Heartbreaking Bravery

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Tag: Dog Park

15 of ’15: The Best EP’s of 2015

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Now that all the visual retrospectives are out of the way and the best live videos have been accounted for, it’s time to move onto the records in earnest. Over the course of the next several days there will be “best of” lists for the following categories: music videos, odds and ends (demos, 7″ records, compilations, etc.), songs, and albums. There will also be an Honorable Mentions devotion that covers a massive array of material from the majority of those categories. Following those lists will be the second installment of the A Year’s Worth of Memories series, which will once again feature a murderer’s row of contributors that have been pulled from both the music and film worlds.

For now, we’re turning our attention to the EP’s that made the most formidable impressions over the course of the past 12 months. Well over 100 titles were considered and then boiled down to the 15 that you see below (this was such a strong year for EP’s that the top 5 are essentially interchangeable). Before delving into those titles, it’s worth noting that “best” in the case– as it is in all cases– is just a meaningless formality and the list below is a reflection of subjectivity. I make no claim to be an authoritative voice in these matters, just a person that genuinely enjoys music and uses a platform as a means to attempt to elevate some of the acts that truly deserve to have their names in greater circulation. So, without further ado, here’s 15 of ’15: The Best EP’s of 2015.

15. Idle Bloom – Some Paranoia

Sometimes all you need to do is offer to help carry equipment to be introduced to incredible new bands, which is exactly how I met Callan Dwan, who I would come to learn is not only Mitski’s guitarist but one of the guitarists for two other acts as well: Dogtooth and Idle Bloom. The latter– a shoegaze-obsessed post-punk act (or is it the other way around?)– recently released their Some Paranoia EP, which stealthily builds its momentum in a clever, multifaceted way; not only do the majority of the songs work their way into a cacophonous frenzy but so does the EP as a whole. It’s an exhilarating listen from a promising emerging act and boasts one of the year’s best riffs.

14. ThinLips – Your Divorce

An extraordinary opening track can do wonders for any release. An effective opening track will set a precedent and a tone for the ensuing material on the record. Your Divorce‘s opener “Nothing Weird” is both effective and extraordinary. Brandishing a compellingly damaged form of lo-fi leaning pop-punk, ThinLips crafted a vicious, compact stunner of an EP that comes across like a warning shot. In a genre that’s increasingly weakened by diminishing returns from the artists utilizing reverential approach, it’s heartening to see the more subversive acts releasing material that feels genuinely vital.

13. Bad Wig – Bad Wig

Before Bad Wig was Bad Wig, they were The Midwestern Charm, an act that worked their way from a sound that fell closer in line to Ryan Adams to crafting a record that fit better alongside the likes of The Lemonheads. A few member changes and stylistic shifts later, they’d carved out a new identity under their new name. Their introductory act is ferociously ragged and maybe even a little audacious. Most everything else there is to be said about this brilliant collection of punk-tinged micro-pop gems can was covered in last week’s review.

12. Potty Mouth – Potty Mouth

A lot of bands found surprisingly bold ways to shift their sound but none caught me as off-guard as Potty Mouth‘s fearless swan dive into the polished, arena-ready sounds of their self-titled EP. Opening with the skyward stretching of “Cherry Picking” and only building momentum from there, Potty Mouth could very easily signal a new era for a band that was formerly known for reveling in their scrappier tendencies. Every song on the EP connects with a staggering amount of force, nicely correlating with the self-possessed determination found at the root of nearly every song in this collection. Potty Mouth is the kind of rallying call that echoes.

11. Midwives – Cowboy Songs

After releasing a fierce full-length debut back in February, Midwives managed to top themselves as the year was drawing to a close. The shockingly immediate Cowboy Songs dishes out punishment at a startling rate and bristles with real emotion. Things kick off with the vicious “Back in the Saddle” and never look back from there, each subsequent song in this seven and a half minute collection of deranged hardcore acting as a flawless showcase of the band’s brute strength. Cowboy Songs is filled to the brim with the kind of hardcore that thrashes around wildly and refuses to be tamed.

10. Geronimo! – Buzz Yr Girlfriend: Vol. 4 – Why Did You Leave Me?

While a lot of people were justifiably saddened over the losses of Ovlov and Krill, it may have been the departure of Geronimo! that hit hardest. Granted, for the vast majority of my life, they were easily the closest to my location of that trio but the sentiment remains. At the very least, the trio went out on top with their final bow: Buzz Yr Girlfriend: Vol. 4 – Why Did You Leave Me?. Characteristically unwieldy, the band’s final three songs ranked among the best work of a deeply impressive career, each (justifiably) landing a premiere at a massive publication. Fitting levels of recognition for an overwhelmingly powerful final effort.

9. Teksti-TV 666 – 2

One of the biggest surprises of the year for me personally, this blistering EP from Finnish act Teksti-TV 666 practically qualifies as an album by today’s standards (its runtime is over 22 minutes). Full of surging basement pop that’s not too far off from the best of The Marked Men, the aptly named swings for the fences at every turn without hesitation. Incorporating a several-member guitar attack that may rival Diarrhea Planet’s, the band finds new avenues to explore as the record careens headfirst towards something concrete. After the fireworks of “Tuhatvuotinen Harharetki”, the band never lets up and goes on exploratory tangents at will. Psychedelic flourishes, sludge breakdowns, and a serious amount of momentum carry to its status as one of the best of 2015.

8. Slight – Hate the Summer

Hate the Summer prompted a few difficult guideline decisions for this list: was it ethical to include an EP anchored by a song that premiered on this site and would a tape release of the EP that included the entirety of an online single that this site ranked as last year’s best be eligible for contention? The answers, obviously, were “absolutely” and “yes.” The latter line of questioning was the one that was scrutinized the most for this list and wound up excluding Meat Wave’s formidable Brother from eligibility (nearly half of the EP pulled from a variety of the band’s other releases, rendering it more of a padded compilation than an EP). With Hate the Summer, the band’s not only expanded the scope of their work but they’ve tapped into something with the three new songs on display here that have the potential to lift this project to new heights of outside recognition. Overall, it’s an important early piece of the trio’s developing history and deserves to be heard as many times as possible.

7. Midnight Reruns – Get Me Out

A staple of this site’s coverage since its introduction, Midnight Reruns rewarded that attention by taking a huge leap with this year with their two strongest releases to date, beginning with this bleary-eyed EP. The Tommy Stinson-produced “Ain’t Gonna Find” sets things in motion and establishes the band’s manic basement pop sensibilities in the early goings, with Graham Hunt’s million-words-a-minute delivery emboldened by the characteristically fierce lead guitar work between Hunt and Karl Giehl. From that blistering opening number, the band takes a step back and sinks their teeth into more left-field territory like the rollicking “Ancient Creature”, which boasts the instantly memorable chorus couplets of “I am the sun, I am the sea/I am an ancient creature/I was born in Madagascar/I was raised by lemurs” and a bruising cover of The Mistreaters’ “The Other Man”.

6. Sheer Mag – II

Another year, another Sheer Mag list placement. Expanding on everything that made the band so great right out of the gate, II was a natural extension of its predecessor, driven by the wild energy of its phenomenal closing track, “Button Up“. All of the glam influences remain and the band likely owes a remarkably huge debt to Marc Bolan but it’s hard to care about influences when the music manages to be so ridiculously entertaining. People will talk about how ’50s pop seeps in around the band’s roughest edges but really, they should probably just stop talking and start dancing. Scrappy and deliriously fun, II‘s another triumph.

5. Diet Cig – Over Easy

No EP soundtracked more aimless drives for me this year than Diet Cig‘s endearingly jubilant Over Easy, which served a necessary reminder that sometimes the most important function music can have is a sense of joy. In the face of a horrifying year in the news, an onslaught of overly-serious releases, and a general downcast pall, Over Easy was a breath of fresh air; a pair of young musicians finding their voice. Every song on Over Easy is memorable not just for its irreverence but for its uncompromising energy and impressive levels of commitment. Warm weather anthems abound and guitarist/vocalist Alex Luciano gets to deliver one of the year’s most scathing kiss-off’s in the final track’s most rousing section.

4. LVL UP – Three Songs

In 2014, site favorites LVL UP topped this site’s Albums of the Year list with ease thanks to the overwhelming brilliance of Hoodwink’d, which was the most perfect distillation of the respective voices of the band’s three principal songwriters to date. Three Songs continues that trend in miniature, allotting a song a piece from Dave Benton, Mike Caridi, and Nick Corbo. All three bring a palpable sense of weariness to the proceedings, immediately rendering this LVL UP’s moodiest record. From the spiky micro-pop of “Blur” to book-ends “The Closing Door” and “Proven Water Rites”, there’s never a dull moment and the band, once again, leave their guts on the table before walking out the door.

3. Ernie – Dog Park

Occasionally, a single song can elevate an already-strong release to unthinkable proportions, which is exactly what happens with Ernie’s delightful Dog Park and its monumental centerpiece, “Sweatpants“. While all four songs contained in Dog Park are memorable and have an impressive host of great moments, it’s the frantic, hook-laden “Sweatpants” that brings the collection together and enhances its immediate surroundings. A surging jolt of relatable discontentment emphasized by a vicious undercurrent of basement pop aesthetics, “Sweatpants” becomes Dog Park‘s definitive moment and simultaneously becomes an unwitting microcosm of 2015’s prevailing sense of disillusionment before turning on that notion in defiance and letting loose a series of blows. Dog Park‘s status as one of 2015’s great releases is cemented in the process.




2. Tenement – Tenement

No band was written about more- or in greater detail- throughout the course of 2015 than Tenement. For nearly 10 years, I’ve been clutching at mostly empty air while damaging my lungs screaming at seemingly empty rooms to go listen to this band. 2015 was the year where everyone started listening. Of the band’s three releases throughout the past 12 months, their self-titled effort was by far the least discussed. Originally released as a limited-run cassette for one of their early tours, the trio decided to release it to the general public several months later, potentially realizing that it deserved a much wider audience. Focusing on the band’s underlying roots, country, folk, and soul influences without ever completely sacrificing their punk bite, Tenement‘s easily the band’s most easygoing collection as well as its most immediately timeless. Keep its open-road sensibilities in mind for your next long drive.

1. Cende – Cende

Capping off an extraordinary year for drummer (and occasional guitarist) Greg Rutkin (LVL UP, Slight, Normal Person, etc.) was Cende’s explosive self-titled debut, which was recently released online (the bandcamp lists the official release as January 1). The band’s been playing these songs out for a while and garnered heavy coverage from this site during its extended Brooklyn residency. An LP is due out in 2016 as well and, after this EP and the live previews, it’s already one of the most highly anticipated releases of 2016. Taking cues from acts like Radioactivity, Cende has already perfected their blend of searing basement pop and unforgiving basement punk. Only two of these songs- including “Widow”, the opening track and one of the year’s finest- go over the 90 second mark and all of them boast hooks powerful enough to keep pulling the listener back, making Cende an endlessly replayable gift. It’s a monstrous release from a band refusing to aim for anything other than greatness and continuous improvement. Cende is one hell of a starting point.

PURPLE 7 – Garden Eyes (Album Review, Stream)

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[EDITOR’S NOTE: With the site now entering emergency year-end catch-up mode thanks to the cruel, mocking nature of time, tonight’s trio of posts will simply be short reviews of the album(s) in the headline(s) and an accompanying list of records that deserve to be heard.]

Not too long ago, PURPLE 7’s extraordinary full-length debut was discussed in of one of these pieces thanks to album standout “Wise Up“. Shortly after that piece ran, the whole record wound up ranking highly in this site’s year-end list. The band’s already followed up that scintillating effort with another full-length that scales back some of the frenetic energy but ups the impact value.

From “Company” on, Garden Eyes throws a bevvy of punches, landing blows with rapid succession. Most songs on the record hover around the two minute mark and the trio makes the most of their already-established basement pop dynamics. There’s a new bent to the proceedings that feels more rooted in classic rock n’ roll records than the band’s preceding material but it suits them well. Every song hits its mark and ensures PURPLE 7’s position as one the more beloved acts on the DIY punk circuit. Garden Eyes is just another generous gift.

Listen to Garden Eyes below and pick it up here. Beneath the embed, explore a list of some of the best full streams to have appeared over the past several months.

Good Night Gold Dust – Good Night Gold Dust
Ernie – Dog Park
Sunn O))) – Kannon
Baby Bry Bry – The Way Things Was
Polyon – Blue
Stainless Steele – Escapism
Snuff Refux – Besides You
The Rashita Joneses – Bang Bang! Lasagna
The Brainstems – No Place Else
No Rudio / No Noise (Compilation)
The Spook School – Try To Be Hopeful
The Foxymorons – Fake Yoga
Churchyard – Churchyard
Isabel Rex – American Colloquialisms/Two Hexes
Arizona Landmine – When Will  I Ever Learn
Pinemen – Pleasant Pain
WASHA – The Bright Part II
Junk Boys – Junk Boys
Living Decent – Do What Makes You Brave
Gobichild – Never Stops
Nice Hooves – The Gall

Ernie – Sweatpants (Stream)

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As was stated earlier on,  it’s been a while since a single stream has been featured on this site- about three weeks to be exact. To remedy that, all of the songs that have been collected over that period of time (all of which made incredibly favorable impressions) will be featured in a trio of posts, beginning with this one. Each post will focus on one genuine standout and include a hyperlinked list of the others beneath the embedded player, bringing the site up to the present release cycle.

Kicking this process off is Ernie’s raucous “Sweatpants”, an unabashedly melodic song that’s not afraid of flashing some serrated edges. A towering vocal melody powers “Sweatpants”, while the guitar, bass, and drums surge underneath. Mining the typically rich field of malaise for lyrical content, Ernie finds a contrast between spry musicality and downtrodden lyrical content and exploits the divide to maximum effect. It’d be a tremendously downcast affair were it not for the defiantly energetic musical approach. Nuanced, balanced, and deceptively subtle, “Sweatpants” is a song that deserves to be in the collections of anyone who’s ever visited this site more than once.  

Listen to “Sweatpants” below  and pre-order Dog Park from Soft Speak Records here. Underneath the embed, explored a handful of other great songs to find release over the past three weeks.

Never Young – Stress Hed
Polyon – Blue
Haybaby – Doored
Puddle Splasher – Forget My Name
The Noise Figures – Shoot the Moon
Fern Mayo – Open Work
Sports – Get Bummed Out
Palm – Ankles
Roger Harvey – Arrow/Plane
Smokes – Lemonlime
Lilly Wolf – Terrible Mistake
Boys – Believe Anything
Shunkan – Paleontologist
Pity Sex – What  Might Soothe You
Violent Mae – In the Sun
See Through Dresses – Drag Scene
Kindling – Blinding Wave
Modern Baseball – The Thrash Particle
Swings – Sea
S.M. Wolf – We All Decided No
William Alexander – Giant Fade
Soldiers of Fortune (ft. Cass McCombs) – Old Roman Wall
Dumb Numbers – I Dreamed I Saw Jack Nance Last Night
Bambara – An Ill Son
Margot & The Nuclear So and So’s – Broadripple Is Burning (Living Room Version)

Nobunny – Nightmare Night (Short Film)

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Even by the ridiculous standards of the past few weeks, today was absolutely loaded with worthwhile content. Antarctigo Vespucci streamed their second outstandning EP of the year- I’m So Tethered- over at The AV Club and Field Division unveiled their mesmerizing Reverie State EP, rounding out today’s full streams. The full songs department was a bit more plentiful, with new offerings ranging from the most recent look at Big Ups‘ side of their split with Washer (via the ravaged and ravaging “Not Today“) to the gentle acoustic pull of Soft Fangs’ “Dog Park“. Continuing things in the quieter realms were the lightly damaged pscyh-folk of Ready Astronaut’s “Lost In Space” and the quietly lilting sounds of Elephant Micah’s “By the Canal“. Fleshing out the DIY punk side of things was another sideways glance at Nots’ hotly-tipped We Are Nots, courtesy of “Reactor“, and an exhilarating career-best from Crying called “War of Attrition“. Really, though, today absolutely belonged to music videos. Nearly every single one of these would seem like an obvious feature choice on literally any other day but as it stands, today will be going to the most thematically appropriate.

Before jumping into Nobunny‘s most recent hellscape, it’s worth touching on everything else that made up today’s embarrassment of riches in the visual medium field. Cool Runnings skated their way through a desert oblivion in “Blister“, Foul Tip indulged a lo-fi lunacy in “Madness“, and Platinum Boys exuded a rock n’ roll ethos in “Candy“. Sweet Apple teamed up with Guided By Voices’ Robert Pollard to soundtrack a memorable Halloween outing in “Reunion“, former Speedy Ortiz guitarist Matt Robidux’s new project- Curse Purse- embraced the heavily discordant in “Message CP“, and Willis Earl Beal drifted off into darkly ambient territories with “I AM.” The Growlers used a bevvy of classically filmic composition tricks in the black-and-white clip for “Good Advice“, Team Spirit dealt with an insane producer in their absurdly entertaining clip for “Satisfaction“, and MONO released an absolute gift of a video in the gorgeous, jaw-dropping, Mitsuyo Miyazaki-directed clip for “Where We Begin“, which may very well be one of that medium’s most compelling pieces this year. Even with the strength of that MONO video, it just felt too appropriate to give today’s spot to the deranged gore of Nobunny’s short film, Nightmare Night– just in time for the holiday.

First thing’s first: this is a severely NSFW clip (although that should just automatically be assumed with anything related to Nobunny), so be sure to avoid that mistake. Blood, gore, B-movie tropes, and a DIY resonance abound in Nightmare Night, a spirited homage to the maniacal tendencies that come attached to the Halloween season. From its introductory sequence that introduces a burnt out cast of misfits to the unbridled bloodshed, Nobunny’s aims are even less restrained than usual. If there’s a mandatory genre beat to be hit, it’s not just touched on- it’s downright obliterated. Taking the bloodlust to sadistic levels that’d make even Tarantino blush, everyone’s favorite masked rodent stars as the centerpiece of this nightmarish fever dream. Picking off the would-be partiers one by one until the final climactic battle, Nobunny runs through a cast of fellow musicians while “Lizard Liars” from last year’s excellent Secret Songs: Reflections From The Ear Mirror propels everything towards its conclusion. Blackly comedic, entirely unrestrained, and ridiculously bombastic, Nightmare Night is the perfect way to kick off a weekend of veiled debauchery.

Watch Nightmare Night below and order Secret Songs: Reflections From The Ear Mirror here.