Soul 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.
Tracks I Liked: Personal Best!, Life and a Day!, Incompetence!!, Beyond Cliche’!, You Have Lived!!!
Ben Southworth – February 5, 2017 – 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
Midnight Soul Pop
Self-Released – October 7th, 2015
Lexington-native, Matt Duncan, has delivered on the second installment of his ‘first and third Wednesday’ free music release. “Night Job” opens with an arpeggiated chord on piano and some whispered refrains of the song’s title accompanied by strings. When the song kicks into gear, it picks up a bit with some funky bass and drums, but retains the cool, breezy, driving-with-the-windows-down-in-the-dark atmosphere that a song called “Night Job” ought to have. The song is made out to ‘all the strange rock and rollers’ (according to his description on Bandcamp) – the pre-chorus is a comforting “no matter what goes wrong, you always know that you can still belong at your… night job.” What’s more, the production is pretty spotless here (I’m curious where he’s been recording since moving to NYC), and I’m happy to report that he’s found some good horns for a nice bit of texture laid in with the chorus. The track heads to a string-heavy bridge // break, picks up some more texture, and closes with nearly a minute of the chorus repeating “night job” and the very same arpeggiated piano chord that it began with.
It seems like Matt is only further perfecting the art of catchy, smooth, and pleasant three-and-a-half-minute pop songs, and that he’s slowly picking up more and more mature chord progressions and instrumental arranging. The song is free to download on his Bandcamp page, and you can stream it below – look for another song of his on or around October 21st.
Ben Southworth – October 7th, 2015 – Kenwick Place