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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.

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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.

Rooftop Vigilantes drop first single from new EP

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.

Rooftop Vigilantes detail 2012 release plans

It seems as though Lawrence quartet Rooftop Vigilantes are making up for lost time from their 2011 break, and are coming out with guns blazing in 2012. Already having given us a very palatable album in Real Pony Glue upon their reunion late last year, the group have been slinging out new songs at a speed admirable by even the most reclusive of home recording four-track heroes, and have a full plate of releases scheduled for the year to come.

Up first is Weird Adventure, a four-track EP on a yet to be announced format (fingers crossed for vinyl) that is slated for a street date shortly after their return from SXSW, at which there will be performances from side projects Mouthbreathers and Dry Bonnet.

Weird Adventure EP track listing:
01 Barrier Appeal
02 Outlet Village
03 Movie Music For Assholes
04 Hit The White Kids

Once the Weird EP drops, there will be no rest for the foursome, as soon after they will have another release in the Party Animal EP. And as if that wasn’t enough to tide over those hungry for the garage rock darlings, they will then be unleashing Let It Be, a lush 14-track LP. Let us hope that by the name, this will not be their final release as a group before splitting off to do music of varying worth (or that one of them grow to be an insufferable douche named Paul McCartney) and instead this will be their jumping off point leading to a household name career and a hit single that inspires the title of a teen comedy a decade later. I’m sure we will not be unsatisfied.

Expect to see a stream of the first single from Weird Adventure in the coming weeks.

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.

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.

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