Heartbreaking Bravery

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Tag: Emily A. Sprague

The Best Songs of October (2019)

October held a lot of surprises, a few new singles sprinkled among their ranks. From resuscitated projects to fast follow-ups to fascinating departures, the month seemed to be as rich as any in 2019. Nine of those tracks made a sizable impression as the month wound on, making waves right up to the end. While it’s literally impossible for one person to consume every song that comes out on any given day, hundreds earned consideration for placement here but the ones that made the cut here made the cut for a reason. Enjoy.

1. illuminati hotties – ppl plzr

Last year, illuminati hotties broke out in a big way, landing in several Best Of lists. Now, riding the wave of that success, the band sounds emboldened, evidenced by the relative fearlessness of “ppl plzr”. While they’ve excelled at maximizing dynamic composition, “ppl plzr” takes that trait to another level, finding illuminati hotties at their most engaging. Whether simmering at a slow boil or flowing over with unchecked aggression, “ppl plzr” is proof that illuminati hotties are only getting better as they go.

2. Failed Flowers – Broken Screen

Not too long ago (but an eternity ago in terms of media cycles), site favorites Fred Thomas and Anna Burch teamed up to co-front an excellent basement pop band called Failed Flowers. With Burch and Thomas’ solo careers both taking off and finding success, Failed Flowers got pushed to the background but the band’s now offering listeners a peak at their final stages via a Slumberland single. “Broken Screen” is the A-side and finds Thomas biting into a characteristically sardonic narrative that’s buoyed by the band’s jangly sensibilities. A perfect addition for a release that will ensure the project goes out on top.

3. Timothy Heller – Not Even For You

“Not Even For You” starts off at a slow pace, working its way to something bigger. At every pace, the song remains mesmeric, going a long way to ensure Timothy Heller is a name that doesn’t slip from the mind. A mid-tempo slice of psych-inflicted indie pop, “Not Even For You” impresses on multiple levels. A complete work that indicates the band’s mastery of dynamics, identity, and composition, “Not Even For You” stood tall as one of October’s most unexpected surprises.

4. Emily A. Sprague – Mesa

Florist mastermind Emily A. Sprague has been going on solo journeys quite a bit as an artist lately. Both as an ambient artist — one who recently toured with William Basinski — and even under the Florist guise, which was stripped back to just Sprague for Emily Alone. “Mesa” finds Spague occupying ambient terrain once more, conjuring up a lush, melancholic dreamscape that floats along at a glacial pace. A song that only ever stops unfurling as it winds down, “Mesa” is as lovely as anything that’s been released in 2019.

5. The Whiffs – Shakin All Over

A scruffy throwback power-punk number, The Whiffs’ “Shakin All Over” is one of many songs that uses retro styling to push a classic setup into modernity. Falling somewhere between Dark Thoughs and Sheer Mag with the pop sensibility punched up to the max, The Whiffs have landed on something instantly likable and surprisingly memorable in “Shakin All Over”. A winsome, punk-minded triumph from a band that sounds as if it’s been around forever but is only just getting started.

6. Dead Soft – Trimmer

Dead Soft have come surging back to life in 2019, releasing a handful of towering behemoths. “Trimmer”, a four minute, shit-kicking, shoegaze-driven monster is just the latest but it captures a band that’s not only found its voice but a confidence in that voice. The gas pedal’s been driven down to the floor and the band seems acutely aware of the kind of chaos that action always invites. Then again, it’s probably hard to care about much else when the songs that are getting written sound this good.

7. Alice Bowman – The More I Cry

For years, Alice Bowman has been writing and releasing gorgeous, understated songs. “The More I Cry” may just be the songwriter’s finest. A ’50s throwback ballad, the song’s production perfectly accentuates the sound as Bowman’s breathy vocals float along the ether. A song of loss, longing, and heartache, “The More I Cry” is yet another song that convincingly mines past styles to effectively prove their effectiveness and worth in today’s musical landscape. A beautiful turn from one of today’s more fascinating songwriters.

8. Potty Mouth – Favorite Food

Earlier this year, Potty Mouth released SNAFU, a record that acted as a form of catharsis for the band, who had to navigate their way out of industry hell to return to full power.  While that record was as excellent as anything the band’s put out to date, they hit a new high with their latest single, “Favorite Food”. Guitarist/vocalist Abby Weems nearly sounds reborn, guiding the band to a sound that has significantly more bite than their previous releases without sacrificing any part of their established musical identity. It’s a small but noticeable evolution for one of today’s best pop-punk bands.

9. Jeff Rosenstock – Ambient 7

Most people aren’t going to know Jeff Rosenstock for the songwriter’s ambient work, which is fair, especially in the face of a celebrated career as a punk artist. Yet Rosenstock’s talents as an ambient composer seem set to demand greater attention. “Ambient 7” finds Rosenstock in full ambient mode, delivering a shockingly beautiful drone work that seems to echo Stars of the Lid and nearly hits the 7 minute mark. Vexing and immersive, “Ambient 7” sounds like the work of a practiced ambient artist, which may be yet another road for Rosenstock to seize if the mood ever strikes. If that day never comes, at least “Ambient 7” will always be out there, gently beckoning for a return.

The Best of the Rest: Honorable Mentions

More than two months have come and gone since the last post went live on this site. True to form, the collection of materials never ceased in that time. A disparity between collection and production grew more intimidating and adjustments were being made continuously as new angles for Heartbreaking Bravery were (and still are) being considered. This remains a one-person operation and it can be a daunting task to take on the level of commitment that was required to keep this place going in its established direction.

More than once, I contemplated just ending its existence but could never escape the thought that representing under-represented music remained a vital necessity, especially in a climate where our tastes are now curated and formed more by coldly computed algorithms than actual human interest. All of the year-end lists overlapped, certain streaming giants heightened the exclusivity of their arrangements with major distributors to the point representing emerging artists without major representation borders the impossible.

Those aspects of the industry need a corrective, something that my friends, contemporaries, and publications worthy of aspiration have all but made their mission (and to that end, I would like to extend another round of personal thanks to bandcamp, GoldFlakePaint, Post-Trashdimestore saints, The AlternativeThe Grey Estates, ROOKIE, She Shreds, Various Small Flames, Swell Tone, and a host of others, along with every alt-weekly in existence). As those correctives became noticeably more impassioned during the brief hiatus from publishing, I found myself getting progressively more inspired to continue on with Heartbreaking Bravery and found myself constantly combing through back catalogs of publications that clearly cared about unheralded voices.

Of course, there are still established voices of note making worthwhile art and they deserve representation (some even staked out their names through hard-fought battles instead of buying their way into recognition) and those artists will be mentioned. However, the scales here — just as was the case in the past — will never be exponentially weighted to favor that recognition. Something that will be profoundly clear below in the list I’ve compiled across these 2+ months of songs, music videos, and records worth experiencing. I don’t expect anyone to actually comb through all of these but please, click around, and hopefully those random clicks will lead to a discovery of a new favorite. Enjoy the list and keep an eye out for more posts in the days to follow.

SONGS

Courters, Mirah, Mush, The Cabin Fever, Unlikely Friends, The Number Ones, Hater, Moonwalks, Lost Boy ?, Gladshot, Kal Marks, The Royal They, Palm, Strand of Oaks, Rosie Carney, Littlefoot, Dirty Fences, Bee Bee Sea (x2), Spice Boys (x2), Leggy, Barren Womb, No Age (x2), Canshaker Pi, The Holy Dark, Oneida, Jane Church, The She’s (x2), Chastity (x2), Lemuria (x2, 3), The Fluids (x2, 3), CIVIC, Luxury Death, Lauren Ruth Ward, Vundabar, Kindling (x2, 3), Sunflower Bean, Curls, Guided By Voices, OCS, The Dazies (x2), Gleemer, HOLY (x2, 3), Big Heet (x2), QWAM, Common Holly (x2), Leah Calvert (x2), Superchunk, Curtis Harding (x2)

Bed Wettin’ Bad BoysNation of Language, A. Savage (x2), Hayley Hendrickx, Kevin Devine (ft. Half Waif), Screaming Females, Ryan Power, Passed Out, Pope, ShitKid (x2), Chemtrails (x2), Whelpwisher (x2), GROUNDS, Skye Wallace, Salad Boys, Cut Worms, Doe PaoroNilüfer Yanya, Protomartyr, Fuzzystar, Miss World (x2), Luggage, Cloud Nothings, St. Vincent, Johanna WarrenYØUTH (x2), M.A.G.S., Son Little, FRAME (x2), Adults, Makthaverskan, The Growlers, The Van T’s, ALCABEAN, Emerson Star, blis. (x2), Surf Rock Is Dead, Tennis Club, The Nickajack Men, Small Forward, Casper Skulls, NE-HI (ft. Jamila Woods), Gestures (x2), Mansions (x2)

Shopping, Monster Rally (x2), The Presolar Sands, Lola Pistola, Who Is She?, The Golden Boys, Lean Year, Jr. Thomas & The Volcanos, BIRDS, CO SONN, Lasse Matthiessen (ft. Sarah Hartman), ghostel, Holy Motors, Ty Segall (x2, 3), Sound of Ceres (x2), Bodies Be Rivers (x2), Jessica Boudreaux (x2), STRFKR, Lull, Invisible Minds, Keto, Goat Girl, Wax Mistress, Deathlist, Mr. Yolk, Poppy Ackroyd (x2), Anamon, Ephrata, The Tin Can Collective, The Violet Whispers, Mean Motor Scooter (x2), Plastic Flowers, Longface, lkffct, Twist, Worriers, Strange Ranger, Table Scraps, Hunter & Wolfe, The County Liners, Elan Noon, Karl Blau, Jesse Jo Stark, The Yada Yada Yadas

OxenFree, Petal (x2), ESSi, Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Tough Age, Gregg Kowalsky, The Saxophones, Century Thief, NADINE, Cina Polada, Line & Circle, Angelica Rockne (x2), Floral Print, Angel Olsen (x2), King Khan, Blush (x2), Fox Face, Runaway Brother, sleeping in, Pistoleros, Moderate Rebels (x2), Sam Michael Trowse, Duncan Kissinger, DMA’s, Peter Matthew Bauer (x2), PONY, Jennie Vee, Joey Sweeney, Mimicking Birds, Andrew Hung, They Might Be Giants (x2), Mavis Staples, Long Neck, Reptaliens, Plush, Krief, Half Waif, Twain, Jessie KivelMichael Jablonka, New PortalsAnne Müller, Birthing HipsAxel Flóvent, Mineral Girls, Major Love, Emily A. Sprague

And The Kids, Hidden Places, Warbly Jets, Mattiel, Joint Effort, Renata Zeiguer, Forced Random, Tobias Reif, Joey Sweeney, Gabrielle Shonk, Sarah Clanton, Dead Leaf Echo, Lankum, Whitney, The Echo Friendly, Meernaa, Gunn-Truscinski Duo, Iron Chic (x2), Gingerlys (x2, 3), Bad History Month, The Gloomies, Jordan Klassen, Bedouine, Daniel Tanghal, Graham Coxon, Cock & Swan, Marine, Aldous Harding, Circuit des Yeux, Glen Hansard, Michael Jablonka, Tempesst, Palo Duro, Small Leaks Sink Ships, FriendshipMÄRVEL, Mt. Doubt, Headroom, Lake Jons, Mister Heavenly, Pearla, Camp Cope, Bat Fangs, Eagle Johnson & Clean Machine, Crater, Memnon Sa

Mallrat, Ora Cogan (x2), Clara Stauch, Feather Beds, Grieving, Refrigerator, Lake Jons, The Clydes (x2), Jaye Bartell, Anna St. Louis, Arielle LaGuette, Erthling,, Execution/Rise, Wilderman, Dream Nails, Tree House, This Will Destroy You, Tracy Bonham (ft. Sadie Dupuis), First Aid Kit, Michael VM, Thom Gillies, Young Mister, Peacock Affect (x2), Kinjac (ft. Kathryn O’Shea), Baths, John K. Samson, Hey Elbow, Racquet, Kenneth Aaron Harris, Jerry Joseph, The Go! Team, Jesse Merchant, Ezra Feinberg, Water From Your Eyes, Airpark, Jerry David Decicca, Leon of Athens, Paddy Hanna, Ride, The Captain of Sorrow, Charlotte Gainsbourg, Purling Hiss

Tenderfoot, Everything By Electricity, I, Alexander, Prurient, S. CareyWalter Martin, Lowpines, Sulky Boy, Glass MuseumClub 8, Mildlife, Vern Matz, Mick Jenkins, Edan Laniado (ft. Orin Jacobson), Benjamin Jaffe, Tangerine, Stonefield, Haily Taylor, swim good now (ft. Half Waif & Georgian Bay), Tim Heidecker (x2), Anna Tivel, Maria Kelly, Balkan Bump (ft. Paul Bertin), Curtis Roush, Fruition, Telete, Loma, Pinkshinyultrablast, Gary War, The Rural Alberta Advantage, Coucheron, avalon, red steppes, LeyyaTrès OuiHit Like A Girl, EMA, Holly Miranda, ILUKA, Magic Wands, Garden City Movement, True Blue, Underwater BoysJason S. Matuskiewicz, giant gutter from outer space, Sundrops, SELLARS, Alice Boman, The Rentals, No Wine For Kittens, Tennis, Eric Slick, Cara Salimando, and Slothrust.

MUSIC VIDEOS 

Twist, CIVIC, Hovvdy (x2), Human People, The Van T’s, Sorry (x2), Petite League, Anna Burch, Shannon & The Clams, Gleemer, OxenFree, Club Night, Moaning, Common Holly, Prom Queen, Liza Anne, Shopping, Good Boy, Robot, The Tin Can Collective, Wavves & Culture Abuse, The Spook School, The Breeders, Oh Sees (x2), Quicksand, Phoebe Bridgers, Vagabon, Deerhoof, Open Mike Eagle (ft. Sammus), Kevin Krauter, Bully (x2), Sego (x2), Pure Violet (x2), Sweater, Marlon Williams (ft. Aldous Harding), The Go! Team, Airpark, Francobollo, Lionlimb, Table Scraps, Anamon, AllegrA, Angel Olsen, PINS, Reptaliens, Flat Worms, Lost Boy ?, L.A. Witch, Anna Tosh

Darkbird, The Prids (x2), Longface (x2, 3), The She’s, Demons, Mt. Doubt, Cherry, Palm, Olden Yolk, Miya Folick, Walrus, Yumi Zouma, Stella Donnelly, Johnny Marr and Maxine Priest, Hatchie, Everyone Is Dirty, The Cheap Thrills, Jesca Hoop, Becca Mancari (x2, 3), The Coathangers, Julie & The Wrong Guys, Madeline Kenney (x2), Miss World, Born Ruffians, Varvara, Soft Fangs, Paul Cherry, Aesop Rock, Typhoon, Hayley Hendrickx, Winter and Trabants, Worriers, Escobar, The Velveteins, The Go! Team, Beatriz, Beliefs (x2), Calexico, Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy, Tim Kuhl, Stillwave, TR/ST, Dream WifeBjörk, Malk, Weaves (x2), Courtney Barnett + Kurt Vile

Avery Tare, Wiki, SAVAK, Trupa Trupa (x2), Tune-Yards, Mauno (x2), Beechwood, Ron Gallo, David Ramirez, MAUDLIN, Hearken, Porches, Julien Baker, Charlotte Gainsbourg, The Magic Lantern, Canshaker Pi, Django Django, Shame (x2), Ocean Wisdom, Legendary Shack Shakers, Duncan Lloyd, Littlefoot, BOYO (x2), Sam Coffey & The Iron Lungs (x2), Wolf Parade, Good Boy, Three Conductor, Se’A (ft. Cellus Hamilton), Single Mothers, Pretty Lights, Charles Howl, NE-HI, Melkbelly, Ought, Steady Sun, Fake Palms, Candace (x2), Dude York, Big K.R.I.T., Blasteroid, Jessica Lea MayfieldMoral High Horses, Emily Haines & The Soft Skeleton, M.R. Bennett

Sprinters, The Horrors, Molly Burch, Tempesst, Montero, VOWWS, Mondo Cozmo, Deca, Strawberry Runners, Dutch Party, Gun Outfit, The Coathangers, Panteon, Nicole Atkins, Moses Sumney, Lower Pink, Sloan Peterson, Lina Tullgren, Monk Parker, Birthing Hips, Guantanamo Baywatch, Derde Verde, Wild Ones, Liars, BADBADNOTGOOD, Wes Montgomery, Alissia, Fufanu, Pale Grey, liv, Turnover, AmplineDan Deacon, The Morelings, The Exbats, The Weather Station, ELETTRODOMESTICO (x2), The Ah, Brenda, Death By Unga Bunga, Billy Woods, Lionlimb, King Krule, New Candys, Hoops, Outsider, Joy Again, Heaven, Romantic States, Quicksand, The Darts

Alex Lahey, Suno Deku, H.C. McEntireFirst Aid Kit, India Ramey, Grounds, Prom Queen, The Soft Moon, High Waisted, Flying Lotus, Alexandra Savior, Underwater Boys, Courtship Ritual, Dude York, St. Vincent, Hunter & Wolfe, King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard, Cloakroom, Ephrata, Kat Myers & The Buzzards, Holy Wars, Soft Swells, Downtown Boys, Prude Boys, Odonis Odonis, CHUCK, Broken Social Scene, Baronen & Satan, Dances, Glitches, Chelou, Teenage Feelings, The Staves, Cool American, Mikko Joensuu, Son Lux, Twinsmith, NEWMEN, Shipping Forecast, HALFNOISE, Sound of Ceres, WHIMM, Mono Club, Michael Nau, Diet Cig, Astronautalis, Tycho, Stillwave, The Pains of Being Pure at Heart, Ice Balloons, Sparks, Torres, Freedom Fry, and Howard Ivans.

FULL STREAMS

Panoptique Electrical, Gingerlys, Fox Face, Surrounder, The Drafts, First BaseMatty Ann, Slothrust, STRFKR, Floral Print, Miss World, dreambeaches, Slight, Foolish Atoms, Permahorn, Bloodsport: The Movie, The Band, Idle Empress, Littlefoot, Dead Hero, Courtney Farren, Bartees & The Strange Fruit, Shamir, Superchunk, Birthing Hips, Gestures, EiS: Live At Shea Stadium, deathlist, Casper Skulls, Jessica Boudreaux, CD-ROM, Colby Miller, Patsy, Robot Apocalypse, False Flag, Bad Daddies, SAVAK, Spiritual Cramp, Covey, WHIMM, Brainstory, Deva Mahal, Angelica Rockne, The Sight, High Waisted, Slanted, Pool Holograph, Mansions, Pura Mania

Mister Heavenly, Lady Parts, Suno Deku, Sob Stories, The Persian Leaps, After Hours Radio, No Vacation, Forest Swords, RAZZ, FURY, Big Heet, Bad Galaxy, King Khan, Rakta, Leor Miller and Francie Cool, Haunted Summer, The Hague, Thought Balloon, Blasteroid, The Telly, Gunn-Truscinski Duo, Longface, Cina Polada, Strawberry Runners, Shoeb Ahmad, Fairy Godmother, Beliefs, Becca Richardson, Roz and the Rice Cakes, Sad Baxter, Hidden Bay Records, Zapoppin’, Rainwater, The Mountain Goats, Sauna Accident, Prawn, Raleigh, Exquisite Ghost, M.R. Bennett, Paperhaus, Nervous Dater, Fool Heavy, Intergalactic Lovers, Omni, and Landlady.