Subtle Aggression Monopoly's Perennial Complex: Review and Stream

Categories: Homespun

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Perennial Complex.
The idea that we live in a post-racial -- or, God help us, a post-racist -- society has been pretty thoroughly put to bed in the past year as events in Ferguson, Baltimore, Charleston and more have underlined the deep divisions and biases across our country. But if overt acts of racism and discrimination have somewhat receded, we've heard more and more about "microaggressions" -- those coded acts and phrases that undermine a non-dominant culture. The distance between macro and micro could be seen in the gap between, say, a burning cross on someone's lawn and a Confederate flag sticker on someone's car.


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Toymaker's Self-Titled New Album: Review and Stream

Categories: Homespun

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The nexus of jazz, jam and funk music has long been a rich intersection for instrumentalists; depending on which end of the spectrum a musician comes from, this type of fusion allows the freedom of improvisation or the stricture of patterns that slowly modulate with each repetition. Toymaker, an instrumental trio that just released its first, self-titled LP, takes liberally from both sides of that equation: The improvisational elements are earned only through a thorough exploration of each song's main theme.

Keyboardist Ryan Marquez (also of Fresh Heir) is the trio's sole melodic instrumentalist, so each song's lead lines fall on his rig, which favors a vibrant Fender Rhodes in the left hand and a buzzy monophonic synth in the right. But while his contributions remain suitably measured, his bandmates Christian Kirk (drums) and Matt Harris (bass) go further afield as each song progresses. The overall effect is pretty smooth, a little funky and plenty cosmic.

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Audio Vulture's Strange Memories on This Nervous Night: Review and Stream

Categories: Homespun

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For the past five years, south-side denizen Ben Davis has made music under the name Audio Vulture, dutifully releasing an album every year or so with little fanfare and few, if any, live appearances. His one-man band name may sound like a post-Napster piracy hub or a particularly nasty piece of malware, but it fits his catchall technique of mixing found sound, canned beats, blues-indebted guitar and wry vocals into fairly catchy tunes about self-abuse and self-loathing.

He calls his music "junkie pop," a genre tag about as cute as a scabrous track mark and one that oversells the music's narcotic effect. Davis' sound-collage style and boho-jazz lyrics are closer to MTV-era Eels and Calvin Johnson side projects than, say, Mark Linkous' blackout fantasias with Sparklehorse.


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Apex Shrine's Home Baked: Review and Stream

Categories: Homespun

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Jammy, blues-kissed psychedelia is alive and well, and being rehearsed in a Crestwood basement. Apex Shrine, helmed by brothers Jack and Dan Eschmann on guitars and shared vocals, mines guitar-centric classic rock that never seems to go out of style.

Yes, there are expected traces of Jack White and the Black Keys on a few of these tracks, but, as befitting an album with the word "baked" in its title, Home Baked is happy to lay back in the groove. The nine-song LP was released in December, but the band's regular live shows and appearance at the early June Wakarusa festival in the Ozarks (alongside STS9, Umphrey's McGee and other jam-fest mainstays) have raised the young band's profile.


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Zach Schimpf's Onward, We Go: Review and Stream

Categories: Homespun

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We're only halfway through 2015, but Zach Schimpf has already had a busier year than most artists in town. So far the singer-songwriter has released the full-length Blue Pool and contributed to the soundtrack of the indie documentary Discovering the Beating Path, which featured songs inspired by cancer patients' stories.

By comparison, the six-song Onward, We Go EP is small change, but the tidy, tuneful program serves as a good introduction to Schimpf's winsome, folk-rooted pop songs.

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Homespun: Dylan Brady, All I Ever Wanted

Categories: Homespun

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A slight young man with long blond locks and a scruffy red beard, Dylan Brady crouches on the cover of All I Ever Wanted amid a monochromatic set awash in blue. The cover is both artsy and simple, and the azure palette hints at some of the moodier moments of this hip-hop producer's slow, syrupy, stretched-out tracks. Brady has made music under the name Lil Bando (his old handle is referenced on the track "Little Bando," wherein an untethered voice implores, "Don't play that shit"), but this album serves as the debut under his given name. He has gained some underground cred along the way from hip-hop blogs and garnered the attention of vocalists who sing the hooks on his songs (Night Lovell, Saputo and Ketema); he even has a few annotations for some of these tracks on Genius.com, where you'll learn the provenance of some of his sound samples (Dune, James Bond and Wes Anderson films).


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Homespun: Con & Michael Franco, She EP

Categories: Homespun

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When we last heard from Con (a.k.a., north-side native Malcolm Chandler) this past September, he had just dropped Solstice Part 2 (Dreams from a Snow Globe). That album attempted, in part, to encapsulate some of the rage and sorrow surrounding post-Ferguson St. Louis, and Chandler and his crew were some of the first voices to go on record when the eyes of the world were on our region. That album was one of St. Louis' best releases last year -- not only for Con's deft handling of the political commentary, but also for his strong, clear-eyed verses on all topics, placed alongside smart, soulful grooves. His latest EP, the eight-song She, shows similar range and more robust backing tracks, thanks to Michael Franco's production. Con's political consciousness is still engaged, as evident on the generous sample of Gil Scott-Heron on opener "Them Negus," and the larger message of black unity is introduced in Heron's words and underlined in Con's verses. The message here is less immediately topical but potently evergreen.


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Homespun: Witch Doctor's Witch Doctor

Categories: Homespun

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Courtesy Witch Doctor
It's one thing to call someone a Rock & Roll Lifer -- and depending on how well the leather jacket fits, it can be a term of respect or derision -- but Pat Oldani has earned the title of Rock & Roll Survivor, and not just because he's been leading hard-charging rock bands for more than fifteen years. A Stage IV cancer diagnosis in January of 2013 kept Oldani out of the spotlight for some time, but in between rounds of maintenance chemotherapy, he is now back in front of the microphone.


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Homespun: .E's Of Crashing Symbols

Categories: Homespun

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If you've thought of Dottie Georges as an experimental artist, you only know part of the story -- those off-kilter impulses are most often deployed in the service of her rock- and pop-indebted music. Of course, if you've thought about Dottie Georges at all in the past few years, you are already in the know: The one-woman band known as .e had a fruitful start to the decade, but she's been mostly quiet these past few years, save for a few stray digital missives. Her debut full-length, Of Crashing Symbols, puts an end to that long dormant period. Serving as an introduction for some and a welcome reminder for others, the record stands to be an epiphany for many who fall under the confident, if unassuming, sway of Georges' shifting compositions and feathery vocals. The electric guitar is her weapon of choice, and she can use it to paint her songs with moody, shoegaze-inspired strokes. But she's equally adept at synthesis and programming, and even the most spare of these nine tracks sizzles with electronic pulses and synaptic shimmers.


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Homespun: Animal Children's Animal Children

Categories: Homespun

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It's not impossible to lead a jazz band from behind a drum kit — just ask Ark Blakey — but it does take a certain kind of selflessness to drive the beat while giving a platform to your instrumentalists. Drummer Kaleb Kirby is the leader and chief composer for the new jazz sextet Animal Children, and while he's done time with swing-oriented jazz as part of Tommy Halloran's Guerrilla Swing, he brings a certain expansiveness to his own compositions. Kirby keeps a firm grip on the sway of these songs, but local jazz-scene veteran Adam Maness is a key architect here — not just as an elder statesman in a troupe of relatively young guns, but as the hands behind the Fender Rhodes electric piano. That instrument's plinky tone and muddy depths immediately call to mind everything from the proto-smooth-jazz of Bob James to the fusion experiments of Return to Forever to the barbed mellow of Steely Dan. And Maness references those traditions while helping establish the band's place in the modern jazz tradition — albeit with a few detours. The stop/start dissonance and low-end distortion of "Stay Golden" show the group's comfort with rock dynamics, and "oh-we-ah" starts the album with the kind of brassy pep that would be hard to sustain over a whole program. But as the self-titled album progresses, Animal Children is content to let the songs breathe, playing catchy and kinetic choruses as a unit before allowing its players to step forward individually.


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