As the year (thankfully) comes to a close, we reflect on the strength, grit and willpower that slowly got us through. Together, we relied on new soothing, hopeful tracks that provided a welcome escape from the COVID-19 pandemic, social isolation, political rifts, grief and loss.
Uplifting, rewarding bits of indie folk, country-pop, folk rock, psych rock, shiny lo-fi soul, reggae, dreamy pop, chill hip-hop and experimental art rock demonstrate the courageous creative and emotional spirit we all share heading into 2021.
With November’s upcoming arrival, some soulful sonic nourishment is needed to weather and withstand the remainder of 2020.
Fortifying morsels of lo-fi folk, shiny indie pop, fiery classic rock, breezy dance, garage-filled indie rock, heartfelt acoustic ballads and groovy, emotive hip-hop strengthen the mind and spirit for the unknown road ahead.
The metro Detroit soulful pop singer-songwriter serves as an inspirational North Star for lifelong love on her latest poignant single, “Changeless Sky,” which dropped Aug. 28 via all streaming platforms.
“I’ve been married for a lot of years, and it’s really different than people who are popping in and out of relationships. If you’re in a long-term thing, then it’s the ups and downs of being there and sticking it out and growing together. Everything else changes around you, but you’re there for each other,” she said.
Throughout the glistening, peaceful monogamous track, Predhomme weaves soft piano with passionate, uplifting vocals as she sings, “No matter the sun and shade passing by/The world might be twisting, thrashing right outside/But I am your changeless sky.”
“I had the idea for the title and thought those were cool words, and it’s about this enduring, never-changing thing. I took that title and just made it a love song,” said Predomme, whose latest single is the lead track on The Stratton Playlist.
Predhomme wrote and recorded “Changeless Sky” late last year in her home studio after releasing her eloquent fifth album, Love. The tender track is the second in a series of new monthly singles from Predhomme’s uplifting, expansive multi-genre catalog, which dates back to her 2008 self-titled debut.
In July, Predhomme dropped her luminous, laid-back ode to authenticity, “So Good to Be Free,” which fuses jubilant acoustic strums, upbeat maracas, rhythmic bongos and vibrant electric guitars into an infectious Bo Diddley-inspired beat.
The shimmery single also beautifully showcases Predhomme’s signature optimistic outlook as she sings, “I don’t need the look or the trend/I’ll be the least cool of my friends/You can have all that/I won’t please the pack/‘Cause I’m free/To be whatever I choose to be.”
“It’s probably more ‘me’ than a lot of the other songs I’ve released. I used to worry about how I looked even when I went to the grocery store, and now I go in sweats and no makeup. It’s good to be free and not worry anymore about what people think,” said Predhomme, who collaborated with Nashville guitarist Cheyenne Medders on the track.
“It’s also freeing about the way I write music now. When I started, I was trying to send songs to Nashville, and I thought I was too old when I was in my 30s. I was sending songs thinking maybe some major artists would sing my songs, and I got no bites. When I started singing and releasing them myself, people started picking them up for licensing.”
Whether it’s early in the morning or late at night, there’s a new bunch of tasty tracks ready to sample.
The July edition of “The Stratton Playlist” will whet your musical appetite with shimmery pop-rock, upbeat country, mesmerizing post-rock, metalized modern rock, steamy blues rock, soulful folk, spunky hip-hop, groovy R&B and more freshly-squeezed tracks.
The Ann Arbor pop-rock singer-songwriter ventures beyond the looking glass and reflects on misunderstood life moments in “Illusions,” a spellbinding glimpse into vivid realizations and intense ruminations.
“I was in this relationship for a long time and had felt misunderstood on so many levels throughout that period of time. And not just by that person, but also by my family because they were not super on-board with music. I also lost some friends in a short amount of time due to music and that relationship,” Pierce said.
“I was really reflecting on that time, and I remember exactly what I was doing when that song came out of me. The first line that actually came out was, ‘Painted words on paper-thin walls,’ and I was watching this TV show, and I paused it and went to the piano. That song was written in like 40 minutes, and it was written very easily and clearly, like I knew in me what I wanted to say and what I wanted to get out.”
Featured as part of this month’s “The Stratton Playlist,” “Illusions” blends somber synths, sorrowful piano, shimming electric guitars, soaring electronic drums and throaty bass into a hypnotic, sonic head-trip.
Akin to Vanessa Carlton, Pierce’s soulful vocals implode her romantic mirage as she ponders, “I thought I’d figured it out/Wide-eyed, I mapped it out/But you say I’m too difficult/Honey I know, honey I know/I try to pull back/Quiet the noise inside my head/But you say it’s too difficult/Honey I know, honey I know/I’ll never let this go.”
Pierce recorded “Illusions” earlier this year with producer Jake Rye at Adrian’s Social Recording Company. He helped Pierce crystallize the track’s vision and added majestic arrangements to quickly transform it in the studio.
“We would go back and forth like, ‘What do you hear for this part?’ and he had a good direction of where the production was headed. He came up with an awesome, meaty bassline, and I can’t really say enough positive things about him,” said Pierce, who learned about Rye through his collaborations with Michigander.
As summer kicks into high gear, get ready to test-drive a new batch of tunes from emerging local and regional artists.
The June edition of “The Stratton Playlist” will gain traction with grungy alt rock, lo-fi jazzy soul, inspirational pop rock, indie folk, bouncy pop punk, dancy pop, melodic prog rock, bouncy pop punk and uplifting country.
Doogatron brilliantly channels the artistic spirit and creative legacy of the late Andrew Weatherall.
The Ypsilanti techno duo of Stevie Tee and Kyle (and occasional trio with Michael) seamlessly stitches midtempo acid house, breakbeat techno and dreamy shoegaze into their latest interstellar Weatherall tribute single, “Audrey Witherspoon.”
Out now via all streaming platforms, “Audrey Witherspoon” beautifully celebrates Weatherall’s illustrious career as an acclaimed U.K.-based DJ, producer and artist who remixed tracks by Happy Mondays, New Order, Björk and My Bloody Valentine. He also added samples, loops and mixes on Primal Scream’s 1991 Mercury Prize-winning album, Screamadelica.
“It’s named ‘Audrey Witherspoon’ based on a pen name he used for gig reviews he wrote prior to his production career. The sequenced acid house bassline coupled with the big shoegaze fuzz guitar and midtempo swagger reminded me a lot of the late ‘80s, early ‘90s second summer of love, ‘Madchester’ sound, so when Andrew passed, it felt right,” Tee said.
Together, Doogatron injects the right amount of high-frequency, intergalactic beats and pulsating bass into the energetic, frenzied techno world of “Audrey Witherspoon.”
The nine-minute astral track also beautifully wraps fuzzy shoegaze guitars, scratchy hip-hop sensibilities, jazzy sax solos from Jamie Goldsmith and cosmic, reverby vocals into a nonstop club jam. (Tee also created a groovy “Gazing at Shoes” mix of music inspired by and taken from outtakes while recording “Audrey Witherspoon.”)
“‘Audrey Witherspoon’ was more in the moment with the two of us getting into a new workflow and trying to fill out as much sound as possible. Instead of Kyle just doing the drum machine or drum programming, he was also doing the bassline sequencing, and that freed me up to start playing guitar and getting into some tones,” said Tee, who also did the vocals for the track.