Heartbreaking Bravery

stevenmps2@gmail.com | @steven_mps | @hbreakbravery

Summer Cannibals – Full Of It (Music Video)

summercannibals

The second of three videos to be featured in this onslaught of posts comes by way of Summer Cannibals. They weren’t the only ones in consideration for the featured spot, thanks to stiff competition from John Congleton and the Nighty Nite, Sundrones, Andrew Bird, Iskha Dhaaf, Rob Crow’s Gloomy Place, Clique, Thin Blue Line, Cellus Hamilton, and LPIII & The Tragedy. While all of those clips deserve the praise they’re bound to be receiving (or have already received) from other publications, it was Summer Cannibals’ “Full of It” that carved out this post’s feature spot.

“Full of It” boasts a setup that has done before by countless other bands: the band plays a song in various locations, occasionally doing a quirky thing or two when they’re in a new interior. What separates the best examples of these from the countless other videos that have embraced the concept are all present here: commitment, energy, and a genuine sense of fun. Everyone in Summer Cannibals looks like they’re having the time of their life throughout the duration of “Full Of It”, unable to suppress their grins on several occasions. Of course, the video’s aided by the frantic energy of the song it was designed to accompany and each side of the equation seems to feed into the earnest sincerity of their counterpart.

Whether they’re brushing their teeth in the bathroom, headbanging in bed, poking their heads through closets, practicing in the basement, or playing in the living room, there’s a very clear sense of joy running throughout the entire affair. The masterstroke here, and one that helps Summer Cannibals further distinguish “Full Of It” from the long tradition punk bands have of shooting these types of music videos, is framing the whole thing as a quasi-real estate tour of a home that’s up for sale. By the time the whole band collapses into bed together, they’ve managed to paint a very endearing picture of the band’s current era. All told, it’s a perfect piece of art for a band that should be making quite a few converts before the year’s over.

Listen to “Full of It” below and pre-order the record from Kill Rock Stars here.

Ratboys – Not Again (Stream)

ratboys

Last year, Ratboys quietly put out one of 2016’s best records with AOID, a record that’s only benefited from repeat listens (which have existed in abundance). The band’s returned with the playful “Not Again”, a welcome breath of fresh air. Before going too far into the examination  of “Not Again”, though, a handful of other great tunes should be mentioned. Since the start of April, a whole host of worthwhile songs have appeared, including releases from Grieving, Little Scream, Bengtsarvet, Empty Houses, Ultraviolence, LUKA, Dave Harrington Group, The Shaker Hymn, and Greater Pyreneese. Despite those tracks’ formidable strengths, it was Ratboys who secured the feature spot.

AOID saw the quartet sharpening their songwriting approach, fine-tuning how they implemented the folk and Americana attributes of their aesthetic into something that closely resembles basement pop but still manages to sound singular, while faintly recalling some of the finest acts on Saddle Creek, a label that built their reputation on bands who boasted a similar musical blend. “Not Again” finds Ratboys’ songwriting growing even sharper, with the band paying a greater interest to choices in dynamics, resulting in one of their fullest-sounding tracks to date.

Additionally, guitarist/vocalist and principal songwriter Julia Steiner has grown more assured in the band’s narrative approach, concocting an acutely-realized dissection on mortality that functions as a celebration of being alive to experience life in its maddening, confounding, and ultimately reassuring fullness. The lyric set here is just as impressive as the crisp instrumental work and production, with everything coming together seamlessly to ensure “Not Again” its rightful place as the band’s current career highlight.

On a level that’s purely concerned with composition, “Not Again” registers as incredibly thoughtful, even for a band that’s already known for their abilities as songwriters. This is never more clear than in the sudden burst of power that closes the song out, following a quiet, enticing bridge. It’s the perfect way to end a song that may very well signal an entirely new level for the band as a unit, both in terms of artistry and commercial success. In any case, the fact that they’re continuing to make music and continuously improving in the process is more than enough cause for celebration.

Listen to “Not Again” below and download it from the band here.

Lady Bones – Weight (Stream)

Lady Bones II

Continuing on with the impressive slate of notable songs that have come out since the start of April, the focus falls — as it has so many times on this site in the past — on Lady Bones. Before turning the attention towards their outstanding “Weight”, it’s worth casting a look over at great new songs from Lost Boy ?, Melkbelly, Pumarosa, Henry Chadwick, Ali Beletic, Honey Radar, Stone Cold Fox, King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard, FIR, and Keroscene. While those 10 songs were all more than worthwhile, it was Lady Bones’ “Weight” to snag this post’s feature spot.

Last year’s excellent Dying saw the trio continuing to hone their own take on the grunge-meets-post-punk-filtered-through-noise-punk-trappings sound that has become a calling card for many Boston-area bands. Dying saw the band continue to scale back some of the more pop-leaning aspects that populated their split with Horsehands, to considerable effect. “Weight”, once again, finds the band diminishing their more pop-skewing sensibilities in favor of something much more aggressive. Again, it’s a move that pays dividends for the band.

Now, to be abundantly clear, the band hasn’t sacrificed their keen melodic sense, they’ve just inverted it into something that comes across in a much more emphatic manner. On “Weight” they continue to go for their listener’s throats, conjuring up a bruising number that benefits from their murky tones, never quite becoming a sludge song but playing with some of the genre’s more interesting aesthetics. They’ve settled into a confident rhythm and have found what works most effectively for their songwriting and “Weight” is exhilarating proof.

Listen to “Weight” below and pre-order Terse from Midnight Werewolf here.

Minor Victories – Folk Arp (Music Video)

minor victories

After an unbelievably stacked March saw the music video format take off at a sprint, April’s shaping up to be a beast as formidable as its predecessor. Just like the fixed stream posts that will be appearing throughout the rest of tonight, the music video features will all come equipped with shortlists of other titles worthy of attention. In this first round, that included videos from Kidsmoke, Molly, Solids, Journalism, The Bandicoots, The DronesSteady Holiday, Sundrones, Katie Von Schleicher, and Dreamcrusher. While, as stated, those clips were all great in their own right, it was Minor Victories’ most recent music video that made the strongest impression.

Minor Victories have been slowly stringing together an incredibly impressive run of music videos, each one establishing and enhancing a surprisingly artful visual aesthetic. “Folk Arp” returns to the static shot black & white presentation that made “A Hundred Ropes” so striking. However, the similarities between their presentation end at that point. Outdoor samurais are swapped out for a skeleton crew of employees working in a pizzeria. With a shot that uses a boombox as its centering point, “Folk Arp” allows itself to play out quietly, to tremendous effect.

Utilizing the simplest of premises, “Folk Arp” gradually involves into an emotionally involving character study. Accentuated by the slow-burning intensity of the song’s dynamic setup, the secondary action takes on a ridiculously powerful sheen that finds the band, once again, coaxing maximum effect out of a minimalist setup. As the employees go about their daily routine, the shot stays unchanged, proving that there can be motion in stillness. No matter how frequently patterns may seem stagnant, evolution — at least on the most minute level — is occurring. It’s the most mundane of details but “Folk Arp” seems to be arguing for its undeniable importance. A contained, nuanced work, “Folk Arp” deserves to be used as a reference point for years to come.

Watch “Folk Arp” below and pre-order the band’s self-titled ahead of its June 3 release from Fat Possum here.

Parquet Courts – Human Performance (Stream)

parquetcourts

A large handful of great songs have emerged since the turn of April and it’d be a complete disservice to their innumerable strengths to not allow them a mention. As previously stated, these songs will be evenly distributed across all of today’s fixed stream posts. Before putting the latest single from Parquet Courts under the microscope, take a moment to grant the links that are about to follow some attention because they contain great new material from Kalispell, Gingerlys, Christian Fennesz & Jim O’Rourke, Holy Now, Sales, Plastic Flowers, Blessed, Julianna Barwick,  and Julien Baker. Now, onto Parquet Courts.

Over the past few years, Parquet Courts have built their entire reputation on a very particular — and very divisive — sound. The quartet cranks out detached-sounding post-punk at an impressive clip and, somehow, they find a way to imbue each release with a staggering influx of life. It’s one of the more fascinating dichotomies happening on the DIY-leaning circuit right now and as the band’s grown, the disparity between what sounds like apathy and what (admittedly unexpectedly) translates to invigorating energy has only grown further apart. “Human Performance”, the title track from the band’s latest record, is the current apex of this dynamic.

A few members of Parquet Courts had previously hit a similar apex with their finest work as Teenage Cool Kids, a small portion of which was understandably revived for Parquet Courts’ (or, Parkay Quarts’) ouevre. “Human Performance” doesn’t just recall those Teenage Cool Kids peaks, it surpasses them with a bracing surge of confidence from a band that’s mostly come to be known for sounding categorically disinterested in just about everything. For the first time in a long time, Parquet Courts sound actively invested in a narrative on an emotional level, injecting the song with a melancholic touch that suits them astonishingly well.

Tellingly, the band hasn’t just turned in their most impressive musical composition to date, they’ve included what is — far and away — the best lyric set of their still-growing career.  On a purely narrative level, “Human Performance” is relentlessly bleak and tragically poetic. The opening half of chorus alone, comprised of the lines “Witness and know/fracture and hurt/eyes in the fire/blink unrehearsed”, suggests that the band went all in on this one. In prose, tragedy can grow in scope when it grows more acute — especially when done well — simply because of its immediately relatable nature. “Human Performance” not only succeeds on that level but grows even more resonant by exposing Parquet Courts’ surprisingly fragile humanity.

Easily one of 2016’s most unexpectedly brilliant songs, “Human Performance” is also a gigantic stride forward in Parquet Courts’ continuing evolution. From the bold choices that are inserted into the song when they’re least expected (the flute solo being the most obvious example) to the endearing bravery required to be that vulnerable on a very public level, “Human Performance” could very well prove to be a watershed moment for the band’s artistic direction. If it doesn’t usher in a new era for Parquet Courts, at least they’ll have left us this miniature masterpiece.

Listen to “Human Performance” below and order the LP from Rough Trade here.

Casey Jordan Weissbuch – Dream (Stream)

IMG_5391

Very few people working in punk-leaning music today have strung together a track record as strong as Casey Weissbuch. With a career that includes work with the likes of Mitski, Diarrhea Planet, Colleen Green, and Jaill (among a long list of equally impressive artists), as well as projects that operate as a clearer vehicle for his own distinct songwriting voice (Slanted, Gumbus, and Trapped all being fine examples) in addition to running Infinity Cat‘s consistently excellent cassette series. Now, he’s returned with a recording project that boasts his own name and, as a result, scans as Weissbuch’s most personal endeavor to date.

Before diving too much further into that project, it’s worth taking a beat to recognize some excellent songs to have emerged since the beginning of April. A small handful of those songs will be covered in this post while the remainder will be evenly distributed across the six fixed stream posts set to follow this one. Those songs came from the likes of Basement Revolver, Proto  Idiot, Crusher, Margaret Glaspy, Hurry, Ben Lukas Boysen, Gland, Walleater, and Gorgeous Bully– all of which constitute an extremely tempting slew of titles. As incredible as those nine tracks wound up being (and, make no mistake, they’re all very serious contenders), Weissbuch’s “Dream” was the number that secured this post’s feature spot.

“Dream”, appropriately, boasts several of Weissbuch’s most recognizable songwriting traits. A straight rhythm that finds a shocking amount of power in its relative simplicity, a melodic sensibility that’s deeply indebted to the slacker punk movement of the early ’90s, and sharply intuitive atmospheric work that manages to make the smallest details feel like enormous moments. In some instances, Weissbuch’s approach results in brief flashes of material that are as reminiscent of Elliott Smith as they are of Sebadoh.

While Weissbuch has an admirable tendency to embrace his influences to their fullest extent possible, it’s worth noting that he’s also cultivated them into something that can stand on its own. Beyond that, songs like “Dream” are recognizably Weissbuch’s. Every time he’s been granted the spotlight, he’s laced his material with honesty, self-deprecation, and a sense of deceptive liveliness buried in narratives that have a tendency to lean towards the mundane. It’s a formula that’s paid massive dividends for his work as a songwriter in the past and “Dream” sees Weissbuch dangerously close to perfecting its formula.

As an introductory song to a new outlet for Weissbuch, it’s extraordinarily promising. In addition to the song’s thoughtful composition and meticulous attention to detail, when it’s scaled back to an area devoid of critical dissection, “Dream” is still an engaging song. While it certainly rewards investment, it’s nearly as effective as a piece of music that just washes over the listener. All told, it’s a track that thrives off its own modesty but, upon close inspection, betrays something approaching greatness.

Listen to “Dream” below and keep an eye on this site for more updates from the project.