Heartbreaking Bravery

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Tag: Careers

14 of ’14: The Best Albums of 2014

LVL UP II

One last time for one last 2014 list: “best” is in no way an attempt to be an objective statement. The terminology is shorthand to reflect personal taste and is not to be construed as anything more. Also, for the purposes of a more personal summary in this year-end coverage period, this site’s regular restriction on first person will be lifted. In 2014, I listened to more music that was released throughout the year than any other in my life. Numbering well upwards of a thousand releases, it proved impossible to keep tracks on everything (I’m already certain a few of these lists are missing more than a few titles that I genuinely loved)- but there were a few items that were worth remembering. Below are 14 records that managed to carve their way into my esteem both instantaneously and through the process of time. Below that is what turned into the most extensive list I’ve ever assembled, one that acts as an unnecessary validation that good music is being created at an excessively high volume (all of which is hyperlinked to either a full stream or a representative portion). We’re living in a golden age for access and music continues to reap the benefits allowed by technology.  In that spirit, it’s worth noting that a lot of the names included below won’t always be the most recognizable- this is due to both that volume and the fact this site’s built on a foundation that ensures bands who are marginalized will be given the consideration they deserve. So, with all of that noted, it’s time to move on to the main attraction: 14 of ’14: The Best Albums of 2014.

14. Taulard – Les Abords Du Lycée

2014’s most unexpected gem, Les Abords Du Lycée, is a mesmerizing listening that drives home taut organ/drums/vocals post-punk with a startling amount of verve. Endlessly charismatic and unpredictable, the dozen tracks on display here constantly twist and turn, never once daring to let the listener catch their breath. Mood and tempo changes abound on one of 2014’s most fearlessly unique records. Even for those who aren’t even remotely well-versed in the French language, Les Abords Du Lycée should be a thrilling listen; something like unbridled passion can always translate well enough to near the universal.

13. La Dispute – Rooms of the House

What’s easily one of 2014’s boldest concepts roots La Dispute’s mesmerizing Rooms of the House, a record that shows La Dispute’s rapid maturation with a weary grace. Centered around a meticulously brilliant narrative device, it’s a record that stunned me on my first few listens before growing into an inescapable force of nature that refused to leave my thoughts. As bleak as anything the post-hardcore has ever produced, Rooms of the House finds its strength through focus and restraint, zeroing in on difficult topics with a keen eye and an abundance of determination. Blisteringly personal and nearly voyeuristic, it stands as one of 2014’s fiercest artistic statements.

12. Two Inch Astronaut – Foulbrood

Two Inch Astronaut’s Foulbrood has come up more than a few times on the site over the past handful of months thanks to its casual brilliance. Wielding an enticing palette of influences ranging from Drive Like Jehu to their contemporaries in Exploding in Sound, Two Inch Astronaut managed to conjure up one of the most impressive sophomore efforts of the year. The title track, “Part of Your Scene“, and “Dead White Boy” all earned themselves individual write-ups on the basis of their appealingly off-kilter and ragged identity. Foulbrood‘s a record that knows exactly what it wants to be and goes straight for the throat, sending a trail of viscera flying it its wake.

11. Cloud Nothings – Here and Nowhere Else

One of the things I kept coming back to throughout the course of music in 2014 was Jayson Gerycz’s drumming on this record. Not just because it’s a staggering individual performance but because there’s an undefinable, inherent quality that exists within that drumming which drives this record to obscene heights. Impossibly, stripped of the drumming, the record succeeds wildly in an acoustic setting and demonstrates Dylan Baldi’s increasing proficiency as a songwriter, a vocalist, and a guitarist. After losing a member in guitarist Joe Boyer, Cloud Nothings somehow managed to transform themselves into an act that was simultaneously heavier and poppier than when they were a quartet. Importantly, this is a record that’s built to last and it’s only grown on me as the year’s progressed (and that trend’s not showing any signs of slowing).

10. Ought – More Than Any Other Day

As beguiling as it is bewitching, Ought’s brit-pop influenced post-punk masterpiece was a record that sounded triumphant right out of the gate. Slowly, that triumph turned to transcendence and the songs contained within More Than Any Other Day became unavoidable mission statements. In terms of scope, the majority of More Than Any Other Day feels as epic as LCD Soundsystem operating at their best. Both acts share a penchant for sprawling structures and self-containment, bridging a gap between intimacy and grandeur with a knack for deceptive, intricate songwriting. Anthemic and mundane, More Than Any Other Day was like a shot of adrenaline straight to the heart, waiting for the resuscitated with a sly grin and a memorable, tossed-off joke. Excessively charming and utterly winsome, it’s a record that felt (and still feels) necessary.

9. Jawbreaker Reunion – Lutheran Sisterhood Gun Club

“E.M.O.”, Lutheran Sisterhood Gun Club‘s thrilling centerpiece, recently appeared in this site’s best songs of 2014 list- but the song’s only one part of a much larger picture. At once, one of the year’s most joyous and pissed off releases, Jawbreaker Reunion tore through a variety of serious issues with aplomb on their absolutely stunning debut effort. Other than distilling songs like “Laughing Alone Eating a Salad” with a wicked sense of humor, the whole affair’s imbued with an enviably powerful sense of songcraft. Lo-fi, DIY, punk, and teeming with an understanding of classic pop, Lutheran Sisterhood Gun Club was one of 2014’s boldest introductions- it was also one of its best.

8. PURPLE 7 – Jewel Finger

PURPLE 7 boasts a lineup that’s accompanied by an impressive pedigree. Members of the band have previously played in bands like Defiance, Ohio, Landlord, and Hot New Mexicans (whose self-titled record ranks among my all-time favorites and currently leads my “best of decade” selections). Unsurprisingly, their debut LP effort hits a lot of sweet spots, including a gritty middle point between basement punk and basement pop. Simply put, this is a stunning collection of songs that was overlooked by most to a baffling degree after its release. Grounded, humble, and heartfelt, Jewel Finger is one of the records that reminds me of the reasons I started this site. This is music that deserves to be celebrated.

7. Angel Olsen – Burn Your Fire For No Witness

Arguably 2014’s first truly great release, Angel Olsen’s Burn Your Fire For No Witness saw the songwriter transition from a promising talent into one of the year’s most arresting figures. Embracing a fuller sound and a newfound confidence, Burn Your Fire For No Witness broke Angel Olsen’s career wide open with an onslaught of genuinely haunting tunes. Whether they were relentlessly spare or soaked in noir-ish tendencies, they were uniformly captivating; both the storm and the eerie silence before. Raw, tender, and occasionally antagonistic, Burn Your Fire For No Witness was one thing above all else: unforgettable.

6. Cymbals Eat Guitars – LOSE

From the devastating opening lines all the way through to the climactic finish, LOSE holds its ground as one 2014’s most frighteningly personal albums. Largely influenced by the death of a friend close to the band, it’s a meditation on loss and the surrounding aspects of something so tragic. Easily Cymbals Eat Guitars’ finest work to date both lyrically and musically, it’s a powerful (and powerfully moving) listen. “Warning”, in particular, cuts deep- which is one of the reasons why it wound up on the best songs of 2014 list just a few days ago. Incredibly impassioned and brave in its sincerity, LOSE finds a level of catharsis in its emotional turbulence, lending it a charge that renders it one of the year’s most human (and most important) releases.

5. Perfect Pussy – Say Yes To Love

Perfect Pussy, for better or worse, have become intrinsically linked with this site. From Meredith Graves’ insistence on tangential involvement (which I’ll forever be grateful for) to the fact that the band’s greater ascension matched up with the very start of this site, they’re a band I’ve gone step for step with since bringing Heartbreaking Bravery into existence. None of that would have happened if I hadn’t been so fiercely drawn to the things that they were doing, though, which is why I approached them in the first place. Ever since those beginnings, it’s been a privilege to watch them progress, to travel at lengths to watch them play, and to see them release a record as enormously powerful as Say Yes To Love, a collection which houses my favorite song of 2014 (and possibly of this decade so far). Unapologetic, personal, damaged, resilient, powerful, feral, oddly triumphant, and unbelievably intense, Say Yes To Love operates as a perfect reminder for all of the reasons why I fell in love with this band- and why I’ll continue to pay close attention to their movements.

4. Iceage – Plowing Into The Field of Love

No band in 2014 made a more stunning artistic leap than Iceage, who went from a static blur to matching the swaggering heights of Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds after discovering their voice. Plowing Into The Field Of Love was a startlingly radical change of pace for Iceage, who imbue the record with a curious restraint and a sense of deeply haunted Americana. Southern Gothic touch points are littered throughout the record’s bleak landscape, while making room for plaintive ornamentation in the form of brass, string, and piano figures. Darker and more self-aware than anything in the band’s career, Plowing Into The Field Of Love earned them quite a few words of praise from this very site. Augmented by some legitimately extraordinary music videos, Plowing Into The Field Of Love proved to be an unexpectedly rattling experience. Easily one of the year’s most divisive records (as is the case with any left turns this sharp), it suggested Iceage’s ambitions ran way deeper than anyone expected and, subsequently, that they had the know-how to see those ambitions to fruition. In chasing their whimsy they wound up with something I wouldn’t fault anyone for calling a masterpiece.

3. Mitski – Bury Me At Makeout Creek

My connection with Mitski’s music is something that will always hold a very personal resonance. I’ll leave most of the reasoning behind that statement to a forthcoming piece but it’s worth noting in regards to a record that’s so unabashedly self-exploratory. Bury Me At Makeout Creek was an enthralling re-introduction for Mitski, who saw it rightfully skyrocket her name recognition. Top to bottom, it’s an extraordinary effort that re-defined her artistic capabilities after a string of meticulously composed records that leaned on chamber pop tendencies. Here, that past gets blown to bits almost immediately. One of my favorite experiences in music listening all year came when “Texas Reznikoff” explodes in its final section- another came while listening to one of the best songs I’ve heard this decade (for obvious reasons, considering that statement). Where Bury Me At Makeout Creek manages to approach the transcendental is in the process of allowing listeners to hear an artist coming into their own. Part of Mitski’s identity is laid bare by Bury Me At Makeout Creek: it’s the unwillingness to accept identity as a static object and the desire to question its cumulative elements. That search is what gives Bury Me At Makeout Creek its bruised heart- and it’s why musicians will use it as a source of inspiration for several years to come.

2. Radiator Hospital – Torch Song

After the exhilarating highs of Something Wild, Radiator Hospital had a tall order for their follow-up. Fortunately (and unsurprisingly), they obliterated those towering expectations with Torch Song. Sounding more confident- and more polished- than ever before, Torch Song cemented Sam Cook-Parrott’s status as one of this generation’s keenest emerging voices. Paying attention to the minutiae of everyday experiences and injecting them with a self-deprecating sense of poetry laced with pessimism, the songs contained on this record all aim to cut and find their mark with an incredible amount of ease. Having already established themselves as one of today’s more formidable units musically, Torch Song has the added benefit of having four loaded personalities find each other in total harmony, each acting as a complement to the other. Personal diatribes, small journeys of self-discovery, and a sense of empathy inform Torch Song and help cultivate its unassuming charm. There’s not a weak track among the record’s 15 songs and it maintains an assured sense of pace throughout its relatively breezy runtime. By the time it draws to a close, it stands as one of the most fully-formed and rewarding records of recent memory.

1. LVL UP – Hoodwink’d

I don’t think any record resonated more for me throughout the course of 2014 than LVL UP’s Hoodwink’d, which I revered with literally no reservations. 2014’s strongest sophomore effort, Hoodwink’d saw LVL UP expanding most of the elements that made Space Brothers such an incredible release and retained all the others. Unreasonably refined and exceedingly personable, LVL UP have always found a strength in accentuating their members’ unique personalities and that trend got pushed to the forefront for their second full-length (which was co-released by Double Double Whammy and Exploding in Sound). Utilizing a distinctly unique take on their 90’s influences, the band also reveled in the benefits of a cleaner production that allowed them to sound more massive than they ever have in the past. No release felt more timely than Hoodwink’d, either, with the record practically serving as a stand-in voice for a disenfranchised sect of people. Alternately crushingly heavy, viciously poppy, relentlessly personal, and completely worn-out, Hoodwink’d never loses sight of its own mechanics. There’s a level of mutual understanding on display here that separates it from the rest of the year’s releases. Everyone feeds off each other, everyone supports each other, and everyone contributes to one hell of a set without even coming close to overstaying their welcome. Conversely, Hoodwink’d also ranks as one of the year’s most welcoming releases, radiating an empathetic warmth in its tone (and in its tones). As an entry in LVL UP’s catalog, it’s their career best. As a general 2014 release, it’s the best thing I had the privilege of hearing all year.

[EDITOR’S NOTE: All of the titles below without an accompanying link can be streamed in the order they’re listed via the embedded spotifly player below the list.]

Albums from 2014 that deserve to be heard:  Mean Creek – Local Losers | Happyness – Weird Little Birthday | Dark Blue – Pure Reality | Band Practice – Make Nice | Little Big League – Tropical Jinx | Happy Diving – Big World | Tweens – Tweens | Big Ups – Eighteen Hours of Static | Geronimo! – Cheap Trick | Greys – If Anything | Alvvays – Alvvays | White Lung – Deep Fantasy | Caddywhompus – Feathering A Nest | Left & Right – Five Year Plan | Ty Segall – Manipulator | Brain F/ – Empty Set | We Need Secrets – Melancholy and the Archive | Makthaverskan – II | Playlounge – Pilot | Eternal Summers – The Drop Beneath | MOURN – MOURN | Run the Jewels – Run the Jewels 2 | The History of Apple Pie – Feel Something | Flying Lotus – You’re Dead! | Trace Mountains – Buttery Sprouts | Dead Stars – Slumber | Fear of Men – Loom | PAWS – Youth Culture Forever | Swans – To Be Kind | The Yolks – King of Awesome | Crabapple – Is It You? | The Coasts – Racilia | Purling Hiss – Weirdon | Reigning Sound – Shattered | Creepoid – Creepoid | Saintseneca – Dark Arc | Mannequin Pussy – Gypsy Pervert | Fucked Up – Glass Boys | Music Band – Can I Live | Glish – Glish | Liam Betson – The Cover of Hunter | Frankie CosmosZentropy, Donutes, Affirms Glinting | Girl Tears – Tension | Martha – Courting Strong | Hurry – Everything/Nothing | The Spirit of the Beehive – The Spirit of the Beehive | Protomartyr – Under Official Color of Right | The Gary – Farewell Foolish Objects | Spit – Getting Low | Nothing – Guilty of Everything | Sharpless – The One I Wanted To Be | Legendary Wings – Do You See | Therapy? – Act of Contrition | Chris Weisman – Monet in the 90’s | Mumblr – Full of Snakes | Cayetana – Nervous Like Me | Free Cake for Every Creature – “pretty good” | Ed Schrader’s Music Beat – Party Jail | S – Cool Choices | Allo Darlin’ – We Come From The Same Place | Sneeze – Wilt | Quarterbacks – Quarterboy | The Twilight Sad – No One Wants To Be Here And No One Wants To Leave | Filmstrip – Moments of Matter | Bleeding Rainbow – Interrupt | La Sera – Hour of the Dawn | Big K.R.I.T. – Cadillactica | Gold-Bears – Dalliance | Sharon Van Etten – Are We There | Nude Beach – ’77 | A Winged Victory For The Sullen – Atomos | The Gotobeds – Poor People Are Revolting | Nots – We Are Nots | Alex G – DSU | Lower – Seek Warmer Climes | Young Widows – Easy Pain | CreaturoS – Popsicle | Mr. Gnome – The Heart Of A Dark Star | Parquet Courts – Sunbathing Animal | Ex Hex – Rips | Trust Punks – Discipline | Failures’ Union – Tethering | Odonis Odonis – Hard Boiled Soft Boiled | Beverly – Careers | The Number Ones – The Number Ones | Tigers Jaw – Charmer | Tiger High – Inside The Acid Coven | Straight Arrows – Rising | Dead Soft – Dead Soft | The Lemons – Hello, We’re The Lemons | Baked – Debt | MAZES – Wooden AquariumSleepyhead – Wild Sometimes | Native America – Grown Up Wrong | The Wans – He Said, She Said | Trophy Wife – All the Sides | Doe – First Four | Lushes – What Am I Doing | Ultimate Painting – Ultimate Painting | Haley Bonar – Last War | The Casket Girls – True Love Kills The Fairy Tale | Slothrust – Of Course You Do | Sorority Noise – Forgettable | Team Spirit – Killing Time | Feral Trash – Trashfiction | Blank Pages – Blank Pages | Mr. Dream – Ultimate In Luxury | Carsick Cars – 3 | SUNN O))) & Ulver – Terrestrials | This Will Destroy You – Another Language | Vanna Inget – Ingen Botten | The Real Energy – Beyond Delay | Muuy Bien – DYI | Young Ladies – We Get By | Eureka California – Crunch | Negative Scanner – Negative Scanner | Violent Change – A Celebration Of Taste | Black Wine – Yell BossImpo & The Tents – Peek After A Poke | Tomorrows Tulips – When | Mountain Bike – Mountain Bike | The Lees of Memory – Sisyphus Says | Telepathic Lines – Telepathic Lines | The Shivas – You Know What To Do | Allah-Las – Worship the Sun | Das Rad – Radiation | The Coathangers – Suck My Shirt | Crow Bait – Sliding Through The Halls Of Fate | together PANGEA – Badillac | Deerhoof – La Isla Bonita | PUJOL – Kludge | FF – Lord | Aj Davila Y Terror Amor – Beibi | Emilyn Brodsky – Emilyn Brodsky Eats Her Feelings | Young Statues – Flatlands Are Your Friend | Cancers – Fatten the Leeches | Sam Coffey + The Iron Lungs – Gates of Hell | Courtney Barnett – The Double EP: A Sea of Split Peas | The Ar-Kaics – The Ar-Kaics | Beach Day – Native Echoes | Hiss Golden Messenger – Lateness of Dancers | Dude York – Dehumanize | Gino & The Goons – Shake It! | Kevin Morby – Still Life | Bob Mould – Beauty & Ruin | Wyatt Blair – Banana Cream Dream | Queen Jesus – Darkness Yea, Yea | Joel Jerome – Psychedelic Thrift Store Folk | Espectrostatic – Escape From WitchtropolisCheap Girls – Famous Graves | Davila 666 – Pocos Anos, Muchos Danos | Parts & Labor – Receivers | Nick Thorburn – Music From SERIAL | DTCVHilarious Heaven, The Early Year | Bellows – Blue Breath | Teenager – E P L P | Spider Bags – Frozen Letter | The Paperhead – Africa Avenue | Parkay Quarts – Content Nausea | The Jazz June – After The Earthquake | Michael Sincavage – Empty Apartments (Supporting Actors) | Restorations – LP3 | MONO – The Last Dawn, Rays of Darkness | Matthew Melton – Outside of Paradise | The Vaselines – V For Vaselines | Total Control – Typical System | The Velveteens – Sun’s Up | Step-Panther – Strange But NiceExit Verse – Exit Verse | Slippertails – There’s A Disturbing Trend | Globelamp – Star Dust | Champ – Champ | Le Rug – Swelling (My Own Worst Anime) | VLMA – VLMA | Turn To Crime – Can’t Love | ScotDrakula – ScotDrakula | Warehouse – Tesseract | Muhammadali – Future Songs | Unwelcome Guests – Wavering | Baby Ghosts – Maybe Ghosts | White Mystery – Dubble Dragon | Constant Lovers – Experience Feelings | Future Islands – Singles | Maica Mia – Des Era | Tacocat – NVM | Popstrangers – Fortuna | Curtis Harding – Soul Power | New Swears – Junkfood Forever, Bedtime Whatever | The Miami Dolphins – Becky | Thee Oh Sees – Drop | Fasano – The Factory LP | Dum Dum Girls – Too True | Yellow Ostrich – Cosmos | Metronomy – Love Letters | Great Cynics – Like I Belong | Neighborhood Brats – Recovery | Connections – Into Sixes | Three Man Cannon – Pretty Many People | Grouper – Ruins | YOB – Clearing The Path To Ascend | Thee Silver Mt Zion Memorial Orchestra – Fuck Off Get Free We Pour Light On Everything | Apollo Brown – Thirty Eight | Hookworms – The Hum | Wrekmeister Harmonies – Then It All Came Down | Lee Fields & The Expressions – Emma Jean | What Moon Things – What Moon Things | Guided By VoicesMotivational Jumpsuit, Cool Planet | Gem Club – In Roses | Saturday’s Kids – The Lunatic | King of Cats – Working Out | Shopping – Tvff Noogies | The Love Triangle – Clever Clever | Nightmare Boyzzz – Bad Patterns | Future Virgins – Late Republic | Parasol – Not There | Lenguas Largas – Come On In | Cocktails – Adult Life | Generation Loss – Generation Loss | Feral Future – Haematic | Posse – Soft Opening | Diners – Always Room | Mimicking Birds – EONS | The Freezing Hands – Coma Cave ’13 | Amanda X – Amnesia | Predator – The Complete EarthWatery Love – Decorative Feeding | The Estranged – The Estranged | Steve Adamyk Band – Dial Tone | The Cry! – Dangerous Game | Ruined Fortune – Ruined Fortune | Good Throb – Fuck Off | The Elsinores – Dreams of Youth | The Bugs – The Right Time | Vacation Club – Heaven Is Too High | Freinds of Cesar Romero – Cinco Seis | Leather – Easy | Los Pepes – Los Pepes For Everyone | Juanita Y Los Felos – Nueva Numancia | Dan Webb and the SpidersEine Kleine Akustichmusik, Now It Can Be Told | Bozo Moto – BozoMoto | Low Life – Dogging | Moth – First Second | Rhythm of Cruelty – Dysphoria | Siamese Twins – Still Corner | Departure Kids – On The Go | Blessed State – Head Space | Flagland – Love Hard | Manateees – Sit N Spin | White Ass – White Ass | Ausmuteants – Order Of Operation | The Gutters – Eventually | Hysterese – Hysterese | The Ricky C Quartet – Recent Affairs | Hoax Hunters – Comfort & Safety | Arctic Flowers – Weaver

14 of ’14: The Best Music Videos of 2014

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In all best-of coverage, there’s no room for any objectivity positing (“Best” is usually just shorthand for “most admired”), which is why this site’s long-held first person restriction will be dropped to allow me to speak more personally in an effort to better explain the contents of this list’s (and all of the lists to follow) personal effect on myself. In 2014, I watched (and covered) more music videos than any year of my life- allowing an intake of genuinely great content that made compiling this list a dream and a nightmare. After spending weeks reviewing old clips (while keeping up with the videos enjoying December releases), I settled on the selections below as the 14 that hit me hardest over the past 12 months. This list will be the first entry in more than a week’s worth of year-end coverage that I’m beyond excited to share with everyone. So, with all of that said- it’s my privilege to present Heartbreaking Bravery’s 14 of ’14: The Best Music Videos of the Year.

14. Left & Right – Low Expectations

A few months ago, Left & Right released this absolute gem of a music video. Imbued with a DIY irreverence, a purposeful sense of direction, winningly off-beat humor, unabashedly committed performances, and some genuinely great cinematography, “Low Expectations” became an unexpected standout; a clip that came out of the gate swinging and (somehow) landing every single blow. Easily one of 2014’s most unexpectedly charming (and ridiculously enjoyable) clips.

13. Saintseneca – Happy Alone

Saintseneca’s Dark Arc was one of 2014’s most deserved breakout moments and nothing punctuated that shift more than the Christopher Good-helmed clip for “Happy Alone”. Emphasizing the song’s central themes by providing a bubble that practically forces isolation onto bandleader Zac Little, it’s a visually striking clip that got harder to shake as the year progressed. By grounding its elements of surrealism with an abundance of naturalism, it provided an artful counterpoint to something like Perfume Genius’ “Queen” (which, incidentally, was shot by Good). Importantly, it also proved that Saintseneca were officially on their way to bigger and better things.

12. Angel Olsen – Windows

I’m not sure there was a music video to come out of 2014 that was more startlingly gorgeous than this Rick Alverson-directed clip for Angel Olsen’s heart-stopping Burn Your Fire For No Witness highlight “Windows”. By incorporating Southern Gothic Americana style rural imagery into Olsen’s plaintive folk-leaning sensibilities, Alverson managed to create an evocative portrait of one of this generation’s finest songwriters. Leading up to an oddly moving (and admittedly eccentric) climax, the whole thing’s so artfully rendered it begins to feel as complete as some of the year’s best films. Delicate and aggressive in all the right places, “Windows” more than earned a spot on this list.

11. Beverly – Honey Do

“Honey Do” was my introduction to Beverly, just as it was for many others, so when news broke that they’d shot a music video for the song, it felt worthy of anticipation. Most of the expectations I had were exceeded in the first few frames and as the video progressed, so did my appreciation. Eschewing any kind of image-building, this was the first in a string of Beverly clips that largely eschewed celebrity in favor of celebrating artistry. Shot in crisp black-and-whites, “Honey Do” is a tender portrait of Los Angeles and its inhabitants and a promising mission statement from one of 2014’s more engaging new acts.

10. S – Losers 

Initially just a clip that came and went with very little fanfare (from a great record with a similar reception), “Losers” immediately felt deeply personal and genuinely heartfelt. Ostensibly a reflection on perception, self-esteem, and harsh reality, the thematic elements in the lyrics get brought to vivid life in a lovingly shot clip that somehow brings them to devastating proportions. DIY in spirit with a focal point on self-expression and identity, it’s become legitimately unforgettable; a long, heavy sigh of acceptance with only the faintest glimmer of hope reverberating throughout the weary cynicism. While “Vampires” was a great deal of fun, it’s “Losers” that deserves the lion’s share of attention for being one of 2014’s strongest buried treasures.

9. Iceage – Against the Moon

Honestly, “The Lord’s Favorite” and “Forever” both could have made this list but it felt more appropriate to limit bands to one entry apiece. With that being the case, it’s Plowing Into The Field Of Love highlight “Against the Moon” that gets the nod; all of the reasons for its inclusion were previously detailed pretty extensively here.

8. Anna Calvi & David Byrne – Strange Weather

Soft saturation. An autumnal palette. Digital film. One of the most delicately directed cinematography performances in any visual medium this year. An implicitly tragic narrative arc that suggests internal (and possible external) suffering. All of these come together in the sublime clip for an equally sublime cover of Kareen Ann’s “Strange Weather”, courtesy of Anna Calvi & David Byrne. One view was all it took for this to become one of the most difficult to shake clips of the year. Masterfully composed and brilliantly executed, it’s nothing short of an emotionally intuitive masterpiece.

7. Diarrhea Planet – Babyhead

I got to use “diaper skull flume explosion” while writing the tags for this one in the initial write-up; what more explanation do you need? “Babyhead” was pure madcap glee on a level not too dissimilar to Wrong Hole’s equally shameless, equally deranged lyric video for “Wrong Hole“. There are times when total insanity can be kind of beautiful. I’m not sure this is one of them but it’s still ridiculously fun.

6. Kid Moxie & The Gaslamp Killer – Museum Motel

No music video kept ricocheting around the corners of my brain more than this deeply unnerving clip from Kid Moxie & The Gaslamp Killer. Operating on a visual level that rivals what was achieved in Under The Skin, it uses waters, shadows, and contrast in a darkly seductive fashion that burrows its way into any brain fortunate enough to find its way over. An ingeniously subtle use of superimposed imagery on a lone snare drum drives up the feeling of unrelenting loneliness and palpable loss. It’s a deeply alluring and deceptively minimal visual representation of a stunning song. One that’s worth putting more than halfway up a “Best of 2014” list.

5. La Dispute – Woman (Reading)

Since this was the last one of the last non-list features to be posted here, it’d seem redundant to simply retrace everything that’s already been said.

4. Girlpool – Plants and Worms

Catleya Sherbow created this unbelievably stunning clip for Girlpool, 2014’s best duo, and touched on a number of pressure points- namely, acceptance and doubt. In the end, it’s about acceptance, and while that message does come laced with a visual that could potentially double as suicide, it still somehow manages to come off as comforting. “Plants and Worms” hits with the force of a world-stopping realization and echoes long after it ends, providing a staggering moment of beauty for Girlpool and a warm reassurance for just about everyone else.

3. clipping. – Work Work

Yes, the video for “Never Gonna Catch Me”- the Flying Lotus and Kendrick Lamar collaboration- was incredible. Not a lot of people are going to dismiss that claim. However, it’s another destined-to-be-iconic clip from that genre field that made a deep(er) impression on me; the video for the clipping. and Cocc Pistol Cree collaboration “Work Work”. Tracing a narrative arc that uses a laser-sharp focus on the act of curb-stomping, enhanced by some thought-provoking visual surrealism, it immediately became one of 2014’s most arresting clips and its status hasn’t let up. If there was a tracking shot more provocative than the one at the start of “Work Work”, then I’d love to see it. Until then, I’m just going to keep returning to this one.

2. Cymbals Eat Guitars – Warning

No clip from 2014 came imbued with more unwavering passion than the Crosshair-starring clip for “Warning”. All anyone needs to see is the thumbnail shot for this video to see a glimpse of how unfailingly heartfelt “Warning” winds up being. Matthew Reed tapped into a transcendental kind of magic that collapses a variety of bridges (age, taste) with a near-shocking ease. Ever since this was first released, I’ve been revisiting it with a great frequency because, like most great art, it pulls the viewer back in and rewards investment. Breathtakingly lensed, brilliantly edited, and furiously paced, this was a perfect accompaniment to one of the year’s most emotionally-charged records. Cymbals Eat Guitars may have intended the song to be a warning about love and loss but, backed by the video, it becomes one of the year’s most life-affirming moments.

1. PUP – Guilt Trip

Back in 2013, I had the honor of naming PUP’s “Reservoir” the best music video of 2013 for PopMatters. While that video was a cathartic release that was a near-perfect representation of the maelstrom of a particularly rowdy live show, their video for “Guilt Trip” (once again speared by the creative team of Chandler Levack and Jeremy Schaulin-Rioux) was a much more serious affair. Weirdly attuned to my own childhood experiences probably lent it a few small favors in terms of my esteem but, doing my best to separate myself from that strange fact, it boasts a series of career-bests from Levack and Schaulin Rioux: cinematography, editing, the performances they elicited from an impressively talented young cast, narrative, and overall direction among the list. “Guilt Trip” also includes one of the most genuinely heart-stopping moments I’ve seen in any clip, infusing it with a sense of brutal reality (if only for a moment), emphasized by a single shot that drives the point home. My initial claim that it could have a shot at carving out a spot for “Video of the Decade” still doesn’t seem so far off- but it’s worth keeping an eye on Levack and Schaulin-Rioux to see if they can keep repeating a ridiculously impressive pattern.

Girlpool – Plants And Worms (Music Video)

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A lot has happened in the four-day leave that this site took- a leave that officially ends with this post- and there are so many things to cover. It’d be foolish to pretend that this week didn’t just belong to Sleater-Kinney, who released a career-spanning box set, a new single (that was accompanied by a lyric video), and announced their official return. As tempting as it was to take a stab at waxing poetic over everything that band and their return means, their reputation’s already been earned and a million similarly-minded sites will be doing that in the weeks to come. Instead, today’s light will be shined elsewhere and ultimately fall on the band that’s earned the most mentions on this site without ever getting the feature spot. Before Girlpool gets their well-deserved due, though, all three of the regular fields will be recapped, in the order that follows: single stream, full stream, and music video.

Legendary Wings teased their upcoming basement punk ripper Do You See with the excellent “Weather Advisory” while Kal Marks did the same for their forthcoming EP with the forward-thinking bruiser “Zimmerman“. Portastatic proved they haven’t lost a step with the surprisingly great indie pop tune “Hey Salty” and Mitski‘s lead-up campaign for Bury Me At Makeout Creek remained perfect with the entrancing “I Will“. VLMA’s “Slime” and Cellphone‘s “Bad Medusa” were both post-punk stompers good enough to snag each act a handful of new followers. Chris Weisman celebrated the completion of his long-gestating album Monet In The 90‘s by previewing the record with the quietly mesmerizing “Working On My Skateboarding“. Vacation put forth an incredible Jesus And Mary Chain cover, Dirt Dress continued their impressive evolution with “Twelve Pictures“, and Caddywhompus continued extending what have become increasingly massive creative strides with the near-perfect “Entitled“. Davila 666 unveiled the tantalizing “Primero Muertas” in advance of their upcoming record, Pocos Años, Muchos Daños, just as Parts & Labor offered a glimpse at their upcoming record, Receivers, with the outstanding “Nowehre’s Nigh“. Art Is Hard’s Pizza Club series entered its final stretch with Broadbay’s newest noise-punk excursion “Plasticine Dream“, Primitive Parts made a rousing case for being a band to watch out for with “The Bench“, and Wildhoney became the latest act on the stacked Deranged roster to start breaking through on the strength of their towering shoegaze number “Fall In“. Circulatory System turned a few heads with the noise-damaged psych-pop of “It Never Made A Sound” and site favorites Saintseneca released a lovely Lucinda Williams cover. To round things out in the more ambient-leaning fields, there was a stunner from James Blake and a gentle new piece from The Greatest Hoax that easily swam its way into the realms of the sublime.

As for full streams, most of the talk in regards to this week will be dominated by the year-end-bound RTJ2, which is to be fully expected when a sophomore effort absolutely topples its heavily acclaimed predecessor- but don’t let that distract from a slew of other investment-worthy releases. Lace Curtains’ A Signed Piece of Paper also managed to exceed the record it follows in terms of artistic merit- which is a trait that it shares with The Twilight Sad’s Nobody Wants To Be Here And Nobody Wants To Leave. The Unicorns’ Nick Thorburn made his uniquely charming score for the SERIAL podcast available via bandcamp and Fleeting Youth Records made their essential 33-track Blooming (A Fuzz-Fucked Compilationmixtape (which more than lives up to its name) available for streaming via soundcloud. French For Rabbits premiered their arresting folk-inflected Spirits over at Stereogum while NPR’s First Listen series hosted the premiere of Medicine‘s extraordinary Home Everywhere. The Omecs crafted a winsome throwback punk record which they’re now streaming on their bandcamp. Another record to be released via bandcamp, spit’s Getting Low, came dangerously close to being today’s feature by virtue of being a masterful work from an extremely promising songwriter (John Romano) that expertly straddles a curious line between Exploding in Sound and Orchid Tapes. Easily one of this month’s most fascinating records, it’s currently available over at bandcamp for a generous name-your-price fee. Don’t hesitate; this is music worth being in a wide array of collections.

In the music video category, Hurry had a blast with their clever clip for “Oh Whitney“, Dilly Dally got shrouded in smoke for “Candy Mountain“, and S gave the Tacocat bassist some peace of mind in the video for “Vampires“.  Ought danced their hearts out in “New Calm, Pt. 2“, Thurston Moore conducted a nightmarish clip for “Speak to the Wild” (Los Angeles Police Department’s woodland excursion for “Enough Is Enough” was far less menacing), and Split Single inverted normalcy with their positioning for “Monolith“. Broken Water set things up with no shortage of caution in “Love and Poverty“, The Coathangers cheekily provided what’s ostensibly both a puppet-centric video and a left-field visual tour diary in “Drive“, and Beverly cemented their beautiful stylistic approach to the music video format with “Yale’s Life“. DTCV mined a bevvy of filmic influences and utilized them to perfection for “Electrostatic, Inc.” while Public Access TV took a similar route for “In The Mirror“.  Allo Darlin’ kept things amusingly (and effectively) simple for “Bright Eyes“, Nano Kino set the airy “New Love” to a hypnotic visual collage, and Mannequin Pussy remained as energetic and unapologetic as ever with their lo-fi production for “My Baby (Axe Nice)“.

Now, that’s a lot of material to go through for just about anyone but none of those items hit with as hard of an impact as Girlpool‘s absolutely devastating animated video for “Plants and Worms”. From this video alone, it’s shockingly easy to see why such a huge subset of journalists and musicians have latched onto Girlpool so fiercely; their world-weariness, entirely relatable socio-political commentary, and compositional skills all suggest both an age and stage of career that’s vastly accelerated from the actuality of their current positions. The duo, Cleo Tucker and Harmony Tividad (17 & 18 years of age, respectively), are moving at an accelerated pace- release follows release, idea follows idea, and there’s barely any time for an active listener to breathe. Impressively, all of those pieces carry their own distinct identity and they’re frequently accompanied by weighty topics that most songwriters experience an immense struggle to present without tipping into the cloying or cliché. It can be hard to resist the temptation of excess when dealing with important messages and this is where Girlpool excels; not only are their thoughts presented articulately- they’re presented in a manner that’s plaintive enough to be devoid of any easy derision. There’s a deep-rooted humanism and empathy that’s present in their work which is something that will always be admirable- and in their deceptively minimal compositions, the music carries the burden of the weight of those topics to a degree that seems to mirror the band’s inherent level of mutual support.

For “Plants and Worms” they wound up pairing with illustrator Catleya Sherbow, whose art here also acts as a double for Girlpool’s processes. In the Rookie premiere of “Plants and Worms”, Tucker and Tividad give an interview that lends some insight to their history, ideals, and intentions, while revealing that “Plants and Worms” is about accepting the world and how much it has to offer once fear and trepidation is reduced to the point of near-elimination. Neither get any more specific than that- but they don’t need to because the illustration makes a variety of specific instances of everyday fear entirely evident: body image issues, self-image, depression, loneliness, and self-destruction. In Sherbow’s illustrations, everything’s presented as it would be in a children’s book; there’s a soft quality that undercuts the severity of the video’s implications providing a thoughtful contrast that suggests the darkest aspects of the song are universal- but also definitively states that they can be overcome. It’s a crushingly powerful video that becomes impossible to shake after one watch and positions Girlpool in the unlikely position of being a young duo who could (reasonably) become two of this generation’s sharpest social commentators. “Plants and Worms” is likely just the beginning- and it’s already too important to miss.

Watch “Plants and Worms” below and pre-order Girlpool (the EP which “Plants and Worms” is taken from) from Wichita here.

Watch This: Vol. 46

Part two of this week’s recap (there really was an absurd amount of great material to go through), this installment of Watch This features videos that emerged during the past few days. Between a handful of full sets, a few videos from places that have become series staples, and, above all else, great performances. Everything on display here is worth taking some time to enjoy and a handful of them will likely warrant return visits. All in all, this set seems like a very fitting way to cap off what’s been one of the strongest weeks for new content that we’ve had this year. So, sit back, open the blinds, turn the volume all the way up, focus, and Watch This.

1. The Midwest Beat – Vortex Hole (Milwaukee Journal Sentinel)

Vortex Hole” was recently featured here as a stream in support of The Midwest Beat’s excellent new full-length, Free of Being. In the video below, the Milwaukee-via-Madison band gets invited to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel studio to tear through the live version. They tear through it with an enviable amount of verve and a peculiar madcap glee that somehow transforms the performance into something endlessly fascinating. It’s one hell of a rendition.

[Due to a temporary embed issue, this video can currently only be seen here]

2. Cloakroom – Asymmetrical (unARTigNYC)

“Asymmetrical” is a characteristically slow-burning song from Cloakroom, who seem to be exploring the middle ground between shoegaze and post-hardcore with a frightening amount of precision and clarity. Easily one of the most fascinating bands to have begun a steady emergence over the past handful of months, Cloakroom still retains a sense of mystery- something that factors directly into their music. This is an astonishing performance from a band that’s worth getting to know.

3. The New Pornographers (NPR)

It’d be easy to argue that, at this point, The New Pornographers are an institution. Between their own releases and their various members solo releases, they’ve put out some of the most highly acclaimed music of this young century. It’s a formidable body of work and  the fact that their most recent effort, Brill Bruisers, both lives up to and earns its spot among their long list of triumphs is fairly astonishing. This full, lovingly shot, NPR performance spans their discography and showcases one arguably indisputable fact: they deserve their acclaim and status.

4. Beverly – Not Ours (BreakThruRadio)

Beverly, the duo made up of Frankie Rose and Drew Citron, released one of the definitive records of the summer with Careers. Ever since that release, footage of the band’s tight-knit live show’s been popping up with an alarming frequency. While Rose is taking some time off to focus on her own solo project, there are still old sessions coming out of the woodwork. Here’s a lighthearted stunner from the always-excellent BreakThruRadio.

5. Cloud Nothings (Pitchfork)

There aren’t many moments in life that are better than watching a great band with extraordinary people on a perfect day. Cloud Nothings were an easy highlight of Pitchfork’s second day and now their whole set can be relived in full. Culling mostly from their 2014 highlight Here and Nowhere Else, their set went a long way in re-establishing the fact that they’re now a power trio (a term that they fully live up to). Not a lot of bands can lose a member and immediately re-define themselves without losing their personality but it’s evident that Cloud Nothings haven’t lost a step.

LVL UP – Ski Vacation (Stream)

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It’s been an insane past few days. Full streams, videos, and songs worth writing about have been emerging at a breakneck pace and making deciding what to feature a near-herculean task of decisiveness. There was a monumentally important music video from Mean Creek‘s Chris Keene for his upcoming solo record as Dream Generation, an interactive piece of unbridled fun from Ty Segall for the title track off of Manipulator, characteristically cinematic videos from both Beverly and Fucked Up– who have each been doing wonders with the visual medium, a video that practically defines Bob Mould’s workmanlike nature, and a Jane Forsyth & Ian Pollard-helmed video for Parquet Courts’ “Bodies Made Of“- which proved to be an astoundingly sensible creative pairing. There were full streams of the gently gnarled She Keeps Bees full-length, the psych-trip of the White Fence and Jack Name split, and a new Greylag song, “Yours to Shake“, that showed some serious teeth. Picking between all of those seemed as if it might be impossible until, once again, LVL UP made the decision fairly easy.

At this point, noting that LVL UP’s upcoming Hoodwink’d is this site’s front-runner for Album of the Year seems redundant. It’s a 15-song masterpiece that sees the band perfecting their best aspects and surpassing an arsenal of lofty expectations in the process. This is something that this site’s touched on in reviews for the first three songs to be teased from the record: “Soft Power“, “I Feel Ok“, and “DBTS“. Now, the band’s released the fourth look at the now-imminent Hoodwink’d with “Ski Vacation” which shows the band expanding their sonic palette yet again. Boasting a tranquil atmosphere and no shortage of jangly guitar tones, the song integrates some subtle-yet-effective surf tendencies into the band’s outsider pop aesthetic- and the end result is spectacular. What jumps out about all of the songs that the band’s been previewing is that they stand on their own extraordinarily well and would warrant serious consideration for pushes as Hoodwink’d singles- but as a collective piece they’re extraordinary and complement each other better than just about anything that even bothers to casually flirt with genre-hopping tendencies. In that respect, Hoodwink’d might be the first record 2014 produces that would be deserving of a title no smaller than masterpiece. “Ski Vacation” is just the fourth of 15 dimensions.

For some essential reading on Hoodwink’d, please go to Sasha Geffen’s Interview piece– where the track premiered- to scroll through a can’t-miss interview that sheds some light on what went into making the record.

Stream “Ski Vacation” below and pre-order Hoodwink’d from Double Double Whammy (which has played host to several of 2014’s best releases and is in the midst of an absurd winning streak)- who will be co-releasing it with Exploding in Sound (see: last parenthesis)-  here.

Watch This: Vol. 36

While today’s Watch This marathon still won’t be over with this installment, it is drawing to a close. Several of the very best performance clips were reserved for both the 36th and 37th installments of the series. A lot of site favorites are included, giving performances that completely validate their status as such. Everything from Marissa Paternoster’s outstanding solo project to Lydia Loveless’ first spot to PUP delivering a blistering take on the song that drives the best music video of the year-so-far, it’s a lot to celebrate. So sit back, refocus, and Watch This.

1. Noun – I Don’t Love Anybody (Don Giovanni)

Marissa Paternoster’s experienced no shortage of success with her main project, Screaming Females, but her finest album to date may very well be the debut full-length for her solo project, Noun. While that record, Holy Hell, isn’t as revered as Screaming Females’ most popular works, it stands up right alongside them as a full-bodied work. Here Paternoster strips back and takes an all-acoustic attic run through “Make Me”, solidifying her status as one of the most magnetic performers out there today.

2. Beverly (BreakThruRadioTV)

Ex-Vivian Girls/Dum Dum Girls member Frankie Rose and Drew Citron teamed up earlier this year under the name Beverly and surprised just about everyone with one of the more definitive summer records, Careers. In this performance for BreakThruRadio, the pair have a full band backing them and prove to be much more than just a great studio act. Careers highlights “You Can’t Get It Right” and “Honey Do” (which also has a lovely music video) are featured here and sound as perfect as ever. 

3. Radical Dads – Know-It-All (TCGS)

Riff-happy trio Radical Dads were one of the last bands to earn a spot on The Chris Gethard Show and it’s easy to see how they wound up there; this is boldly aggressive and intriguing work along the lines of Sonic Youth while doing away with their particular strain of detached NYC cool. Bananas dance, rimshots ring out, guitars get thrashed on, and everyone gets into it- it’s just about impossible not to.

4. Lydia Loveless (NPR)

Lydia Loveless has been making quite a name for herself these past few years and has continuously lived up to the attention she’s been given. Possessed with a gift of a voice and genre sensibilities that rival and recall both Neko Case and Gillian Welch, the young songwriter’s well on her way to leaving behind a legendary discography of her own. Loveless and her band recently took over NPR’s Tiny Desk Session and, more than likely, converted a whole lot of people while doing so. 

5. PUP – Guilt Trip (KEXP)

“Guilt Trip” already stands out for having one of the most stunning music videos to come out of this decade but, as great as that video was, the song really comes to life in a live setting. While the rest of the band’s KEXP session was admittedly outstanding, “Guilt Trip” was just a few levels above the rest of the batch. This is one of the best performances the station’s seen since Cloud Nothings’ towering Attack On Memory session (which still stands as KEXP’s high-water mark) and, just like the video, deserves to be seen by as many people as possible.