PLAYING DETROIT: Ohtis “Runnin'”

adam by kenny

The return of Adam Pressley (Prussia, Jamaican Queens) and Sam Swinson’s beloved project, Ohtis, is really good news. Formed and broken-up in Illinois while currently reunited and divided between LA and Detroit, Ohtis premiered the first track “Runnin'” off of their forthcoming album Bobo, Dad, and Holy Ghost. 

“Runnin'” feels like something out of 2008. A story-driven, soft spoken Fleet Foxes-esque tale or a sad desert realization with dampened slide guitar wading in and out circa Wilco’s self-titled record.  Ohtis brings us a track that feels like a hand floating out of the window of a silent car ride, the wind pushing back against a palm telling it what direction to go, the only conversation being the sound of air escaping between parted fingers.

The track opens with: “The expression you were wearing of emotional pain / Like anybody struggling to keep themselves sane,” that set the tone of Ohtis’ painterly Americana breed of misery. It’s a song about surrender, drunk driving through the plains and crossed fingers for a lovers return. The chorus drifts away from uncertainty and sways towards an invitation into a new past with the line: “We together will be better than me.”

With “Runnin’,” Ohtis has delivered an atypical strain of heartbreak that hones in on what’s to be gained, not what has been lost. The experience feels as it was seen through two sets of eyes, although only one voice remembers everything the eyes had seen. It isn’t until a female voice sneaks into the final reprise of the chorus that you feel that resolve is near and the next adventure even closer.

Ohtis plays a set in Ferndale this Saturday, July 16 at 6:30 p.m. as part of Pig & Whiskey Festival.


PLAYING DETROIT: Jamaican Queens “Wormfood”


I’m in denial and am disruptively nostalgic at 3am on a Tuesday. While I struggle to retire my sundresses to the back of the closet, this seasonal transition has me hungry for that time a few months ago when I had tan lines and bite marks and could keep my windows open without complaint. My time machine of choice is Jamaican Queens‘ 2013 release, Wormfood. I’ve always considered Jamaican Queens as the “cool” band from Detroit (and what makes them cooler is the fact that I think they would hate that I said that). Ryan Spencer, Adam Pressley, and Ryan Clancy are Jamaican Queens: the band you wish you were in.

Wormfood captures, though paradoxically, a recklessly hazy lethargy that is exclusive to summer. There is an element of irresponsibility lyrically and in the squeezed and strained arrangements, like taking someone else’s prescription pills or having indiscreet public sex that makes the listener squirm with reflection. Honest and almost self deprecating, Wormfood is pleasantly shameless in its ability to wrestle with love, intimacy, and confessionary party fouls. Reminiscent of MGMT or sometimes Animal Collective, Jamaican Queens take the popular, palatable fuzzy, synth pop/rock aesthetic and knocks it over in slow motion, leaving a sweetly apologetic yet selfish collection of messy songs/feelings in its wake. In the opening track Water,” Spencer admits: “I don’t want to spend time with her friends/I don’t wanna do things for her/I don’t wanna go down on her/I don’t wanna tell you it’s the end/ain’t love a trap/aren’t you a mess/you wear it well.”

There is something achingly personal about Wormfood. It’s that conversation you don’t want to have (but have had). It’s driving drunk, wishing you were straight. There is a hidden sadness that speaks to the strange social pool that Detroit kids find themselves flailing in (and maybe it has nothing to do with geography). It’s like pretending you’re drowning to get attention, even though you can stand comfortably flat footed on the lake floor, head above water. Wormfood represents a bleeding dichotomy between wanting to change and knowing you can’t (or knowing you can but will wait a few years until you get your shit together). Wormfood is a party, start to finish. But not like a ‘90s teen movie house party, rather a party where that girl you sort of know sort of almost died, and where you give yourself a pep talk in a toothpaste splattered bathroom mirror convincing yourself out loud that you’re okay, as demonstrated by the chorus of the closing track “Caitlyn.” “I’m sorry about the earth around you caving in/I’m sorry about the earth around you caving in/I’m sorry.” This sincere phrasing comes after the line “I’ve begun to think of love as an impossibility/do you agree?” A perfectly apt pairing of sympathy and complacency, which is what makes this particular collection strangely suited for feeling pieced together carelessly with chewing gum and being unabashedly intoxicated on summer, or in my case, autumnal dreams of the latter.