Heartbreaking Bravery

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Laura Stevenson – Claustrophobe (Stream)

Laura Stevenson.
More than four dozen items into today’s review of the past week of music and there’s still more than a dozen things left to cover. That’s absurd. It’s also indicative of just how consistent 2015’s been in terms of great new releases. Whether it was a pair of music videos from Pity Sex and Will Butler or what essentially amount to attention-snagging previews from Heavy Looks and Chris Sutter‘s intriguing solo venture Genie’s Organ Recordings. There were also outstanding new songs from Woozy, Three Man Cannon, Holy Oysters, Haybaby, Broadcaster, British Sea Power, Palmas, and Polyon, as well as a deeply compelling full-length from Brooks Strause. In addition to that wealth of memorable material, there was a breathtaking new song from site favorite Laura Stevenson.

Coming off of a career high– 2013’s Wheel, a wonderful record that keeps improving with age– Stevenson had the unenviable task of following up an unlikely genre classic. As each new song from the songwriter’s forthcoming Cocksure trickles out, the more it seems like the record may surpass its predecessor. “Claustrophobe”, the latest single to be unveiled from the record, makes an immediate impact with its stargazing guitar line and insistent piano-plinking. Unfurling with grace and determination, “Claustrophobe” plays to Stevenson’s most anthemic sensibilities, with its monster chorus doing quite a bit of its own heavy lifting.

Propulsive, dynamic, and bittersweet, “Claustrophobe” is the latest extension of a continuously improving winning streak from one of this generation’s more under-appreciated songwriters. If the rest of Cocksure lives up to its previews, Stevenson’s name may be appearing in a lot of desirable places. For now, the best course of action’s to simply enjoy the music and the building anticipation for the October 30 release date. Just hit repeat until that day arrives.

Listen to “Claustrophobe” below and pre-order Cocksure from Don Giovanni here.

Dusk – Too Sweet (Stream)

dusk

Even though more than two dozen of the past week’s items have been covered, there’s still a large handful of releases that haven’t been mentioned. Dusk’s B-side to “(Do The) Bored Recluse” led a formidable pack of noteworthy new songs and full streams. In the former caAtegory, there were memorable new numbers from Florist, Tigue, The Coathangers, Pinegrove, Foxing, Tenement, Historian, Monella, and Total Abuse, as well as a respectable Fugazi cover from The Dirty Nil. The full streams were well-represented with an eclectic trio of releases from Weyes Blood, Operator, and Bad Wig. All of those are, as always, worthy of investment- but it was Dusk’s latest that felt most deserving of this post’s headline.

As previously stated– and evidenced by this very post– any time anything Tenement-related surfaces, there’s a decent chance it’s going to get featured. There has been no other band I’ve recommended more times over the course of the past eight years and the band’s many side projects have warranted a great deal of attention; Dusk is no different. A collective of some of the sharpest musical minds in Wisconsin’s Fox Valley area, Dusk magnify Tenement’s relatively contained classic country influence into something effortlessly convincing.

“Too Sweet” sees the vocal lead shifting from Amos Pitsch to Julia Blair, who has no trouble carving out a commanding presence as the song’s central player. Nuanced pedal steel work and an impressive keys figure drive the song’s open-road feel, while Pitsch’s layered backing vocals inject the song with the kind of character that’s come to define his main vehicle. All the while, the rhythm section remains focused, covering up the song’s saccharine sensibilities with a coating of grit; a trick that plays directly into the song’s lyrical content.

It’s a clear-eyed love song that’s covered in bruises and it exhibits an incredible amount of promise for the members’ latest undertaking. “Too Sweet” also cements (Do The) Bored Recluse b/w Too Sweet‘s status as one of this year’s finest 7″ releases. Make sure it’s in as many collections as possible by following the order link below; this isn’t something to be missed.

Listen to “Too Sweet” below and pick up a copy of the 7″ from Forward! Records here.

Saintseneca – Bad Ideas (Music Video)

Saintseneca I

Saintseneca was one of the very first bands this site latched on to and, subsequently, endorsed at every turn. That streak continued earlier this week with the release of yet another outstanding music video, which highlighted yet another batch of similarly enticing material. In addition to Saintseneca’s latest visual feast, there were also intriguing clips from Little Fevers, Ghosts In Pocket, Paul Bergmann, Cheatahs, Alex G, Everything Everything, Fresh Snow, Eleanor Friedberger, The Bulls, Low, Tall Juan, The Dying Arts, and Majical Cloudz. It was a considerable haul for the format but, while all of those clips are worth watching, it was Saintseneca that made the strongest impression.

Following the slice-of-life aesthetic that the band returned to for “River“, the band indulges their more Refn-like tendencies for the Jon Washington and Zac Little-directed “Bad Ideas”. Wielding surreal imagery, quasi-nightmarish costuming, gorgeous cinematography, and a committed central performance from Little to maximum dramatic effect, “Bad Ideas” is one of the more arresting clips to come along in recent memory.

It’s a presentation that’s loosely connected to the excellent Such Things‘ lofty ambitions, marked by something that approaches being intentionally impenetrable. Beautifully choreographed, crisply edited, and endlessly entertaining, “Bad Ideas” is an instantly memorable clip from a band that’s no stranger to producing unforgettable imagery (there’s a shot of a flare at the 2:38 mark in “Bad Ideas” that ranks as one of the most impressively staged shots I’ve seen all year).

Once again, skateboarding make an inclusion, likely underscoring the band’s continuing narrative centered around motion. There’s not a false note to be found in “Bad Ideas” and the band expertly balances pathos with levity. The end result’s a gripping piece of expressionism from a band that’s operating with an increasing level of fearlessness. Saintseneca’s doing some genuinely fascinating things with their material, we should all just count ourselves as fortunate to be along for the ride.

Watch “Bad Ideas” below and order Such Things from ANTI- here.

Stove – Wet Food (Stream, Live Video)

STOVE

Continuing on with the round-up of the great material to be released over the past week, Steve Hartlett’s post-Ovlov project gets the top billing of a very strong crop. That crop included notable clips from Needs, Lionlimb, and Adir L.C. as well as impressive full streams from Lumpy & The Dumpers, The Winter Passing, and Dead Katz. All of those were rounded out by a characteristically strong grouping of new songs, which came courtesy of Run The Jewels, A Sunny Day In Glasgow, TortoiseSelf Defense Family, The Rashita Joneses, and Ex Hex’s outstanding cover of The Real Kids’ “All Kindsa Girls“.

The (actual) loss of Ovlov was a tough one to shake, though some of its members immediately applied some anesthetic to the wound by diving headfirst into new projects. Most notable was Hartlett’s initially solo expedition, which was then turned into a full band, Stove. Unsurprisingly, Stove retain a lot of the elements that made Ovlov such a respected name. If anything, Stove advances the band’s melodic sensibilities and veers closer towards basement pop than its predecessor; “Wet Food”, the latest song to be unveiled from the band’s forthcoming debut Is Stupider, is the perfect example.

“Wet Food” starts simply, anchored by Hartlett’s pleading vocals and outwardly-reaching guitar figure before exploding into a wall of sound that’s– almost paradoxically– welcoming and intimidating. It’s a scintillating masterclass in dynamics that continues Hartlett’s natural progression as a songwriter, augmented by a decisive sense of identity. Surging, pointed, and exhilarating, “Wet Food” stands as one of the finest entries in Hartlett’s enviable discography. More than that, though, it stands as one of the most tantalizing songs of the year.

Listen to “Wet Food” below and pre-order Is Stupider here. Beneath the embed watch a video of the band performing the song live on day 2 of Exploding In Sound’s extended weekend celebration earlier this year.

Midnight Reruns – Canadian Summer (Music Video, Live Video)

Midnight Reruns IV

2015’s made a habit out of producing incredibly strong weeks for new material and these past five days have proven to be no different. There were strong new songs from Pill, Dead Stars, Car Seat Headrest, Day Wave, Dressy Bessy, Hand of Dust, and Courtney Barnett’s excellent Boys Next Door cover. Winstons and Alex G both unveiled formidable releases and a trio of tantalizing clips from Greys, Braids, and Doe. While each of those titles are worth several glances, it was site favorites Midnight Reruns‘ latest music video to earn this post’s feature spot.

Fresh off the release of Force of Nurture‘s brilliant lead-off number “There’s An Animal Upstairs“, the band returns to their hangout mode in an endearing new clip for “Canadian Summer”. Previously, the band had all but perfected that approach with their memorably freewheeling “King of Pop” music video just over two years ago. This time around, instead of focusing on their friends and their current environment, they celebrate their roots- and drummer Sam Reitman’s father.

Guitarist/vocalist (and principal songwriter) Graham Hunt and Reitman used to practice in Reitman’s father’s home in a variety of projects and crafted the “Canadian Summer” clip as a loving homage to his influence (and his love of boats). Utilizing a meaningful place as the location for the shoot pays massive dividends, lending “Canadian Summer” an immediate, distinctly Midwestern, heart-on-sleeve feel that perfectly complements their musical sensibilities.

The song itself is an absolute monster, whose chorus hasn’t left my head since hearing it over a year ago (it’s become a rightful staple of the band’s live sets). Tempos switch, the song builds momentum, and the footage surrounding it drives home the earnest simplicity of it all. Midnight Reruns aren’t just a band that’s defined by their influences, they’re defined by their commitment to producing material that would make those influences proud. “Canadian Summer” is just the latest example of how well they’re succeeding.

Watch “Canadian Summer” below and pre-order a copy of Force of Nurture here. Beneath the music video, watch a clip of the band performing the song at the sorely missed Crunchy Frog in Green Bay, WI.