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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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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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