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The Deli KC

Album review: Temp Tats - Ions

Temp Tats describe themselves as “somewhat spastic R&B.” I don’t think a better description of this sound could possibly be put into words. Their debut release, Ions, was released on December 14. In my own words, this album is confusing, poetic, psychedelic R&B. As soon as you get into the groove of any given track, it spins you around leaving you to wonder how you got there. You just sit and groove and try to find the root of the song you were just so into. WHOA. WHAT JUST HAPPENED?
 
The opening track to Ions is “Laser Lites.” Luke Waye’s sweet and smooth spirals are our anchor as we swoon over Eric Schuman’s vocals. “In the most perfect worst way” is the lyric that takes us out of the track over Chris Paul’s psychedelic guitar. Chris nails this sound, not overpowering. It sucks you in and leaves you tipsy. This track, while very good and currently stuck in my head, is not indicative of Ions.
 
The most interesting track, in my humble fan’s opinion, is “Cinnamon Spices.” This track was recorded by the locally famed Jorge Arana. If there is a genre for this sound, he might be the king of it. The track opens gently: Joel Schuman tickles the keys, you prepare for some sweet R&B. Luke layers cymbals underneath. Chris drops out and gives Eric some space for his smooth stylings. Eric takes you away with one poetic, run-on, beatnik sentences that you completely agree with. About halfway through the track, closing the second verse, something happens that changes everything. Wait for it, “no. NO. NO. AAAAAAHHHHHHHH!!!!” Eric lets out a metal wail. What? And that introduces the second half of this track that just turns into a guitar and keyboard explosion. It left me dazed, wobbly, and out of control.
 
My favorite track on Ions is “Slackjaw.” Let me be honest here, because it’s sexy and it makes me feel things. The fusion of every rule they break is so good. I’m exhausted listening to Luke. This track is nothing without his intensity. Joel’s keys seem to be placed just perfectly, they mellow out the magic chaos Luke and Chris are creating. The part that makes me feel things, Eric’s tenor and his lyrics on this track. His I-don’t-care, but-my-heart-is-broken, but “I am counting down the days until the next jailbreak” confidence. Gets me.
 
Fun Fact about Temp Tats: two of the members—Luke Waye and Eric Schuman—were the founding fathers of a little band called Ambulants. Self-described as grunge/jazz, they shared a few shows and a split 7” with the Jorge Arana Trio. That sound still resonates a bit, breaking rules and leaving me a little shaky, but in a much better way. Well done. I cannot wait to catch this party live. I’ll double up on my Ritalin dose when I get home.
 
 
--Jess Barrett
Haver of sweet dance moves and stealer of t-shirts.
 

Your next chance to see Temp Tats will be this Saturday at Davey’s Uptown. They’ll be playing with a host of other KC groups in support of Bernie Sanders. The BERNing Man KC rally starts at 4 pm, with $10 suggested donation going toward Sanders’ campaign fund. Facebook event page. 

A Q&A with Under The Big Oak Tree

Under the Big Oak Tree has all the makings of a solid bluegrass/folk collective, from dulcet vocal harmonies to mandolin flourishes and a foundational upright bass line. The trio’s latest album Local Honey—released early this year on Mudstomp Records—showcases these elements in a vibrant, lush sonic atmosphere. Find out more about the group in our Q&A with songwriter Simon Fink.
 
The Deli: Down and dirty: 1 sentence to describe your music.
 
Simon Fink: Rustic melodies; warm, tremulous singing; lyrics that tilt toward the literary: Gillian Welch, Dolly Parton, and Leonard Cohen walk in to a bar—or onto a front porch, maybe... 
 
The Deli: Give me some background info on Under the Big Oak Tree.
 
Simon: About 4 years ago, I answered a Craigslist ad from a guitar player who wanted to start a bluegrass band for his daughter, who he said was learning to sing and and play guitar. From the sound of it, I pictured a guy with a 15-year-old daughter who wanted to be Taylor Swift. They turned out to be two of the nicest and most generous people I’ve ever met (Kristin Hamilton and Rocky Cathcart, who moved to Texas). As I got to know Kristin’s approach to singing, her voice became a great inspiration for new songs and arrangements. We added Doug Ward on bass pretty much immediately, who fit right in to what we were doing and helped expand on it.
 
The Deli: What inspires your music and songwriting? What is your songwriting process? Does one person write everything or is it collaborative? 
 
Simon: I write most of the songs, and Doug contributes too. A lot of my inspiration comes from thinking about the sound and dramatic potential of the group—the voices and instruments. For me it’s all about the meaningful interaction between words and music that, in turn, creates something greater—the alchemy of songwriting. Though I don’t purposely avoid it, I don’t generally write from autobiography. Lyrics, for me, are an heightened kind of language. A lot of my reference points are in (written) poetry, and you can see the names of certain poets who served as inspiration in some of the song titles on the new album.
 
The Deli: What have been your greatest accomplishments as a band?
 
Simon: I think both of our albums are pretty darn good, and I’m proud of them. We still have a lot more to explore.
 
The Deli:Tell us about your newest album, Local Honey. What can listeners expect? What future plans do you have for getting your music out there? 
 
Simon: Expect a genuine singing voice embedded in sweet, rootsy acousticness. People tend to instantly recognize a kind of welcoming wholesomeness in our music. I hope they hear that, and I hope they hear some of the richer, more challenging layers to the songs and ideas as well.
 
We’re based in St. Joe, but we hope to get the word out and play more in KC and Lawrence.
 
The Deli: What does supporting local music mean to you?
 
Simon: I’m not a huge fan of that phrase because it makes it sound like one more grim duty (“Eat your vegetables.”), when, in fact, participating in music—especially “locally”—is essentially joyous and enlivening. There was a well-known ethno-musicologist in the ‘70s who found that worldwide and across cultures, people’s peak life experiences tended to have one thing in common: music. I’m always heartened by the people, especially non-musicians, who feel like they get something out of our shows and recordings.
 
I do worry that many people don’t seem have a place in their life to really listen anymore. When I read profiles of great contemporary thinkers and doers, their response to, “What are you listening to?” is so often a podcast or audio book. The status of music kind of peaked with the Romantics. In the 19th century, it was considered the greatest and most vital of all art forms. Now, music for its own sake (apart from film, TV, commercials, etc.) no longer seems to fit into our lives so well—and yet that’s exactly why it’s still so essential.
 
The music industry is a mess at the moment. But every community needs dedicated, local musicians. Individual fans can help by pitching in to ad hoc crowdfunding campaigns, etc., but it’s hard to imagine a local scene of quality and consequence really being sustained that way.
 
The Deli: Who are your favorite local musicians right now? Non-local?
 
Non-local: Matt Blake, Josienne Clarke & Ben Walker, Birds of Chicago (just heard at Folk Alliance)
 
The Deli: What is your ultimate fantasy concert bill to play on?
 
Simon: Opening for Bob Dylan. Accompanied by the Orpheus Chamber Orchestra. On a tour of great American National Parks. Sunrise and sunset shows. Staging by Julie Taymor. Cloud-scape by Vik Muniz. Free admission and snacks. And bourbon.
 
The Deli: A music-themed Mount Rushmore. What four faces are you putting up there and why?
 
Simon: Bob Dylan, Johnny Cash, Robert Johnson, Lou Reed: some of my favorite American songwriters.
 
The Deli: What other goals do you have for 2016 and beyond?
 
Simon: Record some live videos of the band; start a sponsored concert series; collaborate with local musicians on a project of new songs about St. Joe, MO; facilitate a collaboration between the KC folk and classical scenes; get an intern; get our music out to as many people as will listen and win you over as a UBOT fan. Yes, YOU, dear reader. 
 
The Deli: Always go out on a high note. Any last words of wisdom for the Deli audience?
 
Simon: I have tried to write paradise
Do not move
Let the wind speak
that is paradise
-Ezra Pound
(mic drop…)
 
 
 
You’re in luck—Under the Big Oak Tree will be playing this weekend in Lawrence. Catch them at The Bottleneck on Saturday night with Kelly Hunt and Kansas City Hustle. Music starts at 9:00 pm. Facebook event page.
 
 
 

--Michelle Bacon 

Kansas City Best of 2015 Readers' Poll Results! Missouri Loves Company, Sara Morgan, and Yes You Are

The results for our 2015 Emerging Artist of the Year Readers' Poll are in! We'd like to thank everyone who voted in support of their favorite artists, and a hardy congrats to everyone who made the poll this year!
 
 
 
1. Our 2015 Readers’ Poll winner, Missouri Loves Company (pictured above) brings together six musicians who produce a larger-than-life amalgamation of sound. The band takes a slightly off-kilter approach to its music, accenting dark pop melodies with atypical rock instrumentation (viola, trombone, glockenspiel) and a variety of musical influences. Led by vocals from Margot Gibson—who can dazzle with the style of a twisted lounge singer or an impassioned rock ‘n roll growl—the group showcases jangly jazzy guitar work and blues-inspired grooves that have the potential for broad appeal.
 
 
 
2. In 2015, Sara Morgan won over the hearts of new fans with expressive songwriting inspired by classic country and imbued with a modern accessibility. Since moving back to Kansas City a little under 2 years ago, Morgan has excelled in incorporating a style all her own in her songwriting, and has teamed up with skilled musicians (including guitarist Carl Butler and drummer Duncan Burnett) to back her.
 
 
 
3. Yes You Are has amassed a steady, loyal fan base by creating authoritative, preeminent pop music with a stage show that matches in intensity and vigor. The band is deliberate in its approach, merging infectious dance pop with meaningful spiritual undertones. In 2015, the band had the opportunity to astound audiences across the country by supporting Neon Trees on the first half of their summer tour.
 
 
 
4. Modern Day Fitzgerald describe themselves as “gentlemen who perform music with proper etiquette.” On the trio’s upcoming EP Gorgeous Killing, this sophisticated pop sound breaks through, with a hip-hop flair. Songwriter/frontman Mica-Elgin Vi pours emotion and charm into the band’s personality, with a jazzy rhythmic foundation from Zach Tyler and Steven Callahan. The EP will be released this Friday night at The Buffalo Room.
 
 
 
Again, congrats to everyone who was included! Our nominees went out of their way to promote the poll, and they certainly deserve your attention.
 
If you want to take a look at the results organized by genre, check them out here:
POPPOST ROCKPUNK/METALROOTSROCK
 
Thanks to everyone who shared and voted. Keep an eye out for the winner of our overall poll, compiled by the winners of this Readers’ Poll and votes from local music experts.
 

--The Deli KC Staff 

Album review: Mat Shoare - Mirror Music no. 1

As the title suggests, Mat Shoare’s latest release, Mirror Music no. 1, is about reflection. “The songs are all linked to my last full-length Right as Rain, and draw on the same themes: abandonment, bitterness, and repressed anger,” he states. While Shoare’s description may sound like a recipe for a suicidal symphony, most of the music on the four-song EP is surprisingly upbeat and even approaching optimistic. This may be because Shoare says he is closing the book on this period of songwriting, and has plenty of new, less miserable topics to begin sharing.
 
The EP opens with “I-Yi-Yi,” a mellow yet poppy tune with a solid groove. I-yi-yi is a clever play on aye-yi-yi, the outdated term used to express sadness, hopelessness, anger, or frustration (you may have heard your grandmother say this when you were a kid). The song deals with frustration over things not going as planned, yet the realization that the circumstances could be worse. It’s about waiting and yearning, yet understanding the need for patience. It’s a commentary on life as most of us know it. “It’s not going better, but it’s not going worse / It’s not going good, but it’s not going bad.” Through reflection, Shoare decides to make the best of things, ending the song singing “I-yi-yi-yi-yi-yi-yi-yi” in a cheery, so-be-it kind of way. We could all stand to look at life like this.
 
“One of My Songs,” the second track, is probably the most listener-friendly. It is about breaking up with a girl, and is both a jab at the woman (or women) as well as possibly a bit of self-deprecation from Shoare. “Now you’re just a girl in one of my songs / Please sing along if you’ve heard this one before.” As with “I-Yi-Yi,” this potentially blue topic is in no way a ballad. Instead it is almost a doo-wop song, complete with Beatles-esque background vocals and a clap track. Shoare shows off his musical talents by playing all of the instruments on the recording. “All About You” is similarly upbeat, yet with a totally different sound. It starts with a drumbeat that could be mistaken for Stevie Wonder’s “Superstition,” and is layered with jazz chords and a driving bass.
 
The only gloomy song is the fourth and final cut, “Real Woman.” Truly lo-fi, it is simply Shoare playing an acoustic guitar while crooning about a relationship lost. Sticking with the theme of the record, he reflects and realizes his mistakes—and what traits constitute a good (or bad) companion. “If I had known how much you would hurt me / I would have been with a real woman.” Despite being barely over a minute long, “Real Woman” is a perfect goodbye. It touches on remorse, but focuses on the resolve to move on to better things.
 
Like life, Mirror Music no. 1 isn’t perfect, but perhaps Shoare and his band (Evan Ashby on guitar, Ross Brown on bass, and Ryan Carr on drums) intended it that way. There is a constant yin-yang, showing how opposites can be complementary. It’s dark and light, sad and happy, and ultimately gives listeners something that is strangely inspiring, given the subject matter. It’s an ending to one place in Shoare’s life, and a peek at happier things to come.
 
--Brad Scott
Brad loves music, Boulevard beer, and his family. Not necessarily in that order.
 
 

Shoare will be touring in support of the album starting tonight in Columbia at Café Berlin. Facebook event page. You can also check out his website for other upcoming dates at matshoare.com.   

Album review: My Oh My - Wouldn't Have It Any Other Way

There’s something special about a band made up of eight talented musicians who can speak together with one unique voice. Kansas City’s My Oh My is led by vocalist and guitarist A.M. Merker, and a couple months ago he and the band put out their second album, Wouldn’t Have It Any Other Way. While the band’s 2014 release, Your Heart Not Mine, seemed to ask questions about the unpredictability of life, the 6 tracks released in December provide some of the answers. The album is incredibly reflective—nearly every song references “old times,” “what might have been,” or “yesterday” in some form or another. But the band makes a point to emphasize acceptance and appreciation for the past instead of regret. Imagine a wise monk writing profound lyrics for an Americana band—you’ll end up with lines like “a life worth living is a life eventually forgotten / and that’s okay with me” and “I believe the time we get is all that matters / It's good enough for little old me too / better be good enough for little old you.” Combined with full-bodied folk rock, Wouldn’t Have it Any Other Way is a rare blend of confidence and humility. It’s a country music kind of straight-talk for rock and roll fans.
 
The album’s title track features a strong driving chorus that shakes the listener awake. Merker’s vocals recall the wild times of youth and offer a happy approval of the craziness of his current life—after all, there’s no crazy like being crazy in love. Backup vocals provided by Sarah Dolt, Stephanie Gaume, and Melissa Geffert add a special flavor to many of the songs, complete with old-timey “oos,” “ahhs,” and echoes. One of the female vocalists sings lead during the bridge in “Thief” with a voice that wouldn’t sound out of place on Broadway. My one complaint—we don’t get enough of her! Her powerful voice complements Merker’s smooth one, and it’s a treat to listen to them as a team.
 
A personal favorite is the third track, “Parade,” which progresses from a mid-tempo ballad to an upbeat breakdown delivered by Grant Buell on keyboard and Stephan Berry on guitar. If any listener hadn’t been convinced yet, “Parade” is proof that My Oh My are experts at their craft; the song is beautifully arranged and features a splendid melody. And when it’s time to close the curtain, the band sticks to sweet simplicity. Wouldn’t Have it Any Other Way closes with the only acoustic song on the album, “That’s Alright By Me.” It’s a gentle conclusion to an album of grand rock and roll, but it feels right.
 
 
--Mary Kennedy
Mary is a lifelong Bostonian learning her way around Kansas City. She can often be found in an art museum, checking out local music, or taking a nap.
 

My Oh My’s next appearance in KC will be this Saturday at The Brick, with Pocket Vinyl (CT) and 40 Watt Dreams. Facebook event page. 

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