Heartbreaking Bravery

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Dilly Dally – Sober Motel (Stream)

When Dilly Dally‘s “I Feel Free” announced the band’s return, a lot was made about how the band’s initial touring schedule and international attention nearly killed them forever. Part of this was because of the stress levels that attention necessitated and the resulting struggles that existed within the band’s makeup. Alcoholism was a vice that hit especially hard and is a subject that gets pushed to the forefront of the band’s follow-up single to “I Feel Free”, pointedly entitled “Sober Motel”.

Weathering all of those storms and fighting through life’s difficulties seems to have made Dilly Dally a stronger band, with “Sober Motel” and “I Feel Free” standing  as pillars of proof. The band can still go scorched-earth with the best of them and they’re leaning even harder into the rest-and-explode dynamic that helped them make their name. “Sober Motel” showcases this especially well, with Katie Monks unleashing one anguished howl after another (Monks’ voice remains one of the best instruments any band today has to offer) as the band provides some complementary grit. It’s a characteristically breathtaking track from an original voice that found a way to survive. We should all be grateful.

Listen to “Sober Motel” below and pre-order Heaven here.

Marbled Eye – Laughing Sound (Stream)

Taking less than a second to establish that there’s a threat of detonation is always a bold way to start a track and that brand of weaponization is fearlessly deployed in Marbled Eye‘s “Laughing Sound”, one of the best post-punk tracks of the year thus far. The quartet rides that foreboding intro into a jittery tempo that never truly explodes, the band reeling in with the kind of measured restraint that defines the genre. Yet, that lingering threat remains throughout the track’s entirety, never dissipating enough to provide a level of safety or comfort.

Constantly teetering back and forth between total annihilation and crumbling to pieces, “Laughing Sound” should serve as a remarkably perfect lead-off track for Marbled Eye’s forthcoming Leisure. A behemoth of a song as it currently stands, it’ll be fascinating to hear in the context of the record. For now, we should be more than content to just loop this one until every twist and turn’s been committed to memory.

Listen to “Laughing Sound” below and pre-order Leisure from the band here.

Tomberlin – Self-Help (Music Video)

Just before releasing one of the most devastating albums of the year in the achingly gorgeous At Weddings, Tomberlin offered up one last peek towards that incredible record with the Laura-Lynn Petrick-directed clip for “Self-Help”, which lays bare the kind of arresting nakedness that gets put under the knife throughout the course of the album. Centered around the artist and a trip to the aquarium, the clip for “Self-Help” drives home the pervasive tendency to feel small outlined against the wonders of life that gets considered and dissected in At Weddings.

No answers are offered, no questions are explicitly asked, but “Self-Help” punches home existential wonderment with an unapologetic precision. Viewers might get lost in “Self-Help” but it’s difficult to predict to what extent, as there’s enough at stake here to level someone particularly vulnerable. Bravely articulated and fearless in its vulnerability, “Self-Help” is art at its most honest, which can go a long way towards a greater survival.

Watch “Self-Help” below and pick up a copy of At Weddings from Saddle Creek here.

Alien Boy – If We Don’t Speak (Stream)

Consistently engaging and constantly intriguing, Alien Boy have been a name to watch for a while now and, if “If We Don’t Speak” is any indication, are preparing for bigger things. Not just in terms of audience but scope. Everything from the production to the arrangement style has been tweaked and “If We Don’t Speak” is comparatively towering over Alien Boy’s past releases (which remain worthy of investment). Here, the project bridges subversive pop-punk with shoegaze to an effect that’s genuinely startling.

A lot of bands in the past few years have been attempting to bridge those two genres but most haven’t come halfway close to the seamless overlapping that “If We Don’t Speak” contains. Washed-out reverb, punishing guitars, an aching melody, a bruised narrative, and a tenacious determination collide to elevate the sound to stratospheric heights that conjure a genuine feeling of awe. It’s a behemoth of a track that’s not content to just reach skyward, it’s one that successfully seizes the universe.

Listen to “If We Don’t Speak” below and pre-order Sleeping Lessons from Tiny Engines here.

 

Sonny Falls – Flies (Stream)

Over almost four minutes, Sonny Falls showcase their confidence, identity, and ability with a shape-shifting, tempo-switching rock n’ roll ripper that presents the project as one of today’s more tantalizing acts. Invoking the open-road sensibilities of forebears like Petty and Springsteen, “Flies” also sees Sonny Falls injecting that ceaselessly sprawling sweep with the hard-won wisdom that accompanies being a DIY-level band that makes a commitment to the road.

An intersection of so many celebrated rock n’ roll staples, “Flies” still manages to sound like a singular work. There’s a strain of strangeness coursing  through “Flies” at every turn, even in its most time-honored moments (no one’s likely to hear a more well-timed saxophone solo in a punk-leaning song this year), suffusing a fresh sensibility into a comforting and familiar pattern. A song worth every last second, “Flies” suggest Sonny Falls have more stories to tell. Songs like this one is what’ll keep people listening.

Listen to “Flies” below and pre-order Some Kind of Spectre from Sooper Records here.

The Beths – You Wouldn’t Like Me (Music Video)

On Friday, The Beths released one of 2018’s best albums so far in the astonishing Future Me Hates Me, a record overflowing with sugar-coated basement pop that comes with just enough bite to truly stand out. One of the strongest moments of that record — which, again, is uniformly great — comes by way of “You Wouldn’t Like Me”, which was recently given an Ezra Simons-helmed music video that stands as the band’s best clip to date.

Ceaselessly charming, gifted with a vibrant palette, and full of clever, tongue-in-cheek moments, the clip acts as a perfect summation of the band’s appeal. There’s something familiar about the surface but there’s a competing intricacy that suggests the individualized vision at The Beth’s core. Warm, welcoming, and ridiculously winsome, “You Wouldn’t Like Me” offers up a worst-case argument for its title, clearly outlining just how much about this band, this record, and this clip, is not only worth liking but outright loving.

Watch “You Wouldn’t Like Me” below and pick up a copy of Future Me Hates Me from Carpark here.

Maxband – Means To An End (Stream)

A heartening trend that’s emerged over the past few years is that of great bands being comprised of a collection of people who are fully capable of leading a strong solo project. Parquet Courts belong firmly in this conversation, an assertion made with additional clarity on the back of the unveiling of Max Savage’s latest project, Maxband. “Means To An End” is one of the first looks at the project and offers up more than a few compelling reasons to believe Maxband will be a name worth knowing.

Parquet Courts’ influence on Savage’s project is both clear and unavoidable but there’s a layer of pop sensibility that peeks through on the chorus that feels both unexpected and incredibly welcome, elevating “Means To An End” from mere imitation to something that deserves to stand on its own. The song still operates in the kind of mid-tempo strut that Parquet Courts has been favoring of late but allows the guitar figures to become transformative, providing a glimpse at what Maxband could be bringing to the table as a solo venture, something that becomes even more plain in the song’s gorgeous outro section.

Until we know for sure, there are far worse ways to spend time than spending quality time with “Means To An End”, a promising, layered, and unexpected gem.

Listen to “Means To An End” below and pre-order Perfect Strangers here.

Dentist – Night Swimming (Album Review, Stream)

Dentist‘s name has been appearing on this site for a few years now, suggesting they’re capable of the kind of longevity most bands covet. Night Swimming, the band’s most recent album, stands as their strongest — and biggest — moment to date. Operating in the intersection between power pop and basement punk, the band’s crafted a rich, engaging work that plays to their formidable abilities as songwriters.

“Upset Words” and the title track constitute the 1-2 combo that opens Night Swimming, making the band’s penchant for hooks. dynamics, and intuitive structuring incredibly evident. It’s a combination that also familiarizes the uninitiated with Dentist’s approach, which is to pitch their work at a low-key level, opting for the kind of songwriting that draws in listeners gradually and envelops them over time. The beauty of Dentist’s work is that it barely requires patience; all of these songs register as works of understated brilliance on first listen.

From front to back, Night Swimming operates within those guidelines and works its way to an enchanting whole. It’s the kind of record no one wants to stop playing or skip through, choosing instead to revel in the smallest details. The mid-fi production accentuates the material nicely, presenting Dentist as they are: at a crossroads between their DIY roots and the increasingly tangible possibility that their work could elevate them to a recognition that vastly exceeds their earliest ambitions.

Here’s hoping this is the record that guides them to that breakthrough.

For now, just lean back and enjoy one of the best basement pop releases 2018 will have to offer.

Listen to Night Swimming below and pick up a copy here.

Clearance – At Your Leisure (Album Review, Stream)

Few bands can maintain consistency at a high level and evolve within those parameters. We’ve seen some of the biggest bands fall pray to their own hubris in unsuccessful reinventions and some smaller bands discover confidence that they didn’t realize they had after expanding their ambitions and embracing plunges into unfamiliar terrain. While Clearance doesn’t tip towards either extreme, At Your Leisure firmly suggests they may be headed towards the latter.

The band’s earlier works earned them a lot of comparisons to Pavement and those comparisons were legitimate and justifiable (which isn’t always the case when that name gets thrown out). At Your Leisure finds Clearance presenting a more confident version of themselves, a look that pays immediate dividends. The arrangements are more nuanced and the records stands as their most cohesive effort to date. While their past work still merits applause and investment, they’ve clearly hit another level.

Leaning significantly harder into jangle pop sensibilities, Clearance still holds their slacker punk roots firmly in place, allowing them to ground an incredibly winsome effort. Every song on At Your Leisure is one that’s allowed — and encourages — a patient growth, something that’s reflective of the band’s own evolution. While there are some head-turning moments scattered throughout the record (the chorus on “Destination Wedding” being the first of a handful), there’s never a cheap attempt at something designed for immediate, attention-ensnaring impact.

By utilizing a meditative pace and allowing their songs to breathe, Clearance unearth a way to provide an overarching texture on At Your Leisure that’s both fascinating and relatively uncommon. There are peaks and valleys throughout the album, to be sure, but they all act in the service of a greater whole rather than as a way to elevate an individual set piece. “Had A Fantastic” is the only track that comes close to breaking that form, which is likely why it was released as an advance single; the song’s urgency and insistence inject a significant amount of life into the record but can easily stand as a self-sustaining track when removed from the record and placed on a mix — yet it still provides the pacing of At Your Leisure with a necessary kick that benefits the material that comes before and after its appearance.

None of the tracks on At Your Leisure are dull and every facet of the release seems to have been provided with a fair amount of thought. All of those elements work in its favor, allowing the record an intoxicating appeal as a legitimate record. Not a singles collection. Not a greatest hits. Not a record that was padded out. Not a record that was designed to serve a purpose beyond its existence. At Your Leisure is a true version of the classic record; a welcome curiosity in a shifting landscape that’s all but eliminated its ilk. That alone is worthy of praise. Fortunately, for everyone, the music more than backs it up.

Sit with this one. Give it room to breathe. Get lost in its spell. Then do it all over again and get inspired to make a record the way a record should be made.

Listen to At Your Leisure below and pick it up from Topshelf here.

Doe – Heated (Music Video)

The last release Doe managed, 2016’s Some Things Last Longer Than You, was good enough to be christened Heartbreaking Bravery’s Album of the Year. To say that the arrival of their new material has been highly anticipated over on these fronts would be a monumental understatement. “Heated”, the lead-off single for the trio’s forthcoming Grow Into It — their first release for both Big Scary Monsters (UK/EU) and Topshelf (US) — was worth the wait.

“Heated” picks up where that record left off, offering up an avalanche of memorable hooks, explosive dynamics, and considered arrangements. Guitarist/vocalist Nicola Leel leads the band through a mid-tempo charge that evokes the slacker punk scene of the ’90s the band proudly embraces as evident influence. Everything from the riffs, oscillating between woozy and scintillating, to the backing vocals that provide an abundance of texture have solid historical backing but are presented in a modernized context that genuinely elevates the material.

As thoughtful as ever, “Heated” finds Doe more experienced, more versatile, and more prepared than ever to jump into the fray with fearless abandon. It’s a song that offers no wasted moments and plenty of clever twists that portend very, very good things for the record that lies in wait. A perfect soundtrack for a humid summer for a cavalcade of reasons, “Heated” isn’t afraid to live up to its title. The arresting Jack Barraclough-directed music video that accompanies its release is just the cherry on top.

Watch “Heated” below and keep an eye on Topshelf for pre-order of Grow Into It.