Album Reviews: Wisconsin Roundup

New music from Milwaukee singer/songwriter Brett Newski and Beloit lo-fi folk band Birthrates.

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Brett Newski: Land Air Sea Garage (Make My Day Records)

Make My Day Records
Make My Day Records

Brett Newski is a singer/songwriter out of Milwaukee who’s toured large chunks of the world with his carefully executed blend of folk, pop, and rock. His newest offering, Land Air Sea Garage, is the result of a crowdsourcing campaign, with an official release sometime next year.

I contributed to the crowdsourcing, so got an early copy, and this is Newski’s best work yet. There is sort of a darker feeling overall, but no melody whatsoever is sacrificed in order to get there.

The album starts out swinging with three songs that instantly sound like hits from a mainstream record, “Garage,” “Stranger,” and “Mind at Large.” From here there’s hints of song craftsmanship similar to Fountains of Wayne or Big Star, and some nice Spanish sounding trumpet work in the throwback-sounding “Barcelona.”

“D.I.Y.,” tucked away toward the end, is a tongue-in-cheek look at touring that sounds somewhat like a Beck tune, and is a subject Newski knows a lot about — check out his website to watch videos and read stories about touring on a shoestring budget.

Land Air Sea Garage is the album that should really break Brett Newski. It’s the perfect blend of great songwriting with solid hooks produced very well.

Birthrates: Act Right

Birthrates
Birthrates

Nearby, in Beloit, Wisconsin, there was a lo-fi folk band called Opus Dog, who also toured extensively, before reinventing themselves, moving to Pittsburgh, and renaming themselves Birthrates.

The duo just wrapped up a tour behind their new album, Act Right, featuring seven songs released in September that are stripped down and filled with vocals that alternate between tough and crusty to desperate and pleading.

Definitely more rough around the edges, Act Right will appeal to the D.I.Y. aesthetic pioneered by artists like Daniel Johnston and The Mountain Goats.

Stream or buy it here.

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Bryon Dudley is a writer and musician from Ames. He has written about music and other topics for a number of local publications and blogs. When not playing music and putting out albums with groups such as Strong Like Bear, Liana, and Rockets of Desire, he is helping other Iowa artists record their music at his studio, The Spacement, and releasing it on the Iowa label he co-founded, Nova Labs. He has a tattoo of an aardvark and is adjusting to bifocals.