Heartbreaking Bravery

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Tag: EP Premiere

Wheelbarrel – Feast On Sand (EP Premiere)

The third piece (and second premiere) of sprawling, snarling post-punk to go up as a feature today, Wheelbarrel’s Feast On Sand may be the most unexpectedly brilliant of the lot. It’s a formidable and incredibly self-assured from a new Columbus, OH power trio and it packs enough power in its punch to leave just about anyone reeling. Opening with “Traced”, Wheelbarrel and Feast On Sand both get a memorable introduction, the song showcasing a lethal but surprisingly pensive strain of a sound that falls somewhere between Even Hand and Buildings.

From that point forward, the trio meticulously navigates a hybrid of post-punk, grunge, hardcore, basement pop, and a handful of other sub-genres while cultivating an uneasy atmosphere, bridging a melancholic sensibility with a carefully-repressed but still lurking anger. All of those elements of the band’s identity combine into something as mesmerizing as it is urgent. Each song breathing more depth into Feast On Sand‘s display of life, adding potency to an unexpected reckoning.

“Sacred Things”, the EP’s penultimate offering, contains the most haunted experiment of this quartet of tracks, marrying spoken word to a creeping minimalist that evokes the kind of hushed-breath dread typically found in arthouse horror films. When the song breaks from that pattern, it’s incredibly unnerving, the vocal delivery tilting from being mired in gloom to coy amusement to startling effect. It’s one of several great moments on Feast On Sand that suggests Wheelbarrel are going to have a strong shot at a visible future.

The EP ends on its title track, which expertly combines everything that’s come before it into a gripping victory lap that ably demonstrates not just Wheelbarrel’s arsenal but their identity. One EP in and it’s clear that Wheelbarrel already have a strong sense of themselves and a purpose to match, hitting stratospheric heights while keeping their attention fixated on the world’s dust and dirt. Modest, spellbinding, and brilliant, Feast On Sand stands as one of the strongest debuts of 2018’s first half. Dive in and explore.

Listen to Feast On Sand below and get a copy here.

Surfer Rosie – EP 1 (EP Premiere)

The last time we heard from the Laura Daegling-led project Surfer Rosie, they’d just released “Worms“, an explosive whirlwind of frustration and engaging dynamics. Daegling had already more than proven to be a songwriter of worth via Sun’s Out Bummed Out, whose “Cut All My Hair” ranks as one of the finest songs of the past few years. Surfer Rosie provided an opportunity to showcase a much spikier side of Daegling’s arsenal and the hints the band’s been providing leading up to their first proper release — via the increasingly excellent Good Cheer Records label — have all honestly conveyed one simple truth: this EP’s a monster.

Each of the record’s four tracks comes brimming with the same kind of hard-won anxiety and relentlessness that informed “Worms”. “Nerves“, the EP’s opening track, has already been unveiled and sets the tone for a tense and embattled run of songs that don’t shy away from showing a spirited resilience, even as defeatism seeps through the cracks. From that opener onward, EP 1 often sounds like the band’s alternating between a chaotic, mid-sprint catharsis and the gasp-of-breath relief that accompanies the exit and provides a window back to a more stately composure.

“Gilly’s Dream” provides the latter of those two modes throughout and manages to stand out in a short collection full of uniformly strong efforts. By far the calmest track the EP has to offer, “Gilly’s Dream” conjures up a dream-like haze that’s hard to unravel and even harder to want to escape. Subdued, understated, and exuding a near-paradoxic confidence, the song’s an unlikely — and deeply unassuming — spellbinder. It’s also a near-necessity on an EP that has a penchant to wrings emotional responses out of its listeners at intense and unapologetic volumes.

The back half of EP 1 continues to offer up gems, with “Resting Place” and “Chugger” both easily defensible candidates for Surfer Rosie’s best song to date. Whether it’s the gorgeous 80-second intro to the closing track or the hushed extended outro section of “Resting Place”, the band continues to prove their mastery of dynamic composition. At their most muted, the songs find a deep well of strength that manages to make both the narratives and the compositions stick.

Occasionally, when the EPs at its most absorbing, it can feel like being flattened. Instead of terror, though, the feeling that it provokes is reassurance. It’s that same quiet redemption that defines EP 1 and makes Surfer Rosie a band deserving of a great amount of care. In a seemingly unending barrage of detachment that’s taken over various subgenres of punk, it’s refreshing to have a testament to sincerity and openness. At the end of the day, both EP 1 and Surfer Rosie feel like a ceaseless, unpredictable fire that better an exceedingly cold room. We should all consider ourselves lucky to have the opportunity to stare at the constantly shifting embers and be affected by the glow.

Hollowtapes – Tall (EP Premiere)

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Back in April, “Broken Car Radio” managed to raise a lot of eyebrows after its Stereogum premiere. The song was an enigmatic wonder, from an act that seemed poised for a breakthrough. After digging through the works of Francis Shannon, the person masterminding the Hollowtapes project, the reasons for that poise began to fall into place. Shannon’s been steadily improving as an artist for several years now, jumping from one project to the other with an impressive amount of grace and a very clear, ascending trajectory. “Broken Car Radio” was the culmination of Shannon’s work and has become — and will likely remain — Hollowtapes’ most formidable small-scale calling card.

The Tall EP, the release that houses the miraculous “Broken Car Radio”, is now just around the corner. In addition to that song’s awe-inspiring scope and masterful blend of bedroom pop, shoegaze, basement pop, and traces of noise. It’s in the latter element that Hollowtapes finds its most defining characteristic; many of these songs are built with beautiful, almost pastoral foundations but it isn’t until they’ve become warped by intentional damage that they start feeling singular. It’s a trait that Tall wields like a weapon, battering the purity that lies at the root of each of these four  songs until they sound comfortably lived-in and surprisingly warm.

“Strange City” finds that damage accelerating its scintillating guitar sections, which see the song transforming into a fire-breathing, riff-heavy monster while the ensuing song, the release’s easygoing title track, finds the damage embedded into its very heart, materializing in both the song’s compelling world-weary lyricism and its slow-building instrumentals. All of the release up to that point is so overwhelmingly inviting that by the time Tall‘s climactic, towering closer kicks up, the running time of the EP hasn’t been felt and there’s a very strong desire for more; everything is so expertly nuanced, produced, and paced that just four tracks winds up coming across as a tease, albeit a spectacular one.

It’s in the final track that Tall finds its most definitive notes and a decisive final note, allowing the EP to stand firmly as a complete entity. Everything falls into place so neatly in “Nerve” that its tempting to say Shannon has perfected the Hollowtapes formula. From the astonishing dynamic range to the song’s palpable sense of gritty, personal determination, it’s a work that instantaneously creates an indelible impression. Just as importantly, “Nerve” allows Tall to complete its very serious bid at being an unlikely classic, ending an awe-inspiring run of material that shouldn’t be ignored.

Bruised, gorgeous, and relentlessly its own, Tall is the kind of release that deserves a spot in any serious music collector’s library. With the EP, Shannon establishes the Hollowtapes project as a serious force and takes a swing at the fences. Fortunately for all of us, Tall connects emphatically and arcs high enough that one wonders if it’ll ever come back down. It’s an exhilarating new era for one of today’s most intriguing emergent acts, make an effort to keep up and the rewards promise to be breathtaking.

Listen to Tall below and pre-order the EP here.

Ladada – Hi Five (EP Premiere)

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While anyone that’s been following along with this site’s recent coverage can attest to 2016’s early strength, there have only been a small handful of releases to immediately jump out and make their mark. Ladada’s Hi Five EP is one of those releases. Easily one of the best EP’s I’ve had the fortune of receiving in 2016, I’m thrilled to be hosting its exclusive premiere here on Heartbreaking Bravery.

Nearly every hallmark of the kind of songs that are regularly featured on this site are present in Hi Five: a vicious marriage of basement pop and lo-fi punk, subtle psych flourishes, nuanced songwriting, a palpable sense of energy, and strong dynamic work. Hell, all of that’s evident in “New Psych”, the blistering lead-off track, alone. “New Psych” was Hi Five‘s pull track and, thankfully, was no misnomer. Everything that follows on Hi Five sees Ladada in full-blown demolition mode, ready to unleash a considerable amount of unchecked aggression at a moment’s notice without ever losing its balance.

A handful of intriguing influences permeate Hi Five and lend it a surprising amount of additional intrigue while ensuring its longevity by separating both the release and the band from their peers. Ladada have latched onto something relatively intangible with Hi Five that both advances their identity and increases their appeal. Every track boasts a casual confidence and self-assuredness that most acts operating within the confines of punk-inflected basement pop can only hope to reach. From the contained atmospherics of “Old Wave” to the sprightly, surf-indebted riffing that drives “Roll Back” to the nearly-instrumental “Tappa”, Ladada seems to be completely in control of every aspect of their music.

Song after song, hook after hook, Hi Five sees Ladada proving themselves to be a serious force. As a standalone EP, it’s a revitalizing piece of music. As part of the band’s discography, it’s undoubtedly positioned itself as a calling card for years to come. Everything about Hi Five works- and it works exceptionally well. Whether it’s the half-paranoid lyrics, the scintillating guitar work, or the rhythm section’s tendencies to veer off into near-tribal territory, Hi Five finds myriad ways to stake out its position as a standout release. One of 2016’s first truly great releases, Josiah Schlater’s project has hit its stride and waltzed away with a smile.

Listen to the exclusive stream of Hi Five below and order the double EP — it comes packaged with the band’s impressive self-titled EP  —  from Gold Robot Records here.