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Deco Auto debut album available today

deco smallPower-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.

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In Review: The Year 2012

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.

Dry Bonnet EP available online, cassettes on the way

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.

The Casket Lottery debut new track, 7-inch preorder

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.

Radar Defender release first single from new LP

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.

Soft Lighting debut new EP, music video

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.

Anakin kickstarting new EP

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.

Cowboy Indian Bear and La Guerre tours announced

I’m not entirely sure what the end result of a local-centric music blog posting regional tour dates for a band would be, but Google search results are a hell of a thing, and this is my website anyway so get off my lawn.

Lawrence indie-pop quartet Cowboy Indian Bear are kicking off a two-week tour of the Midwest tonight with a show at the FOKL Gallery (host to the upcoming Psychfest) and will be playing with locals The Atlantic and Maps For Travelers. After tonight, they’ll be venturing over to Springfield, MO, and beyond until they make their grand return for a homecoming matinee with the fantastic Ghosty at the Replay Lounge in Lawrence on May 19th. It is highly recommended you attend if they are coming through your town.

See the band’s video for “Saline” from 2010’s Each Other All the Time below, and stream or download their Daytrotter session here.

Cowboy Indian Bear spring tour 2012:
05/04: Kansas City, KS @ FOKL
05/05: Springfield, MO @ The Outland
05/06: St. Louis, MO @ Cicero’s
05/07: Clarksville, TN @ The Coup
05/08: Memphis, TN @ Hi-Tone Cafe
05/09: Louisville, KY @ Zazoos
05/10: Champaign, IL @ Cowboy Monkey
05/11: Rock Island, IL @ Rozz Tox
05/13: Chicago, IL @ The Whistler
05/14: Milwaukee, WI @ Frank’s Powerplant
05/16: Minneapolis, MN @ 400 Bar
05/17: Omaha, NE @ The Sandbox
05/18: Lincoln, NE @ Knickerbockers
05/19: Lawrence, KS @ Replay Lounge

Next month, Katlyn Conroy will be hitting the road for nearly two weeks on her first ever tour as La Guerre. Conroy has been performing under various monikers and with different bands in the local music scene for the last few years, and officially became the fourth member of Cowboy Indian Bear after the release of their debut full-length. With La Guerre, she is given free rein to explore the darkest crevasses of minimalistic twee, and is expected to have a release out later this year on The Record Machine. Once again, if you don’t go see her when she comes through your town, you’ll be missing out.

Stream her song from the RSD collab between TRM and Golden Sound Records:

La Guerre summer tour 2012:
06/06: Lawrence, KS @ The Bottleneck w/ CS Luxem, Spirit is the Spirit
06/07: Kansas City, MO @ recordBar w/ Melismatics, Shadow Paint
06/08: Columbia, MO @ TBA w/ Enemy Airship
06/09: Saint Louis, MO @ TBA w/ Middle Class Fashion, Golden Curls
06/10: Nashville, TN @ TBA
06/11: Athens, GA @ The Go Bar
06/12: Savannah, GA @ Graveface Records w/ Jamison Murphy
06:12: Savannah, GA @ Sparetime
06/15: Atlanta, GA @ TBA w/ We the Lion
06/16: Birmingham, AL @ TBA w/ Lauren-Michael Sellers, Delicate Cutters
06/17: Memphis, TN @ The Hi Tone w/ Michaela Caitlin, The Memphis Dawls
06/18: Springfield, MO @ The Lindbergs Bar w/ The North Decade

Deco Auto post first recorded track

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.

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.

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