This week, we had the opportunity to hand over our precious playlist to the indie/folk heartthrobs, Woven Tangles. Swooning their way through the Detroit circuit, this 4-piece group have played all around the state and beyond at breweries, popular bar venues, festivals, and theatres. On the cusp of their first full-length EP release, Woven Tangles have kept busy rounding up a solid fan base and giving us all the downhome, moonshined-folk we crave.
We asked Woven Tangles to share their favorite local artists with us and act as our “Guest DJs” this week, so keep reading below to find out who they’re digging right here in Detroit!
1. Five Pound Snap – “Easy”, “Freedom” , “Belle Grove”
Boy, this foursome out of Detroit has been making me swoon for nearly a year now. When I first heard Five Pound, the organizational part of my brain wanted to lump them into a corner pile of local garage rock bands, which they immediately illustrated would be wildly insufficient. I have come to realize that they make effective use of familiar instrumentation and specific dynamics as a meeting point for their ideas and the audience. Once greetings are established, however, they quickly cascade off into explosive and wildly colorful spaces that integrate the feel of funk, jazz and psychedelia in a very challenging and successful way. It was no surprise for me to learn most recently that singer/songwriter/guitarist Michael O’Brien and superb bassist/singer Gwendolyn MacPhee are studying jazz at Wayne State University. My recommendation is that next time any Metro-Detroiters see a bill that includes Five Pound Snap, go out, have a few whiskey shots and enjoy the ride.
2. Cameron Jones – “Amadea”, “Lovin’ On The Run”, “Life’s a Dream”
I recently had the opportunity to listen to Cameron Navetta’s record, Love, Honey, under his new moniker Cameron Jones and I was immediately impressed. He does something very special on the snappy 31- minute album, tapping into the music that matters most to him and ultimately embodying the spirit of another time period. Cam’s intelligent songwriting and arrangements have resulted in great songs that you’d swear you once heard your dad strum on a guitar or through an old stereo in your uncle’s garage. Retro influence isn’t always successful for artists. Often I feel it can pigeon hole artists, as they desperately claw at that which worked for those before them, without ever finding the spark of something truly original and authentic. In this case, however, Cam has done just that. So if you ever want to convince your parents that time travel is indeed real, bring them to see his live show and collectively disappear into 1972 for a while.
I recommend Cam consider making a mockumentary that combines elements of Searching for Sugar Man, Kumare, and Borat by dressing as an old rocker who’s trying to make a comeback tour. I guarantee boomers all over will hear his tunes and with just enough persuasion, will begin sharing stories of when they saw The Eagles open up for him
3. Audra Kubat – “I’m Not Coming Home”
If someone played me an Audra Kubat album without prior introduction to her, I would have guessed that she shared the same era, fans and stages as Joni Mitchell, Bonnie Raitt and Janis Joplin. Their days are nostalgic as is the emotion felt as she effortlessly picks her acoustic guitar and sings with a voice that has an “air like” quality, though the earth is just underfoot. Her use of rhythmic minors often make you reminisce on dark spaces, but don’t worry, she will quickly pull from an E minor to a major C and make you feel all cozy again. Her songs lend themselves to visions and emotions that I’m quite sure she has purposefully created for the listener, so it comes as no surprise that she has a few movie soundtrack credits to her name. Listen closely and you will find yourself in a different time and place or maybe just a memory.
4. Anthony Retka – “City Sets In”
When I first got Anthony Retka’s album, Big Parade, it didn’t leave my car CD player for over two weeks. This says so much because that car ride to and from work, appointments and events in your life calls for a special kind of music. In a very subjective standpoint, it calls for something that makes you feel… but isn’t depressing. Whether it’s an early morning drive to a long day at the factory or driving home from a fancy night at the opera, his voice has a quality to it that panders to any mood. His songs have the same accessibility. They talk about things we’ve all been through and the lyrics and melodies bring you back home to your family or to the doorstep of a lost love. It’s music that makes you feel as if you know the artist because they let you in like an old friend and you have so much in common. The harmonies are perfectly timed, the guitar is rich and buttery, the percussion sits back like a well-trained horse and the vocals are subtly refined. I’ve never had a chance to ask him about his songwriting process but I would guess that the tunes write the songs because there is a moment in each intro in which you can almost guess the content.
So sit back and “feel” for a while without falling into the pits of despair (we will leave that to Conor Oberst).
5. Wasabi Dream – “Quamaican Jeans V”
Although listing themselves as genre-free, Wasabi Dream could definitely be listened to as experimental expectation. The use of vibraphone and synth keys along with smooth but driving bass lines, technical drum patterns, and trombone/sax over it all leads to a unique experience. I enjoy the variances between mellow slow grooves to sudden powerful and tight builds such as in Werewolves and Hound Dogs, one of my favorites.
6. The Scrappers – “Rockin’ Chair”
The Scrappers are just easy for me to listen to. Plain and simple. A classic rock n’ roll sound, but with a pedal steel guitar giving their sound a country/folk rock hint. The great harmonies between lead guitar player Eddie Baranek and bass player Dave Lawson reminds me of British rock of the ’60s.
7. Ancient Language – “Young Cartographers”
Ancient Language self-tags the line art evolving consciousness, and for good reason. A quick listen will expose a creative mesh of chill, cosmic and trip-hop sounds as just a start. Ancient Language combines bass guitar, a clever and hypnotic beat over a beautiful wash of synth, keys and strings to form the instrumental wonderland “Young Cartographers” from their most recent album, Folk Songs. Also from that album, “Sky Opens Up” is a tune where Ancient Language washes in a soft melody then dips into a progressive hip hop approved groove with accompanying keys dancing alongside.
8. JR JR – “Gone”
There’s a certain pride that comes to mind when you realize JR JR is from Detroit. Their strong pop sensibility has allowed for mass appeal that’s both easy to understand and be a part of. Their superb instrumentation and precision is worth noting, as they commonly float layers of synth, gentle guitar and heavenly vocals over a locked rhythm section, incorporating intriguing combinations of analog/electronic drumming. Unfortunately, I haven’t seen them live, but recently learned they’ll be playing at Royal Oak Music Theatre on November 13th and I plan to attend.
**We want to give a big THANK YOU to Woven Tangles for taking the time to Guest DJ this playlist for us, and we can’t wait to hear more from them! Don’t forget to check out their Facebook page for show dates, new material and updates! Also, don’t miss their next show on October 15th at Founders Brewing Company in Grand Rapids!