Heartbreaking Bravery

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Tag: Doe

Doe – Grow Into It (Album Review, Stream)

Just a few years ago, Doe released Some Things Last Longer Than You, an incredible record that made good on the promise of their early work and wound up as a joint selection for this site’s 2016’s Album of the Year. Since then, they’ve been touring relentlessly with an extraordinary cast of bands that have allowed Doe’s profile to continue an ascending pattern. Grow Into It, the trio’s latest album, finds them full of confidence, charisma, and conviction.

The record’s their first effort for both Topshelf (who will be releasing the record in the US) and Big Scary Monsters (who will handle the UK distribution) and the opening run of tracks makes it plainly clear why both labels came on board. Doe have expanded their ambitions, refined their songwriting, and seem more willing to take the kind of risks that can yield important dividends. The pace is a little slower, the tone’s a little more casual, the instrumental palette’s broadened, and somehow Grow Into It surpasses the intensity of their previous effort.

A synth props up “Labour Like I Do” and bleeds into “One At A Time”, which is augmented by guitarist/vocalist Nicola Leel‘s most tender vocal delivery to date and a gorgeous fingerpicked acoustic guitar figure. It’s part of a recurring trend throughout the record of connected nuance, lending the record a sense of completion. The narratives are still laced with Leel’s sardonic wit and wry observations, only this time they’re held up by repeated calls to action. It’s a decision that grants Grow Into It a greater immediacy, allowing it to read as a pointed reaction to a frequently disheartening political climate.

It’s easy standing still goes the refrain of “But It All Looks the Same” — far and away the record’s boldest track and most significant departure from the band’s older material — offering up a reassurance in the middle of an incredibly charged record. It’s an acknowledgement of a communal struggle, the sense of difficulty that can lead to complacency, and the importance of resisting the urge to stand still, making the lead-in to the record’s lead single, “Heated“, doubly effective.

By the record’s final stretch, its clear that Doe are presently as concerned with what questions to ask as they are with the difficult answers those questions demand. Some of these questions exist in the micro, like reflections of self-worth (“Even Fiction”) that can be extrapolated to a larger picture. There are stakes at play and Grow Into It makes a decision to not shy away from the kind of decisions that define our humanity. Despite the considerable weightiness of the lyrics, Grow Into It as a record remains one of the most consistently enjoyable listens throughout its run time.

At every turn, Doe matches introspection with clever, thoughtful, and grin-inducing arrangements that keep Grow Into It a vibrant record, tethered to a wellspring of life that’s genuinely affirming. For all of its subtle intricacies and attention to detail, there’s never a point where Grow Into It feels burdensome, which is a testament to its empathy. Moreover, the band’s never sounded so inspired as musicians, offering up a record of career-bests across the board in terms of structure, dynamics, and lyricism.

Doe may have had a strong grasp on their identity as early as their first year together as a band but that sense of self can get challenged. Grows Into It finds Doe doing just that; this is a band that knows the path to becoming the best version of themselves. Grows Into It is the wild, genre-marrying soundtrack to accompany that journey. Easily one of 2018’s strongest records and a potent reminder of Doe’s seemingly limitless strength. A modest masterpiece.

Listen to Grow Into It below and pick it up here.

Doe – Heated (Music Video)

The last release Doe managed, 2016’s Some Things Last Longer Than You, was good enough to be christened Heartbreaking Bravery’s Album of the Year. To say that the arrival of their new material has been highly anticipated over on these fronts would be a monumental understatement. “Heated”, the lead-off single for the trio’s forthcoming Grow Into It — their first release for both Big Scary Monsters (UK/EU) and Topshelf (US) — was worth the wait.

“Heated” picks up where that record left off, offering up an avalanche of memorable hooks, explosive dynamics, and considered arrangements. Guitarist/vocalist Nicola Leel leads the band through a mid-tempo charge that evokes the slacker punk scene of the ’90s the band proudly embraces as evident influence. Everything from the riffs, oscillating between woozy and scintillating, to the backing vocals that provide an abundance of texture have solid historical backing but are presented in a modernized context that genuinely elevates the material.

As thoughtful as ever, “Heated” finds Doe more experienced, more versatile, and more prepared than ever to jump into the fray with fearless abandon. It’s a song that offers no wasted moments and plenty of clever twists that portend very, very good things for the record that lies in wait. A perfect soundtrack for a humid summer for a cavalcade of reasons, “Heated” isn’t afraid to live up to its title. The arresting Jack Barraclough-directed music video that accompanies its release is just the cherry on top.

Watch “Heated” below and keep an eye on Topshelf for pre-order of Grow Into It.

The Best Music Videos of 2017’s First Quarter

Being the type of place that’s always been as concerned with film (even if it hasn’t always been so visible in print) as new music releases, music videos occupy a special distinction. To that effect, it’s probably not too surprising that 50 clips are featured in this piece. Some being celebrated for the technicality present in the filmmaking, some for being a perfectly complementary marriage of sight and sound, and some for being commendable takes on the source material. Lyric videos, music videos, and interactive videos are all represented below in the featured videos, split up into two playlists. This is a very varied package celebrating a large handful of some of the best independent-minded artists and filmmakers currently gifting their efforts to the world at large. Dive in and enjoy.

PART I

1. Charly Bliss – Percolator
2. Doe – Monopoly
3. Hiccup – Teasin’
4. Meat Wave – Run You Out
5. Pissed Jeans – The Bar Is Low
6. Cloud Nothings – Internal World
7. Yeesh – End Results
8. Parquet Courts – Outside
9. Cayetana – Mesa
10. PWR BTTM – Answer My Text
11. Yucky Duster – Elementary School Dropout
12. Beachheads – Moment of Truth
13. Kane Strang – Oh So You’re Off I See
14. Billy Moon – I W K
15. Idles – Mother
16. Cass McCombs – I’m A Shoe
17. Angel Olsen – Pops
18. Ruth Carp and the Fish Heads – I’m So Scared
19. Dominic – Emotional Businessman
20. R Ring – Cutter
21. Zuzu – What You Want
22. Snail Mail – Thinning
23. CARE – Solitude
24. WHY? – This Ole King
25. Mount Eerie – Ravens

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PART II

1. Jeff Rosenstock – Pash Rash
2. Alexander F – Call Me Pretty
3. Idles – Stendahl Syndrome
4. Split Single – Untry Love
5. Tim Darcy – Still Waking Up
6. Diet Cig – Tummy Ache
7. R Ring – 100 Dollar Heat
8. Poppies – Mistakes
9. PWR BTTM – Big Beautiful Day
10. LVL UP – Blur
11. Sløtface – Empire Records
12. Vundabar – Shuffle
13. WHY? – Proactive Evolution
14. Vallens – Sin So Vain
15. Baked – Danelectroladyland
16. Tashaki Miyaki – City
17. Girlpool – 123
18. Chemtrails – Aeons
19. Summer Twins – Stop & Go
20. John Andrews & The Yawns – Drivers
21. The Chinchees – Gorp
22. Mo Troper – Cooler
23. Conor Oberst – Till St. Dymphna Kicks Us Out
24. Strand of Oaks – Cry
25. Craig Finn – God In Chicago
*

2016: A Year’s Worth of Memories (Nicola Leel)

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

Returning after an excellent entry into last year’s edition of A Year’s Worth of Memories, Doe‘s Nicola Leel decides to focus in on finding reasons to maintain hope in times of darkness. In addition to releasing one of last year’s best records, Some Things Last Longer Than You, Doe played their fair share of memorable shows (and had their fair share of memorable moments). Here, Leel fondly recalls a snowstorm that Doe had to brave in between Berlin and Erlangen, which made a show in Regensburg even sweeter. Leel continues to be one of my favorite people in music and getting an insight into her worldview only reinforces that position. Dive in and see the light.

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We released our first album in 2016 and had a lot of great experiences as a result, but the one that sticks is a surreal night in Europe when we were on tour with Happy Accidents and Personal Best.

We had played in Berlin the previous night and were driving through Germany towards the next show when snow started falling, gently at first, before developing into a heavy blizzard that through the windscreen looked like we were travelling through space at light-year speed. This was particularly ominous for our driver Kerry, who had never driven in any kind of snow before. After travelling through what felt like the portal to another world for around an hour, the traffic came to a standstill on the motorway, but the snow kept falling. An hour passed, two, all of the vehicles around us turned off their engines and the motorway fell deathly silent.

With the snow showing no signs of letting up and no sign of movement or even human life nearby, we killed the time with a cheery conversation in which we imagined all of the possible scenarios should this be the end of the world. Maybe there was no-one in the other vehicles, maybe they’d all just disappeared and we were in another dimension where we were the only people left in the world. Maybe some kind of sickness had taken over and zombies would slowly appear from the darkness between the cars. We also decided what order we would die in and took it upon ourselves to decide upon the order of the Happy Accidents car too.

When we finally made it to the venue 4 hours late and reunited with the other car, we learned that whilst we’d been talking end-of-world death order scenarios they’d been recording a fun podcast and listening to pop-punk. Tilman, the promoter, was understandably a little stressed and told us there had been no sign of snow in Erlangen, which made it feel even more eerie as this was just 45 minutes away from where we had spent 3 hours on the motorway. Suitably spooked, we set up as quickly as we could and played short sets to the handful of people who, incredibly, had stuck around to watch us. Though we’d all lost our minds a little it was a fun show and the small audience were great.

Awakening to the sun streaming through the blinds in Tilman’s beautiful apartment the next morning, we learned that Donald Trump had been elected President of the United States. Maybe we had travelled through a portal after all, and had come out of the other side in a dystopian future where everything looked beautiful but nothing felt right. I was completely flattened and yet full of a strange hopefulness because of the situation I was in and the people I was with. That night we played in a basement in Regensburg, it was the best show of tour and everyone played sets full of furious energy, shared by everyone who was packed into the tiny, smoke filled room.

It feels weird taking good things from a year that was so unkind to so many, but as cliche as it sounds, I felt very fortunate at that moment in time to be exactly where I was, doing exactly what I was doing, as a result of music.

 

16 of ’16: The Best Albums of the Year

Mitski XXV

At long last, we arrive at the end of the 2016 lists with this reflection of the year’s best albums. A lot of criteria need to be met for a record to make this list, for example: a record can’t be primarily composed of reworks of older material (this is the reason Talons’ sublime “Driving Home From Shows” didn’t make the songs list). To be eligible for a featured slot on this list, the record also can’t come from a clearly-established artist, which is the only reason Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds’ Skeleton Tree is being excluded. The Radioheads and David Bowies of the music world all received more than enough positive press and this site has always aimed to give an additional leg up to emerging or unknown artists.

With all of that said, 2016 was an exceptional — and exceptionally diverse — year for music provided you knew where to look. As has been the case, no numerical assignments were given to the below selections. However, the field of titles was so abundantly strong that instead of merely selecting one Album of the Year, there are five. Those five records managed to stand out in an unbelievably exceptional year and picking one of the five to give a singular Album of the Year designation proved to be impossible. That being said, virtually all of the titles below are worth time, investment, and praise.

Once again, the majority of the embedded players belong to bandcamp so be mindful of where the records start (a small handful auto-start at odd points in the record). There’s a fairly wide-ranging display of music to be found below so dive on in and go exploring. Enjoy the list and stay tuned for the third edition of A Year’s Worth of Memories.

Bent Shapes – Wolves of Want

After a string of promising releases, Bent Shapes hit new heights with the galvanizing Wolves of Want, a pitch-perfect basement pop record teeming with memorable hooks. A lovingly crafted work, Wolves of Want finds the band hitting an eyebrow-raising stride and cranking out a formidable batch of songs good enough to grace any mixtape.

Crying – Beyond the Fleeting Gales

One of the most unique and compelling releases of the year, Crying took a bold new step with the riveting Beyond the Fleeting Gales. Taking their early approach and gleefully exploding it into something barely-recognizable, Beyond the Fleeting Gales winds up as one of 2016’s most refreshing, exhilarating, and utterly singular listens.

Mitski – Puberty 2

Embracing the bruising, unforgiving introspection of the breakout Bury Me at Makeout Creek, site favorite Mitski returned with a powerful and acute examination of identity. An artistic leap forward, Puberty 2 saw Mitski wielding an expanded musical palette to arresting effect. Warm, moving, and accepting, it’s not difficult to see why it was one of the year’s most beloved records.

Parquet Courts – Human Performance

Parquet Courts records have made a habit of appearing on year-end lists since the band’s formation several years back. While, admittedly, those were solid records, they don’t come anywhere close to Human Performance, the band’s crowning achievement. The band shed their blood all over this record and it shows in every beautiful, cracked, messy, ramshackle moment.

Mannequin Pussy – Romantic

Another record on this list that saw a band make a staggering leap forward, Romantic was — by some distance — the most impressive work of Mannequin Pussy‘s burgeoning career. One of 2016’s most ferocious records, Romantic saw the band firing on all cylinders on levels that may have even surprised their most devoted fans. It’s a molotov cocktail of a record; hit play and get obliterated.

Big Thief – Masterpiece

One of the year’s most welcome surprises, Big Thief‘s Saddle Creek debut Masterpiece found the band conjuring up the open-road spirit that their label built its name peddling. Gorgeous songwriting, unavoidable emotional intensity, and a clear commitment to the material defined Masterpiece. When all was said and done, the record succeeded in living up to its ostensibly tongue-in-cheek title.

Swim Team – Swim Team

One of the strongest records to come out of Infinity Cat‘s cassette series, Swim Team‘s self-titled is a gamut run trough the punk sub-genres that have defined the past three decades. All of them are successful and infused with the kind of grit and determination that characterize great bands. It’s an unforgettable warning shot from a band that seems hell-bent on using the past to elevate the future.

Car Seat Headrest – Teens of Denial

Easily one of the year’s most celebrated releases, Teens of Denial earned every trickle of positive press that came its way. A landmark record from a project that could have withered under a massively-increased spotlight instead finds Car Seat Headrest operating on an entirely new level. Epics, ballads, and stormy punk numbers abound, illuminating one of 2016’s best coming-of-age stories in virtually any format.

Greys – Outer Heaven

2016 found Greys continuing to determinedly  push their boundaries outward and succeeding with the kind of wild abandon that defines their adrenaline-inducing live show. Outer Heaven was their biggest moment and saw the band effectively blend their delirious energy with a refined sense of atmosphere that enhanced already-great songs. An absolute triumph from one of today’s more fascinating acts.

Hovvdy – Taster

A remarkable, understated, near-flawless record, Hovvdy‘s Taster never received the recognition it was due. Front to back, there are no false moments on this record, only a series of unassuming grace notes that bind it into a gentle, spellbinding whole. Punk-informed bedroom pop, Taster is the product of meticulous dedication to craft and an enormous reserve of genuine feeling. It’s sincerity is a large part of its strength and its strength is overwhelming. Give it innumerable listens and the estimation it deserves.

John K. Samson – Winter Wheat

A painfully beautiful record, Winter Wheat marked the welcome return of John K. Samson. The former Weakerthans bandleader turned in another sorrowful, damaged collection of songs that contained enough glimmers of hope (apart from the devastating opener, which nearly made this year’s song’s list but was abandoned in favor of the record’s emotionally shattering closer) to make the impact even more severe. An atmospheric masterstroke from one of our greatest living songwriters, Winter Wheat is as comfortingly calm as it is completely unforgettable.

ALBUMS OF THE YEAR

Mo Troper – Beloved

In focusing on the dark corners while establishing that darkness wouldn’t exist without some lightness as well, Mo Troper winds up wearing a very tattered heart on his sleeve. While that heart may be showing a considerable amount of scars, it’s still valiantly beating. Pathos, gravitas, and an incredibly inviting structure all combine to make Beloved a must-own but it’s Mo Troper himself who makes this record a masterpiece.

Original feature review here.

PUP – The Dream Is Over

PUP‘s The Dream Is Over, the band’s jaw-dropping sophomore outing, was a release where nearly every song was considered for this year’s best songs list. In the end, the record proved so uniformly excellent across the board that it became literally impossible to define a standout. This is as a complete a punk record that anyone will be likely to hear for a very long time. Narrative focus, overall consistency, composition, conviction, production, sequencing, pacing… in every conceivable aspect, PUP absolutely demolished what were already ridiculously high expectations. One of the most defiant, triumphant releases in recent memory, The Dream Is Over was the shock to the system that the punk genre has sorely needed for years. Unbelievably consistent and weirdly empowering, PUP were able to put their name on one of the most vital records of 2016.

Doe – Some Things Last Longer Than You

Meticulously composed and teeming with unchecked aggression and greater meaning, Doe have offered up something that’s impossible to ignore. At every corner, there’s a breathtaking moment that continuously heightens the overabundance of impact present in Some Things Last Longer Than You. Whether the listener tethers themselves to the record’s multi-tiered narrative functions or to the artistry present in the composition, they’ll walk away contemplating its awe-inspiring depth. In short: Some Things Last Longer Than You isn’t just one of the year’s best records, it’s a full-blown masterpiece.

Original feature review here.

Weaves – Weaves

It’s not just that no one does what Weaves are doing as well as they do, it’s that no one else is even making an attempt. Should Weaves inspire some attempts at this particular eclectic blend of songwriting styles, genres, and cornerstones, this record will retain — and most likely remain in — a position as the gold standard. Grab onto something close and hold on tightly because Weaves is an unpredictable, exhilarating, and ultimately deeply satisfying thrill ride that knows no borders or boundaries. Greet it with an anxious smile and give in to its myriad charms.

Original feature review here.

LVL UP – Return to Love

All told, Return to Love is a document of a band determined to continuously better themselves, a new career high, and a bona fide statement release from one of this generation’s most consistently exciting acts. It’s a series of sustained, connected grace notes that never wavers, even as it openly acknowledges it doesn’t have all of the answers. Not a single second of its run time is wasted and each of the songs are memorable for a wildly varying list of reasons. LVL UP aren’t the type of band to be dissuaded from taking action by a daunting challenge and Return to Love is an assured, steadfast piece of proof.

To put it as succinctly as possible: it’s a masterpiece.

Original feature review here.

Nine more worth hearing:

Tancred – Out of the Garden
Pinegrove – Cardinal
Oh Boland – Spilt Milk
Dark Thoughts – Dark Thoughts
Eluvium – False Readings On
Told Slant – Going By
Mothers – When You Walk A Long Distance You Are Tired
Jean-Michael Blais – II
Minor Victories – Minor Victories

Other honorable mentions:

Frankie Cosmos – Next Thing | Yucky Duster – Yucky Duster | Vanity – Don’t Be Shy | Kane Strang – Blue Cheese | Steve Adamyk Band – Graceland | Lydia Loveless – Real | Touché Amoré – Stage Four | Margaret Glaspy – Emotions and Math | Jeff – Rosenstock – WORRY. | Lucy Dacus – No Burden | Summer Cannibals – Full Of ItNopes – Never Heard Of It | Florist – The Birds Outside Sang | Susan – Never Enough | Abi Reimold – Wriggling | Mal Devisa – Kiid | Julianna Barwick – Will | Mutual Benefit – Skip A Sinking Stone | Big Ups – Before A Million Universes | Diarrhea Planet – Turn To Gold | Japanese Breakfast – Psychopomp | AJJ – The Bible 2 | Angel Olsen – My Woman | Drive-By Truckers – American Band | Charles Bradley – Changes

16 of ’16: The Best Songs of the Year

LVL UP II

Following suit with the two previous examples, the best songs of 2016 list will abandon the traditional numerical format in favor of a more open approach that concentrates on the best material of the year without offering too many individual designations. The majority of the songs featured on this list were under-represented on lists by far more visible publications (and a few that were fairly represented are listed below the main list as honorable mentions) and fall under the genres normally covered by this site. Of course, this list — just like any other — can’t claim to be truly representative but it does offer a decent encapsulation of 2016 releases that deserved to be celebrated.

An additional note: most of the embeds come from bandcamp, so songs will auto-play after the initial listen. This was intentional to ease the access to the records that can claim these songs and to more directly benefit the artists that brought them into the world.

Enjoy the list.

Mo Troper – Happy Birthday

One of the strongest debut records of last year was Mo Troper‘s Beloved, an entirely unexpected but wholly welcome powerpop masterpiece. While just about every song on Beloved was considered for this list, it seemed appropriate to go with “Happy Birthday” which set the tone for a fearsome record that deserved far more recognition.

Doe – Sincere

Some Things Last Longer Than You was a blistering statement from Doe, a band that had been steadily gaining momentum for years. It was a perfectly structured record that allowed its songs an equal amount of weight but “Sincere” still managed to emerge as a standout single. Fiery and full of conviction, it was one of 2016’s best moments.


Told Slant – Low Hymnal

Low Hymnal” was a song that I was fortunate enough to hear forming in its earliest stages but the finished product still managed to wind up as a transcendental experience. There’s genuine pain at the root of Told Slant‘s “Low Hymnal” that lends to the overwhelming weight of the song’s unforgettable final stanza. A gorgeous and moving masterwork.

Parquet Courts – Human Performance

In the title track for their career best, Human Performance, Parquet Courts hit an exhilarating new high point. “Human Performance” is a tightly-coiled and deeply felt examination of the human condition that finds the band stretching in new directions with a fearlessness that makes the song as gripping as it is immediate.

Yucky Duster – Gofer

A pitch-perfect pop song, Yucky Duster‘s “Gofer” became one of 2016’s most unexpected summer anthems. It’s a pure delight at every perfectly-navigated hairpin turn, serving up some of the most meticulously constructed guitar pop in recent memory. A perfect blend of style and substance, “Gofer” is a triumph from a band worth watching.

Cymbals Eat Guitars – Philadelphia, 4th of July (SANDY)

While Pretty Years saw Cymbals Eat Guitars continue to evolve their sound, no moment of the record was more jaw-dropping than the towering “Philadelphia, 4th of July (SANDY)“. An eye-opening display of formidable strength and untapped ferocity, the song saw the band perfecting just about every facet of their already-impressive songwriting.

LVL UP – Spirit Was

Pain” and “Hidden Driver” got a fair amount of attention from year-end lists but the most representative moment of LVL UP‘s Return To Love was the bittersweet “Spirit Was“, which also ranks as one of the band’s best. Vocalist/bassist Nick Corbo provided Return To Love its beating heart and “Spirit Was” marked the moment it completely opened.

Big Thief – Real Love

It takes a certain type of boldness to title a record Masterpiece but when that record features songs like “Real Love“, that title just seems apt. In some moments “Real Love” is breezy and open, while others finds Big Thief baring their fangs. Throw in one of the most effective guitar solos of the past few years and “Real Love” quietly emerges as a new classic.

Jawbreaker Reunion – Cosmos

Before hanging up their cables, Jawbreaker Reunion were kind enough to deliver one last album in haha and then what 😉, which lived up to the bands sterling track record. The best moment of a great record came via “Cosmos“, a gorgeous ballad examining serious topics that quickly transforms into a forceful reckoning. In short: it’s perfect.

Car Seat Headrest – The Ballad of the Costa Concordia

Likely the most celebrated record appearing on this list, Car Seat Headrest‘s Teens of Denial‘s most breathtaking moment was largely ignored by other outlets. “The Ballad of the Costa Concordia” is a sprawling meditation on hopelessness that somehow finds a way to seamlessly work in a brief, heartrending cover of Dido’s “White Flag”. A genuine achievement.

Fred Thomas – Brickwall

Fred Thomas is making and releasing music at a relatively relentless rate, which is a trait that typically produces a lot of filler material. Thomas somehow keeps getting better, something that’s clearly evident in “Brickwall“, a characteristically acerbic slice-of-life send-up that highlights Changer, which will go down as one of 2017’s finest.

Cloud Nothings – Modern Act

Rarely does a band come across as progressive while revisiting their earlier sounds, yet “Modern Act” finds a way to fuse progression with refinement in its revisitations. A brilliant hybrid of virtually every stage of the band’s career “Modern Act” is both a victory lap and an engrossing look at Cloud Nothings‘ increasingly promising future.

Slothrust – Horseshoe Crab

Crockpot” was the kind of unforgettable song that could make a band’s career, that Slothrust has surpassed those dazzling heights so quickly is a staggering accomplishment. “Horseshoe Crab” is the kind of track that can stop people in their tracks. It’s a spellbinding song from a band unafraid to rip the bleeding heart out of their own chest.

Catbus – Fracas

A standalone release — and lone track — from a band that features Phyllis Ophelia and members of Patio, Catbus‘ “Fracas” is a riveting hybrid of post-punk and basement pop. The verses ensnare the listeners attention before the chorus blooms and casts an unbreakable spell. Exceedingly lovely and perfectly crafted, “Fracas” is an absolute gem.

John K. Samson – Virtute At Rest

No song in 2016 carried more emotional resonance than John K. Samson‘s devastating final chapter to the Virtute trilogy. Plaintive, painfully intimate, and tinged with a deeply damaged sense of hope, the song finds Virtute’s owner resurrecting the neglected cat to beg for forgiveness. Harrowing and unforgettable, “Virtute At Rest” was a knockout blow.

SONG OF THE YEAR

Jay Som – I Think You’re Alright

There’s a grace and elegance that’s identifiable even through the light damage that Jay Som applies to “I Think You’re Alright” that brings Sparklehorse to mind. Now, direct comparisons on this site are few and far between — especially in the case of such notable luminaries — but it’s next to impossible not to hear the ghost of Mark Linkous lovingly haunting every last second of “I Think You’re Alright”.

Melina Duterte, the mastermind behind the Jay Som project, has listed Sparklehorse as a major influence and the two share a kindred, empathetic spirit- something that shows in the delicate tenderness of “I Think You’re Alright” and maintains its convictions throughout the rest of Jay Som’s discography. While that discography is an enviable one, “I Think You’re Alright” remains its crown jewel, thanks to not only the song’s sublime instrumentation but a narrative that plays perfectly into the song’s soft lyricism.

All at once, uplifting and resigned, “I Think  You’re Alright” occupies a fascinating space. There’s a lot going on in “I Think You’re Alright”, from the subdued atmosphere to the way that instrumentation interacts in its final quarter. When it’s playing, though, none of that’s taken into account as “I Think You’re Alright” has the ability to envelop the listener in a very specific feeling, rendering it a unique (and uniquely moving) listen. Not just one of the finest of this year but of the past decade.

Nine more worth hearing:

PWR BTTM – Projection
Mitski – Your Best American Girl
Weaves – Coo Coo
Margaret Glaspy – You and I
Forth Wanderers – Slop
Bent Shapes – New Starts In Old Dominion
Eskimeaux – WTF
Tancred – Sell My Head
Young Jesus – Baked Goods

Watch This: Vol. 144

To ease Watch This back into its regularly scheduled rotation, the following will focus on the two weeks that occurred after the last installment was published. In that time, Acapulco Lips (x2), Wasted On You, Chain of Flowers, Pinegrove, Peter Bjorn and John, Sunbathe, Good Personalities, Bad Cop / Bad Cop, Claire Cottrill, The Brokedowns, Kississippi, Haley Bonar, Billie Marten, Bayonne (x2), Entrance, Lush (x2), The Blank Tapes, JFDR, The Frights, Teleman, The Districts, Doe, Marissa Nadler, Joshua Bell & Jeremy Denk, No Honeymoon, Aaron & Bryce Dessner with Ben Lanz and Boys Noize, BlackGlass, The Minders, Super Furry Animals, Kristin Kontrol, Tenement, Queen of Jeans, Michael Kiwanuka, Breanna Barbara, Corbu, All People, Boss Fight, Margo Price, Titus Andronicus, Brass Bed, Somos, Oliver John-Rodgers, Foxing, The Wombats, and PWR BTTM all found themselves at the center of outstanding performance clips. Competition that strong says more about the strength of the five featured clips that could be conveyed with mere words. All five bands have been featured on the site in the past and the performances range from genuinely exhilarating to utterly devastating. So, as always, sit up, lean in, adjust the volume, block out any excess noise, focus, take a deep breath, and Watch This.

1. Never Young – Soap (Prisma Guitars)

Immediately kicking things back into the highest gear possible is this Prisma Guitars session from site favorites Never Young. Easily one of the most explosive single-song performance clips to ever be featured throughout the 140+ installments of this series, the quartet careens through an adrenaline-inducing take on “Soap” that sees them giving the session their everything. Beautifully shot and presented with an enormous amount of conviction, this is exactly the type of clip that Watch This was built to celebrate.

2. Greys (KEXP)

Greys have made several appearances throughout this series’ run and touring on their recently-released Outer Heaven‘s allowing them even more opportunities to be featured. The band recently stopped by the KEXP studios for a full session that features songs from their past three releases, including their most recent work, Warm Shadow. As always, the band plays with a barely-contained energy, an incredible amount of tenacity, and a deep-seated passion that makes this another vital document of one of today’s most exciting acts.

3. Heliotropes – Primates (BreakThruRadio)

For a few years now, Heliotropes have been quietly carving out an impressive name for themselves, earning the respect of both critics and their peers. Creatively restless and endlessly intriguing, the band continues to impress with this BreakThruRadio performance of “Primates”. It’s a glimpse towards the future the band’s angling towards and it’s impossibly tantalizing. One of their finest songs to date, “Primates” keys in on the band’s wiriest post-punk tendencies and sporadically cuts them to shreds. If this is indicative of the rest of the band’s forthcoming material, start bracing for something genuinely explosive.

4. The Coathangers (KEXP)

The second KEXP session of this installment features The Coathangers, who have been touring hard behind their excellent Nosebleed Weekend. Celebrating both that record and the 20th anniversary of the label that released the record, Suicide Squeeze, finds the band in exceptionally high spirits. All of that culminated in an unshakable, infectious joy that drives this session, making it both immediately accessible and surprisingly memorable. The trio remains in fine form throughout the session, playing with ramshackle glee while maintaining an impressively tight grasp on the songs, creating what could be considered a definitive portrait.

5. Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds – Girl In Amber

After enduring unspeakable loss, Nick Cave allowed filmmaker Andrew Dominik into his creative process to create One More Time With Feeling, a documentary that follows both the creation of Skeleton Tree and Cave’s battle with grief in the wake of his youngest son’s tragic death. It’s excruciatingly heartrending from an outsider’s perspective and Dominik elegantly underscores how unthinkably difficult it’d be to be in that situation. In the third studio video to be released from the project, Cave continues to look completely lost and withdrawn, as if perpetually trying to wrestle his thoughts down.

“Girl In Amber” also expertly incorporates Dominik’s inspired direction and the technical wizardry that went into the 3D, black-and-white filming of One More Time With Feeling. The overall effect’s equal parts haunting and haunted, creating an unforgettable impression. This is a staggering work of bravery and artistry, each colliding with the other to produce something as singular as it is captivating. As the camera circles Cave, surveying his every movement and placing him at the center of swirling uncertainty, Cave repeats “don’t touch me” as the video cuts to black, providing one last breathtaking moment of a miniature masterpiece.

HB1000: A Step Forward (Compilation)

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When I started Heartbreaking Bravery nearly three years ago, I had no intention of pursuing it as a legitimate venture. Now, 1,000 posts, 50,000+ links, and countless words later, the site’s come to be the type of platform I’ve always loved seeing in the world. I could attempt to wax poetic on the nature of personal discovery and growth that running this place has afforded me but Heartbreaking Bravery was never about a single person, it’s always functioned best as a communal entity.

The ideas that formed the basic structure of Heartbreaking Bravery all came from artists producing exceptional work with little recognition. Repeatedly watching that transaction occur proved too disheartening. Whether it was the earliest years of Tenement, the later years of Good Grief, or virtually the entire run of Sleeping in the Aviary, there were always ceaselessly talented artists surrounding me that only ever seemed to receive the slightest of nods.

Heartbreaking Bravery originally aimed — and continues to aim — to provide a more level playing field to emerging artists, without reducing their worth to financial opportunity. Heartbreaking Bravery continues to value the community and intimacy that informs the DIY music world. Heartbreaking Bravery will continue to use the platform it’s been granted to elevate the idea of greater equality.

It’s in that spirit that I’m honored to present A Step Forward, a two-volume compilation spanning 100 tracks that exclusively features artists who are connected to this site’s history. Whether that was through a long history of collaboration or something as small as a twitter follow, the impact was not lost or left unappreciated. There’s a heavy emphasis on artists residing in the cities and states Heartbreaking Bravery has called home (Stevens Point, WI and Brooklyn, NY) and a small selection of songs that were premiered on this site.

100% of the proceeds of A Step Forward will be going to Rape Victim Advocates, a non-profit Chicago-based organization that’s doing vital (and, sadly, necessary) work for survivors of sexual assault. Read more about the organization here. It’s my sincerest hope that every publication that has the privilege of visibility manages to find ways to use any of their influence for productive good and to affect positive change. Please consider donating what you can to a meaningful cause.

Finally, I wanted to express gratitude to all of the artists (and any of their teams) involved — including the inimitable Phil McAndrew, who turned in the extraordinary album art — and all of the people that have allowed, even willed, this site to the point it’s at today. It likely would have disappeared without that support and I owe those people a debt of gratitude that could never be truly repaid. A special thanks to Fred Thomas, whose “What Changes When The Costumes Come Off” was written with the specifics of A Step Forward in mind.

Enjoy the compilation, support independent art, and join me, this site, these artists, and this cause in taking A Step Forward.

Tracklist below.

A Step Forward: Vol. 1*

1. Vacation – Caked Joy Rag (Demo)
2. Mike Krol – Neighborhood Watch (Demo)
3. Dead Stars – So Strange (Demo)
4. Mo Troper – After the Movies (Demo)
5. Fern Mayo – The Sweets (Demo)
6. Hater – Like Hours (Demo)
7. Sharkmuffin – Only Mondays (Demo)
8. Fits – Ice Cream On A Nice Day (Demo)
9. Missy – Patience (Demo)
10. Kodakrome – Skeletons (Demo)
11. Slight – Run (Demo)
12. Long Neck – Goldfinch (Demo)
13. Phyllis Ophelia – Probably Not (Demo)
14. Lever – Cure (Demo)
15. Puppy Problems – Destroyer (Demo)
16. Battle Ave. – Black Jeans (Demo)
17. Yours Are The Only Ears – Alone Bear (Demo)
18. Attendant – Some Other Language (Demo)
19. MKSEARCH – Little Song (Demo)
20. Sulky Boy – Birches (Demo)
21. Heavy Looks – Those Guys (Demo)
22. darn it. – (again) pt. II
23. Phooey! – On an On
24. Arm Candy – Big Clunker
25. DTCV – Le Vampire
26. Clearance – The Queen of Eyes
27. Leggy – I’m Gonna Destroy That Boy
28. Big Air – Hit Me in the Mouth
29. Terry Malts – Look (At the Mess That We’re In)
30. Ubetcha – Musician
31. Two Inch Astonaut – Suckers Share
32. Whelpwisher – Bucket for the Sky
33. Petite League – Magic Johnson
34. The Meltaways (ft. Kate M) – Wrong Words
35. Calumet – Indian Summer
36. Mulligrub – Little Fist
37. Ben Seretan – Stay In Touch
38. Mumblr – Friendship Stew
39. Human People – Useless Things
40. Bethlehem Steel – Florida Two
41. Painted Zeros – Sweet Briar Rose
42. Spit – Paul Westerberg
43. Crusher – Running
44. Pupppy – Stand By Me
45. Aberdeen – Once You Fall In Love
46. Tica Douglas – Enough
47. Peaer – Multiverse
48. The Weasel, Marten Fisher – What Is Love
49. Young Jesus – Mirroring
50. Space Mountain – Earthrise

A Step Forward: Vol. II*

1. Bellows – Bank Checks
2. Cave Curse – Arcadia
3. Fred Thomas – What Changes When the Costumes Come Off
4. Apollo Vermouth – He Sees You, He Loves You
5. Green Dreams – Psychic Woes (Alternate Mix)
6. Lost Boy ? – Have You Seen My Brain (Space Cat Sessions)
7. Mikaela Davis – Pure Divine Love (Early Mix)
8. Nano Kino – Recovery (Early Mix)
9. Trophy Dad – Addison (Early Mix)
10. Alanna McArdle – Less Than (Early Mix)
11. VVHILE – Don’t Belong (Live)
12. Liam Betson – Mispronounced (Live)
13. BAG-DAD – Bruv (Live)
14. Slothrust – Keg Party (Live)
15. The Nudes – Nowhere to Be
16. Sat. Nite Duets – Cemetery Steve
17. Slanted – Fake Party
18. Patio – Gold
19. Greys – No Star
20. No Hoax – Date With Death
21. Dirty Dishes – Red Roulette
22. Yeesh – On Some Dirt
23. Pile – Cut From First Other Tape
24. Even Hand – Nightsmoke the Fuss
25. PURPLE 7 – Wise Up
26. Bad Wig – Machinehead
27. Mary Lynn – Space
28. Pleistocene – CMJ Compilation 1996
29. Color TV – Anybody’s Girl
30. Jacky Boy – Bad
31. Trust Fund – Would That Be An Adventure?
32. Good Grief – City People
33. Adir L.C. – Hangover
34. Milk Crimes – H8RZ
35. À La Mode – Total Doom
36. Inside Voices – Nomad: Begin
37. Doe – Corin
38. Kindling – Became
39. Bueno – Blown Out
40. Horse Teeth – Dark & Gloomy
41. Ron Gallo – Put the Kids to Bed
42. Sun’s Out Bummed Out – Cut All My Hair
43. Eric Slick – The Dirge
44. Fruit & Flowers – Turqoise
45. Shilpa Ray – Hymn
46. Jack – Sister System
47. Strange Ranger – Whatever You Say
48. Johanna Warren – A Bird in the Crocodile’s Mouth
49. Oceanator – Nowhere Nothing
50. Fresh Snow – Eat Me In St. Louis (Bryan W. Bray – Eaten by the Cetacean Mix)

Vol. I

Tracks 1-21: Demos
Tracks 22-50: New Songs

Vol. II

Tracks 1-4: New Songs (cont’d)
Tracks 5-14: Alternate Mixes and Live Songs
Tracks 15-49: Old Favorites
Track 50: Remix

 

Doe – Some Things Last Longer Than You (Album Review)

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Over the past several days, full streams from buster, No One Mind, Teen Brains, and Shameover have all been unveiled. While the previous two posts on this site dealt with some of the best material to also be released in that time, this post’s focus rests on what may be the crown jewel of that run: Doe’s incredible debut full-length Some Things Last Longer Than You.

In the lead up to the official release of Some Things Last Longer Than You, Doe have appeared on this site with increasing regularity. That’s no mistake. Both the song and video for “Sincere” were granted feature spots and the “Last Ditch” clip earned the same fate. Guitarist/vocalist Nicola Leel contributed an important piece to last year’s edition of A Year’s Worth of Memories that touched on a lot of the themes present in Some Things Last Longer Than You and the band’s continued to make all of the right choices at exactly the right time.

Heartbreaking Bravery was fortunate enough to receive an advance copy of Some Things Last Longer Than You several months back and the record’s been in extremely heavy rotation ever since its arrival. After turning a lot of heads with the release of First Four, a compilation that collected their earliest recordings into a full-length format, Doe have been staring down extraordinarily high expectations for their first full-fledged debut.

Now that Some Things Last Longer Than You is finally here it’s abundantly clear that the band wasn’t rattled in the slightest and possibly even motivated by the challenge. The heights that the trio hit on the opening run of tracks alone are so stratospheric that the rest of the record would’ve had to collapse under their weight to prevent this record from being a career best effort. Fortunately, Some Things Last Longer Than You proves to be as consistent as it is ambitious and winds up as one of this year’s most powerful releases.

“No 1”, the record’s opening track, goes a long way in demonstrating the overwhelming amount of strength that the band’s accrued over their still-young (albeit already impressive) career. Utilizing the Sleater-Kinney instrumental approach (guitar, baritone guitar, drums), the band’s afforded a dynamic range that allows for the emphasis of hard-hitting moments. From Leel’s impassioned vocal delivery to the hard-charging, grunge-informed riffs of “No 1”, there’s not a single moment of the opener that’s anything less than intimidatingly tenacious, yet the song’s pop flourishes help infuse a lightness to the proceedings that renders it an unforgettable early salvo.

Following a similar palette, “Monopoly” goes a long way in accelerating the ferocious velocity of Some Things Last Longer Than You without undercutting its considerable impact. Additionally,  “Monopoly” provides the band with an opportunity to begin establishing the narrative focus of the record, which the trio seizes with relish. Some Things Last Longer Than You doesn’t take its time in presenting an outlook that casts a weary eye towards acute tendencies that are a result of skewed societal beliefs and expectations.

“Sincere”, one of 2016’s best songs, expands this narrative view in clear terms, bemoaning the lack of sincerity and, by extension, cutting down the tiresome projection of detached cool that’s become so persistent throughout several key communities. Apart from the scathing lyrical indictment, “Sincere” also provides more evidence that could support a claim that Some Things Last Longer Than You as one of this year’s greatest guitar records; the riffs scattered throughout “Sincere” and Some Things Last Longer Than You are incredibly inspired and have a formidable impact on the dynamic and atmospheric range of both the band and the record.

The heart of Some Things Last Longer Than You, comprised of a remarkable quartet of songs, is where the record begins to cement its chances at being an unlikely classic. “Turn Around”, “Respite”, “Anywhere”, and “Last Ditch” all contain a host of standout moments that continue to expand the scope of the record and demonstrate the band’s monumental growth — and understanding of their own identity — since their earliest releases.

While the latter track of that quartet was previously covered, the number — like “Sincere” — gains a tremendous amount of force in the context of the record. “Turn Around” and “Respite”, packaged as a tandem duo, are where the record hits upon the slowest sustained tempo of its entire run. Instead of devolving into something tepid and uninspired, Some Things Last Longer Than You uses that extended moment to bare its fangs and unleash with an enormous force that resonates throughout the remainder of the record. In slowing down, the trio also imbue Some Things Last Longer Than You with an unpredictability that elevates the entire affair.

“Respite”, the record’s centerpiece and longest song, prominently features the band’s increasing willingness to experiment with form and demolish genre barriers, even going so far as to cap the track off with an ambient outro that serves a dual purpose as a surprisingly delicate interlude for the record. In under a minute, Doe gift the listener a definitive example of their mastery over their craft on both a micro and macro scale. It’s a brilliant moment on a record full of them and while it may be one of its most unassuming, it’s also one of its most important.

That outro sets up the hyper-aggressive spree of “Anywhere” to perfection, lending the whirlwind attack a jumping board that provides it an extra, unexpected spring. Here, Some Things Last Longer Than You shows its true colors, revealing a core that’s saddened, frustrated, angered, self-deprecating, well-intentioned, occasionally tongue-in-cheek, and always more than ready to attempt a run towards affecting meaningful change, whether the scale is grand or personal.

Even in the moments that Some Things Last Longer You casts outwards towards the world at large, there’s an intimacy that grounds the record and suffuses it with the kind of heart that will go a long way in distinguishing it as both one of 2016’s finest moments and as a genre classic. “Last Ditch” is a great example of that dual worldview, a song that finds Leel crying out “maybe this will all just work itself out, until then I hope that it will slow down.” A line that carries an inordinate amount of personal meaning even as it applies to something far more universal.

The “On and on, I’m feeling helpless” closing of “Last Ditch” may feel a touch defeatist at first glance but a deeper look will also reveal the smallest preservation of hope for things to be different in the future. It’s a statement that sets up the ensuing “Before Her” beautifully, which finds the vocal lead switching from Leel to drummer/vocalist Jake Popyura (who co-writes with Leel and is a powerhouse behind the kit). “Before Her” also finds the band transitioning back to a mid-tempo pace that opens up the potential for the kind of grimy, skyward riffing that’s reminiscent of Dilly Dally‘s best work and pushes this record towards an intangible, transcendental feeling that hits a critical peak in its final stretch.

In its last two tracks, Some Things Last Longer Than You could have taken a handful of approaches but, in keeping with much of the record’s decision-making up to that point, opts for the most immediate, electrifying option possible. “Corin”, named after Sleater-Kinney’s Corin Tucker, delivers the record’s most vicious moment with unapologetic gusto, letting Leel absolutely shred her vocals in an outro that unexpectedly drops to half time as Leel throws herself further and further into a wild-eyed frenzy, repeating the mantra “no way, no way, no way, no way, no” and interjecting absolutely vicious screams as punctuation marks.

The entirety of “Corin” is an absolutely pulverizing moment from a record that’s not afraid to show its strength, once again demonstrating an impressive dynamic range that should find Doe’s audience gradually increasing in droves (especially after word of this record starts picking up a little). “Corin” also serves an important function in setting up Some Things Last Longer Than You‘s powerful finale, “Something To Tell You”.

In its final five minutes, Doe offer up the definitive culmination of the elements that leave Some Things Last Longer Than You standing as a towering achievement (and as one of 2016’s best records). There’s the recurring theme of impermanence in the record’s dual narrative — fully equipped with the desire to do something effective or productive with our given time — as well as the thoughtfulness of the songwriting, which remains punk in tone while still allowing for the implementation of the pop sensibilities that make Some Things Last Longer Than You as immediate as it is substantial.

That Some Things Last Longer Than You ends in ambient chaos shouldn’t come as a surprise, it’s a fitting end cap to everything that the record’s worked towards and illustrated with gnarled panache. There’s an uncertainty that persists through the record right up until that noise-damaged ending that lingers long after the feedback’s faded away into the ether. As is the case with the record, it’s nearly impossible to shake. It’s also one last moment of quick, nuanced perfection that injects Some Things Last Longer Than You with an astonishing amount of purpose, even in its stubborn refusal to assert any type of measurable authority.

By the time it comes to its wracked ending, Some Things Last Longer Than You has delivered emotive blow after emotive blow, occasionally drawing back to protect itself from further damage along the way (while being very cognizant of the pre-existing damage that shaped its outlook). It’s a bruising, formidable record that draws strength from an unabashed honesty that’s become the hallmark of several of the best — and most memorable — records in recent memory. Some Things Last Longer Than You is an immediately effective record but its also one that rewards investment and paints a portrait of a band that’s hell-bent on finding deeper meaning, a trait that will undoubtedly serve them well in years to come.

Meticulously composed and teeming with unchecked aggression and greater meaning, Doe have offered up something that’s impossible to ignore. At every corner, there’s a breathtaking moment that continuously heightens the overabundance of impact present in Some Things Last Longer Than You. Whether the listener tethers themselves to the record’s multi-tiered narrative functions or to the artistry present in the artistry, they’ll walk away contemplating its awe-inspiring depth. In short: Some Things Last Longer Than You isn’t just one of the year’s best records, it’s a full-blown masterpiece.

Listen to Some Things Last Longer Than You below and pick up a copy here.

Doe – Last Ditch (Music Video)

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It’s been a solid week for music videos, a fact evidenced by strong clips from Alexis Taylor, DaughterPleistoceneFrankie Cosmos, The Medicine Hat, Teenage FanclubThe Channels, Okkervil River, Lisa Prank, Clipping., Busman’s HolidayThe Holy Circle, Daniel Woolhouse, Health&BeautyLuke Roberts, Opposite Sex, VATS, Slingshot DakotaAtoms and Void, Psychic Ills, Nice As FuckHead Wound City, Ziemba, Ryley Walker, and Jaala. Rounding things out with yet another highlight were site favorites Doe, thanks to their mesmerizing clip for Some Things Last Longer Than You highlight “Last Ditch”.

Some Things Last Longer Than You, Doe’s forthcoming full-length debut, will confidently stand as one of the year’s most solid records several months down the line. It’s a forceful beast that’s teeming with grit, determination, and conviction. Every song on the record feels like the band’s intent on throwing a knockout punch at any turn. These qualities, while characteristic of the entire record, hold especially true for “Last Ditch”.

A towering anthem of pent-up frustration, the prospect of a visual narrative to accompany the song left a lot of potential doors open. What the band opts for continues their subversive streak and demonstrates their understanding of just how effective that trait can be in the right hands. Instead of playing  into the song’s emphatic anger, the trio scales things way back in favor of a slice-of-life presentation that balances “Last Ditch” out beautifully.

Using overlays to the point of near exclusivity, “Last Ditch” gets to create an immersive world that makes peace with the mundane routines that comprise the majority of life. It’s deceptively simple and remarkably beautiful in its tacit tribute to uncompromising realism. The faded, low-saturation visual presentation also tinges the clip with a longing and nostalgia that suit “Last Ditch” to a quiet perfection. In all, “Last Ditch” is just another winsome notch in what should prove to be a monumental year for Doe, who will deserve every last good thing that comes their way.

Watch “Last Ditch” below and pre-order Some Things Last Longer Than You from Old Flame here (if you’re in the US) and from Specialist Subject here (if you’re in the UK).