Lo-Fi Chamber Folk
Gubbey Records – May 19, 2017
Dream Eye Color Wheel is a project based in Louisville // New Albany, Indiana made of many musicians and led by Ben Traughber. Their new album, False Omega opens with the plodding instrumental, “Slow Thundergeist,” a dark, richly orchestrated piece (featuring my favorite woodwind, the bass clarinet) that toes the line between feeling mechanical, even machine-like, but ultimately human and raw. “Saw Teeth” opens as a waltz, led by acoustic guitar before Traughber’s soft vocals enter, eventually giving way to a lovely organ-violin solo. Later is “Flying Erase Head,” a beautiful piece that feels transmitted from a long time ago – everything is whispered and washed-out, like it’s coming from a distant memory. “Gamma” rumbles into focus on a low synthesizer note before acoustic guitar and Traughber’s voice enter, him singing a repeated “gamma, gamma, gamma… rays.” Balanced somewhere between upbeat and psychedelic, “On Arrival” challenges what a bossa nova can be, throwing a noisy guitar solo on top of an already disorienting track. The album closes with “Goodbye (Listen Here),” which starts as an unsettling duet between rewound guitar and an angry voicemail (the caller eventually cools off). Dream Eye Color Wheel is a fascinating, refreshingly creative project of Ben Traugbher – False Omega is a strange, disorienting listen, but a beautiful and enjoyable one at that.
Tracks I Liked: Slow Thundergeist!, Saw Teeth!!, Flying Erase Head!!!, Gamma!, On Arrival!!
Ben Southworth – May 21, 2017 – Kenwick Place
Lo-Fi One-Man Punk
Twin Cousins Records – June 17, 2017
J. Marinelli is known well around Lexington for his quick songs and only-the-essentials stage-setup – a guitar on his lap and drums set up at his feet. Though songs on Stray Volts move by quickly, Marinelli doesn’t use this as an excuse to phone it in with his lyrics. “The Dead Don’t Need Us” is a laid-back, slow track that uses ideas of vanity and fixation-with-life-on-earth to set up the repeated “the dead don’t need us.” Following immediately is the sub-one-minute-track, “Humble-Brag Man” – the shortest and fastest-moving track on the album. Despite the rapid-fire delivery of the lyrics, Marinelli packs the song with a harsh critique of the ‘humble-brag man’ (we all know one), ending the bridge with “his false modesty is such a drag.” The delivery on “Cocaine Activist” is more pronounced and pointed, where J. describes a ‘pat-yourself-on-the-back’ kind of guy taking advantage of us, the bridge ending in “with rhetoric so desperate, intentions that they motivate are less than pure, they’ll always leave you sore.” At four-and-a-half minutes, “Creak and Sway” is nearly twice as long as any other song on the album – it’s a dark song full of pain, and with a lot of room to breathe, it serves as a nice break from the intensity of much of the rest of the album. Stray Volts is J. Marinelli at his finest – catchy, lo-fi rock with great melodies, clever lyrics, and nothing else that isn’t needed.
Tracks I Liked: Brand New Glasses!, Madison Girls!, The Dead Don’t Need Us!!, Humble-Brag Man!!!, Cocaine Activist!!, The Evil of Two Lessers!, Creak and Sway!
Ben Southworth – May 15, 2017 – Kenwick Place
Intimate Lo-Fi Bedroom Pop
Plastic Response // Death Records – March 6, 2017
Those who have seen Dr. Paul perform live can tell you that it’s a unique experience to take in. It’s like going to watch psychedelic karaoke where the singer has written all the songs themselves – the tracks flow into each other, one right after the other, to the point that it becomes disorienting. Calling Daddy Anarchist, in its recorded form, gives the listener the benefit of being able to listen to the music one song at a time, allowing time to digest things and better understand what Dr. Paul is trying to get across.
The album opens with “Artificial Significance,” setting the aural tone for the album with lo-fi, laid-back guitar, affected vocals, and a drum machine chugging in the background – the repeated ‘the future’s just ahead’ has a way of getting stuck in your head. “Up To My Wasted” has an upbeat feel, instrumentally, but lyrics like the opening line, ‘not even the sun can bring me up anymore,’ have a way of making it lonely. Later in the album is “King of Crash Landings,” which alternates between laid-back verses and a more intense chorus with the memorable lyrics ‘it’s like screaming in a vacuum with a knife in your eye // the king of crash landings here saying goodbye.’ My favorite of the album is “Trouble Sleeping In,” which may also be the album’s most accessible and catchiest track – it has some of my favorite lyrics of the album, like ‘wait… I can grow back my long hair // too late… now the timing isn’t there’ and ‘if you ever want for nothing, you can get it over here.’ A few songs later is a solid cover of Beat Awfuls’ “Jackie Ono,” another Lexington band that Dr. Paul plays in.
Calling Daddy Anarchist explores dark feelings of loneliness and disappointment through some really intimate-feeling lyrics and storytelling, though Dr. Paul does a nice job of sprinkling in occasional pieces of humor throughout. Those that like other Lexington acts like Beat Awfuls, Cherry Crush, and Jovontaes ought to really enjoy this.
Tracks I Liked: Artificial Significance!!, Diane Lives too Fast!, Up to My Wasted!, King of Crash Landings!, Trouble Sleeping In!!!, Air Guitar!, Jackie Ono!
Ben Southworth – April 10, 2017 – Kenwick Place
Self-Released November 30, 2016
Beat Awfuls released their album Nothing Happens in February of 2016 – a collection of twelve lo-fi pop indie songs. The album ended up being one of my favorite local records of 2016, and perhaps the one I listened to the most, too. Something Happened works a little bit like a companion piece to that album – five tracks are demo versions of songs that can be heard on the full-length, and one is new. The tracks are more lo-fi here than on Nothing Happens, subbing in a drum machine and boiled down to Dave Cave and Dr. Paul’s stylings on guitar and bass (with some extra noises here and there). “Come Correct” works well as a quick ‘first track,’ and the vocal melody of “Do It Now” stands out as being even catchier than I remembered it. New to the lineup of songs is “I Will Follow You,” which works in acoustic guitar, a busier bass line, and a shuffling beat. A favorite of mine from Nothing Happens was “No Dice Cold Bones,” a track reworked here with calypso strumming and shakers that somehow seems even dreamier and more melancholic than before. If you liked Nothing Happens, you might just like this too – these poppy melodies will get stuck in your head, but it’s nice hearing it boiled down even further to basics.
Tracks I Liked: Come Correct!, Do it Now!!, I Will Follow You!, No Dice Cold Bones!!!
Ben Southworth – January 8, 2017 – Kenwick Place
Lo-Fi Indie Pop
February 12th, 2016 – Jurassic Pop
Beat Awfuls has been making noise around Lexington for the last few years, playing shows, releasing EPs, all that good stuff. This Friday, they’re putting out their first full length album, Nothing Happens, and it’s nothing short of stellar. Submerged in lo-fi crunch and distortion, the songs here amble along, jangling with poppy charm. The singles are good – “Maui Wowie” is full of dissonant guitars and sings about wanting love; “You’re Not Gonna Love Me Anymore” is laid out with arpeggiated chords on guitar, glockenspiel, and its catchiness nails itself right into your head. But the thing that makes this a good record, I think, is that they could have just as easily picked any two other songs as singles to represent it. “Who’s Driving?” stuck out to me immediately, a song that sings “I sold my little brother heroin, now he’s writing a novel” as drums chug along and the guitar plunges through the verses. “Shitty City” is uptempo, with verses singing “I live in a bad neighborhood, but it’s good … I live in a bad neighborhood ’cause I should” and filled with choruses of overdriven “oooooh’s.” If you like lo-fi rock, even a little bit, you’re pretty likely to dig this one – each song on Nothing Happens is a catchy piece of pop music ripe for laid-back listens on repeat.
Tracks I Liked: Jackie Ono!, Maui Wowie!, Who’s Driving!!!, Lemon Drop!!, You’re Not Gonna Love Me Anymore!!, No Dice Cold Bones!, Shitty City!!, The One They Love!
Ben Southworth – February 10th, 2016 – Kenwick Place