Posts Tagged ‘Detroit’

This Saturday, April 21st is Record Store Day, a day that brings us back to a time when the only way you could hear your favorite artist’s new song was by purchasing it on seven inches of vinyl from your local record shop. That’s exactly how Detroit indie-rocker, Stef Chura, wants us to celebrate the annual homage to vinyl culture. Chura, who released her striking debut album Messes in 2017, is pressing a thousand copies of a new 7″ that includes two songs that didn’t make it onto the LP. Both of the songs – “Degrees” and “Sour Honey” – were produced by Will Toledo of Car Seat Headrest and show Chura’s range in emotion, voice, and musicianship.

“Degrees” is a weighty, haunting rumination on mortality that shifts between delicate verses and a blazing refrain. Chura says that the song was originally a plucky folk song, but Toledo had the idea to take it in a Janis Joplin “Ball and Chain” direction, adding gritty layers of guitar that conjure up the image of towering flames.

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Falling on the opposite end of the spectrum sonically, “Sour Honey” is a stripped-down solo affair that features Chura’s flickering, elastic vocals accompanied by Toledo on piano. The bare, vulnerable sound is an appropriate match for the song’s subject matter – insecurity and hyper self-awareness.  “I wrote that song when I was working at a strip club in Detroit as a cocktail server,” says Chura. “It was about the visceral, super physical feeling of complete embarrassment and humiliation. I think I used to suffer from a lot of social anxiety and miscommunications, and it was just a very cat-fighty atmosphere.”

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The 7″ is a Record Store Day exclusive, which means you’ll only be able to pick it up at your local record store. Chura will perform at Detroit’s Third Man Records in tandem with the release,

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“Personality Crisis: Live Recordings & Studio Demos 1972-1975”. A trio of pre-Mercury demo sessions – arguably as close as the Dolls ever got to nailing their sound in the cold austerity of the recording studio – are joined by a collection of incendiary live shows (including two American radio broadcasts)

Formed in 1971 in New York City, and originally classified as hard rock, the New York Dolls became one of the creators of punk rock before there was even a term for it. With a line-up of vocalist David Johansen, guitarist Johnny Thunders, bassist Arthur Kane, guitarist Sylvain Sylvain and drummer Billy Murcia, the New York Dolls sported an androgynous wardrobe of high heels, eccentric hats, make-up and satin onstage, and in the words of the Encyclopedia of Popular Music were “one of the most influential rock bands of the last 20 years”, boasting such high profile fans as Morrissey, the Sex Pistols, The Ramones, Kiss, Guns N’ Roses and The Damned.

It is commonly perceived that the essence of the New York Dolls was never satisfactorily captured by their two albums for the Mercury label, both of which many believe suffered from unsympathetic production. Fortunately for us all, the band’s untutored rawness, unencumbered strength of purpose and unique vision is better served by the recordings that are gathered together for the first time on Personality Crisis: Live Recordings & Studio Demos 1972-1975. A trio of pre-Mercury demo sessions – arguably as close as the Dolls ever got to nailing their sound in the cold austerity of the recording studio – are joined by a collection of incendiary live shows (including two American radio broadcasts) that, despite the variable sound quality, capture their unfettered outrageousness and life-affirming vitality. This package serves, then, as an alternative view of one of the few genuinely essential rock’n’roll bands to emerge from the early Seventies wastelands.

Includes early versions of acknowledged New York Dolls’ classics: ‘Jet Boy’, ‘Trash’, ‘Personality Crisis’, ‘Puss ‘n’ Boots’, ‘Stranded In The Jungle’, ‘Babylon’, ‘Who Are The Mystery Girls’, ‘Bad Girl’ and ‘Pills’.

Come in a beautifully designed clamshell box set containing its own booklet with full sleeve notes, plus individual card wallets for each of the discs. All material contained within this package has been specially remastered for this release.This package serves, then, as an alternative view of one of the few genuinely essential rock’n’roll bands to emerge from the early Seventies wastelands.

Released April 27th, 2018 via Cherry Red Records.

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

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

Released March 23rd, 2018

Stef Chura

I really enjoyed Stef Chura’s  excellent debut, “Messes”, last year. Actually, I’m still enjoying it this year as well. She’s currently hard at work on its follow-up, That album is still a ways off, but the duo are giving us a taste of their collaboration with a new limited edition 7-inch for Record Store Day. The A-side is “Degrees,” a contemplative song that flares up into an epic classic-rock rave-up when the chorus hits. Car Seat Headrest Will Toledo produces and plays guitar, bass, and organ,  we’re excited to announce the RSD exclusive 7-inch by Stef Chura, Degrees b/w Sour Honey . “Degrees” and “Sour Honey” were both songs cut from Messes , but revived when Stef crossed paths with Will Toledo of Car Seat Headrest and a collaboration was born. Stef says:

“I met Will Toledo in 2016 when we did some touring together with Car Seat Headrest. We chatted at the Empty Bottle in Chicago at our first show and he told me that he found my music on Tumblr via an article that compared us to each other. He invited us on a couple of tours that year before Messes was out and before we had a label or booking agent or release plans or any “stuff.” In May of 2017 we ran into each other again at the Empty Bottle. Will was mixing Twin Fantasy and came out to our gig there with the engineer he’d been working with. He invited us to the studio to check out the record the next day. When we stopped by Will had finished mixing early and asked us if we had anything going on recording-wise. I said I have a couple of songs that got cut from Messes I want to record for a 7-inch and he was like “Cool, wanna record them right now? I’ll play bass.”

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“Degrees” b/w “Sour Honey” is out as a limited edition 7-inch (1000 copies) on Record Store Day, 21st April.

 

Listening to Bonny Doon’s self titled debut album “Bonny Doon” feels like something akin to sitting on a porch swing in the heat of the summertime, watching your neighbours strike up the barbecue, as the late-night sun sets behind houses. Or something like that. What I’m saying is that it’s a good time. Ambling, tender, weird, nice, real listen.

The band Bill Lennox, Bobby Colombo, Joshua Brooks, and Jake Kmiecik took some time to put together a track-by-track of the record, which is out via Spunk Records.

1. “Relieved”

Bill: Wasn’t sure if this one was just a humdrum strummer when I wrote it but I remember playing it for my friend while she was on LSD before I ever brought it to the band. She has the best taste in music so when she said she liked it I was pretty stoked. At the time I was living with people who collected lava lamps so I turned them all on and turned all the other lights off in the house and we listened to Slowdive most of the night. Hopefully that neon glow comes through in the album version.

Jake: The lyrics of this song and the warmth of the instrumentation always make me think fondly of the way time passes and the friendships this band has formed, and how there’s beauty and comfort in that.

2. “Summertime Friends”

Josh: This is a song that we’ve played five or more different ways, and recorded three times now. It’s been an up-tempo punk jam, it’s been really sparse, stoned and warped with everything being run through an echoplex, and here we do it in pretty straight forward style and just try to have fun with it. I think it was one the last songs we tracked for this record. Our friend Fred Thomas, who engineered a lot of the record, plays drums on it and Jake slid over to piano. It had previously appeared on a tape with a slow and dreamy quality, but Fred suggested we try it like this and we did it a few times and that was it. It has kind of a gang vocal quality because we just did them live in the room.

3. “What Time Is It in Portland?”

Bobby: A hokey question as a starting point for a spiraling ramble about change, this song seems kind of indulgent upon reflection. And maybe also because it frames it like something that happens all around me while I comfortably play the role of static observer. That’s not really how change works, but it can feel that way and it’s tempting to cast it like that. I am really happy with how this version came together. I wrote it before we started the band and it was one of the songs we tried out when Bill convinced me that I should also sing. Originally he was the only singer. We always called the guitar breaks Jimmy Buffett leads, though I don’t know his music well enough to know if that’s apt or wishful thinking.

4. “Lost My Way”

Bill: We all played in punk bands before we started this band so a large part of how we approach music is informed by that. We still kind of consider ourselves a punk band in many ways and this song is an example of how it is hard to let that go. One time we got too stoned and decided we’d play it half speed at a show, not sure how it was received. I really love the extended jam at the end. We play it different every time now but I’m happy with the way this version was captured. We were listening to a lot of krautrock at the time and Bobby and I saw Faust play around the time we recorded this. The singer kept reprimanding the audience for looking at their phones while they were playing and they had a guy playing a giant oil can as a drum pretty much the whole set. It was great.

5. “I See You”

Bill: This song was a roadmap for us in a lot of ways in that it helped us begin to find our voice. It was the first real song I ever wrote and when we played it together it just felt natural and like we all understood the feel and vibe of it. It was the first song we played at our first show. It’s on our first 7″ and it’s the first single on this record.

6. “(you can’t hide)”

Bobby: A lot of songs on this record were approached and recorded multiple different ways, and this is just a fragment of a different arrangement of “You Can’t Hide,” as captured by a blown out room mic. There is maybe a strange logic to including unfinished instrumentals filtered through clipping room mics when we had so many songs to choose from (we probably recorded about 25 for this record), but I think of them as little windows into the process and I think there’s beauty in those moments of unpolished spontaneity.

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7. “You Can’t Hide”

Josh: Bobby and I spent countless hours processing things through an echoplex on this record. That tape echo was a huge part of our sound and process for experimenting with songs during tracking and mixing. This one has the echoplex oscillating wildly over the whole track, as well as processing both guitars and the drums. A lot of things we do maybe don’t make the most sense but we are all about trying to get emotional impact out of our songs, however that happens.

8. “Never Been to California”

Jake: This song, at least at the time of writing and recording, felt very reflective of Bill’s songwriting process. It deals a lot with a sense of place and ruminations on where one resides, both physically and spiritually. The “blue bridge” mentioned in the first verse is a reference to the Ambassador Bridge which can be seen from the house Bill and I lived in at the time. It connects Detroit and Windsor, Canada. This song was also an exercise in a more country-esque side of our sound, a taste that brought the four of us together in a unique way.

9. “Maine Vision”

Josh: This one came as a vision in Maine, while we were standing on a rock overlooking an inland bay of the Atlantic. The melody just popped in Bill’s head and he started going “neh-neh neh-neh neh-neh neh-neh neh-neh neh neh-neh-neh” so we went back to the cottage we were staying in and jammed it out. We had just finished our first tour and drove from NYC up to outside of Portland to meet up with Bobby’s brother and relax in Maine for a few days. We are always trying to make Bonny Doon as sustainable as possible for our lives and mental health, and band retreats to cabins in beautiful places is a big part of that. There was a heavy kraut influence on this one, the one-minute track on the record was cut from an eleven-minute jam.

10. “Evening All Day Long”

Bill: I like the way this song rolls along and I love bobby’s guitar playing at the end, it’s bouncy and playful and has a sense of humor that I dig. Neither of us consider ourselves “good” guitar players but I think we’re both big fans of each other’s playing. The guitar mirrors Bobby’s lyrics too, there are jokes with a sort of existential campiness tossed in there to lighten up what could just be a straightforward sad song.

11. “(crowded)”

Josh: A longwave instrumental. There is a lot left out in the mix of this one, like all the words for one thing. It’s one of those songs that we kept adding to and adding to try and get it to feel right, and then ended up stripping everything away and just using the instrumental. It’s actually just the mic on Bill’s guitar amp and all the other instruments bleed through it. Bobby ran it through an old chorus pedal to give it a little extra movement. There’s a series of Velvet Underground bootlegs called the Guitar Amp Tapes, which are just a tape recorded in the back of Lou Reed’s amp. I could listen to those all day, they just have the feeling.

Detroit’s Bonny Doon delivered one of last year’s most delightfully surprising debut albums early last year with the self-titled record. The band members cut their teeth playing in bands like TYVEK and Growing Pains, bands known for their rugged sound – but Bonny Doon shuffled out of that scene with a much more laid back heart-on-their-sleeves melodicism in the mold of Wilco or Ryan Adams.

The band’s Bill Lennox told us that Bonny Doon had already recorded their second album , captured in the beautiful Key Club on Lake Michigan. Today they have officially revealed details of the album, which is called Longwave, and will be coming out through their new label, Woodsist Records, on 23rd March.

As a glimpse of what’s to come on Longwave, Bonny Doon have released the song ‘I Am Here (I Am Alive)’. It continues in the same, instantly amiable tone that was so winning on the debut Bonny Doon, but over the course of its five minutes it shows off a more patient and meditative songwriting sensibility. It’s a definite broadening of their sound, which suggests that Longwave is going to be an involving and compelling listen.

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First single from the new Bonny Doon album “Longwave” out March 23rd, 2018 on Woodsist Records.

Anna_Burch_by_Elene_Usdin_horizontal_crop_1_.jpg

Anna Burch is an indie pop singer-songwriter working out of Detroit. Years ago, she was the front of a band called Failed Flowers, and she had been in other bands, but she took some time away from music to go to grad school. After that, she moved to Detroit and started a solo career. She got a big break when she was spotted by fellow Michigander Fred Thomas, who was once a member of His Name is Alive, and was also the front of the indie pop band Saturday Looks Good to Me. Thomas has also put out a few solo records and contributed to dozens of albums across many genres. As the story goes, he sent her demo to Polyvinyl Records with a note that said “This is not a drill. You need to hear this”. They liked it, and they quickly signed her. Her debut album “Quit the Curse” will be out on February 2nd

This has all happened very quickly. Thomas sent the demos in the summer of 2017. She had a bunch of songs written, and she had also caught the ear of Collin Dupuis, who has mixed records by Angel Olsen, Mynabirds, The Black Keys, Grant-Lee Phillips, and many others. He helped her fine-tune those songs, and the end result is Quit the Curse. Only six months passed from the time Thomas said “listen to this” to the time Polyvinyl said “We’re putting this record out”. They announced the signing in late October and started promoting the album in November. I’ve been getting emails about a couple of the songs, and with the release date just a couple of weeks away, it’s time.
Some say she sounds like the brilliant no-fucks-given mid-90s indie rock of Liz Phair. Some people say she’s like Courtney Barnett. I get that, but I hear other things like the precision, power and punk-lite beauty of That Dog combined with the gritty and angular but silky smoothness of Julie Doiron. Boil all of that down, add a dash of Mitski, and I get Anna Burch. I love all of her songs that I’ve heard, but I love this one the most:

“Tea-Soaked Letter” is taken from Anna Burch’s debut album Quit the Curse, out 2/2/18.

Though the deceptively complex pop of “Quit the Curse” which marks the debut of Anna Burch, The Detroit singer/songwriter has been visible for the better part of her years-long career singing in the band Frontier Ruckus, or more recently co-fronting project Failed Flowers, but somewhere along the way a vibrant collection of solo material had slowly began taking form.

Growing up in Michigan, Burch’s fixation with music transitioned from a childhood of Disney and Carole King sing-alongs to more typically angsty teenage years spent covering Bright Eyes and Fiona Apple at open mic nights. By 18 she was deep into the lifestyle of the touring musician, After a few whirlwind years, exhausted and feeling a little lost, she stepped away from music completely to attend grad school in Chicago. This lasted until 2014 when she moved to Detroit and found herself starting work in earnest on solo songs she’d been making casual demos of for a year or so. Friends had been encouraging her to dive into solo music, and one particularly enthusiastic friend, Chicago musician Paul Cherry, went so far as to assemble a band around scrappy phone demos to push for a fully realized album.

“Writing songs that I actually liked for the first time gave me a feeling of accomplishment,” Burch said, “Like, I can do this too! But working with other musicians and hearing the songs go from sad singer/songwriter tunes to arranged pop songs gave me this giddy confidence that I’d never felt before.”

The process was drawn out and various drafts and recordings came and went as the months passed. By now Burch was playing low key shows and d.i.y. tours solo and had released some early versions of a few songs on a split with fellow Detroit musician Stef Chura. Even at a slow, meticulous pace, with every step the album took closer to completion, it felt more serious and more real. After a more than a year of piecemeal recording sessions, Burch was introduced to engineer Collin Dupuis (Lana Del Rey, Angel Olsen) who helped push things energetically home, mixing the already bright songs into a state of brilliant clarity.

The nine songs that comprise the album “Quit the Curse” come on sugary and upbeat, but their darker lyrical themes and serpentine song structures are tucked neatly into what seem at first just like uncommonly catchy tunes. Burch’s crystal clear vocal harmonies and gracefully crafted songs feel so warm and friendly that it’s easy to miss the lyrics about destructive relationships, daddy issues and substance abuse that cling like spiderwebs to the hooky melodies. The maddeningly absent lover being sung to in “2 Cool 2 Care”, the crowded exhaustion of “With You Every Day” or even the grim, paranoid tale of scoring drugs in “Asking 4 A Friend” sometimes feel overshadowed by the shimmering sonics that envelop them.

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“To me this album marks the end of an era of uncertainty. Writing songs about my emotional struggles helped me to work through some negative patterns in my personal life, while giving me the sense of creative agency I’d been searching for.”

Emerging from years spent as a supporting player, Quit the Curse stands as a liberation from feeling like Burch’s own songwriting voice was just out of reach — an opportunity, finally, for the world at large to hear what’s been on her mind for quite a while.

Two singles (“2 Cool 2 Care” and “Asking 4 a Friend”) have already been released to rave reviews, and now you can check out a third offering — “Tea-Soaked Letter”

“Comparisons to Courtney Barnett, Waxahatchee, and Eleanor Friedberger lie within her tight songwriting and infectious lyrics .” – The Line of Best Fit
[Burch’s] songs have some of the lo-fi finish and scrappy energy of 1990s indie-pop…but with a sharper edge. Frank and gratifying all the same, Burch’s tightly structured pop is an invigorating take on an evergreen sound.” – Pitchfork

releases February 2nd, 2018

There’s something extraordinary about the story of how Anna Burch came to sign for Polyvinyl Records. The Detroit songwriter was spotted by fellow Michigan native, and Polyvinyl artist, Fred Thomas, who sent it straight to his label boss with a simple note, “This is not a drill. You need to hear this.” Listening to Anna’s new single, 2 Cool 2 CareAnna Burch is the newest addition to the Polyvinyl label. She released a self-directed video and is hitting the road. Anna used to be in a band that was a favorite of Ours, Frontier Ruckus. Now she’s taking her lovely vocals on her own.

2 Cool 2 Care is the first track to be lifted from Anna’s as yet untitled debut record out next year, an album she recorded with Angel Olsen producer Collin Dupuis. The track is a simple, but arresting piece of lo-fi atmospherics, Anna’s warm, laid back vocals, accompanied by a Frankie Cosmos-like guitar line and the simplest of ticking drum beats, an example of the whole far outweighing it’s parts. Lyrically, it seems to tackle the self-destructive tendency to over-analyse and pressurise relationships, as Anna sings, “you scare me when you’re indifferent, I like you best when you’re a mess”Sure, we’re suckers for a hazy slice of sun-drenched melancholy, but Anna Burch might just be doing it better than any act we’ve heard this year.

Anna Burch’s debut album will be out next year via Polyviynl Records. 

thanks For The Rabbits

Protomartyr Relatives in Descent review

Protomartyr has never wanted for momentum. The Detroit band, at their best, has always been racing toward an endpoint, driven by a sense of urgency, outrunning some kind of unseen danger or darkness that’s constantly nipping at their heels, in the vapor trails behind Greg Ahee’s guitar riffs or in the pregnant pauses in Joe Casey’s personal narratives or commentaries. Protomartyr aren’t going to revolutionize guitar music. That’s a big ask for any rock band, where many acts are hyper-literate, fiercely political or formally adventurous — though the group possesses all of these strengths. Their consistency is ultimately what sets Protomartyr apart from the pack. Their development has been steady, as each new album broadened the scope and lyrical ambition of its predecessor. Relatives In Descent is a culmination of the band’s potential; they sound a career removed from the scrappy garage punks who released No Passion All Technique just four years ago, even as they remain snidely dissatisfied.”Casey’s sardonic lyrical humor. But most of all, it’s because Protomartyr never stops moving.

“A Private Understanding,” the opening track to the band’s fourth album Relatives in Descent, has a similar feeling to past Protomartyr openers—it’s perpetually on the brink of building up to something, and it feels tense and climactic. But it lingers on moments in a way that few of the band’s songs have before. The verses feel a bit more drawn out, with the first echoing the phrase, “Never wanna hear those vile trumpets anymore,” while the second track recounts a true story of Elvis Presley seeing the face of Stalin in a cloud: “He was affected profoundly, but he could never describe the feeling/He passed away on the bathroom floor.” By the end, Casey croons, “She’s just trying to reach you,” echoing a consistent theme of failed methods of communication and the complicated ways that people process those messages. As empathetically as these figures are drawn, they’re still mired in the fatalistic absurdity of never being able to say what needs to be said. Maybe she’ll never actually reach you; Elvis is dead on his bathroom floor.

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Relatives in Descent, illustrated by its unsettling opening track, is the darkest Protomartyr album to date because it’s so reflective of the time in which it was created. It’s not a political album, but rather a bleakly philosophical album of meditations on the fallible nature of truth and self-destructive ideals that brought us to an age of willful ignorance and “fake news.” Nobody gets off particularly easily here. Casey sneers mockingly throughout the sing-songy punk stomp of “Male Plague,” reminding the self-inflictedly mediocre white men at its core that “Everybody knows it’s gonna kill you someday.” In the brooding “Corpses in Regalia,” he barks, “Decent people don’t live like that,” laying down an indictment on wealth and excess, while the driving “Don’t Go to Anacita” condemns the exploitation inherent in privilege. Only “Up the Tower” actually addresses what sounds a lot like the president, himself, and “the hatred he brewed within us,” following up on an observation of a golden door with a violent command to “knock it down! knock it down! knock it down!” It’s the kind of catharsis that Protomartyr has always done well, dialed up to match the dreadful urgency of the moment.

Some of the darkest moments on the album are those that happen on a purely instrumental level, giving Relatives in Descent a gothic wash of blacks, grays and charcoals. Those hues are rendered brilliantly, their chilling tone resulting in the strongest batch of songs they’ve written to date. The opening riff of standout single “My Children” has a subtly eerie tone, creating an ominous passageway toward its unexpectedly catchy chorus. “Windsor Hum” chimes with a horror-movie-soundtrack riff, underscoring Casey’s reassurance, “everything’s fine,” with the sick-to-your-stomach feeling of knowing that it isn’t. And the reverb-laden sound of closing dirge “Half Sister” finds Protomartyr capturing the grimmest of post-punk gloom brilliantly.

In that final track, Casey says “truth is a half sister,” before looping back to an early refrain from the album, “she is trying to reach you.” In intercepting these communiqués, to better understand why humanity is sometimes doomed to reject truth, Protomartyr delves into some dark places albeit ones that yield their most rewarding results.