Filled with abundant love, family and music, Linen Ray remains rock solid.
The Nashville, Tennessee married folk-rock duo of Rebekah Craft (vocals, acoustic guitar) and Gabriel Craft (drums, backing vocals) strongly withstands the mounting challenges of weather, the pandemic and personal stress on their latest bluesy, gospel-tinged single, “Love Ain’t Easy.”
“There are so many tests, and a lot of people and marriages broke up during that time. Being in a relationship is hard work,” said Rebekah Craft, an Ypsilanti native who’s been married to Gabriel Craft for 18 years.
Along with his wife, Gabriel Craft nodded in agreement. “I think the biggest challenge we faced during that whole time with the tornado and the pandemic was how suddenly things had to change. You would start to acclimate to the change, and then there was a change again.”
Back in March 2020, the Crafts encountered a deadly tornado that devastated part of Nashville just 10 days before the COVID-19 pandemic gripped the nation.
Reeling from those life-changing experiences, they quickly adapted to lockdown life at home, which included virtual school, remote work and Linen Ray home studio recording sessions.
“We went through all of that, and then things started to change. We were able to leave a little bit, and the kids were back in school, but then after two weeks, somebody got COVID, and then the kids were back at home,” said Gabriel Craft, who grew up in Spring Arbor.
Despite the constant changes and lingering uncertainties, the Crafts relied on the strength of their marriage and family to focus on the future. Last fall, they penned their soulful solidarity anthem, “Love Ain’t Easy,” as a fervent tribute to lifelong love and commitment.
As cultural anthropologists, The Mommyheads thoughtfully document the dawning of a new civilization.
The New York City indie pop quartet of Adam Elk (vocals, analog synths, guitar), Michael Holt (electric piano, vocals, synths), Dan Fisherman (drums, vocals) and Jason McNair (bass, recitation) poetically observes, records and shares the everyday habits of people living in newfound COVID-19 solitude.
Together, they produce and present a compelling 10-track report of recent lockdown life known as the Age of Isolation, which runs rampant with TV dinners, ceiling spots, drippy faucets, overgrown facial hair and extended window gazes.
As a follow-up to last year’s New Kings of Pop, The Mommyheads’ cerebral, contemplative 13th album beautifully delves into the psychological, political and social complexities of residing in suspended animation during quarantine. The Age of Isolation also gives new meaning to existential dread during a prolonged era of pandemic-induced uncertainty.
“I always think of records as snapshots or documents of certain time periods. That’s the main reason I like working through the writing and recording process extremely fast. It keeps you in the moment, especially in terms of the feeling and subject matter,” Elk said.
“The LP almost seems like a concept album, but that’s just because it never has the liberty of veering from its theme. I really hope it’s just a time piece and not the new normal.”
The international collective of hip-hop producers, musicians and curators reveal compelling conversations, thought-provoking narratives and tenacious tales about social injustice, systemic racism, internal struggles and personal aspirations on their latest quarantine-fueled album.
“The songs that came out are representative of the discussions and conversations we have as men when we’re not recording. Because as a group, we still get together on a weekly basis or sometimes two to three times a week to just talk. We have members of our collective who may have autoimmune situations, so they haven’t been able to be out and about,” said Rod Wallace, a metro Detroit hip-hop producer.
“We have members of our group who have been through a lot in the last few months. A part of what we do is support them by meeting up and talking regularly; even a song like ‘Piss’ is a song that represents us playfully jiving with each other and talking crazy. It all was just very organic.”
Wallace and his Six Feet collaborators spent the first 100 days of the COVID-19 pandemic writing, recording and producing the project’s seven raw, honest tracks through Songlab TV, an innovative, online one-session approach to songwriting that’s documented by Digital Hustle Films.
“When COVID hit, we decided to build something called Songlab TV where a sample or an idea is given to a producer who makes a beat while a rapper writes and records their verses and an engineer mixes it,” said Wallace about Dirty Ol’ Men’s creative approach for Six Feet.
“Four of the seven songs on the album came from that process; while the other three, they just weren’t recorded, but they went through a similar process. We acknowledge that a lot of music is made that way these days, but a lot of it isn’t made at the time because those four songs were synchronous experiences.”
Executive produced by Wallace and Anthony “Gadget” Mims, Six Feet serves as Dirty Ol’ Men’s second release this year since dropping the Motor City-fueled East Grand in February. Collaborators from Michigan, California, Tennessee, Florida, Illinois and Japan brought initial stems, beats and samples online to share their profound musical conversations with listeners.
A surge of emerging artists has become “immune” to the coronavirus.
That “immunity” arrives in the form of new music inspired by or released early to cope with the ongoing pandemic. This week, Quick Tiko and We Three combat the coronavirus on different ends of the creativity spectrum. Here are two freshly-pressed singles repeating in our ears, minds and hearts.
Quick Tiko – ‘Virus’
Quick Tiko, a new punk-garage rock duo comprised of The Sneeks’ Niko Matsamakis (guitars, vocals) and Timo Radwan (drums, bass, guitar), recently dropped a new raw, propulsive banger called “Virus.” It’s akin to early Kings of Leon, think “Aha Shake Heartbreak” and “Because of the Times” with extra spunk and rough edges.
A feisty two-minute track, “Virus” erupts into whirring, echoey guitars, pounding drums and driving bass as Matsamakis rowdily sings, “And now I’m petrified/La la la, don’t go outside/Whoa ho, I will stay inside/I ain’t going out to say goodbye/And now I’m super-duper high/Feelin’ kinda paranoid/Thinkin’ if I go outside, maybe I’m a catch a virus.”
“Stay inside people! Save lives! I was singing about exactly what was on my mind. I’d rather stay inside than possibly die. Timo and I wrote that song in one day, roughly a week ago. We wanted the recording to capture the energy and anxiety we’re feeling as best as possible,” Matsamakis said.
Luckily, Quick Tiko effectively practices social distancing with Matsamakis residing in metro Detroit and Radwan hunkering down in Toronto. The duo met at Michigan State University and wrote and recorded a ton of tracks when they were roommates back in 2016.
“Now we both just have all the time we need to chill in our respective home studios and record. For ‘Virus,’ I recorded some guitars and vocals, sent it to Timo, who then laid down the drums, bass and another guitar part. We’ve already been working on a couple more songs with this method of recording – hopefully to be released soon,” Matsamakis said.
Quick Tiko also plans to release a video for “Virus,” which will include separate quarantine video footage of Matsamakis and Radwan that’s compiled by artist and friend Colin Knighton.
We Three – ‘I Wanna Love Somebody’
We Three eloquently embraces the dark side of loneliness on their lighthearted new single, “I Wanna Love Somebody,” which dropped Friday via Palawan Productions.
The McMinnville, Ore., pop-rock sibling trio of Manny Humlie (guitar, vocals), Bethany Blanchard (bass, vocals) and Joshua Humlie (keys, drums, vocals) tackles the negative, troublesome thoughts that wreak havoc on lonely, anxious minds.
“I Wanna Love Somebody” allows We Three to proudly raise their sonic lightsabers in retaliation against incessant worries of lingering solitude and paralyzing self-doubt. It’s time to silence the “sith” of pessimism and welcome the “jedi” of optimism.
“This song is about the feeling in the pit of your stomach as you are going to bed where you feel like you are unworthy and never will be loved. The concept of ‘I think I’m gonna die alone’ is a feeling we have all had. It is a really dark thing, but we wanted to convey it in a lighthearted way that connects people when they are feeling like that,” said Manny Humlie, who originally appeared on “America’s Got Talent” with his siblings in 2018.
The track soars with vibrant electric guitars, quick finger snaps and bouncy synths that harmonize instantly with Manny Humlie’s quick, cheeky vocals, “I figured it out while I’m in the ground/There’s no kinda lining/Just laying around and counting the cracks/All in the ceiling/Just fooling around and breaking it down/To find a meaning.”
In their latest single, “Human,” the San Jose, Calif., reggae fusion sextet eloquently reminds people about being compassionate and unified during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“The whole idea of the song is that we’re all human, and we all have our struggles. We’re all alone in this, but our solitude in it actually brings us together and unifies us because we’re all going through the same struggle right now,” said Chris Reed, Sunny State’s lead vocalist, ukulelist and guitarist.
Released Friday and featured as part of this month’s “The Stratton Playlist,” “Human” blends uplifting ukulele, brilliant electric guitar, deep bass, rhythmic bongo slaps and intermittent drum taps into a radiating, inspirational anthem for society’s growing battle against the coronavirus.
Along with Sunny State’s vibrant instrumentation, Reed beautifully sings, “I wanna be the best version of me/Rise with a smile, not need the caffeine/Embracing the moment, not letting it weigh me down/Remembering life’s a gift with a beautiful crown/We’re just human.”
While timely and relevant, “Human” wasn’t initially meant to be Sunny State’s third and latest single from their upcoming debut album. The band’s guitarist, Julian, encouraged Reed to release the single early as way to bring peace, comfort and solidarity to their fans.
“All this COVID-19 stuff had just happened. Everyone was going on lockdown, and I was just watching all these videos of people in Italy. The next day, I was talking to Julian, and he mentioned again how much he liked ‘Human,’” Reed said.
“I asked him, ‘Do you think it’s crazy to release ‘Human’ instead as a single? I feel like it’s a very honest and a self-reflective time.’ He said, ‘No, I think it’s a great idea. We’re all absolutely self-reflective, and we’re going to be doing this for a while.’”
The band also released a new live acoustic performance for “Human” today via Facebook and Instagram. It features Tyler (guitar), James (percussion), Freddie (bass), Roman (keys), Julian and Reed each performing in their individual quarantines. Each member is featured on screen via separate feeds that are brought and recorded together.
Over the next month, Sunny State will continue their “together apart” approach while recording their full-length debut album, which will drop later this year. Reed and his bandmates have been emailing files back and forth to polish and finalize the untitled album’s remaining tracks.
Since forming the band in 2019, Sunny State has released two other powerful singles, the romantic ode to lifelong love, “When You Know,” and the freedom and stewardship anthem, “Solutions.”
In addition to Sunny State, the March edition of “The Stratton Playlist” includes uplifting, groovy and memorable tracks from The Steve Taylor Three, The DayNites, Pajamas, Border Patrol, Ohly, Maggie Schneider, Meredith Shock and 24 more.