Heartbreaking Bravery

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Mannequin Pussy – Cream (Music Video)

Following “Drunk II” and “Who You Are“, arguably the two most stadium-friendly tracks of Mannequin Pussy‘s career, the band immediately incinerated the errant idea that they’d gone soft with “Cream” and it’s nightmare of a music video. “Cream” finds the band operating at their most abrasive, crafting a confrontational shot of unbridled aggression packed into a concise run of hardcore-leaning basement punk.

Using horror films as a reference to drive home the point of the narrative’s severity, “Cream” finds bandleader Marisa Dabice getting uncomfortably close and personal with everyone in sight, tunneling a hole into them with incendiary bouts of unchecked aggression. In its own strange way, “Cream” manages to attain a therapeutic sort of quality that borders catharsis. Enveloped by funhouse pastels and warped masks, Dabice fights through the trappings to a fiendish, blackly comic final moment that serves as a distillation of everything offered up by “Cream”. Clever and occasionally garish, the Hanna Hamilton-helmed clip is a very welcome addition to the band’s work.

Watch “Cream” below and pick up Patience here.

Charly Bliss – Young Enough (Music Video)

In Young Enough, Charly Bliss once again found their way to one of the year’s best records. The record’s title track served as a show-stopping centerpiece, affording Hendricks a jaw-dropping moment of not only self-understanding but self-reclamation and personal forgiveness. A clear-eyed ode to making peace with the trauma the world’s inflicted on you, the song stands tall as an astonishing ballad from not just a single person but an entire band rediscovering their purpose.

Henry Kaplan returns to the director’s seat for “Young Enough” after gifting Charly Bliss one of 2019’s best — and most concisely edited — clips in the memorable “Hard To Believe”. Kaplan takes a different approach for “Young Enough” and the result’s breathtaking. Intended as a loving homage to Kate Bush’s “Running Up that Hill“, “Young Enough” posits the band as a capital A Artist. There are certain beats that rhyme with the Kate Bush clip, especially when it comes to the costuming and choreography, but there’s more than enough original material throughout the clip to qualify it as a genuine standout.

Boasting some of the most pure and gorgeous music video cinematography in recent memory (courtesy of DoP Chris Ripley) and anchored by an overwhelmingly committed central performance from bandleader Eva Hendricks, “Young Enough” carves out spots as both a visual feast and as a towering personal statement and possibly even a statement of intent. It’s immensely hard to look away from the clip at any given moment, as it plays off the idea of time and healing while utilizing a small arsenal of gorgeous visual effects that the clip expertly deploys in key moments to heighten the sense of the narrative’s daunting magnitude.

The world turns sideways, the people close to you offer support, and everything goes hazy at certain points in everyone’s life but it’s up to the individual on whether or not those times of hardship are insurmountable or if there’s a time where you can muster enough resolve to confront them directly. “Young Enough” uses this as a central truth, hinting its way towards a resolution that will never be truly comfortable and necessitates the ugly acceptance of living with defeat. Navigating the aftermath and coming through on the other side without self-loathing is where it gets truly difficult.

Evading that trap of self-defeat or corralling it into something healthy is what makes the final stretch of “Young Enough” so affecting. For the majority of “Young Enough”, the camera rightfully fixates on Hendricks as she navigates that terrain but slowly and steadily, the other band members are pulled into the frame and begin appearing with greater frequency until they’re all united at the end, hammering home a point that enlivened Guppy‘s subtext: the importance of community and friendship.

Without the people closest to us, we can become untethered and lose ourselves in the mist of uncertainty. Our friends and our communities are the bedrock of self-realization and, in our worst times, they can be genuinely life-saving aspects. Kaplan and Hendricks find a way to honor her friends, family, and closest collaborators in those closing frames, underscoring and highlighting a simple, obvious truth: Charly Bliss may have been exactly the vessel Hendricks needed to find a path back to understanding her own truth. If that’s the case, no words could possibly do the power of this clip, this record, or this band enough justice. All we can do is try.

Watch “Young Enough” below and pick up a copy of the record here.

Cool Original – Never Stop Hanging Out + Alien Boy – If We Don’t Speak (Music Video)

Every so often, an inspired idea that’s reflective of the core tenets of this site appears and offers a reaffirmation of those beliefs/virtues. A collaborative music video with two like-minded acts just enjoying the concept and sharing each other’s company’s. Cool Original and Alien Boy do just that in a pair of clips for “Never Stop Hanging Out” and “If We Don’t Speak”, each a highlight of their band’s respective catalogue.

The videos themselves operate on a simple conceit: each band a rotating cast of friends take turns as the central subject in a stock photo shoot, with sync’ed live performances occasionally interspersed into the proceedings with a fittingly lo-fi visual effect. Each clip on its own is heartening but as a collaborative effort, it’s genuinely moving. Community clearly matters to each of these acts and eschewing conventional boundaries to celebrate each other’s work is an example of how progressive thinking can be healthily integrated into traditional norms. It’s hard not to feel immensely proud watching how this all came together and even harder not to hope more acts follow in their footsteps.

Watch the collaborative video(s) below, pre-order Cool Original’s I Never Said I Didn’t Care here and Alien Boy’s Sleeping Lessons here.

Tennis System – Shelf Life (Stream)

Punishing shoegaze has a habit of brushing up against elusive feelings of transcendence in its best moments and Tennis System waste literally no time in capturing that effect on “Shelf Life”, opening with a pummeling intro that sets a tone not just for the song but likely the band’s forthcoming record as a whole. It’s unavoidable and all-enveloping, embracing the full effect of maxed out volume and surging forward with reckless abandon.

Everything Tennis System try throughout this winding behemoth of a track works to an exhaustive extent but the result’s more galvanizing than exhausting. Whether it’s that enormous intro, the ambient bridge, or the adrenaline-fueled final section, “Shelf Life” exudes a kind of mythic strength. Inspired and a little inspiring, “Shelf Life” is a warning that rings out clear: Tennis System have arrived.

Listen to “Shelf Life” below and pre-order Lovesick here.

Kishi Bashi – Violin Tsunami (Music Video)

Julia and Mike McCoy have brought about a breathtakingly singular vision in their astonishing animated clip for Kishi Bashi‘s “Violin Tsunami”. Gorgeously crafted and delivered with no reservation in conviction or sincerity, “Violin Tsunami” is achingly beautiful throughout its runtime, using some reserved and extraordinarily powerful imagery to undercut the tragic reality of the clip’s conclusion. Every frame of “Violin Tsunami” is mesmerizing and bristling with raw feeling, drawing from the well of humanity itself to serve an arc worthy of that stature. Pained, haunting, and concealing more than a glimmer of hope, “Violin Tsunami” stands firmly in its message and winds up as one of the strongest pieces of animation, let alone music videos, 2019’s had to offer.

Watch “Violin Tsunami” below and pick up a copy of Omoiyari from Joyful Noise here.

GHLOW – Hollow (Stream)

A little over an intro that pulsates for over 30 seconds, GHLOW’s “Hollow” erupts and charges ahead, clinging to an electro-punk concoction that breaks for vocals around the 1:13 mark, practically weaponizing its quasi-industrial tendencies by suffusing it with a hyperactivity that sets “Hollow” racing. It’s a fascinating, goth-tinged piece of punk shrapnel that’s looking to cut through as many unwitting targets as possible. Deeply unexpected and shockingly fun, “Hollow” will undoubtedly serve as GHLOW’s calling card as their status grows. It shouldn’t be long before their audience starts increasing.

Listen to “Hollow” below and download the song here.

Florist – Shadow Bloom (Music Video)

Florist have crafted a career out of sweetly meditative indie folk, allowing occasional bursts of energy to spike their material. “Shadow Bloom”, one of the band’s most recent tracks, finds the project drawing further inward and embracing their most restrained sensibilities, leaning into an arrangement that’s focused entirely on a fingerpicked acoustic pattern and Emily Sprague’s tender vocals. It’s a beautiful track that’s been an equally beautiful, and strangely moving, music video.

Directed and edited by Carley Solether and shot by Joanna Nguyen, “Shadow Bloom” follows Sprague around everyday life, fixating in on the quieter moments. Slicing food, writing, a stroll outside, elevating those moments to something that comes across as nearly sacred. It’s easy to become immersed in the imagery, tracing over each shot with the delicacy Sprague’s afforded the song. A gentle whisper of an offering, “Shadow Bloom” is Florist at its finest.

Watch “Shadow Bloom” below and pre-order Emily Alone from Double Double Whammy here.

Twen – Holy River (Stream)

Twen have been quietly kicking around the upper midwest punk scene for a while, taking their time in perfecting a psych-inflected strain of dream pop on tracks like the recent “Holy River”. While their audience has yet to blossom, a recent signing to Frenchkiss only means that next step’s only a matter of time. The tracks they’ve been releasing leading up to their first major effort for the label have all had a similar floating quality, the melodies and instrumentation stretching skyward, reaching towards a new height. Before long, there might not be anywhere left to reach.

Listen to “Holy River” below and keep an eye on this site for further updates on the band.

Slaughter Beach, Dog – One Down + Good Ones (Stream)

Slaughter Beach, Dog formed around the end of Modern Baseball and carries on that band’s legacy with an attentive ease. Jake Ewald’s project’s been consistently impressive since its debut and “One Down” and “Good Ones” continue that trend. Both tracks find Ewald continue to excel at playing the part of the ennui-laden introspective young adult, finding meaning in fleeting moments. Cruising around, recalling history, questioning a larger place and the foundations on which identity is built.

All of this deceptively heady questioning could turn burdensome in less capable hands but Ewald gently guides his material to a place of profundity without ever overstepping. Deeply impressive and easy to admire, each track carries its own weight with admirable determination, cementing Ewald’s status as one of today’s finest young storytellers.

Listen to “One Down” and “Good Ones” below and order Safe and Also No Fear here.


MNNQNS – Desperation Moon (Stream)

“Desperation Moon” is the kind of track that gets people to sit up and pay attention within a matter of seconds, that the remainder of the song pays off the promise of the abrupt start is a testament to its overall strength. Manic, near anthemic slacker punk of the highest order, MNNQNS have crafted something impossible to ignore and easy to enjoy. Every second of “Desperation Moon” is earned and urgent, the band delivering each stray note with tenacious conviction. It’s a party all on its own.

Listen to “Desperation Moon” below and order Body Negative here.