The Awakening: Hannah Baiardi Chronicles Spiritual Journey and Personal Transformation on “Phoenix” Album


Hannah Baiardi clasps her hands and rests her chin upon them.

Hannah Baiardi features intimate lyrics, cathartic instrumentation, and soulful vocals on Phoenix. Photo courtesy of Hannah Baiardi.

For Hannah Baiardi, Phoenix represents a bold spiritual awakening.

The Ann Arbor singer-songwriter, pianist, and producer chronicles a personal transformation while encountering unrequited love on her latest album.

“The album shows that certain people come into our lives to be catalysts and light us up. Sometimes, our imagination is a huge part of the creative process and gets the best of us,” said Baiardi about her sophisti-pop release.

“It’s a beautiful thing to catalyze for music, albums, and songs, but when you come back to reality and the present moment, it doesn’t often translate.”

In her musical realm, Baiardi easily converts that inspiration into a mesmerizing concept album filled with intimate lyrics, cathartic instrumentation, and soulful vocals.

The dozen tracks featured on Phoenix explore the cycle of a potential relationship and the powerful emotions that accompany it.

“It almost felt like this was a fantastical world I had entered, or I had found this portal—like a rabbit hole. While I was making sense of it, the album was coming together,” said Baiardi, who wrote, recorded, and produced the album. “I started to see the early days of it as I was healing and getting into this surrender mode and soothing the heartbreak.”

I recently spoke to Baiardi about the album’s storyline and creative process.

Keep It Like a Secret: Towner's new album basks in mystery and melodies


Towner illustration by Yoko Molotov

Towner illustration by Yoko Molotov

On “ANFR,” the opening song of Towner’s third album, songwriter Kris Ehrig sings, “I’ll keep my secrets to the tomb.”

The statement isn’t a manifesto, but after interviewing Ehrig about the fuzz-soaked indie-rock trio’s new record, The Importance of Having a Good Time, he does keep things close to his chest. 

For the two previous Towner LPs, 2020’s This Is Entertainment and 2022’s The Lever, Ehrig shared songwriting duties with fellow guitarist CT James, who moved from Ann Arbor to Los Angeles and has since released two singles. Jason Horvath has played bass on all the albums, and drummer Eric Van Wormer joined the group for The Lever. (The first album featured programmed drums.)

With James gone, The Importance of Having a Good Time comes entirely from Ehrig’s point of view, and his songs mix self-deprecation and angst with numerous lyrical references to other songs and bands. For musical trainspotters of a certain age and sonic disposition, puzzling out all the indie-, atl-, and punk-rock references feels like a game. 

Friday Five: Local Obscurities with Wild Boys, Brat Axis, Möl Triffid, Monster Bait, The Iodine Raincoats


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

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

This edition features some vintage odds and sods that I've wanted to write about in some form or fashion, including psychedelic jams by Wild Boys (1973), soulful rock by Brat Axis (1975), sludgy grunge by Möl Triffid (1990), art punk by Monster Bait (1991), and stadium new wave by The Iodine Raincoats (1988).

Gregory Alan Isakov Brings His Wistful Folk Music to Ann Arbor Summer Festival


Gregory Alan Isakov wears a brown hat and holds an acoustic guitar.

Gregory Alan Isakov stopped in Ann Arbor for his Appaloosa Bones tour. Photo taken from Ann Arbor Summer Fest's Facebook page.

Gregory Alan Isakov often forgets the words to his most commercially successful song, “Big Black Car.”

“If you know the words, sing along,” the folk singer-songwriter begged the packed Hill Auditorium audience on June 17 in Ann Arbor. “Please.”

But unlike some disgruntled artists who refuse to play their hits as they progress in their careers, Isakov is gracious for the work that’s propelled him to perform on different stages.

His plea was more respectful than snarky, and it was a nod to one of his early albums, 2009’s This Empty Northern Hemisphere.

Ann Arbor Summer Fest partnered with The Ark to host Isakov on the University of Michigan’s campus. Established in 1984 by the City of Ann Arbor and U-M, the nonprofit puts on the monthlong arts-based festival each June. 

Better From Here Music aims to help local musicians find their voices—and their audiences


Selfie photo by Kristen Mercado

A selfie by Better From Here Music's Kristen Mercado.

Kristen Mercado has a vision for local music. 

Mercado strongly believes that musicians need more opportunities for their work to be created and heard. So the singer-songwriter-producer who works under the name Larkn is doing something to make that happen with Better From Here Music, her Ann Arbor-based record label, production studio, and publishing company. The ultimate goal is to help artists create sustainable careers in music.

“I believe really strongly in development and songwriting and an individual person’s voice and not just in music talent alone,” Mercado said. “As a producer, I hope to be able to help bands and artists record their music and be happy with their music. I know that the challenges of having a budget for that are great, so I would like to help by encouraging music artists via the services, opportunities, and advice I can provide.”

Mercado explained more about Better From Here Music in an email interview.

After the “Storm”: Ann Arbor Singer-Songwriter Annie Bacon explores grief on her new folk-rock album


Annie Bacon stands in the middle of a room and wears a black dress and veil in mourning.

Annie Bacon explores grief in all its forms on Storm. Photo by Cybelle Codish.

When it comes to grief, Annie Bacon doesn’t want people to feel alone.

The Ann Arbor singer-songwriter and guitarist views it as a shared emotion that fosters connection and growth with others.

“Something that I’ve done with my art and that I feel like is important is to take on this role and say, ‘I don’t know if anybody understands me, but I’m going to explain what I’m going through in a way that hopefully other people can feel seen and understood,’” said Bacon, who performs under the moniker Annie Bacon & Her Oshen.

“I try to find the places where my experience might be universal and create these little bridges into my experience. That’s one of my philosophical approaches to songwriting: I want to as accurately as possible describe the experience I’m going through in the hopes that it creates a witness for somebody else.”

Bacon masters that honest songwriting approach and explores grief in all its forms on her new folk-rock album, Storm. The record’s 14 poignant tracks take listeners on an emotional odyssey through death, divorce, job changes, the pandemic, and a loss of identity.

Friday Five: Same Eyes, Maddy Ringo, Rosary, Mathew A. Jacqmin-Kramer, Sumeus, Anteomedroma


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

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

This edition features synth-pop by Same Eyes, folk-pop by Maddy Ringo, retrowave by Rosary, video-game music by Mathew A. Jacqmin-Kramer, and black metal by Sumeus and Anteomedroma.

Dream On: The Whiskey Charmers Explore Tales of Change on New “Streetlights” Album


The Whiskey Charmers' Lawrence Daversa holds a white electric guitar, and Carrie Shepard wears a brown suede cowboy hat.

Lawrence Daversa and Carrie Shepard of The Whiskey Charmers. Photo courtesy of The Whiskey Charmers.

The Whiskey Charmers often find creative inspiration in a dream.

The Detroit duo of Carrie Shepard (vocals, acoustic guitar) and Lawrence Daversa (electric guitar, backing vocals) took that route while writing the title track for their new alt-country album, Streetlights.

“I had a dream that I was watching Chris Stapleton perform his new song,” Shepard said. “In my dream, it’s the chorus of the song, and I woke up, remembered it, and sang the chorus into my phone. It’s not a real song—it was just made up in my dream.”

Right after her dream, Shepard converted that imaginary song into “Streetlights,” which features exploratory lyrics and fiery electric-guitar solos.

She sings, “Was running under streetlights, in my dreams / Flying down the stairway, defying gravity / Then I felt lightning from the sky / Yeah, I felt a white light hit me / Right between the eyes.”

“I think of it as a weird, dream-like state that’s a little bit unsettling. I do have the one part of the [song] where I’m saying I fly down the stairway defying gravity, and I have dreams of people chasing me,” Shepard said.

“In my dream, if somebody’s chasing me, when I get to a stairway, I know I can just fly down. That’s where that came from. We tried our best to make the recording in that vibe to get that across.”

Friday Five: Mighty Clouds, Winged Wheel, Dr. Pete Larson, Great Arm, XiNNiW


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

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

This edition features a trio of Fred Thomas-associated bands including indie-pop by Mighty Clouds, hypnotic jams by Winged Wheel, and even more hypnotic jams by Dr. Pete Larson and his Cytotoxic Nyatiti Band as well as indie-rock by Great Arm and electronica by XiNNiW.


"Heavy" Rotation: Cece June's new EP paints an emotional self-portrait


Cece June holds an electric guitar and looks away from the camera.

Cece June chronicles loss, acceptance, and growth on How Did This Get So Heavy? Photo by Gabby Mack.

For Cece June, life is filled with near-misses and unresolved emotions.

The New York City singer-songwriter processes a gamut of feelings—from heartbreak to frustration to hope—about unclosed chapters on her latest indie-folk EP, How Did This Get So Heavy?

“It's a feeling that emulates the void when something is no longer in your life. It’s that feeling of trying to grapple with not having people around anymore or accepting that you’re going to have to move on,” said June, a University of Michigan alumna from Barcelona, Spain.

“It’s also feeling displaced or feeling frustrated. For instance, on ‘Things Unsaid,’ you’re [ruminating] on why something could have gone wrong and thinking, ‘I could potentially have an idea of what went wrong, but if I wanted to talk to the person for them to tell me and for me to get closure I can’t because they’re no longer in my life.’ There’s no way to answer those questions to let you move forward and move on easier.”

Despite those challenges, June faces her emotions head-on and looks to the future on her sophomore release. She chronicles loss, acceptance, and growth across eight tracks, which feature cathartic lyrics and wistful stripped-down instrumentation.

“I found solace in seeing the songs evolve as I evolved as a person myself. This EP was written and recorded over two-and-a-half to three years,” June said.

“There were songs that would ebb and flow, and there were times when I was recording them in the thick of the pain or times when I was reminiscing … and no longer being in the depths of that feeling or the grief or the heartbreak.”

To learn more, I spoke with June about her EP and the inspiration behind it.