Heartbreaking Bravery

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Bent Denim – Good Night’s Sleep (Music Video)

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After a ridiculously packed month of material and a few small campaigns, this site’s nearly caught up on songs and music videos. There are 18 songs to get to and ten videos that aren’t contained in this post’s headline. What is going to be the primary focus of this post is also one of the best clips of the year (and possibly the decade) but we’ll get to that in due time. Before then, we’ll start with the lion’s share of the pre-feature coverage: single streams. Since there are so many, I won’t go into too much detail in listing the attributes that make them great, just know that they are genuinely great. In no particular order those songs are: Young Jesus’ “Dirt“, Fort Lean’s “New Hobbies“, Sweet John Bloom’s “Tell Me“, Chelsea Wolfe’s “Iron Moon“, Battle Ave.’s “Solar Queen“, Diamond Youth’s “No Control“, Colornoise’s “Amalie“, Spraynard’s “Bench“, and The Trendees’ “Motorcycles (Make Loud Noises)“. Joining that already formidable pile were Crosss’ “Golden Hearth“, Jack + Eliza’s “Oh No“, Elliot Moss’ “VCR Machine“, Lull’s “Bubble Tea“, Porcelain Raft’s “All In My Head“, Stranger Wilds’ “Pronoia“, Ezra Furman’s “Lousy Connection“, Mike Viola’s “Stairway to Paradise“, and Inheaven’s “Slow“.

Much like the songs listed above, the music videos over the past week or so have covered a similarly expansive musical spread. Among these videos were Something Anorak’s absurdly lush “I Am A Doctor“, Heaters’ retro dancehall exhibition “Mean Green“, ANAMAI’s extremely unsettling “Half“, Iron & Wine’s surprisingly beautiful indie wrestling fever dream “Everyone’s Summer of ’95“, and Palma Violets’ gleefully raucous “English Tongue“. Also included in this run were Ceremony’s stark career highlight “Your Life In France“, Jamie xx’s slow-burning, jaw-dropping “Gosh“, Death From Above 1979’s wild-eyed Amish party clip “Virgins“, The Rentals’ eerie, foreboding “It’s Time To Come Home“, and “Keep Your Stupid Dreams Alive“-  a comically psychedelic animated adventure from The Prefab Messiahs. And then there was Bent Denim’s devastating, unforgettable “Good Night’s Sleep“.

Abortion has always been- and likely always will be- a difficult subject to address. Treatment either empathetic or unerringly sympathetic has rendered some recent works (like last year’s outstanding Obvious Child or The Antlers’ wrenching “Bear“) into pieces of art equipped with a lasting resonance. It’s the same reason that Ben Folds Five’s “Brick” has retained its value as an emotionally difficult piece of pop culture and it’s why the deeply-felt clip for “Good Night’s Sleep” is nearly impossible to watch without feeling emptied. After one viewing, it’s difficult to return to the video’s thesis shot: a vacant child’s swing, rocking gently in silence. It’s an arresting image that sets the tone for the ensuing emotional onslaught. Intertwining two visions (a la Derek Cianfrance’s masterpiece, Blue Valentine)- one decidedly more hopeful than the other- Bent Denim present a vision that cuts in a manner that’s brutally immediate.

Accentuating the video’s sense of pain and longing is the home video visual aesthetic, which suits the gentle tones of the song to a sublime perfection. All in all, “Good Night’s Sleep” is an intensely compassionate, moving portrait of both sides’ turmoil following what comes off as a difficult decision (one via audio and one through the clip, which features a gripping performance from its lead). In either case, the emotions are so palpable that the whole thing feels uncomfortably voyeuristic and intensely harrowing. It’s a situation that’s more familiar than most parties would let on but it’s rarely presented as delicately or as realistically as it is in “Good Night’s Sleep”. At the clip’s conclusion, to drive everything home in a way that’s definitively final, the viewer’s returned to the thesis image: a lone child’s swing, once projected to be full, once again swaying in silence.

Watch “Good Night’s Sleep” below and order Romances You from the band’s bandcamp.

Speedy Ortiz – The Graduates (Music Video)

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After a small run of music video collections, this post will have the site caught up to the current week’s releases (which will be covered in the ensuing posts).  A lot has happened over the course of April and there’s been a plethora of attention-ensuring music videos. Before diving too far into the clip that earned this headline, though, there are other selections that should be noted. The titles that belong to this category include: Built To Spill’s charmingly goofy “Never Be The Same“, Ava Luna’s sketch adventure “Steve Polyester“, Mac McCaughan’s hypnotically swirled “Wet Leaves“, Moaning’s playfully destructive “The Same“, Rozwell Kid’s gruesomely clever “Kangaroo Pocket“, Nots’ intensely damaged “White Noise“, Public Access T.V.’s meticulously crafted “Metropolis“, Elvis Depressedly’s searing, deeply felt”Thou Shall Not Murder“, Calexico’s surprisingly tender “Falling From The Sky“, The Lagoonas’ skate-heavy “Weird Friends“, and Ed Schrader’s Music Beat’s typically irreverent “Emperor’s New Chair“. A handful of those clips are relatively straight-laced and most could easily be categorized as off-kilter- but none of them (at least in that regard) manage to stack up to Speedy Ortiz‘s “The Graduates”.

Foil Deer continues Speedy Ortiz’s ascension by being a work that felt complete while offering up some of the band’s best standalone songs to date. One of the songs was the defiantly defeatist anthem “The Graduates”. Now, the band- which has always specialized in creating videos that double as absurdist trips– has unleashed the most wildly imaginative clip of their career. The Matthew Caron-helmed clip for “The Graduates” opens on singer/vocalist Sadie Dupuis carefully creating a drug in a laboratory setting before providing some exposition via the song’s first verse and sharing her craft with her bandmates, who take turns ingesting the googly-eye objects one by one. Before long, the band’s hallucinating a literal white rabbit and scheming an expansion to ensure everyone get to revel in the experience.

What follows is an almost uncomfortably disquieting scenario where the band quietly slips the (possibly metaphorical) drug to the patrons of a crowded restaurant (a scene that includes one-time contributors Christine Varriale and Nina Corcoran, who both frequently contribute to the great Allston Pudding). Things take a turn when the white rabbit reappears and is immediately engulfed in a sea of adoration, with the exception of one individual living out this quasi-nightmarish scenario who flees the diner and collapses into a towering snowbank. As a complete product, it’s endearingly bold and reinforces Speedy Ortiz’s strengthening visual aesthetic without underplaying any of their emotional resonance. It also looked like it was an absolute joy to make and the best possible way to kill a brutal snow day in Boston.

Watch “The Graduates” below and pick up a copy of Foil Deer from Carpark here.

Left & Right – 5 Year Plan (Music Video)

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Continuing on with April’s music video catch-up mode allows for the inclusion of a dozen more clips- with one gaining the primary focus. Before getting around to the title included in the headline, it’s time to turn the attention towards 11 other clips worth watching. Among those entries were The OBGM’s snarling “Torpedo“, Weird Wombs’ staged party in “Luxury Punks“, Desparecidos’ typically political “City on the Hill“, and Matthew E. White’s endearingly warm “Feeling Good Is Good Enough“. Expanding the number count for excellent clips were Owen Pallett’s skillfully crafted “The Sky Behind the Flag“, Talkies’ lightly altered “Never Fear“, American Wrestlers’ retro “Kelly“, and Broken Water’s uncomfortably dystopian “1984“. Bringing this contained collection to a close were Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy’s breathtaking “Gloria“, Sam Amidon’s coming-of-age narrative “Blue Mountains“, and All Boy/All Girl’s noir-infused “Lion“. Each of those videos are deserving of thoughtful contemplation but- for this post- the lion’s share of the attention is (once again) being directed toward site favorites Left & Right.

The last time a Left & Right video surfaced, it was met on this site with a ton of praise that held enough water to secure it a spot on our best videos of 2014 list. One of that video’s most distinctly unique elements was that it didn’t actually feature anyone in Left & Right. For the surging “5 Year Plan”, the band flips the script entirely and only allow themselves to be subjects for the lens. In under 100 seconds, the band unleashes a frantically paced performance clip that incorporates some exhilarating editing and genuinely committed performances from the band. Filmed in a manner that brings the feeling of taking in a live performance to the forefront, “5 Year Plan” is a lot more nuanced than it first appears. Sharply accentuating the song’s manic energy, the clip quickly reveals itself to be as intuitive as it is heartfelt, providing Left & Right their second consecutive outright triumph in the music video department.

Watch “5 Year Plan” below and pre-order the LP of Five Year Plan from Old Flame Records here.