Heartbreaking Bravery

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Tag: Clean Girls

Joanna Gruesome – Peanut Butter (Album Review, Stream)

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Joanna Gruesome‘s a name that’s been appearing on this site consistently throughout its duration and Peanut Butter‘s ensured that trend’s been one that continued throughout 2015’s first stretch. Weird Sister was one of the best records of 2013 and it came out just before Heartbreaking Bravery started operating, which meant they likely factored into the decision to create (and sustain) this space. In 2014, their Astonishing Adventures split with Perfect Pussy nearly topped our best splits of 2014 list (where Peanut Butter standout “Psykcick Espionage” made its debut) and they’ve earned themselves several standalone features through their music videos as well as their recorded output. In short, the band had a lot to live up to with Peanut Butter and they answered those expectations with a deafening roar.

Embracing the dynamics that made them such a compelling act out of the gate, they’ve managed to refine their approach and incorporate a much heavier emphasis on dissonance. Peanut Butter is Joanna Gruesome’s heaviest, noisiest, and most accomplished work to date, extending a narrative arc of continuous improvement. For a band that already packed a punch, throwing in stabbing noise freakouts that punctuate a large number of Peanut Butter‘s tracks might seem unnecessarily excessive. What sets Joanna Gruesome apart from some of their like-minded kin when it comes to this department is their unwavering understanding of restraint. “I Wanna Relax” starts with sheer white noise- but it’s cut off at the head almost as soon as it appears, effectively rendering it a jarring warning of the content that lies ahead.

Joanna Gruesome didn’t set out to pull punches on Peanut Butter and much of the record comes off like an assault. Impressively, even with the strengthened bent on atonality, the band hasn’t sacrificed any of their melody- they’ve enhanced it. “Last Year”, the record’s opening track, is one of the best examples of this duality and sets the tone for the nine tracks that follow. Never dipping under mid-tempo, the band keeps things at a sprint throughout the record, never allowing the listener a reprieve. The closest they come is the band’s surprisingly gentle closer, “Hey! I Wanna Be Yr Best Friend”, which feels like the transcendental calm that descends after a violent storm.

Part of what makes Joanna Gruesome’s storm so electric is the way vocalist Alanna McCardle weaves her ideologies into her narratives, subtly drawing the line to gender expectations through tales of difficult relationships and personal angst. Throughout Peanut Butter McCardle grapples with what and what isn’t good, torturing herself by questioning her own motivations. At times, the self-examination is brutal but it’s softened by the band’s pop sensibilities, which are continuing to produce some of the most gorgeous moments of any band currently making music. Terrifying, exhilarating, and unfailingly brilliant, Peanut Butter isn’t just Joanna Gruesome’s current crown jewel, it’s also one of the brightest spots of a year that’s already overflowing with greatness. To further illustrate that last point, a list of titles worth hearing will be included at the very bottom of this page (which also acts as an addendum to the preceding post).

Before you scan through those titles, though, make sure to listen to Peanut Butter over at NPR’s First Listen (the Spotify embed will take the place of that link once the record goes live).

Pre-order Peanut Butter from the always-great Slumberland here.

Now, as promised, an accompanying list of some other previously unlisted 2015 titles that are more than worth your attention.

Johanna Warren – nūmūn
Pfarmers – Gunnera
Sick Sad World – Fear and Lies
Glockabelle – Wolf BBQ
Fraternal Twin – Skin Gets Hot
Coliseum – Anxiety’s Kiss
DTCV – Uptime!
Clean Girls – Despite You
Turnover – Peripheral Vision
Battle Ave – Year of Nod
Tres Padres – Father’s Day / A Lot to Maintain
Vomitface – Another Bad Year
Eskimeaux – O.K.
Crocodiles – Boys
Novella – Land
Blanck Mess – Dumb Flesh
Miss June – Matriarchy
Art Is Hard – Family Portrait Pt. II

Liam Betson – Rapture In Heat (Music Video)

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A lot has happened over the past few days. Most of it, once again, has been pretty astonishing. A trio of full streams compromised of a short-form teaser (Say No! To Architecture’s SN!TA), a blistering single (Kinjac’s Possession), and a full album (The Blind Shake’s raucous Fly Right) all ensured a good round for the format. Music videos doubled that number with great clips emerging from the likes of Jeff Rosenstock’s love-letter to NYC (“You, In Weird Cities“), Young Buffalo’s oddball “My Place“, and Wildhoney’s striking, lo-fi presentation for “Seventeen“.  There was also the compelling throwback aesthetics of Native America’s “Like A Dream“, Young Fathers’ deeply hypnotic clip for career highlight “Shame“, and Belle & Sebastian’s impossibly lovely home video edit for “Paper Boat“.

Great songs continue to come out at a breakneck pace and the last two days resulted in nine more to add to this year’s pile. Turn to Crime unveiled the promising “Actions“, Autobahn revealed their brooding slow-burner “Beautiful Place to Die“, and J Fernandez released the mesmerizing “Read My Mind“. Jenny Hval dipped into the sensuous with “Sabbath“, Mini Dresses quietly posted the slinky “Bracelets“, and Carlos Forster’s ambient masterpiece-“You’ll Survive“- has a shot at being one of this year’s most devastating gorgeous songs. Clean Girls unleashed the throttling “Magic City” while Tandem Felix held down considerably lighter territory with the gentle indie pop of “Waiting in the Wings” and The Pretty Greens rounded things out with the lovingly worn basement pop of “Elevator Eyes“. For today’s feature though, the focus falls on the clip for what was one of my favorite songs from last year, Liam Betson’s “Rapture In Heat”.

In the song, Betson weaves a tapestry of subtle loss in a deeply heartfelt, meaningful way. It’s interesting that the narrative through-line that the video emphasizes is the one laying in the song’s subtext: searching. The Cover of Hunter is a record that’s loaded with heavy questions and offers very little in the way of answers; a bleak approximation of life’s more infuriating struggles. At some point, Betson accepts that the only answers that are given have to be accepted, even if they’re reason for concern. James Benson (no relation) directs the clip with an assured hand, seamlessly overlaying some genuinely stunning visuals and choosing to accentuate more than just the song’s subtext. During the clip’s most direct (and most memorable) scene, Betson applies lipstick before literally flushing that part of his identity down the toilet, if only for a moment. Once the relative discomfort- and general ambiguity- of that action reels back, it stands as one of the more disquieting additions to the mythos of The Cover of Hunter. By the time the video draws to a hazy finish, it’s clear that one of 2014’s strongest songs will have one of 2015’s strongest clips. It’s essential viewing and another gem in the growing treasure trove that Double Double Whammy houses. Don’t let it pass by without celebration.

Watch “Rapture In Heat” below and order The Cover of Hunter here.

25 Best Demo’s, EP’s, 7″ Singles, and Compilations of 2013

2013 was an incredible year for music that held a seemingly infinite amount of great releases in nearly every possible genre and sub-genre. Cassettes popularity exploded, vinyl sales increased by more than 30%, and the importance of demo’s finally became apparent. In a sea of widely-publicized releases that got mountains of praise, it was a joy to find what composes much of this list.  While a few spots are technically taken up by more than one release, those ties always come courtesy of a band generous enough to release more than one item and have it live up to whatever had preceded it. So, with that caveat in mind, here are the 25 best demo’s, EP’s, 7″ singles, splits, and compilations of 2013.


25. Split Feet – Fall 2013

Chicago’s Split Feet were one of the upper Midwest’s better surprises of 2013 and this demo announced their entrance authoritatively. The rest of the space could be consumed by an attempt to wax poetic on the demo’s respective virtues but, to spare everyone some time, it’s worth pointing out that’s already been done here. Stream the Fall 2013 demo below.

24. The Hotels – Leslie

Here’s an interesting, barely-relevant fact; The Hotels’ excellent Leslie EP was released on the same day Heartbreaking Bravery started. Leslie incorporates nearly all of the staple items on the musical laundry list that this site celebrates most frequently. There’s an emphasis on the kind of influences that keep it on the fringes of the emo-revival alongside bands like Swearin’ and All Dogs but finds itself living in the moment far too much to be tied to a revival. It’s immediacy pays huge dividends but it’s Leslie‘s precision that landed it on this list. Listen to it below.

23. Globelamp – Star Dust

Like Split Feet’s demo, Globelamp’s undeniable unique EP has already been celebrated here. Despite already having a few releases, this felt like a debut. Star Dust‘s nervous energy felt impossibly grounded and promises bigger things for the duo. Hear Star Dust below.

22. Elvis Christ – And So It Shall Be

No one’s going to deny that Elvis Christ is more likable to be noticed for his contributions to Nobunny than his solo work, which, based on the strength of And So It Shall Be is due for a change in the near-future.  There’s definitely a Nobunny influence coursing through the five tracks on display but they pack enough punch to secure it a spot on this list. One of Burger Records’ best tape releases from their best year. Hear it below. 

21. Joseph Frankl – Breakers

Joseph Frankl released two great records on very different platforms this year. As the drummer for The Frankl Project, he was a part of one of 2013’s (and perhaps the decade’s) best pop-punk records. Not too long after he uploaded this two-song single to his bandcamp as a self-release. Breakers exists along the same lines as yesterday’s On the Up honorees Technicolor Teeth. This is driving shoegaze that feels authentic and well-informed and not like a pale imitation. Both songs are among the year’s best and deserve way more attention than they’ve received. Hear Breakers below.

20. The Orwells – Other Voices/Who Needs You

2013 was a breakout year for these young Chicago scrappers. From Jam  in the Van sessions to NPR music video premieres, it was hard to go more than a few months without hearing about them. A lot of this, of course, was due to both of the outstanding EP’s they gave to the world in 2013 (as well as a split cassingle with FIDLAR for Record Store Day), all of which were given a tape release via Burger Records. A production assist from TV On the Radio’s Dave Sitek undoubtedly piqued a lot of interests even further than they had been but that wouldn’t mean anything if the music didn’t actually live up to the hype. Thankfully, it has. Hear both EP’s in full below. 


19. Dead Beach – Purple Scissors/Cool Mutants Split

Let’s Pretend released a lot of incredible material in 2013 but this was easily their best in the short-form department. Both Purple Scissors and the Cool Mutants split were recorded by PURPLE 7’s Patrick Jennings (who formerly fronted Hot New Mexicans) and both bands’ influences are evident throughout both the EP and the split. They both carry the slightly off-kilter, raw, and insanely melodic traits that nearly all of Let’s Pretend’s roster has come to be known for. Hear both releases in their entirety below.




18. La Luz – Damp Face

Anyone who’s been following this site probably won’t be too surprised at finding yet another Burger release on this list but it’s hard to argue against placements for any of the label’s releases; they’ve been consistently excellent and positioned themselves at the forefront of basement pop. La Luz had a turbulent year, suffering both triumphs and devastating setbacks. As horrific as their accident was, people are more likely to associate 2013 with both of the band’s outstanding releases rather than personal tragedy. Both their It’s Alive full-length and Damp Face EP have managed to jumpstart a promising career for their band and they’re already showing no signs of slowing, fighting back relentlessly at whatever obstacles come there way. Hear some of that fight bleed into their music by listening to Damp Face below.

17. Midwives – Midwives

Midwives’ self-titled debut is another of the entries on this list that’s already been covered and the thing’s got some serious legs. Its staying power has been incredibly impressive and went a long way in securing it a spot on this list. Get familiar with Wisconsin’s best new hardcore act by listening to Midwives’ introductory piece below.

16. Lemuria – Brilliant Dancer

As good as The Distance Is So Big was, this 7″ teaser the band released ahead of it may actually exceed it in terms of greatness. Both “Brilliant Dancer” and “Helloing” rank among the best songs in Lemuria’s impressive catalog, providing them the b/w format cuts out any excess and lets them operate as a sharp adrenaline shot that emphasizes the band’s best qualities. Brilliant Dancer is about as precise as Lemuria gets and sacrifices none of their sugar-rush basement pop. Hear it below (and catch them live whenever possible).

15. Summer Twins – Forget Me

As has been mentioned before and is likely to be mentioned again, Burger Records had an absolutely monstrous 2013, as far as EP’s are concerned the label didn’t put out anything better last year than the Summer Twins’ near-perfect Forger Me. Mining a 50’s doo-wop and 60’s girl group influence in equal measure, they offered up five of the most assured and gorgeous songs of the year, with the title track being one of the year’s outright best. While the rest of the songs don’t quite match the heights of “Forget Me”, they come close enough to more than justify a spot on this list. Hear Forget Me below.



14. Huge Face – Huge Face

Huge Face are yet another band that may occasionally find their name tossed into the emo-revival conversation that’s happening right now despite leaning closer to Guided by Voices and late-era Wipers than Sunny Day Real Estate. In the grand scheme of things, though, it really doesn’t matter. Huge Face stands up just fine on its own. The most modern touchpoint here would be Wolf Parade, as the bands share several similar sensibilities, even if the execution on how their lensed varies ever-so-slightly. No matter how it’s looked at, it’s fairly clear that this is a great release. Listen to it below.

13. Pusrad – Modern Anatomi

Clocking in at just over four and a half minutes, these ten songs refuse to fuck around. That steadfast commitment is an integral part of all great hardcore bands’ aesthetic, Pusrad included. Already moving at an incredibly prolific pace, Pusrad keep getting better with each one. Modern Anatomi is an exhilarating blast of fierce, old-school hardcore that’s as relentless as it is creative. One of the genre’s best releases in any format in 2013. Hear it below.



12. Upset/Swearin’/Waxahatchee/Screaming Females – Guided by Voices Tribute 7″

All anyone really needed to do for this one was look at the title. Upset, Swearin’, Waxahatchee, and Screaming Females are four of the better bands going today and each paying tribute to a specific Guided by Voices track is an undeniably sensible move. This is as much of a four-band pairing as it is a five and it exceeds its own promise. That’s one hell of an accomplishment. Unfortunately, no streams of this are currently available but it’s available for purchase (highly recommended) via the link below.

Purchase the Guided by Voices Tribute 7″ from Salinas Records

11. Sundials – Always Whatever (A Collection of Songs from 2009-2012)

Releasing a set-year retrospective can be a tempting prospect for any band that feels it’s entered a new stage; rarely do they exceed on the levels of Sundials’ Always Whatever (A Collection of Songs from 2009-2012). By forgoing the inclusion of several songs from their two main releases, First 6 Songs and When I Couldn’t Breathe, there’s an allowance for the unexpected which infuses Always Whatever with a vitality it may have sorely lacked. This is a stunning collection of melodic basement punk songs that should only help the anticipation build for whatever the band’s next move is. Get familiar with Sundials by listening to Always Whatever below.

10. Technicolor Teeth – Blood Pool

There aren’t very many bands out there who can claim to be as exciting as Technicolor Teeth. Only a few years (and two releases) into their career, they’ve managed to make a deep impression on a lot of their peers and grab the attentions of people that may help elevate them to infamy. They’ve essentially been posited as the new forefront of shoegaze by embracing it as fully as possible while still thriving to make it their own. After the rousing success and tonal darkness of Teenage Pagans, it’s unlikely that anyone thought the aspect they’d play up the most for their follow-up was their warm dream-pop influence. Granted, they haven’t sacrificed much of their morbidity or dark atmosphere and instead reinvent that side of themselves as well. As a result, they’ve wound up with the best nightmare-pop 7″ of 2013. It’s difficult to say how long this band will stay buried but expect to be hearing their names a lot more sometime soon.


9. The Dirty Nil/Northern Primitive – Split

The Dirty Nil’s split 7″ with Northern Primitive was one of the more unique splits of 2013 just for the variance of style on display. Both bands tend to err towards doom without actually crossing that bridge completely, with the former keeping at least one foot very firmly planted in early 90’s indie a la Dinosaur Jr. and The Pixies while the latter perilously straddles multiple genre lines at once. Of the two, The Dirty Nil takes the more straightforward route (and is none the less thrilling for it) while Northern Primitive throws everything they’ve got into their side, riding an eerie atmosphere into a crushing crescendo before gracefully falling back out. An absolutely stunning display piece for two of Canada’s best-kept secrets. Hear it below.



8. Jeff Rosenstock – Summer

Over the years, IYMI has become one of the most trusted sources out there for on-the-rise bands playing the basement punk circuit and have frequently offered early glimpses at bands like Swearin’ and Jason Anderson in the bandcamp “optional donation” mode (the site also is responsible for the incredible Pink Couch Sessions series). This year, they went ahead and added Jeff Rosenstock to the list by featuring his incredible Summer 7″, which managed to be one of the most explosive scuzz-pop 7″ singles of 2013. An absolute must-own. Hear both “Teenager” and “Go On Get” below.



7. Tweens – Demo CD-R

Tweens were one of the great breakout successes of the gutter circuits in 2013, releasing nothing but demos which were subsequently devoured and praised at a rate fast enough to give anyone whiplash. The Cincinnati trio have become one of the more talked-about and sought-after prospects in recent memory based solely on the strength of a demo CD-R which is impressive enough in itself. The fact that their bandleader, Bridgette, had only recently learned guitar before before starting Tweens is a completely different level of impressive. Tweens are set to release their debut full-length in March and that day can’t get here fast enough. Until then, listen to a few selections from the now-sold out demo below.



6. All Dogs – 7″

One of Salinas’ most exciting new prospects has already drawn comparisons to seemingly half of that label’s roster, which is precisely what makes it so appealing. Over the past few years Salinas has carefully cultivated a sound that prides itself on a lo-fi 90’s indie punk influence. All Dogs profile is set to get another boost with the impending release of Saintseneca’s upcoming LP on Anti-, as the bands share members. A lot more could be said about this release but, once again, it’s worth noting that much of it has already been said. Listen to All Dogs’ triumphant 7″ below.



5. Various Artists – Beyond Inversion: A Benefit for Rachael’s Women’s Center in DC

Over Heartbreaking Bravery’s short existence, the release that’s garnered the most coverage from this site is undoubtedly Accidental Guest’s incredible Beyond Inversion benefit compilation. It’s a compilation that has its heart squarely in the right place, while perfectly adhering to the best aesthetics of the basement scene. There’s a selflessness that’s on display here through the involved bands’ naturally camaraderie. It’s also a perfect representation of its time, culminating in a capsule-worthy artifact that sheds this generation in the most positive light imaginable. Which is precisely why there was more than just one article devoted to it. Beyond Inversion may be seeing a vinyl release at some point in the near future but the initial cassette release sold out in pre-orders. Thankfully, the whole thing is available for streaming and can be heard below.



4. Acid Fast – Rabid Moon

While Rabid Moon finally was given a proper vinyl release last week, it’s been available as a cassette for several months, courtesy of Stupid Bag Records. Far and away one of the most impressive cassette-only full-length’s to be granted a 2013 release, it allowed for a monumental build-up to it’s run as a 2014 record. In the span between the two official releases, the band’s picked up press from Punknews, the AV Club, and earned On the Up honors from this very site. Rabid Moon is an absolute monster of a record that channels the spirit of Archers of Loaf, has the unhinged energy that made Big Kids so great, and it deserves every accolade that’s undoubtedly coming its way. Hear the first three songs from the record below.

3. LVL UP – Extra Worlds/Porches. Split

LVL UP prove themselves again and again with each consecutive release. How this band isn’t fucking huge yet is anyone’s best guess and it still seems like that’ll happen in due time. One of the most thrilling and accessible bands going right now, LVL UP absolutely crushed 2013 with an outstanding EP and a split with Porches. that was every bit the EP’s equal. In both cases, this is full-throttle basement punk with powerpop flourishes that doesn’t skimp on aggression or melody. Flashes of everything from The Replacements at their best to Weezer at their best are all present and filtered organically enough to come across as an influence and not an imitation. It seems unlikely that LVL UP will be slowing down anytime soon. Hear both Extra Worlds and their split with Porches. below.


2. Perfect Pussy – I have lost all desire for feeling

There were no releases last year that felt as harrowing and personal as Perfect Pussy’s demo tape. It didn’t matter which way it was spun, the listener’s reaction, vocalist Meredith Graves’ determined confessionals, or the cultural dialogue it inspired; this was a personal affair. It was also an incredible piece of music, relentlessly energetic and unabashedly unapologetic in composition, production, and lyrical content. It was  a demo (and band) that meant a lot to this site, which is why Meredith Graves was chosen (and graciously agreed to be) Heartbreaking Bravery’s first interviewI have lost all desire for feeling also earned one of this site’s very first reviews and set off a chain reaction of positive effects that have extended into 2014. Listen to I have lost all desire for feeling below.

1. Tenement – Screaming Females Split + More Compilation/Puke and Destroy #2/Sick Club Vol. 3/Something to Dü

Sometimes things are predictable for a reason; this site hasn’t been shy about its feelings for Tenement. Despite not releasing any official LP’s or EP’s in 2013, they experienced one of their most successful years to date on the strength of their 7″ releases. There was their unbelievable entry into the Sick Club series on Cowabunga!, their stellar section of Puke & Destroy alongside Holy Shit!, Gleam Gardens, and The What-A-Nights, and an unbelievable (and entirely unexpected) compilation on bandcamp centered around their attention-demanding split with Screaming Females.  Additionally, the band also contributed to do the excellent Something to Dü five-band tribute on Dead Broke Rekerds offering up a volume-shifting take on “Obnoxious”. Throughout all of it, the band manages to show their full range from the battered and haunting “Ants and Flies” demo to their usual hardcore-tinged basement pop- as well as their usual lo-fi freakouts. It didn’t matter what mode they were in, everything from “Books on Hell + Sermons on T.V.” to “Twig” deserved an infinite amount of listens and serious year-end considerations. The scariest part of all this is that it still feels like this band is just getting started, especially considering the band already has two LP’s lined up for release on Grave Mistake and Don Giovanni, respectively, for next year. Hear all four of the band’s major 2013 releases below.




Rookie Streams the Beyond Inversion Comp

Image of Beyond Inversion - A Benefit Compilation for Rachael's Women Center in DC (CASSETTE PRE ORDER)

Those with hyper-specific memories may recall the Beyond Inversion compilation coming up on this site before. Now, thanks to Rookie, the entire thing’s available for streaming. Any excitement expressed over the release has now doubled as the comp’s managed to somehow exceed expectations. Not only is this great music for a great cause but it’s a coherent overview of the current state of basement punk. MRR’s Sound the Alarms may very well garner more press and immediate attention in certain DIY punk circles but, of the two, this has a better shot of turning into something resembling a landmark. It’s not difficult to imagine Beyond Inversion finding longevity, nor is it difficult to imagine the release finding a home as a highly sought-after collection staple. 

In the Rookie article linked above, one of the curators of Beyond Inversion, Jes Skolnik (of Split Feet), also contributes some helpful know-how in organizational tactics for putting together benefit compilations. Beyond Inversion itself features more than a few incredible tracks from the likes of Perfect Pussy, Technicolor Teeth, Potty Mouth, Sadie Dupuis, Jail Solidarity, Bret Lanhan, Failed Mutation, Hive Bent, and many, many more. All proceeds from purchasing Beyond Inversion will go to Rachael’s Women’s Center in Washington D.C., an organization devoted to supporting women struggling with, and recovering from, homelessness. It’s a collection worthy of its honorable cause. Strong shows of support make repeating instances of great things more likely so do the right thing and pre-order Beyond Inversion

On a personal note to curators Sean Gray, Jes Skolnik, Accidental Guest Recordings, and all of the bands involved; thank you for bringing this into existence. Things like Beyond Inversion always make the world a little better.