Friday Five: Randy Napoleon, Date Nite, Mogi Grumbles, The Evil Doings of an Intergalactic Skeleton, Dastardly Kids


Cover art for the albums and singles featured in the Friday Five.

Friday Five highlights music by Washtenaw County-associated artists and labels.

This week features jazz by Randy Napoleon, indie rock by Date Nite, modular electronics by Mogi Grumbles, space-age computer music by The Evil Doings of an Intergalactic Skeleton, and rap by Dastardly Kids.


Randy Napoleon, The Door Is Open
Gregg Hill is an East Lansing jazz composer whose works have attracted the ears of nearby peers who work in the Michigan State University jazz studies department, including program director Rodney Whitaker (bass), trombonist Michael Dease, and guitarist Randy Napoleon, a graduate of Ann Arbor's Pioneer High School. Dease released The Other Shoe: The Music of Gregg Hill (2023), Whitaker has released three Hill-themed albums—Common Ground (2019), Outrospection (2021), and Oasis (2022)—and Napoleon now has two: 2022's Puppets and 2024's The Door Is Open. All of these albums came out on the Seattle-based jazz label Origin Records. (Napoleon also led a group for four songs on 2020's Brothers, another collection of Hill tunes, released on the composer's own Cold Plunge label.)

Napoleon has spent long patches of his career playing with vocalists Freddy Cole and Michael Bublé, and singer Aubrey Johnson joins him on The Door Is Open. But she's not steeped in the crooner tradition like Cole and Bublé. Stylistically, Johnson is a more of a improvising singer, and sometimes she even sounds like an ensemble instrumentalist—especially when she wordlessly sings as on the title track—more than a traditional jazz vocalist. Ann Arbor native Rick Roe and Grand Rapids' Quincy Davis (drums) are the other core members of this recording, with guest spots from Whitaker, Lucas Lafave (bass), Anthony Stanco (trumpet), Walter Blanding (tenor sax), and Andrew Kim (trombone).

The five tracks with horns give Napoleon and Co. a chance to show off Hill's skill at colorful harmonies, mostly at a relaxed, swinging tempo, but "Motel Blues" changes things up and gives the band a slow groove to ride on—think Herbie Hancock's "Cantaloupe Island." Napoleon is equally comfortable in that sort of blues-based vibe—no surprise considering he recorded an album honoring fellow soul-steeped Midwestern guitarists Wes Montgomery, Grant Green, and Kenny Burrell—or riffing on Hill's more impressionistic compositions, which usually start with strong melodies before opening up and allowing the soloists to shine.


Date Nite, My Trial Compendium EP, "Stomach Cramps," "Sad4N0Reas0n"
Date Nite describes itself as a "cute queer indie band from Ypsi" and I'm not gonna argue. Led by singer-songwriter Max Rickard, the band plays slow-to-midtempo minimalist emo-indie, and if you have any affinity for that sort of sound, you'll love Date Nite.


Mogi Grumbles, ...Into Clouds
Ann Arbor's Alex Taam has been busy with family life the past few years so this longtime synth enthusiast hasn't released a lot of music. ...Into Clouds is his welcome return to the world of Mogi Grumbles, featuring 17 Eurorack modular synth improvisations. (If you want to see how Taam works with other synths, check out this video he made for the Ann Arbor District Library in 2017 that shows off some of the instruments you can check out from the Music Tools collection.)


The Evil Doings of an Intergalactic Skeleton, They all died here
This one-person Ann Arbor project has an excellent band name that the alien music on They all died here honors admirably. It's outer-space music of the non-ambient kind—15 nervous and idiosyncratic jams, all performed in atypical tunings. It's the sort of album that could have been released on the left-field electronica label Planet Mu.


Dastardly Kids, Dastard, Bloody Dastard and Delinquent
Ypsi rapper Sonny Dulphi and Detroit producer-rapper Pat2Dope teamed up to form the knowingly over-the-top duo Dastardly Kids. The Bandcamp bio says the project's debut, Delinquent, "conjures the world as a noir, cartoonish stage for getting things done 'by any means necessary and looking good doing it,'" a vibe that continues on the new Dastard, Bloody Dastard.

Christopher Porter is a library technician and the editor of Pulp.