Earlier this week, we posted our list of the 25 best Milwaukee albums of 2019. Of course, we put a great deal of time, thought, and effort into the article each year. We stand behind our picks, but despite our best-laid plans to assemble and accurately rank the 25 records we feel encapsulate the finest local releases in a particular year, we occasionally can miss something. Yes, things occasionally slip through the cracks. Chalk it up to there being so many remarkable releases in Milwaukee music.
More often, however, a potentially deserving record is left off the list because it simply hadn’t come out yet. By nature of the annual list’s mid-December run date, the 25 best albums of the year are actually the 25 best albums of the year’s first 49-ish weeks. Without fail, at least one release comes out in the waning days of December that reminds us the year isn’t over. This year, Saebra & Carlyle’s long-awaited debut album, Wild At Heart, (which just hit streaming services a couple days ago) is joined in this ultra rare distinction of late Milwaukee releases that might have been in the running for a top 25 spot by an upcoming album by a band called Social Caterpillar.
Though the band—which features current and former members of projects like Cairns, Swells, Gauss, Scowler, and Alta—hasn’t put anything new out in close to two years, they’ve kept busy with appearances at this year’s Center Street Daze and Hacienda’s Soundtrack Series during the Milwaukee Film Festival, as well as opening slots on a sold-out Thou concert and Snag’s recent album release show. When not playing out, Social Caterpillar (who have just a few cassettes and splits under their belt to this point) was hard at work on a long-awaited album. On December 14, that record will finally see the light of day.
Recorded by Greg Norman at Electrical Audio and mastered by Carl Saff, Start A Fire That Sings You A Song showcases Social Caterpillar’s inimitable sound, its menagerie of influences, and the members’ astounding instrumental acumen over the course of eight outstanding tracks. Post-punk and emo-tinged soundscapes that nod to Saddle Creek acts of yore are met with elegant accents of violin, cello, and piano. The DIY symphony is further bolstered by soft melodies about disproportionately sharp and socially-pointed subject matter. From the ominous album-opening guitar plucks of “Cult Chant #1” until the rousing rally, twisting arrangements, and pounding percussion that play the record off in “Where There Is Power, There Is Resistance,” Social Caterpillar manages what could arguably be considered one of the best Milwaukee albums of 2019—even if it’s coming out a few days too late to officially crack the list.
Social Caterpillar will release Start A Fire That Sings You A Song during a December 14 show at Riverwest Public House. The Nunnery, Snag, and So Zuppy will play in support, and there will be mixed media and visuals by Michael Lagerman and Karly Jean Kainz. You can pick up the album on vinyl at the show or order online via Confluence Records. Before the album is released, you can stream it below.