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Top 10 Picks for April 2014
KIINGS, Canopies and Bliss & Alice all make the cut. And more!

As the weather finally begins to warm up, the city of Milwaukee seems to wake from its extended hibernation. Music Notes rubs its eyes, stretches its arms and counts down the most significant musical moments from April.

10. Canopies earns praise overseas

The dreamy, insanely catchy synth-pop enthusiasts Canopies burst on the Milwaukee music scene a few years ago sounding like seasoned veterans on its eponymous five-song EP. Prepping for its full-length debut, the band shared the first cut since the EP, “Miss You Now,” a couple months back. The ears of music editors across the pond must have perked up after hearing the spacey, psychedelic saunter because in between its seemingly never-ending Oasis coverage, British magazine NME featured “Miss You Now” on its weekly emerging artists playlist.

9. New spring releases live up to anticipation

Milwaukee bands put out a bevy of excellent records this month. Check out new ones from The Sleepwalkers, Animals in Human Attire, Top Five Records’ Sound of Young Milwaukee compilation, Dream Attics and The Living Statues.

8. Myspace highlights KIINGS

Social media traffic moves so rapidly these days it feels like Myspace’s heyday reign as the medium’s ruler was much longer than just seven years ago. Even as the social networking service transferred its focus firmly to music, simpler and easier-to-navigate sites like Bandcamp and Soundcloud proved to be better options for musicians to share their discographies. One feature Myspace does well, however, is offer daily artist profiles. Local DJ duo KIINGS earned that honor this past month, as Chris Siegel and Sean Foran spoke about the electronic music scene and name-dropped some worthy Milwaukee bands. Read the interview here, but make sure to listen to their stuff on Bandcamp or Soundcloud.

7. Die Kreuzen re-releases seminal debut EP

Record Store Day has become such a huge hit that the list of exclusive releases reads like one of those intricate David Foster Wallace footnotes. The boundless inventory included releases from music industry titans like Bruce Springsteen and Arcade Fire plus bizarre collectibles like a limited-release purple Ghostbusters vinyl. No item had stronger local ties than Die Kreuzen’s reissue of its forceful punk debut, 1982’s Cows and Beer EP. Lead singer Dan Kubinski and bassist Keith Brammer even showed up to Rush-Mor Records to sign copies.

6. Milwaukee Psych Fest returns bigger and better

Doubling in size in consecutive years, Milwaukee Psych Fest expanded to four days this year. Growing exponentially did not provide diminishing returns, as the festival was able to score British shoegazing pioneers Loop on their allegedly swift reunion tour and the absolutely off-the-wall garage rockers The Blind Shake.

5. Sylvan Esso plays in van during SXSW

There were much more cramped spaces to play in Austin during South By Southwest, but probably none were nearly as bumpy as Sylvan Esso’s brief performance for La Blogothèque. Taped inside a traveling van, the camera literally has nowhere else to go other than directly on singer Amelia Meath. Her mesmerizing performance is underscored by the eerie samples from former Milwaukeean (and Decibully member) Nicholas Sanborn. While the Durham, North Carolina-based band isn’t headquartered in the Midwest, it’s worth paying attention to any project Sanborn has his name tied to.

4. The Celebrated Workingman releases a posthumous EP

Without warning, The Celebrated Workingman leader Mark Waldoch unleashed the six tracks that make up its final EP Don’t Let Your Memories Kill You this past month. The surprise was intensified because The Celebrating Workingman unceremoniously broke up more than a year ago. In a weird coincidence, Matt Wild begged the band, among others, to reunite in a Music Notes blog post in January. He didn’t quite get his wish, but it’s better than these songs simply sitting on the shelf.

3. Milwaukee Record sprints out the gate

What a better way to launch a website than with a shit-stirring, traffic-generating list? Co-editors Matt Wild and Tyler Maas counted down the best 50 records of the past four years to great praise and inevitable backlash, as exactly 50 bands felt honored by the distinction and a whole lot of the remainder seethed with contempt at those snobby nerds. Those snobby nerds do deserve a lot of credit for delivering thoughtful write-ups for each album—even if they failed to include my ukulele reinterpretation of Nirvana’s Nevermind* on their stupid list.

There’s no easier way to dive into the current local scene than through this catalog. If that wasn’t enough, another innovative series began running in conjunction with Honeycomb Productions that gives a local band one day and a $100 credit at American Science and Surplus to conceive and shoot a music video. Watch Soul Low get weird with its new colorful saxophone player in the first installment below.

*this does not exist

2. Bliss & Alice drops an exciting, outspoken mixtape

Before the classical string arrangement and backing beat have time to slowly emerge on Bliss & Alice’s stunning mixtape, Poetry Volume One: The Shit Talker Tape, the Milwaukee emcee has already started his head-spinning, whip-smart, lyrical rapping. The mixtape totals a lean 28 minutes jam-packed into nine tracks, and there’s so much story jammed into each line that makes this an outstanding, gripping and emotional debut.

1. Decibully reunites for a one-off Milwaukee Day show

For the first time since retiring at a Cactus Club show in 2011, Decibully reformed on a Turner Hall stage for a sizable Milwaukee Day crowd. Even considering the band barely rehearsed, the show went off quite well. A few flubs aside, Decibully appeared like their former selves, charming and jovial. Perhaps unintentionally, the night demonstrated that you should never take a local band for granted because one day, they might abruptly disband and never play again. Or maybe it proved that they will. 

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