Heartbreaking Bravery

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Tag: Album Review

Hermetic – Postscript (Album Review)

A lot can be released in a week’s time. Fortunately, that means there’s a lot of room for excellent material, like the music videos Lydia Loveless, Kamikaze Girls, Kino Kimino, Duncan LloydSløtface, White Reaper, Mise en Scene, TV Sets, Angelo De Augustine, Guerilla Toss, Thick, and Brightness made public. More than just music videos surfaced, though, and — as always — a lot of what cropped up came from unheralded or barely-known artists. Hermetic was one of those projects but Postscript, the project’s latest full-length, proved that they’re worthy of recognition.

A duo comprised of Eric Axen and Bart Newman, Hermetic find success on Postscript by meticulously mining a lot of aspects of post-punk, bedroom pop, and their various niche hybrid offshoots that tend to get overlooked. From Albini-esque production and tones to palpable nervous tension to the dynamic composition, Postscript never comes across as anything less than ridiculously historically-informed. Hermetic’s done their homework and it shows from the record’s surprisingly heavy opening track, “Fault-Finding Mission” which brings to mind both acts like The Wrens and an innumerable slate of shoegaze-leaning projects.

Following Postscript‘s ridiculously impressive opening statement are a cavalcade of tracks that throw a variety of punches, finding clever ways to land each blow. Hermetic rarely dips out of insistent mid-tempo mode throughout the course of the record and it creates an absorbing accumulative effect. Everything from the ambient swirl of “Relics” to the moody mid-song turn in “Withering” is elevated because of the record’s tonal consistency. Each track has something to offer and stands out on its own but they create a much larger whole together. It’s an outstanding release from a band that deserves a lot more attention. Hit play and leave it on repeat.

Listen to Postscript below and pick it up here.

Charly Bliss – Guppy (Album Review, Live Videos)

Reviewing a record that you’ve spent years becoming entwined with, falling in love with, and essentially establishing as a core part of your identity is a difficult prospect. It’s always nerve-wracking to attempt to do justice to something that’s become so personal. When it’s made by people that you’ve grown to love and even consider part of your extended family, it becomes a lot murkier. And yet, every single time Charly Bliss’ Guppy starts up, all of those thoughts fade away and the record rises up, bares its fangs, and clamps down with such a vengeance that it’s difficult to think of anything other than the music’s sheer, overwhelming power.

Guppy is a record I’ve been fortunate enough to watch evolve since its first permutation in 2015, which featured a handful of songs that didn’t make the cut for the official release (including “Turd“, which was released in advance of Guppy as a standalone single) and boasted a production that emphasized the low-end aspect of the band, providing it an immense punch. That Guppy has not only retained that punch but emphasized it by balancing out those levels is nothing short of miraculous.

To get to that point, the band weathered quite a few storms and put more notches in its belt than most people realize. The band first hinted that it might be more than your standard punk-driven basement pop act with the releases of 2013’s A Lot To Say EP, which was highlighted by its towering title track. Following that was the release of an astounding single in “Clean“, the invaluable addition of Dan Shure on bass, and the release of the Soft Serve EP, which — along with their scintillating live show — acted as the band’s calling card for a handful of years.

Soft Serve acted as my introduction to the band and I’ve never been so thoroughly dismantled and blown away by a band I’d never heard of as I was the day I clicked play on that record. It topped Heartbreaking Bravery’s EP’s of the Year list for 2014 and still stands proudly as my personal pick for the best EP of this decade and it’s very unlikely that anything will unseat it by the time 2020 rolls around. No band has every put me all in as quickly as Charly Bliss managed with just three perfect songs.

I didn’t know it at the time but that EP would wind up legitimately changing the course of my life. Eva Grace Hendricks, one of Charly Bliss’ two guitarist/vocalist/songwriter’s, joined the A Year’s Worth of Memories contributors roster shortly after Soft Serve‘s release and wound up being an instrumental part of my decision to relocate to Brooklyn for half of 2015. Our shared, vocal support of each other’s ventures meant a great deal to me at the time and still does today, as it stood (and stands) as the type of mutual support that Heartbreaking Bravery has aimed to establish since the beginning.

Enter: Guppy‘s first run, an astonishing demo that laid out the particulars and quickly overtook everything else in my listening habits. Any doubts that any of the members of Charly Bliss may have had at the time were wildly unwarranted; even at its most humble stages, Guppy was a behemoth of a record. For the next two years, the band would fine-tune different parts of the songs, the production, and they’d introduce new material that usurped a few scattered tracks that were initially grouped in with what would eventually become Guppy.

To promote the record, the band did everything right and still managed to hide a few tricks up their sleeve: touring America as the openers for Veruca Salt and PUP, releasing “Ruby” as an early single and following it up with a characteristically clever music video, unleashing the single greatest Audiotree session I’ve seen (no small feat), and finding ways to advance their jaw-dropping live show, from perfecting four-part harmonies to studiously analyzing old footage to look for subtle tweaks to potentially make. All the while, a handful of labels had taken interest and the band had a huge decision to make and took their time to make sure it was the right one.

Barsuk Records eventually won the rights to Guppy and all of the tenacity they likely poured into their campaign to secure the record should pay massive dividends for the label going forward. It’s a move that helped secure Guppy the vaunted NPR First Listen slot, replete with an effectively effusive write-up. Stereogum immediately awarded the record its Album of the Week honor and Pitchfork gave it the kind of score that’s a short step away from verging on their Best New Music territory (a rarity for the publication’s appraisal of this particular genre).

While all of the praise remains heartening to see and the critical analysis provided to the record was both thoughtful and thought-provoking, it’s difficult to tell if any of those reviewers grasped the magnitude of what this type of record can accomplish if it keeps being awarded effective platforms. It’s also difficult to tell if any of those publications had a handle on not only what this band can eventually become but what they’ve managed to become already. As mentioned above, Guppy is a record capable of obliterating critical thinking as it plays and then rewarding it to an obscene degree when it wraps, putting it in extremely select company.

From the energy-bolstering opening seconds of “Percolator”, Guppy lets its listeners know that they’re in for something that’s as ebullient as it is aggressive, finding a transcendental sweet spot between bubblegum coating and a shockingly dark undercurrent. Hendricks, from the outset, dives into a narrative that grapples with not only her own mortality but the self-awareness everyday interactions have come to necessitate. Spencer Fox, the band’s other guitarist/vocalist/songwriter, provides what’s quickly becoming his trademark: economical but dizzying guitar riffs that don’t sacrifice feeling for technique (or vice versa).

If people weren’t aware that Fox is currently one of the best guitarists in music, Guppy should go a long way in providing that (admittedly understandable) ignorance a remedy. While Soft Serve‘s “Urge to Purge” remains one of the best riffs of the present decade, Guppy is where Fox stakes his claim, something that becomes abundantly clear throughout the course of the record. Not only are all of Fox’s contributions spectacular but the work Dan Shure and Sam Hendricks (Eva’s brother) are doing as a rhythm section have allowed them to quietly become one of the most vicious tandems currently on the circuit.

While Fox and that rhythm section remain impressive throughout, Guppy‘s beating heart rests in Eva Grace Hendricks and that heart’s beating at a relentless pace. Hendricks anchors each one of these songs with a frightening determination and a mischievous joy. All of the come-on’s are equipped with a warning, every smile comes with a missing tooth, and every invitation comes with an advance apology.

In “Ruby”, Hendricks’ loving ode to her therapist, she rides a subway with blood on her hair. On “Glitter”, there’s the realization that a relationship’s shortcomings can sometimes be equally distributed across both parties. In “Scare U”, there’s the recognition of greed and the unapologetic desire to be in complete control.  At seemingly every turn, Hendricks comes to grips with the duality most goodhearted people constantly view as a struggle. By subverting these thoughts and latching onto something defiantly celebratory, Charly Bliss comes together to reclaim their own deeply damaged narratives as learning points, important mistakes, and necessities of personal evolution.

It’s in that context where each of the band’s decisions gains importance. They’re not just making music because they like to make music; they’re using it as a coping outlet. Every single snare hit, vibrato, and squeal comes loaded with personal meaning and they’re reaching those confrontations as a unit, drawing from each other’s strengths to pummel all of the perceived difficulties back into something that feels inconsequential in the face of what they’re doing together. Nothing is half-assed. This is the embrace of life vs. the acquiescence of  a life given over to being constantly haunted by past mistakes.

As that aspect of Guppy comes into focus, it’s legitimately hard not to be blown away on several levels. Chief among them, the strength this band’s gained through both familial experience and shared camaraderie. There’s no judgment present, just the willingness to take a sword to the throats of the dangerous things that threaten the well-being of their friends. If there’s a dragon to be slayed, Charly Bliss’ tactic is to conjure up a battering ram to force it into becoming a piñata and bathing in its blood as the ugliest contents come pouring out, greeting the event as a ritualistic party to share with all their friends.

Managing to make things even more impressive is the fact that the band’s doing this with what’s more of a whip-smart advancement of ’90s slacker punk & powerpop aesthetics than a faceless imitation. Sure, Guppy will get compared to Letters to Cleo, Josie and the Pussycats, and any other act that fits that mold- but (in addition to some possible casual sexism) that’s only faintly scratching the surface of what’s actually happening on this record, especially in terms of composition. That’s a victory all on its own and Guppy should go a long way in contributing to what looks to be a seismic shift in the way bands pull influence from that particular pocket of music.

Guppy is far from a retread and it’s decidedly modern bent helps secure it a spot as one of 2017’s essential releases as well as a bona fide genre classic. There are no standout songs among the 10 because virtually all of them rank among the best to be released this year. From wire-to-wire, Guppy is a breakneck record that revels in destruction and comes off as a staggering show of force. Everything from the dirty ditty-turned-guaranteed showstopper “Black Hole”  to the unrelenting blows administered by “Gatorade”, “DQ”, and “Westermarck” are enough to make anyone sit up and start paying the type of attention this band should’ve been receiving for the past several years.

As “Totalizer” races by with abandon and all of the requisite snark, cleverness, and thoughtfulness that have come to define Charly Bliss songs, it’s still difficult to think most will be adequately prepared for the record’s final breathtaking moment. “Julia”, Guppy‘s sludgy closer, is the heaviest track the band’s committed to record by miles. It’s one final reminder that the band’s not as cute as they appear at first blush and that Guppy, while a fun record on the surface, conceals a wellspring of damage that the band’s not afraid to confront. Full-throated, deeply felt, and ferociously delivered, Guppy is a basement pop record for the ages. Whatever troubles come, I have no doubt that Charly Bliss will be standing above the wreckage, breathing in the smoke and looking to start a roaring fire all their own.

Listen to Guppy below, pick it up from Barsuk here, and watch a collection of live videos that I personally shot of the band playing at six separate shows over the past few years.

LVL UP – Return to Love (Album Review)

LVL UP II

A great week was all but capped off by a tantalizing array of new material, including streams from Dark Blue, Teksti-TV 666, Black Honey, Alien Boy, Teen Vice, Acrylics, and Itasca. Neaux held down the fort for the music video format while excellent full streams from the likes of Static Animal, Anthony Jay Sanders, and betty becky came to light. Dillo Milk’s tremendous second compilation, Dillo Milk 2, rounded things out in memorable fashion.

As enticing as it was to go into detail on any of those entries listed above, this post was always going to belong to LVL UP. When Heartbreaking Bravery first started, they were the ideal example of the type of band this space was designed to celebrate. A scrappy, frequently overlooked powerhouse that earned critical acclaim and adoration in certain circles, had strong communal values, a distinctly DIY ethos, and a knack for intelligent, intuitive songwriting. The fact that they were playing basement pop — the genre that would arguably come to define this site’s coverage — almost became secondary to those other characteristics.   

Less than a week and a half elapsed from the first post to be published on this site before LVL UP’s was printed. Even if that mention was only a tangential one, it was designed to posit the band as reference point for feature coverage. Before long, they became an intrinsic part of Heartbreaking Bravery’s allotted feature segments. Very few bands have appeared in that capacity at a greater volume of frequency than LVL UP have managed to attain over their past several releases.

Hoodwink’d
, their outstanding sophomore full-length, topped this site’s best albums of 2014 list. Three Songs, the quartet’s most recent short-form release, ranked highly in the best EP’s of 2015 list. “Hidden Driver“, “Spirit Was“, “Pain“, and “The Closing Door“, the four songs to tease the just-released Return to Love, all earned features on their own considerable merit. With that kind of rollout campaign, a full review of Return to Love became an inevitability. Predictably, the rest of the record somehow found a way to surpass what were once thought to be unreasonably high expectations.

“Hidden Driver”, Return to Love‘s incendiary opener, sounded like it was all but ready to hurtle itself into an untested abyss when it was first unveiled. It’s an explosive work and it sets up the noticeably more aggressive nature of Return to Love, which asks a lot bigger questions than its predecessors. From the outset, Return to Love grapples with non-traditional instances of love and spirituality, something the band discussed at length in Loren DiBlasi‘s revealing MTV profile piece that went up earlier today.

In that interview, guitarist/vocalist Dave Benton (who penned “Hidden Driver”) posited God as a feeling, rather than as an all-knowing omnipresence. So, when the unforgettable chorus of “Hidden Driver” hits, the meaning becomes slightly more clear. It’s the first instance of a slew of moments that litter Return to Love in which the band confront the spiritual realm with the kind of bold decisiveness that powers the record.

Blur“, one of two songs to be revised from Three Songs for Return to Love, increases the velocity of the momentum and allows Mike Caridi to take over for a moment. Characteristically riff-happy and tethered to an enviable pop sensibility, “Blur” scales back from the otherworldly concerns of “Hidden Driver” to examine the minutiae of a fractured relationship and its lingering effects.

Only two songs into the record and LVL UP have already struck a delicate balance of external and internal questioning, providing an early hint that Return to Love is a record that’s defined by a commitment to exploring their own curiosity. Complementing that theme is the renewed emphasis on keys, which prove to be immensely effective and elevate the record’s frequently subdued nature, especially as Return to Love explores new musical territory.

A great example of that exploration comes in the form of the record’s third track, which turns the spotlight back to Benton. “She Sustains Us” is one of Return to Love‘s more definitive moments as it opens up the band’s sound, considerably expands their musical boundaries, establishes new tendencies, and examines the ideas of love and spirituality from a singular perspective while remaining subversive in the way those topics are typically approached. Beautiful harmonies flitter in and out of “She Sustains Us” and continues the the band’s tradition of adding compelling touches of overt femininity in their work.

The ensuing quartet of tracks constitute Return to Love‘s beating heart and have all either been revealed as part of the record’s introductory campaign or have been staples of the band’s galvanizing live sets for a year or more. “Pain” — a critical part of that run of songs and one of the record’s many standouts — sees Mike Caridi getting off some cutting asides while still managing to invoke a small semblance of lightness. The narrative of “Blur” is unapologetic in its casual brutality, wishing nothing but the worst for a person who harmed a loved one. Somehow, the spry nature of the music surrounding those biting lyrics keep the sentiment from becoming overly malicious.

There’s always been an underlying humanism and empathy to LVL UP’s work, even at its most detached. “Spirit Was”, “The Closing Door”, and “Five Men On the Ridge” all reap the benefits of that genuine, open-hearted approach which continues to stand in contrast to so many otherwise similarly-minded acts. All of those songs also ably demonstrate LVL UP’s acutely-realized atmospheric design (the plinking piano figure of “Spirit Was” being a perfect example) and their newfound heaviness (when the band comes crashing in at full force towards the start of the redesigned “The Closing Door”, the sudden impact becomes ridiculously powerful).

Five Men on the Ridge“, easily one of Return to Love‘s heaviest numbers, transitions the record into its final run of tracks with an impressive mixture of grace and relentless intensity. It’s a song that’ll be new to just about everyone that hasn’t been fortunate enough to catch the band live but it takes on new life in the context of the record. One of bassist/vocalist Nick Corbo’s strongest contributions to date, the song finally infuses Return to Love‘s line of questioning with a well-earned sense of dread; there are likely some big questions that are better left unanswered.

Corbo immediately follows that jarring moment of bleakness with one of Return to Love‘s most meditative pieces, “Cut from the Vine”, which finds the songwriter returning to a characteristic theme: the distinctly human connection to nature. It’s something that Corbo’s explored on previous records and discussed semi-frequently in interviews (as well as casual conversation). While all of the past instances of this recurrent theme in Corbo’s songwriting have been engaging, “Cut from the Vine” is truly exceptional.

With the slow-burn of “Cut from the Vine”, the record’s final Caridi track — “I” — is positioned perfectly. Return to Love‘s penultimate number restores a sense of urgency and elevates its immediacy, recalling the band’s past work with enough panache and untethered momentum to rank as one of Return to Love‘s most exhilarating offerings. At a brisk two minutes (not counting the fascinating ambient epilogue that features drummer Greg Rutkin’s distorted ramblings about a beach), it’s the record’s shortest song and its sharpest kick, all but cementing Return to Love as one of 2016’s fiercest highlights.

All of that said — meaning every single paragraph of this feature review — nothing could’ve been adequate preparation for Return to Love‘s bruising, doom-leaning, chant-laden finale, “Naked In the River with the Creator”. Corbo takes the reigns once again and steers the focus back to nature, love, and spirituality in one fell swoop. “Naked in the River with the Creator” was one of three songs on Return to Love that was initiated by the excellent Song A Day for A Week series and its final form is astonishing.

Nearly seven and a half minutes in length, “Naked in the River with the Creator” suggests that Return to Love still hasn’t revealed the extent of the band’s ambitions. Opening with the slowest tempo of the record, somber vocals awash in a gently haunting organ figure, the effect is genuinely startling. Even more startling is when the bottom drops out and plunges the band into a quasi-nightmarish trip into a metal-informed trance that evokes a state of possession.

The latter half of “Naked in the River with the Creator”, with its repeated mantras of chants like the opening “white river, black water, gaining purpose, moving stronger, ash rising, bright father, dogs running the earth’s daughter” becomes both deeply disconcerting and oddly chilling. As directly as the band confronted spirituality throughout Return to Love, “Naked in the River with the Creator” all but exists on a different plane of existence. It’s a shocking departure from a band not typically known for taking risks and the dividends it pays are enormous, fully positioning LVL UP’s Sub Pop as not only a genre classic but as one of the legendary label’s best releases in years.

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.

Listen to Return to Love below and pick it up from Sub Pop here.

Doe – Some Things Last Longer Than You (Album Review)

doe

Over the past several days, full streams from buster, No One Mind, Teen Brains, and Shameover have all been unveiled. While the previous two posts on this site dealt with some of the best material to also be released in that time, this post’s focus rests on what may be the crown jewel of that run: Doe’s incredible debut full-length Some Things Last Longer Than You.

In the lead up to the official release of Some Things Last Longer Than You, Doe have appeared on this site with increasing regularity. That’s no mistake. Both the song and video for “Sincere” were granted feature spots and the “Last Ditch” clip earned the same fate. Guitarist/vocalist Nicola Leel contributed an important piece to last year’s edition of A Year’s Worth of Memories that touched on a lot of the themes present in Some Things Last Longer Than You and the band’s continued to make all of the right choices at exactly the right time.

Heartbreaking Bravery was fortunate enough to receive an advance copy of Some Things Last Longer Than You several months back and the record’s been in extremely heavy rotation ever since its arrival. After turning a lot of heads with the release of First Four, a compilation that collected their earliest recordings into a full-length format, Doe have been staring down extraordinarily high expectations for their first full-fledged debut.

Now that Some Things Last Longer Than You is finally here it’s abundantly clear that the band wasn’t rattled in the slightest and possibly even motivated by the challenge. The heights that the trio hit on the opening run of tracks alone are so stratospheric that the rest of the record would’ve had to collapse under their weight to prevent this record from being a career best effort. Fortunately, Some Things Last Longer Than You proves to be as consistent as it is ambitious and winds up as one of this year’s most powerful releases.

“No 1”, the record’s opening track, goes a long way in demonstrating the overwhelming amount of strength that the band’s accrued over their still-young (albeit already impressive) career. Utilizing the Sleater-Kinney instrumental approach (guitar, baritone guitar, drums), the band’s afforded a dynamic range that allows for the emphasis of hard-hitting moments. From Leel’s impassioned vocal delivery to the hard-charging, grunge-informed riffs of “No 1”, there’s not a single moment of the opener that’s anything less than intimidatingly tenacious, yet the song’s pop flourishes help infuse a lightness to the proceedings that renders it an unforgettable early salvo.

Following a similar palette, “Monopoly” goes a long way in accelerating the ferocious velocity of Some Things Last Longer Than You without undercutting its considerable impact. Additionally,  “Monopoly” provides the band with an opportunity to begin establishing the narrative focus of the record, which the trio seizes with relish. Some Things Last Longer Than You doesn’t take its time in presenting an outlook that casts a weary eye towards acute tendencies that are a result of skewed societal beliefs and expectations.

“Sincere”, one of 2016’s best songs, expands this narrative view in clear terms, bemoaning the lack of sincerity and, by extension, cutting down the tiresome projection of detached cool that’s become so persistent throughout several key communities. Apart from the scathing lyrical indictment, “Sincere” also provides more evidence that could support a claim that Some Things Last Longer Than You as one of this year’s greatest guitar records; the riffs scattered throughout “Sincere” and Some Things Last Longer Than You are incredibly inspired and have a formidable impact on the dynamic and atmospheric range of both the band and the record.

The heart of Some Things Last Longer Than You, comprised of a remarkable quartet of songs, is where the record begins to cement its chances at being an unlikely classic. “Turn Around”, “Respite”, “Anywhere”, and “Last Ditch” all contain a host of standout moments that continue to expand the scope of the record and demonstrate the band’s monumental growth — and understanding of their own identity — since their earliest releases.

While the latter track of that quartet was previously covered, the number — like “Sincere” — gains a tremendous amount of force in the context of the record. “Turn Around” and “Respite”, packaged as a tandem duo, are where the record hits upon the slowest sustained tempo of its entire run. Instead of devolving into something tepid and uninspired, Some Things Last Longer Than You uses that extended moment to bare its fangs and unleash with an enormous force that resonates throughout the remainder of the record. In slowing down, the trio also imbue Some Things Last Longer Than You with an unpredictability that elevates the entire affair.

“Respite”, the record’s centerpiece and longest song, prominently features the band’s increasing willingness to experiment with form and demolish genre barriers, even going so far as to cap the track off with an ambient outro that serves a dual purpose as a surprisingly delicate interlude for the record. In under a minute, Doe gift the listener a definitive example of their mastery over their craft on both a micro and macro scale. It’s a brilliant moment on a record full of them and while it may be one of its most unassuming, it’s also one of its most important.

That outro sets up the hyper-aggressive spree of “Anywhere” to perfection, lending the whirlwind attack a jumping board that provides it an extra, unexpected spring. Here, Some Things Last Longer Than You shows its true colors, revealing a core that’s saddened, frustrated, angered, self-deprecating, well-intentioned, occasionally tongue-in-cheek, and always more than ready to attempt a run towards affecting meaningful change, whether the scale is grand or personal.

Even in the moments that Some Things Last Longer You casts outwards towards the world at large, there’s an intimacy that grounds the record and suffuses it with the kind of heart that will go a long way in distinguishing it as both one of 2016’s finest moments and as a genre classic. “Last Ditch” is a great example of that dual worldview, a song that finds Leel crying out “maybe this will all just work itself out, until then I hope that it will slow down.” A line that carries an inordinate amount of personal meaning even as it applies to something far more universal.

The “On and on, I’m feeling helpless” closing of “Last Ditch” may feel a touch defeatist at first glance but a deeper look will also reveal the smallest preservation of hope for things to be different in the future. It’s a statement that sets up the ensuing “Before Her” beautifully, which finds the vocal lead switching from Leel to drummer/vocalist Jake Popyura (who co-writes with Leel and is a powerhouse behind the kit). “Before Her” also finds the band transitioning back to a mid-tempo pace that opens up the potential for the kind of grimy, skyward riffing that’s reminiscent of Dilly Dally‘s best work and pushes this record towards an intangible, transcendental feeling that hits a critical peak in its final stretch.

In its last two tracks, Some Things Last Longer Than You could have taken a handful of approaches but, in keeping with much of the record’s decision-making up to that point, opts for the most immediate, electrifying option possible. “Corin”, named after Sleater-Kinney’s Corin Tucker, delivers the record’s most vicious moment with unapologetic gusto, letting Leel absolutely shred her vocals in an outro that unexpectedly drops to half time as Leel throws herself further and further into a wild-eyed frenzy, repeating the mantra “no way, no way, no way, no way, no” and interjecting absolutely vicious screams as punctuation marks.

The entirety of “Corin” is an absolutely pulverizing moment from a record that’s not afraid to show its strength, once again demonstrating an impressive dynamic range that should find Doe’s audience gradually increasing in droves (especially after word of this record starts picking up a little). “Corin” also serves an important function in setting up Some Things Last Longer Than You‘s powerful finale, “Something To Tell You”.

In its final five minutes, Doe offer up the definitive culmination of the elements that leave Some Things Last Longer Than You standing as a towering achievement (and as one of 2016’s best records). There’s the recurring theme of impermanence in the record’s dual narrative — fully equipped with the desire to do something effective or productive with our given time — as well as the thoughtfulness of the songwriting, which remains punk in tone while still allowing for the implementation of the pop sensibilities that make Some Things Last Longer Than You as immediate as it is substantial.

That Some Things Last Longer Than You ends in ambient chaos shouldn’t come as a surprise, it’s a fitting end cap to everything that the record’s worked towards and illustrated with gnarled panache. There’s an uncertainty that persists through the record right up until that noise-damaged ending that lingers long after the feedback’s faded away into the ether. As is the case with the record, it’s nearly impossible to shake. It’s also one last moment of quick, nuanced perfection that injects Some Things Last Longer Than You with an astonishing amount of purpose, even in its stubborn refusal to assert any type of measurable authority.

By the time it comes to its wracked ending, Some Things Last Longer Than You has delivered emotive blow after emotive blow, occasionally drawing back to protect itself from further damage along the way (while being very cognizant of the pre-existing damage that shaped its outlook). It’s a bruising, formidable record that draws strength from an unabashed honesty that’s become the hallmark of several of the best — and most memorable — records in recent memory. Some Things Last Longer Than You is an immediately effective record but its also one that rewards investment and paints a portrait of a band that’s hell-bent on finding deeper meaning, a trait that will undoubtedly serve them well in years to come.

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 artistry, 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.

Listen to Some Things Last Longer Than You below and pick up a copy here.

Green Dreams – Here At Castle Makeout (Album Review)

green dreams

At the end of last week, a solid haul of full streams emerged and included impressive new titles from Brat Kings, Tape Waves, Birdboy, Daisy Victoria, Cleo Tucker, Sharks’ Teeth, and Nathan Bowles. The record to grab this post’s featured spot came from site favorites Green Dreams, who are riding a creative rebirth and utilizing the impressive behind-the-boards talents of some of their friends from Perfect Pussy.

Following a steady build that was comprised of a demo, an EP, and a 7″ (all very strong), Green Dreams have finally settled into a lineup and sunk their teeth into a full-length, Here At Castle Makeout. Opening with “Be Here Now”, it’s clear from the outset, the band hasn’t lost a step. Shaun Sutkus, Ben Moley, and Meredith Graves all keyed into the band’s most ferocious qualities and amplify them in various production capacities, sculpting the sound quality into a near-feral, lo-fi attack that perfectly amplifies Green Dreams’ untethered aggression.

Of course, their combined efforts would only carry the music so far if the songs were limp and, unsurprisingly, Green Dreams seem continuously incapable of writing anything that’s less than potent. Half-efforts just simply aren’t in the trio’s constitution. After “Be Here Now” sets the tone for Here At Castle Makeout with a melodic strain of damaged noise-punk that closes out with a section of ambient noise that’s overlaid with Jane Fonda’s famous screed against prejudiced bigotry in Colin Higgins’ classic Nine to Five. It’s a moment that touches on the band’s well-placed sense of frustration and anger, providing the rest of the record with a tenacious sense of purpose in its earliest stages.

From that point forward, the record never ceases in delivering punishing blows that are teeming with feeling. “100 Days” stands out as an early highlight, perfectly balancing the band’s bruising wall-of-noise with guitarist/vocalist (and principle songwriter) Jesse Amesmith’s frantic vocals, which swing from tempered to unhinged on a dime. In a record full of exhilarating moments, “100 Days” may be the most definitive example of what the band can accomplish when they strip themselves of any reservations and go on the offensive.

Of course, “100 Days” isn’t the only immediately effective moment on Here At Castle Makeout and the record continues doling out moments of fury as it progresses, slowly transforming itself into not only a bone-rattling noise-punk record but a blistering political statement. “Body Magic”, another track that implements outside dialogue, not only contains a message of self-worth that touches on several key aspects in a short amount of time (among them: body-positivity, disallowing the tendency to be defined by others, and the callousness of sexual assault). There’s an abundance of feeling in these songs that’s impossible to ignore and makes several of the narratives that litter Here At Castle Makeout cut incredibly deep.

Several of those themes that “Body Magic” hits so succinctly are prevalent throughout Here At Castle Makeout, whether they’re refined into one specific topic or continue to combine them into pointed, wide-range commentary. All of them — and a few more related topics — are driven home in the record’s astonishing final quarter, which slows the tempo but ups the immediacy, creating a breathtaking run of songs that refuse to be ignored. By the time the woozy acoustic epilogue rolls in, it’s easy to taste the smoldering wreckage left in its wake.

Here At Castle Makeout is a furious record that knows it’s overwhelming amount of anger comes from the right place. It’s an unwieldy piece of noise-punk that’s informed by both pop and hardcore, which is elevated by the sheer strength of Green Dreams’ convictions. Easily their most impressive work to date, Here At Castle Makeout is the type of record that seems destined to gain strength as more people give in to its force. One of 2016’s finest — and timeliest — records, Here At Castle Makeout deserves every bit of praise that’ll undoubtedly come its way.

Listen to Here At Castle Makeout below and pick it up here.

Glueboy – Yikes (Album Review)

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The past few Friday’s haven’t offered much in the way of new material but this week proved to be an exception, gifting the world new tracks from Earth Girls, Anti Pony, JEFF The Brotherhood, Slow MassSLØTFACE, Kindling, Emma Ruth Randle, Looming, Divan, Sheer, Criminal Hygiene, Raury, Buzz Kull, Gothic Tropic, The Raveonettes, Scarlett Saunders, Banks & Steelz (ft. Kool Keith), Sharks Teeth, and Bueno. Additionally, there were full streams from Steve Adamyk Band, Eric Slick, Hollow Sunshine, and an entrancing music video from Massive Attack.

While all of those proved to be worthy titles, it’s Glueboy‘s sophomore full-length debut, Yikes, that earns this post’s featured spot. Following two promising releases, the band fully capitalizes on their potential and lets loose from the record’s onset with the fiery “Foot Soldier”. After a deceptive 40 second buildup, “Foot Soldier” takes off at full sprint and from that moment forward, Yikes never looks back.

Importantly — and largely thanks to the mixing and mastering team of Flagland‘s Nick Dooley and Big Ups‘ Amar Lal — this is the best Glueboy’s ever sounded on record. Following 2015’s impressive Videodrama EP, the band sounds revitalized, attacking every square inch of these songs with a newfound conviction. It’s a trait that’s evident from Yikes‘ opening run of songs and that sense of galvanization never wavers. Whether it’s guitarist/vocalist Jonathan Marty’s frantic, deeply-felt vocal work, bassist/vocalist Coby Chafets’ increasingly sharp lyric sets, or the additional sense of purpose that seems to have elevated Eli Sills’ drumming.

Everything clicks, congealing into a whirling dervish of a record that feels volatile and grounded simultaneously. Even when the band’s being boldly transparent in their influences (the vocal pattern and general construction of “Telescreen”, for example, is incredibly reminiscent of Titus Andronicus’ “Dimed Out“), there’s a genuine spark behind their playing that essentially erases any room for complaint. Helping matters along is that those moments are few and far between, allowing the rest of Yikes to firmly establish the band’s own singular identity.

Yikes also winds up benefiting from its members’ intrinsic musicality [disclosure: I lived with Chafets for half of 2015 and had several opportunities to join in jam sessions with all of the band’s members] and their comprehensive understanding of their chosen genre. Taken as a whole, the level of musicianship Marty, Chafets, and Sills imbue Yikes with is incredibly impressive, conjuring up levels of energy that oscillate but never come anywhere close to stagnancy.

Helping Yikes maintain its pace is the fact that only two of the songs eclipse the three minute mark, keeping things lively. Nearly every song in the collection comes in at a furious tempo, with the band seemingly intent on finding catharsis through destruction. Remarkably, the trio seems to actually achieve that goal at nearly every turn. Personal confessions, declarations, and half-buried desires litter Yikes‘ narrative landscape and breathe an additional level of life into the proceedings, coming to a climactic moment that serves as the record’s finale.

At the end of “Falling Down” everything finally threatens to go off the rails for good, splintering apart into near-chaos as the band lays seemingly everything on the line. Chafets (who trades vocal leads with Marty throughout the record) screams his larynx raw in the song’s closing passage, with the band around him erupting into a hardcore spree before cutting out abruptly. It’s an extraordinary ending to a record that should prove to be monumental to the band’s evolution as well as their reputation. Earnest, uncompromising, and endlessly fascinating, Yikes is more than just a much-needed jolt of pure basement pop adrenaline- it’s one of the year’s best surprises.

Listen to Yikes below and pick up a copy here.

Artie Tea – Out Of A Seaweed Dream (Album Review)

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Snail Mail, Rod, Midwives, Post Pink, Jordaan Mason, Holy Monitor, and Strange Relations were among the shortlist of bands who unveiled excellent full streams over the course of this site’s recent gap in coverage and they’re all more than deserving of heavy levels of investment. The band claiming the featured spot for this post, however, is a new one that boasts an impressive pedigree; one of Topshelf’s most recent releases, Artie Tea’s Out Of A Seaweed Dream.

 Between the band’s two members, Josh Croteau and Derek Desharnais, the band’s racked up an impressive number of direct connections (including The Clippers, Sneeze, Fucko, and Cough Cough). Combining those acts only hints at Artie Tea’s identity, which echoes shades of classic shoegaze and a few unlikely contemporaries like LVL UP (Croteau’s vocal delivery is particularly reminiscent of Dave Benton’s).

“Attitude” immediately sets the tone for the band’s debut, Out Of A Seaweed Dream, which is overflowing with memorable mid-tempo stompers, killer hooks, and the kind of deceptive discontentment that can serve as propulsive fuel for the creation of praiseworthy art. Throughout the record’s eight tracks and sub-25 minute runtime, Artie Tea never once strikes a false note and creates an intuitive chemistry that serve their songs beautifully.

It’s another winsome notch in an increasingly formidable string of releases from Topshelf Records, who are quickly transforming themselves into a legitimate powerhouse by expanding their horizons in subtle, compelling ways. Out Of A Seaweed Dream‘s not just a surprise standout for the label, it’s one of the year’s great small records. In its almost-title track, “Seaweed Dream”, it even ably demonstrates the band’s scope is likely much larger than what’s offered on their debut. When that reveal finally comes, it looks to be a fulfilling moment. Until then, we should all be more than content to just play these eight songs into oblivion.

Listen to Out Of A Seaweed Dream below and pick it up from Topshelf here.

Even Hand – Sighted (Album Review)

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Over the past week or so there were a whole host of fascinating music videos that emerged, including clips from the following acts: Tangerine, Spook the Herd, Heavy Drag, Peach Kelli Pop (x2), Globelamp, Elvis Depressedly, Psychic Heat, The Van T’s, John Doe, Mimes of Wine, Merchandise, Kid Moxie, Eagulls, and Ace Frayley’s Child. All of them were granted multiple views and a fair amount of thought but when it came time to decide on a feature, that spot fell to a record from a band that’s been praised on these pages before.

After the many successes Even Hand found with both their self-titled debut and their follow-up outing, Drifted, slowing down would have been a logical move. Instead, the band opted to continue surging forward, honing the minutiae of their strongest aesthetic choices and continuing to grow sharper as a band. “Line Out”, the record’s opening track, immediately sounds more vicious than anything on the band’s first two records, building into a hard-charging noise/punk section that aims to bludgeon and hits with a surprisingly direct force. The track peels back a little eventually, revealing that the band’s penchant for compelling understatement hasn’t just remained in tact but has somehow become even more emboldened.

“Line Out” sets the tone for what’s to follow, including the insistent trio of tracks that come in on its heels. “Mystery Is”, “Telewater”, and “MONEY HOUSE BLESSING” all feel indebted to a strain of ’90s punk that’s gone relatively unexplored as a primary source of influence from bands that have caught the eye of the greater public (Meat Wave being a notable exception). Of the three, “MONEY HOUSE BLESSING” stands out most because the band switches up its approach and places equal emphasis on dissonance and melody instead of primarily playing to their strength in catering to the former.

“Melt Glass” provides a breathtaking transition in one of the record’s bravest moments, which shows the band plumbing a previously untapped depth of the kind of experimentation that should yield impressive dividends as they barrel their way into the future. As an instrumental track, it also affords Even Hand what’s essentially a chance to subtly reset — or at least adjust — the positioning of Sighted, which they take immediately take advantage of by pairing the two shortest tracks together in the sequence that immediately follows “Melt Glass”.

“Holes in the Ceiling” ties the wistful, melancholic atmosphere of “Melt Glass” over for another track while the rant-fueled “Nightsmoke The Fuss” immediately cuts that atmosphere to shreds while (barely) retaining its subdued, bittersweet underpinning. More than any other stretch of Sighted, Even Hand’s able to demonstrate their expanded nuance and seemingly limitless understanding of the genre’s malleable, elastic form, something a lot of other bands become far too self-involved to explore in any sort of meaningful way.

Sighted‘s final third is largely made up of songs that more directly tie to the band’s past work, only they sound ever-so-slightly more focused than the bulk of their existing discography. Each one comes equipped with the kind of metallic sheen that Steve Albini likes to emphasize with his production techniques. “Sleep Complex”, Sighted‘s penultimate — and longest — track flashes a whole arsenal of qualities that made Even Hand such a fascinating band in the first place. The tension, feeling, dynamics, and intelligent structuring all point to a band operating at full capacity.

The elegiac “On A Distant Distant Distant Day” closes the proceedings out in a haunted whisper that doesn’t feel too far removed from Told Slant‘s recent work. As a final act, “On A Distant Distant Distant Day” feels appropriately placed; as more epilogue than finale, the song’s allowed to demonstrate worth via subtext rather than surface action. It’s an intelligent move that caps off a deeply rewarding record that benefits from investment but doesn’t wield it like a requirement. Oddly moving and meticulously crafted, Sighted marks the band’s third consecutive standout and goes quite a distance in proving the band’s not beholden to any sort of limitation. In short: Sighted is music worth celebrating.

Listen to Sighted below and keep an eye on Stupid Bag for the eventual cassette release.

Mock Orange – Put the Kid on the Sleepy Horse (Album Review)

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Over the past several days a handful of great full streams have surfaced from the likes of Cat Be Damned, Mike Adams At His Honest Weight, The Hotelier, Boys, Swanning, Supermoon, Wave ActionMagic Potion, Dead Waves, 50 Foot Wave, and Winston Hightower, in addition to an incredible four-way split between Pet Cemetery, Henoheno, Brittle Brian, and Francie Cool. While all of those have significant merit, none of them were as unexpected as Mock Orange’s tremendous new effort, Put the Kid on the Sleepy Horse.

From the onset of Put the Kid on the Sleepy Horse it’s clear that Mock Orange have expanded their ambition, tightened their grasp on dynamics, and honed the most compelling aspects of their craft. The record opens with the slow crescendo of the intro section of “I’m Leaving”, essentially providing a microcosm of the band’s intelligence (and penchant for subtle, tongue-in-cheek humor) right off the bat.

What follows is a cavalcade of riff-laden, punk-leaning, left field basement pop. Ultra-melodic and unflinchingly weird, Put the Kid on the Sleepy Horse draws an incredible amount of strength from it’s self-assuredness in its own singular nature. Mock Orange have all but perfected a sound that’s indebted to a strain of ’90s alt. bands that have remained relatively unmined in the crowded field of emergent bands taking cues from that decade.

Bright tones and a propulsive energy define Put the Kid on the Sleepy Horse even in its darkest moments, like on the bruising “Window”, imbuing the whole affair with a lively feeling that’s difficult to shake. The record rarely dips below mid-tempo, contenting itself with an operative mode that attacks far more frequently than it withdraws. “Some Say”, which arrives around the record’s halfway point, is as close to a ballad that Put the Kid on the Sleepy Horse has to offer but still comes across as more outwardly aggressive than vulnerable.

“Intake” and “Tell Me Your Story” constitute the explosive 1-2 punch that closes Put the Kid on the Sleepy Horse and betray the band’s debt of influence to Dinosaur Jr more than any of the eight preceding tracks. They’re gruff, bruised, gnarled slices of basement pop (in the case of the former) and basement punk (in the case of the latter) that show the band’s breadth of range in a dizzying sequence that puts the final punctuation mark on a great chapter in the band’s history. Put the Kid on the Sleepy Horse is the best the band’s ever been and promises great things for their future. I, for one, look forward to the ride.

Listen to Put the Kid on the Sleepy Horse below and pick it up from the band here.

Lonely Ghost – Funereal (Album Review)

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Now that the site’s all but caught up to the current release cycle, it’s time to bring the full streams portion of coverage up to speed. There were four formidable releases from All People, Tim Heidecker, Sunwatchers, and Head Wound City that were released over the past few days but it was the unexpected submission of the full-length release from Lonely Ghost that claimed the feature spot.

A bedroom pop project from Kenny Forrester, Lonely Ghost is the type of act that revels in conjuring up half-haunted soundscapes and then warping them into a state where thei severe damage becomes a quintessential part of their identity. From the onset of Funereal, it’s evident that the record’s striving for something singular, nearing an intangible transcendence in the process. Opener “Hidden” packs an emotional wallop that the ensuing nine tracks support and carry through to Funereal‘s gentle, contemplative post-storm finale suite.

Forrester imbues every second of Funereal with a raw emotionalism that allows each individual composition to hit with maximum impact. Several of the slower cuts on Funereal slow-build so effectively that it seems unlikely that they’ll ever stop improving on revisits. When Lonely Ghost opts for something more immediate, like the shoegaze-leaning “Slow Down”, the results are no less spellbinding.

Ultimately, the entire collection stands as a fairly remarkable statement from an emerging artist who’s decided to carve out a niche space in compelling ways. That Funereal navigates as much ground as it does, as successfully as it does, is cause for celebration. It’s also a record that rewards investment on a spectacular level, which is somewhat surprising given how fascinating it is on first listen. In short, Funereal is extraordinary.

Listen to Funereal below and download it from the band here.