As always, the annual flood of new music can be overwhelming. But Local Spins writers have sifted through these releases to make their picks for best albums and songs of the year. Enjoy.
So 2021 ended up being the year that live music came back … sort of.
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As the year draws to a close, new concerns about COVID and the Omicron variant have injected fresh anxiety into touring and the entertainment industry as as whole, though there are still hopes that 2022 might finally see things turn the corner.
But nothing could keep artists — internationally, nationally and locally — from unleashing new singles, EPs and albums, from the likes of Silk Sonic, Lil Nas X and Japanese Breakfast to Halsey, Kaleo and The War on Drugs, all mentioned in some manner or form on “best of” lists by Local Spins’ talented crew of writers.
In my own case, it was difficult to look past remarkable new recordings by Michigan-bred artists with a national following such as Lord Huron (“Long Lost”), Billy Strings (“Renewal”), The Accidentals (“Vessel”) and The Verve Pipe (“Threads), though Robert Plant & Alison Krauss’ much-ballyhooed return with “Raise the Roof,” The Black Keys’ tribute to seminal blues artists with “Delta Kream” and Modest Mouse’s “The Golden Casket” all earned a lot of my attention and ardor.
What about you? Email us your picks for favorite albums or songs of 2021 to email@example.com with “BEST MUSIC” in the message field by Wednesday (Dec. 22), and we’ll post the best of these “best of” lists at Local Spins.’
Without further adieu, here are this year’s critics’ picks …
THE WRITERS’ PICKS: BEST MUSIC OF 2021NICK MORAN (Local Spins writer)
1. “An Evening with Silk Sonic,” Silk Sonic (Bruno Mars, Anderson .Paak) — Bruno Mars and Anderson .Paak are a match made in heaven, and their approach to this old school R&B album is flawless. The album embodies chintzy animal skin rugs, fireplaces and strong cologne, but walks a fine line between being true-to-form and contemporary. Silk Sonic masters slick, suave instrumentation and the duo bring powerful vocal performances from the dramatic hit “Leave the Door Open” to the funk-laden bop “Fly as Me.” The something-for-everyone approach slides past cheesy charm and soaks in straight-up style.
2. “Yasuke,” Flying Lotus — Flying Lotus’ “Yasuke” was far and away the best thing to come out of the Netflix series of the same name. The album’s complex, swirling soundscapes create musical foliage out thin air and suck you in. Between a sublime Denzel Curry feature and an entourage of Asian-inspired stylings, the album is riddled with moments that leave you in awe at Lotus’ range and creativity.
3. “if i could make it go quiet,” girl in red –Of all of the songs on this list, “if i could make it go quiet” seems to most strongly embody the confusing chaos it was born into. Each track bounces around a pandemic-era room where each wall has its own theme: mental health, love, sense of self and beyond. The work is obviously therapeutic for the indie pop singer-songwriter, but between dynamic production and instrumentation that sets dreamscape backdrops, it’s easy to latch on to.
4. “Shelley FKA DRAM,” Shelley — As an artist, Shelley has come a long way from his playful roots as under his alias “DRAM.” His 2021 album steps away from the go-green anthems “Broccoli” and “Cash Machine” and blossoms into maturity. While sensitive, seductive singles in “>“Exposure” and “The Lay Down” set a very different tone, the album is packed with surprisingly stunning tracks, like Shelley’s cover of Daft Punk’s robotic love song, “Something About Us.”
5. “Talk Memory,” BadBadNotGood — “Talk Memory” is a blaring conflagration of emotion stuck between BadBadNotGood’s fundamentally jazzy stylings and the group’s desire to explore the extreme. The album’s two highest points — “>opening track “Signal from the Noise” and the melodic “Beside April” — contrast fiery, confusing rage with passionate serenity. Each track feels like both a risk and a release, and every time it pays off.
BEST LOCAL RELEASE: Lipstick Jodi, “More Like Me” — “More Like Me” is unapologetic through and through. A total departure from Lipstick Jodi’s debut album, it pins the spotlight on passionate vocals and wields lush, vibrant sounds like a neon paintbrush to piece together ever-developing tracks. There’s a lot to love in the complexity of “More Like Me,” and with any luck, there will be far more to come.
FAVORITE CONCERT: Noveliss, Ajax Stacks and DJ Adrian Butler @ Studio Park (June 10) — While Studio Park brought exceptional talent to the venue in 2021, few seemed to bring as much raw energy as Noveliss, Ajax Stacks and DJ Adrian Butler. Returning to his roots, Stacks was not prepared to lose anyone’s attention, even making his way up to one of the overlooking balconies to perform alongside raving friends and fans. Noveliss converted the hype into a personal, seamless flow as he worked his way across the stage and into the crowd. Touching interludes from the artists and power-packed tracks set a high bar as live music returned to West Michigan. (View a concert recap and photo gallery at Local Spins here.)
TRICIA BOOT WOOLFENDEN (Local Spins writer)
My picks for best songs of 2021.
1. Bo Burnham, “All Eyes on Me” from “Inside (The Songs)” — Song-based comedian/viral sensation Burnham’s masterful Netflix special “Inside” has been analyzed–and often deified–to an almost exhaustive extent since its early-summer release. For weeks, the internet demonstrated an insatiable lust to dissect and decode the many thematic elements (the pandemic, mass shootings, climate change, accountability, consumerism, late-stage capitalism, loneliness, depression, anxiety, digital dependency, existential dread, Jeffrey Bezos) as well as the creator’s state of well-being and considerable height. Sometimes lost in those conversations is mention that the songs are really quite good. The harmonization on “White Woman’s Instagram”? Forget about it. “Bezos I”? A bop. But Burnham saves some of his most incisive artistry for late in the special, when an artificial crowd responds with fake enthusiasm to his distorted voice delivering some brutal honesty: “You say the ocean’s rising, like I give a shit/You say the whole world’s ending, honey, it already did/You’re not going to slow it, heaven knows you tried/Got it? Good, now get inside.” Don’t end 2021 without watching one of the most surprising musical moments of the year.
2. TORRES, “Don’t Go Puttin Wishes in My Head” from “Thirstier” — Singer-songwriter Mackenzie Scott, who performs under the name TORRES, wowed with 2020’s “Silver Tongue,” only to return this year with a phenomenal follow-up album. This track is the work’s crowning piece–equal turns uplifting and soul crushing.
3. Sharon Van Etten and Angel Olsen, “Like I Used To” single — What is the minimum number of artists required to form a supergroup? If this glimmering, infectious gem is any indication, two is MORE than sufficient. Also, who should one petition to require these two iconic musicians to team up at least once annually?
4. Japanese Breakfast, “Paprika” from “Jubilee” — While “Be Sweet” may be the popular pick from the band’s latest effort, I am endlessly drawn to the playful way this track spirals and descends in its cyclical dance.
5. Lil Nas X, “Montero (Call Me By Your Name)” from Montero — Given its brevity, this banger covers a lot of musical ground and landed a fairly substantial pop culture impact–just look back at the firestorm the hugely successful single (and in particular, its accompanying music video) ignited when it was released in March. An earworm with a little bit of sweetness and a whole lot of bite.
HONORABLE MENTIONS: Damien Jurado, “Johnny Caravella;” James Blake, “Say What You Will;” Wolf Alice, “How Can I Make it OK?;” Sleigh Bells, “Locust Laced;” Seratones, “Dark Matter;” The Weeknd, “Take My Breath;” Lazy Genius, “That Feelin'”
FAVORITE CONCERT: Trombone Shorty at Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park, Sept. 1 — The New Orleans artist’s effusive jazz/funk/soul/pop sound and high-octane spirit never fail to strike a chord with a crowd. That was especially true this year, where the party-like atmosphere served as a catharsis for an audience still warming up to a world where live music once again was a possibility. Read the Local Spins review and browse the photo gallery: Trombone Shorty keeps Grand Rapids crowd on its feet for entirety of jubilant return
TROY REIMINK (Local Spins writer)
1. Deafheaven, “Infinite Granite” – Deafheaven’s fifth album, “Infinite Granite,” completes the San Francisco band’s journey from “black metal act that dabbles in shoegaze” to more or less the polar reverse of that. Whatever credibility this has cost Deafheaven within their native genre is a more than worthwhile trade-off for those of us who identify as metal-curious but never looked good in corpse paint, and anyhow are mostly just chasing the high of our brain’s first encounter with My Bloody Valentine. The chiming guitars, swirling atmospherics and frontman George Clarke’s transition to mostly clean singing all befit a band of Deafheaven’s evolving dynamic complexity, which also turns those lacerating noise-hurricanes into bigger payoffs when they do arrive.
2. serpentwithfeet, “DEACON” – Nobody in 2021 sang a hotter love song than serpentwithfeet’s “Same Size Shoe,” whose pleasures are countless: the sly queer positivity (“Me and my boo wear the same size shoe”), its melodic effervescence, the way its spare production drizzles honey all over the murky, downbeat textures that have defined R&B for so much of the last decade. Doesn’t hurt that the full experience of “DEACON,” the second full-length from the singer-songwriter born Josiah Wise, makes a better argument for the sexiness of domesticity than anybody since probably Al Green.
3. Aeon Station, “Observatory”– Aeon Station is the mostly solo project of Kevin Whelan, known to indie rock fans of a certain age as half the creative horsepower behind the Wrens, who in 2003 released the midlife-crisis masterpiece “The Meadowlands” and then mostly went quiet. Years went by with no sign of an oft-rumored follow up (which I’d call the indie “Chinese Democracy” if the Wrens hadn’t already long ago exceeded that famous gap in the Guns N Roses discography). But earlier this fall, Whelan announced he and band co-leader Charles Bissel had parted ways following understandable professional and creative differences prompted by the wait. So “Observatory” collects the songs Whelan contributed to the would-be Wrens release along with newer material, and…it’s actually fantastic. “Observatory” resembles “Meadowlands” in structure and theme, only wearied by the extra two decades of life, but still thrilling, anthemic, somber and expertly crafted. Turns out half a Wrens album is better than almost anything else I heard this year.
4. The War on Drugs, “I Don’t Live Here Anymore” – The fifth and best album by Adam Granduciel and company burrows ever deeper into the cursed, dreamy ennui of Reagan-era heartland rock and, with the title track, delivers the rewrite of Don Henley’s “Boys of Summer” this decade demanded, with a knife-twist conclusion that’s both devastating and inevitable: “We’re all just walking through this darkness on our own.”
5. Low, “HEY WHAT” – Alan Sparhawk and Mimi Parker have spent the last quarter-century crafting records that were too glacial for ’90s alt-rock radio and too abstract to ride the mainstream-indie wave of the 2000s. But the midcareer forward leap that began with 2015’s “Ones and Sixes” is less a case of them catching up with trends than the other way around. On the duo’s 13th album, returning producer BJ Burton, best known for masterminding Bon Iver’s groundbreaking “22, A Million,” applies similar deconstructive dissonance to Low’s trademark “slowcore” and basically discovers a new subgenre in the process — something beautiful, fragile, hymn-like, intimate, noisy and confrontational…but mainly just beautiful.
HONORABLE MENTIONS: Adjy, “The Idyll Opus (I-VI)”; The World Is a Beautiful Place and I Am No Longer Afraid to Die, “Illusory Walls”; Vince Staples, “Vince Staples”; Lucy Dacus, “Home Video”; Turnstile, “GLOW ON”; Tyler, the Creator, “Call Me If You Get Lost”; Little Simz, “Sometimes I Might Be Introvert”; Nick Cave & Warren Ellis, “Carnage”; Leon Bridges, “Gold-Diggers Sound”
FAVORITE LOCAL RELEASE: Lazy Genius, “Procession” — “Procession” is a fitting title for the latest release from an act that has patiently and diligently built a richer catalog than any active Grand Rapids band I can think of. Here, the six-piece headed up by Patrick Wieland chisels its walls of sound down to their textural essence and unearths a sparkling collection of pop hooks.
JENNIFER BARTLETT (Local Spins writer, lead singer for Lokella)
1. Thrice, “Horizons / East” – In the past decade or two, modern rock has seemed to suffocate under the pressure (and sales) of electronic, pop and hip hop. While many of us have not given up on the genre, finding new guitar grit to grab onto has felt like pouring sand into a sieve. So this year, when attending Riot Fest in Chicago, I was hoping to be reenergized and no doubt about it, I was as soon as they took the stage that weekend. Since catching my ears in 2004, as it turns out, Thrice never did stop churning out album after gripping album. This 2021 release was no different but simultaneously, a tremendous growth for the band all the same. While singer/guitarist Dustin Kensrue’s voice now showcases a more gravely, rich tone from the band’s early days, his lyrical content clenches the soul in the most pleasing, painful way. This album is so good, it hurts.
2. Hayley Williams, “Flowers for Vases/Descansos” – Famous for her main character role in pop-punk outfit Paramore, this ball of fire stretched her wings and did something in 2020 no one expected: release a solo album and call it “Petals for Armor” (arguably the best thing to come out of that ratchet year.) Then in 2021, she dropped another bomb on her beloved fans with this follow up album, a prequel to the former. This time, she flexed her talent by writing for and playing every instrument on the album in the isolation of the pandemic. Quite the departure from the bouncy, feisty side that Paramore’s followers continue to dote on, she shows her vulnerability in a more pastel, folk-inspired singer/songwriter record that pulls at the heartstrings of anyone who spins it.
3. Halsey, “If I Can’t Have Love, I Want Power” – I have to admit that I probably would not have given this album a shot upon listening to the lead single “I Am Not a Woman, I’m a God.” While I can certainly appreciate the lyrical content, the feel of the song is one of my least favorite on the album. It wasn’t until a few friends pushed me to listen to the body of work top to bottom, convincing me entirely with the words “produced by Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross of Nine Inch Nails.” So I started from track one, “The Tradition”: a tormented, emotionally driven boulder of a song that leads directly into another cinematic, dark and industrial-influenced number that starts to reveal the NIN mastery so many of us know and love.
4. Leon Bridges, “Gold Diggers Sound” – Upon first listen, I was immediately thrown back into reverie of my youth when my speakers were filled with Sade and various 90’s R&B artists. Though reminiscent, the sound feels modern and innovative while showing the utmost respect to Leon’s predecessors. As his third studio album, the sound has shifted unexpectedly from the vintage 60’s sounds of his debut album, now showing off more layers of his multifaceted talent. A favorite track of mine from the album is a simmering, slow burner called “Why Don’t You Touch Me” that leaves this bleeding heart on the floor each time I hit replay.
5. Steven Wilson, “The Future Bites” – This British musician grabbed me by the neck when I first discovered his debut solo album Insurgentes in 2009. From that album, the deeply disturbing, cinematic video for the equally spine-chilling track “Harmony Korine” still rotates heavily on my music video playlist. So upon the release of “The Future Bites” in 2021, Wilson’s sixth studio album, I was chomping at the bit to dive into it. I was not disappointed. This progressive, gloomy synth-pop collection bares its teeth and speaks to themes of gross consumerism and dystopia but if you listen closely, beyond the sharp edges you may be surprised to hear whispers of optimism.
LOCAL ALBUM OF THE YEAR: Amoura, “Blue Mind” – While Grand Rapids may not have an abundance of heavy bands who are currently active, Amoura continues to hold their own and show incredible growth with their catchy, melody-driven metal tunes. Thoughtfully placing soothing clean vocals against abrasive screams, the instruments also oscillate between euphonic grace and earth-shaking intensity. This album cuts, bleeds and breathes softness just when you need it to.
FAVORITE CONCERT OF THE YEAR: Badflower, GLC Live, Oct. 1 – While on tour for their 2021 album, “This Is How The World Ends,” this Los Angeles rock band made a stop in GR at the venue formerly known as 20 Monroe. The album almost made my top 5 favorite releases of 2021 but missed by a very slight margin. Their live show, however, would definitely place them high in my list of favorite performances. The band seamlessly emits a constant flow of energy on stage keeping the crowd engaged and infatuated. Vocalist and guitarist Josh Katz reels you in with a soft vulnerability and then punches you in the gut with vigor and for some reason, you ask for it again and again and again.
ROSS BOISSONEAU (Local Spins writer)
1. Brian Bromberg, “A Little Driving Music” – Bromberg’s bass – actually multiple basses – jump out of the opening “Froggy’s” with such gusto and joie de vivre they practically force your feet to start moving. The bubbling bass line, his lead piccolo bass and the responding horns make this bouncy tune irresistible. Repeated listens reveal even more, such as the slinky bari sax in the background. Does the rest of the album stand up to this blast of jazzy funk? Not quite, but it’s not that it is in any way mediocre. It’s just that “Froggy’s” rocks and funks so hard that it’s tough to top or even match. But Bromberg tries, with vibes helping out on “That Cool Groovy Beatnik Jazz,” a trip to the Caribbean on “Bado Boy,” even an instrumental take of Katrina and the Waves’ “Walking on Sunshine.” Best bets other than “Froggy’s” are the title track and “Jedidiah’s Gold!”
2. Steve Hackett, “Under a Mediterranean Sky” – The six-string maestro put out two fine albums this year. Rather than go for the obvious, another prog tour de force in “Surrender of Silence,” I’m opting for the more acoustic-oriented “Under A Mediterranean Sky.” It showcases Hackett’s mastery of all forms, from classical (“Scarlati Sonata”) to orchestral (“Casa del Fauno”) to world music (“Sirocco,” “The Dervish and the Djin”). It may not rock like “Surrender” and his playing can be delicate, as on “The Call of the Sea,” but it’s stirring throughout.
3. Larry Carlton and Paul Brown, “Soul Searchin’” – The twin guitars of two of contemporary jazz’s busiest and best axe slingers are full of smooth and lively playing. Carlton was a mainstay of the Crusaders and Fourplay, as well as maintaining a solo career and studio time (that’s his guitar on Steely Dan’s “Aja” and “Black Cow”). Brown started off as a drummer, evolved into an engineer and won two Grammy awards as a producer before becoming a popular guitarist and performer in his own right. On their first album together, they complement one another so effortlessly it sounds like they’ve been a duo for years. The hit high notes on the atmospheric jazz of “Miles and Miles To Go,” the bluesy swing of “Stomp” and “Gone Fishin’” and the slow groove of “Blue Skies.” A delight throughout.
4. The BBB featuring Bernie Dresel, “The Pugilist” – Bernie Dresel has pounded the skins for Gordon Goodwin’s Big Phat Band and the Brian Setzer Orchestra. This disc shows the influence of both with its heavy beat, emphatic licks and impeccable playing. “Lulu’s Back in Town” is a rousing ride by the trombones before trumpet and sax solo over a simple groove. With material by Gershwin, Cole Porter, Miles Davis and Frank Zappa alongside originals, you’ll say “Don’t Stop Till You Get Enough.” Yep, that Michael Jackson tune is here too, and like everything else it swings and zings.
5. Alan Parsons, “The NeverEnding Show” – Engineer, producer and songwriter Alan Parsons crafted a number of concept albums under the Alan Parsons Project moniker before taking the show on the road in 2003. This recording is from a show May 5, 2019 in the Netherlands. His eight-piece band nicely captures the spirit of his material, from ballads (“Time”) to mid-tempo rockers (“Breakdown”) and the propulsive beat of “I Wouldn’t Want to Be Like You” and “Games People Play.” You can quibble with the fact it’s lacking original vocalists Colin Blunstone, the late John Miles or Lenny Zakatek, but then you hear the bubbling synths of “I Robot” and it doesn’t matter.
HONORABLE MENTION: Gabor Lesko, “Earthway” – You could call this zesty recording by the Hungarian guitarist and keyboardist fusion, but that’s missing the point. Melodic and engaging throughout, with heavyweight guests including Dave Weckl, Jimmy Haslip and Eric Marienthal.
Fabia Mantwill, “EM.PERIENCE” – A really big band, with strings, harp, guitar and woodwinds joining the traditional big band instrumentation. Mantwill herself sings, plays saxophone and wrote and orchestrated the tunes, which meld classical, jazz, folk and more.
FAVORITE CONCERT – King Crimson, Meadowbrook, Aug. 28 – After nearly 50 years as a fan, I finally got to experience King Crimson live. More’s the pity it didn’t happen sooner, as the various versions of this virtuoso band had different personalities and strengths. That said, this conglomeration featuring a front line of three drummers(!) has to be heard live to be believed. The septuagenarians in this band – Tony Levin and Robert Fripp are both 75 and Mel Collins is 74 – rock as hard as they ever have. For that matter, so do the kids (the rest of the band varies from 54 to 66). The roar of the seven-headed beast is amazing. Classics like “In the Court of the Crimson King” and “21st Century Schizoid Man” were fine, but the highlights for me were “Larks Tongues In Aspic Part Two” and “Starless,” while the most engaging musicians were Levin and Collins. The former’s virtuoso bass playing was complemented by his work on electric stick (R.I.P. Emmet Chapman), while Collins effortlessly switched among soprano, alto, tenor and baritone sax and flute, often on the same piece. His bari playing in particular brought a new dimension to the proceedings. Jakko Jakszyk’s vocals were spot on, providing an engaging contrast to those of his forbears. The bad news? This is possibly the last U.S. tour by the greatest prog band ever. The good news? The live recording “Music Is Our Friend” from the tour has just been released. HONORABLE MENTION: Though I saw Chicago at Interlochen, a concert at Bay View in Petoskey a month earlier by the Chicago tribute band Brass Transit eclipsed the original. The former wasn’t helped by the murky mix, which obscured the vocals. Brass Transit’s sound, by contrast, was bright and full.
MATT MARN (Local Spins writer)
1. Christone “Kingfish” Ingram, “662” – A fantastic follow-up from his debut album, “Kingfish,” Ingram keeps the high-impact blues rock blazing once more. Track after track, his energy adds to the shot of life of the blues music genre from him and other fantastic performers working to keep the blues legacy strong. And much like his prior album release, “662” is not only a tribute to the genre, but also the area he grew up in, where he embraced his calling as a blues performer (right down to the 662 area code serving as the album title). Ingram adds to the area’s rich blues history, including being the hometown of iconic bluesman Robert Johnson himself. He tore the roof off of the Pyramid Scheme in Grand Rapids, a mere days before the pandemic lockdown began in 2020. I had the pleasure of being at the show, as my final pre-pandemic concert. And now, I look forward to the chance to see him again soon.
2. KALEO, “Surface Sounds” – This rock band from Reykjavík, Iceland, holds another special spot for me. A few years ago, my wife got the chance to go on a once-in-a-lifetime trip to Iceland… right at the same time I discovered KALEO through their debut album, “A/B.” And I also got to see the group live when they came to Grand Rapids a couple of years ago. The show was amazing, and the crowd hung on every note. So rest assured, when they finally released their anticipated second album, “Surface Sounds,” I was spinning it all from day one. Their high-energy rock is back for more and with different tones to many of the songs – some heartfelt, some uptempo, even including a humorous tune about a misunderstanding in Mexico (“Hey Gringo”). They also bring a versatility in tone to the tracks: a few softer songs, as well as several louder, more up-tempo tracks in the mix, also. Check out one of their videos here.
3. Buffalo Nichols, “Buffalo Nichols” – The rootsy blues on display throughout the debut solo release by Carl “Buffalo” Nichols drips with emotion and powerful, heartfelt songwriting. This new addition to the genre has plenty of aged, weary spirit within the tracks. Nichols has experience performing in churches, bars, and everything in between, and you can hear plenty of that wide range of experience in his album. From electric guitar hum to twangy steel resonator licks, Nichols comes at his emotions from plenty of fresh angles.
Watch: Buffalo Nichols – Lost & Lonesome (Live in Mississippi)
4. Langhorne Slim, “Strawberry Mansion” – The title track from singer-songwriter Langhorne Slim’s 2021 album, “Strawberry Mansion,” is an instrumental interlude. Which seems ironic, based on the fact that throughout the rest of the 22 tracks on the album, he has so many powerful, moving things to say. In the last several years, he has overcome so much, including working through a struggle with addiction, as well as a natural disaster hitting his hometown neighborhood, not to mention a global pandemic. Despite all this, his songs (such as “Morning Prayer”) reflect a positive message of encouragement – that no matter what struggles you face, you are not alone, and you can do this. He has the courage to give voices to the mental health battles so many of us face. The lyrics also encourage everyone to show that same compassion and support for others around them, because community is the biggest part of what will get us through these hard times.
BEST LOCAL ALBUM: Patty PerShayla & The Mayhaps, “Cheap Diction” – I love two things about this album, and ironically, they couldn’t be more different from each other. First is the crazy, fun, versatile styles of music on display from the group. Even before the pandemic, I enjoyed PerShayla’s music, as she had enjoyed success with her debut solo album – a more acoustic bundle of tunes, including a cover of a classic. But come the 2020 Jammie Awards event, she has already changed her tone, forming a band and growing a harder rock vibe for the set. On “Cheap Diction,” PerShayla and the rest of her outstanding crew unleash their full arsenal of stylings. From upbeat, harder rock tracks like “Get My Good Side” and “Borders,” to a softer, more lyrically introspective “White Ink,” to the slow, sultry blues tone of “Slo Mo,” the group has something fantastic for all of your various tonal taste buds. But I also love the spirit, the attitude, of the album. Staying true to yourself. Unapologetically so. It is what it is. Take it and love it, or get out of the way.
FAVORITE CONCERT: Larkin Poe, Fountain Street Church, Oct. 30 – This sister-fronted group brought the blues rock fire to Fountain Street Church one Saturday in October that I will never forget. I have been following Larkin Poe for years, and the second I heard they were stopping in Grand Rapids, I cleared the night. This was actually my first concert at Fountain Street Church, and it was a great way to start the streak. The group had the crowd up and cheering the entire night, playing a fantastic mix of originals and covers paying tribute to blues icons like Son House and Robert Johnson. How appropriate to play amazing songs from a genre so full of emotion in such a hallowed place. To quote a lyric of theirs, the sister duo of Rebecca and Megan Lovell ‘preached these blues’ with the very best of them. I can certainly testify. Read the Local Spins review and browse the photo gallery: Larkin Poe ignites Fountain Street Church with Southern-fried blues-rock gospel
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