Heartbreaking Bravery

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Tag: Cocksure

Midnight Reruns – Force of Nurture (Album Review, Stream)

Midnight Reruns IV

Formatted in the same pattern as the last post due to the time constraints that CMJ prompted, the full streams collected in the interim from regularly scheduled coverage are listed at the very bottom of this post. It’s a decision that also allows the sole focus to be placed on Midnight Reruns‘ incredible sophomore effort, Force of Nurture. It’s worth noting that this is a band I’ve had the privilege of tracking since around the time of their first EP‘s release, which precedes this site’s existence, and they were one of the bands I created Heartbreaking Bravery to celebrate (they’ll always have the distinction of being the first band ever to appear on Watch This, which has now run for 100 segments).

During that time, I’ve been fortunate enough to catch a number of the band’s explosive live shows, which have– with good reason– mostly veered towards the material on Force of Nurture. The band put together a nice pre-release run for the album, including a very strong EP and the release of two of 2015’s best songs in “There’s An Animal Upstairs” and “Canadian Summer“. As good as all of those items were, they’d fail to suggest the extent of Force of Nurture‘s sheer weight, even if they were packaged together.

In a statement issued to Substream, who hosted the record’s premiere, guitarist/vocalist Graham Hunt spoke of the loss of a close personal friend, an event that reverberates throughout the record with a staggering force. It’s most noticeably present in the record’s connecting thematic elements; uncertainty, regret, struggle, and loss. Even Force of Nurture‘s most ostensibly positive moments come with the caveat of being opaque enough to suggest there could be a tremendously dark underlying subtext.

Aside from the record’s earned weariness, the compositions far exceed what the band accomplished on their extremely impressive self-titled debut, which is no mean feat. A very palpable debt to The Replacements is heavily reinforced by Force of Nurture‘s credits, which list Tommy Stinson (one of the group’s earliest supporters) as the record’s producer. While there are still aspects of the Thin Lizzy twin-lead dynamic that were so often cited in regards to their earlier work, the band leans more heavily on their Big Star influence this time around to exhilarating effect.

Hunt, as hinted at above, turns in a jaw-dropping lyric sheet that expertly bridges the record’s muted optimism with its struggles in solipism. Everything, down to our own most microbiological functions, is put on trial; no answers are granted and the questions that are posed cut deep. Debauchery runs rampant but the band never lets its determination flag, committing to “making people laugh” even in their bleakest moments.

As relentlessly dark as this is all sounding, the band still finds a way to present themselves through fiery guitar work, sun-soaked melodies, and propulsive rhythm section work that lends the proceedings the kind of vibrancy that renders Force of Nurture an addictive listen. It’s mid-section run, in particular, somehow manages to pull off a relative weightlessness in the face of its tragic, bruised lyricism. Whether its something like the strained relationship at the crux of “Where’s Ace?” or the dreamlike self-aggrandizement of “Sky Blue Water” that ends in a tragicomic defeat, there’s a very peculiar bite to the record that makes it feel deeply personal and unflinchingly vital.

By the time the band’s exhausted their arsenal of incredibly effective hooks (the only 2015 records I can think of that have approached being even remotely close to this successful in that sense are Sweet John Bloom’s Weird Prayer and Dogs On Acid’s self-titled), they’ve run an exhaustive gamut of hard-earned lessons and navigated the journey with a wary resiliency. As they well know, and devastatingly note on “Great Southern Rail”, the record’s sprawling eight minute closer, sometimes all it takes is just one gunshot.

As a personal exercise, Force of Nurture feels therapeutic in a way that seemed to be crushingly necessary. As a standalone full-length, it’s essential. Easily one of 2015’s most invigorating, affirming, and incendiary records, Force of Nurture aim goes far beyond most band’s goals and they hit their mark with a memorable emphasis. So, as things get difficult, depression lingers, houses burn, friends are lost, and seasons vanish to a place beyond recovery, we now have a deeply empathetic record to help us through those times. For that, we collectively owe Midnight Reruns a debt of gratitude- and a place for Force of Nurture in our collections.

Listen to Force of Nurture below and order a copy from Dusty Medical here. Beneath the embed, explore a list of some of the finest records to find release over the past few weeks.

Trust Fund – Seems Unfair
Laura Stevenson – Cocksure
Petal – Shame
Jonathan Bree – A Little Night Music
Ex-Breathers – Past Tense
Modern Baseball – Holy Ghost
Slanted – Lost Forever: B-Sides From Forever
Sleep Kit – Standby Me
Postcode – The Dandelion Radio Session
Wendy Alembic – Collected Early Works
Sports – All of Something
Community Records Compilation Vol. 5
Witch Coast – Burnt Out By 3PM
Walter – Get Well Soon
The Love Coffin – Veranda
Spray Paint – Dopers
Julien Baker – Sprained Ankle
Expert Alterations – You Can’t Always Be Liked
Alien Boy – Never Getting Over It
Dyke Drama – Tender Resignation
Florist – Vacation
Stumpf – Barf Radio
Greys – Repulsion
Haybaby – Sleepy Kids
Dead Painters – Aluminum Gold

Laura Stevenson – Claustrophobe (Stream)

Laura Stevenson.
More than four dozen items into today’s review of the past week of music and there’s still more than a dozen things left to cover. That’s absurd. It’s also indicative of just how consistent 2015’s been in terms of great new releases. Whether it was a pair of music videos from Pity Sex and Will Butler or what essentially amount to attention-snagging previews from Heavy Looks and Chris Sutter‘s intriguing solo venture Genie’s Organ Recordings. There were also outstanding new songs from Woozy, Three Man Cannon, Holy Oysters, Haybaby, Broadcaster, British Sea Power, Palmas, and Polyon, as well as a deeply compelling full-length from Brooks Strause. In addition to that wealth of memorable material, there was a breathtaking new song from site favorite Laura Stevenson.

Coming off of a career high– 2013’s Wheel, a wonderful record that keeps improving with age– Stevenson had the unenviable task of following up an unlikely genre classic. As each new song from the songwriter’s forthcoming Cocksure trickles out, the more it seems like the record may surpass its predecessor. “Claustrophobe”, the latest single to be unveiled from the record, makes an immediate impact with its stargazing guitar line and insistent piano-plinking. Unfurling with grace and determination, “Claustrophobe” plays to Stevenson’s most anthemic sensibilities, with its monster chorus doing quite a bit of its own heavy lifting.

Propulsive, dynamic, and bittersweet, “Claustrophobe” is the latest extension of a continuously improving winning streak from one of this generation’s more under-appreciated songwriters. If the rest of Cocksure lives up to its previews, Stevenson’s name may be appearing in a lot of desirable places. For now, the best course of action’s to simply enjoy the music and the building anticipation for the October 30 release date. Just hit repeat until that day arrives.

Listen to “Claustrophobe” below and pre-order Cocksure from Don Giovanni here.

Bruising – Emo Friends (Stream)

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Three weeks is a long time to go without covering a specific song in a feature section, something that inevitably means grappling with a whole  lot of content. Occasionally, some of the heavier decision making is made easy through very particular releases. One such type of release occurs when a young band (especially one who’s already been featured on this site) brings new material into the world. After establishing some level of investment through coverage, it’s exciting to see those acts capitalizing on early momentum.

Bruising are one of those bands and “Emo Friends” is their latest musical adventure. The duo of Naomi Baguley  and Ben Lewis continue to complement each other to some sort of perfection. The pull between their twee tendencies and something far more sinister continues to sustain their aesthetic and lend it a surprising amount of propulsive force. Effortlessly light melodies and razor-sharp guitar figures provide the song with a tattered cloth and give “Emo Friends” a palpable sense of place. As the distortion and cleanliness dip in and out, weaving an intricate pattern, the song as a whole barrels forward with little to no regard for easy expectations. It’s another thrilling moment from a band that’s continuing to build something worthy of greeting with genuine excitement.

Listen to “Emo Friends” below and pre-order the single from Beech Coma here. Underneath the embed, explored a handful of other great songs to find release over the past three weeks.

Winstons – Do My Best
Father John Misty – The Memo
Alex G – Kicker
Painted Zeros – Call Back
Yvette – Calm and  Content
Promised Land – Push and Pull (All the Time)
Triathalon – Slip’n
Mount Moriah – Calvander
Coke Weed – New Jive
Boosegumps – Stole Ur Bike
Little Fevers – Apple Tree
Lucern Raze – Happy and Astray
Public Access T.V. – Patti Peru
Babes Are Wolves – Wait
Paul Bergmann (ft. Emily Kokal) – Wishing Song
The Dirty Nil – No Weaknesses
The Radio Dept. – This Repeated Sodomy
The Decemberists – Why Would I Now?
Pony Time – Really Nice Guys
Threading – Candy Girl
Major Murphy – On & Off (National Broadcast TV)
Juliet K – Live With Me
Laura Stevenson – Cocksure
Linear Downfall  – The Question
Courtney and the Crushers – Room 309