Heartbreaking Bravery

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Watch This: Vol. 148

Continuing on with the two-part installment, The Let’s Go, Billy Bragg and Joe Henry, The Luyas, C Duncan, The Growlers, Warpaint, Faux Furs, Flesh Panthers, Ego, Courtney Marie Andrews, Adam Torres, Slow Club, Oh Pep!, Pity Sex, Northcote, Bec Sandridge, and Brooke Sharkey all put forth valiant efforts in last week’s crop of exceptional live videos. With the strength of those acting as an indicator, the merit of the five featured clips shouldn’t be questioned. A handful of series staples, a gorgeous and inventive new clip, and an excellent video from a series that’s quickly emerged as a new favorite constitute the spotlighted entries for the 148th installment of Watch This. So, as always, lean in, block out all the distractions, get studios, and Watch This.

1. Margaret Glaspy – You & I + Emotions and Math (Skype)

A biting wit, a commanding performance style, and tremendous songwriting have made Margaret Glaspy one of the most featured artists on this series over the past few months. While the selections here — “You & I” and “Emotions and Math” may be familiar, they’re still at the root of powerful performances. Week in and week out, Glaspy has proven to be a formidable talent. This abbreviated session’s no exception.

2. Lucy Dacus (La Blogotheque)

Lucy Dacus, another artist who made a habit of appearing on this series over the past several months, gets the La Blogotheque treatment in this characteristically gorgeous clip. Performing a trio of songs — including 2015 standout “I Don’t Wanna Be Funny Anymore” — Dacus is never anything less than mesmerizing. Framed by a series of lived-in Manhattan locations, the entire affair breathes effortlessly and casts a tantalizing spell all of its own.

3. Rhea – 3am (Boxfish Sessions)

As Cuttlefish Collective’s Boxfish Sessions project continues, their offerings seem to get more impressive. While their gold standard remains Long Neck‘s breathtaking showcase that was featured in Watch This: Vol. 143, this entry from Rhea’s not far behind. An entrancing performance of a brilliant song from an intriguing emerging artist, “3am” is comprised of a little bit of everything that this site was built to celebrate. Don’t let lack of familiarity prevent a look; this is exceptional work.

4. Angel Olsen – Give It Up (BBC)

My Woman will likely be showing up a lot as year-end lists start rolling out but that level of excessive praise is deserved. Angel Olsen delivered one hell of an album just last month and has been riding a wave of critical and commercial success in the wake of that release. Instead of just coasting, the songwriter’s turning in incredibly committed performances that not only retain but elevate the impressive bite that informed Burn Your Fire For No Witness. BBC’s Radio 6 studio was recently lit up by a charged performance of one of My Woman‘s many highlights, “Give It Up”, and finds the band sounding locked in and ready for anything.

5. Glen Hansard – Stay the Road (Nooks & Crannies)

Last year Glen Hansard delivered one of the most beautiful clips to ever be featured on this series in the painfully gorgeous “McCormack’s Wall” and has finally come through with what feels like a natural successor in “Stay the Road”. Shot in, around, and outside of the legendary Sydney Opera House, the tenderly-shot black-and-white clip tracks Hansard making the most of the venues architecture and delivering a heartfelt rendition of “Stay the Road”. A beautifully constructed clip, it’s a very capable demonstration of what can be accomplished while working within the confines of a very niche medium. It’s a masterful piece of multimedia artistry and it more than deserves a spot on this list.

Watch This: Vol. 147

After a brief hiatus, Watch This returns with another two-part installment focusing on the outstanding live videos to have emerged from last Monday through last Sunday.  Japanese Breakfast, Mikey Erg, Quarterbacks, Okkervil River, The Tallest Man On Earth, Robbing Millions, Busman’s Holiday, Sarah White, Ages and Ages, The Aviary, Jamie T, Xenia Rubinos, Tycho, Misimplicity, Local Natives, Naked Giants, and Yonatan Gat were all responsible for notable entries while the five featured clips were genuine standouts. From fresh faces to beloved veterans, there’s a lot to explore. So, as always, sit up, lean in, adjust the volume, focus, and Watch This.

1. Gurr – Walnuss (Auf Klo)

Following up their run through “Moby Dick” that was featured in the last installment of this series, another clip of Gurr playing in a bathroom stall finds its way to a featured slot. Just as endearing and just as heartfelt this round, the ascendant duo delivers a lively take of “Walnuss“. Building on a momentum swing, the band should find their name growing increasingly more recognizable as the year pushes forward.

2. Haley Bonar (NPR)

Haley Bonar has been featured on this series a few times in the past but the songwriter’s in rare form for this Tiny Desk Concert. A genuinely gorgeous run through a set of songs, Bonar exerts a nuanced control that enlivens every second of this session. One of the strongest Tiny Desks of the year, it’s a beautiful showcase of a musician whose finally starting to get due credit.

3. Feels (Pressuredrop.tv)

For the past few years, Feels have been steadily building up an impressive name for themselves through a solid discography and explosive live shows. The latter bit of that formula is expertly documented here in a fiery full session for Pressuredrop.tv. From song to song, Feels sink their teeth into their material and give it their all. As a result, they wind up with one of the more exhilarating full sessions in recent memory.

4. PWR BTTM – All the Boys (The Wild Honey Pie)

Over the past few years, PWR BTTM have become one of the most written-about artists on this site. One of the biggest reasons for this occurrence is the band’s incredible live show. While it’s been lovingly portrayed in the past by several outlets, none of those entries have come close to being as beautifully shot as this take of “All the Boys” for The Wild Honey Pie’s Buzzsessions. A gorgeously lensed clip, “All the Boys” also manages to capture the band’s infectious spirit and undeniable charisma, becoming one of the most definitive portrayals of the band to date.

5. Charles Bradley (Strombo Sessions)

Earlier this month, the music community was hit with tragic news: Charles Bradley, a figure that’s been embraced by an adoring public that stretch multiple genres, was diagnosed with stomach cancer. One of the most inspirational figures in music, the Screamin’ Eagle of Soul was also a regular staple of this series. As a result, there’s a twinge of heartbreak running through this beautiful full session for the Strombo Sessions. Bradley’s characteristic exuberance winds up tipping the scales back to something genuinely heartening before the clip hits its close and provides the proceedings with a sense of genuine triumph. As a whole, it’s a deeply important portrait of one of the most gifted songwriters — and pure performers — of recent memory. Give it the kind of love and attention it (and Bradley) deserves.

Pleas, Departures, and Reconciliations: The Virtute Trilogy


Not many things can interrupt this site’s regular coverage or alter its standard presentations but an unexpected resolution to one of the most affecting trilogies since the turn of the century isn’t an everyday occurrence. Reflecting on the importance of this feat doesn’t just feel right, it feels necessary. For all that this music meant to scores of people, for how many people it helped through difficult situations, and for how important this story became, it’s time to take an extended look at the narrative centered around one of modern music’s most tragic relationships: the one between a pet owner in the throes of depression and Virtute the Cat.

In 2003, John K. Samson had left his duties behind the kit in Propaghandi in an earnest effort to pursue the music he’d been writing on his own. His band, The Weakerthans, had been steadily building momentum behind their first two records, 1997’s Fallow and 2000’s Left & Leaving. The release of Reconstruction Site in August 2003 changed the course of Samson’s career.

Capitalizing on the acclaim that had accumulated behind the band’s first two records and a bold signing move from Epitaph Records, Reconstruction Site quickly became The Weakerthans most commercially and critically successful work. One of the standouts: “Plea From A Cat Named Virtute”, a song told from the perspective of a cat struggling to understand the depressive slump of its owner.

More than just a lyrically impressive feat (unsurprising, considering Samson’s position as an adjunct professor for the University of British Columbia’s Creative Writing Program), “Plea From A Cat Named Virtute” landed with crushing emotive weight. It’s unlikely that anyone knew this at the time of Reconstruction Site‘s release but it would go on to serve as the foundation for a trilogy of songs to be released over the course of 13 years.

Being based out of Winnipeg was always a source of both pride and frustration for Samson (a trait tenderly documented in the extraordinary “One Great City!“), who would frequently reference the city’s influence and history. Winnipeg’s motto, UNUM CUM VIRTUTE MULTORUM, when translated from Latin becomes “One with the strength of many” and provides the trilogy’s titular feline with not only an elevated sense of character and purpose but a clear connection to Samson’s home, making the extended narrative uncomfortably realistic, even with Virtute acting as an agent of both hope and belief.

The response to “Plea From A Cat Named Virtute” was overwhelming from the outset but continues to pale in comparison to the reaction of the story’s next chapter. 2007’s Reunion Tour, the band’s last studio album before going on an extended hiatus and eventually calling it quits on 2015, boasted what many still consider to be one of the most devastating songs ever recorded. “Virtute the Cat Explains Her Departure” finds the owner fully lost to a depressive malaise, neglecting Virtute at every step, causing a discord among the two; as one becomes hopeless, the other grows lost.

There’s an exhaustively-realized and lived-in world that Samson creates around these characters, drawing from “Plea From A Cat Named Virtute” to strengthen the heartrending nature of its direct sequel. As Virtute attempts to navigate life on her own after enduring a long stretch of silence and inaction, there’s a sense of hope to be found in a heartbreaking defeat. It’s unimaginably painful to watch someone you love give up and, over nearly eight minutes, Samson presents one of the most acute descriptions of that singular agony.

There’s a legitimate pain to the renewed emphasis on Virtute’s perspective in “Virtute the Cat Explains Her Departure”, which meticulously chronicles the life the cat leads after departing from its owner. Memory recedes — the song’s shattering final line, “I can’t remember the sound that you made for me”, remains one of the most heartrending moments I’ve ever experienced in music — frostbite takes hold, and Virtute ultimately resigns to a familiar pattern as an emotionally abandoned stray. It’s a brutally sad passage that’s deeply upsetting to anyone that’s grown frustrated at similar causal relationship dynamics.

In playing to empathetic impulse and human (and inhuman) nature, The Weakerthans crafted a legitimately unforgettable sequence. For nearly a decade, it seemed as if the final word on the cat that once responded to the name Virtute had been issued- until Samson revealed the tracklist for his just-released solo album, Winter Wheat. There was a pause that took hold after a collective realization that Winter Wheat was slated to end with a track called “Virtute at Rest”.

It’s a testament to the overwhelming strength of its predecessors that some people have pledged outright to not listen to the song out of fear their mental wherewithal wouldn’t be up to the task of another chapter. That wariness is fully warranted as Samson finds yet another angle to elevate the tragic nature of the story, this time framing the narrative as Virtute resurrected in the mind of her recovering owner, who’s now coming to grips with past events and desperately seeking the reassurance that was offered years ago.

As the owner starts to understand the full extent of Virtute’s importance, the weight of the moment is felt in full, even as the music recedes to one of the sparsest arrangements of Samson’s storied musical career. Never has the relationship between the two principle characters been addressed more directly than it is in the song’s mid-section:

You should know I am with you
Know I forgive you
Know I am proud of the steps that you’ve made
Know it will never be easy or simple
Know I will dig in my claws when you stray

Those lyrics rest at the heart of a song that runs under 100 seconds yet still has the power to reduce anyone with even a passing familiarity to the story to tears. Invoking nostalgia, trauma, and understanding, there’s a finality present in “Virtute at Rest” that winds up lending an elevated impact to each carefully-chosen word. Samson sounds simultaneously distraught and assured, his voice lightly trembling, threatening to buckle under the considerable weight of what he’s constructed while guiding it to a gentle close.

The Weakerthans meant a lot to a lot of people, myself included, but it’s hard to imagine anything being more representative of the legacy they left behind than the story of Virtute. Those who had cats saw Virtute as a stand-in, those who didn’t gained a fictional adoptee. Everyone that connected to the plight of the characters wound up being moved immeasurably by their fractured relationship, which Samson suffused with an inexplicable amount of grace and compassionate warmth. All told, The Virtute Trilogy deserves to be remembered as a staggering masterpiece. Very few people have accomplished similar feats with the poise and poignancy that came to define each of the three installments.

In a way, it’s appropriate that Samson ends this divorced from The Weakerthans project where it started (while still incorporating various members of the band for his solo work) as it serves as a nice reflection of the dynamics at play in “Virtute at Rest”. Separated in full but always partially together, there’s an unbreakable bond that’s subtly emphasized through the most minute details. It’s a perfect resolution and it’s easy to tell Samson’s fully invested in the final words of the story as a meaningful future lingers on Virtute’s one-time owner’s horizon, taking stock of the rear view one last time: let it rest and be done.

Puerto Rico Flowers – No Tomorrow (Song Premiere)


While they may not be a household name, it’s impossible to deny the impact and legacy of Puerto Rico Flowers. They’ve been noted as an influence by numerous contemporary DIY punk luminaries and boast one of the genre’s more celebrated discographies in this early century. Now, on the verge of a heavily-anticipated reunion show and five years after the release of their final record, the project’s decided to unveil the triumphantly damaged “No Tomorrow” and it’s a legitimate honor to be hosting the premiere of the band’s final song, which will be appearing on 16, a forthcoming cassette compilation that contains all of the band’s recorded material and a live cover.

The solo project of John Sharkey III (Dark Blue, Clockcleaner), Puerto Rico Flowers went a long way in establishing the songwriter thanks to a deeply impressive body of work. “No Tomorrow” is indicative of the project’s overwhelming strength, a long-gestating castaway that never fit in on the band’s recorded efforts. Recorded by Jeff Zeigler (Kurt Vile, Nothing, Purling Hiss) and and mastered by Jake Reid (Wildhoney, Roomrunner, Pleasure Leftists, Technicolor Teeth), “No Tomorrow” takes Puerto Rico Flowers out on the highest possible note.

Like most of Sharkey’s work, “No Tomorrow” — a song that took five years to surface — is a work that bridges the gap between being subdued and aggressive, drawing an inordinate amount of power from murky tones and an acutely-realized worldview that takes a darkly tinted look at the everyday life of the working class; a skinhead pop masterpiece. Utilizing a structure that divvies up a week into individual days and events (a sample stanza: On a Tuesday/all your tears will flood the streets/and wash your families away/On a Wednesday/you feel pain), “No Tomorrow” is unflinching in its calmly brutal outlook, which makes it all the more startling to learn what it’s truly about: American football.

In addition to that compelling detail, “No Tomorrow” also boasts what may be the most affecting chorus of Puerto Rico Flowers’ storied catalog:

Just say goodbye now
’cause there’s no tomorrow
but it’s okay because
there was no today
Don’t close your eyes now
there’s no tomorrow
but it’s okay
it’s okay
it’s okay
’cause there was no today

That chorus serves as an oddly exhilarating moment in a song teeming with them, from the Albini-esque drum blasts that open the track to the heavenward main riff that manages to mirror the song’s fractured sense of optimism. It’s a fitting end-cap for a project that consistently gravitated toward’s life’s bleakest moments in earnest. “No Tomorrow” also has the benefit of being one of Puerto Rico Flowers’ most pop-informed moments while keeping the project’s post-punk hallmarks firmly intact, sparking a contrast that renders the song a legitimately thrilling listen.

It’s not just a perfect swan or a song that encapsulates everything that made the project great, it’s one of the most transcendent songs in recent memory. At this point, rambling on any further would be doing the song a disservice so stop reading, hit play, and get lost in the bruising world of Puerto Rico Flowers one final time.

Listen to “No Tomorrow” below and keep an eye on this site (and on Accidental Guest, who’ll be handling the digital/cassette release) for more news on 16.

The Proper Ornaments – Memories (Stream)


Tuesday brought some outstanding streams from Split Single, Deerhoof, Leapling, Low Leaf, Doby Watson, Hellrazor, and Girl Tears. In addition to those titles, there were exceptional music videos that arrived via Shugo Tokumaro, Lisa Prank, Toy Cars, Quin Galavis, Safe To Say, and Johnny Foreigner while Pet Grief held down the fort for the full stream category. The Proper Ornaments snagged the day’s featured slot with the slow-burning “Memories”, extending the extraordinary winning streak that site favorites Slumberland Records have managed to string together this year.

James Hoare and Max Claps have quietly put together an incredibly impressive discography that’s never received quite as much attention as it so richly deserves. Hoare’s received a lot of attention for the work the songwriter’s put in with Veronica Falls (and occasionally Ultimate Painting) yet The Proper Ornaments have still managed to fly decidedly under the radar, despite Slumberland’s involvement and the project’s pedigree. “Memories” may be the song that provides that trend a welcome course-correction.

Keying in on the pyschedelic and pop influences of a bygone era, The Proper Ornaments have crafted a gently mesmerizing gem in “Memories”. It’s an approach that laces their material with tints of nostalgia, creating an infallible sense of warmth and comfort in the process. Virtually every second of the song’s 5:45 runtime is injected with genuine care and feeling. As a lead-off track for the rollout campaign of their forthcoming record, Foxhole, “Memories” is an incredibly tantalizing work. In demonstrating what The Proper Ornaments are capable of at their peak, it’s immensely assuring and propels the song to the ranks of 2016’s finest.

Listen to “Memories” below and keep an eye on this site for more updates on Foxhole.

Okkervil River – Call Yourself Renee (Music Video)


Monday issued a series of notable streams from acts as varied as The Men, Very Fresh, Dark Blue, Lou Barlow, Lindsey Mills, Cave People, Fruit & Flowers, Beautiful Dudes, and Squirrel Flower. Additionally, there was a small list of impressive music videos that came courtesy of Slow Pulp, The Blow, Moby & The Void Pacific Choir, Louise Burns, and Black Kids. Finally, some exceptional full streams that arrived via Joyride!, Hillary Susz, Title Tracks, and Sun Angle rounded out the day in memorable fashion. Okkervil River found themselves snagging the feature spot on the back of yet another impressive music video from Away.

Following in the visually arresting footsteps of its Away counterparts, “Call Yourself Renee” sees the band delivering their most vivid — and undeniably modern — presentation to date. Centering around two protagonists, the Bret Curry-directed (and shot) clip opts out of a literal interpretation of the lyrics and presents a slice-of-life look at the characters. It’s a decision that pays massive dividends, imbuing “Call Yourself Renee” with a subdued sense of mystery, which keeps the viewer guessing at the clip’s final destination.

Only Away, the band’s most gentle work, doesn’t deal in tidy resolutions and understands that the journey can be far more important. “Call Yourself Renee” holds true to this belief, letting its characters find a way to an ambiguous, open-ended exit point. While the two principle actors — Tyler Bates and Joy Curry — give committed performances that are difficult to shake, the band does manage to make a few appearances, grounding “Call Yourself Renee” with a sense of place that tethers everything together.

By the calmly assured ending, the clip’s firmly established a spell of its own, creating a realistic world that’s practically impossible to want to leave. Even with the visual asides that find Bates and Curry posturing for the camera, there’s a soft empathy that slowly drives “Call Yourself Renee” towards an unassuming transcendence. It’s a remarkably tender clip and a comprehensive visual realization of Away, serving as a perfect complement to the band’s most relaxed tendencies. There’s genuine moments of humanism, beauty, and confidence in every frame, leaving “Call Yourself Renee” as one of the most unexpectedly mesmerizing clips of the year.

Watch “Call Yourself Renee” below and pick up Away here.

Watch This: Vol. 146

Continuing on with this week’s two-part installment of Watch This — and officially catching Heartbreaking Bravery back up to both the current release cycle and regular coverage — this volume of the series features a wide range of selections. From the remarkable efforts put forth that centered on performances from Good Personalities, Man Is Not A Bird, Family Mansion, Pinegrove, Naked Giants, Okkervil River (x2), Benjamin Francis LeftwichÖsp, Dramady, Castle Ruins, Henry Jamison, The Felice Brothers, and Bob Mould to the featured items, there’s a depth to the range of options that nicely illustrates what Watch This can offer on a weekly basis. Live edits, full sessions, abbreviated sessions, and an out-and-out concert all make appearances below, from veteran artists and tantalizing new names. So, as always, sit up, adjust the volume, forget any troubles, focus, and Watch This.

1. Mulligrub – Canadian Classic

All the way back in August 2014, Mulligrub found their way into a feature spot on this site thanks to the sheer strength of “Canadian Classic“. The trio’s made consistent appears on Heartbreaking Bravery following that event and “Canadian Classic” has more than proven to have staying power. The band recently unveiled a live edit clip for the song, which finds them playing the song in a balloon-filled room, cutting shots of the members goofing off for the camera to round the visual accompaniment out. It’s an endearing clip and a potent reminder of the telling endurance of “Canadian Classic”.

2. Lucy Dacus (Amoeba)

Touring behind this year’s excellent No Burden, Lucy Dacus continues to impress in the live setting. The latest example of the emerging songwriter’s charismatic prowess comes from Amoeba, who present a gripping three song performance with a loving tenderness that suits the material well. Dacus has had a very strong 2016, steadily increasing favor among critics and fans alike by bridging a fierce intellect with an easy relatability. Every song on display in this session is incredibly formidable enough to suggest Dacus will go on to have a storied career. For now, this is a perfect document of an exciting era for one of today’s brightest emerging songwriters.

3. Gurr – Moby Dick (Auf Klo)

The past few months have seen no shortage of great exuberant indie pop. One of the headlining acts of that haul has quickly become Gurr, a duo who excel at conjuring up sun-speckled bursts of warm tones, reassuring vocals, and carefree sensibilities. In this charming run through “Moby Dick” for Auf Klo, the young musicians find themselves sequestered away in a bathroom stall, trading smiles and playing “Moby Dick” to their hearts content. There’s a clear camaraderie between the pair and that familiarity and connection enhances every second of this clip, right down to the final, celebratory flush.

4. Worriers – Good Luck + Yes All Cops (Live! From the Rock Room)

Worriers have earned themselves a loyal following for several reasons. Whether their crowd’s at their show’s for the pointed social politics, the jangly tension, the ramshackle energy, all of those reasons, or another reason entirely doesn’t matter. What does matter is that the band continuously offers several strong angles into their world and commit to those angles with a fierce conviction. It’s a trait that translates to their live show, which is lovingly captured in this memorable two-song session for Live! From the Rock Room.

5. Okkervil River 

This year’s allowed the opportunity to expand on what Okkervil River meant to the foundation of Heartbreaking Bravery and their key role in forming some of the ideas that would eventually drive the site into existence. Away, the band’s most recent release, has followed a post-release formula all too familiar for the band: fawning critical embrace, relative commercial indifference. Here, the band offers up a recent concert that showcases not only their range and uncanny ability to re-work old songs into fascinating new presentation but their jaw-dropping discography as well. The end result: an honest portrait of one of this young century’s most important bands.

Watch This: Vol. 145

The past week contained a plethora of outstanding performance clips, including memorable takes of Ama, Haley Bonar, Alex Napping, The Seratones, Benjamin Booker, Cate Le Bon, Twin Limb, Pinegrove, The Frights, Matthew Logan Vasquez, Beach Slang, Heaters, Naked Giants, The Sweet Release of Death, Conor Oberst, and King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard. Since there was an excessive amount of incredible material over the past seven days, this will be the first of two tandem Watch This installments. The five featured clips below are heavy on full sessions and include one genuine outlier that was simply too good to pass up featuring. So, with that in mind, take a deep breath, steel some nerves, block out any distractions, adjust the settings, lean in, and Watch This.

1. Big Ups (Audiotree)

As a live act, Big Ups are an extremely enticing draw. They’re explosive performers, their songs are complex and dynamic enough to demand uncommon talent, and the quartet boasts a magnetic playing style. They’ve appeared on several past Watch This entries but occupy an elevated space for this Audiotree session. Characteristically intense and oddly entrancing, this session stands as a career highlight for both the band and the rightfully acclaimed studio.

2. Uni Ika Ai – Already Dead (BreakThruRadio)

2016 has been something of a breakout year for Uni Ika Ai. While they may not be an instantly recognizable name, the act’s been gaining traction on the back of their dreamlike approach to subdued indie pop. Deeply impressive and hard to shake, this enrapturing performance of “Already Dead” for BreakThruRadio is as good an entry point as any for the uninitiated. For more than seven minutes, the band casts a spell that deepens as the song progresses, making one hell of an impression.

3. Explosions in the Sky (KEXP)

cTypically Watch This — and Heartbreaking Bravery in general — is a space reserved for emerging artists but every once in a while a veteran act will issue a reminder of how they earned their status. Case in point: post-rock titans Explosions in the Sky‘s recent KEXP session. The band’s riding another critical surge following the release of this year’s The Wilderness, a record that subtly expanded the band’s scope. As ever, the songs translate beautifully to the live setting and this performance serves as concrete proof.

4. Nothing (KVRX)

When a band’s volume levels are as relentlessly punishing as Nothing‘s, stripping songs to bare acoustics can be a risky prospect. Fortunately, the band are incredibly gifted songwriters, something that comes across with a charming, natural ease in this unassuming KVRX session. There’s a certain amount of grace that often gets overlooked when shoegaze-leaning bands heavily emphasize the most bruising aspects of their approach and each song performed here becomes an essential reminder of that grace, winding up as an unexpected document of one of the genre’s most intriguing acts.

5. Jay Reatard (Pitchfork)

More of an archival release than anything else, this look back at a musician that was lost far too young is vital, painful, and wildly exhilarating. Taking a breathlessly frantic approach, Jay Reatard whips his band into overdrive right out of the gate, ripping through a dozen songs in a fiery twenty minute set, featuring a host of songs that have rightfully carved their place out in history as pivotal genre classics. Reatard was writing out of his mind during the time this was filmed, fresh off the release of Blood Visions (which remains an indisputable classic). An arresting look back at a formidable talent, there’s heartbreak to be found in thinking about what could have been but more than enough heart on display to make up some of the difference.

Living Body – Choose (Stream)

living body

Over the past few days streams from Stef Chura, Slothrust, Cheap Girls, Ex-Girlfriends, Loamlands, Del Caesar, Yuppies Indeed, Miniature Tigers, The Molochs, Louise Lemon, Dooms Virginia, Big K.R.I.T., Slow Bullet, Field Trip, Julia Holter, and a newly remastered presentation of Clem Snide’s “Parable” all surfaced, serving as strong statements for the artists. There were notable music videos that arrived via Minihorse, Shirley Collins, Mums, Nassau, and Kamikaze Girls. Full streams rounded out the new releases and included memorable titles from the likes of Kevin Devine, Hurry, Uni Ika Ai,  Just, The Dazies, Forest Veil, Personal Space, Jackson Reed, and Earwig. While all of those, as always, are worth exploring, this post’s feature was secured by Living Body’s enchanting “Choose”.

Living Body, a new band that consists of members of Juffage, Sky Larkin, and Vessels (among others), are only a few songs into their career. Yet “Choose”, their most recent single, sounds like the work of a band that’s already released a handful of critically acclaimed records. Incredibly self-assured, remarkably confident, and spellbinding beyond reason, “Choose” is an immediately unforgettable slow-burn of a number. Gorgeous horn charts, a sneakily effective vocal melody, and a genuine sense of identity elevate “Choose” to a level of transcendence that’s incredibly uncommon for new bands to achieve.

Structure and personality in music can carry a band some distance but Living Body separate themselves from many of their peers with direct, emotionally resonant lyricism. “Choose” is the sound of a hard-learned lesson that finds bandleader Jeff T. Smith quietly repeating the mantra “get out while you can” in the song’s painfully beautiful chorus, injecting it with an air of resignation and regret. There’s a lightness to the proceedings but it’s one that’s grounded in a harshly honest reality, evoking the best works of acts like Belle & Sebastian without ever sounding like a carbon copy.

Living Body have a very distinct identity and the extent of their grasp on that aspect of their music is astonishing. There’s a deliberate nature to “Choose” that never betrays the song’s warm nuance or its ability to breathe comfortably on its own. Make no mistake, though, from the contained euphoria of the intro through to the muted, gentle close, “Choose” is consistently breathtaking. One of 2016’s loveliest moments and most promising new bands all wrapped into one irresistible package.

Listen to “Choose” below and pre-order Body Is Working here.

Three Weeks, Eight Records


Over the past three weeks there have been an impressively large volume of outstanding records to find their way out into the world. A large handful of them were covered in a recent round-up post but there were some that genuinely stood out. With the extent of material involved in this particular format, the best option was to highlight them in one post. While this decision will come at the expense of exhaustively exploring what makes these records so great, know that they’re all more than worth a heavy amount of investment. So, without further ado, here are eight incredible records from the past three weeks.

Lubec – Cosmic Debt

The first of several wild-eyed basement pop records to appear on this list, Lubec‘s Cosmic Debt really emphasizes the band’s frenetic approach to songwriting. Where Cosmic Debt stands out is its coherent fluidity, tethering all of their most erratic moments to an identity that’s teeming with purpose. Front to back, Cosmic Debt‘s an oddly exhilarating record, drawing strength from its cracks, swinging to the end.

Glider – Demos 

A collaborative, multi-country recording project, Glider’s existed in some form or another for years. The act, comprised of Tom Lobban and Louie Newlands, finally released the handful of demos they’ve been recording to the public. Demos features an extraordinary range of two gifted, versatile songwriters who pull cues from powerpop, post-punk, ambient, and a variety of other genres and work them into something legitimately memorable. One of 2016’s most extraordinary surprises.

Poppies – Double Single

“Egghead” and “Mistakes” constitute the entirety of Double Single but Poppies make every second of each song count. Wistful indie pop at its absolute finest, the band coaxes a subdued magic out of familiar terrain, enlivening both songs with a tantalizing personality. Neither song ever breaks above mid-tempo and the music draws the listener in with a calm assurance, suggesting a very bright future for the quartet.

Greys – Warm Shadow 

Having one 2016 triumph under the belt already in the excellent Outer Heaven, Greys seize the opportunity to capitalize on some growing momentum with another outstanding collection of tracks. Considerably poppier and more lo-fi than it’s counterpart from earlier this year, Warm Shadow succeeds as both a GBV-style look at the band’s approach and as an attention-grabbing record that’s incredibly hard to leave. While it may wind up as an anomaly or outlier of Grey’s already extremely impressive career, it’s bound to be one that’s looked upon with fond admiration.

Navy Gangs – Navy Gangs

Navy Gangs have been coming on strong this year, with their self-titled EP serving as the current culmination of some impressively intuitive decision-making. Battered, punk-informed basement pop will likely always be the calling card of Heartbreaking Bravery’s coverage and Navy Gangs experiment with that dynamic to quiet perfection on Navy Gangs. Immediately memorable and capable of rewarding close investment, Navy Gangs should go a long way in ensuring its namesake’s reputation as one of the finest acts in the market.

Sonic Avenues – Disconnector

Since before this site existed, Sonic Avenues have been a personal favorite. The band’s expertise lays in hyper, sugar-coated punk laced with classic pop sensibilities shot through with nods to noise and post-punk. Disconnector, their latest, finds the band continuing to perfect that mixture. Every song’s laced with an unwieldy adrenaline that renders Disconnector surprisingly forceful without ever losing sight of what makes the record — and the band — tick. Tightly wound and characteristically thrilling, it’s another cause for celebration.

Never Young – Singles Tape II: SoftBank

Easily one of 2016’s most ferocious, hyper-charged basement punk EP’s, Never Young‘s Singles Tape II: SoftBank is never anything less than exhilarating. All five of these songs grit their teeth, bare some fangs, and unleash a series of incrementally vicious bites. “I’m washing up with soap”, an unforgettable hook from “Soap”, not only manages to be one of the year’s strangest rallying cries but one of its strongest as well. To dive even further into the band’s extreme tenacity and overabundance of feeling (and “Soap”), just take a look at the last installment of Watch This. If that doesn’t sell this band — and this EP — properly, nothing will.

Crying – Beyond the Fleeting Gales

One of the most eclectic, unique, and electrifying releases in recent memory, Crying’s Beyond the Fleeting Gales calmly trouts out a series of never-ending ideas, all of which feel genuinely inspired. No band is currently attempting what Crying’s accomplished with this insane pastiche of a record. Each song varies wildly in the instrumental mixes incorporated into the mix, sounding like Sleigh Bells one second, New Order the next, and Tobacco the next. To its credit, Beyond the Fleeting Gales‘ restlessness never gets tiring. On the contrary, Crying have released what will likely not just be a career-defining record with Beyond the Fleeting Gales but one of 2016’s most genuinely inspiring works. Have a listen and start making music.