Heartbreaking Bravery

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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.

IDLES – Samaritans (Music Video)

There’s a very real chance that IDLES might wind up sneering and snarling their way into a handful of coveted Album of the Year slots with their forthcoming Joy As An Act of Resistance. Virtually everything the band’s done ahead of the release has been nothing short of incredible, from pointed push backs to xenophobic sentiments and stolen gestures to the measured sprawl and slow-burning intensity of a frustration framed in 4:3.

The quintet’s latest unveiling, “Samaritans”, finds the band relentless attacking toxic masculinity to staggering effect. While there aren’t a lot of problematic sociopolitical topics that richly benefit from being led by white men, toxic masculinity is one that definitely qualifies. Having a vocal guidance that comes from men who look tough and present in a traditionally masculine way is a way that can cut through a very tired form of presumption with an exacting precision that sometimes finds a way to tower over the interfering noise.

To that end, “Samaritans” isn’t just powerful but deeply important. IDLES have been making their name on relentlessly aggressive hardcore-adjacent punk that fearlessly invokes progressive politics. To put it as bluntly as possible, IDLES could very well be the most important punk band on the planet. We don’t need men — especially white men — to control and lead conversations about every aspect of sociopolitical regression but to have some who are legitimately enraged by those instances, who are lending both their voice and platform to a way that meaningfully addresses societal ills is vital; this is the space where IDLES are making their presence felt.

“Samaritans” is as necessary as anything in IDLES’ discography thus far, driven by venomous bite and loathing for a status quo that shouldn’t exist — a fact driven home by the video’s presentation of stock footage, a stark reminder of toxic masculinity’s insidious totality. This is why you never see your father cry / this is why you never see your father is the unforgettable hook that informs a song that’s been constructed by history and given extra weight by the tumultuous nature of what that history has entailed. Everything here, as is typically the case with IDLES songs, carries the scars of experience. They’re also buoyed by an increasing prominence in modern opinion that things like toxic masculinity deserve a beheading.

When the guillotine drops, those sharp edges are felt. Not necessarily by the victim but by those who bear witness. IDLES have crafted their own version of that weapon with “Mother” (Heartbreaking Bravery’s Music Video of the Year for 2017), “Colossus”, “Danny Nedelko”, and a handful of others. “Samaritans” is just the latest addition to the list. While the things that are stirring up the inspiration for IDLES’ narratives may still find ways to attain prevalence, don’t expect the band to step away from a fight; this is music that’s already been bathed in blood.

Watch “Samaritans” below and pre-order Joy As An Act of Resistance from Partisan here.

Swearin’ – Grow Into A Ghost (Stream)

One of the more heartening developments in recent memory has been the return of Swearin’, the band responsible for the best demo to be released this decade, a self-titled that lived up to the demo’s promise (and then some), and an oddly moving sophomore effort. Some interpersonal difficulties led to the group shelving the project and saw guitarist/vocalist Allison Crutchfield embark on a solo project, striking up a relationship with Merge (a label that also houses Crutchfield’s twin sister Katie’s project, Waxahatchee).

The band’s making one key transition in their return, which is a welcome, familiar face on bass duties: All Dogs‘ Amanda Bartley, who very recently became an official member of the group, just in time for the band to tour their forthcoming Fall Into the Sun. “Grow Into A Ghost” is the first look at that record (which, coincidentally, will be the band’s first release for Merge) and serves as a potent reminder of why this band’s been so missed in the time of their absence.

Basement pop of the absolute highest order, the song’s anchored by Crutchfield’s emotional conviction, formidable writing strength, and thoughtful arrangement. Elevated by the members’ familiarity with a very specific vision, “Grow Into A Ghost” makes no bones about coming out swinging. It’s a hardened look ahead and a reminder of the band’s own legacy, conjuring up an incredible amount of hope for what lays in wait for the future of Swearin’.

Welcome them back by leaving this one on repeat.

Listen to “Grow Into A Ghost” below and pre-order Fall Into the Sun from Merge here.

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.

A Look Back at the Past Two Weeks: Streams, Music Videos, and Full Streams

The past two weeks of material, once more, have been loaded with exceptional works. Each of the major categories saw the influx of notable items keep the same ridiculous pace that 2018 has set across multiple genres. No matter the level of notoriety or recognition, every week this year has brought in a slew f entries that have ranged from wildly entertaining to legitimately unforgettable. With that being the case, featuring everything is an impossible task. This post serves as a reminder and reference point for a slew of those songs, clips, and records worth remembering.

Songs

Gia Margaret, Mooner, Snow Roller, Izzy True, Babehoven, Richard Rose, Honyock, ASM, Tokyo Police Club (x2), Tony Molina, Dead Soft, SIGNAL, Evan Jewett, Advance Base, Gold Star, Beak>, Astronauts, etc., LT Wade, The Rizzos, perfume-v, Dyan, DelafyeFrøkedal, Quiet Hollers, Saul Williams, Super Paradise, Westerman, Tunng, Ohmme, United Ghosts, El Ten Eleven, Lucero, Koschika, Claw Marks, Miss World, Mister Lies, Menace Beach, Bleeth, Taylor Janzen, Wild Pink, Lewis Burg, Brother Reverend, Swamp Dogg, Darren Jesse, The Coup, La Force, Verse Metrics, Ancestors, Joe Kaplow, and David Bazan.

Music Videos

Waxahatchee, Saintseneca, Curling, Steady Holiday, Fred Thomas, Trust Fund, Jeff Rosenstock, Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever, Night Shop, The Goon Sax, Cat Power, Queen of Jeans, The Beths, Macajey, Slang, Frankie Cosmos, Devon Welsh, Saintseneca, Bully, Estrons, The Molochs, GRLWood, Jane Church, Sad Baxter, Richard Reed Parry, Dama Scout, The Black Delta Movement, Sarah Shook & the Disarmers, Campdogzz, Harrison Lipton, The Velveteins, Lala Lala, PR Newman, and Couch Jackets.

Full Streams

Harvey Trisdale, trulyyrs, Cold Lunch, Spissy, Shapes In Calgary, Cruel Diagonals, Delhia de France, and Wilder Maker.

 

Mike Krol – An Ambulance (Stream)

A whole pile of incredible songs emerged this week, including new entries from: Florry, Mothers, Henry Chadwick, Sauropod, Notches, Strawberry Mountain, Lost Boy ?, Muncie Girls, Harvey Trisdale, Thin Lips, Sketti Tangles, Gon von Zola, Michael Michael Motorcycle, Found Wild, Joey Sweeney, Rosie Thorne, Claw Marks, Paul Collins, Bilge Rat, Memory Bells, The Chills, Jane’s Party, and Leland and the Silver Walls. They’re all worth a listen. Another artist to join the party was site favorite Mike Krol.

Just a few years ago, Krol put out the incredible Turkey, a record teeming with blistering basement pop strong enough to land it a spot as Heartbreaking Bravery’s pick as one of 2015’s best albums. Krol hasn’t released much of anything in the interim that’s followed but did see a spike in popularity after an unexpected, joyous appearance as an in-show character on Steven Universe. Rebecca Sugar’s show — and the fervent fan base its amassed — seems in perfect keeping with Krol’s sensibilities, which manage to simultaneously suggest immediacy and thoughtfulness.

Which brings us to “An Ambulance”, a characteristically scintillating surge of punk-tinted basement pop from an artist that’s built a career out of mastering that exact genre. From the jump, “An Ambulance” flaunts its blown-out giddiness, exploding in an adrenaline rush of melodic aggression. A catchy-as-hell guitar riff forms the foundation for one of the summer’s best hooks, accelerating the song from a controlled cruise to reckless abandonment. The song’s vintage Krol, suffusing the past with credible meaning and blowing the doors to the future wide open.

Listen to “An Ambulance” below and pre-order An Ambulance b/w Never Know from Merge here.

Fog Lake – Captain (Album Stream, Review)

Over the first week or so of June, there were a lot of quality full streams: Slanted, Elsa Lester, Weekend Lovers, Guts Club, Bleakness, Heart of Snake, Sinister Purpose, Kilcid, and The Foreign Films all played significant roles in that development. Another artist making an entry was site favorite Fog Lake, who has quietly releases some of the most inspired work of the past few years.

The ambient-leaning bedroom pop project of Aaron Powell, Fog Lake has built a measure of success around a heartening mixture of word-of-mouth notoriety and carefully selected collaborators. Captain, easily the most towering of the project’s works, is Fog Lake’s latest and features a mastering credit from Warren Hildebrand (who records as Foxes In Fiction and runs the revered Orchid Tapes label).

From Captain‘s opening salvo, “Dinosaur”, it becomes clear that Powell’s tapped into an intangible, ethereal mode that invokes an equal measure of calmness, solitude, and a very specific, distinct brand of yearning. Lush arrangements somehow only enhance the considerable loneliness that can be heard in everything from Captain‘s gorgeous piano figures to Powell’s vocal delivery, lending significant impact to narratives that seem to continuously dissect internal struggle.

Even when Captain is at it’s most jubilant — the mid-tempo romp that “Seratonin” establishes for the record’s middle stretch almost seems necessary after the unrelenting devastation of “California” — Powell never settles into carefree perspectives, opting instead to continue to pry into the psyche and surgically wounds and the scars they’ve left behind. The cumulative effect of that persistence in shining lights on those cobwebs can become as overwhelming as the music, which remains brilliant throughout the record’s duration, is intoxicating.

When Powell shifts the tempo and atmospherics down for Captain‘s closing run of songs, it’s a decision that feels natural; the process is attuned to the landscape. Ultimately, Captain winds up being Fog Lake’s most staggering work in an already incredible — and far too frequently overlooked — discography. Make no mistake, this is one of the year’s best records by a significant margin and should hopefully play a factor in widening Fog Lake’s name recognition. This is as good a guide as anyone will find all summer.

Listen to Captain below and pick it up here.

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.