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Artist of the Month
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September 2014
Katy Guillen & the Girls
"Katy Guillen & the Girls
"
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Normally when I discover a band for the first time, I listen to their album first, then go see them live. In the case of Katy Guillen & The Girls’ new release, the situation's been reversed. I saw them live a couple of times before the album was released, so I was interested to hear if the record was going to capture the ferocity of their live performances. I have to confess that my hearing is not in the best of shape, and, due to a poor sound mix at what shall be an unnamed Lawrence venue, I never got to hear the words or even the melodies properly live at the most recent concert I attended. But upon hearing the self-titled LP, it’s nice to hear that Guillen can write literate lyrics to these songs I've heard played out.
 
The album opener, "Don't Get Bitter," hearkens back to the sound and feel of the Beatles' "Taxman," with Claire Adams' bass introducing the song. It's short, catchy, and lasts exactly as long as it should. If there were a single release off this album, this would be it.
 
This record is no-frills. It's the band pretty much as you hear them live, with the mix capturing a live in-studio sound. What strikes me listening to this record is that Katy and the Girls are not strictly a blues band. There's certainly an infusion of the blues in what they do, but, to my ears, they hearken back to some of the late ‘60s-early ‘70s hard rock bands like Mountain and Free, but with better lyrics and songs. I also hear some White Stripes in there somewhere. The melodies and harmonies are accentuated and they help blend with the powerful playing.
 
Katy Guillen, Claire Adams, and Stephanie Williams fill up a lot of space in these songs. It's obvious they are all very well in sync and have that great intuitive blend that comes from playing lots of live gigs together. I also like the changes in some of the songs, which go in directions you don't expect, like "Woke Up In Spain," which switches tempo adroitly.
 
The absolute masterpiece of this album is the last song, “Earth Angel.” It's the longest tune on the album, but it doesn't feel long. It starts out with Guillen’s dirty-sounding guitar intro, reminiscent of Jimi Hendrix's "Little Wing," and builds in intensity as it moves along. Guillen takes one hell of a solo during this song. It's obvious from hearing this record that she is an excellent guitarist but never overplays during the songs. But when the song calls for a lengthy solo, like "Earth Angel," sparks fly. The rest of the band is equally as adept. Adams’ bass lines are nimble and fit right in place with Williams’ active drum work. It's a pleasure to hear a band that obviously loves to play together rolling through these songs. The album’s producer (Duane Trower at Weights & Measures Soundlab) captures the clarity of the music as well as the power of a live performance.
 

--Barry Lee

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Album review: Gentleman Savage - Open Eyes (EP)

Album review: Gentleman Savage - Open Eyes (EP)

I always enjoy hearing new bands that fully understand their influences, but don’t crutch on them. True musicians don’t simply regurgitate what the greats of old have done—they nod their caps to their predecessors and then find a way to push the musical bar higher and higher. Gentleman Savage has figured that out. Its brand of bubbly, '60s-infused synth pop is a dynamic and powerful melting pot of old and new.
 
"Overlord": Two minutes and fifty-eight seconds of high-energy, guitar-driven pop. The song works itself up to a fever pitch in the middle through the playful interplay of a well-written, breakdown bridge. Followed by the closest thing to a "face-melting” guitar solo you can get in this style of music, the song ends by trailing off over the chorus. Definitely a solid opening track. I imagine it as straight off the soundtrack of the long overdue made-for-TV movie version of The Wonder Years.
 
"Open Eyes": This is my favorite song on the EP, as I am a sucker for the “chug” punk beat. It sounds like The Animals stumbling their way onto Oasis’s tour bus, only to quickly realize that they needn’t stay too long. Again, it features a great late song breakdown, with harmonized falsetto vocals leading the listener by his willing hand back into the final chorus. The vocals are a clear focus and strength of this band and they are used to greatest effect on this track.
 
"Death in the Springtime": The most “psychedelic” of the bunch, it’s also the hardest for me to put my finger on. The beginning immediately brings to mind the droning indie styles of Bat for Lashes or Feist. The stripped-down emotional choruses take me to nervously slow dancing in the high school gymnasium (well, at least how John Hughes would explain what dancing in a high school gym would sound like). But just when I accept my Simple Minds fate, Gentleman Savage once again picks up the intensity through a series of distorted strains. The effort bellows with a full head of dissonant steam until the falsetto harmony vocals once again emerge and offer a serene bridge of sunlight back down out of the clouds and all the way to the last satisfying chord.
 
The best part of this EP? It leaves you wanting more. It is a solid release worthy of many thorough listens. The music of Gentleman Savage comes out like Gemini Revolution, The Quivers, and Thee Water MoccaSins all wrapped up in one vintage psychedelic pop blanket (which, by the way, these four bands on a bill would be spectacular. Someone make that show happen. Do it. Do it now.).
 
Catch Gentleman Savage on November 9 at Czar with Molehill, The Future Kings, and Little Rosco (Facebook event here). And be sure to pick up a copy of Open Eyes, which is now available.

--Zach Hodson

Zach Hodson is a monster. He once stole a grilled cheese sandwich from a 4-year-old girl at her birthday party. He will only juggle if you pay him. I hear he punched Slimer right in his fat, green face. He knows the secrets to free energy, but refuses to release them until "Saved by the Bell: Fortysomethings" begins production.

He is also in Dolls on Fire and Drew Black & Dirty Electric, as well as contributing to various other Kansas City-based music, comedy, and art projects.

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