This is a plea to all of you in Madison, WI who keep flooding my mailbox with some wonderful music – keep it up. Cause now I’m going to start gushing about the latest arrival from Icarus Himself. Coffins, a fitting title by the way, comes quickly off the heels of Nick Whetro’s other project, National Beekeeper’s Society, and their scruffy basement blast, Pawn Shop Etiquette. Whetro is a much darker figure than his “band” would suggest, and it’s nice that he can manifest it within Coffins’ starched stark folds. On Coffins there’s a lot of talk about January, there’s a lot of pianos wallowing (I used this adjective last time) and weeping, there’s a lot of abuse, both physical and mental, that would suggest that Wisconsin is a tough place to live and an easy place to fall down some blackened, but baroque, staircases. This is especially true on the title track, where Whetro chronicles Midwestern spousal disputes from the perspective of the beaten. It’s rough stuff, but hopeful as it untangles into a lushly arranged end.
Listening to “Scars,” a beautifully re-worked version from his debut EP, I can hear the rustic surrealism of Twin Peaks (those bellowed Badalamenti tones) matched with a twinkling music box three doors down. The sandpaper n’ skin contrast shows Whetron finding his voice and his sound. Where many have compared the guy to Beirut and Neutral Milk Hotel (I’ll give you the lite-psych of “This Means Nothing”) but to these ears it’s more Spoon-noir shuffling. The methodical, eloquent cadence he’s found as a wordsmith, see “Flatwoods, WV,” is a perfect foil for the highly evolved musicianship most of these Madison folkies are spending their sunless days and bleak nights mining freely.
So I have to ask, what’s the main drag in Madison? This stuff needs its own column now.