Today’s Song: NYC’s Been Stellar Are Unleashed on “Passing Judgment,” an Unfiltered & Aching Indie Rock Eruption

Been Stellar © Gabe Long
Been Stellar © Gabe Long
An anthem of tension, urgency, angst, and inner churn, Been Stellar’s new song “Passing Judgment” is white-hot and ferocious – an impassioned, emotionally charged indie rock fever dream that reintroduces the NYC band to the masses and heralds their upcoming debut album, ‘Scream From New York, NY.’
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Stream: “Passing Judgment” – Been Stellar




Once I see how can I hear; once you hear that’s how I know…

The tension’s already at a boiling point. It’s all spilling over in waves; you can either ride the tide, or get swept up by the undertow.

2024 feels anything but calm, and in their first since in two years, New York City’s Been Stellar capture the anxiety, the tension, and the urgency embedded deep in this modern age. An anthem of angst and inner churn, “Passing Judgment” is white-hot and ferocious – an impassioned, emotionally charged indie rock fever dream.

It’s the kind of song that starts at a ten, and maintains that level of tenacity and friction throughout four unapologetically raucous minutes.

Scream From New York, NY - Been Stellar
Scream From New York, NY – Been Stellar
Passing judgment without home
Passing judgment without home
Once I see how can I hear
Once you hear that’s how I know
A cut up, a crack up
A break thru just enough
To let up, to let go, passerby
And I know how to feel
Write it off without feel
And a mind is a steal
In a moment in the back,
Just a moment to reel
I will wait for another today
I will hold you if only you say

Released February 29, “Passing Judgment” is Been Stellar’s first release since signing with revered indie label Dirty Hit Records last year, and the lead single off their forthcoming debut album, Scream From New York, NY (out June 14, 2024). Unrelenting and achingly visceral, the band’s return is described by members of their own team as a “heart-racing post-punk barnstormer,” and for good reason: It’s intense, explosive, and all-consuming, with thunderous drum beats and sweltering overdriven electric guitar licks all roaring furiously alongside frontman Sam Slocum raw, dynamic vocals.

Been Stellar © Naz Kawakami
Been Stellar © Naz Kawakami



A city band through and through, Been Stellar arrived on the indie scene just a few years ago with a great name and a remarkable sound. “They’re callous, yet polished, having found (and honed) the special sauce that gives rock artists control over the chaos they create,” I wrote in December 2022, naming them as my artist discovery of the year. The five-piece of Slocum, guitarist Skyler St. Marx, guitarist Nando Dale, bassist Nico Brunstein, and drummer Laila Wayans delivered a self-titled EP that gave fresh life to a timeless alternative sound, honoring their NYC post-punk revival forebears while simultaneously wrenching the torch from anyone and everyone who came before.

Songs like “Kids 1995” (a captivating carnival of alternative angst), “My Honesty,” and “Manhattan Youth” do well to capture the power and potential of a young, thirsty band. “Passing Judgment,” meanwhile, shows how they’ve already unlocked new levels to their artistry, evolving and expanding their universe with fearless vigor and verve. This becomes especially evident as they erupt in a breathtakingly volatile chorus full of shiver-inducing emotion and energy.

Listen close, let him know let him know
Passing by, for a beat, take it off
Passing by, saw a blur, saw it all
For today, can I go?
Passing judgment without home
Passing judgment without home
Once I see how can I hear?
If you hear, that’s how I know.
Passing judgment without home
Passing judgment without home
Use the head, abuse the heart
If I see that’s how I start
Been Stellar © Gabe Long
Been Stellar © Gabe Long



As vocalist Sam Slocum and guitarist Skyler Knapp explain, “Passing Judgment” went through several iterations before becoming what it is today.

“We were finishing ‘Passing Judgment’ in the midst of our first tour in the UK. Playing through it a bit differently each show, we were learning to look at the song from different angles,” Slocum explains. “The recording feels live because of this process — there’s a chaotic feeling in the drums and bass that wouldn’t be there if we hadn’t finished writing it live. Lyrically I was thinking about why we judge the world around us, and how passing judgment on someone or something is usually rooted in being unsure in oneself.”

“I remember writing this riff right before we started shooting the music video for ‘Kids 1995,'” Knapp adds. “I like how different it sounded than what we had been working on with the EP – it sounded a bit more ferocious. Fast forward a few months and we were playing it live for the first time at the Windmill in London after having rented out a rehearsal space the day before to finish its first iteration. There’s a live performance video of that really early version out there where Sam doesn’t have any lyrics yet.”

“This was also the first song we ever sent to Dan (Carey). We spent a day in Austin with him during SXSW working on it with him. That same day we asked him to produce our record. In a lot of ways this song was a cornerstone for the record, as it is very emotionally over the top and deliberate a concept we wanted to lean into. It opened a lot of doors for us, so we hope people enjoy it as much as we do.”

If you feel it’s a stick
in your side, it’ll stick in your side
Change your mind
Sort of slow
It’s a blur just to hold
But you know how to feel
Write it off without feel
In the moment in the back
Just a moment to reel.
I will wait for another today
I will hold you if only to say
"Passing Judgment" music video still - Been Stellar
“Passing Judgment” music video still – Been Stellar



Listen close, let ‘em know let ‘em know
Passing by, for a beat, take it off
Passing by, saw a blur, saw it all
For today
We’re passing judgment without home
Passing judgment without home
Once you see how can I hear?
If I hear that’s how I know
Passing judgment without home
Passing judgment without home
Use the head, abuse the heart
If I see that’s how I…

The first taste off Scream From New York, NY is a heavy one – and it lingers on the ears long after the music’s over, hanging heavy on the heart.

“Passing Judgment’ is meant to unsettle; it’s meant to provoke. Been Stellar have succeeded in catching out attention, reminding everyone who listens that New York City is still churning out great bands – and great indie rock – while making sure we set our alarms for June 14.

You measure it out, you measure it out
It’s so much closer than you thought.
You figure it out, you figure it out

— —

:: stream/purchase Passing Judgment here ::
:: connect with Been Stellar here ::
Stream: “Passing Judgment” – Been Stellar



— — — —

Scream From New York, NY - Been Stellar

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? © Gabe Long


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