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Kzoo’s The Almanac Shouters to Play One Final Show

May 23, 2012


Posted by Garret Schuelke

THE ALMANAC SHOUTERS, a trio of Kalamazoo Folk-Punkers who ended their reign of glory in July 2011, is one of those bands that brings out my selfish side as a music lover: I adore the music, and I respect the musicians involved and want them to be successful and happy in their musical careers, but I don’t want them to go away—ever .  Lucky for me, and Kalamazoo’s music scene, the Shouters are having a one-off reunion show this Friday (May 25) at The Ant Hill (check out DIT Kalamazoo for information regarding the house venues location), with performances by Lincoln County War (watch live performance here) and George Costanza, who happen to be playing their first show on their upcoming tour.

In celebration of the Shouters being united again, let’s take a look at their two albums: A Long Road Home, released in January 2010, and Windmills, released in February 2011. Both albums consist of 13 tracks, and are about as similar as the two sides of a piece of tree bark.

A Long Road Home is the more energetic album.  The first song, “Jack Kerouac” (stream below), in itself contains all the themes that make up the album: an enthusiasm for traveling, wonderment at what the world has to offer (physical, spiritual, good, bad, or otherwise), and a search for one’s identity. In the tradition of other Folk-Punk bands such as Defiance, Ohio and Andrew Jackson Jihad, many of the songs have become embedded enough in our minds that, at shows, we can’t help but give our own impromptu performances when Alex Quinlander starts rocking out, with Rory Svekric egging us on with each slap of her double bass (once to the point of one of the strings breaking during a performance).

The more somber songs, like “Vice of Men”, are the type where it’s best to close your eyes and croon along with the chorus. I believe Nola Wiersma’s singing on “Going Nowhere” to be even more emotional and nostalgic than Ryan Woods singing on “Grandma Song” (or any other of Defiance, Ohio’s somber song on “The Great Depression”, for that matter).

Windmills is a more introspective album. Rather than an album that invokes the open road, it invokes sitting in a living room, reflecting on your home life while strumming your guitar, sometimes going off into space. The second track, “Allen Blvd” (stream below), like “Jack Kerouac”, sets the albums stage when it comes to themes and attitude, and while certain songs, such as “A Mountain Song” and “Ann Bancroft” are reminiscent of some of the sing- a-longs on “A Long Road Home”, Windmills seems to avoid anthems in favor of spirituals.

 Some fun facts that you should know: the name “Almanac Shouters” was inspired by The Almanac Singers, a New York Folk group back in the 1940’s that included, at various times, legendary folk and blues musicians such as Woody Guthrie, Pete Seeger, Sonny Terry, Cisco Houston, and Sis Cunnigham.  In the tradition of Folk music (not Folk-Punk), two songs on each of the albums seems to be inspired by other famous tunes (“Little Black Train”  seems inspired by a spiritual also titled “Little Black Train”, and “Windmills” tune was taken from Elizabeth Cotton’s “Freight Train”). Nola has also been known to do an intense rendition of “Railroad Bill” at some Shouter performances.

On the invite page for Friday’s show, the description notes that, since Nola is moving away at the end of May, this is most likely the final time the Almanac Shouters will ever perform.  I cringe at this prospect, and hope that the Shouters will come together again sometime in the future, but in case that doesn’t happen, it’s comforting to know that we have the Shouters music to listen to and, like many great musicians and bands that are no longer around, their spirit will always be hanging around somewhere in our heads.

STREAM: The Almanac Shouters — “Jack Kerouac” and “Allen Blvd”
Garret Schuelke is a graduate of Western Michigan University. He writes, sorts clothes, and does all sorts of awesome tricks.
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VIDEO: Ty Beat & MC Friendly — “Elderly Spelling Bee” (feat. Matt Black)

May 16, 2012


Posted by Aaron Geer

If you’re looking for Michigan produced hip-hop turn no further to Young Heavy Souls. Branded as a “digital music company/distributor” and founded through the eyes of one of our favorite acts of West Michigan, Matt Black, another MI rapper is slowly rising to prominence. MC Friendly, based in Kalamazoo/Grand Rapids, has a distinct taste to his flow, and his producer Ty Beat, also of Grand Rapids, blends swirling electronic synths with drums that bite, bass that floats  between loose hiphop-nouveau and tight sampled rhythms.

Ty Beat & MC Friendly’s Blast Femur – off Young Heavy Souls – is six tracks of dense electronic hip-hop. MC Friendly is nearly flawless because of the high-quality production. Energy drips off each of his rhymes, and Ty Beat never pressures too far into over-marginalizing what’s really at play: the strength in MC Friendly’s writing.

So it makes sense for one of the best tracks off Blast Femur to be titled “Elderly Spelling Bee” (watch video below) because of the tenacity and importance that Friendly puts into each line, going as far as cougar hunting: Tell your dad to keep his eyes on his chick cause I’m a slick motherfucker. Featuring Kalamazoo’s Matt Black, the track is centered around organic instrumentation from Ty Beat and a vox-endcoded chorus that sort-of comes out of nowhere but I can’t imagine the track without it.

Download Blast Femur here

WATCH: Ty Beat & MC Friendly — “Elderly Spelling Bee” (feat. Matt Black)


Aaron Geer is the Founding Contributor to Phiendly. He recently graduated from Western Michigan University with a B.A. in English and wonders why he hasn’t been accepted into any graduate school programs. He then remembers that he forgot to apply.
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Made In Michigan: Batcave — “arab legion ii” (WIDR Basement Show)

May 14, 2012


Posted by Aaron Geer

The other day someone I’m friends with on facebook posted something on the lines of A Nickelback song played on the radio while I was in the shower, pray for me!!!1! The first thought that came to my mind was aww and then why are you listening to a radio station that even has the chance of playing Nickelback?

In Kalamazoo there’s an independent, commercial-free radio station at the left of the dial. 89.1 WIDR FM is by far the greatest radio station in the state of Michigan, and I’m not saying that because I used to DJ there for nearly two years, it’s because it’s the only radio station where you can hear the newest, the oldest, and the weirdest music that’s never been played on commercial television or radio.

There’s one particular show that does amazing in-studio sessions. The Basement Show gives us Double Phelix‘s Batcave and their krautrock jam “arab legion ii” from WIDR Basement Show‘s show on April 23. Stream “arab legion ii” below and download the podcast of the whole show that includes A TON of other local tunes as well as the amazingly awesome Batcave session right HERE.

Keep a look out for Batcave.

STREAM: Batcave — “arab legion ii” (WIDR Basement Show)

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Boldy James — Consgnment: Favor For A Favor, The Redi-Rock Mixtape

March 14, 2012


Posted by Aaron Geer

DOWNLOAD: Boldy James — Consignment: Favor For a Favor, The Redi-Rock Mixtape

Aaron Geer is the Founding Editor of Phiendly. A or B. Not-B. Therefore, A (Modus Tollens).
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12 (West) Michigan Acts Paste Magazine Should Listen To Now

March 1, 2012


Posted by Aaron Geer

Paste Magazine did their Michigander part on Tuesday by posting an article revealing their choice for the twelve best bands from Michigan  their readers should listen to now. We decided to make a list of our favorite West Michigan musicians that everyone should listen to.

 12. Birdfingers (Kalamazoo)

Bennett Young has the voice resembling a Civil War veteran, cooing his baritone against soft-spoken guitar. Think Smog and Matt Berringer from The National giving birth to a country boy. That’s Birdfingers, an expanse of melodious songwriting.

11. Shores (Grand Rapids)

There’s nothing like the feeling of mellow, and there’s nothing more enjoyable than the synesthesia of listening to it. Shores sound like an absence of sleep out of choice, when relaxation for relaxation’s sake is pleasurable.

10.Minutes (Kalamazoo)

Like a trip back in time, Minutes are fun, exciting, loud, and make unique punk rock music. Their self-titled LP is one of the best Michigan full-length releases so far this year.

9. Matt Black (Kalamazoo)

 Matt Black lit up a basement party with 90s music last year. Okay, it was my basement, but that’s not important. This producer/rapper is a refreshing voice in hip-hop. He knows his music, and he’ll take a request if you have one, but he’ll keep you satisfied, nonetheless.

8. Fiona Dickinson (Kalamazoo)

Though she likes to be known from Britain, singer/songwriter Fiona Dickinson is Kalamazoo’s most talented songstress. An ethereal blend of spooky songs, her album Duende sounds like a Halloween party gone wrong, and is one of the best albums to listen to before the sun rises.

7. Ghost Heart (Grand Rapids)

One of the most eclectic Grand Rapids outfits, Ghost Heart’s Halfway House Session was one of the staple videos for the talented, progressive four-piece.

Ghost Heart – Sick Black Lung – Halfway House Sessions from Halfway House on Vimeo.

6. Haunted Leather (Grand Rapids)

It’s easy to lose yourself in a Haunter Leather song. They have a sound unlike anything Michigan has to offer, and their psych jams are such a breath of fresh air it’s like they skipped generations and sprouted from the same tree as the acid rockers from the 60s.

Haunted Leather “Sun at my Heels” from Scopitone VidBox on Vimeo.

5. Nathan Kalish & the Wildfire (Grand Rapids)

Describing themselves as “music for the modern American farmer,” Nathan Kalish & the Wildfire taste so organic that every time I see them live I feel like I should grab a Budweiser, put an unfiltered cigarette in my mouth, light it up, and punch the bouncer in the face who tells me I’m not allowed to smoke inside. Why? Can’t you hear this? It’s Tom Petty meets Neil Young meets The Hold Steady meets the American dream: rock ‘n roll, distorted guitars, partying, raging choruses.

4. Lasso (Kalamazoo)

Lasso’d was our favorite Michigan release last year, an album so ingenious that I’m honestly surprised, and shocked that this was made in Kalamazoo. An 8-piece of such talented musicians any city should be so lucky to have.

3. The Go Rounds (Kalamazoo)

I’ve never been more interested in where sound was actually coming from than when I was watching The Go Rounds. They create pure atmosphere, and have one of the most talented bass players I’ve ever seen live with Tod Kloosterman.

2. The Reptilian (Kalamazoo)

The Reptilian do this better than anyone in the state: constant raw, energetic live shows that reveal how much this 3-piece loves what they’re here to do. I’m never quite sure what to watch, Russ on the guitar, Dan on the drums, or Jon on the bass. They could easily be one of the tightest bands not just in Michigan, but around anywhere.

1. Petals Rang the Bell (Grand Rapids)

There’s something unique about Petals Rang the Bell. It might be the lyrics and voice of Shane Tripp. It might be the guitars that play so well off each other. It might be the rhythm section. It might simply be the bass. It might simply be the drums. But whatever it may be, this band bleeds music with influences so diverse, so spectacular, that to put your tongue on exactly what Petals Rang the Bell make you feel is merely alive, so alive you want to jump, and when you jump, you’re holding someone, and that someone is just that, a someone, and whoever it is they’re in it with you, and the band, and it’s all of a sudden an ecstatic orgy of smiles and sweat, and everyone’s wearing their clothes, except that one guy, that’s another story.

[Comments and other suggestions encouraged]

Aaron Geer is the founding editor of Phiendly. He’s lived in West Michigan his whole life: 430 years. 
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