By Sigra DeWeese
The Madison music scene is good at hiding people- this city and its surrounding scenes have an immense amount of talent. Fanbases often seem to be self contained and isolated from one another, making connection forging difficult- a fact that has not eased by the pandemic. Area artists have been weathering the events of the past year with stubborn tenacity however, putting out a plethora of streamable gold. To assist in the digging for it, I have compiled a brief list of some highlights of recent releases from local and regional artists.
Daycatcher, Fantasy Variation
RIYL: Neilaworld, Garden Avenue
Daycatcher’s music lands somewhere in the glitchpop realm, with rap and pop influences. His recent EP Fantasy Variation is a six track exercise in PC style production and finds Daycatcher building upon his signature self-described “Bright nostalgia” of a sound. With club quality trap beats and plenty of vocal processing, the quick listen is catchy and fresh. Bombastic second track “Check” finds Daycatcher lamenting “I just need a genie in a bottle, and a hundred million dollars and the weed to hit me harder than a truck” over a sparkling synth loop. “Bags” is a meditation on the nature of the price of reaching one’s goals. The entire aesthetic of the album is treated with care- Daycatcher creates his own merch and designs accompanying art for his music, so it’s no surprise that the project as a whole has a certain level of cohesion that’s hard to attain.
Michael Darling, Somebody
RIYL: Ethan Gruska, Your Smith
One of Madison’s hidden gems (though with rumors of a full length album sometime in the next year, perhaps not to be hidden much longer) is the virtuosic Michael Darling. A drummer savant (he’s played for upwards of 20years and he’s only 26- you do the math), Darling is accomplished on several other instruments and carries pop vocals with ease. His self produced singles “Drive” and “Somebody” are just a taste of the work he can do, and his instrument jumping capers in four piece local band MQBS (pronounced “mobs”) are a whirlwind to watch. His latest single, self produced “Somebody” (and the accompanying music video, in which his Roomba steals the show) is the perfect combination of disaffected and impatient to encapsulate the feeling of being an artist in the midst of the pandemic. The catchy bassline and robotic drums underscore his simple plea; “When will I be somebody?” If I’d have to take a guess, I’d say pretty darn soon.
Jane Hobson, Early College
RILY: Soccer Mommy, Snail Mail
Madison hailing Oberlin student Jane Hobson is fresh off the release of her first LP Early College, a seven track exploration of universal themes of tentative love and tentative growth. The clean production finds her bright vocals front and center, with solid indie instrumentation backing her up.
Kat and the Hurricane, Out of My Mind
RILY: Grouplove, Bad Suns, Christine and the Queens
If you’re looking for some highly polished queer synth pop, look no further than Madison darlings Kat and the Hurricane. Kat, Alex and Benjamin, a genderqueer trio of twentysomethings have careved out a dedicated fanbase in town, and are on their way to taking over the country. WSUM was lucky enough to have them in studio for a live set pre pandemic, which you can check out here. Last year’s EP Libra is a hook filled, anthem laden break up lamentation. The recent single Out of My Mind is catchy and sleek, a bit of a return to the group’s acoustic roots, but with added production touches like stomping drums and light touches of synth, and a bombastic, anthemic bridge. The production value and general trajectory of the band as a whole is seemingly indicative of big things to come for the trio, so keep your eye on them and let’s watch them blow up together.
Sylvie Lou, Open Armour
RILY: Polica, Bon Iver, Sufjan Stevens
Open Armour sees Sylvie Lou in the role of the disaffected cool girl with a heart of gold we all wish we could be. With breathy vocals and simple production, the music she writes is contemplative and understated. “Dopamine refill; I got a couple new handfuls” Lou gently sings, leading us into a laid back drum beat on the second track “Refill”. Open Armour is a quick listen (all five of the songs are under three minutes) but with careful, delicate instrumentation by Disq band member Isaac deBroux, there’s always something new to catch in a relisten.
RIYL: Dirty Projectors, Sufjan Stevens
Side project of WSUM DJ Daniel Palmeter, Fruitography’s latest ep Hour is a just shy of 13 minute gentle experiment. “Glass”, the project’s opening track, is arguably the only traditional song on the tracklist, with the four following pieces supporting the opener sonically, extending it’s ideas. “Who are you? Who aren’t you?” Palmeter queries on the hook of “Glass,” supported by a dissonant echo of the title word. On “Trees Grow Tall and Winter Leaves Fall…” Palmeter uses vocal fry and processes his sound with plenty of chop and spin to create a two minute avant garde meditation. “The Light” is an interlude of borrowed monologue supported by driving synth and a galloping guitar line that would be at home in the soundtrack of a Wes Anderson movie. The twelve-minute-and-some-change EP is rich with sonic landscaping, with heavy use of field recordings, often sent through processing and reverb to achieve an entirely new sound.
Supafriends, Clock Out
RILY: MF DOOM, Wu-Tang Clan
“I need a break!” assert the five emcees of Madison’s Supafriends on their newest release “Clock Out”, a laid back lamentation on the grind that finds the emcees expertly riding an understated bassline that would be at home on an MF DOOM track. The HipHop collective is a prolific set of rappers and producers who not only know how to work a crowd with an engaging and energetic live show, but know how to give back to their community. They’re the forces behind the regular open mic at the Goodman Community center (pre pandemic). The six piece (Tyrel the Well Treated, Maruchan Chef, SooDoNiM, Al D, Soup the Fifth, the Master Plan and producer Hardface the Pilot) have been referred to as the local WuTang, and judging from the catalogue of music they have out in the short few years they’ve been together, they’re well up to the challenge of living up to the moniker.
TeaWhyB, 1 AM
RIYL: Any early 00’s club pop
Not strictly a Madison local but a friend of the Madison scene, Green Bay based artist TeaWhyB has been churning out earworms for a few years now. His newest single, which dropped April 23, is a glitch-hyperpop, y2k inspired post-breakup banger called “1 AM”. The tune starts out with a driving guitar line, which leads into the catchy hook “It’s been nice to fall asleep again without you sleeping in my bed”. A perfect song for those who want a summer anthem but might not be too keen on the whole love song vibe that tends to come with them.
RIYL: Glass Animals, Perfume Genius
Madison based Emi Violet has been releasing her signature soft, introspective music over the course of the past few years under the moniker Deciduous. Her newest single, the galloping, reverb laden “Wanderlust” is a sonically poppier build on her earlier efforts, but with the touches of reverb laden guitar, it retains some acoustic touches. This new single finds twinking synths floating above the singer’s silky smooth vocals, with poetic, abstracted lyrics about nostalgia and heartache.