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steven ervay

Album review: Fullbloods - Mild West

Fullbloods are back.
After their 2013 streaming-only release, Making Face, the band, fronted by Ross Brown (The Empty Spaces, solo work) seemed to go quiet. Until recently, that is. Rocketing out of retirement, Fullbloods brings us Mild West, an eleven-track, forty-minute album chock full of melodic Midwestern surf-rock via High Dive Records. This album marks a departure from their old sound, that funky yet smooth indie music. This album is much more experimental, adding more depth, new sounds, and creative hooks, Mild West is a new Fullbloods.
Noodling their way into the first track, Money, Fullbloods fully embody that previously mentioned Midwestern surf rock. The kind of music that you expect to hear exuding from a garage on a 70-degree day in April. It’s punchy, it’s soulful, it’s ironically braggadocious, as much of the album turns out to be.
This is the sort of album that you roll your windows down for. It harkens daydreams of cool air and bright sunlight. The riffing of the guitars pushes your car along the boulevard as the light drumming stirs up your imagination. Quirky, inconsistent keys pop in and out, offering a whole new ingredient to the song’s recipe. Sometimes the keys make the songs feel futuristic, such as in “Neverminded.” And yet, at other times, the keys take on an almost extraterrestrial voice, like in “Kind of Gentlemen” and “Anima Mundi.”
The album doesn’t truly slow down until the seventh track, “Caught A Feeling.” This song’s haunting harmonies are found throughout the track. The next ‘ballad’ won’t be found until the outro of the album, the final track, “Air Conditioner.”
Altogether, Mild West offers up exactly what listeners expect from KC-based High Dive Records. An album that mixes perfectly on a playlist with Shy Boys, The ACB’s, Rev Gusto, and Empty Moon. The album carries a light-hearted vibe with self-deprecating lyrics. Clever and honest songwriting lends itself well to the feel of the album. Mild West is Fullbloods’ best album to date.
--Steven Ervay
Steven lives the agency life by day, and hustles music by night at The Record Machine. If he's not going to your show, he's probably playing frisbee with his dog or elbow deep in some chicken wings.

Fullbloods celebrated the release of Mild West in KC over the weekend, and are starting a tour tonight in Minneapolis, Madison, Chicago, and Des Moines. They’ll be back in KC on St. Patrick’s Day at The Riot Room. 

Album review: The Shameless Pursuit - Fail It Forward

Several months old now, Fail It Forward has held true to its early praises of being a solid rock album, and remains as fresh in the ears as it did upon release. Kansas City trio The Shameless Pursuit debuted Fail it Forward at the end of October of last year, the first release from the collective of Jeffrey Means, Richard Newell, and Jon Eusey. The six-track EP, recorded and mastered at Clockwork Audio by Mike McDonough, showcases the band hitting the ground running before finding a solid pace through the duration of the album. For a debut album from a still-green band, Fail It Forward gives listeners a deep understanding of who The Shameless Pursuit are as a band and what they work to convey.
Lead singer and songwriter Means describes the album as an autobiography. “We have all been, or are currently in that spot where you are faced with the choice: courage or comfort? And what if courage means you will absolutely not succeed? You can only hope your failure has purpose, paying it forward so you or someone else can benefit.” A charming play on the concept of paying it forward, with a dash of reality and some reservations. Means continues: “It took us some time to decide on a title for the EP. The songs in this album were written over the last several years—the oldest one being from as far back as 2009, and the newest being written in the studio. When we put it together, we saw the progression of a very prominent theme in my writings.”
As mentioned, the band hits the ground running with their opening track, which is appropriately dubbed “The Opener.” Riffy guitar, insanely groovy bass lines, peppy drums, and soft-spoken vocals all meld together to declare, “I believe.” The song ramps up quickly as guitars become more prominent, the vocals get louder, and the trio turns everything up. Quickly you realize you’re in the midst of a sure-fire rock anthem.
The album enters an intense melodic chapter with the following tracks. “Captains and Kings,” “Fight and Flight,” and “Pt. II - No Hiding Places” (tracks 2, 3, and 4, respectively) start softly before evolving into larger, demanding tracks. While the songs carry their own themes, they are all masterfully orchestrated. The tracks do not follow a typical song structure, rather they swivel and swell and undulate and toss to and fro into lively symphonic pieces. “Doubt” brings us back to feeling that rock vibe we entered with, plenty of opportunity to shake it out and bob your head. The album finishes with a soulful, acoustic track, “Sing Louder To Me.”
For a band straight out of the gates, The Shameless Pursuit seems to be doing everything right. Though the album appears a bit eclectic—a jumbled mix of music that draws character from a cavalcade of influences—it really is showcasing the individual talents of the trio. Clear connections to Brand New, Death Cab For Cutie, and maybe even the New Amsterdams can be drawn if you listen closely. And though these influences are present, the band crafts their own unique sound.
Check out The Shameless Pursuit on Facebook, Twitter, and Bandcamp, and catch them this Sunday at The Riot Room.
--Steven Ervay
Steven lives the agency life by day, and hustles music by night at The Record Machine. If he's not going to your show, he's probably playing frisbee with his dog or is elbow-deep in some chicken wings.


Album review: Folkicide - The Meaningless Glare of Broken Human Beings

A back-and-forth between snare and minor acoustic chords chime in on the first track, “Meaningless Glare.” High-pitched, wailing, whining guitar feedback and plucking carry the song into the first verse and remain present throughout the song. Haunting harmonies of low-toned voices begin to speak to you, preaching the meaning behind people’s run-down existence. A very fitting introduction song to what is in store for the remainder of the album.

Kansas City’s premier despair-core outfit, Folkicide, is back at it again with his latest full-length. The Meaningless Glare of Broken Human Beings is thirteen tracks of what you have always wanted Folkicide to sound like. With this release, it is clear to tell and easy to say that Folkicide has found his voice.
Recorded over several of the warmer months of 2013 at Merriam Shoals Studio, Folkicide pulled out all the stops for this album: featuring guest appearances from some of KC’s finest, extra instrumentation on many songs, clean and clear guitars, and even some catchy tunes that will find their way through your brain and keep his mantras on repeat. Sticking to his roots, Folkicide infuses folk music with a heaping portion of attack on the establishment. Just take a look at the song titles and you’ll know what I mean: “Divine Violence,” “Melodic Screams,” and “Taste A Hate Like Mine” are all superb examples.
As mentioned, Folkicide has enlisted the help of his friends to bring this album to life. Marco Pascolini lent his guitar to track five, which also features Mikal Shapiro’s voice. The extra intricacies lend themselves useful in this track, and Shapiro’s voice just improves the song that much more. What good is a song titled “An Imaginary Rant From An Imaginary Girl” without striking female harmonies? Violins, a choir, organs, and trombones are among some of the other extra instrumentation dealt in by guest musicians.
If there were a lead single off of Meaningless Glare, it would have to be “Little Nihilist,” the eighth track on the album. Those charming minor chords that are a must-have in most every Folkicide song blend with clean and riffy electric guitar noises. Folkicide soon breaks in with a baritone voice shadowing his own. A strange bridge quickly ensues. Weird horns, chanted “ho-hum” vocals, layered acoustic jams, and vocals melodies bring up the backbone.
The Meaningless Glare of Broken Human Beings is arguably the best work Folkicide has put out to date. A perfect example of what he is and what you believe he stands for, which is a hazy topic. Thirteen tracks of melancholy and pessimism may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but these specific thirteen tracks are majorly accessible.
--Steven Ervay
Steven is an all-around awesome dude who works tirelessly for the KC music community.
Get a taste of Folkicide’s despair-core style on Monday, July 7 at East Wing, and Wednesday, July 9 at Davey’s Uptown for the Acoustic Mayhem series. 
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Album review: Rooms Without Windows - Poncho (EP)

(Photo by Todd Zimmer)
Five tracks of solid riffs, bold lyrics, and dancey jams; the five-piece indie rock band Rooms Without Windows, really brings a sense of pseudo-80’s, modern Kansas City, alternative rock to your ears with their most recent release, Poncho. With every track comes a different vibe, all under an umbrella that incorporates dreamy instrumentals and smoky vocal work.
The one thing that is consistent with this quintet—and what sets them apart from any other band in their genre—is the vocal work. Elsa Rae lends her voice to the group and it is like a breath of fresh air for the Lawrence and Kansas City scene. It’s airy, it’s sensual, it carries a haunting tone, and it inarguably raises the band to the next level.
Another facet of Rooms Without Windows is that there is only one guitar player on the roster. Many bands in scene strive for a layered guitar sound, but not Rooms Without Windows. They pass on the second guitar and instead add keys. The keys add ethereal and spacey tones that deepen the songs without over-stimulating the brain. The keys create an easy-to-digest, still complex song.
Rooms Without Windows comes in and hits the listener hard with “More for Me.” Guitars call and the band responds at the introduction to this song. Jaunty drums chime in and drive the song into a realm of jangly guitars and atmospheric music. “Get On The Ground” offers up some of those pseudo-‘80s tunes I mentioned earlier; something you can’t really help but tap your finger to and wiggle to in your seat. “LSDiety” brings the clean bass riffs to the front row by constructing not just a song, but a dream sequence.
Each song from the Poncho EP hides a different treasure. Be it hidden in the lyrics, the instrumentals, the metaphor, and so on. Rooms Without Windows is definitely carving its own way in the local scene. With fresh sounds and outrageous uniqueness, the quintet is sure to evolve and grow in an exciting capacity.
--Steven Ervay

Steven is an all-around awesome dude who works tirelessly for the KC music community.

Join Rooms Without Windows and a host of other KC/Lawrence bands at Lawrence Field Day Fest, tomorrow, June 27, at Jackpot Music Hall, 11 pm. The festival begins tonight (free!) and runs through Saturday. Tickets are $12 for Friday and Saturday. Facebook event page.

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Album review: Maps For Travelers - Change Your Name

How often is it that you find a punk band that can reach a diverse audience as Maps for Travelers has? The band, recently signed by No Sleep Records, put out its debut full-length release Change Your Name. And I will attest to the album’s ability to have at least one track that can—and will—grasp you.
The No Sleep newbies, who are now in the company of great punk acts like Balance and Composure, The Wonder Years, and Kansas City natives Coalesce and The Casket Lottery, have been working on Change Your Name for over a year. The wait is finally over, and the album is nothing less than magnificent.  
At face value, this is just another Kansas City-bred punk album, but closer inspection reveals more. The little cogs of the massive sound machine that is Maps will bring to your attention their sheer talent. Several intricate parts make this four-piece more than your average Midwestern emo/punk band.
Sparing no time, they hit you hard with the unbelievably heavy “Good Life” and “Life on Repeat” straight out of the gate. These first two tracks carry the essence of what Maps is about. Mingling hearty, clean vocals and tones with angst-ridden yells pushes the sound to something more post-hardcore.
A change of pace hits on the third track “Matter of Time.” The tempo slows and though there are no screaming vocals, Zach Brotherton’s singing picks up a scruffy sound. The angst still lingers here as well. But promptly as the album continues, the hard-hitting sounds return.
Beyond being great at the heavy stuff, Maps makes a decent slow jam. The majority of “Swoon” is tuned down. The closing statements of the album, “All Your Friends” and “They’re Learning Fast” will help bring your adrenaline down. The slow jams are soft and soulful. Carrying the same intensity as the previous tracks in the album, they hit just a bit more gently.
The lyrics are raw, the vocals are clear, the music is heavy and excellently executed. Whatever your genre of choice may be, something on Change Your Name will resonate in your head.
Maps For Travelers was signed by No Sleep Records back in July. Change Your Name was recorded and tracked at Black Lodge Recording, Element Recording by Joel Nanos, and Massive Sound Studios by Paul Malinowski. It was mixed by Jason McEntire at Sawhorse Productions (St. Louis) and mastered by Trevor Sadler at Mastermind Productions (Charlotte, NC).
This Friday, September 20, you can party with the guys from Maps and Radkey, as they play The Rendezvous in St. Joseph at 9 pm. Facebook event page. Their next show in Kansas City will be on Friday, October 11 at Czar with Restorations and Noah’s Ark Was A Spaceship. Ticket link. Facebook event page.

--Steven Ervay 

Steven Ervay is super rad. 

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