Heartbreaking Bravery

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Tag: arresting

Iceage – Forever (Music Video)

iceage

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.

PUP – Guilt Trip (Music Video)

They did it again. Emphatically. It’s been a while since a band made music videos this consistently great that were so separated stylistically. First, there was the relentless, cathartic bloodshed of “Reservoir” [which I named the best music video of 2013 over at PopMatters]. That was then followed by the one-shot video for “Lionheart” that undoubtedly hit a personal nerve for a lot of people. Somewhere along the way, PUP was finally released internationally and the band started picking up the wider recognition it deserved. Even with all of that taken into consideration, the band may have outdone themselves with the utterly stunning “Guilt Trip” music video.

Enhancing the cinematic elements of their previous clips tenfold, it tells an unlikely origin story that’s as visceral as it is bleakly compelling. Chandler Levack and Jeremy Schaulin-Rioux take the helm as the directing team and fill each frame with a sense of purpose to the point that it’s almost jarring, as that’s a style that’s increasingly fallen out of practice in the format as of late. Additionally, from the gorgeous first shot all the way through to the last, this is some of the best cinematography to have emerged this year in any format. From bullying to underage drinking to blood pacts to a dead cop to the most perfect conflict resolution imaginable, every single new scene and development lands with as much impact as the visuals themselves (keep an eye out for the images that happen in a silent, tension-filled interim, they’re among the most arresting of the past few years).

By the time the brilliant epilogue shot hits, acting as both a summary and a metaphor, it’ll be easy to feel absolutely spent. An entire adolescense, from the most harrowing moments to the most zealously joyful, can be found in these three minutes and 50 seconds. The way these images are presented resonates so profoundly that it’s almost difficult to separate them from real memories. Perfectly realized and featuring four unbelievably strong performances from its young cast, “Guilt Trip” doesn’t just have a shot at being the best video of this year- but one of the best of the decade.

Watch “Guilt Trip” below and relive the highs and lows of childhood all over again.

Clap Your Hands Say Yeah – As Always (Music Video)

Clap Your Hands Say Yeah -

Clap Your Hands Say Yeah have endured one of the stranger career arcs of recent memory but, thankfully, that hasn’t stopped them from making music. If the backlash and critical comedown they faced after the buzz from their much-adored self-titled debut had deterred them, they wouldn’t be on the verge of releasing what looks to be a fairly incredible record. The band had already shared a track featuring The National’s Matt Berninger which didn’t skimp on scuzz, which is a trend that continues on “As Always”. Additionally, they’ve released an alluring music video to accompany “As Always” that accentuates the song’s sense of unease to near-perfection.

Anchored by an engaging central performance from Will Daniels, the David M. Helman-directed clip blurs the boundaries between the naturalistic and surreal to great effect. Tracking the protagonist through a night on the town that’s filled with a quiet discontentment, it manages to become both a frightening character study as well as a cautionary warning. With the atmosphere of the clip heightened by the decision to present much of its arresting imagery through hazy exteriors, it becomes a magnetic force through its artfully positioned movements. By the climactic finish, just how harrowing everything that preceded it becomes clear- and everyone involved has something they have every right to be proud of.

Watch “As Always” below and make sure to pick up the band’s forthcoming album, Only Run, when it’s self-released on June 3.

Watch This: Vol. 19

No, this isn’t some sort of high-level deception designed to trick someone into thinking today is Sunday. It’s not. So why’s this the first Watch This to get a Saturday feature? The answer’s pretty simple, actually. It’s hard to write an article on a drive from central WI to Minneapolis. It’s probably even harder to get one in when a Perfect Pussy show is going on, especially when The Miami Dolphins and Condominium are the supporting acts. Coverage of that will be arriving shortly after the fact but it will take up most of Sunday- hence the early Watch This post. Now, since the consistency of just about everything has been thrown into total disarray by something as harmless as logic, this Watch This will be making a fleet little sidestep as well; the emphasis will be placed largely on acoustic (or practically acoustic) performances from singer-songwriters worth knowing- though there is one notable exception. With all that in mind, kick back, relax, plug in, turn up, do whatever needs doing, and start Saturday off on the right foot. Seriously, Watch This.

1. Mean Creek – My Madeline (Wondering Sound)

Mean Creek have been making a dent in all of the right places recently and if the subsequent attention they’re receiving because of it is phasing them, it’s really not showing. Here, they take to Wondering Sound (a relatively new site that’s finding themselves in a similar position by virtue of an enviable cast of writers and a fair amount of eclecticism) to perform a stripped-down version of “My Madeline”. It’s easy to see what an increasing number of people are getting worked up over; this is great music evoking decades of American classics at just the right time.

2. Kevin Devine – Bubblegum (BalconyTV)

2013 was a busy year for Kevin Devine- the man released two full-lengths and was touring incessantly. Recently, Devine took to a wintry balcony to perform a ballad version of the title track from Bubblegum, one of that pair of releases (and one of the year’s best). While it doesn’t quite reach the heights of his performance of “Brother’s Blood” at Banquet Records, not much does. It’s still miles above what most others toiling around in that genre are doing and well worth a few watches. Get on it.

3. Small Houses – Revel, Revel (GemsOnVHS)

There are few performers anyone can hope to come across that are as arresting as Jeremy Quentin, who performs under the moniker Small Houses- sometimes with a band, sometimes on his lonesome. Having seen him perform both solo and with a band to very different crowds (once was a very intimate living room show, the other as the first act on a bill that included Tenement and Used Kids), it’s easy to testify to his raw natural talent and innate ability to draw in just about anyone. “Revel, Revel”, lensed lovingly by GemsOnVHS, is even more proof of this and confirms Quentin as one of the best folk artists this generation has to offer.

4. Mutual Benefit – C.L. Rosarian (Bruxelles Ma Belle)

Love’s Crushing Diamond was one of last year’s small delights, a sprawling record full of intricately woven tapestries that comforted as much as they provided pause. It was an extended moment of stunning clarity and found people rallying around it with dedication so fierce it became inspirational. In this video, Jordan Lee and his touring companions present a downright gorgeous version of “C.L. Rosarian”, hitting one grace note after another. By the video’s end it’s transformed from a performance to something more transcendent and inexplicably moving; something to get completely lost in after being enveloped by its embrace.

5. Cheatahs (KEXP)

The KEXP performances that have really jumped out and held the viewer/listener in a stranglehold since Cloud Nothings perfected what could be done with the format have been few and far between. For their part, Cheatahs make one of the more valiant efforts that small studio room has seen since that nearly two-years old session and nearly pull it off. While the final stretch does lose some of the session’s early momentum, the entire thing’s still incredibly impressive and more than enough to crash its way into this volume of Watch This. Keep an eye out for this band, they may have just enough elements working in their favor to do some serious damage.

Silence Dogood – Chairman of the Bored (Stream)

Chairman Of The Bored

Michigan power trio Silence Dogood have been stealthily cranking out incendiary lo-fi scuzz pop EP’s since 2012’s Sound of Silence. Master of Puppets (the band’s stock and trade lies in tongue-in-cheek appropriation)  is the band’s 10th (yes, 1oth) EP and opening track “Chairman of the Bored” sees them taking their apathetic nihilism to new heights. It’s not unfamiliar territory for a band who frequently finds their feet firmly planted in reactionary status. What it does do, however, is grab the listeners attention. Immediately.

“Chairman of the Bored” opens with some quick guitar stabs before guitarist and vocalist Cameron Mahoney makes a startling announcement. Those opening lines? “Me and my friends make our own rules- we burn down churches and piss off schools- and we’ll burn you too.” And he’s only just getting started. As the song grows darker, so does the lyrical content, hitting an apex with the couplet “some smartass kid made fun of my town/chained him to my truck and showed him around” before following it with a characteristically bored and detached delivery on “who’s laughing now?”

Mahoney’s lyrics have always been startling and one of the band’s strongest selling points. “Chairman of the Bored” definitely raises the stakes on their unpredictability though, definitely proving that their is no topic or character narrative they’re afraid to tackle. Their brand of post-punk works in tandem with that aspect of their music as a perfect complement. By striking a balance between contrast and accentuation they’ve landed on something weirdly irresistible.

Hear “Chairman of the Bored” below and remember that presentation isn’t always glorification. Seriously.