After taking a slight detour last week with our special “Guest DJ,” Nina & The Buffalo Riders (you can see their playlist picks here), we decided to dedicate this week to the tunes that make those long drives a little more bearable. Summer is in full swing and that means relaxing getaways are the name of the game. When it comes to making a trip-worthy playlist, we all know Detroit has more than enough to offer, but it’s easy to get overwhelmed by all the amazing choices in artists. So, in honor of this beautiful weather, we’re going to serve up some of our road trip favorites! Indie rock, folk, alternative, hip-hop, electric—you can’t deny the variety! So grab your keys, helmet, or shoes; whatever you use to get yourself around, and let’s hit the road!
1. Greater Alexander – “Positive Love“
Alexander Vlachos, known to many as Greater Alexander, is a talented folk singer/songwriter staking his claim in the Detroit suburb of Southfield, MI (prior to spending some time in New York and Athens, Greece). His music could be compared to many folk artists in the area, but Vlachos holds a bit of something special in his finger-plucking tunes. It harkens back to a day when folk music was a story of the times. Hardships, accomplishments, lost loves and philosophy is what you can find in his most recent full-length release, Positive Love, which debuted in December 2012. His voice whispers in your ear, delicately lying over twangy guitar, trickling piano and subtle percussions, giving you an intimate experience like no other. Take a tour through the shady pines with Greater Alexander, and you’ll see what we mean.
2. Valley Hush – “Children“
Stepping into the indie/electro-pop scene, you’ll find Valley Hush dishing up a recipe of sultry vocals, synth hooks and unapologetically honest lyrical wit. Fronted by producer Alex Kaye and vocalist Lianna Vanicelli, Valley Hush took their unique, individual styles and collaborated to create a fun, well-balanced project that will appeal to even the pickiest of listeners. Their sophomore EP, Don’t Wait, was released this past June with its quirky beats and unabashed dance feel, but the biting lyrics call us out on our obsessive and often destructive habits as a society. Valley Hush will tell you what it’s all about and get you moving in the process.
3. Red Pill – “Rap Game Cranky”
You may have seen his recent HuffPost Detroit debut this past March, or maybe you didn’t. Either way, Chris “Red Pill” Orrick is worth mentioning on any blog you might find covering Detroit rap/hip-hop (and let’s be honest, just about any music blog). Hailing from Redford, MI, Orrick is a no-frills kind of artist, with an affinity for the often mundane, day-to-day experiences we all have. His most recent work, released in April 2015, Look What This World Did To Us, gives us a glimpse into his mind and relationships (even his apartment), all while keeping it tasteful and relatable. This album hits the mark with mixes of straight Motown, jazz, electronic and live instrumentation. We can’t stop listening and it’s perfect for a cruise through your town, but don’t take our word for it.
4. The Accidentals – “Bulletproof Glass“
Before you say anything, we know that this band isn’t exactly from our beloved city of Detroit, but they do share in our love for the Great Lakes State. Traverse City, MI isn’t all that far for us southeast Michiganders, and that’s where you’ll find two young women making not just waves, but monsoons in the local indie/folk music scene. Katie Larson and Savannah Buist met in high school at ages 15 and 16, both with incredible, multi-instrumental talents and in 2011, The Accidentals were created. Their second full-length release, Bittersweet, gives you a taste of their angelic voices that call your ears to attention and pull you deep into the music to tell you all kinds of stories. Equally enticing are the harmonies you’ll find on each track, bringing you folk and folklore at its best. To give you an idea of what this band is capable of, let’s just say they opened for folk powerhouse Andrew Bird (place your mic drop here). So don’t waste any more time (unless you’re reading this blog) and go to your closest music venue. You don’t have to be picky, because this duo is playing nearly every show in the state.
5. Royale – “Abbey’s Art“
According to Royale’s Bandcamp page, they really want to “rock your mamas,” and while we can’t say that we know any rockin’ mothers (we’re sure there are many out there), we guarantee if you’re a person with ears, this album will rock you. Permanent members, Frank Ritz and Jacob Peetz (with others) give you a reason to feel bottled up and ready to explode. Their heavy guitar riffs and emotionally-driven vocals make it easy to listen to their recent release, Abbey’s Art, a little too loud (tinnitus, anyone?). Traveling through the tracks, you can find chill, alternative hits mixed with throwback pop punk, which diversifies the listening experience and keeps it interesting. Aside from the musical aesthetic, this album was created as an homage to the band’s late friend, Abbey Olenczuk. Her artwork is featured in the album booklet. Rock on, guys.
6. Holly Miranda – “Desert Call“
Detroit native, Holly Miranda, does a wonderful job mesmerizing you with her ghostly vocals and soulful musical backdrop. Currently touring for her debut self-titled release, Miranda is a one-woman powerhouse of psychedelic pop/rock. Writing this record from a rented house somewhere in the desert in Joshua Tree, California, Miranda gives us a taste of solace and understanding from her time there. Dreamy tracks intertwine with sharp and snappy melodies across this album, and we appreciate the complexity. Each song carries its own weight, and places Miranda in a category all her own. She can give you a little bit of anything: slow psychedelic riffs, clipping lyrics, or floating harmonies…maybe all three? Just ask, and you shall receive.
7. Tish – “Genesis“
Strong, bold, feminine. So many adjectives to describe this artist known as Tish. Her rhymes are unparalleled and her new release, The Curve, has us standing at attention. Known as one of Detroit’s top “femcees,” she’s busting through the hip-hop scene with grace and determination. The beat of this album holds a lot of weight. The tone ebbs and flows through a variety of emotions, scenes and ideologies, all while maintaining an aura of nostalgia. Tish wastes no time telling you what her city is all about and where she’s headed. This album pumps you up and then strips you down, no questions asked. Take a slow roll with this one and let the jazzy beats work their magic.
8. Danny and the Darleans – “Don’t Get in the Car“
Throwback? Maybe. Head banging? Definitely. Danny and the Darleans’ self-titled release is one of our favorite sludgy (is that a thing?) garage rock bands. Every part of this album is filled with catchy guitar riffs and even catchier lyrics. You can thank this campy bunch of artists: Danny Kroha, Colleen Burke, and Richie Wohlfeil, for that headache you’re about to have after throwing yourself around while listening to these tracks. The energy in these songs is unmeasured and the talent is too. Kroha’s voice is relentless, while Burke’s basslines hold you steady enough to get through Wohlfeil’s captivating drumming. This album is tastefully reckless and we love its gritty, dirty feel (in the best, most wonderful way).
9. Vienna Teng – “Close to Home“
Detroit’s hidden gem, Vienna Teng, has a high energy that is practically electric in her music. Upon the release of her debut album, Aims, in 2013 we have been lucky to call her one of our own (she’s ours now, California. You can’t have her!). Aims is a high-flying, new wave play land that can’t be held down. Each track on this album has layers upon layers of uniqueness and surprise. Reverberating vocals slide in perfectly next to her bright and crisp voice, which carries itself well over some intense melodies and percussions. Some tracks are hyper and synthesized, while others allow for vast openness and only hold her voice to break the silence. Orchestrated ballads can also be found within the tracks of this album, and we love when classical meets hyped up indie pop. Get your best headphones, because you don’t want to miss the intricacies of this one.
10. Freddy Todd – “Wave Therapy“
How can anyone turn away from an album (appropriately) named, Golden Tremendous? Um, no one, that’s who. Freddy Todd, a well-established electronic artist puts it all out there in this 2014 release and we don’t even know where to start. Take your idea of techno, dubstep, electronic, house, or just EDM (electronic dance music) overall and turn it inside out, put it in the washing machine, shrink it, expand it, rip it to pieces (you get the idea…), and that’s what you’ll get from Todd. Bass drops and highly synthesized beats are fun and all, but this album takes what we thought of as electronic music and turns it on its head. You’ll hear authentic drum beats, chimes, bass lines, piano ballads and a few strings of vocals as you surf through these tracks. The attention to detail and the flow of the music is refreshing and nowhere near as overwhelming as you would expect. It’s like you’re taking a trip through space, and Todd is your guide. You might need a towel to wipe off all the awesomeness that’s about to drip from the heavens.
That’s a wrap for our road trip playlist. We hope you enjoyed our picks!
Check back next week for more ridiculously awesome Detroit artists!