Soar with The Stratton Playlist – February 2020 Edition

The second sonic adventure for “The Stratton Playlist” is ready to soar.

This month’s playlist includes 28 fresh tracks from a spectrum of talented artists, including ATMIG, Ma Baker, Hello Forever, Ally Evenson and others. Featured artists hail from Michigan, New York, California and New Jersey.

It’s part of our ongoing multi-genre journey to bring the best of our discoveries.

Get ready to enjoy some real treasures.

The Other Side – Nektar Revisits Past, Present Influences on Latest Album, Performs Tuesday at The Token Lounge

Nektar’s current lineup includes Ron Howden, Derek “Mo” Moore, Ryche Chlanda, Mick Brockett, Kendall Scott and Randy Dembo. Photo by Jay Petsko

Back in 1974, Nektar left a promising sonic door open in Detroit.

The British progressive rock band shared a pulsating new track, “Devil’s Door,” during a show at The Michigan Palace.

“That’s where we wrote it. We had a couple of days in the theater. We were able to jam and play, and we did a lot of that. Then, we played it for the first time at the Palace theater,” said Derek “Mo” Moore, Nektar’s bassist, vocalist and co-founder.

Nektar only played “Devil’s Door” a few more times live that year before stashing it away. The soaring track remained hidden in the band’s vault for nearly 45 years before including it on their majestic new album, “The Other Side,” which dropped in January via Esoteric Antenna.

The eight-minute gem features the band’s late original frontman and co-founder Roye Albrighton on guitar and vocals at the track’s intro. Recorded live by then-sound engineer Vinny Schmid via a soundboard in Detroit, “Devil’s Door” beautifully blends Albrighton’s vibrant guitar and enthusiastic “yeah, yeah, yeahs” with Nektar’s stunning new version of the track. Sadly, Schmid passed away six years ago while Albrigton died in 2016.

“We were able to get the two of them on the album. It just felt right, it was so clear when we played that into the headphones, and then the band came in, and Roye stayed with us for a little while with his parts,” Moore said.

“Then, we dropped the original band and brought up the new band. It just felt great. I called Roye’s wife, and I said, ‘I know I don’t have to ask you for permission, but I’d like your blessing. Is it OK for us to use Roye?’ She was thrilled, and I sent her a copy of it right away. She was blown away.”

Metro Detroit audiences will be blown away Tuesday when Nektar reopens “Devil’s Door” live at The Token Lounge in Westland as part of a current 36-date North American tour. The long-awaited track will be featured as part of the band’s three hour-plus set amidst a stunning video and lights show by visual artist and co-founder Mick Brockett.

“We’re changing the sets every night, especially when we did four days in New York, and we did two days in Baltimore. We try to do a lot of the old classics like ‘Remember the Future,’ ‘A Tab in the Ocean,’ and ‘Recycled,’ and we do a variation of that, and then we intersperse them with the new album, ‘The Other Side,’” Moore said.

Continue reading “The Other Side – Nektar Revisits Past, Present Influences on Latest Album, Performs Tuesday at The Token Lounge”

Tragic Hero – The Gutter Daisies Tackle Public Perception of Mental Illness, Depression on ‘Celebrity Suicide’ Single

The Gutter Daisies call out society and the media for an ongoing obsession with public figures experiencing mental illness and depression on “Celebrity Suicide.”

With a raw, honest sound, The Gutter Daisies vigorously confront society’s deep fascination with a celebrity’s personal tragedy.

The Los Angeles pop-punk trio of Doug Rockwell (vocals, guitar), Miles Franco (bass) and Mike Diggs (drums) explodes with frustration about the public’s and the media’s treatment and exploitation of mental illness and depression on their latest single, “Celebrity Suicide.”

“We all grew up dealing with anxiety and depression. I feel like nowadays it’s even more common because of social media. It can be a great platform, but it’s also an extremely vain one that has created a false reality that’s unfortunately become an extension of actuality. It’s a place where everyone sees other people’s ‘best of section’ and then automatically assumes their own lives will never be as glamorous,” Rockwell said.

Celebrity Suicide” opens with deep-tone, grungy guitars and quickly transforms into a rage-filled power protest as Rockwell angrily sings, “I wanna be like my idols/All fucked up in the brain/I could see it play out/Won’t play my songs while I’m around/Unless my life goes down the drain.”

“The same goes for the media. Paparazzi look for people’s weakest moments so they can sell that to media outlets so they can then bring in ratings. It’s all about making a fortune and not so much about the misfortune. ‘Celebrity Suicide’ is a song about just that with some sarcasm sprinkled on the wound,” Rockwell said.

Celebrity Suicide” is the first new track The Gutter Daisies have released since covering The Beastie Boys’ “Sabotage” in 2018. Their energetic banger of a cover nicely pays tribute to the legendary hip-hop and rap-rock trio’s 1994 classic.

“We were looking for a song to cover that everyone would know no matter who they were, but we didn’t want it to be something you’d hear a run-of-the-mill cover band playing at a local bar,” Rockwell said. “We also wanted it to represent us as a band. ‘Sabotage’ is pretty punk rock, and as soon as it was suggested, we knew we could make it our own without disrupting what the original song had already accomplished.”

Continue reading “Tragic Hero – The Gutter Daisies Tackle Public Perception of Mental Illness, Depression on ‘Celebrity Suicide’ Single”

Here Comes the Sun – Hello Forever Radiates Broad Spectrum of Sounds on ‘Whatever It Is’ Debut Album

Hello Forever emits an eclectic mix of sounds of their full length debut, “Whatever It Is,” out Friday.

Hello Forever brings eternal sunshine to musical minds.

The Los Angeles art pop collective brilliantly emits abundant ‘60s-infused rays of doo-wop, jazz, skiffle, R&B, classical and baroque rock throughout their sparkling 12-track, full-length debut, “Whatever It Is,” which drops Friday.

“It’s about acceptance and equanimity, and it’s about making peace with yourself,” said Samuel Joseph, Hello Forever’s lead vocalist. “It wasn’t a choice or decision. I find that when I try too critically to control the music, it doesn’t work out. The things that came through on the songs came on their own.”

Along with bandmates Gabe Stout, Andy Jimenez, Joey Briggs, Molly Pease, Anand Darsie and Jaron Crespi, Joseph spent 200 days in bedrooms and borrowed studios throughout Santa Monica and Castaic, Calif., to create and record elaborate arrangements for a sunny collection of concise pop songs.

“Some songs I wrote in five minutes and recorded the entirety in a single session. Other songs took a little longer than that,” he said. “I was doing everything I could to serve the creative process. It was awesome having the time and places where I could write and record these songs.”

Hello Forever’s scintillating “Whatever It Is” adventure starts with “Some Faith,” a two-minute head trip filled with high-tone energetic guitars, lush mash-ups of Beatles and Beach Boys-inspired harmonies and sticky pop melodies – “I saw you in the light for the first time/Heaven cried ‘open’ and rained down on me/It was love, it was love/Why’d it terrify me?”

“‘Some Faith’ is about trusting your feelings or at least learning to trust your feelings when you care about somebody,” said Joseph about the band’s first single and video.

Another heartwarming track includes “Anywhere is Everywhere” with upbeat Vampire Weekend a capella-like vocals intertwined with soaring sha-la-las – “I would love anyone just to feel it/And I won’t question who I’m loving/I won’t question who I’m loving/I’ll just love, just love, just love.” The track’s video also features Hello Forever painting blank canvases while gathering in the bright California hills. Continue reading “Here Comes the Sun – Hello Forever Radiates Broad Spectrum of Sounds on ‘Whatever It Is’ Debut Album”

Shine On – Read the Sun Enters Experimental Sonic Orbit on ‘Living Thru’ EP

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Read the Sun revolves around an ever-changing musical landscape drenched in brilliant rays of experimental indie rock.

The Detroit indie rock quartet of Alexa Gabriel (vocals, guitar), Jon Meyer (guitar), Sean Hussett (bass) and Joseph Jankowski (drums, percussion) beautifully fuses cinematic elements of classic, prog and alt rock to produce a soaring sonic experience on their latest five-track EP, “Living Thru,” which dropped in August.

Living Thru” opens with a gorgeous instrumental, “Living,” to elegantly blend high-tone guitars and vibrating synths with light cymbal taps for a brief infectious sonic rotation. It seamlessly segues into an intense emotional track, “Brown Shoes,” as a metaphor for the struggle about starting a transition as a transgender woman.

Slow rhythmic drums, vibrant guitars and deep bass echo the struggle depicted throughout “Brown Shoes”  – “I could walk a mile in somebody else’s shoes/And find nothing wrong with these other soles/I could take mine away/And leave nothing more.”

“One of the things we wanted to deliver in this EP is our continuous change of sound that we are beginning to solidify. We have started to amplify each of our strengths in the writing process and weed out the desire to imitate. We are currently on a good path towards fully realizing a more consistent sound,” said Read the Sun, whose members are influenced by Pink Floyd, The Flaming Lips, Radiohead and Snarky Puppy.

Together, the band recorded “Living Thru” in Gabriel’s bedroom where she runs a portable studio for recording and mixing. They also recorded their striking 2018 debut, “Music for Birds,” over nine months at a family-owned barn up north over a three-day stay. Coincidentally, bird sounds crept into every recording on their first full-length release.

Before they discovered “Music for Birds,” Read the Sun started as a jam session among four Plymouth-Canton high school friends. That jam session solidified into an official project by 2017 as the band members honed themselves as musicians and songwriters and cultivated an evolutionary sonic path.

Along their growing sonic path, Read The Sun continues to solder different sounds on “Living Thru,” including “The SacroMambo,” a dancy six-minute track that shimmies and sways with a symphony of electric guitars, drums, bass, saxophone and percussion.

Continue reading “Shine On – Read the Sun Enters Experimental Sonic Orbit on ‘Living Thru’ EP”

A Tale of 2 Albums – Kathy Wieland, John Rinn Host Joint Release Show Saturday at Trinity House Theatre

Kathy Wieland will celebrate the release of her album, “Momma Liked to Fish,” with John Rinn Saturday at Trinity House Theatre. Photo by Judy Insley

Kathy Wieland and John Rinn will share heartwarming melodies of life, love and laughter Saturday night at Livonia’s Trinity House Theatre.

The metro Detroit folk singer-songwriters will celebrate the release of their latest poignant albums, “Momma Liked to Fish” and “Sweet Summer Moon,” at the intimate 90-seat venue. Wieland and Rinn will take turns performing songs and supporting one another with instrumentals and harmonies throughout their joint set.

“John and I are both members of Songwriters Anonymous, and our CDs came out about the same time. We also know each other from doing open mics, especially at BaseLine Folklore Society. We have not performed together before so this will be an adventure for both of us,” Wieland said.

For Wieland, Saturday night’s on-stage adventure also will include singer-songwriters Sara Melton Keller, Beverly Meyer, Robin Monterosso and Linden Thoburn as special guests on backup harmonies throughout her set.

Together, they’ll combine their soaring vocals on four of Wieland’s tracks from “Momma Liked to Fish” – “A Little Whiskey,” “Prayer the Devil Answered,” “Makin’ Lemonade” and “A Woman Who’s Aged” before an eager singalong crowd.

“Trinity House Theatre is a place I feel really comfortable, and it’s a great place to be a performer or a listener. I attend the monthly Songwriters Anonymous meetings there and have made so many wonderful friends through this venue,” said Wieland, who’s from Ann Arbor.

Continue reading “A Tale of 2 Albums – Kathy Wieland, John Rinn Host Joint Release Show Saturday at Trinity House Theatre”

Soulful Sovereign – Kendrick Hardaway Celebrates Chivalry on ‘The Slave King’ Single

Kendrick Hardaway has released his latest soulful single, “The Slave King,” with guitarist Nick Behnan.

Kendrick Hardaway knows how to give the royal treatment.

The Detroit R&B singer-songwriter pays majestic homage to his “queen” on “The Slave King,” a slow, groove-filled romantic ode released just in time for Valentine’s Day.

Hardaway’s soulful three-minute single dropped Tuesday and features his smooth vocals wrapped in high-tone electric guitars from Nick Behnan – “Eyes burnin’ like fire and a voice that sits in my soul/Sweet as cucumber sugar water with a stare that’s so damn cold/Sweet queen of desire, won’t you call my name/And I’ll come runnin’ to you over and over again.”

Who wouldn’t come running to Hardaway with poetic lyrics like that?

“That song really is kind of a combination of me just wanting to write a tune and actually being about my girl right now. I came across this little lick I was playing around with, and I started writing to it, but nothing was really coming together, and I was getting frustrated,” Hardaway said.

“My girl came down, she sat on the couch, and she actually had a little attitude with me or whatever, and she was giving me this real hard stare, and that’s the line where ‘a stare that’s so damn cold’ came from. Once that line came out, then the rest of it just flowed.”

He also sought creative inspiration for “The Slave King” from Behnan, a Detroit songwriter, guitarist and producer and Hardaway’s former bandmate in The Infatuations. A Motor City mainstay and now a guitarist with The Lows, Behnan collaborates regularly with Hardaway on his solo projects.

“That song was 90 percent finished by the time Nick got to it. I was about to master the song, and I felt like it was missing something, but I knew it was in the way of guitar,” said Hardaway, who’s currently shooting a video for his latest single. “I can tinker around on the guitar, but I’m no Nick Behnan, so I shot it to Nick, and he didn’t waste any time and got it right back to me, and it was full of wonderful things, and we got ‘The Slave King.’”

In December, Hardaway collaborated with Behnan and rapper Saint Diggidy on Behnan’s rock, hip-hop, funk and R&B-fused track, “Right at Home,” which solders pounding drums and roaring guitars with stuck-in-your-head verses and flavorful rhymes. The track started as a stripped-down demo on SoundCloud, but quickly evolved once Hardaway and Saint Diggidy added their own verses.

“He was trying a different little angle when he shot it to me to see what I would think about it, and I put a verse on it, and I said, ‘I got a rapper who I think would set this thing off,’ and we just put it together to see how it would sound,” Hardaway said. “We just collectively decided, ‘Hey, we need to put this out because it’s really hot.’ One thing I said about that track after we made it was, ‘It sounds like it’s going to bring some people or some genres together.’”

Continue reading “Soulful Sovereign – Kendrick Hardaway Celebrates Chivalry on ‘The Slave King’ Single”