Various Artists

Home Recordings, Vol. 1

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Michigan's Suburban Sprawl Records' compilation series of Michigan's lesser-known bands began in late 2002 with this startling and refreshing first volume. Starting off with the piano-laced instrumentation of Adam's Castle, a brooding and lively tone is immediately set. From the opening of the somber and graceful "Juice Pipe" to the playful "Sandal Jive," the three Adam's Castle tracks flow seamlessly into one another as one continuous, brief masterpiece. Led by Sami Jano's piano work, the addition of Eric Adams' steady bass guitar and Zach Eichenhorn's unwavering drumming results in a radiant sound. Detroit's Judah Johnson is next with a trio of intelligent and poignant offerings. "Ash" was the first song recorded after the addition of keyboardist Steve Nistor and bassist Rodrigo Palma. The song includes a tender and wondrously relaxed melody. The liner notes by vocalist Dan Johnson reveal that "There's No Shame in Letting Go" was penned for Johnny Cash. The organ and horn underscore Johnson's carefully executed vocals. Livonia, MI, quartet the Recital are next, showing a continued maturation from their earlier recordings. "Weapons on Weekends" certainly has the energy and creativity all great anthems have. The chord changes and Rob Byrd's crashing drums result in one of their most powerful songs. The playful "Trucker Chuckle" is led by Chris Ostafinski's shotgun vocals, a wealth of frolic, and some shrewd organ to boot. Scott Allen & the Break Dance close out the disc with three stripped-down tracks. "Good Suggestions" is an acoustic solo, with a simple structure and effortless vocals reminiscent of a younger Simon Joyner. Allen pulls out the harmonica on "The Parade of Ugly Voices," and a downbeat keyboard backs up his somber and sullen vocals. He closes out the disc with "Darling, I Wish You Were Dead," another stripped-down folk hymn. As a whole, the 12-track collection shines a light on part of the Detroit-area scene that, at the time, was yet to be picked up by the mainstream radar.