This October roundup of new Michigan releases covers artists from Kalamazoo to Grand Rapids to Traverse City, including instrumental projects and a collection inspired by loss.
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October’s second batch of Michigan-bred recordings reviewed at Local Spins includes projects that uncork instrumental brilliance, some rock ‘n’ roll fire and a compelling collection inspired by personal loss.
Delve into the releases below and check out previous Local Spins album reviews online here.
What Stands Out: Just by listening to their newest album, “Solitude,” you wouldn’t believe that members of the Kalamazoo-based Mighty Big Rig only have a few years of jamming under their belts. The rich grooves, the complex layers behind its instrumentation and solos that range from ear-melting to soul softening all resonate as they point to veteran musicianship. Above all else, “Solitude” doesn’t just lay out a musically interesting roadmap, but it punches holes in its trajectory. The sheer balance of variety, mastery and confidence that permeates this album oozes greatness well worth listen after listen.
Digging Deeper: When I step back and say I could write an essay just on “Rut,” you know you’ve struck some kind of gold. But immediately, I wasn’t sold. One of the best tracks on the album led with what initially kicked off with a slow start gradually began to blossom. It unfolded layers of wavy bass riffs and echoing guitar noodling that created space, but didn’t yet step into it. Then, Andrew Chiu’s drums filled that canvas behind massive vocals. It flips the track into this emotional breakdown that embodies the song’s metaphorical boiling point. And with a mind-warming guitar solo to match, you have yourself a winner.
Perfect For: Big headphones and battling creative roadblocks. – Nick Moran
What Stands Out: Golden Loam is a meditative listening experience, intimately woven from Laurel Premo’s work on electric guitar and lap steel, with the occasional additions of her singing, Nic Gareiss’ percussive dancing (tracks 5&9), and Eric Breton on bones (track 3). The warmth of the Traverse City multi-instrumentalist’s playing and presence on this self-produced record invites listeners into Laurel’s personal space, soaking in the sounds of her home, surrounding the passion of her songwriting and instrumental performances. A sense of calm permeates the record, and room within each composition is left for other emotions to express themselves, much like meditation allows the mind to wander while returning to the breath.
Digging Deeper: In a relentless world cluttered with noise, media and an overworked schedule demanding our attention, Golden Loam carves out space to retreat to and find healing. Laurel Premo is known internationally for her work with her duo, Red Tail Ring, and it is clear why so many listeners love her artistry: the sincerity, the depth of emotion in her artistic expression, and the transparency in what she shares with an audience with every note.
Perfect For: A chilled autumn day, sitting on a sun-soaked porch sipping a warm cup of tea and letting yourself breathe for a moment; Netflix and your 3 p.m. Zoom meeting can definitely wait. – Dutcher Snedeker
Upcoming Shows: Oct. 29 at The DAAC in Grand Rapids (Album-Release Show); Dec. 1 at The Robin Theatre in Lansing (Album-Release Show)
Listen: “Hop High”
What Stands Out: As frontman for Grand Rapids country-folk-rock band Edison Kitt & The Strangers, Kitt’s newest solo album “Whiskey Ramblings” tells the story of a “whiskey-induced” period of his life while mourning the passing of his best friend. Kitt’s vocals on this record unfold as a mix of angst, sorrow and passion, which suit the subject matter of each song. The album has a theme of soft intros that lead to a full band sound, giving it all a genuine, invigorating feel.
Digging Deeper: Kitt leads us through tales of romantic escapades, loves lost and looking forward to new beginnings. In “Been a Long Time,” Kitt sings “It’s been a long time since I called you mine/Been a long road and we’re taking our time/Been a long time since I called you a friend/And I’d like to do so once again” making that point again in “You’re in My Head,” “Please don’t believe I’d ever let you slip away/Into the dark/Cause I could never find/ Someone to fill the hole you left inside my head and in my heart/The greatest memory of mine.” Grappling with the loss of someone from his past while still holding hope that that love will be found again. Although, on the last song of the album, “Let Me Say Goodbye,” he finally lets go: “Our love is just a memory/But I feel you holding on to me/Darling please just let me say goodbye.” The record is a journey of going back and forth with someone, hoping an answer will come without having to actually lose them for good. It makes for a compelling listen.
Perfect For: Anyone going through a loss. – Liv Conaty
Upcoming Show: Nov. 19 at Tip Top Deluxe Bar & Grill in Grand Rapids (with Stovepipe Stover)
Listen: “Let’s Start This Over”
What Stands Out: Northern Michigan’s The Shook deftly melds the melodic power of classic rock with New Millennium edginess and delicious sonic psychedelic-ness. The band’s second EP, “Hermetic Revelry,” bursts out of the gates with “Easy” and doesn’t let up on this rock ‘n’ roll roller coaster ride until the final notes of “Fire” that wraps things up.
Digging Deeper: Initially formed by Petoskey’s Benjamin Stephenson (guitar) and Andrew Newville (vocals), The Shook proclaims in its band description that “the sharper the shaker, the rockier the roll.” Suffice to say, these guys are rolling toward a bright future if they keep this up.
Perfect For: Cranking up the volume for a household project, weekend revelry or a much-anticipated road trip. – John Sinkevics
“Flying All the Way to the Ground”
What Stands Out: “Flying All The Way to The Ground” showcases Adam Main’s strengths as a performer and songwriter by combining the comfortable nature of his artistic expression with the lyrical quality of his approach to the instrument. This solo, finger-style guitar playing is difficult and leaves the performer exposed to the audience, yet each tune feels effortless in its execution. Every tune showcases this Grand Rapids guitarist’s artistic range and his influences, drawing inspiration from folk, Americana, blues, and even some classic rock elements, making for a well-rounded and intimate listening experience.
Digging Deeper: Main, an instructor at Kalamazoo Academy of Rock, plays from a deep appreciation for the guitar and storytelling. Even if the words are absent, the content and imagery are clear with every note. Each tune is easily digestible, yet it also showcases Adam’s clear mastery of his craft and attention to little details as an arranger.
Perfect For: Long fall drives with stops along the way, soaking in the scenery as these wonderful tunes complement a calm afternoon. – Dutcher Snedeker
Listen: “Sleight of Hand”
What Stands Out: There’s plenty of surprising complexity to Traverse City singer-songwriter John Piatek’s music. Rhythmically intriguing from the opening track, “Dayride,” Piatek and fellow collaborator Jake Myers unfurl a collection that spans rock, jazz and pop with a plethora of special effects and a dreamy milieu that enhances whispery, atmospheric tracks such as “Weightless,” “Slow Burn,” “Plastic” and “Sand.”
Digging Deeper: With repeated playing, it’s a 10-track project that serves as a real salve to the pains of a lengthy pandemic or whatever else ails you. Piatek and company plan to release new music soon, so there’s more in store for fans of this intricate, semi-psychedelic buffet.
Perfect For: Contemplating the future – or the past – on an autumn day. – John Sinkevics
Upcoming Show: Piatek plays Acoustic Taproom in Traverse City on Nov. 5.
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