Heartbreaking Bravery

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Haunted Heads – VV (Stream)

Haunted Heads

In 2012 Oshkosh quartet Haunted Heads quietly released their extraordinary self-titled debut, which saw the band perfect the niche they’d carved out for themselves. Mining territory not too dissimilar from The Wrens while injecting it with their own personal brand of impassioned post-punk precision got a lot of people in the area to turn their heads. Haunted Heads wound up being one of Wisconsin music’s best-kept secrets and the band set about to going through the motions of touring behind it and writing more music. Now, for the first time since that release, the band’s offered up one of their new songs, “VV”, which will be available on an upcoming self-titled 7″.

“VV” somehow takes everything that made the band’s debut work so well and strengthened it. It’s a refined version of an already great band that winds up maximizing their energy. While the band already, very arguably, had the best grasp on structural dynamics in Wisconsin, they take it to new levels here. Every palm-mute, snare blast, and buzzsaw riff winds up culminating in something that’s immediately engaging while also rewarding investment. “VV” is a taut tightrope of a song and the band continuously threatens to cut it to pieces themselves before exploding in a brief finale that should catapult their upcoming 7″ to the top of quite a few people’s “most-anticipated” lists.

Hear “VV” below and catch the band live whenever possible.

Pretty Pretty – Leather Weather (Stream)

Pretty Pretty XI

Pretty Pretty has been a name that’s appearing with greater frequency in the “bands to follow” conversation. Apart from their blistering 2012 demo, the band hasn’t released any music. That’s changing soon with the release of their upcoming Leather Weather 7″. From the early sounds of it- and from the way the band’s been playing live– their band’s not going anywhere soon. They’ve upped their fidelity and tightened up their songcraft, as a result their music feels more vibrantly alive than sterile. “Leather Weather” was an easy highlight from their recent set with Swearin’ and the recorded version holds up. All sunny melodies and hard-charging punk-tinged powerpop, the song’s sharp teeth show through its disarming smile. A guitar solo cuts its way into the mix at around the halfway point and reinvigorates the whole thing just as it should be getting old. Following that, the song’s explosive second half indulges in spoken overdubs, a primal bridge, and general fierceness. By the time it plays itself out, the song feels vital enough to make this a must-buy release whenever Mandible and Let’s Pretend deem it fit for release. Keep both eyes peeled for that one- until then just play the title track as many times as possible (and revisit their demo for maximum enjoyment).

“Leather Weather” can be heard below.

Watch This: Vol. 28

Getting Watch This back on pace, admittedly, has been a bit of a struggle. The reasons for this have been exhaustively detailed over the last few but it’s still gratifying to know that consistency is within reach. This will (hopefully) be the last delayed Watch This for quite some time, as it brings the series back to its normal rotation. The series wouldn’t be where it is without some astoundingly great live captures and performances, though, and this 28th installment is no exception. Ranging from old favorites to newcomers to an encore performance from the band that capped off Vol. 27 in a searing blaze, this entry just feels right. So, sit down, relax, take a bite of a vegan-friendly muffin, and Watch This.

1. Emilyn Brodsky – Someone Belongs Here (TCGS)

There are certain artists that can feel like a refreshing breeze rolling off some unnamed ocean and Emilyn Brodsky is one of them. Here, Brodsky takes her ukelele, considerable lyrical talents, and an enviably arresting voice to The Chris Gethard Show for a performance of “Someone Belongs Here”. Apart from not falling neatly into any genre, it’s a powerhouse performance that sees Brodsky adding emphatic exclamation points wherever possible. It’s a startling introduction to an artist that looks to be more than worth keeping up with.

2. Vertical Scratchers – Break the Truth (The Mug and Brush Sessions)

2014’s only half over but it’s already packed quite a few pleasant surprises. One of the most notable was the duo Vertical Scratchers, who had an insanely strong pedigree and debuted a record full of gnarled powerpop jams (Daughter of Everything) on Merge. Here, they take to The Mug and Brush Sessions studio to play through a praiseworthy rendition of “Break the Truth”. It’s a great reminder of an astonishingly good record and showcases the band’s admirable chops in their respective roles, more than earning it a rightful spot on this installment of Watch This.

3. The Orwells – Let It Burn (The Live Room)

Now that everyone’s had time to weigh in on Disgraceland, The Orwells’ latest full-length, the attention can be placed back on what they’re best at: performing. While there’s certainly an apathetic, lethargic, and almost nihilistic quality to the performance of “Let It Burn” here, it somehow feeds into the song and winds up making this whole thing almost terrifyingly bleak but utterly compelling. This is the best version of a paradox imaginable.

4. Wish – Nothing to Say (Exclaim!)

Wish have been a fairly difficult band to find great performance footage of but, recently, Exclaim! made that much easier. Here the band showcases their own brand of post-punk and shoegaze marriage with “Nothing to Say”. It’s a fairly gorgeous clip and the band confidently strides their way through the song leaving little doubt that they’re worthy of the acclaim that will no doubt be coming their way.

5. Big Ups (BreakThruRadioTV)

Yes, they get the 5 slot again. Why? Because these guys seriously aren’t fucking around.

Watch This: Vol. 27

Yes, technical problems are still causing some delays in content being posted- but information’s being gathered at the same rate and pieces are being committed to. There will be a few massive days of content leading up to a very brief hiatus. That hiatus is happening for a very good reason and will lead to the most content from a single even that this site’s ever seen. Long-term solutions are being worked on to prevent these brief delays from happening in the future while great music continues revealing itself at a steady clip. This is why, in the next few days, there will be three Watch This segments, multiple reviews, multiple music videos, and multiple streams. In the 27th installment of this series, a heavy emphasis is placed on the always reliable 3voor12 channel, with two other videos creeping their way through. So, grab a drink, tip it back, sit down, turn up the volume, and Watch This.

1. Mansions – Two Suits (Little Elephant)

Every once in a while a band comes along that defies convention and challenges expectations. Mansions belong in the elite pocket of that group, deftly combining elements of electro-pop with fuzzed out post-punk. By the time the guitarists La Dispute shirt and drummer’s Dinosaur Jr. hat reveal themselves as apt influences for Mansions, the band’s turned a lighthearted pop tune into an absolute bruiser of a track. If this band’s not ready to start making some serious waves then they’re really not showing it.

2. Raein – Dopo di Noi la Libertà (El Cheapo)

Raein’s inclusion here is a bit of an anomaly, as this site’s not normally too heavy on the fiercer post-hardcore-leaning screamo bands but there’s something about the video that just clicks. This is the second video from El Cheap to be featured after the extraordinary one that was put together for Perfect Pussy’s “Driver”– except this time a small venue gets traded for a basement. Raein are at their best when they indulge their more melodic sensibilities, as they do here, while the crowd feeds off of them and supports them as best as they can. Limbs flail, falling drums are grabbed and placed back in position, and everyone shares a moment. It’s essential viewing for anyone looking for the most redeeming aspects of any branch of the live DIY circuit.

3. Speedy Ortiz (3voor12)

There’s a reason why Speedy Ortiz keeps showing up this series; they tour hard and, as this performance should definitively prove, an incendiary live act. It’s going to be difficult to find a video of the band in finer form than they are as they tear their way through a handful of songs that somehow manage to live up to “American Horror”, their ferocious set-opener. At certain points, it’s almost as if you can hear their amps humming, in danger of overheating and bursting into flame. This session’s also notable for including a performance of a great new song called “Bigger Party” that disproves the notion of Speedy Ortiz being a flash in the pan. At this point, it’d probably just be better to stop reading and watch the damn thing already.

4. together PANGEA (3voor12)

Like Speedy Ortiz before them, this isn’t the first time together PANGEA has showed up in a Watch This and it’s unlikely that we’ve seen the last of them. Another great example of a consistently great live band, they run headfirst through a set of songs heavy on 2014 highlight Badillac including the band’s career high points, “Offer” and “River”. By video’s end it’ll be difficult not to feel won over; the handful of songs the band pulls out here are all played with an undeniable amount of verve and passion, cementing their status as one of the more exciting bands on their respective circuit.

5. Big Ups (3voor12)

Sometimes questions get rewritten. This is a fact of life that applies to a lot of things, including music. For example: it’s not a question of if Big Ups are going to blow up- but when. They’ve built themselves a solid reputation in their early goings as one of New York’s most exciting bands. Anyone looking for why can stop reading this now and watch the video below. There, they’ll see the band members lose their collective minds while creating an unholy racket that somehow explodes with the kind of personality and charisma that attracts legions of followers. They’ll watch the band come alive and leave a trail of sonic destruction in their wake. Then they’ll tell literally everyone they know about them so the band can set about achieving world domination. It’s the only possible way this can play out.