Heartbreaking Bravery

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Tag: Dark Days

2016: A Year’s Worth of Memories (Lily Mastrodimos)

Heartbreaking Bravery recently went offline but all facets of the site are back to being fully operational. Apologies for any inconveniences. All posts that were slated to run during that brief hiatus will appear with this note.

Last year, Lily Mastrodimos turned in one of A Year’s Worth of Memories‘ most definitive pieces. It was an uncompromising look at depression and learning to navigate that with different methods of self-care. It’s an honor to be hosting yet another Mastrodimos piece as part of this year’s edition of the series and this time around the musician’s turned in another definitive entry. The Long Neck mastermind (and Jawbreaker Reunion guitarist/vocalist) once again grapples with grief, loss, and finding strength and comfort through music. Tragic, absorbing, and uplifting, it’s more than worth the read.

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My family lost 3 grandparents in 2016: my maternal grandmother (Nana) and both of my paternal grandparents (Yiayia and Pappou). Nana left us on January 20, Yiayia passed away on February 23, and Pappou passed several months later on September 13. I find it overwhelmingly difficult to separate everything I experienced or did this past year with the grief that my family and I felt. It is so deeply ingrained in 2016, and sometimes I see it as two arms holding everything I did this year close to its chest and refusing to let go. 2016 was a big year for me scientifically and musically, but the grief I felt fused more closely to my relationship with music, becoming a part of everything I wrote or played or listened to throughout the year.

I associate Nana’s passing with the Adult Mom/Jawbreaker Reunion tour, Yiayia’s with the Titus Andronicus show that let my sister and I shed the pain of the previous month and a half, and Pappou’s with the end of the gobbinjr/Long Neck tour. It felt like everything I did in between their passings was already defined by them, and it became a daily challenge to figure out how I would cope with the weight of each.

Nana’s passing had cut me down and kept me down for what felt like eternity. She had always been so supportive of both my musical and scientific aspirations, though she put more emphasis on my biological pursuits. Nevertheless, she would mail me newspaper articles about interesting bands or performances, and would insist that I write a ballad for the next JBR album. When she left, things froze and I felt like I was sinking. Yiayia’s passing sucked what remaining energy I had left away from me. After seven months of working through the pain and feeling like I was getting better, Pappou’s passing brought a strange and heavy weight to my shoulders.

I came to recognize that grief feels like a standstill, and the grief that follows the death of a loved one was one that I had not felt before. It was immobilizing and overwhelmingly exhausting. My grief settled in the center of my chest like a pile of stones, crushing the air from my lungs and sending out waves throughout the rest of my body. I was depressed and felt hollow. Things felt surreal. Days were interminable, and I couldn’t bring myself to get anything done.

Everything I was, everything I encountered, every inch of space that surrounded me, felt monstrously heavy. I was becoming increasingly anxious that I was blurring the line between self-pity and the pain of grief, terrified that I was growing lazy and comfortable within the shell that mourning had built around me.

Writing kept me busy and gave me something to do while I tried to make sense of everything I was feeling and processing. Most of the music I wrote during this time was either quiet and hushed or very loud, with no real in-between. It felt like the louder songs took longer for me to work on, like I had to find the energy to sing them. Playing shows with JBR and Long Neck also provided relief through consistent bursts of energy, even if singing certain songs made me feel raw or exposed, like I had to relive everything I was feeling or thinking word-by-word.

When I got back home, I’d retreat to my room and try to muster up the fortitude to go over the quieter songs, the ones that specifically focused on loss and mourning, the ones I wrote for Nana, the ones I wrote to help me figure out how I could feel better. While some of these songs will never see the light of day, they allowed me to channel the grief I was feeling into something, anything.

When I wasn’t writing or playing, I found refuge in Battle Ave, Titus Andronicus, Mitski, Jeff Rosenstock, PUP, Chumped, the So So Glos– bands whose music I could scream to in the car when I needed to release my anxiety or tension. My job had me working throughout the northernmost regions of New Jersey, close to the New York border. I’d drive around the forests of Passaic and Bergen counties, past lakes and reservoirs and mountains, haunted roads and abandoned tourist attractions.

The silence and isolation of this part of the state was soon filled with the crashing sounds of guitars, the bittersweet words of strangers, the driving and soul-shaking bass tones, all swallowing me in a sea of noise within the confines of my old car. It was a kind of escapism that let me drown out my own frantic thoughts with something louder, something I could lend my voice to and still feel like I was beating back the sadness.

I realize now that much of what I listened to in 2016 was music that tied me to land, to my favorite places, to my home or the places where I felt home. Battle Ave’s Year of Nod, for instance, brought me back to the woods upstate where I had found comfort during other tumultuous times. Titus Andronicus reminded me that I could never be truly lost or alone in my homeland of Jersey, and I found myself listening to The Monitor most of all. For my sister and I, “The Battle of Hampton Roads” became something like our own battle cry- especially at the last line (“I’d be nothing without you, my darling, please don’t ever leave”).

When we saw Titus in February, hours after attending Yiayia’s funeral, we received a shot of catharsis that we desperately, desperately needed. We could hardly believe it when the first chord was struck for “Battle”, and spent a majority of the song screaming along. When the last line came around, we lost it. Suddenly, we were heavily sobbing, hugging each other and shouting “Please don’t ever leave” through the tears. The last few months washed over us in a bitter and acute sense of grief, then quickly melted away and left us with immense relief, joy, and peace. We left the show amazed, empowered, hopeful, and for the first time in a long time, happy.

For the most part, the music that got me through the year focused on relationships, on connections, on the love we have for our friends and our family, on the importance that these people hold in our lives. It was the music that you and your best friends or your sibling would scream to each other in a big crowd.

And we drank, and we talked shit, and I was happy” (“Name That Thing”, Chumped)

“Do you believe in something beautiful? Then get up and be it” (“Me and Mia”, Ted Leo & The Pharmacists)

Music that is loud and commands you to let people know just how much they mean to you, and how you would feel if they were suddenly gone.

“I’d be nothing without you, my darling, please don’t ever leave”

“I gotta let you know while you’re alive cos I’ll be a disaster when you die” (“…While You’re Alive”, Jeff Rosenstock)

“I look up at the gaps of sunlight. I miss you more than anything” (“Francis Forever”, Mitski)

Music that reminds you that it’s OK to take breaks, but you have to fucking get up and keep moving, as seemingly impossible as that feels, because this cannot break you.

I called up some folks I truly love and hung up after they said hello. I got so tired of discussing my future, I’ve started avoiding the people I love” (“Nausea”, Jeff Rosenstock)

“This winter hasn’t been so rough. Oh it was cold, but it wasn’t cold enough to freeze the blood between my spine. And at least I survived” (“Dark Days”, PUP)

Then there was the music I actually made with my best friends. The shows I played towards the end of the Adult Mom/JBR tour– and the enormous support of my bandmates and tourmates– helped me get through the news of Nana’s hospitalization and her declining health. The release of JBR’s second album and the show we played to celebrate it filled me with a tremendous sense of pride and joy that left me elated and filled with so much love.

When I started feeling small or uncomfortable or anxious in the area I call my home, Long Neck shows and practices reminded me that I could carry the grief I had without feeling ashamed, and my bandmates were there to help me find my footing again. Our tour with gobbinjr felt like an amazing dream, and in recording our second album I can revisit everything I felt in 2016 without feeling heavy, lost, scared, or alone, because I have them.

In 2016, music reminded me that when your loved ones leave you, it doesn’t mean love itself is gone. If anything, you begin to see the love that you have in your life more clearly. You want to take everyone in your life and write them long letters expressing how much you love them, so they can have a physical record of it. You want to savor every moment you spend with your family and your friends and your pets and hell, even strangers or vague acquaintances. You become increasingly nostalgic, and while at times the memories sting you, eventually they flood you with warmth and you quietly give thanks to the time you were given with people who have come and gone.

I would be remiss if I didn’t take a moment to thank everyone who helped me make it through the year. I won’t name everyone, because it’s a fair list, and chances are you already know who you are. (If you don’t, be sure that the next time I see you, I will hug you and tell you in person.) But I want you to know that I am so immensely thankful to have you all in my life, so grateful for everything you did for me. I want you all to know how much you are cared for, how much you are appreciated, how much you are loved. For the new year I resolve to be more open and honest with the people in my life, take more risks, be more thankful and live without fear, and be as available and kind as best I can, and not take the people in my life for granted.

We all grieve differently, and I’m not going to pretend to speak on behalf of everyone who has ever lost someone and mourned gravely and deeply. My grief was and is my own. It took me nearly the entirety of 2016 to start feeling O, to understand that there is no limit for the time you can spend grieving. There are days that are still tough, and as we’re nearing the end of January I know that things may start feeling weird and off and tough again. But I am more confident now that I’ll make it through. I will be OK because love still exists and will continue to exist, because I will keep making music no matter what, because I am surrounded by amazing and supportive and caring people, and life will keep moving forward.

Watch This: Vol. 130

Adult Mom, Margaret Glaspy, Mise En Scene, Beach Slang (x2), Dr. Dog, Lee Fields, John Grant, Brass Bed, Sleepy Kitty, Quarrels, Adia Victoria, Floating Points, Dentist, Søren Juul, Hounds of the Wild Hunt, Therm, Pile (x2), Quilt, Charlie Parr, Wye Oak, Gabriella Cohen, JJ Grey and Mofro, Band of Horses, King Woman, Yoni & Geti, The Slow Show, Told Slant, So Pitted, Guided By Voices, Steve Gunn, Trombone Shorty, Rogue Wave, Mount Moriah (x2), Lily and Madeleine, Shearwater, and The Jayhawks all had incredibly strong performance videos surface over this past week, each of them deserving of multiple looks and listens. Taken collectively, their cumulative strength is overwhelming which, in turn, illustrates the incredible power of this week’s five featured clips and sessions. From what’s undoubtedly the most moving performance to ever run in this series to what may just be the outright best full sessions, there’s a lot here to appreciate. So, as always, sit up, adjust the volume, tinker with the settings, block out all excess activity, lean in, and Watch This.

1. PUP (Audiotree)

PUP have been getting coverage from this site for just about as long as its existed and they’ve recently gone into an even more intimidating overdrive. After absolutely decimating 7th St. Entry at the start of the month, the band’s been providing reasons to revisit their past. This past week Audiotree uploaded an old full session the band gave the series back at the start of 2015, flashing some increasingly sharp teeth in the process.

2. Royal Headache – High (Pitchfork)

High, the most recent release from Royal Headache, had more than enough firepower to earn a spot as one of last year’s best albums. As strong as their recorded output is, Royal Headache’s real draw has always been their live show, which is captured here via Pitchfork. Vocalist and principal songwriter Shogun has always been a commanding presence and that trait’s on full display as the band tears through the exhilarating title track of their last record at this year’s Primavera.

3. Bob Mould (Sound Opinions)

One of the most respected elder statesman of punk has found a way to revitalize his career over the past several years, hitting some extraordinary highs with recent efforts. It’s not that Bob Mould‘s career has ever been dull, it’s that something inside of him seems to have been pushed to full throttle. The trio of songs Mould careens through here for Sound Opinions serve as very strong evidence.

4. Weaves (CBC Music)

No band has been showing up in coverage lately more than Weaves, who are trying to outrun a tidal wave of adrenaline after releasing what may wind up being the year’s most explosive record. The band’s been stringing together an insanely impressive series of the exact right moves at the exact right moment and this full session for CBC Music continues that trend. Masterfully shot inside of a greenhouse, it’s easily one of the strongest visual sessions to have ever run in this series and for just about anyone else, the cinematography here could threaten to diminish the performance. However, Weaves are a different kind of animal and they find a way to draw strength from the setting, allowing the visuals to ultimately enhance a ferocious set. Every aspect of performance videos is paid respect to with this session, which stands as an unforgettable masterclass of the form. File this one away for multiple trips back to enjoy or even to study; it’s that good.

5. PWR BTTM – Somewhere Over the Rainbow (Emily Dubin)

There’s nothing I can say here that isn’t said better in or by this video, which is a very loving, sincere capture of PWR BTTM playing a deeply heartfelt show in Orlando. Just click play and appreciate the worthwhile things and people in you’re life while you still can and while they’re still here.

15 of ’15: The Best Music Videos of 2015

Courtney Barnett I

Before we begin on this list, it’s worth noting- once again- that this publication isn’t one that’s overly concerned with the artists that already have received major levels of exposure (it’s also worth noting that “best” is a formality and a pale reflection of lists born out of subjectivity that are constructed around a fairly rigid set of rules). That said, I’d be remiss to not mention that what I personally believe to be the three most important clips of the year (Kendrick Lamar’s “Alright“, Vince Staples’ “Señorita“, and Run the Jewels’ “Close Your Eyes (and Count to Fuck)“) all used multifaceted black-and-white presentation to haunting, startlingly effective- and extremely pointed- levels. While those acts may have had access to expanded resources, the artists that made this list were able to find ways to flourish on technical and artistic levels. These clips are only scratching the surface of an extraordinary year for music videos but still managed to find ways to stand out from the crowd.

15. Fraser A. Gorman – Shiny Gun

Was there any narrative-driven clip as lighthearted as Fraser A. Gorman‘s “Shiny Gun” in 2015 (or 2014 for that matter)? Operating with a freewheeling sense of camaraderie and a genuine sense of fun, it’s a nearly iconic clip for an artist that deserves to be recognized on his own merits rather than just as an associate of label boss Courtney Barnett (who has a delightful cameo in the video). From the dryly comic premise to the impromptu guitar solo session that acts as its resolution, “Shiny Gun” is pure entertainment.

14. S – Remember Love

Last year, S appeared on this list for the heartbreaking “Losers” clip, which was teeming with genuine emotion and presented in bare-bones, DIY fashion. “Remember Love” sees S continuing to succeed on both of those accounts in instantly memorable ways. Ostensibly a parable about the metaphorical ghosts and skeletons that accompany the dissolution of relationships, “Remember Love” pulls off providing them with a physical form. By all accounts, the provided costume should feel too on-the-nose yet the video somehow finds a way to humanize its characterization to a point where the clip’s climax- and surprisingly profound final moment- feels genuinely devastating.

13. Diet Cig – Scene Sick

Over Easy, Diet Cig‘s immediately likable debut EP, established the duo as a fount of brash youthfulness and sheer joy, even in songs that dealt with some weightier issues. Even in a strong year for the band that saw the release of a few more clips and a tremendous 7″, nothing captured their aesthetic more than their video for “Scene Sick”. A simplistic concept maximized to an absurd level of success, it finds guitarist/vocalist Alex Luciano gleefully dancing next to a stone-faced Noah Bowman (the band’s drummer) before a brief rest that sees them both exploding into a frenzy of completely carefree moves over the most apt of refrains. No stakes are ever present and the duo dive into their roles with ecstatic abandon.

12. Dilly Dally – Desire

In December, no band was mentioned more times on this site than Dilly Dally, whose Sore has been in near-constant rotation here since its release. While the clips for “The Touch” and (especially) “Purple Rage” made strong impressions, it was “Desire” that managed to cut deepest. A visual realization of the record’s most central themes, “Desire” also managed to capture the band’s defining dichotomy: exploring the inherent beauty of what’s generally perceived as ugliness. The willingness to explore what makes us human so boldly resonated loudly when it was confined to the record but seeing a depiction of our mundane flaws married to a celebration of our sensuality and sense of wonder turned “Desire” into a staggering experience.

11. Eskimeaux – Broken Necks

Eskimeaux‘s O.K. was a watershed moment for Gabrielle Smith’s project, striking a perfect balance between somber reflection and a prevailing sense of closeted optimism. “Broken Necks” focuses most heavily on the optimistic side of that equation, bringing the song’s more twee elements to vibrant life as Smith and a cohort of friends walk and/or dance their way through a host of familiar locations scattered around New York. Smith turns in a charismatic central performance, flashing impressive depth as the video progresses through a variety of distinctive modes (deadpan, ethereal, meditative, etc.). Visually, it’s mesmerizing and finds ways to incorporate a few quick tricks into something that winds up feeling like one of Eskimeaux’s most defining moments.

10. Denai Moore – Blame

Every so often, a music video comes along that boasts enough firepower in its technical elements to prove unforgettable. In Denai Moore‘s clip for “Blame“, everything is firing on all cylinders. From Moore’s turn as a detached passenger to an inspired performance from an antagonized outsider to the gorgeous icy landscape and breathtaking cinematography, it’s a surprisingly moving piece of work. Tapping into a noir-ish narrative that focuses heavily on loss, unfettered emotion, and our capacity for empathy, it’s a striking vision. From its layered worldview to the video’s elevation of the song that acts as its driving force, “Blame” is an uncontested triumph.

9. Alex G – Brite Boy

Another clip that focuses heavily on loss, Alex G‘s “Brite Boy“, found a way to excel in its attention to implicit detail. Using only black outlines on a white background, “Brite Boy” infuses its classic-leaning animation with a palpable sense of longing. As its two protagonists adventure their way through bouts of surrealism and moments of clarity, a divide begins to emerge and deepen in heartbreaking fashion. It’s an emotionally crippling tour de force cut from a fairly unique cloth that’s already starting to feel more than a little timeless.

8. Bandit – The Drive Home

Easily one of the most stunning turn-in’s from a cinematographer working in this format in 2015, Bandit‘s “The Drive Home” benefits from the evocative framing that heightens the song’s cinematic inclinations considerably. Easily Of Life‘s most blinding highlight, the Derek Scearce-helmed clip elevates the emotional heft of “The Drive Home” via cold color palettes and sweeping, majestic presentation. Open roads, snow-capped mountains, and jaw-dropping visuals combine and culminate in a memorable final moment that completely removes the clip’s lone human element, ultimately revealing itself as an ego-less appreciation of our surroundings. It’s a powerful decision that cements the status of “The Drive Home” as one of the finest music videos of 2015.

7. PUP – Dark Days

In 2013, PUP‘s vicious- and viciously entertaining- clip for “Reservoir” earned a spot at the top of the music videos list I co-authored for PopMatters for that year. In 2014, the band followed suit with their unforgettable origin story video for “Guilt Trip“. Both were directed by the creative team of Chandler Levack and Jeremy Schaulin-Rioux, who once again crack this year’s list with the animated clip for “Dark Days“, extending a remarkable run of success with aplomb. Here, the gears are switched from relative bleakness and shocking moments of violence to a modest animated presentation of the decidedly unglamorous lives of touring musicians in a mid-level band. A sense of realism informs close to every step of “Dark Days”, from its unfettered highs to its most crushing lows. By providing what also effectively functions as a distillation of the band’s manic energy, Levack and Schaulin-Rioux have crafted yet another gem.

6. Courtney Barnett – Kim’s Caravan

One of 2015’s more unexpected commentaries came via Courtney Barnett‘s commendably bleak clip for “Kim’s Caravan“, which honed in on Australia’s most ravaged landscapes while simultaneously providing an unflinchingly intimate portrait of the inhabitants of those areas. Not too far removed from the works of John Hillcoat, “Kim’s Caravan” finds strength in its most somber tones. As the clip progresses, a foreboding sense of doom gets amplified to successively higher levels before culminating in some of the most startling and unforgettable shots of any music video to have been released in the past five years. As shattered glass rains down upon Barnett’s body and a trailer gets abandoned as it burns, the disappointment and anger fueling the clip crystallize. As Barnett walks offscreen in its final moments, it comes across as an impassioned plea and provides a fitting end piece to one of the more effective message videos in recent memory.

5. Girl Band – Why They Hide Their Bodies Under My Garage?

Did any other band find a foothold in definitive visual representation as Girl Band in the past 12 months? It’s doubtful. One of the more difficult decisions going into this list’s ultimate ranking was whether to include “Why They Hide Their Bodies Under My Garage?” or “Paul”, as each operated on a singular playing field that’s paid massive dividends for the band. Ultimately, the former was selected for being both the introduction to the band’s distinctive approach and the meticulous, surgeon-like precision required for it to work. Playing like one of David Lynch’s wet nightmares, “Why They Hide Their Bodies Under My Garage” focuses on the removal of a corpse’s internal organs before taking a sudden left turn into one of the more nightmarish dance parties imaginable, shattering an enormous amount of tension and providing the rest of us with a glimpse of the arsenal of deranged imagery Girl Band had in store for their breakout year.

 

4. Hammock – In the Middle of this Nowhere + My Mind Was A Fog… My Heart Became A Bomb

While it’s likely this pairing functions more as a short film than a music video, it succeeds on its own merits to a strong enough degree that the cumulative result felt like an appropriate candidate for this list. Astounding on a technical level, both “My Mind Was A Fog… My Heart Became A Bomb” and “In the Middle of this Nowhere” also succeed in eliciting an emotional response from their high-concept proceedings. Centering on a narrative where a virus has all but wiped out the world’s population, a survivor returns to his now-desolate home that he’d built with his family to try and rebuild his life by any means necessary. Another intimate portrayal of a character whose fate is all but doomed, the setting of these clips allow them to grasp at weightier themes than usual, where things like abandonment are amplified considerably by the circumstance. As the protagonist’s resolve rapidly deteriorates with each subsequent attempt at rekindling his past, Hammock‘s lilting ambient score propels each of the clips towards being modern classics.


3. Bent Denim – Good Night’s Sleep 

It’s difficult to think of a clip that commanded more force with its synergy than Bent Denim‘s aching “Good Night’s Sleep“. A pained examination of the psyche after the loss of a child, its a wrenching, empathetic character study that captures the feeling of being directionless to heartrending effect. In presenting the narrative through the lens of home movies, it imbues the narrative with a discomforting notion that it’s a tragedy that many of us will have to face and find a way to reconcile. The video’s soft tones enhance the intuitively maternal characterization of the clip’s lone performer and adds untold depths of heartbreak to the shot that lingers on a sign that simply says “Momma tried”. Whether “Good Night’s Sleep” deals with death, miscarriage, custody, or abortion is up to the perception of the viewer but any way it’s spun, the video retains its gut-wrenching emotional impact and its level of care for its protagonist. It’s an astonishingly moving portrait rendered with the care it deserves and it’s also one of the finest DIY efforts of this decade.

2. Julien Baker – Sprained Ankle

An extraordinary amount of work and hyper-meticulous planning has to go into pulling off a successful tracking shot, which is why a few of the finest examples (Children of MenHard BoiledThe Shining, etc.) are considered some of the most iconic moments in cinema. In 2015, there were three of these that genuinely stood out: the entirety of the German heist thriller Victoria, the electric second boxing match in Creed, and Sabyn Mayfield’s clip for the extraordinary title track from Julien Baker‘s masterwork Sprained Ankle. It’s a record that’s predominant theme is our mortality, a fact laid bare by the opening lines of “Sprained Ankle”, and Baker conveys the weight of that obsession flawlessly throughout the course of the video. Appearing onscreen as a battered athlete surrounded by a decrepit gymnasium, the imagery drives home the somewhat tragic fact that everything is constantly aging from the moment it’s born into this world. Eventually, the camera pushes past Baker to explore the tattered walls and fading ceiling insulation before circling back to the ground and providing one last look at a now-abandoned gym, haunted by what’s no longer present.

1. The Fjords – All In

2015 was a deplorable year in terms of senselessly violent acts that were carried out on scales both grand and miniature. From school shootings to accidental bombings, there was barely a reprieve from the damage. It seems fitting, then, that the clip at the very top of this list would offer some sort of commentary on today’s excessive levels of heinously shocking violence. Here, though, the clip in question gains intrigue because of how balanced it manages to be in that commentary, touching on both the displacement that can drive those actions and the childlike mindset that goes into their execution. Nostalgia also plays a factor in “All In“, which is a monumental first effort at a narrative-driven music video for The Fjords (“Almost Real” was granted a compelling lyric video), connecting the thread of media influence to its sudden, unexpected bloodshed. Heightening the disconcerting events that inform “All In”, is the fact that the protagonist is a young child, whose played with a steely commitment that’s nearly as jarring as the clip’s climactic confrontation in front of a hot dog stand. All at once, “All In” manages to succeed as a pointed commentary, a revenge fantasy, and one of the most startling pieces of magic realism in recent memory. Timely and timeless, it’s a towering achievement by any measure and its message lingers long after its first shot rings out.

PUP – Dark Days (Music Video)

pup

The combination of PUP and Chandler Levack and Jeremy Schaulin-Rioux’s collaborative filmmaking team has proven to be historically successful with me over the years. Last year, I cited “Guilt Trip” as 2014’s best music video on this site and in the preceding year, I awarded top honors to “Reservoir” over at PopMatters. In the videos that have come between (and followed) there simply hasn’t been one that hasn’t been highlighted in some form on Heartbreaking Bravery. “Dark Days”, the team’s latest effort, is another triumph of both artistry and form.

Once again, Levack and Shcaulin-Rioux have managed to find an intriguing way to tap into both the bands identity and their unwavering humanism. This time around, they achieve this through a slightly unexpected medium within the format: anime-inspired animations (courtesy of Solis Animation Inc.). Turning the focal point to the deceptively glamorous life of a touring band, all of the trivialities and hardships of life on the road all receive their respective turns under the spotlight.

Yes, there’s still an exhilarating run of the time spent on the stage, playing your heart out for an appreciative audience, and an endless slew of memorable moments spent in transit but the good moments tend to act as cathartic release for touring’s inevitable hardships (sickness, mental and physical exhaustion, fights, hunger, potential monetary loss, leaving your friends after only seeing them for moments, navigating relationships with the people back home, and figuring out how to correlate the peaks and valleys of personal life with life on the road, among countless other factors) but its rarely been presented this clearly. It’s a subject that’s been broached countless times (one of the best examples of this is Thor Harris’ guide to touring and his insights on touring with depression) but has frequently struggled to achieve a finished product so compelling.

The art direction- as it’s always been with Levack and Shcaulin-Rioux at the helm- is breathtaking and the editing gives “Dark Days” a vibrancy that lends to its relatable nature. “Dark Days” took a somewhat staggering six months to create and the considerable amount of work involved shows. Tour documentaries have rarely been this compelling and the same can be said for music video streaks this stratospheric. Unsurprisingly, again, the music and the clip elevate each other in a manner that gives new life to the song and a staggering vitality to the video. It’s something that deserves to not just be seen- but to be remembered.

Watch “Dark Days” below and order a copy of the band’s self-titled record here. Beneath the clip, explore a mixture of 25 great full streams and other music videos to have found release in the past handful of days. Enjoy.

Nothing – Something in the Way
Sharkmuffin – First Date
Frog Eyes – Joe With the Jam
Palmas – Stay Away
Flowers of Evil – Until You Feel the Cut
Copywrite – Philophobia
Dave Monks – Gasoline
Palma Violets – Girl, You Couldn’t Do Much Better on the Beach
Heather Woods Broderick – Mama Shelter
Albert Hammond Jr. – Losing Touch
Yo La Tengo – Friday, I’m In Love
Teen Daze – Morning World
Jacuzzi Boys – Happy Damage
Mexican Knives – Beach Song
Trust Fund (ft. Alanna McArdle) – Dreams
Coliseum – Sharp Fangs, Pale Flesh
Pixx – Fall In
Broen – Iris
City Calm Down – Rabbit Run

 

PUP – PUP (Album Review)

PUP cover art

Toronto punk upstarts PUP have been building buzz steadily over the past year and they finally seem set to explode with the release of their self-titled debut. Prior to being PUP, the band had been playing out and releasing music under the name Topanga, so named after the character in Boy Meets World. After Disney acquired the rights to that particular show and planned a revamp, the band put the name to rest and became PUP. The re-branding seems to have ignited a fire in them that’s shown no signs of coming close to being put out.

After receiving coverage from nearly every major independent-music publication, continuing to make all the right connections, and releasing the year’s best music video, PUP has finally arrived (albeit currently only in their native Canada). PUP, like METZ before it, continues a trend in fiercely aggressive Canadian noise-punk imports. Unlike METZ, however, the band reigns things in every now and again throughout the record’s ten tracks, displaying enviable songwriting prowess and an unexpected vulnerability. That vulnerability is part of what makes tracks like “Yukon” so memorable; they’re distinguishable moments that add up to a substantial whole.

PUP‘s staunch refusal to present a collection of tracks that bleed into each other is admirable and helps the band stand out from many of their counterparts. This refusal allows them to put an emphasis on their lyricism, which is another one of the band’s more unique traits. Even with all the standard “Oh-oh-oh” sections peppered throughout PUP, the band manages to deliver memorable couplets like “and when my eyes were closed/you left me miserable… in the morning” before the explosive chorus on “Cul-de-sac” and the almost threatening “I guess you live and you learn/I guess you’ll get what you deserve” on “Reservoir”,  as well as entire songs of memorable and intelligent lines (“Dark Days” is particularly strong).

While PUP is undoubtedly formidable when the band’s gang mentality is on full display, it’s at its best when it flies off the rails and is spearheaded by a single personality. “Reservoir”, the lead-off single and album highlight, is the strongest example of this. There’s a ferocious and manic energy driving that song throughout its verse sections that make the brief group vocals on the explosive chorus even more resonant and effective. PUP’s untapped a rare kind of magic with that formula and they utilize it smartly throughout the record, accelerating and easing off at will to create a frenzied and somewhat chaotic pace that suits PUP perfectly.

“Factories” brings the record to an effective close, providing a sense of completion while also being energetic enough to leave listeners anxiously waiting for more. PUP is one hell of a first entry in what looks to be a promising career. Despite not currently being available in the US, you can stream the whole thing over at the band’s bandcamp. For those looking for a briefer introduction to the band and their aesthetic, the video for “Reservoir” is posted below and, as hinted at earlier, it’s fucking incredible. Keep an eye out for a US release sometime soon and make sure to check out the band when they swing through Chicago on 11/25 to play the Empty Bottle with Heartbreaking Bravery favorites Audacity and Hunters.