Heartbreaking Bravery

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Watch This: Vol. 137

While the past week wasn’t as exhaustive for live videos as it has been recently, there were still some impressive entries featuring a variety of great acts like Jenny Lewis, Same, The Fever, The Academic, Band of Horses, Typesetter, Astronomique, Future Generations, Martin Courtney, The Staves, Bleached, Adia Victoria, Ages and Ages, Caveman, Summer Twins, Mr. Airplane Man, Julia Holter, Warren Franklin & TFF, Israel Nash, Metric, Justin Peter Kinkel-Schuster, and Tamaryn. Even with all of those in the mix, there were still five genuine standouts, from site favorites to the perennially overlooked. So, as always, sit back, adjust the settings, block out any circumstantial distractions, focus up, and Watch This.

1. Big Eyes – Stake My Claim (BreakThruRadio)

Fresh off releasing one of the year’s best basement pop records, Big Eyes come through in a major way yet again via this performance of that record’s title track, “Stake My Claim”. While the band certainly has made a sizable impression thanks to their recorded work, they’ve been an even more dangerous force as a live act. After going through several mutations, the band’s finally landed on a unit that allows their sound to be as expansive — and as aggressive — as possible.

2. Boss Hog (KEXP)

One of many projects to include DIY punk icon Jon Spencer, Boss Hog first gained some notoriety in the late ’80s thanks to their sudden existence (they were created out of a need to fill a vacancy on a bill at CBGB’s), vocalist Christina Martinez playing that first show nude, and their relentlessly aggressive hybrid of punk sub-genres. The band’s been experiencing a resurgence lately, which led them to the KEXP studios for this gorgeously-lensed session presented in crisp black-and-white. From just about every angle, everything happening here is exhilarating.

3. Mumblr – Mudmouth + Domingo (Out of Town Films)

After the beginning of their career brought about a handful of upbeat, party-leaning (but surprisingly introspective) anthems the quartet went through some sort of awakening. A lot of their more recent material has approached being confrontational thanks to a newfound darkness and a staggering amount of patience. The band’s been stretching their influences in surprising ways and nearly all of them are present in this beautifully-shot two song turn-in for Out of Town Films, which doubles as a definitive showcase for this era of one of the more fascinating bands making music right now.

4. Tigercats – Rent Control (Fortuna POP!)

Every once in a while, a spectacularly made live video surfaces and causes people to question its validity as a live presentation. In many cases, most assume it’s just a particularly convincing music video. This is the fate that awaits Tigercats’ scintillating new “Rent Control”, which is one of the more memorable entries in that niche format in recent memory. Set in a house overflowing with people (presumably friends of the band), there’s a liveliness that informs “Rent Control” and elevates it past similar efforts. The song itself is an exuberant burst of indie pop and every aspect of the clip ties together beautifully, ensuring it a spot on this list.

5. Japanese Breakfast (Audiotree)

Michelle Zauner anchored one of my personal favorite entries in this entire series’ run in Little Big League‘s extraordinary “Year of the Sunhouse” clip from Little Elephant and has remained a powerhouse performer in the time that’s passed since that clip. Zauner’s other project, Japanese Breakfast, has been turning quite a few heads since the release of their excellent Psychopomp. The band recently wrapped a tour with Mitski and Jay Som, taking control of every opportunity to better their already-formidable live show. Their recent session for Audiotree demonstrated the band’s continuously evolving live show and curiously quiet strengths. The entire session is masterful both in performance and presentation, leaving behind an artifact that should be visited and revisited for quite some time.

Slanted – Fake Party (Stream)

slanted

Last Friday saw great new streams from Car Seat Headrest, Idiot Genes, Never Young, The Minders, Balto, and Middle Kids. Additionally, there were a string of impressive music videos Lydia Loveless, Liam Betson, Carl Broemel, Jail Weddings, and Retail Space. Full streams that came via AJJ, The Afterglows, YJY, Tanukichan, Whipworm, Bangladeafy, and See Gulls padded everything out with an extra dose of substance.

Casey Weissbuch‘s Slanted project also unveiled a surprise release that was headlined by the formidable “Fake Party”, one of Weissbuch’s finest songs to date. Following up last year’s extraordinary Desire For Lust, “Fake Party” once again demonstrates Weissbuch’s knack for composition. While the song’s lyric set is arguably the most polished Weissbuch has offered, it’s the song’s ability to breathe that makes it a genuine standout. Dynamic, open, and effortless is a surprisingly difficult combination to pull off but “Fake Party” excels by that very virtue, providing a level of life that’s absent from the majority of releases that make similar attempts.

Of course, the atmospheric tone of a song can only carry it so far on merit, the genuinely great songs are able to separate themselves by succeeding in other capacities. Make no mistake, “Fake Party” is a great song. From the light auto-tune running through the vocals to the breathtaking bridge and outro sections, not a moment of “Fake Party” is wasted. Everything’s designed for maximum effect, even though it always retains a spur-of-the-moment feel that’s essential to its success.

“Fake Party” also sets the tone for the remainder of the Party EP, which is comprised of two similarly excellent tracks (“Green Balloons//Walk of Life” and “Junk”). By establishing “Fake Party” as the introductory piece, the song’s risks are allowed to be elevated and to define the EP’s palette, which works to both the advantages of the EP and the song itself. The characteristic, Pavement-esque looseness is still there and Weissbuch even name-checks Guided By Voices (another evident influence) in the first verse, providing a revealing glimpse at how openly Weissbuch embraces Slanted’s influences.

Packaged together as a whole, “Fake Party” paints a portrait of an artist who thrives on sincerity, soaring melodies, and a sense of history. The song’s imbued with an easygoing confidence that plays perfectly into Slanted’s identity. Apart from being a legitimately great song, “Fake Party” is also a potent reminder that the DIY punk scene is currently an embarrassment of riches and exist in an environment that’s facilitating these types of releases. Sadly, that easy access is allowing too many people to regard these releases as disposable entries. As casual as they may seem at first blush, their existence remains deeply important. Songs — and artists — this good deserve to be celebrated.

Listen to “Fake Party” (and the rest of Party) below and pick the EP up here.

Eluvium – Rorschach Pavan (Stream)

eluvium

Over the course of the past few days, a host of impressive streams have surfaced from the likes of Death By Unga Bunga, Cory Hanson, Cheap Girls, Goon, Super Unison, Mannequin PussySofia Härdig, Totally Sl0w, Kiran Leonard, The Tallest Man On Earth, Two Houses, Suburban Living, Chasms, Racing Heart, Roses, Kadhja Bonet, Belle Mare, Diamond Hands, Astro Tan, and Kynnet. A bevvy of music videos emerged as well, including impressive new clips from Mozes and the Firstborn, Annabel Allum, Sam Evian, Marching Church, Billie Marten, Odonis Odonis, Eleanor Friedberger, Austin Lucas, The Body, Sunshine & the Blue Moon, Peter Bjorn and John, Cinemechanica, and The Pooches. Outstanding full streams from Band Aparte, Channeling, and Kaz Mirblouk rounded everything out in stylish fashion.

While all three dozen of those entries are worth a hefty amount of investment, it was Eluvium‘s characteristically breathtaking “Rorschach Pavan” to earn this post’s featured spot. Following on the heels of the spine-tingling “Regenerative Being“, Matthew Cooper once again demonstrates what’s made his discography one of the richest — and most celebrated — in ambient music.  “Rorschach Pavan” is one of Cooper’s finest offerings to date.

Once again, there’s an air of tranquility that permeates through “Rorschach Pavan” as well as a genuine sense of peace. Cooper’s stated that False Readings On is meant to be a meditation on cognitive dissonance and that thread reveals itself in patches throughout the course of this track but never overwhelms the proceedings, acting as a brief reprieve from the aggressive punctuation of “Regenerative Being”. Even with feedback and white noise swirling through its veins, “Rorschach Paven” registers as one of Cooper’s more calm, cerebral works.

The structure of the bulk of Eluvium’s music demands the songs to slowly unfurl, revealing themselves in layers while simultaneously adding new, overlapping themes, motifs, and instrumentation. Here, that approach hits an apex just after the 3:40 mark as a bass suddenly lifts the melody skyward in what’s one of the most beautiful sequences of music anyone’s likely to hear all year. That specific moment winds up being the definitive one for “Rorschach Pavan” as the gentle climax slowly cedes and the track begins to calmly disintegrate.

Otherworldly, intimate, and unfathomably gorgeous, “Rorschach Paven” is classic Eluvium, through and through. Beyond that, it’s one of the most awe-inspiring songs of recent memory. If the rest of False Readings On can live up to the standards set by its precedents, it’ll likely stand as one of the most beautiful records of 2016. Until then, “Rorschach Pavan” should be more than enough to tide anyone over. Fall under its spell and drift off on a sea of muted bliss.

Listen “Rorschach Pavan” below and pre-order False Readings On here.

Jack – Resting Places (EP Review)

JACK

Grief is a fearsome beast. At its worst, the emotion can become all-consuming and open up doors to spiteful resentments, severe depression, and bursts of misplaced anger. At its best, grief can lead to an expanded sense of empathy and a deeper understanding of the things that are legitimately important in life. More often than not, though, grief lingers in between that spectrum, forever at odds with its own qualities. All of those areas are explored in Jack’s jaw-dropping EP, Resting Places.

That’s precisely the reason why — despite absurdly strong showings from Vanity, Notches, Honey Bucket, Turtlenecked, Carl Sagan’s Skate Shoes, and Liam Betson —  the EP finds itself in this post’s featured position. Jack, a project spearheaded by Brittany Costa, came about by way of a difficult situation. That situation informs every millisecond of Resting Places, as Costa created the project as an outlet to confront the loss of a loved one.

Anyone that’s lucky enough to be familiar with Costa’s past work will undoubtedly find reason to be interested in Resting Places but will likely be caught off guard. This is, by some distance, the most vital work of Costa’s impressive career. Resting Places is an unflinchingly intimate, honest work and those qualities are all but necessitated by the circumstances leading up to its creation. What separates Resting Places is Costa’s overwhelming conviction. At every turn, each of the five tracks on the EP feel like they were born out of a fierce need to purge the thoughts they contain, at any cost.

Drawing from a variety of musical genres and utilizing the talents of Flagland‘s Nick Dooley and Bethlehem Steel’s Becca Ryskalczyk, Costa ably conjures up a maelstrom that becomes a mirror of Resting Places‘ bruised and bruising narrative. From the very opening line of the EP — “What the fuck did I do to make you turn away?” — there’s an aggressive tilt that never wavers, even in Resting Places‘ quietest moments.

A feedback swell precedes that opening salvo, establishing the discord that the EP draws on and rails against. For around 24 minutes, Costa veers in and out of folk, punk, Americana, and pop sensibilities, tethering everything into a genre-demolishing approach that thrives on a sense of unease. It’s a trait that permeates through all of Resting Places, as bleary-eyed and frantic as possible. All of those qualities come crashing to a head at climactic moments like the desperate affirmation of “I have fucking value” that closes out opener “Rightful Rage” or the repeated aversions to inflicting and experiencing suffering on the devastating “Harbor”.

Costa’s impressed as both a lyricist and a composer in the past but what she accomplishes on Resting Places doesn’t just top everything she’s done, it stands as some of the most impressive work that 2016 has yielded to date. Every track on the EP contains a handful of extraordinary moments, whether its in terms of dynamics, turns of phrases, or unbridled feeling. There’s a knockout punch lingering at every turn that’s ready to knock the listener down to Costa’s level. At no point over the course of its run does Resting Places halt its merciless swinging.

In Resting Places‘ penultimate track, “Sister System”, Costa addresses that pain directly, providing the EP with its most vulnerable moment. Even when Dooley’s intuitive drumming — one of Resting Places‘ finest additional assets — opens the song up a little, there’s an unwavering sense that Costa’s completely alone. The command to “pick up that dignity you threw across the floor” that brings the song to the end feels like less of a request and more of a reminder, again drawing the listener nearer to Costa’s position in a stunning, effective manner.

“The Look” brings the proceedings to a close in hair-raising fashion, giving Resting Places its severely battered, barely-beating heart. The song was the first to be released from Resting Places and managed to be breathtaking in a standalone capacity. Placed in the context of the EP, “The Look” becomes one of the most devastating songs to have emerged in recent memory. It’s a surging, climactic, tour-de-force of repressed feeling, unchecked frustration, and excessive exhaustion.

As Costa nearly screams “I tried to choke myself to stop the hurried breathing” in that final track, as the music surrounding the narrative threatens to go off the rails, one thing becomes abundantly clear: Resting Places isn’t just a necessary excursion for Costa to confront some lingering demos, it’s an artistic masterpiece. Eventually, it all leads up to what may be an inevitable summation. As “The Look” brings Resting Places to a close, Costa gets caught in a loop, repeating over and over “I am not afraid to die.”

It’s a powerful statement that holds even more weight measured against the rest of the EP. It’s a frightening moment of awareness and may even betray a dark desire but that final line also encapsulate how definitive of an exploration Resting Places is of personal grief. In that last line, the deceptively expansive breadth of grief is evident and can be opened up to many interpretations. A few of those interpretations may even prompt immediate revisits of the EP, providing the opportunity for re-contextualization.

As the music fades away into the ether,  Resting Places solidifies its place as one 2016’s most powerful releases for any format, leaving a mark that lasts. It’s a difficult EP that sparks an empathetic response that’s a little harrowing but likely nothing in comparison to what Costa went through while forming these songs. A special kind of generosity and bravery is required to put those feelings on display, so for that, we owe Costa a thanks, because Resting Places is just about as unforgettable as they come and, suitably, it makes it extraordinarily difficult to leave.

Listen to Resting Places below and grab a copy here.

PWR BTTM – New Hampshire (Stream, Live Video)

PWR BTTM III

For a while now, Benjamin Hopkins has found strength and empowerment through naked vulnerability, a trait that’s on full display with PWR BTTM‘s breathtaking “New Hampshire”. Penned when Hopkins was experiencing a sense of displacement, the track’s gone through various mutations for a few years and has (finally) arrived fully-formed for the UK deluxe edition of Ugly Cherries alongside the astonishing “Projection“.

Easily one of the duo’s gentlest songs — and in small bursts, one of their most gnarled — “New Hampshire” is an intimate look into a fractured psyche. From the onset, Hopkins is grappling with questions of mortality, greeting death with open arms. It’s a brave moment and that bravery doesn’t waver throughout the course of “New Hampshire” as it plunges into the depths of bleak certainty, finding ways to inject it with small grasps at hope.

That “New Hampshire” seems to paint death as a release provides the song with the bruising devastation that’s unified PWR BTTM’s strongest work, allowing some insight to the daily struggles the duo are forced to face in their everyday lives. By being so open about their preferences both Hopkins and Liv Bruce have been walking a double-edged sword as queer ambassadors, receiving celebration and (unfortunately) displaced derision in the process.

It’s a position that’s led the band to become increasingly accustomed to applying their openness and sincerity to a grander scale, which has also inflated the opportunity for confrontation. All of those experiences have been imbuing the band’s recent works and leading to some genuinely beautiful moments after being paired with the duo’s innate musical ability. Even in the smallest touches, like the bell runs or vocal rounds in the second half of “New Hampshire”, the emotive scope is evident.

“New Hampshire” is three and a half minutes of slowly lowering any remaining guards, stepping out into the open, and accepting an ephemeral fate. Tacit and direct in turns, PWR BTTM once again find a way to navigate uncomfortable corners with an unfathomable amount of grace and feeling. It’s an absolutely gorgeous song, even at its most barbed, and effectively demonstrates PWR BTTM’s growing range as artists. Far more than just a bonus track, the song’s both one of PWR BTTM’s strongest moments and one of 2016’s most essential offerings. Wounded, firm, and lovely, “New Hampshire” is unforgettable.

Listen to “New Hampshire” below and watch a video of the band performing the song earlier this year beneath the soundcloud embed. Order Ugly Cherries here.

Miya Folick – Pet Body (Music Video)

miya folick

Animal Lover, OMNI, September Girls, Lion’s Den, Silent Pictures, and WL all released startlingly great music videos over the past 24 hours. As good as all of those were (and they were quite good), the one that charged the hardest came courtesy of Miya Folick. After releasing one of the last year’s strongest EP’s in Strange Darling, Folick has wasted no time in releasing a follow-up effort. “Pet Body”, a standalone single, ranks among the songwriter’s fiercest moments and has a suitably aggressive video to match.

“Pet Body” eschews the tantalizingly subdued tendencies of Strange Darling in favor of a much rawer approach, flashing its fangs and sinking them in deep. A hyper-charged sugar-rush of spiky basement pop, “Pet Body” manages to be both accessible and substantial, cementing Folick’s reputation as a songwriter to watch. The music video that Folick’s released alongside the song is a joyous collage of animated imagery that complements the overwhelming immediacy of “Pet Body” with panache. Packaged all together, “Pet Body” is winsome, exhilarating, and an unexpected anthem for summer’s remainder. Greet it with a warm embrace and hold on for the ride.

Watch “Pet Body” below and download the song here.

LVL UP – Hidden Driver (Stream)

LVL UP II

Another Tuesday, another slate of astounding new tracks fighting for a feature spot. Little Kid, Soccer Mommy, Hypoluxo, Dinowalrus, The Westerlies, Pavo Pavo, Chris Farren, The Cut Losses, YJY, Slow Mass, The Alpacas, Luxury Death, Bring Prudence, and Touché Amoré (which features a lovely, unexpected turn from guest vocalist Julien Baker) were all in on the action. As ridiculously strong as all of those were, the bulk of the attention will fall to site favorite LVL UP‘s explosive “Hidden Driver”.

Coming on the heels of “Pain“, “Hidden Driver” continues the bold expansions that the quartet’s promised for the forthcoming Return to Love. Right from the onset, “Hidden Driver” is able to assert itself as a beast of a different sort for the band, deftly combining the aesthetics that define their compellingly rough-hewn demo collections and their polished studio work. As the song begins to pick up its ferocity, a synth line becomes increasingly prominent, giving the whole affair an extra touch of vibrancy.

Guitarist/vocalist Dave Benton anchors this contribution, providing a healthy dose of his enviable songwriting gifts and applying a sense of tenacious urgency in the process. Leaning heavily on the spiritual realm for the narrative, Benton gets off one of the most memorable couplets of his career with “God is peaking, softly speaking.” It’s a moment of contemplative euphoria that bristles with life, even as it stares down the barrel of mortality.

All of “Hidden Driver” comes across as one of the most focused things the band’s ever assembled, simultaneously drawing from established patterns and a willingness to explore the unknown (a trait that manifests in both the musical composition and lyrical narrative). The band’s rhythm section has rarely sounded as aggressive as they do in the song’s vicious main section, which culminates with some of the most effective guitar work of LVL UP’s entire discography.

As “Hidden Driver” ultimately dissolves into ambient noise, the anticipation for Return to Love grows stratospheric. “Pain” and “Hidden Driver” on their own have constituted two of 2016’s strongest turn-ins while both hinting at the breadth of the quartet’s broadening scope. If the rest of the record can live up to the precedents set by the first two glimpses, Return to Love will confidently stand as one of the year’s best records. All that’s left to do is wait and put “Return to Love” on repeat.

Listen to “Hidden Driver” below and pre-order Return to Love from Sub Pop here.

Clearance – Owner/Operator (Stream)

clearance

Since Friday, there have been notable streams from IAN SWEET, Fake Palms, American Wrestlers, Space Mountain, John K. Samson, Tanukichan, What Moon Things, Peace Be Still, Axis: Sova, Twist, The Veils, Quarterbacks, J&L Defer, Bon Iver, Cheshires, Black Thumb, CHUCK, Suntrodden, Makeout Point, Shapes In Calgary, Adam Torres, Dowsing, and Hiva Oa that have all appeared. On top of that, there were great music videos that came courtesy of Pleasure Leftists, Jake S-M, Breathe Panel, Emma Russack, Winter, Ka, and Pfarmers. Full streams that came via Bueno, Swimsuit Addition, Echo Courts, Big Bliss, The Channels, Cassels, BJ Barham, Dolfish, and Red Heat closed the haul of new material out in a memorable fashion.

All of those entries impressed on multiple levels but it was the latest offering from site favorites Clearance that earned this post’s featured position. “Owner/Operator” is the band’s second individual release — following the excellent “Are You Aware” — since their outstanding Rapid Rewards LP and sees the quartet continuing to find fascinating ways to balance a carefree atmosphere with urgent conviction. The song will be featured as part of their forthcoming Are You Aware 7″, which seems poised to stand as one 2016’s finest releases for that format.

A large part of those expectations can be accredited to the successes of “Owner/Operator”, a breezy and bristling three-and-a-half minute number that both refines and advances Clearance’s songwriting. From the structure to the dynamic nuances, there’s an uncommon liveliness that electrifies the proceedings, pushing a good song into the realms of greatness. Surprisingly memorable, weirdly powerful, and unashamedly casual, “Owner/Operator” is an unlikely slacker pop anthem for the basement punk crowd.

Listen to “Owner/Operator” below and pre-order Are You Aware from Tall Pat here.

Watch This: Vol. 136

The past week saw a lot of great live videos swimming to the shore from the depths of nowhere. There were outstanding featured performances in those clips from Adir L.C., The Curls, Lydia Loveless, Courtney Barnett, Ultimate Painting, Dogbreth, Los Blenders, Kinda Rad Kinda Sad, Summer Twins, Rich Girls, Slingshot Dakota, The Staves, Caveman, Eric Bachmann, Brendan Canning, Lisa Prank, Vetiver, Paridisia, Porches, Mimes of Wine, SALES, Typesetter, and Julien Baker. For the 136th installment of this series, the attention turns to a handful of folk-influenced artists who are either making their mark or reaping what they’ve sown throughout their careers. So, as always, sit back, adjust the settings, take a breath, and Watch This.

1. Margaret Glaspy (OpenAir)

Margaret Glaspy‘s had a deeply impressive 2016. The young songwriter released a breakthrough record, continuously boasts one of the better live shows on the market, and has handled the transition into the public eye with the poised confidence of a seasoned veteran. Here, Glaspy gives Colorado Public Radio’s OpenAir a powerful look at that live show, landing a few knockout punches throughout a rousing four-song performance.

2. Dusk – (Do the) Bored Recluse + Leaf (Set List)

No band has been written about or praised more by this site than Tenement, who have been the consummate example of what this site was built around supporting. Through that band’s decade-long existence, bandleader Amos Pitsch has been involved in a number of other projects but something about Dusk feels just a little bit different. The band’s comprised of several of the most impressive musical figures in Wisconsin’s relatively isolated Fox Valley area, whose singular visions act in complementary tandem. Beautiful harmonies, a sense of history, and a tenacious commitment help define the band’s identity. All of those traits are on full display for this gorgeous two-song turn-in for Wisconsin Public Radio’s excellent Set List series.

3. Green Dreams – Don’t Pray For Me (Katie Krulock)

Ever since the release of 2014’s excellent Rich Man, Poor Man, Green Dreams have been relatively quiet. All of that’s about to change as the band preps a new release, which the band provided a tantalizing glimpse at through the form of this live acoustic video. The typically ferocious project reveals their pensive side on the lilting “Don’t Pray For Me”, while still retaining the overwhelming narrative darkness that’s been so prominent in their past releases. Beautifully lensed and delicately performed, the video’s a powerful reminder of Green Dreams’ numerous gifts.

4. Bernie & the Wolf (DZ Records)

For more than three years, Bernie & the Wolf have quietly been perfecting a mix of influences and forming a sound that’s not too distant from the best of Saddle Creek’s offerings. Open, sprawling, and teeming with distinctly American influences (and history), their songs are immediately warmly familiar and entirely winsome. DZ Records recently capture the band delivering an impassioned set, keying in on “Ethyl”, “Catch Some”, and “Pretty On Me”, three genuine standouts from what promises to be one of the best releases of its given year.

5. Bon Iver (SPIN)

Typically, these spots are reserved for unheralded artists, independent-leaning moments, and videos where the performers aren’t hundreds of feet away. It takes a lot to overturn any of those qualifications and overturning all of them is essentially unprecedented. Even though Bon Iver’s Eaux Claires live unveiling of the forthcoming record — something I was fortunate enough to attend — was a genuinely Big Moment that will be exhaustively covered by nearly every serious music publication, the way it was introduced felt intrinsically connected to the foundations of this site.

As a person who’s lived the vast majority of life in a small Wisconsin town, watching someone like Justin Vernon selflessly elevate an enitre artistic community has been heartening. Watching him debut an entire album live, in front of a hushed audience of thousands, at a genre-balanced festival he founded in his own small Wisconsin hometown was actively inspiring. While Vernon’s rollout campaign for Bon Iver’s forthcoming 22, A Million was designed to benefit the projects’s chosen slot, it was also an effort to highlight the other artists (like Tenement and Tickle Torture) who were a part of the Eaux Claires festival.

In that methodology, Vernon’s added another heartfelt notch in his continuing efforts to expand Wisconsin’s woefully underrated music community by any means at his disposal. On top of all of that, though, the actual performance of 22, A Million was an unforgettable event that was enhanced by the location (Bon Iver’s music has always been perfectly suited to Wisconsin’s wilderness) and the weather.

Just before the set began, what had been a steady downpour of rain lasting hours had suddenly stopped and night had fully descended. Throughout the set, there was an eerie calm that was punctuated by the noise of crickets that had taken residence in and outside of the festival grounds, creating an ambient wellspring of noise that further enhanced the glitchy electronics that permeate throughout 22, A Million (they became especially evident during the quietest moments, rounding out those songs in an unforgettable fashion).

While all of the main set can be heard and seen below in a video that SPIN livestreamed from the crowd, the encore set (which isn’t part of the video) provided what may have been the most defining moment of the festival.

Playing a selection of songs that wildly varied from their original versions, the band pulled out a fairly faithful rendition of “Creature Fear” that culminated in an apocalyptic wall of noise outro section. In the lead-up to those breathtaking final moments, a blisteringly intense lightning storm had erupted behind a heavy cloud, providing an unexpected assist that felt entirely in tune with the weekend’s joyous collaborative efforts. In that moment, the audience, the band, the city of Eau Claire, and Wisconsin itself became part of a unified moment that transcended easy category, leaving an indelible mark on Eau Claires, on Eaux Claires, and on everyone who took a moment to take in their surroundings.

Forth Wanderers – Slop (Stream)

forth wanderers

Over the course of the past 24 hours, there’s been some astonishing material finding its way out into the public eye. Gringo Star, LA Font, Hissing Tiles, CC Mose, toyGuitar, Liam Betson, ExSage, Hello Shark, Left & Right, Truly, and a pair of tracks from Girl Tears (“Uneasy” and “Sedated“) provided a momentous start to the day’s proceedings. Apart from the standalone streams column, there were fascinating music videos from Dinosaur Jr., Nice As Fuck, Vision, and Prinze George. Big Eyes, Color TongueThee MVPs, Rainwater, and a formidable compilation from Orchid Tapes cemented a strong haul for the full streams as well.

While those titles were all readily equipped to reward investment, today’s feature spot falls to the resurgent Forth Wanderers (whose vocalist Ava Trilling recently had an impressive guest spot on Space Mountains’ “Never Lonely“) and their incredible new track, “Slop”. The title track from the band’s forthcoming EP, “Slop” immediately stands out as the band’s career highlight. Riding a slow, deliberate groove, “Slop” capitalizes on the luxury afforded to the most effective slow-burners and becomes hypnotic.

At seemingly impossible odds with itself, there’s an incredible amount of nuance packed into a relatively straight-forward structure, Forth Wanderers utilize their impressive grasp on dynamics to exhilarating results. The band coaxes an inexplicable amount of beauty out of a piece ostensibly rooted in self-doubt, allowing the more confrontational aspects of the narrative to come across as a spiritual cleansing that provides “Slop” its beating heart. It’s a gorgeous four minutes and it sets the tone for what should prove to be a very big year for a band that deserves the recognition.

Listen to “Slop” below and pre-order the EP from Father/Daughter here.

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