The Ann Arbor alternative soul singer-songwriter reaches deep within her nighttime subconscious to tackle unanswered questions on “Nocturne,” an enchanting six-track, jazz-filled journey that lands in between the lo-fi chillwave world of today and the old Hollywood film scores of yesterday.
Throughout her emotive sonic journey, Darling reveals her inner struggles with breakups, loss, anxiety and depression. The recent passing of her grandfather caused many sleepless nights and served as the overall inspiration behind her debut EP.
“I have a very active dream life so I kept seeing my grandfather on a park bench, and he’d turn to me and open his mouth to say something, but then nothing would ever come out,” said Darling, aka Danielle Davis, who sang in church, choir and theater and listened to musicals with her grandfather while growing up in Tree Town. “I kept having it over and over, and I kept getting ready just in case if I had the dream again, and then each time, nothing.”
To give her late grandfather a voice, Darling wrote “Two for Joy,” a haunting two-minute ode wrapped in lo-fi vintage vocals and delicate acoustic guitars alongside a scratchy, warm vinyl soundscape – “An old man sat down/Removed his little cap/Put his hand to his heart and turned my way/And he said baby girl I know, I know that smile is a voice/He sighed and he said what’s the sorrow, but two for joy.”
“I wanted to give him words to say about why he was there, and I felt like he was probably trying to help me out in my sadness by saying, ‘It’s OK, you’re gonna be all right,’” she said. “The other songs are just a series of random dreams that I had around that same time where I’d turn into a bird or things like that.”
Four Michigan artists will share the stories, successes and secrets behind their music tonight in the Motor City.
Brian Perrone, Shawn Butzin, Mike Gentry and Mark Jewett will host a “Singer-Songwriter Night” today at Detroit’s historic Cadieux Café, 4300 Cadieux Road, from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m.
For the artists, it’s a rare chance to share their eclectic, timeless music in a live, intimate acoustic setting on the city’s east side. Perrone, a Livonia singer-songwriter, relishes any opportunity to bring talented local artists together.
“I try to find artists who are somewhat similar, but still different enough for the audience,” said Perrone, who’s organizing tonight’s show. “I like to set it up where we either all take the stage at the same time and take turns rotating songs, or we each go up, play two songs and do a round like that. That way, it’s not just one act for four or five songs.”
During tonight’s show, each artist will reveal past and present tunes from their musical catalogs and introduce their favorite covers. They also might surprise the audience with a new song.
The Plymouth indie folk-rock singer-songwriter credits the late Queen frontman with inspiring his new single, “Youth & Danger,” which blows past the traditional 3.5-minute mark.
“I recently watched the ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ movie, and they were telling Freddie Mercury how the song, ‘Bohemian Rhapsody,’ was way too long to be a single,” said Matt Sauter, aka Adventures with Vultures. “He’s like, ‘Fuck you, if I want a 15-minute single, then I’m going to put a 15-minute single out.’ Then, I was thinking about ‘Youth & Danger,’ and I said I’m just going to make it one long song.”
Adventures with Vultures’ latest single, the alt rock, indie folk-tinged “Youth & Danger,” clocks in at 7.5 minutes and originally started as two separate songs. During live shows, Sauter and his bandmates brother Dan Sauter (bass), Jon Staten (drums) and Jimmy Showers (guitar) would merge both songs since they’re in the same key.
“The first part of the song, ‘Youth,’ is about my grandma. I wrote that song about a week after she passed away, and it was one of those songs that took me not even 30 minutes to write,” Sauter said. “I also decided to write a song, ‘Danger,’ about how I was growing up with drinking, smoking, partying and girls. My brother is in the band, and he was like, ‘Blend the two together, man,’ and the name stuck.”
A gorgeous track, “Youth & Danger” opens with a quiet acoustic guitar solo while a slide guitar echoes in the background. This complementary guitar work sets the stage for a quiet, reflective tune as Sauter sings in a raspy voice, “Well, heaven’s gates won’t let me in/When I die I’ll guarantee they’ll sing so they can come down.”
A set of quiet, delicate cymbals crash in response to Sauter’s solemn tone – “They married young and they raised their kin/They had two young daughters and my mother Kim/And a son named Joseph/But oh I cry every time I sing this song.”
The National knows how to make an indelible first impression in Tree Town.
The indie rock quintet enthralled a crowd of nearly 3,500 fans during their first headlining show June 25 at Ann Arbor’s Hill Auditorium with Courtney Barnett.
It was their first appearance in Tree Town while supporting their latest and eighth studio release, “I Am Easy to Find,” which features memorable collaborations with notable female artists and musicians.
Bathed in brightly colored lights and flanked by two large screens displaying Impressionist-inspired artwork, The National opened their nearly two-hour set with “You Had Your Soul with You” and featured Dianne Berkun Menaker, founder and director of the Brooklyn Youth Choir, as a brilliant guest vocalist.
Lead vocalist Matt Berninger sipped a beverage from a red plastic Solo cup and joked with the audience throughout their set as twin brothers Aaron Dessner (guitar, bass piano) and Bryce Dessner (guitar, piano) cued up the band before each song.
The band performed several introspective masterpieces from their latest album, including “Quiet Light,” “The Pull of You,” “Hey Rosey,” “Oblivions,” “Light Years,” “I Am Easy to Find” and “Rylan,” while Berkun Menaker provided lush harmonies and background vocals that meshed beautifully with Berninger’s.
About halfway through their set, Berninger and drummer Bryan Devendorf engaged in friendly onstage banter. The introverted Devendorf spoke fondly about spending time in Ann Arbor before the band’s show. In response, Berninger joked with his quiet bandmate about finally speaking to the crowd.
“Are you going to say something, Bryan?” Berninger asked laughingly. “Let me give you my microphone … Bryan barely speaks, you guys.”
Devendorf proudly responded, “I visited a pool today called the Fuller Park Pool, it was fantastic, and right across the street is U-M hospital, am I correct? I was born there in 1975, so I’ve come full circle.”
The National also came full circle musically while performing past fan favorites ranging from “Bloodbuzz Ohio” to “Graceless” to “Fake Empire.” No National live show is complete without at least one or two timeless tracks from “High Violet” and “Boxer.”
The band closed the show with a four-song encore and featured Berninger jumping into the crowd and interacting with fans during “Mr. November.” It’s a highly anticipated moment from any longtime fan of The National.
A fan also presented Berninger with his own U-M baseball cap to wear toward the end of the night.
“Thank you for making this for me. I will wear this forever,” Berninger said. “You want me to sign it? I’m not giving this back to you.”
Hopefully, Berninger’s new cap will make it easy for fans to find The National in Ann Arbor again soon.
The National will be easy to find Tuesday night at Ann Arbor’s Hill Auditorium.
The indie rock quintet will perform their first headlining show at the University of Michigan’s 106-year-old, 3,500-seat auditorium in support of their latest and eighth studio release, “I Am Easy to Find.”
Presented by AEG and The Ark, it’s the latest stop on The National’s current 20-date North American tour with special guest Australian indie rock singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Courtney Barnett. The band last performed in Michigan at Detroit’s Mo Pop Festival in July 2018.
The National’s Matt Berninger (vocals) along with twin brothers Aaron Dessner (guitar, bass, piano) and Bryce Dessner (guitar, piano) and brothers Scott Devendorf (bass) and Bryan Devendorf (drums) will showcase new introspective songs tinged with dark, melancholy lyrics from their critically-acclaimed 16-track album, which dropped May 17 on 4AD.
The follow-up to 2017’s GRAMMY-award winning release, “Sleep Well Beast,” “I Am Easy to Find” features The National’s latest singles, “You Had Your Soul with You,” “Light Years” and “Hairpin Turns,” and harnesses their signature indie rock sound filled with driving guitars, eloquent pianos and pulsating bass and drum lines.
Interestingly, the album includes a short companion film with the same name and music by The National. Inspired by “I Am Easy to Find,” the film was directed by Academy Award-nominated director Mike Mills (“20th Century Women,” “Beginners”) and stars Academy Award Winner Alicia Vikander, who’s also featured on the album’s cover.
Along with the band, Mills co-produced “I Am Easy to Find,” which was mostly recorded at Long Pond, Aaron Dessner’s residential studio in upstate New York along with additional sessions in Paris, Berlin, Cincinnati, Austin, Dublin, Brooklyn and other far-flung locations.
The album also features beautiful collaborations with several notable female vocalists, including Sharon Van Etten, Lisa Hannigan, Gail Ann Dorsey, Mina Tindle and Kate Stables.
Both individually and collectively, The National’s members have been involved in countless artistic, charitable and socio-political pursuits. The group released “A Lot of Sorrow” documenting their collaboration with installation artists Ragnar Kjartansson that took place at MOMA’s PS1 and saw the band play their song “Sorrow” for six hours in front of a live audience.
The National are also behind the Red Hot benefit albums, “Dark Was The Night” and “Day Of The Dead,” and the compilation boxed set titled “7-Inches for Planned Parenthood.”
In 2013, the band saw the theatrical release of their documentary, “Mistaken for Strangers,” set to the backdrop of their 2010 release, “High Violet.” During their 16-year career, The National has sold more than 2 million albums in the U.S. alone.
As for The National’s special guest, Barnett will make her first Ann Arbor appearance in support of her second album, 2018’s “Tell Me How You Really Feel,” which “takes your vulnerabilities and everything that scares you and twists them until they fit into someone else’s hands.”
For her latest album and follow-up to 2015’s “Sometimes I Sit and Think, and Sometimes I Just Sit,” Barnett’s writing is focused on the internal. She’s turned her gaze inward to study how the world and people in it are affecting her.
Listening to “Tell Me How You Really Feel,” it’s easy to imagine Barnett figuring out, song by song, how to orient herself and remain steady in a place that’s rapidly shifting around her.
Last month, Barnett released a new single and video for “Everybody Here Hates You.” Recorded in late 2018 during a break in her “Tell Me How You Really Feel” world tour, “Everybody Here Hates You” is the closest Barnett has ever come to capturing the extraordinary weight and swagger of her live performance on a recording. The track is a blues-tinged behemoth with squalling guitars, organs and tambourines.
Following the release of her latest album, Barnett went on to play sold-out rooms and packed festivals worldwide. Over the course of just a few years, Barnett has become internationally renowned for her witty, ironic and distinctive song lyrics.
She’s won the Australian Music Prize, J Award for Album of the Year, APRA’s Songwriter of the Year and four ARIA Awards. Barnett has worked on music with Jack White, The Breeders and Jen Cloher as well as releasing the 2017 masterful collaboration, “Lotta Sea Lice,” with indie rock singer-songwriter Kurt Vile.
As part of the inaugural festival’s lineup featuring Sista Sarah & Pocket of Bones and nearly a dozen other artists, Banker will celebrate the musical legacy of Sorrels at Julius M. Kleiner Memorial Park in Meridian, Idaho.
A beloved folk singer-songwriter who passed away in 2017, Sorrels has inspired Banker and a growing generation of folk, country and roots artists with her iconic music, storytelling and social activism. During her nearly half-century career, Sorrels recorded more than 20 albums, including the 2005 Grammy-nominated “My Last Go ‘Round.”
“I saw a post that her son Kevin had put on Facebook about how they were going to have a festival, and he was thinking of having it around his mother’s birthday, which was June 24,” Banker said. “She’s one of my heroes, so I thought, ‘How could it hurt? I’ll message him the link to my music, and I said if you’re opening it up for people to play, I’d love to play.’ At midnight or one in the morning that night, I got a ding on my phone, and he said, ‘Yes.’”
Flabbergasted, Banker immediately joined the lineup to support Kevin Sorrels and his family in honoring his mother’s memory and music. During the festival, Banker will perform a Saturday night closing set and cover several Rosalie Sorrels favorites, including “Baby Rocking Medley,” “If I Could Be the Rain” and “Traveling Lady.”
“I feel just this debt of gratitude and closing the show that night will be a real tribute to her. It just feels like I’m going to Mecca,” said Banker, who originally met Sorrels after one of her performances at The Ark more than 30 years ago. “I also would really love for Kevin to play guitar on one of her songs during my set.”
“All four of us just wanted to get together and make something really magnificent as far as the electronic music scene, and we wanted to bring that more to light, especially with talent that’s been in and around the area,” said Tyler Denig, aka Vest and Tyler, who organized the show.
“The ‘Welcome, Visitors,’ show gives an opportunity to welcome those kinds of people to come out and enjoy electronic music, even in a place like Ann Arbor, where it might not be the first thing you think of in terms of the music scene.”
For the “Welcome, Visitors” show, each artist will assume a different interstellar identity during their set. Dubbed “Digital Satellite Base,” Denig will emerge as a digitized form from late 20th century Earth technology and materialize through a series of beeps and boops with a GameBoy Color in hand.
Meanwhile, Allium, aka Electric Junkyard Moon, will shapeshift into a cyber space priestess and galactic traveler who emits a cyberpunk sound to Earth. Their two companions, Cheska, aka Interstellar Bass Colony, and Hizen, aka Beach Party Planet, will bring raging bass and thumping house music via a beachy vibe to all alien life forms, including an intergalactic bunny.
“Even though we all come from different places, we’re all effectively trying to do the same thing, and we’re all trying to meet the same goal. When I was writing up some of those bios for the event page, I wanted to make sure that people’s individual styles and stories were represented,” Denig said. “Even if we were from just far off and distant planets, we’re all coming to the same place, which is to make music and enjoy it.”
The Stratton Setlist recently traveled to several dimensions to learn more about each artist and their interstellar identity.