This story originally ran on May 30, 2023. We're featuring it again because Timothy Monger State Park plays an after-hours show at AADL’s Downtown Library on September 9.
Long known as one of the leading talents on the local music scene, Timothy Monger has always had a distinctive songwriting voice. The names of two of the bands he’s led—the late, lamented Great Lakes Myth Society and the current Timothy Monger State Park—give some clues to the subjects of his songs, which often look to the outdoors, history, and other rootsy pursuits.
Those sorts of themes show up again on Monger’s new album, his fourth as a solo artist, which is simply titled Timothy Monger. Yet as he always manages to do, he finds fresh perspectives and new approaches, and the result stands out from his previous body of work.
The album is literally the result of Monger returning to his notebooks and fleshing out ideas found there, recording the songs entirely at his home in a style he describes as “homespun psych-folk.” A few of the songs are snippets of less than 30 seconds, but that’s all they require to tell their particular story. Others bring characters to life, such as a fictional “Cub Reporter” or the real-life theremin virtuoso Clara Rockmore, who Monger memorably describes as “the one who finally gave the ghosts a voice.”
“Shadow of the Weka” is a charming instrumental with Celtic overtones. And there are several nods to Michigan, including “Cranberry Bog,” “Luna Pier,” and “Sa-Wa-Quato.”
Monger recently answered a few questions about the new recording, which comes out on June 2, the same day as his album release show at The Ark.
Ram Jams: Evan Haywood's latest solo album is one of many new projects for this busy Ann Arbor creative
Evan Haywood's 2023 solo album, Elderberry Wine, is an engaging showcase for his craft as a songwriter and multi-instrumentalist. But that’s just the start of this Ann Arborite's growing creative ambitions, which have been on public display since Haywood joined the hip-hop group Tree City in 2006 when he was at Huron High School.
Elderberry Wine is a pleasure. Opening track “Peggy’s Farm” is good-time acoustic roots rock. Other tracks maintain a largely acoustic sound with a mellow, almost 1970s vibe. “Strands of Love” offers an engaging a cappella interlude, while the title track is an instrumental featuring a string section—one of the few instances on the record where Haywood didn’t play the instruments himself.
Beyond writing and performing, Haywood also operates a recording studio, Black Ram Treehouse, and his own record label, Black Ram Sound. He wants to branch out into clothing and merchandising as well. That sounds like a lot, which is partly why he recently left his “day job” in order to work on his creative pursuits as a full-time venture.
Haywood recently answered a few questions about his recent and upcoming projects.
Running through July 1, the all-media show features 34 works by 27 artists in the Guild of Artists and Artisans’ storefront space. Built on a theme of “figurative artwork and body diversity,” the exhibit succeeds in offering an engaging mix of media, artistic styles, and subject matter.
A number of the works in the exhibition feature artist statements, often with compelling stories that provide depth. For example, April Shipp’s mixed-media piece The water returned Him is one of the more visually striking pieces in the exhibit, yet knowing the background of the global refugee crises and the story of one particular child who inspired it. Likewise, Jensen Ellington’s My Piece of Eden creatively combines fabric, tree limbs, and thread to connect the Biblical story of Adam’s rib to his own experience as a transgender man. Other pieces stand on their own, such as E. Ingrid Tietz’s elegant Porcelain Muses V which lets her subjects speak to each viewer individually.
Any visitor to the exhibit is likely to come away with a renewed appreciation of the diversity of the human form as well as of the artists and artworks that celebrate it. Noted local artist Nora Venturelli juried the exhibition, and she agreed to answer a few questions about it:
Nature's Way: Cathy Barry's "Connatural" paintings at Matthaei Botanical Gardens explore biological patterns
“Nature is the big umbrella of what inspires and has always informed my work,” the Ann Arbor painter writes in her artist’s statement. “My most recent work focuses on collecting and referencing biological sources and patterns found in nature.”
Some of those biological sources even provide colors for Barry's paintings as well as textures embedded into the works.
"I am extracting colors from local sources—in the backyard or the grocery store—including buckthorn, cattail, turmeric root, forsythia, beets, mulberry, yellow and purple onion skins," the Stamps lecturer writes in her artist's statement. "I then reference older practices by experimenting with inlay work of painted paper, traditionally used to create jewelry, furniture, mosaics and textiles. I am creating motifs and abstract compositions by cutting shapes from my plant-based paintings, fitting them together and assembling them. I am integrating materials with form and subject in my painting to evoke a peaceful wholeness that references the innate wisdom of nature."
Nature isn't the only thing referenced in Connatural, though only fans of one of the world's biggest pop stars might notice.
"For any Swifties out there, take a closer look at some of the titles in the exhibition," she said with a smile.
Barry answered a few questions about the exhibit, which runs through April 30.
Tight Fit: Misty Lyn & the Big Beautiful worked their way through a car crash and a pandemic to navigate the "Narrows"
It’s been a while since local acoustic music fans have heard from Misty Lyn Bergeron, the accomplished singer, songwriter, and leader of the standout roots band Misty Lyn & the Big Beautiful.
A serious car crash, a global pandemic, and other issues created some challenges and delays, but at last there’s a new album out, Narrows, and it’s more than worth the wait. It features Bergeron’s warm, expressive voice; her first-rate band, and a fresh batch of well-crafted songs about some big themes like love, friendship, and perseverance.
To celebrate Narrows, Misty Lyn & the Big Beautiful are having a record-release show at The Ark in Ann Arbor on February 17.
"Jim Roll will be our special guest, and it’s also how I’m celebrating my birthday," Bergeron said. "The Ark is my absolute favorite venue, and it has been years since my whole band has been on that stage. I am so excited to share this music alongside these amazing artists. It’s going to be a special night for us!"
Bergeron is also a talented photographer, but we focused on her music in this email interview.
If there was any doubt that a good pop-punk/power pop band can still cut through the musical clutter and make a powerful statement, Ann Arbor-based Seaholm proves it with style.
For example, check out “Cough Syrup,” a terrific single and video from the band’s new album, It’s Raining Outside. In just 2:11, the band offers a tremendous burst of musical energy, memorable visuals, and an earworm (“Can you please tell me what’s going on?”) that will stick with you for days.
It’s Raining Outside is a short, sharp album that displays the band’s talent for combining dynamic musicianship with thoughtful lyrics. On “Weatherman,” the album’s keystone, they sing: “What’s the weather like today? / I want the rain to wash me away / Cleanse me of my guilt and take me home / Say goodbye to the life that I’ve always known.”
Although an earlier lineup did some recordings, It’s Raining Outside fully introduces the current band, which consists of Pat Ray on guitar and vocals, Austin Stawowczyk on bass and vocals, and Kris Herrmann on drums and vocals.
Ray answered a few questions about Seaholm's history and new album via email.
This story originally ran July 27, 2021. We're rerunning it because March 22, 2022, is the one-year anniversary of the album's release. Her latest single, "Lot Lot," is available here.
Hannah Baiardi has been writing and performing music since age 3, so it’s no surprise that her first full-length album, Straight From the Soul, is a polished and thoughtful work.
Although a listener might categorize the music as contemporary jazz, Baiardi clearly draws on other influences as diverse as R&B and new age, and it all comes through on the album. The University of Michigan grad (BFA ’18, jazz studies) offers smooth, heartfelt vocals and evocative piano playing, which combine for a distinctive and memorable sound. She’s backed by an excellent supporting cast, including Karen Tomalis on drums on most tracks and Marion Hayden or Ryan King on bass.
Baiardi writes much of her own material. The album features five original compositions, ranging from the wistful yet hopeful “Who Can Relate” and “Distant Land” to the joyful “Let Go” and “Feel It.” The album concludes with “Transit,” an outstanding instrumental showcase.
The album also features two pop favorites from old movies—an introspective take on “Windmills of Your Mind” from The Thomas Crown Affair and “The Summer Knows” from Summer of ’42, which makes for ideal listening in the summer of ’21.
Baiardi recently agreed to answer a few questions via email.
From the Roots: Chris DuPont's heartfelt "Floodplains" explores raw emotions without dwelling in darkness
When Chris DuPont released his latest album, Floodplains, earlier this year, it would have been easy to assume the themes of isolation and loss grew out of the pandemic. Yet all the songs were actually written pre-COVID, the Ypsilanti-based musician explained in a recent email interview.
The album continues DuPont’s remarkable run of thoughtful, heartfelt songwriting brought to life with impeccable singing and musicianship. The album has an intimate feel, highlighted by DuPont’s expressive guitar playing and flawless supporting accompaniment. “Retrieve” leads off the album, musing about how new relationships can heal broken ones, with guest vocalist Olivia Dear enriching the sound.
Several songs have an undercurrent of regret, and there are plenty of examples of DuPont’s knack for arresting lyrics. “Start Again,” featuring Rin Tarsy on vocals, is particularly affecting as DuPont sings, “I have never faced so steep a valley / As the center of the mattress in a wedding bed.” The album closes with touching “In the Lap of the Mountain (Benediction),” concluding that ultimately we all need someone else.
DuPont recently answered some questions about Floodplains:
Modern Soul(s): Vulfpeck collaborator Antwaun Stanley connected with former My Dear Disco/Ella Riot leader Tyler Duncan for a new EP
Antwaun Stanley's powerful voice sounds like it came from another time, cast from the deep grooves of a 1960s R&B record.
That's why it's always a treat when the Ann Arbor singer appears as a featured vocalist with jam-funk-soul stars Vulfpeck or with one of the other bands for which he's associated.
But a new EP, Ascension, shows Stanley taking a big step forward as a solo artist. The record was made in collaboration with Ann Arbor multi-instrumentalist and producer Tyler Duncan. His impressive resume includes leading the Irish crossover group Millish and the dance-rock project My Dear Disco, aka Ella Riot, as well as producing songs for Carly Rae Jepsen and Lake Street Dive.
The EP isn’t technically Stanley's solo debut—he released a gospel album a few years back—but it does showcase his artistic voice in a new way with a modern R&B sound.
Ascension features three fully developed songs and three largely instrumental interludes. “Speed of Night” recalls old-school R&B, while “Tightrope” offers inspiration through James Blake-like soul-tronica. “Lost in Translation” is the EP's stand-out with its addictive groove, great singing, strong lyrics, and a crackling horn section.
Stanley answered a few questions about the new EP and his other work.
Rashon has a distinctive singing voice, both expressive and powerful. And her songs are uniformly strong, with memorable melodies and vibrant lyrics. “YoFi” and “W.rong” express regrets for lost love, while “I am” and “H4L” are anthems of self-empowerment. The single “Free” establishes a great summer listening vibe over wistful and wise lyrics: “Some things could change and some things could not / But I made peace with the things I got / I’m free”
Rashon answered a few questions about the album for Pulp.