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Spring listens 2: Introspection, volume, and irreverence

The second volume in a series on recent Madison releases.

Disq photo by Meghan Vieth.

The first quarter of 2020 has been a staggeringly productive time for musicians in Madison. It’s been tough to keep up with, not just because of world events but because people are putting out a ton of noteworthy albums, EPs, singles, videos, and live recordings, and the widely scattered variety of local music is in full force. We’ve covered some of it already in a recent podcast and dozens of other music features this year. Over the next few weeks, we’re going to do some additional catching up, a few releases at a time. We have a lot in mind for this rolling feature already, but suggestions are always welcome.

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Disq, Collector

Undoubtedly set to be one of Madison’s most high-profile releases this year, Collector launches Disq into the national conversation. “Communication,” an exceptionally strong 2018 single, saw the band team up with indie mainstay Saddle Creek Records for their 7-inch series and became the band’s entryway to a bigger record deal with the label. Collector marks Disq’s first full-length as a quintet and lives up to the hype generated by both the “Communication” single and the record’s advance singles, “Daily Routine” and “Loneliness.”Both of those songs hinted at the record’s overall promise while boasting memorable music videos (linked above), which saw the project carving out a niche somewhere between early Weezer and The Weakerthans. Collector offers a fascinating amalgam of several indie rock and slacker punk hallmarks without an inch of irony or detachment, a move that heightens the record’s cumulative effect. Clever narratives and intuitive compositions abound on the record, which was clearly intended to be a statement release. Message received. Collector stands as a commendable, earnest work from a young, hungry band that’s already proving its worth.  

Colin Edwin, “KISSing” b/w ‘Planned Obsolescence” 

Going to the opposite side of the spectrum of recognition, KISSing b/w Planned Obsolescence is a slept-on online single from a largely unheralded songwriter who has been more than deserving of a larger audience for well over a decade. Colin Bares, a transplant from Stevens Point, has been involved in numerous projects (including the Madison-via-Stevens Point act Mr. Martin & The Sensitive Guys) and accrued a startlingly impressive discography. The single “KISSing” and its companions “Waltz For Christina” and “Planned Obsolescence” are the first tracks released under Bares’ new moniker, Colin Edwin, and presents a clear-eyed reminder of unfathomable talent. There’s a simplicity at the heart of some relatively complex arrangements in this acoustic-and-vocals-only release that accelerates the emotional impact of the songs, which play like paeans to self-reliance, determination, and survival. Floating vocals and impressive fingerpicking coalesce into something quietly transcendent on each of these three tracks, which probe a core of sadness to excavate meaning and significance in the face of various difficulties. Personal pain and gradual relief are both immensely palpable throughout the release’s various rises and falls. Astonishing work, as always, from a singular talent. 

Combat Naps, These Decibels 

One of the Madison titles to have found release over the past few weeks, Combat NapsThese Decibels arrives at a curiously appropriate time. While everyone continues adjusting to a significantly more locked down environment, the calls for light entertainment have increased tenfold. Combat Naps have answered in kind. These Decibels is a 13-track record that leans heavily on the band’s irreverent form of hyper-twee indie pop. Agreeably strange and littered with clever turns of phrase, These Decibels offers a perfect opportunity for distraction. Driven by bright keys, whimsy, and impeccable pop melodies, Combat Naps have created something that’s easy to consume and fun to explore. It’s an escapist aficionado’s dream. With most of the songs clocking in at under 90 seconds, These Decibels plays through quickly and welcomes repeat listens. 

Banders: In Support Of Progressive Policy And Coronavirus Relief

While technically not a Madison release, the sprawling Under the Counter Tapes compilation Banders: In Support Of Progressive Policy And Coronavirus Relief is headlined by another largely unheralded Madison songwriter, Jason Lambeth, who records under the name Red Pants. Lambeth contributed a demo for a track called “Dim Lights” to the compilation, which also appears as a music video on the release’s bandcamp page. “Dim Lights” is another characteristically strong bit of downtrodden, psych-inflected grunge pop from the project and deserves its featured slot on a record that boasts 53 other strong tracks. 

For more on a very worthy project, take the time out to read through the Spring, Texas-based tape label’s statement accompanying the release, which can be found at the bottom of the Bandcamp page. As the title suggests, the compilation will serve as a benefit for coronavirus relief funds and progressive causes. The story behind its formation and its title are both entertaining and, in a way, inspiring. Banders is a testament to strength and unity in a time that requires distance and, thankfully, the songs allow its message to resound loud and clear.

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