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Audio Agitation: Guitars, guitars everywhere

A series of Stratocaster style guitars rendered in dark purples and bright greens splashes across the page.
Laura Heidotten | St. Louis Public Radio

It can be hard to keep guitars sounding fresh in the face of so much experimentation in contemporary music. Guitars are often paired with electronics or heavily processed when they appear in pop music, if they appear at all. Yet, three St. Louis groups have released excellent songs in the past month that place the guitar front and center.

One group draws on jam culture and the solid warmth of 1970s rock and roll. 

Another group looks to the 90s, and the rise of strong female-fronted indie bands.

A third group hangs somewhere in between, fusing guitar chops with hard-driving rock and heavier metal influences.

Vandeventer: Guitarist and singer Mike Wehling released his first album under this moniker in early May. The album "Trainyards and Graveyards" positions the group somewhere between Steely Dan and late-era Grateful Dead. Nate Carpenter’s keyboards provide texture to the songs, a couple of which feature solid saxophone work by Ben Reese.  But they keep the focus on guitar, with Wehling providing the rhythmic structure and some wah pedal-infused solos throughout. Song titles like "Southside," "Vandeventer" and "The Arena" expose Wehling’s strong allegiance to the city that helped gestate his songs. 

Sleepy Kitty: The beloved St. Louis duo of guitarist/vocalist Paige Brubeck and drummer Evan Sult, Sleepy Kitty has been featured in St. Louis Magazine, The Post-Dispatch and on St. Louis Public Radio. Since relocating to St. Louis from Chicago, Brubeck and Sult have released a handful of EPs and full albums — and produced work with local theater companies. A few years back, they even performed beneath a laser show at the St. Louis Science Center. The pair will release a new album in June. "Mockingbird" is the first song released from that album.

Tok: Guitarist Bryan Basler, bassist Matt Basler and pianist Matt Sawicki have been gaining more attention over the last couple years. Their songs evoke those of great guitar bands like Dinosaur Jr. and Built to Spill, incorporating solid solos, thick bass lines and a kind of tongue-and-cheek songwriting approach.  Just check out their Tarantinoesque video for the song "Cult Hero," in which marshmallow bunnies on patrol as police become embroiled in some serious conflict and corruption.

Audio Agitation is a recurring six-song playlist culled from recent releases or shaped by events on St. Louis' ever-changing music scene. If you're from the STL area or Missouri and you're putting out a record you think we should hear, send a heads up to warnold@stlpublicradio.org.

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