Friday Five: Nadim Azzam, Jacob Sigman, Doogatron, Shannon Lee, Kuwento Mizik
Friday Five highlights music by Washtenaw County-associated artists and labels.
This week features singer-songwriter hip-hop by Nadim Azzam, R&B hip-hop via Jacob Sigman, bedroom techno from Doogatron, classic country courtesy of Shannon Lee, and a classical-plus-world-music blend by Kuwento Mizik.
Nadim Azzam, Here's to Changes Vol. 2
One of the most monumental shifts in the music industry over the past 10 years is the shift toward numerous single releases instead of an album. With streaming it's easy to pop the music online immediately and then let social media do the rest—then repeat that process over and over so it has the potential for an ongoing cycle of widescreen engagement, not the relatively small window of media exposure that usually occurs with album releases. Super-famous artists engage in the steady stream of singles method but it's perhaps most beneficial to up-and-coming artists who can use it to build name recognition. That's what Ann Arbor hip-hop singer-songwriter Nadim Azzam did over the past year with the six singles compiled on Here's to Changes Vol. 2 (seven years after Vol. 1). Azzam mixes soulful singing and speedy rapping in equal measure across these songs, which are all ballad-slow and tend toward the melancholy. Azzam also made quality videos for every song here, and you can check out all the great visuals on his YouTube page. (The "Zen" video features the University of Michigan's Synchronized Swim Team.)
Jacob Sigman, Sticks and Stones
Like Nadim Azzam, Jacob Sigman jumps between hip-hop and R&B with ease—and also favors singles and EPs over albums. But where the former's recent music wrestles with heavy emotions, Sigman's latest four-song collection, Sticks and Stones, is pure and breezy pop-radio jams. The University of Michigan grad is a strong singer and his voice is front and center on these earworms. Bonus content: Sigman appeared on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon last June to take part in the Battle of Instant Songwriters bit—and he crushed it. The brief, ultra-catchy song is simple as can be and laugh-out-loud funny.
Doogatron, Out of Order
Ypsi techno trio Doogatron has also specialized in singles over the past few years, but Out of Order is a full-length, hard-drive dump—literally. The group was prepping to retire its 11-year-old tracking laptop and saved the bones of these 10 tracks, recorded between 2016 and 2017, and mixed them recently. While Doogatron works with sequencers, you can tell a lot of their electronic music is hand-crafted in real-time, giving a slightly woozy vibe and a grimier edge than you typically hear in techno-influenced tunes, whose production often tends toward the hermetically sealed. Bonus content: A Doogatron live set broadcast on the internet in August 2021.
Shannon Lee, Stars
I flaked out on Shannon Lee's Stars album when it came out last October, but I'm glad I stumbled across it again recently because it's terrific. The record consists of seven strong songs in the folk-country genre, and if you have any affinity for that classic Nashville sound—from soaring harmonies to string-filled arrangements—you will love Stars. Bonus content: A one-camera shoot of Lee's solo show at Ziggy's in Ypsilanti last December. (Lee is also the creator of the Ypsi Live Music Scene group on Facebook, which Concentrate wrote about here.)
Kuwento Mizik, Lua Nova EP
Ann Arbor duo Kuwento Mizik features the baritone-voiced singer Jean Bernard Cerin and pianist Veena K. Kulkarni- Ranki, both classically trained but not stuck in the classics. Their debut recording consists of folk songs and ballads the artists have loved performing during their seven years together, with the music pulled from Indian, Filipino, African-American, Haitian, and Brazilian musical traditions. Ann Arbor percussionist John Churchville produced and played on the EP. Bonus content: Kuwento Mizik recorded a series of beautiful duets over Zoom, such as "Deep River" below; you can watch all of them on the duo's YouTube page.