Heartbreaking Bravery

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Tag: DDWR

Beliefs – Tidal Wave (Music Video)

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Now, despite all the content that’s already gone up tonight, there’s still a lot that went down over the past week and a half while the site was dealing with technical complications. To that end, the approach in coverage is going to be slightly different this time around. Full streams, single streams, and music videos will all be covered- but they’ll be branched off into categories. Each entry will get a line or two and then when everything’s been accounted for, there’ll be a feature spot granted to Beliefs’ ridiculously entertaining clip for “Tidal Wave”. So, without further ado…

SINGLE STREAMS

Pet Cemetery – Giants: The newest near-perfect post-punk entry into Art Is Hard’s perfect Pizza Club series. | Deer Tick – White Havoc: A fuzzed-out Holiday stomper courtesy of one of today’s more intriguing acts. | Sun Hotel – Tropic of Cancer: An incredibly compelling and slightly damaged folk-leaning exploration. | Abi Reimold – Workshop: A folksy DIY pop masterpiece that doubles as a perfect contribution to a great compilation series. | The Soft Moon – Black: Nightmarishly menacing ambient music that tilts into industrial territory. | Sleater-Kinney – Surface Envy: Video game guitar lines. Corin Tucker’s vocals. Total madness. Sleater-Kinney is back. | Victoria+Jean – Holly: Seductive art-pop that flirts with expectations and capitalizes on tension. | Menace Beach – Blue Eye: An ambient noise exercise that only gains intrigue as it quietly builds towards its finish. | Deerhoof – Exit Only (Perfect Pussy Remix): A terrifying reimagining of an already terrifying song, courtesy of Shaun Sutkus. | Moon Duo – Animal: Menacing and minimal psych-punk that isn’t afraid to bare its fangs. | Grand Vapids – Aubade: Indie pop that isn’t afraid to subvert or challenge aesthetic expectations. | Howlin’ Rain – Wild Bush: A pastoral folk throwback jam that wears its influences proudly on its sleeve. | California X – Red Planet: Another triumphant, scorched-earth preview of what looks to be a career-best effort. | The Sidekicks – Jesus Christ Supermalls: Subtle, stunning, and lovely. The Sidekicks‘ finest work to date. | Seagulls – Swimmin’: Unbelievably winsome and completely enchanting folk-centric indie pop. | Elephant Micah – Slow Time Vultures: Gently gorgeous and effortlessly arresting ambient folk reminiscent of Vic Chesnutt. | Future of What – Daydream 99: Boldly stylish indie pop that crafts its own brand of magic. |

FULL STREAMS

The Goodbye Party – Silver Blues:  The latest DIY punk-pop gem to grace the impossibly reliable Salinas roster. | Littler – Get A Life: Relentlessly propulsive weirdo punk. | Bonny Doon – Fred’s House Demo: An impossibly overlooked (and impossibly great) folk-tinted basement pop masterpiece. | School ’94 – Like You: Graceful indie pop with gargantuan scope that still manages to come across as refreshingly breezy. | Forth Wanderers – Tough Love: Defiant and subtly venomous basement pop with an unbelievable amount of inherent charm. | SUSAN – Just Call It: Surf-indebted basement pop with enough punk bite to please a purist. | Githead – Waiting For A SignLeftifeld post-punk and new wave from a quasi-supergroup that features members of Wire, Compact, and Scanner. | Furnsss – Silent Gold: Deranged slacker punk and basement pop for the actively lethargic. | Thelma & The Sleaze – Heart Like A Fist: Incendiary basement punk with a heaping of 80’s hardcore influence. | Cave People – Older: Treble-heavy basement pop that leans towards sentiment and presents a genuinely memorable vision. | Terrorista – Purple Tape: Hard-charging basement punk that thrives on the notion that everything could fall apart at any second.

MUSIC VIDEOS

Young Statues – Run The River Dry: Visually stunning and endlessly intriguing, “Run The River Dry” shines a bright light on Young Statues’ promising future in the visual format. | Christian Lee Hutson – Late November: A simple concept that becomes a wrenching experience as it transforms into something inexplicably moving. | Flashlight O – TV Time: Staunchly DIY and weirdly hypnotic in its collage-heavy presentation. | Highway Cross – Open Eyes: Furiously paced and brilliantly edited, this is a perfect example of how emphasizing details can pay off in unexpectedly huge ways. | Luluc – Tangled Heart: Beautifully arranged and enhanced with simple, creative effects, “Tangled Heart” winds up feeling like something worth treasuring. | Johnny Marr – Dynamo: The iconic guitarist has always had a visual flair but those tendencies reach new, modern heights with this clip. | Run The Jewels – Oh My Darling (Don’t Cry): Like the group, this is a video driven by outsize personality- it’s unabashedly weird and it’s absolutely glorious. | Bass Drum of Death – For Blood: Bikers and gangs collide in deliriously entertaining fashion throughout this brilliantly executed tracking shot clip. | Blonde Redhead – Dripping: A sensual and highly stylized video that wields atmospherics and soft touches to stunning effect. | Communions – Love Stands Still: Classically composed and unwaveringly endearing; a perfect reflection of Communions’ indie pop. | A Place To Bury Strangers – Straight: A hallucinatory collage of striking imagery backed by one of the band’s most insistent songs to date. | Liars – Mask Maker (Extended Version): Characteristically bizarre and replete with a whole mess of yarn. | Tinkerbelles – When Puppies Cry: Extraordinarily damaged basement punk made weirder by one of the most insanely warped clips of 2014.

TIDAL WAVE

Okay, so the bold font probably wasn’t necessary but it’s late- and this is a really great video. Beliefs first gained an uptick in notoriety when they paired with the similarly-minded Greys for one of 2013’s best splits. Since then, they’ve been on a tear, steadily building a name for themselves on the strength of their powerful new material and formidable live show. If “Tidal Wave” is any indication, they may be able to add great music videos to that list as well. While it mostly finds inspiration in the trends of classic clips from the 80’s and 90’s there’s a certain playfulness here that’s missing from a lot of homage-style videos. That playfulness comes to a head nearly halfway through when they manage to seamlessly work in something genuinely unexpected and ridiculously perfect. It’s too good of a moment to spoil completely but it’s also one of the more endearingly appreciative moments of recent memory. By the time all the effects have worn down and “Tidal Wave” reaches its tongue-in-cheek epilogue, it becomes abundantly clear that this band has big things in mind for Leaper (the forthcoming album “Tidal Wave” is taken from) and for themselves. Beliefs aren’t a band intent to keep quiet and if they keep going at the pace they are, we’re all in for one hell of a ride.

Watch “Tidal Wave” below and pick up Leaper from Hand Drawn Dracula as soon as it’s available.

Mitski – Bury Me At Makeout Creek (Album Review, Stream, Photos, Videos)

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Mitski’s Bury Me At Makeout Creek may very well be the year’s most stunning record. A bold lead-off sentiment, sure, but one that’s entirely warranted. Mitski’s first two records, LUSH and Retired from Sad, New Career in Business, were carefully orchestrated records of an off-kilted brand of chamber pop, occasionally punctuated by shards of distorted aggression. Nearly all of it fit neatly into the traditional singer/songwriter confines while still revealing a noticeable streak of creative mischief. For her third record, Mitski’s gone and blown up her previous formula by stripping things back to their essentials and blowing them up with a madcap glee. It’s a template that serves as the formula for the strongest, boldest work of her career.

Townie” was the song to suggest that Mitski had created something truly powerful by proving the early promise of “First Love // Late Spring” was far from a fluke. “I Don’t Smoke” followed just a while after and teased the extent of the creative risk-taking packed into Bury Me At Makeout Creek. “Texas Reznikoff” sets the tone early, with a gently-picked acoustic guitar that provides a warm bed for Mitski’s mesmerizing vocals before a brief shard of feedback serves as a fleeting warning for the volcanic eruption that takes place a little past halfway through the track, providing a downright vicious ending. “Townie”, with it’s once-in-a-lifetime chorus, kicks the momentum up a few notches while keeping Bury Me At Makeout Creek impressively ragged and resoundingly fierce.

Both of those songs don’t shy away from an easily identifiable resilience, which is part of what makes most of this record so compelling in lyric copy alone. As a writer, Bury Me At Makeout Creek demonstrates Mitski’s knack for probing a well of humanity with an attention to the most acute details that suggests a rare kind of talent.  It’s something that’s especially evident in the chorus of “First Love // Late Spring”, which finds Mitski grappling with the uncertainty of love: “Please don’t say you love me” and “One word from you and I would jump off this ledge I’m on” aren’t particularly light sentiments- but Bury Me At Makeout Creek is a record unafraid of shouldering the burdens of the heaviest thoughts and emotions.

From “Francis Forever” to “Drunk Walk Home”, the record’s mid-section reveals the lengths of Mitski’s artistic growth and newfound fearlessness. “Jobless Monday” has the clearest shades of the 50’s and 60’s pop influence that appear with a careful subtlety throughout what’s a decidedly modern record, allowing a faintly psychedelic haze to elevate it into something that practically transcends genre. “I Don’t Smoke” is easily the record’s most experimental moment, bringing in a thoroughly menacing take on industrialism and seamlessly adding it into an already impressively widespread palette of influences. “Francis Forever” brings in twin guitar leads and fully reinforces that this new version of Mitski is the most personal by it’s close. While all three of those songs are great in their own right and help shape Bury Me At Makeout Creek‘s identity, it’s the record’s most confrontational moment that will drop the most jaws: “Drunk Walk Home”.

Having seen firsthand the stunned reaction of an entire room when Mitski played a blistering version of this in Chicago at Beat Kitchen just a few weeks ago, the levels of abrasion and the startling nature of “Drunk Walk Home” are impossible to ignore. “For I’m starting to learn I may never be- but though I may never be free, fuck you and your money” is as attention-ensuring of a line as anyone can possibly manage and Mitski delivers it with such a relentless conviction that by the team she ends the song with unrestrained, vocal cord-shredding screaming, it shouldn’t come as too much of a surprise. When taking into account the entirety of Bury Me At Makeout Creek up to that point has been spent putting impossibly difficult feelings under a microscope and shredding them to pieces, those screams are fully justified; they’re an act of pure exhilaration in the face of all of the mounting frustrations, uncertainties, conflicts, and unguarded emotions.

“I Will” clears the smoke left behind by “Drunk Walk Home” by virtue of restraint. It’s a truly lovely song that’s clothed in minimal trappings and a palpable tension, one that builds as the song progresses and constantly threatens to break to give way to another massive moment- but that particular explosion never comes. As a whole, it may be the strongest example of Mitski’s maturity and craftsmanship to be found on Bury Me At Makeout Creek while also serving as the perfect lead-in to “Carry Me Home”. Yet another song that could feasibly be labeled as Bury Me At Makeout Creek‘s centerpiece (something that more than half of the record could claim), “Carry Me Home” starts with an absolutely gorgeous introduction before another cataclysmic shift that feels like an unexpectedly meaningful embrace from an old friend. In that inexplicably moving burst of warmth, there’s a plea that helps define the record’s overarching sentiments; no matter how insane things get, compassion will always be needed and empathy will always be welcome- no one should have to go through life alone.

The lilting “Last Words Of A Shooting Star” closes the record out, offering up the starkest moment. Composed of nothing but Mitski’s gift of a voice, a finger-picked guitar, an ambient swell, and lyrics revolving around the most unglamorous elements of mortality, it becomes a truly arresting epilogue. When that final volume swell dies out, it’s the last piece of a brilliantly-constructed jigsaw puzzle; a grace note to cap off a series of small perfections. Everything throughout Bury Me At Makeout Creek falls into the exact right place, from the sequencing (which nearly provides an intangible secondary narrative) to the mastering, there are no false steps to be found, right down to the final bittersweet “goodbye”. All of the smallest components of Bury Me At Makeout Creek– and all of its tasteful grandeur- ring true, rendering it both a fascinating anomaly and one of the best things that’s been released in the past several years.

Bury Me At Makeout Creek is a record that deserves to be celebrated now and listened to for years to come. It’s a brave new front for one of this generation’s most exciting new artists and another massive victory for Double Double Whammy‘s win column. Tellingly, Mitski’s already released at least one excellent new song (which was recently pulled) since the completion of Bury Me At Makeout Creek, inadvertently indicating a creative restlessness that could pay massive dividends down the line. Until then, Bury Me At Makeout Creek should be held as a high-water mark that other artists would do well to look to as a source of influence and a record that critics would be well within their right to hail as what it truly is: a masterpiece.

Listen to Bury Me At Makeout Creek below and pre-order it from Double Double Whammy here. Below the player embed, watch the video sets of Mitski that originally ran in The Media and Watch This: Vol. 50 as well as previously unseen photos taken from the video shoot for The Media.

Filmstrip – Don’t You Know (Stream)

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A lot of great material came crawling out of the woodwork today on all three major fronts. On the music video side of things, two more woods-set music videos continued this week’s increasingly eerie visuals, courtesy of The Afghan Whigs’ “Lost in the Woods” and Greylag’s “Yours to Shake“. Over in the territory occupied by full streams, there was Smack The Brick, a characteristically insane new EP from fearless art-punkers Guerilla Toss, a gloriously punishing psych-indebted punk stomper from Aj Davila Y Terror Amor called Beibi, and Farewell Foolish Objects a sprawling post-punk masterpiece from The Gary which very nearly took today’s feature spot- and may very well see more coverage here in the near future. For single streams there was a fascinating collaboration between PC Worship and Parquet Courts, a new tune for the deluxe version of one of this year’s best records- Burn Your Fire for No Witness– carrying the tongue-in-cheek title of “May As Well“, and “Kid“- a heart-on-sleeve blue collar punk anthem from Standards. Additionally, there was a typically spiky new demo to surface from another one of the year’s best efforts- Lost Boy ?’s Canned– called “Boring Jr” and Communions’ giddy indie-pop grandeur came to light in the form of “Love Stands Still“.

One of the strongest songs to come to light, though, was one that avoided detection when it first came into being a few months back: Filmstrip‘s “Don’t You Know”. Taking cues from bands that pioneered the merging of noise, post-punk, and early emo (a la Sunny Day Real Estate, Shellac, and The Wrens) and bringing in a fair bit of early 90’s slacker revivalism (along with a few nods to Canadian powerpop), Filmstrip have managed to craft an identity that feels as familiar as it does unique. As aggressive as the song feels, it’s also surprisingly accessible and will play well to the sensibilities of genre specialists across a very wide spread. There’s a real sense of both history and craftsmanship that accompanies “Don’t You Know”, rendering it a compulsively fascinating listen. Well-informed, well-tailored, and brimming with a raucous energy, it’s a very tantalizing first look at the band’s upcoming record- Moments of Matter- which is due out via Exit Stencil Recordings next week. Tightly-knit and aggressively kinetic, “Don’t You Know” cements Filmstrip’s status as a band that’s not worth overlooking.

Listen to “Don’t You Know” below and pre-order Moments of Matter here.

LVL UP at Beat Kitchen – 10/12/14 (Pictorial Review, Video)

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Over the past few months, this site has given plenty of coverage to both LVL UP and the label two of its members founded (and run), Double Double Whammy. Included in the ranks of the Double Double Whammy roster was another artist who’s emerged as a site favorite: Mitski. When the two announced they’d be touring together (and, subsequently that LVL UP would be backing Mitski), being in attendance for the nearest show was a foregone conclusion. On October 12, their tour made its way to Chicago’s Beat Kitchen where they headlined a bill that also included local acts Mtvghosts and Staring Problem.

Mtvghosts kicked things off after narrowly avoiding being no-shows and made their way through an energetic set of Strokes-influenced powerpop (not too dissimilar from Locksley). Now a few releases into their career, they made their way through a high energy set and played off each other nicely. Utilizing an abundance of energy and a clear connection, their set succeeded on pure entertainment value- Staring Problem‘s Lauren Owen would later make an amusing remark on the vocalist’s “Paul McCartney head thing”. While it’s clear Mtvghosts have a very firm grasp on composition and how to write a good pop song, not too much of it had any kind of longevity- although there’s enough talent in the band to suggest that point may not be too far down the line.

After Mtvghosts unabashedly pop concoctions, Staring Problem dove headlong into a set of primal post-punk that was tinged with early goth-punk influences. With songs that felt deadly serious and had pulsating undercurrents of the overwhelmingly bleak, they managed to sink into a groove that left most of the audience in a hypnotic trance. Mtvghosts may have had Staring Problem beat in terms of stage presence but Staring Problem’s songs proved to be immensely gripping, if unrelentingly minimal (their drummer’s kit was bare-bones and the only cymbal it made room for was a hi-hat). Impressive bass riffs dueled with intuitive guitarwork and Owens’ tranced-out vocals. Even with an emphasis on the grave, the band found room for humor; a song called “Pictures of Morrissey In Jake’s Locker” wound up being an unexpected highlight. By the time they exited, it was difficult to imagine they hadn’t made a few converts.

Mitski‘s been making quite a name for herself lately. After two very strong records of avant pop, the songwriter’s made a sharp left turn into blissed-out noise pop. With the distortion cranked up on the extraordinary soon-to-be-released Bury Me At Makeout Creek it’s afforded Mitski the chance to reignite an already impressive career. “Townie“, “First Love/Late Spring“, and “I Don’t Smoke” all showcase layers of a seriously enviable talent in composition and musicianship (as well as some gorgeous- and expansive- production), which shouldn’t be surprising taking into account Mitski’s SUNY Purchase background. Incidentally, SUNY Purchase was where Mitski would meet the members of LVL UP and forge a connection that would have direct implications for both artist’s respective careers.

Taking into account the high-functioning levels of production that provide Bury Me At Makeout Creek part of its character, a large portion of the pre-set anticipation lay in how Mitski would bring these songs to life with the assistance of LVL UP. Less than a minute into “Townie” any doubts that the songs would lose even a fraction of their appeal were absolutely annihilated. Aided by Michael Caridi on guitar and LVL UP bassist Nick Corbo on drums, Mitski lay into the song with a startling amount of intensity, causing the audience to erupt in bewildered applause by the song’s close.

All it took was that first song for Mitski to expand and win over an entire audience, which raises the stakes considerably on the expected reaction to Bury Me At Makeout Creek once it’s out in the world. Caridi and Corbo both flashed extremely impressive chops as Mitski commanded attention with the kind of effortlessness that suggests much bigger things will be happening for the emerging artist in the very near future. When Mitski’s set closed with Mitski absolutely shredding her vocal cords in bouts of guttural screaming at the end of “Drunk Walk Home”, half the audience seemed to be left speechless- and it was difficult to fault them- Mitski had delivered the kind of set that warrants the highest kinds of praise and ensures that even more people will be drawn into her orbit.

After Mitski’s set, it wouldn’t have been too surprising to see someone leaving thinking they’d seen the headliner- but it wasn’t before long that LVL UP proved that they were up to the task of following a gift of a set with another exercise in killer performances. Having already delivered one of the year’s best records in Hoodwink’d and one of the year’s best songs, “Big Snow“, on an absolutely essential split, their live set had quite a bit to live up to. Boasting a discography that’s bursting at the seams with songs that project a casual confidence and an excess of charisma, LVL UP’s very nature is practically defined by their willingness to embrace each the unique personality of each principal songwriter (Caridi, Corbo, and Trace Mountains‘ Dave Benton).

Soft Power“, “Ski Vacation“, “DBTS“, and “I Feel Ok” all hinted at LVL UP excelling as a complementary unit that would easily function when stripped back to individual elements. Balancing on the precipice between detached apathy and unbridled energy, the band’s songs came to weird, vibrant life in the live setting. Everyone traded off vocals with a casually practiced ease and a fiery commitment. True to Space Brothers‘ form, several of the songs bled into each other- with a particular highlight (one of a very large handful) being the opening trio of tracks from that very record. In fact, much of their set played out like a contained suite, with everything retaining maximum impact.

There was more than one point through LVL UP’s set where time seemed to be completely lost, as the band kept the audience engaged while they occupied their own world. Song after song, they demonstrated just about every reason why they’re a band worth celebrating- only emphatically enhancing the live elements of that particular spread. Solos were traded, select songs were extended with surprisingly heavy bridges and outros, and- more than anything else- left-field personality was exuded. Hoodwink’d and Space Brothers were about evenly split throughout the set, and both songs from the band’s incredible split with Porches. were represented as well.

While Corbo, Caridi, and Benton all shared a fair amount of spotlight, drummer Greg Rutkin held everything down with brute force and an unfailingly exact precision that made songs like the closing “ELIXR (19)” sound absolutely massive. Just like on record, everything managed to complement everything else in a manner that made all of LVL UP’s songs feel intensely alive. Before their set, each member had voiced various concerns about their headlining slot and thanks for Beat Kitchen’s kind accommodations (including sound, which was pristine throughout the show). When “ELIXR (19)” drew the set to a powerful close, it provided an exclamation point to a stunning set that coursed past their early apprehensions into the realms of the sublime. If there was any reservation about this before, their set ensured one thing: 2014 is LVL UP’s year. Get on board before it’s too late.

Watch a clip of LVL UP playing “Soft Power” and “Bro Chillers” below. Underneath that, view an extensive photo gallery of the show.

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.

Ovlov – Ohmu Shell (Stream)

A steady stream of streams flooded most of today’s music news and several of them wound up making strong impressions. Among them were Girlpool’s jittery “Blah Blah Blah“, Bad Power’s hardcore ripper “Jawws“, and Cellphone‘s Halloween-friendly post-punk nightmare “Human Rights“. Nothing continued to improve in exhilarating fashion, hitting a new high with the damaged beauty of “July The Fourth and YAWN bandleader Adam Gil’s new solo project- Dam Gila- offered up the tantalizing pysch-pop of “History“. Mineral’s vocalist, Chris Simpson, streamed Pink Chalk, the lilting record that’s due out soon from his Zookeeper project. Joel Jerome followed up the excellent Babies On Acid with Psychic Thrift Store Folk, which is now streaming in full over at Wondering Sound- a site that also has the distinct pleasure of hosting a full stream of Night School’s Heart Beat EP (which is easily one of the year’s best).  Then, of course, there was Ovlov‘s newest song- the second to be released from the jaw-dropping four-way split 7″ that also includes Krill, LVL UP, and Radiator Hospital.

All four bands on this split have earned the distinction of site favorites thanks to their punk-leaning strains of outsider pop. This will be the latest in a handful of releases born out of the collaboration between Double Double Whammy and Exploding in Sound, which continues to be one of the most exciting things in music. Krill’s “Peanut Butter” had already been unleashed on the world a few weeks back and kicked the obvious promise of the split up a few additional levels. Ovlov take that level of acceleration and floor it, not only offering up one of the best songs of their career but- impossibly- lending even more promise to the split. “Ohmu Shell” is a song that sounds like an assurance; this is a confident band who are fully aware of their identity (something many strive to achieve and fail to accomplish).  There’s a greater immediacy on display then there was on last year’s excellent am and continues their streak of incredible contributions to splits (Little Big League being the latest, following another four-way split with Ex-Breathers, Gnarwhal, and Woozy)- all from this year.

Every time the band steps up to deliver something new, it seems like they’re continuously improving upon their career-best, which is the kind of trajectory that can speak volumes about a band’s potential. Everything about “Ohmu Shell” works to perfection; the guitars charge as much as they swirl, the vocals manage to be alternately impassioned and apathetic- creating a contrast that injects the song’s explosive moments with an obscene amount of energy. There’s a greater emphasis on a skewed 90’s revivalism that’s deeply rooted in the slacker and outsider sub-genres of punk. Ovlov sounds more alive than ever, wide-eyed, determined, and prepared for anything that dares to come their way. If LVL UP and Radiator Hospital deliver on this level (which they’re both fully capable of, considering both of their full-lengths are locks for this site’s Top 10), this split just might be the best thing to come out of 2014.

Listen to “Ohmu Shell” below and pre-order the split from from Double Double Whammy here.

Mitski – iPhone Voice Memo 10/4/14 (Stream)

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Today was a day that seemed to be defined by a quiet nature, something that was born out of the still fall weather and a severe lack of noteworthy releases (especially considering the steady overabundance of material throughout the past two weeks). Sure, there were premieres of things like Dirt Dress’ “Revelations“, Low Culture’s “Reservations“, and Young Mammals’ Alto Seco that were egregiously overlooked over the course of the past few days that could have easily earned a feature spot today- but nothing felt as appropriate as Mitski‘s demo.

Quietly released on tumblr (and currently without an official title), the song’s an embodiment of the DIY aesthetic that Heartbreaking Bravery was designed to showcase. Self-recorded onto an iPhone as a voice memo, it strips Mitski’s music- something that’s becoming increasingly production-friendly- back to barebones, completely opening up a brave vulnerability that brings the act of listening to the song uncomfortably close to voyeurism. Unsurprisingly, the song itself is absolutely stunning and continues to add new depths to Mitski’s undeniable talent. Haunting, compelling, and melancholic in equal measure, the song’s a window into the songwriting process of one of today’s most fascinating emerging artists and pushes the anticipation for the upcoming Bury Me At Makeout Creek to absurd heights (despite the fact it won’t be included on the record). Most importantly, it’s a stunning song that deserves the attention of as many listeners as possible.

Listen to the song below and pre-order Bury Me At Makeout Creek from Double Double Whammy here. For those interested in hearing more of Mitski in solo acoustic mode, watch the video below the embed of a recent solo set at Dong Island (courtesy of Dong Island).

The History of Apple Pie – Jamais Vu (Music Video)

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This week was kicked off in powerful fashion thanks to the most recent additions to the never-ending avalanche of new releases. Mitski, Slothrust, and Jeff Rosentstock all had outstanding new songs, increasing the anticipation levels for each of their upcoming records. Mary Timony’s newest project, Ex Hex, have their upcoming record streaming in full over at NPR’s First Listen. On the music video side of things, Nothing offered up a sinister clip (directed by band member Domenic Palermo) composed of nothing but home invasion archival footage for a recently-remastered early acoustic version of “B&E“. There were also two visually stunning videos that surfaced from  Haley Bonar and The Bug, the former being a gentle oneiric caress and the latter being a masterfully composed nightmarish descent of towering proportions. The History of Apple Pie staked out a place in a similar camp with their visually meticulous clip for Feel Something highlight “Jamias Vu”.

Director Alistair Redding has said that the video for “Jamais Vu” took cues from French New Wave pioneer Jean-Luc Godard and indie darling Wes Anderson. From the Robert Yeoman framing symmetry to the highly stylized art production, both influences cut through the clip like a knife. It’d all be distracting if it didn’t wind up being a perfect complement to The History of Apple Pie’s particular brand of whimsy; their exceptional fuzz-cloaked outsider pop somehow given greater emphasis by the striking visual palette. They’re a band that seems to operate in multicolor already and they’ve found a perfect match in Redding’s distinct and well-versed grasp on varying filmic influences. At just past the minute-and-thirty mark, there’s a long shot that switches the focal emphasis to the environmental foreground (which is generally relegated to the backdrop), double-framing the character subjects and providing a perfect point of reference for the composition mastery on display in “Jamais Vu”. Guns fire stars, uniformly dapper battalions stride through fields and scout the woods, and the whole thing’s brilliantly soundtracked by the song it was designed to enhance. It’s a monstrously winsome work of multimedia perfection, with every element working together to hit a surprisingly comprehensive level of artistry. “Jamais Vu” is far too fun to miss.

Watch “Jamais Vu” below and order Feel Something from the excellent UK-based Marshall Teller Records here.

LVL UP – Hoodwink’d (Album Review, Stream)

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Ever since LVL UP let “Soft Power” loose on the world, it was clear that they were operating on another level entirely; a really good band achieving greatness. The three songs that followed- “I Feel Ok“, “DBTS“, and “Ski Vacation“, respectively- all continued to enhance the expanding promise of Hoodwink’d, the record they were previewing. Each of the four songs had a very distinct style, lending some additional credence to the individual members’ stylistic tendencies towards creating songs that work perfectly as standalone numbers but function best as a complementary package. To that end, it’s probably not surprising that Hoodwink’d feels like a career best-of retrospective, despite the fact it’s only the band’s second full-length.

When LVL UP started, their approach was to simply write good, short pop songs. It was a winsome trait that helped establish them as New York’s finest purveyors of outsider pop- and defined Step Brothers, their outstanding introductory effort. While Hoodwink’d still operates in similar territory (the title track is 39 seconds, after all), their sonic palette is broadened considerably and allows for a step up from the band’s previously lo-fi production tactics, which winds up providing the band with a greater sense of urgency. Frequently droll (and fiercely witty) lyrics collide with a sharp immediacy and a murderer’s row of spectacular melodies in just about every one of Hoodwink’d‘s 15 songs, simultaneously one of 2014’s most diverse and unified non-compilation records.

From the drum shuffle that kicks everything off in “Angel From Space” to the fuzz-heavy feedback that draws the whole thing to its close, LVL UP inject Hoodwink’d with the sort of brazen confidence that usually suggests a band operating at the height of their powers. Throw in a sense of subtle ennui (usually manifested in the vocal performances), a seriously impressive slew of impassioned arrangements, and a staggering amount of personality and Hoodwink’d becomes even more compelling. Importantly, it should heavily resonate with a few of this generation’s subsets by virtue of being an astonishingly accurate presentation of the aspects by which they’re generally defined. All of that is circumstantial, though, and would never have come into play if it weren’t for one inescapable fact: this is an astoundingly great record.

Virtually every aspect of the band’s early promise is capitalized on in thrilling fashion, with each member consistently turning in career-best performances all throughout Hoodwink’d. These are songs that feel completely of-the-moment but have a sense of an indefinable timelessness, hinting that this may be a record with the kind of longevity most bands spend entire careers trying to produce. Whether it’s the fractured basement pop of “I Feel Extra-Natural” (which is one of several songs to feature auxiliary vocal work from Elaiza Santos), the relatively downtrodden “Hex“, or the unease-and-resolve back-and-forth of “Medication“, none of the material on display feels even remotely esoteric. Moreover, LVL UP seem to have pinpointed a new propensity for absurdly engaging material that also heavily rewards investment. All of which is just to simply state, once again (and this can’t be emphasized enough), this is an astoundingly great record

From song-to-song, there are no weak links to be found. It’s a masterpiece in miniature, something that perfectly reflects the punk-leaning micro-pop songs that are responsible for the bulk of the record. Everything that LVL UP put into Hoodwink’d seems to serve several purposes with an unfailing consistency. Even examining the aspects of the record that most cast off as unimportant, like sequencing and mastering, it’s difficult to find any glaring flaws. Sure, the brand of music the band traffics in will probably always fall into critical acclaim more easily than commercial success but that’s frequently the price of artistic integrity- something LVL UP has in spades. Ultimately, what LVL UP have wound up with isn’t just a career-making exclamation point, it’s a record that may very well wind up being viewed as one of 2014’s most definitive entries into today’s constantly shifting musical landscape- and it’s an absolute stunner.

Listen to Hoodwink’d below and order it from one of today’s best labels, Double Double Whammy (who teamed up with Exploding in Sound for this release), here.