Heartbreaking Bravery

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The Freezing Hands – Good Morning Takeout (Stream)

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From Bent Shapes to Vertical Scratchers, 2014’s been surprisingly plentiful in the powerpop department and now The Freezing Hands have thrown their hat into a pleasantly crowded ring. The Tuscon act are currently enjoying a joint release through the powerhouse teaming of Burger (which is running a pressing that’s limited to 50) and Recess Records, which should already be a sign that this is a release worth wearing out. Impressively, the release getting this treatment, Coma Cave ’13, is The Freezing Hands’ debut, marking them as a band that’ll immediately have a fair amount of expectations to live up to.

Fortunately, “Good Morning Takeout” proves, with no reservations, that they’re worthy of the prestige of both labels involved in pressing and distributing Coma Cave ’13. It’s an exhilarating, expertly-constructed song replete with a sunny demeanor that carries the song towards something more transcendental than just a great from-the-cuff outside pop song. A harmonica provides some welcome texture while the melodies keep “Good Morning Takeout” coasting along, completely carefree. While that’s a tricky area to perfect, it’s something that Coma Cave ’13 sustains for its duration, making it one of 2014’s more memorable summer releases.

Listen to “Good Morning Takeout Below” and make sure to pick up a copy here.

Ex-Hex – Beast (Stream)

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Mary Timony’s career so far is loaded with material that influenced- or will influence- generations worth of musicians. This being the case, any time a Timony project releases new material it’s worth paying attention to- mostly because it always seems to end up as being good as “Beast”, Ex-Hex’s most recent sampling from their upcoming debut album Rips. Following the excellent pairing of “Hot and Cold” and “Don’t Wanna Lose“, “Beast” lives up to the extraordinarily high standard set by those two tracks.

Where “Beast” sets itself from the other two is in the gleeful pacing and shred-happy riffing. Propulsive in all of the best ways, it’s another song that could easily work as a summer soundtrack years into the future. There’s a certain timelessness to it that’s not uncommon to Timony’s work, which is part of what makes the bulk of it so memorable. A few different decades are evoked thanks to the influences that “Beast” wears so proudly on its sleeve; 70’s surf, 80’s  proto-punk, and 90’s powerpop being the big three. It’s a massively enjoyable way to spend a few minutes and ensures the promise of Rips being a record worth owning.

Listen to “Beast” below and pre-order rips directly from Merge here.

Girl Tears – Candy Darling (Stream)

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Near the end of July, Girl Tears put up the first glimpse at their upcoming full-length, Tension, with “Candy Darling”. It’s a charging bit of scuzz-punk that barely eclipses a minute in length and announces the Los Angeles-based trio as an act worth paying a lot of attention to. Tension will be the band’s debut record and they’ve secured a release through the excellent Sinderlyn Records, furthering their prospects at making an impact on an audience far greater than the one they’re enjoying now.

“Candy Darling” itself a snarling bit of lo-fi outsider punk mastery; micro-punk at its finest. Operating like a cathartic joyride, “Candy Darling” practically flies off the handle from the moment it starts, barreling forward with a natural intensity characteristic of the best kind of immediacy (one that sticks). Blink and it’s done, so make sure both eyes are wide open because this is something that deserves to be witnessed.

Listen to “Candy Darling” below and make sure to pick up a copy of Tension when it’s released on August 26.

LVL UP – I Feel Ok (Stream)

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LVL UP are drawing closer to the release date of Hoodwink’d, an album that’s loaded with the band’s best material to date. To celebrate its impending release, and to tease just a little bit more of how insanely good this thing is, they’ve offered up another glimpse in the form of the rollicking outsider pop tune “I Feel Ok”. It’s a deceptively complex song that manages to underscore just how capable this band is of writing great songs to anyone willing to invest the time in deconstructing all of its individual elements.

There’s a feeling of ease and weightlessness to “I Feel Ok” that’s not uncommon for LVL UP but taken to new heights on this particular outing. From the song’s ornate percussive features to the twinkling guitar tones and floating vocal melody, it’s an outsider pop gem courtesy of a band that seems to have a ceaseless supply of them. “I Feel Okay” also stands out for stripping away a lot of the band’s gnarled fuzz (something they hit new heights with on “Soft Power“) without shedding any of LVL UP’s immediacy or innate charisma. Never over-reaching or overbearing, “I Feel Ok” is the sound of a band living up to increasingly heightened expectations with aplomb. What’s almost terrifying about the pairing of “Soft Power” and “I Feel Ok” is that between the two of them, they’ve barely scratched the surface of what LVL UP is capable of.

Listen to “I Feel Okay” below and make absolutely certain to pre-order Hoodwink’d from site favorites Double Double Whammy (a label run by two members of LVL UP) here.

We Need Secrets – How You Remember (Stream)

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At the end of last month, We Need Secrets (the project of Halifax-based Chad Peck) released Melancholy and The Archive, a shoegaze-heavy debut LP that’s been four years in the making. Anytime that amount of time’s invested in a single release, expectations are going to be considerably heightened. Fortunately, Melancholy and The Archive immediately obliterates any lingering doubts with its scorched-earth opener “How You Remember”.

Ferocious and delicate in equal measure, the oneiric “How You Remember” demonstrates Peck’s near-alarming levels of understanding in regards to genre, composition, and control. Even from the record’s first few seconds, a brief stretch of quiet ambient noise that gets obliterated when everything kicks in, it’s evident that there’s something rare happening with the music in Melancholy and The Archive. Effortlessly commanding attention, Peck (who plays next to every instrument throughout the record) holds nothing back from the get-go, going full-throttle and never letting up over the course of the record. It’s a wonder his name’s not one that’s gained greater familiarity, which is a possibility that’s not entirely out of the question if We Need Secrets is consistently held to a standard this fully-realized.

Listen to “How You Remember” below and then let the rest of the record play through- it’s easily one of 2014’s most stunning surprises. Order it here.