It’s harvest season again. The records put together in bedrooms, recording studios and any other safe haven over the course of the last year are being whacked by the thresher of indie commerce and are ripe and ready for purchase at your local sound emporium. (That oughta cover the obligatory tortured metaphor for this column, but there’s a bonus one later on.)
Anyhoo, the rule for this month’s column was “no garage rock.” If you’d like to read about the latest Detroit Garage Rock offering, may I recommend www.nme.com or perhaps the cutting-edge pages of the Free Press (ouch, paper cuts!). Without further ado, straight from the fields …
Thunderbirds Are Now
Another One Hypnotized by …
Least accurate title of the year, thus far. T.A.N. proves once and for all that just because you have a lot of half-baked ideas and have heard a couple Brainiac records, doesn’t mean you’re ready to sell a finished product yet.
From some of the same minds that brought you the spazzy, nerd-next-door pop of Red Shirt Brigade comes another stab at the current underground zeitgeist. Synths, home recordings, buzzing noises, falsetto vocals, yowza — the sounds of musicians afraid to ditch a nervous tic in service of the composition. Of course, there are moments of precious “I’ve-got-a-four-track-and-I’m-not-afraid-to-use-it” charm at work here. And the T-Birds do coax a handful of original sounds and manage an occasional groove or hint of atmosphere. But the parts never equal a whole; rather, the whole seems too self-consciously short attention-spanned for anyone’s good. Let’s hope that the upcoming full-length (also on Acutest) offers hope for the future of this occasionally promising band of indie diehards.
Little Fires EP
I know very little about the logistics behind Spy Island, save for the fact that Dale Nicholls is somehow involved. But I’m going to bust the most obscure local music reference I can muster on you right now — Spy Island’s Little Fires EP sounds like a remote collaboration between John Nelson (New Grenada, Cloud Car) and Chris McInnis (who worked the majority of They Come in Threes magic). Huh? How ’bout that? And that’s a blessing and a curse. Somewhere between socially awkward-and-fascinating and wannabe-popular-and-formulaic (with an emphasis on the former), this record is all over the map: twee, rocking, antic, hushed, funky. And it’s all painted ambitiously within the limited palette of the lo-fi, high-minded guitars ’n’ kitchen sink vernacular. There are a handful of tracks worthy of mix tape inclusion here. And it succeeds in its casual collisions of busybody and lazyass. Stay tuned to spy-island.com for future fun.
Viki/Hair Police split LP
So the question is, has Viki finally shaken off the notion of being the slightly friendlier and imminently sillier little sister of her Brighton brethren in Wolf Eyes? Short answer: Yes. And the proof is in this platter to which she’s contributed a half-dozen new cuts and split the cost with Louisville, Ky.’s Hair Police, who also ring in with a five of their own. The turf she treads? Occasionally abstract, often bouncy, awkwardly dance-y homemade analog noise-punk. These are simultaneously Viki’s most accessible and rawest takes yet. She buries her Poly Styrene-by-way-of-the Valley intonations under buzzing Suicide beats and kitchen-sink scrapes, dive bombers and marching pulse tones rescued from seemingly barely functioning machines and other discarded objects plucked from vaporspace oblivion. Less precious and more engaging than some of the previous outings I’ve laid ears on, this is the sound of Viki (nee Lindsay Kartz) edging out of curiosity toward confident exploration.
Best line, delivered as the machines are wound down: “Relax/Enjoy yourself/Eat … more … candy/Call into work tomorrow/Who knows what could happen.”
Oh, and Viki and Dearborn’s Mammal (a producer of sublimely eerie soundscapes who also contributed the artwork for this release) will perform together this week (Sept. 26, to be exact) as Midlife Vacation at Detroit Art Space with Lightning Bolt, Necronomitron and E-Zee Tiger. Doors are at 9 p.m.
A Day’s Work
Sunday night, four hours into a six-hour drive. Leaving home and looking for that last bit of solace in the corners. Whiskey Tenor’s simple four-song EP of guitar, piano, drums and voice poetics (with horns and vibes striking up occasionally as though spontaneously inspired to do so in a living room jam session) is just such a place. Mixed metaphors aside (how do you get a living room jam session or a piano into your car exactly?) Whiskey Tenor are endearingly unafraid to go for it — singer defies his range to hit the vocal notes, the words that conjure images stretch, bend and cram to fit the measure. The result is a shot of comforting cosmic country that manages to stay grounded despite itself. Simply lovely. Check ’em out at www.dowpeninsula.com.
The Wallace Bros.
Popular Songs That Will Live Forever Volume 1: Lullabies
First off, these two depresso ostensible sibs from Ann Arbor have put together the only press kit I’ve read cover-to-cover this year. So that’s something. But any rock crit worth his salt knows that you can’t judge a band by their press kit, right? Right? Anyhoo …
What the Wallace Bros. (actually a brother and sister — no hints of hidden divorces here as of yet) manage to pull off over the course of 10 hushed, two-minute songs about breakups and their aftermath is some original-if-unsettling imagery and couch it in deceptively simple songcraft. In fact, I haven’t heard it done this well since album dedicatee Fred Thomas let loose his lamentation on Saturday Looks Good to Me’s “Cruel August Moon.”
You can likely find this CD-R at Encore in A2 or go to wallacebros.org.
Jo Serrapere & the Willie Dunns
Tonight at Johnny’s Speakeasy
Detroit Radio Co.
True story: I was once driving from Chicago back to Detroit listening to “Prairie Home Companion,” and who’s the musical guest but Jo Serrapere! Damn right! I found myself frantically twiddling the dials trying to get the optimum NPR reception (mid-Michigan is some bizarre confluence of, like, five NPR stations, all of which have varying reception). Anyhoo ... I locked it in and was charmed and hypnotized by Serrapere’s jazzy-blues phrasing (or is it her folky-country phrasing? Both). Sold. Utterly sold. She holds her own thankyouverymuch in that rarefied turf at the exact point where the tributaries of American songcraft collide and make a gloriously contemporary-yet-timeless puddle of folk musics just before they get combined and become a homogenized mainstream. Somehow spiritually kindred to Tom Waits, whose “Walking Spanish” she and the Willie Dunns cover here in this live set, there doesn’t seem to be an overly precious bone in these folks’ body.
Odds ’n’ sods
The winds of change are a-blowin’ in the Dearborn independent record shop world (horrible pun, unfortunately, intended). First off, the eclectic, deep-listening-friendly folks at Stormy Records are crating up their stock for a move east to the spot currently occupied by Desirable Discs II (13939 Michigan Ave.). Co-owner Windy Weber (of space-psych duo Windy & Carl) plans on using the larger space to host more regular musical performances as well as show off their extensive collection of time stereo artwork (and also expand the store’s listenable offerings). Look for it to open ’round Halloween. Whither the nomadic D Discs, then, you ask? They’re folding up the tent for good after bouncing around the Greater East Dearborn Metropolitan Area for a dozen years. Pity.
And, in case you don’t hear it anywhere else — and you really should, but here’s to covering bases — Detroit electro-funkateer Ayro will be celebrating the release of the aptly titled sophomore full-length ElectronicLoveFunk with a record release shindig at 5th Avenue (Comerica Park, downtown Detroit) on Sept. 28 with special guests John Arnold among the names on the bill. It’s $7 to get in. Check out www.omoamusic.com for more info on Ayro’s doings. Ayro’s already legendary, but you can still catch the wave before it gets huge. Or something like that.Chris Handyside writes about music for Metro Times. E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org