I love to edit. I can't turn it off. Signs, newspapers, CD liner notes...I'm always looking for a better way to say or show things. If a rewritten sentence or a better photo makes your message clearer, then I've done my job.
Stet Media is quick, knowledgeable and accurate. We have used them for copy editing of our monthly newsletter, brochures and board reports among other things and they have even done some photography of our events before. Typos and formatting errors should not get in the way of the message you are conveying and I felt confident in every communication BAM sent our after Stet Media had looked it over.
Stand-by editor for local Baptist seminary. Edited small handbook (3000 in print) for church planters.
We turned to Stet Media when we’ve had tight deadlines and needed additional resources to complete a project. Caleb provided us with, “another pair of eyes” in both a timely and friendly manner.
Stand-by editor for local church. Took photos and video at various events.
Stet Media is fantastic to work with. We have used them to proof handouts, graphics, mass emails, and more. Since we communicate often, we know how important it is to have our work looked over. Stet Media is fast, professional, and fun to work with.
Took portfolio photos for design/build firm. Managed social media. Improved web traffic by 400% in nine months. Improved Facebook likes by more than 150%. Started and maintained Twitter and Pinterest accounts.
Served as editor and social media consultant for professional AV trade publication. Copyedited and compiled monthly section. Did assorted other copyediting for magazine and website. Updated the website and ran social media (grew Facebook by more than 200% and Twitter by 100% in three years).
Caleb Sommerville, the force behind Stet Media, is resourceful and savvy. He oversaw our social media production as well as several other editorial projects for our magazine, including a cover shoot. We needed someone who could look around and see what needed to be done without a lot of handholding or instruction. He jumped right in. He also has a great eye for exacting detail—a necessary quality when covering technical copy. His work was clean, smart, and produced efficiently.
Took portfolio and promotional images and videos for local coffee roaster. Assisted with social media management.
Working with Stet Media has been a huge help. Photo shoots and social media work are handled promptly and efficiently. Photos are often ready hours after the shoot. Having Stet Media on board has not only helped increase our online presence, but has taken great photos and videos for social media. Having Caleb on board with Blip has allowed projects to be completed in a more timely manner, and has added a new quality to our work.
Took photos, managed and maintained website, and managed online event calendar as a stand-by volunteer for local writer's nonprofit.
Caleb has been an enormous help to us by updating our website, finding ways it can be improved, and taking excellent photographs for us to use there. He is professional, patient, and fun to have around. He is also helpful to us in organizing procedures for all our social media and in helping us assess and improve our identity on various platforms. He is a valuable member of our communications team.
Stet Media is great to collaborate with! Getting things done in a timely manner.
Helping the ideas you have in your head come together in reality.
Creative and Professional. So you get best product possible. As a solo artist Stet Media was not only affordable, but helpful in getting necessary tools up and running!
That’s what I am. A less sad way of saying it: Hope for the best and prepare for the worst. But there’s More to it. And that More leaks into every area of my life.
I know, I know, but this isn’t the dinner table or break room, so it’s okay. But my political stance has moved to somewhere between libertarian and “do people seriously still believe in this system” with a dash of apathy. I like the saying that the person most qualified to govern (i.e. be president, mayor, Congressperson, etc.) is that one person that would never run. I would love a Leslie Knope to run for office. I would love to vote for someone who 100% cared. But that’s not gonna happen. So, I continue to hope that something changes, but I’m prepared for the stale status quo.
I was taught, during my very short-lived and awful retail days, to “trust, but verify.” I use this daily. Sure, that lady walking down the street might seem perfectly harmless, but I’m not going to ignore her. That guy in the back on his phone seems normal, but I’m going to be aware of him. Most people aren’t out to get you or get someone else. But boy do I want to be paying attention if the worst should happen. That’s why I lock my doors and arm my alarm system and wave hello to people on the street. Paranoia isn’t fun or feasible, but awareness is.
I love getting surprised by movies, but a large portion of movies are just bad. Oh, a new Tom Cruise movie? It’ll probably suck, but I have a free afternoon–and then Edge of Tomorrow happens. Sure, the old Mad Max movies were pretty fun–HOLY CRAP Fury Road blew most action movies out of the water. But mostly, they’re Transformers 5: Age of the Dark Fallen Shia
LaBeouf. So I’ll be wary of the new summer blockbuster, but I’ll also keep an open mind when I pick a random movie on Netflix and it turns out to be something incredibly unique like Pontypool or Attack the Block.
This is the exception. I hate pop and gangsta self-referential rapping about rapping, but I’ll happily listen to pretty much everything. And buy everything that John Williams writes.
I would copy and paste “trust, but verify” and leave it at that, but it goes deeper. Going all the way back to the title, I’m a cheerful cynic. I’m a cynic because I’m a sinful man, and I’m cheerful because I have Hope.
Capital H Hope.
I live in a constant tension of the “already but not yet.” Christ has come once to save our souls and pay the price we should have paid for our rebellion. But He will come again to fulfill his mission and judge all creation. He’s already saved us, but we’re not yet fully redeemed.
So we live in the now and we Hope.
And before you get all edgy and grown up and say you don’t hope in anything, I will call shenanigans on you. We all hope in something. Even if it’s hoping in not hoping in anything.
And yes, Red, Hope is a dangerous thing. If we hope in the wrong thing (and thereby create an idol), it will utterly destroy us. If I hoped in always being a cynic, never letting my guard down, I would die a broken husk of a man. If I hoped in always being cheerful, no matter what, I would die a bitter facade of a man.
That’s why we can only truly Hope in one thing.
Hebrews 6 calls us to put our Hope in a steadfast anchor of the soul. Jesus. He’s the only one who can support our weight. When we create an idol, we have to carry it around, yet we still worship it like it will help us. Not only did God create us, but He’s able to carry us. How can we even begin to look to other gods?
So. I’ll continue to be cynical and roll my eyes at this world. But I’ll be cheerful in the deepest places of my soul, because I know He’s in control.
I wrote this for Mill’s Record Company when this album came out in November. If you haven’t listened to the album yet, run, don’t walk, to your nearest store and BUY IT. Or just listen to it on Spotify or whatever. It’s amazing.
From the glitched Macintosh-desktop-album art to the 80s synth-and-guitar-laced tracks, Mutemath‘s Vitals is a intro- and retrospective look at lovers, the future, the past, and sweet sweet layered synths.
Mutemath has always drawn from an odd collection of 70s and 80s music, electronica, and vintage gear, and that’s on full display in their fourth studio album. The polished and glossy finished product is a sound to behold. Smatterings of Phoenix’s Bankrupt! and even some Justice abound, but it’s very obviously Mutemath.
The opening track, “Joy Rides,” sets the tone with a slick vibe and catchy one-liners like “joy rides on the sun.” It’s super catchy, it’s finely engineered, and it’s both completely new and classic Mutemath. Next, the first R&B reference of many on this album, “Light Up,” has to sound amazing live. Mutemath is widely known as one of the best live acts around today, and that energy shines bright on track 2: “Sometimes we just have to walk through the fire/just to see once more that’s it’s never shined brighter.” The super tight drums and bass blend with lead vocalist’s Paul Meany’s awesome-as-usual synth playing.
Mutemath can shift gears well. “Monument” is a sparkly monument to 70s hooks (with that falsetto, Meany echos some Earth, Wind & Fire), and “Stratosphere” is a M83/Daft Punk (TRON-era) ode to a lost love with great lilting lines like “There’s nothing in this galaxy/holding my attention/the sun has lost its gravity/and severed my connection to the stars,” and ”I never meant to have to start over/start over/without you.”
Dreamy blurry synths are the name of the game for most of the album, and that suits the nostalgic feel. “All I See” sounds like a soft-filtered prom song but mostly serves as an intro to the crown jewel of the album: the instrumental track “Vitals.”
Yes, the instrumental track. Mutemath’s tradition. Since they actually got their start as an electronica band called Math, it’s no surprise the tradition has carried on for ten years. The woozy title track is a fantastic showcase of Darren King’s snappy and tight drumming and new guitarist Todd Gummerman’s glittering disco riff. The dripping and dark vibe points to recent indie darlings Glass Animals, but in a way that’s more of an homage to their common ancestor with Mutemath: R&B with a modern electronic twist. “Vitals” is by far the best song on this album.
“Composed” continues the woozy synth pattern, but with a major chord progression straight out of Mutemath’s groundbreaking earlier records. Meany’s falsetto shines yet again. “Used To” is a wry look back (“I used to walk on air/I used to care”) that somehow uses a muted dubstep/trap-ish type bass style to great effect. See, curmudgeonly adults, new music isn’t all bad.
In yet another gear shift, Mutemath switches to a tongue-in-cheek Bruno Mars/Michael Jackson R&B “toast” song, “Best Of Intentions.” It’s a fun singable song with heavy layered synth and a great surface message that, once pondered, turns wry and retrospective like the rest of the album. Think: incredibly talented self-aware drunk ex at a wedding.
If one instrumental track worked so well, why not two? “Bulletproof” sounds like Justice and Amon Tobin made a musical baby (with Sufjan Stevens as the guitarist). But what’s interesting about that hybrid: it’s still obviously Mutemath. Meany’s synths cut through the references with such a unique sound and feeling that the listener is left saying “Yup, that’s Mutemath.”
The last two tracks are mellow closers with more 80s guitar riffs and wistful longings for…something. While angsty, Meany makes it work. Lines like “I keep on mistaking the future for the places I’ve been,” hit a little harder because of his honest and naked delivery.
And that’s really what Vitals does. It’s honest. It may be hyper-polished and dreamy, but on first listen it’s like going back to your hometown after years away. Things have changed, but things are still the same. The new effects and influences are new and exciting, but the soaring vocals are still here. The impeccable timing and musicianship are there. The sense of wry nostalgia is still there. After a decade, Mutemath has earned a spot at the top.
Your childhood home will never feel the same. And that’s a good thing.
I recently had a conversation with a lady who asked what I do. I gave her my “another pair of eyes” and “photography/editing/writing” elevator pitch. She thought about it for a second, and after seeing a little of my work, she arrived at an even more succinct conclusion:
“Oh, so you tell people’s success stories.”
I’m not an Ira Glass by any stretch of the imagination. I’m not going to host a podcast any time soon (unless you want me to, Derek Olsen). I’m not even close to an Adam Breckenridge level of storytelling.
The master storyteller himself, Adam Breckenridge.
But yeah, I guess I do help people tell their stories from behind the scenes. Photos tell a visual story for others who can’t be there. Writing tells a story in the traditional sense. Social media tells a story in 140 characters or less.
One of my tasks when I worked at Redeemer Fellowship was to help get their blog started. My boss and I had the idea to tell our members’ stories through video and written posts. It’s since exploded. People love hearing each other’s stories. Especially if there’s something in there that they can apply or identify with.
What I do on a daily basis is the same. When I help Fredric Sims make a website, I’m helping him get his story of poetry and music out to the world.
Fredric Sims, poet and musician.
When I help Blip Roasters with a photo shoot or website maintenance, I’m helping a small operation tell the world about how much they value good coffee and good community.
Stories help us relate to each other. Let’s not brag about our trip to some exotic location; let’s tell others how it affected us. Let’s not do cheesy advertisements; let’s tell people why we’re passionate about what we’re making.
In short, storytelling all goes back to caring. Let’s tell others why we care about what we care about. Enthusiasm is infectious.
It was just so imposing and unique looking. All the bricks were grooved so they would fit together better. We weren’t able to go inside, but the outside was awe-inspiring enough.
Even though the church is simply a meeting-house for God’s people, the beauty of this building points to the Creator. What must He be like if, throughout history, He gave masons, architects, designers, and laborers the ability to build this massive building?
I did a quick round-up of great sports bars around KC a few months back for Finding Kansas City. Even though sports aren’t exactly my cup of tea, these places are awesome.
Here are some of the top local picks for places to watch the games if you don’t have a ticket. (And TV in corner + obligatory framed jersey on wall ≠ sports bar)
Inside P&L: KC Live! Living Room/Beer Garden
Kansas City’s Power & Light District [P&L] is basically a fortress of bars surrounding a massive beer garden and TV screen. Officially called the Living Room (which is inside the KC Live! block, which is inside P&L, which is downtown - keep that straight), this venue hosts concerts and game viewings even when the weather gets chilly. P&L’s Living Room has earned big broadcast time recently with impressive crowds for Royals playoff games and the World Cup. Some actually prefer the Living Room to the actual game. And of course, like any good living room, you’re surrounded by beer, so grab one of the many plush couches and make yourself at home.
After a fire a few months ago, West Bottoms original Blip Roasters is back up and running. The fire didn’t actually touch the old shop, but all the water needed to put out the second-story flames damaged Blip’s equipment.
But now they’re back. And still focused on coffee and community.
I’ve written about caring on here before, and Blip certainly cares. Sure they have good coffee. Sure the location is trendy and unique.
But above all else, Blip cares. From their website: “Our philosophy at Blip Roasters revolves around how we live our lives and is what drives us: community, loyalty, coffee and motorcycles.”
Caring isn’t creepy. It’s rare these days. And it shows. The open house for Blip’s new space was jam-packed. People realize something’s different.
Get out there and find something you care about. And then actually care.
Sometimes you need a little bit more than just breakfast in the morning. Whether you’re coming down (or up?) from a hangover or want to imbibe with a few before noon, these brunch spots are the top places to burn half a day of mealtime in one sitting. Cocktails and groups of friends, here we come.
The sign may say “Poston’s Donuts,” but that’s at least two owners ago. The storefront at 2131 S 34th Street in the Argentine neighborhood of Kansas City, Kansas, is now Hana’s Donuts, and Hana Simcak’s unique handiwork is expanding.
The front case is stocked with dozens of pastries. Everything from donut holes to apple fritters, sprinkled cake donuts to chocolate-filled bear claws. Simcak waits to add filling to the filled pastries until someone orders one (custom donuts for all). A coffee machine and drink cooler accompany the two tables in the small shop. Most people get boxes to go, but a few regulars stay for coffee and conversation.
Simcak’s husband arrives early to make the bases for the cake donuts and a few other pastries. Hana comes in to decorate to the cake donuts and fill out the rest of the case. On Tuesdays, she runs the counter and talks with everyone that comes in, about her apple fritters (the most popular item on the menu), local politics, and what she’s thinking of making next. She said those ideas are “sleeping in my head.”
She came to the United States from the Czech Republic in January 1997. She remembers distinctly it was January because it was her first taste of the unpredictable Midwestern weather. “It was nice—like spring nice, but then a week later it was brutal.”
Simcak intended to stay in America for only six months, but, as she said, “life happened.” She got married, took English classes at Johnson County Community College, and ended up helping clean a donut shop while pregnant with her first child. The main donut maker at that shop unexpectedly quit and the owner asked Simcak to help make donuts. After a few years learning the trade, Simcak noticed the former Poston’s shop up for sale and bought it in March 2012. She’s been ramping up business ever since.
Simcak makes deliveries to coffee shops around town, including Oddly Correct, Quay Coffee, One More Cup, Post Coffee Company and Pour Coffeehouse, when she’s not running the counter. When she’s done with deliveries, she sometimes donates boxes to the Salvation Army and local churches. Once those donations are done, she’s in the kitchen, experimenting with new flavors.
Pumpkin donuts are the seasonal flavor now, and they’re not the usual pumpkin donut. “I use my own spice, not that premade stuff. I don’t like pumpkin-spice stuff,” Simcak explained to Sheri Lynn, a regular from Kansas City, Kansas.
“It’s the best I’ve ever had,” Lynn said. “It’s subtle, it’s not overpowering.” Lynn said she considers Hana’s the best donut shop in town. She left with three pumpkin donuts and some apple fritters for her husband.
Her latest flavor will be a lemon-rosemary donut, an idea from a cookie bought on a whim. Simcak would love to allocate even more time to new ideas, but her time is limited. “I don’t mind the 60 hours a week,” Simcak said, “but 60 hours is 60 hours.” A carrot cake donut and chai donut are the next recipes sleeping in her head.
She got the chance to try out some unique recipes for the Thirsty Thursday – Donuts for Dinner event Boulevard Brewery hosted last month. Simcak made over 350 lemon-rosemary, s’more, and cherry cream cheese donuts for the event.
Even though the past few years have been occasionally tough, Simcak loves serving Kansas City. Her regulars are fiercely loyal and coffee shops from Lee’s Summit to Midtown enjoy the homemade flair of her work. Even three and a half years later, she’s still getting discovered by new customers every day.
“I like the people here. They’re laid back. They care when they need to care and they’re not nosy,” Simcak said. She has plans of expansion, cakes, a full bakery, more employees, and even an updated sign, but for now she’s happy to continue where she is. “If you want to do something, you put your heart to it!”
Hana’s Donuts is open 6 a.m. to 12 p.m., Tuesday through Sunday.
It’s no secret that we love coffee. It fuels our designers and gives our fabricators energy.
We also love local small businesses. Since we are one, we’ve always felt we’re kindred spirits.
One of those great local places is PT’s Coffee. While based in Topeka, they’ve had a local connection for years, and when they expanded to a new shop at 310 Southwest Boulevard in the Crossroads district of Kansas City, we knew we had to get in on that.
We designed and built the entire space for PT’s Crossroads. We fabricated tables, chairs, bar counters, and a few other pieces to challenge the status quo of coffee shops. The waterfall tables, made from repurposed coffee bean pallets, were designed to accentuate community and highlight the coffee itself.
The 21-foot barista bar was made from high-quality A1 walnut and features several dramatic bends, mimicking the tables.
We had a great time designing and building this space, and it’s great to see it being well-used and loved.
“The people are thirsty!” The six-foot letters painted on the side of 1701 Main Street broadcasts Tom Pendergast’s famous proclamation. Eight decades after the Pendergast era, Tom’s Town Distilling Co.founders Steve Revare and David Epstein are hoping the people are, indeed, still thirsty. Tom’s Town, which opened yesterday, is named after Kansas City’s infamous anti-Prohibition boss, and serves house-made spirits, craft cocktails, and small plates.
The century-old brick building was formerly The Pitch’s headquarters (and before that, an auto dealership and home of the Price Candy Company). It has been completely remodeled to evoke 1920s-era glint and art-deco style with a pair of event spaces on two floors.
Revare and Epstein – a pair of lifelong friends – have recruited a collection of culinary and cocktail experts to help launch Tom’s Town. They hired Tim Tuohy of KC Canning Company as the culinary manager; Robert Vossmeyer, who’s worked in distilleries in Chicago, Boston, and Tennessee, as head distiller; and Brian Harper, a barbecue enthusiast with a background in smoking, as assistant distiller.
The maple gingerbread buddino is one of a trio of desserts at Tom’s Town.
Tuohy created a menu of 11 small plates and three desserts, made for sharing. The French onion grilled cheese is filled with gruyere, Swiss, and fontina and features a French onion soup jam. The effect is a sandwich that tastes remarkably like it has been dipped in soup. The small desserts fit the polished aesthetic. Tuohy describes the Italian maple-gingerbread budino as a “cross between a custard and a pudding.” The light, sweet custard is topped with a savory gingerbread crumble.
Vossmeyer and Harper came on with Tom’s Town months ago, excited to start from scratch. They built the massive still (which pokes through the ceiling into the second floor) themselves. Vossmeyer worked with a private whiskey broker to procure the inaugural batch of Pendergast’s Royal Gold. (Revare and Epstien note that sourcing whiskey this way is how Boss Tom himself sold whiskey under the Royal Gold name back in the 1920s.) The whiskey is a 21% rye, 5% barley, and 74% corn concoction with notes of caramel, cherry, and even marzipan.
“I blended 34 barrels of that stuff myself,” Harper says. “It got heavy.”
Tom’s Town vodka is now available.
For McElroy’s Corruption Gin (also named for a Pendergast-era politician) Vossmeyer delved into 190-proof neutral spirits (pre-distillation “blank” alcohol) and a library of over 50 botanicals.
“The building process took three months,” Vossmeyer says
The “New Western”-style gin has notes of lemongrass, cloves, allspice, grains of paradise, citrus, star anise, and long pepper. “It looks like a twisted long pinecone,” Vossmeyer says of the complex pepper grown in India and Indonesia. The gin smells so good, bartender Benjamin Miller says that he would even consider wearing it as a cologne.
Eli’s StrongArm Vodka has a local twist. Crafted with wheat and rye, Revare and Epstien wanted it fit in well in Kansas City. The rye is grown on property owned by Revare’s mother-in-law in Lone Jack, Missouri. The vodka has a hint of both grains at the start and finishes on a slight peppery note.
Bartender Jonathan Koenig Riley makes an Old Fashioned.
The custom and locally-made bar also has a signature cocktail menu. Bartenders Eric Copeland and Jonathan Koenig-Riley point to a pair of potential standouts: the $50K Bet and the Pinky Blitz. The $50K Bet, invented by Copeland, features the Royal Gold bourbon, Fernet Branca, Heering Cherry Liqueur, and Fee Bros. whiskey barrel-aged bitters. The result is a hyper-old-fashioned with a little more spice and a smoother finish than the original. The frothy Pinky Blitz is made with the StrongArm Vodka, Solerno Blood Orange Ginger Liqueur, and a blood orange ginger shrub from Tuohy.
Tom’s Town has plans for a port-barrel-aged whiskey, their own brand of 4-and-a-half-year whiskey and rum. Vossmeyer especially is excited for the future. He cut his teeth at small distilleries and can’t wait to play with flavors and try non-traditional grains like oats, rice, smoked grains, and ancient grains. Because of Harper’s background in barbecue and smoking, they’re even considering a few smoked whiskies and scotches.
“We need a little hometown pride and hometown competition,” Harper says. After that, it’s just a question of how thirsty Kansas City is these days.
Tom’s Town Distilling Co.’s tasting room is open Wednesday from 4 to 11 p.m., Thursday from 4 p.m. to 12 a.m., and 2 p.m. to 12 a.m. on Friday and Saturday. They’ll be offering distillery tours at 4 p.m. on Thursday, Friday and Saturday. The phone number is 816-541-2400.
I often find myself thinking about everything I am waiting for. From finding a career. To getting married, starting a family. Even becoming a better poet/musician. To finally transition to greater satisfaction I often say to myself. “How long?” “Isn’t it time?” “Haven’t I waited long enough?” My soul is longing. Longing for more. For something beyond my self. Something better. But nothing is good enough it’s as if it lacks something. Can you relate? I wrote this poem d to communicate that the soul is longing for not just something but really someone. Only one. When we see this person we will be in every since of the word satisfied. Full of joy. What our longings have been pointing to all along.
So… When is it going to happen? That’s my question everytime uncertainty speaks too loudly in my normal. When mundanes twang taste too bitter on my tongue I mean… Come on I had expectations. Things, should be settling in by now I’ve mapped out my path of life using friends, family, and my precious assumptions so… It’s time. Isn’t it?
Hasn’t my heart craved the next stage of life? Finally see desires fulfilled. I feel, like a giant cup wanting to be filled to the point that I runneth over at last having the joy of… Someone holding my hand, a lover. Or what I hold in my hand, a child. Or a title, achievement. A dream job with a financial security blanket that I can curl myself in at night. Making my worries fly away like they never had a home in my soul.
But all I have is…
Soon. Not yet. Perhaps. Someday.
Honestly… I’m afraid. The future feels like a scary movie I’ve taken the wrong turn onto the back road leading to a place where fear will have it’s way with me. Making nightmares a reality and joy just a fairytale something read but, never real. It living in my fantasies but dead, in reality. A suffocating sadness leaving only one whisper. “This is forever, stagnant”.
There are so many desires planted in the field of my heart I, standing still hoping to see them blossom in season. But I never seem to leave the season of waiting.
Waiting for these things to bring, completion. The coming of the final dawn, breathless. Beauty so amazing, speechless. Glory so expansive greatness joy so consuming endless. The ceasing of every pain the end of wanting the beginning of gain.
So when is it going to happen? That’s my question. When is it’s arrival?
It must be at the return of the owner. The one who can make the tree limbs bend and the wind kiss it’s ruffled brow. Make mountains bow and hurricanes tremble at his voice what I’m waiting for… Is Jesus.
The essence of eternal life for he himself is the future. A future worth, waiting for. Living for dieing for. Something better he, is better.
So let me rest and wait, for a greater treasure.
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This is one of my favorite written pieces of anything. Amazing stuff.
We exist to design purposefully built spaces with repurposed materials.
Why repurposed materials? We believe they have a compelling narrative. When we tear down a barn, we see history. Doors, loft, ladders, and floorboards have all seen a hundred years of service. We also see future.
That barn in Seneca we tore down a few months ago had outlived its usefulness as barn, but the materials still had life in them. Oak, walnut, and pine are resilient.
After days of crowbars, chainsaws, pliers, and planers, that wood is ready to be made into a beautiful space again. Not just by plunking down a couple beams in the middle of a room, but by strategically researching and designing a space so that it’s not only beautiful, but architecturally sound.
And it’s not just beautiful because of the color or grain, although both are gorgeous. It’s not just beautiful because of the inspired design or unique elements, although both are true of our work. It’s beautiful because it’s a second life. Second chances speak to us and our longing for redemption. Reclaiming those materials isn’t just about what’s trendy, it’s about pointing to something in our souls that longs for renewal.
We hope to point to that longing for reclamation in everything we put out. That’s why our name is Second Life Studios.
The standard bluegrass elements are there. Mandolin, guitar, fiddle, double bass, autoharp, etc. The harmonies are tight, the vocals smooth and, well, dripping with honey. But “Local Honey” is different. The whole album evokes every season on the calendar with charming familiarity.
The title track sets the mood. “They got that local honey on which I am so sweet” and “watch out for those beeeeessszzzzz” set up the rest of the album as a dusty charming look at a simpler life. The sweet vocals of Kristin Hamilton blend with her bandmates well (they’re all credited as vocalists on the album). Simon Fink, (fiddle, mandolin, banjo, autoharp), and Doug Ward (bass), are always in sync and you can tell they love playing together. Their training ranges from a Ph.D. in music composition to no formal training at all.
“The Road (after Larkin)” feels like a humid Missouri summer. The walking bass and slower mandolin/guitar work mix with lyrics like “kudzu-strangled trees” and “one day I’ll return to thee” to give the song an ancient sound.
The “(after Larkin)” business is a reference to the poet that inspired the poem. Many tracks on the album reflect that inspiration. “I love poetry, and that’s one of the main ways I relate writing and language,” said Fink. “I think the world of great poetry has so much to offer songs and songwriters.”
“Lord, the Days Go” is a chewy-sounding look at, you guessed it, passing time. The muted strings pass the time with tongue-in-cheek lyrics like “I found a lover with a soul to match, and I thought we had the very same mind/the years went by in the blink of an eye.”
“Stars Songs Faces (after Sandburg)” feels like a hot brick alley in the middle of summer. Vivid metaphors galore match a muted trumpet (yes, this is still a bluegrass album!) surprisingly well. “There’s a song that can’t be sung/it’ll burn your lungs/it’s a song of innocence/it can only be sung/by an Illinois waitress.” Come on. That’s gorgeous.
Too much bluegrass? It’s okay. “Joanna” will add some “I-didn’t-know-I-wanted-that” Hawaiian-inspired mandolin playing. While the lyrics are a somewhat forgettable plea of “Joanna, Joanna, what about you?” the island feel is a great change of pace and shows these string players are skilled and a little cheeky.
The ol’ Missouri waltz-esque “Meadowlark (after Keats)” is a nature-heavy slower piece that sounds a little more country than bluegrass thanks to the slide guitar. “Your beak has been twisted from battles hard-won,” Fink and Hamilton sing to the eponymous meadowlark. Fink said the song “is sort of a rewriting of Keats’ ‘Ode to a Nightingale’. It was inspired when an older lady came up to Kristin after a show and told her she ‘sang like a meadowlark,’ but I took the form and a lot of the ideas from Keats – kind of paraphrasing the original poem in newer language.” That language mixed with the waltzy strings sounds just as ancient as the fields and forests they sing about.
And that’s something Under the Big Oak Tree does well. None of the songs feel gimmicky or fake. Every track sounds like a traditional Ozark song that’s been around since the 1800s. I don’t know if they were trying to evoke that, but the effortless harmonies and dusty lyrics sound downright ancient (in a good way).
After five years, Ratatat has released Magnifique, which is both a great title and a perfect description of the music: flashy, slick, effortless, and super-processed.
But hey, Mike Stroud and Evan Mast practically invented that over-processed octaved chorus guitar/synth sound we’ve come to know and love over that past ten years. (Quick, think of any Ratatat song and you’ll know the sound I mean.) But that’s not a dig. They’ve invented their corner of the electronica market and do it extremely well.
The first (real) track, “Cream on Chrome,” is the most aptly titled song on the album. It perfectly describes Ratatat’s slippery, shiny sound. The song itself is probably the strongest on the album (which is why they released it as a single way back in April). A solid chunky funk beat pairs with a tasty high funk guitar riff. The creamy synths and bass line are overlaid with that famous Ratatat glittering guitar sound. It’s a fairly straightforward song, but it’s incredibly enjoyable. It’s shiny. It’s stylish. It’s Silver Ray-Bans, The Song.
The rest of the album is great, but nothing compares to that opener. The title track Magnifique introduces a recurring theme on this album: a Hawaiian-esque sliding guitar. That technique shows up on three other tracks. But Mast and Stroud work it effortlessly into the doo-wop piano and drum backing.
In fact, most tracks on this album evoke effortlessness. “Abrasive” features what can only be described as a lot of “bwowing,” but the low synths blend effortlessly with the soaring guitars. “Countach” feels like slinking into the low seat of a Lamborghini and taking a drive around 1980s LA. “Drift” blends baseball diamond-organ with mewling “mananmana” guitars and ends up sounding like it could back an adorable Pixar short. Funk beats permeate the growly “Supreme,” all the while mixing easily with the standard Ratatat guitar sound.
The rest of the album is weaker than that great first lineup (except for the grungy, angry sawtoothed “Nightclub Amnesia,” which somehow sounds as humid as it does head-bobbing). Arpeggiating guitars, more slippery doo-wop, and a bizarre cover of the 1971 Springwater single “I Will Return.” Still solid music, just not as smooth and shiny as the first half.
Ratatat has a sound, and they nail it. “Cream on Chrome” indeed. Stroud and Mast also unfortunately fall prey to quirky album tropes like channel surfing noises, and a Queen-like intro and outro. But Magnifique still soars, shines, and slides its way into my ears by way of a souped-up 1980s synthesizer time machine.
If you haven’t watched Longmire, you should probably Netflix binge it. Soon.
What started as a series of western detective noir novels became an A&E (yeah, that channel) show a few years back. Netflix ran season four and I think there are plans for further seasons.
It’s a unique show. It draws me in. It pulls me. I can’t help but immerse myself in small-town Wyoming. I’ve lived in small towns and I’ve had many interactions in Western small towns. Most people say they generally suck, and for the most part, I would agree with them (I love KCMO).
But there is just something about Longmire. There is just something about an old canvas coat and a worn 1911 pistol. There’s security.
Even though the TV show is filmed in New Mexico, the author, Craig Johnson, lives in a small town in Wyoming. The feel is authentic. The stories are real(ish).
I’m drawn to the sense of untamedness. Walt (Longmire’s first name) exudes a chronological confidence. He’s always been there. He knows the land, the people.
I think we all want that in a Cheers-theme-song-sense. When the barista remembers our name, we get a small buzz of joy in our guts.
I think the series evokes that sense of belonging. America was traditionally untamed. That’s what made us unique. Our wilderness was/is second to none. The West was to be won, but it won us over in the process.
Every time I go to the mountains, I get teary-eyed and thoughtful. I wonder what our forebears went through in the vicious reaches of the past night. I wonder what it would be like to worry about my next meal. I wonder about the view of the Front Range before cars and pollution and DSLRs.
We built it on a custom flatbed trailer, it’s under 300 square feet, and the cedar rain screen is as functional as it is beautiful. The fully custom interior features saw-tooth dormers and bed loft and a custom headboard with indirect ambient lighting.
The tiny home trend has been blazing through newspapers and Pinterest, leaving a trail of equal parts “We should do that!” and “Who would want that?!”
But the trendiness and novelty are not the only reasons we built it.
We built it because we wanted to create a functional space worth living in. We believe in reclaiming nouns (people, places, things). Without places, things lack context. And without people, places lack meaning. We designed this house for the Averills to live in, not just to make good TV.
This speaks to our value of reclaiming unwanted space here in Kansas City. The tiny house will make a small unused lot usable again. It also takes the idea of living space and brings it into the realm of higher design. It is also provocative, and provocation is one of our core values. The status quo was meant to be broken.
Rev it up. Conspiracy and paranoia on full. Bombast and pessimism on full. Another Muse album has hit.
Drones, Muse’s seventh album, echoes some of the raw production values of their previous albums while looking wistfully into the glossy future of third-party war and dehumanization. Muse says the album is supposed to be a story about one protagonist in a world war situation transitioning from loss to indoctrination to defection.
Muse has never been a subtle band and this album is no exception. Starting with the crowd-pleasing and oddly personal “Dead Inside,” frontman Matt Bellamy bellows a scathing disillusioned indictment against the ever-present “Them.” (Or is it about his ex-fiancée?) The whole album, in fact, shouts down the unnamed conspirators seemingly present in every Muse album. But that’s not a bad thing.
“Psycho” is an unrelenting political stadium-blaster that includes an energetic sneering guitar riff (Bellamy riffs are never a bad thing) and the funniest inclusion of the word “ass” in a chorus.
The next two tracks, “Mercy” and “Reapers,” are the strongest and most bombastic on the album. Both tracks harken back to previous Muse albums with Starlight-esque piano and BellamyTM Falsetto. “Reapers” especially stands out with blistering riffs and a growling vocoder warning “HERE COME THE DRONES.” Both would be equally at home at Wembley Stadium with Muse classics like “Knights of Cydonia” and “Time Is Running Out.”
The first half of the album (up until the huge-sounding Chris Wolstenholme bass showcase “The Handler”) is strong. Crazy guitar riffs, a huge sense of scale, and conspiracy theories abound. “True Muse” if you will.
“The Defector” and subsequent tracks largely miss the mark. “I’m free/from society/you can’t control me/I’m a defector” feels childish after the raw rage the first half set up. “Revolt” and “Aftermath,” while catchy, feel more at home in a mid-90s action movie than a Muse album.
Drones doesn’t find its footing again until the concept track “The Globalist.” At 10:07, it’s one of Muse’s longer tracks. The western-sounding whistle intro gives way to a prog-rock story of a self-made dictator, apocalypse, and regret (proclaimed the “second story” of the album by Bellamy). It’s an ambitious track and definitely showcases the musicianship of Bellamy, Howard, and Wolstenholme. Bellamy’s virtuosity on the guitar and piano, Dom Howard’s turn-on-a-dime drumming, and Wolstenholme’s masterful “is-that-a-bass-or-a-guitar” bass playing shine through on this odd duck of a track.
Again, Muse has never been subtle. And that’s not the point. They’re not trying to be. They’re also not trying to be camp with their over-the-top conspiracy theories. One of their tours was literally called H.A.A.R.P., for pete’s sake. Drones still does what a Muse album is supposed to do: entertain with bombastic music (seriously, how can that much sound come out of three people?) and paranoid lyrics. And it does that well.
Jonathan Koenig-Riley pours me an Old-Fashioned, made with Tom’s Town Royal Gold bourbon.
I got to go to Tom’s Town Distilling Co. this week as a reporter for Recommended Daily. It was a fantastic experience. Although it’s a little goofy to idolize one of the most corrupt politicians in history, (although, if you can make a buck off a dead butthead, why not), the place is great. Swanky vibe, friendly staff, knowledgeable distillers, etc.
This kind of place makes me excited for Kansas City. They’re making their own stuff right Downtown. They’re hiring local guys who are genuinely excited about making booze. They’re going above and beyond even with the decor (the bar was hand built by my neighbor, Randy Taylor).
Caring is the next business trend. Not social media marketing or new demographics or startups or any other business buzzword you can come up with. There’s a reason places like this and Boulevard and Oddly Correct are on fire. People can recognize caring. If you truly care and are passionate (and even unapologetic) about your product/message/brand/self, it’s infectious. People will understand. People will enjoy the product for the same reasons you do.