Heartbreaking Bravery

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Tag: 90’s

Attendant – Freaking Out (Review, Stream)

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By now, everyone who has iTunes should have heard the full stream they’re offering up of Death From Above 1979’s revitalized post-reunion effort, The Physical World. Hopefully, there were a few among that crowd who also found time to stream Nervous Like Me the fantastic new record from Cayetana. Great full album streams weren’t the only things to come out of the last few days, though, in addition to a memorable Pavement cover from PAWS, there were also great new songs from Purling Hiss, Nude Beach, and WULFS. Visually, there was an endearing The Adventures of Pete and Pete homage from Diarrhea Planet and two arresting black-and-white clips that came courtesy of Girl Band and Philadelphia’s Queen Jesus.  It’s another act from Philadelphia that made the strongest impression and earned the feature spot today, though: the the stunning debut effort of Radiator Hospital bassist Jon Rybicki’s collaborative project, Attendant.

It’s not uncommon to note that there’s an absurd amount of great music out there that’s overlooked for any number of reasons but it’s always nice to know that sometimes everything lines up and music that may have otherwise gone unnoticed gets an extra push thanks to the people involved. This especially stands true for Attendant’s Freaking Out which features contributions from a murderer’s row of Philadelphia/NYC-based musicians. Mikey Cantor, Radiator Hospital, and Swearin’ (among others) all get a good bit of representation here, lending their considerable talents to one hell of a debut, helping raise an emerging musician’s profile in the process. Rybicki grounds all of these songs with no shortage of gravitas and conviction, mining similar influences to the ones that are so clearly evident in his friends’ projects.

While all of that would likely have proven more than enough to get Freaking Out by, what really puts it over the top is its attention to detail. The production, sequencing, and mastering on this is near-flawless, advancing the release’s personality without being distracting. In terms of composition, it’s frequently thrilling, with songs like the hard-charging “Saturday” providing bursts of near-uncontrollable energy. With all of this taken into account, it’s probably not too surprising that one of Freaking Out‘s closest relatives seems to be Dinosaur Jr.’s classic Bug. Acoustic guitars often provide a base template for each of these seven songs, while shoegaze-leaning levels of reverb and distortion get added to create a sound that’s becoming increasingly prominent in DIY punk circles- one that recognizes the value of looking to the past to push ahead.

That retro-influenced modernity goes a long way in informing Freaking Out, which makes no qualms about utilizing everything at it’s disposal. Every song on here contains at least a few moments of genuine brilliance, whether in the form of lyrics (“I just wanted to be the other people on the bus” is one of the most haunting lines to come out of 2014) or in the song’s structures or compositions. As if all that weren’t enough, it’s varied enough to ensure the listener’s attention and compelling enough to warrant their investment. None of these songs ever eclipse the three minute mark, either, rendering it even more accessible.Yet, despite it’s short run-time, Freaking Out feels like a fully-formed work from a veteran songwriter.

More than a few critics have said that to really gauge an album’s strengths, there should be an extra amount of consideration given to their mid-section. It’s easy to make strong opening and closing cases but it can be difficult to maintain that consistency across a wider spread. In this respect, Freaking Out has virtually no issues. “Dishwasher”, “Call Me Back”, and “Solar Shack” are all mixtape-worthy entries, each holding their own strengths in Rybicki’s frequently mid-tempo world weariness. Even with that taken into consideration, it’d be difficult not to note that a few of Freaking Out‘s best moments do come in the final two songs. From the trumpet-assisted downstroke onslaught of “I Won’t Try to Change Your Mind” to the guest-heavy celebration that is the record’s finale.

In that respect, “Wax Pages” does feel like an appropriate end-cap to a release that seemed determined to extol the virtues of healthy collaboration. Jeff Bolt (of Swearin’ and Radiator Hospital) takes over on drums, Sam Cook-Parrott (Radiator Hospital), Cynthia Schemmer (also of Radiator Hospital), and Kyle Gilbride (of Swearin’) all handle backing vocals, while Mikey Cantor takes a solo and all of them seem maniacally driven by Rybicki, who lent his vocals, guitar work, and bass (in spots) to the songs he wrote. To that end, it almost feels celebratory despite it’s heaviness (and make no mistake, this is a relatively heavy record in both terms of sound and subject matter). Packaged all together, the end result is something that feels oddly alive and utterly unique, even with an army of recognizable influences worn proudly on its sleeve. If it doesn’t find a home on one label or another, it’ll come as a shock. Freaking Out is one of 2014’s best surprises.

Stream Freaking Out below and download it on Attendant’s bandcamp.

Left & Right – Low Expectations (Stream)

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Infinity Cat’s quietly been building themselves been building themselves a roster worth the envy of most other labels. While bands like Diarrhea Planet and JEFF The Brotherhood ensure their name is kept in circulation, it’s the smaller artists like Left & Right that keep the label vital. It’s not a mistake that Superchunk and Archers of Loaf are both referenced in Left & Right’s bio, nor is it a mistake that “Low Expectations” has been circulating around some of the higher-profile taste-making music sites; it’s a sharp song, finely tuned and full of 90’s lo-fi outsider pop hallmarks.

What sets “Low Expectations” apart from an increasingly crowded quasi-revivalist field is the delivery. Left & Right have never been short on passion and it’s still peaking through their work with Five Year Plan, the third entry in Infinity Cat’s Cassette Series (following efforts from both Music Band and Guerilla Toss). There’s a certain sense of history that’s paired with a modernism that helps keep their work grounded and distances it from the risk of feeling dated. Left & Right do anything but live up to the song’s title- the anticipation for the September 9 release of Five Year Plan is through the roof.

Listen to “Low Expectations” below and get a free download of the song by pre-ordering Five Year Plan from Infinity Cat here.

Naomi Punk – Television Man (Stream)

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There are a few labels that get a lot of love around these parts- Burger, Exploding in Sound, Don Giovanni, and Old Flame Records all have a pretty strong foothold by continuing to operate with the kinds of bands who make music that caters to exactly what this site was built to celebrate. Captured Tracks can officially be added to that list. The label’s the home of the band that’s earned the most features here as well as a tantalizing spread of others (Mac DeMarco, Craft Spells, Medicine, etc.) and has been on an impressive run lately. Enter: Naomi Punk. A band built on weirdly frenetic post-punk tension and the kind of instrumental interplay that would make Spoon proud, they’re bound to be one of the year’s bigger discoveries. Yesterday they revealed a lot of details about their home-recorded sophomore effort, Television Man, and offered up the title track for streaming. “Television Man” is a jaunty run through a maze of stop-start rhythms and twisted riffs that somehow manage to subtly recall various miniature aspects of the 90’s underground punk scenes while sounding distinctly modern. It’s one hell of an introduction to the record (which is due out August 5th) and will likely have a lot of people salivating while begging for more.

Listen to “Television Man” below and give in to its relentlessness.

Dead Stars – Someone Else (Music Video)

Old Flame Records continue to build themselves one hell of a catalog. Next month the label will be releasing what looks to be the umpteenth great record in the past few years that they can lay claim to; this time around it’s Dead Stars’ Slumber. They’d already teased Slumber with “Crawl”, an undeniably great basement pop song that owed a debt to the late 80’s/early 90’s SST scene as much as what was happening at that time over in New York. A little scuzz and a lot of melody is a happy meeting point to arrive at and it’s where Dead Stars find themselves once again with “Someone Else”. This time around, they’ve paired that song with a decidedly lo-fi video that winks at a long list of their influences. Micah Weisberg and Bill Dvorak directed the clip, which looks like it was shot on Super 8, and features the band miming the song in locations that range from a basketball court to a gas station to a food truck. Improbably, it comes off as more charming than tired, and suits the song nicely. Aspiring DIY directors, look to this clip for proof that you don’t need to worry about a budget. Potential listeners, start paying attention to Dead Stars.

Watch “Someone Else” below and get in a game of pick-up basketball before the sun disappears.