Heartbreaking Bravery

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Tag: Coo Coo

16 of ’16: The Best Songs of the Year

LVL UP II

Following suit with the two previous examples, the best songs of 2016 list will abandon the traditional numerical format in favor of a more open approach that concentrates on the best material of the year without offering too many individual designations. The majority of the songs featured on this list were under-represented on lists by far more visible publications (and a few that were fairly represented are listed below the main list as honorable mentions) and fall under the genres normally covered by this site. Of course, this list — just like any other — can’t claim to be truly representative but it does offer a decent encapsulation of 2016 releases that deserved to be celebrated.

An additional note: most of the embeds come from bandcamp, so songs will auto-play after the initial listen. This was intentional to ease the access to the records that can claim these songs and to more directly benefit the artists that brought them into the world.

Enjoy the list.

Mo Troper – Happy Birthday

One of the strongest debut records of last year was Mo Troper‘s Beloved, an entirely unexpected but wholly welcome powerpop masterpiece. While just about every song on Beloved was considered for this list, it seemed appropriate to go with “Happy Birthday” which set the tone for a fearsome record that deserved far more recognition.

Doe – Sincere

Some Things Last Longer Than You was a blistering statement from Doe, a band that had been steadily gaining momentum for years. It was a perfectly structured record that allowed its songs an equal amount of weight but “Sincere” still managed to emerge as a standout single. Fiery and full of conviction, it was one of 2016’s best moments.


Told Slant – Low Hymnal

Low Hymnal” was a song that I was fortunate enough to hear forming in its earliest stages but the finished product still managed to wind up as a transcendental experience. There’s genuine pain at the root of Told Slant‘s “Low Hymnal” that lends to the overwhelming weight of the song’s unforgettable final stanza. A gorgeous and moving masterwork.

Parquet Courts – Human Performance

In the title track for their career best, Human Performance, Parquet Courts hit an exhilarating new high point. “Human Performance” is a tightly-coiled and deeply felt examination of the human condition that finds the band stretching in new directions with a fearlessness that makes the song as gripping as it is immediate.

Yucky Duster – Gofer

A pitch-perfect pop song, Yucky Duster‘s “Gofer” became one of 2016’s most unexpected summer anthems. It’s a pure delight at every perfectly-navigated hairpin turn, serving up some of the most meticulously constructed guitar pop in recent memory. A perfect blend of style and substance, “Gofer” is a triumph from a band worth watching.

Cymbals Eat Guitars – Philadelphia, 4th of July (SANDY)

While Pretty Years saw Cymbals Eat Guitars continue to evolve their sound, no moment of the record was more jaw-dropping than the towering “Philadelphia, 4th of July (SANDY)“. An eye-opening display of formidable strength and untapped ferocity, the song saw the band perfecting just about every facet of their already-impressive songwriting.

LVL UP – Spirit Was

Pain” and “Hidden Driver” got a fair amount of attention from year-end lists but the most representative moment of LVL UP‘s Return To Love was the bittersweet “Spirit Was“, which also ranks as one of the band’s best. Vocalist/bassist Nick Corbo provided Return To Love its beating heart and “Spirit Was” marked the moment it completely opened.

Big Thief – Real Love

It takes a certain type of boldness to title a record Masterpiece but when that record features songs like “Real Love“, that title just seems apt. In some moments “Real Love” is breezy and open, while others finds Big Thief baring their fangs. Throw in one of the most effective guitar solos of the past few years and “Real Love” quietly emerges as a new classic.

Jawbreaker Reunion – Cosmos

Before hanging up their cables, Jawbreaker Reunion were kind enough to deliver one last album in haha and then what 😉, which lived up to the bands sterling track record. The best moment of a great record came via “Cosmos“, a gorgeous ballad examining serious topics that quickly transforms into a forceful reckoning. In short: it’s perfect.

Car Seat Headrest – The Ballad of the Costa Concordia

Likely the most celebrated record appearing on this list, Car Seat Headrest‘s Teens of Denial‘s most breathtaking moment was largely ignored by other outlets. “The Ballad of the Costa Concordia” is a sprawling meditation on hopelessness that somehow finds a way to seamlessly work in a brief, heartrending cover of Dido’s “White Flag”. A genuine achievement.

Fred Thomas – Brickwall

Fred Thomas is making and releasing music at a relatively relentless rate, which is a trait that typically produces a lot of filler material. Thomas somehow keeps getting better, something that’s clearly evident in “Brickwall“, a characteristically acerbic slice-of-life send-up that highlights Changer, which will go down as one of 2017’s finest.

Cloud Nothings – Modern Act

Rarely does a band come across as progressive while revisiting their earlier sounds, yet “Modern Act” finds a way to fuse progression with refinement in its revisitations. A brilliant hybrid of virtually every stage of the band’s career “Modern Act” is both a victory lap and an engrossing look at Cloud Nothings‘ increasingly promising future.

Slothrust – Horseshoe Crab

Crockpot” was the kind of unforgettable song that could make a band’s career, that Slothrust has surpassed those dazzling heights so quickly is a staggering accomplishment. “Horseshoe Crab” is the kind of track that can stop people in their tracks. It’s a spellbinding song from a band unafraid to rip the bleeding heart out of their own chest.

Catbus – Fracas

A standalone release — and lone track — from a band that features Phyllis Ophelia and members of Patio, Catbus‘ “Fracas” is a riveting hybrid of post-punk and basement pop. The verses ensnare the listeners attention before the chorus blooms and casts an unbreakable spell. Exceedingly lovely and perfectly crafted, “Fracas” is an absolute gem.

John K. Samson – Virtute At Rest

No song in 2016 carried more emotional resonance than John K. Samson‘s devastating final chapter to the Virtute trilogy. Plaintive, painfully intimate, and tinged with a deeply damaged sense of hope, the song finds Virtute’s owner resurrecting the neglected cat to beg for forgiveness. Harrowing and unforgettable, “Virtute At Rest” was a knockout blow.

SONG OF THE YEAR

Jay Som – I Think You’re Alright

There’s a grace and elegance that’s identifiable even through the light damage that Jay Som applies to “I Think You’re Alright” that brings Sparklehorse to mind. Now, direct comparisons on this site are few and far between — especially in the case of such notable luminaries — but it’s next to impossible not to hear the ghost of Mark Linkous lovingly haunting every last second of “I Think You’re Alright”.

Melina Duterte, the mastermind behind the Jay Som project, has listed Sparklehorse as a major influence and the two share a kindred, empathetic spirit- something that shows in the delicate tenderness of “I Think You’re Alright” and maintains its convictions throughout the rest of Jay Som’s discography. While that discography is an enviable one, “I Think You’re Alright” remains its crown jewel, thanks to not only the song’s sublime instrumentation but a narrative that plays perfectly into the song’s soft lyricism.

All at once, uplifting and resigned, “I Think  You’re Alright” occupies a fascinating space. There’s a lot going on in “I Think You’re Alright”, from the subdued atmosphere to the way that instrumentation interacts in its final quarter. When it’s playing, though, none of that’s taken into account as “I Think You’re Alright” has the ability to envelop the listener in a very specific feeling, rendering it a unique (and uniquely moving) listen. Not just one of the finest of this year but of the past decade.

Nine more worth hearing:

PWR BTTM – Projection
Mitski – Your Best American Girl
Weaves – Coo Coo
Margaret Glaspy – You and I
Forth Wanderers – Slop
Bent Shapes – New Starts In Old Dominion
Eskimeaux – WTF
Tancred – Sell My Head
Young Jesus – Baked Goods

Watch This: Six Weeks of Honorable Mentions

Six weeks is a long time to go without running a Watch This and the 50 selections that ran in the 150th installment (the preceding post) barely scratched the surface. To get deeper into the extraordinary wealth of material worth exploring, a sequel of sorts seemed necessary. There’s absolutely no way that a single person is going to watch everything listed below but each link is genuinely exceptional and deserved to be featured. Whether they were part of a series, a great capture, a great performance, or notable for another reason, they’re all linked for a reason. So, bookmark the page and explore at will. Stop waiting and Watch This.

Middle Kids, Big Thief (x2), Nada Surf, Weaves, Dude York (x2), Kodakrome, Okkervil River (x2, 3), Ariana Brophy, Tokyo Police Club, Kishi Bashi, The Peekaboos, Gauntly, Title Tracks, SuperGlu, Journalism, School Damage, Julia Jacklin (x2), Dinosaur Jr. (x2), Hype, Loney Dear, Free Cake For Every Creature, Lever,  Midnight Faces, Jackie Islands, Mr. Ma’am, The Shelters, Tara Terra (x2), The Lemon Twigs, Boxed In, James Vincent McMorrow, Diet Cig, Alright Panther, Slothrust (x2), Weyes Blood, Slow Down Molasses.

SuunsJFDR, Kuroma, Young In The City, Justin Peter Kinkel-Schuster, Post Child, Suburban Living, MOM, Big Jesus, The Thermals, Minor Victories, Tectonics, Adia Victoria (x2), Disorder Kid, Shadowhouse, Tobacco, Holly Lovell, Out the Car Window, Vaginaboys, Parquet Courts (x2), Fossette, Mount Kimbie, Keaton Henson & Lisa Hannigan, Loch Lomond, BADBADNOTGOOD, PLANEADOR, Dinowalrus, Spruce Trap, Golden Suits, Giorgieness, Golden Suits, Joe Bordenaro, Ages And Ages, Lucy Dacus.

Lina TullgrenPatsy’s Rats, Belle Mare, Julien Baker, Pipeline, Gymshorts, David Bazan, The Woolen Men, Moderat, Allah-Las, Mean Jeans, Smoking Popes, Baba Dochia, Bobby Rush, Honey Bucket, Blanket Party, Nassau, Moondle, Conor Oberst (x2, 3), Dulce Y Agraz, Annabel, Talune, RY X, Ira Wolf, Day Wave, Oxymorons, Ess See, Bigjoy, Racing Heart, Richard Maule, Joe Bel, Dirty Laundry, Purling Hiss, Cory Kilgannon, Menacerno, The Roalde Dahls, Huey P, Haathi, Bad Cop/Bad Cop (x2), Cold Mountain ChildSóley.

MidijoyfulBlack EyesAttacca Quartet, Sims (x2), Gates, Evan Opitz, Sea Inside, Josh Pyke, Lyerr, Nature & Madness, Alma Forrer, Warpaint, Corbu, Dr. Martino, Male Gaze, Jack Garratt, Eros and the Eschaton, Marin Patenaude, Andreas Mattsson, Whitney, Hiss Golden Messenger (v), Matthew McNeal, Margo Price, The Minders, Zebra, Absolutely Not, Henry Bateman, Zen Mother, Royal Canoe, Love, The Twains, Shannen Moser, Billie Marten, Scott Matthews, Andy Place and The CoolheadsSignal To Noise.

Leisure Club, B00tyJoe Chunk, Pearl Earl, Drift Mouth, The Britanys, Miossec, Lisa Prank (x2), The Secret Sisters, Lost Walks, Smokey Brights, TTNG, Yori Swart, Hartford/FochtJesca Hoop, Moon Hooch, Aaron Lee Tasjan (x2), Ryley WalkerEstá Vivo, Alejandro Escovedo (x2), Lisa Hannigan, Lobo Marino, The Lavender Flu, MRCH, Divers, Pale Tongue, Floating Points, Deathsticks, Prettiest Eyes, Bat For Lashes, The Stops, Campo-Formio, Jessica Martins, Berriloom, Them Dead Poets, Looms.

Down GownAndrew Leahey & The Homestead, Vice Device, The Growlers, Digable Planets, Jack Grelle, Abhi Tambe, Spazzare, SUSTO, Lilah Larson, Shlomo Franklin, Ivy Meissner (ft. Uncivilized), Sex Crime, Chris JamesThe War On Peace (x2), Mohit Mukhi, Sanguine and Shiny, Dirty Fences, Band of Horses, Merynn Jean, Tom Stephens, Red Dons, The Domestics, The Saturday Giant, Public Eye, Pantomime, The Minus 5, Violetta Zironi, EYE, Laura Sjin, Black Bear Rodeo, Nacho Picasso, Old Fashioned Lover Boy.

Lithics, Hunt Hunt Hunt Camp, Robert Ellis, Wizard Rifle, Holy SonsAkın Sevgör, Ofelia Ofelia, Animal Spirit, Daniela Andrade, Rae Spoon, Dead Snow Monster, Magnetic Ghost, Zimmerman, Murder By Death, Steve Gunn, First Pet, The Malady of Sevendials, Liset Alea, VLNY, Oracle Room, Sky Village, Riley Pinkerton, Ricky Roosevelt, Sahil Bahl, Tall Juan, Alexandra Savior, Lisa Crawley, Youthpool, Gia Margaret, Battleme, Oathbreaker, SOBI, Eric Burton, Arkells, SALESSarah De Warren and Drive-By Truckers.

Watch This: Vol. 140

As was mentioned in the preceding post, the amount of praise-worthy live clips that were released last week were staggering. RaktaClique, L.A. Witch, Ausmuteants, Adryn, Nina Diaz, Alice Phoebe Lou, and Half Waif were all responsible for impressive entries while the five featured spots below all were claimed by outstanding full sessions. Every single one of these five artists have made a prior appearance on Watch This but the range of their music is surprisingly expansive and contain unknown depths worth meticulously exploring. So, as always, sit back, adjust the settings, relax, block out any distractions, take a deep breath, and Watch This.

1. Oscar (WKNC)

After developing a strong reputation for razor-sharp pop sensibilities, Oscar‘s taken a sharp left and fully embraced the punk tendencies that occasionally peeked through the recorded material. This three songs session for WKNC finds the project in full attack mode, playing with a newfound fervor that’s sharpened into an aggression that seems to have enlivened the live performances with a vengeance.

2. Weaves – One More + Coo Coo (q on cbc)

Just a short while ago, Weaves dropped their debut full-length, which immediately registered as one of 2016’s standout moments for music. Since then, the band’s been on absolute tear, continuing to demonstrate their outsize talent as a live act.  Two of Weaves‘ earliest standouts were “One More” and “Coo Coo”, both of which were recently performed for the cameras and microphones of q on cbc. Even in a space as restrictive for movement as a radio studio booth, the band runs at these songs with just about everything they can muster, leaving a jaw-dropping session in their wake.

3. Margaret Glaspy (NPR)

Margaret Glaspy‘s very quickly becoming a staple of the Watch This series as the songwriter continues to fervently tour behind the incredible Emotions And Math. Glaspy’s distinctive brand of songwriting makes her uniquely suited for the trappings of NPR’s Tiny Desk Concerts series. As ever, Glaspy proves to be a commanding presence, flashing serious levels of skill as a lyricist, guitarist, vocalist, and songwriter. It’s another casually masterful run through genuinely exceptional material from one of 2016’s brightest emerging talents.

4. Clearance (Store Brand Soda)

Ever since the lead-up to the release of Rapid Rewards Clearance have been a band that’s been closely monitored by this site. Their particular incorporation of ’90s influences informs their music in a way that fits a very niche category: punk-inflected basement pop. In a recent session for Store Brand Soda, the band tore through two highlights from their discography and an inspired Soft Boys cover, once again illuminating their numerous strengths in a characteristically carefree fashion.

5. Benjamin Clementine (OpenAir)

Few artists have a presence as immediately striking as Benjamin Clementine‘s, who delivered one of this year’s most unforgettable NPR sessions. Clementine recently stopped by CPR’s OpenAir program to deliver another trio of quietly intense slow-burners that are carried by the weight of not just his vocals but his convictions. These are songs that carry the weight of history on their shoulders, filtered through the perspective of a man who’s climbed a steep uphill battle and fought through an onslaught of hardships. That journey has shaped Clementine into a songwriter that can silence the rowdiest of rooms with ease and leave behind a trail of converts. It’s the type of experience that should not be missed.

Watch This: Vol. 128

Lady Lamb, Eleanor Friedberger, La Luz, Bob Mould, Tangerine, Weaves, Lacrymosa, Bye Beneco, The Big Pink, Weaves, Sex Tide, David Bazan, Plants and Animals, LUH, The Wooden Sky, Mumblr, Bleached, Adult Mom, Hattie Marsh, Stephen Steinbrink, Destroyer, Mount Moriah, Muuy Biien, Young Magic, The Kills, Adeline HotelDeclan McKenna, Palehound, Friendship, Titus Andronicus, Petal, and Foals all had very strong live videos surface over the past seven days. Unsurprisingly, that cast of titles underscores the strength of the five performance that are highlighted in this, the 128th installment of the Watch This series. I’ve been fortunate enough to catch each of the five acts featured below and can confirm that these captures come close to doing them justice, chronicling their charisma, emotional pull, and talent spectacularly. So, as always, sit up, adjust the settings, elevate the volume, block out all distractions, and Watch This.

1. Seratones (Audiotree)

Ever since Seratones‘ run at last year’s CMJ, the band’s been slowly escalating nearly every facet of their already-formidable presentation. Boasting one of the most awe-inspiring vocalists currently on the circuit, the band delivers a commanding performance here for Audiotree. Grabbing onto something won’t save you from being flattened.

2. Car Seat Headrest – Fill In The Blank + Vincent (WXPN)

Teens of Denial still confidently stands as one of 2016’s finest records, a fact that will inevitably be reflected by several sources come December, and thanks to the band’s live show it’s still gaining traction. The band tore through “Fill In The Blank” and “Vincent”, the record’s opening two tracks, for WXPN. It’s a masterful run that shows Car Seat Headrest have plenty of tricks up their sleeves.

3. Courtney Barnett (Strombo Sessions)

Courtney Barnett may very well hold the record for the most Watch This series appearances at this point. An endlessly gifted — and obscenely likable — performer, Barnett’s hyper-intelligent songwriting is allowed to thrive in the live setting. All of those qualities can become even more pronounced in her endearing solo performances, which is squarely the case with this beautiful set that comes courtesy of Strombo Sessions.

4. Midnight Reruns – Richie the Hammer (Set List)

Last year, Midnight Reruns‘ brilliant Force of Nurture made a very strong showing in this site’s year-end rankings and a large reason for that placement was guitarist/vocalist (and principal songwriter) Graham Hunt’s growth as a lyricist. The record’s most surprising moment may very well have been the emotional devastation contained in “Richie the Hammer”, which the band recently performed for WPR’s excellent Set List series.

5. Weaves (NPR)

After several years of stellar performances and continuous evolution, Weaves have managed to create quite a few converts. “Shithole“, a fiery moment of reinvention, kicked off a run of songs that currently comprise the most formidable stretch of the band’s still-blossoming career. The band takes on a trio of those selections for one of the most galvanizing Tiny Desk sessions in recent memory. It’s downright electric.