Rock and Roll
Polyvinyl Records – April 7, 2017
From the moment you read the title of White Reaper’s new record, you get an unmistakable sense of the band’s bravado. The music is armed with the know-how of one of Louisville’s best-known producers, Kevin Ratterman, helping the songs evolve from the less-polished, garage-rock style of previous albums to a clearer, weightier, bigger-sounding version of things. The album opener, for which the album is named, opens with the sounds of cheering crowds, featuring an anthemic chorus ready for the radio. “Judy French” is the album’s single, complete with chugging guitars, fast-rolling drums, and quick instrumental breaks that lead back into tight verses. At first listen, “The Stack” could almost pass as a My Morning Jacket track (particularly the resemblance between Esposito’s voice and Jim James’), but a fiery, angular guitar lick at the end of each chorus just gives things a different energy. The album’s closer, “Another Day,” is washed out, distorted, and loud – in just under two minutes, the band wraps things up, never losing the energy they started things with. The World’s Best American Band is a title that toes the line between tongue-and-cheek and sincere, leaning more towards the latter – White Reaper are pure, American rock and roll.
Tracks I Liked: The World’s Best American Band!!!, Judy French!, Eagle Beach!, Little Silver Cross!, The Stack!!, Another Day!
Ben Southworth – April 17, 2017 – Kenwick Place
Self-Released December 3, 2016
The Thumps (a great name for a band) are a part of the Louisville music scene, now releasing their first full length album, A Grizzly Scene. The band – made up of piano, accordion, bass, and drums – is orchestrated uniquely for one playing rock music. The omission of guitar here allows the independent parts and vocals to be heard more easily, casting a dark light on timbre and subject matter of many of the songs. From the beginning of the first track, “Doktor,” this mood is present – a certain sinister feel is tangible in the lyrics and minor tonality. “Back to the Future” is a two-part ballad that tells (pretty literally) the story of Marty and Doc. This pair of tracks is perhaps the best indication of how the band’s instrumentation can work well – some tasteful intros and instrumental sections in both parts really work well at pacing and setting this apart. “terrible, terrible” is another ballad and favorite of mine, this time telling a ‘whodunit’ story of a murder investigation, and serves as inspiration for the album’s title. Over the course of the album, the band tells some good stories in their songs, matching them with nice, unique instrumental atmospheres. The Thumps have an interesting sound, and have put together a fun album in A Grizzly Scene – if you’re looking for something that sounds a little different, this is well worth a listen.
Tracks I Liked: Doktor, Back to the Future!!!, Back to the Future Pt. 2! , terrible, terrible!!, Toomai (of the Elephants)
Ben Southworth – December 4, 2016 – Kenwick Place
Instrumental Post Rock
Self-Released – January 9th, 2016
Sea Hero is a Louisville five-piece that released this album just in time to call it quits as a band. Though the group has been playing and producing music since before 2012, Graustark is the first album of theirs that I’ve heard, and a really nice one at that. Made up of six songs, the album plays in under thirty-five minutes, but in no way does it feel short or rushed – most of the songs are mid-tempo, texturally oriented tracks that take a calculated time to flesh themselves out before reaching their next point of arrival. Without words (although “Pride Comes Before the Fall” features a vocal sample), Sea Hero is fully capable of conveying emotion and some narrative with guitars, a bass, and drums. Most effective are those tracks that fully explore the band’s capacity for range – the album’s first track, “Like Beasts,” begins with a quiet intro, patiently rumbles into a full-out wash of guitars, and exits softly with a reprise of the intro. In much the same way, “A Spoonful of Dirt,” closes the album with even more a patient build, reaching multiple climaxes throughout its playtime – the final three minutes of the song are totally gorgeous, well-orchestrated noise. Between these two tracks are heavier, grungier pieces of music – “They Will Fall, They Always Do” has the distortion and reverb turned up on the guitars, the bass pumping with a more devious intensity, and an even more dramatic presence from the drums. As a whole, Graustark is well-paced, intricate, and explores a full range of textures, atmospheres, and emotions. For those who like post-rock – Explosions in the Sky, Godspeed You! Black Emperor, or even Sigur Rós – this should be a very enjoyable and repeatable listen.
Tracks I Liked: Like Beasts!!, Pride Comes Before the Fall!, They Will Fall, They Always Do, A Spoonful of Dirt!!!
Ben Southworth – January 13th, 2016 – Kenwick Place
Textural Drone Rock
August 11th, 2015 – Alias Records
As soon as I put this album on, I regretted that I hadn’t listened to it yet. Recorded in Lexington at Shangri-La Studios, the eight songs on The Pale Horse are a total display of droning, textural mastery. There’s a fairly uniform sound throughout the entire album, and there’s always something going on throughout the dense layers of texture. Even songs that are less rhythmically intense are held in the moment by their constant motion and denseness; I’ve recently revisited Diamond Mine by King Creosote and Jon Hopkins, and found some familiarity between the two albums in this way. Songs like “Dreamcatcher” are defined largely by a somewhat primitive sound – the rustling of drums that surrounds the listener, and by the calculated way that the strings resolve from droning background noise into melodic ideas. “Gunsmoke” is short, catchy, and is perhaps the most pop-like song on the album, but retains its place within the album through the reverby guitar ‘whacks’ that are traded in for heavily distorted strumming once the chorus is reached. My favorite of the album is the fifth track, “Tusk & Mouth,” a song with gorgeous chord progressions that just get better – the shift that occurs at the two-and-a-half minute mark is really worth listening for. The Pale Horse is brooding, thick, beautifully written, and expertly produced – if you’ve waited this long like me, it’s most definitely time to give this a listen.
Tracks I Liked: Darlin!, Gunsmoke!, Tusk and Mouth!!, Rolling Tides!
Ben Southworth – December 13th, 2015 – Kenwick Place
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