The Empty Spaces

Album review: Mat Shoare - Domestic Partnership

Golden Sound Records is on a string of great releases. They kicked off mid-summer with Party Line from The Empty Spaces, later put out Ross Brown’s sophomore release, the new Everyday/Everynight singles, and now Mat Shoare’s fourth album. Within the past year, Shoare has somehow found the time and inspiration to write Domestic Partnership. As frontman of The Empty Spaces and a visceral component of Everyday/Everynight, one wonders where Shoare found the creative muses to write this breathtaking album.
Taking a more somber tone than The Empty Spaces’ upbeat surf-rock, and a more earthly sound than the ambient Everyday/Everynight, Domestic Partnership is an album that is easy to grasp. The album is full of sad, sorry tales, and real-life happenings that everyone, at some point, will have or has experienced.
The recording quality seems low-end, but works insanely well with this album. The album sounds as if Shoare recorded it while sitting right next to you. Domestic Partnership’s liner notes state: “…recorded by Mat Shoare in multiple bedrooms, basements, and offices…” And that aspect is definitely felt throughout the album. As mentioned, it sounds as if Shoare could have been playing the song while in the same room as you. This hosts a brilliant emotional linkage to his songs; not unlike seeing him perform live. For these kinds of songs, you don’t want over-produced and completely flawless music—it’s straight and it’s real.
Shoare’s vocals embody a haunting undertone while remaining pleasantly familiar. It sounds like a voice you know, one that you are inclined to listen to. His vocal range is quite impressive as well. Varying from a low and daunting timbre, like in the opening track “Patterns in the Sand,” to a high-pitched screech (a characteristic of The Empty Spaces) found in the title track. Backing himself up with a plethora of “ooohs” adds depth to songs like “Patterns in the Sand,” among others.
This album is a no-holds-barred attack on the reality of life. Shoare’s lyrics come at you like a slap to the face or a kick in the shin. Shoare definitely does not sugar coat a single line for the listener. “We never get older, we only get sadder, we never get bolder, we only get madder” is a shining example from “Meadowlark.” His words hurt and are full of some sort of pain, but paralleling this pain is an organic sense of sympathy, from Shoare to you. Domestic Partnership sounds like two people sitting, talking, and listening to each other: a therapy session.
Shoare celebrated the release of Domestic Partnership at recordBar this past weekend. The official release of the album will be tomorrow, Tuesday, December 11. You can order the CD and preview a track at the Golden Sound Records’ link here.
--Steven Ervay
Steven is the intern of Midwest Music Foundation and The Deli - Kansas City. He can't go to 21+ shows yet and that bums him out.  

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Photos from Apocalypse Meow 5, 11.2 and 11.3.12

This year was the biggest yet for Midwest Music Foundation's Apocalypse Meow benefit—a fundraiser for the musician's emergency health care fund. The event kicked off with a pre-party on Friday, November 3 at Midwestern Musical Co. with Dead Voices and Tiny Horse

Dead Voices

Tiny Horse

The main event kicked off on Saturday at The Beaumont Club with School of Rock, consisting of more than a handful of tweens and teens masterfully playing covers from bands like Rush, Led Zeppelin, Foo Fighters, and many more. The band's stellar performance set an energetic tone for the rest of the evening, which ranged from acoustic Americana to power pop, surf rock, country, indie rock, and ballistic punk rock.

School of Rock

Amy Farrand

Deco Auto

The Empty Spaces

The Blue Boot Heelers

Clairaudients (formerly The Atlantic)

The Architects

And finally, a big thank you from all of us at Midwest Music Foundation for supporting our fifth year of Meow. We're so very grateful for your support of Kansas City and our musical community!

All photos by Todd Zimmer. Please do not use without permission.

--Michelle Bacon

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Album review: Ross Brown - Small Victories

It would seem that Golden Sound Records has done it again with the release of Ross Brown’s sophomore album Small Victories. And by “it” … I honestly couldn’t define what that would be. A wonderful X factor that every release on the label embodies; full of catchy indie hooks and masterful production.
Taking quite the turn from his first album The Human Condition, Brown delves himself in an array of stylistic experiments. While The Human Condition emitted a consistent stream of indie riffs and beats, Small Victories changes styles with each track. From poppy synth sounds to music straight from the 1960s, Brown truly elicits his talents on this album.
The album kicks off with the track “Dishes,” an erratic show of one’s own bravado. “I stand above everybody else, and I am glorious” sort of thing. Listening to the instrumentals, it is hard to imagine that only one man put this piece together. Synthesizers, guitars, and miscellaneous percussion push the upbeat song along. The next few songs seem to have a certain someone in mind; songs about memories and human interaction. The liner notes state, “None of these songs are about you.” I guess we will just have to believe that.
“Laodicea” takes a somber tone as a song reveling in self-pity. Brown appears to pick out procrastination and a lack of skill sets as a personal downfall, exploring that part of him in the song. The sixth track, a personal favorite from the album, is a high-energy, synth-driven story of a song. You are almost forced to imagine the story unfolding in your head as Brown attempts to get to know a girl. Taking on the role of a fumbling, blabbering fool, Brown spews out lines like, “Did you ever eat paper as a kid?”, and “In a food crisis who among your friends would you eat first?” The tale of a poor kid trying to relate to a beautiful woman—an experience most men could identify with.
Another thematic shift brings us to “Self Interest,” which discusses several cases of self-centeredness. The classic rock and roll diddy of this song urges the listener to wiggle a little. Tapping your feet to the beat, the song is very catchy. The hooks readily implant themselves in your brain and it’s nearly impossible to walk away from this track without humming it in your head.

Being the frontman for Fullbloods, drummer of The Empty Spaces, and an operator of Golden Sound Records, Brown has his hands full. But despite all of that, he is able to put together Small Victories, a brilliant conglomeration of melancholy jams and upbeat anthems that is sure to win you over … pun intended.  

You can listen to some tracks from Small Victories by clicking on the album below.

--Steven Ervay

Steven is the intern of Midwest Music Foundation and The Deli - Kansas City. He can't go to 21+ shows yet and that bums him out.  

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On The Beat with Ross Brown

Ross Brown is a jack-of-all-trades in Kansas City music. First and foremost, he identifies himself as a songwriter, soon to be releasing his solo album Small Victories. He's also the beatkeeper of The Empty Spaces, frontman of Fullbloods, and an integral cog in Golden Sound Records. This week, we talk to Ross about all of his projects and find out what's coming up. Catch the beat right here!

--Michelle Bacon

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On The Beat with Ross Brown




On The Beat with Ross Brown


Ross Brown is a drummer, a songwriter, a guitarist, a singer. He splits his time as the bombastic timekeeper for The Empty Spaces, the frontman for Fullbloods, and he’s a solo artist with a new album on the way—his first since 2007. We sit down with him and find out more about his life as a drummer and all-around musician.

The Deli: How did the drums find you?

Ross Brown: I started homeschooling my sophomore year of high school, which basically meant I blazed through my work and played music all day. The problem was that all of my friends were at school during the day, so I didn't have anyone to jam with. I borrowed an old kit from my buddy and started playing along with my own recordings to fill out the rhythm section. If that's not a pathetic story, I don't know what is.

The Deli: Did you play drums first, or another instrument?

Ross: I started with trumpet and euphonium as a kid and picked up guitar and bass along the way. Drums were the last addition.

The Deli: What kind of kit do you use?
Ross: I've had the same Gretsch Catalina Club kit for years. It's a decent and versatile enough kit to keep around. I love the 18" kick. I usually play a 14" brass Tama Starclassic snare and use Aquarian Modern Vintage heads on everything but the kick.
I'm fortunate enough to have Fullbloods practice in my basement, so I get to hammer on the kits that Bill Pollock brings over. There was a span of time where I swear that guy was bringing a different kit every two weeks. His vintage Rogers kits are killer.

The Deli: When you think of your musical career, do you see yourself as a drummer?
Ross: I definitely didn't until about a year into playing with The Empty Spaces. I finally broke down and accepted that the thing I was doing when flailing sticks around at wooden shells was called "playing the drums.”
The Deli: Are there any local drummers you look up to?
Ross: Kyle Rausch (of The ACB’s) is currently my favorite drummer in Kansas City.

The Deli: You also are a solo artist and the frontman of Fullbloods. Do you think of yourself first as a songwriter or a drummer/instrumentalist?
Ross: Songwriter. I think that helps me not go nuts and tromp over the rest of the band. Sometimes.

The Deli: What’s coming up that you’re especially looking forward to?
Ross: Officially releasing my solo album Small Victories on October 23 on Golden Sound Records. Really stoked that The Empty Spaces get to play with Broncho on Novermber 30 at Czar

The Deli: Finally, you’re a part of Golden Sound Records. Tell me a little bit about that collective and what role you play.
Ross: We're a "record label" in that we help artists put out records, promote them, and sell them. Our main goal is to do cool stuff with music and the community and bring attention to music we think is great. I do a lot of the recording/mixing/mastering, web development, and design stuff.
The next time you can catch Ross hitting the skins with The Empty Spaces will be this Saturday, October 20 at recordBar with The Cave Girls and Mad Spirits. Then, be sure to check him out with the band at this year’s Apocalypse Meow benefit at The Beaumont Club on Saturday, November 3. His solo album Small Victories will be available exclusively through Golden Sound Records as a digital download next Tuesday, October 23.

--Michelle Bacon

Michelle is editor-in-chief of The Deli - Kansas City. She also has a weekly column with The Kansas City Star and reviews music for Ink. She plays with Deco AutoDrew Black and Dirty Electric, and Dolls on Fire. She never ate glue in school, honest. 

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Ross Brown

The Empty Spaces - Party Line

Golden Sound Records