Heartbreaking Bravery

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Tag: Blessed

17 of ’17: The Best Songs of the Year

2017 was a staggeringly balanced year in terms of memorable musical output. To honor that consistency, the typical run of 17 songs will be complemented by a list — in no particular order — of 83 other great songs to find release throughout the year. As usual, the “best” tag simply acts as shorthand for the music I was fortunate enough to consume from January through December, which had an individual song list that tallied well into the quadruple digits.

Names that are already familiar to year-end lists on this publication reside comfortably alongside artists who are still looking to make a larger impression. Non-singles are included with some of the year’s strongest advance tracks and songs that tip towards hardcore rub shoulders with some quiet basement pop numbers. There’s a lot to contemplate — both inside and outside of the top 17 selections — and even more to celebrate.

These are the 17 best songs of 2017.

Enjoy.

Great Grandpa – Teen Challenge

One of the great album openers of 2017, “Teen Challenge” reintroduced a noticeably more explosive version of Great Grandpa that wasn’t afraid of hairpin turns or controlled catharsis. From the outset of “Teen Challenge” the band is swinging for the fences but it’s not until the enormous final section where something deeply impressive transforms into something legitimately inspiring. It’s a celebratory song that comes loaded with conviction and is delivered with the type of determination that refuses to be held back.

Mo Troper – Your Brand

One of this site’s picks for last year’s Album of the Year honors, Mo Troper returned this year with two records. One, a collection of older material reworked for Troper’s current band, the other, an inspired effort of new material that saw Troper expanding his ambitions to legitimately unexpected degrees. The elevation of both songwriting and production on Exposure & Response is particularly evident in career highlight “Your Brand“, which finds Troper turning his gaze towards the brand-obsessed inhabitants of social media, people who treat themselves as corporate entities and flaunt varying levels of entitlement.

Occasionally, those same denizens find the levels between tongue-in-cheek mockery and unwitting sincerity blurring into an unrecognizable definition. It’s a richly-deserved skewering that’s shot through with a resigned understanding. The tasteful string and brass arrangements that adorn “Your Brand” send the song to euphoric heights even as Troper is weighed down in the bog of a tragicomic reality. It’s a masterful outing that positions Troper as one of the most promising pop songwriters of this generation.

Cende – What I Want

Cende‘s first and final full-length effort was an enticing effort headlined by a slew of singles that all warranted consideration for placement on this list (and earned individual write-ups). None of them wound up impressing quite as deeply as the song boasting the record’s most challenging — and towering — arrangement, the Greta Kline-featuring “What I Want“. Falsettos, a lilting string arrangement, and an incendiary bridge showed off Cende’s formidable range, tilting from something approaching the saccharine to a vicious instrumental outburst at the click of a hi-hat.

Charly Bliss – Westermarck

Few bands have earned as much attention and praise from this site as Charly Bliss over its four-year existence and it was heartening to watch the band break out in 2017 with one of the year’s most affirming releases in Guppy. While every track on that record is noteworthy for one reason or another, it was “Westermarck” that kept revealing deeper facets of itself. A rousing meditation on uncertainty couched in an unapologetic joy of simply being alive, the song became an unlikely anthem for anyone questioning their partner’s motives (especially in significantly skewed familial setting).

Common Holly – Nothing

Tender, sparse, and wrought with longing, Common Holly‘s “Nothing” proves how adequately minimalist formulas can maximize difficult emotions. It’s a bare-bones run through a personal affirmation, rendering something that appears delicate at first blush searing at second glance. More than that, “Nothing” introduces Common Holly as a deceptively powerful artist with the capacity to deliver breathtaking turns in the quietest rooms.

Weaves – Puddle

Riding a wave of critical adulation and having earned the respect of their contemporaries, Weaves returned in 2017 with Wide Open, an aptly named run that they billed as their Americana effort. While the record takes a lot of notable cues from that genre, the band’s wildly erratic, genre-obliterating core remained intact with the barn-burning closer “Puddle” acting as the clearest indication that the band’s unpredictable firepower was still fully intact.

Fred Thomas – Misremembered

Following a record as momentous as All Are Saved will always be a difficult task but to surpass high expectations in the way that Fred Thomas managed with Changer is a rarity. From the record’s dynamic opening track, Thomas proves to be more focused than ever, spinning barbed tapestries of lived-in realism with unmatched verve. “Misremembered” isn’t just a testament to Thomas’ lyricism, either, the fiery music that serves as its backdrop propelling it to stratospheric heights.

Big Thief – Breathe In My Lungs

A lot of outlets gave Big Thief‘s breathtaking “Mary” a deserving amount of love, ranking both the song — and the record it resides — as the year’s best. Meanwhile, the band’s devastating B-side, “Breathe In My Lungs”, flew under the radar. As is often the case with bands as prolific and talented as Big Thief, “Breathe In My Lungs” is so much more than just a castaway or afterthought, it’s one of their most heartrending numbers, expertly using the considerable weight of guitarist/vocalist Adrianne Lenker’s singular voice to turn in some of the year’s most unforgettably damaged romanticism.

Cayetana – Bus Ticket

2017 saw a very large handful of bands taking the next step in their evolution but few seemed to take their strides forward with as much assurance as Cayetana, who zeroed in on what’s long been the crux of their songwriting: mental health. No song conveyed this more than their staggering “Bus Ticket“, which saw the band slowing the tempo and accelerating the force the trio’s always put into their compositions. Managing to be direct and atmospheric simultaneously, “Bus Ticket” stands proudly as a career high for a band that’s found their voice.

Yucky Duster – Elementary School Dropout

One of the year’s most unabashedly exuberant records came in the form of Yucky Duster‘s latest EP, Duster’s Lament. Headlined by the effusive “Elementary School Dropout”, the band offered up an irresistible slice of joyful basement pop that grounded it’s more playful elements with some effective self-deprecation. Expertly toeing the balance between the light and the bleak, “Elementary School Dropout” stood out as 3 of 2017’s most outright fun minutes in a year where that sort of thing was desperately needed.

Strange Relations – Say You

One of the boldest re-introductions of 2017 came by way of Strange Relations‘ enormously confident Editorial You, which was teeming with memorable bursts of icy post-punk that saw the band considerably elevating their grasp on composition. One of the most significant individual outings for the project comes on the record’s second track, “Say You“, which conjures up a steely demeanor and enhances it with fiercely jagged musical interplay. Both minimalist and towering, it’s an obscenely impressive song from a young band that seems determined to continuously reach for greater heights.

Covey – Call Home

There were a lot of songs that came out over 2017’s 12 months that occupied a similar space as Covey‘s “Call Home”: laid back, lovely, unassuming, and tinged with regret, loneliness, and despair. None of them wound up staying the way “Call Home” managed to stay; the song’s melodies and gorgeous chorus humming along and dominating unexpected spaces of memory when it could’ve just as easily rescinded into oblivion. Every return listen offered a new take and at some point, the song migrated from being a pleasant curiosity to something far more essential: one of the year’s best.

IDLES – Mother

Recently given Music Video of the Year honors, IDLES‘ “Mother” also comes off as a ferocious head-turning effort when stripped from its hyper-intense visual accompaniment. Vocalist Joe Talbot repeats several mantras throughout “Mother” — written as a tortured tribute to his own late mother, whose portrait graces the record’s cover — each of them decrying two evils: one political, one sexual, both too frequently intertwined into a nightmarish whole.

Viciously opposed to a system that uses a weighted system to the benefit of the people who are afforded privilege, the song is a startling reminder of the seething anger and frustration of the people who oppose those systems. It’s a clarion call delivered with an excess of venom, using it’s hardcore leanings to drive a message home hard enough that the ramifications of our choices are left lingering in the smoke.

Palehound – If You Met Her

A beacon of consistency over the past several years, news of a new Palehound record was welcome when it was first announced. The first few singles were packed full of the band’s usual tricks but then “If You Met Her” arrived and decimated everything. A hard-hitting look at how the loss of someone you know can affect your own perception of what it means to die, “If You Met Her” immediately registered as not just Palehound’s darkest effort but the project’s best as well.

It’s a gripping, grounded meditation on life itself and it’s delivered with such empathetic understanding that it’s nearly impossible to listen to the song in full without running through an avalanche of feeling. Anything that inspires that level of emotional response and visceral reaction is worth noting — and in the case of “If You Met Her”, it’s more than worth celebrating.

Young Jesus – Feeling

A longtime staple of this site’s coverage, Young Jesus have continuously found exciting ways to evolve as a band in the face of a slew of obstacles that leave lesser bands stumbling. From nearly complete lineup shifts to a refocused experimentation to a relocation that took them from the upper Midwest to the West Coast. The band’s latest effort saw a quick self-release suddenly disappear only to be re-released shortly after by Saddle Creek.

All it takes to understand why such a revered label would take on the band is one listen to “Feeling”, a sprawling 10-minute opus which beautifully showcases the band’s remarkable range, guitarist/vocalist John Rossiter‘s penchant for blending memorable poetry with unforgettable melody, and a growing fearlessness. It’s a heart-stopping moment on what remains one of 2017’s most woefully overlooked records and reaffirms Young Jesus’ place as one of today’s best bands.

The Magic Lantern – Holding Hands

Easily one of 2017’s outright loveliest moments, The Magic Lantern‘s “Holding Hands” casts a spellbinding magic all its own within its opening figures, as a yearning vocal is laid on a bed of gentle saxophone figurines. As the notes and vocals hold — with as much purpose as the imagined goal of the narration, no less — the song winds up with enough power from two core elements to elicit chills.

When the body of “Holding Hands” takes shape as the drums kick in, providing yet another one of 2017’s most perfectly-realized moments, it becomes abundantly clear that something miraculous is happening on the track. By the time it all winds to a ghostly close, “Holding Hands” has left a mark that deserves to be called upon fondly in the days to come. In all of it’s warmth and care, “Holding Hands” pushes forward from a simple greatness and achieves something far closer to transcendence.

SONG OF THE YEAR:

Mount Eerie – Real Death

When Mount Eerie‘s “Real Death” first arrived, it was set to get a standalone feature. That post never arrived as I personally struggled with the decision to attempt to bring any sort of discourse to something so nakedly personal, which held true for A Crow Looked At Me (the record it’s from) as well. As time passed, that decision lingered, though it became increasingly difficult to listen to both the song and the record, famously written about the death of the songwriter’s wife and recorded in the studio she’d built in their house, on the instruments she left behind.

Even without being able to listen to the song, the memory of the song stayed as strongly as the feelings that accompanied the first listen (as well as the subsequent ones). It’s the sound of Phil Elverum tearing his own wounded heart out of his body to present to the world so that they can understand what kind of grief accompanies something so tragically world-shifting.

While every moment of “Real Death” is shattering, the weight of it becomes nearly unbearable when Elverum shifts the lyrics from oblique poetry to a hyper-specific narrative, recounting one moment of singular heartbreak that arrived with a package that has late wife had secretly ordered for their daughter. In that retelling, Elverum envisions his wife, living with the knowledge that her wife would be ending, thinking ahead and wanting to provide comfort for the people she loved.

Not only does that specific moment touch upon why Geneviève was someone he loved so fiercely but, in doing so, provides the song’s listeners a glimpse into her character as well. It effectively shifts the tonality of the record even further toward heartbreak by painting such an intimate portrait, making “Real Death” come across as even more unmistakably, painfully human. It’s a tribute to an artist that so many of us wish we knew and stands as a stark reminder to cherish the ones we do know while we can and to strive to match their gifts with our own.

By positing real-life implications alongside meaningful execution, “Real Death” became something much larger than the sum of its parts. In plumbing the depths of personal loss, Elverum’s Mount Eerie projected gifted us something hard to experience and impossible to forget. With any luck, it will steer us towards more effectively demonstrating our love when it can be appreciated by the people for which it’s intended.

 

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The Best of the Rest

18-21

22-26

27-32

Middle Children – Baby Boom
Joyce Manor – NBTSA
Thurst – Forever Poser
The New Years – Recent History
Monomyth – Puppet Creek
Hermetic – Strategic Default

33-100

Protomartyr – A Private Understanding
Alexander F – Call Me Pretty
Pile – Dogs
Vagabon – Cold Apartment
Cloud Nothings – Internal World
Prom Queen – Blonde
Holiday Ghosts – Can’t Bear To Be Boring
Washer – Dog Go Bark
Grouper – Children
Slaughter Beach, Dog – Fish Fry
Fits – Ice Cream On A Nice Day
Meat Wave – Run You Out
The Spirit of the Beehive – Ricky (Caught Me Tryin’)
Walter Etc. – April 41st
Chemtrails – Deranged
Juila Louise – Brat
See Through Dresses – Lucy’s Arm
Amy O – Lavender Night
Modern Baseball – This Song Is Gonna Buy Brendan Lukens A New Pair of Socks
Girlpool – It Gets More Blue
The Total Bettys – Stay Here All Night
Tica Douglas – Same Thing
Midnight Reruns – Warm Days
WHY? – Proactive Evolution
Hand Habits – Sun Beholds Me
Long Neck – Mine/Yours
Julien Baker – Appointments
Anna Burch – Asking 4 A Friend
Palm – Walkie Talkie
Single Mothers – People Are Pets
Lydia Loveless – Desire
Deem Spencer – Soap
Two Inch Astronaut – Play To No One
Blessed – Headache
Diet Cig – Maid of the Mist
Madeline Kenney – Big One
Dream Wife – Somebody
Bethlehem Steel – Finger It Out
Strange Ranger – House Show
Miya Folick – Trouble Adjusting
Jesca Hoop – Pegasi
Fiji-13 – Mansplain It To Me BB
Idle Bloom – Dust
Florist – What I Wanted To Hold
Beachheads – It Feels Alright
Fruit & Flowers – Out of Touch
Ratboys – The Record
Schlotman – Holy Basil
Lost Balloons – Numb
John Rossiter – Mom Guitar
Lomelda – Interstate Vision
Walter Martin (ft. Matt Berninger) – Hey Matt
Jay Som – The Bus Song
Japanese Breakfast – The Body Is A Blade
Screaming Females – Glass House
Phoebe Bridgers – Smoke Signals
Open Mike Eagle (ft. Sammus) – Hymnal
Half Waif – Frost Burn
Petite League – Pocketknife
Say Sue Me – Bad Habit
Petal – 15
Waxahatchee – Silver
Jason Isbell & the 400 Unit – If We Were Vampires
Siobhan Wilson – Whatever Helps
Sammi Lanzetta – Circles
Deep State – Nothing Speaking
Saintseneca – Moon Barks at the Dog
Lithuania – 5000 Year Leap

Real Life Buildings – No News (Music Video)

Every week this year’s been a kind one to music videos and even though it’s not over yet, this week’s proved no exception. Dama Scout, Girlpool, Willie J Healey, Baby, Thurston Moore, Blessed, Blaire Alise & The Bombshells, Kevin Devine, Tobin Sprout, Saint Motel, Banditos, Diagrams, Round Eye, The New ResistANTS, Wall of Ears, and tricot all emerged with strong new clips. Real Life Buildings joined their ranks with their fairly modest and exceptionally clever video for “No News”.

A highlight from Significant Weather — a record full of highlights — Real Life Buildings enlisted the directorial talents of Jon Appel and Matthew Van Asselt for “No News” and were repaid in full. As the clip plays to the narrative’s focus on the mundane, it also makes room for the music the band uses to combat that monotony. Making time for each member, the clip cycles in and out of performance footage, travel footage, and footage of the band practicing and preparing.

It’s a humble presentation of what’s become one of music’s most unlikely supergroups (Vagabon‘s Laetitita Tamko and Crying‘s Elaiza Santos are among the quintets members). All in all, “No News” is a potent reminder of the band’s enormous strength and a beautiful document of the daily routines and quiet moments in the life of a musician. The song powers the clip and the clip remains true to the song, creating something that stands out on its own. It’s another in a long string of triumphs for one of today’s most consistent — and consistently overlooked — bands.

Watch “No News” below and order Significant Weather from Lauren here.

Blessed – Headache (Stream)

There has been no shortage of scrappy, wiry post-punk in the opening quarter of 2017 but few have been as scrappy, as wiry, or as vicious as Blessed’s “Headache”, a track that brings to mind both forebears like Les Savy Fav and contemporaries like Ought. There’s an unbelievable amount of tension and nervous energy running through the five minutes of “Headache”, which keeps the track compelling, energetic, and surprisingly thoughtful. It’s an intense, insistent song that easily ranks as the band’s finest work. Hit play and hold on tight, “Headache” is a fearsome ride.

Listen to “Headache” below and pre-order the 12″ from Cointoss here.

2016: A Year’s Worth of Memories (Lindsay Hazen)

Heartbreaking Bravery recently went offline but all facets of the site are back to being fully operational. Apologies for any inconveniences. All posts that were slated to run during that brief hiatus will appear with this note.

Last year Lindsay Hazen contributed an astounding piece to this series that focused on using music as a means of coping. This time around, Hazen continues to celebrate the music that makes life worth living. In a chronicling of great shows, artists, and records, Hazen also offers a unique window into some personal experiences accrued throughout 2016. As always, the writing’s compelling, swift, and lands with impact. It’s a beautiful piece that more than deserves anyone’s time. Tackle it in full below.

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I saw Weaves at a free NXNE showcase at Sonic Boom’s temporary location on Bathurst. They played with Courtney Barnett, Army Girls, and Baby Eagle. My partner and I got day-tipsy on free French beer and did the annoying thing we do in record stores where we walk around and then yell to each other excitedly about things we want. Or… I did. You don’t understand Weaves until you see them. Jasmyn Burke trembles. She commands your attention. She is a diva in the most positive of connotations. She is extremely kind.

I saw her with her band RatTail at the Drake Underground. She shone then, too. Angular, jagged guitar, insistent drums complement her voice in many of the songs on Weaves’ self-titled debut. Morgan Waters was the best thing about his previous band, Sweet Thing (whom you might remember for being the ridiculously catchy song from Easy A that wasn’t “Pocket Full Of Sunshine” by Natasha Bedingfield). I saw them at the Mod Club with Allie Hughes, one of the best moments from the first year I lived in Toronto (a period of my life I have to actively try not to romanticize).

I saw PUP a couple of years ago, on a snowy night in Toronto (the second time), at a show in the public library in Yorkville. They played with Alvvays. They covered “Sabotage” by The Beastie Boys. I remember how I felt my body tremble when they began to play “Reservoir”. I listen to it when I get really bad panic attacks. I can’t help but feel the carpet of the library under my feet, I can’t help but breathe – let the song expand inside me, let my heart race along with it and spend my nervous energy. What’s left to lose? What am I supposed to do now? Nothing. Anything I can, anything I want. I knew what I was doing after all. PUP is that kind of band. They’re a band that lifts. Unites. Makes songs into anthems; crowds into tempests; energy into things that matter.

PUP makes The Dream being over sound like taking the pill that wakes you up from The Matrix and into 2016. It feels like true things that you can’t say to the ones you love. It feels like Canada – expansive, yet claustrophobic at the same time. Dark corners in which you can lose yourself. Being snowblind in the sun. I was sad they didn’t win the Polaris. I was more thrilled than I can express that 2016 was very much The Year of PUP. They can only get better.

When I’m 70 I can’t wait to get sweaty in the crowd of geriatric PUP fans and pay $250 to see them at the Skydome or something equally arena-esque and brag to my grandchildren that I knew they were rockstars when I read about a band called Topanga in Exclaim! I knew what I was doing after all. When I left the library it was snowing, but I held my jacket in my arms and let the cold embrace me. I was numb on the subway home. My lungs were killing me, I didn’t even get high. I knew what I was doing after all.

I saw The Lonely Parade in Taco Pica, which hosts its fair share of Saint John’s local DIY shows. I went with my two friends. I acted like a dork. I was ridiculously excited. Their song “Stomach” is one of my favourite songs of all time. I was not prepared for their set. I wish I had been less self-conscious and danced. They were so fucking ridiculously groovy. No Shade, their startlingly wonderful album from this year, is mixed to sound cool and dry. It sounds… acerbic.

It sounds witty. In person their sound is heavy and warm, surrounding you. The bass lines flow like lava, weaving through the percussion. Watching “Johnny Utah” literally dropped my jaw. The guitar solo in “Girl“… I cannot speak more highly of their musicianship. “No AM” is a real highlight of the album, the use of reverb and the rhythmic patterns remind me of Controller.Controller, and I get another amazing guitar solo I can embarrassingly rock out to at the bus stop.

I was lucky enough to see Casper Skulls, Chastity, Blessed, Billy Moon, Sheik, and hand-drawn (RIP). I was able to watch producer-composer-engineer Artifiseer (Ian Livingstone) and Arkanjello (Gabe Williams) the musical polyglot who crafted my favourite record of 2017 (so far), Vegan Songs, evolve as artists and work with found sound and imagery grounded in real experiences of maritime life. Gabe has a singing voice like a young Bowie. He has programming sensibility of Caribou on a Grimes and Lana Del Rey listening kick, and makes songs that are frenetic – kaleidoscopic almost. There’s a beautiful fracturing in his tones.

I am glad that the world finally found out that Toronto has long been the source of some of the best punk music in history (Martha and the Muffins, anyone?) and is home to some of the world’s legendary spaces – spaces that feel like home to any music person. The Horseshoe Tavern and Lee’s Palace are more a part of me than any house I have ever lived in. New spaces are opening all the time. I can’t count how many shows I’ve wished I could see at Smiling Buddha this year that made my heart ache from across the country.

But right now, pay attention to New Brunswick. Sackville has Sappyfest and bands the likes of Partner and Baby Eagle. Fredericton is also a DIY hotbed with deep relationships with the Halifax and Montreal scenes. And Saint John, my adopted home, is a place where people make pain and struggle into beauty, make some innovative venue spaces that give diverse artists a voice – including the Panic Room, Taco Pica, live performances at the City Market, and the historic Imperial Theatre.

We lost so much this year, so many people, so many dreams, so many fights. But we have fought, won, reclaimed, rejoiced. As a community we yelled, donated, protested, protected, aided, loved and learned so much this year. 2016 is the year that we declared music our home and our sanctuary. We are going into 2017 blind to the future but facing it together.

‘You have the right to be mad, but when you carry it alone you find it only getting in the way.’ In 2016, music carried us. We let it inspire us and drive us and effect real change and use art to be as selfless as our empty wallets and full hearts let us be. Thank you to the artists I’ve seen perform, the people whose lyrics and riffs and beats made me want to be a better person than I was yesterday. And thank you to Saint John for being my shelter in a world that sometimes feels like its falling apart.

Charly Bliss – Ruby (Music Video, Live Video)

Charly Bliss LIV

For well over a year now, this site has been anxiously anticipating — and meticulously tracking — the release of Charly Bliss‘ debut full-length. Easily one of the most heavily featured bands of these pages, the quartet’s finally offered up the first glimpse at what will be a viable Album of the Year contender. Before diving too much further into that piece of pop confection, though, it’s worth noting that for one of the first times all year, Heartbreaking Bravery is back on pace with the breaking release cycle.

To that end, these posts will resume including the most notable releases in individual streams, full streams, and music videos. Today saw the release of great new songs from Toys That Kill, The Velveteins, Sudakistan, Andy C. Jenkins, and Sonny & The Sunsets, while Blessed, Thin Lips, and Angel Du$t unveiled their respective records. Capping things off were a trio of music videos from ultraviolence, Turnover, and, of course, Charly Bliss.

Ever since the release of the band’s exhilarating Soft Serve EP — a very real early contender for EP of the Decade — the band’s been on the cusp of greatness. The band’s full-length debut, whenever it finds release, will go a long way in re-affirming the band’s undeniable talent to those already in the know or convince a whole new host of converts that they’re one of the most exciting bands on the planet. “Ruby”, one of many breathless runs through hard-charging, cleanly-produced basement pop, has now emerged as the record’s lead-off single.

In every instance I’ve been fortunate enough to catch the band running through the song, guitarist/vocalist Eva Hendricks has introduced the song with an almost-giddy “this song’s about my therapist!” Hendricks’ forthright honesty imbues “Ruby”, and the bulk of the band’s work, with a palpable sense of both wonderment and charm. Part of what makes Charly Bliss’ music so intriguing is that any projected innocence is routinely cut through with something much darker, a trait that the Andrew Costa-directed clip underscores beautifully by bringing out the song’s most jolting line (“passed out on the subway with blood in my hair”) and then in the video’s nightmarish finale.

“Ruby” is far from being defined by gloom, most of the clip’s an open-hearted ode to public access television (specifically siting the 1984 Ralph “Whistler” Giese clip from Kelly & Company in the music video’s premiere piece for The AV Club). Every member of the band turns in endearing performances as the clip rapidly scans through a series of entertaining cliches. The editing work throughout is strong, hitting its best moment with a perfectly-timed kick from bassist Dan Shafer, and “Ruby” never devolves into chaos or loses its identity despite the overwhelming amount of material brought into focus.

All in all, “Ruby” creates a solid hook for the band’s upcoming release while effortlessly tapping into the band’s oddball identity. Their humor’s tinged with the slightest hint of pathos, grounded in an unflinching reality that the band’s more acutely aware of then they sometimes let on. It’s an invigorating preview of what could eventually come to be regarded as a genre classic, landing a breathtaking series of grace notes that announce the band is more than ready to officially arrive.

Watch “Ruby” below and keep an eye on this site for an inevitable slew of updates on the band’s forthcoming full-length debut throughout the year. Beneath the official clip, watch a video of the band performing the song last year as part of Father/Daughter’s Northside showcase.

What A Difference A Month Makes (Streams)

As was discussed in the preceding two posts, there’s been a serious lull of inaction on this site as of late as far as posting is concerned. A large reason for that was the fact that the majority of that coverage gap was spent traveling thousands of miles to document sets from bands like Oops, Dilly Dally, Yowler, Eskimeaux, Frankie Cosmos, Beach Slang, Potty Mouth, Dyke Drama, PWR BTTM, and more.

The resulting documentation will be posted at some point in the near future but the hefty amount of visual content (not to mention the act of traveling itself) necessitated a publishing break. However, as usual, every new piece of incoming information was accounted for in the interim. Full streams and music videos have already been covered so it’s time that the attention was turned towards individual songs.

A list of some of the finest new tunes to have emerged over the past month can be found below. Since there are so many, it may be best to bookmark this page and explore its contents at a more leisurely pace to avoid being overwhelmed. Jump on in and go swimming.

Basketball Shorts, Mikey Erg, Bird of Youth, Las Rosas, Mitski, The Big Moon, Nicholas Allbrook, The Gotobeds, Nothing, Fawnn, Leapling, Speedy Ortiz, Yours Are the Only Ears, Don Vail, Frail, Stephen Steinbrink, Yeesh, Pkew Pkew Pkew, Haley Bonar, And The Kids, Gauntly, Summer Cannibals, case/lang/veirs (x2), Psychic Teens (x2), Glenn Davis, Dogheart, Cat’s Eyes, benjamin783 (x2), Ian William Craig, Terry, Emily Jane White, Walleater, VATS, Alice Bag (x2), Mutual Benefit, Blowout, Mike Adams At His Honest Weight, and Outer Spaces.

The Monkees, Tens, Yung, Star Parks, Marissa Nadler, Brenda’s Friend, elvis depressedly (x2), Rick Redbeard, Sega Genocide (x2), Honey (x2), GØGGS, The Dan Ryan (x2), Male Gaze, Heaters, Leif Erikson, Blessed, Boys, Mumblr, Anthony Sanders, Swanning, Kvelertak, Hollowtapes (x2), Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy, OVER, Erin Tobey, Quiet Hollers, The Clientele, Young Magic, LUKA, Yikes, Teen BodyFew Bits, Fear of Men (x2), Joy Void, Message to Bears (ft. Will Samson), Baby In Vain, Local Natives, Scroll Downers, and Psychic Heat.

OHIOANDaniel Wilson, The Invisible, Ultraviolence, Oddissee, Bad Channels, Dentists, Deerhoof, Hayden Calnin, The Mercury Programs, Yoni & Geti, Marisa AndersonColleen Green, Lisa Prank, Ultimate PaintingJuniore, Spice Boys, Stone Cold Fox, Avalanche, Beliefs, Museum Mouth, Psychic Ills, Flat Worms, Robin Pecknold, Mock Orange, Magic Potion, Retail Space, VHSBag-Dad, Casper Skulls, Peach Kelli Pop, Aloha, JPNSGRLS, Adeline Hotel, WoodsColder, The Mystery Lights, Islands, Sego, Casey Jordan Weissbuch, Honey Radar, and an unexpected Car Seat Headrest cover of a Radiohead classic as well as an unexpected Yuck cover of an Elliott Smith staple.

Parquet Courts – Human Performance (Stream)

parquetcourts

A large handful of great songs have emerged since the turn of April and it’d be a complete disservice to their innumerable strengths to not allow them a mention. As previously stated, these songs will be evenly distributed across all of today’s fixed stream posts. Before putting the latest single from Parquet Courts under the microscope, take a moment to grant the links that are about to follow some attention because they contain great new material from Kalispell, Gingerlys, Christian Fennesz & Jim O’Rourke, Holy Now, Sales, Plastic Flowers, Blessed, Julianna Barwick,  and Julien Baker. Now, onto Parquet Courts.

Over the past few years, Parquet Courts have built their entire reputation on a very particular — and very divisive — sound. The quartet cranks out detached-sounding post-punk at an impressive clip and, somehow, they find a way to imbue each release with a staggering influx of life. It’s one of the more fascinating dichotomies happening on the DIY-leaning circuit right now and as the band’s grown, the disparity between what sounds like apathy and what (admittedly unexpectedly) translates to invigorating energy has only grown further apart. “Human Performance”, the title track from the band’s latest record, is the current apex of this dynamic.

A few members of Parquet Courts had previously hit a similar apex with their finest work as Teenage Cool Kids, a small portion of which was understandably revived for Parquet Courts’ (or, Parkay Quarts’) ouevre. “Human Performance” doesn’t just recall those Teenage Cool Kids peaks, it surpasses them with a bracing surge of confidence from a band that’s mostly come to be known for sounding categorically disinterested in just about everything. For the first time in a long time, Parquet Courts sound actively invested in a narrative on an emotional level, injecting the song with a melancholic touch that suits them astonishingly well.

Tellingly, the band hasn’t just turned in their most impressive musical composition to date, they’ve included what is — far and away — the best lyric set of their still-growing career.  On a purely narrative level, “Human Performance” is relentlessly bleak and tragically poetic. The opening half of chorus alone, comprised of the lines “Witness and know/fracture and hurt/eyes in the fire/blink unrehearsed”, suggests that the band went all in on this one. In prose, tragedy can grow in scope when it grows more acute — especially when done well — simply because of its immediately relatable nature. “Human Performance” not only succeeds on that level but grows even more resonant by exposing Parquet Courts’ surprisingly fragile humanity.

Easily one of 2016’s most unexpectedly brilliant songs, “Human Performance” is also a gigantic stride forward in Parquet Courts’ continuing evolution. From the bold choices that are inserted into the song when they’re least expected (the flute solo being the most obvious example) to the endearing bravery required to be that vulnerable on a very public level, “Human Performance” could very well prove to be a watershed moment for the band’s artistic direction. If it doesn’t usher in a new era for Parquet Courts, at least they’ll have left us this miniature masterpiece.

Listen to “Human Performance” below and order the LP from Rough Trade here.

Meat Wave – Sham King (Music Video)

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Now that the site’s all caught up on songs, it only seemed natural to overhaul the music videos as well. Here, the formatting will be slightly different than it has in the past for this format, with 35 excellent clips being linked beneath the main feature, Meat Wave’s slasher-indebted short that accompanies the bruising “Sham King” off their tremendous EP from this year, Brother. Before going any further, it’s worth noting that Meat Wave is one of the few bands that will always have a special place carved out in reference to this site, having played the first-ever Heartbreaking Bravery Presents to help this place celebrate its first anniversary (several months after they were featured as part of the site’s On the Up series). Their self-titled record is still one of the best things to have come out of this decade, so any time the band does anything of note, it’s probably a safe bet it’ll secure a feature spot here. Which leads us back to the focus of this piece: “Sham King”.

In the Andrew Robert Morrison-directed clip for “Sham King”, a lot of things are at stake. Most notably, the bands lives. A grim reaper figure, complete with a scythe atop a bicycle, mercilessly stalks the power trio through dead, snow-capped streets. During the opening chase, Morrison (who also edited the video) injects the clip with a serious sense of dissonance with furiously paced loop-back smash cuts, lending the affair an added sense of disquiet. Before long, death zeroes in on guitarist/vocalist Chris Sutter, who leads the masked figure on a chase through an abandoned warehouse. Vantage points switch and become a narrative function as the viewer’s occasionally allowed to take on the first-person viewpoint from behind the killer’s mask, effectively rocketing up the video’s sense of tension. When one side emerges victorious, a solo is mimed in front of a towering wall of various amps before giving way to the video’s final shot- which ranks among one of my favorite images from the year.

Watch the madness of “Sham King” unfold below and pick up the Brother EP here. Beneath the clip, watch 35 other great videos from the past few weeks. Expect regular coverage to resume throughout this new week and going into the future.

Day Creeper – Luxury Condominium
Ryan O’Reilly – Northern Lights
Little Death Machine – Pale
Hallelujah the Hills – Destroy This Poem
Algiers – Irony. Utility. Pretext
Dan Deacon – When I Was Done Dying
The Go! Team – What D’you Say?
King Tuff – Madness
Modest Mouse – Lampshades of Fire
Chastity Belt – Cool Slut
The Bandicoots – Mind Your Manors
Stella – Last Minute Boy
Hey Elbow – Ruth
Coliseum – Sunlight In A Snowstorm
Ceremony – The Separation + The Understanding
Built to Spill – Living Zoo
Pile – Rock And Roll Forever With The Customer In Mind
Albert DeMuth – Finally Found A Job
Gymshorts – Hey Parents
Oscar – Daffodil Days
Modern Vices – Smoke Rings
The Great Albatross – Righteous Man
Turnover – New Scream
Oh Land – Half Here (Live One Take)
KEN Mode – Blessed
A Place To Bury Strangers – What We Don’t See
The Smashing Pumpkins – Drum + Fife
Pinact – Anxiety
Laura Marling – Gurdjieff’s Daughter
Inheaven – Regeneration
Hot Chip – Need You Now
Great Cynics – Lost In You
Le Volume Courbe (ft. Kevin Shields) – The House
Algiers – Blood
Courtney Barnett – Depreston