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editor's note
Key Note Speaker
The Musical
(Heatstroke Records)
by Sara Huguenard

For their sophomore release, Seattle band Key Note Speaker chose to pursue the concept album. A particularly bold endeavor, since in order for a release of this nature to appeal to the masses it must be able to lead its audience through the narrative without turning the story into melodrama or leave them feeling as though the songs are destined along some planned lineage to a premeditated outcome. For the journey that is
The Musical, the four members of KNS--Scott Gallagher (vocals, guitar), Edmund O’Brien (bass), Chris Olson (keys) and Joe Clouden (drums)--along with legendary indie producer Jack Endino, pull it off flawlessly, creating an anthology whose compositions are just as strong independently as they are as part of the whole. What results is quite possibly one of the most distinct and intelligent albums of the year.

One of the qualities most immediately apparent in Key Note Speaker’s music is their uncanny ability to channel the souls of their influences in such a manner that one can actually feel the presence of those who inspired the piece, while not presenting a blatant rip off. With a diverse background of mentors, and compositions accentuated by unique individual talents to support this, in coming together they have created a remarkable “color palette” that can be identified as completely their own. It is this range that resonates throughout The Musical--quite possibly never has such genuine homage to Cobain and The Eels, among others, been released previously.

While obviously not wanting to divulge too much of the storyline by offering my own interpretation of it, the album, presented in two acts, examines the confusion of our modern world, delving into society’s maniacal tendencies and how the individual responds--exploring personal conflict, vulnerability, desires, hope and resignation, and ultimately, how it translates outwardly. A premise easy enough to understand, seeing as numerous artistic works have used these central concepts as their focus. But with The Musical, each song expounds on the emotion of its predecessor, with the entire production reaching its crescendo in a scorching cover of Tom Waits’ "Goin’ Out West," whose roaring beat literally sends shivers down the spine. And while the inclusion of this song is somewhat confusing as part of the overall story, since it was incorporated as an encore it doesn’t necessarily need to integrate.

In the end, if KNS proves one thing with
The Musical it is that they are not a flash in the pan that will be continually rehashing the same melodies or dragging you along some predictable sing-song methodology years from now, but rather a band that will continue to challenge their audience. If there is not already a place for them in your collection I recommend creating one. Without question, Key Note Speaker possesses the talent to go all the way to the big leagues in this business and spend a very long time within those ranks.

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