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MKE Music Premiere: The Hatchets are of two minds on new single

A man stands in an open field at night, lit only by colored lamps at his feet. The image has an effect that makes him appear duplicated.
Samer Ghani
The Hatchets

Every week, Milwaukee Music Premiere connects the city’s artists with our listening audience. If you’re an artist with a track you’d like us to debut exclusively on Radio Milwaukee, head over to our Music Submission page to learn how.

Sometimes, you don’t know whether you’re coming or going. You’re caught in the past while looking to the future. You’re wracked with anxiety yet feeling optimistic.

At this point, we’re all familiar with these states of confusion because all of us experienced the pandemic. First, we had to adapt to being in the middle of it. Then, we had to re-adapt to life after it. It was in those Tilt-A-Whirl times that Milwaukee rock band The Hatchets began crafting the songs for their second album, including the one we’re premiering here: “When the Ghost Throws Off His Chains.”

Like a lot of us, the group led by Justin Otto had big plans for 2020. They had released their debut album, The Uncounted Blue Jillions, in July of 2019 and were ready to take it on tour.

That, obviously, didn’t happen.

They used the time instead to work on album number two — a process as tumultuous as the period during which it was written. Band members moved away, the lineup shifted, and recording happened while sitting on beds or singing in closets. You wouldn’t know it from listening to “When the Ghost …,” which features a full and layered sound teetering on the verge of chaos.

As the band shared with us, the sonic imprint was perfect for a song that “looks backward and forward at the same time, unsure whether the story is already over or just beginning. Eventually it hits a crescendo where sounds play in both directions at once, and then everything collapses.” Before it does, Otto sings of hopefulness with just a smattering of anarchy:

Don’t you ever try and tell me it’s too late
I’m telling you the night is young
I threw up all the Kool-Aid 
Now I’m laughing with a purple tongue
The horizon is aflame
And the ghost throws off his chains

“When the Ghost Throws Off His Chains” is the first track off The Hatchets’ upcoming album, Every New Beginning Comes From Some Other Beginning’s End (Semisonic fans rejoice). You can listen to the single here and as part of the 88Nine playlist, on the new LP when it comes out Jan. 19, and at an album-release show that same day at Cactus Club.