by Alexandra Hall
No one loves their home state as much as Jason Singer, the lead of Michigander. The key characteristics of that signature midwest charm are practically embedded into the DNA of Singer’s work. His songs, although sounding melancholic at times, always promote a general sense of hope and adoration of the small moments in life (two must-haves when bearing the winter months in the midwest).
Michigander’s debut single, “Nineties” rose to popularity in 2016 through various Spotify playlists, garnering what it is now over a million and a half streams. “Nineties” is a perfect driving-at-night song. Its bassline is solid and simple, its chorus is catchable, its lyrics are intense and universally personal. Singer manages to capture the desire of living in a different decade in a way that isn’t cliche or baseless. There’s no romanticization of the music or fashion or culture of past decades. There’s just a plea for simplicity, a call that sounds louder and louder with each passing year. The song explores a relationship with a perceived lover and creates an image of a union amidst chaos, “So won’t you hold me close, then hold me tighter. ‘Cause the world I know is falling apart.”
It is no surprise that “Nineties” flourished and has not lost its message in the past few years. It is a perfect introduction to Singer’s talent as a musician and as a songwriter.
Since the release of “Nineties,” Michigander has been hard at work. After releasing his debut EP, Midland (2018), an Audiotree compilation, a few neighboring singles, and a second EP, Where Do We Go From Here (2019), Singer has shown time and time again that he has perfected “The Single.” With each release, the “Michigander sound,” trademarked by earnest lyricism and infectious choruses, seems to develop more and more.
At this point, a lot of artists would rush to put out a full-length album to keep up with the attention and expectation of the newfound audience. But instead of caving in to the pressure of haphazardly putting together a massive work, Singer states he simply isn’t there yet.
“I genuinely think I’m not ready for a ten, twelve-song album. I’m just not there yet. I don’t want to rush into anything. Plus, everyone’s attention span is pretty short,” Singer said.
He’s getting close, though. Whether “close” means a year or a decade, it is apparent in the new Michigander releases and their accompanying success that Singer is evolving with his music.
Where Do We Go From Here features “Misery,” a song that attracted a major amount of listeners from Shameless, a decade long American television show known for its slew of dynamic characters in a dysfunctional home. The music video released for “Misery” now has over a hundred thousand views and the comments are littered with Shameless fans praising their newfound gem of a musician. The comment section of this video is not only heart-warming in its praise of Michigander, but also in its showcase of the feeling of hearing Michigander for the first time. Long-time fans write about seeing Singer perform in small spaces in Michigan. Fellow “Michiganders” rejoice in the name and sound. New fans appear, directed from radio station advertisements and internet wormholes, eager to find out who the voice behind the speaker is. A sense of community is sparked even in small spaces like the Youtube comment section which is a direct result of Singer’s down-to-earth work connecting people from all over the world.
Feeling a bit of pressure from this second wave of fame and attention, Singer struggled in figuring out what to release next. Add a global pandemic to that mix and subtract any chance of live shows and you’ve got a tricky map to navigate.
“I knew I wanted to follow [“Misery”] up with something accessible. I had the chorus for a while and then after a certain situation happened, the other lyrics sort of fell into place,” Singer reflected.
In September, Michigander released the final installment to this era of his work. “Let Down” and its accompanying b-side “48” hit the charts running. “Let Down” explores our expectations when approaching new relationships. People often find themselves stumbling into infatuation when met with a new stranger. “Let Down” follows the road through a new relationship, one plagued by nervous excitement and desperation to not screw things up and one that ultimately ends in nothing. The chorus reigns the listener in, “’Cause I got high hopes, I got high hopes. But they let me down, they usually let me down.”
But before the song ends with a doom and gloom perspective on love, Singer swoops in with his signature touch for hope and leaves listeners with a bridge “’Cause love, love, yeah love will find you when it’s ready.”
Singer repeats this line a few times, almost as if he is trying to convince himself of the line’s honesty. The song ends with the chorus, but it feels different that last time, like Singer has an appreciation for his high hopes. Overall, “Let Down” gleams with a youthful idealism that doesn’t feel delusional. Rather, the song rejoices in Singer’s chronic optimism and celebrates love the way it should be celebrated: when it comes naturally.
The music video for “Let Down,” directed by Matt Everitt, is the perfect content for quarantine. Partially filmed in his home bedroom and the rest filmed in a multi-colored lit warehouse, viewers are sucked into the energy of the group. The scenes in which Singer is shown in his bedroom, playing guitar on his back and singing to the camera, seem to tip their hat at the past few months of quarantine where artists and everyone else in the world are quite literally stuck in old bedrooms and home offices alike. The other scenes exude the excitement of live shows with confetti and color play and the energy of a full group, Aaron Senor and Jake Lemond backing up Singer in the warehouse. The channeling of both energies creates a visual world for the song to truly come alive in and for listeners to visit, although still stuck at home on their computers.
With his eyes set on next year and hopes held high (seems to be a pattern for Singer) for live shows coming back in some altered way or another, Singer hinted at a different era of his sound with a new EP coming sometime next spring. Some aesthetics might change, but listeners can rest assured that the heart of Michigander’s sound will remain healthy and beating. Amid global chaos, it is easy to fall into the pits of cynicism and despair. Michigander stands as a bright light in music, forming veins of normality in our otherwise abnormal lives, making a pretty compelling case for hope.
Until next time,
IG, TWITTER: @michiganderband
Photography by: Kris Herrmann (IG: @krisherrmann, https://www.krisherrmann.com/shop)