Our 10 favorite Milwaukee songs of 2021
On last week's episode, Piet and I were thrilled to share our 10 favorite Milwaukee albums of 2021. But with just five picks each, that list didn't come close to including all of the local music we wanted to honor this year. On this week's episode, we're sharing our favorite Milwaukee songs of the year, and to spread the love around, we limited ourselves only to songs from artists we weren't able to fit on our albums list. These are the songs that kept us pressing replay over and over again all year long.
Stream this week's episode -- and read about and stream our picks -- below.
Alexa - "Wishin'"
Some sounds never go out of style. On this aching single, one of Milwaukee's most personable, promising young R&B singers brings it back with some precision bump-and-grind.
Big Wan - "Antidote"
We compiled this top 10 list just before Thanksgiving. By the time we recorded this episode just after Thanksgiving, Big Wan was no longer with us. Like the rest of the city, we're still processing the rapper's untimely death. Wan was just 19-years-old, and in just two short years of rapping he'd demonstrated an outsized influence in the city -- it was already common to hear other rappers copying his flow. Piet and I take a few minutes during this episode to remember Wan and to share my favorite track of his, "Antidote," which captures what a funny, charismatic lyricist and free-thinker he was. Big Wan may be gone, but he's going to cast a very, very long shadow over the Milwaukee rap scene for a long time.
Immortal Girlfriend - "Others"
We're big fans of Immortal Girlfriend's posh, dreamy synth-wave. But on "Others," the Milwaukee duo took their sound to a whole other level, drawing from the harsher, grimier edges of industrial music. It's an absolute knockout combination.
Kyle Kenowski - "Greenskeeper"
Whenever we do episodes like this, Piet always tips me to at least one song or artist I wasn't familiar with. And this song is a hell of a discovery -- a twisty, whimsical composition with an odd logic that's all its own.
Klassik - "Black Holiday"
Klassik speaks on a whole lot of injustices in "Black Holiday." And then... he celebrates. On this upbeat, sometimes downright euphoric track he released just ahead of Juneteenth, the Milwaukee rapper/musician made the case that "the greatest form of protest and Black resistance is Black joy." And sure enough, this song had joy to spare.
Murphy Kaye - "Joyride"
What a pleasure it is to see an artist really put themselves out there. After hiding behind the radio-unfriendly moniker Wanderslut, Milwaukee songwriter Gabby Powell rebranded herself with a new alias, Murphy Kaye, and shared "Joyride," a tender, heartbreaking indie ballad about learning to accept disappointment. This one goes for the gut.
North Warren - "Dyed in the Wool
This fall, the Milwaukee indie/emo/power-pop project North Warren released an EP called "Glue" that's so stacked any of its four songs could have landed on this list. But in the end, I opted for its closing track "Dyed in the Wool," a twisty little quickie that just keeps paying off with hook after hook after hook.
Reyna - "Quarantine Baby"
The quarantine left us all feeling a little batty. Few songs captured that feeling better than this quirky, lovelorn little pop song from the city's favorite sister-sister pop duo Reyna.
Solowke - "Outta Sight, Outta Mind"
When Milwaukee rap star Solowke returned, with great fanfare, after more than two years in jail this spring, the city was excited. But it had questions, too. What happened? What's next? And, after all that time away, could Solowke still command our attention the way he did with his incredible run of late '10s singles? On his monster comeback single "Outta Sight, Outta Mind," Solowke answered all those questions in depth, addressing his legal struggles, the street gossip, and his plans for the future in meticulous detail, while leaving behind any doubts about falling off. It's a bravado song that never stops building, and when the track finally breaks open it's an absolute thing of wonder, a total wide-screen experience, and another affirmation of Solowke as one of the most masterful rappers ever to grace this city.
Versio Curs - "Recess"
We were upfront at the top of this episode that we planned to use this episode to spread some love around to very deserving albums we weren't able to fit on our top 10 Milwaukee albums list. And Versio Curs' album "Quit" is one of those albums, a zippy, quippy indie-rock record that's absolutely alive with big hooks and buzzy guitars. "Recess" is one of its standouts, a buzzkill of a song that's so slick and catchy it ends up as a pick-me-up.