Heartbreaking Bravery

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Tag: Basel (About What Was Lost)

The Holy Circle – Polaris (Music Video Premiere)

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Over the years, the tremendous Accidental Guest Recordings label has shown a penchant to skew its focus towards darker works, whether it be via the blown-out, lo-fi feedback hisses of vicious hardcore, bleak post-punk, or found a way to manifest in bold, confrontational lyric sets. Recently, the label started revealing a clip to accompany every track from the forthcoming cassette from ambient/drone/darkwave act The Holy Circle.

Boasting members from acts like Locrian, the band’s deadly serious nature probably shouldn’t come as much of a surprise to anyone. What does manage to surprise, however, is how effectively hypnotic both the tracks and the clips from The Holy Circle have been. “Polaris”, the release’s final track (and video) may stand as the best current example of what the band is capable of achieving.

As an isolated song, “Polaris” teems with desolate atmospherics that manage to be both magnetic and otherworldly all at once. It’s a severely battered version of the ethereal and it becomes increasingly compelling for its cold detachment. Elevating those sensibilities is the simple, absorbing video that operates entirely via silhouettes and overlays. Over the course of the track, the minimal imagery obtains direct meaning and leads to a fiery, disconcerting climax without ever hitting the point of bombast.

Both a beautiful feat of high-impact minimalism and a powerful closing chapter to a quietly extraordinary release, “Polaris” is the kind of work that’s successful enough in accomplishing its goals that it’ll likely be analyzed and dissected even more over time. For now, it’s best to let the disquieting imagery and alluring tone induce a trance-like state before a final, self-contained disintegration puts a note of finality on the type of experience that should warrant multiple return visits.

Watch “Polaris” below and pick up their self-titled tape from Accidental Guest here.

LVL UP – Pain (Stream, Live Video)

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Over the course of the day, a whole host of great material has found its way out into the greater world. Included in this wealth of worthy new releases included streams from Steve Adamyk Band, Slow Down Molasses, Happy Diving, Buildings, Beach Slang, PJ Harvey, Flock of DimesItsaca, The Holy CircleBodies Be Rivers, The Moles, and a Littler cover of a Muffs classic with all of the proceeds of the cover going to Campaign Zero. Additionally, there were exceptional full streams from the following: Gay Sin, Heliotropes, Blue Smiley, and Pure Disgust. Finally, the music video format saw excellent new entries from the likes of Sneeze, Honeyblood, Sleeping Beauties, and Hinds.

Really, though, ever since Sub Pop’s announcement of their newest acquisition, this day has all but belonged to LVL UP. The band’s been working on their full-length follow-up to Hoodwink’d — this site’s pick for 2014’s Album of the Year — steadily for well over a year. Today, they unveiled the first track to be heard from that record, which will be titled Return to Love, with the perpetually shifting “Pain”.

Easily one of the finest songs Mike Caridi has contributed to the band to date (which is no mean feat), “Pain” is simultaneously one of the band’s most ambitious and arresting songs, demonstrating the breadth of their expanded scope in one fell swoop. Opening with a melancholic ambient swirl, “Pain” quickly ups the tempo and quickly begins presenting scathing, intimate questions like “where is the one who loved you, unconditionally?” and never lets down the intensity for a moment.

Ultimately, the song settles into the self-defeating mantra of “Never Find Love” before a volcanic eruption of feedback, distortion, and noise subsumes the song and quickly transforms it into a seething maelstrom of formidable power, reaching a level of darkness of which their most recent release — the excellent Three Songs EP — hinted towards. The quartet really lays into that final section during their sets (“Pain” has been a live staple for some time) and tap into some intangible quality that seems to elevate them as a unit, locking into some sort of terrifying trance and playing off of each other with startling precision.

“Pain”, likely more than most of their recent songs, pays homage to the band’s past while remaining determined to look towards the future. In striking that balance, LVL UP has managed to produce a song that does more than justify their Sub Pop signing, set up Return to Love‘s release, and remind people of why they came to be such a force. It becomes a transportive experience that nears moments of transcendence.  Should the rest of Return to Love live up to the standard set by its first single, the band may find themselves following up a miniature masterpiece (Hoodwink’d) with the real thing.

Listen to “Pain” below (and watch a slightly blown-out video of the band running through an earlier version of the song last year at Palisades below the embed) and pre-order Return to Love from Sub Pop here.

Hop Along – Texas Funeral (Stream)

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Over the past year-and-a-half I’m not sure any band at this point has come up in coverage without snagging a headline feature than Hop Along. While they’ve appeared in various Watch This installments and a handful of mixtapes (including the best-of for 2015’s first quarter), they’ve never actually had an individual focus piece. That changes today. First, though, as was earlier relayed, are ten songs to have emerged this April that are absolutely worth hearing. Among them: Grounders’ psych-pop dream “No Ringer“, Saul Williams’ characteristically vicious “Burundi“, Honey Radar’s tantalizingly lo-fi “Per Schooner Agro“, Cyberbully Mom Club’s hazy new demo “Make Time“, and Vomitface’s pummeling post-punk number “Never Make It“. In addition to those five there was Diamond Youth’s powerpop rave-up “In the Clouds“, Wild Yaks’ defiantly triumphant “Paradise“, Estates’ searing “Not Now“, The Holy Circle’s mesmerizing “Basel (About What Was Lost)“, and site favorites Vaadat Charigim‘s typically extraordinary “Hashiamum Shokea“. While all of those deserve a slew of plays, it’s high time to give Hop Along their proper due and “Texas Funeral” provides the perfect opportunity.

After making a memorable impression on the DIY circuit and cultivating a small but extraordinarily passionate following, the band signed to Saddle Creek for the release of their forthcoming record, Painted Shut. The lead-up to the record’s been extremely promising with both songs preceding “Texas Funeral”- “Powerful Man” and “Waitress“- easily ranking among the year’s very best. “Texas Funeral” joins their company with a practiced finesse that even furthers Painted Shut‘s likelihood at being something truly special, even in regards to this year’s already formidable stockpile of musical highs. The band’s last record, 2012’s staggering Get Disowned, showed glimmers of bigger things to come- hinting that the band was capable of producing a classic.

Ever since then, guitarist/vocalist Frances Quinlan and company have been refining their sound and delivering heartfelt sets that have occasionally taken on a monumental feel. It’s a peak that “Texas Funeral” hits again and again, emphasizing both Hop Along’s considerable growth and undeniable talent. Quinlan, in particular, sounds more assured than ever, with her vocals (sometimes sung, frequently nearly-screamed) hitting stratospheric heights. Unpredictable, exhilarating, vibrant, and unapologetically alive “Texas Funeral” makes it sound like Hop Along is in the throes of a victory lap, bringing to mind the feel and aesthetic of another Saddle Creek record on more than a few occasions- Rilo Kiley’s career highlight The Execution Of All Things (one of the best records of last decade). With an exasperated youthfulness on full display and a keen eye for life’s minutiae, Hop Along seem to have tapped into something genuinely thrilling with “Texas Funeral”- and at this point it doesn’t seem like too much of a stretch to expect that the rest of Painted Shut will follow suit.

Listen to “Texas Funeral” below and make sure to pre-order a copy of Painted Shut from Saddle Creek here.