In 2020 we dropped our usual year-end “25 Best Milwaukee Albums” list and went with something less stuffy. “Milwaukee Record’s favorite Milwaukee music of 2020” contained lists of our favorite LPs and EPs, but it also included categories like “Favorite Milwaukee Record I Listened To While I Was Grilling Out This Summer” (L’Resorts, Bad Love) and “Favorite Milwaukee Record From A Pandemic Side Project That Should Absolutely Keep Making And Releasing Music After All This Is Over” (Blood, Testamental).
Oh, and it should have included a category for Bless Us, the latest record from indie-psych outfit Red Stuff. Why? Because it’s really, really good.
Red Stuff is the long-running project of husband and wife duo Tom and Kelly Wanderer. (Milwaukee radio listeners will know Tom from his excellent weekly WMSE show, The Tom Wanderer Radio Experience.) Bless Us is the group’s fourth LP, and it finds the Wanderers joined by Steve Tiber on drums and Morgan Engels on keyboards. Seven-minute opener “Strawberry Street” sets the stage: a hazy wash of psychedelic guitars and swirling keyboards laps over a distant drum beat and the Wanderers’ fuzzed-out vocals. “Death Is A Round Black Spot” quickens the pace with violent slashes of wah-wah guitar; the title track adds a touch of Mazzy Star; and six-minute closer “Trippin’ On Me” doubles down on the drone-y, White Light/White Heat-era Velvet Underground vibe. Oh, and the whole thing was recorded mostly live on Tascam 8-track cassette machines, and there are lines like “There’s no anger here / There’s no anxiety or fear / No payday loans / No fuckin’ drama on the phone.” That sounds nice.
“Bless Us was influenced by the idea of slowing down, stepping back and seeing what happens,” Tom Wanderer says in a press release. “Communal meals, candles and incense. […] These songs are a celebration of the timeless joy of playing in a band.” That sounds nice, too. Put Bless Us down for our Favorite Milwaukee Music That Celebrates The Timeless Joy Of Playing In A Band.
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