Spins on Music continues its spotlight on recent releases by compelling Michigan artists, including AOK, Tokyo Morose, The Real Lazy Genius, Serita’s Black Rose, LetricKramer, Antilogical and more.
It’s like a bottomless Christmas stocking.
Here’s yet another installment of my year-end Local Spins reviews of recent releases by Michigan bands and solo artists. (If you missed it, check out last week’s Part 1 edition of the Local Spins roundup by clicking here.)
Links to artists’ websites are included, providing access to music samples and online CD purchases, just in time for 11th-hour Christmas shopping and that warm-and-fuzzy, support-your-local-artists’ feeling. And check in for more reviews in coming weeks, because there are couple of big-time releases you don’t want to miss. (A couple of featured reviews are in this month’s REVUE Magazine as well.)
If you haven’t yet heard of AOK, you will. The Grand Rapids duo of Angela and Kyle absolutely rips the throat out of indie-pop with roaring electric guitars, pulsing electronica and lead vocals that are literally interplanetary in their soaring scope. Molding rock into new shapes propelled by Kyle’s incendiary guitar work and Angela’s ultra-hypnotic singing, “Tracks” is a feast for the ears. With this impressive debut, there’s little doubt AOK will long “Keep the Party Goin’ ” as the duo vows on the opening track of this five-song EP brilliantly recorded at Grand Haven’s Redwall North Studios.
Websites: reverbnation.com/aokmusic, facebook.com/officialAOKmusic
“Sequence of Steps”
At once dreamy, yet muscular, Tokyo Morose takes simplistic beats and rhythmic patterns to dusky, trance-inducing places. The droningly attractive “Thin Air,” for instance, adds a dancey sort of vibe to this album recorded at Amber Lit Studio and produced by Matt Ten Clay. And Erin Lenau’s striking lead vocals serve as another instrument in the mix, giving a sugary pop burst of flavor to the band’s mysteriously captivating songs.
Websites: facebook.com/pages/tokyo-morose, myspace.com/tokyomorose, tokyomorose.tumblr.com
The Astro Bats are relentless, imaginative and sparklingly compelling, cranking out an experimental brand of instrumental rock. On this EP, think of a West Michigan version of Don Caballero cross-breeding with Porcupine Tree. As for the Astro Bats themselves, they say their minimalistic-but-aggressive approach is full of: “Cross-sensory metaphor. Interpretive psychic connections.” Who could argue with that? They play the DAAC, 115 S. Division Ave., on Jan. 4.
Website: facebook.com/pages/Astro-Bats, astrobats.bandcamp.com
Serita’s Black Rose
“Serita’s Black Rose”
This is blues pumped up with equal amount of funk, soul and rock. Serita Crowley clearly is the star here with her ravishing R&B-infused vocals, but make no mistake, band members – including bassist Robert Pace, guitarists Jon Hayes and Melvin Clark, keyboard players Paul Lesinski and Anthony Raglin, drummer Mark Weymouth and percussionist Mike Dollar – add copious amounts of instrumental credibility and prowess to this five-song EP debut. Keep an eye and ear out for this outfit because they could be going places. Speaking of which, the band plays The Taste of Soul in the Grand Rapids Public Library’s main branch at 1:30 p.m. Feb. 17.
“Born in Detroit”
Led by Detroit guitarist Paul Kramer and dynamic singer Aaron Letrick – both formerly of the band Pleezer – LetricKramer’s expertly produced and arranged 13-song album kicks off with an anthemic tribute to the Motor City, but expands its Michigan-bred rock with tracks that tip a musical hat to the likes of Elton John, Dan Fogelberg, Steve Perry, Santana, ZZ Top and more. With bassist Richard (Guido) Milligan, drummer Thom Monks and guests Jeff Campitelli (Joe Satriani Band) and Jimmie Bones (Kid Rock’s T.B.T.Band), this band gives classic rock a smart makeover.
Website: letrickramer.com, facebook.com/pages/LetricKramer
The Real Lazy Genius
“From the Ashes to the Stars”
If the Velvet Underground had been born in the New Millennium, it might sound a lot like The Real Lazy Genius. With the benefit of other post-VU influences, this Grand Rapids band – Patrick Wieland, Daniel Francis, Jon Bruha and Adam Cavanaugh – produces tantalizing pop hooks amid psychedelic guitar explosiveness on this five-song EP engineered by Matt Ten Clay. It’s the kind of shiftless genius worth embracing.
Website: facebook.com/reallazygenius, reverbnation.com/thereallazygenius
“Sitting in the Shade”
It’s all about positive messagery. Recorded at Stone House Recording in Grand Rapids, Nidal Kanaan’s uplifting, adult contemporary-styled pop benefits from his powerful vocals, rich acoustic textures and an approach that wouldn’t be out of place in country, folk or soft rock settings. With songs co-written by guitarist Matt Gruppen, Nidal is sitting pretty on this debut.
Michigan Mark Depree
Welcome to Michigan Mark’s country album. With enough twang and drawl to keep country music traditionalists swigging their beer, DePree drives his musical pickup through a half-dozen originals (including one, “You’d Better Think Twice,” written with Grand Rapids singer-songwriter Ken Bierschbach) and a pair of classics: Lefty Frizzell’s “That’s the Way Love Goes” and Merle Haggard’s “Silver Wings.”
Website: myspace.com/michiganmarkdepree (or email: email@example.com)
Grab your HazMat suits, flak jackets and gas masks and hang on for dear life. With rapid-fire, punk-driven fury, the boys in Antilogical – Dustin Anderson, Ryan Schubert and Jason Eakins – careen through tracks such as “Future of Disease,” “Girl’s Gonna Kill,” “Vengeance,” “Blood on the Wall” and “Antisocial.” It’s hyper-energetic punk with an occasional twist that’s definitely not for the faint of heart, recorded at Cedar Rock Basement and mastered at Mercury Guitar Studios.
Website: antilogical.bandcamp.com, facebook.com/pages/Antilogical
“The Cat’s Pajamas”
Pajamas aside, this isn’t music for sleeping. And not for soothing cats either. Slumlord Radio – Mike Todd, Tommy Erickson and David Flynn – unleashes what it calls “dirty alt-rock” mixed with hearty doses of punk, heavy metal and a gritty attitude. This raucously pleasing five-song EP also features rhythm guitarist Jeff Poisson.
Website: Reverbnation.com/slumlordradio, facebook.com/pages/Slumlord-Radio
This is Lansing Volume 2: Electric Boogaloo
This Silver Maple Kill Records 15-track compilation covers the gamut of Lansing’s eclectic music scene, from The Rival’s blistering alt-rock on “I’m OK” to Fade to Black’s strange and prog-rock-fueled “Aliens and Beer.” Standout tracks: indie-rock/pop band Elliot Street Lunatic’s incredible and absolutely infectious “Ghost Town,” Life Size Ghost’s instrumental wizardry on the pop-hued “Standing Out” (though the five-piece outfit currently calls Grand Rapids home), and Drinking Mercury’s warbly, mesmerizing indie-rock on “Ladder.”
A veteran journalist and former music writer for The Grand Rapids Press, John Sinkevics is editor and publisher of LocalSpins.com, profiling regional artists and commenting on West Michigan's music scene. He hosts "Local Spins Live" on News Talk 1340 AM in Grand Rapids at 11 a.m. Wednesdays, and the hour-long "Local Spins on WYCE" at 11 a.m. Fridays on WYCE-FM (88.1), both spotlighting regional artists.
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