As Thanksgiving approaches, Local Spins unfurls its takes on a half-dozen new releases by artists from across Michigan, covering Americana, hip hop, folk, jazz and electronic music.
Local Spins is always thankful for new Michigan music, especially as the year-end approaches.
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It’s not only the perfect time to look back at highlights created by the state’s talented artists, but a chance to showcase fresh releases just in time for holiday shopping and final 2024 appearances by regional bands, including Roosevelt Diggs, which plays the special, night-before-Thanksgiving soiree for Local Spins Wednesdays at SpeakEZ Lounge.
Check out this week’s pre-Thanksgiving flurry, with more to come. And revisit past Local Spins album reviews online here.
What Stands Out: Sporting a number of different genre influences, Roosevelt Diggs keeps listeners guessing which one will take the lead on each track from the West Michigan Americana-hued band’s newest release. From the rock ‘n’ roll energy of “Quarter Past Four,” to the bluegrass instrumentals in “I Am Everything,” to the banjo-driven folk tune, “I’ll Find You,” the band’s seamless vocal harmonies and unique raspy vocal tones tie them all together as a cohesive collection.
Digging Deeper: Roosevelt Diggs has been a long-time favorite at music festivals all over the state of Michigan and, judging by the enthusiastic crowd at the “Reverie” album-release show, fans have been eagerly awaiting this release since the band’s 2018 album, “Better Days.” Songwriters Levi and Logan Duddles took the meaning of the title “Reverie” to heart – “a state of being pleasantly lost in one’s thoughts” – and dug deep into their personal experiences to create an overall message of positivity and making the best of things. The album closes with the lighthearted track, “Alcohol,” a song that will surely become a fun sing-along moment for the crowd at live shows.
Perfect For: Relaxing at a music festival on a sunny afternoon (or longing for the return of festival season all winter). – Holly Holtzclaw
Upcoming Shows: 7:30 p.m. Wednesday (Nov. 22) at SpeakEZ Lounge in Grand Rapids; Jan. 13 at The Intersection in Grand Rapids for Winter Wheat; Jan. 19 at Park Theatre in Holland with The Silver Creek Revival
Listen: “Morning Coffee”
“T.A.P.E. (To All People Evolving)”
What Stands Out: Honing his craft as a storyteller, prominent Grand Rapids-bred hip-hop artist J.Rob returns with “T.A.P.E. (To All People Evolving),” a record that effortlessly flows from the jump. The production is noticeably elevated from his last project, thanks to the platinum-selling talents of producer V12 The Hitman (Rick Ross, Nipsey Hussle, Curren$y, Lil Wayne), who smartly showcases J.Rob’s masterful flow. The blending of modern and classic hip-hop textures yields such fertile ground for artistry to flourish, and it grows delightfully with each passing listen.
Digging Deeper: Hip Hop is founded on collaborations, from the DJ’d block parties of its origins to the current climate of influential artists on the scene. Now based in San Antonio, Texas, but with a solid fan base back in his home state, J.Rob sits in an exciting position career-wise by being able to enlist nationally recognized production talents to not only elevate their own status, but those who have also been grinding like Lady Ace Boogie, Joey Barnes and the Billboard charting Callab. With five well-crafted tracks, this release definitely warrants an immediate follow-up listen to allow each track to evolve your perception of J.Rob’s artistry.
Perfect For: Anyone looking to steep themselves in a record dripping with atmosphere and artistry. – Dutcher Snedeker
Listen: “Goals” (feat. Lady Ace Boogie)
What Stands Out: Izubel’s first full-length release comes at a time when the music industry has finally begun to celebrate young women telling their stories and expressing themselves unapologetically. At only 16 years old, Izubel presents a look into the teen girl experience with brutal honesty that few are brave enough to express. “Genuine” covers topics of anxiety, insecurity and the pressures of social media. And while Izubel writes about these topics through the eyes of a teenager, the sentiments behind the songs can be relatable to anyone.
Digging Deeper: “Genuine” features an impressive lineup of Michigan musicians: Justin Dore, Michael Shimmin, Joe Hettinga, Cole Hansen and Max Lockwood. Lockwood and Hettinga also co-produced the album alongside Izubel. With her effortless lyrical flow and interesting phrasing, Izubel has crafted an indie-rock sound that complements her songwriting style. Izubel’s songwriting especially shines on “Growing Pains,” a track about growing apart from someone, which showcases the care and delicacy with which she handles emotional topics.
Perfect For: Venting in your journal and brainstorming your own songwriting ideas. – Holly Holtzclaw
Listen: “Growing Pains”
“Along the Way”
What Stands Out: From choral and jazz vocal student to Interim Professor of Voice at Western Michigan University, Liz Townsend has proven her talents on and off stage in spades. These talents can be heard prominently on her recently released record, “Along The Way,” a collection of classic jazz standards beautifully arranged with her host of collaborators. Nestled in these iconic pieces are some original compositions, including the title track, “Along The Way” and “I Choose to Be Happy.” Each tune is a wonderful escape from life’s manic, day-to-day fervor in favor of quiet afternoons on the porch or a rainy day with a cup of chamomile tea.
Digging Deeper: The quality of this recording cannot be understated, both in the arrangements themselves and the recordings captured at La Luna Recording & Sound by Ian Gorman and Sam Peters, with Sophia Smith assisting. Fans of the West Michigan jazz scene will recognize keyboardist Grayson Nye (Fake Baseball, Last Gasp, Jordan Hamilton & The Lasso), guitarist Ben Crino (formerly of Minor Element, Masters student at NIU), Carlo DeRosa (Jazz Bass Faculty at WMU and seasoned professional jazz bassist), Drew Deur (recent WMU graduate), and saxophonist Jace Frederick (current WMU student). Having such a diverse range of talent, from current college students to nationally recognized professionals, provides a quality listening experience that informs each note played and character embodied by Townsend’s stellar singing. From the moment you start this record, the listener is treated to an intimate jazz concert experience. (Support for this album was provided by the Kalamazoo Artistic Development Initiative, a program of the Arts Council of Greater Kalamazoo.)
Perfect For: A quiet night with good company, great cocktails, and an attentive ear. – Dutcher Snedeker
Listen: “Crazy He Calls Me”
“Between You & Me”
What Stands Out: The title track sets the scene for “Between You & Me” with an explanation of the album’s concept. West Michigan singer-songwriter Jon Hayes explains in a description of the project that these songs encompass the things he has held onto for too long and can be scary to express out loud. Understated, almost ambient at times, instrumentals accompany Hayes’ soulful, sincere voice, allowing the lyrics to be the center of attention. The album’s themes include anxiety about the passing of time, healing from past experiences and finding solace through prayer.
Digging Deeper: One of the most interesting moments on the album comes from the sequence of “Open Wound” followed by a short track titled “Pt. 2.” “Open Wound” addresses the slow, painful process of healing and how hopeless it can feel, but transitions immediately into the next track, which features some of the same lyrics with a much more upbeat instrumental. “Pt. 2” seems to symbolize that, although the healing process can feel slow and static, each day is progress and healing is not something that can be accomplished alone. Via “Between You & Me,” Hayes aims to inspire others to sort through their own unspoken thoughts.
Perfect For: Providing comfort and reassurance on your healing journey, no matter what it may look like. – Holly Holtzclaw
Listen: “Between You & Me”
“Eyes Wide Open”
What Stands Out: Detroit electronic artist Peekaboo unfurls a hypnotic listening experience that will, somewhat ironically, have you closing your eyes and vibing from start to finish. Dark, ethereally cinematic textures flow into more upbeat dance numbers that showcase a range of influences and styles beyond the more recognized artists such as Zeds Dead and Skrillex who appear on the collection. One moment you’ll hear a quote from a classic film that precedes a track tossing in sound effects from Super Smash Brothers, so beyond just taking in the music, you’re treated to a well-crafted stew filled with chunky bits of media and flipped vocals.
Digging Deeper: Even if you’re a casual listener of electronic music, the listening experience on this record offers some great moments that don’t require you to be in front of a festival-sized subwoofer to feel. The gritty synths against the powerful sub bass give a wide sonic range to explore, with each track thematically layered with dissonant harmonies, disjointed rhythmic punctuations, and off-kilter samples to really cement an arch to the full album.
Perfect For: Those who don’t mind exploring something different that strings you along with choice nuggets from track to track. – Dutcher Snedeker
Upcoming Shows: Dec. 15 at Crofoot Ballrom in Detroit; March 16 at The Intersection in Grand Rapids
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