Apart from the occasional festival or music video release, the first three months of 2016 were pretty low-key. That certainly wasn’t the case for April, which saw an excess of great new albums from local artists and presented a sure-tell sign that summer isn’t that far away. Catch up with the best of last month with the Top Picks of April.
- Summerfest finally cements schedule for ground stage performers
While the ground stage headliners were disclosed in one fell swoop back in March, the festival took its sweet time sorting out the actual schedule, releasing the dates for acts stage-by-stage over the course of an entire week in April. Worse yet was the announcement that the KNE New Music Stage, which hosted mainly local musicians, would not return this year, leaving a hole for entertainment that bridged the downtime between the 8 p.m. and 10 p.m. ground stage slots and sometimes offered the best performances of the night.
- Dead Horses release new single, prep forthcoming album
“I guess I’ll never really know/ Maybe I’m made to be alone” the graceful Sarah Vos sings on the windswept tune “All You Really Need to Know.” While the newest Americana song from Dead Horses leans on folk traditions and religious themes, the heartbreak doesn’t seem manufactured, instead the tale feels painfully authentic. It’s the first track from forthcoming album, Cartoon Moon, due out this fall and a good sign of what’s to come. In the meantime, the band opens for Elephant Revival on May 11 at Turner Hall.
- Antler House are better musicians than pet owners
On the second track from Antler House’s sophomore album, Across the Waves, the narrative stumbles upon a quivering rabbit. But whether through malnutrition or just natural causes, the titular animal doesn’t even live to see the second verse, ascending to the “big gold gates” where there’s “lettuce flavored shakes.” That inattentiveness doesn’t carry over into the actual album, a sprawling effort that never loses its sense of direction.
- Raise a fist with Mark Borchardt in celebration of Soup Moat’s glorious new music video
Take an afternoon stroll through Riverwest in the two-song music video for Soup Moat’s “Band Practice” and “Uptowner Girl.” The video opens with local filmmaker and cult icon Mark Borchardt walking to the Riverwest Public House. He quickly ditches the bar to avoid a band’s awful soundcheck and instead goes home to listen to his stereo, where members of Soup Moat invade his brain and send him into convulsions. When the band lets out an exclamatory “Yeah,” Borchardt is seen pumping a fist atop Kilbourn Park. The second half of the video presents some drunken debauchery at The Uptowner, which perfectly captures what it’s like being young and living in Riverwest.
- Succumb to Heat Death’s noisy anti-melodies
The key to happiness might be found in embracing chaos. 9 Steps to a Happier Life, the debut full-length from post-punk band Heat Death, certainly lives up to that ideology, which forgoes any hooks for a barrage of noise and a brutal rhythm section.
- Paper Holland returns to dish out Fast Food
It’s been three years since we’ve heard new material from indie-pop group Paper Holland. In April, the band reemerged with its latest EP, the five-song Fast Food. The effort signaled a change in direction, away from the guitar-based work on Happy Belated and incorporated more sonic elements to develop the band’s sound. “We were inspired by the Milwaukee music scene because a lot of the bands that we like in Milwaukee have this really broad, eclectic sound,” Tomcheck told me when I interviewed the band for an article last month. “They use a lot of percussion and keyboard and saxophone. I think we drew a lot from that.”
- WebsterX crashes to Earth on “Everything”
Directors Cody LaPlant and Damien Blue made a big splash on the local music scene with last year’s “Doomsday” and “Lately” music videos for WebsterX. In April, the duo returned with their most ambitious project with WebsterX thus far, the stunning sci-fi adventure, “Everything.”
- A bigger and better Arte Para Todos rocks Milwaukee for a noble cause
Last year’s inaugural event Arte Para Todos dived into the deep-end of the local music pool immediately. The organizers threw caution to the wind and gave the city an expansive mega-festival that featured 70 bands over three days. The gamble paid off, as the proceeds generated for local Milwaukee Public Schools exceeded $20,000. This year the festival somehow grew even bigger, extending to four days, across four neighborhoods and featuring more than 90 bands in 25 venues.
- Trapper Schoepp unveils Rangers & Valentines
Filled with the always-intriguing narratives of Trapper Schoepp, Rangers & Valentines unfolds like a detailed roadmap of the singer-songwriter’s travels, lost loves and family legends. Nobody this young has as many good stories to tell.
- Space Raft lift off
No Milwaukee band had a bigger month than Space Raft, who not only released their outstanding second full-length, Rubicon, but also performed for big crowds at Bernie Sanders speeches in Madison and Milwaukee. The band even took a backstage photo with actors Rosario Dawson and Shailene Woodley. Let me just say this, in an insanely great month for Milwaukee music, Space Raft makes a justified claim to be the top one-tenth on this list.