Thursday, July 19, 2018

Crash Detroit

July 20-22 at various locations

It's a pity how much music is relegated to various backgrounds. It's white noise for study-work, it's amorphous muzak for department stores, or it's chill-wave ambiance at house parties to avoid awkward silence. But there will be no awkward silence this weekend in Detroit...

...Crash Detroit is a refreshing remedy to the troubling trend of an audience-nonchalance that can sometimes be observed in clubs where the crowd opts to chat and drink at the bar instead of participate or engage with the live music happening on a stage. You know "crash bands" even if you don't know their name, because you'll often see them (like, say, The Detroit Party Marching Band), manifesting as a flash-mob-style music parade of 20 players bandying brass and bass drums, voluminously spicing up (or splicing through) another event, locale, or otherwise unrelated (and unaware) gathering.

This three-day festival will include live rogue marching bands from across the country at various locations, Lincoln Street Art Park, the Marble Bar, and the Dequindre Cut Freight Yard. The Detroit Party Marching Band (pictured above) launched this free annual music event launched in 2014. Several unamplified (and ultra exuberant) ensembles will perform multiple sets of brass-heavy music. But there will also be kids craft tables, build-your-own-instrument workshops, an "instrument petting zoo" facilitated by Charity Music, and lots of food and beverages from local businesses.

On Friday night, bands will "crash" through Detroit by roaming the city and bringing pleasant surprises of boisterous music to unaware audiences at local bars, restaurants and public spaces. The idea is to make the music an impromptu, drop-everything sort of celebration. Let the music take over!!

The Detroit Party Marching Band will headline day-long performances and musical exhibitions on Saturday at Lincoln Street Art Park; the party keeps going that same night, when Crash Detroit transitions into the Marble Bar at 9pm. Then, on Sunday, Crash coordinates with the Detroit Riverfront Conservancy to roll through the Dequindre Cut Freight Yard in Eastern Market.

Proceeds for the event will benefit Youth Crash Corps initiative. Youth Crash Corps provides music education to kids in Detroit who do not have access to music programs at their school. Certified music educator Nichole Hartrick helps students learn how to perform and read music, providing them free access to a band instrument. The YCC classes culminate with a performance during the Crash music festival!

“We know that students who don’t have access to a quality music education are missing out on the benefits of learning to play an instrument," Hartrick said. "Students who study music perform better in their core classes and on standardized tests, and we’re excited to be able to provide this opportunity for students in Detroit.”

Going back to allowing yourself to fully engage with music, it makes Crash an excellent time to consider how crucial music can be to the cultural and intellectual development of young students. So if you happen to have any used instrument(s) that you'd like to donate, Crash will be collecting them for next year's YCC, with a drop-off area at the information booth on Saturday (2-8pm).

The featured lineup of bands includes:
Detroit Party Marching Band
Hungry March Band
Gabriel Brass Band,
Filthy FemCorps
The Drumadics
Chaotic Noise Marching Corps
Big Blitz
Jefferson Street Parade Band
Youth Crash Corps
and The Party Band


Visit or the Facebook event for the full schedule of performances.

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

The War and Treaty - "Are You Ready To Love Me?"

The War and Treaty have released their official music video for “Are You Ready To Love Me?"

The powerfully soulful duo of Tanya Blount-Trotter and Michael Trotter sharing this beautiful song in an empty school house (probably near their home in Albion MI), as sunshine pours in through the windows. There might not be a light source inside this ornate and rustic structure, but there's plenty of radiance from these two effervescent performers. This song comes from the aptly titled "Healing Tide" (out August 10), and that's just what a War and Treaty song can do for you..., bring on the healing, the restoration, and the revelry.

Follow the War & Treaty on Facebook

Monday, July 16, 2018

Super Birthday

photo by Brian Rozman

You're dropped right in to "The Phantasm Ball;" pushing play on Super Birthday's new album feels akin to triggering an unlocking mechanism hidden in amid the creaky bookshelves of a cobwebbed cosmic mansion's lounge and being whisked away with great suddenness to dimensions of erratic possibility and wayward wonder.

Super Birthday channel the danger and intrigue of metal, the theatricality of glam-rock nocturnes, and the cerebral detachment of psychedelia. The way they stir and swirl their instrumental phrasings and intonations can spellbind the listener's senses, to where--if they close their eyes and allow the band's tidal sonic energies to draw them deeper--they'll likely feel as though they're on some kind of quest, a a strange trip, or a profound daydream's surreal reverie. There is a gnarly vibe about this album, but it's wound with precision. It's angular and mysterious, but it doesn't speak any language that you don't already understand.

For all the misfits out there who've had their minds melted by the horrors of humanity, this Detroit rock quartet tap into that tender lunacy and meld it into eerily beautiful melodies with gnarly tones and cathartic wails. Lead singer/lyricist Troy Gregory, who has always been a bit of a mad scientist in the realms of goth pop and rock mysticism, just put out an epic rock opera. But the bassist/songwriter seems to be possessed by some other kind of entity on the cover of the album, identified in the liner notes only as "Misty." Nevertheless, it's evident, here with Super Birthday's Matthew Lannoo (guitar/vocals), Vince Rodriquez (synths/guitars) and Fido Kennington (drums/vocals) that he's still resonating with an energy that's comparably supernatural.

But it's go so much of a groove to it, that it's never as obtuse or wobbly as Zappa; it's too cool to sound cult, or perhaps too logistical and philosophic to be freaky. "A skeleton key gets you into a skeleton club..." And while that suggests a "crypt," it's not cryptic. This album, be it through the standout percussive arrangements in "Cracked Mad and Crazy," the stunt-pilot-on-uppers sort of flightpath of the dueling guitars on "Phantasm Ball," the gong echoing over the ceremonial synths on "Ice Cream," or any other vaporous corner of the album suggests an invitation, an arrival, an acclimation to some new place, be it a basement or be it oblivion, you are, as stated at the outset, pulled somewhere fantastic but foreboding. Each musician brings so many colors, many of them neon, ultraviolet, or midnight blue, to the notes that they blend in their performances--evoking a wide-eyed sense of a we're-not-in-Kansas-anymore epiphany.

The album may be title, Abracopocus, means that you haven't been tricked by the magic, but that two disparate spells collided, and in the likely explosive sequence of their canceling each other out, another kind of consciousness opens like a portal. Consider it a rebirth. Consider it a rebirth party. A super rebirth party. That's why they invite you to a Church in a Basement in the's a religious (sort-of) "revival." Only they're reviving you! And you're "learning" how to heal. It's deep, sure. But any listener can jump in and just enjoy the ride, if they'd prefer. No one has to think of it as supernatural, after all... Consider it "super-natural."

Super Birthday perform Friday, July 20
@ Outer Limits Lounge

Friday, July 13, 2018

Siamese - New Video ("Tarrare") + New Album ("Host")

We are bound to our darker sides. It's not so much physically as we are emotionally... It's like a twin we might not show the outside world, one that's been toughened by the tumult of relationships, the encroaching of self-doubt or the dread of world events. Whatever it is, Siamese tap into it, lyrically and sonically, and what results in "Host" is the manifestation of coming through the otherside, back into a world of light and oxygen and other people, but bringing with it a cold wisdom from freshly healed wounds.

Perhaps a less graceful but still apt metaphor would be that of a boxer getting a rematch. Siamese feel and sound like a contender coming back into the ring of focused ferocity, unphased by the black eye they might bare, marching in, uppercutting and K.O.-ing some grievous opponent with one punch. That said, it's also a sleek composite of post-grunge grit, spacey electronica and melodic new-wave.

The release party for "Host" is on Friday, July 27, at The Loving Touch. The video for its lead single, "Tarrare,"premiered today via popmatters.

For more info on the filmmaking team behind this video, check out Obscura Broadcasting.....

Back to Siamese
From the get go, "Host" brings the band to a position of an earned vindication. There comes a point where our stronger side comes out, often in response to a prior wrong and that's just what keyboarist (lead singer) Johanna Champagne's lyrics and emotive vocals are bringing to the fore. "If I want it //I'll get it," she belts on Tarrare, with this scorched vocal effect. In other words, get out of her way!

Steve Thoel (guitar), Angie Kaiser (drums) and Eric Cojocari (bass) take that energy from the lyrics and, with Champagne, create a cathartic kind of alt-rock house music. While there are some ambient, slower ballads in between, several of the arrangements match that laser-like vigor of the vocals. Again, to put it less gracefully, several songs sound like they're already soundtracks to the best kind of Matrix-esque kung-fu sci-fi special-effects-splashed polychromatic climactic fight scene you could imagine!

But unlike badass fight scenes, the rhythm of these punches comes packed with way more substantive emotions. We are but a host to those emotions--and songs like the title track, as well as "Tarrare," allow for the proper expression and poise for expelling them--with maximally cathartic results.


Siamese Album Release Show
Friday, July 27th
The Loving Touch
22634 Woodward Ave
Ferndale, MI 48220
All Ages
$8 Cover
Doors 8pm

Monday, July 9, 2018

Sorrow Inc - 'Lush"

I have this favorite band of mine....that you can't see. You can hear them though. It's just that they aren't on social media and they're probably never going to play a show.

Oh, but I also have one more eccentric deviation... ...this band changes names, identities and genres every six months.

Tom Bahorski and Steve Olshove are Sophisticated Professionals. 

They're a two-person music production company that writes and records their own original music, but challenge themselves to morph into different personas and aesthetics for each album. They've done country, they've done proto-punk, they've done krautraock. Now, it's on to a sweet spot of late 80's shoegaze and early 90's Brit-pop revival.

Your obvious reference points will be Ride, Slowdive, Swervediver and The Stone Roses. Think: guitar-centric surges adorned with beautifully caustic and tightly wound strands of distortion ribboning in a flutter as each track all but takes flight. Synthesizers and guitars layer over each other and then layer over again in an echo-splashed murmuration. Add in the charmingly maudlin poetry of new-romantics, fever-pitch new-wave heartache and swooning soundtracks for your starry eyed drives home from any weekend's average party of missed connections. That's Sorrow Inc.

When you're in the thick of emotional highs and lows, there's just something poignant that only the right amount of distortion and woozy vocals can capture... You can fall in love with that devastated feeling with the kind of songs that Sorrow Inc. make... And I think another facet of their albums feeling like tiny treasures is that you know it's feeling...that this is an album that is a one-time-only iteration of this specific sound and style. It's like they've been a band six times over with six precious debut albums... Always kaleidoscoping into something else. This is my favorite so far, from the Soph Prof duo. I hope it finds more ears. If not, we've got apt songs, here, for catharsis.

Thursday, July 5, 2018

Rogue Satellites - "We Are Apparitions"

photo credit: Liz Bedore

Detroit post-punk duo Rogue Satellites unveil their third album, Black Wings, next Friday. Lisa Poszywak and Jaye Allen Thomas are heading on tour the day after the release, hitting up Dayton, Columbus, Chicago and looping back around to Fort Wayne, Grand Rapids and more. Later on, on August 4, they celebrate at Deluxx Fluxx in Detroit with Sisters of Your Sunshine Vapor and Minihorse.

Black Wings will be available on vinyl (Space Camp Records and cassette (Midwest Action), but you'll also find it on the usual digital platforms. Meanwhile, here's the brand new single, "We Are Apparitions."

When you think of birds with black wings they tend to put people on edge. Crows, Ravens...even Grackles..., they can put people on edge or just carry a general air of foreboding. Like these birds, the Rogue Satellites are not singing pretty songs, per se, but while the title track has some dystopic imagery of a deficit hope, there is still the ability to fly, to escape, to reach some higher branch or perhaps just break out of a cage.

Similar, in an albeit distant sense, to Nick Cave, Tom Waits, or PJ Harvey, the Rogue Satellites are not shying away from, nor sugarcoating, the darker sides. Their lyrics shine harsh lights on the unvarnished corners of humanity, but find vocal tones and transfixing melodic ribbons to sing these stark scenes to life. While those aforementioned songwriters might be closer to the realms of a dark folk or even goth-like trip, the Rogues are making a beautiful disassemblage of rock, with sparse flourishes from guitars and synthesizers, percussive arrangements that are like a tender industrial churn with a brooding post-punk march into the night. These are new-wave nocturnes that shine brightest (albeit like a fuzzy purple hued ultraviolet) when Poszywak and Thomas' vocal harmonies simmer and swell together through the choruses.

"Black Wings" can take us to the depths and make us see the barren trees, but there's a sense of rescue in those drums and those surfy psych-rock guitars in the opening phrase, suggesting a sort of propulsive getaway. If "Your Forest Arms" were tempoed just three-times faster, it'd be easy to call it a punk song, but there's something alluring about slowing it down to a toe-tapping sway; this is among many standout moments where the production allows each element, even that sleek and eerie synth curly it's melody at the refrain, to breathe and blossom. And then there's "War Dogs," which brings us to the edge of the abyss to greet the sense of dread that many of us feel after any runthrough of the headlines--with hypnotic drums recalling "Venus In Furs" but coated by a low but waltzing growl on the bass.

I was attracted to "We Are Apparitions" not merely because its title automatically sounds like a signature Rogue Satellites kinda song. But it's got one of the best drum hooks on the album, along with some surreal atmospheric touches that would bend the ear of any Radiohead fan. More than that, it's doing what the Rogues do best, designing a powerful melody weaving in aesthetic minor keys over a subtly cathartic punch of guitars over percolating bass and adorning synths. But it addresses the poison and division we're all troubled by and wondering what kind of effect that would have on those with more fragile constitutions--to where we might even be mutating into monsters, snakes, a swarm of bees....or worse, apparitions.

But you'll hear the whole of Black Wings soon. Whether the feathers are black, or if there's actual muck, mud or decay, it can't keep your wings from threshing, flapping, beating upward.... Hopefully--upward!!

More info

Tuesday, July 3, 2018

Jeremy Waun - New Single: "Drenched"

Jeremy Waun fascinates me. I feel like he may be a brilliant and bizarre prototype of NuHumanCreative that broke loose from some laboratory and went off into the wilds of the music scene to steadily evolve on his own. I feel like he's responding to the harmony of the spheres or some other orbital resonance we're not otherwise detecting and formulating his own musical language. For one thing, there's the versatility: he's able to shred it out with thrash-metal maniacs Child Bite, but also conjure his own face-melting psychedelic pabulum with his fretwork and lead vocals in Reverend! And now we've got this new single from Waun as a solo artist - a lush but sludgy, punk but gunky, hip-hop sauntering, 80's lo-fi recalling, space-invader-theme-song of a joint....

Jeremy Waun - Drenched from Sincerely Productions on Vimeo.

Headphones will reward the listener who can have all of the subtle reverb and dreamy delay effects splash into your ears, whether its the echoing bass, the chilly, Gary Numan recalling countermelody synths, or the caustic cymbal sounds from the sequenced beats. And then there's Waun, so in the groove with his vocal cadence, hitting curious crooning registers and intermingling a theatrical sing-speak style. I feel like this is a song that Bowie post-Berlin and 1978 early DEVO would have made if they ever got into a basement and jammed until 4am.

Sincerely ProductionsReverend

Sunday, July 1, 2018

Loose Koozies - Slow Down Time

As you can see, the flag implores you to "slow down..." and yet it's flown from the bed of a barreling monster truck that appears to already have hit reckless velocities. It reminds me of the first single that Detroit based quartet Loose Koozies released more than a year ago: "Rollin' Heavy..." Whereas that title might suggest some kind of aggro-riff on Cream, Grand Funk or Foghat, yet their song is a sweet, shuffling strummer of a melodic country-folk ode, stitched with sentimentality and world-wary wisdom. And while there are plenty of lyrical ballads about small towns and plaintive blue collar pleasures woven into disarming metaphors and erudite wordplay, you might be surprised to vibe nostalgically with a rockin' story about a horse track in Hazel Park where you can, if you're hungry enough, have up to five hot dogs. Yes. Loose Koozies kick your preconceptions to the curb in a lot of ways.

So slow down... But also hold fast. Expect "country-rock" but not "country-rock..."

Pete Ballard's pedal-steel is prominent on these two new tracks, recorded in Detroit with Warren Defever of His Name Is Alive; but the heart of Koozies charm is the rollicking rhythms of Nick German (drums) and Erin Davis (bass), finding the a propelling pocket for the energizing "Slow Down Time," and the easygoing sway and melodic hook for "Marita." Singer/guitarist E.M. Allen's mid-high rusty warble promenades over those rhythms at matching tempos hitting registers that you could almost qualify for honky-tonk status but you're too busy dialing in to his capricious dispositions with lyrics about lying around in your underwear hiding in the verses of a song that's got some sincere thoughts to share about the simple paths to happiness. Guaranteed in every Koozie song is the decorous fret dressings of lead guitarist Andrew Moran, weaving around each lyric, bass groove or cymbal hats and sure to bring out an elegantly face-melting solo in the bridge to each closing chorus.

Each Koozie brings something fresh to the table--with resumes that include bands more inclined toward indie-rock, punk, or something even further from "country." What manifests here is something organic, some other kind of "country..." ... a laid back yet luminous arrangement of road-trippable worry-killing ditties that just so happens to have a bit of twang and strut to 'em

Loose Koozies
Record Release
Wed., (4th of July)
Outer Limits Lounge
with Kelly Jean Caldwell and J. Walker & the Crossguards

Friday, June 29, 2018


People often say that music can be like therapy; ...that just the experience of listening to a piece of music can make you feel better. Typically it's a pop song, something with immediate effervescence.... ...But it's something else when a song, or even a musical phrase or motif, can provide you with something deeper, namely: illumination; to where it feels like the song and its singer is giving you something, bestowing that healing to you in a sonic 5-minute ceremony that's exceedingly more intimate than any catharsis you might just rake from a regular radio song. 

Santiparro is a singer/songwriter who spent much of his creative life here in Metro Detroit, but departed about 8 years ago to begin what seems, by intention, to be an endless odyssey. It's a journey I can only come to understand more fully by what's imparted in his lyrics, cast across holy-sounding melodies and ethereal incantations in a voice that sounds like it came from the ground, from the wind, from a cave, from a cloud.... And it becomes apparent through the songs of his forthcoming album, Talon, that that journey was more than just going out to spend time living beyond the borders of Michigan or the United States, but a deeper, metaphysical journey, to the depths of the soul, and back again. 

Why am I getting this heavy about a piece of music before even describing it? I think you can intuit its extensively cosmic substance from streaming the lead single of Santiparro's Talon, below...

A kaleidoscope of styles and sounds congeal on every song, each with a fluid and adventurous arrangement; imagine Pet Sounds in the 80's fuzzy peak of shoegaze, or "Boxer"-era Simon & Garfunkel if they were produced by late 90's David Fridmann... Whereas Santiparro (aka Alan Scheurmann)'s previous albums, such as 2015's True Prayer, cultivated a progressive and elemental sounding folk, or future-folk aesthetic, Talon finds Santiparro entering danceable realms of rhythmic revelry, augmented by greater inclusion of synthesizers and sequenced beats. More than that, as emoted on the lyrics, the singer himself seems to be filled with a fresh distillation of energies - to where you can see this human as he sings to you, easily imagined with his eyes closed, something close to ecstasy or if not that just in the midst of a heightened empathic link to not just you and me and his own self, but, ambitiously, to other dimensions.   

Santiparro's main collaborator on this venture is Kansas City-based producer J. Ashley Miller. And  I came to these conclusions about the intentions and themes of the album before I even zeroed in on the actual content of the lyrics. It's like I received the signals of this emotional content by what they captured and honed on the recording-itself, the performance of Scheurmann, the tones he reaches with his voice and the grainy gorgeous quality of his acoustic guitar over the majestic pianos. That's latticed beautifully over Miller's mix of the organic and the synthetic sounds, as well as co-navigating a way for Scheurmann to make a stylistic shift and come off sounding like a natural transition--wings spread from a former chrysalis. And each song builds, swells, blossoms...they might start out small, quiet, ambient, but they build and grow and add and combine, voices, guitars, pianos and just the right amount of reverb, delay and distortion.... It gives one pause. It gives one quite a lot, in fact, if you listen closely enough.

And the way in which these songs build, you can sense that Miller and Scheurmann were truly on a journey together, working out the recording at the Infoaming Vertex in KC. Whereas True Prayer featured cameos from artists like Bonnie "Prince" Billy and Kyp Malone, the only artists here are Scheurmann and Miller, and a few vocal cameos from Scheurmann's wife, Indy Genao. And while I can quote so many lyrics from this record for their profundity and wisdom, I think I'll go with a song you'll be able to hear, once it's released on August 3rd, which is titled "Ani Tana..."  " can get there // you already are..."

More info
+ follow on Facebook
Talon comes out August 3rd 

Tuesday, June 26, 2018

Dr. Wolf

Dr. Wolf is a Detroit-based duo with two new singles that sound nothing alike, and that's the intent. Henry Johns (vocals/guitar/drums) and Nick Sapounas (vocals/synth/drums) have been friends (and musical collaborators) for a long time, and together they've been fusing their imaginative approaches to arrangements and coiling the spectrum of limiting genres like a twizzler, in hopes of snapping it back into a broader wavelength. Both musicians come from equitably adventurous bands like gray/bliss and Warehouse. These two tunes are sort of a preview of more to come from Dr. Wolf in the year ahead, and I'm excited to premiere them.

"Came So Easy" is a guitar-centrc glide and shimmy, drawing in new wave Johnny Marr-ish staccato style and syrupy reverb spilled over the dream-pop crooning vocals. Wavy and wobbly psychedelic effects furl around the solo bridging the second and third choruses, but the spacey weirdness pares back for those crispy surfy tones to come in and carry you through. The drums are snappy and mighty enough to accommodate what you'd expect to be a "rock song," but they're mixed measuredly into the recording so as not to overpower anything else--a fine balance. But then those spacey guitars come back in, a new pedal creating a shimmering sheen over the tones as we fly out of orbit...

And then "Acceptance" gently slides into slow-motion. The beats evoke a heart-beat, the drones feel like deep breathes, a modulated tone curves and purrs and then the ethereal vocals waft around you like a stray ribbon in a chill breeze. You lock in to the beat and you can almost feel the tension being extracted from your muscles, from your aura even. It's a slow, slllooowww rock, a sweet and meditative sway. The guitars pare back for accentuations at the corners of each measure while the beat, the winding whirr of the synths and those stretchy vocal notes repose resplendently from one beat to the next. They're giving you 6 minutes a piece with each of these tracks, and "Acceptance," just like "Came So Easy," grows into so many different motifs and allows for myriad mesmerizing sounds to manifest...

Put some headphones on.... Dr. Wolf want to expand the avenues of sound and expression...and maybe along the way they can expand your mind, too.

More Info

Dr. Wolf's Next show

Dr. Wolf's bandcamp

Friday, June 22, 2018

saajtak's new EP: 'Hectic' (June 28)

Hectic is a beautiful word to start to describe saajtak. Or, rather, the Detroit-based band find a way to make "hectic" sound beautiful. That's the title of their new EP, two epic songs spanning 15 entrancing minutes.

Harmony blossoms frequently throughout these extended arrangements, designed to take away the palatable hooks, familiar chord progressions and conventional downbeats and let a detached listener respond or adapt to a song through finding their own balanced cadence.

saajtak - Hectic

Ears acclimated to rock, pop, hip-hop or folk will have no other recourse but to consider their idiosyncratic and unbounded sonic designs to be a sleek outgrowth of something resembling jazz. But rather than trade off expressive solos and pivot instrumental phrasings, each of these four artists flows, or flourishes their musical capacities along uniquely tuneful and dynamic orchestrations--something like a sustained crescendo from four corners. 

Simon Alexander-Adams casts spells on keys/electronics, Alex Koi's vocals soar, Jonathan Taylor provides frenetic percussion and Ben Willis gives the bass a mean but majestic growl. Each finds the updraft to catch and glide the song but uniquely controls their own flaps along the wing of the craft. At least that's where Hectic's got me digging....

The new EP will be out soon. But while you're here, let's listen to one of my favorite songs from last year, off of saajtak's first EP, Spokes...

You're never far from something booming, swooning, bending or flourishing. It's like a groove that keeps getting deeper, or at least allows for multiple levels and otherwise uncharted stylistic trenches.

More info: saajtak

saajtak EP Release
Thurs., June 28
El Club
featuring: Onyx Ashanti // Marcus Elliot // River Spirit // Sad Mandala // DJ Greg Baise
$5 (presale) $10 (at the door)

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Mountain Babies - "Pine Cones & Grindstones" (new video)

Photography by Ryan Nisbett Studios

This ethereal-sounding Americana twang-team from Port Huron are a must-hear. In fact, I wrote about their Existence of Resistance EP in the middle of last summer and expressed how I was drawn to the Mountain Babies' sensibility for manifesting something that can rustles up the soul. It's ambient folk's spacey vibes meets math rock's intricate fretwork; it's country tumblers evoking rural road trips but slathered in post-rock noise experimentation; and its all arranged, recorded, and mixed for optimal balance so as to dazzle your ears and make your head swim...

They demonstrated a capriciousness and a laid back charisma with their playful video for 2016's "Pointe Aux Barques/Dead Man's Walkin" - featuring a psychedelic journey through the woods. Now, with "Pine Cones & Grindstones," they become paper-cut outs on a diorama stage, with impressive edits that literally tear away one layer to reveal campfires, mountains, underwater milieus and a desert oasis, collaging the four players onto each new page and taking them on an adventure--even as they're standing still and playing this tune for you. Then you get to the 95-second mark and they become surfers upon a cresting wave of swelling tones, only to pare back for a minimal denouement that expresses the heart of not just this song, but much of the EP from whence it came....a holding on to hope, even in the face of nuanced darkness. "The sun will be rising....soon."

Mountain Babies' next performance is Saturday, at the annual Porch Fest in Port Austin, MI

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, " 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."

EP Release Party
June 8
Loving Touch

Find the band on Spotify 

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Science for Sociopaths - Love & Life

If not properly channeled, our emotions can get the better of us.  Best, then, to channel those emotions into a song. Tempestuous or overwhelming affections, impulses, reactions and ruminations can be wound and threaded into melodies, rhythmic chords and minimal percussive heartbeats for the betterment of the soul...and Maggie Cocco has that process down to a science....

Writing, recording, and performing under the moniker Science for Sociopaths, Detroit-area singer/songwriter Maggie Cocco is getting ready to drop two EPs next weekend.

Cocco has been writing and performing around the metro Detroit area for several years and one thing has remained constant - there's this fearless addressing or expression of sentiment and truth, coiled into rhymed lyrics that bridge indie-pop to a soulful blues-rock, taking on a wider gazed perspective on "life" and "love." In fact, her two new EPs, Love and Life drew inspiration from icons like Carole King, Emmylou Harris, or Patti Smith, but also contemporary commentators on daily emotional tumult, like Kelly Clarkson or Taylor Swift.

Produced with Nashville-based Benjamin Warsaw, these two ambitious EPs tackle the big questions: how we can feel so out of our minds around circumstances involving love, loved ones, close bonds, or even self-esteem, then taking on a more existential look of forks in the proverbial road of life and how, if at all possible, to be one's best self.... Now, as heavy as that sounds, the "science" part is finding a way to address these truths in a graceful arrangement of music and voice...

Science for Sociopaths

Dual EP Release Show
June 1st - at DIME
1265 Griswold St., Detroit
More info

Friday, May 18, 2018

Ancient Language (Interview) + "At Last We Are Nothing"

Ancient Language are releasing a new batch of sonic worlds (condensed into 5-minute scopes) on June 2nd and the newest single is streaming below...

This six-piece post rock ensemble's new album,  HYGGE, glides, marches, or drifts dreamily with sculpted arrangements of cinematic strings and cymbal crashes, chill saxophones and stratospheric guitars, warming pianos, and airily tender vocals threading heavily meditative lyrics.

This song sets a pulse for your breathing, with chimes and a calming bass essentially stretching things out and letting in some oxygen; then the drums kick in and set a stride, the piece moves forward and the viola comes in... This is what Ancient Language have always been best at, steadily adding more sonic pieces to the collage with a carefulness so as not to overbear the ears, but to harmoniously bring you into the next dream state (verse, bridge, etc). After the second chorus scoops you up and evokes a sense of floating, you could snug those headphones to your ear and key in on the subtleties of any element and find a quiet richness - if it's the breathlessness of the vocals, the cherubic simplicity of the looping synth melody, or the variably expressive or sparse booming hum of the bass....

Founding member Christopher Jarvis said that the recording process for this one was "...started with (brother/bassist) Zach and I writing demos in Arizona and sending them back and forth to Matt (Beyer)." (And this goes back almost two years, now.) (Beyer) would add something, we'd add something or take something away, sculpting the songs as they took shape. It was actually really exciting to work this way. I'd never given up so much control before. (Beyer) wrote so many amazing melodies and progressions. When Zach and I moved back to Michigan we continued writing and recording together, eventually adding Abby(Abigail Jaske) on viola. The whole thing was recorded in (Beyers)'s basement. 

Continuing in their character, this is music to sort of pause you in your daily anxieties and hustles--with contemplative lyrics that make you wonder just quite how that surmising is delivered... At last, after all our worries and wanderings, we are but  nothing? In sort of a zen way? Or is it like, At last! with excitement, as though one had been anticipating this all along...yes, we are nothing. But this song is not about worrying where we'll end up and it isn't existentially casting off what significance our actions may have "in the end," it's more of a song about being in the moment.

"I think my approach has shifted away from the production aspect," Jarvis said, "and now I'll focus more on melody and emotion. I'm trying to get at something honest and truthful instead of just making music that sounds cool or music you can party to or chill to or whatever. The music I like is music that makes me feel something real, even if it's challenging; so that's what I try to do." 

And then he uses that beautiful word, "maximal..."  "...My music has always been pretty maximal so creating music for 5 or 6 people wasn't that much of a challenge. We went in writing these songs with the intent of playing them live without a computer, so naturally the arrangements were a little more minimal at first but we ended up adding a lot of instruments in recording so I think it ended up being just as complex anyway."

The best kinds of post-rock odysseys will do that - even though it's a complex meshwork of musical elements interweaving together - it is about a peacefulness... A sudden throw into sharp relief of the very big picture that is, you, me, and everything...

And yes, the album title does come from the Danish art of comfort... "hygge," at its core is about an approach to life that is about recognizing and living within a moment of peacefulness. "We're all searching for wellness and peace in our lives," said Jarvis. "And it's so fleeting but I think music can be a way into that..." 

Ancient Language - HYGGE release party
Saturday, June 2nd
with Man Mountain and Earth Engine

Thursday, May 10, 2018

High Strung - New Single: "If You Wanna Roll"

The High Strung are back in action. Back in rare form, really. It's been almost four years since their last album, I, Anybody, but they're returning with even more energy and soul as guitarist Mark Owen, a co-founding member, comes back to the fold in time for Quiet Riots, a new batch of songs the group plans on releasing later this summer. I'm thrilled to debut the latest single, "If You Wanna Roll..."

....I was curious if singer/guitarist Josh Malerman and artist Allison Laakko could spin together a music video earlier this week for my favorite song off the new album.... And I give you...

Owen rejoins Malerman (guitar/vocals), Chad Stocker (bass/vocals), and Derek Berg (drums/vocals) after a time away. That trio sustained the band during a 6-year span throughout much of the 2000's, during which they went on an odyssey-like non-stop tour together. Guitar sage Stephen Palmer is already marking his eighth year in the band and you'll hear his sinewy guitar streams throughout this song and particularly blazing as it builds into the second chorus. Not that you need a condensed history of the band, but its notable how intertwined their personal and musical lives have been. They basically grew up together, and have been making music together for half of their respective lives--and that chemistry radiates infectiously throughout Quiet Riots; the soundtrack of five sonic muralists, each keenly aware of where to fill in their instrumental spaces in graceful harmony of polychromatic power-pop.

"If You Wanna Roll" embodies the essence of all great Strung songs in that it lifts you to your feet and implores you into any kind of kinetic whimsy, motion or burst that fits your mood, be it a jog, a dance, or just a stretch that shakes off the dust of a lingeringly chilly Spring. Three guitars create a cresting tide and the dynamic basslines coil across the buoyant percussion. But "Roll" gleams with that chiming piano and those anthemic harmonies. When Malerman "bah-dah-dah's" his way through the bridge, it evokes a sense of running up flights of stone stairs two at a time until you reach a precipice and leap into a levitation, carried by the backing vocals that assure you not to worry about the laws of physics... "...we'll pretend / we'll pretend..."

The song rolls past self-imposed barriers, it cartwheels over any neurotic self-doubt and it steamrolls apprehension or uncertainties. It's zen...but it's also exuberant and ebullient. And it's telling you, dear listener, that if the proverbial spirit moves you, and said spirit is willing, than they'll roll right along with you... ... I think that zen-vibe I'm picking up is coming from a band that's equipped to reach another level. They're probably already there. You'll probably hear it yourself, too, not just in this song - but when the entirety of Quiet Riots comes to light.

The High Strung
Performing next Saturday
May 12
@ Trixie's in Hamtramck
INFOwith Matt Jones and Drift Mouth 

Sunday, May 6, 2018

Virginia Violet & The Rays - On the Fringe (Interview)

I think they call it soul music because it makes you feel that much more alive. The drum is like a pulse, the brass makes the blood in your veins feel electric, the percussive hooks get you dancing and the vocals fill up the room and fly up to the rafters. That's the kind of music, a music with a signature kind of energy, that Virginia and Joe were drawn to when they started working on songs together in 2016. It wasn't long before they formed Virginia Violet & The Rays--the story of which lies in the interview below...

This coming Friday, Virginia Violet & The Rays celebrate their debut album, On The Fringe, at the Loving Touch in Ferndale. Below, we've got the lead single from their soundcloud (where you can also find their first EP), and right after that, their second single, "Where I Belong," which just came out Friday as a music video.

While countless other contemporary bands may dig deeper into searching for strange new sounds on synthesizers and sequencers, Joe Myers and Virginia Violet realized there was still so much raw, untapped potential left to be revitalizing from the classic soul and funk of the 60's and 70's, particularly Motown and its sometimes grittier or higher-energy offshoot, Northern Soul....

...And I feel like energy is the word I'll repeat four more times before this post about Virginia Violet & The Rays is done...

A band of nine musicians would inherently generate a lot of kinetics, but their arrangements, tempos and key signatures are meticulously composed to manifest movement, whether its frenetic or just a slow swoon, with exuberant serotonin-rushes from the warmth of the saxophones, trumpet and trombone, to the ambient flavors of the organ, that extra rock n roll kick of the guitar/bass/drums, and then Virginia's splendid vocals, that can glimmer across a spectrum of emotions, so expressive and grand that you wouldn't need the visuals of the video above to otherwise suggest how vibrant and animated she, and the entire band, can be.

The band includes Eric Childress (drums), Tommy Porter (guitar), Evan Mercer (keys), Garrett Gaina (baritone sax), Adam Dib (alto sax), Chris Kendall (trombone), and Dave Vessella (trumpet). You, of course, can hear Virginia's vocals leading the way, with Joe providing sleek rhythmic anchor on the bass.

I spoke with Joe and Virginia recently, and they mentioned the importance of "balance" when it comes to composing for a large ensemble. Akin to the Dap-Kings, Mayer Hawthorne, Leon Bridges, or Lianne LaHavas, the songwriting duo appreciate that balance builds into optimal an harmonization of such distinctly effervescent flavors and arranging them into a balletic composite of metre and melody that's meant to, more than anything else, set a groove....

...and this is the kind of groove you just want to let loose to..., dance to, clap your hands to, close your eyes while singing along to...., perfectly inline with the spirit of Motown.

On The Fringe was produced in Woodbridge by Gordon Smith (of The Kickstand Band), with assistance in mastering by Adam Cox.

Release Party, May 11
The Loving Touch
with Ryan Dillaha & The Miracle Men
and DJ Ben Van Camp

When and how did the band start? Was it always a 9-piece ensemble? Was it always inclined to soul? 
Joe Myers:    Virginia and I met in early 2016 after I had just gotten back from Europe. I spent some time traveling and my old band was breaking up, so I wanted to start fresh in Detroit. We hit it off over our mutual love of old Motown. But I had also just been turned on to Northern Soul when I was over in Europe. It blew me away that there was so much English interest in old Detroit soul records that I had never even heard of. It was definitely a "where has this been all my life?"-kind of moment, and I got super into the idea doing something like that. Virginia brought strong musical ideas and wanted a big ensemble, so after we started writing and got the band together I don’t think there was ever a chance of us being anything else. Motown runs deep.

What's the key to arranging all the various instrumental parts? And, for that matter, what's the key for capturing your signature soul-sound?
Joe:   Normally, I’ll come up with the music and cut a demo at home with all the instrumentation and then send it over to Virginia but it varies all the time. Sometimes she comes up with the structure on guitar and sends me an idea to work off of but she handles all the lyrics. Usually we’ll do the melody together. It’s pretty back in forth but once we’ve agreed on most of it, we’ll introduce it to the band and make adjustments with them. I think the key for our creation process is balance. You need a strong foundation to get through the trenches but being open-minded to change is essential with a writing partner.

What drew you to go back to a classic soul sound, and what is it you always aspire to create when you work toward a new song
Virginia Violet:  I’ve always had a soft spot for songs that I can dance to but, being raised on a lot of gospel and folk music from my mom, I have always been drawn to strong voices telling stories, putting their soul into everything they’re writing. I think that expression of creativity encompasses soul music to me. I aspire to create characters and tell stories in each song that reflect the experiences of life through different perspectives.

What was the recording experience like for 'On the Fringe?'  What were some standout moments from the recording?
Virginia:   Recording ‘On the Fringe’ was a summer long process, a lot of sweat and love in that record. My favorite moments of recording were the sweaty sweaty days I spent in Woodbridge putting down my vocals, playing with Allison the tiny cat under the bed-- we became best friends.

What inspired the title? And what, overall, guided it, in terms of, just, what kind of record you wanted to make, or what experience you wanted to foster for a listener?
Virginia:   The title was inspired from a painting my grandmother did titled "On the Fringe". The phrase represents where we are as a band, as we approach the release of our first full length album.  Like the rest of the experiences I have had with this project, the record guided itself into its own unique thing that I don't think any of us could have planned for at the beginning.

Joe, what do you appreciate most about the contemporary Detroit music scene?
Joe:   Diversity. I love going to things like Dally and WheteverFest because it’s an opportunity to be exposed to great bands I would never know about. There are phenomenal bands in Detroit but you’ve gotta do your homework. Or keep up with a blog that will do some of that homework for you. Thank God for you, Jeff Milo.

Virginia, what about the road ahead? Plans for the rest of the year and beyond? 
Virginia:    Just keep on pushing and writing tons of new music! Maybe tour at the end of the summer? We’re shooting for another release by the fall of this year.