Continuing on with more new-release catch-up, this week's focus is on LPs with Wisconsin connections.
Zebras: Impending Doom/The Fate of a World Plagued by Soulless Shits
Madison's agit-gloom Moog-metal combo returns with its long-awaited first full-length release. The reader who hasn't heard Zebras can probably get a sense of the band's worldview on this LP from the dual titles. While their words may not be sunny, Vincent Presley and Lacey Smith's jumpy music rages against the downers Presley yelps about. The dual titling also signifies two different incarnations of the band; one side is with former drummer Shawn Pierce and one with current beater Shane Hochstetler (who also recorded the album at Howl Street studio in Milwaukee). The lineup change is just one part of why it's taken so long for this album to emerge, and those interested can learn much more an Isthmus story published in June.
The wait was worth it, though, as Zebras came through with an excellent LP! The official release party is at the Frequency on Friday, August 10, with an all-star lineup also featuring The Hussy, Dharma Dogs and IfIHadAHiFi. Fans interested in grabbing an LP may want to act fast, because they only made a couple hundred. (Secret Records #03, 2012; with download code)
The Daredevil Christopher Wright: The Nature of Things
The Daredevil Christopher Wright is my favorite of the various indie bands exploding out of the Eau Claire area in recent years, and the trio's latest album only adds to that feeling. For those who haven't yet heard Daredevil Christopher Wright and would like an easy reference point, think a quieter Fleet Foxes (particularly their soaring harmony vocal blend) with the addition of more complex rhythms.
The Nature of Things finds the group taking a step forward musically beyond their debut by actually taking a step back from enlisting guests to help fill out their recorded sound. The only help on the album is a guest vocal by Caroline Smith, and even that is subsumed in the track's harmonies. In person, they've never been afraid to switch up the instrumentation among members, sometimes even mid-song; I'd imagine the stripped-down arrangements on The Nature of Things will both make it easier for the group to play these songs live and also allow them more latitude at how they are recreated.
All that aside, these new songs are their best yet. The group has a knack for setting a musical mood that carries their indirectly told tales right to the listener's heart. Recorded by Patrick Stolley of Daytrotter, the LP version of The Nature of Things sounds absolutely fabulous, and is one of the best United pressings I've encountered for awhile. At the moment, Daredevil Christopher Wright's next scheduled Madison show isn't until Tuesday, Sept. 11, which will give us all plenty of time to absorb their latest album before seeing what they do with these songs on stage. (File Under Music FUM1027, 2012; with download code)
Peaking Lights: Lucifer
Peaking Lights may have left Madison last year to return to the West Coast, but we won't hold it against them. This summer, they're back on record store racks with a new LP, Lucifer, which is sort of the Sunday morning follow-up to breakthrough album 936's tripped-out Saturday night dance party. On Lucifer, the duo brings the tempo down even more, setting up a laid-back synth grooves and letting them stretch out and breathe. Melody layers pile up, mostly via more keys and the hypnotic croon of Indra Dunis. The gentler sound is likely at least partially inspired by Dunis and Aaron Coyes youngster -- the song "Beautiful Son" most certainly is -- and he even makes an appearance on the song "Lo Hi."
Lucifer is another cool disc from a band hitting its musical stride by striking a tenuous balance in the tug of war between undeniable pop leanings and the noisy, experimental formlessness of their earlier work. My favorite track so far: the dub-psych "Cosmic Tides." (Mexican Summer MEX 114, 2012; with download code)