It's Dark Down by the River: Kelly Jean Caldwell Band's cutting alt-country odes


Kelly Jean Caldwell

The Kelly Jean Caldwell Band makes you laugh to slow down the crying. Photo by Michelle McNulty via the band's Facebook page.

The leader of the Kelly Jean Caldwell Band is constantly juggling creative endeavors, be it leading the alt-country band behind her name, playing in the occult-metal group The Wiccans, or raising two little ones.

“My kids are going crazy right now,” Caldwell wrote in an email to Pulp. “I have a 1-year-old and a 3-year-old and they are freaks.”

Caldwell was fending off the kids while answering questions to preview [|her concert at the Elks Pratt Lodge] in Ann Arbor on Friday, January 27. Her third album, [|Downriver], was recorded six years ago, but it finally came out late last year on The Outer Limits Lounge, a new label run by her husband, John Szymanski (vocalist Johnny Hentch from long-running garage-rockers [|The Hentchmen]).

The album’s delay was due to a number of reasons, not the least of which is Caldwell and band bassist Brian Blair divorced, then she got remarried to Szymanski, with whom she has the two rugrats who helped her with this interview. After a break that allowed Caldwell to focus on family life, she eventually called up her old bandmates -- including her ex -- and the Kelly Jean Caldwell Band was born again.

On the surface, Downriver’s music sounds familiar enough to label it alt-country, but underneath the twangs are dark and humorous lyrics delivered by Caldwell’s powerful voice. She brings real personality and presence to the songs, elevating them above their rootsy origins. The tunes were written when former Ann Arborite Caldwell was living downriver with Blair, and the album is a chronicle of their time together and the eventual dissolution of their marriage.

Roundup: Ann Arbor Blues Society, Poet Keith Taylor & Washtenaw Reads


SINGING THE BLUES AGAIN: "Ann Arbor has an incredibly rich history and tradition when it comes to the blues," James Partridge told MLive -- and he's right, from the Blind Pig's regular booking of big names in its early years to the establishment of the Ann Arbor Blues Festival in 1969. Partridge's new nonprofit, the [|Ann Arbor Blues Society], is trying to continue A2's blues tradition by bringing the music to senior centers, schools, and local venues, but its long-term goal is downright grand: to revive the Ann Arbor Blues Festival, which was last held in 2006. (➤ […|MLive])

FOR THE BIRDS: U-M adjunct [|Keith Taylor] and Ann Arbor artist Tom Pohrt have teamed up for a new book of poems and illustrations that meditate on nature. The 49 poems that comprise The Bird-while, which is part of Wayne State University's Made in Michigan Writers Series, is Taylor's 16th collection of verse, though not his first to explore the natural world. Nature has always been an important part of Taylor's work; check out "[|The Day After an Ice Storm]." Literati will [|host the book launch] for The Bird-while on Friday, January 27 at 7 p.m. (➤ [|Wayne State University Press])

200 CENTS OF SENSE: This year’s Washtenaw Reads book selection is $2.00 a Day: Living on Almost Nothing in America by Kathryn J. Edin and H. Luke Shaefer. The authors are coming to Rackham Auditorium on Tuesday, February 7, and the Ann Arbor District Library is hosting several events related to the book. Get the full scoop here: (➤ [|AADL])

Christopher Porter is a Library Technician and editor of Pulp.

Roundup: Nomo, Washi Con, A2 Monster Record Show


YES, ’MO: It’s been 7 years since the Ann Arbor-formed band Nomo released its last album, Invisible Cities (Ubiquity Records), but a [… photos posted] to the avant-Afro-gamelan-funk band’s Facebook page in August indicate a new record’s been made. We reached out to the band for info on when it might be released and haven’t heard back, but perhaps all secrets will be revealed when Nomo plays the Blind Pig on Saturday, January 21. And even though Nomo has been quiet for a long while, the band's core nine musicians have kept busy. Most prominently, saxophonist-leader Elliot Bergman moved to Chicago and released two pop-dub albums as [|Wild Belle] (which includes his sister, Natalie) and formed the experimental [|Metal Tongues], whose sound is built on his hand-made kalimbas with synths and drums. Meanwhile, trumpeter [|Justin Walter] has released a number of recordings under his own name, including the great 2013 LP [|Lullabies & Nightmares] (Kranky), and saxophonist […|Dan Bennett] leads his own jazz groups. (➤ [|Blind Pig event]) (➤ [|Nomo])

Roundup: Matthew Dear, All Hands Active & Tanner Porter


NEW KICKS: When a musician gets asked to compile a mix for the [|DJ-Kicks] series, it’s like a baseball player making the All-Star Game. Since 1993, the German !K7 label has had some of the world’s biggest electronic music artists, including Carl Craig, Hot Chip, Actress, and 54 others create DJ-set albums -- ones that still sell really well even though virtually every music website offers approximately 273,000 mixes to download for free.

Now it’s [|Matthew Dear]’s turn to boot-up a mix, and the Ann Arbor artist and co-founder of Ghostly International is celebrating his DJ-Kicks album with a party at the Blind Pig on Friday, January 20. (UPDATE: Fellow Ghostly star [|Shigeto] has been added to the gig.)

Dear will be DJing and dropping cuts from the 57th DJ-Kicks comp, which includes his new song, “Wrong With Us,” plus 24 more jams from the likes of Simian Mobile Disco, Pearson Sound, and Audion (aka Dear’s more dance-oriented alter ego).

Not familiar with Ghostly International or its sister label, Spectral Sound? If you’re an Ann Arbor District Library card holder, you can download almost everything the labels have released, free of charge, including many Dear and Audion classics. (➤ [|!K7]) (➤ [|Blind Pig]) (➤ [|AADL’s Ghostly/Spectral collection])

Sing for the Moment: Meredith Monk's "On Behalf of Nature"


Meredith Monk

Meredith Monk leans in On Behalf of Nature. Photo by Julieta Cervantes.

Experimental vocalist and composer Meredith Monk did not make a hip-hop record. But a prime inspiration for her 2016 album, [|On Behalf of Nature] (ECM) is repurposing, the same creative construct that informed early hip-hop artists, who created beats and melodies from fragments of sampled sounds.

But Monk's decision to use repurposed things -- musical ideas and material objects -- was also a metaphorical extension of On Behalf of Nature’s main theme. As Monk wrote in the album’s liner notes about her compositional process:

"As I began working on the music for On Behalf of Nature, I asked myself the question: 'How would one make an ecological art work, one that didn’t make more waste in the world?' What came to mind was the French anthropologist Claude Levi-Strauss and his notion of bricolage: the process of assembling or making something from what is already at hand. In pre-industrial societies, one object could function in many different ways by an act of imagination."

Taking incomplete phrases and themes from her notebook, Monk assembled these fragments into what became On Behalf of Nature, a wordless meditation on our fragile ecosystem. In the age of climate change -- and climate deniers -- the piece shines a solar-powered spotlight on the issue without resorting to didacticism.

On Behalf of Nature isn’t just a recording, though; it’s also a full theatrical performance that the Meredith Monk Vocal Ensemble, which also includes instrumental musicians, has performed around the world since 2013. But to make sure the live performance doesn't pull focus from the music, the choreography includes simple gestural movements, plain recycled outfits -- “We did not buy anything for the costumes. Everything was [old clothes] used again and re-created into a new form,” Monk told Pulp -- and a minimalist stage show to accompany a musical landscape that’s more expansive than what’s heard on the CD.

A professional singer since 1965, Monk’s avant-garde influence is felt in modern artists as diverse as [|Joanna Newsom], [|Maja Ratkje], and [|Björk], who told Monk she heard Dolmen Music (1981) when she was about 16.

Now 74, Monk’s extended technique vocals, which include all sorts of whoops, clicks, trills, and primordial utterances, are still stunning.

We talked to Monk before her Ann Arbor residency, which begins with a Penny Stamps Lecture Series talk on January 17 at the Michigan Theater and culminates in a performance of On Behalf of Nature on January 20 at the Power Center, sponsored by University Musical Society.

Roundup: Collage Concert, Emergent Effect, and Mozart Mania


ALL MIXED UP: The annual Collage Concert is the starting line for [|U-M’s bicentennial year celebrations]. The wide range of School of Music, Theater, and Dance (SMTD) ensembles coming together on January 14 at 8 p.m. in Hill Auditorium will provide a continuous sonic collage of styles to represent the many diverse elements that have combined to shape U-M for the past 200 years. (➤ […])

RESIDENTIAL EFFECT: [|Ypsi Alloy Studios] is teaming up with the Ann Arbor Art Center for an exhibit they’re calling Emergent Effect. Sixteen resident Ypsi Alloy artists are represented, with the exhibit focusing on their “intersecting work and common voice,” according to curators Ilana Houten, Elize Jekabson, and Jessica Tenbusch. The opening reception is free and goes down January 13 from 6-9 p.m., and Emergent Effect runs through January 28. (➤ [|Ann Arbor Art Center])

MOZART MONTH: There are more Mozart-related concerts in January every year for one reason: The powdered-wig wonder was born on this month’s 27th day in 1756. One such event in Ann Arbor is the A2SO’s 21st annual birthday bash (which [|we profiled here]) on Saturday, January 14. But if you can’t make it to that performance, drop by the library on Sunday, January 15 at 2 p.m. for a screening of an all-Mozart concert performed in New York City's Alice Tully Hall at Lincoln Center in May 2013. The music includes Piano Trio in B-flat major, K. 502; Horn Quintet in E-flat major, K. 407; and Viola Quintet in C major. (➤ [|AADL])

Christopher Porter is a Library Technician and editor of Pulp.

Roundup: Michigan Theater's Japanese Noir, Ypsi's Grove Studios & MTV Interviews AADL


FAR EAST SHADOWS: The Michigan Theater just announced a new film series: KURO: The Dark Edge of Japanese Filmmaking. Starting January 16 and running through March, every Monday night the movie house will screen a Japanese noir film. The lineup includes:
[… and Low] (1963) [Jan. 16, 7 p.m.]
[|Tokyo Drifter] (1967) [Jan. 23, 7 p.m.]
[… to Kill] (1967) [Jan. 23, 9:30 p.m.]
[|Zero Focus] (1961) [Jan. 30, 7 p.m.]
[|A Colt Is My Passport] (1967) [Feb. 6, 7 p.m.]
[|Pigs and Battleships] (1967) [Feb. 13, 7 p.m.]
[… Flower] (1964) [Feb. 20, 7 p.m.]
[|A Fugitive From the Past] (1965) [Feb. 27, 7 p.m.]
[|Dragnet Girl] (1933) [March 6, 7 p.m.]
[|Ichi the Killer] (2001) [March 13, 7 p.m.]
[|The World of Kanako] (2014) [date & time TBA]
Plus, there might be a few more films added in the future. While it's always best to see movies on the big screen, don't fret if you can't make every flick; many of these movies are in the library's collection. (➤ […|Michigan Theater])

BLOOMING GROVE: A new 6,500 square foot rehearsal/artist/performance space is now open in Ypsilanti. [|Grove Studios] (1145 W. Michigan Ave.) aims to be "clean, secure, safe, inspiring, climate-controlled, and convenient," founder Rick Coughlin told Concentrate Ann Arbor. While Coughlin is more focused on Grove being a rented rehearsal space, the venue has already hosted a couple of events since its soft launch in early December. The concert schedule is ramping up, too, thanks to the [|Ann Arbor-Ypsilanti Music and Arts Guild], which has booked several concerts at Grove this month {[|link]}, including performances by Gruesome Twosome (Jan. 13), Annie Palmer (Jan. 20), and Doogatron (Jan. 27). (➤ [|Concentrate Ann Arbor])

SONIC LENDING: MTV's The Stakes podcast interviewed Josie Parker, director of the Ann Arbor Public Library, about why AADL lends things like synthesizers, effects pedals, drum machines, guitars, amps, and mics (as well as telescopes, metal detectors, dinosaur skulls, and those thingies called "books"). Check out what we have in our [|Music Tools] collection as you listen; the interview starts at the 11:30 mark. (➤ [|MTV's The Stakes])

Christopher Porter is a Library Technician and editor of Pulp.

Everybody's "Fools": Rebel Kind


Rebel Kind

Kind rebels are the Rebel Kind. Photo by Alex Glendening.

“They call us the rebel kind” goes the chorus of the 1966 New Zealand [|garage-rock jam] by […|The Chicks] that gave [|Rebel Kind] its name. But the Ann Arbor band also takes other cues from The Chicks: spare guitar lines, bold but sweet vocals, and the earnest DIY swagger that has launched a million punk bands.

Rebel Kind is celebrating the release of its new album, Just for Fools ([|Urinal Cake Records]), with a record-release show on Saturday, January 7 at Arbor Vitae in Ann Arbor. The LP is a solid jump from 2014’s [|Today] and the cleaner production allows you to hear how much tighter Autumn Wetli (vocals, guitar), Amber Fellows (drums, vocals, etc.), and Shelley Salant (bass, etc.) play as a unit now.

But at the core of Rebel Kind’s appeal are Wetli’s songs, which are personal without being overconfessional. She often takes a kernel from something in her own life and writes lyrics around it while exercising the artistic license to add fictional details as needed.

Rebel Kind largely sticks to a jangly sound reminiscent of 1980s indie guitar music, particularly bands from England, such as [|Television Personalities] and [|The Pastels], and New Zealand, such as [|The Clean] and [|The Bats] (both of which recorded for the legendary [|Flying Nun] label). But with the full-time addition of guitarist Alex Glendenning (who performs on two Just for Fools tunes), Rebel Kind is becoming a little noisier, a little punkier ... a like more like The Chicks, at least in attitude and spirit.

We talked to Wetli about [|Just for Fools] -- and embedded the album for you to hear -- as well as her wanderlust, what happens when the songs dry up, and why she’s put music on the backburner.

Ann Arbor District Library 2016 Staff Picks: Books, Movies, Music & More

Ann Arbor District Library 2016 Staff Picks

We don't just lend media; we indulge in it, too!

The Gregorian calendar rules most of the world, but time is a continuum. That's why our 2016 Ann Arbor District Library staff picks for books, music, film, and more include items that go back as far as 1865. Our list is comprised of media (and a few other things) that made an impact on us in 2016, no matter when the material came out.

Libraries have always acted as curation stations, helping sort through the vast amount of media released every year. On our website, we have more than [|50 staff-curated lists of recommendations], but we don't just advocate for things digitally. We share our "picks" in person every time you step into the library. Books with prominent positions in our spaces, whether facing forward or on shelf tops, are chosen by staff members because they want you to pick up those pages.

Consider the massive post below featuring 55 books, 25 films and TV shows, and 20 albums -- plus a few odds and ends -- as a continuation of those curated lists, those forward-facing books, and the Ann Arbor District Library’s ongoing mission to bring high-quality art, entertainment, and information into your lives.

So, ready your library cards: Most of the recommendations below are in our collection; just click on the {[|AADL]} link at the end of each pick to be taken to the item's page on our website.

Everyday They Write the Books: Mittenfest XI Returns to Rock for 826michigan



Mittenfest celebrates readin', writin' & rock 'n' rollin'.

[|Mittenfest] is the annual three-day music festival benefiting [:|826michigan], the nonprofit center at 115 East Liberty St.
in Ann Arbor that helps school-aged kids express themselves through creative writing. 826michigan also offers drop-in tutoring, after-school programs, and help for those learning English.

Basically, it's good people doing good things, which is why 21 bands are playing for free to raise money in support of 826michigan.

Mittenfest returns for its 11th iteration, December 29-31, and it’s again taking place at Bona Sera in downtown Ypsilanti.

We did interviews with four of the bands playing the fest:

→ [|The Belle Isles]
→ [|The Avatars]
→ [|Blue Jeans]

And below is the full festival lineup, plus sound samples, dates, and times for all the Mittenfest bands: