The Thumps – A Grizzly Scene

offical-coverDark Piano // Accordion Rock

Self-Released December 3, 2016

The Thumps (a great name for a band) are a part of the Louisville music scene, now releasing their first full length album, A Grizzly Scene. The band – made up of piano, accordion, bass, and drums – is orchestrated uniquely for one playing rock music. The omission of guitar here allows the independent parts and vocals to be heard more easily, casting a dark light on timbre and subject matter of many of the songs. From the beginning of the first track, “Doktor,” this mood is present – a certain sinister feel is tangible in the lyrics and minor tonality. “Back to the Future” is a two-part ballad that tells (pretty literally) the story of Marty and Doc. This pair of tracks is perhaps the best indication of how the band’s instrumentation can work well – some tasteful intros and instrumental sections in both parts really work well at pacing and setting this apart. “terrible, terrible” is another ballad and favorite of mine, this time telling a ‘whodunit’ story of a murder investigation, and serves as inspiration for the album’s title. Over the course of the albumthe band tells some good stories in their songs, matching them with nice, unique instrumental atmospheres. The Thumps have an interesting sound, and have put together a fun album in A Grizzly Scene – if you’re looking for something that sounds a little different, this is well worth a listen.

Tracks I Liked: Doktor, Back to the Future!!!, Back to the Future Pt. 2! , terrible, terrible!!, Toomai (of the Elephants)

Ben Southworth – December 4, 2016 – Kenwick Place


Johnny Conqueroo – Washed Up

washedupcover-01Experimental Blues Rock

Fantastico Records – December 2, 2016

Johnny Conqueroo has enjoyed some fantastic (and well-deserved) success over the last two years or so. They released their self-titled EP last summer and have played a bunch of shows and local festivals, gaining a large following in a relatively short time. This Friday, they follow all that up with the release of their first full-length, Washed Up. 

The forty-four minute album is ten songs long (eight and a half are originals), and though it explores a wide range of sounds over its course, it remains cohesive and engaging throughout. The lead-off // title-track is fun, catchy, and youthful – “Washed Up” expands the sound from the three-piece’s last release with bells, handclaps, and background vocals. “High Tiding” is a great take on fellow neo-blues musician, Nick Waterhouse, sped up and with busier instrumentation. My favorite of the album may be “Dancin With You,” a song whose unique texture catches your ear the very moment it starts, doubling the lead guitar on synthesizer during the intro and the bits between verses. The track is punctuated with spoken backgrounds of ‘dancin’ and ‘groovin,’ and  fleshed out the rest of the way with shakers, shuffling drums, and a grooving bassline. “The Key” could nearly pass for The Doors, complete with ‘oompah’ organ and a vocal melody placed right in the harmony the way Jim Morrison might’ve done.

The latter half of the record is impressively strong and perhaps more experimental than the first half. “Who Do You Trust” is quick with barked vocals and warped guitars that remind me just a little of fellow Kentuckians, Teal Grapefruit. The slow, weighty drone of “Palindrone” goes along for nearly seven minutes with sparse vocals, but the instrumentation and intensity swells and recedes well, keeping the track interesting throughout. “Grinding on Sand” is lo-fi and crunchy with a totally bizarre texture of lap steel (and something, maybe whistling?) – it’s really far-out. The final track, “Take 5,” is sort of a cover on the jazz piece made famous by Dave Brubeck – a brief, and fairly faithful rendition of the tune starts around the three-minute mark, sandwiched between two mirroring sections of high-energy rock.

Washed Up comes out this Friday at the band’s release show at The Burl, where I assume you’ll be able to get the album in physical form – the photography and layout of the whole package wraps the whole thing well, perfectly matching the vibe of the album. It’s exciting to see such a high-quality release from Johnny Conqueroo, and to hear them continue to grow and establish their sound. Grab yourself a copy and give it a listen when it comes out – it’s great, fun stuff.

Tracks I Liked: Washed Up!, Dancin With You!!!, Who Do You Trust?!!, Palindrone!, Grinding on Sand!, Take 5!!

Ben Southworth – November 27, 2016 – Kenwick Place


Ellie Herring – What a Joy

what-a-joyTranquil Electonic Dance

Driftless Recordings – November 17, 2016

Lexington’s Ellie Herring has become an increasingly popular part of the electronic music community over the course of the last few years. Her sounds have evolved over that time, leaving us here with What a Joy, an entrancing collection of five songs. The tracks here inhabit a space somehow shared by thudding kick drums and bass lines, while remaining relaxing and tranquil. “Wheels On” – the first track released as a single – is a mid-tempo track that slowly builds from heavy drums and syncopated bass, adding sparse, echoey notes in the upper octaves. My favorite on the EP is “Penelope,” a track that is fun in the same way Todd Terje is fun (though, without sounding quite like his music). It’s outfitted with sampled hand drums, warped lush synth chords, and a heavy groove – it’s just a really fun track. “Forgot Right” turns the beat around onto the latter half of each bar, samples some distorted male vocals, and pulses with buzzing synthesizer chords. The intro to “Swim Me” is very spacey and calm, allowing you to hear the bass line slowly sneak up into the mix until it stands out as the skeleton of the song – Yaeji’s vocals on the track almost feel like an instrument, timed metronomically with the drums and bass to add to the trance. “Seaport at Night” is a palette-cleansingly atmospheric track, and a great way to close out the EP, waiting patiently to add the drums and a soft harmonic progression. What a Joy is a great, atmospheric, feel-good experience – take a good listen, and enjoy.

Tracks I Liked: Penelope!!!, Forgot Right!, Swim Me!!, Seaport at Night

Ben Southworth – November 20, 2016 – Kenwick Place

Twin Limb – Haplo

haplo-cover-900-1474493017Colossal Dream Pop

Suretone Records – October 28, 2016

Just about a year ago, Twin Limb gave people a taste of their sound with the release of the EP, Anything is Possible and Nothing Makes Sense. A lot of dream pop might get written off for being too delicate, but that’s hardly the case on Haplo. The songs here sound massive and are beautifully orchestrated, defying the idea that they’re being created by just three individuals – let alone that one of the main textures you’re hearing is the accordion. For the most part, these tracks play in three minutes or less, packing in a great deal in a short time. “Long Shadow” is set at a medium pace, showing off Guthrie’s powerful voice and the textural finesse of Bender and Ratterman. More uptempo is “Gold from Teeth,” which explodes with noisy, crashing guitars upon reaching the second chorus, showing off the darker side of the band’s sound. The album’s longest song (and my favorite) is “Sutro Baths,” a patient six-minute crescendo that layers on more instruments and intensity as it plays out – the track reaches a gorgeous climax right before it hits five minutes. Haplo is well worth the listen, and Twin Limb seems like a band to keep your eye on over the next couple years – given the sounds on this record and their upcoming tour with fellow Louisvillian, Jim James, it’s hard to imagine people wont notice them.

Tracks I Liked: Long Shadow!, Red Sun, Sutro Baths!!, Gold from Teeth!, Aine, Monolith

Ben Southworth – November 13, 2016 – Kenwick Place

Shannon Vetter – Rapid Cycle

rapid_cycle_front_graphicAutobiographical Millennial Blues

Self-Released November 11, 2016

I’m not totally in tune with music being made in Western Kentucky, especially as far west as Paducah. That said, Shannon Vetter has played in bands you may have heard of – Gideon’s Rifle and Big Atomic, to name a couple – and the eighteen contributing musicians on the album make up several more. Rapid Cycle tells some great, relatable stories and explores a wide swath of sound, too. “Temptation,” the lead single, is a swampy blues track complete with crooning electric guitar, a sax solo, and some awesome back-up vocals that really set the mood. Back to back, at the center of the album are a pair of great, quieter songs. “Seasonal Affective Disorder” explores the frustration of living in a small town, orchestrated beautifully with strings and pedal steel. The track nearly fades into “Waiter’s Lament,” which headlines each verse with “I don’t want to wait tables for the rest of my life … I can’t go back to school and end up with more debt” – it’s a worrying situation that too many young people can relate to. Towards the back of the album is “Don’t Know How To Be Alone,” a short, patiently arranged song and fresh take on loneliness. Rapid Cycle is a solid album that explores a variety of sounds, shows off Vetter’s creative songwriting, and features some very tasteful and talented supporting musicians.

He’ll be backed by the Sleepless Pilgrims in Lexington on Saturday at Best Friend Bar to show off the new album.

Tracks I Liked: Existential Blues!, Temptation!!, Seasonal Affective Disorder!!, Waiter’s Lament!, Oh Me, Oh My!!Don’t Know How to Be Alone!!!

Ben Southworth – November 6, 2016 – Kenwick Place