Heartbreaking Bravery

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Tag: 2013

Mozes and the Firstborn – Bloodsucker (Music Video)

Mozes and the Firstborn quietly released one of the best debut records of last year on Burger as a cassette and few people noticed. Now, though, on the brink of releasing that same record in all major audio formats (and in the midst of a tour with together PANGEA), lots of people’s heads are turning. All it takes is one listen to just about any song off of Mozes and the Firstborn to know that this quartet of kids from the Netherlands has tapped into something special. Serious songwriting chops paired with enviable pop sensibilities and enough dirtied up grit to make any Ty Segall acolyte blush. All of this is why this site’s already spent a fair amount of words on the band. They’re a band worth celebrating and undoubtedly deserve the praise and affection that will be coming their way.

Today, the band outdid themselves. Already prone to sneaking in nods to film (their name is a reference to the animated religious film The Prince of Egypt), they elevated their filmic tendencies by releasing a music video for “Bloodsucker” that’s a loving ode to The Big Shave, the 1967 short film that launched Martin Scorsese’s career. Only this time, instead of the principle subject shaving the bottom half of his face off, the band and director, Jeroen Dankers, give the stark story a blackly comic twist that prompts as much laughter as it does disgust. It’s an audacious move and may even become an iconic clip in certain circles. While the video’s dedication to a faithful aesthetic recreation of its source material is impressive, it’s the song that pushes this over the edge. “Bloodsucker” is the kind of vintage powerpop that’s incredibly difficult to get successful without sounding strained but is a style Mozes and the Firstborn manage to pull off effortlessly. With “Bloodsucker” backing the increasingly garish imagery that accompanies it, they create an incredibly memorable piece of art that deserves to be seen. Watch “Bloodsucker” below, pre-order Mozes and the Firstborn from Burger, and don’t take any brushes with fate for granted.

Yuck – Somewhere (Music Video)

Despite only being a few years into their run, Yuck have already stared down their fair share of difficulties. Most notably, one of the band’s frontmen (Daniel Blumberg) left prior to the recording of their highly-anticipated sophomore record to focus on his Hebronix project. With that important departure, many had some very serious doubts about what that sophomore effort would sound like. Then, when Glow and Behold finally arrived, it lit off one of the more impassioned firestorms of opinion battles 2013 had to offer.

Now that all the dust has finally settled, admirers and detractors alike both seem to agree on one thing; Glow and Behold, at the very least, is an important transitional record. That transition is underscored very gracefully with the band’s black-and-white clip for “Somewhere”, a poppy shoegaze slow-burner off that last record. The vast majority of “Somewhere” takes place inside an airport, never featuring any of the band’s members, just shadowy unidentifiable figures. Towards the end, the terminal is abandoned for the sky as the plane leaves the stability of solid ground behind. It’s all very understated, managing to draw obvious parallels without coming across as too on-the-nose. A very enjoyable way to spend six minutes.

Watch “Somewhere” below.

Majical Cloudz – Savage (Music Video)

2013 was a standout year for a lot of things, inventive lyric videos among them. From Neko Case to Okkervil River to Vampire Weekend, there were a plethora of extraordinary examples of the format. This week has already seen Tokyo Police Club step up to the plate and absolutely crush it. Adding to the unlikely string of successes this year comes an extraordinarily beautiful from Majical Cloudz, who are responsible for one of the year’s most stunning albums.

One of Impersonator‘s biggest strengths is that it always came across as so fucking personal. There were more than a few moments on that record that felt as if frontman Devon Walsh was allowing uninhibited voyeurism into his entire being. Songs like “Childhood’s End”, “This is Magic”, and, especially, “Bugs Don’t Buzz” were the kind of bare-all exercises that had the impact to freeze virtually anyone that was lucky enough to be listening; they were allowed in.

“Savage”, which has been making the rounds for a month or so now, didn’t wind up on Impersonator but carries the same emotional resonance as the best songs on that record. Today the band unveiled a lyric video in keeping with their stark bare-bones aesthetic. All that’s featured in the video for “Savage” is an unnamed person (presumably Walsh, who also directed the video) scrawling the lyrics to the song out by hand as they happen. There’s no way to accurately predict just how this band’s penchant for tight-roping the line between ferocity and understatement is going to affect any potential listeners but as long as they keep doing it this successfully (in both songs and music videos), they’ll be a band worth following.

Watch the video for “Savage” below.

Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds – Higgs Boson Blues (Music Video)

Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds have widely been regarded as one of the best live bands on the planet since the 1980’s. Live documents like the legendary Abattoir Blues Tour and Live Seeds have featured material startling enough to support this notion. Recently the band released Live From KCRW, which leaned heavily on the material from their most recent record; this year’s superb Push the Sky Away.

They aren’t anywhere close to finished with live releases though, as is proved by the music video they unveiled today for Push the Sky Away standout “Higgs Boson Blues”. Ian Forsyth & Jane Pollard are found at the helm of this video once again, having worked on a variety of projects before for the band. Forsyth and Pollard are also largely responsible for the upcoming film 20,000 Days on Earth, which recently was officially selected for screening at next year’s Sundance Film Festival, which is a pseudo-documentary about the band.

Some collaborations yield fruitful results and he Pollard, Forsyth, Bad Seeds triumvirate is certainly one of them. The live performance clip of “Higgs Boson Blues” is definitive proof. Featuring a searingly intense yet eerily quiet live performance from the band, the co-directors weave in and out of close-ups, shadows, and the nervous frenetic movement of the band’s central character. All of their directorial impact would be somewhat diminished if not for the outstanding cinematography work courtesy of the BBC’s Lol Crawley.

“Higgs Boson Blues” doesn’t take long to settle in, extending its incisors to lock the viewer into its deadly vice-like grip. This is a live performance that has the potential for complete captivation, erasing any thoughts of a daunting run-time of over nine minutes. There’s a slow hypnosis at work that can completely surround the viewer, forcing them to lose all perspective of their surroundings. While the impact isn’t quite as strong as being physically present for the performance, it’s about as close as anyone could wish for.

After a slow build, an entrancing unraveling, a small-yet-explosive climax, the song winds to a hushed, hair-raising outro. This is evidence of masters at work and it’s something completely deserving of its length. Go get lost in Cave & co.’s black magic below.

Vadaat Charigim – Odisea (Music Video)

Burger Records refuses to ease off the brakes this year and as a result, there’s never a shortage of material to write about. Hailing from Tel Aviv, Vadaat Charigim managed to raise more than a few eyebrows this year with their excellent record The World Is Well Lost. It’s a record that incorporates sprawling run times, plays up the melodic aspects of shoegaze that are generally buried, and feels genuinely complete. While the whole record is more than worthwhile, it does have a few clear standout moments. One of them, “Odisea”, now has a music video that’s full of the kind of signifiers that were readily apparent in the overlapping golden era of both shoegaze and no wave, right down to the cheap special effects and battered vintage aesthetic. Somehow, instead of feeling forced or slight it all seems to come from a very genuine place. Most importantly, Vaadat Charigim don’t come off as overly-enthusiastic revivalists- they come across as the band ready to carry a once-forgotten genre’s torch into the future.

Order The World Is Well Lost over at Burger and watch the flashback-inducing video for “Odisea” below.

Polvo – Light, Raking (Music Video)

Polvo’s Siberia was one of 2013’s most unexpected surprises. When that band starts clicking, they can go virtually unmatched in razor-sharp uneasiness and “Light, Raking” was one of Siberia‘s finest examples of this. Yesterday Filter premiered a strangely hypnotic video for the track that features a lot of stop-motion yarn, somehow amplifying the band’s most arresting emotional undercurrents. Like Shane Carruth’s Upstream Color before it, printed words simply can’t do justice to the strangely visceral experience it inspires. Watch “Light, Raking” below and pick up Siberia from Merge.


Midwives – EP (Review)

Milwaukee’s Midnight Reruns are set to unveil their debut LP next week and it’s likely to be one of the year’s best. Don’t let that serve as a distraction from Rerun’s frontman Graham Hunt’s other project, the equally attention-deserving hardcore act Midwives. After releasing a self-titled five song EP digitally through Bandcamp only a little over a month ago, Direct Current records will be pressing 7″ copies as their very first release. It’s one hell of a first release for both parties, occupying a space that falls somewhere between OFF! and Pissed Jeans.
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Hunt’s vicious guitar work here is matched in intensity by his bandmates’ respective performances. Blood is shed. The whole thing’s over in seven exhilarating minutes. With each track coming in at an average of only slightly over a minute, there’s no time to breathe. Midwives manage to execute on each of these tracks, going 5-for-5 on their first outing.

Midwives’ unfiltered frustration may be their most defining characteristic, coming to a head in “Twinkie” at the EP’s midway point amid repeated cries of “I can’t take this.” Their most valuable asset, however, surfaces in the inventive final minute of “Debonair”, which finds the band slowing down and descending into a gently chaotic pattern that’s somewhat reminiscent of the expansive instrumental pieces on Fucked Up’s The Chemistry of Common Life. “Debonair” giving way to new stylistic elements as the EP bows out suggests new and exciting possibilities for Midwives’ sound, which  sets them up nicely and elevates anticipation for what they’ll manage with any follow-up’s.

From the pummeling “White Whine” through to those final quietly unnerving moments, there’s never a dull section. Midwives’ introduction piece should be an equally strong start to Direct Current’s operations. Both the band and the label seem well worth keeping tabs on. Add this to Perfect Pussy’s I have lost all desire for feeling, Pharmakon’s Abandon, and LVL Up’s Extra Worlds as one of the year’s best EP’s. Keep an eye out for the physical release and stream it below.

Radioactivity – Radioactivity (Album Review)

Radioactivity - s/t cover art

The Marked Men’s 2006 masterpiece Fix My Brain was one of the decade’s only indisputable basement pop classics. While their unexpected follow-up Ghosts was good, it failed to reach the heights of its predecessor. Afterwards, The Marked Men slowly disappeared, playing only a scant few dates a year, if that. Earlier this year the Denton, TX band headlined Dirtnap Records’ massive 14 year anniversary shows in Seattle and Portland, reminding everyone that they were still on the top of their respective games. Which brings us to the here and now; Marked Men members Jeff Burke and Mark Ryan’s new band, Radioactivity.

Radioactivity have just released their self-titled debut record and it more than lives up to the promise of their involvement. While Ghosts was an admirably slight misstep, Radioactivity feels like the more natural successor to Fix My Brain. Even though Radioactivity isn’t a Marked Men release, it has all of that band’s vintage staples in tact. Vocal melodies are crisp and catchy while the guitar-riff heavy arrangements offer up plenty of memorable hooks. All of this is anchored by a propulsive rhythm section that props up Radioactivity‘s most thrilling moments.

Generally when a band manages to put out a release that’s more than a dozen tracks deep there’s bound to be a weak track or two. Radioactivity avoids this trap in thrilling fashion, offering up 13 standout tracks that don’t deserve to be skipped over. From opening track “Sickness” to their final moment on “Trusted You”, Radioactivity pilots their way through an absurd amount of peaks and ultimately wind up with a new classic on their hands. It will be a legitimately stunning development if this record isn’t featured on several year-end lists, especially when taking into account some of the more specialized publications.

Trying to pinpoint all of the highlights on Radioactivity would be an exercise in gross futility because they’re peppered all over every manic track. Radioactivity’s energy throughout this, while not unexpected, is worth marveling over. All 13 tracks are emphasized by perfect sequencing and elevated by the record’s masterful pacing. Moment after moment is full of a rejuvenated sense of purpose, displaying a sense of uninhibited joy. This is a whirlwind masterclass in a certain style of songwriting and deserves to be in as many collections as possible.

Fix My Brain defined a genre for more than a few people and stood in a class of its own. After a seven year wait for something as worthy, Radioactivity’s self-titled debut has finally proved there can be something that joins its ranks. While it’s still Mark Ryan and Jeff Burke, the band do qualify as a new project despite all the similarities to its predecessor. Whether or not Radioactivity can improve on their astounding start is anyone’s best guess but a lot of people will be anxious to find out. After all, Ryan and Burke have proved they can duplicate their successes. If anyone’s capable of pulling off the miraculous twice, it’d be them.

Radioactivity can be purchased from the always reliable Dirtnap and can be streamed below.