On April 18, Howellpalooza will make its return to Howell High School after a two year hiatus. Howellpalooza is an annual event that showcases the many talents of the students here at HHS. This consists of the Howell High colorguard, twirlers, jazz band, the percussion ensemble, music seminar students, Classicality, Calamity, and some individually talented students who want to have their moment in the spotlight. The event will take place in the auditorium at 7 p.m, and band director Mr. Jason Smigell assures that it’s “not your typical band concert.”
The color guard and the twirlers are back with some new music mixes and even better routines. Both groups are very enthusiastic about appearing one last time for the 2012/2013 season.
“Our routine is going to be amazing, and I’m so excited to be able to perform again, but it’s also the last time for me which is upsetting. I just hope we’ll be able to blow the crowd away,” senior twirler Lisa Robinson says about her last performance.
Percussion ensemble announced that they’re going to perform two songs called “Brooms Hilda” and “Diner’s Club” from Stomp! Many are familiar with that percussionist group, who used brooms and trashcans as instruments and made complex rhythms and styles come alive. The HHS percussion ensemble is excited to be continuing the tradition. They will also be including a traditional song called “Power Struggle”.
Sophomore Katie Ray is delighted that she gets to be involved in Howellpalooza with the percussion ensemble this year.
“Since I was a freshman last year and we decided not to do Howellpalooza, this is going to be my first year! I’m so excited to see how it turns out,” Ray says. Unfortunately due to lack of time, Howellpalooza was not able to happen last year.
Jazz band will be playing two songs called “Caravan” and “Foul Play”. “Caravan” is a classic Duke Ellington jazz song, while “Foul Play” has a lot more funk and contrast.
The music seminar students are practicing diligently for their chance to play in front of a larger crowd than what they’re used to at the school. Seniors Nick Bell, James Krager, and Chris Niendorf are more than motivated to be put under the spotlight.
“I’m not too nervous, I think it’ll be a great opportunity to play for a larger audience,” Niendorf says.
“It gives us a chance to get our band’s name out there in case they like our sound,” says junior David Day about playing at Howellpalooza for the first time with his music seminar band.
Howellpalooza is going to be a night to remember with a good contrast of talents for all tastes. All of the acts have been working hard to put on a wonderful and worthwhile show, and they all urge that it’s not one to miss.
Most seniors tend to take easier classes their last year of high school, giving themselves an easy load to finish off the twelve years that have started to drag. For senior Sarah Kenney, this doesn’t seem to be the case.
“I don’t have any spare time,” she laughs as she brushes her hair back behind her ear and pauses for a moment. “No, I really don’t.”
While blow-off classes are tempting for the last semester of school, Kenney’s schedule consists of just the opposite. AP English, AP Comparative Government, AP Statistics, and Spanish IV make up her core classes, plus Wind Ensemble (the school’s advanced band).
“My only easy class is Anatomy,” she says with another laugh. Kenney also participates in We the People, and will be participating in the national competition in April.
Kenney’s main focus is music. She has played trombone for seven years and is second chair in Wind Ensemble. She played a trombone solo at District Solo & Ensemble last month and got a 1 (the highest possible score), which qualified her to go to states, at which she got a 1 again.
“I want people to know that I’m into music before they know anything else,” says Kenney.
Kenney’s loaded class schedule is not without cause. She will be attending Michigan State University in the fall, where she’ll be majoring in Political Science: Pre-Law. “I don’t know what I’ll do. I could be a paralegal, and then a lawyer, and then maybe run for office. I’ll probably end up a lawyer though.”
MSU will also offer her a chance to audition for the marching band, which she’ll do in June.
Though senior year is a time when it’s easy for a student to zone out and lay low, Sarah Kenney is still going strong and ready to embrace her future.
When people typically think of a marching band, they think of a bunch of musicians dressed in quirky outfits parading on the football fields during halftime at each football game. Some see the marching band as a form of entertainment; others see the band as a group of dedicated musical performers. There are those who take the role of being in a marching band very seriously, and just recently discoveries have been made that there are some participants whose hearts are not fully invested in the sport, due to prior complications and “forced agreements.”
American sportswriter and novelist Frank Deford released a commentary on NPR on March 13 called “School Bands Should Not Be Entertainment Adjunct For Sports”, where he addressed the issue of high school students being forced to join marching band against their own will. He brought up the case of Lisa Chismire, the parent of a high school band student in Pennsylvania. Being a former lawyer, Chismire was irked when her student had to join the marching band at the school in order to be a part of the rest of the musical programs. Chismire found it to be appalling, and she took the issue to court. As anyone would have guessed because of her prior experience in law, she won the debate and got the school to change its policy on students who are interested in becoming a part of the music program, whether it be marching band or a concert band of sorts.
Even though that Pennsylvania high school changed its policy, a good portion of high schools across the nation still have that marching band requirement tied to their band programs. Being a participant in the marching band program here at HHS, I’ve come to find out that a good majority of the high schools here in Michigan require their musicians to participate in marching band as well as another music course in order to do either of them. Howell is not one of those schools. Here at HHS being in the marching band is an opportunity that students can choose to take. Students in the band program can take just marching band, just a concert band, or both. Sometimes being in the marching band can interfere with work, sports, and personal schedules; other times it can just be out of one’s element.
The HHS marching band has 125 members this year, making it one of the largest the school has ever had. Being in marching band involves attending the summer band camp in August, participating in the home football games, taking part in local parades, and playing at the occasional pep assembly. Ask any of us “bandos” and we’ll tell you that joining marching band voluntarily has been one of the best decisions ever made. With the choice of joining comes discipline, pride, a sense of unity, and a feeling of belonging, which only come from dedicated students participating.
Senior Julia Viel looks back on her experiences with the HHS marching fondly, saying, “I’m so happy I ended up joining the marching band. I never knew what I was missing out on until I actually attended a rehearsal. I love the dedication and the discipline, and I’m definitely going to miss it!”
On the flipside, at some other schools, the students involved in the marching band sometimes feel as if the requirement is too much. Brian Ferro, a high school senior from Forest Hills Eastern in Grand Rapids, has been a part of his high school’s marching band for four years now.
“I have been playing the saxophone since middle school, and I obviously wanted to keep the tradition going in high school, so I signed up for high school band and later found out I was automatically put into the marching band program as well and it kind of threw me for a loop. It’s tough trying to maintain my grades, a job, jazz band, concert band, and marching band, but eventually I grew to love it anyway. Sometimes though, I wish I still had a choice.” Ferro explained.
In response to the Deford commentary as well as Chismire’s actions taken against the school, some parents and dedicated marching band members have expressed their concerns against having marching band become a choice rather than a requirement. Since many schools in the country have very serious competing marching bands, some schools find it completely necessary to have marching band become a requirement in order to acquire enough members to compete. HHS marching band is not competitive, which is another reason why marching band is a choice; we don’t take it to that level.
An anonymous person replied to the online commentary disagreeing with Chismire saying, “The majority of our trips are to marching competitions, which have nothing to do with football (other than the “other” activity that happens before and after our show Friday night). There are few other activities where hundreds of students can move as one body. A concert band simply can’t accommodate 300 students like a marching band can. A sports team CERTAINLY can’t. This experience is valuable to a student.”
All in all, from my personal experiences as well as the majority of the marching band members, we believe that participating in marching band should remain a choice. We see it as a sport with a team involved, just as any other athlete would. As we all know and come to find out, if a team member’s heart isn’t fully invested in the sport, then why are they there in the first place? A team works best when every member wants to be there and wants to take action. By making marching band a choice instead of a requirement, it would allow more success to be made and the performances would be better because the participants would actually want to partake in the wondrous thing that is marching band.
If nothing else, Spring Break is a promise of freedom: freedom from school, freedom from work, and, if you’re not me, freedom to travel to someplace warmer. Regardless of where you’re going or what you’re doing, these songs should help you create lasting, sunny memories.
“Diane Young” – Vampire Weekend
As the first single off of acclaimed New York outfit Vampire Weekend’s first album in three years, “Diane Young” had a lot to live up to. The band’s signature baroque sensibilities are ever-present, but it’s the un-Vampire Weekend touches – the Elvis-like vocal distortion, the horns and the punchy, frenetic drums – that slingshots “Diane Young” far beyond its already high expectations, making it an unusual modern-day rockabilly classic.
“Lust for Life” – Girls
“Oh, I wish I had a suntan / I wish I had a pizza and a bottle of wine / I wish I had a beach house / Then we could make a big fire every night”. Like the great pop bands of the 1960s, San Francisco’s Girls understood the timelessness and power of simple chord progressions combined with catchy hooks. Nowhere is this mastery more evident than on “Lust for Life”, a compulsively catchy surf rock jam laced with handclaps and ‘ba ba ba da da da’s.
“Always Alright” – Alabama Shakes
In an age where alternative music is increasingly characterized by irony and pretension, Alabama Shakes is a cozy, unassuming breath of fresh air. “Always Alright”, which was featured on the soundtrack to Silver Linings Playbook, is in keeping with the band’s trademark roots sound: up-tempo drums, richly layered guitar melodies, and plucky bass provide a backdrop for Brittany Howard’s soulful vocals. The end result is a cheeky ode to late night carelessness.
“What I Got” – Sublime
In the early 1990s, Sublime was little more than a ragtag band of Southern Californian misfits. Their unique blend of ska, punk, reggae, and hip-hop – along with their pet Dalmation and mascot, Lou Dog – had earned them a sizable cult following, but it wasn’t until 1996’s Sublime that the group received critical and commercial attention. Lead singer Bradley Nowell tragically died two months before the album’s release, but “What I Got” stands as a shimmering, effortlessly chill testimony to good weather and good vibes.
“Fashion Killa” – A$AP Rocky
Rap music is no stranger to subjects like excessive materialism and high-class women, but few emcees treat them with more gleeful tongue-in-cheek wit than A$AP Rocky. On this track off his debut album, A$AP effortlessly rhymes “Dolce and Gabbana” with “Balenciaga” and describes his ideal woman as “jiggy like Madonna, but trippy like Nirvana”, all over one of 2012’s most luxurious beats.
“Low Shoulder (Daytrotter Session)” – Toro Y Moi
It’s easy to forget how talented a singer and musician Chazwick Bundick – alias Toro y Moi – really is. His production and DJing skills are virtually unchallenged, yes, but his dreamy, distorted style can occasionally mask some otherwise excellent songwriting. Such is the case with “Low Shoulder” – though the original has its bright spots, more often than not it just feels muddied. This live Daytrotter recording strips “Low Shoulder” down to its bare bones, revealing a jazzy, refreshingly vulnerable tune.
“Closer” – Tegan and Sara
Canadian twins Tegan and Sara Quin have been indie rock darlings for over a decade now, but the release of 2013’s “Heartthrob” found them finally embracing their propensity for pop music. The album’s first track, “Closer”, is arguably the duo’s most successful foray into radio: sleek synthesizer riffs, lilting vocals, and a shout-along chorus bring Tegan and Sara into the limelight without eschewing their talent and years of experience.
“Shuffle” – Bombay Bicycle Club
The practice of juxtaposing dark lyrics with buoyant instrumentation is one of the music industry’s best-kept secrets, and rarely is it as seamless as Bombay Bicycle Club’s “Shuffle”. Plucky piano chords and a rollicking bass line disguise the song’s theme of addiction, but even when bits of singer-songwriter Jack Steadman’s true intentions shine through – his English accent slurring thickly as he proclaims, “you can make it through it” – the overall feeling is one of hope.
There’s no arguing that the local music scene in Howell is back in full swing thanks to the efforts of the Livingston Underground movement, officially launched last fall. Local students and residents are forming bands and playing whenever they get the chance, and fans are able to attend quality, diverse shows in their own communities upwards of three to four times a month.
While access to live music has been a great perk, this resurgence has carried into other areas as well. More and more bands are heading to recording studios and releasing EPs, with some even producing full-length albums. Due to the sheer number of bands located in Livingston County, new music is released as steadily and consistently as the shows themselves. With a number of bands in each genre imaginable, there’s something for everyone.
Hung Up is one up-and-coming band to have recently released an EP. The band labels itself as alternative/pop punk, and their self-titled first release definitely proves itself to fall in that category with its catchy lyrics and infectious riffs. Alex Hathaway, vocalist and guitarist, hopes that that the album is accessible to all who listen.
“We hope that our songs give people a sense of nostalgia and also bring back old feelings
or memories that they have experienced before. The songs on the EP aren’t super deep but almost everyone can relate to every song,” says Hathaway.
The release show, which was at the Howell Opera House earlier this March, was one of the best attended in recent memory. Attendees all praised the welcoming and overall positive atmosphere. With a band who believes in the local scene as strongly as Hung Up does, it’s not hard to believe.
“The music scene is always willing to accept anyone no matter how different they are and it’s something consistently fun to do that kids can look forward to throughout the week at school,” says Hathaway.
Another local band who recently hit the studio is Alaska. This four piece group, composed of area graduates Blake Hatherley, John Galubensky, Thomas DeVoy, and Logan Boyle, falls closer to the indie rock end of the spectrum. Citing influences from Manchester Orchestra to Have Heart, every song is a little bit different. Yet, the band’s sound as a whole is very cohesive and shows much technical and creative skill.
The band released their first EP, entitled “The Wild Things EP,” has not yet had a dedicated release show, but is already making rounds throughout the Internet world. The album has three songs, all of which have different back stories. “Where the Wild Things Are” focuses on the common theme of life on one’s own, while “Settle My Nerve” shows the aftermath of a lost love and attempting to move on.
Logan Boyle, the triple threat of the band who plays guitar, vocals, and keys, cites the third song “Avenue 731” as his most recommended song on the album.
“Lyrically and musically it better represents our band and our sound… [it’s] about the struggles of a bad home life,” says Boyle.
Boyle also emphasizes the importance of the local music scene, stating “[it’s] a very tight group of people. You definitely feel like you are a part of a family and any high school student who thoroughly enjoys music I feel would enjoy local music just as much.”
Small Parks is one of the most newly formed but functioning bands in the area at less than a year old, but already has a following larger than many long-established bands ever dream of. They cite their genre as being a mashup between indie, emo, and punk, but even those three labels can’t fully encompass all of their sound.
Their first album, entitled “Meet Me in Cognito,” is set to release April 13th at the Loft in Lansing, but one track was released as part of a sampler via Triple Deke Records. James Radick, vocalist and guitarist, says that the track “Parallel Thoughts” is his most recommended track.
“’Parallel Thoughts’ is a good example of the type of music we make. It was the last song we wrote for the EP, and I feel like the last song written on any music releases is the most indicative of where a band is, and where they’re going,” says Radick.
The album is emotional and full of lyrics so deeply personal that it wouldn’t seem that they could be applicable to anyone’s life but the band’s- and yet, they are.
“I always want people to connect to our music on some level – hopefully on an emotional one. This whole EP is very angsty and romantic (or anti-romantic), and I feel like a lot of people go through those types of feelings. Hopefully people can listen to a song instead of doing something stupid,” says Radick.
The band is one of the strongest supporters of the Livingston Underground, with its members being driving forces in the relaunch of the movement. “You get a really good chance to meet new people and make incredible friends. Literally every close friend that I have I have met through music. People who support local and independent music have similar mindsets, generally, and that leads to close bonds and incredible conversations,” says Radick.
These three releases are only a small sample of the music being produced in Livingston County, let alone the greater Michigan area. For more information, see http://livingston-underground.com and check out posts by the bands and see how you can get involved.
Describing himself as being “calm, cool, and collected”, senior Cameron Pratt strives to be as nice as possible and to treat people with respect. However, he also finds enjoyment in playing music.
“I’d figure it’d be something fun to do,” says Pratt. “It ended up becoming a big part of my life.
His newfound passion for music started when he was in sixth grade. Wanting to try something new in his life, he decided to join band, a choice he would soon learn to love.
Right now he plays the trombone and is first chair in the wind ensemble band class. He has been first chair since his junior year, after the trombone player next to him graduated from high school.
“Being first chair fulfills a lot of leadership skills and requires a lot of responsibility,” says Pratt.
When Pratt was in eighth grade, he had the option of adding more music into his life, when the Howell High School marching band visited Highlander Way Middle School and allowed interested band students to perform with them during a high school football game pre-show. They do this almost every year. Finding it very fun, Pratt decided to join.
He describes that the best part about being in the marching band was all the friends he made while attending band camp every summer. At his last trip, he actually won a marching competition that they hold there. The whole point of the competition was for the marching students to follow commands that were shouted to them. While in the last round, with only sixteen left, Pratt was the only one to follow what seemed to be a hard command and ended up winning first place.
“I couldn’t believe it,” said Pratt with a smile. “I actually won. It felt good, especially since it was my last year.”
When it comes to music he likes to play, Pratt says it’s hard to pick. This musician is fond of playing everything. This is also true for the music he listens to when he isn’t playing his designated music.
Apart from band, Pratt also enjoys spending time with friends and family. He has two older brothers, Derek and Jarod, with whom he has a close relationship. Although they live lives of their own, he gets to see them and talk to them fairly often.
When it comes to his friends, he often plays Magic the Gathering with them, a hobby he picked up about three years ago.
“I like this game because it involves mental strategy and is always changing,” said Pratt.
After high school, he plans on attending Saginaw Valley State University. Although he isn’t sure exactly what he wants to go into, he will keep music a part of his life by being in the marching band there.
Whatever he decides to do, nothing can keep him from his true passion – playing music. He considers it his life and tends to keep it that way.
“I would say the best part of band is being able to work in a tight-knit group, having creative power, and being able to be so expressive,” says Pratt.
On March 18, 19, and 20, a total of six choirs from Howell High School, accompanied by director, Rod Bushey, are taking a field trip to Waterford Kettering and Walled Lake Western, where they will meet up with other high school choirs from across Michigan to participate in the 2013 Choir Festival, hosted by the Michigan School Vocal Music Association (MSVMA).
Each choir has been working on two songs since the beginning of the school year that they will be performing in front of a number of judges at the festival. They will be scored on a scale, Superior being the highest rank, on the two pieces they perform. From there they will be tested on their sight-reading skills. The choir will get a piece of music that they have never seen before and they will be required to sing each note in tune and as a unit. The choirs will also get an opportunity to go to a clinic where they will receive feedback and advice from one of the judges.
“Festival is a great experience. It gives us a chance to work with different conductors and it helps us improve our choir,” says Highlander Choral member, Kaitlynn Cortez.
“I really enjoy getting to spend some time with my choir and performing as one unit, one family. We all work really hard to get ready for festival, and it’s awesome to be able to perform our hard work. I am super excited to simply perform with my ensemble and attempt to score the best we can, “says choir member and junior, Annie Bock.
Howell High School will be hosting a pre-festival concert on March 14 in the auditorium. The choirs will get a chance to practice performing their two songs for festival in front of their family and anyone else who chooses to attend.
“Festival really helps the kids focus at another level. They’re going to be singing in front of other schools and judges. It really motivates them to put their best foot forward,” says Mr. Bushey.
The HHS drama department will be presenting Fiddler on the Roof on March 8, 9 and 10. This performance will be including theater students as well as the band students. All of the music needed for this play will be performed by the pit orchestra. The 17 musical students either volunteered or were recruited. Band teacher, Mr. Jason Smigell, is the music director of the play.
“The pit is a very taxing job for students,” Smigell says.
The music the pit will be performing is the same music performed by professionals so the students must work very hard to get the music right. “The musical is a challenge because it is so long. It is probably the longest concert they will ever do unless they play another pit,” Smigell says.
The students are the only ones playing in the pit besides Mrs. Diane Ives, the piano accompanier. “We wouldn’t be able to do it without her,” Smigell says.
The first piece the pit will be playing is the song “Tradition”, which most agree is the hardest piece out of the whole musical. “It freaked us out at first,” Smigell says.
Cameron Pratt is a senior at HHS and trombone player in the pit. “This is my second pit. I was in Brigadoon last year,” Pratt says. Pratt really enjoys when his hard work is worth it. “The performance is the best part. It’s really nice to see our hard work pay off,” Pratt says.
Charley Garlock, a sophomore and flute player in pit, also played in Brigadoon last year and Fiddler will be her second pit. Unlike others in the pit Garlock will be switching instruments. “I switch instruments from the flute to the piccolo,” Garlock says.
Garlock is also the youngest player on first part. “I am the only sophomore on first part and I’ve been on it for two years,” Garlocks says. Garlock has been in band for five years now and plans to keep up her band career for the future.
Mr. Smigell is really proud of all his students in pit. “The kids in pit are very serious and highly motivated students,” Smigell says.
Renee Augustyn, a senior at HHS, is very excited for the pit. “We’re anxious to see how it turns out,” Augustyn says. Augustyn really likes the environment that pit has and how friendly everyone is. She also likes the play compared to some of the musicals last year. “Fiddler is more ethnically diverse than Brigadoon,” Augustyn says.
Everyone involved in the Fiddler pit is eager to perform after all of their hard work and dedication. Any musical put on at HHS needs both the acting talent as well as the musical talent to make every musical successful. Although the audience cannot see the pit during the performance it’s essential to realize the importance of the pit to the play and all of the students’ hard work.
“I’m very grateful to be able to work in the pit the second year in a row, and I am determined to be in the pit the rest of my high school career,” Garlock says.
- Jeff Pianki (Milford) Jeff Pianki is the kind of artist who can make anyone nostalgic for their first lost love, quiet winter nights by the fire, and memories often otherwise forgotten. His songs are self written and recorded, often featuring voices and instruments from a flurry of other musician friends. He not only sings and plays the guitar, but also the harmonica and a delightful mixture of other folk instruments. Milford born and raised, he has played shows all across the state in such locations as a boat brought up to land on Thompson Lake to the Loft in Lansing. Simply playing solo with his guitar in his lap and harmonica strapped around his neck, he is able to silence and hypnotize an entire room within a single song.
- Tiger! Tiger! (Brighton) This self-proclaimed “emo indie rock” band has been making waves in Livingston County since their formation in 2008, both as the original band and solo project that the lead singer and founder, Scott Nelson, carried when the original members left the band. However, it was not until their reformation in late 2011 that these waves turned into a driving force all of Michigan has gotten behind. They release new music almost continuously, with their most recent physical release being a 7” record entitled “I Salsa Your Face.” They tour as often as they can, and rarely go more than a week or so without playing a show. Their most well loved and popular song, entitled “Hayford”, often ends with a circle of fans onstage singing along.
- Small Parks (Lansing) Small Parks is a new band, having been around for only a few months, but is already in the upper ring of Michigan bands. Composed of past members of noted bands Good Weather for Airstrikes, Little American Champ, and A Big Crash, their fan base is already triple the size of what could be expected of any newly formed group. Their sound is similar to that of the bands its members used to belong to; that is, experimental with heavy post-rock influence. They have yet to release an album or EP, but one is expected to be released within the first few months of this year.
- Fanboy (Howell) Livingston County used to be a Mecca for ska enthusiasts, but the scene has dwindled down to virtual abandon over the last several years. During this decline, these bands moved away to become part of the national scene or broke up completely. The reunion of one of these old favorites, Fanboy, may not mark the return of a long gone genre in the bigger picture, but their music delights both old and new audiences alike. Adamant supporters of the local music scene and Michigan music as a whole, they have been quoted as saying their goal is to “take [listeners] back to the days when music was rock and remind [them] every band needs a horn section.”
- Hampshire (Livonia) Whether you’re listening to Hampshire alone through your headphones or seeing them live for a crowd of a hundred people, you are sure to be instantly hooked on their catchy yet beautiful melodies. Their lyrics are sincere and relatable while still retaining originality. Their stage presence is subtle, but very refined- they are obviously skilled and comfortable sharing their music. “Spring, Sit Beside Me” is their most recent release and is regarded as their strongest to date. “Kurt and Courtney” is their most popular song, and it’s not hard to figure out why- the tale of passionate love and a tender relationship is as sweet as it is honest.
- Giraffe Attack (Brighton) In the current musical world, “local hip hop” can often seem like an oxymoron due to the regression of said genre into a popularized mess. It is bands like Giraffe Attack, though, that completely turn this stereotype on its head. Giraffe Attack released their first album in 2010, and their shows at the Opera House and other venues are often said to be unparalleled in their energy. Mack Doyle, the lead vocalist for the group, has been a huge supporter of the Livingston Underground music scene since its original run half a decade ago. That isn’t to say they haven’t done any larger shows- this past summer they opened up for the nationally acclaimed act, Flobots, where they were able to show the world what hip hop is all about.
- Joe Hertler and the Rainbow Seekers (Lansing) When the members of a band come out draped in American flags, flowers in their hair, and instruments ranging from guitars and violas to harmonicas and broomsticks, it’s reasonable to fear that the band is more about being showy than putting on a good show. With Joe Hertler and the Rainbow Seekers, this is far from the case. They almost transcend genre, with the closest explanation of their music a mashup between soul, folk, and home-grown rock and roll. Their songs give away their rich Michigan heritage, by means of lyrics and titles. Most notably of these include “Ego Loss on Grand River Avenue” and the old favorite “welcome to michigan.”
- Midwest (Fenton) Midwest has the mastery required to share the stage with such noted acts as The Swellers and Pentimento, while still retaining all of the grittiness of a band that plays house shows several times a year and includes hand written lyric sheets with every album sold. While they do classify themselves as pop punk, they definitely fall on the harder, more aggressive end of that spectrum. With experienced band members from a wide assortment of past projects, their music carries many influences diverse in both degree and genre. The band is still relatively young in terms of when it was created, but already set up great plans for the future with the following needed to make them come to life.
- Sunlight Ascending (Detroit) If ever there was a band that could singlehandedly prove that music was more than just its lyrics, it is Sunlight Ascending. The band is composed of four members, and their ambient experimental post-rock sound is complex and enchanting. Their music speaks for itself- while it is assumed that they would also write good lyrics, they don’t need them to be successful. This also makes them unique in the local music scene. They are currently gearing up to release a new album on both CD and vinyl, which was made possible by a surprisingly wildly successful Kickstarter fund. They are supported and closely followed by a large circle of other Michigan bands, including the now disbanded Good Weather for Airstrikes.
- Empire! Empire! (I was a lonely estate) (Fenton) Empire! Empire! is a husband and wife duo that has been creating and releasing music together since 2007. They have released an astonishing number of albums over the years, the large majority of which are splits and compilations with other similar artists from across the country. They fall into the large category of “emo rock”, albeit the softer, more indie subcategory of such. On their website, they site national acts Death Cab for Cutie and American Football as their inspirations, and these claims are obvious in all of their releases. Empire! Empire! has worked with a large number of agents during their assorted releases over the years, but their style remains consistent and very clearly their own.
This year seems to be the year of country music. Three of the top country artists, Blake Shelton, Scotty McCreery, and Lady Antebellum, released Christmas albums this year. They all feature twangy country covers of Christmas classics that we all know and love, and all feature at least one new original Christmas song from the artist.
Scotty McCreery’s album, Christmas With Scotty McCreery, has 11 songs, including two new songs, “Christmas In Heaven” and “Christmas Comin Round Again”. The latter describes different family situations and how Christmas brings out the love in all of them. “Christmas In Heaven” is a beautiful song about, well, exactly what the title says. The lyrics about a lost loved one show maturity on McCreery’s part. McCreery’s doesn’t stray too far from the originals on songs such as “Let It Snow”, “First Noel”, and “O Holy Night”. McCreery’s personality shines through in the upbeat songs, “Jingle Bells”, “Holly Jolly Christmas”, and he channels his inner Elvis on “Santa Claus Is Back In Town”. Every song is delivered with the deep Southern drawl we came to love in his American Idol performances.
Lady Antebellum’s On This Winter’s Night features one original song, the title track, and a variety of covers. The title track, a slow Christmas ballad featuring a children’s choir, could easily become a new classic. The group takes very few risks on the album, except on their cover of “Blue Christmas”, which they put an upbeat, twangy twist on. The album is very strong vocally and features a lot of piano and guitar, in addition to faint jingle bells in songs such as “Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)”.
Last but not least is Blake Shelton’s Cheers, It’s Christmas, which leads the pack with four new songs, and a Christmas rendition of Michael Bublé’s “Home” featuring Bublé on the track. The songs also features a variety of other stars that Shelton duets with, including his wife, Miranda Lambert, and her group Pistol Annies. One of the songs, “Time For Me To Come Home”, features Shelton’s mother. She also helped co-write the song. “Santa’s Got A Choo Choo Train” is a fun, upbeat song the whole family can enjoy. “Oklahoma Christmas” featuring Reba is an instant country classic. The last original, “The Very Best Time Of Year”, talks about everything that makes Christmas great, and has a hints of Christmas classics mixed into the lyrics. Shelton puts an original country twist on all of his covers of classics, such as “Jingle Bell Rock” and “Winter Wonderland”.
While there may be many country Christmas albums out there, the ones out this year are especially great. They have great covers of all the classics and new songs that have a high chance of becoming someone’s new favorite holiday song. So if you love country music, which we know most Howell High School students do, hop on iTunes and download these festive new albums.