There’s never a shortage of new, local music coming from this city, and we’re going pause to remember some of our favorite records of the year so far. We’re roughly six months into 2018, so, below, our staff takes a look at new albums from scene staples (Joan Shelly, Touch AC x Dr. Dundiff) and new favorites (Rob Lee, Baby Bones). In no particular order, here are 10 Louisville records that we’ve been spinning on repeat.
Joan Shelley — Rivers and Vessels
After seeing Uncut magazine rank Joan Shelley’s 2017 LP in their top five of the year behind LCD Soundsystem and Kendrick Lamar, it wasn’t at all surprising to see her cover of “Time Has Told Me” as the lead track on Mojo’s Nick Drake tribute. The UK loves our girl. “Time Has Told Me” is also the opening track to Rivers and Vessels, a new album of covers from Shelley. She stays true to the original on “Time Has Told Me,” but finds a way to make the ballad even more comfortable, replacing Drake’s slightly-rushed and punchy delivery with a smoothed-out flow like a late summer breeze. Rivers and Vessels also includes songs by J.J. Cale and Dolly Parton, and features guests Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy, Daniel Martin Moore and fellow Maiden Radio member Julia Purcell.—Kyle Meredith
Dom B — Frozen Winds
Dom B kicked off the year with an album that leaned into the harshest seasons in the Ohio Valley, reflecting that with cool, calm beats overlaying a coiled tension. Aptly named Frozen Wind, Dom B captures that cabin fever feeling of winter, a kind of paranoia that reflects the lack of sun and warmth, resulting from a general stasis that keeps us all in one place when it’s too cold to get out. It’s not all gloom and doom though, as Dom reps the joy of snow days. Dom B continues to remain a critical and underrated member of the Louisville hip-hop community. —Syd Bishop
Curio Key Club — Zen America
Keeping in time with their brass-driven sound, Curio Key Club puts lyrics and melody at the forefront of a progressive pop mode on Zen America. “A lot of these songs deal with issues of navigating this chaos,” said lead singer and alto saxophonist Drew Miler. “[The title track] is about trying to find that Zen for you and find your way.” The seven-piece improvises with focus and precision, evolving from being primarily instrumental to a band with a louder message. As this record shows, Curio Key Club never stays in the same mode for too long. — Lara Kinne
Vyva Melinkolya — S/T
Falling somewhere between shoegaze and dream-pop, Vyva Melinkolya’s self-titled full-length is a hazy, ethereal ride through waves of riffs that feel both manic and calming, creating a stark and interesting juxtaposition. The vocals are floating and distant, sneaking through the massive guitar parts. And underneath the rich tones and a flexible approach to the style, Vyva Melinkolya’s melancholy, searching lyrics paint a poetic, honest picture. It’s an evocative, raw outpour of creativity, which, no matter the genre, is something that’s always attached to the best, and most impactful, music. —Scott Recker
Ian Gordon — Mountainbrook Sessions
In the early days of winter, UofL freshman Ian Gordon released his first solo album, Mountainbrook Sessions — a culmination of solo and group performances with several friends, including Grace Rogers, Abbie Guard, Emma Jackson and Noah Colston. The album plays out like a mixture of early Lucero and Songs: Ohia-era Jason Molina. The album starts with “Fade To Black,” a psychedelic exercise of electric guitar, bass and drums infused with banjo, mandolin and other traditionally-Appalachian instruments — a trend that continues through most of the album. But this cross-blend of southern psychedelia and old-time mountain music feels natural and unforced, and Gordon comes by it honestly, as he was raised in Morehead, Kentucky, before relocating to Louisville. Kentucky, culturally and geographically, often falls into a category of its own, and Gordon easily blends the state’s personalities and styles effortlessly, making it his own. —John King
Touch AC x Dr. Dundiff — Death
Touch AC’s rhymes mirror Dr. Dundiff’s beats, approachable and unimposing, albeit not without a bite. Following Touch’s journey navigating some dark times, the rapper emerges here with a brighter, better path, embracing the change that the death tarot card evokes. When he says, “Dreams don’t bend, they break,” he speaks to our collective fear of compromise in the face of that change. As a team, Touch and Dundiff manage an album that bangs, while leaving you plenty to chew on. —Syd Bishop
Carly Johnson — Demons
Carly Johnson previews what’s cooking on her forthcoming album Pink & Gold through the slickly-mastered EP, Demons, on which the jazz singer dives deep into her soul and R&B influences. Backed by a delightful, 12-piece band of local powerhouses (aka the Believers), Johnson’s smokey, yet crystal voice projects on a record like an updated broadcast from the past. Demons hones in on her musical range, from uplifting soul rollers (“Hit The Ground Running”) to two very different sultry ballads (“Get Alone With You,” “Eternally Hopeful”) and a brassy hit (“I Don’t Care (Zirophux)”). This EP is worth your time and affection.
Rob Lee — Art of Flight
Through sunny R&B, Rob Lee’s Art of Flight is a sleek and biting album, owed to his velvety voice, the smooth production and a little help from his friends. “Replay,” featuring Rmllw2llz, is a danceable club track with a golden-hooked chorus and a slick guest verse. “Voicemail,” featuring Kori Black, is a clever, two-sided story about a disintegrating relationship. And “Don’t Worry,” featuring [email protected] All [email protected], is a bouncing synth track that rips into a radio-ready chorus. Art of Flight, loaded with love and relationship issues, takes those Sunday morning contemplative thoughts and makes them feel like that perfectly content moment on Saturday night. —Scott Recker
Baby Bones — The Curse of The Crystal Teeth
From the first second to the last, Baby Bones spits, growls and curb stomps out a slab of punk-leaning, stoner rock on The Curse Of The Crystal Teeth that hits like a primal haymaker to the face. Standout tracks include “We’re Done Talking,” with its slick, infectious scream-croon melodies, as well as the first single, “Pay Us In Dimes,” which could and should be the anthem song for every pissed-off Kentuckian living in these modern times.
Roadie — Unfamiliar Skies
You’ve seen Chris Rodahaffer on stage with everyone from Dawn Landes to the Paul Simon Graceland tribute, but his most exciting venture to date is fronting his own songs in the band Roadie. The tracks on Roadies debut album, Unfamiliar Skies, have a looseness to them, but never feel in danger of falling apart. Their laid-back nature offers a chance for live exploration, carrying an atmospheric quality that adds a layer of mystery, allowing you to lean in on the story unfolding, or simply lie back and enjoy the groove. The record release show is May 25 at Headliners and promises some great guests. Don’t miss it.
—Kyle Meredith •
This story is part of the 2018 Music Issue. To read more stories from the issue, click here.