Heartbreaking Bravery

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Tag: Elliott Smith

A Two Week Toll: Streams

It’s been a little over two weeks since this site’s run regular coverage. After the 1,000th post, there was a decision to be made over whether to continue on Heartbreaking Bravery in a severely limited capacity, a full capacity, or use the A Step Forward compilation as a final exclamation point. Before long, continuing on with a daily regiment felt like the right decision. This post and the dozen plus posts that will follow will all be a coordinated effort to get caught back up to the present release cycle.

The opening trio of posts will all feature a laundry list of items that are more than deserving of attention while the ensuing posts will be dedicated features for a singular item. A few Watch This installments will be posted and the rest of the coverage will be split into the three major tiers: streams, music videos, and full streams. Kicking things off is this collection of outstanding songs to have emerged during the brief hiatus. Dive in and go swimming.

Crying, Hellrazor, CasselsSlowcoaches, CoasterHalfsour, Private Interests, Minihorse, Very Fresh, Honeyblood, Fucked Up, Terry Malts, Kevin Devine, Joyride!, Teen SuicideLA BÊTE BLOOMS, The Exquisites, Penelope Isles, Nice Try, Dag, Jess Williamson, Chemtrails, Really Big Pinecone, John K. Samson, Soviet Soviet, American Wrestlers, Fake Limbs, The Tuts, Lubec, CarrollGirlboss, Gladkill, Hollow EverdazeBoogarinsLOKIT, Parlour Tricks, Vanishing Life, Wistappear, gobbinjr, Dmitry Evgrafov, Hidden Ritual, Lucidalabrador, Many Voices Speak, Future States.

Flamingosis, Sexy Jesus, Magana, Glacial Pace, Plastic Flowers, Super Unison, WTCHS, Tape Deck Mountain, Dexateens, Planes Mistaken for Stars, The Flat Five, HMLTD, Wovoka Gentle, Homebody, Pop & Obachan, Soft PyramidsFascinations Grand Chorus, Warhaus, Future DeathEmily ReoAffordable Hybrid, Light Fantastic, Temples, Michael ChapmanHiss Golden Messenger, The Dazies, Hippo CampusDoubles, LolahikoYouth Funeral, Lou Barlow, Pure Moods, Floating Room, James Parry, I’m Glad It’s You (x2), Communist Daughter, Henry Jamison, and J Mascis.

Watch This: Resuscitations, Pt. II

After a large handful of extended posts, Watch This will be back to its weekly schedule following this collection. Watch This has been an essential part of Heartbreaking Bravery since its first era as its very foundations are rooted in a philosophy that complements this space’s mission statement. They’re frequently ignored despite their astonishing level of artistry and are rarely featured in any meaningful way on any other forum. Live documentation is deeply important as it creates an immediate visual aid for a multifaceted chapter of history (and specifically the intersections that occur between venues/locations and artists).

Once again, 25 bands are featured in the below packet. Among these videos are performances that run the gamut from explosive covers (Meat Wave tackling Elliott Smith, Tacocat taking on Katy Perry), head-turning solo performances (Declan McKenna), confident experimentation (Operators, Fresh Snow, Blasteroid), and adrenaline-fueled thrill rides (Audacity, PWR BTTM, Mike Krol), among several other performance modes. Everything on display in this collection is worth studying, whether it’s the fillmmaking aspect or the performances themselves. There’s a lot to ingest so, as always, sit up straight, adjust the volume, get settled, and Watch This.

1. Audacity – Dirty Boy (BreakThruRadio)
2. PWR BTTM – Ugly Cherries (Radio K)
3. Meat Wave – Speed Trials (SideOneDummy)
4. Stephen Steinbrink – Absent Mind (Little Elephant)
5. Moving Panoramas – Radar (BreakThruRadio)
6. David Bazan – Both Hands (KEXP)
7. The Zolas – Swooner (Light Organ)
8. Chris Bathgate – Nicosia (Radio K)
9. Hype – Last Man On Earth (DZ Records)
10. Operators – Space Needle (WFUV)
11. DIIE – Miracles & Magic Are Real (Radio K)
12. The So So Glos – Dancing Industry (Little Elephant)
13. Declan McKenna – Brazil (Conan)
14. Fresh Snow – Your Thirst For Magic Has Been Quenched By Death! (Exclaim!)
15. Mike Krol – This Is The News (KINK)
16. Tacocat – Roar (The AV Club)
17. The Kills – Tape Song (KCRW)
18. Guerilla Toss – Eraser Stargazer Forever (BreakThruRadio)
19. Blasteroid – Triple D (VHS Sessions)
20. GoGoPenguin – Branches Break (WFUV)
21. Saintseneca – How Many Blankets Are In The World (WXPN)
22. Murder By Death – Foxglove (Paste)
23. Nada Surf – Friend Hospital (World Cafe)
24. Furnsss – Roll With It (VHS Sessions)
25. Lee Fields – Don’t Leave Me This Way (KDHX)

Parquet Courts – Human Performance (Stream)

parquetcourts

A large handful of great songs have emerged since the turn of April and it’d be a complete disservice to their innumerable strengths to not allow them a mention. As previously stated, these songs will be evenly distributed across all of today’s fixed stream posts. Before putting the latest single from Parquet Courts under the microscope, take a moment to grant the links that are about to follow some attention because they contain great new material from Kalispell, Gingerlys, Christian Fennesz & Jim O’Rourke, Holy Now, Sales, Plastic Flowers, Blessed, Julianna Barwick,  and Julien Baker. Now, onto Parquet Courts.

Over the past few years, Parquet Courts have built their entire reputation on a very particular — and very divisive — sound. The quartet cranks out detached-sounding post-punk at an impressive clip and, somehow, they find a way to imbue each release with a staggering influx of life. It’s one of the more fascinating dichotomies happening on the DIY-leaning circuit right now and as the band’s grown, the disparity between what sounds like apathy and what (admittedly unexpectedly) translates to invigorating energy has only grown further apart. “Human Performance”, the title track from the band’s latest record, is the current apex of this dynamic.

A few members of Parquet Courts had previously hit a similar apex with their finest work as Teenage Cool Kids, a small portion of which was understandably revived for Parquet Courts’ (or, Parkay Quarts’) ouevre. “Human Performance” doesn’t just recall those Teenage Cool Kids peaks, it surpasses them with a bracing surge of confidence from a band that’s mostly come to be known for sounding categorically disinterested in just about everything. For the first time in a long time, Parquet Courts sound actively invested in a narrative on an emotional level, injecting the song with a melancholic touch that suits them astonishingly well.

Tellingly, the band hasn’t just turned in their most impressive musical composition to date, they’ve included what is — far and away — the best lyric set of their still-growing career.  On a purely narrative level, “Human Performance” is relentlessly bleak and tragically poetic. The opening half of chorus alone, comprised of the lines “Witness and know/fracture and hurt/eyes in the fire/blink unrehearsed”, suggests that the band went all in on this one. In prose, tragedy can grow in scope when it grows more acute — especially when done well — simply because of its immediately relatable nature. “Human Performance” not only succeeds on that level but grows even more resonant by exposing Parquet Courts’ surprisingly fragile humanity.

Easily one of 2016’s most unexpectedly brilliant songs, “Human Performance” is also a gigantic stride forward in Parquet Courts’ continuing evolution. From the bold choices that are inserted into the song when they’re least expected (the flute solo being the most obvious example) to the endearing bravery required to be that vulnerable on a very public level, “Human Performance” could very well prove to be a watershed moment for the band’s artistic direction. If it doesn’t usher in a new era for Parquet Courts, at least they’ll have left us this miniature masterpiece.

Listen to “Human Performance” below and order the LP from Rough Trade here.

Wrap Up Warm (Mixtape)

kcc

Over the course of the past 100 posts, I’ve been fortunate enough to spend a lot of time living in Brooklyn and rejoining some of my oldest friends (and family) in central Wisconsin while working on various records and tours. A lot more time than usual has elapsed since the last 100 post update and this one for a variety of reasons and yielded an even more substantial amount of material than usual, including a wealth of CMJ coverage. Now in it’s second year, there’s still new developments being made for the site as everything else continues to evolve naturally. At the last 50-post interval, I ran a mixtape for fall. Now, I’ll be turning my attention to the winter as we stare into its cold, unforgiving face. Just as fall has aspects that can be characterized through music (autumnal tones, the confrontation of mortality, bruised romanticism, etc), winter has its own set of unique traits.

While it’s true there’s an inherent sadness that’s attached to winter (suicide projections skyrocket, SAD takes full effect, and illness percentages elevate considerably), there’s also an inherent warmth. Blizzards hit and the strongest defense becomes warm drinks, companionship, and additional heat- all of which carry a connotation that directly connects with the various trials the season presents. Even the most grizzled cynic can find some comfort in the comforting embrace of an additional blanket. As the scene outside falls victim to uncompromising temperatures, violent winds, and patches of black ice, the transformation can become oddly compelling when paired with the right music. Below’s mix includes 25 songs that elevate the startlingly vivid nature of even the bleakest winter landscapes, complementing their strange, surprisingly emotional dichotomies. Whether you’re curled up under a blanket watching the snow fall, layered up and exploring the outdoors, or simply trying to make sense of the sudden change, this is your soundtrack.

Listen to Wrap Up Warm via the embed below and find its tracklist underneath the player. Beneath the tracklist, explore hyperlinks to the site’s past 100 posts. Enjoy.

SIDE A

1. Torres – A Proper Polish Welcome
2. The Antlers – Kettering
3. Nicole Dollanganger – A Marvelous Persona
4. Wolfs – Leading Me Back To You
5. Bent Denim – Good Night’s Sleep
6. Julien Baker – Sprained Ankle
7. Dilly Dally – Burned by the Cold
8. Okkervil River – A Glow
9. Angel Olsen – White Fire
10. Sleeping in the Aviary – You’re A Party
11. Young Jesus – Milo
12. Eskimeaux – That’s OK
13. Elliott Smith – I Didn’t Understand

SIDE B

14. Why? – Eskimo Snow
15. Girlpool – Dear Nora
16. Infinity Crush – Heaven
17. Hop Along – Happy To See Me
18. Waxahatchee – Noccalula
19. Jason Isbell – Elephant
20. Eluvium – An Accidental Memory in the Case of Death
21. Johanna Warren – We Fell
22. S – Remember Love
23. DeYarmond Edison – Silent Signs
24. Joanna Newsom – Does Not Suffice
25. Yowler – The Offer

As always, hyperlinks to the site’s last 100 posts are included below.

HB601: Pleasure Leftists – Protection (Stream, Live Video)
HB602: Meat Wave – Cosmic Zoo (Stream)
HB603: PWR BTTM – Ugly Cherries (Music Video)
HB604: Salad Boys – Dream Date (Music Video)
HB605: Watch This: Vol. 89
H606: Tenement – Vultures (Stream)
HB607: Strange Relations – Panther’s Conquest (Music Video Premiere)
HB608: Radioactivity – Live at Baby’s All Right – 7/30/15 (Pictorial Review, Live Video)
HB609: Frankie Cosmos – Live at DBTS – 8/1/15 (Pictorial Review, Live Video)
HB610: Sharkmuffin – Live at Shea Stadium – 8/7/15 (Pictorial Review, Live Video)
HB611: Saintseneca – Live at Baby’s All Right – 8/8/15 (Pictorial Review, Live Video)
HB612: Johanna Warren – Live a The Grove – 8/9/15 (Pictorial Review, Live Video)
HB613: Charly Bliss – Live at McCarren Park – 8/12/15 (Pictorial Review, Live Video)
HB614: Dilly Dally – Desire (Music Video)
HB615: All Dogs – How Long (Stream)
HB616: Watch This: Vol. 90
HB617: Quarterbacks – Live at Baby’s All Right – 8/13/15 (Pictorial Review, Live Video)
HB618: Saintseneca – Sleeper Hold (Stream, Live Video)
HB619: Shannon & the Clams – It’s Too Late (Stream)
HB620: Diet Cig – Dinner Date (Stream, Live Video)
HB621: Watch This: Vol. 91
HB622: CITRIS – On the Sidelines (Music Video)
HB623: Tenement – Tenement (EP Stream, Review)
HB624: NE-HI – Turncoat (Music Video)
HB625: Prison Whites – Deceiver (Stream)
HB626: Mike Krol – Neighborhood Watch (Music Video)
HB627: Kathryn Calder – New Millennium (Stream)
HB628: Exploding In Sound’s Extended Weekend: Days 1 & 2 (Pictorial Review, Live Video)
HB629: Mike Krol – Turkey (Album Review, Stream)
HB630: All Dogs – Live at Silent Barn – 8/22/15 (Pictorial Review, Live Video)
HB631: PWR BTTM – West Texas (Stream, Live Video)
HB632: Watch This: Vol. 92
HB633: OBN III’s – Let The Music (Stream)
HB634: Littler – Somewhere Else (Stream)
HB635: Melkbelly – Mnt. Kool Kid (Stream)
HB636: PWR BTTM – 1994 (Stream, Live Video)
HB637: Meat Wave – Cosmic Zoo (Stream)
HB638: Watch This: Vol. 93
HB639: Watch This: Vol. 94
HB640: The Libertines – Heart of the Matter (Stream)
HB641: Dilly Dally – Purple Rage (Stream)
HB642: Watch This: Vol. 95
HB643: Dilly Dally – Purple Rage (Music Video)
HB644: Saintseneca – River (Music Video)
HB645: A Short Stretch at The Silent Barn (Pictorial Review, Live Video)
HB646: Ronnie Stone & The Lonely Riders – Live at Baby’s All Right – 8/29/15 (Pictorial Review, Live Video)
HB647: Froth – Nothing Baby (Music Video)
HB648: Hung Toys – Lurid (Album Review, Stream)
HB649: Midnight Reruns – There’s An Animal Upstairs (Stream)
HB650: Arriving at the Fall (Mixtape)
HB651: Eskimeaux – Broken Necks (Music Video)
HB652: Gumbus – Crimbus Rock (EP Review, Stream)
HB653: Ernie – Sweatpants (Stream)
HB654: Bruising – Emo Friends (Stream)
HB655: Dusk – (Do The) Bored Recluse (Stream)
HB656: Mike Krol – Live at Baby’s All Right – 9/29/15 (Pictorial Review, Live Video)
HB657: Daughter – Live at Baby’s All Right – 9/30/15 (Pictorial Review, Live Video)
HB658: Ought – Live at Secret Project Robot Art Experiment – 10/2/15 (Pictorial Review)
HB659: Bad Cello – Live at Palisades – 10/4/15 (Pictorial Review, Live Video)
HB660: Junun (Film Review)
HB661: Midnight Reruns – Canadian Summer (Music Video, Live Video)
HB662: Stove – Wet Food (Stream, Live Video)
HB663: Saintseneca – Bad Ideas (Music Video)
HB664: Dusk – Too Sweet (Stream)
HB665: Laura Stevenson – Claustrophone (Stream)
HB666: Nicole Dollanganger – Natural Born Losers (Album Review, Stream)
HB667: Watch This: Vol. 96
HB668: Watch This: Vol. 97

HB669: Watch This: Vol. 98
HB670: Watch This: Vol. 99
HB671: DBTS: BS2 (Compilation Premiere)
HB672: Sheer – Uneasy (Music Video)
HB673: S – Remember Love (Music Video)
HB674: CMJ: Day 2 Review
HB675: CMJ: Day 3 Review
HB676: CMJ: Day 4 Review
HB677: CMJ: Day 5 Review
HB678: CMJ: Day 6 Review
HB679: Watch This: Vol. 100
HB680: CMJ: Day 2 (Pictorial Review)
HB681: CMJ: Day 3 (Pictorial Review)
HB682: CMJ: Day 4 (Pictorial Review)
HB683: CMJ: Day 5 (Pictorial Review)
HB684: CMJ: Day 6 (Pictorial Review)
HB685: Young Jesus – Holy Ghost (Music Video Premiere)
HB686: WASHA – Night/Day (Music Video Premiere)
HB687: Slight – Hate the Summer (Song Premiere)
HB688: Painted Zeros – Only You (Stream)
HB689: Midnight Reruns – Force of Nurture (Album Review, Stream)
HB690: Julien Baker – Sprained Ankle (Music Video)
HB691: CITRIS – Little Scars (Music Video Premiere)
HB692: Adir L.C. – Buyer’s Instinct (Music Video Premiere)
HB693: Watch This: Vol. 101
HB694: Watch This: Vol. 102
HB695: Watch This: Vol. 103
HB696: Watch This: Vol. 104
HB697: Watch This: Vol. 105
HB698: Watch This: Vol. 106
HB699: Watch This: Vol. 107

Watch This: Vol. 22

At the very start of the last article to be posted on here, it was mentioned that Heartbreaking Bravery was going through some technical problems and that they’d be made up for sometime relatively soon. That day is today. Some of the issues plaguing the site are still being resolved, today they’ll be circumnavigated unless they’re fixed at some point throughout the course of the several upcoming posts. Also worth pointing out is that the post with that disclaimer was the first one to be exclusively done on a cover. Normally, this place will do its best to feature originals over covers but with “Candy’s Room” being as good as it was, it’s offered a perfect segue to a Watch This that focuses solely on one of the best outlets for covers: The AV Club’s Undercover series. With a new season lingering around the corner, it’s a great time to look back at some of the most memorable installments of that series- it’s also a great way to illustrate the full scope of the kind of music this place will cover when given the chance. This will be the first of a few Watch This installments getting posted today and it’d be difficult to ask for a better way to ease back into things. As always, sit back, float off, do whatever feels natural- just make sure to Watch This.

1. Mac DeMarco – Undone (The Sweater Song)

Mac DeMarco’s Salad Days is one of the very best records to have had a 2014 release so far, operating as both a reminder of his talents and personality. Here, the cover he and his band offer up of this Weezer classic does roughly the same thing; twice as roughshod as the original but brimming with a cathartic recklessness, it’s a perfectly positioned tribute that does both bands justice. There’s an ample amount of slacker goofiness but when the band kicks it into fifth gear for the last few minutes, it becomes its own beast.

2. The Swell Season – Two-Headed Boy

Did anyone in 2012 think they’d be able to see Neutral Milk Hotel ever play this song again? The prospect of a reunion was about as far-fetched as My Bloody Valentine releasing their follow-up to Loveless, so fans scrambled to find worthy covers. Before 2013 happened, there was nothing better than this; an Oscar-winning rags-to-riches duo (Glen Hansard- who came back to the series to take part in another classic– and Marketa Irglova) bringing in their full band and doing more than a little justice to a song several revered as holy.  An awe-inspiring take that rivals Neutral Milk Hotel’s heavily emotive calling card classic.

3. Screaming Females – If It Makes You Happy

This was a no-brainer (so much so that it almost missed the cut completely). The explosive chorus, the guitar fireworks (that riff! that solo! just goddamn), the unrelenting passion, powerhouse vocals, and left-field song choice make this can’t-miss material. More than a year after this was posted, it still has the ability to spark all the same feelings it did on the very first view. This is just about as inspirational as it gets. Take note.

4. Ben Folds – Say Yes

It’s still a little difficult to articulate how much Elliott Smith meant to a certain corner of the music world. He departed entirely too early, leaving behind a rich and unimpeachable discography that cemented his legacy. The bulk of his material can still be extraordinarily difficult to listen to and literally impossible to not be affected by. Here, Ben Folds, his friend and former tourmate, tackles the relatively optimistic “Say Yes” with reverence and grace. Even now, more than ten years down the line, Smith’s songs remain as poignant and moving as ever- even in the hands of someone else.

5. Wye Oak (feat. Jonathan Meiburg) – Strangers

There are few songs that hold as much meaning as The Kinks’ “Strangers”. It’s a perfect song, one full of the kind of humanity that encapsulates something as elusively intrinsic as a worthwhile existence. In short, between Jenn Wasner, Andy Stack, and Shearwater’s Jonathan Meiburg (another performer who would show up to the series again later to deliver a second classic) the song takes on an epic, wide-open feel. In fact, their take on this song was so devastatingly gorgeous that they became one of the first bands to be asked back– and then following that, the first to have their session(s) pressed to a 7″.  As hyperbolic as it may sound, it’s hard to argue against “Mother” being one of the greatest covers of all time.

Home for the Holidays & A Guide to Surviving (Mixtape 001)

Well, it’s been a brief but substantial fifty day run and this, the 50th post, seemed as good a place as any to celebrate something so small and meaningless. To that end, Heartbreaking Bravery is offering up its first official mixtape; Home for the Holidays. Look for one every fifty posts. Some will have themes, some will just serve as reviews for the past near-two-months of coverage the site provides.

Home for the Holidays was a unique challenge. For the songs to qualify they had to fit within the general aesthetic of what Heartbreaking Bravery would normally cover- they would also have to mention Christmas without being a Christmas-specific song. All of these songs are here for a reason and deserve to be heard. A welcome alternative to the endless barrage of the same twenty songs getting played in seemingly every location. Both the mixtape and the accompanying guide to surviving are below.


1. Tenement – Spit in the Wind

Did anyone honestly expect this list to start with anything else? It’s no secret how this site feels about this band. They’ve mastered the exploration of lower middle-class difficulty and it really comes through on the chorus of this Napalm Dream standout. “Father pissing on the Christmas tree, suicide for the family” is a masterclass in both explicit and implicit imagery as well as tone-setting.

2. The Wombats – Moving to New York

Sleep-deprivation, needless excitement, and suspecting disappointment. “Looks like Christmas came early” has never sounded so true. 

3. Sundials – Christmas Day

One of 2013’s most exceptional compilations was the collection of Sundials songs from 2009 to 2012. “Christmas Day” closed the collection out with flare, emphasizing how ugly financial situations can be made ten times worse by the holidays with a surprising amount of verve. 

4. The Weakerthans – Exiles Among You

The Weakerthans were (are?) one of the most consistently impressive bands on the circuit and released a few records that qualify as classics. On their standout sophomore effort Left & Leaving was this gem, that included a heartbreaking moment where the protagonist shoplifts for Christmas and ignores her family. A perfectly executed example of estrangement.

5. Titus Andronicus – No Future Part Three: Escape From No Future

On Titus Andronicus’ masterpiece The Monitor, the band managed to cover an endless arsenal of subjects. One of the strongest moments in a record full of them was “No Future Part Three” with its rapid shifts in pace and tone. There’s anger, there’s grim determination, a palpable sense of sadness, and a devastating Christmas list. 

6. Neutral Milk Hotel – Two-Headed Boy

One of 2013’s biggest moments was the return of Neutral Milk Hotel, prompting many to revisit In the Aeroplane, Over the Sea and “Two-Headed Boy” in particular. That song contains a fierce ending of bitter abandonment set under Christmas trees, elevating the importance of the act. Brutal, harsh, and brilliant. 

7. Waxahatchee – Rose, 1956

There are very few records as pointed and barbed as American Weekend, a record that’s only managed to grow stronger with time. “Rose, 1956” stands out for a variety of reasons but the mention of Christmas Eve at the song’s opening drives home how specific it is, which makes it more revealing in turn. 

8. Bon Iver – Blood Bank

Bon Iver is almost too obvious of a choice for this but it’s hard to look past the muted elegiac title-track of the band’s sole EP. Not only do the levels of wistfulness feel appropriate but the song nicely underscores the possibility of truly understanding difficult moments. One of Bon Iver’s most stunning moments. 

9. Why? – The Fall of Mr. Fifths

Why? have always managed to effortlessly evoke very specific feelings with their arrangements alone. Yoni Wolf’s lyrics generally accentuate that feeling masterfully and “Mr. Fifths” is no exception. There’s an underlying theme of fear and obsession here that touches on the rising death rates that surround the holiday season. 

10. The Hold Steady – One for the Cutters

Quite possibly The Hold Steady’s most inventive moment, this harpsichord-driven tale paints the most realistic portrait of the sort of culture that exists in the shadows the band has managed in years. An absolutely stunning achievement that culminates in the central character’s defeated-beyond-reason return to her family at Christmas. 

11. Sparklehorse – Little Fat Baby

Mark Linkous’ penchant for subtlety resonates throughout this song, in part an understated allegory about (seemingly) the prominence of Christmas. It’s a subdued-yet-jarring yarn that feels intensely personal. 

12. Belle & Sebastian – I Don’t Love Anyone

Fleeting moments of self-doubt and occasional resentment spring up in early winter more than anyone would like to admit. Self-evaluation becomes a bitter process and all of the potential disappointment can manifest itself outwards. The best way to deal with it is just to acknowledge it and move on.

13. The National – It Never Happened

“We look younger than we feel and older than we are” is a beyond perfect way to describe the holiday hangover that’s constantly present, lingering around the corner. The easygoing pace of “It Never Happened” mirrors the pose some people will themselves into just to survive the rougher patches.

14. Okkervil River – Where the Spirit Left Us

The first of of two Okkervil songs on this list, “Where the Spirit Left Us” pinpointed a certain kind of well-informed nostalgia that was brought to life in a dazzlingly vivid manner. There’s a small-town longing that matches up nicely with the resigned minutiae  surrounding any large family gathering.

15. The Weakerthans – My Favorite Chords

John K. Samson does environmental setting better than almost anyone penning lyrics today. The fact that The Weakerthans can often be described as wintry only heightens the reason for this song’s inclusion.

16. Tom Waits – Christmas Card From A Hooker in Minneapolis

A wildcard among these 21 tracks, “Christmas Card From A Hooker in Minneapolis” qualifies based on the title, not a lyric contained within the song. One of Waits’ most towering achievements and one of the best moments on his classic Blue Valentine.

17. Ben Folds Five – Brick

Did you really expect this not to make the list? It’s a song about the aftermath of a Christmas Eve abortion. One of the most frighteningly realistic songs in recent memory. At the very least, let this one invoke deep sympathy.

18. Palace Songs – Christmastime in the Mountains

Okkervil River artist Will Schaff brought this song to the list as it was experiencing a rough draft dating back to last December. “Christmastime in the Mountains” is stark, beautiful, and nicely summarizes the empty feelings that can occasionally hit at this time of year.

19. Why? – Kevin’s Cancer

Yoni Wolf has been operating in his own territory for a long time now. This is the second Why? song to be included but the way Wolf and company operate only furthers situational reality. 

20. Elliott Smith – King’s Crossing

From A Basement on Hill bafflingly exists simultaneously as one of the most personal and impersonal records to be released in the past 15 years. It’s posthumous status elevates the impact of searingly revealing songs, yet those involved with it say that the record was far from finished and released with only the mixes Elliott had left behind when he tragically passed away. “King’s Crossing” stands out as one of the record’s most personal (and most biting) moments, reflecting the holiday’s darker spirit.

21. Okkervil River – Calling and Not Calling My Ex

This is the song that inspired the idea for this collection several years back. It’s Sheff at his most pointed. Sleigh bells in the background offer up an ever fuller world-building experience for an environment surrounding the introspection that often hits hardest towards the end of the year.

Happy Holidays.

HB