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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: Clairaudients - I'm A Loudmouth, You're A Puppet (EP)

Album review: Clairaudients - I'm A Loudmouth, You're A Puppet (EP)

 
(Photo by Todd Zimmer)
 
Speaking personally, I’m a Loudmouth, You’re a Puppet has been on my list of most anticipated local albums for 2013. I’ve been a fervent fan of Clairaudients since their days under the moniker The Atlantic. I’ve seen the band add members to their lineup (Chase Horseman joined at the beginning of 2013), perform numerous times at numerous venues, and now I’ll see them through their first album release.
 
I’m a Loudmouth, You’re a Puppet has been in the works for quite some time. And after listening to the album several times, it’s easy to say that the wait was well worth it. The album has so many subtle intricacies and deep meanings that anyone can tell it wasn’t recorded on the fly—a lot of thought and heart went into the album.
 
Clairaudients introduces itself with a nearly four-minute song simply entitled “Intro,” a chilling, soothing number which serves its purpose well as a lead-off track. With nothing but harmonized vocals and twinkling guitars, you’ll get lost in the ambiance.
 
Keeping in style, the first track fades out and another calming track slide into slot two. “Like a Song” is full of metaphors, which in my case, are up for interpretation. It’s the kind of song that you can listen to to find meaning, or a song that you can just jam to.
 
The album picks up halfway through with “Cellar.” This song easily takes the cake for heaviest track on the album. Vocalist Patrick Robinson definitely brings out his angry voice here. Deep, gravely, and abrasive sounds pour out of his mouth as the rest of the band falls in suit, striking heavy chords and pounding big drums. 
 
And again, before you know it, the tempo slows back down with “Broken Mend,” a solemn track full of heart-melting lyrics. The last track opens up with a strong organ chord, and is quickly followed by a jaunty guitar tune. “Back to the Sun” is a seven-minute anthem, and seems to carry a much lighter attitude than that of the other four. It appears to be more laid back and cheerful due in part to the upbeat, intricate mesh of instrumentals.
 
As I’ve mentioned already, I’m a Loudmouth is a great piece of work. There is so much content and impact stuffed into a small five-song album. The incredible musical accompaniment that is created by this sextet is something to be in awe of in itself, with the added element of Robinson’s lyrics.
 
I’m A Loudmouth, You’re A Puppet was recorded and produced at Massive Sound Studios by Jeff Pickman.
 
Tonight is the long-awaited release party for I’m A Loudmouth, You’re A Puppet. Clairaudients will be celebrating at Davey’s Uptown this evening with special guests Not A Planet and we are voices. Doors open at 8, show at 9. This is an 18+ show; $12 if under 21, $10 for 21+. All attending ticket holders will receive a digital download of the album. Facebook event page.
 
 
--Steven Ervay 
 

Steven Ervay is super rad. 

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