Heartbreaking Bravery

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Tag: Bigger Party

Three Quarters Down (Mixtape)

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[EDITOR’S NOTE: First off, to get this out of the way at the top, there will be no Watch This today. It’s absence will be made up with a unique 50th post next Sunday.]

We recently hit another quarter mark in the year and this site just hit another fifty posts. A digital mixtape- Three Quarters Down– has been curated to celebrate both of these occasions. All 25 songs on display have managed to become favorites in the span of their (admittedly short) existence. It didn’t matter where they came from- splits, records, singles, exclusives- if it was a great song that came out over the course of the past three months, it wound up on the list. However, there are a handful of others that were excluded by virtue of not appearing in Soundcloud’s public library- those will likely get their due in December both here and elsewhere. In the meantime, revisit some of the best songs that led us straight into fall by listening to the mix below.

Beneath the 8tracks player is the original listing of the songs in this collection. Enjoy.

1. Mitski – Townie
2. Two Inch Astronaut – Foulbrood
3. LVL UP – DBTS
4. Little Big League – Tropical Jinx
5. The History of Apple Pie – Jamais Vu
6. Menace Beach – Come On Give Up
7. Thalassocracy – Shimensoka
8. Cellphone – Human Rights
9. Ovlov – Ohmu Shell
10. Mumblr – Sober
11. Trust Fund – Reading The Wrappers
12. Girlpool – Jane
13. Night School – Casiotone
14. Happy Diving – Sad Planet
15. Dilly Dally – Green
16. Washer – Rot
17. Speedy Ortiz – Bigger Party
18. The Midwest Beat – Vortex Hole
19. Bass Drum of Death – For Blood
20. Mannequin Pussy – Sheet City
21. Pity Sex – Acid Reflex
22. Mogwai – Teenage Exorcists
23. Nothing – July The Fourth
24. Dark Blue – Here On My Street
25. Crimson Wave – Say

Pitchfork Festival: Day 3 (Review)

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After the threat of a storm cleared up, Day 3 was given a gentle opening courtesy of Mutual Benefit. Jordan Lee’s project released one of last year’s best records in Love’s Crushing Diamond which was featured heavily throughout their set. More than a few moments warranted an unexpected chill down the spine, a very rare feat for a band so unassuming. It was genuinely difficult to leave but it proved a little more difficult to pass up the opportunity to catch the end of Speedy Ortiz’s set while securing a good spot for Perfect Pussy. Speedy Ortiz played with their usual amount of verve, injecting their songs with off-kilter humor and small surprises. “Bigger Party“, their recent Adult Swim-endorsed single, drew a strong reaction- as did fan favorites “American Horror” off of this year’s great Real Hair EP and “Indoor Soccer” off of their excellent early EP, Sports. When everything ended in a cataclysm of precisely-controlled noise, it seemed like Speedy Ortiz were exactly where they belonged.

Once more, Perfect Pussy‘s set felt too important to be given a brief summary so it will be given a separate, full review after the Day 3 recap. Rest assured: it was an extraordinary performance that felt like a defining moment for the band. Just like a few days prior, the band following Perfect Pussy were divisive metal act Deafheaven. While Deafheaven did feel slightly out of place in the broad daylight, it did provide the festival some unexpected balance- and it was mixed to near-perfection. Drawing what was easily one of the most diverse crowds of the festival, watching the passerby reactions to the band’s signature sound was nearly as intriguing as the band themselves. Having already seen them two nights ago in a more appropriate setting, it was off to catch the heavily-acclaimed Isaiah Rashad, who delivered his set with a comfortable confidence. While Rashad’s lyrics often hit the same beat, that repetition is easily distracted from by some innovative production work. Rashad himself was an engaging presence that kept the crowd involved with natural charisma, star magnetism, and some festival-appropriate choruses. It was a nice break from the high-level intensity of the previous three acts and wound up striking the perfect balance between relaxing and exciting, offering festivalgoers a chance to catch their breath while their attention remained invested in the performance.

Dum Dum Girls kept that balance exactly where it should have been with their peculiar brand of easygoing, subtly psych-glam-inflected, dream-pop. Everyone seemed to be in a sedated trance only a few songs in, eyes fixated to the stage, where the the band was running through a set emphasizing their most recent material (most notably this year’s enchanting Too True). They’ll be back in the Midwest before too long and, as evidenced by just a handful of songs, are definitely worth seeing (catch them at the High Noon Saloon on October 23). After a brief reprieve, it was time to catch a few songs from ScHoolboy Q, a figurehead of the increasingly influential Black Hippy crew. Q’s Habits & Contradictions was one of hip-hop’s defining records just a few years ago and it’s power- and Q’s stature- have only grown since. He lived up to every expectation and delivered a set just as lively as both Pusha T and Danny Brown’s attention-demanding performances from the previous day.  It was another strong example of the festival’s genre sensibility for the category and it was nothing short of thrilling to see Q take full advantage of his slot.

What followed ScHoolboy Q was an impromptu-heavy stunner of a set from Canadian duo Majical Cloudz. Devon Walsh and Matthew Otto are responsible for Impersonator, a haunting and minimal triumph of a record that stands as one of the best releases of the decade so far. It’s a record whose success no one could have predicted the extent of- just as no one could have predicted that less than two songs into their set, Otto’s keyboard (responsible for the bulk of the band’s music) would die completely. After frantic, futile attempts were made at a fix, the band embraced the dire conditions and weathered them with no shortage of bravery. Their first post-instrument-death piece was an a cappella rendition of “Bugs Don’t Buzz“, an immediately arresting performance that set the tone for what was to come. From that point forward, Walsh would graciously extend the microphone to anyone that wanted to sing one of their songs, beatbox, or even tell a joke- all while making sure the performance was kept relatively reigned in. More vocal-only renditions of songs from Impersonator were given- and loops were used whenever possible- and, for the grand finale, they took the now-useless keyboard and smashed it to smithereens in a moment of pure catharsis. It was genuinely unforgettable and wound up being a perfect transition to the next band on the schedule.

The recently reunited (and massively influential) Slowdive thankfully encountered no technical difficulties and sounded as perfect as they ever have, cranking their amps up to their breaking points and calmly making their way through a set of several now-legendary songs. Appropriately, their audience was in an entranced awe thanks to the still-spellbinding music emanating from the stage, as affecting now as it was two decades ago. This performance was one of the band’s only US dates and they made every moment of it count. After Slowdive wrapped up, there was just enough time for a brief break before Grimes took over and played to an absolutely packed crowd. Visions is now over two and a half years in the past but it’s proved formidable enough to keep serious attention focused on Clair Boucher, the artist behind the project. Grimes’ only release since then was last month’s “Go“, which earned a large amount of attention and acclaim. From the crowd’s reaction to Grimes’ set (which often felt more appropriate for a pop star than an emerging electronic artist, right down to the fan allowing Boucher’s hair to blow in the wind) it was abundantly clear that the public opinion of her has grown drastically since the release of Visions. “Oblivion” had a lot of people screaming and the audience seemed more than a little reluctant to see her leave but there was still one performer to go: Kendrick Lamar.

At this point, Kendrick is one of the few people in music who don’t need an introduction- and that showed in his set. Mostly pulling from the already-considered-stone-cold-classic good kid, m.A.A.d city he delivered one of the festivals most confident sets, while managing to keep it from tipping over into easy braggadocio, proving to be more than worthy of the festival’s ultimate headlining slot. His audience was huge and rapturous; it seemed like half of the Day 3 attendees were there solely to see the man himself. He didn’t disappoint those expectations- or even come close. Everyone who could drink was drinking, everyone who could dance was dancing, and no one was walking away disappointed. Songs like “Swimming Pools (Drank)” elicited mass crowd shout-a-longs and Lamar used his time as well as he possibly could. He’s clearly one of the biggest names in music (this is thanks in part to the fact he’s now earned a bottomless well of guest verses for just about everyone) and has no intentions of going anywhere but up. There were very few choices that would have felt more appropriate to bring everything home. It was the best-case-scenario closing to a festival that continues to get more impressive- and if that keeps up, it won’t be worth missing by the time it rolls around next year.

NXNE: Day 2 (Pictorial Review, Video)

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After Day 1 of NXNE got the festival off to a strong start, Day 2 is when the madness kicked into high gear. From late afternoon to well past midnight, there were sets from Caddywhompus, Speedy Ortiz, PS I Love You, Pissed Jeans, The Pizza Underground (although it’s still unclear if that could actually be called a set), Shannon & the Clams, Odonis Odonis, The Yips, and Sam Coffey & the Iron Lungs. These were spread out across four venues and, at the bottom of these writings, there’s visual documentation of all of them.

Day 2 started off at the gorgeous (and gorgeously lit) Mod Club Theatre, which boasted a stacked bill that was headlined by Pissed Jeans- who delivered what would be one of the most memorable single sets of the festival. Before that, there were several standout moments from each of the three bands preceding Pissed Jeans. Caddywhompus set the wheels in motion with their enticing combination of traditional math elements and post-punk. From their surprisingly sweet vocal melodies to the power drumming and guitar fireworks that drove the momentum of their set, it’s easy to see why people are starting to latch onto this band. Proving even more impressive was their use of noise-prone ambient transitions to seamlessly segue between many of their songs. Somewhere between their terrifyingly precise tempo shifts and their soaring choruses, they’ve carved out something even more impressive; a wide-open future.

Site favorites Speedy Ortiz were next to take the stage and delivered a set laced with great moments from Major Arcana as well as a song they’re currently prepping to release as a single for an Adult Swim series that’s entitled “Bigger Party”, which is the band at their most definitive. Grass is Green‘s Devin McKnight has taken up the space recently vacated by guitarist Matt Robidux and managed to come off as an integral (and more importantly, incredibly dynamic) part of the band. By the end of Speedy Ortiz’s set, they’d made the most of their penchant for irreverence by keeping the between-song moments lively with genuinely funny banter and a great rapport. There were no lulls or dull moments; the evening had hit its stride early with what would ultimately become one of the night’s most engaging sets.

Canadian favorites PS I Love You were the next ones up and have the benefit of a great new album on deck that they seemed eager to tease. Immediately apparent was their fondness for blistering volumes, which in lesser hands may have distracted from their musicality- not here. Add in a generous layer of fuzz and the jaw-dropping guitar heroics of Paul Saulnier (who also controlled blasts of bass-driven organ chords through wired presets on a pedalboard- and had sweat dripping off his fingers less than three songs into their set) and it wound up being a fairly staggering showcase for both Saulnier and the relentless drumming of Benjamin Nelson. While their set did drop its momentum after the ecstatic highs brought on by a genuinely impassioned performance of “Facelove“, things were restored by the very end of their set thanks to the strength of the songs on their outstanding upcoming full-length, For Those Who Stay.

After PS I Love You called it night, one thing suddenly became very clear: everything was about to become all about sludge-indebted hardcore titans Pissed Jeans. They didn’t disappoint. All but storming the stage, vocalist Matt Korvette started their set by immediately declaring that the band had a very important announcement to make: “We are no longer Pissed Jeans. We are now Virgin Mobile Pissed Jeans”- a possible dig at the festival’s increased incorporation of corporate sponsorship. Following that subtly-tinged bit of possible vitriol, their levels all quickly rocketed to seething. With Korvette absolutely owning the Mod Club Theatre stage (both Nick Cave and Iggy Pop frequently came to mind- and that’s saying quite a bit), his band exploded around him and consistently matched his energy level. Between songs, he would faux-berate the audience for not trying hard enough or for not being more into the performance- and at one point he even paused to conduct a music lecture on guitar composition (extended fives, sweeping fours, and triple sevens were all covered).

Never letting the energy levels drop even a fraction, Pissed Jeans annihilated just about every expectation and ended with what’s undoubtedly one of the strangest encores to ever be performed at NXNE. Here’s what happened: after a small but meaningful attempt from the audience to get the band back on stage for one more song, Korvette reappeared and took the reigns on bass and began playing a tribal-sounding bassline over and over, occasionally walking from the stage to the wings before disappearing completely (while still playing the bass). At one point, the guitarist became the drummer for a strange misdirect- and didn’t play a single note before getting off the throne and exiting the stage. Finally, after Korvette hadn’t appeared for about two minutes, he suddenly slid the bass out quite a ways onto the stage floor from his spot in the wings and the show was officially over. All of it caused one audience member to scream out “What did that even mean?!” which was shortly followed by his still-very-confused “…like, technically?!”. If only anyone knew.

Going from what was arguably the festival’s highlight to Lee’s Palace for what was inarguably the most uncomfortable set (courtesy of The Pizza Underground) was a little jarring. As mentioned up above, it’s difficult to know whether or not this could even be called a set-  it was more of a comedy variety hour. At any rate, Maculay Culkin’s Velvet Underground-aping Pizza project had a hard time finding or developing any sort of noticeable rhythm and it kept tripping over itself to bring in new ideas or guests- among them: Plop Dylan (Bob Dylan songs with the lyrics altered so that they were about feces), a karaoke section from #PUSSYJOEL (Billy Joel songs about cats- the only thing the internet loves more than pizza), and a bizarre Tony Danza-impersonating stand-up comedian. The most clever of these wound up being the least tactful; Kurt Cobain’d- a man dressed up as Kurt Cobain (who was arguably the best musician to be featured throughout their set) doing Nirvana songs where all of the present tense verbs were switched to the past tense. By the end of their set, they were barely doing any of their original (a term used very loosely, all things considered) material. At least they bought Pizza for everyone.

An additional benefit of The Pizza Underground’s set? Culkin’s celebrity draw prompted one of the biggest non-Yonge Dundas Square turnouts and several of them stuck around- and were subsequently blown away- by an incendiary set from Shannon & the Clams. The band had previously caused a lot of people to fall pretty hard for them with an extraordinary track record of releases through Burger Records and Hardly Art. Live, the band more than lived up to the promise of their studio releases and quickly filled the spots in Lee’s Palace that had been abandoned after The Pizza Underground left a bad taste in much of the audience’s respective mouths. Not too long into their set, the entire standing section was full of people grinning widely and dancing their hearts out to Shannon & the Clams’ throwback rock n’ soul basement pop. All things considered, that lasting image was one of the best takeaway moments of NXNE.

After Shannon & the Clams had left everyone smiling, the plan was to go to Smiling Buddha to settle in for The Yips and Sam Coffey & the Iron Lungs- fortunately, after running into Speedy Ortiz- we were redirected to Odonis Odonis’ set at The Garrison. Arriving mid-set meant the audience was already packed. The members of Speedy Ortiz, looking a touch exhausted, snagged a spot at the adjacent bar and advised us to go in to catch the band. Already being anxious to catch Odonis Odonis (who appeared on Heartbreaking Bravery’s First Quarter Finish mixtape), caused no hesitation in a move for the venue doors. Only a few songs were caught but it didn’t take long for Odonis Odonis to establish their connection to METZ: both bands have the same intense careening-all-over-the-place stage presence and love of ear-shattering volume levels. Their spastic synth-driven noise-punk freakouts managed to re-establish a new energy precedent for the evening and wound up being the best surprise set of the festival.

The Garrison was then left behind for the second consecutive night at Smiling Buddha (which would be visited again on nights 4 and 5) for late shows from The Yips and Sam Coffey & the Iron Lungs. Both bands made the best use of a very small stage that they didn’t quite seem to fit on. All five members of The Yips kept grinning and bouncing off each other as if they were having the time of their lives- a trend that was continued by the six member lineup of Sam Coffey & the Iron Lungs. Where The Yips played surf-friendly basement pop that hinted at some art-friendly trappings, Sam Coffey & the Iron Lungs went the full blue-collar basement punk route. Both bands drew huge reactions from the crowd and there was more than one instance of crowd surfing. The Yips had people dancing. Sam Coffey & the Iron Lungs incited mass crowd sing-a-longs. There was clear-cut camaraderie between the bands and their audience in a small-scale environment- which is what all of the best festivals strive to achieve. It was a genuinely incredible end to an extraordinary day of sets and sent expectation skyrocketing for Day 3.

Watch videos from Caddywhompus, Pissed Jeans, Shannon & the Clams, The Yips, and Sam Coffey & the Iron Lungs below (apologies for the slightly blown-out audio)- beneath those, the photo gallery containing each band mentioned n the review. Enjoy.

Caddywhompus

Pissed Jeans

Shannon & the Clams

The Yips

Sam Coffey & the Iron Lungs

Watch This: Vol. 27

Yes, technical problems are still causing some delays in content being posted- but information’s being gathered at the same rate and pieces are being committed to. There will be a few massive days of content leading up to a very brief hiatus. That hiatus is happening for a very good reason and will lead to the most content from a single even that this site’s ever seen. Long-term solutions are being worked on to prevent these brief delays from happening in the future while great music continues revealing itself at a steady clip. This is why, in the next few days, there will be three Watch This segments, multiple reviews, multiple music videos, and multiple streams. In the 27th installment of this series, a heavy emphasis is placed on the always reliable 3voor12 channel, with two other videos creeping their way through. So, grab a drink, tip it back, sit down, turn up the volume, and Watch This.

1. Mansions – Two Suits (Little Elephant)

Every once in a while a band comes along that defies convention and challenges expectations. Mansions belong in the elite pocket of that group, deftly combining elements of electro-pop with fuzzed out post-punk. By the time the guitarists La Dispute shirt and drummer’s Dinosaur Jr. hat reveal themselves as apt influences for Mansions, the band’s turned a lighthearted pop tune into an absolute bruiser of a track. If this band’s not ready to start making some serious waves then they’re really not showing it.

2. Raein – Dopo di Noi la Libertà (El Cheapo)

Raein’s inclusion here is a bit of an anomaly, as this site’s not normally too heavy on the fiercer post-hardcore-leaning screamo bands but there’s something about the video that just clicks. This is the second video from El Cheap to be featured after the extraordinary one that was put together for Perfect Pussy’s “Driver”– except this time a small venue gets traded for a basement. Raein are at their best when they indulge their more melodic sensibilities, as they do here, while the crowd feeds off of them and supports them as best as they can. Limbs flail, falling drums are grabbed and placed back in position, and everyone shares a moment. It’s essential viewing for anyone looking for the most redeeming aspects of any branch of the live DIY circuit.

3. Speedy Ortiz (3voor12)

There’s a reason why Speedy Ortiz keeps showing up this series; they tour hard and, as this performance should definitively prove, an incendiary live act. It’s going to be difficult to find a video of the band in finer form than they are as they tear their way through a handful of songs that somehow manage to live up to “American Horror”, their ferocious set-opener. At certain points, it’s almost as if you can hear their amps humming, in danger of overheating and bursting into flame. This session’s also notable for including a performance of a great new song called “Bigger Party” that disproves the notion of Speedy Ortiz being a flash in the pan. At this point, it’d probably just be better to stop reading and watch the damn thing already.

4. together PANGEA (3voor12)

Like Speedy Ortiz before them, this isn’t the first time together PANGEA has showed up in a Watch This and it’s unlikely that we’ve seen the last of them. Another great example of a consistently great live band, they run headfirst through a set of songs heavy on 2014 highlight Badillac including the band’s career high points, “Offer” and “River”. By video’s end it’ll be difficult not to feel won over; the handful of songs the band pulls out here are all played with an undeniable amount of verve and passion, cementing their status as one of the more exciting bands on their respective circuit.

5. Big Ups (3voor12)

Sometimes questions get rewritten. This is a fact of life that applies to a lot of things, including music. For example: it’s not a question of if Big Ups are going to blow up- but when. They’ve built themselves a solid reputation in their early goings as one of New York’s most exciting bands. Anyone looking for why can stop reading this now and watch the video below. There, they’ll see the band members lose their collective minds while creating an unholy racket that somehow explodes with the kind of personality and charisma that attracts legions of followers. They’ll watch the band come alive and leave a trail of sonic destruction in their wake. Then they’ll tell literally everyone they know about them so the band can set about achieving world domination. It’s the only possible way this can play out.