Heartbreaking Bravery

stevenmps2@gmail.com | @steven_mps | @hbreakbravery

Tag: Ben Seretan

Ben Seretan – My Lucky Stars (Music Video Premiere)

Over the years, Ben Seretan has meticulously and methodically developed a reputation that’s as strong as the songwriter’s composition. Affable, curious, and driven, Seretan’s mastered the art of balancing abrasive, sardonic wit with an open earnestness that ultimately winds up working in service of the music. Now, Seretan’s turned that handle on reality to the visual format for a pair of clips from last year’s outstanding Bowl of Plums.

Various Small Flames already ran a wonderful premiere piece for “I Like Your Size” and now this site has the honor of unveiling it’s partner piece, “My Lucky Stars”. Both clips find Seretan shamelessly shotgunning beers, laughing as the chaos unfolds in slow motion, undercutting the heavy emotional undercurrent of the songs with physical comedy. It paints an effective dichotomy that — as this tactic does when used best — elevates both angles (assisted in no small part by the direction of Stephen Straub), rendering what could have easily been construed as a throwaway in less capable hands into something far more lasting and profound.

Adding to the surprising complexity of both the song and the clip is the fact that it’s presented as a continuation of the first movement of “My Lucky Stars”, which appeared on Seretan’s extraordinary self-titled. Speaking to Seretan about the clip, the artist also touched on how song’s evolve in the face of an artist’s perception over time and had this to say:

For me, it’s part of a larger acceptance I’m trying to get to: absolutely everything changes and, in fact, is changing right before your eyes as you’re busy trying to remember it. And even something as solid as a pure, heartfelt song made with care from a place of beautiful intention fades and warps in the sun.

It’s a beautiful sentiment that has a firm basis in reality, speaking volumes to something that might be misconstrued as something that was purely done out of silliness. While comedy and whimsicality certainly play a factor in the clip for “My Lucky Stars”, like everything else Seretan’s released up to this point, there’s always meaning buried somewhere unexpected. Hit play, have a laugh, think about life, and come back for more.

Watch “My Lucky Stars” below and pick up Bowl of Plums here.

Watch This: The Best of 2017’s First Quarter, Pt. II

While the first part of this four-part series featuring the very best of the live videos to emerge over 2017’s first quarter primarily featured fast-paced, punk-leaning numbers (with a few notable exceptions), the second round’s focus is a little bit softer. Acoustic (or electric) solo takes, folk acts, and ballads are very well-represented in these selections as are many site favorites. As is always the case, each of these clips and each of these performances are deserving of more attention than they’ve already received. So, as always, sit up straight, focus, adjust the settings, and Watch This.

PART II

1. Fern Mayo – Pinesol (Deli Cat Records)
2. Mitski – I Bet On Losing Dogs (WFUV)
3. Meat Wave – Run You Out (Live! From the Rock Room)
4. Charly Bliss – Black Hole (Do512)
5. Middle Kids – Your Love (KCSN)
6. Darkwing – 201 Carousel (BreakThruRadio)
7. Dust From 1000 Yrs – Spring II + The Deepest Part (Boxfish Sessions)
8. Angel Olsen – Shut Up Kiss Me (WFUV)
9. Jack – A Kick / A Knife
10. Strand of Oaks – Goshen ’97 (The Current)
11. Woods – Suffering Season & Politics of Free (La Blogotheque)
12. Slow Caves – Rover (Open Air)
13. Kodakrome – Head Down (DZ Records)
14. Ben Seretan – I Like Your Size (Chiu Productions)
15. Teenage Halloween – 666 (Little Elephant)
16. Twiga – Ballad of Rainy Dave (Chiu Productions)
17. Johanna Warren (ft. Bella Blasko) – Glukupikron (Velvatone)
18. 4th Curtis – Chicken (The Current)
19. Smartini – Liquid Peace (BalconyTV)
20. Amanda Shires – You Are My Home (World Cafe)
21. David F. Bello – 1,000 Shiny Daves (Little Elephant)
22. Sonny Falls – Wealth to the City Man (DZ Records)
23. Dan Managan – Race to the Bottom (BreakThruRadio)
24. Steve Strong – Do Not Swallow (BalconyTV)
25. Let’s Eat Grandma – Deep Six Textbook (NPR)

HB1000: A Step Forward (Compilation)

hb-banner-2

When I started Heartbreaking Bravery nearly three years ago, I had no intention of pursuing it as a legitimate venture. Now, 1,000 posts, 50,000+ links, and countless words later, the site’s come to be the type of platform I’ve always loved seeing in the world. I could attempt to wax poetic on the nature of personal discovery and growth that running this place has afforded me but Heartbreaking Bravery was never about a single person, it’s always functioned best as a communal entity.

The ideas that formed the basic structure of Heartbreaking Bravery all came from artists producing exceptional work with little recognition. Repeatedly watching that transaction occur proved too disheartening. Whether it was the earliest years of Tenement, the later years of Good Grief, or virtually the entire run of Sleeping in the Aviary, there were always ceaselessly talented artists surrounding me that only ever seemed to receive the slightest of nods.

Heartbreaking Bravery originally aimed — and continues to aim — to provide a more level playing field to emerging artists, without reducing their worth to financial opportunity. Heartbreaking Bravery continues to value the community and intimacy that informs the DIY music world. Heartbreaking Bravery will continue to use the platform it’s been granted to elevate the idea of greater equality.

It’s in that spirit that I’m honored to present A Step Forward, a two-volume compilation spanning 100 tracks that exclusively features artists who are connected to this site’s history. Whether that was through a long history of collaboration or something as small as a twitter follow, the impact was not lost or left unappreciated. There’s a heavy emphasis on artists residing in the cities and states Heartbreaking Bravery has called home (Stevens Point, WI and Brooklyn, NY) and a small selection of songs that were premiered on this site.

100% of the proceeds of A Step Forward will be going to Rape Victim Advocates, a non-profit Chicago-based organization that’s doing vital (and, sadly, necessary) work for survivors of sexual assault. Read more about the organization here. It’s my sincerest hope that every publication that has the privilege of visibility manages to find ways to use any of their influence for productive good and to affect positive change. Please consider donating what you can to a meaningful cause.

Finally, I wanted to express gratitude to all of the artists (and any of their teams) involved — including the inimitable Phil McAndrew, who turned in the extraordinary album art — and all of the people that have allowed, even willed, this site to the point it’s at today. It likely would have disappeared without that support and I owe those people a debt of gratitude that could never be truly repaid. A special thanks to Fred Thomas, whose “What Changes When The Costumes Come Off” was written with the specifics of A Step Forward in mind.

Enjoy the compilation, support independent art, and join me, this site, these artists, and this cause in taking A Step Forward.

Tracklist below.

A Step Forward: Vol. 1*

1. Vacation – Caked Joy Rag (Demo)
2. Mike Krol – Neighborhood Watch (Demo)
3. Dead Stars – So Strange (Demo)
4. Mo Troper – After the Movies (Demo)
5. Fern Mayo – The Sweets (Demo)
6. Hater – Like Hours (Demo)
7. Sharkmuffin – Only Mondays (Demo)
8. Fits – Ice Cream On A Nice Day (Demo)
9. Missy – Patience (Demo)
10. Kodakrome – Skeletons (Demo)
11. Slight – Run (Demo)
12. Long Neck – Goldfinch (Demo)
13. Phyllis Ophelia – Probably Not (Demo)
14. Lever – Cure (Demo)
15. Puppy Problems – Destroyer (Demo)
16. Battle Ave. – Black Jeans (Demo)
17. Yours Are The Only Ears – Alone Bear (Demo)
18. Attendant – Some Other Language (Demo)
19. MKSEARCH – Little Song (Demo)
20. Sulky Boy – Birches (Demo)
21. Heavy Looks – Those Guys (Demo)
22. darn it. – (again) pt. II
23. Phooey! – On an On
24. Arm Candy – Big Clunker
25. DTCV – Le Vampire
26. Clearance – The Queen of Eyes
27. Leggy – I’m Gonna Destroy That Boy
28. Big Air – Hit Me in the Mouth
29. Terry Malts – Look (At the Mess That We’re In)
30. Ubetcha – Musician
31. Two Inch Astonaut – Suckers Share
32. Whelpwisher – Bucket for the Sky
33. Petite League – Magic Johnson
34. The Meltaways (ft. Kate M) – Wrong Words
35. Calumet – Indian Summer
36. Mulligrub – Little Fist
37. Ben Seretan – Stay In Touch
38. Mumblr – Friendship Stew
39. Human People – Useless Things
40. Bethlehem Steel – Florida Two
41. Painted Zeros – Sweet Briar Rose
42. Spit – Paul Westerberg
43. Crusher – Running
44. Pupppy – Stand By Me
45. Aberdeen – Once You Fall In Love
46. Tica Douglas – Enough
47. Peaer – Multiverse
48. The Weasel, Marten Fisher – What Is Love
49. Young Jesus – Mirroring
50. Space Mountain – Earthrise

A Step Forward: Vol. II*

1. Bellows – Bank Checks
2. Cave Curse – Arcadia
3. Fred Thomas – What Changes When the Costumes Come Off
4. Apollo Vermouth – He Sees You, He Loves You
5. Green Dreams – Psychic Woes (Alternate Mix)
6. Lost Boy ? – Have You Seen My Brain (Space Cat Sessions)
7. Mikaela Davis – Pure Divine Love (Early Mix)
8. Nano Kino – Recovery (Early Mix)
9. Trophy Dad – Addison (Early Mix)
10. Alanna McArdle – Less Than (Early Mix)
11. VVHILE – Don’t Belong (Live)
12. Liam Betson – Mispronounced (Live)
13. BAG-DAD – Bruv (Live)
14. Slothrust – Keg Party (Live)
15. The Nudes – Nowhere to Be
16. Sat. Nite Duets – Cemetery Steve
17. Slanted – Fake Party
18. Patio – Gold
19. Greys – No Star
20. No Hoax – Date With Death
21. Dirty Dishes – Red Roulette
22. Yeesh – On Some Dirt
23. Pile – Cut From First Other Tape
24. Even Hand – Nightsmoke the Fuss
25. PURPLE 7 – Wise Up
26. Bad Wig – Machinehead
27. Mary Lynn – Space
28. Pleistocene – CMJ Compilation 1996
29. Color TV – Anybody’s Girl
30. Jacky Boy – Bad
31. Trust Fund – Would That Be An Adventure?
32. Good Grief – City People
33. Adir L.C. – Hangover
34. Milk Crimes – H8RZ
35. À La Mode – Total Doom
36. Inside Voices – Nomad: Begin
37. Doe – Corin
38. Kindling – Became
39. Bueno – Blown Out
40. Horse Teeth – Dark & Gloomy
41. Ron Gallo – Put the Kids to Bed
42. Sun’s Out Bummed Out – Cut All My Hair
43. Eric Slick – The Dirge
44. Fruit & Flowers – Turqoise
45. Shilpa Ray – Hymn
46. Jack – Sister System
47. Strange Ranger – Whatever You Say
48. Johanna Warren – A Bird in the Crocodile’s Mouth
49. Oceanator – Nowhere Nothing
50. Fresh Snow – Eat Me In St. Louis (Bryan W. Bray – Eaten by the Cetacean Mix)

Vol. I

Tracks 1-21: Demos
Tracks 22-50: New Songs

Vol. II

Tracks 1-4: New Songs (cont’d)
Tracks 5-14: Alternate Mixes and Live Songs
Tracks 15-49: Old Favorites
Track 50: Remix

 

Watch This: Vol. 142

From this past Monday to this just recently-ended Sunday, there were a slew of great live clips that came from the likes of Ben Seretan, Johanna Warren, Cymbals Eat Guitars, Chook Race, Ty Segall, Dog & Wolf, Daniel Lanois, Charles Bradley, Odanah, Strange Ranger, Flock of Dimes, July Talk (x2), Sleepy Kitty, Maszer, Lisa Hannigan, Half Waif, Gia Greene, The Felice BrothersEsmé Patterson, Elvis Depressedly, Jessie Kilguss, Alaska, Ghosts I’ve Met, MUNA, Underground Rider, American Trappist, Marlon Williams, James Vincent McMorrow, Hinds, Ile, and Keaton Henson. The strength of those video, as always, is indicative of the substance contained in the five featured performances below. From old favorites to emerging artists, there’s a lot of material to explore. So, as always, sit up, lean in, crank the volume, and Watch This.

1. Teenage Fanclub – Thin Air (BBC)

For decades, certain pockets of the music world have treated Teenage Fanclub with a reverence that’s typically reserved for deities. In the time that’s elapsed since they formed in 1989, the band’s amassed a devoted following but — as this performance for BBC’s Radio 6 definitively demonstrates — they haven’t lost a step. Still boasting all of the charm in the world, “Thin Air” is a reminder of their casual timelessness.

2. Weaves (KEXP)

Since the release of their incendiary self-titled debut earlier this year, Weaves have become a mainstay of the Watch This series. Tackling a quartet of songs here, the quartet brings their wild energy to the KEXP studios for one of the station’s best sessions of the year. As ever, the band’s a relentless force, attacking each of these songs with the conviction and tenacity that’s earned them a dedicated, steadily-increasing following.

3. gobbinjr – Firefly (Boxfish Sessions)

A few years into a promising career, Emma Witmer — who masterminds the gobbinjr project — has been releasing delicate pop songs that sound airy but boast a substantial amount of weight. “Firefly” is a prime example and its performance here, for Cuttlefish Collective’s Boxfish Sessions, is a thing of singular beauty. With only vocals, an omnichord, and a pre-programmed drum track, “Firefly” surpasses being simply mesmerizing and winds up at a place of transcendence.

4. Tuns – Mixed Messages + Mind Over Matter (Indie88Toronto)

Whether Tuns is a side project, a supergroup, or a curiosity is irrelevant, what’s important is that they’re writing great songs. Legendary pedigree aside, Tuns would’ve likely been turning heads. While the band’s members’ projects certainly hold a particular amount of influence over their sound (Sloan likely being the most notable of the bunch), there’s a spark here that should help the project establish their own identity. Either way, “Mixed Messages” and “Mind Over Matter” are worth celebrating.

5. PUP (CBC)

Earlier this year, PUP released their fiery sophomore effort, The Dream Is Over. Several strides forward from their explosive debut, the record opened up their already frantic live show and sent the band’s members careening to every corner of stages the world over with wild abandon. The band recently stopped by CBC’s studios to tear through several key songs from their Polaris-nominated record — including “If This Tour Doesn’t Kill You, I Will” and “DVP”, two of the year’s finest songs — and the resulting document is an exhilarating portrait of a wild-eyed band that refuses to hit the brakes.

Truman & His Trophy – Truman Kills A Bug (EP Review)

truman & his trophy

Trust Fund, Petite LeagueShelf Life, Ghost Camp, Jackal Onasis, Ben Seretan, Sass Dragons, Toys That Kill, Naked Hour, Hardly Boys, Molar/Pale Kids, Vallens, Grey Bath, Laptop Funeral, Comprador, and Guts Club were among the bands that churned out excellent full streams in the last week and a half. Another band that added their name to that very impressive list: Truman & His Trophy. Now, several readers of this site will likely recognize Chris Sutter and Ryan Wizniak as members of Meat Wave but Truman & His Trophy precedes the formation of that band. They’re also responsible for one of the most gloriously insane concept albums of all time (the header photo’s a good indication of the band’s vision).

After the release of the aforementioned concept record — 2011’s Bottom George Pizza Planet — the band played a few shows and mostly fizzled out, rarely coming out of hiding to play a show. A new record seemed like it could be out of the question, especially in the wake of Meat Wave’s surprising (but extremely well-deserved) success. No one was expecting the band to make a power move this year but the band revels in exploiting the unexpected and gifted the world the ferocious Truman Kills A Bug EP just a short while ago.

Largely picking up where they left off, the band dives back into their seemingly alien take on the kind of punk that’s frequently tied to Steve Albini; cold, vicious, and punishingly direct. For as outlandish as the narratives can get in the land of Truman (and his trophy), the music remains startlingly effective. There’s always been a lot to love about this band and Truman Kills A Bug offers plenty of reminders over why the band became such a fiercely beloved local act in the first place. It’s raw, deceptively intelligent, and always leaves you wanting more. All you need to do to squash that longing is hit repeat.

Listen to Truman Kills A Bug below and pick it up from the band here.

Mitski – Happy (Music Video)

Mitski IV

Over the past handful of days, several notable music videos have found release. Yoni & Geti (who almost claimed this post’s featured spot thanks to the editing alone), Band of Horses, Mumblr, Dead Stars, Fear of Men, Gemma Ray, Nicholas Allbrook, Atoms and Void, SomosCate Le Bon, Omni, Thin Lips, Braids, and The Good Life Ben Seretan, all had clips deserving of multiple looks and Steve Gunn offered up an endearing lyric video. There was even a Henry Rollins-starring trailer for a new Dinosaur Jr record. Ultimately, it was the latest clip from Mitski that earned this post’s feature.

Following the unforgettable “Your Best American Girl” clip would’ve been a daunting task for any artist (or filmmaker) but “Happy” accomplishes it with astonishing ease. Directed by the inimitable Maegan Houang — whose work has been praised on this site before and likely will again — “Happy” creates a challenging narrative that touches on everything from personal intimacy to self-doubt to self-loathing to gender politics and race relations (among others).

Exquisitely shot and paced, the story unfolds delicately, revealing a growing wound between a woman and her military husband. Suspicions are confirmed and the wound grows deeper, creating a tightly-wound level of tension that’s only drawn tighter as the clip progresses. Fueling the atmosphere is Houang’s assured direction, giving nods to legendary filmmakers like Wong Kar-wai and Alfred Hitchcock along the way, layering on the cues to subtly underscore the passage of time.

Everything in “Happy” feels like it’s heading towards some climactic moment, a confrontation that exists on a purely personal basis. While that climactic moment does arrive, “Happy” manages to successfully subvert those expectations while remaining true to the heart of the video. At first blush, the final sequence may not seem overtly personal but dig deep enough and it becomes heartbreaking in its symbolism.

Those final moments are full of untold tragedy, harsh reality, and keen awareness. It’s terrifying and confrontational all at once, full of a well-placed rage that imbues the entire affair with a passion that retroactively alters every one of the clip’s preceding vignettes. One of the most satisfying narrative presentations the format’s had in recent memory, “Happy” winds up being more than masterful; it’s legitimately memorable. Easily one of 2016’s finest clips, “Happy” demonstrates Mitski’s taste and convictions in equal measure, ultimately culminating in one of the artist’s finest offerings to date.

Watch “Happy” below and pre-order Puberty 2 here.

Ben Seretan Group – Take 3 (Song Premiere)

benseretan

Over the course of the year, this site has done its best to pull Ben Seretan‘s work into focus. From an astounding self-titled effort to a melancholic short film, the material Seretan’s provided has been as fascinating as it has been compelling. Seretan’s had a knack for collaborations and the group he’s wrangled for this effort- a tape entitled Yellow Roses– (which is officially being released under the moniker Ben Seretan Group) is loaded with talent.

A month ago, Seretan gave the world a glimpse at Yellow Roses via a video of one of the extensive live sessions that went into its creation. Yellow Roses immediately stands out as one of 2015’s more niche releases, essentially a half an hour riff on deviations of the same song split into an A-side and a B-side for the cassette release. Coyly named “Take 2” and “Take 3”, the whole experience is easy to lose yourself in while it washes over everything.

Seretan’s shown a gift for tapping into music that manages to sustain a meditative sensibility before and the key phrase the release hinges on, “Yellow Roses”, once again feels like a do-or-die mantra. There’s a certain exhilarating desperation that the song evokes, providing it an intriguing sense of urgency on both sides, even as they approach 15-20 minutes in length. “Take 3”, the tape’s B-side, has a particularly tall order to film, registering as the back half of one larger connected experiment.

A song that could have easily been consumed by the weight manages to thrive by continuously subverting expectations, blooming into something that thrives on difficult circumstance. By continuously establishing new nuances, Seretan (and co.) have created something that’s both entirely unexpected and completely welcome. Hell, it may even prove to be unforgettable. Whatever it is, it’s certainly not worth missing. Just hit play and drift off to wherever your mind takes you.

Listen to the premiere of “Take 3” below and pre-order Yellow Roses from Death Rehearsal here.

Ice Melting in the Back of a Pickup Truck (Short Film Premiere)

benserjeshug

Back towards the beginning of the year, this site ran a slightly overdue feature on Ben Seretan’s exquisite self-titled record. With Ben Seretan‘s breathtaking scope and sprawling ambition, it wouldn’t have been much of a surprise if the songwriter had taken a hiatus. Instead, Seretan’s subverted expectations and teamed up with Seattle musician Jesse Hughey for an official collaborative release. The two had previously met at a show in Alaska where they performed their songs on a flooded golf course while those in attendance danced on overlaying sheets of plastic. Afterwards, they kept in touch and began forming what would become “Ice Melting in the Back of a Pickup Truck” by passing demos to each other via email.

To add a sense of place to the proceedings, Seretan began editing both his footage and Nico Hadley’s footage together from a 2014-15 tour. The final result feels less like a music video and more like a short film, especially when taking the 19 minute run-time into account. Every frame comes across as considered, intending to evoke a sense of wonderment at the melancholic landscape that likely served as a strong inspirational factor for this collaboration. There’s no real narrative through line to speak of other than an tantalizing, subdued sense of exploration yet the imagery still manages to feel deeply intuitive. Even when the focus shifts from bleary landscapes to more vibrant scenery, it never loses its meditative pacing. Paired with the track itself, a smoldering ambient piece that continuously unfurls into appropriately cinematic places. It’s a hypnotic, expressive, and strangely moving piece of filmmaking that may make you wind up pining for a very certain kind of day.

Watch Ice Melting in the Back of a Pickup Truck below.

Ben Seretan – Ben Seretan (Album Review, Stream)

benser

If anyone was paying attention to the majority of this site’s content over these past two months, then they’ll be aware of how extraordinary 2014 was for new artists. One record that crept in just before the year wrapped also wound up being one of its best. While it’s impossible to imagine that Ben Seretan’s extraordinary self-titled record will hit the stratospheric heights of popularity that Beyonce elevated with her just-before-close 2013 self-titled, it’s a record fully deserving of similar levels of acclaim. Seretan’s been putting out records under his own name for the past four years, quietly building an absurdly strong discography. No record in the songwriter’s elegantly powerful streak hits as hard as the monumental achievement that this review aims to bring into sharp focus: Ben Seretan.

The breathtaking scope of the record is immediately evidenced by the towering “Ticonderoga”, which not only establishes Seretan’s penchant for mantra-esque writing earlier on but acts as a showcase for his versatility in composition. Elements of genres as varied as drone, post-rock, and math-punk get thrown into a melting pot and escape through an oddly beautiful cinematic lens. “Ticonderoga” also succeeds in illustrating Seretan’s gift with the tension/momentum dynamic, conjuring up an atmospheric peak that reaches a new zenith every time it enters its next movement. Unnervingly hypnotic and deceptively intricate, it’s a palette-setter that succeeds in seemingly every possible way. Unsurprisingly, the rest of the record seems to follow suit in its endlessly compelling roads that lead to that inevitable conclusion.

Masterful guitar-playing augments Seretan’s earnest vocal delivery, each always lending the other an emotional punch that’s impossible to ignore. Nature references garnish Seretan’s lyrics, lending the proceedings an ethereal feel that suits the music to a tee. Organs, synths, strings, and brass drift in and out as the record hums along, never becoming a distraction (this is thanks to the record’s brilliant production and Seretan’s uncanny control over his creations). Only one song- “My Lucky Stars“- clocks in under the five-and-a-half minute mark, while the majority of them exceed seven. As impossible as it seems with those numbers involved, Ben Seretan never overstays its welcome- instead, it excels in creating all-enveloping atmospherics that are built on equal parts restraint and exploration.

It’s that same dynamic that drives one of the record’s most staggering moments- eloquently-titled centerpiece “the Confused Sound of Blood in a Shining Person“. Opening with a narrative adorned with the arresting imagery of a “dead dog laying on a pile of sawdust”, it evokes a very specific place of time and all of the accompanying feelings, right down to the most minute detail, as it swells to an unforgettable climax where the title is- as is so often the case on Ben Seretan– repeated, unapologetic as it lodges itself into the listeners consciousness. While there are a great many of these moments on the record, this one stands as the sharpest thanks to the unexpectedly heavy emotional heft. Only album closer “Swing Low” comes close, thanks to its unhinged cathartic release. Driven by Seretan’s enviably masterful guitar work and a palpable sense of urgency. As closing notes go, it’s hard to best something like “Swing Low” which acts both as an epilgoue for its precedents and a likely foreword for the great things that seem destined to come.

Listen to Ben Seretan below and order a copy from Hope for the Tape Deck here.