Powerpop is for lovers! Kansas City’s own hopeless romantics, Deco Auto, released their debut full-length today (known among the masses as Valentine’s Day), and it is available over on Bandcamp.
Let me begin by discussing the album artwork for The Curse Of Deco Auto. Were I to stumble across a CD copy of this in a record store bin in Anywhere, USA, I would know exactly what it is: alternative power-punk with a late ’90s, decidedly Midwestern tilt. Perhaps something from Chicago, Detroit, or one of the other cities that seemed to dominate the sound during the era. It’s a simple cover, but one packed with nostalgia. It brings to the surface quickly fading memories of the simplicity of youth, of a willingness to attend virtually any show just to have something to do, of having good hair but questionable hairstyles. Of having more hair in general.
A handful of the songs on Curse have been making appearances at Deco performances since the band first formed in early 2011, and it’s interesting to witness the degree to which each has been further fleshed out or trimmed and re-structured for a proper release, thanks to engineer/drummer Pat Tomek. A veteran of Kansas City music, Tomek is most notable as a founding member of The Rainmakers and frequent collaborator with Howard Iceberg & The Titanics. It’s absolutely worth noting, however, that he also has roots in powerpop, having played with the Secrets*, whose “It’s Your Heart Tonight” single is one of the better installations on what is already a near-flawless Titan! Records discography.
Tomek joins Tracy Flowers in the rhythm section, who in addition to being a founding member, provides harmony vocals throughout the release (and lead vocals on two others – go girl!). Flowers previously provided bass and vocal duties in The Straight Ups, a musically A.D.D. band whose members frequently traded instruments and played a pretty wide range of the rock spectrum. The drummer was Michelle Bacon (née O’Brien), who would go on to be a founding member of Deco, before bowing out in favor of playing in approximately thirty other bands at the same time.
Bringing in the lead, the ever youthful, the possibly immortal, Steven Garcia on guitar and vocals. Garcia is originally from the Saint Joseph area, but moved out to Fort Collins, Colorado, in the early ’90s and became a founding member of Armchair Martian with fellow St. Joe ex-pat Jon Snodgrass. After Garcia left, he would be replaced by Chad Price (All… no, ALL!), also originally from the Kansas City area, before the two would go on to form the well-received Drag The River. After Armchair, Garcia formed Knee Jerk Reaction, a straight ahead pop-punk band by all accounts, immaturity and all. Upon the band dissolving, Garcia would move back to the Kansas City area and, a few years later, start what was to become Deco Auto.
So, now that we’re back to the present, let’s talk about the album. Opener “One Of A Million” is in the group of older songs in the band’s repertoire to which I referred earlier, the chorus of which still has that familiar punch of Tracy’s “Ah ha!,” though the guitar is considerably more crunchy than I recall from the earlier days. Up next is “Frozen Tears,” a slower, sadder (non-ballad) song, showing a little more range in both vocals. There’s a spot where a chord is struck and left to float in the air while Tomek plays something akin to the “Be My Baby” beat, and I can’t help but think of “The Angels’ Share,” the closing track on the Revolvers‘ lone album (whose New Year’s Eve reunion show Deco was supposed to play). No accusations of riff lifting, they’re both just damn good songs.
“The Introduction” is the first of two tracks on which Garcia steps back and lets Tracy take over the vocals. It’s a quick, three-minute romp into the poppy territory in which the band specializes before three-chord anthems like “Such A Bother” and “The Silent Ones” pull the album along until the instrumental, surf-tinged “Deco Stomp” serves as a Shadowy Men-esque segue into the latter third of the album. “Play Along” sees Garcia toying with the idea of a guitar solo, which may have been granted a longer appearance were it not for the song’s length (the shortest on the album), but which is a welcome addition regardless. “Empty Gestures” displays the trio’s methodical approach to slower, downbeat songs, and album closer “Turning Down” is once again led by the vocals of Tracy — who, forgive me for the trope, reminds me quite a bit of Tawni Freeland on the track.
You can stream or download the album below. And you definitely should.
Hello there! As you can tell from the glaring vacancy between the last post and this one, I haven’t really written much in the last six months. It’s a new year, and with that I’d like to continue to entertain the
twelve three people that read this website. I haven’t really been able to make the time for writing, but that doesn’t mean I haven’t kept my ears open for great things happening in our fair city. There was such a considerable amount of good music to come out of the metro that I find it difficult to cut the selections down to a top five or ten. With that, I present you with Riot On The Plaza’s ABCs of 2012, a few dozen bands with great releases, many of which went largely unnoticed.
A is for Anakin, who released an astounding space-rock debut, instantly aligning themselves with the likes of HUM, Shiner, and Failure. The band recorded and released Random Accessed Memories before even playing their first public performance.
B is for Black On Black, a raging hardcore punk trio so humble they don’t even want to charge you for a download of Help Yourself, the LFK band’s six-track debut. Take a listen to “No Good So Far” above.
C is for CVLTS, edging themselves into the #1 spot with the internationally released Realiser, an aural oddity rife with tape loops, improvisation, and drastic mood changes. Hear “Wamego Fluff” above.
D is for Droves, who are the uncomfortable pitch blackness to the warm glow in which Soft Lighting allows the listener to bask. Bryan Cox and Michael Protzmann collaborated on an EP released last year. Listen to “Belial” above.
E is for Expo ’70, the perpetually recording project of Justin Wright. Beguiled Entropy pushes the number of his releases to the area of around fifty, and “Mark of the Rising Mantis” exemplifies what I like best about his music: a feeling of hopelessly drifting through space.
F is for Fiat, a fusion trio who blend classical, jazz, and rock together to form a very different kind of beast for the local music scene. The group released Returns over the summer, not so much an EP as a “bundle” of songs that stand on their own.
G is for Ghosty, who continue to please with well-crafted pop rooted in the ’60s and ’70s. “Joy In My Sorrow” is only one of the many stand-out tracks available on their self-titled release.
H is for High Diving Ponies, whose summer release of Suspended in Liquid received an unjustly quiet response from others in the area. The band will be releasing a split double cassette with Rooftop Vigilantes in the coming weeks.
I is for Is It Is, a band that shares with the High Diving Ponies a guitarist in James Capps, who also provides the vocals for the oblique shoegaze present on their debut, Hollyhocks.
J is for John Velghe and The Prodigal Sons, who at their fullest are comprised of nearly a dozen immensely talented musicians from the metro area. “Bloodline” is the first track on Don’t Let Me Stay to prominently feature a horn section.
K is for Katlyn Conroy, who released the three track sampling of Savannah > Jacksonville during the summer under her performing moniker of La Guerre. Listen to closing track “Lights Go Out” above.
L is for Lazy, an ever-evolving and always entertaining group of Kansas Citians who set fire to any semblance of their former selves with the release of Obsession, nine songs of filthy sounding lo-fi punk.
M is for Minden, who left us all in the dust by moving to Portland on the eve of releasing their debut full-length, Exotic Cakes. It was written and recorded here in KC, so as far as I’m concerned this little glam pop gem still deserves inclusion.
N is for No Class, who released their sophomore LP on Canada’s Deranged Records over the summer. Keine Klasse II piles more anger on the band’s already wholesale pissed off hardcore punk.
O is for Osiris-1, the name under which glitchy hip-hop producer Rick Mauna releases many of his recordings. This untitled album was recorded with inspiration from his then still in utero child.
P is for Power and Light, a Euro-inspired synth pop collaboration between Nathan Readey and Ghosty’s Andrew Connor from which I hope to hear much more than a three song EP in 2013.
Q is for The Quivers, an unabashedly retro rock band that draws from the early days of rock ‘n’ roll, pop, and motown. The track above is from the band’s debut EP.
R is for The Roseline, the ongoing project of Colin Halliburton and one of the best alt-country acts the metro has seen since Buffalo Saints dissolved. Vast As Sky is the third and likely most expansive album the band has released to date.
S is for Soft Lighting, the ’80s-influenced synth project of Bryan Cox. Slow Motion Silhouettes took me by complete surprise, and on multiple occasions it could be heard blaring from my car’s stereo while I was driving around at night. It’s that kind of record, I guess.
T is for Thee Water MoccaSins, a local supergroup of sorts, who self-released their towering debut From the Rivers of Missouri and the Banks of Fear and currently only get around to playing shows when Billy Smith is back in town from his current home of NYC.
U is for UMBERTO, Matt Hill’s monstrous creation that made a return to form last year with the release of Night Has a Thousand Screams, a score which was made to coincide with a 1982 horror film.
V is for Vital Forms, whose breadth of sound on their demo EP ranges from dark electronic beats with complementary vocals, to the chunky riffed dream pop you can hear in the track above.
W is for The What Gives, who will appear on this list regardless of their not being an active band in over a decade. Futureman Records dug up some unreleased sessions from the Lawrence lo-fi indie rock/pop group and finally let it be heard by the public.
And in lieu of an X, Y, or Z, I will post a list of honorable mentions:
Capybara‘s Dave Drusky, Coke Weed X‘s self-titled debut, Discoverer‘s Tunnels, Dry Bonnet‘s Seeds EP, Gemini Revolution‘s self-titled effort, Jorge Arana Trio‘s Mapache, Levon Realms‘ Other Time Period, Loss Leader‘s First Assembly, Mouthbreathers‘ Die Alone single, Prevrat‘s Intelligent Discontent, Radar Defender‘s Satellites and Airports, Sundiver‘s Vicious EP, and Surroundher‘s triple CD debut.
I hope you take the time to check out the bands above, they all deserve a listen. What are a few I’m looking forward to in the year ahead?
New ones from The ACB’s, The Dead Girls, and Fourth of July, and the debuts of Bloodbirds, The Conquerors, Radkey, and Shy Boys.
National Fire Theory. Let that name sink in for a moment. If you were attending local shows about ten years ago, you could barely step foot into the El Torreon without seeing flyers for the band’s frequent outings (whether there or for another place that was likely not all-ages), cheaply made stickers, and scrawlings of “NFT” in various public restrooms across the city. At one time, the band was on top of their proverbial game, and well on their way to playing larger and larger audiences. This time was before several lineup changes and the release of their Paul Malinowski-produced Blackout Days EP, when the band took a direction toward a more polished, radio-friendly sound, a move that effectively killed my interest in the quartet.
Let’s back up again, here. In the late ’90s, there was a teenage pop-punk band called The Sunshine Vandals. The band played frequently, albeit mostly at places like Gee Coffee. As is the case with many bands, SSV went through the kind of lineup changes that eventually lead to the natural evolution into an entirely new project. National Fire Theory was the end result of that evolutionary change, and in their origins, guitarist/vocalist Tim Gutschenritter (who these days is busy running the Riot Room) played with his brother Dallas (drums), Brad Schmitt (bass), and Jon Wessel (lead guitar/vocals). This was the lineup at its best, full of piss and vinegar, and guarded with a penchant for hooks that simultaneously gave credence to Thin Lizzy and Jawbreaker.
Fast forward to last month, and to my surprise I find a message from Jon Wessel in my inbox. In the email, Wessel details plans to pool his resources and find anyone out there who may have some rarities from the band, and the idea to eventually have everything available for free online. If enough interest is garnered, who knows, there may even be a proper reunion of the original lineup. Wessel is particular in his quest, and is looking for pre-Blackout material, most of which he already has and includes the Living With Nothing Left EP, the Ending With White Lights EP, and the unknown amount of live recordings and Cold Lampin volumes that are floating around. Any pictures or videos of the band are gladly accepted, as well as any high-resolution pictures of scans of their merchandise or flyers.
Wessel can be reached for information at firstname.lastname@example.org, and you can also check out the newly created Facebook and Twitter pages. I leave you with the video below, the band’s first demo EP, and a taste of what’s to come once everything is made public.
As noted in a March 7th post, Lawrence garage punks Rooftop Vigilantes have quite a bit on their plate for the year to come. Last week, the group unveiled what is to be the first single from the upcoming Weird Adventure EP. “Movie Music For Assholes” retains the common RV thread of wurlitzer-backed garage rock played with an angular turbulence and, although I hate the term, the song is downright infectious.
The track was mastered by Josh Thomas (High Diving Ponies, CVLTS) and has a bit of his touch with echoing, almost hollowed out vocals that gives the final product a cozy, analog warmth. The EP will be released in May, in conjunction with the band’s incestuous May 4th Taproom showcase with side projects Mouthbreathers and Dry Bonnet. Download it as a free preview here.
Fifty posts. It’s been a long road to get here, and there were times I thought the day would never come. But here we are! I thought I would use this special occasion to discuss one of my favorite bands to ever come out of the Kansas City music scene: none other than that which was known as the Revolvers.
This is a band I hold dear to my local music heart, so much so that it would be out of my character were I to go one chance without heckling the former members for a possible reunion (before you get your hopes up, it has been all but confirmed as downright implausible). There have been times when I’ve gone weeks at a time with having their lone full-length on repeat in my car, singing along to every single word as though I were rehearsing for KC music karaoke. Now that I write that out, it doesn’t sound like such a bad idea.
The core of the Revolvers was vocalist Justin Petosa, guitarist Mike Alexander and bassist Chris Wagner. The three essentially grew up together, and formed a band in the mid ’90s as a youthful outlet to play Ramones-driven pop-punk with a lyrical prowess that elevated above many of the more popular bands of that era. In the years they were an active band, the Revolvers seemed to have gone through an average of one drummer a year, the previous one leaving typically for no more than artistic differences or conflicts of scheduling.
Though they experienced the same hardships and tour mishaps that any band venturing out on the road is bound to confront, they stayed a frequent name in the local music scene until early in the 21st century, when after the release of their self-titled debut CD (and two self-released 7 inches before that) they slowly sputtered out and eventually stopped playing shows altogether. By the time the members parted ways, it was difficult for a conversation to be had among them.
All things eventually pass, and with time, conversations were had once more, and friendships grew more strong than they had been in the years prior. Justin decided to bow out of music, leaving a gaping hole in the hearts of teenage-minded punks yearning for songs about girls, love and the eventual sorrow that comes from a broken relationship.
Mike, who before the Revolvers played in the Breakups, joined the final incarnation of the (at this point no longer ska) Gadjits before they became the Architects, in which he was the guitarist until parting ways to pursue other career interests, which led to he and Wagner forming Hipshot Killer in a reclamation of vigor and revival of their punk roots. In the interim, Alexander also performs with bands that play country (Starhaven Rounders), Irish rock (Blarney Stoned), and Americana (John Velghe and the Prodigal Sons).
Chris Wagner’s musical output beyond the Revolvers has included in part the previously mentioned Hipshot Killer and Prodigal Sons (wherein he performs bass), Velghe’s earlier project the Mendoza Lie (as a guitarist), the abrasive and metallic Hundred Years War (whose Jason Hall was also in The Secret Club with Wagner), indie rockers Jackie Carol (with members of The Casket Lottery, The Believe It or Nots, and Proudentall), and The Glitter Kicks (featuring a post-Frogpond Tawni Freeland, music producer extraordinaire Ed Rose, and a rotating drummer including Kliph Scurlock of Slackjaw, Craig Haning of Moaning Lisa, and Chris Tolle of The Creature Comforts).
As mentioned, the band went through a variety of drummers, but on recording had Thomas Becker on the first 7 inch. Becker was serving duty in multiple up-and-coming bands in the area, including Nuclear Family and the earliest version of The Get Up Kids, but dropped them all to attend college in California. The second 7 inch and full-length featured drumming by Jon Paul aka Buddy Lush of the Buddy Lush Phenomenon, Sin City Disciples, and The Big Iron.
Enough with the word vomit. Now we get to the point: free stuff. Below, you can find a link to download each of the Revolvers releases, ripped to the best of my current capabilities. Listen, enjoy, and share with your friends a band worth celebrating. And if you see the guys out at a bar some night, try not to heckle them too much.
Album: She’s Out Of Your Life 7″ – download here
Label: Locket Love Records
Release Year: 1996
Side A: She’s Out of Your Life / Never Said
Side B: Christmas Eve in June / Anjali
A forefront of melodic, classic pop-punk with hints of the ’60s pop the band leans toward in later recordings.
Album: Marley 7″ – download here
Label: Locket Love Records
Release Year: 1996
Side A: Marley / Marrianna
Side B: Ten Seconds Then / Far Between
You can hear the punk shell slowly begin to crack, giving way to a more musically-geared sound.
Album: Revolvers CD – download here
Label: Locket Love Records
Release Year: 1999
Track Listing: All I Want to Know / Better Off Alone / There’s a Heart / Devotional / Marley / Annie / The Only One / Not Really Blue / New Depression / Standin’ Sadly / Torch / The Angel’s Share
The band’s final output, a much better production quality that features a fully fleshed out sound that is at once punk and pop, and better showcases the songwriting ability of both Justin and Mike. The album is a complex layer cake of melancholy, anger, hope, and a general malaise toward the growing up that one must eventually accept. The band’s style ranges from fast, straight to the point power-punk, to downtrodden, emotionally dejected songs that border on country. It’s a damned shame if you don’t grab this right now.
Something I’ve been meaning to get around to since the conception of this blog is to give more attention to that which was released years ago. To date, I’ve focused much of my efforts on covering current music, while at most giving a passing mention to the bands that pre-date those to which I refer. From this point forward, the Looking Back posts will cover releases from bands that have become otherwise forgotten, or at the very least overlooked in the sea of currently active bands in the Kansas City and Lawrence areas. I will try my best to include a scan or decent photo of the front/back cover of the releases, as well as my own personal rip of the album in question. Of course this will not always be possible, but we will deal with that when the problem arises. First up:
It looks like 1996 was a pretty good year for the bands involved, though nowhere near as busy as the year prior for Manhattan’s Truck Stop Love. In 1995, the band released their well-received country, rock, and punk-tinged debut full-length How I Spent My Summer Vacation, as well as the often overlooked Fuentez the Killer EP that contained a cover of Tom Petty’s “Listen to Her Heart.” In the year of this release, Lawrence three-piece Action Man made their debut with Adventures in Boredom on both compact disc and 10″ vinyl. The two crossed paths with this split, and it also served as one of the last releases from either band.
At the link provided, you can find one track from each band recorded when they were essentially in their prime, or at the origins of their eventual demise depending on how you view their timelines. “Nothing Left to Start” clocks in at three minutes, and is a slower-paced but no less riff-heavy offering than much of their material to date, while the three-and-a-half minute “Pool or Pond?” showcases what was to become Chris Tolle’s signature style that made his next band The Creature Comforts such a locally loved act. Both songs are exclusive to this release.
Download here: http://www.mediafire.com/?6whs9vwhs44dis5
For those of you expecting one of my history lessons in this post, I will not leave you wanting. Truck Stop Love on this recording was headed up by Rich Yarges and Jim Crego (of TV Fifty, who replaced Matt Mozier — later of Arthur Dodge and the Horsefeathers). Yarges and Crego both went on to live in the greater Minneapolis area, which makes sense given their affinity with bands from that area in their songwriting. The rhythm section of the band was given its strength from Brad Huhmann, who went on to play in Onward Crispin Glover and Lushbox shortly after the band parted ways, and who more recently can be seen in Red Kate and Knife Crime.
Drummer Eric Melin, formerly of the Moving Van Goghs, saw success once TSL split with Ultimate Fakebook, and is now in The Dead Girls. Fakebook recorded a cover of Truck Stop’s song that you see listed in this post, and it appeared on the band’s 1999 split with The Stereo (which you can find at a blog worth reading here). TSL played a reunion show about eight years ago, but it will likely never happen again for various reasons, not the least of which being that the members don’t even live in the same climate these days.
Before Action Man became known for their poppy, Chris Tolle-supplied power chords, there was a short-lived band called Five-0, with AM’s Steve Buren and Randy Fitzgerald (of Dave Dale’s post-Micronotz jaunt Joe Worker) playing in a three-piece with John Harper (originally of the Micronotz, later of other mainstays such as The Kelly Girls, with Fitzgerald and Dale). Buren also played with Randy’s brother Ron in classic Lawrence punk bands Brompton’s Cocktail and The Hayseeds (the latter was an additional Harper band).
As I’ve already detailed in a paragraph here, Tolle has been known in chronological order as being a part of Rise, AM, The Creature Comforts, The Belles, Olympic Size, Early Reflections, and most recently has been self-releasing some recordings under his own name. Five-0 more or less morphed into what was to become Action Man, and rumor has it that Harper was initially game for the band, but decided to bow out after a handful of practice sessions, never having recorded or performed live with the trio. Upon Action Man parting ways, Tolle started the Creature Comforts with J.D. Warnock (with whom he played in Rise), who also filled in as a second guitarist for some later Fakebook recordings and live performances.
Disclaimer: the album included in this post was attained and ripped by the author, and all pictures or scans present were taken by author unless noted. Should a party involved in the release of the album feel their work is not fitting of digital documentation and prefers it not be freely traded among those without access to the physical product, the author will comply in the removal of the link with little question. Thank you for reading.
Hello, and welcome to the fourth installation of a column I’ve been ignoring on this site. 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 I recommend checking out every one of them.
Radar Defender – Sleep Dreaming Mammal (2010) – This EP took me completely by surprise the first time I listened to it, and it still gets frequent play to this day. The seven songs therein are filled with groove-heavy bass lines and poppy guitar hooks laid against a keyboard backdrop, and contain much of the same time capsule quality as many of the greatest hits from The Rentals, The Amps, and The Breeders. The EP just had its second birthday recently, so for the love of local music I really hope we can all expect something new on the way from Scott Burr, Tyler Snell, and company. Follow the link for a pay what you want download.
Lite Loins – Country House (2012) – If Radar Defender is Scott Burr and Tyler Snell’s commemoration to the laid-back tunes of a mid ’90s Kim Deal, then Lite Loins would be Thadd Lewis, Dane Carlson and Cal Santos’ exaltation of Steve Albini’s work in Shellac from the same era. The mix is purposely filthy and at times warps like a water-logged cassette, but the six tracks could just have easily been pulled from the long-neglected shelves of Sub Pop or Touch & Go when their output was still respectable. This EP can be found along with another one for free at the link to the band’s homepage. Both were mixed and released posthumously.
Grizzly J Berry – Tour Demo 4.20 (2011) – I have mixed feelings about this one. The songs are well recorded, and display some pretty decent technical guitar work akin to something in the Kinsella bloodline (American Football, Cap’n Jazz, many others). At the same time, the sound present on this recording has been a little played out now that it’s been successfully muddled down by bands like Maps & Atlases. The EP thankfully stays away from the beating of a dead horse and keeps things from getting too predictable by adding in a Mars Volta-style prog element. Free download from this defunct band at the link.
Major Games – EP1 (2011) – On the topic of weirdo prog, I present to you one of my favorite debuts from last year. I’d be remiss if I posted this EP without mentioning the great Lawrence acts from which these men came. Bassist Jeremy Sidener played in early ’90s band Zoom, guitarist Doug McKinney played in the equally revered Panel Donor (which was later joined by Sidener on guitar), and drummer Steve Squire played guitar in Everest with McKinney. The EP is textured with a reasonable measure of pedal work, and at times ventures into pure noise before coming back to a structured sound. Get it for $2.50 at the link. Worth every cent.
Power and Light – EP (2012) – It’s no secret that I adore the works of Andrew Connor. If you’ve read this blog before, you may have seen me refer to his songwriting style as a “Midas touch,” and I still stand by that statement. Between working with Ghosty (who are on the eve of releasing a new album) or playing with The ACB’s, Connor found time to collaborate with local producer Nathan Readey, and the end result is three tracks of woozy, synth-filled Euro pop that instantly became a city-wide sensation. I’m not here to tell you what’s hip and underground, my only purpose is to show you what is good. Free download at the link.
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.
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.
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: