Heartbreaking Bravery

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Mean Creek – Forgotten Streets (Stream)

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Eulogizing someone or something you love is always a difficult task that’s fraught with intensely personal emotions, whether it be a friend, a pet, a show, or a band. In this case: site favorites Mean Creek. While the quartet certainly had their reasons to disband, it’s still a difficult loss because they filled part of an important void by maintaining genuine authenticity. Before they unplug their amps and tear down the kit one last time at a show next month with Meat Puppets and Soul Asylum, they’re providing one last gift: “Forgotten Streets”. It’s a song that encapsulates what made the band such an invigorating act from the outset and an impassioned, rousing death rattle. Before diving too far into its details, though, it’s worth taking a step back to appreciate another round of standout tracks.

Among the bands responsible for those tracks: Mean Creek member Mikey Holland’s solo project, The Dazies, providing some light in the twilight phase of his main vehicle’s career. That particular track, “Piece of My Love“, is a fiery jolt of basement pop with a healthy dose of punk attitude. Joining that song were an onslaught of other purchase-worth numbers: Martha’s jumpy “The Historian“, Moaning’s emotive “Misheard“, 100 Watt Horse’s tender “Julie“, Pet Symmetry’s kinetic “Gone, Gone, Gone (Even Further Gone)“, Dog Party’s thrashing “Peanut Butter Dream“, Pavo Pavo’s kaleidoscopic “Ran Ran Run“, and Froth’s strangely cinematic mid-tempo basement punk highlight “Turn It Off“. All of those songs are worthy of a great deal of attention and will likely wind up on similarly strong records. However, to bring them into sharper focus here would likely function as a disservice to the heart of this post: Mean Creek’s departure.

When this site first started covering Mean Creek more than a year ago, a lot of words were spent trying to deconstruct the band’s sound into individual elements because they occupied a unique platform. While their may have been bands that have succeeded in combining decades’ worth of musical cornerstones unique to popular American culture. Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers are just as likely to be brought up as a potential influence as Hüsker Dü or Gram Parsons. In “Forgotten Streets”, they bring their distinct blend of those genres back to the forefront at a pace that suggests they were already taking advantage of the freedom that comes with evading the chains of industry expectation. Guitarist/vocalist Chris Keene has never sounded as enlivened as he does in the half-screamed raw-throated vocals on display here; all searing intensity and total fearlessness. Similarly, the band behind him deliver a collectively jaw-dropping performance that suggested the band still had a lot to say, making their departure even rougher.

There is some comfort to be found, though, in knowing that the band went out on top. 2014’s extraordinary Local Losers was easily the band’s most celebrated record to date and it earned that level of recognition through the band’s own conviction. Mean Creek are leaving behind an incredible body of work and “Forgotten Streets” comes off as an exhilarating victory lap. Right down to the very last words that Mean Creek will ever commit to a studio recording (a pointed plea for continuation, however brief, followed by the most intense moment of musicality the band’s ever recorded), this is a band that gave me- and so many others- something to feel good about celebrating. They’ll be missed but, hopefully, their musical legacy will last long enough to serve as inspiration to emerging bands decades down the line.

Listen to “Forgotten Streets” below and revisit the band’s enviable discography here.

White Reaper – I Don’t Think She Cares (Stream)

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It’s been a while since regular coverage of new releases cropped up on this site (part of which was due to other obligations), which is why the majority of tonight will feature an influx of posts touching on some of the pieces of art that made the past week so great. For this post and the majority of the posts that will be following this entry, the focus will remain on songs. All of them are songs worth adding to your collection and the first of which, Jason Isbell’s breathtaking “24 Frames“, boasts a lyric set so tremendous that it’s difficult not to expect his forthcoming record will be a critical darling. Dignan Porch’s “Out of the Picture” continued Art Is Hard’s white-hot winning streak, Sam Evian’s “Cherry Tree” further illustrated the respective individual talents that Celestial Shore‘s been producing, Angelic Milk put the listening world on notice with the razor-sharp shard of basement pop in “IDK How“, and A$AP Rocky furthered his case to be considered one of rap’s most compelling acts with an unlikely collaboration that features Rod Stewart, Miguel, and Mark Ronson (the endlessly smooth “Everyday“). Public Access T.V.’s tantalizingly light “All We Want“, Envy’s sprawling “Footsteps in the Distance“, Dikembe’s slow-burning “Surfed in the Loft“, and Magic Potion’s endearing basement pop tune “Booored” round off the first featured set. As always, I wish I could devote more than just a few words to each title but there simply isn’t enough time to cover everything in more exhaustive detail. At this point in time, the system in which the headline is determined is nearing a lottery system- and White Reaper beat the odds this time out.

Make Me Wanna Die” had already made a sizable impression and stoked the fires of anticipation for White Reaper’s upcoming full-length; “I Don’t Think She Cares” ensures that trajectory continues its ascension. “I Don’t Think She Cares” is another furious burst of basement punk with strong pop sensibilities coated in layers of fuzz, providing the song an even stronger punch. Incendiary riffing, absurdly melodic synth lines, and a vocal take so impassioned you can practically feel Tony Esposito violently shaking, it’s another perfect representation of the band’s supercharged aesthetic. Clocking in at a precise two minutes, it makes the most out of every single second, expanding the song into something surprisingly dynamic for such an abbreviated running time. Decades worth of punk cornerstones, past and present, collide in an exhilarating, celebratory whirlwind. Now two songs into their rollout campaign, White Reaper Does It Again is shaping up to be a potential career-maker for the emerging upstarts. All that’s left is to see if the main course can live up to the appetizers.

Listen to “I Don’t Think She Cares” below and pre-order White Reaper Does It Again from Polyvinyl.