Heartbreaking Bravery

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Big Thief – Paul (Stream)

big thief

After a small avalanche of post, this will be the last in a series focused on catching the site up to the current release cycle in three major categories. Music videos are up to date, full streams are up to date, and now, individual songs will be as well. Throughout the past few days, we’ve been given great new tracks from Magic PotionTiergarten, Jo Passed, and Alex Calder. We’ve also been given another masterful tune from Big Thief, who are on a pre-release run that’s all but guaranteed their upcoming full-length, Masterpiece, will be a breakaway success.

Ever since “Real Love” landed the band in the 50 Best Songs of 2016’s First Quarter, they’ve been making all of the right moves. “Humans” saw them scale back the grandiose scale of both “Masterpiece” and “Real Love” to gripping effect and “Paul” continues to flirt with the divide between statement and understatement. “Paul”, maybe more than any of their songs to date, draws its life from its more subdued nature, playing up the nostalgic quality that helps define Masterpiece.

As always, the band’s grasp on their identity — and their dynamics — is exquisite, with each second of “Paul” registering as intensely thoughtful. Reveling in the song’s quiet nature allows the quartet the opportunity to make the brief silences of “Paul” into a chilling instrument of its own, driving up the song’s tension and wistfulness at roughly the same rate. The harmonies in the chorus provide the song with a beautiful flourish, underscoring the relationship at the crux of the central narrative like its a fondly-remembered dream.

Once again, Big Thief has gifted us a breathtaking glimpse into what’s shaping up to be one of 2016’s best records. Every second of the material the band’s released thus far has been meticulously composed, emotionally resonant, beautifully produced, and undeniably powerful. Subtle, nuanced, and surprisingly direct in its examination of fractured psyches, lovelorn tendencies, and some darker Southern Gothic sensibilities, “Paul” is as arresting as they come and all but cements Big Thief’s status as one of 2016’s most important emerging acts. More than a dozen consecutive listens into this review, it’s also the kind of song that’s proving nearly impossible to take off repeat.

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

Mercury Girls – All That Heaven Allows (Stream)

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The past few months have been particularly generous in the new songs department and the past few days have added gems from Petite League (ft. Jamie Brooks), Naked Hour, Yucky Duster, and Grieving. One of the most invigorating, newly released songs came courtesy of Mercury Girls. The band had already unveiled the shimmering A-side, “Ariana“, to their forthcoming single and now they’ve unveiled the equally strong B-side.

In 2015 the band topped this site’s Odds and Ends list and they’re making a memorable showing with Ariana b/w All That Heaven Allows that may land them another December spot seven months down the line. “All That Heaven Allows” is another piece of sublime perfection from a band that’s making a case for being one of the best (and most subversive) powerpop acts currently making music.

Only a small handful of songs into their career and the band’s already established themselves as a legitimate powerhouse. “All That Heaven Allows” is another track that surges and spirals towards the stratosphere, while maintaining its convictions and effortlessly relaying a sense of purpose. Both the bands grasp on dynamics and their guitar work remain as tasteful as ever, as the soaring vocals (and vocal melodies) continue to be unforgettable.

What Mercury Girls are doing right now is the kind of thing that only happens a few times throughout the course of a generation. Their current run is as close to flawless as any band’s likely to come and each new entry has surpassed exceedingly high expectations with an astonishing amount of ease. Graceful, sweet, and transcendent, “All That Heaven Allows” is another victory lap for a band that seems to be constitutionally incapable of disappointment. More than a few dozen listens in, the track still manages to invoke a surprising emotional response that ensures its rank as one of 2016’s most vivid highlights.

Listen to “All That Heaven Allows” below and pre-order their upcoming 7″ here.

Happyness – SB’s Truck (Stream)

happyness

Now that the impressive slate of recent music videos and full streams have been exhaustively covered, it’s time to turn the attention towards individual songs. At the end of the week there were strong offerings from Dyan, Dentist, Cat Be Damned, and Kino Kimino. However, it was a curiosity from Happyness that managed to hit hardest, so it claims this posts feature spot.

Resuming the kind of carefree coasting that’s made their output so far so irresistibly charming, Happyness once again manages to hit a variety of sweet spots as they combine appealing bits of Americana, slacker pop, and proto-punk into a characteristically inviting tapestry. “SB’s Truck” is the kind of song that invites you to get lost and then world-builds so effectively that when it finally ends, it’s somewhat of a disappointment because, well, it ends.

Dissect the song’s narrative and it continues to reward; the song’s built around the little-known fact that celebrated playwrite Samuel Beckett used to give André Rene Roussimoff (more commonly known as André the Giant) to school as a boy because he was too big to fit into a car. It’s the kind of story that exudes the warmth that so frequently defines Happyness’ work. The pairing of the narrative with Happyness’ musical sensibilities is, in a word, perfect.

Whether “SB’s Truck” comes to be regarded as a summer anthem for the literary-minded or eventually, inevitably, becomes a celebrated anomaly of the band’s catalog doesn’t hold any importance. What counts is that for the four and a half minutes the song exists, nothing else seems to matter. A restrained piece of subdued, inspired brilliance, “SB’s Truck” shows that Happyness aren’t going away anytime soon and that they’re still finding ways to improve.

Listen to “SB’s Truck” below and keep an eye on this site for more updates on the band.

Lonely Ghost – Funereal (Album Review)

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Now that the site’s all but caught up to the current release cycle, it’s time to bring the full streams portion of coverage up to speed. There were four formidable releases from All People, Tim Heidecker, Sunwatchers, and Head Wound City that were released over the past few days but it was the unexpected submission of the full-length release from Lonely Ghost that claimed the feature spot.

A bedroom pop project from Kenny Forrester, Lonely Ghost is the type of act that revels in conjuring up half-haunted soundscapes and then warping them into a state where thei severe damage becomes a quintessential part of their identity. From the onset of Funereal, it’s evident that the record’s striving for something singular, nearing an intangible transcendence in the process. Opener “Hidden” packs an emotional wallop that the ensuing nine tracks support and carry through to Funereal‘s gentle, contemplative post-storm finale suite.

Forrester imbues every second of Funereal with a raw emotionalism that allows each individual composition to hit with maximum impact. Several of the slower cuts on Funereal slow-build so effectively that it seems unlikely that they’ll ever stop improving on revisits. When Lonely Ghost opts for something more immediate, like the shoegaze-leaning “Slow Down”, the results are no less spellbinding.

Ultimately, the entire collection stands as a fairly remarkable statement from an emerging artist who’s decided to carve out a niche space in compelling ways. That Funereal navigates as much ground as it does, as successfully as it does, is cause for celebration. It’s also a record that rewards investment on a spectacular level, which is somewhat surprising given how fascinating it is on first listen. In short, Funereal is extraordinary.

Listen to Funereal below and download it from the band here.

Faye – Faye (EP Review)

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Over the past few days, the site’s main focus has been getting back up to speed on the year’s most current releases. To that end, this post (and each of the four posts that will shortly follow) will include a quartet of notable releases from the past few days. This time around, those releases are full streams that came from the following artists: Bird of Youth, Braids, Mutual Benefit, and a split EP with two great sides from Naps and Yikes. It’s Faye, once again, who claim the featured spot.

The trio’s gearing up to release their debut EP and their early offerings have already managed to make a very serious mark. Faye‘s closing two tracks, “Chow Chow” and “Ancient Bones” have already been praised on this site. Those two tracks constitute an extraordinary finale that set very high expectations for the rest of the EP. Fortunately, the opening trio of tracks lives up to the exceptional promise that “Chow Chow” and “Ancient Bones” all but flaunted.

“Yellow Canary” kick things off with a spiky, hook-laden mid-tempo run through some grunge-leaning post-punk. “Teacups” and “Vowels” follow suit, with each establishing their own set of very distinct characteristics. For as specific as Faye’s tastes run, it would’ve been easy for the band to fall into the trap of repetition. Instead, each track on Faye registers as a standout by virtue of being so clearly defined in their separation. It’s a remarkably nuanced and startlingly mature piece of work from a young band. Expect very big things for their future (and play Faye as loud as possible).

Listen to Faye below and pre-order the tape from Tiny Engines here.