Hometown Highlights: MoonCity, AA Diamond, Ring Of Skulls + more

Would you look at all these tracks? There are 13 of them. You've got avant-garde pop about celebrity couples, ambitious freestyles, long lost weirdo punk jams, and teary-eyed piano ballads. I'd start listening now if I were you.

MoonCity - "Blonde"
Readers should probably get used to seeing at least one entry from a member of No Alternatives on here. MoonCity has apparently spent some time out of town and this is only the second song available on his SoundCloud, but "Blonde" is a track coursing with energy. The auto-tuned hook and piano lick combo allow this one to hit the ground running. Imagine racing down a dark freeway in a muscle car to this.

Ring Of Skulls - "Pediaphile"
It's unclear whether this EP by Ring Of Skulls was simply absent from the internet or completely unreleased until last month, but either way, it's interesting as all hell. According to the release's Bandcamp notes, two DIY rock musicians in their twenties (Andrew Luker and Jeffrey Rocketmild) met a homeless man in his forties (Andrew Oliver) working at the Linda Hall Library of Science and Technology. They bonded over their passion for music and recorded this EP together in 2001, shortly before Oliver's death. Most of the EP is relatively chaotic, but this song shows the group at its most composed, and not too far off from late-era Minutemen. It's equal parts punk, weirdo, and music nerds having fun together.

Calrie - "IDWPA"
Kansas City-born musician Carlie Johnson released her debut EP at the beginning of 2017. Her first single since "Pasadena" is short for "I don't wanna party anymore" and it's one of the best ballads to emerge from the area all year. Johnson weaves somber harmonies together over a supremely modest and understated melody generated from combining a warm piano line with a distorted synth. Consider this another strong bullet point on Johnson's resumé as a full-package singer-songwriter.

Scammers - "Kim & Kanye"
It's hard to tell what Phil Diamond is getting at in the first minute of this song, but when he cries, "We could be like Kim and Kanye," it all makes sense. This avant-garde pop anthem doubles as a tribute to the power couple and an invitation to a worthy lover. The song's massive melody and blown-out electronic instrumentation make it an instant hit and a choice track to blast from a boombox outside a crush's window.

Pistol Pete - "Only Opponent"
This track won't get any love outside of Kansas City and that's okay. "Only Opponent" is the final track on Pistol Pete's third release, "The 3 Pete," and perfectly distills Westport's hip-hop scene into one song. The song's beats and lyrics don't conform to what's trendy, Pete's raps are speedy and full of nuance, and the track closes out with a field recording of Buzzard Beach shutting down for the evening. "Only Opponent" will never be blasted from stacks at a Sprint Center mega-show. It's destined to be cued up at 1 A.M. inside The Riot Room with a couple dozen friends bouncing along to it. Pete knows that, and that's what makes it so endearing.

Inner Altar - "Castle Storm" (Live)
One of Kansas City's finest stoner rock outfits has a new LP on the way. For those champing at the bit, Inner Altar has released a digital-only live album that includes several unreleased cuts. "Castle Storm" is one of those new tracks and vocalist Andrew Snow is at his most powerful on it.

Zarin Micheal - "Exotic Freestyle (Foreign Boy)"
Last week Zarin Micheal temporarily dropped an EP of unfinished, unreleased material. Those songs were clearly the product of countless hours of work, inside and outside of the studio. They're no longer on Zarin's SoundCloud, but a new freestyle is there to replace them. "Exotic Freestyle" is likely the product of one slightly inebriated evening in the studio. Even in this casual setting, when Zarin likens himself to 2Pac, listeners should still take him for his word. He dances over this scurrying piano beat like no other Kansas Citian could.

Reach - "That Work" (ft. DanaMarie)
Reach released his first project back in 2004. His fifth, titled "Nothing Gold Can Stay," is out now and features a Kansas City rapper who is still very much on top of his game. "That Work" is a potent tribute to the art of being an emcee -- an art that won't die as long as Reach holds a microphone.

AA Diamond - "Elevator"
AA Diamond sounds right at home on "Elevator." The young Kansas City rapper hops on this swanky instrumental and pushes all the right buttons; her flow and delivery are dialed in just right. Will she make it to the top? There's only one way to find out.

Marion X - "My Element" (ft. Vegas and Virtue Vuitton)
This one just feels good. Kansas City rapper Marion X tackles a soulful beat with rugged, East Coast-style flows and a load of raw determination.

Sahvannes - "Trust Issues"
Sahvannes' transformation from skateboarding, art-loving emcee to mean-mugging, pistol-toting boss seems to be nearing completion. "Trust Issues" is his toughest single yet and sets the mood for his upcoming mixtape.

The Xtraordinair$ - "drk BRWN $gr"
The groovingest duo in town is back with a sprawling new mix. "Uncle Junie's Mixxx" compiles R&B and soul tracks from the late 20th century and crafts them into something even smoother than before. The end result sounds like it could soundtrack a '70s exploitation film and this remix of D'Angelo's "Brown Sugar" is works like a charm.

Stik Figa & ConductorWilliams - "Oh Please"
Top City rapper Stik Figa and Kansas City producer ConductorWilliams have teamed up for five projects in the past. Whether "Oh Please" is a one-off or a sign of another album to come, it's always a pleasure hearing this duo together.

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