Seeing as how shes already won three LEO Readers Choice Awards this year for Best Band/Musician Performing Original Music, Best Local Song, and Best Local Album, perhaps Im a bit late with this review, as apparently a lot of you are already quite familiar with Louisville-based singer, songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Michaela McKiernan (aka Mod Kiddo). Drawing inspiration from the likes of Radiohead, Mazzy Star, Beach House, and Elliott Smith, Mod Kiddos sound skirts the edges of dream pop, shoegaze, lo-fi, and alternative rock, but is not easily classified into any genre. Backed by a stellar lineup of studio musicians that includes Craig Pfunder (VHS or Beta) on guitar and synth, Tom Blankenship (My Morning Jacket) on bass, and Van Campbell (Black Diamond Heavies/Bonnie Prince Billy) on drums, Scintillation is a five-song auditory journey that carries the listener through lush, mesmerizing soundscapes. McKiernans ethereal vocal delivery and haunting lyrics pull you into her world, inviting you to explore the depths of her thoughts and emotions. The excellent production quality courtesy of Will Roberts (The Pass) and the aforementioned Craig Pfunder give these songs a warm, bright, clean sound that allows the music to breathe and evolve, creating an immersive experience that keeps the listener engaged throughout. With Scintillation, Mod Kiddo has created an EP that rewards repeated listens, revealing new layers and subtleties with each play. But you, dear LEO reader, already knew that, didnt you?
Nick Teale featuring Skipping Stone
Singer, songwriter, and multi-instrumentalist Nick Teale is an artist who seemingly has no fear whatsoever of taking on any genre. His previous work has seen him perform rock, folk, jazz, bluegrass, pop, Americana, adult contemporary, hip-hop, and everything in between. Said Teale, Genre doesnt matter to me as long as I can communicate a message of empathy, kindness, compassion, and understanding. So why was I surprised to see him take on metal? I mean, honestly, why not? He certainly has the pipes for it. Written as a tribute to Ryan Preston, lead guitarist and vocalist of Louisville Viking metal band Overthrone, who passed away in 2021 after a yearlong battle with cancer, Sail On is a powerful, moving track with heartfelt lyrics that is almost as big as Ryan Prestons legend. Teale, handling vocals and acoustic guitar, is in classic form. His rich baritone voice is almost operatic here, pushing harder and reaching higher notes than Ive ever heard him sing before, giving one of his best vocal performances yet and truly showcasing what he is capable of. Backing him are local alt-metal heavyweights and perennial LEO Readers Choice favorites Skipping Stone, who lay down a powerhouse of a performance themselves. The result is an epic classic metal track in the vein of Savatage and Iron Maiden that is worthy of the man it was written for and the music he created.
As founder and bassist of long-running classic rock cover band The Derby City Ramblers, Bryan Peak has had a long career of playing other peoples material. However, during the pandemic shutdown of 2020, Peak began what he said was a lifelong goal of professionally recording my original songs under the pseudonym Pinner. The result is his self-titled album, entirely composed and arranged by Peak and featuring a whos-who of local musicians. Seriously, this album packs some big local names: Grammy Award winner Michael Cleveland (Michael Cleveland & Flamekeeper), Johnny Edwards (Foreigner/Montrose/King Kobra/Buster Brown), Johnny Berry (Johnny Berry and the Outliers), Jessica Leslie (Wax Factory), Josh Goodlett, Frankie Moody, the list goes on and on. The album captures the essence of traditional country and bluegrass while giving it a fresh, contemporary twist. What truly sets this album apart is the inclusion of the numerous collaborative musicians, each track featuring a different lineup than the previous Peak and Louisville Recording Company owner and engineer Phil Bright being the only consistent. And while the musicianship on display here is nothing short of incredible, its the vocalists, each of whom adds a unique layer to Peaks material, who are truly in the spotlight. The album is undeniably catchy, one youll find yourself humming and singing along to even after just one listen. Whether youre a lifelong country music fan or new to the genre, Pinner has an accessibility that makes it easy to enjoy.
Producing a Kind Generation
All of Us
PAKG are nothing if not prolific. All of Us marks their second full-length record of 2023 and third since the summer of 2022. But the really impressive thing with PAKG is that its all quality material. The kind of material where even if they were taking five or so years between each of these albums, youd still be impressed with how great these songs are. But where All of Us really stands out from its predecessors is its rawness. The 14 tracks on All of Us take on more of a darker, melancholic, grungier tone compared to the bright, upbeat, poppier tunes of their previous releases. The production here as well has a grittier, stripped-down, live feel to it. None of this is a bad thing, by the way. PAKG knows how to write some extremely catchy alt-rock tunes, and All of Us is certainly no exception. From the powerhouse groove of Beauty Queen,the melodic slow burn of Stain (which is easily one of their best songs to date), the beautiful acoustic ballad For Francine (made all the more vulnerable by the bare-bones recording done outside with crickets chirping in the background), to the funky Red Hot Chili Peppers-ish album closer Rain Dance, All of Us is yet another essential collection of songs by this absolutely phenomenal band. Look for it on Bandcamp and all streaming platforms on Friday, 11/24.
Dont Play The Game and I Wanna Be Everywhere With You
Certainly no stranger to the Listen Local column, multi-instrumentalist and producer Andrew N. Aebersold is back with his one-man studio project Radianation. His latest tracks, Dont Play The Game and I Wanna Be Everywhere With You, are the third and fourth singles from his upcoming full-length album Casting Spells, which is slated for release in January 2024. Dont Play The Game blends alt-rock with EDM for a catchy, upbeat, danceable number with melancholic undertones. Lyrically delivering a powerful message about individuality and the pursuit of true freedom in an ever-conforming world, said Aebersold, the track is a poignant reminder that one doesnt need to adhere to societal norms or expectations. His newest single, I Wanna Be Everywhere With You, takes on much more of a retro-80s new-wave vibe with a solid modern electro-pop sheen. With lyrics that, according to Aebersold, convey the longing to explore every corner of the globe alongside a significant other, and its big hook-filled chorus, this is quite possibly the catchiest song Radianation has recorded yet. With both songs, Aebersold plays all traditional instruments himself, including acoustic and electric guitars, bass, drums, piano, keyboards, and vocals, while adding in computerized electronic elements and a slick, clean, bright production before turning them over to Grammy Award-winning engineer James Auwarter at Coda Room Audio for mastering. Without a doubt, the upcoming Casting Spells album is going to be something quite special.
Stepping out from his roles in the traditional bluegrass stylings of VEZL and the jazzy funk of Big Atomic, multi-instrumentalist and songwriter Shannon Vetter stands in the spotlight on his sophomore solo album Holding Pattern, delivering a 12-song journey through the heart of Americana, ranging from the soulful album opener Strange Year, the bluesy rock of Down Tonight and Great Divide, the folk-tinged country of Love You Better and Musicians Lament, the newgrass stylings of Stone Age and Piney Mountains, even experimenting with ragtime on Ode to a Drunk Girl and New Orleans-style jazz on Boundaries Baby. The tremendous lineup of local talent including Scott T. Smith, Chris Rodahaffer (Bonnie Prince Billy/Roadie), Anna Blanton (Arianna Barton & The Bourbon Britches/Jericho Woods), Todd Hildreth (Todd Hildreth Trio/Squeeze-bot), Ryan Nottingham (Bad Ass Brass), and several others provides a rich foundation for Vetters expressive vocals. And its easy to get lost in the stories and melodies of Vetters emotion-filled lyrics, which explore themes of love, longing, and the human condition. Holding Pattern is a wonderful work of art that showcases Shannon Vetters songwriting and musical talents. With its evocative lyrics and an ensemble of top-notch musicians, this album is a must-hear for anyone who appreciates emotional depth and musical diversity within the Americana genre.
Louisvilles Tin Zelkova is a young band with an old soul a power trio whose sound not only captures the essence of classic and modern rock, but also infuses their own unique energy into the mix. Their latest release, Wretched Stone, is a prime example of this - a deep groove-oriented, slower tempo track that draws you in with an almost tribal-sounding rhythm and hooks you with a catchy melody. The influence of iconic classic rock bands like Rush, Kansas, Blue Oyster Cult, and Aerosmith can be heard here, but Tin Zelkova brings a modern twist to their sound, giving this song a youthful feel. The band has a tight, cohesive sound that youd expect from a group with years of experience. Their ability to craft a song that is both nostalgic in essence and contemporary in sound is certainly a testament to their outstanding musicianship and songwriting skills. With a knack for creating memorable hooks and a sound thats a perfect blend of the old and new, Tin Zelkova is a band to keep an eye on as they continue to make their mark on the Louisville music scene.
For a guy whos only been making music for a handful of years, Louisville native Zayuh is obviously doing something right. He began experimenting with multiple instruments at the age of 12, then creating and releasing his own music from his bedroom studio at 15. Now at the ripe old age of 18, hes already a verified artist on Spotify with almost 24,000 monthly listeners from all over the world. His latest single Instant is a vibrant fusion of hyperpop and alt-hip-hop, pulling influences from artists like Ericoda, Glaive, The Kid Laroi, and Jack Harlow. With an energetic, bouncy beat and youthful energy, this song is perfect for anyone looking for a danceable tune. Zayuhs production choices are on point, offering a rich soundscape that embraces the hyperpop aesthetics while infusing it with his own unique touch. The infectious beat is complemented by Zayuhs vocals, which seamlessly flow between rapping and singing. The transitions are smooth, and his vocal hooks are undeniably catchy, making this track impossible to get out of your head. I would say the only downfall here is that, clocking in at just under two minutes, its far too short of a song. If he could add another couple minutes to this, I could absolutely picture this song bumping in clubs and lighting up dance floors across the nation. Regardless, this track is a dose of musical euphoria that youre gonna love the Instant you hear it!