Buffalo Saints: Walking the Dead
It's impossible not to love Tommy Hoskins. The young Kansas Citian has a voice as clear as a prairie church bell, and he can write songs with the perfect balance of pop hook and country heartache. In fact, Hoskins wrote some of Walking the Dead in the California motel room where Gram Parsons died, and the Grievous Angel's influence is everywhere on this near-perfect debut. Lineup changes have ensued since the recording, narrowing the spotlight on Hoskins, who has risen to fill it admirably, doing solo shows around town and sitting in with the likes of Rex Hobart. Let's just say we hope Hoskins stays heartbroken as much as possible in the coming years.
American Catastrophe: Excerpts from the Broken Bone Choir
If Hoskins is KC's blue-eyed alt-country golden boy, then Shaun Hamontree is our town's tall, dark and dangerous eccentric urban hillbilly who spears train cars with pitchforks in his spare time. Collaborating with longtime friend and guitarist Terrence Moore and badass scene veteran Amy Farrand (bass), Hamontree leads American Catastrophe through a wasteland of gothic folk-music demolition that never bogs down in misery but remains earthy and compelling, making Excerpts from the Broken Bone Choir a confident, romping debut.
Jon Yeager Truth and Volume
In a musical landscape strewn with genre-bound derivatives, it's refreshing to see Jon Yeager's slender, lone figure amid the often-staid scenery, one hand on a guitar, the other clutching a book of music lessons culled from the free-and-easy stylings of Lennon and McCartney. It's an approach that Yeager developed with his previous band, legendary locals the Daybirds, but the songs on Truth & Volume (and on his demos) are all his own: sweetly restrained and seductive, catchy but not trite, harking back to a time when there was no line between mainstream and indie back when rock was pop and people liked it that way.
Anvil Chorus: Anvil Chorus
Imagine the sonic outcome of this threesome: Bauhaus, Bjork and Joy Division. You're pretty close to the sounds on Anvil Chorus' debut EP. Singer and keyboardist Anna Cole has the sultriest siren call in town, all dark and breathy and implicitly cruel and beguiling, while Byron Huhmann's hypnotic, Peter Hook-on-a-bad-trip bass lays the path for an encounter with some soul-devouring being from a Neil Gaiman story. If they all weren't such nice folks, we'd avoid the members of Anvil Chorus at all costs except, of course, when they're safely onstage, churning out mind-altering music for midnight shamblers.
Olympic Size: Olympic Size
If Olympic Size's debut EP were the soundtrack for a film, it'd be a downer. It would star unconventionally attractive actors and be set in a rainy New England suburb with an indoor swimming pool. The pill-popping characters would engage in sex, betrayal and unexpected acts of kindness and then watch as their world slowly crumbled to the oddly matched but emotionally on-key vocal duets between Billy Smith and Kirsten Paludan. The last scene would take place in an empty bar where a lounge band made up of former new-wave rockers (played by Olympic Size) would let their fingers fall across guitar strings and keys as the hero of the film decides that he can face tomorrow without so much as a drop of certainty in his life.