Heartbreaking Bravery

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Tag: Dad Rocks!

LVL UP – Big Snow (Stream)

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What a day. There was no obvious choice for a feature until LVL UP’s “Big Snow” premiered over at Impose. On the surface, that’s a bland statement- but looking at the company that “Big Snow” joined today, it’s one hell of a testament to LVL UP.  In the single song department there were some legitimately great songs: Run The Jewels’ pulverizing new (Zach De La Rocha-featuring) scorcher “Close Your Eyes (And Count To Fuck)“, Dollface’s impossibly breezy indie pop gem “Churchyard“, Daddy Issues’ distortion-laden post-punk dirge “Ugly When I Cry“, and  a bracing new Crow Bait song- “Separate Stations“- that incorporates members of Iron Chic. There was also Dasher’s foreboding noise-punk minimalism piece, “Teeth“, as well as Vetter Kids’ “I’m Just Your Newest Bluest” which is a perfect representation of the band’s modernist take on classic 90’s emo and noise-punk. “A Million Random Digits” proved that …And You Will Know Us By The Trail Of Dead are far from being done while Wedding Dress’ “Somewhere Darker” makes it clear that Wedding Dress are anxious to make their introduction to the world.

Cellphone also posited themselves as a band ready to make a notable entrance with an enticing and mysterious trailer to promote their upcoming Excellent Condition. Denmark’s Mimas returned to the fold in a big way with the characteristically impressive live-edit clip for “Kissinger’s Jaw” (fans of Exploding in Sound who aren’t well-versed in Big Scary Monsters would do well to take note of this one) and Tangerine released a delightful video for another indie-pop keeper, “You’ll Always Be Lonely”. Ex Hex got in on the action as well, releasing a knockout video for Rips highlight (one of many) “Waterfall“. For full streams there were stunners from The Grayces, Thurston Moore, and a mildly insane (and wildly heavy) split between Big Neck Police and Dog.

Everything hyperlinked in the two paragraphs above stands as both a great way to share music worth listening to and acts as a very long-winded way of saying that featuring “Big Snow” wasn’t a foregone conclusion- at least not until the riff kicked in at the :26 mark. It’s the third song to be streamed from a just-released split between LVL UP, Krill, Ovlov, and Radiator Hospital. “Big Snow” is a song that’s actually been featured on this site before in an admittedly roundabout way- it was the feature piece in the band’s Serious Business session that was featured on Watch This. Even with Hoodwink’d being one of this site’s top contenders (if not top contender) for Album of the Year honors, “Big Snow” manages to stand out as one of the best songs to spring out of the band’s discography.

Having just seen LVL UP take the roof off of Chicago’s Beat Kitchen (pictured above, more to come on that later), it’s allowed the cementing of some previously-held opinions in regards to how the band functions. First and foremost; this is a truly collaborative effort with everything working as a complement to its surrounding elements at an obscenely high level. Second, this music works best as a victory lap for the disenfranchised; it’s both a rousing call to action and a well-meaning embrace for the people who were told they’d never live up to their potential or lived on the fringes of culture. LVL UP’s never been one to shy away from the unconventional (or the irreverent) and that’s a trait that takes bravery to embody. “Big Snow” hints at all of these elements and includes a rare treat; every one of the band’s vocalists (Dave Benton, Nick Corbo, and Mike Caridi, respectively) joins in for one last rousing harmony run before that surging, blissed-out guitar riff rallies the song to its fade-out finish. If Hoodwink’d wasn’t already proof, “Big Snow” certainly cements what’s become an unavoidable fact: LVL UP are one of today’s best bands and they deserve all the accolades that are bound to fall their way.

Listen to “Big Snow” below and pre-order the split it’s on from Double Double Whammy here.

Iceage – Against the Moon (Stream)

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There are days where it can be difficult to scrounge up enough great new releases to warrant an introductory paragraph round-up and there are days that are so generously overflowing with great material it’s nearly impossible to figure out what to feature. Today fell squarely to the latter. There were no less than four outstanding releases in each of the major categories: single stream, music video, and full stream. Cool Ghouls’ psych-laced basement pop rager “And It Grows” gave some new promise to the upcoming record. Mean Creek‘s Chris Keene unveiled the most recent look at his Dream Generation project with the sparse “The Four of Us” and September Girls teased their upcoming EP with the snarling “Veneer“. Veronica Falls‘ James Hoare and Mazes‘ Jack Cooper started a new project called Ultimate Painting, who instantly turned some heads with the carefree open-road ramblings of “Ten Street“.

Over in the realms of the music video, Grubs, Frankie Teardrop (warning: heavy strobes), and Cloud Nothings all released clips defined by lo-fi experementalism while Snævar Njáll Albertsson’s Dad Rocks! project dipped its toes into a gorgeously-lensed narrative involving a heavy existentialist crisis with “In the Seine”. In the space occupied by full streams, Dark Blue offered up their heavy-hitting Album of the Year contender Pure Reality and Tomorrows Tulips did the same for their career-best effort, When. Ex-Breathers made all 12 tracks (and 11 minutes) of their vicious upcoming 7″, ExBx, available for the world to hear, while Zola Jesus occupied similarly dark but incrementally softer territory with her upcoming effort, Taiga. A Winged Victory For The Sullen rounded out the full streams with another ambient near-masterpiece titled Atomos. Of course, there was one another full stream- but the link is being withheld until it’s accompanied by a forthcoming review. In the meantime, today’s focus will be on the song that defines that record: “Against the Moon”.

In an effort not to mince words, one thing should be noted before going any further- namely that Plowing Into The Field of Love is a masterpiece. No record this year has seen a more stunning creative growth or felt more important than Iceage’s new behemoth. Only three records into their still-young career and they’ve already emerged with a full-length that not only operates as a radical left turn but one that rivals anything from the creative rebirth of Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds (or, the Let Love In era). Iceage’s first two records, New Brigade and You’re Nothing, were menacing works that a few people chalked up to exhilarating exercises in intimidation. On Plowing Into The Field Of Love the band relents from that approach and serves a hyper-literate Southern Gothic-indebted masterwork that sees them flexing boldly experimental muscle and an untapped well of what now appears to be endless ambition. No song on Plowing Into The Field of Love illustrates this more than the slow-burning “Against the Moon”, a song that’s well out of the confines of anything the band’s ever done but still feels wholly suited to their identity.

Opening with the quasi-mournful strains of a brass section, it quickly undercuts its brief introduction with shuffling drums and the sustained hums of a chord organ. In those opening 15 seconds, the band manages to establish an astounding grasp on a style that was previously completely foreign to them. By the time the string and piano arrangements kick “Against the Moon” up a few levels into the breathtakingly sublime, it’s one of the bravest things any band this year’s committed to a studio recording. As instrumentally thrilling as “Against the Moon” is, it’s the startling emergence of vocalist Elias Bender Rønnenfelt’s vulnerability that shifts the song from the sublime to the transcendental. For the first time, Rønnenfelt’s lyrics and vocals are given a platform that demands the listener’s unwavering attention and that level of investment is paid off in full. From the song’s arresting opening stanza, enhanced by Rønnenfelt’s world-weary drawl, it’s clear that his personal transition directly correlates with what the band’s accomplished in terms of musicality. “On a pedestal, shining bright. Justify me. Make me right. I can fight it; make it roam- but a fugitive has a tendency to return home.” is the kind of opening line that suggests a genuinely great writer- that the rest of Iceage seems to have embraced and experienced the same level of maturity and rapid artistic growth as Rønnenfelt in the short year that’s followed You’re Nothing is nothing short of mind-bending.

A song that literally arrives with horns, “Against the Moon” stands as Iceage’s definitive entry into the band’s sudden new era, the strongest representation of Plowing Into The Field Of Love‘s myriad of sudden changes, and one of the most immediately striking songs to emerge from the past 4 years. Stripped back far enough to be completely exposed, Iceage shows the world all of its scars, all of its imperfections, and all of its entire being- and it’s a tremendous thing to experience. Even considering all of their previous sonic aggression, nothing they’ve ever produced has hit with a fiercer impact. For a band that’s aim has always been to wound, it’s a devastating reverse that leaves them sounding wounded- but bravely resilient. It’s extraordinarily effective and unflinchingly courageous. Most importantly, “Against the Moon” is the crown jewel of what deserves be regarded as one of this decade’s most important records. Make sure to give this the attention it deserves.

Listen to “Against the Moon” below, pre-order Plowing Into The Field Of Love from Matador here, and keep an eye on this site for a full review at some point in the coming week.