Heartbreaking Bravery

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Tag: Built to Spill

2015: A Year’s Worth of Memories (Stephen Tringali)

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Last year Stephen Tringali turned in a piece for this series about working on Chastity Belt‘s “Black Sail” music video. In 2015, he worked on a slew of new projects including his debut feature-length documentary Corridor Four, which centers around an officer from the K-9 unit — and military veteran — who was experiencing PTSD after the bravery he exhibited on 9/11, rushing into the Pentagon to attempt to save as many lives as possible.  It’s a big leap from directing and serving as the cinematographer on videos for bands like Big Ups, Low Fat Getting High, and Roomrunner. Here, he talks about seeing Pile play for the first time, discovering Pill Friends, shooting their latest music video, and lists his top 10 albums of 2015. Read it below and hold onto the things you find inspiring.

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My first great musical memory of 2015 was finally getting to see Pile perform. I live in Los Angeles, and I don’t think the band makes it out to the west coast that often. When I saw they’d be playing Los Globos in late March, I marked the date on my calendar and prepared myself to turn down any gigs that might conflict with it. Needless to say, the show was excellent.

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Pile, Los Globos – March 29th, 2015 – Ilford 35mm Black & White 3200 ISO Pushed One Stop

Later that year, I had the chance to make a music video for this group from Pennsylvania called Pill Friends. I honestly can’t remember how in the world I found their record Blessed Suffering, but hearing it brought me straight back to high school in Central Pennsylvania. Since moving to Los Angeles, I’ve grown increasing interested with nostalgia and childhood. What images bring up those memories. How to access them after a long time has passed. I wanted to somehow recreate that feeling of growing up in suburban/rural PA for this video.

The band didn’t have much in the way of a budget, so flying back to PA to shoot this video was out of the question. I decided instead to hitch a ride with a college friend on his way back to Denver, CO and stop off in this small town called Leadville, CO where another college friend was working. We spent 3 days filming the people in the town in a kind of documentary style. It was perhaps the scariest premise I could have come up with for a music video because there was such a huge chance that it would fail. What if no one there wanted to be filmed? What if the town didn’t really have the look I was after? What if we were snowed in for most of the time? There were a million things that could have gone wrong.

And maybe that’s why it’s one of my most memorable experiences from this past year. I wanted to make a video that felt less staged, more impromptu, and more genuine than previous videos I had done. Strangely enough, it worked out. There was something exciting about having no clue what we were going to film that day. Plenty of people said no thank you; please don’t film me. But there were other folks who were completely open to the idea. Mechanics, barbers, skateboarders, kids playing basketball. The result turned out to be a really wonderful portrait of the town.

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LEADVILLE, CO – November 2015

And finally, I got to have coffee with Michael Sincavage of Low Fat Getting High. I made a music video for his band in early 2015, but all of our communication up until that point had been via e-mail or phone. It might seem a little strange, but I don’t actually get to meet many of the bands I make music videos for in person. I’m really proud of the video I made for LFGH and so thankful that Michael gave me an unusual amount of creative control. It was great to finally meet him in person and talk over coffee. There was just something so encouraging and positive about that experience—that I could make a new friend simply because we connected over e-mail and collaborated on a project together.

My favorite records from 2015:

1. Sleater-Kinney – No Cities To Love
2. Dilly Dally – Sore
3. Car Seat Headrest – Teens Of Style
4. Screaming Females – Rose Mountain
5. Built To Spill – Untethered Moon
6. Courtney Barnett – Sometimes I Sit And Think, And Sometimes I Just Sit
7. Yowler – The Offer
8. Ava Luna – Infinite House
9. Pile – You’re Better Than This
10. Protomartyr – The Agent Intellect

-Stephen Tringali

Watch This: Vol. 106

[EDITOR’S NOTE: Due to the nature of these upcoming posts, a truncated version of this introductory paragraph will be appearing over the next several installments of this series.] It’s been quite some time since the 100th edition of Watch This went up on this site. There have been a lot of factors going into the extended interim but, as usual, a focal point of that absence was to make sure the preparation work was kept up to date. Full sessions, single song performances, DIY videos, and impressive turn-ins from radio stations abound. So, as always, sit back, adjust the setting, crank the volume, focus up, and Watch This.

1. Built to Spill – Good Enough (Joyful Noise)

Earlier this year, Built to Spill released their best record in over a decade. To help them celebrate that impressive achievement, Joyful Noise invited the band in for one of their Almost Live From… sessions and the band turned in a strong rendition of beloved rarity “Good Enough”. Weary, quiet, and and just about perfect, this is a powerful look at the current era of one of the most quietly celebrated acts in music.

2. Radioactivity – Sickness/Don’t Try (Razorcake)

One of the fiercest basement pop acts of this generation, Radioactivity have built up an impressive reputation over the course of their brief history, rivaling that of their sister band, The Marked Men. While their sophomore effort, this year’s Silent Kill, was no slouch, the band’s self-titled debut remains one of the best records to emerge in this decade. Razorcake caught the band tearing through the two opening tracks of that debut at VLHS last month and (thankfully) posted the results so that everyone could revel in the frenzy.

3. Ought – Beautiful Blue Sky (Radio K)

Back at the start of October, Ought put on a memorable set at Secret Project Robot that emphasized their off-kilter brand of nervous energy. “Beautiful Blue Sky” is the band’s most complete distillation of those tendencies to date and serves as one of many high watermarks for the quartet. Radio K recently hosted them for a session that saw the band turn in yet another inspired rendition of the song, which still feels as engrossing as it did when it was being road-tested as early as last year.

4. Fern Mayo – Open Work (This Has Got To Stop)

I first came to know Katie Capri as a writer and admired her work in that field before being introduced to her musical project, Fern Mayo. Capri would eventually pen a memorable screed against the assumption that Brooklyn DIY was dead in a piece for the first installment of A Year’s Worth of Memories and I’d eventually be blown away by a few of her songs. One of those songs, “Open Work”, felt like the tipping point of a good band becoming something more meaningful. This Has Got To Stop shot an outstanding acoustic rendition of the song on a rooftop that highlights Capri’s natural magnetism as both a songwriter and a performer.

5. Johanna Warren – Pin Oaks (Splendor Sessions)

A few of my fondest memories of 2015 involve time spent with Johanna Warren, whose gentle nūmūn ranks among this year’s finest offerings. Warren carries a tranquility with her that frequently tips over into a light serenity and that aspect of her personality informs her music, even in its stormiest moments. It’s that oddly specific sensibility that makes Warren’s solo acoustic performances feel like the purest presentation of not just her music but her entire being. Here, Warren turns in a characteristically captivating performance of “Pin Oaks” in a van that makes room for some gorgeous shots of the songwriter idling by a body of water. It’s an appropriately beautiful document of a moment that feels as if it’s only a few steps removed from being holy.

Watch This: Vol. 88

87 entries in and still going strong, Watch This- the weekly series dedicated to celebrating some of the week’s finest performance clips- has become one of this site’s definitive markers. Great performances are given every day, all over the world, and a few of them have the good fortune of being caught on film- a handful of those are presented in startlingly beautiful ways. Every week, five of those artists’ performance get featured here, while a handful of impressive efforts get highlights as well. This week, those highlights included performances from Jeff Rosenstock, Calexico, Paul Weller, Tedo Stone, Dead Stars, toyGuitar, and Laser Background. Nearly every artist in this 88th installment has been featured on Watch This before, which continues a nearly unprecedented run of inclusions for both Courtney Barnett and Girlpool. Diet Cig officially cements their spot as a staple of the series and KEXP houses another impressive full session. It’s a lot to take in, so, as always, sit up, adjust the volume, lean in, and Watch This.

1.Built to Spill (KEXP)

Doug Martsch and his band of ragtag misfits crafted one of this year’s more unexpectedly stunning records in Untethered Moon, Built To Spill’s strongest collection of songs in over a decade. KEXP recently brought the band in for a session that emphasized the singular energy that helped make Untethered Moon so compelling. Long regarded as one of the best live acts on the circuit, the band proves they’ve earner their status over an impressive four song set. It’s a strong reminder of the talent of a band that seems content to keep pushing themselves for as long as they possibly can.

2. Diet Cig – Pool Boyz + Scene Sick (Out of Town Films)

Ever since Over Easy came out towards the start of the year, Diet Cig has been making regular appearances on Watch This thanks in part to not only that collection’s strength but to the uninhibited joy the duo exude when they perform.  As great as those clips have been, Out of Town Films adds a visual panache that elevates this particular session to one Diet Cig’s brightest moments. There’s a manic energy, guitarist/vocalist’s Alex Luciano’s mischievous smile, jumping bean antics, and Noah Bowman’s committed energy. The fact that the whole thing is capped off with a high-five feels beyond perfect. Carefree, irreverent, and ridiculously entertaining, this is a definitive presentation of a site favorite.

3. Courtney Barnett – Pedestrian at Best + Elevator Operator (Pitchfork)

At this point, it’s entirely possible that no one has made as many Watch This lists as Courtney Barnett. Still riding high on the wave of acclaim that Sometimes I Sit And Think, And Sometimes I Just Sit has built, combined with relentless touring, has landed Barnett in a coveted position that’s secured the songwriter a murderer’s row of outlets that create great live clips. Of course, it helps that Barnett’s a preternaturally gifted performer. Barnett recently delivered a characteristically blistering performance at Pitchfork and the site’s uploaded two performances, “Pedestrian At Best” and “Elevator Operator”, in kind.

4. Parquet Courts – Uncast Shadow of A Southern Myth + Content Nausea (Pitchfork)

Back when some of Parquet Courts were in Teenage Cool Kids, they’d frequently show up for shows in Milwaukee basements and deliver the kind of shambolic performances that’d eventually earn Parquet Courts no shortage of celebratory praise. Since those days, it’s an approach that’s been honed, refined over time, and brought dangerously close to perfection. In yet another strong pairing of fiery performances from Pitchfork, the band ambles through “Uncast Shadow of a Southern Myth” (which was originally a Teenage Cool Kids song) and “Content Nausea” with a wiry, deadpan verve.

5. Girlpool – Crowded Stranger (Sofar Sounds)

If Courtney Barnett’s leading the number of Watch This inclusions, Girlpool likely isn’t too far behind. Having just seen the duo deliver arresting performances at both Baby’s All Right and as a secret headliner at DBTS (a gallery of which will be going up soon), the way the duo commands attention on film is maximized in person- but the best clips come close to capturing that prevailing sense of awe that so often accompanies the live experience. Here, the duo performs “Crowded Stanger”- one of 2015’s more chill-inducing songs- in front of Sofar Sounds’ lenses to a hushed crowd in a London room. It’s a breathtaking rendition that reaffirms the songwriters’ inherent charisma and innate ability, providing another layer of definitive proof that Girlpool are one of today’s most formidable acts.

Speedy Ortiz – The Graduates (Music Video)

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After a small run of music video collections, this post will have the site caught up to the current week’s releases (which will be covered in the ensuing posts).  A lot has happened over the course of April and there’s been a plethora of attention-ensuring music videos. Before diving too far into the clip that earned this headline, though, there are other selections that should be noted. The titles that belong to this category include: Built To Spill’s charmingly goofy “Never Be The Same“, Ava Luna’s sketch adventure “Steve Polyester“, Mac McCaughan’s hypnotically swirled “Wet Leaves“, Moaning’s playfully destructive “The Same“, Rozwell Kid’s gruesomely clever “Kangaroo Pocket“, Nots’ intensely damaged “White Noise“, Public Access T.V.’s meticulously crafted “Metropolis“, Elvis Depressedly’s searing, deeply felt”Thou Shall Not Murder“, Calexico’s surprisingly tender “Falling From The Sky“, The Lagoonas’ skate-heavy “Weird Friends“, and Ed Schrader’s Music Beat’s typically irreverent “Emperor’s New Chair“. A handful of those clips are relatively straight-laced and most could easily be categorized as off-kilter- but none of them (at least in that regard) manage to stack up to Speedy Ortiz‘s “The Graduates”.

Foil Deer continues Speedy Ortiz’s ascension by being a work that felt complete while offering up some of the band’s best standalone songs to date. One of the songs was the defiantly defeatist anthem “The Graduates”. Now, the band- which has always specialized in creating videos that double as absurdist trips– has unleashed the most wildly imaginative clip of their career. The Matthew Caron-helmed clip for “The Graduates” opens on singer/vocalist Sadie Dupuis carefully creating a drug in a laboratory setting before providing some exposition via the song’s first verse and sharing her craft with her bandmates, who take turns ingesting the googly-eye objects one by one. Before long, the band’s hallucinating a literal white rabbit and scheming an expansion to ensure everyone get to revel in the experience.

What follows is an almost uncomfortably disquieting scenario where the band quietly slips the (possibly metaphorical) drug to the patrons of a crowded restaurant (a scene that includes one-time contributors Christine Varriale and Nina Corcoran, who both frequently contribute to the great Allston Pudding). Things take a turn when the white rabbit reappears and is immediately engulfed in a sea of adoration, with the exception of one individual living out this quasi-nightmarish scenario who flees the diner and collapses into a towering snowbank. As a complete product, it’s endearingly bold and reinforces Speedy Ortiz’s strengthening visual aesthetic without underplaying any of their emotional resonance. It also looked like it was an absolute joy to make and the best possible way to kill a brutal snow day in Boston.

Watch “The Graduates” below and pick up a copy of Foil Deer from Carpark 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

Downies – Widow (Stream)

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Photo by Seth Applebaum

For a while now, I’ve been teasing Heartbreaking Bravery’s brief transition to full-blown catch-up mode. And, well, that time has come. Each of the ensuing posts will contain so much more than just the song, video, or album in the headline. Single songs will each come equipped with a list of 75 other great tunes to have appeared in 2015. A new music video mixtape will be arriving shortly as well as several other mixtapes to re-ignite the Watch This series, which time dictated be temporarily relegated to the sidelines. A lot of things will be heading in a lot of directions in the coming months so coverage may be sporadic but I will be damned if I let this site out of my thoughts and intentions for even a second.

With all of that noted, it’s time to get back to what drives this site’s existence: legitimately great art propelled by a DIY ethos. A lot of incredible music has emerged over the past several weeks with gems arriving every day (extremely recent company includes Eskimeaux, Sharpless, Flagland, Flyying Colours, Mitski, Upset, and so many more) so selecting one to feature has become an unenviable task- but sometimes history makes it easy. I was fortunate enough to hear some roughs of a band called Downies towards the start of the year and it immediately became one of my favorite releases, something that came as no surprise considering the group’s pedigree (I’ve yet to come across a LVL UP-affiliated project that I dislike, which can also be said of Porches.). Pushing things over the edge was the fact that Downies came off like a version of Purple 7 that was even more pop-happy but sacrificed none of that band’s considerable punch.

That exhilarating dynamic is perhaps most present in “Widow”, the band’s recently-unveiled warning shot. On its surface, it’s a frantically paced gut-punch that’s forceful enough to stop just about anyone in their tracks. Live, it’s a firecracker that seems hell-bent on total destruction. Stripped back to its bare essentials, it’s a song driven by a troubled subtext that’s directly hinted at in the title. Even setting aside the dissections of its particulars, “Widow” is a staggering show of force from a band that deserves to be ushered in with a high level of excitement.

Listen to “Widow” below and keep an eye on this site for continuing coverage of the band and the upcoming EP that houses this song. Beneath that is a list of 75 incredible songs that I wish I could attribute more words to, as they truly deserve to be held in praise, but- at this point- there’s simply too many items that have amassed. Soon, the site will be caught up and current releases will be accounted for as they enter the fold. For now, enjoy “Widow” and a long list of treasures.

NEEDS – Rescue Don
Walleater – Swallow You
Turn To Crime – Without A Care
Built to Spill – Never Be the Same
Thin Lips – Nothing Weird
Hollow Sunshine – Careful Travel
Toro Y Moi – Run Baby Run
Dutch Uncles – Realm
Cillie Barnes – Earthquake Season at the Crystal Convention
No Joy – Everything New
Inheaven – Regeneration
Crying – Patriot
Torres – Sprinter
Hop Along – Powerful Man
Ronnie Stone & The Lonely Riders – Kiss the Daddy
Dolores Haze – I Got My Gun
The Teen Age – Low Cunning
Funeral Advantage – I Know Him
Shadow Age – Silaluk
YAST – When You’re Around
Mittenfields – Optimists
Coeds – Sensitive Boys
PJ Bond – The Better Option
Pfarmers – The Ol’ River Gang
Round Eye – City Livin’
Val Son – Sundays
Lowin – Best Laid Plans
Alright – Watercolors
The Midwestern Charm – Can’t Stand It
The Bloodhounds – La Coahuila
Broken Water – Wasted
Trans Van Santos – The Flight
Weed – Yr Songs
Elliot Moss – Best Light
Girls Names – Zero Triptych
Communions – Out of My World
Two Sheds – Get It Out
Free Cake For Every Creature – The Day To Day
Elvis Perkins (ft. Alec Ounsworth) – Mexican Ritual
Loose Tooth – Pickwick Average
Barbazons – Bad Catholics
Eternal Summers – Together Or Alone
Someone Still Loves You Boris Yeltsin – Step Brother City
Mall Walk – Container
Verses Narrow – Passive
Nevada Nevada – Anger Tango
Annabel – Everything
Triumph of the Wild – Brown Dog Blues
Mitski – Square (Live Solo Piano)
Chick Quest – Somebody Call A Doctor
Downtown Boys – Future Police
Honey Butter (ft. Chris Savor) – Times
Tanlines – Invisible Ways
Heaters – Mean Green
Warm Soda – I Wanna Go Fast
Diamond Youth – Thought I Had It Right
LA Font – Whisperer
Palma Violets – English Tongue
Prinzhorn Dance School – Reign
FFS – Piss Off
Avid Dancer – Not Far To Go
Cheatahs – Murasaki
Jaga Jazzist – Starfire
Flyying Colours – Running Late
Eskimeaux – I Admit I’m Scared
Sharpless – Franz Kafka (Home Movies)
Flagland – Awesome Song, Kerry Jan
Tomboy – Tomboy Anthem
The Moi Non Plus – Away With Words
Upset – Glass Ceiling
Panther Ray – Get to You
The Weaks – Frances Quinlan Will Have Her Revenge on Philadelphia
Ka – Pruitt Igoe
Dogs On Acid – Substitute (The Who)
Creepoid – American Smile