Karate Body Records – July 22, 2016
They say trends are cyclical. Nowadays, bits of the 80s aesthetic have returned in music and other pop culture, and Billy Nelson is channeling that mood in a way that could only be done by someone who experienced the decade firsthand. Water Sports is a cool, cohesive collection of six songs painted with buzzing synthesizers, laid-back drum machines, distantly roaring guitars, and Billy’s echoey vocals falling just behind the beat. The first two tracks on the album were released over the last year as singles – you can find more extensive write-ups on “We Could Be Friends” and “Lord, You’ve Got the Nerve” in older posts. “Feels Like an Arab Spring” is filled with shuffling drums, shimmering synths and arpeggiating piano that consume the song before giving way to a quiet ending. For me, the standout track on Water Sports is “Still Life with Cormorant,” a dark, densely layered song which finds Billy’s voice imitated by rattling guitars as he describes an encounter between a bottom dweller and a bird circling overhead like an apparition. Things get even hazier on “Let’s Live Through This Feeling,” which is arguably the catchiest song of the bunch. The line “because it was too dark, was too dark to see, I couldn’t make out objects standing in front of me” is almost self-descriptive of this song and much of this album – the music is strange, moody, impressionistic, with lyrics that leave a lot of interpretation up to the listener. The final track, “A Hidden Beach,” sheds the synthesizers in favor of layers of shimmering guitars, closing the album with a beautiful chorus of “I’m still in love with you.” As a whole, Water Sports listens like an abstract, introspective series of snapshots as Billy Nelson finds his way through the emotions and experiences of adult life.
Tracks I Liked: We Could Be Friends, Lord You’ve Got the Nerve!, Feels Like an Arab Spring, Still Life with Cormorant!!!, Let’s Live Through this Feeling!!, A Hidden Beach
Ben Southworth – September 5, 2016 – Kenwick Place
Karate Body Records – August 18th, 2015
Billy Nelson is the solo project of Whistle Peak’s frontman, Billy Petot, and as someone who has enjoyed that band’s music in the past, this track has a pretty familiar sound. Much like the music from their album, Put to Flight, the stuff here sounds strange at first listen, but it doesn’t feel quite as lighthearted as the stuff I’ve heard before. Instead, this track has a little more melancholic tinge to it, almost like Billy is singing to someone and trying to get them to stay, or win them back. The second half of the song has a line to it that caught my ear at first listen, one that struck me as humorous at first – “It’s fine if Megan wants to be a lesbian, … I wish I was one as well,” but there’s something almost sad about it when you’re listening to the song on repeat. I don’t know, I’ve been watching relationships fall apart on Mad Men quite a bit lately, so maybe I’m just letting my perception of the song be colored by the show’s constant depiction of lost love. But then again, there’s a lot of minor tonality to the chords in this track and the rest of the song goes on repeating the lines, “I can see us as friends,” and then “we don’t have to make a child” – there’s just something pretty emotional about this song, even if it feels lighthearted on the surface. Anyway, Billy Nelson is supposed to be putting out his full length debut in 2016, so maybe a little context will help to decipher the song.
Ben Southworth – October 3rd, 2015 – Mount Horeb
Genre: A sedate mix of tracks they’ve accumulated over their last two albums
I was lucky enough to have this Louisville band come and play on WRFL-Live last week, and just as lucky to receive this album in advance from them. For the last week, I’ve been going back and forth from this one and 193 Sound and have had songs from both stuck in my head for days on end. What immediately sticks out to me about this album is the surprising cohesion that it has – for a collection of tracks that didn’t make it on to either of their first two albums, the songs on Put to Flight go together remarkably well. Though the band has done some post-production to fade from one song to the next, most of this unity comes from the fact that Whistle Peak has a sound. That sound, though difficult to sum up in a word or two, finds itself somewhere between indie rock, electronica, pop and even funk. Songs, especially like “Chinese Eyes” – which is the one that has been stuck in my head the most – have a certain groove to them that mixes everything from synths, electronic bass, and background vocals into songs that just feel good. Add in the distinct voice of lead singer Billy Petot, and you’ve got a really fun album from a great band. Sure a lot of the songs are a little goofy in subject matter, and some of the hooks and samples are humorous, but the album is a great listen and if you’re like me, it will lodge itself into your internal jukebox.
Tracks I Liked: Human Division!!, Universal Numbers!, Chinese Eyes!!!, Pocket Knife!, Just Like an Indian!, Stuffed Tiger!
– Ben Southworth