Heartbreaking Bravery

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Tag: Bad Bad Hats

Wicker Park Fest 2016 (Pictorial Review)

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A few weekends back, Chicago quietly hosted one of the most stacked festivals of the summer. While Pitchfork (understandably) got the bulk of attention, it was Wicker Park Fest that offered the best deal. For a suggested $10 donation, any interested parties could explore a wide variety of vendors and take in three stages worth of acts like Diet Cig, The Coathangers, PUP, Yeesh, Pile, Jeff Rosenstock, The Mountain Goats, Rocket From the Crypt, Ought, Alvvays, Cloakroom, Bad Bad Hats, and so many more.

I arrived late into day one, hoping to catch the end of The Sidekicks’ set. By the time I’d entered the grounds, the band was already packed up and the weather had begun to turn ominous. Less than ten minutes into walking through the gates, a torrential downpour erupted and caused several attendees (myself included) to take shelter in the warm, familiar confines of Reckless Records.

It was a surreal scene inside the store with people lined up to see the storm demolishing vendors’ tents outside, Christmas music being played over the store’s system, and people frantically checking for updates on the status of the festival. For a brief moment, the power went out. No one was sure what the next steps would be and nearly everyone was keeping their fingers crossed for the storm to blow over definitively enough to allow for the scheduled headliners sets.

Fortunately, the storm did wind up receding and, as a result, I got to catch an abbreviated six-song set from Jeff Rosenstock (one of the highlights of the festival, even in that small window) and a solid set from The Mountain Goats. While there were some sound issues that plagued The Mountain Goats set, there wasn’t much else to complain about. Both acts were very tight (particularly Rosenstock, whose entire band played with the kind of explosive, pent-up energy that seemed to be as cathartic for them as it was for the audience) and either won the crowd over, played into their hands, or both.

After arriving well before any of the stages hosted any bands on day two, it was easy to see that storm from the preceding night hadn’t dampened the festival’s spirit. One of the School of Rock acts officially kicked things off, alternating members and making their way through a set of crowd-pleasing covers. Not too long after they’d begun, KO took the south stage and unleashed an inspired set that created more than a few converts while sounding spectacular in an outdoor festival setting.

While all of that was happening outside, Double Door was wisely hosting the ancillary Fuck Fest, which featured more than two dozen bands, inside. The venue exists inside of the festival grounds, allowing Fuck Fest to take on new life. When the heat and humidity started bordering the unbearable, Fuck Fest offered a nice reprieve from the swirling mass of bodies outside while still offering up a solid selection of (mostly local) acts.

At Zero was the first band I managed to catch at Fuck Fest and they tore through a tightly-wound set on the main stage that energized the crowd inside the venue. Right outdoors on the south stage, Spaceblood was confidently making their way through a set that drew in a large crowd, heavily featured a merchandise hype man (who promoted the band’s salsa, handed out chips, and threw out Ziploc bags of a terrifying substance called “space goo” which children were warned not to eat), and left the bass/drum duo — who are heavily inspired by Lightning Bolt — understandably exhausted.

Kodakrome was up next on Double Door’s basement stage and the duo-turned-trio did not disappoint. Last year the band put out an extremely promising demo and later expanded those two tracks into a full-blown EP. They’ve been hard at work ever since and their dedication shows in a live setting. Guitarist/vocalist Aaron Ehinger’s a commanding stage presence, exuding a confident calm that manages to be at odds with the band’s hyper-spastic approach to basement punk but also somehow fits perfectly.

Several yards from Double Door’s entrance, The Brokedowns were flying through a powerful set and reaffirming their status as one of Chicago’s great punk bands. Nothing was off limit for their banter, either, which was highlighted by an extended riff about the Costco communion wafers (which were thrown into the audience). As the band kept their charge lively, Bad Bad Hats were finding their groove across the festival grounds on the south stage. The trio’s Psychic Reader was one of 2015’s most pleasant surprises and the band more than lived up to that record’s irrepressible charm in the live setting.

Towards the end of Bad Bad Hats’ set, site favorites Cloakroom were launching into their own set at full power. Slow, heavy, and smothering, the trio were undoubtedly a force but couldn’t help feeling a little out of place in the sweltering midday heat (they’re best suited for darkness). Slow Mass kicked off the proceedings at the center stage (which had been outright cancelled on day one, following the storm) with gusto, blazing through an impressive set of hairpin turns and overwhelming tenacity.

Anyone that frequented this site in 2015 more than likely saw a sizable amount of coverage dedicated to Diet Cig‘s live show and the duo were in exceptional form down at the south stage. Guitarist/vocalist (and principal songwriter) Alex Luciano is now running her telecaster through a split amp system and the additional heaviness rounds the band’s sound out nicely. They tore through old favorites and a select handful of incredible new material (with the obvious highlight being their first “slow jam”) and brought all of the rambunctious energy that’s turned them into unlikely critical darlings.

Not too long after Diet Cig’s powerhouse set, another vicious storm intruded on the festival and made its presence known with an unexpected vengeance. Before long, the wind had hit a velocity powerful enough to literally derail a train from the blue line. As vendors were watching their tents get lost to the wind, Fuck Fest found a new influx of fresh blood due to the inclement weather. Inside Emporium, there was a power outage. Inside the Double Door, Montrose Man were turning all kinds of heads in the basement with an extraordinary set that posited the trio as one of Chicago’s finest emerging acts and a very real candidate for the city’s next breakthrough success story.

Pinto saw the audience inside Double Door grow close to capacity and impressed most of the new arrivals with a sound that fell somewhere between Joy Division and Manchester Orchestra. The band provided a nice moment of grace to a growing amount of anxiety among concerned festivalgoers who were keeping a wary eye on the storm that was threatening to derail more than just blue line trains. Fortunately, for just about everyone, the weather cleared. Unfortunately, the set times for PUP, Pile, Yeesh, and more became casualties of the maelstrom that seemed poised to decimate the festival.

Alvvays and Ought headlined the center and south stages at nearly simultaneous times. As maybe the most intense scheduling conflict of the entire festival, the prospect of Ought on a small, outdoor stage won me over to their side (as well as a well-documented love for the quartet). The band rewarded that decision with a set that unfurled in rapid succession, hitting an apex as “Men For Miles” practically bled into “Beautiful Blue Sky” (which was one of this site’s picks for the best songs of 2015). They sounded tight and seemed relieved to be playing after getting a scare from the weather as well as dealing with travel cancellations, delays, and a series of other mishaps. I think I can speak for their crowd when I say that we were happy they got to play as well.

Shortly after the band wrapped up “Beautiful Blue Sky”, I went over to the swirling mass of bodies that had set up camp in front of the south stage for Alvvays, whose winsome penchants were on full display. The band were mixed beautifully and played with an easy confidence that only served to make them even more impossibly likable. After a few songs, I turned back to Ought and caught strains of the band hitting a climactic moment, spurring me towards the band with a fervor before the opening notes of “Archie, Marry Me” stopped me in my tracks.

Caught between Ought getting swept up in the moment and Alvvays’ seemingly perfect rendition of one of the best songs of this current decade, it became the definitive moment of what makes festivals like Wicker Park Fest so beautiful. For little cost, the organizers managed to further enliven local institutions and give back to the area by facilitating extraordinary examples of what can be accomplished with the right beliefs. Around every corner, there could be something unforgettable happening. No matter which direction anyone turns, it’s easy to find victories on a multitude of scales. Even caught between those moments can provide a level of gratitude and clarity that no amount of money could purchase.

As Ought and Alvvays both tore down, Fuck Fest was still going strong inside Double Door. At that point in the night, the festival started leaning even more heavily towards their emo-leaning acts (a trait that seemed to be a common running thread) but still found a way to offer plenty of variety. Of all of the bands that I managed to catch in the aftermath of Wicker Park Fest, legitimate standouts came in the form of Typesetter, whose emphatically-mean-every-word set felt refreshingly sincere and provided the band with a well-deserved spotlight moment. Easily one of the strongest post-Wicker Park Fest sets belonged to Salvation, a noise/punk trio that skyrocketed the levels of energy, feedback, and general viciousness.

Of everything that I saw during the festival’s run nothing was more impressive than the moment Salvation’s bassist (who looked to be several years older than the other two members) found his foot catching the load-in steps of the stage at an angle that sent him somersaulting backwards down the small staircase, bass in tow. He never stopped playing. After the fall, he righted himself (still attempting to play as the cable cut in and out), stormed back up to the stage, and began swinging his bass around in an effort to create as much noise as possible. The song ended, staff and audience alike made sure he was okay, the cable was replaced, and the band carried on like nothing had happened.

A few songs later, Salvation were done and I was too exhausted to continue. The band had provided a perfect, chaotic ending to a weekend full of sudden changes, ambiguous directions, and oscillating levels of comfort. They’d also given one of the best sets of the two days. Feeling fully satisfied and more than a little overwhelmed, it felt like the perfect time to end a weekend full of challenges, madness, nerves, and inspiration. See you next year, Wicker Park Fest.

Look through a gallery of the festival below and keep an eye on the Heartbreaking Bravery YouTube channel for live captures from the festival.

 

 

2015: A Year’s Worth of Memories (Amanda Dissinger)

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Photograph by Dean Stafford

I don’t actually remember how I first met Amanda Dissinger but I’ve become increasingly grateful for that moment. Ever since that initial introduction, she’s been ceaselessly supportive of just about everything I’ve decided to do and has been a constant voice of reason. It’s why whenever I travel, I take the gorgeous collection of poetry she released last year, This Is How I Will Tell You I Love You, with me as a road companion. We call each other “the best” in an eternal loop with no trace of irony. If she sends me a promotional email for one of the several artists she does publicity for at Terrorbird Media, there’s a decent chance it’ll just devolve into a long string of short email blasts about what’s happening in our lives. For a very brief time, we shared door duties at Baby’s All Right and allowed ourselves to be inspired by the surroundings it offered. Not just one of my favorite authors but one of my absolute favorite people, it’s an honor to be hosting her writing on this site. Below, she tackles a night with Dilly Dally and Julien Baker that rekindled her love for the city where she resides. Read it below and then find a reason to celebrate your own surroundings.

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2015 was a weird year for me. I wrote a book, fell in love, moved to a new apartment, recovered from a weird mysterious muscle illness, and got to work with many rad bands in my full time job. I made new friends, I lost friends, I traveled all over the country, etc. etc. Though it may sound cliché, music is mostly what got me through it all. This year, I got to see some of my very favorite acts in the whole world- from my high school loves Death Cab for Cutie, new favorites like Weaves, and dozens of amazing bands that I do press for from Heaters to Total Makeover to Keeps, and friends’ bands like Big Ups and Charly Bliss.

I got to travel to Toronto for NXNE (by myself) and become immersed in the awesome scene there that’s spearheaded by the amazing Buzz Records and bands like Odonis Odonis, Greys, and Dilly Dally (more on them later). I went with coworkers to Raleigh, NC for Hopscotch Festival and while I had no expectations going in about the town, I became enamored with it, and with its diverse venues and friendly natives. I fell head over heels for Austin, TX and the lively music scene there, encouraged by my boyfriend, a wonderful musician, and the venues he frequents- Cheer Up Charlies, The Mohawk, and Barbarella (for dancing to ’80s music only).

However, this year in music can be best summed up by one cold night in November, when I got to see two of my favorite new artists perform in a back-to-back marathon concert night. In 2015, all of my favorite albums were released by females or female-fronted bands. I loved Carly Rae Jepsen’s whimsical Emotion, the ass-kicking albums by Bully, All Dogs, and Hop Along, and the catchy-as-hell releases from Bad Bad Hats and Laura Stevenson. Above all though, two albums that represented the polarity of my feelings — and the two that I loved the most — were Julien Baker’s Sprained Ankle (representing my vulnerable, emotional and nostalgic self) and Dilly Dally’s blistering, raucous Sore, showcasing the assertive, in-your-face person that I aspire to be.

Miraculously, I got to see four of the artists that made my favorite albums in one week in November in a way that only New York sometimes operates- Tuesday: Bad Bad Hats at Baby’s All Right, Wednesday: Carly Rae Jepsen at Irving Plaza, and Saturday: Dilly Dally at Baby’s, followed by Julien Baker at Mercury Lounge. Though I was recovering from a gnarly cold that week, I still absolutely 100% needed to run around like a chicken with my head cut off and see both of these artists responsible for music that touched me so deeply.

Before that night, I had seen Dilly Dally about three times since 2013. My friends in Toronto who run the aforementioned Buzz Records release constantly hypnotizing and brave music from incredible bands (like all the ones I mentioned above- Weaves, Greys, Odonis and Odonis, as well as bands like The Beverleys, HSY, and so many more). They are all smart, incredibly nice and wonderful people. They’re also my favorite label and everything they touch turns to gold.

By now most people have heard the thrilling ’90s tinged Sore, and I’ve probably listened to it about 1000 times since its release in October. I was thrilled to see a headlining set from them after the album release, especially since I only caught a bit of them at CMJ at like 1am at Santos Party House. At Baby’s, they were at their best, impressing the really large and enthralled crowd who packed the small, sweaty room to hear melodic yet hard-edged tracks like “Green” (one of my favorites since their 7” of it), the pulsating “Desire”, and “Purple Rage”.

I caught most of their set and hopped over on the train with a few people I ran into at the show to see Julien Baker, whose album absolutely devastated me like nothing else I can remember, both on first listen and the many subsequent listens. Singing about addiction, heartbreak, and loneliness, Sprained Ankle stops you in your tracks- after I heard the whole thing in mid-October, I couldn’t listen to anything else.

Once Baker started her set at Mercury Lounge that night, the crowd went so silent that you could hear a feather drop in the room. Her songs were filled with lust and love and memories and I stopped breathing, I’m sure. Her songs are meandering and honest and fearless. In one of my favorites, “Everybody Does”, she sings “you’re gonna run/it’s alright everybody does/you’re gonna run when you find out who I am.” Though her set was too short, I was already 100% certain that everyone I know needed to see her live and hear her album and I am 100% certain that her performance broke my heart.

While it’s a bit sappy, the night reminded me of the reason why I moved to New York. Though I’m still relatively young, I recently lost interest in going out as much as I did when I was 19 or 20 and hopping to two or three shows a night. I felt alienated from the crowd and from the people around me, people who I used to be friends with and see all the time. Before that night, I would go out, stay at a show for an hour or so and immediately go home, lonely and disinterested.

That night in November reminded me of why New York can be so magical, and it gave me something I really needed. It made me realize that sometimes cool things don’t have to be terrible, and sometimes things can change, and the music, the people, and you can all be better than ever.

-Amanda Dissinger

Watch This: Vol. 109

Since the preceding post covered the time lapse between the last run of Watch This and tonight’s posts, this introductory paragraph will lean slightly harder on the material that’s actually come out in that interim. Two weeks can feel like an overwhelming amount of time when faced with the endless expanse of releases in any format and the live video is no exception. It can occasionally be difficult to narrow down these selections to just five when considering them all, which was the case this week as worthy efforts surfaced from the following artists: Shopping, Hooton Tennis Club, Ed Schrader’s Music Beat, Bad Bad Hats, Kurt Vile, Flavor Crystal, Hinds, Joanna Newsom, Courtney Barnett, FIDLAR, Fury Things, Black Box  Revelation, Eliot Sumner, Low, Glen Hansard, Martin Courtney, Deaf Wish, Raury, Zanders, Six Organs of Admittance, Oscar, Protomartyr, Palm, Sun Club, Julia Holter, Woozy, Caleb and Carolyn, The Tambourine Girls, Little May, Forever Pavot, Mellow Diamond, why+the+wires, Iguana Death Cult, and Okkervil River. Obviously, with a list like that, the below selections are comprised of clips that truly managed to stand out, for one reason or another. So, as always, lean in, relax, adjust the volume, and Watch This.

1. Car Seat Headrest (KEXP)

Car Seat Headrest was another band from 2015 that had gained previous traction and capitalized in blinding fashion, showing a complete disregard for the thought of looking back. Understandably, KEXP invited them into their studio for a session and the band delivered one of 2015’s most towering sets in recent memory. At a monstrous running time that exceeds most full-length efforts, it’s actually a fairly intimidating ask- or, it would be if the music (and performance) wasn’t so immediately likable. Will Toledo’s got an enviable gift for pop songwriting and for subverting expectations, leading the charge in a session that more than justifies the swirling interest surrounding the band.

2. Dilly Dally (BreakThruRadio)

If this site’s love for Dilly Dally hasn’t been made abundantly clear by now, this very sentence will probably at least give you a small indication. After torching the stages of Santos Party House and Baby’s All Right during CMJ, the band’s kept pace with their music and maintained a deliriously frantic touring schedule. All of that time playing out is paying off, tightening the screws on their already-formidable live show. It’s evident in every live clip that surfaces, including this revealing session with BreakThruRadio that includes some endearing interview segments. Turn it up and fall in love.

3. The Lumes – Nervous + Satan (The Daily Indie)

Every so often, a relatively unknown band crops up on my radar and blows me away with how complete they seem and The Lumes definitely qualifies as one of those bands. A lightly menacing post-punk trio that excels in atmospheric work, they’ve managed to carve out a thoughtful identity that feels more singular than it should just two releases into their career. Here, they perform vicious takes on “Nervous” and “Satan”, the tracks that bookend their outstanding Lust EP. The trio gives their all in both performances and ultimately secures a spot on this installment of Watch This thanks to their overwhelming strength.

4. Woozy – Hush (Little Elephant)

It’s been a while since Little Elephant’s hosted a session as strong as the one Woozy’s provided, committing another jewel to that particular crown with this committed take on “Hush”. Marrying genres with ease and integrating surprisingly explosive moments in fits and starts, “Hush” may actually be one of the band’s most definitive songs. Leaning heavily into their post-punk and grunge angles, they still find ways to surprise in territory that’s generally far more straightforward. Ultimately, it’s another extremely impressive showing from a band that seems surprisingly determined to top themselves with each successive outing.

5. Bandit – The Drive Home + Dragon (Audiotree)

Closing out this run of Watch This is a performance that feels like a genuine finale, courtesy of Bandit’s beautiful renditions of two Of Life‘s highlights: “The Drive Home” and “Dragon”. The former of those two songs received one of the most gorgeous music videos of the year and has the capacity to overwhelm listeners with genuine feeling, amplifying atmospheric currents as it progresses. “Dragon” is a track that operates in a similar vein and, packaged together, they manage to elevate each other’s best qualities, which is why- in spite of a deeply impressive full session– this performance is being highlighted individually. Exemplifying all of Bandit’s finest qualities as both a band and as a live act, Audiotree struck gold with the band’s turn-in of these two songs, leaving behind something that the studio might be talking about for quite some time.

Saintseneca – River (Music Video)

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Yesterday’s post covered a lot of music video content from the past few weeks and this one expands where that one left off, touching on the remainder of that content. As was the case in that post, a list of titles will be included underneath this post’s featured video: Saintseneca‘s “River”. With the release of Such Things rapidly approaching, the band’s in mid-swing as far as their rollout campaign is concerned- and while the momentum they’re building is drawing to its inevitable conclusion as a knockout blow, it’s worth taking a moment to appreciate the finesse in the execution of the arc. “River”, as a clip, is a particularly graceful moment that allows the band to slip in a meta-narrative about the band’s personal growth.

Going back to a DIY visual aesthetic reminiscent of old VHS movies and evoking a strong sense of nostalgia, “River” also features a lot of subjects in perpetual motion. Largely comprised of BMX and skateboard footage, the clip subtly hints at the larger looming thematic elements of the record that Zac Little exhaustively detailed in an interview with Stereogum. It’s a simple clip that acts more as meditation than as story and it’s oddly elegant, underscoring the band’s newfound rough-hewn spikiness. Gnarled and beautiful, it’s an effective piece of work that stands out as one of the year’s more deceptively thoughtful clips. Now bust out a bike or a skateboard and take advantage of the weather while it’s still nice.

Watch “River” below and pre-order Such Things from ANTI- ahead of its release here. Below the video explore a few of the format’s more memorable entries from the past two weeks.

Ought – Sun’s Coming Down
Sleepy Hahas – Deep River
Bad Bad Hats – Shame
Tuff Sunshine – Rattlin’ Man
PWR BTTM – 1994
Diet Cig – Sleep Talk
Surrender the Spirit – Control
Deerhunter – Breaker
Wavves – Way Too Much
Woolen Men – Temporary Monument
Cuntz – Nah Man
Society – Protocol
Speedy Ortiz – Swell Content
Toro Y Moi – Half Dome
The Miami Dolphins – Drooling
Salad Boys – First Eight
Allison Weiss – Who Are We
PUJOL – Sleepy Doni
Baroness – Chlorine & Wine
Inheaven – Bitter Town
The Stavves – Steady
Yassou – To Sink
Shelf Life – Sinking Just Right
Fort Lean – Might’ve Misheard
Dam Gila – History
Kafka Tamura – Lullabies
Hammock – Blankets of Night

Watch This: Vol. 91

Hard to believe that there already have been 91 segments of Watch This, but here we are- another week in and five more live clips to feature. For this particular run, full sets get the bulk of the attention while a site favorite and a new name to both this series and this site round things out. Courtney Barnett has been awarded enough spots here over the past few months so we’ll forego featuring yet another incredible turn-in from the rising songwriter to make way for some fresher faces. Barnett led a small but formidable pack of artists who just missed the cut this week, a list that included Elvis Depressedly, Bad Bad Hats, Iceage (x2), Small Feet, lowercase roses, and Hailey Wocjik. All of those, of course, are worth your time and (as is increasingly the case with live videos) deserve more attention than they’re getting. Watch them now or save them for later but make sure you reel in the five clips below because they all boast something inherently special happening on either side of the lens. So, as always, grab a snack, settle in, adjust your screen, focus up, and Watch This.

1. Bellows (WKNC)

Appearing just after a knockout set at Baby’s All Right, this WKNC session finds Oliver Kalb delivering a beautiful solo session of the songs he writes under the moniker Bellows. Frail, unassuming, and utterly captivating, the four songs contained in the clip wield a certain intangible quality that immediately transforms this particular performance into one of the most arresting WKNC has ever produced. Kalb’s vocal tendencies (soft, wavering) bring to mind Sufjan Stevens but where Stevens so frequently opts for grandeur- even in his more intimate moments- Kalb keeps things pinned to a mundane reality. By the time each song’s been sung, both Kalb and WKNC wind up with a staple deserving of a proud placement in their respective canons.

2. Ego Death – Sunlight/Graveyard (Radio K)

No matter how many times it happens, there are few things that can compare to the exhilarating wave of excitement that hits upon discovering a new band that immediately crosses off a long list of preference check marks. Punk attitude, guitar scuzz, nods to the spikier wave of late 80’s and early 90’s alternative genres, and a strong basement pop sensibility are all big ones for this site and Ego Death makes their way through each with ease in this performance of “Sunlight/Graveyard” for Radio K. Gruff, fearless, and extremely dynamic, this is a band to watch and a song worth hearing. You know what to do.

3. Disco Doom (Exploding In Sound)

Having wrapped an extraordinarily successful extended weekend showcase (keep an eye on this site for more on that soon), Exploding In Sound Records is sitting pretty high at the moment. One of the band’s most fascinating acquisitions, Disco Doom, couldn’t make it stateside for the affair but the label continuously showers them with an excess for love. The reasoning behind that devotion becomes abundantly clear to anyone who has the good fortune of familiarizing themselves with the band- or even to anyone who so much as bothers to click play on this video. All of the hallmarks that create a common thread between the Exploding In Sound roster are evident but the band also brings in more than a few nods to bands like Pavement and Dinosaur Jr, immediately carving out a select niche spot in the process. Don’t sleep on this one.

4. Screaming Females – Normal (Razorcake)

Over the past few years, site favorites Screaming Females have essentially become the patron saints of DIY punk. Throw in the fact that they’re an incomparably fierce live act and it’s probably not much of a surprise they’ve appeared on this series with a relative regularity since it kicked off. While a few of those clips have been absolutely stunning in terms of execution, there’s something that just feels right about a DIY clip of the trio in action. Razorcake– one of the premier spots for DIY coverage- recently caught the band in action at the rightfully celebrated Vince Lombardi High School (or, more commonly, VLHS) ripping through Castle Talk highlight “Normal” with their usual verve and fervor. It’s also easily one of the best live representations of the band to date.

5. Ty Segall (3voor12)

A lot of digital ink’s been spilled over the complete levels of insanity that animate Ty Segall’s live show (especially when it’s with Ty Segall Band, as it is here) and all of it’s correct. I was fortunate enough to catch the band on their Slaughterhouse tour, which was pushed even further and felt more like a gleefully indulgent victory lap after Segall and his cohorts capped off a monstrous year that saw the release of no less than three highly acclaimed full-lengths (SlaughterhouseTwnis, and the White Fence collaborative effort Hair). Segall’s just about kept pace since then, only offering a reprieve in advance of a titanic double-album- last year’s excellent Manipulator– and the live shows have managed to grow even more deliriously fierce. With such a huge catalog to pull from, Segall and his band (which includes Mikal Cronin, one of today’s finest songwriters), just about any one of his/their sets could be called “discography spanning” and not even touch on half of the releases. This set, artfully shot by 3voor12 at Amsterdam’s famed Paradiso, certainly qualifies. It’s (unsurprisingly) a wild-eyed barn-burner of a set that hits the fifth gear in its closing stretch, once again reaffirming Segall’s status as one of today’s most invigorating live performers. Don’t be surprised if people are still talking about these shows decades down the line.

Diet Cig – Sleep Talk (Stream)

Diet Cig VIII

And the hits just keep on coming. While Wednesday was packed to the gills with great new content, today’s haul may make it look slim in comparison. A few music videos made their marks and included the likes of Cotillon’s hazy “Convenience“, Julia Holter’s tender “Feel You“, and In Tall Buildings’ deceptively intuitive “Flare Gun“. Full streams made just as strong of an impression through incredible demos from Dan Webb & the Spiders and Chondria, while Seulah and Bad Bad Hats capped off the format’s Thursday run with a pair of intriguing long-players (Phase III and Psychic Reader, respectively).

As for single streams, the week managed to get even stronger via the staggering amount of genuinely great new songs that were made publicly available. Yuck sounded reinvigorated on “Hold Me Closer“, Wild Moth revealed a set of ever-sharpening teeth with “Buried“, Le Tour embraced their most eclectic sensibilities in “Friend“, and Long Limbs gave Art Is Hard another notch in their white-hot winning streak through the release of “Past Tense“. Heaters continued to dive down the nightmarish psychedelic rabbit hole they’ve been traversing in “Propane“, FUR struck the perfect balance between power pop and indie pop with the charming “Creature“, Glass Vault produced some compelling dream pop with “Sojourn“, SOCIETY released the transcendental, genre-demolishing “Protocol“, and James Elkington & Nathan Salsburg’s ethereal acoustic duet “Up of Stairs” ensured the day was packed with intensive listening.

While, as always, all of those titles hyperlinked above are worth the traveling that accompanies a click, today’s feature (once again) falls on two familiar faces: Diet Cig. Alex Luciano and Noah Bowman already made a strong impression with what proved to simultaneously be one of the most hyper-charged and carefree releases of 2015, Over Easy, which has continued receiving attention and picking up accolades as time surges forward. Now, they’re set to capitalize on that momentum with a just-announced 7″ that’s headlined by “Sleep Talk”.

Guitarist/vocalist has always reveled in a blunt honesty that’s delivered with a coy wink and the opening lines of “Pillow Talk” provides that approach with an ample spotlight. As a narrative wind-up, those insights quickly slide the scale from sly to scathing until the moment of truth hits, accompanied by a frenzied burst of downstrokes and power drumming. It’s a moment of self-acceptance that feels like it’s bordering on catharsis, underlined by the couplet that toppled the breaking point: “Only here under obligation/it’s hard to pretend this is a vacation.”

What follows is a surprisingly wrenching tale of self-exploration that’s anchored in the ruins of a relationship. Just as a charging middle section seems like it’s threatening to speed off into a reckless oblivion, “Sleep Talk” scales itself back for an absolutely gorgeous final figure. Luciano’s vocals are overlayed to provide a slightly unsettling (but frighteningly compelling) chorus effect as a bed for the most expressive and refined guitar playing of Diet Cig’s (admittedly limited) discography to date.

It’s a genuinely stunning moment in a great song that suggests Diet Cig may have much bigger things in store for the horizon. As the last refrain of “If I told you I loved you/I don’t know who/it would scare away faster” comes cascading down, it becomes very clear that “Sleep Talk” isn’t just going to stand as a defining moment in the emerging band’s career but as a deeply personal monument to a lot of people harboring varying levels of insecurity. This is damaged romanticism at its absolute finest and yet another perfect example of why people should be paying even closer attention to a band that’s not even close to getting their due.

Listen to “Sleep Talk” below and pre-order the 7″ from site favorite(s) Father/Daughter (in conjunction with Art Is Hard) ahead of its September 18 release date here. Beneath the embed watch a live clip of the duo performing the records B-side, “Dinner Date”.

Big Huge – Late At Nite (Stream)

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Already a few small releases into a promising career, Big Huge have yet to hit a false note. Instead, they seem to gain strength as they go; sharpening their songwriting ability and honing their presentation accordingly. 2014’s Don’t Be Shy EP was among the year’s more joyous (and promising) basement pop excursions but “Late At Nite” finds the band lighting a much stronger fire.

A little over two minutes, “Late At Nite” hits a lot of familiar beats from the powerpop structure to the gruff vocal delivery. All of it’s been done before but it’s rarely been delivered with such venom. Like a lot of the best music that deals with pent-up aggression, it derives part of its narrative from a very frustrating dichotomy. In this case, that dichotomy comes to the forefront by virtue of the inescapable post-party come-down. On the surface, it’s an absolute joy but buried somewhere in the subtext is a very human examination of some of life’s more intriguing moments. Packaged together, it becomes something that approaches the levels of a summer anthem. Right on time.

Listen to “Late At Nite” below and keep an eye on the site for more information about the band’s upcoming self-titled EP. Beneath the embedded player, enjoy 10 more outstanding songs to find release over the past two weeks.

Vundabar – Darla
We Take Fire – Kashyyyk
Bad Bad Hats – Fight Song
Johnny Marr – Exit Connection
Naps – Sandspurs
Baby in Vain – Muscles
Cold Showers – Plantlife
Street Eaters – Paralyzed
Aye Nako – White Noise
Showyousuck – All Pizza Everything

Institute – Cheerlessness (Stream)

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A lot of great material was ushered forth over the past week and the lion’s share of the great items to find promotion or premiere were songs. Destroyer swung for the fences and connected emphatically with the massive “Dream Lover“, Bad Bad Hats balanced sweet with spiky in “Shame“, Porcelain Raft conjured up another alluringly atmospheric dreamscape with “Half Awake“, and Adult Mom hit a career peak with the reactionary, synth-laden “Survival“. Institute take the feature spot for this batch of songs thanks to a sprawling behemoth of a track entitled “Cheerlessness”.

Institute have been kicking away in Austin, TX for quite some time now and, thanks to their determined scrappiness, recently signed a deal with the vaunted Sacred Bones. They recently announced their first effort for the label, Catharsis, and provided a track along with the announcement. That song, “Cheerlessness”, is a relentless four-minute post-punk monster. Embracing all of the elements that make the genre so fascinating (tension, dynamic shifts, a bleak cynicism, sly subtlety, etc.) to create something that still manages to come across with a new, fully-formed identity is impressive. More impressive is the levels of conviction in display in “Cheerlessness”, from the instrumentation to the vocal delivery. Every punch the band throws hits its mark with enough brute force to leave a reverberating warning: we’re all in for one hell of a reckoning once Catharsis arrives.

Listen to “Cheerlessness” below and pre-order Catharsis from Sacred Bones here.