This Bliss has proved it’s pandemic-proof.
While so many artists have been clobbered by the pandemic, the Boston electronic-pop duo of Jess Baggia and Nick Zampiello has released its most delicious, danceable and diverse album in “Retroshade,” out March 5. Turns out it’s hard to crush artists’ output when they live together and have access to a world-class studio.
“Talk about an incredible silver lining,” Baggia said with a laugh.
Baggia and Zampiello live, write and record together. Baggia sings (like a downtempo-disco-indie-pop queen) and plays guitar. Zampiello plays keys and percussion, produces and is the owner of Somerville’s New Alliance East Studio.
“Not everyone can do this because they don’t have their partner built into the band,” Baggia said. “Conversely, my other band, The Shallows, was dismantled for a second as we tried to figure out how to jam (via the internet) or try and figure out how to play together with masks on. I have felt both sides of the coin and seen how hard it is when you don’t have the band built into your family.”
This Bliss has actually shrunk over the past few years. Originally envisioned as a five-piece by Baggia and Zampiello, the group settled into a trio lineup with singer-guitarist Tom Maroon. When Maroon moved away, the two expanded their sounds by cutting down This Bliss’s roster (Maroon plays on two songs on the LP and everyone remains on good terms). “Retroshade” has a few pure pop moments, Top 40-ready tracks. It also shows off the pair’s love for trip-hop, noirish turns and dreamy moods.
“We’re not writing the same song over and over again,” Baggia said. “‘Light Up’ is very Miami. We don’t have another song like that but I do feel like it fits the overall story of the record. ‘Wandering Star’ is a ballad, and a lot of people have ballads, but it is a ‘Twin Peaks’ kind of moment.”
Part of what distinguishes “Retroshade” from her past work (and just about everything else out there), is Baggia’s guitar. Before the pandemic, she got serious about improving her skills.
“It’s a work in progress, but from where I was to where I am now there have been some really big strides,” she said. “They’re not the greatest guitar solos you’ve ever heard, but it’s a big deal for me. I didn’t even know how to solo a year or two ago.”
She has become a player who understands tone, taste and how to match her guitar with a song’s sound. Exhibit A: She adds some James Bondian super spy swagger to “Viral,” a little bit jazz, a little bit ’60s surf, a little bit indie rock.
The pandemic needs to end. Health, life and art need to return. But it’s reassuring to know This Bliss could make an album a year during lockdown if the duo had to. Next up, hopefully, shows where This Bliss figures out how to pull these songs off live.
Find more on This Bliss at thisbliss.net.