There are three primaries going on today: Washington DC, Maryland, and Wisconsin. Wisconsin holds the most weight with its 42 delegates. Instead of getting too overly political with this primary, I want to look at the rich history of Wisconsin, the non-cheese and non-beer kind of history by looking at the top ten musics of the Badger State.
10. Les Paul
Lester William Polsfuss, aka Les Paul, is the only man on this countdown to be in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. As a matter of fact, Paul is one of a handful of artists with a permanent, stand-alone exhibit in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. The truth is, his gifts to music have to do a lot more with his hardware (the Fender Les Paul) than with any music he put out. But even if you do not know any songs Paul released, it does not mean that he’s not worthy of making the countdown.
09. Gerald Walker
Whitefish Bay, Wisconsin’s Gerald Walker has been making a name in the hip hop world for the last half-decade releasing songs with extremely long titles like “Christmas Isn’t Just a Day, you know, It’s a Frame of Mind” and “Speak Not of My Debts Unless You Mean To Pay Them.” The latter of which he explains his asthetic pretty well referencing his “long titles” and “references” which many do not get.
08. Coo Coo Cal
I was first introduced to Coo Coo Cal in lyrics from Young Jeezy‘s “My Hood” where he raps: “fuckin wit dem hoes like coo-coo cal/Lord I wish mad Lou could see me now.” But Coo Coo Cal made a name for himself with his 2001 single “My Projects,” which hit #1 on the Hot Rap Singles.
MP3: Coo Coo Cal “My Projects”
Growing up in the 90s, I always felt like the BoDeans were kind of hokey but they are still relevant today. Their track “Closer to Free” is still used widely in commercials even though it is now 15 years old.
MP3: BoDeans “Closer to Free”
06. Boris the Sprinkler
There were very few modern punk bands I loved in high school more than Boris the Sprinkler. Their combination of Ramones-influenced punk and goofy comic book influenced lyrics spoke to me. Add lead-singer Rev. Norb’s kitschy costumes which famously included dressing up like Wolverine, an M&M, but usually adorning neon spandex, it was enough to capture any awkward teenager’s heart.
MP3: Boris the Sprinkler “UFO”
05. Big Big Furnace
In the early 2000, I was running a print fanzine and was serviced by a record label called Crustacean Records. The label sent me an album called Soundtrack to a Midwest Winter from a band called Big, Big Furnace and it essentially became the soundtrack to my senior year of high school. The album mixed emo pathos with a sharp sense of irony and insouciance that made it listenable without being overly sappy. I revisit the album occasionally and it holds up with time.
MP3: Big, Big Furnace “Cheer Up Emo Boy”
04. The Promise Ring
While so many people are amped for the At The Drive-In reunion and the Refused reunion, I am most interested in the Promise Ring reunion. Very Emergency was one of the first album’s to bridge the gap between “emo” and pop. Bands like Taking Back Sunday and Brand New owe a debt of gratitude to The Promise Ring.
MP3: The Promise Ring “The Deep South”
03. Bon Iver
Most of my readers know that I am not enthralled with Bon Iver like white butler but you can not ignore the way the falsetto of Justin Vernon has put Eau Claire on the map. This year he won the Grammy for Best Alternative Album for beating out favorites like Radiohead, Death Cab for Cutie, and My Morning Jacket. If you can’t respect that then your whole perspective is wack.
MP3: Bon Iver “Holocene”
In the mid to late-90s, there were not many front-women more sexy than Garbage‘s Shirley Manson. With her red hair and Scottish accent, it may come as some surprise that the band calls Madison their home base. A few years ago putting Garbage on this countdown might have seemed passe, but the group is reformed and preparing to release their new album, Not Your Kind of People in May. Garbage is relevant again!
MP3: Garbage “Blood for Poppies”
01. Violent Femmes
In the 80s, not many bands were as forward thinking as the Violent Femmes. Mixing teenage wanting with folk pathos, Gordon Gano and company made a lasting legacy that was truly ahead of its time. “Blister in the Sun” is still widely used in commercials but their entire catalog really packs a punch. If you are not familiar, do yourself a favor and check it out.
MP3: Violent Femmes “Blister in the Sun”