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Artist of the Month
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December 2015
Mikal Shapiro
"The Musical
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Singer-songwriter Mikal Shapiro’s perfectly titled latest release, The Musical, is a collection of not merely songs, but 10 short stories set to wonderful music. The album is a work—or multiple works—of art that are just as mysterious and intriguing as any paintings you will find in a gallery. Shapiro’s palette is splattered with the complete spectrum of colors. There are dreary gray tones and bright whimsical flashes, melding together to create a soundtrack to life—one that touches many musical genres, including rock, folk, jazz, old-school country, and even gospel.
 
The Musical's opening act, “Nope,” is an airy, ethereal fantasy. Odd, evasive lyrics over a folk sound made jazzier by a muted trumpet give the listener a sense of drifting in and out of a dream on a rainy Sunday morning. Drums and crashing cymbals briefly end the slumber, until you are lulled back to sleep as the song comes to a close. Several tracks share this jazz feel, including “Out on the Town,” “Two String Blues,” and the wonderfully whimsical "Hot Cool." Shapiro's vocals are poised and effortless on each of these. 
 
“Here and Now” explores rediscovering love and a desire to forget (or never remember) the past. A dull snare beat blanketed by beautiful steel guitar rivals the purest of cry-in-your-beer country songs. Similarly, “This Way to Heaven” is country with an emphasis on gospel. It begins a cappella and, as the band joins in, becomes the loveliest song on the album. It is simultaneously serene and haunting.
 
Matching the mystery and irony found throughout the album, “Daniel,” the catchiest and most up-tempo tune, is also possibly the saddest. Daniel himself is an enigma. The storyteller, who acknowledges being a “friend” of Daniel’s, clearly knows little more about him than that he can “sleep like a Christian” and “drink like a demon.” The song turns dark when the protagonist is found dead, presumably by suicide. “But on that Saturday, Daniel was down / They couldn’t say where he was found, or how he was found.” Brilliantly, the listener is left to decide how Daniel may have met his demise, and why.  
 
Shapiro is fortunate to be backed by Chad Brothers (guitar and vocals), Johnny Hamil (electric and double bass), and Matt Richey (drums), along with a small army of additional local musicians. This adept team provides a canvas that Shapiro expertly fills. My interpretations of The Musical may differ from other listeners. As with any painting, the artist is not only revealing her emotions, but is also attempting to provoke a response—and Shapiro certainly does. My response may be lost in translation, as the peculiar, personal songs will pierce each listener differently.

--Brad Scott  

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Show review: Drop A Grand/The Quivers/Radkey/Soft Reeds at recordBar, 6.30.12

Show review: Drop A Grand/The Quivers/Radkey/Soft Reeds at recordBar, 6.30.12

(Pictured above: Isaiah Radke of Radkey)

recordBar was home to a diverse showcase of local musicians on Saturday night, handpicked by Sonic Spectrum host Robert Moore. Drop A Grand, The Quivers, Radkey, and Soft Reeds played to an interested and expectant crowd.

The night started out with Drop a Grand.  This was my first experience of them, and indeed an experience they are. Electronically playful costumed noise punk like AC/DC, the Sex Pistols, and Elton John getting lost in the keyboard room at Guitar Center. The songs were short, loud, and brash, often sounding like the musical version of a stoned teenager fumbling at the top button of his high school sweetheart’s skinny jeans.  The wolf playing bass (Steven Tulipana) brought the technological side, often howling into the microphone through various processed effects. Overall, fun and interesting.

Kansas City's Motown napalm darlings, The Quivers followed Drop A Grand. A little bit country, a little bit rock 'n’ roll, a little bit Carrie Fisher with a flamethrower, their groovy tunes really got Ricardo dancing. Their set was quick, no nonsense, and a hell of a lot of fun. The well-dressed band jumped from song to song, never letting the sweaty crowd get too much of a break from the groovy vintage tunes. The set really picked up steam in the second half when vocalist Terra Peal let her voice play in the sandbox a little. Her vocals carry a combination of pure power and snarl that contrasts wonderfully with the organ and guitars beneath.

Next up were the young men from St Joseph, Radkey. Sporting clean cheeks, dreadlocks, and one fantastically groomed Billy Dee Williams moustache, they brought a simplistic and raw energy to the night.  Their straightforward rock n roll borders on radio metal at times and is the perfect music to nervously bite your fingernails to. It comes across as a young man’s Van Halen/Misfits mash up, minus the chainsaw guitar solos and the really, really short bodybuilder singer obviously compensating for something. They were tight, strong, and kept the crowd (who mostly seemed to be there for them) cheering for more.

Finishing out the evening were the hipster prophets themselves, Soft Reeds. Easily the most seasoned and talkative group of the night, Soft Reeds brought the show home with their energetic blend of dance rock. Despite their best effort to emulate The Killers or Franz Ferdinand, the Soft Reeds pop more when they allow themselves wade into the Talking Heads side of the pool. That said, they showed a true mastery over the cliffhanger art of dynamically building songs up to almost the brink of bursting only to stop them suddenly. It is certainly good music to not think too hard about and just sway side to side.

--Zach Hodson

Zach is a lifetime Kansas City resident who plays multiple instruments and sings in Dolls on Fire, as well as contributing to many other Kansas City music, art, and comedy projects.  He is very fond of edamame, treats his cat Wiley better than he treats himself, and doesn't want to see pictures of your newborn child (seriously, it looks like a potato).

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

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