Posts Tagged ‘Michigan’

2013 Michigan music roundup Part 1 of 3

Lots of great records by Michigan bands from many different genres came out in 2013. Here’s part 1 of  a three-part roundup of some of the records to come out this year.

Jake Simmons and the Little Ghosts “Them and Them and Us” EP

Driven by a more punk rock approach in both musical stylings and lyrics, Kalamazoo band Jake Simmons and the Little Ghosts delivered a great five-track EP in April.

From my review in Central Michigan Life: “The chugging, downbeat-laden and snare-driven “Them (Evil)” has a march-like feel to it. “It’s not about the people/It’s about the right people,” and other lines like “Lesser of two evils/Won’t you save us from these people” and “I’m tired of speaking softly” accentuate the political bent of the lyrics.

“Who Are You?” is a standout track for the band. With a lone, catchy guitar line and vocals, Simmons lays a lot on the line musically and lyrically. His guitar playing expresses a working class loneliness; one definitely gets Springsteen vibes from this. “Pray to save our souls/pray to save our minds/pray to rock and roll/pray to Jesus Christ,” he belts out.”

Flint Eastwood “Late Nights in Bolo Ties” EP

Detroit’s Flint Eastwood had a busy 2013. They recently played with Dale Earnhardt Jr. Jr. They partied with Andrew W.K. at Bled Fest, played Common Ground Music Festival and, most importantly, released their debut EP “Late Nights in Bolo Ties” in August. The band, known for its energetic live performances of songs like “Shotgun” and “Secretary”, play a furious brand of rock and roll a la The MC5 and mix it with dance hall bangers to create a unique soundtrack to the Michigan summer.

From my LMTV review: “The drums courtesy of Mark Hartman, bring out their trademark balance of crushing rock and roll heaviness (especially the cymbal crashes on tracks like “Secretary”) with a dance hall swagger that is undeniable and driving. Everything else builds off of this foundation, like Clay Carnill’s omnipresent bass, sometimes pumping (like on “Can You Feel Me Now?”) and other times fluid but always holding down the fort.”

The Swellers “The Light Under Closed Doors” LP

The Swellers, a Flint, Mich. punk quartet, released their newest album in October on No Sleep Records.

From my LMTV review: “Although the musicianship (top notch as it is) is pretty standard for pop punk/rock, the band took a different approach to make themselves stand out. The lyrical focus this time around pays off in spades as they’re the best the band has ever put on record. Opener “Should” starts with a defeated mindset about a deteriorating relationship that ultimately comes to an end (“I gave up/I know things won’t get better” and “I went home/You won’t wait forever/I’ll go first/We shouldn’t be together”). Later on, though, the protagonist seems to come to terms with this and move on (“Now I see the light under closed doors/I’m better now”).”

REVIEW: The Swellers “The Light Under Closed Doors”

Flint’s The Swellers are back with a new LP, “The Light Under Closed Doors” (No Sleep Records) due out Tuesday Oct. 29.

The Swellers are: Nick Diener (guitar, vocals), Jonathan Diener (drums), Anto Boros (bass) and Ryan Collins (drums).

This is The Swellers’ strongest album to date, no doubt.

After multiple full-length albums and a few EPs in their decade-plus existence, the band has their instrumental style down pat by now with this 10-song LP. The guitars are loud, melodic and in-your-face (opener “Should” comes to mind). The bass is smooth and, along with the drums, bring a powerful, rhythmic and memorable one-two punch. Kicked into overdrive mode, the drums toward the end of “Designated Driver” give the song a final bright flash before burning out just a few seconds later. The melodies on this LP are super-catchy and a have pop sheen but not too glossy. Every song on this LP has some catchy hooks, some catchier than others.

Although the musicianship (topnotch as it is) is pretty standard for pop punk/rock, the band took a different approach to make themselves stand out.

The lyrical focus this time around pays off in spades as they’re the best the band has ever put on record.

Opener “Should” starts with a defeated mindset about a deteriorating relationship that ultimately comes to an end (“I gave up/I know things won’t get better” and “I went home/You won’t wait forever/I’ll go first/We shouldn’t be together”). Later on, though, the protagonist seems to come to terms with this and move on (“Now I see the light under closed doors/I’m better now”).

Diener’s lyrics are really relatable, understandable and, best of all, easy to sing (or shout) along to. Throughout the record, he’s done his best work at condensing his thoughts into as few words as possible while at the same time making them easy to sing along to. That’s quite a feat and an excellent one at that.

“Got Social” is a favorite for its lyrics too. Again, relatability is the reason why. “You’re blowin’ smoke in my face, again/I know you’ll never quit/You got social/and I don’t like it” he sings, with some clever wordplay. The literal use of blowing smoke (ie smoking at social gatherings, etc) and the idea of being social as a smokescreen to hide shortcomings (or something similar) is really shrewd. Well played, Mr. Diener. Also, the resentment toward someone else for acting social when the protagonist is not is interesting too.

More on the topic of social interaction (or lack thereof), “High/Low” tells the story of not being able to shake that uneasy always-awkward feeling, either by yourself or around others. “I’m locked in my room/and I’m not feeling human” and “Maybe in two hundred years time/things will finally feel right” Diener belts out.

Despite the ups and downs of daily life Diener sings about throughout the album with an assured confidence, there’s always an upside as album closer “Call It a Night” demonstrates. “Regress and rewind/Find the peace of mind/When it all comes to light/We can call it a night/But some of this will stay/When the feeling fades away/When it all comes to light/We can call it a night” are just some of the lyrics. There are even a couple references to their previous full-length “Good for Me”. Some of this anxiety Diener sings about on this LP might never go away as long as he’s alive (like he sings on “High/Low”) but making the best of situations (finding the light under closed doors) by making music, like Diener and co. choose to do, is a viable alternative.

In short, the lyrics here are some of the best, most relatable, precise and shout-worthy I’ve heard in a long time. Also, being a native of Michigan, how could I forget to talk about “Great Lakes State”. Glad the band is showing pride in its home state.

Go preorder the record or buy it when it comes out Tuesday Oct. 29 and go see them on tour all over the country this fall.

Common Ground Music Festival 2013 photos

Here are some photos I (Sean) took at Common Ground Music Festival in Lansing this weekend.

Both nights I attended, Friday and Saturday, were awesome. Amazing lineups and amazing shows. Looking forward to next year.

Lead singer for Detroit's Flint Eastwood, Jax Anderson, during their set on the Leinie Lodge stage Friday night July 12

Banjo player David Jones (left) and singer/guitarist Matthew Milia (right) of Michigan band Frontier Ruckus perform on the Auto Value stage before Josh Ritter and The Avett Brothers on Saturday July 13

Murder by Death's Sarah Balliet (far left, cello), Dagan Thogerson (behind center, drums), Adam Turla (guitar, vocals), Matt Armstrong (bass) and Scott Brackett (far right, keyboards) perform Saturday July 13 on the General Motors Pavilion stage. The Bloomington, Indiana band's latest album "Bitter Drink, Bitter Moon" was released last year.

Concord, North Carolina's The Avett Brothers closing out Saturday night of the Common Ground Music Festival in Lansing, Michigan on July 13. The group are working on a followup album to their 2012 release The Carpenter, set to be released later this year.

Mike Kinsella performs solo and acoustic music under the name Owen on Saturday July 13 on the Leinie Lodge stage. Kinsella is most known for being in Chicago-area bands emo bands American Football, Cap'n Jazz, Joan of Arc and, more recently, collaborating with Evan Weiss from Into It. Over It. as the band Their/They're/There.

John Bee, the singer behind American Opera, performs at Common Ground Music Festival Saturday July 13. Bee, originally from Michigan, resides in New York City.

Lemuria interview: Band talks new album, upcoming Mitch Clem collaboration, Michigan and more


Lemuria: Sheena Ozzella (far left), Max Gregor (center) and Alex Kerns (far right). Photo by Ryan Russell.

After Lemuria’s show in Lansing, Michigan at Mac’s Bar on Sunday June 30, I (Sean) conducted an interview with the members of the band on a drive in their van. We talk about their new album “The Distance is So Big” (out now on Bridge Nine Records), collaborating with Mitch Clem on a new 7″, favorite things about Michigan and more. It was a really fun show and great, entertaining interview. An interview I did with them in 2011 is referenced. Check that out here.

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Cavalcade “Dear Entrails…” review

After almost two years of languishing in development hell after being recorded for release on Phil Anselmo’s Housecore Records, Lansing’s Cavalcade have finally released their second studio album “Dear Entrails…” on their Bandcamp page.

Cavalcade, on this release, is: Zachary Warren (vocals), Cale Sauter (guitar), Craig Horky (bass, backing vocals), John Bruce (drums) and Brad Van Staveren (guitar).

Here’s a review of their long overdue sophomore LP.

An album about failure never sounded so successful in its vision. The self-described “weird metal” band have been combining disparate genres like avant, jazz, sludge, doom and even traditional instruments like tuba and saxophone since at least 2006 and here, after releasing their debut album a few years ago, finally show what their twisted vision is capable of.

“Agents of Bolivian”, with a backwards guitar effect in the intro, puts Cavalcade’s sound in an angular, skewed template. Guitar solos that could fit on a modern day thrash inspired-metal record clash with tuba and glockenspiel, although the latter is minimal while the overall tempo here is sludge and doom-inspired but maybe a little bit faster.

The album was mastered by Pig Destroyer and AxCx’s Scott Hull and the results fit the band’s sound perfectly. “Bury Sanders” pulls Warren’s vocals into the middle of the mix while guitar effects and pounding drums swirl around his raspy barks. “Cancer Fantasy”, one of my favorite tracks on the album, features guest vocals from The Break Ups’ Francesca Pierce, adding a beautiful, calming effect to the guitars and vocals, which are farther back in the mix. The drums here are fast, driving and fierce; they even have quiet a groove, showing groove metal’s influence here. You can probably dance to it if you wanted to. The mastering fares well, too, on “Untie These Vines” where acoustic guitars in the intro and distorted, white noise-layered guitars later on mix perfectly. Warren’s vocals later take on a spacey effect at points and the bass is punchy yet smooth. The guitar solo is loud and clear.

This band never shies away from horror movie and gore-inspired imagery and sounds. Instrumental “Poltergeists on Motorbikes” is no exception with a zombie groaning “I want your brains!” as sounds of a man being eaten alive by the zombie play before the encounter. The band also never shies away from sheer experimentation, as on “Big Sack of Tspiders” has the most danceable groove on the album. It’s fast, cathartic and even has hand claps, as guitar tones from previous songs make their way back here.

After a few more tracks of similar sounds, vocally and otherwise (“Walk Like a Magician” and “A Lifetime of Sick”), the experimentation takes a turn on the Russian-language titled “Призрак Захария”. With acoustic guitars, brooding synths with sounds recalling “Poltergeists on Motorbikes”, the second instrumental piece gives me the vision of wandering through a 13th century village in Transylvania at night (or something like that, and hey, that’s just me).

The latter third of the album really picks up in intensity and catharsis. “Michigan Winters” has pounding, fist-pumping power chord strikes with more power provided by a tuba in the chorus. That’s my favorite part of the track. “Bolivia Tremor Control” has some of the most powerful guitars on the album. They sound brutal and drenched in death metal fuzz and crunch. Bruce’s cymbal crashes sound bright and powerful and his bass drum kicks add a heavy weight to the song.

The album’s final two tracks showcase a lot of what the album has been about up to this point: bright instruments (bells, tubas, shimmering guitars, etc) and the contrasting, brutal vocals by Warren working together and sometimes clashing (but I think sometimes that’s their point). “A Jillion Years” has a cathartic chorus as Warren belts out the title of the song in only the way he can, then after the chorus, instrumentals take charge. Ringing guitars and bells close out the song to a sort of anti-catharsis.

“Cursing in Binary”, featuring Small Brown Bike’s Mike Reed during the chorus, pulls everything the album has achieved into one song. The guitars are the most powerful they’ve been so far, the drums are powerful and the bass is heavy. The chorus is drenched in layers of guitars as Reed’s yell of “This failure feels familiar” lays across Warren’s rasps of “Cursing in Binary”. The song ends with familiar brass instrumentation heard before and the backwards guitar heard at the beginning of the album.

I said earlier this album is about failure. The band stated in an interview with The Impact 88.9 FM a long time ago that this sentiment carried over the album. “Losing all desire. Losing, losing and losing some more” go some of the lines in “Bury Sanders”. Granted, a lot of Warren’s lyrics are hard to make out due to the rasps but from what I can pick out, there’s a lot of despair here. “What if those stories were right about me? What if those tales were as true as they seemed? What if I’m hating myself in a dream and what if it’s all a lie” Warren asks amid radio-like static coating his voice. “This Michigan winter chills me to the bone,” Warren screams on the track of the same name. The failure and despair culminates on “Cursing in Binary” with the already mentioned, and audible, audible chorus of “This failure feels familiar” by Reed.

Now that this album is out, it’s finally a contender for LMTV Album of the Year. If you’re a fan of sludge bands like Down, Eyehategod or Superjoint Ritual or even experimental bands like Mr. Bungle (or any of Mike Patton’s experimental projects), check this out.

Decades release new music; Bermuda Snohawk 2012 compilation released

photo courtesy of Decades' Facebook page

Lansing, MI powerpop band Decades have released a couple new songs entitled “Grand Haven” and “Come In” on their Bandcamp. Check them out and download them for free.

Elsewhere, the 2012 edition of the annual Bermuda Snohawk compilation has been released by Bermuda Mohawk Productions and Good Time Gang Records. Featuring parodies of Carly Rae Jepsen (by none other than Foxy Rae Jepsen), the recent Paul McCartney and Nirvana collaboration “Cut Me Some Slack” entitled “Smells like Wonderful Christmastime List” along with a few traditional Christmas songs and a few covers, this compilation never disappoints. Check that out here.

New LMTV videos

We’ve got some new videos coming out soon.

First up is Young Dan Tucker live at Bermuda Mohawk Fest 2010 playing “I Don’t Want You Back” (Warning: Explicit Content)

We’ll have more Young Dan Tucker and some videos from The Cartridge Family soon.


Midwest Fest 2011 Countdown: Chris Bathgate and Stepdad

LMTV is back with more profiles of bands that will be playing the 2011 edition of Midwest Fest at Rubble’s Bar in Mt. Pleasant, MI. This time around Chris Bathgate and Stepdad are profiled.

Chris Bathgate

Photo credit to

Having released Salt Year to critical acclaim earlier this year, Ann Arbor based singer-songwriter Chris Bathgate is ready to take Midwest Fest 2011 by storm. He, along with MW Fest friends Frontier Ruckus, are bringing a resurgence to Michigan’s folk scene, adding an indie rock twist to their tales of Midwest landscapes. Before MW Fest, you can catch Bathgate at The Ark in Ann Arbor later this week on Thursday, July 14 and Friday, July 15.



Grand Rapids, MI’s Stepdad, with their hit song “My leather, my fur, my nails”, have been on the rise after forming in Chicago and relocating to Grand Rapids in 2009. They have been hard at work on tour as well as just having finished the recording of  their debut full length. Having played Midwest Fest 2010, those who attended will know what to expect from a Stepdad show but newcomers may be in for a surprise.

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