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Wednesday, Jan. 4, 2012

Milwaukee Record Labels On the Rise in 2012

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It has become something of a given that the Internet age has been less than kind to record labels. A host of bands has been able to find large-scale success without the backing of such labels, while savvy music fans can find anything they could possibly want online, often without any money changing hands. Yet despite such realities, Milwaukee continues to be home to a number of labels committed to putting out quality, thought-provoking releases. Local, national and even international acts make up the rosters of these labels, and 2012 is shaping up to be a stellar year for those that call the city home.

Dusty Medical Records kicked off the new year in style with the release of The Mistreaters' double LP singles collection. While the band may be no more (their final show last week was something to behold), hardcore fans can now have all of the group's hard-to-find records in one place. Choice cuts: “Lie to Me,” “I Think I've Had It” and “Santa Stole My Baby.” Early 2012 will also see Dusty Medical reissuing the Catholic Boys' Psychic Voodoo Mind Control, originally released in 2003. Here's hoping that this reissue brings the garage punk band, who sounded great warming up the crowd at the recent Mistreaters' finale, more fans.

Latest Flame Records will celebrate its 10th anniversary in 2012 by releasing new records by IfIHadAHiFi (Milwaukee), Nervous Curtains (Dallas) and Police Teeth (Seattle). First up is IfIHadAHiFi's “Nada Surf EP + 3,” to be released Jan. 17. Now more than 10 years old, the noise-rock act still sounds fresh: Songs like “Arson, You Let Me Down” and “Permanent Sleeperhold” fly by with an intensity unmatched by most bands in the city. And expect Nervous Curtains' Fake Infinity—slated for a February 2012 release—to garner plenty of attention. Tracks like “It's the End of Eternity” and “The Sting of Exposure” sound remarkably timely, reflecting both the promise and peril of the digital era.

Cory von Bohlen's Halo of Flies label also promises to have a busy 2012. This month the label will be releasing an Enabler/Drainland split 7-inch EP. Connoisseurs of heavy music in Milwaukee are familiar with Enabler, and know that it is always exciting to hear more from this stellar local act. Yet Ireland's Drainland may be the real star of the show here, as their side of a 2011 split LP with Trenches proved absolutely devastating. Sludgy yet somehow catchy, Drainland should appeal to those that snap up all of von Bohlen's releases. The following month will see Halo of Flies putting out a demo by Snigmord, a melodic Norwegian hardcore punk band formed from the ashes of the underrated Assassinators.

Admittedly, this is a far-from-comprehensive preview of records to look out for in 2012. Expect other local labels, including Ten Atoms, Dope Folks, and Listening Party, to put out a slew of excellent releases this year. Perhaps the demise of the record label, at least in Milwaukee, has been greatly exaggerated.