1. Gone- The Savage Radley
“Gone” is the firebrand debut single from The Savage Radley’s 2017 record “Kudzu”. Lead singer Shaina Goodman grew up in West Kentucky and uses the bitter taste of a hardscrabble rural existence as fodder to create razor-sharp vignettes that capture the beauty and often troubling relationship rural southerners have with their hometown, sometimes in the same breath. “Gone” is a testament to those rare, intoxicating moments when grit prevails hard luck. “Hold tight to these hard times / The end is far away,” Goodman sings.
Waxahatchee, the brainchild of prolific songstress Katie Crutchfield, has proven to be one of indie rock’s most intriguing and reliable voices. “Silver,” the first single from the band’s fourth record “Out In The Storm” is ridiculously catchy, bolstered by a storm of guitar riffs that create a soundscape more fully-formed than much of the band’s previous work.
Crutchfield’s deceptively dark lyrics (“A part of me rots / My skin all turns silver”) deconstruct heartbreak and contrast the lively pulse on “Silver,” which bears the record’s title. “I went out in the storm and I’m never returning,” Crutchfield sings.
3. Honestly-Rose Hotel
Rose Hotel’s official debut single is lush and tinged with classic country influences. Jordan Reynolds’ lyrics confront heartbreak and periods of confusion with a deftness that recalls her idol Joni Mitchell. On the slow-burning track Reynolds is weary, yet wise enough to admit she never tried to understand the “view of a man who is losing too”. Reynolds’ doesn’t stray from owning up to guilt that plagued her in the weeks and months following a painful break-up. “A woman’s only half her words and half what she decides to do,” Reynolds sings.
4. Expatriate-Allison Crutchfield
The opening seconds of “Expatriate,” my favorite song from Allison Crutchfield’s excellent solo debut “Tourist In This Town,” recalls the charm of the golden era of 1960s girl pop. Crutchfield makes sense of a tumultuous break-up over the course of the 2:30 track that pulses with the energy and authenticity of a ballad sung by Ronnie Specktor.
The kiss-off is hardly vengeful to her ex as she attempts to compartmentalize snapshots of love and hysteria from her youth (“I will always love you,” she admits), but her bleeding heart is wise enough to know when it’s time “to throw her suitcase down”.
5. Love Galore-SZA
SZA’s debut album “CTRL” has been on replay since it dropped in June, becoming my definitive album of summer 2017. “Love Galore,” one of the album’s standouts, displays SZA’s brand of modern heartbreak, a voice that tends to ditch despair for poignantly-phrased clapbacks.
“Why you bother me when you know you don’t want me/ Why you bother me when you know you got a woman,” she sings, capturing the frustration of an ambivalent fling that never seems poised to leave the bedroom.
6. Black Cat Heavy Metal- Dan Luke + The Raid
Dan Luke + The Raid is one of Bowling Green’s best kept secrets, although it looks the cat is now out of the bag. The alt rockers debuted raucous debut single “Black Cat Heavy Metal” in June, the first offering from their forthcoming debut EP expected later this year. The song recounts a blurred night of heavy partying, blending retro and modern influences. You hear tinges of The Beatles at their peak “Helter Skelter,” on the track that cements frontman Daniel Shultz as one of Bowling Green’s most promising voices.
7. Morning Teleportation- The Code
Morning Teleporation returned in 2017 with the long-awaited follow-up to 2011’s “Expanding Anyway”. On a record solid from start to finish, “Calm is Intention Devouring Its Frailty,” proved to be a personal favorite. The song conjures the gleeful madness and idiosyncratic spirit that Morning Teleportation crafted on “Expanding Anyway.”
8. Vagabon- The Embers
Laetitia Tamko was born in the Cameroon and moved to New York City as a teenager. She released her debut record “Infinite Worlds” under the moniker Vagabon this March. Tamko’s music mines the dynamics of metropolitan communities and bustling public spaces, giving a poignant voice to the difficult, but triumphant journey of carving your own home in those realms as an outsider. “I feel so small, my feet can barely touch the floor,” she sings in a hushed tone at the beginning of debut single “The Embers”. The fragile tone soon fades in favor of celebrating your otherness, becoming an empowering anthem for the little guys out of place on the subway and in crammed corporate office cubicles. “Run and tell everybody Laetita is a small fish,” she sings.
9. Sorry Is Gone- Jessica Lea Mayfield
Jessica Lea Mayfield’s newest offering is breezy and carefree, a major contrast to the heavy grunge sound that defined her last release, 2014’s “Make My Head Sing”.
The forthcoming album “Sorry Is Gone” was written following a heavy period for the songwriter who divorced husband and collaborator Jesse Newport between records. Mayfield recently admitted to being the victim of domestic abuse, having to undergo surgery for a broken shoulder earlier his month. Mayfield grew up in a traveling bluegrass band and has developed a cultish following for her songbook featuring dark, melancholic moods and poetic, intimate observations on love and coming of age on stage.
In the video for “Sorry is Gone” Mayfield drives down a barren desert highway empowered by her solitude.
“I deserve to occupy this space without feeling like I don’t belong / I’m done excusing myself / I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I’m sorry is gone,” Mayfield sings.
10. “Never Ends” – The Josephines
Bowling Green band The Josephines blend outlaw country and grunge influences to create a unique brand of songwriting that contrasts rowdy, drunken antics and morning after remorse.
The band’s debut EP “Appalachian Mountain Blues” is expected sometime in 2017. Lead singer Brad Tabor’s southern drawl is endearingly harsh, recalling George Jones and the vagabond, outlaw spirit of the late Texas songwriter Blaze Foley in the slew of live performances I’ve seen this year.
The band recently filmed a live performance of song “Never Ends,” for WNKY TV. Watch the performance below: