Matt Duncan – “Night Job”

a4271595027_16Midnight Soul Pop

Self-Released – October 7th, 2015

Lexington-native, Matt Duncan, has delivered on the second installment of his ‘first and third Wednesday’ free music release. “Night Job” opens with an arpeggiated chord on piano and some whispered refrains of the song’s title accompanied by strings. When the song kicks into gear, it picks up a bit with some funky bass and drums, but retains the cool, breezy, driving-with-the-windows-down-in-the-dark atmosphere that a song called “Night Job” ought to have. The song is made out to ‘all the strange rock and rollers’ (according to his description on Bandcamp) – the pre-chorus is a comforting “no matter what goes wrong, you always know that you can still belong at your… night job.” What’s more, the production is pretty spotless here (I’m curious where he’s been recording since moving to NYC), and I’m happy to report that he’s found some good horns for a nice bit of texture laid in with the chorus. The track heads to a string-heavy bridge // break, picks up some more texture, and closes with nearly a minute of the chorus repeating “night job” and the very same arpeggiated piano chord that it began with.

It seems like Matt is only further perfecting the art of catchy, smooth, and pleasant three-and-a-half-minute pop songs, and that he’s slowly picking up more and more mature chord progressions and instrumental arranging. The song is free to download on his Bandcamp page, and you can stream it below – look for another song of his on or around October 21st.

Ben Southworth – October 7th, 2015 – Kenwick Place 

ATOMO – The Evaporated Life

a3946006339_10Poppy Instrumental Electronica

October 2nd, 2015 – auralgami SOUNDS

The Evaporated Life is described on the one-sheet as “relentlessly optimistic,” and I doubt there’s much better a way to describe it. ATOMO is the project of a singular Louisvillian (whose name is omitted from all online materials I could find), and a seemingly new project at that. All the tracks on this album are lengthy enough for them to flesh themselves out pretty well – the shortest of them still spills over the 4:30 mark. Throughout these six works, it’s tough to place when the music is originating from, and I think that’s a good thing – there’s a refreshing mix of aged timbres (buzzing saw synths, sampled drums, and electronic organ) placed within more modern-and-constantly-evolving arrangements, none of which take themselves too seriously. This is definitely stuff you could dance to – perhaps not in the sense of Todd Terje’s driving disco displays (although track three gets close) – but it possesses the same lighthearted mood and nearly romantic atmosphere. I’m happy to see a Kentucky label putting out stuff with such diversity in sound – auralgamiSOUNDS has released garage rock, world-influenced jazz-electronica, improvised noise, and now this – all within the last twelve months, and they’ve all been quality. The Evaporated Life is fun, light, and decidedly enjoyable – I can’t imagine anybody finding it anything less than pleasant and refreshing.

Tracks I Liked: Mirrors!, Dr Waycroft’s upsidedown namepiece!!, its 2015 and i drive a computer!, Ice cream truck paranoid!!

Ben Southworth – October 3rd, 2015 – Mount Horeb

Johnny Conqueroo – Johnny Conqueroo EP

a0305538316_10Scuzzy Blues Rock

Self-Released May 27th, 2015

When I first heard Johnny Conqueroo, I was standing in an ice cream truck and enduring the heat of late August at this year’s Crave Food & Music Festival. If I recall correctly, the band was the first to play on the festival’s second day, and I was certain that the sound engineer was just playing some Black Keys or White Stripes soundalike over the loudspeaker to fill time before the first band went on – no specific song that I’d heard before, but something in that general vein, I thought. Nope, it turns out it was a live performance, and one being put on by three young guys (average age… 17, maybe?) who I assume are classmates at some Lexington high school they have in common. If they end up reading this write-up, I’m sure they’ll want to read something about the quality of their music, and one that speaks about it independently of their age.

The EP clocks in at seventeen minutes, is made up of five songs (four originals, plus a much more distorted rendition of Howlin’ Wolf’s “Smokestack Lightning”). The tracks are true to the blues tradition, in the sense that they tell the sorts of stories you’d expect from folks like Muddy Waters or Buddy Guy – nights spent in jail, infidelity, the summer heat, and whatever other trouble the average blues musician finds themselves in. Injections of lyrics are usually spaced out with longer portions of slide guitar, solos, and vamping. For the most part, the vocals take the back seat to the instruments on these five songs – the texture and distortion they’re picking up of their instruments in the recording (and even the warmth of the vocals) is what gives this EP the atmosphere it has, edging right up to the point of psychedelia and sometimes even stepping across the line.

Generally speaking, I don’t listen to a lot of blues music, but this EP is one I certainly enjoyed. I hope that these guys get to stay together for a little while and that they’re able to experiment even more with their sound – in the meantime, this is a really solid place to start.

Tracks I Liked: Night in Jail!, Hearing Voices!, Summer Blues!!

Ben Southworth – October 2nd, 2015 – Mount Horeb

Matt Duncan – “Tell You What I Know”

a4271595027_16Funky Soul Pop

Self-Released – September 16th, 2015

Current New Yorker by way of Lexington, Matt Duncan, announced last Wednesday that he’d be putting out a free track twice per month – each first and third Wednesday at least “until he runs out of ideas or time, or the world ends.” The first of these tracks is the first new music I’ve heard of his since his widely-beloved LP from 2013, Soft Timesand it sounds and feels a lot like the Matt Duncan you may have heard before. It opens boldly with a few fairly bright chords before stepping into the first verse – “if I let it all go, what would there be left for you and me.” If there’s anything that I miss from this track, it might be due to the lack of horns, but it’s made up for with some really nice harmonized vocals that almost imitate horns at different points in the song. The electronic piano sound (maybe it’s an organ of some kind?) adds a nice texture and groove, and sits prominently in the arrangement. The opening chords are reprised in the bridge, allowing for some nice interjection of guitar before spilling back into another chorus – the chorus is simple on this track, but it’s a good one that got stuck in my head. The track as a whole is great, and while it certainly fits the feeling of music that Matt has released before, it seems to be a slight shift into an even more soul-flavored genre.

Best of all? Duncan has the music on his Bandcamp, and it’s free to download (as the single’s art might suggest) – you can stream it from the player below, or download it here. If Matt sticks to this whole ‘first and third Wednesday’ thing, you should be expecting another new track on or around October 7th.

Ben Southworth – September 24th, 2015 – Kenwick Place

J. Marinelli – Stop Paying Attention

a0994735659_10Quick, Fuzzy, Lo-Fi Punk

Twin Cousins Records – May 15th, 2015

Stop Paying Attention goes as quickly as it comes – eleven ‘get-to-the-point’ songs that take up just seventeen minutes. Everything you hear over the course of the album is sung or played by Marinelli – he overdrives and distorts his guitars and vocals up to the point of near-obfuscation, but his messages are still pronounced loud and clear. “Acceptable Faces” reads as a burning criticism of establishment and privilege as he sings “no matter who your father knows, bother what your mother owns, you better pay up for a job well-done.” The title track is saved for last, and launches directly into a denunciation of the toxicity of tabloids and media – it serves well as a summation of the album, calling listeners to be honest with themselves and to be better than the nonsense that surrounds them. Stop Paying Attention is an album trimmed of every ounce of fat, frills, or extra weight that charges straight through with clear, honest intention.

Tracks I Liked: Saturn of Clarksburg, Human Landmine, Acceptable Faces, Stop Paying Attention

Ben Southworth – September 21st, 2015 – Kenwick Place