Heartbreaking Bravery

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Prison Whites – Deceiver (Stream)

prison whites

From the end of last week to the start of this week doesn’t exactly constitute a lot of time but it’s more than enough to ensure a heap of great new songs find release. A few of those songs were Little May’s gorgeous ambient pop masterclass “Seven Hours“, Loma Prieta’s vicious return to form in “Never Remember“, Psychic Blood’s bruising “Blur World“, and “Glasgow Coma Scale Blues“, the latest triumphant reunion track from The Libertines. Låpsley’s serene “Hurt Me“, Lushes’ cock-eyed “Circus” (which very nearly took this post’s featured spot), Longings’ compellingly bleak “Vacancy“, Palace Winter’s atmospheric “Menton“, and Terry’s gleefully off-kilter “Talk About Terry” topped off the short stretch’s haul in style. As great as all of those songs were, it was the lead-off single from Prison Whites’ forthcoming debut that hit hardest.

Clocking in at a time that starts to approach five minutes in length, “Deceiver” is the sound of a band who refuse to quit- which is odd, considering the band’s essentially just starting. Impressively, the trio never loses an ounce of the infectious energy of their ferocious basement pop attack. Armed with a serious amount of tenacity, a sugar-coated pop sensibility, and an unmistakably punk attitude and energy, Prison Whites have hit the ground at a fall sprint with no intention of looking back. What’s most impressive isn’t the band’s immediate sense of velocity but their consistency. They’ve somehow already managed to find their footing.

After two and a half minutes of some of the most explosive basement pop to emerge all year, the band dives headfirst into a bridge that creates some tension around their madness, only to have that tension steadily build back up into a frenzied hurricane of a final section. It’s expertly crafted, it feels concise despite its length, and its completely exhilarating. Manic and bloodthirsty, “Deceiver” is one of the most startling warning shots not just of 2015 but of recent memory. Don’t let this band out of your sight (and if you blink, prepare to find them miles ahead of where they just were). Fat Cat will be releasing the band’s tape at some point in the near future. Buy it as soon as it’s available.

Listen to “Deceiver” below and keep an eye on this site for more updates on the band.

NE-HI – Turncoat (Music Video)

NE-HI I

Over the past five days or so, there’s been quite a few great pieces of art to emerge out of the shadows and a small handful of them wound up being music videos. Vacation’s minimalist art clip for “4341“, Miserable’s head trip of a video for “Orchid“, Courtney Barnett’s characteristically charming “Nobody Really Cares If You Don’t Go to the Party“, Literature’s bookish, winking “The Girl, The Gold Watch and Everything“, and The Underachievers’ fascinating triptych for “Chasing Faith”, “Rain Dance”, and “Allusions” all qualified. Still, despite all of those strong offerings, nothing managed to grab my attention more than NE-HI’s new clip for “Turncoat”.

One of the first great surprises of 2015 for me was NE-HI’s explosive set in the blistering cold of an outdoor stage in their hometown of Chicago for The Empty Bottle’s annual Music Frozen Dancing festival. Since that day, the band’s been making a series of perfectly-timed power moves and capitalizing on their growing momentum. While their self-titled effort from last year has remained a strong release, the quartet’s latest material has tapped into something that NE-HI only provided a few faint, scattered hints at- and in doing so, they’ve elevated themselves from a good band to a great one.

For their latest trick, they tapped Ryan Ohm and Jackson James from Weird Life Films to create a clip to accompany their latest single, “Turncoat”, and the end result is surprisingly beautiful. Deeply atmospheric, cinematic, and wielding a genuine sense of place, “Turncoat” is a stunning portrait of a very specific sect of America: the upper Midwest’s suburban working class. For me- as someone who grew up in small town Wisconsin and was raised by two teachers- every shot rings true and comes across as lovingly articulated.

There was always a beauty to be found in an environment that occupied a middle ground, providing space for both unlimited promise and inevitable decay. In those situations, you have to force your own narrative through-lines and, accordingly, the clip for “Turncoat” simply features an unnamed man going fishing and nothing else. It’s in those small moments where life gains a certain amount of meaning, pushing contemplative nature to the wayside in favor of simply being. Ohm and James effectively convey this through a series of world-building shots intercut with their main character going through the basic motions that a fishing trip entails, all the while backed by a lilting NE-HI track that ranks among the band’s very best. It’s a deceptively large concept that allows both the video and the song to take an equal amount of focus, while all of the tangential elements factor into an elegant execution that feels akin to magic.

Watch “Turncoat” below and keep an eye on this site for more updates on the band’s future projects.

Tenement – Tenement (EP Stream, Review)

Tenement II

Between the end of last week and the start of this one, this site hasn’t ran a lot of material. A lot of this is due to some upcoming live coverage and the editing that live coverage entails. As is always the case, though, an eye was kept on the emerging content and everything that registered as great was compiled into a list for future reference. Of those lists, the full streams may have been the most stacked, featuring no less than three year-end contenders, including Tenement, this post’s featured EP. For full-lengths, it’d be hard to do much better than the staggering 1-2 punch of the full-length debuts from site favorites All Dogs (Kicking Every Day) and Dogs On Acid (Dogs On Acid) though that didn’t detract from the great new records that started streaming from Frog Eyes, Willis Earl Beal, Fake Palms, i tried to run away when i was 6, Sea Lion, and Tamaryn. Then, of course, there was the re-release of the extremely limited run self-titled tour tape that was released earlier this year by a band that played a crucial role in the development of this site’s functionality, aim, and preference: Tenement.

Following a pattern that emerged around the time Napalm Dream was released, the band’s been ushering in new music with an impressive recklessness. While this time around the band opted to release a behemoth of a double album in Predatory Headlights, rather than opting for the individual split as they did with Napalm Dream and The Blind Wink, they’ve still got material to spare. After kicking this year off with their outstanding early career compilation Bruised Music, Volume 1 (a collection I had the distinct privilege of contributing a piece to for the zine insert that served as the record’s liner notes), they’re restlessly pushing forward with an appropriately ragged five-song collection that they recorded back in February. As mentioned earlier, the tape was held to a run of between 50-60 copies and only made available for their tour with Priests and Vacation.

Tenement’s always been characterized by their steadfast adherence to a DIY ethos but that aspect of their identity has never been so fully reflected by any of their releases than it is here, which is likely why the band opted to make it a self-titled. As the collection plays out, there’s a very real sense that these songs were crafted in a manner where the band felt unburdened by any lingering expectations. Of course, it’s still a Tenement record so the level of songwriting is exceedingly impressive and more than a little indicative of what makes the band one of today’s absolute best.

In a sense (or a few, rather), Tenement‘s actually more attuned to the sensibilities of guitarist/vocalist Amos Pitsch’s Dusk side project. The playing- and feel- from song to song is a lot more loose than Tenement songs tend to wind up being upon their official release and carry on with an easygoing naturalism that renders Tenement an endlessly listenable EP that’s as perfectly suited for open roads as it is a quiet night in. Curiously, all the songs are also titled after a line from the respective choruses or refrains, which is something the band’s generally avoided in the past, which also seems to solidify the fact that this is one of the most direct releases the band’s ever issued. While Pitsch still writes with the flair of a classic Americana novelist, he’s substituted a lot of his more obtuse looks with an emphasis on his lyrics’ more earnest aspects and it suits these songs to perfection. Bassist Jesse Ponkamo and drummer Eric Mayer, as ever, continue to prove their worth as one of today’s most valuable rhythm sections, keeping these songs grounded while still managing to lend them a widescreen appeal, some light menace, a wide-eyed sense of wonder, or an air of gritty determination.

Taken as a whole, Tenement is one of the more unexpected entries in the band’s catalog but it also may be its most quietly rewarding. Favoring understatement over exhilarating moments of power almost exclusively throughout its sub-14 minute run time, Tenement puts a microscope up to one of the band’s more under-utilized modes and results in an unlikely, willing EP that seemed fated to drop off into obscurity just a few short weeks ago. Thankfully, that’s not the case and now anyone who cares has access to “Everyone To Love You”, “Underworld Hotel”, “Witches In A Ritual”, “The Strangest Couple In Love”, and “Roads To Home”. Easily one of the band’s more enigmatic moments, Tenement‘s also one of 2015’s finest releases. Now that it’s finally here, don’t let this one fade into a footnote; turn it up and hit repeat when it’s done.

Listen to Tenement below and pray that it eventually gets repressed in some format. In the meantime, revisit the rest of the band’s unbelievable discography at their bandcamp and watch this site’s own collection of live Tenement videos below the stream.