It’s been a decade for local music.
The 2010’s brought the rise of some local musicians to national status (we’re looking at you, Danny and JR, JR), the sort-of homecoming of some Detroit icons, and the emergence of artists across the musical spectrum.
We asked him to share his top local music of the decade. True to form, Milo created three comprehensive Spotify playlists.
So then we asked him to cut it down to his top 10 tracks. Check that list out below.
10. Passalacqua, “Been A Minute”
Album: Passalacqua EP (2011)
Passalacqua was a powerhouse hip-hop duo comprised of Blaksmith (Brent Smith) and Mister (Bryan Lackner) that lit up local stages between 2010-2014. This song was on their debut, written to serve as a preface for their new project. The pair had been friends in their youth but spent a decade apart, removed by the distance between Michigan and Maryland. This track captures the inspiration that surged between the two of them as collaborators.
9. Lightning Love, “So Easy”
Album: Blonde Album (2012)
Inevitably, in a “decades” list, I have to write about bands that are no longer together. I long for Lightning Love reunions the same way others might hope for restarts of The Kinks or Talking Heads. This Ypsilanti trio was led by pianist/singer Leah Diehl, with her brother Aaron on drums, and Ben Collins (now of Minihorse) on guitar. This was aerodynamic pop perfect with unyielded emotion poured into the lyrics.
8. Oblisk, “Visionary Gardens”
Album: Weather Patterns (2011)
This band blended shoegaze fuzz with post-punk’s iciness and layered in the ambiance of reverb and distortion, with urgent beats. This track is from their second album and while they haven’t followed it up yet, but they also never broke up so hopefully we’ll be hearing from them again soon.
7. Bars of Gold, “Coffee With Pele”
Album: Wheels (2013)
Six-piece Bars of Gold are a guitar-centric band that feed on rhythms that blend a bit of a funk-danceability with monster-truck-rally style adrenaline. They released their third album in 2019, but this one from their second release, with its elevating hook and the triumphant nature of those riffs, is immortal for me.
6. don’t, “Gold & Glowing”
Album: Forget It (2016)
The rhythms in don’t’s “Gold & Glowing,” evoke a sense of driving off into the sunset, and the vocal melody just kind of carries the listener away. Catchy melodies are juxtaposed over the gravelly distortion of the guitars, while the lyrics glide toward what can only ever be the most satisfying resolution available when a relationship or any social exchange ends badly, “…maybe we’re just two humans being… human beings.”
5. Johnny Headband, “Hot Button Topic”
Album: Who Cooks For You (2012)
This band performed as a trio, but its primary energy springs from two brothers, bassist and backing-vocalist Keith Thompson and keyboardist, lead singer and songwriter Chad Thompson. This band is part electro-pop fusion, part performance art; it started about 15 years ago, and right at about 2013 they started performing less and releasing songs sporadically as they started getting seriously busy with other things. This is an aerobic song: You can dance to it, too, but you’ll probably wind up jazzercising.
4. Child Sleep, “Self Talk”
Album: Secondary Forest (2016)
This Ypsilanti-based group is an indie-rock, almost-shoegaze, almost-dream-pop ensemble. The vocal melody, the driving rhythms, the expressive guitar solo of Elly Daftuar through the bridge, the absolutely dazzling intonation and even the comforting lyrics of singer/guitarist Mary Fraser… I couldn’t not include this song on my best-of.
3. Vespre, “Lovers” (2018)
Kaylan Waterman is the singer also known as Vespre. I truly believe that this is the best pop song of the decade… anywhere, from anyone. There’s an 80’s flavor to it, but please allow yourself to indulge that. The backing vocals, the chiming synths, the danceable drums, and Kaylan’s beautiful voice. Let it take you away.
2. Matt Jones & the Reconstruction, “The Darkest Things”
Album: Deep Enders (2014)
This is the most all-up-in-my-feelings track of the decade. Jones, an Ypsilanti singer/songwriter with this high wispy ethereal voice, creates rhythmic and intricate finger-picking acoustic guitar playing, over some buoyant strings and pizzicato, organs and warm backing vocals.
It’s a song for facing your darker angels, for facing your past, for retreating to recuperate, for facing your future.
1. Tunde Olaniran, “Namesake”
Album: Transgressor (2015)
This song is the flat-out the most show-stopping, mind-blowing, wonderful, epic track of the decade by a local artist. And, of course, a song with that distinction would come from Tunde Olaniran. Years after its release, I still haven’t gotten over the sheer surging energy that emanates from this song. It wasn’t long after the release of this track and its source album, that this singer/rapper/activist started garnering national acclaim.