This mid-September round-up of new regional releases spans several genres in fetching fashion. Check out the reviews, see where you can see the artists live and listen to their music at Local Spins.
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What Stands Out: Starting with the opening Heartland-leaning track, “The Promised Land,” Grand Rapids’ Paradise Outlaw plants its flag firmly in rootsy, Southern-rocking, country-flavored turf, paced by the wonderfully raspy lead vocals of Colin Tobin. It’s instrumentally tight, blue-collar rock at its best, from “Factories and Fields” which recalls The BoDeans, to the full-throttled “Steel Drivin’ Man,” to the dusky, swampy “Voodoo Cadillac,” complete with bluesy, gospel-fired backing vocals.
Digging Deeper: This sophomore album recorded at Grand Rapids’ River City Studios is clearly a step forward for this fast-emerging five-piece band. And while some might wonder about juxtaposing a retro-rocker like “Detroit Hustler” with the country slants of “Roll On,” Paradise Outlaw pulls off this genre-weaving with surprising aplomb and an earthy consistency across all 11 tracks.
Perfect For: Fans of John Mellencamp, The BoDeans, Lynyrd Skynyrd and even Hootie & The Blowfish who appreciate well-crafted, classic-sounding songs with a New Millennium edge. – John Sinkevics
Upcoming Shows: 4 p.m. Saturday at Perrin Brewing for the Backyard Bash (with Jake Kershaw, The Hacky Turtles, Hollywood Makeout, Kosmic Mama & The Holding Co.)
What Stands Out: “White Hot Light” is a musical DeLorean and Boy from School is Marty McFly steering the metal time machine through a tunnel of colors and textures. Groovadelic bass riffs and dream-washed synth riffs abound in “Split.” Other highlights include “Persuasion,” a dead ringer for your favorite ‘80s song but made in 2019, and “Believe,” a beautifully composed indie-rock tune with a catchy chorus.
Digging Deeper: Though “White Hot Light” aims for (and accomplishes) a lush, throwback sound, a few unexpected musical pieces include an acoustic guitar intro and a busy tapestry of auxiliary percussion – which aren’t unwelcome but can be distracting from the otherwise wonderfully creative and transportive album.
Perfect for: Surfing the ocean, surfing through time, and surfing your mind … or the Internet, too. – Ricky Olmos
What Stands Out: Beautifully poignant and honest, this EP from Kalamazoo-based cellist and songwriter Jordan Hamilton shines from start to finish with soulful luster and beautifully crafted songs, often touching on the hardships and experiences that people, especially of color, live with every moment in today’s America. A classically trained musician at heart, Hamilton applies a technical mastery over his cello and often pairs it with a charming and unassuming vocal and lyrical approach to his songs that would win the heart of even the pickiest of music lovers, regardless of genre preference.
Digging Deeper: The seven-track album often defies expectations of what the classically based musician has come to offer up at live shows, with a host of talented collaborators and an in-depth, refreshing exploration into more hip hop, R&B and soul-fueled beats and samples conjoined with his original material. “My Thoughts Are” is an absolute triumph from this well-loved Michigan performer and collaborator and our only wish is to see more music from this talented artist soon.
Perfect For: Fans of “The Miseducation Of Lauryn Hill,” jazz bassist Esperanza Spalding, Wu Tang Clan and delightful walks around your community. – Megan Dooley
Upcoming Shows: Sept. 22 on the Market Stage at Earthwork Harvest Gathering outside Lake City; Sept. 28 at Founder’s Brewing Co. in Grand Rapids
Listen: “Rat Race” (feat. Jay Jackson)
What Stands Out: Written with love for the downtrodden and dedicated to having a good time, this album is awash with tastefully layered guitars, bass, drums and no shortage of technical prowess. With a sharp focus on the tight instrumental work of these diversely talented players, and a refreshingly loose penchant for proper theatrics, this album was a blast to listen to from start to finish. The 10-track EP is often whimsical while simultaneously exploring serious themes atop ever-present and richly textured guitars. With standout tracks pushing driving rhythms, like the fun and sexy “Ain’t No Rockefeller” and day-banger “Waterlily,” it’s clear these guys have the chops to tackle nearly any genre, and listeners will have an easy time hearing just how much this group loves playing music together.
Digging Deeper: This sophomore release from the recent trio-turned-quartet tosses all convention out the window and often leaves you with a smile on your face. The only downside with the overall mix was a lack of bass volume. With all those tasty licks we craved more.
Perfect for: Fans of Frank Zappa, Supergrass, The Strokes, jazz rock fusion and forgetting about the bourgeoisie hell that most poverty-stricken workers live with every day. – Megan Dooley
Upcoming Shows: 8 p.m. Friday (Sept. 13) at Shakespeare’s Lower Level in Kalamazoo
Listen: “Ain’t No Rockefeller”
What Stands Out: The second recording from Kalamazoo classic/indie-rock outfit FlyLiteGemini explores themes that every good rock album should: love unrequited, stories from the road, the labors of playing music for a living, and even a ballad about California. Led by Joe Chamberlin, the 15-track album also features writing contributions from drummer Sam Rice (who also shares lead vocals on a couple of tracks as well as harmonies throughout), and oozes a solid classic rock setup and execution, with organ, bass, rhythm and lead guitar, drums and vocals. Each guitar riff and solo is carefully constructed to complement the melody and rhythm section, and these catchy originals have a serious feel-good vibe backing up each track. (The album also contains a cover of a Jimi Hendrix tune, “May This Be Love.”)
Digging Deeper: Although Chamberlin wouldn’t necessarily be considered the most versatile of rock vocalists, he lays out impressive harmony on almost every track and really stands out when he lets loose on songs like “Mountains Rise” and “Going Down.” Would have really loved to hear more bass presence on this album, too.
Perfect For: Fans of Dispatch, soulful folk and driving to the beach or a music festival on a steamy summer’s eve with the windows all the way down. – Megan Dooley
Upcoming Shows: 8 p.m. Friday at Final Gravity Brewing Co. in Kalamazoo
Listen: “Bigger on the Inside”
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