Heartbreaking Bravery

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Shannon & the Clams – It’s Too Late (Stream)

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After a strong start to the week, this Tuesday saw the flood of releases pumping the brakes a little but still delivering a handful of great songs and music videos. The former category saw the release of Summer Twins’ “Demons“, Lou Barlow’s “Wave“, Julien Baker’s “Something“, Woozy’s “Venom“, and Destruction Unit’s “The Upper Hand“, while the latter category lodged fascinating new entries from Kagoule, Brick + Mortar, and Gangrene (ft. Sean Price and Havoc). While all of those managed to pack a formidable amount of strength, today’s focus fell to an old site favorite: Shannon & the Clams.

Already several releases deep into a legendary career that’s amassed the band a feverish cult following, Shannon & the Clams are showing no signs of slowing down. On “It’s Too Late”, the characteristically charismatic second single off the band’s forthcoming Gone by the Dawn, the band demonstrates a casual mastery of their craft. Utilizing the many strengths of Shannon Shaw (the band’s bassist/vocalist) to perfection, “It’s Too Late”- over the course of it’s two-minutes-and-change run-time- sees Shannon & the Clams taking what feels like a well-earned victory lap. There are no stakes on “It’s Too Late”, just an almost sheepish carefree vibe that suits the band’s retro-leaning mold to a tee. Irresistibly light, fun, and perfect for the last days of summer, “It’s Too Late” is the band’s latest nod, wink, and smile. Don’t let this one disappear.

Listen to “It’s Too Late” here and pre-order Gone by the Dawn from Hardly Art ahead of its September 11 release date here.

Saintseneca – Sleeper Hold (Stream, Live Video)

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Now that we’re nearing the final quarter of the year, the already-stacked release schedules are starting to get even more dense as a lot of bands and labels make power play bids for album of the year consideration. One of the titles slated for that wave of new material is Saintseneca‘s just-announced Such Things, an announcement which came with an accompanying single: “Sleeper Hold”. Before getting around to that song, though, it’s worth taking a step back to cover a handful of other notable releases that are well worth your attention.

For single streams, there was Dogs On Acid‘s shape-shifting “Ideal Decanter“, Atlantic Thrills’ surf-indebted (and retro-leaning) basement pop highlight “Bed Bugs“, Connie Constance’s glitchy, slow-burning “Euphoric“, Orchid Mantis’ tantalizing “It Was Gone“, and Century Thief’s slowly unfurling “Pillar“. Additionally, there were outstanding new songs from the likes of Swings, Funeral Advantage, Promised Land Sound, King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard, and Sea Lion. Full streams, while not even close to matching the numbers of the single streams, unearthed one of the year’s best albums in Pleasure LeftistsThe Woods of Heaven and another beautiful full-length in Totally Mild’s Down Time. Sleepy’s extraordinary self-titled EP (another potential year-end contender) rounded the category out with style. Two music videos- Ali Barter’s “Hypercolour” and Valley Maker’s “Only Friend“- made sure that the visual format was very well represented.

Back to the feature: Saintseneca’s latest, “Sleeper Hold”, an even punchier take on the band’s Appalachian folk than anything found on their last record, the exemplary Dark Arc. Having just seen the band take apart Baby’s All Right a little over a week ago, the new material that was played live has been resonating for a short while. “Sleeper Hold”, the lead-off single to the band’s forthcoming Such Things, capitalizes on that resonance by virtue of strength and polish. Immediately employing the under-utilized and extremely effective dynamic of a back-and-forth vocal lead between the band’s two primary voices (those of Zac Little and Maryn Jones), “Sleeper Hold” strikes a refreshingly bold look for the band.

All of the hallmarks that made their previous work so compelling are still firmly in tact, from the smart compositions to Little’s twisted, hyper-literary wordplay. Some of the surprising amount of weight to be found on “Sleeper Hold” is due to the conceptual design of Such Things, which largely grapples with the purposefulness of existence. “Sleeper Hold”, in particular, is about the designs of perception and consciousness. For such heavy material, the music itself is impossibly light, buoyant, and deceptively carefree. Every element of “Sleeper Hold” works incredibly well and reaffirms Saintseneca’s status as one of today’s finest acts. Propulsive, smart, and irresistible, “Sleeper Hold” is the perfectly crafted warning shot of what promises to be one of this year’s finest albums.    

Listen to “Sleeper Hold” below and pre-order Such Things from ANTI- ahead of its release date here. Underneath the player, watch a recent video of the band performing the song at Baby’s All Right.

Quarterbacks – Live at Baby’s All Right – 8/13/15 (Pictorial Review, Live Video)

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Four bands that have been featured on this site before filed into Baby’s All Right last Thursday and saw the Brooklyn venue nearing capacity once again. Site favorites Jawbreaker Reunion got things off to a strong start with a set that leaned heavily on some genuinely great unreleased material but still made room for a few cuts off of Lutheran Sisterhood Gun Club   (one of this site’s picks for the best albums of 2014 list). Every song in the band’s set was played with an unwavering passion (a recurring theme throughout the night) that makes them one of the more exciting live prospects currently playing out.

Sitcom, the solo project of Jake Lazovick, was playing without the full band that had previously accompanied him leading up to his stop at Baby’s- the last show of the band’s tour with Bellows- but gained another musician for the evening. Sitcom’s songs are acutely observed tales of existence that gained a sharp edge when presented in the decidedly minimal trappings. Lazovick’s stray-dog vocals and genuine pathos (something balanced out by Lazovick’s sharp-witted banter) made the performance feel utterly human on top of an already strong sense of intimacy. Captivating in it’s own right, it also wound up being the perfect lead-in to Bellows.

The Oliver Kalb-led project’s been a staple of The Epoch for years (something Kalb wrote about in great detail for our A Year’s Worth of Memories series) and has recently started coming into its own. As evidenced by the band’s excellent Tiny Desk session, there’s a fiercer connection at the crux of the group than usual, probably thanks in part to their involvement with each other’s other bands (a congratulations is due to Bellows’ keyboardist/vocalist Gabrielle Smith, whose Eskimeaux project was recognized by Rolling Stone earlier today). This was my first trip to see Bellows and while I’d been lightly familiarized with the band’s live show, nothing could have prepared me for the grounded ferocity of the band’s set.

From the first song onward, the band frequently dipped into a startling heaviness that the recorded work never really even lightly touches. Eliciting more than a few chills as their set progressed, the band also had to deal with a faulty amp that would occasionally cut out- something that somehow rendered their bursts of heaviness even sharper and more damaged. It was a deeply-felt, exhilarating performance that wound up stealing the night and subsequently guaranteeing that this won’t be the last time a live Bellows set is featured on this site.

Still riding high on the unexpected success of their first official full-band release, Quarterbacks took to the stage in front of an attentive audience with close to nothing to prove.
After putting out one of the best records of 2015’s first half in their extraordinary self-titled effort, the band have been tirelessly promoting the new material with an intimidating road schedule. All of their touring’s paid off as the band’s been able to cultivate and refine their live show, which still manages to come off as both compelling and as a delightful mess. Harnessing all the momentum of a runaway train, guitarist/vocalist Dean Engle and his band tear into these songs with a vicious force, never bothering to cast a look back once they’ve started sprinting.

Towards the end of their set, Engle announced it’d be the band’s last appearance for a while so they could take a break to focus on their lives but when they left the stage, it was abundantly clear that they were leaving things on a very strong note (or maybe it was some feedback). More importantly, they were leaving the door wide open for the possibility of future work and an exciting return. All things considered, it was a near-perfect closing to another extraordinary show.

View a full gallery of the show here and a video embed containing a handful of the evening’s performances.