Heartbreaking Bravery

stevenmps2@gmail.com | @steven_mps | @hbreakbravery

Watch This: Vol. 143

Typically Watch This installments run on Sunday but the 143rd installment was given a later slot for a specific reason. While the videos covered  in this post will have been released, exclusively, in the time frame of last Monday to this past Sunday, this particular entry serves as somewhat of a gap-fill. The next post to run after this one will be the 1,000th that Heartbreaking Bravery has published and there will be a brief period of inactivity, only punctuated by the 143rd volume of Watch This.

The placement shouldn’t detract from the overwhelming strength of the formidable quality of the featured clips, which staved off particularly intense competition from the likes of Kevin Morby, Good Personalities, Saul Williams, Post Child, Hurry, Wolf Parade, Quilt, Suuns, Yung, Waterstrider, Gringo Star, The Pack A.D., Fauna Shade, Fascinating, The Minders, The Posies, Teeth & Tongue, Xenia Rubinos, Communist Daughter, Chris Cohen, Paper Bird, and Bully to secure the five highlighted slots. So, as always, sit up, lean in, adjust the settings, take a deep breath, and Watch This.

1. Margaret Glaspy – Emotions and Math + Pins and Needles (World Cafe)

In the past few months Margaret Glaspy has managed to become a staple of this series thanks to both songwriting and the subdued but outsized personality that the songwriter exudes in every performance. Glaspy’s two-song set for World Cafe is particularly crisp, offering up two spellbinding runs through two of Emotions and Math‘s brightest moments: the quietly exhilarating title track and “Pins and Needles”. Don’t miss out on this one.

2. Long Neck – Rosy + 10,000 Year Old Woman (Boxfish Sessions)

For the past few years, Lily Mastridomos has been releasing mesmerizing music under the moniker Long Neck. Known primarily for Jawbreaker Reunion, Mastridomos’ solo project allows the emphasis to fall to uninhibited tales of heartache. In Mastridomos’ shattering entry to this site’s A Year’s Worth of Memories, there was a courageously open emphasis on personal depression, something that informs both “Rosy” and “10,000 Year Old Woman” to heartbreaking effect in one of the finest Boxfish Sessions to date.

3. PUP – Doubts (q on cbc)

A lot has been written on this site about PUP, from their galvanizing live show to their self-titled debut (which has the distinction of being the first album review to run on Heartbreaking Bravery) to this year’s extraordinary The Dream Is Over, a record that earned them a Polaris Prize nomination. Here, the band stops by the q on cbc studio and unleashing holy hell with a fiercely committed take on “Doubts” that underscores the band’s terrifying level of conviction as well as their sheer force of will. It’s a characteristically exceptional performance and an outstanding document of a band that’s intent on pushing themselves to the absolute limit.

4. Tuxis Giant – Almost Enough (Boxfish Sessions)

The second Boxfish Session to be featured finds the spotlight falling to Tuxis Grant, an emerging songwriter who has a penchant for bleary-eyed folk that comes with a twinge of a punk-informed sensibility. “Almost Enough”, the song performed here, is a breathtaking example of Tuxis Giant’s considerable songwriting gifts, never becoming anything less than incredibly memorable. “Even when it isn’t hungry, it eats” is a refrain that sticks, perfectly complementing a compellingly singular introspective lens. If “Almost Enough” is any indication, Tuxis Giant will be a name worth learning.

5. Japanese Breakfast (PressureDrop.tv)

2016 has been a breakout year for Japanese Breakfast, the project of Michelle ZaunerLittle Big League, Zauner’s other band, had a handful of entries throughout the existence of this series. Japanese Breakfast seems set on continuing that tradition with a remarkable amount of poise. While all of the songs the band runs through for this PressureDrop.tv session are consistently impressive, “Everybody Wants to Love You” stands out as a particularly inspired highlight. It’s the start of an exclamation mark on the band’s coming out party, creating room for both celebration of what’s come before and wild anticipation for what comes next.

LVL UP – Return to Love (Album Review)

LVL UP II

A great week was all but capped off by a tantalizing array of new material, including streams from Dark Blue, Teksti-TV 666, Black Honey, Alien Boy, Teen Vice, Acrylics, and Itasca. Neaux held down the fort for the music video format while excellent full streams from the likes of Static Animal, Anthony Jay Sanders, and betty becky came to light. Dillo Milk’s tremendous second compilation, Dillo Milk 2, rounded things out in memorable fashion.

As enticing as it was to go into detail on any of those entries listed above, this post was always going to belong to LVL UP. When Heartbreaking Bravery first started, they were the ideal example of the type of band this space was designed to celebrate. A scrappy, frequently overlooked powerhouse that earned critical acclaim and adoration in certain circles, had strong communal values, a distinctly DIY ethos, and a knack for intelligent, intuitive songwriting. The fact that they were playing basement pop — the genre that would arguably come to define this site’s coverage — almost became secondary to those other characteristics.   

Less than a week and a half elapsed from the first post to be published on this site before LVL UP’s was printed. Even if that mention was only a tangential one, it was designed to posit the band as reference point for feature coverage. Before long, they became an intrinsic part of Heartbreaking Bravery’s allotted feature segments. Very few bands have appeared in that capacity at a greater volume of frequency than LVL UP have managed to attain over their past several releases.

Hoodwink’d
, their outstanding sophomore full-length, topped this site’s best albums of 2014 list. Three Songs, the quartet’s most recent short-form release, ranked highly in the best EP’s of 2015 list. “Hidden Driver“, “Spirit Was“, “Pain“, and “The Closing Door“, the four songs to tease the just-released Return to Love, all earned features on their own considerable merit. With that kind of rollout campaign, a full review of Return to Love became an inevitability. Predictably, the rest of the record somehow found a way to surpass what were once thought to be unreasonably high expectations.

“Hidden Driver”, Return to Love‘s incendiary opener, sounded like it was all but ready to hurtle itself into an untested abyss when it was first unveiled. It’s an explosive work and it sets up the noticeably more aggressive nature of Return to Love, which asks a lot bigger questions than its predecessors. From the outset, Return to Love grapples with non-traditional instances of love and spirituality, something the band discussed at length in Loren DiBlasi‘s revealing MTV profile piece that went up earlier today.

In that interview, guitarist/vocalist Dave Benton (who penned “Hidden Driver”) posited God as a feeling, rather than as an all-knowing omnipresence. So, when the unforgettable chorus of “Hidden Driver” hits, the meaning becomes slightly more clear. It’s the first instance of a slew of moments that litter Return to Love in which the band confront the spiritual realm with the kind of bold decisiveness that powers the record.

Blur“, one of two songs to be revised from Three Songs for Return to Love, increases the velocity of the momentum and allows Mike Caridi to take over for a moment. Characteristically riff-happy and tethered to an enviable pop sensibility, “Blur” scales back from the otherworldly concerns of “Hidden Driver” to examine the minutiae of a fractured relationship and its lingering effects.

Only two songs into the record and LVL UP have already struck a delicate balance of external and internal questioning, providing an early hint that Return to Love is a record that’s defined by a commitment to exploring their own curiosity. Complementing that theme is the renewed emphasis on keys, which prove to be immensely effective and elevate the record’s frequently subdued nature, especially as Return to Love explores new musical territory.

A great example of that exploration comes in the form of the record’s third track, which turns the spotlight back to Benton. “She Sustains Us” is one of Return to Love‘s more definitive moments as it opens up the band’s sound, considerably expands their musical boundaries, establishes new tendencies, and examines the ideas of love and spirituality from a singular perspective while remaining subversive in the way those topics are typically approached. Beautiful harmonies flitter in and out of “She Sustains Us” and continues the the band’s tradition of adding compelling touches of overt femininity in their work.

The ensuing quartet of tracks constitute Return to Love‘s beating heart and have all either been revealed as part of the record’s introductory campaign or have been staples of the band’s galvanizing live sets for a year or more. “Pain” — a critical part of that run of songs and one of the record’s many standouts — sees Mike Caridi getting off some cutting asides while still managing to invoke a small semblance of lightness. The narrative of “Blur” is unapologetic in its casual brutality, wishing nothing but the worst for a person who harmed a loved one. Somehow, the spry nature of the music surrounding those biting lyrics keep the sentiment from becoming overly malicious.

There’s always been an underlying humanism and empathy to LVL UP’s work, even at its most detached. “Spirit Was”, “The Closing Door”, and “Five Men On the Ridge” all reap the benefits of that genuine, open-hearted approach which continues to stand in contrast to so many otherwise similarly-minded acts. All of those songs also ably demonstrate LVL UP’s acutely-realized atmospheric design (the plinking piano figure of “Spirit Was” being a perfect example) and their newfound heaviness (when the band comes crashing in at full force towards the start of the redesigned “The Closing Door”, the sudden impact becomes ridiculously powerful).

Five Men on the Ridge“, easily one of Return to Love‘s heaviest numbers, transitions the record into its final run of tracks with an impressive mixture of grace and relentless intensity. It’s a song that’ll be new to just about everyone that hasn’t been fortunate enough to catch the band live but it takes on new life in the context of the record. One of bassist/vocalist Nick Corbo’s strongest contributions to date, the song finally infuses Return to Love‘s line of questioning with a well-earned sense of dread; there are likely some big questions that are better left unanswered.

Corbo immediately follows that jarring moment of bleakness with one of Return to Love‘s most meditative pieces, “Cut from the Vine”, which finds the songwriter returning to a characteristic theme: the distinctly human connection to nature. It’s something that Corbo’s explored on previous records and discussed semi-frequently in interviews (as well as casual conversation). While all of the past instances of this recurrent theme in Corbo’s songwriting have been engaging, “Cut from the Vine” is truly exceptional.

With the slow-burn of “Cut from the Vine”, the record’s final Caridi track — “I” — is positioned perfectly. Return to Love‘s penultimate number restores a sense of urgency and elevates its immediacy, recalling the band’s past work with enough panache and untethered momentum to rank as one of Return to Love‘s most exhilarating offerings. At a brisk two minutes (not counting the fascinating ambient epilogue that features drummer Greg Rutkin’s distorted ramblings about a beach), it’s the record’s shortest song and its sharpest kick, all but cementing Return to Love as one of 2016’s fiercest highlights.

All of that said — meaning every single paragraph of this feature review — nothing could’ve been adequate preparation for Return to Love‘s bruising, doom-leaning, chant-laden finale, “Naked In the River with the Creator”. Corbo takes the reigns once again and steers the focus back to nature, love, and spirituality in one fell swoop. “Naked in the River with the Creator” was one of three songs on Return to Love that was initiated by the excellent Song A Day for A Week series and its final form is astonishing.

Nearly seven and a half minutes in length, “Naked in the River with the Creator” suggests that Return to Love still hasn’t revealed the extent of the band’s ambitions. Opening with the slowest tempo of the record, somber vocals awash in a gently haunting organ figure, the effect is genuinely startling. Even more startling is when the bottom drops out and plunges the band into a quasi-nightmarish trip into a metal-informed trance that evokes a state of possession.

The latter half of “Naked in the River with the Creator”, with its repeated mantras of chants like the opening “white river, black water, gaining purpose, moving stronger, ash rising, bright father, dogs running the earth’s daughter” becomes both deeply disconcerting and oddly chilling. As directly as the band confronted spirituality throughout Return to Love, “Naked in the River with the Creator” all but exists on a different plane of existence. It’s a shocking departure from a band not typically known for taking risks and the dividends it pays are enormous, fully positioning LVL UP’s Sub Pop as not only a genre classic but as one of the legendary label’s best releases in years.

All told, Return to Love is a document of a band determined to continuously better themselves, a new career high, and a bona fide statement release from one of this generation’s most consistently exciting acts. It’s a series of sustained, connected grace notes that never wavers, even as it openly acknowledges it doesn’t have all of the answers. Not a single second of its run time is wasted and each of the songs are memorable for a wildly varying list of reasons. LVL UP aren’t the type of band to be dissuaded from taking action by a daunting challenge and Return to Love is an assured, steadfast piece of proof.

To put it as succinctly as possible: it’s a masterpiece.

Listen to Return to Love below and pick it up from Sub Pop here.

Black Thumb – Goes So Slow (Music Video Premiere)

black-thumb

Colin Wilde has been involved in a whole host of projects to have been featured in some way on this site (including, but not limited to, Tenement, Dusk, Technicolor Teeth, and darn it.) but Black Thumb (which features players culled from the previously mentioned groups) has been serving as his calling card. Created as an outlet for Wilde’s solo work, Black Thumb’s songs have progressively become darker in tone and more expansive in scope. Ever since an impressive 2013 self-titled debut, Wilde’s growing confidence and control as a songwriter has been evident.

Today, Black Thumb takes that assured vision a step further with the “Goes So Slow” music video, which is premiering here. “Goes So Slow” opens on a smash cut to a title card set against a pure white backdrop, Wilde looming off to the side, not facing the camera. It’s an intense moment that immediately sets a confrontational tone that lingers throughout the entirety of the clip.

The video quickly turns to a shot of Wilde hitting a lone snare, face still obscured, drawing attention to the snare’s head, which effectively furthers the clip’s color palette. Not long after, “Goes So Slow” opens up and the visuals follow suit, cascading over each other in a series of mirrored effects and tastefully spare overlays. There’s a hazy, dreamlike structure that informs both the song and the video, with both bringing it out of the other in intriguingly emphatic ways, ranging from a series of blurred visuals to the post-punk atmospherics.

All of the imagery in “Goes So Slow” comes across as meticulously crafted and contains the weight afforded to iconic pieces of modern art. There’s an incredible amount of conviction to be found in not only the art direction of “Goes So Slow” but the song itself, even when pared down to a single element. Tied together, everything becomes a hypnotic tapestry that demands repeat viewings.

Taken as a whole, “Goes So Slow” seems like more than just another entry in a continuously fascinating discography. There’s a certain air to both the song and the clip that makes it feel more like a statement from a still-young artist intent on making a mark. With “Goes So Slow”, Wilde not only has a new career highlight but a reason for people to turn their heads and take notice. After being relegated to the sidelines for years, Wilde’s ready to claim a moment of his own.

Watch “Goes So Slow” below and pick up It Is Well With My Soul from Forward here.

LVL UP – The Closing Door (Music Video, Live Video)

LVL UP II

In the past 24 hours, there’s been a cavalcade of streams surfacing from artists like Honeyblood, Greys, The Meltaways, House of Feelings (ft. Meredith Graves), War Church, Jackson Reed, Moby & The Void Pacific Choir, Fair Mothers (ft. Kathryn Joseph), Hope Sandoval and the Warm Inventions (ft. Kurt Vile), Daniel Martin Moore, MONO, and Blue House. The music video category also made a fierce push with great new offerings from Risley, Fear of Men, Vomitface, Jeff Rosenstock, Billy Moon, Twin LimbJúníus Meyvant, Bunny, Blood Sport, and Sad13. Finally, a small handful of exceptional full streams that arrived via Sunshine Faces, Pamphleteers, Dinowalrus, Cinemechanica, and Crushed Out rounded everything out in powerful fashion.

As good as all of those were — and they were all quite good — the focus here, for the second time this week, falls to another gorgeous music video from the House of Nod production team. Robert Kolodny’s at the helm for this venture, an absolutely beautiful clip for LVL UP‘s sprawling “The Closing Door”. Easily one of the darkest songs in the band’s formidable discography, “The Closing Door” went through a revamp from its first iteration on last year’s inspired Three Songs EP and now stands proudly as one of Return to Love‘s finest moments.

Presented in a classic 1.37:1 ratio, Kolodny immediately establishes that “The Closing Door” is going to be heavily informed by a nostalgic bent. Even in the most minuscule of details, there are stories to be told and the ratio presentation here is an expertly played tactic that also emphasizes the clip’s tonal quality. The color palette’s soft saturation similarly invokes memories of a past age of film, nicely complementing the song’s narrative, which pays careful attention to transitional elements.

Sean Henry — an artist who resides on the excellent Double Double Whammy label, which is run by LVL UP’s Dave Benton and Mike Caridi — stars in the clip and spends the majority of “The Closing Door” wandering a scenic patch of woods, stuck in a state of wide-eyed wonderment. It’s an endearing central performance but, more importantly, it’s an incredibly effective one. Even with all of the sublime flourishes that elevate the clip’s considerable sense of style, Henry grounds the entire affair with an everyman’s charm that suffuses “The Closing Door” with a lived-in feel.

That’s not to say all of “The Closing Door” is straightforward, as there are exquisite splashes of magic realism and pure artistry that further enlivens the proceedings. Bits of classic animation litter the woodland landscape and shots of small animals taking flight punctuate the clip’s measured pace to great effect. To top everything off, “The Closing Door” hits the peak of its subdued strangeness with a climax that sees Henry tenaciously scaling a tree only to throw open a door to reveal a host of warm, familiar faces in a living room (among them, FORGE.‘s Matthew James-Wilson and Yours Are The Only Ears‘ Susannah Lee Cutler).

That final reveal’s a transcendental payoff in an immensely compelling clip that never makes a false move. In a clip that’s driven by the past, it’s ultimate destination points towards the future. It’s an elegant metaphor and Kolodny handles it with an astonishing amount of grace. As the song’s monumental final section soundtracks the moment, “The Closing Door” breaks from familiarity to provide a gentle epilogue that winds down to contentment and acceptance. That closing scene is one final grace note in a series of brilliant maneuvers that all but guarantee “The Closing Door” a status as an unlikely classic.

Watch “The Closing Door” below and pick up Return to Love from Sub Pop here. Watch the band playing the song live last year beneath the music video.

Tony Molina – Hung Up on the Dream (Stream)

tony-molina

While Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday saw a period of relative inaction for this site, that didn’t prevent Real Numbers, Never Young, Luxury Death, The Dazies, Dark Mean, Active Bird Community, American WrestlersSLØTFACE, Hello Shark, House of Wolves, Peeling, Justin Peter Kinkel Schuster, Warpaint, Swampmeat, Jeff Rosenstock, The Nursery, Shamir, Mouse on the Keys, Tredici Bacci, The Tins, The Regrettes, Julia Ruzicka, Personal Space, Brain Tentacles, Birthday Club, White Laces, Primal Static, and Violence Creeps from releasing a small army of great songs that deserve as many attentive ears as possible. Another artist that added to the pile, Tony Molina, returns to the feature slot less than a week after the release of “See Me Fall“.

Like “See Me Fall”, “Hung Up on the Dream” — the second track to tease Molina’s forthcoming 7″, Confront the Truth — leans into an acoustic angle that grounds the songwriter in intriguing ways. Far removed from the exhilarating excess of Molina’s past work, “Hung Up on the Dream” manages to invoke and echo a formidable cast of influences. Traces of everyone from The Beatles to Cat Stevens to Weezer to Sparklehorse are evident throughout “Hung Up on the Dream”, without ever overwhelming Molina’s own identity.

Clocking in at under 90 seconds, Molina still manages to convey a frighteningly realistic sense of heartache and longing. The phrase that gives the title its track opens the set of lyrics, which eventually reveal themselves to be the most strikingly vivid of Molina’s storied songwriting career. There’s an unavoidable resignation that defines “Hung Up on the Dream” that winds up elevating the song to a quiet transcendence.

It’s another masterstroke from an engaging artist who may just be on the verge of releasing 2016’s best 7″. If the rest of the eight-song collection can live up to the precedent set by “See Me Fall” and “Hung Up on the Dream”, Molina’s name could be showing up in a lot more places in the year’s final stretch. No matter how things shake out, it’ll be a privilege to be present for the ride.

Listen to “Hung  Up on the Dream” below and order Confront the Truth from Slumberland here.

Japanese Breakfast – Everybody Wants to Love You (Music Video)

japanese breakfast

Over the course of the first three days of this week music videos from Forth Wanderers, Infinity Crush, Amy O, Communist Daughter, Emma Ruth Rundle, The Coathangers, Dead Leaf Echo, July Talk, Geowulf, Pixx, MV & EE, and Vallens all emerged (and were well worth watching). As good as all of those titles wound up being, the attention here mostly falls to another gorgeous collaboration between the House of Nod production team and Japanese Breakfast.

Director and cinematographer Adam Kolodny is once again at the helm, controlling the action with a deftness that plays up the narrative’s lyrical quality. Michelle Zauner, who started Japanese Breakfast as an outlet for more personal work, joins Kolodny as a co-director. The results of their creative partnership are spellbinding. The emotional resonance of “Everybody Wants to Love You” goes far past the formidable sense of style and hinges on one heartbreaking detail: throughout the entire clip, Zauner’s wearing her mother’s wedding dress, tying together two important elements of the devastating final section of her piece for this site’s A Year’s Worth of Memories series.

Even with that shattering detail, “Everybody Wants to Love You” is imbued with a liveliness that makes it endlessly compelling. Littered with references to Eastern cinema, the clips also becomes a rapidly-shifting playground of influences that are worn proudly on the sleeve. Zauner’s central performance is suffused with the kind of effortless magnetism that continues to draw people to the Japanese Breakfast project.

As is always the case with House of Nod, everything is gorgeously lensed and treated with a sense of careful consideration. Every element of “Everybody Wants to Love You” ties together with the kind of precision that makes even the strongest visual flourishes feel like they’re part of an incredibly comprehensive whole. A host of familiar faces and locations enliven the proceedings even further, allotting “Everybody Wants to Love You” a communal, celebratory atmosphere.

\In pairing one of the year’s best songs with exhilarating filmmaking, “Everybody Wants to Love You” is precisely the kind of clip that artists and directors should be looking to for cues years down the line. Dive in and get lost in its magic.

Watch “Everybody Wants to Love You” below and pick up Psychopomp here.

Fake Palms – Heavy Paranoia (EP Review)

fake palms

The first trio of days this week were comprised of a large handful of impressive full streams that came via Ghost Gum, Katie Ellen, Ganser, Sculpture Club, The Royal They, Joey Sprinkles, Idiot Genes, Tongues, Edgar Clinks, Jackson Boone, Kyle Morton, and Residuels. There was also an incredible compilation that came courtesy of a collaboration between Swell Tone and Z Tapes entitled Summer of Sad. While each of those releases deserves all of the investment they’ll undoubtedly receive and more, this post’s feature spot falls to the great Fake Palms and their outstanding forthcoming EP, Heavy Paranoia.

Back in 2015, Fake Palms grabbed another of this site’s feature spots for their dark, insistent “Sun Drips“. It’s astonishing how much the band’s grown in that time and Heavy Paranoia is concrete proof of their accelerated sense of artistry. From the onset, Heavy Paranoia ably demonstrates the band’s creative expanse with the towering “Collar Bone”. Riding the crest of a monstrous wave of hooks, sharp riffing, and a cold atmosphere that’s — somehow — conjured up by almost exclusively warm tones, “Collar Bone” immediately becomes distinctive and sets a ridiculously gripping precedent for the quartet of tracks to follow.

“Holiday” and “Frequencies” both hurtle along at a quick pace that still allows Fake Palms to establish a sense of expanse. Both tracks are perfect examples of the band’s acute awareness of dynamic structure, successfully playing several angles in one fell swoop. Whether it’s to create a sense of mild discord through committing to figures designed to emphasize ambient effect rather than melody or in shifting the tonal qualities of their tracks, every idea works beautifully. Importantly, the band also expertly navigates the pacing of Heavy Paranoia, lending it a feel of completion that few EP’s have managed to achieve.

By the time Heavy Paranoia‘s closing track hits, Fake Palms have already secured the EP the distinction of being the best release of their career. Fortunately, that last track, “Snowblink”, only solidifies that distinction. As characteristically spare and relentless as the preceding songs on this miniature post-punk masterpiece, “Snowblink” does eventually hit an enormous, sprawling moment that serves as the climactic final sequence of both the song and the EP. Those final three minutes are the most exhilarating of a release that’s never anything less than arresting and ensure that Heavy Paranoia‘s a release worth remembering.

Listen to Heavy Paranoia below and pre-order the EP here.

Watch This: Vol. 142

From this past Monday to this just recently-ended Sunday, there were a slew of great live clips that came from the likes of Ben Seretan, Johanna Warren, Cymbals Eat Guitars, Chook Race, Ty Segall, Dog & Wolf, Daniel Lanois, Charles Bradley, Odanah, Strange Ranger, Flock of Dimes, July Talk (x2), Sleepy Kitty, Maszer, Lisa Hannigan, Half Waif, Gia Greene, The Felice BrothersEsmé Patterson, Elvis Depressedly, Jessie Kilguss, Alaska, Ghosts I’ve Met, MUNA, Underground Rider, American Trappist, Marlon Williams, James Vincent McMorrow, Hinds, Ile, and Keaton Henson. The strength of those video, as always, is indicative of the substance contained in the five featured performances below. From old favorites to emerging artists, there’s a lot of material to explore. So, as always, sit up, lean in, crank the volume, and Watch This.

1. Teenage Fanclub – Thin Air (BBC)

For decades, certain pockets of the music world have treated Teenage Fanclub with a reverence that’s typically reserved for deities. In the time that’s elapsed since they formed in 1989, the band’s amassed a devoted following but — as this performance for BBC’s Radio 6 definitively demonstrates — they haven’t lost a step. Still boasting all of the charm in the world, “Thin Air” is a reminder of their casual timelessness.

2. Weaves (KEXP)

Since the release of their incendiary self-titled debut earlier this year, Weaves have become a mainstay of the Watch This series. Tackling a quartet of songs here, the quartet brings their wild energy to the KEXP studios for one of the station’s best sessions of the year. As ever, the band’s a relentless force, attacking each of these songs with the conviction and tenacity that’s earned them a dedicated, steadily-increasing following.

3. gobbinjr – Firefly (Boxfish Sessions)

A few years into a promising career, Emma Witmer — who masterminds the gobbinjr project — has been releasing delicate pop songs that sound airy but boast a substantial amount of weight. “Firefly” is a prime example and its performance here, for Cuttlefish Collective’s Boxfish Sessions, is a thing of singular beauty. With only vocals, an omnichord, and a pre-programmed drum track, “Firefly” surpasses being simply mesmerizing and winds up at a place of transcendence.

4. Tuns – Mixed Messages + Mind Over Matter (Indie88Toronto)

Whether Tuns is a side project, a supergroup, or a curiosity is irrelevant, what’s important is that they’re writing great songs. Legendary pedigree aside, Tuns would’ve likely been turning heads. While the band’s members’ projects certainly hold a particular amount of influence over their sound (Sloan likely being the most notable of the bunch), there’s a spark here that should help the project establish their own identity. Either way, “Mixed Messages” and “Mind Over Matter” are worth celebrating.

5. PUP (CBC)

Earlier this year, PUP released their fiery sophomore effort, The Dream Is Over. Several strides forward from their explosive debut, the record opened up their already frantic live show and sent the band’s members careening to every corner of stages the world over with wild abandon. The band recently stopped by CBC’s studios to tear through several key songs from their Polaris-nominated record — including “If This Tour Doesn’t Kill You, I Will” and “DVP”, two of the year’s finest songs — and the resulting document is an exhilarating portrait of a wild-eyed band that refuses to hit the brakes.

Tony Molina – See Me Fall (Stream)

tony-molina

Over the past few days Fraternal Twin, Slothrust, Russian Tsarlag, Pamphleteers, Bottle Rocket, Francie Moon, Tobias Jesso Jr., Leo, Drive-By Truckers, The Lampshades, Votaries, Earwig, Erica Freas, and Resina have all been responsible for outstanding new tracks. Music videos from Gurr, Hazel English, Culture Abuse, Kal Marks, The Regrettes, The Britanys, Damaged Bug, Whitney, and Beekeepers all held up to the excessively high standard set up by the new numbers. Topping everything off were exceptional full streams that came courtesy of Johanna Warren, Cymbals Eat GuitarsFond Han, Tapehead, and Tom Brosseau.

As is typically the case, every single one of those entries above is worth exploring in greater detail and the fact that they’re not featured at length in this space shouldn’t diminish their impact. For this post’s featured title, the attention turns back to an old favorite: Tony Molina. Ever since turning in some spectacular work with Ovens, the project that earned Molina an early dose of notoriety and acclaim, the songwriter’s been on a hot streak.

2014’s Dissed & Dismissed, the last record to be released under Molina’s name, was an exhilarating collection of micro-punk numbers that were infused with expansive ideas and an earnestness that isn’t always present in the genre. Now, Molina’s returning with a new, eight-song 7″ release entitled Confront the Truth and is teasing the record with “See Me Fall”.

Stripping way back, “See Me Fall” occupies the space of Molina’s most plaintive offerings, a straightforward acoustic number anchored by a familiar sense of trepidation and longing. There’s still a classically-influenced solo to close the proceedings out — a Molina staple — but it’s more subdued than scintillating, demonstrating Molina’s increasingly acute sense of atmospherics.

While it may not be the celebrated songwriter’s most explosive track, “See Me Fall” still manages to become an immediate standout in an impressive discography. In just over a minute, Molina manages to evoke a quiet despair that elevates “See Me Fall” from being somewhat of a curiosity to being genuinely memorable. Vocals, acoustic guitar, and an abbreviated running time is an economic setup but, like so many times before, Molina turns a small scale into something grandiose. It’s a potent reminder of Molina’s considerable talent and a song that should be remembered fondly several years down the line.

Listen to “See Me Fall” below and pre-order Confront the Truth from Slumberland here.

Tancred – Pens (Music Video)

tancred

This Wednesday came fully equipped with exceptional new tracks from Shere Disraeli, Iansucks, Really Big Pinecone, The Exquisites, Ex-Cult, Nocturnal Habits, Joyce Manor, La Sera, AVAKHAN, Jenny Hval, Kevin Krauter, Warehouse, and Catch Prichard. On top of that impressive haul, there were incredible new music videos that came courtesy of Connections, Chris Staples, Luxury Death, and Hoots Hellmouth. A pair of full streams from Totally Slow and Sunjacket rounded everything out in memorable fashion.

This post’s feature spot was claimed by Tancred, a project that was all but guaranteed extensive coverage since the release of Out of the Garden, a 2016 highlight. “Sell My Head” was the first glimpse at what the project could achieve and now, a gorgeous Adam Weinberg-directed video for “Pens” has pushed the envelope even further. Masterminded by Now, Now member Jess Abbott, Tancred’s been growing exponentially more fascinating since String & Twine‘s release in 2011. The growth Tancred’s achieved over that time period’s remarkable and fully evidenced by “Pens”.

Opening with a slow-drip ink  spill, “Pens” immediately sets a tone that keys in on its atmospherics, conjuring up a sense of tension, dread, and intrigue. In addition to directing, Weinberg also lensed and edited “Pens” and enlisted Nicole Kugel (who served as assistant director and art director on the clip) to bring a comprehensive vision to life. From the brooding, palm-muted opening to the euphoric eruption of the defiantly triumphant chorus, “Pens” is provided a haunted visual accompaniment that sways the narrative toward a darker subtext in surprising ways.

Helping matters along is Speedy Ortiz‘s Sadie Dupuis — who recently unveiled a new project called Sad13 — appears in “Pens” as Death, casting an increasingly foreboding shadow as the clip hurtles towards its climax. Dupuis and Abbott have recently emerged as sharing a spiritual kinship in their work, so Dupuis’ appearance here is both sensible and heartening, solidifying a connection that’s only grown stronger over the past few years. Abbott, in the central role, and Dupuis, as Death, both deliver committed performances in “Pens”, injecting their characters with a barely-contained mischievousness that pays off in an explosive ending.

Following a steady build, the clip hinges on that aforementioned ending, which finds Abbott and Dupuis hooking up in a way that feels more symbolic than exploitative. There’s an intense amount of sexuality, yes, but that moment also cements what the narrative had been driving towards (which expands on the lyrical subtext). Abbott lets excessively dark impulses take hold and merges with them while still retaining an identity. It’s provocative but it’s also incredibly powerful. In a lesser director’s hands it may have felt cheap but Weinberg grounds the moment with a surprising amount of gravitas which elevates the moment far past an easy angle.

The unforgettable final shot, which hints at the thesis shot of “Pens”, finds Dupuis’ death in complete control as Abbott secretes a black liquid that runs out of her lips. It’s the last moment of small-scale horror in a clip that uses the genre as a propulsive function, providing one last gorgeous shot before cutting away to black. A perfect epilogue to a tremendous music video, the moment also secures “Pens” a spot as one of this year’s most memorable clips. Utilizing an economic setup to complete perfection, “Pens” makes its mark with its own brand of dark magic.

Watch “Pens” below and pick up a copy of Out of the Garden from Polyvinyl here.