Days of Future Past – Major Murphy Reaches Personal Crossroads on New ‘Access’ Album

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Major Murphy’s Jacki Warren, Brian Voortman, Chad Houseman and Jacob Bullard revisit personal struggles and explore newfound intrinsic possibilities on “Access.” Photo – New Archive

With Access, Major Murphy beautifully arrives at the emotive intersection of past and future.

The Grand Rapids indie rock quartet of Jacob Bullard (vocals, guitar), Jacki Warren (bass, vocals), Brian Voortman (drums) and Chad Houseman (guitar, keys, percussion) seamlessly navigates undiscovered internal roads filled with uncertainty, contemplation and growth on their boundless sophomore album.

“You have to go rock bottom to be able to adequately move forward. At times, it can be a little dark, scary or intense, but ultimately if you don’t face some of those things, then you’ll be missing the point. Anxiety and stress are definitely fused into the record, but it’s for the purpose of being able to identify things and put them to rest,” Bullard said.

Major Murphy deeply revisits personal struggles and explores newfound intrinsic possibilities across nine introspective, cinematic and experimental tracks on Access, which arrived April 2 via Winspear on all streaming platforms.

Each thoughtful, captivating track weaves a reflective, relatable tale about arriving at an unexpected crossroads and grappling with the amount of control one has in life. Layered with choose-your-own-adventure insights, Access prompts listeners to decide the direction of their next fateful turn.

“I was going through a lot of big changes, and I started writing songs in 2017. Part of the optimism is saying even when everything around you shifts and you don’t really recognize it, the old way of being doesn’t need to hold precedent. You have the find the strength within yourself to accept the new reality and adapt,” Bullard said.

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Pain Relief – Au Gres Finds Comfort on New ‘At Home in the Dark’ Single

Josh Kemp embraces uncertainty on his latest Au Gres single, “At Home in the Dark.” Photo – Kris Herrmann

For Au Gres, not every problem requires an immediate solution.

Instead, the Fenton indie pop singer-songwriter finds instant relief in uncertainty on his latest introspective, self-comfort single, “At Home in the Dark,” which dropped Feb. 26 via all streaming platforms.

“I hope this song might encourage others to be more present with each other during hard times, though not necessarily in the physical sense, pandemic and all. I wrote it specifically about someone dealing with depression, but I think it applies to much more than that,” said Josh Kemp, aka Au Gres.

“These moments don’t always call for ‘solutions.’ Sometimes the best thing to do for someone is just let them know you’re available to talk and reassure them that they aren’t ‘broken.’”

Au Gres beautifully provides a sense of solace as ascending, sheeny synths, thoughtful electric guitar, delicate drums and soft bass surround listeners while they’re feeling “At Home in the Dark.” Kemp reveals, “I wanna be there when it rains/I wanna know you on your bad days, baby/I wanna be there when you start/To think the wrong things in the right time frame.”

“So much of this track is inspired by my experience with depression (i.e., the dark). I’ve had moments in my life where I really needed someone to help me feel less alone. I’ve also been the one to do that for others,” said Kemp, who’s inspired by Passion Pit, Phoenix and The Smashing Pumpkins.

“The thing about depression is that it’s usually episodic, and when you’re in it, you usually don’t want or need to hear solutions. Sometimes the best thing to do for someone is just sit with them while they’re in it. Bringing over a cheap bottle of wine often helps, too.”

Continue reading “Pain Relief – Au Gres Finds Comfort on New ‘At Home in the Dark’ Single”

Beyond the Horizon – Darity Shares Hopeful Message of Gratitude on ‘Everything’

Darity’s “Everything” serves as a hopeful anthem for 2021. Artwork – Olivia Sergi

For Darity, a new year faintly shines in the distance.

Specks of wintry sunlight peer through thick January clouds and serve as a hopeful reminder of better times ahead. Those far-flung rays symbolically represent the gratitude Darity expresses in her latest uplifting single, “Everything,” which dropped Tuesday via all streaming platforms.

“I wrote this song for myself initially. I just think it’s so easy to think about all the things we don’t have. This song started like a long journal entry. I went on a tour with a band pre-Bitterroot and had a lot of conversations of the leader of that band about the struggles of being an artist and a band leader. I noticed that a lot of it was centered around being on the edge of losing hope and feeling like we didn’t have what we needed to be an artist,” said Darity, aka Linsley Hartenstein.

Throughout “Everything,” Darity, a Cincinnati indie rock singer-songwriter, poignantly captures the fight for hope as twirling synths, pulsating bass, vivid electric guitar, delicate drums and soft cymbal taps slowly surround and envelope listeners. She calmly sings,” Run after it/Desire breathes by design/You’re my dream not a fault line/And disappointment’s bound to dig a cliff/But I will walk with you through all of it/You were made for this edge.”

“Recording vocals for this song was painful because this is such a hard truth to swallow. All of the things, all of the outside support that maybe we think we need, or that we do need, we are all put on this planet to do something specific. If that is your worldview, then you as a person have everything you need. That’s a power and a posture that’s so hard when the whole world is telling you that you lack something,” said Hartenstein, who initially wrote the track in 2017.

After laying the initial foundation for “Everything,” Darity teamed up with Coastal Club frontman and producer Alex Hirlinger and drummers Simon Alexander and Dan Crowe to record the track. Together, they infused the hopeful, whimsical sonic quality to evolve it.

“Alex is one of the best arrangers I’ve ever met, so he did all of the production around it. That’s the first time I’ve ever done that. I gave him what the band and I had been playing live, and he rewrote everything aside from the drums. He is responsible for the world around that song, and I’m really grateful,” she said.

Darity also dropped a stunning lyric video for “Everything,” which features her strolling along a deserted roadside near the Bitterroot Mountains in Montana. It simply captures the personal time Darity needed to process her feelings and develop a mindset filled with gratitude.

“Josh and I made this lyric video here in Montana. When the pandemic hit, I was on tour on the west coast, so I figured I’d put that Easter egg in there and make a little video,” said Hartenstein, who developed the video with her partner Josh Kemp of Au Gres. (Check out Au Gres’ dreamy, pro-soulmate single, “Nervous.”)

Continue reading “Beyond the Horizon – Darity Shares Hopeful Message of Gratitude on ‘Everything’”

Necessary Nourishment – The Stratton Playlist November 2020 Edition Refuels for Road Ahead

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 latest edition of The Stratton Playlist shares a satiating sonic respite before the chaotic journey resumes. Featured sonic companions include Grooblen, Au Gres, Michael Snyder-Barker and The Mighty Rhythm Bandits, The Kodaks with Jemmi Hazeman and Quells, Lily Talmers, Louis Picasso & The Gallery and more.

Interested in becoming part of The Stratton Playlist on Spotify? Send your submissions to strattonsetlist@yahoo.com. All artists and genres welcome.

Break the Ice – Au Gres Finds Instant Romantic Comfort on New ‘Nervous’ Single

Au Gres’ Josh Kemp celebrates a new relationship on “Nervous.”

Au Gres instantly creates the proverbial comfort zone.

The Fenton indie pop singer-songwriter quickly throws anxiety, hesitation and doubt aside in his latest warm, dreamy pro-soulmate single, “Nervous,” which dropped Oct. 16.

“The song was inspired by my girlfriend, and I don’t usually set out to write a song. Instead, I mess around with progressions until I get an idea of what I want it to be about, and the song kind of writes itself. But for this one, I just felt so comfortable with her, like right off the bat, and I wanted to write something that felt that way,” said Josh Kemp, aka Au Gres.

“I sat in my room for a long time, and I wrote that bendy hook and everything else around it because it felt perfect to me. It was just me with my laptop in my room. I think I wrote most of it in an afternoon, and then I came back to it quite some time later and added more and more to it.”

With glistening acoustic strums, whimsical electric guitars, vivid bass, pulsating drums and atmospheric synths, “Nervous” serves as the ideal romantic icebreaker that immediately puts apprehensive partners at ease. It’s the melodic, soaring anthem everyone longs to hear on a magical first date.

Throughout the Mac DeMarco-like track, Kemp reveals, “I think I overstayed my welcome/But I think you want me to/Stick around/To bring you coffee or a cigarette/I don’t think we’re done yet/Not for now.”

“It’s a reminder that the reward is worth it so to speak, and I’m talking about long-lasting, real relationships. It’s tough to make yourself vulnerable with people, and sometimes if you want to have that kind of relationship, then you have to be the one to take the plunge and let your walls come down,” said Kemp, who’s inspired by Passion Pit and Phoenix.

Eight months ago, Kemp shared bedroom laptop demos of “Nervous” with Jake Rye at Adrian’s Social Recording Company. Rye solidified the track’s final version while Noah de Leon (guitars, keys, synth) and Kemp (guitar, keys, synth) handled the arrangements and invited drummer Brodie Glaza.

“Noah and I had most of the arrangements filled out, but Jake would take a look at certain parts and help fill in the gaps a little bit. He gave things a lift where they needed and dove into those melancholic, indie feels. He was really good at drawing that part out,” Kemp said.

“I think it really grew into what I had in my head, like when I was in my bedroom. And to hear it come alive with real drums because I was just using samples, and even now listening to it and thinking about that experience, like COVID, and how strange it is to be back working on music, but also at the same time it felt very right and very good. It finally felt like a slice of something very nice.”

Last week, Kemp shared another slice of “Nervous” through a new lyric video recorded with Darity’s Linsley Hartenstein. The quirky video shows Kemp enthusiastically performing multiple parts on a flashy, portable ‘80s color TV (akin to Lindsey Buckingham’s 1981 “Trouble” video).

“It’s a little silly, and it’s my first go ever using a green screen,” said Kemp with a laugh. “We wanted to have fun with it.”

Continue reading “Break the Ice – Au Gres Finds Instant Romantic Comfort on New ‘Nervous’ Single”

Rewind Button – Jordan Silver Processes Past Relationship on Cinematic ‘Momentary Thrill’ Single

Jordan Silver revisits the untimely demise of a relationship on “Momentary Thrill.”

Jordan Silver openly reflects on past lives, loves and lessons.

The Brooklyn indie rock singer-songwriter revisits the untimely demise of a promising romantic relationship on his latest cinematic, introspective single, “Momentary Thrill,” now available via all streaming platforms.

“I was in a relationship where we jumped in really quickly, and I basically decided to trust my emotions to guide me through this relationship. Normally, I’m very held back, and maybe I’m typically more of the blocked one you could say emotionally, but at the time I felt very open, like I was diving in,” Silver said.

“It seemed like on the receiving end there were more walls that I was struggling to break through, and eventually when it ended, I just wanted to write a song to recap what had just happened.”

Silver magically tears down those “Momentary Thrill” walls as hypnotic, dreamy electric guitars, delicate cymbal taps, intermittent bass drum kicks, smooth bass and lo-fi, poignant vocals transport listeners to a pivotal break-up scene in a critically-acclaimed romantic dramedy.

He emotionally sings, “Well you’re running for the hills/But you put on quite a show of it/And everybody knows it/You chose it/Well the summer ended early/For the lover losing track of time/Without a reason why.”

“The lyrics are very straightforward; they’re not spiteful, hateful or disrespectful. It’s just very much a recounting of this happened, this happened, that happened. Typically, as an artist and as a person, I like to get the facts of the matter of things,” said Silver, who wrote “Momentary Thrill” last year.

Silver worked with Toledo, the Boston beach goth duo of Dan Alvarez and Jordan Dunn-Pilz, to record, arrange and produce the track in late 2019 as a follow-up to the wistful, yacht rock-esque love anthem, “After a Response Like That.”

“I’ll just come to them with a basic melody, lyric and chord, and then Dan will go, ‘Oh, so like this?’ He’ll play exactly what I was hearing and better. He brings arrangements to the table, where he’ll ask, ‘Do you want it to sound more like this or more like that?’” Silver said.

“He does it all; he does the drums, the bass and the guitar. He really forms all the music with what I brought to him, and sometimes he’ll workshop certain lyrics and verses. They’re definitely a big part of the process and the development of the songwriting.”

In June, Silver released a companion lyric video for “Momentary Thrill” featuring a series of animated, meaningful Polaroids depicting personal experiences and encounters in a simple beige scrapbook. Directed by Shannen Bamford, the video nicely complements the romantic, thoughtful aesthetic of Silver’s latest track.

Continue reading “Rewind Button – Jordan Silver Processes Past Relationship on Cinematic ‘Momentary Thrill’ Single”

Free Flow – Alluvial Fans Deposits Raw, Refined Musical Sediments on New ‘Earth to Astronaut’ Album

Alluvial Fans’ new album explores multi-genre peaks and valleys, atypical song structures and varied tempos. Album artwork – Antoine Langenieux-Villard

Detroit’s Alluvial Fans beautifully deposits raw and refined musical sediments on their solid new album, Earth to Astronaut.

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.

Continue reading “Free Flow – Alluvial Fans Deposits Raw, Refined Musical Sediments on New ‘Earth to Astronaut’ Album”

Reality Check – 310AM’s Nate Erickson Gets ‘Real to Reel’ on New Revelatory Single

Nate Erickson has released three singles since launching his 310AM solo project last fall.

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.

“Real to Reel” single artwork

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.

The Alchemists – ATMIG Transforms Multi-genre Sounds into Priceless ‘Wishes’ Album

ATMIG’s Julia Hickling and Tobias Lipski. Photo by Amanda Matilla of Heart District

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.”

Continue reading “The Alchemists – ATMIG Transforms Multi-genre Sounds into Priceless ‘Wishes’ Album”

Shine On – Read the Sun Enters Experimental Sonic Orbit on ‘Living Thru’ EP

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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.

Continue reading “Shine On – Read the Sun Enters Experimental Sonic Orbit on ‘Living Thru’ EP”