PLAYING DETROIT: Sammy Morykwas Pens Bouncy Ode to Sipping Arnold Palmers

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Photo by Jordan Isom

Here in Michigan, we are the type of freaks that wear shorts when it’s fifty degrees out. After a long, long winter, the sun has finally graced us with its presence, lifting Detroit from its collective seasonal depression. Just in time for this changing of the seasons, local producer and songwriter Sammy Morykwas released his first solo single, “AP,” and it is, in my humble opinion, the song of the summer.

“AP” is a deliciously nostalgic hip-hop track that flows as easily as those tall-ass Arizona Arnold Palmer ice teas, which Morykwas sings about with impressive ease (try saying Arizona Arnold Palmer five times fast). Railing off totems of yesteryear, like Hi-C, superman ice-cream, and the word “hyphy,” Morykwas brings us back to a simpler time when summers were spent drinking Four Lokos and passing out in a field somewhere. The song’s bouncy rhythm and Morykwas’ clever rhymes make the song feel like a more sophisticated, upbeat version of LFO’s “Summer Girls.”

After one play, you will undoubtedly be singing about Arnold Palmers for days and itching for a carefree summer fling. Listen at your own risk below.


PLAYING DETROIT: Summer Solstice Playlist


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Ypsilanti power-pop trio Lightning Love may no longer play together, but their 2012 gem “So Easy” will always be a perfect summer jam.

School is out, bare skin exposed and the sense that anything is possible is undoubtedly in the air. Yes, it’s summer in the city. While we may all have our ideal soundtrack for the season, we’ve put together a few forgotten Detroit tracks that embody the whirlwind of emotions, expectations and possibilities that summer is so often defined by. Will you fall in love? Start over? Will you finally overcome your irrational fear of swimming in private lakes because you never could shake the premise of the movie Lake Placid from your brain? Summer is yours for the taking (and snacking) but mostly for the taking. Dive into these five tracks that are sure to be the aloe to your awkward sunburn.

1. Anna Burch: Tea-Soaked Letter

Anna Burch is a quiet storm. An vital touch in the folk-rock outfit Frontier Ruckus, Burch delves into her own acoustic woes with a similar rawness, this time backed by veteran scenesters Adam Pressley (Prussia, OHTIS) and Matt Rickle (FAWN, Javelins.) Simple, sweet and sorrowful, Burch delivers an aimless summer bike ride with “Tea-Soaked Letter,” a track that confesses to being unraveled and needy with a cooling dose of pop ennui.

2. Passalacqua: Been a Minute

Hip-hop duo Passalacqua revisits and rebirths hazy porch vibes with beautifully-crafted rhymes that go down smooth. There is something particularly retro about “Been a Minute;” it feels like it could soundtrack a subway montage on an episode of Broad City.

3. The Kickstand Band: Fall Back

Upbeat and wistful, surf pop DIY duo The Kickstand Band find a tender bruise with “Fall Back” as it toggles with one foot in spring, the other firmly planted in summer and one arm stretched out to graze Autumn.

4. Mountains and Rainbows: How You Spend Your Time

Possibly my favorite local record for taking mushrooms on Belle Isle or getting so drunk I call up my ex and asks if he still has my record player (not that I care, or anything), Mountains and Rainbows’ Particles contains this frantic gem, “How You Spend Your Time.” It’s perfectly posed for summer indiscretions, but masked with a sort of playful recklessness that is more fun than damaging.

5. Lightning Love: So Easy

Good god, I miss now-defunct Ypsilanti trio Lightning Love. Leah Diehl’s preciously imperfect vocals explore commitment vs. being alone, a perplexing crisis many of us find ourselves dancing between during these high-temp, highly tempting sweaty months. Appearing on 2012’s Blonde Album, “So Easy” features elements of 2005’s best power pop, and as such is well-suited for driving past addresses you don’t live anymore but think about sometimes.[/fusion_builder_column][/fusion_builder_row][/fusion_builder_container]

ONLY NOISE: Coney Island, Baby


As the glad hand of summer tightens to a fist, I feel hungover. These three hot months we wait for all year melt us into believing that we can live this way forever; damp and in torn jeans, drinking beer at 2pm and eating hot dogs at 2am. Perhaps summer to others is less slovenly, but it’s hard to be fresh-faced in the New York sun, which radiates off black pavement and carries the scent of freshly baked garbage up your nostrils. Where else in the country does summer = hot garbage? Better yet: hot garbage juice, which I’m sure we have all stepped in, wearing sandals.

This of course, isn’t everyone’s summer in New York. Portions of the Upper East Side and Park Slope seem to be refuse-free. And while many would find the above description noxious, there is one place in New York that seems to spin all that trash into colored candyfloss every summer: Coney Island.

Coney Island was a place I loved long before I walked its busted boardwalk, jutting upwards like misaligned teeth. It was a place I knew from song, as it has been immortalized in many. It seemed to be a perpetual place of interest for Tom Waits, who recorded a salty version of “Coney Island Baby” for 2002’s Blood Money. The beachside town has achieved an honorable mention in Waits’ “Take It With Me” from the 1999 LP Mule Variations, and it seemed the rakish balladeer perhaps knew the place better than anyone else.

Yet the artistic fascination with Coney Island doesn’t start or stop with Waits. The Ramones bopped about it in “Oh, Oh, I Love Her So” from 1977, singing about going “on the coaster and around again” in the grade C theme park. The only coaster they could mean is the treacherous Cyclone, which has provided thrill-seekers with whiplash since 1927. In the same decade Coney was fetishized by the Ramones, films like Annie Hall and The Warriors tipped their hats as well. While its use in the former merely provides a comical backdrop (Woody Allen’s character grew up in a house beneath the Cyclone, hence his neuroses), the latter catapulted the area into cult status. Where Waits had provided a mood, The Warriors affronted with a forceful visual of dueling gangs in leather vests and headbands.

I knew far more about Coney Island than I should have prior to moving to New York. I knew about the Wonder Wheel, and the Freak Show, and Nathan’s Hot Dogs. I knew that it was most likely filled with large women, and men named Frank. But I didn’t fully understand the allure until I first went for myself in 2009. By then I had discovered another “Coney Island Baby,” the classic Lou Reed track off of his 1976 album of the same name.

Something churned within me as I got off the F train that summer…and I realize now that same feeling can be explained by Reed’s lyric:

“Ah, but remember that the city is a funny place/
Something like a circus or a sewer
/And just remember, different people have peculiar tastes”

It was right then that I grasped the elusive beauty of Coney Island: it is an absolute shithole. It appeared that all of the collective enthrallment with the neighborhood was very aware of this fact. What’s more, the contradiction between the dirt and depravity of such a hood and it being a place of magical, family entertainment only seemed to increase the morbid fascination.

“The city is a funny place/Something like a circus or a sewer.” This rotated in my head as I walked past a portly, sun-baked woman, the length of her strangled in a fluorescent pink fishnet bodysuit. To my left, children were running through sprays of water generated by large blow-up palm trees punctuating the beach. Seagulls dove through the mist as old men wetted their balding heads, no one discriminating against the offerings of the plastic foliage. A boom box accompanied a saxophonist blowing away to Stevie Wonder’s “Isn’t She Lovely” and pieces of garbage floated past my feet, though none of the famed “Coney Island Whitefish” I’d heard so much about, a.k.a, used condoms.

While I can’t say the same of many places, Coney Island is exactly what I’ve always wanted it to be; and it maintains its appeal almost eight years later. When I went the other day it was waiting for me, running up to say hello with a hot dog in one hand and a beer in the other. I accepted and sat on the cement benches at Nathan’s, listening to “Year Of The Cat” by Al Stewart and innumerable Fleetwood Mac tracks. Neither of these made any sense, and I wish I could say something like Reed or Waits was playing, but I was happy to choke down shameful food to something familiar, something un-Carly Rae Jepsen. And that is what this place is all about: shame, pleasure, and familiarity.

Perhaps the kernel of Coney Island’s appeal possesses the same molecules as comfort food, guilty pleasures, and poorly produced music. It isn’t so much about the overt, qualitative aspects of a thing, but the gut reaction it elicits. Did that hot dog feel good in my gut? No. But did it feel good in my gut’s heart? You betcha.

After waddling out of Nathan’s, where I once watched the world famous Fourth of July hot dog eating contest (to the tune of Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believin’”) in another bout of poor taste, I made my way to MCU Park to take in my very first Brooklyn Cyclones game. Blaring out of the shoddy sound system were soundtrack versions of Disney songs: “Bippity Boppity Boo” and “A Whole New World” and the like.

Because Coney Island can only get weirder every time I go, the game is themed: it is princess and pirate night at the stadium, and there are hoards of terrifying children literally screaming for ice cream in sparkly pink dresses, tiaras, and pastel eye shadow. Large men with robust Brooklyn accents address their families with jovial shouting, which is later directed at the baseball team, only less jovially. As it turns out, the Cyclones are a pretty terrible team. A man behind me begins heckles the athletes while wearing a Cyclones shirt: “Come ON! My daughter hits betta than you!” he blurts. A princess-disguised hellion stands behind me, prodding my neck with something. I turn and realize it’s a chicken finger.

If it weren’t for Princess Poultry I may have stayed for the last two innings, but my companion and I were growing heavy from the heat and hot dogs. We laughed at the absurdity of such a place, and that a baseball game could be so comically bad. “You know what though?” my friend asked. I completed the thought before he could, “we would have been disappointed if they were really good.”

When I am asked to defend my bad taste, in the same way I must when my dad inquires about my preference for crappy bars as opposed to slick ones, I never have a ready-made reason at hand. But I think that it is the unrefined things that possess the most endurance. It is the rationale that against all of the information I possess about the health detriments of hot dogs, I still adore them. I know that Bob Dylan does not technically have a beautiful singing voice, but I will continue to love it. So when asked why in the hell I love Coney Island so much, I can’t help but counter:

“Ah, but remember that the city is a funny place/
Something like a circus or a sewer
/And just remember, different people have peculiar tastes”

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.





PLAYLIST: The Best Shows You Haven’t Missed This Summer


It’s already August, and if you’re like me, a certain kind of panic is starting to set in: Summer is almost over! The descent into crippling cold weather will begin soon! Well, the first day of Fall is September 23rd, which means there’s still over a month left for rooftop parties, iced coffee, and frolicking outdoors. If you haven’t gotten your music fix this summer, here are some of your best bets for concerts in the next few weeks.


8/17 at Gramercy Theatre

Ellen Kempner is the creative force behind the MA band Palehound. Though her band often gets compared to Speedy Ortiz and the two groups both have strong 90’s alt-rock influences, Kempner’s guitar-heavy sounds and lyrics full of casual heartbreak are very much her own.


8/21 at Palisades

Another of Exploding In Sound’s breakthrough bands, Krill gained fans and alt-rock cred after their last release, A Distant Fist Unclenching.

Frankie Cosmos

8/22 at Shea Stadium

Frankie Cosmos, the daughter of Kevin Kline and a former member of Porches, is inspired by the poetry of Frank O’Hara and the NYC anti-folk scene. Though her real name is Greta, the project is the singer/songwriter’s indie alter-ego.


8/24 at Silent Barn

The local psych-rock band will be playing at Bushwick’s DIY space, the Silent Barn as part of Exploding In Sound’s Extended Weekend series.

Cuddle Magic

8/31 at Baby’s All Right

Cuddle Magic is one of Brooklyn’s most unique bands, who specialize in unexpected wordplay and rhythms. The clarinet, saxophone and trumpet they occasionally include sometimes gives them a baroque-like sound.

The Juan Maclean

9/10 at Bowery Ballroom

We’ve seen Juan Maclean, so we can vouch for their live performance. Nancy of LCD Soundsystem handles the vocals over the band’s mixture of electro/techno/house. Get ready to dance.

Dengue Fever

9/11 at (le) Poisson Rogue

Nothing says summer like going to see a band named after a debilitating disease caused by mosquitoes. (I promise, this concert will be a much, much more pleasant experience). The L.A. band sings in Khmer, mixing their native language and brand of pop music with dancey, psychedelic grooves.

St Paul & The Broken Bones 

9/15 at Webster Hall

Looking for something a little more soulful? Check out the Alabama natives St. Paul & The Broken Bones, who have gained notoriety after releasing Half The City last year.

PLAYLIST: The Top Acts To Catch At Northside Festival


Hey Brooklyn! What are you doing next weekend? Really, the only acceptable answer is seeing at least one of these bands at Northside Festival, which runs from June 11-14 and hosts shows in venues from Acheron  to Warsaw. The schedule is packed with amazing artists, and to help you choose which shows to see, we made you a list of our favorites. You’re welcome.

1. Diet Cig  (6/11 at Alphaville)

This duo from New Paltz plays catchy, light-hearted pop that will have you copying the dancing in this video:

2. Beverly (6/11 at Alphaville)

This band comes with a warning: their lush, relaxing harmonies are addictive.

3. Luna (6/11 at McCarren Park)

Luna is the indie band formed by former Galaxie 500 member Dean Wareham, featuring guitar-centric, dreamy rock.

4. Drenge (6/12 at Knitting Factory)

Their name is a little challenging to pronounce, but these brothers from the UK have an amazing sound: heavy, grungy rock.

5. Leapling (6/12 at Palisades)

Just one in a long list of amazing local bands is Leapling, an experimental pop group responsible for gems like “Crooked.”

6. Vomitface (6/12 at Pet Rescue)

This sludge-pop band sounds way better than their name. If you’ve got some head-banging to get out of your system, go see them at Pet Rescue.

7. Frankie Cosmos (6/12 at Rough Trade)

Greta Kline formerly performed under the name Ingrid Superstar before settling on Frankie Cosmos. The daughter of actors Kevin Kline and Phoebe Cates lists James Taylor, Hall and Oates, Liz Phair, Indigo Girls and the Moldy Peaches as early influences.

8. Mitski (6/12 at Saint Vitus)

Mitski is a stunning singer-songwriter from Brooklyn, via practically everywhere else. Go see her at Saint Vitus, where we’re hoping she’ll preview some songs from her upcoming album.

9. Von Sell (6/12 at Union Pool)

Von Sell is a relatively new electro-pop artist from Berlin who is already getting praise from indie blogs. Watch him play at Union Pool and see what all the fuss is about.

10. ONWE (6/12 at Union Pool)

ONWE’s light, catchy melodies hide something darker- just check out his song “Unpaid Internship,” his scathing opinion on “trust-fund kids.”

11. Shilpa Ray (6/14 at Rough Trade)

She plays the harmonium, and she’s one of Nick Cave’s favorite musicians: Shilpa Ray is bringing her uniquely gloomy rock ‘n’ roll to Rough Trade.

12. This entire lineup (6/13 at 50 Kent Avenue)

Celebrate the start of summer with an outdoor concert, and see four great bands in one place: Bully, Alvvays, Built to Spill and Best Coast.