Farewell, 2014. There was plenty of vapid, fleeting pop music dominating the mainstream (Sam Smith, Ed Sheeran and, of course, Taylor Swift). But, then, there were some fantastic breakthroughs in the genres of hip-hop (Run The Jewels, Future, YG,) as well as women rising to the fore of indie/punk-rock genres (Ex Hex, Perfect Pussy…and don’t forget Sleater-Kinney’s back next month).
But you can shuffle your way through more than a dozen twitter updates to find a slew of other music journo’s take on the year that was…
I’m only here to continue a five part series of throwing as big of a spotlight as we can muster on the year’s releases from local artists.
With the ninth annual Mittenfest Music Festival coming up next weekend (Jan 1- Jan 4 @The Blind Pig,) I scrolled through the 40-band-strong lineup to find the names who’d happened to release some of my favorite albums of 2014. Mittenfest is a beloved tradition for the Arbor/Ypsi scene, drawing in bands from Grand Rapids, Kzoo, Detroit, Chicago and even further, to align for four nights of music thrumming with benevolent vibes and tacit nods of appreciation for a tight-knit music community. Mittenfest’s proceeds benefit 826Michigan our regional chapter of the nationwide nonprofit educating local students in expository and creative writing.
For the full line up and further information, click: https://mittenfest.org
Now, let’s listen to some of the featured performers who had albums out in 2014:
Maraj ~ Voyager
An impressive indie-hip-hop seven piece born in the verdantly creative and eclectic Double Helix collective out of Kalamazoo. Dual MC’s spitting impassioned bars over ebullient and funky bass, trippy synthesizer’s melodic, looping emanations, and a blend of percussive effects and hard-hitting sequenced beats. They just released a new song online last week, if you’re interested: https://soundcloud.com/marajmaraj/love
Below, we’re streaming our favorite from their album Voyager, a blend of psychedelic-lounge pop, space-rock gospel and galvanizing raps.
Listen: “and Danks”
Maraj perform at Mittenfest on Thur, Jan 1 at 11 PM
Congress ~Single (split w/Green Lights)
Then there’s Congress…They seemed to break out upon the scene as this fully realized melding of Fugazi and Wire, intricately woven guitar onslaughts over hooky rhythms to form a gnarlier indie-rock as well as a groovier punk onslaught, with poetic/cryptic/sing-speak-scream vocals.
Listen: “Dead Parrot”
Congress perform at Mittenfest on Saturday, Jan 3, at 11 PM
The Go Rounds ~ Some Other Time
Soulful alt-rock and twanged-out, reverb-smattered Americana, The Go-Rounds run the gamut from head-banging, boogie-able blues stormers to show-stopping, butane-torch waving folk ballads. On this track, Graham Parson’s dulcet-toned voice gets a bit of grit from the distortion while the breakdown in the middle finds swagger beats matching the hooky guitars’ staccato riffage.
Listen: “Pack Mule”
The Go-Rounds perform at Mittenfest on Sun, Jan 4 at 8:45 PM
Child Sleep ~ Distortions
I only specify this as an honorable mention because I’ve been keeping to a theme here of spotlighting bands on the Mittenfest lineup who also had a new album out this year… That said, the excellent Distortions came out in late 2013 and since I haven’t yet written about the Ypsi-based indie-rock outfit here on the Weekly What’s Up, I’m more than willing to sneak it onto the 2014 list. Besides, they’re kicking off the whole festival, essentially, by playing the very first slot on the very first day and we hope to encourage everyone to be there early and experience every band’s performance. I mentioned Sleater-Kinney earlier, so any fans of jagged-yet-melodic merge of post-grunge grime, punching percussion and sunnier melodies strung by a gliding, gossamer lead vocal.
Child Sleep perform at Mittenfest on Thurs, Jan 1 at 8 PM
Mittenfest admission on each of the four days is a $10 minimum donation (18+)
The Blind Pig is located at 208 N. 1st Street – 734-996-8555
4-day passes available here as part of a donation to 826michigan: https://www.brownpapertickets.com/event/875940
Mittenfest support to 826Michigan over the past few years has helped raise over $100,000 to support the organization’s educational programming and outreach.