New releases by Uncommon Road, Roger MacNaughton, Breathe Owl Breathe, Love Fossil, Don Middlebrook, Lazy Genius and Make No Heroes in the second batch of Fall ’13 Local Spins reviews.
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It’s another one of these “go figure” moments.
Lady Gaga’s presumptuously titled “ARTPOP” tops this week’s Billboard 200, followed by Eminem’s “The Marshall Mathers LP 2,” “NOW 48” (the latest NOW collection of pop songs), The Robertson Family of “Duck Dynasty” reality show fame with its “Duck The Halls” CD, and Katy Perry’s “Prism.”
That’s not a misprint.
Hey, nothing against ultra-commercial and repetitive pop and hip-hop music, but there’s a vacuous cotton candy-like sheen to this Top 5 collection, unlike the latest batch of releases from Michigan artists surveyed by Local Spins. So, here’s Take Two of the fall roundup of new releases, giving you plenty of time to compile that Black Friday shopping list. (If you missed it, here’s Take One of this season’s Local Spins album reviews).
Memes and Ribosomes
For the unscientific, memes are behaviors, symbols or ideas that are carried through cultures from one mind to another – replicating and mutating along the way as they’re spread via rituals, writings and, in the case of Love Fossil, music. On tracks such as “Demiurgic,” “The Cosmonaut” and “Hands of the Dead,” the epic, science rock of Grand Rapids’ Love Fossil erupts in a cavalcade of innovative alt-metal, hard rock and prog-rock with a smidgen of haunting, British New Wave-styled vocals creeping in. The band – frontman/lead singer/pianist/rhythm guitarist Benjamin Hunter, drummer Weston Eaton, bassist David Deschaine and lead guitarist Jeremy Kosmicki (plus creative director/scientist Kevin Cole and engineer Christian Kremo) — delivers an unrelenting musical message about the state of the world with a tongue-in-cheek response found on “Scientific Method”: “Love Fossil will save me.” We’ll see about that, but it’s worth exploring.
Upcoming shows: 8:30 p.m. Dec. 6, The Pyramid Scheme, Grand Rapids, $6 (CD-release show for Love Fossil and Apostles, with Mean Mother and Chinook also on the bill)
Breathe Owl Breathe
Passage of Pegasus
Before ethereal, spacey folk bands were all the rage, there was Michigan’s Breathe Owl Breathe. And this trail-blazing trio – Micah Middaugh, Trevor Hobbs and Andréa Moreno-Beals – keeps expanding the definition of folk music on “Passage of Pegasus,” a 10-track dreamscape of unusual sounds and production techniques that artfully weaves images of northern Michigan’s environmental beauty with insights into life’s loves and travails. Written and recorded over two years “in various homes and studio between the West Coast and Midwest,” and produced by The Fruit Bats’ Eric D. Johnson, the band’s sixth album gives a nod at times to John Cale and artists of similar ilk. Frontman Middaugh turns songs such as “Ferns Move” into film-worthy, image-laden nuggets: “Fossilized mixtapes in a dried-up riverbed, a sculpture of a life left shattered into a million pieces,” he sings at one point. And on the lush and powerful, album-ending “Two Moths”: “I’ve been pressed against the window my whole life, mesmerized by the midnight glow.” Listeners will be drawn that very same way to “Passage of Pegasus.”
Upcoming shows: 8 p.m. Dec. 29, Short’s Brewing Co. in Bellaire, free
Don Middlebrook and The Pearl Divers
The Key West Connection
Michigan’s Don Middlebrook has spread his beach-splashed, island-music credo from the Mitten to the Sunshine State for years, and this time around, he’s pulled together a who’s who lineup of players for a recording project that began as a fund-raiser for Key West High School’s music/video departments. With Greg “Fingers” Taylor, The Verve Pipe’s Donny Brown, The Motor City Horns, the high school’s band and choir, and The Pearl Divers (Chris Corey, Hank Mowery, Angela Fata, Rush Clement) on board, Middlebrook sets sail on what he calls “a community effort” (packing along a tropical take on “Wagon Wheel,” a tune titled “I Stole Jimmy Buffett’s TV Guide” and a song co-written by author Lorian Hemingway) that will surely please longtime fans.
Upcoming shows: 7 p.m. Dec. 6, Deck Down Under in Jerome, Mich. (CD-release show); 8 p.m. Dec. 7, Vitale’s in Zeeland (CD-release show)
One By One
If the folks in Uncommon Road were aiming to build on their record after winning WGRD’s inaugural Rocktagon Throwdown battle of the bands earlier this year at The Orbit Room, they’ve taken an impressive leap in the right direction with their five song debut EP. Led by the dynamic vocals of Kala Chantelle (think Amy Lee merged with Pat Benatar and Celine Dion), the band – Chantelle, guitarist Sean Louis, guitarist/backing singer Cash Rock, bassist Andrew Vandenberg and drummer Nathan Jean — unwinds its uplifting alt-rock with a controlled fury, something Louis describes as “raw, old-fashioned, hard-core rock.” It’s intense, hard-driving fodder, but Uncommon Road’s music also comes with a hopeful, silver lining. (Read more about the band and watch an exclusive performance in this Local Spins Artist Spotlight.)
Award-winning Ada pianist Roger MacNaughton has established himself as a top-notch purveyor of new age music and smooth jazz. But one of West Michigan’s most prolific composers also happens to be a versatile fellow, with sundry collaborations that delve into rock, pop, blues and classical music. “Layin’ Low” leans on those forays to expand the smooth jazz envelope, evidenced by the funk- and soul-fueled title track, the muscular blues romp of “Northbound,” and the rock-shaded “Tribute,” aided by saxophonist Jon Montgomery, guitarists Mike Hyde and Dan Lomas, bassist Charlie Hoats and drummer Eddie Eicher.
Upcoming shows: 6 p.m. Dec. 21, Jazz Vespers at First United Methodist Church, 227 E. Fulton St., Grand Rapids, free
It’s no surprise that Grand Rapids’ Lazy Genius is releasing its new album on vinyl. After all, the psychedelic rock band has roots in a ’60s sort of vibe, updated with some punky shoegaze muscle. Recorded at Matt Ten Clay’s Amber Lit Audio, longtime fans will find plenty to like on “Dreamy,” with Patrick Wieland, Daniel Francis, Jonny Bruha, Adam Cavanaugh and Kristi Prindle uncorking varied, texture-drenched guitars, atmospheric and edgy vocals, some Pixies-like verve, even slow-building anthemic movements. On its third album, the band puts an exclamation point on its online moniker (established to avoid confusion with another Michigan group of the same name) because “Dreamy” truly is the Real Lazy Genius.
Upcoming shows: 9:30 p.m. Dec. 28, Founders Brewing Co. (triple album-release show with The Extra Texture and Matt Ten Clay and the Howlers), $5
Make No Heroes
If Guns N’ Roses were bred in West Michigan, they might sound a bit like Grand Rapids’ Make No Heroes, a rock trio permeated with guitar textures recalling the likes of The Kinks’ Dave Davies, Deep Purple’s Ritchie Blackmore, Bad Company’s Mick Ralphs, AC/DC’s Angus Young and a stew of others. For the most part, the band (Tim Higgins, Mitch Stevens and Chas Egy) trots out dance-friendly rockers with an occasional twist – unique arrangements that make the most of Higgins’ guitar riffs.
Email John Sinkevics at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Copyright 2013, Spins on Music