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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: Attic Wolves - Volume and Boldness (EP)

Album review: Attic Wolves - Volume and Boldness (EP)

An introduction made by a banjo at one point in time may have thrown listeners off. But with the recent revival of the rootsy instruments in mainstream music, the banjo has become just as welcome as the drum kit. Kansas City’s Attic Wolves have taken all of the soul from roots music and molded it into their own brand of powerful and emotional folk. Attic Wolves hold the title of The Pitch’s Best Local Album of 2012 (their debut EP, Carry Us On) and now, Volume and Boldness is every bit as good.
 
Channeling all that soul that is carried in folk tunes, Attic Wolves hit the listener with “Here’s To Looking Back.” A catchy guitar ditty and smooth, mellow vocals serenade the listener. A story of sorts about two people growing close, then falling apart. The song explores how people change and how life is never constant. Though the message is a bit melancholy, the song finishes strong with a positive spin; the old mantra “so it goes” is in full effect.
 
Volume and Boldness is comprised of five tracks that completely blow you away not only in the sense of the musical composition, but the lyrical heaviness as well; an album to help heal the hurt heart. “Safe and Sound” explores unconditional love. “It’s Not Over” deals with the things in life that are out of human hands. “Leave Me Be” is a heartbreak and a half of a song. The outro song, “I Know Who You Love,” looks into unwanted love from one party to the next, and again, the songs hints that everything will be okay.
 
The album title is taken from the band’s personal traits, explained in its bio: “[It] reflects what we believe is required of us as a band in order to succeed. Volume and Boldness is our way of doing business.” That statement is ever so true. All the listener has to do is dissect the lyrics to understand.
 
--Steven Ervay
 
Steven is an all-around awesome dude who works tirelessly for the KC music community.
 
Editor’s note: Volume & Boldness was recorded at Mammoth Cave Recording Studio in Denver, produced by Tim Gerak.
 
 

Attic Wolves will celebrate the release of Volume and Boldness with a party at Czar Bar this Monday, July 21. Akkilles and The Papers (Chicago) will also be playing. Tickets are $5 presale or $7 at the door, 21+. Ticket link. Facebook event page. 

 

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