Heartbreaking Bravery

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Greys – Use Your Delusion (Stream)

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Greys have been earning themselves a lot of words over here lately and that’s no mistake; their particular brand of fangs-out post-punk is exactly the kind of thing that’s worth paying a whole lot of attention to. Their Carpark debut (in conjunction with Buzz Records), Is Anything, is still dangerously high on the anticipation meter and today’s reveal of “Use Your Delusion” is only stoking that particular fire. “Use Your Delusion” premiered over at The A.V. Club but has since found its way onto soundcloud and can be heard in the provided player. Listening to this is an absolute necessity as it expands their sound in a way, that while not unexpected, is completely enthralling. All adrenaline rush and pent-up frustration “Use Your Delusion” channels the best of both post-punk and classic hardcore while being presented through a noise-punk lens. It comes off as less of an introduction and more of a victory lap, proving that this band’s confident enough to get straight to the point and leave as deep of an impression as possible. When the final vocal punctuation closes out the song’s two and a half minute runtime, it’s practically begging for a repeat listen.

Listen to “Use Your Delusion” below and cave in to the temptation of playing it multiple times in a row.

White Lung – Face Down (Music Video)

It may be just over a month away but Deep Fantasy, White Lung’s Domino debut, just keeps sounding better. While “Drown With the Monster” and “Snake Jaw” were both bits of shrapnel intent on finding impact, “Face Down” takes things a step further. There’s just something about it that’s difficult to pinpoint; whether it’s the arrangement or the presentation or something else entirely, it’s one of the band’s most refined outings to date and it absolutely slays. Easily one of their best songs, it was given a no-fi video not all that dissimilar from the Dead Stars one that was featured here earlier today. Not much more than the band in a car and engaging in random shenanigans, it’s vibe’s closer to that of throwaway clips for skate parts than an official music video, giving it a feel that fits White Lung’s damage just right.

Watch “Face Down” below and try not to get arrested this year.

Bad History Month – Staring At My Hands (Stream)

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Jeff Meff has always been an enigmatic songwriter. Hell, that’s a fact that was evidenced by his constantly-changing moniker. Bad History Month, Sad History Month, Fat History Month, it never mattered, the results were always the same; distinctly original and absurdly rewarding. A perennial staple of both the bedroom-pop and basement punk scene in Boston, Merr’s built his reputation on slightly left-of-center songs that all seem to come spilling out to provide some sort of blanket for his astounding lyricism. Of course, true to those styles, none of it gets played up in the slightest; it’s all given equal footing and is intertwined enough to be relatively inseparable. It’s difficult to isolate just one element of the songwriting on display here, the first glimpse at his upcoming split with Dust From 1,000 Years, especially. The song’s entitled “Staring At My Hands” and the split itself is called Famous Cigarettes and will be released via Exploding in Sound. “Staring At My Hands” is about as bare and naturalistic as Merr gets and it’s a jarring change of pace from last year’s manic (and extraordinary) Bad History Month (which was released under the moniker Fat History Month). If Famous Cigarettes lives up to what’s suggested by “Staring At My Hands” and winds up being as thrilling a listen as Bad History Month was, then Merr will have decisively positioned himself as one of the best songwriters currently making music. It’s time to start paying attention.

Listen to “Staring At My Hands” below and make sure to check out his project’s already extensive discography by exploring either of the hyperlinks up above.

Lower – Bastard Tactics (Music Video)

Lower’s Walk On Heads was one of the more exhilarating debuts of recent memory. That EP was a force to be reckoned with and caught the ears of Matador, who wasted no time in signing the Copenhagen band. They’re all gearing up for the release of Seek Warmer Climes, the Copenhagen band’s first full-length. It’s mostly stayed shrouded in mystery, with neither label or band offering much in the way of previews- until today. We now have a song and an accompanying studio video of the band performing “Bastard Tactics”, which features a more focused take on their downtrodden post-punk. “Bastard Tactics” is enough on its own to ensure expectations for Seek Warmer Climes remain very, very high. With Matador acting as the outlet it’ll be released on, it’s also positioned nicely as another important step for the increasing number of hardcore-leaning bands on the DIY circuit playing music this jagged and drowsy. Expect to be seeing a lot more press surrounding this quasi-revival soon- and expect Lower to join Iceage at the forefront of it all.

5 to See at NXNE 2014: Vol. 4

It’s literally impossible to stress just how varied and stacked the lineup for NXNE is this year. Toronto’s going to be overflowing with bands, bands’ friends, and fans of bands in just over a month (moreso than usual). To help make the process of picking out who to prioritize on any of the potential “to see” lists floating around out there, Heartbreaking Bravery is presenting the 5 to See series. Virtually all of the announced bands have been listened to (provided their music was available to listen to online) and things as trivial as genre preference were thrown out the window in order to accommodate as wide of an audience as possible. While the selections for features do still boil down to subjective taste, it’s a broader field than would usual be featured here and, as such, it should be a little easier to take something away from it. All that said, let’s get onto the picks for this series’ fourth installment.

1. Guerilla Toss

What to Know: It shouldn’t come as too much of a surprise that Guerilla Toss are most likely the most insane band at NXNE this year. They’re usually the most insane band on any given bill that they’re on and that alone should make them worth seeing. Putting them over the top is the fact that they’re one of the fiercest art-punk bands currently going and are quickly gaining themselves an enviable reputation based on word-of-mouth from their live shows alone. All of that should make them very hard to miss.

What to Watch:

2. Maica Mia

What to Know: There are certain artists who have one trait that immediately sticks out. For some it’s their instrumental prowess, for others it’s composition, for Maica Mia it’s a voice, Maica Armata’s, to be precise- and what a voice it is. There hasn’t been much in the way of music in this realm, operating at this level since Cat Power’s You Are Free, which was a record worth holding onto for eternity. Maica Mia’s music’s as haunted as it is haunting, acting as an open invitation before pulling listeners in under its subtly menacing spell. Something genuinely special’s happening here and it’d take a fool to miss it.

What to Watch:

3. Low

What to Know: Are Low considered an institution yet? If not, they should be. Often hailed as the act that pioneered (and subsequently perfected) slowcore, the band’s been active for over two decades and have a handful of classics to their name. There isn’t much to be said about them that hasn’t already been said in tones as hushed and sacred as the bands music feels, so just watch the attached video as a pleasant reminder of what this band’s capable of.

What to Watch:

4. Bailiff

What to Know: One of the only Chicago bands making the trek over to NXNE, Bailiff will make sure that city’s represented well. Offering up a blend of left-field pop and cinematic crescendos that are often downright vicious, their set will be a highlight for anyone lucky enough to catch them. For further proof of this, watch the video below. If the last half doesn’t manage to convince anyone that watches it to make sure they’re keeping an eye on their set time(s), then nothing will.

What to Watch:

5. Typhoon

What to Know: Why Typhoon aren’t one of the biggest names in music right now remains a strange mystery. They’ve perfected an incredibly intelligent blend of several styles that are currently at the forefront of popular taste, write genuinely great songs, and are an extraordinary live act. Yet, for whatever reason, they’re still at “best-kept-secret” status. One look at the provided video will likely dissuade anyone from making the mistake of overlooking them.

What to Watch:

Dead Stars – Someone Else (Music Video)

Old Flame Records continue to build themselves one hell of a catalog. Next month the label will be releasing what looks to be the umpteenth great record in the past few years that they can lay claim to; this time around it’s Dead Stars’ Slumber. They’d already teased Slumber with “Crawl”, an undeniably great basement pop song that owed a debt to the late 80’s/early 90’s SST scene as much as what was happening at that time over in New York. A little scuzz and a lot of melody is a happy meeting point to arrive at and it’s where Dead Stars find themselves once again with “Someone Else”. This time around, they’ve paired that song with a decidedly lo-fi video that winks at a long list of their influences. Micah Weisberg and Bill Dvorak directed the clip, which looks like it was shot on Super 8, and features the band miming the song in locations that range from a basketball court to a gas station to a food truck. Improbably, it comes off as more charming than tired, and suits the song nicely. Aspiring DIY directors, look to this clip for proof that you don’t need to worry about a budget. Potential listeners, start paying attention to Dead Stars.

Watch “Someone Else” below and get in a game of pick-up basketball before the sun disappears.

Cymbals Eat Guitars – Jackson (Stream)

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It’s been three years since Cymbals Eat Guitars released their stunning sophomore effort, Lenses Alien. In that time, the various members have been through a lot; not least of which is the death of a close friend, an even that informs much of their forthcoming record LOSE (that’s the incredible artwork up above). Yesterday the band offered up the first look at that record with the unbelievably stunning album opener, “Jackson”, which is already being widely regarded as a strong candidate for song of the year- and it’s not hard to see why. While Lenses Alien proved to be a considerable improvement over their debut, Why There Are Mountains, “Jackson” takes all of the aspects of improvement from that transition and perfect them. “Jackson” isn’t just the sound of a band finding its footing; it’s the sound of a band that fully understands the implications of their work. Frankly, this is one of the fullest and most gorgeously devastating songs to have appeared since The Antlers opened Burst Apart with “I Don’t Want Love“. Grappling with immensely difficult themes (necessary medication, depression, loss, and the correlation of all the connecting threads) in an incredible manner, this is not only one of the best songs to have emerged in the past year but the past few. If all of LOSE lives up to these six jaw-dropping minutes, Cymbals Eat Guitars may actually wind up with a contender for record of the decade on their hands.

Listen to “Jackson” below and remember to love the ones that deserve it as much as possible while they’re around.

5 to See at NXNE 2014: Vol. 3

With the 20th anniversary of NXNE set to take place in a month (the music leg runs from the 18th to the 22nd, though there are film, comedy, and interactive legs before that), it’s time to kick the pre-fest coverage into high gear. After all, there’s a lot to cover considering how extensively packed this year’s lineup is. While Heartbreaking Bravery does its best to place an emphasis on the bands currently engrossed in the DIY circuit, it’s good to remember that most major acts started on the same foot. Which is why in this volume of the 5 to See series, both emerging and established artists will be covered. It’d be downright cruel not to shine a spotlight on someone as artistically creative as, say, St. Vincent. With all of that out of the way (and kept in mind), here are five acts absolutely worth catching next month in Toronto.

1.  Spoon

What to Know: There are few bands out there who have managed to define their identity the way Spoon has. As influential as they’ve become, it’s still difficult to find good bands that sound even remotely like them. It’s not something that should come as too much of a surprise, though, it was a fairly singular style to begin with. If anything, structurally, the band leans closer to classic jazz than anything in the modern canon. All nerve, razor-sharp precision, and erratic blasts, they’ve earned their level of celebrity. They’re worth celebrating for being one of the bands that went against the grain and won. Boasting a remarkably consistent discography (they’ve yet to make anything that comes even close to approaching blandness) and an impressive live show, this is an act that’ll be tough to afford to miss.

What to Watch:

2. Mutual Benefit

What to Know: Jordan Lee’s outfit has now earned itself places on two Watch This installments (Vol. 19 and Vol. 25), earned itself well-deserved raves with last year’s gorgeous Love’s Crushing Diamond, and become an unlikely success story that it’s easy to feel good about. Expect this to be one of the most well-attended (and most haunting) sets of NXNE. One look at the video below should be enough to sell just about anyone.

What to Watch:

3. Spiritualized

What to Know: Ladies and Gentlemen We Are Floating in Space is a tranquil masterpiece. Seeing any one of those songs played live may be just the come-down that’s needed after a day of running between one venue and the other, trying to frantically catch every band possible. It’ll likely be another instance of a set that feels removed from the chaos that surrounds it- and that’s always worth something. For a transcendental quietude, look no further.

What to Watch:

4. Eagulls

What to Know: Eagulls’ self-titled effort from earlier this year has proven to be one of the better records of recent memory and their were countless reports of their live show from SXSW that fell way closer to completely enamored than not. A band that’s very much on the up, their set will undoubtedly draw a pretty strong (and frenzied) crowd. They’ll be a must-stop destination for people looking to get their adrenaline pumping to avoid the risk of exhaustion. It’s hard to imagine that people are sleeping on this.

What to Watch:

5. St. Vincent

What to Know: For once, the collective music industry’s crush on an artist seems completely justified. Annie Clark’s project grows defiantly weirder as it progresses, running the danger of maxing out the art-pop genre and perfecting it once and for all.St. Vincent is currently 2014’s most acclaimed major release and she’s accentuating more weirdness than ever post-David Byrne collaboration. Anyone who champions the filthiest and most disgusting guitar tones and manages to throw as much sludge as possible at what would otherwise be conventionally beautiful pop songs is more than worth anyone’s time. Her set will be a can’t-miss appointment.  

What to Watch:

Fucked Up – Sun Glass (Music Video)

The more that’s revealed about Fucked Up’s Glass Boys, the more interesting it gets. From the sunnier disposition to the fact the deluxe version will come packaged with a second LP that features the drums in half-time, it seems all but destined to wind up a thrilling, enigmatic anomaly in the band’s impressive catalog. “Sun Glass”, in both song and video (the second to be released in advance of the album), continue to support this theory by featuring a band mostly known for their anxiety sounding relatively unburdened and, more than that, having fun. It’s a drastic change of pace that suits them surprisingly well; the big questions get scaled back to make way for some small self-examination and guess what? As fucked up as some things can get, overall everything’s pretty alright. Appropriately, the video’s as sun-splashed as possible, with all involved parties looking like they’ve just gone through a small hell and come out completely rejuvenated; able to appreciate the small joys of life more readily instead of taking them for granted. 

Watch the improbably feel-good video for “Sun Glass” below and let it be a necessary reminder to stop and feel the sun every once in a while.

Lady Bones + Horsehands (Split Review)

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There are times when great music comes out of nowhere and seizes everything in its path without warning, leaving the listener scrambling to catch up with the destruction it left left in its wake. It doesn’t happen very frequently but when it does, it’s sure as hell worth writing about. Enter: Lady Bones and Horsehands, two Massachusetts bands who came together to release a split last year. Unfortunately, the band only managed to get that split out digitally initially. That didn’t stop either from trying to get it out into the world in a physical format, though, which is why (as of last month) the four songs from that split now exist in the world on a few cassettes.

As for the songs themselves? They’re everything anyone should want out of a DIY basement punk release: they’re impassioned, left-field, aggressive, catchy, and bordering on unclassifiable. All four nearly run the risk of toppling themselves over with great songwriting and clever arrangements. Lady Bones’ side kicks things off and the band wastes no time in hurtling themselves towards whatever the nearest object is to them. The nonstop riffing of “Courtesy Moans” growls and races in equal measure, baring an intimidating set of fangs while lodging its claws (read: hooks) deep. “Courtsey Moans” also sets up the woozy “Hoovah” perfectly, which carries over the decidedly darker tone of its immediate predecessor (one that matches the incredible artwork for the release, pictured up above). While “Hoovah” manages to maintain the pace and atmosphere of the split, it also succeeds in showcasing Lady Bones’ range, offering up a slightly more varied take on their approach without losing any impact. If anything, a lesson that can be taken away from this is that it only takes two songs to hear the sound of a band arriving.

Horsehands’ side more than holds up, plummeting the dark atmosphere into even greater depths while continuing to expand the release’s sonic palettes. It’s still an unmistakably Boston kind of sound but, as “Flagstone Sonogram” proves, that’s not something the band holds sacred. Coming off as nightmarish as it is poppy, the song’s the audio equivalent of a kaleidoscopic fever dream that’s terrifying in the moment but revisited fondly later. Again, impressive musicianship is on full display as the arrangements weave in and out of each other with tact and grace, creating a unique sound that complements Lady Bones’ songs without overwhelming them. “Hot Pants Nose Bleed” hits a lot more directly than “Flagstone Sonogram”. proving Horsehands to be another band with dynamic range and an able command over it. It’s a short, sharp blast that rounds out four songs that play into each others strengths as well as any four possibly could while also being incredible as standalones. It’s not difficult to imagine these bands having as much clout as, say, any of the flagship bands over at Exploding in Sound, in the very near future.

Listen to both sides below and make sure both of these bands are on the radar because this is music worth hearing.