Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Unnamed Record Feature: Punching Bee Music: Volume One

If there’s any gripe we at JHaJ have fielded multiple times in our eight-plus months on the Internet, it’s this: Why do you guys only cover bands from Detroit and Ann Arbor? My usual response to this is “Check the band links,” and if you do that, you’ll find that while the majority of our favorites do hail from those aforementioned cultural hubs, but we do provide passage to the MySpace pages of bands that spell “home” “M-o-u-n-t P-l-e-a-s-a-n-t,” “E-a-s-t L-a-n-s-i-n-g,” “A-l-p-e-n-a” and “M-a-r-q-u-e-t-t-e.”

Still, our particular living arrangements do lend themselves to a bit of geographic bias, so it’s with great pleasure that I allow the Punching Bee Music: Volume One compilation to usher in the JHaJ’s reimagining of the record review.

Quick history lesson: Punching Bee is a collective of over 30 musicians from Grand Rapids that came together in 2005, operating under the following credo: “Coming from our homes. Playing with our hearts. Buzzing in your ears.” You may have read something we’ve written about stage-packing indie-pop cutie-pies The Mighty Narwhale — they’re Punching Bees. You may have seen that Jes Kramer is playing ELFest — she’s a Punching Bee, too. But that accounts for less than a third of the collective’s membership, so let’s meet a few of the other bands, with the help of Punching Bee Music: Volume One.

Matt Ten Clay — Good Lord
Grand Rapids is notorious for being a conservative Christian hotbed — this is the city that spit out Dick DeVos — so it didn’t surprise me any to find a song on the Punching Bee comp that takes the piss out of some of the best-known passages of the Good Book. What was surprising was to find such sentiment housed in a twangy foot-stomper. Putting religious uncertainty on top of a musical style with right-leaning tendencies might be an easy juxtaposition, but Clay sets the bar higher by making some space in the mix and filling it with the buzz of acoustic guitar strings.

Please, Oh Please! — Freeland, MI Falters
You say synthesizers don’t go with shouts that have a little bit of Anathallo in their reverberations. I’d like to prove you wrong with the chorus of “Freeland, MI Falters.” I say the kind of urgency in a song like “Freeland” hasn’t appealed to me since high school. You can prove me wrong by saying that there’s a little part in all of us that will always be drawn to minor-leaguers with epic dreams like Please, Oh Please! We’re both right.

PS Please, Oh Please! went on permanent hiatus at the end of March. You’ll probably never be able to see them live, but you can download nine of their songs for free here.

The Mighty Narwhale — Nightlights
Collin’s enunciation and elongation of the “10 mile radius” lyric makes this one for me. The entirety of “Nightlights” inspires nostalgia for nocturnal expeditions under clear skies, but it’s this seemingly insignificant choice that captures those moments and our feeble attempts to make them last longer than the unfeeling hands of time will allow. “Nightlights” feels like sweatshirt weather, damp grass beneath my toes and someone else’s head on my shoulder. That’s pretty much where that inclination towards minor leaguers with epic dreams lives, isn’t it?

All of these songs are streaming on the artists’ MySpaces. Also, we're still looking for a name for this feature. Anybody got an idea?

Matt Ten Clay

Upcoming Michigan Shows:
June 6 — Jukes in Grand Rapids with Nathan Kalish and the Wildfire

Please, Oh Please!

The Mighty Narwhale

Upcoming Michigan Shows
May 25 — Kraftbrau in Kalamazoo with Deep Sea Creatures
June 1 — Grand Rapids Festival of the Arts
June 2 — ELFest in Annie's backyard
June 10 — The DAAC in Grand Rapids with Jes Kramer (fundraiser show!)


Blogger Brandon said...

I went to school with Matt Ten Clay in Holland. Heh.

12:40 PM  
Blogger Brandon said...

Feature name:
"Record Function"?

Okay, I'm lame.

12:52 PM  
Blogger Jeff Schroeder said...

OMGz you geography whores! You give no love to bands from Rochester Hills. ;P

Most of the bands aren't from Ann Arbor and Detroit...they just happen to play there because those areas have a) venues that regular feature music and b) have a large, condensed population.

Man, why do people get so angry over this stuff?

12:20 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Word to that brotha man.

9:39 AM  
Anonymous Jes said...

Look, Punching Bees! We're famous!

11:20 AM  
Blogger Kyle said...

you're a cutie-pie!
lets cuddle

12:41 PM  

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