Madison music starts 2023 off strong

A small collection of records and music videos from January.
A still from Cribshitter's "Crystal City" video shows Christine Christenson holding a large crystal in one hand while gazing into a plasma ball toy positioned between her face and the camera. The scene is tinted with purple light, and behind Christenson is a wall with a large cymbal or gong mounted on it.
A still from Cribshitter’s “Crystal City” video shows Christine Christenson holding a large crystal in one hand while gazing into a plasma ball toy positioned between her face and the camera. The scene is tinted with purple light, and behind Christenson is a wall with a large cymbal or gong mounted on it.

A small collection of records and music videos from January.

This is our newsletter-first column, Microtones. It runs on the site on Fridays, but you can get it in your inbox on Thursdays by signing up for our email newsletter.

Last year was a rich one for Madison’s music community, and while we did everything we could to keep up with 2022’s releases, there were still a few records we missed. More than a few Madison acts have released something in January. Heartfelt lyric videos, creative iPhone videos, a queer-focused compilation, and new releases from familiar faces are among the work getting this year off to a strong start. From slowcore to hard-hitting rap, January’s releases have been yet another reminder of Madison music’s versatility. And with 2023’s first Bandcamp Friday—a day-long event where Bandcamp waives their usual cut so artists on the platform take home a much larger percentage of purchases—set to take place on February 3, we thought it’d be a good time to direct some attention back towards a small handful of local acts keeping Madison’s music scene engaging.

Combat Naps, White Page 

In 2022, Combat Naps took a noticeable artistic leap, releasing their best full-length to date and a genuinely impressive single in “Flinching.” Less than a month into 2023, the band’s still firing on all cylinders, as evidenced by the new four-song EP White Page. Combat Naps’ trademark whimsy and relatively newfound commitment to a more aggressive, guitar-bent sound continues to ground their newest material. No song on White Page is over three minutes and most exist in the 90-second to two minute mark, but the band makes sure to maximize the impact of those short runtimes. Nearly everything on White Page hearkens back to the buzz band movement of the early-mid 2000s, when irreverent, twee-leaning indie rock acts like Volcano, I’m Still Excited!!, Bishop Allen, and The Unicorns rose to prominence. To their credit, Combat Naps are thoughtful enough to avoid empty revivalism and inject White Page with enough of a modern bent to set themselves apart from their influences, producing another exceptional record in the process.

Various, Queer Madison Mixtape Winter 2022-23

Queer Madison Mixtape Winter 2022-23 is the third volume in an ongoing compilation series helmed by Communication that highlights queer, largely Madison-based artists. T. Price, Hendrix, and Woke Up Crying return for a second entry into the series, while Heather Rae and Isaac Arms return for a third time. Nine monikers that are new to the series lend a jolt of energy to the Queer Madison Mixtape project, each delivering a solid track. “A compilation of low-effort recordings by local queers” is still the tagline here, alluding to the demo-level production quality of the tracks (which continue to be largely acoustic). But the songs themselves? That’s a different story. All proceeds from downloads of Queer Madison Mixtape Winter 2022-23 will go towards making Communication—an arts-focused space and a Tone Madison partner—more physically accessible.


Cribshitter, “Crystal City

In an email to Tone Madison, Cribshitter’s Karl Christenson described the band’s new video for “Crystal City” as “a dark love letter to Madison” as well as a tribute to Planes, Trains, And Automobiles. Directed and shot by Colin Crowley, the “Crystal City” video brings Cribshitter’s total commitment to absurd concepts into focus once more, effortlessly highlighting the band’s ability to confuse its audience. All of the Madison-centric shots in “Crystal City” are genuinely beautiful, exuding the curious mystique that often arises when presented with the familiar in an unfamiliar way. Karl and Christine Christenson both buy all the way into the video’s central concept—a crystal merchant hawking his goods to an eager client—which is bound to leave viewers with more questions than answers. Wonderfully weird and welcomingly understated, “Crystal City” is a worthy entry into the Cribshitter canon.

Cal Lamore, Fine Form, Lost Thoughts

Under his own name and as a member of various punk bands—Soot, Hex House, The Ferns, etc.—Cal Lamore has been an integral piece of well over a dozen records that have been released since 2014. All of that accumulated experience continues to pay off in Lamore’s solo ventures, each of which has been successively extending an impressive streak of formidable material. Fine Form, Lost Thoughts, Lamore’s latest, is a hypnotic blend of punchy post-grunge and fuzzed-out post-punk. Guttural, primordial, and deceptively thoughtful, Fine Form, Lost Thoughts revels in a grimy aesthetic that manages to retain an inordinate amount of focus. “Shook Loose,” the record’s inspired, ’50s pop-influenced, ambient-tinted closer, is among the best songs of Lamore’s collective discography and a clear early contender for our Top Songs of 2023 list.

Loveblaster, “Wings Over Madison

Two singles into a burgeoning career, Loveblaster have managed to firmly plant their feet within Madison music’s landscape. “Wings Over Madison”—a track the band graciously contributed to our To Grow A Garden compilation—was recently given a beautiful lyric video that features simplistic but oddly, and sometimes profoundly, moving illustrated depictions of Madison hallmarks and direct references to the song’s subject matter. Interspersed throughout are, of course, the bittersweet, near-elegiac lyrics to “Wings Over Madison.” Poetic, tender, and teeming with DIY inventiveness, the video represents another small triumph for the emergent slowcore duo.

Red The Bully, “CatDog

Snapchat filters and an iPhone 8 are, apparently, all you need to make an exceptional music video. Red The Bully maximizes the stylistic potential of that combination on his new clip for “CatDog,” a standout track from 2022’s The Hater Tape. Cycling through various avatars, animals, and creatures, the video puts Red The Bully front-and-center without ever truly showing him at all, giving the whole affair an offbeat, funhouse mirror effect that’s as engaging as it is disorienting. “CatDog” itself is an intoxicating track that’s got a ton of replayability value. Together, the track and the video actively heighten the effect of the other, creating something that sticks in the mind well after its closing seconds.

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