Heartbreaking Bravery

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Ex-Vöid – Boyfriend (Music Video)

Last week there were exceptional songs from Bing & Ruth, LIFE, Drahla, Active Bird Community, Remember Sports, Oddnesse, Animal House, Therese Lithner, Lilith, Natalie Prass, Proud Parents, The Goon Sax, RVG, Beach Skulls, Winston Vista,  and Co Sonn. There was also the re-introduction of two former members of site favorites Joanna Gruesome, one of which — Alanna McArdle — being the vocalist that played a pivotal role in their rise to prominence.

That reintroduction comes with the arrival of Ex-Vöid, a power trio that falls neatly in line with where McArdle and Owen Williams left off with their old project, bringing the exact same kind of kinetic energy back to the table. Twee indie pop sensibilities once again infiltrating a noisy post-punk lens in “Boyfriend”, the band’s irresistible new single. Taking cues from a perfectly curated list of sources, from Sarah Records to Flying Nun, Ex-Vöid rekindle a spark that was seemingly extinguished when they departed Joanna Gruesome.

“Boyfriend” is short but it’s sharp, sinking its hooks in deep enough to leave the kind of marks that lead to fondly-recognized scars. The into is a cavalcade of noise but that disintegrates into sunny melodies in an instant, the band launching into that familiar but distinct sound, bridging their influences to their own singular identity. It’s a thrilling listen that offers up a few more surprises as it goes, offering up enough grace notes to portend a bright future for a voice that we should all be glad has rejoined the table.

Listen to “Boyfriend” below and pre-0rder Ex-Vöid from Don Giovanni.

Childish Gambino – This Is America (Music Video)

It’s rare and only granted to something genuinely masterful but once in a while, this site will deviate from its ethos of supporting the kind of bands that could genuinely use as many platforms as possible to elevate their work to a more widely-accessible world and turn its lens towards a piece from an artist that’s already a bona fide celebrity in the mainstream music world. It hasn’t happened since Run The Jewels’ Lakeith Stanfield-starring “Close Your Eyes (and Count To Fuck)” but late Saturday night Donald Glover donned his soon-to-be-retired Childish Gambino guise and released the earth-shattering music video for “This Is America”.

Directed by Hiro Murai, one of Glover’s most trusted collaborators and his go-to helmer for Childish Gambino clips, the video starts off innocuously enough, featuring not much more than a man picking up a guitar on a chair to sit down and play while Glover begins dancing, while a gorgeous swooping pan shot from the camera conveys a strange jubilance. It’s shot through with some weird energy and staged in a surprisingly grandiose fashion, bringing the work of Murai’s contemporaries Daniels and Nabil to mind. In a mere matter of seconds, the symbolic flourishes begin to start poking through.

Glover struts his way through a series of flashy moves, stopping for an odd pose while the camera pulls back to reveal a man whose head has been bagged sitting on a chair. In that fleeting moment, the entire mode shifts violently, to a genuinely startling effect. It leads to a low-wide two shot (above) that has to be a strong contender for the Shot of the Year in any film-related medium, Glover pulling a gun on the anonymous man and striking a Jim Crow pose before blowing his brains out.

In a second, the music swings from Gospel-tinged Africana to dark trap, with Glover announcing “This is America.” From that point forward, the clip focuses an unfixing gaze on America’s ills, some specific to the black community (the stigma attached to depression hitting especially hard), others a commentary on how those things are processed by America at large. Violence has become reduced to frivolity, suicide constantly takes place on the very fringes of the public’s eye, death’s white horse is coursing through an increasingly violent, troubled world and the self-appointed protagonists of unspeakable cruelty can’t evade their own actions.

All of this and more is taken on in “This Is America” which somehow intertwines those incredibly significant topics with micro-commentaries on the state of rap, touching on everything from Chance’s meticulously crafted “good man of God” persona to background lyrical riffs and allusions to rappers like Kodak Black (all while enlisting a stacked feature roster comprised of Young Thug, 21 Savage, BlocBoy JB, Rae Sremmurd’s Slim Jxmmi, and Migos’ Quavo, then pointedly reducing their contributions).

At every single turn, some wildly unpredictable, some dangled like bait (the introduction of the clip’s youngest cast members evoking the exact same dread that the opening episode of The Wire’s fourth season inspired) of “This Is America” there is fear, chaos, and odd bursts of joy, unaffected, desensitized, and painfully reminiscent of what modern society has become. There’s a war on religion, religion’s being co-opted for self-serving, people die, and still, our most pressing concern is keeping up with the latest dance move.

Not just a cold, unfeeling look at the concept of minstrelism, “This Is America” lights a match and shines a shred of light on everything before letting it bloom into a fully fledged spotlight. Murai’s direction and immaculate staging driving home a non-stop arsenal of memorable moments that are uncomfortable to consider and dissect. It’s masterful work that ranks among Glover and Murai’s finest work together, which is especially notable considering they’re both in the midst of producing some of the most exceptional installments of television’s Golden Era with their work on FX’s Atlanta.

Here, they lay the weight of America’s burdens on the table, twisting them into an impressionistic splatter paint canvas that cuts nerve after nerve with deadly precision. While some of Childish Gambino’s earliest work remains both inconsistent and problematic, it’s good to see Glover growing as a thinker, a musician, and an activist. He’s seemingly acknowledged his own complicity with “This Is America” and found a way to condemn not just that past, but that entire path that’s been walked and continues to be walked by so many.

Glover and Murai also, for the first time, have finally figured out how to effectively translate Glover’s ridiculously clever sensibilities to the visual realm. Every shot in “This Is America” is nuanced and offers up a ridiculous amount of elements to dissect, some with multiple meanings. The layering in the clip is absolutely staggering and suggests that Childish Gambino, after an erratic run, has found a voice in its twilight days. If this is how the project goes out, it’ll have been more than worth the journey.

Watch “This Is America” below.

Dominic Angelella – Road Movie (Album Review, Stream)

A handful of full streams worked their way out into the world last week with Harry Permezel, Gulch, High Sunn, GRLWood, Giraffes? Giraffes!, Skating Polly, Benjamin Lazar Davis, and Braids all having hands in the action. Dominic Angelella was among the acts to put out a new record, offering up the outstanding Road Movie.

Angelella’s “Red State”, an exceedingly clever bit of basement pop, was recently featured on this site and effectively set the tone for Road Movie. All of Angelella’s work as a multifaceted songwriter and musician come into play on Road Movie, showcasing the kind of talent that’s only obtained by the kind of well-rounded journeyman who have spent as much time in the DIY punk and bedroom pop circles as the top 40 pop and rap side of the music world.

Road Movie, understandably, is far more modest than the works of Angelella’s more high-profile collaborators (Kendrick Lamar, Tinashe, and Lil B, among others, have benefited from his contributions as a session musician) and much more in line with the bands that have counted — or currently count — him as a member (Hop Along, Lithuania, Cold Fronts, and mewithoutyou all belonging to that group). Introspective and freewheeling, Road Movie is a deceptively polished work from a master songwriter, someone that’s earned a deepened understanding of their craft.

Breezy, well-paced, never too flashy, full of whip-smart turns of phrases, smart compositions, and an easygoing charisma, Road Movie is the kind of record that entices the listener to keep exploring. It’s a multi-layered work, for all its low-key charm, that strengthens in ratio with the investment its granted. A perfect soundtrack for the warmer seasons, Road Movie is the kind of small gem that always deserves to be heard.

Listen to Road Movie below and pick it up here.

sewingneedle – feel good music (Music Video)

Last week a slew of music videos came out and some of the finest came from Floating Room, Bodega, Petal, Brooke Annibale, TENTS., PILL, Maria Kelly, Sad Baxter, Mikaela Davis, Frankie Cosmos, Protomartyr, Young Fathers, The Plainviews, Elke, Parquet Courts, Olden Yolk, and Dott. Each of them are worth multiple viewings but sewingneedle earns the feature here with their eerie clip for “feel good music”, a foreboding song off their upcoming full-length, user error.

Every once in a while, there’s the kind of band that kicks around in murky shadows, refining a mixture of sludge, grunge, and post-punk. Boston built an entire scene around that specific genre but the latest band to forge an identity on the back of that kind of darkly-tinted magic comes from Boston’s far neighbors to the (Mid)West in Chicago’s sewingneedle. The band’s been active for more than four years, turning heads at an increasingly rapid pace with a reportedly stellar live show and incredible new material.

“feel good music” is part of the band’s improbable run towards greatness, a song that was released simultaneously with an effortlessly captivating music video that touches on the kind of lurking anxiety that the band imbues into their music. The clip’s opaque, opting to strive towards eliciting an immediate, intangible reaction rather than going for something easily explained. Drone shots of a raft tethered to a journeying boat, men racing through a field, and urban sprawl all coalesce into a mesmerizing whole in “feel good music” which defiantly announces sewingneedle’s bid for something bigger.

Watch “feel good music” below and pre-order user error here.