There's nothing you can find on some hipster blog, no hot new things you can memorize from eavesdropping on some coffee shop music snobs and nothing that much more impressive plastered on the cover of Spin Magazine that you can't find of comparable worth and dynamism here, in Ferndale's music scene.
The proof is in the veritable pudding of this modest list of the year's local album releases (all of which we've written about at one time or another):
- Phantom Films (Stream it here)
Singer/songwriter Scott Masson wrote this elegant and fractured pop opera inside a basement out in Milford, during a winter of considerable discontent where he was often bed-ridden with a fit of depression. Except for, of course, the moments he'd rise to fit together sonic puzzle pieces. The seemingly dissonant aural elements of this album blend together seamlessly, making for strange sea of songs that wave and crash naturally from cathartic squalls under stormy skies to meditative floats along the coast.
Listen: Glossies - Let's Get Awkward
- Poor English (Stream it here)
Fans spent the whole year wondering with forgiving exasperation when this album would finally come out pp though, endemic to the Internet age, some of it had already leaked out online before its eventual Oct/Nov release. Still, the best thing I can say about Poor English is that I have, legitimately -- and I say this without exaggeration -- listened to this album more than 36 times front to back. And still continue to put it on and find enjoyment, find some other element of some other song to hone in on and appreciate. A blend of surf, space-rock, indie-pop and reggae, dark at some points, ebullient and anthemic at others. And all of it polished with pleasingly professional production.
- Florence to the Mad Man (Stream it here)
Your hosts of the Duenseday Local Music Revues recorded this, their most fully realized work, through the early months of this year, releasing Florence toward the end of summer. With buzzy, blazing guitars, tumbling drums, tight bass grooves and that distinctive yowling blues bleat, this local quartet took psychedelic garage and stomped it through the muddy banks of the Delta. They then wringed it out across a night's star-scattered sky to be wound and warbled with their penchants for experimental indie-rock and atmospheric noise-pop. A jangled-up stomp, a sepia-toned lucid dream, haunted by folklore-ish imagery and strutting forth with a confidence bolstered by their chemistry.
Listen: Duende! - Barefoot Bandit
- When I Talk To You (Streaming from here)
Local sunburst-bubblegum-punk trio set up shop in Ferndale about a year ago, with its singer and drummer having played around Detroit for years as part of The Decks. This album, recorded in Detroit with renowned songwriter/producer Matt Smith, captures all their angles, playful, pensive, pissed-off and full of pop. The otherwise saccharine swirl of their hook-heavy sways is decoratively clouded and grimed by lightly grating feedback, sopped into a subtle shoe gaze vibe by the surf-hinting reverb. Raw rhythms, roaring guitars, refreshingly acerbic takes on summery, syrupy pop. "If I never try to destroy myself / then I'll never become anyone else," are the lyrics of The Kids At My School.
Stream No God from the band's Tumblr.
- ...and his Extra Arms (Stream it here)
Ryan Allen "didn't want to grow up today...but (he) will..." and he did, disarmingly so, on this defining, heavily autobiographical, heavily heart-on-the-sleeve LP, punched up with his characteristic guitar shreds and crafted with his keen sense for 2 ½ minute pop/rock jams. Known through the early 2000s for fronting keyed-up punk-ish outfit Thunderbirds Are Now, he'd begun his evolution into this new form of reflective, world-weary singer/songwriter with the Friendly Foes through 2009, eventually being kicked into a whole new world of perspective with the birth of his son. Yes, some of the lyrics are heavy, but the songs, the indelible hooks, the glorious guitar solos, follow a natural progression from the aforementioned former pop-heavy project.
- Squirrel Gulch (Stream it here)
There are no words for this album... literally. It's instrumental. This trio finds its muse in myriad musical genres, from dark ambient metal to post-rock jazz, from Brazilian pop to seminal lo-fi indie rock. But with the tinny reverb-soaked jangle of that Fender Jaguar under jostled-up wavy bass lines and punchy drums, it leads most to consider this to be of the surf-rock variety. But Gulch is more than that -- setting aside its loose connections to a tripped-out, surrealist comic strip. This album is a series of snap shots, catching this band at some of its most energized moments, swooping you up onto their fiberglass boards and letting you ride 95-second waves of fun, fiery jams down the curling pipeline of frothy sonic surf.
Listen: DevilFish - Night Demon
A little bit of this and that from 2011 and into 2012 for local music:
Quirky computer-led pop-re-inventors Crappy Future put up a series of singles on their bandcamp, streaming here. An album is coming together, steadily, but only when the band -- made up of members of Bars of Gold and Matthew Dear's touring ensemble -- find the time.
Legendary gothic-garage/bubblegum-spook-pop purveyor Troy Gregory released a bevy of 1-minute songs online this summer, along with almost everything else he's recorded over the last five years. Find the sweet séances of the melody-heavy haunts here - You can also find Gregory's full-length album Gretyl as well as a new single from his flagship rock band The Witches.
Johnny Headband are working towards an early 2012 release of their most realized work to date, the Who Cooks For You LP - but you can stream/download the lead single "Over There" from their SoundCloud page, as well as view the video, via their Vimeo page.
And don't forget the cassettes! Yes, you can find a lot of the albums listed above in your local record shops, be they or UHF. But, next time Ferndale's spacey dream-pop quintet Computer Perfection plays a local show, accost them for the tape-wound EP Merry Microbes - streaming here.
Speaking of cassettes, Ferndale-based experimental noise-rock composer Adam Pierce has his own label, Nary Press, for that specific medium, through which he's released works of his band, the provocative post-rock trio Mother Whale. That said, Mother Whale will release a brand new album within the next few weeks, making it a candidate for any 2011 list. Find out from Lo & Behold Publications.
And I can't forget about Red China - not-so-distant cousins to Mother Whale in that particular realm of avant-garde, improvisational, psychedelic music, but perhaps even much more detached and strident. The mutated jazz-punk meditations of this year's long awaited Wax Ocean pulls apart preconceived notions of structure.