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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 Lucky - The Lucky (EP)

Album review: The Lucky - The Lucky (EP)

The Lucky does not waste anyone’s time getting into the nitty-gritty of its self-titled EP. A four-count of fast, punky guitars drives you straight into the opening track, whimsically titled “Lalalalike You,” a cute little diddy about—not love—simply lalalaliking someone. Lead primarily by the vocal work of Jason McKee, his female counterpart Camilla Camille, chimes in every now and then to boost the anthem into a high-speed duet.

           
“Lalalalike You” is promptly followed up with “Owl & Me.” This song slows things down a bit… but only a bit. Camille’s sensual, breathy vocals on the verses transmute into a full-blown rocker-chick sound for the chorus. “Can’t Shake You” is next. Again, Camille voices this song. It’s equally as charming as the first song. With a chorus of “la la la’s,” the song quickly anchors itself into that part of the brain where songs tend to get stuck.
 
The final track, “Mad One,” brings up the lively grungy guitars every loves (to some degree). A classy guitar solo spins the song into something that can easily be taken as a single. This song is easily a depiction of what The Lucky is all about.
 
I have yet to mention drummer Jonathan Thatch’s work on these tracks. The drum work is as simple as you’d want it to be—consistent throughout the entire four-track EP. Executed flawlessly to maintain the powerful punk sounds of the songs, the drums add a powerful element.
 
If you’re not listening for it, you won’t miss the bass riffs. The band is simply a three-piece, omitting the bass. The guitar work keeps the listener at full attention. The album sounds ultimately lo-fi, in terms of recording quality. But you wouldn’t want to listen to The Lucky any other way. The fast-paced rock ‘n roll songs are boosted with a lo-fi sound, making it seem as though The Lucky is performing right in front of you, at a bar or in your garage; a more intimate sound for the band.
 
The Lucky’s self-titled album was recorded by Paul Malinowski at Massive Sound and mastered by Duane Trower at Weights and Measures Soundlab.
 
The Lucky will release its debut EP tomorrow night, Friday, February 15, at recordBar. The Lover’s Rock show begins at 10:00 pm with The Heavy Figs, followed by The Lucky, and rounded out by Schwervon!. Tickets are available at the door or purchase here for $7.

--Steven Ervay

Steven is the intern of Midwest Music Foundation and The Deli - Kansas City. He can't go to 21+ shows yet and that bums him out.  

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