Heartbreaking Bravery

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Tag: AJJ

Watch This: Vol. 159

Two weeks ago, there was a seven-day stretch of live videos that were released and they included gems from the following: PJ Harvey, Joe Kopel, Bash & Pop, Lisa Mitchell, Active Bird Community, Violent Change, Real Estate, Cameron Avery, The Wooden SkyAla.ni at Château de Fontainebleau, Calexico, Max Richter & the 12 Ensemble, Moon Duo, The Proper Ornaments, Atriarch, Tycho, Aimee Man, Jennifer Niceley, Living Body, Corsicana, Dinosaur Jr., Microwave, Joel Plaskett & Bill Plaskett, Sierra Hull, CAT CLYDE, KOLARS, Tinariwen, Perturbazione, King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard, George Winston, and Preservation Hall Jazz Band. All of those videos were compelling but it was the five below that wound up standing out most. So, as always, sit back, relax, clear your mind, and Watch This.

1. Car Seat Headrest – Working Girl (She’s Not A Single Version) (Conan)

Following last year’s outstanding Teens of Denial, Car Seat Headrest have been gifting the world one outstanding late night performance after the other. Here, the band’s penchant for altering their material for those performances rears its head once again and they transform “Unforgiving Girl (She’s Not an)” into a leaner, poppier, more radio-friendly anthem. It’s an endearing turn from a band that never seems to run out of small surprises.

2. Daddy Issues – Dandelion (Paste)

More than three years into what’s turning out to be an illustrious career, Daddy Issues have been quietly becoming one of the best largely under-the-radar bands touring the circuit.  The band turns in a stripped-back, three-song performance here for Paste and the session serves as a powerful showcase for  their talent. The trio’s got a record looming on the horizon and they’re playing with the confidence of an act who knows they’re on the verge of making the next big step in their personal evolution.

3. AJJ – Junkie Church (SideOneDummy)

Last year, AJJ released The Bible 2, a career highlight on every conceivable level. It’s a record that’s still resonating strongly, suggesting the type of longevity typically attributed to classic records. A large part of this is because of songs like “Junkie Church”, which gets a twitchy, tender performance here in a mesmerizing clip. Driven by narrative prose and feeling, the video more than earns its place as a part of this series.

4. Ty Segall (KEXP)

Anyone that’s seen Ty Segall live knows that the bands he assembles around himself are fully capable of tearing the roof of any given venue. The adrenaline and volume levels are typically off the charts and both band and audience are typically driven into a wild frenzy. Stripping Ty Segall of an energetic audience to feed off doesn’t seem to matter either, something proven by this rousing KEXP session which finds Segall and the band (which includes Mikal Cronin) in rare form.

Drive-By Truckers (Sound Opinions)

One of 2016’s more overlooked records came from the perennially overlooked Drive-By Truckers, who have remained dazzlingly consistent since the departure of their most famous memberAmerican Band, the project’s most overtly political record since their formation, caused an intriguing rift between many of their fans. The band’s politics have virtually always been present on their recorded work but hearing those views articulated so acutely proved to be too much for some, which is a shame. There are deeply important messages littering American Band and they’re all presented with unapologetic clarity, most memorably in “What It Means, something that Patterson Hood and Mike Cooley lay bare in this memorable four-song session for Sound Opinions.

Watch This: Vol. 158

Last week’s Monday-Sunday stretch yielded a large handful of outstanding live videos. While normally Watch This segments run on Sunday, this one (and the posts soon to follow) were held back by outside circumstances. The posting on Heartbreaking Bravery will be more frequent going into the future. Getting that rotation started is this crop of clips, which were strong enough to render compelling takes from the following as honorable mentions:

Jesca Hoop, Sigur Rós, Los Gold Fires, AJJ, Hurray for the Riff Raff, Dolfish, The New Pornographers, The Regrettes, Amy O, Sean Rowe, Desert Mountain Tribe, Weyes Blood, Hollerado, Vagabon, Future Islands (x2), Craig Finn, Noname, Deap Vally, Jonny Grave, The Smith Street Band, Car Seat Headrest, Hannah Lee Thompson, Hinds, Beach Slang, Liz Cooper & The Stampede (x2), Lou Canon, Sue the Night, Peter Silberman, Mipso, Juliet K, Ceschi, Anna Tivel, Lillie Mae, Bruise Violet, Hayley Heynderickx, Cold Country, Kyle Morton, Lisa Hannigan, and Kim Janssen.

As is typically the case, that’s a uniformly strong crop that reflects well on the selected features. So, as always, take a seat, calm down, take a deep breath, adjust the settings, lean in, and Watch This.

1. Vagabon (Audiotree)

A staple on this site for a few years, Vagabon‘s finally beginning to receive the levels of admiration, acclaim, and attention they’ve deserved for some time. Touring heavily on one of 2017’s finest releases thus far, the band recently found time to stop by the Audiotree studios and deliver a mesmerizing set. Running through several highlights from Infinite Worlds, the band remains in sharp form throughout and delivers one knockout blow after another, solidifying their status as one of today’s most exciting musical prospects

2. Lady Pills (BIRN)

Lady Pills have made a few brief appearances on this site but this two-song take for BIRN virtually guarantees them expanded coverage. Both “I Hate You” and “Irrelevant” reveal an understanding — if not outright mastery — of a very specific style of songwriting. Energetic, commendably contained, and compelling, the band lights into both tracks with both force and feeling. The instrumental segue that bridges the two songs is a thing of beauty and Lady Pills never stop providing reasons to commit their name to memory.

3. IAN SWEET (PressureDrop.tv)

When a label like Hardly Art shows interest in a band, there’s usually a handful of good reasons behind why they’re paying attention. Occasionally a band crumbles under the pressure or disintegrates in the face of a new set of challenges. IAN SWEET repaid that kindness in full, and then some, with their debut full-length, Shapeshifter. Following the record’s release, the band made a name for themselves on the live circuit. This full session acts as both a document and as definitive proof of their live prowess.



4. Forth Wanderers (KVRX)

A short while back, Forth Wanderers released one of the best EP’s of 2016 in Slop, a staggering career highlight by any metric. They’ve been hard at work ever since, promoting that EP and working on new material. In this intimate, stripped-down KVRX session, the band splits the selections between SlopTough Love, and offers a look ahead. All of the songs remain mesmerizing, even when scaled back to only guitars and vocals, aptly demonstrating that the band’s appeal — and talent — runs far deeper than the surface offerings.



5. Creepoid (Audiotree)

Creepoid‘s built a deeply impressive run over the span of their career, offering up plenty of fascinating twists along the way (the short film Ernest Undead being a notable example). In that time, they’ve also honed their live abilities, transforming into a tightly-knit wrecking crew that knows how to both enhance and accentuate the heaviness of their recorded material while still doing the ambient trappings justice. In this Audiotree session, they bare their teeth and clamp down, drawing a fair amount of blood.

Watch This: The Best of 2017’s First Quarter, Pt. IV

In the final segment of the Watch This revival spread, the focus — as it was in part three — continues to be placed on sessions that deserving artists did for quality outlets. Only this time around, the sessions aren’t encompassed into one video, they’re sliced up into individual clips, which have been strung together here for the sake of expediency. While the video counter may show a very intimidating 71 for the amount of videos featured, it’s really only 25 performances (with most being only two or three songs overall). Even if it’s unlikely that someone will find the time to watch through every last one of these clips, there’s an equally likely chance that someone may wind up finding a new favorite band or song. All of it’s worth exploring to a great extent and each clip — and performance — deserves praise. So, as always, sit up straight, adjust the settings, take a deep breath, lean in, focus, and Watch This.

PART IV

1. Cloud Nothings (KCRW)
2. Screaming Females (Moschcam)
3. Fraser A. Gorman (World Cafe)
4. Hazel English (KCRW)
5. NE-HI (JBTV)
6. Sad13 (Paste)
7. Heat (Indie88)
8. Potty Mouth (JBTV)
9. Ovlov (Little Elephant)
10. The Regrettes (Jam in the Van)
11. Ron Gallo (World Cafe)
12. Stef Chura (Paste)
13. Nnamdi Ogbonnaya (Audiotree)
14. Diet Cig (Paste)
15. Hockey Dad (Moshcam)
16. Slaughter Beach, Dog (Little Elephant)
17. Death By Unga Bunga (Paste)
18. Slow Mass (Audiotree)
19. Lady Lamb (Paste)
20. AJJ (Little Elephant)
21. Jesca Hoop (WFUV)
22. Ratboys (Little Elephant)
23. Alejandro Escovedo (WFUV)
24. Kate Davis (ONE ON ONE)
25. Strand of Oaks (World Cafe)

16 of ’16: The Best Albums of the Year

Mitski XXV

At long last, we arrive at the end of the 2016 lists with this reflection of the year’s best albums. A lot of criteria need to be met for a record to make this list, for example: a record can’t be primarily composed of reworks of older material (this is the reason Talons’ sublime “Driving Home From Shows” didn’t make the songs list). To be eligible for a featured slot on this list, the record also can’t come from a clearly-established artist, which is the only reason Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds’ Skeleton Tree is being excluded. The Radioheads and David Bowies of the music world all received more than enough positive press and this site has always aimed to give an additional leg up to emerging or unknown artists.

With all of that said, 2016 was an exceptional — and exceptionally diverse — year for music provided you knew where to look. As has been the case, no numerical assignments were given to the below selections. However, the field of titles was so abundantly strong that instead of merely selecting one Album of the Year, there are five. Those five records managed to stand out in an unbelievably exceptional year and picking one of the five to give a singular Album of the Year designation proved to be impossible. That being said, virtually all of the titles below are worth time, investment, and praise.

Once again, the majority of the embedded players belong to bandcamp so be mindful of where the records start (a small handful auto-start at odd points in the record). There’s a fairly wide-ranging display of music to be found below so dive on in and go exploring. Enjoy the list and stay tuned for the third edition of A Year’s Worth of Memories.

Bent Shapes – Wolves of Want

After a string of promising releases, Bent Shapes hit new heights with the galvanizing Wolves of Want, a pitch-perfect basement pop record teeming with memorable hooks. A lovingly crafted work, Wolves of Want finds the band hitting an eyebrow-raising stride and cranking out a formidable batch of songs good enough to grace any mixtape.

Crying – Beyond the Fleeting Gales

One of the most unique and compelling releases of the year, Crying took a bold new step with the riveting Beyond the Fleeting Gales. Taking their early approach and gleefully exploding it into something barely-recognizable, Beyond the Fleeting Gales winds up as one of 2016’s most refreshing, exhilarating, and utterly singular listens.

Mitski – Puberty 2

Embracing the bruising, unforgiving introspection of the breakout Bury Me at Makeout Creek, site favorite Mitski returned with a powerful and acute examination of identity. An artistic leap forward, Puberty 2 saw Mitski wielding an expanded musical palette to arresting effect. Warm, moving, and accepting, it’s not difficult to see why it was one of the year’s most beloved records.

Parquet Courts – Human Performance

Parquet Courts records have made a habit of appearing on year-end lists since the band’s formation several years back. While, admittedly, those were solid records, they don’t come anywhere close to Human Performance, the band’s crowning achievement. The band shed their blood all over this record and it shows in every beautiful, cracked, messy, ramshackle moment.

Mannequin Pussy – Romantic

Another record on this list that saw a band make a staggering leap forward, Romantic was — by some distance — the most impressive work of Mannequin Pussy‘s burgeoning career. One of 2016’s most ferocious records, Romantic saw the band firing on all cylinders on levels that may have even surprised their most devoted fans. It’s a molotov cocktail of a record; hit play and get obliterated.

Big Thief – Masterpiece

One of the year’s most welcome surprises, Big Thief‘s Saddle Creek debut Masterpiece found the band conjuring up the open-road spirit that their label built its name peddling. Gorgeous songwriting, unavoidable emotional intensity, and a clear commitment to the material defined Masterpiece. When all was said and done, the record succeeded in living up to its ostensibly tongue-in-cheek title.

Swim Team – Swim Team

One of the strongest records to come out of Infinity Cat‘s cassette series, Swim Team‘s self-titled is a gamut run trough the punk sub-genres that have defined the past three decades. All of them are successful and infused with the kind of grit and determination that characterize great bands. It’s an unforgettable warning shot from a band that seems hell-bent on using the past to elevate the future.

Car Seat Headrest – Teens of Denial

Easily one of the year’s most celebrated releases, Teens of Denial earned every trickle of positive press that came its way. A landmark record from a project that could have withered under a massively-increased spotlight instead finds Car Seat Headrest operating on an entirely new level. Epics, ballads, and stormy punk numbers abound, illuminating one of 2016’s best coming-of-age stories in virtually any format.

Greys – Outer Heaven

2016 found Greys continuing to determinedly  push their boundaries outward and succeeding with the kind of wild abandon that defines their adrenaline-inducing live show. Outer Heaven was their biggest moment and saw the band effectively blend their delirious energy with a refined sense of atmosphere that enhanced already-great songs. An absolute triumph from one of today’s more fascinating acts.

Hovvdy – Taster

A remarkable, understated, near-flawless record, Hovvdy‘s Taster never received the recognition it was due. Front to back, there are no false moments on this record, only a series of unassuming grace notes that bind it into a gentle, spellbinding whole. Punk-informed bedroom pop, Taster is the product of meticulous dedication to craft and an enormous reserve of genuine feeling. It’s sincerity is a large part of its strength and its strength is overwhelming. Give it innumerable listens and the estimation it deserves.

John K. Samson – Winter Wheat

A painfully beautiful record, Winter Wheat marked the welcome return of John K. Samson. The former Weakerthans bandleader turned in another sorrowful, damaged collection of songs that contained enough glimmers of hope (apart from the devastating opener, which nearly made this year’s song’s list but was abandoned in favor of the record’s emotionally shattering closer) to make the impact even more severe. An atmospheric masterstroke from one of our greatest living songwriters, Winter Wheat is as comfortingly calm as it is completely unforgettable.

ALBUMS OF THE YEAR

Mo Troper – Beloved

In focusing on the dark corners while establishing that darkness wouldn’t exist without some lightness as well, Mo Troper winds up wearing a very tattered heart on his sleeve. While that heart may be showing a considerable amount of scars, it’s still valiantly beating. Pathos, gravitas, and an incredibly inviting structure all combine to make Beloved a must-own but it’s Mo Troper himself who makes this record a masterpiece.

Original feature review here.

PUP – The Dream Is Over

PUP‘s The Dream Is Over, the band’s jaw-dropping sophomore outing, was a release where nearly every song was considered for this year’s best songs list. In the end, the record proved so uniformly excellent across the board that it became literally impossible to define a standout. This is as a complete a punk record that anyone will be likely to hear for a very long time. Narrative focus, overall consistency, composition, conviction, production, sequencing, pacing… in every conceivable aspect, PUP absolutely demolished what were already ridiculously high expectations. One of the most defiant, triumphant releases in recent memory, The Dream Is Over was the shock to the system that the punk genre has sorely needed for years. Unbelievably consistent and weirdly empowering, PUP were able to put their name on one of the most vital records of 2016.

Doe – Some Things Last Longer Than You

Meticulously composed and teeming with unchecked aggression and greater meaning, Doe have offered up something that’s impossible to ignore. At every corner, there’s a breathtaking moment that continuously heightens the overabundance of impact present in Some Things Last Longer Than You. Whether the listener tethers themselves to the record’s multi-tiered narrative functions or to the artistry present in the composition, they’ll walk away contemplating its awe-inspiring depth. In short: Some Things Last Longer Than You isn’t just one of the year’s best records, it’s a full-blown masterpiece.

Original feature review here.

Weaves – Weaves

It’s not just that no one does what Weaves are doing as well as they do, it’s that no one else is even making an attempt. Should Weaves inspire some attempts at this particular eclectic blend of songwriting styles, genres, and cornerstones, this record will retain — and most likely remain in — a position as the gold standard. Grab onto something close and hold on tightly because Weaves is an unpredictable, exhilarating, and ultimately deeply satisfying thrill ride that knows no borders or boundaries. Greet it with an anxious smile and give in to its myriad charms.

Original feature review here.

LVL UP – Return to Love

All told, Return to Love is a document of a band determined to continuously better themselves, a new career high, and a bona fide statement release from one of this generation’s most consistently exciting acts. It’s a series of sustained, connected grace notes that never wavers, even as it openly acknowledges it doesn’t have all of the answers. Not a single second of its run time is wasted and each of the songs are memorable for a wildly varying list of reasons. LVL UP aren’t the type of band to be dissuaded from taking action by a daunting challenge and Return to Love is an assured, steadfast piece of proof.

To put it as succinctly as possible: it’s a masterpiece.

Original feature review here.

Nine more worth hearing:

Tancred – Out of the Garden
Pinegrove – Cardinal
Oh Boland – Spilt Milk
Dark Thoughts – Dark Thoughts
Eluvium – False Readings On
Told Slant – Going By
Mothers – When You Walk A Long Distance You Are Tired
Jean-Michael Blais – II
Minor Victories – Minor Victories

Other honorable mentions:

Frankie Cosmos – Next Thing | Yucky Duster – Yucky Duster | Vanity – Don’t Be Shy | Kane Strang – Blue Cheese | Steve Adamyk Band – Graceland | Lydia Loveless – Real | Touché Amoré – Stage Four | Margaret Glaspy – Emotions and Math | Jeff – Rosenstock – WORRY. | Lucy Dacus – No Burden | Summer Cannibals – Full Of ItNopes – Never Heard Of It | Florist – The Birds Outside Sang | Susan – Never Enough | Abi Reimold – Wriggling | Mal Devisa – Kiid | Julianna Barwick – Will | Mutual Benefit – Skip A Sinking Stone | Big Ups – Before A Million Universes | Diarrhea Planet – Turn To Gold | Japanese Breakfast – Psychopomp | AJJ – The Bible 2 | Angel Olsen – My Woman | Drive-By Truckers – American Band | Charles Bradley – Changes

Watch This: Vol. 139

Last week, from Monday morning to Sunday night, there were an over-abundance of incredible live clips. Fear of Men, Black Mountain, The Brokedowns, Thunderpussy, Peter Bjorn and John, Esme Patterson, Dott, and Yael Naim were responsible for several notable entries. Five more acts that made their mark with single song sessions will be featured below, while five acts who unveiled outstanding full session installments will be featured in this series’ forthcoming volume. All but one of the artists featured in the 139th edition of Watch This have been featured on this site in the past. From genuine, wrenching sorrow to authoritative command to biting tongue-in-cheek humor, there’s a lot to admire in these clips. So, as always, take a deep breath, lean in, turn the volume up until it can’t go any further, and Watch This.

1. Angel Olsen – Shut Up Kiss Me (The Late Show With Stephen Colbert)

“Shut Up Kiss Me” was an unforgettable track from the moment it debuted and it’s actually gained strength over the time that’s elapsed since its release. It marked a new era of Angel Olsen and saw the songwriting brimming with newfound poise, confidence, and a healthy dose of attitude. Here, the song gets an additional injection of fire and fury for Colbert’s studio and the performance leaves everyone outside of the stage in a haze of smoke.

2. Greys – Blown Out (BreakThruRadio)

Greys have been one of the most intense bands on the live circuit for several years now and they’re continuously finding ways to top themselves. It doesn’t seem to matter if they’re playing to ten people in a basement, a peak festival slot, or a radio studio, they’re constantly dead-set on total annihilation. This year’s excellent Outer Heaven was a small triumph for the band, highlighted by tracks like “Blown Out”. Here, the band runs through that track for BreakThruRadio with abandon, doing everything to make sure they leave a permanent imprint.

3. AJJ – No More Shame, No More Fear, No More Dread (The Trundle Sessions)

There are few people who have put in the kind of dogged effort AJJ’s Sean Bonette has all but exemplified for over a decade. All of that work’s culminated in the project’s finest moment, The Bible 2, which confidently stands as one of 2016’s best records. “No More Shame, No More Fear, No More Dread” is the record’s breathtaking centerpiece, a nakedly emotional ballad that doesn’t pull any punches in its introspective wishing. Bonette’s solo performance of the song for The Trundle Sessions is arguably more powerful, stripping away the excess instrumentation to elevate the song’s inherent humility. It’s an unforgettable turn from a songwriter worth celebrating.

4. Fiji-13 – Mainsplain It To Me (Radio K)

An uptick in exposure for unabashedly feminist bands has opened the floodgates for more acts to follow suit and Fiji-13 has taken up that mantle with relish. “Mansplain It To Me” is about as snarky as they come but the message isn’t lost in the comedic riffing (which hits an apex in the song’s unbelievably perfect bridge). For just under two and a half minutes, Fiji-13 unleash a rapid-fire series of self-deprecation and surf-tinged basement pop. It’s not difficult to see this band hitting a point where they influence a whole new crop of kids to pick up some instruments and take some determined stabs at the patriarchy.

5. Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds – Jesus Alone

There are few things more unfathomable to most than the loss of their child. The unimaginable anguish that accompanies that moment can turn every second of every day into a waking nightmare full of doubt, second-guessing, self-loathing, and seething resentment. It takes a special kind of bravery to allow a camera crew to intrude on that grief and document it in full, especially when that intrusion occurs mere months after that passing. Nick Cave has proven himself to be, again and again, an atypical creature with the kind of singular artistic vision that leaves behind a legacy.

Filmmaker Andrew Dominik crafted one of the best films of this century in The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford — a film that was scored by Cave & Warren Ellis — and, by all accounts, has created another masterpiece with his portrayal of Cave in the forthcoming One More Time With Feeling, which follows the songwriter as he navigates his grief and writes the band’s soon-to-be-released Skeleton Tree. In the first extended preview, the band runs through “Jesus Alone”, which is shot in crisp black-and-white emphasizing Cave’s vocal recording session and intercutting them with additional footage studio.

The cinematography is masterful, the editing is exquisite, but the sense of overwhelming despair is unshakable. Throughout everything, it’s clear that the creative team behind One More Time With Feeling have their hearts in the right places. The tragedy that brought all of this about is treated with enormous respect and virtually nothing comes off as exploitative. It’s a jarring experience due to an emotive power to leave just about anyone shell-shocked, providing the most minuscule of windows into Cave’s emotional state. His sense of loss and longing is felt at every second of one of the most harrowing songs in some time. In short: this is a masterpiece.

Slanted – Fake Party (Stream)

slanted

Last Friday saw great new streams from Car Seat Headrest, Idiot Genes, Never Young, The Minders, Balto, and Middle Kids. Additionally, there were a string of impressive music videos Lydia Loveless, Liam Betson, Carl Broemel, Jail Weddings, and Retail Space. Full streams that came via AJJ, The Afterglows, YJY, Tanukichan, Whipworm, Bangladeafy, and See Gulls padded everything out with an extra dose of substance.

Casey Weissbuch‘s Slanted project also unveiled a surprise release that was headlined by the formidable “Fake Party”, one of Weissbuch’s finest songs to date. Following up last year’s extraordinary Desire For Lust, “Fake Party” once again demonstrates Weissbuch’s knack for composition. While the song’s lyric set is arguably the most polished Weissbuch has offered, it’s the song’s ability to breathe that makes it a genuine standout. Dynamic, open, and effortless is a surprisingly difficult combination to pull off but “Fake Party” excels by that very virtue, providing a level of life that’s absent from the majority of releases that make similar attempts.

Of course, the atmospheric tone of a song can only carry it so far on merit, the genuinely great songs are able to separate themselves by succeeding in other capacities. Make no mistake, “Fake Party” is a great song. From the light auto-tune running through the vocals to the breathtaking bridge and outro sections, not a moment of “Fake Party” is wasted. Everything’s designed for maximum effect, even though it always retains a spur-of-the-moment feel that’s essential to its success.

“Fake Party” also sets the tone for the remainder of the Party EP, which is comprised of two similarly excellent tracks (“Green Balloons//Walk of Life” and “Junk”). By establishing “Fake Party” as the introductory piece, the song’s risks are allowed to be elevated and to define the EP’s palette, which works to both the advantages of the EP and the song itself. The characteristic, Pavement-esque looseness is still there and Weissbuch even name-checks Guided By Voices (another evident influence) in the first verse, providing a revealing glimpse at how openly Weissbuch embraces Slanted’s influences.

Packaged together as a whole, “Fake Party” paints a portrait of an artist who thrives on sincerity, soaring melodies, and a sense of history. The song’s imbued with an easygoing confidence that plays perfectly into Slanted’s identity. Apart from being a legitimately great song, “Fake Party” is also a potent reminder that the DIY punk scene is currently an embarrassment of riches and exist in an environment that’s facilitating these types of releases. Sadly, that easy access is allowing too many people to regard these releases as disposable entries. As casual as they may seem at first blush, their existence remains deeply important. Songs — and artists — this good deserve to be celebrated.

Listen to “Fake Party” (and the rest of Party) below and pick the EP up here.

Minor Victories – Cogs (Music Video)

minor victories

Monday and Tuesday have all but come and gone, gifting us great new tracks from Young Jesus, The Regrettes, Purling Hiss, Drive-By Truckers, Sat. Nite Duets, Hoops, Cheena, Cass McCombs, Virgin of the Birds, Morgan Delt, The PoochesMutts, Tall Heights, and Indira Valey. Sweetening the deal were eye-catching music videos courtesy of Cara dal Forno, Boogarins, Numerators, AJJ, Slow Club, and Soto Voce. Rounding everything out was a surprisingly formidable slate of full streams belonging to artists like Stove, Dogbreth, Field Mouse, Good Morning TV, Russian Circles, Restorations, Super Defense, Soul Low, Daniel Kerr, Lungbutter, and Nato Coles & the Blue Diamond Band.

All of the above links contained strong material but none of those titles were as legitimately breathtaking as Minor Victories‘ latest music video, “Cogs”. The band’s been steadily revealing some of the most captivating music videos of 2016 by embracing the virtue of restraint. The best of those — the strangely moving clip for “Folk Arp” — saw them perfecting the art of the static shot, which had defined their prior two clips (“Breaking My Light” and “A Hundred Ropes“).

Following the conclusion of that static shot trilogy, the band’s turned their attention to motion. “Cogs”, which was released Monday, hinges on an exceptionally acute sense of fluidity. Presented once again through a crisp black and white, “Cogs” opens on a slow-panning shot of seemingly empty woods. Before long, a figure enters the frame at full sprint, though the video never wavers in its commitment to slow motion, unfolding at a pace that considerably heightens the tension. It’s an expertly staged trick, allowing the serenity of the setting to take on sinister undertones.

As “Cogs” goes through the motions, the central figure’s pulled tighter to the lens and some disconcerting imagery comes into play. The person assumed to be the protagonist of “Cogs” is a balding man, dressed in a hospital gown, whose movement grows more frantic and erratic with each step. It imbues “Cogs” with a sense of mystery that elevates the tension even further, prompting a series of questions that will go largely unanswered.

One of those question does find an answer at around the halfway mark as “Cogs” expertly stages the man’s exit from frame with the entrance of a figure in a poncho. Its imagery that echoes Yorgos Lanthimos’ The Lobster and winds up benefiting from the association. The similarities serve to expand the scope of the questioning surrounding the contained narrative of “Cogs”, while offering an outcome that similarly manages to become both definitive on a small scale and ambiguous on a much larger one.

Swirling around everything is the bruising maelstrom of “Cogs” itself, a barbed, punishing song that’s one of the band’s most tenacious offerings. Surging forward with a euphoric sense of clarity and purpose, “Cogs” injects its visual accompaniment with so much additional urgency that the clip feels as if its about to come to life. It’s a staggering accomplishment that’s utterly transfixing through every frame, from its unassuming opening to its startling grand finale. In short: it’s a masterpiece.

Watch “Cogs” below and pick up Minor Victories from Fat Possum here.

Parquet Courts – Human Performance (Music Video)

parquetcourts

There were a lot of great clips to emerge over the past two weeks. Some of the artists responsible for that welcome trend were Angel OlsenGirl Band, ScotDrakula, Free Cake For Every Creature, Fury Things, Nap Eyes, Dinosaur Jr, Deerhoof, AJJ, Wolf Eyes, The Coathangers, The Velveteins, Thin Lips, ON AN ON, MRCH, Adam Olenius, Mumblr, and VHS. As great as several of those wound up being, few could match the bizarrely singular nature of the unforgettable, quasi-nightmarish clip that Parquet Courts offered up for career highlight “Human Performance“.

Likely knowing they’d have to live up to their strongest song to date, Parquet Courts turned in a clip that centered on puppets that boasted an intangible, human quality that makes “Human Performance” at once endlessly fascinating and deeply unnerving. It’s as if the band, through some unholy miracle, found the way to perfectly visualize the most deep-seated neuroses that informs the song. There’s a certain Lynch-ian quality to the proceedings, managing to be painfully grotesque and undeniably human all at once.

As good as “Human Performance” — easily one of this year’s best songs — was on its own, the clip manages to complement it so effectively that it creates a symbiotic relationship with each format heightening the other. From the song’s resigned delivery to the video’s frank depiction of late-life sexual exploration, everything syncs up in a transcendental tapestry of repressed emotions.  In both cases, “Human Performance” is a meditation on what it truly means to be human and all of the limitations that accompany humanity’s frequently cruel realty.

It’s a video that’s proven to be impossible to shake and a watch that practically demands revisits. Bold, original, and even brave, “Human Performance” is a cogent reminder of the artistry that can be granted to — and even defines — the most mundane, trivial details of life. Since it’d be nearly impossible to capture the overwhelming amount of sheer feelings that runs through every single frame of the video, I’ll just shut up and let the clip speak for itself.

Watch “Human Performance” below and pick the record up from Rough Trade here.