Artist of the Month

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November 2015
The Old No. 5s
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 

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Album review: Deco Auto - Past Mistakes and Hauntings EP

Album review: Deco Auto - Past Mistakes and Hauntings EP

Past Mistakes and Hauntings, the debut release from pop-punk trio Deco Auto, rips out of the garage with a mission to go, and it never looks back. From the first note of the album opener, “The Mercy Kind,” you assume you’re going to be in for a fist-pumping, air guitar-playing joyride. And you’d be right in that assumption. Wound tightly like a fist, this collection of catchy, energetic songs strikes a blow to anyone who might have thought power-punk trios were ruined by the likes of Green Day.

The hook-centric guitar work of vocalist/guitarist Steven Garcia is prevalent throughout the four-song EP, as well as his ability to find vocal lines that are accessible and rooted in pop music. The guitar tone is spot on for Deco Auto’s roaring renditions and is complimented by quality sound engineering. This extends beyond the guitar to bass and drums, as well, giving the album an energy that’s hard to capture for a lot of bands.

Bassist Tracy Flowers and drummer Michelle Bacon’s presence on these tracks is undeniable, keeping the band locked in and moving forward with each thump of the bass drum. “Pointless Fight” is a perfect example of what a solid drummer can do for a band: tight stops and starts, all the while keeping the attention and focus on the song. “I Shouldn’t Know,” which lends the lyric for the EP title, has Flowers center stage while she delivers a vocal melody that you’ll be humming the rest of the day. It’s this combination of aggression and sweetness that makes Deco Auto a worthwhile listen.

My only complaint about this release is that it’s only four songs. After listening to it, I definitely wanted it to keep going. After all, my air guitar was just getting warmed up.

Deco Auto celebrates its EP release tonight, July 6, with a special party at the Midwestern Musical Co. with local power pop legends The Pedaljets. The trio is throwing a second party next Friday, July 13, with an in-store performance at Vinyl Renaissance on 39th St. alongside Kelley Deal (The Breeders) and Mike Montgomery's (Ampline) project R. Ring

--Mike Tipton

Mike is a KC native that enjoys new music and playing with his band, Molly Picture Club. He also enjoys people watching and documentaries by Ken Burns.


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