Released July 2012 on newly minted Kansas City label Golden Sound Records, Hidden Pictures’ third LP Rainbow Records is a festival of open-window jams and summery anthems that finds the band hitting a high-spirited, fresh, and powerpop-inflected stride.
The distinctive chemistry of Richard Gintowt and Michelle Sanders is still the heart of Hidden Pictures’ songcraft, but Rainbow Records benefits from the added rhythmic firepower of drummer Cameron Hawk (better known as the reckless frontman of The Dead Girls) and bassist Erik Voeks (also a first-order songwriter in his own right). The whole mess was mixed to a sonically perfect wonderstew by Ed Rose, man-at-knobs for celebrated popsters like the Get Up Kids and Ultimate Fakebook.
While all of Richard’s shrugging romanticism is still intact, Rainbow Records touches on a new theme: the bittersweet decline of the music industry. “Calling Christine” salutes an aging partygirl who gets drunk and dances to ‘80s music to the chagrin of lookers-on. “Solo Record Shop” is an elegy to once-great songwriters who have lost their touch. “Oldies 104.3” lambastes the oldies format for becoming watered down with bloated ‘70s megahits. “Rainbow Records” contemplates the death of the CD while paying homage to the suburban Chicago record store Richard frequented as a teenager.
Most importantly, Rainbow Records is a heartening, sophisticated, and riotously fun record from a band that has consistently demonstrated a knack for perfect pop portraiture.
Prologue, or “Love at First Glockenspiel Plink”
Hidden Pictures began in 2008, when Michelle crashed the all-boys party that was the final lineup of Richard’s longstanding band OK Jones. Stepping up as backup singer, glockenspiel plinker, and, above all, artistic muse, Michelle brought new harmony to Richard’s table, which previously had been wrought with driving, Americana-tinged indie pop.
As Hidden Pictures, the duo released a self-titled debut of clever acoustic ballads about the joys and foibles of romance that laid the thematic foundation for the more adventurous work to come. Seeking to flesh out their sound, Richard and Michelle assembled a backing band of musicians and studio wonks representing the best of their native Kansas City scene (including former OK Jones keyboardist Nate Holt). The newly expanded Pics produced two crisp EPs (Choosing Sides, Whitney Houston) before turning out the acclaimed 2011 full-length Synchronized Sleeping.
A fully-realized gem of reverb-laden hooks, tight harmonies, and Richard’s wry and sweet commentary on the push and pull of relationships, Synchronized Sleeping featured numbers like the pro-argument anthem “Choosing Sides,” the infectious library love story “Anne Apparently,” and the winking slowdance “For the Sake of the Streak.”
After dropping the two-song Tangerine EP and twice being nominated for Best Pop Band by Kansas City altweekly The Pitch, the Pics hit the studio with a new lineup to record a new set of songs to make your girlfriend want to break up with you less.
by Jason Harper, former music editor of The Pitch