Top 10 Picks for May

Featuring Soul Low, Tigernite, NO/NO, Vincent VanGreat, Midwest Death Rattle, Space Raft, Jon Mueller, and the beginning of Festival Season.

It’s finally warm outside, which means the time for porch music is here. You may discover some good options from the Milwaukee music scene last month. Find them for yourself in the Top Picks of May:

  1. Summer festival season is oh so near

The weather is reaching t-shirt-wearing level temperature, which means summer and the city’s festival season is finally approaching. The schedules for most festivals have been finalized—including Chill on the Hill, Brady Street Festival, Burnhearts’ Pabst Street Party, Summer Soulstice, the 40th Annual Locust Street Festival, and more—and the calendar this year seems even bigger than ever.

  1. Even though festival season seemed to start a month early

While the proper festival season starts with Pridefest and Locust Street Festival in the second week of June, May signaled an early start with a handful of weekend festivals, including the four-day Milwaukee Psych Fest and two-day Gloss Weekend.

  1. Soul Low reworks songs for live acoustic release

Back in February, Soul Low played an unplugged set at University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee’s Helene Zelazo Center for the Performing Arts. Instead of simply, swapping out electric guitars for acoustic ones, the group took the challenge of re-arranging their songs with extra instrumentation, like cello, violin and trumpet. This month the band made that set available as a pay what you want download on Bandcamp. All proceeds would go support local radio station WMSE 91.7FM.

  1. Vincent VanGREAT delivers classic ‘90s throwback

In advance of his forthcoming self-produced debut album, UnGREATful, rapper Vincent VanGREAT released his second single this month, the sun-blissed, nostalgia-steeped, “Bel-Air,” in which raps about Uncle Phil, Carlton sweaters behind a slick guitar riff and laugh track.

  1. Midwest Death Rattle takes step forward on sinewy, nervy sophomore record

On Post​-​Apocalypso, Midwest Death Rattle expands its theatrical, eclectic rock soundscapes with the additional accompaniments of saxophone, trumpet, tuba and cello. The album goes anywhere it pleases, which usually ends up being those dark corners that are rarely exposed.

  1. Listen to a new track from Kiings’ producer Chris Siegel and Strehlow

WWYDF, the debut from Kiings, landed at No. 12 on the best albums of 2015. Chris Siegel, one of the minds behind that duo, teamed up with fellow producer Strehlow and familiar Kiings’ collaborators Christine Hoberg, Siren and Lex Allen for the effervescent This Is How EP last month. The two song release presents two different versions of the same track.

  1. Tigernite reignites cheery glam rock torch on new EP

Glam rock party band Tigernite came out roaring on last year’s anthemic debut album, which ended up as No. 11 on the best albums of 2015. This month the band returned with another riotously fun four-song EP, Blood Moon, which explores such topics as metamorphosis, attempted ghost murder and a sword fight on a thundercloud.

  1. Space Raft embrace the future with 360 degree music video

In May, ‘60s power pop-influenced rock band Space Raft set its sights on the future for its new music video for “Hang On Hang On.” Viewers can move within the video to see a 360 degree view of the band playing the song in a basement while people partying around them.

  1. Percussionist Jon Mueller experiments with unique voices on new album

Jon Mueller’s latest work, Tongues, finds the drummer examining the entrancing effects of the human voice. It’s a whirring and encompassing effort, even though all the words are indecipherable, seemingly set in some unknown language. Backed with a variety of bass drums, percussion instruments, harmonium, tanpura, and sarangi played through a piano (courtesy of Death Blues’ collaborator William Ryan Fritch), Tongues is an audacious work from an artist willing to push the boundaries.

  1. NO/NO shines brightly with neon colors on debut

The first two EPs from NO/NO, which came in quick succession after the band formed in 2014, showed a brooding ‘80s post punk group that had just discovered synthesizers. The mood felt gloomy and dark—the cover art for both EPs was appropriately set in black in white with pink lettering. But on the band’s debut full-length, Sound and Light, something has changed. The band sounds energized and playful. The album will certainly soundtrack some late-night dance parties this summer.



Kevin is a freelance writer residing in Milwaukee. He’s contributed to The Shepherd Express, Third Coast Daily, Pop Matters and the sadly now-defunct A.V. Club Milwaukee. He looks forward to forging a deeper connection with the city’s impressive music scene during his gig as a Music Notes blogger. His talents include music criticism, riding a bicycle, drinking tasty beers and a crafty croquet swing. His weaknesses comprise Jean-Claude Van Damme movies, professional wrestling and his ever-growing record collection. He’s in desperate need to find more physical (and hard drive) space for the exceptional albums Milwaukee musicians keep churning out.