Heartbreaking Bravery

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Tag: DGR

Tenement – Feral Cat Tribe (Music Video)

Tenement I

Sat. Nite Duets, Field Mouse, Voir Voir, Spook the Herd, FRIGS, Cool Ghouls, Kiss Concert, Conveyor, Pill, Death Valley Girls, Mikey Erg, and The Veils constituted one of the most impressive days for standalone streams in recent memory while Yucky Duster, Oneirogen, and Faithless Town made sure the full streams weren’t too far behind. There was also an impressive slate of music videos from the likes of Happy Accidents, High Waisted, Pkew Pkew Pkew, The Avalanches, Stefan Welch, Wand, and PJ Harvey. All of those releases deserve a hefty amount of investment but the band that snagged today’s feature spot — probably unsurprisingly at this point — was Tenement.

Few bands, if any, have had more words written about them in these spaces and I haven’t pushed any band more than Tenement. I’ve written about the trio at literally every opportunity over the past eight years and the band keeps providing reasons to sing their praises. Somehow, despite their lengthy history, “Feral Cat Tribe” stands as the band’s first official video. Featuring guitarist/vocalist Amos Pitsch’s Dusk roommates (Colin Wilde, Matt Stranger, and Julia Blair), “Feral Cat Tribe” also heavily promotes Tenement’s own ethos (stay true to what works on a DIY platform and elevate the talented people that surround you in the process).

The video itself is a dizzying, disorienting run through a relatively nondescript building as the band (and their friends) mime their way through “Feral Cat Tribe”, a highlight from one of last year’s best albums. “Feral Cat Tribe” is a shot in a way that evokes the 360-angle video trend without ever succumbing into gimmickry or egregious pageantry, opting to make a slight statement on the nature of art: no matter how it’s dressed, if the material’s core maintains its convictions, it’ll more than likely be worthwhile.

Swooping camera angles, quick edits, and constantly, continuously moving pieces are also reflective of the commendable principles the band’s endorsed since their beginning. This is music and filmmaking that’s tethered to the earth and openly embraces all of its cracks, flaws, and bruises. For Tenement’s entire career, the band’s been finding ways to find beauty in damage and the clip for “Feral Cat Tribe” continues that trend on the visual spectrum. There’s a certain level of courageousness that’s required to even attempt what Tenement’s been doing lately and they’re continuing to make it look effortless.

Whether the band’s evoking classic Americana art forms or simply building their own identity, they’re doing it with uncanny precision and a wealth of feeling. “Feral Cat Tribe” — what’s said to be the first of many music videos for Predatory Headlights  —  suggests the band’s grasp extends even further than what they’ve previously shown. A fascinating clip from one of the best bands currently going, “Feral Cat Tribe” further cements their status as one of today’s most trustworthy acts; everything the band delivers is battered gold.

Watch “Feral Cat Tribe” below and pick up Predatory Headlights from Don Giovanni here.

Watch This: Another Full Session

There have been a few recent posts that have commented on (and made attempts to amend) the recent hiatus that Watch This experienced. There will be two more extended packets following this installment of the series and then Watch This will be caught back up to the current release cycle. After the last entry — the longest compilation of any kind that’s ever run on this site — nearly exhausted the finest full sessions of the past month and a half, it felt necessary to turn the attention to some more abbreviated sessions.

Now, for the sake of consistency of time, a few full sessions appear toward the end of the compilation below. There are 83 total videos in this package but, as is always the case for this extended version of Watch This, 25 performances are featured. Had they been able to fit in without repeating or more properly aligned with what this entry’s trying to accomplish (without being repeat inclusions for the artist), Charles Bradley & The Extraordinaires, Thao & The Get Down Stay Down, and Sharon Jones & The Dap-Kings all had sessions that would have made the cut. That trio of clips alone should serve as a testament to the strength of this edition of the series. So, as always, sit up, adjust the volume, lean back, and Watch This.

1. Bully (The Current)
2. Those Manic Seas (Little Elephant)
3. Potty Mouth (Bedhead Sessions)
4. Torres (Paste)
5. Eddi Front (Hooke)
6. Alabama Shakes (Paste)
7. Tacocat (WFUV)
8. Thao & The Get Down Stay Down (KCRW)
9. Seratones (WFUV)
10. Frightened Rabbit (KCRW)
11. Music Band (Jam in the Van)
12. Charles Bradley (KINK)
13. Mass Gothic (Rhapsody)
14. Greys (Exclaim!)
15. Izzy True (Don Giovanni)
16. Black Beach (Allston Pudding)
17. Erik Blood (Band In Seattle)
18. Acid Dad (Jam in the Van)
19. Suuns (Exclaim!)
20. Diarrhea Planet (Jam in the Van)
21. Parquet Courts (Rough Trade)
22. Negative Scanner (Pressure Drop)
23. Wild Powwers (Band In Seattle)
24. Burnt Palms (Pressure Drop)
25. Wimps (Band In Seattle)

Watch This: Vol. 102

[EDITOR’S NOTE: Due to the nature of these upcoming posts, a truncated version of this introductory paragraph will be appearing over the next several installments of this series.] It’s been quite some time since the 100th edition of Watch This went up on this site. There have been a lot of factors going into the extended interim but, as usual, a focal point of that absence was to make sure the preparation work was kept up to date. Full sessions, single song performances, DIY videos, and impressive turn-ins from radio stations abound. So, as always, sit back, adjust the setting, crank the volume, focus up, and Watch This.

1. Hop Along – I Saw My Twin (Ace Hotel)

Hop Along‘s Painted Shut served as the band’s long-overdue breakout moment and they’ve been taking full advantage of the right opportunities since its release. Here, they give a spirited, acoustic-led rendition of “I Saw My Twin” that demonstrates the depth of their considerable abilities. It’s another memorable moment in a growing string of impressive pieces for one of 2015’s most heartening success stories.

2. Strand of Oaks (3voor12)

In 2014, Strand of Oaks turned in some of the year’s most memorable performances and, as a result, became a staple of Watch This. Timothy Showalter’s project hasn’t slowed pace throughout the course of the past 11 months, continuing to be one of the best live bands on the touring circuit. All that being noted, this still somehow manages to feel slightly elevated from the project’s previous work. A soaring reminder from a serious talent.

3. John Grant (The Current)

A few years ago, John Grant emerged as a singular voice in an overcrowded field of songwriters struggling to achieve that status. Grant followed up that feat with a record that cemented his position as one of the most unflinchingly bold artists operating today. Here, he leads his band through two highlights off of that record, “Grey Tickles” and “Global Warming”. To say that they’re arresting performances would be an understatement.

4. Cloud Castle Lake – Genuflect 

Last month, Cloud Castle Lake froze my blood with their appearance at Honor Press’s secret CMJ showcase. Watching the band weave their intricate tapestries together felt akin to a religious experience. While this live take of “Genuflect” they uploaded to their YouTube acount doesn’t quite hit those heights, it comes close enough to warrant a spot here. Beautifully shot and flawlessly performed, it’s one of the strongest hints to date of what this band’s capable of accomplishing.

5. Waxahatchee – Bathtub (Don Giovanni)

It’s been a few years since Waxahatchee’s breakout debut, American Weekend, was first released. That the songs that lived so comfortably in that set still feel so resonant today is a strong indicator of their apparent timelessness. “Bathtub”, in particular, is a song that still cuts deeply anytime it’s played. Don Giovanni recently captured a performance of the song that’s played to a dead silent audience. A perfect document of a small, profoundly moving moment.

Painted Zeros – Only You (Stream)

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Over the past few weeks, a lot of excellent material has surfaced. Unsurprisingly, the bulk of that material has been singles. Since the time span was so extensive (mostly due to the attention afforded to the CMJ coverage), all but one of those songs have been compiled in a list that will be running at the very bottom of this post. The one exception is tonight’s featured song: Painted Zeros‘ “Only You”.

After being somewhat underwhelmed by Painted Zeros’ set at Alphaville (which, to their credit, seemed to have more to do with the sound setup than their performance), the band knocked me for a loop during CMJ at Aviv. Having already commented on the impressive nature of their quieter material from their upcoming Floriography, it’s heartening to see the trio committing to “Only You”– a clear standout from their CMJ set– as their latest release in the album’s rollout campaign..

Driven by a gentle, intricate bass figure that comes courtesy of Jim Hill (who also plays in Slight, The Glow, and Montana and the Marvelles), “Only You” serves as a showcase for guitarist/vocalist Katie Lau’s more pensive side as well as the band’s considerable growth. Floating along like a fully-realized dream seeped in tranquility, “Only You” far surpasses the very evident promise of S V A L B A R D. Defying any easy genre categorization while flashing hints of the very best elements of everything from dream pop to post-punk, the song finds a soft transcendence and sustains it through its final, fading moments. From start to finish, “Only You” is a lovely, unexpected triumph.

Listen to “Only You” below and pre-order Floriography from Don Giovanni here. Beneath the embed, explore a collection of some of the best songs to find release over the past two weeks.

Petal – Silly Heart
Basement Benders – Purple Days
The Gloomies – LSD
Eluvium – Confessor
They Might Be Giants – Or So I Have Read
Holy Esque – Hexx
Kitten Forever – Temple
Matt Kivel – Janus
Wray – May 23rd
The Unspeakable Practices – A Steadying Effect
Soldiers of Fortune (ft. Stephen Malkmus) – Campus Swagger
Brass Bed – I Am Just A Whisper
Free Children of Earth – All Tomorrow’s Plunder
Go Deep – Slumberland
Elephant Stone (ft. Alex Mass) – The Devil’s Shelter
Globelamp – Controversial Confrontational
Tenement – Weakest Ones (Demo)
The Besnard Lakes – Golden Lion
Beach for Tiger – Coco
Le Rug – Bomb
Kindling – Painkiller
Manwomanchild – Return to Ithaca
Bummed – Smoking Jewels
Jaala – Salt Shaker
Cicada Rhythm – The Keeper
MONEY – You Look Like A Sad Painting On Both Sides of the Sky
Human Potential – 105 Pounds of Disintegration
Busdriver (ft. Milo and Anderson Paak) – Worlds to Run
Wimps – Old Guy
Infinite Void – Even Ground
Black Panties – You’ll Never Find My Body
TOPS – Hollow Sound of the Morning Chimes
Earring – Black Chalk
Swings – Dust
Some Pulp – Slasher Nite @ The Showcase East
Florist – Cool and Refreshing
Sam Means – We’re Alone
Never Young – New Villain
Floating Points – Peroration Six
Eternal Summers – Our Distant Bodies
Andy Shauf – Jenny Come Home
Val Hollie – Siberian Summer
William Alexander – Strangest Things
Mitylion – My Yard Is On
Sheer – Cursed Again

Laura Stevenson – Claustrophobe (Stream)

Laura Stevenson.
More than four dozen items into today’s review of the past week of music and there’s still more than a dozen things left to cover. That’s absurd. It’s also indicative of just how consistent 2015’s been in terms of great new releases. Whether it was a pair of music videos from Pity Sex and Will Butler or what essentially amount to attention-snagging previews from Heavy Looks and Chris Sutter‘s intriguing solo venture Genie’s Organ Recordings. There were also outstanding new songs from Woozy, Three Man Cannon, Holy Oysters, Haybaby, Broadcaster, British Sea Power, Palmas, and Polyon, as well as a deeply compelling full-length from Brooks Strause. In addition to that wealth of memorable material, there was a breathtaking new song from site favorite Laura Stevenson.

Coming off of a career high– 2013’s Wheel, a wonderful record that keeps improving with age– Stevenson had the unenviable task of following up an unlikely genre classic. As each new song from the songwriter’s forthcoming Cocksure trickles out, the more it seems like the record may surpass its predecessor. “Claustrophobe”, the latest single to be unveiled from the record, makes an immediate impact with its stargazing guitar line and insistent piano-plinking. Unfurling with grace and determination, “Claustrophobe” plays to Stevenson’s most anthemic sensibilities, with its monster chorus doing quite a bit of its own heavy lifting.

Propulsive, dynamic, and bittersweet, “Claustrophobe” is the latest extension of a continuously improving winning streak from one of this generation’s more under-appreciated songwriters. If the rest of Cocksure lives up to its previews, Stevenson’s name may be appearing in a lot of desirable places. For now, the best course of action’s to simply enjoy the music and the building anticipation for the October 30 release date. Just hit repeat until that day arrives.

Listen to “Claustrophobe” below and pre-order Cocksure from Don Giovanni here.

Tenement – Tenement (EP Stream, Review)

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Between the end of last week and the start of this one, this site hasn’t ran a lot of material. A lot of this is due to some upcoming live coverage and the editing that live coverage entails. As is always the case, though, an eye was kept on the emerging content and everything that registered as great was compiled into a list for future reference. Of those lists, the full streams may have been the most stacked, featuring no less than three year-end contenders, including Tenement, this post’s featured EP. For full-lengths, it’d be hard to do much better than the staggering 1-2 punch of the full-length debuts from site favorites All Dogs (Kicking Every Day) and Dogs On Acid (Dogs On Acid) though that didn’t detract from the great new records that started streaming from Frog Eyes, Willis Earl Beal, Fake Palms, i tried to run away when i was 6, Sea Lion, and Tamaryn. Then, of course, there was the re-release of the extremely limited run self-titled tour tape that was released earlier this year by a band that played a crucial role in the development of this site’s functionality, aim, and preference: Tenement.

Following a pattern that emerged around the time Napalm Dream was released, the band’s been ushering in new music with an impressive recklessness. While this time around the band opted to release a behemoth of a double album in Predatory Headlights, rather than opting for the individual split as they did with Napalm Dream and The Blind Wink, they’ve still got material to spare. After kicking this year off with their outstanding early career compilation Bruised Music, Volume 1 (a collection I had the distinct privilege of contributing a piece to for the zine insert that served as the record’s liner notes), they’re restlessly pushing forward with an appropriately ragged five-song collection that they recorded back in February. As mentioned earlier, the tape was held to a run of between 50-60 copies and only made available for their tour with Priests and Vacation.

Tenement’s always been characterized by their steadfast adherence to a DIY ethos but that aspect of their identity has never been so fully reflected by any of their releases than it is here, which is likely why the band opted to make it a self-titled. As the collection plays out, there’s a very real sense that these songs were crafted in a manner where the band felt unburdened by any lingering expectations. Of course, it’s still a Tenement record so the level of songwriting is exceedingly impressive and more than a little indicative of what makes the band one of today’s absolute best.

In a sense (or a few, rather), Tenement‘s actually more attuned to the sensibilities of guitarist/vocalist Amos Pitsch’s Dusk side project. The playing- and feel- from song to song is a lot more loose than Tenement songs tend to wind up being upon their official release and carry on with an easygoing naturalism that renders Tenement an endlessly listenable EP that’s as perfectly suited for open roads as it is a quiet night in. Curiously, all the songs are also titled after a line from the respective choruses or refrains, which is something the band’s generally avoided in the past, which also seems to solidify the fact that this is one of the most direct releases the band’s ever issued. While Pitsch still writes with the flair of a classic Americana novelist, he’s substituted a lot of his more obtuse looks with an emphasis on his lyrics’ more earnest aspects and it suits these songs to perfection. Bassist Jesse Ponkamo and drummer Eric Mayer, as ever, continue to prove their worth as one of today’s most valuable rhythm sections, keeping these songs grounded while still managing to lend them a widescreen appeal, some light menace, a wide-eyed sense of wonder, or an air of gritty determination.

Taken as a whole, Tenement is one of the more unexpected entries in the band’s catalog but it also may be its most quietly rewarding. Favoring understatement over exhilarating moments of power almost exclusively throughout its sub-14 minute run time, Tenement puts a microscope up to one of the band’s more under-utilized modes and results in an unlikely, willing EP that seemed fated to drop off into obscurity just a few short weeks ago. Thankfully, that’s not the case and now anyone who cares has access to “Everyone To Love You”, “Underworld Hotel”, “Witches In A Ritual”, “The Strangest Couple In Love”, and “Roads To Home”. Easily one of the band’s more enigmatic moments, Tenement‘s also one of 2015’s finest releases. Now that it’s finally here, don’t let this one fade into a footnote; turn it up and hit repeat when it’s done.

Listen to Tenement below and pray that it eventually gets repressed in some format. In the meantime, revisit the rest of the band’s unbelievable discography at their bandcamp and watch this site’s own collection of live Tenement videos below the stream.

Mitski – Live at Palisades – 7/17/15 (Pictorial Review, Live Video)

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Last night Palisades played host to a bill that guaranteed the venue would sell out well before doors, so expectations for the evening were considerably higher than usual. The night was headlined by Mitski (who has earned her fair share of words on this site) and made room for other site favorites like Brooklyn upstarts Normal Person and The Epoch favorites Eskimeaux. Throw in Elvis Depressedly (who now comfortably reside on Run For Cover’s increasingly fascinating roster) and any promotion outside of the show announcement practically becomes unnecessary; this one sold on its own.

Normal Person played first to a small but appreciative audience (it would progressively swell in size until the room was finally at capacity for Mitski) and brought their all. Their sole EP, the fantastic #0001, has been floating around online in some form or another for years. Recently, the tape was granted a physical release (a copy can- and should- be ordered from It Takes Time here) and it was the band’s first show to promote the tape. As is always the case with the various LVL UP side projects, Normal Person is a band that comes stacked with intimidatingly talented musicians. I only managed to catch the last stretch of their set but it was incredible enough to inspire the thought that it’ll only be a matter of time before they’re headlining these kinds of shows.

Next up was Eskimeaux, a band that’s part of the prolific Epoch collective and riding high on a wave of national acclaim for O.K., one of 2015’s best records. Unsurprisingly, the majority of their set pulled songs from that record and were played with the characteristic passion that The Epoch has become renowned for exhibiting. Nearly every song came laced with an approach that alternated between delicate and furious, spurring feelings of empathy and heartbreak in the process. It was abundantly clear that these songs carried significant meaning for guitarist/vocalist Gabrielle Smith, who delivered them with an uninhibited grace, leading her incredible band (Felix Walworth’s jaw-dropping drumming is worth singling out) through the emotional fraught terrain and- ultimately- delivering one of the best sets of the year.

Following something like Eskimeaux almost requires a certain wildness and that mania was something that Elvis Depressedly was more than happy to supply. My friend and fellow writer Sasha Geffen once said that Elvis Depressedly were “a band that records in lowercase but plays in all caps.” It’s a quote that, for whatever reason, has stuck with me over the years. I was anxious to find out what she meant and wasn’t disappointed to see the band fully embrace a much more chaotic and maximized version of themselves. They’ve assembled a strong band for this tour, which includes Greg Rutkin of LVL UP (and openers Normal Person) behind the kit. Significantly punchier than they are on record, Elvis Depressedly wound up creating a perfect bridge between Eskimeaux and Mitski with a career-spanning set largely mid-tempo numbers that had some psych flourishes and played into vocalist Mat Cothran’s outsize persona.

At this point, Mitski Miyawaki’s project has more than earned its headliner status and it was heartening to look out into the audience to see a diverse crowd of people that was dominated by a front section that skewed more towards the under 21 bracket (Mitski’s guitarist, Callan Dwan, would later reveal to me that she was very grateful for both the venue and the crowd’s size). Towards the very start of her set, Mitski addressed the crowd, thanking them for their support and encouraging the historically marginalized communities to be proud of their roots and “take up as much space as you can”, with a disarming sincerity that’s seen far too infrequently. It was a moving plea that was rooted in honesty, a dynamic that’s been translated effortlessly into her music (which is one of the many reasons behind Bury Me at Makeout Creek almost topping this site’s Best Albums of 2014 list) and is fully ingrained in her demeanor.

With ex-Diarrhea Planet drummer Casey Weissbuch (who’s also the mastermind of Infinity Cat‘s extraordinary cassette series) anchoring the trio, the band dove headfirst into a memorable set that wound up recapturing a lot of the magic of the last Mitski set to get coverage here (no small feat) while supplementing it with new intricacies. Deceptively nuanced and- a recurring theme throughout the night- unerringly heartfelt, it touched on various points throughout the songwriter’s discography, while- understandably- leaning heavily on the Bury Me At Makeout Creek material. If Mitski was baring her soul on the Palisades stage, the audience was reciprocating that generosity with extremely vocal support between songs.

At one point, in one of the evening’s most genuine and communal moments, Miyawaki ran backstage to collect the bottled water on hand for the artists and passed it out to the audience to help them cope with the uncomfortable humidity that only a small space packed with bodies on a warm day can bring. It was one in a series of moments with the band and the audience playing off of each other, which was itself a slight reflection of how well the band played off of each other during a very affirming set. Following the pained howling that closes out “Drunk Walk Home”, the band left the stage leaving its principle voice alone with the spotlight. Two tender songs later, the set was wrapped, and the audience was screaming for an encore that never came. Even if it had, it probably still wouldn’t have satiated the audience’s desires- and, really- why bother tampering with a perfect closing note?

A gallery of photos from the show can be found here and a video containing some of each act’s strongest highlight can be found underneath the gallery.

Tenement – Live at The Acheron – 6/25/15 (Pictorial Review, Live Video)

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Toys That Kill played an invigorating set at The Acheron on June 23. Two days later, Tenement did the same on a bill where they weren’t even technically the headliner (that distinction went to Warthog, whose set I didn’t manage to catch). Nancy kicked the show off with a costumed, attitude-heavy set. Really, the night seemed to belong to the middle three bands: two of the best acts in hardcore and, of course, Tenement– a band that’s been written about on here with alarming- but entirely justified- regularity.

A night defined by aggression, tension, cathartic release, and genuine surprise (perhaps best summarized by a brief, impromptu cover of Limp Bizkit’s “Break Stuff”) was highlighted by Ivy, Big Zit, and Tenement. Ivy played as ferociously as possible and Big Zit took that manic energy and injected their own brand of frenetic weirdness. Tenement (with Tyler Ditter filling  in on bass for Jesse Ponkamo) delivered a bruising set- that can be seen in full below- that served as a powerful reminder of why Tenement’s one of the best bands currently operating.

A gallery of photos of Ivy, Big Zit, and Tenement can be seen below. A pair of performances from Ivy can be seen beneath the gallery as well as the full Tenement set. Enjoy.


Tenement – Predatory Headlights (Album Review, Stream)

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It’s been more than a week since I moved from central Wisconsin to New York and one of the more constant companions I’ve kept has been Tenement‘s current magnum opus, Predatory Headlights. Weeks ago I was already fighting the urge to review the record because it was clear from the outset that, although the large bulk of the songs are heavily immediate, it’d require patience and investment to fully understand as a whole.

For nearly a decade now, Tenement’s been an important fixture of my life. After being brought into the greater DIY fold at the band’s former home base, The BFG, and playing (or booking) countless shows alongside the band, I’ve been able to keep a close eye on their artistic progression. All it took was one five song set for me to decide they were Wisconsin’s best band but even back in 2008 it would have been difficult to realistically predict the heights they’d eventually reach.

After two extraordinary full-lengths, nearly a dozen 7″ releases, and a revealing early career compilation [Full disclosure: I wrote one of the pieces in the compilation’s zine insert], the band finally signed to celebrated punk label Don Giovanni (years ago, they became the first non-New Jersey band that the label had ever approached), ensuring a catapult point for their already impressive ascension in name recognition. Now, the band’s riding a wave of acclaim for their first effort for the label: Predatory Headlights.

Recorded largely at The BFG, like a lot of their previous work, Predatory Headlights thrives on subversion and challenging limitations. From it’s impressive scope (the record’s 25 songs and nearly 80 minutes in length) to the record’s boldest works, it’s an extraordinary feat of not only artistry but endurance. As alive as Predatory Headlights can sound and feel, it also comes off as weathered; a very natural byproduct of the band’s Wisconsin environment.

It’s through that relative bleakness where Tenement’s consistently found novelistic inspiration, narrowing in on both the mundane and the minute with a deceptively sharp eye. Butchers, sidewalk cracks, broken homes, ants, flies, degenerates, criminals, and people who are just trying all show up various times throughout the band’s discography and no collection’s ever placed a greater emphasis on that subtle narrative through-line than Predatory Headlights.

Tales of hurt, heartbreak, loss, and unfettered resilience dominate the double album’s intimidating span, rendering it an occasionally challenging listen due to the overwhelming amount of filth that the band so readily (and possibly bravely) presents. It’s a trait that seeps over into the nuanced production- a task capably handled by both guitarist/vocalist Amos Pitsch and Wisconsin mainstay Justin Perkins. For all the dirt, though, there are a few transcendental moments of sweetness, like the absolutely gorgeous string arrangement in the outro of the piano-driven front-half highlight “Ants + Flies” or the Sheer Mag-like aesthetics of the ensuing track, “Garden of Secrecy”.

Finding the perfect balance between their intrinsically rough-hewn nature and a newfound vulnerability winds up serving Predatory Headlights well, creating a dynamic compelling enough to create a considerable pull. Aiding that are the songs where Tenement really gets to embrace their more free-form tendencies. For years, the trio have ended their sets with piercing noise excursions and harbor a wealth of knowledge in relation to free jazz, something that’s never been more clearly evidenced than on the record’s most divisive track, “A Frightening Place For Normal People”.

On this track- more than any other the band’s ever released- Tenement indulge themselves with startling conviction and it pays off. A few recent reviews have found “A Frightening Place For Normal People” the record’s most problematic track; they’re missing the point. Tenement as a band have never strove to adhere to what’s expected, they’ve always worked towards a complete dismantling of their limitations.

By intentionally throwing a prolonged left curve (and doing it so late in the record), a lot of people being put off is to be expected but there’s no better litmus test for the places Tenement are headed than (the very aptly titled) “A Frightening Place For Normal People”. By continuously exploring- and expanding- their boundaries outside traditional and/or conventional means, they’re following in the paths of composers like John Cage, Cecil Taylor,  and the late Ornette Coleman, trusting their listeners to be adventurous- and capable- enough to meet them with more than just a faint inkling of critical thought.

That sense of wonderment and exploration is likely Predatory Headlights‘ strongest asset, ensuring that both the band and record never sacrifice too much momentum even with stretches that lean more towards the structure of a singles compilation (which isn’t saying much; a Tenement singles compilation would be more affirming than most bands’ full efforts).

None of the songs on Predatory Headlights sound like the band’s coasting on their enviable talent, instead most carry the sound of a band pushing themselves to achieve something greater than their past work and frequently succeeding. A dominant handful sound vibrant and incredibly inspired; there’s never a weak moment in the midst of the shambolic chaos the band’s willed into existence. Auxiliary arrangements only enhance Predatory Headlights‘ sense of individualism, providing guitarist/vocalist Amos Pitsch with a deeply impressive showcase as a composer alongside the band’s consistently powerful rhythm section (consisting of bassist Jesse Ponkamo and drummer Eric Mayer).

On the whole, Predatory Headlights highlights every facet of the band’s enviably extensive strengths. Atmospheric, propulsive, severe, and more than a little manic, it contains the breadth of Tenement. From the obvious influences that split the difference between punk and pop without sacrificing any integrity (The Figgs and Hickey definitely come to mind) to the artists that refused to bend to conventionality (Albert Ayler, Erik Satie) to the prevailing sense of a hard-won DIY ethos that’s been at the core of the band from the beginning, Predatory Headlights is a shockingly complete look at one of what may very well be the most important bands working today.

Predatory Headlights isn’t a lapse in judgment, it’s far too carefully structured and meticulous to be lost to oversight. While it might be an unintentional challenge, it’s most certainly a statement release. Tenement, after years of deserving the national spotlight, have arrived. They’re not going to cater to easy expectations, they’re going to continue eschewing gloss in favor of celebrating the murk of America’s lower-middle class, relentlessly turning things perceived or regarded as ugly into something tantalizing and beautiful (I’ve compared Pitsch’s vision of America to John Steinbeck multiple times over but the comparison’s never felt more warranted than it is here).

Reviews from high-profile publications like the New York Times and Pitchfork aren’t going to change the band’s modus operandi; Tenement are still very much a band that will play basements and go out of their way to help younger bands. More than anything, though, Predatory Headlights has me convinced that Tenement aren’t just part of the new face of punk- they’re the face of punk to come.

Listen to Predatory Headlights on Spotify here and watch the complete collection of videos I’ve shot of the band over the years below. For those of you in the New York City area, Tenement will be playing with Big Zit, Ivy, Nancy, and Warthog at The Acheron and their live set’s not one to be missed. You can purchase tickets for the show here. Predatory Headlights can be ordered directly from Don Giovanni here.

 

Worriers – They/Them/Theirs (Stream)

worriers

There were a lot of great items that were released over the past week and, as such, this will be the first of many posts coming throughout the weekend. Each one will have a featured piece and approximately four other releases included with whatever’s in the title. To that end, before getting to Worriers’ impassioned career highlight “They/Them/Theirs”, we’ll be taking a look at some other memorable songs- and one great EP- that are worth hearing. Among them, Big Star’s Jody Stephens’ new project Those Pretty Wrongs and their lovely “Lucky Guy“, Spirit Club’s compellingly gentle basement pop tune “Fast Ice“, and theweaselmartenfisher‘s unbelievably stunning “Daguerrotype Reboot“. Add in Trophy Dad’s Shirtless Algebra Fridays EP and it would already have been an impressive quartet with four worthy potential features. Then, of course, there was “They/Them/Their”, a blistering basement punk tune that’s both a pointed commentary on gender roles and easily Worriers’ finest work to date.

Lauren Denitizo lays out the songs terms from the onset with one of the year’s best opening lines in “You’ve got a word for one/so there’s a word for all”, before capping that verse off with “what if I don’t want something that applies to me/what if there’s no better word than just not saying anything”, delivering a stark, no-bullshit narrative for the respect all people’s identities deserve to be met with in under 20 seconds. Of course, it’s only a fragment of what, even with no lyrics, would have been the sharpest music of Worriers’ expanding career. The lyric set, which serves as one of 2015’s most arresting, just sweetens the deal. Even brought down to the chorus’ “We are floating between two ends that don’t matter” (a sentiment that articulates in one line what Tica Douglas’ Joey managed to create a compelling album around) , “They/Them/Their” becomes Worriers’ implicit clarion call.

We’re currently in the midst of a landscape that’s changing for the better, allowing for greater empathy and humanism. It’s a shift that’s being met with derision from the people who feel challenged by the changes. Worriers have always had their patch of land picked out and their flag stuck in the dirt. Now, they’re delivering the most eloquent reasoning for why they’re in the right and laying out the reasons to follow their path. I’ll be on their side of this movement every time. Which side are you on?

Listen to “They/Them/Their” below  and keep an eye out on this site for more news on Imaginary Life, Worriers’ forthcoming album, which is due out via Don Giovanni on August 7.