1200 Rozes – “First 48”
Shots fired. With “First 48,” 1200 and Jalin Roze have a pretty heated message for their detractors, with pointed rhymes about the kind of keyboard courage that comes with the Internet. I’m uncertain and ultimately uninterested in whatever beef is being referenced here — or in trying to identify any superlative best, a pastime in hip-hop that seems unavoidable — but I appreciate what seems to basically be a positive message: Why be dismissive of all the great talent in the city, when the community could come together to celebrate each other’s successes? Both emcees espouse this general idea, couched in traditional hip-hop tropes positing success as a reflection of gain, but with a markedly different approach between the two. Roze has an easy gait to his raps, sublimely sidestepping any direct references, which is the opposite of 1200. Those differences and the compositional changes courtesy of producer Nick B — from a relaxed R&B vibe to something a little more sinister — really underscore the tension here in a remarkable way.
Allen Poe — “1st House Party ft. Castle [prod. Lofidel]”
I’m convinced that Allen Poe is the chillest dude on the block. He has a sensibility for producers, here working with Lofidel, who skews toward that kind of creamy golden-age production usually reserved for legends in the genre. Poe’s rhymes are offset with the addition of Castle, who has a lower register and a comparatively-gritty voice not dissimilar to Cappadonna or RZA. Where Castle raps confidently about his first house party, Poe drops nerd rhymes with no shame in his game. As such, this is most definitely a party tune, but not a party anthem, focusing more on pensively reminiscing on the good times, instead of creating a banger joint for a new generation. And that works just fine for getting deep.
Andrew Rinehart – “Gone To Hell”
A spiritual heir to the legacy of ’70s Neil Young as filtered through modern indie, Andrew Rinehart makes the kind of music that manages to be both warm and melancholy all at once. It’s perhaps the Louisvillian in me, why I am mooning for minor keys and sublimely atmospheric tones, but Rinehart provides both in spades and it’s something magical. The centerpiece here is Rinehart’s voice, which waxes poetic on relationship woes in a way that is never saccharine and that always sounds earned. You will never doubt his experiences, which gives his narrative that much more authority. The musical accompaniment is a class in restraint, with the main guitar line carrying the melody, while the other instrumentation colors in the gaps in a less-is-more kind of way. This is a beautiful track with a lot of heart and wonderfully exemplifies what Rinehart is going after with his newest full-length.
Tender Mercy – “Young Again”
Mark Kramer’s music is something so fragile that it feels imminently ready to break apart, to dissipate into the atmosphere without a trace. It’s that delicacy that plays to Kramer’s strengths as a vocalist though, which only underscores the urgency of his wonderful lyricism. Tender Mercy evokes a stark landscape, that kind of austere beauty of rural Kansas in mid-January, barren and wind swept — and surely the setting for some great tragedy. There is an undeniably cinematic quality to what Kramer does that imbues each plucked note and sung lyric with a sense of weight, and it is as much on display with “Young Again” as ever.
Freakwater – “The Asp and the Albatross”
There is a reason that Freakwater is legendary in the alt-country scene and a treasure in the Louisville music canon. The combination of Janet Beveridge Bean and Catherine Irwin is as resonant today as ever, and “The Asp and the Albatross” renders that immediately apparent. It’s a little unsatisfying, actually, to identify this as alt-country, as the band has a clear sense of what drives a classic country tune in the best, most delightful AM Country Gold sense — if you think The Carter Family or Loretta Lynn, you wouldn’t be off point. Still, this is certainly a break from the modern concept of country music, which seems hellbent on playing the same chords to the same solos with the same faux-nostalgia bullshit lyricism. Freakwater has no such illusion, privileging allegorical storytelling and a danceable swing over any manufactured image, and this track is a perfect example of how to do it right.
Les Disinfectantes – “No Sun”
Opening to a hail of static and modulated noise, Les Disinfectantes escalates into the kind of righteous beauty afforded to bands like Boris or Mogwai at their most intense. “No Sun” starts off innocently enough with a strummed guitar line run through a delay, giving space between the notes and a visceral tension to the composition, as if something is on the horizon. Spoiler alert: It is. Les Disinfectantes have crafted a song that has apocalyptic overtones and one of the most brutally awesome guitar crescendos in recent memory. Goddamn, this track slays so fucking hard that you are required to bang your head at least a little bit once the climax of the song hits — or you may likely require some kind of evaluation of your mental health. This is the kind of track that would make Kevin Shields proud and is a testament to the skill of all those involved.