Heartbreaking Bravery

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Tag: album

Nothing Stops In November: The Month’s Full Streams

A lot changed over the course of November, on national, global, and intimate scales. The results of the latter category led to a near-absence of posts over the past 30 days on this space. No matter how much the personal landscape changed, the tracking of new releases remained a constant. While the last post documented some of the best music videos to emerge over the course of that run, the attention here falls to the full streams that were unveiled in that same interim.

As is typically the case with these types of roundups, everything here deserves more praise than it can possibly receive here and is likely best sifted through at a leisurely pace. Feel free to bookmark the page and make return visits to hear some outstanding music because these aren’t releases that people will want to miss. Dive in and enjoy. 

Permit, Lawn, Swampmeat, Minihorse, Deerhoof, RetailThe Momotarōs, Spelling Reform, Very Fresh, Dark Blue, Skin Lies, Nine of Swords, Harmony Tividad, Miracle Sweepstakes, Monomyth, Pure Moods, if i die in mississippi, Mustardmind, Frank Weysos, Tuffy, Dr. Dog, Jess Williamson, Pastel Felt, Floating Room, Mark Sultan, Landing, Psychic Love, His Clancyness, Blank Range, Dogs At Large, Mr. Universe, Carroll, Warm Ouroboros, NGHTCRWLRS, Ava Mendoza/Maxime Petit/Will Guthrie, You Blew It.

Burial, Justin Carter, Cold Country, Gloria, Brave Timbers, Split Single, Amp, Deadaires, Cameron AG, Estrons, The Superweaks, My Education, Genders, Elle, Perfect Human, Fujiya & Miyagi, The Immoderate Past, Holy Golden, and Quit + Wuss. An outstanding GoldFlakePaint compilation and an exceptional Z Tapes compilation rounded things out in memorable fashion.

Future Biff – I Crashed Your Car (EP Review)

Geronimo!

Hellrazor, Phooey! (a.k.a. ФУИ), Mumblr, Yung, Leapling, Wavepool, Spit-Take, Amy Klein, Wilt, Modern Rituals, In School, Pkew Pkew Pkew, Morgan Elizabeth Heringer, Vogue Dots, Liquids, Wild at Heart, Summer Peaks, Hand Grenade Job, Young Moon, Oneirogen, Cucumbers, Trinkit, and  the second Dumpster Tapes Monster compilation comprised one of the most impressive multi-day hauls of full streams that’s happened in quite some time. However good all of those titles were, none of them could have prepared many for the sudden emergence of Future Biff, a new Chicago act that features all of Geronimo! (pictured above) along with Meat Wave‘s Ryan Wizniak.

Nearly all of Future Biff contributed to the 2015 edition of A Year’s Worth of Memories, a fact that has literally no bearing on the assessment of their unexpected, extraordinary I Crashed Your Car EP. The band’s fronted by Geronimo! keys man Ben Grigg, whose also been putting out incredibly compelling solo work as benjamin783 and who handles bass duties as well as vocals for this release, which immediately ensures that Future Biff won’t be a retread of the band that left a crater-sized hole in this site’s heart after hanging up their cables last year.

Opening with the rousing “Built To Last”, Future Biff teases that they’ll be a much different kind of beast than Geronimo!, providing emphasis on both a strong melodic sensibility, grounded basement pop compositions, and swirling, feedback-laden chaos. Only “Redline”, I Crashed Your Car‘s jittery final track, passes the two and a half minute mark, allowing the EP to be a blazing force of pure destruction. All five of the songs seem surprisingly purposeful, undoubtedly aided by the benefit of having a joint drumming attack anchored by two of the finest percussionists on the circuit.

Even with all of the singular talent involved in Future Biff, the project feels like it belongs to Grigg, whose long had a penchant for writing sharply intuitive, scrappy punk-tinged basement pop. It’s a trait that shines through I Crashed Your Car with an emphatic abundance. Fiery, propulsive, and unavoidable, Grigg steers the band through the carnage of one of 2016’s finest EP’s with a demented smile. Give in or get out of the way.

Listen to I Crashed Your Car below and pick it up from the band here.

March 2016: The Full Streams

tancred

Once more, a lot of material has surfaced since this site’s last regular update. A few premieres are in the (very) near future, though, as are a series of recaps. A few of those — like this very piece — will be limited to March, while the others will cover the first, very rich, quarter of 2016. Since so much has amassed in that period of time, a lot of these will simply be presented as lists with hyperlinks. As much as I wish I could grant all of these individual pieces the attention they genuinely deserve, the most I can do at this point is make sure they don’t go completely unnoticed. Now that all of that’s covered, please enjoy this list of March’s finest full streams (the best approach to consumption would be to bookmark the page and explore it at will). Keep an eye on this site for a lot more in a very short span of days as it claws its way back into regular coverage.

Tacocat – Lost Time | The Sun Days – Album | Bent Shapes – Wolves of Want | Littler – Of Wandering | Tancred – Out of the Garden | Mermaidens – Undergrowth | Orations – Incantation | Bruise Bath – The First Two | Soft Fangs – The Light | Slingshot Dakota – Break | Museyroom – Pearly Whites | Frankie Cosmos – Next Thing | Music Band – Wake Up Laughing | Hit Bargain – Hit Bargain | Audacity – Hyper Vessels | Woods – City Sun Eater in the River of Light | B Boys – No Worry No Mind | Japanese Breakfast – Psychopomp | Holiday Home – Greetings From | Govier – Predator | The Wandering Lake – From James’ Garden / Ashame | Meatbodies – Valley Girl Hibernation

Oddissee – Alwasta | Shya – Trying | Say No! To Architecture – SN!TA | John Congleton & The Nighty Nites – Until the Horror Goes | Pissed Off – 😡 2 | Lil Yachty – Lil Boat | SMILE – Rhythm Method | Tournament – Teenage Creature | Night Idea – Breathing Cold | Human People – Sleep Year | Foul Tip – Forever Driftin’ | Fat Tony – Look | Public Memory – Wuthering Drum | Snow Roller – What’s the Score? | Beat Awfuls – Nothing Happens | RJD2 – Dame Fortune | Dumpster Tapes – Monster Compilation: Vol. 2

CMJ: Day 4 (Pictorial Review)

Palehound I

With the first two galleries now up and running, the night continues on with the third. On the fourth official day of CMJ, once again, videos of the bands were posted shortly after the official review went live. Rounding everything out is this photo gallery. Enjoy.

Sweet John Bloom – Weird Prayer (Album Review, Stream)

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As has been mentioned multiple times over, this site saw a recent shift from standard coverage to specialty coverage thanks to a move. In the few weeks that have passed in that time, a slew of exciting new releases made their way out into the world. One of the finest- and, frankly, most overlooked- was Sweet John Bloom’s fiery Weird Prayer. That record will be the focus of this piece, while a list of 50 excellent full streams to have recently appeared will be included beneath the embedded bandcamp player. Before immediately going there, though, let’s focus on the matter at hand: Sweet John Bloom’s full-length debut.

Formed out of the ashes of several other bands (including Four Eyes, who released one of the best 7″ records in recent memory with Towards the End of Cosmic Loneliness), Sweet John Bloom already had a fairly impressive pedigree out of the gate. It’s not surprising that the band managed to click as tightly as they have, especially considering their respective former bands had all established a familiarity by virtue of shared spaces (bills, scenes, etc.). Even with all of that taken into account, Weird Prayer‘s pure strength still manages to surpass expectations.

A collection of 15 dirtied up, punk-leaning basement pop songs, the record not only succeeds in effortlessly conveying the band’s identity but in coming off as a genuine record; something that’s meant to be heard in full. Naturally sequenced and expertly paced, it’s a considerable achievement for a first at-bat operating with this medium as a collective unit. Each section of Weird Prayer comes off as considered as it does impassioned, rendering the whole thing an invigorating shot of adrenaline. Vocal leads are traded with ease, there’s a killer melody buried in just about every passage, and the flawless production makes sure to include enough bursts of weirdness- like the absolutely stunning outro to “Night Thing”- to keep the whole thing zipping along at a startling clip.

For as willfully rough as Weird Prayer sounds, it’s also a record that’s partially defined by finesse. Deceptively elegant guitar figures play with the limits of restraint even as they’re pushed to the red. The rhythm section work always serves a purpose beyond just simply being a base and the lyricism, while occasionally buried with the vocals in the mix, is frequently poignant. Sweet John Bloom also manage to find as much success experimenting with their more gentle sensibilities as they do when they give in to their desire to be abrasive.

“Blood Moon” sees the band finding the perfect balance between the gentle/abrasive dichotomy and, in the context of the record, the song feels even livelier and massive than it did as a standalone single. It’s one of several songs on the record that go beyond anthemic to the realms of catharsis without ever succumbing to over-simplification. It’s part of why the record never loses an unfailing sense of urgency that goes well beyond most of the songs’ inherent immediacy, which sets up a tall order for Weird Prayer‘s final stretch.

In most cases where an album’s almost exclusively built on raucous barn-burners, the weight eventually builds and the load becomes unsustainable; there’s a reason why rollercoasters don’t extend for hours and why successful action films need exposition. Weird Prayer deals nicely with this by offering a gradual come-down by easing off the gas pedal and utilizing a tempo that creeps in a little under the established average for most of its closing numbers. Even then, Sweet John Bloom don’t cede their penchant for a confrontational aesthetic; the 1-2 punch of “Death; and Everything’s Paid For” and “Trust  Me” feels particularly vital and bristles with a world-conquering energy. Fittingly, “Aging In Place”- the first song to be shared from Weird Prayer– brings everything home in a finale that’s both familiar and intensely rousing; an exhilarating end-cap to one of the year’s finest records.

Pick up Weird Prayer from Tiny Engines here and listen to it by clicking play below. Underneath the bandcamp player, browse 50 other great recent full streams.

Radioactivity – Silent Kill
J Fernandez – Many Levels of Laughter
Fight Amp – Constantly Off
Yukon Blonde – On Blonde
Sissy – Gave Birth To A Mum
Expert Alterations – Expert Alterations
Spray Paint – Punters On A Barge
Ballroom – Ballroom
Bad Boys – Demo
Year of Glad – Year of Glad
Little Children – Travelling Through Darkness
The Fur Coats – Short-Brain
Magic Potion – Melt
Oscar – Beautiful Words
Sea Cycles – Ground & Air
Prinzhorn Dance School – Home Economics
Senpai – Hell In My Head b/w Mind Honey
Arm Candy – Arm Candy
Institue – Catharsis
Chris Weisman – Chaos Isn’t Single
Max Gowan – Big People
Falling Stacks – No Wives
Hints – No Regrets In Old English
No Joy – More Faithful
Pleistocene – Space Trap
Long Neck – Heights
No Friends – I’m Not Real
Marvelous Mark – Bite Me
HDSPNS – HDSPNS
KEN Mode – Success
Walleater – I/II
Sweatshop Boys – Always Polite, Never Happy
Wavves x Cloud Nothings – Wavves x Cloud Nothings
Tough Age – I Get The Feeling Central
Sea of Bees – Build A Boat To The Sun
C H R I S T – T O W E R
Alden Penner – Canada In Space
Teen Daze – Morning World
Fell To Low – Low In The Dust
Palm – Ostrich Vacation
Bully – Feels Like
Bruise – demos.
The Armed – Untitled
Cold Cave – Full Cold Moon
Self Defense Family – Heaven Is Earth
Wild Pink – Good Life
Nicolas Jaar – Nymphs III
Creepoid – Cemetery Highrise Slum
Gnarwhal – Shinerboy
Lady Bones – Dying

Lady Bones – 24 Hour Party Girl (Stream)

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Now that the site’s caught up to the current release cycle on all fronts, their may not be as much material in the ensuing posts as some of the more recent entries. Even with that note, it’s extremely clear that 2015’s not going to bother to slow down its astonishing pace in regards to great new releases. While not a lot of publications or bands offered up new material over what seemed to be a slightly extended Labor Day weekend, there were still a few slivers of gold. The music video format found strong representation by way of Mick Jenkins’ stunning “P’s & Q’s” and Skating Polly’s delightfully whirlwind “Nothing More Than A Body“. Single streams saw another compelling duo ushered forth in Terrible Feelings’ new noir-tinged basement pop classic “Black Water” and Drowse’s slowly-unfurling, dread-induced “Melt“.

Full streams were in much larger supply, with no less than six outstanding titles vying for greater attention. Soul Low hit a new career with the surging, shambolic Sweet Pea EP, reaffirming their potential in the process. La Lenguas proved that “Love You All The Time” was no fluke by padding it out with two more stunners on their debut EP, Tears In My Milkshake. Rightfully-vaunted punk label Dirt Cult found another strong release in Blank Pages’ urgent No Reception EP while Heyrocco got their career off to an extraordinarily promising start with the powerful Teenage Movie SoundtrackBoth Communions and Someone Still Loves You Boris Yeltsin exceeded heightened expectations with The High Country and Communions, respectively, to bring everything home.

All of those songs, records, and music videos- as always- are worthy of praise and greater scrutiny. It’s Lady Bones’ latest, though, that earns this post’s featured spot. The band recently began teasing their upcoming Dying with a song, “Botch“, that suggested a bold atmospheric shift. Now, “24 Hour Party Girl” has arrived to confirm the band’s new era. Lady Bones had initially caught this site’s attention by virtue of an incredible split release with Horsehands. Any of the band’s more vibrantly bright tendencies evidenced in that first release have all but vanished, replaced instead with the dour relentlessness that drives bands like their labelmates (and site favorites) Kal Marks.

“24 Hour Party Girl”, like “Botch” starts murky and intent, working itself into a contained furor that seems as if its on the verge of toppling everything over at any given moment. Incredibly dynamic, restless, and unnervingly foreboding, the song’s unavoidable proof of the band’s sudden ascension to an unthinkable level. Coming in 15 seconds shy of five minutes, it hits its fiercest moments in its closing passage, erupting into a bruising, cathartic release. The guitar sings while the rhythm section punishes, bringing everything to an unexpectedly explosive finish, leaving nothing but smoke in its wake. Two songs in and Dying is already looking like a surprise candidate for Album of the Year.

Listen to “24 Hour Party Girl” below and pre-order Dying in advance of its June 3o release date from Midnight Werewolf here.

Blue Smiley – OK (Album Stream)

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Single streams and music videos, while making up the bulk of this site’s recent coverage, weren’t the only categories to boast some genuinely remarkable titles over the past week or so. Full streams still accounted for a handful of genuine treasures, which included the following: Summer Camp’s heavily damaged and electro-tinged rave-up Bad Love, Ratboys’ endearingly ragged basement pop triumph AOID, Hollow Sunshine’s punishing shoegaze-heavy post-punk knockout Bring Gold, and So Stressed‘s unflinchingly modern post-hardcore masterpiece The Unlawful Trade of Roman-Greco Art. A much less publicized record, Blue Smiley’s OK, received a shot in the leg by way of the announcement of a physical release.

The band had previously released OK (not to be confused with Eskimeaux’s brilliant O.K.) as a name-your-price download on their bandcamp but it’s finally seeing an official release through Third Floor Tapes. The record itself is a short burst of fuzz-damaged eclecticism that swings between noise-punk and basement pop with a practiced finesse. It’s a deeply impressive work that showcases the band’s innate ability to craft intensely dynamic songs with surprisingly contained run-times. A perfect example of this is “Flower”, which transitions from a heavy shoegaze bent to off-kilter outsider pop on a dime. None of the 10 tracks here waste a single second and the end result is an exhilarating ride that veers off in a handful of unexpected directions, rarely bothering to come back to their starting points. Not only is it one of 2015’s most fascinating releases- it’s also worthy of purchasing when it gets the releases it so richly deserves.

Listen to OK below and keep an eye on Third Floor Tapes for the record’s release on June 1.

La Lenguas – Love You All the Time (Stream)

la leng

Going forward with the onslaught of posts designed to cover some of last week’s most notable music releases, this batch includes full streams and single songs alike, providing an illustrative scope of 2015’s continued kindness in the process. Family Bike’s Everything You Own Is Anagrammed proved to be as hellishly ferocious as expected while Old Table’s Save the Environment continued to expand on that band’s early promise by virtue of being a masterful collection of outsider pop songs. Ultimate Painting’s “Break the Chain” offered an unexpectedly tantalizing glimpse at the band’s upcoming Green Lanes and theweaselmartenfisher continued a masterful run of eclectic covers with a deeply heartfelt rendition of Cat Power’s “Nude As The News“. La Lenguas offers up this collection’s pièce de résistance with “Love You All the Time”.

The first single to be released from the band’s upcoming Tears In My Milkshake, the song’s a sharply crafted blast of doo wop-inflected basement pop that’s reminiscent of latter era of site favorites Sleeping in the Aviary stripped of some of their fuzz. Propulsive and direct, the song’s sound structure and throwaway metaphors suggest that La Lenguas have tapped into a vein of music that’s been, somewhat frustratingly, undermined (at least at this level) over the past few years. There’s a giddy, frenetic energy that courses through the blood of “Love You All the Time”, rendering the tune endlessly playable. Bass runs, sharp melodies, and medium-fi production combine to form a retro aesthetic that suits the band perfectly and helps shape a song that feels like it’ll be part of one of 2015’s most enjoyable collections. Come join the party.

Listen to “Love You All the Time” and pick up the band’s debut EP, Tears In My Milkshake, from Burger.

First Quarter Full Streams, Pt. 2

LVL UP II

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

1. Quarterbacks – Quarterbacks

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

2. Tenement – Bruised Music: Volume 1

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

3. Krill – A Distant Fist Unclenching

Krill forever.

4. Hailey Wojcik – Book of Beasts

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

5. Daddy Issues – Double Loser

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

6. Pope – Fiction

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

7. Alanna McArdle – reticular (2012-2013)

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

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

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

9. Cloakroom – Further Out

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

10. Wildhoney – Sleep Through It

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

11. Lady Lamb – After

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

12. PWR BTTM + Jawbreaker Reunion – Republican National Convention

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

13. Slutever – Almost Famous

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

14. Lighting Bolt – Fantasy Empire

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

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

15. Sleater-Kinney – No Cities to Love

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

16. Midwives – LP

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

17. Spook The Herd – Freaks b/w Fermented

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

18. LVL UP – Dark Sided Stuff

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

19. The Juliana Hatfield Three – Whatever, My Love

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

20. Chastity Belt – Time to Go Home

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

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

21. Leggy – Nice Try

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

22. Matthew E. White – Fresh Blood

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

23. Mount Eerie – Sauna

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

24. Yowler – The Offer

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

25. Spectres – Dying

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

Ben Seretan – Ben Seretan (Album Review, Stream)

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If anyone was paying attention to the majority of this site’s content over these past two months, then they’ll be aware of how extraordinary 2014 was for new artists. One record that crept in just before the year wrapped also wound up being one of its best. While it’s impossible to imagine that Ben Seretan’s extraordinary self-titled record will hit the stratospheric heights of popularity that Beyonce elevated with her just-before-close 2013 self-titled, it’s a record fully deserving of similar levels of acclaim. Seretan’s been putting out records under his own name for the past four years, quietly building an absurdly strong discography. No record in the songwriter’s elegantly powerful streak hits as hard as the monumental achievement that this review aims to bring into sharp focus: Ben Seretan.

The breathtaking scope of the record is immediately evidenced by the towering “Ticonderoga”, which not only establishes Seretan’s penchant for mantra-esque writing earlier on but acts as a showcase for his versatility in composition. Elements of genres as varied as drone, post-rock, and math-punk get thrown into a melting pot and escape through an oddly beautiful cinematic lens. “Ticonderoga” also succeeds in illustrating Seretan’s gift with the tension/momentum dynamic, conjuring up an atmospheric peak that reaches a new zenith every time it enters its next movement. Unnervingly hypnotic and deceptively intricate, it’s a palette-setter that succeeds in seemingly every possible way. Unsurprisingly, the rest of the record seems to follow suit in its endlessly compelling roads that lead to that inevitable conclusion.

Masterful guitar-playing augments Seretan’s earnest vocal delivery, each always lending the other an emotional punch that’s impossible to ignore. Nature references garnish Seretan’s lyrics, lending the proceedings an ethereal feel that suits the music to a tee. Organs, synths, strings, and brass drift in and out as the record hums along, never becoming a distraction (this is thanks to the record’s brilliant production and Seretan’s uncanny control over his creations). Only one song- “My Lucky Stars“- clocks in under the five-and-a-half minute mark, while the majority of them exceed seven. As impossible as it seems with those numbers involved, Ben Seretan never overstays its welcome- instead, it excels in creating all-enveloping atmospherics that are built on equal parts restraint and exploration.

It’s that same dynamic that drives one of the record’s most staggering moments- eloquently-titled centerpiece “the Confused Sound of Blood in a Shining Person“. Opening with a narrative adorned with the arresting imagery of a “dead dog laying on a pile of sawdust”, it evokes a very specific place of time and all of the accompanying feelings, right down to the most minute detail, as it swells to an unforgettable climax where the title is- as is so often the case on Ben Seretan– repeated, unapologetic as it lodges itself into the listeners consciousness. While there are a great many of these moments on the record, this one stands as the sharpest thanks to the unexpectedly heavy emotional heft. Only album closer “Swing Low” comes close, thanks to its unhinged cathartic release. Driven by Seretan’s enviably masterful guitar work and a palpable sense of urgency. As closing notes go, it’s hard to best something like “Swing Low” which acts both as an epilgoue for its precedents and a likely foreword for the great things that seem destined to come.

Listen to Ben Seretan below and order a copy from Hope for the Tape Deck here.