In 2023, Local Spins asked readers a ‘Question of the Week’ about favorites in a lot of categories. Here are the top questions & responses. Plus, we’ve got fresh year-end queries that could score you a gift.
Before we jump into the past, let’s pose some fresh questions for Local Spins readers to close out 2023.
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West Michigan's music scene
What was the best concert of the year?
What was the best album or song of the year?
And, finally: In your view, the music of which artists from the rock ’n’ roll era (1950s through 2023) will still be played and revered 100 years from now?
Email your responses to firstname.lastname@example.org by Nov. 27 and your name will be placed in a drawing for a Local Spins gift pack that includes concert tickets and Local Spins merch.
OK, now it’s time to recap the “Questions of the Week” from 2023 that have produced the most robust responses from readers. Due to sheer numbers, we’ve chosen a dozen reader responses for each question with a link to more.
WHO’S YOUR FAVORITE NEW MICHIGAN ARTIST?
Carol Watkins – Nathan Walton & The Remedy. The power and high energy they bring is enormous. So much fun and so engaging with the crowd.
Dan Hildebrandt – I don’t think she’s a “new” artist, but she’s new to me since moving back to Michigan 2 years ago: Cole Hansen.
Ben Wade – I’ve definitely been listening to a lot of Myron Elkins.
Sandra Bradford Holt – We had a great time (at the WYCE Jammie Awards). The American Hotel System was our favorite.
Isaac Powrie – Normal Mode
Grace Theisen – Kanin Wren
Matt Kerwin – The Junky Swinger
Daniel W Dawe – Myron Elkins
Stephen Aldrich – Mooch Globe
Chuck Whiting – The Kettle Belles
James R. Murphy Jr.- Luck Plunge
Kanin Wren – So many acts and didn’t see them all, but Myron Elkins, Nathan Walton, Grace Theisen and Sarena Rae.
View more reader responses here: https://localspins.com/question-of-the-week-whos-your-favorite-new-michigan-artist/
WHAT’S THE BEST GUITAR RIFF OF ALL TIME? THE ONE THAT GETS STUCK IN YOUR HEAD?
Alex Austin – My favorite is probably “The Ocean” by Led Zeppelin.
Mark DeWitt – “Smoke on the Water,” Deep Purple.
Olivia Lentner – “Carry On My Wayward Son,” Kansas
Don Clapham – Jethro Tull’s “Locomotive Breath”
Michael Kroll – I’ve always liked John Fogerty’s recurring riff on “Up Around the Bend.”
Tom Morefield – The beginning riff from the Animals, “House of the Rising Sun.” Next, a similar riff is from the Hollies, “Long cool Woman in a Black Dress.”
Paul Wyatt – The Rolling Stones, “Live With Me.”
Myrna Jacobs – “Black Dog” by Led Zeppelin
Bruce Vanderkooi – Elvis Costello, “Pump It Up”
Nicholas Van Gunter – Dire Straits, “Money for Nothing”
Gary Warning – I’m partial to “Layla”
Jere Sorger – The Kinks (pick one): “All Day and All of the Night” or “You Really Got Me.” Frampton’s “Do You Feel…” The Tubes’ “She’s a Beauty.”
View more reader responses here: https://localspins.com/question-of-the-week-whats-the-best-guitar-riff-of-all-time-the-one-that-gets-stuck-in-your-head/
WHO’S YOUR FAVORITE DRUMMER OF ALL-TIME?
Mark DeWitt – Neil Peart
Mark Lamm – Jeff Porcaro, Steve Gadd, Russ Kunkel, Hal Blaine
Alex Austin – There are a lot of drummers on my all-time favorites list, but Levon Helm sits at the top.
Jack Kooreman – Max Weinberg
Dave Adams – John Bonham
Bradley Raffenaud – Bill Vits
Wally Michaels – Dave Garibaldi and Mark Weymouth
Chuck Whiting – Bill Stevenson
Scott Benting – Steve Jordan
Daniel P Hudelson – Anybody who played on a Steely Dan record. Also, Dony Wynn from Robert Palmer’s band.
John Nowak – Ringo Starr. And then Larnell Lewis, Levon Helm, Steve Gadd, Bernard Purdie, Mark Giuliana, Carter MacLean, Garibraldi, Harvey Mason, Russ Kunkel, Gene Krupa, Buddy Rich, Zigaboo
Andrew Ogrodzinski – A “best drummer list” isn’t a drummer list without names like Terry Bozzio, Vinnie Colaiuta, Chad Wackerman, Billy Cobham, Lenny White, Tony Williams, Steve Gadd, Bernard Purdy……and the list goes on. These are drummers other drummers wish they could play like.
View more reader responses here: https://localspins.com/question-of-the-week-whos-your-favorite-drummer-of-all-time-2/
WHAT’S THE BEST INTRO TO A POPULAR SONG?
David Kuzma – “Can’t You Hear Me Knocking,” The Rolling Stones
Hope Pearse – “Hotel California”
Carmen Sluiter – “One Big Holiday” by My Morning Jacket
Buck McDougall – “Sweet Jane”
Josh Raber – “Just Like Heaven,” The Cure – 56 seconds of pure instrumental melding.
Mike Ensing – Bruce Springsteen, “The River” – Live in NYC version. The coda with Bruce’s harmonica and Clarence’s sax is also stunning.
Carol Cornett – “Long Train Runnin”
Steve Middendorp – “Crazy on You”
Roger MacNaughton – “California Girls”
Lesa Christensen Ignasiak – “Funeral For a Friend,” Elton John
Lee Chase – If “Gimme Shelter” qualifies as a popular song .. then there you have it, hands down.
Ben Erhart – Raspberries, “Go All the Way”
Cole Hansen – I gotta put in a vote for “Bohemian Rhapsody” by Queen. “Final Countdown” by Europe (epic ’80s points) and “Stairway to Heaven” by Led Zeppelin have always been favorites of mine, too.
View more reader responses here: https://localspins.com/question-of-the-week-whats-the-best-intro-to-a-popular-song/
WHAT’S YOUR FAVORITE ROLLING STONES ALBUM?
Erin Ellis – “Sticky Fingers.” Every song is amazing!
Kyle Brown – I gotta go with “Exile on Main Street.” That and “Sticky Fingers” are absolutely perfect albums. However, my favorite Stones song of all time, “100 Years Ago” was on” Goats Head Soup.” The Mick Taylor era was just the best.
Dale Atwater – “Beggar’s,” “Bleed,” “Sticky Fingers” – tough to choose – I usually say Beggar’s, though. Some top-notch songwriting on all three. Some underrated gems and some chart toppers too. Great band, great chemistry, great guests. Brian’s last, Mick Taylor’s first and some of his best contributions.
C.E. Sikkenga – Depends on the day. “Sticky Fingers” is the most concentrated blast. “Exile” takes more effort and almost has to be played start to finish. Both are perfect. I probably listen to “Between the Buttons” the most. The Britpop Stones were so much fun.
Matt de Heus – I probably spun “Tattoo You” more than any of them, honestly.
Rich Emerson – Still say “Some Girls” is my fave.
Phil Walter – “Let It Bleed.” Great songs. Or “Exile on Main St.” or “Sticky Fingers” or “Out of Our Heads” or “Some Girls,” “Tattoo You” or “Steel Wheels.” Why the music is great.
Todd Wicks – “Tattoo You.” Side One is a sustained blast of riffage while Side Two is a trippy dreamscape.
Timmy Rodriguez – I probably go back and forth between “Beggars Banquet” and “Let it Bleed.” Although “Some Girls” is a close third.
Michael Kroll – “Let it Bleed.” Seven of the nine tracks are excellent, and the additional personnel (Nicky Hopkins, Ian Stewart, Bobby Keys, Ry Cooder, Al Kooper, and Merry Clayton) contribute greatly to the tracks. Also Mick Taylor’s first recordings with the band, as Brian Jones replacement.
Steve Sly – For many years, I wrote the Stones off as a glorified bar band and never delved into their music that much. I finally changed my mind on them and discovered that many of their albums are great stuff. If I had to pick one, I would probably go with “Exile On Main Street.” Considering that it was a double album it is really all killer and no filler as every song on it is good.
Richard B. Kelley – “Exile'” finishes just ahead of the rest of the Jimmy Miller years albums which was the Stones at their apex, ergo I think it’s their best. It was patched together from pieces and parts recorded over several years beginning in 1969 with “Loving Cup.” Contrary to legend, it wasn’t entirely done in a steaming den of hedonism in the south of France. A few key tracks were done there while a lot of new rough cuts and instrumentals were ferried across the planet to LA where Jagger (who didn’t participate much in the south of France debauch) cracked the whip and brought in outside players to finish the tracks. I think the specter of danger and hard drugs hung over the whole proceedings which unites the album with that lurid, murky vibe. This was further accentuated by the cover art which looked nilhilist / punk five years before there was such a thing. I tend to think of “Exile'” as two different albums. Imagining if they’d been released 7-8 months apart they’d have been better received at the time. The 2-LP set was a lot to unwrap, sounded muddy and was not entirely well received or reviewed at the time. By the next year it was being compared to the (vastly underrated) “Goats Head Soup” album and had, in that time, miraculously evolved into the greatest rock and roll album ever made.
View more reader responses here: https://localspins.com/question-of-the-week-whats-your-favorite-rolling-stones-album-and-why/
WHAT’S THE MOST DISTURBING TREND IN MODERN MUSIC?
Alex Austin – Auto-Tune, AI, backing tracks at live shows have been very concerning for me at various points. AI is probably my biggest concern right now though. I found that Weeknd-Drake song debacle really unsettling when I hear about it. I will say that backing tracks at a show are less of an issue for me now, provided they are not for the singers or any key players. As backing loops are string parts, I can live with them. I prefer live musicians though.
Michael Packer – Don’t get me started. Stand to clap, but when the band’s playing, sit and pay attention, I’m assuming those people don’t appreciate the music at all. You got me started! It’s the reason I no longer go to concerts.
Ryan Birtles – Autotune, beat quantization.
Greg Miller – Homogenization, and lack of melody.
Lance Hendrickson – I think it’s bars not paying musicians spit. Maybe it’s not a recent trend, but gone are the days when musicians could make a living (albeit not a great one) touring locally.
Lee Chase – Songwriting sometimes seems to have taken a turn for the bland, though admittedly I’m only exposed to a small sample of it. Autotune is cringeworthy and I’d like to see rock ‘n’ roll get more political (again). Yeah, I’m old.
Jakey Thomas – Needing to constantly create content designed to please an algorithm to stay relevant.
Bradley Raffenaud – Most disturbing trend for modern music is people complaining. Freedom of choice people … go or don’t go, listen or don’t listen … but stop filling the room with complaints. Don’t we get enough of that everywhere else? Music is expression. Why does it need to be done only within your parameters? But it’s been the trend since the beginning of modern music … go ask Elvis.
Sam Granger – My generation was dealt a hat trick of problems with 1. Streaming music, 2. Social media, 3. YouTube. 1. The analog form of an album encouraged sustained listening: from beginning to end, even the songs you’d don’t like (but will later come to like). But when everything is chopped up and shuffled, turned into a continuous blur of background music, people are trained to not listen for distinctions or be moved by music. Instead constantly streaming music is an anesthetic for the anxieties of life, meant to numb you with low-grade, controlled stimulation, so you can *get through* whatever boring activity you find yourself in: this study session, this coffee shop or bar, this restaurant meal, this party, this drive, etc. People would have fuller lives and more musical lives if they could just sit with themselves for a half hour without any stimulation.
2. Social media is terrible because it makes musicians performative rather than making them performers. There was an air of mystery when an artist would hit the stage in the past. They rolled into town from God knows where. Maybe you saw them once two years ago, but now their look was different. You had no idea what kind of practicing, soul searching, or transformation they went through before getting up there. Often strangers would knock your socks off. But now I know too much: I know their guitars and pedalboards, I see little clips from practice sessions, I know their political opinions, I’ve read dozens of diatribes and confessions from them (which were trivialized by the cat memes and clickbait posts above and below), I even know what they had for lunch. What’s worse, these are not rare, BTS sneak peeks, like we may have enjoyed stumbling upon in the past. No, they’re incessantly given to us on social media, because our local musicians have to compete with the torrent of background noise that we’re also streaming. Forget their music, that’s easy—they need to focus on their content: should they use a particular hashtag, change their frame to what’s relevant, make a post that lets people know they’re tuned in and they’re listening to what’s going on? In the worst cases (which are unfortunately common), social media just amplifies a narcissism all performers are tempted by (and which social media use increasingly encourages). Some people get up on stage and I can’t remember a melody or a lyric from their set, but I remember it sure sounded like they like being on stage. They couldn’t wait to post about it.
3. YouTube is a problem, because musicians tend to think they’re learning by using it. But really often wasting time. Videos comparing pedals, guitars, amps, or other gear. Musical breakdowns on tunes they never listened to, nor care about. Interviews with musicians. The best performances of any person or style is always just one search away. It’s definitely a helpful resource: but it’s hard to constructively employ it a couple times in the afternoon, while multitasking with dinner or cleaning, and certainly not late at night in bed between news clips, podcast clips, doomscrolling, fail videos, etc. It’s just too much information, that people do not even have the patience or attention to properly enjoy the good stuff. So instead it just becomes another stream feeding the torrent in the first two points.
In the end, autotune and AI are unnecessary, we’ve already done the work for them. As everyone has already been groomed by their algorithms to follow the same program, we don’t need something to turn us into orderly, obedient, robot muzzak. We did it to ourselves first. Good luck finding the raucous, almost out-of-tune, vulnerable, graceful and gritty human music that we used to have. That’s the music you hear prowling around in your soul when you’re quiet. Many of us heard it and we got scared and put on our headphones hoping to drown it out. But if we can’t sit with ourselves in silence, we don’t deserve to make music.
Justin Stover – More serious one: I still think Spotify is horrible. I love their layout and social streaming, and the playlists are oddly accurate. Their micro royalty model for artists is atrocious. Everyone brags about the playlists they have but the ones with the logo essentially are made to funnel more money to Spotify. Their CEO is a rotten human. People pick on AI (and I hate that they write lyrics and whole songs) but they do have some capabilities that could challenge Spotify. It would be cool to have a more third party AI that scours your data and provides songs from a mix of sources, including Bandcamp and actual record stores .
David Kirchgessner -Consolidation of the industry into the hands of a few corporations. It is especially acute when it comes to ticketing, but that’s just the tip of the iceberg. When you have one or two players who control the venues, promoters, ticketing, management etc, it becomes a major problem and crushes artists, fans, independent promoters etc etc. Do we need anti-trust litigation/legislation? When do we need it? Yesterday!
Mark Jilbert – Electronic ‘perfecting’ of things. From excessive use of Auto-Tune to quantizing a drum track erasing the player’s feel, groove and energy.
View more reader responses here: https://localspins.com/question-of-the-week-whats-the-worst-or-most-disturbing-trend-in-modern-music/
WHAT’S THE BEST-PRODUCED ALBUM OF ALL-TIME?
Mark Emery – The Best? Omg how can I answer that question? So many it hurts my brain trying to pick just one. Also how am I listening to said best-produced album? Technology has evolved as master and engineering. I can’t do it! I will say if you want a sonic treat check out TOOL “Fear Inoculum” mastering for the vinyl release. Chris Bellman nailed it.
Steve Sly – Lots of good suggestions already that I would agree with, but one that I have not seen mentioned is Steely Dan’s “Aja” album. Even today listening with headphones or on a good stereo system, it sounds amazing.
Josh Wilson – I double “Pet Sounds”/Brian Wilson
Paul Kissel – Rush, “Moving Pictures.”
Michael J Vizard – “Electric Ladyland” on headphones and something else…
Jim Versluis – “Voodoo”
Angel Christman – Fleetwood Mac’s “Rumours” album
Mike Metchikoff – “Brothers In Arms” by Dire Straits came to mind immediately.
Greg Baxter – Roxy Music’s “Avalon” has to be way up the list. It’s 40+ years old and still sounds great. Bob Clearmountain nailed it.
James Barry – Tom Petty and The Heartbreakers’ “Into the Great Wide Open” is my selection. Tom and the band never “sounded” better. To me, this is his” Abbey Road,” it just has a sheen to it.
Brian Haik – Pink Floyd’s “Dark Side of the Moon”
Lurinda Aley – CSN&Y “Déjà Vu”
Kim Clapham – “Tapestry”
Dino Mor – “Boston.” Produced, arranged and engineered seemingly perfect! I’ve yet to hear another album (especially a debut) sound this good.
John Sinkevics – No. 1 on my list is Simon & Garfunkel’s “Bridge Over Troubled Water” (produced by the duo and Roy Halee), an absolutely masterfully produced and arranged collection. Also on my list: Pink Floyd’s “Dark Side of the Moon” (and “Wish You Were Here”), The Beatles’ “Abbey Road,” Marvin Gaye’s “What’s Going On,” Elton John’s “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road” (producer Gus Dudgeon is so-o-o underrated), Supertramp’s “Breakfast in America.”
View more reader responses here: https://localspins.com/question-of-the-week-whats-the-best-produced-album-of-all-time/
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