Driftless by Anna Vogelzang
Madison music in 2014 was invigorated by auspicious debuts and sustained by veteran artists. These 10 local releases were our favorites of the year.
The duo of Erin Fuller and Connie Ward added three new members and trekked north to Justin Vernon's April Base Studios to record this debut LP. The results are lush and melodic, melancholic and reflective -- wholly representative of the rock band's progress both musically and in life.
This country-folk outfit has built a devoted following thanks largely to the dynamic chemistry and emotive singing of spouses Amanda and Allen Rigell. But on Wolves Are Sheep, the group has evolved into a four-piece band. The EP packs a wallop, with fuller and more dynamic sound complementing the couple, who trade off on lead vocals. Instruments and voices work together throughout to create sharp, emotional moments.
Folk intersects with samples and synths on this full-length debut. The three farm boys of Double Ewes clearly have a love for electronica, but lyrically they emulate the introspection found in classic folk. The results are a hybrid that bridges generations.
These 10 songs were recorded in just two days but show how quickly and considerably the garage punkers have grown. Tyler Fassnacht's vocals and Alex Ross' drumming lead the charge, but this fuzzed-out ripper of a record is fleshed out by the guitar playing of the Hussy's Bobby Hussy.
Folk musician David Libert recorded this experimental collection of 25 tracks and sketches that join rhythmic instrumentals and playfully absurd lyrics. A 93-second jaunt, "Ted K," considers the significance of the Unabomber's sunglasses, while slow-burner "Barry Gibb" professes a love for the Bee Gee and his brothers.
The Golden Hour Groove Session
Ethan Jackson, the Madison producer/singer, floats his eerie falsetto over slapping synth-funk and R&B jams that encourage listeners to "accept the wave of love." With its accompanying video by director Michael Doyle Olson, songs like "Golden Treatment" keep the listener awash in trippy soul.
Nelson has been an in-demand musician and producer for several years. His Whittier EP certainly shows why his music has garnered a healthy fan base: half the disc displays his sharp songwriting chops and the other half his experimental side. The tracks had long been works-in-progress for Nelson, but the results are clearly worth the wait.
PHOX was riding a wave of buzz and acclaim in the months leading up to its first national release. Fortunately, the six-piece was up to the task and delivered an album that conveys the band's charm and charisma on display at its concerts. Monica Martin's heart-tugging vocals and the band's beautiful and delicate melodies make this a record not to be missed.
Retaliation is wrong but sometimes feels so right. Madison power trio Sinking Suns give rise across this EP to a brooding sound that smashes sludgy post-punk and surf with parables of comeuppance. While the band members pound their instruments, singer Dennis Ponozzo wrings a blood-curdling growl from his vocal cords on ragers like "Fathoms Deep." The sweet catharsis pulls you in.
This six-song EP is pulled largely from tracks Vogelzang wrote for the weekly "Real Women, Real Songs" project and marked the first recording she has made in Madison. Named for the part of Wisconsin that escaped the glaciers, Driftless explores themes of home, hardship and hope.