This early October roundup of 2023 releases by Michigan artists boasts a diverse mix of genres and artists, including new music by The Bloody Pickups and Round Creek String Band.
With the busiest summer of live music in recent memory behind us, Local Spins today returns from its “album-review hiatus” of the past several months.
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This roundup features six albums or EPs released in 2023 by Michigan artists covering a wide swath of genres and approaches, folk to pop to rock to hip hop.
Check out the reviews below and listen to tracks from each of the releases, with more on the way later this month.
What Stands Out: Kalamazoo’s Henry Parwoth and Headband Henny have released their first full-length album, with an official album release show in Kalamazoo this weekend. Combining dreamy R&B instrumentals, his soulful vocals and songwriting, and talented collaborators such as Sam Peters (Santino Jones, La Luna Recording & Sound), there’s a lot to love on this record, with the addition of a surreal music video for the track “Dreamcatcher” to continue expanding on this well-crafted piece of bedroom pop. Headband Henny stands as proof of the type of talent that Kalamazoo has been incubating amid a truly supportive DIY community.
Digging Deeper: An artist like Headband Henny is hard to put into a box like “alternative R&B,” because “Purple” colors its sound in so many ways. Listeners will be treated to the aforementioned bedroom pop sound alongside psychedelic textures, soul music, jazz and hip hop in one polished package. It’s cozy listening with a distinct flavor, and if you’re a fan of artists like Tyler, the Creator or Frank Ocean, you owe it to yourself to check out this Michigan artist alongside his stellar live band. (More about Headband Henny and frontman Henry Parwoth at Local Spins here.)
Perfect For: Warm evenings on the porch with your tribe soaking in the sun and vibes. – Dutcher Snedeker
Upcoming Show: 8 p.m. Saturday (Oct. 7) at Green Door Distillery, 429 E. North St. in Kalamazoo (album-release show with Teyland, Healix and Taxi Cab)
“Unrest and Rest”
What Stands Out: Experiencing an album by Seth Bernard is akin to having an intimate conversation with family members. His songs unfurl a wide range of emotions and travails (hence, “Unrest and Rest”), touch on the sort of political discussions that lay out inner motivations and philosophies (hence, “Think Outside the System”), and ultimately resonate with the sort of peace and comfort that one finds in the familiar surroundings of home (hence, “Return to Love”). Backed by an all-star cast of musicians strutting their stuff at Ian Gorman’s La Luna Recording & Sound in Kalamazoo, the 11-song collection encapsulates Bernard’s robust career as a Michigan music icon and Earthwork Music collective founder while covering a lot of ground musically, from soothing, harmony-enhanced ballads to muscular rock ‘n’ roll – all of it encased in a sort of brotherly hug.
Digging Deeper: As Bernard insightfully declares on the second track, “Music Reminds Us” of so many important things – of peace and love and brotherhood, the sorts of things that aren’t schmaltzy in the least as he expresses them in vibrant, sincere fashion. Indeed, the closing track “Universal Energy” bristles with so much energy, you can feel it – and much joy – easing through the speakers.
Perfect For: Getting through tough times — much like Bernard himself has recently while battling Lyme disease and back issues — with a healing, never-give-in, we’re-all-in-this-together sort of musical salve. – John Sinkevics
Upcoming Show: Benefit for Seth Bernard featuring a dozen Michigan artists at 7 p.m. Friday (Oct. 6) at The Alluvion in Traverse City. (More about that here, and fans can contribute to Bernard’s GoFundMe campaign at https://www.gofundme.com/f/support-seths-rest-and-recovery.
Listen: “Music Reminds Us”
What Stands Out: Grand Rapids boom bap artist Pablo Eskobear returns with a choice cut of a record. Coming in at just under 20 minutes, every tune invites the listener to throw back the recliner and soak in some classic hip-hop sounds. He then adds in the warmth from both the powerful singing and tape-recorded production found within the bulk of the sampled soul music that colors each tune. With this record, every listener is treated to a platter of sonic hors d’oeuvres.
Digging Deeper: With a name derived from the infamous “Cocaine Bear” story (recently adapted into a movie), an album playing off of the pun “bare necessities,” and a style that blends the powerfully uplifting sounds of soul music seasoned with world music within a boom bap framework, Pablo Eskobear is never short on joy within his beat music storytelling. You hear snapshots of the decades he explores within the head-nod grooves that keep you locked into the mood, all weaving together into a cozy listening experience. “Necessities” is an album that deserves a spot on your fall playlist, filled with essential vibes for the season.
Perfect For: Study session, hot beverages on the porch in your favorite sweater, slow drives through the stillness of autumn. – Dutcher Snedeker
Round Creek String Band
“Round Creek String Band”
What Stands Out: Recently releasing their debut album at Wheatland Music Festival, Round Creek String Band breathes new life into classic, old-time bluegrass music with this project recorded in Grand Rapids at Second Story Sound and mastered by Mackinaw Harvest Music Group. These musicians were brought together by their love of each other’s playing and their passion for traditional music. From start to finish, this record rolls at as a beautifully polished piece of Americana — less decorative furniture and more a woodland cabin crafted to celebrate life’s pleasant moments with song and dance.
Digging Deeper: Fans of Michigan’s folk music scene will recognize many of the members from this project who’ve been involved in other acts around the state — experience that adds to the stellar musicianship on full display from this new group of old friends. Round Creek String Band offers a compelling listening experience from track to track, with spirited musicianship that radiates joy in each arrangement. It’s no wonder this group made its rounds on the festival circuit this year.
Perfect For: Complementing the little joys in life with spirited music steeped in tradition. – Dutcher Snedeker
Upcoming Shows: Friday-Sunday for Great Lakes Music Camp at Camp Blodgett in West Olive; Oct. 14 at Goosefest in Fennville; Dec. 9 at Oshtemo Grange Hall in Kalamazoo
Listen: “Foggy Dawn”
The Bloody Pickups
“The Cecil Hotel”
What Stands Out: Proudly declaring their songs to be “overtly Anti-Nazi,” the Grand Rapids-based progressive punk musicians in The Bloody Pickups have released The Cecil Hotel, a “deluxe single,” aka EP, filled with topical lyricism that takes its name from the infamous incidents at the real life Cecil Hotel. They aim pointed critique at media personalities and politics, while articulating the anxiety we all feel navigating such a tumultuous time in this country. Listeners are treated to two studio recorded singles, some different edits of those singles, and a collection of live tunes from one of their appearances at Holland’s Park Theatre Open Mic.
Digging Deeper: Oftentimes with politically charged music, we as Americans tend to see the most extreme versions (see: Forgiato Blow and “MAGA Rap” culture) or the artist in general has the complicated task of blending political views through music as a medium. Luckily for The Bloody Pickups and dozens of punk bands in music history, this genre is the perfect vehicle to strip away the fluff and get right to the core of the message. Protest music comes in many forms, and it’s great to see a band in West Michigan really embrace this with their sound.
Perfect For: Drowning out that one uncle you’re dreading spending Thanksgiving with while you and your cousins mosh in solidarity
Upcoming Shows: Oct. 20 at Mulligan’s in Grand Rapids; October 21 at Rocky’s Bar and Grill in Grand Rapids
Listen: “Cecil Hotel”
The Schrock Bros
“Faith In Love”
What Stands Out: The Schrock Bros have come off a busy summer of festivals and concert appearances centered on the music from their latest release, Faith In Love. Longtime Michigan music scene fans will recognize the multi-generational music legacy housed within this Fennville/Southwest Michigan-based group, with the additional talents of harmonica virtuoso Peter “Madcat” Ruth of Ann Arbor and drummer Michael Shimmin of Kalamazoo creating a solid foundation for the core band. The joy is palpable with every note played, an experience that delights in intimate listening and a constant stream of dancing. It all makes for an uplifting, dynamic listening experience.
Digging Deeper: The Schrock Bros continue to double down on that winning strategy of crafting wonderful music and surrounding themselves with good people and great musicians. Each track captures the spirit of their live performances with every chorus build and stellar solo. It’s no small wonder why so many folks made this soulful, rootsy band their focal point for the summer with “Faith In Love” added to the catalog.
Perfect For: Gatherings with family and friends to enjoy good company and greater memories. – Dutcher Snedeker
Upcoming Show: Nov. 11 at The Elks Lodge in Cadillac (part of the Gopherwood Concerts series)
(click here for details)
Listen: “Another Day In Grey”
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