Musical Masterminds – Singer-songwriter, sister duo APLUS prepare to release debut album ‘Pride Liberty Detroit’ Feb. 9

APLUS Press Image 1
Anesha Birchett, left, and Antea Shelton of APLUS

DETROIT – Singer-songwriters Antea Shelton and Anesha Birchett are masters of musical mind reading.

Together, the R&B and pop sister duo known as APLUS know how to compose hit songs without even saying a word to each other.

“Because Anesha and I know each other so well, it’s such a natural process across the board for both songwriting and artistry,” Shelton said. “I think I didn’t value how we have a natural connection as sisters until we started working with other people, and I realized she and I may have our bickering and our battles, but man, like the records get done, and we have a smooth flow.”

That smooth flow and intuitive songwriting process has helped APLUS pen songs for Beyoncé, Mary J. Blige, Jennifer Lopez, Justin Bieber, Tamar Braxton and a host of other R&B and pop artists as well as music for the TV shows “Empire” and “Star.” Once a producer plays a chord, Shelton and Birchett start their songwriting magic.

“She’ll go, I’ll email her, and we’re literally in the same room while I message her,” said Shelton, 36, who’s head of songwriting at the Detroit Institute of Music Education (DIME). “I’ll email her a couple of titles, she’ll go into the booth, she’ll sing some melodies, sing the title like I said, and I’ll be like, ‘Yep, I want that one.’ Then, they’ll play it, put it on loop, I’ll fill out the lyrics, send it back to her, she’ll go into the booth, sing it, and it’s done.”

Shelton and Birchett used that same songwriting process while recording tracks for their debut APLUS album, “Pride Liberty Detroit,” which drops Feb. 9 on Original 1265 Recordings. In December, they released their latest single, “Strangers,” a groovy R&B track featuring lush harmonies backed by a piano.

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Folk Implosion — Adventures with Vultures’ Matt Sauter Gets Introspective on New ‘Junction’ EP

Matt Sauter, aka Adventures with Vultures

Matt Sauter found his folk after a painful breakup.

The 25-year-old folk rock singer-songwriter, who’s known as Adventures with Vultures, switched from making hip-hop music after his then girlfriend told family and friends that he played guitar and sang.

“She wasn’t a big fan of me making rap music,” Sauter said. “She would always tell her family and parents that ‘He’s a singer, he plays guitar and sings.’ When she broke up with me, it really hurt, so I said if she wants to tell everybody that I play guitar and sing, then I’m going to play guitar and sing.”

Two years later, Sauter officially entered the folk rock world with the release of his new Adventures with Vultures EP, “Junction,” in October on Original 1265 Recordings. Named after a street in Plymouth, Mich., “Junction” represents a rite of passage for Sauter as an individual and a musician.

“There’s like a handful of us, me and my buddies, we all actually have JCT tattooed on us, so there’s a little brotherhood with these kids that I grew up with, and they’re still my great friends,” he said. “I wanted to make this project for these kids who had been around me since we were 6.”

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Musical Conversations – Talking Ear Speaks Progressive Jazz to Midwestern Audiences

Talking Ear plays progressive jazz to Midwestern audiences. From left: Ben Rolston, Ben Maloney, Dan Palmer, Estar Cohen and Travis Aukerman.

As a jazz quintet, Talking Ear blends original compositions with improvisation to musically converse with a growing Midwestern audience.

Their progressive jazz speaks volumes through the band’s live performances and their self-titled debut album, which features eight beautiful tracks draped in smooth vocals, soft pianos, crashing cymbals, rhythmic basslines and breakout guitar solos.

“Talking Ear was formed as a way to push each other because we all felt that connection of wanting to become better musicians and break through personal barriers together,” said vocalist Estar Cohen. “I think the way we carry along some of the jazz tradition is by continuously trying to be creative and finding our own voices.”

Along with Cohen, the band’s other four members, Travis Aukerman (drums), Dan Palmer (guitar), Ben Maloney (piano) and Ben Rolston (bass), have found their own musical voices through years of academic study, professional training, composing and performance.

As accomplished jazz musicians, they communicate mainly through improvisation. Collectively, they’ve taken a “Talking Ear” approach to their music – listening is how they ultimately share ideas and respond to one another.

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Detroit’s New Musical Evolution — DIME Sessions Volume 3 Album Spotlights Rising Motor City Artists

DIME Sessions Volume 3 showcases some of Detroit’s best musical talent.
DETROIT — For 13 aspiring artists, a new Motor City compilation album captures their musical passion and growth.

Known as Detroit Institute of Music Education: DIME Sessions Volume 3, the album features 11 original tracks written by DIME students and weaves themes of political frustration, Motor City pride, personal struggle, relationships and musical tributes.

“This is the crème de la crème of our student body who are in a position to write and record at the time or who may have songs even if they’re in the simplest form,” said Sabrina Underwood, label manager for Original 1265 Recordings at DIME. “This is their opportunity to know what it feels like to have a record released internationally on a major label. They can use this as a calling card to open up other doors.”

DIME released its third annual album Aug. 25 on Original 1265 Recordings, which is an independent label owned by CND America, DIME’s parent company, and distributed by Caroline Distribution.

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Kesha Sparkles for Glitter-covered Fans at Sold-out Detroit Fillmore Show

Kesha sings about hope, authenticity and growth at The Fillmore Detroit.

Kesha’s latest album cover for “Rainbow” is reminiscent of ‘70s prog rock artwork.

The bejeweled flying saucers, pink-tinged planets and Kesha’s naked backside are quintessential images for a modern-day interpretation of a prog rock-inspired album cover for a pop singer-songwriter.

That’s what I love about Kesha. She takes a cool album art concept from the past and reimagines it for the present. It’s her vision for what truly lies on the other side of the rainbow.

Her colorful album cover nicely houses 14 raw, transformational songs that fall inside and out of the typical pop spectrum with rock and country influences.

Kesha performed 10 of her album gems – including “Learn to Let Go,” “Hymn,” “Godzilla,” “Bastards” (my favorite) and others – from “Rainbow” during a sold-out show at The Fillmore Detroit on Sunday.

Tons of fans (both male and female) dressed in colorful tops, dresses, leggings and tutus and drenched in glitter lined up in downtown Detroit to see their “Rainbow” hero. I don’t think I’ve ever seen so much glitter in one place.

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5 Reasons to See Phoenix’s ‘Ti Amo’ Tour

Phoenix light up The Fillmore in Detroit on Oct. 11.

The first time I saw Phoenix live was during a snowstorm in December 2009 at the now defunct Clutch Cargo’s club in Pontiac, Mich.

Thomas Mars and his three bandmates – Deck d’Arcy, Laurent Brancowitz and Christian Mazzalai – captivated the sold-out crowd with songs from their 2009 smash, “Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix,” and officially established their reputation as a must-see live act.

They also reigned supreme as a coveted festival act with memorable appearances at Bonnaroo, Coachella and Lollapalooza in 2009 and 2010.

By 2013, they had played the Eastern Michigan University Convocation Center for their “Bankrupt!” tour, which didn’t feel like the right venue for the French indie pop band. Their sound and stage presence is much better suited for mid-size theater (2,000 or less) rather than a mini arena (9,500).

Last week, Phoenix recaptured the same magic of the “Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix” tour at The Fillmore in Detroit on Oct. 11 while promoting their latest album, “Ti Amo.”

I have to admit Phoenix’s performance was by far one of their best I’ve seen in years. Here are the five best parts I took away from last week’s show:

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Fangs and Twang Bite into Monstrous Tales for New ‘High Fives All Around’ Album

Fangs and Twang’s Andy Benes, Billy LaLonde and Joe Bertoletti.

Fangs and Twang know how to sink their musical teeth into monster folklore.

The Ypsilanti, Mich.-based roots rock and bluegrass trio sing about Frankenstein, the Loch Ness Monster, and other notorious creatures on their new album, “High Fives All Around,” which comes out today.

Bassist Joe Bertoletti and his bandmates, Andy Benes (guitar, vocals) and Billy LaLonde (drums, vocals), seek inspiration for their second album’s eight monster-themed tracks from books, movies, comics and regional urban legends. It nicely follows in the footsteps of their self-titled 2015 debut.

One of the band’s favorite tracks, “Loveland Frogman,” is based on a Loveland, Ohio urban legend dating back to 1972 about two local sightings of a creature that resembled a humanoid frog.

“It’s loosely based on the story of a trooper coming across the Frogman,” Bertoletti said. “In our part of the story, they decide to go party down at the creek.”

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