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In Review: Rooftop Vigilantes – Real Pony Glue

As I wrote a few weeks back, Lawrence quartet Rooftop Vigilantes are giving being an active band another go. As a result of this news, I know a few out there expressed confusion and were never even aware that the band had ceased to be. You can’t be blamed. For anyone paying attention, it only seemed as though Rooftop was temporarily placed on the back burner while co-frontman Zach Campbell jump-started the incoming national popularity of his newest band Mouthbreathers by recording a new 7 inch for In the Red Records (which was just released recently, check back in for a review). I want to preface this piece with some honesty: Rooftop Vigilantes are likely one of my top three favorite bands in the area right now. While I am here attempting to compose myself with a modicum of journalistic integrity, let’s just be honest that the announcement of this album (recorded in 2009) finally being released is like finding out I have two birthdays. Or to put it in terms relative to the band in question, like there is a case of my favorite beer hiding in the back of the fridge that I forgot was there. Yes, I just compared four living, breathing people to a case of beer. Good beer, though.

The opening notes of Real Pony Glue immediately showcase the band’s new directions in recording. The vocals are much more clear, at times even harmonized, and the four show a noticeable restrain on their instruments, further elevating the pop sensibility coming to the forefront in the band’s follow-up to the nationally well-received Carrot Atlas, last year’s four track cassette Who Stole My Zoo? The band’s core stylistic tendencies remain. Most songs on RPG clock in at under two-and-a-half minutes, many of the titles don’t really make a lick of sense but are likely in-jokes with their friends, and the organ is mercifully given a bit more distinction than in the back catalog. The inherently expected pop melody of the release does not deter, and is without doubt going to serve as a launchpad for the band’s decision to self-release all of their foreseeable recordings. The new album features much less in the way of the raw, string-breaking garage fury that was much more present in their earlier days, but this listener is quite content with the alternate result.

Keeping with the pop theme I have been running with throughout this review, one of the stand-out tracks on the album is “Love is Out to Get Me,” the longest on the album but still running at under three minutes, reining in the close before one final blast. It should be noted that while RV are more than able to create music that would sound great listened to with a tin can and string, the album was given an additional boost at the hands of lauded indie producer J. Robbins (Jawbox, Burning Airlines). Real Pony Glue is nowhere near a daunting listen, and in fact it probably goes by way too damn quick. The band packed 17 tracks into just over 30 minutes, and it only helps to whet the appetite of the listener to their recordings to come. Local readers, you can purchase a physical copy at the band’s release show at the Replay Lounge tomorrow (09/29) with Suzannah Johannes and Fourth of July. Everyone else can purchase the album from their bandcamp page or Lovely Sea Records (where you can still find their 2010 cassette release) on October 4th.

Click here to download “Hacking Up a Lungfish” from Rooftop Vigilantes’ Real Pony Glue.


Music Download Round-Up #3

Hello, and welcome to the third installation of what may actually become a somewhat regular column on this site. Who knew? The music download round-up is a series of posts chronicling area bands and artists offering direct music downloads either for free or for a small fee (no more than $5). Releases included will typically be those that have been available for more than a few months, or albums from artists that are buzz-worthy but aren’t yet ready for their own dedicated post. This post, like the last, has no real recurring theme, but each of these releases are recommended to be listened to with a nice set of headphones.

Actors&Actresses – ARC: Arrows Remix Compilation (2011) – I wrote about this release early last week when the pre-order was announced, but was not expecting the album to be available for a free dl prior to the street date. For those who did not read it, A&A is a KC based trio specializing in a Failure-esque kind of sonic space rock. They have one full-length and a recently re-issued EP under their belt, and this remix album is being released by their longtime label The Mylene Sheath. The album features drifting, atmospheric, and skewed versions of the songs present on the band’s titular release. This may not be free for long, so get it fast.

Living Ghost – Lavinia’s Hands (2011) – Dan Davis is more recently known from Lawrence’s Muscle Worship, or even Wichita’s now defunct Ricky Fitts (among numerous other ICT bands), but for the last year he has also been at the helm of Living Ghost’s dark, distorted, gothic-friendly, middle of the map answer to the annals of 4AD’s best offers from the last 25+ years. Think of the most bleak moments from Cocteau Twins’ Treasure and Xiu Xiu’s Fabulous Muscles, echoed and dubbed from blown speakers. Lavinia’s Hands is a sophomore release, and can be found along with 2010’s Wilderness Names, for free at the link.

Burger Kingdom – Shugazi (2010) – I’ve been a cheerleader for this band since this album first came out early last year, and by the end of 2010 this still remained one of my favorites. Burger Kingdom is a two-piece originally from the Columbia, MO, area, who now reside somewhere between KC and Lawrence. The vocals display a falsetto that nearly reaches the same height as Lush’s Emma Anderson, against a backdrop of clearly My Bloody Valentine inspired drone. Shugazi contains six tracks that should be listened to as one whole, and at a deafening volume. The album can be downloaded for free from Columbia’s Yards&Gods label.

Auternus – Dissonant Sea (2011) – I will be the first to discredit the perceived merits of instrumental rock. Bands like Explosions in the Sky bore the hell out of me, and others seem to exist solely to track commercials for businesses who wish to appeal to a younger audience. I was expecting much of the same from Auternus, but was pleasantly surprised to find that while they do not break the mold, they certainly give it a little roughing up. Hell, half the album features scattered vocal arrangements, almost negating the label altogether. Auternus disbanded recently, and in its place A Light Within has emerged. Get Dissonant Sea for $5.

UMBERTO – Prophecy of the Black Widow (2010) – In short, former Expo ’70 contributor Matt Hill’s sophomore release is an eery, synth-laden ’70s throwback to master composers Goblin and the scores of horror classics from Italian directors Dario Argento and Lucio Fulci. The haunting synths only serve as one layer of what results in at times a quite new-wavey and danceable horror pop album (take that term with a grain of salt, mind you). Though Hill’s debut, From the Grave…, served to much the same crowd, his follow-up efforts to Prophecy have thus far been a bit of a let-down by comparison. This album is a $5 download.

Noteworthy upcoming locally supported/headlined shows

I would be a fool to hunt down and post every local show happening in the coming months. The metro area is experiencing a musical boom, and has been for the past few years, so I suppose limiting myself in the amount of shows I post here is both good and bad. Good that there are so many choices, but bad in that I don’t wish to show preferential treatment against those I choose to exclude. These days, most local events are pretty easy to track via the bands, venues or promoters participating in them, so if you miss out on something you only have yourself to blame.

CANCELED: The September 29th Unwritten Law show at The Beaumont Club has been canceled, likely due to co-headliner The Ataris inexplicably dropping off the bill. The show previously had three KC bands in support, including Hipshot Killer, Bent Left, and Le Grand. Hipshot Killer is one of the best melodic punk bands to come out of KC in a long time. If you haven’t already, you can pick up the band’s debut 12 inch at Vinyl Renaissance on 39th Street. For the tech savvy, a digital version can be purchased from their bandcamp here. Bent Left has been a mainstay in the local punk scene for the better part of a decade, and has many politically-charged albums and EPs which can be purchased either through local stores or directly from the band. Le Grand, while not my bag, probably has a built-in fanbase with high schoolers who love auto-tuned and frankly generic pseudo-punk and/or radio-friendly “screamo.” Not trying to put baby in a corner or anything, but I have to call it like I hear it.

09/23: Kansas City via Chicago (or vice versa) space rockers The Life and Times are heading up an event at Crosstown Station for those who want to punish their eardrums (in a good way, of course). Not only will this be one of the venue’s last shows before their untimely demise of being turned into an urban church, but it will be one of only two times the headliner will make an appearance in our town before the end of the year (the other being an opening slot on the 11/04 HUM show at recordBar).  Opening the Crosstown show will be thirty-something favorites Dirtnap (Are they together? Are they split up?), Larryville newcomer indie-pop sensations Cowboy Indian Bear, and Cherokee Rock Rifle, a hard-rockin’, hard-drinkin’, hard-sexin’ foursome with only one release under their belt, but a steadily growing local following due to the charisma of bar tending front man Nathaniel “Dutch” Humphrey.

10/01: Crosstown Station will be saying it’s goodbyes with a final live music show on October 1st. The list of names on the bill is long, not the least of which is a rare reunion from Giants Chair, co-creators of a ’90s indie rock sub-genre lovingly referred to by some as the “Kansas City sound” (shared in part with Molly McGuire, Shiner, et al). Also performing as part of the festivities will be Be/Non (the ever-changing sounds of the prolific Brodie Rush), Thee Water Moccasins (a side project of Roman Numerals), Minden (new project from members of Kelpie), Olivetti Letter (a brand spankin’ new band with members of To Conquer, Season to Risk, Doris Henson, and many others), Olympic Size (a mostly one-off project between members of Doris Henson, The Belles, and Roman Numerals that still pop up for an occasional gig), local jazz outfit Diverse (who often team up with other local musicians to pay tribute to past influences), and the synth-heavy sounds of Parts of Speech. Other unannounced and unbilled (Major Games) special guests are expected to appear, and if you are free that evening, you would be wise to attend.

10/15: Kansas City label The Record Machine is releasing a new split 7 inch between locals Soft Reeds and Minden, and The Brick will serve as host to their record release on October 15th. Also opening will be TRM newcomers Deadringers. The event will be 21+, and the cover will probably be $7. Even if the flier says $5, bring $7, as the venue in question has a history of magically increasing their cover charges the evening of the show. Hear Deadringers’ single publicly released demo track here, and while we’re on the topic of TRM, go here to stream and purchase the debut LP from Ad Astra Arkesta. New releases (and coinciding release shows) can be expected from Capybara and Max Justus before the end of the year as well. If 2010 treated The Record Machine well, and 2011 has placed them in a local spotlight, it will be interesting to see what 2012 has in store for the label.

10/25: Last but not least, Season to Risk will be playing a very unexpected second gig this October, opening for the once great Helmet (or, as they have become since reuniting, Page Hamilton & Co) at Riot Room. Locals Waiting For Signal will be rounding out what is currently only a three band bill, sure to give at least some in the crowd a migraine due to either S2R’s smoke machine, or the deafening wall of noise coming from much of the lineup. Helmet has reportedly been playing a respectable amount of their older material, covering a lot of songs from Betty, Aftertaste, Meantime, and Strap It On. But, as is to be expected, at least part of their set will involve some of their newer, inferior songs as well. Season to Risk revealed before their first show of 2011 last month that they have now written two new songs as an inactive band. There is hardly any chance they will ever be recorded, so if you want to hear them, you know what you need to do.

Music Download Round-Up #2

Hello, and welcome to the second in a weekly bi-monthly probably monthly let’s shoot for bi-annual series of posts chronicling area bands and artists offering direct music downloads either for free or for a small fee (no more than $5). Releases included will typically be those that have been available for more than a few months, or albums from artists that are buzz-worthy but aren’t yet ready for their own dedicated post. Whereas the last time I had a working theme for the post, this entry will be more free-form in my recommendations.

Wrong Hands – Electric (2011) – Wrong Hands is the chosen moniker of Reid Bottorff, solo musician and native resident of Saint Joseph, MO. Like many under the radar acts in the area, Bottorff has used a bandcamp account to his advantage in getting his self-released music heard. Electric is an 11-track softly droning, subtly distorted piece of bedroom lo-fi that ranges in comparisons from a late ’90s Grandaddy, to a slightly more upbeat but nowhere near as quirky Daniel Johnston, and often touches on the kind of psychedelic pop currently experiencing a resurgence. The album is free and should not be passed over.

Parts of Speech – Floyd Biz (2011) – Parts of Speech is the sum of a collaboration between Kansas City’s Brandon Knocke and Alexander Thomas. On the side, the two have their own projects (Discoverer and Janet the Planet, respectively) but when Knocke and Thomas combine their skills, what emerges is a somewhat sleazy but no less groove-heavy ’70s/’80s mash-up of delayed keys, electronic drums, smooth vocals and additional programming. The music keeps a steady, relaxed pace through all of the eight tracks and provides a good backdrop for a lazy afternoon. A download or cassette can be had for only $5.

18 Carat Affair – 60/40 (2011) – Piggy-backing on the last recommendation of sleazy funk, I now bring you Kansas City native Denys Parker’s self-described “woozy funk.” Parker has been a word-of-mouth and Internet up-and-comer for a short while, and has received accolades from various online sources of things for which to keep an eye out (I avoided using the word “hipster blog,” but… who am I kidding?). Parker has self-released almost the entirety of his material, which he says is all recorded in a wooden shed on the south side. More can be found from this artist to watch at the link above, and 60/40 can be had for $5.

The Tambourine Club – Lo-Fi Feeling (2011) – While not entirely inaccurate, it’s always kind of a throwaway comment to compare a band to The Flaming Lips. The Lips have gone through so many evolutions, virtually anyone can be compared to them. And though I stick by my belief that “Intro,” and the track that follows are inherently Coyne-inspired in the use of a broken falsetto, the EP quickly moves beyond being tied to any particular sound. “Throw Me a Line,” for instance, leans heavily toward the scene nurtured by the influential Creation Records in the late ’80s-early ’90s. Lo-Fi Feeling is available at no charge for a limited time.

Fine Hoods – New Sensations (2011) – Fine Hoods is a newer art punk band from greater KC, who have only been peeking out every once in a while to play a show, most recently with the bizarrely undervalued Nature Boys . The band is two parts Lazy (Brock Potucek, Michael Boles) and one part The Fairer Sex (Brenton Wheeler). FH keeps the same ’70s art scene vibe as Lazy, culling what they can from Lou Reed and the Velvet Underground’s more lo-fi and heroin influenced offerings of that era. Add to that Potucek’s monotone vocals which conjure an image of Peter Murphy moving to NYC in the ’70s. This EP is $5.

Actors&Actresses remix compilation up for pre-order 09/23

Kansas City’s Actors&Actresses has a sound that far surpasses what one would expect from just three people. The trio have steadily built a national fan base thanks to their label The Mylene Sheath (Gifts From Enola, Junius, Giants) with which they have worked for most of their existence. The label released the band’s latest studio output, 2009’s Arrows (recorded at Eudora’s Black Lodge with David Gaume of The Stella Link), though they most recently re-issued the band’s 2005 debut EP, We Love Our Enemy (recorded at HUM frontman Matt Talbot’s studio with the great Paul Malinowski of Shiner). With the recording details listed above, I think one can surmise that the band is largely influenced by a sonically driven, spaced out rock that has been championed by the likes of Failure, HUM, and Shiner, among others.

While those who are looking forward to brand new A&A tracks will have to wait a bit longer, their take on HUM’s “Aphids” can be found on the recently released tribute compilation to the aforementioned, Songs of Farewell and Departure. Locals Anakin and The Esoteric are featured on the album as well, performing “I’d Like Your Hair Long” and “Iron Clad Lou,” respectively. Author side note, I’m confused as to why no band attempted a re-imagining of “Diffuse,” a top 3 favorite of mine from the band. But perhaps this is for the best, lest it be tainted by a group who should not even be included in the first place (ahem, Funeral For a Friend).

On Friday, September 23rd, The Mylene Sheath will begin accepting pre-orders for ARC: Arrows Remix Compilation, a 14-track (digital) or 8-track (vinyl) remix and reinterpretation album, featuring various artists de- and re-constructing songs from the band’s 2009 album. A few of the artists featured include Philip Jamieson of Caspian (under the guise The Atlas Ladder), Will Benoit of Constants (using the name New Rochelle Rotary Club), Arms & Sleepers, and other artists who may have crossed paths with the label in the past. Only 207 copies of this release will be available on vinyl, and only part of that will be available for pre-order from the label. If you want to get in on this, either get your mouse finger ready or track down one of the members of the band.


Additional nerd note: in 1993, HUM’s “Diffuse” appeared on a compilation CD released by Lawrence label Lotus Pool, titled Feast of the Sybarites. The compilation was populated primarily by Midwestern bands, including local artists Howard Iceberg and the Titanics, Sufferbus, Kill Creek, Rise, Panel Donor and Zoom. The last two bands on that list had releases through the label around that time as well. The compilation is worth seeking out for fans of local music.

Rooftop Vigilantes back together, with new albums in tow

As stated earlier this afternoon on the band’s Facebook page, Rooftop Vigilantes have decided to get back together and continue melting Lawrence’s collective face off with their blistering garage pop. The details of why the band originally parted ways is pretty muddy, but multi-instrumentalist Zach Campbell has been busy with his newest band Mouthbreathers for the last few months. Their new 7 inch can be expected out on In the Red Records any day, now. Campbell has also kept himself from getting idle by starting up his own one-man bedroom garage pop band (not terribly far away from Rooftop, though more stripped down) under the name Trailer Blazed. Those songs can be heard on his bandcamp page here.

It appears as though the original break was caused at least in part by frustration at not finding a label to release their long-awaited follow-up to 2009’s Carrot Atlas (WoodenMan Records), still tentatively titled Real Pony Glue. The band also released a well-received four song cassette called Who Stole My Zoo? (Lovely Sea Records) in early summer 2010. Rooftop Vigilantes have made multiple treks around the country, in turn garnering quite a bit of a name for themselves, even getting coverage as a Stereogum Band to Watch in June of 2008. A series of events (or luck) also caused them to be the only local band to perform at last October’s Scion Garage Fest, held around the downtown Lawrence area. Witnesses of their set saw them perform a very different take on The Replacements’ “Can’t Hardly Wait,” with a keyboard in place of the iconic lead-in guitar hook.

In addition to the band’s plans to self-release their new album, they have already announced their intentions to release not only an EP (dubbed the Party Animal EP), but a third LP as well. These new songs could be heard at live shows before the band decided to, in their words, “wet the bed.” If you missed out on any of those then not to fear, because the band will be making their comeback at the Replay Lounge in Lawrence on September 29th, with local favorites Fourth of July.

New Pedaljets album to be released soon

A reformed Pedaljets will be releasing their first studio album of what I assume to be brand new songs in more than two decades before the end of the year. From their first demo cassette in 1986 (which you can download thanks to a devoted fan here) through the band’s debut full length Today, Today in 1988 and the 1990 eponymous follow-up, the band’s sound matured from an artfully craggy but completely shameless take on the idolized Minneapolis punk of that era to one of their own, while still retaining an undeniable pull toward a Mould/Westerberg approach to writing. A break up occurred on the verge of breaking out (even after a stint opening for Hüsker Dü), and left the band all but forgotten outside of the area within a few years.

Followers of Lawrence music history will note that PJ was not the only time much of the lineup had played together. In 1985, there was the Von Bulows, a summer fling fronted by Lori Wray and backed by the entire lineup of the Jets at that time (Mike Allmayer, Rob Morrow, Matt Kesler, and Scott Mize) and was ’80s pop in the best, most danceable way. Though they recorded a handful of tracks, their only attainable output looks to be a contribution on the third installation of the Fresh Sounds From Middle America compilation series.

In the late ’80s, Allmayer, Morrow and Kesler played in The Catherines with Ala Mandelbaum (later of the dreampop bands Smitten and Boudoir), and released only enough material to populate a rather hard to find demo cassette. A few years after the Jets disbanded, Allmayer and Morrow (along with one-time Jet, Mark Reynolds) played together in the much more aggressive Grither, releasing a number of EPs, and a CD on MCA Records in the process. Allmayer fronted a project as equally short-lived as the Bulows in the late ’90s, under the name Missile My Doll. A single demo was released before the name all but vanished from existence.

Fast forward to 2007, and the core lineup was thrilled to get a chance to come back together and completely re-mix the sophomore Pedaljets album, laying to rest a master they were finally happy with. The resulting re-imagining was given a proper CD release on the blink-and-you’ll-miss-it OxBlood Records (a promising combination of efforts between local DJ/music snob Robert Moore and Frogpond‘s Megan Hamilton) and the band played a few shows that summer in support.

I can’t recall hearing any new Pedaljets songs at their recent shows, but then I haven’t gotten a chance to catch them live since they played with the Micronotz in Lawrence last fall. The details, and even the artwork of the new album have been kept mostly under wraps, and a tour in support of the new album is highly unlikely, but a record release show is imminent. Kesler has been performing bass duties at all of the recent ‘Notz shows (a position once held by the locally iconic and sadly departed David Dale), so one can hope a new release may be in store from them as well. As anyone who has seen them recently knows, Jay Hauptli sure as hell still has the throat for it.

The Embarrassment’s Sex Drive 7 inch gets re-issue

While actually from Wichita, The Embarrassment is no less influential to many punk bands to come out of this region in the last 25 years. The band announced via their surprisingly up to date Facebook page late last month that their debut 7 inch will be re-issued very soon through Last Laugh Records, an American label that specializes in re-issues of old punk EPs. The label has previously re-issued The Eat’s “Communist Radio” and The Zeros’ “Main Street Brat.”

This alone is great news, but to find out it is being pressed from the original masters makes the deal even sweeter. Now even the cheapest bastard (read: me) can get his hands on a vinyl copy of the original “Sex Drive” (the shorter version from 1990’s God Help Us is great as well) with the original b-side of “Patio Set” to boot. Check out the video below to hear what you are in store for.

Golden Sound gives new Baby Teardrops the vinyl treatment

Kansas City upstart label Golden Sound Records has been building a steady reputation recently with some fantastic releases from Everyday/Everynight, The Empty Spaces, the Fullbloods, and ED/EN & TES frontman Mat Shoare. The label recently announced plans to release the debut vinyl full-length from Matt Dunehoo (Proudentall)’s NYC-based Baby Teardrops. X is For Love can be expected to be available for purchase on vinyl, CD or in digital form by November 15th. In the meantime, the album in its entirety can be found for free on their bandcamp page here.

Matt Dunehoo fronted Kansas City’s Doris Henson, a band once poised for greatness according to anyone who was aware of their existence. Dunehoo formed DH with Giants Chair bassist Byron Collum, multi-instrumentalist Michael Walker (Olympic Size, so many others), Jamie Zoeller from Chicago’s Nymb, and drummer Wes Gartner. The band was well received across nationwide tours, not the least of which was an opening spot on a 2005 Smashing Pumpkins tour. After the band dissolved, Dunehoo packed up and moved to NYC, where he formed the still up-and-coming Baby Teardrops, though the band has already received various online praise.

I leave you with this, a taste of some of Dunehoo’s genre-bending vocal and composition work:

New album from The Casket Lottery on the way

The Casket Lottery, invigorated lineup in tow, is heading in to the studio to record a new album, making them a legitimately active band for the first time in more than five years, though their last release was 2004’s Smoke and Mirrors. The band has previously raised eyebrows by playing a few shows across the region opening for Small Brown Bike (members of whom were in Nathan Ellis’ Able Baker Fox project), but not before playing a full house at the Riot Room during Middle of the Map Fest back in April.

Second Nature Recordings has been mostly quiet these days, so the probability of the band going in another direction entirely is very possible.

Now, who do I have to talk to about a new Jackie Carol album?

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