AADL 2020 STAFF PICKS: BOOKS, MUSIC, MOVIES & MORE

2020 Staff Picks

Normally, you might come into the library, talk to someone on staff, get some recommendations, perhaps share a few of your own, and we'd go on our merry ways, content we could engage in a positive social interaction while discussing whatever book, movie, TV show, music, or more that came up.

Art is life and life is people.

But we've not seen most of you since March 13, the last time the Ann Arbor District Library was fully open to the public—and to the staff. While many AADL staffers have returned to the buildings to do important behind-the-scenes work since the summer, many others have been working from home since the closure. And we miss being able to share what we're currently loving not just with patrons but also with each other.

So, to staffers and patrons alike, these are the movies, TV shows, music, books, and more that helped the AADL crew get through 2020. 

Friday Five: Same Eyes, Jack Withers, Dan Sutherland, Corey Strong, Zettell

MUSIC FRIDAY FIVE

Friday Five 12-18-2020

Friday Five is where we celebrate new and recent music by Washtenaw County-associated artists.

This week it's an all Ann Arbor special featuring synths from Same Eyes, Jack Withers, and Dan Sutherland, seasonal music from Corey Strong, and folk from Zettell.

Friday Five: Laughing Hyenas

MUSIC FRIDAY FIVE BOOTLEG WASHTENAW

Laughing Hyenas, 1987

Jim Kimball, Larissa Strickland, Kevin Strickland, and John Brannon of Laughing Hyenas in a 1987 promo photo provided by the band's label then, Touch & Go Records.

Friday Five is where we celebrate new and recent music by Washtenaw County-associated artists.

This week, it's the Ann Arbor post-punk noise-blues of Laughing Hyenas whose discography recently came to Bandcamp.

In 1995, not long after the breakup of his pioneering hardcore band Negative Approach, vocalist John Brannon and his partner, Larissa Strickland, moved from Detroit to Ann Arbor and formed Laughing Hyenas, which drew equally from The Stooges, The Birthday Party, old blues, and pure noise.

While the Hyenas' music has been on Spotify and the like for a while, and Third Man reissued all their records on vinyl in 2018, the Touch & Go label's recent decision to put much of its back catalog on Bandcamp gives me yet another reason to relisten to this supremely powerful band. I also get to tell two quick personal stories I have about Laughing Hyenas lead singer John Brannon before the tales get pushed into the ever-increasing "FILE NOT FOUND" portion of my brain.

"Whip" It: Nadim Azzam's new YouTube show cruises with Michigan musicians

MUSIC FILM & VIDEO INTERVIEW

Ki5 and Nadim Azzam in the car for the show Whip Jams

Ki5 and Nadim Azzam in a still from the first episode of Whip Jams. Photo courtesy of Whip Jams.

Artists performing songs being driven around in a car by a congenial host. Sound familiar?

But Whip Jams isn't Carpool Karaoke.

Host Nadim Azzam doesn't fuss around with wacky comedy. He gets right to the point with his guests, reciting a short bio, picking the musician up in his car, letting them perform, and concluding with a brief interview.

The first episode of this YouTube show clocks in at 4 minutes, 57 seconds. A quick ride indeed.

In the Whip Jams debut on December 9, Ann Arbor's Ki5 performs a song in Azzam's vehicle by sampling his voice with the Boss RC-505 Loopstation sitting in his lap. That kind of compact setup works fine for him, but some future episodes will feature artists holding acoustic instruments—might get a little cozy in Azzam's Honda Civic.

Friday Five Times Five: 25 new Bandcamp releases by Washtenaw County artists

MUSIC FRIDAY FIVE

Friday Five collage of album covers

Friday Five is where we celebrate new and recent music by Washtenaw County-associated artists.

Today is the last Bandcamp Friday of 2020—the monthly fee-waiving day when artists receive 100% of the money from purchased items. So, to celebrate shopping locally, here are 25 new and newly reissued releases from Ann Arbor musicians, bands, and labels. It's the Friday Five if it lifted weights and ate a high-protein diet.

Below, check out music from JTC, X-Altera, The Down and Goers, a new comp from none/such, Hans Schroder, Battalion, Isolation Daze, Circle Confusion, 10 Trillion Suns, Sol Fono, FJAITE, Jess & Dan, Cinder Stage, Musa Haydar, BK Irwin, Towner, Thanh Thi Giang, Day of the Cusp, Ed Dupas, adjuul, Golden Feelings, the rants, Furrowed Brow, Experimental Voice Box Programmer, and A World Without Gods.

You can also read the previous 12 Friday Fives right here, which means you'll get to discover music from 50-plus other artists in Washtenaw County.

Also, here are eight posts in our Music in the Time of Quarantine series that we did from March to May, which means there are umpteen more Washtenaw-associate releases to discover and purchase on Bandcamp and beyond.

Heck, while you're here, take a peek at all our music posts, many of which also have links to Bandcamp releases by local artists.

Bootleg Washtenaw: Repulsion live at Schoolkids Records, June 9, 1991

MUSIC BOOTLEG WASHTENAW

Repulsion at Schookids Records, 1991

An occasional series highlighting live recordings made in Washtenaw County.

On Repulsion's lone album, Horrified, the Flint-based grind-metal pioneers' sound is a muffled blur of blast beats, gnarly guitar, and grunted vocals. Same is true of the band's many demos, which is what Horrified was when it was recorded in 1986 and released as the Slaughter of the Innocent tape. That sort of audio is what you'll hear times 100 as featured in this June 9, 1991, in-store concert Repulsion did at Schoolkids Records, 523 East Liberty Street. But it's still wonderful to see the inside of Ann Arbor's most legendary record store once again. 

Horrified received its official release in 1989, and that's the record vocalist-bassist Scott Carlson is referring to when he points to the wall at Schoolkids and says, "The is from our album—up there" before the band rips into "Pestilent Decay."

June 9, 1991, was a Sunday and, before the videographer steps into the record store, he records a long line of people standing in the dark to get into the Michigan Theater. East Liberty was hopping that night. The sunset was at 9:10 pm, so this show was likely after Schoolkids closed for the day, but I'm not sure what event was drawing such a big crowd at the Michigan Theater. According to The Concert Database, there were no bands playing at the Michigan Theater that night—the previous show was Laurie Anderson on May 11 and the next one was  Kraftwerk on September 27—and City Slickers was the number one movie in the country that weekend, but I don't recall first-run mainstream films being a regular thing then for this venue. (Looking into it; will update if I find anything. Very important, you know.)

Update: The crack staff at AADL's Old News figured out it was Taxi Blues, a critically acclaimed 1990 Russian movie, but not one I would assume could draw such a big crowd. Also, the start time was 8:40 pm, and despite the darkened skies, the Google Machine tells me sunset that day wasn't for another 30 minutes. The East Liberty corridor is a tunnel.

While you should absolutely listen to Repulsion's badass Horrified if you want to hear one of the earliest examples of extreme metal, the main draw of this video for Washtenaw County folks is seeing the racks and racks of expertly curated LPs at Schoolkids Records. Check out the 39-minute below, but fair warning: Some cretin on the street who was there to see the band uses the N-word at the :27 second mark.

Review: Wynton Marsalis with The Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra Septet: The Democracy! Suite

MUSIC REVIEW

Over the Thanksgiving weekend, the University Musical Society released a digital presentation of jazz trumpeter and composer Wynton Marsalis and The Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra Septet performing his new composition, "The Democracy! Suite," in a virtual concert filmed at the Frederick P. Rose Hall in New York City.

Marsalis usually visits Ann Arbor every year and often brings special guests with him to play at Hill Auditorium, but this year’s concert was virtual due to the pandemic.

"The Democracy! Suite" is an eight-part response to the political, social, and public health crises we’re dealing with today. The swinging grooves and lyrical jazz was composed to uplift, inspire, and galvanize listeners to work together for a better future.

But what made "The Democracy! Suite" feel different was the commentary Marsalis gave behind it.

Friday Five: The Stooges, The Ridiculous Trio, Kelly Moran, Tunde Olaniran, Ione Sanders & Kate Ziebart

MUSIC FRIDAY FIVE

Friday Five 11-27-2020

Friday Five is where we celebrate new and recent music by Washtenaw County-associated artists.

This holiday edition features folks who haven't called Washtenaw County home for a while—or ever—but they still have some sort of connection to our little slice of Michigan. The week includes live recordings of Iggy and The Stooges, a jazz-punk interpretation of The Stooges by The Ridiculous Trio, Kelly Moran's prepared-sound electronica, future funk from Tunde Olaniran, and experimental-classical ambiance from Ione Sanders and Kate Ziebart.

Inna De Yard: Ann Arbor's Evan Haywood directs a music video for Jamaica's Israel Voice

MUSIC FILM & VIDEO

Israel Voice in the video for his song Nyomi

Longtime Ann Arbor creative Evan Haywood is known for his solo work as a singer-songwriter and as one of the voices in the Tree City hip-hop collective.

He's about to add filmmaker to his resume after traveling around Jamaica in May 2019 to film Blood & Fire, "a documentary on anti-colonial narratives in Jamaican music and culture," Haywood said, with one of the biggest stars in the movie being Lee "Scratch" Perry, reggae's eccentric genius. Haywood is still editing the film, but while in Jamaica, he also shot footage for several music videos, one of which has just debuted: Israel Voice's "Nyomi," which features the sweet-voiced veteran crooner looking for spiritual love; the roots-reggae tune was co-produced by Earl "Chinna" Smith. Haywood filmed part of the video at Chinna's yard as well as the surfing hot spot Bull Bay. 

We asked Haywood about the making of the video, so he wrote a narrative on the process and also updated us on the other music videos he has planned and where he's at with Blood & Fire.

Singing Bodies, Electric: U-M SMTD's offers a "Grand Night" of virtual choirs

MUSIC

Singing is one of life's greatest joys, whether you're crooning in a choir or car jamming with friends.

But projecting your voice in a group setting is also one of the best ways to spread Covid-19, so singing with other humans was an early loss during the pandemic.

It seemed a certainty that annual vocal events such as the University of Michigan School of Music, Theatre & Dance's Grand Night for Singing were going to be postponed until a cure was found. But as has happened with so many certain-to-be-canceled things, creative people found ways to continue on within the current reality, and Director of Choirs Eugene Rogers organized a virtual version of this show that mixes newly sung songs with prior performances.

The virtual choir features more than 360 singers recorded in their homes, from Ann Arbor to China, singing four songs: