This is a preview of the new Deli charts - we are working on finalizing them by the end of 2013.

Go to the old Top 300 charts


michael byars

Album review: The Dead Girls - Noisemaker

(Photo by Todd Zimmer)
There’s a certain poetry to the way music communities ebb and flow. A band will manage to capture a certain something that attracts interest, if not devout fandom, but at some point the end of the road lies ahead. At this stage, many musicians decide that it was a good run but now it’s time to do something else. In other cases, band members go off on other musical pursuits. Sometimes a new band arises from the remains of those no longer working. Such is the case for The Dead Girls (formerly Dead Girls Ruin Everything), who came to life in 2004 when members of Ultimate Fakebook and Podstar combined their talents. For the past decade the band has been on its self-described search for “the perfect hook,” and they’ve been successful far more often than not. With their most recent (and perhaps final) album Noisemaker, the Lawrence foursome is hitting on all cylinders with an eleven-track offering that seems primed for radio airplay. I count at least nine of those songs as being ready not only for local airwaves, but much more widespread exposure.
The Dead Girls (Cameron Hawk and JoJo Longbottom sharing guitar and vocal duties, Nick Colby on bass, and Eric Melin on drums) take their powerpop pedigree seriously, listing Big Star, The Replacements, The Beach Boys, and Cheap Trick among their influences. It’s a lineage they are clearly determined to be worthy of, and Noisemaker provides 33 minutes that are saturated with crunchy chords, rock riffs, and vocal pyrotechnics that are super, super tight.
“I’m On a Mission” opens the album with a blast of all the aforesaid ingredients. From the opening moments it’s clear what that mission is—“to rock!”—and that mission is followed to the letter throughout Noisemaker. A bit later, “Downtown on a Nice Afternoon” offers a burst of jangly guitar sounds, but with an underlying sense of urgency, as if the singer has to be somewhere important… but, well, we’ve already started the song and it’s kind of important that we finish this too… so let’s get it done already! Those opening chords are reminiscent of the sound of early MTV commercials, which is a nice touch, and … oh, I’m sorry, I should explain: “MTV” is a television network that used to play music videos 24 hours a day, and … oh, right: “music videos” are brief vignettes that were made to give television viewers visual connections to the music they listened to.
Everybody caught up? Good. On we go.
“That Shit Gets Old” is a straightforward rocker that shows me hints of Gruff Rhys on vocals, which is never a bad thing. Perhaps if Hawk or Longbottom was Rhys’ younger brother it would make perfect sense. “Dress Up Dress Down” has almost a summery-surf quality, like it would be the soundtrack to a midnight drive along the beach. “Calling You Around” is a primer in how to blend powerpop guitars with classic-rock arrangements, and “I Don’t Wanna Hafta Hold Your Hand” closes the album with the most uptempo song of the lot, as the band realizes that it’s time to put the guitars and drums down, jump in the Barracuda, and head off to the next adventure – maybe that’s the midnight oceanside drive that I mentioned before.
Almost without fail, every album has that one song that stands apart from the others stylistically, as if the band is saying “See? We can do this kind of music too.” This doesn’t work for every band that tries it, but with “Sun and Rain” it absolutely works for The Dead Girls. The dual electric guitar and thunderous rhythm section is replaced by gentle acoustic strings, an ever-so-slightly-out-of-tune stand-up piano, sweetly earnest lead vocals, faraway harmonies, and tonal choices that give this song a very Beatle-esque feel. When a song not only offers a change of pace but shows the true musical talent and potential of the band, that’s when you know that said band is bringing its A game. This song does that for me.
The Dead Girls offer something special during their live performances as well, which is something that I’ve said before as being a prime factor in determining the legitimacy of a band or artist. Sure, they’re energetic and do their best to connect with the audience, as most bands at least try to do, but there’s something more here—and it’s evident on Noisemaker as much as it is on the stage of The Bottleneck. It’s the simple fact that you just know these guys are having fun doing what they do. They look like they enjoy every second of music making, and that’s a camaraderie that can’t be faked. Their sense of teamwork carries over to a very important off-stage pursuit that the four of them share: every band member is also a top-notch competitive air guitarist. This is especially true of Eric “Mean” Melin, who won the 2013 World Air Guitar Championship. These gentlemen take their fun seriously—and have serious fun doing so.
As of this writing, The Dead Girls only have a precious few shows left before going on an open-ended hiatus; Hawk is going to be teaching English to classrooms of eager students in China next year. There’s no doubt that he’s going to do very well—he could use his song lyrics as pop quizzes—but it’s my hope that he brings a guitar with him. I don’t know much about China, but I have a feeling they could use some rock ‘n roll in their world, and they would be all the richer for it.
I know I’ve had a blast listening to every bit of noise made by The Dead Girls.
--Michael Byars
Michael is looking for a handheld Yahtzee game for his mom. Because he cares.
Join The Dead Girls for their last KC show this Friday night at Harling’s Upstairs. Facebook event page. Their final show will be in Manhattan at Auntie Mae’s, next Saturday, December 20 with The Field Day Jitters. Facebook event page.


Album review: Monta At Odds - Robots of Munich

For those of you familiar with the music of Monta At Odds (a phrase that I’ll be using again later), you know that they have their own ideas of how best to use electronics and percussion and various other tools of the trade to create aural canvases that somehow combine both retro and futuristic influences. Some of their earlier work was described by someone—okay, it was me—as a soundtrack to a 1950s French film noir, only cooler. With their latest release, Robots of Munich on Haymaker Records, their focus has shifted to a cinematically-inspired imagining of a world a bit into the future in which machines are at the forefront—and some have fled to the Southern Hemisphere to pursue their longing to be more like one of us. More on that later.
Over the years, the band has made numerous appearances throughout Kansas City and Lawrence, and for a while it seemed as if you might see a new lineup at every other show. Monta has gone through several rosters but is now a muscular seven-piece, if memory serves from their appearance at KC Psychfest (P.S. I checked – memory does serve). Dedric and Delaney, the brothers Moore, remain the stalwarts of the group, with Delaney on keys, Dedric as bassist and bandleader, and both sharing songwriting and vocal duties (according to Dedric, he’s the McCartney of the brothers; Delaney is the Lennon).
Another of Dedric’s strengths is his ability to creatively package Monta music in such a way that when you purchase a physical copy, you’re getting something that’s as visually artistic as it is musically. From a CD stored in a very-past-its-prime floppy disc case to a clear vinyl album in a clear plastic jacket, the work of Monta At Odds is not hard to recognize. Robots will continue that tradition with a cover that is stylishly cut and protects a red vinyl album. The interior of the jacket will unfold to go into detail the connections between the music, a well-known sci-fi movie, and a well-known sci-fi novel. It’s a very ambitious undertaking to say the least. As Dedric said when asked about the origins of the album name, “(It) came from the movie Android which was sourced from the same book as Blade Runner. It was a news broadcast that the robots of Munich had been destroyed in their rebellion. It came out the same year as Blade Runner and crashed into oblivion immediately. That started the ball rolling with the concept of a handful of androids escaping and fleeing to South America (where all war criminals end up, right?). We then took inspiration from the theme of Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? about where has our humanity gone and what actually makes us human.”
A pro-tip before you begin: it’s best to be in a dark place when listening to Monta At Odds. Not dark emotionally—actual darkness. Dimly lit. Illuminationally challenged. At a gig or while driving your car at night would be great. If listening through headphones is a viable option… take it.
For those of you familiar with the music of Monta At Odds (told you), you know that vocals are not of prime importance to the band’s output. Instrumentals are the more commonplace method of expression (six of the ten tracks on Robots are sans words), and when lyrics are enabled, their clarity can tend to be lost amid a swirl of waves and swooshes and reverb. This is by design, as the work of Tom Vek of the ultra-trippy Black Moth Super Rainbow is an obvious influence to the production used by Monta. The aim is to make the vocals sound more like an instrument than an individual, and “Salty Air Breezes” leads off the album with just such verbal distortion. The song tells of the story’s protagonist trying to blend in on Earth while searching for an escape to a place touted by a television commercial as a sunny, idyllic refuge. Yearning to leave behind the “beggars, bums, and nuns in the metro transit underground,” she puts “5000 revs on the poor fiat for hours on end” in an attempt to find safety and serenity.

The common theme of robot-wanting-to-be-human is expressed in the next track, “Android Dreams” (voiced by Monta alum and percussionist Mika Tanaya). The song itself is a paradox, as the lyrical desires to “be beautiful / feel love / share laughter / maybe feel pain” are expressed in a very staccato, sterile, mechanical fashion. Such is the dichotomy of the android’s life—if “android” and “life” aren’t themselves a dichotomy when used next to each other. These deep musings are to be contemplated as Robots continues its journey—and our heroine continues her search for existence that transcends zeros and ones.
Now, for those of you familiar with the music of Monta At Odds (see?), you know that their music likes to take its time and tell a story, letting development unfold in an unhurried manner … all of which is just fancy talk for “their music is mostly downtempo to midtempo in its pacing.” Which is all the more reason why I cannot stop myself from listening to “Relentless Pursuit” on repeat. This is 130 seconds of no-holds-barred rock, complete with some of the most incredible slide space guitar I’ve heard in a while. I was standing next to recordBar co-owner Steve Tulipana when I first heard this track at KC Psychfest, and it was pretty clear that it was his first time hearing it as well. When the tune got going, he and I turned to each other with eyes wide open in looks of mutual astonishment and approval. This was music designed to be the backdrop of an interstellar chase scene, as if those Dukes of Hazzard boys had taken the Millennium Falcon for a joy ride.
Robots of Munich is another leap forward for Monta At Odds and their electronic mission to expand minds. When I heard their set at KC Psychfest (and I think this year’s event at recordBar was the best one so far), I had a feeling the new album was going to be something worthy of more than a little consideration for mentions on some best of 2014 lists. After having heard the finished product, I stand by that statement.
I consider myself to be very familiar with the music of Monta At Odds … and I’m totally okay with that.
--Michael Byars
Monta At Odds will be celebrating the release of Robots of Munich at Mills Record Company this Black Friday, November 28. They will take the stage at 7:00 pm, followed by Trogolodyte. Facebook event page.

HTML Hit Counter

Album review: Riot! Riot! Riot! - Dispenser (single)

Just as the sounds of popular music go through various phases and trends, so too do band names. One such example is the combination of repetitive words and exclamation points, a standard with many examples: the New Zealand noise-pop of Die! Die! Die! … the noisy Italian rawness of Tiger! Shit! Tiger! Tiger! (a personal favorite of Chris Haghirian’s) … the California dance-punk of !!! … and many others. We now have a new entry into this field: Riot! Riot! Riot!, featuring members and ex-members of such noted KC soundcrafters as Dolls on Fire, The Hillary Watts Riot, and Drew Black and Dirty Electric. The band’s debut is a two-song effort that shares the same energy and aggression as its exclamation-pointed kin. The production is raw and DIY, which serves its three-chords-and-turn-it-up-loud mission statement perfectly.
“Dispenser” features Zach Hodson’s abrasive guitar and emotive vocals, supported by a thunderous drum-and-bass combo of Sergio Moreno and Mark Johnson, treading the line between hard rock and punk. “So Lost In Love, My Love” starts out as a jaunty little number (yes, a band with exclamation points in its name can do jaunty) that ultimately descends into muddy, grimy depths.
Will Riot! Riot! Riot! be worthy of all those exclamation points? I’d like to think so, but ultimately it’s a question Mark, Sergio, and Zach will have to answer. Period.
And you can “quote” me.
--Michael Byars
Michael is sparing with his usage of exclamation points, but when he does, he means it! OMGRLY!

Tonight, July 30, you can catch the Riot! Riot! Riot! boys at—where else?—The Riot Room. They’ll be playing with The Summit and Trapdoor Social (LA). Show starts at 9 p.m. Facebook event page. 

Free Counter


Album review: Leering Heathens - Leering Heathens (EP)

You know, working at NPR as I do, I’m surrounded by the kind of music that one would expect to hear at an NPR studio: lots of jazz and classical, folk and traditional sounds from around the world, and once in a while when we feel really crazy and want to throw caution to the wind, we might even go for some Lawrence Welk or Barry Manilow or even … hang on to your hats, people … John Tesh!
Those of you who know me know that my music palette is a little more diverse than that. Sometimes I like those kinds of music, sometimes I’m down for some blues, sometimes electronica is what I want to hear—and sometimes I just need to have guitars and drums and basses and vocals that will melt walls and leave paths of wreckage and destruction. This review is about such a band that is doing just that to unsuspecting listeners and venues in the Kansas City area.
Leering Heathens is a Kansas City four-piece consisting of Joshua Quint on vocals and guitar, Brett Southard on drums, Chad Toney on bass, and Josh Simcosky on lead guitar. The band has recently released its self-titled debut EP, and as far as introductions go, theirs is about as straightforward as it gets: We play rock music. We play hard rock music. We play loud hard rock music.
The EP opens with “Dry Country” and gives the listener a good dose of classic rock guitar with a chorus that lays a very heavy, driving groove. “Lurker” is more chunky, and Quint’s vocals on this track keep high focus and intensity without crossing the line into emo-scream. The instrumental “Muskstache” is a little quicker-paced but no less effective and riveting, and at this point I started to think this mini-album may have been conceived with the assistance of a few bottles of brown liquor – and as their cover photo on their Facebook page would indicate, I think I may be right. “Rodeo Macabre” highlights some definite Tool influence—very sinister and heavy, with exception of the auctioneer and the old-timey last few seconds, which are kinda cool, and “Hulls of Blood” closes out the record, the most melodic of the tracks but one that still has loads of hammer-and-tong guitar aggression.
Some bands play at maximum volume because that’s their one skill. They don’t have enough faith in their work so they think that if they burst your eardrums, that will be enough to punch their rock-n-roll card. Others play loud, but do so with enough control that you listen to them and realize that you’re listening to music—very, very loud music—and not just sound. Leering Heathens are solid members of the latter category. If you’ve been looking for serious, authentic, gut-wrenching, actual factual rock ‘n roll, this will be a very wise investment of twenty minutes of your life.
You know, I try to be a good guy as much as possible, but I guess being a Heathen isn’t always such a bad thing either.
--Michael Byars
Michael secretly loves the music of John Tesh, but we won’t tell if you won’t.
Be sure to get your dose of Leering Heathens’ gut-wrenching rock ‘n roll this Thursday, June 19, at Czar Bar. They’ll be opening up for Young Widows and White Reaper. Facebook event page.


Free Hit Counter


Album review: Sundiver - The Pull

Spaced-out arrangements. Chunky, muddy guitar riffs. Down-tuned vocal harmonies. Echoes of the alt-rock greatness of the mid ‘90s. Any one of these features would be enough for me to give an album a listen; putting them all together is pretty irresistible. Kansas City rockers Sundiver have successfully merged this quartet of genre-defining factors, presenting them to the music-listening world in their debut full-length effort The Pull, recorded and engineered by Neal Brown at Harrisonic Studios and released in December of 2013.
The genesis of Sundiver occurred in early 2011 as guitarist/vocalist John Agee and bassist/vocalist Bobby Bayer started preliminary work on the general band concept. After the addition of Nick Organ on drums and Joseph Wells on guitar and keyboards, the fully-formed foursome released the EP Vicious in the spring of 2012. Upon the following release of The Pull, a brief tour took them to the west and southwest US. At press time, Sundiver’s focus is on that big annual music festival in Austin that gets a bit snippy sometimes when its four-letter acronym is used.
The album opens with “Lover’s Comfort,” which starts out as the closest thing you’ll get to a space waltz before the chorus settles in on the steady, driving sound that will power the rest of the record. Its pace is unhurried, its voice is mid-range, but its focus is clear. Sundiver is going to take you on a trip that is beyond earthly borders over the course of The Pull’s 43-minute lifespan, and there is no reason to rush or hurry. The destination will be there, so let’s enjoy the journey. Soaring guitar lines bring an added rush of energy to the song’s second half, which generates the momentum that will keep things rolling throughout the album.
The descriptor of space rock is often used in a mostly light and airy musical tone, but this album is relentless, hard-driving, and filled with gigantic arena-sized riffs that could easily fill any venue they play. No track epitomizes that more than the title tune, an eight-minute exercise in sublime intensity. Bayer’s bass threatens to dig a trench in the floor and drag the listener down into the mud and mire, with the twin guitar battalion of Agee and Wells and the thunderous drumming of Organ making this must-listen material for anyone yearning to put on the flannel and the Doc Martens once again.
Three of the nine tracks are mini-instrumental breaks that offer a chance to pause, take a breath, and prepare for the next segment. I’m sure there are stories behind their titles (“EV,” “F=G[(m1m2)/(r^2)],” and “C8H11NO2”), but you’ll have to ask the boys in the band. Given the nature of the band’s sound, it wouldn’t be surprising if the second one was a formula for rocket fuel and the third the name of a distant galaxy that serves as Sundiver’s muse for its intergalactic melodies. Perhaps there’s a connection with Area 51 buried within the lyrics? Instructions on the art of creating crop circles? Hmmm…
When I listen to the record, a variety of bands stand out as potential influences, directly or indirectly: Hum, My Bloody Valentine, Shiner, early Tool, and—for me, anyway, as I am an unabashed fan of this band—King’s X. The comparison to the latter is especially evident in the album’s closer, “Relevant.” The vocal style, the churning bass, the powerful-yet-melodic percussion… if imitation is indeed the sincerest form of flattery, then Ty Tabor, dUg Pinnick, and Jerry Gaskill should be feeling exceptionally honored.
It was the English poet Robert Browning who wrote in 1855: “A man’s reach should exceed his grasp, or what’s a heaven for?” Sundiver has chosen to extend its reach beyond the surly bonds of Earth and grasp at sounds fit for the stars. The Pull illustrates their success within their first LP…
…and it seems that, in this case, the sky may not be the limit after all.
Your next chance to see Sundiver will be Saturday, March 1 at Czar, with special guests In Aeona and A Light Within. Show starts at 8 p.m. Ticket link.
--Michael Byars 
Michael likes Mexican coke, smooth jazz, Aero bars, and noses that are not bloody. We hear he has a big birthday party coming up. Gasp! 

Free Counters


- news for musician and music pros -