Though the major label record industry continues its trip down the seemingly bottomless waterslide that the Internet started it on, it's conversely ever easier for determined smaller labels and bands to find an audience outside their own communities.
One obvious example is all the virtual ink devoted to on-the-verge-of-international-breakout Zola Jesus. But many other Madison-based artists in recent years have created a buzz in the blogosphere -- particularly in more genre-specific worlds -- while remaining somewhat unknown to the general listener at home. Null Device, Caustic, the various projects of the unbelievably prolific Clay Ruby and the recently decamped Peaking Lights all come to mind immediately.
Thankfully, some of these talked about artists are again appearing on vinyl; in fact, there's been such a consistent stream of new local releases the pocketbook can't keep up -- even just trying to keep up with Burial Hex vinyl would be a serious undertaking. Here area few as I try to start catching up on what the kids are talking about these days.
Julian Lynch: Terra
UW graduate student Julian Lynch has been an online favorite for quite a while, and the reaction to his most recent album has raised the buzz to a near ear-piercing level. The music in Terra -- far from ear-piercing itself -- builds on the foundation of his past work and lives up to the hype, scrambling singer-songwriter folk, drony textures, jazz and little bits of everything else into a dense whole. Dense, but not heavy -- Lynch mostly keeps it pretty quiet. For listeners coming to the party to rock, most of Terra is going to be too quiet and amorphous, even verging on new age-y, so save it for an introspective moment. (Underwater Peoples, 2011; includes digital download)
Dead Luke: American Haircut
Dead Luke's first LP release following several cassettes and 7-inches is a shambling bedroom folk-psych opus. Sounding at times like an acoustic Spaceman 3, most of these songs start with a basic groove and then get way-out with the overdubs. Despite the trance-inducing nature of American Haircut, there's hooks buried in the haze, which helps make the album a compelling listen even if one is not higher than hell. Considering Dead Luke's involvement in the vintage rock 'n roll skronk whipped up by The Lonesome Savages, the hooks are no surprise ... and anyone who would include a tripped-out take on "Little Red Ridin' Hood" has got to like the pop. That Sam the Sham cover is a far straighter but equally worthy successor to Luke's deconstruction of "Jumpin' Jack Flash," from an earlier single. My favorite track, though, is the apocalyptic "Sunrise." (Florida's Dying, 2010)
Dead Luke: Meanwhile ... in the Midwest
For about half of LP number two, Dead Luke picks up the tempo a bit, firms up the song structures, and emerges unscathed with some fuzzy psych-pop gems. Those moments are bookended by longer, mind-expansion odysseys like the meandering opener and appropriately titled album closer "Endless High," which eventually develops into "Action Woman" as retrofitted for 22nd century stoners. Another winner. (Moon Glyph, 2011)