There are songs on Bug Moment‘s excellent The Flying Toad Circus where the swamp-submerged carousel on the album’s cover comes to life. Opener “Carousel” is preceded by a 30-second soundscape of crickets, night wind, and a glitchy music box ditty. “Slush” continues the broken-toy vibe and floats on a bed of rusty squeaks, creaks, and pops. Buy the ticket, take the ride, the record seems to say. Just be sure to buckle up for some sharp turns—and maybe even a few scares—along the way.
Bug Moment hatched in 2020 and began its life as a small, chilled-out bedroom-pop project. Twenty-twenty-one’s BUGS found singer-songwriter Jasmine Rosenblatt and company delivering swooning, emo-adjacent missives mixed with occasional hyperpop jams. (All of the song titles, like “Moth” and “Grasshopper,” were bug-themed.) Rosenblatt’s ethereal vocals and the group’s intimate ambiance struck a chord; two years later, Bug Moment has become one of Milwaukee’s most buzzed-about (sorry) bands.
Flying Toad represents the culmination of that buzz, and finds the group metamorphosing into a full-blown four-piece (Rosenblatt, Gray Edward, Elias Dorsey, Aidan Hoppens). The transformation serves the record well: standout tracks like the post-rock-leaning “Lagoon” and the alt-rock-chugging “Teeth” show off the band’s newfound instrumental power and demonstrate just why Bug Moment has become such a reliable live draw. “It’s Getting Dark, And You Left Me At The Circus,” meanwhile, is a muscular grunge banger filled with slash-and-burn guitars and slash-and-burn lyrics (“All your fucking lies / Now I wish you hell”). It’s a highlight among highlights.
The bulk of Flying Toad, however, trends toward the moody and atmospheric. “Germ” is a hushed acoustic ballad, “Little Frog” is a heavenly prayer, and the terrific “Dust Mite”—featuring some of Rosenblatt’s finest vocals—starts with clock-like precision before drifting off into the atmosphere. The record ends with “Flytrap,” a nightmarish moan of a song punctuated by disembodied screams and the ever-present buzz of ravenous flies. It’s a bold and dark choice that leaves the listener unsure of where to turn to next.
What isn’t unsure is Bug Moment itself. This is one of the city’s most exciting young bands, a group with a legion of fervent fans and plenty of room for more. Buy the ticket, take the ride.
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