Four local releases have February off to a strong start.
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.
February in Madison has already brought us a strong batch of notable releases from musicians working in the area. Graham Hunt returned with a country-tinged single ahead of the forthcoming Painting Over Mold and several other bands ushered in exciting new chapters via strong EPs. While most of us have been trapped inside, we thought it’d be a good idea to spotlight some new releases that have helped make avoiding the death trap that is Wisconsin winter a little more enjoyable. As always, make sure to keep up with our local music coverage and feel free to reach out to let us know what’s caught your ear.
For years, Graham Hunt has been making an impression on Wisconsin’s music scene, whether through Midnight Reruns, Midwives, Sundial Mottos, or a smattering of other projects. Hunt also spent some time filling in for Dusk, whose impact can be heard all over the classic country-leaning “Scraping The Road,” creating a subtle genre shift that winds up being a perfect complement for Hunt’s singular grasp on power-pop. A Weakerthans-esque lead guitar line and a shuffling bass line allow the song to fit snugly between comfort and urgency and the lyrics (“I’ve been having dreams about my favorite radio host / and I realize when I’ve run out of liquor / the ship has sailed for me to make my own little world / so I was thinking that I could join hers”) give the track a significant punch. It’s the first single from Hunt’s forthcoming album Painting Over Mold, and we may be featuring that in greater depth once it’s out.
Three releases in and Treatment have staked their reputation on an aggressive and immediate strain of post-punk, something that continues to pay dividends. Weeping House finds the band operating with confidence, barreling through four tracks that hit a collection of memorable highs. Between the frantic, psych-inflected bookends of “Anunnaki’s Blues” and “Tame Heart,” the Weeping House EP manages to find a way to thread narrative consistency through a wild, entertaining, and chaotic listen. Overwhelming anxiety and a modicum of optimism seem to be in constant combat across the EP, making it a vital, timely capsule of the present moment. Weeping House also finds guitarist Liam Casey extending an impressive recent run, building on accomplishments with Soot and Air Cabin.
Last July, Tollbooth debuted by way of a cover of fellow Madison band Post Social’s “Never Coming Back” and followed that up with two other standalone tracks. Now, the duo of Benjamin Kissick and Sherdian Connor are releasing their first collection of originals, opting to go the self-titled route for this EP. Mixed by Disq’s Isaac deBroux-Slone, Tollbooth extends Madison’s recent spike in irreverent, powerpop-driven indie punk with casual, winsome grace. Opener “Professional” sets Tollbooth’s lyrical template with a classic run through the ennui of young adulthood, pivoting from the frustration of being undervalued at work to the myriad frustration of navigating the value of material objects and intangible moments. Overdriven bass and guitars with a light coat of crunch make up most of Tollbooth’s instrumental approach, but the duo knows to effectively wield their dynamics, keeping the EP engaging over 14 minutes and change and providing an enticing base for a promising future.
Madison is no stranger to dark post-punk acts but it’s been a while since the genre yielded a debut as impressive as Yuka Zolo’s Bleed. Split between Madison and Tucson, Arizona, the band, headed up by vocalist Faydra Cronin, boasts a few faces that are likely to be familiar to anyone who had been regularly attending Madison’s punk shows before the lockdown (including No Hoax’s Tyler Spatz and Anthony Moraga). Every song on Bleed is between two and a half and three minutes, creating a sense of propulsion. Soaring vocals and an atmosphere of tension provide Yuka Zolo’s anchor but the interplay between Spatz’s guitar work and Alex Kaiser’s drums significantly heighten Bleed’s emotive heft. “Deprivation,” Bleed’s centerpiece, is a perfect encapsulation of the band’s strengths. Subtle, unflinching, and pointed, the track underlines Yuka Zolo’s penchant for sensing when to show restraint and when to go into a full-throated attack.
Help us publish more stories like this one.