Thursday, June 14, 2018

Detroit Songs of 2018 (...So Far)

I know I'm missing at least 20 (or 50) more releases from the first six months of the year. Then again, I am limited to what I could track down on Spotify. But here we are....

...each year, it seems, more and more great new music is coming out from Detroit-area artists. Each year it's more active. Each year, more artists are experimenting and exploring, pushing their own boundaries and producing something that tops their previous output.


I think it has a nice mix when the artists are arbitrarily set in alphabetical order... Or, you could just shuffle-play it...

Indie-rock, hip-hop, neo-soul, R&B, ambient electronica, fuzzy psychedelia, blues, Americana... It's all here, right here around Detroit... Some of these releases came out way back in January, and others were dropped not even two weeks ago... I know it's going to be a busy 5-6 months ahead, but here's a midway point survey of what was spinning on my weekly playlists.



Thursday, June 7, 2018

Ohio Wild

Ohio Wild can carry you away, like a tide down the shore at sunset.  The melodies sung and swelled together in harmony by Allison Laakko and Jim Byrne flutter with caprice, keeping to tender volumes and delicate intonation. 

It's a closeness evoking a solitude from the city's clamor, heightened by a gossamer whisper of rhyming secrets incanted through cupped hands inside secluded environs, a country cabin where you're audience to something breathtakingly intimate, or playfully magical... Lullabies that give space for the voices, the rusty, reedy croon of Byrne and the dulcet, woozy serenade of Laakko, to gracefully bend, dip and waltz every note to apply the fullest potential for a melody's vine-like ability to lasso you off into their reveries. 





Ohio Wild's Greatest Hits comes out July 10  See them on Wed., June 20 at PJs Lager House opening for Blac Rabbit MORE INFO
Byrne and Laakko started singing together on a whim, not too long ago. The alchemy was almost instantaneous. A curious eavesdropper down the hall from them entered the room to interrupt their jam session and proclaimed that they weren't just singing; they'd  "...just formed a band...!"

For much of their lives, as individuals, Byrne and Laakko have both been a bit more cosmically attuned than most of us, with preternatural abilities to express themselves in song. But the experience of Greatest Hits does feel (and sound) like two halves finding complimenting harmonies and an overall aesthetic symmetry. And that aesthetic is a pastoral folk that feels detached and tranquil, with some gothic graphite shading the corners of the portrait. It might be telling that they fittingly soundtracked a surreal horror novel's theatrical adaptation, set in the late 19th century wilderness...

It's giving a baroque and dreamlike ribbon's curl to the silklike song strands laid out from a James Taylor or a Joni Mitchell kind of vibe, but adding their own characteristic inflections and melodic blends, always adding distinctive colors to the songs' canvas. Kudos to engineer Jim Diamond, who captured the inherent ability of these songs to seem as though they're enveloping you in this spellbinding fog, never too thick and never evaporating, coaxing you...ever further..., into the next song's uniquely dazzling sphere.

Laakko and Byrne bring Ohio Wild to the stage of PJs Lager House on June 20. 






Friday, June 1, 2018

Kimball's New EP + Interview

photo credit - Rob Dawson - Zion Creative


Emily Barr, Austin McCauley and Brodie Glaza were friends first. They're in a band now, writing and performing songs together, but something special always emerges when the foundation of a composition come back to a friendship. That band is Kimball, and this week they're releasing their debut EP, North Wilson, capped off with a concert at the Loving Touch (INFO). The Doozers, Remnose, and Who Boy will also perform, along with the unveiling of Kimball's debut 7-inch on colored vinyl via Jett Plastic Recordings.



Kimball create an indie-rock that's accentuates melody, balance, and propulsion. The drums build, elevate, soar, the chord progressions and cresting basslines feel like a summer wind at your back, and there's a sense for the cinematic when they go from a calm, pared back valley, to a skyhigh peak where each intonation, be it the honeyed lead vocals, the intertwining acoustic and electric guitars, or even the clasp of cymbals, each get space to blossom and then blend.

And its fitting that this batch of songs evokes a sense of rising.... since that's essentially what instigated the band: a rising to an occasion, of sorts. They actually formed Kimball, officially, after a debut performance at Arts Beats & Eats in 2016. But to get back to the beginning, first: McCauley knew that Barr was a singer and a couple years after they became friends finally made the suggestion that they start writing and recording music together. You can hear a finalized version of their first song, "Guns," streaming above... Glaza brought a live drumming element to replace the sequenced midi beats they'd initially demoed. McCauley said that it gelled, even though they each had distinctive musical tastes and brought unique approaches to the table.

McCauley asked why not? Because another friend from school had asked him to record a few demos for another band to potentially submit to Arts Beats & Eats but it fell through. So why not try recording a live video of "Guns" with Barr and Glaza and submit that? It worked! "I remember getting the call that we got on the line up," said McCauley. "...I freaked out with happiness in public." Soon after that performance, they added bassist Christian Fifelski and Jacob King on electric guitar.

"A lot of our songs sound and style have been inspired by what we were listening to at the time," McCauley said. "So with 'Guns', (Barr) was listening to a lot of the Neighborhood at the time... For the song 'Wildflower,' I was listening to bands like Hippo Campus and Real Estate. Sometimes I look at our changing sound as a positive and negative. There's maturity and comfort in keeping one solid sound and sticking with it, but at the same time that can get stagnant for the artist. We try to create a balance between allowing our creative inspirations influence us, and keeping a constant between the different styles."

McCauley said that they prefer to show the emotion, a suggestion, or an intonation, or a bit of wordplay to unpack, rather than lay something out too bluntly. "I thnk that's where a lot of that texture comes from," Glaza said. "(It's) trying to communicate that emotion in our music..."

The key, then, is channeling that emotion and this energetic playing style to the stage. But another tricky element will be finding a way to properly capture it on a recording... Something I've learned working through this EP," McCauley said, "...is that a lot of the finished product was because of other people. Yes we wrote the songs and played the instruments, but the EP sounds the way it does mostly because of our engineer/producer."

North Wilson was recorded at Aashrum Studio by Steve Saputo. But McCauley has been writing and recording music for most of his life, starting out on piano; 'Wildlower' was actaully recorded in his basement. Glaza said he also had an overwhelming passion for music, but it really didn't kick in until middle school, when he "fell head over heels in love" with the drums.

They cherished their time in Aashrum Studio, up in the woods of Ortonville, last summer, where they recorded the EP. McCauley says that recording the EP, just like their submission to AB&E, was "somewhat of an impulsive decision." An opportunity to be picked up by a label came around and they decided if the demos they sent in didn't get them picked up that they'd go ahead and record an EP at a studio. "We didn't necessarily write these songs to fit perfectly together, but as we started recording them and hearing them all in the context of an EP, we noticed a common topic of struggle within our home lives..."

Kimball's keen on rising to occasions, clearly. It's all about forward momentum. Having since sutured themselves into the local music scene, they're eager to continue building after this EP, honing the live performance, playing as many shows as possible, linking up with new bands, getting out of town. "Since this EP was recorded about a year ago," said McCauley, "we've already been dreaming up ideas for an album, planning out singles releases, and really focusing in on the technical aspects of our music--live, and in the studio."

Kimball
EP Release Party
June 8
Loving Touch
INFO


Find the band on Spotify