City Slang: Weekly music review roundup

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Remember – if you send it, it will get reviewed. That’s the City Slang promise. It doesn’t matter what genre the music is – as long as it has a Metro Detroit connection, it’ll get in. Preferably, we’d like to concentrate on new releases but, while we’re getting warmed up here, feel free to send back catalog material too. Send CDs, vinyl, cassettes, demos and 8-tracks to Brett Callwood, City Slang, Metro Times, 733, St. Antoine, Detroit, MI 46226. Email MP3s and streaming links to mt.cityslang@gmail.com.

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There’s a mythology surrounding Starling Electric that isn’t particularly easy to get a grip on. We know that members of the Posies and Guided By Voices love the band, and we know that the current lineup includes Ben and Aaron from Lightning Love. Main man Caleb Dillon seems to like resurfacing the group from time to time just to keep interest fresh. Most importantly though, Clouded Staircase (White Lodge Recording), originally released in 2006, is an amazing album. Think Sgt. Pepper Beatles, but also think Foo Fighters at their most introspective. Throw in some Beach Boys “Bah bah” harmonies, some Carpenters-esque orchestral breaks, and we’re still only part-way there. A beautiful pop record.

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Steve Scott Country seems happy to wallow in every country stereotype possible, from the Stars & Stripes on the cover to the photo of him gazing thoughtfully into the distance on the back. The music follows suit; shiny-clean radio-country with no hint of an edge. Just dull.

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Barrett Strong was, of course, the first artist to record a hit for Motown with “Money (That’s What I Want)”. Stronghold 2 (Blarritt) was originally released back in 2000 and granted a digital release eight years later. Somehow it ended up in our mailbox recently, so it’s a good chance to revisit and remember that Strong is still a great soul songwriter and, while there’s nothing on here as great as “Money”, songs like “I Wish it Would Rain” prove that he’s still relevant.

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The first line of “How I Lost My Body”, the first song on Zelda and the UnibrowsBlissful Cessation, is “When you die you become a ghost, and you get to haunt people.” SOLD. That’s me already loving this band. The pop hook, Casio keyboard-like jingle running throughout and the ropey vocals only make me love it more. The band with the awesome name was founded in ’94 by Joe Krause and Paul Szewczyk, and this EP is great. It’s like Sparks, Devo and Kraftwerk all got in a big sack and started fighting.

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Cathie Ryan is a Detroit native who creates beautiful, heartfelt Celtic folk music. Her latest Through Wind and Rain (Mo Leanbh) album is gorgeous, balancing on the line between traditional folk and contemporary singer/songwriter tunes. Ryan writes from the heart – it seems as if that’s all that really matters – and that’s why the record works.

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