Heartbreaking Bravery

stevenmps2@gmail.com | @steven_mps | @hbreakbravery

Tag: Carpark

Cloud Nothings – The Echo of the World (Stream)

It’s been a while since anything went up on these pages and there are a lot of reasons behind yet another interim but, as ever, the work continues to be done behind the scenes. Five posts were scheduled to go up before that break and will be going live today. This is one of those posts.

On the last Cloud Nothings record, the band effectively presented an amalgamation of the project’s entire history, providing a fascinating bent to an excellent record. The band’s set to return with Last Building Burning, their forthcoming album. “The Echo of the World” is the first peek into what the record has to offer and suggests the band may have pared down their approach to presenting a career summation, this time congealing individual aspects that made their earlier work standout.

It’s an exhilarating and even exhausting listen — even at a relatively scant four minutes — but it provides the music itself a renewed sense of purpose, allowing guitarist/vocalist Dylan Baldi’s pained, existential screaming to once again be underscored by ambient, noise-driven guitar work and punched home by the relentless, unmatched drumming of Jayson Gerycz. “The Echo of the World” is an absolutely ferocious work that finds Cloud Nothings in full-on attack mode, baring newly-sharpened fangs. If this is an indicator of Last Building Burning‘s tone, we should all be looking forward to basking in its fire-lit glow.

Listen to “The Echo of the World” below and pre-order Last Building Burning from Carpark here.

The Beths – You Wouldn’t Like Me (Music Video)

On Friday, The Beths released one of 2018’s best albums so far in the astonishing Future Me Hates Me, a record overflowing with sugar-coated basement pop that comes with just enough bite to truly stand out. One of the strongest moments of that record — which, again, is uniformly great — comes by way of “You Wouldn’t Like Me”, which was recently given an Ezra Simons-helmed music video that stands as the band’s best clip to date.

Ceaselessly charming, gifted with a vibrant palette, and full of clever, tongue-in-cheek moments, the clip acts as a perfect summation of the band’s appeal. There’s something familiar about the surface but there’s a competing intricacy that suggests the individualized vision at The Beth’s core. Warm, welcoming, and ridiculously winsome, “You Wouldn’t Like Me” offers up a worst-case argument for its title, clearly outlining just how much about this band, this record, and this clip, is not only worth liking but outright loving.

Watch “You Wouldn’t Like Me” below and pick up a copy of Future Me Hates Me from Carpark here.

Cloud Nothings – Enter Entirely (Music Video)

The last half of last week turned up a handful of great music videos from the likes of Japanese Breakfast, Starcrawler, Adult Mom, gobbinjr, Black Lips, Boogarins, Honus Honus, Gillian Welch, Tiny Eyes, Pallas, Walter Martin, Littler, and Sprinters. As always, there was a range of innovation present in those clips and each of them is well worth watching. Another chance to take a look back at one of 2017’s best records so far — Cloud Nothings‘ Life Without Sound — proved too tempting and the featured slot fell to the long-time site favorites.

Following the release of 2011’s Attack on Memory, Cloud Nothings have released a small handful of critically-acclaimed, widely-adored records that kept them on the road and continuously pushed the band to evolve. Life Without Sound, their most recent effort, found them bridging the band’s history for their most definitive release to date. One of the several highlights on that record came in the form of “Enter Entirely”, which has just been a deep-saturation, nostalgia-drenched visual presentation. Simple, effective, intuitive, and surprisingly absorbing, it’s just another indication that the band’s going to continue making the exact right moves as they careen forward through what looks to be an impressive — even important — career.

Watch “Enter Entirely” below and pick up Life Without Sound here.

Palm – Walkie Talkie (Stream, Live Video)

Over the course of the past week The Moonlight Love, The Shivas, Four Star Riot, Holy Oak, The Nickajack MenNØMADS, Baby Guru, BNQT, Juiceboxxx, Rosie Carney, and Adopted Highways all unveiled strong new tracks. Palm also surfaced with the standout “Walkie Talkie”, which has been a staple of the band’s live show for years and still stands as their career highlight. Frantic, complex, invigorating, and inventive, “Walkie Talkie” is Palm firing on all cylinders with no hesitation and no remorse.

Oscillating between various riffs and figures — both vocal and instrumental — at a furious pace, “Walkie Talkie” takes aim and hits its mark, repeatedly, bludgeoning it into oblivion. It’s an incendiary piece of work from one of the most obscenely talented emergent bands and it’s the type of track that needs to be heard to be believed. Palm’s set to make a whole new slew of converts in the wake of “Walkie Talkie” and it’s hard to imagine they’ll be content with stopping; “Walkie Talkie” is a warning shot and it goes a long way in underscoring the notion that Palm seems destined for deadliness.

Listen to “Walkie Talkie” (and watch the band tear through the song at DBTS in 2015) below and pre-order Shadow Expert from Carpark here.

Cloud Nothings – Modern Act (Stream)

cloud-nothings

Two weeks may not seem like that long of a stretch but considering the rate new material surfaces, it can be a challenge to keep up to speed. As the previous posts have indicated, there was a lot of material to cover and not all of it can be granted the attention that its due. A large portion of songs, full streams, and music videos have already been posted but this post marks the beginning of a small onslaught of single-item features. Kicking things off: site favorites Cloud Nothings’ just-released triumph, “Modern Act”.

Once again operating as a quartet, Cloud Nothings seem to have rekindled a very specific spark that’s been dormant since Turning On. In the time that’s elapsed since that point, the band’s been responsible for some of the current decade’s finest records but all of them were gnarled, weary beasts, where “Modern Act” comes across as cautiously optimistic. There’s a lightness to the songwriting that all but evaporated as Cloud Nothings transitioned from a solo project to a full band endeavor.

Even ignoring the distortion and fuzz that so heavily informed Attack On Memory and especially Here And Nowhere Else, which is barely present in “Modern Act”, the songwriting structure seems to have rekindled some more playful sensibilities. Guitarist/vocalist Dylan Baldi remains one of the more engaging narrators currently playing out, anchoring “Modern Act” with the relatable, peculiarly grounded sentiments that have consistently provided the band with a point of appeal.

Drummer Jayson Gerycz remains one of the best things to happen to recent music and propels “Modern Act” with a characteristic amount of intuition, verve, and raw feeling. It provides a perfect counterbalance to Baldi mining the project’s earlier signposts and becomes the perfect catalyst for what could prove to be a career-defining stylistic marriage. Everything the band tries out here works to surprising degrees and “Modern Act” winds up as an unassuming career highlight as a result. If the rest of the band’s forthcoming Life Without Sound winds up being anywhere near this impressive, 2017 will be off to an incredible start.

Listen to “Modern Act” below and pre-order Life Without Sound here.

Greys – Outer Heaven (Album Review)

IMG_9785

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.

Heather Woods Broderick – Wyoming (Music Video)

hwb

In the last round of catching up from last week’s loaded slate of new releases, Heather Woods Broderick’s stunning clip for “Wyoming”. It’s the only video in yet another round of great songs. Sunflower Bean released the swirling, psych-damaged “I Hear Voices“,  Nervous Trend unveiled their pummeling post-punk highlight “Shattered” (which came a hair’s breadth away from taking the feature spot), Digital Leather’s winning streak of synth-heavy basement pop hit new highs with “Cold Inside“, and Speedy Ortiz offered up a fascinating look at the minutiae of their songwriting process via an acoustic guitar/vocals demo of “Basketball“. Then, there was “Wyoming”.

Shot in a grainy 16mm black-and-white that favors long landscape shots, “Wyoming” finds an early strength in a mode of cinematography that creates a sense of eerie calm. As Broderick’s song slowly builds to its towering climactic moment, the clip’s palette blooms into a soft color. It’s an unexpected, and effective, moment that matches the song’s penchant for the otherworldly. As the camera follows Woods from climbing waterside ridges to the water itself, the clip deepens a sense of inexplicably serene calmness. Emotive storytelling via the film’s mechanics are favored over a clear narrative (in a manner not entirely dissimilar from Shane Carruth’s incredible Upstream Color). It’s a minimal, evocative piece of filmmaking that boasts imagery that’s hard to shake and elevates an already great song. After the flurry of posts about last week’s material, it also feels like the perfect end-cap to a particularly memorable storm. Don’t let this one drift off into the distance.

Watch “Wyoming” below and order Glider from Western Vinyl here.

Speedy Ortiz – The Graduates (Music Video)

sport

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

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

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

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

First Quarter Clips, Pt. 1 (Video Mixtape)

static

As was laid out in yesterday’s mixtape, for the next few days this site will be in strict catch-up mode. Mixtapes of some of the best material to emerge in the first three months of 2015 will be running until everything’s brought up to the present-day release cycle. A few items here and there will be granted individual focus pieces but don’t let that distract from the importance of the songs and clips in all of the past and forthcoming lists (as well as the one on display here). It’s been a strong year for music videos across several genres, which is something this package of clips is intended to emphasize. From site favorites Mumblr‘s stroke of brilliance in incorporating actual live footage from their previous shows into “Got It” to the Bob’s Burgers tribute to Sleater-Kinney to the searing, soulful “Keep In Mind (Asshole)”, there’s a lot here to admire. Dive in below and explore a few of this year’s richest treasures.

COLLECTION I

1. Mumblr – Got It
2. Toro Y Moi – Empty Nesters
3. Heaters – Levitate Thigh
4. Menace Beach – Tastes Like Medicine
5. California X – Hadley, MA
6. Protomartyr – Want Remover
7. Destruction Unit – Final Flight
8. MOURN – Your Brain Is Made of Candy
9. Young Guv – Crushing Sensation
10. Cyberbully Mom Club – Bobby Pins
11. King Tuff – Headbanger
12. Sleater-Kinney – A New Wave
13. Cayetana – Scott Get the Van, I’m Moving
14. Ex Hex – Don’t Wanna Lose
15. Franky Flowers – Fell In Love
16. Gal Pals – Do You Ever?
17. Celestial Shore – Weekenders
18. Twerps – Stranger
19. Kuroma – Simon’s in the Jungle
20. Kool Stuff Katie – Cars
21. Fear of Men – America
22. This is the Kit – Bashed Out
23. Tori Vasquez – Keep In Mind (Asshole)
24. Only Real – Can’t Get Happy
25. The Dodos – Competition

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