Jack Harlow — “Never Woulda Known (feat. Johnny Spanish) [prod. Syk Sense]”
Just because Jack Harlow is a relatively new kid on the block doesn’t mean that he doesn’t know how to work a track — or for that matter a crowd. Harlow has the benefit of some rock solid production, here by Syk Sense. What is this moody hip-hop and why does it have to bang so hard? You can easily imagine someone dressed conservatively, latte in hand, wandering to their equally-dressed friend as someone bumps this down the road … and, for my money, anything that might freak them out is a good thing by my standard. It doesn’t hurt that Harlow is a boss rapper, and that he has a skill at weaving a compelling narrative. You feel for the kid and can definitely relate to that kind of early-adult malaise found in finding your own footing in the world.
Goldtone — “Transmission”
Danceable music doesn’t seem to be much of a Louisville tradition, or at least it has historically not been so, discounting of course the inherent danceability of hip-hop and like genres. Still, there aren’t a lot of acts here that seem designed to get your ass moving, but Goldtone seems to fit that bill. The duo have a Chemical Brothers kind of ease to their music, which privileges strong beats and a solid groove to provide momentum. They work well instrumentally, relying on rhythm and melody to tell the story, rather than any lyrical framework, doing that in a way that allows for multiple interpretations. Put in the broadest of musical terminology, this is somehow neither happy or sad music, but open to each individual listener to determine. As such, Goldtone has a bit of magic in making music that seems like an emotional blank canvas, poppy enough to get you excited, but mellow enough to score your rainy days.
Curio Key Club — “Running Man”
The next iteration of Drew Miller’s D’Arkestra ensemble, Curio Key Club offers a special blend of jazz fusion and indie pop. It’s an interesting combination that mixes a Mahavishnu Orchestra vibe with The Arcade Fire or Modest Mouse. Everyone involved in this project is on point musically, showing a prowess at their respective instruments that is virtuosic, but without ever getting overly flashy. One of the only singles currently available from their forthcoming self-titled debut, “Running Man,” highlights the band’s many strengths, specifically how easy of a listen this is provided the genres at play here. This is an incredibly durable track that holds up on repeat listens — high praise for any song.
Sloe Pink — “catināwind0w”
There is a dreamlike quality to “catināwind0w,” the lead single to the impending release by emcee Sloe Pink, usually relegated to genres like vaporwave or hauntology. The production sounds as if somewhere in post, the tapes were left on the dashboard of the van I owned in my 20s to bake in the sun for years — that warp and warble here gives it a surreal feel, one accented equally by the ephemeral guitar work, and, of course, by the sleepy flow and lyrical weirdness of Sloe here. Listening to “catināwind0w” transports you to a place that reflects a codeine-induced haze, blinking in and out of sleep, nodding off to reruns of campy sitcoms. Whether or not that sensation is deliberate is the subject of another conversation, although given the central theme of a cat sitting in the window, and a passive observer to the world around him, it certainly seems that way.
The Foxery — “In The Idle Arms Of Limos, At The Farthest Edge Of Scythia”
The release of “American Dissonance,” the newest EP from Louisville luminaries The Foxery, came as a bit of a surprise, at least to me. Theirs is a fiery kind of intensity informed equally by punk, indie, prog and folk tropes. It’s an incredibly cyborg pastiche of genres that sounds unwieldy on paper, but that coheres into a brilliant whole, one perhaps best exemplified here in the closing track of the EP. There are gang vocals sung and screamed over a sonic bedding of harmonized guitars and monolithic bass and drums. The Foxery has a great sense of movement in their composition and manages a balance between continually building toward new riffs and developing any kind of hook or groove, all without ever feeling cumbersome or overwhelming. What tickles my inner music nerd the most are the ambient noises that blanket the song, serving as a kind of touchstone for the heart of the track — a morass of swirling sound that adds a sense of comfort to an otherwise stormy affair.
Good n Filthy – “Creepin’ Ft. T-Razor & Kogan Dumb”
It comes as no surprise that the first single from the upcoming Demolition Derby City album, the collaboration between Skyscraper Stereo alum Mr. Goodbar and producer extraordinaire Filthy Rich, would be such a cold banger straight out of the gates. To clarify, this is a mellow track that creeps and saunters along, gliding in the background like a ghost in your memory. This will haunt you for a bit, if not in the content of the narrative, but in how it sticks in your brain for hours after the fact. Joined here by an uncharacteristically low key T-Razor and the always smooth Kogan Dumb, “Creepin’” is a nighttime jam, windows up, waxing poetic with that special someone about something deeply intellectual and moving. The production here is moody and dark, part and parcel to Filthy’s regular production, and a promising sign of things to come. As always, Goodbar delivers some of the most underrated raps in the community, and I, for one, am happy to hear that he’s still producing after the Skyscraper called it a day last year. In spite of the darkness inherent in the track, the future looks bright.