Saturday, October 21, 2017

Carmel Liburdi (Interview) - CD Release Show Nov 3

Carmel Liburdi
Release Show for Insomnia Slumber Party
Fri., Nov 3
Hamtramck Korner Bar
with J. Navarro & The Traitors
Nina & The Buffalo Riders
& Banjo Electric
More info

Carmel Liburdi has a power. She's conversing with you in song form, with each discussion point curled into a subtle melody. It's just her voice, her words, her guitar, and her eyes too... Unlike most singer/songwriters, she doesn't close her eyes during the zenith of a song's emotional impact, but instead opens her eyes wide and trains them right out into the audience, often connecting with the gaze of a specific person in the crowd. And that gesture, that expressive and engaging style she has, along with the forthright lyrics that spill it all in creatively poetic punches, makes you that much more aware of your own feelings.

Liburdi celebrates her latest album release on Friday, Nov 3rd at the Hamtramck Korner Bar; the album is called Insomnia Slumber Party. And to go back to her unique way of engaging with you, through a song, it is emblematic to the essence of her music that both the recordings and the performances are delivered with so much personality and charisma, and yet address or presents tougher subjects and wistful sentiments that most of us might typically like to avoid or suppress. She sweetens up whatever might be scenes of sadness with her mellifluous voice and sense for melody. So it encourages a more active self-contemplation..., and to not be afraid of that..., really. The vibe is one that acknowledges the dragging powers of distress or self-doubt or heart-break, but extols the restorative resolve of forging on.

What sets these newer songs apart in terms of how they felt to write them? 
The songs on this album are more about relationships than other albums of mine -- including my relationship with my own self. A lot of them were inspired by individual people, but I still broadened them a bit because I think it allows people to hear their own story within the song if I leave something to the imagination. There was a lot of introspection and metaphysical growing pains going on during the creation of these songs. I worked through a lot of things while writing them; the process allowed me to understand my feelings more. Some of the songs even surprised me a little, almost like a dream--it was like my subconscious mind coughed up some words and then my conscious mind learned from it. One huge thing is there are no piano songs on this album! Piano was my first instrument and my first album is almost entirely piano songs. I didn't intentionally rule it out, just the past couple albums I was on the road a lot more and I could never bring a keyboard so it naturally phased out a bit. I would love to bring it back though!

What has been some of your biggest motivations when it does come to putting a song terms of considering the ears that will hear them?
Well, I try to give people the most authentic form of my feelings in a way that I think they'll relate with. I aim for the connection. Sometimes I write something for someone to express a feeling to them (which happened a few times on this album actually), other times I see a story in other people's lives that I want to write about or I even create a character. Either way, I definitely write with the intention of reaching an audience and I try to balance the need for expressing myself with the need for others to feel understood. People and world events strongly motivate me.

Anyone encountering you for the first time would make the presumption that you're a folk singer... But you have such a percussive style to your playing and your singing that it feels that it has so much oomph - and it has so much more personality.... And oomph and personality are things people might associate with indie-rock or jazz or pop or punk - 
So that all being said... Who were some of your formative influences, or where do you draw the courage it takes to be vulnerable, to be minimal, to be very forthright in your craft? 
I grew up on a strange combination of show tunes, and jazz (as far back as 20s!), and grunge and 90's alternative. I also had a huge love for rap and r&b growing up, and as I got older I got in to pop rock, like Blink 182, and ska/punk, and found a lot of support from the punk community here in Detroit as a songwriter. My earliest influences while writing were bands like Queen, Foxy Shazam, Kimya Dawson, Say Anything, Panic! At the Disco, to name a few, and I think those bands inspired me to put myself out there more. But really it's tough to say where my sound comes from, I guess I just had a lot of feelings and I needed to express them and maybe it was the way I was raised, but I never had reservations about being direct with my lyrics.

In what ways will the last year's worth of performances, or even the last year's worth of experiencing the creation process of insomnia slumber party, influence/inform/change the way you might write or approach or perform your next piece of music? 
Seeing the personal turn that my writing has taken is something that's been interesting for me, and I hope I will continue to write from that place where I'm not judging or hiding myself. These songs represent a lot of maturing that I've done; huge and painful lessons that I've been learning. It's shown me a lot about myself. A lot of times when I write a song I'm deep in my feelings, and sometimes there's clarity that I don't reach until later about the song itself--sometimes even years later. I would say I was much more aware of what was going on within these songs when I wrote them, as opposed to other albums. So I think moving forward I'll be writing with more of that clarity--at least I hope!

Anything else to add about Insomnia? I remember you recorded, mixed and mastered Patron Saints by yourself in your basement...
The last album, I did everything myself. However, this album I designed the album art and merch and Steve Gualdoni did the recording and mixing. In terms of just the album in general, the name "Insomnia Slumber Party" really reflects what I was going through, literally and figuratively. It's about the struggle of darkness and light within yourself, and the good and the bad in life coming together in one ironic package that's maddening but kind of fun in its own way. 

More info

Friday, October 20, 2017

The Analog Lights: Song Premiere - "Excommunicated"

Singer/songwriter/producer and synth wizard Greg Aubry is releasing an EP under The Analog Lights moniker on November 25. "Excommunicated" is the first single from Phantom Limb. Aubrey brings a lot of emotion and energy with his voice, and he matched that intensity with his guitar playing in bands like Superbomb and Dead Letters. His past résumé's bullet points included vibes of post-grunge, Industrial, early 80's post-punk/art-pop and a shoegazey psychedelia. 

What's interesting about Analog Lights is that he's bringing those different dark rock n roll tides and cresting them into the synth-wave genre. Specters of Nine Inch Nails mix in with the chilly sleek drifts of Gary Numan or maybe the statcy-shimmering nocturnal meditations of Solvent. This single showcases Aubry's developing knack for threading these spacey synth sounds into an indelible, hooky kind of groove. The beats are an austere march but evoke a sense of ascension through the gusts of myriad analog synth intonations. 

And then there's that voice... Certainly not the nasal/extraterrestrial kinda tone you typically anticipate from voices leading songs like these, be it a Thom Yorke or a Newman, he's always had this melodic growl that would almost fit more into a blues/folk field, or at least that post-grunge grit - and it's enticing to hear it meld to the ambient electronica. 

A couple years ago, with Superbomb and Dead Letters inactive, Aubry decided to finally experiment with synthesizers. "I started to imagine an alternate timeline influenced by ‘The Terminator’ where Skynet took us out in 1997 and a retrofuturistic resistance whose pop-culture ended in the late ‘90s kept music going, underground. What would that sound like? I think at least some part of it would sound like The Analog Lights; dark, machine-like, introspective, but still dancy.”

That the song sounds urgent, or with this sense of pulling oneself forward almost as much for evasion as it is for progression, suggests Aubry's drive to push himself away from past forms and reach a new level. (No video game pun intended). Still, his pull toward electronica was seeded by retro video game soundtracks. But beyond shifting to a new form of musical arrangement, the song became about reckoning he experienced years ago...

“I was a young, brash, insecure artist surrounded by friends who were all likewise young, brash and insecure artists. Over time, though, I found out that my antics--such that they were--really got under the skin of my peers. All of us being passive-aggressive, though, people would be nice to my face and I’d have to find out through the grapevine that everyone hated me. We were frenemies before that was a thing. I stopped being invited to parties; mutual acquaintances would meet me and go ‘oh god, you’re him; uh, I’ve heard about you’. Thankfully, I learned from those times and got better both as a person and as an observer of people.”

Analog Lights ends the year on a high point, with Aubry having established the project as a contemporary with other local electro-havey artists like Queen Kwong, Voyag3r, Rogue Satellites, Audrey Burne, Belterra and Rottinghouse.

The galaxy of hear he's using to conjure the Phantom Limb EP includes an Akai XR20 drum machine, both Korg Monologue and Volca FM synthesizers, a Roland SH-32 synthesizer, and much more.

FacebookTumblrAnalog Lights perform TONIGHT at the Painted Lady in Hamtramck

Thursday, October 19, 2017

Tuesday, October 17, 2017


You never can tell what a Koala is thinking when you stare into one's eyes. That creature's facial features make for a great mask, utilized fully by obfuscated rap entity FRED. I wish I could tell you more about FRED. I'm going to try to, because I was able to ask some of its members about the new EP. Curiously,

I have my own conjectures as to who could be behind FRED..., likely a few suspects out of the Assemble Sound collective. But nothing confirmed. 

I would say that the idea is to subvert the schema where rapper as messenger or preacher gets muddled and confused into the cult of personality... When all we have are the void-like beady eyes of a Koala staring out at us from the album cover, no face, no name, no backstory, then the focus trains entirely on the lyrics.

"Are we certain what we see?" "Is trying even living?" "I'd ask my former self if he could tell if this is questionable..." Here's the EP...

But you can follow FRED on Twitter if you'd like to try to suss out a bit more elucidation... What's most stirring about the listening experience of the FRED EP is that it does become voyeuristic in a way, even though you have no face or personality to attach to it as you go in... You become a fly on a wall of a bit of a haunted house-like realm where FRED is pacing, pensive, contemplating, plotting, analyzing, resolving....becoming sharper, becoming more resolute, clearing his head, absolving his soul. And you have no idea who it is....

The beats facilitate the slow late night stagger, the meditative stillness, a burrowing. Like 1 a.m. nocturnes of elegant, ruminative self-discoveries, set to tiding bass and striding beats.


How much can you tell us about FRED?
FRED: Not much: Koala-esque.
Is Fred someone singularly, or does it become a band-name with you as collaborator?
Yes, and yes. FRED is both singular and universal.

Can you comment on the culture of hip-hop, how "the moniker," or the emcee, involves such an emphasis on personality, on self-expression, on making your notoriety as a lyricist intertwined with one's name, one's self...and how this subverts that? 
FRED: If it doesn't feel traditional, why treat it or release it that way? Would a FRED by any name sound as sweet? Probably. Even when you attempt to disconnect from a specific "moniker" another one will always form. The personality of FRED stays fairly direct in the music but otherwise very open to interpretation.

So....what else set this project apart, in terms of how you approached it? 
FRED: This project wasn't really approached, it just happened. A beat was made, raps followed and then three more until FRED had four songs. Concepts and relevance were never really discussed.

I always enjoy that you have your ear to the ground in the indie/electro & kinda geeky art-pop realms... Case in point: Architecture in Helsiniki in a rap song? I love it! That trend continues, but what are some other sublter nuances that you've been picking up along the way as a producer? Or what changes the way you work on an album like this, vs something from 2012? 
FRED: It's less about rules and more about feeling. Closer detail to layers and tones but still making plenty of room for the words to tell their side of the story. I guess that Architecture in Helsinki sample just felt like a great chorus for a rap song at the time. 

How do you think FRED will fit in (or not,) with the greater Detroit music scene/rap scene? 
FRED: Ain't up to me. That's on FRED. It'd be cool to see some FRED shows because there's a lot of feeling in those tracks that would be great if seen spilling into a crowd.

Monday, October 16, 2017

The Old Adage - Single Premiere: "Hollywood"

Mimi & Nino Chavez: The Old Adage
K. Caseo Photography 
"I don't want it to be the way I planned / I don't want it to be predictable..."

The Old Adage aren't afraid of pop music the way I've observed other bands to be.... I feel like some artists/songwriters kinda panic when they get to the cliffsides of super-catchy pop...Like they'll sacrifice some hipster-cred. The Old Adage ain't got time for that existential quandary over keeping one's edginess. It's not about that, really, it's just about embracing whatever comes out of their heads in the studio. Besides, why deny your ears a bit of "candy" now and then...

More than that, they've probably got a better appreciation for the overlooked charms of pop by now because the sibling duo of Mimi & Nino Chavez have been working on music together for a full half of their respectively young lives. Actually, as they told me: it's something less tangible. With songwriting, they bypass any of that panic of worrying about "a sound..." or "an image..."because they're approach is very much a just-let-it-happen, kinda thing...

And so what comes through on a lot of their 2016 album Cycles, as well as their brand new single, "Hollywood," is, above all, the effervescence of pop, but a blend of genres, from electro-snap dancefloor anthems to acoustic jangle-rock, coated carefully in the mix to let the vocals and harmonies shine through to the top.

"I think all of our influences really inspire our sound," Mimi said. "That could be whatever we're listening to in that time of when we're writing, but other than that, when we do write it's more like it just comes out of thin air; I have no idea how we do it..."

"We do have that similar DNA, though...," said Nino. "But I think that really helps us be on the same page when it comes to songwriting because we generally have the same ideas for the direction of the song, even though it never ends up 'there...' But we get to where we need to go and have similar visions for things."

Old Adage performing at Fanic Music Series, Detroit
photo by My Art My Rules
INTERVIEW with Mimi & Nino

Old Adage have been relatively MIA from local stages, at least here in Detroit. But that doesn't mean the duo haven't kept busy in other aspects of music. Mimi said that they've been focusing more on studio time, as well as developing their small business, Little Butter Records. Meanwhile, throughout the year, she was booking a few shows for some Old Adage ally bands and Nino was in the studio recording some other artists.

"We've just been focusing on writing a lot; we have a ton of new music in the works right now," said Mimi. "I feel like taking this break from being so out there on social media and on stage has really helped us devolope more as individuals. I think that is super important to have and keep because being an artist can really engulf you a little too much sometimes. You gotta stay human!"

"Hollywood's" production evokes the surfeit stimulus flash of a packed party, a dance deluge...with layered synths cascading around a top-notch techno-pop beat while Mimi's vocals are triple+ tracked in harmonies with each other in this ebullient call & response enveloped by meteorite guitar fuzz. They were already producing their own material for their first two albums, so this is an encouraging indicator of sounds to come...

"I think our biggest development has definitely been our songwriting and production," Nino said. "We had a friend tell us once "an artists favorite piece of work is always their newest piece of work" and ever since then I could really relate! I have a huge passion for sound...I'm constantly tweaking everything. If it were up to me we'd never release anything because it takes so much for me to be like "Ok it's ready". Mimi usually does some convincing

"And I think our biggest realizations this year have been staying true to ourselves," said Mimi. "Well..., that's speaking for myself at least. I feel like 2017 has been very much dedicated to me coming out of my shell. I'm not shy on stage or anything but I have been kind of shy in the past and really lowkey...I've really become a lot more comfortable and mentally and physically healthy. I'm really excited to express that through The Old Adage."

"This track is a really great re-starting point for us because there's a lot to come from it and the processes we are going to begin using,"Mimi added.

Nino considered the production on this new song to be a bit "bipolar." The verses are bouncy and happy and then it leads the listener into a very dark vibe in the chorus. "Our songs are usually a little all over the place. It's actually hard for us to get them to sound "normal" or "cohesive" a lot of times. Our style is a little weird and quirky....but we still badass, (laughs).... I've been really into a lot of EDM and pop lately (as I have been for a while) so a lot of that goes into my production influences."

Mimi, meanwhile, called "Hollywood" a dream song for her..., not just expectation wise, but that it came to her in a dream. "I think this is our most passion filled song because it's our latest and most life/experience filled track. "Lyrically it was just an idea of this great love. Like a boi... A perfect man. But that doesn't really exist so I wrote a song about it...!  The chorus is about that and the verses are more about not wanting life love or anything to be what's expected or boring. It's about keeping things exciting and life throwing you for loops. I think my terrible love life inspired this song lyrically lol so thank god for that?"

And then I ask them the question they have to field in almost every interview... about how their relationship, not specifically as family, but as collaborators, has changed over the years? Or, at least, what defines it....? What keeps them together?

And Mimi said that "...this year has been really different for our relationship. We've had a lot of phases where we really weren't very close. Our lives are a lot busier and I do think everyday life got in the way of The Old Adage a little bit this year...but like I said we have to be people as well as artists...we have responsibility like everyone else. The stress of everyday can get to us but music always brings us together."

And Nino assessed that they like to look at their relationship as a professional one. "We are closer than most siblings BECAUSE of our music. We do have a lot of the same friends and hangout outside of music but we try to not get too sick of eachother. We live together so that in itself can be enough sometimes! We're very alike and very different at the same time. I think this year really has made us grow apart in a healthy way. We are more on our own than needing to be "Mimi and Nino" everywhere we go which is a nice change of pace."

In the year ahead, The Old Adage plan on releasing a lot more singles, likely every few months. Sometime later on in 2018, they'll put together a new EP for release, but stressed that, they don't want to make any promises as of yet because of how much else they're both each working on at the moment.

"We really want (the new music) to be very polished and radio-ready, of course, and candy to your ears."

Saturday, October 14, 2017

Six for Saturday: Caveman & Bam Bam, Anna Burch, Friends of Dennis Wilson, Martez, JP from the HP, Kickstand Band

Every weekend, I run through six songs I've been listening to from new releases by Detroit-area bands or Michigan musicians.

These could be bands I've already written about this month, they could be bands that YOU already went to see live when they officially dropped these albums, or, potentially, it could be a song from a band that you've never heard before...

It's really just me keeping a catalog of what I'm listening to... And, probably most importantly, linking you towards their album streams so that you can check it out for yourself, download it, buy it, and maybe even see this band (or that band, or any band, here) at their next show.

Caveman & Bam Bam

Anna Burch

Friends of Dennis Wilson

Martez Claybren

Kickstand Band

JP from the HP

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

saajtak - "Spokes"

Immersive. The sensation that you're either slowly starting to levitate or submerge, the sustained vibratto pulsation of rock instruments like guitars and whirring cymbals, the swooning crest of psychedelic-operatics, the fusing of electric bass to acoustic upright, and the astral-plane ambiance of assorted synths.

Let's listen to a nine-minute song by saajtack, while you read the rest, below...

saajtak are a Detroit-based quartet whose trajectory includes the outer realms of jazz, rock, and electronica, excavating a captivating cache of sounds, noises and intonations in each of their nebulous symphonies. The rhythms keep a natural order, while the guitar, synth, and especially the vocals, defy the command of formal arrangements and seem to wonder with an uncanny purposefulness, freed from refrains or hooks and pulling you in, instead, with the entrancing whim of these purely original expressions. There are, however, still audible charms of the musical DNA from jazz standards, post-rock riffs, trip-hop's nocturnal traipse and electronica's pensive cascade.

But then, individual elements break free. The vocals attain escape velocities that pull you past the song's established stratospheres and you attain a mesmeric drift...The drums and bass thrumming below sustain a sense of orientation as the guitar and synth fill the periphery with atmosphere.

It's still too venturous for traditional rock radio, but "Underscore [_]" is a solid single!

It's concise, yes, but it also finds the band not only performing with the most urgency, but also demonstrating their knack for gracefully going form divergent individual phrasings into sudden interwoven threads of harmony. They call pop music escapist sometimes... But this is a whole other kind of escape... From whatever you need sanctuary from, be it "the norm," or status quo structures, or just unfocused thinking... saajtak shakes you up.

They released their latest album, Spokes, a couple months ago. This Friday, in Ann Arbor, they're performing at Encore Records. This is an hour-long set that starts at 8pmMore info  

Monday, October 9, 2017

The Erers (Interview) - New Single: "Broken Record"

Even before I first saw The Erers sometime back in 2014, I had a feeling I was in for something of a ferocious nature. Just by hearing that name, I felt like repeating it aloud required growling... The Detroit trio bring a driving, bashing, buzzsaw rock blend of classic 70's heavy stuff, threaded with garage-pop choruses that get caught in your head long after the show, when the ringing in your ears fade... 

photo by Tim Meeks

But what makes their breakout EP I Can Do Anything stand out is their dynamics. Feedback fuzz and distorted effects crash over you like a tidal wave, until they pare everything back in the bridge or a sparser dressed verse. The solos might sound like heavy metal, but there's a nuance to a lot of their turbulent arrangements, experimenting with an indie-art-pop aesthetic of switched-up time signatures before bringing the whole roaring jet engine back for a final chorus. 

Matt Riesterer is on lead vocals and guitar, Christopher Fitcher is on drums, and Jamie Winterbottom is on bass. The band's been building up buzz over the last year, and this Friday they've got a new single coming out on vinyl... The song's called "Broken Record," which you can hear later this week on WDET-FM's "Culture Shift" program, for "The Milo Minute" 

I spoke with Riesterer about the new song, the band's development, and the subtle gradations of going toward such a "heavy" sound...

Anyone encountering ERERS for the first time will pick up on how heavy it is, just in volume and energy. What drew you to that?
When I wrote the first EP I didn’t go in with the intention of making it heavy, distorted, crunchy garage rock. It just happened that way. I’ve always been very into Led Zeppelin and Queens of the Stone Age, so I basically just drew from those influences at first. Out of the six songs we put out on that first EP, I would say only two were really anything like what we’re playing today. But one of the biggest things that drew me in to this sound was a love for fuzz pedals. Love that dirty tone! Besides being really loud and fuzzy, one thing people will notice when they see us live, I mean, if they haven’t before, is our tightness as a group. We practice a couple times every week to feel each other out for when we jam live; a good chunk of our songs are in weird time signatures, so I think that sort of thing might go unnoticed  by the folks in it for just the garage-rock style.

What was your early, formative music experiences like growing up around here… What’s your take on Detroit’s music scene?
I grew up in Troy, so I was far up in the suburbs and didn’t get to experience the Detroit music scene up close until I got older and could drive down… I first got into music through my parents’ playing the radio on car trips; dad would always play oldies and rock stations and Motown, mom played more of the recent hits of the 90’s, so a lot of pop/rock. The first CD I ever bought with my own money was Songs For The Deaf by Queens Of The Stone Age, and that’s when I knew I wanted to play music. I got a guitar the next year…! I’d got to the Magic Stick to see shows all the time in high school but was only seeing some local bands opening up for bigger touring acts. Now that I’ve become more involved (in the local music scene), I really like how much Detroit is about the DIY style. Dally in the Alley is a great example of the Detroit music scene coming together with all sorts of different genres. There are a lot of great vendors as well, it makes me wish something like that happened more than once a year. The Hamtramck Music Festival has also grown so much in the past couple of years and it's just cool to watch as many bands as possible crammed into a weekend.

You guys were in Assemble Sound and working with Alex Kaye… What’s your take on that collective?
I love what's happening at Assemble though, Garret and Nicole have always been very welcoming and hard working. It's just really cool to see other artists in work mode when you're walking through the rooms. They did a project where they released a song every Sunday for a few weeks (called Sunday songs) and we had a song called Deja Vu. I wrote the guitar part at Assemble and Jax (Flint Eastwood) helped me with the melodies which was a highlight for me at Assemble. Chris and I recorded it in one go and I laid down the bass to finish it up right after to make it a pretty quick and easy recording session. We also shot some of our latest music video for our song Not What It Seems at Assemble with Goodpals (Jax Anderson and Nicole Shackleford)

Let’s talk about ‘Broken Record’ and just your approach to songwriting, overall…
We recorded and mixed the song at Key Club Recording Company in Benton Harbor with Bill Skibbe and also with some help from Brian Fox. Alex Kaye (of Assemble Sound) Mastered the song. When I'm writing songs, 99% of the time it starts with a guitar riff. I have thousands of voice memos and recordings most of which are a minute long building on a riff. A lot of songs are just a bunch of pieces put together. If I'm really lucky it'll start with a melody. Broken Record was an idea I had that came along with a riff I wrote. The riff came first and once the song was structured I added the lyrics. I think writing lyrics is usually the hardest part of a song for me, because a feeling of self consciousness comes along with it and I'm constantly erasing things and starting from the top trying to one up myself.

You mentioned earlier how tight you are as a live unit, and the way you guys have to read each other… Where’s the chemistry come from, what makes it work so well with you guys, be it here, or on the road?
Well, there are highs and there are lows just like any kind of relationship with people. I think the best highlight of a low is when we toured around a few spots in the Midwest and our van broke down in Middletown Ohio. I don't think anyone talked on the 4 hour drive back when we got everything sorted out. This was right after our most recent EP release of I Can Do Anything and we had to spend all of the money we just made from that on a new transmission for our van. So that was a huge bump in the road and it delayed us from being able to pay for recording a few new songs for a couple of months. On the flip side, when we pull off shows like that EP release, it feels really good to be able to work something like that out. There's so much planning and effort put into a show like that and when it's all done and over it leaves us on cloud nine.

Any other harrowing road experiences that helped you bond?
We recently went down to Cincinnati and Nashville this summer during a heatwave. It was 100 degrees at least for the whole weekend and our van doesn't have AC. And it was that good muggy heat, so despite it being the sweatiest weekend of the year (and probably my life) we had a great time traveling around with our friends Mr. Phylzzz from Cincinnati. I personally love touring, you get to see a bunch of new places and you get to meet a bunch of cool new people.

What’s up next?
Touring and getting in front of more people. We have a core base of enthusiastic fans in the area that we love and I'd just like to see that group grow. We've also discussed putting out a full length album - but I don't want to rush it.  I am looking forward to putting something like that together, though!


The Erers’ vinylrelease party
The Loving Touch
ft. Craig Brown Band, Trout, and Brother O’ Brother
All Ages
22634 Woodward Ave., Ferndale

Sunday, October 8, 2017

On That Heart Level: May Erlewine

May Erlewine
Oct 21st at The Ark in Ann Arbor

May Erlewine’s voice could heal a burdened heart. And don’t a lot of us have one of those, these days?

You could have a profound experience when you listen to the latest album from the Traverse City-based singer/songwriter, and perhaps even more so when you hear her songs in person at The Ark on October 21st.

There’s a sacred-feeling energy that emanates in any room Erlewine performs. Her intention is always to forge a feeling of interconnectedness. Her intention, really, is to forge feeling. “I’m always reaching for that, and trying to stay connected with the audience,” said Erlewine. “To provide a space where we can all just feel,” her voice almost sounds musical when she says that word, “whatever it is, let’s just feel it. ‘Cuz things are moving fast, ya know?”

Erlewine has been writing and recording music for several years, having traveled all around our state (and much of the country) to perform her tender blends of Americana-folk and soft, soulful rock odes. Her latest, Mother Lion, features recorded contributions from several Michigan music scene vets, like Theo Katzman, Joe Dart, and Woody Goss (who are ¾ of Vulfpeck), as well as Joey Dosik, Lindsay Lou, Jeremy Kittel, and Antwaun Stanley.

These sweetly melodic songs, with rustling percussion, shimmering pianos, and flares of more fiery electric guitars, are brave bearings of a heart that was breaking in real time as they were written. Adornments from strings and choir-like backing vocals augment the voice of Erlewine as it flutters and heaves, fearless to show vulnerability during certain verses, and fiercely pushing back with deeply affecting choruses. It’s as though these lyrics know right where the bruises are; things we’ve all been feeling at one time or another (especially this past year). Mother Lion aims to offer and share an alleviation of the human soul.

What began, with songwriting, as personal catharsis, soon became a mission to “dig really deep, emotionally, toward feelings that are hard to make space for,” said Erlewine. “I try to (make music) that’s working towards acceptance of what is…, even if whatever that is challenging. And so (the songs) just keep getting deeper, as things get harder.”

“Where I really feel that I connect to a listener is on that heart level,” she said. “That’s my great work that I have to do, to dig deep and help people be, and feel, what’s in their hearts, fully! And that isn’t an easy, cleaned-up, perfect space to make (with music); it requires of us a lot of gentle compassion. But that’s what I strive for. I don’t know if I always get there, but that’s my intention. Embracing what is not ideal, or what is difficult, and really being in a heart-space, surrounding those things.”

Erlewine is a key figure in the north-western Michigan-based Earthworks Music Collective. She has led a very musical life that has blossomed over the last decade with her solo albums, as well as singing in other groups like the folk songs of the Sweet Water Warblers and the groovy big band numbers of The Motivations. She’s a guitarist, but also plays the piano and viola. Her songs have touchstones in traditional roots, country, and folk, but expand, lyrically, into more worldly, contemplative, and evermore empathetic terrains.

“Never One Thing” is a song of righteous declaration, female empowerment, and claiming all of the spaces of existence. “Fine Line” is a beautiful song that bravely inhabits an unhealable grief, while “Mountain Top” is minimal march bravely acknowledging a burden without respite. It may be a heavier album compared to her previous releases, but you’ll still feel a weight lifted after hearing these songs.

May Erlewine
Mother Lion Release Show
Oct 21
The Ark
316 S. Main St

This is an extended version of an article featured in the October print edition of The Ann Arbor Current

Saturday, October 7, 2017

Six for Saturday: Goldzilla X Eddie Logix, Valley Hush, Troy Gregory, May Erlewine, Approachable Minorities, Gloria Rabbit

Every weekend, I run through six songs I've been listening to from new releases by Detroit-area bands or Michigan musicians.

These could be bands I've already written about this month, they could be bands that YOU already went to see live when they officially dropped these albums, or, potentially, it could be a song from a band that you've never heard before...

It's really just me keeping a catalog of what I'm listening to... And, probably most importantly, linking you towards their album streams so that you can check it out for yourself, download it, buy it, and maybe even see this band (or that band, or any band, here) at their next show.

Goldzilla X Eddie Logix 

Gloria Rabbit

May Erlewine

Approachable Minorities

Valley Hush

Troy Gregory

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Song Premiere: Summer Like The Season's "Thin Today"

A mesmerizing new jam from Summer Like The Season. Trancey, tender, turbulent, and beautiful.

Multi-instrumentalist Summer Krinsky recorded a solo EP under the moniker Summer Like The Season several years ago. She came to Detroit from the Ann Arbor scene, part of the band Pocket Candies, on bass and vocals in that group's indie-rock fusion of jazz & funk. Summer Like The Season now has a full ensemble backing up her arrangements for live performances, with Scott Murphy on electronics/keys, Tasha Peace on guitar/vocals, and Eugene Strobe on bass.

Summer Like The Season,
photographed on their most recent tour

Intricately woven atmospheric swoons and feverish tones swirl and center around Krinsky's percussion and vocals, both of which can go from something like a tender shuffle or sway and into something crashing, bracing, and soaring. Like Laurel Halo (another superb music maker that came out of Ann Arbor), or perhaps tUnE-yArDs, Krinsky's keenly fusing ambient techno, world music and free-jazz, but her newest tunes can add the fierier radiance of guitars and bridge it closer to something like 2014-era St. Vincent.

I hate dropping names like that, but as you can tell from listening, Krinsky's got a knack not just for layering her production, but for turning unconventional elements like pitch-shifted vocal loops into a melodically droned hook; the way that wordless vocal traipses into a twirl--it gets stuck in your head. But then the rest of the soundscape comes to life, with those icy synths, the minimalist guitar, the blend of sequenced beats and drums... It builds towards that bridge, where, if you're listening close enough on those headphones, you can float right off over the railing when she chops up the vocal samples and threads them across a broken-up splay of spurts so as to meld her voice into the percussive pattern.

A bit of an electronic experimental whiz, she's built custom MIDI controllers that connect to various software for processing the storm of synth signals. What Summer Like The Season can do is effectively blur the line between the comparatively more organic sounds of a guitar, or live drums, to the synthetic dreamscapes of synthesizers and samples. But its really her voice, not just the performance of it and the power of it, but what she's able to do with it through the sorcery of her electronics rig, that really illuminates their songs.

Summer Like The Season joins Sonny Dulphi, Peter Piek, Blackmoore, Paper Rockets, and Ma Baker at Spaulding Court this Saturday, part of COALESCENCE, an outdoor music and art exhibition presented and curated by Gallery Bypass.
Local and international installation artists contribute their visions to the preservation and enrichment of this historic pair of inward facing stone row houses at 2737 Rosa Parks Blvd. Click here for more information.
And follow Summer Like The Season here.