As the year (thankfully) comes to a close, we reflect on the strength, grit and willpower that slowly got us through. Together, we relied on new soothing, hopeful tracks that provided a welcome escape from the COVID-19 pandemic, social isolation, political rifts, grief and loss.
Uplifting, rewarding bits of indie folk, country-pop, folk rock, psych rock, shiny lo-fi soul, reggae, dreamy pop, chill hip-hop and experimental art rock demonstrate the courageous creative and emotional spirit we all share heading into 2021.
Jason Roy thoroughly mines for Michigan music gold.
The Soods frontman uncovers rich collaborations and treasured tracks with a growing collective of scintillating local artists, songwriters and musicians on his latest indie folk-psych rock musical gem, Ornaments of Affection.
“I pared it down from a list of 36 songs; those were the ones to get vocals on, and from there I followed through with 22 of those. Some of those are the newer singles that I’ve been putting out. It was a fun thing like, ‘Well, I haven’t put any music out in a while,’” said Roy, who released the album in October via GTG Records.
“For ‘Morning Harold!’ and ‘Nomadic Marine Biologist,’ I’ve had those two instrumentals for eight months. I just hadn’t gotten vocals on them yet, and then when it came time to make that list of 36, I was like, ‘Ooh, I like that title,’ and I remember liking this track. It was like, ‘Two check marks, you’re in,’ and then figuring out from there who fits best.”
“These guys have their own ways with words, and weirdly somehow it all does sound like a band if I keep the thematic elements constant. Like having Matt Ten Clay sing the backing vocals on a track strengthens the foundation of that illusion of like, ‘These guys got together in the studio for a week and pounded these songs out.’ If you only saw all our emails and Google drives, it’s very different,” said Roy with a laugh.
“It’s a great compliment when people are like, ‘Oh yeah, I like that band.’ That’s what I want; I don’t necessarily need it to be a Jason Roy brainchild thing. I enjoy collaborating with these guys.”
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.
In this case, the Lansing indie rock quartet’s newest album functions as a sonic potion drenching listeners in soothing waves of vibrant folk-influenced dream pop.
“We knew that was the kind of record we wanted to make. Michael Boyes and I had done a lot of acoustic shows together, or rather where he played acoustic and I played electric,” said Tommy McCord, Drinking Mercury’s guitarist and vocalist, about the band’s latest release out today via GTG Records.
“We had focused on embracing that sort of finger style-like folky guitar playing and bringing that in with more textural and psychedelic stuff. From there, it was a matter of filling in the arrangements, but we all knew we wanted to have the vocals be really prominent and arranged on the album.”
Soaring vocal harmonies intertwined with slow, thumping drumbeats, driving basslines and gentle acoustic and electric guitars abound on the band’s striking follow-up to 2011’s alt-folk debut, “Orcades.”
Recording Drinking Mercury, Split Album with The Soods
To create the album’s laid-back feel, McCord invited longtime friends and bandmates Boyes (guitar, vocals), Timmy Rodriguez (bass, keys, vocals) and Kevin Adams (drums) to his family’s 60-year-old rustic cabin in Bitely last July to record new material.
“It’s like the cliché of getting back to nature to write your masterpiece. My grandpa and some other guys built this cabin in the early ‘50s, so I’ve been going there my whole life. I had thought in a daydream it would be cool to record an album up here,” said McCord, who co-formed Drinking Mercury nearly 20 years ago with Adams while growing up in Ionia.
“It’s not like it’s a big acoustically awesome space. It’s just a pretty simple cabin, but it’s in a beautiful area, and the atmosphere is really relaxed, and your cell phone doesn’t work there, and there’s no internet.”