Tagged: pop

ATTEMPT – Against the Light EP

against the light profile-03

Pop Style Sampler

Desperate Spirits – October 27, 2017

2017 has been a busy year for Trevor Tremaine, musically speaking – February saw the release of the great full-length ATTEMPT album, Personal Fableshe sang the terrifically strange track “Rock ‘N’ Roll Beans on Big Fresh’s Fall Preview EP, and has been busy as a part of Lexington’s Desperate Spirits label. Following all that up is the Against the Light EP, a brief four-song EP to hold us over to whatever he has coming next.

“Cancellations and Delays” is a mostly electronic piece, hinting its vocal melody in an early synth line before arriving at the three-word lyrics found in the song’s title. It’s a fun, fresh track, an ode to snow days(?), and it explores all sorts of texture and feelings over its four and a half minutes. I had heard an earlier version of “Items on a Questionnaire” on a Lexington music sampler while deejaying at WRFL – this iteration of the recording adds drums, strings, and flute to the mix to further flesh out the track. The lyrics ruminate on Trevor’s love for his son, and the vocal melody strikes the ever-shifting harmonic progression at wild, dissonant angles. “Overdraftin'” is an upbeat, catchy, wordless track that builds a platform for a great guitar solo. The title track begins with  sparse, dripping percussion and a cappella vocals, building some really complex harmonies and structures with minimal instrumentation. Halfway through, cascading electronic tones bridge into the second half of the song, which plays out with more dense instrumentation and an increasingly accelerating guitar solo.

This EP doesn’t have the cohesive feel that Personal Fables had, but I think that’s part of the point – Against the Light gives you a sampling of several styles, each with a high level of musicality and fidelity. It’s a quick, fun listen, and definitely one that fans of ATTEMPT should enjoy finding something new in.

Tracks I Liked: Cancellations and Delays!, Items on a Questionnaire!!!, Overdraftin’!, Against the Light!!

Ben Southworth – October 29, 2017 – West Sixth Street

Big Fresh – Fall Preview

Bubbly Electronic Popbigfresh-cover

Desperate Spirits – June 2, 2017

Big Fresh (and its leader, John Ferguson) are icons of Lexington music. They’ve released a handful of albums since their start in the late 90s – the most recent full album, Moneychasers, came out in 2011 (and was one of the first Lexington-made records I ever bought), they put out a couple songs in 2016, and now have plans to release a pair of EPs in 2017. The first of those, Fall Preview, is a five-song trip through the band’s style and musicality – each with its own personality and a different guest singing lead.

“Tongku” is fronted by Beijing’s Bianbian, opening with a trio of guitar, piano, and shakers that give the track the feel of a ticking clock. The vocals here are in Mandarin (Google Translate tells me that Tòngkǔ means ‘pain’ or ‘suffering’), but the song’s lovely vocal melody conveys a balanced mixture of joy and melancholy. Robert Schneider, Ferguson’s bandmate in The Apples in Stereo, sings on “Paralyzed,” the EP’s first single. The song is a fast-moving pop track, buoyant with whirring synthesizers and horn lines, covering Ferguson’s upbringing in rural, Christian Kentucky as Schneider sings “I used to sing of a heaven far way, where no one ever dies.”

Former Big Fresh singer, Kate Pope, takes the lead on “Yes Yes Yes,” which feels the most like songs from Moneychasers to me: it’s a funky track with pulsing synth bass and quick stabs from trombone and saxophone. ATTEMPT’s Trevor Tremaine takes us through “Rock ‘n’ Roll Beans,” a short, ridiculously fun track that name drops Bruce lee, Lee Iacocca, and the Ayatollah (among others). The EP ends with “Like Swayze,” sung by Lexington’s Michelle Hollis. It’s a smoky, piano-driven slow jam that crescendos through a heavy second chorus before descending into a disorienting haze.

Fall Preview covers a great range of sounds, thanks in larger part to its many guest singers, but it’s tough to imagine these songs without Ferguson and the other constant pieces in Big Fresh’s sound. The group continues its reputation as one with a knack for unusual (sometimes tongue-in-cheek) pop songs, but the musicality, fidelity, and colors on this EP elevate the music to a new level. Fall Preview is full of substance while remaining fresh and hugely fun – it’s a great EP, and Big Fresh is a listening experience I can’t recommend enough.

Tracks I Liked: Tongku!, Paralyzed!!, Yes Yes Yes!, Rock ‘n’ Roll Beans!, Like Swayze!!!

 

Ben Southworth – May 25, 2017 – Kenwick Place

Dr. Paul – Calling Daddy Anarchist

a0296241339_10Intimate 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

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

Beat Awfuls – Something Happened

a4074177971_164-Track Pop

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