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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: The Quivers - Gots To Have It!

Album review: The Quivers - Gots To Have It!

(Photo by Steve Gardels)

The Quivers' new EP, aptly titled Gots To Have It!, serves up 13 minutes of raucous music that you can dance to, straight up!

Track 1: “Blue Light”
Abe Haddad’s push and pull Stratocaster guitar intro on “Blue Light” is like the turnover of an old dormant Studebaker that has finally been untarped for a summer of hot, late night love runs. Bernie Dugan’s backbeat sets the idle on this Midwestern tavern dance number that also reveals lead vocalist/bassist Terra Peal’s ability to blend her strong, soulful voice—which somewhat resembles Pat Benatar’s—with her patent banshee screams that could have crumbled the former Iron Curtain, had it not been for David Hasselhoff’s embryonic Berlin Wall performance…

Track 2: “He Had It Comin’”
With its reserved country pickin’, hip-poppin’ diner waitress vocals, and county fair carousel keyboards, “He Had It Comin’” will keep your feet movin’ and your hair swishin’ back and forth, even if the lyrics aren’t really appropriate for either. Haddad’s honky-tonk guitar work, Todd Grantham’s playful keyboard licks—all infused with traces of soul—make delightful, each time the refrain comes around so you can sing, “He had it comin’… He had it comin’…”

Track 3: “I Sleep Here”
“I Sleep Here” may musically sound like some kind of mash up of Huey Lewis, Booker T., and Tommy James & the Shondells, but it very much stands on its own as pure Quivers' canon…and a song that you can’t help but grin ear-to-ear and wiggle to. Grantham sings lead on this ‘upbeat’ ballad, assuring us, “It’s pretty clear. I live alone with bravado, and ignore the phone.” And yes, that is Terra Peal growling out “Lordy, lordy!” in the background, tougher than Billy Idol ever was. That redheaded vixen sounds very much capable of damaging something if provoked.

Track 4: “What Went Wrong”
Peal struts her country vocal sensibilities to the pattering player piano saloon riffs in “What Went Wrong,” a song that will surely leave a dance floor full of boot scuffs and whiskey splatters. When Peal confesses, “I’ve been bad all my life,” it can make for some anxiousness, because her singing lends to many desires in the minds of many. Musically, perhaps the most contemporarily solid track on the EP, The Quivers show off their prowess and versatility, yet again.

Track 5: “Gots To Have It!”
“Gots To Have It!” bursts forth in purely fun, sock hop n’ roll fashion. Heavy snare hits (surely with some drumstick points toward the crowd), jogging keyboard chords, stacked vocals, and a tipsy rockabilly guitar solo that gets all up in your face and absolutely gets it done. This closing number burns a candle in the Church of Eighties Ending Credits Movie Songs ... Wait. It didn’t appear at the end of a John Cusack movie? Well, it should have!

The Quivers play rock n’ roll that is sometimes soulful, sometimes rockabilly, sometimes country, sometimes…well—sometimes it’s hard to classify just what they do best! One thing is for certain; they are the perfect entertainers for pretty much any given night. You will smile, and you will quiver, when that band—the one straight from the garage on Sex Appeal St.— thrusts upon you when you – Gots To Have It!

You, too, can be rocked by The Quivers tomorrow night, August 15, at Aftershock for the KC Wednesday Night Jamboree. They'll be performing with The Cave Girls. They'll also be playing at Greaserama on Sunday, September 2.

--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).

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