Heartbreaking Bravery

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Tag: Benjamin Hopkins

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. 7

PWR BTTM 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).

The preceding galleries can be accessed via these links:

2015: A Visual Retrospective, Vol. 1
2015: A Visual Retrospective, Vol. 2
2015: A Visual Retrospective, Vol. 3
2015: A Visual Retrospective, Vol. 4
2015: A Visual Retrospective, Vol. 5
2015: A Visual Retrospective, Vol. 6

Enjoy the gallery.

 

2015: A Visual Retrospective, Vol. 6

Potty Mouth

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. 5

Johanna Warren 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. 4

Car Seat Headrest

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. 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 – 1994 (Stream, Live Video)

PWR BTTM III

Today, like several previous Thursdays, saw this week’s pace of new releases slowing a little but yielding some of the week’s strongest material. Ditch Club’s self-titled EP and Shannon & the Clams‘ Gone by the Dawn were the only entries in the full streams field but constituted a strong day for the format nonetheless, while PINS‘ film-damaged “Dazed By You” and Girl Band‘s sly “Pears for Lunch” more than assured the music video field was well-represented. There was a fascinating variety of individual songs that made a dent as well, including: Helvetia’s singular “A Dot Running for the Dust“, Painted Zeros‘ dynamic masterclass “Pretty Rig“, Day Wave’s unabashedly lovely “Come Home Now“, Say Lou Lou’s perfectly crafted pop anthem “Hard For A Man“, Roadside Graves’ driving, widescreen “Clouds“, Windhand’s sludgy triumph “Hyperion“, Naytronix’s subtle, nuanced “Back In Time“, and Philosophical Zombie’s towering basement pop number “Garden Grows Regardless“. Of course, there was also the unveiling of today’s featured item: PWR BTTM’s “1994”.

With the release of PWR BTTM’s outstanding Ugly Cherries drawing closer every day, the duo’s making sure to keep everyone invested in the release through what, so far, has been a perfectly-executed rollout campaign. It’s latest flourish, the release of record highlight 1994, manages to showcase every one of the record’s best attributes. While all of the songs to have found a release as a preview have been identified in part by sadness, it’s an element that acts as one of the strongest characteristics of “1994” and created a mood that can’t be shaken- not entirely- even during one of the year’s most bombastic music moments (a dazzling display of fretwork fireworks from Benjamin Hopkins). Even with that prevalent sense of buried personal pain, it’s difficult not to feel at least a little uplifted in the chorus, which plays out like a small victory; a moment of wordless clarity that infuses the proceedings with a liveliness to even the track out into something affirming.

One of the reasons I’ve expressed so much love for PWR BTTM over the past few months is their exceedingly high level of empathy. It’s abundantly clear in both their music and their thoughtful functionality, which acts as one of the band’s most attractive driving mechanics. By being so upfront about being part of a marginalized community and a continuing fight for a greater understanding, the band’s slowly been transformed into something resembling a highly celebrated representative of several of those sects. They’ve become revered for all the right reasons, which is increasingly rare in a culture that perpetuates immediate gratification at a potentially damaging rate.

PWR BTTM’s also a remarkably committed act, not because the context demands them to be but because they have a genuine passion for their craft. At the bottom of this post there’s a video of the band playing “1994”. The performance is typically spectacular (the band’s live show is genuinely inspiring) but doesn’t even slightly betray the fact that Benjamin Hopkins- the guitarist/vocalist for “1994” (the duo sporadically trades off instrumental and vocal responsibilities)- was incredibly sick the night of that show, passing out only shortly after it finished. Those situations and moments are the kind that can go a long way in defining a band but for PWR BTTM it acted as another assurance of how ingrained all of the qualities mentioned in the above paragraphs are into the act’s veins.

Personal perseverance has been one of their most uniting themes and it’s one that comes full circle in “1994”, which is a deceptively calm rallying call that makes a strong case for simply allowing yourself to be alive. Due to the emphatic nature of its reasoning, it easily becomes not only one of Ugly Cherries‘ most memorable moments but stakes a very serious claim as one of the best songs of 2015. Honest, powerful, and strangely reassuring, “1994” may feel like it’s lost in time but its message is timeless. Hang on to it and make sure it’s remembered for years to come. Songs like this one deserve that level of investment- just don’t forget to strive to live along the way.

Listen to “1994” over at NPR and pre-order Ugly Cherries from Father/Daughterand/or Miscreant ahead of its September 18 release. Watch the video of the band performing the song at Shea Stadium below.

PWR BTTM – West Texas (Stream, Live Video)

PWR BTTM III

A lot can happen over the course of two days. Bringing an already stacked run of days to a close, Thursday and Friday continued to unearth a wealth of gems, including a trio of strong records from Naomi Pop, Funeral Advantage, and Gold Class. No less than 16 great new songs emerged from a variety of acts including Salad Boys, Laura Stevenson, SPORTSJosh Ritter, Field Trip, Ricked Wicky, Adir L.C., Boys, Chris Walla, Ghosts In Pocket, Psychic Handshake, Cœur de pirate, Mos Def (ft. Ski Beatz), Speedy Ortiz (covering The Cardigans), Shunkan, and Destroy This Place. Music videos made a strong impression as well, with outstanding new clips from Diet Cig, Alex G, WorriersThe King Khan & BBQ Show, DRINKS, Flowers of Evil, Ali Barter, and A Place to Bury Strangers. On top of all of that, the run of days also yielded another look at PWR BTTM’s extraordinary forthcoming record, Ugly Cherries, by way of “West Texas”.

Over the past three months, PWR BTTM have gone from a quick few mentions on this site to being one of its most celebrated featured acts. A lot of that can be traced back to the band’s incendiary live show but most of it has to do with the fact their recent songs have been nothing short of astonishing. The band’s upcoming full-length debut, Ugly Cherries, already had one of the years best songs (the record’s title track) released to kick off the rollout campaign and now it’s being followed by the equally powerful “West Texas”.

All of PWR BTTM’s usual characteristics are on display throughout the song, from the inventive structures to the sharp playing to a lyric set that pushes honesty to a level that feels defiantly confrontational. Benjamin Hopkins and Liv Bruce trade vocal leads with a fluidity that betrays the duo’s already uncanny connection and the song makes the absolute most of its runtime, landing every blow it throws with a vicious intensity. Harmonic riffing, power drumming, and a bevvy of immediacy help make “West Texas” a standout track but, as is nearly always the case with PWR BTTM, their melodic and lyrical sensibilities push this into a realm that not a lot of other bands have even attempted to occupy. Sardonic, sincere, and singular, it’s another perfect example of why PWR BTTM deserves as much conversation as possible.

Listen to “West Texas” below and pre-order the record from Father/Daughter and/or Miscreant ahead of its September 18 release. Beneath that, watch a video of the band performing the song (along with “Short-Lived Nightmare”) at Shea Stadium.