Power-pop 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 restructured 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 power-pop, 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. Upon Garcia leaving, 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 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.
It’s been nearly a year since my last post, so I guess you can consider this a second coming. Or third … or fourth. I lost count long ago.
Since my last post, there’s been a sea change of bands come and go, many artists have moved away for college and/or adulthood, well-respected musicians have been lost, various live music fundraisers have occurred, up-and-coming area music festivals have been executed, another music festival was unceremoniously canceled, a few old crows found some success in getting the band back together, a trio of young brothers have found their own success across the pond, and a great new record store has opened just a few drunken stumbles from the center of the music nightlife in Westport. In addition to that, a fucking slew of incredible releases have come out on one format or another from the hard-working and talented folks who call Kansas City and Lawrence their home. I’ll get to those in another post.
Unlike the artists who left us in their rear-view mirrors, Schwervon! packed up and made the move from New York City to KC on April 5 of last year. The date is important because they played their inaugural local show as the first band at that year’s Middle of the Map Fest the very same day. Prior to jumping time zones, Matt Roth and Nan Turner had been recording and releasing their stripped down drums and guitar weirdo pop for over a decade, often self-releasing the tunes through Matt’s Olive Juice Music collective. Brief nerd moment: Matt is originally from the area, and was in the band Dracomagnet back in the early ’90s with Darren Welch (The Hearers and In the Pines).
Local music critic Sid Sowder is even more peripatetic than the band, having lived in Indianapolis, Boston, Chicago, and Kansas City over the last 20 years while not only documenting the local music culture through his website Too Much Rock, but at times participating himself by heading up Urinine Records. The label would go on to release nearly two dozen titles, including music from The Hillary Step, The Believe It or Nots, The Capsules, and Namelessnumberheadman. I fondly recall the days from my youth as an (even more) awkward high schooler in the early ’00s, just discovering local music. I would spend hours reading through and gawking at his immense list of show recounts dating back to 1997. By proxy, he is at least partly responsible for my love of the Kansas City and Lawrence music scenes, and possibly the reason this very blog even exists. Credit where credit is due, brother.
Using the TMR moniker as a label name, Sid has decided to inject himself back into the cycle of perpetually losing money by formulating an idea whereby he presses 500 limited edition singles for a band and gives every single copy to them for disposal at their will. The details are this:
1) Sid chooses local act. Band picks A-side (original), Sid picks B-side (cover)
2) Label covers licensing and manufacturing for 500 copies of a 45rpm single
4) No profit. All copies go to the band. Repeat.
The first single in the series is from Schwervon!, and features their song “Landlocked” on the A-side, and a cover the The Raincoats’ “Off Duty Trip” on the B-side. “Landlocked” is the first song the band recorded after moving to the area, and a fitting submission with which to kick off the series. “Off Duty Trip” captures a similar minimalist, post-punk feel that the 1979 original had, with a little anti-folk spin. You can stream the A-side here, but you’ll have to wait to hear the B-side until the single gets released this Tuesday, Nov. 12.
The band is scheduled to play an in-store release show at Mills Record Company once they return from their Euro tour late this month. Keep an eye out for the next two singles in the series, coming early next year and on Record Store Day. Each single will be a one time press, so once they’re gone … they’re gone for good.
Lawrence garage rock quartet Dry Bonnet have been playing shows in and around their hometown for the last year, frequently sharing the stage with The Conquerors, Mouthbreathers, and other locals that make an otherwise throwback sound completely their own. Outside of the band, the members keep busy with projects like The Roseline (a band in which both Tyler Brown and Seth Wiese play), Sex Tapes (in which Ben Kimball plays with members of The Spook Lights, Fag Cop, and The Spread Eagles), and Rooftop Vigilantes (another band in which Wiese performs). It should be mentioned that drummer Nic Kotlinski performed in the late, great Coat Party as well. The four songs contained on the Seeds EP are original to the release, though prior to this the band’s only other output was a submission to Replay Records’ Cheap Beer compilation, wherein they shared a slab of wax with most of the other bands mentioned in this paragraph.
Stream the EP below, and keep your eyes out for a cassette in the next month or so.
Earlier this week, I missed out on seeing The Casket Lottery play their first non-festival KC show since their decision to be an active band once more. I caught the group back in spring as part of the Middle Of The Map Festival (their second year as a performer) which happened to be at the same venue they played on July 8th with Anakin and In the Grove. I forgot how quickly time has passed since then, as the band’s new label No Sleep Records just posted the pre-order for the band’s new 7″ record (with multiple colors for the nerds). The Door EP features the title track on one side, with “My Father’s Son” as a b-side. The EP is a precursor to the upcoming full-length, Real Fear.
Any who were familiar with the band in their former life will note that there has been not much change in their sound since the last release nearly a decade ago. The songs still ride heavily on the bass of Stacy Hilt, drums of Nathan “Junior” Richardson and the miraculously un-aging vocals of Nathan Ellis, but with a revamped lineup the founders are now joined by Brent Windler (Anakin) on second guitar, and Nick Siegel on keyboard. You can stream the a-side and title track from The Door below.
For two excruciatingly long years I have waited for new music from Lawrence fuzz-pop group Radar Defender. It was some time in 2010 when their Sleep Dreaming Mammal EP completely took me by surprise, and now the trio of Scott Burr, Austin Snell and Tyler Snell (all of whom previously played together in Aqua-Symphonics) are on the eve of releasing one of my most anticipated albums of the year in a matter of weeks.
The first single from the new full-length Satellites and Airports is “Animal,” an unsurprisingly buoyant song that channels less Kim Deal and more Matt Suggs in the lo-fi heydays of Butterglory. Check out the stream below.
My interest in local composer Bryan Cox has been steadily growing since the beginning of the year. It’s not enough that his ’80s-centric sleazefest Soft Lighting has released Slow Motion Silhouettes, one of the most catchy albums of its type in recent memory, but on the side he also fronts New Savages (click here for a download). New Savages as a band stand on their own to create more concentrated and energetic grooves in opposition to the gently flowing, mood-oriented tunes he himself creates, the end result of which is the perfect soundtrack to a summer night drive — I’ve proven this theory on multiple occasions.
Cox has spent the time since SMS dropped recording new material, but in the meantime only releasing scant remixes of others’ work (Suicide, Brothertiger). Now just a few days into a sweltering July, Soft Lighting gives us a new five-song EP under the title Glamour Shots, with a video in tow. The new songs don’t depart much from the full-length, but much of the EP has a washed out sound, making the beats at times more aloof than the vibrancy with which Silhouettes packs its punch. Below, watch the video for “So Good,” from the new EP. The video isn’t quite NSFW, but it contains things like caressing, dudes kissing, neon lights, and other things that will freak out the squares.
Lawrence native Jim “Dandy” Martin is the driving force behind the psychedelic electronic music released as Cloud Dog. Though hardly ever absent of any amount of contributors, the aesthetic of the sound and the aboriginal image presented is all the idea of Dandy himself. Just this past weekend, the group played a release show for the new album Realms, and plan on releasing a remix 7″ and cassette later this year.
You can expect to find a review of the album here sometime soon, but in the meantime you can get a sampling through the Bollywood influenced “Temple Step” in its proper music video streaming below.
Kansas band Anakin are fresh off the release of their debut full-length, Random Accessed Memories, only issued a few months ago in conjunction with their first live performance ever. Though the band has kept quiet on the live performance front since then, they have been hard at work on a new EP, which is set to be released later this year.
It has been nearly a year to the day since the band’s kickstarter for RAM appeared alongside the leagues of others full of hope in getting their projects funded. Kansas City took notice, and the band’s campaign ended up exceeding their goal by over $500, the end result of which was one of the best, if as-yet still most unheard debut albums in recent memory. The guys figure they may be able to return to that well, and are asking for their fans and listeners to once again get their material heard by the denizens of space rock.
The new kickstarter has a modest goal of $1,800, and as of this writing still has 24 days remaining until its completion. With this new campaign, the band hopes to lure you in with tiers under $30 ranging from downloads of the album and MIDI demos of the songs therein, to a tier of $150 that will get those who pledge a very special gift — a cover song, hand-picked by the donator, recorded by the band specifically for that person. Sky’s the limit, but Tupac holograms cost extra.
Stream Random Accessed Memories below.
There’s always a slight stigma around an independent local band trying to break out and “make it.” Often times, this is met with a knee-jerk reaction accompanied by cliché insults that almost always allude to the artists in question selling out. There is no shame in a talented band making the commitment to bring their music to the masses, and furthermore no disgrace in trying to crawl out of the dive bars– all while keeping the integrity that gained them a reputation in the beginning.
Kansas City’s Antennas Up are throwing their hats in the ring and trying to do just that. The foursome gained some local press upon release of their debut, self-titled full length three years ago, and their ’70s funk, attraction to outer space and proclivity toward unadulterated pop drew comparisons to artists such as Daft Punk and Jamiroquai, neither of which are entirely inaccurate. The follow-up has been a two-year process of the band writing and recording in multiple locations over and over, and whittling the resulting final song list down to only ten.
On May 15th, The Awkward Phase will be released as the band’s sophomore album, and with it a 10-week, nationwide radio campaign with Vitriol (whose client roster includes Daft Punk and Metric, as well as projects from Arthur Dodge and Danny Pound) in an attempt to get the band’s music on the air at 300 different stations. Unfortunately, promotional companies don’t work for free. To circumvent the costs that will incur from this opportunity, the band has launched a $2,500 kickstarter project with multiple tiers offering those who pledge digital downloads, autographed albums and posters, personalized art, and a customized vocoder cell phone answering machine/ringtone.
The band will be playing a CD release show at the Riot Room on April 27th, with support from Flashbulb Fires and The Hipnecks.
I’ve written of new blood KC powerpop trio Deco Auto twice previously, both of which were live performance reviews. After over a year of toiling about town, the group finally made it into the studio to record some songs for an upcoming album. Only “Such a Bother” has been mastered so far, and you can stream it below. Their full range of sound and influences don’t fully shine on this one, but that’s in no way a dig to the band or the mastering job, it only whets the appetite for those to come. The rest will be mastered by Pat Tomek (The Rainmakers, Howard Iceberg and the Titanics) and will likely be heard sometime later this spring. Catch the band with Molly Picture Club on March 31st at a free Middle Of The Map pre-show hosted by the 39th Street Vinyl Renaissance.