Standout Track: No. 3, “Buzzings,” which connects the dots between psychedelia, dub, and trip-hop. A squall of machine-made noise gives way to off-kilter percussion and metaphor-heavy vocals by bassist Hugh McElroy: “I carry two nations in my womb…/And under my feet rumbling always/A tiny, bloody, broken-off, occupied city.”
Musical Motivation: Those lines, says McElroy, refer to his parents’ Irish and Haitian heritages, as well as to his own lifelong attachment to Washington. In the chorus and final verse, he offers a meditation on how the city can turn such “tiny buzzings” as laughing, lying, and chanting into something larger.
“On the one hand,” the 28-year-old Columbia Heights resident says, “small ideas—artistic or political or what have you—often grow into self-sustaining organizations or communities here, in part because it’s a relatively small city. On the other hand, small-minded people often find themselves in positions of influence here.”
Urban ReVIEwal: McElroy acknowledges that other cities display a similar dynamic. But in D.C., he says, “so much of the city’s character seems to derive from things that can be described…by that idea. Not to be reductive of an entire city or anything.”
The other half of the band, 26-year-old synths-and-samples man Sean Peoples, suggests that “Buzzings” can also apply to the local music scene, which has in the past sometimes taken itself “way too seriously.” Of course, the Babies had toe learn to loosen up, too: “Our early shows used to nearly put people to sleep,” says McElroy. “They’d like the set—or claim to. But we weren’t really high-energy.” —Joe Warminsky