Heartbreaking Bravery

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Beverly – The Blue Swell (Album Review)

beverly

Editor’s Note: There’s been a month-long gap in coverage, thanks to near-incessant travel and other extenuating circumstances. The following run of posts that contain this note will be posts that should have appeared sometime within the past several weeks. Use these posts as an opportunity to catch up to the present release cycle or to simply discover some new music. Either way, enjoy.

When Beverly first started making some waves, a lot of the credit was unfairly being siphoned from Drew Citron and given to Frankie Rose but, following Rose’s departure from the band, it’s been abundantly clear that this has been Citron’s project all along. The project’s latest record, The Blue Swell, follows the breakout success of Careers with grace and panache. The surf inflections have been honed, the retro-leaning bubblegum pop influence has been sharpened, and The Blue Swell comes off as an irrepressible statement of artistry.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, as Beverly is now squarely Citron’s project, the vision of The Blue Swell congeals in a manner that’s far more unified than its still-impressive predecessor. Everything here is also sequenced beautifully, allowing the records strongest cuts to land with maximum impact. One of those highlights comes early by way of the Byrds-ian jangle of “Crooked Cop”, which the band rightfully ran as an early single.

Everything else on The Blue Swell benefits from placement while simultaneously building and/or sustaining the record’s momentum. There simply aren’t any weak tracks on the record, each one boasting the same kind of carefree summery qualities that turned Carefree into a sleeper hit. By the time the climactic finale of The Blue Swell rolls around, most listeners will likely have already lost themselves to the record’s susceptive spell. Dissect everything and The Blue Swell holds up as an exceptional piece of craft, simply let it wash over you and it quickly becomes one of the most charming records of the first half of 2016. 

Listen to The Blue Swell below and order a copy from Kanine here.

Cadet Kelly – Throttle You (Stream)

cadet kelly

Editor’s Note: There’s been a month-long gap in coverage, thanks to near-incessant travel and other extenuating circumstances. The following run of posts that contain this note will be posts that should have appeared sometime within the past several weeks. Use these posts as an opportunity to catch up to the present release cycle or to simply discover some new music. Either way, enjoy.

Two more people that were brought into my life largely because of this site were Charly Bliss‘ Spencer Fox and Stereogum scribe (and A Year’s Worth of Memories contributor) Gabriela June Tully Claymore. Claymore, over the course of time I’ve been fortunate enough to know her, occasionally talked about a new project she’d started with Fox called Cadet Kelly. Over the past several weeks those songs have begun slowly emerging. First came the explosive DBTS:BS3 highlight “Argentina” and now the band has unleashed the 56-second basement pop blitz of “Throttle You” as well.

In just two songs, the trio’s proved to be a powerful force, with “Throttle You” more acutely demonstrating their brute strength. Fox’s scorching guitar work remains as tasteful as ever, going from an intimidating scream to a gentle lull at the flip of a switch, while Claymore’s vocal tendencies — especially in terms of cadence — go a fair distance in separating this band from their peers as something a touch more unique.

Lyrically, the band skews more towards the mundane than the fantastic (a trait that’s served bands like Krill and Tenement very well over the years), ultimately revealing Claymore’s knack for relatable storytelling. It’s worth pointing out, again, that “Throttle You” clocks in at less than a minute because the band packs more into those 56 seconds than most bands can manage in five. Unbelievably, everything hits its mark with enough emphasis to send someone reeling.

“Throttle You” is a formidable song from a band that’s only just establishing its footing. Intense and unforgiving, it demonstrates the kind of long-gestating fury that “Argentina” only referenced in hints. If the rest of the material the band’s been assembling can come close to matching the powder keg that “Throttle You” set off, then they’ll be a very popular talking point on these pages in the future. For now, the best anyone can do is just listen to “Throttle You” and then hit repeat so many times the button breaks.

Listen to “Throttle You” below and keep an eye on this site for more updates on the band in the future.

Diarrhea Planet – Bob Dylan’s Grandma (Stream)

diarrhea planet

Editor’s Note: There’s been a month-long gap in coverage, thanks to near-incessant travel and other extenuating circumstances. The following run of posts that contain this note will be posts that should have appeared sometime within the past several weeks. Use these posts as an opportunity to catch up to the present release cycle or to simply discover some new music. Either way, enjoy.

After making their mark a few years back, Diarrhea Planet have refused to slow down- if anything, they’ve been fearlessly accelerating. Despite a slew of member changes and temporary setbacks, the band’s somehow grown more focused, a fact evidenced by the surprisingly sharp and (of course) ridiculously-titled “Bob Dylan’s Grandma”. The band scales back their trademark bombast here to latch onto something that feels clearer and less manic, which winds up benefiting the band in intriguingly unique ways.

By continuing to enhance their more melodic bent and trimming out the wild excess of their earlier material, the band winds up with a staggering number that somehow manages to feel completely of its time while still paying due reverence to the band’s influences from acts of decades long past. There’s a newfound emphasis on vocal performance and lyrical narrative as well, which suits the band far better than most may have expected.

Of course, there are still theatrics to be found that are peppered throughout “Bob Dylan’s Grandma” (this is a Diarrhea Planet song, after all)  but even those feel remarkably restrained, especially when compared to the vast majority of the band’s previous output. Tasteful dynamics drive and, arguably, dominate the proceedings which never veer too far off of one of the most direct courses the band’s ever set. All of the unexpected choices culminate in one of the band’s best efforts to date, leaving the impression that the band’s far from over and still has plenty of things left to say.

Listen to “Bob Dylan’s Grandma” below and pre-order Turn To Gold from Infinity Cat here.

Casket Girls – Tears of a Clown (Stream)

casket girls

Editor’s Note: There’s been a month-long gap in coverage, thanks to near-incessant travel and other extenuating circumstances. The following run of posts that contain this note will be posts that should have appeared sometime within the past several weeks. Use these posts as an opportunity to catch up to the present release cycle or to simply discover some new music. Either way, enjoy.

One of the most arresting listening experiences I had in 2015 came when Casket Girls released the chill-inducing “Deep Time” and ushered in a bold new era for the band in the process. “Tears of a Clown”, the band’s latest single, proves that “Deep Time” was no fluke; the new single is one of the best tracks the band’s ever released. They’ve found life in embracing a wooziness that informs their hazy, punk-influenced dream-pop in unexpectedly powerful ways.

There are more than a few intangible elements that the band’s managed to harness in their time together and they’ve perfected sharpening those elements into something as extraordinary as it is singular. By injecting their music with an intimidating spikiness via noise, feedback, and untethered aggression, Casket Girls have created their own niche pocket.

“Tears of A Clown” feels even more aggressive than “Deep Time” while still conjuring up something that straddles the divide between tranquil and punishing. Exploring that middle ground is where Casket Girls have found a way to play to their strengths, piling on a formidable amount of hooks in the process (the pull of the “makin’ money, makin’ money” vocal hook here is as unavoidable as it is inescapable). If nothing else, “Tears of a Clown” shows that Casket Girls are rapidly approaching a realm where they can do no wrong; this is about as sublime as it gets.

Stream “Tears of A Clown” below and pre-order The Night Machines here.

Jackal Onasis – The New Ron (Stream)

jackal onasis

Editor’s Note: There’s been a month-long gap in coverage, thanks to near-incessant travel and other extenuating circumstances. The following run of posts that contain this note will be posts that should have appeared sometime within the past several weeks. Use these posts as an opportunity to catch up to the present release cycle or to simply discover some new music. Either way, enjoy.

Exploding In Sound has been carefully assembling one of the strongest track records in music over the past several years, so when they sign a new act to their roster it’s generally worth giving that act quite a bit of attention. The label recently acquired Jackal Onasis, a trio who specializes in creating discordant basement pop that, like much of the rest of the roster, boasts a knack for incorporating a whole host of influences gleaned from the slacker punk movement of the early ’90s.

Their first trip up to bat saw the band releasing the piercing “The New Ron” which exemplifies the exact kind of subversive, technically proficient basement pop-meets-basement punk that Exploding In Sound excels built its name finding. “The New Ron” finds its most defining elements in the nearly overwhelming amount of ideas that are packed into a scant two minutes and 13 seconds.

From the onset, the band’s exploring a surf-like bent before taking an extremely sharp left into a heavy grunge sensibility that quickly evolves into screeching noise-punk. It’s an impressively eclectic mix and, impressively, the band manages to pull it off with aplomb, never once letting the song escape from their grasp. Alternating between an airiness that skews closer to dream-pop and a brute, relentless, near-tribal propulsive angle, “The New Ron” stands out as one of 2016’s most fascinating compositions. In under two and a half minutes, Jackal Onasis make an airtight case for being the kind of band that arrives unexpectedly and blows everyone away.

Listen to “The New Ron” below and pre-order Big Deal Party from Exploding In Sound here.

Twist – Soaked (Stream)

twist

Editor’s Note: There’s been a month-long gap in coverage, thanks to near-incessant travel and other extenuating circumstances. The following run of posts that contain this note will be posts that should have appeared sometime within the past several weeks. Use these posts as an opportunity to catch up to the present release cycle or to simply discover some new music. Either way, enjoy.

Buzz Records’ newest signee, Twist, came charging out of the gate just a few days ago with the surging “Soaked”. The surf-tinged basement pop number comes packed with plenty of punk bite and spells out in plain letters exactly why Buzz took interest in the first place; “Soaked” is of an exceptionally high standard and marries a twinge of noisy dissonance with a formidable, melodic core. Where it sets itself apart is in its retro-leaning pop sensibilities.

Taking an impressive amount of cues from the pop music of the 50’s and 60’s, “Soaked” finds intriguing ways to update those influences into something more identifiably modern. Utilizing subtle touches like the bell arrangements and a quasi-industrial percussion section to carve out its own place among a very crowded field, “Soaked” succeeds effortlessly as a welcoming introductory piece to a new artist that should, hopefully, be receiving a considerable amount of attention.

Sunny, battered, and tenacious in its determination, “Soaked” winds up coming across as something resembling a mission statement for Twist. If the project lives up to this glimpse at the future, then this entry will be far from the last time a Twist song appears in a featured slot on this site.  

Listen to “Soaked” below and pick up the digital single from Buzz here.

Big Thief – Humans (Stream)

big thief

Editor’s Note: There’s been a month-long gap in coverage, thanks to near-incessant travel and other extenuating circumstances. The following run of posts that contain this note will be posts that should have appeared sometime within the past several weeks. Use these posts as an opportunity to catch up to the present release cycle or to simply discover some new music. Either way, enjoy.

Big Thief managed to make an extraordinary impression with “Real Love“, a song that easily ranks among 2016’s finest offerings. All of the early signs and material they’ve been giving so generously has pointed to the inevitable conclusion that their upcoming full-length, Masterpiece, may actually live up to its ostensibly tongue-in-cheek title. One of those pieces of suggestive evidence recently arrived in the form of the band’s latest single, “Humans”.

Like “Real Love” before it, “Humans” coasts on the sort of punk-influenced Americana that Saddle Creek has built its reputation on and Big Thief, now more than ever, look to be one of its biggest success stories (in terms of critical acclaim, at the very least). The dynamic interplay, the unapologetic, vulnerable lyricism, and the earthy tones all elevate each other towards transcendent realms while the  band keeps everything commendably grounded.

Impressively, the band’s also exuding the sort of lived-in confidence that will go a long way in ensuring their name recognition inevitably accelerates to impress levels in the months (and, probably, years) following the release of Masterpiece. “Humans” also proves the bands committed to its own convictions and that their own grasp on their identity is unwavering. Everything about this band, this song, and this record — especially at this stage — is extraordinary.

Restrained, whip-smart, and perfectly composed, “Humans” shows Big Thief — a relatively new band — operating at the peak of their powers, far outstripping the majority of their contemporaries. Even for most veteran bands, succeeding on these levels is an unimaginable task. For Big Thief, it’s a walk in the park. Don’t lose sight of Big Thief’s journey, all of the early pieces continue to point to their ongoing story being one of the most rewarding in all of music.

Listen to “Humans” below and pre-order Masterpiece from Saddle Creek here.

Faye – Ancient Bones (Stream)

faye

Editor’s Note: There’s been a month-long gap in coverage, thanks to near-incessant travel and other extenuating circumstances. The following run of posts that contain this note will be posts that should have appeared sometime within the past several weeks. Use these posts as an opportunity to catch up to the present release cycle or to simply discover some new music. Either way, enjoy.

One of 2016’s most intriguing emerging acts made their mark with the memorable post-punk cut “Chow Chow“. That band, of course, was Faye, who have once again surfaced to offer up the haunting, meditative “Ancient Bones”. This time around, the band switches their focus from immediacy and directness to a more slow-burning, dynamic approach that pays dividends in unexpected ways. “Ancient Bones” is among the most gripping songs of the year’s post-punk output but it never sacrifices the amount of heart that propelled “Chow Chow” into a feature spot only a month ago.

The decision to embrace restraint and let the song slowly unfurl winds up benefiting the band’s intelligent melodic sensibilities while displaying an air of maturity that suggests they’re far more than a carefree party band. “Ancient Bones” also turns darkly introspective in its chorus, focusing in on a fractured relationship with a laser-like intensity that brings up the possibility the band may eventually be responsible for some of the strongest lyrical narratives of DIY punk’s slew of noteworthy emergent acts.

It’s a deeply promising song that demonstrates a tremendous amount of potential, that the trio’s capitalized on as much of it as they have already is nothing short of astounding and “Ancient Bones” serves as remarkably compelling proof.

Listen to “Ancient Bones” below and pre-order Faye here.