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The Deli KC





Album review: She's A Keeper - Westside Royal (EP)

Westside Royal, the new musical offering from She’s A Keeper, is out now on the Internet [the music IRL is at a party on Saturday at Davey’s Uptown, $6, 10:30]. The five new songs wash over with confidence and calm. It’s a professional and creatively successful piece of work that the band has offered up for critical review by The Deli KC.
 
Upfront, let’s be clear: I like this album. I’d like-button this album, probably, but that’s not the point. After over a dozen streams or so I hear plenty of good stuff, great stuff, and yet—and always—there are compositional choices inevitably worth questioning. Today this will be me, tomorrow it will be someone else, ultimately it is you. There is something really nice about being critical of material that strives for and achieves a certain level of quality. We get to dig a little deeper and talk about the little things, the details. So thanks for the new stuff, guys, and allowing us to pick apart this awesome EP a little. Let’s get into it…
 
Album opener is “Wannabe.” Great opener. A strong sense of longing in the mood and lyrical content creates magnetism. The music is lively and progressive with great drum work and a really nice piano feature midway. The whole track blossoms and just feels good. The only part that sticks out to me as a missed opportunity is the lack of sonic interest after the piano section. It’s a transitional period in which the band hits a wall (a sequence all in unison) that serves to de-escalate the intensity of the building momentum. What it lacks is some sort of textural context, some color to complement such a straightforward approach. It’s a standard technique and is cultivated by the dynamics of a live show. For a recording it might be more effective to provide a sound to either carry the listener’s attention as an auditory focal point, or as an embellishment to the simple, homophonic texture of the band.
 
And, of course, once I criticize the band’s use of color I have immediate cause for praise. The second track, “Staying Up” is my favorite kind of song: refreshing, reflective, organic. From the immaculate roll of the opening chord, the music unfolds with elegant gravity. Imagine leaves falling. Jangly guitars fit snugly in a vibrant mix and are accompanied by tasteful and highly complimentary banjo picking. This is one of the most unique moments on the album; Keeper finds a place to reside comfortably and welcomes the listener to a sound of its own. The vocal work at the end is really cool and extremely well done. Because I like this track so much, I wish there was more to bite off lyrically, but I think this is a minor smudge in light of the track’s overall magnificence.
 
The first tidbit of attitude we get comes immediately with the onset of “I Won’t,” a cool, breezy, kinetic track lushed out quite beautifully. The egg shaker, for instance, is a breath of fresh air. The drums are built logically and done with precision. The dirty guitar would contribute more with a more vibrant tone, maybe more chord definition. But, the clean guitar work is spot-on. I love the tone and the slinky riff that carries the groove and harmony. I am looking forward to experiencing this song live. It seems honed by interaction.
 
On “Dead Serious” we get the most intriguing literary premise and the lyrics have more color, a wider vocabulary, and more devices. This sort of lyrical craft is a great complement to Keeper’s instantly amicable sonic stylings. We also get a cool, augmented, kinda hypnotic chord structure bringing in some welcomed harmonic struggle in the midst of the album’s overall consonance. The outro feels fresh and playful with that augmented bit making a delicate return.
 
“Pennsylvania” closes the EP nicely. It’s a sentimental ballad about a far off place, a far off time. My initial thought is a harsh one: Do we need more of these? The track goes down easy... maybe too easy, but again, Keeper does it well. The band stays concise and resists the urge to include a four-minute chant section that helps keep the song lean and honest. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a gorgeous melody and the style is executed with great skill, I just can’t help but wonder if the band could have been a bit more adventurous in its closing statement. I am being quite critical of a track that is, for all intents and purposes, flawless. This is food for thought. Here is a band that has a great following, great instincts and musicianship: Do we have the faith to follow them into unknown territory?
 
Finally, here’s my dilemma with the piece and the EP in general: while the band packs a little too much sugar in their recipe sometimes, the music ultimatelyleaves a good taste in my mouth. It also leaves me with an undeniable sense of peace and closure. Which, damn it all if that’s not the point.
 
Overall, it’s obvious that She’s A Keeper is a group of talented musicians who know how to make a solid recording. Due credit must also be given to engineer/producer Joel Nanos at Element Recording, where the project came to life… which is just down the street from what I can only assume is our mutually local liquor store of which the title may have been adopted (my hunch).
 
 
Check out She’s A Keeper online and join us on Saturday, January 31, to see them LIVE at Davey’s Uptown with Organized Crimes. Facebook event page.
 
--Jerad Tomasino
 
Jerad is a musician and human being local to KCMO since 2005. He studied Music Composition at the Conservatory at UMKC, is a founding member of Golden Sound Records, The Crossroads Summer Block Party, and has been active as a writer/player/producer for bands, including his own Everyday/Everynight (KCMO) and Nifty250 (Omaha).
 
 

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Album review: Hembree - New Oasis (EP)

Music—writing songs that resonate with people, observing snapshots in time, and reconciling emotions in one’s head—can be cathartic and somewhat serious business. Out of a conversation with Hembree singer/guitarist/songwriter Isaac Flynn, you get very little of that. The guy is just really nice. He says early in the conversation that they “want to make fun music.” New Oasis, Hembree’s eagerly awaited debut EP, does just that. In spades.   
 
From the ashes of Lawrence/KC group Quiet Corral rose Hembree. This quintet—the remainder of the QC members after vocalist/guitarist Jesse Roberts departed—took stock of its situation and instead of going their separate ways, they seized—as Flynn tells it, the “opportunity to create something totally different.” Take a liberal dose of supremely fresh Americana and add to it a couple scoops of vintage keyboards and beats and you’re beginning to get the idea.
 
New Oasis is, from front to back, a journey of gritty and honest vocals, dreamy and ethereal harmonies, beautifully constructed guitar layers, a near perfect rhythm section, and killer keyboards that provide a yin to the roots rock yang. The lyrics come from the heart as well; all drawn from, as Flynn asserts, “my life experience and those close to me.” He fills pages, his mobile phone memo app, and has even inundated the memory in his car’s onboard voice memo storage with lyrics he sings aloud to remember tune ideas that randomly pop into his head. 
 
“It’s like an ‘80s band decided to become an Americana band but forgot to tell the keyboard player,” he explains. Well said. 
 
The feel of New Oasis is poppy but real. Many of Hembree’s musical influences such as Tom Petty, Hall & Oates, and Tears For Fears can be heard, but with a definite modern freshness. Hembree has taken these filters and molded them into a remarkably cohesive sound that literally anyone could listen to and find a slice that inspires them and leaves them wanting more. 
 
The opener, “Whistler,” is a longing introduction that sucks you in with an Alan Parsons-ish vibe and is followed by the hopeful title track, which seems to spell out the bright outlook of this group that—in spite of their losses—sees only promise for the future. “Subtle Step” is a downright infectious number (I’ve had it in my head for literally days) that would be perfectly placed on the soundtrack for Real Genius or Weird Science. “October” is that perfect, lovely mixture of the Americana/synth compound: Equal parts Tom Petty, a wide-open Midwestern twang, and OMD. “Walk Alone” is a modern and somewhat lonely song that belies its outwardly upbeat meter. The hooky and interplaying vocals, dynamics, and immaculate guitar riffs make this one as strong as any cut from the record. “Six Years” closes it out with greater guitar fuzz and an earnest entreat: Meet me on the other side / Where there’s time to learn this life.
 
New Oasis has focus, it has balance, and it has integrity. My only complaint about the record is that it’s too short. As to Hembree’s goal of making “fun music”? Check that one off the bucket list, guys.
 
Hembree is:
Jim Barnes: Drums, vocals
Garrett Childers: Guitar, vocals
Eric Davis: keys 
Isaac Flynn: Guitar, vocals
Matt Green: Bass
 
 
--Jeff Stalnaker
 
Jeff Stalnaker plays in a local band and can open a beer bottle with his wedding ring.
 
 
Hembree will be celebrating the release of New Oasis in Lawrence this Saturday, January 31, at the Granada Theater. It’s an all ages, free show sponsored by KJHK, with special guests Paper Buffalo, Ebony Tusks, and The Phantastics. Facebook event page.
 
 

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Artist on Trial: Redder Moon

One of the newest projects in KC music is Redder Moon, our Artist on Trial today. The band, essentially a dual collaboration between Jeremiah James Gonzales and Matthew Naquin (they also recently added Jon VanSickle as a live drummer), blurs the lines of electronic, avant garde, and psychedelic shoegaze sounds. We talked with Gonzales a bit about Redder Moon and what they have planned for 2015.
 
The Deli: Down and dirty: one sentence to describe your music.
 
Gonzales: Sounds like the soundtrack to a post apocalyptic film that has not yet been made. 
 
The Deli: Who writes the music?
 
Gonzales: I come up with the big picture of the songs for the most part, and then Matt helps translate the idea into digital ear candy. At times, he adds some of the most essential elements that cap off the big picture and make it better.
 
The Deli: What inspires your songwriting?
 
Gonzales: I am mostly inspired by movie soundtracks and the feeling I get when I’m in engulfed in a great film, alongside being influenced by the need to express ourselves, as are most creative people. I also cite pizza (the food) as an influence.
 
The Deli: What have been your greatest accomplishments as a band?
 
Gonzales: The day we finished production of the first record, a small EDM outfit from Canada called Upstairs Recordings wanted to put out or EP digitally, so that was pretty cool. Also, Matt Hill of UMBERTO has made a few remixes of some songs and as a result, a pretty cool label Not Not Fun Records (LA) will possibly be putting something out for us sometime in 2015.
 
The Deli: Do you have any plans to record a new album anytime soon?
 
Gonzales: I’m currently compiling/accumulating songs for the possible NNF release. However, we are always open to releasing digital tracks/albums intermittently and physically with the right pairing of record label.
 
The Deli: You've been making music in Kansas City for a long time. What's your goal with Redder Moon compared with bands you've been with in the past?
 
Gonzales: Over the years I've had the pleasure and experience to be in some very great bands with some very talented people. I would say that I'm very lucky to have been able to be a part of the music scene over the years. But with playing in traditional bands comes all the traditional woes and throes of juggling multiple schedules/tastes/personalities. I never really set out to do anything specific with Redder Moon. In fact, I was somewhat satisfied with a musical hibernation, so to speak, when Matt convinced my return from slumber. We have also found that playing in a duo breeds less stress on the overall quality of our creative lives.
 
The Deli: What does supporting local music mean to you?
 
Gonzales: I try my best to support local music in as much of a non-biased opinion as possibly allowed. Meaning, I can ALWAYS appreciate the guts that it takes to put original music out into the world, be it live or on a recording. I am constantly battling with myself on whether I think our stuff is good enough to put in front of people or if I will only scar the listeners’ ears forever. That said, I know exactly what it means to put together a band/project and the vulnerability one must go through to do it. So I do my best to find the good in everyone's unique take on their art and have learned to grow from constructive criticism toward my own. 
 
The Deli: Who are your favorite local musicians right now?
 
Gonzales: I have also been in somewhat of a slumber in the local music scene that I’ve been reawakened to as of late, so I have yet to experience some of the newer acts emerging in the KC scene. Some of the few I have kept up with are Organized Crimes, Scammers, ISAM, Expo 70, Mat Shoare Band, and C.S. Luxem. I know there are plenty of local bands that I have yet to hear or older bands that have released new material and I can only look forward to experiencing the sounds to find out for myself.
 
The Deli: Who are your favorite non-local musicians right now?
 
Gonzales:Steve Moore, megafortress, Lansing/Drieden, gayngs, Xander Harris.
 
The Deli: A music-themed Mount Rushmore. What four faces are you putting up there and why?
 
Gonzales: Bernard Sumner, Robert Smith, Gonzales Hetfield (early years of course) and Klaus Schulze.
 
The Deli: Where can we find you on the web?
 
 
The Deli: Always go out on a high note. Any last words of wisdom for the Deli audience?
 
Gonzales: Recycle plastic and always get your pet spayed or neutered. Also, may all your ups and downs in life be between the sheets.
 
Get down to Replay Lounge this Friday, January 30. Redder Moon will be performing on a psychedelic bill with CS Luxem and No Cave. Facebook event page.
 
--Michelle Bacon
 
Michelle Bacon is editor of The Deli KC and plays in bands.
 
 

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Album review: The Sexy Accident - Lavender 3

(Photo by Paul Andrews)
 
Jesse Kates writes smart, romantic pop songs. Their literary quality comes naturally, considering he studied creative writing at Carnegie-Mellon University. He also has a background in visual arts and is married to an artist. Considering all that, the idea of releasing an album and a book as a multimedia experience seems pretty natural.
 
Lavender 3, the fifth album by Kansas City band The Sexy Accident, is an unusual concept among local releases. Instead of a physical CD, it's a hardback book packaged with a download code. To someone who—like me—used to get lost in album art while listening to records, Lavender 3 takes the experience up a notch. Individual song lyrics are paired on facing pages with images by eight artists. The book begins with an introduction by W.E. Leathem (proprietor of Prospero's Books, a frequent venue for Kates and company). In addition to the lyrics and art, there is an interview by The Deli editor (and bassist) Michelle Bacon, The Sexy Accident bassist Mark Hamblin and his long-time bassist father, Don Hamblin. It's about bass. The book concludes with the transcript of a thoroughly entertaining interview between KKFI 90.1 FM DJ Mark Manning, Kates, and producer Steve Fisk.
 
Lavender 3 is is Fisk’s third full-length collaboration with The Sexy Accident. Based in Seattle, he has also produced The Wedding Present, Low, and Nirvana, among many others. The album was tracked in 9 days at Kansas City’s Westend Recording Studios, mostly with the full band playing their parts live. As Kates says, “There's a certain energy you get when it's people playing in a room.” The band rehearsed for several months before going to the studio, and their work shows. The arrangements are lush, adventurous and tight, propelling Kates’ frequently witty wordplay to the forefront. Besides the five members of the band and Fisk, who plays an organ solo near the epic ending of “Let's Play,” Laurel Parks and Sascha Groshang (who sometimes perform as The Wires) added violin and cello. Other guests include Kates’ college professor Jim Daniels, who recites one of his poems as a prelude to “You Turn My Breath To Steam,” and Sean Nelson of Seattle band Harvey Danger.
 
No discussion of The Sexy Accident is complete without mentioning vocalist/keyboardist Camry Ivory. Over the last 5 years she has blossomed as a singer and onstage presence, and Kates says he enjoys writing songs for her to sing. “I really like being able to play with two characters in a song, in a duet. It gives you a chance to call the narrator on his bullshit or to have them play together. It's been so much fun to be able to sometimes write from the point of view of a woman.” Ivory's voice provides some of the loveliest moments on the album, as in “Gracefully,” a song about ending a doomed relationship.
 
Time passes and things change. Ivory, in search of new challenges, has moved on to other projects. Drummer Daniel Torrence has also left the band, replaced by Alex Austyn. The splits are amicable, a more or less inevitable result of outside pressures pulling band members in different directions without financial rewards to push them back together. But Kates is philosophical about it. “I know my band is not a business, because in business you give your customers what they want [laughs]. And I don't care. I do try to make it something that people would enjoy, but at the end of the day I make music I want to listen to.”
 
If you’re looking for maximum-volume, testosterone-fueled doom and gloom, there are plenty of bands to provide it. Lavender 3 is more of a gentle interlude, maybe a rainy afternoon companion for browsing lyrics and images. “In some ways, this is our most feminine record,” Kates says, possibly because so many women were integral to the project. In any case, it’s their strongest effort yet. With every album, Kates’ voice, both singing and in the narrative sense, gets stronger and better defined. Lavender 3 is a mature effort in a unique package.
 
The Sexy Accident will be performing a free, all-ages dinner show at recordBar tomorrow, Friday, January 16. The Hillary Watts Riot will open up the show at 7 pm. Facebook event page.
 
-- Pat Tomek
 
Pat Tomek currently plays drums for the Rainmakers, Howard Iceberg & the Titanics, and Deco Auto. He records songwriters and bands at Largely Studios.
 
 

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Song premiere: Admiral of the Red - Footbeats

We are excited to premiere the brand-new single from Admiral of the Red, “Footbeats.”
 
 
This is a song laden with deliberate hooks that will get rockers banging their heads and hipsters shuffling their feet. It’s a track that displays the band’s greatest strength: its ability to deliver purposeful, subtly sexy and spooky hooks in a three-and-a-half-minute package. “Footbeats” is propelled and steered by Meredith McGrade’s steady bass line, while Tom Hudson’s seamless transition between eighth- and sixteenth-note beats pushes the song even further over the edge. The immediacy of the song is brought to a head by the work between MB and Matt Hurst; Matt’s menacing guitar riff complements MB’s haunting doubled vocal line.
 
“Footbeats” was recorded, mixed, and mastered by Joel Nanos at Element Recording, and will be part of Admiral of the Red’s debut LP, to be released later in 2015.
 
Admiral of the Red’s next show will be on Friday, February 6, at Davey’s Uptown with Drew Black & Dirty Electric. Be sure to catch them sometime and download the new single on Bandcamp, where you can name your own price.
 
--Michelle Bacon
 

Michelle is the editor of The Deli KC and plays in bands. She also considers the rhythm section of Admiral of the Red to be her ultimate nemesis. 

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