Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Listening Back on 20 Years of Detroit Music: Part 4

I started writing about local music around 2004. And it did feel like a big deal when I marked a 10 year anniversary. But I'll tell you... I've never felt busier than during these last four years. Sure, just like any institution, a new wave of younger participants tides its way down the halls of the music scene, and they're full of energy and ambition and eagerness to take on tours to Chicago and New York, and likely are comparatively freer than the older guard from 2004, now, who have each gone on to other things, or perhaps started families...

STILL, so many of the musicians who first scorched the sonic epiphanies I felt at my first show years ago are still at it, in other bands now, collaborating with other musicians, trying new sounds and styles. Bands like The Hentchmen will never die. Zach Shipps and Chris Koltay are still behind the boards. Beloved underground bands like Thoughts of Ionesco or Bear Vs Shark can always get back together for an inspiring stint. And other longtime garage rock music mavens have moved on to other ways of energizing the music community. Also, there are musicians who I came up with, my contemporaries, age-wise, that I've enjoyed witnessing (or listening to) their creative evolution, as they've moved from one project to another. 

These four blog posts have been heavily nostalgic, and they've found me reverting to my mindset in 2004, when I would look up to garage rock musicians as the seniors to my freshman. I have evolved from that thinking, by now. There aren't, or there shouldn't be, any levels of seniority. We're all in this mix together, we're all spurred by the same strain of a passionate love for music; it gets expressed in myriad and unique ways, but there's always that same something that few of us can ever quite capture in words, that something that keeps us, as the Flint Eastwood song goes, "in love with the feeling..." 

AND, I've evolved way past being just an indie-rock kid, fresh out of college. Hip-hop, neo-soul, techno, dub, house, blues, country, Americana, noise-experimentaiton, chamber-pop, psychedelia, ambient electronica, new-wave revival, gypsy-folk, jazz, pop............ I am immersed in all of it, each week, each month, each year...., all of it created HERE! All of these emotions that I've felt from this music were triggered by the arrangements, the vocal and instrumental performances, and the productions of local artists and engineers, both live and on records. 

I have never been, nor did I ever purport to attempt, to be a "music critic" when it came to my detailed written encounters with Detroit bands. I was inspired, enough, just to be able to be in a position to tell stories. My interviews with these bands, and there have been hundreds, are an evident form of telling a story. But when I sit down and listen to the songs, when I write about the music and what it sounds like..., I'm also telling an extended part of the story in that aspect. It's always just been about creating a dialogue through music; a way of telling the story of Detroit's musical artists, year to year... And I could go on... And I will go on...

So what I have for you here is music created mostly between 2014--2017, with a few older examples. But lots of newer groups that I've been digging during these past four busy years... AND, as I always say, these playful playlists were reliant upon what was available on Spotify. But I did get a lot of favorites, nonetheless. 

Sunday, December 10, 2017

Listening Back on 20 Years of Detroit Music (pt 3 of 4) 2008-2017

I feel caught between "waves" sometimes... Not that we have to be so insistent upon distinguishing one's journey through a music scene's evolution with categories... I'd rather not. But STILL:

To arrive on this music scene as an 18 year old in 2002 was pretty invigorating, because the tidal wave of "garage rock" music hadn't yet receded from the shore of venues and was still considered the primary species of the region's musical output... Parts one and two of this series did bring some focus to what else was going on around that era of 98-2007, primarily the rise of hip-hop emcees like Danny Brown, Invincible, Black Milk, and techno artists like ADULT.

But now, I'm looking beyond 2007...
I'm listening back to the most recent decade of Detroit music, the one that's just concluding this month.

And while I can still access the exhilaration I felt to see and meet and write about bands like The Dirtbombs and The Hentchmen in 2006 and 2007, I felt something even deeper or more profound with bands like Prussia, Illy Mack, Lightning Love, Black Lodge, Duende, Carjack, Wildcatting, The Oscillating Fan Club, Child Bite.... I could go on! The Decks! Mick Bassett & The Marthas!!   Anyway..... It was the next wave. It was the wave that I fit more into, age-wise, I suppose... And, as I emphasize, I hate to make this a generation thing... But the garage rockers I first encountered were all 9-11 years older than me when I got into this scene. So, suddenly, my classmates are stepping up and making their way into the scene in venues like The CAID (before it was raided), Club Bart's (before it was closed), and The Belmont (before it became Oloman's). And I wouldn't simplify it into this next decade's batch of bands somehow speaking my language more comprehensively.

I think it was more so that these bands, just like me, had also comparatively grown up as 17 and 18 year olds while The White Stripes or Danny Brown or Shigeto or whoever were right here in town, and that the respective creative radiances of those local icons similarly inspired them in their own ways - which was then translated into their own songs. And I fed off of that!

Sometimes I feel a surreal and conflicted self-consciousness over sounding like an old man who extols to the newest bands that I meet:  "If you only could have seen Prussia, live!!"  Or, Black Lodge, for that matter.  There are bands from this era that only put out one album, maybe two albums, and only stayed together for three years, maybe four....that I will never forget And it's a testament not only to the sentimental reasons I elucidated above, but because I believe that we were each similarly ignited with the same strain of inspiration.

Because it was after the "moment" between '98-2002 when people were looking to sign the next big thing out of this city's garage crop... Hell, it was even after 2005 or 2006 when you really saw the music industry start to crumble!! It was like the junior hockey team showing up for practice at the ice rink and realizing it had melted away... All that was left were the boards and stanchions and goalie nets, but a big rink of a 3-inch pond that they had to splash into now... So it was that these bands had no pressure to impress, or to cater their songs to some formula in hopes of punching some label's golden ticket to fame. The only fame was for the 31 minutes they were on a very dimly lit stage on a Friday night in front of a crowd of 32 people...

So, what I have here, are mostly songs from 2008-2013. Some are quite new, though. It was, as I've said, tricky to keep these lists balanced and comprehensive, because I am hindering my completion of it by relying upon "what's on Spotify..."
Anyway: I have too many memories to share. So here's their music

Friday, December 8, 2017

Lagerheads' EP - Song Premiere - Interview

The musicians  making up The Lagerheads, a band that would eventually debut on this scene in early 2016, actually spent the entierity of 2015 just working out their first batch of songs together. They proceeded to spend those first few shows experimenting with how they wanted to perform these arrangements of high-energy rock, a blend of grungey emotion, garage rock explosiveness, raucous metal tempos, and a bit of an indie/post-punk sleekness. Each player brought their individual sensibilities for creatively tilting the structural frames of rock music while still capturing its characteristically graceful intensities....

Next weekend, they're releasing their first EP, and you can stream their first single, "Like It Or Not," below.

"Like It Or Not's" has hooks that crash like a cascade of mini crescendos; the kinda song you'd throw your whole body into if you heard it live... Headbanging would almost be too passive a response for a tune this urgent. The drums and bass set off like bullet train that picks you up...wait, engulfs you..., from the station, and from there the guitars speed you forward with this tight, yet tremulous interplay that almost wobbles things off the rails. The vocals are full, mid-low range melodic growls that can appropriately arc up for some emotive howls to harmonize with the forcefulness of this song. 

Benjamin Kay is one of the guitarists, along with Michael Biondo. I chatted with Kay about the band's first two years together. Bassist Jamie Mosshart and Phil Giannotta on drums joined early, but later, Rob Zinck came in to add vocals to a batch of songs that had been worked out as instrumentals for that first year. 

Their EP release is December 15th, with a show at PJ's Lager House. Opening up will be Five Pound Snap and George Morris & The Gypsy Chorus. 

Tell me how this band came together? 
Benjamin Kay: All of us had been playing shows together in different respective bands for awhile, so it was really more the local community that brought us together than a particular sound. I remember thinking about stealing Jamison away from The Erers after seeing them way back in 2013. Mike and Jamison are such fantastic players that my only real goal was to get them in a room together and see what would happen. Phil was a natural fit, and I knew he was available, since we'd both just left Awesome Jarvis and the Whales together. Rob was the late add after months of writing instrumental music, so he had the daunting task of figuring out how to sing over these songs that had already been arranged. 

Are there common influences you each share? Or what's that chemistry like? And how did it inform the five songs on the EP? 
Kay: Everyone's musical background is all over the map, so it's sort of a surprise that the sound on this EP is as focused as it is. Mike writes these really pretty Americana-rock melodies and really belongs somewhere in the late 1960s. I've always known Rob to write these socially and politically charged punk songs. Phil has a great ear for pop hooks and arrangement. Identifying influences is tough because each of the five of us would probably give you a complete different list.

So..., "rock n roll" can be utilized for certain vibes. It can be fun and summery and road-trippy... It can be fast and heavy and metal-ish. It can be bluesy. It can be poppy. You guys are giving your intonations a lot of grit, the vocals are impassionated and addressing substantive issues with gruffness, and the drums can pummel... Also, the guitars are super intricate. Talk about what YOU guys want to do with rock, or just how you generally approach the writing of a song? 
The song writing is very collaborative, but it usually starts with a sketch one of us had. There are five sets of DNA in every song, but at the same time there's some distinction between songs that came out of Jamie's head versus one of Mike's. I think the end result is so riffy because that's the closest thing there is to a middle ground between our different backgrounds. We all want to say our piece over the course of a song, so you end up with a lot going on in almost every passage. The goal usually is to try and take the fun parts of progressive rock and package it into a neat, three minute garage rock shell.

Could you talk a bit about this single, "Like It Or Not," and about the recording of the EP overall? 
Like It or Not actually predates some of the band members. It was the first thing we'd ever jammed on. After two years of opening with it, it's still probably our favorite song to warm up with. Nothing wakes a room up like a two minute barn-burner. The rest of the songs came pretty quickly after that. I think we had written everything on this EP by Spring 2016. The recording sessions were very laid back, but very focused. We'd been rehearsing the songs for quite awhile before day one in the studio, but still managed to learn a lot about them during the sessions. A shout-out to Jimmy Dixon at Homestead Studios, when we have everything ready for #2, we'll definitely be headed back there. 

What is your take on the Detroit music scene? And does it, at all, play an influential role in your music?
It's a terrific place to call home. It's more influential for some of us than others; Jamison and I cut our teeth on Detroit garage, while Rob is from Alaska and played in death metal bands.

Plans in 2018?
Gig on A Five Piece Problem until the city is sick of the songs. Then, get ready for the next recording! 

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Detroit (Michigan) Songs: 2017

I hate this part of the job.    I love this part of the job...
I've made a list every year, for 10 years, and it doesn't get easier.

There are several bands that aren't on this list that I still was able to write about, to interview, and to tell a bit of their story... And that's where I have always, and will continue to thrive. The end of the year comes and suddenly "everybody' a critic..." And we rank "favorites." But I never wanted to see it that way, and I never wanted it to be read that way. Because we all have our favorites. And when I say "we," I'm talking to every one of you that I see out at local shows supporting not just the artists on this "list" but dozens of others around Detroit.

So  I look at it this way: These songs are awesome. Yes. But, also: they're, in the end, just a fraction of the output from the region's musical artists. And that's what should be celebrated.

So here's a glimpse of Detroit's musical output... And, inevitably, what predominated my weekly playlist.

Tune in the week after the Xmas holiday to WDET's Culture Shift  (12noon-2pm weekdays) for a special hour-long "Milo Minute," where I'll be talking about the year in local music and playing a dozen or so of my "favorite songs." If you follow me on Spotify, then you'll find an 85-song list of nearly six hours of Detroit/Michigan-produced music. That list will also be available at WDET.org by the end of the month.

30.) Brother Son - Growth

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Interview with Shelley Salant about 'SHELLS 2'

Shelly Salant's guitar arrangements are much more active than what you'd conceive as ambient music. The way a brook would babble its way through the wilderness, or a buzzy chorus of scattered cicadas, her twice and thrice-looped guitar phrasings crest over each other in a dizzying harmony. She's able to craft something that's calming, even when it's swelling into a storm.

Because these songs are instrumental, and because she's managed to leave each always about halfway-open to improvisational renovations, they naturally evoke the qualities of resplendent, roving daydreams; fitful sonic reveries that manifest themselves free of constraining structure. But they are not structure-less. Salant has been performing her solo guitar adaptations since 2011, and released a full-length, In A Cloud, in 2013.

Tonight (Friday) her performance at Trinosophes celebrates the completion of her latest: SHELLS 2, a follow-up to In A Cloud, produced with Fred Thomas.

To see Salant perform, it might seem like she's in a sort of trance; fittingly, what she's able to do on the fly with a modest pedal board and one guitar, is sufficiently entrancing in itself. Our interview tries to unpack her techniques, which aren't tethered by traditional forms, yet still wind up intertwining surprising and beautiful melodic patterns.

But Salant holds such a storied spot in the Michigan music scene. She's been in bands for more than a decade, all the while diligently attending and supporting countless other artists' performances across the region. She founded her own music label (Ginko Records), she spearheaded The Local Music Show on U-M's WCBN FM in Ann Arbor, and she spent more than a year (and logged a good amount of touring miles) as a member of Tyvek back in 2010-2011.

But between 2011 and 2016, she was also in a band with Fred Thomas (Swimsuit), as well as a trio with Autumn Wetli and Amber Fellows called Rebel Kind. I haven't even gotten to all the shows she booked, and then subsequently promoted; not just with individual show poster designs, but through tireless cataloging of upcoming calendar dates via her culture blog Michigan Happenings. Oh, and then there's the time she spent working at Encore Records in Ann Arbor; you can currently find her at Hello Records here in Detroit.

We've got a lot to talk about!

So, what's your songwriting process? How do you approach it?
I pretty much just let it flow. I'll just play a lot..., and if I come up with an idea I keep returning to, then it will become clear that maybe that's something I want to record. The songs kind of make themselves known. I have a lot of pieces and ideas that are not recorded yet, or that are forgotten... I have many hours of recordings that I haven't gone through and probably never will, but it's all part of the process.

What was your first show as SHELLS?
So, I've actually played guitar since I was 12, but for the first 4-5 years that I was playing in bands I always played drums or bass. I mostly played guitar by myself. I wanted to do a solo thing, but I wasn't sure what I would do. I put out a tape of psychedelic guitar stuff called Old Night. I gave one to Warn Defever and he liked it and asked me to play a solo guitar set at Noise Camp, I think it was in 2011. He put Shells on the flyer, and that was the first Shells show. I realized I could just focus on playing guitar and that was really helpful.

It's just you and your guitar, but there's a lot of effects going on... Can you talk about your set up and about what you're seeking, when it comes to the experience or affect of a song?
I keep the setup pretty minimal, just my guitar, delay/looper, and amp. I'm interested in seeing what I can do with just these elements. This project is my attempt to transmit emotion directly through the guitar. I've always thought that ideally, my live sets would be half totally improvised and half songs/ideas that I return to and play off of. Sometimes I'll play a set that is all improvised and sometimes a set that is just songs. Recently I've been playing more sets that are song based, but the songs are really root ideas that I play off of.

What was it like to shift more towards pre-arranged songs, or pre-determined progressions, melodies, etc...?
I used to think it was boring for me to play the "songs" and not newly improvised stuff... But, over time I've realized it's okay for me to play what I consider to be my best material. I like to use the looper, but I usually don't do more than one or two songs with loops in a set. I just remembered that when I started playing solo shows I always sat down, but now I basically always stand. I've played on really varied bills with this project and I adapt what I'm doing to the context I'm in.

Lots of songs on SHELLS 2 have outdoorsy/nature/travel/location-related titles... Did you write or think up these songs on tour? Or, where is it that you tend to find a formative amount of inspiration?
Nature is always a big inspiration to me. In between the first record and this one, I did a lot of traveling around the country that wasn't touring, so I had a lot of time to explore different areas. A lot of times I take a child's acoustic "travel guitar" and some of the songs start off that way. I have a hard time putting my thoughts into words, and so it's hard to name the songs. The titles named after places are not necessarily written there, but my memory of the place fits the vibe of the song. It's hard to sum up the overarching theme, but this record is definitely very influenced by the places I've been and the people I've known.

So let's get technical... What is on your pedal board? What do you love most about the effects that you do use? Are there prevailing sonic adornments that you are more drawn to than others? In what ways can echo, delay, or reverb...enhance what you're trying to express, musically?
I pretty much just use delay/echo and reverb. I love playing the guitar itself and I don't have the patience or temperament to mess with pedals that much. A lot of people who do instrumental electric guitar stuff have a huge pedal board, but that's not my style. I never use distortion pedals but I like to overdrive the amp. My main setup is just my Kalamazoo guitar through a Line 6 DL-4 pedal, which has a bunch of different kinds of delay and a loop. But these pedals are notorious for breaking so when mine is broken, I have used other delay pedals. I love using real tape delays especially the Echoplex, which I have been fortunate to play and sometimes borrow from Fred. That said, on the new record I used a lot more effects/pedals and different guitars and amps.

What's it like working with Fred Thomas?
Fred is my favorite person to record with because he gets it; he has good ideas and he gives great feedback. I'm a huge fan of all his work, and we have been close friends and collaborators for about ten years now. He's a huge influence on me. I think it's really important when you record to have someone who you trust giving you feedback. Some people when you record with them, they just say "Sounds cool...." no matter what, and it's not very helpful.

The first Shells LP came out on his label, Lifelike...
Shells: I was honored when Fred told me he wanted to put out a Shells LP, and also surprised. Before then I never would have believed in myself or this project enough to think that it was worthy of an LP. I originally thought that the LP would basically be a document of a live set, that I would sit down and record it all in one sitting with no breaks, but that wasn't really working out. I recorded at least 20 hours of material on cassettes, and then I brought some of what I thought was the best stuff to Fred. He helped me edit it and do some post production stuff and some minimal overdubs. Pretty soon it was done and that was the In A Cloud record.

So, in terms of production, what distinguished SHELLS 2 from In A Cloud...?
Shells: Fred suggested that we record it together. I realized that the Shells records and the Shells live shows can be different things. I still use a pretty minimal setup live, but that doesn't mean I can't use other stuff on the records and expand it a bit. I trust Fred, and I was open to trying ideas he had for recording. This record has a lot more multitracking and some other instruments. The first record had very little overdubbing, and the last song has drums but it's mostly just guitar. This new record is still mostly guitar, but a lot more guitars! And some songs have drums and synths. To a "normal" person it probably still seems minimal, but to me I was like "Maybe I went overboard here, maybe this is like Loveless". There's a lot more going on than on the first record.

You live in Detroit, but you're still hosting the Local Music shows on WCBN back in Ann Arbor... And you're still keeping busy with Tyvek...
Yeah, so I still host the Local Music Show on WCBN in Ann Arbor; it's a project I care deeply about. I've also been playing in a punk band/art project called The Vitas for the past couple years. I used to make monthly show calendar flyers and put them around town, and, after a few years of a break from that Greg Baise and I recently started making them again. There's always a lot of great stuff happening in the area, and we want people to know about it! I used to book a lot more shows, and I still enjoy doing that, but in recent times I've been focusing more energy on my own projects.

What is your earliest memory, your most formative moment, in terms of 'getting into the local music scene...'? What set you down the path...?
Shells: One of the first memories I have of going to shows was going to see Fred Thomas, Kelly Caldwell and Eliza Godfrey at the Halfway Inn in Ann Arbor, in March 2004...I was pretty depressed as a teen but going to shows really helped me feel a part of something. I would pretty much go to whatever shows I knew about. So after a couple years of going to shows I wanted to contribute in some way, and so I started booking shows at the Neutral Zone in Ann Arbor. Pretty soon I graduated high school and was booking shows at my house and pretty much wherever else would agree to do them. I started playing with Charlie Slick and we played a lot of shows. Then I started playing in other bands (Tyvek/Swimsuit/Rebel Kind). 

One last question. Another memory question. Not your first memories, musically... Just, what's your most lasting memory? Something you've never forgotten, something profound, and why it stuck with you...?
I always remember this one: When I was working at Encore we had William Parker play in the store. That was the first of what has now been many in-store shows, and William Parker has in fact played a few more times. This first time was in a trio with Tom Rainey on drums and Tony Malaby on sax. After the performance William Parker was talking to some of us younger folks, and he said "It's alright if you only play note - you just gotta make it your note." 

SHELLS 2 - Release Party on Fri, Dec 8
with Bonny Doon and Kathy Leisen

Monday, December 4, 2017

Jibs Brown & The Jambros' - Float This River

Jibs Brown has a voice that can just stop you in your tracks. Actually, even if you're sitting still, that smooth, brassy croon can make you slow your stillness all the more so...

This Thursday, at the Loving Touch in Ferndale, the Ypsi-based blues/rock singer/songwriter celebrates his latest EP, Float This River, with his backing ensemble, The Jambros.

Brown has been performing around the SE Michigan music scene for 10 years. With the Jambros, he can do down-tempo blues ballads, jangly Americana rollickers, and guitar-blazed funk-rock--all threaded together with a strong sensibility for indelible melodies and emotion-packed performance styles.

Brown has a beautiful enough voice that he doesn't have to reinvent the wheel - he can flourish the pure musicality of just a guitar and a piano and his voice, on swooning slow dances like "Your Love's Been Good To Me." Or, he can hit it harder with groove-heavy, jazz-inflected rockers like the title track, "Float This River." The bluesy side shines on "To Toledo," which particularly exmplifies his own, as well as the Jambros' knack for tilling a solid hook and a swaying beat to even the steadiest of tempos. But my favorite, the one where I caught myself taking in a deep sigh as it concluded, was "Blood To Boil...."  More on that one in a second...

For the first several years of his gigging and recording, Brown went mostly solo, with just acoustic guitar, that signature vocal, and maybe a harmonica. He put out a handful of recordings over the years, including this track from 2016...

...but the Jambros add so much warmth and energy to the arrangements. Will Cyprian is on saxophone, Christopher Smith is on keys, RJ Schauer and Pat Shanely are both adding guitars, Jef Reynolds is on bass, and Brandon Husken is on drums. Each of these players has a tasteful way of adding just enough to the mix, with a palpable intuitiveness and insight into giving each song just what it needs. And while "Blood to Boil" was initially my favorite because of the marked poignancy of Brown's vocal performance, it's great to spin it back a couple times and see the delicate and distinctive hues that each instrumentalist adds to the final flourish.

It's soulful, simple, clear and uncluttered composites of folk, Americana, and blues...

Click here for info about Thursday's release party at the Loving Touch.

Saturday, December 2, 2017

Listening Back on 20 Years of Detroit Music - Part 2 (of 4): Next Wave

Me, stealing a few spins from Dave Lawson during one of his Tuesdays In The Forest, circa 2011.
One of Dave's bands, The Pop Project, would have fit nicely on this list, but their tunes just aren't up on Spotify yet. 

It's been fun to put these playlists together. And I don't necessarily mean in a purely nostalgic sense. This is starting to feel like a true celebration. I mean, I'm not sure how you interpret my recreational cataloging of my favorite songs of the past 20 years of Detroit music, but for me, it's intended as nothing but a galactic sized head nod, or a fist in the air, or a 20-song-long applause!

As I said in a previous post, I've got 4 volumes of music that is just my own collection of songs I loved across the timelines of    1998-2008 (volumes 1 & 2) and then 2009-2017, (forthcoming).

Volume 1 was pretty garage heavy, though we did have some hip-hop on there. It roughly got together 1998-2003-ish era Detroit. Volume 2, meanwhile, shows a progression into more punk, more indie-pop, more electro, more emo, more dance... Lotta variety on this one: it roughly captures songs from 2003-2008. And there are a couple tunes from bands that hailed from the Ypsi/Ann Arbor area, but hey!!

It's also exciting to me to look back and see how many of these bands, like Child Bite, Beggars, Muggs, and The High Strung, are still kicking! But also, yes, nostalgic, to listen back to very interesting releases from bygone bands like Mason Proper, The Recital, Deastro!!...., and one of my favorite bands of all time: Lightning Love.

Also in that previous post, I acknowledged how vital of a year 1998 was for the contemporary scene..., causing a tremor that carried through the next five years and, as made evident by this playlist, wound up influencing a "next wave," as it were, a post-garage-rock era, if you will. That said, there's still some straggling entries on this one that might fit in with the first volume...

Nevertheless, I just hope you enjoy it. Remember that I can't be as comprehensive as I can because not everything  that I want to add is up on Spotify at the time of this post.  

Volumes 3 & 4 will be posted sometime next week

Friday, December 1, 2017

Listening Back On 20 Years of Detroit Music (pt 1 of 4)

...my feet, in motion, during a Carjack set at the Outer Limits Lounge, 2008

It seems at least once every year I write a sentimental, but hopefully, also, profound piece on my experience coming-of-age, as it were, along with the Detroit music "scene." Call it a community. Call it an ecosystem. Call it what you will. To me, at least for 15 years, now, it's been my life.

Late this last summer, we marked the 20th anniversary of the first White Stripes performance. They have, and remain, the cornerstone, the alpha+omega, the linchpin, the offsetting moment, a quasi Big Bang, as it were for Detroit's contemporary rock music scene. Even though we could, obviously, look back further and pay homage to several inspiring and dynamic moments in Detroit music: Motown, MC5, birth of Techno, Gories, Hentchmen.... etc. Nevertheless, it was the distortion heard round the world (even if a limited few, a couple dozen or more, were actually there, in the Gold Dollar, to see those first White Stripes shows).

I started thinking about it, and wanted to celebrate 20 years of music made in Detroit...

But starting in 1998... That's when The Hentchmen put together Hentch-Fourth, Italy Records really got into its groove(s), the Dirtbombs released Horn Dog Fest, Soledad Brothers put out "Johnny's Death Letter" (which featured White), The Witches put out their first full-length, Let's Go to the No-Go Zone, and the Detroit Cobras put out their first album, also: Mink Rat or Rabbit. 

So, while marking the White Stripes first show in 1997 is admittedly significant... I've always seen 1998 as the true tidal wave moment....

NOW...., I didn't start listening to these albums released by Detroit artists until pretty late in the year 2000. I didn't start regularly following them until 2002, when I was 18, and finally able to get into (or be sneaked into) all of the regular venues that were hopping at that time.  I'm not here to be authoritative or know-it-all-y.... I'm here to be a fan.

And as a fan - I've put together 4 volumes of music. They are, of course, as I've indicated, not aspiring to be comprehensive. But they are songs that I loved!

*Volumes 1 & 2 will collect music made by Detroit area artists between the decade of 1998-2008.
(Yes. I made some unconventional choices here and there).
*Volumes 3 & 4 will collect music made by Detroit area artists between the decade of 2009-2017.
*And while I have dropped lots of names of rock musicians, I did include hip-hop, some electro, some indie-pop and more....
*One last thing: I was, of course, a bit limited based on what was available on Spotify at this time. I'd love to find some really old Sights stuff, or maybe a couple other Witches records, but that's an editorial aside...

It's nothing more than a love letter. Or an anniversary present?
But it is my showing of reverence for how much rock history has already occurred just in my short time, relatively speaking, of covering it. I've tried to write about as much Detroit music as I physically was able to... And I've never not been busy.

Thursday, November 30, 2017

Favorite songs/albums of 2017

Best of 2017

To narrow it down....

30.) Diet Sig - I Swear I'm Good At This
29.) Bjork - Utopia
28.) Cults - Offering
27.) Guided By Voices - August By Cake
26.) Angel Olsen - Phases
25.) Little Dragon - Season High
24.) Charly Bliss - Guppy
23.) Sylvan Esso - Die Young
22.) Overcoats - Young
21.) Julien Baker - Turn Out The Lights
20.) Moutnain Goats - Goths
19.) Rhye - Taste
18.) Bent Knee - Land Animal
17.) Waxahatchee - Never Been Wrong
16.) SZA - Control
15.) Kamasi Washington - Harmony of Difference
14.) Shabazz Palaces - Quarez: Born on a Gangster Star
13.) Big Thief - Capacity
12.) LCD Soundsystem - American Dream
11.) Broken Social Scene - Be Happy
10.) Open Mike Eagle - Brick Body Kids Still Daydream
9.) The National - Sleep Well Beast
8.) Kendrick Lamar - Damn
7.) Sharon Jones & The Dap Kings - Soul Of A Woman
6.) Ted Leo - The Hanged Man
5.) St. Vincent - Masseduction
4.) Jay Som - Everybody Works
3.) Slowdive - Slowdive
2.) Torres - Three Futures
1.) Alvvays - Antisocialites

Monday, November 27, 2017

Sophisticated Professionals - Paisley & Punk

The silhouette you see in the logo for Sophisticated Professional Records is about all you're going to get, in terms of a tangible identity for the duo behind these tunes... The songs streaming below are continuations in a line of genre transformations that the musicians formerly(/currently?) known as The Ashleys have been experimenting with over the last 10 months.

The Ashleys, a three-amped, drum-heavy garage onslaught, played a show last month, but it seemed, up until that point, that they may have been on hiatus, and that the last three albums they put out, Christian Speed Metal, Neu-esque Krautrock, and backporch-rocking-chair Country, were a means of applying a bit of shock-treatment to their creativity, whilst also toying with the notion of Band Identity in an age of Social Media. You can stream releases by their various alter egos, like Bobbi & Weed, Nein, and JC Motercade, via their nondescript bandcamp HQ. 

Their latest trip is Singles.

Mariachi Punk throws back to The Dead Boys, and a bit of The Jam--snarly, jangly punk ballads laced with herky-jerky riffs and impassioned growls that rail against interchangeable oppressors within the establishment.

And then the George Flower Company hazily drifts back to late 60's paisley pop and proto-psychedelia. Jangly and warbly like Donovan or Fairport Convention, but also a bit mystical like The Pretty Things, Village Green-era Kinks, or maybe some kind of incense-soaked Harrison-post-Beatles spirit journey.

With Mariachi Punk, it feels very 1979. With Georgia Flower Company, it's very 1969... Comparatively, Nein, the Krautrock project, feels right at home in the mid-70's burgeoning scene of electronic pioneers, just as you can imagine Bobbi & Weed hanging out with CSN beside the stage at Woodstock. Tom and Steve are charmingly capturing what we perceive to be "eras" or "genres," and then creating original music within those realms.

Take a listen. 

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Jamie Norte - Enough Is Enough

No bells. No whistles. Just songwriting.
Just guitar, voice, lyrics, piano, and a perfect little patina of echo and reverb.

Jamie Norte is in the spotlight. He's been to the side of several bands that I've written about in the past. But with Enough Is Enough, he's pulling back what, until now, for me, was a bit of a curtain, a curtain that goes past the punk, indie-rock, psych, and metal-tinged outfits I've heard him contribute to in the past and reveals an inventive mode of singer/songwriter stylization, balancing catchy melodies with forthright lyricism, dark night of the soul catharsis with new dawn restorations.

Norte, (or James North, as he's also known), recorded these tracks with Chris Koltay at High Bias Studios. That Grammy-winning set of ears augments these otherwise minimalist arrangements with a roomy sound that augments the overall presence of each song, giving an amorphous kind of aural backlighting to what is typically just three instrumental elements.

Since there are no drums, it's on Norte to thread a strumming style on his acoustic guitar that can be gliding and melodic through the hooks but also percussive enough to get your toe tapping. The song I have streaming above is my favorite example of effectively coiling a steady subtle beat to the song's progression while also tugging you with that three-chord hook at the end of each verse.

There's nothing flashy about these songs and that serves them well! The timbre struck by the piano and the rendering of its accompaniment has a tenderness, or maybe a wariness, of just being there to provide that perfect doling of emotional resonance. The guitar playing can be strummy like a coffeehouse folk singer, but can also show some intricate complexities in there cascades, such as in "Bad Days."

And Norte's voice has a taut kind of growl to it when he arcs into choruses, striking a tone similar to vocalists like Dan Bejar, Pete Quirk, or maybe John McCauley, that mid-high register that has a buzzy/hummy/throaty quality to it. I don't know if Destroyer, Cave Singers, or Deer Tick are at all playing into North's personal influences, but I can say that if you have dug what those stylists have done with the folk/Americana genre in the past, then Enough Is Enough is your  next listen... 

Jamie Norte's next show is Saturday, Dec 9 at the New Dodge Lounge
More info