Heartbreaking Bravery

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Tag: 2016

Music Videos of the First Quarter: The Honorable Mentions

A little over a week remains in 2017’s first quarter so it felt appropriate — especially considering the recent hiatus — to reflect on some of the best material to have been released over the course of these past three months. What started yesterday with the list of notable full streams will bleed into the following days. Today’s post shifts the focus to some of the most memorable music videos to have surfaced since the start of the year. All of the below videos piqued attention for one reason or the other, either on the film or music side, and deserve as many views as they can possibly receive. So dive in, click around, and explore. Good things await.

Future Islands, Eric Slick, J.E. Sunde (x2), The Spirit of the Beehive (x2, 3), I Am The Polish Army, Caitlin Pasko, Gurr, Retail Space (x2), White Reaper, Demure For Sure, Meursault, Rosie Carney, Pronto MamaTouché Amoré, The Saxophones, Slow Bear, Thao & The Get Down Stay Down, Cass McCombs, NE-HI (x2), Chastity Belt, Francobollo, Ruby Bones, Blaire Alise & The Bombshells, PINS, Honeyblood, Idle Bloom, Hiccup, Xiu Xiu (x2, 3), The Youngest, Durand Jones & The Indications, Blonde Summer, Tobin Sprout

Hurray for the Riff Raff (x2), Beach Slang, Peter Silberman, Clipping., Molly Burch, Tijuana Panthers, Chick Quest, Chaz Bundick Meets the Mattson 2, Los Campesinos!, Wax Idols, The ShiversLee Fields & The Expressions, Bleached, Oceanator, Conor Oberst, Real Estate, D.A. Stern, minihorse, Drakulas, FACIAL, Tall Tall Trees (x2), gobbinjr, Parquet Courts, Band of Horses, Sam Vicari, Slothrust, Many Voices Speak, Happyness, Paul White, Strand of Oaks, Cosmonauts, NxWorries, Batwings Catwings, Mary Lynn

The Velveteins, Marching Church, Imaginary Tricks, Frederick the Younger, Moon Duo (x2), Christine Leakey, Walrus, No Ice, Froth, Nana Grizol, Bellows, Tyler Daniel Bean, The Walters, Flat Mary Road, Teen Vice, Woozles, Danny Denial, Night Shapes, Tough Tits, Swoon Lake, Harem, The Modern Savage, The Little Kicks, Crocodiles, We Leave At Midnight, Delicate Steve, The Smith Street Band, The Magnetic Fields (x2, 3, 4), Bin Chivalry, Summer Moon, JFDR, Six Organs of Admittance, Alex Lahey, Joan of Arc

TrentemøllerLeopold and His Fiction, Hippo Campus, Cherry Glazerr, Curse of Lono, Los Angeles Police Department, IAN SWEET, Surf Curse, Delicate Steve, The Black Angels, Timber Timbre (x2), Skaters (x2), Oxbow, Static Eyes, Young Romance, Space Camp, Bonnie Whitmore & Her Band, Quin Galavis, Tim Kasher, Slam Dunk, Daniel Romano, Big Lonely, Reptaliens, Sammus, Rainbrother, Callow, Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever, Bill MacKay, Moody Beach, My Education, HOTT MT, Century Palm (x2), Arthur Moon

The New Pornographers, Campbell L Sangster, Son & Thief, Yohuna, Girl Scout, Tim Kasher, The Head, Perfume Genius, TW Walsh, Blood Ponies, Laura Marling, Dead Man Winter, Sean Rowe, Kate Crash, Warm Body, Free Pizza, Kidsmoke, John Wesley Coleman III, Hand Habits, Aye Nako, Dirty Projectors, Chris Bathgate, Holy Motors, The Two Tens, FOTR, Amy Klein, London O’Connor, Dan San, Lisa/Liza, Knox Hamilton, Swet Shop Boys, Homebody, No Joy, Sunday Morning, Callow, Local Natives, Fastball

Personal Space, Milemarker, Allison Crutchfield, Brother Ali, Garrett Pierce, High Contrast, Wilsen, Crazy Bones, Spookey Ruben, Mt. Doubt, Fufanu, Circles/Waves, Spinning Coin, BATYA, High Waisted, Hoan, Strange Lot, Tennis, Ex-Girlfriends, Thurston Moore, Skating PollyJammz, Annie Hardy, Early Riser, Jay Som, Communist Daughter, Colin Stetson, Analog Candle, CRYWANK, Cate Le Bon, Phoebe Bridgers, Geotic, Diagrams, Jenny Hval, Mastodon, CHILLEMI, Shocking White, The Cherry Wave, Oshwa

Skyway Man, Equators, The Superweaks, Luke Sital-Singh, Ivy Meissner, Redspencer, Run The JewelsSpiral Stairs, Gothic Tropic, American Wrestlers, Moby & The Void Pacific Choir, Warhaus, Kodak Black, Annabelle’s Curse, The Obsessives, Heart Attack Man, and Harmony Tividad.

Full Streams of the First Quarter: The Honorable Mentions

Technical difficulties forced Heartbreaking Bravery into an effective hiatus at the start of the year but, even through the visible inaction, behind-the-scenes work continued in earnest. Various outlets depths were exhausted, the site’s inbox maintained its regular flood of releases, and everything else that emerged was meticulously examined. Over the course of 2017’s first quarter (minus a week or so), more than 100 great records were released. 10 will be spotlighted in the very near future and the rest of the releases that caused a positive reaction can be found below. Enjoy.

Cool American, Alexander F, The Courtneys, Single Player, Schlotman, Street Stains, Thurst, Teenage Wedding, oso oso, Sam Skinner, Thelma, Wild Pink, Toby Reif, Omni, Pissed Jeans, Baked, WHY?, Neutral Shirt, Hideout, SSWAMPZZ, Boosegumps, Maryn Jones, Luxury Death, UV-TV, Ron Gallo, Matty Ann, Communions, Hanni El Khatib, Vagabon, So Stressed, The Paranoyds, Middle Kids, David Bazan, Toner, minihorse, Fucked Up, Olive & The Pitz, Boreen, Two Moons, wayde, The Spirit of the Beehive

Lunch Ladies, Heavy Pockets, Layperson, Little Person, Laura Marling, Chick Quest, Tobin Spout, Tall Friend, Caitlin Pasko, The Molochs, Trust Fund, Pinegrove
 Radula, Sinai Vessel, CARE, Michael Chapman, Jamie Wyatt, The Modern Savage, Analog CandleLouise Lemón, Heart Attack Man, Matthew Lee Cothran, Retail Space, The Cherry Wave, Frederick the Younger, No Thank You, Railings, Crushed Stars, Fragrance., ShitKid, Joan of Arc, Jim O’Rourke, Black Kids, Knife in the Water, bvdub

The Ocean Party, VICTIME, Career Suicide, Dead Man Winter, Lindenfield, Loess, Redshift Headlights, Balto, Angelus, Fufanu, French Vanilla, The Wild War, Turn to Crime, Souvenir Driver, Stinking Lizaveta, Matteo Vallicelli, Milk Music, Caroline Spence, NAVVI, Cody Crumps, Exasperation, Xiu Xiu, Damaged Bug, Winston Hightower, Kim Free, Kikagaku Moyo, Lilah Larson, Appalache, Eric Burnham, Party of One, Noveller, sir Was, R. Missing, Yawn Mower, Moral Panic, Auditorium, The Pantheon, The Obsessives

Dakota Blue, Skullflower, My Education, Lowlands, Half Waif, Trevor de Brauw, Strange RangerOnce & Future Band, DONCAT, The Visis, Blank Range, Transona Five100%/Joyce Manor, and Dead Tenants/Drome.

A special mention should also be given to these five compilations, all supporting worthy causes: Our First 100 Days (at the time of this writing, this release is still being updated), Sad! A Barsuk Records Compilation for the ACLU, Is There Another Language?, Save the Smell, and Don’t Stop NowA Collection of Covers.

2016: A Year’s Worth of Memories

Heartbreaking Bravery recently went offline but all facets of the site are back to being fully operational. Apologies for any inconveniences. All posts that were slated to run during that brief hiatus will appear with this note.

Once again, I’d like to start off with thanking the 2016 crop of contributors for A Year’s Worth of Memories: James Greer, Lindsey-Paige McCloy, Amanda Dissinger, Loren DiBlasi, Katie Preston, Erica Sutherland, Nicola Leel, Jesse Amesmith, Phil McAndrew, Lindsay Hazen, John Rossiter, Sonia Weber, Lily Mastrodimos, Eric Slick, Jerard Fagerberg, Megan Manowitz, Amar Lal, Phyllis Ophelia, Elise Okusami, Isaac Eiger, Alisa Rodriguez, Ryan Wizniak, Nora Scott, Natalie Kirch, and Jessica Leach. There aren’t words powerful enough to adequately convey my gratitude for your efforts, time, care, and consideration. Apologies to anyone that may have contributed something that got lost in the shuffle (if this is you, please send me a note and we can try to work something out for next year).

As you may have noticed, every single entry into this year’s edition of A Year’s Worth of Memories (this one included) either ran or is running with the disclaimer up top. At the start of the year, Heartbreaking Bravery was effectively forced into a hiatus to work out technical complications that occurred due to what essentially amounted to a correspondence glitch. All sorts of things went haywire and reconnecting all the wires was a surprisingly difficult task. A number of things got lost in the shuffle.

For a brief time, I thought about ending the site permanently but reading back through the material that was still left on the table — as well as some of the material that was posted in the past — dissuaded me from calling it quits. These pieces needed to be published and it felt important, maybe even necessary, to continue this site.

While the timing may have rendered the 2016 installment of A Year’s Worth of Memories a little less timely than I would have liked, the pieces themselves largely transcended the time capsule-style trappings typically attributed to these types of works. Many touched on lessons that seemed timeless. All of them made me question what I’d eventually choose to write about it and how I’d present it whenever I did choose. The piece I wrote last year  was outrageously long and I didn’t want to go through something that exhausting again.

Eventually, I decided the best route would be to combine some of the common traits laid out by the 2016 series: splitting the piece into four pieces, focusing on personal triumphs while making room for gnawing anxieties, visual interludes, and paying tribute to the people and events that are worth celebrating. All that and more can be read below.



2016 was the year of small festivals; I’d always preferred them to the spectacle-laden retreats that seem to dominate the news cycles every year. Many of these small-scale events I’d been trying to see for years and 2016 just wound up being kind enough to allow me access to events like FRZN Fest, Wicker Park Fest, and Eaux Claires, among others. Unsurprisingly, each held its own share of memorable frustrations and scintillating highlights. In no particular moment, here are some of the standout moments.

Chicago was atypically warm for last year’s annual Music Frozen Dancing, which saw Muuy Biien, Meat Wave, The Spits, and the Black Lips playing outdoors to a packed crowd outside of the Empty Bottle. While all of the bands were good and the Black Lips, as they always do, managed to invoke the high school memories of discovering and participating in that genre of music, nothing could’ve topped Meat Wave unveiling “Glass Teeth” from what would eventually become their next record.

Ragged and sick, the band tore into the new material with the kind of excitement reserved for new material. It was a standout moment of a day that refused to end (my friend Josh and I wound up taking three different forms of public transit after the trains stopped running) after an off-the-books Heavy Times show wrapped in the early hours of the morning. It was a surreal moment and allowed for an extended view of Chicago at night. Exhausted, content, and desperate to get back to our sleeping quarters, it was a difficult night to forget.

Months later, I’d return for the unreasonably stacked Wicker Park Fest, excited to see a long list of friends and more than a few bands that had been on my bucket list. The weather had different plans. Not only did getting turned around on the way to the fest’s first day wind up forcing me to walk a few extra miles before being saved by a generous taxi driver who offered me a free ride after the first rain of the weekend started descending, more than half of the bands I’d intended to see got cancelled because of storms on both days.

Nearly as soon as I got through the gates, I was already rushing to take shelter with a bunch of other festivalgoers who had effectively sequestered themselves in Reckless Records, which would eventually lose power and offer up a faint glow with candles set up in various parts of the store People browsed records, reading materials, and gathered by the wind to watch the storm lift tents out of the ground and send them ricocheting down Paulina St. There was an odd magic to it all.

There were bright musical spots in the midst of all of that chaos, though, including an unbelievably explosive Jeff Rosenstock set that saw the songwriter leaping over the barricade gap, guitar still attached, to crowdsurf at the end of an abbreviated set. The whirlwind nature of Rosenstock’s performance, which came after the storm delays and restrictions were lifted, felt like an appropriate maelstrom of energy; a whirlwind performance driven by some unknowable force.

Five or six songs in length, it’d wind up being the highlight of the festival. Somewhere nearby, one of the trains on the blue line wound up getting blown off the rails by the intense winds and caused festival organizers to proceed with extra caution on the second day, which was hit with an even worse run of weather.

I spent much of that day with Sasha Geffen — the fist young music journalist I can remember truly admiring — who was with me when I was forming the initial idea for A Year’s Worth of Memories and was a vital part of its finalization. We took in great, sunny sets from Bad Bad Hats and Diet Cig before the storm reappeared and spent a lot of time in a powerless Emporium Arcade. During that run — which forced cancellations of both Pile and PUP — I was also fortunate enough to meet A Year’s Worth of Memories contributor David Anthony.

The last memorable moment of that festival caught me paralyzed in between two stages, with Ought ripping into “More Than Any Other Day” on one side and Alvvay‘s launching into “Archie, Marry Me” on the other. I took in both, unable to choose between two of the best songs of the past ten years before rushing over to Ought, who had their industrial sensibilities enhanced by their backdrop, trains running along the blue line in the background while being cloaked in a calm, post-storm glow. It was a perfect way to cap a very chaotic festival.

Three more small festivals had their fair share of spectacular moments as well: Bon Iver debuting an entire record at Eaux Claires, sending chills down my spine for the entirety of “715 – CR∑∑KS” while crickets audibly chirped on the forest perimeter, their sound elevated by the reverential silence of a crowd of thousands. Tickle Torture playing shortly after that set and delivering a slew of the festival’s best moments, including a finale that saw bandleader Elliot Kozel (formerly of Sleeping in the Aviary) getting completely naked while screaming “MY LOVE!” at the top of his lungs. That day starting at the gates, listening to the sounds of an expanded Tenement lineup blowing away a festival crowd and spending that day in the presence of some of my favorite people, including A Year’s Worth of Memories contributors Nina Corcoran (who I wrote about for my piece last year) and Sam Clark (who has played in more than one band with me).

Turkey Fest’s final day had a stellar lineup boasting four great acts: Wood Chickens, Trampoline Team, The Hussy, and Nobunny, with the latter two delivering incredible sets full of ridiculous high-energy antics. FRZN Fest had more than a few moments that wound up being burned into my memory. None more frustrating than an infuriatingly chatty crowd refusing to give Julien Baker anything beyond a modicum of courtesy. None more exciting than a characteristically perfect Charly Bliss set that had me continuously grinning while singing along to songs that comprised the best EP of this current decade and will litter one of 2017’s best records.

As much as I love both Julien Baker and Charly Bliss, though, there was something about Torres‘ set that felt almost holy. Playing after a good Eternal Summers set and the best Palehound set I’ve seen to date, Torres dove headfirst into a set that alternately gave me chills, lifted my spirits, calmed me, and — almost inexplicably — at one point had me on the verge of tears. To top it all off, Torres’ goosebump-inducing one-song encore wound up being tantamount to a religious experience that included a lovely moment between bandleader Mackenzie Scott and my friend Justin. I was fortunate enough to capture that moment in full and revisit it frequently.

For individual shows, there were a number of great outings that were peppered with heartening moments lingering around the peripheries of the main event. Walking into the High Noon Saloon to be greeted with an onslaught of hugs from my friends in Yowler, Eskimeaux, and Frankie Cosmos, only to be whisked away for a coffee reprieve in a nearby shop by Gabby, Greta, and A Year’s Worth of Memories contributor Athylia Paremski, before circling back to a powerhouse show. Charly Bliss and PUP combining for what was, bar none, the most intense show I’ve ever experienced (at one point I was nearly choked out by a girl clutching the neckline of my shirt to keep herself upright in the swirling sea of chaos behind me).

As meaningful as both of those shows were, though, it would have been impossible for anyone to top an event that occurred early on in December: the official reunion of Good Grief, a band that meant an extraordinary amount to me that was nearly gone forever, taking place in Guu’s, the tavern that’s acted as a refuge for me during my various stints in my home town. People from the shows that dominated my fondest Stevens Point memories from that run all flooded in from various parts of the upper Midwest to see this take place and everyone lost their voices screaming along. Making things even sweeter: an opening set from Heavy Looks, led in part by my friend Rosalind Greiert, watching her hit a stride as both a writer and performer, and feeling an irrepressible rush of a million good feelings as I watched her come into her own in real time.

To see something like that happening (both the Heavy Looks set and the Good Grief set), surrounded by friends so close they’re considered family, engaging in something meaningful is an exhilarating feeling and a lot of people who were present are likely still feeling some of those feelings reverberations. Good Grief weren’t exactly a household name before their dissolution but they were — and remain — one of the best bands I’ve ever had the pleasure of seeing. Get caught up by watching the videos from that reunion set right here:


In 2016, I had the good fortune of playing the most shows in any given year that I probably ever have in my life. In addition to finishing writing a (forthcoming) solo record, I was able to play in three different bands with people I respect, admire, and care for deeply.

The band I played with the least was the band that I’d played with the most in 2015, A Blue Harbor. Geographic complications have essentially forced us into a hiatus by the middle of the year but we were still able to play a few shows in support of the full-length we’d recorded in Minneapolis in 2015, including a local show for a pop-up art gallery for an arts collective that made me feel a surge of hope for our small town. As unlikely as it seems at this point, something tells me the things this band has to offer have been far from exhausted (and our guitarist/vocalist, Matty, has been releasing a continuous string of excellent material on her own).

I accepted an invitation to join a new band called Doorstopper and have taken up residency behind  the kit. Jarad Olson, the bassist for both Good Grief and Heavy Looks as well as an incredible songwriter in his own right, had teamed up with our friend Melissa Haack to allow her poetry a musical platform in an odd experiment that’s been paying the type of dividends that I’m legitimately not sure any of us had expected. It’s become a band whose mantra has remained — and with good reason — “let’s get weird.” It’s a band that has been given the tag “premenstrual post-punk” and it’s the type of band that takes a suggestion for a “doom-wop” song seriously. And it’s a band that hasn’t stopped getting better and more interesting with each successive practice.

While Doorstopper has been occupying itself in the shadows, building something interesting, I also found myself being re-integrated into a resurgent Holly & the Nice Lions, who played all over the state of Wisconsin in 2016, with a host of fascinating bands. Some of those bands (Bad Wig, Midnight Reruns) were made up of the people we’ve been close friends with for years. Some of those bands (Young Jesus, POPE, Mo Troper) constitute the best emerging bands America has to offer.

One of those bands (Bully) has earned international acclaim. One of those bands (The Muffs) continues to be rightfully revered as not only icons but living legends. Through all of those shows, the weird parties surrounding them, and everything else that the minutiae of being in band carries, we’ve grown closer as a unit and I’m proud to consider both of the other members as family. Whether we were being towed to a house show after blowing a tire or playing hard enough to generate our own blood, we’ve found ways to continuously elevate each other, keep each other in check, and look out for each other. Show after show, song after song, the band kept getting better and we — impossibly — kept enjoying each other’s company more. It’s hard to imagine a better situation.


For all of the memorable things I was able to do in both film and music throughout 2016, by the year’s end none of it felt as meaningful as it would have if I didn’t get to share it with my partner, Simone. Throughout the last quarter of the year, we went from being good friends to being inseparable, willfully colliding at nearly every turn. I learned to rediscover the depths of my love for discovering new music by viewing it through her eyes. I rediscovered the importance of engaging in active good. I made up my mind to constantly strive to better myself in productive ways.

A series of shared trips to the various corners of the state of Wisconsin led to some genuinely unforgettable moments, whether it was carving out new, unbeaten paths in gorgeous parks on beautiful days or getting swept up in the (typically far too humid) intensity of shows in basements, dive bars, or anywhere else we might find people playing instruments (or picking up instruments of our own to play each other Bishop Allen songs). I’ll steal her glasses, she’ll steal my camera. We’ll laugh, we’ll listen, we’ll watch, and we’ll keep moving forward.

The survival of Heartbreaking Bravery can, in many ways, be directly attributed to her involvement in my life. All of the frustrating, terrifying events that have happened over the course of the year’s last stretch seemed easier to weather with her at my side and she’s constantly given me at least one major reason to celebrate the future. I’m thankful, grateful, and unbelievably lucky.


By the end of 2016, Heartbreaking Bravery had gained additional purpose. In the face of one of the most anti-arts (and anti-press) administrations in America’s history, the need to fight back by any means necessary increased. Even before the election, the fact that the current president’s campaign had carried him so far was troublesome. With a milestone rapidly approaching for the site, that happening at the forefront of the nation’s political landscape (and, more directly, America’s landscape), and an unending desire to be productive and actively contribute to good causes, I chose to resolve all of my feelings into one massive project: A Step Forward.

At first, I only expected a handful of people to be interested in contributing to the project. More than half of the artists I reached out to responded immediately and gifted the compilation, designed to serve as Heartbreaking Bravery’s 1000th post, incredible material. In a matter of weeks, I had more than 50 songs kicking around in my inbox. A few months later, my finger was lingering above the publish button, set to release 100 songs from 100 artists that had, in some way or another, been involved with this site’s history. By that point, I’d enlisted the help of Jes Skolnik to locate worthy causes and had struck up a correspondence with the Chicag0-based Rape Victim Advocates. All of the money made from the pay-your-own pricetag of A Step Forward would be going towards that organization.

Looking through all of the songs, whether they were demos, early mixes, new songs, remixes, or old favorites, and all of the artists who had chosen to give me a part of their lives because they believed in the things I was doing and the causes I was supporting was an overwhelming feeling. A lot of people that have had near-death experiences have described the sensation of seeing their life flash before their eyes and, in that moment with my finger hovering over the button to release this compilation, it was hard not to take stock of everything that had happened in my life over the course of this site’s existence. It was a jarring feeling but one that filled me with hope and with love for the people who have supported this place, stuck by my side, and lent their voice to any of the various projects to have run on Heartbreaking Bravery.

I was on the verge of tears when I woke up to the flood of responses the compilation had elicited and how much it had generated for people who put the funds to good use. I’d stayed up for nearly 50 straight hours getting the preparations for the project in place. Cody Dyb, one of my closest friends, was kind enough to let me use his internet to upload the materials (the internet at my house is obscenely slow) and I’d collapsed into a deep sleep shortly after returning home. Phil McAndrew, one of my favorite artists working today (and a regular contributor to this series), contributed an original piece to the project that has become one of my most-treasured renderings.

In the weeks leading up to A Step Forward‘s released, I’d done an ink sketch of what would become Heartbreaking Bravery’s logo. Petite League’s Lorenzo Cook — another Syracuse-based artist whose band contributed an incredible song to the compilation — meticulously tightened and superimposed the logo onto the image for the album art and the banner that can be seen at the top of this segment. I’m unbelievably grateful for both of their contributions and am lucky to count them both as friends. I also have to give special mention, once more, to Fred Thomas.

For more than a few years, I’ve considered Thomas to be one of the best lyricists in music (2017’s Changer finds him attaining stratospheric highs). When I reached out to him about the project and he suggested a song tackling the weird inter-scene dynamics that occur around someone being outed as a sexual predator, I wasn’t just flattered, I was flattened. That the ensuing work would be one of his strangest — partially inspired by S U R V I V E’s outstanding Stranger Things score work and a nice (if unintentional) nod to that particular act’s name — felt appropriate. “What Happens When the Costumes Come Off” is a song that perfectly embodied the tumultuous events that led to the formation of A Step Forward in my mind and has resonated with me ever since my first, oddly disorienting listen. There’s fear present in that song, there’s an incessant questioning, there’s a feeling of damage, but — most importantly — there is a feeling of resilience.

It’s that final feeling, resilience, that I’ve chosen to carry into 2017. With what America’s currently facing, resilience will be necessary. I’ve already been inspired by my friends’ resilience and generosity and I’ve vowed to carry on that spirit as best as possible. I’ve vowed to both make more room for and to elevate the voices of the groups who have been unfairly othered due to location, socioeconomic standing, or — infuriatingly — appearance, religious beliefs, sexual orientation, or gender identity. Historically, the people that have followed this site have shared a similar mindset and I’m constantly humbled by their company. We’re all in this fight together and it’s important to listen to the fears, concerns, and desires of the people that have been denied a platform for the worst reasons all too frequently.

The shows and festivals made 2016, in turns, fascinating, frustrating, and genuinely exciting. The people I was fortunate enough to be playing some of those shows provided 2016 a level of comfort. My partner not only served as a constant source of inspiration but continuously reminded me of the good in the world and all of the reasons that hope should never be abandoned. A Step Forward taught me that I’ll never be alone in my belief that empathy, camaraderie, and compassion will always find a way to thrive and that now, more than ever, it’s important to carry on the work, the ideology, and the spirit of Heartbreaking Bravery. I will do my best to personally embody whatever legacy it may have at every single turn and I will always be honored by the company it’s allowed me to share. 2017 may seem bleak from the outset but I have every reason to find heart in the fight to ensure it’s better than what we expect.


Of course, this series wouldn’t be complete if I didn’t thank everyone who’s contributed through the years. As I said earlier, all of your contributions — and the fact that you care at all — mean more than I could ever convey with just words. So thank you, again, to both all of those names listed at the top of this post and all of the following names for their past contributions: Loren DiBlasiSabyn Mayfield, Tica Douglas, Fred ThomasIsabel ReidySami Martasian, Ben GriggBella Mazzetti, David Anthony, Jamie Coletta, Chris SutterCole Kinsler, Gabriela June Tully Claymore, Stephen TringaliToby Reif, Elaiza Santos, Amelia Pitcherella, Katie Bennett, Miranda Fisher, Christine Varriale, Sam Clark, Julia Leiby, Kelly Johnson, Jessi Frick, Nicholas Cummins, Athylia Paremski,  David GlickmanSasha Geffen, Jeanette Wall, Eva Grace Hendricks, Caroline Rayner, Joseph Barchi, Edgar GonzalezShari Heck, Michael Caridi, Dave Benton, Cynthia Ann Schemmer, Tess Duncan, Michelle Zauner, Jeff Bolt, Katie Capri, Quinn Moreland, Oliver Kalb, Ali Donohue, Ray McAndrew, Christopher Good, David Sackllah, Rick Maguire, Stephen Pierce, Johanna Warren, and Patrick Garcia.

As always, I love you all.

2016: A Year’s Worth of Memories (Natalie Kirch)

Heartbreaking Bravery recently went offline but all facets of the site are back to being fully operational. Apologies for any inconveniences. All posts that were slated to run during that brief hiatus will appear with this note.

Natalie Kirch and I only crossed paths, as far as I know, once when I was still living in Brooklyn. We were likely in the same room far more often than I knew. In the time that’s elapsed since I’ve left, Kirch’s name kept coming up more and more in conversations and I’d hear endlessly kind things about the Sharkmuffin bassist from people I trusted. Before long, we’d re-introduced ourselves via the magic of the internet and Kirch was graciously accepting an invitation to this series. Below, Kirch tackles the past two leap years, tracing the beginnings of what would become Sharkmuffin’s core to America’s current landscape. It’s an engrossing piece and deserves several reads. Look back and look ahead by looking below.


Leap Year

The last one we had was 2012. According to the Mayan calendar, the world was scheduled to end in December of that year. As ancient worlds came crashing down, a new world was opening up to me. Backtrack half-way from the Mayan apocalypse to the end of June 2012. I was finishing my second year as a full-time kindergarten teacher, about to start my second stint of graduate school student teaching, when my friend Nate Terepka texted me. His friend Tarra was looking for a bass player who could harmonize on vocals, and would I be interested in joining her band Sharkmuffin?

Nate knew I was “very green” but thought Tarra and my taste in music would mesh well. I had started playing bass guitar two months earlier. Prior to that, I had dabbled in guitar for a year in high school, had recently started trying my hand at song writing, and had entertained the idea of a band with my girls Emily, Marisa, and Olivia (we did complete one song!). Unless you consider my grammar school band The Hyper Girls (we played hand-made driftwood-and-tin-foil instruments) as experience, “green” was a very kind way of saying I had no idea what I was doing.

But Tarra had sent me some songs she had demoed with her Drew Adler on drums and Chris Nunez on bass, and I loved her style. I reiterated just how “green” I was to Tarra. She said that was okay, so I met up with my friend Taylor and had him help me with 10 songs she had emailed me. Tarra spent the 4th of July with my family on the Jersey shore. That week, I wrote my first Sharkmuffin bass line and melody for a song called “Soft Landing”.

Tarra liked it and added on lyrics and guitar. On July 14th, I played my first show with Tarra and Drew Adler on drums at an art gallery called The Hive. By September 2012, Tarra, Drew, and I had recorded the first 3 Sharkmuffin EPs. October 2012, the Jersey shore house was completely destroyed in Hurricane Sandy. Only my troll collection survived, and a lone, hard-bodied 1993 Ken doll.

2016: Leap Year, we meet again. I was in Disney World on January 12th when David Bowie died, the contrast of joy and despair causing that deep dirty water feeling in my stomach. The Most Magical Place on Earth would be tainted even further exactly five months later with the Pulse Shootings. 2016 was a rough one for the world at large. I could name all of the incidents of murder, genocide, terrorism, racism, all the icon deaths that followed, or what it felt like to watch the first potential female US president lose to a misogynist buffoon.

But we all know about those horrors and tragedies already. So when asked to describe a moment of musical importance to me, I found myself torn. Do I discuss how the death of one of my artistic idols impacted me? How a peer’s performance inspired me? Or should I describe a personal accomplishment or loss?

As you can see, it was difficult for me not to cite an exact moment, but rather the way moments do what they do and interlock to create happenings and events. Because how does a moment last in time other than as a memory? It pushes another moment forward, and then another, and so forth. Crawling in and out of 2016, I found myself at the start of a circle, just as I had leaping from 2012 to 2016. 2016 was my first year as a full-time musician.

Sharkmuffin toured for two months with Kim Deuss. In that lengthened February, we recorded a new LP with the Kim that I am eager to release in 2017. By the end of 2016, our spinal tap list of drummers came around full circle and Tarra and I had the opportunity to play with both Drew Adler and Janet Labelle, our first two drummers. In 2017 we will also be touring with Drew on drums and Chris on guitar – the drummer and bassist on the first demos Tarra ever sent me. It feels like all those little moments are locking into place to ready us for the next year.

2016 was hard for humanity, but I hope there were moments of greatness for everyone on a personal level. Silver linings don’t diminish the losses caused by the storm, but even moments of grief can surprise us in how forcefully they push us forward. After all, a torch doesn’t appear so bright if it is not lit in the darkness. Now that all of our idols are dead or dying, does that mean it is our duty to try with all our might to fill those gaps in art, culture, and time? We need those gaps to fight for, towards, or against and keep the moments rolling.

It took me a long time to understand the concept of a Leap Year. I always found it cruel to deprive Leaplings of their birthday for years at a time, and why would western humans create a calendar that fits so unevenly into our mathematical perception of time? As we age, each moment passes by more quickly but carries more weight. I realized I should not be asking why we have that extra day every four years, but what we doing with that extra day. Perhaps it is in those quarter orbits, the last 6 hours of the average solar year, that we can really push the orbit to the fullest.

2016: A Year’s Worth of Memories (Nora Scott)

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One of the most heartening things to see emerging in 2016 was Cuttlefish Collective, a live video series that spotlighted deserving artists playing intimate venues. One of its founders, Nora Scott, was kind enough to reach out after this site had included several of their videos as part of the Watch This series. Over the course of a few emails, it was abundantly clear that Scott was a kindred spirit so it made more than a little sense to extend an invite to participate in this series. That Scott’s chosen to spotlight another friend, Samantha Stoakes, and the Susie Derkins project Stoakes is currently leading, feels almost too fitting. It’s yet another beautiful piece focusing on how the world can, on occasion, produce moments that aren’t just genuinely good but seem to border on perfection. Sink into that feeling and enjoy.


The Susie Derkins set at the Shed Cellar, the second of three shows I went to on December 3rd, was maybe three or four songs long and I couldn’t make out a single word Sam sang, but when I look back on 2016 I can’t think of a moment that better represents the supportive, enthusiastic music community that made my year great.

It was Sam’s first time ever playing original material in front of people and the cozy basement was so packed that people had to stand on the stairs. The cheers after each song were deafening and from my spot in the corner I saw beaming smiles on nearly every face. I watched as this inspiring community of people, nearly none of whom I knew a year ago and many of whom I hope to know a long time, crammed together to cheer on the brave self-expression that brings us together and gets us through years as scary as 2016.

I had just come from a show I hosted through Cuttlefish Collective, a surreal and rewarding project I started last year with Dylan that has allowed me to film some of my favorite musicians in living rooms surrounded by friends. After Sam’s set I walked down the street to a punk show where I bounced around in the pit and joked around out back with close friends, acquaintances, and people I didn’t know at all.

The day had the full spectrum of things I love about the DIY scene, but the highlight was definitely watching the overwhelming support everyone gave Sam at her first show because that, to me, is what makes the community so special. It’s thrives on thankless hard work, unconditional enthusiasm, and urgent, bold expression and it’s one of my favorite things I’ve ever been a part of.

2016: A Year’s Worth of Memories (Ryan Wizniak)

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In the piece he wrote for A Year’s Worth of Memories last year, Meat Wave’s Ryan Wizniak chose to celebrate fellow Chicago greats Melkbelly. For the 2016 edition, Wizniak continues to celebrates his peers, this time bringing records from Oozing Wound, Luggage, Foul Tip, and Lifestyles into the fold. It’s always heartening to see a musician lift up the musicians that surround them and this piece is no exception. Explore the records listed below and keep an eye on this site throughout 2017 for more updates on Wizniak’s various projects. Enjoy.


Another year, another never-ending buffet of great music to consume. Below are a few albums that you may or may not have missed while filling up on extra servings of Angel Olsen or Iggy Pop.

Oozing Wound – Whatever Forever

Hearing the Ooze evolve from their excellent first tape to their flawless third full length has been a serious treat. The chemistry between Zack, Kevin and Kyle is in full force on this one as they plow through track after track of their own brand of genuinely uncategorizable, punishing noise. If this is metal, it’s certainly pushing the genre in a much more exciting and expansive direction by refusing to stick to the tropes that have been kicking around for the last thirty years, so keep your lazy Slayer comparisons to yourself. Whatever Forever is a solid addition to an already fantastic catalogue and stands out as one of the years most unique and exciting releases.

Luggage – Sun 

One of my favorite memories of 2016 was taking a trip to Madison with Joe to catch Luggage open up for Michigan legends, Protomartyr. It was my first time attending one of their shows and I was blown away by their sheer volume and force. While Sun may have its share of shoegazery post-punk rippers it also boasts long, beautiful entrancing passages courtesy of Michael Vallera’s guitar work and propelled by the pummeling and repetitive rhythm section of Luca Cimmarusti and Michael John Grant. Keep an eye out for these boys, they are already hard at work on new material.

Foul Tip – Forever Driftin’ 

On this release Adam Luksetich and Ed Bornstein stretch the idea of what a post-punk drum and bass duo can do. There truly isn’t a weak spot on this record. Even the lyrics are top notch. 10/10. Bonus: It also boasts one of the most interesting Black Sabbath covers around.

Lifestyles – Lifestyles 

Lifestyles is a grungy, no bullshit, noise rock group featuring members of Lil Tits, Foul Tip, and Touched by a Ghoul. While it’s easy to put Lifestyles under the grunge umbrella (they have mastered the genres tension and release moments to perfection), they do away the slacker sloppiness of their forebears and opt to take a more driving and cerebral route instead. It’s a fun ride filled with enough earworms to keep your mind off of the terrible political climate that has swept the country.

2016: A Year’s Worth of Memories (Alisa Rodriguez)

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For last year’s edition of A Year’s Worth of Memories Alisa Rodriguez — the mastermind behind Apollo Vermouth — contributed a piece about Benoît Pioulard. Rodriguez has returned with another piece, this time choosing to take stock of the one thing that kept 2016 tethered to reality: music. The times may be strange but it’s comforting to have somewhere to take solace. Whether that solace lies in listening or creating undoubtedly varies person to person but Rodriguez’s piece here is a strong reminder of its necessity. Enjoy.


2016 was something else. I feel like I live on a very strange planet. I guess I always sort of felt that way but it’s becoming more obvious.

I spent most of 2016 working and going to school. I felt like I had no time doing the one thing that made me happy, making music.

As cliche as it sounds, I’m completely lost without music. Not so much with listening to other people’s music but more so with focusing on my own.

I started seeing a therapist again this year. It felt like I was talking to a wall. We didn’t really connect on a level where I felt completely comfortable with expressing myself.

I still take medication. I have a healthy relationship with my family and friends. I have an amazing boyfriend. But despite all of that, I was still feeling lost with myself. It felt as if something was always missing. It wasn’t till the end of the fall semester where I started making music again.
I finally finished my new album. I feel happy again. I really feel good about myself. No matter what, I think we should all focus on the things that make us feel good. Do what makes you happy. Don’t let anyone tell you you can’t follow your dreams. Maybe you have to do some extra shifts at work to save up for that new guitar you really want or buy a plane ticket to LA. Hard work pays off (sorry for the cliche again).

Here’s to another year on this strange planet.

2016: A Year’s Worth of Memories (Isaac Eiger)

Photograph by Fred Nixon

Heartbreaking Bravery recently went offline but all facets of the site are back to being fully operational. Apologies for any inconveniences. All posts that were slated to run during that brief hiatus will appear with this note.

In 2016, Strange Ranger released their strongest effort to date with the emotionally restless Sunbeams Through Your Head EP. It was more than strong enough to crack this site’s best EP’s list. An extraordinary re-introduction to an already great band, it articulately conveyed the power that’s always been present — but never as vividly evident — in bandleader Isaac Eiger’s writing. It’s an honor to be publishing Eiger’s first entry into this series and it’s heartening to see that he chose to write a short, sweet piece about gleaning inspiration from his sister. Read it below and continue to love the people that make life more tolerable.


Personally, the most meaningful and affirming part of this otherwise bizarre and disturbing year was watching my sister become incredible. At times the terror of our new political reality has been too much for me (a straight, white, man with very little to fear in the immediate future) and in these times I will call up my 18 year old queer and fearless little sister. She makes me less afraid and her unrelenting humanity and power in the face of such horror is the best thing I have seen this year.

2016: A Year’s Worth of Memories (Elise Okusami)

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As part of Laetita Tamko’s Vagabon project and as the bandleader of Oceanator, Elise Okusami has become a very familiar name to this site over the past few years. “Nowhere Nothing“, a standout Oceanator song, would’ve cracked this site’s list of best songs had Okusami not graciously allowed its usage for the A Step Forward compilation. It’s a song that’s resonated since its introduction and one that’s pulled this site even further into Okusami’s orbit. Below, the multi-talented musician recalls a Wolf Parade show at McCarren Park that led to a wellspring of genuine emotion. It’s a beautiful reminder of the power of music and can be read below. Enjoy.


I’d been getting lazy about going places.  I might have still been trying to shake off that winter funk, even though it was June already.  Once I was at work, at home, wherever, I tended to stay put, unable to generate any sort of inertia to go to a new location.  So, even though I’d been planning for months to go to this Wolf Parade show in McCarren Park – especially after being super bummed when all five of their Bowery Ballroom shows sold out even though I was online, ready to buy the minute they went on sale (this keeps happening, the robots are taking over and ruining everything already) – I still found myself leaning on the bar at work and chatting with a coworker when I should have been heading to the show.

The friends I thought were going had all bailed, so I was in the process of bailing, too, when four friends texted me at once asking me why I wasn’t there.  I literally shoved my backpack under my desk at work, got on my bike, and raced to the park.  It wasn’t far, but I still made it in my personal record time, not even taking the time to plug in my headphones and queue up any music for the trip.  I was jittery and nervous as the line moved forwards, worrying that any second they were going to cut it off and say the show was too full, but my worries were unfounded.  I got in easily, and found my friends all the way up at the front as the opening band was still playing.

As much as I had, and still do, love Apologies to the Queen Mary, I had never taken the leap into their other albums.  I knew every song and every moment of that album, but not too much of the other ones.  That didn’t take away from the experience any.  I am shy, most of the time.  Especially in large groups.  But at this show I found myself dancing, not worrying about what I looked like or what anyone around me thought.

I cried, literally, when the band dropped out and the piano played its riff alone in the middle of “Animal in Your Care“, before the rest of the band came back in.  Seeing them perform, seeing how much fun they were having, how excited they were by the size of the crowd even as, what I definitely consider, a pretty huge band, only added to the experience.  It’s the way I hope to always feel about music – happy to be where I am, enjoying the performance, and being appreciative of the opportunity to do so.

That feeling was something I took with me all summer.  I’m still not entirely sure why that concert moved me more than any of the other shows I’d been to this past year – and there have been some absolutely fantastic ones.  Something about that one really stuck out, though.  It couldn’t have come at a better time for me, pulling me out of a funk and launching me into summer, and even sticking with me now.

2016: A Year’s Worth of Memories (Phyllis Ophelia)

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In one of the earlier pieces contributed to this edition of A Year’s Worth of Memories Lindsey-Paige McCloy paid tribute to her friend — and Catbus bandmate — Phyllis Ophelia. A tireless creator, Ophelia was responsible for a fair amount of the music that struck a chord with this site in 2016, so to be hosting this piece is a privilege. Here, Ophelia takes us through some of the bands that deserve loving tribute. Explore their work and enjoy.


My favorite moments during this and last year have been sudden, pulsing revelations that I can just hop off the fence and make the music and that’s it. A lot of these moments have been triggered by other people’s brave example, and since I have leaned heavily on these folks, even just in my own mind, I would like to use this opportunity to pay tribute to a few of them.


My friend and collaborator Lauren Escobar introduced me to her work a couple years ago, and this November we finally got to see her perform at the new Nublu. Her latest album, La Papessa, chases away dread, but her live set goes several steps farther. She seems as content playing and improvising with her samples as she is silencing her machines and singing repeating, insistent lines a capella, for minutes at a time. She is as powerful in each of these capacities.


I saw her perform twice this year, the first because I had the good fortune to be invited to play a festival she also played, through Outlier Recordings, and the second being her EP release. NOIA is a conjurer. Her bilingual lyrics reference mythology and science, stuff and names you’ll recognize, but my takeaway is that she is low-key world-building. The worlds of her devising are vibrant, exciting places, and “Habits” is a breathless trip through them.


I unintentionally used her flickering dream of a song, “Body 1”, released in mid-September, as a ladder out of a depressive episode. In the song, she repeats the lines, “you can keep my body, you can keep it here with you,” and “I want to be kind,” as the instrumentation shifts and clicks and swells in diverse ways, and my exhausted mind was just like, “yes”. The song came and found me where I was at and pulled me out, and I am very grateful.


I’m pretty sure Opal was the first music artist at the first No Boys Allowed showcase in February, which I almost didn’t attend, did anyway, but then was too much in my head to talk to anyone. I’m also pretty sure the first song she played in her set was an enchanting solo version of “Follow the Leader”, as sweet disco ball lights pivoted around the room. That song is on her Australia EP, and it is another of my favorite things about this year, especially the vocal arrangement. I also just heard her play at Trans-Pecos with a fab band, while she wrecked on key-tar, and just, yes.


I want to thank Michelle Zauner for Psychopomp, because it is an incredibly generous work, but especially for the “Everybody Wants to Love You” video where she’s drunk around town in a hanbok. If I could, I would take that video back in time to when I was a confused, painfully self-conscious little half Korean girl playing covers of old white men’s guitar music and wondering why.