Ypsilanti-based Timothy Monger premieres new single ‘Sa-Wa-Quato’

The former Great Lakes Myth Society member drops his self-titled album on June 2.

Timothy Monger

Singer-songwriter Timothy Monger premieres his new song “Sa-Wa-Quato,” the third single from his forthcoming self-titled album, dropping June 2 via Monger’s own Northern Detective record label.

The album is a lyrically delightful and sonically delectable odyssey that reverently applies an aura of rustic-mythos to both the Great Lakes region and the great outdoors — a 12-song tapestry that is altogether reflective and rallying, and just a little bit weird in the best ways, with its sweetly spooky ambient flourishes and Monger’s chosen amalgam of instruments that are typically disparate from the indie-rock genre.

Recorded entirely at Monger’s home in Ypsilanti, the musician handled nearly all the instrumentation himself, pairing fingerstyle guitar with cuatro, accordion, tin whistle, stylophone, electric piano and various analog synths.

Abandoning the introspective-style of 2017’s Amber Lantern, Monger reviewed his notebooks for outliers, misfits and endearing idea fragments for the record. He sings about a cub reporter in the mold of Jimmy Olsen, along with a fever dream-like entity inspired by Brian Wilson’s celebrity therapist and tormentor Eugene Landry, morphing him into a washing machine spinning out into infinity with haunting vocals, jingle bells and distorted guitar drones.

And then we have a song like “Sa-Wa-Quato,” inspired by the spirit of an Upper Peninsula chieftain and his lake fish.

Jangly guitars and an antsy accordion percolate under Monger’s dulcet voice, giving way to Cooper’s resplendent violin. Monger says it was an abstract fantasy about a native chief in Curtis, Mich. at the head of South Manistique Lake. You can hear mentions of regional flora and fauna, like the muskie, pike and trillium, intertwined with laketown imagery of docks and humming ice machines.

Monger considers “Sa-Wa-Quato” his most Michigan-centric song on the album.

Monger also considers this his most definitive album to date when it comes to embodying his musical style and creative proclivities, hence the reason for making it self-titled. Before this record, Monger released the aforementioned Amber LanternNew Britton Sound (2011) and Summer Cherry Ghosts (2004).

Monger first made waves in the Michigan music scene in the early 2000s, particularly with the rise of the cult folk-rock ensemble Great Lakes Myth Society, co-founded with his brother, musician and songwriter James Christopher Monger.

While June’s release will be a proper solo album, Monger will be headlining an album release show at the Ark in Ann Arbor June 2, backed by the versatile live band known as Timothy Monger State Park, the current iteration featuring Matt Collar, Carol Catherine, Elly Daftuar, Serge van der Voo and Mary Fraser.

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  • Jeff Milo
    Jeff Milo is the host of "MI Local" on 101.9 WDET. He's a longtime music journalist documenting the Michigan scene for 20 years.