Heartbreaking Bravery

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Tag: EiSR

Exploding In Sound’s Extended Weekend: Days 1 & 2 (Pictorial Review, Live Video)

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It’s not even close to a secret that this site has harbored an excessive amount of love for Exploding In Sound, a DIY label that focuses on forward-thinking acts that have roots that run deep in late 80’s and early 90’s alternative punk scenes. Over the years, they’ve amassed a deeply impressive roster of acts that consistently garner critical acclaim, effectively rendering the label one of today’s leading taste-makers in music that frequently aims for left-of-center and connects with conviction. If anyone’s earned an extended weekend celebration that serves a dual purpose as a showcase, it’s Exploding In Sound- and that’s exactly what they’ve just done.

Over five days in Brooklyn and Boston, the cities where the vast majority of the label’s acts are based, the label hosted five packed shows. While I wish I could have caught all of them, I only managed to take in the first two- both of which reaffirmed my adoration for the work the label- selflessly run by Dan Goldin- is doing. The run of shows started on June 20th at Baby’s All Right with a characteristically stacked lineup that included a variety of site favorites: Washer, Two Inch Astronaut, Grass Is Green, Pile, and Porches.

Every single band that took the stage at Baby’s laid their hearts on the line, playing with an unusual vigor that suggested they were doing all they could to make the label proud. That commitment wasn’t the only recurring thread either; nearly every single band played a new song or a song that hadn’t found official release (a trend that would continue to the next night’s showcase at Palisades). Washer got things started with a ferocious set that leaned heavily on new/unreleased material but still allowed “Joe“, one of 2015’s strongest highlight, to close their time out. Two Inch Astronaut followed in a similar manner, almost exclusively playing songs from their forthcoming record (which is being recorded right now) and locking into off-kilter grooves so tightly that their precision was nearly unsettling.

Grass Is Green re-emerged after a long dormant period, likely due to guitarist Devin McKnight’s commitment to two other acts affiliated with Exploding In Sound (Philadelphia Collins and Speedy Ortiz) and started slow but worked themselves into a fervor. After finding their strengths in the barbed dynamics and unrelenting guitar attack, the songs went from sounding placated to downright vicious and it was a thrilling transformation to watch unfold. It also set the stage for what was arguably the evening’s main draw: Pile. Last fall, I had the distinct pleasure of seeing Pile in Chicago while they toured on the 7″ that wound up topping this site’s list for the format and, as a result, knew exactly what the band were capable of delivering. Or at least I thought I did, until Pile went ahead and exceeded those expectations.

Over the course of what felt like a headlining set, Pile managed to whip the previously gentle crowd into a mad frenzy, with several people in the front having to brace themselves by pushing back on the stage to create a supportive balance. As the band had before- and as it always does on record anyway- “Special Snowflakes” (an easy contender for song of the decade) sent chills running down my spine on more than a few occasions, as did You’re Better Than This highlight “Mr. Fish“. By the time the band was signaled offstage, the majority of the crowd was in a state of rapture. Porches. brought the first night to a graceful close in a hail of light effects, their signature brand of pop (light and sensual), and conviction. All of the songs they teased from their forthcoming record easily ranked among their best work and as they were packing up, the entire room seemed more than a little satisfied.

The second night, held at Palisades, felt a little truer to the label’s grimier sensibilities and a DIY ethos was on full display throughout the night. To kick things off, Exploding In Sound presented one of their better coups: Palm. After Palm’s revelatory set at DBTS a few months back, anything less than spectacular would have been a disappointment but the band seemed even more masterful this time around, immediately eliminating any doubts. A live band through and through, they navigated every hairpin shift with an uncanny togetherness that bordered the telepathic. Unsurprisingly, it was a crowd-pleasing start and things only got more intense going forward.

Stove, a band born out of the ashes of Ovlov, took the stage next. While the current iteration of Stove features Washer as their rhythm section, the sound (understandably) veers closer to where Ovlov left off. With Steve Hartlett in command once again, the quarter offered up enough riches to constitute a treasure, from the micropop of “Stupider” to the sprawling track contained in the video embed beneath this post’s photo gallery. With several plans for a release (or a handful of releases) in the works, the band played like it was fighting for its life, providing for more than a few moments of genuine exhilaration. Towards the end of the set, Hartlett also ceded the spotlight to Washer, who played one of their songs with the benefit of a dual-guitar attack surrounding them in bass/vocals/drums mode. The set wound up being one of the strongest highlights of either night and all but guaranteed Stove as a name that will be appearing with an alarming regularity in the near future.

Hot off of a US tour with Basement in support of an extraordinary 7″, LVL UP took to the stage with an unparalleled hunger and seemed extremely intent on proving their worth. Opening with the live debut of a monstrous behemoth of a new song (again, included in the video embed below the photo gallery) that segued straight into “Ski Vacation” left most of Palisades sold out audience breathless- and likely more than a little speechless. Keeping up a pace that was dangerously close to reckless provided a handful of reminders of why the quartet’s become one of this site’s most celebrated bands. Even putting aside the top ranking that Hoodwink’d earned last year, the band continues to occupy a very niche space in an already niche pocket that directly correlates with what this site was designed to support. All of their best qualities were brought to the forefront on the Palisades stage and by the time everyone’s clothes had grown a shade or two darker in the sweltering heat of the venue, LVL UP had managed the impossible and endeared themselves even further to an already adoring crowd.

After a set that felt genuinely huge despite a mid-bill placing, it would be tough for most acts to follow up with anything worth remembering- but most acts aren’t Big Ups (a band whose shirts were being proudly worn by a few members of the bands playing the show). Of the 10 bands that played the first two nights, this was the one I was most excited to see, having never previously caught a set in person despite praising their live show a number of times via Watch This. Animalistic in nature and deeply impassioned in the throes of execution, Big Ups’ live show is nothing short of incendiary. Pair it with an obscenely strong discography that includes Eighteen Hours of Static, one of 2014’s finest releases, and the band’s a veritable Molotov cocktail. Tension and release, whisper and explosion, the band balances volatile dichotomies with ease and constantly hits their mark. A magnetic live presence carries them to the pantheon of today’s greatest live acts with ease and their set was a perfect example of how much they’re able to coax out of decidedly minimal trappings. By the time the quartet was letting their final bursts of feedback draw back to silence, they’d comfortably delivered another powerhouse set that would put most other bands to shame.

With all four bands racketing up the evening’s consistency level, a lot of pressure can fall on a headlining act. Then again, Exploding In Sound’s resources are surprisingly vast and its talent pool runs extraordinarily deep. Those resources and that talent pool also include Krill, who have steadily amassed a cult following and are enjoying a period of heightened interest and universal acclaim following their excellent A Distant Fist Unclenching. The trio had been in excellent form on both occasions I was fortunate enough to catch one of their shows earlier on in the year but something about this particular set felt different. The band’s been slowly working on new material as some of the members move from Boston to NYC and they used the occasion to showcase some of what they’ve been shaping while making sure to make enough space for recent career highlights like “Torturer” (their opener), “Brain Problem“, and “Tiger” (their closer). At one point, for a brief run of song, bassist/vocalist Jonah Furman swapped out his bass for a guitar (one that was immediately put through a rigorous effects setup) to add a new depth and several more layers of dimension to the band’s already impressive dynamic approach. In all, the set played like a greatest hits victory lap, with the band playing in a manner that felt deeply impassioned and incredibly alive. A triumph from start to finish, the band went above and beyond exceedingly high expectations to guarantee everyone that their headliner placement was the correct call.

Ten great bands, two great venues, and one incredible label all came together over the course of two days to create and support something that felt inherently special, something bigger than any one of its individual parts. A sense of camaraderie was constantly present, musicians from other internationally acclaimed bands drove several hours to see some of these shows and all of the most uplifting, prevalent themes seem to have carried all the way through the five-day weekend. While I can’t definitively speak to the final three nights, the first two reinforced every aspect of what makes Exploding In Sound such an incredible cultural institution. On top of all that, these first two nights felt like so much more than a night out with good friends listening to great music; this was something that had historical value. As is always the case with any of Exploding In Sound’s projects, it was an honor and a privilege to watch it in motion.

View a photo gallery of the show here and a video containing performances from each of the bands that played at Palisades. Enjoy.

 

Exploding in Sound Northside Showcase 2015 (Pictorial Review, Live Video)

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A few short days ago Aviv played host to one of Northside Festival’s most stacked showcases for one of Brooklyn’s most revered labels, Exploding in Sound, who were acting in collaboration with Gimme Tinnitus and Ipsum. Boasting no less than 10 bands, the showcase eventually transitioned into an endurance test that was made even more brutal by the severe humidity (as well as the seemingly continuous increase in attendance). Pairing those items with the fact that I hadn’t eaten all day meant- regrettably- being forced to miss the showcase’s latter half. All apologies to Wildhoney, Mannequin Pussy, Clean Girls, Sleepies, and Palm (each a fine band well worth seeking out).

While I didn’t stick the whole thing through my perseverance through the show’s first half was rewarded with strong sets from each band. Done and Nonsense immediately set about establishing a few of the lineup’s connecting threads, from off-kilter musicality to piercing volume to an unavoidable sense of subtle dread. Kindling (a band fronted by A Year’s Worth of Memories contributor Stephen Pierce) pushed the levels of deafening volume to their absolute limits during a gripping set that provided the perfect bridge between the first and last two acts of the showcase’s front half.

Both Kal Marks and Washer have received a fair amount of press from this site and were two of the showcase’s biggest draws. Neither disappointed. Kal Marks delivered a set that exhibited the band’s brutal strength and unfailingly bleak atmosphere- a very distinctive trait that remains unreasonably compelling. Deeply personal and deeply felt, their set was among the best I’ve seen this year. Not to be outdone, Washer came out of the gate swinging and had a neat trick up their sleeve. Frenetic and impassioned, their set was one highlight after the next, peaking with a surprise solo from Ovlov’s Steve Hartlett (Washer and Hartlett constitute the performing band for the latter’s current project, Stove).

Overall, the first half was an exceedingly impressive display for both the bands and the labels/publications involved in the showcase. By all accounts, the second half of the showcase kept the momentum’s pace surging forward. There’s no doubt in my mind that I’ll be taking advantage of future opportunities to cover each and every one of them at some point in the near future. Until then, enjoy a few photos and videos of Done, Nonsense, Kindling, Kal Marks, and Washer below.

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Done

Nonsense

Nonsense

Kindling

Kindling



Kal Marks

Kal Marks



Washer

Washer

Molly – People (Music Video)

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Going forward with last week’s coverage, there will be a trio of posts with a music video taking up residence in the headline accompanied by a few auxiliary items. Starting that run off is Molly’s incendiary basement pop number “People” and its montage-heavy video. Before diving further into that clip, though, the attention will be refocused on two great songs and one great record. For the songs, Sea Ghost unveiled the hazy indie pop of “BBQ” while Gnarwhal unleashed the intimidatingly feral “Anal Riffage“. For the full streams, there was Little Wings’ deeply felt and winningly shambolic outsider folk record Explains.

Molly get the featured spot thanks to the complementary rapid-fire pace of both “People” and their new clip for the song. Constructed to create what essentially amounts to an immersive people-watching experience may have been a bit on-the-nose if it wasn’t executed with such stunning panache. Mixing in some minimal artistic renderings to overlay what appears to be stock crowd footage, the Julian Nielsen-directed clip finds its rhythm (and it’s charm) on a commendable commitment to simplicity. As the track surges forward, growing more intense, the animations follow suit. By the time it winds down to a close, footage slowing in reverse, it’s left a considerable mark. With Peach Melba already streaming in its entirety, it’s safe to say that the band’s potential isn’t falsified by a pairing this strong. Molly are most definitely a band worth keeping both eyes on.

Watch “People” below and pre-order Peach Melba directly from the band here.

Lady Bones – Botch (Stream)

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Lady Bones have had this site’s attention ever since sending over a copy of their split with Horsehands last year, and while that release presented Lady Bones as a band with enormous potential, it still would have been hard to predict the direction they take for their latest single, “Botch”. Before diving into their bold stylistic revision, there’s quite a bit of material to catch up on that came out this week. Both this post and the ensuing post will have a handful of songs and full streams that will be featured and, as ever, all of them will be worth hearing. For the sake of time, they’ll all be listed with no other context given than that they’re exceptional pieces of art that deserve attention. Full streams: Toner’s self-titled, Needle Exchange’s Is This My Program?, Really Big Pinecone’s Embrace the Boss, Vexx’s Give and Take, The Barbazons’ Avec Plaisir, Nicolas Jaar’s Nymphs II, Diamond Youth’s Nothing Matters, Liza Anne’s Two, and Young Jesus’ Grow/Decompose (which will likely be making a few more appearances on here as time drags on). Songs: Sorority Noise’s “Art School Wannabe“, Expert Alterations’ “Midnight Letters“, Deaf Wish’s “Eyes Closed“, Anna B Savage’s “III“, Bad Meds’ “Hoax Apocalypse“, Vundabar’s “Chop“, and Ratboys’ “Tixis“. Seek all of them out; they’re linked here for a reason. “Botch” is also the featured song for a reason: it’s a monumental step forward for one of today’s more compelling bands.

Eschewing any semblance of sunnier sensibilities to take a plunge into a realm that sees them shoulder to shoulder with Kal Marks and Pile at their darkest, Lady Bones seem to have tapped into something that many bands have attempted (and failed) to capture. Embracing bleak, Gothic-tinged post-punk to an unprecedented degree, Lady Bones sound completely rejuvenated. It takes them less than sixty seconds to establish this sea change before exploding out into an impassioned furor. For three and half minutes the band provides a masterclass in refined dynamics (with an emphasis on tension) and engage in a total rebirth. There’s an unbridled passion that runs deep in “Botch” that seems set to tie over to the band’s upcoming full-length, the provocatively titled Dying. As a standalone single, “Botch” has enough punch to brand the name Lady Bones into the memory of just about anyone who crosses its path- but where the mystery kicks in is how it fits into the larger puzzle. If all of Dying can sustain this level of grim determination and near-feral energy, then Lady Bones may have a bona fide album of the year contender on their hands. With a battering ram of a track like “Botch”, it’s only a matter of time before they start turning some heads.

Listen to “Botch” below and pre-order Dying ahead of its June 3o release date from Midnight Werewolf here.

Washer – Joe (Stream)

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A lot of songs have come out over the past two weeks or so and it’s provided this site with a lot of material, much of which will be covered in some capacity today. As has been the case with the last few posts, the introductory paragraph will belong to the songs worth hearing while the rest will be devoted to the spiky, punk-happy basement pop track that earned this post’s headline. Before getting to that, though, there’s a lot more worth a decent amount of attention including Mitski‘s absolutely brilliant cover of One Direction’s “Fireproof” as well as Free Cake For Every Creature’s beautiful cover of Saturday Looks Good To Me’s “Untitled“. A few songs joining that unexpected piece of magic were Girlpool’s arresting reflection on youth via “Before The World Was Big“, Mittenfield’s jaunty basement pop tune “We’ve Become Numbers“, Downtown Boys’ propulsive “Wave of History“, and R. Ring’s minimalist post-punk monster “Loud Underneath“. Additionally, there was Nick Diamonds’ absurdly catchy “Witch Window“, Wild Moth’s towering “Mirror“, Fight Amp’s insistent “Ex Everything“, and Institute’s post-punk powerhouse “Perpetual Ebb“. As ever, all of these songs warrant some serious attention but it was Washer’s “Joe”, taken from their forthcoming split with Exploding in Sound labelmates Flagland (whose “Awesome Song, Kerry Jan” remains one of this year’s best songs) that earned this post’s headline.

Last year, the band’s split with Big Ups made a strong impression and one of Washer’s contributions (“Rot”) even wound up with a feature piece on this site. While “Rot” was a strong offering, the band pushes themselves to greater heights with the manic energy of “Joe”, which is the duo’s best offering to date. The band’s refined their sensibilities and created something that manages to be simultaneously immediate and challenging. Washer’s never sounded as urgent or as engaging as they do on “Joe”, which immediately starts at a sprint before diving headfirst into some heavier territory for the outro. The playing is as frenetic as its ever been and despite how accessible “Joe” is, it’s still capable of rewarding a deeper level of investment due to some surprising nuances both in the production and the composition. It’s an easy highlight on what will surely stand as one of 2015’s best splits by the time December rolls around- which, considering Exploding in Sound’s recent track record, is the farthest possible thing from a surprise. Don’t miss out.

Listen to “Joe” below and pre-order the split from Exploding in Sound’s bandcamp here.

Geronimo! – Buzz Yr Girlfriend: Vol. 4 – Why Did You Leave Me? (EP Review, Live Video)

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This weekend’s theme is going to be a difficult one and in the first piece to run, it’s a little more difficult to swallow than usual. Over the course of the next few posts, the one connecting thread will be loss. Why it’s so difficult to deal with here is because of the situation it’s attached to: it’s not present but it’s impending, unavoidable. Tomorrow night site favorites Geronimo! will be plugging in for one final  run through a discography that never earned the levels of celebration it truly deserved.

For more than five years Geronimo! had been doing nothing but building momentum and when Cheap Trick, what would be their final full-length, was released it felt like a small victory lap. Well-received in the circles that kept tabs on labels like Exploding in Sound, which the band called home, and adored feverishly by the band’s existing fan base, it seemed like a stepping stone towards something bigger. While what’s happened surrounding the band’s tragically-titled EP, Buzz Yr Girlfriend: Vol. 4 – Why Did You Leave Me? (due out next Tuesday), it’s too little, too late- but it’s been a wonderful thing to see the band pick up that acclaim in the throes of their death rattle.

“They Put A Hook Inside of Me.”, “Low Fruit on the Vine”, and “Fires of Hell” constitute the band’s swan song and each earned a high-profile premiere (from VICE, Stereogum, and NPR, respectively). All three songs come with the band’s trademark buzzsaw intensity and near-feral levels of verve. There’s nothing as serene or tranquil as the opening minutes of Cheap Trick‘s “Euphoria” to be found anywhere on Why Did You Leave Me? but there really shouldn’t be, there’s no need. “Euphoria” was a definitive penultimate track and while Why Did You Leave Me? is as furious as possible, it’s impossible to shake the feeling that it’s functioning as an epilogue; one final sprint towards some intangible finish line.

A similar sense of closure was looming during the band’s farewell tour with Meat Wave and the feeling was palpable during the raucous set they delivered as part of Heartbreaking Bravery’s 1 year anniversary party. While that foreboding nature hasn’t always permeated the work leading up to Why Did You Leave Me?, it’d be impossible to fault the band if it had: bands that find themselves in Geronimo!’s precarious position, seemingly always on the verge of something bigger tend to have a high fatality rate- and that’s something that can resonate heavily in those bands’ works. Of course, when the death has been pre-determined, it crystallizes into something fully-realized and utterly engrossing (Why Did You Leave Me? being a perfect example).

Every song on this EP is a powerhouse that’ll serve as a potent reminder of Geronimo!’s enviable talents for crate-diggers generations down the line. From the bleating insistence of “Low Fruit on the Vine” to the whirlwind noise freakouts of “Fires of Hell” to the steady build of “They Put A Hook Inside of Me.” All of the punches that get thrown by Why Did You Leave Me? land at gale force, bludgeoning their way into not only a lasting mark- but a lasting impression. For all of the accolades and notoriety that the band had cultivated within their select niche, Buzz Yr Girlfriend: Vol. 4 – Why Did You Leave Me? sees the band making a spectacular exit at the peak of their powers.

For this release- and for everything else the band’s ever done- show them thanks. Make sure that this band’s celebrated even after they’re gone and continue to celebrate bands like them as they come out of the woodwork. Give Cheap Trick another listen tomorrow, wear a Geronimo! shirt, throw in one of their tapes (Buzz Yr Girlfriend: Vol. 3 – The Metal David Byrne is a personal favorite), or watch some old clips. Give them messages of kindness and thanks on their social media pages throughout the day. Make sure they’re remembered in some capacity and give them the respect that they’ve earned since day one. Embrace the band as much as possible while they still exist- because after the sun comes up on Sunday, they won’t be around any longer.

Get the limited edition cassette from Exploding in Sound now before they’re gone, listen to (most of) the EP in the bandcamp player embedded below, and watch the EP performed in its entirety in the YouTube embed at the very bottom. Most of all, don’t miss the band’s farewell performance with Meat Wave, VAYA, Foul Tip, and Velocicoptor at Beat Kitchen tomorrow night in Chicago– and applaud as loudly as possible when the band takes their final bow. Enjoy the songs, enjoy the footage, and enjoy the hell out of the discography that Geronimo! is leaving behind.

First Quarter Full Streams, Pt. 1

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Keeping the recent themes of the site going, this post will be dedicated to 75 of this year’s most fascinating records (along with an overlooked fourth quarter gem or two from last year getting their due). Covering a range of genres, as always, these records cover a lot of ground. A few find their niche in fierceness while others make a home in more tranquil realms. It’s impossible to stress how full of a year 2015’s already been for new music and if this crop of early offerings is any suggestion, we’re all in for one of the strongest stretches of new music in roughly a decade. As ever, don’t let the fact there’s no accompanying text with these releases detract from their value; a great deal of these have a good chance of ranking among 2015’s finest releases (NPR’s current roster of First Listen selections is an exhilarating reminder that we’re only just getting started). Click on the hyperlinks below (listed in no particular order) to hear the records and- if you find yourself drawn to any- make sure to pick one up from either the band or their label. Happy exploring.

1. California X – Nights in the Dark
2. Swings – Detergent Hymns
3. Ty Segall – Mr. Face
4. Mike Pace and the Child Actors – Best Boy
5. Little Brutes – Desire
6. Dazed Pilots – Drummers & Codies
7. The Sidekicks – Runners in the Nerved World
8. Menace Beach – Ratworld
9. Natalie Prass – Natalie Prass
10. Jack Name – Weird Moons
11. Sick Feeling – Suburban Myth
12. Bandit – Of Life
13. Culture Abuse – Spray Paint the Dog
14. The Rentiers – Here Is A List of Things That Exist
15. Kind of Like Spitting + Warren Franklin & the Foundations – It’s Always Nice to See You
16. Creative Adult + Wild Moth – Split
17. Sun Hotel – Rational Expectations
18. Clique/Loose Tooth/Ghost Gun/Mumblr – Split
19. Grand Vapids – Guarantees
20. Gal Pals – Velvet Rut
21. The King Khan & BBQ Show – Bad News Boys
22. Club K – Let M Shake
23. Astral Swans – All My Favorite Singers Are Willie Nelson
24. ylayali – ylayali
25. M.A.G.S. – Cellophane
26. Leapling – Vacant Page
27. Feature Films – Feature Films
28. Walleater – I
29. Will Butler – Policy
30. toyGuitar – In This Mess
31. Bloodbirds – Album 2
32. Pistachio – Tehuantepec
33. Yeesh – No Problem
34. Seagulls – Great Pine
35. Snow Roller/Sioux Falls – Split EP
36. Evans the Death – Expect Delays
37. RA – Scandinivia
38. Lucern Raze – Stockholm One
39. Never Young – Never Young
40. Love Cop – Dark Ones
41. Darlings – Feel Better
42. Romantic States – Romantic States
43. A Place to Bury Strangers – Transfixation
44. Sunflower Bean – Show Me Your Seven Secrets
45. Ghastly Menace – Songs of Ghastly Menace
46. Viet Cong – Viet Cong
47. Anomie – Anomie
48. Reservoir – Cicurina Vol. 1
49. River City Extension – Deliverance
50. Ty Segall Band – Live in San Francisco
51. Six Organs of Admittance – Hexadic
52. Big Dick – Disappointment
53. Treasure Fleet – The Sun Machines
54. Jeff Rosenstock  – We Cool?
55. Husband – The Money
56. Divers – Hello Hello
57. Belle & Sebastian – Girls in Peacetime Want to Dance
58. We Can All Be Sorry – Again
59. Cal Folger Day – Adornament
60. Outside – Outside
61. Fragie Gang – For Esme
62. Moor Hound – Missin’ Out b/w Married
63. Pile – You’re Better Than This
64. Sonny & the Sunsets – Talent Night at the Ashram
65. Platinum Boys – Future Hits
66. Grooms – Comb The Feelings Through Your Hair
67. The Amazing – Picture You
68. Pops Staples – Don’t Lose This
69. Father John Misty – I Love You, Honeybear
70. Jack McKelvie & the Countertopss/Uh-Huh – Split
71. Young Buffalo – Split
72. Lieutenant – If I Kill This Thing We’re All Going To Eat For A Week
73. Sister Palace – Count Yr Blessings
74. Van Dammes – Better Than Sex
75. Sammy Kay – Fourth Street Singers

Pile – Mr. Fish (Stream)

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Continuing in on the 2015 catch-up overhaul, it’s time attention was turned to what’s vying to be Pile’s breakthrough effort, You’re Better Than This. While the record’s full of characteristically strong songs (the rollicking “#2 Hit Single” among them) it’s the record’s second track that’s the true standout: “Mr. Fish”. Operating as an oddly-placed centerpiece of sorts, “Mr. Fish” operates in a similar kind of vein as Pile’s career masterpiece, Special Snowflakes. Utilizing a remarkably compelling off-kilter ebb and flow dynamic, “Mr. Fish” winds up being one of the most indicative songs of how the band functions live in their discography to date. Importantly, every left-field turn that the song brings about sounds like its retained the emotional drive of their earlier work without being overshadowed by their growing mastery of composition. It’s that surprisingly difficult balancing act that adds an extra layer of tension to the proceedings, all but ensuring any prospective listeners (and their will likely be a lot of prospective listeners) rapt attention. You’re Better Than This is already well on its way to securing the band a much larger audience and its songs like “Mr. Fish” that will convert the uninitiated into devotees.

Listen to “Mr. Fish” below and pre-order You’re Better Than This from the band’s bandcamp.

14 of ’14: The Best 7″ Records of 2014

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As always, two quick disclaimers: “best”, in year-end list cases, is a shorthand term indicative of personal admiration which is in no way an attempt to be definitive and the first person restrictions will be lifted for this site’s year-end coverage. This list will be focusing on releases that came out in the 7″ format throughout the course of 2014. Some may fall under the EP umbrella (which will be the next list to run) but each and every title on this list wound up with my appreciation. A staggering amount of 7″ records were released this year and I had the privilege of listening to hundreds throughout the past 12 months. Below will be the 14 strongest 7″ records that I heard all year- the records that stuck with me or gnawed away at my memory. Just like the previous list, below those 14 selections will be a list of every 7″ released in 2014 that made a deep enough impact to be put into consideration for this list (or, rather, every release I came across that deserves to be heard by as many people possible). Enough exposition; onto the picks.

14. Communions – Cobblestones

Expertly blending new wave, post-punk, and something entirely undefinable, Communions’ Cobblestones was one of the year’s most immediately gripping releases. Cobblestones is the kind of release that teems with enough determination and conviction to convince anyone that Communions are in this for the long haul.

13. Mikal Cronin – I Don’t Mind b/w Blue-Eyed Girl

Part of Polyviny’s four-track singles series, “I Don’t Mind” and “Blue-Eyed Girl” were both perfect demonstrations of Mikal Cronin’s penchant for winsome folk-oriented (and punk-informed) pop music. It’s a show of force as much as it is a reveal of Cronin’s most delicate sensibilities. Unfortunately, the A-side is no longer available for streaming but the compellingly plaintive B-side’s been included below.

12. Girl Band – Lawman, De Bom Bom

Girl Band turned in a few of 2014’s most feral offerings. From the 25-second “The Cha Cha Cha” to the songs that give the Law Man and De Bom Bom 7″ releases their name. Serrated and cut-throat, Girl Band have been unleashing bruising post-punk that occasionally verges on hardcore and powerviolence at a steady rate. Watch out for whatever route they decide to take with their upcoming full-length.


11. Dogs On Acid – Dogs On Acid

Taking cues from 90’s powerpop and injecting it with a ferocious energy (and no shortage of grit), Dogs on Acid have crafted something incredibly appealing with their self-titled 7″. Like early Ben Kweller with an added punk bite, both “Make It Easy” and “Waiting For You To Come Home” are ridiculously easy to leave on repeat and more than worth a heavy amount of investment.

10. Jeff Rosenstock – Hey Allison! b/w I’m So Gross

After Bomb The Music Industry! halted operations, Jeff Rosenstock had quite a few roads open to him. He took full advantage in 2014 by not only releasing two outstanding EP’s in his collaborative project with Fake Problems’ Chris Farren as Antarctigo Vespucci and going straight for the throat with his strongest solo effort to date, the fierce Hey Allison! b/w I’m So Gross 7″. The stop/start rhythms in the chorus of “Hey Allison!” alone would have put this in contention for a spot on this list- luckily the rest of the release lives up to that moment.


9. Kindling – Spike & Wave

Kindling’s Spike & Wave 7″ caught my attention immediately after its release. It’s another release heralding in a new era of shoegaze that refuses to back down from experimenting with the genre’s limitations. Subtly embracing elements of twee pop and basement punk, it’s a release that deserves to be in a whole lot of collections.

8. Audacity – Counting the Days

When I started this site, I did it with a post about Audacity, whose Butter Knife was one of 2013’s strongest highlights. In 2014, the band provided another incredibly strong moment with “Counting the Days”- a 7″ headlined by a song that earned both a write-up and a Watch This entry spot. My feelings on that song haven’t changed but Counting the Days’ other song, “Mind Your Own Business”, pushes the whole package (which also features some incredible album art) way over the top.


7. Ausmuteants – Felix Tried to Kill Himself, Stale White Boys Playing Stale Black Music, Fed Through A Tube

Ausmuteants had an absolutely monstrous 2014, releasing no fewer than five titles. Three of those were incendiary 7″ releases that would have easily made this list individually. Grouped together, they’re an absurdly powerful package than goes a long way in cementing Ausmuteants’ reputation as one of the most exciting things happening in music. Felix Tried to Kill Himself, Stale White Boys Playing Stale Black Music, and Fed Through A Tube are overflowing with a hyper-charged psych-tinted punk that’s completely electrifying.



6. Terry & Louie – (I’m) Lookin’ For A Heart b/w She Loves Him

The Exploding Hearts have achieved a deserved status as powerpop legends. Since that band’s tragic ending, two of their members have been steadily releasing incredible music with various outfits. Terry Six and King Louie Bankston have once again teamed up for a new project, Terry & Louie, who now have one powerful career entry with (I’m) Lookin’ For A Heart b/w She Loves Him. The same infectious energy that turned Guitar Romantic into such a beloved classic is on full display here, with Six and Bankston’s pop sensibilities fully in tact. Here’s hoping this isn’t the last we’ve seen of this project.

5. Cloakroom – Lossed Over b/w Dream Warden

At this point, I’m not sure any band’s been mentioned more times without receiving an outright feature spot than Cloakroom (with the exception of a Watch This). There’s a reason they keep showing up; they’re quietly crafting some extraordinary songs and sculpting what promises to be a celebrated career long after they’re gone. Both “Lossed Over” and “Dream Warden” are brooding powerhouses that are towering in scope and deeply nuanced in their dynamics. Cloakroom keep improving with every subsequent release and it’ll only be a matter of time before they get the levels of recognition they deserve.

4. Sheer Mag – Sheer Mag

Sheer Mag exploded into just about everyone’s good graces with their self-titled 7″ release and it’s not difficult to see why; this hits an impressive number of sweet spots for people associated with DIY music. It’s scrappy, it’s lo-fi, it’s undeniably punk, it’s extraordinarily catchy, and it comes loaded with a staggering amount of conviction. These four songs have fought their way into regular rotation since they first came out, refusing to be pushed back and only growing stronger with time.

3. Crimson Wave – Say

Say caught me completely off guard when I first heard it; I was completely entranced and blown away by Crimson Wave’s subtle, understated take on post-punk. Each of these three songs are as balanced as they are delicate as they are cutting. The 7″ is somewhat of an anomaly for the reliably great Accidental Guest Recordings who normally tend towards more noisy, aggressive, and blown-out fare. It’s the level of restraint in Say that helps make it stand out, something that’s accentuated by the cold production. Impossible to shake and easy to latch on to, Say is something that demands to be remembered.

2. Dilly Dally – Candy Mountain, Next Gold

No band in 2014 made a bigger entrance with their 7″ releases than Dilly Dally. Both Candy Mountain and Next Gold feel like instant classics; releases informed by years of genre touch points and a deft sense of how they can all line up into something impossibly gripping. Taking cues from all of the right places and emerging with a fully-formed identity and a real sense of purpose, Dilly Dally offered a welcome jolt to the year’s proceedings. “Candy Mountain” was only the third song to be released in the band’s career and it already feels important; a defining moment not just for a band but their surrounding environment. The amount of weight thrown into these songs is unbelievable and showcase Dilly Dally as a band worth all the excitement in the world.


1. Pile – Special Snowflakes b/w Mama’s Lipstick

It’s difficult to no where to start with a song as monumental as Pile’s earth-shattering career highlight “Special Snowflakes”. I was fortunate enough to witness this song in a live setting only a few months back and completely lost my sense of self. In that moment, everything that wasn’t “Special Snowflakes” faded from my care. Completely spellbound, the band tore through that one song and the audience in front of them reacted accordingly. That experience wasn’t too far removed from the first time I heard “Special Snowflakes“. For more than 7 minutes, I was pummeled into awed submission by what’s not only (easily) one of the best songs of this year but of this decade. “Mama’s Lipstick” provides a haze of smoke in the form of a (very) loose reprise- along with some other comparatively brief moments of brilliance (that piano figure!)- after the hurricane storm of the release’s A-side, assuring its status as one of the most important releases of 2014.

7″ records from 2014 that deserve to be heard: Vanishing Life – People Running | Wildhoney – Seventeen Forever | Pain Dimension – Brainwash | Primitive Parts – TV Wheel b/w The Bench | Palehound – KitchenAudacity – JapanModern Pets – B.I.Y.S. | No Coast – Don’t Be A Gramps b/w Kick Out The Hamm’sThe Yolks – Two Dollars Out the DoorKevin Morby – My NameFriends of Cesar Romero – The Hold b/w Teisco Telstar Stomp | The Ar-KaicsMake It Mine b/w Movin’ On, Sick and Tired b/w Cut Me Down, Why Should I b/w Slave to Her LiesLos Pepes – TonightThe Mandates – Suspicion b/w Wastin’ TimeThe Memories – American SummerBroncho – It’s OnUseless Eaters – Desperate LivingLos Dos Hermanos – Alienor/Paye Ty ChatteDime Runner – Can’t ExpressBalcanes – Plataforma/AutopistaChit Chat – Never KnowThe Achtungs – Total Punk | Dasher – Go RamboNots – Fix b/w ModernCold Institution – Cold InstitutionTashaki Miyaki – Cool RuningsBleached – For The FeelA Million Billion Dying Suns – Strawberry Later 23 b/w Secret TreePretty Pretty – Leather WeatherVideo – Cult of VideoFax Holiday – Brang In BloodPlaces to Hide – Wild N SoftThe Newtown Neurotics – Hypocrite b/w You Said NoMolybden – Woman Who Left BehindThe Gotobeds – New York’s Alright (If You Like Phones & Sex)Michael Rault – Nothing Means NothingEx-Breathers – EXBXMarvelous Mark – Bite MeThe Bilders – The UtopiansFrau – Punk Is My BoyfriendArrest – La Poli BastardaGlue – GlueSeahaven – SilhouetteBasement – Further SkyCancers – DigTwo Houses – DisappointerThe Grave Walks – She’s A SuicideGAMES – Little EliseCherry Glazerr – Had Ten DollazThe Renegades of Punk – Espelho NegroSex Crime – I Am An ObserverWimps – Party at the Wrong TimeThe Band In Heaven – The Boys of Summer of SamThe Mantles – MemoryStandards – KidCommunions – So Long SunEnergy Slime – New DimensionalMea Culpa – DislocationThe ParrotsLoving You Is Hard, Dee Dee DangerousThe Gaggers – Sharp Lies/Hostage

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.