Icarus Himself
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Icarus Himself

Madison, Wisconsin, United States | INDIE

Madison, Wisconsin, United States | INDIE
Band Alternative Rock




"AV Club Review - Career Culture"

While it’s true that Icarus Himself was once just a singer-songwriter alias for National Beekeepers Society’s Nick Whetro, Career Culture has arrived to blissfully peel the “solo project” tag off of the Isthmian indie-folk trio’s foreheads once and for all. Building on the sonic exploration and solid songwriting that made 2010’s Mexico EP such a tour de force, Icarus’ latest effort is a consistently erratic cardiogram that makes no apologies for its dynamic cascades.

After kicking the listener out of bed with tom-fueled slow cooker “Wake Up,” Culture gets a B12 shot in the deltoid with the walloping “Anywhere You Go.” The jangling growl of Karl Christenson’s baritone guitar grinds under Whetro’s own trebly guitar sounds and hiccupped crooning, filling the sonic space with rippling texture as drummer Brad Kolberg bashes away underneath. However, that blaring energy is quickly reduced to a whisper with the moody balladry of “Mornings At The Bar.”

Even though the hauntingly minimalist synth-waltz “Precious Holder” and the ambient stomper “Half Moon Eyes” don’t offer much refuge in their mixes in the first place, Whetro’s vocals are typically drenched in reverb and rarely unhinge from the proceedings. But those rare moments when the shy singer lets loose—like on the trudging “MCO”—always offer big rewards. But no matter where the vocals sit in the mix, Career Culture remains a shimmering update from a band that improves exponentially with each release.

-Joel Shanahan - AV Club

"DOA Review - Mexico EP"

Lofty hopes and high aspirations are the combination for anyone that wants to succeed in anything, even remotely. Even the most laid-back of people want to be noticed and praised for great works, no matter how lackadaisical in appearance they may act. And yes, that even includes Icarus Himself’s Nick Whetro and his modestly humble music. Always calm and, more importantly, looking and sounding cool, Whetro’s style was the kind that could flourish and eventually, develop. It’s an M.O. that has lead to a reputation as one of indie’s budding stars, just waiting to blossom.

His newest recording, a five-song set of spectacular music, the Mexico EP is everything anyone could have asked for and more. Sounds of folk, disguised as electro-pop, disguised as psych rock, disguised as indie rock propel the release into a strength that’s never foreboding. No, instead, Whetro and his two bandmates, new drummer Brad Kolberg and baritone guitar specialist Karl Christenson, spin off as many fantastically drastic twists and modifications to thrill every sense.

There’s a hint of a smooth, beach-inspired, conga/bossa nova vibe on a song like “Girl>Boy” but upon closer inspection it’s nothing more than a drum loop, falsetto vocals and a humming whir in the background that make up the colors of this palette. And this is where Whetro’s coolness comes into play – because he is most definitely getting into “outstanding mode” with these songs – his swagger oozes off everything and allows it to be that much stronger. Yes, the girl is always going to be on top, but maybe we can jam out and try out new sounds at the same time – it all comes off as nothing more than an exercise in futility – but at least we had fun while it lasted.

This is also the strangely older brother to the EP that preceded it, Icarus Himself. Where that release prompted a strong call for Coffins to find its proper re-release, Mexico looks to act as that same kind of tool. Only the exception lies in how marvelous all of these diverse sounds create such stunning songs. Opening with a Beirut-type of accordion riff and a booming bass that is supposed to be the substantial tuba, “Digging Holes” is the enigmatic Icarus Himself, the one that breaks out at the end to give way for the roaring trumpets, and “Seen it Coming (Mexico)” is the album’s heart-stomping closer: a stone-cold burner that destroys everything in its path.

Looking back, Coffins was unfairly overlooked when it was a genuinely catchy indie rock album, a la Spoon style. Mexico affirms that there is loads of talent here and tons of skill floating about; Kolberg only adds to everything because he provides a rock steady support that is essential.

So even for all the slackers and all the poseurs out at various posts, Whetro’s stuff is exceptionally serious and remarkably superb. Mexico is a bold step forward in every possible manner: it’s composed, it’s creative, and it’s excellent. Not only does it position the next proper album on a scale of extremely great expectations (those hopes and aspirations again?) but regardless of whether he wants to admit it or not, Whetro will nail it; hopefully he can enjoy this one a bit now, it’s well-earned. - Delusions of Adequacy

"Delusions of Adequacy review - Coffins"

Creating a snarky, ironic and sometimes rather noisy set of music, Icarus Himself is the project of Nick Whetro, with the help of Karl Christenson. A playful side of life, sliced in a crisp half-hour, Coffins is an even-tempered, jovial, rollicking affair. And although each song may recall one of Whetro’s great indie rock bands, its cohesive wrapping never comes undone.
Without a doubt, the idiosyncratic lyrics work wonders for Whetro because it gives the music the sense of laid-back air. On “Scars,” Whetro tackles the topic of self-destruction in only the way he can. With a guitar that sounds like Chris Isaak himself is playing, Christenson’s baritone guitar back-drops Whetro’s sharp, disdained delivery.
The album’s chief highlight is “Sometimes I Can’t Stand You, but That Doesn’t Mean I Don’t Want You Around.” A whirling keyboard is felt shuffling in the background, while the muffled deliveries of the guitars echo with reverberations. And all the while, Whetro repeats the song title to close everything out. On “Coffins,” the ensuing placidity is something out of Spoon’s book and with those spectral vocals and odd piano-line, it only supports the cause.
Whetro’s singing could certainly benefit from some more rehearsing but you can’t help taking it at face value: he isn’t necessarily trying to sing sweet nothings into your ear. The despair and gloom is everything onCoffins and it comes in the shape of blunt and upfront lyrics. Whether it’s the pessimistic complaining, paired with stabbing guitars and thumping drums on “This Means Nothing” or the Fastball-channeling loser on “35 to Life,” which finds Whetro singing, “Only mother knows…” the conveyance of depression is done in a light-hearted manner with the latter’s cheery guitar interplay.
All in all, it’s a promising debut in a surprising manner. “January (Tennessee)” is the album’s best song and as the music progresses into an angry retort on a broken relationship, Whetro channels said emotion to create the album’s best music. Everything comes crashing down and, fractured and bitten, he sings “As we lie on the mattress we abused, her mouth spits truth.” It’s because of this budding potential that one can look forward to the next album by Whetro, I just wonder if his tongue will remain firmly set in cheek. - Bryan Sanchez - Delusions of Adequacy

"AV Club review - Mexico EP"

Upon listening to Mexico—the latest EP from Madison folk-popsters Icarus Himself—it’s apparent that mastermind Nick Whetro has really learned to let his songs breathe. The old cliché of “no, no, it’s the notes he’s not playing” is a tired one, but it really holds its ground here. What’s even weirder is that Whetro has basically added a full band to what was once a solo endeavor, and the results still sound way more minimal. When pushed up against 2009’s more singer-songwriter oriented Coffins, Whetro’s haunting vocal delivery sounds a bit more soulful and less forced this time around as he sparsely colors in the tiny arrangements of watery guitar, lo-fi keyboards, and low-key rhythms of tunes like “Digging Holes” and “Half Ton Load.” In fact, on some tunes, Whetro only sings on every other measure, allowing his lyrics to be a vehicle for the progression rather than the other way around.

Jentri Colello—another Madison singer-songwriter—joins forces with Whetro over the Casio-disco pulse of “Half Ton Load,” the EP’s most infectious cut. Collelo’s ethereal voice and feathery choruses give his tortured howling a soft place to land. Also, multi-instrumentalist Karl Christenson (who played with Whetro in the late National Beekeepers Society) brings his own subtle wizardry to the table, foregoing bass and opting to rumble out some baritone guitar instead. The volcanic closer “Seen It Coming (Mexico)”is a quiet killer, erupting from its delicate finger-picked chorus into an explosion of crashing drums and rippling guitar as Whetro cries out, “You’re my Mexico!” Sure, Mexico tumbles into darker dives than its predecessor, but it may be Whetro’s penchant for the morose and his leaning toward incorporating lo-fi electronics that help split him off of his over-orchestrated neo-folk peers.

-Joel Shanahan - AV Club

"Top Ten Videos of the week - 9/29/2011 (On Your Side)"

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Icarus Himself – “On Your Side”

By Ted Maider on September 23rd, 2011 in Music Videos, Shows

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Here, production team Science of Sound takes a page from the book of Mickey and Mallory Knox (most notably Mallory, hence the female protagonist’s hair). Actually, it’s safe to say they take a page from Tarantino, as scenes from “On Your Side” allude to both Natural Born Killers and Kill Bill. Two couples are the center of the video; one, a pair of star crossed youths who seem hell-bent on destruction, and the other, a couple on their wedding day. When both couples cross paths, it turns from playful love, to straight up crime. And I don’t want to spoil the ending, but the finale shot is to die for. - Consequence Of Sound

"'Wake Up' track premiere"

Like when the sun is still beyond the horizon but your bedroom starts filling with pink light, this song starts slow. But let it rise. The shimmering sound of waking up feels like warmth and stretching and ready for newness.

Fittingly, this is the lead single from the Madison, WI band’s new Career Culture LP. You can pre-order it now on ltd white vinyl over yonder Bndcmp or from the Science of Sound webstore for delivery on next week’s release date - or stream it today here. Tumblrin’ here. - yvynyl

"Daytrotter 12/8/2010"

Everyone reacts strongly toward the menu items at our/Rock Island's treasured rib joint -- Jim's Rib Haven - but since the only people that have reacted as strongly about that particular barbeque are members of the Strokes and Mac Lethal, we begin this essay about Madison, Wisconsin, band Icarus Himself, with their personal review. "Best BBQ we've had in the Midwest. The hot towels our waitress brought us were a perfect cigarette-in-bed-love-tap after a wonderful sloppy meal of pulled pork sandwiches. Great sauce as well. Every tour we do we try to stop at as many BBQ joints as possible. So we've experienced plenty of good and bad." We tend to gravitate to men who appreciate good BBQ as much as we do. We love those kinds of men, actually. We send them Christmas cards when the appropriate time of the year comes around - or, we mean to. We love that they appreciate the warm, wet washcloth that you get instead of a toothpick, at the end of your meal there. It is a love tap. It's a smack across the bottom, leaving the ass with a chipper, red imprint of fingers. You walk out of the place with the corners of your fingernails stained orange from the secret sauce, and likely, a little bit of that sauce clinging to the bottom tentacles of your mustache, should you be lucky enough to have one. You got messy. You sopped up the excess sauce pooling on your plate with the buttered Wonder Bread that was stacked in front of you - healthy body be damned. When we listen to Icarus Himself, we don't hear the barbeque that they so dearly love and we so dearly appreciate that they so dearly love, but we hear something that's been cooked over a very long period of time. We hear something that's been turned into a tender thing, roasting over some coals or some chips in a slow-cooker. The songs on "Mexico," as well as those on the group's previous album, "Coffins," have taken their time to get to where they are. They aren't smug little outbursts or reactions, but commentaries on thoughts that have been drawn out for quite some time. They are ruminations on the rumblings that start in men's bellies and get louder and louder until they start shaking out of their pores and the same thing happens to the women who are featured in these songs. No one is immune to these rumblings, these disturbances that start low and softly churning, before picking up their steam and their lather. Lead singer Nick Whetro doesn't just sing about the pangs of love or the disillusions associated with it, but takes the approach at the subject like a guy who's never really had any hands ever covering his eyes. He knows that people are bound to mess up and those things are always complicated. Whetro, guitarist Karl Christenson and drummer Brad Kolberg bring forth a sound that is a bottle of champagne prior to and after its violently shaken and had its cork popped. It's beautiful in its pretty green-glassed bottle for much of the time and then it gets all over the place. We knew it would happen. We knew it would get messy - beautifully messy with the ghosts of the past, with the ghosts of the present and with the lingering last words. - Daytrotter

"Career Culture Review"


Icarus Himself had always been an outlet for individual exploration. Initially conceived as a solo project for National Beekeepers Society’s Nick Whetro, the guitarist eventually left and disbanded his old group to focus solely on producing his brand of sample-laden guitar rock. And with two more members at his side, Icarus Himself’s latest, Career Culture, is exactly the ripe and nuanced record that 2009’s Mexico EP hinted at.

Career Culture is a tale of discovery, though it’s not necessarily the one you’d expect. The album’s arch was intended to portray Whetro’s journey from the lonely confines of Indiana’s industrial wasteland to the greener grasses of creativity, marriage and Madison, Wisc.; but his saga loses traction when paired up against his band’s own self-discovery that fuses both. Their sound is undeniably muscular and propulsive, but on Career Culture they litter enough lightweight moving parts to keep things from becoming too cumbersome.

And if Icarus Himself are anything, they’re deliberate. Every sample and guitar pattern on Career Culture is so meticulously charted, you sometimes lose track of each. Notes glide into each other fluidly, creating a stark contrast for the samples, muted clips and cathartic wails that pace the record.

Take “MCO,” which starts with a heavy guitar riff that stops to hang in the air while Whetro yelps about a comfort destined to be pulled out from underneath him. Each piece is carefully juxtaposed against the others, creating a crisp, full-bodied minimalism—this is what Spoon might sound like if they focused more on live sound than studio.

But Icarus Himself’s most distinctive moments come when they cut loose of their deep-throated, muscular underpinnings and embrace the agility of a higher register. Buried as the ninth track, the album’s first single, “On Your Side,” marries the group’s workmanlike rhythm section with layers of impulsive samples. The result is a propulsive and engaging melody that practically jumps off the record.

All throughout, Career Culture is most engaging in these lapses of restraint. When Whetro strains his voice to a wail on “MCO” or slows the guitars to arpeggiated chords on “You Think You Know,” the group exude a nimble liveliness that pairs surprisingly well with their smooth, assured personas. “WI via IN” is the narrative’s fulcrum, wherein Whetro finally abandons his mind-numbing day-to-day for the more pleasant scenery of Madison, Wisc. But all told, the music stays about the same on either half of the LP. “You Think You Know” and “In Sept.” are both lush companions for tempered expectations; while both “Mornings At The Bar” and “Used To Be” feature light, summery guitar parts that look back reluctantly on concerns that are thankfully regarded in past-tense.

And I suppose that’s the whole point. Whetro’s transformation is complete, and maybe we should be thankful his songwriting has evolved irreversibly from the man on the first half of Career Culture. But the narrative here is superfluous. Whetro superimposed a saga of self-discovery on a product that’s already tied to its own conclusion. That’s not an indictment so much as it is a testament to Icarus Himself’s instinctive formula for success. They’ve found a cozy niche of full-bodied minimalism for themselves, and the best parts of Career Culture are too flush to worry about whatever baggage might have come with them. The more space they put between their music and the apprehensive muscularity of their former selves, the more interesting and captivating their songs will become. They’ve already gotten themselves a pretty good start.

Review by Kyle Sparks - Prefix Mag

"World of Wumme - "Coffins" review"


This is a plea to all of you in Madison, WI who keep flooding my mailbox with some wonderful music – keep it up. Cause now I’m going to start gushing about the latest arrival from Icarus Himself.Coffins, a fitting title by the way, comes quickly off the heels of Nick Whetro’s other project, National Beekeeper’s Society, and their scruffy basement blast, Pawn Shop Etiquette. Whetro is a much darker figure than his “band” would suggest, and it’s nice that he can manifest it within Coffins’ starched stark folds. On Coffins there’s a lot of talk about January, there’s a lot of pianos wallowing (I used this adjective last time) and weeping, there’s a lot of abuse, both physical and mental, that would suggest that Wisconsin is a tough place to live and an easy place to fall down some blackened, but baroque, staircases. This is especially true on the title track, where Whetro chronicles Midwestern spousal disputes from the perspective of the beaten. It’s rough stuff, but hopeful as it untangles into a lushly arranged end.

Listening to “Scars,” a beautifully re-worked version from his debut EP, I can hear the rustic surrealism of Twin Peaks (those bellowed Badalamenti tones) matched with a twinkling music box three doors down. The sandpaper n’ skin contrast shows Whetron finding his voice and his sound. Where many have compared the guy to Beirut and Neutral Milk Hotel (I’ll give you the lite-psych of “This Means Nothing”) but to these ears it’s more Spoon-noir shuffling. The methodical, eloquent cadence he’s found as a wordsmith, see “Flatwoods, WV,” is a perfect foil for the highly evolved musicianship most of these Madison folkies are spending their sunless days and bleak nights mining freely.

So I have to ask, what’s the main drag in Madison? This stuff needs its own column now. - World of Wumme

"Dane101 - Coffins review"

Icarus Himself is the solo venture of National Beekeepers Society's Nick Whetro. With this project Whetro takes the refined distortion of the National Beekeepers and combines it with his wry and quirky vocals to make what I can only categorize as basement tape beauty.

It is the minimal nature of Icarus Himself that makes them so appealing; with a few guitars, a drum machine, and a whole lot of dissonance, Whetro has masterfully done with a couple albums what many agonize to accomplish with endless releases--which is to create something uniquely his own. - Dane101.com

"Here Comes The Flood - Coffins Review"

Icarus Himself started out as a side project for the solo cravings of National Beekeepers Society frontman Nick Whetro. Mostly acoustic spiced with loops and samples and the indispensable aid of Karl Christenson Coffins is an album that feels comfortable in the vicinity of the output of Robyn Hitchcock and Syd Barrett. Hints of early seventies Bowie (Flatwoods, WV)) and dark country a la Johnny Dowd (35 To Life) this album sounds muffled and lo-fi, which is fitting for songs dealing with ennui.

Coffins can be labeled as neo-pyschedlic freak folk music. Musicians can have fun figuring out the tunings, mere mortals may have trouble digesting it and should start with a a song like Precedents, where Icarus Himself sounds like the Everly Brothers from Hell. - Here Comes The Flood Blog

"Three Imaginary Girls - EP Review"

The curiously named Icarus Himself (presumably after a Jean-Michel Basquiat painting) is the solo venture of Nick Whetro, who is also a member of the Madison, WI group National Beekeepers Society. Where the full band is a rock and roll group, this side-project is a calmer, more subdued effort.

In December, this self-released EP was issued, containing five songs. Opener "Scene (From a Car Crash)" has a pretty acoustic guitar melody that incorporates a drum machine and some surf-like electric guitar. The vocals are double-tracked and sound a little bit like the strained voice of Conor Oberst. "Amputee" is a succinct two-minute grimy electric pop song with underwater lead guitar. The middle track, "Last Lung," is an acoustic dirge that follows a similar formula to the first song minus the inclusion of an erratic drum machine.

The highlight of the EP is "Youth in Asia," which begins with the buzzing analog of a keyboard and some percussion that sounds like a dripping tap. Acoustic guitar comes in next and then some organ and the occasional piano note. The vocals are pained and uncomfortable. At the bridge, a slow psychedelic guitar solo is played by an electric guitar before the song comes to a halt.

This release is available via the Icarus Himself myspace page. Follow the buy it link for song samples and ordering information. - Three Imaginary Girls

"Sparkle Picnic - Coffins Review"

Oh shit, Mr. Nick Whetro (the man behind the series two outro song you hear during the credits of “Sparkle Picnic”) has recorded his first LP under the iCARUS HiMSELF moniker.

After the self-titled EP last year (featuring the killer “Scene (From a Car Crash)”, which is bleak/gorgeous), and the release this last fall of the National Beekeeper’s Society second album “Pawn Shop Etiquette” (Which branched out nicely from the slacker rock of the Madison quartet’s debut into psych undertones), “Coffins” is dark, exciting, and… awesome.

Here’s a more professional evaluation:

Today he has taken his minimalist songwriting style and put it through the Pop machine where out the other end came “Coffins.” “Coffins” was recorded at Science of Sound (Madison, WI) with the help of Karl Christenson (the other member of Icarus Himself) and members of National Beekeepers Society and Sleeping in the Aviary. Whetro takes the refined distortion of the National Beekeepers and combines it with his wry and quirky vocals to make basement tape beauty which has been compared to the likes of Neutral Milk Hotel, Beach Boys, and Beirut.

Past Press:

“It is the minimal nature of Icarus Himself that makes them so appealing.”-Dane101.com - Sparkle Picnic

"Berkeley Place- "Coffins" review"

Okay, so there’s this guy, Nick Whetro, right? And he was in this band called National Beekeepers Society. Maybe you’ve heard of them. Anyway, he decides he’s gonna, like, spread his wings and go solo but instead of calling himself Mr. Whetro, he calls himself Icarus Himself, which of course is doubly ironic because (a) he’s not Icarus and (b) when Icaraus spread his wings, he burned and plummeted. Also, it’s not just Mr. Whetro; he’s helped out (significantly) by Karl Christenson.

Anyway, don’t let the pretention keep you away. This is a smooth, albeit somewhat nerdy, collection of well-crafted tunes that fall somewhere between indie rock and mood rock and (ocassionally) folk.

For fans of: Beirut, Bright Eyes, Nick Drake, and maybe even Syd Barrett. I hear a lot of old Floyd in here . . . Good stuff.

Link: http://www.berkeleyplaceblog.com/2009/05/31/icarus-himself-coffins/ - Berkeley Place Blog

"CokeMachineGlow - "Coffins" review"

Nick Whetro is not the real Icarus; let’s get that straight. He was never a Crete captive, his dad wasn’t Daedalus, and he certainly didn’t drown in the North Aegean Sea as a result of some heated aerobatics. He has, though, lived something of a similarly colourful life (or at least knows how to eavesdrop on killers, etc.) and has done a natty job of confessing all onCoffins, one of the more out-there hyperfolk debuts to emerge from the clamour of Madison wannabes. So out-there, in fact, that he actually went ahead and self-released it before Science of Sound came knocking, keen to give him space to comfortably reinvent himself. Yes, Whetro’s quaint hooks are already familiar to fans of his National Beekeepers Society mother project, and his intentions as Icarus Himself are to go to an even quainter place, combining lo-fi guitar warblings with some fucked-in-the-head narration. He’s also taken other ex-National Beekeepers Society guy Karl Christenson with him, just in case his ideas get so lo-fi the studio only loans him one Dictaphone. What any of this has got to do with the plush sycamore booths we all get one day lowered into I’m not sure, but Coffins is a cool-enough debut; a nice druggy half-light between the Pink Panther bass.

If you want to get Coffins in a single sound bite, try “lost Bowie demo tape overdubbed with acid confessions.” That should warm you up for Whetro’s eleven-track, half-hour romp and prepare you for what first feels like alt-country experiments with a lunatic wailing at the back. But wait out and you’ll be rewarded with a private aura: “Pigg” might start like any other busker template that’s been dipped in Will Oldham horrors, but on second listen (or 1.5 in my case) I realised that Whetro is trying to paint something a little grander than the stuff you half-hear in a bar. “Run through the house on your knees / Oh oh oh oh oh, it hurts”...yes, get used to it; you’ll be humming that badboy by sundown.

There’re country sunsets and skunk solos abound on Coffins, as well as some real headscratchers that will probably click in ten months or so. Why the punk stomp of “Flatwoods, WV” gets cut short at the height of the stride is a question that only Whetro’s dealer can answer, but there’s plenty to sway you from some of the more bizarre edits. “35 To Life” is the clear standout for me: punchy psychedelia where the lyrics become ether, wiping your head out for one self-actualising second. “Stuck on a word as hard as start / Pickin’ pockets in the dark / Times are tough for stupid lines / I hate so much I should be feelin’ fine.” My guess is it’s a coke ode, but who’s to say what deep peculiarities Coffinswill fish from your own noggin.

Between the carefree fuzzbox, harp-speckled swamp, digs at W (“Lessons From The Flood,” I’m guessing—those organ chords just scream St. Louis Cathedral Choir) and psychiatric couch prattle (“I’ve had wet dreams about kid-eating beans” [hyphen inserted to protect decency]), Whetro goes pleasantly ballistic, ingratiating himself with your darker crannies while his guitar gently cackles. That might only make up, say, 76% of your overall listening tastes, but it’s definitely a ride worth taking. Twice possibly if need be. Coffins could easily double as a springboard to something a gnat’s more immediate, and with a little less heroin/self-harm between recording slots, I’d say Icarus Himself might soar. -George Bass, CokeMachineGlow - CokeMachineGlow.com

"No Ripcord - "Coffins" review"

Anyone familiar with the small-but-worthy music scene of Wisconsin's liberal and educational capital, Madison, likely knows Nick Whetro or at least his band, National Beekeepers Society. That particular outfit – an energetic quartet that channels Pavement's take on garage aesthetic and pairs it with Whetro's generally charming vocal delivery – certainly sounds familiar to Whetro’s Icarus Himself, but its definitely not an identical project with a fresh name. Pairing with NBS guitarist Karl Christenson to create IH, Coffins is mellower, softer, and all together more rewarding than NBS in an album format – but will remind fans of Whetro's other work that he's really best heard live.

In tune with Whetro's consistent taste for garage-pop and a comfortably disheveled sound, Coffinsdoesn't require steely concentration or avid fandom, but it does feature a welcome splash of textural focus and thematic cohesion. No, this album isn't an overly simple affair. Rather, Whetro takes what he does best – freewheeling pop songs flavored with a splash of sonic whiskey – and gives them more dynamism and a wider pallet of sounds than some of his other work. Instead of just a thrusting tempo and distorted fuzz, the title-track approaches energetic rock with pastoral washes of guitar and ethereal background vocals. The more growling Flatwoods, WV drapes noise over an early-Bowie guitar lick, but gives it folky structure a-la-Neutral Milk Hotel. And the Coffins incarnation of Scars slows the song’s tempo to a brooding pace, allowing delicate piano and groaning strings to highlight each moving lyric. Even better, IH’s songs aren’t just more varied; they also fit together cleanly and don’t feel disjointed like NBS’s somtimes explosive yet unmanageable tracks.

Coffins only falters briefly during its wisely succinct half-hour playtime, finding the shortest songs to be its best. But its weakest moments are not the product of overwriting or cumbersome ideas, but rather overt imitation. This Means Nothing is catchy but apes Neutral Milk Hotel so strongly its hard not to wish for In the Aeroplane Over the Sea instead. Sometimes I Can’t Stand You seems suspiciously similar to NBS's People’s Temple (though it is catchy), and Precedents takes too many unsuccessful liberties with its Spoon-like rhythmic production.

But even those critiques are nitpicky – Coffins is generally short, sweet, and easy to spin to a finish. On more jovial tracks like the aforementioned Precedents its easy to see why Madison loves NBS so much, though Whetro’s stage-charm would make Icarus Himself at its most upbeat even easier to love. And the slower tracks on Coffins, twangy and succinct, make this disc a worthy buy even without that live flavor. Icarus Himself might not be treading any new ground not already explored by Whetro or his influences, but Coffins does this playful retreating almost perfectly. -Michael Merline, No Ripcord
- No Ripcord

"WIDR's Top 5 (Kalamazoo)"

Believe it or not, the Madison, Wisc., area is a hotbed for low-fi and creative pop music. Charlemagne, Bon Iver, The Daredevil Christopher Wright and now Icarus Himself. There's nothing too flashy about the noir Western sound on "Coffins," but the instrumentation is solid, the lyrics are provocative and the arrangements are just experimental enough to keep the band one step ahead of the curve. The record grows on you, gets better each time. And with several songs under two minutes, it's easy as pie to listen to a couple times in one sitting. Mmmmm, pie. -Jeremy Martin, WIDR's Top 5 (Kalamazoo)

Link: http://www.mlive.com/entertainment/kalamazoo/index.ssf/2009/06/widrs_top_5_30.html - WIDR


"Career Culture" - Full-length (CD, vinyl) October, 2011
"Mexico EP" - EP - May, 2010
"Coffins" - Full-length - May, 2009
Self-Titled EP - February, 2008



Icarus Himself's sophomore full-length Career Culture is a sonic cinema in electro-psych-folk, drenched in the influences of artists like Kurt Vile, Deerhunter, The Who, and David Bowie.

The story begins with frontman Nick Whetro living in Indiana, working third shift in a window manufacturing plant. "Wake Up / It's time to do it all over again" (the opening track) evokes images of the film Metropolis. After his shift at the factory in this sepia-shaded scene, "Mornings At The Bar" sets the mood for the sunrise as workers trek to the bar at six in the morning. "There was nothing else to do in town. It's about people who have nothing to look forward to but getting their paycheck and spending it at the bar. It seemed like they never wanted to leave," illustrates Whetro.

"WI via IN" marks the shift in Career Culture. As the montage of the fictitious soundtrack, the looped bass line with added organs and synth give the song a Planet of the Apes/The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly vibe. This is where he makes a break for it. Whetro leaves the depressing factory life to start over in Madison, Wisconsin.

No epic journey would be complete without the love story, and Career Culture is no different. "On Your Side," is replete with love-soaked euphoria. Written about the girl our protagonist would marry, the song is about "trusting someone that's close to you." Built on a loop of a drum machine hi-hat and a fuzzed-out Casio synth. "I found it hard / to think of past times / I've stopped trying now / because you're on my side."

Icarus Himself was started by Nick Whetro in 2008 as a solo project and has developed into a trio to include drummer Brad Kolberg and multi-instrumentalist Karl Christenson. Career Culture is the third in a series of auto-biographical recordings, beginning with Coffins, released by Science of Sound in May of 2009, followed by the EP Mexico, released almost exactly one year later. This new album was recorded at Science of Sound's studio, engineered by Ricky Riemer and mixed with the band with the help of Riemer. Guest players include Michael Gallope on keys (Janka Nabay & the Bubu Gang, Starring, Skeletons), Jonathan Lang on keys and clarinet, Jacqueline Kursel on cello, and Rob Ferrett on tenor sax.

"If you want to get Coffins in a single sound bite, try 'lost Bowie demo tape overdubbed with acid confessions." - CokeMachineGlow

"Where many have compared the guy to Beirut and Neutral Milk Hotel (I’ll give you the lite-psych of “This Means Nothing”), to these ears it’s more Spoon-noir shuffling." - World of Wumme

"The solo outlet of National Beekeepers Society's Nick Whetro. Icarus Himself emphasizes what lurks under NBS's reassuring guitar fuzz...he accompanies his death 'n' degradation tales with lonely echoes, double-tracked vocals, and the occasional drum machine." - The Onion A/V Club

"A-" Onion A.V. Club

"Icarus Himself’s new EP Mexico gives you everything the Old West couldn’t: comfort, reliable weaponry, and a guaranteed payout in nuggets. Then with its other hand it delivers electronics, baritone guitars and some lines about overweight babysitters—double kill!" - CokeMachineGlow

Praise for 2009's "Coffins":

"If you want to get Coffins in a single sound bite, try 'lost Bowie demo tape overdubbed with acid confessions.'" -CokeMachineGlow

"Freewheeling pop songs flavored with a splash of sonic whiskey." -No Ripcord

"Where many have compared the guy to Beirut and Neutral Milk Hotel (I’ll give you the lite-psych of “This Means Nothing”), to these ears it’s more Spoon-noir shuffling." -World of Wumme

"The solo outlet of National Beekeepers Society's Nick Whetro. Icarus Himself emphasizes what lurks under NBS's reassuring guitar fuzz...he accompanies his death 'n' degradation tales with lonely echoes, double-tracked vocals, and the occasional drum machine." -The Onion, Madison A/V Club

"Confused characters traipse through a cold, ill-fated world, in which everything and everyone are imperfect and death rattles the bones of both the living and the dead." -The Isthmus

"...Whetro makes great use of macabre lyrics over music that is oftentimes soft, or at the very least unassuming." -Delusions of Adequacy

"I never cease to be amazed with the layers I uncover with each listen of 'Coffins.' I hate making comparisons but Icarus Himself do at times remind me of Neutral Milk Hotel in both sound and lyrical delivery, but those similarities wash away with repeated play when you realize the creative breadth within the band." -Dane101.com