We’ve always known local Kansas City indie rockers Hidden Pictures to lean more towards the poppier side of music, but they’ve nailed that practice with new album Rainbow Records. They’ve perfected that perky pop sound to a T. The record, which comes to us from Kansas City label Golden Sound Records, is full of upbeat music, but don’t let that fool you. It’s still full of sad-bastard lyrics and forlorn songs that tell of old loves and troubled relationships (primarily a troubled relationship with the music scene).
Hidden Pictures lets you know where they stand right off the bat with opening track “Calling Christine.” There is no mistaking the adorable and upbeat atmosphere that will continue to hold steady throughout the rest of the album. This should come as no surprise considering the veteran gaggle of indie poppers in the band, including frontman Richard Gintowt (who spent several years playing in Ghosty and OK Jones) and drummer Cameron Hawk (currently in The Dead Girls).
We’ve enjoyed several Hidden Pictures live sets in the past year, but with Rainbow Records we’ve detected a little more fuzzy guitar than what we’re used to hearing. The band also relies heavily on the glockenspiel during their live sets, but it has taken a back seat on Rainbow Records. It shows up briefly in the first track, but it isn’t until the fourth song on the album, “Say Hello To Darkuary,” until it makes another appearance.
Rainbow Records takes a sudden and tender turn with “Ricky,” starting off with the soft plucking of the acoustic guitar for the first portion of the song, only to be greeted by a delicate piano a short while later. The song picks up halfway through, but the lyrics remain somber. The next song on the album, “Swim,” continues the melancholy attitude.
Sometimes, pairing bittersweet lyrics with such cheerful music can leave albums with a split personality disorder, but Rainbow Records succeeds by leaving the listener a little optimistic and hopeful for the album’s protagonist. By now, we’ve managed to warm up to our hero who appears to be falling out of love (with everything). We’re not throwing him a pity party, but we do understand what he’s up against and we want him to succeed. It’s hard not to root for our main character when he’s held such a sunny disposition through his music, even though the lyrics tell a different story. Hidden Pictures manages to help any lonely listener keep their head above water with their perfect indie pop sound.
If there’s anything this album does for the listener, it’s leaving them with high spirits and a few words of wisdom. On one of the album’s closing tracks, “It’s Just Me (And I’m Sorry),” Gintowt (and a lovely harmonizing Michelle Gaume Sanders) advise us “Love ain’t fair, but it is tough / You gotta ride it when it’s rough / Even when you’re black and blue, be true.” For leaving us with such direction, the best we can do in a grand gesture of gratefulness is to follow their advice, take their words to heart, and stay true. It’s almost like they want us to maintain our confident youth and innocence, and have whispered “Stay Golden, Ponyboy” into our ears as we walk off into the sunset, unsure of our future.
Bonus video! Here’s Hidden Pictures playing “Evil Kangaroo” at the I Heart Local Music Birthday Bash back in March:
Be sure to catch them at their album release show Sunday, July 15, at the Replay.