Fuzzy, Catchy Rock & Roll
Guestroom Records – August 4, 2017
Cereal Glyphs’ self-titled record was one of my favorite that came out in 2015 – Andy Myers did a great job blending super-catchy riffs and melodies with an energetic, DIY aesthetic. The Second Hand finds Cereal Glyphs fleshed out into a larger band, adding a little more edge to the sound, while maintaining a knack for catchy rock.
“Get Up” opens the album with lots of energy as Myers sings “I’m never hurried, I’m never worried – I’ve found another way” – warped guitars plunge behind things during each chorus. My favorite of the album is the ultra-intense “I Wanna Be Your Hand,” which finds the band unified in rhythm and force during each chorus, and is all but guaranteed to get stuck in your head. “Passion’s Not Enough” was released early from the album – it’s driven by a heavily overblown bass, and carries with it a great amount of momentum throughout the song.
Many of the songs on the second half of the album are taken from Cereal Glyphs, and when you listen to the original right next to its remake, you get a real sense of the extra edge and heft on The Second Hand. “The Well” is one of the more mellow tracks on the album, but still feels a lot fuller and weightier than its original recording. “Count the Night” was my favorite on Cereal Glyphs, and it’s one of my favorites here, too – it opens with a dramatic pairing of low, whirring synths and guitar before it takes off a full speed. “Dead Beat” is even faster, and benefits quite a bit from the noisy fullness of a larger band. Closing the album is “Belly of the Snake,” a track that starts off as the most mellow and psychedelic of the album before it takes off for a high-speed outro towards the album’s end.
Those that heard and enjoyed Cereal Glyphs should really like this – it’s every bit as clever and tough to get out of your head, but a noisier band adds some intensity that makes this album even more fun than the last. The Second Hand has a huge amount of energy and momentum – each song moves seamlessly from section to section, and it doesn’t waste a single moment.
Tracks I Liked: Get Up!, I Wanna Be Your Hand!!!, Passion’s Not Enough!, Count the Night!!, Dead Beat!!, Belly of the Snake!
Ben Southworth – August 13, 2017 – Post Road
Hushed Contemporary Lullabies
Sofaburn Records – July 7, 2017
Daniel Martin Moore has been making music in Kentucky for a number of years – as a solo musician, and in collaborations with such well-known Kentuckians as Ben Sollee, Joan Shelley, and Jim James. I first heard him on the 2010 album, Dear Companion with Ben Sollee, which remains one of my favorite albums. Turned Over to Dreams finds Daniel on his own, where he has crafted a beautiful, soothing album of lullabies.
The title track quietly twinkles into focus before Daniel’s gentle voice joins – the remainder of the song is boosted by warm, quiet strings. “Consider the Worlds” is more simply orchestrated, finding Daniel’s voice the focus of the song. A brief, three-song set of instrumental lullabies is next – set with organ, shimmery electric guitar, and piano, respectively. “You Are Home” stands out to me the as my favorite of the album – the very first lyrics, “you are so much more to me than just a bright light, you’re home’ are gently boosted a low, droning organ as Daniel wonders how to best find the way to say ‘I love you.’
Those who know Daniel’s music and voice should find this album familiar and comforting – new listeners may find it a good way to discover his remaining, earlier work. From song to song, and as complete work, Turned Over to Dreams is a richly colored, serene, intimate lullaby.
Tracks I Liked: Turned Over to Dreams!!, Consider the Worlds!, Amid the Stars!, You Are Home!!!, Stay Awake!
Ben Southworth – August 6, 2017 – Post Road
Industrial Electronic Noise
Desperate Spirits – August 1, 2017
Jeanne Vomit-Terror is the cofounder of Lexington’s Resonant Hole collective and has been making and releasing music for the last six or seven years. Among other things, she released a pair of singles in 2010, put out the very catchy “The Seat of Same” with Ed Sunspot in 2013, and has had a track on each of the two Desperate Spirits Compilations – Lady Parts! and White Power is for Dummies. This release, The Quixotrix Tapes, Vol. 1, listens much like a continuous live set of improvisatory industrial electronic music, straying in atmosphere from Jeanne’s previous releases.
The album opens with “Intestinal Waltz,” albeit a thick, dissonant waltz at the pace of a dirge – for much of the track you feel the time in the overblown first and third beat of each measure. The time in “Brank’d” is held steady by a rumblingly low synthesizer, but the distorted percussion falls right around it, disorienting the listener as Jeanne places a repeated six-note motif throughout the mix at random. The track elides into “Silken Scourge,” where a keyboard plays a shrill ascending scale atop a mix of electronics that shimmer and thud simultaneously. The darkly catchy “At the Mirror School” grooves with a quick intensity, and features the album’s only lyrics, making reference to a previous JVT track. “The Interior Eye” closes the album – it’s among the lengthiest tracks of this release, and is arguably the harshest and least anchored to a tempo among them.
This is not the nearly-danceable electronic pop you may have heard previously from Jeanne Vomit-Terror – if anything, it most resembles the recently released “Youth Infection.” That said, this isn’t random noise, either – Jeanne is thoughtful in the way she picks the melodic, rhythmic, and textural motifs, incorporating them into each track with intention. Combined with the distortion, dissonance, and heft of industrial electronic percussion and synthesizers, The Quixotrix Tapes, Vol. 1 is a disorienting album whose atmosphere engulfs and transports the listener out of reality.
Tracks I Liked: Intestinal Waltz!, Brank’d!!, Silken Scourge!!, At the Mirror School!!!, The Interior Eye!
Ben Southworth – July 30, 2017 – Post Road
Indie // Ambient Math Rock
Self Released – July 11, 2017
Lexington’s Jandergan released their new EP, Tilted Heads last week, and celebrated on Saturday with an album release show with ATTEMPT. Tilted Heads is the first new music from Jandergan in a couple years – it follows up another EP from 2014, Neighbor, as well as “Two is Glue,” a single from 2015.
“Waxwing” leads off the EP, and almost immediately, it’s noticeably more intense than much of what I’d head from them. The band’s five members nimbly maneuver through mathy sections, crashing them in to one another with ease – the latter half of the song sets up a great guitar duet that races faster and faster toward the end of the song. The EP’s title track is quick and disorienting, building through one dense section toward another, before suddenly settling into a dreamy, lengthy outro. “Good Mourning (for David)” is a touching meditation on a person’s final moments, and a great example of the band’s ability to play and compose beautifully. Despite slowing things down for this track, Jandergan maintains an intensity and tightness in their timekeeping, which only further adds to the haziness of things. Fading in from the previous song, “Anxious for a Change” mixes in synthesized bass and distantly distorted guitars to great effect as the band explores distrust and discontent of our society, singing “don’t ask what keeps everybody so … anxious for a change.” “Sleepless Decisions” brings the album to a close – after a wildly fast intro, it changes colors into something much dreamier, before carrying the EP with lots of momentum towards a great ending.
Tilted Heads is richly captured EP of complex songs – dense sections with many busy parts never get bogged down, and it’s great to be able to listen in on each individual’s part. The group is talented, pulling off complicated chord and rhythm changes with seeming ease, allowing the music to sound effortless. Those who’ve heard Jandergan before this will likely notice some changes to the sound here. They’ve expanded at either end of their dramatic range – sections of high intensity stretch even higher, and the more serene moments are more beautiful and further developed than ever before.
Tracks I Liked: Waxwing!!, Tilted Heads!, Good Mourning (for David)!!!, Sleepless Decisions!
Ben Southworth – July 16, 2017 – Post Road
Serene Indie Folk
Self Released – July 22, 2017
Few people would say that Scott Whiddon doesn’t keep himself busy. As a follow up to the three EPs released by his band, Palisades, since 2014, Scott is now putting himself out there with a full length album of solo material. In Close Quarters with the Enemy – a title taken from the work of Walt Whitman – Scott’s musical and literary influence (he’s Director of the Writing Center at Transylvania University) are as pronounced as ever. Fans of Palisades will find his songwriting familiar, but have occasion on this album to hear it in a more relaxed setting, now with the back up of J. Tom Hnatow, Robby Cosenza, and Cecilia Miller Wright.
The album opens with the beautiful instrumental track, “The Bird Girl” – one that builds layers of acoustic guitar, strings, and piano to give a hint at the atmosphere surrounding the remainder of the album. “Holidays” is built on a low, droning guitar and sets the scene of a kid struggling to fit in – ‘he’s got some kind of accent // he’s not like the other boys upstate.’ On “Faster than We Hoped,” Scott’s lyrics effortlessly evoke imagery of a pair pushing a car off a cliff, putting the past behind them. The melancholy of the track is supported by a mellow organ and sweet vocal harmonies during the choruses – a warm harmonica provides a nice, sweet color for the bridge.
The title track, “In Close Quarters with the Enemy,” is perhaps the most like Palisades – it carries throughout it a more distorted electric guitar, features a group singing harmonies during an extra-catchy chorus, followed immediately by a more intense break-down bridge. All the while, the track feels right at home at this point the album, providing a sort of high point in it’s arc. Following is “The Breakers,” another instrumental track that picks up exactly where the first instrumental left off – it brings the intensity back down as the album drives towards its end, and is even more lovely than the opening track it compliments. The album’s final track, “What We Knew All Along,” is colored by organ, light drums, and understated bass; the song’s middle section is perhaps the most beautiful of the album, but it never breaks a sweat.
Those who have heard Scott’s work before should enjoy the sounds on In Close Quarters with the Enemy – though, sonically, things are different here than on Palisades recordings, Scott’s songwriting retains a strong sense of itself. At many points throughout the album, I found myself with vivid pictures of the lyrical subjects in my head. These songs have a strong sense of place, and though his memories are not my own, those shared here are nearly universally relatable – it’s easy to feel as though they belong to you.
Tracks I Liked: Scatter and Fade!, Holidays!!, Faster than We Hoped!, In Close Quarters with the Enemy!!, The Breakers!, What We Knew All Along!!!
Ben Southworth – July 9, 2017 – Post Road