Friday Five: The Olllam, Hannah Baiardi, Matthew Dear, Mark Zhu, Nickie P. & Duke Newcomb, Sean Curtis Patrick, Tom Smith, Danger Room, The Strange Theory of Light and Matter, Thomas Gun
Friday Five highlights music by Washtenaw County-associated artists and labels.
We're doing this again? Doubling the size of Friday Five for the second time in two weeks?
If area musicians keep this up, I'm going to have to change the column name to Tuesday Ten, which will be really confusing when I run the post on Fridays, the day all new music comes out. (Back in the olden days, release day used to be on Tuesday, which would be a strange day to run a column called Friday Five, but I digress so hard.)
This week features:
- Irish fusion by The Olllam
- sophisti-pop by Hannah Baiardi
- electronic pop by Matthew Dear
- ukulele-driven pop by Mark Zhu
- hip-hop by Nickie P. & Duke Newcomb
- a moon-landing soundtrack by Sean Curtis Patrick
- parodies by Tom Smith
- noise by Danger Room
- metal-tronica by The Strange Theory of Light and Matter
- rockabilly-tinged punk by Thomas Gun
The Olllam, Elllegy
It's been a decade since Ann Arbor's The Ollam released its self-titled debut album, but the band's musicians have been very busy. Grammy-nominated producer Tyler Duncan, who also plays uilleann pipes, has worked with the likes of Carly Rae Jepsen and Vulfpeck as well as fiddle star Jeremy Kittel. Fellow piper John McSherry, a Belfast-based star of Irish music, has had a long solo and collaborative career. Percussionist Michaael Shimmin has kept busy with fellow Michigan musicians May Erlewine and Joshua Davis as well as playing with Duncan in the Irish music crossover group Millish. And bassist Joe Dart always has something going on with his fellow University of Michigan grads in Vulfpeck. Duncan, who was the former mastermind behind the electro-pop band My Dear Disco, later called Ella Riot, has his fingerprints all over "lllow the sun," the first single for The Olllam's second album, Elllegy. The tune mixes dance-music-informed beats with Irish melodies that just seem to spin on forever.
Hannah Baiardi, Magic
Ann Arbor's Hannah Baiardi has been working on Magic for almost a year—the first single, "Reason," came out in August 2021 with subsequent singles coming out in February and April 2022. I've written about all the songs in previous Friday Fives, so allow me to jump back and repeat myself: Recommended if you're a fan of Sade and jazzy sophisti-pop. Additionally, Magic was inspired by the popular Buddhist scholar Tara Brach and her book Radical Acceptance. Light a candle, draw a bubble bath, and relax into Magic.
Matthew Dear, "Talking Sleep"
Ann Arbor's Matthew Dear released this one-off single to accompany his tour with Interpol and Tycho, and in some ways "Talking Sleep" nods to the music of both of those artists. Dear's deep voice recalls the post-punk seriousness of Interpol and the music shares some of the downtempo effervescence of Tycho's electronica.
Mark Zhu, "The Boy and the Cloud"
Neutral Zone’s Youth Owned Records label has been quiet for much of the past four years, at least based on what's on the Bandcamp page. But the Ann Arbor spot for teens has continued hosting music workshops during most of that time period, and Skyline junior Mark Zhu used his experiences there to create the single "The Boy and the Cloud" as well as hand-draw an animated video for the tune, which is an official Youth Owned release. I mentioned recently that ukulele seems to be a favored instrument for musicians of the TikTok generation, and "The Boy and the Cloud" features one prominently. The tune addresses what it's like growing up as an Asian-American in Ann Arbor.
Nickie P. & Duke Newcomb, "Prey"
Whitmore Lake's Nickie P and Ann Arbor's Duke Newcomb have teamed up for so many great tunes over the years, starting with their time in the 7Chakraz group, and this one-off single is no exception. The two rappers trade verses on the very heavy "Prey," which addresses rape.
Sean Curtis Patrick, "Buchla 200/208 - 050122 - No.1"
Former Ann Arbor-ite Sean Curtis Patrick, now based out of Washington state, ordered a custom-built Buchla 200/208 analog-synth setup and this is his first composition using it. "Try watching muted Apollo 11 landing footage to it," he writes on the Bandcamp description, so here's a link to do just that.
Tom Smith, We Don't Talk About Torgo
Simply put, Tom Smith is Ann Arbor's Weird Al. The prolific parody man's latest album, We Don't Talk About Torgo, is a compilation of his Patreon songs over the past year. Props for the MST3K-inspired cover art (that is for some reason showing up below as Thor? Mortal Kombat?).
Danger Room, Absolute Minimum of Faith
The latest release from Ann Arbor's Safa Collective is a Merzbow-level blast of noise courtesy of Danger Room, aka DJ Free Jazz on WCBN.
The Strange Theory of Light and Matter, 5
The four songs on 5 by this mysterious Ann Arbor project were recorded between 2010-2015 but not released until 2022. The band describes the songs as a "journey into the fusion of metal, electronic, and vague allusions to physics" and it's hard to disagree.
Thomas Gun, Rat Feelings
Ypsilanti multi-instrumentalist Thomas Gun teased this album with the "Vaultkeeper" single last month, and it was a solid taste of Ratbones (ewwww). Rootsy punk rock with some rockabilly leanings and singalong choruses.
Christopher Porter is a library technician and the editor of Pulp.