The Wild Honey Collective has a new single out today, as well as a pre-order for the Volume 2 album due out this July. Stream and download “Don’t Close Your Eyes” plus three b-sides now! Available above / the GTG Records bandcamp.
The phrase “Joy Is Elusive” appeared in Harborcoat’s Matthew Carlson head one day, and the singer/songwriter/guitarist wrote it in black Sharpie on a piece of paper and tacked it to the wall above his studio computer. Those words became a conceptual signpost for the Harborcoat’s sophomore album, aptly titled, Joy Is Elusive.
“Not that joy doesn’t happen, or that we can’t find a lot joy in life and work, but it seems it can be difficult to find these moments and hard work to sustain them,” the Lansing, Michigan artist shares. “I’ve struggled with depression and anxiety all my life and it has always crept into my songwriting as a sort of veiled subtext. With this new batch of songs, I made a conscious effort to write about it more directly. They aren’t mopey or deliberately maudlin, but I think during these times people are feeling a lot anxiety, depression, and they have been grappling with isolation. These topics are part of the human condition.”
Matthew is the main songwriter in Harborcoat. Previously, he led The Pantones for more than a decade, and currently he writes songs and plays and sings in Lansing power pop outfit, The Stick Arounds. In addition, he is the owner and operator of Phonophore Records.
Harborcoat began as a songwriting outlet for Matthew in 2016 for output that didn’t fit with The Stick Arounds. The vision was initially a bedroom artistic venture, but a dear friend suggested Matthew make a real record, and Harborcoat became a functioning band that plays shows and records with an ever-evolving cast of musicians. Previously, Harborcoat issued the 2017 single, “See The Sun,” and the 2019 full-length, Brutal Gravity.
Harborcoat specialize in short stories with chords. The lyrics are novelistic and almost standalone pieces rife with emotive and well-crafted narratives. The band name is pulled from an early R.E.M. gem, and the music brims with nods to Matthew’s heroes. The songs recall the crunchy power pop and harmonies of Teenage Fanclub; the introspection and melodic storytelling of Billy Bragg; and sprinkled in are moments of 80’s esque Brit-Pop or working-class anthems. These influences, however, do not define the record, but are they are merely a strand of DNA in Harborcoat’s collective musical helix.
The songs on Joy Is Elusive are buoyant and energetic and are a powerful juxtaposition to the weighty lyric content. “I wanted there to be a sense of joy and excitement even though the lyrical themes are often terribly dark. There was a direct effort to play to that old maxim of ‘beautiful melodies telling me terrible things,’” Matthew admits. He continues: “On this record I wanted to write more intently about all of our unseen struggles and the baggage we travel with each day. There is a greater thread lyrically and musically rooted within the themes of the album and the fictional town in which they occur. As much as I cringe at the idea of a concept record, this is a record with a pretty clearly defined concept.”
The 12-song album is a cohesive and conceptually immersive collection that warrants a full album listening experience. That said, select record standouts include “Transit Town,” the title track, and “Where The River Bends.” “Transit Town” is a power-pop anthem with Who-style ringing guitars and a rich tapestry of sing-along harmony vocals. The song’s sugar rush is offset by the bummer of the fleeting nature of relationships in a college town. “The story here is of a self-contained world in a mid-sized industrial city not on an upswing where one person comes into town, they partner with someone for a period of time, and then move on, and that other person is stuck and doesn’t want to be where they are,” Matthew shares. This sentiment is epitomized by the lyric: This city is just a stepping stone/And so I guess am I/Everybody else has flown/I’ve got nowhere to fly.
The deeply emotive piano ballad, “Joy Is Elusive,” is a character-driven piece about a mentally ill sibling who does a stint at a state hospital, but is later returned to his family and they have to find a way to build a life together. The song is filled with poignant scene-setting lyrics such as: We picked you up in Traverse City, scars across your arms/Drove along the country roads, you stared out at the farms/Asked you twice if you were hungry you simply shook your head/We inquired if you were better this was all you said. The dynamic and imaginatively arranged literate rocker, “Where The River Bends,” paints a powerful picture of the terror of getting what you want.
The album was tracked at Matthew’s family cabin. Before the sessions began, his father died suddenly, and Matthew thought to cancel, but his family and friends convinced him to proceed with the sessions. “That week of recording was the first time in four weeks that I had managed to find any degree of happiness or hope,” he recalls. “It was cathartic, it was beautiful, and it was the perfect distraction.”
(writeup c/o Phonophore Records)
We’re very excited to be hosting This Must Be The Place: Quality Hits From Lansing, a new 24 track compilation of Lansing-area artists performing some of their favorite covers, a project that was spearheaded by acclaimed music writer Rich Tupica (of the definitive Big Star book There Was A Light fame). Lots of old friends here! It’s a little glimpse into what us creative types have been up to with a year of no shows. From the GTG family we’ve got The Plurals, Cavalcade, The Wild Honey Collective, RK Andrews (No Skull/Red Teeth), Counterpunchers (members of Narc Out The Reds), The Stick Arounds, Isaac Richmond Vander Schuur (The Hat Madder), Jennifer Toms (Scary Women), and Disappointed Dad, plus lots of old friends throughout like Crystal Drive, Frontier Ruckus, Dylan Rogers, Rodeo Boys, Nonbinary, La La Delivery and plenty more! 24 tracks! Free download!
Here’s what Rich had to say about the project:
“This Must Be the Place: Quality Hits from Lansing is a totally free download of Lansing, Michigan bands performing select songs by artists they love. This is meant to serve as a fun stop-gap between now and the (eventual) return of live shows. So, please: Listen. Download. Repeat. There’s a wide range of covers here because each band/artist chose whichever song they wanted for this collection. The reason? Every band has a good cover in them—perhaps one they’ve always wanted to tackle, but never had a proper reason to. So, the “art of the cover” was fully realized here. With no limitations, it left the tracklist up to them and it made for a bizarre, yet somehow cohesive blend of genres.
Aside from a long roster of area fixtures Like Frontier Ruckus, Cavalcade, Rodeo Boys, The Plurals, Wally Pleasant (and many more!), there’s also new solo tracks and fresh side projects featured here from Lansing vets: RK Andrews (of No Skull, Red Teeth), Jennifer Toms (of Scary Women), Counterpunchers (members of Narc Out the Reds), Dylan Rogers (L.U.V.S), Isaac Richmond Vander Schuur (The Hat Madder), Seth + Modern Sadness (features Seth Rentfrow of Way to Fall, Kyle Daniel), Myron James (Edible Intention), and The Wild Honey Collective (a new GTG super group). Scroll through the selection, and you’ll see plenty of familiar names. Enjoy!”
This is an eleven song slab of the kind of righteous rock and roll that we all desperately need right now. Great riffs, catchy choruses, simultaneously slacker-y and polished, hints of Americana, Cheap Trick moments, Lemonheads echoes, literal references to both Minutemen and Big Star… sign me up! Pick up the record, pore over the notes, and memorize these songs cuz as soon as it’s safe these guys are gonna be on the road to save rock and roll, again! Check out the lyric video with behind-the-scenes footage for lead single “Dead Ringer” below!
The pandemic delayed the vinyl, cancelled the release show, and put our first printing option out of business, but at last, Drinking Mercury vinyl is shipping! Those who pre-ordered, thank you so much for your patience! And everyone else… you can get it now! This 12 song album is one of the most critically acclaimed GTG releases – Razorcake said “they do a good job of tugging at a wide range of emotions and memories, which made for an introspective listen,” Local Spins said listening to it was “like finding some hidden classic from decades past,” City Pulse declared it “superb, genre-bending, well-crafted pop with psychedelic meltdowns” and Stratton Setlist called it “soothing waves of vibrant folk-influenced dream pop” – plus it spent a few months in the Top 5 at WYCE in GR earlier this year (and it’s still getting play). So, needless to say, we’re happy to get it on to people’s turntables at last. One minor win for 2020!
We’re now taking pre-orders for the vinyl edition of the new Drinking Mercury album! Shipping in early April! Pre-order now and get an immediate download of the 12 track album PLUS a 14 track collection of alternate mixes, demos, covers, recent live recordings and more. This “B-sides” collection is a wonderful companion to the album with some stripped back acoustic/vocal heavy mixes of some of the songs from the album, demos of album songs, outtakes, and covers, plus some raw ‘n real live recordings of songs from both the album and the Soods split and a Rolling Stones and Who cover to boot! Who says Drinking Mercury can’t have fun?
From the desk of The Stick Arounds: We’ve taken all twelve of our singles from each month of 2019 and compiled them into one bitchin’ record. ‘Hot Singles Club’ is available now for pre-order on CD, Digital and Limited Edition Vinyl LP.
This delicious hot singles set includes seven brand new power-pop gems from the Stick Arounds, as well as a trio of cover songs and even two new studio versions of songs originally found on the Stick Arounds debut live LP, ‘Mystery Garage’.
CD and Digital versions of ‘Hot Singles Club’ will be released on February 14, 2020.
The limited edition LP is a special pre-order only lathe cut vinyl. The vinyl version also includes an exclusive 12″ x 12″ poster, plus each record is hand signed and numbered by the band. You must pre-order to get the LP. Vinyl pre-orders are only available until Feb. 28, so secure your copy today. LPs are expected to ship in early May of 2020.
Everyone at GTG is very excited to have all of the Sticks’ singles in one place AND to try out this new short-run vinyl method. Hopefully this will be the first of many limited edition vinyl releases we can curate for the folks that want ’em!
Drinking Mercury’s self-titled second album is now available digitally. Check it out above from GTG or stream/download at any of these other soulless places where the streaming and the downloading tends to happen: Spotify iTunes Amazon YouTube
Bam! Another solid entry from Small Parks and for the ol GTG gang (is that redundant like ATM Machine?) in 2019. 3 new songs (one of which was previewed way back on GTG100) recorded this fall and produced by Nick Diener. Get ready to shout along. It’s great to have these fine folks back!