Last week, Milwaukee Record assembled a fairly wide-ranging list of our favorite local music released in the first half of 2021. Like almost every other time we’ve posted such a list, a tremendous album came out mere days after the article went live, making the time-consuming effort suddenly seem incomplete. If that means there’s a steady stream of commendable music being released in the city, we’re more than fine with our list having a short shelf life.
This time around, Slamhaus is the late entrant to 2021’s Best Milwaukee Music (So Far) list with I’m Trying, an outstanding collection of smooth and summer-suited songs that touch on topics like love, optimism, acceptance, depression, and corporate greed. The 10-song album was released today on virtually all streaming platforms.
If you’re anything like we were until about two weeks ago, you’re wholly unaware of Slamhaus. Allow us to get you up to speed. The project is the creative clearinghouse of Nick Amhaus, who plays guitar in The Bang Bang. Originally, the solo venture was a landing point for his “Tunesday” sessions, during which he streams himself writing, recording, mixing, and mastering a new song on his Twitch page every Tuesday.
“I originally started Tunesday as a motivational exercise to force me to finish songs, but as followers grew, I started releasing more albums outside of Tunesdays,” Amhaus says. “Three of the tracks on I’m Trying were actually written during a Tunesday. I liked the songs so much, I went back and gave them extra attention to make them even better.”
In addition to the trio of tracks born from the Tunesday songwriting exercise, there are two songs Amhaus originally intended for The Bang Bang to use. With the band in a state of temporary hiatus on account of the pandemic and life events of some members, the guitarist decided to repurpose the material and give it a Slamhaus spin. Amhaus also wrote some additional material on his own and co-wrote two songs with his girlfriend, who is featured as a singer on both tracks under the “Bart Mills” pseudonym.
Though I’m Trying is a blend of ideas born from abstract songwriting streams, pieces originally intended for his other band, and other compositions he crafted outside of the Tunesday parameters, the one through-hole of this wide-ranging audio endeavor with song subjects that cover many facets of the human experience is its distinct lo-fi music influence.
“I decided to blend alt-rock and lo-fi more by using sampled drum kits more commonly found in lo-fi hip-hop and replicating wavy or warbled effects on guitar, piano and even sometimes vocals,” Amhaus tells Milwaukee Record. “Lo-fi rock is a genre that I want to listen to more, but I never feel like there are enough artists putting out that music. Or at least, they don’t get the attention they deserve.”
With its raw production, earnest lyrics, understated instrumentation, and an aura of warmth that permeates all 10 songs, Slamhaus has quietly released what should be considered one of Milwaukee’s best albums of 2021 to this point. We highly recommend spending your “Tunesday” (or any day you might be reading this) basking in the lo-fi goodness of I’m Trying.