In the most recent edition of A Year’s Worth of Memories Pleistocene bandleader Katie Preston talked a great deal about camaraderie and fostering healthy relationships, especially through shared interest. Those values are all reflected in the band’s new BUBL-T-directed music video for “Your New Life”, Spear‘s excellent lead-off track. The clip turns the focus onto the world of roller derby, where physical toughness is brought out with feverish intensity.
In addition to that toughness, there’s a dedication to the sport’s virtues that turn the people who immerse themselves in that world from casual spectators to role players to near-obsessives. There’s an undeniable ferocity to the game that manifests itself in the players, who, in turn, support each other. Since it’s not the most visible sport, that kinship intensifies considerably.
All of the values that are clearly evident in the sport wind up being analogous to the ones that Pleistocene have preached over the course of their discography, whether it be the inherent power of sisterhood, the willingness to stay resilient, or the importance of camaraderie. “Your New Life” distills everything into an energetic, effective, honest, and oddly moving portrayal of one of the great fringe sports. It’s a powerful piece from a band that, like derby, a lot more people should grant investment.
Watch “Your New Life” below and pick up a copy of Spear from the band here.
Less than a week remains in 2017’s first quarter and the year’s already earned solid representation thanks to a slew of incredible releases. Below this paragraph are links to approximately 500 of the finest songs that the January-to-March period had to offer. A few of which are from widely renowned artists but the vast majority are from the artists who deserve more recognition than they receive.
Now, it’s practically impossible to imagine any one individual is going to sit down and listen to every single one of the songs here but that’s not exactly the purpose of these lists. This, as was the case with the others, is a capsule of a time period that offered up art that was (mostly) lost to the shuffle. It’s a representative account of what was happening behind-the-scenes while this site was in its extended hiatus.
Most importantly, it’s a way to recognize and honor the artists responsible for crafting pieces that both deserved and earned praise, even if it’s in a relatively minor form. This will likely be one of the longest lists of links to ever run on this site and it’s likely best to just click around until something strikes a chord. So, bookmark this page, dive in, and explore what the world’s produced over this first quarter and keep an eye on this site for a few short “best of” posts before Heartbreaking Bravery resumes its regular daily coverage. Enjoy.
A little over a week remains in 2017’s first quarter so it felt appropriate — especially considering the recent hiatus — to reflect on some of the best material to have been released over the course of these past three months. What started yesterday with the list of notable full streams will bleed into the following days. Today’s post shifts the focus to some of the most memorable music videos to have surfaced since the start of the year. All of the below videos piqued attention for one reason or the other, either on the film or music side, and deserve as many views as they can possibly receive. So dive in, click around, and explore. Good things await.
Heartbreaking Bravery recently went offline but all facets of the site are back to being fully operational. Apologies for any inconveniences. All posts that were slated to run during that brief hiatus will appear with this note.
As you may have noticed, every single entry into this year’s edition of A Year’s Worth of Memories (this one included) either ran or is running with the disclaimer up top. At the start of the year, Heartbreaking Bravery was effectively forced into a hiatus to work out technical complications that occurred due to what essentially amounted to a correspondence glitch. All sorts of things went haywire and reconnecting all the wires was a surprisingly difficult task. A number of things got lost in the shuffle.
For a brief time, I thought about ending the site permanently but reading back through the material that was still left on the table — as well as some of the material that was posted in the past — dissuaded me from calling it quits. These pieces needed to be published and it felt important, maybe even necessary, to continue this site.
While the timing may have rendered the 2016 installment of A Year’s Worth of Memories a little less timely than I would have liked, the pieces themselves largely transcended the time capsule-style trappings typically attributed to these types of works. Many touched on lessons that seemed timeless. All of them made me question what I’d eventually choose to write about it and how I’d present it whenever I did choose. The piece I wrote last year was outrageously long and I didn’t want to go through something that exhausting again.
Eventually, I decided the best route would be to combine some of the common traits laid out by the 2016 series: splitting the piece into four pieces, focusing on personal triumphs while making room for gnawing anxieties, visual interludes, and paying tribute to the people and events that are worth celebrating. All that and more can be read below.
SMALL FESTS & SHOWS
2016 was the year of small festivals; I’d always preferred them to the spectacle-laden retreats that seem to dominate the news cycles every year. Many of these small-scale events I’d been trying to see for years and 2016 just wound up being kind enough to allow me access to events like FRZN Fest, Wicker Park Fest, and Eaux Claires, among others. Unsurprisingly, each held its own share of memorable frustrations and scintillating highlights. In no particular moment, here are some of the standout moments.
Chicago was atypically warm for last year’s annual Music Frozen Dancing, which saw Muuy Biien, Meat Wave, The Spits, and the Black Lips playing outdoors to a packed crowd outside of the Empty Bottle. While all of the bands were good and the Black Lips, as they always do, managed to invoke the high school memories of discovering and participating in that genre of music, nothing could’ve topped Meat Wave unveiling “Glass Teeth” from what would eventually become their next record.
Ragged and sick, the band tore into the new material with the kind of excitement reserved for new material. It was a standout moment of a day that refused to end (my friend Josh and I wound up taking three different forms of public transit after the trains stopped running) after an off-the-books Heavy Times show wrapped in the early hours of the morning. It was a surreal moment and allowed for an extended view of Chicago at night. Exhausted, content, and desperate to get back to our sleeping quarters, it was a difficult night to forget.
Months later, I’d return for the unreasonably stacked Wicker Park Fest, excited to see a long list of friends and more than a few bands that had been on my bucket list. The weather had different plans. Not only did getting turned around on the way to the fest’s first day wind up forcing me to walk a few extra miles before being saved by a generous taxi driver who offered me a free ride after the first rain of the weekend started descending, more than half of the bands I’d intended to see got cancelled because of storms on both days.
Nearly as soon as I got through the gates, I was already rushing to take shelter with a bunch of other festivalgoers who had effectively sequestered themselves in Reckless Records, which would eventually lose power and offer up a faint glow with candles set up in various parts of the store People browsed records, reading materials, and gathered by the wind to watch the storm lift tents out of the ground and send them ricocheting down Paulina St. There was an odd magic to it all.
There were bright musical spots in the midst of all of that chaos, though, including an unbelievably explosive Jeff Rosenstock set that saw the songwriter leaping over the barricade gap, guitar still attached, to crowdsurf at the end of an abbreviated set. The whirlwind nature of Rosenstock’s performance, which came after the storm delays and restrictions were lifted, felt like an appropriate maelstrom of energy; a whirlwind performance driven by some unknowable force.
Five or six songs in length, it’d wind up being the highlight of the festival. Somewhere nearby, one of the trains on the blue line wound up getting blown off the rails by the intense winds and caused festival organizers to proceed with extra caution on the second day, which was hit with an even worse run of weather.
I spent much of that day with Sasha Geffen — the fist young music journalist I can remember truly admiring — who was with me when I was forming the initial idea for A Year’s Worth of Memories and was a vital part of its finalization. We took in great, sunny sets from Bad Bad Hats and Diet Cig before the storm reappeared and spent a lot of time in a powerless Emporium Arcade. During that run — which forced cancellations of both Pile and PUP — I was also fortunate enough to meet A Year’s Worth of Memories contributor David Anthony.
The last memorable moment of that festival caught me paralyzed in between two stages, with Ought ripping into “More Than Any Other Day” on one side and Alvvay‘s launching into “Archie, Marry Me” on the other. I took in both, unable to choose between two of the best songs of the past ten years before rushing over to Ought, who had their industrial sensibilities enhanced by their backdrop, trains running along the blue line in the background while being cloaked in a calm, post-storm glow. It was a perfect way to cap a very chaotic festival.
Three more small festivals had their fair share of spectacular moments as well: Bon Iver debuting an entire record at Eaux Claires, sending chills down my spine for the entirety of “715 – CR∑∑KS” while crickets audibly chirped on the forest perimeter, their sound elevated by the reverential silence of a crowd of thousands. Tickle Torture playing shortly after that set and delivering a slew of the festival’s best moments, including a finale that saw bandleader Elliot Kozel (formerly of Sleeping in the Aviary) getting completely naked while screaming “MY LOVE!” at the top of his lungs. That day starting at the gates, listening to the sounds of an expanded Tenement lineup blowing away a festival crowd and spending that day in the presence of some of my favorite people, including A Year’s Worth of Memories contributors Nina Corcoran (who I wrote about for my piece last year) and Sam Clark (who has played in more than one band with me).
Turkey Fest’s final day had a stellar lineup boasting four great acts: Wood Chickens, Trampoline Team, The Hussy, and Nobunny, with the latter two delivering incredible sets full of ridiculous high-energy antics. FRZN Fest had more than a few moments that wound up being burned into my memory. None more frustrating than an infuriatingly chatty crowd refusing to give Julien Baker anything beyond a modicum of courtesy. None more exciting than a characteristically perfect Charly Bliss set that had me continuously grinning while singing along to songs that comprised the best EP of this current decade and will litter one of 2017’s best records.
As much as I love both Julien Baker and Charly Bliss, though, there was something about Torres‘ set that felt almost holy. Playing after a good Eternal Summers set and the best Palehound set I’ve seen to date, Torres dove headfirst into a set that alternately gave me chills, lifted my spirits, calmed me, and — almost inexplicably — at one point had me on the verge of tears. To top it all off, Torres’ goosebump-inducing one-song encore wound up being tantamount to a religious experience that included a lovely moment between bandleader Mackenzie Scott and my friend Justin. I was fortunate enough to capture that moment in full and revisit it frequently.
For individual shows, there were a number of great outings that were peppered with heartening moments lingering around the peripheries of the main event. Walking into the High Noon Saloon to be greeted with an onslaught of hugs from my friends in Yowler, Eskimeaux, and Frankie Cosmos, only to be whisked away for a coffee reprieve in a nearby shop by Gabby, Greta, and A Year’s Worth of Memories contributor Athylia Paremski, before circling back to a powerhouse show. Charly Bliss and PUP combining for what was, bar none, the most intense show I’ve ever experienced (at one point I was nearly choked out by a girl clutching the neckline of my shirt to keep herself upright in the swirling sea of chaos behind me).
As meaningful as both of those shows were, though, it would have been impossible for anyone to top an event that occurred early on in December: the official reunion of Good Grief, a band that meant an extraordinary amount to me that was nearly gone forever, taking place in Guu’s, the tavern that’s acted as a refuge for me during my various stints in my home town. People from the shows that dominated my fondest Stevens Point memories from that run all flooded in from various parts of the upper Midwest to see this take place and everyone lost their voices screaming along. Making things even sweeter: an opening set from Heavy Looks, led in part by my friend Rosalind Greiert, watching her hit a stride as both a writer and performer, and feeling an irrepressible rush of a million good feelings as I watched her come into her own in real time.
To see something like that happening (both the Heavy Looks set and the Good Grief set), surrounded by friends so close they’re considered family, engaging in something meaningful is an exhilarating feeling and a lot of people who were present are likely still feeling some of those feelings reverberations. Good Grief weren’t exactly a household name before their dissolution but they were — and remain — one of the best bands I’ve ever had the pleasure of seeing. Get caught up by watching the videos from that reunion set right here:
In 2016, I had the good fortune of playing the most shows in any given year that I probably ever have in my life. In addition to finishing writing a (forthcoming) solo record, I was able to play in three different bands with people I respect, admire, and care for deeply.
The band I played with the least was the band that I’d played with the most in 2015, A Blue Harbor. Geographic complications have essentially forced us into a hiatus by the middle of the year but we were still able to play a few shows in support of the full-length we’d recorded in Minneapolis in 2015, including a local show for a pop-up art gallery for an arts collective that made me feel a surge of hope for our small town. As unlikely as it seems at this point, something tells me the things this band has to offer have been far from exhausted (and our guitarist/vocalist, Matty, has been releasing a continuous string of excellent material on her own).
I accepted an invitation to join a new band called Doorstopper and have taken up residency behind the kit. Jarad Olson, the bassist for both Good Grief and Heavy Looks as well as an incredible songwriter in his own right, had teamed up with our friend Melissa Haack to allow her poetry a musical platform in an odd experiment that’s been paying the type of dividends that I’m legitimately not sure any of us had expected. It’s become a band whose mantra has remained — and with good reason — “let’s get weird.” It’s a band that has been given the tag “premenstrual post-punk” and it’s the type of band that takes a suggestion for a “doom-wop” song seriously. And it’s a band that hasn’t stopped getting better and more interesting with each successive practice.
While Doorstopper has been occupying itself in the shadows, building something interesting, I also found myself being re-integrated into a resurgent Holly & the Nice Lions, who played all over the state of Wisconsin in 2016, with a host of fascinating bands. Some of those bands (Bad Wig, Midnight Reruns) were made up of the people we’ve been close friends with for years. Some of those bands (Young Jesus, POPE, Mo Troper) constitute the best emerging bands America has to offer.
One of those bands (Bully) has earned international acclaim. One of those bands (The Muffs) continues to be rightfully revered as not only icons but living legends. Through all of those shows, the weird parties surrounding them, and everything else that the minutiae of being in band carries, we’ve grown closer as a unit and I’m proud to consider both of the other members as family. Whether we were being towed to a house show after blowing a tire or playing hard enough to generate our own blood, we’ve found ways to continuously elevate each other, keep each other in check, and look out for each other. Show after show, song after song, the band kept getting better and we — impossibly — kept enjoying each other’s company more. It’s hard to imagine a better situation.
For all of the memorable things I was able to do in both film and music throughout 2016, by the year’s end none of it felt as meaningful as it would have if I didn’t get to share it with my partner, Simone. Throughout the last quarter of the year, we went from being good friends to being inseparable, willfully colliding at nearly every turn. I learned to rediscover the depths of my love for discovering new music by viewing it through her eyes. I rediscovered the importance of engaging in active good. I made up my mind to constantly strive to better myself in productive ways.
A series of shared trips to the various corners of the state of Wisconsin led to some genuinely unforgettable moments, whether it was carving out new, unbeaten paths in gorgeous parks on beautiful days or getting swept up in the (typically far too humid) intensity of shows in basements, dive bars, or anywhere else we might find people playing instruments (or picking up instruments of our own to play each other Bishop Allensongs). I’ll steal her glasses, she’ll steal my camera. We’ll laugh, we’ll listen, we’ll watch, and we’ll keep moving forward.
The survival of Heartbreaking Bravery can, in many ways, be directly attributed to her involvement in my life. All of the frustrating, terrifying events that have happened over the course of the year’s last stretch seemed easier to weather with her at my side and she’s constantly given me at least one major reason to celebrate the future. I’m thankful, grateful, and unbelievably lucky.
A STEP FORWARD
By the end of 2016, Heartbreaking Bravery had gained additional purpose. In the face of one of the most anti-arts (and anti-press) administrations in America’s history, the need to fight back by any means necessary increased. Even before the election, the fact that the current president’s campaign had carried him so far was troublesome. With a milestone rapidly approaching for the site, that happening at the forefront of the nation’s political landscape (and, more directly, America’s landscape), and an unending desire to be productive and actively contribute to good causes, I chose to resolve all of my feelings into one massive project: A Step Forward.
At first, I only expected a handful of people to be interested in contributing to the project. More than half of the artists I reached out to responded immediately and gifted the compilation, designed to serve as Heartbreaking Bravery’s 1000th post, incredible material. In a matter of weeks, I had more than 50 songs kicking around in my inbox. A few months later, my finger was lingering above the publish button, set to release 100 songs from 100 artists that had, in some way or another, been involved with this site’s history. By that point, I’d enlisted the help of Jes Skolnik to locate worthy causes and had struck up a correspondence with the Chicag0-based Rape Victim Advocates. All of the money made from the pay-your-own pricetag of A Step Forward would be going towards that organization.
Looking through all of the songs, whether they were demos, early mixes, new songs, remixes, or old favorites, and all of the artists who had chosen to give me a part of their lives because they believed in the things I was doing and the causes I was supporting was an overwhelming feeling. A lot of people that have had near-death experiences have described the sensation of seeing their life flash before their eyes and, in that moment with my finger hovering over the button to release this compilation, it was hard not to take stock of everything that had happened in my life over the course of this site’s existence. It was a jarring feeling but one that filled me with hope and with love for the people who have supported this place, stuck by my side, and lent their voice to any of the various projects to have run on Heartbreaking Bravery.
I was on the verge of tears when I woke up to the flood of responses the compilation had elicited and how much it had generated for people who put the funds to good use. I’d stayed up for nearly 50 straight hours getting the preparations for the project in place. Cody Dyb, one of my closest friends, was kind enough to let me use his internet to upload the materials (the internet at my house is obscenely slow) and I’d collapsed into a deep sleep shortly after returning home. Phil McAndrew, one of my favorite artists working today (and a regular contributor to this series), contributed an original piece to the project that has become one of my most-treasured renderings.
In the weeks leading up to A Step Forward‘s released, I’d done an ink sketch of what would become Heartbreaking Bravery’s logo. Petite League’s Lorenzo Cook — another Syracuse-based artist whose band contributed an incredible song to the compilation — meticulously tightened and superimposed the logo onto the image for the album art and the banner that can be seen at the top of this segment. I’m unbelievably grateful for both of their contributions and am lucky to count them both as friends. I also have to give special mention, once more, to Fred Thomas.
For more than a few years, I’ve considered Thomas to be one of the best lyricists in music (2017’s Changer finds him attaining stratospheric highs). When I reached out to him about the project and he suggested a song tackling the weird inter-scene dynamics that occur around someone being outed as a sexual predator, I wasn’t just flattered, I was flattened. That the ensuing work would be one of his strangest — partially inspired by S U R V I V E’s outstanding Stranger Things score work and a nice (if unintentional) nod to that particular act’s name — felt appropriate. “What Happens When the Costumes Come Off” is a song that perfectly embodied the tumultuous events that led to the formation of A Step Forward in my mind and has resonated with me ever since my first, oddly disorienting listen. There’s fear present in that song, there’s an incessant questioning, there’s a feeling of damage, but — most importantly — there is a feeling of resilience.
It’s that final feeling, resilience, that I’ve chosen to carry into 2017. With what America’s currently facing, resilience will be necessary. I’ve already been inspired by my friends’ resilience and generosity and I’ve vowed to carry on that spirit as best as possible. I’ve vowed to both make more room for and to elevate the voices of the groups who have been unfairly othered due to location, socioeconomic standing, or — infuriatingly — appearance, religious beliefs, sexual orientation, or gender identity. Historically, the people that have followed this site have shared a similar mindset and I’m constantly humbled by their company. We’re all in this fight together and it’s important to listen to the fears, concerns, and desires of the people that have been denied a platform for the worst reasons all too frequently.
The shows and festivals made 2016, in turns, fascinating, frustrating, and genuinely exciting. The people I was fortunate enough to be playing some of those shows provided 2016 a level of comfort. My partner not only served as a constant source of inspiration but continuously reminded me of the good in the world and all of the reasons that hope should never be abandoned. A Step Forward taught me that I’ll never be alone in my belief that empathy, camaraderie, and compassion will always find a way to thrive and that now, more than ever, it’s important to carry on the work, the ideology, and the spirit of Heartbreaking Bravery. I will do my best to personally embody whatever legacy it may have at every single turn and I will always be honored by the company it’s allowed me to share. 2017 may seem bleak from the outset but I have every reason to find heart in the fight to ensure it’s better than what we expect.
Heartbreaking Bravery recently went offline but all facets of the site are back to being fully operational. Apologies for any inconveniences. All posts that were slated to run during that brief hiatus will appear with this note.
In the last edition of A Year’s Worth of Memories, Eric Slick turned in a beautiful piece recapping an eventful year while dealing with some tumultuous times. This time around the Lithuania bandleader and Dr. Dog drummer (as well as solo artist) repeats that formula and touches on the things that made 2016 memorable. From falling in love and moving to a new city to finishing two records and meeting some personal heroes, there’s a lot to peruse. All of it’s shot through with Slick’s endearing voice and offers up some personal insight into the life of one of today’s hardest working artists. Enjoy.
2016: A Year’s Worth Of Memories
2016, the year that Facebook exploded. downloaded a plug-in for Chrome that disabled my News Feed so I could start focusing on something positive. My 2016 was weird, not nearly as weird as 2015. Let’s get the worst of it over first: I contracted Lyme’s Disease from an unruly tick while running in the woods, went to the ER four different times for all of the medical anomalies related to Lyme, and narrowly escaped death in Nashville in my first major car accident (we survived, my Ford Focus didn’t).
Now that I’m done kvetching, let’s move on to my favorite moments of 2016.
Moving to a new city and falling in love
I moved to Richmond, Virginia in January. I didn’t tell anybody in Philadelphia until the summertime. I was tired of people from my hometown accusing me of being a certain way, so I decided to start fresh in a place that was completely unfamiliar to me. I moved because I fell in love with an amazing person, someone who is 1000 times the person I could ever hope to be. Selfless, hilarious, intelligent, talented, compassionate. I’m happy I moved. Philadelphia, I loved you, but you were bringing me down.
There’s a great community of musicians in Richmond and the rent is affordable. I can get with the small college town mentality. The coffee here is fucking incredible. That’s a prerequisite wherever I decide to lay my head.
Going to Europe with Dr. Dog
I never talk about Dr. Dog because I’m a jerk. They are the best people on the planet. I wish I could be as cool as the rest of the guys in the band, but I’m not. I’m a doofy nerd who likes Abstract Expressionism and Stravinsky.
We’ve always struggled to make a European tour happen but this year we got to do it twice. I love going over there. The food situations are super dank. Why haven’t we figured out how to make our truck stops filled with organic produce? We have the same resources! I think the majority of Americans like boring ass bland food.
I like the modesty of European crowds. They don’t clap when you play. They give you constructive criticism when you’re done. They’re not full of shit. It’s great.
Meeting Weird Al and Paul Simon in the same month
I know it’s shallow to say you like meeting celebrities. Famous people aren’t much different than regular people. They just occasionally give themselves the license to behave like jerks because of their assumed power. It’s sad. I still get all loopy and endorphin-y when I meet a person I really admire. It’s disgusting to watch me bloviate.
My birthday present this year will be hard to top – two tickets to see Paul Simon at the Ryman Auditorium. I was fortunate enough to meet him. We didn’t talk about music at all. He just talked about the several(!) times he’s ingested ayahuasca. For those who don’t know, Google it. My five minutes with Paul Simon… talking about the time he “saw the God particle”. Unreal, but I kept it cool.
I didn’t keep it cool for long. Later that month I got to see Weird Al after a lifetime of waiting. I’m friends with his drummer, John “Bermuda” Schwartz. After the show, I was introduced to His Weirdness. Meeting Weird Al was easily the most strange celebrity encounter I’ve ever had. I’m a megafan. I was starstruck. I choked on my words and probably made a babbling fool out of myself. There’s a picture of us together but I can’t bring myself to post it online. It’s too special.
Bermuda then took us out to Dave and Buster’s, regaled us with incredible tour stories, and then bought us sundaes. How did he know I love D&B? Check that one off of the bucket list.
Favorite live shows of 2016, in no particular order:
Caetano Veloso and Gilberto Gil in LA
Weird Al in Nashville
Paul Simon in Nashville
Shimmer and Ahleuchatistas in Philadelphia
Scott Clark 4tet in Richmond
Finishing my solo record and the new Lithuania record
My best friends convinced me to finish my solo record.
I did all the basic tracking during the last week of 2014 at Phil Elverum’s studio in Anacortes, WA. Last year sucked so bad that I lost all my momentum in finishing it… and I procrastinated. Procrastination is the death knell.
2016 was very therapeutic – I finally felt vulnerable again. The record practically wrapped itself in a little under a month. Ricardo Lagomasino and Jose Diaz Rohena (the engineers/producers) powered through my insecurities and delivered something I’m really proud of. We recorded the new Lithuania record almost immediately after that. We did it in four days. I’m excited for people to hear it. Time to write the next ones.
When I started Heartbreaking Bravery nearly three years ago, I had no intention of pursuing it as a legitimate venture. Now, 1,000 posts, 50,000+ links, and countless words later, the site’s come to be the type of platform I’ve always loved seeing in the world. I could attempt to wax poetic on the nature of personal discovery and growth that running this place has afforded me but Heartbreaking Bravery was never about a single person, it’s always functioned best as a communal entity.
The ideas that formed the basic structure of Heartbreaking Bravery all came from artists producing exceptional work with little recognition. Repeatedly watching that transaction occur proved too disheartening. Whether it was the earliest years of Tenement, the later years of Good Grief, or virtually the entire run of Sleeping in the Aviary, there were always ceaselessly talented artists surrounding me that only ever seemed to receive the slightest of nods.
Heartbreaking Bravery originally aimed — and continues to aim — to provide a more level playing field to emerging artists, without reducing their worth to financial opportunity. Heartbreaking Bravery continues to value the community and intimacy that informs the DIY music world. Heartbreaking Bravery will continue to use the platform it’s been granted to elevate the idea of greater equality.
It’s in that spirit that I’m honored to present A Step Forward, a two-volume compilation spanning 100 tracks that exclusively features artists who are connected to this site’s history. Whether that was through a long history of collaboration or something as small as a twitter follow, the impact was not lost or left unappreciated. There’s a heavy emphasis on artists residing in the cities and states Heartbreaking Bravery has called home (Stevens Point, WI and Brooklyn, NY) and a small selection of songs that were premiered on this site.
100% of the proceeds of A Step Forward will be going to Rape Victim Advocates, a non-profit Chicago-based organization that’s doing vital (and, sadly, necessary) work for survivors of sexual assault. Read more about the organization here. It’s my sincerest hope that every publication that has the privilege of visibility manages to find ways to use any of their influence for productive good and to affect positive change. Please consider donating what you can to a meaningful cause.
Finally, I wanted to express gratitude to all of the artists (and any of their teams) involved — including the inimitable Phil McAndrew, who turned in the extraordinary album art — and all of the people that have allowed, even willed, this site to the point it’s at today. It likely would have disappeared without that support and I owe those people a debt of gratitude that could never be truly repaid. A special thanks to Fred Thomas, whose “What Changes When The Costumes Come Off” was written with the specifics of A Step Forward in mind.
Enjoy the compilation, support independent art, and join me, this site, these artists, and this cause in taking A Step Forward.
A Step Forward: Vol. 1*
1. Vacation – Caked Joy Rag (Demo)
2. Mike Krol – Neighborhood Watch (Demo)
3. Dead Stars – So Strange (Demo)
4. Mo Troper – After the Movies (Demo)
5. Fern Mayo – The Sweets (Demo)
6. Hater – Like Hours (Demo)
7. Sharkmuffin – Only Mondays (Demo)
8. Fits – Ice Cream On A Nice Day (Demo)
9. Missy – Patience (Demo)
10. Kodakrome – Skeletons (Demo)
11. Slight – Run (Demo)
12. Long Neck – Goldfinch (Demo)
13. Phyllis Ophelia – Probably Not (Demo)
14. Lever – Cure (Demo)
15. Puppy Problems – Destroyer (Demo)
16. Battle Ave. – Black Jeans (Demo)
17. Yours Are The Only Ears – Alone Bear (Demo)
18. Attendant – Some Other Language (Demo)
19. MKSEARCH – Little Song (Demo)
20. Sulky Boy – Birches (Demo)
21. Heavy Looks – Those Guys (Demo)
22. darn it. – (again) pt. II
23. Phooey! – On an On
24. Arm Candy – Big Clunker
25. DTCV – Le Vampire
26. Clearance – The Queen of Eyes
27. Leggy – I’m Gonna Destroy That Boy
28. Big Air – Hit Me in the Mouth
29. Terry Malts – Look (At the Mess That We’re In)
30. Ubetcha – Musician
31. Two Inch Astonaut – Suckers Share
32. Whelpwisher – Bucket for the Sky
33. Petite League – Magic Johnson
34. The Meltaways (ft. Kate M) – Wrong Words
35. Calumet – Indian Summer
36. Mulligrub – Little Fist
37. Ben Seretan – Stay In Touch
38. Mumblr – Friendship Stew
39. Human People – Useless Things
40. Bethlehem Steel – Florida Two
41. Painted Zeros – Sweet Briar Rose
42. Spit – Paul Westerberg
43. Crusher – Running
44. Pupppy – Stand By Me
45. Aberdeen – Once You Fall In Love
46. Tica Douglas – Enough
47. Peaer – Multiverse
48. The Weasel, Marten Fisher – What Is Love
49. Young Jesus – Mirroring
50. Space Mountain – Earthrise
A Step Forward: Vol. II*
1. Bellows – Bank Checks
2. Cave Curse – Arcadia
3. Fred Thomas – What Changes When the Costumes Come Off
4. Apollo Vermouth – He Sees You, He Loves You
5. Green Dreams – Psychic Woes (Alternate Mix)
6. Lost Boy ? – Have You Seen My Brain (Space Cat Sessions)
7. Mikaela Davis – Pure Divine Love (Early Mix)
8. Nano Kino – Recovery (Early Mix)
9. Trophy Dad – Addison (Early Mix)
10. Alanna McArdle – Less Than (Early Mix)
11. VVHILE – Don’t Belong (Live)
12. Liam Betson – Mispronounced (Live)
13. BAG-DAD – Bruv (Live)
14. Slothrust – Keg Party (Live)
15. The Nudes – Nowhere to Be
16. Sat. Nite Duets – Cemetery Steve
17. Slanted – Fake Party
18. Patio – Gold
19. Greys – No Star
20. No Hoax – Date With Death
21. Dirty Dishes – Red Roulette
22. Yeesh – On Some Dirt
23. Pile – Cut From First Other Tape
24. Even Hand – Nightsmoke the Fuss
25. PURPLE 7 – Wise Up
26. Bad Wig – Machinehead
27. Mary Lynn – Space
28. Pleistocene – CMJ Compilation 1996
29. Color TV – Anybody’s Girl
30. Jacky Boy – Bad
31. Trust Fund – Would That Be An Adventure?
32. Good Grief – City People
33. Adir L.C. – Hangover
34. Milk Crimes – H8RZ
35. À La Mode – Total Doom
36. Inside Voices – Nomad: Begin
37. Doe – Corin
38. Kindling – Became
39. Bueno – Blown Out
40. Horse Teeth – Dark & Gloomy
41. Ron Gallo – Put the Kids to Bed
42. Sun’s Out Bummed Out – Cut All My Hair
43. Eric Slick – The Dirge
44. Fruit & Flowers – Turqoise
45. Shilpa Ray – Hymn
46. Jack – Sister System
47. Strange Ranger – Whatever You Say
48. Johanna Warren – A Bird in the Crocodile’s Mouth
49. Oceanator – Nowhere Nothing
50. Fresh Snow – Eat Me In St. Louis (Bryan W. Bray – Eaten by the Cetacean Mix)
Tracks 1-21: Demos
Tracks 22-50: New Songs
Tracks 1-4: New Songs (cont’d) Tracks 5-14: Alternate Mixes and Live Songs Tracks 15-49: Old Favorites Track 50: Remix
After turning some heads last year with “Again“, their contribution to a loaded 4-way split (Loose Tooth, Clique, and Mumblr rounded out the release), the quartet’s returned with a vengeance. “More” comes loaded with hooks, exhilarating moments, and genuine feeling. At every turn, the song provides something fascinating, from the tremolo picking that sets the tone of “More” to the rapid-fire hi-hat pattern to the earworm-ready bass line and guitar riff that kick the track into the fifth gear.
In less than three minutes, Ghost Gum offer a masterclass in dynamic structure, getting the most mileage possible out of a soaring chorus, a searing solo, and a compellingly muted verse that keeps everything grounded and breathes in some fractured humanity. Some aching backing vocals enhance the song’s half-haunted atmosphere to great effect and everything clicks in ways that both satisfy and induce genuine excitement.
When everything’s through, “More” stands as a song that not only lives up to the promise of its title but redefines that very same title as a winking understanding of how listeners should be feeling upon hearing the song’s final notes. Explosive without being bombastic and contemplative without dipping into tedium, “More” is a sharply crafted piece of work from a band that’s been continuously bettering themselves with each successive release. If the rest of their forthcoming release, The Past, The Future, Dwelling There Like Space, is anywhere near this good, it’ll be among the strongest releases of the year.
While all of those proved to be worthy titles, it’s Glueboy‘s sophomore full-length debut, Yikes, that earns this post’s featured spot. Following two promising releases, the band fully capitalizes on their potential and lets loose from the record’s onset with the fiery “Foot Soldier”. After a deceptive 40 second buildup, “Foot Soldier” takes off at full sprint and from that moment forward, Yikes never looks back.
Importantly — and largely thanks to the mixing and mastering team of Flagland‘s Nick Dooley and Big Ups‘ Amar Lal — this is the best Glueboy’s ever sounded on record. Following 2015’s impressive VideodramaEP, the band sounds revitalized, attacking every square inch of these songs with a newfound conviction. It’s a trait that’s evident from Yikes‘ opening run of songs and that sense of galvanization never wavers. Whether it’s guitarist/vocalist Jonathan Marty’s frantic, deeply-felt vocal work, bassist/vocalist Coby Chafets’ increasingly sharp lyric sets, or the additional sense of purpose that seems to have elevated Eli Sills’ drumming.
Everything clicks, congealing into a whirling dervish of a record that feels volatile and grounded simultaneously. Even when the band’s being boldly transparent in their influences (the vocal pattern and general construction of “Telescreen”, for example, is incredibly reminiscent of Titus Andronicus’ “Dimed Out“), there’s a genuine spark behind their playing that essentially erases any room for complaint. Helping matters along is that those moments are few and far between, allowing the rest of Yikes to firmly establish the band’s own singular identity.
Yikes also winds up benefiting from its members’ intrinsic musicality [disclosure: I lived with Chafets for half of 2015 and had several opportunities to join in jam sessions with all of the band’s members] and their comprehensive understanding of their chosen genre. Taken as a whole, the level of musicianship Marty, Chafets, and Sills imbue Yikes with is incredibly impressive, conjuring up levels of energy that oscillate but never come anywhere close to stagnancy.
Helping Yikes maintain its pace is the fact that only two of the songs eclipse the three minute mark, keeping things lively. Nearly every song in the collection comes in at a furious tempo, with the band seemingly intent on finding catharsis through destruction. Remarkably, the trio seems to actually achieve that goal at nearly every turn. Personal confessions, declarations, and half-buried desires litter Yikes‘ narrative landscape and breathe an additional level of life into the proceedings, coming to a climactic moment that serves as the record’s finale.
At the end of “Falling Down” everything finally threatens to go off the rails for good, splintering apart into near-chaos as the band lays seemingly everything on the line. Chafets (who trades vocal leads with Marty throughout the record) screams his larynx raw in the song’s closing passage, with the band around him erupting into a hardcore spree before cutting out abruptly. It’s an extraordinary ending to a record that should prove to be monumental to the band’s evolution as well as their reputation. Earnest, uncompromising, and endlessly fascinating, Yikes is more than just a much-needed jolt of pure basement pop adrenaline- it’s one of the year’s best surprises.
[Editor’s Note: In light of the tragic circumstances in Orlando, there was some debate over featuring a song with a title that could be construed negatively in the face of that event. However, now more than ever, it seems deeply necessary to endorse and promote acts of kindness, understanding, and empathy. It’s because of this song’s message and the good that can come from its purchase that it’s in today’s headlining spot.]
All of the above items amounted to an extraordinary run — especially for the full streams — for such an abbreviated time frame. One of the most heartening things to emerge during that stretch came courtesy of site favorites Lithuania, a band fronted by Dr. Dog drummer and A Year’s Worth of Memoriescontributor Eric Slick. “Kill The Thing You Love” was originally intended for the band’s latest record, 2015’s astounding Hardcore Friends, but was ultimately nixed for being too out of sync on a thematic level. Fortunately, the song wasn’t just relegated to an unheard archives litter and was recently released as a standalone single to benefit Women Against Abuse, a Philadelphia organization that aids women who are escaping or have survived domestic abuse.
“Kill The Thing You Love” itself is one of the band’s more gnarled, rough-hewn offerings. Relentlessly aggressive in its dynamic approach, the song actually gains a wealth of power from its decidedly direct aesthetics, elevating an oddly moving narrative. Slick delivers the most impassioned vocal delivery of his career and the song uses its lo-fi nature to amplify its own propulsion. In a little over three and a half minutes, the band embraces a chaotic sludge that underlines the confusion that frequently manifests and overpowers the decision-making in relationships that make room for — and frequently try to excuse instances of — domestic abuse. It’s a bold song that calls attention to a dark reality that goes ignored far too often.
Here’s the statement that Slick issued to Post-Trashfor the great premiere piece that accompanied the song:
The song “Kill The Thing You Love” was written in 2014. Its intended purpose was for the Hardcore Friends album, but we decided to leave it off because it didn’t fit the narrative. It’s also a complicated listen. However, the song is of great importance to me. It was written from the perspective of a young woman who runs away from her abysmal home life and starts fresh in a safe environment. It’s based on a story that a close friend told me about her incredibly difficult and abusive childhood. “Kill The Thing You Love” is indeed a jarring title, but its intent is more of a mantra of empowerment. Sometimes we have to let go of things (kill in the figurative sense) we love, especially when they’re hurting us. Abuse is still everywhere. A direct example is the inexcusable behavior of Seagreen Records. Seagreen was initially supposed to release this song until they came under fire for very serious sexual abuse charges. I was horrified. Luckily, Lame-O Records agreed to release this song. I’m relieved that we can benefit a great cause in the process.
Listen to “Kill The Thing You Love” below and get the track (and donate to a good cause) here.
The first time I saw Eric Slick, he was manning the kit for Dr. Dog on their Shame, Shametour and delivered a set that more than made up for just missing the cut-off at a sold-out LCD Soundsystem show. To date, that set remains one of my favorite memories and a benchmark for the realization that sometimes taking left turns winds up producing really memorable moments.
While Slick remains behind the kit for Dr. Dog, I’ve come to know him more for his work in his incendiary punk-tinged basement pop project, Lithuania (whose Hardcore Friends was one of the records from last year that I find myself coming back to the most). An enviably versatile musician and a genuine person, his impact on the music community is immeasurable.
For all those reasons and several more, I’m thrilled to be presenting a piece from Slick for A Year’s Worth of Memories that focuses in on touring, two acts that have been featured on this site numerous times, turning 28, and learning to come to terms with some aspects of his life via cognitive behavioral therapy. Read it below and always acknowledge the things that make you want to keep fighting.
As I write this, I’m currently suffering from a modicum of symptoms supposedly related to early Lyme’s Disease. If I make mistakes, it’s because my cognitive functions are limited. Forgive me!
My 28th Year, The Year Of the Sheep. It was supposed to be a year of calm, but if I could offer you a window into my 2015 psyche, you’d see a tangled mess of wires engulfed in flames. There were times when I wanted to jump out of my skin from repulsion and excitement, a dichotomy that would become a warm blanket for my brain-addled nightmare. You see, the 28th year is often the beginning of one’s Saturn return in astrology. I felt as if I were living on that distant planet.
However, I’m not here to wallow in my past sadnesses and failures. I believe that you can rise above mistakes like a kind of animatronic phoenix rising from the CGI ashes. Here’s a list of things that saved my soul in 2015.
Touring with Lithuania
I have a tendency to read a lot of self-help books, even though I don’t absorb much from them. Being on tour with my band Lithuania helped in gaining some sort of empirical life experience. Dominic Angelella and Ricardo Lagomasino (my bandmates) gave me non-judgmental advice and listened as I complained about everything. They also delivered some of the best performances I’ve ever witnessed as a fellow band member. On one particularly memorable night, I walked offstage at The Soda Bar in San Diego and began crying on a dumpster. Ricardo had empathy for me in this unraveled state, so we walked to a nearby windowless Pizza Hut and shared a gluey Personal Pan Pizza and more importantly, our feelings.
We released an album called Hardcore Friends on Lame-O Records and toured with Hop Along, mewithoutYou, and Beach Slang. The lyrics were hard to sing and some of the lines would become downright prophetic. I guess we all wept a lot on those tours. In fact, I could be well qualified to become a professor in Lachrymology (the study of crying), although I’d have to go back and listen to a lot of Tool albums. I’m forever grateful for Dom and Ricardo, and I know a lot of people who feel similarly.
Speaking of crying, have you ever seen Hop Along? I can compare it to a few other acts I’ve seen: Bjork, Charles Bradley, Neutral Milk Hotel, Stevie Wonder. There are those who take and those who give. Hop Along is not only a gift, it’s a treasure. They’ve always been unnecessarily kind to us. I hope we can be unnecessarily kind to them too. The lyric “None of this is gonna happen to me” still makes me feel an immense and indescribable yearning every time I hear it.
Hop Along for President, 2016.
Pile’s You’re Better Than This
During the darkest moments, I would put on the new Pilerecord and pretend to punch the ceiling of my car. I didn’t actually punch it because I didn’t want to hurt my hand. You understand. The track “Mr. Fish” would become an anthem, a song of disillusionment and disassociation. There were days when I could relate to the main character, Darryl Fish. He speaks of wrestling formless tenants beneath his bed sheets, and missing the feeling of the sun’s warmth on his arms. What i’m trying to say is, shit got dark. Pile helped me climb my way out of it. I would repeat the album title like a mantra.
You can pretend to be Zen all you want. I did. I spent the majority of 2011-2015 believing I had my life figured out, meditating regularly and over-preaching to people in my life that probably didn’t want to hear it. The reality is that nobody has anything figured out. Life is this incredible, amorphous blob that spews out chaos after chaos. It can be harrowing to realize this, but it can also be the beginning of personal freedom.
I started cognitive behavioral therapy in March 2015 and had to go face to face with a lot of issues that I wasn’t quite prepared to deal with. I still go to therapy whenever I can. My musician friend Chris Cohen once told me that, “Life doesn’t get easier, you just get better at dealing with it.” He told me this in 2013, but it resonates now more than ever. So here’s to 2016.