Heartbreaking Bravery

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Big Ups – Two Parts Together (Album Review, Stream, Live Videos)

From the end of last week to the start of this one there was a smattering of outstanding records with many displaying the sheen of a genuine Album of the Year contender, a group that included new titles from Courtney Barnett, The Sidekicks, Colour Me WednesdayGRLWoodDeeper, Soccer Cousins, Macho Boys, Von K, and Feel Alright. Another one of those records came by way of what may wind up standing as Big Ups’ masterpiece, Two Parts Together.

Riding a string of acclaim for their previous few releases and their scintillating live show, Big Ups have managed to craft something masterful, challenging, and explosive, opting for more of a statement on their relentless pursuit of new highs instead of merely settling for a victory lap. This is as fearless and unhinged as the band has ever sounded, completely embracing their own distinct identity and molding it into something unexpected and deeply rewarding.

Every second of Two Parts Together feels thoughtful, even in the moments where it succumbs into chaos; there’s a calculation to Big Ups’ madness that keeps things from veering towards the unsustainable. Whether they’re indulging their most straightforward sensibilities (“Fear“, “PPP“), ambient interludes (“Tenmile”), verging into sections that betray a Rage Against The Machine influence (“Tell Them”), veer directly into avant garde breakdowns (“Trying To Love”), or delivering the most jaw-dropping song of their career (“Imaginary Dog Walker“), they’re delivering each moment with an astounding amount of conviction.

From wire to wire, Two Parts Together is Big Ups’ most complete and engaging work, a series of high points strung together and then defiantly tightroped. Easily one of the best records of the year, Two Parts Together also cements the band’s status as one of today’s more important bands. They’re on a streak that’s nearly unparalleled within the confines of their genre and they’re doing it in an extremely distinct way, delivering record after record that couldn’t possibly bear any other band’s name.

A new genre classic, Two Parts Together is the sound of a band whose confident that if they hurl themselves into the stratosphere, they’ll stick the landing. As much of a warning as a promise, Big Ups make no bones about this being their time. We should all count ourselves lucky that we’re around to watch, listen, and learn.

Listen to Two Parts Together below and pick it up from Exploding In Sound here. Beneath the record, watch the band rip through five tracks at a recent Madison, WI stop.

Ovlov – Spright (Stream)

From last Friday to the start of this week there were a handful of new songs that made an impact from artists like Emilie Levienaise-Farrouch, Luna Pines, Oh Sees, ahem, The Tamed West, Oldermost, Two People, Harrison Lipton, Samson, io & Titan, and a memorable music video from Dumb. There was also the long-anticipated return of Ovlov, following a string of reunion appearances after their last departure. “Spright”, the band’s first song following their four year near-absence, was worth the wait.

Steve Hartlett, Ovlov’s bandleader, found a way to refine some creative impulses with Stove (a band that walked away with this site’s pick for 2015’s Song of the Year) and has put that education to good use in “Spright”. A song that teems with the kind of melancholic frustration and open yearning that’s defined so much of Hartlett’s past body of work, “Spright” still manages to feel incredibly assured. Even considering the time away, Ovlov is a band that’s fully aware of its identity, and their grappling comes with a level of certainty.

Some things are big enough to force a reckoning and “Spright”, finds its narrative examining the implications of how we can challenge our own comfort by engaging more fearlessly with free will. Backed by an inspired swirl of guitars and a menacing rhythm section, “Spright” manages to erupt. As vicious as it is thoughtful, it’s the perfect way to welcome Ovlov back and stands as an extraordinarily promising first look at their upcoming TRU.

Listen to “Spright” below and pre-order TRU from Exploding In Sound here.

Katie Preston – The Art of Falling Apart (Stream)

Halfway through last week there were a handful of music videos that found release from artists like MOURN, Devon Welsh, Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever, Sorry, Suuns, tunng, The Groans, Sam Evian, Reuben and the Dark, Tang, and BATTS. There was also a one-off single release from the inimitable Katie Preston, whose been covered on this site before by virtue of contributions to Ben Morey & The Eyes and for being the driving force behind site favorites Pleistocene.

A fixture in the thriving Rochester, NY music scene Preston’s worked diligently to carve out a recognizable name and those efforts are starting to yield results. “The Art of Falling Apart”, Preston’s first solo single pulls in an impressive cast of friends (including both Morey and Mikaela Davis) to flesh out a characteristically retro-leaning pop number. A lovely three minutes, “The Art of Falling Apart” reinforces the perceived span of Preston’s talent, showcasing a penchant for both subtle, effective composition flourishes, a tight-knit narrative, and a meticulous awareness of how those elements can heighten each other.

Hopelessly romantic, breezy, and an absolute dream for nostalgia escapists, “The Art of Falling Apart” is another notch in Preston’s belt, evidencing both the songwriter’s range and vision. Both a hopeful signal of things to come and a piece informed by the kind of hope that’s too frequently burned by reality, “The Art of Falling Apart” seems destined to be a song that’s worth holding close for its effortless comfort.

Listen to “The Art of Falling Apart” below and download it here.

Birds In Row – 15-38 (Stream)

Over a three day stretch last week there was a quartet of records that came out and made an impression, bearing the names of Local Teen, Jogging House, Will Samson, and Gillian Frances. There was also the re-emergence of Birds In Row, a furious post-hardcore power trio responsible for one of the genre’s better EP’s of the decade in Personal War.

“15-38”, the band’s latest, takes a careful step backwards and finds the band in the process of a measured reinvention that pays massive dividends out of the gate. Leaning hard into a newfound pop sensibility, the band adds their name to the growing cast of acts who are finding fascinating ways to bridge the worlds of hardcore, sludge, grunge, basement pop, and noise-punk.

“15-38” is one of the most volatile — and powerful — examples of this specific intersection (populated by bands like Kal Marks, Wheelbarrel, sewingneedle, and Pile), standing as a masterclass of how tension-and-release dynamics can cultivate atmosphere. It’s a song that’s hard to shake despite being the most accessible of Birds In Row’s discography. As the first look towards the band’s forthcoming We Already Lost the World (a title that’s echoed in the song’s gripping final section), it’s more than a little tantalizing.

“15-38” is a thrilling, bleak, and potent reminder of Birds In Row’s formidable talent. If it’s a harbinger of things to come, Birds In Row’s future suddenly looks wide open.

Listen to “15-38” below and pre-order We Already Lost the World from Deathwish here.