Out now via all streaming platforms, Earth to Astronaut freely flows through indie rock mountains, art punk hills and garage jazz canyons to form a new fertile sound. Through these multi-genre peaks and valleys, atypical song structures and varied tempos, Alluvial Fans’ second album deeply explores the spaces between distorted, mosh-worthy cathartic freak-outs and quiet, sentimental and reflective moments.
“Sometimes your mind goes, and you find yourself jumping from place to place. And that’s sort of how my mind was working at the time and how it has been just kind of scattershot, and now I’m more aware of that. I wanted to represent that kind of fragmented or abstract thought in the lyrics, and in sum, I wanted to become more precise,” said Drew Bartosik, Alluvial Fans’ vocalist-guitarist.
“For the past two years, I’ve been practicing meditation and trying to become more self-aware and mindful of my thoughts and how I act in my environment. Things now are becoming more focused and cohesive for song ideas, and I wanted to highlight the vulnerability in that respect.”
Bartosik and his Alluvial Fans bandmates Gilad Granot (bass) and Ollie Elkus (drums) venture deep beneath the Earth to Astronaut surface to examine a juxtaposition of themes, including technology and nature, independence and interdependence, and reflection, solidarity, and devotion, over 10 expansive, metaphysical tracks.
From ‘Blowouts’ to ‘Droves’
Together, they weave an erratic, yet refreshing jazz-punk-garage-rock fusion on their latest single, “Blowout/Future Games,” which starts with light cymbal taps and delicate electric guitar and quickly erupts into a frantic musical cataclysm.
During the “Blowout” section, Bartosik eagerly shouts, “Yeah!/You never look me in the eyes these days/You’re so far gone/You’re so far” and memorably repeats, “Two for my friends/One for myself.” The first half also serves as a scintillating ode to the Detroit-Hamtramck indie rock scene.
Next, “Blowout” seamlessly segues to the mellow, thoughtful “Future Games” section with light drums, calm vocals and easygoing electric guitar strums. Bartosik quietly sings, “If the future’s playing games with me?/Who is the player playing games?/It’s just the future playing games with me/It’s just the future playing games.” Here, Alluvial Fans questions the uncertainty that lies ahead, especially in an unthinkable year like 2020.
310AM shows every relationship needs a serious reality check.
The Ypsilanti indie rock singer-songwriter and guitarist confronts this personal challenge in his latest kinetic, revelatory single, “Real to Reel,” which dropped last week via all streaming platforms.
While only two minutes long, “Real to Reel” hauntingly unites the frantic, glistening instrumentation of Two Door Cinema Club with the lush, lingering harmonies of Local Natives.
Vivacious, swift guitars, rolling drums and spirited bass propel 310AM, aka Nate Erickson, toward an overdue conversation, as he emotionally reflects, “The loose ends and disarray/Relay both fear and regret/You ask if you can stay/We both know the answer you’ll get.”
“To me, this song was a way to reflect on how separation can affect a relationship. ‘Real to Reel’ is one of those songs that just came out of nowhere. All the guitar parts and melodies came to me real quickly in a way that I find impossible to recreate intentionally. I hope people find it as cathartic to listen to as it was for me to write,” said Erickson, who wrote, recorded and mixed the track himself.
Erickson also vividly depicts the succinct “Real to Reel” struggle through a refreshing Marian Obando animated video, which chronicles the relational scuffles of Millennials living in the city. Frustrated couples and friends navigate urban life and ride a double-decker bus in search of answers.
“I found her work through a band called Dead Rituals, and she did a music video for their song ‘Closer’ that I really enjoyed. I’ve wanted to do an animated video for a while, and some of my favorite music videos are animated – ‘Paranoid Android’ by Radiohead and ‘Open Passageways’ by All Them Witches. I reached out to Marian to see if she would be interested in working together and loved the ideas she had for the project,” he said.
As a newly-timed solo project, Erickson has released a trio of striking 310AM singles since November, including the dreamy, atmospheric guitar-driven track, “Paint Me Red,” and the escalating, divisionary anthem, “Expectations of a Failed Equation.”
In August, Erickson departed the indie rock trio After Hours Radio, which released two EPs, built a strong regional following and launched a well-respected, do-it-yourself (DIY) basement venue, The Late Station, in Ypsilanti.
Through 310AM, Erickson seamlessly combines Midwest indie rock with propulsive pop-punk emo sensibilities and seeks inspiration from Taking Back Sunday, My Chemical Romance and Jimmy Eat World. His growing catalog of tracks also creates a sense of nostalgia for the emo-alt glory days of the early-2000s.
With a modern outlook on a nostalgic sound, Erickson continues to write and record new 310AM tracks and collaborate on demos with Mark Bosch, vocalist-guitarist for the Ann Arbor indie rock quartet Stop Watch.
“I have rough demos for four or five 310AM songs now that I would love to put together into a new EP this year. I feel that my writing is getting stronger with each track, and this next EP will take the 310AM sound in a really cool direction. Hopefully, I can use this time of isolation to make some progress on those,” Erickson said.
ATMIG sets the gold standard for rich multi-genre music in Detroit.
The duo of Tobias Lipski (guitar, vocals) and Julia Hickling (vocals) brilliantly alchemizes pieces of traditional folk, indie rock, shoegaze and rockabilly into a priceless sonic compound.
That compound includes valuable elements of inner reflections, deep motivations and life experiences throughout ATMIG’s vibrant full-length debut, “Wishes,” which dropped in 2019.
“The idea was to put the best songs that fit together, and the lyrics for the song ‘Wishes’ were not written yet, so it gave me an opportunity to narrate,” Lipski said. “‘Wishes’ is about time passing me by, and it has to do with being stuck at a desk nine to five and losing sight.”
With a dozen enlightening, introspective tracks, “Wishes” serves a crucial sonic reminder to take risks, abandon initial life plans and follow one’s intuition toward the right path. It’s also an internal wake-up call to rise from everyday apathy and reignite the true passions that bring a sense of purpose.
“Wishes” begins with an “Intro” laced with deep-tone guitars that descend into the narrator’s highly critical internal dialogue. Lipski’s heartfelt vocals beautifully set the struggle’s scene while crashing cymbals and vibrant guitars erupt with echoing harmonies.
ATMIG, aka After the Money is Gone, eloquently bobs, weaves and steers throughout the 10 “middle” tracks until the reprise of “Intro,” which is fittingly named “Outro,” beautifully links the entire album experience together. In fact, the album is best absorbed and digested on vinyl.
“When you listen to the first side of the album, you have mini-closure, and then you flip it over, and you have another side of the experience,” Lipski said. “‘Wishes’ is really about what’s important to you, and we were going to have this opportunity to actually do that.”
Read the Sun revolves around an ever-changing musical landscape drenched in brilliant rays of experimental indie rock.
The Detroit indie rock quartet of Alexa Gabriel (vocals, guitar), Jon Meyer (guitar), Sean Hussett (bass) and Joseph Jankowski (drums, percussion) beautifully fuses cinematic elements of classic, prog and alt rock to produce a soaring sonic experience on their latest five-track EP, “Living Thru,” which dropped in August.
“Living Thru” opens with a gorgeous instrumental, “Living,” to elegantly blend high-tone guitars and vibrating synths with light cymbal taps for a brief infectious sonic rotation. It seamlessly segues into an intense emotional track, “Brown Shoes,” as a metaphor for the struggle about starting a transition as a transgender woman.
Slow rhythmic drums, vibrant guitars and deep bass echo the struggle depicted throughout “Brown Shoes” – “I could walk a mile in somebody else’s shoes/And find nothing wrong with these other soles/I could take mine away/And leave nothing more.”
“One of the things we wanted to deliver in this EP is our continuous change of sound that we are beginning to solidify. We have started to amplify each of our strengths in the writing process and weed out the desire to imitate. We are currently on a good path towards fully realizing a more consistent sound,” said Read the Sun, whose members are influenced by Pink Floyd, The Flaming Lips, Radiohead and Snarky Puppy.
Together, the band recorded “Living Thru” in Gabriel’s bedroom where she runs a portable studio for recording and mixing. They also recorded their striking 2018 debut, “Music for Birds,” over nine months at a family-owned barn up north over a three-day stay. Coincidentally, bird sounds crept into every recording on their first full-length release.
Before they discovered “Music for Birds,” Read the Sun started as a jam session among four Plymouth-Canton high school friends. That jam session solidified into an official project by 2017 as the band members honed themselves as musicians and songwriters and cultivated an evolutionary sonic path.
Along their growing sonic path, Read The Sun continues to solder different sounds on “Living Thru,” including “The SacroMambo,” a dancy six-minute track that shimmies and sways with a symphony of electric guitars, drums, bass, saxophone and percussion.
In this case, the Lansing indie rock quartet’s newest album functions as a sonic potion drenching listeners in soothing waves of vibrant folk-influenced dream pop.
“We knew that was the kind of record we wanted to make. Michael Boyes and I had done a lot of acoustic shows together, or rather where he played acoustic and I played electric,” said Tommy McCord, Drinking Mercury’s guitarist and vocalist, about the band’s latest release out today via GTG Records.
“We had focused on embracing that sort of finger style-like folky guitar playing and bringing that in with more textural and psychedelic stuff. From there, it was a matter of filling in the arrangements, but we all knew we wanted to have the vocals be really prominent and arranged on the album.”
Soaring vocal harmonies intertwined with slow, thumping drumbeats, driving basslines and gentle acoustic and electric guitars abound on the band’s striking follow-up to 2011’s alt-folk debut, “Orcades.”
Recording Drinking Mercury, Split Album with The Soods
To create the album’s laid-back feel, McCord invited longtime friends and bandmates Boyes (guitar, vocals), Timmy Rodriguez (bass, keys, vocals) and Kevin Adams (drums) to his family’s 60-year-old rustic cabin in Bitely last July to record new material.
“It’s like the cliché of getting back to nature to write your masterpiece. My grandpa and some other guys built this cabin in the early ‘50s, so I’ve been going there my whole life. I had thought in a daydream it would be cool to record an album up here,” said McCord, who co-formed Drinking Mercury nearly 20 years ago with Adams while growing up in Ionia.
“It’s not like it’s a big acoustically awesome space. It’s just a pretty simple cabin, but it’s in a beautiful area, and the atmosphere is really relaxed, and your cell phone doesn’t work there, and there’s no internet.”
A new 310AM track poetically proves not all problems have a right answer.
Written and recorded by Ypsilanti indie rock vocalist/guitarist Nate Erickson, “Expectations of a Failed Equation” explores the twists and turns personal relationships take when they’ve reached a breaking point. At times, the best solution may include moving forward without questioning why certain life chapters end.
“It’s one I held onto for a while and reworked bits and pieces for a couple of months before it ever got put into record format,” said Erickson, former lead vocalist and guitarist of the indie rock trio After Hours Radio. “I wasn’t really consciously thinking about where I wanted to take it lyrically. I think it ended up being the experiences of what my house situation and the band situation were like at the time.”
In August, Erickson and his After Hours Radio bandmates Greg Hughes and Mark Dunne ended their five-year run as one of Ypsilanti’s most notable do-it-yourself (DIY) bands. Together, they released two EPs, performed regularly throughout southeast Michigan and northwest Ohio and ran their own Ypsilanti-based DIY venue, The Late Station, to showcase emerging artists across a multitude of genres.
Earlier this year, After Hours Radio celebrated their five-year anniversary and briefly reunited with original lead singer Calum Galt for a special one-off performance. Together, Erickson and his bandmates decide to pursue their own solo projects instead of forging ahead.
“I think at the time we were still trying to make things work the best we could,” said Erickson, who co-founded After Hours Radio with Hughes at the University of Michigan in 2014. “This track is kind of like a what-if scenario, that’s how I wrote it, and things kind of went where they did.”
Released today, Erickson’s 310AM debut track, “Expectations of a Failed Equation,” opens with slow progressive guitar chords channeling disappointment and wonder – “You can hear everything that I think/Even though I blocked you out of this place we live in/They say actions make stronger statements that complement apologies/Or all those good intentions you claim.”
“I went through a couple of different iterations once I started adding other instruments to it because either way I felt like the parts I was writing were either too dark or way too bright, and none of it felt right,” said Erickson, who’s inspired by pop-punk emo bands Taking Back Sunday, My Chemical Romance and Jimmy Eat World. “I had to go through a couple of iterations until I felt like everything meshed.”
Halfway through the track, Erickson’s guitar erupts into a firestorm mixed with thunderous bass and drums to mirror the building frustration – “Never said I’m right/And I’m not sure what more to say here/I’m not sure where to be/What to say/Or how to play this to avoid giving life the futures I fear.”
“Everything on there is me, and when I was working on this, it was meant to be like a side project from After Hours Radio,” said Erickson, who played all the instruments on the track and mixed it himself. “I didn’t take it to a nice studio or anything. It was just seeing what would happen if I just let myself run with the ideas I had in my head.”
After the release of “Expectations of a Failed Equation,” Erickson plans to drop two other new tracks in the next three to six months and continues to mix and engineer projects for local indie bands Stop Watch, Any Island, Forest Warren and Tryancareagain.
“I would like to start playing out again. For 310AM, the solo project stuff, I don’t want to do it unless I get the right group of people together to make it work like the recording,” Erickson said. “If I can get that to happen, then I would love to, but I’m not necessarily pushing for it. I’m waiting for the right fit.”
The New York City indie rock singer-songwriter and frontwoman for Nikki and The Human Element eloquently depicts relatable themes about everyday life on her catchy debut album, “Elemental,” which dropped in June.
“For me, it’s really writing about the daily stuff I see. I’m not writing about love and love lost because I’m not falling in love every day. I’ve got two kids, and I think people just want to hear about life and things they can relate to,” said Neretin, who’s also a physician with the Institute for Child and Family Health in New York City.
“I don’t think they want to hear about the tumultuous relationship that went awry. I’m just writing about the people that I meet, the experiences that I have and the experiences that they have.”
Through “Elemental,” Neretin has become a modern-day troubadour for women, especially mothers raising a family, dealing with aging and working to improve local communities. In a sense, it’s a deep look into the thoughts, feelings and struggles of a fiftysomething wife and mother who balances personal and professional ambitions.
“I’m looking to speak to women in that way, and there’s group that still goes out, sees music and loves rock and roll are my age if not older,” said Neretin, 54, who grew up in The Bronx and cited her opera singer-actor father as her biggest musical influence. “I’m a new rock and roller coming out at this age as opposed to somebody who started in their 20s and worked their way up. This shows that I can still do this.”
Davis’ three stellar breakout singles serve as an instant sonic addiction with their beautiful verses, breathtaking melodies and brilliant arrangements. Her refreshing, relatable music will leave ears buzzing for more when Davis’ heartfelt debut album, “Trophy” drops Nov. 8.
“Each of the singles has their own identities and sonic worlds. Since this album is a culmination of my writing, there are huge gaps of time between their conceptions, especially the first two singles,” she said.
“The production style and arrangement choices help bring these songs together on the album. Obviously, these songs all come from me, but at very different times in my development as a writer. I think more than anything, the singles capture moments in time.”
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.