This early November round-up of new releases by West Michigan artists explores some inventive and mind-expanding creations. Read the reviews, listen to the music.
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Inventiveness and creativity weave their way through all six new releases by Michigan-bred artists featured in today’s roundup at Local Spins.
The artists range from veterans familiar to West Michigan audiences to debuts by up-and-coming acts. And check out previous Local Spins album reviews here.
What Stands Out: Imagine you’re on a psilocybin trip, igniting parts of the brain that you had no idea existed. Suddenly, your body lifts you off the ground and now you’re floating over rivers of glistening hazel and mahogany in a chocolate factory by some dude named Chuck. Your mind drifts as you’re swimming above the murk and you swear you can taste his hair in the air. Then boom: Out of nowhere you’ve been dropped onto a set of an HBO series in the middle of a wheat field except you’re the only person on set. There are cameras, lights and craft services set up, but it’s just you and the breeze and you’re wearing nothing but aviator sunglasses and a cigarette hanging from your lips; you don’t even smoke. This is how it feels to experience “Procession” from top to bottom by Lazy Genius (Grand Rapids).
Digging Deeper: With an ominous commencement, “Procession” leads you to believe that this psych-rock album will have a sinister overtone throughout. Groove hits you off the bat with strong drums grouped with haunting layers, disorienting effects, cheeky synth melodies and warm, relaxed vocals. The album picks up on the fourth track “Icky Sticky.” With an uplifting tempo, the body wants to move to the beat joyfully while the lyrics and guitar make the mind feel agitated, perhaps destructive; a welcome dichotomy that draws the listener in. The production seems right on par for this psychedelic band, a balanced mix showcasing the melodic embellishment properly with strategic panning from left to right for an immersive expedition (released on Dizzybird Records).
Perfect For: Sliding on noise-canceling headphones while playing the album front to back, closing your eyes and tuning out reality. – Jennifer Lyn Bartlett
Listen: “That Feelin’”
“The Return to the Party/Remember the Revolution”
What Stands Out: “The Return to the Party” and “Remember the Revolution,” a pair of releases from Grand Rapids collective Les Creatif, has to be one of the most enriching releases from a West Michigan musician this year. Every inch of the pair of EPs is like walking through a multimedia art gallery. Led by saxophonist and rapper Dante Cope, the projects seamlessly blend rap, spoken word breakdowns, vocal refrains and a range of brilliantly crafted instrumentation. Ultimately, “The Return to the Party” and “Remember the Revolution” occupy a unique space where it feels Les Creatif takes every opportunity to squeeze in their artful vision. From the cheeky naming scheme on each EP’s pair of tracks to the duality that each record’s A and B side presents, the collective is carving a bold space in a music scene that it unapologetically dominates.
Digging Deeper: It’s difficult to create a track like “Remember.” To take as many elements as the track has — rap, spoken word, interludes, stellar instrumentation, natural sound — and to weave them together in a fashion that presents a powerful message without feeling disjointed is a momentous task that Les Creatif handedly delivers on. The composition of the song itself, complete with layered vocals and criss-crossing background riffs on violin and sax, reinforces the subtle sense of unity that sits beside the track’s somber call. Behind it all, whether on sax or rapping, Cope especially embodies suave. While oftentimes not direct, his performances act like cameos that elevate everyone around him — whether it be supporting Dawn Elizabeth’s intricate vocal performance on “The Return” or riffing alongside Leo Gallagher’s strings on “Remember.”
Perfect For: Fans of Terrace Martin, Noname and Kendrick Lamar. – Nick Moran
Upcoming Show: Nov. 26 at Billy’s Lounge in Grand Rapids (with Cabildo)
“You Don’t Know Anything”
What Stands Out: After releasing a mix of singles and an EP over the past four years, this rising Grand Rapids band of brothers has released the EP, “You Don’t Know Anything.” Their indie-rock/Americana sound pairs well with the flawless production and lyrics of longing, dreaming and sweet memories. Lead singer Brady Stablein’s silky voice — with a hint of rasp — makes for easy, enjoyable listening.
Digging Deeper: The band did not rush themselves to create this album, and it is apparent in the production, lyricism and track list. Brother Elsey made sure to appeal to everyone with this collection, adding an acoustic version of the romantic song “Honey” and the alternate demo version of “Good Trouble.” The record wraps itself up in a well-tied bow by revisiting the past tracks in a different way, which is something many listeners will appreciate.
Perfect For: A drive through a tree-lined backroad in autumn. – Liv Conaty
Upcoming Show: Dec. 18 at The Intersection in Grand Rapids
What Stands Out: A turbulent and doomy set of tracks by musicians Paul Jensen and Addison Eilers of Muskegon, this album feels like the ideal soundtrack for a stormy stroll along blustery Lake Michigan. The moody album artwork even suggests this, showcasing choppy waters, deep blues and blacks with a flash of warm light, seeming to be the perfect cover to hint to the listener what emotions they may experience inside.
Digging Deeper: Leading with an eerie instrumental, the album blooms as it explodes with vivid guitars and a weighty pulse as it moves into the second track. The body of work leans heavily on the instruments, creating songs that are cumbersome and grounded yet ethereal with short bursts of guitar solos that are energetic and tasteful. Vocals come few and far between but any human voice that can be heard is drenched in effect, offering enigmatic and cryptic messages daring the listener to lean in closer. Written and recorded in December 2020 at Analog Time Machine Studios in West Michigan, “XI” features JD Pinkus (Butthole Surfers, Melvins) on bass for their explosive 6th track titled “December.” Feeling a bit short for a full-length, the album delivers a message while dangling a gloomy carrot in front of the listeners.
Perfect For: Fans of Citizen, Chelsea Wolfe, Deafheaven. – Jennifer Lyn Bartlett
Upcoming Show: Nov. 19 at The Pyramid Scheme in Grand Rapids (album-release show with JD Pinkus, BoneHawk and The War Between)
Listen: “Idle Eyes”
What Stands Out: “Falling Behind,” the latest release from Grand Rapids-raised Joe Wagner, is an audiographic scrapbook. The album’s patchwork noodlings, shanties and stylings make for an album that unites fragments to form a musical mosaic. Self-described as “guitar-driven” with “emo alt-country indie rock” influences, it’s easy to find a little something for everyone, but much harder to follow the winding road that each track establishes. Strung together, they showcase Wagner grappling with past, present and future in a way that brings listeners along for the highs and the lows that come with remembrance, introspection and uncertainty. On each stop of that journey, “Falling Behind” delivers something uniquely Laggies — from droning guitar loops to a cast of soulful riffs and solos — and that’s well worth the ride.
Digging Deeper: No song captures the essence of “Falling Behind’ better than “Stick in the Mud.” Wagner’s vocal style really shines through the track — something that sits between the charm of casual rambles and the refined stylings of trying to find just the right words. Beside it, you have Wagner’s classic approach to instrumentation, with layers of guitar ranging from crisp and clean to reverb-laden and saucy. “Cities,” however, feels like a distant destination in relation to the album’s other tracks, but in a delightfully refreshing way. Opening with harmonizing strings and moving into guitar-and-drums hits, it balances both the unwavering uncertainty of being lost, but pairs it with the beauty of discovery along the way. Its gentle, personal and vulnerable approach tugs on your heartstrings and acts as a moment of beautiful respite.
Perfect For: A self-love session, complete with cheap beer and black and white movies. – Nick Moran
Listen: “Stick in the Mud”
“The Golden Age of Nothing”
What Stands Out: Self-described as “guerilla rock,” West Michigan-based musician Luke Vander Heiden took a compilation of singles he had released during 2019-2020 to build his first EP, “The Golden Age of Nothing.” While the songs were released in a time where we were all wondering about the future, the record includes songs about looking back into his childhood. The songs have a retro feel, which fits perfectly with the storytelling.
Digging Deeper: In Michigan, we love to see artists celebrate their home, and Vander Heiden did so by making a locally produced music video for the opening track, “So Many Questions.” It was filmed in a ’70s themed basement, playing ‘Guitar Hero’ instruments, which further plays on the childhood theme. The album is all about reflecting, feelings of belonging, and what leads us to where we are now. Using his home as a setting for those themes shows its importance.
Perfect For: Reminiscing, while still staying present. – Liv Conaty
Listen: “So Many Questions”
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