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.
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.
Hello, and welcome to the fourth installation of a column I’ve been ignoring on this site. The music download round-up is a series of posts chronicling area bands and artists offering direct music downloads either for free or for a small fee (no more than $5). Releases included will typically be those that have been available for more than a few months, or albums from artists that are buzz-worthy but aren’t yet ready for their own dedicated post. This post, like the last, has no real recurring theme, but I recommend checking out every one of them.
Radar Defender – Sleep Dreaming Mammal (2010) – This EP took me completely by surprise the first time I listened to it, and it still gets frequent play to this day. The seven songs therein are filled with groove-heavy bass lines and poppy guitar hooks laid against a keyboard backdrop, and contain much of the same time capsule quality as many of the greatest hits from The Rentals, The Amps, and The Breeders. The EP just had its second birthday recently, so for the love of local music I really hope we can all expect something new on the way from Scott Burr, Tyler Snell, and company. Follow the link for a pay what you want download.
Lite Loins – Country House (2012) – If Radar Defender is Scott Burr and Tyler Snell’s commemoration to the laid-back tunes of a mid ’90s Kim Deal, then Lite Loins would be Thadd Lewis, Dane Carlson and Cal Santos’ exaltation of Steve Albini’s work in Shellac from the same era. The mix is purposely filthy and at times warps like a water-logged cassette, but the six tracks could just have easily been pulled from the long-neglected shelves of Sub Pop or Touch & Go when their output was still respectable. This EP can be found along with another one for free at the link to the band’s homepage. Both were mixed and released posthumously.
Grizzly J Berry – Tour Demo 4.20 (2011) – I have mixed feelings about this one. The songs are well recorded, and display some pretty decent technical guitar work akin to something in the Kinsella bloodline (American Football, Cap’n Jazz, many others). At the same time, the sound present on this recording has been a little played out now that it’s been successfully muddled down by bands like Maps & Atlases. The EP thankfully stays away from the beating of a dead horse and keeps things from getting too predictable by adding in a Mars Volta-style prog element. Free download from this defunct band at the link.
Major Games – EP1 (2011) – On the topic of weirdo prog, I present to you one of my favorite debuts from last year. I’d be remiss if I posted this EP without mentioning the great Lawrence acts from which these men came. Bassist Jeremy Sidener played in early ’90s band Zoom, guitarist Doug McKinney played in the equally revered Panel Donor (which was later joined by Sidener on guitar), and drummer Steve Squire played guitar in Everest with McKinney. The EP is textured with a reasonable measure of pedal work, and at times ventures into pure noise before coming back to a structured sound. Get it for $2.50 at the link. Worth every cent.
Power and Light – EP (2012) – It’s no secret that I adore the works of Andrew Connor. If you’ve read this blog before, you may have seen me refer to his songwriting style as a “Midas touch,” and I still stand by that statement. Between working with Ghosty (who are on the eve of releasing a new album) or playing with The ACB’s, Connor found time to collaborate with local producer Nathan Readey, and the end result is three tracks of woozy, synth-filled Euro pop that instantly became a city-wide sensation. I’m not here to tell you what’s hip and underground, my only purpose is to show you what is good. Free download at the link.
Hello, and welcome to the third installation of what may actually become a somewhat regular column on this site. Who knew? The music download round-up is a series of posts chronicling area bands and artists offering direct music downloads either for free or for a small fee (no more than $5). Releases included will typically be those that have been available for more than a few months, or albums from artists that are buzz-worthy but aren’t yet ready for their own dedicated post. This post, like the last, has no real recurring theme, but each of these releases are recommended to be listened to with a nice set of headphones.
Actors&Actresses – ARC: Arrows Remix Compilation (2011) – I wrote about this release early last week when the pre-order was announced, but was not expecting the album to be available for a free dl prior to the street date. For those who did not read it, A&A is a KC based trio specializing in a Failure-esque kind of sonic space rock. They have one full-length and a recently re-issued EP under their belt, and this remix album is being released by their longtime label The Mylene Sheath. The album features drifting, atmospheric, and skewed versions of the songs present on the band’s titular release. This may not be free for long, so get it fast.
Living Ghost – Lavinia’s Hands (2011) – Dan Davis is more recently known from Lawrence’s Muscle Worship, or even Wichita’s now defunct Ricky Fitts (among numerous other ICT bands), but for the last year he has also been at the helm of Living Ghost’s dark, distorted, gothic-friendly, middle of the map answer to the annals of 4AD’s best offers from the last 25+ years. Think of the most bleak moments from Cocteau Twins’ Treasure and Xiu Xiu’s Fabulous Muscles, echoed and dubbed from blown speakers. Lavinia’s Hands is a sophomore release, and can be found along with 2010′s Wilderness Names, for free at the link.
Burger Kingdom – Shugazi (2010) – I’ve been a cheerleader for this band since this album first came out early last year, and by the end of 2010 this still remained one of my favorites. Burger Kingdom is a two-piece originally from the Columbia, MO, area, who now reside somewhere between KC and Lawrence. The vocals display a falsetto that nearly reaches the same height as Lush’s Emma Anderson, against a backdrop of clearly My Bloody Valentine inspired drone. Shugazi contains six tracks that should be listened to as one whole, and at a deafening volume. The album can be downloaded for free from Columbia’s Yards&Gods label.
Auternus – Dissonant Sea (2011) – I will be the first to discredit the perceived merits of instrumental rock. Bands like Explosions in the Sky bore the hell out of me, and others seem to exist solely to track commercials for businesses who wish to appeal to a younger audience. I was expecting much of the same from Auternus, but was pleasantly surprised to find that while they do not break the mold, they certainly give it a little roughing up. Hell, half the album features scattered vocal arrangements, almost negating the label altogether. Auternus disbanded recently, and in its place A Light Within has emerged. Get Dissonant Sea for $5.
UMBERTO – Prophecy of the Black Widow (2010) – In short, former Expo ’70 contributor Matt Hill’s sophomore release is an eery, synth-laden ’70s throwback to master composers Goblin and the scores of horror classics from Italian directors Dario Argento and Lucio Fulci. The haunting synths only serve as one layer of what results in at times a quite new-wavey and danceable horror pop album (take that term with a grain of salt, mind you). Though Hill’s debut, From the Grave…, served to much the same crowd, his follow-up efforts to Prophecy have thus far been a bit of a let-down by comparison. This album is a $5 download.
Hello, and welcome to the second in a
weekly bi-monthly probably monthly let’s shoot for bi-annual series of posts chronicling area bands and artists offering direct music downloads either for free or for a small fee (no more than $5). Releases included will typically be those that have been available for more than a few months, or albums from artists that are buzz-worthy but aren’t yet ready for their own dedicated post. Whereas the last time I had a working theme for the post, this entry will be more free-form in my recommendations.
Wrong Hands – Electric (2011) – Wrong Hands is the chosen moniker of Reid Bottorff, solo musician and native resident of Saint Joseph, MO. Like many under the radar acts in the area, Bottorff has used a bandcamp account to his advantage in getting his self-released music heard. Electric is an 11-track softly droning, subtly distorted piece of bedroom lo-fi that ranges in comparisons from a late ’90s Grandaddy, to a slightly more upbeat but nowhere near as quirky Daniel Johnston, and often touches on the kind of psychedelic pop currently experiencing a resurgence. The album is free and should not be passed over.
Parts of Speech – Floyd Biz (2011) – Parts of Speech is the sum of a collaboration between Kansas City’s Brandon Knocke and Alexander Thomas. On the side, the two have their own projects (Discoverer and Janet the Planet, respectively) but when Knocke and Thomas combine their skills, what emerges is a somewhat sleazy but no less groove-heavy ’70s/’80s mash-up of delayed keys, electronic drums, smooth vocals and additional programming. The music keeps a steady, relaxed pace through all of the eight tracks and provides a good backdrop for a lazy afternoon. A download or cassette can be had for only $5.
18 Carat Affair – 60/40 (2011) – Piggy-backing on the last recommendation of sleazy funk, I now bring you Kansas City native Denys Parker’s self-described “woozy funk.” Parker has been a word-of-mouth and Internet up-and-comer for a short while, and has received accolades from various online sources of things for which to keep an eye out (I avoided using the word “hipster blog,” but… who am I kidding?). Parker has self-released almost the entirety of his material, which he says is all recorded in a wooden shed on the south side. More can be found from this artist to watch at the link above, and 60/40 can be had for $5.
The Tambourine Club – Lo-Fi Feeling (2011) – While not entirely inaccurate, it’s always kind of a throwaway comment to compare a band to The Flaming Lips. The Lips have gone through so many evolutions, virtually anyone can be compared to them. And though I stick by my belief that “Intro,” and the track that follows are inherently Coyne-inspired in the use of a broken falsetto, the EP quickly moves beyond being tied to any particular sound. “Throw Me a Line,” for instance, leans heavily toward the scene nurtured by the influential Creation Records in the late ’80s-early ’90s. Lo-Fi Feeling is available at no charge for a limited time.
Fine Hoods – New Sensations (2011) – Fine Hoods is a newer art punk band from greater KC, who have only been peeking out every once in a while to play a show, most recently with the bizarrely undervalued Nature Boys . The band is two parts Lazy (Brock Potucek, Michael Boles) and one part The Fairer Sex (Brenton Wheeler). FH keeps the same ’70s art scene vibe as Lazy, culling what they can from Lou Reed and the Velvet Underground’s more lo-fi and heroin influenced offerings of that era. Add to that Potucek’s monotone vocals which conjure an image of Peter Murphy moving to NYC in the ’70s. This EP is $5.
This will be my first installment in a weekly series of posts chronicling area bands and artists offering direct music downloads either for free or for a small fee (no more than $5). Releases included will typically be those that have been available for more than a few months, or albums from artists that are buzz-worthy but aren’t yet ready for their own dedicated post. There is a not-so-subtle theme in this one, see if you can catch on. And here we go…
The Caves – Fives Songs With… EP (2010) – First up is KC alt/indie-pop quartet The Caves, founded by Andrew Ashby and Jake Cardwell of The Belles (Ashby is also known for The String & Return), along with David Gaumé of The Stella Link. The band has been around for the better part of a decade, when they finally got a chance to release their first EP, and recruited Elizabeth Bohannon into the fold to play keys and lend a backing voice to the band’s previously all-Ashby vocals. The band plans for this to be the first in a series of three EPs, but there have been no updates on the status of future recordings. Download Five Songs for $5.
Hidden Pictures – Synchronized Sleeping (2011) – Next is Lawrence by-way-of Kansas City indie-pop group Hidden Pictures. The band has been the project of Richard Gintowt and Michelle Gaumé Sanders since its conception, and has featured a veritable who’s who of local musicians who have contributed for a short time then moved on to create something else. This album alone features the talent of four different bass players, three drummers, a cellist, a viola, trombone, and a saxophone. This album can be downloaded for only $5 and features six bonus tracks, the unreleased EP of Gintowt’s previous band, OK Jones.
Ghosty – Team Up Again EP (2010) – Ghosty has hit the rare distinction for a still-active local band, as this year marks the 10 year anniversary of the band’s first EP, though just like Hidden Pictures, it serves as Andrew Connor’s musical baby in that he has been the only constant through its lifespan. The band was formed when the Sioux Falls, SD, native met Richard Gintowt while attending KU, though Gintowt left the band early on to form OK Jones. Both pop heavyweights in their own right, Connor’s influences from Alex Chilton and The Beach Boys are much more apparent. This, and two others at the link, are available for free.
The ACB’s – Stona Rosa (2011) – Stona Rosa serves as the sophomore release from Kansas City’s The ACB’s. Their self-titled debut, itself a respectable mimic of In Color-era Cheap Trick with additional nods to Big Star and Badfinger, was completely obliterated when the group resurfaced in late 2010. Now with Andrew Connor’s Midas touch in tow, the band returned as a powerpop juggernaut, arguably releasing one of the best local albums of 2011, and sealing their position as one of the bands to watch over the next few years. The release is offered as pay what you want, but can be had for free if you wish.
Bonus: Billy Belzer – You Shouldn’t Have (2011) – If you’ve been keeping up, that links The Caves to Hidden Pictures through siblings, Hidden Pictures to Ghosty via college alum, and Ghosty to The ACB’s through Andrew Connor’s propensity to lend his talent to half a dozen bands at any given time. The family tree ends there for today, but as a bonus I am including frequent Ghosty contributor Billy Belzer’s solo debut, a release bringing in the talent of many area musicians, including, you guessed it, Andrew Connor. Connor and Belzer are also in Mary Fortune with Ghosty artist (and Connor’s wife) Liz Connor. Get the EP for $5.