Stolen Wallpaper

Words but a whisper, deafness a shout

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Location: Zeeland, Michigan, United States

Hi. I wish I had a job selling squirrels. They're so furry, and give you toothy grins. Unless they're rabid, in which case they will eat your face off and then find the rest of your family. That's not so good, I guess.

Sunday, December 27, 2020

Local Spins Top 5 for 2020

 

5.  Destroyer, Have We Met
Dan Bejar and his ever changing crew of accomplices have been putting out literate, thoughtful, dense music for 20 years now.  You can't really call it rock, its multicolored textures add up to a tour through any number of unfashionable genres.  But, since he stopped contributing to the New Pornographers, he's keeping more memorable melodies for himself.  This is an uneasy, unsettling record, full of jump scares and murder, but utterly compelling.
"The Raven": https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KZaA_knRa8M

4. Nathaniel Rateliff, And It's Still Alright
In which the good time charlie gets the blues.  Remarkable, sepia tinged American roots sounds from the usually hollerin' Night Sweats frontman.  This record was a personal project, but its themes, of love and loss and finding a place to stand in this world, are universal. 

3. The Crane Wives, Here I Am
The Grand Rapids indie rock institution hasn't put out an album since 2016, but they HAVE been busy, releasing a string of singles, playing shows, trying to survive in a Spotify world.  Now drawing some international attention thanks to some animation hobby kids on YouTube, this live document of their modern strengths was well timed to capitalize on this newfound love, and has a lot to offer the returning fan as well.  12 of these 20 songs are not on any other album (yet), and show an evolution into a tougher, leaner, but still eloquent and thoughtful band.  These songs are the sound of picking up the pieces of your life and moving on.  Anger is ok, but you have to USE it, not stew in it.

2. Brian Koenigsknecht, Healing Bridges
The Kalamazoo balladeer lost his father recently, and coming to terms with his grief led to the rapid composition and recording of this deeply affecting song cycle.  There are songs of nostalgia, pain, struggle and joy, all parts of remembering our people and finding the strength within ourselves to keep going.  Far from a downer, this album is an affirmation of the ways we mean something to each other. 

1. Earth Radio, Reanimate
Our Grand Rapids polyglots (whom I once described as "what if Mariah Carey joined King Crimson?") have knocked it out of the park on the third album in as many years.  We have the best melodies they've given us thus far, coupled with virtuosic playing, state of the art recording, and a sense of fun that may have been slightly missing from the previous disc.  Rock/jazz/prog/soul fans take note, and give a listen:  this has enough heart and soul in it to defy genre categorization.  Just call it a heavy rotator.

Honorable mentions:  a pair of marvelous local EPs and a single out of Colorado

A. August, Chaos and Comfort
All killer, no filler on these five tracks of state of the art neosoul from Olivia Vargas and her enablers.  Most exciting young band in Grand Rapids, scratching a bit of that Vox Vidorra itch.

B. Patty PerShayla & the Mayhaps, Good With Words 'N Sh*t
One possible future of rock n roll is a former Miss Coopersville. Patty, with fab guitarist Lucas Powell and killer drummer Alec Klinefelter, raise a ruckus across these five tunes, but they never leave the melody behind.  Patty's own bass weakens knees and loosens feet for moving.

C. Foxfeather, "The Rules"
I feel like I might be the only person outside Colorado beating the drum for this song, but I won't stop.  I saw this Boulder quintet in the tiny Sandbox at Kal-Tone in Kalamazoo last year, and they blew my doors off with their witty, knotty songwriting and strong Americana sound.  And this  is a remarkably powerful anti-gaslighting anthem: the Chicks could only WISH for a song this affecting. Available from Bandcamp, I suspect because I kept asking them how to buy it, and look for a full album in the new year.

Monday, November 02, 2020

Election piece for Kay

 MICHIGAN SENATE RACE     

JOHN JAMES (R)  No.  Just, no.  He's the kind of fellow your racist grandma calls clean and articulate.  He is a Ken doll, up top as well as possibly down low, with no independent thoughts or opinions, at least not since the Military Industrial Complex got through with him.  (He flew helicopters, in case you hadn't heard.)  He is a blank canvas onto which Trumpers can project all their I'm-Not-A-Racist-But rhetoric, while he smiles blankly in their direction from the mailbox campaign flyers.  Why does he even want to be a senator?  Is it just the next step after 2.5 kids and corporate gladhanding?  It's not ok for wypipo (and I am the wytest of pipos) to call out Black people for tokenism.  But John James doesn't stand for anything except bland placeholding in the administration of Satan.


GARY PETERS (D)  Ok, sure.  He has a charisma deficit;  where James' teeth are blinding, Peters' might be a bit yellow.  He may have pit stains where James had his sweat glands removed.  He hasn't accomplished much...but that is down to the stranglehold McConnell has had on the Senate, not a single one term senator can point to ANYTHING they've gotten done.  He's a little too moderate for me.  But he is a real fucking human being. He also served in the military reserve for many years, with distinction, but doesn't crow about it.  I can guarantee he has genitalia.  And he has a heart.  He was a vocal supporter of Occupy Wall Street and the UN Population Fund. And last month, he shared the deeply personal story of his family's choice of an abortion to save his wife Heidi's life. (https://www.elle.com/culture/career-politics/a34339956/senator-gary-peters-abortion/)  It was deeply courageous, and in our deeply messed up state, it will probably cost him his job. 

Friday, October 02, 2020

Harvest Gathering bios, 2020

 I did shockingly little new writing this year, but here's a few.  I think that Accidentals was in place last year, but it wasn't in the blog entry.

Ben Traverse is a young man with a very wide hat who commands a wide array of instruments in his mission to bring the finest traditional folk music into the 21st century. After apprenticeships with the finest musicians in Michigan, Ben is ready to step out smiling. After two years with his electronic project, Hlborn, this will be Ben's Harvest debut with his folk sound. Come holler and stomp!

When Brian Koenigsknecht smiles while he's singing, you can see all the joy and sorrow that led up to that moment in his face: whether crooning or hollering, beating on that acoustic guitar like it owes him money, Brian's music wears his heart on its sleeve. It's a big sound in a small space, asking for your time and attention but not demanding it. Stories of then and now, love and loss, Marquette and Kalamazoo, you and me. The original Earthwork Songbird is back to share his melodies, and probably a few more wide smiles. Available: Sad Ballad Souvenirs (2004), Beautiful Distractions (2013), From The Shallows To The Deep (2017), Roswell (2018), and brand new album Healing Bridges, featuring a collaboration with Michael Beauchamp-Cohen of Red Tail Ring, entitled The Windmill.

Darcy Wilkin is a funny person who writes and sings sad songs. She is a serious and dedicated educator who usually rocks rainbow sherbet hair. There's a twinkle in her eye the whole show, to tell you, isn't this cool? She'll treat you the same whether you're an audience of 20 or 2,000. She has been a member of the roots-folk collective the Corn Fed Girls for over two decades, and has finally stepped into the solo spotlight with a stunning slab of Michigan country music, 2019's Bristol. In the age of laughing to keep from crying, or vice versa, Darcy Wilkin was made for these times.

Frank Youngman is an educator, musician, raconteur, and all around good egg who has been mentor and friend to an alarming number of excellent Michigan musicians. Once or twice a year, he assembles a bunch of them into a ragged band of merry melody makers: no egos, no rehearsal, big fun. This year it's just him and Seth in the barn, no rehearsal, no frills, among the peacocks.

Rachael Davis is a big personality with a huge voice. She might punch you in the shoulder within minutes of meeting you. She might fill a room with raucous, contagious laughter, both her own and yours. And she might bring you to your knees with her astonishing voice as it soars, whispers, pleads and demands your attention. Deep Michigan roots, Nashville's gain is our loss, but music travels everywhere. Albums available: Minor League Deities (2000), Live In Bremen, Germany (2004), Antebellum Queens (2008), Bandbox Jubilee (2014), plus releases with Shout Sister Shout! and The Sweet Water Warblers.

Ann Arbor's Sari Brown joined the Earthwork Music label in 2004 at the age of 17 with the release of her first album, 'For What is the Journey,' a collection of 11 unconventional spirituals. 'The Color Suite' followed in 2009. After several years living in Colombia, she is now serving as a pastor in the small towns of Harbor Beach and Port Hope, near the tip of the "thumb" on the coast of Lake Huron: two heartfelt, close-knit communities that inspire her to be a better person and a better artist. She'll dazzle you with sweet songs that will linger in your heart for the rest of the day.

Bill Chesney grew up with Seth Bernard in Lake City, and there must be something in the water up there, because Bill (with his ever-changing pickup band, Stepladders) can conjure a tune, spin it on its side like a Harlem Globetrotter, and whip it at your head so fast you won't know what hit you. This is friendly/slightly snotty rock n roll for people who remember Better Than Ezra fondly. Primarily occupied with running world class print shop Brownlee Press in Grand Rapids, a Stepladders performance is a rare treat. Two albums available: Stepladders (2016) and Another Chance (2020).

Steve Leaf is a restless musical soul with a guitar, a looping station, and a wicked sense of humor. Form Howell to Chicago to Grand Rapids, with the Ex Pats, Brandon Foote, Public Access, or solo, he brings you the goods, whether the goods be ambient soundscapes, tight pop songs, or 15 minute Neil Young covers. An Earthwork Harvest Gathering fixture for over a decade, his scarecrow grin will have to be seen long distance this year, but the future is large. Albums available: We Are Ghosts (2010), Queen's Language (2012), Three Circles & A Speaker (2014), Lightspeed (2015), Come Clean (2016), Go To The Pines (2017), and brand new single Turn Around. Also investigate Public Access and Leaf/Foote.

The Accidentals have exploded out of their native Traverse City, and their Interlochen training, to stride the world with their genre-busting sound and indomitable spirit. Three multi-instrumentalists with the power to do anything, but the pyrotechnic playing is always tempered to serve the song, the melody, the moment. One of the absolute busiest touring acts in America, with over 300 shows played last year, chances are good they have come to your town, or will soon. Savannah Buist and Katie Larson write music of honesty, insight and perception, without relying on love songs or cheap tricks. Michael Dause, the new guy (joined in 2014), is a percussionist of precision and agility, with his own solo career to boot. Guitar, bass, mandolin, viola, cello, violin, banjo, and a whole lotta drums may come into play. This is timeless music by young people, and the horizon is endless. Albums available: Tangled Red And Blue (2012), Bitter Sweet (2013), Parking Lot EP (2016), Odyssey (2017), The Accidentals Live (an album of all new songs) (2019).