Local Spins is back with another batch of reviews covering 2023 releases by regional artists, including Heart Dreams and After Ours. Check out the reviews, listen to selected tracks from the releases.
After a summer focused on outdoor shows and music festivals, Local Spins is back with more reviews of releases by Michigan artists — our second round-up thus far in October.
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Today’s spotlight falls on the latest from Frankenmuth rockers Greta Van Fleet, who continues to pack venues across the United States and Europe as they tour behind their latest album, “Starcatcher.”
But there are more eclectic delights to behold, from Les Creatif to The Aimcriers to After Ours and beyond. Check out the reviews and listen to selected tracks from each release below.
Greta Van Fleet
What Stands Out: When taken as a whole – as a complete package – it can take time for an album to sink in and show its true colors. Such is the case with Michigan rock heroes Greta Van Fleet and “Starcatcher.” In today’s singles-driven, pop-enamored world, the idea of a conceptual collection of tracks has become rare — and rarer still when it comes to ’70s-style hard rock in 2023. While GVF will never completely shake its Led Zep sheen, it’s also clear that the Frankenmuth-bred outfit has embraced its own glam- and prog-rock-hued approach with soaring vocals and impressive guitar shredding. “The Falling Sky” and “Sacred Thread,” for instance, pack a one-two punch that mesh a dreamy milieu with Josh Kiszka’s astonishing vocal range – followed by the full-throttled “Runway Blues” starring brother Jake’s searing guitar work.
Digging Deeper: Like some earlier bands of their ilk, the members of GVF sometimes get caught up in their own image-propelled pretenses, but that’s also part of what makes them such a dynamic and popular spectacle on stage. Straddling that fence can be tricky, but GVF never fails to intrigue or tantalize both fans and critics with its bombastic charm. “Starcatcher” keeps the GVF train rolling in slick, retro-leaning, instrumentally formidable fashion represented in epic tracks such as “Meeting the Master.”
Perfect For: Anyone seeking a New Millennium take on classic, prog-leaning rock. – John Sinkevics
Upcoming Shows: The band mounts a European tour in November and December.
Listen: “Farewell For Now”
“Jeanie Wants to Move Home”
What Stands Out: Whenever you see a new release from Grand Rapids’ Les Creatif, you know to leave any expectations at the door and gear up for a beautiful tapestry of stylistic influences and storytelling. With “Jeanie Wants To Move Home,” fans are treated to a moody, cinematic listening experience on this concise EP. The album features three different songs that blend elements of rock, punk, hip hop and electronic music, with each also expressed through an instrumental or a cappella track.
Digging Deeper: Les Creatif crafts an album that begs to be experienced live. It is the combination of raw energy in the musicianship and unique, complementary production that serves to tell the stories imagined in the cinematic world of this project. Each tune plays out like a scene from a film, capturing your listening ears in a new environment that sits confidently in its expressive crafting. Keep an eye out for when they’re live this fall to experience this pulsing hum of Grand Rapids artistry.
Perfect For: Those nights where you just want to turn up the stereo and tune into another world. – Dutcher Snedeker
Listen: “She Wants To Move”
“Thanks for a Great Season”
What Stands Out: This collection immediately calms a weary spirit with a bedrock of effected synths and soaring guitar to call home. Within these foundational sonic structures lies an ever expanding universe of interacting electricity pulsing from a web of interconnected pieces of hardware. Tucked deeper still within this ASMR earworm are sampled bits of found objects in real world spaces, adding to the depth within the confluence of these expressive forces.
Digging Deeper: Rather than demand your attention, Grand Rapids’ Silent Spirit (Jonas Quinn) seeks to slowly reveal an environment to the listener that is populated with interesting stories nestled within envelope filter sweeps, cavernous sub bass, warm synth pads and little motifs shining like constellations dotting the night sky. There is a patience to this style of writing and production that is palpable throughout the record, offering a moment to breathe and soak in the peace that comes with slowing down and just being.
Perfect For: Quiet moments of reflection for those seeking peace within a forest of colorfully contoured synthesizers. – Dutcher Snedeker
Upcoming Show: At 6:30 p.m. Saturday (Oct. 21) at The Stray in Grand Rapids, performing “A Night of Ambient Music” with Tess Clark and Matt Loeks
Listen: “The Path of Least Resistance”
What Stands Out: The Aimcriers are back with “Maybe Everything,” the Grand Ledge-based band’s latest album after a decade working behind the scenes. In an interview with Audio Ink Radio, the band talks about how it took years to get this album finished, with the biggest hurdle coming from upgrading their recording equipment and having issues transferring the files. Add a pandemic and the fact that part of the record was tracked in Arizona into the mix and you have a group grateful to have seen this album to completion through so much life and hardship. “Maybe Everything” is also the first to emphasize the core members of the band, as they mentioned in this aforementioned interview about recruiting a lot more collaborators on their previous album. Listeners can expect folk, Americana, rock borrowed from different decades, and a collective, spirited music making that can only come from a labor of love.
Digging Deeper: To put out any record is a tall task, let alone one that takes an entire chapter of life to see to fruition. “Maybe Everything” is a celebration of the commitment these musicians have to their art and each other. Friendship that fuels their time and talents results in a feel-good listening experience primed for autumnal audiences. It is as much a time capsule as it is a turning of the page.
Perfect For: A drive through the fall-colored forests in Michigan with a campfire to cap off the day. – Dutcher Snedeker
Upcoming Shows: Dec. 1 at BrickHaven in Grand Ledge (duo show with Johnny and Danny Aimcrier); Dec. 15 at Horrocks in Lansing
Listen: “Half The Story”
“Music for Cats”
What Stands Out: After Ours — a northern Indiana duo that performs regularly in Michigan — roars back into the spotlight with its latest release. Members Eli Kahn and Arthur Schroeder are known around the country for the ground they can cover with just hybrid guitar, drums and a cleverly routed array of looping electronics, keys and effects pedals. When recording in the studio, however, they aren’t bound by live performance constraints and can really dive deep into the sounds they want to realize to craft dynamic, instrumental fusion that gets stuck in your head long after the record stops. Fans of rock, jazz fusion, hip hop, and electronic music will all have something to enjoy from this record.
Digging Deeper: “Music For Cats” is the perfect blend of styles, personality and careful attention to arrangements and production while also rewarding both the casual and detailed music listeners alike. This album sneaks into the background of any party to enhance the vibe while simultaneously serving up a spread of genres, instrument sounds and engineering tricks to warrant repeat playthroughs. Each tune has its own personality — all connected from these two talented musicians at the helm, offering an album that will have you jamming along at home or dancing at a late night festival set all the same.
Perfect For: A night where you need an equal burst of energy and inspiration to get work done, knowing your reward is cozying up to your cats on the couch. (Acknowledging my bias of enjoying the record based on my involvement in the recording process of “Cattitude.”) – Dutcher Snedeker
Upcoming Shows: Nov. 12 at The Clover Room in Kalamazoo (with Jordan Hamilton); Nov. 18 at Rake Beer Project in Muskegon
Listen: “Aloe Vera”
“Scenes from a Laserdisc”
What Stands Out: Every once in a while, an album jumps out at you and makes you wonder why you haven’t checked out this artist before. Heart Dreams’ latest release falls into that category, a seven-track rock ‘n’ roll romp that not only bursts out of the box with punk-styled energy but revels in the five-piece Grand Rapids band’s vocally fetching melodic charm.
Digging Deeper: Much of the allure in “Scenes from a Laserdisc” stems from the recording and production by Rick Johnson at Grand Rapids’ Cold War Studios — with “Jeff (fest. Venson Dix)” recorded by Don Carlisle — because it perfectly captures the personality of Heart Dreams, sort of a cross between The Replacements, Dinosaur Jr. and Pavement.
Perfect For: Deciding not to get a haircut, staying up later than you should and “leaving it all behind.” – John Sinkevics
Listen: “Baby Baby Baby”
Check out Local Spins reviews of the latest releases from: Pablo Eskobear, Headband Henny, Seth Bernard, The Schrock Bros, Round Creek String Band and The Bloody Pickups.
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