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Album review: The Old No. 5s - Steam

The Old No. 5s’ second album, Steam, is first and foremost a blues record. But it shouldn't be pigeonholed. A self-proclaimed rock/roots trio, members Brock Alexander (guitar/lead vocals), Derek Tucker (bass/vocals), and Aaron Thomas (percussion/vocals) prove they can play the blues with the best of them, but also have the chops to bust out some serious soul, bring the funk, or simply construct a nice power pop song.
 
The majority of the 11 tracks are fairly straightforward blues rockers, beginning with the album's first song, “Going Nowhere.” A perfect appetizer, it gives listeners a taste of what can be heard throughout the album: solid vocals, nimble guitar, and one of the best rhythm sections you'll find on a local or national release this year. There is an undeniable Stevie Ray Vaughan influence on this and several of the other true blues tunes, including “Starting to Show,” “Easy,” and the harder rocking “Hill Country.” While few guitarists can match his licks, Alexander certainly dials in Vaughan's tone, and has plenty of salty riffs himself.
 
Alexander's vocal style varies. On “Easy” he is confident and powerful, channeling a cocky Jimi Hendrix. He shows off a deep soul sound during “Keep Lovin' Me Baby.” On “Little Man,” a jazzier number, he is a bit more transparent and vulnerable, much like a young John Mayer. While he is very capable at each, I couldn't help wondering which one is Alexander’s real voice.
 
The standout track on Steam has to be “Barn Party.” A tightly wound ball of energy, it combines ferocious slide guitar (sounding very similar in this case to a pedal steel), brilliant bass, and a shuffling beat to create foot-stomping fun. Reminiscent of Robert Randolph and the Family Band, it starts uptempo and only gets faster, ending at a blistering pace. Be sure to have your air instruments handy for this one.

The Old No. 5s display a more unique style on the album's final track, “Just the Way I Am.” While remaining true to the band's bluesy vibe, the song has a catchy pop sensibility—with an impressive jam in the middle—and should appeal to a wide audience. The trio seems to find their own identity here, something I hope to hear more of on future recordings. 
 
Steam is filled with truly fantastic music that taps into several genres. The songwriting and execution is top-notch. The expertise and use of each instrument, tempo changes, and drawn-out solos make it one of the most enjoyable local albums I've heard in some time. As the band continues to mature and distinguish itself, The Old No. 5s should become a force to be reckoned with—both locally and beyond.
 
 
--Brad Scott
Brad loves music, Boulevard beer, and his family. Not necessarily in that order.
 
 

The Old No. 5s put on a monthly concert series at Coda—5s + 1—and it’s coming up this Wednesday evening. Special guest Coyote Bill will be sitting in with the band. Facebook event page. Or if you happen to be near Wichita next Saturday, they will be celebrating the release of Steam at Barleycorn’s that night. Facebook event page. 





Album review: The Electric Lungs - Don't Be Ashamed of the Way You're Made

If you’re new to the Kansas City music scene, you need to know who The Electric Lungs are. This punk/synth rock band has been kicking it and rocking out since 2012, and still going strong. Following their 2013 full-length Simplified and Civilized, they are releasing their second full-length album Don’t Be Ashamed of the Way You Were Made. This album is basically the soundtrack of an awesome B-movie greaser film. The band incorporated rockabilly-influenced tunes that are infused with gritty distortion guitar chords and catchy piano melodies.
 
No two songs are alike. “Play it When You Need It” has a lot of attitude and angst, and this is reinforced by dirty punk chords with the innocence of a clean upright piano. This is a song that my teenage self can relate to while the band releases their frustration through the song. Then you have “Time, Whiskey and the Lord,” a positive, hopeful song about moving on that can be backed up by a New Orleans marching band. This features a breakdown bass solo that is unreal (respect!).
 
One of my favorite tracks, “Surgical Malfunction,” has been on repeat on my iPhone for a couple of days. The song starts up with a harsh strumming of a banjo that is later backed up by an organ that makes this song eerie and dark. After lead singer Tripp Kirby sings “I am the shadow that covers the sun,” there is silence for 3 seconds then the yelling of “I DON’T KNOW WHY!!!”, showing frustration of the character in the song. It is followed by a ‘30s ragtime piano solo then progressed later on in the song with an incredible rock organ solo that’s followed by an incredible drum solo breakdown. This hair-raising sinister song shows a lot of personality in 5 minutes that makes you crave more.
 
Compared to the last album, this one does not hold back. This album shows The Lungs’ true nature on how they play live on stage. This band is not afraid to be different with their unique repertoire of songs. Every track on this album is enjoyable, none of which you would want to skip.
 
 
--Mica Elgin-Vi
 
The Electric Lungs are throwing a CD release party tomorrow night in support of Don’t Be Ashamed You Were Made. Check them out at Davey’s Uptown Rambler’s Club with Haunted Creepys, Kodascope, and Bone Spur. Facebook event page. 




Album review: Major Games - Major Games

From the retro ‘60s psychedelic album art to their wall of sound performances, listening to Major Games’ self-titled album feels like visiting a sonic circus. Released in the spring of this year, the first full-length album of the Lawrence-based band arrives 4 years after their 2011 EP (EP1, which was just re-released on cassette by This Ain’t Heaven Recording Concern), and each one of the eight new tracks is indisputably worth the wait. Those who have been enjoying their earlier release will not be disappointed—in fact, any fan of noise, shoegaze, or psychedelic will be excited to hear what Major Games has been up to, as will those interested in an introduction to the genre. Their previous five-track EP laid the foundation for Major Games’ seemingly effortless song construction and gritty sound. This new, self-titled album harnesses everything great about those songs and amplifies it into one cohesive Major Games experience: a larger-than-life rollercoaster of noise.
 
Major Games is made up of Jeremy Sidener on bass and vocals, Doug McKinney on guitar and vocals, and Steve Squire on drums. What immediately stands out on the album is the band’s ability to make a wall of noise sound elegant and cohesive—if you have any doubt, check out the first 50 seconds of “BDBDBD.” Although a solid addition to your road trip playlist, this music is made for hitting play, leaning back, closing your eyes, and soaking up the sound. Sidener’s vocals soar through each track, weaving in and out between layers of instrumental sound with impressive control and range. Lyrically, Major Games comes across introspective, however lyrics take a backseat to the sheer power of the instruments themselves. “Other Location” makes an impact alternating between lightly echoing guitar, and harder, droning noise, creating an unpredictable and layered quality that saturates through the whole album. Other favorite tracks include “Risk,” which will most likely get a crowd dancing, and “Burner,” featuring an unrelenting rolling bass and elaborate guitar work.
 
Despite its brilliant raw sound, the entire album manages to maintain a quality of precision and clarity. Producer Jim Vollentine, who recorded the album with the band at Black Lodge Recording Studio in Eudora, KS, deserves credit for capturing the force of Major Games' arrangements. Vollentine’s career includes production and technical work with bands like Spoon and White Rabbits. This album demonstrates serious confidence in their craft and inspired musicianship with no hesitations about breaking the mold. Major Games doesn’t sound like the band is coasting or playing it safe. Their album is a major achievement.
 
 
Major Games will make their next appearance on Halloween night at Replay Lounge in Lawrence, with BaioWolf, Young Bull, and Gnarly Davidson. Show starts at 9:00 p.m. Facebook event page.
 
 
--Mary Kennedy

Mary Kennedy is a lifelong Bostonian learning her way around Kansas City. She can often be found in an art museum, checking out local music, or taking a nap. 





Apocalypse Meow 8 is coming up!

Midwest Music Foundation is proud to present the eighth annual Apocalypse Meow! Mark your calendars for November 6-8 and enjoy 3 nights of music at 3 great Kansas City spots for a very important cause.
 
 
Friday, November 6 at recordBar
Amy Farrand and the Like
Get your tickets here. 18+ / $7
 
 
Saturday, November 7 at Mills Record Company
A free, all ages show presented by The Deli KC!
 
Sunday, November 8 at Knuckleheads Saloon
 
Get your tickets here. 21+ / $15
 
Apocalypse Meow 8 benefits Abby’s Fund for Musicians’ Health Care, which provides emergency health care grants to musicians in need. Raffles will be held throughout the weekend and a silent auction will be held on Sunday at Knuckleheads, with items, gift certificates, and tickets donated by local businesses and organizations. Click here for a full list of items and contact rhonda@midwestmusicfound.org if you’d like to donate.
 
Huge thanks to all our sponsors, volunteers, and musicians that make this event possible each year! For more information and a full list of sponsors, please visit http://midwestmusicfound.org/apocalypse-meow-2015
 




Album review: The Sluts - The Sluts

(Photo by Todd Zimmer)
 
LFK darlings The Sluts’ self-titled second album is just what the doctor ordered. Assuming, of course, that you’re in need of a dose of brash, fuzzy, garage rock, most potent when chased with a shot of bourbon and some cheap yard beers. And let’s face it, you probably are.
 
The Sluts’ eleven tracks—four of which (“Let Me Go,” “Loser,” “Green,” and “Linger”) were previously released on last year’s The Loser EP (here’s our review of that)—are for the most part quite one-dimensional. This isn’t a bad thing. Ryan Wise (guitar and vocals) and Kristoffer Dover (drums) are not trying to overthink their craft, but instead are content to give listeners fun, mostly up-tempo ball-busters, lasting under three minutes.
 
The songs are a unique blend of early grunge and edgy punk. Think of Mudhoney joining forces with The Stooges. Wise’s slightly whiny, reverb-laced vocals are nearly as distorted as his chunky, drop-tuned guitar, and Dover’s relentless sonic booming is filled with crash cymbals. The result is a much larger sound than one might expect from just a two-piece band, although I would be interested to hear the added depth that a bass guitar might bring.
 
Three songs showcase Wise and Dover at their best. The crunchy “Green” is reminiscent of Alice in Chains, both vocally and musically. Dover’s tom rolls give it a defined groove, and set it apart from many other tunes on the album. “Be With You” is a fast, driving love song with interesting rhythm variations and guitar like a machine gun. The highlight of The Sluts is “Linger,” which begins with a catchy surf-like guitar hook, and becomes a thrashing, angst-ridden anthem. The use of fuller chords and incessant drumming allows it to have as much breadth as two instruments are capable of providing.
 
The album’s final track, “Simple Song,” is the only truly slow song of the bunch. At first it seems a bit out of place among the other ten turbulent tunes. However, there is a good reason for it to be included. It informs the listener that the thrill ride has come to an end, and that it’s okay to take a deep breath and relax. It’s like a much-needed lullaby being sung to a rambunctious, yet exhausted, child.
 
If you’re in need of some background music for resting, studying or a candle-lit dinner, you should probably avoid this album. If you are leaving work on a Friday, and are ready to roll down the windows and get mentally prepared for the weekend, by all means crank it up. The Sluts isn’t high art or even hi-fi. It’s rock & roll, baby.
 
Catch The Sluts tonight at a free in-store performance at Mills Record Company! Show starts at 7:00 pm.
 
--Brad Scott
Brad loves music, Boulevard beer, and his family. Not necessarily in that order.
 

 

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