Heartbreaking Bravery

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Tag: Alien Boy

Alien Boy – If We Don’t Speak (Stream)

Consistently engaging and constantly intriguing, Alien Boy have been a name to watch for a while now and, if “If We Don’t Speak” is any indication, are preparing for bigger things. Not just in terms of audience but scope. Everything from the production to the arrangement style has been tweaked and “If We Don’t Speak” is comparatively towering over Alien Boy’s past releases (which remain worthy of investment). Here, the project bridges subversive pop-punk with shoegaze to an effect that’s genuinely startling.

A lot of bands in the past few years have been attempting to bridge those two genres but most haven’t come halfway close to the seamless overlapping that “If We Don’t Speak” contains. Washed-out reverb, punishing guitars, an aching melody, a bruised narrative, and a tenacious determination collide to elevate the sound to stratospheric heights that conjure a genuine feeling of awe. It’s a behemoth of a track that’s not content to just reach skyward, it’s one that successfully seizes the universe.

Listen to “If We Don’t Speak” below and pre-order Sleeping Lessons from Tiny Engines here.

 

The Final Half of June 2018: Streams, Music Videos, and Full Streams

The final half of June wasn’t quite as loaded as its immediate predecessor but it came surprisingly close. A deluge of material found release in every major format. Iconic acts remixed prominent genre figures, legends were paid tribute, and a handful of new faces made a deep impression. Below is the chronicling of everything that made a notable splash. Three individual installments focusing on some additional highlights from this stretch will follow this post shortly. For now (and for however many times anyone feels like clicking over) enjoy the best of the rest.

STREAMS

Saintseneca, Rat Columns, Free Cake For Every Creature, Chakra Efendi, Weller, Angelo De Augustine, Van Dale, Murder By Death, Alien Boy, Saturday Night, Many Voices Speak, Mogwai, Basement Revolver, Bad Bad Hats, Sudakistan, Teksti-TV 666 (x2), Eric Bachmann, Silverbacks, Signal, The Rareflowers, The Rock’N’Roll HiFives, The Cradle, Emma Ruth Rundle, Steady Holiday, El Ten Eleven, Joey Sweeney, Marissa Nadler, Bad Western, Wild Pink, Jason Isbell, Sego, The Mountain Goats, A Place to Bury Strangers/Slowdive, Oh Sees, Daniel Bachman, Sleep Party People, Bellows, Taylor Janzen, Purling Hiss, Hater, Lou Rogai, LT Wade, Send Medicine, TMBOY, J. Marco, Michael Nau, Night Flight, and Lokoy.

MUSIC VIDEOS

SilverbacksTrü, Ohmme, Tomberlin, Claire Morales, Batz, blushh, Los Blancos, Flasher, Talos, Strange Rooms, Self Defense Family, Hifiklub & Lee Ranaldo, Deerhoof, Amen Dunes, Jay Rock, Zzzwalk, Domenico Lancellotti, Joan of Arc, Yumi Zouma, Who Is She?, Russian Baths, Life In Vacuum, IRMA VEP, Ocean Potion, Shy Boys, Drawing Boards, Cicada Rhythm, and Delta Sleep.

FULL STREAMS

Dumb, Henrik Appel, The Innocence Mission, Self Defense Family, Lily Konigsberg, Western Medication, Katie Herzig, No Love, Modern Rituals, Converge, Avid Dancer, Dott, and a Built to Spill covers compilation.

Watch This: Vol. 157

The last time a regularly-scheduled, one-week-encapsulating Watch This ran, October was drawing to a close. A lot of things have happened in the interim and all of the videos that surfaced in that time were given their due through the massive recap project that ran just a short while ago. Finally, the series is back in earnest. Each of the highlighted videos (save for one notable exception) was released between the past Monday-Sunday full week run.

During that time, a whole host of videos worth exploring were released from artists like Craig Finn, Mo Troper & The Assumptions, Chouette, Meatbodies, Molly Burch, Thelma, Lever, SUMEAU, Jock Gang, Dude York, The New Pornographers, Chicano Batman, Peter Silberman, King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard, Future Islands, Same, Square Peg Round Hole, Alien Boy, Big Business, Lo Moon, Emerald City, Future Islands, Momma’s Boy, Gemma Ray, Ha Ha Tonka, Lucius, Nimrod, Dangerous Animals, Lindsay Lou and the Flatbellys, Breanna Barbara, SUSTO, and Half Waif. Which, as is typically the case, constitutes a very strong field that speaks volumes about the strengths of the five featured clips. So, as always, lean back, take a deep breath, clear your mind, straighten up, lean in, adjust the settings, and Watch This.

1. Lady Lamb (Hear Here)

A fascinating emerging concert series, Hear Here, recently hosted site favorite — and Watch This staple — Lady Lamb for an intimate solo performance. When Lady Lamb is in full band mode, there’s no denying the project’s sheer power, which isn’t something that can always be matched with the solo presentation. When they can, though, as is the case here, the divide between good songwriters and great songwriters begins to emerge. Lady Lamb is a great songwriter.

2. Lookapony (3voor12)

Every once in a while, 3voor12 will run a live session with enough power running through its veins to jolt a body upright and get their eyes glued to the screen.  Lookapony recently joined that category with this scintillating run through a handful of basement pop gems, delivered with an energy and conviction that the genre can occasionally lack. Riding the perfect divide between technique and feeling, Lookapony deliver the type of performance that’s strong enough to permanently brand their name into a viewer/listener’s memory.

3. Charly Bliss – Westermarck (Paste)

Anyone that’s been paying an iota of attention to this site knows that there are few currently-active bands Heartbreaking Bravery values more than Charly Bliss. As mentioned in the introduction, this one is a slight cheat as it’s a holdover from the massive recap that ran last week. The reason? “Westermarck”, a new song from the band’s forthcoming Guppy, deserves to be highlighted, as does this acoustic rendition. The band, as always, gives it their all and delivers a sterling take on what will likely hold up as one of 2017’s finest tracks. Deceptively sweet, surprisingly barbed, and verging on flawless, this is something worth celebrating.

4. Rosie Carney – Awake Me

Utilizing a live video as a song’s official video’s always a risky prospect, especially for emerging talents (for artists like Nick Cave, it’s a different story entirely), which makes this gorgeous clip for Rosie Carney‘s “Awake Me” all the more surprising. With “Awake Me” already standing as an early 2017 highlight, as well as one of the year’s most elegant, haunting tracks, Carney still manages to find a way to suffuse the song with even more life. There’s a soft lyricism to the camera movements as well, perfectly rounding out an unforgettable video.

5. clipping. (KEXP)

eDaveed Diggs, one of the primary driving forces behind clipping. could have taken it easy and rested on his laurels following his Tony-winning run in cultural phenomenon Hamilton. Instead, Diggs found a way to release an EP with clipping., Wriggle, immediately after leaving the show and then followed that up with a full-length only a few short months later. Diggs’ characteristic restlessness permeates through every last second of this session the band did for KEXP, showcasing an energetic, singular talent that, frankly, even with all of the deserved accolades, still seems deserving of more credit. Challenging, forward-thinking, and undeniably intelligent, this is a once-in-a-generation kind of talent. All we can do is sit back, watch, try to keep up, try to learn, and be wildly entertained.

Another Two Weeks Worth of Music Videos

Over the course of the past two weeks, an impressive slew of music videos have fought their way out into the world. While a very select few will be highlighted in the very near-future, it’d be inexcusable to dismiss the titles below without any recognition whatsoever. Provided that time wasn’t such a restrictive issue, each and every one of these would be receiving a feature write-up dedicated to analyzing what makes them great. Truly, each one of these clips is more than worth several viewings, so stop reading and start clicking. Who knows? This pool might just contain a few new favorites. Enjoy.

Charly BlissGirlpool, Hovvdy, Bad Moves, The Seams, PWR BTTM, Palehound, Aye Nako, Dude York, Wilding, Big Eyes, Alien Boy, Juliana Hatfield, B Boys, Big Thief, Monster Movie, Baked, Clipping., The New Year, Dead Leaf Echo, Craig Finn, Sparks, Wolf People, Sloan Peterson, The Calm Fiasco, Hoops, Pontiak, Toro Y Moi, Dream Wife, Slowdive, The Drums, Arc Flash, LT Wade, Shit Girlfriend, Nana Grizol, Plastic Flowers, R. Ring, Future Islands, Reptaliens, INVSN, Sharkmuffin, Marcus Norberg and the Disappointments, Lexie RothStolen Jars (x2)

Bridges and Powerlines, Beach Fossils, Blonde Summer, Communions, The Wild Reeds, Little Star, Circle, Emotional, Boyhood, Akinyemi, Winstons, Souvenir Driver (x2), Hand Habits, Boss Hog, Grace Sings Sludge, Leather Girls, Trementina, Mutts, Kamikaze Girls, Hermano Stereo, Sleep Party People, Explosions In The Sky, The Buttertones, Tall Tall Trees, No Kill, Skaters, Mise en Scene, Danny Brown, Rubblebucket, Bleached, C Duncan, Slow Turismo, Conor Oberst, ShitKid, Aldous Harding, Gorillaz, Small Black, A Tribe Called Quest, and Michael Kiwanuka.

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.

Midnight Reruns – Force of Nurture (Album Review, Stream)

Midnight Reruns IV

Formatted in the same pattern as the last post due to the time constraints that CMJ prompted, the full streams collected in the interim from regularly scheduled coverage are listed at the very bottom of this post. It’s a decision that also allows the sole focus to be placed on Midnight Reruns‘ incredible sophomore effort, Force of Nurture. It’s worth noting that this is a band I’ve had the privilege of tracking since around the time of their first EP‘s release, which precedes this site’s existence, and they were one of the bands I created Heartbreaking Bravery to celebrate (they’ll always have the distinction of being the first band ever to appear on Watch This, which has now run for 100 segments).

During that time, I’ve been fortunate enough to catch a number of the band’s explosive live shows, which have– with good reason– mostly veered towards the material on Force of Nurture. The band put together a nice pre-release run for the album, including a very strong EP and the release of two of 2015’s best songs in “There’s An Animal Upstairs” and “Canadian Summer“. As good as all of those items were, they’d fail to suggest the extent of Force of Nurture‘s sheer weight, even if they were packaged together.

In a statement issued to Substream, who hosted the record’s premiere, guitarist/vocalist Graham Hunt spoke of the loss of a close personal friend, an event that reverberates throughout the record with a staggering force. It’s most noticeably present in the record’s connecting thematic elements; uncertainty, regret, struggle, and loss. Even Force of Nurture‘s most ostensibly positive moments come with the caveat of being opaque enough to suggest there could be a tremendously dark underlying subtext.

Aside from the record’s earned weariness, the compositions far exceed what the band accomplished on their extremely impressive self-titled debut, which is no mean feat. A very palpable debt to The Replacements is heavily reinforced by Force of Nurture‘s credits, which list Tommy Stinson (one of the group’s earliest supporters) as the record’s producer. While there are still aspects of the Thin Lizzy twin-lead dynamic that were so often cited in regards to their earlier work, the band leans more heavily on their Big Star influence this time around to exhilarating effect.

Hunt, as hinted at above, turns in a jaw-dropping lyric sheet that expertly bridges the record’s muted optimism with its struggles in solipism. Everything, down to our own most microbiological functions, is put on trial; no answers are granted and the questions that are posed cut deep. Debauchery runs rampant but the band never lets its determination flag, committing to “making people laugh” even in their bleakest moments.

As relentlessly dark as this is all sounding, the band still finds a way to present themselves through fiery guitar work, sun-soaked melodies, and propulsive rhythm section work that lends the proceedings the kind of vibrancy that renders Force of Nurture an addictive listen. It’s mid-section run, in particular, somehow manages to pull off a relative weightlessness in the face of its tragic, bruised lyricism. Whether its something like the strained relationship at the crux of “Where’s Ace?” or the dreamlike self-aggrandizement of “Sky Blue Water” that ends in a tragicomic defeat, there’s a very peculiar bite to the record that makes it feel deeply personal and unflinchingly vital.

By the time the band’s exhausted their arsenal of incredibly effective hooks (the only 2015 records I can think of that have approached being even remotely close to this successful in that sense are Sweet John Bloom’s Weird Prayer and Dogs On Acid’s self-titled), they’ve run an exhaustive gamut of hard-earned lessons and navigated the journey with a wary resiliency. As they well know, and devastatingly note on “Great Southern Rail”, the record’s sprawling eight minute closer, sometimes all it takes is just one gunshot.

As a personal exercise, Force of Nurture feels therapeutic in a way that seemed to be crushingly necessary. As a standalone full-length, it’s essential. Easily one of 2015’s most invigorating, affirming, and incendiary records, Force of Nurture aim goes far beyond most band’s goals and they hit their mark with a memorable emphasis. So, as things get difficult, depression lingers, houses burn, friends are lost, and seasons vanish to a place beyond recovery, we now have a deeply empathetic record to help us through those times. For that, we collectively owe Midnight Reruns a debt of gratitude- and a place for Force of Nurture in our collections.

Listen to Force of Nurture below and order a copy from Dusty Medical here. Beneath the embed, explore a list of some of the finest records to find release over the past few weeks.

Trust Fund – Seems Unfair
Laura Stevenson – Cocksure
Petal – Shame
Jonathan Bree – A Little Night Music
Ex-Breathers – Past Tense
Modern Baseball – Holy Ghost
Slanted – Lost Forever: B-Sides From Forever
Sleep Kit – Standby Me
Postcode – The Dandelion Radio Session
Wendy Alembic – Collected Early Works
Sports – All of Something
Community Records Compilation Vol. 5
Witch Coast – Burnt Out By 3PM
Walter – Get Well Soon
The Love Coffin – Veranda
Spray Paint – Dopers
Julien Baker – Sprained Ankle
Expert Alterations – You Can’t Always Be Liked
Alien Boy – Never Getting Over It
Dyke Drama – Tender Resignation
Florist – Vacation
Stumpf – Barf Radio
Greys – Repulsion
Haybaby – Sleepy Kids
Dead Painters – Aluminum Gold