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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: Akkilles - Something You'd Say

Album review: Akkilles - Something You'd Say

 
(Photo by Mollie Hull, Seen Imagery)
 
As one who has been a self-professed music junkie for pretty much my entire life, I’m constantly in awe of those who go onstage, no matter how large the stage or the venue or the crowd, and make music. As one who doesn’t possess a lot of musical talent, the chances of me experiencing that feeling are pretty slim, but that doesn’t stop me from thinking about the art in its various forms. When a solo artist writes music, and when it’s the kind of music that requires more than just the one musician to be performed live, does he/she worry about finding the right people to bring that music to life, or are the songs written because they simply have to be written, and there’s an intrinsic faith that they will eventually be heard as the author hears them? In the case of David Bennett, the man behind the loosely-knit group Akkilles, it seems to be mostly the latter.
 
When asked about the process involved in creating Akkilles’ first full-length album, Something You’d Say, Bennett speaks of having a clear vision to go with his musical voice, and he also was able to assemble a supporting cast of accomplished musicians that he respected and was fully comfortable with, even though they had never actually played together before. Additionally, the making of Something You’d Say involved having all five players in a recording studio (Nick Pick, Rachel Pollock, Jeff Larison, Isaac Anderson, and Mike Crawford, who also engineered the recording), as opposed to his first effort, Demo Treasures—recorded at Bennett’s home, and on which he was the sole musician and vocalist.
 
A bit about Demo Treasures: released in April of 2013, this five-track EP serves as a natural lead-in to the full-length recording. It contains a very Freelance Whales vibe at times, but there are instances when Bennett takes more risks with the music—as if he’s experimenting with his own potential, trying to test the boundaries of his work, perhaps seeing the bigger picture of the future ten-track album. It would be a wise investment to listen to this as a primer; it would also be a low-cost investment, as Akkilles is only asking for a couple bucks for the download on their Bandcamp page. (psst … there’s no rule against paying a little more, either. Any band worth supporting—not just Akkilles, but any and every band—is a band worth kicking in a buck a song for an EP purchase. Just sayin’.)
 
Listening to “Your Only One,” the opening track of Something You’d Say,put me in mind of being in a kicked-back state at the end of the work week, sitting on the beach, cold beverage in hand (make mine a cider, please), and watching the sun go down over the ocean. “She’s My Girl” offers nine-plus minutes of more gently trippy sounds, and the deeper you explore the album, the deeper your state of relaxation will be. Getting into the swirling psychedelia of the third track, “Country Boy Deluxe,” I started hearing a few more subtle resemblances and possible influences: a touch of yacht rock, maybe a little Minden, and (for me, anyway) the pensive reflection of Beck’s Sea Change album. Bennett masterfully tells his stories at their own pace, without the need of studio-born tricks or gimmicks to keep the listener’s attention. It’s also very clear that his band of musical hired guns is in complete lockstep with him, and the result is a seamlessly pure and effortless 51-minute mental massage.
 
Akkilles is not without its sneaky side, though: “Chic City” presents the listener with a relatively alt-country song as compared to the rest of Something. If the Flaming Lips had decided to bring Wilco into the recording studio … and, perhaps, maybe, oh, I don’t know, enjoyed a puff or two of some agricultural mood-enhancing materials, just speculating here … this might have been the result. It’s the closest to a “road song” that the album comes to—but it’s still a relaxed road even so.
 
Something You’d Say is more than the sum of its parts, as any worthwhile collaboration aspires to be. For those of us who look forward to summer every year only for the purpose of finding that special “summer song” or “summer album,” you can’t go wrong with making this your choice for 2013.
 
Of the roster of musicians that make up Akkilles, Bennett says this: “My current band is more of a collective than anything else. Everyone would be making music with or without me, but we all knew each other and they really wanted to be a part of what I was doing, and I love getting to work with such talented people. It's a pretty dynamic group.” If you have the opportunity to see this group as they support the new album, be ready to have your mind bathed in the serenity of gentle ambience and warm, finely-tuned summer pop.
 
At least, that’s something I’d say.
 


 
Join Akkilles with special guests Roo & The Howl (Colorado) and La Guerre at recordBar on Thursday, August 29. It’s an 18+ show, $7 cover. Facebook event page. 
--Michael Byars
 

Michael Byars has an infatuation with cider, which we all think comes from his internal Britishness, but he works cheap and spells most of his words correctly, so we let him hang around. And Michelle still likes to punch him every once in a while. Executive privilege and all that, jolly good, pip pip, cheerio.

 

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