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Album review: Olassa - I Love You Come Back To Me (EP)

As a music journalist of nearly eight years, it has become rather noticeably difficult to stumble across new “firsts.” There comes a point where everything to be seen has been witnessed and everything to be discovered has been found. At times music begins to just feel played out—the bucket lists slowly start to lean towards being more completed than unchecked and everything becomes rather redundant. Then just when I stop looking, someone throws a tuba into the mix and shifts my perspective of everything.

In this instance that band is Olassa.
With a Midwest, alt-country impression of Gogol Bordello a la The Moldy Peaches (yes kids, that is that band from the movie Juno), Olassa brings an updated thrift store charm and chemistry to the otherwise straightforward, blue-collar Lawrence/Kansas City music scene. Packing a pretty hefty collection of bass and catchy song-styling, the band’s male to female vocal structures allow them the ability to come out swinging and sock their audience in the teeth, with enough talent and ability to leave a listener enamored with a song. Quite honestly, Olassa is the type of band that is easy to become completely smitten with.
Upon first spin of the album I fell in love with five of the six cuts on I Love You, Come Back to Me. “Where Will I Live,” the album’s opening track, sets the stage for Olassa’s unique style. With tuba breakdowns providing the bass and accordions replacing the lead guitar (or organ) parts, the cut provides an interesting and intriguing lo-fi gypsy punk feel. The song also gives us our first glimpse at the blended co-ed vocals, before shifting into the fully female-fronted “Sloe Gin.” With a beautiful front porch guitar intro and a truly Americana vocal structure, the album’s second track strives to give Beth Orton and Emmylou Harris a run for their money (long-term). The song is secured in its deep, stable songwriting as it builds and progresses slowly and accurately. The track shuts down suddenly before reentering with a flawless accordion and cello combo, which closes out the number. Overall, the track does wonders in terms of setting the tone of where Olassa is headed in 2013. If “Sloe Gin” is an indication of their future to build upon, I expect nothing but an upward swell.
Unfortunately, “Sloe Gin,” the album’s strongest track, lands coupled with the somewhat disappointing “Vega.” Feeling a bit incomplete and unfinished, regardless of its obvious intentions of being this way, the song seems to lack the lyrical strength and structure of the whole of the album. However, Allison Olassa’s beautiful vocals remain intact as she uses gorgeous vibrato as the song swells around her. While the song itself is not a total waste, it is certainly the weakest cut on the otherwise flawless EP.
The final three songs on the album, “Little Darlin’,” “Ponder,” and “Pretty Flowers,” close out the impressive early-season release. “Pretty Flowers” slams the door on the release in a solid and impressive way, combining the glimpses of Americana noise with the rapid use of tuba and accordion filtered throughout the album. The song has a sunshiny feel to it with an elegance highlighted previously through “Sloe Gin.” With split vocals attacking each ear equally through the headphone of the listener, the song manages to surround you with its flawlessness.
The same can be said for the album as a whole. With the band dropping such a well-crafted album so early in the new year, the bar has clearly been set to a higher level in the area for local album of the year. I personally want to thank Olassa for throwing out such a challenge to their peers and fellow mates in the scene. I am wholeheartedly looking forward to watching each of them try to keep up.
SCORE: 9/10
Catch Olassa this Saturday, January 26 at Replay Lounge when it releases I Love You Come Back To Me at a special release party. The band will be joined by The Calamity Cubes, KC Bear Fighters, and Alex Law.
--Joshua Hammond
After stints drumming for both The Afternoons and Jenny Carr and the Waiting List in the Lawrence/Kansas City music scene, Joshua Hammond found his footing as a music journalist, launching the national publication Popwreckoning. After running the show as Editor in Chief for 6 years, Hammond stepped away from the reigns to freelance for other publications like Under The Gun Review and High Voltage Magazine. This shift allowed the adequate amount of time for him to write passionately, allow the Kansas City Royals to break his heart on a daily basis and spoon his cats just enough that they don't shred his vinyl. 

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Show recap: Chris Haghirian's Birthday Bash at recordBar, 6.29.12

(pictured above: Oriole Post)

Friday night saw the celebration of a few events at the recordBar. First, the birthday of Chris Haghirian of Ink Magazine. 
Second, the farewell show for Oriole Post, who performed a hearty but bittersweet set to a packed dinner crowd.
An unspoken celebration was one for the local music scene. The early show (Olassa/Oriole Post) was packed nearly to capacity with the faces of familiar musicians, families and friends. The late show was not quite as full, but the spirit was jovial with the lively sounds of The Hearts of Darkness and the dynamic instrumentation of She's A Keeper. 17-year-old Georgia Gordon, who hails from Scotland, opened up the show with a series of acoustic songs to lead into the other eclectic acts of the evening. Chicago's Stephen Paul Smoker also added a heavier, psychedelic element to the show, keeping the crowd on its feet for the headliner, The Hearts of Darkness. With a blend of fantastic local acts and emerging national/international acts, and a mixture of new and old faces, recordBar helped prove that there's a viable, up-and-coming music scene in Kansas City.


Georgia Gordon

She's A Keeper

Stephen Paul Smoker

The Hearts of Darkness

Photos © Todd Zimmer, 2012. Please do not use without permission.

Show of the day: Chris Haghirian's Birthday Bash at recordBar

Tonight, several of the best artists in Kansas City and beyond will be at the recordBar to help celebrate the birthday of Ink Magazine's Chris Haghirian. Haghirian is one of the biggest proponents and supporters of the Kansas City music scene, co-establishing the Middle of the Map Fest, which has helped get national acts on the Kansas City stage. He's spearheaded a number of events to get regional and national exposure for Kansas City acts, including MidCoast Takeover at SXSW, MidCoast Cares: A Benefit for Joplin, the Ink Music Stage at the Plaza Art Fair, and Ink's Local Music Showcase at Kauffman Stadium. Most notably coming up, he and Ink have teamed up with the MLB host an All-Star FanFest for the MLB All-Star Game at Bartle Hall on July 8-9.

The show will begin at 7:00 p.m. with Oriole Post; this will also be the folk band's farewell show. Olassa from Lawrence will follow. This early show is $7.
The music continues at 9:00 for $10, or you can get a combo ticket for both shows for only $12. Acoustic performer Georgia Gordon, who hails from Edinburgh, will kick off the set. After that, emerging Kansas City group She's A Keeper (check out our album review here), followed by psychedelic Chicago musician Stephen Paul Smoker. Closing out the evening in true party fashion will be local favorites Hearts of Darkness. It'll be a fine way to celebrate a fine man. If you're a part of or a supporter of the Kansas City music scene, come out and watch some great artists, and pat the birthday boy on the back.

Here's the video for "Green City" from Stephen Paul Smoker:


"Vega" by Olassa:

And something off Hearts of Darkness's upcoming release:


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