Heartbreaking Bravery

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The Best Music Videos of October (2019)

While 2019 hasn’t been as strong for the music video format as some previous years, there are still gems to be found. A quartet of them popped up during the course of October, each one accentuating the strength of their central song while holding their own as a work of art. Varied in approach and execution, each of these clips had something unique to offer. Each one deserves a certain level of investigation and the investment that process entails. Give all four a watch below.

1. Amy O – Crushed

Color damage, lo-fi effects, solid editing, and a great basement pop song. Sometimes that’s all of the ingredients you need to create a smart, engaging music video and Amy O‘s “Crushed” is certainly one of those times. Simple, effective, and just about perfect.

2. Wilsen – Ruiner

Mitzi Akaha and Tamsin Wilson deliver strong turns in Michael Simon’s clip for “Ruiner”, a single from Wilson’s Wilsen project. A quietly unnerving clip that oddly echoes two Elisabeth Moss films, Queen of Earth and The One I Love. Shot in the style of a Gothic psychological horror, Simon makes great use of atmosphere and a superlative lead performance. Jake Saner’s cinematography gives a perfect read on the song’s tone and pushes the “Ruiner” clip over the top, leaving it as one of 2019’s best clips.

3. Ada Lea – 180 Days

“180 Days”, the latest music video from Ada Lea walks a fine line between traditional music video and lyric video. Never really establishing a clear narrative, the clip mostly thrives on Lea singing to the camera in a variety of poses and costumes as the lyrics scroll by on the bottom. Despite the simple conceit, those foundations prove to be more than enough, as “180 Days” keeps the viewers attention steadfast.

4. Common Holly – Crazy OK

When I Say to You Black Lightning, the most recent full-length from Common Holly, is an astounding work. One of the record’s strongest highlights comes in the form of “Crazy OK”, the record’s explosive finale. Max Taeuschel & Aaliyeh Afshar stepped behind the camera for the song’s music video and spearheaded an incredibly memorable visual accompaniment. Leaning heavily on the song’s lyrical narrative, Taeuschel and Afshar let the images of bandleader Brigitte Naggar’s posture and movement provide an effective maximization. Gripping through and through, “Crazy OK” is easy to admire and hard to shake.

The Best Songs of October (2019)

October held a lot of surprises, a few new singles sprinkled among their ranks. From resuscitated projects to fast follow-ups to fascinating departures, the month seemed to be as rich as any in 2019. Nine of those tracks made a sizable impression as the month wound on, making waves right up to the end. While it’s literally impossible for one person to consume every song that comes out on any given day, hundreds earned consideration for placement here but the ones that made the cut here made the cut for a reason. Enjoy.

1. illuminati hotties – ppl plzr

Last year, illuminati hotties broke out in a big way, landing in several Best Of lists. Now, riding the wave of that success, the band sounds emboldened, evidenced by the relative fearlessness of “ppl plzr”. While they’ve excelled at maximizing dynamic composition, “ppl plzr” takes that trait to another level, finding illuminati hotties at their most engaging. Whether simmering at a slow boil or flowing over with unchecked aggression, “ppl plzr” is proof that illuminati hotties are only getting better as they go.

2. Failed Flowers – Broken Screen

Not too long ago (but an eternity ago in terms of media cycles), site favorites Fred Thomas and Anna Burch teamed up to co-front an excellent basement pop band called Failed Flowers. With Burch and Thomas’ solo careers both taking off and finding success, Failed Flowers got pushed to the background but the band’s now offering listeners a peak at their final stages via a Slumberland single. “Broken Screen” is the A-side and finds Thomas biting into a characteristically sardonic narrative that’s buoyed by the band’s jangly sensibilities. A perfect addition for a release that will ensure the project goes out on top.

3. Timothy Heller – Not Even For You

“Not Even For You” starts off at a slow pace, working its way to something bigger. At every pace, the song remains mesmeric, going a long way to ensure Timothy Heller is a name that doesn’t slip from the mind. A mid-tempo slice of psych-inflicted indie pop, “Not Even For You” impresses on multiple levels. A complete work that indicates the band’s mastery of dynamics, identity, and composition, “Not Even For You” stood tall as one of October’s most unexpected surprises.

4. Emily A. Sprague – Mesa

Florist mastermind Emily A. Sprague has been going on solo journeys quite a bit as an artist lately. Both as an ambient artist — one who recently toured with William Basinski — and even under the Florist guise, which was stripped back to just Sprague for Emily Alone. “Mesa” finds Spague occupying ambient terrain once more, conjuring up a lush, melancholic dreamscape that floats along at a glacial pace. A song that only ever stops unfurling as it winds down, “Mesa” is as lovely as anything that’s been released in 2019.

5. The Whiffs – Shakin All Over

A scruffy throwback power-punk number, The Whiffs’ “Shakin All Over” is one of many songs that uses retro styling to push a classic setup into modernity. Falling somewhere between Dark Thoughs and Sheer Mag with the pop sensibility punched up to the max, The Whiffs have landed on something instantly likable and surprisingly memorable in “Shakin All Over”. A winsome, punk-minded triumph from a band that sounds as if it’s been around forever but is only just getting started.

6. Dead Soft – Trimmer

Dead Soft have come surging back to life in 2019, releasing a handful of towering behemoths. “Trimmer”, a four minute, shit-kicking, shoegaze-driven monster is just the latest but it captures a band that’s not only found its voice but a confidence in that voice. The gas pedal’s been driven down to the floor and the band seems acutely aware of the kind of chaos that action always invites. Then again, it’s probably hard to care about much else when the songs that are getting written sound this good.

7. Alice Bowman – The More I Cry

For years, Alice Bowman has been writing and releasing gorgeous, understated songs. “The More I Cry” may just be the songwriter’s finest. A ’50s throwback ballad, the song’s production perfectly accentuates the sound as Bowman’s breathy vocals float along the ether. A song of loss, longing, and heartache, “The More I Cry” is yet another song that convincingly mines past styles to effectively prove their effectiveness and worth in today’s musical landscape. A beautiful turn from one of today’s more fascinating songwriters.

8. Potty Mouth – Favorite Food

Earlier this year, Potty Mouth released SNAFU, a record that acted as a form of catharsis for the band, who had to navigate their way out of industry hell to return to full power.  While that record was as excellent as anything the band’s put out to date, they hit a new high with their latest single, “Favorite Food”. Guitarist/vocalist Abby Weems nearly sounds reborn, guiding the band to a sound that has significantly more bite than their previous releases without sacrificing any part of their established musical identity. It’s a small but noticeable evolution for one of today’s best pop-punk bands.

9. Jeff Rosenstock – Ambient 7

Most people aren’t going to know Jeff Rosenstock for the songwriter’s ambient work, which is fair, especially in the face of a celebrated career as a punk artist. Yet Rosenstock’s talents as an ambient composer seem set to demand greater attention. “Ambient 7” finds Rosenstock in full ambient mode, delivering a shockingly beautiful drone work that seems to echo Stars of the Lid and nearly hits the 7 minute mark. Vexing and immersive, “Ambient 7” sounds like the work of a practiced ambient artist, which may be yet another road for Rosenstock to seize if the mood ever strikes. If that day never comes, at least “Ambient 7” will always be out there, gently beckoning for a return.

The Best Records of Q3 (2019)

22 excellent records were released between June and August. While no posts went up on this site about those records in that time, there’s a remedy: a compilation of all of those titles. Basement punk demos, intimate folk epics, adventurous rap odysseys, and quite a few spaces between those triangular points comprise this particular field. Due to time constraints, these will be presented without any additional context but don’t let that aspect of this post distract from some truly incredible releases. Dive in below.

The Best Songs of Q3 (2019)

Between June and August, an avalanche of great songs came crashing down into the world. From genuine song of the year contenders (Big Thief‘s “Not” chief among them) to bands striking gold multiple times (Lauran Hibberd, Pom Pom Squad, Kal Marks) there was a lot to consume. Here’s a playlist of the best of best, presented with no extra fanfare. All of these selections are bold enough to stand on their own.

The Best Music Videos of Q3 (2019)

While there were virtually no Heartbreaking Bravery posts that went live over the course of the year’s third quarter, work was still being done. Meticulously tracking releases as they flooded in proved to be more challenging, as the parameters for submissions kept widening. Music videos proved to have an especially fruitful run over that course (give or take a few days from the end of June to the end of September), with 23 of them hitting hard enough to secure a featured place within this playlist. A quartet of acts found a way to double up their placement through various means, from expanding astonishing direction and cinematography (Florist) to gifting no-brainer Song of the Year candidates a dedicated clip (clipping. and Rosie Tucker). All in all, there’s a lot to study over the course of these 23 clips, each supplying a varying degree of rewards.

Click play below and get lost in their magic.

1. Kill Birds – Worthy Girl 
2. Kill Birds – Volcano
3. Young Guv – Patterns Prevail
4. Lola Marsh – Echoes
5. Lina Tullgren – Bad At Parties
6. Black Beach – Shampoo
7. Long Beard – Getting By
8. Rosie Tucker – Habit
9. Rosie Tucker – Ambrosia
10. Mikal Cronin – Show Me
11. Oiseaux-Tempête – He Is Afraid and so Am I 
12. Jon Comyn – Chapel of Chimes
13. Advance Base – Rabbits
14. Sasami – Take Care
15. clipping. – Nothing Is Safe
16. clipping. – Blood of the Fang
17. Pom Pom Squad – Heavy Heavy
18. Hovvdy – Cathedral 
19. Gabríel Ólafs – Staircase of Sonata
20. Ali Barter – January 
21. Great Grandpa – Digger
22. Florist – Time Is A Dark Feeling
23. Florist – M

Dreaming Out Loud: Vol. 2 (Patrick Jennings)

Earlier this year, Ben Morey and Katie Preston broke ground on Dreaming Out Loud, an intimate live performance series for this site. Watching the two of them together made it clear that, no matter the future of this site’s editorial content, this was a series that needed to continue. Before too long, a few more appearances had been booked, including one from a man whose music has meant a lot to me over the course of this decade: Patrick Jennings.

Whether playing as a solo artist, with Middle Children, with PURPLE 7, or with Hot New Mexicans, Jennings has proved to have an innate sense of humility, honesty, and conviction. He’s been a crucial part of several of my favorite albums and songs of the past 13+ years and it was an honor to play host. Regrettably, both of my SD cards for my usual camera went haywire, leading to an impromptu iPhone filming session, making editing next to impossible. On the other hand, the raw, uncut nature of this volume of Dreaming Out Loud speaks to Jennings’ work as an artist, cat’s meows and all. A worthy trade-off.

During the filming, Jennings gave me the opportunity to pick the set list, leaving me frozen. If I’d taken that offer in full, Jennings and the band he had in tow would’ve missed their show that night by a few hours. Instead of requesting about four album’s worth of songs, he provided the courtesy of a three-song set spanning his discography. A new solo track, a Purple 7 gem, and the opener off Hot New Mexicans’ debut album, It’s Called Leaning Back. One full band, two in true solo acoustic fashion. Opting to kneel rather than sit, Jennings and co. provided a brief, mesmerizing run through one of the most remarkable catalogs in DIY punk.

Watch the performance below.

Devon Welsh – War (Music Video)

Editor’s Note: This post is one of several that were scheduled to go live several months ago but never went through. Rather than let these posts die an undignified death, they appear today in their original, unaltered forms. 

Majical Cloudz’s demise had some deeply regrettable mitigating factors that made their exit a necessity, for everyone. Fortunately, the voice that anchored that project never completely left. Devon Welsh’s presence on that group’s work was overwhelming, a trait that’s translated seamlessly to the artist’s solo work. “War” is another in a string of gripping triumphs from Welsh, who seems to be partially addressing his old band’s departure on this track, which arrives with an accompanying music video crafted by Welsh himself, in collaboration with Nika.

The duo make the wise decision to key in on Welsh’s trademark unblinking, bug-eyed intensity. The entirety of “War” is a crisp. static black-and-white one shot of Welsh navigating the song’s vocals, trembling violently throughout. There’s a level of spirituality present at this level of confrontation and it makes the watch more than a little disorienting but there’s also something intrinsically honest and even brave about Welsh’s performance that makes “War” impossible to turn off. It’s a work of jaw-dropping commitment that creates a cumulative effect that reverberates long after the clip’s final frame. Hard to ignore and harder to forget, “War” is a startling reminder of the humanity that’s in the root of all great art.

Watch “War” below and keep an eye on this page for further updates on any upcoming releases.

Campfires – I’ll Go Home (Stream)

Editor’s Note: This post is one of several that were scheduled to go live several months ago but never went through. Rather than let these posts die an undignified death, they appear today in their original, unaltered forms. 

For the past few years, Fire Talk has been building a reputation as one of the most consistently excellent labels in post-punk and beyond, headlined by artists like Deeper, Patio, and Dehd. On occasion, the label will branch out to more Americana-leaning territory and grab up an artist that fits their vision. Campfires was one of those acquisitions and the project more than proves their worth with the jangly, rollicking “I’ll Go Home”. Mid-fi production and a lot of treble bite shine through on the track, which recalls Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever at their scrappiest. Finding extra life in a hungover bonfire haze, “I’ll Go Home” is a relatively quiet but pointed delight, signaling great things to come from Campfires. Keep an eye on this one.

Listen to “I’ll Go Home” below and pre-order Fare Trax from Fire Talk here.

Cool Original – I Never Said I Didn’t Care (Album Review, Stream)

Editor’s Note: This post is one of several that were scheduled to go live several months ago but never went through. Rather than let these posts die an undignified death, they appear today in their original, unaltered forms. 

Nathan Tucker’s Cool Original project, through all its permutations, has earned quite a bit of love from this site. Nothing the project’s accomplished so far matches the scope of what’s achieved on I Never Said I Didn’t Care, a towering testament to personal and artistic growth. A little sludge, a lot of pop, and a fair share of basement punk coalesce into something that’s gripping from the outset and progressively more engaging as the record’s values become clear.

Towering in a peculiarly unassuming way, I Never Said I Didn’t Care finds Tucker and company cranking up the volume and confronting some harsh truths head on with a clear-eyed resolve (the “we don’t want the same things” realization in “Offended” is equal parts heartbreaking and emboldening). While the thematic through-line doesn’t shy away from complication, the composition that sustains I Never Said I Didn’t Care is some of the project’s most fierce and direct.

As the record progresses, Cool Original embrace a ramshackle existence and then blow it to smithereens in favor of something more subtle and rewarding: self-acceptance. In this case, that self is one keenly aware of hangups and has a penchant for larger-than-life distortion-heavy anthems that pay tribute to resilience. Inspired and inspiring, I Never Said I Didn’t Care makes its title abundantly clear in just about every way: this is a record that cares, deeply, about everything- and the record’s all the better for indulging in that trait. A high water mark for one of today’s most consistently excellent projects. Don’t let the year end without grabbing a copy.

Listen to I Never Said I Didn’t Care below and pick it up here.

Shutups – Every Day I’m Less Zen (Album Review, Stream)

Editor’s Note: This post is one of several that were scheduled to go live several months ago but never went through. Rather than let these posts die an undignified death, they appear today in their original, unaltered forms. 

Shutups have consistently impressed over the years, slowly expanding their audience from one show to the next. Even with some strong efforts to their name, it’d be hard to predict the extent of the artistic jump the band takes for their most recent full-length, Every Day I’m Less Zen. Everything on this record clicks, working in tandem with even the most minuscule detail to produce an incredibly inspired end result. From the crackling, gloriousy blown-out production to the thematic consistency to the pacing, this is a complete — and completely realized — work.

“that’s a long time to be on fire” starts things off at a blind sprint and the band never really looks back from that point, barreling forward with a reckless disregard for whatever’s in their path. As energized as it is energizing, this is basement punk of the highest order. Whenever the band does scale back a little, their pop sensibilities shine through and give Every Day I’m Less Zen an addictive gleam that ensures repeat listens. Surprisingly thoughtful in its ruminations on a very specific sliver of young adulthood and its various drawbacks and rewards, this is a borderline definitive record for a certain type of person.

While Every Day I’m Less Zen makes its bones on no-holds-barred aggression, Shutups manage to sprinkle in a few surprises that keep the affair from being an exercise in exhaustion. Whether it’s the glitch-pop of the intro to “Telephone” or the synth-laden haze of “Holiday Punch”, Shutups keep thriving by adding new, wrinkled layers to an enticing core. By the time the mind-scrambling closer “I Wanna Crash Cars” rolls around, Shutups have provided an entire world to get lost inside, to revisit, to fall in love with, and to leave behind. An extraordinary work from a duo worth knowing, Every Day I’m Less Zen stands firmly as one of the stronger basement punk records not just the year but the present decade. Take a deep breath, make the click-play plunge, and get swept up in its nuanced chaos.

Listen to Every Day I’m Less Zen below.