Critique: Kid Runner’s Wake Up Now

Kid Runner (@kidrunnerband) sent out a wake-up call to the music world, so to speak, in the form of their second EP Wake Up Now. Dropped this past October, the unsigned Columbus, OH quintet have delivered a series of tracks that stand up in quality to anything from Passion Pit, OK Go, Walk The Moon, and Fun., who perform a similar routine. If they had the same resources available to them those bands have, Kid Runner would hold their own on late night TV shows as well as the Alternative and Top 40 charts.

The opening track, which happens to be the title track, is disappointing in that it is relatively short but is a nice instrumental intro nonetheless in the same vein of The xx. ‘Thinking Out Loud’ is a would-be hit with fans of Sheppard with strong male and female vocals on display. According to their Soundcloud page, it is the EP’s second most clicked track behind ‘Move’. Speaking of which, ‘Move’ is the track that has earned the group local success as a winner of Radio U’s daily ‘Battle of the Buzz’ competition. Furthermore, the song is also licensed for use on MLB Network. The band also released a video for ‘Move’ that is equally as relevant as major label artists’ videos using a fraction of those groups’ budgets. These two tunes on their own ought to be enough to garner Kid Runner the industry-wide attention they are due.

Wake Up Now has three more tracks that have their own flavor and showcase the five-piece’s creativity and talent. ‘Breaking Away’ is a tune in which the lyrics imply it is a song about destorying figurative shackles and escaping a toxic situation and/or person. It is the EP’s most serious song and one that proves Kid Runner’s wide songwriting range. Even hair metal bands churned out the occasional ballad and life commentary with favorable results. ‘Killin’ Me Now’ is pop brilliance from start to finish with the incorporation of keyboardist Frances Literski’s backing vocals to compliment the strong drum and keyboard work. Litterski’s dove-like vocals are also included in “Higher”, the record’s most dance club-friendly tune.

Alt-pop music lovers willing to take approximately 30 minutes to check out Wake Up Now will experience proof Kid Runner is going places figuratively. Literally, the group is expanding their horizons outside of their local confines opening for Civil Twilight in Pittsburgh on May 28 and playing at Cincinnati’s Burnbury Music Festival on June 5. Those gigs are followed by a return to Columbus on September 5 for the Fashion Meets Music Festival. Alternative and indie music’s true believers and supporters must not miss out on a chance to hear Wake Up Now in addition to their self-titled EP. If this band has the success they have demonstrated they deserve, the alternative and pop rock genres are in great shape for years and years to come.

*Photo courtesy of the band’s Facebook page

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Artist Showcase: Motherfolk (presented by DX Entertainment)

Motherfolk (@Motherfolkmusic) is an American folk rock quintet currently based out of Cincinnati, OH. Originally formed in Maysville, KY, the band first consisted of Nathan Dickerson and Bobby Paver. The duo eventually became a five-piece with Rich Miller, Aaron Wilson, and Jacob Bremer joining the band. They are a very hard working group who has done some extensive touring throughout the midwestern and southern United States just this year, traveling as far as Texas and also gracing the stage at the Hard Rock Cafe in Chicago. This demonstrates that Motherfolk is serious about building their brand through live events and word of mouth. Gracing stages is one of the best ways a musical act can prove they are the real deal. It will be an honor for them to open DX Entertainment’s second ever show on Friday, October 24. Pseudoname, no stranger to the Cincinnati area, headlines the event and former Bonneville drummer Nick Frye will be fronting of his own band that night.

Motherfolk has a self-titled record out now on iTunes and Bandcamp that should also be available at their gigs. This 10-song gem’s most notable tracks are the mainstream-friendly “Tired”, the jam “Hiccups” which is sure to get people on their feet and dancing, and the rocking “Goldie Hawn” which based on the title alone should generate some attention from record labels. All three of those tunes are a fit on Alternative or Top 40 Pop radio stations. Slower tempo songs are another part of Motherfolk’s arsenal and encourage the listener to pay attention to the lyrics. “Salt Lake City” is a tune that starts off and finishes quite gentle, but in the middle it gives listeners a good kick in the butt. “I know”, “Defining Me”, and “Tune For Me” are classic folk tracks that are to be a staple at their live events as they make for good sing-alongs, especially the latter. This album is a must listen for those who want to be taken on a journey of love, joy, hope, and faith.

From the lyrics of many of their tunes, it is foreseeable these songs are about worship, but it is important for listeners not to dismiss or pigeonhole Motherfolk as a “Christian band”. While there is nothing wrong with that term per se, less than informed listeners may be quick to write off the merits of their music. It would be their loss if they ever did that as no matter what religion Motherfolk’s members practice, the music is extremely phenomenal. There is significance in a group writing and performing songs that have some depth and substance to them in addition to style. Given today’s mainstream music landscape, Motherfolk is a breath of fresh air and after listening to their record, listeners will have solace in knowing pure music is alive and well.

In four days, listeners of this record will get a chance to see Motherfolk play these songs live and in living color. They will take the stage at King Avenue 5 in Columbus, OH on Friday, October 24 and then six days later in Newport, KY for a pre-Halloween bash. Other tour dates occurring later this year include November 14 in their homebase of Cincinnati, December 9 in Cleveland, and December 18 in St. Louis.  For those who live in those areas, it is in their best interest to see what this band has to offer in person as they are sure to be satisfied.

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Artist to Watch: The Shapers

Paris trio The Shapers (@theshapers) look to be in good shape for a major run in 2014. Guitarist/vocalist Anthony, drummer Benoit, and Raphael on bass keep the old school punk movement alive while placing their own flair on tunes inspired by Green Day, Rancid, and the like. In this day and age of emo, electronica, and poppy rock raiding the airwaves, The Shapers are exactly what mainstream radio need to bring a sense of diversity back to the music scene. Then again, what makes The Shapers’ music great is that the many of the punk genre’s artists, for the most part, are disinterested in playing the mainstream music games and politics.

The Shapers were founded in 2009 and three years later released the full-length Everybody Needs to Have a Dream. This is a record that critic Katie Burkhart holds in high regard by saying, “This 13-track album has the upbeat, hair down, riding in your convertible sound, and as for you fella’s, your mustaches are free to fly in the wind too.” With tunes like “Cherry Bomb”, “Girls I know”, and the track featured in the above video, this unsigned tandem could see themselves with a deal. That is, if record labels have the guts to go against the grain and buck current trends. Good music is hard to find sometimes and with a talented threesome like these guys, they are on the verge of something huge with the right resources available to them.

France is known for acts like The Rasmus, M83, Phoenix, and Daft Punk. It is safe to say The Shapers sound nothing like those acts. Standing out is in the spirit of punk rock and this group is doing its part by zagging when others are zigging. They are the #1 band in their genre in their native France, per ReverbNation. Catch up with the group online at Spotify, iTunes, and the like to find out this artist on the rise is all about.

Artist on the Rise: Leila Licks

Swiss musician Leila Licks (@LeilaLicks) is the second-ranked artist in her region per her ReverbNation page. Obviously, this rocker is doing something right. She performs in the same vein as Melissa Auf der Maur and Amanda Palmer, however, Licks still manages to make herself seem distinct from those artists. She is someone that rock fans need to pay attention to over the next 10 months and beyond. Her haunting vocal delivery will leave listeners in a spine-tingling delight.

Leila Licks keeps her bio very short and to the point. She deems herself to be a singer, songwriter, artist, storyteller, producer, artist, and humanist. Furthermore, she goes on to state she loves music, art, life, and people. One can only hope that her love of the people will be reciprocated by music lovers checking out her music. Licks’ records can be purchased at online retailers such as CD Baby, iTunes, and Amazon. Standout tracks aficionados should pay attention to are “No Truth”, “Sick of It All”, and the song featured in the video above.

Leila Licks is making a name for herself on social media with quips and words of wisdom featured online at Twitter and Facebook. It could do one some good not only to hear some tremendous tracks from this musical poet, but to obtain some thought-provoking and provocative statements on life itself. No matter whether it is in her native land, The States, or other parts of the universe Leila Licks is here and given what she has to offer the music scene, she is not going away anytime soon. Rock fans might as well relax, take a listen, and enjoy the ride.