Power Pop // Electro Sci-Fi Pop
Self-Released – September 30, 2016
One of my favorite things about Lexington’s music scene is the way that so many musicians are determined to work together. They play in each other’s bands, they record on each other’s albums, and in the case of Signal Delayed, they put out albums together. In preparing for this write-up, I spoke to Scott Whiddon of Palisades, who said: ‘For me, this project represents everything I wanted Palisades to be: community, collaboration, creativity.’ Make no mistake, I wont pretend that Lexington is the only city where musicians are nice to each another – I’m just grateful, because I imagine that not every city is so lucky.
The first side of Signal Delayed is a pair of power pop songs from Palisades. The first of which, “Pretty Thief,” is familiar sounding (if you’ve listened to Palisades previously) – it’s full of bright guitars, a super quick and catchy chorus, and uses every bit of its runtime for something a little different than what came before it. “Tough Shakes” is a fair bit grungier and moodier than the more sugary pop that Palisades have produced in the past. Most of the lyrics of are more spoken than sung, the guitars are weightier than usual, and the lyrics have a little more bite than usual. That said, the production on these songs is at a place I haven’t heard from Palisades before – all the instruments are rich, well-balanced, and crystal clear (plus, the organ sounds on “Pretty Thief” adds a nice bit of light-hearted texture).
As far as I know, this is the first new recorded music from Big Fresh in a good while (since Moneychasers came out in 2011, maybe?) In case you’re not familiar with Big Fresh, it’s a long-running collective of musicians fronted by John Ferguson that has been around since 1998. The songs on the second side of Signal Delayed are funky, synth-heavy, and sci-fi flavored. “Atlantis” is quick, but punchy and in your face with a buzzing synth in the front of the texture and echoey vocals singing things like “we launched a rocket in space, we blast a hole in your face.” “Night Driving” is the perfect foil to the song preceding it – the quiet, low-key groove of the chorus is much more mellow and has the perfect feel for a song about driving at night. The many members of Big Fresh are orchestrated richly on this track, with horns and keyboards imitating vocals, a very well-chosen soundbyte, and drums helping to direct the song through its course.
If you’re a lover of Lexington music, it’s a no-brainer to find yourself a copy of Signal Delayed. It’s two great bands (whose collective members are likely in ten or more bands between them), four great songs, and I hear it’ll even be available on red vinyl! You can pick it up when you see both bands this Friday at The Green Lantern, or grab a copy the next time you stop by your favorite local record store.
Tracks I Liked: Pretty Thief!!, Tough Shakes!, Atlantis!, Night Driving!!
Ben Southworth – September 24, 2016 – Kenwick Place
Psychedelic Doo-Wop Pop
Hop Hop Records – January 29th, 2016
Idiot Glee is a musician that most who are interested in Lexington music are acquainted with to some extent – Idiot Glee is the newest album, and the best, most representative yet. This self-titled release is the first release since Four, and the first released through Lexington’s Hop Hop Records since Life Without Jazz was issued close to three years back. It’s no coincidence, I think, that this album is self-titled, even if it comes more than five years, more than five albums into the Idiot Glee discography. The album captures elements of all the past releases – the songwriting of Four, the texture and ambience of The Prairie, the clarity of Life Without Jazz – and combines them all into something distinctly and simply defined as Idiot Glee.
The album is also the most album-like of any release thus far. “Deep Warm Something” sounds much like it’s titled, easing you into the album with whirling electronic tones before giving away into an uptempo ragtime-esque piano-driven groove. With your palette effectively cleansed, “Baby (I Could Be Your Bone)” is a hazy, rich, mid-tempo, danceable tune with a catchy guitar hook and a lengthy instrumental outro. “What’s That Smell?” is a fun, nearly surfy track, and recalls some of the piano of the intro track – the instrumental breaks between verses getting noisier and more distorted as the song progresses. Slowing back down, “I Don’t Feel Right” grooves steadily as Friley offers offers one of the most personal lyrics of the album, mixed with a really gorgeous midpoint – listen closely when the psychedelic, doo-woppy wave of synthesizers, drum machines, and “why don’t I” crashes into the second half of the song. A shorter instrumental interlude, “Chinese New Year” is thoroughly reminiscent of the more ambient music found on The Prairie, but is not simply a throwaway track – it sets up the second half of the LP, while carefully keeping momentum under close control.
The album’s latter half starts out strongly with the first single, “Evergreen Psycho” – a richly produced track mixing acoustic guitar, piano, and bright keyboards as it relates the story of an evergreen tree befriending a cactus, only to steal the water it holds inside. The two tracks that follow were among the last on the album to leave an impression on me, but particularly interesting ones nonetheless. “Personal Computer Television” is orchestrated much like another track from The Prairie but with almost unsettling lyrics, like “have you ever told your brother / mom / priest / sis they’re just the same” as it simmers down to a quiet close. Friley looks to the future on “The Whip” as he sings about teaching “the kids how to write a hook,” punctuating verses with increasingly noisy guitar breaks. “Chinese New Year Reprise” settles things back down a little, leading straight into the last song. “The River” is a picture perfect ‘final track’ to an album, and a beautiful one at that – after an introduction of only piano and harmonized vocals, it bursts richly into the second half of the song and gives Idiot Glee a sense of definite closure.
All in all, this album listens all the way through better than anything Idiot Glee has put out thus far. And though it might sound familiar to those who have listened to past albums, it seems confidently the most illustrative of the sound that James Friley wants to achieve. The songs are more intimately personal than before, the orchestration is brilliant, the production is pristine, and Idiot Glee is an album absolutely representative of its maker.
Tracks I Liked: Baby (I Could Be Your Bone)!!, What’s That Smell?, I Don’t Feel Right!!!, Evergreen Psycho!!!, Personal Computer Television, The Whip!, The River!!
Ben Southworth – January 28th, 2016 – Kenwick Place
Glorious Soul Pop
Self-Released November and December 2015
It’s been a little more than two months since I last posted about Matt’s ‘Free Music’ project here – I wanted to make sure to cover other music going on around the state, and found myself getting busy with all things involved in finishing up my schooling at UK. Before 2015 wraps up, though, I wanted to be sure to get all caught up with the songs I missed out on:
“Light Bright” – Not only is this song a really great example of songwriting on Matt’s behalf, it shows off some very nice skill and creativity in its production. The song enters with some digitally altered piano samples, plays through a funky verse, before reaching the first chorus – one propelled by some terrific synth bass. The string hits in the second verse are a very nice touch, as is the key change that leads into the bridge. The same piano samples are used towards the end – this time with Matt’s voice layered in on top – before reaching one final chorus.
“Waking Up” – This song has a completely different mood than “Light Bright,” or any other song in this series for that matter. Starting out with just an acoustic guitar and Matt’s voice, the track patiently picks up layers of texture – some vocal harmonies and tambourine are added by the time the first chorus comes around. Matt writes that “Waking Up” was “inspired by a poem of same name, written by Cate Peebles,” and that it was written as a part of “the collaborative art show “The Dreams I Gave Her,” curated by Kelli Burton and Yulia Topchiy.” It’s a really nice song, and perhaps my favorite of these three.
“Somewhere In Between” – Okay, maybe this one’s my favorite of the bunch – if for no other reason than the way it starts. The track was written, recorded, and pressed on a red 7″ as a part of the Lexington Art League’s 2013 ‘Community Supported Art’ project. The chorus reprises the feel of the intro, and adds layers of synths – between this track and “Light Bright” I’m really hopefully that Matt continues this trend of synths and inventive production for whatever album project he’s working on next, because it’s working very nicely. The outro adds a really subtle layer of the the chorus vocals (taken down an octave or two), that I mistook for just another layer of synths on the first listen, but it’s a really nice touch.
All three of these tracks are great, and when this project is taken as a whole, I’m pretty sure this whole FREE MUSIC project could have been released as a perfectly successful EP for Matt. He’ll be scaling back the frequency of his releases to once per month, but with his sights on releasing a “new (proper) album” – not a bad tradeoff, if you ask me.
Ben Southworth – December 28th, 2015 – Mount Horeb
Fuzzy Poppy Rock
October 16th, 2015 – auralgamiSOUNDS
Cereal Glyphs is the product of Louisville’s Andy Myers – a series of ten songs written, recorded, and performed only by him. Reading through some stuff written on this album by the talented and prolific folks over at Never Nervous, there were a lot of comparisons of this project to the sound of Ty Segall, and I think that’s definitely an apt description. My own interpretation was that it comes in sounding a lot like something influenced by John Dwyer and his projects, Thee Oh Sees and Damaged Bug – maybe with some Stephen Malkmus thrown in too. The album is spilling over with a thoroughly DIY aesthetic, but for all the grunge and fuzz, the album is equally full of pop sensibility, catchy hooks, and creative melodies. The guitar imitates and acts as counterpoint to the vocals at several points throughout the album – a technique that I’m particularly a sucker for, and something that serves to add a significant amount of depth and craft to the music. If you’re wanting something a little more laid back, you can try songs like “Siren Stalker” and “The Well.” Need a little more intensity? Take a listen to “Dead Beat,” “Count the Night,” or the 30 second “Gralehaus Fried Chicken” (these three songs make up the middle of the album, and are all spectacular). Cereal Glyphs might seem like a pretty unassuming album at first glance, but it is certainly a really good one – I’ve enjoyed listening to it every single time I’ve gone through it as much as I did the first time. Congrats to Andy on recording something this great as a solo project, and to auralgamiSOUNDS for yet another killer release.
Tracks I Liked: Siren Stalker!!, Instagram!, Dead Beat!, Count the Night!!, Belly of the Snake!!, The Well!
Ben Southworth – November 20th, 2015 – Park Avenue
Jigsaw Records / Hope for the Tape Deck – February 17th, 2015
Plastic Bubble is a Louisville, Kentucky band, making some of the catchiest indie-pop music in the state, and their recent release, Big Day Parade, is a great representation of just that. The album is made up of twenty songs, however it comes in at just over 39 minutes long – thanks to the fact that none of the songs eclipse three minutes. That said, the album listens well as a whole, and the brevity of the songs only adds to twee that makes them so fun and easily digested. What’s more, there were so many people involved with recording the record, I’m not sure I could honestly tell give you an accurate count (although, I’d guess it’s somewhere between 25-30).
The songs range everywhere from the super-sugary sounds found on “Sol Invictus,” to the alternating jazz/pop-punk feels of “Neanderthal Song” (which has an awesome video, featuring Louisville legend, Will Oldham). Some of the songs delve well into the realm of psychedelia, like “Caves,” “Changeling,” and “What We’re Made Of,” and the band channels this sound very well. The final track, “Moving Away,” is almost comically juxtaposed to the rest of the album, with its steel guitars and an Americana feel, but the sound is not just a gimmick – the band pulls off this song as well as any others on the record, and somehow wrote a really solid country song.
The fingerprints of many musicians are all over this album, perhaps the members of Big Fresh, as much as anyone’s – their frontman, John Ferguson, helped record pieces of the album (as did other members of the group), and it would be a treat to see a bill featuring both bands. The extensive album credits make me think that these guys must be pretty fun to make music with, and the record certainly makes it sound like that’s true. If you’re a fan of weird, silly, sugar-coated pop, this one is a must listen – the songs are fun, sound great, and the album is one I’m looking forward to listening to again and again.
Songs I Liked Most: Sol Invictus, Neanderthal Song, Traveling Song, Caves, In Kaleidoscopic View, Respectable Establishment, Changeling, What We’re Made Of, Moving Away
Ben Southworth – March 15th, 2015 – Mt. Horeb Pike