Covering the Land of Lincoln

The Music Issue 2022: The Pitch’s Infinite Playlist

The Greeting Committee. // Photo by Sophia Ragomo

Kansas City is known for its contributions to the jazz music scene. More so than “funny cigarettes” and saxophones, we think this city brings a metric heck-ton of incredible music to the table.

If jazz is all about merging disparate elements into a sense of joy and theme that builds to an achievement bigger than any one individual part, then the entirety of KC’s music scene is jazz-incarnate.

Here at The Pitch, we get an opportunity to feel almost every new single and album in the city filtering through our grubby little paws. Once you’ve dipped your toe in the stream of everything that’s streaming, it’s almost annoyingly impressive how diverse and talented this city’s music scene is at the current moment.

In policing, they call it “an orgy of evidence” when too many clues show up at the exact same place, pointing to the exact same person. The influx of absolutely baller talent on display in the metro feels like an orgy of evidence—and the killer is how goddamned bloodstained our up-and-coming names have become within their various lanes.

Presented for your consideration, here is a small handful of the folks out there slaying this year.

A taste of the Big Apple is showing up in the Midwest thanks to triple-threat performer Talya (Miss Groves, if you’re nasty), who began making a name for herself on Broadway prior to the pandemic.

Since COVID, Groves has returned to KC and can be seen on a different stage nearly every night of the week. From resident performances with Her Boyfriends at Fountain Haus, to Tuesday nights at The Phoenix, Groves is quickly bringing her star quality to every room in the metro. And you’ll know her when you see her.

Talya Groves

Talya Groves. // Courtesy Talya Groves

Undeniably the band from our little hollow that had the best year of all was Harvest Records’ bright shining star: The Greeting Committee. Addie Sartino and the squad pulled off an otherworldly album of bangers in Dandelion, and then did the kind of brutal cross-country tour that could be expected of a group that spent pandemic waiting to take revenge on the road.

Along with such incredible highs as a string of sold out shows—including Los Angeles’ legendary Troubadour and an all-timer homecoming spectacular at Uptown—the group also faced the departure of two founding members.

While the (perhaps temporary) loss of Austin Fraser and Brandon Yangmi from the lineup poses an interesting challenge to the future of the group, their parting on excellent terms also reflects the band’s general ethos regarding respect for personal agency and mental health.

As great as these new tracks are, and as incredible as the live shows have become, watching a rock ’n’ roll corner piece of our community practice what it preaches is equally punk to behold.

In February, Hembree released their second album, It’s A Dream. Preceded and accompanied by a slew of music videos, the band’s sophomore LP sees the KC-to-LA transplants engaging more positively with the art of performing.

Tracks like “Reach Out” are pure bursts of danceable joy, while “Operators” sees the band bring in a big honking sax line and a guest verse from Topeka’s Bodye to great effect. The band is playing shows and festivals all across the country this summer after having Covid repeatedly slap them down earlier in the year, making this a belated run to celebrate It’s A Dream.

One of the year’s biggest-little delights has been the indie quirk and oddly affecting satire of pop music itself to spin out from the not-yet-old-enough-to-drink duo behind Baby and the Brain, and their album BrainBaby. Yes, It’s very difficult to keep the words in the right order around that. They titled all of this, we think, as a deliberate prank on just us.

The duo of AAPI producer/songwriter Jo MacKenzie and queer singer/songwriter Dia Jane are simply magic in a bottle. You’ll find yourself hooked in the album by the songs, and charmed by the inclusion of off-the-cuff in the studio moments where the pair of Dia and Jo talk and laugh. It’s a touch which only enhances the intimate nature of songs like “Icarus.”

Those intimate cuts are contrasted by the rollicking “PT Cruiser” or the country-inflected (with banjo!) “Sarah.” It’s all wonderfully different, but the harmonies and emotional honesty come through on every cut.

Both musicians are doing equally impressive solo outings or guest spots across the board. Dia and Jo are the foundation upon which the church of late 20s KC scene shall be constructed. This is holy ground, and you can get in early.

Stephonne Photo By John Brant For Faded Sons

Stephonne. // Photo by John Brant for Faded Sons

Nearly two years after dropping Sis: Side A, the genre-mixing Stephonne dropped the first single from the flipside EP, Sis: Side B, right at the start of summer.

Entitled “X My <3 (Sexy MF),” the song’s genesis was described by the artist as one of those “written-in-5-minutes-magical blurs that happened on a walk break at my old corporate job,” but you can hear how the time since its writing has given it heft and weight, rather than feeling tossed off.

It’s the perfect companion to last year’s single, “The King’s Gambit,” in that they’re both masterful combinations of the musician’s alt-rock listening habits and shimmering R&B (with last summer’s single featuring a brilliant spoken-word middle which is heartbreakingly confessional). While it’s about a boy, it could also apply to Singleton’s approach to his music over the last couple of years.

As he wrote on Facebook ahead of the release of The King’s Gambit: “This is my art. Art is my life and it’s the only thing that makes me feel like I have a purpose here some days. You can hear that in all this new music. I have put my whole heart, all of my money and life into this work, more than at any other time in my life so far.”

Thanks to $5000 in online fundraising, we’ll hear Sis: Side B later this year, with its songs performed by Stephonne’s own version of The Revolution—The Gay Rodeo.

Boxknife Photo By Justina Kellner

boxknife. // Photo by Justina Kellner

Boxknife is here, they’re queer, and they’re likely the tastiest dark-pop you’ll hear this year. We premiered their debut single, “The Tower,” earlier this spring, and it’s safe to say it sounds as if Sleater-Kinney got together with a bunch of fashionable new wave vampires and had a super kinky, fun time. Where was our invitation?

The quartet maintains a fiery DIY attitude, which can be seen in everything from their flyer designs, to word-of-mouth shows, to their cheeky social media hustle. They won’t be under the radar for long as they approach their upcoming Manifestering EP Release Party with The Creepy Jingles and Collidescope at Lemonade Park on July 29.

Frogpond Photo By Chris Ortiz

Frogpond. // Photo by Chris Ortiz

In November, after more than two decades, Kansas City rockers Frogpond returned with a new album, TimeThief, released on local label Black Site. In the late ’90s, the band’s albums for Tristar Music and C2Records, Count To Ten and Safe Ride Home, were radio mainstays, and the band would pack clubs.

That debut, Count To Ten, was even produced by Everclear’s Art Alexakis and spawned two enduring classics, “Be” and “Trust?” Their return to live performances was one of the worst-kept secrets in town, but the announcement of a new album still managed to surprise nearly everyone upon its reveal.

ThimeThief is a return to what made the band so amazing in their heyday, with catchy choruses, big guitar hooks, and a pop sensibility that still manages to feel fresh, thanks to the addition of Emmaline Twist’s Kristin Conkwright on rhythm guitar and Michelle Bacon of Other Americans on drums.

They join frontwoman and guitarist Heidi Phillips and bassist Justine Volpe from the original lineup on the recording, although Volpe recently left the band, and has been replaced by another Emmaline Twist member, Meredith McGrade. The vinyl edition of TimeThief also recently arrived nine months after the album’s release, just in time for summertime spins on your turntable.

Fritz Hutchison Photo By Quinn Hernandez

Fritz Hutchison. // Photo by Quinn Hernandez

When Fritz Hutchison released his debut album on Center Cut Records, Wide Wild Acres, in the spring of 2020, we were big fans here at The Pitch. Thanks to a selection of inventive and clever videos, the Kansas City artist’s music rapidly hooked us, and we’d been eagerly awaiting a follow-up ever since.

That release comes in the form of Movie Night, released in April on Manor Records. It’s a fun collection of songs, alternately raucous and introspective, and sometimes both at once.

When The Pitch premiered the first single off the album, “Ladder Shake,” Hutchison aptly described the album as having “a lot of genre-hopping and sleeve-worn influences” and “sort of an island of misfit songs,” with “the horns in particular […] much more integral to the arrangements on this album, not just frosting on top.”

Be it the rambunctious rockabilly of the title track or the ska’d up arrangement of album closer “Pocket Protector,” you’ve no idea what to expect, but that you’ll be overjoyed to hear it.

For the last decade, Kansas City’s Jonathan Brokaw has been recording music under the name All Blood. While the project has ebbed and flowed over the years, and gone in and out of genres as disparate as lo-fi folk and Devo-inspired avante garage, the connecting thread has always been Brokaw’s unique lyrical voice.

The musician’s ability to convey personal matters in a way which makes them feel universal is a particular skill, and Brokaw succeeds at it every time.

On All Blood’s latest, Rattle Rattle, Thunder Clatter! Boom! Boom! Boom!, recorded as a bedroom project during the pandemic, Brokaw leans into a sound which can best be described as an intimate Of Montreal. It’s gloriously poppy, but shorn of all Kevin Barnes’ usual adornments.

It’s music for quiet introspection via headphones while curled up on the couch, but you’re still going to find yourself wriggling around and dancing in place. There’s also a gloriously brilliant song about tenant rights, which might be a first.

The new album from Jo Blaq, Blaq Gold, which hit Bandcamp on New Year’s Day, shows off the Grammy-nominated musician and producer’s studio chops.

Blaq offers up the same aplomb at his own work as he’s given to artists like Ariana Grande or Justin Bieber, crafting a masterfully uplifting collection of R&B, with spots from Irv Da Phenom and Flutenastiness raising the bar even further.

Taylor Lenz Photo By Jason Puma

Taylor Lenz. // Photo by Jason Puma

Pop singer Taylor Lenz’s debut single, “Tease,” came out of left field when it was released last July, garnering an impressive amount of airplay across the country, including spins on long-running local pop juggernaut Mix 93.3.

Given that Lenz grew up in the Kansas City area, attending Park Hill South High School, it was a dream come true for the young singer, who moved to Los Angeles just after graduating in 2015 to make a go of being a pop singer.

Last year, she released both “Perfect” and “Boomerang,” with the latter inspired by a relationship that Lenz found herself going back to over and over again. Written in her car in about five minutes before heading into the studio where the track was produced by Grammy Award Winner Zack Djurich, “Boomerang” is another earworm of a cut from Lenz.

Showcasing her voice and ability to craft a hook which instantly has you singing along, it’s—as the kids say—a bop, equally light in its production, while getting dark lyrically.

In July 2021, we premiered pure xtc’s “Ghost,” the debut single from Baltimore-to-KC transplant Taylor Hughes. It was a minimalist piece of darkwave synthpop, and the full EP on which it appears, Nobody’s Home, followed in November.

Pure Xtc Photo By Anna Selle

pure xtc. // Photo by Anna Selle

Now, Hughes is preparing to release another EP later this year, and the first single from it, “Shadow,” dropped in June. The new track is an absolute explosion of energy and power, with an ebb and flow which will absolutely suck you in as you listen.

The way Hughes has honed pure xtc’s electro-pop into something this instantly memorable is striking, and we can’t wait to hear more.

Opening for the Foo Fighters? Enough said. Literally, enough said. We’ve written about Radkey so much at this point that if you don’t have the album, perhaps you don’t deserve Radkey. We have been shouting it from the rooftops for years, and even Dave Grohl heard us.

Go. Go get yourself a Radkey album. We’ll wait. [We won’t. We already have. Catch up, bud.]

Written and recorded over the past two years, Kevin Morby’s album This is a Photograph was a way to process the overlapping events of his

father’s health scare and the world on pause.

“There’s this whole sentiment on this record of like saying goodbye to good times and the good times being over my shoulder,” says Morby. “I wanted it to feel at once like this melancholy saying goodbye to certain things, but at the same time, celebrating that there’s this new future that no one knows exactly what’s in store for us.”

Morby taps into the emotional undercurrent at the intersection of global tragedy and the shifting cadence of an aging family. Rich arrangements fill the space around isolation and build an environment that is as intuitive as it is cinematic.

Cuee Photo By Jacob Schermerhorn

Cuee. // Photo by Jacob Schermerhorn

Coming Out, the latest EP from the Lawrence rapper, came out at the end of June and  marks a real turning point in Quis Wright’s career. The three-song collection was, writes the musician, “inspired by my journey towards liberation, finding unapologetic love, and thriving in a world that marginalizes people with my identities.”

With songs like “Extra Extra” and “Man Now,” it is, in fact, “a proud celebration” of who Wright is both as Quis himself and Cuee the rapper.

Coming on the heels of last year’s Gospel and “Ball in Your Court,” released just in time for KU’s NCAA championship, Cuee is having their year exactly as they planned—including getting to read a touching personal statement when Lawrence declared June as LGBTQ Pride Month—and it’s thrilling to watch this artist become their most authentic self in life and on the mic.

Way back in 2007, Lawrence garage-rock trio The Shebangs released a single called “Maybe Yes Maybe No,” and ever since, there’s been promise of a full-length recording.

Here we are, 14 years later, and it’s available. Entitled Now! Is When, appropriately enough, the official release date was in October of last year, when folks were finally able to buy vinyl and CDs from Boston’s Fabcom Records, and the album was absolutely worth the wait.

The Shebangs are one of those bands that plays out once or twice a year, and a bunch of 40-somethings pack onto the patio at the Gaslight or inside at the Replay to bop around like they’re in their twenties again.

The songs that Tamyra Heim, Kit Cole, and Bret Dillingham put together are perfect distillations of what a band should sound like after coming of age while mainlining a solid diet of Nuggets and Pebbles compilations during the college radio explosion.

While the queer and Indigenous punk trio from Lawrence, LK Ultra, broke up after their show opening for Naked Giants at the beginning of April, it wasn’t before releasing one final single, “I’m Doing This Because I Love You.”

The song starts out quietly, with Robbie Robinson singing over a strummed guitar, before going into a big rocker of a track. It’s only made even more huge by the addition of gang vocals on the chorus from producer Giovanni Ventello and fellow young rockers Oxford Remedy, with this final single sounding like a mixtape fixture in the making.

While we didn’t know it was going to be the last thing from the band, in retrospect, it seems like a fitting farewell.

Musician and singer Luke Harbur’s musicbyskippy project’s first album, my dying wish, released back in February, takes the listener on a journey with interstitials, beat-boxing, and pop choruses all intertwined in a way that conveys a very authentic desire to communicate Harbur’s thoughts and feelings to the listener.

Yo! Skippidy Skip!

musicbyskippy. // Photo by Itzel Photo Co.

Appropriately enough, it began on a journey back in 2017 when Harbur was studying abroad in London, where the musician says he “had all this extra time because I wasn’t committed to the a capella group I was a part of, I wasn’t a part of the newspaper—I had all this time to think.”

Because of that, the second song on my dying wish, “By the Way,” was birthed in a tiny dorm in London, produced by Harbur’s friend, Mark Farnam. That song would become the first musicbyskippy music video, which he says, “…is me just jumping around and singing the lyrics in this park that was actually locked out to the public. Me and my friends snuck over some gates and then, right when we finished, we were stopped by the park police.”

Needless to say, from the start, Harbur was having a lot of fun with his music. Given that he has, for the better part of the last eight years, performed as part of various ensembles, taking the leap and trying to do his own thing is no small undertaking.

It becomes even more impressive when you realize that not only did Harbur follow it up with an immersive album release show, but he also did the dinner theater production Ope! A Play & Cabaret at the Westport Bowery and released his second album, the 12-song EDM-inspired we press play, just ahead of premiering it live at Boulevardia.

Bears And Company

Bears and Company. // Courtesy Facebook

It has been four years since Bears and Company graced the airwaves with any new music and nearly a decade since their full-length debut with South of the Mountain. Debatably an April Fools’ joke, the band teased on April 1 that they were finally out of hibernation and would be back with a new album in 2022.

Photos from the band’s Instagram in summer 2018 indicated that the post-rock outfit had teamed up with producer Aaron Crawford. One thing is for sure: these guys know how to maintain an element of mystery. From fuzzy bear masks to cryptic videos, OG fans are definitely on their toes.

Oxford Remedy Photo By Nell Schmidt

Oxford Remedy. // Photo by Nell Schmidt

It seems like just yesterday that the members of Oxford Remedy were finding their footing as students at School of Rock. What was once a high school band is now an acclaimed indie fuzz pop quartet tearing up stages like the Replay Lounge, recordBar, and beyond.

Their latest EP, For Those Who Know, Tell Me What I’m Supposed to Do, shows early signs of mastery in songwriting cohesion, DIY ethos, and garage rock instrumentation. A recent appearance at Manor Fest 4 suggests that the group is gearing up for a busy summer.

On May 20, Dunes Day dropped their Shattered Glass EP, which introduces a sonic concoction of retro electronic, post-punk, and abstract hip-hop. Their recent “Drowning in the Sand” music video showcases a montage of young adult debauchery through vintage style footage captured in Columbia, MO early last winter.

Imagine Rage Against the Machine and Gorillaz met at a high school party, sprinkle on some nihilistic teen angst—you’ve got yourself a budding Midwest masterpiece.

Over the past year, the long-running Kansas City roots collective has been dropping new singles, teasing and eventually promising that there’d be a new Grisly Hand album sometime this year.

The band, seemingly reinvigorated by the return of founding member Johnny Nichols on bass and vocals, not only started recording new music but returned to performing live with a double set at Lemonade Park in June 2021. Since then, we’ve been graced with three songs, beginning with “Now That You Know,” a slow, soulful number with a bit of a sway in the musicality.

The band has always been known for walking the line between introspective and barn-burning when it comes to their songs, but these new tracks feel like they walked right out of Muscle Shoals circa 1973.

That feeling continues this summer with the release of Traitors, their first LP since 2016’s Hearts & Stars. In righteous world, that album’s latest single, “Jukebox Money,” would blare from every car stereo on every single roadtrip all summer long.

In May 2020, two songs dropped to Bandcamp with minimal fanfare. Credited under the name of Bootkrieg, “Boot on the Street” and “State of Misery” were swaggering pieces of boogie pop.

We finally had someone tip us off that Bootkrieg is the one-man recording project of Inner Altar’s Neal Dyrkacz, and we were hopeful that we’d hear more soon of the project’s note-perfect glam meets oi sound, which brings the spirit of ’77 straight to the modern era, replete with gang vocals and ripping guitar lines.

Fast-forward to early June and Dyrkacz has revamped the Bootkrieg Instagram page, announcing that there’s a four-song EP due out, hopefully by the time you’re reading this.

Entitled The Power Storm, the four tracks contained within see the Bootkrieg sound mixing its bootboy disco stomp with glittering power-pop melodies to make for an intensely-catchy, absurdly-danceable 15 minutes.

Lawrence musician Jenna Rae’s debut, Workin’ Woman, released in 2018, presented her as more than just a singer-songwriter, but a force with which to be reckoned. Not only was it a fully-produced country album, it was the debut release on her label, Lost Cowgirl Records.

In the intervening years, Rae has performed with her partner, Martin Farrell Jr., as cosmic country duo Jenna & Martin and as part of the bluegrass quintet Unfit Wives, who released their debut, Live & Unfit, last fall. Add into that Farrell and Rae getting married just last month, and it’s been one hell of a year for this country singer.

Jenna Rae came back this April with her second solo outing, entitled Country Lo-Fi. The album was recorded with acoustic guitar and vocals tracked live, with Farrell adding in one other lead instrument per song, along with found sounds including a fly swatter, BB gun, screen door, and—of course—Rae and Farrell’s dog, Roy, who has made multiple appearances in Rae’s live YouTube videos.

It’s really a delight to hear these songs, many of which have appeared in those aforementioned YouTube videos, in a finished form. This is a very warm and intimate album, but it has just enough verve and spark to make for a perfect accompaniment to a sunny Sunday drive.

The opening track and first single from Country Lo-Fi, “Friend in High Places,” might initially seem like an homage to Garth Brooks’ omnipresent single, but it’s more than that. It’s a paeon to missing friends and trying to push on, and sets the tone perfectly for the nine songs which are to follow.

Blackstarkids Photo By Jake Kelly

Blackstarkids. // Photo by Jake Kelly

For the third year in a row, Kansas City’s Blackstarkids dropped a frighteningly amazing collection of songs when Puppies Forever came out via British label Dirty Hit in October.

The second single from the album, “Fight Club,” saw all three members of the group—Ty, Deoindre, and The Babe Gabe—trading verses back and forth on a track, which hit a little harder than what you might have expected from previous albums like Surf and Whatever, Man.

Nevertheless, the group’s playfulness and exuberance came through just as strongly, and paired with Puppies Forever’s first single, “Juno,” had us champing at the bit for the full album. Thanks to tours opening for Grouplove, Glass Animals, and Beabadoobee, it seems like this trio is fully poised to do whatever they could possibly want as 2022 progresses.

Our music editor first saw Kansas City’s Bummer when the band members were just out of high school, playing a parking lot show in the middle of the afternoon.

In the intervening decade, the band has grown from a bunch of doom metal kids into a sub-genre-defying powerhouse, incorporating everything from early ‘90s AmRep noise to the harshness of NoLa’s Thou to the pummelling influences of fellow Kansas Citians Coalesce.

The music of Bummer can be blazingly fast or grindingly slow, but it never loses its gut punch power.

Bummer’s debut LP, Dead Horse, released last fall on Thrill Jockey, and it’s a cathartic listen after a bad day or an energy blast to get you going in the morning, but no matter when you put it on, you need to crank it loud and make your ears bleed.

Speaking of Coalesce, the album’s first single and lead-off track, “JFK Speedwagon,” features Coalesce frontman Sean Ingram on guest vocals. Not for nothing have the band’s recent tours been met with ever-increasing pandemonium from the crowds to which they play.

While Lotuspool’s release of the Bump Band’s Our Music might be the most uplifting story to come out of Kansas City in 2022, it ties into a grander celebration for the label, which also celebrates its 30th anniversary this year.

Founded in 1992 by Chris Garibaldi and Matt Hyde, the label came out of the gate with three releases in that first year from Lawrence indie-rockers Zoom. 1993 also saw the the label compile Feast Of The Sybarites – A Collection Of Lotuspudlians, a scene snapshot which features essential cuts from Kill Creek, Sufferbus, and a then little-known band from Champaign, Illinois called Hum.

While Hyde left the label in 1994 (and now owns downtown Lawrence restaurant 715), Garibaldi has soldiered on over the years, really revitalizing Lotuspool in 2015 when he began a series of new releases, starting with Heidi Lynn Gluck’s EP, The Only Girl in the Room, along with reissues from the Poster Children and Zoom.

The releases might be all over the place, what with the Bump Band’s funk, Zoom’s angular mathiness, and the indescribability of Garibaldi’s own Suneaters; but it’s all quality and well worth your time. Here’s to celebrating them again down the line.

Tags: all blood, baby and the brain, Bears and Company, blackstarkids, bootkrieg, Boxknife, Bummer, cuee, Dunes Day, Fritz Hutchison, Frogpond, hembree, Jenna Rae, Jo Blaq, kevin morby, lk ultra, Lotuspool Records, musicbyskippy, oxford remedy, pure xtc, Radkey, stephonne, Talya Groves, taylor lenz, the greeting committee, the grisly hand, The Music Issue, The Pitch’s Infinite Playlist, The Shebangs

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