This year’s Water City Racket Fest is poised to overtake its predecessor in many respects. Whether it’s the variety of venues, the opportunity to hear artists speak on their craft, the diversity of styles, or any number of other facets that make Racket Fest one of the most-anticipated winter music events in this part of the state, it’s evident no corners have been cut this year.
WATER CITY RACKET FEST
FEB 14-16, 2019
While fans wait with bated breath until the Fest’s opening night (accompanied by the release a limited-run CD featuring several of the artists), I’ve decided to compile my OWN mixtape of some of the bands to get you acquainted with much of the talent you’ll be able to catch. In my (not so) humble opinion, this is a curated collection that pulls from the best of the artists’ discographies. For ease, I opted for Spotify – unfortunately several artists were nowhere to be found there, so you’ll have to bear with me a bit. Read through a couple thoughts on the tracks below and be sure to give the playlist a spin!
Nickle&Rose – Americana
“Americana” is the title track off the group’s latest EP and is a good entry point for new listeners to this Milwaukee folk duo. The lyrics are culturally-conscious; the musical composition is refined without being pretentious. Nickle&Rose bring a new perspective to a genre that tends to tire quickly.
Good Night Gold Dust – Waves
Good Night Gold Dust’s most recent EP may be some of their most refined work to date, but I’d argue it still doesn’t manage to top the catchiness of “Waves” off their self-titled release. “Waves” is a groovy track with plenty of punch, smooth vocals, and a powerful chorus. The group’s blend of electro-rock manages to distinguish itself from its overproduced counterparts, opting instead for a refreshingly-organic vibe.
Faux Fawn – In Matters of Sin
Luke Basseuner is practically a household name when it comes to the Wisconsin scene. He, along with his wife Audra, have teamed up with Paul Otteson, Tom McCarty, and Doug Brown to form the backbone of Madison’s Faux Fawn. While Otteson’s fantastical tracks span a handful of albums, “In Matters of Sin” shows the delicate, minimalist approach the band takes toward their compositions. Folk drumming pairs with mallet percussion and harmony vocals for an experience that is equally accessible and intricate.
Redshift Headlights – These Are Your Best Days
“These Are Your Best Days” is the closing track off their latest album, and its placement is entirely appropriate. The beginning is sporadic, with hints of synthesizers, cello, and lyrics which seems to quick shift through several different narratives. The somewhat-chaotic nature of the track wanes as all instruments coalesce into an explosive crescendo that easily makes it one of the emotional high points of the album.
Horace Greene – Grizzly
Undeniably, “Grizzly” is one of the most fun songs Horace Greene has put out to date. It’s a groovy track with memorable guitar lines, punchy bass, and tight drums. It’s a dreamy track, but it certainly won’t put you to sleep.
Asumaya – The Strength and the Storms
Luke Bassuener again makes the list, this time with his solo project. Asumaya is nothing you’d expect from a solo artist – songs are crafted live through looping, and they tend to be heavily focused on percussion and bass. “The Strength and the Storms” manages to capture this experience well, carefully adding both instrumental and vocal layers into the mix as it progresses.
The Present Age – Do You Want to Be Alone
The Present Age may well be on the cusp of releasing a new EP, but don’t overlook their back catalog. Alt-rock meets 80s on “Do You Want to Be Alone”, for a sound that seems to fall somewhere between Interpol and The Cure. It’s a sobering sound, but your repressed teen angst will be singing along the whole time.
RedHawks – Phase
RedHawks has continued to reinvent themselves, but the consistent core of psychedelic rock and bluesy riffs is very much intact. “Phase” gives listeners a taste of the Hawks’ gritty guitars, minor key vocals, and strong rhythm section.
Pudge – Invincible
“Invincible” sits nicely on my mental list of “Songs That Would Be Great On Skateboarding Games”. Needless to say, it’s upbeat, power-chord-driven, and raw. Pudge may have put out this track last year, but it definitely calls back to similar punk anthems that were rampant in 2006.
Noell Kaylene – Hush
“Hush” is a bright track that features Kaylene’s trademark ukulele. However, crisp drums, intermittent strings, and do-wop harmonies are a nice added touch and keep the track from ever feeling stale.
Copper Box – Zydeco Boogaloo
Copper Box is perhaps known best for the Jerabeks’ multi-instrumental talents, and this track manages to highlight the group’s ability to incorporate their signature saxophone and accordion skills into a nice jam session. Of course, piano, drums, and bass also work together to supply a strong foundation as well and are given their proper times to shine.
Solar Max – Transition Current
Solar Max sits in an interesting space in terms of sound, blending elements of classic rock and early post-hardcore with tinges of psych-rock. “Transition Current” calls to mind comparisons of early At the Drive-In to some degree, in large part due to the noisy, chaotic nature of guitar and bass.
Bottom of the Lake – Something // Anything
Bottom of the Lake find themselves among many compatriots in a modern emo revival. The group balance heavy and melodic elements carefully for a result that is ultimately moody and captivating all the same.
Adelyn Rose – Chords
“Chords” might begin softly, but flute and strings quickly cascade over the track’s piano foundation. The build is completely unexpected but flawlessly-executed, and the track’s fluctuating nature lends it a strong, cinematic feeling.