Seven-inch singles are still the best way to get to know a band. If you can't kick out the jams in under four minutes per side, perhaps the rocking life just isn't for you. The end of the summer brought a few new 45s from two venerable local acts, both building off of and refining what came before.
Sleepy Kitty's "Don't You Start" (nerd alert: white vinyl) is the first dispatch of the duo's sessions at Jason McEntire's Sawhorse Studio, which will be contained on a forthcoming release. The song is a little less of a sound-collage than some of the tracks on Infinity City, built around Paige Brubeck's chugging guitar and multi-tracked vocals, though it's nice to hear Evan Sult's harmonies pushed up in the mix.
"Don't You Start" is a reminder of what the band does well at its best -- a gradual acceleration of energy and emotion that is mirrored by the tastefully noisy layering of fuzz and fury. Even if "Don't You Start" finds its way to the next Sleepy Kitty LP, you'll still want to grab the 45 for the B-side, a home recording of the 1934 pop number "All I Do Is Dream of You." Points to Brubeck and Sult for digging deep in the Great American Songbook for this almost-standard, which was recorded with the requisite sweetness and a pop-punk urgency that cuts right through on the demo recording. For a band that has wrangled Gershwin's "Summertime" and Lennon/McCartney's "I Saw Her Standing There," the pop songbook remains a bottomless wellspring for Sleepy Kitty.
St. Louis-via-Edwardsville quintet Kentucky Knife Fight released its initial vinyl offering this summer as well (nerd alert: green marble vinyl) after recording with David Beeman and Kit Hamon at Native Sound Studio. "Misshapen Love" takes the A-side with a burst of bright Memphis horns and a rumbling rhythm section. Singer Jason Holler sounds enlivened by the brass and guitarists Curtis Brewer and Nate Jones working in some hot licks in between. "Love the Lonely" reverts back to the band's signature noir-blues brand of rock & roll, but the best bits come in the whispered verses, where slinky guitars and Nathan Jatcko's keys can breathe before a basher chorus. (And it's worth tracking down the song's Taxicab Confessions-inspired video, shot by First Punch Film Productions, in which Holler carts around a coterie of night-owl lowlifes and a few recognizable scenesters.)