Taylor Swift’s new album is a cup of hot chocolate joy for our shivering, tattered souls.
In the midst of a global pandemic, folklore is the unexpected surprise we never knew we needed. Through sixteen gorgeous tracks (plus one bonus), the album takes us on a journey away from our troubles, and into an emotive world anyone can relate to. folklore reminds us of what Taylor Swift does best… telling us the most beautiful stories through brilliant songwriting.
The second the album begins, a wonderful, calming vibe is set. folklore starts with a light beat and piano tapping along. From the first lines, Taylor shows that folklore will be a refreshingly honest album, a style from her that we have grown accustomed to. “I’m doing good, I’m on some new shit. Been saying yes instead of no. I thought I saw you at the bus stop, I didn’t though.”
The album’s second track, “Cardigan” is equally as beautiful and honest. I can’t help but picture the song being written in a reclusive cabin, but like Bon Iver’s For Emma, Forever Ago. Its venturing music video was released on the same day, and fits the song perfectly (I made sure to include a link below..!) The song’s chorus is one any person who has been in love can relate to, “..and when I like I was an old cardigan under someone’s bed, you put me on and said I was your favorite”.
Third comes “the last great american dynasty”. The piano accompanies us along still, as the beat gets a little hipper, a little quicker. The narrative follows Rebekah and Bill, highlighting their journey and bold traits in a way only Taylor Swift can do.
Next comes the gorgeous, “exile” with Bon Iver. The piano is with us once more as Bon Iver’s unmatched harmonies trace their way along the lyrics. Swift joins in on the second verse, adding her own prose and chorus with tremendous harmonies. The song builds as Bon Iver and Swift join together in an emotional duet that feels just as open as “I Don’t Wanna Live Forever”. I can’t help but feel endlessly happy for this collaboration, and the opportunity to introduce such a beautiful song into my musical library.
Throughout the album, I can undoubtedly recognize Jack Antonoff’s production and unmistakable lyrical cadence. His hand has been such a welcome friend on so many of Swift’s track treasures. The masterful folklore has a vulnerable feel that throws me back to Swift’s older albums, yet possesses the growth and wisdom of one like Lover.
“seven” brings a nostalgic summer feeling as Swift’s light vocals take us from a tree swing over a creek, to sipping sweet tea. Lyrics like, “…and I think you should come live with me, and we can be pirates. Then you won’t have to cry, or hide in the closet” allow us to feel another’s connection in the most profound of ways. It’s easy and wonderful to pick out the lyrical inspiration for the title of each deluxe edition available to order. Finding the edition’s titles feels like a glorious scavenger hunt.
“this is me trying” offers such incredible insight into the depth of work a relationship requires, personal growth, and the feeling of looking back. “I was so ahead of the curve, the curve became a sphere. Fell behind all my classmates, and I ended up here.”
“illicit affairs” makes me reminisce on the hidden encounters that graced us in “Style” and “I Know Places”. It expresses how unique a connection can be with those we love in such a profound way. “You showed me colors you know I can’t see with anyone else… You taught me a secret language I can’t speak with anyone else”. It also paints such a perfect picture of how foolish love can make us… “Don’t call me kid, don’t call me baby. Look at this god-forsaken mess that you made me… You know damn well for you I would ruin myself a million little times”.
“invisible string’ is one of my personal favorites on the album. It begins with such a relatable adventure when we’re waiting for love to come along… “Green was the color of the grass where I used to read at Centennial Park, I used to think I would meet somebody there.” The instrumentation and vocal expedition of the song is vast and beyond lovely. In typical Taylor Swift fashion, she continues to include color throughout, emphasizing feeling and allowing any listener to easily put themselves in her shoes. “Gold was the color of the leaves when I showed you around Centennial Park… Gave me the blues and then purple skies.” A standout lyric, “Bad was the blood of the song in the cab on your first trip to LA, you ate at my favorite spot for dinner” weaves the golden invisible string that leads these two souls together.
“betty” so vividly takes us back to Taylor’s songwriting and stylistic roots in the very best of ways. Beginning with an acoustic guitar and harmonica, the song reflects on an old connection and opportunities passed. Swift’s expletive additions remind us just how much her courage has grown as a songwriter as well. “But if I just showed up at your party, would you have me? Would you want me? Would you tell me to go fuck myself? Or lead me to the garden?” With a key change, and glorious “Love Story”-type of ending, she sings, “Yeah, I showed up at your party, will you have me? Will you love me? Will you kiss me on the porch in front of all your stupid friends?” Betty also welcomes some mystery, leaving us wondering if Betty is someone Swift is reminiscing, or a story told from another perspective. This unknown makes the song even more endearing.
Appropriately, “hoax” closes out the album with just a piano and Swift’s emotive vocals. Strings add such a gentle touch in all the right places. Acoustic guitar joins as well, adding subtle but beautiful layers. The honest chorus hits with, “Stood on the cliff side screaming, ‘Give me a reason’. Your faithless love’s the only hoax I believe in.”
Overall, folklore is a downright masterpiece. It plays like an album I could listen to forever, and never tire of. The collaborative hand of the National’s Aaron Dessner is evident and so welcome throughout. In hindsight, folklore is the type of album that seems perfect to have made in our current time. Typically, Swift’s albums have been released in grand fashion, with several cryptic hints, videos, and singles proceeding… but this album has taken us back to the basics of great music in such a stripped-down moment in history. folklore is a (Polaroid) snap into creativity and remote collaboration at its finest, a sonic photo we can look back on and enjoy forevermore.
Review by Tiffany Cuthrell, photo by Beth Garrabrant
Exceptional singer-songwriter Fiona Apple has released her first album in eight years entitled, Fetch The Bolt Cutters.
The notoriously private songstress (and fan of staying home) recorded the 13 magnificent tracks at her Venice Beach abode. Dog barks were welcomed and encouraged…
Throughout, the LP stays true to Apple’s undeniable musicality that sets her far and away from most artists on today’s radar. It is raw, yet deliberate. It is fluid, yet unyielding.
Apple takes the listener on a beautiful journey, remaining reflective on the past, observant of the present, and focused forward on the future. The album highlights found sounds, and wonderfully captures the ability of the human instrument in all capabilities.
The album starts off with a unique blend of percussion and electric blips, then muses strongly into Apple’s trademark piano. From the first line, any listener is sure to be encapsulated by Apple’s sharp and honest lyrics. As typical, she sings with unbridled, fearless passion to explore the power and ability of her voice. “I’ve waited many years, every print I left upon the track has led me here. And next year it’ll be clear this was only leading me to that, and by that time I hope that you love me”.
Apple has expressed that the line, “Fetch the bolt cutters” is more than the superficial escape from criminality,
but an encouragement to literally grab tools, and set yourself free from whatever situation is holding you back in life. In an interview with NPR, Apple expresses that the line was taken from Netflix’s drama The Fall. She explains that upon hearing the line, she wrote it on a blackboard and knew it would be the title of the album. The title track has a jazz feel that ebbs and flows effortlessly. A deep bass dances over homemade-sounding percussion, as Apple’s vocals lament resolve to frost it all off. “I grew up in the shoes they told me I could fill, shoes that were not made for running up that hill. And I need to run up that hill, I need to run up that hill. I will, I will, I will, I will, I will.”
During “Under The Table”, Apple addresses a surely spirited dinner party. “Kick me under the table all you want, I won’t shut up”. The song is one of many that displays Apple’s glorious ability to layer both instrumentation and round lyrics that dance effortlessly together.
“Ladies” is endearing and warm. It holds true to the album’s underlying message to lift fellow ladies, instead of tearing them down. During the verses, Apple walks us through a tale that is easy to picture of moving on and writing a sort of love letter to the next girl, as opposed to lashing out toward the wrong party. “And oh yes, oh yes, oh yes. There’s a dress in the closet. Don’t get rid of it, you’d look good in it.”
In “Cosmonaut”, Apple explores the positives and negatives of a relationship, while the soaring vocals make it easy to visualize literally floating alone together in space. The song was originally written for 2012’s movie, This Is 40, but given a new go around for this album’s endeavor.
“For Her” is bold and beyond powerful. It starts with claps that trail into breathtaking harmonies from an army of ladies that seem to shine a vocal light directly on misogynistic culture. An important part of healing is articulation, and the line, “Well, good morning! Good morning! You raped me in the same bed your daughter was born in” does so like a razor blade.
The album closes out with the strongly percussive “On I Go”. Appropriately, the chant seemingly expresses Apple’s desire to live and she wants to live, and create as she wants to create. It welcomes the ending of this masterful collection of songs, but leaves the listener positive Apple will continue to live life on her own terms with a soundtrack entirely hers.
Overall, Fetch The Bolt Cutters does not disappoint in the slightest, and was well worth the wait. Here’s hoping Fiona Apple will announce a corresponding tour once the Coronavirus is safely behind us all. For now, I’m glad we’ve got a baker’s dozen brilliant new tracks to keep us company.
Fetch The Bolt Cutters Tracklist:
1. I Want You To Love Me
3. Fetch the Bolt Cutters
4. Under the Table
6. Rack of His
9. Heavy Balloon
11. For Her
13. On I Go
Review by : Tiffany Cuthrell
Having been released in 2019, the album Wishes is a listening party I am sad to be late to.
Wishes, however, is a listening party that all are welcome to, and should definitely enjoy (no matter what time we arrive).
ATMIG (After The Money Is Gone) present a debut album that deserves not just one listen through, but many more. With Tobias Lipski on guitar and vocals, Julia Hickling also on vocals, Dave Taylor on drums, and Phil LaDouceur on bass and trumpet (as well as a large collection of other instruments), the metro Detroit dwellers recorded the cohesive album right here in Michigan.
Aesthetically, Wishes presents beautiful photograps captured by Heart District Photography. The band and cover character are decorated in classy black and white attire, with gold makeup gleaming. The album booklet includes all of the songs’ lyrics, so that the listener can follow along and pick their favorite line.
Wishes is a spectacular album, through and through. It welcomes the challenges and uncertainty of life with clever lyrics, and fearless optimism to explore.
It captivates the listener immediately with an intro that vibes a lost needle among hay, an intro which Elliott Smith would be proud of. The song eludes, “Now I see my shoes, one small step to see what’s ahead…” and the journey begins. “Intro” melts into the uptempo track, “Trip”, which brings forth the intense desire to pop in this CD, go for a long drive and turn up the radio… much like the feeling I get when listening to Bright Eyes’ “Another Traveling Song”.
Uptempo jams are mixed with slower songs like “Dictaphone”, which presents lovely harmonies, and beautiful orchestration that layer on top of prancing guitar. Its lyrics question, “…if I sing to you, is the beauty lost or are you aching?” Tobias and Julia’s voices blend just as well as those of Charles Thompson IV and Kim Deal (or Paz Lenchantin, to keep our reference more current!).
Guitar effects through tracks like “Mend” give a full, layered, and memorable production. The song’s riff is easy to get stuck in your head, and want to jam over and over. The album is packed with inspiring lyrics throughout, with “Mend” housing a great chorus example ; “And don’t do wrongs you can’t right, and don’t cause harm with delight. And don’t ever feel that you don’t belong, and don’t start fires you can’t fight”. These songs are filled with lyrics that make it easy to relate to on many levels.
Without a doubt, Wishes’ beautiful prose is a light in our dark world. The album builds wonderfully with clear influence from the likes of Modest Mouse and Death Cab For Cutie. That being said, ATMIG portrays an amalgam sound that is all their own.
The album’s memorable title track laments over a churning guitar, “Call your wishes a spitting image of pushy business, selling weakness”.
“Whale” allows the listener to easily picture a gentle giant gliding through the sea. The song begins with deep, echoing effects, and welcomes in an introspective conversation. Moby Dick’s Ahab is cleverly referenced in the album’s booklet, displaying yet another attention to storytelling and detail.
The stunning and emotive track, “Elliott Smith” seems to observe a songwriter from both a listener’s perspective, and one a songwriter can relate to. “Without the pure sound I might never have found, someone who needs to hear tears to feel that we’re not far apart…” As is common throughout the whole of wishes, intricate guitar and gorgeous harmonies grace the entire song.
Next, the outro takes the album full circle, ending with that lyric, “Now I see my shoes… One small step to see what’s ahead.”
A hidden gem makes itself known as an uptempo hidden track, where “Trip”‘s lyrics are presented with a slightly different twist as that trip is taken down someone else’s awesome life. “…so we can see what happens when you do not have to hide who you are.”
The folk and rock laden album absolutely leaves the listener feeling fulfilled upon its conclusion, yet still wanting another play through to catch each nuance and purposeful lyric. Each song jives together perfectly, and makes it easy to picture catching an ATMIG show, hearing this music all around in a live setting.
Speaking of which, ATMIG can be found at PJ’s Lager House in Detroit on April 7th, and at New Dodge Lounge in Hamtramck on May 4th. The band is also currently planning a show with indie greats The Mommyheads this June. ATMIG will be featured in the upcoming Deep Cuts Documentary that takes a glance through the revival of vinyl records, and are actively working on new music.
Wishes tracklist :
4. No One’s Home
6. On Fumes
11. Elliott Smith
13. (hidden track)
“Trip” music video :
For more information and updates on ATMIG, please be sure to check out the following links…
Album review by Tiffany Cuthrell, featured photo by Heart District Photography
Hozier delighted Caesars Windsor Coliseum with a night of incredible musicality on Tuesday August 6th. Starting off the evening was local duo, The Oh Chays.
When the husband and wife pair took to the stage, singer and keyboardist Kay said, “We are Hozier”. The audience laughed as she continued, “I’m just joking. We are so lucky to be here. This is so much better than playing in a bar.”
Right from the start, the audience applauded and cheered for each note. The Oh Chays were clearly grateful for the stage and opportunity to shine. After wrapping up their first song Kay told the crowd, “I think I’m about to cry. This is so amazing”. She explained that they had just received the email from Hozier’s team yesterday asking them to open the show. “Dreams do come true!”
A highlight of the set was when the band presented an original track entitled, “Never Too Old”. “Even though we look amazing, we’re like 1,000 years old. This is about not giving up on your dreams.” The Oh Chays encouraged the crowd to wave along, side to side. Kay asked, “Did my mom put you up to this? This is crazy!” Their set was packed with great lyrics, keys, some guitar, rounded out percussion, and even “a sexy song about a donut”.
Before wrapping up, Kay asked, “Can you guys come with us on the road?”
The band concluded their night with an exceptional cover of Michael Jackson’s empowering 1987 track, “Man In The Mirror”. The pair was a perfect start to the night.
Just after 9 PM, Hozier and his band appeared through smoke-filled dim light from stage left. The excited crowd absolutely roared to greet them. A steady beat started off the wondrous track, “Would That I”. The audience sang back the chorus’ “Oh”s appropriately.
To the delight of the crowd, Hozier immediately jammed into “Dinner & Diatribes”.
Keeping the theme of playing tracks from his latest incredible album, “Wasteland, Baby”, the band presented the remarkable, “Nina Cried Power”. The album track includes counterpart Mavis Staples (who recently celebrated her 80th birthday!), but Hozier sang each chorus and verse through himself. He also shouted out different musicians who have rallied for change.
After the song concluded, Hozier greeted the crowd. “How are you doing Windsor?” He remarked that this was the band’s first time playing in this part of the world. “Thank you so so much for coming out to the show and checking it out. It is an absolute pleasure”. A steady guitar rhythm began and Hozier continued, “If you wouldn’t mind lending your voices for one second, I just wanna see what voices you’re hiding. I’d ask you not to hide them from me because I will seek them out and I will find them.” The notes began of “To Be Alone”, and the crowd echoed back the song’s chant.
Early in the set, Hozier stopped to tie his shoe and chimed, “Safety first” as the crowd cheered for the deed.
Hozier’s thoughtful lyrics filled the packed Colosseum, as he kept an endearing dialogue open with the audience the whole night through.
After his first album’s terrific track, “Angel Of Small Death And The Codeine Scene”, Hozier presented more songs from his latest record.
Hozier kept a balance of subtlety and full musicality going with “Nobody”. He started the cleverly-rhymed song with a more acoustic feel, then brought in the full band sound.
After “Talk”, Hozier addressed the crowd with, “Since you’ve already shown me those voices, I know they’re there and if you know this one, don’t be afraid to let us hear you. You can’t hide them.” With beautiful instrumentation while backlit by spotlights, the band began “From Eden”. The gorgeous violin sound perfectly presented a lower tempo version of the jam.
After the song completed, Hozier told the crowd, “You sound beautiful!” He continued his conversation with the crowd by saying, “You’ll notice up here much of the band has deserted me, leaving so much room for activities, etc.” He shouted out Cormac Curran and Thandii, the two musicians remaining on stage to assist in instrumentation. “This next song was written mid to late 2016. I was writing a few love songs for the end of the world. This next one kind of falls into that category, and I suppose it tries to imagine the last human act on earth, sooner or later, hopefully will be some sort of act of kindness. It’s called ‘Wasteland, Baby!'” He started into his latest album’s title track.
When the song concluded, he thanked the audience, and encouraged them to welcome the missing band members back to stage. He gripped his guitar and said, “I just want to hold this for one second, just say hi to it.” A spirited gentleman in the audience yelled, “You can hold me for one second!” Hozier laughed and responded, “The feeling is mutual. I promise you that. Thank you very much.”
He proceeded, “This is a song named after a very vicious little bird of prey which is known to live near very very sharp objects… it’s kind of a Vlad the Impaler of the natural world. It tends to hang its prey over these things. It’s a horrible, gruesome thing to behold. I thought it was a fun theme for a love song. It’s a song called ‘Shrike'”. This was the precise moment I had the wondrous thought that with each Hozier show I’ve attended, I’ve learned something new and personal about each song. Accompanying violin beautifully rounded out the gorgeous song.
After “Shrike” concluded, Hozier encouraged, “Once again, Miss Emily Kohavi on violin!”
After “No Plan”, Hozier continued into “Jackie and Wilson”, which was greeted with a cheer. Hozier lifted up his hand during each chorus to correspond with the lyric, “raise ’em on rhythm and blues”.
During “Almost (Sweet Music)”, the band included solos for bass, violin, and organ, allowing each musician their own moment to shine.
When the song finished, Hozier shouted out each musician that had contributed. “This band is outrageous!”
Next, they jived into “Moment’s Silence”, an amazing track from the “Nina Cried Power” EP. The band jammed out thoroughly during each chorus under dancing lights, while the crowd happily clapped along to the rhythm of the verses.
The band then presented the powerful, “Movement” under a beautiful display of lights. Hozier passionately sang most of the song with just a microphone, but picked up a tambourine to belt out the final chorus.
The crowd positively roared when Hozier began the smash, “Take Me To Church”. The audience immediately started singing along, and Hozier held out his microphone to hear. Toward the end of the song he welcomed, “Let me hear you, Windsor!” Fans sang along, “Amen, amen, amen.” Hozier stepped down into the pit and reached out into the crowd. With a bow and a wave, the band exited the stage.
The crowd instantly began clapping, cheering, and stomping, with many holding up lighters. Finally, after a brief time away, Hozier reappeared with a smile and an acoustic guitar to greet excited fans once more.
“It has been an absolute joy tonight…. Thank you for making our first time in Windsor very very special. Again, don’t be afraid to help me out with this one.” Under appropriately red lights, Hozier solitary began the emotional, “Cherry Wine”. The audience sang along to the chorus and Hozier complimented, “You sound gorgeous.”
Upon the song’s completion, Hozier encouraged the crowd to welcome the band back on stage. He introduced each musician, and shouted out everyone who helped make the show possible from the light rigger to the instrument technicians. “As the song goes, it takes more than a hammer and nails to make a house a home.” He also thanked the Oh Chays for opening the show, and began into the beautiful “Work Song”. Fans clapped along to the slow and steady beat. The band closed out with breathtaking notes of harmony. While the audience cheered and clapped their way to a standing ovation, the band waved and bowed in a line of unison. Hozier left the crowd with, “Thank you so much Windsor, we’ll see you again.”
Hozier’s incredible tour continue through November, while making several more stops in the United States and Canada.
Words and photos by : Tiffany Cuthrell
Exceptionally talented singer songwriter Hozier made a marvelous stop at Grand Rapids’ 20 Monroe Live on Wednesday May 29th. The lovely venue was positively packed with excited fans, waiting to catch a glimpse and ear of Hozier’s latest album come to life.
Hozier, whose full name is Andrew Hozier-Byrne, is touring in support of his latest LP, “Wasteland, Baby!” The terrific album debuted at number one on the Billboard 200 charts, leaving no doubt the musical world was eager for a follow up to his 2014 music.
Starting off the show was family band from New York, Bailen. The three members shared incredible harmonies, thoughtful lyrics, and unrivaled passion throughout their set. Their musical knowledge and depth shone bright throughout their performance, with close attention to every detail. Bailen kept an open dialogue with the crowd, presenting their music in a relatable way. The packed venue was with the band from the first note, cheering for both their music and stories.
At one point, vocalist Julia Bailen stated, “We are Bailen, as you can tell from our super expensive sign that we made”. The crowd chuckled along to the pointed out spelling of the band’s name in fluorescent tape. Bailen conveyed exceptional tracks from their debut album, “Thrilled To Be Here”, which came out earlier this year.
They even humorously touched on their first time shopping at Meijer (if you’re not aware, it’s our local Midwest one-stop grocery giant).
With vocals from every member, Bailen closed out with a couple of tremendous songs like “Not Gonna Take Me”, a powerful track about mental health with a groovy Graceland-vibed bassline. Last, the band welcomed their final song and thanked the audience for listening. Bailen asked, “Would it be cool if we have another soft song?” The crowd responded with a resounding cheer. Every member rounded out the vocals of acoustic track, “25 For The Last Time”.
The audience reciprocated gratitude with thrilled applause at the end of their set. Bailen thanked the crowd once more, and bowed before exiting the stage.
Right after 9 PM, Hozier stepped to the stage with the heavy drum introduction of “Would That I”. The audience was amped and excited, right from the start. Hozier delivered exceptionally passionate vocals and a full force energy throughout the entirety of the beautiful song, with the crowd singing the chorus’ carrying “woahs”. His incredible talent was on full display from the beginning of the set, along with that of his band.
Next the band rocked into “Dinner & Diatribes”, with the audience clapping along to the beat. The crowd swelled and cheered for Hozier’s pristine tone and vocal additions.
Sans his guitar, Hozier moved right into the phenomenal track, “Nina Cried Power”. He added improvised lyrics and shout outs to fellow musicians who have cried for change. Before the final chorus, he picked up his guitar and jammed with fellow musician, the stylish Suzanne Santo.
Hozier greeted the crowd for the first time with, “How are you doing this evening Grand Rapids? It is very good to see you”. He encouraged everyone to make some noise for Bailen, who opened up the show. He continued, “Usually this part of the set if there was seating in front of us, I’d encourage people to get the fuck out of their seats”. He informed everyone that “rapid” back home means “fucking great”. “We knew we’d have a good crowd, that was a good omen. In Dublin language, Grand Rapids is like the best thing”. He started into “Someone New”, beginning a trend of fluctuating between music past and present. His band completed the music’s sound fully and flawlessly.
Hozier went into “Angel Of Small Death And The Codeine Scene”, which included a Suzanne Santo violin solo, whilst Hozier shredded on guitar.
“Nobody” began with acoustic instrumentation. Drums kicked in and completed the song’s full sound. For the personified lyric, “I once warmed my hands over a burning Maserati”, Hozier put out his hands, as if warming them over a fire.
During the set, Hozier swapped between several guitars, giving each song a different sound and feel. With each carried note of poetic prose, the audience cheered along, recognizing every detail of the poignant lyrics. Hozier regularly added extra musicality with both tangible and vocal instruments.
Later, Hozier encouraged the crowd to not be afraid to sing along. The band presented a slowed tempo version of the smash, “From Eden”. The crowd sang as cell phone flashlights waved along.
Hozier touched on his experience in writing the new record with the state of the world. “I don’t know if you’re familiar with the doomsday clock. They moved it forward two minutes to midnight, so I was enjoying that feeling”. The crowd laughed along to the welcome sarcasm, in light of a dim time. “…and Writing a few love songs for the end of the world. This next song falls into that category. It’s called ‘Wasteland, Baby!’” He presented the latest album’s beautiful acoustic title track.
After the stunning song, “Shrike”, Hozier continued his conversation with the crowd. “I know we’re joking about how the world ends and stuff like this. This next song is something far far worse to look forward to. It’s based on the work of a scientist called Katie Mack who has a book coming out describing how all the stars will one day grow dark… So it’s just something nicer. Don’t sweat the small things. It’s called ‘No Plan’”.
At the start of “To Be Alone”, the stage was bathed in red light as Alex Ryan added the song’s heavy synth sound. Hozier encouraged the crowd by saying, “Prove you have amazing pipes and can sing like no one else”. He started into the song’s vocal chant, as the crowd echoed back every note.
Hozier welcomed his new single with a brief story. “It’s kind of about the feeling of hearing a sweet piece of music that you know and love, and bringing it you back to someplace that you really don’t want to go back to…you’re trying to get away from. It’s appropriately named ‘Almost (Sweet Music)’”.
During the stunning track, “Movement”, an array of small lights angled into the crowd. Hozier picked up a tambourine for the final chorus, with his fellow musicians filling out the vocals.
To close out, Hozier started into his monster hit, “Take Me To Church”. He sang without a guitar, passionately covering the stage. During the ending chorus, he stepped down into the pit, reaching into the crowd. He help out his mic to amplify the packed venue singing along. When the song concluded, Hozier applauded his band and help up signs of gratitude. With a wave, they exited the stage.
Phone flashlights illuminated endless applause that reached a crescendo when Hozier returned to the stage.
Hozier addressed the audience… “Again, if you know this next one, don’t be afraid to let me hear you”. With just an acoustic guitar, he began the gorgeous track, “Cherry Wine”. During the closing chorus, Hozier let the audience sing and encouraged, “You sound beautiful!”
When the song completed he welcomed endearingly, “Please welcome the band back on the stage. I’m going to introduce these wonderful people”. Hozier proceeded to not only introduce each of his band members, but everyone behind the scenes making the show possible. He also motivated the audience, “If you could make one hell of a noise for Bailen who opened up the show.”
Hozier then thanked the audience for “making this a very very special evening. You have been just a spectacular audience to play to, I mean that sincerely. Thank you so much….. This is a song called ‘Work Song’”. The crowd welcomed the beautiful track with a cheer.
The stage illuminated from behind, adding the perfect vibe for the emotional song. To conclude, the band ended “Work Song” with a tremendously stunning harmony. The members bowed and thanked the audience again, concluding an absolutely astounding evening.
Wasteland, Baby! is a tour that finds that finds Irish gentleman Hozier growing not only in his amazing musical abilities, but also his presence as a performer.
Thus far, the tour has been a resounding success with many sold out shows. Hozier will continue with concerts throughout the US, Canada, and across Europe into November.
Words and photos by: Tiffany Cuthrell
The 10th Annual Nirvana Tribute Show made an epic stop at Ferndale’s New Way Bar on Friday April 12th.
The exceptional tribute allowed musicians from all over the state to unite in a love of Nirvana.
Starting off the night after 9 PM was husband and wife duo, Snapcat. The talented pair has been playing together for 22 years, and their unison showed. The band shouted out the 30th anniversary of Nirvana’s debut album being released. They appropriately presented several tracks from “Bleach”, as well as other greats from Nirvana’s discography.
Next up was Old Man. The incredible one man band took to the stage with just an acoustic guitar and some pedals, giving his set a definite MTV unplugged type of feel.
The Analog Lights was another terrific solo act. Musician Greg Aubry remarked that he had played Nirvana as a guitarist and bassist, now this mix was the final frontier. “Where no Cobain has gone before”. His minimal synth arrangements were a unique spin on the louder rock songs he was covering.
Band Figure 8 presented their set under the moniker “Gimme Back My Alcohol”. The talented gentleman formed a powerhouse three piece that more than did Nirvana justice.
All the way from Traverse City, Biomassive brought a vast collection of instruments such as bongos, keys, bass, guitar, drums and vocals.
Bloodwood took to the stage, featuring several musicians from different bands. Their versatility shined bright as the members swapped out vocal duties, and played different instruments throughout.
Fronted by the night’s MC, Dustin Lince, Fucking Swords and Fire Will Kill You closed out the night with an in your face set. The powerhouse rockers left everything on the stage, putting every ounce of passion into their performance.
New Way was just about packed with excited audience members who filled the bar with excitement. After a decade of grunge, the tribute wrapped up in its 10th year.
As always, the evening did not disappoint.
Check out some of the night’s photos below…
Words and photos by: Tiffany Cuthrell
Badflower made an exceptional appearance at 20 Monroe Live in Grand Rapids on Wednesday March 6th. The band is joined on The Truth Tour by terrific likes of Palisades, Of Mice And Men, and Nothing More.
Badflower are touring in support of their debut LP, “OK, I’m Sick”, which dropped last month. As a treat to fans, the tremendous music was available as a limited edition color album pre-order with signed packaging. Signed CDs were available at the night’s merch booth as well.
Badflower is a voice for the panicked, a voice for the anxious, a voice for voiceless animals, but above all, a voice for those of us who are ready to rock and roll. Badflower’s recent release touched on love, loss, abusive fathers, anti-Trump, and staying young (to name a few topics). The album houses shades and shadows of some great heavy dark dweller musicians of my own generation, and a sound truly their own. When I listed to the album for the first time on a janky record player with a bottle of wine, I heard a bassline reminisce of Tool in one song, the darkness of NIN in another, a scale in “Heroin” that shouts out “Karma Police” before Thom Yorke sighs a “phew”, the vocal power of Gerard Way throughout…. But nonetheless (and I’m sure so many artists at times detest comparisons) a sound 100% Badflower. I cannot wait to see how this band evolves, and where they go from here.
On a cold Grand Rapids evening after Palisades started the show in rocking fashion, Badflower took to the stage and began their night with “x Ana x”, the first track from “Ok, I’m Sick”.
When frontman Josh Katz stepped on the stage, arms outstretched, panic disorder be damned! The rock and roll vegan was a beacon of lead singer greatness. Badflower brought a full sound that translated album to stage effortlessly.
Next up, Badflower presented two tracks from 2018’s EP, “Temper”. During which, Josh threw in a back bend that would make Lyn-Z proud.
Fourth in their set, Badflower rocked hard with “Die” and encouraged the crowd to clap along to end out the final chorus.
”I get the feeling that some of you tonight are familiar with us, you know who we are.” The band started into emotional track, “Heroin”.
After the song wrapped, Josh addressed the audience with, “How many of you have debilitating panic or depression and had to force yourself out of the house today?”
After a roar from the crowd he said, “Same… This is a song for all of you who screamed for that.”
Badflower then began into their massive track, “Ghost”. The whole audience seemed to sing along in unison.
Josh Katz thanked concert goers and continued, “I gotta tell you Grand Rapids, for reasons that I’m not going to go into right now, I think this might be the most authentic Badflower show anybody has ever seen… I hope you come back and see us again.”
The amazing band closed out their set with “Animal”, also from “Temper”. Every musician was feeling each note of the music.
The show was an absolute joy to witness, and I’ve felt so grateful to welcome Badflower to my playlists.
Badflower will return to Michigan for Riff Fest at DTE Energy Music Theatre on July 13th, alongside Shinedown, Seether, Sevendust and more. In addition, they will be continuing The Truth Tour across the US through March 23rd.
Words and photos by: Tiffany Cuthrell
Incredible Irish songsmith Hozier has returned with a new album that is music to our ears.
Hozier is a gentleman who pulls from his roots… who appreciates the sounds that came before him, and that studious nature shows. Without question, “Wasteland, Baby!” is a nod to not only the greats, but his own evolution as an artist. “Wasteland, Baby!” is not an album that fears change, but instead embraces it. The instant gem is one that found Hozier exploring more layered and textured sounds. The album also pleasantly surprised me with Hozier’s repeated use of the F word (bold and powerful, dear sir!). The lyrics touch on both dark and light subject matter, a perfect refrain for life itself.
Hozier’s church was dismissed after the exhaustive touring that followed his 2014 debut album and (thank god) we are all in session, raising our musical hands again.
Up tempo tracks like “Almost (Sweet Music)” and “Nobody” get our feet tapping, and slower, sensual jams like “Movement” and hit right in the feels. No matter what the song, Hozier’s undeniable talent shines through. His vocals soar the entire album, be it in a direct lyric, or a beautiful chorus of layered vocals.
In true Hozier fashion, “Wasteland, Baby!” is packed with exceptional lyrics, and musicality that can stand up to the best of the best.
Hozier poetically articulates love on the deepest level, better than most of us could, and our world is better for having his voice.
“There’s no plan, there’s no race to be run
The harder the pain honey, the sweeter the song
There’s no plan, there’s no kingdom to come
But I’ll be your man if you’ve got love to get done”
The masterful musician’s knowledge and respect for rock and blues shines throughout the album as well, especially with his shout out track, “Nina Cried Power”. The album’s lead single also features the tremendous Mavis Staples. Together they belt out an anthem for the ages, perfect for these tumultuous times we find ourselves in.
Hozier’s homeland is well-represented through “Shrike”‘s beautiful harmony.
“Remember me love when I’m reborn
as the shrike to your sharp and glorious thorn”
The album is perfect for a long walk, an evening at home, a night with your love, or a long drive… In other words, pretty much anything. Like his first album, the cover art is masterfully painted by Hozier’s talented mother, Raine Hozier-Byrne.
Whether the album arrived at fan’s doorsteps via post, our inboxes to download, or through a trip to our local record store, “Wasteland, Baby!” has absolutely been worth the five year wait.
Hozier will be touring the US throughout the summer. Whilst singing, stomping and strumming, he will make a stop at the Fillmore in Detroit on May 28th.
1. Nina Cried Power
2. Almost (Sweet Music)
4. No Plan
6. To Noise Making (Sing)
7. As It Was
11. Dinner & Diatribes
12. Would That I
14. Wasteland, Baby!
Album review by: Tiffany Cuthrell
Winter Jam made a stellar stop at Ypsilanti’s EMU’s Convocation Center on a snowy Sunday February 17th. The festival was on it’s 22nd of 42 stops from city to city spreading faith, love, hope, and worship.
There were musicians who sang praises from all over the musical spectrum – hip hop, rock, soul and folk (to name a few). Regardless of background and influence, each band’s talent, passion, and power of praise shown through. The venue was packed with fans of all ages, and from all walks of life. The Convocation Center was filled with a positive energy, and lots of smiles.
Starting off Winter Jam’s main acts strong, Dan Bremnes presented incredible songs with an acoustic guitar. The audience was ready to sing and dance, right from the start.
Next, Hollyn brought terrific vocals with a dash of rock. The band got the crowd energized, to their feet, with hands in the air.
Throughout the festival in between artists, speakers would pass on positive messages, and even shoot t-shrits into the crowd. Adam Agee presented one song inspired by his mission trip. “I promised a bunch of kids I’d tell their story.”
Later in the evening, Adam returned to the stage to tell his account of sponsoring a child through the evening’s spotlight organization, “Childfund International”. Audience members were encouraged to sponsor a child. In doing so would come both the satisfaction of changing a life, but also a wristband to meet the night’s headliner (Newsboys United) after the show.
Winter Jam founders, NewSong brought a Sunday church feel with powerful vocals, an organ, rocking guitar, horns, and beautiful harmonies. Preshow opener, Ty Brasel made an appearance with a full on choir to ad a bit of hip hop to the mix.
Skillet drummer, Jen Ledger fronted her own outfit with memorable lyrics and an energetic performance.
The night’s next speaker, Zane Black, shared his experience to a better life through a life-changing trip to church. Zane went from a life of drugs, overdose, and even a coma to literally preaching from a skateboard to the Winter Jam crowd as a terrific metaphor for God’s love.
Next to the stage, Mandisa’s set was wonderfully choreographed with character, finding her backup singers and dancers getting down to the passionate jams. She brought a powerful message to keep going with memorable music about praise and hope. She encouraged the excited crowd to sing along with her. With a message of unity and love, Mandisa focused on all areas of the audience. Her fighter spirit shined her whole set through.
After Mandisa was the sharp-dressed Danny Gokey. With his rock-vibed set, Danny had an impressive horn section that swayed along. Danny got the crowd dancing, and impressed all with soulful, heartfelt vocals. Toward the end of his set, Danny performed a track with just an acoustic guitarist, and piano playing throughout. Phone flashlights danced and illuminated the audience as they sang along. He closed out the evening with “The Comeback”.
Before the night’s final artist, Rend Collective took to the stage with the hope of revival. The band brought a folk sound from Northern Ireland. The spirited group had a fiddle, accordion, electric and acoustic guitar, to name a few instruments. During their set, a sea of bubbles erupted against the stage, coating the crowd in sparkly orbs. A heavy drum sound kept time.
Singer Chris Llewellyn commented that it’s close to St. Patrick’s Day, and maximum Irish for the year. He encouraged fans to dance in Irish fashion, alternating hopping on one leg.
“It’s already like we’re in Dublin!”, he exclaimed. Confetti showered the dancing crowd, much to everyone’s delight. At the very end of their set, each member donned a panda mask.
After their set, NewSong member Russ Lee returned to the stage, and told a heartfelt story of one of his experiences Winter Jam had yielded. The moral was that he did not want anyone to have to miss the festival, and the message of worship it can provide. An offering bucket was passed around to help out the festival. Since tickets are discounted at the door, and folks even admitted who can’t afford it who need the evening’s message, Russ emphasized the importance of everyone pitching in and helping if they can. Ten percent of the offering was set to be donated to a local organization playing a large part in youth ministry.
The lights dimmed again, and the stage was set for the Jam’s main act, Newsboys United.
Newsboys took to the stage to start off their night strong with “Born Again” ,”That’s How You Change The World” and “Live With Abandon”.
Next, lead singer Michael Tait encouraged the crowd to move side to side “like this, come on! Like one big black gospel choir with a lot of white people from Michigan – love ya!”
The band started into “He Reins”. After the first chorus, Newsboys of old, vocalist Peter Furler and bassist Phil Joel emerged to round out the beautiful song. Together, the united six gentleman churned out greats like “I am Free” and “Breakfast” with rock abound and incredible harmonies soaring over the center. During “Something Beautiful”, Michael Tait shouted out each member of the band.
Newsboys United then shared new songs from their forthcoming self-titled album, which is due out in May. Through the festival, the band offered a special pre-order that included two albums for $10.
At one point, they even brought a couple of excited fans on stage to dance along.
Michael Tait touched on his love of Michigan, and shouted out keyboardist Jeff Frankenstein, who is from the Detroit area. He also touched on the importance of putting God back in America, and taking time out to love people.
He encouraged the crowd to sing along to amazing track, “We Believe”. The chorus of audience members filled the room. Afterward, Peter Furler commented, “Mike, we might have found the loudest Americans in America”.
The band also performed dc Talk favorite, “Jesus Freak”, with a special appearance by the talented Tray Little. As a united unit, Newsboys were clearly loving presenting their message of worship, and enjoying performing together.
Next, Peter Furler remained on drums, as drummer Duncan Phillips set up on a rotating kit. The two incredible drummers faced off on opposite ends of the venue. Duncan’s drumkit rotating impressively as the audience cheered them both on.
Newsboys United closed out their night with gigantic song, “God’s Not Dead”. Michael Tait exclaimed, “God bless Michigan!” as the band stood center stage to bow together.
Pastor and author, Bobby Joyner ended the evening with a prayer.
Winter Jam 2019 will be continuing across the states through the end of March.
Words and photos by: Tiffany Cuthrell
Warsaw, Indiana’s finest, Surprise Asteroid are here with a brand new track entitled “Speak”.
Surprise Asteroid is an ever-evolving collaborative effort, driven by talented singer / songwriter, Grant Reigner. Grant not only penned the song’s lyrics, but also played all of the instrumentation for “Speak”. The song also features background vocals by Joby Adams and Michael Burke.
According to Reigner, the song is a response to a higher power and the place we instinctively turn to when our backs are against the wall. “We crave independence and defy authority, both real and perceived. But as soon as we feel out of control or crushed by a burden we can’t bear, the first we thing we turn to is authority. A higher power is somehow necessary for our survival, and ‘Speak’ describes the struggle and pull of each of the two clashing emotions.”
As far as musicality goes, the song starts by catching listeners with a lovely and memorable acoustic riff. Quickly, the song is well-layered to include percussion, drum, and electric guitar. “Speak” presents very open, honest, and relatable lyrics, as well as terrific instrumentation the whole song through. The chorus is carried by a medley that would make even Weezer proud.
The song closes out with the same riff that drew us in.
“Speak” is a reflection of hard work, and passion for music. The time and production spent on the song absolutely shows. Surprise Asteroid’s hope is to unite folks both in the creative process of songwriting, as well as through listening enjoyment.
The single is making its debut today, and is presently available on iTunes, Amazon Music, Spotify, and Google Play.
Be sure to give “Speak” a listen, and keep a weather eye on the horizon for more to come from this great band.
Review by : Tiffany Cuthrell