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Nevāda Nevada brings Kathryn Musilek home to Iowa City

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Nevāda Nevada w/ the Port Authority, Havlin, Elly Hofmaier

Trumpet Blossom Cafe — Sunday, June 3 at 7:30 p.m.

Former Iowa Citian Kathryn Musilek fronts Nevāda Nevada. — video still

Former Iowa Citian/current Brooklynite Kathryn Musilek has been writing and performing songs for a couple of decades now, as a solo artist and in Iowa bands like Burn Disco Burn. I first saw her play solo with her guitar on a bill with Ed Gray and was struck by her strong voice and songwriting. Her sense of humor was always close to the surface, as evidenced in the dancehall reggae “rub-a-dubs” she slipped in between verses.

She left Iowa City for Brooklyn, New York, where she founded Shark Party Media, which does PR and promotion for musicians and comedians. She still finds time for her music, though, and her band Nevāda Nevada just released Wild and Glowing, a six-song mini-album. They’ll be appearing at the Trumpet Blossom Cafe Sunday, June 3 (cover is $5).

The songs on Wild and Glowing are poppy and tuneful, but full of interesting details — a string section, violin and what Musilek calls the “Angry Lady Chorus.” One of the Angry Ladies, Alicia Berbenick has joined the group as a full member. The core of the group’s sound is Musilek’s piano playing, which provides the bass and rhythm, freeing guitarist Andrew Gerhan to provide counterpoint to Musilek’s singing. For a simple four-piece band, they sound loud even at normal listening volume. That’s partly a matter of Gerhan’s engineering and production.

It was never in doubt that Musilek could sing; she hits each note with confidence, perfectly in tune. The timbre of her voice recalls Carly Simon — but where Simon gets breathy, Musilek gets steely; she cuts through the thick band sound easily. Driving her songwriting and performance is a sense of righteous feminist anger, as in the song “Afraid of Heights” when she sings, “You have made me out to be a perfect little tragedy but just to set the record straight I don’t love I won’t miss I don’t need I don’t hate you.”

The strong debut single, “Anger Tango,” was a strong precursor to Wild and Glowing, a tale — again — of a woman’s anger that’s bold and forthright; the melody of the chorus seems to take off like a jet. There’s a hint of Kurt Weill and a dash of Amanda Palmer, but Musilek has a unique take on dealing with heartbreak: She’s kicking ass and taking names. And after a gazillion shows, she will be just as intense, fierce and funny on stage at the Trumpet Blossom as she is on this strong debut record.


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