We’re only four days into 2019 and the year has already been chock full of surprises. So far, we’ve learned Café Centraal will reopen as a “ Grand Café & Tappery,” ice bars will take over the city (weather permitting!) in mid-January, and beavers have returned to Milwaukee after a 180-year sojourn. As exciting as those local developments are, the biggest and best shocker of this young year goes to Phylums, who released an album out of the blue.
Today, the reclusive Milwaukee garage rock aficionados—who’ve kept extremely quiet since playing a select few shows in support of 2015’s long-awaited debut, Phylum Phyloid—surprised listeners by putting out a full-length. Though the release came with little-to-no notice, the recording wasn’t rushed in the slightest. In fact, it took the band parts of two summers in Kyle “Motor” Urban’s MotorCo Studio in Madison to complete the sophomore effort.
That attention to detail is apparent throughout phylums ii, an altogether satisfying blend of three-chord rock and a sound that ranges from retro-tinged power pop to light psychedelia. The record starts strong, as jangley opener “Warpzone” and the bouncing beat of “Down In The Cellar” jolt the album to life. The downcast and driving “A-Frame” shows a different side of Phylums, but the fog clears when “Stung” offers organ flourishes and lyrics like “stinger in my chest and you know my heart won’t stop.”
Between the quick-hitting and to-the-point songs (none of which exceed four minutes), Phylums delve into instrumental territory with “Spell Of Seven Colors” and “Cannon Of Doom/Daylight,” along with psyched-out album ender, “Quasar Spud.” Though their instrumentation is versatile and impressive, the band is most at home with peppy, punchy, and straightforward tracks like “Paperclip Unbent” and the rousing “Bulletgun.”
Even if we were caught off guard by Phylums’ new album, it’s no surprise that it’s great from front to back. It’s a little early to say, but one of the first Milwaukee releases of 2019 might also wind up being one of the year’s best. Listen to phylums ii below.