Remote Start – Detroit Artists Release Quarantine-Inspired Rendition of ‘Chelsea Hotel No. 2’ via Old Main Records

Three Detroit artists beautifully preserve the romantic soul of a fallen New York love story.

Emma Guzman, Christian Ohly and Quasi-Bullfight’s Malcolm McNitt breathe new indie folk-pop life into Leonard Cohen’s 1974 one-that-got-away classic, “Chelsea Hotel No. 2,” as part of an Old Main Records-exclusive collaboration released via social media. It’s akin to Laura Marling collaborating with Pinegrove.

Together, the trio’s nostalgic, heartfelt and upbeat rendition features dreamy, swift acoustic strums, pulsating bass, effervescent handclaps, jingling tambourine, glistening horns and whistling theremin as Guzman soulfully sings, “I remember you well in the Chelsea Hotel/You were famous, your heart was a legend/You told me again you preferred handsome men/But for me you would make an exception.”

“Old Main Records grouped the three of us together, and we went through a list of songs until we agreed upon ‘Chelsea Hotel No. 2.’ I was the one to throw it out there, as I had recently started covering it, and it’s an amazing tune,” Guzman said.

“I’ve enjoyed Cohen’s music since I was younger, and his songwriting has such a rich, dark charm to it. His emotions reach below the surface, and that’s what inspires me most about his writing,” Guzman said.

Back in the spring, Guzman, Ohly and McNitt each responded to an Old Main Records call for a special quarantine-inspired artist collaboration. The plan included stimulating local artist creativity and partnership amid a new, unfamiliar socially distanced world absent of live music.

After the artists responded, Old Main Records, a Wayne State University student-run record label and organization, realized these three were a magical force. In a sense, it was a dream collaboration for a trio of emerging, complementary singer-songwriters.

“We felt we could do something to help artists meet and collaborate at the same time. We had recording engineers and graphic artists as well as our own platform to help promote these artists. We first gathered the artists to meet all together on Zoom,” said Chris Simpson, Old Main Records president and a Wayne State University student.

“Once the artists got to know each other and their music, they had to meet online to come up with a song to record. The artists picked the track based on their own recommendations of pitching each other ideas. It was a very organic process.”

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Paradise Lost and Found – LEVELS Chronicles Timeless Adam-Eve Tale on Mixed-Genre Debut Album

LEVELS entwines assorted genres, changing tempos and complex time signatures on their self-titled debut album.

LEVELS spiritually rises above standard musical conventions.

The international super group magically entwines assorted genres – R&B, hip-hop, funk, jazz, pop, prog rock, Latin and Afrobeat –  changing tempos and complex time signatures into an expansive sound that transcends space and time on their 2019 self-titled, full-length debut.

“These cats are all masters of their craft. The name LEVELS was fitting for us because we all come from different backgrounds culturally and musically and disciplines giving our unit so much dynamism. We’re always adding new levels to the tunes and each other. It’s great to be multinational and international since there’s so much flavor and opportunity to learn and push envelopes musically,” said Keith “WildChild” Middleton, LEVELS co-lead vocalist and co-founder.

Middleton pushes global, multi-genre musical envelopes with American-Italian bandmates Jacopo “Snow” Mazza (piano), Luca “Mack” Marcias (guitar) and Aaron Marcellus (vocals) on their intergalactic, poetic 16-track concept album, which beautifully follows the time-traveling journey of Adam searching for Eve after being exiled from paradise.

“The entire album is woven this way and becomes their journey. We have so many styles it’s only right that they are all represented to tell this story our way. Everyone can identify with having a relationship of some sort. I just put a cosmic, spiritual twist on it to provoke thought and start a conversation – ‘We all share Eve’s and Adam’s atoms,’” said Middleton, who’s currently quarantined in Italy due to the country’s coronavirus pandemic.

‘A Place’ for ‘Unicorns’

Eve’s and Adam’s atoms form a complex musical chemistry on “A Place,” a slow, groovy R&B hip-hop declaration of eternal love (think Garden of Eden). LEVELS’ breathtaking track features tweeting birds and soothing waterfalls as vibrant acoustic guitar, crashing cymbals, bouncy bass and pounding electric drums surround the star-crossed lovers.

To celebrate the lovers, Marcellus hypnotically sings, “There’s no place that I would rather be/Than here with you my dear beside me/Made a space for you inside my heart/Don’t ever fade away my shining star.”

In return, Middleton seamlessly raps, “Yeah shining star if I may elaborate/I follow my heart when I navigate/Palpitations causes sensations at faster rates of rotations of butterflies proclaiming my candidate/No space or time Donny Hathaway/In this and our next lives you won’t have to wait/When we grappled that apple that ample sampled that unraveled the man with the time travel secret passageways/I’ll always find you baby.”

“‘A Place’ tells their tale, and you find out in the first verse, it’s Adam professing his love for Eve. In the second verse, they are doomed from the apple incident, but because of the bite revealing a secret, Adam vows to find his Eve in their next lives. In the third verse, Adam breaks down all of their incarnations till present time, also revealing that on this next go-round, he will spot her at one of his shows while he’s performing with his band LEVELS on stage,” Middleton said.

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Medicinal Music – Nikki and The Human Element Cure Everyday Struggles on Debut Album ‘Elemental’

Nikki Neretin of Nikki and The Human Element

For Nikki Neretin, music is the best medicine for coping with daily life.

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.”

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Rule of 3 – Kate Davis Drops Trio of Indie Rock Singles from Upcoming ‘Trophy’ Album

Kate Davis will release her debut album, “Trophy,” on Solitaire Recordings in November.

For Kate Davis, good things come in threes.

The New York City indie rock singer-songwriter has released a trio of emotionally-charged singles – “Open Heart,” “Cloud” and “rbbts” – since June on Solitaire Recordings.

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.”

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Bullish Pop – Tauri Grabs Musical Experimentation by the Horns on ‘Time 2 Kill’

Los Angeles’ Tauri delivers an experimental fusion of indie pop and R&B on her latest single, “Time 2 Kill.”

With deep synths, quirky lyrics and funky basslines, Tauri hits an indie pop bullseye on her latest single, “Time 2 Kill.”

The 3.5-minute single eloquently weaves accessible elements of indie pop and R&B with avant-garde electronic rock to forge a growing experimental sound emanating from the West Coast.

It’s akin to combining the mainstream appeal of Lorde with the progressive, industrial sounds of Muse and Nine Inch Nails. Throughout “Time to 2 Kill,” Tauri creates a forward-thinking track devoid of pretense.

“We weren’t afraid to get really weird with this one, and a lot of people are responding really well to it,” said Nicole Orlowski, aka Tauri, who co-wrote the track with Alex Monasterio and Liz Gavillet. “This only encourages us to be super weird.”

Weirdness does run rampant on “Time 2 Kill,” but in a refreshingly lyrical way. The track opens with catchy lyrics – “Pen names/Switch blades/Turn real fast/But you’re driving in the slow lane” – and even references an “Easy Bake Oven.”

“It was kind of nightmare to put together actually because we were trying to put it out a lot faster than it ended up happening. We all sat down and spitballed it, and it came from this loose concept of a love story about a trust fund kid,” Monasterio said. “The idea behind the ‘Easy Bake Oven’ lyric relates to somebody trying to get something without actually doing the proper grownup work for it.”

“Time 2 Kill” also features vocals inspired by Bikini Kill and a heavy industrial synth section, which cleverly anchors the two indie pop sections on both sides.

“For such a period of time, we thought the song wasn’t going to function based on how our previous singles had done,” Monasterio said. “They have their moments definitely, but they’re much more contained. They have their tangents, but they don’t necessarily say ‘fuck it’ quite as much.”

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Big Apple Rodeo – The Secret Emchy Society Takes Queer Country Music to Brooklyn’s Branded Saloon Saturday Night

Cindy Emch of The Secret Emchy Society

The Secret Emchy Society will bring their foot stompin’, heart breakin’ Americana music about good friends and hard times to the Big Apple tomorrow night.

The Oakland, Calif., queer country music collective will share their dark, sexy, boozy ballads, off-kilter anthems and cowboy songs at the Branded Saloon, 603 Vanderbilt Ave., in Brooklyn from 8 p.m. to 11 p.m. Saturday.

Hosted by the Gay Ole Opry and Queer Country Quarterly, the show also will feature country music compadres Karen & the Sorrows and Viva.

“It’s New York, oh my God, that’s how I feel about it,” laughed Cindy Emch, frontwoman, guitarist and accordionist for The Secret Emchy Society, in late September during a phone call with The Stratton Setlist from the Bay area. “That’s the Michigan native playing New York, and that gets people excited.”

Emch will make her sole stop in New York City Saturday as part of a short fall tour, which also includes a Nov. 18 gig during the Queer Country Showcase at the Ivy Room in Albany, Calif., with Lavender Country and Velvetta.

“The Ivy Room started doing this great thing the third Sunday of every month where they do a 4-9 sort of country music showcase, and they have different local bands doing it,” Emch said. “I feel like there’s a lot of good Americana coming out of the Ivy Room right now.”

Dubbed as the “First Lady of Queer Country,” Emch leads a rotating old school country music collective that appeals to fans of June Carter Cash, Lydia Loveless, Neko Case, Dolly Parton and Porter Wagoner. She’s been helping spearhead that flourishing music scene in San Francisco for more than a decade.

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