Heartbreaking Bravery

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Tag: DIY

Slight – Hate the Summer (Song Premiere)

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Photograph by Stepahnie Griffin // INDAFF

Ever since hearing Slight‘s Run (an online single that would go on to top this site’s odds and ends of 2014 list), they’ve been easy to pin down in the “favorite bands” category. While the respective successes of Painted Zeros, LVL UP, and Normal Person have kept its members occupied in 2015, the trio’s managed to find a way to keep pushing forward. Tomorrow, they’ll be releasing their Hate the Summer EP (which includes both songs from Run) in conjunction with their show at Palisades, which will also feature sets from Museum of Recycling, Normal Person, and The Glow.

In advance of the show (and the release), the band’s allowing everyone a look ahead with the EP’s title track. “Hate the Summer” is another basement pop triumph, expertly balancing a clear-eyed conviction with a determined grit that elevates the song well past the levels that most bands who attempt that feat achieve. Surging with a punk bite but grounded by Jim Hill’s enviable gift for pop songwriting, “Hate the Summer” comes across as both immediate and accessible without ever sounding or feeling hollow.

While the vocal and guitar hooks abound, the song’s kept anchored by the characteristically impressive rhythm section work laid down by Alberto Casadevall and Greg Rutkin, who provide the song with a remarkable amount of drive. Hard-hitting and heavy-hearted, the song’s eventually defined by its resilience in the face of a detached weariness. It’s nuanced, it’s effective, and it’s one of the finest songs to have found release in the past several months. By the time the bridge kicks in, it’s clear that Slight’s members haven’t placed this project on the back burner and are intent to push it forward with all the strength they can manage. We’re just fortunate enough to be along for the ride.

Listen to “Hate the Summer” below and keep an eye on this site for any upcoming news about the band.

A Short Stretch at The Silent Barn (Pictorial Review, Live Video)

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One of Brooklyn’s most attractive attributes has always been its thriving music scene, aided in no small part by an impressive string of venues. One that’s consistently booked incredible shows, fostered a sense of community, and remained a point of pride for several communities is The Silent Barn, which has been covered here on more than a few occasions. Over the past month, the Barn’s hosted a handful of shows I’ve been fortunate enough to attend, starting with a strong bill that included site favorites Washer, Slight, Vagabon, and Downies. All four played strong sets and included incredible new material. Spit proved to be a highlight of a fundraiser for a community bail project a few weeks later and everything culminated with an unbelievable set from PWR BTTM as they celebrated the release of Ugly Cherries with Kississippi, Fern Mayo, and Charly Bliss (which also had the benefit of being hosted by the ceaselessly entertaining Mary Houlihan). It was a show that was immediately preceded by a more intimate affair that was highlighted by a set from Yohua.

While all of the bands that played delivered memorable sets, PWR BTTM’s deserves greater focus. After being impressed with some of their earlier songs, their live show wound up securing them as a spot as one of my favorite bands of the moment. I’ve talked a lot about the additional reasons that they’ve earned so many words here, with their presentation of identity playing a major factor, and I’m far from the only person that’s found an element to latch onto when it comes to the band and their music. After Charly Bliss had enticed everyone with a characteristically extraordinary set and the promise of Ugly Cherries-themed cupcakes, PWR BTTM took to the stage and delivered one of the most memorable sets of the year.

People screamed along to key lines of songs, crowd-surfed, danced, and moshed, as the band tore through a discography-spanning set that peered into the future once with the unveiling of a devastating, bass-led song that prompted genuine tears from a few audience members (also notable: PWR BTTM’s Benjamin Hopkins’ parents were in attendance, as was the mother of Charly Bliss’ Eva Hendricks). Hopkins went into the audience on more than a few occasions and at every moment during their set (one that included Fern Mayo’s Nicholas Cummins on bass duties for a small batch of songs), it was abundantly clear that their audience has only grown more passionate since the start of this year. By the time “Carbs” was coming to its conclusion, a few bodies were being hoisted above the crowd, both Hopkins and Liv Bruce’s dresses were half off or more, and everyone was drenched in sweat- but, more importantly, they were smiling.     

Watch a composite video of several of the performances that have occurred over the month of September and view a photo gallery of the shows mentioned here.

 

 

Sharkmuffin – Live at Shea Stadium – 8/7/15 (Pictorial Review, Live Video)

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Sharkmuffin’s release show party for Chartreuse at Shea Stadium was the kind of show that’s worth circling multiple times on a calendar. Easily my most anticipated of the month, it didn’t disappoint. A stacked five-band bill was kickstarted by a strong set from the emergent Fruit&Flowers, who delivered their wild-eyed basement pop with a lot of psych’ed out post-punk flourishes and an emphatic punch. Boytoy- who released one of last year’s finest debut EP’s– followed suit with a riff-happy, surf-heavy angle on a similar approach. Fuzzy, sunny, and surprisingly atmospheric, the trio managed to impress on their own terms and set site favorites Lost Boy ? up perfectly.

Lost Boy ?, as they always have, brought an outsize outsider charisma to the proceedings and kicked things into high gear almost as soon as they hit the stage. The band’s extraordinary Canned would have been at the absolute peak of last year’s special releases list had it been streaming anywhere ahead of its official vinyl release in 2015 but it was kept off the internet until that moment came. Even though about a year’s elapsed between the record’s original release, Canned still feels unbelievably vibrant thanks to the explosive energy that permeates throughout literally every song on the collection. That ragged ferocity is, unsurprisingly, amplified in the live setting and nearly every song the band played felt like a giddy exclamation mark. Celebratory and occasionally punishing, it was the adrenaline jolt that made sure things kept going strong after the midway point.

Even in the seemingly impossible scenario where Lost Boy ? had faltered, the evening would’ve been easily rescued by another site favorite- Charly BlissSoft Serve topped this site’s best-of EP list in 2014 (incidentally, Lost Boy ? secured the 11 slot) and whenever their LP finally secures its official release, it’s not a stretch to imagine it’ll wind up securing the Album of the Year distinction or something remarkably close. I’ve been desperately searching for something I don’t like about Charly Bliss for over a year and I still can’t find anything. The band’s a powerhouse in the studio, an absolute force on stage, and they’re penning some of the best music being released today. I’ve come to accept that they’re one of my absolute favorite bands and with every set I take in, that declaration’s getting closer to shedding the “one of” and simply becoming “my favorite band.” Unsurprisingly, their set here was monstrous and left a tall order for Sharkmuffin.

To their credit, Sharkmuffin kept the evening going even stronger with a deeply impassioned set that saw the band play every cut from their excellent Chartreuse, one of 2015’s finest releases. Playing as a quartet with Lost Boy ?’s Davey Jones giving an assist on guitar, the band’s set took on several different modes with a finessed aplomb. Coy, vicious, and carefree, the band shifted their focus at will and whipped an adoring audience into frenzy after frenzy with an incredible amount of ease. Alternating between poise and recklessness, then somehow managing to bridge the gap, Sharkmuffin tore up Shea Stadium and more than earned their encore. It was the final stage of a progression that started with foot-tapping (Fruit&Flowers), head-nodding (Boytoy), headbanging (Lost Boy ?), pogo-dancing (Charly Bliss), and- finally- moshing (Sharkmuffin themselves). Combining seemingly every single one of those stages with their last two songs, the band left the stage exhausted and smiling and the audience couldn’t help themselves from exiting the venue in the exact same fashion.

Click over to the full photo gallery of the show here and watch some of the evening’s performances in the video below.

Frankie Cosmos – Live at DBTS – 8/1/15 (Pictorial Review, Live Video)

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On the first day of August, a flock of people congregated at David Blaine’s The Steakhouse to see a show packed with impressive solo artists and two secret headliners. Six acts in total and margaritas by the bucketful, the night promised to be memorable and delivered on that promise in full. Brittany Costa (who also plays in the excellent admira) kicked the evening off with a set of delicate, haunting songs anchored by her stunning voice and reverbed-out electric ukulele. Adir L.C. sustained that setting (swapping out the uke for a guitar) and blended in a distinct brand of soulfulness that elevated his songs far past the standard coffeehouse fare.

The evening’s third act, Rebecca Ryskalczyk, recently earned a feature on this site for an excellent demo packet. Ryskalczyk, who also plays in Bethlehem Steel, offered up a gorgeous set (“Other Otters”, in particular, was breathtaking) and one of the night’s most unexpected moments. Mid-set, the songwriter broke from the music for a spirited stand up set that kept the audience entranced as they laughed. Her set was the last of the solo acts and set the stage for the first full band performance. Roz and the Rice Cakes took that slot and ran with it, offering up an eclectic, manic set of carnivalesque pop.

Before long the first of two secret headliners, site favorites Girlpool, were front and center. Having just delivered a mesmerizing set at Baby’s All Right only a handful of days prior, there was the looming possibility of diminishing returns. The setting, the performance, and the overwhelming quality of the duo’s music quickly put any concerns to rest and once again provided a masterclass in minimal pop. Eliciting more than a few chills, the band made their way through a varied set with verve and grace before finally putting a bow on another unforgettable set.

Frankie Cosmos took the last headliner slot and the audience’s adoration for the trio was as palpable as it had been for Girlpool. Playing their first show with the new lineup, the trio seemed eager to test the waters and wasted no time in settling into a groove. A handful of songs bled into each other seamlessly and the band seemed incredibly locked in to their performance, providing a strong showcase for material old and new. For how gentle Frankie Cosmos’ music seems, the band’s performance can be fiery to the point of contradiction, creating a fascinating dynamic that works heavily in the band’s favor. By the time the band wrapped things up with the painfully gorgeous “Embody”, they’d likely won over anyone that wasn’t already on board and- more importantly- ended a great show on the perfect note.

Click over to the full photo gallery of the show here and watch some of the evening’s performances in the video below.

Girlpool – Live at Baby’s All Right – 7/29/15 (Pictorial Review, Live Video)

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Yesterday evening, one of Brooklyn’s finest venues- Baby’s All Right- opened its doors and ushered in an eclectic mix of people that tended to skew younger than older but still boasted a handful of patrons who could have grandchildren. It was a nice sight that was likely due to the wide-reaching appeal of both bands playing the early show: Florist and Girlpool.

Both acts have built up a quiet notoriety over the past few years, with the former being a staple of the revered arts collective The Epoch and the latter being one of 2014’s great word-of-mouth successes. The show had sold out before Baby’s opened its doors and the packed room left both bands unfazed. Florist started things off with a set of gentle songs that incorporated subtle, folk-inflected influences into devastating indie pop songs.

Each song kept the audience at a silenced hush as the room swelled to capacity. For the entirety of their set, Florist played in front of a static drumkit (one that would have otherwise been used by Felix Walworth, who’s currently on tour) in what seemed to be a gesture of heartfelt solidarity. By the time their set was drawing to a close, the audience was completely at their mercy, hanging onto every soft word and ambient flourish; it was almost as if Florist was the headlining act, a notion that was supported by the waves of applause following their final notes.

Ultimately, Florist’s set was a perfect lead-in to Girlpool, who wasted no time in launching into their set once they took the stage. Now, Girlpool’s been written about enough times here that it’d be easy to collect all of those pieces and fashion a small bible- but it still felt like they had something to prove an in-person live setting. The notion that they couldn’t was dismissed completely as soon as the duo (comprised of Cleo Tucker on guitar/vocals and Harmony Lebel-Tividad on bass/vocals) launched into their first harmony sequence.

Throughout  their set, both Tucker and Lebel-Tividad were in high spirits, casually joking with each other while dealing with a guitar that kept stubbornly falling out of tune. Families, couples, and musicians all watched intently as Girlpool played cuts from their outstanding self-titled EP (one of 2014’s best) and this year’s superb Before The World Was Big, while making room for at least two new tunes.

No matter what the band did, there was a pervading sense of easy camaraderie that bled into a seemingly telepathic connection between the duo. As many others have noted, at times their voices adopt each others affections and become virtually indistinguishable. While that aspect of their music can certainly be heard on record (and in several performance captures), hearing it in person is spine-tingling.

Before anyone knew what was happening, the band had seemingly everyone held at rapt attention, suspended in a moment where time was irrelevant. A brief “this is our last song” brought reality crashing back down on the proceedings and the band finished their main set exhibiting the same flair and charisma that earned them their headliner status in the first place. The encore call was immediate and overwhelming.

After a brief attempt to lead a venue wide singalong of “Happy Birthday” for the girl who cried out that it was hers, the band sheepishly launched into the first song of their encore: “Plants and Worms“. Even in a still-young discography packed with incredible material, “Plants and Worms” stands out in their catalog- and not just because it  was gifted one of the best music videos of 2014. It was one of the first glimpses at the band’s maturation level and the songwriting remains some of the most staggering they’ve committed to a recording.

Decidedly darker in tone than the rest of their material, “Plants and Worms” is immediately arresting and the audience was dead quiet throughout (with the exception of a delighted reaction to the Tucker aside about the attempted birthday song), completely engrossed in the performance at hand. The evening ended with a gripping rendition of “Dear Nora”, one of Before The World Was Big‘s most quiet, affecting, and personal songs. When it drew to its silent finish, the audience gave one last enthusiastic applause and got one last glimpse of the band, smiling and waving, in front of an iconic backdrop, left with one last reminder that even though they were making their stage exit, Girlpool aren’t anywhere close to calling it quits.

A photo gallery of the show can be seen below. Underneath the gallery, watch video captures of parts of both Florist’s and Girlpool’s set below. Each video set includes two new songs per artist. Florist’s also includes “1914” while Girlpool’s includes “Chinatown”, “Crowded Stranger”, “Pretty”, and “Plants and Worms”. Enjoy.

 

 

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Slothrust – Live at Suburbia – 7/10/15 (Pictorial Review, Live Video)

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One of the best things about a place like Brooklyn is that if you wind up having to miss out on one show, there’s another one happening just a short distance away that could very easily have or exceed the impact of the show you missed. While my initial plan to see Rainer Maria fell through, it was heartbreaking for a moment- until I was reminded that PWR BTTM and Slothrust were headlining a nearby show. Anyone that’s come across this site lately likely already knows exactly how this place feels about PWR BTTM and eagle-eyed observers with an astounding memory capacity may recall that Slothrust got shortlisted in our round-up of 2014’s best releases for the extraordinary Of Course You Do. Having both acts on the same bill made for an easy decision, despite quite a bit of competition.

Lowlives and Nonsense opened the show and while my late arrival meant having to miss the former entirely, I did manage to catch the end of the latter’s set. Suburbia- the venue that hosted the show- proved to be a better fit for the band than Aviv, where they’d recently played as part of the collaborative Northside showcase that was put on by Ipsum, Gimme Tinnitus, and Exploding in Sound. Playing to an appreciative crowd, Nonsense played off of each other quite well and se the stage nicely for PWR BTTM. Once again, PWR BTTM proved to be an absolute force- even in the face of lost pedals and a string breaking, the charismatic duo never had a moment that was anything less than obscenely compelling.  The band’s putting out Ugly Cherries– one of the year’s best records- in September and their set previewed a lot of material from that release while also still incorporating long-standing staples like the anthemic “Hold Yer Tongue”. As usual, their set was a convincing (and probably even inspiring) demonstration of energy, resilience, mischief, and enviable skill. In short; it was just about perfect.

Slothrust, a band that I’d previously only ever maintained a glancing familiarity with, followed PWR BTTM with a powerhouse set that more than justified their top bill placement. From the onset, it was evident that the band’s built up an extremely loyal and devoted fan base. By the end of their set, it was easy to see what inspired that devotion. Both on record and live, Slothrust are operating on a very different level than just about any band running their circuit(s). Combining elements of grunge, folk, Americana, punk, powerpop, and even prog into something that feels remarkably singular, they’ve crafted an identity that manages to both be accessible and refreshingly unique.

With Leah Wallbaum’s biting- and frequently deeply personal- lyrics leading the band’s frenzied charges in their most chaotic moments (and anchoring the band when they exercise their restraint), Slothrust very quickly transform into a band that people not only strongly identify with but want to see succeed. Even at their most irreverent, there’s a level of conviction that translates so easily for Slothrust that it’s nearly impossible not to be mesmerized by the music they’re making/playing. That aspect of the band held especially true for the 1-2 punch of a genuinely stunning Britney Spears cover (“…Baby One More Time)” and “Crockpot“, their extraordinary closing number and current career highlight. In those climactic moments, the band managed to showcase nearly all of their varying draws and limitless appeal, ultimately providing an emphatic endpoint to an exhilarating set- and ensuring that this site will be covering them a lot more closely in the following months.

A photo gallery of PWR BTTM and Slothrust’s sets can be seen here and a video containing a large portion of both bands’ sets can be found below. Enjoy.

Sweet John Bloom – Weird Prayer (Album Review, Stream)

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As has been mentioned multiple times over, this site saw a recent shift from standard coverage to specialty coverage thanks to a move. In the few weeks that have passed in that time, a slew of exciting new releases made their way out into the world. One of the finest- and, frankly, most overlooked- was Sweet John Bloom’s fiery Weird Prayer. That record will be the focus of this piece, while a list of 50 excellent full streams to have recently appeared will be included beneath the embedded bandcamp player. Before immediately going there, though, let’s focus on the matter at hand: Sweet John Bloom’s full-length debut.

Formed out of the ashes of several other bands (including Four Eyes, who released one of the best 7″ records in recent memory with Towards the End of Cosmic Loneliness), Sweet John Bloom already had a fairly impressive pedigree out of the gate. It’s not surprising that the band managed to click as tightly as they have, especially considering their respective former bands had all established a familiarity by virtue of shared spaces (bills, scenes, etc.). Even with all of that taken into account, Weird Prayer‘s pure strength still manages to surpass expectations.

A collection of 15 dirtied up, punk-leaning basement pop songs, the record not only succeeds in effortlessly conveying the band’s identity but in coming off as a genuine record; something that’s meant to be heard in full. Naturally sequenced and expertly paced, it’s a considerable achievement for a first at-bat operating with this medium as a collective unit. Each section of Weird Prayer comes off as considered as it does impassioned, rendering the whole thing an invigorating shot of adrenaline. Vocal leads are traded with ease, there’s a killer melody buried in just about every passage, and the flawless production makes sure to include enough bursts of weirdness- like the absolutely stunning outro to “Night Thing”- to keep the whole thing zipping along at a startling clip.

For as willfully rough as Weird Prayer sounds, it’s also a record that’s partially defined by finesse. Deceptively elegant guitar figures play with the limits of restraint even as they’re pushed to the red. The rhythm section work always serves a purpose beyond just simply being a base and the lyricism, while occasionally buried with the vocals in the mix, is frequently poignant. Sweet John Bloom also manage to find as much success experimenting with their more gentle sensibilities as they do when they give in to their desire to be abrasive.

“Blood Moon” sees the band finding the perfect balance between the gentle/abrasive dichotomy and, in the context of the record, the song feels even livelier and massive than it did as a standalone single. It’s one of several songs on the record that go beyond anthemic to the realms of catharsis without ever succumbing to over-simplification. It’s part of why the record never loses an unfailing sense of urgency that goes well beyond most of the songs’ inherent immediacy, which sets up a tall order for Weird Prayer‘s final stretch.

In most cases where an album’s almost exclusively built on raucous barn-burners, the weight eventually builds and the load becomes unsustainable; there’s a reason why rollercoasters don’t extend for hours and why successful action films need exposition. Weird Prayer deals nicely with this by offering a gradual come-down by easing off the gas pedal and utilizing a tempo that creeps in a little under the established average for most of its closing numbers. Even then, Sweet John Bloom don’t cede their penchant for a confrontational aesthetic; the 1-2 punch of “Death; and Everything’s Paid For” and “Trust  Me” feels particularly vital and bristles with a world-conquering energy. Fittingly, “Aging In Place”- the first song to be shared from Weird Prayer– brings everything home in a finale that’s both familiar and intensely rousing; an exhilarating end-cap to one of the year’s finest records.

Pick up Weird Prayer from Tiny Engines here and listen to it by clicking play below. Underneath the bandcamp player, browse 50 other great recent full streams.

Radioactivity – Silent Kill
J Fernandez – Many Levels of Laughter
Fight Amp – Constantly Off
Yukon Blonde – On Blonde
Sissy – Gave Birth To A Mum
Expert Alterations – Expert Alterations
Spray Paint – Punters On A Barge
Ballroom – Ballroom
Bad Boys – Demo
Year of Glad – Year of Glad
Little Children – Travelling Through Darkness
The Fur Coats – Short-Brain
Magic Potion – Melt
Oscar – Beautiful Words
Sea Cycles – Ground & Air
Prinzhorn Dance School – Home Economics
Senpai – Hell In My Head b/w Mind Honey
Arm Candy – Arm Candy
Institue – Catharsis
Chris Weisman – Chaos Isn’t Single
Max Gowan – Big People
Falling Stacks – No Wives
Hints – No Regrets In Old English
No Joy – More Faithful
Pleistocene – Space Trap
Long Neck – Heights
No Friends – I’m Not Real
Marvelous Mark – Bite Me
HDSPNS – HDSPNS
KEN Mode – Success
Walleater – I/II
Sweatshop Boys – Always Polite, Never Happy
Wavves x Cloud Nothings – Wavves x Cloud Nothings
Tough Age – I Get The Feeling Central
Sea of Bees – Build A Boat To The Sun
C H R I S T – T O W E R
Alden Penner – Canada In Space
Teen Daze – Morning World
Fell To Low – Low In The Dust
Palm – Ostrich Vacation
Bully – Feels Like
Bruise – demos.
The Armed – Untitled
Cold Cave – Full Cold Moon
Self Defense Family – Heaven Is Earth
Wild Pink – Good Life
Nicolas Jaar – Nymphs III
Creepoid – Cemetery Highrise Slum
Gnarwhal – Shinerboy
Lady Bones – Dying

Lost Boy ? – Live at Shea Stadium – 6/20/15 (Pictorial Review, Live Video)

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Tomorrow there will be a slew of posts and content that cover a large handful of notable new releases and semi-regular progress will continue (again, there will likely be a greater emphasis on live documentation in the coming weeks since it’s more readily accessible). Today belongs to a playlist that will run some time after this review (likely later on in the evening) and a show review of a packed bill that went down at Shea Stadium on Saturday night.

Unicycle Loves You, Mumblr, Leapling, Clearance, and Lost Boy ? all played impassioned sets and although I only managed to catch the tail end of Unicycle Loves You (the only band I didn’t manage to capture on film, an oversight I’ll be actively seeking to amend in the coming weeks), they’re a band worth recommending without any hesitation. Site favorites Mumblr— who played the only show this site’s ever presented [additional color: Ben Grigg from Geronimo! was also in attendance, wearing a Meat Wave shirt to round out the circle.]– drove from Canada to deliver a blistering set that leaned heavily on considerably noisier work than they’ve produced in the past. The dimly-lit setup proved restrictive for photography but all the lights were on for Leapling.

Playing a staggering amount of new material, Leapling seemed eager to test out their new songs and their focus seems to have sharpened in the brief interim that’s followed Vacant Page, a record that’s only been out for just over four months. Unfailingly sharp, the trio (a new lineup for the group) came off as having a practiced finesse and tapped into an exciting rawness when they embraced their noisier tendencies. Clearance would take the stage following Leapling’s run, further enhancing an off-kilter raucousness that Leapling had touched upon in their closing number.

The Chicago-based quartet leaned heavily on a Pavement influence to unusually exhilarating results, crafting something that nonetheless managed to feel like part of a unique identity. Scuzzy, surprisingly heavy, and just a little post-punk, Clearance have managed to cultivate a style of basement pop that translates perfectly to the live setting. Hitting all the right notes and building momentum as their set progressed, the band definitely left a mark on Shea Stadium and created a few converts in the process, all the while setting the stage for Lost Boy ?.

Following the unlikely saga of the 2014 tape release of Canned (I’m one of the few people that have stubbornly held onto an incorrectly sequenced cassette copy) with the official release of the record in 2015, Lost Boy ? have managed to keep their name in circulation for a while. If the record had been streaming at the end of last year, it would have been towards the absolute top of the specialty release list. A long-time favorite, the band delivered on every conceivable level with a high-energy set that made room to incorporate a few surprise guests (among them, Titus Andronicus’ Patrick Stickles and Eric Harm).

Partially a celebration for Cammed, the cassette release of the Canned demos, the band also revealed a few new songs that were delivered with the same kind of manic energy that characterizes the bulk of their discography. Played with a sly smile and no shortage of determination, it came off as a proper headlining set that a lot of people wished would just keep going. Even after the band made their stage exit following a fiery performance of “Taste Butter”, the night felt far from over (likely thanks to the energy incited by Lost Boy ?).

In the last surprise of the evening, those that stuck around and saw Lost Boy ?’s set through were rewarded with an impromptu Neil Young cover set that saw members of Lost Boy ? and Titus Andronicus teaming up for ramshackle takes on some of the songwriter’s early career highlights. As far as epilogues go, it felt fittingly communal; a moment shared between friends who were all pursuing the same common interest(s). After a long take on “Down By The River” that saw Stickles take over on bass duties- and absolutely go off on a few furious, fuzzed-out solos- the night had drawn to a conclusion that mirrored the preceding events; subtly chaotic, fairly unexpected, and just about perfect.

A gallery of photographs from each band can be seen below and a video player containing performances from Mumblr, Leapling, Clearance, and Lost Boy ? has been included beneath the gallery. Enjoy.

 


First Quarter Full Streams, Pt. 2

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As was noted and clearly evidenced by the last post’s overabundance of content, 2015’s off to a particularly strong start in terms of memorable records. While a few of those 75 entries from that post do have a shot at working their way into the upper echelons of the year’s finest by December, the 25 full streams listed below are among 2015’s very finest offerings. From demo compilations of old material to split EP’s to full-lengths, everything on this list is worthy of an immediate purchase. A few of these are pulverizing shows of force, a few are immediate sugar-rush blitzes, and a few are quietly devastating. All of them are releases I’ve listened to multiple times over and formed very extreme connections with on a myriad of levels. Don’t make a regrettable decision by not giving any of the unfamiliar titles a fair shot: there’s a release here for just about everyone.

1. Quarterbacks – Quarterbacks

Quarterbacks have earned a fair amount of praise from this site and a large amount of that’s been for their exhilarating self-titled, which is the band’s first complete full band effort. Recalling the transition that Radiator Hospital made with their brilliant debut full band full-length effort, Something Wild, Quarterbacks doesn’t pull any of its punches. It’s a spiky record that lends Dean Engle’s songs a ferocious punch that comes with a lingering bite.

2. Tenement – Bruised Music: Volume 1

I’ve written an enormous amount of words about my unending love for Tenement. Some of those words can be read in the zine that comes packaged with this record. One of my favorite bands, if not outright favorite, for nearly a decade, Bruised Music: Vol. 1 is the perfect reminder of why I fell for this band in the first place. A compilation of early material from long out-of-print 7″ records, compilations, and other various scraps, this is the definitive starter kit for anyone looking to retrace Tenement’s career path to its humble beginnings. Unsurprisingly, it’s also ridiculously brilliant. Expect to see more words about this record published on this site in the coming months.

3. Krill – A Distant Fist Unclenching

Krill forever.

4. Hailey Wojcik – Book of Beasts

One of the year’s best early surprises, Hailey Wojcik’s Book of Beasts EP has all the makings of what could (and should) prove to be a career-making effort for the singer/songwriter. Dark tones, brilliant composition, strong melody, and an incredibly alluring voice is always a dangerous combination. Here, each one of those elements is shot through with a Gothic Americana sensibility that manages to find its niche in forward thinking. It’s an incredible release and deserves much more attention than it’s been receiving. Bonus points for offering the release up on bandcamp for the price of $6.66.

5. Daddy Issues – Double Loser

Daddy Issues may not be the most recognizable name on the market but we’re less than a month removed from the cassette release of Double Loser and the thing’s already sold out. Now, measuring a record’s strength in terms of sales is generally a deeply problematic formula- but in this case, it seems just. Double Loser has the strength of what could become a celebrated cult classic among a very particular breed of crate-diggers. Undeniably winsome and darkly enchanting, this EP cements Daddy Issues’s position as a band that’s ready for much bigger things.

6. Pope – Fiction

Heavy, cutting, and melodic in a way that hits the intersection of a wide spread of tastes just right, Pope’s Fiction is the kind of record that’s got the verve to last long after it appears on a few best-of lists. Cloaked in a wall-of-noise type production sheathe, Fiction is one of the first quarter’s most unapologetic and propulsive releases. Balancing a suspiciously taut tightrope between shoegaze and post-punk, every song manages to be breathtaking by virtue of sheer cathartic release. Pope’s made something genuinely exhilarating that deserves to be in as many collections as possible.

7. Alanna McArdle – reticular (2012-2013)

While Alanna McArdle may be best known as the lead personality for site favorites Joanna Gruesome, her career doesn’t begin and/or end with that particular band. McArdle recently released a compilation of genuinely stunning (and mostly acoustic) bedroom recordings. The guitarist/vocalist taps into something more bravely vulnerable than the trappings of Joanna Gruesome usually allows for, creating a hushed, spellbinding atmosphere. reticular (2012-2013) has been one of 2015’s more unceremonious releases but it’s also easily one of the year’s most fascinating. Already one of the most-played releases in my library, it’s a monumental entry in the career of one of the more engaging musical figures of our generation.

8. Trust Fund – No One’s Coming For Us

Cut Me Out“, one of No One’s Coming For Us‘ first singles, seemed to be a strong indicator that the band would have something special with their upcoming record. It was a presumption that the record somehow, against reasonable logic, managed to exceed. Easily the strongest effort in the band’s burgeoning discography, No One’s Coming For Us is a specatacular warning shot from the kind of band that seems like they’re setting up for the long haul.

9. Cloakroom – Further Out

Most of the description for Pope’s Fiction also stands true for Cloakroom‘s jaw-dropping Further Out. Except here, Cloakroom adds an extra layer of heaviness, which frequently relents to territory even more accessible than the realms of Pope’s niche operation level. Further Out is going to continue to stand as one of 2015’s most awe-inspiring releases as the months progress and it’ll be the kind of record people will look to for inspiration. It’s an incredible achievement and ranks among the finest releases to carry the vaunted Run For Cover tag.

10. Wildhoney – Sleep Through It

The first two months of 2015 were very kind to bands incorporating a heavy shoegaze bent into their sound, a fact furthered by listening to Wildhoney’s gorgeous full-length debut, Sleep Through It. Embracing the pop sensibilities of the genre and maximizing them without ever drifting out of post-punk’s territories, Wildhoney manages to create an incredibly appealing record that delivers on the promise of their brilliant EP. Sleep Through It is yet another album people are going to be talking about for many months (and hopefully, years) to come.

11. Lady Lamb – After

Goodbye Lady Lamb The Beekeeper, hello Lady Lamb. The rightfully-acclaimed After features songwriter Aly Spaltro at a transition phase in her career. Already a few extraordinary records deep into a continuously promising run of releases, After is already taking Spaltro to the next level(s). With the sudden name change, Spaltro managed to make her brand even more accessible without diminishing any of her other qualities. On the contrary, After may be the fiercest entry in Lady Lamb’s remarkable discography. After was initially teased with the absurdly delightful “Billions of Eyes” and the rest of the record manages to live up to those intensely high levels of promise. Listen below and fall in love all over again.

12. PWR BTTM + Jawbreaker Reunion – Republican National Convention

Two of New York’s finest emerging young bands come together to make a split EP, what can go wrong? Nothing. The answer is nothing. Jawbreaker Reunion continue to be as exciting as ever, PWR BTTM make one hell of a mark, and both “Hold Yer Tongue” and “Adventure Time” rank among the best songs of the year. Every other Valentine’s Day gift paled in comparison.

13. Slutever – Almost Famous

Punchy, strong, and incredibly catchy, Slutever followed up their near-perfect Girlpool split with this piece of magic. Expertly balancing basement pop and basement punk, Slutever take their craft to an entirely new place with Almost Famous, their finest work to date (and an absolute must-own). From the traces of sludge-punk on the reactionary masterpiece “I Miss America” to the hard-charging rush of “Maggot”, Slutever fearlessly follows their whims and explores some previously uncharted territory. Astoundingly, all of it works and leaves the band with a very real contender for EP of the Year.

14. Lighting Bolt – Fantasy Empire

Thousands of writers have tried to extol the virtues of Lightning Bolt’s furor and no one’s ever managed to match the band’s intensity. Sometimes it’s just better to let the reputation for such a singular act to do the talking- but it wouldn’t be fair to the band if I didn’t note that this just may be the very best record the duo’s ever made.

Listen to Fantasy Empire for a limited time over at NPR’s First Listen

15. Sleater-Kinney – No Cities to Love

Sleater-Kinney’s thrilling hiatus-ender, No Cities to Love, was one of the year’s first universally acclaimed records and it’s easy to see (or hear) why. Not just incredible in terms of a comeback record but as a career staple for one of the most legendary bands of our era. The trio’s sharper (and thornier) than they’ve ever been on No Cities to Love and couldn’t have scheduled their re-entrance at a better time for their fierce, commentary-heavy diatribes.

16. Midwives – LP

When Midwives put out their incendiary EP last year, I knew I’d found another Wisconsin-based band to rally behind. Naturally, the hardcore band (which boasts Graham Hunt of Midnight Reruns among its members) has followed that short order of songs up with a gloriously unhinged, shit-kicking full-length. Increasingly scrappy and direct, Midwives may very well have their sights set on bigger things- and if they don’t, those bigger things might find them anyway.

17. Spook The Herd – Freaks b/w Fermented

There’s a very particular breed of 90’s revivalism whose subversion among current bands is becoming increasingly present. Intriguingly, that camp of 90’s acts (the one that bands like Superchunk and Archers of Loaf belonged to) is notoriously difficult to recreate in intriguing ways. Many of the bands that have released records through Exploding in Sound are a part of that current crop of bands who look to that era for influence and it wouldn’t come as a surprise if Spook the Herd joined that list. “Freaks” and “Fermented” are both first-rate examples of revivalism done right.

18. LVL UP – Dark Sided Stuff

Anyone whose been following this site at all for the past few months has likely seen LVL UP come up a few times. Dark Sided Stuff, their most recent release, is a compilation of the demos that would go on to become Hoodwink’d (this sites pick for Album of the Year)  and a few other recordings that were cut during that time. Unsurprisingly, the end result is a brilliant mess that strips the band back to their rawest state, allowing for a further understanding of their process. Enigmatic and charismatic in equal measure, it’s a release well worth anyone’s investment.

19. The Juliana Hatfield Three – Whatever, My Love

The Juliana Hatfield Three may not have sparked as much attention as Sleater-Kinney did when they made an unexpected return to music but Whatever, My Love does occupy a similar space to No Cities to Love. Both are examples of a band making a return to form without much warning, after a long time away, and both include some of the best material of each band’s career. A lot of bands that garner a lot of attention here (All Dogs, Radiator Hospital, etc.) have listed The Juliana Hatfield Three as a major influence and those connections, fascinatingly, have never been more crystallized than they are with Whatever, My Love. Don’t let this one fall to the wayside.

20. Chastity Belt – Time to Go Home

The name Chastity Belt’s another one that’s been kicked around here for a while, thanks mostly to their excellent 2013 LP, No Regerts. Even with as good as that record was, it proved to be impossible to predict just how incredible Time to Go Home would turn out. Chastity Belt have enhanced their identity with their boldest and most fully-realized work to date. Rarely eclipsing mid-tempo, the band allows themselves to settle into comfortably meticulous grooves with a confidence that’s self-assured enough to put a lot of other bands (bands who have been around much, much longer) to absolute shame.

Listen to Time To Go Home over at NPR’s First Listen.

21. Leggy – Nice Try

Grrrls Like Us” provided a fitting end-cap to Leggy’s first major year as a band. They’d previously released the commendably great Cavity Castle EP, which wound up being quite a few people’s favorite EP of 2014. Now, the band’s hell-bent on capitalizing on that momentum and they’re doing it in enthralling fashion. Nice Try, an EP the band released last month, isn’t just the strongest work of their young career- it’s a gigantic leap forward for their songwriting. Never anything less than full-throttle, Nice Try is an invigorating reminder that this band’s not going anyway anytime soon.

22. Matthew E. White – Fresh Blood

Matthew E. White’s Big Inner was one of 2012’s most fascinating- and unique- folk-pop records. Full of wayward experimentalism and intricate arrangements, it showcased White as someone who possessed an original voice. Three years later, he’s unleashed his follow-up: Fresh Blood. While the music’s scaled a back quite a bit in terms of arrangements, the songs here are more immediate, direct, and accessible. By indulging in greater restraint White may have also wound up with something more lasting. Adamantly defiant of easy genre categorization, Fresh Blood makes its mark and leaves an endearing scar that refuses to fade.

23. Mount Eerie – Sauna

Phil Elverum has gone through many phases, shape-shifting at his leisure into whatever suits his mind at the time. One of his most celebrated ongoing projects, Mount Eerie, returned this year with the brilliant Sauna, which offers up an enveloping ambient sprawl. Gently immersive in some spots and dangerously raw in others, it’s one of Elverum’s most compelling tapestries to date.

24. Yowler – The Offer

The Offer‘s devastating title track is one of the only standalone songs to have earned a write-up on this site so far this year. The reason? It’s not just one of the best songs of this year (so far), it’s one of the finest of the decade. “The Offer” is also, appropriately, the most representative song on Maryn Jones’ solo debut (using the Yowler moniker, at least). Cautious, frightened, anxious, and defiant, The Offer is a gut-punch of a record that occasionally nears uncomfortably voyeuristic levels. The Offer is the perfect soundtrack for sleepless nights spent in near-silence, when the only other audible sound is the rain coming down.

25. Spectres – Dying

Rounding out this run of records is, somewhat incredibly, another shoegaze-leaning record that never diminished its brute force. Dipping into the decidedly darker realms of post-punk, Spectres managed to create a behemoth of an LP with the boldly-titled Dying. Opening with a genuinely intimidating noise collage, the band sinks its claws in and proceeds to tear away in the most feral manner possible, continuously refusing to relinquish its grasp. At points, Dying approaches black metal but never loses sight of its overall melodic sensibility. By taking stormier roads, Spectres have managed to start the year off in an impossibly blinding fashion. Listen to the sounds of Dying below.

Kodakrome – Kodakrome (Demo Review, Stream)

kodakrome

For this review, I’m going to take on a more personal bent. After a full year of severely restricting first-person narrative and running a year-end campaign that built its identity on deeply personal recollections, it felt like that was something that needed a slight change. I’m not going to sit here and pretend like I don’t know Aaron Ehinger, the guitarist and vocalist of Kodakrome (a new Chicag0-based duo, with Brian Tepps holding down bass, drum programming, and synth duties). Now, normally, when I’m blown away by someone’s music, there’s a deeply-felt kinship to that art and the people responsible for its creation. Every so often, if I’m lucky, those people measure up to their art and my life gets a little better because of their friendship.

Here’s where the intrigue of Kodakrome kicks in: Aaron’s someone I’ve known for a little over a year (and whose photography I’ve admired for about as long) but was largely unfamiliar with his previous bands. Kodakrome is the first one I’ve listened to and if he hadn’t already been a friend, I sure as shit would have liked him to be after hearing this demo. Visceral post-punk that’s inflected with subtle hints of chip-tune- suggesting a previously unthinkable middle-ground between PUP and Crying– is the formula that has this demo frantically gunning right out of the gate (“Skeletons” introduction’s about as abrupt as the intro to Dinosaur Jr.’s “Budge“, another band whose influence on Kodakrome is evidenced fairly easily).

As deliriously breakneck- and ridiculously invigorating- as “Skeletons” winds up being, “Slow Down” (a delightfully ironic title) is the song that seems to be most indicative of the places Kodakrome’s already sprinting towards. Ehinger and Tepps immediately set about lighting “Slow Down” on fire and succeed in doing so by the :30 mark. All wild-eyed momentum and furiously yelped howls that scrutinize the inevitably of death, “Slow Down” is a genuinely impressive punch to the gut. Tepp’s manic synth work, especially, goes a long way in shaping the band’s curious early identity.  Between the two songs, Kodakrome doesn’t even exceed three and a half minutes- but the band makes one hell of an impression during that running time. These are songs that stick and- importantly- hint towards a very promising future.

Listen to Kodakrome below and keep an eye on this site for any future updates regarding the band.