Wednesday, February 26, 2014
Yeah, so this was in a box of records I purchased. It's pretty awful. It's an album put out by the Nazarene Theological Seminary of Kansas City. It features the "Seminary Four" and the seminary's musical director on piano for accompaniment, that's it. Four really white dudes, who are kind of good singers, doing old spirituals. It's as white as you can imagine.
Just makes me question what was the purpose of this? The title indicates it's "Songs From Your Seminary," so was it provided to those studying at the seminary? Did they have to purchase it with their books? Why did they need a record to learn the songs? Couldn't the music director, Paul Orjala, have taught them as part of his job? Just confusing and weird...and bad, really bad.
Tuesday, February 25, 2014
Yet another private press country LP from the Kansas City area. I got this one from a good friend in a trade and was excited to hear it. This particular LP doesn't command much online, however, there's another album by the duo of Bureman & O'Rourke titled Strawberry Pickins that is usually labeled "rural folk" and can sell for a decent amount.
This LP is far too produced to be considered rural folk. Very much a product of 1976. It's borders on Eagles influences, very much a light rock affair with a lot of country affliction. It does have it's moments of country rock or roots rock throughout, but the most of the album leans on acoustic guitar as the lead and vocal harmonies. For the most part, the two write most their own material, with only a few cover tunes. Lyrically, they aren't an amazing, but the tunes are worthwhile overall.
The LP lists the Happiness Records as based in Leawood, KS. So it's apparent the band resided there. In fact, there's some evidence that the band pal'd around with the Overland Park band, River Rock, as the Strawberry Pickins LP appears to be some sort of reference to the Strawberry Patch, which must have been some sort of local venue for these local pickers and country artists. River Rock lists one of their albums as recorded at the venue.
Also, you can still find the duo performing locally. Apparently, they play regularly at Wil & Jenny's in Overland Park, KS. Further, Tim O'Rourke still releases music on a regular basis.
Friday, February 21, 2014
So much to say about the Casket Lottery...much of it I should share for other albums that I sadly do not have on vinyl.
First, the band's leader, Nathan Ellis, probably champions the local KC scene more than any other national touring band. In the liner write up on this LP he gushes about Ed Rose, Kill Creek, the oft-forgotten Reflector, and the band he was a long time member for, Coalesce. He's always been that way, it's no joke, it's not a shoutout to friends, it's his genuine take on the artists that surround him in town.
Locally, the Casket Lottery is a treasure, there's support, but, ultimately, KC is not a huge town. A lot of passionate local music scensters would state they don't get the support they deserve. Maybe the band doesn't, but again, there's not a huge market for angular indie rock here or many other places. In the glory days of Shiner, Season to Risk, and Boys Life, it's not like those bands were playing arena's locally. They were packing clubs and small venues. They'd tour large venues with other acts, but not as a headliner. So, the Casket Lottery has always fitted in where they needed to fit in.
However, the point I wanted to bring out is that nationally, the band has created a passionate fanbase. Their records, like all indie bands, came out limited runs and command high dollar on the second hand market from fans. You get on social media and you'll find kids raving about the band, bragging about the original issue albums they own, the time they saw them in a basement, etc. They have a small, but amazingly devoted fanbase not just throughout the US but in Europe as well.
I've always felt that the reason is because quality has always been the band's number one concern. I have never met anyone more passionate about the entire presentation than Nathan Ellis. And when I say the entire presentation, I'm talking about everything. For example, I remember when the band's first EP, "Dot, Dot, Dash, Something or Other Dot" was in the works. Matt Rubin who was releasing stuff under his label, Paper Brigade, was initially involved and wanted to put out the EP. At a show, I remember seeing Matt have a conversation with Nathan, afterwards Matt came to me shaking his head. He explained to me that Nathan was talking to him about the packaging of the EP, how it had to have gold leaf printing or something. Matt's major concern was he wasn't going to have the money to put out the product Nathan wanted and if he did, he wouldn't break even, he'd lose money. For a fleeting moment, I was about to say to Matt I would help, but then I looked at the kid's face and realized he just wanted out, not assistance, he was scared to death of it. Ultimately, Status Recordings released the EP, I'm pretty sure Rubin never bowed out (he would've gone through with it, too nice of a kid) it was just a situation in which Status could offer the Casket Lottery more in the way of distribution and opportunity.
That's Nathan Ellis, he's passionate about it right down to the last detail. And, everything the band put out with their name on it is intricately designed and beautiful. Obviously, it goes for the music as well. This Double LP is a compilation of split EPs, compilation appearances, and a few new songs. Surprisingly, there are no throw aways or embarrassing moments. Even the early tunes that Ellis pokes fun at in his liners are above average tracks. Most compilations like this are filled with dribble and garbage, I mean, have you heard REM's Dead Letter Office or locally, the Get Up Kids Eudora, there is some crap on albums like that. This collection quality through and through. It's a testament to the band's following. If you're willing to put that much effort into every song, fans are going to react. It's a Fugazi-esque way of doing things and the reason the band carries such a devoted fanbase.
Priest Walks into a Bar
Admittedly though, I'm not really being fair to the album. Of the Barnstorm-era and proper solo Walsh stuff I've dove into, this is one of the better albums. I just wished Walsh would rock more, like "Rocky Mountain Way." This album is missing a a rocker all together. The space and psychedelic experiments into country are border line brilliant. Had I started here, I wouldn't have said all the stuff about Joe Walsh being boring.
Sunday, February 9, 2014
This has easily become one of my favorite local releases over the past few years. It's Justin Roelofs, post-Anniversary, just putting his ideas out there and creating somewhat of a spectacle of himself. For this LP and project, he's no longer Justin Roelofs, he is White Flight or the White Wizard. He also reportedly found all his inspiration on a visit to South America, never doing drugs, but soaking in some serious spirituality.
He's a smart dude and has always been off center (or at least he wants you to think he is). I remember when he was in the Anniversary hanging around Lawrence. They were a tight-knit band and were always seen together. Once they headlined KU's Day on the Hill, which is a outdoor, parking lot concert. I was in attendance with my sister and the Anniversary was hanging out in front of us pre-show. Somehow, they got on the topic of Neutral Milk Hotel's In An Aeroplane Over the Sea album. One of the Anniversary guys, I want to say the drummer stated something to the effect of he never understood the album or didn't really like it. Roelofs blew up. He started asking, "Do you know what it's about?" And before anyone could answer he started telling them it was based on the Diary of Anne Frank (it isn't, but it's a rumor). He continued though, for like 10 minutes, red in the face that his band mate didn't agree that the album is genius. So, despite that some of the White Flight thing seems theatrical, there is plenty of evidence that points to Roelofs' eccentricity.
Another thing about Roelofs, up until this album, he has always seemed somewhat disingenuous. He's very adept at writing in a current scene's sound. His early high school career was based around a pop-punk sound. As discussed previously, he had success writing in that genre. Then, he formed the Anniversary and was drawn into the sound of Weezer and the Rentals. When, stoner rock became a thing, he and the Anniversary changed tune again. All good tunes and worth listening to, but not really his own thing.
That changes White Flight album, at least to a certain extent. This is a mash-up of everything he's heard, everything he could want to copy, everything he could think of. He just throws it all out there. Had this come out pre-Animal Collective, people would call it genius. Instead, it gets lumped in as more post-modern indie-rock. And, truth be told, I'm fairly certain some Animal Collective did come across Roelofs' lap prior to putting this together. But, fuck, it's a great album.
Upon first listen, it is a bit much to take in and can sound sloppy and unfocused. After a few times though, the hip hop influences just start to blend with all the chopped up electronics, samples, and guitars. Lyrically, he's a kid from Overland Park, KS, and doesn't have much to say, he talks about cats, spirits and there's a lot of scratch vocal "la, la, la, la-ing" going on. It's okay though, because the groove is there.
The amount of visuals out there for the album is pretty incredible. He's got YouTube of himself dispelling drug rumors to his mom (is that needed?) and he gave himself a Jesus makeover in all his glossy videos. Again, he's an eccentric dude, but after several videos, it all seems a bit over the top and concocted. I'll take it though, the album is brilliant.
Apparently, White Flight is now done. The White Wizard (again, that Roelofs) is working with Evan 'E. Vax' Mast of Ratatat (also worked with Jay Z) and they are dubbing themselves Abuela. Both E. Vax and White Wizard went to South America to shoot video for all the visuals that are going to go along with the music. The song, "Sapa," has already been featured in a Lexus commercial and there is a video up for it. The first 7" featuring the song is apparently available currently.
Friday, February 7, 2014
Molly McGuire is another Kansas City band to grab a major label deal in the 90's. They first gigged regionally and on tours with Kansas City bands like Season to Risk, Shiner, and Rocket Fuel is the Key. Released a few things, including this 7" and one or two for Caulfield. They then inked a deal with Epic and released the album Lime in 1996, but with no "hit" song were quickly dropped (members have nothing nice to say about the experience). They did a final album with Hitit! before disbanding.
I don't currently have a copy of Lime to refer to, but, I remember it being a bit dull and not as aggressive as Season to Risk and not as mathy as Shiner. Kind of an in between in terms of the 90's KC scene. The songs here, "Sisters of the Sacred Heart" and "Gutter Ball", are in that realm. A little more flair than the major label stuff, but quaint in comparison to other groups. Not quite as challenging as Shiner, not as metal as Season to Risk. They're just kind of there, hanging out, causing no problems. It's a fond memory of a great scene, just not one of the major highlights.
I would like to revisit Lime, that album was produced by Failure's mastermind Ken Andrews. Failure was not a KC band, obviously, but in terms of post-hardcore, that's the top of the list. As stated, when I had a CD back in the day, I found it boring. However, maybe years have treated it good and maybe I'm not as big of douche and can finally enjoy something with a bit more nuanced. It was 1996, though, I also remember the album being a bit too derivative of the current rock scene and a few steps away from the KC thing in favor of the mainstream thing. Nevertheless, trying to track it down, it did actually come out on vinyl and is fairly priced if you can find it.
Old link to a Kickstarter project for a new album, what's up with that?
Tuesday, February 4, 2014
This appears to be the most ambitious effort from Kansas City's Bloodstone. It's an attempt at a concept album. Like most concept albums, it falls apart quickly and just becomes apparent that the concept was only carried through in artwork and the song titles, there's no unraveling or storytelling here; just a solid soul LP with a few spoken word interludes.
They band was playing their own instruments and writing all their own tunes at this time. They run the gambit in terms of styles. The first three songs go from silky soul, to black rock, to straight funk. These 70's Bloodstone albums were exclusively produced by Mike Vernon, who got a crisp sound and allowed for experimentation. In terms of the black rock movement of the 70's these guys were one of the better groups, blending the Hendrix inspired riffs of Charles Love and Willis Draffen with the vocal style of 60's Motown. If you think Funkadelic, that's a bit too heavy, Bloodstone only experiments in the style. It ultimately owes it's greatest due to soul music and the rock moments are few and far between.
I love the plaintive vocals of "Just Learned to Walk" and it's awkward rock style. "This World is Funky" is solid piece funk with great guitar work. The rest of the album meanders between MOR 70's funk and and great vocal soul outings. No doubt, these dudes had a great vocal approach, one of the best at their craft in that regard, "Wasted Time" best exemplifies that aspect of the band. There are some other definite highlights like the silky smooth, "For the First Time," and the outstanding ballad, "Young Times Old Times."
The World Is Funky
Monday, February 3, 2014
Because I was late on the Get Up Kids reunion, I had to beg for one of these and this is a Japanese press that was limited to 500, my copy came on green vinyl. Very glad I did swallow my pride and beg for it, though. As stated previously, the 4 songs here are the reason I gave the full length There Are Rules another chance.
The four tunes are solid. Despite that the looped spoken word William Burroughs intro makes me want to puke every time I hear it, "Your Petty Pretty Things" is a solid tune. Feels dark and hurtful, like the guys were sick of their image (they probably were). "Keith Case" was previously talked about as it appears on the There Are Rules album. The flip side is "Tommy Gentle" and "How You're Bound". They're both solid pop tunes. I'm willing to call "Tommy Gentle" vintage Get Up Kids even, similar feel to the tunes found on Something to Write Home About. "How You're Bound" is sparse, feels like it'll break and it almost does when they drop a chunky moog riff on top of programmed beats and atmospheric sounds.
As a whole, the release is a little schizophrenic, but it shows the band were still great songwriters. I'm glad I started spinning it as a quick fix, because it led me to a solid album in There Are Rules.
How You're Bound
Acoustic Your Petty Pretty Things
An online friend of mine asked if I had heard of this band and if I had the LP. I'd heard all the local praises about the band and knew I wanted to pick up this album, but it's only been out a few weeks since it even came out-I hadn't got around to it. She then mentioned how the band got a good review on Pitchfork. Wait, what? A tiny band from KC got a "good" review on Pitchfork? Well, that being the case, I ran out as soon as I could to pick this up.
Of course, I read the Pitchfork review and sure enough, a 7.1. Considering Pitchfork doesn't even like music anymore, a 7.1 is phenomenal. Pitchfork goes on to praise the band's amateurishness and lo-fi pop aesthetic, which is fairly accurate. But, after reading it, you'd think Beat Happening, to which the Shy Boys have long since surpassed in musical ability. It also compares the band's bedroom pop to that of the Beach Boys, again, pretty accurate, it's clear the band has an affinity for Pet Sounds and even later-era Beach Boys like Holland or Surf's Up. However, there's also a clear pysch element that is probably more closely related to more recent bands like Neutral Milk Hotel or even Deerhunter, but, if that's your gateway to the Beach Boys, no harm done.
The Shy Boys are a Kansas City three-piece made up of brothers Collin Raush and Kyle Raush, they are rounded out by Konnor Ervin. Their brand of lo-fi pop has been putting out their name out in KC for the last couple of years. There's an appearance on a comp, thought there was a 7"?, maybe a CD or something, and they played The Middle of the Map Fest. They've certainly perked the ears of the right people as all the KC hipsters are shouting the band's praises. And for good reason, the hipsters and Pitchfork are right, the album is solid.
The whole LP is 10 songs at 45 RPM (what's with the KC bands getting into fidelity?) totaling a little over 20 minutes, so it's short. It's twee and unpretentious. Well put together pop songs with no frills. I mentioned Deerhunter earlier because the entire album could be mistaken for an intro to one of their songs before the "rock" starts. Unlike Deerhunter, the Shy Boys do not "rock." They wander between pop hooks and jangly guitar lines. Again, it's not as off kilter or as amateur as someone like Beat Happening, but there's a childlike quality to it, it's naive. But, with the harmonies, falsetto vocals, and use of space there's a lot more to this band. The band labels themselves "landlocked surf music", but I'm dubbing it stripped down shoegazer, which isn't a thing, but it should be.
Live Shy Boys
This f'n Pitchfork review I keep talking about
Sunday, February 2, 2014
Don't know who this guy is, what he represents, or even who his friends are. I do know you can buy his 7" for $3.00 at an Olathe antique mall and there's a sign indicating he's local.
When I got it home, I looked all over and only found the dudes self-produced rock video. He plays a Flying V, pretty hard rock right there, if not metal. The website for Real Badge Music is pretty awful. I mean, 1992 AOL Welcomes You to the Internet- bad. There's pages, with no actual information, just a bunch of cryptic filler. It's strange.
After listening to Cole Hunter's 7", one thing is clear, Cole Hunter loves him some guitar. The first side, "Capone", is surprisingly adept and kind of enjoyable. Albeit a bunch of guitar masturbation and it's trapped in 60's and 70's hard rock. But, considering the website and the lack of any information, I braced myself for the worse but, found it to be a pleasant surprise. "New Frontier" is the B-Side, it's acoustic and obvious...gotta have a panty-dropper if you rock a Flying-V.
Website (or lack thereof)