This week, Bonny Doon — the Detroit alt-folk group made up of Bill Lennox, Bobby Colombo, Joshua Brooks and Jack Kmiecik — released a single from Longwave, the follow-up to last year’s self-titled debut. “I Am Here (I Am Alive)” is a lap steel-laden testament to uncertainty, meandering between life’s arbitrary observations and burning questions.
Opening with the lyrics “Moon, are you half empty or half full? / Is something missing I can’t tell? / Is there more I can’t see?” Colombo sets the stage for either an extremely contemplative or blissfully numb next five minutes, depending on your mood. The song continues with a string of metaphors set over hypnotizing percussion and woozy guitars, meeting at the relatable refrain: “Time, feel like I’m wasting time / Just wanna be where I’m goin’.” Same, Bonny Doon, same.
Listen to “I Am Here (I Am Alive)” below and look out for Longwave, scheduled for a March release date courtesy of Woodsist Records.
Detroit’s latest indie-pop sweetheart, Anna Burch, just released the music video for her single “Tea-Soaked Letter” along with the announcement that her debut album Quit the Curse will be available on February 2nd, 2018. It’s hard not to be charmed by Burch as she tackles relatable topics like loneliness and poor communication with sunny guitar, burnt toast, and lots of sad balloons. The video is a perfect match for the song’s melancholy-yet-upbeat demeanor, an oxymoron that Burch seems to have mastered.
Falling under the genre Burch coins as “bummer pop,” the song mixes catchy chord progressions found in conventional pop music with candid lyricism that hits close to home. In “Tea-Soaked Letter” the songwriter laments the fruitless game-playing found in many (millennial) relationships. Burch sings, “No you can’t come up/Who am I kidding? I would drag you up,” finally giving up the hard-to-get approach and saying what she actually feels. Whether you need to muster up the courage to say what you really mean or cathartically sing along while continuing to play the game, “Tea-Soaked Letter” is a solid go-to.
Since last year’s EP Watching Eye, psychedelic doo-wop rock outfit Double Winter has been relatively silent – but that doesn’t mean they’ve been still. Lead vocalist and bassist Holly Johnson says the band has been hard at work, writing and recording enough material for a 7-inch and full album release. While Johnson couldn’t give an exact date, she says all the songs are mastered and ready to go, so it’s only a matter of artwork and time.
Based on the band’s unconventional tastes and writing style, the record will not be a run of the mill “indie rock” album. In fact, Johnson says she prefers to describe Double Winter’s music based on the band’s unique tastes rather than in terms of a single genre. “We’re all coming from very different places musically, but we all very much appreciate each other’s favorite genres – even if it might not be our own.” Some of these genres include Motown, doo-wop, psychedelic rock, funk and avant-garde.
While the band members’ musical backgrounds differ, geographically they are all from the same area – Detroit. Johnson met Vittorio Vettraino (lead guitar) and Augusta Morrison (electric violin) while in school at Michigan State University. While in East Lansing, Vettraino and Johnson were in a garage-rock outfit called Half Bodies, where Johnson’s love affair with the bass first began. “I always connected with the instrument and I really like writing – I was writing poetry well before I even picked up the bass,” says Johnson. “I wanted to combine the two and just kind of went with it.”
Shortly after moving to Detroit in 2014, Morrison and Johnson connected with drummer, Morgan McPeak, and Double Winter was formed, with Vettraino joining the trio shortly after. Since then, the band’s genre-bending sound has garnered the attention and admiration of many, including the Detroit label Palm Tapes, which put out Watching Eye digitally and on cassette. As far as who will be releasing their full-length album, Johnson says they are still shopping around. “Ideally, we put out a full length and get signed to a label and see what happens from there.”
Johnson says that the band uses their eclectic music tastes as a gateway to creating their own. “Most recently Vittorio brought this incredible Italian waltzy disco song to us,” says Johnson. “And we were all like ‘woah this is amazing… let’s interpret it.’” How does one interpret an Italian disco waltz? You’ll have to see the group live to find out.
While no music has been officially released since Watching Eye, the band has been previewing their new songs at local shows in Detroit. For those lucky enough to reside in the 313, you can get your own sneak peak on November 22nd at Trixie’s Bar in Hamtramck, or on December 21st at the third annual Double Winter Solstice at Outer Limits.
Frontier Ruckus has been dishing out deeply personal, heavy-hearted folk rock for fifteen years. Their latest installment of polite devastation comes in the form of Enter the Kingdom. Their fifth record (released in the February of this year) comes full circle with the striking visual for the album’s title track, which premiered on Billboard last week.
Written, edited and directed by Ohio native and Detroit transplant Jay Curtis Miller, “Enter the Kingdom” is a beautiful midwestern narrative following the death of a family’s matriarch, an estranged father figure and a wedding that shrinks, swells and sings in the absence of both. Frontier Ruckus frontman Matthew Milia admits the video’s interpretation may stray from his personal connection to the song’s meaning, but agrees that the clip still explores the weight of loss and the complexities and frailties of family. “The family’s scattered, all that once mattered will die/ I sleep in the bush that separates the houses/ I wake with a push from random ex-spouses” sings Milia, alongside a sweeping string section and tender backing vocals. Miller accents the drama by pairing childhood flashbacks, mental projections and delicate close-ups that feel more like portraiture than music video. Just over seven minutes long, “Enter the Kindom” gives space to connect, reflect and dive deep into a world that only Frontier Ruckus can create: quiet tales of surrender, triumph and heartbreaking malaise.
Grab the tissues and enter Frontier Ruckus’ uneasy kingdom below:
Laetitia Tamko opens her debut record with “The Embers,” painting herself as “a small fish” in a world of fiercer creatures. “You’re a shark that hates everything,” she repeats. “You’re a shark that eats every fish.” In the music video, Tamko sits on a bus, surrounded by nondescript white guys with blindfolds on, unaware of her presence as she sings. But then she finds the freedom in being left to herself, dancing, comfortable in her own space in the world. Later, the men carry her above them.
Watching it reminds me of the recent conversation between Dirty Projector’s Dave Longstreth and Fleet Foxes’ Robin Pecknold, bemoaning the lack of new, good and original indie rock. The conversation, which took place on Instagram, earned some well-deserved eye rolls and the criticism that the two don’t realize the major players in the genre are increasingly non-male and non-white; they only had to look beyond those that mirrored themselves to find musicians like Tamko, who has created an amazing album that contains an emotion and fire that makes it seem beyond just her first major release. Her talent for introspection, as well as a worldly awareness, make it easy to get lost in her universe.
On Infinite Worlds, quiet, indie-folk moments give way to heavy rock and in the middle of it all, the dreamy, electronic jam “Mal à L’aise.” Her best lyrics rise out of sadness instead of being brought down by it, and use the feeling of being small or out of place as motivation to push back. The song where it all comes together in a perfect, heartbreaking way is “Cold Apartment,” which builds and pulls back until words seem to escape Tamko; her soaring vocals dissolve over crashing drums and power chords until we’re left with just the gentle guitar melody the song started with. The album feels new and fresh, even after a few listens. If you haven’t heard it yet, check it out below.
After the site announced it would donate its share(about 12%) of all purchases last Friday, music fans bought about $1,000,000 worth of music. According to Bandcamp, that’s “550% more than a normal Friday (already our biggest sales day of the week).” Combined with the many artists and labels that promised their 88% of profits would also go to the ACLU, the actual figure being donated is close to $100,000. Good job, music fans. And it’s not too late to donate! If you want to get some music out of it, check out the Our First100 Days compilation:
Market Hotel Offers Coworking Space, Hopefully Shows Soon
On 2/7, the venue tweeted that “All citations related to the October ‘gotcha’ raid on Market Hotel, particularly the ‘warehousing’ summons, have been dismissed!” The DIY space was forced to relocate shows in Fall 2016 after what many deemed an unfair police raid, around the time they were applying for a permanent liquor license. No official word on when the space will begin hosting shows again, but in the meantime, it’s being used as a coworking space.
Is Indie Rock Dead? Um, Probably Not
Yes, another debate about the life of a genre was started last night between David Longstreth (Dirty Projectors) and Robin Pecknold (Fleet Foxes) on Instagram, for some reason. Longstreth wondered if the genre has come to be “boujee in the word’s negative sense: refined and effete, well removed from the raindrops and drop tops of lived, earned experience,” while Pecknold’s thoughts on the matter included nuggets such as “Also don’t rly know what counts as ‘indie rock’ these days… like, Whitney, Mac DeMarco, Angel Olsen, Car Seat Headrest? Idk if any of that has ‘cutting edge’ written into the M.O., even if it’s fun to listen to.” The rest of the conversation is mostly indecipherable, but maybe you want to take a stab at it.
Anyway, guys: no kind of music is dead (except maybe disco). This is 2017! The internet is a super useful tool when it comes to looking for great bands of all genres, or for realizing that genres can be meaningless labels. Better yet, get off the internet and go see a show this weekend.
Two years ago, Baltimore trio Future Islands had a huge breakthrough with poignant single “Seasons (Waiting on You),” finding the success they’d been seeking since 2006. Hoping to continue that momentum, they released a teaser single from their forthcoming record The Far Field just last week. Titled “Ran,” their latest track does not reinvent the wheel; rather, it redirects the aforementioned wheel toward, well, the future. A subtle evolution of contemporary catharsis, “Ran” falls into line with Future Islands’ racing movie-trailer-esque encapsulation, magnifying the many warped intricacies of a single feeling with bellowing tenacity.
“What’s a song without you/when every song I write is about you?” concedes singer Samuel T. Herring, returning with his signature tenderized, chest-pounding vocal exorcism. He’s theatrical, vulnerable and filled to the brim with guttural fight or flight, and his notoriously unique inflection resonates with a sense of well-rounded heartache on “Ran”, each breath an emotionally acrobatic moment. Islands’ ability to unite emotional strain with synth-drenched melody and steadfast percussion reveals a masterful conviction and commitment to navigating the contemporary. For a song that seems determined to revive a love affair that is D.O.A/D.N.R, Future Islands do what they do best: illuminating various, winding paths from the darkness. (Oh, and growling. Lots of growling.)
Matthew Milia and his gaggle of lovelorn folkies – otherwise known as Frontier Ruckus – return with a sardonic make-out party prelude to their forthcoming record Enter the Kingdom. The sad, sensual clip for latest single “Our Flowers Are Still Burning” offers a camcorder view of social loneliness ahead of the album’s February 17th release. A slow-dance, folk-ified, Big Star-esque confessional with a touch of reversed male gaze, “Flowers” instills hopeful resonance with listlessness revery, something the Frontier gang has championed and expanded upon.
Singer and guitarist Anna Burch documents the party through a vintage handheld, a perfect companion to Ruckus’ boxes-in-your-parents-attic aesthetic. The low-key gathering is standard Detroit, containing a quiet cast of characters who find temporary love, lust and casual catharsis in one another. Burch wanders upstairs to discover Milia alone, singing and soaking fully clothed in a running shower as spit swapping commences downstairs. Whether Milia is struck by social anxiety, heartache or an overwhelming sense of not knowing his role in the grand (and not-so-grand) scheme of things, Burch lovingly coerces him from his bath time meltdown with the promise of a cake decorated with sugary, saccharine letters spelling out the song’s title.
The band leaves the house party in the dead of winter, Milia still wet and without a jacket or a lover, but surrounded by his Frontier Ruckus bandmates, resigned to keep on trucking even in the harsh light of the morning after.
Grab a tissue or a kiss and take a sad soak with Frontier Ruckus below:
Quickly rising as Detroit’s DIY pensive pop priestess, Stef Chura and her captivatingly peculiar lo-fi sensibilities shine and burn playfully in her latest video for “Spotted Gold,” the third single from her debut album Messes due out January 27. Chura’s candy-colored, battery acid coated disharmonious world beckons late 90’s MTV feels complete with pop-star commercialization and her signature voice, which teeters between collapse and eruption, finds its visual counterpart in “Spotted Gold.” The colors change quickly like the tuning of an old television set as does the wardrobes of Chura and her bandmates as if to But the most strikingly unsettling element is the montage of
The colors change quickly like the tuning of an old television set as does the wardrobes of Chura and her bandmates. But the most striking element is the montage of rapid-fire imagery depicting activities that are considered taboo (smashing a mirror) and bad judgment calls (pouring milk on a laptop) to completely self-destructive behaviors (drinking poison and playing finger/knife roulette) all of which end as badly as one might imagine. The aesthetic is clean, perhaps even sterile, but in Chura’s sugary torment, is messily sincere. It’s easy to interpret “Spotted Gold” as a mischievous night out or miscalculated reckless relationship but the lyrics: “Spotted gold turned black and blue” reveal that perhaps Chura’s sand-in-the-eyes, hand-on-the-stove universe is less of a lark than it is a tale of emotional masochism and that when a good thing goes bad, well, maybe we are more in control than we think.
No, your toaster doesn’t need a bath. Keep tinfoil out of your microwave and check out Stef Chura’s series of unfortunate events in “Spotted Gold” below:
A firecracker personified, Jessica Hernandez (and her Deltas, respectively) embodies the grit, the groove, and the gloriously kaleidoscopic rock nuances that Detroit is best known for. Their notable Gogol Bordello-esque flamboyance and unapologetically cool gypsy-punk vibe has shaped the radius of the Detroit rock radar for the past few years both growing and refining along the way. Returning with their first single since 2014, “Hot Damn” is spicy, seductive and demanding. Aggressive fuzz-filled guitar and drums that err on the punk side of the spectrum pair well with the passionately temperate rabbit hole free fall that is “Hot Damn.” Hernandez’s vibrant vibrato seems inhuman, like a bird putting a fork in an electrical outlet. It shakes, rattles and yet pulls back effectively to remind the listener that Hernandez’s specialty is her range as much as it is her ability to control the vocal chaos. “I can be your baby / I know that I seem crazy” Hernandez howls, summoning what can only be imagined as a lover on all fours, Hernandez tugging the leash upward. Even if the single isn’t intended to be as in-your-face and commanding as it sounds, it elicits a volcanic disturbance that is as much of a choose-your-own-adventure as it is an unhinged anthem for the thick skinned and love craving masses.
Fred Thomas has a lot of feelings (and he really wants to talk about them). He may fear transformation in the same way he might fear another perturbed thought of how he could have prevented a previous love affair from going to pieces. He may relish in the scratching of the many surfaces that camouflage and protect his tender, gooey existential crisis-inflamed interiors. But what is made clear by Fred Thomas’ latest beautifully neurotic mind-mapping narration “Voiceover” (the first taste from his forthcoming record Changer due out later next month) is that he doesn’t quite have it all figured out and if he did, well, he might not know what to do.
“Voiceover” is a sleepless, chorus-deprived and worrisome dashboard “check engine” light. Self-deprecatingly confrontational, this pared back rock jam feels like a tightly woven string of doubts that overcame by means of emotional overload. The video is a life on loop. Repetitive thoughts are mirrored with commonly overlooked/performed imagery. From lipstick application (and lipstick removal) to uncorking wine, and to book to bookshelf placement to the subtle beauty of gently falling hemlines against the back of kneecaps, what is captured visually here is the same crisp mundanity expressed in Thomas’ artfully composed run-on sentences.
View Fred Thomas’ latest GIF-like emotional exploit below:
There’s nothing that makes you feel old quite like seeing some of your favorite bands from high school showcase 10-year reunion shows of albums you can sing in your sleep. But then again, maybe these nostalgic re-enactments are some of the highlights of getting older.
Recently my favorite band from high school, The Hush Sound, went on tour for the ten-year anniversary of their album “Like Vines,” and I was thrilled to catch them at Webster Hall on August 4. I’ve already seen The Spill Canvas this past year and have plans to see Taking Back Sunday with Th e Starting Line in a few months, so yeah, these are undoubtedly the days of my life now. (Go ahead, envy me.)
In high school, Greta Salpeter was essentially my indie rock idol, so being able to see that she’s still as amazing and talented as ever was unsurprising and inspiring. The Hush Sound swept the stage at Webster with the same energy they held at shows 10 years ago—I’m pretty sure the floor was shaking from all the dancing and jumping going on. The chemistry between Salpeter and vocalist/guitarist Bob Morris is undeniable; they play together as if they’ve been jamming and quipping out stage banter nonstop for the past ten years. As they laughed and made us guess what wine they were drinking (obviously it was a pinot noir), they rocked our teenage fangirl/boy hearts with some of our old favorites. “We Intertwined,” “A Dark Congregation,” “Don’t Wake Me Up,” “Magnolia”—have they ever composed even a “meh” track? Maybe “Lions Roar,” but I’m sure there’s someone out there that lost their mind when they played that one last Thursday, too.
After playing through the entirety of Like Vines, the night obviously couldn’t simply end there. Not before they jammed out other hits, which of course included “Crawling Towards the Sun” and “The Artist.” It was one of those performances where I found myself singing along to the guitar and keys parts when there weren’t lyrics to follow.
Salpeter’s tinkling keys were ringing in my ears as I left Webster Hall that night, in a total and complete Hush Sound-induced bliss. Now, if you need me, I can be found wandering the streets of New York with my iPhone 6 playing music that predates its conception.
Following the release of last year’s energetic single “Silver Streets”, Thomas Killian McPhillips VII, Derek Tramont, and Ryan Colt Levy of BRAEVES zealously uprooted themselves from the familiarity of New York to explore how the band could flourish with a little change in scenery.
“When the prospect of moving to LA came up,” said Tramont, “It was a lightning bolt that hit us so hard, we just picked up and drove across the country together, practically no questions asked.”
And “Bitter Sea” makes it clear: California sun sure suits them well.
Equal parts love letter and break-up song, the track illustrates a bittersweet goodbye to a personified New York City.
“We were kind of at odds with the New York music scene, partly because we have been living and playing in New York all our lives,” recounts Tramont. “It could have been Chicago, London, or Portland. I’m sure you would grow tired of your hometown; that’s just natural. But we felt a bit of a disconnect. Whether it was some of the bands we played with, the venues, or the real lack of a music ‘scene,’ something just felt like it was holding us back from truly expressing ourselves.”
It’s a new kind of relationship they’re developing with LA, as the band “really needed something that would make us feel like we were growing and not just stagnating…something drastic needed to change to get us to the place we want to be.” But while BRAEVES may be based on the West Coast now, lyrics such as, “And the more my body tells me I’m entranced/The deeper in your quicksand I’ll descend” show that even if you leave New York, it never quite leaves you.
Recorded at Red Rockets Glare with Raymond Richards (known for his work with Local Natives, whom the band often cite as a key influence), “Bitter Sea” illustrates a fresh vivacity and prowess that were never lacking in older songs, but rather, have been elegantly refined. It has BRAEVES sounding refreshed without straying from the soulful and shimmering echoes that define their ethereal sound, and it has us eager for their forthcoming sophomore EP.
Stream the track below, and if you’re on the West Coast, catch them live, where you certainly won’t be disappointed. Plus, you might just be lucky enough to hear even more new songs:
Celebrate Friday with a track premiere from Atlas Engine, “Everest,” from his upcoming EP “After the End.”
Atlas Engine is the solo venture of Nick LaFalce, formerly of BRAEVES. With this new project, LaFalce undertakes the task of writing, singing, performing each instrument, and producing to conceive a skillfully crafted effort that is truly all his own.
With LaFalce belting out lyrics such as, “Something in the air I’m breathing must be forever changed/So tell me what I have to fear now,” over a stunning melody, the track emanates a sense of freedom, and an exciting anticipation for what’s to come.
The full EP is set for release on June 3. New Yorkers, you can catch Atlas Engine’s live debut (for free!) at Rockwood Music Hall Stage 2 on May 19.
The video description for Car Seat Headrest‘s “Vincent” is simply: “Will plays the guitar while a guy has a bad time.” That’s about as concise as anyone could get, but the song is layered with a lot more meaning, imagery and emotion. It looks like Will Toledo, the creator and frontman of Car Seat Headrest, has given detailed explanations of the song’s lyrics online, but in the context of the official video, the words tell a story about how and why one drink can turn into way too many.
Scenes switch between a house party where Toledo performs and the apartment of “Vincent”‘s main character, a guy who looks like he’s been working in an office all day. It’s not clear if the party is something he’s trying to relive, or just in his own head. As the song begins with long, deliberate strums of distorted guitar, he pours himself a drink in his empty house. He looks sad when he’s sober, and Toledo repeats, “Half the time, I want to go home.” Then the booze kicks in, and so does the music: There’s the long, drawn-out static of guitar feedback, restless drums, and the sadly serious vocals of Toledo immersed in it all. Horns swirl around his voice when he chants, “It must be hard to speak in a foreign language/Intoxicado, intoxicado.” The band knows how to pull back and surge ahead at the right moments, and does so frequently, never settling until “Vincent” is over. It’s chaotic and messy, and embodies the video’s character as he loses restraint and gets completely wasted. At one point he unpacks a suitcase that’s filled only with liquor, a clear metaphor about replacing emotional baggage with booze.
Though the video is pretty dark, there are moments of subtle humor, like when the main character drunkenly cuddles a cat or when Toledo refers to playing a guitar as “holding a noise machine.” The video ends with the guy stripping down to his underwear and staggering to Toledo’s microphone as the crowd looks on, disgusted. If this last scene accompanied a different song, it might have comedic potential. But, instead of relieving the tension by making it a laughable moment, “Vincent” reaches for something that’s uncomfortable, but better.
My first musical outing of 2016 was also the first of the year for The Seraphine Collective, “an inclusive, supportive, and active community of feminists designed to foster creative expression and camaraderie among underrepresented musicians and artists in Detroit.” Our venue? Lo and Behold record and book store, a tiny and toasty hideaway wedged in Hamtramck (or Detroit’s “Little Poland”) perfectly suited for the freezing temperatures outside and our shared, palatable mid-week ennui. Taking to the stage (well, floor, respectively) were three dear-to-Detroit local artists alongside a quietly celebrated up and coming national touring act, all of which provided a unique and unified inspirational soundscape for the year ahead.
The Belle Isles
Owner of Lo & Behold Richie Wohlfeil debuted his two-week-old brainchild The Belle Isles (named, of course, after Detroit’s beloved state park paradise). A slinky lo-fi three-piece (Richie on the mic and guitar along with Conor and Deb on drums) reminiscent of Mayer Hawthorne and MC5 with hints of John Frusciante vocals. The song “Detroit Funk” was a hodgepodge of funk and “do-do-do-do’s” straight from that song by The Cure with all of those “do-do-do-do’s.” “Hey, what should we do next? The Summer Song? I don’t remember the words but fuck it. I’ll make it up.” Richie swigs a beer and rails into a song that he did in fact forget the words to. Good thing we were in a book store, as there were a few he could borrow.
Shelley Salant is a one woman Velvet Underground/Wilco/Brian Jonestown Massacre, but most importantly, entirely herself. Barefoot with nothing but a borrowed electric guitar and a loop pedal SHELLS made seismic waves in our tiny venue. Vocal-less and relying entirely on her ability to collage multiple chord progressions without hesitation or transition was, for me, one of the most impressive moves I’ve seen in a long time. Her songs spoke without words: an abridged novel of noise. Every piece had an exposition, conflict, and a sweeping resolve.
On an ambitious 43 show tour Seattle-based Mega Bog stopped by our little haven. The most playful of the night, they infused Jenny Lewis’ whimsical style with Fleet Foxes’ (but only if they had been listening to Best Coast records). Erin Birgy fronts and mothers Mega Bog. She is effervescent in the way her voice hops around, reminding me of the way Regnia Spektor used whimsical manipulations of vocals on Soviet Kitsch, which is perfectly paired with the Mega Bog’s dissonant, dreamy instrumentals. Any band that actively uses a triangle, I’m in.
Stef Chura alongside boyfriend and Jamaican Queens drummer, Ryan Clancy filled the space with what felt like a collaboration between Karen O and The Modern Lovers Jonathan Richman if they scored a 90’s teenage runway film. Stef’s voice is dominant with a confident meekness that is shrill by means of catharsis. So much so that guitar and drums seem secondary. Her vocal playground is purposeful, warped, and effective. It’s a freeing expelling of emotion but stripped down and wonderfully messy like early Flaming Lips recordings.
It’s New Years Eve-Eve, and I’m flooded with the sounds of the past year. 2015 saw the rise of Detroit music in an unforgettable way. Our musicians took to the stage and to the studio with an unmistakable fire under their asses, in turn producing one of the most emotive soundtracks for the year as a whole. Detroit had something to say and people listened. I could go on and on about how I feel about the textural landscape of what this city produced this year, and how for the first time in years I felt moved and compelled to share my findings with the same enthusiasm one might reserve for opening Christmas gifts. I could talk about how Wolf Eyes‘ I am a Problem: Mind in Pieces broke my heart in ways I thought impossible, or how Moonwalks‘ Lunar Phases pushed me back to being in smokey concert venues, chasing after psychedelic rock bands when I was 16, making me feel younger than I did when I was actually young. So instead, I asked a few Detroit artists, most of whom released music this year, what local release stood out to them in 2015, and what they are most anticipating in the coming year. If what we heard is any indication of what’s to come, my suggestion is to brace yourselves: Detroit just got started.
FAVORITE OF 2015: My favorite release is a single track. Absofacto’s “Dissolve” hit me hard out of wintery nowhere in early February of 2015 (and I’d been working in studio with Jon Visger on and off for a while at that point) – but that’s how he works. Lurks, rather, within shadows. Jon Visger wrote, produced, and released this song himself. Nostalgic alarms reminiscent of mid-90s Boards of Canada fire the song into motion and are quickly joined by the fast-approaching outer edge of the track’s structural spine: the drums. They weigh about a thousand pounds each and somehow I feel weightless upon their anticipated arrival. (Sweaty like Black Moth Super Rainbow, yet crisp like Com Truise.) You’re soon swallowed up by the groove in its entirety, where bass is vicious and Visger’s vocals emerge. Lyrics speak out from a character’s entangled, love-sore point of view: a last-ditch effort farewell letter/self-evaluation. Love’s magnetism paired equally with its potential volatility.
MOST ANTICIPATED IN 2016: Recently, I listened to a bunch of new demos at Assemble Sound studio in Detroit with bassist Jeff Cuny of the band Valley Hush. I was pretty taken aback by how much things have blossomed sonically and vocally for them since hearing them in 2014. They’re a newer band, and for me it’s exciting to watch a group’s sound evolve and sometimes quite rapidly. It sounded like they have been experimenting, which is great, so I’m excited for what’s to come.
MOST ANTICIPATED IN 2016: It would have to be my bandmate and roommate Anna Burch’s new batch of solo songs that I’ve been thick in the midst of watching her create over the past year or so. Her melodies and lyrical voice are both really captivating. She hasn’t officially said it will come out this year, but I’m hoping.
FAVORITE OF 2015: Dwelling Lightheartedly In The Futility Of Everything by Matthew Daher was an early 2015 release, but stuck with me for the whole year. It’s not a pop or dance album and the songs are challenging – they seem to be five different animals that live together in the same cave. But like magic, they opened up and travelled through me like a dance. “Cyclicity” seemed like it was written just for me, and I was lucky enough to collab with Matt and produce a video for the song. Just a beautiful exchange of energy on that collaboration.
MOST ANTICIPATED IN 2016: My most anticipated local release is whatever Ritual Howls put out because holy crap, their 2014 release, Turkish Leather, makes my eyes roll back in my head with my tongue hanging out like cartoon dog drooling over a steak or bone or whatever dumb food item cartoon dogs like to eat. I’ll be spying on them online until I see something released!
FAVORITE OF 2015:I would by lying if I said a local release stuck out enough to be regarded as a favorite in 2015. Most of what I heard locally was a recollection of once unsuccessful “indie” bands until the 90’s came back, hip/trip-hop and grunge were openly repurposed, and Ableton was accepted as everyone’s backing track. If anything, Tunde Olaniran had a track I dug off of Transgressor. In my opinion, the only good thing that happened in Detroit and nationally in 2015 is that more female artists demanded and took the attention of listeners. At this point in time and in the bigger picture, this is more important than any best of the year list.
Today we have a fresh track from Athens-based indie rock quartet New Madrid for New Music Monday. What a delightful sentence to type, with delightful music to back it up. Coming at you from their third album, magnetkingmagnetqueen, due in April via New West Records’ imprint, Normaltown Records. “Don’t Hold Me Now” is a dreamy rush of endorphins, fitting, as the song is about “that sensation when someone or something pulls you from a dream at what can feel like the worst or the best time. Your last moment of the dream before being woken up. Don’t hold me now, I’m dreaming,” writes Stereogum in their premiere of the song.
New Madrid is made up of Phil McGill (guitar/vox,) Graham Powers (guitar/vox,) Ben Hackett (bass/vox,) and Alex Woolley (drums/percussion). They are currently on tour with Nashville psych-rockers All Them Witches.
Any show at Terminal 5 is always a big one, so when I came to see the four-artist, co-headlined Wilderness Politics tour, I knew I was in for one hell of a party.
First up was LOLO, a young Brooklyn native with a lot of soul. Getting on her knees with passion, it was clear she was having the time of her life, commanding the stage with her ability to belt and hold some strong high notes.
The Griswolds have the look of your favorite early 2000’s pop-punk groups with a nice danceable flavor. They put out happy vibes with their upbeat songs. The energy during the quick set was irresistible — “If You Wanna Stay” was especially fun for dancing along.
Here’s what’s curious about The Griswolds — in spite of their incredibly fun tempos, giving the crowd all kinds of excuses to scream and dance, in songs like “16 Years,” lyrics like “I’m half the man I used to be/Tequila, lust and gambling/Oh, mama, I need rescuing” aren’t exactly the happiest upon closer listen.
In any case, there’s no need for anything flashy to enjoy a Griswolds show — they’re simply a group of charming Aussie guys wowing the crowd by having the time of their lives.
Journeys, the show’s sponsor, is holding a contest to win a pair of shoes hand-decorated by the band themselves. Enter here!
I was almost caught off guard when David Boyd burst out waving a bright red New Politics flag, displaying their tally mark logo.
Boyd (vocals) and Søren Hansen (guitar) originally hail from Copenhagen, but Boyd called Terminal 5 a hometown show, trying to get the New Yorkers to be the loudest crowd yet. They’ve been living in Williamsburg since ’09, and met current drummer “Long Island Louis” Vecchio here in the city.
Boyd, a breakdancer, made the most of the beats center stage to showcase his skills, even if it doesn’t quite match up with the pop punk sound.
For the crowd favorite “Fall Into these Arms,” Boyd came out to the audience’s hands to dance and surf the crowd right back to the stage, leading into the multitalented Hansen performing a powerful solo on the piano. “Girl Crush” brought the energy back up with Andrew McMahon joining the band on stage.
The former lead singer for Something Corporate and Jack’s Mannequin, Andrew McMahon now performs solo under the moniker of Andrew McMahon in the Wilderness. The set design, consisting of grass platforms for the keyboard and drums, and some turf to top the piano, was a rare display of greenery in the city, though it felt a little more like a suburban backyard, minus the picket fence.
McMahon performed a diverse set of songs from his previous bands and solo work. Fans responded well to songs like Something Corporate’s “I Woke Up In A Car” and “Punk Rock Princess,” evident as everyone seemed to know all the words. It felt as if you could hear the echo of the audience for the duration of the set.
When I first walked into the venue, I was approached to have my cheek swabbed by volunteers of the Love Hope Strength foundation to register for bone marrow donation. McMahon took time out of the show to talk about his own experience with cancer, having been diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia in 2005. He announced that this marks ten years of being cancer-free, before performing the Jack’s Mannequin song “Swim” for “anybody who’s going through something.”
There certainly were crazier moments during the show, like McMahon crowd surfing his way down to the bar to get a shot of Jäger. The highlight, however, was the childlike joy that fell across the room during the performance of “Cecilia and the Satellite,” penned for his daughter. He brought everyone back to elementary school with a giant parachute, making for the perfect encore.
All photos shot by Ysabella Monton for AudioFemme.
Things aren’t quite what they seem in Rah Rah‘s cosmos-themed video for “Chip Off The Heart:” Endless space filled with asteroids and planets are all contained all within an eyeball, a T-Rex exists amongst the pyramids, and a city fits in the palm of a hand. The realistic but cartoonish animation lends itself perfectly to the song’s upbeat, dancey sound, while the creepier elements of the video fit the song’s heartbroken lyrics. The words “Don’t panic, don’t panic,” are chanted as disembodied eyeballs float through a forest and an open mouth turns into a spiraling tunnel. And, an anatomically correct heart drifts through space, circled by planets and pulsing eerily as the band bemoans a betrayal by a former lover. The video ends with the sound of the heart pounding, lost amongst the stars. Thanks, Rah Rah, for reminding us that no matter how bad our heartbreak feels, the universe is way bigger than our problems.
“Chip Off The Heart” is the second single off of the Canadian band’s Vessels, which was released in September through Hidden Pony Records. Buy it here, and check out the video below.
For this column, we preview the opening acts of live shows we’ll be covering, to give exposure to the up-and-comers we’re most excited for. Our preferred form is to do off-the-cuff “snap Q&As” with them, to get their thoughts on anything from the mundane to the absurd. For this installment, we spoke with Nick Gillespie, from PA-based indie rock band, The Yetis, who will be performing before a sold out crowd tonight at Baby’s All Right in Brooklyn, opening for The Drums. Catch what they had to say about Bigfoot’s gender and playing live with a shirtless elderly man from Florida.
Audiofemme: Are there any Yetis from history for whom you have a particular affinity/really identify with? And I know this might be a contentious question, but do you believe that Bigfoot is male or female?
The Yetis: I guess we like the Himalayan explorers in history like Sir Edmund Hillary or the guy who lost all his toes and fingers only to conclude that the yeti is just a bear. Bigfoot is probably a guy but he definitely has a Bigfoot girlfriend.
AF: I saw that you’re from Allentown Pennsylvania, which is actually the 3rd largest city in PA. What is the music scene there like? Do people ask you a lot if you’re from Amish country because they don’t know any better?
TY: There’s not really a music scene. In high school there was nothing to do but drive around and play garage rock so that helped us focus on being creative. Allentown isn’t that close to Amish country, we don’t get asked that a lot, but the Amish are interesting to say the least.
AF: What sets you guys apart from the abundance of surf pop bands that are cropping up these days (we could answer this one for you but we wanna hear your thoughts!!)
TY: We don’t really consider ourselves surf pop that much, just rock and roll. We like surf music a lot so we use elements from that in our music. Our surf songs started out more as jokes or something that was exotic to us.
AF: What’s your most memorable live performance?
TY: The two times we’ve played at Baby’s All Right opening for cool bands (Hinds and Hidden Charms) were amazing so we think tonight with The Drums will top that. But we play a lot of bars and one time a guy gave us $90 to play one blues song with some old fat guy from Florida who took off his shirt and sang. We went crazy.
AF: If you could bring back one person from history to attend your show tonight at Baby’s, who would it be?
TY: We would bring back King Tut.
******Check out their irresistible rock jams TONIGHT at Baby’s All Right, opening for The Drums.
Rolling Stone gave Protomartyr‘s third album TheAgent Intellect four out of five stars. Pitchfork gave it a 8.2 rating, and Consequence of Sound thought it worthy of an A-. And somehow, I feel like I just walked into a movie theater during the credits and everyone is clapping. I feel like I missed something. I’ll admit, it took an annoying amount of Facebook shares and reposted reviews to spark my interest in Protomartyr, who on paper seemed like they would fit my taste profile. The term “post punk indie” was tossed around and some comparisons to Ian Curtis of Joy Division, too. At first glance, it seemed moody enough for me to say yes to, but at second and third glance I’m left shrugging my shoulders.
An ambitious four piece, TheAgent Intellect is Protomartyr’s third album in three years. An impressive feat, yes. However, after an appropriately chosen three listens, I spent half the time waiting for something to happen and the other half wondering if Rolling Stone and I were listening to the same album. To be fair, I like the album. It’s fine. But that’s exactly what’s wrong with it. What sounds like a collection of early 2000’s indie B-Sides reflective of, say, Louis XIV (remember them? Yeah, no one else does, either). Intellect rides a steady trajectory, rarely seizing the moment and instead primes for the aforementioned moment without resolve, release or that thing. Perhaps it’s the lack of explosive, emotive moments that makes this album unique. Maybe we’re saturated in riding the roller coaster to the point where albums like Intellect seem refreshing. The songs run together like a high school watercolor but maintain a respectable cohesion. The drums on “Cowards Starve” sound like the drums in “Boyce or Boice” and “Why Does it Shake?” The vocals are somehow consistently flashy in their flatness. After riding the stagnant wave, a track like “Clandestine Times” wakes you up not by being particularly loud or outrageous but for being the song. Yes, it sounds like something ripped right off of The National’s Trouble Will Find Me, but it’s unexpected in context and is the bloodiest, messiest on the album, making it for me the most sincere moment on TheAgent Intellect. It is after this track that the album adopts a slightly more unmerciful tone and at some point sounds as if Protomartyr are actually feeling something instead of just making sounds about feeling something.
The truth is, when it comes to music I much rather feel passionate about hating or loving something than be unmoved. I wanted to inhale Agent Intellect and wanted to crave more of it. But really it comes down to being challenged and surprised. If I were at a house party, I could hear this fading into the background over beer bottles and conversation; a non-intrusive soundtrack to a night you probably won’t remember, because the party was only okay.
This summer, New York’s own BRAEVES released a new single called “Silver Streets” as a follow up to 2014’s Drifting by DesignEP.
The band bid their farewell to New York last weekend at The Studio at Webster Hall, rounding out a busy year of stellar shows at other venues in the city, including Baby’s All Right, where I first got to meet the guys, Glasslands, and (Le) Poisson Rouge. All of their hard work has led to a major next step, as they’ll be moving to Los Angeles later this month to work on their first full-length record.
At Webster, Snowmine’s Austin Mendenhall stepped in for former member Nick LaFalce, who performs lead guitar on the track.
The song shines, quite literally, with metallic imagery such as, “Silver streets, golden bodies” and “copper in our bones.” Coupled with sleek, otherworldy guitar and bass work, that blend seamlessly, “Silver Streets” is a perfectly warm track for speeding down a country road this fall. With lyrics like, “Take me back to days when I was fearless in your arms/I’ll follow your way home, I’ll follow your way home,” Levy’s dulcet vocals will make you nostalgic for a time that you weren’t even there for.
See the full lyrics on their Bandcamp page, and be on the lookout for a video coming soon. Listen to the track below:
Just a month after the release of their second LP Inanimate Objects,Australian duo Atlas Genius, composed of brothers Keith (lead vocals, lead guitar) and Michael Jeffery (drums), got people moving at Brooklyn’s Music Hall of Williamsburg last night.
First openers Mainland were a fun group of NYC indie rockers, evidently young and still working out their stage presence. Brooklyn-based Dreamers followed soon after with a more seasoned sound and even catchier lyrics. I’d easily peg Dreamers as a band to watch, and I can’t get their 90s pop-rockesque song “Waste My Night” out of my head. Both bands got the energy up for the main event.
From the get-go in Atlas Genius’s set, for the majority of the synth and guitar-heavy songs, the vocals were being drowned out by the rest of the sounds. Powerful harmonies in the song’s catchy choruses helped to carry the lead vocals out.
No less of a show was put on, however, as blinding strobe lights transported the crowd to the kind of dance club where you have room to flip your hair back and forth and wave your arms around like a madman. It seemed as though everyone knew all the words from the very beginning, and Keith had no problem getting everyone to clap along to the beat to what seemed like every song.
Showcasing the band’s wide range of styles in their two-album repertoire, songs like the bass-driven “Back Seat” and “Stockholm” were a little less indie pop and a little more rock show. Contrarily, “Friendly Apes” and “Balladino” provided a nice slower change of pace without losing any energy.
Most fun to watch wasn’t actually one of the brothers, but rather, Matt Fazzi on keys and rhythm guitar, clearly having the time of his life. I also enjoyed watching a drunk fan wander on stage for their debut hit “Trojans,” only to be escorted off the stage by security.
The highlight of the night was a cover of Dead or Alive’s “You Spin Me Round (Like a Record),” giving the 80s synthpop hit a modern makeover. While the majority of the setlist was high-energy and danceable, the acoustic encore “Levitate” calmed things down and allowed Keith’s vocals to finally take center stage.