HI 5 9/2/22

It’s September. I don’t have a point here, just making sure you were aware.

Hank – “Your Ex, Man”, August 28

Did I listen to this song initially because the band name is the name of my cat. Yes. Obviously. I have also listened to this catchy as fuck pop tune with folk elements several times since. It toes a great line between natural and more produced sounds.

Loops & Loops – “Can’t Shut It Out”, September 2

Loops & Loops consistently put out great singles and instrumental albums (I’ve written about them before). I love the intimate vibe of this track and the breathy, understated vocals are contrast wonderfully with dynamic instrumentation.

A Rueful Noise – “It’s Not That Kind Of Party”, August 26

Off of their EP Let The Revels Begin, this Lansing band delivers dramatic and dynamic indie rock that feels haunted (in a good way).

Red Scarves – “Robin”, August 24

This song feels a lot different than previous releases I’m familiar with from Red Scarves, and it is beautiful. A beautifully written and sung alt-country tune that makes me want to cry into a beer.

Bluhm – “Ranger”, September 2

Bluhm has been pumping out some wonderful singles, like “Everything” which you can read about here. I’m a sucker for a duet, and they move their dreamy sound in an alt-country direction that reminds me a bit of Shovels & Rope.

HI 5 8/26/22

Oh man, this is a good week for music, I had to cut stuff. Wild.

Blast Vegas-“Girls At The Pool”, August 19

Hyper fucking catchy dance rock with unhinged B-52’s style vocals and lots of surf flavor.

Gary Link-“Meet Me In Nashville”, August 16

Atmospheric alt-country with a great build throughout the song.

Julian Belvedere-“Bleeding on your new guitar isn’t folk punk (it’s just pretty cringe), August 26

A passionate and vulnerable song out this UK folk-punker about taking responsibility for your mental health issues.

Charlie Smith-“Reap what you saw”

Another gloomy single from singer-songwriter Charlie Smith with his haunting, and soulful vocals.

Mila Ziska-“Concrete Hearts”

Beautiful indie-folk with subtle instrumentation and dreamy vocals, reminds me of Maggie Rogers.

Keego Harbor Is A Masterpiece Of Metro Detroit Americana

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.”

Matthew and wife Lauren from an envelope in the Vinyl
Credits included with the vinyl

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Bluhm – “Everything” Single Review

Man, you guys remember The Bronze from buffy? The vibes there were tight. “Everything”, the debut single from Bluhm would fit right in. I can picture it honestly, though it does help this is one of the few bands I’ve written about where I’ve actually seen all the people playing in person. What feels like long ago, I used to go to Exferimentation Brewing Company open mic all the time. Unfortunately that lovely place closed down, but for me, hearing this song brings me right back to watching Claire & Matt of the opening band play “Fade Into You” by Mazzy Star, haunting me beautifully. I can move that scene to The Bronze without a missed step. 

Bluhm is what I would describe as atmospheric indie folk pop, which I’ll admit is a bit of word salad. They honestly remind me a lot of the aforementioned Mazzy Star unsurprisingly, or a bit like Florist with a lot more 90’s flavor. Reverby, not in a hurry, and with soft vocals that the instruments never overpower. I expected this from vocalist Claire Bluhm, but it’s cool to see such range from Permanently Pissed member and other band member John Marion (not certain on names, going off instagram and memory.) The aforementioned Matt also played drums on this track, and he continues to be a fantastic pocket drummer. 

The lyrics fall right in line with the vibes the music puts out, telling an understated love song that feels familiar but not cliché. The guitar tone is perfect, and the melodies feel a bit lyrical as well, coming together with the vocals themselves in a haunting chorus softly supported by a subtle  rhythm section. 

Overall, this is an incredibly strong debut from Bluhm. I was pretty excited for this track, and it did not disappoint. It’s haunting, understated, and beautiful. I’m really stoked to hear more, and I’m quite confident it will be just as excellent.


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Loops & Loops – Lost Thoughts Album Review

Have I reviewed an instrumental album? Why am I asking you? Who are you? Who am I? Anyways, Loops & Loops Lost Thoughts. Does that count as I tie in, because I didn’t know how to introduce this and the title of the album is Lost Thoughts? Am I clever now? I do believe I’ve mentioned Loops & Loops before. Loops & Loops is Peter Bogolub a long time musician and producer who makes chilled out ambient, folk, and electronic music. He does instrumental albums, as well as some pretty catchy singles like “The River Don’t Want Me Yet” (well, catchy if you like dark shit). This is one of the former, conveying heavy ambient vibes and spacey tones similar to the works of Brian Eno or Steve Roach. 

What I like about Loops & Loops’s instrumental works is that the heavy atmosphere delivered does not feel like it comes at the cost of melody or direction. Each instrument feels like it conveys an emotion, layering on top of each other and making something that lends itself to passive or active listening. Loops & Loops provides excellent sonic manipulation that drives the songs forward, even while it feels like you’re floating in place. This amounts to something that is not just interesting, but in songs like “Twilight” has a near drug-like meditative effect. 

I feel like thought must have been put into the progression of this album. Its subtle movement from bassier to more mid and high range tones give the album an uplifting effect. Lovelier still, the final song “Snowy Day” appropriately feels like it’s gently letting you down to the ground after you had drifted up into space throughout the album. 
Peter’s long time work as a musician makes itself evident in the craftsmanlike and subtle way this album is produced and constructed. I know ambient music isn’t for everyone, but I can’t imagine anyone complaining to find this on in the background, and I have a feeling, after a while they couldn’t help but listen closer. I think this is my favorite ambient work since Brian Eno’s Thursday Afternoon.

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