Pithy Tales – Blank Tape Tax Chronicles Self-Empowerment on ‘Plastic Vapid Sexual Cool’ Album

Blank Tape Tax 2022 1
Blank Tape Tax’s Hayley McNichol and Ben Yost overcome adversity on “Plastic Vapid Sexual Cool.” Courtesy photo

Ben Yost thoughtfully constructs personal vignettes of self-empowerment.

The Detroit punk-rock vocalist-guitarist-drummer vividly recounts past struggles to overcome adversity on Blank Tape Tax’s new pithy, punchy album, Plastic Vapid Sexual Cool, via Kickpop Records.

“There’s a quote from Ezra Pound where he says, ‘The image is more than an idea. It is a vortex or cluster of fused ideas and is endowed with energy.’ The mission of my writing is to use imagery,” said Yost, who’s inspired by the late 20th century American poet’s development of imagism, a movement that stressed the precision and economy of language.

Alongside Blank Tape Tax bassist Hayley McNichol, Yost employs astute, concise lyrics and raw, brisk instrumentation to address internal challenges with mental health, relationships and loss. While only 21 minutes long, Plastic Vapid Sexual Cool provides a detailed analysis beneath the surface.

“‘Hospital’ is about me having a mental breakdown, but it’s also about a number of other things,” Yost said. “I have my interpretation as the author, but you, the listener, may have another interpretation based on the words, and your interpretation is just as valid an interpretation as mine is.”

Continue reading “Pithy Tales – Blank Tape Tax Chronicles Self-Empowerment on ‘Plastic Vapid Sexual Cool’ Album”

Recovery Time – Linen Ray’s ‘On the Mend’ Album Brings Comfort and Closure

LR_OTM_COVER_Final-3000x3000 V2
Linen Ray’s “On the Mend” reveals a majestic, internal transformation fueled by love, hope and gratitude. Photo – Mike Frieseman/Package design – Stephanie Eatherly

Linen Ray slowly breathes a long-awaited sigh of relief.

The Nashville, Tennessee married folk-rock duo of Rebekah Craft (vocals, acoustic guitar) and Gabriel Craft (drums, backing vocals) releases deeply buried tensions and inner struggles on their latest cathartic album, On the Mend.

“We’re in a full-circle moment now … there’s been some closure and healing in different areas. We’ve never written anything more meaningful to us that’s so close to our hearts,” said Rebekah Craft, who relocated to Music City from Ypsilanti with her husband and children in 2018.

“When we were moving to Nashville, there were so many unknowns, but we knew we had to do it. And, now looking back, we can see that this move has been really good for our family. We got to step away from some of those situations to really look at it and see the whole picture now.”

Inside that new On the Mend picture, Linen Ray finds comfort and rejuvenation after weathering personal stress and pandemic challenges. Each therapeutic track reveals a majestic, internal transformation fueled by hope, love and gratitude.

“We can see more clearly now because we’re all human, and we all make our choices,” said Rebekah Craft. “Now … we have way more grace, compassion and understanding than we had before when we were living through those moments in Michigan.”

Continue reading “Recovery Time – Linen Ray’s ‘On the Mend’ Album Brings Comfort and Closure”

The Quest – Adam Padden Searches for Life’s Definitive Answers on ‘Dreamer’ Single

AP_Wide
Adam Padden gets introspective on his latest EP, “Oh No! It’s the Rapture.” Photo – Liz Wittman

Adam Padden boldly searches for change and truth in an uncertain world.

The Detroit post-punk rocker and multi-instrumentalist demands life’s clear-cut answers while trying to distinguish fantasy from reality on his latest turbo-charged single, “Dreamer.”

Punchy drums, hectic cymbals, intrepid bass, spirited keys and fiery electric guitars release an inner fury as Padden sings, “You better stop and ask why/The secrets always disguised/Another flimsy attempt/Was it just something you dreamt?”

In reality, Padden relishes the release of “Dreamer” alongside his insightful new EP, Oh No! It’s the Rapture, which dropped June 3.

The Stratton Setlist recently chatted with Padden about the EP, his June 10 show in Detroit, his roles in Tart and Handgrenades, his background and upcoming plans.

Oh No! It’s the Rapture

TSS: Your new EP, Oh No! It’s the Rapture, explores internal and spiritual challenges with taking risks, making changes and searching for truth in life. How did this EP help you embark on a quest of self-discovery? 

AP: In short, no, I did not purposely write these songs with that theme in mind. I think that turning 30 during a global pandemic made me a little introspective, to say the least. The lyrics to most of these songs came out super-fast. I honestly think I’m still deciphering what some of these songs are about.

TSS: How did a 10-day quarantine help produce the 7 tracks that would become Oh No! It’s the Rapture? What was it like to focus solely on writing and recording your own material during that time?

AP: I guess I was lucky enough to have the songwriting gates burst open when I had all the time in the world to write songs. It doesn’t always happen that way! It was a fantastic learning experience to write and record a collection of songs in such a short window of time.

Continue reading “The Quest – Adam Padden Searches for Life’s Definitive Answers on ‘Dreamer’ Single”

Evolutionary Perspective – Mike Ward Examines Passage of Time on ‘Particles to Pearls’ Album

mike BW
Mike Ward highlights the fleeting passage of time on “Particles to Pearls.” Photo – Danny Ward

For Mike Ward, a new album chronicles a thoughtful evolution of sound.

The Detroit Americana singer-songwriter carefully transforms a dozen acoustic tracks into an earnest collection of expansive tales on Particles to Pearls.

“I think the first track we added any instruments to was ‘All We Have Are Words.’ David Roof played the electric guitar on it, and I thought, ‘Wow, that’s what this can sound like.’ I’d been playing that by myself for two years,” said Ward about his third Psychosongs album.

“Because it’s been two years since I wrote most of those songs, and that’s right about now, every day on Facebook there’s a memory of the song, and I get to hear how I first wrote it.”

During the 2020 pandemic lockdown, Ward penned 31 new tracks as part of a 30 Songs in 30 Days songwriting challenge with New York City folk-rock singer-songwriter Paul Winfield. The poignant tracks opened his creative floodgates and pushed him deeper into the songwriting trenches.

“They’re all moments in time. The album has a number of those songs,” Ward said. “I’m pretty happy with the end results. David Roof plays bass on everything, but he also plays a 12-string Rickenbacker electric guitar on ‘Back Again.’ We wanted a Byrds/Roger McGuinn-style sound on it.”

Continue reading “Evolutionary Perspective – Mike Ward Examines Passage of Time on ‘Particles to Pearls’ Album”

Double Vision – Hollow Head Unites Creative Forces on ‘A Spark of Madness’ Album

DM100038 V2
Hollow Head’s Elliott Miller and Jim Adame reassess the valleys of the past and explore the peaks of the future on “A Spark of Madness.” Photo – Josiah Walker

Last year, Jim Adame and Elliott Miller opted to double their musical odds.

The longtime friends and collaborators pooled their talent, ingenuity and resources to form Hollow Head, a new Denver-based indie-folk duo.

“Elliott and I started releasing music independently and closely around each other. He started writing songs a year or two before I did, and when I moved out to Colorado initially, that’s when I started getting back into writing music and releasing it,” said Adame, Hollow Head’s vocalist-guitarist who hails from Midland, Michigan.

“I released my EP, and Elliott released his EP. On my EP, Elliott did all the drum work and the lead guitar, and he was already a pretty big part of that project. At a certain point, we realized our songs had a lot in common, and the subject matter was similar as well. Since we had already enjoyed collaborating, we decided to take the plunge and make it a duo project.”

Together, their creative Hollow Head forces produced A Spark of Madness, an emotive debut album immersed in ethereal soundscapes, earnest lyrics, ear-catching harmonies and expansive instrumentation.

“We put words on paper, and then a lot of that came from subconscious thoughts, and we found out what it meant later,” said Miller, Hollow Head’s vocalist-guitarist-drummer who also grew up in Midland and met Adame in 2015.

Each track provides a contemplative, out-of-body experience that allows listeners to deeply reflect on internal struggles, old relationships and life lessons. It’s the ideal sonic companion for a solo Rocky Mountain road trip to reassess the valleys of the past and explore the peaks of the future.

“We revisited the songs, so they’re all more cohesive and share the two of us,” Adame said. “That’s how they all play out. And then, two of the songs, ‘Gasoline’ and ‘January,’ are the ones we wrote while we were in the middle of forming Hollow Head.”

Continue reading “Double Vision – Hollow Head Unites Creative Forces on ‘A Spark of Madness’ Album”

Loud and Clear – TJ Zindle Finds Inner Fire on Mighty ‘Now Let Go’ Album

IMG_0110
TJ Zindle produces an undeniable musical force on “Now Let Go.” Photo – Jeff Baker

Two years ago, TJ Zindle discovered an unexpected clarity.

With a quiet mind and a fresh creative spark, the Ann Arbor indie-rock artist and guitarist immersed himself in a pandemic-induced songwriting retreat.

“The first couple of months during the shutdown everything felt clear. All the noise was gone, and I was just writing a ton. A lot of it was about mental health stuff and trying to figure that out … because all of sudden, I had time to think,” said Zindle, who’s also a vocalist-guitarist with Erin Zindle & The Ragbirds.

“The hum of life was gone for a bit, and I wrote about 45-50 songs for this record. I also have another record coming out later this year with some friends from another band.”

Those sessions produced Now Let Go, Zindle’s first new album since 2017’s Hold On with All Your Might. Filled with nine insightful tracks, it features an emotive narrative chronicling personal and societal reflections on life, growth and change.

“I’m at the point where it’s not so difficult to be like, ‘Yeah, I’m a real fucking musician,’ which is something that I had never felt like all my life. We all fight that imposter syndrome … we’re all there, every single human,” he said.

“But to be like, ‘I made a pretty damn good record on my own,’ and I got a lot of stuff out … I honestly know I did my best, and it was just me. There was just a lot of power in that.”

Continue reading “Loud and Clear – TJ Zindle Finds Inner Fire on Mighty ‘Now Let Go’ Album”

Spiritual Awakening – Taylor DeRousse Releases Haunted Past on ‘Winter Ghost’ Single

IMG_4352
Taylor DeRousse experiences an emotional transformation on “Winter Ghost.” Artwork – Taylor DeRousse

Taylor DeRousse slowly expels the lingering spirits of a haunted past.

The Royal Oak indie-rock singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist calmly exhales former selves and bygone relationships in her latest heart-melting single, “Winter Ghost.”

“The writing of this song was a cool experience for me. Last winter, I tried writing a song a day for a while to challenge myself,” DeRousse said. “This song came from that. It was snowing outside, and I got the first line in my head … ‘It snowed today.’”

Throughout “Winter Ghost,” DeRousse thaws frozen memories and warms icy self-doubt as ethereal synths, pensive electric guitar and sanguine acoustic guitar prompt a spiritual awakening.

She sings, “I saw the sun today/It’s mid-July, and now I’m feeling the weight of you wash away/White was the world in my heartbreak/And pale as snow was my skin while the ghost of you remained/Saw the color come back into my face.”

“And then I thought, ‘Why would someone not like the snow?’” DeRousse said. “Then, as it all came together, I was like, ‘This is definitely an experience that I’ve had in my life, but the details are different,’ and yet the theme is still the same.”

DeRousse seamlessly carries “Winter Ghost’s” transformational theme forward while Traverse City producer John Piatek conjures an otherworldly soundscape.

“When I go up and record, and by the time I make it home, John has sent me something. I remember he had sent me the rough track of it … and I listened to it, and I was just floored,” she said.

“The vocals that he adds on that track are my favorite part of the whole song. It felt like, ‘Wow, this is how it was supposed to always be,’ but I could have never gotten it there myself.”

Continue reading “Spiritual Awakening – Taylor DeRousse Releases Haunted Past on ‘Winter Ghost’ Single”

Past Perfect – Bobby Pennock Shares Enduring Favorites on ‘The Vestiges of Art’ Album

BobbyKollerPic
Bobby Pennock demonstrates his musical prowess on “The Vestiges of Art.” Photo – Kent Koller

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.”

Continue reading “Past Perfect – Bobby Pennock Shares Enduring Favorites on ‘The Vestiges of Art’ Album”

Sage Advice – The Steve Taylor Three Finds the Right Balance on ‘Travel Light’ Album

IMG_4514
The Steve Taylor Three’s Carey Waver, Steve Taylor and Bryan Frink share gratitude, wisdom and honesty on “Travel Light.” Photo – Daniel Roth

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’s Travel 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.”

Continue reading “Sage Advice – The Steve Taylor Three Finds the Right Balance on ‘Travel Light’ Album”

Breathing Room – Jack Powers Releases Academic Tensions on ‘Music School Burnout’ Single

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.”

Continue reading “Breathing Room – Jack Powers Releases Academic Tensions on ‘Music School Burnout’ Single”