Sunday, November 29, 2015

This Week in Ann Arbor: Flint Eastwood, The Landmarks, Human Skull and More

Are you over Thanksgiving, yet? Are you already worn down by the Holiday histrionics? Maybe a good a concert…no, a great concert…could help ease your exasperation.

Flint Eastwood

This is the epic, life-affirming, genre-splicing pop project of singer/songwriter Jax Anderson. The band has been evolving over the last five years, starting from a souped-up dance rock and blending elements of cinematic spaghetti westerns in with straight up synth-pop balladry. Their latest, Small Victories, was produced in a repurposed Church under the shadow of the formerly ghostly Michigan Central Station. The songs are as invigorating and empowering as they are tear-jerking; Anderson wrote these potent and poignant lyrics after her mother, her greatest supporter and fan, passed away in 2013. With the production of her brother Seth, a maestro in the realm of hip-hop/electronica, they created a record of propulsive pop jams that can be heavy and reflective, but also just pure fun. I can attest from very recent experience, the live presentation of these songs is just as moving as the record.

You also get to see Ypsi’ own The Landmarks (who just released their own record, before Thanksgiving). Let’s listen to one of their latest tracks:

December 3 
Blind Pig (208 S. 1st St)
8 pm / $12
ft. The Landmarks / Valley Hush / Air is the Arche


Human Skull & Spelling with Ritual Howls

I know a band named Human Skull suggests something brutal, something metal. It’s not really that, though I would say that they approach their songs with impressive intensity. Imagine more of a Minutemen-esque punk, guitar-centric without going too full bore into surfy terrain yet also avoiding indulgent J. Mascis soloing. There’s subtle shades of twang and a bit of surfy froth going on but not entirely psyche-rock. I know I’ve been extremely coy with the description of their music, but if anything I’ve said triggered any catapults of nostalgia in your brain, then I encourage you to check out Human Skull, they’ll seem eerily familiar, eerily intense, and really not at all that eerie. Just awesome.

Spelling, meanwhile, will also defy genre categorization; a minimalist avant-folk duo with guitars and sparse electronic and acoustic percussion. Ritual Howls, meanwhile, come from Detroit with a mutated reformation of industrial, no-wave, dark-as-hell post punk and caustic electronica… I assure you, it will be a groovy evening. DJ Charles Trees will be spinning between sets, joined by DJ Dick Jones (of Loose Joints) and DJ Ryan Spencer (of Jamaican Queens).
Human Skull

Ritual Howls

Friday, Dec 4
Arbor Vitae (336 State St)
9:30 pm / $5
Ritual Howls / Human Skull / Spelling

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

New Music: Beekeepers / Deadbeat Beat

Beekeepers II Album Release Party
Saturday, Nov 27
Kelly’s Bar (2403 Holbrook St, Hamtramck)
featuring Deadbeat Beatand Sros Lords$5

First, some thoughts on the Beekeepers latest: Beekeepers II
“What are these thoughts? Where are they coming from…?”

That saxophone comes in with that organ and I’m already feeling haunted. Nightmare jazz a-go-go and circus rock groove… The Beekeepers II

I’ve said it aloud, once or twice, that I relish the opportunity to write about the Beekeepers music.
The local quintet has been conjuring sublime pop storms and a strange breed of punk-twisted Tin Pan Alley standards for more than seven years now. Now, it’s typically not a fun task to attempt “writing about music” because it’s not only a futile effort to elucidate, in words, just how an instrument, whether keys, drums or strings, can swell in such a way with its eerily bent tone to match the more honeyed hum of a human’s voice… Or, worse, the music you are trying to write about lacks depth or liveliness…

Not with the Beekeepers, however. Depth? It’s a never ending rabbit hole, a never ending, ever-winding swirly slide…Liveliness? The Beekeepers evoke a sense of disorientation akin to stumbling onto the stage in the middle of an off-Broadway musical, a basement production lit by strobe lights with backdrops redolent with fresh latex paint, and you’re dodging elaborate cardboard set pieces and actors dressed as trucks pantomiming motorboat-sounding engine noises… At least, that’s what I see when I hear this  music…

If I haven’t yet gotten the point across, the Beekeepers spark a stimulating strangeness; the imagination of this music is marvelous…with meandering lyrics teasing and tip-toeing around rambling saxophones and shuffling jazz percussions, a spacey, soulful organ and a guttural punk guitar. The melodies match the melodrama and gravitas of supernatural operas and Tolkien-esque odes. Danny Elfman and Tangerine Dream and Low might each love a song like “Distant Lands,” while Mark E. Smith and Ornette Coleman and Mark Mothersbaugh would love a song like “Normal Dressed Man.”

There’s theatricality in each note, be it the wobbling wail of the organ, the excitable mustering of those drum fills, or the dynamic emoting of those vocals. And the time signatures shift whenever they damn well please; from a steady shuffling beat, to a sharply hooked refrain, to an inebriated-sounding slithery spill…. And then you have a song like “Billboards,” with its free-for-all bridge, inviting each player to improvise whatever kind of mischievous noise they can meld onto the piece.

But then there are true ballads here, too… like “Evil Is Real,” a poignant and unsettling show-stopper with a vocal delivery that almost demands a single spotlight for that vital 3rd Act Opener… Is this a musical? The pianos settle like dust after an explosion, the bass groans like a toad and the drums are so mindful of when to patter and when to pummel… Is this the soundtrack to a hallucinogenic dream you’ve been trying to piece back together?

Wait… Is that a hip-hop beat on the closing track? Is he actually just singing about gum that got stuck to his carpet? WHO…? WHO ARE the Beekeepers?

And why do they keep making music that drives me delightfully delirious?



And then some thoughts on Deadbeat Beat’s latest: Only Time Will Tell

“Everybody’s….everything’s happening fast / and everybody’s talking loud…”

Alex Glendenning and Maria Nuccilli started making some indie-tinged power-pop together way back in 2007 as The Decks. And it probably embarrasses them for me to bring that up, since they’re demonstrating a lot of progression (and mastery of a delicate discordance) with Deadbeat Beat…But the roots that they laid down with The Decks, a swaggering kind of Kinksian tear into garage and bubblegum pop with a bit of noise-pop and surf-boogie, have blossomed with the thorny sweetness of Only Time Will Tell. It’s way too easy and reductive to call this punk/pop since there’s something a bit more subtly psychedelic going on in tracks like “When I Talk 2 U” and something more groovier and grungey going on in a song like “I Wonder.”

Are there earwormy bah-dah-daahs and swirly-slide guitar riffs? Are there splendid harmonies and strutting beats…? Yes…so call it pop, sure. Are there sheets of dissonance and a broken radiator-esque hum of feedback? Are there backhanded barbs and unsparingly graphic scene setters in the lyrics even as they shimmy along a half-pipe slaloming melody? Yes…so you can hear that punk element coming through. Ya know… maybe we should just listen to “I Don’t Wanna…”

I know Maria doesn’t have any vocals here, but I still think it’s her most dynamic drum part… And there’s confidence as much as there’s catharsis in Alex’s voice…Not to mention the stellar guitar solo at the 1:07 mark… But there’s always a growl underneath the grin.

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Dear Darkness - 12/5 - Be Nice Honey

Dear Darkness
Album Release Show ~ December 5
PJs Lager House
(1254 Michigan Ave)
w/ Mountains and Rainbows
& Sex Police 

Honey, Be Nice 

Dear Darkness has such a splendid snarl to it... The local duo features Stacey MacLeod on guitar/vocals and Samantha Linn on drums. It's a steady-tempo'ed punk, not the speedy throttled stuff you might expect, yet equally as venomous; indulging in minor key murk and raw guitar churns, foot-stomp, snare-punch drums and empowering/cathartic sing/scream exertions that trill over the riffs.

But it isn't all minimalist thwomp and headbangability; the duo experiment with some graceful time-signature switch-ups and vocal acrobatics on the opening "Pale Blue Ribbons" and showcase some of their sweetest melodies during the opening verses of the bittersweetly barbed "Hey, Mister" You'll find similar-ish ingredients from forebears like Bikini Kill, Royal Trux, or maybe even some hints of Siousxie-esque new wave with a mean left hook packing brass knuckles. I know the word "extreme" was getting thrown around a lot in soda commercials and skater vernaculars during the early 90's, but it occurs to me that, with a subdued elegance beneath the coarser punk veneer, MacLeod and Linn are exploring the extremes of whats capable with just the guitar, the human voice and a couple of drums and drum sticks... Gnarly, yet pretty. Demolishing, yet delicate... That's the blend... Dear...and Darkness. 

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Barter Boys - Doc Waffles x Goldzilla

Just when I thought I'd nearly had my year-end list of local albums completed, tallied and typed up...

Doc Waffles and Kwe (Goldzilla) come and up and heave my whole system off the desk, open the windows and turn up the stereo and start haggling me for a trade, a typewriter for a Hawaiian shirt... or pawning off a pair of white tigers, like what am I gonna do with those?

But these guys, they're just Warhol-enough to win me over with their sophisto-snark satires and pop-art articulations.

I've been waiting for Goldzilla to get another batch of raps out for a couple years; dude really spun my head with that album he put out with his DJ SomeKid (Paul Wilson). Every time I ran into him at a rap show, he'd remind me that he was still writing lyrics...but....strangely...whenever we started shooting the shit, the convo would always coast toward the subject of Doc Waffles...with the talented young lyricist intoning that it was Waffles who was his biggest inspiration...'re powers combined! With production by Jaws That Bite, Eddie Logix, Sheefy McFly, Pastel Arsenal, and Crate Digga.

Goldzilla x Doc Waffles bring you Barter evolution for both of these quirky hip-hop commentators, fusing their unique sensibilities for dense verbiage suturing scenes of suburban ennui and pop-culture's disconcerting hollowing-out...along with indictments of idolatry for long-gone/half-forgotten basketball stars, moment-of-clarity-esque ruminations wrought between anti-climactic parties and underwhelming space explorations, splicing of self-referential mythologies mingling local icons like James Linck or anthems about Broncos with dome lights running all the time...

Indeed. Each rapper gets a couple of singular tracks to strut their surrealist stuff. Doc Waffles nearly breaks the mystical weirdo wonderland mold when he goes on his rant during "Rites of the Honey Vapor Princess..." Goldzilla, meanwhile, kills it on the punchy, swaggery "Da Vinci Code..." (wherein J. Walker illuminates us upon the versatile compatibility of tortillas).

That said, we should draw attention to the aural atmospherics melded by this supergroup of producers, embracing some fresh flairs of dark new-wave glam and spacey krautrock crypticism during the middle sections of this record with those eerie synthesizers and sparse percussion. Per usual (and, again, with an even more refined intricacy,) Doc and Kwesi are shrewdly cinching re-looped thematic lyrics and recurring locales to create an interlocking universe of imagery, iconography and lore.

"Illuminati Snacks?" "boats to ice-cream island...?" "...interesting spoofy commercials with satisfied customer testimonials?"

"Pass the jug... Barter Town / every single day is a holiday..."

The wordplay on "Look Who's Bartertown 2" alone.......

Monday, November 16, 2015

Echo Fest VI - Saturday

Limited 3D posters available at ECHO FEST VI
When I first interviewed Sisters Of Your Sunshine Vapor seven years ago, they admitted feeling a bit outside of "...the scene." At that point, things like pop, hip-hop and garage-rock had a bit more magnetism because those are inherently more popped-and-kicking kinda music.

The Sisters were making something more psychedelic, sludgier, dissonant. It wasn't shoegaze, but it wasn't wasn't druggy metal and it wasn't dream-pop... It was somewhere in a nebulous middle-ground. Seven years later, they've found a burgeoning batch of bands subscribing to the same mindset of defying genre-boundaries. And, seven years later, they're now celebrating the sixth occasion of gathering these bands in one room and under one roof for ECHO FEST. The 6th installment of this local music festival is this Saturday in Ferndale.

The lineup of bands each demonstrate unique sensibilities for applying decorous effects (echo, delay, reverb, distortion, fuzz...) to their sublime and evocative blends of guitar-based adventurism. So, what began as a means of making their own "scene," has blossomed into a new community of bands and fans... 

Check it out.... attendees are promised 3D visuals, fuzzed out guitars, and " much delay that time travel may become possible..."

Saturday -- The Loving Touch -- (22634 Woodward, Ferndale), 5:30 pm / $12

--- Red Stage ---
12am - Sisters of Your Sunshine Vapor
11pm - Heaven's Gateway Drugs
10pm - Electric Retro Spectrum
9pm - Killer Moon
8pm - 800Beloved
7pm - Isles of ESP
6pm - Senna Rise
---Blue Stage ---
12:45am - Mexican Knives
11:30pm - Heaters
10:30pm - Moonwalks
9:30pm - Oblisk
8:30pm - Friends of Dennis Wilson
7:30pm - Duende!
6:30pm - The Red Plastic Buddha
Live 3D visuals by Waynewoodward

Monday, November 9, 2015

Flint Eastwood - Small Victories Release Show

Did I tell you that I started hosting my own Talk Show? It's called the Milo Show and I recently had Jax Anderson on as a guest, talking about Flint Eastwood's upcoming EP Release Show for their latest, Small Victories. 

Flint Eastwood's latest can be streamed here...
And the release party is this Saturday -hosted by Assemble Sound 

Click HERE for more Milo Show

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Duendesday w/ The Oscillating Fan Club, Carjack, Los Sueltos & Duende

So I've been involved and implicated, supportive and sympathetic, inspired and encouraged  in/to/by  this music scene...for more than a decade...

If my presumably exciting life as some subtle scenester, as a 21st century music journalist, were a movie... then the opening credits sequence would be happening at the nightclub once known as Mephistos, on Florian in Hamtramck. We'd be upstairs, the third floor of this house retrofitted into a dance club...and Carjack would be opening for The Oscillating Fan Club...

That was ten years ago. It was almost nine years ago, now, that Duende played their first show. And, while it's at this point in the blog post that I treacherously tip-toe near the frothy tides of nostalgia, I'd rather remark upon the unique opportunity we have, tonight..., to experience, observe, enjoy... the respective evolutions of these three bands, Carjack, Oscillating Fan Club & Duende. That, or you'll at least be able to feel the resonance of ten years' worth of musical friendship, conveyed in loud, fast, boisterous song form... This concert, just as it was 10 years prior, has Duende drummer Laura (The Boom) Willem's birthday party at the center of it... And, original OFC drummer Robin Veresh has returned to do the graphic design for the show poster.

If you're nearabouts Ferndale, it's Duendseday tonight...& this could just be the show of the month! Los Sueltos will be opening up and it's free admission.