The Wrists – The Wrists

a3578620648_10Psychedelic Garage Rock

auralgamiSOUNDS – January 16th, 2015

The Wrists are a band from Louisville, Kentucky who excel at coming up with catchy, lo-fi tunes. It’s not quite like Pavement, not quite like Wax Fang, and not quite like Jovontaes – the band comes in somewhere between all three, adds its own touch, and they end up being really great to listen to.

They’re able to incorporate nice grooves into the first track, “Untitled,” which then flows straight into the second track. “Tombs” is a little less groove oriented, a little more somber, a few more parts mellow, and totally one of the stronger tracks on the album – the chord progressions and lead guitar playing add some nice emotion to the song. “Went West” has the pop sensibility of a Stephen Malkmus song plus a ton of fuzz, and “The Drip” is appropriately titled for a quick-driving, slimy track such as itself. “Meteor” is my favorite song here – it plays duets between the vocals and lead guitar while the rest of the texture is filled out with all sorts of noise, and remains an extremely catchy track. The album ends with a pair of tracks that fit together, “Into” and “The Cloud” – the former sets them up with harmonious arpeggiation and spacey moans on a reverby guitar before the latter comes in with sounds that approach post-rock grandiosity.

The album is one of my favorites that I’ve gotten to hear in a while. It walks the line between fuzzy garage rock and indie pop, and comes through as a really satisfying listen.

Tracks I Liked: Tombs, Went West, Meteor, The Cloud

Ben Southworth – March 31st, 2015 – Maxwell and Hagerman

Blind Tigers – Mosquito EP

10645248_796204510436254_8317172714382976954_nSludgy Pop Punk

Gubbey Records – Released April 11th, 2015

Mosquito is the soon-to-come release from Louisville’s Blind Tigers, and its a very strong one at that. The six songs that make up the EP are quick and to the point – putting this out as a cassette only adds to the general punk aesthetic they’ve got going on (I love the art work, by the way).

“Do or Die” starts with a sustained strum on an overdriven electric guitar before picking up with the constantly descending progression – the chorus has a nice, dissonant crunch to it, and pairs well with the vocal harmonies that were added. “Night of 1000 Eyes” is even sludgier than the first track, and is my favorite track of the EP. Everything except the drums has a bit of distortion on it, and the guitar solo at the end is pretty great, too. As the EP progresses, it introduces more instruments, straying away from just guitar, bass, and drums. “Smooth Talker” layers in some handclaps, “Talk Demon to Me” adds some synth (or maybe theremin?), and “Turn Up My Radio” even imitates the sound of radio dials being tuned in. “Violent Pop” was the track that caught my ear on the first listen – the background vocals, super-catchy chorus, and guitar solo are all really great.

Blind Tigers releases the cassette with a show on April 11th at Modern Cult Records with Opposable Thumbs and Satellite Twin. If you like rock and roll, this is a good one to check out – it sounds great on cassette and headphones, alike.

Tracks I Liked: Do or Die, Night of 1000 Eyes, Violent Pop

Ben Southworth – March 29th, 2015 – Park Avenue

Dominic Republic – Black Blizzard

a2031761572_10Electronic / Psych / World

AuralgamiSOUNDS – October 20th, 2014

This EP shouldn’t be so relaxing to listen to as it is. It’s a fairly quick set of eight songs that are super sonically-busy – loops of odd rhythms, muddy time signatures, and strange timbres abound – but Black Blizzard is the kind of album that makes you want to shut your eyes while you listen to it. Even as vocal samples on the first track, “Solar, So Low,” tell you “you don’t have to listen to this, listen to something else,” it’s hard not to get sucked in.

Other songs are tricky in different ways. Upon my first listen to “Solar Flares,” I thought my tape player was cutting out on me, as the first layer kept dropping in and out (turns out it’s just being used to set a sort of tempo for the rest of the track). “Palm Freaks” pairs a really nice groove with some spooky sax lines before it brings in a noisy drum and synth duet – this sudden shift in texture is perhaps my favorite moment of the whole album.

When listening to this, it was difficult not to make some comparisons to Oneohtrix Point Never, but Dominic Republic is definitely its own sound with a different mood – even still, I’d be surprised if there weren’t some influence. I didn’t really know what I was getting myself into when I first got this album, but Black Blizzard was definitely one of the fresher and more unique albums I’ve heard in quite some time.

Tracks I Liked: Solar, So Low, Solar Flares, Palm Freaks

Ben Southworth – March 23rd, 2015 – Maxwell and Hagerman

Cherry Crush – DEMOS EP

Scuzzy Shoe-Gazea3748465189_10

Pacific Trash – February 25th, 2015

The debut release from Lexington’s Cherry Crush is a reverb-drenched set of five songs that sounds like its from a different decade than ours. The first track is “Ludlow,” a grungy instrumental with a mid-tempo drive of rich guitar sounds, that fades out, leaving only the echoey feedback of the lead guitar. “Okay” is a bit more up-tempo from the previous track, and introduces some vocals – they’re placed well in the mix, and give the song a nineties-esque feel. My favorite song here is the third track, “Nothing Left,” which bursts into things from the very beginning – it’s written a little like a punk song, and if it were without all the reverb, it would probably pass pretty well for one. “Freeze” is a super-spacey track, and has nearly all the front cut off of the guitar sounds, making for an awesome shimmery mess of a song (the bridge has a nice ear-bending feel to it, too). The EP ends with “Ride,” which instantly sounds like the sonic love-child of an old 45 and a warbly cassette tape – it’s a cloudy, slow-burning, lo-fi track that ends with an almost total wash of noise. This song, and the rest of the album, sounds a little like listening to a band playing in a cave, except that you’re standing outside the cave, while the band plays somewhere further down in it. If you’re into shoe-gaze and reverby guitars, this would definitely be something to pick up – I’m especially excited to hear how it sounds on tape.

Tracks I Liked: Ludlow, Nothing Left, Freeze, Ride

Ben Southworth – March 21st, 2015 – Maxwell and Hagerman

Plastic Bubble – Big Day Parade

a3598809329_10Garage Twee-Pop

Jigsaw Records / Hope for the Tape Deck – February 17th, 2015

Plastic Bubble is a Louisville, Kentucky band, making some of the catchiest indie-pop music in the state, and their recent release, Big Day Parade, is a great representation of just that. The album is made up of twenty songs, however it comes in at just over 39 minutes long – thanks to the fact that none of the songs eclipse three minutes. That said, the album listens well as a whole, and the brevity of the songs only adds to twee that makes them so fun and easily digested. What’s more, there were so many people involved with recording the record, I’m not sure I could honestly tell give you an accurate count (although, I’d guess it’s somewhere between 25-30).

The songs range everywhere from the super-sugary sounds found on “Sol Invictus,” to the alternating jazz/pop-punk feels of “Neanderthal Song” (which has an awesome video, featuring Louisville legend, Will Oldham). Some of the songs delve well into the realm of psychedelia, like “Caves,” “Changeling,” and “What We’re Made Of,” and the band channels this sound very well. The final track, “Moving Away,” is almost comically juxtaposed to the rest of the album, with its steel guitars and an Americana feel, but the sound is not just a gimmick – the band pulls off this song as well as any others on the record, and somehow wrote a really solid country song.

The fingerprints of many musicians are all over this album, perhaps the members of Big Fresh, as much as anyone’s – their frontman, John Ferguson, helped record pieces of the album (as did other members of the group), and it would be a treat to see a bill featuring both bands. The extensive album credits make me think that these guys must be pretty fun to make music with, and the record certainly makes it sound like that’s true. If you’re a fan of weird, silly, sugar-coated pop, this one is a must listen – the songs are fun, sound great, and the album is one I’m looking forward to listening to again and again.

Songs I Liked Most: Sol Invictus, Neanderthal Song, Traveling Song, Caves, In Kaleidoscopic View, Respectable Establishment, Changeling, What We’re Made Of, Moving Away

Ben Southworth – March 15th, 2015 – Mt. Horeb Pike

Ben Sollee – Steeples Part One

artworks-000109809331-13ox01-t500x500Singer-Songwriter

Released March 13th, 2015

Perhaps I just haven’t been paying much attention lately, but when Ben Sollee posted a link to a three-song EP on his Facebook today, I was quite surprised. Though I don’t know too much about the context of this EP, Steeples Part One, is presumably the first of some series of releases coming from Ben. It starts with a short tune, “Forgotten,” which pairs cello and vocals for an intro before slowly adding layers of drums, electric guitars, strings, and additional vocals. Short interludes between verses become increasingly rich, and the sound he arrives at for the coda just feels really good. “Pretend” is my favorite track of the EP – it’s a soul-pop tune that discusses notions of simplicity and love, and the repeated lines, “I’ll be there when things get tough, and I’ll hold your hand,” ought to resonate with people who grapple with the expectations of love. The final track, “Loving Memory,” is quiet, somber, and the most intimate of the bunch, featuring mostly cello, voice, and bass. All in all, the EP is pretty stripped-down from the sounds found on 2012’s Half Made Man – he’s moved a little bit back towards the sound found on his Learning to Bend and Dear CompanionBut this simpler sound lends itself well to his music – it feels more natural, and definitely a step back in the right direction. Hopefully we’ll know soon whether there’s more stuff like this on the way.

Tracks I Liked: Forgotten!!, Pretend!!!, Loving Memory!

 

Ben Southworth – March 13th, 2015 – Mt. Horeb Pike

My Morning Jacket – “Big Decisions”

9122e338Quasi-Psychedelic Rock and Roll

From their forthcoming album, The Waterfall (May 5th, 2015)

Kentucky favorites, My Morning Jacket, are planning to release two new albums in the next two years, the first of which is coming out in early May of this year. The first single from The Waterfall is a totally radio-ready track, which showcases the band and some of the things they do best. The track starts off with some detuned synth waves, before jumping right into things with the vocals of Jim James right out front – accompanied by the full force of his band. After a short first verse, they’re straight into a catchy chorus – one adorned with piano, steel guitars, and saxophones, which add some nice thickness to the sound. All in all, this song definitely sounds like a My Morning Jacket track, but you might be a little dissatisfied by the length. My favorite MMJ songs are the ones where they pull out all the stops for a guitar solo with some room to breathe, but this track just rolls straight from start to finish without too many stops along the way. All said, it’s a great song, and is absolutely everything that a lead single should sound like – better yet, if they stick with this sound, I’m sure they’ll have some good stuff in store for listeners on the remainder of the album.

Give “Big Decisions” a listen:

Ben Southworth – March 12th, 2015 – WRFL Lexington

 

Palisades – Handshake Codes EP

a2285649375_10Post-Punk Power Pop

Self-Released – September 27th, 2014

Yeah, this review is way late, (I know, I’ve got a lot of catching up to do). Palisades are a band who have effectively stitched themselves into the fabric of Lexington music as one of those bands that most everyone knows about to some degree. They’re made up of three guys who play really well and – perhaps more importantly – know how to work within a music scene like the one in this city. The members of the band are constantly finding ways to collaborate with other musicians in town, and they make posts on social media about other band’s concerts as often than they do for their own shows. In a musical and cultural landscape like the one found in Lexington, this is an extremely healthy thing, and goes a long way in helping everyone.

So the music? The EP is the first of three planned releases for 2014/15 from the band, and features four snappy, catchy rock songs that come in at just about twelve minutes total. “Anecdotes” starts off with a driving guitar riff, and wastes no time getting to the lyrics, before reaching a pulsing chorus and a great guitar solo. The second track, “All Hands on the Take,” is stocked with another catchy solo, guitar embellishments and great breakdowns between sections of the song. Flipping the record, you start out with my favorite track of the EP, “Parlor Games/Party Tricks.” The song starts off with a lone strum of a chord, the first couple lyrics, and then straight into the track – this song has a really nice bridge, and an awesome coda (not to mention my favorite guitar tones of the entire release.) The final track, “Pedal Sassy,” is an instrumental track, but is every bit as catchy as the songs that preceded it – as a final track, it pulls things together very nicely.

The audio production on Handshake Codes is great, which is no surprise, when you know that J Tom Hnatow and Duane Lundy of Shangri-La produced and mixed it, respectively. The songs are tight, well-rehearsed, and have a great polish to them that shows off the drum and guitar work of Neil Bell and Mark Richardson put into it. Scott Whiddon’s experience in Transylvania University’s Writing Center shows here – his lyrics are clever, calculated and delivered with confidence and nuance. If you’re a fan of poppy rock songs that get right to the point, this record is a must get – you should be on the lookout for the two follow-ups that these guys have planned for later this year, too.

Tracks I Liked: Anecdotes!, All Hands on the Take!!, Parlor Games/Parlor Tricks!!!, Pedal Sassy!

Ben Southworth – March 10th, 2015 – Maxwell and Hagerman

Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy – Mindlessness 7″

R-6567104-1422379897-3606.jpegAlt-Country b/w Stripped Down Folk

Drag City Records – January 27th, 2015

My introduction to Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy was more or less recent, at least in the context of Will Oldham’s twenty-two year career. I was moved by the simplicity and honesty found on his self-titled album, released in mid-2013, which caused me to do a lot of catching up with his music which preceded it. His most recent issue, “Mindlessness,” was issued in late-January this year, and features a cut from his 2014 album Singers Grave – A Sea of Tongues, as well as a new song, “Blindlessness,” for its B-side.

The single, “Mindlessness,” is a poppy alt-country track, adorned with banjo, mandolin, and gospel choir – it has a similar sound to many of the tracks found on his 2009 release, Beware. Throughout the song, Oldham fills his verses with an array of existential questions – “What was I saying / where do I stand?” and “If I pretend to be sane, will I become so?” – his chorus responds, “Nobody answers or will look me in my eye / you are out my mind, and now so am I.” Left without the answers he was looking for, the chorus is repeated, still, and more cheerfully with each succession – if Oldham can live without these answers, surely the listener can, too.

Having first been exposed to Bonnie “Prince” Billy as a stripped-down, guitar and voice musician, “Blindlessness” was more familiar sounding to me. Here, Oldham is accompanied by his acoustic guitar, electric bass, layers of his own voice, and the sporadic barking of a small dog. This song is sparsely textured, especially in juxtaposition to the music found on the other side of the single – much like in his self-titled record, rather than strumming, he simply imitates his vocal melodies with notes on his guitar. For all the joyfulness of “Mindlessness,” this track is quite a bit more somber, and thoroughly more personal and intimate. You can hear the song for yourself, and watch the official video from Drag City below:

Both songs here are really beautiful tracks, and are certainly worth a listen – you can find the 7″, as well as digital downloads of the release on Drag City’s website.

Ben Southworth – March 8th, 2015 – Maxwell and Hagerman

Buffalo Rodeo – 123 Water

Psychedelic Popa0922585891_2

Jeffery Drag Records / Self-Released – March 6th, 2015

Having really enjoyed Buffalo Rodeo’s last release, Home Videos, it was exciting to see that they were planning to release a new EP this week. Where the strength of their last album resided in their hard-driving tempos and hefty choruses, 123 Water finds its success in breezy psych-pop melodies and harmonies. The album starts off with whispers and falsetto vocals, and wastes no time getting into the catchy chorus – “Lana (Del Rey)” is a totally appropriate way of starting off the album and setting the tone of the spacey EP. “Butterfly Knife” is a small bit more like their previous material, in the way the chorus is propelled, but then opens up to a dreamier, laid-back feel. “Blue Sky” is everything that a single should be for a release like this – the verse rolls effortlessly into the refrain, which is then carried out with some really smart harmonies and progressions. The fourth track, “Always Want it Back,” is perhaps the most spacey track on the album, and does a nice job setting up the track that follows it. “All Ears” calls back to Home Videos, splitting male and female vocals, lilting and rolling before an extended chromatic descent carries the song to its end. “Love in a Garden” carries over a little of this chromaticism for its bridge, and ties everything together nicely with one of the catchier choruses of the album. Though they’ve made a departure from the sound of their last EP, they have certainly maintained their knack for good hooks and catchy melodies. And while the psych-pop of 123 Water might be a new sound to my ears, Buffalo Rodeo sounds entirely comfortable here – they navigate these songs craftily and with ease.

Tracks I Liked? Lana (Del Rey)!, Butterfly Knife!!, Blue Sky!!!All Ears!, Love in a Garden!!

Ben Southworth – March 6th, 2015 – Park Avenue