The late-July roundup of new releases by local and regional artists covers the gamut of styles and genres. Check out the reviews, audio samples and upcoming performance dates at Local Spins.
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The hectic summer of live shows and festivals has been augmented by a flurry of new releases by local and regional artists covering a wide range of styles and genres.
Here’s the late-July batch of Local Spins album reviews. Come back next week for another roundup of new releases by Michigan artists.
Funky and free, Earth Radio flexes its musical muscles on “Mother’s Breath.” A true sonic journey that takes the listener for a mystic ride whether they’re ready or not, the band is clearly making exactly what they want to hear: long songs, extended instrumentals and Hannah Laine’s stratospheric lead vocals charting course for the moon or beyond. From the opening title track (a nine-minute excursion), the group’s instrumental agility is certain, and their range of musical acrobatics are showcased seamlessly. A couple of tracks later, “Go” infuses a bevy of world percussion alongside elements of jazz for a luxurious track. Laine sings like a colorful bird on the highest limb of a spring-bound tree. This band is poised for a long career, and they show no signs of slowing down anytime soon. For that we’re thankful. – Ricky Olmos
Upcoming Shows: Friday at Dunesville Music Festival in Lake Ann; Saturday at Farm Block Festival & Reunion in Allouez
The debut solo-ish project from Olivia Vargas feels like anything but a new endeavor from the Conrad Shock + the Noise keys player. Rounded out by a full backing band, Vargas and her crew present themselves as a pro band that’s been at it forever (and sound like it, too). Opening with “Medusa,” a song the kids might call an “absolute banger,” (add three fire emojis), Vargas displays her jaw-dropping voice right from the start. Later, “6 AM” tones down the mood for a slow-burning sentiment that grooves the wheels off the funkmobile in the best possible way. Guitarist Michael Pierce’s work is exquisite, perfectly seasick at times, and entirely satisfying all the time. Vargas’ melodic instinct also stands out on this number. Another standout track is “Underlying Meanings,” a rhythmically enjoyable journey that meanders through the nuances of love and loss. Drawing the curtain on this lovely and complex debut album is a strikingly simple song, but one so sincerely beautiful and honest. Through a backdrop of expansive instrumentals Vargas gives a comforting message of hope, a sentiment that everything will be OK. – Ricky Olmos
Upcoming Shows: 6:30 p.m. Thursday (July 25) duo show at Creston Brewery in Grand Rapids; Saturday (July 27) duo show at The Kirby in Douglas,; Aug. 5 at Tip Top Deluxe Bar & Grill in Grand Rapids.
This experimental jam band recently released “Bovine Bounty,” an interesting melding of genres and sonic elements. Bluesy piano collides with ’80s synths and ’90s turntable scratches on album opener “Channel Lock.” A bit later, “Los Perros” gets weird with Eastern melodies, xylophone and an overall feeling of Super Mario-meets-Star Wars cantina band. “Buzzin’” is perhaps the grooviest track, with a handful of dynamic changes and thematically unified instrumentation. “Barn Burner” is another promising track, employing the lusher sounds of saxophone and marimba to its hurried stride. This album wouldn’t necessarily be classified as easily accessible, and it gets somewhat dizzying at times, but by tightening some screws and being a little more selective on the cutting floor, there’s some serious musicality and talent to be tapped here. – Ricky Olmos
Cryptic, in a genre where it’s difficult not to be, iamnotaperson reveals itself as a deeply personal endeavor. Much has been written on the subject of mental illness, with experimental and metal fields being the biggest culprits in our music scene. But art from physical disability has always been taboo. iamnotaperson’s Justin Sparrow, an individual with cerebral palsy, crafts this one-man experimental project, and dedicates “mourningsickness” as his thank you to everyone. The intro instrumental track “mourningskickness” is masterfully unsettling, just under a minute of noise to set your teeth on edge, before leading into the first vocal track of the album. Building off of the heavy tones of iamnotaperson’s first album “insidetheanomiemachine,” Sparrow carefully layers melodies and harmonies. The tracks “Becoming Unhuman” and “Love Leech” are as listenable to the trained metal ear as they are uncategorizable. The album flits back and forth between traditional, or as traditional as this project gets, metal tunes and ambient instrumentals. Each is a taste of inner turmoil and each is as expressive as anything on the album, even without (intelligible) words. For fans of The Tony Danza Tapdance Extravaganza, Periphery, Converge. – Molly Long
Listen: “When Nothing Means Anything”
Daves At 7
“Blue Collar Baby”
Holland singer-songwriter Amy Young’s new project, Daves At 7, is gearing up for an “official” release party for its debut album. In the meantime, country and folk fans in Michigan can get an earful here on “Blue Collar Baby.” Don’t let the title track’s simple pop sensibilities fool you, this is an album full of diverse deeper cuts that stand on their own, made up of bluegrass richer than your mama’s biscuits and gravy, ukulele love songs, and even a detour through smoky lounge-music jazz. Songs like “Carolyn” show off Young’s beautiful voice, clear like a bell and, combined with the ’70s country-reminiscent instrumentals, hearken back to the days of Emmylou, Dolly and Linda. Daves At 7 also features Dave DeVos, Paul Ouwinga, Fritz VonValtier and Leah Postema (plus special guests every now and then). These musicians are indispensable to the album’s more folk- and bluegrass-heavy tracks such as the aforementioned “Carolyn,” or the delightfully surprising “Come Home.” For fans of Sheryl Crow, Alison Krauss and female-led country of any era. – Molly Long
Upcoming Shows: Aug. 1 at Terra Square in Hudsonville (for Happenings on Harvey Ladies Night); Aug. 6 at Averill (Ada) Museum in Ada (for Music on the Lawn)
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