Heartbreaking Bravery

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Tag: Envy

Mutual Benefit – Not For Nothing (Stream)

Image Credit: Whitney Lee

Image Credit: Whitney Lee

One of the fiercest chills I got while listening to music last year came on a Sunday morning in Chicago. I’d just seen the immediate aftermath of a horrific accident the night before and had a lot on my mind. Day 3 of Pitchfork was just kicking off, with a scarcity of people combing the grounds after gates and before the first bands kicked off. Feeling uneasy heading into the day’s festivities, my mood was soon assuaged by the kindness extended by friends (there have been few things over the past few year that have felt as reassuring as the hug Meredith Graves greeted me with at the start of that day). One of those friends, the absurdly talented Sasha Geffen, joined me in taking in the day’s first set: Mutual Benefit. Something about the emotional turmoil brought about by the previous night, the perfect weather, the comfort of having friends joining an experience, and the surprisingly open park fields managed to culminate in a perfect storm of cognitive dissonance; I was a blank slate in a gentle breeze. Then Mutual Benefit started playing and everything faded almost instantaneously. Gentle tones, a hushed reverie, and an underlying sense of personal triumph and genuine feeling cut across Union Park with a transcendental force.

Jordan Lee’s kept his musical project fairly quiet in the time following that tour but recently unveiled the gorgeous “Not For Nothing” and all of those memories came back in an instant. Before further addressing that particular song, though, it’s worth taking one last aside to catch up on some of the strongest tracks to have emerged in the past week and a half. For the sake of linear functionality, they’ll just be listed in order with no descriptors (though they should really all be given a considerable amount of attention): Farao’s “Hunter“, Black Baron’s “Watch Me Sleep“, Envy’s “Blue Moonlight“, Bishop Nehru’s  “Bishy In Japan 16 (Knowing Nothing)“, Abram Shook’s “Perfect“, John Vanderslice’s Songs: Ohia cover “Long Dark Blues“, Table Scraps’ “Bad Feeling“, Native Eloquence’s “Doldrum“, and Ancient Ocean’s “Beargrass Creek“. Now, with everything brought up to this week and that necessary tangent out of the way, let’s move back to the track contained in the headline.

“Not For Nothing”, the latest masterpiece from Mutual Benefit, isn’t just a reaffirmation of Lee’s enviable songwriting gifts, it’s a warm, welcoming song that’s arriving at the exact right time. For whatever reason, sincerity has become something that’s more derided than celebrated in the gradual come-down that’s happened in the post-Funeral landscape. Whether that’s because it was reduced to a cheap imitation in a lazy cash-grab effort by so many acts in an effort of miserably failed appropriation or because the world’s just been forced into a time where being cyclical, jaded, detached, and increasingly apathetic has made more sense, it’s tough to tell- but sincerity, when it’s done honestly, has the capacity to move more effectively than just about anything else. Lee brings that sincerity, and- just as importantly- empathy, to vivid life when he’s at his very best. And “Not For Nothing” just may be his very best. Strings swell, drums shuffle, and a beautiful atmosphere descends into the song from the outset, letting Lee’s deceptively impressive vocals and extraordinary lyrical ability drive everything home. As “Not For Nothing” calmly washes over its listeners, it becomes transportive: this is a song with the uncanny ability to elicit memories and nostalgia through dulcet tones and genuine feeling. By the time it winds down, the only appropriate course of action seems to be going back and hitting play, just one more time.

We only get songs like this every so often. Make sure this one isn’t forgotten.

Stream “Not For Nothing” below and watch the Weathervane session that features the song here.

White Reaper – I Don’t Think She Cares (Stream)

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It’s been a while since regular coverage of new releases cropped up on this site (part of which was due to other obligations), which is why the majority of tonight will feature an influx of posts touching on some of the pieces of art that made the past week so great. For this post and the majority of the posts that will be following this entry, the focus will remain on songs. All of them are songs worth adding to your collection and the first of which, Jason Isbell’s breathtaking “24 Frames“, boasts a lyric set so tremendous that it’s difficult not to expect his forthcoming record will be a critical darling. Dignan Porch’s “Out of the Picture” continued Art Is Hard’s white-hot winning streak, Sam Evian’s “Cherry Tree” further illustrated the respective individual talents that Celestial Shore‘s been producing, Angelic Milk put the listening world on notice with the razor-sharp shard of basement pop in “IDK How“, and A$AP Rocky furthered his case to be considered one of rap’s most compelling acts with an unlikely collaboration that features Rod Stewart, Miguel, and Mark Ronson (the endlessly smooth “Everyday“). Public Access T.V.’s tantalizingly light “All We Want“, Envy’s sprawling “Footsteps in the Distance“, Dikembe’s slow-burning “Surfed in the Loft“, and Magic Potion’s endearing basement pop tune “Booored” round off the first featured set. As always, I wish I could devote more than just a few words to each title but there simply isn’t enough time to cover everything in more exhaustive detail. At this point in time, the system in which the headline is determined is nearing a lottery system- and White Reaper beat the odds this time out.

Make Me Wanna Die” had already made a sizable impression and stoked the fires of anticipation for White Reaper’s upcoming full-length; “I Don’t Think She Cares” ensures that trajectory continues its ascension. “I Don’t Think She Cares” is another furious burst of basement punk with strong pop sensibilities coated in layers of fuzz, providing the song an even stronger punch. Incendiary riffing, absurdly melodic synth lines, and a vocal take so impassioned you can practically feel Tony Esposito violently shaking, it’s another perfect representation of the band’s supercharged aesthetic. Clocking in at a precise two minutes, it makes the most out of every single second, expanding the song into something surprisingly dynamic for such an abbreviated running time. Decades worth of punk cornerstones, past and present, collide in an exhilarating, celebratory whirlwind. Now two songs into their rollout campaign, White Reaper Does It Again is shaping up to be a potential career-maker for the emerging upstarts. All that’s left is to see if the main course can live up to the appetizers.

Listen to “I Don’t Think She Cares” below and pre-order White Reaper Does It Again from Polyvinyl.