Local music fans (and regular Ink readers) may recall “The Empty Spaces” as the title of Kansas City songwriter Mat Shoare’s 2010 album. The Empty Spaces band — including bassist William Wright and drummer Ross Brown — formed around Shoare to record that album and have stuck together since. The four songs on “Low Noise” mark the group’s debut recording as The Empty Spaces.
There’s some overlap between “Low Noise” and Shoare’s solo record: Two songs here are reworked tracks from “The Empty Spaces” album. One, “Mind Over Matter,” was the title track from that album in its earlier state. Yep, that’d be “The Empty Spaces,” the song. Confused yet?
Aside from the recurring title, there’s little to confuse, actually. Comparing Shoare’s solo output to The Empty Spaces is like comparing Golden Delicious apples to Honeycrisp apples: They’re the same fruit with a different flavor. It’s up to the individual palate whether one is better than the other, but both are quite good. Perhaps the most noticeable difference is that in band context, Shoare skips the reflective, singer-songwritery tracks in favor of more energetic rock material.
For the two songs we’ve heard before — “Mind Over Matter” and “Starting Over” — even listeners familiar with the prior versions may have to A/B the two versions to catch that they’re not identical. The overall feel is a bit looser, the sound a bit more live and less polished but no less enjoyable.
The irony of such a young fella singing about being “alone for so many years” in “Mind Over Matter” carries over from the earlier version, but as before it’s a fine song nonetheless. The two new tracks, “Working With the Wind” and especially “Is She Coming Back Around,” sit well with the other songs to form a fun, cohesive whole and further distance the band from the acoustic-driven, folk-inflected sound of Shoare’s solo effort.
Vocals could be louder in the mix in a few spots on “Low Noise.” But perhaps having the instruments and vocals at similar levels adds to the feeling of the band effort, as opposed to sidemen backing a singer. In any event, “Low Noise” is a fine record worth a listen from a band to keep an eye on.