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Album review: The Latenight Callers - Easy Virtues (EP)

Album review: The Latenight Callers - Easy Virtues (EP)

(photography by Todd Zimmer)


The Latenight Callers' latest EP, Easy Virtues, is a 21-minute exhibit of what you’ve been missing if you haven’t by now heard of them. It is full of noiresque, sinfully sexy music that will have you turning the lights down low in order to fully appreciate. Fill up your hip flask, dust off your fedora… it’s time for The Latenight Callers.

Track 1: "The Mad Season"

Ellen O’Hayer’s guitar intro is as unsettling as it is swank. It’s not until Gavin Mac’s painkilling bass line drops in like a velvet bomb, you know you’re going to be okay … or are you? “It’s over now. You had your mad season with me,” begins the tale of regret and revelation that lyrically hearkens to Nancy Sinatra. The patented Latenight Callers “Noir-a-Go-Go” sound enchants and hypnotizes. It’s like that distant radio, playing softly against your unwinding mind as you drift off to sleep after a couple gins too many. The track then shifts into a driving pop chorus that shows The Latenight Callers have a few more gears in the box than one might have expected. Krysztof Nemeth’s baritone guitar solo abducts your fear and bathes you with that rare sensation of letting yourself fall when you know it’s a dream. His seductive melodies, accompanied by O’Hayer’s sparkling hollow body strumming, could entrance a crazed gorilla. Julie Berndsen and Ellen O’Hayer’s harmonized vocals have the same tantalizing effect as a cobra swaying to his master’s flute. Except, with the femme fatales of the Latenight Callers, it’s no ruse.

Track 2: "Electric Park"  

"Electric Park” begins with a familiar-with-the-80s synthesizer loop that you might hear some Face Value in ...  Suddenly, it slides into a smile inducing, hip swaying carnival rhapsody, showcasing more of Nemeth’s chiming, echoing, double agent guitar pangs—and another Latenight Callers trademark—the crooning of Julie Berndsen into a bullhorn. The trebly crackle of her amplified voice weaves a tapestry of lyricism, from stiletto heels to blushing schoolgirls. Graciously, The Latenight Callers know how to mix bullhorn vocals into their live and recorded sessions, pleasantly. No Al Jourgensen banshee wailings present here.

Track 3: "Calaveras"

Beginning with an old sample of Raymond Chandler reminding you that “anything can happen when the Santa Ana blows in from the desert,” saying “Calaveras” (“Skulls”) has noir soaked into it is like saying David Lynch makes strange movies. This track is the most serious in tone on the EP, though it remains ultra inviting. The hauntingly emotive vocal outro, harmonized between Berndsen and O’Hayer, is angelic; like the fabled capturing of a siren’s swan song. This is the 45 your subconscious spins while you drive down a lost highway during hours of darkness. Berndsen’s lusty vocals; Mac’s relentlessly groove-oriented bass measures; the patient hitman guitar arpeggios of Nemeth and O’Hayer; and the gentle backbeat conjured up by Nick Combs all would perfectly provide the score behind the iconic smoking ashtray scene in a black-and-white new wave film.

Track 4: "Wrecking Ball"

What would this EP be without a prominent organ part? You need not worry - here it is. “Wrecking Ball” downshifts into cerebral oblivion. By this fourth and final cut on Easy Virtues, you’ll blissfully feel like you have been doped by Jackie Treehorn. “It’s not about the way it tastes, it’s all about the way it feels…” This closing number begins to slip below the horizon and out of sight in the midst of a mournfully sustained violin, the distant whale song of a theremin, rich echoing guitars—and at the end of the tunnel—a few gentle finger snaps. Then it’s gone, leaving you all alone, where you’ll probably select track one, and start over.


Few bands can convincingly create such ambience. The Latenight Callers pull you from the everyday sphere, and send you packing, into that smoky parallel reality depicted in art-noir; where characters walk among the dark, seedy side of society. The Latenight Callers have worked painstakingly hard in crafting their own contemporary brand. The members have only been playing together as a unit for a couple years but they have earned the respect of Kansas City, in spades. Their shows always lend to a night to remember - I highly recommend catching them. It adds to the appreciation you’ll undoubtedly have for their albums. With that said, Easy Virtues is a must have in the music collection of any lover of the avant-garde.

You can catch The Latenight Caller's sultry noir live show at Nica's 320 this Friday, June 22 at 8 p.m. with The Blackbird Revue and Kentucky Knife Fight.

--Christian Anders Liljequist

Christian is a freelance writer. He will graduate from UMKC in the spring of 2013 with a BA in Communication Studies (Journalism & Mass Communication).

Published: June 21, 2012 |

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