While the world turns to chaos outside, it’s time to search for solace inside.
Throw work, school and virtual commitments aside for some long overdue relaxation. With headphones in hand, adjust the volume and press play to start a new musical journey into uncharted local and regional waters.
The latest edition of The Stratton Playlist serves as a refreshing sonic escape from politics, pandemics and people. Visit country-filled skies, fuzzy lo-fi jams, jazzy hip-hop points, psych rock bangers, vibrant piano pop anthems and other new terrain.
The metro Detroit soulful pop singer-songwriter serves as an inspirational North Star for lifelong love on her latest poignant single, “Changeless Sky,” which dropped Aug. 28 via all streaming platforms.
“I’ve been married for a lot of years, and it’s really different than people who are popping in and out of relationships. If you’re in a long-term thing, then it’s the ups and downs of being there and sticking it out and growing together. Everything else changes around you, but you’re there for each other,” she said.
Throughout the glistening, peaceful monogamous track, Predhomme weaves soft piano with passionate, uplifting vocals as she sings, “No matter the sun and shade passing by/The world might be twisting, thrashing right outside/But I am your changeless sky.”
“I had the idea for the title and thought those were cool words, and it’s about this enduring, never-changing thing. I took that title and just made it a love song,” said Predomme, whose latest single is the lead track on The Stratton Playlist.
Predhomme wrote and recorded “Changeless Sky” late last year in her home studio after releasing her eloquent fifth album, Love. The tender track is the second in a series of new monthly singles from Predhomme’s uplifting, expansive multi-genre catalog, which dates back to her 2008 self-titled debut.
In July, Predhomme dropped her luminous, laid-back ode to authenticity, “So Good to Be Free,” which fuses jubilant acoustic strums, upbeat maracas, rhythmic bongos and vibrant electric guitars into an infectious Bo Diddley-inspired beat.
The shimmery single also beautifully showcases Predhomme’s signature optimistic outlook as she sings, “I don’t need the look or the trend/I’ll be the least cool of my friends/You can have all that/I won’t please the pack/‘Cause I’m free/To be whatever I choose to be.”
“It’s probably more ‘me’ than a lot of the other songs I’ve released. I used to worry about how I looked even when I went to the grocery store, and now I go in sweats and no makeup. It’s good to be free and not worry anymore about what people think,” said Predhomme, who collaborated with Nashville guitarist Cheyenne Medders on the track.
“It’s also freeing about the way I write music now. When I started, I was trying to send songs to Nashville, and I thought I was too old when I was in my 30s. I was sending songs thinking maybe some major artists would sing my songs, and I got no bites. When I started singing and releasing them myself, people started picking them up for licensing.”
Last year, Torrey Mercer unknowingly penned a fitting anthem for 2020.
The Los Angeles pop singer-songwriter co-wrote a peppy, ironic new track, “This is Fine,” about perpetually living in disarray with pop-rock singer-songwriter and producer Una Jensen.
“We wrote this in December of 2019, which is wild to think about, considering the times we are in now. It was meant to be a song about feeling like a ‘hot mess,’ little did we know. The song is meant to be a pick-me-up in some hard times, which I hope it can be for others during the times we find ourselves in,” said Mercer, who released the track in May.
Mercer beautifully exposes that frustrating, turbulent world throughout “This is Fine,” which fuses gleaming acoustic strums, bouncy synths, thumping bass and striking electronic drums in a poppy, cheeky ode to bad days. She nonchalantly sings, “My bank account just froze/Bedroom full of dirty clothes/Of course I stubbed my toe/What day is my cycle/There it goes.”
“It was inspired by a meme we are both familiar with on the Internet originally created by KC Green. The original artist gave us permission, and we recreated his art for the album art of the song, which was fun. The song has lots of quirky details in it, which started with both of us listing things that we were feeling at the time,” Mercer said.
“We wrote this song in its entirety in about two and a half hours, all in one sitting. And we spent a few weeks nailing down final vocals, production and mixing. It was actually a total fluke we wrote this song before the current moment we are facing in the world, and when everything started happening, I realized it might be the perfect moment for this song. I’m glad we got to release it.”
“This is Fine” isn’t the only shiny, effervescent new material Mercer has dropped this year. In February, she released Boys/Girls, a vibrant, inspirational six-track EP filled with bisexual anthems, misogynistic tales, patriarchal challenges, changing relationships, inner revelations and personal empowerment.
“This EP was meant to be a liberation for me as a woman and as a bisexual. In the music industry, there’s a lot of pressure to perform a version of yourself that is more likeable to others. This project was about taking the duct tape off my own mouth and embracing what makes me different and outspoken,” she said.
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.
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.
The Nashville pop singer-songwriter sprinkles hopeful words of wisdom and growth after recovering from heartbreak on her latest poignant, three-track EP, The Tracking Room Sessions, which dropped May 1 via all streaming platforms.
“I think at that time in my life I was going through a lot of that in different areas. A lot of times for me, breakup songs are so much more than that. I think there’s a lot of loss in different areas of my life, and that was just the best way that I could articulate it,” Pederson said.
Pederson beautifully articulates her personal reflections about love and loss throughout her fourth piano-centric release recorded at The Tracking Room in Nashville. Soulful, emotive vocals and hypnotic, uplifting piano chords immerse listeners in spirit-healing waters after experiencing the unexpected sting of rejection.
That first drop of relief arrives in “Quiet Waters,” which blends deep, sparse piano, delicate bass and sweeping drum brushes with Pederson’s melancholy, velvety vocals as she laments, “Take me back to that night/Manhattan and a glass of wine/When my hope was alive, you had that fire in your eyes/Ritter on the radio, singing I’m coming home/And the stars in the sky were aligned/All the things we didn’t know such a short time ago/All my days I thought you’d be mine.”
While initially ruminating in “Quiet Waters,” Pederson confidently embarks on a therapeutic journey throughout “Recover.” The self-assured track weaves soulful hums, rhythmic finger snaps, lingering piano, delicate synths and light bass as she emphatically declares, “I’m moving to Alaska/Lord knows I am never coming back,” and “There is no amount of red or white to calm this anxious mind.”
“‘Quiet Waters’ and ‘Recover’ were songs that I had written in June or July of last year, and I had written quite a few in that time period. Those two were the ones that stuck out to me the most,” said Pederson, who’s originally from Ann Arbor.
Perhaps Pederson’s most striking track includes a new soaring acoustic version of “The Landing” as vibrant, thoughtful piano entwines with sorrowful, optimistic vocals. Throughout her turbulent flight, Pederson tries to “soften the landing” as she sings, “Oh the road has been long and lonely/And one of my darkest nights/I swear you saved me/I was high as hope could’ve ever let me fly/And we were alone, you and I.”
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” 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.”
Tracy Kash fiercely brings world-class sounds and styles to the Motor City.
The Detroit world music vocalist, flutist, pianist, composer and arranger delightfully blends classic elements of jazz, soul, pop and theater into a dramatic center-stage sound on Fierce, her fourth and latest album that’s currently nominated for Outstanding World Music Recording in the 2020 Detroit Music Awards (DMA).
“It’s a tricky thing because I am kind of all over the place stylistically. When people go, ‘What kind of music do you play?’ I just say, ‘Um, yes, I don’t know what to say,’” Kash laughed. “Some of them are older tunes. I was never sure if I was going to record them. The rest of it came organically over the course of about eight years because I hadn’t released anything since 2010.”
For 2019’s Fierce, Kash assembled a star-studded cast of musicians called the Bro’ Fos, including Pat Shanley (guitars, mandolin, backing vocals), Chuck Bartels (bass) and Van Hunsberger (drums), to bring the album’s 11 sensational tracks to life. They spent six months recording the tracks with producer Tom Rice at Eastpointe’s Audio Café Studio and Eric Morgeson at Dearborn’s Studio A Recording.
“Most of it is just mastery of their instruments. When I put together rehearsals, performances or recordings, unless there’s something really specific I’m looking for, I won’t arrange each part. They’re such great musicians, and because of that, it gives them the freedom to bring something that’s more natural to them to the recording or the performance,” Kash said.
With a troupe of A-list collaborators, Kash launches her eclectic Fierce sound with “Face Time,” a jazzy opener featuring swift piano, vibrating electric guitars, deep bass and pounding drums.
Her soulful vocals warn lovers to eradicate the ghosts of past relationships in favor of new ones – “I’m the one you run to/To unload a heavy heart/I’m happy knowing I can do the same/Well maybe it’s because I’m naïve/I assume that I’m the one you need/But the doubt comes when you call me by her name.”
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.
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).