Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Deep Enders - Matt Jones & The Reconstruction

Matt Jones & The Reconstruction - Album Release for The Deep Enders
October 3
The Ark, 316 S. Main St, Ann Arbor
with Josh Malerman's reading of his eerie epic Bird Box.
7:30 pm

There’s a debate…,“…a raging storm…,” as Matt Jones called it, that’s going on within his band, The Reconstruction, concerning what he should wear to his big album release show, Friday night at The Ark in Ann Arbor.  

No turtlenecks or cardigans. Of course. And, come to think of it, he should probably shave, too.

But, what then? Button shirt? Short sleeves? Tie? Bowtie? Maybe a full suit and blazer? What clothing best fits Matt Jones? Should he suit himself up and step out of character? Is it time for a change?

Hasn’t he changed already?

“This is the show and, also, this is the band that I think I’ve been working toward for 10 years,” said Jones. “And, this record (Deep Enders), that I made last spring, it’s really been being made over the course of those 10 years. For this one album, I definitely built off of all of the last three. And it’ll be at a venue that cares, with performers who care, on that stage, with an audience that cares, and playing songs that I really care about, every one of them; it’s gonna be a really heavy night.”

It’s like the end of a melodramatic tragicomic indie art flick about musical comings-of-ages for this unlikely, rather tall-ish everyman of the Ypsi area. Do the credits start rolling or something? “I hope not…Or, at least, I hope there’s a sequel.”

And he’d rather everyone else dress themselves up to the optimal of impressive elegance for the Ark show, to look their very best under the house lights, so that he can sorta “back out” and just be himself.

Matt Jones hails from the Ypsilanti area, having been born down in Adrian, MI. For years, he’s written devastating and delicate songs saturated with sublime strings (lots of cello and some violins) and expressive, cascading guitar lines enlivened by his characteristic finger-picking style. “Heavy” is a good word for his tunes, ruminative would be another… 

Never securely rooted in rustic revivlism, and not quite radically reinventing the genre, the arrangements are never overly ostentatious nor are they strumming singalong stompers, it’s nearly exquisite enough for a baroque hall, but also rustic and worn-sounding as if it’s been kicked around the dusty, pastoral plains. These are songs of a man whose face still shows some of the faded-pink scars from all the badly-chosen-briar-patches he stuck to in the days of his more impulsive past.

Deep Enders relates to being in the wrong place at the wrong time, ya know, in the deep end, treading water. But, the more I think about it, it’s more about being in the wrong place at the right time. Because maybe it’s something you need to do. Maybe something, some place, like that, pushes you forward…? I don’t know…”

“But, there’s a song on here, ‘The Darkest Things,’ that’s actually the most autobiographical. This line, ‘Our boy’s coming back,’ it does seem like it could be a soldier coming back from war, supposedly improved, but…then you realize that there’s these flaws, that he’s actually…kinda fucked up. A few years ago, my parents were just starting to come around to the reality of me spending so much time playing music, being gone and being broke and not being real super healthy and were thinking it was cool, our relationship was getting better but, then shit hit the fan. I had to stop drinking for a long time and it kinda crushed them a bit to, ya know, realize that …I am growing up, but I’m still fucking up. But that’s actually kind of a happy song.”

At this, he lets loose his iridescent laugh and everything’s okay. Jones speaks with a charming bluntness, his voice at a mid-range, rustbelt-accented timbre…but when he sings, he hits this considerably higher register, a breathy, soaring sigh that sounds nothing short of angelic. Fitting, considering the demons that these songs are exorcising… But that laugh… is youthful, naïve, energetic hope incarnate! And it always sweetens the gnarly swear word he just spat to sharpen the latest sentence.

“Seriously, the live show is going to pummel you!” Jones is referring to the formidable talents augmenting his songs, with cello, violin, piano, trumpet, upright bass and some splendid vocal harmonies (Colette Alexander, Carol Gray, Misty Lyn Bergeron, Samantha Cooper, Serge Van der Voo, Patrick Herek). “It’s gonna hurt! And, that’s what we want…We want to pierce your vital organs!”

We both laugh. His laugh sounds sweeter.

Pluck the heartstrings until they just snap?


And sing about dark things?

“Totally… The darkest fucking things… Oh, you’re gonna feel it.”

Jones is has had to rebound from a few of his own personal life-lapses, before…But this one seems like the strongest yet; Deep Enders sounds like it’s sung from a man reborn. Nay, …reconstructed?

“I knew I wanted to write more songs outside of myself,” said Jones, who has recently returned to school, studying History at Eastern Michigan University. “I focused more on subjects and characters from the Civil War because I love it and I’m obsessed with it but also, studying all those things, Lee and Stonewall Jackson and about the Bountymen, it brought me to that one lyric, “…this War has civilized me…” That’s one reference actually to me, in reading about these historic figures and soldiers and their experiences and being so in love with that topic…it has pulled me out of my own civil war.”

“It’s weird.” Again, the warm, self-deprecating laugh of his.

And, it’s important to note, that the song referenced at the start of this article, “The Darkest Things,” was inspired by all the moments when he thought he was ready to “throw in the towel” and walk away from writing and performing. “But, by the time I got around to finishing those lyrics, I realized: I am fucking up…but I am still growing-up.”

“And even so, it’s your choice! You don’t lose, nobody ever loses. I hate it when people say that if you stop something then that means you’re giving up. That’s bullshit. You can do whatever the hell you want. You can come back to it. You can come back to playing, you can come back to school. 

You can come back to whatever, it’s really not that dire out there.”

And that’s it, exactly. For however dire some of his lyrical content may seem, his songs are always about reconstructing one’s resolve!

“There is always a sequel!”

And he reserves his greatest praise, embossed by his most expressive vulgarities, for his band, which he undoubtedly loves and respects, not just as collaborators but also as friends, allies, advisors. “This band is fuck-king-gooood! They’re just so professional and they bring it every time! Everyone was so in tune with the vibe and plugged in and just committed to the songs. Hearing the band, now, so often…it’s way better than the album…”

“…We’re not gonna win any blues competitions and I’m not gonna be able to duel you on the guitar…but I’ll punch you in the face with the music! And, I’ll probably make you cry at some point. And that’s the best reward you can have.”

In closing, one last chuckle.

And onto the show. Straighten your tie, Matt. 

Saturday, September 27, 2014

David Bierman Overdrive - Record Release Oct 4 (The Loving Touch)

A voice from the past enlivens the present...

David Bierman, the Michigan singer/songwriter who nearly found fame back in the early 90's when his group, The Junk Monkeys were signed to a Warner Bros. subsidiary (right alongside another then-fledgling act called The Goo Goo Dolls). Trajectories for those two diverged considerably, but where as one sold their soul to the Top 40 devils, the other, has had his songs age into earned integrity, keeping the irridescened shine of its earnestness and still cutting as sharp as ever with its keen sense for rollicking, riffed-up guitar pop... That'd be Bierman, with The Junk Monkeys, who, thankfully, continued to write music these past few years despite having all but disappeared from a scene his band once dominated during the heyday of pure indie-shredded alt-country and punk-wrung AM pop power ballads.

Bierman brought the songs featured on Standard Skies into Tempermill Studios and started telling producer Dave Feeny about how he'd already called up some friends who expressed interest in laying down some tracks. His fellow former Junk Monkey, bassist Kevin Perri, returned to help provide some rhythm, joining drummer Jim Faulkner (of The Beggars, Blueflowers). The High Strung's guitarist Stephen Palmer, meanwhile, would bring his signature whipping wail to the lead guitar while Feeny would bring his own secret weapon, the pedal steel, to enrich the sonic tapestries.

What you get: adrenaline-pumping power-pop, twanged-out indie-rock and heaving, heartfelt choruses belted over fitful rhythms and fiery guitars.

But also: some classier, downbeat ballads, pared back to piano and acoustic guitars, poignant atmospheric touches where the guitars furl like crimsom curtains and the pedal steel warbles like the tawny-tinged setting sun's fading haze, with Bierman's vocals, showing no wear at all, put him right up there with the Braggs, Costellos and Westerberg's... Bierman's back and it's great to hear his songs again.

David Bierman Overdrive’s debut album Standard Skies will be released September 30th on Gangplank Records. The band’s only scheduled performance is a record release show Saturday, October 4th at The Loving Touch in Ferndale, Michigan.

Friday, September 26, 2014

Alvvways / PONYSHOW / Loretta Lucas - 10/3 @The UFO Factory

Alvvways (pronounced "Always") has been a hazy breath of shoegaze-splashed woozy wonder to the indie-rock trope. Their self-titled debut album has been a favorite, due notably to the charmingly wispy warble of lead singer Molly Rankin, the jogging rhythms and reverb-wrapped guitars sure do help, as well.

Listen: Alvvays - "Adult Diversion"

The group will be performing at the UFO Factory, which celebrated it's Grand Opening last weekend. Actually, all of October is tacitly taken to be their "Grand Opening MONTH," hence the featuring of awesome acts like Alvvays. Loretta Lucas will also be on the bill. She recently performed at Trinosophes for the Seraphine Collective's first annual BFF Fest and you can view her video for the single, "Cassanova" HERE.

And then there's PONYSHOW.

Singer/guitarist Jason Stollsteimer reunites with longtime friend/collaborator Don Blum, who helped start the Von Bondies several years ago. The duo brought in bassist Leann Banks (who toured with the Von Bondies for a notable period back in the 00's) for a new, unabashedly indie-pop inclined outfit called PONYSHOW. The idea: playful, pretty melodies over a sweet storm of distorted guitars and vigorous rhythms. Earworm choruses are buoyantly harmonized in this distinct doseydoe trade-off between Stoslsteimer's nasally-creaked yowl and Bank's softer cherubic chirp, while Blum charges things forward. Crusty guitars, punchy percussion and self-deprecating snark; it'll hit all the nostalgic buttons, from Superchunk to even a bit of GBV.

But there's some subtle confessional stuff sneaking through the staticy riffs, with Stollsteimer calling his "name a joke" and feeling ready to "take all the volleys it provokes..." But then he screams his head off and gets playful again, so it's anyone's guess as to how heavy the lyrical fare will be on future releases. For now, their debut on Yeah Right! is available here.

10/3 Alvvays / PONYSHOW / Loretta Lucas
UFO Factory - info here

Thursday, September 25, 2014


Friday Night i.e. Tomorrow
i.e. What are you doing on the Internet? Just get ready and go


Thursday, September 18, 2014

Dear Darkness CD Release Show (Saturday)

Click here for show info 

The blades in Dear Darkness' Swiss Army Knife of gnarliness include the rawest of indie rock's roots, that early stuff from the 80's that dabbled with noise-pop and nearly gnaws at your ear, but also some dark, trippy punk, with ramshackle riffs and quavering vocals that still attain discernible (and even indelible) melodies, albeit deploying minor keys for optimal malevolent-esque evocations and grit-blasted overtones. Some rhythms can pummel but others may strut, the guitars may be a bit surfy sometimes but are set up to screech, if needed and the bewitching dual-vocal effect nicely augments the allure. 

Here's the lead single from their debut album (which gets its proper release on Sept 23)

September 20th - Dear Darkness at the Berkley Front - 

Pthalo Sky and New Centaur will open up the release show for Pleather Pants...and, speaking of clothing, there will be dresses and bags provided by an excellent local clothing designer (named Melissa) who works under the moniker/brand Mended. Check it out

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Pulp Culture's Masquerade

We Do It Because We Care

This Saturday at St. Andrew's Hall, Pulp Culture invites you to The Motor City Masquerade - a concert donating portions of its proceeds to The American Foundation For Suicide Prevention.

The vociferous Beast In The Field will be headlining the event, with a lead in from Pulp Culture, the local prog/post-hardcore quartet that initially dreamt up this event. The Motor City Masquerade also features performances from pop/rock outfit The Midfield and a quirked-out glam/psyche performance art outfit from NY called Not Blood Paint. Attendees receive a gift bag at the door that includes a hand-painted mask.

Pulp Culture released their debut album at the start of this year and have, in their first couple years, demonstrated an enthusiasm towards philanthropic ventures with their lives performances. This group is keen on utilizing their concerts as a means for sending a message, promoting a cause or raising awareness. 

Bassist/singer Alex Brown spoke with us about the event. (Tickets here)

DC: You guys have played charity shows before - can you talk about why that is important to you/this band
AB: There are a lot of reasons our benefit concerts have been so important to us. We are working with the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention because it hits home; (guitarist/vocalist) Jake’s father submitted to his depression last year. This is a very crucial cause to us because we are all affected deeply by it. Charities are a great way to inform people about things that affect us all. We wanted to help and to involve people, so tying our music to not-for-profits that we think are doing awesome work in Michigan and the greater world seems to have invoked a positive response from those with whom we have worked at the very least. Plus, it feels just as good if not better than doing some stupid publicity stunt to get media attention.

DC: What are some of the other causes you've supported through concert/performance? AB: We started doing charity work back in March for the Greening of Detroit, which is an urban and suburban ecological development group. We did three benefits for them and planted trees on two occasions. Then we had a huge two-day event we called Vetfest; we sourced and roasted a pig and put on concerts at the Old Miami and the Blind Pig. The proceeds to both of those concerts went to Help for Our Disabled Troops, a retrofitting project that helped our drummer, Mike, move into his house after he was med-evacuated from the frontlines of the Iraq War. After that we did a benefit concert for Pesticide Action Network, raising awareness for honeybee Colony Collapse Disorder. 

DC: What are your hopes for the show; what kinds of conversations do you hope to stoke between sets/performances?
AB: I think the most important facet of this show is the element of awareness raised for those suffering from mental illnesses of any kind. The whole effect of a masquerade can reinforce identity and implement the anonymity of a group, spurring a ton of different emotions. In promoting the event we’ve run into all sorts of people with their own stories regarding suicide and mental illness. 
DC: What's the overall message of the Motor City Masquerade? AB: This is about communication and tolerance in dealing with indwelling stigmatism. The music we have lined up is seriously amazing. I am not worried about performance in the least. Turn out is the biggest issue. Ideally we would have had three whole months to promote the show, but we had one. That’s the breaks. No matter how I look at it this is going to be a helluva night, and we are so happy to be able to do it at one of the coolest venues in town.
DC: And, what's new with Pulp Culture, this year?

AB: What Do You Want? was a rock opera dedicated to a close friend of my family who passed away of an overdose in 2012. Since the release, Pulp Culture has transformed rapidly. We lost our first drummer to the American Dream. Then we hired in Mike, taught him all the music, got some new gear, and started hitting the Detroit scene as hard as possible. 

DC: The FB page for the band talks a lot about the DIY ethos. AB: Yeah, we sort of redesigned our mission as a real grass roots group, trying to emphasize the importance of DIY ethics in Detroit. We’ve probably spent hundreds of times the amount we raised so far from the album on demos and posters to get people involved in our benefits, but that doesn’t matter; we do it because we care. We do it because we love music. There is such a positive, collective effort of artists in Detroit, but it’s something you don’t hear much about in the news. It can’t be helped because of huge infrastructural road blocks like the bankruptcy, but it’s pretty obvious that the main issues with the local music and art scene are the same on a national level: major labels, giant entertainment monopolies, and even some indie labels work together to inhibit public awareness by manipulating the media, leaving local rock musicians in the shadows of the typical dogmatism of venues where they'd rather have laptop DJ’s get people to dance until they’re forced to buy a $4 bottle of water. 

DC: So that DIY tilt of yours is an acknowledgement towards bettering the situation or the opportunities of the local musician...? What's the key issue to address, here?
AB: Local musicians of all walks are left at the whim of smalltime agents who, in a similar situation as far as the politics of regional business, throw them into an endless loop of opening slots. And that forces musicians to pay up to thousands of dollars just to throw an event at esteemed clubs if they want to attempt something bigger, just like we are doing with Live Nation at St. Andrew’s. The same thing happens to visual artists downtown; they will only be commissioned if they will advertise and submit to the investor, changing the essence of their own hard work.

DC: It's a cycle...corrupted by money... Inevitable, sometimes. Changeable, though? AB: We’re trying to change this sort of thing, but look now, who wouldn’t want to play at a larger venue? Who wouldn’t want to play for more people? It’s a house of cards, and the big agents won’t protest about it out of profit alone. I wish they cared more about the music. The Fillmore Group should put local support on every show. It’s so simple, but it would help the local economy and potentially bring more people to concerts. People like new things, and Detroit's (music scene) has a lot to offer. Musically our scene is on the up, and it’s a privilege to be writing at this time.  

For more information on the Motor City Masquerade follow this link or check up on Pulp Culture's Facebook.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Currently Listening: Johnny Headband - Leave Me So High

That strutting beat and those cascading synths hook you inside...you stumble into the club and re-ruffle your blazer, straighten your hair, let your eyes adjust to the neon fluorescents flashing all around upon the shiny linoleum dancefloor.

Detroit's Johnny Headband have a knack for loosening-up their listeners; shoulders become rubbery and hips wind as if to a new, heartofore unfounded groovy gearwork build for the boogie; the feet start moving because the drums keep hitting... The nearly-hammy-yet-altogether-endearing vocals, flourished with R&B falsetto and squints of new-wave balladry, soar over the drums, rustling and they're hustling, along with a bass licking higher up on the funkier frets of the neck while a jittery jumble of bloopy beats cluster at the corners of the bridge.

Is it nu-Disco, is it radical yazz-rock or is it an indie-dance ballad? There's deployments of 70's and 80's soft rock and electric boogaloo fx, tightened by the stone cold bass, shuffling drums and sampled hand-clap bursts; a melting pot of longlost French danceclubs and the piquant arrangements of George Benson and/or Roger Troutman.

All things considered, the local trio always bring their own sound into that very same melting pop...stirring steadily and never letting it boil over. Above all, keeping things fun, loose...leaving you just where every pop production should: high.


Friday, September 5, 2014

Currently Listening: Prude Boys (Dally Sample)

This was recorded in a garage...

But there's something inside of it that draws me... Even if it's "garage music," there's nifty knickknacks cluttering its corners, maybe a gnarly bat up in the rafters nesting into the crusty lawn-chairs or a cool pair of bolt cutters hanging beside the rusty rakes. What pulls me in, here...?

The dissonant bluster of that chugging guitar? Yes, but also... the nervy rhythms barely keeping cool, kicking along, ready to frenzy... Yes, that, too... Or is it that fine flare over that serpentine guitar solo, like wax upon scorched fiberglass... Definitely. But, then, there's that tranquil quality to the lead vocals, a sweet-sounding sedate sparkle over a barely-contained burn-up. And how "piano keys" almost sounds like "anarchy's" the way the words weave through the feedback.

The Prude Boys started out in Ann Arbor where they were known as The Lost Boys. Long story. Just listen ^

And make sure to swing over to the 37th Annual Dally In The Ally - September 6, 2014 -between Forest and Hancock, Anthony Wayne and 2nd Ave

The Prude Boys are playing at 10:00pm - part of a stacked line-up for the Alley Stage

There's four stages with dozens of local bands -
Full Line up here:  http://www.dallyinthealley.com/music/

Let Autumn Begin!

Detroit Free Press Article:

Local bands are the stars at laid-back Dally in the Alley

In the meantime...
My weekly columns in the Ann Arbor Current should start up next week
More info here: Weekly What's Up's

Monday, September 1, 2014

Listening: Sleepless Inn

The Detroit-based duo Sleepless Inn debuted their brand of ambient nocturna-pop back in April with The Rainbow Room EP - Listen: "Lucky Penny" by Sleepless Inn.

The hip-hop-informed beat production of Eddie Logix supplements Laura Finlay's melodic sunshine-soul. The songs evoke the soundtrack of that dizzied inspirado that strikes amid the stark midnight milieu of city streets as they finally quiet down for the night - the loud kind of quiet that softly throttles your ears when the cars stop, the lights go low and the ringing of the world's distracting din fades away so that crisper beats and mellower melodies can percolate to the top.

Ultra-faint guitar samples resonate beneath Finlay's multi-tracked harmonization while a bulky bass booms out simple blurts like a resting heartbeat over scuffed-sounding rattly hooks.

"Escalators" was released last week - but it's just the latest production during whats proving to be a busy summer for Eddie Logix. 

Logix released an instrumental mixtape six weeks ago called Back Pages. This is some of Logix' most spaced-out trips, 3am-escapist fare, spiked with funk guitars and strutting brass ("Braincloud") and haunted with ambient drones and marching percussion ("Sunday Sage"). Logix has honed his knack for cerebral, evocative soundscapes, trundling beats jutting up against celestial synth reverberations and swooning bass tones splashed against rubbery guitar riffs, all of it swirling together, in and out of slower or faster grooves, capricious, like a busy brain's meditation on the edges of a dream as it switches it's beguiling samples. Oh, and...but of course, you'd sneak in a Dylan sample for these "...back pages..."

Not as overtly avant-garde as Flying Lotus and not as old-school revivalist as Yesterday's New Quintet - but somewhere in the middle - something closer to Dabrye, perhaps?