Heartbreaking Bravery

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Tag: Chicago

Hollowtapes – Tall (EP Premiere)

hollowtapes

Back in April, “Broken Car Radio” managed to raise a lot of eyebrows after its Stereogum premiere. The song was an enigmatic wonder, from an act that seemed poised for a breakthrough. After digging through the works of Francis Shannon, the person masterminding the Hollowtapes project, the reasons for that poise began to fall into place. Shannon’s been steadily improving as an artist for several years now, jumping from one project to the other with an impressive amount of grace and a very clear, ascending trajectory. “Broken Car Radio” was the culmination of Shannon’s work and has become — and will likely remain — Hollowtapes’ most formidable small-scale calling card.

The Tall EP, the release that houses the miraculous “Broken Car Radio”, is now just around the corner. In addition to that song’s awe-inspiring scope and masterful blend of bedroom pop, shoegaze, basement pop, and traces of noise. It’s in the latter element that Hollowtapes finds its most defining characteristic; many of these songs are built with beautiful, almost pastoral foundations but it isn’t until they’ve become warped by intentional damage that they start feeling singular. It’s a trait that Tall wields like a weapon, battering the purity that lies at the root of each of these four  songs until they sound comfortably lived-in and surprisingly warm.

“Strange City” finds that damage accelerating its scintillating guitar sections, which see the song transforming into a fire-breathing, riff-heavy monster while the ensuing song, the release’s easygoing title track, finds the damage embedded into its very heart, materializing in both the song’s compelling world-weary lyricism and its slow-building instrumentals. All of the release up to that point is so overwhelmingly inviting that by the time Tall‘s climactic, towering closer kicks up, the running time of the EP hasn’t been felt and there’s a very strong desire for more; everything is so expertly nuanced, produced, and paced that just four tracks winds up coming across as a tease, albeit a spectacular one.

It’s in the final track that Tall finds its most definitive notes and a decisive final note, allowing the EP to stand firmly as a complete entity. Everything falls into place so neatly in “Nerve” that its tempting to say Shannon has perfected the Hollowtapes formula. From the astonishing dynamic range to the song’s palpable sense of gritty, personal determination, it’s a work that instantaneously creates an indelible impression. Just as importantly, “Nerve” allows Tall to complete its very serious bid at being an unlikely classic, ending an awe-inspiring run of material that shouldn’t be ignored.

Bruised, gorgeous, and relentlessly its own, Tall is the kind of release that deserves a spot in any serious music collector’s library. With the EP, Shannon establishes the Hollowtapes project as a serious force and takes a swing at the fences. Fortunately for all of us, Tall connects emphatically and arcs high enough that one wonders if it’ll ever come back down. It’s an exhilarating new era for one of today’s most intriguing emergent acts, make an effort to keep up and the rewards promise to be breathtaking.

Listen to Tall below and pre-order the EP here.

2015: A Year’s Worth of Memories (Ryan Wizniak)

meatwave

As has been mentioned, multiple times over, few bands have had as large of an impact on the past several years of my life as Meat Wave. From the hundreds of listens I’ve given to their self-titled debut to their appearance at the first Heartbreaking Bravery showcase to their continued support of this site, it’s been a genuine privilege to have them as a part of my life. Delusion Moon was one of 2015’s fiercest records and the few times I got to see the band perform, I was always left floored. A large part of their draw has always been the frantic drum work of Ryan Wizniak (pictured above, bottom left). I’m thrilled to be bringing Wizniak into the fold of A Year’s Worth of Memories and I’m equally excited that he’s chosen to focus his piece on Meklbelly. Read it all below and remember to celebrate the people who continuously make a positive impact on your life.

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Of all the fantastic music that came out in 2015, and there was a lot of it, my absolute favorite track was “Piss Wizard”, by Melkbelly.  Recorded at Public House in Chicago and released via Automatic Recordings on piss-yellow and poo-brown 7”s, “Piss Wizard” is a truly unique slab of uncategorizable noise rock.  Within its just over 7 minute running time it contains every aspect of what makes Melkbelly so great: super bizarre tones, excellent guitar interplay, a range of vocal stylings, absurd drums and dynamic bass playing that glues everything together.

One of my favorite things about Melkbelly is every song makes the listener feel like they are entering a living breathing place. “Piss Wizard” is a perfect example of this. The track starts with a vocal intro from Miranda [Winters] and as soon as the rest of the instruments join in it creates the feeling of being strapped into some deranged ride that has flown straight into a tornado. Eventually the track lets up just long enough for one to regain their senses before it blasts into an explosive ending.

My band got to play a few shows with Melkbelly at the end of our long tour this fall/winter. One of them was at this place in Ann Arbor called The Metal Frat and it turned out to be an actual fraternity focused on musicians and music lovers. It was totally surreal and a lot of fun. At one point in the night we went on a beer run and noticed the frat next door doing their initiations, which involved blindfolded people being thrown into the backs of cars and some sort of all night organ playing ritual. So wild!

The last show we played with them was our homecoming show in Chicago which also featured our good friends Sophagus and Rad Payoff at our favorite venue, the Empty Bottle. Between all four bands we managed to sell out the show. I couldn’t believe it! It was great way to close out the year.

-Ryan Wizniak

2015: A Visual Retrospective, Vol. 7

PWR BTTM I

Throughout the course of 2015 I’ve been fortunate enough to attend upwards of 100 shows, festivals big and small, and spend approximately half a year living in a city that hosted a mind-boggling amount of quality shows on a nightly basis. To that end, it’s probably unsurprising that I wound up taking over 10,000 photos this year alone. Over the course of the next few days, this site will be running seven volumes of the shots that stood out as personal favorites, whether that was due to their composition, sentimental attachment, or an intangible emotional or intellectual response. It’s been an honor to be able to take even the smallest part in the ongoing sagas of the artists in the photographs below and an additional thanks is due to the venues that allowed me to shoot (as well as the people who encouraged me to keep shooting).

The preceding galleries can be accessed via these links:

2015: A Visual Retrospective, Vol. 1
2015: A Visual Retrospective, Vol. 2
2015: A Visual Retrospective, Vol. 3
2015: A Visual Retrospective, Vol. 4
2015: A Visual Retrospective, Vol. 5
2015: A Visual Retrospective, Vol. 6

Enjoy the gallery.

 

2015: A Visual Retrospective, Vol. 6

Potty Mouth

Throughout the course of 2015 I’ve been fortunate enough to attend upwards of 100 shows, festivals big and small, and spend approximately half a year living in a city that hosted a mind-boggling amount of quality shows on a nightly basis. To that end, it’s probably unsurprising that I wound up taking over 10,000 photos this year alone. Over the course of the next few days, this site will be running seven volumes of the shots that stood out as personal favorites, whether that was due to their composition, sentimental attachment, or an intangible emotional or intellectual response. It’s been an honor to be able to take even the smallest part in the ongoing sagas of the artists in the photographs below and an additional thanks is due to the venues that allowed me to shoot (as well as the people who encouraged me to keep shooting).

Enjoy the gallery.

 

2015: A Visual Retrospective, Vol. 5

Johanna Warren I

Throughout the course of 2015 I’ve been fortunate enough to attend upwards of 100 shows, festivals big and small, and spend approximately half a year living in a city that hosted a mind-boggling amount of quality shows on a nightly basis. To that end, it’s probably unsurprising that I wound up taking over 10,000 photos this year alone. Over the course of the next few days, this site will be running seven volumes of the shots that stood out as personal favorites, whether that was due to their composition, sentimental attachment, or an intangible emotional or intellectual response. It’s been an honor to be able to take even the smallest part in the ongoing sagas of the artists in the photographs below and an additional thanks is due to the venues that allowed me to shoot (as well as the people who encouraged me to keep shooting).

Enjoy the gallery.

2015: A Visual Retrospective, Vol. 3

Idle Bloom

Throughout the course of 2015 I’ve been fortunate enough to attend upwards of 100 shows, festivals big and small, and spend approximately half a year living in a city that hosted a mind-boggling amount of quality shows on a nightly basis. To that end, it’s probably unsurprising that I wound up taking over 10,000 photos this year alone. Over the course of the next few days, this site will be running seven volumes of the shots that stood out as personal favorites, whether that was due to their composition, sentimental attachment, or an intangible emotional or intellectual response. It’s been an honor to be able to take even the smallest part in the ongoing sagas of the artists in the photographs below and an additional thanks is due to the venues that allowed me to shoot (as well as the people who encouraged me to keep shooting).

Enjoy the gallery.

 

2015: A Visual Retrospective, Vol. 2

Girlpool I

Throughout the course of 2015 I’ve been fortunate enough to attend upwards of 100 shows, festivals big and small, and spend approximately half a year living in a city that hosted a mind-boggling amount of quality shows on a nightly basis. To that end, it’s probably unsurprising that I wound up taking over 10,000 photos this year alone. Over the course of the next few days, this site will be running seven volumes of the shots that stood out as personal favorites, whether that was due to their composition, sentimental attachment, or an intangible emotional or intellectual response. It’s been an honor to be able to take even the smallest part in the ongoing sagas of the artists in the photographs below and an additional thanks is due to the venues that allowed me to shoot (as well as the people who encouraged me to keep shooting).

Enjoy the gallery.

2015: A Visual Retrospective, Vol. 1

Radioactivity

Throughout the course of 2015 I’ve been fortunate enough to attend upwards of 100 shows, festivals big and small, and spend approximately half a year living in a city that hosted a mind-boggling amount of quality shows on a nightly basis. To that end, it’s probably unsurprising that I wound up taking over 10,000 photos this year alone. Over the course of the next few days, this site will be running seven volumes of the shots that stood out as personal favorites, whether that was due to their composition, sentimental attachment, or an intangible emotional or intellectual response. It’s been an honor to be able to take even the smallest part in the ongoing sagas of the artists in the photographs below and an additional thanks is due to the venues that allowed me to shoot (as well as the people who encouraged me to keep shooting).

Enjoy the gallery.

Melkbelly – Mnt. Kool Kid (Stream)

melkbelly
Photograph by Taylor Schneider

At the midweek marker, remarkable releases have continued to be doled out at a breakneck pace. In some ways, that overwhelming magnitude contributes to a slew of smaller releases getting overlooked at their time of release. Today’s featured items was one of those- and it was strong enough to fight off this recent batch to secure the majority of the focus. That, by no means, should detract from the value of the field it’s included in, which continues to cement 2015’s status as one of the strongest years for new music in recent memory. Full streams had the quietest output for the day, yielding only La Misma’s great full-length Kanizadi. Music videos had a heavier crop, boasting strong new clips from Made Violent, Microwave, SadGirl, Little Wings, and Martin Courtney. As always, the individual streams seemed to make the most sizable dent with formidable entries from the likes of GrubsFern Mayo, YungEx-BreathersMidday Veil, Modern Baseball, Drug Church, Brian Carpenter & The Confessions, and Battles.

While everything in the linked above paragraph is worth a click, it’s when Melkbelly‘s latest wound up making its way here that the feature spot really clicked. The band’s not the most well-known act but has secured some high-profile support lately- most notably via this excellent Talkhouse piece from Speedy Ortiz’s Sadie Dupuis. While the piece used the band’s recent outstanding Bathroom at the Beach 7″ as its focal point, they’ve managed to quietly unveil another new standalone track on their bandcamp (a place that’s composed entirely of standalone entries). “Mnt. Kool Kid” sacrifices some of the band’s immediate melodicism in favor of emphasizing their more aggressive noise tendencies. Over four minutes, the band rides the crest of a stark, menacing bass hum and uses it as a catapult for both a brief, outsider pop section and a towering main section that manages to come off as, almost paradoxically, a more expansive and contained version of Lightning Bolt at their best.

Bruising at every turn, “Mnt. Kool Kid” is a commanding show of force that highlights all of Melkbelly’s strongest looks and continues to see the quartet tightening their craft into something that feels genuinely powerful. Unflinching, unmoored, and unforgettable “Mnt. Kool Kid” is the sound of a band continuing to lock into a groove that should set them spinning to an explosive finish. For now, be content to sit back and watch the band burn everything they pass; sometimes the passages to the climactic moments wind up carrying even more meaning than the resolution. A song this good doesn’t deserve to succumb to a fate where it largely passes by unnoticed.

Listen to “Mnt. Kool Kid” below and get lost in an exhilarating course correction. Keep an eye on this site for further Melkbelly updates.

NE-HI – Turncoat (Music Video)

NE-HI I

Over the past five days or so, there’s been quite a few great pieces of art to emerge out of the shadows and a small handful of them wound up being music videos. Vacation’s minimalist art clip for “4341“, Miserable’s head trip of a video for “Orchid“, Courtney Barnett’s characteristically charming “Nobody Really Cares If You Don’t Go to the Party“, Literature’s bookish, winking “The Girl, The Gold Watch and Everything“, and The Underachievers’ fascinating triptych for “Chasing Faith”, “Rain Dance”, and “Allusions” all qualified. Still, despite all of those strong offerings, nothing managed to grab my attention more than NE-HI’s new clip for “Turncoat”.

One of the first great surprises of 2015 for me was NE-HI’s explosive set in the blistering cold of an outdoor stage in their hometown of Chicago for The Empty Bottle’s annual Music Frozen Dancing festival. Since that day, the band’s been making a series of perfectly-timed power moves and capitalizing on their growing momentum. While their self-titled effort from last year has remained a strong release, the quartet’s latest material has tapped into something that NE-HI only provided a few faint, scattered hints at- and in doing so, they’ve elevated themselves from a good band to a great one.

For their latest trick, they tapped Ryan Ohm and Jackson James from Weird Life Films to create a clip to accompany their latest single, “Turncoat”, and the end result is surprisingly beautiful. Deeply atmospheric, cinematic, and wielding a genuine sense of place, “Turncoat” is a stunning portrait of a very specific sect of America: the upper Midwest’s suburban working class. For me- as someone who grew up in small town Wisconsin and was raised by two teachers- every shot rings true and comes across as lovingly articulated.

There was always a beauty to be found in an environment that occupied a middle ground, providing space for both unlimited promise and inevitable decay. In those situations, you have to force your own narrative through-lines and, accordingly, the clip for “Turncoat” simply features an unnamed man going fishing and nothing else. It’s in those small moments where life gains a certain amount of meaning, pushing contemplative nature to the wayside in favor of simply being. Ohm and James effectively convey this through a series of world-building shots intercut with their main character going through the basic motions that a fishing trip entails, all the while backed by a lilting NE-HI track that ranks among the band’s very best. It’s a deceptively large concept that allows both the video and the song to take an equal amount of focus, while all of the tangential elements factor into an elegant execution that feels akin to magic.

Watch “Turncoat” below and keep an eye on this site for more updates on the band’s future projects.