Songs For The Summer • 2019

New Original Regional Music Worth Checking Out

Posted In: Arts & Entertainment, Local Music,   From Issue 883   By: Matt deHeus

08th August, 2019     0

Here are some of the releases that have been in my heavy rotation this summer.

Joe Sullivan – Growing Up Schlockstar:  There has been one word that I have been reticent to use in reviewing albums to date, at risk of overhyping any particular project.  The word is “masterpiece.”  With Growing Up Schlockstar, Joe Sullivan has me re-evaluating that policy.  The 10 song effort, released on Futureman Records, is an album only Joe Sullivan could have made.  It’s also exactly the album that we all hoped Joe would make.  It’s fitting that this album comes out in the 25th Anniversary year of Weezer’s Blue album.  Like the Chris Shaw produced, Weezer classic, Sullivan has crafted a cool conceptual set of songs that sit square in the middle of the Power Pop section of the record store.  Songs like “Cheerleader” and “Secret Weapon” allow Sullivan to channel the kind of accessible teen angst that, for better or worse, sticks with you right into middle age and beyond.  The formula is fun, with harmonies and vocal hooks punctuated by smoking guitar solos.  Speaking of fun, if “Birthday” is not the new standard in genre, it at least belongs in the heavy rotation. 

Leland Blue – Leland Blue: On their self-titled release, Leland Blue has produced an extremely strong opening statement to their recording career.  Their guitar-forward indie rock sounds is full of the kinds of hooks that should get the band some looks.  Songs like 10 PM, Shade and Cold Comfort are extremely listenable tunes, with stacks of guitars on top of rock-solid rhythm tracks.  The band present a radio-friendly mix of strong lead vocals, “guitar hero” instrumental chops and clever, nuanced songwriting.  Fans of bands as diverse as Blue Merle, John Mayer, Maroon 5 and Maybe August are going to find a lot to like here.  The band is now touring in support of the album, so buying a download of the recordings might be your best bet for checking out these songs and helping the band work toward the next step in their promising musical journey.

Loud Thoughts – Headspace:  With their debut EP Headspace, Frankenmuth based quartet Loud Thoughts announce themselves as another force in the resurgence of guitar-centric rock.  Fronted by guitarist Chase Singer and vocalist Clayton Singer, the four song set hints at the dynamic sonic presence they have live.  Songs like “Where Am I Going” and “Escape” stray outside the lines of the standard blues-rock that underpin much of the genre.  Clayton Singer’s voice is truly unique in its delivery and timbre.  The band is already discussing a follow up release.  This is worth a listen and the band is one to keep an eye on going forward.

Zachary James – Pocket of Bliss:  On Pocket of Bliss, Zachary offers a set of originals that are earthy and spiritual in tone.  Songs like the title track, Growin’ Medicine and River of Love tap into a space that Dylan and other great folk singers did.  Timeless themes, eternal questions and a stream of consciousness approach inform both the lyrics of James’ songs and the supporting arrangements crafted by producer Andy Reed and multi-instrumentalist J Blum, and other guests.  The release reminds me that songwriters often use songs to understand themselves and they, in turn, help us to get to know them when we spend time with their work.

The White Oranges – 5:  The White Oranges are a rocking outfit.   The song structures and sounds on their third album, 5, tip their hats to influences old and new.  Whether on a punchy rocker, like Avenues, or a confessional acoustic tome, like Grow, the band is able to evoke an emotion with their performances.   There is an earnestness and honesty that marks the best rock and roll, and The White Oranges have it.  They are a fine purveyor of the Michigan tradition of kick-ass rock and roll bands.   Roll down the windows.  Turn it up.  Rock it out.  The White Oranges have just the songs for you.   


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