This early October round-up of releases by Michigan artists features new collections covering rock, pop, hip hop, jazz and Grand Rapids’ Cameron Blake’s return to the violin.
Fall officially has arrived, signaling a new season and a fresh batch of Local Spins reviews of recent releases by Michigan artists.
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This time around, Local Spins spans the state and several genres, making this as colorful as those resplendent trees that are starting to pop up across the region.
Listen to tracks from all of the releases below, and check out more album reviews here.
“Herald’s Missing the Funny Pages”
What Stands Out: As we barrel toward the second quarter of the 21st century, there’s literally nothing quite like the music of Grand Rapids’ B-Sides. From the opening ‘60s pop-flavored vocals of “Break My Heart” to the distorted charm of “Sally Who? Sally Alright!” and the rousing rock blast of “Silver Tongue,” B-Sides concoct a rare potion of musical deliciousness, blending hauntingly beautiful and psychedelic passages inspired by everything from The Beatles to Guided by Voices to The New Pornographers to The Sonics, while spicing it all up with surfy and sometimes-biting-but-delectable guitar work and keyboard accents.
Digging Deeper: On their first full-length album since 2013’s self-titled affair, the B-Sides bill themselves on the cover artwork as a “male vocal group” – perhaps as an inside joke – but they’re certainly that and much more. The band – Tommy Schichtel, Chris Schichtel, Dave Stanton and Pete Curry (who’s also drummer for Los Straitjackets) – delights in musical surprises, which is really NOT surprising, considering co-producer and Goon Lagoon recording studio owner Tommy Schichtel’s penchant for odd effects, humor and clever sonic touches. Also not surprisingly, the album featuring guest appearances by saxophonist Lafayette Gunter and pianist Chris Corey was mastered by a couple of guys regarded as the best in the business, namely Glenn Brown and Jim Diamond. As a result, “I Say, You Say,” sounds like the best song The Smithereens never recorded and Chris Schichtel’s vocals on the infectious closing track, “Wolves Are at the Door,” makes you wish this wildly demiurgic song would last for an hour rather than 3 minutes and 30 seconds.
Perfect For: Putting the best speakers you can find to the test while frolicking around your living room and realizing you’ve just rediscovered the true magic of rock ‘n’ roll. – John Sinkevics
Listen: “I Say, You Say”
Last Gasp Collective
“Our Daily Bread”
What Stands Out: Unfurling some of West Michigan’s most thought-provoking and well-crafted music experiences, Last Gasp Collective’s new record marks its post-pandemic return. “Our Daily Bread” is an album that is the realized vision of recordings from August 2020 when they spent time at the Our Daily Bread campground in Marcellus, Mich. Adding to the strength of the already stellar collective lineup on this record are a host of collaborators: narration from John Orpheus, lyrics from songwriting legend Sherridan Harris, vocals from Nik Huey, Marq Beyond, Sam “Ardea” Peters (who also did some mixing), Lakeshore Drew, and Heyzeus, guitar from Collin Batten and Max Brown (of The War & Treaty), organ from Rufus Ferguson, and artwork cooperatively with Lauren Steinhofer. The man at the helm, Jay Jackson, once again takes point on writing the bulk of the material, performing on the record, producing and engineering the recordings, and coordinating the collaborations while also continuing to refine the core sound.
Digging Deeper: “This album has been a long time coming. Everyone has been through so much these past few years, us included, and it has made the process of making an album much longer,” says cellist Jordan Hamilton. “That being said, taking our time allowed us to really fine tune every aspect of this album and reach out to a bunch of artists we wanted to feature on the record.” Our Daily Bread is staggering in its realized vision, easily something that should be celebrated and listened to on repeat. It hums with the pulse of a cityscape filled with stories, injecting soul that nourishes the spirit. The musicianship is incredible, with each player’s proficiency and character on full display as it also boosts the power of the collective. This was a labor of love, sweat, tears, and for the culture, crafting a truly unique listening experience for not just Michigan but the Midwest region. With their last gasp, this group is breathing life into every inch of “Our Daily Bread,” and with each note played and word spoken, listeners should absorb the messages, stories, and power behind black artistry.
Perfect For: Late-night contemplation and reflection, early morning meditations, and evenings spent in conversation and fellowship to elevate collective consciousness. – Dutcher Snedeker
Upcoming Show: Oct. 30 at Papa Pete’s in Kalamazoo (album-release show featuring past members of the group, with The Allah of Blvcksheep also on the bill)
Listen: “All 4 Not”
What Stands Out: Lansing-based Rachel Curtis’ self-titled album seems to defy genre: “Lime Green Grass” is relaxed, nostalgic and folksy, while “SideKick” feels almost EDM-esque, like the kind of song you might encounter at a nightclub. There’s even a worship song (see: “Hold On.”) But it’s all tied together by Curtis’ poignant songwriting and her rich, soulful vocals. “Bird Song,” a foreboding track backed by tongue clicks, is the record’s most sonically intriguing song; “I Don’t Like It” and “To Be Loved” are two of the most enjoyable.
Digging Deeper: After her time on “American Idol” in 2018, Curtis released several singles, but this is her debut album. It’s a collaboration with Grammy-winning mastering engineer Steve Fallone, who has worked with the likes of Taylor Swift and Bon Iver. In a previous interview with Local Spins, Curtis described the album as “straight from [her] own diary.”
Perfect For: Lying in the grass on a sunny day and reliving childhood memories. – Katie Rosendale
Listen: “To Be Loved”
“Time & Space”
What Stands Out: FlyLiteGemini’s “Time & Space” brims with rock passion that harnesses the live energy felt by audiences around Michigan this summer at their shows and festival appearances. There are atmospheric highs, driving riffs, whirling organ, and nostalgic trips through rock’s eclectic history in each track’s arrangements. Each track delights in rock music that takes its cues from psychedelic, classic, blues, and folk influences. Fans of Joe Chamberlin’s guitar prowess and Nate Karnes’ keyboard work will be delighted to hear some expert soloing and choice synthesizer and keys sounds throughout the record.
Digging Deeper: Band members invested a lot of their collective spirit into this record, and the joy in music-making is palpable throughout the album. Each tune feels like crowd surfing at a summer festival, with moments to just bliss out and lock in with the band. After so much uncertainty with the pandemic years, the group has cemented their commitment to exciting and engaging rock music that instantly elevates your mood and gets you dancing!.
Perfect For: Turning up at hangs to kick things off a good mood and a good time. – Dutcher Snedeker
Upcoming Shows: Saturday (Oct. 8) at Encore 201 in Traverse City, Oct. 28 at Unruly Brewing in Muskegon, Oct. 29 at The DAAC in Grand Rapids
Listen: “There Isn’t an End”
“Made in Kalamazoo (Trios and Duos)”
What Stands Out: Western Michigan University professor and celebrated jazz drummer Keith Hall has released his first record as a bandleader. The record features collaborative pairings with saxophonist and fellow WMU colleague Andrew Rathbun and UofM professor and bassist Robert Hurst III. When browsing the track list, listeners will learn about various stories, people and places from Hall’s time in Kalamazoo. According to Hall, this list includes three solo drum features acting as tributes to mentors of the craft (Billy Hart, Elvin Jones, and Max Roach), seven trio tracks (split into four collaborations with Rathbun and three new pieces from Hall), and 10 collaborative duos with Rathbun, offering some solid compositions that leave plenty of space for expression and exploration.
Digging Deeper: One danger that can potentially come from pairing non-chordal instruments is the feeling of compositions blurring together from a supposed lack of variety. However, from start to finish on this record, every player involved demonstrates why they have earned the respect of their jazz peers through their passionate musicianship. Each piece showcases artistry, creative and dynamic pairings with different styles and added effects, and masterful, conversational playing that is a joy to experience.
Perfect For: Anyone who loves well-crafted, spirited collaboration between masters of their craft. – Dutcher Snedeker
Listen: “Creative Force”
“Mercy for the Gentle Kind”
What Stands Out: The latest EP from the Grand Rapids singer-songwriter serves as a tribute of sorts to the violin, something he says represents the culmination of a long healing process. As such, this album oozes a pensive, somber but incredibly soothing vibe that celebrates his embrace of an instrument that he set aside for years after suffering abuse by an instructor. Consequently, tracks such as “Red Rose” and the title track combine the qualities that have made Blake a regional favorites – thought-provoking lyrics, powerful arrangements and mellifluous melodies.
Digging Deeper: Produced by Blake and Josh Kaufman, the album was recorded at Grand Rapids’ Local Legend Recording and mastered by Ian Gorman at La Luna Recording and Sound, the EP also features violinists James and Megan Crawford, violist Barbara Corbato, cellist Jill Collier and accordionist Michael Schaeffer. The only track Blake didn’t write, the instrumental “Sicilienne” by Maria Theresia von Paradis, might serve as the thematic centerpiece of this ode to the violin.
Perfect For: Reflecting on the healing power of music. – John Sinkevics
Listen: “Mercy for the Gentle Kind”