Heartbreaking Bravery

stevenmps2@gmail.com | @steven_mps | @hbreakbravery

17 of ’17: The Best Albums of the Year

Looking back on 2017 was an exhausting effort that seemed to uncover a surprising truth: a lot of the year’s best records wound up standing out by a fairly wide margin. Not just because of the strength of their singles but because of the herculean overall efforts of the acts responsible for the year’s standout songs. To that end, the considerable overlap between the selections for Song and Album of the Year — by far the most that’s ever occurred in the four years these lists have been running — isn’t too surprising.

After listening to hundreds upon hundreds of records throughout the span of 2017, what was a little surprising turned out to be the endurance levels of the records being considered for this list. Some that seemed like surefire locks in the first few months of their release faded, while a few that lingered on the perimeter seemed to gain strength with each successive revisit. One thing that can be said for all the records included in this list is that they’re forceful works that have already proven to have attained the kind of longevity that will serve them well going forward.

From site favorites to year-end mainstays to new faces, the 17 records below offer up an interesting variety. Mental health, youth, aging, hope, despair, and togetherness are all dissected. Icy post-punk numbers, deeply personal folk, and outbursts of irrepressible energy stand shoulder-to-shoulder here, representing a microcosm of what many rightfully saw as one of the most challenging years in recent memory. Take a look back at these releases and grab hold, they should serve the future well.

Washer – All Aboard

Every release tied to Washer‘s name so far has been worth the listen but the band took a massive step forward in 2017 to release their first truly great record with All Aboard. Over the years, the duo has managed to perfect a very particular strain of post-punk, honing their minimalist setup into a jet-propelled engine. Overflowing with career highs for the band, this 15 track titan of a record proves the project’s range, versatility, and talent. It’s an essential release that managed to stand out among a very crowded field.

Great Grandpa – Plastic Cough

Great Grandpa‘s first official full-length absolutely explodes from the outset, “Teen Challenge” obliterating any lingering doubts that this band was ready to take on the world. Plastic Cough‘s ensuing nine tracks go on to continuously elevate the bar the band continuously sets for itself, running a stylistic gamut that ranged from hushed and burdened introspection to moments of gnarled violence. It’s an impressive show of force that never runs out of steam.

Petite League – Rips One Into the Night

Lorenzo Cook, the driving creative force behind Petite League, has been toiling away in relative obscurity for the past few years despite a string of formidable releases. In 2017, Petite League didn’t just make their biggest push into larger recognition, the band also made their best record to date in Rips One Into the Night. Clever lyricism, thoughtful arrangements, mid-fi production, and a charismatic presence elevated the project to a greater level of recognition that was long overdue (and still lacking, all things considered). A seamless mixture of bedroom and basement pop, Rips One Into the Night more than proves Petite League can play with the heavy hitters.

Cayetana – New Kind of Normal

For decades, mental health was something that artists seemed more inclined to subvert in their art, presenting it in a sly sideways glance rather than opting for something more direct. Over the past few years, that approach has noticeably shifted and brought to light some of the best works since the turn of the century. Cayetana‘s most recent effort — their career highlight New Kind of Normal — can now proudly join their ranks. As complete of a record as anything that’s come out this decade, it’s a harrowing confrontation with limitation, impulse, and the kind of desire usually left to the shadows. It also boasts the best arrangements of the band’s discography. A triumph.

Young Jesus – Young Jesus

Three full-lengths to their name and Young Jesus still has a perfect record, each three of those wildly different releases landing the continuously-evolving band a spot in the Album of the Year lists. With that kind of pedigree, self-titling a record would seem like a bold gambit to most but Young Jesus seems to suggest that the band’s in full control of its voice, having radically shifted its lineup and moved clear across the country. Poetic, thoughtful, euphoric, and devastating, Young Jesus easily set itself apart in 2017, thanks in no small part to the record’s towering final three songs, which may well have constituted the year’s most ambitious — and memorable — runs of music.

Deep State – Thought Garden

One of the year’s more overlooked records was also one that proved to have an excess of verve. Bristling with feeling, Deep State‘s Thought Garden was a masterclass in how to effectively translate kinetic energy without losing narrative focus. In lashing back at ennui with a concentrated frustration, Deep Thought created one of 2017’s most unexpectedly fiery releases. Brash and necessary, Thought Garden was — and remains — a record worth remembering, especially in larger conversations.

Weaves – Wide Open

Following a breakthrough record that catapults you from “best-kept secret” status to critical darlings is never an easy task but it was one Weaves had no trouble side-stepping with the breezy, playful Wide Open. Drawing influence from some of Americana’s high watermarks, the band melded and warped those traits into something tantalizingly singular, marrying those cues with tempos and structures that owe slightly more to the East than the West. Genre-melting and world-conquering, Wide Open more than proved Weaves to be one of the premier bands of the moment.

Landlines – Landlines

A small, self-released record that more than held its own against records with more fanfare, Landlines‘ self-titled found its plays incrementally increasing after its September debut. Beautifully combining the finest points of post-punk and basement punk into a cohesive whole that owed as much to Pavement as it did to Parquet Courts, Landlines never stopped impressing. One of the most exquisitely crafted records on this list, Landlines comes jam-packed with little delights that ensure each song is differentiated from the next but that the record stands as a complete whole. It’s a remarkable work that richly deserves a much, much larger audience.

Strange Relations – Editorial You

Few things are as thrilling as a band that’s confidently taking the type of measures that will push them to greater heights. Whether that’s expanding their ambition, increasing their levels of fearlessness, openly experimenting with ideas that may seem counter-intuitive, or simply spending more time on their craft, the end product typically winds up being something of note. In the case of Strange Relations‘ Editorial You, which encapsulates each of the tactics listed above, it’s also wildly successful. Editorial You is unmistakably the sound of a promising act finding their voice and confidently surging forward, fully equipped and ready for whatever might lie in wait

Fred Thomas – Changer

The clarity of voice on Fred Thomas‘ Changer is legitimately astounding. Thomas being one of this generation’s best lyricists hasn’t really been that much of a secret for a while but Changer takes those writing gifts to stratospheric highs with meditations on isolation, aging, individuality, and trying to feel alive. Changer doesn’t just survive on cleverness or memorable turns of phrase though, elevating itself through instrumental composition, demonstrating Thomas’ expanding palette in breathtaking fashion. Far and away the songwriter’s most direct work, Changer also stands proudly as an exhilarating career high. Not just the record that boasted 2017’s best book of lyrics but easily one of the year’s finest all-around efforts as well.

Big Thief – Capacity

One of 2016’s most promising breakout acts didn’t take long to issue a follow-up strong enough to eliminate any lingering doubt over their considerable talent. Big Thief‘s Masterpiece was touted by many at the end of 2016 as one of the year’s best, even more publications followed suit with Capacity in 2017. Retaining the grand sweep of their breakout work, Big Thief got a little more exacting with Capacity. Deeply informed by tragedy and difficult circumstance, Capacity plays like more of a rallying cry than a death rattle, the band finding the heart and humanity in every broken shard of their past and clinging to it in the present as a means of knowing there will be hope for the future.

Cloud Nothings – Life Without Sound

Like Young Jesus, Cloud Nothings have registered a placement on the Album of the Year lists with each of their last three full-lengths. Ever since reforming as a full band, Cloud Nothings have been on an absolute tear, pushing their own limitations at every step (having slightly different lineups for each record likely necessitated a certain level of adaptation). Life Without Sound, however, is the first record the band’s made where it feels like they’re drawing from their past for inspiration. Typically, that glance backwards indicates a band running out of ideas but Life Without Sound is subversive and unpredictable enough to suggest that couldn’t be further from the truth for Cloud Nothings. This is a monstrous, career-encapsulating effort from a band that will always refuse to go quietly.

Tica Douglas – Our Lady Star of the Sea, Help and Protect Us

Over the past several years, Tica Douglas has quietly become one of our best songwriters. Joey went a long way in earning Douglas a reputation as a songwriter worth watching and Our Lady Star of the Sea, Help and Protect Us should further strengthen that argument. It’s a gorgeous record full of unsparing self-examinations and hard-won moments of hope and contentment. Each song taken as an individual piece is riveting but packaged together as a whole, the effect toes the line of being overwhelming. A complete listen is an immersive experience, with all of the scars and all of the healing being felt at every step. When all is said and done, Our Lady Star of the Sea, Help and Protect Us stands as a proud testament to both Douglas’ singular vision and resilient character.

Cende – #1 Hit Single

A band that was gone far too soon at least stayed long enough to gift the rest of us with their only proper full-length, #1 Hit Single. Cende — which boasted members of LVL UP and Porches — has been playing most of these songs out for years before this release and found exhilarating ways to do them justice. Whether it was through string arrangements, guest vocalists, or the production sheen, everything clicked and #1 Hit Single became one of the most winsome basement pop records of this decade in the process. Whip-smart composition, note-perfect execution, and attitude to spare ensured that Cende had enough through one EP and one full-length to leave a legacy that mattered.

Palehound – A Place I’ll Always Go 

One of a handful of artists on this list whose releases have gotten incrementally more impressive with each successive release, it’s hard to imagine how Palehound will top what they’ve achieved with A Place I’ll Always Go. Bandleader Ellen Kempner is in fine form throughout the record, delivering career highs across the board when each compositions is broken down (lyrics, guitar riffs, etc.). A Place I’ll Always Go is also massively successful in terms of pace and tonality, helping the record secure a position as the band’s most fully-formed and complete work. As enthralling as it is captivating, A Place I’ll Always Go solidifies and reaffirms Palehound status as an act worthy of our full attention.

Mo Troper – Exposure & Response

One of last year’s Album of the Year selections, Mo Troper returned this year with the startlingly bold Exposure & Response, that sees the songwriter taking enormous strides forward. From the opening cascade of Beach Boys-esque overlapping vocals on both “Rock and Roll Will Change the World” and “Wedding” to the unexpected grandeur of album highlight “Your Brand” to just about every other surprising minuscule detail on Exposure & Response, Troper finds ways to not just surprise but engage.

Everything that made Beloved seem as if it was destined to earn a rabid cult following and be hailed as a lost genre classic is still intact while other facets of Troper’s formidable songwriting talent has been expanded. Exposure & Response resides comfortably at the intersection of classical maneuvering and modernist delivery as Troper anchors the proceedings with trademark bursts of self-deprecating self-awareness. It’s a landmark record from a burgeoning talent that begs to be left on repeat. Somehow, it gets better every time.

Album of the Year:

Charly Bliss – Guppy

A record that’d been lingering in purgatory for nearly three years finally saw the light of day in 2017 as Charly Bliss set out to light the world on fire. Guppy, at every stage of its development, has always been a knockout record. In its first iteration, it was a growling monster full of low-end bite and emphatic force. The band stripped it back a little, polishing the edges and swapping out a few songs to present something more refined while still retaining a certain edge.

The record’s immediate success came as a surprise to virtually no one that had been paying a lick of attention to the band over the past several years. Touring with high-profile bands — whether they were storied bands with rabid fanbases or exciting upstarts — ensured their range of listeners would be wide. Every step the band’s taken over the past 5 years has been savvy, something that was already evidenced with what remains this decade’s best EP, 2014’s Soft Serve.

Still, making smart business decisions can’t generate any sort of impression if the product is subpar. Fortunately, for everyone, Charly Bliss’ insane musical pedigree (all four members have degrees in musical fields) essentially ensures that they’ll be operating at an extraordinarily high level when it comes to actually writing songs. Guppy provides an excess of proof that Charly Bliss — in addition to being masterful at their craft — have held onto an internal fire that’s fueled their music since their modest beginning.

“Percolator” kicks Guppy off with an insane surge of adrenaline, taking the band from 0 to 200 in one quick crescendo, leaving everyone else to catch up to the trail of dust the band leaves in its wake. Memorable song to memorable song, the quartet rips through their winsome brand of bubblegrunge with aplomb. Mixing twee asides with moments of vicious reality, the band creates a 10 course feast that somehow manages to feel both of the moment and timeless all at once.

A record that brings self-loathing, friendship, earnest sincerity, self-empowerment, and the way they all manage to connect into startling focus, Guppy is as much of a success as a narrative as it is in the instrumental arrangement department. The record’s ridiculously powerful — and surprisingly heavy — “Julia” even sees the band flexing its range, proving that they’ve got quite a bit more up their sleeves.

When all the smoke’s cleared and Guppy has disappeared into the ether, the impression it left in the moment never fades and keeps pushing for rediscovery. It’s a record full of hooks that dig in and stay. It’s a record that’s as willing to open scabs as it is to mend wounds. It’s a record that knows how to have several cakes and eat every last one. Finally, it’s a record that stands out as an easy pick for 2017’s Album of the Year.

17 of ’17: The Best Songs of the Year

2017 was a staggeringly balanced year in terms of memorable musical output. To honor that consistency, the typical run of 17 songs will be complemented by a list — in no particular order — of 83 other great songs to find release throughout the year. As usual, the “best” tag simply acts as shorthand for the music I was fortunate enough to consume from January through December, which had an individual song list that tallied well into the quadruple digits.

Names that are already familiar to year-end lists on this publication reside comfortably alongside artists who are still looking to make a larger impression. Non-singles are included with some of the year’s strongest advance tracks and songs that tip towards hardcore rub shoulders with some quiet basement pop numbers. There’s a lot to contemplate — both inside and outside of the top 17 selections — and even more to celebrate.

These are the 17 best songs of 2017.

Enjoy.

Great Grandpa – Teen Challenge

One of the great album openers of 2017, “Teen Challenge” reintroduced a noticeably more explosive version of Great Grandpa that wasn’t afraid of hairpin turns or controlled catharsis. From the outset of “Teen Challenge” the band is swinging for the fences but it’s not until the enormous final section where something deeply impressive transforms into something legitimately inspiring. It’s a celebratory song that comes loaded with conviction and is delivered with the type of determination that refuses to be held back.

Mo Troper – Your Brand

One of this site’s picks for last year’s Album of the Year honors, Mo Troper returned this year with two records. One, a collection of older material reworked for Troper’s current band, the other, an inspired effort of new material that saw Troper expanding his ambitions to legitimately unexpected degrees. The elevation of both songwriting and production on Exposure & Response is particularly evident in career highlight “Your Brand“, which finds Troper turning his gaze towards the brand-obsessed inhabitants of social media, people who treat themselves as corporate entities and flaunt varying levels of entitlement.

Occasionally, those same denizens find the levels between tongue-in-cheek mockery and unwitting sincerity blurring into an unrecognizable definition. It’s a richly-deserved skewering that’s shot through with a resigned understanding. The tasteful string and brass arrangements that adorn “Your Brand” send the song to euphoric heights even as Troper is weighed down in the bog of a tragicomic reality. It’s a masterful outing that positions Troper as one of the most promising pop songwriters of this generation.

Cende – What I Want

Cende‘s first and final full-length effort was an enticing effort headlined by a slew of singles that all warranted consideration for placement on this list (and earned individual write-ups). None of them wound up impressing quite as deeply as the song boasting the record’s most challenging — and towering — arrangement, the Greta Kline-featuring “What I Want“. Falsettos, a lilting string arrangement, and an incendiary bridge showed off Cende’s formidable range, tilting from something approaching the saccharine to a vicious instrumental outburst at the click of a hi-hat.

Charly Bliss – Westermarck

Few bands have earned as much attention and praise from this site as Charly Bliss over its four-year existence and it was heartening to watch the band break out in 2017 with one of the year’s most affirming releases in Guppy. While every track on that record is noteworthy for one reason or another, it was “Westermarck” that kept revealing deeper facets of itself. A rousing meditation on uncertainty couched in an unapologetic joy of simply being alive, the song became an unlikely anthem for anyone questioning their partner’s motives (especially in significantly skewed familial setting).

Common Holly – Nothing

Tender, sparse, and wrought with longing, Common Holly‘s “Nothing” proves how adequately minimalist formulas can maximize difficult emotions. It’s a bare-bones run through a personal affirmation, rendering something that appears delicate at first blush searing at second glance. More than that, “Nothing” introduces Common Holly as a deceptively powerful artist with the capacity to deliver breathtaking turns in the quietest rooms.

Weaves – Puddle

Riding a wave of critical adulation and having earned the respect of their contemporaries, Weaves returned in 2017 with Wide Open, an aptly named run that they billed as their Americana effort. While the record takes a lot of notable cues from that genre, the band’s wildly erratic, genre-obliterating core remained intact with the barn-burning closer “Puddle” acting as the clearest indication that the band’s unpredictable firepower was still fully intact.

Fred Thomas – Misremembered

Following a record as momentous as All Are Saved will always be a difficult task but to surpass high expectations in the way that Fred Thomas managed with Changer is a rarity. From the record’s dynamic opening track, Thomas proves to be more focused than ever, spinning barbed tapestries of lived-in realism with unmatched verve. “Misremembered” isn’t just a testament to Thomas’ lyricism, either, the fiery music that serves as its backdrop propelling it to stratospheric heights.

Big Thief – Breathe In My Lungs

A lot of outlets gave Big Thief‘s breathtaking “Mary” a deserving amount of love, ranking both the song — and the record it resides — as the year’s best. Meanwhile, the band’s devastating B-side, “Breathe In My Lungs”, flew under the radar. As is often the case with bands as prolific and talented as Big Thief, “Breathe In My Lungs” is so much more than just a castaway or afterthought, it’s one of their most heartrending numbers, expertly using the considerable weight of guitarist/vocalist Adrianne Lenker’s singular voice to turn in some of the year’s most unforgettably damaged romanticism.

Cayetana – Bus Ticket

2017 saw a very large handful of bands taking the next step in their evolution but few seemed to take their strides forward with as much assurance as Cayetana, who zeroed in on what’s long been the crux of their songwriting: mental health. No song conveyed this more than their staggering “Bus Ticket“, which saw the band slowing the tempo and accelerating the force the trio’s always put into their compositions. Managing to be direct and atmospheric simultaneously, “Bus Ticket” stands proudly as a career high for a band that’s found their voice.

Yucky Duster – Elementary School Dropout

One of the year’s most unabashedly exuberant records came in the form of Yucky Duster‘s latest EP, Duster’s Lament. Headlined by the effusive “Elementary School Dropout”, the band offered up an irresistible slice of joyful basement pop that grounded it’s more playful elements with some effective self-deprecation. Expertly toeing the balance between the light and the bleak, “Elementary School Dropout” stood out as 3 of 2017’s most outright fun minutes in a year where that sort of thing was desperately needed.

Strange Relations – Say You

One of the boldest re-introductions of 2017 came by way of Strange Relations‘ enormously confident Editorial You, which was teeming with memorable bursts of icy post-punk that saw the band considerably elevating their grasp on composition. One of the most significant individual outings for the project comes on the record’s second track, “Say You“, which conjures up a steely demeanor and enhances it with fiercely jagged musical interplay. Both minimalist and towering, it’s an obscenely impressive song from a young band that seems determined to continuously reach for greater heights.

Covey – Call Home

There were a lot of songs that came out over 2017’s 12 months that occupied a similar space as Covey‘s “Call Home”: laid back, lovely, unassuming, and tinged with regret, loneliness, and despair. None of them wound up staying the way “Call Home” managed to stay; the song’s melodies and gorgeous chorus humming along and dominating unexpected spaces of memory when it could’ve just as easily rescinded into oblivion. Every return listen offered a new take and at some point, the song migrated from being a pleasant curiosity to something far more essential: one of the year’s best.

IDLES – Mother

Recently given Music Video of the Year honors, IDLES‘ “Mother” also comes off as a ferocious head-turning effort when stripped from its hyper-intense visual accompaniment. Vocalist Joe Talbot repeats several mantras throughout “Mother” — written as a tortured tribute to his own late mother, whose portrait graces the record’s cover — each of them decrying two evils: one political, one sexual, both too frequently intertwined into a nightmarish whole.

Viciously opposed to a system that uses a weighted system to the benefit of the people who are afforded privilege, the song is a startling reminder of the seething anger and frustration of the people who oppose those systems. It’s a clarion call delivered with an excess of venom, using it’s hardcore leanings to drive a message home hard enough that the ramifications of our choices are left lingering in the smoke.

Palehound – If You Met Her

A beacon of consistency over the past several years, news of a new Palehound record was welcome when it was first announced. The first few singles were packed full of the band’s usual tricks but then “If You Met Her” arrived and decimated everything. A hard-hitting look at how the loss of someone you know can affect your own perception of what it means to die, “If You Met Her” immediately registered as not just Palehound’s darkest effort but the project’s best as well.

It’s a gripping, grounded meditation on life itself and it’s delivered with such empathetic understanding that it’s nearly impossible to listen to the song in full without running through an avalanche of feeling. Anything that inspires that level of emotional response and visceral reaction is worth noting — and in the case of “If You Met Her”, it’s more than worth celebrating.

Young Jesus – Feeling

A longtime staple of this site’s coverage, Young Jesus have continuously found exciting ways to evolve as a band in the face of a slew of obstacles that leave lesser bands stumbling. From nearly complete lineup shifts to a refocused experimentation to a relocation that took them from the upper Midwest to the West Coast. The band’s latest effort saw a quick self-release suddenly disappear only to be re-released shortly after by Saddle Creek.

All it takes to understand why such a revered label would take on the band is one listen to “Feeling”, a sprawling 10-minute opus which beautifully showcases the band’s remarkable range, guitarist/vocalist John Rossiter‘s penchant for blending memorable poetry with unforgettable melody, and a growing fearlessness. It’s a heart-stopping moment on what remains one of 2017’s most woefully overlooked records and reaffirms Young Jesus’ place as one of today’s best bands.

The Magic Lantern – Holding Hands

Easily one of 2017’s outright loveliest moments, The Magic Lantern‘s “Holding Hands” casts a spellbinding magic all its own within its opening figures, as a yearning vocal is laid on a bed of gentle saxophone figurines. As the notes and vocals hold — with as much purpose as the imagined goal of the narration, no less — the song winds up with enough power from two core elements to elicit chills.

When the body of “Holding Hands” takes shape as the drums kick in, providing yet another one of 2017’s most perfectly-realized moments, it becomes abundantly clear that something miraculous is happening on the track. By the time it all winds to a ghostly close, “Holding Hands” has left a mark that deserves to be called upon fondly in the days to come. In all of it’s warmth and care, “Holding Hands” pushes forward from a simple greatness and achieves something far closer to transcendence.

SONG OF THE YEAR:

Mount Eerie – Real Death

When Mount Eerie‘s “Real Death” first arrived, it was set to get a standalone feature. That post never arrived as I personally struggled with the decision to attempt to bring any sort of discourse to something so nakedly personal, which held true for A Crow Looked At Me (the record it’s from) as well. As time passed, that decision lingered, though it became increasingly difficult to listen to both the song and the record, famously written about the death of the songwriter’s wife and recorded in the studio she’d built in their house, on the instruments she left behind.

Even without being able to listen to the song, the memory of the song stayed as strongly as the feelings that accompanied the first listen (as well as the subsequent ones). It’s the sound of Phil Elverum tearing his own wounded heart out of his body to present to the world so that they can understand what kind of grief accompanies something so tragically world-shifting.

While every moment of “Real Death” is shattering, the weight of it becomes nearly unbearable when Elverum shifts the lyrics from oblique poetry to a hyper-specific narrative, recounting one moment of singular heartbreak that arrived with a package that has late wife had secretly ordered for their daughter. In that retelling, Elverum envisions his wife, living with the knowledge that her wife would be ending, thinking ahead and wanting to provide comfort for the people she loved.

Not only does that specific moment touch upon why Geneviève was someone he loved so fiercely but, in doing so, provides the song’s listeners a glimpse into her character as well. It effectively shifts the tonality of the record even further toward heartbreak by painting such an intimate portrait, making “Real Death” come across as even more unmistakably, painfully human. It’s a tribute to an artist that so many of us wish we knew and stands as a stark reminder to cherish the ones we do know while we can and to strive to match their gifts with our own.

By positing real-life implications alongside meaningful execution, “Real Death” became something much larger than the sum of its parts. In plumbing the depths of personal loss, Elverum’s Mount Eerie projected gifted us something hard to experience and impossible to forget. With any luck, it will steer us towards more effectively demonstrating our love when it can be appreciated by the people for which it’s intended.

 

+++++++++++
+++++++++++

The Best of the Rest

18-21

22-26

27-32

Middle Children – Baby Boom
Joyce Manor – NBTSA
Thurst – Forever Poser
The New Years – Recent History
Monomyth – Puppet Creek
Hermetic – Strategic Default

33-100

Protomartyr – A Private Understanding
Alexander F – Call Me Pretty
Pile – Dogs
Vagabon – Cold Apartment
Cloud Nothings – Internal World
Prom Queen – Blonde
Holiday Ghosts – Can’t Bear To Be Boring
Washer – Dog Go Bark
Grouper – Children
Slaughter Beach, Dog – Fish Fry
Fits – Ice Cream On A Nice Day
Meat Wave – Run You Out
The Spirit of the Beehive – Ricky (Caught Me Tryin’)
Walter Etc. – April 41st
Chemtrails – Deranged
Juila Louise – Brat
See Through Dresses – Lucy’s Arm
Amy O – Lavender Night
Modern Baseball – This Song Is Gonna Buy Brendan Lukens A New Pair of Socks
Girlpool – It Gets More Blue
The Total Bettys – Stay Here All Night
Tica Douglas – Same Thing
Midnight Reruns – Warm Days
WHY? – Proactive Evolution
Hand Habits – Sun Beholds Me
Long Neck – Mine/Yours
Julien Baker – Appointments
Anna Burch – Asking 4 A Friend
Palm – Walkie Talkie
Single Mothers – People Are Pets
Lydia Loveless – Desire
Deem Spencer – Soap
Two Inch Astronaut – Play To No One
Blessed – Headache
Diet Cig – Maid of the Mist
Madeline Kenney – Big One
Dream Wife – Somebody
Bethlehem Steel – Finger It Out
Strange Ranger – House Show
Miya Folick – Trouble Adjusting
Jesca Hoop – Pegasi
Fiji-13 – Mansplain It To Me BB
Idle Bloom – Dust
Florist – What I Wanted To Hold
Beachheads – It Feels Alright
Fruit & Flowers – Out of Touch
Ratboys – The Record
Schlotman – Holy Basil
Lost Balloons – Numb
John Rossiter – Mom Guitar
Lomelda – Interstate Vision
Walter Martin (ft. Matt Berninger) – Hey Matt
Jay Som – The Bus Song
Japanese Breakfast – The Body Is A Blade
Screaming Females – Glass House
Phoebe Bridgers – Smoke Signals
Open Mike Eagle (ft. Sammus) – Hymnal
Half Waif – Frost Burn
Petite League – Pocketknife
Say Sue Me – Bad Habit
Petal – 15
Waxahatchee – Silver
Jason Isbell & the 400 Unit – If We Were Vampires
Siobhan Wilson – Whatever Helps
Sammi Lanzetta – Circles
Deep State – Nothing Speaking
Saintseneca – Moon Barks at the Dog
Lithuania – 5000 Year Leap

17 of ’17: The Best Music Videos of the Year

z

Arriving fashionably late, the Heartbreaking Bravery year-end lists kick off in earnest with a celebration of the visual medium. There were incredibly strong visual efforts put forward by the people that could afford to have lavish budgets for just about any facet of their creative output (with Kendrick Lamar having an especially fruitful year) but this space wasn’t designed to celebrate those artists. Instead, the 17 selections featured below represent some of the finest works that flew by at a quieter pace, whether they came from storied veterans or exciting upstarts.

The format established last year will continue on this year, with one (or several) item designated the top spot and the remaining selections featured with no discernible ranking. Both the songs and albums list will follow this format as well. So, dive in, pick your poison, and try to guide yourself to a fate no worse than spending an hour or more playing the world’s most audacious interactive music video. Here are the 17 best music videos of 2017.

Hazel English – Fix

Throughout Hazel English‘s first few releases, the songwriter’s proved adept at crafting memorably beautiful clips and “Fix” stands proudly as English’s current best. A romantic, softly-lit tone poem “Fix” consists of little more than two people at an undefined stage in their relationship traversing some beautiful scenery together. Superbly directed and masterfully edited, “Fix” carries a subtle emotional resonance that propels it from being simply good to something masterful.

Jay Som – The Bus Song

The artist responsible for last year’s Song of the Year returned to set 2017 on fire, breaking out in momentous fashion. The highlight of Jay Som‘s ascent came by way of this House of Nod-produced (and Michelle Zauner-directed) clip for “The Bus Song”. A joyous celebration of music, friendship, and the intertwining link between the two, “The Bus Song” is teeming with affection, wearing its heartfelt sincerity not on its sleeve but as a badge of honor, displayed proudly on its chest.

Zebra Katz – Blk & Wht

One of the most haunting clips to come out of this decade, Zebra Katz‘s “Blk & Wht” is a harrowing recreation of the experiences its actors endured as refugees attempting to clear border security. As grim and stark as the song itself, “Blk & Wht” takes on a nightmarish sheen of realism that’s fully elevated thanks to the people involved in the project. It’s hypnotic, it’s terrifying, it’s unbelievably well-executed and transcends the form of music video and tips towards effective activism (something that’s incredibly hard to do without coming across as ham-fisted or cloying) by proving immensely hard to shake.

Japanese Breakfast – The Body Is A Blade

Directing Jay Som’s “The Bus Song” wasn’t the only impressive feat Michelle Zauner completed this year. Zauner also collaborated with House of Nod again for this meditative clip tinged with tragedy for her own project, Japanese Breakfast. Beautifully combining archival footage from her past with the present state of being, “The Body Is A Blade” paints a complex and deeply human portrait. Empathetic, poetic, and laced with an abundance of warmth (in tonality, coloration, and emotion), “The Body Is A Blade” immediately stood out as one of the year’s best upon release and looks even stronger today.

PUP – Old Wounds

It’s not often that this site prints obscenities but “Old Wounds” warrants the following: Jeremy Schaulin-Rioux is a fucking maniac. The director’s been instrumental in guiding PUP to claiming Music Video of the Year honors for 3 of the past 5 years and — with this entry included — has been included in the “Best Of” lists for the other two. Even with that track record, it would have been difficult to predict Schaulin-Rioux would go off the deep end to create a choose your own adventure video game masquerading as a music video in the form of 73 separate clips (many of them containing accessibly esoteric jokes from prominent music journalists) to form a cohesive whole for the shortest — and fiercest — song on the band’s triumphant sophomore effort The Dream Is Over. Click play and lose yourself to a rabbit hole that you’ll never want to leave. You’ve been warned.

Fog Lake – Rattlesnake

Fog Lake‘s “Rattlesnake” was one of 2016’s most captivating songs and 2017 gifted it the kind of visual it so richly deserved. Lacking any sort of traditional narrative allowed for something far more thoughtful and moving, as the Forest Erwin-shot clip paid tribute to both environment and inhabitant in mesmerizing fashion. Tender, intuitive, and impalpable, “Rattlesnake” follows a filmic imprint that’s served auteurs like Terrence Malick and Shane Carruth well over their best works. That “Rattlesnake” would fit comfortably alongside their finest stretches is a minor miracle.

Open Mike Eagle (ft. Sammus) – Hymnal

A bizarre satirization of televangelism, Open Mike Eagle‘s Sammus-featuring “Hymnal” stands out immediately. Comfortably drawing the viewers in from an easily-identifiable vantage point, “Hymnal” then proceeds to reveal itself as a meticulously-constructed and perfectly executed piece of oddball humor that falls more in line with Tim & Eric than just about any other clip that’s come out over the past few years. Boasting an incredible amount of specificity, “Hymnal” plays out like a fever dream that’s impossible to escape. Thankfully, for all of us, it’s wildly enjoyable and rewards investment tenfold.

Julia Louise – Brat

One of a handful of videos on this list that mark a perfect distillation and representation of the artist responsible, Julia Louise‘s “Brat” also acts as an engaging introduction-at-large. Both a minimalist portrait of Louise and a vehicle to convey the frustrations and realizations of “Brat”, the clip finds life via honesty. A series of small, everyday moments stitched together through some compelling photography and anchored by a winsome central performance, “Brat” is a clever, tongue-in-cheek testament to Louise’s already formidable talents.

Craig Finn – God In Chicago

Likely the biggest name on this list thanks to a position as the bandleader of The Hold Steady, Craig Finn has still found a way to slip through the cracks. Finn’s solo material, while exceptional, has gone largely unheralded. The spoken word, narrative-driven “God In Chicago” ranked as a career high before the video and the Kris Merc-directed clip elevated it even further on Finn’s considerably long list of achievements. A gorgeous illustration of a significant relationship doomed to slowly erode over time, every inch of “God In Chicago” should be felt in full by the millions of people who have lived that experience. It’s a miniature masterpiece.

Pissed Jeans – The Bar Is Low

2017 proved to be intensely difficult for a cavalcade of reasons so any time anyone married a similar intensity to nonsensical joy provided a welcome escape. Enter: Pissed Jean‘s “The Bar Is Low”. Easily the furthest the band has embraced their buried comedic leanings, the clip earns its place here by virtue of the commitment everyone lends their performance as underachieving-but-desperately-trying gym rats. The deadpan stares, the intimidating glances, the absolute absurdity, and the off-the-charts aggression combine for the year’s most memorably fun clip.

Anamon – Fast Car

While Pissed Jeans took the comedic escapism route, Anamon offered something a little more grounded: a hangout clip that was unwavering in its sincerity. Delivered with conviction, “Fast Car’ consists of nothing more than the band taking their dog on a day out to some open spots to relax and enjoy a beautiful day. The photography direction throughout “Fast Car” provides a sweeping sense of freedom that accompanies those exact trips. There are no stakes and any lingering fears wither in the presence of good company and picturesque scenery. Sometimes that’s all anyone needs and “Fast Car” captures that essential truth to perfection.

The Last Dinosaur – Atoms

Comprised of nothing but discarded Super 8 footage gleaned from storage units and yard sales, “Atoms” quietly establishes a sense of history through its visuals as the song fixates on the full implications of mortality. When a project’s intent is to convey the entirety of life, it’s not often that it can actually manage to achieve something that resembles a complete understanding but The Last Dinosaur have carved out their spot in today’s music by subverting and/or challenging expectations. “Atoms” is a moving reminder of their penchant for coaxing out things that are as empathetic as they are beautiful.

Protormartyr – A Private Understanding

Following a blueprint established and reinforced by some of cinema’s most antagonistic filmmakers, Protomartyr‘s clip for “A Private Understanding” manages to tap into the same type of sinister energy as its forebears. An inexplicably nerve-wracking sequence set at what appears to be either a meticulously designed retirement home or a grossly exquisite restaurant attempting to pass itself off as a “home experience”, “A Private Understanding” creates and mercilessly attacks that cognitive dissonance while employing film techniques popularized in Greek and Korean cinema. As hypnotic as it is baffling, “A Private Understanding” demands consideration long after its closing seconds.

Deep State – Heavy Lunch

Deep State‘s kinetic clip for its equally kinetic “Heavy Lunch” follows an exceptionally minimalist formula: one person dances their way across the screen to a song. It’s a trope that’s reached a point of over-saturation in recent years and seems to have lost some of its merit. However, when one so exceptionally joyful and energetic comes into focus, its myriad pleasures are impossible to deny and the Ethan Payne-directed “Heavy Lunch” finds an abundance of meaning in its gleeful sprint.

Palehound – If You Met Her

Crafting a clip for songs that register as immediate standouts for reasons of a clearly personal nature will always prove a challenge. When those challenges aren’t just met but diminished to the point of evaporation under the final product, that music video will likely stand the test of time as one of the greats. Palehound‘s “If You Met Her” — created by a group of teenagers attending Real to Reel Filmschool — finds itself in a position where it can already form a solid case for that type of longevity. While Kempner’s project allowed itself to be guided by the ghost of Heatmiser for the song itself, the video grapples with other spirits. The religious imagery, the sense of being stuck between haunting and being haunted, and the quiet, tragic desperation at the heart of both the song and the video render “If You Met Her” one of this decade’s finest efforts, on both counts.

Charly Bliss – Westermarck

Over the course of this site’s existence, Charly Bliss emerged as a coverage staple. 2017 was the first year that afforded the band a true reckoning and they responded in kind, dropping one of the year’s best records, touring relentlessly (both as a headliner and opening up for enormous names), and releasing a string of fun music videos. No clip the band’s released can hold a candle to what they managed to create for “Westermarck“, which strips away any perceivable artifice in favor of something that served as an effective antidote to 2017’s grim climate. Pure, unbridled joy drives “Westermarck” to stratospheric heights, contagious in its own effervescence and committed to its convictions. A perfect distillation of the band’s identity and something to point to as a symbol of hope for the future. “Westermarck” deserves to be held up as an example of how to effectively translate the giddiest of emotions for years to come.

MUSIC VIDEO OF THE YEAR:

IDLES – Mother

No video landed as hard, reflected the times as well, or demanded attention as well as the snarling behemoth that was IDLES‘ clip for “Mother”, a seething call to action against sexual predators and the conditions that allow a surprising percentage of them to be excused so easily. Not just one of the most hypnotic clips of this year but of this century, “Mother” contains little more than IDLES’ vocalist Joe Talbot smashing a table full of ceramics in front of a portrait of his deceased mother — whose ashes were slipped into the vinyl pressings of the band’s latest, -BRUTALISM — as he rails against an economically unjust system that essentially forces poverty onto the lower classes, heightening their exhaustion under the guise of production for the benefit of the upper class.

It’s a commanding performance and Talbot’s anger is palpable and barely containable as each individual piece gets smashed to bits as the camera lens nearly disintegrates under the weight of his piercing stare. Wearing an opened pink blazer and pink pants, the opening image of “Mother” is arresting enough but what carries it to the realms of being genuinely unforgettable is the clip’s closing moments where the song ends and the video continues in silence, Talbot making sure every last piece is hurtled towards a ground already covered in shards of plates, cups, and figurines.

When everything has suffered the brunt of Talbot’s wrath, he pauses, walks back to the poster of his mother hanging pointedly in the background, puts his hand to her lips and walks off camera. There is still smoke. There is still fire. And there, in that conclusion, as the anger lingers, is where “Mother” stakes its place as one of the great music videos of our time.  

++

Honorable Mentions:

Cayetana – Bus Ticket
Kevin Morby – City Music
Single Mothers – People Are Pets

The Very Best of the Very Rest: The Best Full Streams of 2017’s Final Stretch

Making one last recap run before the year-end lists go up, now that the year has officially expired, this post will serve solely to focus on the most exceptional records to come into focus over 2017’s final stretch. Often, these records get overshadowed precisely because of the competitive spotlit-nature of those year-end lists. More times than not, this batch of records also — much like Oscar season in the realm of film — contain the records labels hold back in hopes they’ll still be fresh in people’s minds while compiling those lists. Ignoring those for smaller releases that come across like distant memories can be harder than most think, which is why the below selections cater to the records that would have earned themselves serious year-end consideration no matter when they were released. So, make sure these are queued up to their opening track and listen to 21 records that don’t just deserved to be played, but remembered.

Mo Troper – Exposure & Response

Weaves – Wide Open

Climax Landers – Climax Landers

Whelpwisher – Notice to Airmen

Even Hand – Phototropic

Radiator Hospital – Play The Songs You Like

Fits – All Belief Is Paradise

Bethlehem Steel – Party Naked Forever

Lithuania – White Reindeer

Coma Cinema – Loss Memory

Goon – Happy Omen

Tosser – Tosser

Upper Wilds – Guitar Module 2017

Dumb Things – Dumb Things

The Miami Dolphins – Water You Waiting For

Pope – True Talent Champion

Holiday Ghosts – Holiday Ghosts

Prom Queen – Doom-Wop

Dharma Dogs – Music for the Terminally Besotted

Mathhaverskan – III

Slaughter Beach, Dog – Birdie

The Very Best of the Very Rest: The Best Songs of the Past Two Months

Over the past two months, a ridiculous amount of music has found release. Plumbing the depths of that haul has been a privilege but it’s also been incredibly time-consuming. Digging through the rubble, as it has so frequently in the past, yielded no shortage of absolute gems. From a few of the most gorgeous songs I’ve heard all year to some career highs to some genuine standout material, there’s a lot to explore in the below list. Normally, each of these would receive a short accompanying write up (and a few of them still will in the forthcoming year-end lists) but for the sake of expediency in the face of the volume of forthcoming content, they will simply be listed below. Don’t let that distract or discourage, all of the song are here for a reason. Queue them up, close your eyes, and let them wash you away.

 

Mo Troper – Your Brand

Covey – Call Home

Long Neck – Mine/Yours + Elizabeth

Weed Hounds – Double Life

Vundabar – Acetone

Sammi Lanzetta – Circles

Juan de Fuca – All the Time

Hater – Rest

Deep State – Time Unraveled

Hovvdy – Late

Boys – Rabbits

Bully – Kills To Be Resistant

Bethlehem Steel – Finger It Out + Fig

Yours Are the Only Ears – Saturn

Kal Marks – Adventure

Dmitry Evgrafov – Rootedness

Anna Burch – Asking 4 A Friend

Alyeska – Stones

Slaughter Beach, Dog – Acolyte

Operator Music Band – Realistic Situation

Saintseneca – Moon Barks at the Dog

The Magic Lantern – Holding Hands

The Very Best of the Very Rest: The Best Music Videos of the Past Two Months

Closing out the year, Heartbreaking Bravery will be running recaps of the past two months to lead into the year-end lists, which will run when the year is officially over. Here, an eye is turned towards some excellent music videos that have been released in November and December. Outlandish lyric clips, gorgeous visuals, great songs, tongue-in-cheek humor, and unbridled sincerity combine to form 19 clips that demand to be seen. Enjoy.

 

  1. Mannequin Pussy – Emotional High 
  2. Winter – Jaded
  3. Charly Bliss – Scare U
  4. Radiator Hospital – Nothing Nice
  5. Anna Burch – 2 Cool 2 Care
  6. Casper Skulls – Lingua Fraca + Primeval
  7. The Spook School – Still Alive
  8. Stef Chura – Speeding Ticket
  9. Japanese Breakfast – The Body Is A Blade
  10. Amos Pitsch – Lake Effect
  11. Yucky Duster – Construction Man
  12. Screaming Females – Glass House
  13. Jay Som – The Bus Song
  14. Fuzzystar – Superhero
  15. Good Boy – Fishing With A Shotgun
  16. Anamon – Fast Car
  17. Young Jesus – Feeling
  18. Sharon Jones & The Dap-Kings – Matter of Time + Call On God

The Best of the Rest: Honorable Mentions

More than two months have come and gone since the last post went live on this site. True to form, the collection of materials never ceased in that time. A disparity between collection and production grew more intimidating and adjustments were being made continuously as new angles for Heartbreaking Bravery were (and still are) being considered. This remains a one-person operation and it can be a daunting task to take on the level of commitment that was required to keep this place going in its established direction.

More than once, I contemplated just ending its existence but could never escape the thought that representing under-represented music remained a vital necessity, especially in a climate where our tastes are now curated and formed more by coldly computed algorithms than actual human interest. All of the year-end lists overlapped, certain streaming giants heightened the exclusivity of their arrangements with major distributors to the point representing emerging artists without major representation borders the impossible.

Those aspects of the industry need a corrective, something that my friends, contemporaries, and publications worthy of aspiration have all but made their mission (and to that end, I would like to extend another round of personal thanks to bandcamp, GoldFlakePaint, Post-Trashdimestore saints, The AlternativeThe Grey Estates, ROOKIE, She Shreds, Various Small Flames, Swell Tone, and a host of others, along with every alt-weekly in existence). As those correctives became noticeably more impassioned during the brief hiatus from publishing, I found myself getting progressively more inspired to continue on with Heartbreaking Bravery and found myself constantly combing through back catalogs of publications that clearly cared about unheralded voices.

Of course, there are still established voices of note making worthwhile art and they deserve representation (some even staked out their names through hard-fought battles instead of buying their way into recognition) and those artists will be mentioned. However, the scales here — just as was the case in the past — will never be exponentially weighted to favor that recognition. Something that will be profoundly clear below in the list I’ve compiled across these 2+ months of songs, music videos, and records worth experiencing. I don’t expect anyone to actually comb through all of these but please, click around, and hopefully those random clicks will lead to a discovery of a new favorite. Enjoy the list and keep an eye out for more posts in the days to follow.

SONGS

Courters, Mirah, Mush, The Cabin Fever, Unlikely Friends, The Number Ones, Hater, Moonwalks, Lost Boy ?, Gladshot, Kal Marks, The Royal They, Palm, Strand of Oaks, Rosie Carney, Littlefoot, Dirty Fences, Bee Bee Sea (x2), Spice Boys (x2), Leggy, Barren Womb, No Age (x2), Canshaker Pi, The Holy Dark, Oneida, Jane Church, The She’s (x2), Chastity (x2), Lemuria (x2, 3), The Fluids (x2, 3), CIVIC, Luxury Death, Lauren Ruth Ward, Vundabar, Kindling (x2, 3), Sunflower Bean, Curls, Guided By Voices, OCS, The Dazies (x2), Gleemer, HOLY (x2, 3), Big Heet (x2), QWAM, Common Holly (x2), Leah Calvert (x2), Superchunk, Curtis Harding (x2)

Bed Wettin’ Bad BoysNation of Language, A. Savage (x2), Hayley Hendrickx, Kevin Devine (ft. Half Waif), Screaming Females, Ryan Power, Passed Out, Pope, ShitKid (x2), Chemtrails (x2), Whelpwisher (x2), GROUNDS, Skye Wallace, Salad Boys, Cut Worms, Doe PaoroNilüfer Yanya, Protomartyr, Fuzzystar, Miss World (x2), Luggage, Cloud Nothings, St. Vincent, Johanna WarrenYØUTH (x2), M.A.G.S., Son Little, FRAME (x2), Adults, Makthaverskan, The Growlers, The Van T’s, ALCABEAN, Emerson Star, blis. (x2), Surf Rock Is Dead, Tennis Club, The Nickajack Men, Small Forward, Casper Skulls, NE-HI (ft. Jamila Woods), Gestures (x2), Mansions (x2)

Shopping, Monster Rally (x2), The Presolar Sands, Lola Pistola, Who Is She?, The Golden Boys, Lean Year, Jr. Thomas & The Volcanos, BIRDS, CO SONN, Lasse Matthiessen (ft. Sarah Hartman), ghostel, Holy Motors, Ty Segall (x2, 3), Sound of Ceres (x2), Bodies Be Rivers (x2), Jessica Boudreaux (x2), STRFKR, Lull, Invisible Minds, Keto, Goat Girl, Wax Mistress, Deathlist, Mr. Yolk, Poppy Ackroyd (x2), Anamon, Ephrata, The Tin Can Collective, The Violet Whispers, Mean Motor Scooter (x2), Plastic Flowers, Longface, lkffct, Twist, Worriers, Strange Ranger, Table Scraps, Hunter & Wolfe, The County Liners, Elan Noon, Karl Blau, Jesse Jo Stark, The Yada Yada Yadas

OxenFree, Petal (x2), ESSi, Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Tough Age, Gregg Kowalsky, The Saxophones, Century Thief, NADINE, Cina Polada, Line & Circle, Angelica Rockne (x2), Floral Print, Angel Olsen (x2), King Khan, Blush (x2), Fox Face, Runaway Brother, sleeping in, Pistoleros, Moderate Rebels (x2), Sam Michael Trowse, Duncan Kissinger, DMA’s, Peter Matthew Bauer (x2), PONY, Jennie Vee, Joey Sweeney, Mimicking Birds, Andrew Hung, They Might Be Giants (x2), Mavis Staples, Long Neck, Reptaliens, Plush, Krief, Half Waif, Twain, Jessie KivelMichael Jablonka, New PortalsAnne Müller, Birthing HipsAxel Flóvent, Mineral Girls, Major Love, Emily A. Sprague

And The Kids, Hidden Places, Warbly Jets, Mattiel, Joint Effort, Renata Zeiguer, Forced Random, Tobias Reif, Joey Sweeney, Gabrielle Shonk, Sarah Clanton, Dead Leaf Echo, Lankum, Whitney, The Echo Friendly, Meernaa, Gunn-Truscinski Duo, Iron Chic (x2), Gingerlys (x2, 3), Bad History Month, The Gloomies, Jordan Klassen, Bedouine, Daniel Tanghal, Graham Coxon, Cock & Swan, Marine, Aldous Harding, Circuit des Yeux, Glen Hansard, Michael Jablonka, Tempesst, Palo Duro, Small Leaks Sink Ships, FriendshipMÄRVEL, Mt. Doubt, Headroom, Lake Jons, Mister Heavenly, Pearla, Camp Cope, Bat Fangs, Eagle Johnson & Clean Machine, Crater, Memnon Sa

Mallrat, Ora Cogan (x2), Clara Stauch, Feather Beds, Grieving, Refrigerator, Lake Jons, The Clydes (x2), Jaye Bartell, Anna St. Louis, Arielle LaGuette, Erthling,, Execution/Rise, Wilderman, Dream Nails, Tree House, This Will Destroy You, Tracy Bonham (ft. Sadie Dupuis), First Aid Kit, Michael VM, Thom Gillies, Young Mister, Peacock Affect (x2), Kinjac (ft. Kathryn O’Shea), Baths, John K. Samson, Hey Elbow, Racquet, Kenneth Aaron Harris, Jerry Joseph, The Go! Team, Jesse Merchant, Ezra Feinberg, Water From Your Eyes, Airpark, Jerry David Decicca, Leon of Athens, Paddy Hanna, Ride, The Captain of Sorrow, Charlotte Gainsbourg, Purling Hiss

Tenderfoot, Everything By Electricity, I, Alexander, Prurient, S. CareyWalter Martin, Lowpines, Sulky Boy, Glass MuseumClub 8, Mildlife, Vern Matz, Mick Jenkins, Edan Laniado (ft. Orin Jacobson), Benjamin Jaffe, Tangerine, Stonefield, Haily Taylor, swim good now (ft. Half Waif & Georgian Bay), Tim Heidecker (x2), Anna Tivel, Maria Kelly, Balkan Bump (ft. Paul Bertin), Curtis Roush, Fruition, Telete, Loma, Pinkshinyultrablast, Gary War, The Rural Alberta Advantage, Coucheron, avalon, red steppes, LeyyaTrès OuiHit Like A Girl, EMA, Holly Miranda, ILUKA, Magic Wands, Garden City Movement, True Blue, Underwater BoysJason S. Matuskiewicz, giant gutter from outer space, Sundrops, SELLARS, Alice Boman, The Rentals, No Wine For Kittens, Tennis, Eric Slick, Cara Salimando, and Slothrust.

MUSIC VIDEOS 

Twist, CIVIC, Hovvdy (x2), Human People, The Van T’s, Sorry (x2), Petite League, Anna Burch, Shannon & The Clams, Gleemer, OxenFree, Club Night, Moaning, Common Holly, Prom Queen, Liza Anne, Shopping, Good Boy, Robot, The Tin Can Collective, Wavves & Culture Abuse, The Spook School, The Breeders, Oh Sees (x2), Quicksand, Phoebe Bridgers, Vagabon, Deerhoof, Open Mike Eagle (ft. Sammus), Kevin Krauter, Bully (x2), Sego (x2), Pure Violet (x2), Sweater, Marlon Williams (ft. Aldous Harding), The Go! Team, Airpark, Francobollo, Lionlimb, Table Scraps, Anamon, AllegrA, Angel Olsen, PINS, Reptaliens, Flat Worms, Lost Boy ?, L.A. Witch, Anna Tosh

Darkbird, The Prids (x2), Longface (x2, 3), The She’s, Demons, Mt. Doubt, Cherry, Palm, Olden Yolk, Miya Folick, Walrus, Yumi Zouma, Stella Donnelly, Johnny Marr and Maxine Priest, Hatchie, Everyone Is Dirty, The Cheap Thrills, Jesca Hoop, Becca Mancari (x2, 3), The Coathangers, Julie & The Wrong Guys, Madeline Kenney (x2), Miss World, Born Ruffians, Varvara, Soft Fangs, Paul Cherry, Aesop Rock, Typhoon, Hayley Hendrickx, Winter and Trabants, Worriers, Escobar, The Velveteins, The Go! Team, Beatriz, Beliefs (x2), Calexico, Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy, Tim Kuhl, Stillwave, TR/ST, Dream WifeBjörk, Malk, Weaves (x2), Courtney Barnett + Kurt Vile

Avery Tare, Wiki, SAVAK, Trupa Trupa (x2), Tune-Yards, Mauno (x2), Beechwood, Ron Gallo, David Ramirez, MAUDLIN, Hearken, Porches, Julien Baker, Charlotte Gainsbourg, The Magic Lantern, Canshaker Pi, Django Django, Shame (x2), Ocean Wisdom, Legendary Shack Shakers, Duncan Lloyd, Littlefoot, BOYO (x2), Sam Coffey & The Iron Lungs (x2), Wolf Parade, Good Boy, Three Conductor, Se’A (ft. Cellus Hamilton), Single Mothers, Pretty Lights, Charles Howl, NE-HI, Melkbelly, Ought, Steady Sun, Fake Palms, Candace (x2), Dude York, Big K.R.I.T., Blasteroid, Jessica Lea MayfieldMoral High Horses, Emily Haines & The Soft Skeleton, M.R. Bennett

Sprinters, The Horrors, Molly Burch, Tempesst, Montero, VOWWS, Mondo Cozmo, Deca, Strawberry Runners, Dutch Party, Gun Outfit, The Coathangers, Panteon, Nicole Atkins, Moses Sumney, Lower Pink, Sloan Peterson, Lina Tullgren, Monk Parker, Birthing Hips, Guantanamo Baywatch, Derde Verde, Wild Ones, Liars, BADBADNOTGOOD, Wes Montgomery, Alissia, Fufanu, Pale Grey, liv, Turnover, AmplineDan Deacon, The Morelings, The Exbats, The Weather Station, ELETTRODOMESTICO (x2), The Ah, Brenda, Death By Unga Bunga, Billy Woods, Lionlimb, King Krule, New Candys, Hoops, Outsider, Joy Again, Heaven, Romantic States, Quicksand, The Darts

Alex Lahey, Suno Deku, H.C. McEntireFirst Aid Kit, India Ramey, Grounds, Prom Queen, The Soft Moon, High Waisted, Flying Lotus, Alexandra Savior, Underwater Boys, Courtship Ritual, Dude York, St. Vincent, Hunter & Wolfe, King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard, Cloakroom, Ephrata, Kat Myers & The Buzzards, Holy Wars, Soft Swells, Downtown Boys, Prude Boys, Odonis Odonis, CHUCK, Broken Social Scene, Baronen & Satan, Dances, Glitches, Chelou, Teenage Feelings, The Staves, Cool American, Mikko Joensuu, Son Lux, Twinsmith, NEWMEN, Shipping Forecast, HALFNOISE, Sound of Ceres, WHIMM, Mono Club, Michael Nau, Diet Cig, Astronautalis, Tycho, Stillwave, The Pains of Being Pure at Heart, Ice Balloons, Sparks, Torres, Freedom Fry, and Howard Ivans.

FULL STREAMS

Panoptique Electrical, Gingerlys, Fox Face, Surrounder, The Drafts, First BaseMatty Ann, Slothrust, STRFKR, Floral Print, Miss World, dreambeaches, Slight, Foolish Atoms, Permahorn, Bloodsport: The Movie, The Band, Idle Empress, Littlefoot, Dead Hero, Courtney Farren, Bartees & The Strange Fruit, Shamir, Superchunk, Birthing Hips, Gestures, EiS: Live At Shea Stadium, deathlist, Casper Skulls, Jessica Boudreaux, CD-ROM, Colby Miller, Patsy, Robot Apocalypse, False Flag, Bad Daddies, SAVAK, Spiritual Cramp, Covey, WHIMM, Brainstory, Deva Mahal, Angelica Rockne, The Sight, High Waisted, Slanted, Pool Holograph, Mansions, Pura Mania

Mister Heavenly, Lady Parts, Suno Deku, Sob Stories, The Persian Leaps, After Hours Radio, No Vacation, Forest Swords, RAZZ, FURY, Big Heet, Bad Galaxy, King Khan, Rakta, Leor Miller and Francie Cool, Haunted Summer, The Hague, Thought Balloon, Blasteroid, The Telly, Gunn-Truscinski Duo, Longface, Cina Polada, Strawberry Runners, Shoeb Ahmad, Fairy Godmother, Beliefs, Becca Richardson, Roz and the Rice Cakes, Sad Baxter, Hidden Bay Records, Zapoppin’, Rainwater, The Mountain Goats, Sauna Accident, Prawn, Raleigh, Exquisite Ghost, M.R. Bennett, Paperhaus, Nervous Dater, Fool Heavy, Intergalactic Lovers, Omni, and Landlady.

ahem – Sweet Tooth (Song Premiere)

Photography by Taylor Donskey

Last year, ahem had a coming out party with the exceptionally strong Just Wanna Be EP, ensuring their name would be firmly imprinted into the upper echelon of basement punk bands operating in the upper Midwest. The trio’s been playing shows in support of that release since it was unveiled and now have a new song to offer up, for a great cause. “Sweet Tooth” serves as the lead-off track for The Grey Estates’ forthcoming Sugar Rush Volume 2 compilation, which will see all proceeds going towards benefiting QORDS (Queer Oriented Radical Days of Summer), an overnight camp that aims to empower and embolden queer and gender non-conforming youth through emphasizing the communal aspect of making music.

“Sweet Tooth” finds the band picking up right where they left off, firing on all cylinders and working thoughtful compositions into unbridled, immediate energy. Centering the narrative of “Sweet Tooth” on what could be a poetic allegory or could just be face-value fun, ahem give the song everything they’ve got, relentlessly upping its momentum even as it hurtles forward at breakneck pace. A snotty refrain, carefully balanced harmonies, and a bridge that stands as one of the best 28 second runs of music anyone’s likely to hear in a basement punk song all year, “Sweet Tooth” stands defiantly triumphant by the time it comes to its explosive, abrupt close.

The song is both a vital addition for what will undoubtedly be one of the year’s more meaningful releases and a potent reminder of ahem’s formidable strength (as well as an indicator of their growing confidence). It’s an embrace of an outsize, outsider identity and it’s a kick in the face of anything that dares stand in its way. While the running time of the track may be slight, its significance is not. “Sweet Tooth” is something worth celebrating; addictive, unashamed, and true to itself, the song’s an unlikely anthem for the displaced. Help the cause it’s supporting and give it the love it deserves.

Listen to “Sweet Tooth” below and pre-order Sugar Rush Volume 2 here.

Ben Seretan – My Lucky Stars (Music Video Premiere)

Over the years, Ben Seretan has meticulously and methodically developed a reputation that’s as strong as the songwriter’s composition. Affable, curious, and driven, Seretan’s mastered the art of balancing abrasive, sardonic wit with an open earnestness that ultimately winds up working in service of the music. Now, Seretan’s turned that handle on reality to the visual format for a pair of clips from last year’s outstanding Bowl of Plums.

Various Small Flames already ran a wonderful premiere piece for “I Like Your Size” and now this site has the honor of unveiling it’s partner piece, “My Lucky Stars”. Both clips find Seretan shamelessly shotgunning beers, laughing as the chaos unfolds in slow motion, undercutting the heavy emotional undercurrent of the songs with physical comedy. It paints an effective dichotomy that — as this tactic does when used best — elevates both angles (assisted in no small part by the direction of Stephen Straub), rendering what could have easily been construed as a throwaway in less capable hands into something far more lasting and profound.

Adding to the surprising complexity of both the song and the clip is the fact that it’s presented as a continuation of the first movement of “My Lucky Stars”, which appeared on Seretan’s extraordinary self-titled. Speaking to Seretan about the clip, the artist also touched on how song’s evolve in the face of an artist’s perception over time and had this to say:

For me, it’s part of a larger acceptance I’m trying to get to: absolutely everything changes and, in fact, is changing right before your eyes as you’re busy trying to remember it. And even something as solid as a pure, heartfelt song made with care from a place of beautiful intention fades and warps in the sun.

It’s a beautiful sentiment that has a firm basis in reality, speaking volumes to something that might be misconstrued as something that was purely done out of silliness. While comedy and whimsicality certainly play a factor in the clip for “My Lucky Stars”, like everything else Seretan’s released up to this point, there’s always meaning buried somewhere unexpected. Hit play, have a laugh, think about life, and come back for more.

Watch “My Lucky Stars” below and pick up Bowl of Plums here.

Landlines – Landlines (Album Review)

In the course of the past few days, only a small handful of truly great records have emerged. Washer unveiled a legitimate Album of the Year candidate with All Aboard, Total Yuppies revealed their exceptional Care EP, and Nassau continued to improve with Heron. On top of that trio of full streams, there was a sneak peek at the upcoming Pope record — and there was also the incredible self-titled effort from Landlines (a band that includes some member overlap with The Woolen Men).

Landlines is exactly the type of band and record that Heartbreaking Bravery was built to support. An absolutely monstrous effort from a legitimately great band that has minimal name recognition outside of their given region, both Landlines and Landlines deserve far more notice than either will likely receive without securing contracts with the right PR team. The recorded landed in the site’s inbox by way of the band directly, who seem committed to the DIY ethos that’s fairly apparent in their music.

In the accompanying bio that was patched over with the record, a lot of classic rock acts get name checked but Landlines can be accurately summed as existing in the central field between the triangular points represented by Pavement, Parquet Courts, and Flying Nun Records. These are wiry post-punk songs with slacker punk leanings, basement pop aesthetics, and aggressively clean tones. They’re cleverly arranged and expertly executed, running the gamut from the energetic onslaught of opener “Hanging Around” to the unapologetic powerpop of closer “Survived”.

A record that’s littered with smart observations, compelling musical ideas, and united by an incredibly convincing identity, Landlines actually manages to outstrip several records being discussed as Album of the Year candidates by a reasonable margin. Make no mistake, while this is a largely unassuming record it’s also one of the more tightly-crafted and complete releases of the past nine months. Landlines exude confidence throughout and deliver several knockout blows in their self-titled, which is comprised exclusively of songs worthy of mix tape inclusions. Hit play below and hit purchase when it ends.

Listen to Landlines below and pick the record up here.