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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: Drek - Drek Happens

Album review: Drek - Drek Happens

 
If you haven’t yet had the chance to listen or watch Kansas City’s own Drek, its release of Drek Happens may be the perfect time. With in-your-face instrumentals and mean vocals, this is a band that not only makes your head bob while listening, but makes your whole body move when you see them live. Drek’s latest album dropped March 30and is heavy, dirty, and will make you rethink the whole rap-rock genre.
 
The first four tracks on the album showcase the band’s heavy side of as it delivers killer guitar riffs and hard-hitting bass. “Deep Breath” lets you more into the lyrical side of Drek and reminds of the power music has on influencing mood. Drek doesn’t allow you stay in the mellow mood too long, both live and recorded. From the ballad-y feel of the previous track, “So I’ve Been Told” moves to heavy drum and guitar sounds. This track sets the mood for the rest of the album, but when you finally hit “Yup, Yup, Yup Uh Huh,” you won’t be able to keep yourself from grooving. This track goes back to early 2000s rap-rock music with a real funk-based groove to it, which is probably why it was the album’s debut single.
 
“Dirtier” delivers more of a hard southern rock feel, with a “Yee Haw” included and a funky guitar part during the verses that will get you into it. Drek wraps up the album with “The Price,” a testament to all of those who threaten you but never to the face, and I think we’ve all had those. Drek offers a nice surprise for the fans by offering a bonus track. This cover of Cypress Hill’s “Hits from the Bong” is pretty legit and gives just enough balance to the original against Drek’s hard-hitting instrumentals. Overall, you can really feel the energy of the band coming through the speakers. If you get the chance to see it live, you will see just why Drek has one of the biggest and most loyal fan bases in Kansas City.
 

This Saturday, May 11, Drek will appear at The Roxy in Overland Park with Mad Libby, Unwritten Rulz and Cronus for a fundraiser for a girl named Izzy, who is battling leukemia. Facebook event page.

--Cassiopia "KC Cassi" DeMars 

KC Cassi believes that with true local music support, you can do great things. I grew up somewhere that way and have been in Kansas City since 2005. Music can change the world and support can help spread the jams.

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