New albums from KJ & The Good Time Family Band and Amy Love fill out this mid-April roundup of releases by Michigan artists. Check out the reviews, listen to tracks from each release.
There’s the latest EP from a Michigan pop artist following up on national chart success of a 2020 single, long-awaited full-length sophomore albums from a couple of Grand Rapids faves and a Jackson band, and debut albums from a West Michigan singer-songwriter and a Detroit trio.
Support our coverage of
West Michigan's music scene
This mid-April roundup of recent releases crosses the state and spans genres.
Check out more Local Spins reviews of albums by Michigan artists online here.
“Everything Will Be Ok Eventually”
What Stands Out: Stepping forward from the national chart success of the anthemic pop single, “Let Down,” Michigander (Jason Singer) rode a wave that blended summer-studded instrumentals with busted optimism. The Midland-turned-Detroit artist’s latest release, “Everything Will Be Ok Eventually,” builds on that foundation (including the rerelease of the titular “Let Down” track) with personal lyrical tone and musical stylings. The album maintains the emotional honesty that makes Michigander’s songwriting so tantalizing, but pairs it with blustery instrumentation that propels the album toward the sun. The tracks pulsate with racing drums, raw vocal stylings and blurry guitars that drive listeners through the album with excitement to see what comes next — and here, Michigander absolutely delivers.
Digging Deeper: While “Let Down” has already turned heads, the fresh tracks on “Everything Will Be Ok Eventually” certainly pull their weight and then some. Michigander cranks up the energy on “Saturday” after a calm, hazy intro. From its endearing, reserved start to rising choruses, Michigander showcases his vocal range in a way that carries the track and demands attention. Intricate percussion and wavy guitar work come together to leave their mark well after the track closes. “Headlights” takes a delicate shift with airy piano and a bright, fresh aesthetic that allows bubbles and sparkles as it evolves. It sets the perfect scene for Michigander to lay his rich vocals over with unapologetic passion that sucks listeners in close and doesn’t let go.
Perfect For: Drives at dawn through intimate Mitten landscapes. – Nick Moran
What Stands Out: The long-awaited sophomore release from the Grand Rapids indie-rock powerhouse Major Murphy rolls out as an absolute treat for music fans and audiophiles. Crisp, tight and punchy with just enough swagger, “Access” boasts an astonishing fluidity as it seamlessly transitions between tracks, a feats especially impressive considering how the mood swings from song to song. Additionally, each song, riff, beat and lyric on the record plays a vital role; there’s absolutely no dead weight. Major Murphy’s sound, while maintaining its dreamy, psychedelic roots, has evolved into something bigger (and better).
Digging Deeper: Jacob Bullard, the band’s frontman, songwriter and guitarist, has shared that the band worked on this album for the better part of three years. The intentionality and attention to detail is instantly recognizable and appreciated. The lush production values (made possible by Mike Bridavsky at Russian Recording in Bloomington, Ind.) along with layered and masterfully interwoven musical arrangements set “Access” apart from Major Murphy’s previous works.
Perfect For: Driving with the windows down; late night backyard get-togethers; turning the volume up to 11. – Tyler Gargala
“Sitting With the Unknown”
What Stands Out: If there’s any album that has you itching to get back to Grand Rapids’ Pyramid Scheme for a local show ASAP, it’s this debut full-length album by the group LVRS from Jackson, Mich. Self-described as “indie-rock with attitude,” LVRS roll out the headbangers as well as tranquil, soft feels throughout the album. Created during the quarantine of 2020 and recorded at the Social Recording Company in Adrian, “Sitting With the Unknown” highlights our need for human connection during the gloomy days of the past, and amps us up for what is to come.
Digging Deeper: The record introduces itself with “Fata Morgana,” confronting feelings of self-conflict set to lead singer-songwriter Olivia DeJonghe’s atmospheric, soothing voice. We get to more of a classic rock ‘n’ roll feel with “Different Meaning,” featuring a delicious electric guitar solo that will still leave you wanting more even after the five-minute song. While the record would make a great live show, the songs also have a way of flowing into each other for an easy straight-through listen. The band does a perfect job of making the laid-back rock tunes have a bit of a dancey aura to them. Closing out with “Lay Your Head,” the atmospheric, glowing record says goodbye while still questioning what’s next: “Can we sit with the unknown/Let there be nothing/To make something new.”
Perfect For: Fans of Best Coast, Beach Fossils, Alvvays. – Liv Conaty
Listen: “Different Meaning”
KJ & The Good Time Family Band
What Stands Out: Right from the twirling, vibrating introductory track in “9 to 5,” there’s something special about “Dynamics,” the latest album from Grand Rapids-based KJ & The Good Time Family Band. An album chock-full of appreciation for classic funk supplements it magic with some modern flair. Frontman Kurt “KJ” Johnson II loves crate-digging for classics and that veneration is ever-present with fat bass lines and saucy drum fills. The band then takes those roots and infuses them with psychedelic rock influences, complete with wavy guitar and jam-band solos.
Digging Deeper: There’s a complementary chemistry that bounces around the album, and the tracks that blend that the best stand out with fun energy. “Come On Get Down” is laden with furiously funky guitar from Johnson and thick bass grooves from Scott Dickinson. Outside of contagious instrumentation, the playful layered lead vocals are an invitation to belt out the criminally catchy chorus. The funk-forward track contrasts well with songs such as “Interruption of Rhythm” which plays up the band’s jam band influences. KJ’s vocals are bouncy and suavely woven. The verses have a clean instrumental canvas that are spiced up with bridges full of tangential percussion and sneaky synth work. The cherry atop it all is an inspired soul guitar solo from KJ that belts over the track hitting its stride in an incredibly artful way.
Perfect For: The unapologetic dancers or jam-band vibers. – Nick Moran
Listen To: “Come On Get Down”
What Stands Out: Grand Rapids singer-songwriter Amy Love pours out everything that it means to be her in this debut full-length album, “Coming Home.” Exploring her past loves, childhood memories and even religion, Love encapsulates the feeling of turning onto the main road of your hometown, all of your memories flashing back at you.
Digging Deeper: With 16 collaborations on the record, the songs give a sense of community, which is another essential piece to telling the story of “Coming Home.” The record starts off sweet, and then takes a sassy, but equally beautiful turn with “Your Love is Bullshit.” Love’s vocals shine through on “Ghost Town,” hauntingly admitting that she doesn’t want to be left alone to her own devices. After some swingy Americana tunes, the record phases out with a gorgeous fiddle on “Heidi” and a nostalgic full-choir ballad, “Forever Children.”
Perfect For: Having a summer drink on the porch of your childhood home. – Liv Conaty
Listen: “Forever Children”
Kate Hinote Trio
What Stands Out: While technically serving as this Detroit-area trio’s debut album, there are literally years of songwriting, performing and collaborating invested in this project. Singer Kate Hinote might best be known as frontwoman for the gothic alt-country/rock band Blueflowers, so some of these tracks were co-writes for that venture, while other songs were “gifted to Hinote or borrowed for this album,” including a co-write (“Where You Dream Now”) with trio violinist Matthew Parmenter. Blueflowers guitarist David Johnson fills out this new indie-folk/prog-folk trio which manages to not only retain and showcase Hinote’s haunting, mesmerizing vocals but centers them in a fetching, gorgeously arranged acoustic pillow.
Digging Deeper: Recorded at Ferndale’s The Tempermill at various times in 2020, the album’s most powerful tracks – “Make Me Stop,” “Where You Dream Now,” “Moon Draws Water,” “New Creature” – resonate with a melancholy edginess and lyrical intrigue that sublimely complement the violin and acoustic guitar work.
Perfect For: Fans of Neko Case and Karen Elson, and for those cloudy days when you need to really feel the music you’re listening to. – John Sinkevics
Listen: “Make Me Stop”
Copyright 2021, Spins on Music LLC