Friday Five: Alex Blanpied, Nadim Azzam, GVMMY, Fantishow, Normal Park

MUSIC FRIDAY FIVE

Album covers featured in the October 7, 2022, Friday Five

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

This week features contemporary classical/ambient by Alex Blanpied, hip-hop folk by Nadim Azzam, hyperpop via GVMMY, early '90s-esque electronica channeled by Fantishow, and flannel-flying emo-punk from Normal Park.

Alex Blanpied, Will the Sun Still Shine Without Our Eyes to See It?
Baltimore composer Alex Blanpied, who studied at the University of Michigan, wrestles with the state of the world on his new album and more specifically where his generation fits into it as climate change, war, and demagoguery dominate the headlines. It's not an unfamiliar mindset for any young person to have—I know I had it and that was a hundred years ago. But most people in their early 20s don't have Blanpied's ability to turn those worries into compelling art that sounds simultaneously contemporary—samples and electronic elements abound—and classic(al).

"All Rise," All Week: Wynton Marsalis brings his inspiring music and passion for education to Ann Arbor

MUSIC PREVIEW

Wynton Marsalis performs with the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra. Photo by Frank Stewart.

Wynton Marsalis performs with the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra. Photo by Frank Stewart.

Blues and swing are at the core of every piece Wynton Marsalis composes, every note he plays on his trumpet.

He also tirelessly talks to audiences of all kinds—from concert halls to classrooms—to explain why the blues and swing center his music.

Marsalis, along with the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra (JLCO), will show and tell all about the blues and swing during his October 10-16 residency in Ann Arbor courtesy of the University Musical Society (UMS), which will include concerts, talks, and educational outreach. 

While Marsalis and Co. are yearly visitors to Ann Arbor, their appearance is happening a bit earlier in the calendar year than usual, so the JLCO big-band performance on October 16 at Hill Auditorium likely won't include the holiday repertoire that has helped define their previous concerts here.

But that closing concert won't necessarily even be the musical highlight of Marsalis' residency.

Featuring Iggy Pop: A compilation of James Osterberg Jr.'s duets & collaborations

MUSIC

Iggy Pop at his wedding at the home of Jimmy Silver, manager of The Stooges, 1969. Photo by Peter Yates.

Iggy Pop at his wedding at the home of Jimmy Silver, manager of The Stooges, 1969. Photo by Peter Yates.
 

This story was originally published on September 16, 2021. We've updated it with even more Iggy Pop collaborations.
 

Iggy Pop is known for his outrageous stage antics, groundbreaking music, and massive influence on punk rock.

The Ypsi-Arbor native who was born James Newell Osterberg Jr. should also be known as a man who doesn't say no.

Ever.

Need someone to croon on your single? Tell Iggy the time and place and if he needs to wear a shirt.

Need a deep voice to sing-speak words over your music? Mr. Pop will suddenly appear in the studio, tap you on the shoulder, and say, "May I?"

Iggy even performed "Silent Night" with William Shatner—the. man never. says. nah.

I started thinking about Pop's predilection for partnerships after his latest collaboration hit my inbox.

Hammond B3 player Dr. Lonnie Smith is a master of soul jazz, which is not the first genre you would associate with Pop. Probably not even the last genre. But "Move Your Hand" is a single from Smith's latest Blue Note album, Breathe, and it features Pop riding the funky groove by sing-talking through a simple set of lyrics. 

This song follows two other 2021 Pop collaborations: He provided vocals on an alternate version of "I Wanna Be Your Slave" by Italian rock band Måneskin and repeats one word on the garage-rock single "I, Moron" by English duo The Lovely Eggs. (Iggy: "You need me to say 'moron' in 16 different ways? I got you.")

And as I was writing the above paragraphs, I discovered yet another new collaborative Pop effort came out: "European Son" with Matt Sweeney as featured on the new album I’ll Be Your Mirror: A Tribute to the Velvet Underground & Nico.

No is not a word Ig knows.

Aside from his work with fellow Ann Arborites the Ashton brothers in The Stooges, Pop's most famous collaboration was with David Bowie, who produced his 1977 albums The Idiot and Lust for Life. Pop also had a big hit in 1990 with "Candy" featuring The B-52s' Kate Pierson from his album Brick by Brick

In 1989, he joined the charity-single bandwagon many years after that was a thing by singing on "Spirit of the Forest," with the likes of Brian Wilson, Ringo Starr, Joni Mitchell, and ... Olivia Newton-John, among many others ... to benefit the Earth Love Fund foundation. Then followed that up by participating in a truly awful, Lenny Kravitz-produced, superstar-soaked cover of "Give Peace a Chance" in 1991. (Somehow never single achieved the same cultural saturation as "We Are the World" and "Do They Know It's Christmas?")

But there are numerous other collaborations in Pop's career that feature him working with lesser-known or more esoteric artists, some of whom just sample his voice from interviews. I'm sure Iggy doesn't mind. He says yes to everything.

Below you'll find a selection of those recordings—oui, there are a lot of tunes in French—starting with the most recent.

Friday Five: Mista Midwest, Latitude 49, A Good Sign, Dani Darling, Dimitra

MUSIC FRIDAY FIVE

Album and single covers collage for music featured in this edition of the Friday Five.

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

This week features hip-hop from Mista Midwest, contemporary composition by Latitude 49, electro-pop by A Good Sign, indie-R&B by Dani Darling, and the latest MEMCO Exposure mix by Dimitra.

 

Tasty Times: Mercury Salad Explores Delectable Life Experiences on “Volume 3” EP

MUSIC PREVIEW INTERVIEW

Mercury Salad's Kurt Bonnell, Brooke Ratliff, and Kyle Kipp include folky and funky flavors on "Volume 3."

Mercury Salad's Kurt Bonnell, Brooke Ratliff, and Kyle Kipp include folky and funky flavors on "Volume 3." Photo courtesy of Mercury Salad.

Brooke Ratliff says she’s no good at writing traditional love songs because “they’re either really mushy, or they’re really sad”—so she doesn’t even try on Volume 3, Mercury Salad’s latest EP.

Instead, the Ypsilanti folk-rock trio of Ratliff (vocals, guitar, percussion), Kurt Bonnell (guitar, harmonica), and Kyle Kipp (bass) explores the uncertainties of a promising relationship on “Best Guess,” the EP’s spirited opener.

“To me, this song could go either way. It could be that it’s unexpected, or it could be that the person is being overly optimistic,” said Ratliff with a laugh. “I wanted to do something sweet-natured and slightly romantic, but I couldn’t go all the way there. That’s why it’s my ‘Best Guess’ this is gonna work out great.”

Business Casual: Crossword Smiles Fashions Classic and Experimental Sounds on “Pressed & Ironed” Album

MUSIC INTERVIEW

Crossword Smiles' Tom Curless and Chip Saam share a compelling assortment of semi-autobiographical and character-driven tracks on Pressed & Ironed.

Crossword Smiles' Tom Curless and Chip Saam share a compelling assortment of semi-autobiographical and character-driven tracks on Pressed & Ironed. Photo by Madeline Curless.

For their debut album, Crossword Smiles brings a “business-casual” sensibility to the indie-pop world.

The Grand Blanc-Dexter duo of Tom Curless (vocals, guitars, drums, keys) and Chip Saam (vocals, bass, guitars) strikes an optimal balance between classic pop-rock song structures and experimental college-rock textures on Pressed & Ironed.

“We want to show the duality of our lives,” Curless said. “We work day jobs, and then we put the pressed shirts away and put on our Converse [sneakers] and play rock ‘n’ roll.”

With button-up shirts cast aside and well-worn sneakers in place, Crossword Smiles fashions 10 artful, melodic tracks on Pressed & Ironed that remove the wrinkles of the past and provide a smooth outlook for the future.

“Tom and I both take our lyrics somewhat seriously, and I don’t think either of us writes something just to write something because it sounds good,” Saam said. “We both put some thought and work into our lyrics, and it’s awesome when people really pay attention, especially if it makes some kind of impact.”

Friday Five: A look at The UP, forgotten contemporaries of The Stooges and MC5

MUSIC FRIDAY FIVE

The second lineup of The UP: Bob Rasmussen, Scott Bailey, Frank Bach, and Gary Rasmussen, in the basement of 1520 Hill Street. Photo by Leni Sinclair.

The second lineup of The UP: Bob Rasmussen, Scott Bailey, Frank Bach, and Gary Rasmussen, in the basement of 1520 Hill Street in Ann Arbor. Photo by Leni Sinclair via AADL's Freeing John Sinclair project.

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

This week, we have a special edition focusing on The UP.

*****

As Ann Arbor creeps towards its bicentennial in 2024, residents can be proud of a history rich in accomplishment, with achievements in medicine, politics, and sports that mark this city as a force for progress in human endeavor.

But who cares?

For millions of music fans around the globe, the only reason to discuss A2 is its role as an incubator for two bands whose uncompromising sounds proved an important step in the evolution of punk rock and heavy metal. The MC5 and The Stooges spent formative years here in the late 1960s, experimenting with volume and energy in our basements, living rooms, and public parks while perfecting distinct approaches to raw, aggressive rock 'n' roll.

September 23 is the 54th anniversary of the University of Michigan Union Ballroom gig that got both bands signed to a major label, and it's a cultural moment worth celebrating. 

Elektra representative Danny Fields was in town to evaluate the MC5's viability, but after watching this show, he saw the future and offered both The Stooges and the MC5 record contracts the next morning.

The third act on that bill, The UP, did not get a big break that night—or any night, since no record label ever signed the band. But the Ann Arbor group's dedication to revolutionary rock 'n’ roll was just as savage as that of its peers.

Sweet and Dour: Ann Arbor's Seaholm mixes pop-punk with dark lyrics on "It's Raining Outside"

MUSIC INTERVIEW

The three musicians in Seaholm standing under an umbrella.

Rain brains: Austin Stawowczyk, Pat Ray, Kris Herrmann are Seaholm. Photo courtesy of the band.

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. 

Friday Five: Formula 734, Cashmere + Casia, Luna Pier, Kiyoshi, Digital Ether

MUSIC FRIDAY FIVE

Album covers for the artists featured in this week's Friday Five.

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

This week features hip-hop from Formula 734, Kiyoshi, and Digital Ether, country by Luna Pier, and bedroom hip-hop-pop by Cashmere + Casia.

 

Ann Arbor musician and artist Jib Kidder conquered AADL's 2022 Summer Game

MUSIC PULP LIFE INTERVIEW

Jib Kidder sits in a blue fabric sling and on a gray yoga ball. He's in his basement, which has colorful puzzle mats on the floor.

He came in like a yoga ball: Jib Kidder hangs out in his basement. Photo by Io Schuster-Craig.

When the Ann Arbor District Library's 2022 Summer Game came to a close on August 28, one name was top of the leaderboard among the record-breaking 10,114 participants:

Jib Kidder.

That name might be unfamiliar to you if you're not into underground electronic music—or missed the 2013 episode of So You Think You Can Dance that featured a guy getting down to "Windowdipper," Kidder's booty-bass track built from samples culled from the Windows operating system.

But for the past 15 years, the man born Sean Schuster-Craig has explored the more esoteric and experimental side of electronic music with relentless vigor while never losing track of the beat. When listening to his music, I kept thinking of the out-there sounds of Aphex Twin and Autechre if they kept their love of hip-hop in the foreground, but Jib Kidder cuts a singular figure as a creative individual.

Whether as a musician, visual artist, video creator, or in the case of our email conversation below, a writer, Kidder approaches his creative endeavors with a slice-and-dice intellectualism that mixes collage, social theory, and humor. (A recent post on his sometimes inscrutable Instagram account features an image with the words "philosophy is just electronic music but words," which seems an indicator of his approach to the arts.)

Kidder cites Weird Al as an early influence, but I have to think avant-garde art and political movements like the anti-capitalist Dadaists and Situationists are right up there, too, alongside his professed love of 1990s Southern hip-hop and, as he told me in one email, "Lindsey Buckingham and Roy Orbison - huge influences." (Kidder is also a classically trained guitarist in addition to being a sampling savant.)