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Lawrence music

Album review: The Sluts - Loser (EP)

(Photo by Todd Zimmer)
Lawrence, Kansas (affectionately to be referred to henceforth as LFK) continues to be a source of the kinds of music that I want to hear more of and know more about. One band in particular has really caught my ear of late with a sound that’s raw, dirty, energetic, and undeniably attention-grabbing: The Sluts, a bare-bones twosome consisting of Kristoffer Dover on drums and Ryan Wise on guitar and vocals. Two musicians, no more, no less … but as the sounds you’ll hear on their new EP Loser will demonstrate, two musicians is plenty when it comes to making a substantial sonic statement.
Their mix of garage, punk, and grunge kicks things off with the opener, “Let Me Go,” as The Sluts tear things up with a grimy bounce firmly entrenched in 4/4 time. “Loser” starts with a tip of the cap to upbeat new wavey rhythms, but 25 seconds into the track, the boys re-establish the power presence that is their raison d’etre (how’s THAT for some damn NPR-speak, kids?). “Green” and “Linger” wrap up the four-track, barely-more-than-ten-minute EP with the sound that I’ve most commonly described as “Nirvana without Krist Novoselic,” as Wise’s sneering vocals and snarling guitar combined with Dover’s relentlessly on-point percussion give the music just a bit of Bleach-era homage while sounding very much of the present day.
I had the honor of introducing The Sluts during this year’s Midcoast Takeover at SXSW; they were on the roster of the I Heart Local Music / Whatever Forever day-party that featured more examples of LFK’s finest (Black on Black, Shy Boys, Josh Berwanger Band, and Oils/CS Luxem). After a couple long days of music and food truck fare and drinking, the abrasive grind of The Sluts was a much-needed Brillo pad to the brain. Give Loser a listen, and keep an eye out for this band.
Love me some dirty, filthy, nasty The Sluts. Awwww yeahhhhhh.
-Michael Byars

Michael can use the phrase “raison d’etre” in the same review as the phrase “awwww yeahhhhh,” because that’s how he rolls. 




Editor’s note: Loser was recorded, mixed, and mastered by Joel Nanos at Element Recording. Photos taken at Element by Todd Zimmer.

Catch The Sluts this Friday at Liberty Hall; they’ll be playing #ASSJAMZ: Bands That Will Make You Dance, along with Approach, Paper Buffalo, and Spencer Brown. Show starts at 8 pm. Facebook event page. If you’re in KC, see them this Sunday at Vandals. They’ll be joined by fellow LFKers Mr. and the Mrs., Mannequin Pussy (NYC), and KC’s Anson the Ornery. Facebook event page. 

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Album review: Mr. and the Mrs. - A Tale of Two Eyes (EP)

At times, I think rock is a beast destined for extinction, killed mercilessly by indie bands with strong ‘80s dance pop fetishes and singers with somewhat misguided longings for Adam Sandler character vocalizations. There are a few Kansas City/Lawrence area bands that are putting in their due diligence to bring rock back to the surface. To draw it away from the dark corners of the basement, free from the shackles that fickle fans have thrown upon them, to let it roam among the living, ready to regain its rightful place upon the throne. Black on Black, The Sluts, and All Blood are putting all of themselves into the fire, trying to resurrect rock and it seems, for the time being, to be working.
One of the most interesting bands in the mix is Mr. and the Mrs. Their latest release, A Tale of Two Eyes, shows a band fully capable of kicking down the garage door with the tried and true guitarist/drummer 1-2-combo knockout punch. They stand as a band truly giving no shits about what people think, making the racket they want to make and at a ridiculous volume.
There is no pretense with A Tale of Two Eyes. They clearly do not care to be the coolest band in the land, have no interest in recycling Misfits’ riffs or snagging all the groupies. Mr. and the Mrs. released a four-song EP, cut to a limited vinyl run of 20 discs on a 1940s record lathe, not because it’s cool but because that’s what they wanted to do. Period.
A popular local spectacle, Mr. and the Mrs. have successful reproduced their live sound on Eyes. Coming on with the sound quality of a live show recorded to an Emerson boom box at a punk club in 1980, the tunes on Eyessound like The Cramps, Nirvana, Minor Threat and a garbage disposal having sex; a wild and reckless noise that shouldn’t, in theory, sound so good but it does. “Pink Eye” has a vaguely Detroit Cobras ass shakin’ vibe while “Dead Eye” sounds like a totally stoned out Sid Vicious manhandling the mic while covering The Vaselines’ “Molly’s Lips.”
Mr. and the Mrs. have taken the minimalist approach (guitar and drums) and stripped punk/alternative music down to molecular level, in the process touching on something that most certainly isn’t for everyone. However, for those of us who “get it”, it will be the saving grace, a music free of the “cool,” free of self-consciousness and a need to be accepted, replacing it with power and sincerity.
--Danny R. Phillips
Danny has been reporting on music of all types and covering the St. Joseph music scene for well over a decade. He is a regular contributor to the nationally circulated BLURT Magazine and his work has appeared in The Pitch, The Omaha Reader, Missouri Life, The Regular Joe, Skyscraper Magazine, Popshifter, Hybrid Magazine, the websites Vocals on Top and Tuning Fork TV, Perfect Sound Forever, The Fader, and many others.

Mr. and the Mrs. will be playing tonight, July 30 at The Bottleneck, along with Ex-Bombers and Something & the Whatevers. Show starts at 9 p.m.

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Too Much Rock Singles Series Vol 3: Josh Berwanger Band - Oh Bis!

Josh Berwanger Band gets us ready for summer with a new single release as part of the Too Much Rock Single Series. The series—curated by Sid Sowder—has local bands doing one side with an original song and one side with a cover song chosen by the band. Berwanger's single is the third volume in the series (the first two by Schwervon! and Rev Gusto).
The A-side is a Berwanger song called "Oh Bis!" to which he helpfully adds a spoken word postscript explaining the origin of the song. The song itself hearkens back to ‘80s power pop and chugs along with some subtle changes in the rhythm. It's a classic "Woe is me" teen angst song and sounds great in the car with the windows down. The B-side is a cover of an obscure 1979 single by The Jags, which sounds like a great lost early Elvis Costello rocker. Its infectious chorus of "I've got your number / written on the back of my hand" complete with handclaps is impossible not to like.
I'm a fan of their recent album Strange Stains. To my ears, this is the best local pure power pop band out there now. Get 'em while you can. These 45s are limited editions. 
--Barry Lee
Barry is host of Signal To Noise, which airs on KKFI 90.1 FM every Sunday at 8 pm. He spends his weekdays being station manager of KKFI.

You can see Josh Berwanger Band this weekend at Boulevardia, in the West Bottoms. They play at 6:15 p.m. on the Chipotle Homegrown stage. Facebook event page. They’ll also be playing Lawrence Field Day Fest on June 28 at The Bottleneck at 11:00 p.m. Also, watch for Too Much Rock’s fourth volume of the Single Series to come soon!

Here’s a video of an in-studio performance for 90.9 The Bridge of the song “Mary,” recorded at Weights & Measures Soundlab.



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Album review: Carswell & Hope - A Hunger

(Photo by Taffyfoto)
OK. I've got to admit this up front. I'm not terribly fond of piano-dominated albums. Sure, I like Randy Newman, I like Jimmy Webb when he was recording for Reprise Records, yeah, I'm a sucker for Mose Allison, and I guiltily admit to loving Elton John's first five albums. But you have to understand; I'm a guitar guy. I cut my teeth and grew up with the sounds of electric guitars. I will say this: ever since Burt Bacharach left town, there haven't been many folks around here writing sophisticated pop songs like those he wrote with Hal David. The new Carswell & Hope album, A Hunger, is a lovely return to the sound and feel of those sort of compositions.
Impeccably produced and well played by Dan Hines on bass, Jason Sloat on drums, Nick Carswell on guitar and vocals, and Austin Quick on keyboards, this is not some wimpy piano/crooner stuff; the music here has muscle. The opening song, “Before,” sets the tone. It starts out sounding like a Swell Season outtake: voice and piano only, and then moves into different musical terrain as the song unwinds. No verse/chorus/verse thing here; the song moves spinning through moods, tempos, and lyrics in a way reminiscent of a pop overture.
What especially caught my ear as the album flows on is the care taken with each song to make the music just as interesting as the lyrics. Little touches like the understated solo piece three-fourths of the way through the jaunty “Drinking At Crossroads” where the music and mood go somewhere else, (much like The Beatles did with “Fool On The Hill,”) throw the listener a nice little curve. One would expect a long guitar solo at that spot, but the song begs to differ. In their bio the band doesn't cite Jimmy Webb as an influence, but I hear him in these cool little melodic inventions that are part of these songs.
Listen to how the album's centerpiece “The Owning” starts out hard and fast then just after the verses end with an “oh well oh well oh well, ” the band takes over and guitar and piano duel for several bars as Quick explodes piano notes around Carswell's guitar lines and the bass and drums lock in on a galloping groove. The song ends with an extended coda, once again changing the mood and tempo, with three stop-time parts and a vocal coda by Carswell to put the song to bed.
I'm a sucker for songs that flow organically and go places you don't expect. These songs are full of invention. The album was funded by a successful Indiegogo fundraiser campaign and released on the band's own label, Silly Goose Records. A Hunger is one of those albums you can listen to after a hard day's work, sitting out on the screened porch in the early evening with a libation of your choice chilling your hand as this music plays out. Carswell is a native of Ireland. I hope he sticks around these parts for awhile. This band needs to make more music. This is an audacious debut.

--Barry Lee

Barry is host of Signal To Noise, which airs on KKFI 90.1 FM every Sunday at 8 pm. He spends his weekdays being station manager of KKFI.

If you’re in Lawrence tonight, head out to Jackpot Music Hall to see Carswell & Hope. Vik G. Trio and Heidi Lynne Gluck will be opening. Gluck is featured on Carswell & Hope’s album, on additional vocals for “Hunger.” Facebook event page. 



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Album review: Cowboy Indian Bear - Vandeventer (EP)

(Photo by Todd Zimmer)
I’m constantly amazed at the level of talent throughout our local scene. Many artists are putting out music that leaves me in awe and fills me with pride to say that I’m from this area. Album after album and show after show, bands in the KC/Lawrence area are proving that they have what it takes to capture audiences and play at the highest levels. That feeling of awe welled up within me once again as I had the privilege to listen to Cowboy Indian Bear’s latest musical offering.
Titled Vandeventer, this EP is seven tracks of sonic goodness from this spectacular Lawrence band. The group’s five members flex their creative muscle in each and every track. The tunes lace together like a well-made sampler with a signature stamp of excellent production, impeccable tone, powerful vocal performance, and captivating lyrics. Stretching themselves artistically, they rise to meet their own challenge, crossing genres from indie pop and rap to neo-soul.
The first two tracks, “Figure” and “Scatterbuzz,” are a mixture of sounds reminiscent of Death Cab for Cutie meets Brand New. They hold a landscape of rhythmic loops, gorgeous synth lines, and great vocals from frontman C.J. Calhoun. That similar feel takes an ominous turn in the third track, “Ruffians.” Dark synth hits with tension-building live drums set the stage for this introspective piece. I especially love the way they leverage the haunting vocals through a creative use of panning. The attention to detail demands you listen on amazing headphones to glean each piece of the arrangements.
The song “AC” turns the corner, featuring Katlyn Conroy’s powerful voice. The track rightfully leans into the control, gorgeous tone and out-of-the-box uniqueness of her vocal performance. “Jacob” mixes rhythmic beds and the hook of a flute loop (that’s right, I said flute loop) underneath rapper Marty Hillard dropping some fantastic lyrics.
After all that, you have what I think is the highlight of the EP, “Push,” which seems to draw inspiration from artists such as Robert Glasper as the band lays down a smooth R&B vibe. Conroy’s vocals pop out with distinction, highlighting her breathy tone and fast vibrato. That leads us to the bookend track, “Candy.” Here the indie pop sound comes back in full effect. Creative sounds, melancholy vocals, and catchy melodies paint a picture of all that is great about this band.

As Vandeventer ended I found myself wanting more. I couldn’t help but listen over and over again. No doubt this band will continue to raise the bar of the local scene and put this area on the map as it continues to expand its reach nationally. What’s amazing is that each and every track will be free to download for your musical pleasure. Be ready to get your copy, fall in love, and then find a way to support Cowboy Indian Bear in its next huge steps.
Vandeventer will be released on Tuesday, May 20 and you will be able to download it for FREE. Cowboy Indian Bear also released the video for “Ruffians” last week; see it below. Also, you can see them at recordBar next Saturday, May 24, with Max Justus and Nite.

--Miguel Caraballo

Miguel is a Puerto Rican who can’t speak Spanish and frontman of Kansas City-based rock-soul band, Run With It. He believes the arts can change the world and loves meeting people who believe the same. If you want to contact him on your world changing ideas or to simply purchase him the Rosetta Stone Spanish Edition, email him at info@gottarunwithit.com.


Ruffians // Cowboy Indian Bear from Micki Hadley on Vimeo.

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