Will Shenton

MAH KEE OH's new single, "Uppercut," is an exercise in freeform projection. Grahm Robinson, the Denton, TX multi-instrumentalist behind the moniker, combines his signature washed-out guitars and hazy vocals with a DIY collage of faces that give rise to a hundred little stop-motion narratives and vignettes. According to the artist, it was inspired by feelings of aimless confusion, and he succeeds in channeling those into a sort of audiovisual Rorschach test.

"Uppercut" is a mesmerizing track, taken from MAH KEE OH's forthcoming EP, Shoplifting Can Get You Killed. It's nostalgic on every level, from the slacker-rock sound to the mid-century magazine cutouts, and I'm reminded of a somewhat sludgier version of Oakland songwriter Perhapsy. The instruments are so deeply layered that any one of them coming to the forefront manages to surprise, and yet each voice is still discernible on a close enough listen.

Delightfully ambiguous, "Uppercut" is a refreshing detour into a world where concrete interpretations don't really matter. It's okay to feel lost, and sometimes our most indiscriminate wanderings give rise to our most beautiful ideas. We're excited to see where MAH KEE OH goes from here.

REVIEW: Pageantry - Influence

Raquel Dalarossa

Spring is a doozy of a season. It can be invitingly warm one day and frigidly cold the next, sunny and then suddenly rainy (or even snowy, if you’re a Bostoner). We navigate these months a little apprehensively but also appreciatively, taking notice as buds start to bloom, regardless of the volatile world around them. Even though each day is a surprise, spring somehow always feels soothing and rejuvenating.

When it to comes to music, spring calls for something just as versatile, and Pageantry’s full-length debut is the perfect match. Influence is a “pop-gaze” album that feels rousing yet laid back, hazy yet vividly picturesque—a sound that’s capable of complementing gray skies just as well as balmy temperatures.

Influence plays like one long dream sequence, mostly thanks to seamless, swift transitions between each of the nine tracks. And beyond the smaller details, there’s also a general effortlessness and elegant nuance to the band’s instrumental movements. Even when they abruptly switch gears—say, for example, from punchy and heavily percussive to totally relaxed and woozy in “Love to Lie”—they still manage to maintain a very natural flow, as though the band know exactly where their melodies need to go.

The three-piece band, made up of Roy Robertson on vocals, synth, and guitar, Ramon Muzquiz on percussion, and Pablo Burruli on bass, clearly work very well together. For those familiar with Robertson’s earlier solo work, which was notably praised and adored in his local area of Denton, TX, the polished and lush quality of Pageantry’s work is likely no surprise. Robertson’s been writing and producing his own music since roughly 2010, and Pageantry’s debut EP, Friends of the Year, came out in 2013 to similarly high praise. As a cumulation of all these efforts, Influence feels confident and accomplished.

Much of the album turns out to be back-and-forth instrumental jamming, which explains why their songs are generally lengthier than the norm (the shortest one here clocks in at barely under four minutes, but most hover near the five-, six-, and seven-minute marks). The instrumental work never approaches tediousness, though, thankfully; rather, it’s always engaging and graceful, as with the minute-long jam found at the end of “Teenage Crime Wave.” There’s a mellow ebb and flow to these tracks, with lots of synth and psychedelic effects mixed in that give off just a slight air of Tame Impala, but there are also more athletic, overtly pop-leaning tracks. “Caution” is certainly a highlight, with a hooky guitar riff that instantly appeals to the ear, and “Turquoise” is another catchy stand out.

Ultimately, there’s a whole lot to take in with Influence, but it all washes over you like a gentle wave of clear, glacial water. Just like spring itself, it’s an album that seems to reawaken your senses. When Robertson wails “The world is yours, when you ask it to be” (“Number One”), you start to get the feeling that the whole record is nudging you to do just that. Go ahead, ask it.

PREMIERE: Mah Kee Oh - One Footed

Laura Kerry

“Two rhythm section dudes attempting to play guitar and write songs together.” This is the self-effacing way that Grahm Robinson and Gunnar Ebeling characterize the duo that they call Mah Kee Oh. On their debut album, One Footed, this description both does and does not do them justice. Their affinity for the rhythm section is clear across 11 tracks whose voices—both human and instrumental—blend together into a subdued wall of sound, only occasionally popping out with effectively crisp emphasis.

But “attempting” doesn’t quite cut it for their music. On One Footed, Denton, Texas–based Mah Kee Oh show adeptness both with their instruments and at songwriting. Triangulating somewhere in the vast distance between Nirvana, Elliott Smith, and The Strokes, their fuzzy rock songs hit all the right marks. With the right combination of minimal melodies, simple intertwining guitar and bass lines, and dynamic drumbeats, they’ve created a filled-in debut.

There’s no need to reassure Mah Kee Oh against their inclination towards self-effacement; on One Footed they harness it as relatable and endearing material. On “Be With You,” an upbeat yet heartsick tune, in a melody that bleeds intriguingly into its next lines, they sing, “She’s so sweet but she still intimidates me / I cant find the confidence to ask her to be mine.” At the end of “Someday,” an outlier on the album with its folky acoustic picking pattern and foregrounded vocals, the singer proclaims, “And if you say / let’s go our separate ways / I’ll try not to let it get me down.” After a song filled with modest dreams to tie-dye shirts and eat ice cream with an object of affection, the quiet agreeableness of this statement is touching and sad.

Not everything is indie-rock earnestness, though. Mah Kee Oh also masters more offbeat ideas, imbuing the album with some delightfully unexpected moments. In “Running In Place,” they explore a more psychedelic sound and theme; in the all-instrumental interlude, “Beneath The Whirlpool,” they produce a more synth-driven, bubbly feel; and in the title track, a song whose distorted guitar falls on the Nirvana point of the triangle but whose muted vocals fall on the Elliott Smith one, they create a dark and off-kilter space to get lost in. Here and elsewhere on One Footed, the effacement is directed toward the listener, who is erased in the noise.

Beneath all the deprecation (self and otherwise), it’s possible to detect an optimistic sentiment, an acknowledgement that even if nothing is perfect now, the best is yet to come. On the opener, “Chasing the Sun,” an urgent-feeling, bass and drum–driven road trip song, they sing, “every day a new experience awaits,” while “Someday,” as its title and refrain suggests, looks forward dreamily. After listening to their successful debut, I can’t help but echo that idea: Something good is definitely coming for Mah Kee Oh.