Beat Awfuls – Nothing Happens

Beat-Awfuls_Nothing-Happens_WebLo-Fi Indie Pop

February 12th, 2016 – Jurassic Pop

Beat Awfuls has been making noise around Lexington for the last few years, playing shows, releasing EPs, all that good stuff. This Friday, they’re putting out their first full length album, Nothing Happens, and it’s nothing short of stellar. Submerged in lo-fi crunch and distortion, the songs here amble along, jangling with poppy charm. The singles are good – “Maui Wowie” is full of dissonant guitars and sings about wanting love; “You’re Not Gonna Love Me Anymore” is laid out with arpeggiated chords on guitar, glockenspiel, and its catchiness nails itself right into your head. But the thing that makes this a good record, I think, is that they could have just as easily picked any two other songs as singles to represent it. “Who’s Driving?” stuck out to me immediately, a song that sings “I sold my little brother heroin, now he’s writing a novel” as drums chug along and the guitar plunges through the verses. “Shitty City” is uptempo, with verses singing “I live in a bad neighborhood, but it’s good … I live in a bad neighborhood ’cause I should” and filled with choruses of overdriven “oooooh’s.” If you like lo-fi rock, even a little bit, you’re pretty likely to dig this one – each song on Nothing Happens is a catchy piece of pop music ripe for laid-back listens on repeat.

Tracks I Liked: Jackie Ono!, Maui Wowie!, Who’s Driving!!!, Lemon Drop!!, You’re Not Gonna Love Me Anymore!!, No Dice Cold Bones!, Shitty City!!, The One They Love!

Ben Southworth – February 10th, 2016 – Kenwick Place

Matt Duncan – “Chutes and Ladders” + “The Jordan of Strange”

a4276320971_10Intergalactic Soul

Self-Released January and February 2016

It’s time to check in with the last couple songs from Matt Duncan’s now-monthly free song project.

“Chutes and Ladders” – Not many musicians would be able to incorporate the sound of a harpsichord into a pop song quite as effectively as Matt has with this one. “Chutes and Ladders” is propelled through its verses by a steadily pumping bass, swelling horns, and rolled harpsichord chords. By the time the chorus comes around, it’s more a bouncing arpeggiated sound from things, even with tuned drums outlining the chords – Matt accompanies himself here, singing the main chorus in an impressive falsetto and the backgrounds several octaves below it. It’s a tough song to unpack the lyrics on, but it’s terribly, infectiously catchy.

“The Jordan of Strange” – This song is marked with the note “It probably goes without saying, but this one goes out to Ziggy.”  It’s a song that seems clearly influenced by Duncan’s recent time spent in on Broadway as a part of the on-stage band in the revival of Hedwig and the Angry Inch. “The Jordan of Strange” is bold and big throughout, perhaps most of all towards the end as Matt sequences the chorus of “there’s so much more” up and up and up before resolving it with a resolute “to do!” It’s definitely recognizable as a Matt Duncan track, but it seems like there’s been a distinct, gradual, purposeful evolution into this from the “AM radio soul” sounds of Soft Times and Beacon. 

Two more great songs here from from Matt Duncan – it all makes me wonder what he’s got in store for his mentioned full-length LP. He’s made some changes to his sound, but if these aren’t the songs he’s holding onto for an upcoming album, it’s tough to know what to expect. Either way, we’ve been treated to some really good stuff these last several months.

Ben Southworth – February 7th, 2016 – Kenwick Place

Curio Key Club – Curio Key Club

a2890220711_10Experimental Jazz Rock

February 5th, 2016 – auralgamiSOUNDS

Formerly D’Arkestra, Curio Key Club is the most recent evolution of the musical stylings of Louisville’s Drew Miller, fleshed out into a band of seven thoroughly talented musicians. Songs on Curio Key Club are even more patient and complex in their form and texture than the D’Arkestra music that came before them – the band having progressed to an even greater, more tasteful ability of playing off each other’s ideas. All seven musicians play as a hive mind, even in the most complicated and tempestuous moments of the album, staying welded together in their groove and interjecting at just the right moments. The album is well realized as a whole, pacing itself with both sung songs and instrumental tracks, building an intensity and carrying a momentum as it carries on. “Running Man,” one of the album’s pre-released singles is propelled by its drums and bass, with a rhythmically contrasting chorus – as a sub-four-minute track, it serves as a great representation of the band’s sound. The album’s final track, “Killing Fields,” hides five minutes of intricate instrumental work behind a somewhat less intense first half, before bringing the album to a close. Kudos to Kevin Ratterman of La La Land for his recording skills and for making such a complex album speak with such clarity; similarly, I really enjoyed the collaged art that Brandon Bass put together for the album’s packaging. It’s refreshing to hear music as thoughtfully orchestrated and tastefully complex as the songs on Curio Key Club, making the album an enjoyable and repeatable listen.

Tracks I Liked: Running Man!!!, Tweezer Chef!!, Faceless!, Slang Transit!, See Yourself!!, Killing Fields!!!

Go to the Curio Key Club album release show this Friday (2/5) at Zanzabar as part of auralgamiSOUNDS one-year paper anniversary celebration.

Ben Southworth – February 3rd, 2016 – Kenwick Place

Teal Grapefruit – Heart of Being

a2982738597_10Murky Psych Rock

Self-Released – January 15th, 2016

I got to see Teal Grapefruit play live for the first time on Friday night, having previously only heard their music online or over the air from WRFL from time to time. Their sound was heavy, but not in the way that one would describe ‘heavy’ metal or ‘heavy’ rock – it was as if their songs were grinding along with boiling intensity, exerting a massive, weighty force on the crowd. Heart of Being channels all this energy, but with the advantage of the clarity and nuance that comes with a carefully-made recording. Featuring former members of Cross and Warmer Milks, R. Clint Colburn (vocals) and Ma Turner (guitar), the four songs here have sounds that come somewhere between both the former groups while managing still to add things new. Immediately unmistakable is Colburn’s voice, affected with echo, reverb, and panned thoughtfully to either ear as he snakes through the four songs. Ma Turner interjects between verses with guitar parts that range from beautiful to disgusting, from impeccably tight to frustratingly free from the songs’ grooves. Holding things together rhythmically are bassist Philip Farmer and drummer Jim Marlowe, who not only maintain an impressively steady backbone to the songs, but help propel tracks through their most intense moments. Each of the four songs are great – the title track is one I could have mistaken for a Jovontaes song before I heard Colburn’s voice come in; “Faces” is washed out, echoey, and has some of my favorite guitar work and textures; “Clean / Clear” is a song in two parts – the first a sparse, arhythmic setting for Colburn’s murky lyrics, the second is funk-flavored with grinding guitars that ends the EP really well. Heart of Being is only four tracks long, but comes in at nearly half an hour in length, truly covering a lot of ground and sounds over its course – it’s a must-listen, and one of my favorite releases from a Kentucky group from the last several months.

Tracks I Liked: Hanging Chassis!, Heart of Being!!!, Faces!!, Clean / Clear!!

Ben Southworth – February 1st, 2016 – Kenwick Place

Idiot Glee – Idiot Glee

a1624139790_10Psychedelic 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 Prairiebut 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!!

Join Idiot Glee, Teal Grapefruit, and Italian Beaches January 29th, 2016 for the release show at Al’s Bar.

Purchase the album, and stream it below.

Ben Southworth – January 28th, 2016 – Kenwick Place