It’s a well-known fact that albums make great Christmas gifts. When giving music, though, it can often be hard to pin down exactly what artist or album your friend/relative/lover might like. You don’t want to give them something they already have, and if you want to give the joy of local music, it’s difficult to sort through all the bands out there and figure out which ones to pick. You could listen to a thousand local bands you’ve never heard of, or you could check out our foolproof recommendations below. Want to hear before you buy? Check out our handy Spotify playlist to be sure your purchasing tunes your Michigan music lover will dig.
The opening track to this year’s What Wonder is this Universe! starts with gentle acoustic guitar picking and picks up with reverb-drenched harmonies; the listener can immediately identify the Fleet Foxes influence. Elsewhere, the band shows its influences ranging from Z-era My Morning Jacket to some of the more experimental Wilco stuff. Luckily, The Soil and the Sun never stick to one sound too long, using a wide range of instruments and multiple singers to diversify their sound. Unlike their previous releases, I found myself engaged and enjoying the record as it flows well from one song to the next.
For fans of: Fleet Foxes, My Morning Jacket, lots of instruments
Does someone on your list love music best described as “uncategorizable”? Or perhaps you know someone who loves world music. Either way, Orpheum Bell is your best shot to please them this holiday season. Hailing from Ann Arbor, the band plays what they call “Country & Eastern” music—a amalgamation of western styles and eastern instrumentation. Banjos bump up against horns, and ukuleles, xylophones, glockenspiels, mandolins, pump organs, accordions, and the shepherd harp all find their way onto the album. Imagine a mariachi band covering a country song sung by Tom Waits and a girl in Lebanon. It might sound something like Orpheum Bell.
For fans of: Calexico, Beirut, world music
The Hounds Below lead singer Jason Stollsteimer used to front Detroit garage rock band the Von Bondies who gained fame thanks to their 2003 song “C’mon C’mon” which was featured as the theme song to the television show “Rescue Me.” The Hounds Below do not sound like the Von Bondies, trading the fuzzed-out guitars and Roy Orbison-aping vocals for a large dose of stadium-ready echo. The result is likable rock songs played with a sense of grandeur.
For fans of: Arcade Fire, Kings of Leon circa “Only by the Night,” Detroit radio station 89X
Alexis is a dance-pop band from Grand Rapids. They are exactly what you would expect from the words dance-pop, and it’s great. I’m not normally one for music where the lead instrument is synthesizers, but Alexis make catchy, fun music. At times recalling the synth-pop of the 80’s while referencing more modern dance and pop music, Alexis succeed at not sounding cheesy in a predominately cheesy genre of music. Make sure to check out their spectacular live show.
For fans of: Dancing, having a good time
The Crane Wives’ sophomore album The Fool in Her Wedding Gown is a staff favorite and a great step forward for the young folk rock band…Jetpack On!’s self-titled 2010 release is a solid rock album…Travelin’ Machine, this year’s release from Ann Arbor’s The Ragbirds pinballs between Allison Krauss-like bluegrass and Graceland-era Paul Simon to make for a fun, buoyant listen…Lansing’s Elliot Street Lunatic released Ghost Town Lullabies this year. With the loud guitars, soaring choruses, and frantic drumming, GTL would make the perfect stocking stuffer for anyone who loves the last two blink-182 albums…If you know someone who loves sitting in Starbucks to listen to music, try Gun Lake’s Balfour.
~Jake Cagle, Feature Writer[button link=”https://www.awesomemitten.com/food-2/awesome-mitten-crate-michigan-made-gifts/” size=”large” target=”_blank”]Send a crate of Michigan Made products to your loved ones for Christmas this year. Check out The Awesome Mitten Crate! Click for details.[/button]