More of our favorite Madison music of 2016
December 13, 2016 @ 9:52 am
Best of 2016
Honorable mentions and odds and ends from an exceptionally diverse year of local releases.
To make our top 20 Madison records of 2016 list, we started out with a much bigger list of local releases that contributors thought should be considered. Here, essentially, is the rest of that list, with additional thoughts on a few releases that were particularly near and dear to us.
We're still waiting for MC and UW-Madison First Wave program student Taniesha Broadway to put out an album or EP. But one-off SoundCloud tracks were just as important to local hip-hop this year as full releases, and Broadway's were fierce shows of skill. "Make Me Rich," "StageFaces," and "DopeLady" each set Broadway's dense, slyly constructed rhymes against stark production. She's also able to pack a lot of versatility into a short track, as demonstrated by the abrupt speed-up in the second verse of "Make Me Rich." The lines always challenge you to listen a bit closer: "I discharge like I'm a doc with the patient chart / I'm off this top like Medusa," begins one verse on "DopeLady." —Scott Gordon
Kevin Wade, who forms half of post-punk duo Dick The Bruiser, explores rough-and-tumble trip-hop, as well as a barrage of pun- and portmanteau-based song titles, in this album from his solo-electronic project BRZRKRS. Tracks like "Nephilim Festival" pair sample-based beats with fat fuzz bass, warped noises, and a whole lot of stark atmosphere. On "Prorobiotic," Wade gets a bit more gentle and textural, playing warm, sliding standup bass and leaving plenty of room for abstract squiggles and crackles. —SG
Guitar-drums duo The Central start with a foundation that draws on grindcore and math-rock, and they're also eager to throw a lot of bizarre melodic and rhythmic impulses into the deftly whirring gears. The result is one of the most perversely fun things Madison has contributed to heavy music in a while. —SG
This abrasive 11-minute EP thrives in the 7-inch analog format, which further amplifies its thunderous, piercing wall-of-noise that tributes the post-hardcore/noise rock of Scratch Acid and Jesus Lizard. The blistering, barbed riff of the haunting head-banger "Marnie," leads with guitarist Mike Noto's shrieks echoed by clean vocals in the chorus. (Full disclosure: Noto is a contributor to this publication.) An alternate take of "Rabbits," from last year's Life Is Beautiful full-length, is delirious in its heavy reverb, burying bassist Chris Joutras' wild wailing in the mix. Side B features more punk-infused songwriting, as on "Milksops" and the furious closer "Tachycardia," whose title mimics its tempo. Each is driven by the vitality and versatility of drummer Tim Chandler. —GP
Despite what you may hear from metal blogs the world over, truly heavy guitars really don't come along every day. The signature of Dosmalés' first recording is a bone-powdering guitar tone that sounds like it's been specifically designed to approximate what it would feel like to have a battering ram land on your sternum. That viscerally overwhelming impact extends to the insanely downtuned, mantric and hypnotic riffs that dominate the EP. Perhaps the most individual thing about it, however, is guitarist Michael Makela's singing: Instead of the garbled snarl that most listeners might expect from his most well-known band (Bongzilla), he sings in a light tenor that's coated with layers of spacey, near-psychedelic reverb. The effect of the droning, tuneful vocals sailing away on top of such crushing heaviness is fun and enjoyably unexpected, and lends the EP a lot of unique, paradoxically sweet personality. —Mike Noto
Dumb Vision's first release finds members of several of Madison's better garage-rock and punk bands (Dharma Dogs, Wood Chickens, Paint, the soon-to-be-renamed Fire Retarded) striking a balance of hooks and blasted-out grime. "Warm Meat" attacks with a charming, off-kilter sway, letting vocal melodies and guitar fills form a catchy back-and-forth that cuts through the scuzzy atmosphere. Album closer "One Hit" jams a quick extra little guitar hook in between the verses and choruses—the kind of thing that breaks up the joyous charge of the song just enough to make it thrilling. These mostly sub-two-minutes songs have guitar solos too, often of the wonderfully smeared and bent-up variety. —SG
Hip-hop ensemble Fringe Character's first album draws on a wildly varied palette of sounds and hooks from producer/multi-instrumentalist Ben Sholl. But the focus is just as much on the engaging verse-trading of MCs Laduma Nguyuza and Daewong, who seem to goad each other into surreal wordplay on standouts like "Sword Of Omens" and "Cherry Bomb." —SG
Oakland native and UW-Madison student Obasi Davis displays his versatility as both an MC and producer on his first EP under the name Heru. My personal favorite moment comes with the spinny, psychedelic beat and mid-tempo flows of "Writen." —SG
Jonesies write lyrics that occasionally feel like smart-assed attempts to subvert the very concept of lyrics ("Take me out to a game / I want to see the baseball players / Playing a game of baseball," goes the first verse of "Peter"). But on these four under-two-minutes songs, that terseness perfectly suits the trio's brightly crafted hooks that fall somewhere between jangle-pop and minimalist post-punk. —SG
Madison musician Tom Teslik has been a veteran of many projects that demonstrated his fondness and impressive technical facility for power pop-inflected indie-rock of all stripes (or vice versa), and while you could argue that his latest project Pollinators is more of the same, there's a slightly weightier feeling to this band that sets it apart. The hilarious chorus of "Used To Without You" sticks around for a while after listening, and while Teslik favors a somewhat slacker and less precise singing approach on this release than before, it still has enough charm to stay with the listener. Even though parts of this short release feel more promising than fully developed ("Drum Machine" is an instrumental in search of a vocal), there's a lot of Teslik's gift for tunefulness here to enjoy. —MN
The first full-length from Madison's best noise-rock band is as grim and austere as one could expect, full of churning, fractured rhythms and wiry, menacing guitar lines. —SG
Here's yet another reason it's been hard to sum up this year's Madison hip-hop offerings in our year-end coverage. UW-Madison First Wave student Eli Lynch, aka Smiley Gatmouth, sometimes jumps from spooky baritones to high cackles in a single verse, spinning an off-kilter but emotionally rich series of autobiographical songs. —SG
The more abstract side of Spencer Bible's project under the Tippy moniker emerges here in an inviting solo electronic venture that brims with verve and tender personality. While Public Displays Of Affection thrives on predominantly instrumental drone interspersed with shiny synth tones ("Spirit Shuffle"), manipulated samples ("Day By Day Bye Day") and jangly beats ("Harmonica"), its psych- and ambient-pop influences peak on the wintry feel-good vibes of "Good Communication," a luscious earworm that sounds like it wouldn't be out of place on Slowdive's Pygmalion. The bright whirling effects of the extended closer, "A Public Display Of Affection," even nostalgically evoke Air's surreal score for The Virgin Suicides. —GP
While we agreed that Trapo's She deserved its place in our top 20, I still view Shade Trees as an exciting glimpse into young rapper/singer's future. The album is an exploration of the incredibly broad range of talents and creativity Trapo possesses. He has already proven with She that he can construct a stellar record with a solid structure, from beginning to end. But on the other side, Shade Trees contains a whole slew of ideas. They're all well-executed in and of them themselves, but it's also important that this record makes an effort to go out on a limb, experiment, take risks. I look forward to seeing if Trapo will hone in on any one style from Shade Trees and apply it to the well-sculpted structural effort he displays on She. —Emili Earhart
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last updated: December 17, 2016 @ 4:43 pm
Thomas Wincek (Volcano Choir, Field Report) hosts a hands-on, collaborative learning session for electronic musicians. 2pm, free, all ages.
April 18 at Arts + Literature Laboratory. With Jason Kahn and Sheba.
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