Posts Tagged ‘Detroit’

When Anna Burch introduced herself on her 2018 debut Quit the Curse, it was with a concentrated wash of energetic, serotonin-boosting pop. Jangly guitars, blithe vocal harmonies and an occasional undercurrent of grungy fuzz all converged in seemingly straightforward songs that hid their complexities under sunny hooks. The impact of the songs was immediate and exciting, presenting narratives of confusion and upheaval with melodies so bright it was hard to do anything but smile. Two years later, Burch’s follow up “If You’re Dreaming” takes us down a different path than its predecessor, shedding some nervous energy in favor of a deeper exploration of an internal world.

After months on the road in support of Quit the Curse, Burch disappeared for a while. The long stretches of touring had been broken up by only a few weeks off here and there, and a month spent writing in Berlin between European dates. The time she did get to spend at home in Detroit was disrupted by several unexpected housing changes, adding to the transient feelings brought on by constant touring. When things finally stabilized, Burch encamped into a slow, thoughtful and intentional writing process for what would become the second album. Days were spent playing guitar, exploring unconventional chord changes, ruminating on song structures and allowing her subconscious to wander until lyrics materialized. Though about half of the songs were already written, this time was dedicated to taking a closer look at the loose ends of three years of ideas and seeing if there were common threads that held them together.

If You’re Dreaming was tracked with producer Sam Evian in his home studio in the Catskill mountains of upstate New York. Where the first album had been a rush of inspired songwriting followed by a drawn-out process of arrangement and mixing, Burch and Evian worked with self-imposed time limitations to establish a sharper focus and get to the core of the new songs. The work was swift but somehow more relaxed, locking into a groove of tracking the basic elements and then expanding on the arrangements with overdubs and auxiliary instrumentation. The end goal was to present not just an assortment of new songs, but craft an album that moved dynamically through an interconnected emotional arc.

With recurring themes of isolation, weariness and longing, these songs deliver that emotional arc with a delicate but uncompromising execution. Burch’s intrinsically catchy songwriting dials down the urgency of her debut a notch, taking a turn towards airy, jazz-voiced chords, floating reverb and an expansion of the sonic palate with unexpected instrumentation. The soft-rock bass grooves and understated saxophone lines of “Not So Bad” push an impressive pop structure into exciting new territory, and the sweetly melancholic “Tell Me What’s True” centers around muted electric piano, its languid but metered vibe recalling the gentler side of Carole King.

The nuance of arrangements that could sometimes get buried on Quit the Curse rises to the surface on patient, opulent tunes like “Every Feeling” and in the twelve-string guitar hooks of “Party’s Over.” The album drifts dreamily as much as it hones in with a sharper clarity on some of Burch’s most personal songs.

Even at its most introverted, If You’re Dreaming is always warm and present. It’s a deliberately drawn chapter of Burch’s work, trading in the wild-eyed and sometimes neurotic party hopping of Quit the Curse for a more solitary walk after midnight. Daring and clear-headed, these songs cut deeper in their subtleties. If You’re Dreaming moves with intention, taking its time revealing new layers of sophistication and growth in Burch’s always charming songcraft.

Releases April 3rd, 2020

 

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Fox,” the first single from their debut album, Dogleg devastate listeners with a heart wrenching take on losing touch, with a song that’s thrives on leaving blood on the page. The band, who are expected to release their debut album next Spring, they take a power pop approach and then distort the hell out of it. While the feelings of loss and confusion could resonate with anyone, few artists could deliver a song on the subject with as much energy as Dogleg.

Along with the high energy video, “Fox” rips with an epic level of engagement that most modern pop-punk lacks. The song puts an emphasis on intensity, but it also has the dynamics of an early Taking Back Sunday song or a Nimrodera Green Day track. While so much of the enjoyment comes from the screamed gang vocals and fast, punchy riffs, the song is set in the soft bass breakdowns, where you’re reminded that you’re listening to a song with more emotional resonance than just your standard emo track. While this is clear to anyone who heard Dogleg’s Remember Alderaan EP, “Fox” takes the interesting parts of that release and smoothes out the creases.

A fantastic explosion of noise. fast, cathartic, melodic. if you want to cry/dance in your room alone on a saturday night while your friends are out having a good time this is the record for you.

Band Members
Alex Stoitsiadis – guitar, vocals
Chase Macinski – bass, vocals
Parker Grissom – guitar
Jacob Hanlon – drums

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Stef Chura sings “If only you can hear me scream” 10 full times on “Scream” before she, well, screams. Bizarrely, it’s one of the few instances on Midnight, Chura’s sophomore release and first full-length release on Saddle Creek, where she shows restraint, a fleeting respite for her vocal chords that take hit after hit throughout the entirety of the record’s 43 minutes. Howling throughout with a confident vibrato, it’s perhaps the most impressive raw vocal performance since Hop Along last put out an album, reminiscent at times of a young Karen O. A major step up from her 2017 debut Messes (which was reissued in 2018 by Saddle Creek), Midnight is the complete realization of the Detroit-based artist’s solo project, chock full of perfectly fuzzed-out guitars on one of the best-recorded DIY-leaning records in quite some time. That’s thanks in large part to Car Seat Headrest frontman Will Toledo, who helps mold Chura’s songs into ones that sound like his own. “Scream” resembles the song structure of Teens of Denial’s “Unforgiving Girl (She’s Not An),” though potentially even exceeding it as Chura’s guitar solo provides a fist-in-the-air moment before she brings the house down for one final chorus. Chura has been one of the more buzzed-about rising artists in the indie rock community for quite some time; Midnight more than delivers on that initial hype, surpassing virtually all expectations en route to becoming one of her genre’s biggest breakouts.

This an indie record for the ages, a wonderful listen where each song is completely essential to the project as a whole. Midnight is an incredible record, owing, but in no way indebted to her pitch perfect partnership with Toledo, one that’s further catapulted by Chura’s distinctive voice and extraordinary songwriting chops.

“Close the door to your mouth and get the fuck in the car!” It’s an order that Stef Chura half sings, half-speaks halfway through the chugging “Method Man,” a big fat rock song that embodies the rattle and swagger of the Detroit artist’s sophomore release “Midnight”, itself a big fat rock record that staggers and struts like a drunk trying to walk straight, its riffs as sticky as a dive bar’s beer-sloshed floor and Chura’s delightful yips and yodels bearing the slurry quality of just a few too many bottles of Bud. Though the record has its straightforward moments —“Lemme do a jumping jack over your heart,” implores Chura on giddy number “Jumping Jack”—this is not pop and the medicine isn’t going doing easy and rarely in less than 2 minutes. Like the old rock records of yore, Midnight rewards repeat listening, the better to savor the ways Chura and Will Toledo find to reshape her loosey-goosey song structures into songs with edges as sharp and polished as diamonds.

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Though Chura’s always been a creative, exciting guitarist, she’s equally as inventive with her vocals on Midnight.  On the chorus of tightly wound “Scream,” she sings, “If only you could hear me scream!” three times in a row, changing the inflection of the final word so it sounds like “scram” or “scree-yum,” playfully expounding upon the possibilities of language while her fingers explore the boundaries of the electric guitar. “My girl is 3-dimensional,” exclaims Chura joyfully on “3D girl,” and she is.

End Your Week With Stef Chura's Beautifully Melancholic Single "Sour Honey"

“If only you could hear me scream,” Stef Chura sings at one point during her sophomore release, “Sweet Sweet Midnight”, her first full length album release for Saddle Creek Records. She makes good on her promise and does quite a bit of screaming throughout, even channeling a modern DIY Karen O at times. Produced by Car Seat Headrest’s Will Toledo, “Midnight” takes everything you love from his band and applies it to Chura’s transfixing voice, a perfect match for this rising act from Detroit. She’s long been building up buzz in the indie rock community; Sweet Sweet Midnight may launch her to stardom, a jump that’s been long overdue.

“For most people who create art I would assume there is some kind of deep unanswerable hole in your soul as to why you’re making it…” So says Stef Chura ahead of the release of her gritty, vehement new album – recorded and produced by Will Toledo ofCar Seat Headrestand her first new collection of songs . Illuminating that search for answers with a fevered sense of exploration, Midnight is a bold leap forward from Messes, Stef’s contagious debut album, with every aspect of her new work finding bold ways to express itself as it rips through twelve restless and relentless new tracks.

A couple of years on from the release of Messes, Stef is still based in Detroit, that most singular city which has seen it all, from the no-mans-land of its initial collapse through to the resurgent place it is now. Stef found inspiration from the people she surrounded with herself with, more so than the place itself. It’s no surprise that Midnight is testament to those kind of characteristics; a rugged and robust burst of defiance. “I’m usually dealing with the context of what I can’t say or haven’t said,” . “This album has a depth to it and a particular sound because of Will,” Stef states regarding Toledo’s input, whose spiky nuances can be found across the length and breadth of Midnight, the record presenting an exhilarating rush of sound and colour as Stef’s spirited vocal finds and signature guitar sounds unravel alongside in a thrilling meeting of ideas and influences; dispelling demons, song by song.

“With this album I wanted it to be clearer and more listenable, in a number of ways,” Stef says. Proof of this outlook can be found on the edgy lead track ‘Method Man’, a boisterous three-minutes that melds jagged, skewed guitars with a distinctive voice that has a new-found sense of confidence, whether spitting spoken-word mantras during the exhilarating percussive coda or simply letting loose amid the squalling bluster of guitars.

You can find it elsewhere too, in fact it runs right through the heart of Midnight’s twelve tracks. Take the sweeping brilliance of ‘Jumpin’ Jack’, a somewhat more refined three-minutes that bursts into a thrilling finale, or ‘Sincerely Yours’, a brooding four-minutes initially gives deserved space to Stef’s voice and words more than ever before, before bursting into life with with a pent-up energy that positively roars from within.

Equal parts thrilling and angsty, Midnight is a testament to the collaborative process, a record that makes the very most of those who came together to make it, but more than that, it’s a firm statement of tenacity and perseverance, of not resting on your laurels but leaping forwards no matter the situation you find yourself in. From out of one day and into the next.

The Detroit-native indie rocker Stef Chura also released a Record Store Day release on April 21st. The song, titled “Sour Honey,” follows the double-sided vinyl’s previous release, a-side “Degrees.” Check out that first track’s lyric video below

Stef Chura – the album Midnight out June 7th!

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“‘They’ll Never’ picks up where its predecessor ‘Method’ left off, combining grunge-y guitar with a surf rock sort of fervency. In this same manner, its visual counterpart (dir. Fidel R Ruiz-Healy & Tyler Walker) follows suit, meshing the bright with the dirty, the colorful with the muted and dilapidated.”

This June, the underrated Stef Chura is releasing her sophomore album, Midnight. We’ve already heard its incisive lead single “Method Man.” For its follow-up, Chura falls back into the twangy spark that filled the Michigan musician’s 2017 debut. “They’ll never tear this place apart,” she sings, a song that both romanticizes and repudiates the place that Chura called home.

She explains:

I wrote this song while living in a building in Ypsilanti, MI that was not up to code. No one cared about it. The kitchen was moldy, the carpets were dirty and the house was generally unfinished. This place existed in an odd realm. “Sideways from grace the angles lost” This means that at a certain angle and in the right light you can see what is amiss. No one really cared for it, and yet people would go on living in it and subsequently it would be a home. No one cared enough to take care of it and no one cared enough to notice it and destroy it or hold the people who lived there accountable for keeping it up to code.

It’s also about looking into the future, that when life hands you less and circumstances aren’t what you thought they were. “They sold you love, this chalk’s just dust.” Wanting something you can’t have. Having expectations that don’t go the way you think they should. How what you bought isn’t in the box and you have to start over. There is only a memory of what is left represented by a shell of what was there. A conversation on how you can never really own anything. And life goes on even if your house is moldy and you don’t speak the same language as the drunk old man you live with who steals your potted plants and plants them in the yard for you.

Stef ChuraThey’ll Never

Arriving in the early months of 2017, Bonny Doon’s self-titled debut was a warm introduction to the Detroit quartet for many. Hazy and bright, the album’s woozy melodies and swirling webs of summery guitar textures were easily ingested as low-key slacker pop, blissfully awash in lo-fi sensibilities and dreamy ambiance. But the nonchalant breeziness belied a serious attention to songcraft that beckoned careful listening, and hinted at depths yet unexplored. Lo and behold, before the ink was even dry on the first record, work had already begun on its follow-up Longwave, a conscious about-face from the sonic experimentation of the first album, and a journey inward.

Opting for spontaneity and simplicity over the exploration of layers and textures that defined the first record, the band architected an incredibly intimate sound for these new songs. The album was tracked with minimal overdubs or production flourishes, constructing a frame that is spare and understated. The songs on Longwave amble through moonlit fields of melancholy guitar leads and self-reflection, the collection unfolding almost as one uninterrupted conversation with self. The session aimed to capture the band at their essence. With the superfluous stripped away, a gentle but steadfast spiritual core is revealed as the backbone of Bonny Doon’s cosmic American music.

Bobby Colombo of Bonny Doon said, “When you – if you – listen to our music, there’s a lot of self-critique and doubt, and questioning. That could be construed as negativity – I don’t think we do, though.” That kind of self-awareness is self-evident, and is the theme behind Longwave‘s ten tracks. But for an album full of wistfully declarative, introspective sentences, Bonny Doon left ample room for their take on spaced-out, captivating, catchy music. This one-two punch – confidence in self-doubt, and a strolling groove – helped Longwave arrive as one of the most fully-formed debuts this side of the millennium, and demanded repeated listens, both this year and beyond.

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Released March 23rd, 2018

Bill Lennox- vocals and guitar
Bobby Colombo– vocals and guitar
Jake Kmiecik– drums
Joshua Brooks– bass

MC5 were one of the most radical bands of the ’60s. Their first album, the live Kick Out the Jams, committed some of the most energetic and aggressive performances of any musicians to record. The band, which formed in Detroit in 1964, influenced how everything from punk to metal to hard rock has sounded over the past half-century. For that alone, they deserve a spot in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

Their live album Kick Out the Jams opens with singer Rob Tyner encouraging the audience to join the “revolution.” Even if the revolution didn’t happen while they played,  the band meant what it said. The members all had ties to the White Panther Party (their “manager,” John Sinclair, was a founding member) and performed concerts in protest of the Vietnam War. They even played at the infamous 1968 Democratic National Convention in Chicago.

While MC5 may not have been the first band to say the word “fuck” on an album, they definitely used it most effectively. The song “Kick Out the Jams” starts with a rallying cry by Rob Tyner to “Kick out the jams, motherfuckers!” Those famous words complement the relentless proto-punk assault found on the rest of the album.

MC5’s first studio album, 1970’s Back in the USA, predicted the affection for late-‘50s and early ’60s rock ‘n’ roll that punk groups like the Ramones celebrated years later. The 11-song album is only 28 minutes long (this was 1970, a time when 28 minutes would have been about normal for one track by other underground artists) and features short covers of Chuck Berry and Little Richard songs. Their live performances were even closer to punk; onstage, the band encouraged audiences to join them in political protest, all the while creating some of the most abrasive music of its time. Many punk bands cite them as an influence. Guitarist Wayne Kramer’s drug charges are even mentioned in the Clash’s “Jail Guitar Doors.”

Aside from his vocal talents, singer Rob Tyner was known for his awesome hair. Tyner had one of the largest afros in 1969. When coupled with the eclectic fashion of the late ’60s, all the members created a strong image on and off stage.

More than 50 years later, the group’s surviving members (guitarist Wayne Kramer and drummer Dennis Thompson) continue to perform. The band has reunited a few times, though each reunion had been cut short by the death of a member. Kramer, along with British singer-songwriter Billy Bragg, worked together on the Jail Guitar Doors Initiative — named after the Clash song that referenced Kramer — which provides instruments to inmates. In 2018, Kramer spearheaded the MC50 tour that included members of Soundgarden and Fugazi, among others.

MC5 – (Motor City 5) Motorcity is burning 1969

Matthew Dear doesn’t call himself King Chameleon lightly. The Texan-born producer, DJ, sometime University of Michigan lecturer and leftfield electronic artist has spent almost 20 years operating under a range of pseudonyms – Audion, Jabberjaw and False. The fifth album under his own name is no different, but mostly he channels an eclectic range of loosely post-punk-era styles into heavy electronics. Cranium-shattering dub, Nitzer Ebb’s electronic body music, Wire’s angular tunefulness and the Pop Group’s depth-charges of dub and punk are hurled into the mix.

“Some bands have retired and come back in the amount of time since my last album. Hell, I’ve even played a part in making two more humans since Beams. But hey old man, why aren’t I rested? .Well, I DJ’d a lot, put out an Audion album, and submitted a DJ Kicks mix to some time capsule confused aliens will crack open somewhere far down the line. Throughout it all, as has been the case since I was 14, I made loads of weirdo music. If it weren’t digital, there’d be boxes of tapes and tapes and tapes. See, that’s the thing. I’m a tinkerer. I’m a loop obsessed sound hack. The process is what I get out of bed for.

“‘I make music for people who like my music’ is something I recently tweeted. There is something I’ve come to love about my career. I really can do whatever I want. So long as I feel it’s the best use of time, or yields results that translate into good music later. That’s where you’ll find the music dad. It’s in my head. It’s on my hard drives. It’s in my car driving the girls to school in the morning. They even asked me how Tegan and Sara snuck in and out of the house without them noticing to make those songs with me. The music is always there. It’s just a matter of time before it starts to bubble over and finally get stamped ‘property of the people.’

“I’m calling this one ‘Bunny’ dad. As always it’s got a little bit of everything that makes me who I am. Why Bunny? Fundamentally, I love the way the word looks and sounds. I love the way it rolls off the mind and onto the tongue. It’s a funny thing too. Bunnies are cute. Bunnies are weird. They’re soft. They’re sexy. They’re lucky. They wildly procreate. They trick hunters, but get tricked by turtles. They lead you down holes. They adorn the headboards of children’s beds, lined up meticulously just as mom did when she was your age. Bunnies are seemingly with us from birth, and probably skitter past on our way out the big door.

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“So here is my album. Already a fading stamp on the passport of a time traveler. I do it all for you. I couldn’t quit if I wanted to. I’m only getting started.” – Matthew Dear

released October 12th, 2018

MC5 only released three albums, but they were ferocious, adventurous, and confrontational enough to secure the group’s place as one of the greatest rock ’n’ roll bands ever. Singer Rob Tyner, guitarists Wayne Kramer and Fred “Sonic” Smith, bassist Michael Davis, and drummer Dennis Thompson came together as the MC5 in 1965. The band performed for several years before making its first record. This year is the 50th anniversary of the recording of the band’s incendiary debut, Kick Out The Jams, which was recorded live over two nights at Detroit’s Grande Ballroom in October 1968.

To celebrate, MC5 release Total Assault: 50th Anniversary Collection, a limited-edition boxed set that features all three of the band’s albums pressed on coloured vinyl. It includes Kick Out The Jams (red vinyl), Back In The USA (white vinyl) and High Time (blue vinyl). The albums come in sleeves that faithfully re-create the original releases, including gatefolds for Kick Out The Jams and High Times. All three are housed in a hard slipcase with new art and previously unseen photographs by world renowned photographer Raeanne Rubenstein. The music on Total Assault shows why the MC5 is held is such high regard today with indelible tracks like Kick Out The Jams, Human Being Lawnmower and Sister Anne.

The set also includes a new essay by Creem magazine founding editor/writer and Uncut contributor Jaan Uhelszki, who writes: “Turned loose on a bare stage, the MC5 were among the most awe-inspiring perpetrators of sheer bombast and rock and roll brinkmanship alive… They tore through the stuff they heard on the radio with a fierce intensity that transcended the original artists’ intent. Tunes by James Brown, Chuck Berry, the Kinks and the Rolling Stones vibrated at a higher frequency when the Motor City Five tackled them.”

MC5 co-founder and guitarist Wayne Kramer will release his memoir The Hard Stuff: Dope, Crime, the MC5, and My Life of Impossibilities on August 14th before hitting the road with a new all-star line-up of MC5 called MC50. The group will perform Kick Out The Jams in its entirety, along with other MC5 classics.