It’s been so long since the White Stripes’ Detroit-branded garage rock took America by storm that people might have forgotten that it’s still a breeding ground for good music. With musical hotspots like Ann Arbor —which features Kurt Cobain’s favorite music venue, The Blind Pig— Lansing and Detroit, there’s no reason you can’t see great local shows weekly. Here are a few of our favorite local acts from Michigan. What are some of yours?
6. Lightning Love
Members: Ben Collins, Leah Diehl, Aaron Diehl
Current Release: Girls Who Look Like Me
Lightning Love is a trio that features siblings Aaron and Leah Diehl along with guitarist Ben Collins. Aaron’s simple, appropriate drums are a great backbone for Leah’s tongue-in-cheek lyrics that explore subjects that range from every day routines (“Everyone I Know”) to the more ridiculous (“Friends”). The band just released the excellent Girls Who Look Like Me EP on Quite Scientific Records.
5. The Dirtbombs
Members: Ben Blackwell, Mick Collins, Ko Melina, Pat Pantano
If Detroit still conjures up images of dudes with super-overdriven, garagey guitars, The Dirtbombs are your band. The decade-old act combined punk and soul with an unconventional lineup that featured two drummers and two bassists. Former bassist Jim Diamond also worked on the White Stripes’ first two albums, but their best claim to fame is the classic, mostly covers album Ultraglide in Black.
“Chains of Love”
4. The Crane Wives
Hometown: Grand Rapids
Current Release: Safe Ship, Harbored
Members Tom Gunnels, Kate Pillsbury, Emilee Petersmark, Dan Rickabus, Ben Zito
The Crane Wives released the excellent Safe Ship, Harbored last year to much local acclaim. The folky group is fronted by the sweet-voiced duo of Emilee Petersmark and Kate Pillsbury and features banjo and bass behind its inspiring three-part harmonies.
Current Release: Sinking Islands
Members: Jonathan Visger
The brainchild of a local favorite Jonathan Visger, Absofacto is a studio project that focuses on big, commanding beats, bleeping keyboards and intuitively hummable melodies. But it’s Visger’s smart, introspective lyrics that will inspire repeat listens. Visger released the project’s first album, Sinking Islands in 2011, but has been sporadically dropping quality singles ever since.
2. Chris Bathgate
Hometown: Ann Arbor
Current Release: Salt Year
Although Chris Bathgate first appeared on Paste’s radar in 2011, he’s been one of southeast Michigan’s best-kept secrets for years. The Ann Arbor-native completed his latest album, Salt Year, to much critical acclaim after months and months of near-obsessive recording practices. And it’s clear it all paid off in tracks like “Poor Eliza” and “Salt Year.”
1. Dale Earnhardt Jr. Jr.
Members: Daniel Zott, Joshua Epstein
If our Best New Bands of 2011 list wasn’t a big enough hint, we’re pretty into Dale Earnhardt Jr. Jr. around here. The band’s excellent debut album —It’s a Corporate World, released on Warner Bros. Records— introduced America to a band that Michigan knew well already with songs like “Nothing but Our Love” and “Simple Girl.”