Heartbreaking Bravery

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Tag: AotY contender

LVL UP – The Closing Door (Music Video, Live Video)

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In the past 24 hours, there’s been a cavalcade of streams surfacing from artists like Honeyblood, Greys, The Meltaways, House of Feelings (ft. Meredith Graves), War Church, Jackson Reed, Moby & The Void Pacific Choir, Fair Mothers (ft. Kathryn Joseph), Hope Sandoval and the Warm Inventions (ft. Kurt Vile), Daniel Martin Moore, MONO, and Blue House. The music video category also made a fierce push with great new offerings from Risley, Fear of Men, Vomitface, Jeff Rosenstock, Billy Moon, Twin LimbJúníus Meyvant, Bunny, Blood Sport, and Sad13. Finally, a small handful of exceptional full streams that arrived via Sunshine Faces, Pamphleteers, Dinowalrus, Cinemechanica, and Crushed Out rounded everything out in powerful fashion.

As good as all of those were — and they were all quite good — the focus here, for the second time this week, falls to another gorgeous music video from the House of Nod production team. Robert Kolodny’s at the helm for this venture, an absolutely beautiful clip for LVL UP‘s sprawling “The Closing Door”. Easily one of the darkest songs in the band’s formidable discography, “The Closing Door” went through a revamp from its first iteration on last year’s inspired Three Songs EP and now stands proudly as one of Return to Love‘s finest moments.

Presented in a classic 1.37:1 ratio, Kolodny immediately establishes that “The Closing Door” is going to be heavily informed by a nostalgic bent. Even in the most minuscule of details, there are stories to be told and the ratio presentation here is an expertly played tactic that also emphasizes the clip’s tonal quality. The color palette’s soft saturation similarly invokes memories of a past age of film, nicely complementing the song’s narrative, which pays careful attention to transitional elements.

Sean Henry — an artist who resides on the excellent Double Double Whammy label, which is run by LVL UP’s Dave Benton and Mike Caridi — stars in the clip and spends the majority of “The Closing Door” wandering a scenic patch of woods, stuck in a state of wide-eyed wonderment. It’s an endearing central performance but, more importantly, it’s an incredibly effective one. Even with all of the sublime flourishes that elevate the clip’s considerable sense of style, Henry grounds the entire affair with an everyman’s charm that suffuses “The Closing Door” with a lived-in feel.

That’s not to say all of “The Closing Door” is straightforward, as there are exquisite splashes of magic realism and pure artistry that further enlivens the proceedings. Bits of classic animation litter the woodland landscape and shots of small animals taking flight punctuate the clip’s measured pace to great effect. To top everything off, “The Closing Door” hits the peak of its subdued strangeness with a climax that sees Henry tenaciously scaling a tree only to throw open a door to reveal a host of warm, familiar faces in a living room (among them, FORGE.‘s Matthew James-Wilson and Yours Are The Only Ears‘ Susannah Lee Cutler).

That final reveal’s a transcendental payoff in an immensely compelling clip that never makes a false move. In a clip that’s driven by the past, it’s ultimate destination points towards the future. It’s an elegant metaphor and Kolodny handles it with an astonishing amount of grace. As the song’s monumental final section soundtracks the moment, “The Closing Door” breaks from familiarity to provide a gentle epilogue that winds down to contentment and acceptance. That closing scene is one final grace note in a series of brilliant maneuvers that all but guarantee “The Closing Door” a status as an unlikely classic.

Watch “The Closing Door” below and pick up Return to Love from Sub Pop here. Watch the band playing the song live last year beneath the music video.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Happy Diving – Electric Soul Unity (Album Premiere)

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For the past several years, this site’s been tracking Happy Diving with a fair amount of scrutiny. Ever since the band’s scintillating debut, they’ve been making frequent appearances on year-end lists and — more importantly — growing sharper with each successive release. Recently, there was a post that spotlighted “Holy Ground“, a towering  single from the band’s forthcoming sophomore full-length, Electric Soul Unity. Today, it’s my distinct pleasure to be hosting the debut of that record, which stands as a new career high for the project.

Opening with “Bigger World” — a winking nod towards their outstanding debut LP — the band makes no bones about the fact that they’ve dramatically increased the size of their scope. Everything from the production to the songwriting indicates the band’s set loftier goals for themselves from the very outset of the record. Moreover, they’re dead-set on viciously attacking those goals until they’ve been all but completely demolished.

There’s a greater nuance in nearly every facet of their operation, whether it be atmospherics, production design, or reduced to something as simple as the guitar figures that propel Electric Soul Unity skyward. After only a scant few years of existence, Happy Diving have locked into something that feels like a deeply formidable culmination of their already-enviable body of work. It’s an astonishing feat that’s demonstrated in full by Electric Soul Unity‘s opening salvo, a trio of tracks that pack enough punch to flatten any prospective listeners.

When the title track hits, Happy Diving manage to not only strengthen their melodic approach but escalate the velocity of Electric Soul Unity‘s momentum considerably, creating the kind of magnetic pull that can be genuinely intimidating. By immediately scaling back to one of their most gentle moments to date in the following track, “Head Spell”, the band illustrate the depth of their understanding in creating and dissolving tension through sequencing, a trait that benefits the record enormously.

Of course, “Head Spell” only maintains that relative quiet for so long before launching a cavalcade of the kind of heavily bruised slacker-punk-informed shoegaze they’ve all but perfected with this record. The feedback comes surging in and Happy Diving continue to unleash a series of blows that are effectively heightened by the moments where it rescinds its attack in favor of something a lot more calming.

It’s a brief reprieve that carves out an area for the band that Happy Diving all but annihilates with a series of tracks in the record’s mid-section that match, if not outstrip, the ferocity of its opening trio. Before that memory’s gone completely, the band returns to the less forceful side of things with the laid-back opening half of the deeply compelling “Pain Country” that continues to expand the band’s musical range in ways that are both fascinating and surprisingly meaningful, pushing the boundaries of a very niche genre in a manner that fully illustrates why Happy Diving deserves to be set apart from the majority of their contemporaries.

“Pain Country” also sets up the record’s lone acoustic ballad, “Unknown Feeling”, with tremendous clarity, heightening both songs by virtue of placement. In “Unknown Feeling”, guitarist/vocalist and principal songwriter Matt Berry’s allowed the room to both showcase his improved gifts as a lyricists and underscore the narrative themes of Electric Soul Unity, capitalizing on both opportunities with the kind of understated grace that drives much of the record.

“Holding up my head to see the view, with you / but I don’t feel the way I want it to, it’s true” is the couplet that opens “Unknown Feeling”, hinting at the longings, frustrations, self-loathing, and near-irreparable romantic damage that constitutes the half-shared, half-abandoned bed of Electric Soul Unity‘s surprisingly emotional narrative core. By the time the grand finale rolls around in the form of the characteristically explosive “River Will Flow”, it feels celebratory due to not only its surface elements but because its, in part, the piece that both completes and frees the overwhelmingly down-trodden, world-weary cycle that precedes the track.

In all, Electric Soul Unity is a record that examines the human condition in dire moments, yet recognizes that there’s so much more than some small modicum of life-giving moments that also comprise those stretches. Happy Diving specifically targets that dichotomy and emphasize the tempered clarity that can accompany the self-discovery typically attained in those moments.

The record derives a considerable amount of power from exploiting those divides and then expands them outwards through exceedingly thoughtful arrangements that establish the band  as contemporary heavyweights. Thanks to its consistency, its depth of intelligence, and its staggering comprehension, Electric Soul Unity doesn’t just stand as one of 2016’s finest records but one of its most essential. It’s an extraordinary effort from a band that’s more than ready to take on any challengers and it won’t go down without putting up an unforgettable fight.

Listen to Electric Soul Unity below and pre-order the record from Topshelf here.

Mo Troper – Beloved (Album Review)

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Editor’s Note: There’s been a month-long gap in coverage, thanks to near-incessant travel and other extenuating circumstances. The following run of posts that contain this note will be posts that should have appeared sometime within the past several weeks. Use these posts as an opportunity to catch up to the present release cycle or to simply discover some new music. Either way, enjoy.

If you know me at all, then at some point over the past few months you’ve heard me talk (probably half-incoherently) about my excessive love for Mo Troper’s basement pop masterpiece, Beloved. My favorite release of 2016 thus far, for any format, the record’s been in near-constant rotation ever since the label (Good Cheer) patched over an advance copy. The thrill of that initial listen gets rekindled from the quick feedback crackle at the onset of opener “Happy Birthday” onward, at the point of nearly 100 full listens.

Literally everything about this record works. From the lo-fi-skewing production value, to the inordinate amount of hooks, to the vocal and instrumental melodies. There’s not a false note to be found anywhere on Beloved, which is paced and sequenced as masterfully as anything I’ve heard over the past 15 years. Pulling cues from classic powerop acts like Big Star and just as many from more punk-minded acts like The Replacements, Mo Troper’s landed on a sound that echoes the battered classics of contemporaries and legends alike.

Beyond the exceptionally well-composed songwriting, the lyrical narratives of Beloved feel unflinching honest in their openness. Whether Troper’s tackling heartache, bro culture, or his own anxieties, it never scans as anything less than completely sincere. In that respect, Beloved becomes one of the bravest records to emerge from the genre in recent years. By casting out sideways glances in favor of plain terminology, the record gains a large portion of its appeal by being unabashedly, terrifyingly realistic.

The lyrical strength of Beloved comes to a head in one of its starkest moments, the bass/vocals centerpiece “Somebody Special” (which arrives on the heels of “Judy Garland”, one of several songs on Beloved that could be a legitimate candidate for Song of the Year). One of the record’s most definitive moments comes at the heart of “Somebody Special” when Troper viciously takes himself apart and, in an instant, finds the strength to reconfigure:

And every boy you’ve spoiled since
has kissed you better than I ever could
It’s the big teeth and bad attitude
but I can live with that
I haven’t killed anyone yet

It’s in those moments where Beloved goes from being an unfathomably strong record to being an out-and-out genre classic (and, should time prove helpful, an outright classic). Troper stakes his heart in those moments and gifts it to anyone fortunate enough to be listening. Any of the perceived projections about Beloved being another routine run through both powerpop and sloppy, punk-leaning rock n’ roll hallmarks are eviscerated in one short passage; Beloved doesn’t just succeed in carrying out Troper’s artistic vision, it’s an immediate extension of himself, bruises and all.

Following the unforgettable devastation that “Somebody Special” provides is another run-through some of the most memorable basement pop to be released since the turn of the century. Whether that comes in the form of the anthemic punch of “Paint” and “Eighteen” or the endearing, pointed snark (and the frighteningly relatable confessions) of “Star Wars” doesn’t matter. What matters is that these songs exist in the first place because they were desperately needed.

Far too much of today’s musical landscape is taken up by fake posturing, band’s running through check marks to attempt to secure an audience, revenue, or a prized place in an emerging scene. Beloved discards literally every notion of false pretense to focus on something that chooses to embrace the unflattering nature of what it means to be human. It’s a record that’s seething with frustrations, disappointment, and a desire for something better, something more.

When Beloved finally hits its apex, with the towering eight-plus minutes of “The Biggest” (which never once repeats a section of lyrics and commendably avoids any discernible chorus) it’s genuinely breathtaking. Cutting in all of the right ways, it’s both a snarling condemnation of Troper’s own psyche and a wary treatsie on just about any form of empowerment that naturally accompanies any sort of authoritarian position (even in the most acute sense).

Beloved‘s final, minute-long song, “Teeth”, once again loops the focus back to the objects of its title, bringing out a clever metaphor more vividly. Teeth decay, teeth rot, teeth fall out, and teeth die. They’re a microcosm of what we experience as humans. Sure, there are moments where they’re cleansed, given treatment, or cared for, but their eventual collapse is inevitable. It’s an elegant, if surprisingly dark, statement but it’s firmly rooted in the reflective nature that drives so much of Beloved.

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

Listen to Beloved below and order a copy from Good Cheer here.

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

Mitski – Bury Me At Makeout Creek (Album Review, Stream, Photos, Videos)

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Mitski’s Bury Me At Makeout Creek may very well be the year’s most stunning record. A bold lead-off sentiment, sure, but one that’s entirely warranted. Mitski’s first two records, LUSH and Retired from Sad, New Career in Business, were carefully orchestrated records of an off-kilted brand of chamber pop, occasionally punctuated by shards of distorted aggression. Nearly all of it fit neatly into the traditional singer/songwriter confines while still revealing a noticeable streak of creative mischief. For her third record, Mitski’s gone and blown up her previous formula by stripping things back to their essentials and blowing them up with a madcap glee. It’s a template that serves as the formula for the strongest, boldest work of her career.

Townie” was the song to suggest that Mitski had created something truly powerful by proving the early promise of “First Love // Late Spring” was far from a fluke. “I Don’t Smoke” followed just a while after and teased the extent of the creative risk-taking packed into Bury Me At Makeout Creek. “Texas Reznikoff” sets the tone early, with a gently-picked acoustic guitar that provides a warm bed for Mitski’s mesmerizing vocals before a brief shard of feedback serves as a fleeting warning for the volcanic eruption that takes place a little past halfway through the track, providing a downright vicious ending. “Townie”, with it’s once-in-a-lifetime chorus, kicks the momentum up a few notches while keeping Bury Me At Makeout Creek impressively ragged and resoundingly fierce.

Both of those songs don’t shy away from an easily identifiable resilience, which is part of what makes most of this record so compelling in lyric copy alone. As a writer, Bury Me At Makeout Creek demonstrates Mitski’s knack for probing a well of humanity with an attention to the most acute details that suggests a rare kind of talent.  It’s something that’s especially evident in the chorus of “First Love // Late Spring”, which finds Mitski grappling with the uncertainty of love: “Please don’t say you love me” and “One word from you and I would jump off this ledge I’m on” aren’t particularly light sentiments- but Bury Me At Makeout Creek is a record unafraid of shouldering the burdens of the heaviest thoughts and emotions.

From “Francis Forever” to “Drunk Walk Home”, the record’s mid-section reveals the lengths of Mitski’s artistic growth and newfound fearlessness. “Jobless Monday” has the clearest shades of the 50’s and 60’s pop influence that appear with a careful subtlety throughout what’s a decidedly modern record, allowing a faintly psychedelic haze to elevate it into something that practically transcends genre. “I Don’t Smoke” is easily the record’s most experimental moment, bringing in a thoroughly menacing take on industrialism and seamlessly adding it into an already impressively widespread palette of influences. “Francis Forever” brings in twin guitar leads and fully reinforces that this new version of Mitski is the most personal by it’s close. While all three of those songs are great in their own right and help shape Bury Me At Makeout Creek‘s identity, it’s the record’s most confrontational moment that will drop the most jaws: “Drunk Walk Home”.

Having seen firsthand the stunned reaction of an entire room when Mitski played a blistering version of this in Chicago at Beat Kitchen just a few weeks ago, the levels of abrasion and the startling nature of “Drunk Walk Home” are impossible to ignore. “For I’m starting to learn I may never be- but though I may never be free, fuck you and your money” is as attention-ensuring of a line as anyone can possibly manage and Mitski delivers it with such a relentless conviction that by the team she ends the song with unrestrained, vocal cord-shredding screaming, it shouldn’t come as too much of a surprise. When taking into account the entirety of Bury Me At Makeout Creek up to that point has been spent putting impossibly difficult feelings under a microscope and shredding them to pieces, those screams are fully justified; they’re an act of pure exhilaration in the face of all of the mounting frustrations, uncertainties, conflicts, and unguarded emotions.

“I Will” clears the smoke left behind by “Drunk Walk Home” by virtue of restraint. It’s a truly lovely song that’s clothed in minimal trappings and a palpable tension, one that builds as the song progresses and constantly threatens to break to give way to another massive moment- but that particular explosion never comes. As a whole, it may be the strongest example of Mitski’s maturity and craftsmanship to be found on Bury Me At Makeout Creek while also serving as the perfect lead-in to “Carry Me Home”. Yet another song that could feasibly be labeled as Bury Me At Makeout Creek‘s centerpiece (something that more than half of the record could claim), “Carry Me Home” starts with an absolutely gorgeous introduction before another cataclysmic shift that feels like an unexpectedly meaningful embrace from an old friend. In that inexplicably moving burst of warmth, there’s a plea that helps define the record’s overarching sentiments; no matter how insane things get, compassion will always be needed and empathy will always be welcome- no one should have to go through life alone.

The lilting “Last Words Of A Shooting Star” closes the record out, offering up the starkest moment. Composed of nothing but Mitski’s gift of a voice, a finger-picked guitar, an ambient swell, and lyrics revolving around the most unglamorous elements of mortality, it becomes a truly arresting epilogue. When that final volume swell dies out, it’s the last piece of a brilliantly-constructed jigsaw puzzle; a grace note to cap off a series of small perfections. Everything throughout Bury Me At Makeout Creek falls into the exact right place, from the sequencing (which nearly provides an intangible secondary narrative) to the mastering, there are no false steps to be found, right down to the final bittersweet “goodbye”. All of the smallest components of Bury Me At Makeout Creek– and all of its tasteful grandeur- ring true, rendering it both a fascinating anomaly and one of the best things that’s been released in the past several years.

Bury Me At Makeout Creek is a record that deserves to be celebrated now and listened to for years to come. It’s a brave new front for one of this generation’s most exciting new artists and another massive victory for Double Double Whammy‘s win column. Tellingly, Mitski’s already released at least one excellent new song (which was recently pulled) since the completion of Bury Me At Makeout Creek, inadvertently indicating a creative restlessness that could pay massive dividends down the line. Until then, Bury Me At Makeout Creek should be held as a high-water mark that other artists would do well to look to as a source of influence and a record that critics would be well within their right to hail as what it truly is: a masterpiece.

Listen to Bury Me At Makeout Creek below and pre-order it from Double Double Whammy here. Below the player embed, watch the video sets of Mitski that originally ran in The Media and Watch This: Vol. 50 as well as previously unseen photos taken from the video shoot for The Media.

Happy Diving – Big World (Album Stream)

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A few of 2014’s most interesting releases surfaced this week and continued to expand 2014’s shockingly great output. There was Glish‘s unflinchingly heavy and absolutely monstrous self-titled shoegaze stunner, easily both one of 2014’s finest and most fascinating records. Sundials continued crafting excellent 90’s punk-indebted left-field powerpop with their Kick EP, which is also their first effort for Topshelf Records and Espectrostatic offered up the eerie, foreboding ambient psych masterpiece Escape From Witchtropolis just in time for Halloween- and some seriously great accompanying album art.  Then there was the full stream of a record that’s (rightfully) earned a lot of love on this very site: Happy Diving’s Big World.

Ever since Happy Diving came roaring into view with songs like the irresistibly charged-up “Weird Dream“, Big World has been the kind of record teeming with enough potential to elicit salivation. Now that it’s finally out in the world, all of that anticipation has been obliterated; Big World annihilates those expectations. Savage, fuzzed-out, damaged, and absolutely massive even before it hits the halfway point, it’s a record that pays off Father/Daughter Records’ early investment in the band with what’s easily one of the year’s most essential records. Sequenced and produced to perfection, even the minutiae manages to come off as enviable. Only a little over a year into their career, Happy Diving are swinging for the fences and connecting with just about everything that falls into their aim(s). Bottom line: don’t miss this and support something great while it unfolds in the present.

Listen to Big World below and pre-order it from Father/Daughter here.

Iceage – Glassy Eyed, Dormant and Veiled (Stream)

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Another day down, another long list of items to discuss. With summer officially over, it’s time to start focusing in on the fall releases. Tomorrow will see the official release of LVL UP’s Hoodwink’d, one of the year’s best records. Similarly, in a few weeks Iceage will release Plowing Into the Field of Love, a record that continues to expand on its promise in leaps and bounds. Before discussing that last point in greater detail, it’s worth mentioning that incredible new pieces of content are appearing with a regularity that’s starting to border the tenacious. Today alone saw the unveiling (or first notable coverage) of music videos from WAND, Lonesome Shack, The Wans, and an absolutely stunning effort from Cloud Castle Lake that plays with space in a manner so fascinating that it nearly earned a very lengthy write-up as today’s feature by virtue of that aspect alone. There was a very strong 7″ that surfaced from Terry & Louie, a duo composed of Terry Six and King Louie Bankston- who both formerly played in The Exploding Hearts (among many other great subsequent projects). And, as always, there were songs- including (but certainly not limited to): a hypnotic Nick Cave-assisted effort by Marianne Faithfull, the first look at Sundials’ Kick, a previously cassette-only exclusive track from AlvvaysGnarwhal‘s contribution to an upcoming four-way split that boasts some of the year’s most intriguing names, and “Audrey’s Song“- a sampling of Trophy Wife’s just-released All The Sides.

Now, onto the main event- which once again comes courtesy of Iceage. Following the excellent trio composed of “The Lord’s Favorite“, “Forever” and “How Many“, comes “Glassy Eyed, Dormant and Veiled”.  After an impressive array of combative styles that proved to be even more antagonistic that the band’s earliest material, “Glassy Eyed, Dormant and Veiled” finds the band reining things back into an unexpected level of restraint, showing an admirable self-awareness that suggests a talent for composition well beyond their years. Recalling an alternately nightmarish Henry’s Dream with this particular at bat, Iceage have managed to definitively establish a creative growth that should pay massive dividends for them once Plowing Into the Field of Love is revealed in full. Guitars course, the prose rages, and the rhythm section manages to be more imposing than ever before. Importantly, it also enhances the band’s newfound penchant for Southern Gothic to an extent that’s, arguably, even more fully-formed than “How Many”.

While it’s still too early to declare it a bona fide masterwork, everything that the four preview tracks have shown, in one way or another, suggests that may be exactly how Plowing Into the Field of Love will come to be defined. If Plowing Into the Field of Love is rounded out by songs that live up to “Glassy Eyed, Dormant and Veiled” (or any of the other three that have been released) and Iceage continues to make music that sounds this brave and timeless, they may wind up being one of this generation’s most celebrated bands. Whatever does wind up happening when Iceage is allowed their big moment, it’ll be worth paying very close attention to- this has already demonstrated the potential to be a watershed moment. “Glassy Eyed, Dormant and Veiled” is just another running step forward towards a full-on cliff dive and if the take-off is as spectacular as the song, we’re all in for one hell of a ride.

Listen to “Glassy Eyed, Dormant and Veiled” below and pre-order Plowing Into the Field of Love here.

Iceage – Forever (Music Video)

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The past few days have been outstanding for unmitigated ambiguity. No less than three of the best songs of 2014-so-far have emerged, each tinged with at least a small tendency towards the unforgivingly bleak. Baltimore’s rightfully-celebrated Roomrunner (somehow) wound up being the lightest of the three by virtue of allowing in a stronger pop influence on their outstanding new single, “Chrono Trigger“. Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds cemented their status as one of the most consistently brilliant bands of all time with an outtake from last year’s mesmerizing Push the Sky Away that’s being featured in the undoubtedly extraordinary quasi-documentary that centers around Cave, 20,000 Days on Earth. Between those two, it almost seemed impossible that anything else would land today’s feature spot- until Iceage released their jaw-dropping song-video combination for “Forever”, the next gigantic stride in an ongoing evolution that “The Lord’s Favorite” kicked off in spectacular fashion a little over a month ago.

While “Forever” doesn’t have the subtle optimism of “The Lord’s Favorite”, it keeps their trademark tension in tact, while allowing the band to stretch out a little more than usual. In an almost too-coincidental twist, it’s as if the band’s picked up the primordial nightmarish post-punk that characterized Nick Cave’s earliest works. Arriving with an accompanying note detailing the band’s upcoming record, Plowing Into the Field of Love (due out on Matador in a little over a month), “Forever” becomes the record’s second song to suggest that this could be a game-changing record for the landscapes of popular taste. While the song sears, broods, and brutalizes with the absolute best of them, it’s the visually stunning Pattinama Coleman-directed video that winds up pushing the whole thing into the sublime. Getting maximum effect out of a decidedly minimal approach is never an easy task to accomplish but “Forever” winds up pulling it off with ease. Whether that’s because of the band members’ natural charisma, damaged magnetism, a cavalcade of genuinely arresting looks, or the noir-ish presentation is impossible to say- but there’s something with an undeniable, intrinsic pull that centers “Forever” which suggests that this band has a greater grip on their identity than just about anyone else right now.

When the song’s closing minutes kick in and the video pulls back to an old man that seemed oddly intrusive during his first appearance inspired some of the fiercest chills to be provided by any music video this year. If “Forever” is topped by any song on Plowing Into the Field of Love, it’ll warrant consideration for Album of the Year honors. All that’s left to do now is wait in earnest, to see if the record can live up to its first two offerings. With the way things have been playing out, there’s reason to believe that’ll be the case.

Watch “Forever” below and pre-order Plowing Into the Field of Love from Matador, before it comes out on October 6, here.

We Need Secrets – How You Remember (Stream)

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At the end of last month, We Need Secrets (the project of Halifax-based Chad Peck) released Melancholy and The Archive, a shoegaze-heavy debut LP that’s been four years in the making. Anytime that amount of time’s invested in a single release, expectations are going to be considerably heightened. Fortunately, Melancholy and The Archive immediately obliterates any lingering doubts with its scorched-earth opener “How You Remember”.

Ferocious and delicate in equal measure, the oneiric “How You Remember” demonstrates Peck’s near-alarming levels of understanding in regards to genre, composition, and control. Even from the record’s first few seconds, a brief stretch of quiet ambient noise that gets obliterated when everything kicks in, it’s evident that there’s something rare happening with the music in Melancholy and The Archive. Effortlessly commanding attention, Peck (who plays next to every instrument throughout the record) holds nothing back from the get-go, going full-throttle and never letting up over the course of the record. It’s a wonder his name’s not one that’s gained greater familiarity, which is a possibility that’s not entirely out of the question if We Need Secrets is consistently held to a standard this fully-realized.

Listen to “How You Remember” below and then let the rest of the record play through- it’s easily one of 2014’s most stunning surprises. Order it here.