Sounds Like Wisconsin: Hometown Acts Both Big and Small

Volcano Choir
Repave

We’ve already shown our love for Wisconsin native Justin Vernon for his work on Bon Iver, but Repave shows an entirely different side of him: this album makes him look like he’s just a guy having fun. Collaborating with members of another local favorite band, Collections of Colonies of Bees, Vernon and company have created a record with a fresh rock sound, killer lyrics, and most importantly of all, the ability to stick in your head.

Repave is in many ways all about power. The album sounds absolutely fantastic, and powerfully so—truly unique guitar lines effortlessly combine with a deep and incredibly clear sound. Even amidst all that power, Vernon never allows his voice to be outshone. He sings with all the guts of a power ballad while maintaining his trademark dark mood. Unlike Vernon’s work with Bon Iver, however, this album has potential for real stadium sound.

Don’t miss tracks: “Alaskans”, “Comrade”

Violent Femmes
Permanent Record: The Very Best of the Violent Femmes

Some of Wisconsin’s most famous musical natives released this essential collection of their all-time greatest tracks in 2005. This album is really mood music, but not in the way you’d usually picture that phrase. The mood here is teenage angst and ecstasy, bouncing off the walls and sometimes falling to the ground. It’s also just really, really wanting to party. This album captures that scream-it-at-the-top-of-your-lungs vibe that was so essential to the band’s success.

This album makes a good call in focusing largely on tracks from self-titled debut album Violent Femmes, an incredibly fun collection of songs that was nearly impossible to follow. These songs are instantly and insanely catchy, but not without the music clout to back it up. There’s a fantastic minimalism going on here—acoustics, a single drum—but it’s far from boring. These Milwaukee natives know how to keep a party going, wherever that party may be.

Don’t miss tracks: “Blister in the Sun”, “Kiss Off”

PHOX
Friendship

Don’t be intimidated by the impossibly long tracklist here. Those 19 tracks look deceptively long. About half the songs, however, are in the 20-second range, creating an album that actually comes to feel like the perfect length.

Part of that perfect length feeling comes from the fact that this is just a really nice listen. Friendship has an eclectic, indie-pop sound that blends seamlessly from track to track. The seven-piece PHOX, originally Baraboo natives, have created a unique combination of longer songs and shorter, transitional musical arrangements that tie together into a tight album that’s fun all the way through.

Instrumentally, the album focuses on crystal-clear vocals and awesome instrumentation, featuring horns, banjos, synths and the whole nine yards. This band is certainly up-and-coming—time to get on the bandwagon!

Don’t miss tracks: “Clubs and Spades”, “Shrinking Violets”

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