Heartbreaking Bravery

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Tag: Basement Pop

17 of ’17: The Best Albums of the Year

Looking back on 2017 was an exhausting effort that seemed to uncover a surprising truth: a lot of the year’s best records wound up standing out by a fairly wide margin. Not just because of the strength of their singles but because of the herculean overall efforts of the acts responsible for the year’s standout songs. To that end, the considerable overlap between the selections for Song and Album of the Year — by far the most that’s ever occurred in the four years these lists have been running — isn’t too surprising.

After listening to hundreds upon hundreds of records throughout the span of 2017, what was a little surprising turned out to be the endurance levels of the records being considered for this list. Some that seemed like surefire locks in the first few months of their release faded, while a few that lingered on the perimeter seemed to gain strength with each successive revisit. One thing that can be said for all the records included in this list is that they’re forceful works that have already proven to have attained the kind of longevity that will serve them well going forward.

From site favorites to year-end mainstays to new faces, the 17 records below offer up an interesting variety. Mental health, youth, aging, hope, despair, and togetherness are all dissected. Icy post-punk numbers, deeply personal folk, and outbursts of irrepressible energy stand shoulder-to-shoulder here, representing a microcosm of what many rightfully saw as one of the most challenging years in recent memory. Take a look back at these releases and grab hold, they should serve the future well.

Washer – All Aboard

Every release tied to Washer‘s name so far has been worth the listen but the band took a massive step forward in 2017 to release their first truly great record with All Aboard. Over the years, the duo has managed to perfect a very particular strain of post-punk, honing their minimalist setup into a jet-propelled engine. Overflowing with career highs for the band, this 15 track titan of a record proves the project’s range, versatility, and talent. It’s an essential release that managed to stand out among a very crowded field.

Great Grandpa – Plastic Cough

Great Grandpa‘s first official full-length absolutely explodes from the outset, “Teen Challenge” obliterating any lingering doubts that this band was ready to take on the world. Plastic Cough‘s ensuing nine tracks go on to continuously elevate the bar the band continuously sets for itself, running a stylistic gamut that ranged from hushed and burdened introspection to moments of gnarled violence. It’s an impressive show of force that never runs out of steam.

Petite League – Rips One Into the Night

Lorenzo Cook, the driving creative force behind Petite League, has been toiling away in relative obscurity for the past few years despite a string of formidable releases. In 2017, Petite League didn’t just make their biggest push into larger recognition, the band also made their best record to date in Rips One Into the Night. Clever lyricism, thoughtful arrangements, mid-fi production, and a charismatic presence elevated the project to a greater level of recognition that was long overdue (and still lacking, all things considered). A seamless mixture of bedroom and basement pop, Rips One Into the Night more than proves Petite League can play with the heavy hitters.

Cayetana – New Kind of Normal

For decades, mental health was something that artists seemed more inclined to subvert in their art, presenting it in a sly sideways glance rather than opting for something more direct. Over the past few years, that approach has noticeably shifted and brought to light some of the best works since the turn of the century. Cayetana‘s most recent effort — their career highlight New Kind of Normal — can now proudly join their ranks. As complete of a record as anything that’s come out this decade, it’s a harrowing confrontation with limitation, impulse, and the kind of desire usually left to the shadows. It also boasts the best arrangements of the band’s discography. A triumph.

Young Jesus – Young Jesus

Three full-lengths to their name and Young Jesus still has a perfect record, each three of those wildly different releases landing the continuously-evolving band a spot in the Album of the Year lists. With that kind of pedigree, self-titling a record would seem like a bold gambit to most but Young Jesus seems to suggest that the band’s in full control of its voice, having radically shifted its lineup and moved clear across the country. Poetic, thoughtful, euphoric, and devastating, Young Jesus easily set itself apart in 2017, thanks in no small part to the record’s towering final three songs, which may well have constituted the year’s most ambitious — and memorable — runs of music.

Deep State – Thought Garden

One of the year’s more overlooked records was also one that proved to have an excess of verve. Bristling with feeling, Deep State‘s Thought Garden was a masterclass in how to effectively translate kinetic energy without losing narrative focus. In lashing back at ennui with a concentrated frustration, Deep Thought created one of 2017’s most unexpectedly fiery releases. Brash and necessary, Thought Garden was — and remains — a record worth remembering, especially in larger conversations.

Weaves – Wide Open

Following a breakthrough record that catapults you from “best-kept secret” status to critical darlings is never an easy task but it was one Weaves had no trouble side-stepping with the breezy, playful Wide Open. Drawing influence from some of Americana’s high watermarks, the band melded and warped those traits into something tantalizingly singular, marrying those cues with tempos and structures that owe slightly more to the East than the West. Genre-melting and world-conquering, Wide Open more than proved Weaves to be one of the premier bands of the moment.

Landlines – Landlines

A small, self-released record that more than held its own against records with more fanfare, Landlines‘ self-titled found its plays incrementally increasing after its September debut. Beautifully combining the finest points of post-punk and basement punk into a cohesive whole that owed as much to Pavement as it did to Parquet Courts, Landlines never stopped impressing. One of the most exquisitely crafted records on this list, Landlines comes jam-packed with little delights that ensure each song is differentiated from the next but that the record stands as a complete whole. It’s a remarkable work that richly deserves a much, much larger audience.

Strange Relations – Editorial You

Few things are as thrilling as a band that’s confidently taking the type of measures that will push them to greater heights. Whether that’s expanding their ambition, increasing their levels of fearlessness, openly experimenting with ideas that may seem counter-intuitive, or simply spending more time on their craft, the end product typically winds up being something of note. In the case of Strange Relations‘ Editorial You, which encapsulates each of the tactics listed above, it’s also wildly successful. Editorial You is unmistakably the sound of a promising act finding their voice and confidently surging forward, fully equipped and ready for whatever might lie in wait

Fred Thomas – Changer

The clarity of voice on Fred Thomas‘ Changer is legitimately astounding. Thomas being one of this generation’s best lyricists hasn’t really been that much of a secret for a while but Changer takes those writing gifts to stratospheric highs with meditations on isolation, aging, individuality, and trying to feel alive. Changer doesn’t just survive on cleverness or memorable turns of phrase though, elevating itself through instrumental composition, demonstrating Thomas’ expanding palette in breathtaking fashion. Far and away the songwriter’s most direct work, Changer also stands proudly as an exhilarating career high. Not just the record that boasted 2017’s best book of lyrics but easily one of the year’s finest all-around efforts as well.

Big Thief – Capacity

One of 2016’s most promising breakout acts didn’t take long to issue a follow-up strong enough to eliminate any lingering doubt over their considerable talent. Big Thief‘s Masterpiece was touted by many at the end of 2016 as one of the year’s best, even more publications followed suit with Capacity in 2017. Retaining the grand sweep of their breakout work, Big Thief got a little more exacting with Capacity. Deeply informed by tragedy and difficult circumstance, Capacity plays like more of a rallying cry than a death rattle, the band finding the heart and humanity in every broken shard of their past and clinging to it in the present as a means of knowing there will be hope for the future.

Cloud Nothings – Life Without Sound

Like Young Jesus, Cloud Nothings have registered a placement on the Album of the Year lists with each of their last three full-lengths. Ever since reforming as a full band, Cloud Nothings have been on an absolute tear, pushing their own limitations at every step (having slightly different lineups for each record likely necessitated a certain level of adaptation). Life Without Sound, however, is the first record the band’s made where it feels like they’re drawing from their past for inspiration. Typically, that glance backwards indicates a band running out of ideas but Life Without Sound is subversive and unpredictable enough to suggest that couldn’t be further from the truth for Cloud Nothings. This is a monstrous, career-encapsulating effort from a band that will always refuse to go quietly.

Tica Douglas – Our Lady Star of the Sea, Help and Protect Us

Over the past several years, Tica Douglas has quietly become one of our best songwriters. Joey went a long way in earning Douglas a reputation as a songwriter worth watching and Our Lady Star of the Sea, Help and Protect Us should further strengthen that argument. It’s a gorgeous record full of unsparing self-examinations and hard-won moments of hope and contentment. Each song taken as an individual piece is riveting but packaged together as a whole, the effect toes the line of being overwhelming. A complete listen is an immersive experience, with all of the scars and all of the healing being felt at every step. When all is said and done, Our Lady Star of the Sea, Help and Protect Us stands as a proud testament to both Douglas’ singular vision and resilient character.

Cende – #1 Hit Single

A band that was gone far too soon at least stayed long enough to gift the rest of us with their only proper full-length, #1 Hit Single. Cende — which boasted members of LVL UP and Porches — has been playing most of these songs out for years before this release and found exhilarating ways to do them justice. Whether it was through string arrangements, guest vocalists, or the production sheen, everything clicked and #1 Hit Single became one of the most winsome basement pop records of this decade in the process. Whip-smart composition, note-perfect execution, and attitude to spare ensured that Cende had enough through one EP and one full-length to leave a legacy that mattered.

Palehound – A Place I’ll Always Go 

One of a handful of artists on this list whose releases have gotten incrementally more impressive with each successive release, it’s hard to imagine how Palehound will top what they’ve achieved with A Place I’ll Always Go. Bandleader Ellen Kempner is in fine form throughout the record, delivering career highs across the board when each compositions is broken down (lyrics, guitar riffs, etc.). A Place I’ll Always Go is also massively successful in terms of pace and tonality, helping the record secure a position as the band’s most fully-formed and complete work. As enthralling as it is captivating, A Place I’ll Always Go solidifies and reaffirms Palehound status as an act worthy of our full attention.

Mo Troper – Exposure & Response

One of last year’s Album of the Year selections, Mo Troper returned this year with the startlingly bold Exposure & Response, that sees the songwriter taking enormous strides forward. From the opening cascade of Beach Boys-esque overlapping vocals on both “Rock and Roll Will Change the World” and “Wedding” to the unexpected grandeur of album highlight “Your Brand” to just about every other surprising minuscule detail on Exposure & Response, Troper finds ways to not just surprise but engage.

Everything that made Beloved seem as if it was destined to earn a rabid cult following and be hailed as a lost genre classic is still intact while other facets of Troper’s formidable songwriting talent has been expanded. Exposure & Response resides comfortably at the intersection of classical maneuvering and modernist delivery as Troper anchors the proceedings with trademark bursts of self-deprecating self-awareness. It’s a landmark record from a burgeoning talent that begs to be left on repeat. Somehow, it gets better every time.

Album of the Year:

Charly Bliss – Guppy

A record that’d been lingering in purgatory for nearly three years finally saw the light of day in 2017 as Charly Bliss set out to light the world on fire. Guppy, at every stage of its development, has always been a knockout record. In its first iteration, it was a growling monster full of low-end bite and emphatic force. The band stripped it back a little, polishing the edges and swapping out a few songs to present something more refined while still retaining a certain edge.

The record’s immediate success came as a surprise to virtually no one that had been paying a lick of attention to the band over the past several years. Touring with high-profile bands — whether they were storied bands with rabid fanbases or exciting upstarts — ensured their range of listeners would be wide. Every step the band’s taken over the past 5 years has been savvy, something that was already evidenced with what remains this decade’s best EP, 2014’s Soft Serve.

Still, making smart business decisions can’t generate any sort of impression if the product is subpar. Fortunately, for everyone, Charly Bliss’ insane musical pedigree (all four members have degrees in musical fields) essentially ensures that they’ll be operating at an extraordinarily high level when it comes to actually writing songs. Guppy provides an excess of proof that Charly Bliss — in addition to being masterful at their craft — have held onto an internal fire that’s fueled their music since their modest beginning.

“Percolator” kicks Guppy off with an insane surge of adrenaline, taking the band from 0 to 200 in one quick crescendo, leaving everyone else to catch up to the trail of dust the band leaves in its wake. Memorable song to memorable song, the quartet rips through their winsome brand of bubblegrunge with aplomb. Mixing twee asides with moments of vicious reality, the band creates a 10 course feast that somehow manages to feel both of the moment and timeless all at once.

A record that brings self-loathing, friendship, earnest sincerity, self-empowerment, and the way they all manage to connect into startling focus, Guppy is as much of a success as a narrative as it is in the instrumental arrangement department. The record’s ridiculously powerful — and surprisingly heavy — “Julia” even sees the band flexing its range, proving that they’ve got quite a bit more up their sleeves.

When all the smoke’s cleared and Guppy has disappeared into the ether, the impression it left in the moment never fades and keeps pushing for rediscovery. It’s a record full of hooks that dig in and stay. It’s a record that’s as willing to open scabs as it is to mend wounds. It’s a record that knows how to have several cakes and eat every last one. Finally, it’s a record that stands out as an easy pick for 2017’s Album of the Year.

16 of ’16: The Best Albums of the Year

Mitski XXV

At long last, we arrive at the end of the 2016 lists with this reflection of the year’s best albums. A lot of criteria need to be met for a record to make this list, for example: a record can’t be primarily composed of reworks of older material (this is the reason Talons’ sublime “Driving Home From Shows” didn’t make the songs list). To be eligible for a featured slot on this list, the record also can’t come from a clearly-established artist, which is the only reason Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds’ Skeleton Tree is being excluded. The Radioheads and David Bowies of the music world all received more than enough positive press and this site has always aimed to give an additional leg up to emerging or unknown artists.

With all of that said, 2016 was an exceptional — and exceptionally diverse — year for music provided you knew where to look. As has been the case, no numerical assignments were given to the below selections. However, the field of titles was so abundantly strong that instead of merely selecting one Album of the Year, there are five. Those five records managed to stand out in an unbelievably exceptional year and picking one of the five to give a singular Album of the Year designation proved to be impossible. That being said, virtually all of the titles below are worth time, investment, and praise.

Once again, the majority of the embedded players belong to bandcamp so be mindful of where the records start (a small handful auto-start at odd points in the record). There’s a fairly wide-ranging display of music to be found below so dive on in and go exploring. Enjoy the list and stay tuned for the third edition of A Year’s Worth of Memories.

Bent Shapes – Wolves of Want

After a string of promising releases, Bent Shapes hit new heights with the galvanizing Wolves of Want, a pitch-perfect basement pop record teeming with memorable hooks. A lovingly crafted work, Wolves of Want finds the band hitting an eyebrow-raising stride and cranking out a formidable batch of songs good enough to grace any mixtape.

Crying – Beyond the Fleeting Gales

One of the most unique and compelling releases of the year, Crying took a bold new step with the riveting Beyond the Fleeting Gales. Taking their early approach and gleefully exploding it into something barely-recognizable, Beyond the Fleeting Gales winds up as one of 2016’s most refreshing, exhilarating, and utterly singular listens.

Mitski – Puberty 2

Embracing the bruising, unforgiving introspection of the breakout Bury Me at Makeout Creek, site favorite Mitski returned with a powerful and acute examination of identity. An artistic leap forward, Puberty 2 saw Mitski wielding an expanded musical palette to arresting effect. Warm, moving, and accepting, it’s not difficult to see why it was one of the year’s most beloved records.

Parquet Courts – Human Performance

Parquet Courts records have made a habit of appearing on year-end lists since the band’s formation several years back. While, admittedly, those were solid records, they don’t come anywhere close to Human Performance, the band’s crowning achievement. The band shed their blood all over this record and it shows in every beautiful, cracked, messy, ramshackle moment.

Mannequin Pussy – Romantic

Another record on this list that saw a band make a staggering leap forward, Romantic was — by some distance — the most impressive work of Mannequin Pussy‘s burgeoning career. One of 2016’s most ferocious records, Romantic saw the band firing on all cylinders on levels that may have even surprised their most devoted fans. It’s a molotov cocktail of a record; hit play and get obliterated.

Big Thief – Masterpiece

One of the year’s most welcome surprises, Big Thief‘s Saddle Creek debut Masterpiece found the band conjuring up the open-road spirit that their label built its name peddling. Gorgeous songwriting, unavoidable emotional intensity, and a clear commitment to the material defined Masterpiece. When all was said and done, the record succeeded in living up to its ostensibly tongue-in-cheek title.

Swim Team – Swim Team

One of the strongest records to come out of Infinity Cat‘s cassette series, Swim Team‘s self-titled is a gamut run trough the punk sub-genres that have defined the past three decades. All of them are successful and infused with the kind of grit and determination that characterize great bands. It’s an unforgettable warning shot from a band that seems hell-bent on using the past to elevate the future.

Car Seat Headrest – Teens of Denial

Easily one of the year’s most celebrated releases, Teens of Denial earned every trickle of positive press that came its way. A landmark record from a project that could have withered under a massively-increased spotlight instead finds Car Seat Headrest operating on an entirely new level. Epics, ballads, and stormy punk numbers abound, illuminating one of 2016’s best coming-of-age stories in virtually any format.

Greys – Outer Heaven

2016 found Greys continuing to determinedly  push their boundaries outward and succeeding with the kind of wild abandon that defines their adrenaline-inducing live show. Outer Heaven was their biggest moment and saw the band effectively blend their delirious energy with a refined sense of atmosphere that enhanced already-great songs. An absolute triumph from one of today’s more fascinating acts.

Hovvdy – Taster

A remarkable, understated, near-flawless record, Hovvdy‘s Taster never received the recognition it was due. Front to back, there are no false moments on this record, only a series of unassuming grace notes that bind it into a gentle, spellbinding whole. Punk-informed bedroom pop, Taster is the product of meticulous dedication to craft and an enormous reserve of genuine feeling. It’s sincerity is a large part of its strength and its strength is overwhelming. Give it innumerable listens and the estimation it deserves.

John K. Samson – Winter Wheat

A painfully beautiful record, Winter Wheat marked the welcome return of John K. Samson. The former Weakerthans bandleader turned in another sorrowful, damaged collection of songs that contained enough glimmers of hope (apart from the devastating opener, which nearly made this year’s song’s list but was abandoned in favor of the record’s emotionally shattering closer) to make the impact even more severe. An atmospheric masterstroke from one of our greatest living songwriters, Winter Wheat is as comfortingly calm as it is completely unforgettable.

ALBUMS OF THE YEAR

Mo Troper – 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.

Original feature review here.

PUP – The Dream Is Over

PUP‘s The Dream Is Over, the band’s jaw-dropping sophomore outing, was a release where nearly every song was considered for this year’s best songs list. In the end, the record proved so uniformly excellent across the board that it became literally impossible to define a standout. This is as a complete a punk record that anyone will be likely to hear for a very long time. Narrative focus, overall consistency, composition, conviction, production, sequencing, pacing… in every conceivable aspect, PUP absolutely demolished what were already ridiculously high expectations. One of the most defiant, triumphant releases in recent memory, The Dream Is Over was the shock to the system that the punk genre has sorely needed for years. Unbelievably consistent and weirdly empowering, PUP were able to put their name on one of the most vital records of 2016.

Doe – Some Things Last Longer Than You

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 composition, 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.

Original feature review here.

Weaves – Weaves

It’s not just that no one does what Weaves are doing as well as they do, it’s that no one else is even making an attempt. Should Weaves inspire some attempts at this particular eclectic blend of songwriting styles, genres, and cornerstones, this record will retain — and most likely remain in — a position as the gold standard. Grab onto something close and hold on tightly because Weaves is an unpredictable, exhilarating, and ultimately deeply satisfying thrill ride that knows no borders or boundaries. Greet it with an anxious smile and give in to its myriad charms.

Original feature review here.

LVL UP – Return to Love

All told, Return to Love is a document of a band determined to continuously better themselves, a new career high, and a bona fide statement release from one of this generation’s most consistently exciting acts. It’s a series of sustained, connected grace notes that never wavers, even as it openly acknowledges it doesn’t have all of the answers. Not a single second of its run time is wasted and each of the songs are memorable for a wildly varying list of reasons. LVL UP aren’t the type of band to be dissuaded from taking action by a daunting challenge and Return to Love is an assured, steadfast piece of proof.

To put it as succinctly as possible: it’s a masterpiece.

Original feature review here.

Nine more worth hearing:

Tancred – Out of the Garden
Pinegrove – Cardinal
Oh Boland – Spilt Milk
Dark Thoughts – Dark Thoughts
Eluvium – False Readings On
Told Slant – Going By
Mothers – When You Walk A Long Distance You Are Tired
Jean-Michael Blais – II
Minor Victories – Minor Victories

Other honorable mentions:

Frankie Cosmos – Next Thing | Yucky Duster – Yucky Duster | Vanity – Don’t Be Shy | Kane Strang – Blue Cheese | Steve Adamyk Band – Graceland | Lydia Loveless – Real | Touché Amoré – Stage Four | Margaret Glaspy – Emotions and Math | Jeff – Rosenstock – WORRY. | Lucy Dacus – No Burden | Summer Cannibals – Full Of ItNopes – Never Heard Of It | Florist – The Birds Outside Sang | Susan – Never Enough | Abi Reimold – Wriggling | Mal Devisa – Kiid | Julianna Barwick – Will | Mutual Benefit – Skip A Sinking Stone | Big Ups – Before A Million Universes | Diarrhea Planet – Turn To Gold | Japanese Breakfast – Psychopomp | AJJ – The Bible 2 | Angel Olsen – My Woman | Drive-By Truckers – American Band | Charles Bradley – Changes

Slight – Hate the Summer (Song Premiere)

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Photograph by Stepahnie Griffin // INDAFF

Ever since hearing Slight‘s Run (an online single that would go on to top this site’s odds and ends of 2014 list), they’ve been easy to pin down in the “favorite bands” category. While the respective successes of Painted Zeros, LVL UP, and Normal Person have kept its members occupied in 2015, the trio’s managed to find a way to keep pushing forward. Tomorrow, they’ll be releasing their Hate the Summer EP (which includes both songs from Run) in conjunction with their show at Palisades, which will also feature sets from Museum of Recycling, Normal Person, and The Glow.

In advance of the show (and the release), the band’s allowing everyone a look ahead with the EP’s title track. “Hate the Summer” is another basement pop triumph, expertly balancing a clear-eyed conviction with a determined grit that elevates the song well past the levels that most bands who attempt that feat achieve. Surging with a punk bite but grounded by Jim Hill’s enviable gift for pop songwriting, “Hate the Summer” comes across as both immediate and accessible without ever sounding or feeling hollow.

While the vocal and guitar hooks abound, the song’s kept anchored by the characteristically impressive rhythm section work laid down by Alberto Casadevall and Greg Rutkin, who provide the song with a remarkable amount of drive. Hard-hitting and heavy-hearted, the song’s eventually defined by its resilience in the face of a detached weariness. It’s nuanced, it’s effective, and it’s one of the finest songs to have found release in the past several months. By the time the bridge kicks in, it’s clear that Slight’s members haven’t placed this project on the back burner and are intent to push it forward with all the strength they can manage. We’re just fortunate enough to be along for the ride.

Listen to “Hate the Summer” below and keep an eye on this site for any upcoming news about the band.

Gumbus – Crimbus Rock (EP Review, Stream)

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It’s been a while since this site has dove into full streams (or single streams, for that matter) and that will all be resolved over the weekend. Starting here, with an extremely strong self-released effort from a just-announced band comprised of  two members who have had an impressive number of projects featured on this site before: Casey Weissbuch (pictured above) and Joseph Frankl. Weissbuch’s spent time in a deeply impressive array of acts that include Mitski, Diarrhea Planet, Colleen Green, and a large handful of others (in addition to spearheading Infinity Cat’s cassette series), while Frankl’s made his name as a member of The Frankl Project and as a solo artist.

Weissbuch’s also been making some formidable moves as a solo act under the moniker Slanted. He takes the lead here and in a lot of ways, Gumbus feels like an extension of that project. Unsurprisingly– given the two members collective skill sets, aesthetic choices, and pedigrees– Crimbus Rock, their debut, is an exhilarating jolt of adrenaline. Utilizing a palette of influences that skews heavily towards the alternative movement of the ’90s, the duo digs deep into effortlessly melodic basement pop songs. Over the course of five songs (which never extend beyond the 2:20 mark), Gumbus recall everyone from Blue Album-era Weezer to Ovens.

While none of the songs are a marked deviation from any of their counterparts on the collection, each contains enough of an identity to avoid repetition and to deepen Crimbus Rock‘s claim to being a coherent whole. It’s a remarkable collection that feels like a logical step forward for both Weissbuch and Frankl, demonstrating their astounding grip on composition and flying by while packing enough punch to ensure it’s not quickly forgotten (a trait that makes it a perfect companion to the just-released Downies EP, featured below). This isn’t a huge release but it is micro-punk at its finest and it comes from two artists who deserve even more attention than  they’ve already received. Don’t make the mistake of letting this one fade away unnoticed.

Listen to Crimbus Rock below and download the EP over at Gumbus’ bandcamp. Underneath the player, explore some other recent collections worth hearing.

Downies – Downies
Spencer Radcliffe – Looking In
Gang Signs – Geist
Little Fevers – Field Trip
Erasers – Stem Together
Last Good Tooth – And All Things On the Scales
Fern Mayo – Happy Forever
Bad Canoes – Bad Canoes
Allison Weiss – New Love
Jungle Giants – Speakerzoid
Girls Names – Arms Around A Vision
Yvette – Time Management
Glenn Mercer – Incidental Hum
Promised Land Sound – For Use and Delight
Obnox – Wiglet

Midnight Reruns – Ain’t Gonna Find (Stream)

Midnight Reruns X

2015 has kept the great material coming in at a breakneck pace on a daily basis. Over the past few days, a lot of attention-deserving content has come trickling into the fold. Few of them have been more exhilarating- or more unexpected- than site favorites Midnight Reruns’ latest EP, Get Me Out. Announced on their Facebook, it was a blink-and-miss-it type of prospect but acts as a full illustration of the band’s startling progression. For a while, guitarist/vocalist Graham Hunt was concerned that the band would be pegged as a niche powerpop act following the releases of a strong EP (Central Time) and an even stronger self-titled full-length. Having already established themselves as one of the more exciting emerging acts in the upper Midwest, the band’s hell-bent on taking things to the next level- and for good reason.

Get Me Out arrives in advance of the band’s forthcoming full-length, which was recorded and produced by longtime fan/supporter Tommy Stinson (yes, that Tommy Stinson- the one whose band Midnight Reruns will be opening for tomorrow in Milwaukee). As evidenced by the band’s incendiary live shows, their newest material has all been equipped with more challenging dynamics that are quickly revealing the band to be quite a bit more multi-dimensional than they may have appeared at first glance. With shows at The Fest coming up and a few more things in motion, they’re set to capitalize on their building momentum. It’s part of why Get Me Out is a crucial, if small, release. None of the songs on the EP- other than the one contained in this post’s headline- will be appearing on the band’s impending full-length, which effectively renders the collection as an extremely tantalizing teaser.

“Ain’t Gonna Find”, the collection’s lead-off, is one of the most monstrously poppy songs the band’s ever committed to a recording. From the surging guitar progression to the shamelessly catchy “na na na” chorus, it’s an intensely immediate and accessible work, definitively proving that they’ve mastered a niche genre pocket. Dig a little deeper and a few other things start to betray the band’s growing ambitions; the intuitive lead guitar part that appears in the back-half of the second verse, the shape-shifting bridge, and the cavalcade of seemingly non-stop hooks- the band’s not only mastered this genre, they’ve transcended it. Yet, it’s likely still the most straightforward song on the band’s upcoming release. As a standalone single, it’s every self-defeatist’s summer anthem; as a look ahead, it’s intriguing. As a piece of the band’s history, it’s a perfectly-timed, perfectly-executed shot that might just wind up hitting the exact right mark.

Listen to “Ain’t Gonna Find” below and let the fantastic Get Me Out stream through when it’s finished. Pick it up today and tomorrow for free on the band’s bandcamp and keep an eye on this site for further details.

Kodakrome – Kodakrome (Demo Review, Stream)

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For this review, I’m going to take on a more personal bent. After a full year of severely restricting first-person narrative and running a year-end campaign that built its identity on deeply personal recollections, it felt like that was something that needed a slight change. I’m not going to sit here and pretend like I don’t know Aaron Ehinger, the guitarist and vocalist of Kodakrome (a new Chicag0-based duo, with Brian Tepps holding down bass, drum programming, and synth duties). Now, normally, when I’m blown away by someone’s music, there’s a deeply-felt kinship to that art and the people responsible for its creation. Every so often, if I’m lucky, those people measure up to their art and my life gets a little better because of their friendship.

Here’s where the intrigue of Kodakrome kicks in: Aaron’s someone I’ve known for a little over a year (and whose photography I’ve admired for about as long) but was largely unfamiliar with his previous bands. Kodakrome is the first one I’ve listened to and if he hadn’t already been a friend, I sure as shit would have liked him to be after hearing this demo. Visceral post-punk that’s inflected with subtle hints of chip-tune- suggesting a previously unthinkable middle-ground between PUP and Crying– is the formula that has this demo frantically gunning right out of the gate (“Skeletons” introduction’s about as abrupt as the intro to Dinosaur Jr.’s “Budge“, another band whose influence on Kodakrome is evidenced fairly easily).

As deliriously breakneck- and ridiculously invigorating- as “Skeletons” winds up being, “Slow Down” (a delightfully ironic title) is the song that seems to be most indicative of the places Kodakrome’s already sprinting towards. Ehinger and Tepps immediately set about lighting “Slow Down” on fire and succeed in doing so by the :30 mark. All wild-eyed momentum and furiously yelped howls that scrutinize the inevitably of death, “Slow Down” is a genuinely impressive punch to the gut. Tepp’s manic synth work, especially, goes a long way in shaping the band’s curious early identity.  Between the two songs, Kodakrome doesn’t even exceed three and a half minutes- but the band makes one hell of an impression during that running time. These are songs that stick and- importantly- hint towards a very promising future.

Listen to Kodakrome below and keep an eye on this site for any future updates regarding the band.

Diet Cig – Over Easy (EP Review, Stream)

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Tonight Diet Cig are playing an absolutely stacked release show to celebrate the arrival of their debut, which arrives in the form of the irresistible Over Easy EP. It’s already generated a great deal of buzz around the band- and for good reason. Guitarist/vocalist Alex Luciano’s as gifted as anyone with melody, creating an army of utterly charming moments over the EP’s five tracks. Even the title of the opening track, “Breathless”, hints towards some of the band’s more winsome pop sensibilities, evoking the spirit of Jean-Luc Godard. On the musical spectrum, Diet Cig deal in an intriguing cross-section between DIY punk and bedroom pop (which isn’t too far removed from what Quarterbacks have been up to lately), opening up an endless line of possibilities for tantalizing bills (they’d be as at home on a bill with All Dogs as they would Bellows).

What’s helping Diet Cig get comfortably situated at the front of an increasingly exciting DIY basement pop movement is their coherence. Not a single track on Over Easy outshines the other- each one’s a standout that renders the whole affair an early front-runner for EP of the Year (it certainly would have made last year’s extraordinarily strong list had it come out a few months earlier). “Harvard” is as dynamic- and as humorously scathing- as “Scene Sick”, just as “Pool Boyz” and “Cardboard” can go toe-to-toe in terms of scrappy lo-fi momentum and sly deprecation. Surf, twee, and vintage pop influences abound throughout the EP’s 10 exhilarating minutes. More than anything, Over Easy is a sugar-coated onslaught of raw feeling, clever construction, and extraordinary musical interplay between Luciano and drummer Noah Bowman (also of the fantastic Earl Boykins).

At some point, Over Easy becomes an understated showcase for the duo’s natural, easygoing chemistry. Bowman and Luciano expertly create a subtle sense of tension, exploiting their music’s underlying sense of urgency at nearly every turn without ever getting overly serious. Sure, the lyrics may come off as alternately biting and winking but that it’s all presented in a fashion that’s so joyful on the surface may be slightly betraying the band’s enormous potential (as was the case with much of Radiator Hospital‘s earlier work). Diet Cig are a band that are already fully aware- and playing directly to- their enviable strengths, making them a band worth vigilantly following. With a start as absurdly strong as Over Easy, they’re already well on their way to what looks to be an extremely promising career. For now, let’s all just enjoy one of the most delightful pieces of music to emerge over the past several months.

Listen to the hyper-charged log flume ride that is Over Easy below and order the EP from the inimitable Father/Daughter Records here.  

Elephants – The Turtles Were Right (Song Premiere)

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Photograph by Sasha Pedro

Over the past few weeks, the submissions that have come into the site’s inbox have introduced me to some of the most fascinating music of 2014. Toby Reif and Space Mountain were two that immediately stood out- Elephants shortly followed. The Boston-based quartet’s upcoming record, Strange Waves, is one of 2014’s most vibrant and defiantly lively records. The band’s formula differs from the norm, most notably in the basslines acting as lead guitar riffs instead of driving the rhythm. It’s a kinetic approach and it suits the band (whose powerpop sensibilities come tinged with a surprisingly aggressive noise-punk bite) surprisingly well.

All of Strange Waves is a joy but no song on the record clicks everything into place with as much power and finesse as “The Turtles Were Right”. Sun-splashed melodies meet a restless bass figure, propulsive drumming, vicious guitar work, an abundance of energy, and a few joyful hand claps. Before long, the song establishes an alternating contrast pattern in mood with the verses taking on a pensive melodramatic feel before the rousing chorus picks everything up and pushes it forward. It’s also Elephants at their finest- it’s no surprise that “The Turtles Were Right” is the song that includes the lyric which gave Strange Waves its title. “The Turtles Were Right” cloaks its fuzz in an undeniable affability and the end result is something that deserves to be heard by as many people as possible.

Listen to “The Turtles Were Right” below and keep an eye on Elephants’ bandcamp, which is where Strange Waves will be available to download on December 16 (the download will be free for the first day).

Liam Hayes – Fokus (Stream)

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Every once in a while there’s a record, a video, or a song that comes along and shakes things up in the best of ways. Enter: Liam Hayes’ “Fokus”, a song that coasts on the kind of timeless punk-leaning powerpop that Ted Leo built his name on steadily perfecting. Hayes and Leo also share a similar timbre and delivery, along with their penchant for sunny melodicism and driving rhythm sections. Everything feels propulsive and joyous, from the light psych influences to the Byrds-ian jangle. “Fokus”, more than just about any other song to have been released over the past few months, has felt like a sunray forcing its way through the cold to provide some relief. It’s a charging whirlwind of a song that deserves to land on several summertime mixtapes next year- and operates just as effectively as a preview of Slurrup, which deserves to be met with anticipation. Keep the volume up for this one and use it to soundtrack an upcoming road trip, it’s built for travel.

Listen to “Fokus” below and pre-order Slurrup from the reliably great Fat Possum here.

Slight – Run (EP Review, Stream)

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Part 3 of tonight’s ongoing series of coverage for the great little bits and pieces of entertainment to have surfaced in the past two days operates like its precedents: four items worth looking into and one feature spot. That there is a feature spot to be granted shouldn’t demerit anything that gets mentioned in this space, though. Everything that earns a link on this site is put there for a reason; if it’s linked, don’t make the mistake of missing out on what it leads to- because it would be a massive mistake. Things like Bugs in the Dark‘s visceral gut-punch of a record, Cross My Heart Little Death, don’t come around often and neither do songs like The Chemistry Experiment’s delicate “Channel Light Vessel“, which pulls in aspects of several genres to create a soft-edged psych-pop tapestry. A pair of music videos worth several looks also fought their way out into the world; Medicine‘s aggressively warped kaleidoscopic head trip for “Move Along – Down the Road” and the breezy charms of Quilt’s clips video for “Mary Mountain“. Then, to complete everything, there was the sophomore effort of Brooklyn’s ragtag crew in Slight (for those keeping score at home, that’d be Painted Zeros and Trace Mountains member Jim Hill, LVL UP‘s Greg Rutkin, and Catalonia’s Alberto Casadevall).

Run, which follows the band’s excellent townie490, may take the the track total from five down to two but it certainly doesn’t skimp on the band’s key elements: hooks, melody, fuzz, crunch, personality, and left field basement pop. The title track kicks things off at a full sprint, with promises of remaining level-headed enveloped in the adrenaline rush of the music. Rutkin proves to be a force behind the kit, urging everything forward while Hill’s guitar and synth work seems intent on trying to outstrip everyone, leaving Casadevall to keep everything in check with workmanlike bass lines. There’s a clear 90’s influence culled from the band’s powerpop pull and slacker punk aesthetics but they’re supplied with a modern worldview and a sense of history that supports the contrast that always exists between brave modernity and the tried-and-true.

While “Run” may skew towards a weird, contained combination of Lost Boy ? and Superchunk, the track that follows it- “The News”-  veers more towards Sloan with Slight’s fuzz-is-bliss identity starting to punch holes through their influences before too long. Synths serve as a warm bed for a track that darts, cuts, and charges just as fiercely as “Run”, only at a slightly slower clip. After everything clicks and sends it rocketing upward, it fades out in a bout of feedback (and one tastefully subtle synth interjection) leaving nothing but a trail of smoke in Slight’s wake. If the band’s next release is even half as good as this pair of tracks, Slight could be the next in line to break out and make a serious name for themselves.

Listen to Run below and snag the band’s young discography from their bandcamp.