Dark Dream Pop
Self-Released February 21, 2017
I first heard Maximón a couple months ago when I reviewed a compilation called Louisville Covers Christmas. Maximón’s contribution to that release was a way far-out industrial reworking of the hymn “Let All Mortal Flesh Keep Silence” (featuring a sample from a Malcom X speech) – it set itself apart from everything else on the record, and was definitely one of my favorites. Although things are a little dialed back here on If Yes Do, it’s already one of my favorite records – from Kentucky or elsewhere – of 2017, thus far.
A great single for the album is “Werewolf,” which opens with thudding bass and a driving drumbeat and vocals placed confidently on top with the line “I’ve locked myself up safe inside your room, and doused my neck and wrist with your perfume.” Dissonant synths accompany the chorus, before the track gives way to a bridge that eventually bursts into an awesome, dense, warbling mess of an ending. “Splice” has a great, nicely-harmonized chorus with reverby vocals – it’s the track of theirs that’s been stuck in my head most the last couple weeks. “Take Me Away” reminds me a lot of War on Drugs, complete with arpeggiated, delayed guitar, lightly placed piano chords, and vocals not entirely unlike Adam Granduciel – it listens really pleasantly and was my favorite track upon first listen. Next is a quick track, “Feels Like I’m Falling,” with a dizzying chorus of “shut up and get me outta this place, feels like I’m falling,” whose angular vocal melody reminds me a bit of something David Byrne would’ve come up with in the early years of Talking Heads.
My favorite of the album is “A Lovely Shape,” which opens with a simultaneously lethargic and grandiose mix of echoing drums, pulsing synths, and shimmering guitars (a part which serves as punctuation throughout the song). It gives way to a perfectly-paced pop track – the bass hits exactly when and how it should in the second verse, the vocals are delivered confidently, and chromatic synthesizers during the chorus take the song to an entirely different level. Dark and moody, “Evernight” has tastes of Nick Cave, The Smiths, and Joy Division – the chorus is weighty and laid down confidently, the final iteration of the chorus is almost startlingly in-your-face, and marks the strongest vocal performance of the album. The album does not let up until the very end – “Running Scared” is a moving take on Roy Orbison’s song that captures the drama of the original and amplifies it with all the power of modern instruments, turning it into a dizzyingly beautiful track that borders on operatic glam-rock.
If Yes Do is a thoroughly refreshing album, and seems to get better and better the longer it progresses. There’s a tremendous range of vocal approaches from song to song (maybe there’s more than one person taking a stab at the lead?) and the synthesizer colors everything in a dreamy, dramatic atmosphere. Bass and drums are nothing but tasteful – standing out in front exactly when they should, and propelling the songs along with a rock-solid foundation. If Yes Do is hard to make comparisons to as an entire album, but it’s fresh and should be accessible and enjoyable by most anyone who gives it a listen. I’m really excited to see where Maximón goes from here.
Tracks I Liked: Werewolf!!, Splice!, Take Me Away!, Feels Like I’m Falling!!, A Lovely Shape!!!, Evernight!!, Running Scared!!!
Ben Southworth – February 25, 2017 – Kenwick Place
Colossal 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
Dreamy Art Pop
October 16th, 2015 – Winspear Records
Back in July, Pomegranates announced they’d be playing one more show at the Southgate House Revival after having taken a nearly two-year break. The show was a vehicle to release Healing Power, an album that had gone unreleased since it was recorded in 2012 and 2013, and was a long-awaited reunion for the band and its fans. Though the album didn’t get picked up by any labels back in 2013, it was released digitally this past October through Bloomington, Indiana’s Winspear Records and as a run of one hundred sparkling gold cassettes.
For those familiar with previous Pomegranates albums, Healing Power might strike you as a little different than what you’ve heard before. Heaven was a collection of ten pop-perfect indie rock tunes and Everybody, Come Outside! was an intricate art rock opera. Despite the fact that it listens a little differently as an album, Healing Power certainly sounds like a Pomegranates record – it’s moody, poppy, dreamy, and the vocals of Joey Cook and Isaac Karns are distinct. What makes this album unlike other Pomegranates albums, though, is its texture. Kick drums and guitars and basses are overdriven, warbling synthesizers are higher in the mix – even on the softer tunes, things are noisier here, and it’s great.
It’s tough to tell whether the songs on Healing Power take themselves too seriously or not seriously at all – perhaps they take themselves just seriously enough. “Friends” starts with the announcement “this one goes out to all my friends,” and feels like the perfect way for a band like Pomegranates to say thanks to their loyal supporters. My favorite track of the album is “House of My Mortal Father,” a grungy anthem about Cook moving to a new city away from home – it ends with a combination of shimmering guitars, electronics, and at their reunion in October it was choreographed with windmill strokes on the guitar. “Hand of Death” is a totally ridiculous song, especially because of the minute and a half it spends pretending to end before Karns comes back to tell you “first rule in life: you gotta make sure that you’re alive” and “you gotta let go of death (see you later bad guys!).”
As intense as those three tracks are, they’re sprinkled between much spacier, softer songs. “Constant Companion” is a beautiful, drifting track tethered by a steady beat as Isaac sings choruses of “constant companion, I wish that I could see you, baby, but I’m blind.” “Taking it Easy” is a smooth centerpiece to the album, and reprises the tune of the intro and outro tracks before it gets carried out by distortion and noise. Another favorite of mine is “Soul Crossing,” another gorgeous track that burns slowly and dreamily as Joey sings “I feel like I’m a soul crossing the highway in the dead of night / can’t see where I’m going, but I’m sure it’ll be alright.”
Altogether, Healing Power is definitely different than other albums in the Pomegranates discography, but unmistakably a Pomegranates album, nonetheless. It’s a more than satisfying way of tying up the loose ends of the Pomegranates run, and certainly worth the extra wait.
Tracks I Liked: Friends!!, Constant Companion!!, Hand of Death, Taking it Easy!, House of My Mortal Father!!!, Soul Crossing!!!
Ben Southworth – January 3rd, 2016 – Kenwick Place
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