Heartbreaking Bravery

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Tag: Ben Hopkins

PWR BTTM – I Wanna Boi (Music Video)

PWR BTTM XI

Only a very select few acts have been featured on this site more times than PWR BTTM.  They’ve been a consistent staple of Heartbreaking Bravery’s coverage for nearly two years and it’s been a privilege to watch them grow as artists and performers, not just because it allowed insight to their artistic growth, but because it’s offered the opportunity to watch them grow more comfortable with their position — and their skin — as well. A lot of the duo’s music has centered around their identity and they’ve become outspoken advocates for the LGBTQ+ community that they call home.

They’ve grown progressively more committed to those roles through their music videos, using the format as a way to advance their message in the most clear and concise terms possible. In that regard, “I Wanna Boi”, their most recent clip — and one of Ugly Cherries‘ brightest moments — may be their most effective clip to date. “I Wanna Boi” mostly ceneters on Liv Bruce vamping around a classic Victorian Gothic house, mouthing the words to the song. As with all of PWR BTTM’s work, there’s a nakedly direct sense of personality that the suffuses the work, emboldened by the fact Bruce co-directed the clip with Anneliese Cooper,

Boasting an enticing central performance, gorgeous visuals (courtesy of cinematographer Emily Dubin), and a healthy dose of attitude, “I Wanna Boi” quickly becomes one of 2016’s most compelling videos. Everything that gets worked into the clip, from a brief scooter run outside to a blow-up doll as a stand-in for an unknown romantic lead, pushes “I Wanna Boi” to increasing levels of greatness. There’s not a false move to be found throughout the clip’s run and “I Wanna Boi” winds up as one of the band’s most thrillingly complete works as a result. Shot through with pathos and levity, it’s a perfect document of one of today’s most important bands.

Watch “I Wanna Boi” below and download Ugly Cherries here.

PWR BTTM – New Hampshire (Stream, Live Video)

PWR BTTM III

For a while now, Benjamin Hopkins has found strength and empowerment through naked vulnerability, a trait that’s on full display with PWR BTTM‘s breathtaking “New Hampshire”. Penned when Hopkins was experiencing a sense of displacement, the track’s gone through various mutations for a few years and has (finally) arrived fully-formed for the UK deluxe edition of Ugly Cherries alongside the astonishing “Projection“.

Easily one of the duo’s gentlest songs — and in small bursts, one of their most gnarled — “New Hampshire” is an intimate look into a fractured psyche. From the onset, Hopkins is grappling with questions of mortality, greeting death with open arms. It’s a brave moment and that bravery doesn’t waver throughout the course of “New Hampshire” as it plunges into the depths of bleak certainty, finding ways to inject it with small grasps at hope.

That “New Hampshire” seems to paint death as a release provides the song with the bruising devastation that’s unified PWR BTTM’s strongest work, allowing some insight to the daily struggles the duo are forced to face in their everyday lives. By being so open about their preferences both Hopkins and Liv Bruce have been walking a double-edged sword as queer ambassadors, receiving celebration and (unfortunately) displaced derision in the process.

It’s a position that’s led the band to become increasingly accustomed to applying their openness and sincerity to a grander scale, which has also inflated the opportunity for confrontation. All of those experiences have been imbuing the band’s recent works and leading to some genuinely beautiful moments after being paired with the duo’s innate musical ability. Even in the smallest touches, like the bell runs or vocal rounds in the second half of “New Hampshire”, the emotive scope is evident.

“New Hampshire” is three and a half minutes of slowly lowering any remaining guards, stepping out into the open, and accepting an ephemeral fate. Tacit and direct in turns, PWR BTTM once again find a way to navigate uncomfortable corners with an unfathomable amount of grace and feeling. It’s an absolutely gorgeous song, even at its most barbed, and effectively demonstrates PWR BTTM’s growing range as artists. Far more than just a bonus track, the song’s both one of PWR BTTM’s strongest moments and one of 2016’s most essential offerings. Wounded, firm, and lovely, “New Hampshire” is unforgettable.

Listen to “New Hampshire” below and watch a video of the band performing the song earlier this year beneath the soundcloud embed. Order Ugly Cherries here.

2015: A Visual Retrospective, Vol. 3

Idle Bloom

Throughout the course of 2015 I’ve been fortunate enough to attend upwards of 100 shows, festivals big and small, and spend approximately half a year living in a city that hosted a mind-boggling amount of quality shows on a nightly basis. To that end, it’s probably unsurprising that I wound up taking over 10,000 photos this year alone. Over the course of the next few days, this site will be running seven volumes of the shots that stood out as personal favorites, whether that was due to their composition, sentimental attachment, or an intangible emotional or intellectual response. It’s been an honor to be able to take even the smallest part in the ongoing sagas of the artists in the photographs below and an additional thanks is due to the venues that allowed me to shoot (as well as the people who encouraged me to keep shooting).

Enjoy the gallery.

 

2015: A Visual Retrospective, Vol. 2

Girlpool I

Throughout the course of 2015 I’ve been fortunate enough to attend upwards of 100 shows, festivals big and small, and spend approximately half a year living in a city that hosted a mind-boggling amount of quality shows on a nightly basis. To that end, it’s probably unsurprising that I wound up taking over 10,000 photos this year alone. Over the course of the next few days, this site will be running seven volumes of the shots that stood out as personal favorites, whether that was due to their composition, sentimental attachment, or an intangible emotional or intellectual response. It’s been an honor to be able to take even the smallest part in the ongoing sagas of the artists in the photographs below and an additional thanks is due to the venues that allowed me to shoot (as well as the people who encouraged me to keep shooting).

Enjoy the gallery.

2015: A Visual Retrospective, Vol. 1

Radioactivity

Throughout the course of 2015 I’ve been fortunate enough to attend upwards of 100 shows, festivals big and small, and spend approximately half a year living in a city that hosted a mind-boggling amount of quality shows on a nightly basis. To that end, it’s probably unsurprising that I wound up taking over 10,000 photos this year alone. Over the course of the next few days, this site will be running seven volumes of the shots that stood out as personal favorites, whether that was due to their composition, sentimental attachment, or an intangible emotional or intellectual response. It’s been an honor to be able to take even the smallest part in the ongoing sagas of the artists in the photographs below and an additional thanks is due to the venues that allowed me to shoot (as well as the people who encouraged me to keep shooting).

Enjoy the gallery.

PWR BTTM – Ugly Cherries (Stream)

PWR BTTM III

Wednesday, for whatever reason, has become a traditionally stacked day for the release slate. Today’s already ushered in more than a dozen notable releases from all across the world, spanning about as much terrain musically as it does geographically. Music videos wound up with a fairly strong outing and included some stunning visuals that were brought into focus by the likes of Ducktails, Creepoid, Destroyer, and Albert Hammond Jr., constituting the strongest showing for the format in weeks.

Curiously, the full stream category was completely absent from the day’s proceedings (so far, at least) but that did make room for another impressive haul of singles. Donovan Wolfington got a little heavier and a lot more focused with “Ollie North“, Manatree ushered in some tropical tones through their sccuzzed-up indie pop number “Animal Qualities“, Wand and Sunflower Bean continued to revel in psychedelia with “Stolen Footprints” and “The Stalker“, respectively.

Ultimate Painting continued sharpening their shambolic, widescreen Americana via “(I’ve Got The) Sanctioned Blues“, Tenement released the winningly scrappy demo take of Predatory Headlights standout “Hive of Hives“, and Cold Beat continued to create compelling tapestries by merging distinctly left-field influences once again in the tension/explosion masterclass “Cracks“. Fake Palms let loose the pulverizing “Sparkles“, Palehound released another stunner in “Healthier Folk“, Antarctigo Vespucci continued subverting expectations and delivering at an unreasonably high level with “Impossible To Place“, Diät resurfaced with the urgent, punishing “Toonie“, Autobahn brought out a similarly menacing gut-punch through “Society“, and Chelsea Wolfe deepened the foreboding overtones of those last two numbers with the slow-burning “After the Fall“.

While any number of those songs could have been selected as the feature for today’s post, the distinction goes to a duo that’s earned some coverage here in the past: PWR BTTM. Today the band not only announced their upcoming record and the necessary details but released the title track as well. Father/Daughter and Miscreant will be joining forces once again to release the excellent Ugly Cherries on September 18. And while “Ugly Cherries” is fairly representative of the full-length’s best qualities, there are still a variety of surprises and nuances to explore once the record drops.

Until then, though, we’ve got “Ugly Cherries” to place under a lens and obsess over.  If the song sounds familiar, it may be due to the fact that it’s been a staple of the band’s live set for quite some time- or maybe you’ve heard it playing as the theme song for the excellent live series that’s hosted by Play Too Much. Maybe you just think the chord progression lead-in is “Undone — The Sweater Song” (it’s not but you’d probably be forgiven for the confusion). Any way that it gets processed, though, the simple unavoidable fact is that it’s an absolute powerhouse of a song, swinging for the fences and connecting with a startling emphasis.

PWR BTTM, a band that consists of Benjamin Hopkins and Liv Bruce, have developed the kind of rapport that most bands can only dream about achieving. From their impressive musical synchronicity (they frequently switch guitar, drum, and vocal positions) right down to the atypically engaging stage banter that peppers their energetic live show, there’s an intrinsic connection that’s both palpable and natural- something that translates to the studio versions of the songs.

“Ugly Cherries” hits some of the duo’s favorite beats (gender identity, examination, doubt, shamelessly bombastic shredding, and acceptance, among them) without ever losing its sense of urgency or vitality. As a powerful display of finesse and deceptive strength, it’s a near-perfect mission statement for the band. As a warning shot for the record that’s now on its way out into the world, it might be enough to incite a riot. I’m almost positive they wouldn’t have it any other way.

Listen to “Ugly Cherries” below and order the record from site favorite(s) Father/Daughter Records (in association with Miscreant Records) ahead of its September 18 release date by following the label hyperlinks.