Here's a jaunty stroll through the musical path paved with a teetering stack of recent CDs threatening to cover my desk.
Sunderland's Field Music is the quirky alt.pop dream of brothers David and Peter Brewis and the group's two discs were quietly some of the best music to emerge from Britain in recent years. David issued "Sea to Shore" as School of Language back in February and now Peter returns with "The Week That Was" (Memphis Industries), a rhythmic, syncopated, synth- and guitar-driven pop record worthy on 1980-era XTC. Although it was bad news that Field Music split, if that rift means we get two great records a year instead of one, how can we complain?
I don't know much about Gospel Gossip from the Twin Cities except that the group was one of First Avenue's Best New Bands last year and this year won the Best New Band category in City Pages. That, and that the jangly, echoey guitar record it released in 2007, "Sing Into My Mouth" (Guilt Ridden Pop), reminds me of the great early Bettie Serveert Records, albeit a bit more manic. Really, what it reminds me of most, is a dark, cold, late night at, say, Kodric's, with The Honest Disgrace onstage.
Then, there's Australia's I Heart Hiroshima, which features great primordial guitar playing and no bassist. All three members sing, keeping things interesting on "Tuff Teef" (Valve Records), and the group sounds very much like Italy's Yuppie Flu with catchy melodies, snaky guitar runs and a direct, no frills approach.
The first sounds on Kristoffer Ragnstam's "Wrong Side of the Room" (Bluhammock Music) suggest Johnny Cash's Sun sessions, but that quickly gives way to a low-fi, rock and roll melodicist who manages to mix "Magical Mystery Tour" overload with acoustic guitar-driven new wave retro in a single song like "2008." Then, on the next track -- "Sorry For Being The Man of 1000 Questions" -- the Swede is rock-rapping over an overloaded cheap-o beat box and what sounds like a kids' Casio keyboard. Then, "Swing That Tambourine" is low-key, addictive pop with a lovely guitar and piano figure. Somehow he manages to make it all sound coherent.
Singer and songwriter Bill Madden's "Child of the Same God" is indie rock and roll for fans of Springsteen, Petty and maybe even The Replacements and Elvis Costello. Madden's emotive voice renders the lyrics the focus of the alt.Americana rock workout.
Yearning for that next Fischerspooner record that won't ever come? Check out Philly's The Model, whose debut disc, "Physical," comes out in November on Playloop Records. Less awkwardly artsty-fartsy, The Model isn't afraid to be catchy. Listen to these seven tracks and you may be transported back to 1981, when Depeche Mode's "Speak & Spell" dropped. But even that was less poppy than "What Does It Look Like I'm Doing" and "I Won't Be Hanging Out Anymore."
Drawing on a similar era is Rafter, whose seven-track "Sweaty Magic" is out on Asthmatic Kitty. You'll hear Tom Tom Club and Bootsy and Clinton records from the dawn of the ‘80s in this collection of cluttered, dance-y, low-fi disco pop gems following on the success of last year's "Sex Death Cassette."
Also on Asthmatic Kitty is "City of Refuge" by Castanets. There are some alluring moments here, like the raw guitar and vocal on "Prettiest Chain" and "Refuge 1" and the good modern folk tunes "I'll Fly Away" and "After the Fall," but you've got to sift through too many guitar / noise noodlings that make this a great EP, needlessly topped off with, if you ask me, editing room floor clippings.
I'm Not Jim is the name of a roots rock project featuring Walter Salas-Humara of The Silos and novelist Jonathan Lethem. Improbable? Sure. Does it work? Absolutely! Although Lethem doesn't appear to perform on "You Are All My People" (Bloodshot Records), he contributes to the songwriting and the record feels like a genuine collaboration as Salas-Humara renders Lethem's lyrics to a style that is more encompassing than that of his own band. Also in on the collaboration is The Elegant Too, with former members of Brave Combo. This is smart, artful roots rock, but it's a lot more fun than that makes it sound.
Speaking of collaborations, High Places is based on the back and forth songwriting of Mary Pearson and Rob Barber and the duo's self-titled Thrill Jockey disc features unusual instrumentation and non-traditional arrangements to spotlight Pearson's tender, sing-songy vocals. Other than drums and percussion, I'd be hard-pressed to tell you exactly what instruments were used to make this music, but I guarantee that you won't hear another record like it this year or, most likely, next.
No Talkbacks for this article.
Post your comment/review now
Disclaimer: Please note that Facebook comments are posted through Facebook and cannot be approved, edited or declined by OnMilwaukee.com. The opinions expressed in Facebook comments do not necessarily reflect those of OnMilwaukee.com or its staff.
Recent Articles & Blogs by Bobby Tanzilo
Published Sept. 16, 2014
Though the exhibition was a small one, Milwaukee photographer Kevin Miyazaki's "Perimeter" show at the Haggerty Museum was one of the highlights of the local arts scene in 2013. Now, the project is showcased in a hardcover book -- officially launched with an event on Wednesday, Sept. 17 -- and we caught up with Miyazaki to ask him about the inspiration for and the perspiration of creating this unmatched exploration of Lake Michigan and its diverse users.
Published Sept. 16, 2014
Decades after the break-up of The Rascals, Felix Cavaliere is still performing. We caught up with him before he arrives in Milwaukee this week for a gig at the Northern Lights Theater.
Published Sept. 15, 2014
There are few events more exciting for me than Doors Open Milwaukee, which takes place this coming weekend, Sept. 20-21, as dozens of locations around town as venues of all kinds swing open their doors to let Milwaukeeans see inside. There are churches, schools, office buildings, historic sites and much more.Here are six you won't want to miss!
Published Sept. 13, 2014
Like you, we love the Klement's Racing Sausages. But, the other day, while gazing down at the figures on a T-shirt celebrating 20 years of sal-seech, I wondered if a few of them couldn't use a bit of a makeover and if the time is ripe for a sixth member of the meat-grinder gang.
Published Sept. 10, 2014
Once upon a time, The Modjeska Theater, 1134 W. Mitchell St., was a neighborhood movie palace, the big daddy of Mitchell Street, the second busiest thoroughfare in Milwaukee after Wisconsin Avenue. Now, after four dormant years, and decades after it ended its run as a movie house, Mitchell Street Development Opportunity Corporation is cleaning it up, with an eye toward re-opening in spring with a mix of movies, concerts and other live performances.
Published Sept. 9, 2014
I love finding bits of Milwaukee history and now more than ever they're easy to find online.
Published Sept. 8, 2014
Madison's non-partisan Forward Institute released a report Monday that looked at education funding across the state of Wisconsin and found that over the past decade increasing poverty, deep education cuts, voucher expansion, the economic recession and growing rates of bilingual and special needs enrollment have led to a system that fuels funding and opportunity gaps among Wisconsin students and communities.
Published Sept. 7, 2014
A few weeks ago, I looked at missed opportunities, ugly spaces and other problem spots east of the river. This time, I go west.
Published Sept. 5, 2014
When school opened for the majority of MPS schools this week, most every program had a new 30-hour-a-week parent coordinator paraprofessional on staff to help school staff and families build bridges. At least one school's coordinator has constructed a successful one via social media. It's a model that could be successfully duplicated at other schools.
Published Sept. 3, 2014
The office of the County Executive Chris Abele today released an updated plan -- announced in collaboration with Mayor Tom Barrett -- for the mixed-use Couture high-rise development on the lakefront.