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Tag: Buzz

The Best Music Videos of June’s First Half

The first half of June came equipped with a lot of outstanding material but the strength of its best music videos were especially notable. There’s a strong chance that IDLES land themselves a repeat spot in the year-end best-of rundown, following their Music Video of the Year turn in 2017. There’s also a reasonable chance that at least one other clip from this list joins them in those rankings. As of now, that’s all still speculation but it’s worth noting for the sheer strength of impact. To find out a little more, scroll down, keep your eyes peeled, and keep your ears open.

IDLES – Danny Nedelko

Last year’s “Mother” was an absolute masterwork of a music video, going a ways in helping IDLES launch a burgeoning career. Easily one of the best protest songs of this current decade, “Mother” now has an equal in “Danny Nedelko.” As has been the case with virtually every IDLES clip, this one surges with purpose as its titular character takes a central role, dancing, smiling, and flashing an OK hand symbol that was co-opted by white supremacists in an act of joyful resistance. It’s remarkable, pointed, and adds an additional level of potency to an already formidable discography.

Lonely Parade – Night Cruise

One of the most recent additions to Buzz Record‘s already stacked roster, Lonely Parade have made no bones about establishing their stake in that field. Their most recent showing came by way of the music video for the unwieldy “Night Cruise.” Stylish, vivid, and executed with unnerving precision, “Night Cruise” comes off like a warning shot. A series of odd angles, clever pans, and sharp editing play into a digital film palette that make the band’s sense of identity a focal point. Smart, measured, and playful, “Night Cruise” is a promising look into Lonely Parade’s future.

Shy Boys – Take the Doggie

There are a few constant truths in our lives. Shy Boys took one of those truths and embraced it wholeheartedly, gifting us a playful, dog-driven music video that’s as open-hearted as it is endearing. Throw in a twee-leaning powerpop song, some lyrics running across the bottom of the screen, and a whole collection of clips cut together into a comprehensive whole and “Take the Doggie” reveals itself to be as winsome as its opening seconds suggest.

Deaf Wish – FFS

The second black-and-white clip on this list, Deaf Wish‘s “FFS” uses the formula as a means to strengthen its directness. Jensen Tjhung and Daniel Twomey take the directorial reigns and lean into the framing, creating stark imagery that pays tribute to some iconic shots from the rock photography canon. The editing heightens “FFS”, creating sync’d segments that play into the clip’s sense of augmented reality. Engaging and expertly crafted, “FFS” is a reminder of how classical styling can benefit from modern advancements.

Tomberlin – Self-Help

Saddle Creek‘s latest addition, Tomberlin, gave a mesmerizing introduction-at-large with the hushed, haunted “Self-Help”. Directed by Laura-Lynn Petrick, the clip presents Tomberlin awash in a sea of sea creatures, suggesting a parallel to the narrative of “Self-Help”, searching for a place in a space that’s built for you but still feels removed. It’s that distance that “Self-Help” is imbued with that defines both the song and the clip, conjuring an eerie parable that’s hard to shake on either end. Thoughtfully crafted and tenderly delivered, it’s a captivating glance at an artist worthy of knowing.

Weaves – Shithole (Music Video)

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EDITOR’S NOTE: This series of posts reflects back on some of the best material to be released over the past few weeks. Each post with this heading is a part of this series. After this series has concluded regular coverage will resume. 

Not many bands had as much of a coming out party this as Weaves, who released one of 2016’s most extraordinary efforts in their self-titled full-length debut. One of the brightest moments of that release came via “Shithole“, a song that was originally released back in 2014. Director/editor Trevor Blumas gives the spiky, colorful basement pop number a video that keeps bandleader Jasmyn Burke in a tight one-shot, letting her face do the heavy lifting. It’s wild, it’s frenetic, it’s chaotic, it’s everything that makes Weaves tick, and it’s impossible to stop watching. Jump in and give in to its spell.

Watch “Shithole” below and pick up a copy of Weaves here.

Casper Skulls – Errands (Stream)

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Over this site’s run, Buzz Records has earned innumerable mentions and very quickly established itself as a site favorite. The label’s showing no signs of slowing down and are continuing to get stronger. The latest proof of this strength is the recent release of Casper Skulls’ excellent “Errands”. A seamless blend of post-punk, shoegaze, and vintage ’90s slacker punk, “Errands” wears its varied influences proudly on sleeve, recalling acts like Pavement and My Bloody Valentine while still managing to carve out an identity of its own.

For as much as “Errands” references — and is indebted to — the past, there’s something quintessentially modern about the ways its balanced. Boasting both a detached cool and a buried, but still-evident drive, the song becomes quietly exhilarating. It’s a deeply intriguing example of how music can gradually, subtly evolve over time and it paints Casper Skulls as a band worth a close watch. As unassuming as “Errands” seems at first glance, the structure, dynamics, and choices the band makes throughout the four-plus minute runtime reveal they’re keenly aware of their craft. It’s a trait that’ll serve them well going forward and could heavily benefit their forthcoming Lips & Skulls, which has a shot at securing the band a whole new row of converts. With as good as “Errands” is, why wait to join their ranks?

Listen to “Errands” below and pre-order Lips & Skulls here.

Fake Palms – Heavy Paranoia (EP Review)

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The first trio of days this week were comprised of a large handful of impressive full streams that came via Ghost Gum, Katie Ellen, Ganser, Sculpture Club, The Royal They, Joey Sprinkles, Idiot Genes, Tongues, Edgar Clinks, Jackson Boone, Kyle Morton, and Residuels. There was also an incredible compilation that came courtesy of a collaboration between Swell Tone and Z Tapes entitled Summer of Sad. While each of those releases deserves all of the investment they’ll undoubtedly receive and more, this post’s feature spot falls to the great Fake Palms and their outstanding forthcoming EP, Heavy Paranoia.

Back in 2015, Fake Palms grabbed another of this site’s feature spots for their dark, insistent “Sun Drips“. It’s astonishing how much the band’s grown in that time and Heavy Paranoia is concrete proof of their accelerated sense of artistry. From the onset, Heavy Paranoia ably demonstrates the band’s creative expanse with the towering “Collar Bone”. Riding the crest of a monstrous wave of hooks, sharp riffing, and a cold atmosphere that’s — somehow — conjured up by almost exclusively warm tones, “Collar Bone” immediately becomes distinctive and sets a ridiculously gripping precedent for the quartet of tracks to follow.

“Holiday” and “Frequencies” both hurtle along at a quick pace that still allows Fake Palms to establish a sense of expanse. Both tracks are perfect examples of the band’s acute awareness of dynamic structure, successfully playing several angles in one fell swoop. Whether it’s to create a sense of mild discord through committing to figures designed to emphasize ambient effect rather than melody or in shifting the tonal qualities of their tracks, every idea works beautifully. Importantly, the band also expertly navigates the pacing of Heavy Paranoia, lending it a feel of completion that few EP’s have managed to achieve.

By the time Heavy Paranoia‘s closing track hits, Fake Palms have already secured the EP the distinction of being the best release of their career. Fortunately, that last track, “Snowblink”, only solidifies that distinction. As characteristically spare and relentless as the preceding songs on this miniature post-punk masterpiece, “Snowblink” does eventually hit an enormous, sprawling moment that serves as the climactic final sequence of both the song and the EP. Those final three minutes are the most exhilarating of a release that’s never anything less than arresting and ensure that Heavy Paranoia‘s a release worth remembering.

Listen to Heavy Paranoia below and pre-order the EP here.

Weaves – Tick (Music Video)

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Weaves were a focal part of most of this site’s coverage this week, so running yet another feature on the band may seem predictable but it’s entirely earned. Their latest music video, for the excellent album opener “Tick”, is a perfect representation of the exhilaration that Weaves so effortlessly generates. “Tick” was one of a handful of intriguing music videos to surface over the past 24 hours, a list that also boasts new material from The So So Glos, Melkbelly, Thrushes, Billie Marten, and Parakeet. Natural Child, The Hecks, CC Mose, Johanna Samuels, Adam Olenius, and The Saxophones all offered up strong new songs while DentistLake Ruth, Pink Mexico, Show Me The Body, and The Guests all unveiled explosive full streams. Additionally, there was a two-song preview of the Husband Stitch’s upcoming self-titled EP and an important compilation from SRB Productions entitled Forever Beautiful: A Collection of Love for Orlando with all proceeds going towards the victims of the tragic events that transpired at Pulse earlier this week.

Each of those endeavors are worth undertaking (and, again, that compilation is both deeply important and frustratingly necessary) but in terms of new releases, this week belonged to Weaves. The band’s been on an incendiary tear recently, highlighting their run with the reveal of their extraordinary full-length debut.  Now, they’re taking on the music video game with a clear-eyed ferocity and a surplus of focused determination. Opening with a tongue-in-cheek commentary on middle-aged malaise, “Tick” quickly ricochets into the artful weirdness that permeates throughout nearly every facet of Weaves’ outsize aesthetic.

“Tick” immediately kicks into full gear following the humorously droll introduction, with the song quite literally following the protagonist’s every move. Eye-grabbing visualizations propel the clip to absurd heights as it careens along, providing both absurdist tendencies and subtle, pointed commentary in spades. The whole thing is a massively entertaining thrill ride that recklessly careens along from start to finish, allowing its own substantial momentum to be its definitive trait. Most importantly, every aspect of “Tick” scans as truthful, imbuing the clip with a refreshing dose of unapologetic reality; people are weird, inherently lonely, and entirely capable of creating an environment that suits their most immediate emotional needs.

In the end, “Tick” stands as a testament to perseverance. Heartfelt, painfully honest, and equipped with a formidable bite, “Tick” also stands as a prime example of what can be achieved within the confines of the music video format. A beautiful accompaniment to one of the year’s most astonishing debuts, “Tick” finds the band continuing on an astounding level of near-perfection. Give it a watch (or several) and do something that feels necessary.

Watch “Tick” below and pick up a copy of Weaves here.

Weaves – Weaves (Album Review)

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2016 has been unbelievably kind in its production of legitimately great albums, EP’s, amd demos. Roughly halfway into the year and there are already well over two dozen legitimate Album of the Year contenders alone. Unsurprisingly, even more great full streams keep surfacing. While not all of these are quite at that year-end level, there were several deserving titles that were unveiled over the past 24 hours from the likes of G.L.O.S.S., Small Culture, Exam Season, and No Friends’ fourth Flexi compilation, while another curiosity arrived in the form of Marge’s three-track teaser for Bruise Easy. One of the day strongest standouts came from site favorites Weaves.

As was recently mentioned in the last Watch This entry, Weaves have been on an absolute tear since releasing the pointed, lived-in basement pop stomper “Shithole“. The band seemed to his a stretch of galvanization and poured a wealth of creative energy into their material, enhancing an already outsize persona with vigor and aplomb. After a few promising early releases, the band seemed to latch onto an identity and draw strength from their own discoveries. Emboldened by their own artistic growth, Weaves illustrates just how much fire the band has in its ribs.

From the sudden squall that opens “Tick”, Weaves‘ volatile opening track, the band never really eases off the gas pedal. This is, unmistakably, one of 2016’s wildest, boldest, and most invigorating releases. Teeming with an outsize persona and a frightening excess of energy, the band imbues the 11 tracks up for offer on Weaves with an abundance of genuine feeling. No punches are pulled and each blow lands with the force of an anvil. Bolstered by frenetic guitar work, the compelling narratives and vocal fireworks of Jasmyn Burke, and an almost frighteningly intuitive togetherness, Weaves‘ first section threatens to derail the entire affair.

Fortunately, Weaves have been perfecting just about everything in their arsenal, from production tricks to pacing, and the results aren’t just showing, they’re flashing two more rows of sharpened teeth; this is a record that runs deep. When “Shithole” — one of last year’s finest songs — finally hits, the song nearly becomes a reprieve. Scaling back the tempo, Burke’s honesty gains even more impact as the band conjures up the kind of reassuring bed of noise that elevates every word. “Eagle” follows suit, allowing Weaves to coast on the momentum they generated with the opening run of tracks while still expanding the record’s intrigue.

Weaves start waving their freak flag higher and more proudly in the record’s back half, though the prominence of that act never quite hits the exhilarating peaks produced by the brilliant back-to-back pairing of “Two Oceans” and “Human”. Following a sequence that staggering would seem nearly impossible for just about any other band but it ultimately opens up what Weaves can do with the record’s closing third, an opportunity they seize with a gleeful relish. Two 2016 highlights — “Coo Coo” and “One More” — enliven the home stretch but don’t necessarily establish themselves as the section’s definitive numbers.

It’s in that final sequence where Weaves cement that their self-titled effort was concocted as a well-thought whole; Weaves is a classic example of a genuine album. In a few years, Weaves may also genuinely come to be considered a classic album. The final piece to the puzzle that should help ensure its legacy is the placement of the record’s most explosive moment (“One More”, a no-brainer selection for one of the 50 Best Songs of 2016’s First Quarter compilation) with its most beautiful piece.

“Stress”, Weaves‘ finale, is nothing short of breathtaking. Tranquil, oddly moving, and quietly propulsive, “Stress” fully demonstrates just how far Weaves have come since their modest beginnings. Gentle melodies, well-placed stabs of feedback, and the kind of contemplative calm that descends after a vicious storm are underscored for the duration of “Stress”, allowing the band to seamlessly merge the sensibilities that frequently accompany both finale and epilogue. It’s a haunting number that provides Weaves with an unforgettable finish, solidifying its status as one of the stronger records this decade.

It’s not just that no one does what Weaves are doing as well as they do, it’s that no one else is even making an attempt. Should Weaves inspire some attempts at this particular eclectic blend of songwriting styles, genres, and cornerstones, this record will retain — and most likely remain in — a position as the gold standard. Grab onto something close and hold on tightly because Weaves is an unpredictable, exhilarating, and ultimately deeply satisfying thrill ride that knows no borders or boundaries. Greet it with an anxious smile and give in to its myriad charms.

Listen to Weaves below and pick it up from Kanine here.

Twist – Soaked (Stream)

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Editor’s Note: There’s been a month-long gap in coverage, thanks to near-incessant travel and other extenuating circumstances. The following run of posts that contain this note will be posts that should have appeared sometime within the past several weeks. Use these posts as an opportunity to catch up to the present release cycle or to simply discover some new music. Either way, enjoy.

Buzz Records’ newest signee, Twist, came charging out of the gate just a few days ago with the surging “Soaked”. The surf-tinged basement pop number comes packed with plenty of punk bite and spells out in plain letters exactly why Buzz took interest in the first place; “Soaked” is of an exceptionally high standard and marries a twinge of noisy dissonance with a formidable, melodic core. Where it sets itself apart is in its retro-leaning pop sensibilities.

Taking an impressive amount of cues from the pop music of the 50’s and 60’s, “Soaked” finds intriguing ways to update those influences into something more identifiably modern. Utilizing subtle touches like the bell arrangements and a quasi-industrial percussion section to carve out its own place among a very crowded field, “Soaked” succeeds effortlessly as a welcoming introductory piece to a new artist that should, hopefully, be receiving a considerable amount of attention.

Sunny, battered, and tenacious in its determination, “Soaked” winds up coming across as something resembling a mission statement for Twist. If the project lives up to this glimpse at the future, then this entry will be far from the last time a Twist song appears in a featured slot on this site.  

Listen to “Soaked” below and pick up the digital single from Buzz here.

Greys – Outer Heaven (Album Review)

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Editor’s Note: There’s been a month-long gap in coverage, thanks to near-incessant travel and other extenuating circumstances. The following run of posts that contain this note will be posts that should have appeared sometime within the past several weeks. Use these posts as an opportunity to catch up to the present release cycle or to simply discover some new music. Either way, enjoy.

Ever since their emergence, Greys have held a spot as a site favorite. Whether it was their incendiary live performances, thought-provoking music videos, or their intelligent-but-immediate approach to noise-punk, the quartet always found a way to make a lasting impression. Last month, they unveiled the next extraordinary step of their ongoing evolution: their latest full-length, Outer Heaven.

In past interviews, guitarist/vocalist and principal songwriter Shehzaad Jiwani has stated that Greys attempt to subvert the populist approach to noise-punk by placing the majority of the melodic emphasis on the instrumental portions and the majority of the dissonance in the vocal melodies. While that holds true for much of Outer Heaven, it’s easy to hear the two beginning to be pulled towards a more neutral marriage that ultimately propels the songs to even greater heights.

After a string of deliriously frantic singles, EP’s, and records, the band’s also more fully embracing a brave experimentation that sees them pushing their own tendencies in fascinating new directions. Whether it’s via simple production tricks like the vocal warping in “No Star” or the gentle, almost ballad-like qualities that they sporadically imbue into tracks like the psych-influenced “Erosion”.

By the time Outer Heaven‘s most jarring 1-2 punch hits (the frighteningly explosive “Sorcerer” and the record’s hazy final track, “My Life As A Cloud”), Greys have made it abundantly clear that this is a landmark release. Easily one of the year’s most fascinating releases to date, Outer Heaven is an important piece for Greys’ own progression and a listen that dares to be challenging. A singular listen from an unexpected source, this is a sharp record that fully rewards investment.

Listen to Outer Heaven below and pick it up from Carpark here.

2016: The First Two Months (Streams)

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Littler

Now that the 2015 edition of A Year’s Worth of Memories has officially wrapped, it’s time to dive headfirst into 2016. There’s been a long delay in posting due to all of the recurring series and, simply, covering the volume of what’s been released in January, February, and the first few days of March. It’s precisely because of the jaw-dropping amount of material that the next few posts on this site will merely be a collection of links. Since it’d be humanly impossible to get through even a large chunk of this in one setting, it may be best to just bookmark this page and peruse the below list at your own leisure. After all of the single stream, full stream, and music video links lists are up, the focus will shift to a handful of standout releases. Once that’s all been said and done, Heartbreaking Bravery will resume operations as normal.

Explore some of 2015’s excellent early offerings below.

Yuck – Cannonball || Yucky Duster – Seashell Song || Hovvdy – Problem || Skaters – Head On to Nowhere || Lost Film – Still Youth || Robert Pollard – My Daughter Yes She Knows || Horse Jumper of Love – Bagel Breath || The Pooches – Heart Attack || Lou Doillon – Where To Start || Martha Ffion – Wallflower || Pity Sex – Bonhomie || Brittany Costa – Harbor || Self Defense Family – In Those Dark Satanic Mills || Kane Strang – Things Are Never Simple || Nothing – Vertigo Flowers || Gun Outfit – Make Me Promise || Summer Flake – Wine Won’t Wash Away || Ladada – New Psych || Alex Napping – Trembles Part II || Hit Bargain – The Circuits That Cannot Be Cut || Hard Girls – Dulcet Tones || Sioux Falls – Dinosaur Dying || Fake Laugh – Mind Tricks || Mind Spiders – Running || Arbor Labor Union – Radiant Mountain Road || Parakeet – Sugar Rush || John Dillon – The Fox || Littler – Of Wandering || Grayling – Bidding War

The Raveonettes – Run Mascara Run || Horse Jumper of Love – Ugly Brunette || Pinemen – Predictions || High Waisted – Door || Neighbors – Angel O || Waxahatchee – With You || ROMP – Backfire || The So So Glos – Dancing Industry || Littler – Phantom Limb || Gun Outfit – Expansion Pact || Bambara – All the Ugly Things || Miserable – Oven || Witching Waves – Flowers || Fucko – Best Little Something in Somewhere || Mind Spiders – Cold || Littler – Slippery || Journalism – Everywhere I Look || Carey – Hey Caty || Plastic Flowers – Diver || A Dead Forest Index – No Paths || Japanese Breakfast – Everybody Wants To Love You || Drug Pizza – No Reaction || Music Band – Day Stealer || Alma Elste – Limitless || Field Report – Your Friend Tia || Bad Cop – Ain’t From Here || Gun Outfit – King of Hearts || Agent Blå – Frustrerad || Jennifer O’Connor – It’s A Lie || Takénobu – Curtain Call

Låpsley – Cliff || The Thermals – Hey You || Frankie Cosmos – Sinister || Mothers – Coppermines || Operators – Cold Light || Wire – Nocturnal Koreans || Steady Holiday – No Matter || La Sera – I Need An Angel || Jackson Whalan & Jules Jenssen – Home Again || Japanese Breakfast – In Heaven || Caveman – Never Going Back || Beat Awfuls – You’re Not Gonna Love Me Anymore || Guerilla Toss – Diamond Girls || Brass Bed – Be Anything || Sunflower Bean – Easier Said || Snow Roller – Too Good || Doug Tuttle – It Calls On Me || Frances Cone – Arizona || Abi Reimold – Vessel || Twin River – Antony || Beach Baby – Sleeperhead || Aleyska – Everglow || John Congleton and the Nighty Nite – Until It Goes || Great Pagans – Call of the Void || ROMP – Avoiding Boys || Mike Bell & the Movies – Fucked If You Do || Heron Oblivion – Your Hollows || Tiger Army – Prisoner of the Night

Eagulls – My Life In Rewind || Courtney Barnett – Three Packs A Day || David Vassalotti – Ines De Castro || Baby Birds Don’t Drink Milk – Don’t Wanna Fall In Love || Guerilla Toss – Grass Shack || Sorority Noise – Either Way || Spookyland – God’s Eyes || Jennifer O’Connor – Black Sky || Chumped – Not the One || Florist – A Hospital + Crucifix Made of Plastic || John Congleton & the Nighty Nite – Your Temporary Custodian || Andrew Bird (ft. Fiona Apple) – Left Handed Kisses || The Thermals – My Heart Went Cold || Summer Flake – Shoot and Score || Quilt – Roller || Space Raft – Mountain || What Moon Things – Party Down the Street || Soar – Speak Write || B Boys – Get A Grip || Beach Skulls – Santa Fe || Rolling Blackouts C.F. – Write Back || Yndi Halda – Together Those Leaves || Amber Arcades – Right Now || Mára – Surfacing || Nai Harvest – Just Like You || Tim Woulfe – Be Clarity

Operator – Bebop Radiohaus || Abi Reimold – Sugar || Sarah Neufeld – Where The Light Comes In || Ali Beletic – Stone Fox || Dunes – Runner || DTCV – Bourgeois Pop || Gladiola – The Uninvited Guest || Earl Sweatshirt – Wind In My Sails || Wavves x Cloud Nothings – I Find || Soda – Blonde On Blonde || The Dead Ships – Company Line || Pkew Pkew Pkew – Mid 20’s Skateboarder || Gioia – Circling || Tangerine – Sunset || Mrs Magician – Forgiveness || Acid Dad – Don’t Get Taken || Summer Cannibals – Go Home || B Boys – Seagulls || David Vassalotti – Broken Rope || The Coathangers – Nosebleed Weekend || Fucko – Buzz || Ulrika Spacek – Beta Male || Alexei Shishkin – Yucca Street || Day Wave – Stuck || Ashley Shadow – Tonight || Journalism – Faces || The Hanged Man – Invisible Tree || Sofia Hardig – Sitting Still || VHS – Wheelchair || Phosphene – Silver || The Castillians – Come What May

Kidsmoke – Cut Yourself Loose || Future of the Left – The Limits of Battleships || Woodes – Daggers & Knives || Dusk – When Sleep Washes Over || Sheer Mag – Can’t Stop Fighting || Murena Murena – Lovely Homes || Woods – Can’t See At All || case/lang/veirs – Atomic Number || Eagulls – Lemontrees || Crater – Summer Skin || Flowers – Bitter Pill || Cat’s Eyes – Chameleon Queen || Pity Sex – Burden You || Tiny Deaths – The Gardener || Journalism – Watching and Waiting || The Middle Infield – Shadow || Kyle Forester – Won’t Go Crazy || Dark Blue – Vicious Romance || Grubby Little Hands – No Such Thing || Wussy – Dropping Houses || Jo Passed – Lego My Ego || Frightened Rabbit – Death Dream || Bombay Harabee – Interval || Fear of Men – Fall Forever Island || Fleurie – Sirens || Kane Strang – Full Moon, Hungry Sun || Kindness – A Retelling || Nothing Works – Dark Musick

Risley – Kill the Clock || Anna Meredith – Taken || ROMP – Last Year || Yikes – Thought You’d Stay || Chirping – Corona || Keeps – Let It Fall (Keeping Time) || Sound of Ceres – Dagger Only Run || Mike Newman – Vinny || Beverly – Victoria || Dirty Dishes – All of Me || Raury (ft. Take A Daytrip) – Home || Shonen Knife – Jump Into the New World || Head Wound City – Scraper || James Supercave – Burn || Shitkid – Oh Please Be A Cocky Cool Kid || Moderat – Reminder || Avante Black – Imaginary Love || Sonya Kitchell – Follow Me In || Charlie Hilton – Funny Anyway || Explosions in the Sky – Disintegration Anxiety || The Raveonettes – The World Is Empty (Without You) || Tinted Sun – Only One || Zula – Not the Same || Nicholas Krgovich – Written in the Wind || Slingshot Dakota – Paycheck || Day Wave – Gone || Matt Kivel – Violets || The Body – Hallow/Hollow || Future of the Left – If AT&T Drank Tea What Would BP Do? || Wintersleep – Santa Fe || Pop. 1280 – Chromidia || Gladiola – Greatest Hits || Sean Lennon – Demon Daughter || Acid Dad – Fool’s Gold

I’m An Island – Vitamin D || Night Moves – Carl Sagan || Phosphene – Be Mine || Risley – Warpaint On || Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy – Rich Wife Full of Happiness || Cross Record – Basket || Ashley Shadow – Tonight || Francis – Turning A Hand || Delta Will – A Dream || Dam Gila – What Fire || Nap Eyes – Lion In Chains || Scott Yoder – Looking Back In Blue || Holy Esque – Tear || Rob Crow – Oh, the Sadmakers || Whitney – No Woman || Marissa Nadler – Janie In Love || Teen Suicide – The Stomach of the Earth || Benny Boeldt – Valley Amnesia || Vandaveer – A Little Time Off Ahead || The Cradle – The Screen of Skin || James Bishop – Tailspin || Inner Space Orchestra – One Way Glass || Mirror Travel – Yesca || Two People – Fading || Hundred Waters – Forgive Me For Giving Up || Jaill – Paint Me Scary || Ryley Walker & Charles Rumback – Dhoodan || Scott Yoder – Silver Boy || Body Origami – Bright Hunger

Slingshot Dakota – Lewlyweds || Flower – Deadly Ill || TEEN – Please || Mavis Staples – Dedicated || Relick – Offering || Alpenglow – Solitude || Nathaniel Bellows (ft. Timo Andres) – It Never Ends || Say No! To Architecture – Wieder’s Floor || Chelsea Wolfe – Hypnos || M. Ward – Confession || Geddy D (ft. Darius Minwalla) – For You This Fall || Morly – The Choir || Turnover – Humblest Pleasures || Weird Dreams – The Ladder || Jo Passed – No, Joy (I’m Not Real, Girl) || RJD2 – Peace of What || Bill Eberle – Too Late To Take It Back || Those Pretty Wrongs – Ordinary || Still Parade – Walk in the Park || No Side – AM Revised || Hayden Calnin – Cut Love || Inspired & the Sleep – Die Slow || Pined – Wray || Copperfox – Feel in the Void || Michael Nau – While You Stand By || Laura Gibs0n – The Cause || Say No! To Architecture – Cocaine, Eh || Tangerine – Tender || Chambers – Yeagin Shone

Melaena Cadiz – California || Andy Ferro – Crystal Tongue || Nap Eyes – Roll It || Violent Soho – Viceroy || Jon Patrick Walker – Hideous Monster || Bat For Lashes – I Do || Andy Ferro – Sugar and Milk || Naps – Social Skills || Los Angeles Police Dept. – Hard || Sound of Ceres – Hand Of Winter || Pillow Talk – Monogamy (Demo) || RJD2 – The Sheboygan Left || Andy Ferro – Hood || Proud Parents – Saab Story || Muncie Girls – Balloon || Carter Tanton (ft. Sharon Van Etten) – Twenty-Nine Palms || Ghost Riders – Rolla Olak || Death Grips – Hot Head || CFM – Purple Spine || Human People – In My Speakers || Kevin Garrett – Refuse || Iska Dhaaf – Invisible Cities || Chris Maxwell – Arkansas Summer || Step Sisters – Vox Pop || Bianca Casady – Daisy Chain || Ship Thieves – Undertakers || South of France – Washed Up || Dear Boy – Local Roses || Lontalius – It’s Not Love || Merival – Kicking You Out

DJDS – I Don’t Love You || The Sherlocks – Last Night || Wanderwild – Optimist || Soft Fangs – Birthday || Anenon – Once || My Golden Calf – Young Pioneers || Drowners – Cruel Ways || Darla and the Love – End of the Party || Minotaurs – Stayed Too Long || The Flats – Machinery || Lust For Youth – Sudden Ambitions || Chris Storrow – A True Christian || The Bulls – Prudence || The Gills – Gimme Gimme || Lust For Youth – Stardom || Lionlimb – Just Because || Sonya Kitchell – Hurricane || Wet – All the Ways || Public Memory – Ringleader || Eric Bachmann – Mercy || James Blake – Modern Soul || Soft Fangs – The Wilderness || Reed Turchi – Offamymind || Yonaka – Ignorance || Public Memory – Zig Zag || Henrietta – Arrows || Shirlette Ammons (ft. Amelia Meath) – Aviator || Gideon Benson – Talk Talk

15 of ’15: The Best Albums of 2015

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2015, close to unanimously, was concerned to be one of the highest points for new music in recent memory. To that end, putting together this list was even more of a nightmarish task than narrowing the 2015 songs down to their 15 slots. There was even a brief moment where expanding this list to 50 slots seemed like a viable action. Ultimately, after literally hundreds of substitutions in the various positions (and countless exclusions and extractions), the formula remained intact. While it was painful to leave an extremely large handful of extraordinary records lingering just outside the perimeter, the 15 records below have earned their spots. Every single one of these has remained in near-constant rotation since the time of their release and will likely resonant well into 2016 and beyond. Dive on in below and reflect on the overwhelming strength of the past 12 months.

15. Meat Wave – Delusion Moon

One of a select few bands to play an instrumental part in the formative stages of this site’s focus (and one of the acts to play the first Heartbreaking Bravery showcase), Meat Wave came through in a big way in 2015. The trio released one of the year’s best oddities, signed to SideOneDummy, and unleashed a behemoth of an album in Delusion Moon. Billed as their first proper full-length (their vicious self-titled, limited-run cassette straddled the line between EP and full-length), Delusion Moon saw the band exploring their darker tendencies to great success. More fully exploring influences like Mission of Burma and Drive Like Jehu, the band acted as a nice counterpoint to the usual brand of ’90s revival and got some kicks in along the way.

14. PWR BTTM – Ugly Cherries

No band’s live show was documented more exhaustively here over 2015 than PWR BTTM, who perfected a simplistic approach with enormous- and enormously successful- ideas. The duo (who is occasionally a trio) set their sights on exploring gender and personal identity and followed through with a startlingly brazen tenacity. Close to every song on Ugly Cherries, their extraordinary full-length debut, play out like the kind of anthems that 2015 desperately needed. For a record that’s quick to be gleefully tongue-in-cheek, Ugly Cherries also offers up some devastating personal moments, lending the band an emotional depth that makes their outsize spirit even more powerful.

13. Midnight Reruns – Force of Nurture

Force of Nurture, Midnight Reruns‘ astonishing sophomore effort, has one of the best A-sides I’ve ever heard. Not to discredit an extremely strong B-side, either, but the run the band puts together from “There’s An Animal Upstairs” to “Sky Blue Water” is just about flawless. All six of those songs were considered for this year’s list of the best songs of 2015 along with the record’s sprawling closer, “Great Southern Rail”, which boasts one of the year’s more jaw-dropping choruses. Bolstered by the involvement of one of the band’s earliest and most vocal supporters- The Replacements’ Tommy Stinson, who produced the record- Midnight Reruns turned in their finest collection of songs to date.

12. Hop Along – Painted Shut

A statement that bears repeating: one of the most heartening aspects of 2015 was watching the deserved ascension of Hop Along, who have been cranking out exquisite material on an exceptionally high platform for several years. Driven by the distinctive, arresting voice of guitarist/vocalist Frances Quinlan and their own unique sensibilities, Hop Along crafted the strongest record of their discography. With new partner Saddle Creek firmly in their corner, the band came to vibrant life and stayed on form, delivering a set of knockout tracks that included “Waitress”, one of this year’s finest. A welcome breath of fresh air, Painted Shut marked the beginning of an exciting new era for one of today’s best bands.

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11. Royal Headache – High

Even as all the news of High being Royal Headache’s finest record (thankfully) receded, the power of their finest offering to date didn’t diminish. Following a brilliant debut, the band may have actually surpassed that record’s promise with their sophomore effort. Highlighted by songs like the towering, defiant title track and the surging “Another World“, High is a genre masterclass of the highest order. Buoyed by an infectious energy that’s constantly verging on manic, there’s never a moment during the record that doesn’t feel like it’s nearing a state of euphoria. When High is firing on all cylinders, as is the case for the vast majority of the record, the band’s as close to being virtually untouchable as is possibly imaginable.

10. Young Jesus – Grow/Decompose

Home, Young Jesus‘ breakout record and a candidate for album of the decade, set extraordinarily high expectations for whatever the band chose as its following release. Crafting a worthy follow-up seemed even more unlikely after the band moved out of Chicago and over to Los Angeles, reassembling their lineup in the process. By that token, Grow/Decompose isn’t just a deeply impressive record, it’s a miraculous one. Guitarist/vocalist John Rossiter sharpens his singular songwriting voice and leads his new outfit with a fiery determination. An immensely satisfying collection of songs, Grow/Decompose feels like a genuine album; structured and paced to near perfection, Grow/Decompose is a reinvigorating- and reinvigorated- frenzy.

9. Dogs On Acid – Dogs On Acid

Dogs On Acid, a band formed out of the ashes of much beloved acts Snowing and Algernon Cadwallader, expanded on one of the best 7″ releases of 2014 with one of the strongest full-length debuts in recent memory. Laced with knockout hooks at just about every turn, Dogs On Acid is a staggering show of power from a band that finds surprising ways to exceed its predecessors. Maximizing their pop sensibilities to astonishing effect, Dogs On Acid inject their first major effort with an insistent, propulsive energy that catapults each of its 10 tracks to unthinkable heights, keeping their punk roots in place along the way. Every song on Dogs On Acid is a genuine highlight, yet the whole affair still manages to come across as so much more than a collection of singles. Bold and brash, this is the kind of record that may never fall out of regular rotation.

8. Tenement – Predatory Headlights

For close to 10 years, I’ve provided near-incessant documentation of Tenement, chronicling their forward motion with increasing intensity as the years progressed. When Heartbreaking Bravery was initially designed, it was constructed with the intention of highlighting bands that weren’t being granted the press that they deserved. In 2015, the world at large finally started catching on to a band that’s meant more to the development of my personal interests in music than any other (I didn’t include their Bruised Music compilation in the oddities list because I contributed a lengthy piece to the record’s insert that expands on that fact). Predatory Headlights, the trio’s latest opus, was a definitive collection of the band’s current era, unafraid of demolishing genre barriers and bold experimentation. Over its intimidating 28 tracks, the album steadily emerges as a genuine- and singular- masterpiece.

7. Julien Baker – Sprained Ankle

For Julien Baker‘s breathtaking breakout record, the young songwriter (previously best known as one of the driving forces behind Forrister) dived fearlessly into a despairing examination of her own psyche. A preoccupation with mortality that was heavily informed by the laws of religion dominates nearly every song on this surprisingly brave collection. From the description of the car wreck in the opener’s first verse all the way through to the passage in “Go On”- Sprained Ankle‘s mesmerizing closing track and one of 2015’s finest songs– about consuming bleach, there’s barely a moment of reprieve. Built almost exclusively around Baker’s voice and acoustic guitar, Sprained Ankle feels progressively more personal as it goes along, each song functioning as a plea, a warning, and a sustained moment of clarity. Tragic and beautiful, Baker’s conjured up a collection of deeply personal songs that feel genuinely sacred.

6. All Dogs – Kicking Every Day

Ever since their earliest releases, All Dogs have been steadily crafting great material and building momentum. Kicking Every Day, the band’s startlingly defiant full-length debut, continues that pattern with an astounding amount of grace. Even with their lineup at full strength following the addition of guitarist Nick Harris (which is paying massive dividends), guitarist/vocalist Maryn Jones’ songs feel more naked than ever, imbuing Kicking Every Day with a voyeuristic look at its principal songwriter’s inner turmoil and unflinching resolve. After the anticipation levels for this record came close to hitting a fever pitch with the release of “That Kind of Girl” (which ranked highly on the songs of the year list), the prospect of a record as extravagantly strong as Kicking Every Day didn’t seem so distant. The record ultimately surpassed those expectations thanks to both the instant acclaim it so richly deserved and its ability to strike all the right chords.

5. Sweet John Bloom – Weird Prayer

Losing Four Eyes, a band that put out one of the best 7″ records of this decade, was a tough pill to swallow. Fortunately, that band found a natural successor in Sweet John Bloom. Continuing to revel in the same brand of endearingly scrappy basement pop and pulling members from a few other outstanding bands, Sweet John Bloom managed to make a mark. Weird Prayer, their first fully fledged full-length, reveals impressive new depths to the band. Employing a rotating cast of songwriters, the record gives ample space to flesh out each one’s distinct personality. From lovely slow-burning tracks like “Bury Ruby” to incendiary highlights like “Tell Me”, Weird Prayer is an enviable showcase that, bizarrely, seems like a victory lap for its various members. There’s a memorable moment or three on each of these 15 tracks, most of which find intriguing dichotomies to exploit over the course of their brief running times. Littered with surprising moments at close to every corner, it’s one of 2015’s most exhilarating releases.

4. Dilly Dally – Sore

Back in 2014, Dilly Dally unleashed a pair of 7″ records that nearly walked away with the top spot in this site’s rankings. In 2015 they followed up their flawless early run with a brilliant standalone single and a bruising full-length teeming with vicious grunge-informed, punk-leaning basement pop numbers. Grimly determined and scuzzy as hell, Sore lands with the force of an atomic bomb. There was a reason that no band earned as many feature pieces on this site over the course of 2014 than Dilly Dally and, even stripped of the brilliant singles that earned those spots, Sore would have registered as a knockout. While the record’s many searing highlights (“Desire“, “Purple Rage“, “The Touch“, etc.) gave the record its fangs, its elegiac closer provided it with both an unexpected emotional depth and a staggering moment of finality (both of which went a long way in securing its ranking as one of 2015’s finest tracks). While Dilly Dally just about stole CMJ and released a small army of outstanding music videos, Sore was their definitive 2015 moment. It’s the kind of record that inspires kids to go out and start bands of their own, making it one of the most powerful releases in recent memory.

3. Mike Krol – Turkey

The sudden resurgence of the (unfortunately) still-deceased Sleeping in the Aviary was an extremely unexpected and welcome development. While they did release an extraordinary demos and rarities collection, the band’s best moment came when the majority of its lineup wound up backing Mike Krol for his latest venture. No record in 2015 felt even close to as unhinged as Turkey, Krol’s first effort for Merge and most deranged outing to date. With a runtime that doesn’t even scratch 19 minutes, Krol and the band he’s assembled run through nine songs at a pace so frantic it’s practically delirious. Every single moment of Turkey is informed by a surging level of energy that it seems like the record might derail itself at any given moment, toppling over because of its own excessive velocity. Miraculously, it manages to sustain that momentum through nine songs of rabid basement pop that draws inspiration from a variety of genres from the past handful of decades, zeroing in on things like ’50s pop and classic soul. Everything on Turkey also benefits from being shot through with Krol’s deadpan comedic sensibility, tongue planted firmly in cheek. By the time the record’s penultimate track hits- the absolutely massive “Less Than Together“- the record’s momentum is white hot. “Piano Shit” winds things down at the very end and allows the listener to review the demolished left in Turkey‘s wake as it coasts to the finish.

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2. Nicole Dollanganger – Natural Born Losers

One of the happier coincidences this site got to experience in 2015 was the realization that the glowing review of Nicole Dollanganger‘s breathtaking Natural Born Losers was its 666th post. An appropriate fact, given the record’s deep obsession with angels, devils, and the spiritual realm. In its opening lines (“I shot an angel with my father’s rifle”), Natural Born Losers flaunts its aim with a threatening gracefulness, ready to turn on a dime at any moment. Dollanganger’s narratives throughout the course of the record are startling exercises in hyper-violence and dueling desires. Whether it’s a BDSM-informed romp as lensed through an experience with an abusive police officer or an extremely disarming sample taken from the animated 1993 cult classic The Halloween Tree, Dollanganger’s either making fresh incisions or pulling gaping wounds even further apart. However, for being so deeply unsettling in its prose, the music that accompanies all of Dollanganger’s nightmarish imagery is as elegant and haunting as her vocals. A lot of Natural Born Losers hinges on exploring some of the weightiest dichotomies in existence and the degree of success to which it achieves in striking fascinating middle grounds in those battles is revelatory. Even more impressive is the fashion in which Dollanganger binds this collection of songs together, especially considering how effectively the record’s haunting line defines (or redefines) everything that’s happened since its steely-eyed opening moment. Put simply: Natural Born Losers is a modern masterpiece.

1. Eskimeaux – O.K.

Eskimeaux‘s O.K. managed to impress on first listen but it wasn’t until seeing the band live that all of its pieces fell more fully into place. That show inspired a return visit to this collection which, in turn, brought about a subsequent revisit (and then that pattern fell into a routine that still hasn’t ceased). On each successive listen, more of O.K. sprang to life. Gabrielle Smith’s project has been making material that’s been more than worthwhile for a large handful of years now but O.K., the project’s most fully-realized outing, saw Smith step across a threshold and into something sublime. A meticulously crafted record, every last one of its countless gears clicks in ways that surprise and delight in equal measure, rewarding heavy investment with a casual ease and providing O.K. with one of its cleverest tricks. In maintaining their casual sensibilities, the record becomes an enjoyable cursory listen but that casualness is surprisingly deceptive.

O.K.‘s a very complex record when it’s dissected into its formative pieces, whether they’re the gorgeous vocal layers that comprise one of the record’s most gorgeous moments on “A Hug Too Long” or Felix Walworth’s explosively idiosyncratic snare work on “Folly“, each finding a way to stand out as an impressive moment in both the small schemes of the songs and the grand sweep of the album. From a lyrical standpoint, Smith packs this record full with bittersweet realizations, internal frustrations, and slivers of a defiant sense of hope that’s steadfast in its refusal to bow to a harsher reality. Even the record’s darkest moment- the brooding “Pocket Full of Posies”, which nearly unseated “A Hug Too Long” in the songs list- subtly acknowledges the inherent innocence of things that are frequently viewed as evil. Even then, O.K.‘s worldview is far from simply being optimistic, it’s far too weary to assume that the best mode of operation is to look for the best in everything; its earned its sophisticated wariness.

What makes O.K. truly stand out, though, is its overwhelming amount of empathy for everything that’s fortunate enough to have worked its way into the record. Easily one of the most readily apparent humanist statements that music yielded this year (which is especially easy to see when the record’s put under a microscope), O.K. draws its strength from its sense of value. It’s a view that resonates throughout the record’s 11 brilliantly crafted songs, providing them with a deeper sense of purpose than most bands can manage. Additionally, all of the inspired decisions that comprise O.K. are augmented by some of the most extraordinary production work of the past several years, stealthily enhancing the cumulative effect of the songs. An awe-inspiring breakthrough for one of today’s most promising acts, O.K. is the kind of record that’s worth preserving for future generations. Find someone deserving to share this with and give in to its inescapable beauty.