Heartbreaking Bravery

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Tag: Brady Murphy

15 of ’15: The Best EP’s of 2015

Slight I

Now that all the visual retrospectives are out of the way and the best live videos have been accounted for, it’s time to move onto the records in earnest. Over the course of the next several days there will be “best of” lists for the following categories: music videos, odds and ends (demos, 7″ records, compilations, etc.), songs, and albums. There will also be an Honorable Mentions devotion that covers a massive array of material from the majority of those categories. Following those lists will be the second installment of the A Year’s Worth of Memories series, which will once again feature a murderer’s row of contributors that have been pulled from both the music and film worlds.

For now, we’re turning our attention to the EP’s that made the most formidable impressions over the course of the past 12 months. Well over 100 titles were considered and then boiled down to the 15 that you see below (this was such a strong year for EP’s that the top 5 are essentially interchangeable). Before delving into those titles, it’s worth noting that “best” in the case– as it is in all cases– is just a meaningless formality and the list below is a reflection of subjectivity. I make no claim to be an authoritative voice in these matters, just a person that genuinely enjoys music and uses a platform as a means to attempt to elevate some of the acts that truly deserve to have their names in greater circulation. So, without further ado, here’s 15 of ’15: The Best EP’s of 2015.

15. Idle Bloom – Some Paranoia

Sometimes all you need to do is offer to help carry equipment to be introduced to incredible new bands, which is exactly how I met Callan Dwan, who I would come to learn is not only Mitski’s guitarist but one of the guitarists for two other acts as well: Dogtooth and Idle Bloom. The latter– a shoegaze-obsessed post-punk act (or is it the other way around?)– recently released their Some Paranoia EP, which stealthily builds its momentum in a clever, multifaceted way; not only do the majority of the songs work their way into a cacophonous frenzy but so does the EP as a whole. It’s an exhilarating listen from a promising emerging act and boasts one of the year’s best riffs.

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14. ThinLips – Your Divorce

An extraordinary opening track can do wonders for any release. An effective opening track will set a precedent and a tone for the ensuing material on the record. Your Divorce‘s opener “Nothing Weird” is both effective and extraordinary. Brandishing a compellingly damaged form of lo-fi leaning pop-punk, ThinLips crafted a vicious, compact stunner of an EP that comes across like a warning shot. In a genre that’s increasingly weakened by diminishing returns from the artists utilizing reverential approach, it’s heartening to see the more subversive acts releasing material that feels genuinely vital.

13. Bad Wig – Bad Wig

Before Bad Wig was Bad Wig, they were The Midwestern Charm, an act that worked their way from a sound that fell closer in line to Ryan Adams to crafting a record that fit better alongside the likes of The Lemonheads. A few member changes and stylistic shifts later, they’d carved out a new identity under their new name. Their introductory act is ferociously ragged and maybe even a little audacious. Most everything else there is to be said about this brilliant collection of punk-tinged micro-pop gems can was covered in last week’s review.

12. Potty Mouth – Potty Mouth

A lot of bands found surprisingly bold ways to shift their sound but none caught me as off-guard as Potty Mouth‘s fearless swan dive into the polished, arena-ready sounds of their self-titled EP. Opening with the skyward stretching of “Cherry Picking” and only building momentum from there, Potty Mouth could very easily signal a new era for a band that was formerly known for reveling in their scrappier tendencies. Every song on the EP connects with a staggering amount of force, nicely correlating with the self-possessed determination found at the root of nearly every song in this collection. Potty Mouth is the kind of rallying call that echoes.

11. Midwives – Cowboy Songs

After releasing a fierce full-length debut back in February, Midwives managed to top themselves as the year was drawing to a close. The shockingly immediate Cowboy Songs dishes out punishment at a startling rate and bristles with real emotion. Things kick off with the vicious “Back in the Saddle” and never look back from there, each subsequent song in this seven and a half minute collection of deranged hardcore acting as a flawless showcase of the band’s brute strength. Cowboy Songs is filled to the brim with the kind of hardcore that thrashes around wildly and refuses to be tamed.

10. Geronimo! – Buzz Yr Girlfriend: Vol. 4 – Why Did You Leave Me?

While a lot of people were justifiably saddened over the losses of Ovlov and Krill, it may have been the departure of Geronimo! that hit hardest. Granted, for the vast majority of my life, they were easily the closest to my location of that trio but the sentiment remains. At the very least, the trio went out on top with their final bow: Buzz Yr Girlfriend: Vol. 4 – Why Did You Leave Me?. Characteristically unwieldy, the band’s final three songs ranked among the best work of a deeply impressive career, each (justifiably) landing a premiere at a massive publication. Fitting levels of recognition for an overwhelmingly powerful final effort.

9. Teksti-TV 666 – 2

One of the biggest surprises of the year for me personally, this blistering EP from Finnish act Teksti-TV 666 practically qualifies as an album by today’s standards (its runtime is over 22 minutes). Full of surging basement pop that’s not too far off from the best of The Marked Men, the aptly named swings for the fences at every turn without hesitation. Incorporating a several-member guitar attack that may rival Diarrhea Planet’s, the band finds new avenues to explore as the record careens headfirst towards something concrete. After the fireworks of “Tuhatvuotinen Harharetki”, the band never lets up and goes on exploratory tangents at will. Psychedelic flourishes, sludge breakdowns, and a serious amount of momentum carry to its status as one of the best of 2015.

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8. Slight – Hate the Summer

Hate the Summer prompted a few difficult guideline decisions for this list: was it ethical to include an EP anchored by a song that premiered on this site and would a tape release of the EP that included the entirety of an online single that this site ranked as last year’s best be eligible for contention? The answers, obviously, were “absolutely” and “yes.” The latter line of questioning was the one that was scrutinized the most for this list and wound up excluding Meat Wave’s formidable Brother from eligibility (nearly half of the EP pulled from a variety of the band’s other releases, rendering it more of a padded compilation than an EP). With Hate the Summer, the band’s not only expanded the scope of their work but they’ve tapped into something with the three new songs on display here that have the potential to lift this project to new heights of outside recognition. Overall, it’s an important early piece of the trio’s developing history and deserves to be heard as many times as possible.

7. Midnight Reruns – Get Me Out

A staple of this site’s coverage since its introduction, Midnight Reruns rewarded that attention by taking a huge leap with this year with their two strongest releases to date, beginning with this bleary-eyed EP. The Tommy Stinson-produced “Ain’t Gonna Find” sets things in motion and establishes the band’s manic basement pop sensibilities in the early goings, with Graham Hunt’s million-words-a-minute delivery emboldened by the characteristically fierce lead guitar work between Hunt and Karl Giehl. From that blistering opening number, the band takes a step back and sinks their teeth into more left-field territory like the rollicking “Ancient Creature”, which boasts the instantly memorable chorus couplets of “I am the sun, I am the sea/I am an ancient creature/I was born in Madagascar/I was raised by lemurs” and a bruising cover of The Mistreaters’ “The Other Man”.

6. Sheer Mag – II

Another year, another Sheer Mag list placement. Expanding on everything that made the band so great right out of the gate, II was a natural extension of its predecessor, driven by the wild energy of its phenomenal closing track, “Button Up“. All of the glam influences remain and the band likely owes a remarkably huge debt to Marc Bolan but it’s hard to care about influences when the music manages to be so ridiculously entertaining. People will talk about how ’50s pop seeps in around the band’s roughest edges but really, they should probably just stop talking and start dancing. Scrappy and deliriously fun, II‘s another triumph.

5. Diet Cig – Over Easy

No EP soundtracked more aimless drives for me this year than Diet Cig‘s endearingly jubilant Over Easy, which served a necessary reminder that sometimes the most important function music can have is a sense of joy. In the face of a horrifying year in the news, an onslaught of overly-serious releases, and a general downcast pall, Over Easy was a breath of fresh air; a pair of young musicians finding their voice. Every song on Over Easy is memorable not just for its irreverence but for its uncompromising energy and impressive levels of commitment. Warm weather anthems abound and guitarist/vocalist Alex Luciano gets to deliver one of the year’s most scathing kiss-off’s in the final track’s most rousing section.

4. LVL UP – Three Songs

In 2014, site favorites LVL UP topped this site’s Albums of the Year list with ease thanks to the overwhelming brilliance of Hoodwink’d, which was the most perfect distillation of the respective voices of the band’s three principal songwriters to date. Three Songs continues that trend in miniature, allotting a song a piece from Dave Benton, Mike Caridi, and Nick Corbo. All three bring a palpable sense of weariness to the proceedings, immediately rendering this LVL UP’s moodiest record. From the spiky micro-pop of “Blur” to book-ends “The Closing Door” and “Proven Water Rites”, there’s never a dull moment and the band, once again, leave their guts on the table before walking out the door.

3. Ernie – Dog Park

Occasionally, a single song can elevate an already-strong release to unthinkable proportions, which is exactly what happens with Ernie’s delightful Dog Park and its monumental centerpiece, “Sweatpants“. While all four songs contained in Dog Park are memorable and have an impressive host of great moments, it’s the frantic, hook-laden “Sweatpants” that brings the collection together and enhances its immediate surroundings. A surging jolt of relatable discontentment emphasized by a vicious undercurrent of basement pop aesthetics, “Sweatpants” becomes Dog Park‘s definitive moment and simultaneously becomes an unwitting microcosm of 2015’s prevailing sense of disillusionment before turning on that notion in defiance and letting loose a series of blows. Dog Park‘s status as one of 2015’s great releases is cemented in the process.




2. Tenement – Tenement

No band was written about more- or in greater detail- throughout the course of 2015 than Tenement. For nearly 10 years, I’ve been clutching at mostly empty air while damaging my lungs screaming at seemingly empty rooms to go listen to this band. 2015 was the year where everyone started listening. Of the band’s three releases throughout the past 12 months, their self-titled effort was by far the least discussed. Originally released as a limited-run cassette for one of their early tours, the trio decided to release it to the general public several months later, potentially realizing that it deserved a much wider audience. Focusing on the band’s underlying roots, country, folk, and soul influences without ever completely sacrificing their punk bite, Tenement‘s easily the band’s most easygoing collection as well as its most immediately timeless. Keep its open-road sensibilities in mind for your next long drive.

1. Cende – Cende

Capping off an extraordinary year for drummer (and occasional guitarist) Greg Rutkin (LVL UP, Slight, Normal Person, etc.) was Cende’s explosive self-titled debut, which was recently released online (the bandcamp lists the official release as January 1). The band’s been playing these songs out for a while and garnered heavy coverage from this site during its extended Brooklyn residency. An LP is due out in 2016 as well and, after this EP and the live previews, it’s already one of the most highly anticipated releases of 2016. Taking cues from acts like Radioactivity, Cende has already perfected their blend of searing basement pop and unforgiving basement punk. Only two of these songs- including “Widow”, the opening track and one of the year’s finest- go over the 90 second mark and all of them boast hooks powerful enough to keep pulling the listener back, making Cende an endlessly replayable gift. It’s a monstrous release from a band refusing to aim for anything other than greatness and continuous improvement. Cende is one hell of a starting point.

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.

Midnight Reruns – Canadian Summer (Music Video, Live Video)

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2015’s made a habit out of producing incredibly strong weeks for new material and these past five days have proven to be no different. There were strong new songs from Pill, Dead Stars, Car Seat Headrest, Day Wave, Dressy Bessy, Hand of Dust, and Courtney Barnett’s excellent Boys Next Door cover. Winstons and Alex G both unveiled formidable releases and a trio of tantalizing clips from Greys, Braids, and Doe. While each of those titles are worth several glances, it was site favorites Midnight Reruns‘ latest music video to earn this post’s feature spot.

Fresh off the release of Force of Nurture‘s brilliant lead-off number “There’s An Animal Upstairs“, the band returns to their hangout mode in an endearing new clip for “Canadian Summer”. Previously, the band had all but perfected that approach with their memorably freewheeling “King of Pop” music video just over two years ago. This time around, instead of focusing on their friends and their current environment, they celebrate their roots- and drummer Sam Reitman’s father.

Guitarist/vocalist (and principal songwriter) Graham Hunt and Reitman used to practice in Reitman’s father’s home in a variety of projects and crafted the “Canadian Summer” clip as a loving homage to his influence (and his love of boats). Utilizing a meaningful place as the location for the shoot pays massive dividends, lending “Canadian Summer” an immediate, distinctly Midwestern, heart-on-sleeve feel that perfectly complements their musical sensibilities.

The song itself is an absolute monster, whose chorus hasn’t left my head since hearing it over a year ago (it’s become a rightful staple of the band’s live sets). Tempos switch, the song builds momentum, and the footage surrounding it drives home the earnest simplicity of it all. Midnight Reruns aren’t just a band that’s defined by their influences, they’re defined by their commitment to producing material that would make those influences proud. “Canadian Summer” is just the latest example of how well they’re succeeding.

Watch “Canadian Summer” below and pre-order a copy of Force of Nurture here. Beneath the music video, watch a clip of the band performing the song at the sorely missed Crunchy Frog in Green Bay, WI.

Midnight Reruns – Ain’t Gonna Find (Stream)

Midnight Reruns X

2015 has kept the great material coming in at a breakneck pace on a daily basis. Over the past few days, a lot of attention-deserving content has come trickling into the fold. Few of them have been more exhilarating- or more unexpected- than site favorites Midnight Reruns’ latest EP, Get Me Out. Announced on their Facebook, it was a blink-and-miss-it type of prospect but acts as a full illustration of the band’s startling progression. For a while, guitarist/vocalist Graham Hunt was concerned that the band would be pegged as a niche powerpop act following the releases of a strong EP (Central Time) and an even stronger self-titled full-length. Having already established themselves as one of the more exciting emerging acts in the upper Midwest, the band’s hell-bent on taking things to the next level- and for good reason.

Get Me Out arrives in advance of the band’s forthcoming full-length, which was recorded and produced by longtime fan/supporter Tommy Stinson (yes, that Tommy Stinson- the one whose band Midnight Reruns will be opening for tomorrow in Milwaukee). As evidenced by the band’s incendiary live shows, their newest material has all been equipped with more challenging dynamics that are quickly revealing the band to be quite a bit more multi-dimensional than they may have appeared at first glance. With shows at The Fest coming up and a few more things in motion, they’re set to capitalize on their building momentum. It’s part of why Get Me Out is a crucial, if small, release. None of the songs on the EP- other than the one contained in this post’s headline- will be appearing on the band’s impending full-length, which effectively renders the collection as an extremely tantalizing teaser.

“Ain’t Gonna Find”, the collection’s lead-off, is one of the most monstrously poppy songs the band’s ever committed to a recording. From the surging guitar progression to the shamelessly catchy “na na na” chorus, it’s an intensely immediate and accessible work, definitively proving that they’ve mastered a niche genre pocket. Dig a little deeper and a few other things start to betray the band’s growing ambitions; the intuitive lead guitar part that appears in the back-half of the second verse, the shape-shifting bridge, and the cavalcade of seemingly non-stop hooks- the band’s not only mastered this genre, they’ve transcended it. Yet, it’s likely still the most straightforward song on the band’s upcoming release. As a standalone single, it’s every self-defeatist’s summer anthem; as a look ahead, it’s intriguing. As a piece of the band’s history, it’s a perfectly-timed, perfectly-executed shot that might just wind up hitting the exact right mark.

Listen to “Ain’t Gonna Find” below and let the fantastic Get Me Out stream through when it’s finished. Pick it up today and tomorrow for free on the band’s bandcamp and keep an eye on this site for further details.

2014: A Pictorial Review, Pt. 5

Speedy Ortiz III

One thing that this site has strived to maintain is its own visual aesthetic. While it’d be impossible to find a photo in the archives for every given band that headlines a post, an original photo will be posted anytime the opportunity presents itself. Upgrading cameras halfway through the year provided a bevvy of new opportunities and the subsequent implementation of a more photo-centric presence. That’s not by mistake. Photography (especially event photography) has always been an important crux of multimedia journalism. It can be a way to implicitly (or explicitly) convey some of the more minute details of a singular moment to a reader- or it can simply act as an intriguing supplement.

Those were just a few of reasons that went into the decision behind a headfirst dive into photography investment (on both a personal and public level) and factored into why one camera or another was brought along to every show this site covered in the past year. Now, with 2015 just around the corner, seemed like as good a time as any to showcase a few photographs from the past 12 months that stood out as personal favorites. Since there are a few too many to go up all at once, they’ll be posted at random as part of installments that will run from now to the start of January. Most of these shots have been published on the site before (or on The Media), though there are a few that will be appearing for the first time.

Pt. 5 will be the final installment of this series and the preceding galleries can be accessed via the links directly below. Enjoy!

2014: A Pictorial Review, Pt. 1
2014: A Pictorial Review, Pt. 2
2014: A Pictorial Review, Pt. 3
2014: A Pictorial Review, Pt. 4

 

Space Raft at Crunchy Frog – 8/16/14 (Pictorial Review)

Space Raft VIII

After The Midwestern Charm was able to secure a last-minute spot on an already stacked lineup at Green Bay, WI’s Crunchy Frog, there was no excuse not to go. All of the right ingredients were there for a memorable night: four of Wisconsin’s best bands at one of the state’s best venues. All that was really left to do was see if the show would live up to the expectations. That The Midwestern Charm, Beach Patrol, Midnight Reruns, and Space Raft exceeded those lofty expectations didn’t come as a surprise, though each of their sets packed a few. The Crunchy Frog, as always, managed to near perfection with the sound levels for each band as they tore through their sets.

The Midwestern Charm kicked things off in typically rousing fashion, with longtime drummer Ryan Gracyalny back behind the kit after a move to Florida, delivering their skewed basement pop with some subtle venom escaping through a half-grin. Bandleader Connor S. La Mue continues to be one of the more engaging stage presences in the state, managing to come across as both ragged and controlled in equal measure. Lead guitarist Ryan McCrary took a turn at the mic as well, adding a new dimension to a band that continues to evolve and impress at a stunning rate. By the end of their set, they’d set a fairly high bar for what would prove to be an outstanding night.

Beach Patrol were next to take the stage and were back to their original lineup. After several years and three fairly extraordinary records (It’s Only Greener ‘Til You Get ThereRiding Dinosaurs, and Daytime Highs, respectively), the band hasn’t lost a step. On the verge of releasing their fourth, the band spread out their material fairly evenly among their discography. At one point, the band was even joined by Jordan Davis (the guitarist/vocalist of Space Raft) for a number that Davis wrote and had played with the band previously. It was a small moment of camaraderie that defined the night; this wasn’t just another night out with great music- it was a shared experience among a group of close-knit friends. That same familiarity factored heavily into Beach Patrol’s entire set, from their opening Tom Petty cover straight through to their obliging of a request for the hardest-charging song from their first record.

After Beach Patrol had run through a set that hit all the right notes while still maintaining a fairly casual (and welcoming) feel, the stage was set for Midnight Reruns. Now, what Midnight Reruns are capable of pulling off in a live show has already been covered here in some detail but, like The Midwestern Charm, they’re evolving and improving at a rapid pace. That’s no small accomplishment for a band that, one record in, is already responsible for some of the best songs to have been produced by the state of Wisconsin this decade. From an incendiary cover, to Karl Giehl’s memorable outing as a vocalist, to all of the should-be-classic set staples (“King of Pop”, “Summer Smoker”, “Basement Guy”), the band was in rare form. Best of all, though, were the new songs- among them are some of the band’s most challenging- and some of their most direct- material to date. One, in particular, is an earworm-heavy monster with a “na na na” chorus that has the potential to carry them to new levels of name recognition. As the dual-guitar fury of “Basement Guy” brought things to a stunning end, it was difficult to not want more, once again, proving that this is a band that’s got unlimited potential- and they’re only just getting started.

Space Raft has been riding a wave of acclaim since releasing their self-titled debut back in May on the consistently brilliant Dusty Medical Records and had very little to prove. Thankfully, they didn’t play their set with that mindset, laying just about everything they had on the line. Thanks to guitarist/vocalist Davis’ time in Mystery Girls, the band’s already connected to one of the more memorable post-2000’s bands and, among the four members, share a wealth of experience on the live circuit. There were no false notes, no wrong moves, and each song carried both the pace and momentum of their set, essentially becoming a masterclass in the minutiae of consistency. After they’d played a handful of songs from their record- and a few new ones- the crowd begged for an encore and the band obliged that investment by delivering one of the night’s single most blistering performances, providing a fitting end cap to a night full of good friends and great music.

Below is a photo gallery of each band that played the show. None of their live sets are worth missing. Videos are forthcoming. Enjoy.

Midnight Reruns at Polack Inn – 5/7/14 (Pictorial Review, Video)

Midnight Reruns

[EDITOR’S NOTE: The images in the gallery are currently overlaying themselves. A fix is currently being worked on. Until then, the pictures can be viewed in static form over at flickr and the kaleidoscopic overlaps will remain in the gallery below.]

There are certain towns in Wisconsin that exist slightly off the beaten Madison-Milwaukee path but retain a sense of industry, rather than the sprawling scenery the state’s often noted for. Wausau is one of those towns. Farther North than most major show destinations, it’s managed to carve out its own little niche in terms of tour stops based on the strength of the venues. One of the city’s most noted non-house venues is the Polack Inn, a bar perfectly suited for DIY level acts.

Last Wednesday it was used to its fullest capabilities hosting We the Heathens and Midnight Reruns. The former acted as local support and played a lengthy well-received set which offered up an inviting blend of traditional Gaelic, folk-punk, and 90’s pop-punk. Each member of the Wausau power trio proved to have very capable control over their respective instruments (guitar, mandolin, and violin) and their audience. A late start saw much of the crowd dispersing after their set- which they’ll likely be kicking themselves for after learning what they missed out on.

Midnight Reruns, now comfortably positioned as one of Wisconin’s best acts (both in studio and live), played a typically incendiary set that featured no less than five new songs. It’s worth pointing out that after the last Midnight Reruns show in Stevens Point, a person close to the band noted that their new songs were “redefining the parameters of rock n’ roll”. That sentiment proved to be more true than expected, as the new songs ably merged distinguishing characteristics from the last handful of decades. A few of the structures were borderline progressive but overall, they gave off of a vibe more vintage 70’s (while remaining impossibly modern) than the 90’s powerpop that seemingly every review wastes no time administering. It’ll be interesting to see how the new material is met once it’s officially released, to say the least.

After a blitz through all that material (which made time to include several songs from their self-titled debut, which should be considered a state classic, and “Too Tall” from their Central Time EP), they packed up. Or, rather, they began to pack up until a friend of the band requested one last song: “Basement Guy”. No one could blame her for the request; any time there’s the potential for that song to be heard, that opportunity’s worth seizing. Her request was graciously obliged (under the warm, well-intentioned reasoning of “Guys, it’s Claire [requesting the song], come on.”)  and the performance that followed can be seen below. It’s the first video to be put up under the now-officially-rebranded Heartbreaking Bravery video section and it’s impossible to imagine anything being better for a first entry.

Scan through the photographs and watch the video (select 1080p for best quality) below.

 

Watch This: Vol. 20

In one of the more recent pieces to run on here, I bid adieu to a camera that’s served me well over the years. There were vague allusions to various sets that I’ve been lucky enough to catch with that camera scattered throughout the piece- and while this may be dangerously close to tipping into the self-serving spectrum I do my best to avoid on here (and the fact that the audio quality is far from the best), it only seemed appropriate to showcase a few of the more memorable captures over the years. To that end, this installment of Watch This will likely wind up as the one the more unique entries in the series.  One last look at the past before pushing towards what’s ahead.

No matter what it was, whether it be powerpop legends The Figgs playing Tenement’s living room, Thee Oh Sees taking apart one of Wisconsin’s best venues, Desaparecidos returning to the stage for the first time as an official band again, Okkervil River playing to a criminally sparse outdoors crowd in the middle of an absolutely gorgeous day, The Mountain Goats taking a victory lap, The Antlers entrancing a room of strangers on a stormy nightMutts stripping way back for a radio performance, or finding myself in a bar, restaurant, or basement with the likes of Big Eyes, Technicolor Teeth, The Cost of Living, Buffalo Moon, Sycamore Smith & the Gray Beast, The Midwestern Charm, Ramma LammaThe Sleepwalkers, Wett Nurse (shrouded in an impossible amount of fog, at that), Heavycritters – and yes, Perfect Pussy (along with a handful of others)- filming these has always been something that’s been extraordinarily gratifying.

It’s never to fulfill a sense of pride, it’s never for bragging rights, it’s always, in each and every instance, to support an artist that I love or that deserves as much support as they can possibly get. Established or not, this is my way of giving thanks and hopefully extending their music out to other places that may never have heard them otherwise. This holds true for my writing on Heartbreaking Bravery as well. One of the most important things anyone can do is support the art they believe in and this place will always live by that law. So, watch this or don’t, but it’ll always be here as both a reminder of some very personal memories and a showcase for some bands who deserved more attention than they ever received. Sit back, support local music, support local music, support local music, support local music (SERIOUSLY, SUPPORT LOCAL MUSIC), and Watch This.

1. Tenement – Morning Mouth (Live at the Afterdark)

This video will be the only one that actually predates the Canon PowerShot I’d been using to shoot these videos over the past several years (this set was shot on a low-end handheld Sony camcorder), it’s included because it serves as a beginning for a myriad of things: my introduction to Tenement (who would subsequently open up an entire world of music to me through their kindness), the beginnings of when I became serious about film, and the start of when I became serious about booking shows. Their five-song set, to a crowd of people they invited up onto a small stage to make them feel more at home, blew my mind and has stuck with me for approximately six years now. My opinion on this band hasn’t changed as I’ve filmed set after set after set, year in and year out- they’re one of the best, if not the absolute best, band currently going. I’ll forever be grateful to them for a number of reasons and delivering this set will always be one of them.

2. Good Grief – Holy Smokes! (Live in Stevens Point, WI)

There isn’t always a lot of options for live music in the middle of nowhere but at the height of Good Grief’s run, there were a few spells where there seemed to be an incredible show happening every other week. I attended every single one I possibly could, not just because of an undying love for live music and the DIY community but because Good Grief had tapped into something genuinely special during their time as a band. It was evidenced by the mass basement singalongs, by Mutts coming all the way from Chicago to play an unforgettable cover of a song from their final record, by the people who had little to no connection with the band who showed up at nearly every show- right up through their final marathon set at K Bueno (this is a band that will likely always have the distinction of being the only one I ever see tearing things up inside of a Shopko that was giving away free hot dogs, chips, and soda)- with a smile on their face and a beer in their hands, and by the fact that more times than not, the first time I would hear a song played for the first time, I would get chills (“Lab Rats” is still one of the most incredible pieces of music I’ve ever heard and a lock as an entry for my 50 Favorite Songs of All Time list). “Holy Smokes!” was never officially recorded, as far as I know this is the only known recording of it, which is why it takes this spot on the list- a look at some incredible music, and some incredible musicians, that too much of the world missed out on.

3. Midnight Reruns – Too Tall (Live at Frank’s Power Plant)

Like Tenement before them, this was the first time I saw Midnight Reruns (coincidentally, if anyone asks me who I think the best bands in the state are, those are usually the first two names out of my mouth) and even just a few minutes into the first song, it was apparent it’d be far from the last. They tore that place to shreds and threw out a fiery Wreckless Eric cover in the middle of an all-out blitz of a set that showcased Graham Hunt’s beyond-his-years songwriting ability and the band’s undeniable musicianship. They’ve (somehow) only steadily improved since then and have built an impressive expanding fanbase including members of The Replacements, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, ThirdCoastDigestBrooklynVegan, and Milwaukee Record, who just ranked their debut s/t (still less than half a year old) as the 16th best record to come out of Milwaukee since 2010. Word on the street is the material they’re currently working on blows even that out of the water. Keep both eyes out and both ears open for this one.

4. Sleeping in the Aviary – So Lonely (Live in Stevens Point, WI)

Apart from Good Grief, Used KidsThe Goodnight Loving, and Hot New Mexicans (especially The Goodnight Loving and Hot New Mexicans), there are few bands that can come even remotely close to Sleeping in the Aviary as far as the “bands I wish would reunite” conversation goes. The only places I ever saw Sleeping in the Aviary play, curiously enough considering their level of name recognition, were basements (with one surprisingly touching exception being the vinyl LP release party for Expensive Vomit In A Cheap Hotel at the High Noon Saloon, thrown five years after the records initial release) . In one way or another, I was a part of each and every one of those shows and they wound up being a few of the most memorable nights of my life thanks to both the people around me and Sleeping in the Aviary themselves. Ever the manic pranksters, they would usually come armed with cardboard cutouts, bubble machines, various props, or adult-themed piñatas. They’d also always play with a reckless abandon and unparalleled fierceness while still clinging onto a carefree nature and clearly having the time of their lives doing it. Kyle Sobczak was a late addition to the group but provided them with a few of their most memorable songs in their final stretch. “So Lonely” is one of them- and, as mentioned before, being in the middle of nowhere means that when a basement show happens with a band of Sleeping in the Aviary’s caliber comes to play, things tend to go off the rails pretty quickly. No one has seen the regular lead personality, Elliott Kozel, since he disappeared into that crowd… (entirely untrue as clearly evidenced in the video- but still, a great myth to try to start).

5. Charley & the Cynics – St. Christopher (Live at the Crunchy Frog)

Writing an In Memoriam piece for Charlotte was one of the most difficult things I’ve ever done. I debated whether or not to include this as the fifth slot or keep it stored away due to its extremely personal nature but I realized that the few videos I did manage to capture of Charley & the Cynics during her time here had a profound effect on why I kept filming and knew it had to occupy this spot. After her untimely passing it was next to impossible to bring myself to watch the videos of her that I’d previously put up out of both respect and unfailing admiration. It’s not like I knew Charlotte all that well; I won’t pretend I did and I won’t glamorize her or try to turn her into some flawless saintly figure. I did know her well enough, though- well enough to consider her a friend and well enough to know that she was a generally positive person who always seemed to treat others with both care and affection, which is something I try to extend to everyone that gets coverage on this site. After enough time had passed, I could watch these videos without needing to spend a night drinking afterwards and I realized that they’re the crux of why I film to begin with: to celebrate the people and music I love while they’re around. Ever since the full extent of that realization hit me, these videos of Charlotte have factored into every time I’ve plugged in a camera charger, every time I’ve replaced an SD card, every time I’ve spent hours making sure an upload doesn’t crash, every time I’ve pointed a lens at a stage, she has been there as a reminder to capture the things that are important while you still can. That lesson is something I’ve carried with me every day and something that’s been a part of the majority of my decisions within music journalism. For that and for all the times I’ve been reminded of that, I’m thankful- and I keep filming.

Watch This: Vol. 6

Another year comes to a close and offers up a luxury; a chance to go back for looks at videos this site never got to cover because it came into existence far too late. In this week’s addition of Watch This, all of the videos featured are standout takes from earlier on in the year that deserved a spotlight they weren’t able to receive the first time around. So, take a break between football games this Sunday and give these a watch; they’re all worth it. Regularly-scheduled time-sensitive posts will resume on Watch This next Sunday. Until then, enjoy some of the best live videos that 2013’s first stretch had to offer. 

1. Savages – Husbands (KEXP Session)

Savages landed in the US with a considerable amount of fanfare, a lot of which can be attributed to stunning live performances like this take on Silence Yourself standout “Husbands” for KEXP. The decision to release the clip in black-and-white only furthered the band’s sense of mystery (and aggression). There may not have been a better KEXP session all year.


2. The Frankl Project – Dissatisfaction at its Finest (Blue Recipe Radio Session)

One of the year’s most pleasant surprises came from a small Cincinatti power trio that were once considered to be more ska than anything else. The Frankl Project’s Standards is a testament to DIY ethics and self-reliance. Additionally, it happens to be one of the better records of 2013 and possibly the best the pop-punk genre had to offer. This Blue Recipe Radio Session included two other standouts (“My Hands” and “Alive on the Road”), so be sure to give all three a watch- it’s passionate, exhilarating material.


3. Amanda Shires – Bulletproof (Rhythm N’ Blooms)

A wildcard among this deck, Amanda Shires’ “Bulletproof” earns its spot on the strength of the second verse alone. What starts off as an ostensibly twee tune about a good-luck charm suddenly turns dark and examines humanities darkest tendencies; a desire for exploitation, violence, and empowerment. When Shires (now officially Amanda Isbell) hits the line “bring out the switchblades”, after a brief pause, it’s delivered with such a frightening amount of verve that it’s hard not to be completely taken. Definitely a talent to watch.


4. Mozes and the Firstborn – Time’s A Headache (Live at Biscuit Studios)

There may not have been a better live video that Heartbreaking Bravery encountered all year. It’s not much more than the band playing a standout cut from their self-titled debut effort in a basement but holy hell, do they ever play that song. The young Antwerp hell-raisers lay into “Time’s A Headache” with everything they’ve got to the delight of the crowd gathered around them in the basement where this was shot. There were a myriad of discoveries to make in 2013 but Mozes and the Firstborn (and this video) were among the very best of the “hidden gems” category.


5. Midnight Reruns – Grand Slam / Basement Guy (TCD’s Take One Session)

This marks the third time Midnight Reruns have appeared on a Watch This and it’s very unlikely it’ll be the last. This band simply isn’t getting the recognition it deserves and anything this site can do to further their exposure, it will do. ThirdCoastDigest started a video series earlier on this year called Take One where local area WI bands play an acoustic version of a song or two for their cameras; despite outstanding efforts from the likes of Midwestern Charm and Vic & Gab, the most intoxicating session belong to Milwaukee’s Midnight Reruns. “Basement Guy” and “Grand Slam” both take on noticeably different forms from their LP versions and are just as strong, if not stronger, for it. Get a jump on the inevitable and stop sleeping on these guys- they’re a band worthy talking about as early as possible.

Midnight Reruns’ Debut LP Streaming on Punknews

Eagle-eyed readers will remember this record being mentioned back in the Midwives review/stream and that the mention came with a guess. This guesswork has now been confirmed. Midnight Reruns is out today and officially stands as one of the years best. Marrying The Replacements at their most energetic with the melodic sensibilities of the most memorable 90’s powerpop and a whole lot of explosive fretwork’s a tricky formula to pull off. Luckily for everyone involved, Midnight Reruns step up and knock it out of the park on their first major at-bat. Stream it by following this link to Punknews and adjust any year-end lists accordingly.