Heartbreaking Bravery

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Tag: DCR

LVL UP – Ski Vacation (Stream)

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It’s been an insane past few days. Full streams, videos, and songs worth writing about have been emerging at a breakneck pace and making deciding what to feature a near-herculean task of decisiveness. There was a monumentally important music video from Mean Creek‘s Chris Keene for his upcoming solo record as Dream Generation, an interactive piece of unbridled fun from Ty Segall for the title track off of Manipulator, characteristically cinematic videos from both Beverly and Fucked Up– who have each been doing wonders with the visual medium, a video that practically defines Bob Mould’s workmanlike nature, and a Jane Forsyth & Ian Pollard-helmed video for Parquet Courts’ “Bodies Made Of“- which proved to be an astoundingly sensible creative pairing. There were full streams of the gently gnarled She Keeps Bees full-length, the psych-trip of the White Fence and Jack Name split, and a new Greylag song, “Yours to Shake“, that showed some serious teeth. Picking between all of those seemed as if it might be impossible until, once again, LVL UP made the decision fairly easy.

At this point, noting that LVL UP’s upcoming Hoodwink’d is this site’s front-runner for Album of the Year seems redundant. It’s a 15-song masterpiece that sees the band perfecting their best aspects and surpassing an arsenal of lofty expectations in the process. This is something that this site’s touched on in reviews for the first three songs to be teased from the record: “Soft Power“, “I Feel Ok“, and “DBTS“. Now, the band’s released the fourth look at the now-imminent Hoodwink’d with “Ski Vacation” which shows the band expanding their sonic palette yet again. Boasting a tranquil atmosphere and no shortage of jangly guitar tones, the song integrates some subtle-yet-effective surf tendencies into the band’s outsider pop aesthetic- and the end result is spectacular. What jumps out about all of the songs that the band’s been previewing is that they stand on their own extraordinarily well and would warrant serious consideration for pushes as Hoodwink’d singles- but as a collective piece they’re extraordinary and complement each other better than just about anything that even bothers to casually flirt with genre-hopping tendencies. In that respect, Hoodwink’d might be the first record 2014 produces that would be deserving of a title no smaller than masterpiece. “Ski Vacation” is just the fourth of 15 dimensions.

For some essential reading on Hoodwink’d, please go to Sasha Geffen’s Interview piece– where the track premiered- to scroll through a can’t-miss interview that sheds some light on what went into making the record.

Stream “Ski Vacation” below and pre-order Hoodwink’d from Double Double Whammy (which has played host to several of 2014’s best releases and is in the midst of an absurd winning streak)- who will be co-releasing it with Exploding in Sound (see: last parenthesis)-  here.

Attendant – Freaking Out (Review, Stream)

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By now, everyone who has iTunes should have heard the full stream they’re offering up of Death From Above 1979’s revitalized post-reunion effort, The Physical World. Hopefully, there were a few among that crowd who also found time to stream Nervous Like Me the fantastic new record from Cayetana. Great full album streams weren’t the only things to come out of the last few days, though, in addition to a memorable Pavement cover from PAWS, there were also great new songs from Purling Hiss, Nude Beach, and WULFS. Visually, there was an endearing The Adventures of Pete and Pete homage from Diarrhea Planet and two arresting black-and-white clips that came courtesy of Girl Band and Philadelphia’s Queen Jesus.  It’s another act from Philadelphia that made the strongest impression and earned the feature spot today, though: the the stunning debut effort of Radiator Hospital bassist Jon Rybicki’s collaborative project, Attendant.

It’s not uncommon to note that there’s an absurd amount of great music out there that’s overlooked for any number of reasons but it’s always nice to know that sometimes everything lines up and music that may have otherwise gone unnoticed gets an extra push thanks to the people involved. This especially stands true for Attendant’s Freaking Out which features contributions from a murderer’s row of Philadelphia/NYC-based musicians. Mikey Cantor, Radiator Hospital, and Swearin’ (among others) all get a good bit of representation here, lending their considerable talents to one hell of a debut, helping raise an emerging musician’s profile in the process. Rybicki grounds all of these songs with no shortage of gravitas and conviction, mining similar influences to the ones that are so clearly evident in his friends’ projects.

While all of that would likely have proven more than enough to get Freaking Out by, what really puts it over the top is its attention to detail. The production, sequencing, and mastering on this is near-flawless, advancing the release’s personality without being distracting. In terms of composition, it’s frequently thrilling, with songs like the hard-charging “Saturday” providing bursts of near-uncontrollable energy. With all of this taken into account, it’s probably not too surprising that one of Freaking Out‘s closest relatives seems to be Dinosaur Jr.’s classic Bug. Acoustic guitars often provide a base template for each of these seven songs, while shoegaze-leaning levels of reverb and distortion get added to create a sound that’s becoming increasingly prominent in DIY punk circles- one that recognizes the value of looking to the past to push ahead.

That retro-influenced modernity goes a long way in informing Freaking Out, which makes no qualms about utilizing everything at it’s disposal. Every song on here contains at least a few moments of genuine brilliance, whether in the form of lyrics (“I just wanted to be the other people on the bus” is one of the most haunting lines to come out of 2014) or in the song’s structures or compositions. As if all that weren’t enough, it’s varied enough to ensure the listener’s attention and compelling enough to warrant their investment. None of these songs ever eclipse the three minute mark, either, rendering it even more accessible.Yet, despite it’s short run-time, Freaking Out feels like a fully-formed work from a veteran songwriter.

More than a few critics have said that to really gauge an album’s strengths, there should be an extra amount of consideration given to their mid-section. It’s easy to make strong opening and closing cases but it can be difficult to maintain that consistency across a wider spread. In this respect, Freaking Out has virtually no issues. “Dishwasher”, “Call Me Back”, and “Solar Shack” are all mixtape-worthy entries, each holding their own strengths in Rybicki’s frequently mid-tempo world weariness. Even with that taken into consideration, it’d be difficult not to note that a few of Freaking Out‘s best moments do come in the final two songs. From the trumpet-assisted downstroke onslaught of “I Won’t Try to Change Your Mind” to the guest-heavy celebration that is the record’s finale.

In that respect, “Wax Pages” does feel like an appropriate end-cap to a release that seemed determined to extol the virtues of healthy collaboration. Jeff Bolt (of Swearin’ and Radiator Hospital) takes over on drums, Sam Cook-Parrott (Radiator Hospital), Cynthia Schemmer (also of Radiator Hospital), and Kyle Gilbride (of Swearin’) all handle backing vocals, while Mikey Cantor takes a solo and all of them seem maniacally driven by Rybicki, who lent his vocals, guitar work, and bass (in spots) to the songs he wrote. To that end, it almost feels celebratory despite it’s heaviness (and make no mistake, this is a relatively heavy record in both terms of sound and subject matter). Packaged all together, the end result is something that feels oddly alive and utterly unique, even with an army of recognizable influences worn proudly on its sleeve. If it doesn’t find a home on one label or another, it’ll come as a shock. Freaking Out is one of 2014’s best surprises.

Stream Freaking Out below and download it on Attendant’s bandcamp.

The Seeers – Without Lites (Stream)

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Over the past day or two, a lot of great music’s been made available to the world. Among them, outstanding records by the likes of Ty Segall, J Mascis, Dead Soft, and SW/MM/NG. There were debuts of great new songs by Death From Above 1979, Love Cop, and The Twilight Sad. Additionally, a few great new music videos surfaced from bands like The Pharmacy, The Wytches, and Lace Curtains. All of those got a fair amount of publicity, and rightfully so, but one that’s slipped by relatively unnoticed that deserves more attention than it’s been getting is The Seeers’ “Without Lites”.

Unveiled to tease Windian Records’ upcoming entry in their subscription series (their third run of releases), “Without Lites” is a sub-two minute burst of punk-indebted outsider powerpop. Fretboards get scorched, melodies float along with ease, and the song makes no qualms about revealing its fangs. Blasts of distortion and powerhouse drumming propel it to absurd heights, marking The Seeers as a band worth keeping both eyes on. “Without Lites” also manages to extend Windian’s winning streak, continuing their transformation into one of the more fascinating labels currently putting out great music. By the end of “Without Lites” it’s only natural to want to hit repeat- and that’s something that doesn’t change.

Listen to “Without Lites” below and make sure to subscribe over at Windian once the third box set becomes available.

Watch This: Vol. 40

Welcome to the 40th installment of Heartbreaking Bravery’s Watch This series, a weekly examination of the best live videos to have surfaced over the past week. Volume 40 has no shortage of riches to offer and may be one of the strongest offerings of the series to date. From two fiery KEXP sessions to the late night performance of the year, there’s a little something for everyone. Acoustic sessions and feedback freakouts are all contained within and, as is always the case, every band to have secured a spot this week puts on a live show that’s worth seeing multiple times over. So, sit back, focus, turn the volume up to deafening heights, and Watch This.

1. Benjamin Booker (KEXP)

With his now (rightfully) hotly-anticipated record just around the corner, the timing on this KEXP Session couldn’t be more perfect. After Booker’s stunning NXNE performance, the amount of verve on display here isn’t the least bit surprising. ATO Records dug up a diamond with Booker and if he winds up making as much of an impact as he deserves, radio stations will be better off for it.

2. Black Wine – No Reason (Don Giovanni)

Last week Black Wine released the excellent Yell Boss, which included the standout cut “No Reason”. Here, Don Giovanni captures the band running through a brilliant acoustic rendition of that song while also operating as a perfect document of a band having fun just being a band. It’s a riff-happy stomper that showcases the band at their absolute best, making it a can’t-miss affair.

3. Sharon Van Etten – Serpents (Pitchfork)

There are very few voices on the planet more arresting that Sharon Van Etten’s, which is a fact that’s loosely evidenced on record but becomes irrefutable fact in a live setting. Van Etten’s also an artist that can do wonders with a shifting sonic template and when she taps into her darker side it’s usually enough to stop just about anyone in their tracks. “Serpents” found her perfecting that aesthetic and has only grown as a song since its first reveal, which is something that winds up on full display with this performance from Day 1 of last month’s Pitchfork Music Festival. 

4. Ty Segall – Feel (Conan)

It seemed like ever since Future Islands’ career-making turn on Letterman, people have been desperate to anoint the “late-night performance of the year”. The War On Drugs’ “Red Eyes” run-through (also on Letterman) had a lot of people talking as well (as did The Orwells’ Letterman turn) but none of them have felt as furious, as vital, or as sincerely impassioned as what Ty Segall and his band pulled off on Conan O’Brien earlier this week. Previewing “Feel” off of his outstanding new record, Manipulator, Segall and company fearlessly make their way through some vicious solos, a percussion breakdown, and a barrage of insane falsettos before finally pulling off one of the most memorable television performances in quite some time.

5. Cloud Nothings (KEXP)

In all honesty, this entire write-up could be dedicated to what Jayson Gerycz pulls off behind the kit here. That kind of talent is rare enough that it borders on something approaching the realms of the inhuman. That it doesn’t overshadow what Dylan Baldi manages to accomplish with his unbelievably intense vocal/fretwork/lyrical onslaught is nothing short of astounding. Cloud Nothings are operating at an obscenely high level right now, with their live shows consistently outstripping what they managed to accomplish with the 1-2 punch of Attack On Memory and Here and Nowhere Else– two  of the finest records of this decade.  In short: see this band as soon as humanly possible.

Big Ups – Justice (Music Video)

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There were a lot of treasures revealed in the weird little corners of the music world this site loves to mine today, including a full album stream (courtesy of Kanine Records) of Beach Day’s Native Echoes, an unofficial video of Ty Segall’s “Susie Thumb“, and an official music video from doom overlords Windhand. Additionally, there were streams for excellent new songs from GAMES, Abattoir Blues, and, especially, Nude Beach. Mostly, though, today belonged to a band who are no strangers to this site: Big Ups.

Eighteen Hours of Static, Big Ups’ most recent record, set the tone for what’s proven to be a tumultuous 2014 back in the middle of January. Since then, they’ve toured fiercely, experienced a growing profile, and quite an impact on this site’s Watch This series.  The band also seems to have an eerie predilection for anticipating things on a large scale, something that could serve them very well in the future- and something that made the video they unveiled today for “Justice” so jaw-dropping.

Given the extremely unfortunate events happening in Ferguson, MO regarding journalists and journalistic rights, a video showcasing the plight and persecution of such a figure is not only timely but incredibly arresting. That “Justice” furthers its plot into a torturous state of affairs involving a grotesque allegorical sequence involving a bloodthirsty parasite that only adds to the overall discomfort. As aesthetically jarring that sequence is, it’s worth noting that “Justice” is a visual feast that’s soundtracked by Big Ups’ very peculiar brand of post-hardcore. The whole affair is intense and extremely disquieting, which will likely continue Big Ups’ deserved ascension in name recognition. This is a timely piece of multimedia art that’s worth watching and reflecting on. Don’t miss it.

Watch “Justice” below, read up on the situation in Ferguson, and buy Eighteen Hours of Static from the band’s webstore.