Heartbreaking Bravery

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Tag: Daniel Martin Moore

Hoop – To Know Your Tone (Stream)

As another day recedes in the rear view mirror, it’s time to take stock of the goods it provided. There were excellent tracks from The Drums, B Boys, Gold Class, Us and Us Only, Loco Ono, Turtlenecked, Institute, and an unreleased demo from Ultimate Painting. Music videos were well represented by strong pieces that sprung from the likes of The Geraldine Fibbers, The Coathangers, Nick Hakim, Tiny Hazard, HOTT MT, and Daniel Martin Moore. Bringing everything to a nice close were full streams from The Wisconaut, Emperor X, and Sophie Sputnik.

While all of those, as always, are more than worth the time anyone’s willing to invest, today’s featured slot goes to Hoop’s arresting “To Know Your Tone”, from their forthcoming Super Genuine, which features a vocal assist from solo artist Allyson Foster. In a brief explanation of the inspiration for the song’s narrative, lyricist Caitlin Roberts offered the following: “To Know Your Tone” is about the power of asking for support and receiving support, and what it’s like to listen deeply to someone you don’t know very well but empathize with strongly. It’s about allowing tears to fall on the desert of isolation. 

A perfect summation of the humanism that’s always been at the core of Hoop’s music, the explanation goes a long way in explaining the overarching message of “To Know Your Tone” but what really elevates the song is the composition. Muted, hushed, nervous, and aggressive, “To Know Your Tone” benefits from an incredibly dark tone, providing both a contrast and a context to the song’s empathetic narrative. Allyson Foster delivers the vocal with a committed certainty, consumed by the song’s inherent power.

Appropriately, Foster stepped in to sing the song when Roberts lost her voice, underscoring the message of “To Know Your Tone” to an eerie perfection. Hoop — not to be confused with Hoops — and Foster work in tandem perfectly, complementing each other’s sensibilities with ease. The end result of their collaborative effort is both a tribute and testament to the very power of collaboration and the beauty present in asking for and receiving help. A gripping meditation on therapeutic connections, “To Know Your Tone” is also one of the year’s most quietly affecting tracks.

Listen to “Know Your Tone” below and pre-order Super Genuine from the band here.

LVL UP – The Closing Door (Music Video, Live Video)

LVL UP II

In the past 24 hours, there’s been a cavalcade of streams surfacing from artists like Honeyblood, Greys, The Meltaways, House of Feelings (ft. Meredith Graves), War Church, Jackson Reed, Moby & The Void Pacific Choir, Fair Mothers (ft. Kathryn Joseph), Hope Sandoval and the Warm Inventions (ft. Kurt Vile), Daniel Martin Moore, MONO, and Blue House. The music video category also made a fierce push with great new offerings from Risley, Fear of Men, Vomitface, Jeff Rosenstock, Billy Moon, Twin LimbJúníus Meyvant, Bunny, Blood Sport, and Sad13. Finally, a small handful of exceptional full streams that arrived via Sunshine Faces, Pamphleteers, Dinowalrus, Cinemechanica, and Crushed Out rounded everything out in powerful fashion.

As good as all of those were — and they were all quite good — the focus here, for the second time this week, falls to another gorgeous music video from the House of Nod production team. Robert Kolodny’s at the helm for this venture, an absolutely beautiful clip for LVL UP‘s sprawling “The Closing Door”. Easily one of the darkest songs in the band’s formidable discography, “The Closing Door” went through a revamp from its first iteration on last year’s inspired Three Songs EP and now stands proudly as one of Return to Love‘s finest moments.

Presented in a classic 1.37:1 ratio, Kolodny immediately establishes that “The Closing Door” is going to be heavily informed by a nostalgic bent. Even in the most minuscule of details, there are stories to be told and the ratio presentation here is an expertly played tactic that also emphasizes the clip’s tonal quality. The color palette’s soft saturation similarly invokes memories of a past age of film, nicely complementing the song’s narrative, which pays careful attention to transitional elements.

Sean Henry — an artist who resides on the excellent Double Double Whammy label, which is run by LVL UP’s Dave Benton and Mike Caridi — stars in the clip and spends the majority of “The Closing Door” wandering a scenic patch of woods, stuck in a state of wide-eyed wonderment. It’s an endearing central performance but, more importantly, it’s an incredibly effective one. Even with all of the sublime flourishes that elevate the clip’s considerable sense of style, Henry grounds the entire affair with an everyman’s charm that suffuses “The Closing Door” with a lived-in feel.

That’s not to say all of “The Closing Door” is straightforward, as there are exquisite splashes of magic realism and pure artistry that further enlivens the proceedings. Bits of classic animation litter the woodland landscape and shots of small animals taking flight punctuate the clip’s measured pace to great effect. To top everything off, “The Closing Door” hits the peak of its subdued strangeness with a climax that sees Henry tenaciously scaling a tree only to throw open a door to reveal a host of warm, familiar faces in a living room (among them, FORGE.‘s Matthew James-Wilson and Yours Are The Only Ears‘ Susannah Lee Cutler).

That final reveal’s a transcendental payoff in an immensely compelling clip that never makes a false move. In a clip that’s driven by the past, it’s ultimate destination points towards the future. It’s an elegant metaphor and Kolodny handles it with an astonishing amount of grace. As the song’s monumental final section soundtracks the moment, “The Closing Door” breaks from familiarity to provide a gentle epilogue that winds down to contentment and acceptance. That closing scene is one final grace note in a series of brilliant maneuvers that all but guarantee “The Closing Door” a status as an unlikely classic.

Watch “The Closing Door” below and pick up Return to Love from Sub Pop here. Watch the band playing the song live last year beneath the music video.

Mercury Girls – Ariana (Stream)

mercury girls

Over the past two days, a whole bevvy of outstanding songs have been released. A lot of them coming from site favorites. The bands responsible for those songs included Leapling, Diarrhea Planet, METZ & Swami John Reis, Yung, Snakes, Little Scream, Weaves, Haybaby, Supermoon, Beach Skulls, Daniel Martin Moore, and Heavy Times. That small group constitutes one of the strongest small, hyperlinked fields that this site’s run in some time (and it turned selecting a song to feature in this spot into a quasi-nightmarish scenario).

In the end, after listening to all of the songs listed above multiple times (a trend that will undoubtedly continue going forward), one song managed to stand out ever-so-slightly more than the rest of the pack: Mercury Girls‘ “Ariana”.

After waltzing away with the top honors in this site’s Odds and Ends of 2015 list (thanks to their awe-inspiring Demos & Live Songs), Mercury Girls could have easily buckled under the weight of the pressure that accompanies the follow-up to a flawless release. Instead, the band’s only sharpened what made them so great from the onset: soaring, airy melodies, unbelievable dynamic work, thoughtful composition, sharp instrumental work, intuitive production, and a genuine sense of hopeless romanticism that informs every nook and cranny of their songwriting.

All of the elements that comprised the winning formula that drove Demos & Live Songs have been amplified on “Ariana” in a way that feels meaningful rather than exploitative. While it may have been tempting for the band to just focus in on one aspect of what made those songs work as well as they did, they seemed to have poured even more care and attention — if “Ariana” is any indication — into their upcoming batch of material.

From the clean tones to the surprising amount of natural punch, the bittersweet “Ariana” stands proudly as the band’s most definitive song. The guitar work’s scintillating, the rhythm section generates a tremendous amount of power, and the vocals are pure and irresistible. For a few brief moments on “Ariana”, Mercury Girls recall The Cure at their finest.

By the time the track’s entered its explosive final quarter and set every conceivable wheel into motion, the band’s managed to plant their own flag firmly into the earth. No matter how clear their influences wind up being, “Ariana” couldn’t be the product of any band other than Mercury Girls. On the A-side of their first 7″, with no full-length out, Mercury Girls have readily established themselves as one of America’s best bands. Whether or not they’ll be able to reaffirm this with their future releases remains to be seen (there have definitely been a slew of indicators that have been more than favorable) but for now, all that matters is that they’re heard.

Listen to “Ariana” below and pre-order the 7″ from the band here.