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

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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”

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”

Spiritual Odyssey – Joss Jaffe Finds Resilience and Restoration on ‘Sun Mountain Sea’ Album

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Joss Jaffe creates a carefree, windows-rolled-down headspace on “Sun Mountain Sea.” Photo – Mariana Shulze

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’s Sun 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.”

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Ready to Go – Liam Taylor Delivers ‘Wasting Time’ Debut Single with Sam Vallianatos

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Sam Vallianatos and Liam Taylor bring a soulful indie-pop sound to “Wasting Time.” Photo – Miles Walker Whitworth

Liam Taylor clearly shares his personal expectations for long-term relationships.

The Chicago indie-pop artist declares a readiness for true love and commitment on his latest soulful single, “Wasting Time,” via Appealing Orange Records.

“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.

Continue reading “Ready to Go – Liam Taylor Delivers ‘Wasting Time’ Debut Single with Sam Vallianatos”

Hit-Worthy Parade – Matthew de Heus Unveils Hidden Gems on ‘Greatest Misses’ Album

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Matthew de Heus shares his multi-genre gems on “Greatest Misses.” Photo – Avram Golden

Matthew de Heus prefers to acknowledge life’s under-the-radar moments.

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.”

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Going Strong – ATMIG Demonstrates Musical Prowess, Honors Majesty Crush on ‘Avec Muscles’ EP

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ATMIG’s Drew Borowsky, David Jackowicz, Tobias Lipski and Dan Clark build a robust sound on “Avec Muscles.” Photo – Scott Millington

ATMIG strongly flexes a new creative muscle.

The Detroit indie-rock quartet of Tobias Lipski (vocals, guitar), Drew Borowsky (bass), Dan Clark (guitar) and David Jackowicz (drums) demonstrates their musical prowess with a fresh lineup and a new tenacious EP, Avec Muscles, which drops Saturday.

“A lot of that comes from the current crew. Dave can do the things on drums, Dan can do the things on guitar, and Drew can do the things on bass that I like to hear in the music that I listen to and that I sure as heck can’t do myself. We get each other’s vibe, so it can actually happen,” Lipski said.

Throughout Avec Muscles, ATMIG, or After The Money Is Gone, seamlessly builds a robust sonic system from several digestible, multi-genre “proteins,” including shoegaze, indie-folk, ambient, post-punk, dream-pop and indie-rock. Each “protein” evolves into a mighty, cohesive listen.

“For Avec Muscles, I think we still have variety, but overall, it’s a heavier album. It’s not just hard rock, it’s not just shoegaze, and it’s not just folk. It’s just us trying to put forth what the band and I do best,” said Lipski, who formed the band in 2006.

A follow-up to 2019’s Wishes album, Avec Muscles also pays tribute to Majesty Crush, a highly regarded Detroit dream-pop/shoegaze quartet that formed in 1990. The band featured the late David Stroughter (vocals), Hobey Echlin (bass), Michael Segal (guitar) and Odell Nails (drums) as part of a regal lineup that released their final EP, Sans Muscles, before splitting in 1995.

“It’s supposed to be the reverse of the Majesty Crush EP, Sans Muscles, because ‘Muscles’ was Hobey’s nickname. That was the last EP they did knowing Hobey was leaving the band,” said Lipski, whose new EP, Avec Muscles, means “With Muscle.” (“Avec” is French for “With.”)

“The whole concept is that I’m a huge Majesty Crush fan, and maybe Hobey will play with us. And if he’s going to play with us, then why don’t we name the song and EP after him? Who knows? Maybe he’ll come out to the show and play some Majesty Crush songs with us.”

Continue reading “Going Strong – ATMIG Demonstrates Musical Prowess, Honors Majesty Crush on ‘Avec Muscles’ EP”

Travel Guide – Eric Ripper’s Life Adventures Elicit Dreamy, Ambient Pop-Rock Music

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Eric Ripper seeks musical inspiration from his ongoing travels. Photo – Kris Herrmann

Eric Ripper naturally follows his sense of adventure.

The Northville acoustic singer-songwriter drives cross-country, visits campsites and boards cruise ships to seek inspiration for his growing catalog of dreamy, ambient pop-rock music.

“This past summer I went to Utah, and I wanted the whole experience of just driving across the country. I knew it would be inspirational for me, and then I worked at a resort just entertaining people and playing covers and originals five days a week,” Ripper said.

“I wrote a few new songs while I was out there, and that’s kind of what I wanted … to be out there experiencing life.”

Ripper thoughtfully depicts his travels, experiences and reflections across three recent releases, including an atmospheric covers album, an outdoorsy instrumental project and a transformational anthology.

“For Classic Covers, I kept noticing how I was staying in the classic rock genre, and I decided to stick with it and kept the songs in that era. I also wanted to experiment with the sounds that I created and discovered with Lost in a Perfect Camping Trip. I wasn’t ready to write new original stuff yet,” he said.

“I like the instrumental album because I’m self-conscious about my voice like all singers are. I wanted to have some fun and not focus on writing lyrics. I was just gonna jam out and play with a different sound. And Story Notes is definitely a coming-of-age album … it’s different topics and different parts of my life.”

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A Deeper Understanding – Lilly MacPhee Digs Beneath the Surface on ‘Between the Lines’ EP

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Lilly MacPhee uncovers hidden thoughts about time, loss and love on “Between the Lines.” Photo – Jackie Pappas

Lilly MacPhee continually searches for a deeper understanding in life.

The metro Detroit indie folk singer-songwriter explores the true meaning of everyday words and actions on her new contemplative EP, Between the Lines.

“When I named the EP and thought about the overall theme of all the songs, I wanted people to really think about something before they say it. I believe in the notion of ‘say what you mean and mean what you say,’” MacPhee said.

“My whole goal with songwriting, and especially with the lyrics on this EP, is to always be authentic and raw. I also want to write lyrics universal enough to where everyone can interpret their own meaning.”

While reading Between the Lines, MacPhee digs beneath the surface and uncovers hidden thoughts about the passage of time, the loss of a loved one, the value of simple pleasures, and the need for lifelong connection.

Each haunting track also reminds listeners to learn from the past and find a sense of gratitude in the present, even as life’s troubles and uncertainties continue to build.

“Even through all the loss and the grief that I’ve experienced and others have experienced during these crazy times, I’m always trying to find the bright light,” MacPhee said.

“And for me, that’s through songwriting and the idea of trying to find the bright light in the darkness and finding the positivity when it might be hard to see.”

Continue reading “A Deeper Understanding – Lilly MacPhee Digs Beneath the Surface on ‘Between the Lines’ EP”

Spirit Animal – Adam Masterson Urges Trusting Your Instincts on ‘Wild Wolves’

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Adam Masterson explores romantic fear and uncertainty on “Wild Wolves.” Photo – Anna Gabriel

When it comes to a passionate relationship, Adam Masterson urges people to follow their instincts.

The New York City roots-rock singer-songwriter quickly identifies the romantic fear and uncertainty others face on his latest spiritual single, “Wild Wolves.”

“A passionate relationship can be a terrifying place because you’re at the mercy of someone else. It can be filled with uncertainties,” Masterson said.

“Wolves feel like a good image because they seem both above those things as creatures that know how to survive with the uncertainties of the wild … but at the same time, they can be kindred spirits that know the frailties and vulnerabilities of fear.”

Masterson freely explores those primal “Wild Wolves” emotions as ascending piano, aerial synths, spirited electric guitar, playful bass and speedy drums sprint across the open countryside.

He sings, “There’s something out there coming/And it’s after you and me/I’m so scared of losing/You among these trees.”

“Maybe for me, the song isn’t about salvation in a relationship, but more about finding a good omen in the uncertainty and danger that surrounds us … (and) trusting in (your) animal instinct to survive and connecting with your spirit animal,” Masterson said. “(By) being at ease with the wild wolves that will always be part of your nature, they’re leading you to knowledge of yourself.”

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Screen Time – Cashmere Washington Channels Rom-Coms, Coen Brothers on ‘Almost Country for Old Men, Electro Country for They/Them’ EP

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Cashmere Washington seeks inspiration from film on his new EP, “Almost Country for Old Men, Electro Country for They/Them.” Photo – Mikael Dunn

Cashmere Washington didn’t expect a car accident, a degree completion and several rom-com binges to spark a new EP.

Ironically, that chaotic period provided the Ypsilanti indie rocker with an unexpected setting for writing their new “love letter-style” EP, Almost Country for Old Men, Electro Country for They/Them, out today.

“I got rear-ended by a tow truck right after The Shape of Things to Come came out, and it really destroyed my confidence for a bit … like I didn’t want to be online or even want to leave my house,” said Washington, aka Thomas Dunn, who’s now an Eastern Michigan University (EMU) alum.

“But I had this screenwriting course at EMU in which we analyzed movies from a screenwriting perspective, and I watched so many more of them because of last semester. I blazed through so many Rachel McAdams or Meg Ryan movies and also got really interested in a few K-dramas. I watched a lot of them while I played guitar at night and most of the new EP was written this way.”

While watching rom-coms and K-dramas, Washington also sought inspiration from another unlikely source, Joel Coen and Ethan Coen’s 2007 Academy Award-winning film, No Country for Old Men.

“I pictured the whole EP as an indie romantic-comedy soundtrack. Because the songs on the EP lean into a variety of emotions, I see ‘Life Is’ as a good example of both. It straddles the line between a cataclysmic sadness and an unwavering optimism to me,” they said.

“It’s funny because No Country for Old Men is such a dark film. I love how it sits within many genres and influences, yet is its own thing. The EP … pushed me to write songs that have multiple sides and angles. The songs have these dark and cinematic edges to them, but I hope they also feel kind of cheeky and cute.”

Continue reading “Screen Time – Cashmere Washington Channels Rom-Coms, Coen Brothers on ‘Almost Country for Old Men, Electro Country for They/Them’ EP”