Heartbreaking Bravery

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Cagework – Good Ideas (Stream)

A little over a week had passed in July and the month had already seen some memorable music videos from artists like: JIANT, Sonny Falls, Moaning Lisa, Francobollo, Jay Rock, Tiny Eyes, Frontperson, Carcinoma, Pale Grey, and Elise Davis. While all of those entries managed to carve their places as standouts, Cagework’s fiery “Good Ideas” proved too formidable not to feature.

A perfect halfway point between post-punk and basement pop, “Good Ideas” surges and seethes with an abundance of clarity. Tenacious, scintillating, and insanely addictive, “Good Ideas” quickly reveals all of the reasons why its title is so apt. An adrenaline-fueled three minute explosion, it’s the kind of song that makes people sit up and take notice of an artist and their existing discography. While all of Cagework’s previous material is well worth the listen, the future that “Good Ideas” seems to be indicating looks even more promising.

Listen to “Good Ideas” below and pick it up here.

Gash – Always Pissed (Song Premiere)

Any time there’s a band that convinces someone to start a label, there’s always an innate quality about them that justifies such a passionate response. It’s a theory that’s been held up in practice countless times over and applies to Gash — a power trio from Eau Claire, WI — who are largely responsible for stoking the fire of what would become Heavy Meadow Records. Curiously, the band’s forthcoming Haha will be Heavy Meadow’s third release but it also stands a reasonable chance of being the label’s earliest calling card.

Haha was recorded by Seth Tracy of Double Grave and “Always Pissed” is the first look at the record. Sludgy, grunge-adjacent, and teeming with slacker punk tendencies (deliberate pacing, sardonic humor, etc.), “Always Pissed” comes equipped with a heavy dose of reverb and attitude. Through the grime, there’s a pop song buried at the center, creating a competitive balance that winds up propelling the song into its own world. It’s dirty, it’s powerful, and it’s got a measure of casual brilliance. Turn it on and turn it up.

Listen to “Always Pissed” below and pre-order Haha from Heavy Meadow here.

The Best Songs of June 2018’s Final Half

A ridiculous amount of great songs came out over the final half of June 2018, roughly tripling the output of music videos and records. In accordance, the below list will be expanded from the preceding features’ three-slot format to a selection of nine. As usual, there’s a fairly vast palette of styles and influences to sample, each song offering up a distinctly unique thrill. Dive into the fray and get swept up in the chaos.

Whitney Ballen – Go

The first look at the fantastic forthcoming You’re A Shooting Star, I’m A Sinking Ship. Ballen uses a hushed vocal — one that’s curiously reminiscent of Nicole Dollanganger — on “Go” like a weapon, drawing the listener into a difficult narrative that acts as an effective counterweight to the casually optimistic sheen embedded into the musical arrangement. A fascinating presentation of the dichotomies resonating at the center of most mental health struggles, “Go”, while brilliant, only scratches the surface of Ballen’s capabilities.

Curling – Still Green

Following their appearance in the Best Songs list for June 2018’s first half, Curling come back to top themselves with “Still Green.” A basement pop rave-up that exudes the intensely relatable weariness of the slacker punk movement of the early ’90s, “Still Green” incorporates enough modern bent to ensure it won’t fall prey to accusations of tired revivalism. There’s an abundance of life thriving at the song’s surface and Curling makes sure each of the song’s 164 seconds land with maximum impact.

Ovlov – Stick

Not to be outdone by Curling’s repeat heroics as a featured act, Ovlov notch their third consecutive feature nod with the brooding, explosive “Stick”. All three songs to tease the band’s upcoming Tru have made a formidable case that we’re on the verge of hearing one of the year’s best records. While the first two — “Spright” and “Short Morgan” — relied on volume and power, “Stick” ensures that Tru won’t be a one-note affair. Unexpected, oddly moving, and incredibly engaging, “Stick” is a song that deserves to be left on repeat.

Sean Henry – Imperfection

Sean Henry‘s past work has been unfairly overlooked for all the usual, dispiriting reasons but the songwriter’s latched on to something with Fink that just might be strong enough to overcome those intangible obstacles. “Imperfection” was the final track to be released ahead of Fink‘s unveiling and it ably showcases an artist in full control of their creative powers. From the production choices to the delivery itself, “Imperfection” winds up coming surprisingly close to standing as a direct opposite of its own title.

Dentist – Corked

A familiar name to the site, Dentist have been steadily working towards their big moment, earning every lesson and success that’s come their way. In that pursuit, they’ve released a handful of great songs but “Corked”, their latest, doesn’t just set a new high but a new precedent. The band’s lit onto something that feels wholly their own and are prepared to accelerate their pacing from a jog to a sprint. “Corked”, as fine a basement pop song as anyone’s likely to hear this season, is a tantalizing indicator of what Dentist has in store for the future.

Slothrust – Peach

Slothrust‘s another name that’s been printed on these pages a handful of times and “Peach” is the latest reason to type it out. The lead-off single from The Pact, “Peach” is a galvanizing burst of the band’s singular brand of slacker pop. More immediate and self-contained than a lot of the trio’s earlier work, “Peach” makes a morsel feel like a mouthful, before becoming an entire meal. It’s the band’s shortest single to date but it lingers when it’s gone. Don’t miss this one.

Jonathan Something – Fine

Clocking in at just under two minutes, Jonathan Something’s “Fine” still finds time to stand out. A throwback pop song that reveals an astonishing array of influences (everything from Motown to disco to powerpop), “Fine” manages to feel comfortably familiar and thrillingly new over the course of its brief run time. Jonathan Something delivers it all with poise, conviction, and a sincerity that translates into one of the year’s most purely enjoyable songs.

Tony Molina – Wrong Town

A master of the micro song, Tony Molina has found a niche way to thrive since the earliest Ovens songs. Even as Molina’s edges have softened, there’s been a profound sense of assurance that’s cut through the noise. In addition to that gentle confidence, there’s always been a palpable sense of place; Molina knows the places worth belonging to even as his narratives question definitive decision-making. “Wrong Town” is the latest in a string of tender, ’60s-influenced folk-adjacent pieces. Warm and heartrending, “Wrong Town” deserves a visit.

Gia Margaret – Birthday

Gia Margaret‘s “Birthday” is a genre-demolishing track that’s been roping listeners into its orbit since its initial release. Bits of dream pop, shoegaze, and shoegaze find fascinating new intersections throughout the song, which is anchored by Margaret’s soft, spellbinding vocal performance. From front to back, “Birthday” is breathtaking in its unexpected scope and considerable beauty. A transcendent, mesmerizing work.

 

The Best Records of June 2018’s Final Half

The final two weeks of June saw a lot of records find their way out into the world but there was a core trio that managed to make a sizable impression. Some site favorites make their returns and the featured records run the gamut of punk from pop-leaning rave-ups to atmospheric mood pieces to subversive, thrash-leaning hardcore. All three are worth all the spins they can get and can be explored below.

Proud Parents – Proud Parents

The Dirtnap records debut for one of southern Wisconsin’s best bands, Proud Parents make good on their newly expanded platform with their strongest release to date. Appropriately self-titled, Proud Parents does feel a lot like an introduction-at-large, clearly showcasing the band’s carefree sensibilities with one irresistible earworm after the other. There’s a strain of ease that runs throughout the highly addictive Proud Parents, which is one of the best releases from the basement pop genre to emerge in 2018.

Therese Litner – May

Driving post-punk that cribs from a wider range of genres than one might expect is typically a compelling through line and Therese Litner’s outstanding May takes that formula to insane heights. Brooding, restrained, and refined, each of May‘s four tracks finds a way to be incredibly gripping. All of it coalesces into a bold finished product that reveals new intricacies on each successive listen. May, for all of its modesty, is a towering EP from an exhilarating voice.

No Problem – Let God Sort’Em Out

The samples that arrived early were extraordinarily promising but listening to Let God Sort’Em Out, the latest from No Problem, it’s hard to think they did the finished product justice. An absolute monster of a release, Let God Sort’Em Out stands a very good shot at standing out as one of the most subversive basement punk records of the past few years. Touching on everything from grime to powerpop to hardcore, No Problem may have just unleashed a future cult classic.