Suburban Stories – Matthew Milia Revisits Metro Detroit Memories on ‘Keego Harbor’

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Matthew Milia’s “Keego Harbor” captures a beautiful legacy of life unchanged in the metro Detroit suburbs. Photo – John Hanson

For Matthew Milia, Keego Harbor represents a nostalgic, winding metro Detroit pathway from youth to adulthood and back again.

The Detroit indie folk singer-songwriter and Frontier Ruckus frontman eloquently drifts through deep childhood recollections, gritty suburban landmarks and dichotomous neighborhood adventures on his well-crafted second solo album.

“This has been a lifelong obsession, especially with the suburban world. It’s inspired by the fact that the suburban experience is not monolithic. It’s all these mingling beautiful dualities and contradictions of the human experience that live in this space,” said Milia, who grew up in Keego Harbor.

“I’m juxtaposing Pontiac and Bloomfield Hills because those places are contiguous, and they couldn’t be more different. That’s a hard thing for people that don’t live in this area to understand. My endless personal quest is to give as much vivid description and detail of these contradictions that I’ve experienced.”

Throughout Keego Harbor, Milia intricately constructs snapshots of mundane Michigan experiences – junk mail, rotten mulch and phone chargers – and static places – party stores, drive-thru lanes and nail salons – across 10 introspective tracks to capture a beautiful legacy of life unchanged.

“I think this record is a bit more about generational inheritance. My parents met in Keego Harbor at a place called the Back Seat Saloon that’s no longer there, and the first placed they lived together was in a little loft above a house. The age I am now is when they were doing all that. It’s a bit of time travel while seeing myself as my parents and all the things that entails,” he said.

While much of Keego Harbor remains in the rear-view mirror of the mind’s eye, another portion welcomes the uncertain future with outstretched arms. It’s a matter of looking toward the past to better understand who you’ve become and where you’re headed, whether that’s in a city or a suburb.

“I’m also thinking on another level about my experience in the music industry. It’s such a weird commerce to toil in, and my life since 2006 has been writing these songs and making these records with my friends and putting them out into the world and seeing where they take me,” Milia said.

“I think that a major trope of this record is the recalibration of one’s dreams and expectations. And knowing that immense beauty and surprise can be hiding there. Once you recalibrate what you think you wanted or were working toward, you might just find something even more rewarding.”

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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”

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.

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

Take Heart – Becky Crosby Chronicles Her Emotional Journey on ‘I Know,’ ‘Ghost’ Singles

Becky Crosby will release her debut EP later this year.

Becky Crosby poetically follows her heart.

The Purchase, N.Y., pop-rock singer-songwriter intuitively chronicles her emotional journey through young adulthood on two poignant, propulsive singles – “I Know” and “Ghost” – which dropped last year.

With vivid, frenzied guitar strums, radiating bass and intermittent drums, “I Know” beautifully captures a young woman’s unrequited love for someone who’s already taken. Crosby’s fiery vocals highlight that escalating intensity, “I’ll be here when you see that girl is nothing but trouble/Trouble for you and me/I’ll keep my mouth shut/Keep my eyes closed/Pretend this doesn’t hurt, baby.”

While “I Know” resembles a sudden emotional outburst, the melodic track actually simmered beneath the surface before erupting and lingering in listeners’ minds last fall. Crosby teamed up with New York guitarist Ethan Johnson to co-produce “I Know” in 2019.

“What I tend to do is write a song, and then I’ll leave it on my computer for a bit until I have an idea of how I want to pursue it,” said Crosby, 19, who attends the State University of New York (SUNY) at Purchase. “Now that I’m in college, I have a lot of friends who do production, and Ethan helped me with the writing music-wise on ‘I Know.’”

“I Know” single artwork by Lenore Hernandez

I Know” also appears on F**K THE CORONAVIRUS, a 15-track various artist project compiled by Joey Affatato, vocalist-guitarist for The Carousers, a New Jersey punk rock trio that also features Crosby’s older sister Cassidy.

Available on Bandcamp, all proceeds from the album will go directly to GlobalGiving, a large global crowdfunding community that connects nonprofits, donors and companies.

Before writing “I Know” and adding it to compilation album, Crosby penned the heartfelt, angst-filled “Ghost” as a young teen. The soaring track blends sorrowful acoustic strums with pounding percussion, vibrant electric guitars and rhythmic bass.

Again, Crosby beautifully sings about looking at life from the outside, “Part of me wishes we can turn back time/Back to when everything seemed just fine/And the leaves were falling down on the cold, soft grass/Everything was good then, but that’s why it’s the past.”

“I wrote that song when I was 14 or 15. I was going through changes that were happening in my life while starting high school,” said Crosby, who started writing songs at age 10. “When you’re that young, you’re going through changes friend-wise, and I think a lot of it was based on that.”

Continue reading “Take Heart – Becky Crosby Chronicles Her Emotional Journey on ‘I Know,’ ‘Ghost’ Singles”

Soar with The Stratton Playlist – February 2020 Edition

The second sonic adventure for “The Stratton Playlist” is ready to soar.

This month’s playlist includes 28 fresh tracks from a spectrum of talented artists, including ATMIG, Ma Baker, Hello Forever, Ally Evenson and others. Featured artists hail from Michigan, New York, California and New Jersey.

It’s part of our ongoing multi-genre journey to bring the best of our discoveries.

Get ready to enjoy some real treasures.

Jeff Scott Launches ‘LIVE!’ 2020 Winter Concert Series Jan. 17 at Farmington Civic Theater

Jeff Scott will headline the first show of the “LIVE!” winter concert series at the Farmington Civic Theater. Photo courtesy of Jeff Scott

Two years ago, Jeff Scott experienced a musical epiphany in the Big Easy.

The Royal Oak singer-songwriter strolled through Jackson Square and retraced his steps from a previous New Orleans visit two decades earlier.

That trip down memory lane transported Scott back to performing with The Big Picture, a Detroit-based pop sextet. At the time, Scott and his bandmates opened for The Neville Brothers at the iconic New Orleans Jazz Fest.

“I was sensing at the time that I could never recapture the way that I felt when I was younger and in that position with that band. It started to rain exactly as it had the first time we showed up there, and I was standing in exactly the same place,” Scott said.

“I thought for the purposes of this album I was retreading and going back to where I had originally been musically and most successful professionally. That was a good way to start it. I’m attempting to reclaim something, maybe I’m not going to hit it, but the pursuit of it is deeply fulfilling and emotional.”

Scott shares his splendid journey of sonic self-discovery on “Nola,” the opening track of his third album, “Nola to New York,” which dropped in 2018.

It also will give listeners a preview of his Jan. 17 headlining show at the Farmington Civic Theater to kick off the “LIVE!” 2020 winter concert series with special guest Bobby Pennock.

Along with longtime bandmates Tony Jaworowski (piano, keys), Duane Allen Harlick (electric guitar, background vocals), Dave Hendrickson (electric and upright bass) and Dan McCann (drums, percussion), Scott will perform an eclectic mix of pop, folk, soul and jazz favorites from “Nola to New York” as well as his previous releases.

“I hope that they will be moved musically. That’s always my intent. I’ve always wanted to make beautiful music with a big ‘B.’ It can be up-tempo, it can be down-tempo, it can be a ballad, it can be a lot of different things,” Scott said. “That’s always the end goal for me. A lot of people come to the shows because they appreciate the lyrics, which I spend a lot of time on.”

Formerly known as “Friday Night Live” at the Farmington Civic Theater, the newly renamed “LIVE!” 2020 concert series also will feature Bones Maki and the Blue Water Boys with Rochelle Clark (Feb. 21), Olivia Millerschin with Adam Liebman (March 20) and the Nashtown Songwriters Round (April 23).

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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.”

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