Heartbreaking Bravery

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american poetry club – glad to be here, etcetera (EP Review)

In the past week Wendell Borton, Side Eye, Detenzione, Sarah Shook and the Disarmers, Puppy Problems, Soft Fangs/Bellows, Kindling, moshimoss/stabilo, Wilsen, and GRLMIC all unveiled full streams of various types of records. The landmark Our First 100 Days compilation also came to its natural conclusion. On the quieter, less-publicized side of things, american poetry club’s glad to be here, etcetera — packaged with I Love to Surf’s Mantras as a split EP release — was also made available to the public.

A deeply felt bedroom pop recording from Jordan Weinstock (who runs the excellent It Takes Time Records), glad to be here, etcetera is the sound of creative restlessness. Collaborators trickle in, a sample gets used, and one lonely narrative after another crops up. There’s a lot of resentment present in glad to be here, etcetera, typically manifesting in self-deprecation or self-loathing (and never as strongly as it does on the EP’s closing track) but there are softer moments scattered throughout, specifically “how i felt about most things”, which boasts a simplistic but oddly affecting video that’s premiering right here:

More than any other song on glad to be here, etcetera, this one feels complete. Fully formed, deeply felt, and brimming with genuine emotion, “how i felt about most things” grapples with a much larger scale than most of the other songs on the record. Instead of just introspection, it’s a meditation on love, familial love, mortality, aging (and being forced to age), and a handful of other weighty topics. It’s easily the strongest composition on the record (the piano figure at the end is the EP’s loveliest moment) and it suggests Weinstock will be saying a lot more things with american pooetry club in the future. A gorgeous moment on a very strong EP, “how i felt about most things” affirms one basic truth: glad to be here, etcetera is worthy of any serious collection.

Listen to glad to be here, etcetera below and pick it up here.

Big Thief – Mythological Beauty (7″ Review)

Over the past week Littler, Sheer, Cotillon, father truck, Mothpuppy, Anna Altman, Morning Teleportation, The Poison Arrows, Anna CooganAnthéne,  and Aaron Dilloway have all impressed with the various full streams that have been unveiled. Big Thief joined their ranks, revealing the B-side of the Mythological Beauty 7″, effectively teasing Capacity, one of 2017’s most-anticipated albums. Unsurprisingly, both the title track and “Breathe In My Lungs” continue the band’s emergent winning streak in spectacular fashion.

The title track of the 7″ is a characteristically airy affair, showcasing the band’s wide-eyed, widescreen sound, injecting a pop-leaning tenacity into their Americana, invoking nostalgic leanings and forward-thinking tendencies in equal measure. It’s a song that rises and falls like the deep breaths after a long run. Still, this band seems more than ready to run any marathon that comes their way. Even with a song as sterling — and reaffirming — as “Mythological Beauty”, its “Breathe In My Lungs” that makes this 7″ worth the purchase.

One of the band’s most breathtaking compositions, “Breathe In My Lungs” is both Big Thief at their quietest and a song that wisely capitalizes on the natural magnetism of guitarist/vocalist and principle songwriter Adrianne Lenker, who’s lived through an intense amount of life-altering experiences. There’s always been a certain level of pain, acceptance, and guarded optimism present in Lenker’s vocals but they’ve never been clearer than they are on “Breathe In My Lungs”, one of the sweetest and most heartbreaking songs likely to be released this year. As so many of their songs have proven to be already, it’s captivating, pained, and perfect.

Listen to both sides of Mythological Beauty below and pick up the 7″ from Saddle Creek here.


Watch This: Vol. 160

The past seven days have been comprised of great live videos featuring the likes of Trentemøller, Craig Finn & The Uptown Controllers, Slow Caves, Slothrust, Horse Jumper of Love, Helado Negro, Josh T. Pearson & Arianna Monteverdi, Downtown Boys, Nana Grizol, Operators, Sinai Vessel, Pixies, King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard, Tall Tall Trees, The Smith Street Band, RVG, Preservation Hall Jazz Band, Kyle Donovan, Chicano Batman, Black Joe Lewis, Taarka, Nikki Lane, Drive-By Truckers, Real Estate, Peyote Pilgrim, Chicano Batman, Closet Mix, Lithics, Yann Tiersen, The Marias, J. Mascis, Fujiya & Miyagi, and Marty Stuart. As good as those clips were, it was the five below that wound up making the deepest impression. From old favorites to new faces, there’s a decent amount of material to explore. So, as always, sit up straight, adjust the settings, take a deep breath, lean in, and Watch This.

1. Hazel English – Fix (Buzzsession)

Easily — and consistently — the producers of some of the most gorgeous Watch This clips in the series’ history, Buzzsessions hits a new high-water mark with this clip for Hazel English‘s “Fix”. Hazel English has become a staple on this site thanks to the project’s ability to churn out spellbinding pop that combines dream-like atmospherics with aesthetics from several compelling sub-genres to create something utterly winsome. To top off that formula, this is a committed performance propelled even further by breathtaking cinematography; Watch This at its best.

2. Jay Som – The Bus Song (Audiotree)

One of last year’s biggest breakout success stories, Jay Som‘s continued to transform that newfound notoriety into something meaningful. Jay Som recently got to be part of an Audiotree concert series and some enthralling footage of “The Bus Song” has gone public. The band’s in good spirits, there’s an adoring audience, bandleader Melina Duterte is commanding, and everything clicks in just the way a great performance should; this is masterful from all angles.

3. Surf Curse (Jam in the Van)

It’s been a while since a Jam in the Van session has been featured on Watch This but its also been a while since the series has boasted a session this fun. Surf Curse effortlessly blend together elements of surf-pop, basement punk, post-punk, and powerpop to conjure up the type of bright, sunny sound that’s difficult to dislike. Each of these three songs also boast their own brand of weirdness, giving a compelling slant to an aesthetic that’s both familiar and welcome.

4. Fred Thomas – Echolocation (BreakThruRadio)

Changer, Fred Thomas‘ most recent full-length, stands in good shape to be firmly among 2017’s best records as the year winds to a close. Easily the songwriter’s finest effort to date, the record also features some of the songwriter’s most ambitious work. “Echolocation” is one of those more ambitious pieces and Thomas brings it to the BreakThruRadio studios for a gripping performance that showcases his talent for both ability and minimalist composition. Melancholic, haunting, and human, it’s a powerful look at one of today’s greatest songwriters.

5. The Owens – Judgment Day (Allston Pudding)

Capping off the 160th installment of this series is another characteristically strong Basement Session, courtesy of Allston Pudding, by way of The Owens’ aggressively tense and intriguingly gloomy “Judgment Day”. The band’s been kicking around for several years but they’ve never sounded tighter or more in control than they do on their latest, Redemption Day, and that confident precision seems to have bled into their live show as well. Both a perfect document of a band coming into their own and a strong showcase for both Allston Pudding and The Owens, this is the type of clip worth remembering.

Watch This: Vol. 159

Two weeks ago, there was a seven-day stretch of live videos that were released and they included gems from the following: PJ Harvey, Joe Kopel, Bash & Pop, Lisa Mitchell, Active Bird Community, Violent Change, Real Estate, Cameron Avery, The Wooden SkyAla.ni at Château de Fontainebleau, Calexico, Max Richter & the 12 Ensemble, Moon Duo, The Proper Ornaments, Atriarch, Tycho, Aimee Man, Jennifer Niceley, Living Body, Corsicana, Dinosaur Jr., Microwave, Joel Plaskett & Bill Plaskett, Sierra Hull, CAT CLYDE, KOLARS, Tinariwen, Perturbazione, King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard, George Winston, and Preservation Hall Jazz Band. All of those videos were compelling but it was the five below that wound up standing out most. So, as always, sit back, relax, clear your mind, and Watch This.

1. Car Seat Headrest – Working Girl (She’s Not A Single Version) (Conan)

Following last year’s outstanding Teens of Denial, Car Seat Headrest have been gifting the world one outstanding late night performance after the other. Here, the band’s penchant for altering their material for those performances rears its head once again and they transform “Unforgiving Girl (She’s Not an)” into a leaner, poppier, more radio-friendly anthem. It’s an endearing turn from a band that never seems to run out of small surprises.

2. Daddy Issues – Dandelion (Paste)

More than three years into what’s turning out to be an illustrious career, Daddy Issues have been quietly becoming one of the best largely under-the-radar bands touring the circuit.  The band turns in a stripped-back, three-song performance here for Paste and the session serves as a powerful showcase for  their talent. The trio’s got a record looming on the horizon and they’re playing with the confidence of an act who knows they’re on the verge of making the next big step in their personal evolution.

3. AJJ – Junkie Church (SideOneDummy)

Last year, AJJ released The Bible 2, a career highlight on every conceivable level. It’s a record that’s still resonating strongly, suggesting the type of longevity typically attributed to classic records. A large part of this is because of songs like “Junkie Church”, which gets a twitchy, tender performance here in a mesmerizing clip. Driven by narrative prose and feeling, the video more than earns its place as a part of this series.

4. Ty Segall (KEXP)

Anyone that’s seen Ty Segall live knows that the bands he assembles around himself are fully capable of tearing the roof of any given venue. The adrenaline and volume levels are typically off the charts and both band and audience are typically driven into a wild frenzy. Stripping Ty Segall of an energetic audience to feed off doesn’t seem to matter either, something proven by this rousing KEXP session which finds Segall and the band (which includes Mikal Cronin) in rare form.

Drive-By Truckers (Sound Opinions)

One of 2016’s more overlooked records came from the perennially overlooked Drive-By Truckers, who have remained dazzlingly consistent since the departure of their most famous memberAmerican Band, the project’s most overtly political record since their formation, caused an intriguing rift between many of their fans. The band’s politics have virtually always been present on their recorded work but hearing those views articulated so acutely proved to be too much for some, which is a shame. There are deeply important messages littering American Band and they’re all presented with unapologetic clarity, most memorably in “What It Means, something that Patterson Hood and Mike Cooley lay bare in this memorable four-song session for Sound Opinions.