Most people in the Electric City know Shane Bargy as a community builder and executive director of the Boys & Girls Clubs of Schenectady.
Not as many are familiar with Bargy’s work as a musician. That’s changed with the November release of his first album “Turn on the Light.”
It starts with a bright acoustic melody that acts as an ode to an epiphany and ends with a moving tribute to hope, written by Bargy’s daughter.
Alternating between acoustic and electric, the songs go to some dark places — one reflects on domestic violence, another on suicide — yet there are also moments of levity and songs that delve into everyday experiences.
For Bargy, each comes with a story.
The Schenectady native started playing guitar during college at the age of 21, after seeing the local band Strange Arrangement perform. He taught himself some basic skills and opted to take lessons to build on them. Over the years, it’s remained a passion for Bargy and he’s continued to play guitar and write songs here and there while working in youth development and raising a family.
In 2019, something changed.
“It was very strange. I went through . . . a two-month period where for some reason, there were songs that felt like they were coming through me. I think I just got out of my own way honestly. I just stopped overthinking,” Bargy said.
He wrote six of the 11 songs on the record during that period. The others were tunes he’d been working on for more than a decade.
“Every song that I wrote, they were all based on three things: family, tragedy or the human condition,” Bargy said. “That’s the whole record. [There’s] lots of darkness in there coming from some personal life experience but also from what I do in my day job.”
That includes songs like “Where The Wild Things Are,” which was inspired both by his childhood and by the experiences of a member of the Boys & Girls Clubs.
“That song is entirely the child’s perspective of domestic violence in the house and what I did to cope as a kid was I would hear, I would see, but I would block it out and I would blame my toys in my room for what I was hearing,” Bargy said.
Through a lullaby-like melody, Bargy sings, “Mom, what’s that noise? I need you to please come in. G.I. Joe’s screaming at his men. Dad, where are you? I need you again. Barbie’s now fighting it out with Ken.”
Then in the chorus “It seems so real you can hear glass break, lying down still wide awake you can feel the house shake where the wild things are.”
Musically it’s soothing, lyrically it’s anything but, making for a strange yet fitting juxtaposition.
“Self Destruct” is up next, bringing with it a grittier sound, through electric guitar and drums.
Inspired by an interview with John Mellencamp, it reflects on how we all tend to blow up when things don’t work out, or when things are going right and we’re not sure how to handle success.
One of the last songs, called “Goodbye to You” is perhaps the heaviest on the record. The lyrics are an imagined suicide letter, inspired by the contagion of teen suicides in Schenectady a dozen years ago. The ballad features mournful electric guitar and captures a sense of desperation and hope, with lines like “Goodbye, not forever. I’ll wait for you wherever.”
What follows is “Just Hope,” the last track on the album and one that Bargy didn’t initially have on the docket when he started recording the album with Alec Lewis of Honey Home Studios in Albany in early 2020. Not too long after they’d started recording, the pandemic broke out, bringing things to a halt.
It was during those early months when information about the virus was scarce and the future looked fairly bleak, that Bargy’s 8-year-old daughter Madeline wrote “Just Hope.” Like many kids, she was remotely going to school and trying to adjust to the strangeness of the situation.
The main refrain urges listeners to be patient and look toward a better future: “Just hope. Just hope. I’ll be with you soon.”
“It brought tears to my eyes because at that moment I realized how this thing was impacting the kids. We thought they were just happy. They were home from school with their mother or with their father doing school work,” Bargy said. “I don’t know one adult at that time who had a rosy outlook of life at that moment, of what was going on in that moment and this kid writes a song called ‘Just Hope.’ ”
He knew he wanted to include it on the album and wrote an arrangement for it. Madeline sings the majority of the vocals and her sisters Morgann and Kaitlyn are featured in the choir that concludes the song.
It’s a bittersweet but ideal end to an album that doesn’t shy away from the darkness of life but reminds listeners to, as the title suggests, “turn on the light.”
“My goal was to put a group of songs that worked together sonically, had relatable subject matter, to some extent, and to create a real continuity and cohesion,” Bargy said. “Listening to an entire vision of a band or an artist, in order . . . from song to song is how I prefer to experience music. So I tried to create something worthy of that full listen.”
“Turn on the Light” is certainly worthy of a repeated full listen.
It’s available on Bandcamp and will be on other platforms soon. Bargy is also working with Schenectady filmmaker Prince Sprauve to produce a music video for “Where The Wild Things Are.” For updates and more information about the album visit shanebargymusic.com.