Heartbreaking Bravery

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The Honorable Mentions of August 2017

A lot has happened over the past month and the time to get this site back on track has nearly arrived. On a quick personal note: Heartbreaking Bravery is now based in Madison, WI and will likely expand on some forms of coverage — and feature selections — in the very near future. Before all of that can happen, it’s imperative that the events of the past month be taken into stock. We’re now arriving at a time where the AotY-caliber material descends like a waterfall and it can be overwhelming. To that end, this post will highlight all of the new songs, music videos, and records that made a sizable impression over the past month. A few more posts will follow but if anyone’s looking for a wide-ranging variety of outstanding new music, it’d be best to bookmark this page and spend hours clicking around. It’ll be worth the time.

RECORDS

The Obleeks, Honeyrude, Thanks for Coming, Duncan Fellows, UV-TV, SOAR, The Anatomy of Frank, Tyler Ditter, Big Fred, Half Gringa, Little Kid, Guggi Data, Dina Maccabee, Small Reactions, Noon, At Zero, Dude Elsberry, Guided By Voices, The Ocean Party, Rick AshtrayFrøkedal, Faith Healer, Winston Hightower, Rose Hotel, Maneka, Ice Balloons, Black Mekon, WALK, Luke Rathborne, Mosquitos, Limp Wrist, The Homeless Gospel Choir, Club Night, Sunrot, Judders, No Museums, DieAlps!, Howlin’ Banana, and Ruination.

MUSIC VIDEOS 

David Ramirez, The Coathangers, VARSITY, Potty Mouth, Cody & Danz, St. Vincent, Courtney Barnett & Kurt Vile, Phoebe Bridgers, Black Kids, Los Angeles Police Department, Omni, Melkbelly, Mauno (x2), Curtis Harding, Trupa Trupa, Amy O, Jessica Lea Mayfield, OxenFree (x2), Ritual Talk, Palehound, Small Reactions, Land of Talk, Nnamdi Ogbonnaya, People Like You, Hurray For The Riff Raff, CHUCK (x2), Sam Coffey and the Iron Lungs, Oak House, Liars, ayo river (x2), Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit.

Kane Strang, Peach Pit, Manchester Orchestra, Elettrodomestico, Black Lips, Circuit des YeuxSløtfaceFilthy Friends, Hellrazor, Quiet Hollers, Fake Palms, Partner, Folkvang, The By Gods, Sorority Noise, Cloud Nothings, Young Boys, Annie HartDaniele Luppi & Parquet CourtsThe Safes, Small Culture, The Mynabirds, Sparks, Gallery 47, ALA.NI, Poppies, BABY!, Briana Marela, Pile, Hope, Ellen and the Degenerates, Wild Honey, Early Riser, Baby Jesus, Cassels (x2), Midnight Sister, Alex Lahey, Sono Oto.

Frankie Rose, The Homeless Gospel Choir, Shabazz Palaces, Warm Body, doubleVee, Sound of Ceres, Beliefs, Rainbrother, Arrows of Love, WAND, Demure for Sure, Emily Haines & The Soft Skeleton, Dead Heavens, DieAlps!, Grey Gersten, Ride, Wolf Parade, Kevin Morby, Prism Tats, Cristobal and the Sea, Becca Mancari, The New Pornographers, Surrounder, Houg, Mount Kimbie, High Bloom, Ian Randall Thornton, Michael Charles Smith, Steve Martin and the Steep Canyon Rangers, Mr. Muthafuckin eXquire, Rookin, Ibeyi, Marlon Williams, Black Beach, At The Drive In, Douse, Anthony, Open Mike Eagle, Your Old Droog, Girl Ray, and Superet.

SONGS

Beachtapes (x2), Partner, The Willowz, Julie & The Wrong Guys, Slothrust, The Pains of Being Pure at Heart, Dream Wife, Karl Blau, Petite League, Florist (x2), Lean Year, Worst Place, Fits, METZ, Prom Queen, Lina Tullgren, Strawberry Runners, Slaughter Beach, Dog, A. Savage, Covey, Dava Gavanski, Bully, Cherry, floral print, Floating Action, Anti Pony, Soft Fangs, Queen Moo, Strawberry Runners, VV Torso, ORB, Gleemer, Holy Wars, Ephrata, Ben Grigg, Reptaliens, Sam Evian, Looming.

Hope Sandoval & The Warm Inventions, Holiday Ghosts (x2), OCS, Pardoner, Friendship, Top 8, Strange Relations, Lomelda, The Tin Can Collective, Graham Hunt, Mini Dresses, Versing, Caracara, A Giant Dog, Makthaverskan, Pool Holograph, Jack Cooper, Noah Engel (x2), Tall Friend, Mercy Weiss, Monogold, Sick Feeling, Temple of Angels, Duds, Allah-Las, Mutts, Hand Habits, Silver Torches, Twist, Honeyrude, Tapeworms, The Jesus and Mary Chain, Ripped Genes, Liars (x2), Dead Stars (x2), Philip Selway.

Jude Shuma, The Persian Leaps, Rick Ashtray, Small Circle (x2), Twain, Car Seat Headrest, Everyone Is Dirty, Protomartyr, Black Beach, Smoke Rings, John Dylan, Maneka, Club Night, Nassau, Plastic Pinks, David Ramirez (x2), Weird Owl, Cults, Hercules & Love Affair, Charles Howl, The Duke Spirit, BIRDS, Pale Honey, The Dream Syndicate, Cina Polada, Alex Calder, Ruby Fray, Camp Counselor, Linda Perhacs, IDYLLS, The Dig, Nora Jane Struthers and the Party Line, WHIMM, PictureHouse, Duncan Kissinger.

S. Carey, The Dodos, Pinkshinyultrablast, Yumi Zouma, Deerhoof, Son Little, Haunted Summer, Quicksand, The Cribs, Death From Above, Mirah, Walter Etc., Ben Stevenson, L.A. Witch, Trevor Sensor, Francis, Wild Ones, Blank Range (x2), Cloning the Mammoth, King Khan, STACEY, The Darts, The Duke of Surl, Siv Jakobsen, North Lynx, Looms, Sauropod, Plateau Below, Out Lines, Joey Sweeney, Deradoorian, Parentz, Norma, Surf Rock Is Dead, Freedom Baby, The World Is A Beautiful Place & I Am No Longer Afraid To Die.

ExSage, The Sighs, The War On Drugs, DDCT, Hudson Bell, The Side Eyes, EMA, Knighstown, Fuzz Queen, LOSANGE, Andi, Loyal Lobos, OMD, Hypnotic Kingdom, Happy Hollows, After Hours Radio, Peter Oren, Andrew Weatherall, A Valley Son, Far Lands, Tree House, Faith Healer, Diamond Thug, DestroyerMÄRVEL, Seasonal Beast, clipping., Cape FrancisGunn-Triscinski Duo, Four Tet, Smash Boom Pow, Acid Tongue, Black Pistol Fire, NVDES, Midnight Sister, Kid Midnight (Charly Bliss Remix), MOURN, and Petal.

A Month’s Worth of Music Videos Worth Watching

Songs weren’t the only category absolutely lousy with gems over the past six or seven weeks. In that same time span, a whole host of outstanding music videos made their way into the world, from old favorites, unfamiliar faces, and just about everyone in between. Below is a compilation of some of the most impressive of those offerings. A few more will be featured in some capacity shortly but for now, enjoy the treasure trove of links below. Dive in and swim around a little, there are a lot of great surprises to discover.

Great Grandpa, Sloan Peterson, Pinact, Zuli, Littler, Dearly Beloved, Tashaki Miyaki, Amy O, Kane Strang, Juiceboxxx, Tall Friend, Peach PyramidSiobhan Wilson, Mattiel, Absolutely Not, Jessica Lea Mayfield, Kevin Devine, Widowspeak, Alvvays, Caroline Says, Waxahatchee, Sam Patch, Milked, Mister Heavenly, Mise en Scene, Yi, Japanese Breakfast, The Lonely Biscuits, Spencer Radcliffe & Everyone Else, New Swears, Lee Ranaldo, Big Hush, Melkbelly, MRYGLD, Phoebe Bridgers, Wilder Maker.

James Elkington, Wolf Parade, Aaron D’Alesio, Dave Depper, Sharkmuffin, Cloakroom (x2), Emily Rockarts, Post Lovers, Pkew Pkew Pkew (x2), Torres, Broken Social Scene, Captain We’re Sinking, Secret Crush, Stars, Le Mutant, Oxbow, Laura Carbone, Hamell On Trial, Ha Ha Tonka, OHMME, Grim Streaker, Cody & Danz, Little Junior, Grey Gersten, Chad VanGaalen, Guerilla Toss, Dutch Uncles, Birds, Froth, The Van T’s, RYAN Playground, The Mynabirds, A Giant DogMÄRVEL, Fits, Walrus.

Beach Fossils, Mount Kimbie, Dylan Lancaster, Courtney Marie Andrews, Korey Dane, Fassine, The Savage Radley, Tamino, EMA, Francobollo, Elle Mary & The Bad Men, Wand, Hero FisherCymbals Eat Guitars, Playboy Manbaby, Cotillon, Moses Sumney, The Gift of Gab, Rainbrother, Sheer Mag, The Vacationists, The Broken Hearts, Wild Honey, Auction for the Promise Club, Alice Limoges, Flood Coats, Hammydown, football, etc., Camp Cope, Joy Downer, tunic, Manchester Orchestra, Men I Trust, Oshwa.

Gracie and Rachel, Us and Us Only, Black Kids, Club Night, Angelo De Augustine, Ritual Talk, Algiers, The New Respects, Wieuca, Alex Lahey, Passion Pusher, Steelism, Tattoo Money, Ross Goldstein, Andy Gabbard, Grandbrothers, and a whole series from Raj and the 100’s.

Three Weeks Down: A Handful of Streams

It’s been a little over three weeks since the last regularly scheduled post appeared on this site. In that time, a whole host of excellent songs have been released. Below is a long compilation of some of the best of those offerings. There will be compilation lists in this vein for both music videos and full streams following this one. Following those posts, there’ll be posts featuring seven outstanding entries that have emerged in that time from each category. So, dive in, bookmark this page, and click around. A new favorite band’s always just around the corner for everyone, it’s just a matter of taking the time to look.  

See Through Dresses, BIRDS, Hater, Elle MaryTrü, Jason Loewenstein, Rips, Mt. Doubt, Livingmore (x2), Amy O, Japanese Breakfast, Mise en Scene (x2), Algiers, James Riotto, B Boys, The Drums (x2), The Last Dinosaur, Human Potential, The Rememberables, Deer Tick (x2), Rose Hotel, Nathan Oliver, A Giant Dog, Grim Streaker, Worriers, Slaughter Beach, Dog, Mardou, Psymon Spire, Suntrodden, Rainer Maria, Tomten (x2), Jack Cooper, The Fresh & Onlys, Lee Bains III + The Glory Fires, Quiet Hollers, Baby In Vain

Dentist, SOAR, Montrose Man, Sharon Van Etten, Absolutely Not, Randy’s Got A Playdough Face, Katie Von Schleicher, Hundredth, Night Click, CHIMNEY, Atlas Wynd, Exhausted Pipes, Tall Friend, Spodee Boy, Delafye, L.A. Witch, David Nance, Spit, New Swears, Sun Riah, Sleep Party People, Manzanita Falls, Pronto Mama, Cheap Fantasy, Susanne SundførRadulaFrøkedal, Jacques Labouchere, Single Mothers, Cody & Danz, Pill, Bien, Frightened Rabbit, Ratboys, Trouble, Low Hums, Michael Nau, First Light

Alex D GoldbergSQÜRL, Ride, Dead Heavens, The Domestics, Nathan Oliver, Milburn, House of Feelings, Modern Crowds, Demure for Sure, Broken Social Scene, Dove Lady, bukowski, Partner, The Big Drops, Kazyak, Diet Cig, Monk Parker, Black Thumb, Face of Man, Blimp Rock, DieAlps!, Fronds, Pearl Earl, Abbie Gale, Trevor Sensor, Great Woods, Best Ex, The Bandicoots, Chris Merick Hughes¡Moonbeams No Mas!, TobaccoJason Isbell and the 400 Unit, Moderate Rebels, Rostam, Fallow Land, Banditos

Hammydown, Institute, Eerie Gaits, Parker Longbough, GILA, Cameron Boucher, The Last Dinosaur, LAPêCHE, The Clientele, Maneater, Holy Wars, Guerilla TossHoneyrude, Superorganism, and Rudy Stone.

Watch This: The Honorable Mentions of 2017’s First Quarter

Over the course of 2017’s opening three months, a lot of great material was released. Naturally, the most abundantly rich category wasn’t simply songs, music videos, or full releases, it was live videos. It’s been quite some time since the last Watch This ran on this site, an oversight being amended tonight, and in that time scores of great clips have surfaced. Below is an extensive list of some of the finest to have emerged over that time and all of which are more than worth the their runtimes. Of course, it’d be impossible to watch all of these in one sitting, so feel free to bookmark the page and sift through the selections whenever the feeling takes

Mitski, Jay Som, The Walkmen, Kississippi, SUÐNE-HI, Kamasi WashingtonMonica LaPlante, Tokyo Police Club, Money, Tank and the Bangas, Mary LynnCanshaker Pi, Allah-LasYeeshCommunionsHurray for the Riff Raff, Andy Shauf, Blue Rodeo, MOON, Temples, Born Ruffians,  Justin Vernon & Sean Carey, L.A. Salami (x2, 3), Bruno BavotaHórmónar, Mustard Gas and Roses, Pinegrove, Jean-Michael Blais & CFCF, Dude York (x2), Bash & Pop, Nail Polish, Ron Gallo, Lume, Slaughter Beach, Dog

Craig Finn (x2, 3), Honeyblood, Middle Kids (x2), No Parents, The Molochs, The Black Watch, Sløtface (x2), Looming, Lemuria, Campdogzz, Black Marble Selection, Clara Clara, ELLA, American Wrestlers (x2), The Coathangers, Outer SpacesSam Kogon (x2), Lilah Larson, Michal Pydo, Old 97s (x2, 3), Lizzo (x2), The Madcaps, Snail Mail, The Mysterons, Subcutanea, Holy Tunics, Hamilton Leithauser (x2, 3), Alex Lahey, GreyfaceAxel Flóvent, Diarrhea Planet, Peter Silberman, Luxury Death, Suburban Living

Microwave, The Cigarette Bums, RoyaCarinea, The Orions, Secret Crush, Tyrone Cotton, Fast Romantics, Izzy True (x2), Hand Habits, Priests (x2), Reality Something, Frances Cone, Moss, White Mystery, Tennis, Louie Louie, Adna, Let’s Eat Grandma, Kite Base, Twin Limb, Ty Segall, Morus Alba, Odd Robot, Coals, The New Pornographers (x2), VANT, Shame, Sierra Hull, MOON, Rose Cousins (x2, 3), Food Court, Grace Joyner, Mrs., Michael Nau, Nikki Lane (x2, 3), FIDLAR (x2, 3), The Melvins, Skyway Man, Big Eyes

Cherry Glazerr (x2), BAB, Savoy Motel (x2, 3), Laura Marling (x2), Mikey Erg, Thumpers, Fishbach, Emma Ruth Rundle, Horse Thief (x2), Black Marble, The Album Leaf (x2), Wet Lips, Bev Rage and the Drinks, Her Again, Esme Patterson, Death and Memphis, Nancy Pants, Mirel Wagner, John Doe, The Two Tens, Avi Buffalo, Lisa Hannigan, Andy Shauf, Mark Eitzel (x2), Marching Church, Chris Farren, Ahem, Cloud Nothings, BABY, Sweet Crude, Chicano Batman, Rubblebucket, Looks Like Mountains, Ladywolf

Black Joe Lewis and the Honeybears, Dead Man Winter (x2), Good DoomTÖLVA, Monobody, The Shacks, Fleurie, Molotoy, Parlor Walls, YDIMITU, The Gotobeds, Peacock Affect, Austra (x2), Dave Brannigan, Papier Tigre, Elephant Stone, You Blew It, Grand Parc, PAVVLA, Alice Jemima, Dusk (x2), Jens Lekman, PWR BTTM, Melkbelly, Nail Polish, Leif Vollebek, Shull, Jennifer Niceley, House of Wolves, Chuck Prophet, Fair City Fire, The Reptilian, Lil Sluggers, Mint Green, Local Natives, Henry Jamison

The Sonics, Nocturnal Habits, Julia Lucille, Loamlands, Halldór Eldjárn, The Hill Country Devil, DakaBrakha, The Chinchees, Oddissee, Way Worse, BADBADNOTGOOD, Tenfold, The Staves, The Vaughns, Sunflower Bean, Flasher, Weyes Blood, Charlotte Cardin, Mammút, Benjaminto, Naked Giants (x2), Hippo Campus, Delicate Steve (x2), White Reaper, Gurr, Muncie Girls, Julien Doré, Birdtalker, Mario Batkovic, Seu Jorge, Ace Henderson, Nudity, High Waisted, John Craigie, Sammus (x2, 3), Beach Slang

45ACIDBABIES (x2), Fiona Silver, Calico, Viagra Boys, Fox and the Acres, The Veils, Anna McLukie, Iguana Death Cult, Sad13 (x2), DIA, Hospital Job, Katie Ellen, Albin de la Simone, Nick Hakim, Holy Pinto, Nessi Gomes, Radio Eliza, Michigan Rattlers, Wallacy Willians e os Besouros, Dæphne, The Mysterons, Cincin, Listener, Rykarda Parasol, Magic Bronson, (T-T)b, Tourists, Foxing, Eyukalpitus, Twin Lords, Dijon, Red Baraat, Dan Layus, Camp Claude, Solilians, Andy Svarthol, Octave Noire, Benoît Lizen

Bishop Nehru, No Win, Hits Like A Girl, Sauna Accident, Bullet Points, Golden Grands, Strand of Oaks (x2, 3), The Singing Butcher, Fishbone, See Gulls, Santoros, Burn Fetish, Wildwood Kin, Noam Pikelny, Alejandro y Maria Laura, Gang of Four, RLLBLL, Star Anna, Industrial Revelation, Lohai, And Also the Trees, Bror Gunnar Jansson, Jealous of the Birds, Star Parks, Shawn Fogel, Joel and Bill Plaskett, Ess See, Edna Vazquez, Plastic Picnic, Rodney Crowell, Mother Mother, Molly Burch (x2, 3), Blind Pilot

The Kraken Quartet, Fraea, Other SunsNina Diaz & Luz Elena Mendoza, Alexandra Savior, The Big Pink, From Indian Lakes, Mike Wexler, Nimrod, Tyte Jeff, Mega Bog, Big Star’s Third, Robyn Hitchcock, Strange Americans, Clap Your Hands Say Yeah, Community Daughter, Severin Bells, Talmud Beach, Timber Timbre, Tall Heights, Tim Kasher, Sundara Karma, Guantanamo Baywatch, STEVENSTEVEN, ZenSoFly, asdfhg., Olivensteins, Becca Stevens, Grandaddy, Bad Licks, Maren Morris, The Memories, Sloucher

Klangstof, Moses Hightower, Les Aventures de President Bongo, Kite Base, Barbagallo, Mike Doughty, The Pukes, Mothers, Tom Tukker, Modern English, American Football, Kristin Hersh, Christopher Paul Stelling, Yasmine Hamdan, Candy Ambulance, Amelia Curran, Dane Terry, Midijoyful, Drumbeat Red, Jesca Hoop, South City Revival, The Awful Truth, Ages and Ages, and The Spring Standards.

14 of ’14: The Best Splits of 2014

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Once again, it feels necessary to start with a (likely unnecessary) disclaimer about the word “best” when it comes to year-end posts. “Best”, in nearly every case, is just shorthand for “most admired”, it’s not a stab at a definitive statement; in these kinds of rankings there’s no room for any perceived objectivity. Another quick note before diving into this list in earnest; for all year-end coverage, the first person narrative restriction that’s usually implemented here will be dropped to allow me to speak on a more personal level, as these are the released that affected me personally and reflect my own personal tastes. 2014 was a fairly strong year for split releases, which are experiencing a new level of exposure thanks to the renewed interest in cassettes and vinyl, as those are the two formats they’re on most frequently. There were two, three, and four band splits released over the past 12 months that ranked among my favorite releases in any format. As holds true for every year, not everything can be listened to (I’m sure something like the extremely limited-run Florist/Eskimeaux tape is incredible but I came to it too late to snag a copy) Labels have been rallying around these releases particularly hard, in part because there’s an allowance for collaboration with other like-minded labels that isn’t always possible with standard single-band releases. From bands covering each other on flip sides of the same tape to bands trading off places throughout a release to a few of the year’s best songs, there’s a lot to explore in the list below- a list that cheats the “14” rule ever so slightly with the rules being bent for the top two spots (it just didn’t seem fair to have two bands being responsible for four of the top five spots). Dive on in and hear 14(+) of the splits that deserve homes in as many collections as possible.

[EDITOR’S NOTE: A few of the releases included below are set to autoplay in weird parts of these releases so keep an eye out and listen to each in full.]

14. Adult Mom / Cyberbully Mom Club / i tried to run away when i was 6 (but got too scared to cross the street)

Cyberbully Mom Club quietly put together one of the most impressive runs of genuinely great releases this year and this split- with Adult Mom (who also had a pretty great year) and i tried to run away when i was 6 (but got too scared to cross the street)– still managed to be a standout effort. As spellbinding as it sincere, it’s a record worth keeping around for a very long while.

13. Big Ups / Washer

Big Ups are easily one of the most exciting bands of today and they keep pushing themselves to go further with each subsequent release. On this split with Washer, both bands give it their all and wind up with one of the stronger short entries in Exploding in Sound’s ridiculously impressive 2014 catalog.

12. Dikembe / The Jazz June

A resurgent The Jazz June came out of a 12 year absence with their best song to date (and one of the catchiest chorus hooks of the year) and had it paired with an up-and-coming band that shared some of their best qualities. Between the two songs on display here, the split the two bands released felt more complete and unified than a lot of bands’ own full-lengths.

11. Joyce Manor / Toys That Kill

Never Hungover Again earned Joyce Manor typically strong critical returns but it was their split with outsider punk perennials Toys That Kill that hit hardest. Each of the four songs included in this split feature both bands at their absolute best; tinkering with the lines that separate punk from pop with an exacting, exhilarating precision.

10. Dog / Big Neck Police

Damaged. Delirious. Dangerous. Terrifying. Four words that could all aptly describe the relentlessly aggressive bleakness of this split between Dog and Big Neck Police. Seven songs that offer the perfect descent into complete and total chaos while flirting with tension dynamics to create a genuinely pulverizing effect.


9. Big Eyes / Post Teens

Big Eyes have been releasing incredible material ever since their demo so it’s no surprise that this split with Post Teens (who also had an excellent split with Rose Cross this year) fought its way into this list. Pairing with Post Teens proved to be surprisingly sensible as both bands like to go full-force as much as possible and- more often than not (this split being one example)- wind up with rousing results.

8. Trust Fund / Lone Omi / Something

Utilizing a little-used tactic can create intrigue pretty instantaneously and the decision to alternate bands throughout this six song set- formally titled Sick of Hits Vol. 2- is something that pays off beautifully. Reeks of Effort is a label that’s built its name around bands that challenge the conception of twee; any time there’s a danger of things becoming overtly whimsical they get cut to shreds by barbed wire. It’s a dynamic that makes Reeks of Effort’s roster- and Sick of Hits Vol. 2– worth celebrating.

7. Speedy Ortiz / Chris Weisman

“Doomsday” isn’t just one of the best songs of this year, it’s arguably the best of Speedy Ortiz’s career (and possibly even one of the best of the decade). That song alone would have been strong enough to land this release- the best of the laudable LAMC series to date- a spot on this list. Fortunately, it’s backed by a beautifully plaintive song from Chris Weisman (whose Monet in the 90’s was one of this year’s hidden gems) that somehow holds its own as the flipside to such a powerful song. Together, they make for the year’s best two-song release.

6. Girlpool / Slutever

I haven’t made even the slightest effort to hide my love of Girlpool, a young duo that embodies things which make them worth rallying behind. Here, Cleo Tucker and Harmony Tividad cover their friends in Slutever (who return the favor) while contributing two arresting originals. While Slutever haven’t quite enjoyed Girlpool’s level of exposure, they stepped up to the plate for this split and connected hard enough to create what should be some long-lasting repercussions. Fierce and unapologetic, it’s definitive proof that neither band’s going to be backing down anytime soon.

5. Bad History Month / Dust From 1000 Years

Staring At My Hands” is a song that’s come to mean quite a lot to me over the past few months and it’s the strongest moment on this split cassette/split LP from Bad History Month (formerly Fat History Month/Sad History Month) and Dust From 1000 Years. That’s not to downplay any of the others; this is a genuinely mesmerizing release at every turn. Willfully left-field and wrapped in the same cloth, it reverberates long after the final notes of the hazily elegiac “Party Song”.

4. Mannequin Pussy / Dog Legs

One of the year’s most unexpectedly incendiary releases, this weird anomaly (it can- somehow- rightfully be called both a split and an EP compilation) was a sharp, glancing punch to the face. Teeth get bared, sharpened fingernails get flashed, and fists get clenched ten times over. Mannequin Pussy and Dog Legs both turn things up to 11 and advance their agendas with brute force. Immediate, engaging, and intimidatingly powerful, it easily ranks among 2014’s finest releases. During the split’s limited release run it also came with the added bonus of a 16 page zine featuring artwork from both acts.

3. Whirr / Nothing

Both Whirr and Nothing, two of the biggest names in today’s crop of shoegaze-heavy bands, released full-lengths this year. While both of those releases were well worth spending time on, it wasn’t until they came together that they made something extraordinary. Every song on this split ranks in the realms of career-best for both acts, as if they were all successive dares rooted in incredibly formidable one-upmanship. At four songs, this managed to stand out as one of 2014’s most impressively towering releases; the scope and depth of each song is a complete shock because of how expansive they manage to become without ever tipping into the comically bombastic. An extraordinary effort from two bands that sound incredible together (which is unsurprising, considering they share at least one member) and completely revitalized in such a contained setting.

2. Joanna Gruesome (Joanna Gruesome / Perfect Pussy, Joanna Gruesome / Trust Fund, Joanna Gruesome / Tyrannosaurus Dead)

In 2014, there were two bands that aimed for the fences and went way beyond when it came to split releases. Joanna Gruesome was one of them. It would have been much more of a nightmare for the rankings between these two had Joanna Gruesome’s split with Tyrannosaurs Dead included a new song rather than one of Weird Sister‘s many highlights. Between their extraordinary Astonishing Adventures split with site favorites Perfect Pussy (whose contributions were as dazzling as anything they’ve done) and their split EP with site favorites Trust Fund, they were responsible for half of two of the year’s finest releases- and what halves they were. “Psykick Espionage”, “Jerome (Liar)”, “…And Keep on Reaching for Those Stars”, “Reading the Wrappers”, “No Pressure”, “Scared”. Six songs that would have made up one of the best EP’s of any of the past 10 years or more. Joanna Gruesome are quickly turning into an unstoppable force of nature and pretty soon there are only going to be two options: get caught up in their spell or get the hell out of their way.


1. Ovlov (Ovlov / Little Big League, Krill / LVL UP / Ovlov / Radiator Hospital, Ex-Breathers / Ovlov / Gnarwhal / Woozy)

If any band had a more impressive year with splits than Joanna Gruesome, it was Ovlov. Turning in some of the year’s best songs (“The Great Crocodile” and “Ohmu’s Shell”, respectively) on the year’s best four-band split and what was easily one of 2014’s best two-band splits (with Little Big League’s “Year of the Sunhouse” also registering as one of 2014’s strongest highlights) is no small feat. Their contribution to their split with Gnarwhal, Woozy, and Ex-Breathers was that release’s strongest moment- they had a lot more competition from Krill, LVL UP (“Big Snow” being yet another year-end worthy highlight on its own accord), and Radiator Hospital (though both still would have earned a spot somewhere on this list had it been kept to individual releases). Ovlov’s songs- much like the songs on display in the Whirr/Nothing split- are absolute monsters, showcasing the band’s range in a breathtaking display of power. Should any of these songs be good indicators for the full-length Ovlov is ramping up to, then we’re in for some serious fireworks whenever it drops. For now, this small collection of songs is more than enough to tide anyone over until- and then well past- that album’s release.



LVL UP – Big Snow (Stream)

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What a day. There was no obvious choice for a feature until LVL UP’s “Big Snow” premiered over at Impose. On the surface, that’s a bland statement- but looking at the company that “Big Snow” joined today, it’s one hell of a testament to LVL UP.  In the single song department there were some legitimately great songs: Run The Jewels’ pulverizing new (Zach De La Rocha-featuring) scorcher “Close Your Eyes (And Count To Fuck)“, Dollface’s impossibly breezy indie pop gem “Churchyard“, Daddy Issues’ distortion-laden post-punk dirge “Ugly When I Cry“, and  a bracing new Crow Bait song- “Separate Stations“- that incorporates members of Iron Chic. There was also Dasher’s foreboding noise-punk minimalism piece, “Teeth“, as well as Vetter Kids’ “I’m Just Your Newest Bluest” which is a perfect representation of the band’s modernist take on classic 90’s emo and noise-punk. “A Million Random Digits” proved that …And You Will Know Us By The Trail Of Dead are far from being done while Wedding Dress’ “Somewhere Darker” makes it clear that Wedding Dress are anxious to make their introduction to the world.

Cellphone also posited themselves as a band ready to make a notable entrance with an enticing and mysterious trailer to promote their upcoming Excellent Condition. Denmark’s Mimas returned to the fold in a big way with the characteristically impressive live-edit clip for “Kissinger’s Jaw” (fans of Exploding in Sound who aren’t well-versed in Big Scary Monsters would do well to take note of this one) and Tangerine released a delightful video for another indie-pop keeper, “You’ll Always Be Lonely”. Ex Hex got in on the action as well, releasing a knockout video for Rips highlight (one of many) “Waterfall“. For full streams there were stunners from The Grayces, Thurston Moore, and a mildly insane (and wildly heavy) split between Big Neck Police and Dog.

Everything hyperlinked in the two paragraphs above stands as both a great way to share music worth listening to and acts as a very long-winded way of saying that featuring “Big Snow” wasn’t a foregone conclusion- at least not until the riff kicked in at the :26 mark. It’s the third song to be streamed from a just-released split between LVL UP, Krill, Ovlov, and Radiator Hospital. “Big Snow” is a song that’s actually been featured on this site before in an admittedly roundabout way- it was the feature piece in the band’s Serious Business session that was featured on Watch This. Even with Hoodwink’d being one of this site’s top contenders (if not top contender) for Album of the Year honors, “Big Snow” manages to stand out as one of the best songs to spring out of the band’s discography.

Having just seen LVL UP take the roof off of Chicago’s Beat Kitchen (pictured above, more to come on that later), it’s allowed the cementing of some previously-held opinions in regards to how the band functions. First and foremost; this is a truly collaborative effort with everything working as a complement to its surrounding elements at an obscenely high level. Second, this music works best as a victory lap for the disenfranchised; it’s both a rousing call to action and a well-meaning embrace for the people who were told they’d never live up to their potential or lived on the fringes of culture. LVL UP’s never been one to shy away from the unconventional (or the irreverent) and that’s a trait that takes bravery to embody. “Big Snow” hints at all of these elements and includes a rare treat; every one of the band’s vocalists (Dave Benton, Nick Corbo, and Mike Caridi, respectively) joins in for one last rousing harmony run before that surging, blissed-out guitar riff rallies the song to its fade-out finish. If Hoodwink’d wasn’t already proof, “Big Snow” certainly cements what’s become an unavoidable fact: LVL UP are one of today’s best bands and they deserve all the accolades that are bound to fall their way.

Listen to “Big Snow” below and pre-order the split it’s on from Double Double Whammy here.

La Sera – Fall In Place (Music Video)

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La Sera’s Hour of the Dawn asounds like summer. It’s also the best album Katy Goodman (ex-Vivan Girls, All Saints Day) has ever crafted. A big part of this is thanks to the explosive fretwork that comes courtesy of new guitarist Todd Wisenbaker, which helps lend the record quite a bit of an explosiveness. Every track on the record is a vibrant little triumph that stays just understated enough to avoid tipping over into grandiosity. One of the best examples of this is “Fall In Place”, a song that boasts an incredibly sweet chorus and keeps itself grounded with some astoundingly warm verses. Actually, come to think of it, warmth may be the record’s defining characteristic; the tones, the atmosphere, the arrangements, and the delivery- all of it feels welcoming and familiar. In that respect, “Fall In Place” may be Hour of the Dawn‘s defining song and the video matches it perfectly. The Michael Erik Nikolla-directed clip consists of nothing more than Goodman and Wisenbaker walking down a closed-off street with their dog and a crew that consistently switches out Wisenbaker’s guitar(s), it’s decidedly more slice-of-life than Big Moment- and it’s all the better for it.

Watch “Fall In Place” below and take a long walk in the sun at the next available opportunity.