Heartbreaking Bravery

stevenmps2@gmail.com | @steven_mps | @hbreakbravery

Tag: Accidental Guest Recordings

Puerto Rico Flowers – No Tomorrow (Song Premiere)

puerto-rico-flowers

While they may not be a household name, it’s impossible to deny the impact and legacy of Puerto Rico Flowers. They’ve been noted as an influence by numerous contemporary DIY punk luminaries and boast one of the genre’s more celebrated discographies in this early century. Now, on the verge of a heavily-anticipated reunion show and five years after the release of their final record, the project’s decided to unveil the triumphantly damaged “No Tomorrow” and it’s a legitimate honor to be hosting the premiere of the band’s final song, which will be appearing on 16, a forthcoming cassette compilation that contains all of the band’s recorded material and a live cover.

The solo project of John Sharkey III (Dark Blue, Clockcleaner), Puerto Rico Flowers went a long way in establishing the songwriter thanks to a deeply impressive body of work. “No Tomorrow” is indicative of the project’s overwhelming strength, a long-gestating castaway that never fit in on the band’s recorded efforts. Recorded by Jeff Zeigler (Kurt Vile, Nothing, Purling Hiss) and and mastered by Jake Reid (Wildhoney, Roomrunner, Pleasure Leftists, Technicolor Teeth), “No Tomorrow” takes Puerto Rico Flowers out on the highest possible note.

Like most of Sharkey’s work, “No Tomorrow” — a song that took five years to surface — is a work that bridges the gap between being subdued and aggressive, drawing an inordinate amount of power from murky tones and an acutely-realized worldview that takes a darkly tinted look at the everyday life of the working class; a skinhead pop masterpiece. Utilizing a structure that divvies up a week into individual days and events (a sample stanza: On a Tuesday/all your tears will flood the streets/and wash your families away/On a Wednesday/you feel pain), “No Tomorrow” is unflinching in its calmly brutal outlook, which makes it all the more startling to learn what it’s truly about: American football.

In addition to that compelling detail, “No Tomorrow” also boasts what may be the most affecting chorus of Puerto Rico Flowers’ storied catalog:

Just say goodbye now
’cause there’s no tomorrow
but it’s okay because
there was no today
Don’t close your eyes now
there’s no tomorrow
but it’s okay
it’s okay
it’s okay
’cause there was no today

That chorus serves as an oddly exhilarating moment in a song teeming with them, from the Albini-esque drum blasts that open the track to the heavenward main riff that manages to mirror the song’s fractured sense of optimism. It’s a fitting end-cap for a project that consistently gravitated toward’s life’s bleakest moments in earnest. “No Tomorrow” also has the benefit of being one of Puerto Rico Flowers’ most pop-informed moments while keeping the project’s post-punk hallmarks firmly intact, sparking a contrast that renders the song a legitimately thrilling listen.

It’s not just a perfect swan or a song that encapsulates everything that made the project great, it’s one of the most transcendent songs in recent memory. At this point, rambling on any further would be doing the song a disservice so stop reading, hit play, and get lost in the bruising world of Puerto Rico Flowers one final time.

Listen to “No Tomorrow” below and keep an eye on this site (and on Accidental Guest, who’ll be handling the digital/cassette release) for more news on 16.

The Holy Circle – Polaris (Music Video Premiere)

holycircle

Over the years, the tremendous Accidental Guest Recordings label has shown a penchant to skew its focus towards darker works, whether it be via the blown-out, lo-fi feedback hisses of vicious hardcore, bleak post-punk, or found a way to manifest in bold, confrontational lyric sets. Recently, the label started revealing a clip to accompany every track from the forthcoming cassette from ambient/drone/darkwave act The Holy Circle.

Boasting members from acts like Locrian, the band’s deadly serious nature probably shouldn’t come as much of a surprise to anyone. What does manage to surprise, however, is how effectively hypnotic both the tracks and the clips from The Holy Circle have been. “Polaris”, the release’s final track (and video) may stand as the best current example of what the band is capable of achieving.

As an isolated song, “Polaris” teems with desolate atmospherics that manage to be both magnetic and otherworldly all at once. It’s a severely battered version of the ethereal and it becomes increasingly compelling for its cold detachment. Elevating those sensibilities is the simple, absorbing video that operates entirely via silhouettes and overlays. Over the course of the track, the minimal imagery obtains direct meaning and leads to a fiery, disconcerting climax without ever hitting the point of bombast.

Both a beautiful feat of high-impact minimalism and a powerful closing chapter to a quietly extraordinary release, “Polaris” is the kind of work that’s successful enough in accomplishing its goals that it’ll likely be analyzed and dissected even more over time. For now, it’s best to let the disquieting imagery and alluring tone induce a trance-like state before a final, self-contained disintegration puts a note of finality on the type of experience that should warrant multiple return visits.

Watch “Polaris” below and pick up their self-titled tape from Accidental Guest here.

Bested – Waves (Stream)

bested1

Bueno, The Exquisites, Honey Bucket, Toby Coke, Dada, Warehouse, Connections, The Conquerors, Glenn Davis, Rangers, Gonjasufi, Ski Saigon, Russian Circles, Cool Ghouls, Fraternal Twin, Wildhoney, Cool American, Twist, and Vomitface have all put out strong new tracks over the past two weeks, which is roughly the amount of time this space has experienced a mini-hiatus. That time of (briefly) sustained stagnancy comes to an end tonight with a resurgence of posts covering the worthwhile material that’s emerged in that time. Kicking things off is a post that headlights one of the very strongest tracks from that crop: Bested’s “Waves”.

A lot of acts with ties to Roomrunner have been making increasingly excellent music throughout the course of 2016 and this new solo project from drummer Bret Lanahan pushes those limits to an exhilarating apex. “Waves”, the first song to be released from a forthcoming 7″ release on site favorite Accidental Guest, is a turbo-fueled jolt of pure aggression that never loses sight of its melodic overtones.

In a manner not too dissimilar from Meat Wave, the project mixes a variety of ’90s influences that range from propulsive noise acts to slacker punk and creates something that’s both familiar and bracing in the process. The verses here are sledgehammers set on annihilation while the chorus looks skyward, even though its narrative is decidedly downtrodden. In all, it’s a galvanizing listen that announces Lanahan’s project (which quickly evolved into a full band lineup following the recording of this 7″) with the kind of determined confidence that makes them impossible to ignore.

Listen to “Waves” below and keep an eye on Accidental Guest for the pre-orders.

14 of ’14: The Best 7″ Records of 2014

banner

As always, two quick disclaimers: “best”, in year-end list cases, is a shorthand term indicative of personal admiration which is in no way an attempt to be definitive and the first person restrictions will be lifted for this site’s year-end coverage. This list will be focusing on releases that came out in the 7″ format throughout the course of 2014. Some may fall under the EP umbrella (which will be the next list to run) but each and every title on this list wound up with my appreciation. A staggering amount of 7″ records were released this year and I had the privilege of listening to hundreds throughout the past 12 months. Below will be the 14 strongest 7″ records that I heard all year- the records that stuck with me or gnawed away at my memory. Just like the previous list, below those 14 selections will be a list of every 7″ released in 2014 that made a deep enough impact to be put into consideration for this list (or, rather, every release I came across that deserves to be heard by as many people possible). Enough exposition; onto the picks.

14. Communions – Cobblestones

Expertly blending new wave, post-punk, and something entirely undefinable, Communions’ Cobblestones was one of the year’s most immediately gripping releases. Cobblestones is the kind of release that teems with enough determination and conviction to convince anyone that Communions are in this for the long haul.

13. Mikal Cronin – I Don’t Mind b/w Blue-Eyed Girl

Part of Polyviny’s four-track singles series, “I Don’t Mind” and “Blue-Eyed Girl” were both perfect demonstrations of Mikal Cronin’s penchant for winsome folk-oriented (and punk-informed) pop music. It’s a show of force as much as it is a reveal of Cronin’s most delicate sensibilities. Unfortunately, the A-side is no longer available for streaming but the compellingly plaintive B-side’s been included below.

12. Girl Band – Lawman, De Bom Bom

Girl Band turned in a few of 2014’s most feral offerings. From the 25-second “The Cha Cha Cha” to the songs that give the Law Man and De Bom Bom 7″ releases their name. Serrated and cut-throat, Girl Band have been unleashing bruising post-punk that occasionally verges on hardcore and powerviolence at a steady rate. Watch out for whatever route they decide to take with their upcoming full-length.


11. Dogs On Acid – Dogs On Acid

Taking cues from 90’s powerpop and injecting it with a ferocious energy (and no shortage of grit), Dogs on Acid have crafted something incredibly appealing with their self-titled 7″. Like early Ben Kweller with an added punk bite, both “Make It Easy” and “Waiting For You To Come Home” are ridiculously easy to leave on repeat and more than worth a heavy amount of investment.

10. Jeff Rosenstock – Hey Allison! b/w I’m So Gross

After Bomb The Music Industry! halted operations, Jeff Rosenstock had quite a few roads open to him. He took full advantage in 2014 by not only releasing two outstanding EP’s in his collaborative project with Fake Problems’ Chris Farren as Antarctigo Vespucci and going straight for the throat with his strongest solo effort to date, the fierce Hey Allison! b/w I’m So Gross 7″. The stop/start rhythms in the chorus of “Hey Allison!” alone would have put this in contention for a spot on this list- luckily the rest of the release lives up to that moment.


9. Kindling – Spike & Wave

Kindling’s Spike & Wave 7″ caught my attention immediately after its release. It’s another release heralding in a new era of shoegaze that refuses to back down from experimenting with the genre’s limitations. Subtly embracing elements of twee pop and basement punk, it’s a release that deserves to be in a whole lot of collections.

8. Audacity – Counting the Days

When I started this site, I did it with a post about Audacity, whose Butter Knife was one of 2013’s strongest highlights. In 2014, the band provided another incredibly strong moment with “Counting the Days”- a 7″ headlined by a song that earned both a write-up and a Watch This entry spot. My feelings on that song haven’t changed but Counting the Days’ other song, “Mind Your Own Business”, pushes the whole package (which also features some incredible album art) way over the top.


7. Ausmuteants – Felix Tried to Kill Himself, Stale White Boys Playing Stale Black Music, Fed Through A Tube

Ausmuteants had an absolutely monstrous 2014, releasing no fewer than five titles. Three of those were incendiary 7″ releases that would have easily made this list individually. Grouped together, they’re an absurdly powerful package than goes a long way in cementing Ausmuteants’ reputation as one of the most exciting things happening in music. Felix Tried to Kill Himself, Stale White Boys Playing Stale Black Music, and Fed Through A Tube are overflowing with a hyper-charged psych-tinted punk that’s completely electrifying.



6. Terry & Louie – (I’m) Lookin’ For A Heart b/w She Loves Him

The Exploding Hearts have achieved a deserved status as powerpop legends. Since that band’s tragic ending, two of their members have been steadily releasing incredible music with various outfits. Terry Six and King Louie Bankston have once again teamed up for a new project, Terry & Louie, who now have one powerful career entry with (I’m) Lookin’ For A Heart b/w She Loves Him. The same infectious energy that turned Guitar Romantic into such a beloved classic is on full display here, with Six and Bankston’s pop sensibilities fully in tact. Here’s hoping this isn’t the last we’ve seen of this project.

5. Cloakroom – Lossed Over b/w Dream Warden

At this point, I’m not sure any band’s been mentioned more times without receiving an outright feature spot than Cloakroom (with the exception of a Watch This). There’s a reason they keep showing up; they’re quietly crafting some extraordinary songs and sculpting what promises to be a celebrated career long after they’re gone. Both “Lossed Over” and “Dream Warden” are brooding powerhouses that are towering in scope and deeply nuanced in their dynamics. Cloakroom keep improving with every subsequent release and it’ll only be a matter of time before they get the levels of recognition they deserve.

4. Sheer Mag – Sheer Mag

Sheer Mag exploded into just about everyone’s good graces with their self-titled 7″ release and it’s not difficult to see why; this hits an impressive number of sweet spots for people associated with DIY music. It’s scrappy, it’s lo-fi, it’s undeniably punk, it’s extraordinarily catchy, and it comes loaded with a staggering amount of conviction. These four songs have fought their way into regular rotation since they first came out, refusing to be pushed back and only growing stronger with time.

3. Crimson Wave – Say

Say caught me completely off guard when I first heard it; I was completely entranced and blown away by Crimson Wave’s subtle, understated take on post-punk. Each of these three songs are as balanced as they are delicate as they are cutting. The 7″ is somewhat of an anomaly for the reliably great Accidental Guest Recordings who normally tend towards more noisy, aggressive, and blown-out fare. It’s the level of restraint in Say that helps make it stand out, something that’s accentuated by the cold production. Impossible to shake and easy to latch on to, Say is something that demands to be remembered.

2. Dilly Dally – Candy Mountain, Next Gold

No band in 2014 made a bigger entrance with their 7″ releases than Dilly Dally. Both Candy Mountain and Next Gold feel like instant classics; releases informed by years of genre touch points and a deft sense of how they can all line up into something impossibly gripping. Taking cues from all of the right places and emerging with a fully-formed identity and a real sense of purpose, Dilly Dally offered a welcome jolt to the year’s proceedings. “Candy Mountain” was only the third song to be released in the band’s career and it already feels important; a defining moment not just for a band but their surrounding environment. The amount of weight thrown into these songs is unbelievable and showcase Dilly Dally as a band worth all the excitement in the world.


1. Pile – Special Snowflakes b/w Mama’s Lipstick

It’s difficult to no where to start with a song as monumental as Pile’s earth-shattering career highlight “Special Snowflakes”. I was fortunate enough to witness this song in a live setting only a few months back and completely lost my sense of self. In that moment, everything that wasn’t “Special Snowflakes” faded from my care. Completely spellbound, the band tore through that one song and the audience in front of them reacted accordingly. That experience wasn’t too far removed from the first time I heard “Special Snowflakes“. For more than 7 minutes, I was pummeled into awed submission by what’s not only (easily) one of the best songs of this year but of this decade. “Mama’s Lipstick” provides a haze of smoke in the form of a (very) loose reprise- along with some other comparatively brief moments of brilliance (that piano figure!)- after the hurricane storm of the release’s A-side, assuring its status as one of the most important releases of 2014.

7″ records from 2014 that deserve to be heard: Vanishing Life – People Running | Wildhoney – Seventeen Forever | Pain Dimension – Brainwash | Primitive Parts – TV Wheel b/w The Bench | Palehound – KitchenAudacity – JapanModern Pets – B.I.Y.S. | No Coast – Don’t Be A Gramps b/w Kick Out The Hamm’sThe Yolks – Two Dollars Out the DoorKevin Morby – My NameFriends of Cesar Romero – The Hold b/w Teisco Telstar Stomp | The Ar-KaicsMake It Mine b/w Movin’ On, Sick and Tired b/w Cut Me Down, Why Should I b/w Slave to Her LiesLos Pepes – TonightThe Mandates – Suspicion b/w Wastin’ TimeThe Memories – American SummerBroncho – It’s OnUseless Eaters – Desperate LivingLos Dos Hermanos – Alienor/Paye Ty ChatteDime Runner – Can’t ExpressBalcanes – Plataforma/AutopistaChit Chat – Never KnowThe Achtungs – Total Punk | Dasher – Go RamboNots – Fix b/w ModernCold Institution – Cold InstitutionTashaki Miyaki – Cool RuningsBleached – For The FeelA Million Billion Dying Suns – Strawberry Later 23 b/w Secret TreePretty Pretty – Leather WeatherVideo – Cult of VideoFax Holiday – Brang In BloodPlaces to Hide – Wild N SoftThe Newtown Neurotics – Hypocrite b/w You Said NoMolybden – Woman Who Left BehindThe Gotobeds – New York’s Alright (If You Like Phones & Sex)Michael Rault – Nothing Means NothingEx-Breathers – EXBXMarvelous Mark – Bite MeThe Bilders – The UtopiansFrau – Punk Is My BoyfriendArrest – La Poli BastardaGlue – GlueSeahaven – SilhouetteBasement – Further SkyCancers – DigTwo Houses – DisappointerThe Grave Walks – She’s A SuicideGAMES – Little EliseCherry Glazerr – Had Ten DollazThe Renegades of Punk – Espelho NegroSex Crime – I Am An ObserverWimps – Party at the Wrong TimeThe Band In Heaven – The Boys of Summer of SamThe Mantles – MemoryStandards – KidCommunions – So Long SunEnergy Slime – New DimensionalMea Culpa – DislocationThe ParrotsLoving You Is Hard, Dee Dee DangerousThe Gaggers – Sharp Lies/Hostage

Pile at The Burlington Bar – 10/10/14 (Pictorial Review, Video)

Pile X

After the start of the week was gifted a prolific run of great new content, Wednesday kept the trend alive. There was more than enough to warrant another two paragraphs- but today will be devoted to a live review, so, for convenience’s sake, three of today’s strongest item in each category will be listed now and the rest will be covered tomorrow. For full songs, it’s hard to do better than Viet Cong’s darkly hypnotic post-punk bruiser “Continental Shelf“, while nobody bested Roomrunner’s absolute ripper of an EP- Separate– in the full stream category. Kittyhawk rounded out things with their visually striking clip for “Welcome Home”, which probes darker territory than the music might suggest. Now, with all of that out of the way, onto the feature event: site favorites Pile and their show last Friday at The Burlington Bar in Chicago.

Pile are best defined as an elusive band. It’s difficult to pin them on a spectrum or predict their movements; entire songs play out like sweeping overtures, taking sharp lefts when it’d be easier to just keep going straight ahead. While their tour schedule makes sure that it’s relatively easy to find the band playing somewhere, it’s the music that becomes the dominant force in the band-listener connection- a feat more rare than most realize. So, while the band managed to overcome not one but two major van issues (not having one and then having their loaner break down), their absence leading up to the show added a weird mythos to the entire experience. Granted, most of that time they were holed up in Omaha recording a new record- and if the band was clicking for that session as hard as they were at Burlington, everyone’s in for something spectacular.

Opening the show were locals Ling Ling and Fake Limbs, who were forced into a brief delay and a slot switch due to some extenuating circumstances. Fake Limbs delivered a characteristically blistering set, proving for the zillionth time over that they’re one of the Midwest’s most exciting (and most intriguing) hardcore acts. Pulling mostly from last year’s masterful The Power of Patrician Upbringing, vocalist Stephen Sowley led his band through their left-field noise-indebted racket with an abundance of charisma both on and (mostly) off stage, while everyone flashed serious chops throughout a set of genuinely great songs. Engaging throughout, their set had no weak moments and when the guitar cut out in the very last stretch of the last song, it somehow managed to feel appropriate- one half-expected to see smoke billowing out of the cab’s grill.

Ling Ling had a lot to follow after Fake Limbs essentially dismantled the expectations of the uninitiated and set an obscenely high bar. For their part, the band held their own through committed performances that offered a different take on hardcore, this time more rooted in the clean, metallic sounds that Shellac made their stock and trade. Kicking up the levels of  unabridged aggression, their set kept a pace that kept most of their audience involved- though by the end of their curiously long set, it was clear that some of Burlington’s patrons were growing increasing anxious for the appearance of the main act. While Ling Ling did manage to bow out on the strongest note of their set, there was no doubt that this was a night that belonged to Pile.

After the necessary set up and take down, Pile took the dimly-lit stage and- with no fanfare- tore into a jaw-dropper of a set that left no shred of doubt that Pile are a band worth catching as many times as possible. Song after song, Pile offered an embarrassment of riches that became welcome reminders of their discography’s deeply impressive scope. The audience seemed to warm up with the band as they plunged further into their set; by the time the chill-inducing 1-2 punch of “Special Snowflakes” and “Pets” hit, a previously stagnant Burlington had become a heaving mass of bodies, railing into each other with no intent of physical violence but caught up in a shared moment of unbridled catharsis. Following that turning point, the band reciprocated the audience’s energy by growing increasingly animated- and impassioned- while continuing to blaze through a set of songs that’d make most aspiring musicians blush. It was an incredibly potent reminder of Pile’s unlikely, but entirely deserved, impact. This is one of the most interesting bands going today and the fact that their music is forging such visceral connections within their audience makes them a band that’s worth embracing as tightly as possible.

Below, watch a clip of the band playing “Pets” and scan through a photo gallery of Pile’s headlining set.

 

Three Quarters Down (Mixtape)

IMG_9018

[EDITOR’S NOTE: First off, to get this out of the way at the top, there will be no Watch This today. It’s absence will be made up with a unique 50th post next Sunday.]

We recently hit another quarter mark in the year and this site just hit another fifty posts. A digital mixtape- Three Quarters Down– has been curated to celebrate both of these occasions. All 25 songs on display have managed to become favorites in the span of their (admittedly short) existence. It didn’t matter where they came from- splits, records, singles, exclusives- if it was a great song that came out over the course of the past three months, it wound up on the list. However, there are a handful of others that were excluded by virtue of not appearing in Soundcloud’s public library- those will likely get their due in December both here and elsewhere. In the meantime, revisit some of the best songs that led us straight into fall by listening to the mix below.

Beneath the 8tracks player is the original listing of the songs in this collection. Enjoy.

1. Mitski – Townie
2. Two Inch Astronaut – Foulbrood
3. LVL UP – DBTS
4. Little Big League – Tropical Jinx
5. The History of Apple Pie – Jamais Vu
6. Menace Beach – Come On Give Up
7. Thalassocracy – Shimensoka
8. Cellphone – Human Rights
9. Ovlov – Ohmu Shell
10. Mumblr – Sober
11. Trust Fund – Reading The Wrappers
12. Girlpool – Jane
13. Night School – Casiotone
14. Happy Diving – Sad Planet
15. Dilly Dally – Green
16. Washer – Rot
17. Speedy Ortiz – Bigger Party
18. The Midwest Beat – Vortex Hole
19. Bass Drum of Death – For Blood
20. Mannequin Pussy – Sheet City
21. Pity Sex – Acid Reflex
22. Mogwai – Teenage Exorcists
23. Nothing – July The Fourth
24. Dark Blue – Here On My Street
25. Crimson Wave – Say

Joanna Gruesome – Jerome (Liar) / Trust Fund – Reading The Wrappers (Music Video)

jgtf

After a very strong start to the week, today’s bevvy of notable content kept things moving at an aggressive clip. Nots stepped up and made sure their voice was heard with “Decadence“, a searing lo-fi blast from their upcoming record, We Are Nots. The Dead Ships made a mark with the punchy basement pop of “Canyon“, which brought to mind a more refined PURPLE 7. “Candy Mountain” heralded the official arrival-at-large of Dilly Dally, whose Candy Mountain 7″ just got skyrocketed up to “must-own” status. Run For Cover Records look set to continue on with a stunning run of records, if Young Statues’ soaring “Natives” is any indication. On any other day, Crimson Wave‘s extraordinary Say/Calling You 7″ would have earned today’s feature spot and has a very good chance at gate-crashing more than a few year-end lists. Joanna Gruesome and Trust Fund’s decision to release partnering complementary videos to promote their incredible split 12″ proved too intriguing of a prospect to let slide without providing some well-deserved focus.

Now, before getting to the videos the brilliance of Joanna Gruesome and Trust Fund’s split needs to be mentioned here for about the billionth time. Both bands are natural complements to each other, with each accentuating similar tendencies in dynamics and sound on an equal level. All six tracks are stunners and it’s a record that can be incredibly hard to pull away from once it’s started rotating. London-based artist Rose Robbins was the creative force driving the twin videos to their respective enchanting heights (and an even more stunning effect as a whole). In the Impose premiere of both videos, Robbins explained some of the fascinating process behind the bulk of the artistic decision-making that went into the finished product(s).

Joanna Gruesome’s “Jerome (Liar)” sounds as vital as it did the day it was released and the video taps into the band’s sense of fun with great precision. It’s a firecracker of a song that ignites  their side of the split, operating in a way not entirely dissimilar from Trust Fund’s “Reading The Wrappers”- which also receives Robbins’ endearingly playful visual treatment. Both videos are injected with cartoon animation that feels naturally suited to Joanna Gruesome and Trust Fund’s partnership. That partnership is an underlying thematic device is a very simple, and affecting, touch that works wonders. Balancing a relatively lighthearted tone with weighty issues is never an easy task but Robbins manages to pull it off with aplomb. It’s a relentlessly entertaining experience that’s all but guaranteed to trigger a few genuine smiles- which is an achievement that should never be undervalued. This isn’t just great entertainment, it’s great art.

Watch “Jerome (Liar)” and “Reading The Wrappers” below- and order their split 12″ here.

Iceage – Against the Moon (Stream)

iceage

There are days where it can be difficult to scrounge up enough great new releases to warrant an introductory paragraph round-up and there are days that are so generously overflowing with great material it’s nearly impossible to figure out what to feature. Today fell squarely to the latter. There were no less than four outstanding releases in each of the major categories: single stream, music video, and full stream. Cool Ghouls’ psych-laced basement pop rager “And It Grows” gave some new promise to the upcoming record. Mean Creek‘s Chris Keene unveiled the most recent look at his Dream Generation project with the sparse “The Four of Us” and September Girls teased their upcoming EP with the snarling “Veneer“. Veronica Falls‘ James Hoare and Mazes‘ Jack Cooper started a new project called Ultimate Painting, who instantly turned some heads with the carefree open-road ramblings of “Ten Street“.

Over in the realms of the music video, Grubs, Frankie Teardrop (warning: heavy strobes), and Cloud Nothings all released clips defined by lo-fi experementalism while Snævar Njáll Albertsson’s Dad Rocks! project dipped its toes into a gorgeously-lensed narrative involving a heavy existentialist crisis with “In the Seine”. In the space occupied by full streams, Dark Blue offered up their heavy-hitting Album of the Year contender Pure Reality and Tomorrows Tulips did the same for their career-best effort, When. Ex-Breathers made all 12 tracks (and 11 minutes) of their vicious upcoming 7″, ExBx, available for the world to hear, while Zola Jesus occupied similarly dark but incrementally softer territory with her upcoming effort, Taiga. A Winged Victory For The Sullen rounded out the full streams with another ambient near-masterpiece titled Atomos. Of course, there was one another full stream- but the link is being withheld until it’s accompanied by a forthcoming review. In the meantime, today’s focus will be on the song that defines that record: “Against the Moon”.

In an effort not to mince words, one thing should be noted before going any further- namely that Plowing Into The Field of Love is a masterpiece. No record this year has seen a more stunning creative growth or felt more important than Iceage’s new behemoth. Only three records into their still-young career and they’ve already emerged with a full-length that not only operates as a radical left turn but one that rivals anything from the creative rebirth of Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds (or, the Let Love In era). Iceage’s first two records, New Brigade and You’re Nothing, were menacing works that a few people chalked up to exhilarating exercises in intimidation. On Plowing Into The Field Of Love the band relents from that approach and serves a hyper-literate Southern Gothic-indebted masterwork that sees them flexing boldly experimental muscle and an untapped well of what now appears to be endless ambition. No song on Plowing Into The Field of Love illustrates this more than the slow-burning “Against the Moon”, a song that’s well out of the confines of anything the band’s ever done but still feels wholly suited to their identity.

Opening with the quasi-mournful strains of a brass section, it quickly undercuts its brief introduction with shuffling drums and the sustained hums of a chord organ. In those opening 15 seconds, the band manages to establish an astounding grasp on a style that was previously completely foreign to them. By the time the string and piano arrangements kick “Against the Moon” up a few levels into the breathtakingly sublime, it’s one of the bravest things any band this year’s committed to a studio recording. As instrumentally thrilling as “Against the Moon” is, it’s the startling emergence of vocalist Elias Bender Rønnenfelt’s vulnerability that shifts the song from the sublime to the transcendental. For the first time, Rønnenfelt’s lyrics and vocals are given a platform that demands the listener’s unwavering attention and that level of investment is paid off in full. From the song’s arresting opening stanza, enhanced by Rønnenfelt’s world-weary drawl, it’s clear that his personal transition directly correlates with what the band’s accomplished in terms of musicality. “On a pedestal, shining bright. Justify me. Make me right. I can fight it; make it roam- but a fugitive has a tendency to return home.” is the kind of opening line that suggests a genuinely great writer- that the rest of Iceage seems to have embraced and experienced the same level of maturity and rapid artistic growth as Rønnenfelt in the short year that’s followed You’re Nothing is nothing short of mind-bending.

A song that literally arrives with horns, “Against the Moon” stands as Iceage’s definitive entry into the band’s sudden new era, the strongest representation of Plowing Into The Field Of Love‘s myriad of sudden changes, and one of the most immediately striking songs to emerge from the past 4 years. Stripped back far enough to be completely exposed, Iceage shows the world all of its scars, all of its imperfections, and all of its entire being- and it’s a tremendous thing to experience. Even considering all of their previous sonic aggression, nothing they’ve ever produced has hit with a fiercer impact. For a band that’s aim has always been to wound, it’s a devastating reverse that leaves them sounding wounded- but bravely resilient. It’s extraordinarily effective and unflinchingly courageous. Most importantly, “Against the Moon” is the crown jewel of what deserves be regarded as one of this decade’s most important records. Make sure to give this the attention it deserves.

Listen to “Against the Moon” below, pre-order Plowing Into The Field Of Love from Matador here, and keep an eye on this site for a full review at some point in the coming week.

Iceage – Forever (Music Video)

iceage

The past few days have been outstanding for unmitigated ambiguity. No less than three of the best songs of 2014-so-far have emerged, each tinged with at least a small tendency towards the unforgivingly bleak. Baltimore’s rightfully-celebrated Roomrunner (somehow) wound up being the lightest of the three by virtue of allowing in a stronger pop influence on their outstanding new single, “Chrono Trigger“. Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds cemented their status as one of the most consistently brilliant bands of all time with an outtake from last year’s mesmerizing Push the Sky Away that’s being featured in the undoubtedly extraordinary quasi-documentary that centers around Cave, 20,000 Days on Earth. Between those two, it almost seemed impossible that anything else would land today’s feature spot- until Iceage released their jaw-dropping song-video combination for “Forever”, the next gigantic stride in an ongoing evolution that “The Lord’s Favorite” kicked off in spectacular fashion a little over a month ago.

While “Forever” doesn’t have the subtle optimism of “The Lord’s Favorite”, it keeps their trademark tension in tact, while allowing the band to stretch out a little more than usual. In an almost too-coincidental twist, it’s as if the band’s picked up the primordial nightmarish post-punk that characterized Nick Cave’s earliest works. Arriving with an accompanying note detailing the band’s upcoming record, Plowing Into the Field of Love (due out on Matador in a little over a month), “Forever” becomes the record’s second song to suggest that this could be a game-changing record for the landscapes of popular taste. While the song sears, broods, and brutalizes with the absolute best of them, it’s the visually stunning Pattinama Coleman-directed video that winds up pushing the whole thing into the sublime. Getting maximum effect out of a decidedly minimal approach is never an easy task to accomplish but “Forever” winds up pulling it off with ease. Whether that’s because of the band members’ natural charisma, damaged magnetism, a cavalcade of genuinely arresting looks, or the noir-ish presentation is impossible to say- but there’s something with an undeniable, intrinsic pull that centers “Forever” which suggests that this band has a greater grip on their identity than just about anyone else right now.

When the song’s closing minutes kick in and the video pulls back to an old man that seemed oddly intrusive during his first appearance inspired some of the fiercest chills to be provided by any music video this year. If “Forever” is topped by any song on Plowing Into the Field of Love, it’ll warrant consideration for Album of the Year honors. All that’s left to do now is wait in earnest, to see if the record can live up to its first two offerings. With the way things have been playing out, there’s reason to believe that’ll be the case.

Watch “Forever” below and pre-order Plowing Into the Field of Love from Matador, before it comes out on October 6, here.