Whether it’s summertime visits, thumb-less mittens or minivan jams, Chain of Lakes instantly finds himself at home.
The Alto, Michigan indie-folk singer-songwriter openly recounts personal tales of heartwarming comfort and raw vulnerability on his introspective new album, Catch.
“As an overarching theme of my writing, I’m always going to write autobiographically from where I am a lot,” said Kyle Rasche, aka Chain of Lakes. “That’s not a big stretch, especially since everyone’s only been home for the last two years. I’m sure there’s been an exclamation point behind some of those themes.”
Throughout Catch, Rasche shares a 37-minute, visceral response to life lessons across 11 tender Chain of Lakes tracks. As a son, husband and father, he dedicates an emotive craft to past and present family members who embody honesty and courage.
“You’re taking home with you, and it’s what you hope your kids do. You want nothing more than for them to have the confidence to leave and explore and see it and do everything,” said Rasche, who has three daughters.
“Then, you hope they’ll never do it because you’ll miss them so much. You want to raise them up to be confident, strong women who aren’t afraid of anything.”
The Detroit singer-songwriter, multi-instrumentalist and producer concocts delectable doses of funk and soul on his latest “groovacious” instrumental album, Bad Sugar.
“Actually, a music publishing partner of mine in Germany called Sonoton Music had heard and liked a few of the funkier tracks on the Magic Trip album,” said Behnan, who regularly writes and records music for sync licensing opportunities.
“They asked how I felt about making a full album of pure funk, more like the songs, ‘Magic Trip’ and ‘Inner City Funk,’ and trying to keep it authentic as possible in tone and feel.”
Behnan brings a funky authenticity across 11 addictive Bad Sugar tracks, which feature soulful basslines, silky electric guitars, euphoric beats, intrepid drums and confident horns. Collectively, they provide the essential sonic swagger for a bad-ass hero in a gritty action flick.
Also a sticky successor to 2020’s Magic Trip, Bad Sugar’s tracks slowly emerged in Behnan’s home studio during the early days of the pandemic lockdown.
“I’d spend days just sitting alone with my guitar coming up with riffs and progressions and stuff. Then, I’d start recording a few … usually with a scratch guitar track just so I can really start working and focusing on the drum tones/grooves and bass,” he said.
“It’s currently being pitched for lots of film and TV placements, but that’s something that will take a bit of time before I start actually hearing the songs on shows. Music licensing is a really long, slow process. I always have to push myself to stay creative and move on to the next thing once I finish an album.”
Bobby Pennock strategically revisits past songs for future reflection.
The Detroit folk-rock singer-songwriter and guitarist shares insightful vignettes from an enduring canon of tales on his new power-pop-fueled album, The Vestiges of Art.
“Interestingly, most of the songs on this album are older songs that I’ve performed live over the years, but never recorded. Although a couple are older and have never been performed,” Pennock said.
“When I started selecting songs for the album, rather than thinking about a theme, I thought about which songs I had that are up-tempo and kind of pop-rock. I thought the phrase, ‘The Vestiges of Art,’ is what an album is, so the idea to name the album came pretty quickly and easily.”
Pennock proudly reveals 10 “vestiges” (and one new track, ‘Perhaps We Were’) bursting with melodic instrumentation, thoughtful lyrics and timeless pop-rock sensibilities.
Whether addressing internal struggles or changing relationships, each track places a vivid storyline inside listeners’ heads and delights their ears with infectious soundscapes.
“About 99 percent of the time when I sit down to write a song, I have no idea what I’m going to write about,” he said. “I don’t keep a writer’s notebook.”
Steve Taylor follows a valuable piece of advice from his father.
The Lake Orion Americana singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist carries an optimal load of “supplies” through life’s peaks and valleys with bandmates Bryan Frink (bass, guitar, keys, vocals) and Carey Weaver (drums, percussion, vocals) on The Steve Taylor Three’s insightful new album, Travel Light, out Friday.
“Once a year, my dad and I would go hike the Appalachian Trail in the Appalachian Mountains. He would always talk about how you had to bring everything with you because you’re going to be up in the mountains,” Taylor said.
“You’d have to carry all your water, and you don’t realize how heavy water is until you carry it with you all day. The idea is you only bring what you need. I thought the whole idea of camping and hiking and having to carry everything in your bag is a great metaphor for life.”
Inside The Steve Taylor Three’sTravel Light “bag” resides a comforting assortment of gratitude, wisdom and honesty across 11 transformative tracks. Each one introduces a past, present or future destination along an unpredictable journey filled with heartwarming experiences.
“The older we get, the more reflection there is. I seem to be writing a lot of songs now about the passage of time and what it means. That wasn’t the case when we were younger,” said Taylor, who last released Earn Every Scar with his bandmates in March 2020.
“The simplicity of that phrase, ‘It Doesn’t Take Long,’ I try to take that title or that refrain and just come at it from family, relationships and everything. You realize when you get to close to 50 … I’m going to turn 49 here in a couple weeks and Bryan and Carey have already turned 50. You think, ‘Wow, 50.’ When we were younger, we thought people who were 30 were old.”
As a full-time college student and musician, Jack Powers needs some breathing room.
The Montclair, New Jersey indie rock singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist briefly escapes a heavy course load and mounting creative demands on his supercharged latest single, “Music School Burnout.”
“I’m going to school for music, and I can’t even do the music things that I want to do. That’s directly the thing that inspired it,” said Powers, a music education junior at Montclair State University.
“It was also having the time to actually finish something … it takes a long time to write a song, and I do all the recording, producing and mixing. To do all that, and then to make the music video, and then release it … seeing any project to fruition is so hard to do when you’re also taking 19 credits.”
As a concise, energetic release, “Music School Burnout” clobbers lingering tensions and anxieties with a whirlwind of smashing cymbals, weary electric guitar, thumping bass and fitful drums.
Powers sings, “I haven’t wrote a song in a minute/Harmony in thirds been my limit/Can’t tell what’s been off/But something’s probably wrong/I hate it already/I hate it already.”
“I want to continue releasing music and keeping doing this because it’s what I really want to do. It’s been really frustrating to not be able to do it because of music theory in school,” he said.
“And now, I finally have a band that plays my music now, which is super fun. We’ve been playing shows, and we’re going to start touring. Once I’m out (of school), I’m going to put all my energy into this and see what happens.”
Filled with gratitude and anticipation, Pajamas wants to show their hometown some love.
The Ann Arbor rock-funk jam quartet of Graham Low (drums, vocals), Nick Orr (guitars, vocals), Dan Schuler (bass, vocals) and Owen Kellenberger (keys, vocals) eagerly awaits their first headlining show Friday at The Blind Pig in nearly two years.
“Since we do perform in Ann Arbor pretty regularly, this one is going to be a love letter to our friends and fans, something unique and special. We’ve put a lot of work into making this happen. It’s a chance to celebrate our town, our community and where we are now as a band,” Orr said.
“I think people have a lot to look forward to with this show. We’ve hired a professional lighting engineer to accompany the music with an incredible light show. The Blind Pig is an Ann Arbor institution, and we’ve all been attending and playing shows there for years.”
As part of their show, Pajamas will share The Blind Pig stage with Toledo’s Cactus Jack, a quintet of talented friends quickly gaining traction with live Michigan audiences.
“We met Cactus Jack by putting a show together with them at the Tip Top Deluxe in Grand Rapids. It was our first time playing together, but I think we fit together really well musically,” Orr said.
“They’re really talented players with very good original songs. We got along really well and are happy that they were available to play with us again for this upcoming show. This show will be their Blind Pig debut, so it’s extra cool for that reason.”
Another extra “cool” reason to celebrate Pajamas’ Blind Pig return – new material to preview and experience from their forthcoming second studio album as well as some improvised covers.
“I’m really proud of the music that we’ve written for it, and I think it showcases how far we’ve come and where we’re currently at as a band,” said Orr, who previously released Onesie with the band in 2018. “It feels like we are hitting our songwriting stride, and more importantly, finding our own sound and voice. I think with this second full-length album we just know who we are and what we are about musically.”
Eck’s Men boldly issue a warning about a female archenemy in disguise.
The New York City power pop-abilly quintet of Drew Eckmann (vocals), Rick Norman (guitar, backing vocals), Roger Astudillo (bass, backing vocals), Tom Wise (saxophone) and Dennis Vallone (drums, backing vocals) alerts unsuspecting “citizens” to the hidden motives of an evil-hearted woman on their latest fiery single, “The Girl Who Never Was.”
“It’s inspired by someone I know … it’s kind of a mean song,” said Eckmann. “People rub you the wrong way, and you step back and look at their situation … try to see what they’re seeing. Sometimes though, what you see is what’s in the song.”
A courageous Eck’s Men legion of clobbering drums, smashing cymbals, zippy bass, valiant electric guitar and fearless saxophone sonically confront the malicious forces of “The Girl Who Never Was.”
Eckmann sings, “Watch your back/She’s talking behind it/It’s a sneak attack/But she doesn’t mind it/Ask her why, she’ll tell you because/She wanted to be, but never was.”
“Writing the song took about 15 minutes. I had some alternative verses, but I think the ones I used were the best balance,” Eckmann said. “Recording the song was a lot of fun. We went to Flux Studios and recorded in the same room that had been used by both The Rolling Stones and Paul McCartney.”
“We put in two 10-hour days, and then Jesse and Geoff worked on the songs for a bit more after that. Like all of our songs, I come up with the melody, and then the guys put my melody to actual music. I’ve known Jesse for over 15 years, and he’s a good friend. He offered to produce, and I sent him four or five songs. He picked the two that we recorded,” Eckmann said.
“Geoff has worked with Steve Van Zandt, Bruce Springsteen, The Smithereerns and others, but we hadn’t met until the first day of recording. Jesse has a great ear for what makes a good song and changed both the beginning and the end of ‘The Girl Who Never Was.’ ‘Conspiracy Theories’ was pretty much left how it was. We’d already been performing both of them in shows.”
Joss Jaffe closely explores the emotions and experiences of the human spirit.
The Los Angeles chillwave singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist embarks on an invigorating spiritual odyssey filled with resilience and restoration on his latest metamorphic album, Sun Mountain Sea, via Be Why Music.
“From a spiritual perspective, even when you’re in love with someone and it doesn’t work out, you’re still sort of connected to that person. That’s what some of these songs are talking about … trying to see that from the highest perspective, even though you may never see them again. That’s kind of what it’s like to be alive,” Jaffe said.
“When someone dies, you’re just left with the memory of that and how do you process that? These songs aren’t really that heavy, there are a couple that deal with heavier and stronger issues, but they’re pretty light in general. The hopefulness is a good quality. It’s the kind of thing you can play during a road trip and just chill.”
With a relaxed foot on the gas and one hand on the wheel, Jaffe’sSun Mountain Sea instantly transports listeners to a carefree, windows-rolled-down headspace. Breathtaking waves of mystical electronic soundscapes, effervescent indie-pop sensibilities and lustrous instrumentation propel listeners across international scenic highways from Santa Barbara to Ibiza.
“It’s very honest, like the way a singer-songwriter would sing it. There’s an acoustic element, but it’s laid on top of these electronic beats. It’s been compared to The Postal Service and stuff like that,” said Jaffe, who also took inspiration from Foster The People, MGMT and Tycho.
“In my mind’s eye, I fantasized it would be like Ibiza-style, like Avicii or something. But that’s not me; I’m not really a big, electro-heavy guy. It has more of a chill-out kind of a vibe.”
“I wrote this song when I was starting to like this boy. I had never been in a serious relationship before, and I definitely yearned for one, but I was so guarded back then as well. I didn’t want to let that guard down for someone who was going to eventually take advantage of me, resent me and just waste my time,” Taylor said.
“And the end of the song though, it’s like I’ve gotten to the point where I’m in deep with this person. Although it’s scary, at that point I was like, ‘How can it be a waste of time if you’re with this person you love?’”
Throughout “Wasting Time,” Taylor unearths a deeply buried vulnerability as sparkling electric guitars, contemplative bass, intimate drums and gentle cymbals gradually ease his hesitation and fear.
He sings, “I’ve only known you for one small bit of my long-ass life/But the way that you’re pressing your lips against mine/Well, it feels so right/Oh, it’s almost as if I have known you for an eternity/So let’s take our time/And get high on each other before we leave.”
“Overall, the song’s theme has appeared in my life multiple times since I’ve written it, but I mainly hope people’s takeaway is that life is short,” said Taylor, who’s currently studying music at Columbia College in Chicago.
“The song is fun and groovy, and it doesn’t necessarily have to do with a relationship. It’s a bad-bitch anthem overall, because there’s no reason anyone should be wasting your time.”
Taylor created his “bad bitch” anthem with Detroit producer Sam Vallianatos and Chicago bassist Andrew King. “Wasting Time” initially took shape in Taylor’s home studio with Vallianatos early last year.
The Stratton Setlist recently chatted with Taylor and Vallianatos about “Wasting Time” as well as their backgrounds, previous releases, current collaboration and upcoming plans.
The Bay City Americana singer-songwriter and bassist thoughtfully unveils those hidden milestones on his new hit-worthy anthology, Greatest Misses, out today.
“I had planned on having two releases. One was gonna be a new EP, but then I was gonna do what I initially called a Greatest Hits album, and it was almost self-deprecating,” said de Heus.
“I wanted to take some of the songs we had already done and put them on one album, so that people who wanted those could get them. I don’t reprint any of the old albums, they’re just gone … because that way if I ever do get famous, they’ll be worth a fortune.”
With Greatest Misses, de Heus assembles a priceless 15-track collection of multi-genre gems, including old favorites from prior releases and three new songs. Filled with melodic hooks, memorable lyrics and clever instrumentation, the album glides through country, power pop, jazz, blues and indie rock terrain.
“Traditionally, in pop music, and in the early days of rock and roll, you might put the same song on more than one album. That was part of it. Though I did want to throw those three new ones up front, I tried to still sequence it like an album, so it was a decent listen,” de Heus said.
“In way, this is almost like a second version of Silk Purses. Andy Reed called that my Goodbye Yellow Brick Road or White Album in the fact that every song is a different genre. Making the songs individually is one thing, but mixing and mastering them so they can sit next to each other on an album is another.”