Rose St. Germaine’s Gunslinger. I think I can summarize it to a certain extent, as multi-genre americana/alt-country with references to cowboy shit. Who made this me? Nah, but I definitely vibe. Gunslinger is kind of an epic album. It’s big, exploratory, immaculately produced, and well, pretty fucking good.
Rose St. Germaine is an americana singer-songwriter out of Detroit who’s been putting out tunes to the public since Feb 2020 or so (as far as I can tell). I believe this is her major streaming services debut, and if that’s so it’s definitely a strong start. Honestly, this album is kind of an adventure. There’s flavors of dream-pop, americana, alt-country, folk, and some plain indie rock, but at the core of every song is Rose St. Germaine’s grounded, americana singing and songwriting. From the hectic screaming electric guitars in “My Kingdom” to the understated and dreary acoustics in “Baby Have You Seen My Soul?” all feel thematically tied together. This is only improved by the careful and attentive production, full of little touches, like the clop sounds in “Gunslinger”, that really draw everything together.
Rose St. Germaine’s Gunslinger feels full of old soul. It feels like a proper album, bottom to top. It feels like it’s going on my short-list for albums of the year.
What’s happening party people, it’s time for a little bit of shameless self promotion! I want to tell y’all real quick why you should give SUN a listen, and why you should be excited for DIRT, by Justin HK, coming out November 17.
SUN is a spacey bedroom noise lo-fi indie post-rock eclectic explosion of an album. I believe it truly has something to offer to everyone; the extended vibey solo’s of “SUN,” the dreamy indie pop “EFFECT,” or the explosive electronica of “Basic Astrology For Astronauts” SUN is full of purple space flavor.
SUN is available wherever you listen, but you can support me most directly on bandcamp.
DIRT is a lot easier to explain (Justin H.K.’s) DIRT, coming to wherever you listen November 17, is a stripped down collection of some of my best songs, as well as a few new ones. With just a guitar and my off-kilter alt-country tunes, DIRT is as grounded as SUN is in the stars. You can pre-save here to makes you sure you hear the dirt.
The Pontiac scene won’t let me go. Here we go. So, we’ve got yet another stellar release coming out of one of the folks I met at Exferimentation Brewing Company’s open mic. For a place that’s been closed for a fair shake now, I really love how it keeps popping its head back into my life, it was a good place. Matt Bastardson’s “Hard Times” is well produced, working class Americana that feels like Metro Detroit’s own brand of country music.
Maybe this is a controversial opinion, but I personally believe Michigan is becoming a real contender in the alt-country scene. We’ve got guitar gods like Billy Strings coming out, as well thrash-grassers The Native Howl, flawless musicians like myself of course, and we’ve got this single right here from Matt Bastardson. It’s been excellently produced into something that feels both modern, and retro at the same time, which also feel appropriately Metro-Detroit. Its alt-country/southern rock at its core, with a lot of blues and even more Americana. The chunky guitar effortlessly chugs and fills driven by the pocket drums, and fiddle that seems to travel between the ears as it plays.
The star of the show is Matt’s fantastically edged vocals, and his grounded songwriting. A song about perseverance out of Pontiac feels appropriate. Lines like “Hard Times On My Shoulders/ Have Cut These Lines In My Face/ I Will Fight To Make A dollar/ Anybody, anytime, or place” deliver a blue collar feel that makes me want to go get shit done. The song feels thematically satisfying as a kind of come-back/debut as well, as it feels autobiographical.
It’s been an absolute treat to get to hear music coming out of all these people I was able to see play in some way at Exferimentation. I want to say it’s all been surprisingly good, but I’m not truly surprised. All of them have been clearly talented performers, and the music they make reflects that. Matt Bastardson’s “Hard Times” establishes him as another example of the excellent country influenced music coming out of Michigan right now. The track is currently in pre-release, but you can get your hands on it by signing up for Matt’s mailing list on the Fan Magnet linked below.
This one isn’t going to be a completely standard review. I think the title gives away my opinion a bit, and I hold Matthew Milia’s Keego Harbor to be one of my favorite albums of all time. Now, I’m a bit behind, as this album came out July 16 2021. A bit old for the new release range, but I am hoping to get a few more reviews of my favorite albums up, if just to let you, dear reader, get to know my music tastes a bit better. I suppose it’s appropriate I got into this album late, as I was also pretty late to the party on Matthew’s band Frontier Ruckus, who I didn’t really get into until college. I absolutely loved the verbose prose-like nature of Matthew’s songwriting, and I think it’s only gotten better as he’s continued on as a musician. I got the chance to see them at a house show (Lamplight music festival I think, not sure what year) and they were completely magnetic as a three-piece. Matthew Milia’s solo work puts his effortless Americana lyricism first, and with Keego Harbor it’s resulted in a beautiful, consistent, and thoughtful album.
Keego Harbor is a dangerous cocktail of existential dread and childhood nostalgia, but its focus on the power of place, of family, and of love keeps the darker turnings in lines like “In the first part of life you just let in the light / And you loop it like a DVD menu / And someday in your 30s all your colors lose their bite / And you can’t change the channel now can you” from weighing the album down with dread, but embracing it and learning to deal with it. In a lot of ways this album feels darkly hopeful, especially the final lines of the albums namesake “Someday I think I’ll move back to Keego Harbor / ‘Cause keeping alive’s hard / But giving up’s even harder / And I’m not ready to die / I’ll just go simplify / In Keego Harbor.” I’m tempted to go through each song and pull meaning, and the depth is certainly there in his effortless lyrical exploration of Metro Detroit, but I think what’s truly masterful about Matthew’s songwriting on this album is that these songs are consistently thought provoking, and forcing the listener to self reflect, just as it seems Matthew has while writing this album.
The lyrical themes and literary tie to place are not the only thing that keep this album consistent. While I find the vocal production to be occasionally a bit too clean, Matthews vocals aren’t lacking character, and his wife Lauren’s backing harmonies are gorgeous, and add great texture. There is a good depth of instrumentation for every song, almost all of them include the soaring steel guitar of Pete Ballard, and various instruments (Guitars, organ, bass etc.) played by Matthew and co-producer Ben Collins (drums, bass, organ etc.) with occasional piano played by Ryan Hay. I love the dreamy atmosphere in the songs, and its consistently a song forward country style that results in something that reminds me a bit of John Prine. While I can’t say I ever find Keego Harbor to be quite as musically exciting as Frontier Ruckus, its lyric centric, singer-songwriter approach has kept me coming back to this album more than any FR release (incredibly excited for their upcoming album whenever that drops though, obviously).
I highly, highly encourage anyone from Michigan to give this album a listen, especially those from or familiar with the Metro Detroit area. Keego Harbor, that small town between the poverty of Pontiac and the abundance of Bloomfield Hills is effortlessly wielded and channeled by Matthew Milia on this album, and used to convey themes of aging, dread, family, and love. It’s a consistent, well-paced, full, and beautiful symbol of place. Matthews dedication seems pertinent: “Dedicated to Lauren, my parents, and the holy lands surrounding Keego Harbor – out from which I bulge a humble physical extension.”
Quick little post to show off a couple of things. Birthday Boi Bash is coming to you July 13, and included on the album is a new version of one of my favorites from the self titled album, Killer’s Song. I recently completed a weird little cowboy AI art project, and it seems like these two were a match made in heaven, so I made a lil art comp. Lucky y’all it gets you access to the dope new version early. Enjoy 🙂