Heartbreaking Bravery

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Tag: EP stream

Crushing – Crushing (EP Review)

During the back half of last week, a small collection of great full streams surfaced from artists like Wooden Wand, Max Gowan, Us Weekly, Piss Test, Gnarwhal, Hour of the Time Majesty Twelve, and HOTKID. While all of those were compelling listens that deserve no shortage of time or attention, it was Crushing‘s self-titled EP that made an impression deep enough to secure this post’s featured slot.

The songs that teased Crushing may have piqued some interest but now that the EP’s finally arrived in full, it’s fair to say that it wildly exceeded expectations. From the onset of EP opener “Oi Jealousy”, the band delivers with a combined level of confidence, conviction, and articulation that’s hard for most seasoned bands to possess. Each one of these basement pop tracks is razor-sharp, utilizing the genre’s history to its advantage. Whether it’s the incorporation of both dream-pop and powerpop aesthetics on “Sleeping Bag” to the bedroom pop trappings on “Telling Lies” to the more straightforward punk styling of “Oi Jealousy” and “Emery Board”, the band runs the gamut of what’s come to shape basement pop.

Everything works, no matter how many angles the band pulls from or at, managing to congeal those influences into a coherent whole that’s significantly more powerful than its individual parts. By the time it’s all over and the smoke’s cleared, it’s hard not to want to go straight back to the beginning and put a match up to the powder keg for one more explosion. One of 2017’s most unexpected surprises, Crushing is an incredible work from a band that’s carved out a strong identity. Both the band and their self-titled effort should stand as examples of 2017’s finest.

Listen to Crushing below and pick it up here.

Pale Kids – Holy Mess (EP Review)

Classic rock n’ roll, basement pop, ’90s slacker punk, and bedroom pop are all genres that turn up frequently in this site’s featured selections, so it’d make sense for a record that seamlessly combines all of them into a cohesive whole would wind up being featured too. Enter: Pale Kids’ Holy Mess. A four track EP — the band’s third release since March 2016 — that doesn’t pull any punches and goes straight for the jugular with each swing.

Only one of these songs, “Prayer List”, exceeds two minutes in length. Even then, the song only exceeds the two-minute mark by five seconds. Not everyone needs a lot of time to make their point and Pale Kids make the most of the time they give themselves. All four of these songs land with maximum impact, making their velocity felt and their presence known each time any of them are cued up.

All of the songs deal, in one way or another, with personal failings, turning inward to examine microcosms of the darker things that are commonly felt but rarely publicly acknowledged. It’s in that examination that the band finds catharsis, opting to turn those thoughts into a defiant party and opening the doors to anyone that might be interested. By the time “St. James”, Holy Mess‘ final track and highlight (which offers up the faintest echoes of Jay Reatard‘s later work), winds to a close, it’s best to just give into the temptation of starting it over again from the top, before frantically telling a friend to get on board with their new favorite band.

Listen to Holy Mess below and pick it up here.

The Streams, Music Videos, and Full Streams of December’s First Half

As the year-end list slate of material approaches, this publication (and many others) have a tendency to get backed up. Being run by a single person puts Heartbreaking Bravery at a greater disadvantage in those terms. Other mitigating life factors have proven to be fairly significant in terms of time allotment. However, no matter how many things there wind up being to balance, keeping up with the latest releases never gets neglected. While there are a handful of tracks, music videos, and full streams that will be receiving (likely brief) individual features, there are many others that have recently emerged which deserve celebration. Those can all be accessed below, split into each respective category. Enjoy.

Streams

Rosebug, MainLand, Them Are Us Too, Doubting Thomas Cruise Control, Exam Season, Mrs. Magician, Ben Grigg, Hand Habits, Baked, Little Scream, Antonio Williams and Kerry McCoy, John Wesley Coleman, HeatNevāda Nevada, Active Bird Community, Rick Rude, The Feelies, Sam Skinner, Infinity Crush, Fog Lake, Low, Sister Helen, Ali Burress, Oliver Wilde, Holy Now, clipping. (ft. SICKNESS)Moon Duo, Joan of Arc, Serengeti + Sicker Man, Palberta, The Jesus and Mary Chain, Tino Drima, The Bushwick Hotel, DYVE, Six Organs of Admittance, orchid mantis, Peter Silberman, MeatbodiesTim Cohen, Broken Chairs, Sonya Kitchell, The Sadies (ft. Kurt Vile),  Owl Paws, The Modern Savage, Career Suicide, Thelma, Because, Loose Buttons, Del Paxton, Sinai Vessel, Saw Black, Thula Borah, Kohli Calhoun, and Gone Is Gone.

Music Videos

Fern Mayo, Los Bengala, Shame,  The Big Moon, Strand of Oaks, Matthew Squires, The Molochs, Mozes and the Firstborn, Square Peg Round Hole, The Lonely Biscuits, The Adventures of the Silver Spaceman, C Duncan, Dakota, Girl Ray, OhBoy!, Holy Fuck, SPORTS, The Wave Pictures, Serengeti + Sicker Man, New Fries, Winter, Ab-Soul, Boogarins, Heat, Lucidalabrador, Real Numbers, Rainbrother, Dizzyride, Joseph King and the Mad Crush, Auditorium, Joyce Manor, Hollow Everdaze, Greg Gaffin, Tesla BoyTrentemøller, Emily Reo, Monogold, Dark Tea, Hurray for the Riff Raff, Ravi Shavi, Pleistocene, Katie Gately, Anti Pony, Watsky, Aquaserge, and Preoccupations.

Full Streams

Stove, Slanted, Kissing Party, Alejandro Bento, Rebel Kind, The Velvet Ants, Nike, AD.UL.T, Tim Carr, Andrew Younker, Lucy and the Rats, CARE, Miss Chain & The Broken Heels, The Obsessives, Night Flowers, Baby Acid, Ocean Music, Year of Suns, BRUCH, Ian Wayne, and the second incredible Post-Trash compilation, aptly titled Post-Trash: Volume Two.

The Wisconaut – Dad (EP Review)

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EDITOR’S NOTE: This series of posts reflects back on some of the best material to be released over the past few weeks. Each post with this heading is a part of this series. After this series has concluded regular coverage will resume. 

One of the most effective ways to discover new artists is through the lens of other artists. Petite League‘s Lorenzo Cook was kind enough to provide such an introduction via a recommendation to The Wisconaut, a retro-leaning, punk-tinged basement pop project from a young Wisconsin-based musician. Dad, the project’s latest release, is a two-song EP that quickly demonstrates what makes the project so intriguing; an informed sense of musical history, a reserve of energy, and a commitment to the material, which frequently sounds like a slightly more polished take on the type of music that the Black Lips were peddling over their earliest releases.

Neither “Salt Shaker” or “Pipe Dream” exceed the two-minute mark but both songs come loaded with conviction, feeling, and an infectious lightness. Dipping into a ’50s doo-wop influence and expertly combining in with proto-punk aesthetics, The Wisconaut still manages to find a way to sound decidedly modern. The clever lyrics are well above par, the vocal melodies are earworms all on their own, and each of the songs pack enough power in their running times to start a whole host of parties. Fun, impressive, and surprisingly substantial, Dad‘s does more than enough to make sure that this won’t be the last time the name The Wisconaut is printed on these pages.

Listen to Dad below and keep an eye on this site for more updates on the project.

Fake Palms – Heavy Paranoia (EP Review)

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The first trio of days this week were comprised of a large handful of impressive full streams that came via Ghost Gum, Katie Ellen, Ganser, Sculpture Club, The Royal They, Joey Sprinkles, Idiot Genes, Tongues, Edgar Clinks, Jackson Boone, Kyle Morton, and Residuels. There was also an incredible compilation that came courtesy of a collaboration between Swell Tone and Z Tapes entitled Summer of Sad. While each of those releases deserves all of the investment they’ll undoubtedly receive and more, this post’s feature spot falls to the great Fake Palms and their outstanding forthcoming EP, Heavy Paranoia.

Back in 2015, Fake Palms grabbed another of this site’s feature spots for their dark, insistent “Sun Drips“. It’s astonishing how much the band’s grown in that time and Heavy Paranoia is concrete proof of their accelerated sense of artistry. From the onset, Heavy Paranoia ably demonstrates the band’s creative expanse with the towering “Collar Bone”. Riding the crest of a monstrous wave of hooks, sharp riffing, and a cold atmosphere that’s — somehow — conjured up by almost exclusively warm tones, “Collar Bone” immediately becomes distinctive and sets a ridiculously gripping precedent for the quartet of tracks to follow.

“Holiday” and “Frequencies” both hurtle along at a quick pace that still allows Fake Palms to establish a sense of expanse. Both tracks are perfect examples of the band’s acute awareness of dynamic structure, successfully playing several angles in one fell swoop. Whether it’s to create a sense of mild discord through committing to figures designed to emphasize ambient effect rather than melody or in shifting the tonal qualities of their tracks, every idea works beautifully. Importantly, the band also expertly navigates the pacing of Heavy Paranoia, lending it a feel of completion that few EP’s have managed to achieve.

By the time Heavy Paranoia‘s closing track hits, Fake Palms have already secured the EP the distinction of being the best release of their career. Fortunately, that last track, “Snowblink”, only solidifies that distinction. As characteristically spare and relentless as the preceding songs on this miniature post-punk masterpiece, “Snowblink” does eventually hit an enormous, sprawling moment that serves as the climactic final sequence of both the song and the EP. Those final three minutes are the most exhilarating of a release that’s never anything less than arresting and ensure that Heavy Paranoia‘s a release worth remembering.

Listen to Heavy Paranoia below and pre-order the EP here.

Strange Ranger – Sunbeams Through Your Head (EP Review)

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Over the past two days, there were a handful of exceptional new tracks from the likes of Purling Hiss, Kississippi, Kevin Morby, Pop & Obachan, benngrigg, Busman’s Holiday, Trails and Ways, Emilyn Brodsky, Sun AngleTouché Amoré, Crying, Suburban Living, Kim Gordon, Henry Jamison, Light Fantastic, Levitations, Softspot, Rick Barry, and Shana Falana. Additionally, there were outstanding music videos from Martha (who also found room for an amusing Radiator Hospital cameo), Sex Stains, The White Stripes, Adam Torres, Wolf People, Chromatics, The Kills, Matt Kivel, and Nøise. Rounding everything out were incredible full streams via Oh Boland, Low Culture, Sat. Nite Duets, Left & Right, Human People, LA Font, Bad Kids To The Front, Cheshires, and Toy Cars.

While more than a handful of those were considered for this post’s featured spot, Strange Ranger secured the position by virtue of releasing an EP that contains a few of the finest songs to have been released all year. One of those, the record’s opening and title track, earned a healthy amount of recent praise. “Sunbeams Through Your Head” set an impressive, melancholic tone for its namesake which was released in full earlier today.

Following the haunted title track, Sunbeams Through Your Head could have gone a number of directions but chose to expand on its thesis statement. The EP’s second track, “Life Would Be Cooler”, is by far its longest and one of its most gripping. “Life Would Be Cooler” also turns out to be surprisingly economical in its narrative, painting a portrait of an intense (and intensely damaged) longing in less than 60 words, closing with a devastating plea that drives a staggering amount of genuine feeling home.

It’s an opening salvo that packs an emotional wallop but Strange Ranger stays on course for the next barrage of tracks, remaining unapologetic for their overwhelmingly weary nature and casting an atmospheric pall in the process. In a strange way, it’s almost moving, listening to the band support their most downtrodden tendencies with intuitively empathetic moments in the instrumental composition. “Dolph”, “Whatever You Say”, and especially the gorgeous, instrumental “Thru Your Head” all contain breathtaking moments of a deeply felt compassion.

Everything that the EP works towards comes splintering apart, quite literally, in the manic closing track, “oh oh oh oh”. From the outset of the record’s final statement, the vocals are cracking to the point of breaking as a mournful organ line runs underneath the pained theatrics. Those are the song’s only two elements and they grow more pronounced as the narrative grows more hopeless. Eventually the narrative’s abandoned altogether, buckling underneath its own weight and disappearing into the ether, as the organ figure delivers a somber eulogy. It’s a challenging, mesmerizing way to close out an incredible EP and allows Sunbeams Through Your Head to linger long after it’s gone. It’s company worth keeping.

Listen to Sunbeams Through Your Head below and download it here.

Jack – Resting Places (EP Review)

JACK

Grief is a fearsome beast. At its worst, the emotion can become all-consuming and open up doors to spiteful resentments, severe depression, and bursts of misplaced anger. At its best, grief can lead to an expanded sense of empathy and a deeper understanding of the things that are legitimately important in life. More often than not, though, grief lingers in between that spectrum, forever at odds with its own qualities. All of those areas are explored in Jack’s jaw-dropping EP, Resting Places.

That’s precisely the reason why — despite absurdly strong showings from Vanity, Notches, Honey Bucket, Turtlenecked, Carl Sagan’s Skate Shoes, and Liam Betson —  the EP finds itself in this post’s featured position. Jack, a project spearheaded by Brittany Costa, came about by way of a difficult situation. That situation informs every millisecond of Resting Places, as Costa created the project as an outlet to confront the loss of a loved one.

Anyone that’s lucky enough to be familiar with Costa’s past work will undoubtedly find reason to be interested in Resting Places but will likely be caught off guard. This is, by some distance, the most vital work of Costa’s impressive career. Resting Places is an unflinchingly intimate, honest work and those qualities are all but necessitated by the circumstances leading up to its creation. What separates Resting Places is Costa’s overwhelming conviction. At every turn, each of the five tracks on the EP feel like they were born out of a fierce need to purge the thoughts they contain, at any cost.

Drawing from a variety of musical genres and utilizing the talents of Flagland‘s Nick Dooley and Bethlehem Steel’s Becca Ryskalczyk, Costa ably conjures up a maelstrom that becomes a mirror of Resting Places‘ bruised and bruising narrative. From the very opening line of the EP — “What the fuck did I do to make you turn away?” — there’s an aggressive tilt that never wavers, even in Resting Places‘ quietest moments.

A feedback swell precedes that opening salvo, establishing the discord that the EP draws on and rails against. For around 24 minutes, Costa veers in and out of folk, punk, Americana, and pop sensibilities, tethering everything into a genre-demolishing approach that thrives on a sense of unease. It’s a trait that permeates through all of Resting Places, as bleary-eyed and frantic as possible. All of those qualities come crashing to a head at climactic moments like the desperate affirmation of “I have fucking value” that closes out opener “Rightful Rage” or the repeated aversions to inflicting and experiencing suffering on the devastating “Harbor”.

Costa’s impressed as both a lyricist and a composer in the past but what she accomplishes on Resting Places doesn’t just top everything she’s done, it stands as some of the most impressive work that 2016 has yielded to date. Every track on the EP contains a handful of extraordinary moments, whether its in terms of dynamics, turns of phrases, or unbridled feeling. There’s a knockout punch lingering at every turn that’s ready to knock the listener down to Costa’s level. At no point over the course of its run does Resting Places halt its merciless swinging.

In Resting Places‘ penultimate track, “Sister System”, Costa addresses that pain directly, providing the EP with its most vulnerable moment. Even when Dooley’s intuitive drumming — one of Resting Places‘ finest additional assets — opens the song up a little, there’s an unwavering sense that Costa’s completely alone. The command to “pick up that dignity you threw across the floor” that brings the song to the end feels like less of a request and more of a reminder, again drawing the listener nearer to Costa’s position in a stunning, effective manner.

“The Look” brings the proceedings to a close in hair-raising fashion, giving Resting Places its severely battered, barely-beating heart. The song was the first to be released from Resting Places and managed to be breathtaking in a standalone capacity. Placed in the context of the EP, “The Look” becomes one of the most devastating songs to have emerged in recent memory. It’s a surging, climactic, tour-de-force of repressed feeling, unchecked frustration, and excessive exhaustion.

As Costa nearly screams “I tried to choke myself to stop the hurried breathing” in that final track, as the music surrounding the narrative threatens to go off the rails, one thing becomes abundantly clear: Resting Places isn’t just a necessary excursion for Costa to confront some lingering demos, it’s an artistic masterpiece. Eventually, it all leads up to what may be an inevitable summation. As “The Look” brings Resting Places to a close, Costa gets caught in a loop, repeating over and over “I am not afraid to die.”

It’s a powerful statement that holds even more weight measured against the rest of the EP. It’s a frightening moment of awareness and may even betray a dark desire but that final line also encapsulate how definitive of an exploration Resting Places is of personal grief. In that last line, the deceptively expansive breadth of grief is evident and can be opened up to many interpretations. A few of those interpretations may even prompt immediate revisits of the EP, providing the opportunity for re-contextualization.

As the music fades away into the ether,  Resting Places solidifies its place as one 2016’s most powerful releases for any format, leaving a mark that lasts. It’s a difficult EP that sparks an empathetic response that’s a little harrowing but likely nothing in comparison to what Costa went through while forming these songs. A special kind of generosity and bravery is required to put those feelings on display, so for that, we owe Costa a thanks, because Resting Places is just about as unforgettable as they come and, suitably, it makes it extraordinarily difficult to leave.

Listen to Resting Places below and grab a copy here.

Clearance – Owner/Operator (Stream)

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Since Friday, there have been notable streams from IAN SWEET, Fake Palms, American Wrestlers, Space Mountain, John K. Samson, Tanukichan, What Moon Things, Peace Be Still, Axis: Sova, Twist, The Veils, Quarterbacks, J&L Defer, Bon Iver, Cheshires, Black Thumb, CHUCK, Suntrodden, Makeout Point, Shapes In Calgary, Adam Torres, Dowsing, and Hiva Oa that have all appeared. On top of that, there were great music videos that came courtesy of Pleasure Leftists, Jake S-M, Breathe Panel, Emma Russack, Winter, Ka, and Pfarmers. Full streams that came via Bueno, Swimsuit Addition, Echo Courts, Big Bliss, The Channels, Cassels, BJ Barham, Dolfish, and Red Heat closed the haul of new material out in a memorable fashion.

All of those entries impressed on multiple levels but it was the latest offering from site favorites Clearance that earned this post’s featured position. “Owner/Operator” is the band’s second individual release — following the excellent “Are You Aware” — since their outstanding Rapid Rewards LP and sees the quartet continuing to find fascinating ways to balance a carefree atmosphere with urgent conviction. The song will be featured as part of their forthcoming Are You Aware 7″, which seems poised to stand as one 2016’s finest releases for that format.

A large part of those expectations can be accredited to the successes of “Owner/Operator”, a breezy and bristling three-and-a-half minute number that both refines and advances Clearance’s songwriting. From the structure to the dynamic nuances, there’s an uncommon liveliness that electrifies the proceedings, pushing a good song into the realms of greatness. Surprisingly memorable, weirdly powerful, and unashamedly casual, “Owner/Operator” is an unlikely slacker pop anthem for the basement punk crowd.

Listen to “Owner/Operator” below and pre-order Are You Aware from Tall Pat here.

Fern Mayo – Hex Signs (EP Review)

Fern Mayo VI

Full streams from Yours Are the Only Ears, Foozle, Izzy TrueThe Blue Mooners, Blesst Chest, Cool American, Heavy Drag, and Adam Remnant all found release over the past week and while all of them are worth multiple listens, it was Fern Mayo‘s new career highlight, Hex Signs, to grab this post’s featured spot.

Fern Mayo’s been in these pages quite a bit in the past, thanks to the happy forever EP, their solid live show, various members’ contributions to the A Year’s Worth of Memories series, and their sibling projects (Fits being a great recent example). However, everything always seems to tie back to Fern Mayo, who have been steadily improving as musicians and songwriters over the course of the past few years. Hex Signs, the trio’s latest effort, may only run three tracks but it hits with a staggering amount of force.

Kicking things off with “Pinesol”, the trio sounds reinvigorated, sharper and a lot more focused than they did only a year ago. Guitarist/vocalist and principal songwriter Katie Capri resumes the role of driving force and sets about creating enough momentum to transform into a red-hot wrecking ball, with Brian Orante’s drums and Nicholas Cummins’ bass urging her forward. It’s a reckless and occasionally euphoric track that ranks among the band’s finest work, allowing it to function as both a burst of searing adrenaline and a perfect introductory piece for the uninitiated.

“Pinesol” sets the tone for the two tracks to follow and neither feel out of place, continuing to propel Hex Signs forward with a near-manic sense of unchecked aggression. The EP’s longest track, “New Ketamine”, is perhaps the most representative of the band at large. A unified bridge between the band’s past and present work, the track navigates around several territories but never quite loses its sense of purpose, creating moments that touch on nearly every dynamic that’s been key to the band’s success in the process.

Closing Hex Signs out is “Moonshine Kingdom”, which has been a staple of the band’s live show for some time. Riding an insistent riff at a quick tempo, the song increases the EP’s velocity as it hurtles towards a massive climactic moment that contains just about enough energy to create a gravitational whirlwind. There are a small hosts of other miniature explosions to be found in that track that all lead up to those final exhilarating moments, giving the entire affair the feeling its stability could collapse at any second. It’s a thrilling finale to one of the most memorably vicious, off-kilter EP’s to have emerged from the basement pop (and basement punk) circuit this year. Cue the storm, ignore the tethers, and get carried away.

Listen to Hex Signs below and pick up a copy here. Watch an early live rendition of “Moonshine Kingdom” below the embedded bandcamp player.

don’t – forget it (EP Review)

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July’s continued to bring out quality full streams in full force and the last few days of this week were no exception, bringing about worthy titles from Pre Nup, Yeesh, and The Saxophones as well as a Disposable America mixtape that’s directing all of the proceeds it earns towards the Pulse Tragedy Community Fund. As always, all of those titles should be more fully explored than time here allows and stand as highly recommended listens. Joining them in that regard is this post’s intended feature, the outstanding debut release from don’t, the cheekily-titled forget it.

Both the pop-punk and bedroom pop genres have been at their absolute best when they’ve proven to be subversive, opting out of merely imitating their expected beats. forget it succeeds in bridging the two genres by virtue of that type of subversion and becomes an unlikely standout in the process. In four short tracks, don’t offer up a variety of familiar points and then sets about demolishing their construction.

Whether it’s the synth that erupts at the chorus of “ambiguous” that transports the song into unexpected territory after a standard pop-punk build or the intense, sharp left forget it takes for its closing ballad, “your head”, that unexpectedly turns over the vocal lead and dramatically altars the momentum of the EP before exploding into a sort of euphoria, the band refuses to cater to an easy or predictable route.

Throughout it all, forget it remains deeply compelling not only by the virtue of its choices but in large part to the purity of the music it offers. Nearly every track’s narrative is populated and defined by some type of longing and elevated by its instrumental explorations. There’s not a moment on forget it that feels anything less than overwhelmingly honest and it draws a considerable amount of power from its sincerity.

In approximately 11 minutes, don’t  go from being an unknown entity to one of 2016’s most exciting — and most promising — new acts. Don’t be surprised to see a quick succession of converts fiercely latching onto the band following this release or to hear their name come up in conversation a lot more readily. With a start this promising, it’s very easy to have a tremendous amount of hope for the future of music. Before that point hits, we should just be grateful to have been gifted such an incredible soundtrack for the ride.

Listen to forget it below and pick it up here.