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Up To Date

The Best Kansas City Music of 2016 ... So Far

We're only about half way through 2016, but Kansas City artists haven't been wasting any time. That means area music lovers have had plenty to see and hear.

KCUR's Up To Date continues its tradition of reviewing new local music with area music critics. This time, our panel is:

  • KCUR's music critic Bill Brownlee's work appears weekly in The Kansas City Star and Ink Magazine. He blogs about jazz at plasticsax.com.
  • Hannah Copeland is a Kansas City musician and a KCUR arts contributor and announcer.
  • Calvin Arsenia is a Kansas City musician. His most recent album is titled Prose.

Each picked out their favorite tracks (so far) of 2016. Here they are, in alphabetical order:
Blk Flanl

"Guns Up" from the album Blk Flanl II: For the Imperfect; For the Diligent

Hannah Copeland writes, "Ten uncomfortable seconds of dogs barking as if they're in cages and birds chirping opens 'Guns Up,' and a siren-like synthesizer builds tension as Cooper calls out his 'street homies' for shooting stray bullets while intoxicated at the 'wrong place/wrong time. They don’t see the mamma crying.'”


"Exit The Dream"

Jametatone embraces the electro with this track, and throws in a splash of strings for good measure, channeling Venetian Snares. The airy "exit" mid-song gives you a chance to catch your breath, before you're whisked away again to a drum & bass dreamland. 


"Pretend" from the album Waterbed

This fusion of funk and soul and r&b and bass was dreamed up in the mind of Max McFarland, who hails from Johnson County, Kansas. "Listening to it feels like sitting on a waterbed," says Copeland. Now we know where he got the album name...

Krizz Kaliko

“Didn’t Wanna Wake You” from the album Go

Bill Brownlee writes, "Kaliko (42-year-old Kansas City native Samuel William Christopher Watson IV) is far more than Tech N9ne’s charismatic on-stage sidekick. In addition to rap and hip-hop, the inconsistent but entirely fascinating Go includes funk, indie-rock, pop and neo-soul selections."

Logan Richardson

“Time” from the album Shift

"Shift realizes Richardson’s full potential. It’s not only one of the most important artistic statements made by a jazz musician from Kansas City in the new millennium, it will almost certainly be heralded by the international jazz community as one of the most significant releases of recent years," writes Brownlee.

Pageant Boys

"Single Cell" from the album Haunted

This track sounds like it spent an afternoon in the summer heat of Pittsburg, Kansas, where Pageant Boys call home. "Pensive, slow and brooding," says Calvin Arsenia. You can almost feel the sweat dripping off whining guitar lines and a wall of bass.

Psychic Heat

“Anxiety Eater” from the album Sunshower

These guys'll definitely take your lunch money, says Brownlee. The heavy, sliding bass and guitar lines herein suggest he's right. This Lawrence four-piece released Sunshower, their latest album, in May.

Stephonne Singleton

"Hide & Seek" from the album Caged Bird Sings Songs About Red Beard

Singleton's throaty, gospel-inspired voice definitely finds its groove on this track. Peppered with horns, strings and a snare pop that won't quit, this song plucks at more than a few emotions. It's all paired with a hook you'll be singing along with after just one listen.

Your Friend

"I Turned In" from the album Gumption

Lawrence musician Taryn Miller calms things down in this dark and brooding pulse of a song. She parlayed a $1,000 battle of the bands prize into her first album Jekyll/Hyde, and signed with Domino Records in 2014. She's clearly on the right path.

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As culture editor, I oversee KCUR’s coverage of race, culture, the arts, food and sports. I work with reporters to make sure our stories reflect the fullest view of the place we call home, so listeners and readers feel primed to explore the places, projects and people who make up a vibrant Kansas City. Email me at luke@kcur.org.
KCUR contributor Bill Brownlee blogs about Kansas City's jazz scene at plasticsax.com.