Heartbreaking Bravery

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Tag: Carl Sagan’s Skate Shoes

Jack – Resting Places (EP Review)

JACK

Grief is a fearsome beast. At its worst, the emotion can become all-consuming and open up doors to spiteful resentments, severe depression, and bursts of misplaced anger. At its best, grief can lead to an expanded sense of empathy and a deeper understanding of the things that are legitimately important in life. More often than not, though, grief lingers in between that spectrum, forever at odds with its own qualities. All of those areas are explored in Jack’s jaw-dropping EP, Resting Places.

That’s precisely the reason why — despite absurdly strong showings from Vanity, Notches, Honey Bucket, Turtlenecked, Carl Sagan’s Skate Shoes, and Liam Betson —  the EP finds itself in this post’s featured position. Jack, a project spearheaded by Brittany Costa, came about by way of a difficult situation. That situation informs every millisecond of Resting Places, as Costa created the project as an outlet to confront the loss of a loved one.

Anyone that’s lucky enough to be familiar with Costa’s past work will undoubtedly find reason to be interested in Resting Places but will likely be caught off guard. This is, by some distance, the most vital work of Costa’s impressive career. Resting Places is an unflinchingly intimate, honest work and those qualities are all but necessitated by the circumstances leading up to its creation. What separates Resting Places is Costa’s overwhelming conviction. At every turn, each of the five tracks on the EP feel like they were born out of a fierce need to purge the thoughts they contain, at any cost.

Drawing from a variety of musical genres and utilizing the talents of Flagland‘s Nick Dooley and Bethlehem Steel’s Becca Ryskalczyk, Costa ably conjures up a maelstrom that becomes a mirror of Resting Places‘ bruised and bruising narrative. From the very opening line of the EP — “What the fuck did I do to make you turn away?” — there’s an aggressive tilt that never wavers, even in Resting Places‘ quietest moments.

A feedback swell precedes that opening salvo, establishing the discord that the EP draws on and rails against. For around 24 minutes, Costa veers in and out of folk, punk, Americana, and pop sensibilities, tethering everything into a genre-demolishing approach that thrives on a sense of unease. It’s a trait that permeates through all of Resting Places, as bleary-eyed and frantic as possible. All of those qualities come crashing to a head at climactic moments like the desperate affirmation of “I have fucking value” that closes out opener “Rightful Rage” or the repeated aversions to inflicting and experiencing suffering on the devastating “Harbor”.

Costa’s impressed as both a lyricist and a composer in the past but what she accomplishes on Resting Places doesn’t just top everything she’s done, it stands as some of the most impressive work that 2016 has yielded to date. Every track on the EP contains a handful of extraordinary moments, whether its in terms of dynamics, turns of phrases, or unbridled feeling. There’s a knockout punch lingering at every turn that’s ready to knock the listener down to Costa’s level. At no point over the course of its run does Resting Places halt its merciless swinging.

In Resting Places‘ penultimate track, “Sister System”, Costa addresses that pain directly, providing the EP with its most vulnerable moment. Even when Dooley’s intuitive drumming — one of Resting Places‘ finest additional assets — opens the song up a little, there’s an unwavering sense that Costa’s completely alone. The command to “pick up that dignity you threw across the floor” that brings the song to the end feels like less of a request and more of a reminder, again drawing the listener nearer to Costa’s position in a stunning, effective manner.

“The Look” brings the proceedings to a close in hair-raising fashion, giving Resting Places its severely battered, barely-beating heart. The song was the first to be released from Resting Places and managed to be breathtaking in a standalone capacity. Placed in the context of the EP, “The Look” becomes one of the most devastating songs to have emerged in recent memory. It’s a surging, climactic, tour-de-force of repressed feeling, unchecked frustration, and excessive exhaustion.

As Costa nearly screams “I tried to choke myself to stop the hurried breathing” in that final track, as the music surrounding the narrative threatens to go off the rails, one thing becomes abundantly clear: Resting Places isn’t just a necessary excursion for Costa to confront some lingering demos, it’s an artistic masterpiece. Eventually, it all leads up to what may be an inevitable summation. As “The Look” brings Resting Places to a close, Costa gets caught in a loop, repeating over and over “I am not afraid to die.”

It’s a powerful statement that holds even more weight measured against the rest of the EP. It’s a frightening moment of awareness and may even betray a dark desire but that final line also encapsulate how definitive of an exploration Resting Places is of personal grief. In that last line, the deceptively expansive breadth of grief is evident and can be opened up to many interpretations. A few of those interpretations may even prompt immediate revisits of the EP, providing the opportunity for re-contextualization.

As the music fades away into the ether,  Resting Places solidifies its place as one 2016’s most powerful releases for any format, leaving a mark that lasts. It’s a difficult EP that sparks an empathetic response that’s a little harrowing but likely nothing in comparison to what Costa went through while forming these songs. A special kind of generosity and bravery is required to put those feelings on display, so for that, we owe Costa a thanks, because Resting Places is just about as unforgettable as they come and, suitably, it makes it extraordinarily difficult to leave.

Listen to Resting Places below and grab a copy here.

Mercury Girls – Holly (Stream)

mercury girls

A very full week of new material was essentially topped off over the past few days with excellent new songs from Fond Han (who nearly claimed this post’s featured spot), Bad Sports, Black Marble, TwistCarl Sagan’s Skate Shoes, JEFF The BrotherhoodTennis, Swimsuit AdditionHamilton Leithauser + Rostam, His ClancynessDuchess Says, benjamin783, Tom Brosseau, and Happy Place. There were also great music videos that were offered up by the likes of Trust Fund, Hazel English, Izzy True, Attic AbasementVomitfaceBeach Slang, Katie Dey, Jude Shuma, and, jordaan mason.  While the full streams weren’t as plentiful as they were at the start of the week dozer, Porridge RadioDrowse, Skux, Creative Adult, and Cay Is Okay managed to end the category on a series of strong notes.

At the end of 2015, Mercury Girls found themselves poised at the top of this site’s odds and ends list, thanks to their scintillating demo and live tracks compilation. Since then, they’ve been on a tear, readying their forthcoming full-length and finding time to participate in a four-way split and release an extraordinary 7″ in the process. Earlier on in the week, the band offered a glimpse at that forthcoming four-way split (with The Spook School, Wildhoney, and Tigercats rounding out the other three slots) by way of “Holly”, another sweeping gem of a song that masterfully blends the best of post-punk and powerpop into something that manages to become bittersweet and triumphant simultaneously.

“Holly” also sees the band’s knack for playing off each other increasing to a velocity that’s practically unmatched, generating the kind of momentum that will cause enough impact to knock out just about anybody. Whether it’s the surging guitars, the soaring vocals, the punchy rhythm section, or the band’s astonishing knack for composition, the band continues to seem mistake-free, casually igniting a fire that seems like it could burn forever. Mercury Girls, now several small releases into their career, have yet to release a track that feels anything less than miraculous.

In roughly three minutes, the band conjure up a winsome atmosphere, flawlessly navigate some galvanizing dynamic shifts, and offer up the kind of cohesive, grand-scale artistry that only the best bands ever manage to achieve. With “Holly”, Mercury Girls continue their breathless pursuit of perfection and — importantly — are showing no signs of diminishing returns (which is a fate that relentlessly plagues their niche genre). Inspired, breathtaking, and warm enough to be its own blanket, “Holly” has the capacity to inspire people to start their own bands. When all’s said and done, no compliment can be higher than that one.

Listen to “Holly” below and pre-order Continental Drift here.

Space Mountain – Never Lonely (Stream)

spacemountain

Over the past week or so there have been new songs to stream offered up from a varied cast of characters that included Infinity Crush, Secret Crush, Microwave, Slothrust, Screaming Females, The Only Ocean, The Submissives, Nots, Navy Gangs, Carl Sagan’s Skate Shoes, Aldous Harding, Steady Lean, Fir Cone Children, and IAN SWEET. In addition to those songs there was also a collaborative gem unveiled by Cole Kinsler‘s Space Mountain project that featured a thrilling guest vocalist turn from Forth Wanderers‘ Ava Trilling.

Way back in 2014, Kinsler’s project was making a solid impression and it’s been a privilege to watch (and listen to) Space Mountain grow in both scope and conviction. Recently, that project hit an exhilarating peak with the driving, mid-tempo “Never Lonely”. Easily the act’s finest work to date, it’s enriched by a communal spirit that brings Trilling’s memorable vocals into the fold.

Never before has Space Mountain sounded as expansive or as thoughtful, a mixture that pays massive dividends. By finding a way to bridge both the carefree, open-road atmosphere that permeates throughout some of the most timeless folk records and the dynamics that typically characterize a roster like Exploding In Sound’s, “Never Lonely” creates something that feels refreshing in its modernity while digging its heels deep into the past.

An impressive track at every turn, “Never Lonely” raises the anticipation level for the forthcoming Big Sky full-length a considerable amount. More than that, it demonstrates that Kinsler’s impressive first few works under this moniker were more developmental than most listeners likely realized. If the rest of the record can live up to the standard set by “Never Lonely”, Big Sky may just be one of the year’s finest surprise discoveries.

Listen to “Never Lonely” below and pre-order Big Sky here.

Izzy True – Total Body Erasure (Stream)

izzy-true

Following a small gap in coverage (mostly due to travel and preliminary work on upcoming projects), there’s a lot of material to cover. Roughly five dozen excellent new tracks emerged over that course of time and a third of them will be presented throughout the initial round of review coverage. This particular list constitutes the middle third and contains excellent new numbers from J&L Defer, Carl Sagan’s Skate Shoes, Mothers, Bellows, Yohuna, Manuela, Black Marble, June Gloom, Yea-Ming and the Rumours, Juliana Wilson, Angelic Milk, Ubetcha, Creative Adult, Golden Suits, King Creosote, Sharks’ Teeth, Ryan Hemsworth, Ryley Walker, and Lizard Kisses.

The featured track belongs to A Year’s Worth of Memories alum Isabel Reidy’s project, Izzy True. After a dazzling EP, the project’s readying their debut full-length, Nope. Leading off the rollout campaign is the record’s brilliant lead-off single “Total Body Erasure”. Tapping into the swamp-punk, roots, Americana, folk, blues, and dirtied up rock n’ roll influences that made the Troll EP one of last year’s most compelling listens, “Total Body Erasure” also achieves the impressive feat of heightening the level of lyricism attached to the band by tackling a subject that manages to feel both intimate and political without one aspect ever outweighing the other.

It’s an astonishing piece of songwriting that suggests Reidy’s quickly becoming one of this generation’s finest young lyricists. If the rest of Nope can live up to the level set by its introductory piece, Izzy True has a legitimate shot at being one of 2016’s most notable breakout successes. All that’s left is to wait, see, and hit repeat on “Total Body Erasure” until that moment, during that moment, and well past that moment. Whichever way it shakes out ultimately won’t matter. What does matter is the strength of Reidy, Troll, and “Total Body Erasure”, which is more than enough to prove that we should all keep listening.

Listen to “Total Body Erasure” below and keep an eye on Don Giovanni for the pre-orders of Nope.