The Celeste Allison Trio, Dale Wicks and The Ryne Experience also are part of this early May roundup of new Michigan-propelled releases. Check out the reviews, listen to the new music.
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April showers usually bring May flowers, but in the case of Michigan music, it’s bringing a crop of new releases covering a fair number of styles.
The month’s first roundup of reviews includes the latest (and already acclaimed) release from Nathan Kalish (who’s back in Michigan), a new EP from rock’s Martyr for Madison, a long-awaited album from folk’s Strawberry Heritage, the sophomore effort by Kalamazoo’s Celeste Allison Trio and more.
Check out other Local Spins album reviews here.
What Stands Out: Sounding good is one thing, but there’s something to be said for a collection of music that feels good. Good feelings are abundant throughout “Light Magic,” the latest from Michigan singer-producer John Hanson under the moniker Strawberry Heritage. There’s a real delicate touch – with Hanson’s melancholic vocals and a smattering of playful folk instrumentation – that brings the album to life.
Digging Deeper: The lyrics of “Light Magic” are its very core. Hanson (who many might recognize as a principal organizer of Grand Rapids’ one-time Lamp Light Music Festival) introspects through exploring topics ranging from the weather to an apocalypse. It’s tough not to see a song such as “Let The Light Come In” through the lens of the current pandemic, wherein Hanson begins: “Sheltered, left in the room, lock and key. Hiding means not a thing, with no one else around.” And where there aren’t lyrics to contemplate, there’s some fantastic playing. The instrumental, “Robinson Road,” features a standout violin performance by Jeffrey Niemeier.
Perfect For: A long, self-reflective nature walk. Listen front to back. – Devin Anderson
Listen: “Let The Light Come In”
Martyr for Madison
What Stands Out: Martyr for Madison officially releases “Nearsighted” on Friday (May 8) — previously teased by the single “A Better Place” –- with an astounding, driving force. Even with an assortment of songs full of emotion, the band manages to turn personal music into crowd-pleasing jams on its third EP. With a wave of new music, Martyr for Madison proves it’s the smear of color on a black canvas, bringing standout energy and movement to a pop-punk scene that can be difficult to blend into.
Digging Deeper: The band has a knack for finding ways for listeners to rock their heads and sing along with choruses. Drummer AC Grimes propels “Exit Wounds” forward, especially complemented by singer Tom Soupal’s harmonics on his vocals. “Myopic” serves to highlight the versatility of Nathan Tyler Proctor’s guitar, going from rich, grunge-heavy power chords to delicate, less-is-more riffs higher on the fretboard — all anchored by a dynamic performance from Ryan Rhoads on bass.
Perfect For: Loosening the tie during drives home from work with the windows down. – Nick Moran
Listen: “A Better Place”
“Songs for Nobody”
What Stands Out: Michigan-bred Nathan Kalish embraces his true Nashville spirit with his latest release. The 10-song LP rambles through timeless tales of life in America, both nomadic and domestic. The record’s first three tracks deliver a powerful introduction. On the opening track, “Kalimotxo” Kalish’s voice is as sweet as the Spanish drink he sings about sipping. The song’s wistful tone dances to the melodies of mandolin, guitar, fiddle and piano, each taking their turns in the spotlight. Falling next in line, “Pam and Tim” airs the realities of blue-collar living and the predicament of needing to earn a wage at the cost of one’s well-being. Electric guitars surge throughout the track, especially during a rip-roaring outro that also features soulful backing vocals. Rounding out the introductory trio, “Independence Day” begins acoustically, before building into an up-tempo shuffle for the closing measures. Kalish croons about melancholy summer scenes and the juxtaposition of true freedom. Other highlights include a roaring title track, which divulges the nonstop chaos of touring by way of a rocking chorus, as well as “Standard Time,” a tender number that features aching melodies and a wistful nature.
Digging Deeper: Nathan Kalish continues his sure-footed consistency with “Songs for Nobody.” The album channels his road weariness and formulates that weathered, ragged feeling into stories of raw sincerity. Each song acts as its own snapshot, a window into someone else’s story, not unlike the fleeting glimpses given from the American interstate. Those stories are in good hands with Kalish behind the wheel.
Perfect For: Swaying in a rocking chair on the front porch; ambling down pristine back roads; late-night bonfires and sips of whiskey straight from the bottle. – Ricky Olmos
Listen: “Mighty River”
What Stands Out: A pleasant mix of pop, alt-rock and folk are on display with Grand Rapids singer-songwriter Dale Wicks’ new album, “Backwords.” Wicks seems to pull from a massive range of influences, resulting in a faintly familiar, yet wholly unique batch of songs. The album also features performances by a who’s who of local artists and friends including Patty PerShayla, Sam Kenny, Brandon Proch, Freya Rettig, Don Wicks, Eric Boyea and Rhema LaMontagne. Wicks himself gets the impressive “everything else” credit, showcasing chops as a songwriter and multi-instrumentalist.
Digging Deeper: On the album opener, “Electric Boat,” as well as its reprise, “Irony & Madness…,” Wicks questions the necessity of modern communication, uttering “Distant folks, closer than a whisper. Distant whispers make a stranger of a friend.” Where “Electric Boat” is ever-stimulating – filled out by rock instrumentation, an organ and some funky guitar – the reprise might represent a more ideal world for Wicks: laid back and lush with harmony.
Perfect For: Cooking a stir fry with lots of seemingly disparate ingredients, only to find out they make for a delicious meal. – Devin Anderson
The Ryne Experience
What Stands Out: Once again, Ryne Clark, vocalist for The Preservers, flaunts his musical flexibility and range with “Funky Town,” yet another feather in his discographic cap. Nearly as impressive as The Ryne Experience’s track list is how “Funky Town” is able to continue to venture farther down the roads that Clark’s previous albums explored. With help from 13 collaborators playing instruments spanning from cello to spoons, this Lowell songwriter and musician blends musical styles with an adapting, signature touch: his voice.
Digging Deeper: Clark guides listeners from the funky, flowy guitar riffs on “Paul Mashake” to the dreamy, folk-centric title track at the album’s end. “Funky Town” is a charcuterie board of memorable jams with seasoned influences — like “NFC” featuring Bob Dylan-esque guitar/harmonica pairings and “Inner Run” kicking off with a Van Morrison dressing on Clark’s classic lead guitar performance. Even Clark’s performance on “Ope,” an ode to Midwestern summers, rings of Mac DeMarco’s lead vocals, but sets an intimate scene that’s inviting and familiar.
Perfect For: Watching Midwestern sunsets from the porch with a tropical IPA in hand. – Nick Moran
Listen: “Paul Mashake”
Celeste Allison Trio
What Stands Out: Sophomore albums often tell the real story of a band, and it’s clear from the opening/title track of this six-song EP by Kalamazoo’s Celeste Allison Trio that this fetching indie-pop/folk/jazz outfit has honed its sound and hit its stride on Record No. 2 with infectious melodies and sweet vocals that complement the group’s acoustically based approach. Recorded at La Luna Recording & Sound by Ian Gorman, the EP captures the alluring musical chemistry between singer-guitarist Celeste Allison and bandmates Adam Main and Anders Dahlberg – and certainly confirms that this is a band to watch.
Digging Deeper: “Ritualistic Seduction” rolls out like a smooth and slow Sade classic but adds some surprising uptempo interludes that give the track a singular flair. (Tune in to Local Spins on WYCE at 88.1 FM at 11 a.m. Friday when Allison will be the show’s special guest.)
Perfect For: Dragging that Bluetooth speaker onto your deck for a lilting spring soundtrack. – John Sinkevics
Listen: “Heaven’s Perfume”
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