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Tag: Amanda Bartley

Swearin’ – Grow Into A Ghost (Stream)

One of the more heartening developments in recent memory has been the return of Swearin’, the band responsible for the best demo to be released this decade, a self-titled that lived up to the demo’s promise (and then some), and an oddly moving sophomore effort. Some interpersonal difficulties led to the group shelving the project and saw guitarist/vocalist Allison Crutchfield embark on a solo project, striking up a relationship with Merge (a label that also houses Crutchfield’s twin sister Katie’s project, Waxahatchee).

The band’s making one key transition in their return, which is a welcome, familiar face on bass duties: All Dogs‘ Amanda Bartley, who very recently became an official member of the group, just in time for the band to tour their forthcoming Fall Into the Sun. “Grow Into A Ghost” is the first look at that record (which, coincidentally, will be the band’s first release for Merge) and serves as a potent reminder of why this band’s been so missed in the time of their absence.

Basement pop of the absolute highest order, the song’s anchored by Crutchfield’s emotional conviction, formidable writing strength, and thoughtful arrangement. Elevated by the members’ familiarity with a very specific vision, “Grow Into A Ghost” makes no bones about coming out swinging. It’s a hardened look ahead and a reminder of the band’s own legacy, conjuring up an incredible amount of hope for what lays in wait for the future of Swearin’.

Welcome them back by leaving this one on repeat.

Listen to “Grow Into A Ghost” below and pre-order Fall Into the Sun from Merge here.

15 of ’15: The Best Songs of 2015

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Few lists have been as difficult to put together as this one, which saw upwards of 100 songs competing for a slot as one of the final 15. An extraordinary year for music by any margin, the continuously expanding models of release and outwardly stretching networks of musicians providing an astonishing amount of material that was more than worthwhile. As has been noted in the previous lists, the choices here are completely based on personal subjectivity and exclude the more major releases (like the monumental tracks from Jason Isbell, Courtney Barnett, and Death Grips) as they’ve received countless accolades already and the spotlight deserves to be spread to equally deserving artists that still don’t have access to those levels of exposure. None of these artists appeared on last year’s list but every single act who gets an inclusion this time around feels more than capable of making a return visit at some point in the near future. Somber closing tracks, heartfelt lead-off singles, and a few striking non-singles comprise the contents found below. So, without further ado, here’s 15 of ’15: The Best Songs of 2015.

15. Car Seat Headrest – Something Soon

Originally released in 2011, “Something Soon” was a deeply promising minimalist number from Car Seat Headrest mastermind Will Toledo. In the following years, Toledo expanded his outfit and managed to find a way to successfully reinvent both the Car Seat Headrest project and a few of the old songs in the process, including- of course- “Something Soon”. Oddly, upon its second release, the song felt even more of the moment than it did in its initial run, all while demonstrating a timeless panache that was elevated by things like the three-part vocal harmony that kicks off the explosive second chorus. Revamped and re-energized, “Something Soon” became an endlessly rewarding new career highlight for a band that, a dozen releases into its career, still feels like it’s only just getting started.

14. PWR BTTM – 1994

No one could have possibly predicted the absolutely monstrous run PWR BTTM would put together in 2015 back in January. Even the people that adored the band in their early stages would have been hard pressed to think that they’d have the kind of pull to be the sole focus of features from nationally renowned publications.  That said, the timing couldn’t have been any better and in pairing their split with Jawbreaker Reunion and their towering debut full-length Ugly Cherries, their run couldn’t have been any stronger. One of the band’s most exhilarating moments came in the form of Ugly Cherries highlight “1994” which embodied nearly everything that makes the band necessary: identity exploration, earnest approach, searing guitar work, memorable melodies, and more than a few unbelievably fierce riffs.

13. Ought – Beautiful Blue Sky

Just a year after barely missing this list, Ought came charging back with a new career highlight via the hypnotic “Beautiful Blue Sky“. Scaling back their excessive nervous energy into something that feels more refined, the band latched onto an approach that made them sound like they were in complete control. By substituting an abacus for their lab coats, they also tapped more fully into the inherent power of both their music and their identity. While there’s still a rambling feel to “Beautiful Blue Sky”, it’s one that’s played with casual confidence rather than manic neurosis. Easily one of Tim Darcy’s most fascinating lyric sets to date, the song explores heavy themes with tongue-in-cheek nonchalance, keeping the band’s irreverent spirit in tact. Another masterclass of interlocking grooves, “Beautiful Blue Sky” also has a shot at becoming a modern classic.

12. Mikal Cronin – Made My Mind Up

The first song to be reviewed on Heartbreaking Bravery in 2015 also wound up, as predicted, being one of the year’s finest. While not all of MCIII hit the extravagant heights of MCII, it wasn’t without its moments. The seeming flawlessness of “Made My Mind Up” shouldn’t come as such a surprise after MCII handily established Mikal Cronin as one of this generation’s finest pop songwriters yet it still lands with such breathtaking gracefulness that it’s hard not to be taken aback. A gorgeous piano figure finds a way to seamlessly intertwine itself with Cronin’s characteristically fuzzed-out brand of basement pop, elevating several sections of the song to levels that approach transcendence. When the stop/start dynamics of the chorus come into play, the song just starts moving effortlessly through a motion of grace notes, cementing Cronin’s position as a peerless talent.

11. Girlpool – Crowded Stranger

Girlpool can pull off a lot of varied looks but there’s something about the music they make that takes on a darker sheen that’s impossible to shake. “Plants and Worms” was the song that convinced me the band was great and “Crowded Stranger” only furthers that theory by tapping into a similar approach, one that feels infinitely more foreboding than the duo’s usual material. There’s a certain weightiness and bold uncertainty that accompanies their dips into murkier sensibilities and the effect, almost paradoxically, tends to feel more vibrant. Ostensibly a song about loss, “Crowded Stranger” is a bleak look at internal examination, circumstantial consequence, and bruised perception. One of the band’s most tortured songs to date, it winds up being an exemplary showcase of the band’s formidable grasp on their own pathos. All of those elements factored in to why “Crowded Stranger” were two of the most unforgettable minutes this year.

10. Dilly Dally – Burned by the Cold

Burned by the Cold“, the elegiac closing track to Dilly Dally‘s incendiary full-length debut, Sore, was the moment that cemented that release’s status as a great. After 10 tracks of searing basement punk, the floor suddenly fell out from underneath the band and allowed Katie Monks to take even more complete control of the wheel as everything plummeted down in a free fall. Stripping away a few of the band’s most distinctive elements- Liz Ball’s breathtaking lead guitar work, a bruising rhythm section- and zeroing in on Monks’ unforgettable voice as it echoes through a devastating piano track, Dilly Dally found a genuinely unexpected way to flourish. As the ambient noise that swirls around “Burned by the Cold” intensifies, Monks pushes forward with a sudden vulnerability that makes Sore‘s mesmerizing final moment even more astonishing. Unprecedented by anything in their still young discography, it’s relative bravery proves the band has an untapped depth and, likely, plenty more welcome surprises to come.

9. Eskimeaux – A Hug Too Long

Nearly every song on Eskimeaux‘s masterwork O.K. was considered at one point for a spot on this list as each had a roughly equal claim. “A Hug Too Long” got the nod in the end for being, arguably, the most definitive track on the album. From the quick riff that opens the song to the lilting vocal figure that shortly follows, “A Hug Too Long” is a masterclass in composition and contains nearly everything that makes Eskimeaux such a rewarding project. Flawless melodies, production, and layered harmonies inform the track’s most vibrant moments, which once again show Gabrielle Smith’s masterful command over crafting songs that are as hopeful as they are bittersweet. Charming, endearing, and deceptively light- the song’s actually fairly crushing upon close inspection- “A Hug Too Long” finds a way to make nearly every one of the song’s structural aspects remarkable, lending it an additional emotional weight in the process. A sublime piece of songwriting, it firmly positions Gabrielle Smith as one of our finest emerging songwriters.

8. Hop Along – Waitress

One of the most heartening things to watch progress over the course of 2015 was the ascension of Hop Along, who have deserved far-reaching national acclaim for years but didn’t quite have the resources. Saddle Creek changed that when they signed the band for the release of Painted Shut, a critical knockout and a jaw-dropping show of force. While that record was peppered with several standout moments, it was “Waitress” that stood out most, a signature example of guitarist/vocalist and principal songwriter Frances Quinlan’s mastery of craft. Possessing one of the most arresting voices in music, Quinlan wields it like a weapon and strikes mercilessly as the rest of Hop Along viciously attacks their best track this side of “Tibetan Pop Stars” A series of bruised and beautiful moments culminate in a fiery outro that exemplifies the band’s inherent strengths. Quinlan lets loose several impassioned howls as the propulsive rhythm section goes to work with surgical precision and the guitar work nears an unprecedented level of excellence. Packaged together, it’s the kind of knockout punch that prohibits recovery.

7. Worriers – They/Them/Theirs

2015 saw the discussion surrounding gender identity take massive strides forward and open lines of dialog on a national scale that’d previously been a lot more diminished. It’s not unreasonable to think that the multimedia forms at large played in part in facilitating that transition and one of the most thoughtful and impassioned pleas came from Worriers‘ latest career highlight, “They/Them/Theirs“. Even in stripping away the lyric set, “They/Them/Theirs” is one of the band’s most powerful compositions to date but it’s the pointed narrative of “They/Them/Theirs” that makes it unforgettable, especially in its empathetic opening couplet (“You’ve got a word for one/so there’s a word for all”) and urgent chorus (“You are fighting between a rock and why bother?/we are floating between two ends that don’t matter”). At every step, the narrative’s fueled by a deep-seated frustration over the lack of understanding and driven by sheer determination to set things straight as the music conjures up something that’s both immediately accessible and genuinely thoughtful, enhancing the song’s humanist worldview.

6. Julien Baker – Go On

Like Eskimeaux’s O.K., Julien Baker‘s devastating Sprained Ankle provided a small army of tracks that were in contention for a spot on this list, which ultimately came to a showdown between the record’s unbelievably gorgeous title track and its unforgettable closer. The latter option won out and, in a strange turn of events, aligned it with Dilly Dally’s “Burned by the Cold” as a somber, piano-driven closer that’s unlikely to be released as a single. Following a record of intensely personal disclosures, “Go On”- like the vast majority of Sprained Ankle– felt palpably wounded in way that was frighteningly relatable as it confronted the inevitability of mortality. It’s also the song where Baker sounds the most severely pained and then, suddenly, one of the most chilling moments of 2015 arrives. Nothing in recorded music over the past 12 months hit me harder than the accidental broadcast interference that bleeds through the end of “Go On”, where a static-damaged sermon gets piped into a record that was heavily informed by religion. It’s in those final, largely improvised moments where Sprained Ankle feels genuinely holy.

5. Mike Krol – Less Than Together

Turkey, Mike Krol‘s unbelievably explosive third record, was one of 2015’s most exciting releases for a long string of reasons that included (but were not limited to) redemption for Sleeping in the Aviary and the rapidly growing interest surrounding DIY punk. Confrontational, irreverent, and deliriously fun, Turkey came off like several grenades all detonating simultaneously. Intriguingly, the record’s fiercest track is also its longest, the near-rabid “Less Than Together”, which serves as the record’s penultimate moment. No song got me out of bed in 2015 more times than “Less Than Together”, as its excessively frantic blend of basement punk and basement pop essentially managed to create its own singular energy source. Every element that makes Turkey such an enthralling record is present on “Less Than Together”, as it careens ahead and refuses to be apologetic to anything unfortunate enough to stand in its path. Everything clicks for Krol and the band he’s surrounded himself with as they play off of each other to enormous effect and produce something extraordinary, never pausing to look back at the destruction in their wake.

4. Fred Thomas – Every Song Sung To A Dog

One of the most heartfelt songs of 2015 was also one of the most painfully tragic. While Fred Thomas managed to stack the brilliant All Are Saved to the rafters with emotional moments of clarity in the midst of its intentional chaos, “Every Song Sung To A Dog” managed to leave the sharpest sting. As Thomas makes his way through “Every Song Sung To A Dog“, it becomes clear that the dog in question is Kuma, who served as the main source of inspiration for the songwriter’s last collection (which, accordingly, was also named after- and dedicated to- Kuma). Here, though, Kuma’s passed on and Thomas grapples with the complex emotions that accompany the loss of a loved one and produces something devastating. As the narrative probes at the questions over what separates us from our pets and our own mortality, it also functions at a remarkably high level as a character study of Thomas himself as he tears open his wounds and explores them without hesitation. Memories litter close to all of the dusty corners of “Every Song Sung To A Dog”, transforming it away from hypothetical territory into something that comes across as bravely, uncomfortably real.

3. Mutual Benefit – Not for Nothing

The past 12 months have had their fair share of exceedingly lovely songs, from the tender Cat’s Eyes number that plays over The Duke of Burgundy‘s credit reel to Mothers‘ spellbinding “Too Small for Eyes” to everything Eluvium released but none of them felt as perfectly weightless as Mutual Benefit‘s masterful “Not for Nothing“. Following the breakout success of Love’s Crushing Diamond, Jordan Lee’s project somehow grew even more gently refined, landing on something remarkably beautiful in the process. Nearly every movement of “Not for Nothing”, a song that was recorded for Weathervane Music’s deeply important Shaking Through series, can be viewed as a grace note. From Lee’s soft vocal delivery to the string section to the intuitive drumming and effective, simplistic piano figure, “Not for Nothing” finds a way to cumulative whole that comes off as miraculous. Expanded outward from the first time Lee overheard the phrase “Not for Nothing” used in a phone conversation, the song becomes an antithetical statement to the excess apathy that many of us confront in bulk on a daily basis. In finding and appreciating the world’s splendor as personal doubts seep into the song’s narrative, Mutual Benefit keep their heads pointed towards the sky and walk away with the most beautiful song of 2015.

2. All Dogs – That Kind of Girl

Ever since All Dogs initially unveiled “That Kind of Girl” back on tour in 2014, it’s been a personal favorite. On a standalone basis, it transformed Kicking Every Day into one of the more anticipated DIY-driven records of 2015 and provided a forceful career push for a band that genuinely deserved to have their name circulating around national press outlets on a steady basis. Fortunately (and unsurprisingly), the rest of Kicking Every Day lived up to the promise of “That Kind of Girl” but nothing on the record threatened its position as the band’s finest work (although “Leading Me Back To You“, which was deemed ineligible for this list due to being both a song from some of the members’ previous bands and a partial cover, came close). As the band demonstrated on their first two releases, their strength lies in the way they treat their own vulnerability, bravely kicking out against its currents instead of letting the water wash them away. Far and away the band’s most vicious song in an increasingly impressive discography, “That Kind of Girl” saw guitarist/vocalist Maryn Jones lash out in a way that saw each successive blow leave a deeper impact as Jones’ bandmates unleash a cavalcade of their own frustrations through some of the most impassioned playing of 2015 before claiming a victory and walking away with their flag planted in the dirt.

1. Stove – Wet Food

No song throughout 2015 made me feel more than Stove‘s hopeful, world-weary, defeatist, yearning masterpiece “Wet Food“. I can vividly recall being completely frozen while filming the band providing me with my introductory listen at Palisades (the video of that can be seen below), with chills shooting down my spine multiple times over. All the concern over Ovlov‘s dissolution immediately dissipated and hope for Washer‘s future (who operate at Stove’s rhythm section) suddenly went into overdrive. It joined a rare, elite company of performances and songs that had a similar effect on me (the only other band to hit that mark in 2015 was Dilly Dally’s unexpectedly vicious cover of Drake’s “Know Yourself”, which prompted a near-out-of-body experience). From the moment the guitar sweeps upward into action, “Wet Food” is untouchable. Adorned with subtle, effective bell work, punctuated by a blown-out chorus, it manages to take on the feel of a song whose stakes feel meaningful; this is the rare all-or-nothing song that swings towards the stars and connects with the kind of emphasis that manages to keep it in line. “Wet Food” also joins a class of recent songs where the songwriter addresses themselves by name (see also: Eskimeaux’s “A Hug Too Long”, above), presenting their most internal moments on a very public forum, enhancing the song’s honesty as a result. Bruised, battered, disoriented, and- above all- resilient, “Wet Food” felt like a microcosm of the prevailing personal stories that emerged throughout 2015, securing its rightful position at the top of this list.

All Dogs – Live at Silent Barn – 8/22/15 (Pictorial Review, Live Video)

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Very few records to have come out of 2015 have earned as many individual words as All Dogs’ Kicking Every Day, a triumphant debut full-length from one of this site’s personal favorites. I’ve been fortunate enough to work with All Dogs in the past and the multimedia piece I was allowed to conduct for The Media wound up producing some of my personal favorite memories. Seeing them in a venue that’s so intrinsically connected to The Media– one of today’s most important publications- was tantalizing enough to make it one of the shows I’d prioritized as soon as it was announced. The lineup surrounding All Dogs was no slouch either, bringing in Florist, Fleabite, and The Sidekicks as support. All of those bands pedigrees packaged together ensured that All Dogs would be playing to a full house and the groundswell of national attention for Kicking Every Day pushed that guarantee a step further.

As a lead-in to the evening’s proceedings, Florist felt like the perfect fit. Surrounded by friends, rejoined by Felix Walworth on drums (who’d been missing from the lineup at their Baby’s show due to touring), and playing a wealth of new material, they managed to entrance the crowd early on and hold their attention to the end. Like the best acts operating in their stylistic vein, Florist managed to make the room extremely intimate and created a palpable sense of togetherness by reducing the audience to a hushed silence. Fleabite, a quarter fronted by A Year’s Worth of Memories contributor Ali Donohue, quickly took the noise levels in the opposite direction but maintained an established sense of intensity.

Having released one of this year’s stronger 7″ records in TTYL (which boasts a cover where Donohue is wearing an All Dogs shirt, no less), the band seemed invigorated. Every song felt meaningful and the band played with conviction, whether it was an old standby or a new piece while embracing feedback with an almost gleeful zest. Before too long following the close of their set, The Sidekicks were up and repeatedly jumping. Another band riding high on the wave of an excellent release- Runners In the Nerved World, their first for Epitaph- the band played with an unparalleled gusto.

Driven in large part by the dual guitar onslaught of Steve Ciolek (who also plays in Saintseneca with All Dogs’ Maryn Jones) and Toby Reif (whose self-titled solo EP stands as one of last year’s best surprises), the band quickly proved to be a deeply formidable live presence. Playing with energy, grace, and a clear love for what they do, every song felt like an all-or-nothing rallying cry and pulled an already involved audience even further in. Closing out with the supercharged Awkward Breeds highlight “DMT” had everyone roaring and likely cemented the status of a large handful of converts while simultaneously providing a perfect build to the night’s headliner.

I’ve spent a lot of paragraphs on this site- and others- detailing what makes All Dogs such an inherently special band and nearly all of them get brought to the forefront in their live performance. Maryn Jones, the band’s guitarist/vocalist, is one of this generation’s finest humanists, constantly painting conflicted portraits of a deeply personal nature that examine and scrutinize faults in a manner that can occasionally feel defiantly celebratory. A lot of these dissections are universally relatable and, as such, can act as a form of therapy (for both Jones, who puts herself under the knife with reckless consistency, and the listener). The band Jones is surrounded by- bassist Amanda Bartley, guitarist Nick Harris, and drummer Jesse Wither- know how to perfectly accentuate Jones’ tales and sensibilities to emphasize both the finer and larger points being made.

In terms of composition and dynamics, the band’s grown in leaps and bounds since the addition of Harris and the decision to start writing together as a band, a trait that’s easily evidenced in the disparity between the band’s still-great 7″ (which served as the basis for one of this site’s first-ever reviews) and the borderline masterpiece that is Kicking Every Day. When the band did reach back to the 7″ in their set, the songs sounded startlingly massive and the new textures made them feel more vital than ever (this was especially true for “Say” which, as it had last year in Milwaukee, sent chills running down my spine). A slew of Kicking Every Day‘s preview tracks’ emotional impact was maximized by both the setting and their execution in the live setting.

The three songs that received features here-“That Kind of Girl“, “Skin“, and “How Long“- all hit their marks with an unapologetic accuracy, heightened by an almost intimidating amount of volume. Every member of the band was in fine form throughout, with each member alternately appearing to lose themselves in the song at hand or take complete and total control of its delivery. Jones’ vocals, perennially light but always suggesting an unbearable weight, sounded as masterful as ever and the band rallied around her tales of damage, self-loathing, defeat, clarity, and uncertainty with unprecedented force.

After a marathon set that covered the band’s still-young discography, the band packed up and left the stage. There was no call for an encore because, at least for a moment, it seemed like All Dogs had said everything they possibly could. While the band will likely always have something more to say, their exit seemed necessary; these songs are so intimately personal that listening to them at length can make for a crippling experience. Thankfully, while the emotional resonance still held fast, it was hard to feel anything other than uplifted. Every band that’d played before them had brought something new to the table and All Dogs wove all of those strengths into a beautiful tapestry that covered the Silent Barn like a blanket for their time onstage, bringing everyone together under an intangible communal cloak and keeping them warm with good intentions. I’m not sure there’s a more perfect way to spend an evening.

Find a photo gallery of the show here and watch a video containing performances from each of the bands that played the show below.

All Dogs – How Long (Stream)

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As was mentioned in the preceding post, this has been a characteristically enormous week for new music and music videos (at least as far as 2015’s concerned). It makes sense, then, that the most traditionally packed main category (single streams) would log the most outstanding entries. All of the songs that caught my ears or piqued my interest have been hyperlinked below this post’s featured song- All Dogs‘ stunning “How Long”. The third song to be officially released from the band’s forthcoming full-length, Kicking Every Day, “How Long” continues their drastic expansion of dynamic range.

As has been previously noted, the dynamic shift was sparked by two crucial elements: the addition of ex-NONA guitarist Nick Harris and the retooling of the actual songwriting process, allowing the band to collaborate on a much more extensive level. Leading the charge, as always, is Maryn Jones, an enviably gifted songwriter that’s perfected an unshakable blend of humility, honesty, and yearning that can be absolutely devastating. Jones and Harris’ guitar work across all of the tracks in Kicking Every Day‘s rollout campaign have been nothing short of miraculous. Understated, complementary, and intuitive, their instrumental work has managed to maintain a surprisingly emotional heft that only deepens the inherent sadness that permeates the bulk of Jones’ discography (something also exhibited in her work with Saintseneca– who also have a forthcoming record this year- and as Yowler, a project that released a full-length earlier in 2015).

Backed by the rhythm section of Amanda Bartley (bass) and Jesse Wither (drums), all of All Dogs’ songs gain an intimidating set of teeth. Bruised and bristling, the band dives headfirst into Jones’ damaged introspection with a commendable fearlessness, amplifying a deeply personal struggle of self-worth. Putting herself under the knife, Jones is merciless in her meticulous scrutiny of her own value. In Fader’s premiere of the song, Jones issued a statement about “How Long” was “an extended question about when [she] would stop hating [herself].” It takes bravery to acknowledge your own faults and even more to do so on an extremely public level but in a recent conversation I was fortunate enough to have with Jones after Saintseneca’s impressive performance at Baby’s All Right, she revealed that the process of writing and playing music has been deeply therapeutic.

Fortunately, Jones’ self-loathing is given a celebratory tint with a positive angle when framed in the greater context of All Dogs’ work and there’s a very palpable love for their craft that’s continuously evidenced by their breathtaking live show(s). Every now and then, that euphoric swell comes through in their most climactic moments and “How Long” boasts a few particularly great examples. As Jones stretches out and reaches for an answer in those explosive choruses, it’s almost as if the answer’s intangible and not an actual destination- rather, it’s something gleaned by the journey. While it may ultimately be a bittersweet path, at least it’s one shared in the company of genuinely supportive friends. It’s this particular dynamic that makes All Dogs a viable candidate for today’s best band; a willingness to fully explore life’s darkest corners but always retaliate against them while rallying around their central figure with unbridled force, grace, and determination. It’s also what makes “How Long” this week’s finest track.

Listen to “How Long” below and pre-order Kicking Every Day from Salinas here. Underneath the player, browse through a list of the week’s best songs. Enjoy.

PWR BTTM – Dairy Queen
Grape St. – Sharp Dressed Man
Helen – Violet
Big Air – Stay the Night
Alex G – Bug
Jacuzzi Boys – Sun
Wavves – Heavy Metal Detox
Majical Cloudz – Silver Car Crash
Blank Realm – Palace of Love
Timmy’s Organism – Get Up, Get Out
Destroyer – Times Square
Dialect – Chewing Springs/Quietly in the House
Fern Mayo – Going Somewhere
Amy Bezunartea – Oh The Things A Girl Must Do
Kindling – Hate the Police
Scully – Don’t Want That
Tempers – Undoing
Lucero – Can’t You Hear Them Howl
Aneurysm – Stop This Ride
Chance the Rapper & Noname Gypsy – Israel (Sparring)
Ausmuteants – Mates Rates
Numero Group – Spirit Darts
Tideland – All I Know
Thee AHs – John
Palm – Crank
together PANGEA – If You’re Scared
Doe – No Wonder
Gracie – Jesse
Frankie Broyles – Capturer
Marineros – Secretos
Century Palm – Valley Cyan
Threading – Never
Infinity Girl – Young
Last Good Tooth – Our Little Machine
Lost Film – Try
Thayer Sarrano – Touch My Face
Aircraft – Stick
The High Learys – Letter to Alice
Wild Moth – You Found Out
Surf Rock Is Dead – Anymore
Modern Merchant – Be That As It May

All Dogs – Skin (Stream)

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Depending on the releases, some days are made easy and- while the reprieve is welcome- it can be disheartening. Then there are days like today, which offer a frustration spurred by more than a few releases being too good to settle on a definitive feature. For a large portion of the planning that went into this post, the intended feature was going to go to Ought’s most recent blistering, insistent masterwork, “Men For Miles“.  Even in those stages, the song had competition in the likes of Nabil’s jaw-dropping GoPro interactive design that acted as the moody clip for Foals’ fiery “Mountain At My Gates“.

It wasn’t as if that trio was without competition, either. Deer Tick’s gorgeous “Grandfather Song“, Faux Ferocious’ scuzzy “Nowhere To Go“, Team Spirit’s pulsating “Takin’ My Time (Never Enough)“, Doubting Thomas Cruise Control’s frenetic “Lenny Bruce“, Birthmark’s slow-building “Find Yourself” would have constituted an impressive field on their own accord. Elevating the difficulty was the fact two outstanding unique features surfaced in the form of an engrossing Tickle Torture documentary and a full recording of a recent set from Colin Bares (the songwriter behind The Weasel, Marten Fisher project), whose responsible for some of the year’s finest songs.

Even the full streams had a great day, with excellent offerings from bratty scuzz-punks Fox Face, the lo-fi neurotics in Ego, the punk-indebted basement poppers in Vamos, and the increasingly fascinating (and darkly tinted) world of Black Thumb. Rounding the day out were compelling music videos from Wild Ones, Oddisee, and Living Decent. Even with all of that taken into consideration, though, the day still ultimately belonged to All Dogs.

Having just released a surefire song of the year candidate in “That Kind of Girl“, the band was presented with the unenviable  task of selecting the follow-up track for their forthcoming record’s rollout campaign. A lot of different modes can be considered (and ultimately, selected) for this slot and “Skin” seems to fall into one of the trickier categories to pull off: the song that demonstrates the record’s range and scope. In the past, those songs have tended to fall more towards the acute version of sophomore slump than anything else but “Skin” hurdles those traps with no shortage of grace to all but ensure Kicking Every Day will be among 2015’s best releases.

All Dogs have never been shy about finding something beautiful in damage, something that’s been continuously driven home by the frequently devastating lyrics of Maryn Jones (who’s also a member of site favorites Saintseneca and Yowler, the latter being Jones’ solo outfit). “Skin”, over the course of it’s slow-building five minutes and change, finds Jones grappling with some of the prevailing themes throughout her discography: loneliness, self-doubt, resilience, self-sabotage, and quiet redemption. All of which continue to feel deeply personal, nearing a point of voyeurism that only grows more nerve-wracking as the song progresses.

Elevating the feeling of tension is the scintillating dynamic angle that All Dogs uncovered when transitioning their writing process to a full-band ordeal following the addition of guitarist Nick Harris. Every conceivable element that made the band so great to begin with gets amplified by this approach and the dividends are already paying off in startling fashion. The interplay between Jones’ and Harris’ guitar work is increasingly nuanced and the rhythm work’s even more emotive than it’s been in the past, contributing to some newfound atmospherics that complement the band to perfection.

Looking at the sheer magnitude of “Skin” in comparison to anything found on the band’s debut 7″ (which was reviewed in the sixth post to ever run on Heartbreaking Bravery) is revelatory. At the level the band’s currently operating, they’ve unlocked a seemingly boundless arsenal of styles to achieve increasingly varied effects. From the subtle, interlocking post-punk guitar work to the bruised euphoria of the chorus, “Skin” is a jaw-dropping indication of the band’s ever-expanding capabilities. Throw in an earnest, beating heart at the core and All Dogs’ future suddenly looks intimidatingly bright.

All that’s left at this point is to find out whether the band can top perfection.

Listen to “Skin” below and pre-order Kicking Every Day from Salinas here.

All Dogs – That Kind of Girl (Stream, Live Video)

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It’s been a handful of days since a non-series or specialized coverage piece has run on this site so it seems fitting that the song that’s breaking the silence is not just one of the best songs of 2015 but a song that was praised effusively here last fall, when the band responsible- All Dogs– was road-testing new material. It’s been nearly a year since that initial exposure and a few of those still-unreleased songs haven’t faded from memory; there’s something about the upcoming material All Dogs have been harboring that’s impossible to shake. No song has managed to stick harder than “That Kind of Girl”, the first song to be released from their debut full-length, Kicking Every Day, and the song that closed the band’s inspired set in Milwaukee last August.

Before All Dogs played Milwaukee, I had a chance to sit down with the band for an interview/performance piece for The Media in which guitarist/vocalist Maryn Jones revealed that the biggest differentiating factor between the band’s extraordinary self-titled 7″ and Kicking Every Day was the fact that the band (which now includes former NONA guitarist Nick Harris) wrote the songs together rather than expanding on a pre-existing outline. Jones and I recently met back up again when one of her other bands, site favorites Saintseneca, opened for Murder By Death in Milwaukee. At that time, she was looking forward to pushing the release of the All Dogs record- something that carried a clear amount of meaning for the enviably gifted songwriter- while voicing some trepidation over trying to balance tours between her three remarkable projects (Jones also released an absolutely stunning solo record this year under her Yowler moniker).

While that may seem like an unnecessary anecdote, it served as an acutely realized moment of exposition. It’s that duality of enthusiasm and doubt that functions as the crux of some of Jones’ strongest work. A staggering body of work that’s most recent official addition is the surging “That Kind of Girl”. The song itself comes off as a blistering moment of personal triumph, a well-meaning kiss off to a former paramour. It’s a genuinely inspiring tour de force not just for Jones but for the band that surrounds her (one that includes bassist Amanda Bartley and Delay drummer Jesse Wither in addition to Harris) and allows the enterprising songwriter to conjure up a seemingly endless string of emotive hurricanes.

In approximately two and a half minutes, each individual member gets a powerful showcase for what they bring to the band as individual players. For Harris, it’s sharp, intuitive guitar playing, for Bartley, it’s a subtly menacing urgency, and Wither lends the band a considerable punch with powerhouse drumming. It’s the elevated dynamics- already at least somewhat evidenced by “Georgia“, the band’s Le Sigh mixtape contribution- that will make Kicking Every Day one of the most exhilarating releases of 2015. Even if Kicking Every Day‘s August 28 release date still means an excruciating month and a half of waiting, a towering, empathetic, humanist anthem isn’t a bad way to set things in motion. Until that date hates, the best thing- the only thing– to do is just keep hitting repeat.

Listen to “That Kind of Girl” below and keep an eye on Salinas for pre-orders. A live video of the band performing the song- as well as a video of Jones performing a devastating solo take of Kicking Every Day track “Leading Me Back To You” (a song that’s being rescued from Jones’ and Bartley’s old project, Wolfs)- have been included beneath the soundcloud embed. For those of you in Brooklyn, you can catch the band at The Silent Barn on August 22 with The Sidekicks. In the meantime, enjoy the song and the footage below.


2014: A Pictorial Review, Pt. 5

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One thing that this site has strived to maintain is its own visual aesthetic. While it’d be impossible to find a photo in the archives for every given band that headlines a post, an original photo will be posted anytime the opportunity presents itself. Upgrading cameras halfway through the year provided a bevvy of new opportunities and the subsequent implementation of a more photo-centric presence. That’s not by mistake. Photography (especially event photography) has always been an important crux of multimedia journalism. It can be a way to implicitly (or explicitly) convey some of the more minute details of a singular moment to a reader- or it can simply act as an intriguing supplement.

Those were just a few of reasons that went into the decision behind a headfirst dive into photography investment (on both a personal and public level) and factored into why one camera or another was brought along to every show this site covered in the past year. Now, with 2015 just around the corner, seemed like as good a time as any to showcase a few photographs from the past 12 months that stood out as personal favorites. Since there are a few too many to go up all at once, they’ll be posted at random as part of installments that will run from now to the start of January. Most of these shots have been published on the site before (or on The Media), though there are a few that will be appearing for the first time.

Pt. 5 will be the final installment of this series and the preceding galleries can be accessed via the links directly below. Enjoy!

2014: A Pictorial Review, Pt. 1
2014: A Pictorial Review, Pt. 2
2014: A Pictorial Review, Pt. 3
2014: A Pictorial Review, Pt. 4

 

All Dogs – Georgia (Stream)

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After a long list of posts dedicated to the best material to have surfaced over the course of the past two weeks, everything’s back on track. The contents of this post will focus solely on some of the best content to have emerged yesterday- and the results are fairly minimal (though the included pieces are wonderful). Victoria+Jean debuted their nightmarish fever dream of a music video for their jaunty (and undeniably weird) “Holly“, which offered more than enough visual stimuli to make up the entire music video list for the day. As for single streams, there was Pink Mountaintops’ slow-burning basement pop number “Asleep With An Angel” and Sur Back’s hypnotically delicate (and unfailingly gorgeous) “Occam’s Razor“. Then, of course, there was the new track from site favorites All Dogs.

In 2013, this site had their debut 7″ ranked very highly on a best-of list. In 2014, it captured All Dogs up close and personal while they made their way through one of the best shows Wisconsin hosted this year. There’s no reason to think that their forthcoming LP (due out on Salinas in 2015) won’t become another instant favorite. Apart from the new songs captured in live settings, there haven’t been too many instances of new All Dogs music appearing (even the live clips are severely limited) so anytime something like “Georgia” happens, it’s worth putting everything else on hold to let it play uninterrupted. Intended as part of The Le Sigh Vol. II compilation tape, it finds the band adding even more nuance into their sound. From the light slide guitars to the muted transitional bridge, it’s abundantly clear there’s a startling new depth to the band’s grasp on dynamics (likely a result of them creating as a full band rather than on their own individually).

Bandleader Maryn Jones’ melodic sensibilities are still the focal part of the band’s appeal and the rest of the bands plays off of those sensibilities beautifully. Everything’s complemented in increasingly subtle ways, from Amanda Bartley’s half-hidden atmospheric bass lines to Jesse Withers’ intuitive, feel-heavy drumming. Jones’ lyrics remain as sharp as ever, continuing a constant grapple with self-doubt, self-discovery, and combining them with a constant search for greater meaning. It’s a perfect reminder of why the love for All Dogs is so fervent and it’s an impossibly tantalizing look towards what the band has in store for the future.

Listen to “Georgia” below and give The Le Sigh as much undivided attention as possible.

All Dogs at Bremen Cafe – 8/19/14 (Pictorial Review, Live Video)

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[AUTHOR’S NOTE: First off, just to get this out of the way at the top, this post probably would not have been possible without The Media, a site whose praises deserve to be sung as loudly- and frequently- as possible. Being able to be a part of that place, even just for an issue, was an honor. The fact that I got to spotlight was All Dogs, a band that put out a 7″ last year that I felt very strongly about, ensured that it won’t be an experience I’ll be forgetting anytime soon. All that said, I wound up with an over-abundance of content that, for obvious reasons, couldn’t all be worked into The Media piece. It’d be criminal to let a lot of the material that didn’t run go to waste, so it’ll be running here today. Enjoy.]

All Dogs put out one of this site’s favorite 7″ records of last year, so when word came that they’d be stopping at Bremen Cafe in Milwaukee, not going wasn’t an option. As time progressed and more things got worked out, excitement and anticipation for the show grew incrementally. After the band agreed to an interview (hyperlinked towards the end of the Author’s Note) and guitarist/vocalist Maryn Jones was gracious enough to agree to a small set of acoustic performances, All Dogs’ self-titled 7″ was back to being in near-constant rotation- and wound up being the go-to soundtrack for every editing session this site went through for a few weeks.

During that time, a press email came out detailing an upcoming release from a project called Yowler, which turned out to be a solo vehicle for Jones- and a likely continuation of her excellent early solo material. Somehow, this all came to light during a time that also saw the emergence of Saintseneca’s Tiny Desk Session for NPR (easily one of this year’s finest offerings), all of which pointing to Jones being one of the busiest- and best- songwriters/musicians that we currently have. All of that combined prompted a trip through her discography, which included some absolute gems like the tape from the now-defunct Wolfs (which All Dogs’ bassist, Ama,nda Bartley was also in). As a result of the culmination of all of this, expectations couldn’t have possibly been higher for the band’s live show.

After taking up temporary residence in Ground Zero (one of Milwaukee’s best basement venues) for the interview session, it was into the band’s van and off to Bremen Cafe. While there wasn’t too much time to spend doing anything other than helping clear out space and running out to get food before the show kicked off, it didn’t seem to matter. Everyone seemed to be in high spirits and a lot of old friends were able to exchange a few words before the show kicked off with a ferocious set from Failed Mutation– who proved to be next to impossible to photograph thanks to their incessant levels of energy. From their live show alone, it wasn’t very difficult to see why they’ve earned a reputation as being one of Milwaukee’s best hardcore bands in an increasingly over-crowded scene (it also probably doesn’t hurt to have members of Tenement and Holy Shit! in your band). Failed Mutation wound up packing an absurd amount of spastic energy into a set that probably only ran 15 minutes, all of which was expertly controlled- likely thanks to each individual members discipline and experience. It was a hell of a way to jump-start what would prove to be a surprisingly formidable bill.

Next up was Sin Bad, a relatively new band that features members of both Night Animals and Rich People. Having never heard Sin Bad, it was difficult to gauge whether trepidation or excitement was winning out as Failed Mutation loaded out. Any notions of disappointment were immediately dispelled following the first few seconds of their first song. Boasting a sound not too dissimilar from All Dogs (with maybe just a few dashes more of a sound found pretty frequently on Don Giovanni Records) and an energy that was relatively comparable to Failed Mutation meant their second slot was a perfect transition between the opener and the headliner, while also simultaneously allowing them a more unfettered interest from the sizable and appreciative crowd. By the time Sin Bad’s set was over, it was very clear they’d left an impression and made converts out of several of the previously unaware.

When Sin Bad had packed up and left the stage open for All Dogs, a strange nervousness crept back in- as it usually does prior to seeing a band (especially for the first time) that’s come to mean something on a personal level. Again, it didn’t take very long for that anxiety to abate. It took All Dogs (in a now-cemented four person lineup that includes NONA guitarist Nick Harris and, as always, Delay‘s Jesse Withers) less than three songs to inspire chills. Starting strongly with both “Farm” (from their outstanding split tape with Slouch) and the shortest song from the 7″, “Snow Fences”, they’d guaranteed the investment of everyone watching. Then on the third song, they offered up the first look at their new material, which they’d previously promised sounded like a much fuller and more fleshed-out version of themselves. Not only did that promise hold up, the expectations that came with it were annihilated as that song, currently written down on the setlist as “Skin”, showcased a heavier side of the band that had been previously been hinted at with their current career-best effort, “Say”.

From that point forward, the band tore through a set with a practiced confidence and relative ease, never once seeming anything less than completely genuine and extremely impassioned. Everything clicked, sounding fantastic in the notoriously loud Bremen Cafe. Making the performance even more memorable was the fact that the crowd was reciprocating virtually all of All Dogs’ energy, creating this back-and-forth that pushed both sides to near-perfect places. A few more songs from the split, the 7″, and (hopefully) the upcoming record, and the band had already nearly obliterated every lofty expectation- and then the band switched into high gear for an unforgettable 1-2 gut punch of an ending. That “Say” became the second song of their set to warrant chills and total immobility probably isn’t too surprising, as the studio version of the song is nearly capable of the same effect- but the band’s closing number, a song so recent that they still haven’t given it a title, went a long way in indicating that their upcoming work will be their best material to date. Both, combined, provided an unpredictably intense (even considering the members’ inability to contain their smiles) ending to an extraordinary set from a band who will almost certainly produce a discography of material worth owning on every possible format.

Below, watch a stunning solo acoustic performance of Wolfs’ “Leading Me Back to You” and All Dogs rip through their currently untitled set closer. A photo gallery of both the interview/performance session and the late show can be viewed beneath the videos.

Keep an eye out for all of the emerging details on All Dogs’ upcoming debut LP, which will be released on the always-extraordinary Salinas Records.