Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Concert Review: Sonic Youth

Royal Oak Music Theatre - June 29
(words: jeff milo)
(photos: mike milo)

Just Last Night: with - Sonic Youth
Killing time and filling in the steamy air of the sold-out theatre, I was just about to lean over and admit to a friend that I’ve run out of things to say about Sonic Youth. Not in a bad way. - It doesn’t help that I’m already a chronic over-thinker, but, the band (Thurston Moore, Kim Gordon, Lee Ranaldo, Steve Shelly) is unassailable to any grandiose, big picture, catchall rants or summations.

Not merely because the band's been around for nearly 30 years, that they just put out their 16th album (The Eternal), that they’ve never lost their "cred," – but for their ability to turn almost any preconception on its ear. Like musical mirrors. Appraised for their vast influence and thus, fame, they respond by qualifying, as Gordon did in Our Band Could Be Your Life, that they’re famous-for-being-influential. While still not sitting in any genre-descriptor colloquialism, Beatlesy, Stonesy, Motown…Sonic Youth are famous for having their name dropped by Cobain and countless others, yet never hitting anyone hard enough to inspire an exact mold replicant, (or perhaps being impossible to recreate?) Or, take their latest Pitchfork interview - where, upon pressed for potential "infiltration(s)" of the mainstream, Gordon responds that, no, indeed, the mainstream is "infiltrating us..."

After such lore being spun – (the band that, back in the early 80’s, emerged from the ceaselessly revered, musing murk of the New York post-punk scene and tipped the punk scales of No-Wave into what was (or still is?) known as indie-rock) and after so many albums, (Sister, Daydream Nation, Evol and on and on…now to The Eternal, on Matador), what more can be said?

I don’t know, but it’s clearly driven me crazy. I’m glad I didn’t get to squeak that thought out last night, having instead unpacked it here, apologies. Between songs, at the Royal Oak Music Theatre, a couple of older dudes behind me quipped that Ranaldo’s guitar needed to come waaaay up – that it wasn’t like shows of the past where their heads would be blown clear off their shoulders by the shunted fuzzy blast of the amps. Well, if you can complain about moderate sound levels – you can’t complain about much else from last night.

The band, despite passing into their 50’s, slid out onto the stage with the energy and swaggering/shrugging stance of their finely preserved 20-something-selves. Ranaldo and Gordon were staid, yet majestic in their slight undulations while conjuring feedback furled freakifications from their respective guitar and bass. Moore, meanwhile , more so than past shows I’ve seen, seemed particularly electrified, often lunging out toward the edge of the stage as if his guitar were a broadsword and he was ready to decapitate all of us. Opening with the grinding, booming brevity of The Eternal’s opener, "Sacred Trickster," the band felt, as ever, just as nonchalantly devastating as they’ve always been, with the same doom-punch hooks, droney-tones, haunting but catchy melodies and guttural yet poetic lyrics (classic Sonic Youth-ism, "…getting dizzy sitting around…").

The towering Moore, clad in humdrum flannel, sidestepped his mic-stand and scraped the neck across the clamped microphone before pivoting back to start riffing again. Meanwhile, the shaggy, ever-Uncle-ish looking Ranaldo twenty feet to Moore’s right, locked into the gloriously herky-jerky driving burn hook of Sister’s "Catholic Block," which featured in even more stretched out interlude of amp-teasing reverb.

Along with SY’s amorphous cultural classification – it’s also futile to compare live shows from specific tours. Their catalog is both large and unique (through 16 albums and no traditional "hit single" in their repertoire, each fan will have his or her own wish-list for a set). So, you’re going to have to calm expectations and accept that much of their set will probably draw heavily, (in the 75% region) from their latest release – which was the case last night.

Fortunately, this night’s presentation of Eternal’s songs, (a record featuring a mashing of black-metal and guitar-heavy noise-pop), were done with such vigor and allure, with grinding grime, mixing enlivening and upsetting noise-freak-outs, and setting such potent grooves, that it made me appreciate its songs even more than upon first listen.

"Poison Arrow," with Gordon’s typical ear-bending wail, so splendid, yet so banshee-like, seemed to not distract as much (as on record) from Moore’s dynamic, stabbing hooks and Shelly’s propulsive pounds. "Anti-Orgasm," another quintessential haunt-pop addition to the catalog, revealed itself to be the most hypnotic, in terms of inducing a grinning sway and nice head-bop spread throughout the crowd – plus that dirty/visceral chorus pound of all three guitarists pumping "uh, uh, uh, uh, uh, uh, uh, uh, uh!!"

"Antenna," a personal favorite so far on record, seemed to fall a bit flat – but even that’s a soft complaint. It’s simply more of a driving, meditative rocker, a bit atmospheric and shimmering, but overall a nice soaring ballad – which is deemed flat only by comparison to the stomp and rouse delivery of much of the rest of the set.

Eventually you just run out of things to say. The anomaly of Sonic Youth is that they’ve simply continued to do what they’ve always done and not only consistently pleased, not only avoided falls from grace, but have been able to avoid becoming parodies of themselves, never looking desperate, never falling apart. Yes the sound could have been louder, and maybe at some points the band could have been more engaging toward the hundreds of heads in the sea before them…, but all in all still solid. Always, at the very least, solid. What more can you say? I’m not sure I’ve said much, even…, Ah well…

The Entrance Band opened up. This California trio, spearheaded by singer/guitarist Guy Blakeslee (with bassist Paz Lenchantin and drummer Derek James) blends straight and stringent flavors of psychedelia and metal – with soul-punching solos, bewitching grooves and a surprisingly stage-filling boom to their mode. More info at: http://www.myspace.com/entrancerecords
Other links:

Michael Jackson: A Memoriam

Do You Remember The Time?
Travis R. Wright
(Arts Editor – Metro Times)

First you learned to crawl , then you learned how to walk, and after that you spent the next couple decades attempting to moonwalk. That’s just the way it went for X-Geners like me. Birthdays, weddings, house parties that wound up in the kitchen — if anything from Off The Wall, Thriller, Bad and even Dangerous came on, someone was going to try to bust it out. Most of us never got it down. But still, if nobody’s home and there’s a few feet of clean linoleum and a new pair of socks on my feet, you better believe I’m going to take a stab at it for the millionth time.

But Michael Jackson’s friction-defying signature move was as allusive as he was. Could you ever picture MJ shooting the breeze backstage at an awards show or appearing on a celeb-reality show? Not in a million years. He lived on the stage, and when he wasn’t performing, he was usually freaking us out. He didn’t know how to live off of the stage because nobody ever showed him how. Arrested development? The saddest, most public case there’ll ever be.

What I’ve come to realize in the days following the untimely death of one of the most iconic humans to walk this planet is that he meant more to me and to a lot of us kids of the ’80s and early-’90s than we thought he did. The jokes poured in as soon as the news hit. We weren’t laughing. The cracks came from older and younger generations, but for those of us who grew up with red pleather jackets with more zippers than stitches, this was no laughing matter. It’s hard to explain. Elvis and Lennon were dead and Jackson was in his prime. He was ours. And that’s what’s sad now: he was always only ours.

Black Moth Super Rainbow - 6-30 - Magic Stick

playing with Sik-Sik Nation
(Not sure what the Ninja has to do with anything, if it matters - but this is the music of Tobacco - the leader of said-anime-sounding electro-pop collective (BMSR):

Also - at PJs Lager House (tonite)
Charlie Slick - Elle & The Fonts - The Dozal Brothers

Friday, June 26, 2009

Reviews: Stuart Murdoch (God Help The Girl) / Suckers (EP) / Foreign Born

Stuart Murdoch
God Help The Girl

(Streaming here - at the Matador Blog)

Belle & Sebastian’s Stuart Murdoch had a musical, or a soundtrack, or, well, something he didn’t quite understand, bursting out of his brains from about 2004 onwards. While setting these songs aside (dependent upon a yet-unheard female voice), Murdoch was unable to let the project get off the ground since his band was in the middle of one of its most successful tours (behind one of its most well received albums, The Life Pursuit) in 2007 – but closing said tour at the Hollywood Bowl backed up by a large orchestra pushed him over the edge. Gathering together various female vocalists, a 45-piece orchestra, and unfolding the dreamy, swaying sanctity of his new arias, flush with string saws, harp drizzles, sadly beautiful piano prances and all those sweet circuitous melodies that can soothe as well as cut, that we’ve become so used to from Murdoch’s mind, through B&S.
The melodramatic strings fit so nicely over steady stepping beats and funky guitar chords (“Funny Little Frog,” featuring the soulful, punching wail of Brittany Stallings, found from a B&S demos she edited herself into via iMeem, online.) You can almost picture Julie Andrews singing the primp bouncy waltz of “Pretty Eve in the Tub,” if not for the weird blend of playful, suggestive lovers into parental/wisdom-imparting doting – the strings cut away and Murdoch’s gossamer vocals almost waft out the window with the stellar Catherine Ireton as his duet partner. It feels at times as though it flirts with the stately, theatrical, orchestral-new-wave hybrids of self-deprecating narratives that Jens Lekman, or even at times Magnetic Fields churn out (“Perfect As A Helper”)

It is perhaps hurt and helped by the fact that Murdoch has not yet finished the idea of this movie, or musical, at least on paper (or in production) or even perhaps, finished it in his own mind – because the songs are a flavorful mix that feel culled from potentially fourteen different movies, or at least fourteen different settings (and, as inevitable with a Murdoch piece) fourteen different emotions – all poetically pushed with soft, smooth panache. You’ll just have to see where it goes…


Suckers EP
(I Am Sound)

(Debut EP from Brooklyn weird-pop quartet, featuring a
Cutz favorite - Quinn Walker)

For their first official release, this Brooklyn quartet flexes their assorted tastes and gets downright jaunty. Like some delectable blend of sad and beautiful vaudevillian tea parties with prancing pianos and high-range (falsetto-flirting) harmonies, (ala Something Else-era Kinks) stirred in with 70’s strutting theatro-rock (ala Hunky Dory­-era Bowie) but tinged with their own leanings toward sunny surf tones, breezy, melodious pop, strung out atmospheric haunting reverb and a bit of world music tribalism.

That the quartet (Quinn Walker, Austin Fisher, Pan, and Brian Aiken) are buds with some of the Yeasayer crowd can shine through a bit on the sound, but it comes out much less melancholic, or droney than said-band’s most recent release. But that already reveals that this band could come close to the pigeonholing of being either a sunnier Yeasayer, or a poppier Animal Collective in the quick, slide-off-the-desk shotgun approach of music critics and listeners alike. This EP deserves a fair shake – it’s trim, it’s tight, it’s strong – and you wish it would go on at least four songs longer, to last you a bit on those ideal hot summer drives.

...fun and freaky

Foreign Born

Person To Person
(Secretly Canadian)

Hopefully this LA quartet’s 2nd LP isn’t hindered by anyone sequentially rereading band name-into-album title and thinking of some panic inducing new global pandemic.

Well, the other hope is that they don’t get pigeonholed in with a swath of other similarly situated literate indie pop bands with sunny tones and warm melodies. The guitars are gorgeous, with flavorful arcing riffs, the percussion is intricate and driving, the vocals are smooth enough and passionate enough to tango with any other art-pop/heart-on-the-sleeve, British-indie types. Strong effort, and it sounds good, but hopefully not lost in the mix of all those other indie rockers finely putting poetics over guitar pedals. Cover your mouth – open your heart.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

The Sea & Cake - 6 / 26 - Blind Pig (Ann Arbor) - with Child Bite

Chicago's preeminent post-rock, indie-jazz, space-pop collective, The Sea & Cake, sages of the American underground, humble as hell, ever industrious - after more than 15 years and ten albums, still going strong, and potentially, on their latest album, Car Alarm, at their best, or at least their most confident. Most alligned? Most delectable? Ah, who knows? Most of the converted (fans) have spouted similar remarks, consistently, throughout the band's career. Breezy, summery, weird-pop, jazz, funk, all flowing through glistening guitar tones that just faciliate this smooth driving pop.

And, always tight live -They play the Blind Pig, Friday Night - with Detroit's Child Bite.

Sea & Cake - "Car Alarm" (out now on Thrill Jockey)



Tuesday, June 23, 2009

SingleBarrelDetroit - Launch Party - Friday - 6/26 - Park Bar, Detroit

For the last year or so, creative energies have coalesced north of M-59 - around the vortex of Saginaw and Huron streets in Pontiac - bouncing between the Crofoot, the AC Rich Building, Phonotropic Phridaze - and the ARC. Singlebarreldetroit.com is the brainchild of producers Andy Martin and Jared Groth (ARC Pontiac) - filmmakers, designers, and strong proponents of the metro area arts scene. They bring you: SingleBarrelDetroit(.com)

An ..."homage to Detroit's Music, Architecture and Arts," this Web site is "part urban explorer" and "part filmmaker" - and entirely forger of (artist) community. "The site itself will feature videos of live musical performances by local and national artists in unique locations all around our fair city," so far capturing the following:

The Codgers in Corktown the day of the St. Patrick's Day Parade
Charlene Kaye in the Lee Plaza Hotel
Prussia in the Russell Industrial Center
Aran Ruth in the Detroit Opera House
Rodriguez in the DIA surrounded by the frescoes of Diego Rivera
Daniel Zott in Woodbridge in front of Carl Oxley's murals
Alan Scheurman in the 4th Street neighborhood
Ohtis in the Church of Whispering Byzantium

Official Launch Party and Sneak PreviewFriday June 26, 7PM, FREE at the Park Bar. "Also featured will be photos and journalistic pieces that invite the viewer to interact with the band and the locations indifferent ways. The launch party will take place at the Park Bar, a cornerstone of Detroit's ever growing art community.

The event is free. It will feature musical performances by Alan Scheurman and Daniel Zott, along with a sneak preview of the film work soon to be available on (the site)." SingleBarrelDetroit

Monday, June 22, 2009

Stereoluxxx - Friday - Phonotropic (Crofoot Lounge)

Stereoluxxx - 6 / 26 -

in Pontiac

Mikel O.D.

Last week I read somewhere that over-bloated, blowhard Rush Limbaugh mentioned that Flint would be better off bulldozed. Sure Flint has more than its share of problems, but com’on bulldozed! I can’t come up with a long list of things to keep Flint around. But, there are a few bands from the downtrodden city worth seeking out. One of them being the innovative Stereoluxxx.Like that song you really don’t want to remember, Stereoluxxx truly are a combination of ebony and ivory that make perfect harmony. Singer Tunde Olaniran was a former member of Funkstorung, providing vocals that soar, recalling some of the better house music vocalists, or, even Prince’s funkier moments. Brian Preczewski, also known as Controller, provides the music behind Stereoluxxx.

Playing guitar, synthesizers and other instruments, Controller creates a backdrop of electro synth-pop and funk for Tunde. Think Pet Shop Boys with Prince singing minus the attitude, stiff lyrics, and adding in a whole lot of fun. Not shying away from their ambitions, Stereoluxxx, released “Eros” their debut as a concept record. A concept record that actually works in telling the heartbreaking, and at times, uplifting story of Jane, a woman looking for love in all the wrong places. The songs shift from funky dance to shimmering electronic, the constant being Tunde’s smooth vocals.

Presented by the website/podcast, Most People Are DJs, you can experience Stereoluxxx live along with DJ sets of indie-electro on Friday, June 26th, at Vernor’s Lounge (inside the Crofoot) for Phonotropic Fridaze.


Reviews: Skygreen Leopards / Light in August / Bull Halsey

The Skygreen Leopards - Gorgeous Johnny (Jagjaguwar)

Aptly self-declared "disciples of California: and beholders of a hallowed psyche-folk, The Skygreen Leopards have always mused a hazy sort of acoustic pop; meditative and aloof yet always rapt with sturdy hooks, warm janglings from its pores and healthily flared with haunting reverb atmospherics. Their albums often feel like calm traipses up tall grassy hills toward the teasing mystery of the orange glowing sunset. Formed in 2001 between songwriters Glenn Donaldson and Donovan Quinn, two sons of the more druggy/cerebral Americana of late 60’s San Francisco folk, their recordings, through a handful of LPs and an EP, have often been subtle concept albums, telling the story of coming to terms with confusion and worship, with religion, with birthplace, secular existentialism and sometimes less esoteric as just to be simple love songs.

On Gorgeous Johnny, the swooning harmoniy-heavy folk club spins a yarn about…a “Johnny” of sorts, potentially a once-“fringe” member of the SgLs who was described “by most as a phony and a self-confessed dandy, the band kept him around for his undeniable fashion sense.”
Gorgeous Johnny is a sharper, clearer, more palatable record than past works; their lyrical subject matter may still yet be cryptic or curiously drawn to the spiritual, and the collaboration with fellow Cali-psyche-pop songwriter Jason Quever (of Papercuts) may still give the sound a bit of that druggy space-folk swirl – but admittedly less so then before – this still shines as their most personable presentation (if only from the lessening of foggily fuzzed vocals or guitar pedals). Thickly sweet and swimming harmonies in high wispy Davies-recalling tones, with an unmistakably Americana jangle in the conceptual mythologizing tradition of Dylan or, heck, The Band too.

Light In August
- Places
This Royal Oak based quartet has the chops for cerebral space-rock, for forceful post-rock, and even a bit of acid jazz – but on this debut album, they channel it into an interesting blend of neo-folk and indie-pop, with sunny guitar tones gleaming out in intricate spindly raindrops, sweet and soft mid-range cooing vocals weave and wander in a playful Cat Stevens manner, delivered in the world-worn wisp of a Nick Drake (but amplified in LiA’s case with their measured and poignant use of harmonies). The bass lines have a lot of character, shimmying and bouncing along their own complimenting melody while the drums are delicately pulverizing ni an intricate array of styles. Add in the flutes intertwined with grinning jangly acoustics and you’ve got yourself that good feelin’ grassy hilltop tumblin’ sing-out-if-you-wanna-sing-out vibe, but ever tinged by the spacey, psyche/jazz force.


Bull Halsey - Hot Dry Work - Deluxe
Detroit trio Bull Halsey were more than ready to build this gristly platform of smokey rockers and grinders, after years of steadily honing their mastery of jump blues, classic chug-n-pick r&b and serpentine country rock twang through banding around Michigan in various bars, juke joints and festival stages. Singer/bassist Garth Girard (of American Mars), guitarist/singer Wally Schmid (from Wally and the Tallyboys) and drummer David Oesterle (of Chrome Mali) formed the group in 2001 out of the simple passion for recreating the grimacing grit of classic blues and r&b aristocrats like Howlin Wolf and Hollywood Fats.

After the The Mighty Fists of Joe Frazier EP in 2007, the band went into Tempermill to lay down tracks for Hot Dry Work, the mere reading of the title sets an appropriate illusion of sweaty brows, blistered hands and the iron-like buldge of muscle memory shunting through these soulful grooves. Many tracks were laid down in one take, a clear indication of their readiness. Hot Dry Work is filled with that steady strutting beat of r&b, that wavy slapping bass groove of proto-rock and the buzz croon of the gitbox wailing out fiery twangs in the spirit of classic blues - but given this extra fist clenched urgency born from the trio's insuppressible roots with the even harder driving rhythms of more contemporary rock styles.


Shows: Gories - Sonic Youth - Black Moth Super Rainbow - City Fest - and on and on

June 26 -
JSB Squad - Satin Peaches - Lovehandlers - PJ's Lager House

June 27 -

The Gories - with the Oblivions - at the Majestic Theatre
(and Jay Reatard in the Magic Stick)

(Motorcityrocks Interview)


Bull Halsey CD Release show - at PJ's Lager House


June 29
Sonic Youth at Royal Oak Music Theatre
(Newsweek article)

June 30
Black Moth Super Rainbow - Magic Stick, with Sik-Sik Nation

Black Moth Super Rainbow - "Born on a Day the Sun Didn't Rise"

and of course -
next week, prepare for the sea of bodies and echoing reverb and pungent barbecue sauce - City Fest 2009 - Line up at: www.comericacityfest.com/

Embracing the Insanity of sleep deprivation


Saturday, June 20

I was only at the MI Music and Merch Swap for less than an hour - but it seemed like quite a quaint and (hopefully profitable, if not fun and at least) engaging, affair. Actually, a bit inspiring. The Loving Touch (the pool hall next door to the Woodward Avenue Brewery) looked like a make-shift record store - with about 9 or 10 different "outlets," be they local labels, bands, artists, or a public library, set up with their wares - which ranged from homemade buttons, to t-shirts, to posters, to CDs, to collectibles. It was sort of a combination of this sort of 'Hey-Brother' helping hand/mutual back-scratch for all us starving DIY-ers who are still striving to get by in this beleaguering entr'acte between apocalypses - and also, inevitably, a celebration of community - that all these big glassy eyed artists are all forging their own galaxies of creation and were, for a few hours, gathered together to subsequently bounce off each other. It was like the DIY-STREET-FAIR (from last September) only pared to the bone in terms of a statement, or prognosis upon the state of the creative community.

The Silent Giants' world class poster artwork, Freddy Fortune's fine collection of 45"s and B-Movies on DVD, No Fun Records decent selection of 80's and 90's punk, British indie and late 90's garage/surf revival, Sub Sprawl, GangPlank and X! Records doing their thangs...newcomers like Woodbridge Records, bands hanging out like Carjack, Friendly Foes, and Copper Theives (the latter containing John Nelson, who helped put this thing together) - and the Ferndale Public Library (who, thanks to Kelly Bennett is turning into one of the most adamant supporters of local music.)

Not sure what it all comes down to - but I think it should happen again.


Thursday, June 18, 2009

Movie Sign

Random notes:

This Friday - Crofoot Lounge
(psst... "michaelangelo")

And...some random writings
Tiny Mix Tapes - Anni Rossi
Post Rockist - Deastro

Okay - Movie Sign

Dinosaur Jr - "Over It"

Jaguar Love - "I Started a Fire"

Pains of Being Pure at Heart - "Young Adult Fiction"

More soon
reviews, interviews.... etc

Black Dice - Interview (June 18 at MOCAD)

words: milo

There’s always some brute-i-fication,...we can’t help it.

Whenever music journos write about groups widely-implied as “noise” bands, we relish the murky adjectives that explode the spookiness and exploit the quirk – freak out on these bent tones! Listen to these haunting drones! Then we embellish the raw romance of a band like, say, Black Dice, using unconventional recording spaces cluttered with broken equipment and scrawl back-handed descriptors about their “songs,” with strategically suggestive quotes.

“We’re all pretty sensitive dudes,” singer/guitarist Eric Copeland said “so, we’re always bringing all our feelings to the table when it comes to making music.” Indeed – admirable in Black Dice’s case, (having started in 97 out of Rhode Island in the form of a torrential hardcore band – then transforming into a afrobeat/krautrock-psychedelic outfit with jazz sensibilities) – is that after five albums and 12 years, no one can perfectly categorize them, in any sense. What’s certain is they make music (sounds, feedback, pounds, shouts,), music that stretches the senses.

They are currently touring in support of their 5th LP, Repo (on Paw Tracks) – a collection of songs much like prior releases in that it progresses the band towards more structured rhythms yet even more intricately manipulated tones and samples. They are joined by Ann Arbor’s Wolf Eyes – long-time comrades of BD.

“We've known these dudes since about 2000 when we played a basement show at (WE’s) John Olsen's house. Made fast best friends with (WE) and did a record together and have done a boatload of shows together all over the world. They are a true American original and we are proud to know and be friends with these guys, they are the real deal.” And about those adjectives for “noise music,” be it Black Dice or Wolf Eyes. My favorite is always “apocalyptic.”

Asked about the sound of apocalypse, “The last 10 years have been pretty dark for the country and that makes it into the music without having to try too hard. But…it’s more an intuitive process of making sounds we’re interested in and not getting all heavy about commenting on stuff. At the same time, the music we make is totally connected to the way we’re living, without a doubt.”

See Black Dice with Wolf Eyes – June 18 at the MOCAD.

(photo: Jason Frank)

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Weekend – DC Presents –The Juliets at Phonotropic (Crofoot Lounge) Friday June 19 with DJ R-O-Z

In Other News: Michigan Music Exchange at The Loving Touch on Saturday (and also Wild Years tonite)


The Juliets started in the autumn of 2008 when singer/songwriter Jeremy Freer (formerly of epimonious soul-pop quartet, Freer) opened up to friend Kaylan Mithcell (known for her cello work with Ann Arbor’s Canada) and played her songs he’d been working on between bands. As a pianet/keyboardist, Jeremy draws heavily from Chopin, but as a guitarist, also wanted to mix in a weird, strummy folk style. Mitchell invited friend Sarah Myers (on violin), who, like Mithcell, has a background in classical music, and the trio debuted at December’s Mittenfest weekend at the Elbow Room in Ypsilanti.

While recording a debut through winter and spring, the band was rounded out to a quartet, when Jeremy’s longtime friend (and often collaborator) Scott Masson (from the once-Chicago-based, now-Detroit-based fuzz-rock/pop sensation Office) joined on drums. Check out their hybrid of piano-friendly folk, a mix of edgy punk and smooth and classy 60’s baroque pop at: myspace.com/julietsband. See them live, June 19, at Vernor’s Lounge (inside the Crofoot) for Phonotropic Phridaze.



Saturday at The Loving Touch in Ferndale - (that pool hall next to the Woodward Avenue Brewery that sounds like the kinda place to offer "happy endings") will host Detroit area artists – be they old pros or new DIY-ers, record labels, poster artists, t-shirt printers, local bands, et al. You can find new albums (some of them endearingly burned with self-designed covers, perhaps) rare out of print stuff from unassuming new contacts and anything else.

It’s free. Come and check out the smorgasbord – and feel free to bring some of your stuff. It’s all meant to support our local music community.
Participants include - Gang Plank, Bellyache Candy Shoppe/ Records, X! Records, Five Three Dial Tone, Suburban Sprawl, Leroy St., Unfortunate Miracle, Jack Holmes Recording Company, Silent Giants, Quack! Media, Hall of Owls, Ferndale Public Library, Woodbridge Records, Deep Style Clothing, No Fun Records, and more...


Need something to do tonight?

The Reefermen at 5th Avenue - Thursday Night (6/18)

Masters of blues, psyche, hard rock, funk...and almost anything... The Reefermen will be closing out their residency at 5th Avenue Bar in Royal Oak - this Thursday.

Listen at their myspace.

Quite an event, considering this is likely the longest running residency of any one band at one venue in Detroit history.

Qualia / Thunders - June 16 - Painted Lady

Every once in a while you need a mini-weekend, slap-dab in the middle of whatever shitty calendar week you're currently shuffling through, filing and electronically-mailing your daily duties and communique in some cream colored office with fluroescent lights and the constant hum of copiers and computers...

Why not get a wee bit of hot-blooded Saturday night vigor on a Wednesday, and simply celebrate the halfway point...you know, the humpday...or humpnight...

Go out and see some loud live music at the Painted Lady, a favored hole in the wall on Holbrook in Hamtramck - to see a still-yet-unhearalded member of Detroit's ever-present (if often still underground) psyche-scene, Qualia - all the stormy fuzz, hard pounds, atmospheric drugginess and space rock you'd need on such an unassuming night.

June 17 - Painted Lady - with Thunders -

Qualia Myspace

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Album News: Discovery / Blitzen Trapper / These United States / The Veils / The Strange Boys

So...this writer didn't make it down to the Magic Stick last nite - you'll have to check the other channels for reviews. No word as of this pressing as to what it was like or how it went... word has it - that at least early on in the night, it wasn't every crowded - either not enough people knew about it or everyone was so dejected from the tragic results of the hockey game that they all shut themselves up inside their homes and downed ungodly concoctions of gin and vodka and Labatt Blue...

Album news:

- Discovery -
The set up could be potentially polarizing. Either you’ll be synched-in for a side project that giddily embraces an all-synth approach with an enthusiastic helping of hand-clap percussion, featuring Rostam from Vampire Weekend and Wes from Ra Ra Riot – or you’ll be turned off by the shimmer-n-buzz summer pop, worn down by 808 bass and whizzle-wee keyboard jamborees – Then again, just maybe, you’ll appreciate that these two members of two-heavily buzzed bands of 2008 are trying to form a commentary on pop music through the 1990’s.Well, in any case....

Discovery (as they're called) is putting out an LP called…eh… LP, on XL Recordings, July 7th.

Take a listen:


- Bllitzen Trapper -

Portland space-twang/noise-folk sextet Blitzen Trapper are heading back out on the road (dates here at their site: http://blitzentrapper.net/tour.html)

Listen: - Gold For Bread

Then, later in the summer (August 25), the band releases the Black River Killer EP. Ripe with their usual earthy, animal, rustic themes, with a black river, a black rock and a black bird.
more info: subpop.com/

  1. Black River Killer
  2. Silver Moon
  3. Going Down
  4. Shoulder Full of You
  5. Preacher’s Sister’s Boy
  6. Black Rock
  7. Big Black Bird

Or, read more about the band through a Progress Report from Stereogum:

- These United States -
Hard rockin, Americana-lovin These United States have finished up their third album for a September 1st release – dig: Everything Touches Everything – the band is on tour this summer.

These United States – “Honor Amongst Thieves”

- Mount Eerie -

Phil Elverum listened to the wind for two years and wrote it all down. The Microphones frontman is bringing a new album for his Mount Eerie project – rapt with distortion, swimming synths, and lumbering bass moans – with lyrics culled from diligent viewing, living and being with nature, at the edge of the woods. If press releases are to be believed, the album is largely inspired and inflected by the spooky/cozy/melodramatic-supernaturalism of David Lynch’s Twin Peaks. Well sign me up… “a DAMN fine cup of coffee…” indeed.

Read more at:

- The Veils -

Atmosphero-dynamo-indie-rockers The Veils are touring through the summer in support of their latest Sun Gangs (Rough Trade)

Listen: Three Sisters

And read about them on NPR, if you like:


More info:


Sat, 7/25 - Pontiac MI - Pike Room @ the Crofoot*

- The Strange Boys -

The Strange Boys
are also touring around this summer, bringing their blend of beautiful banshee whines, grungy acoustic shreds, rousing beer-sopped stomping blend of punk and folk.

Listen: “Heard You Wanna Beat Me Up”
Video - "Woe is You and Me" - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4crqVdIXyUk
more info: myspace

They come near Detroit a few times – if you get inspired for a road trip:

06.18.09 Thu Cleveland, OH Now That's Class
06.19.09 Fri Fort Wayne, IN Brass Rail
06.20.09 Sat Columbus, OH Cafe Bourbon St *
06.22.09 Mon Chicago, IL Beat Kitchen *

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Bowerbirds - Upper Air

The Bowerbirds first full length was charged with a subtly confrontational earthy-ness, ripe with commentary of the destructive hands of man upon the brow of mother nature. Charmingly marked with modest recording set ups from a couple (singer/guitarist Phil Moore, accordionist/singer Beth Tacular) who notoriously lived off the grid, night-writing by candle light, in an air-stream trailer. They were joined by drummer Matt Damron for Hymns for a Dark Horse in 2007 (re-released in 2008), a mystic, high-grass brushed odyssey with dirt under its fingernails – mixing the slight supernatural whine and warble of freak folk with traditional folk and pop but refracted through a sensibility recalling lo-fi basement indie rock…albeit through a simple bass drum, steady strum and occasional accordion furls. Above all, there was a reverence, for nature, for love, for life, that shined on Dark Horse and yes, still continues onto their latest Upper Air.
Though the initial vibe is a bit darker and the melodies are not as immediate, Upper Air nicely captures a band that’s grown (thus avoiding a potential pigeonholing as those anti-electricity-hippie-folksters) not just by incorporating more instrumentation and a thicker mix (see the warm enthralling buzz of “Under Your Tree”) but also brought in a drum kit and allowed the accordion to weave its way up front, explore more sinewy melodies that give it this gypsy air under Moore’s quavering vocals (which also line up in duos, more often than before, with Tacular). Though the gloom may have thickened, most noticeably lyrically, its inevitably a more intricate album in construction and style – while still maintaining that idyllic camping-trip theme song air (“Silver Clouds”, “Northern Lights”) with guitars and radiating vocals that seem to emanate the crackle of a bonfire.


Thursday, June 4, 2009

Album Reviews: Ear Pwr / Rural Alberta Advantage

Ear Pwr - Super Animal Brothers III

Strangled brass whizzles and whees atop a beat that sounds like a meth-addled, spark-spurting robot pounding roto-tombs like bongos and synthy-howls whirling melodies rampant like a disco hustle set to 4X fast-forward. This definitely ain’t no breakfast album. You’re fresh out of the shower, still steaming and juking your shoulders all around in some rev up for glitzy goings-ons at a non-stop dance party. Everything’s glowing on this record – the proper aesthetic, (as of late) for much of the Baltimore affair. Like a (proudly) monstrous hybrid of twee, krautrock and uber-glammed dance-pop on speed – Ear Pwr could be the disco answer to Death Set’s punk – high-pitch childlike vocals rousing up some carefree pogo anthem. It might get on some nerves (“Cats Is People Too” is the title of one jam, and the squeegee synths and shambly drums just…don’t…stop…) but for others, it can be an invigorating, heart-racing bounce fest through the rainbow splotched, gravity-less moonwalk. I don't know about all this hurried harrah, cute-spaz stuff..., sometimes feeling like being shit-faced on sugar and not tequila..., maybe it's the hop-scotch-in' sister of Crystal Castles...

Rural Alberta Advantage - Hometowns

I think that it’s potentially more than singer Nils Edenloff’s mid-whine-wavering tones resembling that of Jeff Mangum’s distinct vocal burn that draws comparisons between his trio (Rural Alberta Advantage) to that of Mangum’s aristocratic indie-rock project (Neutral Milk Hotel). It’s that they seem to burn with the same realness…brisk like unforgiving winter morning air, like bags under the eyes, like sun glaring in through the windshield after a whole night of driving – this is an invigorating record of often-hard pounding rhythms, finger-blistering strums, clankety bangs and slams and horns blaring all wild like tents blown over in a windstorm. You’ll read all over the blog-ready buzz of RAA’s cinderella story of self-releasing this full length last year to a growing clamber online excitement that led to Saddle Creek records picking it up for a re-release and thus leading into their joining Grizzly Bear at this year’s SXSW…and thus, as it always goes, an indie rock star is born.

Soothing in melody, but visceral in presentation, like the way a bristly bearded wanderer can look stately, or the way one lantern in the window can feel romantic. The production is raw at times, like the cold scuff of the pavement or the slam of a broken screen door, but it gets into your bones and its hard not to get up and shake and shimmy along to these somewhat-folk-ish rockers collected here… And yes, they use brass too…so let the Neutral Milk Hotel comparisons continue…, just give it a fair shake… And if the name sounds ostentatious, maybe it comforts you that Edenloff really is from rural Alberta.

The Rural Alberta Advantage - Don't Haunt This Place


Wednesday, June 3, 2009

MotorCityRocks Spring Showcase

show some love for one of the most reliable blogs in town - with a sturdy line up - at the Belmont, June 5

read more here


more info at: motorcityrocks.com

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Blasé Splee - Et Cetera release show June 6 at Small's (Interview + Album Review)

Blitz-poppers Blasé Splee are unveiling the fruits of their basement-bound, winter and spring-long, labor – their first full-length, Et Cetera gets its own shin-dig show, Saturday at Small’s in Hamtramck.

“We're really happy,” wrote keyboardist Jonathan Berz on the band’s blog, “that we've been able to spend so much time working on this project completely on our own in the house where (founding members) Mike (Frelick) and Carl (Larson) live…” The sound is the happy hurried middle ground of jangly sunny 60’s pop, sweaty party pounders, circusy romps and greasy Americana – complete with raspy vocals with way more charm than those Hold Steady-types, buzzsaw guitars that fit in with any indie-brit-pop revivalists and golden sonorous pianos that warm the soul.

"It's feels like we finally have a written record of what we do; I've never been so pleased with the outcome of a recording,” said Michael Frelick, who started the band with Carl Larson in 06 (with Jonathan Berz, David Wisbiski, Thomas Tesnow rounding out the quintet thereafter). Larson added “[Et Cetera] is easily the most amazing thing I’ve ever been apart of…”

Post punk guitars meet bearded 70’s road trip rock, relentless shambolic drums and lots of organs and pianos pushing it all forward. The moods range from playful tempo-accelerators prime for this almost bluesy-romp ("What I Want") to waltz-wrung rips where the organs and guitars burn together in harmony before falling into this rolling rhythm and spiraling organ solo ("When We Kiss"). That gristly-yet-twangy/whine harmonies of "Hold My Baby" set this weird spastic country-vibe, over a relentless drum beat and an overall vibe, shouted choruses, ripping guitars and nah-nah-nah vocals, that seems to slide close to falling off the rails but still hangs on...Seemingly aware (and embracing) of the wide arc of flavors present, musically, genrely, what-have-you, throughout Et Cetera, they follow the shambolic huzzah of "Hold My Baby" with a quieted acoustic led moonlit-walker of a ballad ("All of it All"). Indeed, Et Cetera rakes in a lot of different moods, theatric, freewheeling, country, indie, dance, folk...which may either dizzy the listener or invite a barrage of critiques for each different hat. But the flipside is that Blasé Splee are a band that with eclectic genre tastes for an equally dispositioned listener - but the main thing to remember is that many of the tunes here are simply fun jams.

Bring in some brass with the piano for what seems like some enchanting last-call tapper ("Praise") and it ends up burning into some gotho-space-rock shredder that quiets to give room for some fine string accompaniment. And ahh, the dreamy atmospheric guitar waver into the soft (at first) bluesy ballad "Right Where You Belong" which, much like in every song, unfurls and spreads into something bigger and wilder towards the end.

The Et Cetera release show is rounded out by Sh! The Octopus and Macrame Tiger, with DJ Bearclizzyawaw. First 100 people at the door get a free CD.


Interviews: Deastro and The Silent Years - album release show - June 5 - Crofoot

- Moondagger (interview)

For dream-pop/electro-rock quartet Deastro, they bring their first proper full length, (and it inevitably must be mentioned, long-anticipated) Moondagger LP, on Ghostly International. "I am excited and nervous to see what everyone thinks about it," said singer Randolph Chabot. "But, I’ve grown so much as a person throughout this record that I don’t really care if people like it or not, I had a rough stretch when I was writing this album and a lot of the songs I wrote just to kind of get stuff off my chest."

A blend of 60’s baroque-pop harmony, video game valiant melodies and mythic/melodrama prog-rock soaks through the 14-song feature. Chabot said he felt as though the writing process "erased my mind. I feel like I don’t remember writing any of these songs. I felt like a new person or rather a much older version of myself mixed with the moments of seeing light coming through the trees in the woods."

The yearning, untapped energy born from anger, confusion, heartbreak and tremulous inspiration, hits its pique during a song like "Day of Wonder." Said Chabot, "I remember beating my fist on the steering wheel of my car after writing "Vermillion Plaza" thinking about the soldiers who have died because fat cats have always existed and have always wanted luxury sedans, or golden chariots, or flights to Dubai that cost what it would take to pay a teacher for a year. I remember screaming in the studio on "Day of Wonder" hoping to shake off those very thoughts. I questioned the value of what I was doing constantly and I feel like writing it gave me a sort of resolve always say it the best that I can and to learn what there is in life or isn't that is worth saying."
Deastro's future plans include: "Hmmm... Fall in love, plant a garden, learn to fix stuff, learn to cook, get to know my friends better, blow up my car, go to the beach, throw a block party, jump across a river, stand completely still for one whole day, see without murky eyes."


The Silent Years
- Let Go EP (interview)

Stalwart avant-pop quintet The Silent Years released The Globe LP last year to warm reception. That album’s wide arc of neo-folk, space-rock and cathartic pedal-pushed murk has been forged into "the most summery songs that we’ve ever done," said singer/guitarist Josh Epstein of the quintet's most recent, Let Go EP (SideCho). "[The songs are] pretty happy, for the most part." Epstein said the experience of making the Let Go EP helped him see how many talented, selfless artists there were in Detroit, as numerous humbling contributions helped bring it together, from collaborating with (Deastro’s) Chabot, to the album artwork of the Silent Giants, to engineer Andrew Davis’ assistance at the White Room studio.
"...for what we got it done for was incredible and it could only be done with caring people in Detroit who are really really talented and i'm sure will never be that cheap to work with again cuz they knocked it out of the park."

Epstein said the band focused more on melody, mood and that the songs are all "generally a little more upbeat, a little happier, except for the last song," (something the band had been working on since before The Globe). "It'll be a good bridge between Globe and this next record"-(which is in the works and set for a Winter '10 release...

Meanwhile, the band will tour Europe to celebrate The Globe's release there (along with the EP). And Epstein will continue to develop a project with Daniel Zott (Dale Earnhart Jr-Jr). Commenting on early label interest, Epstein said, "Hopefully we can get (Zott) on a label and get them into everything else he has; he needs to be recognized, he's one of the most fucking talented people in the world."

Interviews: Manna & Quail / The Summer Pledge – Album Release show – June 5 – Crofoot

The Summer Pledge
You Are You

After almost 2 years as a full quartet, The Summer Pledge are offering their debut LP, You Are You, via Woodbridge records (with special releases through Red Plane and Tapeclub). Indie edge and proggy-cerebral - feedback fueled ruminations from exploratory minds – a soulful pop style that embraces a dreamy-prog rock-bend, filled with an almost cinematic wanderlust and percolated with reverb. Dustin McLaughlin said he and Rob Wilson met through "mutual, previous-band-envy" and started up in 07 with Jeremy Damaske, an ally through previous band Comrade Kilkin. Matt Conzett (from Letters In Binary) joined soon after and the band started playing out, touring and recording.

"We wanted to conceive something boundless and expressive, with an allowance of self-interpretation and reliability placed upon the listener," said McLaughlin. "We tried breaking down our early space-rock jams into a more condensed pop structured format to veer away from sounding like every other post/ambient rock outfit out there. Without blowing our load, we wanted our debut album to be a representation of who we are now and who we can become." Summer Pledge also recorded with Davis at the White Room. Through Tapeclub and Red Plane Records respectively, they’ll release a cassette and special French release with alternate art work. Woodbridge records releases the U.S. version.

"When we listen to [You are You] and think about the year that’s past since we started recording," McLaughlin said, looking back, "the album is an exercise in patience- both in the music itself and the path it took for us to be able to release it. No stone was unturned and no corners were cut."

With new songs ready, future plans include touring as well as spending as much time outdoors as possible. And maybe, squeezing in golf lessons.
(photo: vanessa miller)

Manna & Quail
Smile Sweetly, Say Good Morning

Detroit quartet Manna and Quail, purveyors of dream-folk and spacey-brit-pop, have dug themselves a groove, reaching the doors of self-discovery after three years and now a fresher line up. On their newest, Smile Sweetly, Say Good Morning, singer/pianist Steve Saputo opens up the creative process, with guitar parts, melody and such, to more collaboration with mates Chad N. (guitar), Matt W (guitar). and James (bass). For SSSGM, Saputo was able to bring chords and melodies and "they were able to help me build it into something beautiful and brilliant." Saputo also credited "the genius that is" Daniel Zott and Ben West, who aided with recording. "The first record (These Colors Together) was simple pop songs mostly," said Saputo, "and I like that stuff, but it didn’t capture who I was as a writer and what we are as a band."
"This time we decided to take time recording. We did roughs of the songs with Daniel and focused on guitars and noise. When we we're satisfied with that, we took the songs to Ben West and captured drums, bass, vocals, keys..." Saputo added, summarily, "The overwhelming theme of the album is me trying to navigate my way through the last few years. Delaying marriage as long as possible, watching my family struggle through the auto-industry/economy, trying to love people while generally disliking society."

For a review of SSSGM -
(photo: joe gall)