Heartbreaking Bravery

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Mulligrub – Canadian Classic (Stream)

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Pop-punk is a maligned genre- and, disappointingly, it’s earned the majority of its scorn by virtue of being largely tepid and uninspired. Ideas are recycled to an alarming extent, the execution’s often overly-bombastic and instantly forgettable. That’s why bands like Lemuria, The Frankl Project, Sundials, Little Lungs, PUP, and the bands that exist (or existed) alongside them are embraced like breaths of fresh air; they’re bands that subvert the genre so completely it’s difficult to define them as part of the genre. Grit, humility, and a sense of empathy help separate them from an overcrowded field- and half the time, they come off as punk bands with an easily traceable love for powerpop anyway. All of the artists that occupy that position have created a niche that labels like Salinas frequently celebrate.  Add Winnipeg’s Mulligrub to that list immediately.

Last month, the trio released the Canadian Classic single online, which is a two-song effort highlighted by the title track, in advance of their forthcoming full-length. “Canadian Classic” announced Mulligrub as a band who has remarkable control of their craft, navigating a variety of passages with a clear-eyed confidence that should serve them extraordinarily well. Musically, it’s closest spiritual kin is likely Radiator Hospital at their most unabashedly poppy, which is really just a slightly longer way of saying that it’s a song that should definitely be listened to. Additionally, there’s a prominent 90’s alternative influence that skews a little closer to Swearin’, solidifying it as a can’t-miss prospect. “Canadian Classic” is backed by “Chicken”, a subtle slow-builder that showcases the band’s range and cements their spot as an act to watch. So, start listening, start watching, just don’t make the mistake of glazing past this band or these songs.

Listen to Canadian Classic below and snag a copy of the band’s upcoming full-length at the first available opportunity.

Lost Boy ? – Hollywood (Stream)

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As mentioned previously, this site’s month-long dedication to festival coverage meant missing a lot of great material during that interim. While a few have since been covered, there’s still a lot to catch up on- and one of the select few ranking among the very best, once again, belongs to a Double Double Whammy release (in conjunction with Old Flame Records, no less): Lost Boy ?’s “Hollywood”. The song’s the first single to be released from the band’s forthcoming full-length, Canned.

Brimming with an unfettered energy, “Hollywood” starts with a sprint and doesn’t concern itself with looking back. As much an exercise momentum as it is a cathartic release, the song’s sent the levels of anticipation for Canned skyrocketing to heights completely unprecedented for the band. If “Hollywood” and the recently unveiled Canned B-side, “Graves“, are any indication, this is a record that will have a lot of people talking- and willfully damaging their speakers. As a stylistic marriage, there are few things that work better than off-kilter basement pop and spiky post-punk- and Lost Boy ? already seems to have that blend perfected. Watch out for this band.

Listen to “Hollywood” below and pre-order Canned here.

PURPLE 7 – Wise Up (Stream)

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Among the few who have heard (and loved) it, there aren’t very many records to have been released since the turn of the century that can come even close to touching Hot New Mexicans’ should-be-classic self-titled sophomore effort. Hot New Mexicans was that band’s final release before their bandleader, Patrick Jennings, moved camp from Athens to Bloomington and joined up with Will Statler  (of Defiance, Ohio and Landlord) and Chris Mott (also of Landlord) to form PURPLE 7. Following their excellent five-song effort, Volume Two, the band’s released Jewel Finger in a limited edition LP run, which marks their first full-length to receive a physical release.

Quietly self-released just a little under a month ago, Jewel Finger is an absolute stunner and, from top to bottom, one of 2014’s very best. More than just a sum of the band member’s previous projects, they’ve already established an original voice of their very own. While the influences of their past work are still very clearly present, they’ve tapped into something else that feels entirely new, despite still trafficking in left field basement pop. From the attention-ensuring opening songs to the absolutely gorgeous title track and the arresting closer, this is a full-bodied work from a band confident enough to present themselves in a completely unguarded fashion. Most representative of all of this, though, is the raucous “Wise Up”.

“Wise Up” seems to stand out in a record literally full of highlights thanks to featuring an even more manic energy than the songs that surround it. From the stop/start rhythms to the buzzsaw riffs, menacing bass line, and impassioned vocal delivery, it’s the point where Jewel Finger shifts from truly great to completely transcendental. Continuously working in new ideas with verve and panache, “Wise Up” refuses to relent from being as gnarled, and as engaging, as possible. It’s the defining moment of a genuinely great record and deserves to be heard by anyone with even just a passing interest in the genre. This is a masterclass in songwriting and cements PURPLE 7’s growing importance- and reputation. Modern music doesn’t get much better than this.

Listen to “Wise Up” below and make sure to order a copy of Jewel Finger before they’re gone- this is a record that needs to be in as many collections as possible.

Dude York – Believer (Stream)

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Burger Records has been on an unflagging hot streak for longer than this site’s existed (hell, the first batch of Heartbreaking Bravery content was practically dominated by the label- from the very first post to a write-up dedicated specifically to the label). This year they’ve more than sustained their momentum, working on joint releases for recent releases from renowned artists as varied as Guided By Voices and  Jenny Lewis. While those are, undoubtedly, high profiles, the label hasn’t lost sight of their roots. Dude York’s Dehumanize is full and cathartic proof of that fact.

Working alongside Help Yourself Records, Dehumanize is getting the full Burger treatment thanks to the fact it’s full of songs like “Believer”, a rollicking basement pop anthem. Characterized by a love of DIY punk and classic powerpop, “Believer” is a perfect introduction to a band that already seems ready to arrive. It’s brash, it’s catchy, and it earns the hell out of its nearly-five-minute running time, cruising by with an effortlessness and confidence that’s usually reserved for seasoned veterans. Every section’s monstrously enjoyable and illogically catchy, marking Dehumanize as an absolute must-buy from one song alone. Don’t get caught sleeping on this, it’s not worth missing- and it’s perfect for the height of summer.

Listen to “Believer” below and order the cassette from Burger here.

The Midwestern Charm – Bloodbath (Stream)

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Over the past few years Milwaukee-via-Oshkosh act The Midwestern Charm have gone through their fair share of changes. Most immediately evident, though, is the fierceness that characterizes their just-released sophomore full-length, Growing Pains, that was almost entirely absent from their self-titled debut. Trading a prominent Ryan Adams influence in for a sound more indebted to The Lemonheads was a move that paid off, as Growing Pains is easily the band’s finest material to date. While the whole record’s worth several spins, it’s the lead-off track that really stands out.

“Bloodbath”, more than any other song on Growing Pains, is indicative of what the band’s like in a live setting; relatively unhinged, not afraid of feedback, and unashamedly ragged. All of it’s anchored by an emphatic vocal performance from bandleader Connor S. La Mue, whose frequently trenchant lyrics help elevate The Midwestern Charm past a lot of their would-be peers. While it did take La Mue years to settle on finalized lyrics for “Bloodbath”, there was never a bad version of the song. As the band evolved over time, so did “Bloodbath”, with special attention being paid to Ryan McCrary’s searing lead guitar work. Ultimately, the song wound up not just being a personal best for the band but one of the best songs to come out of WI this year (incidentally, a few members of The Midwestern Charm are also directly responsible for a few other truly great WI-based songs from this year thanks to their status as members of The Sleepwalkers). “Bloodbath” is basement pop at its finest.

Listen to “Bloodbath” below and make sure to catch The Midwestern Charm live as soon as humanly possible (a list of tour dates can be found here).

Vacation – Every Direction (Stream)

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Vacation seem to have earned themselves a reputation as being an increasingly popular pick for “your favorite band’s favorite band” and it’s not difficult to figure out why. Each of their releases has been embraced by their respective community as nothing less than celebratory affairs. Add the fact that a few of the members of Vacation also spend time in Tweens, helping their wide-scale exposure out, and all of the pieces are already in place for new levels of success.

After Candy Waves  topped a slew of genre specialists “Best of 2012” lists, the trio had already carved out a name for themselves. Tweens’ unlikely (but entirely welcome) 2013 breakout raised questions of what the implications would be for Vacation. As of a few days ago, the band’s provided a definitive answer in rousing fashion with a demo for “Every Direction” and promises of a subsequent full-length and tour. Most surprisingly, however, is the shift from a trio to a quartet, and a switch at drums. Make no mistake, though, this is still very much Vacation, now just a little more fleshed-out. Hell, “Every Direction” just might even be their finest outing yet. All cutthroat riffs and irresistible melody, it’s an immensely effective tease for whatever they’ve got in store. Whatever it is, it’ll almost certainly be more than worth the now-stratospheric levels of anticipation.

Listen to “Every Direction” below and keep a keen eye (or two) on the band’s facebook page for any further updates.

Mannequin Pussy – Kiss (Stream)

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Kiss Me Tender is the impending EP full of scorchers from the quickly-ascending Mannequin Pussy. While it’s already available digitally, the UK-based Crumb Cabin Records will be releasing a bundle package that pairs it with an EP from Dog Legs and comes with an accompanying zine (this package is limited to 50 copies and costs around $17 to ship to the US). So, now the big question: why should anyone care? “Kiss”, the opening track from Mannequin Pussy’s side, answers that question with no shortage of immediacy.

“Kiss” is a blistering shot of hardcore-leaning noise-punk. It’s delivered with a startling amount of conviction and self-awareness, cementing Mannequin Pussy as an act to watch. While the song’s over in 70 seconds, not a moment of it is wasted. One of the most visceral songs to emerge out of 2014, “Kiss” has no qualms about coming out swinging. Backing up the musical intensity is the directness of the incredibly arresting lyrics (that last stanza, especially, is a killer). Most importantly, it does everything an opening song’s supposed to do- and Kiss Me Tender doesn’t allow its pace to let it up once “Kiss” has set the tone for what’s to come. Stunningly unhinged, it also works as the perfect mid-release switch-over blast following Dog Legs’ excellent side (as a fun bonus, both bands cover a song from each other’s catalogs that aren’t included on the split) of the bundle package.

One of 2014’s most outstanding DIY releases, either with the bundle or without, this is a necessary item for any serious record collection.

Listen to “Kiss” below and make sure to keep both eyes peeled on Mannequin Pussy, it’s a name that should be appearing in a lot more places in a very short amount of time.