I’m pretty sure I’ve typed some variation of this sentence several times, but it’s always true: The volume and variety of new music coming out of this city always amazes me. Even in a pandemic, there’s been quite a bit of output, coming from locations all over the genre map. I’ve been trying to compile a local playlist about once a month to keep up, and this one includes songs of protest, a supergroup folk band and the latest from Girls Rock Louisville.
Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy & Matt Sweeney as Superwolf — ‘You’ll Get Eaten, Too’
Bonnie “Prince” Billy — aka singer-songwriter Will Oldham — and the extremely versatile Matt Sweeney have teamed up once again as Superwolf, this time releasing a single for charity. Fifteen years after the duo dropped their cult-classic full-length comes “You’ll Get Eaten, Too,” a big, ambiguous, thought-provoking rock song, with proceeds going to the label Drag City and the NYC vegetarian restaurant Superiority Burger. It’s about consumption, the cycle of life, unpredictable outcomes, fear and acceptance, all balled up into a bar rock anthem complete with guitar heroics.
Unstable Cable — ‘Construction Site’
Every year, Girls Rock Louisville holds a rock-and-roll summer camp for girls and gender-nonconforming youth. At the end of the camp, its organizers usually hold a live showcase at a local venue and record an album at an area studio. COVID-19 made it a little different this year, as they utilized technology for a virtual camp, but Girls Rock still managed to release an album, a three-song EP that you can own via Bandcamp for a $3 donation. One of the tracks, Unstable Cable’s “Construction Site,” leans into a stormy indie vibe, with a jagged structure, powerful lyrics and an experimental, atmospheric tone — a song that brings to mind Helium’s The Dirt Of Luck.
Kali Malia — ‘Black Quota’
Kali Malia’s soulful, poignant single “Black Quota” is also the title track for a 16-song compilation by Black Louisville artists. The album was made in response to the police killing George Floyd and Breonna Taylor, with proceeds going to the civil rights group Color of Change. Malia’s song reaches back to her childhood, when a school representative denied her entry, telling her family that they’ve “already reached the Black quota.” Malia not only applies dynamic, robust vocal work, but her singing also carries emotions with a compelling punch, which matches her thoughtful lyrics that paint an evocative scene of injustice and racism.
Anna Curreen — ‘Affirmation’
One genre we don’t see a whole lot of in Louisville is pop, but newcomer Anna Curreen takes on the genre with precision and intelligence on “Affirmation,” a song that paints an honest picture of the acceptance, support and validation we all crave, in one way or another, from the people around us. The song’s not in a rush, never trying to be overly flashy, instead relying on slow-burn melodies and crystal-clear statements that have a heavy impact. So many pop songs swing and miss on an enormous chorus, while Curreen hits a home run with patience and depth.
Droneroom — ‘The Moon and Other Ambient Light Sources (for Pete Fosco)’
It wouldn’t be a Louisville playlist without a melancholy instrumental song that twists and pulls sounds from unique directions, melting into the listener’s brain with a seemingly impossible mixture of ominous and calming noises. This week, that’s “The Moon and Other Ambient Light Sources (for Pete Fosco)” by Droneroom, an eerie, but relaxing 13-minute piece of music that’s meditative in its own Lynchian way. It pulls you into a trance, drifting you away from stress and worries, a nice companion in times like these.
Joe Veevo — ‘Always’
Joe Veevo’s “Always” is a striking, refreshingly-honest self-reflection that dives into the nuances of being human. It’s wildly self-aware and clearheaded — realizing his peaks and valleys, the gifts he’s nourished and the problems he’s caused. In 3:37, he covers so much ground, recognizing that he has talent and purpose, while also coming to terms with the ramifications of bad decisions, the complicated realities of everyday life and trying not to let society beat him down. Veevo ends the song hoping for — and possibly promising — a better tomorrow. Not many people can break down their past, present and future in a concise and direct way, but Veevo does it perfectly here.
Dawn Landes — ‘Oh Amelia’
Dawn Landes is currently working out of Chapel Hill, North Carolina, but her latest album, Row, has Louisville’s fingerprints all over it. Landes is a Louisville native, and Row is a concept album about another local, Tori Murden, who, in 1999, was the first woman to row solo across the Atlantic Ocean. Plus, several Louisville musicians appear on the record, including Brigid Kaelin (guest vocals) and Rachel Grimes (piano) on “Oh Amelia,” a bright, sweeping song about how two months into Murden’s journey she hallucinated a visit from kindred spirit Amelia Earhart. The album is also the score to a musical theater show of the same name, and Landes and company nailed that task with “Oh Amelia”— it’s catchy, vivid, smart and a roller coaster ride.
Belushi Speed Ball — ‘The Spinelli’s Slam’
“The Spinelli’s Slam” isn’t a brand new song — it came out in March — but there’s a recently-released music video for it, and, as you would assume with Belushi Speed Ball, it’s a walk on the wild side. The video features a mixture of live show footage and hilarious animated hyperbole of the legendary (and sadly now defunct) all-ages venue Spinelli’s downtown, a place known for its punk and hardcore shows. There are mosh pits, a cartoon pizza squaring off with a cartoon pizza oven… standard Belushi things like that. But, essentially, it’s a reminder of how fun and important that Spinelli’s was. RIP. •