A classically trained pianist-turned-songwriter, Charlene Kaye is an indie spirit headed for greatness. Her style is distinct and cannot be categorized. Kaye bleeds versatility. In her album Things I Will Need in the Past, her classical training is evident in her ability to effortlessly blend genres using only a couple of keys or strums of the guitar.

Courtesy of My Dear Disco
Courtesy of Charlene Kaye

On “Magnolia Wine,” she mixes classical staccato with a folk-inspired sound to produce a track that’s both light and vibrant. Kaye’s wordplay is pure poetry, and her alto voice hits every note on point. “Strike a Chord” is a perfect example of this; the melody and lyrical grace provided by Kaye’s voice is more than enough to keep ears glued to the record. “Skin and Bones” is definitely the favored track, featuring a guest appearance by Ann Arborite Darren Criss. The beginning has an earthy feel to it, and Criss’s voice only adds to the song’s smooth appeal.

“(The album) blossomed from questions regarding time and the nature of memory in general,” Kaye said in a phone interview. “Hindsight is 20/20, and looking back you can perceive things differently.”

Kaye’s album takes a personal stance as well — it was inspired by a long-distance relationship she’d been in. Her music investigates relationships and how humans connect; in doing so, it’s soulful. In addition to classical music, Kaye names her primary influences as Joni Mitchell, Fiona Apple and American pianist Burt Bacharach. Her album debuts Friday, Oct. 10, at the Yellow Barn.

Kaye is not the only new artist on the horizon. With only a year and a half’s experience under their belt, My Dear Disco has been creating quite a stir among local music aficionados. Besides having a great name, MDD mixes lofty vocals with a synthesizer, guitar, saxophone and even bagpipes to produce an eclectic sound: soothing yet exciting, trippy yet mellow. They call it “Dancethink” (also the name of their album). In an interview with The Graphic, founding member Tyler Duncan described his group’s music as “the type that’s as good on the dance floor as it is in the headphones.” “White Lies” is a catchy techno song with airy lyrics while “All I Do” and “The Way” are the closest My Dear Disco comes to pop songs. The tracks retain their indie roots through the lyrics and beat, but it’s not difficult to imagine them playing on a top 10 countdown.

My Dear Disco is being hailed as one of the best acts to come out of Ann Arbor, and considering their ensemble of award winning singers, composers and instrumentalists, it’s not surprising. Their album should be a surefire hit, especially since Grammy-nominated sound engineer Mark Saunders is mixing it. The release party is this Saturday at the Blind Pig. Doors open at 9:30 p.m.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *