Heartbreaking Bravery

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Tag: Colin Bares

Good Grief – Here Come the Waterworks (EP Review, Stream, Live Video Presentation)

Before getting too far into this specific review/essay, a slew of disclaimers are in order. First, I play drums in a band that includes a member of Good Grief. Second, all four of these members became close friends and supporters of my work in and outside of Heartbreaking Bravery and are tethered to the same self-created family that we all desperately needed to survive in a small, isolated city in the middle of Wisconsin. Third (and possibly the most important of these three): I didn’t know any of these people until I saw Good Grief play for the first time nearly a decade ago, an instance that immediately registered as one of those world-caving experiences of startling discovery; I knew these were my people before they allowed me into their family.

If entertainment truly lives and dies at the intersection of talent, connections, and insistence, I will go to bat for this band long after they hang up their cables.

That last statement is one I can say with an abundance of conviction, as I was still screaming recommendations at people in passing (and in person) in a four and a half year absence. For a long while it seemed like the band would be permanently dissolved, leaving behind a memorable legacy for the people who were there the first time around, packing in basements and losing their voices screaming along to songs like “Basic Math” and “Flirting With Death“. All that was left was a distant, desperate hope for a reunion or for the songs that never got recorded at the end of the run to find their way to a posthumous release (while holding on to the several hours of live footage I’d amassed with a white-knuckle grip).

In late 2016, the band returned and filled out a local bar that was packed with enough pent-up longing and energy from both the band and the audience that the place nearly disintegrated in the moment. Shortly after, there was a promise of more shows and new material. Here Come the Waterworks is the fulfillment of both that promise and the platform for a handful of songs that were nearly lost apart from that previously mentioned footage (along with the scattered clips of a select few other people).

A handful of post-reunion shows and the band’s picking up right where they left off, a little more poised, a little more learned, and more willing to challenge themselves. All of those points are made abundantly clear on “State of Disbelief”, “Blood and Kin”, and “Gumming Up the Works”, the half of the EP that’s entirely new material. The other half belongs to the songs that were rescued (“High Society”, “Holy Smokes”, and “In Through the Outhouse”), which have been brushed up and injected with a startling sense of galvanization.

Here Come the Waterworks also represents the most evenly split release of the band’s discography, which now spans 2 EP’s and 2 full-length efforts. Half of these songs are led by Colin Bares, who continues to astonish here as he has in previous projects The Coral Riffs, The Weasel, Marten Fisher, The Cost of Living (a project that was born out of Good Grief’s initial dissolution which also retained drummer Jess Nowaczyk), and Mr. Martin and the Sensitive Guys (another project that Good Grief bassist Jarad Olson lent his considerable talent [in addition to spearheading a solo project]). The other half are headed up by Dirk Gunderson, who carved out a name for himself through not only Good Grief but Heavy Looks (which also features Olson) but also by way f some impressive solo work by way of The Deadly Vices.

Across six songs, everyone lays it on the line, committing to their material with a newfound understanding of what they can create. Guitars are left out of tune in spots to create dissonance, vocal overlays enhance the atmosphere in multiple spots, and when the harmonies hit, they hit hard. Gunderson and Bares both provide some of the best work of their respective careers. Their off-kilter pop and unrepentant punk influences still thrive at an intersection that owes a meaningful debt to acts like The Unicorns and The Libertines while offering enough distinct personality to create its own category.

Smart composition, clever hooks, and no shortage of attitude are littered across this EP, which is comprised of nothing but high points. The band’s thoughtfulness is evident throughout Here Come the Waterworks but never sacrifices the immediacy that’s drawn so many people into their circle over the years. There’s no room for error or filler and each member has an intrinsic understanding of how the others work, which translates into a tight-knit formula that elevates the material to a significant degree; Bares’ pained vocals are served by Gunderson’s ambient leads while Gunderson’s unbridled tenacity is enhanced by a characteristically busy and propulsive rhythm section (and so on).

All of it works just as it’s always worked, only this time around the band’s fully aware of their most minuscule machinations and have fine-tuned every facet of their operation. It’s a level of dedication that’s created a snarling behemoth; the years where they stepped away are met here with a vengeance. “Gumming Up the Works”, especially, feels like a declaration of intent; this is a band that’s here to strengthen their own sizable mark. Here Come the Waterworks is a new chapter for the band, and their future, suddenly, has risen from absence and bloomed into an open boundlessness.

When all’s said and done, the last note played, Good Grief resuscitated from the urn’s ashes, this EP stands as a spotless example of what this site was built to celebrate, something that doesn’t come as much of a surprise given that Good Grief were a fundamental part of this entire site’s creation and will continue to be an integral part of Heartbreaking Bravery going forward. It’s a band that’s entwined with the DNA of everything this place — and like-minded places — hope to accomplish: to serve as a platform where elevating hidden or overlooked voices becomes not only possible but the desired goal.

Geographical privilege, lack of funds, lack of notoriety… none of those things matter. All that matters is the music and the people responsible for the music’s creation. This is a band of people doing their best to be kind, writing songs that could go toe-to-toe with an entire arsenal of forgettable acts who are gifted late night TV slots, but there’s a modesty to what they do that none only makes it difficult to gain traction but be seen or heard at all. Hopefully, this post doesn’t wind up being the only piece to attempt a richly-deserved course correction.

Still, Here Come the Waterworks stands proudly as an astonishing release that deserves a far wider audience than it’ll likely get as it’s forced to stare down disappointingly arbitrary mitigating factors. Even with that being the case, the EP’s a testament to the bands who know that making a noticeable impact in the macro doesn’t matter if you can meaningful shape the lives of the people who are present enough to be reached. It’s a record that’s been around five years in the making and it’s a record that makes me proud of the people I chose to align myself with: a piece of art that re-enforces those decisions with abandon.

Good Grief were one of a very select handful of bands who changed the direction of my life and these six songs casually reflect those moments. They made my hometown feel more like an actual home. We lived in basements, we drank together, we suffered with each other, we celebrated with each other, and we did our best to make something meaningful, not just on our own but together. It’s beyond heartening to have that indomitable spirit not only survive an extended break but be rekindled into the roaring fire that is Here Come the Waterworks.

Listen to (and watch) Here Come the Waterworks below, pick it up here, and keep an eye on this site for more updates on one of the best bands more people deserve to know.

HB1000: A Step Forward (Compilation)

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When I started Heartbreaking Bravery nearly three years ago, I had no intention of pursuing it as a legitimate venture. Now, 1,000 posts, 50,000+ links, and countless words later, the site’s come to be the type of platform I’ve always loved seeing in the world. I could attempt to wax poetic on the nature of personal discovery and growth that running this place has afforded me but Heartbreaking Bravery was never about a single person, it’s always functioned best as a communal entity.

The ideas that formed the basic structure of Heartbreaking Bravery all came from artists producing exceptional work with little recognition. Repeatedly watching that transaction occur proved too disheartening. Whether it was the earliest years of Tenement, the later years of Good Grief, or virtually the entire run of Sleeping in the Aviary, there were always ceaselessly talented artists surrounding me that only ever seemed to receive the slightest of nods.

Heartbreaking Bravery originally aimed — and continues to aim — to provide a more level playing field to emerging artists, without reducing their worth to financial opportunity. Heartbreaking Bravery continues to value the community and intimacy that informs the DIY music world. Heartbreaking Bravery will continue to use the platform it’s been granted to elevate the idea of greater equality.

It’s in that spirit that I’m honored to present A Step Forward, a two-volume compilation spanning 100 tracks that exclusively features artists who are connected to this site’s history. Whether that was through a long history of collaboration or something as small as a twitter follow, the impact was not lost or left unappreciated. There’s a heavy emphasis on artists residing in the cities and states Heartbreaking Bravery has called home (Stevens Point, WI and Brooklyn, NY) and a small selection of songs that were premiered on this site.

100% of the proceeds of A Step Forward will be going to Rape Victim Advocates, a non-profit Chicago-based organization that’s doing vital (and, sadly, necessary) work for survivors of sexual assault. Read more about the organization here. It’s my sincerest hope that every publication that has the privilege of visibility manages to find ways to use any of their influence for productive good and to affect positive change. Please consider donating what you can to a meaningful cause.

Finally, I wanted to express gratitude to all of the artists (and any of their teams) involved — including the inimitable Phil McAndrew, who turned in the extraordinary album art — and all of the people that have allowed, even willed, this site to the point it’s at today. It likely would have disappeared without that support and I owe those people a debt of gratitude that could never be truly repaid. A special thanks to Fred Thomas, whose “What Changes When The Costumes Come Off” was written with the specifics of A Step Forward in mind.

Enjoy the compilation, support independent art, and join me, this site, these artists, and this cause in taking A Step Forward.

Tracklist below.

A Step Forward: Vol. 1*

1. Vacation – Caked Joy Rag (Demo)
2. Mike Krol – Neighborhood Watch (Demo)
3. Dead Stars – So Strange (Demo)
4. Mo Troper – After the Movies (Demo)
5. Fern Mayo – The Sweets (Demo)
6. Hater – Like Hours (Demo)
7. Sharkmuffin – Only Mondays (Demo)
8. Fits – Ice Cream On A Nice Day (Demo)
9. Missy – Patience (Demo)
10. Kodakrome – Skeletons (Demo)
11. Slight – Run (Demo)
12. Long Neck – Goldfinch (Demo)
13. Phyllis Ophelia – Probably Not (Demo)
14. Lever – Cure (Demo)
15. Puppy Problems – Destroyer (Demo)
16. Battle Ave. – Black Jeans (Demo)
17. Yours Are The Only Ears – Alone Bear (Demo)
18. Attendant – Some Other Language (Demo)
19. MKSEARCH – Little Song (Demo)
20. Sulky Boy – Birches (Demo)
21. Heavy Looks – Those Guys (Demo)
22. darn it. – (again) pt. II
23. Phooey! – On an On
24. Arm Candy – Big Clunker
25. DTCV – Le Vampire
26. Clearance – The Queen of Eyes
27. Leggy – I’m Gonna Destroy That Boy
28. Big Air – Hit Me in the Mouth
29. Terry Malts – Look (At the Mess That We’re In)
30. Ubetcha – Musician
31. Two Inch Astonaut – Suckers Share
32. Whelpwisher – Bucket for the Sky
33. Petite League – Magic Johnson
34. The Meltaways (ft. Kate M) – Wrong Words
35. Calumet – Indian Summer
36. Mulligrub – Little Fist
37. Ben Seretan – Stay In Touch
38. Mumblr – Friendship Stew
39. Human People – Useless Things
40. Bethlehem Steel – Florida Two
41. Painted Zeros – Sweet Briar Rose
42. Spit – Paul Westerberg
43. Crusher – Running
44. Pupppy – Stand By Me
45. Aberdeen – Once You Fall In Love
46. Tica Douglas – Enough
47. Peaer – Multiverse
48. The Weasel, Marten Fisher – What Is Love
49. Young Jesus – Mirroring
50. Space Mountain – Earthrise

A Step Forward: Vol. II*

1. Bellows – Bank Checks
2. Cave Curse – Arcadia
3. Fred Thomas – What Changes When the Costumes Come Off
4. Apollo Vermouth – He Sees You, He Loves You
5. Green Dreams – Psychic Woes (Alternate Mix)
6. Lost Boy ? – Have You Seen My Brain (Space Cat Sessions)
7. Mikaela Davis – Pure Divine Love (Early Mix)
8. Nano Kino – Recovery (Early Mix)
9. Trophy Dad – Addison (Early Mix)
10. Alanna McArdle – Less Than (Early Mix)
11. VVHILE – Don’t Belong (Live)
12. Liam Betson – Mispronounced (Live)
13. BAG-DAD – Bruv (Live)
14. Slothrust – Keg Party (Live)
15. The Nudes – Nowhere to Be
16. Sat. Nite Duets – Cemetery Steve
17. Slanted – Fake Party
18. Patio – Gold
19. Greys – No Star
20. No Hoax – Date With Death
21. Dirty Dishes – Red Roulette
22. Yeesh – On Some Dirt
23. Pile – Cut From First Other Tape
24. Even Hand – Nightsmoke the Fuss
25. PURPLE 7 – Wise Up
26. Bad Wig – Machinehead
27. Mary Lynn – Space
28. Pleistocene – CMJ Compilation 1996
29. Color TV – Anybody’s Girl
30. Jacky Boy – Bad
31. Trust Fund – Would That Be An Adventure?
32. Good Grief – City People
33. Adir L.C. – Hangover
34. Milk Crimes – H8RZ
35. À La Mode – Total Doom
36. Inside Voices – Nomad: Begin
37. Doe – Corin
38. Kindling – Became
39. Bueno – Blown Out
40. Horse Teeth – Dark & Gloomy
41. Ron Gallo – Put the Kids to Bed
42. Sun’s Out Bummed Out – Cut All My Hair
43. Eric Slick – The Dirge
44. Fruit & Flowers – Turqoise
45. Shilpa Ray – Hymn
46. Jack – Sister System
47. Strange Ranger – Whatever You Say
48. Johanna Warren – A Bird in the Crocodile’s Mouth
49. Oceanator – Nowhere Nothing
50. Fresh Snow – Eat Me In St. Louis (Bryan W. Bray – Eaten by the Cetacean Mix)

Vol. I

Tracks 1-21: Demos
Tracks 22-50: New Songs

Vol. II

Tracks 1-4: New Songs (cont’d)
Tracks 5-14: Alternate Mixes and Live Songs
Tracks 15-49: Old Favorites
Track 50: Remix

 

15 of ’15: The Best Odds and Ends of 2015

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There has been no shortage of outstanding music to find release over the past 12 months over a wide variety of formats. This list (which, once again, is entirely subjective and not meant to be an overarching authoritative statement) pulls from a number of curiosities: splits, vinyl-only releases, demos, and compilations. A few of these slipped through the cracks or were pulled and replaced in the past few weeks, making this one of the stranger year-end lists this site’s likely to ever run. All of those changes will be reflected and noted as they come into play. With all that and mind and a ton of material yet to come it’s high time to jump into 15 of ’15: The Best Odds and Ends of 2015.

15. Patio – Patio Songs

One of the more memorable debut efforts of 2015 also proved to be one of the most promising.Patio– a trio made up of Lindsey-Paige McCloy, Loren DiBlasi, and Alice Suh- had spent years in development. After initially starting as a joke that escalated into reality, the band finally committed some of their material to a recording- the aptly named Patio Songs and secured a lot of word-of-mouth buzz in the process. “luxury” and “air j” both memorably demonstrate the band’s knack for wiry post-punk that comes equipped with noir-ish overtones. Don’t be surprised to see the band expand on their early successes in big ways in 2016.

 

14. Mean Creek – The Best of…

While a lot of bands hung up their cables over the course of 2015, it may have been the loss of Mean Creek that stung the most, simply because they were quitting because of many of the industry’s most severe flaws. Instead of caving into the pressures and demands of outside parties that wanted to model Mean Creek at will as a commercial product instead of an artistic one. When the band decided they’d had enough and were ready to take a bow, they went out in heroic fashion, issuing this best-of collection shortly before their final show. As one last rousing call to arms, the band kicks the compilation of with “Forgotten Streets“, their swan song and a rousing call to arms that provided the band with one last definitive moment.

 

13. PWR BTTM + Jawbreaker Reunion – Republican National Convention

Despite already having one EP under their belt, this was PWR BTTM‘s introduction at large and a searing start to what would prove to be a monumental 2015 for the duo. Jawbreaker Reunion, on the other hand, was riding a wave of critical acclaim and some early success thanks to their extraordinary full-length debut, Lutheran Sisterhood Gun Club, which carved out an impressive ranking for this site’s Best Albums of 2014 list. Both bands turn in impressive efforts for Republican National Convention, which include the anthemic “Hold Yer Tongue” on PWR BTTM’s side and the lively “Andrew In Drag” on Jawbreaker Reunion’s, making this split a worthy entry for each of their discographies.

 

12. No Ruido / No Noise

Edgar Gonzalez has been a vital voice in DIY punk, social ethics, and a legion of other topics but also found time to make a mark with the curation of No Ruido / No Noise– a name-your-price compilation with the proceeds going to the family of Tamir Rice- which will likely go down as the signature release for his recently formed label, Edgar’s Friends. Several of today’s most exciting, politically-minded acts provide a track, from Priests to Perfect Pussy, finding space to include songwriters like Frankie Rose, Fred Thomas, and Radiator Hospital as well. It’s a startling collection that actually has the potential to make a difference via positive impact and that alone puts No Ruido / No Noise in a class of its own.

11. Happy Diving – So Bunted b/w My Zone

After 2014’s towering Big World, no one would have been surprised if Happy Diving had taken time to promote the record and celebrate its success. Instead, they turned around and quickly unleashed the incendiary 7″ that paired “So Bunted” with “My Zone”, each operating as an ample demonstration of the band’s distinctive blend of grunge, sludge, shoegaze, and basement pop. As bruising as they’ve ever been, Happy Diving may hav even turned in a career best with So Bunted b/w My Zone and, at the very least, have certainly demolished any lingering doubts about their levels of promise or capacity for longevity. A formidable effort by any metric, it’s a record that says everything it needs to in under five minutes and leaves an impressive mark.

 

10. Faux Real II

The second installment of Father/Daughter Records‘ immensely entertaining Faux Real series introduces a new collection of covers from fictional bands. An arsenal of site favorites populate Faux Real II, from Krill to Quarterbacks to LVL UP to Allison Crutchfield. Every single track on Faux Real II would be a worthy choice for an album highlight and a few of them- like Sharpless‘ explosive take on the Home Movies classic rock opera piece “Franz Kafka”- manage to wind up being unforgettable. Somehow the series once again manages to swerve away from the seeming inevitability of coming across as a novelty and transcends its premise to function as a curious look at some of the most promising emerging acts of the current moment.

9. Bruising – Emo Friends b/w Honey 

Only a scant few songs into their career, Bruising have already managed to make a considerable impact. After initially forming over a Perfect Pussy t-shirt in a club, the band put together a startling run in 2015 that turned more than a few heads. Excelling in the sort of pop-laden shoegaze that bands like Joanna Gruesome have built a career in crafting, Bruising comes at their hybrid-genre in a manner that feels like their own. For their debut standalone 7″ effort (following the brilliant “Think About Death” for Art Is Hard’s Family Portrait II), the band pairs the lilting “Emo Friends” with the incendiary tones of “Honey” to create something that feels as lasting as it does immediate. If Emo Friends b/w Honey‘s is the band’s first earnest step in their career, it’s a strong enough start to warrant some serious excitement over the band’s future.  


8. Meat Wave – Brother

While some would argue that this should be filed in the EP column, it’s mainly comprised of material the band had either already released on their explosive self-titled (a personal pick for one of the best releases of the 2010’s) or material that would be released on their bruising Delusion Moon LP. Every bit as frantic as its predecessor, Brother wields the same manic approach to even sharper effect, taking Meat Wave‘s music to a place a little darker than their debut. Relentlessly aggressive and downright venomous at every turn, it’s a staggering display of force from a band that seems intent on drawing blood with every new song they release. Brother ends with a trio of songs that don’t appear on Meat Wave or Delusion Moon but, by and large, manage to carry that same level of potency, effectively rendering this an essential starter kit for the uninitiated.

7. Post-Trash: Vol. 1

Just over a month ago, the senate voted to stop federal payments to Planned Parenthood. In response, Post-Trash issued their first (incredibly massive) compilation and announced the proceeds would go to funding Planned Parenthood. It was a strong move in principle alone but the bands that they amassed for this compilation (and the songs they contributed) pushed it into sublime realms. Site favorite Eskimeaux turns in the beautiful “Act Like A Piece of Shit”, Melkbelly provide their fierce “Bathroom at the Beach”, Patio– the band that kicked that list off- offer up a song from their demo, and 50 other bands (Pile, Fern Mayo, Painted Zeros, Soft Fangs, Palehound, Eugene Quell, Sadie Dupuis, Washer, Stove, etc.) all get in on the action. Ultimately, Post-Trash: Vol. 1 is one of the year’s most intimidating compilations due to its length but it also rewards investment at a much higher rate than anything else released this year.

 

6. The Weasel, Marten Fisher – Soundcloud

Perhaps the most left-field inclusion on this list is simply a soundcloud page, though it shouldn’t come as much of a surprise to anyone who’s followed my writing over the course of the year. Colin Bares has managed to impress on exceedingly high levels with his work in bands like The Cost of Living and Good Grief as well as his various solo projects (most notably The Coral Riffs). After a brief, sudden disappearance from songwriting, Bares re-emerged towards the end of 2014 and kept that momentum at high velocity throughout the course of the past 12 months, flying under the banner of The Weasel, Marten Fisher. Bares’ soundcloud became a veritable source of inspiration thanks to an eclectic blend of covers (including two devastating Cyndi Lauper takes) and a large collection of astonishing originals. Nearly all of those songs (and there are a handsome handful) are merely acoustic guitar/vocal demos but when there is a subversion from that template, like on a memorably dark Cat Power cover, the results are arresting. Keep both eyes on this page’s surprisingly frequent updates and expect to be blown away.

Listen to those songs (the 2015 run begins with “Empty Bucket List“, one of the year’s finest songs) and track The Weasel, Marten Fisher’s progress here.


5. Diet Cig – Sleep Talk b/w Dinner Date

While Over Easy was the release that rightfully jump-started Diet Cig‘s career, their finest moment in 2015 didn’t come via that EP (though it deserves it’s many year-end placements), it was their subsequent 7″ that proved their strength. “Sleep Talk“, the band’s finest song out of the few they’ve released thus far, serves as the record’s powerful A-side. Encapsulating the youthful vibrancy and excessive energy that made Over Easy such an infectious listen, it shows that the band has untapped depths with it’s gorgeous, layered outro section. From those haunting final moments, the duo pushes their music into darker territory than usual with the bruising “Dinner Date” that marries Alex Luciano’s characteristically barbed lyrics with uncharacteristically moody instrumentals that add some venom into their suddenly unrestrained menace. Packaged as a whole, Sleep Talk b/w Dinner Date is an extremely promising look at the young band’s future, definitively proving that they’re much more than a one-trick pony.

 

4. Sleeping in the Aviary – Young Love Is Easy

For a band that broke up a few years ago, Sleeping in the Aviary had a monster 2015. Not only did most of the band play on Mike Krol‘s exhilarating Merge Records debut (Turkey), they also joined Krol for several tours and unleashed this manic compilation of some of their finest moments, none of which ever made it to a record’s final cut. From the outset, the band’s in fine form, dishing out their punk-spiked, doo-wop-leaning basement pop songs with unapologetic intensity, unveiling some of their most vicious songs in the process. Whether they’re more tapped into their ’50s influences (“No One As Lonely As Me”), their propensity to go straight for the jugular (opener “Harder Shoulder”), or endearingly irreverent humor (the rambling, acoustic “Dick Gere”), their success rate is astounding. Over the course of their career, the band released four incredible full-lengths and an untouchable split 7″ with The Hussy so it makes sense that they’d leave behind a wealth of material but even from a pragmatic standpoint, the overwhelming strength of Young Love Is Easy is staggering, making it one of the best releases of any format to find release in 2015.

 

3. Dusk – (Do the) Bored Recluse b/w Too Sweet

Every project that’s been connected back to Tenement has been more than worthwhile so it probably shouldn’t come as too much of a surprise that Dusk fit that bill to a tee. What’s slightly more surprising is the direction that the band’s taking, mixing flourishes of gospel with classic country influence and more than a few cues from the golden era of soul. Comparatively, the approach isn’t too dissimilar from The Band’s, it’s just been updated and provided with an additional punk-leaning bite. From the rollicking cow-punk of “(Do the) Bored Recluse” to the blue-eyed soul of “Too Sweet“, there isn’t a false move, the entire 7” just plays like a sustained series of grace notes. Both sides also feature some of the finest backing vocal arrangement in recent memory, ably showcasing the band’s impressive knack for both composition and multi-part harmonies. Equally engaging, both tracks are a clear indicator of the band’s innate charisma and sense of history. While the A-side once again taps into Amos Pitsch’s tendency to transform mundane circumstance into something worth celebrating, the B-side takes an unexpectedly romantic route. Each confirms Dusk as one of our best new acts.


2. Lost Boy ? – Canned 

The last unorthodox inclusion in a list full of them is perhaps the most jarring due to the circumstances surrounding its multi-year, multi-format release. Lost Boy ?‘s Canned was absent from last year’s list, when it had only been released as a cassette (and, subsequently, wasn’t available to stream anywhere) and its placement here acts as a small compensation. In 2015, the band decided to roll it out as an LP, which also made it publicly available for streaming. Far and away, Lost Boy ?’s strongest work to date- in a fairly stacked discography, no less- Canned was a complete distillation of the band’s distinctive personality, spearheaded by Davey Jones. Purportedly written in the midst and aftermath of a breakdown, Jones and his band attack these songs like their lives depended on the outcome. From the snare shots on “Hollywood” to the syncopated vocal syncopation in “Bank” to the casual groove of “Hemorrhage” there’s never a moment that’s anything less than completely electrifying, solidifying Lost Boy ?’s status as one of New York’s finest bands. An arsenal of memorable riffs, tossed-off asides, and genuine emotion fuel Canned and, as a result, it’s a collection that still feels surprisingly fresh after more than a hundred listens. Canned wasn’t just one of the best releases of 2014, it was one of the best of 2015 as well.

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1. Mercury Girls – Demos & Live Songs

No debut effort this year resonated quite like Mercury Girls’ immediately memorable Demos and Live Songs collection, which saw them fall effortlessly into the c86/Slumberland model of punk-informed powerpop. Close to everything on this release is near-flawless, issuing one pop gem after another at an alarming rate. From the dream-pop tones that permeate “Golden” to the band’s incredibly tight-knit live recordings, it’s abundantly clear that they’ve studied their multi-tiered genres’ ancestry in great detail. Everything on Demos & Live Songs works to an airy perfection, firmly establishing the band’s identity and suggesting that whenever their first full-length drops it’ll be met with waves of acclaim. While it’s easy to imagine the band being fairly successful from a commercial standpoint (especially in the terms of such a niche genre), it’s even more apparent that Mercury Girls are built for success- potentially to an intimidating degree- from a critical standpoint at well. Immediate, accessible, and extraordinarily tantalizing, they’ve harnessed something that comes across as surprisingly singular. That aspect of their music will go a long way in helping the band stand out in a field that feels increasingly overcrowded, likely ensuring their spot on several year-end lists to come.

 

Lucy Dacus – I Don’t Wanna Be Funny Anymore (Stream)

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[EDITOR’S NOTE: With the site now entering emergency year-end catch-up mode thanks to the cruel, mocking nature of time, tonight’s trio of posts will simply be short reviews of the song(s) in the headline(s) and an accompanying list of tracks that deserve to be heard.]

Sometimes a song comes along from an artist you’ve never heard of and lays you flat. “I Don’t Wanna Be Funny Anymore” was one of those songs for me, a determined exploration of identity from Lucy Dacus that’s laced with a self-flagellating venom. Even in the midst of its own internal cruelty, though, its aspirations are commendable and showcase a startling drive. Singular, memorable, and incredibly endearing, “I Don’t Wanna Be Funny Anymore” was one of the brightest musical moments of the past several months. If it’s any indication of what Dacus has in store, the songwriter may just emerge with one of 2016’s most celebrated collections.

Listen to “I Don’t Wanna Be Funny Anymore” below and keep an eye on this site for more from Dacus in the future. Underneath the embed, explore a list of great songs to have appeared over the course of the last several months.

The Weasel, Marten Fisher – Talkin’ Like You (Two Tall Mountains)
Thee Oh Sees – Fortress
Big Putts – Prism
Copperfox – War Horse
Slow Culture – Hoax
Ulrika Spacek – She’s A Cult
Sudakistan – You And Your Way
Washer – Figure Me Out
Littler – Not My Market
Stardeath and the White Dwarfs – What Keeps You Up At Night
Bryce Dessner – Imagining Buffalo
Mass Gothic – Nice Night
Sioux Falls – Soaked In Sleep
Johnny Gallagher – Two Fists Full
The Besnard Lakes – The Plain Moon
Florist – The Birds Outside Sang
The Starting Line – Anyways
Public Access TV – Here Come The Bells
Pinemen – That Certain Flavour

All Dogs – Skin (Stream)

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Depending on the releases, some days are made easy and- while the reprieve is welcome- it can be disheartening. Then there are days like today, which offer a frustration spurred by more than a few releases being too good to settle on a definitive feature. For a large portion of the planning that went into this post, the intended feature was going to go to Ought’s most recent blistering, insistent masterwork, “Men For Miles“.  Even in those stages, the song had competition in the likes of Nabil’s jaw-dropping GoPro interactive design that acted as the moody clip for Foals’ fiery “Mountain At My Gates“.

It wasn’t as if that trio was without competition, either. Deer Tick’s gorgeous “Grandfather Song“, Faux Ferocious’ scuzzy “Nowhere To Go“, Team Spirit’s pulsating “Takin’ My Time (Never Enough)“, Doubting Thomas Cruise Control’s frenetic “Lenny Bruce“, Birthmark’s slow-building “Find Yourself” would have constituted an impressive field on their own accord. Elevating the difficulty was the fact two outstanding unique features surfaced in the form of an engrossing Tickle Torture documentary and a full recording of a recent set from Colin Bares (the songwriter behind The Weasel, Marten Fisher project), whose responsible for some of the year’s finest songs.

Even the full streams had a great day, with excellent offerings from bratty scuzz-punks Fox Face, the lo-fi neurotics in Ego, the punk-indebted basement poppers in Vamos, and the increasingly fascinating (and darkly tinted) world of Black Thumb. Rounding the day out were compelling music videos from Wild Ones, Oddisee, and Living Decent. Even with all of that taken into consideration, though, the day still ultimately belonged to All Dogs.

Having just released a surefire song of the year candidate in “That Kind of Girl“, the band was presented with the unenviable  task of selecting the follow-up track for their forthcoming record’s rollout campaign. A lot of different modes can be considered (and ultimately, selected) for this slot and “Skin” seems to fall into one of the trickier categories to pull off: the song that demonstrates the record’s range and scope. In the past, those songs have tended to fall more towards the acute version of sophomore slump than anything else but “Skin” hurdles those traps with no shortage of grace to all but ensure Kicking Every Day will be among 2015’s best releases.

All Dogs have never been shy about finding something beautiful in damage, something that’s been continuously driven home by the frequently devastating lyrics of Maryn Jones (who’s also a member of site favorites Saintseneca and Yowler, the latter being Jones’ solo outfit). “Skin”, over the course of it’s slow-building five minutes and change, finds Jones grappling with some of the prevailing themes throughout her discography: loneliness, self-doubt, resilience, self-sabotage, and quiet redemption. All of which continue to feel deeply personal, nearing a point of voyeurism that only grows more nerve-wracking as the song progresses.

Elevating the feeling of tension is the scintillating dynamic angle that All Dogs uncovered when transitioning their writing process to a full-band ordeal following the addition of guitarist Nick Harris. Every conceivable element that made the band so great to begin with gets amplified by this approach and the dividends are already paying off in startling fashion. The interplay between Jones’ and Harris’ guitar work is increasingly nuanced and the rhythm work’s even more emotive than it’s been in the past, contributing to some newfound atmospherics that complement the band to perfection.

Looking at the sheer magnitude of “Skin” in comparison to anything found on the band’s debut 7″ (which was reviewed in the sixth post to ever run on Heartbreaking Bravery) is revelatory. At the level the band’s currently operating, they’ve unlocked a seemingly boundless arsenal of styles to achieve increasingly varied effects. From the subtle, interlocking post-punk guitar work to the bruised euphoria of the chorus, “Skin” is a jaw-dropping indication of the band’s ever-expanding capabilities. Throw in an earnest, beating heart at the core and All Dogs’ future suddenly looks intimidatingly bright.

All that’s left at this point is to find out whether the band can top perfection.

Listen to “Skin” below and pre-order Kicking Every Day from Salinas here.

White Reaper – Last 4th of July (Music Video)

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Another day of great releases gone by, another batch of exciting releases to cover. With yesterday’s coverage going to the Ben Seretan premiere, there’ll be material to have surfaced from both today and yesterday running in this post. For music videos, we were graciously gifted Eternal Summers’ kitchen trip “Comes Alive“, Heaven’s Gate’s oddly eerie “Sally Says“, The Libertines’ weirdly inspired (and psych-tinged) return clip “Gunga Din“, and Big Noble’s characteristically gorgeous “Traveler“. White Reaper‘s “Last 4th of July” wound up getting this post’s focus and will be expanded on shortly.

Heather Woods Brodericks’ Glider and Nap Eyes’ Whine of the Mystic held down the fort for the full streams (and revealed themselves to be two of 2015’s finest low-key releases). The Rubs’ basement pop gem “Until He’s Mine“, Uh Bones’ psych-damaged “Everyday Killer“, Aye Nako’s spiky outsider punk tune “Worms“, Vacation’s continuously shifting “The Heat“, Tedo Stone’s Southern-tinged powerpop number “To The Marshes“, and a pair of tracks from site favorite theweaselmartenfisher (an extraordinary, heartfelt cover of Cyndia Lauper’s “Girls Just Wanna Have Fun” and another original knockout, “Create Dangerously“) constituted the single stream bracket.

White Reaper’s upcoming White Reaper Does It Again is an unbelievably explosive record (two of the songs the band’s released in the rollout campaign have already been featured on this site) so it sort of makes sense there’s a song on it called “Last 4th of July”. Continuing on with sensible decisions, the band’s decided to release a music video for the 100 second tune just in time for this year’s 4th.

Retro effects provide the clip with a fun opening before it takes an unexpected left turn and devolves into a beautifully-lensed series of shots where the band wreak absolute havoc on the windows and windshields of a variety of scrapyard vehicles. Much like White Reaper Does It Again, the whole affair is a jolt of surging adrenaline that establishes White Reaper as an absolute force. Join the party or get the hell out of the way.

Watch “Last 4th of July” below and pre-order White Reaper Does It Again ahead of its July 17 release date from Polyvinyl here.

2015: Halfway Home (Mixtape)

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Only a little past its halfway point, 2015’s already been an absurdly strong year for music. Numerically staggering, it’s yielded a handful of classics across a variety of genres and a plethora of outstanding small releases. While this mix skews more towards the latter than, say, Kendrick Lamar’s To Pimp A Butterfly, it’s still worth noting how kind this year’s release schedule has been across the board. To reflect on some of this year’s best offerings so far- and to celebrate this site’s 550th post- a mixtape’s been curated for your enjoyment. Nearly all of these songs and artists have been featured on the site previously, lending this particular mix a more retrospective feel than a few of the past entries in the mixtape series, but they’re all worth celebrating as much as possible. Ranging from folk and ambient flourishes to heavy 90’s influences to thoroughly modern post-punk to spritely basement pop, there’s an entry for just about every genre marker that receives regular coverage on the site.

So, without further ado, here’s a mixtape of some of 2015’s strongest highlights (at least so far, there are still quite a few promising items for the year’s latter half). The tracklist for 2015: Halfway Home can be found beneath the embed. Enjoy.



1. Girlpool – Before The World Was Big

2. Waxahatchee – Under A Rock
3. Mean Creek – Forgotten Streets
4. Royal Headache – Hgih
5. Radioactivity – Pretty Girl
6. Diet Cig – Breathless
7. Washer – Joe
8. Courtney Barnett – Pedestrian At Best
9. Mikal Cronin – Made My Mind Up
10. Torres – Sprinter
11. Jason Isbell – 24 Frames (Live)
12. theweaselmartenfisher – Empty Bucket List
13. Pupppy – Puking (Merry Christmas!)

14. Christopher Paul Stelling – Dear Beast
15. Fraser A. Gorman – Shiny Gun
16. Young Jesus – Milo
17. Girls Names – Reticence
18. Institute – Cheerlessness
19. Happy Diving – So Bunted
20. Downies – Widow
21. Meat Wave – Erased
22. Connor La Mue – Stargazer
23. Bruising – Think About Death
24. Meredith Graves – Took The Ghost to the Movies
25. Yowler – The Offer

Royal Headache – High (Stream)

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Before jumping into the songs that have emerged over the past two days (& in subsequent posts, the material that’s surfaced over the past week), I’d like to start by issuing an apology to anyone that’s checked this space expecting new material recently (and, in a way, to the expectations I set for myself). I’m in the middle of navigating a move from the middle of Wisconsin to Brooklyn, so coverage will be more sporadic than usual. Once the move’s been established, though, the landscape will be a lot more vibrant than it has been in the past; everything will even out eventually. I’m not here to dwell on exposition, though, I’m here to share the things- on this specific occasion, songs from the past two days- that caught my attention.

The Hussy’s “Appleseeds” provided a blistering reintroduction to one of Wisconsin’s best bands while “Bill Murray” continued theweaselmartenfisher‘s quiet output of the kind of brilliant writing that makes him one of the state’s best songwriters. There were a handful of artists that produced sterling ambient-leaning tracks, including MAS YSA, XYLØ, Ancient Ocean, and Sitcom while Tokyo Police Club member Dave Monks and  held down the mid-tempo terrain (with “The Rules” and “Slower Now“, respectively). Territory a bit more harsh was dominated by Infinity Girl, Dope Body, Buck Biloxi and the Fucks, and Empty Flowers. All of those songs, as always, are worth several listens, but this post’s feature belongs to the return of Royal Headache.

After unleashing one of the more impassioned debuts of recent memory, Royal Headache hit a snag. Their vocalist, Shogun, announced his intentions to quit the band. The rest of Royal Headache agreed under the stipulation that shogun stay to complete their second album. A tour’s forthcoming but at this point, the band’s living out an epilogue. If “High” is anything to go by, that epilogue may be more exhilarating than virtually all of the preceding content. I’ll admit, “Down the Lane” ranks among my all-time favorite songs (and Royal Headache will always have a valued place in my collection) but “High” doesn’t seem to be a static title; it’s a statement about the band’s creativity level while it extends its bittersweet death rattle.

“High” opens with an emphasis on a slightly cleaned-up production aesthetic, replete with swirling organs and a pulse-accelerating dynamic. Shogun launches off into what comes off as something approaching a mantra, providing an unavoidable clarity in regards to his feelings for an unnamed central character. As gritty as the verse winds up being, it’s when the chorus erupts into a full bloom that “High’ transcends genre limitations to become something genuinely breathtaking. Just as suddenly as it appears, the exquisite guitar work dissolves back into the pedal-to-the-floor hum of its verse sections. As it jumps back and forth, “High” establishes a surprisingly taut- and subtle- level of tension while simultaneously careening off into an otherworldly catharsis. It’s not just one of the band’s finest works; it’s one of the best songs of 2015.

Listen to “High” below and pre-order High from What’s Your Rupture? here.

Watch This: Vol. 20

In one of the more recent pieces to run on here, I bid adieu to a camera that’s served me well over the years. There were vague allusions to various sets that I’ve been lucky enough to catch with that camera scattered throughout the piece- and while this may be dangerously close to tipping into the self-serving spectrum I do my best to avoid on here (and the fact that the audio quality is far from the best), it only seemed appropriate to showcase a few of the more memorable captures over the years. To that end, this installment of Watch This will likely wind up as the one the more unique entries in the series.  One last look at the past before pushing towards what’s ahead.

No matter what it was, whether it be powerpop legends The Figgs playing Tenement’s living room, Thee Oh Sees taking apart one of Wisconsin’s best venues, Desaparecidos returning to the stage for the first time as an official band again, Okkervil River playing to a criminally sparse outdoors crowd in the middle of an absolutely gorgeous day, The Mountain Goats taking a victory lap, The Antlers entrancing a room of strangers on a stormy nightMutts stripping way back for a radio performance, or finding myself in a bar, restaurant, or basement with the likes of Big Eyes, Technicolor Teeth, The Cost of Living, Buffalo Moon, Sycamore Smith & the Gray Beast, The Midwestern Charm, Ramma LammaThe Sleepwalkers, Wett Nurse (shrouded in an impossible amount of fog, at that), Heavycritters – and yes, Perfect Pussy (along with a handful of others)- filming these has always been something that’s been extraordinarily gratifying.

It’s never to fulfill a sense of pride, it’s never for bragging rights, it’s always, in each and every instance, to support an artist that I love or that deserves as much support as they can possibly get. Established or not, this is my way of giving thanks and hopefully extending their music out to other places that may never have heard them otherwise. This holds true for my writing on Heartbreaking Bravery as well. One of the most important things anyone can do is support the art they believe in and this place will always live by that law. So, watch this or don’t, but it’ll always be here as both a reminder of some very personal memories and a showcase for some bands who deserved more attention than they ever received. Sit back, support local music, support local music, support local music, support local music (SERIOUSLY, SUPPORT LOCAL MUSIC), and Watch This.

1. Tenement – Morning Mouth (Live at the Afterdark)

This video will be the only one that actually predates the Canon PowerShot I’d been using to shoot these videos over the past several years (this set was shot on a low-end handheld Sony camcorder), it’s included because it serves as a beginning for a myriad of things: my introduction to Tenement (who would subsequently open up an entire world of music to me through their kindness), the beginnings of when I became serious about film, and the start of when I became serious about booking shows. Their five-song set, to a crowd of people they invited up onto a small stage to make them feel more at home, blew my mind and has stuck with me for approximately six years now. My opinion on this band hasn’t changed as I’ve filmed set after set after set, year in and year out- they’re one of the best, if not the absolute best, band currently going. I’ll forever be grateful to them for a number of reasons and delivering this set will always be one of them.

2. Good Grief – Holy Smokes! (Live in Stevens Point, WI)

There isn’t always a lot of options for live music in the middle of nowhere but at the height of Good Grief’s run, there were a few spells where there seemed to be an incredible show happening every other week. I attended every single one I possibly could, not just because of an undying love for live music and the DIY community but because Good Grief had tapped into something genuinely special during their time as a band. It was evidenced by the mass basement singalongs, by Mutts coming all the way from Chicago to play an unforgettable cover of a song from their final record, by the people who had little to no connection with the band who showed up at nearly every show- right up through their final marathon set at K Bueno (this is a band that will likely always have the distinction of being the only one I ever see tearing things up inside of a Shopko that was giving away free hot dogs, chips, and soda)- with a smile on their face and a beer in their hands, and by the fact that more times than not, the first time I would hear a song played for the first time, I would get chills (“Lab Rats” is still one of the most incredible pieces of music I’ve ever heard and a lock as an entry for my 50 Favorite Songs of All Time list). “Holy Smokes!” was never officially recorded, as far as I know this is the only known recording of it, which is why it takes this spot on the list- a look at some incredible music, and some incredible musicians, that too much of the world missed out on.

3. Midnight Reruns – Too Tall (Live at Frank’s Power Plant)

Like Tenement before them, this was the first time I saw Midnight Reruns (coincidentally, if anyone asks me who I think the best bands in the state are, those are usually the first two names out of my mouth) and even just a few minutes into the first song, it was apparent it’d be far from the last. They tore that place to shreds and threw out a fiery Wreckless Eric cover in the middle of an all-out blitz of a set that showcased Graham Hunt’s beyond-his-years songwriting ability and the band’s undeniable musicianship. They’ve (somehow) only steadily improved since then and have built an impressive expanding fanbase including members of The Replacements, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, ThirdCoastDigestBrooklynVegan, and Milwaukee Record, who just ranked their debut s/t (still less than half a year old) as the 16th best record to come out of Milwaukee since 2010. Word on the street is the material they’re currently working on blows even that out of the water. Keep both eyes out and both ears open for this one.

4. Sleeping in the Aviary – So Lonely (Live in Stevens Point, WI)

Apart from Good Grief, Used KidsThe Goodnight Loving, and Hot New Mexicans (especially The Goodnight Loving and Hot New Mexicans), there are few bands that can come even remotely close to Sleeping in the Aviary as far as the “bands I wish would reunite” conversation goes. The only places I ever saw Sleeping in the Aviary play, curiously enough considering their level of name recognition, were basements (with one surprisingly touching exception being the vinyl LP release party for Expensive Vomit In A Cheap Hotel at the High Noon Saloon, thrown five years after the records initial release) . In one way or another, I was a part of each and every one of those shows and they wound up being a few of the most memorable nights of my life thanks to both the people around me and Sleeping in the Aviary themselves. Ever the manic pranksters, they would usually come armed with cardboard cutouts, bubble machines, various props, or adult-themed piñatas. They’d also always play with a reckless abandon and unparalleled fierceness while still clinging onto a carefree nature and clearly having the time of their lives doing it. Kyle Sobczak was a late addition to the group but provided them with a few of their most memorable songs in their final stretch. “So Lonely” is one of them- and, as mentioned before, being in the middle of nowhere means that when a basement show happens with a band of Sleeping in the Aviary’s caliber comes to play, things tend to go off the rails pretty quickly. No one has seen the regular lead personality, Elliott Kozel, since he disappeared into that crowd… (entirely untrue as clearly evidenced in the video- but still, a great myth to try to start).

5. Charley & the Cynics – St. Christopher (Live at the Crunchy Frog)

Writing an In Memoriam piece for Charlotte was one of the most difficult things I’ve ever done. I debated whether or not to include this as the fifth slot or keep it stored away due to its extremely personal nature but I realized that the few videos I did manage to capture of Charley & the Cynics during her time here had a profound effect on why I kept filming and knew it had to occupy this spot. After her untimely passing it was next to impossible to bring myself to watch the videos of her that I’d previously put up out of both respect and unfailing admiration. It’s not like I knew Charlotte all that well; I won’t pretend I did and I won’t glamorize her or try to turn her into some flawless saintly figure. I did know her well enough, though- well enough to consider her a friend and well enough to know that she was a generally positive person who always seemed to treat others with both care and affection, which is something I try to extend to everyone that gets coverage on this site. After enough time had passed, I could watch these videos without needing to spend a night drinking afterwards and I realized that they’re the crux of why I film to begin with: to celebrate the people and music I love while they’re around. Ever since the full extent of that realization hit me, these videos of Charlotte have factored into every time I’ve plugged in a camera charger, every time I’ve replaced an SD card, every time I’ve spent hours making sure an upload doesn’t crash, every time I’ve pointed a lens at a stage, she has been there as a reminder to capture the things that are important while you still can. That lesson is something I’ve carried with me every day and something that’s been a part of the majority of my decisions within music journalism. For that and for all the times I’ve been reminded of that, I’m thankful- and I keep filming.