Heartbreaking Bravery

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Two Weeks, 12 Songs

The last time these two week roundups rolled around, the pace of great songs had seemingly tripled the haul of great songs and records. These past two weeks have been even more fruitful, leading to a quadrupling rather than a tripling. The dozen songs selected below come from all over, though every single artist included has earned a mention on this site in the past. From legitimately legendary acts to incredibly promising projects, everything listed is, as always, worth serious consideration. Hit play and enjoy.

Vacation – Deflector Head

Every time Vacation releases something new, they top themselves. It’s an ascendant trajectory that hasn’t shown any signs of wear and has held true even while the lineup’s experienced some seismic shifts throughout the years. “Deflector Head” might be the band’s most tightly controlled and expertly crafted song to date, which is saying quite a bit considering their varied, impressive discography. A surging burst of basement punk that leans into the kind of pop sensibility that will undoubtedly have listeners reaching to hit repeat before the song even ends.

Lonely Parade – Not Nice

Following “Night Cruise”, one of 2018’s best songs, and continuing to build anticipation for their forthcoming record, Lonely Parade unveiled “Not Nice”. An intoxicating mixture of basement pop and post-punk, the trio continues to find unexpected ways to offer up exhilaration. There’s a conviction to the venomous refrain of “Not Nice” that lends it some emotive heft even while the music verges on a downtrodden kind of joy, effectively mirroring reality. It’s an incredibly impressive work from a band that’s ready and willing to blaze a path of their own.

Katie Ellen – Lighthouse

Following a memorable run fronting Chumped, Katie Ellen shifted focus to a solo project that’s been paying some massive dividends for the songwriter. “Lighthouse” continues to see Ellen excel in narratives that present vulnerability and empathy as strengths, fueling that conviction with subversive pop-punk. Thoughtful, calming, and galvanized, “Lighthouse” has a handful of nervous energy at its center but executes its ideals with exacting precision. A triumphant work.

Billy Moon – White Shoes/Dingus

A project that’s been consistently good finds a path to greatness through an incendiary dual release in Billy Moon’s “White Shoes/Dingus”, a double single that feeds off frustration and abandonment. The former is an all-out blitz that barely passes the 60-second mark while the latter’s preceded by a voicemail message that provides some very direct context. Both tracks stand as the best work of Billy Moon’s career thus far, suggesting that while a musical obsession might cause grievances for some, it could serve as a benefit to many, many others.

Whitney Ballen – Rainier

The second of two tracks to be released ahead of You’re A Shooting Star, I’m A Sinking Ship and Whitney Ballen‘s already carved out a spot as one of 2018’s most promising new artists. “Rainier” is one of the centerpieces of a genuinely mesmerizing records and displays the kind of tenacity and heart that supplies the record its considerable emotive heft. Emotionally volatile and unapologetic in its forays into darkness and yearning, “Rainier” is as challenging as it is moving, weaving together the kind of spell that’s hard to shake.

Black Belt Eagle Scout – Soft Stud

“Surprises in your mind, won’t you have your way?” is the opening question of Black Belt Eagle Scout‘s “Soft Stud”, which goes on to probe even more invasive questions and impulses. Driven by a steady, mid-tempo back beat and an even more steadfast insistence in both the narrative and the playing, “Soft Stud” conjurs up a magnetic pull reminiscent of early Cat Power. Unafraid to wrap itself in a light coat of grime, “Soft Stud” leans into the muck, offering up a peaceful acceptance with toxic longing. In embracing a harsh reality, Black Belt Eagle Scout also wind up with the finest work of their burgeoning career.

Devon Welsh – By the Daylight

Majical Cloudz were an unforgettable project that provided an avalanche of breathtaking moments. Devon Welsh, the band’s leader, played a large role in cultivating the band’s identity. The sparse intensity of Welsh’s old group has been tied over to the songwriter’s solo work. “By the Daylight”, Welsh’s most recent offering as a solo artist, is immediately gripping and works its way to the kind of emotional peaks that Majical Cloudz hit with regularity. Appropriately, “By the Daylight” feels more personal than Welsh’s erstwhile duo and suggests the kind of long, rich career most artists dream of attaining.

Goon – Enter Bethel Admissions

Over the past few years, Goon have established themselves as one of the most remarkably consistent artists currently making music. They’ve nearly perfected the art of the mid-tempo basement pop number and “Enter Bethel Admission” fits comfortably into that mold. Tender vocals, guitar tones that have just a touch of dirt, and moments of musical interplay that verge on euphoric terrain collide once more to provide an instantly winsome track that strengthens the band’s growing legacy.

Guided By Voices – You Own the Night

The amount of music Robert Pollard has managed to release in the window of time he’s been making music continues to legitimately verge on the impossible. Fortunately, Pollard’s long been the kind of songwriter who’s gifted enough to make throwaway tracks worthwhile. Even better, Pollard’s peaks as a songwriter are stratospheric and “You Own the Night” comes far closer to that category than to the stockpile of trivialities. A three and a half minute outpouring of thoughtful joy in Guided By Voices‘ characteristically shaggy presentation, “You Own the Night” is an unpredictable distillation of Pollard’s always-outsize ambitions.

Sharkmuffin – Your Stupid Life

In 80 seconds Sharkmuffin rattle off the most impressive track of their discography. Measured, filled to the brim with poise and feeling, and suffused with weaponized dynamics, Sharkmuffin make every single one of those 80 seconds not just count but land with maximum impact. “Your Stupid Life” is as sharp as anything the band’s released and the attitude that the track comes equipped with could be enough to make any potential detractors wither on sight. Compact and surprisingly powerful, “Your Stupid Life” is Sharkmuffin at their best.

Tomberlin – I’m Not Scared

A devastating meditation on identity and autonomy, Tomberlin‘s “I’m Not Scared” is both painful and heartening in equal measure. There are scars on display in a narrative that’s stripped to an unavoidable nakedness that forces the listener to grapple with the kind of context that demands these declarations. There’s a level of emotional battery ingrained into “I’m Not Scared” — which only features piano, vocals, and strings — that immediately aligns Tomberlin with acts like Elliott Smith and Julien Baker. As difficult as it is necessary, “I’m Not Scared” is one of the most captivating and painfully gorgeous songs that 2018’s produced to date.

Basement Revolver – Dancing

There are few bands that so transparently reach for the heights as Basement Revolver seems to strive for with each song and even fewer who can actually match or claim to have achieved anything near their level of success in that pursuit. “Dancing”, the band’s latest, is characteristically huge, a behemoth of a track that leans into its dramatic sensibilities with an unabashed vigor. There’s a cacophony of feedback that swells beneath the surface of “Dancing”, propelling it even further upwards. Arresting and elegant, “Dancing” is the kind of track that makes listeners take notice.

Two Weeks, Three Records

In nearly every two week run this year, it seems like there’s been a record that’s posed a legitimate threat to crack a handful of year-end lists. It’s been true from literally the opening seconds of 2018, which saw the surprise release of Jeff Rosenstock‘s exceptional POST-. While there have been a few lulls in select spots, that intensity’s remained and fueled a great year for music. A trio of records that emerged over the past few weeks have the kind of potency to either crack those lists or carve out a spot as a well-hidden cult favorite. All three are worth hearing. Dive in below.

Ovlov – TRU

The three advance singles that teased Ovlov‘s unexpected comeback album, TRU, all netted featured positions and seemed to suggest the band was operating in rare form. Turns out, that suggestion only scratched the surface of what turned out to be a monumental effort from the recently reunited act. The finest Ovlov record by some margin, TRU is a towering behemoth that could only exist through the lens of a band that’s kept finding ways to survive themselves. An examination of impulse, longing, and mental health, TRU bristles and seethes at an unmatched velocity, anchored by the burden of knowledge.

Scintillating from start to finish, buoyed by a series of inspired moments, TRU is tethered together with a narrative through line that makes it feel overwhelmingly whole, even in the face of its persistent ruminations on incompletion. While the band still finds life at the intersection of grunge, slacker punk, and basement pop, the way they’ve reshaped that musical identity on TRU is commendable. Wielding an expanded palette, a seemingly limitless scope, and a desire to improve, Ovlov have created what’s easily one of 2018’s finest records. Additionally, TRU acts as a very welcome reminder of a singular band’s extraordinary talent.

Pipsy – Users

Giddy, scrappy basement pop gifted with dream pop and powerpop sensibilities, Pippy’s Users was an incredibly welcome find what had been proving to be an otherwise desolate patch of new releases. The kind of record that makes sifting through an endless amount of dreck worthwhile, Users is teeming with the liveliness that can serve as its own adrenaline injection. Full of hooks, the record never eases off its acceleration pedal, resulting in a ragged, irresistible collection of distinctly crafted basement pop.

Sean Henry – Fink

It’d been apparent from Fink‘s advanced tracks that Sean Henry had tapped into something a little more otherworldly than usual, swinging from one contemporary reference point to another but refusing to offer tidy reconciliations. A record that’s intentionally opaque, Fink weaponizes its musical palette and allows it to convey emotional heft in lieu of easily idenitifiable narratives; the musical equivalent of Shane Carruth’s absorbing Upstream Color. A record that’s content to soak in the dirt and the grime of the world, wallow in its own carefully guarded desperation, and reluctantly admit to slivers of hope, Fink finds Sean Henry operating at a new, fascinating level. It’s a journey worth the misguided shortcuts, scratches, and tangles. Every bruise is worth earning in Fink‘s fucked up wonderland of folk-tinged, psych-damaged, punk-learned basement pop.

Two Weeks, Three Videos

A trio of videos found a way to make their presence felt over the past two weeks. Each of the three featured videos stand out for very distinct reasons with minimal overlap. From mastery of craft to self-awareness to successful experiments in restraint, there’s a lot of variety. Every example finds a way to enhance a great song with a video that proves to be the equal of the source material’s strength. Take a look (and a listen) below.

Slothrust – Double Down

After finding success through their past few releases, Slothrust is allowing their ambition to expand. The band’s forthcoming The Pact is their boldest work to date and has the potential to carry the band to greater success. A lot of that stems from the band making the right moves at the right time — in addition to their spectacular live show — and “Double Down” is proof, its surrealist world-building is impeccable. From the abrupt staging and cinematography that introduces the viewer to “Double Down”, Slothrust make it abundantly clear that they’re not content with stagnation. They’re out to prove something and the staggering clip for “Double Down” (those first moments are especially gripping) sees them off to a solid start.

Mozes and the Firstborn – Hello

Mozes and the Firstborn have been making impressive music for a handful of years now, running the gamut from arresting intensity to playfully entertaining. “Hello”, and its visual accompaniment, find a way to skew towards the latter while retaining some of the former. An infectious pop song married to a clever concept, “Hello” finds Mozes and the Firstborn’s vocalist running behind a camera, lip-syncing to the song while runners in an actual marathon jostle past. Shirts get discarded, revealing words and phrases, a cigarette gets smoked, and a range of spectators emotions fly by in one of the more unexpectedly blissful clips of 2018.

Free Cake For Every Creature – Be Home Soon

Katie Bennett continues to impress at just about every turn, though the Free Cake For Every Creature project remains the songwriter’s calling card. Here, the project gets an appropriately gentle illustrated video for the quietly moving “Be Home Soon”. Rivkah Gevinson created the clip for “Be Home Soon”, which combines collage work and stop motion photography to an enchanting effect, the song quietly washing over the proceedings. There’s a modicum of saturation washing through the clip’s coloration and playing into a wistful, nostalgic sensibility. Unexpectedly mesmerizing and characteristically lovely, “Be Home Soon” is up there with the finest work to bear the Free Cake For Every Creature name.