Brother Bee – “Rely”

brother-bee-rely-cover-8Serene Electro Pop

Self-Released February 14, 2017

Brother Bee is a fairly recent project of Somerset’s Boone Williams, who you may know better from his work in electronic duo, Tiny Tiny. “Rely” is a step in a slightly different direction than the tracks on Tiny Tiny – there’s a familiar calmness in the air on this track, even more so than on other releases from Williams. The drum machines are dialed way back, making room for a pulsing synth bass, guitar, and vocal samples to make up the arrangement. Boone’s opening lyrics, “all the lines I never said, I saved them up to give to you,” express the feeling of finally finding the right one; at the midpoint of the song, “it’s my heart that you hold whenever I’m in your arms,” he reveals the vulnerability of being with someone else. All this leads to the simple, repeatable chorus, “so please rely on me,” where the song reaches its densest point of arrangement – layered vocals, echoing synthesizers, circular guitar patterns, all set upon a simple drumbeat. Much like other recent releases from Boone Williams, this track is clear, thick, and well-produced – those who have heard and enjoyed Tiny Tiny should like these sounds.

Ben Southworth – February 12, 2017 – Kenwick Place

 

ATTEMPT – Personal Fables

attempt-album-cover-for-personal-fables-600x600Soul Pop Fusion

Desperate Spirits // Hop Hop Records – February 14, 2017

As an album, Personal Fables is one of the richest collection of eight songs to come out of Lexington in several years. This meticulous orchestration and arranging is made that much more impressive after realizing it was written and performed almost singularly by Trevor Tremaine – minus trumpet and saxophone, everything you hear here is his doing. The songs here are so densely-packed that they become fresher on each repeated listen, propelling them forward with constant momentum as they roll into the next of a seemingly endless supply of ideas.

The album opens with the manic “Personal Best,” which rolls the bassline, drums, guitar, and vocal riffs into one smooth hook – the track yields toward the final third of the song, setting up a great guitar solo through its end. “Life and a Day” has maybe the catchiest and most accessible chorus of the album, yet the song still manages to break the mold with its contrasting bridge (plus, I love the line “I am an idling time machine, and I’m going nowhere slow” that sets it up). On the first few listens, “The One and Only,” didn’t stick out to me a lot, but the tight rhythm and arrangement in the chorus eventually reveals itself as delightfully smooth and well-done. “Incompetence” is perhaps the track the benefitted the most from multiple listens. The lyrics carry the story from start to finish, and the lush instrumentation throughout the track make it one of the most immaculate, enjoyable listens of the album.

“Getting It” is punchy, clever, and self-referential – it pushes and pulls throughout the track, forcing you to listen closely (in which case you’ll hear little treats like “smoking squares outside the Speedway,” a quick line which has rolled around my head all week). The album reaches its most experimental point on “Beyond Cliche'” which walks the harmony all over the map, stretches an angular melody over top of it (while managing to make it fit naturally on top of the unusual progression), and packs in another quick, sharp spoken-word bridge. “You Have Lived” may be the album’s peak – as the penultimate track, it is arranged as a ballad, with only vocals and a shimmering organ. The lyrics here are just as sharp as on the rest of Personal Fables (and, at times, they even lean into the same tongue-in-cheek territory that many of the other songs inhabit), ruminating on the line “a life of no regrets is the only kind worth living.” Tremaine sings through a lifetime of missed opportunities, and by the time the song nears its finish, it swells into a gorgeously multi-tracked chorus of “you have lived” that carries through to the end. Closing the album is the quick “The Worst Thing that Could Happen,” which brings things full-circle into the same exciting territory of the album’s opener.

This album is thoroughly enjoyable – it manages to be smart, inventive, and wordy, while remaining catchy and fun. Its singular point of creative origin becomes more apparent upon each repeated listen, and Trevor never favors density of ideas over the ability of these ideas to work in harmony with one another – they’re simply arranged in a way that works. Personal Fables is a must-hear album, and is unlike anything else I’ve heard from Lexington.

Pre-order Personal Fables from Desperate Spirits, and you can download and listen to the album immediately (and I recommend you do).

Tracks I Liked: Personal Best!, Life and a Day!, Incompetence!!, Beyond Cliche’!, You Have Lived!!!

Ben Southworth – February 5, 2017 – Kenwick Place

Dad Shorts – Slight Concussion

a3752877421_10Grungy Garage Punk

Self-Released December 21, 2016

Dad Shorts are a four-piece DIY punk band from Lexington, Kentucky – Slight Concussion is the second of two five song EPs the band released in 2016. Opening the album is a patient instrumental track, “Will Feral Children,” that introduces the sound of each musician (minus the vocals that energize the later songs), locking into a groove through the end of the song. “Tension in the Chicken Kitchen” starts with some light drums and cool-headed guitar work, before the vocals burst the song open – the punchy verses are reminiscent of grungy indie work from ten or fifteen years ago. My favorite of the EP is “Slipper Staring,” whose vocals overall are less intense than the song before, but fall in step with the guitar rhythms – the song slows down after a couple verses, before emerging at a higher tempo and energy. Last on the EP is “Musician,” a fiery, and seemingly politically-charged track with a unique rhyme scheme in its verses. Give a listen to Slight Concussion it’s a well-produced, quick listen, that ebbs and flows in intensity over its short course.

Tracks I Liked: Will Feral Children!, Tension in the Chicken Kitchen!!, Slipper Staring!!!, Musician!

Ben Southworth – January 29, 2017 – Kenwick Place

Abraham Mwinda – Dreamer

a0305908585_10Sanguine Afropop

Self-Released January 2, 2017

Abraham Mwinda who now resides in Lexington, Kentucky was born and raised in Kenya – he’s now known in our community for his optimistic songwriting. The twenty-one tracks on Dreamer are relentlessly positive and upbeat – ranging in subject matter from love and loneliness to empathy and the importance of family. Though the album is long, it manages to stay moving for its duration – the first half is particularly good. The first full-length song on the album is the big-sounding, catchy pop song, “Love Come Alive,” which is full of lots of percussion (and percussive melody) that will undoubtedly find itself stuck in your head. “Revolution” sits on top of a reggae beat, and the vocal work of Mwinda, guest Jessica McKenney, plus the background voices make it a lush, beautiful track (and my favorite of the album). Following immediately after is “Cold World,” another very strong song that asks questions about the need for war, and how love can change the world – the track grows patiently into a pretty massive song before it runs its course. The rest of Dreamer shows off plenty of talent – that of Mwinda and the album’s many collaborators – all of which maintain the momentum even through the later songs. The production quality of the album is more or less impeccable, which stuck out to me almost immediately, and makes the album all the more enjoyable. If you’re in need of something positive and uplifting (and that sounds great), Abraham Mwinda provides just that on Dreamer – give it a play.

Tracks I Liked: Love Come Alive!, Revolution!!!, Cold World!!, One in a Million!, There is Hope!!, What If?!, Yelele!!

Ben Southworth – January 22, 2017 – High Street

Cherry Crush – Turning EP

a4113413924_10Scuzzy Shoegaze

Self-Released January 6, 2017

Cherry Crush’s first release, DEMOS, came out nearly two years ago, experimenting with different approaches to their sound. Since then, the band has solidified their sound into something more instantly recognizable as their own – Turning is a testament to this. The tracks here are compact and flooded in grungy guitar chords, chugging basslines and drums, echoey lead guitar, with reverby vocals placed prominently in front. “How it Goes” starts the EP with this sound, as vocalist Drew Slone sings “I can’t seem to find the way how to make it on my own … I guess that’s just how it goes.” My favorite on the EP is “Made in America,” whose chorus “made in America, born with a loaded gun … think I’m the only one that matters” has been rattling around in my head over the last week. The EP’s title track, “Turning,” is the shortest of the bunch, and another of my favorites – the lead guitar imitates the lonely lyrics “broke into your house last night … I don’t wanna die alone.” The EP’s six songs span just twenty minutes, but further establish a strong presence for the band’s sound and lyrical tone – those that liked DEMOS should enjoy Turning as well – it’s a very strong, concise, great-sounding release.

Tracks I Liked: How it Goes!, Made in America!!!, No Control!, Turning!!

Ben Southworth – January 15, 2017 – Kenwick Place