Heartbreaking Bravery

stevenmps2@gmail.com | @steven_mps | @hbreakbravery

Category: Uncategorized

WHY? – Please take me home, I don’t belong here. (Music Video)

In the mid-2000’s, Yoni Wolf decided to turn a solo pseudonym into a full band and WHY? set off on charting one of the most fascinating career paths of any band in recent memory. After that 2004 turning point, WHY? would release what are widely, but quietly, hailed as classics in Elephant Eyelash and Alopecia, two chameleon-esque records that veer in and out of hip-hop, folk, indie rock, alt-pop, ambient, and a long list of other genres.

A dedicated fanbase sprang up in the wake of those two releases, prompting investigations into the group-specific slang that dominated Wolf’s lyrics. People forged intense, meaningful relationship with the work on display, which felt so offbeat yet intensely personal. “Suicide notes” was a phrase that was tossed around when it came to dissecting the band’s narratives, sometimes sung, sometimes rapped, sometimes whispered, and the hypnotically kaleidoscopic music behind those words elevated them further to an extent that came off as genuinely inspired.

Past those two releases, the band took on a few new forms and shapes, which unsurprisingly drew waves of conflicting opinions between the project’s most faithful listeners. Eskimo Snow, one of the band’s most gorgeously arranged and beautifully produced records, gave some fans pause as it found the band embracing their quietest sensibilities. The fans who loved that record, in turn, were thrown ajar by the band’s subsequent works which largely skewed more confrontational and abrasive, yet no one seemed to want to stop listening to any of it altogether.

Some EP’s, LP’s, and one-off’s after their attention-ensnaring run of early material, the band have arrived at AOKOHIO, which they’ve unveiled by parcel through video sequences that tackle the forthcoming record sequentially. While movements I and II were both fascinating in their own right, it’s movement III, Please take me home, I don’t belong here., that did the most damage.

Ostensibly, Please take me home, I don’t belong here., serves as somewhat of an open-hearted love letter to Wolf’s brother and extraordinarily gifted bandmate Josiah, whose contributions to WHY?’s instrumental template over the years have proved invaluable. Additionally, this run of songs also seems to be a half-buried plea for self-preservation. Miles Joris-Peyrafitte serves as the director and elevates each note with the type of grace and sensitivity that the subject matter deserves, turning the entire affair into a spellbinding treatsie on the nature of life, emphasizing its finite nature to an extraordinary degree without ever becoming hamfisted.

“The Launch”, “High Dive”, “Mr. Fifth’s Plea”, and “Good Fire” are the songs that are covered in the movement and each exemplifies the best qualities of WHY?, drawing directly from the past to shape their present. Please take me home, I don’t belong here. understands that relationship and navigates it deftly, allowing the clip’s subtext to suggest that beyond extending Wolf’s continued fatalistic obsessions, the end results can be boiled down to the micro and applied to the history of the band.

Footage of Wolf miming along to the song alone in a chair are interspersed with unearthed home movies of the Wolf brothers as young children, flooding the clip with the type of tenderness that so often bleeds into shattering emotional recognition. And sure enough, by the time the sequence comes to a close, it’s difficult not to be fighting back some stray tears. More than just being exceptionally well-crafted and executed, Please take me home, I don’t belong here. feels important; the product of a mind that’s always had too much to say to make room for the truths that too often go unsaid.

Gripping, tense, and deeply empathetic, Please take me home, I don’t belong here. stands firm as one of 2019’s most unexpected gut-punches. A devastating reminder of WHY?’s commitment to not only exploring their own artistry but the nature of humanity, dropping the sardonic wit that’s so often accompanied their incisive past self-examinations to simply lay every card on the table, look up, and allow something in that’s rarely appeared throughout their discography: hope.

Watch “Please take me home, I don’t belong here.” below and pre-order AOKOHIO here.

Young Guv – Roll With Me + Every Flower I See (Stream)

For years, Young Guv has been experiencing a steady uptick in public recognition. Like so many other artists that get covered here it’s not necessarily due to something like touring harder or being more prolific in terms of releases (in addition to that music both competing and benefiting from existing in the shadow of a wide umbrella), it’s more a matter of an audience catching up to the quality of an artist’s music All that said, the Ben Cook — who also plays guitar in Fucked Up — project’s also quietly improved over its run, an aspect that’s readily apparent on Young Guv’s most recent offerings: “Roll With Me” and “Every Flower I See”.

One feels like a spiritual brother to Rolling Blackouts C.F, the other, Mike Krol. Both come stamped with Cook’s signature vocal tic, which manages the difficult trick of sounding simultaneously weary and completely energized. Both tracks are easy to fall in love with, exuding the kind of charm that characterized acts like Archers of Loaf and Superchunk in their early breakout moments. Every second, no matter which way the genre influences lean, proves winsome, and Cook further solidifies his place among today’s emerging songwriters. “Roll With Me” and “Every Flower I See” both offer up an early look at Cook’s forthcoming Guv I, which could be mentioned on this site come December if the rest of its anywhere close to this good. Don’t miss this one.

Listen to “Roll With Me” and “Every Flower I See” below and pre-order Guv I from Run For Cover here.

Graham Hunt – Change Their Mind (Stream)

Graham Hunt‘s name should be a familiar one to anyone in the upper Midwest who pays attention to the region’s scrappy basement pop scene. Midnight Reruns, Midwives, and Sundial Mottos all benefited from Hunt’s involvement and the totality of that output, in addition to a smattering of solo material, helped the songwriter secure a spot in Mike Krol‘s most recent touring band. Every year seems to bring a handful of releases with Hunt’s name on them and whether they’ve been standalone singles or full records, the results have been uniformly exceptional.

“Change Their Mind”, Hunt’s most recent track, stands in select company as one of the finest. Utilizing a strong production team (including Hunt’s old Midwives bandmate Sahan Jayisuriya, whose beat-making project Cold Lunch is well worth a look) and an arsenal of decisive hooks, Hunt embraces the thoughtfulness that’s characterized much of the songwriter’s past material and the slacker vibes of ’90s alt-pop. Imagine something of a cross between the composition nuance LEN’s infectious “Steal My Sunshine”, the oddly immediate, laissez faire outlook of Beck’s “Loser”, and the type of well-worn melodies that dominated Ben Kweller’s Sha Sha, and that should offer an inkling of what kind of terrain Hunt’s occupying here.

Surprisingly grounded for having so much of a wild streak, “Change Their Mind” isn’t just one of the best offerings of Hunt’s career, it’s one of the more engaging tracks to be released over the past seven months. A decidedly minor-key triumph, “Change Their Mind” belongs on as many mix tapes as possible. Immediate and immediately thrilling, the song’s a freeing reminder of how much the slacker pop genre still has to offer.

Listen to “Change Their Mind” below and download it for a price of your choosing here.

Deadbeat Beat – You Lift Me Up (Music Video)

Creating music that’s reminiscent of the past without sounding like a tepid retread is a deceptively difficult tightrope to walk but Deadbeat Beat seem to have that balance down pat on “You Lift Me Up”. Americana-tinged basement pop that carries a comforting familiarity while making just enough space for a modern bent, the track’s been given an appropriately crafted music video that borrows from ’60s imagery while utilizing bleeding edge effects. The Jack Schmier-directed clip’s a mirror of its source material, offering a complementary layer to a breezy, enjoyable total package.

Watch “You Lift Me Up” below and pre-order How Far here.

PUP – Sibling Rivalry (Music Video)

From 2013 to 2017, PUP managed to string together an incredibly unlikely feat: in three of those five years, I awarded the band the Music Video of the Year distinction (both here and over at PopMatters). Directors Chandler Levack and Jeremy Schaulin-Rioux played an instrumental role in that run, producing a handful of other clips for the band that picked up similar accolades in the process. For “Sibling Rivalry”, PUP take a slightly different approach and allow Martin MacPherson to helm the clip, which is based on the slice-of-life, tongue-in-cheek comics that bandleader Stefan Babcock has produced for years.

In terms of conceit, it’s deceptively brilliant, allowing the humor of the narrative to be amplified while honoring the childhood roots that allowed the song to exist at all in a myriad of ways. Impressively, the clip coaxes some genuine laugh-out-loud moments out of the misadventures of Babcock and his sister as it reflects on pasts (likely both real and imagined/exaggerated) where they continuously try to one-up each other’s recklessly freewheeling impulsiveness.

A tremendous clip from the jump, beautifully animated and ingeniously illustrated, “Sibling Rivalry” stands as the finest example of PUP’s under-discussed penchant for quick-witted and painfully relatable comedy. Both a visual treat and a genuinely heartfelt love letter to what appears to be one of the most healthy dysfunctional relationships imaginable, “Sibling Rivalry” is a more than deserving addition to the band’s continued run of excellence in the medium, which rivals — and may even exceed — any other act this decade.

Watch “Sibling Rivalry” below and pick up a copy of Morbid Stuff here.

Paear – Don’t (Stream)

A few years ago, Peaer put out a ridiculously strong self-titled record that saw the trio nearly perfect a curious blend of math-rock, Midwestern emo, and east coast indie, all of which was shot through with an undeniably punk sensibility. They’ve toured hard since that record’s release and tightened the screws on that formula, amplifying certain aspects (a sludge/grunge influence has started to peek through with a little more regularity) and growing more surgical in their overall precision.

All of those qualities coalesce on Don’t, the first look the band’s offering at their upcoming A Healthy Earth, and it’s a doozy. The track starts off restrained, winds itself up, takes an enormous leap and starts swinging recklessly from the rafters. A startlingly clear track, “Don’t” showcases the absolute best qualities of Peaer and tees up A Healthy Earth with a palpable sends of purpose. Peaer have a lot left to say, we should be grateful that we’re in a position to listen.

Listen to “Don’t” below and pre-order a copy of A Healthy Earth from Tiny Engines here.

Booji Boys – Tube Reducer (Album Review, Stream)

Tube Reducer, the latest album from Booji Boys, is a tenacious basement punk ripper that’s strong enough to restore anyone’s faith in the transformative power of the genre at its best. It’s a pure distillation of manic energy, threatening to careen off the rails with every quick-passing one beat. Gritty, fierce, and undeniably scrappy, Tube Reducer is the sound of a band who learned how to master sounding like they’re giving all of the fucks.

A record that seemingly lays everything on the line, Booji Boys have unleashed something rabid and determined to sink its fangs into as many people as possible. Only two of these 13 tracks eclipses the two and a half minute mark and most get their work done well before that hits. Virtually none of the songs exceed three minutes. Booji Boys make their points succinctly and with admirable urgency, flying through the baker’s dozen with a clear-eyed conviction that elevates the record a considerable degree.

No breaks come on the record, which is all pedal to the metal and no slowdown, content to fly through every red light and stop sign imaginable, if only to wreak further havoc. By the time “Moto-Hard” brings things to a fiery conclusion, it’s truly difficult to not feel some sense of galvanization. Tube Reducer is the kind of record that burrows under the skin, heats up the blood, and kick-starts direct action. We could use more records like that in the world. If half are half as good as this one, we’ll be exceedingly fortunate.

Listen to Tube Reducer below and snag a name-your-price download here.

Petite League – New York Girls (Music Video)

For several years, Lorezno Cook’s been leading Petite League through memorably scrappy basement pop that’s earned a number of features from this site. RATTLER, the project’s forthcoming record, seems set to continue that trend. “New York Girls” offered up the first look at the record, a song that was quickly gifted a fitting clip courtesy of Cook and bandmate Adam Greenberg (the latter shot, edited, colored, and co-directed). The clip’s premise is simple enough, focusing on Gaby Giangola (aka Goth Girflriend) lip sync’ing along to the song, giving fittingly a wry performance.

Sometimes the math really only has to be that simple: a good performance, a solid idea, and a great idea have been the sturdy basis for so many enjoyable clips in the past. “New York Girls” belongs in their company. Vintage Petite League and a splash of both color and new blood push “New York Girls” over the edge and allow to stand on its own as a worthy entrance into the music video canon. Watch it more than once.

Watch “New York Girls” below and pre-order RATTLER here.

Holy Tunics – Hit Parade Lemonade Supersonic Spree (Album Review, Stream)

To survive in an overcrowded environment is on thing, to get anyone to pay attention to what you’re doing is another, and to find people who are adamant in celebrating what you’ve accomplished within those specific parameters is an entirely separate beast. Yet, Holy Tunics have endured and the recommendations from people with trustworthy judgment seem to be a quiet constant. While the band’s never truly taken off, they’ve clearly earned the respect of their contemporaries and the enthusiasm of the people active in those worlds.

Hit Parade Lemonade Supersonic Spree, the band’s latest record, should be more than enough to strengthen those existing truths. An impulsive but remarkably cohesive record, Hit Parade Lemonade Supersonic Spree finds the band indulging in the sense of fun that’s energized each of their past releases, drawing from the knowledge gleaned from those records to heighten every minute detail. Every song on Hit Parade Lemonade Supersonic Spree seems to draw from the history of powerpop and slacker punk, allowing the quartet to shape memorable tracks that fly by when they’re present but stick in the listeners memory when they’ve finished.

Whether it’s the surging guitar squall of the intro to “Rocket To The Alien Planet” or the familiar jangle of closer “Yesterday’s A Painted Butterfly”, Hit Parade Lemonade Supersonic Spree showcases Holy Tunics as a band that’s keenly aware of the history inherent to their own music. Fortunately, they’re also smart enough to know how to avoid making those trappings sound stale, picking the precisely right moments to throw in a wild curveball, leaving Hit Parade Lemonade Supersonic Spree as one of the most outright fun listens of the summer.

Listen to Hit Parade Lemonade Supersonic Spree below and pick it up from Meritorio Records here.

Richard Spitzer – Synthesizer (Stream)

Once in a rare while, a singer-songwriter steps out of the boundaries of their main vehicle to take on an a more layered identity. Artists constantly branch out to explore other avenues of music, whether it’s a new band or simply a genre shift. Richard Spitzer’s name belongs on that list. Spitzer’s project Loveskills found the songwriter creating largely introspective electro-pop in the vein of acts like Hot Chip, only suffusing the project with a more club-leaning bent. Recently, Spitzer decided to temporarily put that project on hold to release music under his own name, announcing the change with the lovely “Synthesizer.”

In a little over 100 seconds, Spitzer proves to be a deft songwriting talent, crafting a warm, funny ode to the instrument that enlivened so much of his previous project. Acoustic guitar and vocal overlays comprise the entirety of “synthesizer” (not a synth in earshot) and Spitzer somehow manages to recall a swath of admirable lyricists in the song’s short runtime: Sufjan Stevens, Stuart Murdoch, Sean Bonnette, and Owen Ashworth among their ranks. Each of those artists have navigated similarly indie folk-friendly territory with sincerity, humor, and grace, which Spitzer matches here, creating an indelible impression. For as much as he clearly loves the instrument and its capacity to create enormous soundscapes, we should consider ourselves fortunate he’s taking some time away to create something that’s both refreshingly familiar and intriguingly new.

Listen to “Synthesizer” below and keep an eye on this site for further updates on Spitzer’s upcoming self-titled record, which is due out July 19.