting is that the band have managed to incorporate their adoptive city in a way that is reminiscent of past NYC bands. But don’t be fooled, their gritty sound makes comparisons to such bands redundant.

“I don’t think we set out to make it inherently about New York,” shared guitarist Skyler Knapp in an interview with Clash, “ But the thing about New York is that it’s a city that always imposes its identity on you, every day. When you’re going to work, and the subway is delayed or whatever, (you think) ‘I’m in this city with a complex eco-system and things that need to work together.’ We’re ‘professional’ musicians but we all work day jobs as well. We’re not just people taking up space in New York, we’re actively part of the mechanism still, to this day.”

Been Stellar - Start Again

The album opens with “Start Again,” one of the darker songs on the album, featuring a pounding beat and vocalist Sam Slocum repeating “New York is wasted, you start again.” It builds into a chaotic crescendo before dying down again to lead into “Passing Judgement.” The first single released from the album, “Passing Judgement” can often be heard live at Been Stellar’s shows. And it’s no surprise why. The writing process for the song was notably finished live, with the band playing slightly different variations during their first UK tour. The energy and fervor from their live shows translates into a loud and urgent track. “Pumpkin” follows, a contrasting, subdued number that reminds listeners that Been Stellar are a versatile band. Knapp describes their sound as just, “I don’t think we like to exist in any middle space. I think that when we make music it always ends up being very intense, one emotion or another.”

While “Pumpkin,” along with “Scream From New York, NY” and “Takedown” are examples of moodier, more pensive songs, tracks such as “Start Again,” “Passing Judgement,” “Sweet,” and “Can’t Look Away,” demonstrate the anger and frustration felt when words fail. The album’s themes revolve around exactly this: what happens when words and language fail – whether between friends, lovers, or even an entire city – when you’re left with nothing but primal screams to communicate?

Been Stellar - I Have The Answer

The closing track “I Have the Answer” fittingly serves as Been Stellar’s answer to this question. Each instrument comes together with Slocum’s yearning vocals in a captivating frenzy to provide screams of their own. As the song and album come to an end, there’s an immediate void left by it. One that can only be filled by restarting the album, immersing yourself into the screams all over again.

Been Stellar will be playing in Philly this Fall, opening for Fontaines D.C. at the Fillmore in October. You can find more information at XPN’s Concert Calendar. Stream and purchase Scream From New York, N.Y. here, via Dirty Hit.