Friday Five: Hannah Baiardi, Jazz Drive, Price, Benji Robot, Oak Openings


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 ethereal piano ballads by Hannah Baiardi, vaporwave synth-pop by Jazz Drive, electronica by Price, remixes by Benji Robot, and improvisations by Oak Openings.


Hannah Baiardi, Phoenix
Pianist and vocalist Hannah Baiardi released several singles in 2023 that reaffirmed her skill at writing open-hearted singer-songwriter ballads and soul-pop tunes, and the confessional Phoenix somewhat echoes her previous song-based work. But this minimalist record also conjures Baiardi's 2022 healing-music album, Ascend Your Vibe: Music for Contemplation, which was instrumental. The Ann Arbor artist describes Phoenix as being an "ethereal journey through heartbreak, acceptance and surrender," but it's also a nice encapsulation of Baiardi's two sonic modes over the past couple of years.


Jazz Drive, Electric Freeway
Ann Arbor native Kwame Sakyi Jr. has released a ton of great retro-/vapor-wave synth music under the name Kawsaki. But he's also a megafan of the genre, too, and supports fellow artists who are ringing every last bit of sound from '80s-inspired technology by releasing music on his Kawsaki Audio Space imprint. Electric Freeway is the debut album by Jazz Drive, and all seven tracks sound like they've been extracted from lost 1980s TV soundtracks and B movies—and that is high praise.


This is an all-over-the-place collection of electronica music, spanning everything from hard techno to drone, by a young Ann Arbor producer who alternates artist names depending on the genre he's exploring.


Benji Robot, Edits (2018-2024)
Benji Robot (Benjamin Roman) has released numerous original singles and EPs that evoke the heyday of 1990s trip-hop, but the Ann Arbor producer has turned his attention to a different kind of music-making for his new release, Edits (2018-2024). The 10 songs on here are radical remixes of tunes by Styx, Jay-Z, The Specials, Alanis Morissette, and more. It's a gray area legally but the Internet with rife with such edits, but there's no denying Benji Robot's ability to reshape familiar songs into something almost entirely new.


Oak Openings, Oak Openings, Pythagoras, Live 2013
Jason Adam Voss' Editions JAV label continues to resurrect Washtenaw County experimental music released in small quantities many years ago. Thom Elliott is the main person behind Oak Openings, a "structured improvisation" group from 2012-2013.​ These three live releases capture the group exploring everything from free jazz to drones.

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