Heartbreaking Bravery

stevenmps2@gmail.com | @steven_mps | @hbreakbravery

Tag: A Distant Fist Unclenching

2015: A Year’s Worth of Memories (Lindsay Hazen)

lhzn

When I started Heartbreaking Bravery, its sole intent was to spotlight important voices that weren’t being granted the exposure they deserved. While in the early stages, it primarily featured songwriters, it evolved to include filmmakers, and then — finally — other writers. Anytime I made a new discovery, it gave me a surge of hope for the years to come. Even as some of these roles — especially that of the writer — grew more thankless, it was inspirational to see people who were willing to kick back against an intimidating current. After more than two years of meticulously combing through just about every resource I had to identify emerging talent, I still wasn’t adequately prepared for the pieces Lindsay Hazen was quietly turning in on her personal tumblr. Long-form essays on streaming platforms, deeply personal asides, critical dissections of movements and geographical circumstance; everything I read blew me away. It’s a sincere honor to be publishing her writing on this site and the piece she’s turned in may be her most definitive to date. Below, she explores her diagnosis, the artists that brought her joy and comfort, and the general shape of her 2015. Dive in and give her work a look whenever and wherever it surfaces.

++

When I think about 2015, I get overwhelmed. It was a year marked by unmanageability, the sheer amount of events, information, and media unable to be synthesized, catalogued and understood in any satisfying way. My year started off memorizing the lyrics of Colleen Green’s “Pay Attention“, a song which takes up an attitude of assertive indifference to her attention deficiency. As someone whose lifelong fight not to doze off/get lost in the middle of conversations (and lectures, and my own sentences…) is an endless cause of anxiety, it’s such a relief to be able to embrace two and a half minutes of a right for my absent-minded brain to exist in the world, even to the point of sitting in judgement of others.

Whenever I listen to it, “Small talk on the bus, wondering how do some people talk so much/ Small talk at The Smell, talk so small you’d need a microscope to discern much at all,” I hear an echo of “Psycho Killer“, “You start a conversation, you can’t even finish it/You’re talking a lot but you’re not saying anything/ When I have nothing to say, my lips are sealed/Say something once, why say it again?”

It’s ending sort of like it began, anxious and cold. But on a cold December day, I weep quietly to Modern Baseball’s “The Waterboy Returns“. It comes on on my iPod, on the bus, and I run my thumb across the crack in the screen incessantly. I’ve never successfully made it through the song without crying and this is no exception. The first time I heard it, I sobbed hard and loud; now I just turn to the window and let the emotion wash over me, trying to catch my tears on my knuckles as they slip out past my glasses.

2015 was made up of moments like this. Being backpacked in the face by an aggressive guy at a Speedy Ortiz show, only to have them start a hotline just weeks later for people who feel unsafe at their shows. The way the stage lights at the Hard Luck Bar looked through eyes, brimming with tears, as I watched Sorority Noise perform “Using“, hearing the song for the first time. I didn’t cry then, blinked it away. I wonder if this is how normal people always feel. Accepted, joyous, okay. Among people who understand them.

Not drinking alcohol anymore because it’s disastrous for my anxiety, and spending the minutes between each band’s set admiring how brave the girls are at the show – an all ages affair. These teenage punks, eyes lined with black and bags covered in patches and buttons. So grateful that these girls have a place where they could yell and scream and jump; so in awe of how they held their own in a sea of giant men – at 24, I’m just learning to do the same.

The Sorority Noise record was my favourite of the year. I spent a lot of time in the early months of the year shouting songs off their 2014 effort Forgettable in the shower. The anticipation I felt for Joy, Departed was such an integral part of my year. Maybe it’s because it paid off, a powerful and direct series of emotional appeals that oscillate between soaring and slow-burning – sometimes within the same track.

It’s a record that dropped right as I realized that I wasn’t going to be able to stay in the city, just as I had to move away from my friends and my education and my life. It’s a record that I hope one day stands as a classic in the canon of art that explores man vs. self. It is certainly an album which elucidated many thoughts I had about my own mental illness, and led to my being able to develop coping mechanisms for the first time since my diagnosis. I still get a lump in my throat when I hear, “maybe I’m my own greatest fear/ maybe I’m too scared to admit that/ I might not be as dark as I think.”

Next to Joy, Departed, the record that had the most impact on me this year was Krill’s A Distant Fist Unclenching. Where Sorority Noise’s songs felt like the slow blossom of hope in my chest, a hand reaching out to pull me away from all the things I’ve done to myself and my life, Krill songs are like the first fidget coming out of stasis. All of the angles and dissonant reaches.

I can’t think of a song in the world I identify with more than “Brain Problem“, the drums skipping along like arrhythmia and the lyrics part confession and part prayer. Before listening to Krill I didn’t think of there being a separation between my mental illness and my self. Krill gave me a sense of personhood that I was starting to be too jaded to believe I would find in music anymore. I won’t go on because they’ve been eulogized, praised and parsed by minds much finer than mine.

Everything Everything released my favourite pop album of the year, a dystopian rock opera continuing a loose narrative they introduced in the post-apocalyptic banger “My Kz, Ur Bf” a few years ago. Get To Heaven is an album that lets you revel in the sheer amount of evidence that you are the problem, because people are the problem, and we have let the world end around us – and are nostalgic for the way it happened all the same. “Take me to the distant past,” “Did you imagine it in a different way,” “Keep on rubbernecking, yeah, whatever feels familiar.”

There’s been a few difference thinkpieces on the increased awareness/acknowledgement of mental illness in music this year and I listened to a lot of music this year for aforementioned therapeutic/self-help kind of reasons. But, holy hell is it ever lovely to put on Get To Heaven and live in the world that Higgs and company have created – to feel a universalized misery and to find a narrative, to find humour and grand tragedy that leads to a greater sense of catharsis.

There were also a million punk/rock albums by women that just kicked my ass. The Speedy Ortiz record, the Palehound record, Dirty Dishes, Bully, Chelsea Wolfe, MarriagesG.L.O.S.S., The Lonely Parade, not to mention the valiant return of Sleater-Kinney. I don’t know why it’s harder for me to write about these records, or even to speak about them. I push them on others with half-formed sentences, gushing about something that escapes me.

I tell them about the loss and longing in the first moments of “Red Roulette“, and about how I woke up early one morning in August to sit in the backyard just after sunrise and listen to Abyss in full – how the record that reveled in so much lush darkness was somehow even more beautiful in sunlight so bright you could barely open your eyes. I tell the producer/songsmith at my work about how in my most anxious moments I scream along with the G.L.O.S.S demo because of what I can only term as its inclusive alienation. It is a record that feels made for moments when I feel alone and afraid in my house and in my skin. It is a reclamation of the space around me.

I guess the last big thing of the year for me was spending two months with Smokes’ debut, Zone Eater. It opens with the absolutely cutting lyric, “I know I need to evolve instead of revolving,” on “Dead Hand” and repeats into the chorus, continuing, “I need to evaporate, but I’m still devolving.” There’s a detectable desperation, in Nick Maas’ voice and echoed in both the guitar and violin that suggests a critical mass, a return of Saturn, a day that you make a choice and you don’t look back – the record is full of this feeling. Of looking into the face of nihilism and deciding to just fucking leap into being who you want to be.

It makes sense, I learned in reading the press surrounding the record that the second song on the record, “Lemonlime“, is a coming out song. It might just have ended up my favourite song of the year. “I used to be a mind among machines, now I’m a timebomb wearing tight jeans/I was a clock but I couldn’t tell time, but I can tell a lemon from a fucking lime.” “Now I’m a shark, and I still can’t tell time, but I can tell a lemon from a fucking lime.” “I’ve lost all my baby teeth, so what you see is what you’re going to get with me.” “I’m a fucking shark, I eat what I want.” I moved back to the East Coast – I still don’t know whether it was a good decision but “Lemonlime” is the song that made me stop worrying about it.

I finally acknowledged the loss of my own metaphorical baby teeth. Their early single “Body Heat” is on the record, and it’s the one that hooked me. It’s a cinematic song made for walking through the busy streets and feeling everyone move past you like a blur – the violin, fiddle-like, a soundtrack fit for a hero walking into the sunset. ‘’For once in your fucking life, wear your heart like body heat.” There’s a rawness to the emotion on this record that runs right through, even the most starkly Canadian indie music tendencies don’t obscure the boiling blood contained within. And there are songs like “Snakeskin,” that bypass all of that and head right for a heartland that falls somewhere between L’Acadie and Rasputina territory, thrilling and chilling me.

I guess to me, being overwhelmed by music was a welcome distraction from all of the other things that overwhelmed me. The music of 2015 reminded me of all the excitement and enthusiasm and effusiveness with which I loved music as a teenager. I felt so profoundly grateful for music this year. I guess that’s the place that I should leave off – knowing that the music I listened to this year helped me to rediscover the parts of my brain that I liked, helped me to realize that depression hasn’t taken away my ability to feel grateful and fulfilled. I slip out of the imposter syndrome that has cloaked me and all my decisions in doubt and though I stand about as tall as a concrete foundation, I have all of these songs; these melodies; these lyrics; these memories on which to build some fucked up, crazy, beautiful life in the coming year.

-Lindsay Hazen

The Honorable Mentions of the 2015 Music Categories

Saintseneca I

Before diving into the particulars of the forthcoming lists, it’s worth addressing the distinction made in the headline. Each of the categories that received a list in 2015 (music videos, songs, EP’s, albums, odds and ends) will be expanded upon in this post. However, there are still two forthcoming film lists but each of those will include the honorable mentions along with the featured rankings. An obscene amount of great material came out over the 12 months that comprised the past year so any attempts to cover everything would be futile. If anyone’s exhausted the below lists, a more comprehensive version can be found by exploring the following tags: stream, full stream, EP stream, and music video. Explore some of the top tier picks that didn’t make it onto the year-end lists via the tags below.

Music Videos

Screaming Females – Hopeless | Cayetana – Scott, Get the Van I’m Moving | Ephrata – Say A Prayer | ANAMIA – LuciaJoanna Newsom – Sapokinakan | Battles – The Yabba | FIDLAR – 40 Oz. On Repeat | PINS – Young Girls | Doomtree – Final Boss | Hundred Waters – Innocent | Celestial Shore – Now I Know | Donnie Trumpet & The Social Experiment – Sunday Candy | Modest Mouse – Coyotes | Girlpool – Before The World Was Big | Laura Marling – Gurdijeff’s Daughter | Bay Uno – Wait For Your Love | The Staves – Black & White | Young Buffalo – No  Idea | Avid Dancer – All Your Words Are Gone | Avi Buffalo – Think It’s Gonna Happen Again | Adir L.C. – Buyer’s Instinct | Midnight Reruns – Canadian Summer | Daughter – Doing The Right Thing | John Grant – Disappointing | Waxahatchee – Under A Rock | Wimps – Dump | Potty Mouth – Cherry Picking | Froth – Nothing Baby | The Libertines – Heart of the Matter | Car Seat Headrest – Something Soon | Mike Krol – Neighborhood Watch | Savages – The Answer | Kurt Vile – Pretty Pimpin | Bully – Trying | Sheer – Uneasy  | Will Butler – Anna

EPs

Snail Mail – Sticki | Kindling – Galaxies | Eugene Quell – I Will Work The Land | Gumbus – Crimbus Rock | Rye Pines – Rye Pines | Feral Jenny – Greatest Hits | Slutever – Almost Famous | Gracie – Gracie | Nice Guys – Chips in the Moonlight | Anomie – Anomie | Kitner – Stay Sad | Animal Flag – EP 2 | Never Young – Never Young | Birches – Birches | Alimony Hustle – Gutter Gutter Strike Strike Gutter Gutter | The Lumes – Lust | Pretty Pretty – Talkin’ to the WallsVomitface – Another Bad Year | PALMAS – To the Valley | Greys – Repulsion | Wild Pink – Good Life | The Glow – Lose | Spirit of the Beehive – You Are Arrived (But You’ve Been Cheated) | Shady Hawkins – The Last Dance | Holy Esque – Submission | Ashland – Ashland | Isabel Rex – American Colliquialisms/Two Hexes | Pet Cemetery – Dietary Requirements | Milk Crimes – Milk Crimes | Rubber Band Gun – Making A Fool of Myself | Creative Adult – Ring Around the Room | Amber Edgar – Good Will Rise | La Casa al Mare – This Astro | Trophy Dad – Shirtless Algebra Fridays | Glueboy – Videorama | Birds in Row – Personal War | YVETTE – Time Management | Communions – Cobblestones | O-Face – Mint | Day Wave – Headcase | Granny – EGG | Van Dammes – Better Than Sex | Vallis Alps – Vallis Alps | Little Children – Traveling Through Darkness | Philadelphia Collins – Derp Swervin’ | The Tarantula Waltz – Lynx | Nicolas Jaar – Nymphs II | The Japanese House – Pools To Bathe In | Guerilla Toss – Flood Dosed | Los Planetas – Dobles Fatigas | See Through Dresses – End of Days | Earl Sweatshirt – Solace | Kississippi – We Have No Future, We’re All Doomed | Yumi Zouma – EP II | G.L.O.S.S. – Girls Living Outside of Society’s Shit | Fresh Snow – WON | Girl Band – The Early Years | XXIX – Wafia | together PANGEA – The Phage | Ty Segall – Mr. Face | Young Guv – Ripe 4 Luv

Songs

Yowler – The Offer | Meat Wave – Cosmic Zoo | Pleasure Leftists – Protection | Saintseneca – Sleeper Hold | Slight – Hate the Summer | Sports – The Washing Machine | Diet Cig – Sleep Talk | LVL UP – The Closing Door | Royal Headache – High | Tica Douglas – All Meanness Be Gone | Speedy Ortiz – Raising the Skate | Phooey! – Molly’s at the Laundromat | Adir L.C. – Buyer’s Instinct | Sweet John Bloom – Tell Me | Pile – Mr. Fish | Screaming Females – Hopeless | Ernie – Sweatpants | Bad Wig – Stargazer | Dusk – Too Sweet | Painted Zeros – Only You | Krill – Torturer | Young Jesus – Milo | Tenement – Ants + Flies | Midnight Reruns – Richie the Hammer | Melkbelly – Mt. Kool Kid | The Weasel, Marten Fisher – Empty Bucket List | Soul Low – Always Watchin’ Out | Eluvium – Neighboring In Telescopes | Algiers – Blood | Institute – Cheerlessness | Bruising – Think About Death | Vacation – Like Snow | Cende – Widow | Alex G – Brite Boy | Bully – Trying | Nicole Dollanganger – You’re So Cool | Sheer – Uneasy | Laura Stevenson – Claustrophobe | Kathryn Calder – New Millenium | The Foetals – Nothing | Lady Bones – Botch | Dogs On Acid – Let the Bombs Fall Off | Fraser A. Gorman – Shiny Gun | Bandit – The Drive Home | Mercury Girls – Golden | ThinLips – Nothing Weird | Wimps – Dump | S.M. Wolf – Help Me Out | Glueboy – Back to You | Mean Creek – Forgotten Streets | Ratboys – Tixis | PINS – Young Girls | Shilpa Ray – Johnny Thunders Fantasy Space Camp | White Reaper – Make Me Wanna Die | Lady Lamb – Spat Out Spit | Washer – Joe | Pupppy – Puking (Merry Christmas) | Midwives – Back in the Saddle Again | Torres – Strange Hellos | METZ – Spit You Out | Jeff Rosenstock – You In Weird Cities | Little Wings – Hollowed Log | Bent Denim – Good Night’s Sleep | Waxahatchee – Under A Rock

Albums

Girlpool – Before The World Was Big | Screaming Females – Rose MountainYowler – The Offer | Saintseneca – Such Things | Bully – Feels Like | Tica Douglas – Joey | Evans the Death – Expect Delays | Torres – Sprinter | Waxahatchee – Ivy Tripp | Fred Thomas – All Are Saved | Krill – A Distant Fist Unclenching | Ratboys – AOID | Joanna Gruesome – Peanut Butter | METZ – II | Little Wings – ExplainsSlanted – Forever | Bent Denim – Romances You | Someone Still Loves You Boris Yeltsin – The High Country | White Reaper – White Reaper Does It Again | The Armed – Untitled | Shilpa Ray – Last Year’s Savage | The Foetals – Meet the Foetals | Car Seat Headrest – Teens of Style | Wimps – Suitcase | Westkust – Last Forever | Girl Band – Holding Hands With Jamie | Cloakroom – Further Out | Stove – Is Stupider | Johanna Warren – numun | Speedy Ortiz – Foil Deer | Mikal Cronin – MCIII | Adir L.C. – Oceanside Cities | Negative Scanner – Negative Scanner | Pleasure Leftists – The Woods of Heaven | Haybaby – Sleepy Kids | Heather Woods Broderick – Glider | Lady Lamb – After | Pile – You’re Better Than This | Algiers – Algiers | Fraser A. Gorman – Slow Gum | POPE – Fiction | Petal Head – Raspberry Cough | Shannen Moser – You Shouldn’t Be Doing That

Odds and Ends

DBTS: BS2 | Spook the Herd – Freaks b/w Fermented | Kinjac – Possession b/w Possessed | Carbonleak – Waveland b/w Bearing | Vexx – Give and Take | Nervous Trend – Shattered | CCTV – 7″ | Puppy Problems – Practice Kissing | Flagland + Washer | MONO + The Ocean | Uh Huh + Jake McElvie & The Countertops | Alanna McArdle – Bedroom/Balloons | Chris Broom – Meade House Demos | Composite – Demos 2015 | The Library – 100% | Dark Thoughts – Two More Songs From… | Wendy Alembic – Collected Early Works | Toby Reif – 2015 Demos

Swirlies – Live at The Silent Barn – 7/4/15 (Pictorial Review, Live Video)

Swiries VI

Fourth of July, traditionally, is an American holiday that’s characterized by pride and excess. A clear amount of both traits were visible in the lead-up to the celebration that was hosted by Silent Barn, an event hosted by adhoc and headlined by Swirlies. Over the past decade a feverish, cult-like dedication has been granted to Swirlies, whose impressive body of works deserved far more acclaim than it initially received.

Now, there’s a renewed interest in the exact type of music Swirlies excelled at- and possibly even perfected- when it was distilled into their career highlight, Blonder Tongue Audio Baton. Before they took the stage to a diverse, adoring audience, those in attendance were treated to two excellent opening sets. ADVAETA had the first slot and they wasted no time in setting the tone for the evening.

Kaleidoscopic guitar work, frenetic drumming, off-kilter composition, and an impressive pop sensibility permeated throughout the trio’s set and it was evident that they were pushing themselves to deliver at their absolute best. It was an impressive display of fireworks that seemed perfectly suited to the date. Krill followed up as the second opener and anyone that’s kept even an irregular eye on this space knows exactly how this site feels about Krill. To succinctly quote bassist/vocalist Jonah Furman: “Krill forever.

Swirlies took to the stage amidst a flurry of technical problems and eventually decided to forego the opening noises of Blonder Tongue Audio Baton, opting to imitate them vocally instead of attempting to sort out that particular issue. After that brief hiccup, the band was off, playing with a very palpable love for their songs, the album, and each other- a despairing rarity in today’s musical landscape.

If a note was flubbed, they’d smile and push forward. They invited fans to the stage to play the radio and a string of brief CB-style exchanges poured out of the PA, ranging from mundane to hysterical. Following a deeply impressive run through the record that climaxed with a beautiful rendition of the record’s closing track, “Wait Forever”, the band was successfully called back to the stage for an impassioned one-song encore.

Beaming, exhausted, and grateful, Swirlies made their final stage exit of the night, having just provided an explosive finale memorable enough to surpass just about any state, county or city’s airborne exhibitions. All the bald, middle-aged man standing next to me could do was stare out blankly and shake his head in awed silence. I had to agree.

A gallery of photos from the show can be found here and an embed containing performance captures of various songs in each band’s set can be found below. Enjoy.

1. ADVAETA – Come With Me
2. Krill – Brain Problem
3. Krill – Turd
4. Krill – Purity of Heart
5. Krill – Torturer
6. Swirlies – Bell
7. Swirlies – Jeremy Parker
8. Swirlies – Wait Forever

First Quarter Full Streams, Pt. 2

LVL UP II

As was noted and clearly evidenced by the last post’s overabundance of content, 2015’s off to a particularly strong start in terms of memorable records. While a few of those 75 entries from that post do have a shot at working their way into the upper echelons of the year’s finest by December, the 25 full streams listed below are among 2015’s very finest offerings. From demo compilations of old material to split EP’s to full-lengths, everything on this list is worthy of an immediate purchase. A few of these are pulverizing shows of force, a few are immediate sugar-rush blitzes, and a few are quietly devastating. All of them are releases I’ve listened to multiple times over and formed very extreme connections with on a myriad of levels. Don’t make a regrettable decision by not giving any of the unfamiliar titles a fair shot: there’s a release here for just about everyone.

1. Quarterbacks – Quarterbacks

Quarterbacks have earned a fair amount of praise from this site and a large amount of that’s been for their exhilarating self-titled, which is the band’s first complete full band effort. Recalling the transition that Radiator Hospital made with their brilliant debut full band full-length effort, Something Wild, Quarterbacks doesn’t pull any of its punches. It’s a spiky record that lends Dean Engle’s songs a ferocious punch that comes with a lingering bite.

2. Tenement – Bruised Music: Volume 1

I’ve written an enormous amount of words about my unending love for Tenement. Some of those words can be read in the zine that comes packaged with this record. One of my favorite bands, if not outright favorite, for nearly a decade, Bruised Music: Vol. 1 is the perfect reminder of why I fell for this band in the first place. A compilation of early material from long out-of-print 7″ records, compilations, and other various scraps, this is the definitive starter kit for anyone looking to retrace Tenement’s career path to its humble beginnings. Unsurprisingly, it’s also ridiculously brilliant. Expect to see more words about this record published on this site in the coming months.

3. Krill – A Distant Fist Unclenching

Krill forever.

4. Hailey Wojcik – Book of Beasts

One of the year’s best early surprises, Hailey Wojcik’s Book of Beasts EP has all the makings of what could (and should) prove to be a career-making effort for the singer/songwriter. Dark tones, brilliant composition, strong melody, and an incredibly alluring voice is always a dangerous combination. Here, each one of those elements is shot through with a Gothic Americana sensibility that manages to find its niche in forward thinking. It’s an incredible release and deserves much more attention than it’s been receiving. Bonus points for offering the release up on bandcamp for the price of $6.66.

5. Daddy Issues – Double Loser

Daddy Issues may not be the most recognizable name on the market but we’re less than a month removed from the cassette release of Double Loser and the thing’s already sold out. Now, measuring a record’s strength in terms of sales is generally a deeply problematic formula- but in this case, it seems just. Double Loser has the strength of what could become a celebrated cult classic among a very particular breed of crate-diggers. Undeniably winsome and darkly enchanting, this EP cements Daddy Issues’s position as a band that’s ready for much bigger things.

6. Pope – Fiction

Heavy, cutting, and melodic in a way that hits the intersection of a wide spread of tastes just right, Pope’s Fiction is the kind of record that’s got the verve to last long after it appears on a few best-of lists. Cloaked in a wall-of-noise type production sheathe, Fiction is one of the first quarter’s most unapologetic and propulsive releases. Balancing a suspiciously taut tightrope between shoegaze and post-punk, every song manages to be breathtaking by virtue of sheer cathartic release. Pope’s made something genuinely exhilarating that deserves to be in as many collections as possible.

7. Alanna McArdle – reticular (2012-2013)

While Alanna McArdle may be best known as the lead personality for site favorites Joanna Gruesome, her career doesn’t begin and/or end with that particular band. McArdle recently released a compilation of genuinely stunning (and mostly acoustic) bedroom recordings. The guitarist/vocalist taps into something more bravely vulnerable than the trappings of Joanna Gruesome usually allows for, creating a hushed, spellbinding atmosphere. reticular (2012-2013) has been one of 2015’s more unceremonious releases but it’s also easily one of the year’s most fascinating. Already one of the most-played releases in my library, it’s a monumental entry in the career of one of the more engaging musical figures of our generation.

8. Trust Fund – No One’s Coming For Us

Cut Me Out“, one of No One’s Coming For Us‘ first singles, seemed to be a strong indicator that the band would have something special with their upcoming record. It was a presumption that the record somehow, against reasonable logic, managed to exceed. Easily the strongest effort in the band’s burgeoning discography, No One’s Coming For Us is a specatacular warning shot from the kind of band that seems like they’re setting up for the long haul.

9. Cloakroom – Further Out

Most of the description for Pope’s Fiction also stands true for Cloakroom‘s jaw-dropping Further Out. Except here, Cloakroom adds an extra layer of heaviness, which frequently relents to territory even more accessible than the realms of Pope’s niche operation level. Further Out is going to continue to stand as one of 2015’s most awe-inspiring releases as the months progress and it’ll be the kind of record people will look to for inspiration. It’s an incredible achievement and ranks among the finest releases to carry the vaunted Run For Cover tag.

10. Wildhoney – Sleep Through It

The first two months of 2015 were very kind to bands incorporating a heavy shoegaze bent into their sound, a fact furthered by listening to Wildhoney’s gorgeous full-length debut, Sleep Through It. Embracing the pop sensibilities of the genre and maximizing them without ever drifting out of post-punk’s territories, Wildhoney manages to create an incredibly appealing record that delivers on the promise of their brilliant EP. Sleep Through It is yet another album people are going to be talking about for many months (and hopefully, years) to come.

11. Lady Lamb – After

Goodbye Lady Lamb The Beekeeper, hello Lady Lamb. The rightfully-acclaimed After features songwriter Aly Spaltro at a transition phase in her career. Already a few extraordinary records deep into a continuously promising run of releases, After is already taking Spaltro to the next level(s). With the sudden name change, Spaltro managed to make her brand even more accessible without diminishing any of her other qualities. On the contrary, After may be the fiercest entry in Lady Lamb’s remarkable discography. After was initially teased with the absurdly delightful “Billions of Eyes” and the rest of the record manages to live up to those intensely high levels of promise. Listen below and fall in love all over again.

12. PWR BTTM + Jawbreaker Reunion – Republican National Convention

Two of New York’s finest emerging young bands come together to make a split EP, what can go wrong? Nothing. The answer is nothing. Jawbreaker Reunion continue to be as exciting as ever, PWR BTTM make one hell of a mark, and both “Hold Yer Tongue” and “Adventure Time” rank among the best songs of the year. Every other Valentine’s Day gift paled in comparison.

13. Slutever – Almost Famous

Punchy, strong, and incredibly catchy, Slutever followed up their near-perfect Girlpool split with this piece of magic. Expertly balancing basement pop and basement punk, Slutever take their craft to an entirely new place with Almost Famous, their finest work to date (and an absolute must-own). From the traces of sludge-punk on the reactionary masterpiece “I Miss America” to the hard-charging rush of “Maggot”, Slutever fearlessly follows their whims and explores some previously uncharted territory. Astoundingly, all of it works and leaves the band with a very real contender for EP of the Year.

14. Lighting Bolt – Fantasy Empire

Thousands of writers have tried to extol the virtues of Lightning Bolt’s furor and no one’s ever managed to match the band’s intensity. Sometimes it’s just better to let the reputation for such a singular act to do the talking- but it wouldn’t be fair to the band if I didn’t note that this just may be the very best record the duo’s ever made.

Listen to Fantasy Empire for a limited time over at NPR’s First Listen

15. Sleater-Kinney – No Cities to Love

Sleater-Kinney’s thrilling hiatus-ender, No Cities to Love, was one of the year’s first universally acclaimed records and it’s easy to see (or hear) why. Not just incredible in terms of a comeback record but as a career staple for one of the most legendary bands of our era. The trio’s sharper (and thornier) than they’ve ever been on No Cities to Love and couldn’t have scheduled their re-entrance at a better time for their fierce, commentary-heavy diatribes.

16. Midwives – LP

When Midwives put out their incendiary EP last year, I knew I’d found another Wisconsin-based band to rally behind. Naturally, the hardcore band (which boasts Graham Hunt of Midnight Reruns among its members) has followed that short order of songs up with a gloriously unhinged, shit-kicking full-length. Increasingly scrappy and direct, Midwives may very well have their sights set on bigger things- and if they don’t, those bigger things might find them anyway.

17. Spook The Herd – Freaks b/w Fermented

There’s a very particular breed of 90’s revivalism whose subversion among current bands is becoming increasingly present. Intriguingly, that camp of 90’s acts (the one that bands like Superchunk and Archers of Loaf belonged to) is notoriously difficult to recreate in intriguing ways. Many of the bands that have released records through Exploding in Sound are a part of that current crop of bands who look to that era for influence and it wouldn’t come as a surprise if Spook the Herd joined that list. “Freaks” and “Fermented” are both first-rate examples of revivalism done right.

18. LVL UP – Dark Sided Stuff

Anyone whose been following this site at all for the past few months has likely seen LVL UP come up a few times. Dark Sided Stuff, their most recent release, is a compilation of the demos that would go on to become Hoodwink’d (this sites pick for Album of the Year)  and a few other recordings that were cut during that time. Unsurprisingly, the end result is a brilliant mess that strips the band back to their rawest state, allowing for a further understanding of their process. Enigmatic and charismatic in equal measure, it’s a release well worth anyone’s investment.

19. The Juliana Hatfield Three – Whatever, My Love

The Juliana Hatfield Three may not have sparked as much attention as Sleater-Kinney did when they made an unexpected return to music but Whatever, My Love does occupy a similar space to No Cities to Love. Both are examples of a band making a return to form without much warning, after a long time away, and both include some of the best material of each band’s career. A lot of bands that garner a lot of attention here (All Dogs, Radiator Hospital, etc.) have listed The Juliana Hatfield Three as a major influence and those connections, fascinatingly, have never been more crystallized than they are with Whatever, My Love. Don’t let this one fall to the wayside.

20. Chastity Belt – Time to Go Home

The name Chastity Belt’s another one that’s been kicked around here for a while, thanks mostly to their excellent 2013 LP, No Regerts. Even with as good as that record was, it proved to be impossible to predict just how incredible Time to Go Home would turn out. Chastity Belt have enhanced their identity with their boldest and most fully-realized work to date. Rarely eclipsing mid-tempo, the band allows themselves to settle into comfortably meticulous grooves with a confidence that’s self-assured enough to put a lot of other bands (bands who have been around much, much longer) to absolute shame.

Listen to Time To Go Home over at NPR’s First Listen.

21. Leggy – Nice Try

Grrrls Like Us” provided a fitting end-cap to Leggy’s first major year as a band. They’d previously released the commendably great Cavity Castle EP, which wound up being quite a few people’s favorite EP of 2014. Now, the band’s hell-bent on capitalizing on that momentum and they’re doing it in enthralling fashion. Nice Try, an EP the band released last month, isn’t just the strongest work of their young career- it’s a gigantic leap forward for their songwriting. Never anything less than full-throttle, Nice Try is an invigorating reminder that this band’s not going anyway anytime soon.

22. Matthew E. White – Fresh Blood

Matthew E. White’s Big Inner was one of 2012’s most fascinating- and unique- folk-pop records. Full of wayward experimentalism and intricate arrangements, it showcased White as someone who possessed an original voice. Three years later, he’s unleashed his follow-up: Fresh Blood. While the music’s scaled a back quite a bit in terms of arrangements, the songs here are more immediate, direct, and accessible. By indulging in greater restraint White may have also wound up with something more lasting. Adamantly defiant of easy genre categorization, Fresh Blood makes its mark and leaves an endearing scar that refuses to fade.

23. Mount Eerie – Sauna

Phil Elverum has gone through many phases, shape-shifting at his leisure into whatever suits his mind at the time. One of his most celebrated ongoing projects, Mount Eerie, returned this year with the brilliant Sauna, which offers up an enveloping ambient sprawl. Gently immersive in some spots and dangerously raw in others, it’s one of Elverum’s most compelling tapestries to date.

24. Yowler – The Offer

The Offer‘s devastating title track is one of the only standalone songs to have earned a write-up on this site so far this year. The reason? It’s not just one of the best songs of this year (so far), it’s one of the finest of the decade. “The Offer” is also, appropriately, the most representative song on Maryn Jones’ solo debut (using the Yowler moniker, at least). Cautious, frightened, anxious, and defiant, The Offer is a gut-punch of a record that occasionally nears uncomfortably voyeuristic levels. The Offer is the perfect soundtrack for sleepless nights spent in near-silence, when the only other audible sound is the rain coming down.

25. Spectres – Dying

Rounding out this run of records is, somewhat incredibly, another shoegaze-leaning record that never diminished its brute force. Dipping into the decidedly darker realms of post-punk, Spectres managed to create a behemoth of an LP with the boldly-titled Dying. Opening with a genuinely intimidating noise collage, the band sinks its claws in and proceeds to tear away in the most feral manner possible, continuously refusing to relinquish its grasp. At points, Dying approaches black metal but never loses sight of its overall melodic sensibility. By taking stormier roads, Spectres have managed to start the year off in an impossibly blinding fashion. Listen to the sounds of Dying below.

Laughing Fingers – Crutches (Stream)

laughfing

As previously mentioned, the site’s been dealing with some lingering technical issues so its been difficult to get in the regularly-scheduled posts. Last week saw nothing but a premiere and a few series features go up- nothing else. To make up for all of that missed time, tonight’s posts will be dedicated to last week’s best material in the three major categories. Music videos have been accounted for and now it’s onto the single songs. In keeping with the normal routine, there was an abundance of single streams so this will be the first of two posts dedicated to their coverage. A full stream post will follow and then this week’s coverage will be brought up to speed. Before all of that happens, there are a lot of songs to discuss- starting now.

Darlings showed they could balance their power with a staggering amount of casual finesse in the basement pop stopmper “I Love You Too“, Krill offered up an extremely tantalizing preview of their forthcoming album with the ragged “Torturer“, and The Golden Dregs strutted out some psych-pop via the subtly sun-splashed (and folk-inflected) “The Role of A Lifetime”. Reservoir showed an abundance of promise with the slow-building “Waves Erase“, Leggy continued a raucous streak with the decidedly punk “Grrrls Like Us“, Leapling unveiled the deeply intriguing “Silent Stone” from their upcoming Vacant Page LP, Twerps reassured everyone their Merge signing was no mistake via the shimmering “Shoulders“,  and Snow Ghosts tapped into something transcendental and impossibly compelling with their hypnotically brooding single, “Bowline“.

It’s another dark brooder that earned this post’s feature spot, though; Laughing Fingers’ “Crutches”. Restless and bleak, “Crutches” emphasizes the singular talents of Chris Broom and Ian Taggart (the duo who make up Laughing Fingers) in the best ways possible. Heavy on atmosphere without skimping on melody or structure, Laughing Fingers created something that feels akin to the smoke that hovers over a battlefield. It boasts a relentlessly cynical worldview that accepts everything is cyclical in lyric copy, it’s the uncertainty of the music that pushes the song to a grandiose disquiet. At times, it’s almost as if “Crutches” moves in slow motion, allowing everything in the outside world to unfurl or unwind as it grapples with an intense internal battle. Everything ends when it turns to chaotic to contain; even the staccato stabs can’t hide the fact that everything’s about to fall completely apart, providing an extremely disconcerting end-cap to the song’s veiled intensity. In short: Laughing Fingers are a band who aren’t afraid to make something like “Crutches”- and “Crutches” is the kind of song that deserves to be dissected. Don’t be surprised if this song (or Two EP‘s) burrows itself out a permanent place in a lot of people’s collections.

Listen  to “Crutches” below and order Two EP‘s from Death Rehearsal here.