Posts Tagged ‘Punk Rock’

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.

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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Fusion Shows’ 5th Anniversary show: My thoughts

I usually don’t do this here but after Saturday’s show at the Crofoot in Pontiac celebrating Fusion Shows’ 5th anniversary with La Dispute, Cheap Girls, Into It. Over It, The Swellers, Tiger! Tiger! and more, I’m still riding the energetic, memorable and passionate wave everyone who was there was on. I thought I’d share my thoughts on it and what it meant to me and what it means to Michigan music.

Well, that was one hell of a show. Getting to see Tiger! Tiger!, Cheap Girls, The Swellers and Into It. Over It back-to-back is probably something I won’t ever get the chance to see again. It was an incredible experience. I had been dying to see IIOI with the full band ever since I saw the announcement for this show. Carpooling with a few friends was a great way to pass the time there and back.

When my friends and I got to the Crofoot, we could hear Tiger! Tiger! starting and were anxious to get in. Once in, I ran upstairs to catch the rest of their set. Ending with (what I would later learn) was the song Hayford, it has become my favorite song of their’s. It’s some of the most emotional lyrics I’ve ever heard. It resonates with me greatly. Hearing a room full of kids scream back the lyrics to the band at the end was a chilling moment.

Cheap Girls on the main stage.

Cheap Girls played, in my opinion, their best set of songs I’ve heard by them. Playing all their hits. No BS. A Lesser Rate, No One to Blame and even the obscure Pure Hate was played. Great to see those guys again and am excited for their future.

The Swellers live on the main stage. Photo by me.

Next was The Swellers. I had caught the tail-end of their set at Bledfest and after hearing The Best I Ever Had at that show, I was hooked and needed to see them again. The crowd was stoked for every bit of their set and even though there were more than a few songs I didn’t know (still have to dig into their back catalog), I loved hearing The Best I Ever Had again. I definitely sang along to that. I also picked up their new EP “Running out of Places to Go” and a t-shirt.

Into It. Over It. on the main stage.

Into It. Over It. was the band I came to see. Evan and crew rocked the hell out of their set, putting in an energy that matched the crowd’s. It was neat for all of us to see the (potentially) last full band show with the Stay Ahead of the Weather lineup. I enjoyed the stage banter by Evan and loved the moment where a fan asked for a particular SAOTW song and almost got to sing it. Wish he had. After their set, I chatted with Evan a little bit and picked up a shirt, the 12 Towns CD and the (supposedly) 2nd-to-last copy ever of the 4-LP “52 Weeks” set. That is such a beautiful piece of art, not just music. The drawings, the lyrics, the red vinyl. That’s why I love collecting records.

Cover of Into It. Over It’s 52 Weeks 4-LP booklet. Photo by me.

Anyway, enough of my personal ramblings about my purchases and experiences.

Although I’m still on the high of an excellent show, I think Nate and crew have proven they are the best promoters in  the country. Bold statement, yes. But Michigan has always been known as a state which loves live music and Fusion Shows have tapped into that and are doing the best work of bringing the best shows possible to our state. With a Fusion Show,  I never forget that the show’s quality will be the best it can be and the group are doing their best to make that their end goal. They’ve succeeded and will continue to do so, moving off of this excellent show into new, different and exciting territory.

Fusion Shows, all of my friends in bands (and non-band friends too) makes me proud to be a Michigander. Personally, they’re a part of my experience growing up in Michigan as much as where I’m from or my family. I’m grateful I live in a state where music is so greatly appreciated and loved.

I’m looking forward to not only what Fusion Shows have in store for us but what the rest of Michigan’s great musicians, record labels and venues have in store for us too.

With that: go out and support bands. Go to shows, buy their merch, talk with bands after their sets and get to know them. They’re people too. Great people who deserve every bit of everything they’ve ever earned. This philosophy is why LMTV exists and why I do what I do. I hope you’ll have the same passion as me and countless others.




2012 LansingMusic.TV Album of the Year

Sean from LMTV here. This year has been quite the busy one for Lansing music (and Michigan too). Now it’s time to choose the Album of the Year for 2012 (maybe the last one ever (if the Mayans are to be believed). Well, here it goes: The LMTV 2012 Album of the Year is….

Having reviewed Fisherking’s past releases (2 Songs and the Forget It EP) and seen the band play a few times, I’ve followed the Lansing band’s progress in the last two years. Finally releasing their first full length album entitled Ghost independently earlier this year at a rare small club show with Ceremony at Mac’s Bar, the album does not disappoint.

From my Central Michigan Life review earlier this year:

“I am the ghost/The lonely soul,” are the opening lines of their first full length album, which is being distributed primarily through their Bandcamp page but will have a limited physical release at their show with California punk band Ceremony in Lansing at Mac’s Bar on Thursday Sept. 20.

Those and other honest, emotional lyrics make this record stand out. On tracks like “Conflicts Reside” Holmes sings “I don’t speak my thoughts/instead I bottle them up,” and “I know I can’t hide forever/I just don’t know what to say.” On “The Difference,” he yells “You know, you don’t really have to scream/You know you don’t really have to be the center of attention.”  I love his lyrics. I think many of us can relate to them.

The music, though, adds a backbone to his lyrics. That’s not to say the music here is boring. Quite the contrary. On multiple listens, there are many time changes, a couple slow and quiet sections and even a bit of experimentation. On the track “Giver,” where Holmes’ vocal sounds like it was recorded through a bullhorn. There’s also a guest appearance by Zach Smith, of Kalamazoo band “Ackley Kid” on the track “Defeat Me”. Smith’s voice takes the anger and amplifies it to the maximum. When both of them scream along to a chaotic aural scene of crashing blast beats and guitars, it becomes a bit overwhelming.

Even the track list itself is subtle. Listening to the album from beginning to end, the listener hears a bit of musical continuity, which has made me keep the record on repeat for days. Listen to it from beginning to end and you’ll know what I mean.

I love this record for its under-the-surface musical complexity. The album makes subtle, successful attempts at breaking away from the hardcore mold, while staying within it. Post-hardcore tendencies abound here. It satisfies a strict hardcore listener while giving other more adventurous listeners a treat too.

Three months later I still find everything I said above to be true. The record resonates with me on a personal level, but it’s the intensity, hidden experimentation and brutal honesty I love about this record. Vocalist and bassist Ryan Holmes lays it all out lyrically, exposing his innermost thoughts in a form in which he’s most comfortable. He comes across as getting these thoughts off his chest rather than scared to do so. He’s yelling most of the time and it fits the music perfectly. Guitarist Ben Jenson adds to the intensity all the while being creative in certain areas too. Post hardcore isn’t lost on this trio. Even if the hardcore tendencies shine through, the post hardcore leanings are just below the surface.

Check this 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.


Little American Champ “Nothing Forward, Nothing Backward” EP review

Lansing punk band Little American Champ released a new EP last week entitled “Nothing Forward, Nothing Backward”.

Here’s a review.

Courtesy of the Little American Champ Bandcamp page

Little American Champ is Jonny Janis (guitar/vocals), Alex Janis (bass/vocals) and Danny Petrilli (drums/percussion).

This three piece has a ringing resemblance to other bands (Lemuria, Against Me and The Riot Before come to mind) while holding true to their Midwest roots. Sometimes the lead vocals have a Tom Gabel-esque approach in their melodic shouting ways. I really like them but they’re not really original. Heard it a million times but that’s OK. I could say the same for the guitars, drums, bass…everything about this band is something I’ve heard before. Not a bad thing at all.

For some bands, they play a style other bands also play down to a tee but what matters with a band like Little American Champ is the amount of heart and soul they put into their music. When they play their songs, they play the hell out of them. They love what they do. That energy is apparent all over this four song EP.

On a song like “We’ve Been On a Roll Lately”, with its distorted, feedback-laden intro and powerchords aplenty, Jonny sings the chorus of “relax and repeat” as the powerchords follow his vocal lead. The breakdowns are melodic and have room to breath with a rotating drum pattern, leading to a breakdown then a build up of cymbal crashes and droning power chords. Good stuff from this three piece.

The rhythm section is extremely tight and concise. Not a note or drum hit is wasted. The bass doesn’t have the hardcore punch but it’s not wimpy either. I like this rhythm section. I like this whole group as a musical unit. Sometimes even with a three piece the members can drift off into their own worlds but here, they act as one toward their goal of playing the best they can as a unit. Again, not a note is wasted.

“What’s the Secret, Max?” has the Gabel-like vocals I hinted at earlier. Jonny sings “I don’t have anything to report” and later “thank fucking God that you stayed home”. Although, I will say, it is a bit hard to understand his voice. I hear the lyrics correctly here and there but not the whole way through (maybe it’s just me and maybe my hearing’s going downhill worse than I thought).

Everything about this four song EP is essential Midwest punk. Honest, blistering, quick. The whole thing lasts about 15 minutes. Go check it out and download it for free. Do that here.

Rants by Ryan Horky: “Self-Titled” by Edible Intention

Edible Intention: S/T
(Good Time Gang records/Silver Maple Kill records)

Ryan Horky comes back to LMTV with a review of Edible Intentions’ posthumous self-titled release. Check it out!

This is a posthumous release from a Lansing, MI band that was active from roughly 2007-2010. Once they got outta the practice space they were basically the house band for the Lansing art-space/all-ages show collective Basement 414. If you lived in Lansing at the time and were remotely plugged into the local punk scene you probably saw these guys a thousand times. I’m not sure they ever got outta town. They played a pretty intense mix of free-jazz informed Stooges wail and Minutemen anything-goes stomp. This album was recorded near the tail end of when they were active and sat on the shelf for a while until the all-around good folks at Good Time Gang Records decided to release it (and Lansing label Silver Maple Kill records pressing it up). I was pretty curious to hear this. As much fun as an Edible Intention show was, they could turn into a hot mess of noise pretty quickly. (Not an insult, by the way….) I wasn’t sure their sound could be translated to disc. Producer Tommy McCord did a great job of making them palatable without sacrificing the noise quotient. The vocals are definitely an acquired taste (and they’re mixed suitably low) but I dig ‘em anyhow. Even if you can’t take the caterwaulin’, the guitars are pretty raunchy in a Melvins/Nuggets kinda way and the songs are short and varied enough to hold your attention. The cover artwork totally reminds me of an early 90′s SST release. (You know, it looks sort of awesomely terrible.) I don’t think this CD would necessarily have the same impact on anybody who wasn’t around to catch ‘em in their prime, but it’s still well worth checking out if you’re into more adventurous (but still way rockin’) sounds.-

Jake Simmons and the Little Ghosts “Self-Titled” review

Kalamazoo’s Jake Simmons and the Little Ghosts will be releasing their new self-titled album with a release show in Lansing on Nov. 17 at Mac’s Bar with Husband&Wife and Narc Out The Reds. The album will be released on vinyl by Lower Peninsula Records.

The band is Jake Simmons (guitar/vocals) along with Matt Blasco (guitar/keys), Ben Bojanich (bass) and Ian Cooper (drums).

Here’s a review of their album.

I love power-pop and this record splits the word right down the middle. Simmons’ guitar playing is simple yet crushing. The power chords on “The Bridge” punch right through you while the single note slices right through you in the chorus. He’s a regular killing machine with the axe (wow, puns). During the verses the guitars are pulled back in the mix but during the choruses they’re out in full force. The acoustic guitar bits add some texture to a great rock song. That’s what this band does well: good old fashioned rock and roll.

“Chloe” ups the pop factor with high pitched “oohs” from Simmons, showcasing his versatility as a vocalist with a gruff yet soulful voice. His croons get stuck in your head for days. I also love Cooper’s drumming. It’s really fun and simple; gets you moving. “Long Hair” is a fun song as well with its interplay of acoustic and electric guitar parts as well as Simmons’ layered harmonies. The band’s ability to equally complement their pop stylings (Simmons’ crooning and melodies) with the live, electric atmosphere of punk rock (fuzzy, distorted guitars and a great, energetic rhythm section) is astounding.

The production and recording (via John Krohn of Lower Peninsula Records) makes the record have a polish that doesn’t take away from the live, organically powerful atmosphere. The polish in this case reminds me of 1950s doo-wop groups and hit factory record labels like Motown Records. Every instrument has space but not enough to draw your attention toward a particular one. It, again, is a great balance of powerful instrumentation and pop sensibilities.

Honah Lee Q and A by Claire Lea

This Q and A, by local writer Claire Lea with Honnah Lee, comes a few months after the band released their newest album, “Life Won’t Let Me”, on Good Time Gang Records.

The lights arise and the band starts playing the crowd erupts in cheers that sounds as if they had been old friends when really this music belongs to the growingly popular Trenton New Jersey band Honah Lee.
With a new CD released in collaboration with Good Time Gang records, they are turning heads and gaining more recognition for there upbeat, slightly bitter lyrics.
Honah Lee has been a band since 2008 however the individual band members have held a residency since long before then. Tim Hoh lead singer of Honah Lee along with Anthony Catanese drummer (also known as Tony or Goggles) have been in many bands together since 1998. The pair had been in the band Philo before forming Honah Lee. while touring with the band they had met and became great friends with Lansing locals The Plurals, in which they had stayed in touch with for many years.
Also while in Philo they had obtained bass player Jim who they found while playing with his band Moscow girls. Jim stayed with the guys through the change of name, new lead guitarist Dim, and a revamped sound. What the name Honah Lee had meant to the guys hadn’t been clear. However, when looking up the definition of it, urban dictionary had given a very helpful explanation of what Honah Lee meant and it seemed to explain the band very well in a few mythical words: “The land that is home to Puff the Magic Dragon”.

How was the name created?

Tim Hoh: we had our first show booked as the new band but still had no name after two months. one day ant showed me a paper plate that he had wrote HONAH LEE on and I immediately loved it!! but I was the only one, and when it got down to the wire and we needed something to put on the flier I convinced everyone to be on board with the name.

Anthony: Beer

So you guys have been to Lansing a few times.. how are your feelings on our great city?

Anthony: If it has a vagina or, and this a big or, had a shaved a-hole…. I’d bang it

Tim Hoh: We consider it our home away from home!!! by far the most welcoming city we travel to!!!

Dim: I have been in Lansing about two or three times now with Honah Lee. Every time is awesome almost as if it were a homecoming hosted by some of the friendliest, most appreciative, and independent- minded folks Iv’e ever had the distinct pleasure of knowing.

Where would you like to go with the band?

Anthony: The bar.

Tim Hoh: Everywhere.

Dim: I would like to take over the world if that’s possible!

How do you feel about the new album compared to other ones?

Tim Hoh: I think this album is the best thing I’ve ever been a part of, I feel that for the first time someone managed to capture Honah lee on record, for the first time our live energy shows on a record.

A few last notes from some of the guys:

Jim: I let these guys answer the questions, and they did a great job, so I’m going to treat you with a haiku:

Honah Lee’s in town!
Shit, god damn! They fuckin rock!!
Better recognize.

Anthony: p.s. I’m not on five hits of acid right now.

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