Jessica Lackey's Posts

Jessica Lackey's Photo I am a KDHX volunteer music writer with a Public Relations degree from Webster University. I love writing about music because it gives me the opportunity to learn something new and share it with others while contributing to the growth of independent music in the St. Louis area.

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Album review: Hot Chip makes dance-floor melodrama on ‘In Our Heads’

Hot Chip
“In Our Heads”

If the electro pop of the ’80s were to marry today’s indie nu disco, their child would be Hot Chip. Don’t worry, we won’t get into the sanctity of their marriage.

Front man Alexis Taylor has a voice that is desperately melancholy yet attractively soft and falsetto in nature. Add in his love-charged lyrics with a mix of quirky beats and whimsical synths, and Hot Chip delivers bright dance tracks with amorous emotion.

The band formed in 2000 in London. Members include Taylor on vocals and keys, Joe Goddard on vocals, synth and percussion, Al Doyle on vocals and guitar, Owen Clarke on synth and guitar and Felix Martin on percussion — a lineup that undoubtedly illustrates the band’s multifaceted sound.

Since its formation, the quintet has recorded five studio albums, the most recent being “In Our Heads,” which was released in the US just a few weeks ago.

“In Our Heads” as a whole is both uplifting and melodramatic, filled with infatuated passion and vibrant, dreamy beats, and maybe a touch of indie-style rock thrown in here and there.

The album’s intro track, “Motion Sickness,” emits layers upon layers of looped beats that build into one big dance party for your ears, while managing to maintain a mellow element with easy-going, buoyant vocals.

On “Look at Where We Are” Taylor’s delicate voice is front and center. Matched with subtle, echoey electronica, humble guitar and poetic, tender lyrics, the track exemplifies the lovesick sentiment that runs through much of the album.

“Night and Day” is a clever blend of kooky beats that boink and bump along with loops of stacked, synthed vocals, giving the track a science-fiction meets “Party Monster” meets Atari vibe.

The album’s single track, “Flutes,” builds layers of chanting vocals that resemble children on a playground mixed with a buzzing but easygoing cadence and whistling undertones. The track then escalates into a hodgepodge of interweaving, head-bumping beats with pulsating lyrics.

Closing out the album is the electric ballad “Always Been Your Love,” with a euphorically, bright and layered chorus that carries the track through modest beats and floating waves of guitar.

Permeating with bubbly beats, tricky key changes and troubled, love-drunk lyrics, “In Our Heads” leaves you feeling as though your crush has just left you stranded on the dance floor — but it’s okay, the dance floor still loves you.

88.1 KDHX DJ Spotlight: Kate of Beep Beep Boop Boop

Photo by Sara Finke

Overflowing with cheerful energy, KDHX DJ Kate constructs each episode of Beep Beep Boop Boop (every Wednesday night, 9-11 p.m. Central) with exceptional precision and the goal of sharing something unexpected with listeners. 

A few weeks ago, I was given the opportunity to sit down with Kate at the KDHX studio and talk with her about St. Louis’ amazing local DJs, her love for and vast knowledge of music and the critics of the electronic music genre.

Jessica Lackey: How did you become interested in music?

Kate: Pretty much from my family. We have a lot of music in our background, and actually where I went to college in the Quad Cities goes back to my great uncle playing in this Dixieland jazz festival — the first ever Bix Beiderbecke Jazz Memorial Festival — as a drummer, and so my family has always been very musical. Our big joke from growing up is my mom blasting whatever her favorite songs were from the radio at night, and we would be going home from dinner and then in the morning, her freaking herself out because she left the car on too loud because she was singing along to Wham! or whatever. 

Is that what she kind of listened to, Wham!?

She liked pop music. My mom and my dad were divorced when I was younger, and they like pretty different styles of music. My dad really liked older stuff. He liked ’60s and ’70s rock a lot more than the ’80s that I was growing up in, and my mom was more latched on to pop. Not necessarily dance or club music like we know it but sort of pop and dance music. 

Some of the stuff I remember hearing around the house with her, we’d go from eight tracks of Barry Manilow and the Bee Gees to a little bit later stuff like Erasure and Pet Shop Boys and Wham!. I will listen to songs when I am getting ready for my show and I’m like, “Oh my God, that sounds just like, you know, early Wham!, like George Michael dance pop stuff.” It definitely creeps back in to the music that I enjoy. 

It sounds like it definitely influenced the music that you are interested in today. 

Yeah, and we all liked different kinds of music. I played the piano from the second grade all the way through college. I was a music major in college and that was my main instrument. I played the flute from seventh grade into college as well. I sang in a few choirs and took voice lessons and stuff, so I really had, and still do have, an affinity for classical music and jazz. And some more regular genres like rock and indie rock and hip hop and stuff like that. 

So it’s far spanning. 

Yeah, people will say, “So you must really just like techno,” and I’m like, “Well, actually techno is a sub genre of electronic music, but I like all this other stuff too,” and it’s funny because I think people will say, “Oh that’s what I have to talk to you about,” and it’s like, “No.” [Laughs]

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‘Trying to do something that you like is always a challenge’ An interview with Adam Schlesinger of Fountains of Wayne

Fountains of Wayne / Violeta Alvarez

After 15 years together, New York-based band Fountains of Wayne has proven it has what it takes to withstand the test of time. Bassist and songwriter Adam Schlesinger attributes the band’s longevity to maintaining personal space and doing what feels right at the time.

By doing what feels right, Schlesinger has made some significant achievements as well, including writing the hit song “That Thing You Do!” for the popular Tom Hanks movie, being nominated for a Tony award and co-writing a Broadway musical. 

Fountains of Wayne just released its fourth album “Sky Full of Holes” in August. The new record maintains the ever poppy and upbeat vibe for which the band has become known while also providing some relaxed and slightly melancholy ballads. 

A few weeks following the album’s release, Schlesinger took some time out to talk with me about songwriting, Broadway and taking naps. 

Jessica Lackey: I have to tell you, I’ve been listening to your recent album, “Sky Full of Holes,” and I’ve found myself singing “Richie and Ruben” in my head for about the last three days.

Adam Schlesinger: (Laughs) Yeah, sorry about that. 

No, I love it! I’m excited, it’s a good thing. I find myself singing “Richie and Ruben” and “Action Hero” a lot. I know that those are more narrative songs. Can you tell me a little more about the process in writing those songs?

Those are both songs of mine. You know there are two songwriters in the band, myself and Chris Collingwood, and those two are songs of mine. A lot of times when I write I start out with a little lyrical idea of some kind and that was the case with both of these songs. I kind of started from the beginning and came up with a little scenario for each one and then just followed it. Sometimes I don’t really know what the song is going to be about, but I just keep adding lines to it and see what the story becomes. That’s kind of what happened with both of those songs. 

What song do you think you relate to the most on the album?

Well, I relate to all of the ones that I wrote, to some degree. My songs aren’t usually directly autobiographical, they are usually indirectly autobiographical, like I’ll make up a story but I’ll put little details in from my real life sometimes, or at least, I’ll use a setting that I know. 

The one song on the album that is pretty much directly autobiographical is called “Radio Bar” and that’s a real place in New York that we used to hang out at and all the people in that song are real and it’s kind of a nostalgic little song about a period in the mid ’90s when we used to hang out there a lot. 

I read in an interview earlier this year with Chris, that you tend to be a little more disciplined when it comes to writing. With that being said, how do you maintain your focus as you are writing? I know you do a lot of writing outside of the band.

Well sometimes it’s just because I have a deadline and so I don’t really have a choice. I just have to get something finished. I mean, that’s especially true for, you know, television or for film. There’s not really time to sit around and have a existential crisis about it, you just have to do it. 

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“That space really needs to be there” An interview with Kelly Willis

Kelly Willis

It is physically impossible to be sad or bummed out when listening to Kelly Willis. Her voice, so gracefully soft, smooth and simply lovely, radiates an energy that immediately puts the soul at ease.

Willis began her musical career when she was only 16 years old, singing in a rockabilly band with then boyfriend Mas Palermo. Several years later in 1989, Willis signed with MCA Records and began her solo career. Since then, this charming countrypolitan has done it all. She has performed all over the country, released nine albums, changed record labels, married fellow country singer-songwriter Bruce Robison and gave birth to four beautiful children, just for starters.

In 2008 Willis took a break from traveling and performing on the road to focus on her family, but she never stopped working on her music. Now as a duo, Willis and Robison have taken to the road once again and will perform together at Twangfest 15 on June 9 at the Blueberry Hill Duck Room.

On Memorial Day, Willis was nice enough to take some time out to talk with me on the phone and get some insight on her life, her family and her future.

Jessica Lackey: I understand that your musical interests started at a fairly young age and I was wondering what was the driving force that first got you interested?

Kelly Willis: Music was always a part of my life because my mother was always singing and in musicals. I think maybe falling in love with the whole early rock and roll, you know, like the Buddy Holly sound, that kind of simplistic music and it really just drove me.

It was kind of outside of what my friends were listening to and it also seemed doable, it seemed learnable (laughs) because it was so rudimentary. I found it really exciting and when I first got the opportunity to sing in a band it was just like a light bulb went off, and even though I was incredibly shy and really ill-suited to be on stage it was like, I don’t know, just finding a passion or finding a hobby or something that you knew you could spend hours and hours and hours doing, I just wanted to dive into it.

What was the first band you played in?

It was called Kelly and the Fireballs and it was a rockabilly band.

And that was when you were about 16 or so?

Umm-hmm, I was in high school and the guys in the band had just graduated so I was just a senior and…that was my first band.

What was the first album you ever bought?

The first album I ever bought was a Ventures record and then the second, unfortunately, was Kajagoogoo (laughs).

That’s awesome.

I know I was at the record store and I had no idea. It was between either that and Bananarama, because I liked the titles, and I don’t know why but I went with the Kajagoogoo (more laughs).

How did you meet your husband, Bruce?

We were both here in Austin. Austin was kind of smaller back then, it was the late ’80s and just the music scene, if you were playing in any band at all, then you kind of were aware of each other, so we were just kind of around each other.

But I was married and he had a girlfriend and it wasn’t really something that ever really crossed our minds, but then a little while later when I was separated and he wasn’t dating this girl anymore, we both got really drunk one night and he grabbed me and kissed me and the rest is history (laughs). Yeah, he grabbed me and put me in a poison ivy bush, unfortunately, so we were both covered in poison ivy for two weeks.

Oh my goodness.

I know, it was a lovely start.

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Album review: Jessica Lea Mayfield seduces on ‘Tell Me’


Jessica Lea Mayfield
Tell Me

Jessica Lea Mayfield’s sound is like a silk negligé; soft with an innocent facade yet sultry, seductive and maybe a little dangerous.

With love sick lyrics and a provocative blend of country rock, pop, blues and indie rock, the 21-year-old singer-songwriter’s new album Tell Me could easily be the soundtrack to a summer love fling.

The Kent, Ohio native was born into music, traveling and performing with her family’s bluegrass band, One Way Rider when she was only eight years old. After a break up with her first boyfriend at age 15, heartbroken Mayfield began writing her first solo album.

Two years later, the White Lies EP was released and caught the attention of Black Keys singer and guitarist Dan Auerbach. Since then, Auerbach has pushed Mayfield’s career forward, inviting her to perform at Black Keys’ shows, helping her in the studio and producing her last two albums.

In both lyrics and music, Tell Me is a raw depiction of what a young lover’s mind endures with feelings of inadequacy, torment and selfishness matched with elation, arousal and wonderment.

The track “Somewhere in Your Heart” is a dark and hair-raising portrayal of love-crazed rejection with heavy drum patterns, throbbing piano and eerie, screeching waterphone.

“Blue Skies Again” is a stark contrast with a pop-infused sound, cheerful melody and uplifting, layered chorus that creates an image of winter melting away into the clear sky of spring. “Nervous Lonely Night” is equally bright with swirling extraterrestrial-like flutters and light-hearted vocals while Mayfield sings satirically about going crazy.

In “I’ll Be the One You Want Someday” Mayfield’s bluegrass roots are revealed with twangy, echoing guitar, stacked vocals and tormented lyrics about self perfection.

Although Mayfield’s voice is front and center throughout the album, Tell Me‘s dynamic music breathes new life — and love — into the singer-songwriter genre.

Jessica Lea Mayfield performs at Off Broadway on May 13.

Jessica Lea Mayfield – “Our Hearts Are Wrong” by Nonesuch Records

Concert review: The Decemberists and Justin Townes Earle defy expectations at the Pageant, Wednesday, April 27

Decemberists / CJ Foeckler

The air outside the Pageant last night was uncharacteristically quiet and calm for a sold-out show. The relaxed crowd that lined up along both sides of the venue in the cold and pattering rain waited patiently to see the Decemberists and Justin Townes Earle play.

Inside the venue, the atmosphere remained laid back as well. For a second, the fans led me to believe that they weren’t really excited to see the show after all.

But as the pre-concert medley music of bluegrass and blues intensified, signaling that the show was about to begin, the crowd grew visibly anxious. When the lights went black they let loose, cheering, yelling and clapping.

Justin Townes Earle emerged on stage under a single spotlight, tall and lanky, dressed in white high-water pants, a grey jacket, brown boat shoes and oversized glasses. Alongside him was fiddle player Josh Hedley with a seemingly shy demeanor, a full beard and a small cowboy hat.

Together, they played a short, unrestrained and rustic set of country blues songs that were fervent and rousing. In a deep, thunderous voice, Earle howled lyrics so wildly that he stood on his tip toes. He strummed his acoustic guitar with such precision and depth that at times it sounded like two guitars were playing. As he sang, he hunched over the microphone and swiftly moved his feet in awkward movements adding to his classically southern nature.

Hedley was quick on the fiddle and vocally commanding as he accompanied Earle. In between songs, Earle delighted the audience with comical short stories that helped to introduce the next song. By the end of the set, the crowd was “lubed up,” as Earle put it and ready for more.

The Decemberists’ performance began with a controlled and effortless disposition, much like their most recent album The King is Dead, but the show as a whole was as obscure, moving and uplifting as the music for which the group has become recognized.

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