Heartbreaking Bravery

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Tag: Black Hole

Hoop – To Know Your Tone (Stream)

As another day recedes in the rear view mirror, it’s time to take stock of the goods it provided. There were excellent tracks from The Drums, B Boys, Gold Class, Us and Us Only, Loco Ono, Turtlenecked, Institute, and an unreleased demo from Ultimate Painting. Music videos were well represented by strong pieces that sprung from the likes of The Geraldine Fibbers, The Coathangers, Nick Hakim, Tiny Hazard, HOTT MT, and Daniel Martin Moore. Bringing everything to a nice close were full streams from The Wisconaut, Emperor X, and Sophie Sputnik.

While all of those, as always, are more than worth the time anyone’s willing to invest, today’s featured slot goes to Hoop’s arresting “To Know Your Tone”, from their forthcoming Super Genuine, which features a vocal assist from solo artist Allyson Foster. In a brief explanation of the inspiration for the song’s narrative, lyricist Caitlin Roberts offered the following: “To Know Your Tone” is about the power of asking for support and receiving support, and what it’s like to listen deeply to someone you don’t know very well but empathize with strongly. It’s about allowing tears to fall on the desert of isolation. 

A perfect summation of the humanism that’s always been at the core of Hoop’s music, the explanation goes a long way in explaining the overarching message of “To Know Your Tone” but what really elevates the song is the composition. Muted, hushed, nervous, and aggressive, “To Know Your Tone” benefits from an incredibly dark tone, providing both a contrast and a context to the song’s empathetic narrative. Allyson Foster delivers the vocal with a committed certainty, consumed by the song’s inherent power.

Appropriately, Foster stepped in to sing the song when Roberts lost her voice, underscoring the message of “To Know Your Tone” to an eerie perfection. Hoop — not to be confused with Hoops — and Foster work in tandem perfectly, complementing each other’s sensibilities with ease. The end result of their collaborative effort is both a tribute and testament to the very power of collaboration and the beauty present in asking for and receiving help. A gripping meditation on therapeutic connections, “To Know Your Tone” is also one of the year’s most quietly affecting tracks.

Listen to “Know Your Tone” below and pre-order Super Genuine from the band here.

Charly Bliss – Guppy (Album Review, Live Videos)

Reviewing a record that you’ve spent years becoming entwined with, falling in love with, and essentially establishing as a core part of your identity is a difficult prospect. It’s always nerve-wracking to attempt to do justice to something that’s become so personal. When it’s made by people that you’ve grown to love and even consider part of your extended family, it becomes a lot murkier. And yet, every single time Charly Bliss’ Guppy starts up, all of those thoughts fade away and the record rises up, bares its fangs, and clamps down with such a vengeance that it’s difficult to think of anything other than the music’s sheer, overwhelming power.

Guppy is a record I’ve been fortunate enough to watch evolve since its first permutation in 2015, which featured a handful of songs that didn’t make the cut for the official release (including “Turd“, which was released in advance of Guppy as a standalone single) and boasted a production that emphasized the low-end aspect of the band, providing it an immense punch. That Guppy has not only retained that punch but emphasized it by balancing out those levels is nothing short of miraculous.

To get to that point, the band weathered quite a few storms and put more notches in its belt than most people realize. The band first hinted that it might be more than your standard punk-driven basement pop act with the releases of 2013’s A Lot To Say EP, which was highlighted by its towering title track. Following that was the release of an astounding single in “Clean“, the invaluable addition of Dan Shure on bass, and the release of the Soft Serve EP, which — along with their scintillating live show — acted as the band’s calling card for a handful of years.

Soft Serve acted as my introduction to the band and I’ve never been so thoroughly dismantled and blown away by a band I’d never heard of as I was the day I clicked play on that record. It topped Heartbreaking Bravery’s EP’s of the Year list for 2014 and still stands proudly as my personal pick for the best EP of this decade and it’s very unlikely that anything will unseat it by the time 2020 rolls around. No band has every put me all in as quickly as Charly Bliss managed with just three perfect songs.

I didn’t know it at the time but that EP would wind up legitimately changing the course of my life. Eva Grace Hendricks, one of Charly Bliss’ two guitarist/vocalist/songwriter’s, joined the A Year’s Worth of Memories contributors roster shortly after Soft Serve‘s release and wound up being an instrumental part of my decision to relocate to Brooklyn for half of 2015. Our shared, vocal support of each other’s ventures meant a great deal to me at the time and still does today, as it stood (and stands) as the type of mutual support that Heartbreaking Bravery has aimed to establish since the beginning.

Enter: Guppy‘s first run, an astonishing demo that laid out the particulars and quickly overtook everything else in my listening habits. Any doubts that any of the members of Charly Bliss may have had at the time were wildly unwarranted; even at its most humble stages, Guppy was a behemoth of a record. For the next two years, the band would fine-tune different parts of the songs, the production, and they’d introduce new material that usurped a few scattered tracks that were initially grouped in with what would eventually become Guppy.

To promote the record, the band did everything right and still managed to hide a few tricks up their sleeve: touring America as the openers for Veruca Salt and PUP, releasing “Ruby” as an early single and following it up with a characteristically clever music video, unleashing the single greatest Audiotree session I’ve seen (no small feat), and finding ways to advance their jaw-dropping live show, from perfecting four-part harmonies to studiously analyzing old footage to look for subtle tweaks to potentially make. All the while, a handful of labels had taken interest and the band had a huge decision to make and took their time to make sure it was the right one.

Barsuk Records eventually won the rights to Guppy and all of the tenacity they likely poured into their campaign to secure the record should pay massive dividends for the label going forward. It’s a move that helped secure Guppy the vaunted NPR First Listen slot, replete with an effectively effusive write-up. Stereogum immediately awarded the record its Album of the Week honor and Pitchfork gave it the kind of score that’s a short step away from verging on their Best New Music territory (a rarity for the publication’s appraisal of this particular genre).

While all of the praise remains heartening to see and the critical analysis provided to the record was both thoughtful and thought-provoking, it’s difficult to tell if any of those reviewers grasped the magnitude of what this type of record can accomplish if it keeps being awarded effective platforms. It’s also difficult to tell if any of those publications had a handle on not only what this band can eventually become but what they’ve managed to become already. As mentioned above, Guppy is a record capable of obliterating critical thinking as it plays and then rewarding it to an obscene degree when it wraps, putting it in extremely select company.

From the energy-bolstering opening seconds of “Percolator”, Guppy lets its listeners know that they’re in for something that’s as ebullient as it is aggressive, finding a transcendental sweet spot between bubblegum coating and a shockingly dark undercurrent. Hendricks, from the outset, dives into a narrative that grapples with not only her own mortality but the self-awareness everyday interactions have come to necessitate. Spencer Fox, the band’s other guitarist/vocalist/songwriter, provides what’s quickly becoming his trademark: economical but dizzying guitar riffs that don’t sacrifice feeling for technique (or vice versa).

If people weren’t aware that Fox is currently one of the best guitarists in music, Guppy should go a long way in providing that (admittedly understandable) ignorance a remedy. While Soft Serve‘s “Urge to Purge” remains one of the best riffs of the present decade, Guppy is where Fox stakes his claim, something that becomes abundantly clear throughout the course of the record. Not only are all of Fox’s contributions spectacular but the work Dan Shure and Sam Hendricks (Eva’s brother) are doing as a rhythm section have allowed them to quietly become one of the most vicious tandems currently on the circuit.

While Fox and that rhythm section remain impressive throughout, Guppy‘s beating heart rests in Eva Grace Hendricks and that heart’s beating at a relentless pace. Hendricks anchors each one of these songs with a frightening determination and a mischievous joy. All of the come-on’s are equipped with a warning, every smile comes with a missing tooth, and every invitation comes with an advance apology.

In “Ruby”, Hendricks’ loving ode to her therapist, she rides a subway with blood on her hair. On “Glitter”, there’s the realization that a relationship’s shortcomings can sometimes be equally distributed across both parties. In “Scare U”, there’s the recognition of greed and the unapologetic desire to be in complete control.  At seemingly every turn, Hendricks comes to grips with the duality most goodhearted people constantly view as a struggle. By subverting these thoughts and latching onto something defiantly celebratory, Charly Bliss comes together to reclaim their own deeply damaged narratives as learning points, important mistakes, and necessities of personal evolution.

It’s in that context where each of the band’s decisions gains importance. They’re not just making music because they like to make music; they’re using it as a coping outlet. Every single snare hit, vibrato, and squeal comes loaded with personal meaning and they’re reaching those confrontations as a unit, drawing from each other’s strengths to pummel all of the perceived difficulties back into something that feels inconsequential in the face of what they’re doing together. Nothing is half-assed. This is the embrace of life vs. the acquiescence of  a life given over to being constantly haunted by past mistakes.

As that aspect of Guppy comes into focus, it’s legitimately hard not to be blown away on several levels. Chief among them, the strength this band’s gained through both familial experience and shared camaraderie. There’s no judgment present, just the willingness to take a sword to the throats of the dangerous things that threaten the well-being of their friends. If there’s a dragon to be slayed, Charly Bliss’ tactic is to conjure up a battering ram to force it into becoming a piñata and bathing in its blood as the ugliest contents come pouring out, greeting the event as a ritualistic party to share with all their friends.

Managing to make things even more impressive is the fact that the band’s doing this with what’s more of a whip-smart advancement of ’90s slacker punk & powerpop aesthetics than a faceless imitation. Sure, Guppy will get compared to Letters to Cleo, Josie and the Pussycats, and any other act that fits that mold- but (in addition to some possible casual sexism) that’s only faintly scratching the surface of what’s actually happening on this record, especially in terms of composition. That’s a victory all on its own and Guppy should go a long way in contributing to what looks to be a seismic shift in the way bands pull influence from that particular pocket of music.

Guppy is far from a retread and it’s decidedly modern bent helps secure it a spot as one of 2017’s essential releases as well as a bona fide genre classic. There are no standout songs among the 10 because virtually all of them rank among the best to be released this year. From wire-to-wire, Guppy is a breakneck record that revels in destruction and comes off as a staggering show of force. Everything from the dirty ditty-turned-guaranteed showstopper “Black Hole”  to the unrelenting blows administered by “Gatorade”, “DQ”, and “Westermarck” are enough to make anyone sit up and start paying the type of attention this band should’ve been receiving for the past several years.

As “Totalizer” races by with abandon and all of the requisite snark, cleverness, and thoughtfulness that have come to define Charly Bliss songs, it’s still difficult to think most will be adequately prepared for the record’s final breathtaking moment. “Julia”, Guppy‘s sludgy closer, is the heaviest track the band’s committed to record by miles. It’s one final reminder that the band’s not as cute as they appear at first blush and that Guppy, while a fun record on the surface, conceals a wellspring of damage that the band’s not afraid to confront. Full-throated, deeply felt, and ferociously delivered, Guppy is a basement pop record for the ages. Whatever troubles come, I have no doubt that Charly Bliss will be standing above the wreckage, breathing in the smoke and looking to start a roaring fire all their own.

Listen to Guppy below, pick it up from Barsuk here, and watch a collection of live videos that I personally shot of the band playing at six separate shows over the past few years.

Charly Bliss – Black Hole (Stream, Live Video)

Over the past few years, Charly Bliss has been featured on this site with alarming regularity. Of course, no one’s doing a punchy basement pop/bubblegum punk hybrid at anywhere close to their level. And they keep improving. So, if anything, it’s a little shocking they aren’t featured in these confines even more frequently. Their debut full-length, Guppy, is only a week away from release and it marks a moment that’s been more than two years in the making.

Guppy‘s gone through a lot of changes over that time, from track switches to production alterations, and one of the most notable changes occurred with the addition of “Black Hole” (formerly entitled “Bad Box”), a song that started off as a vocal warm-up that featured slightly dirtier lyrics (the opening line remained a constant through all of its mutations). Everything that’s transformed this band into one of the best acts on the market is brought to the forefront in “Black Hole”, from the black comedy of the lyrics to the scintillating guitar work (and razor-sharp composition) and seemingly infinite amount of energy.

“Black Hole”, like every Charly Bliss song, is an immensely thoughtful, characteristically clever beast of a song, ably showcasing each band member’s formidable talents. On top of all of that, though, it’s also endlessly replayable, holding up and revealing new depths several dozens of listens past the initial brush, rendering it the umpteenth song this band’s unloaded that’s both immediately satisfying and carries enough power to sustain a near-shocking longevity. With all of that in mind, it’ll be a genuine shock if Guppy doesn’t wind up delivering on its early promise as a legitimate Album of the Year candidate. Until it’s arrival, though, it’s enough just to keep “Black Hole” on repeat.

Listen to “Black Hole” (and watch the band performing the song live in Minneapolis last year) below and pre-order Guppy from Barsuk here.

Another Two Weeks Worth of Music Videos

Over the course of the past two weeks, an impressive slew of music videos have fought their way out into the world. While a very select few will be highlighted in the very near-future, it’d be inexcusable to dismiss the titles below without any recognition whatsoever. Provided that time wasn’t such a restrictive issue, each and every one of these would be receiving a feature write-up dedicated to analyzing what makes them great. Truly, each one of these clips is more than worth several viewings, so stop reading and start clicking. Who knows? This pool might just contain a few new favorites. Enjoy.

Charly BlissGirlpool, Hovvdy, Bad Moves, The Seams, PWR BTTM, Palehound, Aye Nako, Dude York, Wilding, Big Eyes, Alien Boy, Juliana Hatfield, B Boys, Big Thief, Monster Movie, Baked, Clipping., The New Year, Dead Leaf Echo, Craig Finn, Sparks, Wolf People, Sloan Peterson, The Calm Fiasco, Hoops, Pontiak, Toro Y Moi, Dream Wife, Slowdive, The Drums, Arc Flash, LT Wade, Shit Girlfriend, Nana Grizol, Plastic Flowers, R. Ring, Future Islands, Reptaliens, INVSN, Sharkmuffin, Marcus Norberg and the Disappointments, Lexie RothStolen Jars (x2)

Bridges and Powerlines, Beach Fossils, Blonde Summer, Communions, The Wild Reeds, Little Star, Circle, Emotional, Boyhood, Akinyemi, Winstons, Souvenir Driver (x2), Hand Habits, Boss Hog, Grace Sings Sludge, Leather Girls, Trementina, Mutts, Kamikaze Girls, Hermano Stereo, Sleep Party People, Explosions In The Sky, The Buttertones, Tall Tall Trees, No Kill, Skaters, Mise en Scene, Danny Brown, Rubblebucket, Bleached, C Duncan, Slow Turismo, Conor Oberst, ShitKid, Aldous Harding, Gorillaz, Small Black, A Tribe Called Quest, and Michael Kiwanuka.

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)

Watch This: A Long List of Honorable Mentions from A Brief Stretch of Time

It’s been approximately a month and a half since the last volume of Watch This ran on this site. During the interim, there was a lull in coverage due to show coverage (the results of which will be appearing in the very near future) and then a spree to get the three main release categories — single streams, full streams, and music videos — caught back up to the current release cycle.

Now that everything’s back on pace, the Watch This series will be revived in a continuing series of posts that are spread out over the next week. During all of the time the series maintained radio silence, the material that was emerging was being taken into account on a near-daily basis. An intimidating amount of great live performance videos have surfaced in that time and will be split up into groups as those clips are recapped. Below is a list of strong candidates that have a lot to offer, either in the filmmaking department, through the band’s performances, or a mixture of both. So, as always, sit up, scroll down, and Watch This.

Gordi, The Black Angels (x2), The Coathangers, The Peekaboos, Andy Shauf (x2, 3), Sorority Noise, Sera Cahoone, Footings, Lina Tullgren, Abi Reimold, Your Friend (x2, 3, 4), Shearwater, Christian Lee Hutson, Indian Askin, Lady Pills, Valley Queen, Gary Clark Jr. (x2), Choir Vandals, Pearl Charles, New Madrid, Laura Sauvage, Simeon Beardsley, Colleen Green, Palm Springs, didi, Max Meser, Keeps, Pinkwash, Cate Le Bon, Namorado, Mount Moriah, Tacocat (x2. 3), Trixie Whitley, Bleached (x2, 3), Psychic Love

Clean Spill (x2, 3), The KillsRestorations (x2, 3), Band of Horses (x2), Sioux Falls, The Frights, Behold the Brave, SOAR, The Ultrasounds, Arnold Turbobust, Broken Beak, Korey Dane, Songhoy Blues, Tony Peachka, Beach Slang, Pinegrove (x2), Astronautalis, CocoRosie, Little Green Cars (x2), Golden Daze, Sex Tide, Audacity, Jalen N’Gonda, Sun Club, Laura Gibson, Born Ruffians (x2), Kurt Vile, Bird Laww (x2), Mail the Horse, Radical Face, Yeasayer, Nada Surf, Wimps, Museyroom, Bummer, Quiet Hollers

Deerhunter Rainwater Cassette Exchange, Kaiti Jones, Yak, Operators, Quilt, Laney Jones (x2), Slowdive (x2), Laurel, Penny and Sparrow, Model/Actriz, Savages, You Won’t (x2), Psybeams, Julia Pox, Lip Talk, Pure Bathing Culture, Amanda Bergman, Hinds (x2, 3), Battles, Parlour Tricks, Deerhunter, Jackie Islands, Flying Horseman, Wet Nurse, American Pinup, Blitzen Trapper, Davina and the Vagabonds, Cybee, Jon Latham, Jon Latham.

 

Watch This: Vol. 108

Once again, there’s been a brief interim since the last Watch This was posted but, as ever, a lot of great material has surfaced in that time. In this volume, there will be an emphasis on full sessions and artists who have made numerous appearances on the site over its two years of existence. All five of these artists have earned glowing reviews for their live shows and are, in a lot of ways, inextricably connected to Heartbreaking Bravery’s development. Only one of these clips is a performance of a standalone song and it’s one of the most gripping live captures of the year. So, as always, sit up, wind down, focus, adjust the settings, and Watch This.

1. All Dogs (Audiotree)

Watching All Dogs‘ exposure explode in 2015 thanks to the release of their extraordinary full-length debut, Kicking Every Day, felt genuinely gratifying. The songs in that collection, like any Maryn Jones-led project, feel brave and personal. Every song is relatable to an extent that’s almost painful; our own damage is reflected in Jones’ interior grappling, which suffuses every ounce of Kicking Every Day. In a live setting, those songs gain even more impact and Audiotree expertly captures that with  this very worthy session.

2. Bully (KEXP)

One of the first shows I saw after moving into an apartment in Brooklyn was thanks to a tweet that sent me sprinting towards Rough Trade. What followed was a whirlwind set by site favorites Bully, that largely pulled from their outstanding Feels Like. KEXP recently hosted the band for an in-studio session that once again finds the band nailing the seemingly paradoxical marriage between sounding polished and downright ragged. Exhilarating and fairly composed, it’s a fascinating look at one of 2015’s most deserving success stories.

3. Waxahatchee (Ithaca Underground)

Katie Crutchfield has been one of the most consistently enthralling songwriters of the past 10 years, elevating a staggering number of projects that have managed to find a near-reverential status among their respective communities and beyond. Eventually, that devotion spread outward and expanded into national recognition only shortly after her first collection as WaxahatcheeAmerican  Weekend, was released. Crutchfield’s released two more records under that moniker (and a few as half of Great Thunder) in the time that’s followed, with both Cerulean Salt and Ivy Tripp finding spots in numerous best-of lists at high-profile publications. Here, Ithaca Underground presents Crutchfield performing an arresting (and beautifully shot) solo set that leaves the audience speechless. It’s a powerful document of an artist who continues to find new ways to impress.

4. Dilly Dally (KEXP)

Dilly Dally came into 2015 riding a wave of buzz surrounding the staggering brilliance of their first few singles and capitalized on those early flashes of potential with ferocious abandon. Nearly every item the band released this year wound up inspiring several paragraphs worth of attention from this site and a few extremely strong reviews for their inspired (and, frankly, inspiring) live shows. Sore, their full-length debut, just served as the cherry on top of an already-appealing sundae. KEXP recently brought the band in for a full session and they responded in kind, gifting the studio an appropriately searing performance.

5. Saintseneca – How Many Blankets Are In The Wolrd? (ANTI-) 

Throughout 2015, ANTI- has produced some of the most beautiful live clips in recent memory (a handful of which have been prominently featured in this series) and that streak continues with this beautiful presentation of Saintseneca‘s Zac Little performing “How Many Blankets Are In The World?” while walking through what appears to be a drainpipe. Easily one of the year’s most gorgeous live captures, this is both a spellbinding performance and a masterclass in composition. Even when Little’s plunged into near-complete darkness, the song itself serves as the clip’s functioning heart, generating a thoughtful overall effect. When Little finally emerges back into the light, it’s a sequence that feels oddly moving, finalizing this as one of the year’s most complete offerings in this category.