Only Anthony Kansas EP
(Self – June 19, 2015)
Review by Stig Rasmussen
First impressions can be deceiving. Anthony Kansas, an EP from the Nashville-based band Only, introduces itself with cover art of a scrub-brush filled desert and blue sky. Anthony, Kansas is the seat of Harper County on the southern border of the state and abuts Oklahoma. Despite some clear alt-country influences in the opening track, Only’s sound on this debut EP is much more in line with Britpop bands like the Stone Roses, albeit with a 21st century middle-American twist.
The first track, “OK Oklahoma”, clearly references another big fly-over state. The first track opens with a melodic, jangly take on alt-country. “OK Oklahoma” even has a harmonica join the guitar-bass-drums and keyboard setup. However, by the end of the track, Only’s clear Britpop inspirations shine through. There is a hint of this in the guitar bends that first appear at the 0:48 mark, but by the end, it’s clear that there is some misdirection. Despite the land-locked allusion in the title, the lyrics reminisce about travels on the sea. It makes for a great juxtaposition, and subversively sets up the listener for the rest of the EP.
“Trains at a Distance”, the second and strongest track, more accurately reveals Only’s sound. The Stone Roses influence is strong on this cut, ranging from the guitar tones and driving beat to the lyrics in the middle of the mix. “Trains at a Distance” starts out with the singer seemingly wistful and resigned to his fate, but ends on a positive note, with the final repeated verse “Hold it in for the warmth it’s been/ Like the last time/ I must’ve had a reason to come /But either way /Here I am.” The “Here I am” at the end shifts the emotional tone from resignation to a resolute, triumphant steadfastness, and the guitar and synthesizer buoy this emotional shift.
Lansing continues the where “Trains at a Distance” leaves off, but with a bigger, more sweeping sound. “Mr. Jewell,” the last and longest track, has crisp guitar tones swirl and dance around the drum beat. The upbeat sound of the band nicely balances pensive lyrics like “Don’t get left by yourself/Don’t get lost on the shelf/ And try to confide/In somebody else.” About midway through the song, the band pauses and breaks down, before restarting with Air-like synths prominently foregrounded.
Anthony Kansas is a strong debut EP. Only have some room to grow and progress as a band, but they seem to have a handle on their sound. Opener “OK Oklahoma” shows a playful side of the band, as if showing off how their Britpop heroes might reinterpret the kind of country tunes that inescapably emanate from the open windows of car radios in small towns like Anthony, Kansas. The rest of the album has the band confidently stretching out their take on welcomed Stone Roses signifiers, and ends with the gentle psychedelia of the back half of “Mr. Jewell”. At about 17 minutes long, it’s an easy listen, but it leaves me wanting more. Hopefully, Only are off somewhere working on their next release.