Heartbreaking Bravery

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Tag: Expert Alterations

Watch This: The Honorable Mentions of 2016’s First Quarter

It’s been quite some time since their was an installment of Watch This, Heartbreaking Bravery’s weekly (when on schedule) round-up of the finest work in the live video field. Coverage is generally split between individual performances and full sessions that are captured in places like basements and professional radio studios. Though there has yet to be a volume of Watch This in 2016, the information regarding the series was collected diligently while it remained quiet.

Due to the overwhelming bevvy of material that’s surfaced over the past three months, the below collection while simply be given via hyperlinks. There’s a lot of information to digest here and — due to the nature of press cycles when bands are on tour — several acts will be listed more than once. Like the recent round-ups, this will be literally impossible to watch in one sitting. The best way to view this material will be to simply bookmark this page and explore the content at random, all of which is definitely worthy of some investment.

More round-ups will follow focusing on the best of the best of the 2016 Watch This field of candidates. Until then, enjoy these examples of excellency in the live video format.

Deep Sea Diver, Lip Talk, Strange Attractor, Potty Mouth, Expert Alterations, Nathaniel Rateliff, Shearwater, Shade, Indian Askin, Mount Moriah, The Wild Reeds, Ty Segall & The Muggers, Kevin Morby, Margaret Glaspy, Seratones, Kakkmaddafakka, Dr. Dog, Valley Queen (x2), Bantam Lyons, Rob Sutherland, Cosmonaut, Alabama Shakes, Long Beard, I Am Oak, Albert Hammond Jr., Amber Arcades, Victoria Reed, Dilly Dally, Sunflower Bean (x2), Fauna Shade, SEGO, Lissie, Declan McKenna, Billie Marten, Adult
Mom

Matt Vasquez, Bird Courage, Nap Eyes, Fraternal Twin, Giant Peach, Lola Marsh, Minnoe, Civic, Kamasi Washington, John Rossiter, Bummed Out Still Glowing,
Little Hurricane, The Perennials, Timothy Bloom, Duncan Sheik, Dilly Dally, Oscar, Langhorne Slim, Rob Courtney, Hinds, Into It. Over It., Bombino, Frank Bell, Ancient Whales (x2), Ripper, Eerie Wanda, The Dazies, Vinyl Thief, Alright Panther (x2), Julia Holter, BRAEVES, Stone Cold Fox, Painted Zeros, The Hunna, Kate Davis, Molly Parden

Super Furry Animals, Dogbreth, Tommy Emmanuel, All Dogs, Rupert Angeleyes, Korey Dane, Comfy, Jeanne Added, The PinesAxel Flóvent, Naked Naps, Ezra Furman & The Boyfriends, Queen of Jeans, Darlene Shrugg, Sun Club (x2), Born Ruffians, Narc Twain, Pale Spectre, Canshaker Pi, No Parents, Idlewild, Woodpigeon, Rubblebucket, WEEED
Homme, Stumpf, J Fernandez, She-Devils, Emilie & Ogden, Fufanu, Most Selfless Cheerleader, Lael Naele, Pinegrove, Keenan O’Meara, Parquet Courts, Avantist, Low Culture

Chris Bathgate, Bombay, Julia Holter, Young Jesus, Heartless Bastards, Wussy, Futurebirds, Ben Folds, Bye Beneco, Posse, E.M.I.L., Battleme, Chill Moody, Mass Gothic, Escondido (x2Feral Moan, Savages, Sharon Jones & The Dap-Kings, Help the Doctor, lowercase roses, Leyya, Hinds, M. Ward, LIGHTS, The Pony (x2), Armani White, Forth WanderersOiseaux-Tempête (ft. G.W. Sok and Gareth Davis), Sonya Kitchell, Chris Bathgate, Emily Mure, Emily Wells, Torii, SWMRS, IAN, Dot.s, Chilly Gonzales, The Flips

Lanterns on the Lake, The Wombats, Rationale, Zula, Marc Scibilia, This Is The Kit, Looming, Bayonne, Crater, The Entrepreneurs, O, Sleep Storm, T. Hardy Morris, SkyBlew, John Coffey, Basia Bulat, Violent Femmes, Jeremy Messersmith, Nicki Bluhm and The Gramblers, Trixie Whitley, Aubrie Sellers, The Bottle Rockets, Max Meser, Tall Heights, Chilly Gonzales & Kiaserr Quartet

 

Midnight Reruns – Force of Nurture (Album Review, Stream)

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Formatted in the same pattern as the last post due to the time constraints that CMJ prompted, the full streams collected in the interim from regularly scheduled coverage are listed at the very bottom of this post. It’s a decision that also allows the sole focus to be placed on Midnight Reruns‘ incredible sophomore effort, Force of Nurture. It’s worth noting that this is a band I’ve had the privilege of tracking since around the time of their first EP‘s release, which precedes this site’s existence, and they were one of the bands I created Heartbreaking Bravery to celebrate (they’ll always have the distinction of being the first band ever to appear on Watch This, which has now run for 100 segments).

During that time, I’ve been fortunate enough to catch a number of the band’s explosive live shows, which have– with good reason– mostly veered towards the material on Force of Nurture. The band put together a nice pre-release run for the album, including a very strong EP and the release of two of 2015’s best songs in “There’s An Animal Upstairs” and “Canadian Summer“. As good as all of those items were, they’d fail to suggest the extent of Force of Nurture‘s sheer weight, even if they were packaged together.

In a statement issued to Substream, who hosted the record’s premiere, guitarist/vocalist Graham Hunt spoke of the loss of a close personal friend, an event that reverberates throughout the record with a staggering force. It’s most noticeably present in the record’s connecting thematic elements; uncertainty, regret, struggle, and loss. Even Force of Nurture‘s most ostensibly positive moments come with the caveat of being opaque enough to suggest there could be a tremendously dark underlying subtext.

Aside from the record’s earned weariness, the compositions far exceed what the band accomplished on their extremely impressive self-titled debut, which is no mean feat. A very palpable debt to The Replacements is heavily reinforced by Force of Nurture‘s credits, which list Tommy Stinson (one of the group’s earliest supporters) as the record’s producer. While there are still aspects of the Thin Lizzy twin-lead dynamic that were so often cited in regards to their earlier work, the band leans more heavily on their Big Star influence this time around to exhilarating effect.

Hunt, as hinted at above, turns in a jaw-dropping lyric sheet that expertly bridges the record’s muted optimism with its struggles in solipism. Everything, down to our own most microbiological functions, is put on trial; no answers are granted and the questions that are posed cut deep. Debauchery runs rampant but the band never lets its determination flag, committing to “making people laugh” even in their bleakest moments.

As relentlessly dark as this is all sounding, the band still finds a way to present themselves through fiery guitar work, sun-soaked melodies, and propulsive rhythm section work that lends the proceedings the kind of vibrancy that renders Force of Nurture an addictive listen. It’s mid-section run, in particular, somehow manages to pull off a relative weightlessness in the face of its tragic, bruised lyricism. Whether its something like the strained relationship at the crux of “Where’s Ace?” or the dreamlike self-aggrandizement of “Sky Blue Water” that ends in a tragicomic defeat, there’s a very peculiar bite to the record that makes it feel deeply personal and unflinchingly vital.

By the time the band’s exhausted their arsenal of incredibly effective hooks (the only 2015 records I can think of that have approached being even remotely close to this successful in that sense are Sweet John Bloom’s Weird Prayer and Dogs On Acid’s self-titled), they’ve run an exhaustive gamut of hard-earned lessons and navigated the journey with a wary resiliency. As they well know, and devastatingly note on “Great Southern Rail”, the record’s sprawling eight minute closer, sometimes all it takes is just one gunshot.

As a personal exercise, Force of Nurture feels therapeutic in a way that seemed to be crushingly necessary. As a standalone full-length, it’s essential. Easily one of 2015’s most invigorating, affirming, and incendiary records, Force of Nurture aim goes far beyond most band’s goals and they hit their mark with a memorable emphasis. So, as things get difficult, depression lingers, houses burn, friends are lost, and seasons vanish to a place beyond recovery, we now have a deeply empathetic record to help us through those times. For that, we collectively owe Midnight Reruns a debt of gratitude- and a place for Force of Nurture in our collections.

Listen to Force of Nurture below and order a copy from Dusty Medical here. Beneath the embed, explore a list of some of the finest records to find release over the past few weeks.

Trust Fund – Seems Unfair
Laura Stevenson – Cocksure
Petal – Shame
Jonathan Bree – A Little Night Music
Ex-Breathers – Past Tense
Modern Baseball – Holy Ghost
Slanted – Lost Forever: B-Sides From Forever
Sleep Kit – Standby Me
Postcode – The Dandelion Radio Session
Wendy Alembic – Collected Early Works
Sports – All of Something
Community Records Compilation Vol. 5
Witch Coast – Burnt Out By 3PM
Walter – Get Well Soon
The Love Coffin – Veranda
Spray Paint – Dopers
Julien Baker – Sprained Ankle
Expert Alterations – You Can’t Always Be Liked
Alien Boy – Never Getting Over It
Dyke Drama – Tender Resignation
Florist – Vacation
Stumpf – Barf Radio
Greys – Repulsion
Haybaby – Sleepy Kids
Dead Painters – Aluminum Gold

Midnight Reruns – There’s An Animal Upstairs (Stream)

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It’s been a long while since an individual song was featured on this site, a happenstance that’s left the floodgates open and the banks flooded. To that end, there’s a long list of those songs that will be included over the majority of the next few posts- all of those outpourings will, as always, will be accompanied by a featured song. This post’s headlined by a band that’s no stranger to this site but still relatively unknown to the listening world at large: Midnight Reruns.

The band’s sophomore full-length, following an extremely promising debut and a sophomore EP that expanded on that promise, was produced by Tommy Stinson and is due out in a few weeks on Dusty Medical (their first for the label). It’s a hard-charging burst of hook-heavy, punk-leaning rock n’ roll that sounds distinctly Midwest and the assault is led by the surging “There’s An Animal Upstairs”, which– nearly impossibly– also benefits from a genuine sense of breeziness.

Marked by the band’s characteristically formidable dual-guitar attack (something that’s earned them more than a few Thin Lizzy comparisons) and guitarist/vocalist Graham Hunt’s increasingly impressive lyrics, “There’s An Animal Upstairs” takes the already raised bar and kicks it up a few levels. Highlighting this ongoing evolution are the opening lines of a chorus section that floored me on first, second, and 40th listen: “I can feel my proteins burn/and I can feel my atoms/I can feel my stomach churn/and overflow with acid”- a section that hints at what the rest of the album has to offer.

Riding their usual crest of half-drunk Replacements heroics, the song also finds the Milwaukee quartet deepening their grasp on dynamics as well. Everything about “There’s An Animal Upstairs” clicks so well that it practically justifies the awed pre-release compliments its been picking up on its own power. There’s a certain sense of identity that accompanies the song, lending it a considerable amount of power and furthering its immediacy.

Every shift the song takes is maximized for its fullest impact, with each of those hairpin turns navigated with a precision that somehow compliments the songs giddy, shambolic aesthetic. It’s a song of conflicting components that continuously find surprising ways to reconcile and ensure that “There’s An Animal Upstairs” isn’t just great but genuinely memorable. An earworm with an incredible amount of substance, it’s also one of the best songs of the year and should prove more than a little helpful in ensuring Midnight Reruns their proper place on the map.

Listen to “There’s An Animal Upstairs” below, pre-order Force of Nurture from Dusty Medical here, and scan through a long list of some great recent songs beneath the embed.

Joanna Newsom – Leaving the City
Helvetia – Crumbs Like Saucers
Saul Williams – Horn of the Clock-Bike
Gun Outfit – Dream All Over
Jono McCleery – This Idea of Us
Primitive Parts – Troubles
Emilie Levienaise-Farrouch – Strelka
Seratones – Necromancer
Vision – Inneraction
Black Abba – Betting on Death
BREVE – Movement
Little Fevers – Make It Easy
Historian – Pulled Over
Ex-Breathers – Car
Expert Alterations – You Can’t Always Be Liked
Keeps – I Don’t Mind
Operator – Requirements
Lust For Youth – Better Looking Brother
Bethlehem Steel – 87s
NØMADS – Traumatophobia
Wavves – Pony
Frankie Cosmos – Sand
Prom Body – Ultimate Warrior
Billie Marten – Bird 
Hazel English – Fix
Cheatahs – Signs to Lorelei
Black Honey – Corrine
Joseph Giant – On the Run
Swings – Tiles
Kinsey – Youth
Woozy – Gilding the Lily
Casket Girls – Sixteen Forever
Mal Blum – Robert Frost
Palmas – I Want To Know (Your Love)
Let’s Say We Did – Sometimes Every Second Is A Dream
Go Deep – Palms
Spencer Radcliffe – Mermaid
Evil Wizardry – Ajax Takes Both
Tracks – Moonlight
Skinny Girl Diet – Silver Spoons
Black Lips – Freedom Fries
Decorations – Girls
Alex Chilltown – Cwtch
SULK – Black Infinity (Upside Down)
Air Waves (ft. Jana Hunter) – Thunder
Microwave – Thinking of you,
Long Beard – Dream
Softspot – Abalone
Dan Friel – Life (Pt. I)
Oberhofer – Sun Halo
Club 8 – Love Dies

Diet Cig – Dinner Date (Stream, Live Video)

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Following an unusual slow Tuesday, the mid-week mark kicked things back into high gear and offered up a bevvy of tantalizing releases in all of the three major categories. The full streams that were unveiled included Total Makeover’s spritely self-titled EP, Lost Film’s beautiful, low-key Imago, Donovan Wolfington’s level-elevating How To Treat The Ones You Love, and the exemplary The Last Dance, which is very likely the final release from the great Shady Hawkins. Music videos found strong representation via clips from Royal Headache, Shana Cleveland & The Sandcastles, Karen O, The Smith Street Band (ft. Lucy Wilson), and Marching Church. Single streams had more than a few genuine gems in a haul that saw new material from TenementExpert Alterations, Childbirth, Vision, and Mothers to life- as well as the second half of Diet Cig‘s forthcoming 7″.

A little over a month ago, the band unveiled career highlight “Sleep Talk“, which prompted a great deal of intrigue and excitement in regards to the duo’s future. As the first half of a two-song split, “Sleep Talk” seemed to open up limitless possibilities for the directions the band could take. “Dinner Date”, instead of aiming to push forward, feels content to circle back to the approach that dominated Over Easy, which has held strong as one of this year’s best EP’s. However, “Dinner Date” avoids redundancy by augmenting the band’s more direct methods with an air of resignation in place of the carefree attitude that dominated their first release.

While there’s still more than a few barbed winks scattered throughout “Dinner Date”, it’s easy to hear a steady maturation creeping into Diet Cig’s work; they’re playing with a bolstered confidence level and are proving they’re unafraid of tinkering with a winning formula in the process. Rounding out the relatively adventurous atmospherics of “Sleep Talk” with the startling immediacy of “Dinner Date” not only allows both tracks to emphasize their partner’s best qualities, it also leaves the band with another year-end contender for the 7″ category. Brash, bold, and oddly beautiful, it’s another strong step in an increasingly promising career.

Listen to “Dinner Date” below and pre-order the 7″ ahead of its September 18 release date from site favorites Father/Daughter (for the US) or another site favorite, Art Is Hard (for the UK). Underneath the embedded player, revisit a video of the band performing the song a few months ago at the Father/Daughter Northside showcase.

Sweet John Bloom – Weird Prayer (Album Review, Stream)

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As has been mentioned multiple times over, this site saw a recent shift from standard coverage to specialty coverage thanks to a move. In the few weeks that have passed in that time, a slew of exciting new releases made their way out into the world. One of the finest- and, frankly, most overlooked- was Sweet John Bloom’s fiery Weird Prayer. That record will be the focus of this piece, while a list of 50 excellent full streams to have recently appeared will be included beneath the embedded bandcamp player. Before immediately going there, though, let’s focus on the matter at hand: Sweet John Bloom’s full-length debut.

Formed out of the ashes of several other bands (including Four Eyes, who released one of the best 7″ records in recent memory with Towards the End of Cosmic Loneliness), Sweet John Bloom already had a fairly impressive pedigree out of the gate. It’s not surprising that the band managed to click as tightly as they have, especially considering their respective former bands had all established a familiarity by virtue of shared spaces (bills, scenes, etc.). Even with all of that taken into account, Weird Prayer‘s pure strength still manages to surpass expectations.

A collection of 15 dirtied up, punk-leaning basement pop songs, the record not only succeeds in effortlessly conveying the band’s identity but in coming off as a genuine record; something that’s meant to be heard in full. Naturally sequenced and expertly paced, it’s a considerable achievement for a first at-bat operating with this medium as a collective unit. Each section of Weird Prayer comes off as considered as it does impassioned, rendering the whole thing an invigorating shot of adrenaline. Vocal leads are traded with ease, there’s a killer melody buried in just about every passage, and the flawless production makes sure to include enough bursts of weirdness- like the absolutely stunning outro to “Night Thing”- to keep the whole thing zipping along at a startling clip.

For as willfully rough as Weird Prayer sounds, it’s also a record that’s partially defined by finesse. Deceptively elegant guitar figures play with the limits of restraint even as they’re pushed to the red. The rhythm section work always serves a purpose beyond just simply being a base and the lyricism, while occasionally buried with the vocals in the mix, is frequently poignant. Sweet John Bloom also manage to find as much success experimenting with their more gentle sensibilities as they do when they give in to their desire to be abrasive.

“Blood Moon” sees the band finding the perfect balance between the gentle/abrasive dichotomy and, in the context of the record, the song feels even livelier and massive than it did as a standalone single. It’s one of several songs on the record that go beyond anthemic to the realms of catharsis without ever succumbing to over-simplification. It’s part of why the record never loses an unfailing sense of urgency that goes well beyond most of the songs’ inherent immediacy, which sets up a tall order for Weird Prayer‘s final stretch.

In most cases where an album’s almost exclusively built on raucous barn-burners, the weight eventually builds and the load becomes unsustainable; there’s a reason why rollercoasters don’t extend for hours and why successful action films need exposition. Weird Prayer deals nicely with this by offering a gradual come-down by easing off the gas pedal and utilizing a tempo that creeps in a little under the established average for most of its closing numbers. Even then, Sweet John Bloom don’t cede their penchant for a confrontational aesthetic; the 1-2 punch of “Death; and Everything’s Paid For” and “Trust  Me” feels particularly vital and bristles with a world-conquering energy. Fittingly, “Aging In Place”- the first song to be shared from Weird Prayer– brings everything home in a finale that’s both familiar and intensely rousing; an exhilarating end-cap to one of the year’s finest records.

Pick up Weird Prayer from Tiny Engines here and listen to it by clicking play below. Underneath the bandcamp player, browse 50 other great recent full streams.

Radioactivity – Silent Kill
J Fernandez – Many Levels of Laughter
Fight Amp – Constantly Off
Yukon Blonde – On Blonde
Sissy – Gave Birth To A Mum
Expert Alterations – Expert Alterations
Spray Paint – Punters On A Barge
Ballroom – Ballroom
Bad Boys – Demo
Year of Glad – Year of Glad
Little Children – Travelling Through Darkness
The Fur Coats – Short-Brain
Magic Potion – Melt
Oscar – Beautiful Words
Sea Cycles – Ground & Air
Prinzhorn Dance School – Home Economics
Senpai – Hell In My Head b/w Mind Honey
Arm Candy – Arm Candy
Institue – Catharsis
Chris Weisman – Chaos Isn’t Single
Max Gowan – Big People
Falling Stacks – No Wives
Hints – No Regrets In Old English
No Joy – More Faithful
Pleistocene – Space Trap
Long Neck – Heights
No Friends – I’m Not Real
Marvelous Mark – Bite Me
HDSPNS – HDSPNS
KEN Mode – Success
Walleater – I/II
Sweatshop Boys – Always Polite, Never Happy
Wavves x Cloud Nothings – Wavves x Cloud Nothings
Tough Age – I Get The Feeling Central
Sea of Bees – Build A Boat To The Sun
C H R I S T – T O W E R
Alden Penner – Canada In Space
Teen Daze – Morning World
Fell To Low – Low In The Dust
Palm – Ostrich Vacation
Bully – Feels Like
Bruise – demos.
The Armed – Untitled
Cold Cave – Full Cold Moon
Self Defense Family – Heaven Is Earth
Wild Pink – Good Life
Nicolas Jaar – Nymphs III
Creepoid – Cemetery Highrise Slum
Gnarwhal – Shinerboy
Lady Bones – Dying

Lady Bones – Botch (Stream)

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Lady Bones have had this site’s attention ever since sending over a copy of their split with Horsehands last year, and while that release presented Lady Bones as a band with enormous potential, it still would have been hard to predict the direction they take for their latest single, “Botch”. Before diving into their bold stylistic revision, there’s quite a bit of material to catch up on that came out this week. Both this post and the ensuing post will have a handful of songs and full streams that will be featured and, as ever, all of them will be worth hearing. For the sake of time, they’ll all be listed with no other context given than that they’re exceptional pieces of art that deserve attention. Full streams: Toner’s self-titled, Needle Exchange’s Is This My Program?, Really Big Pinecone’s Embrace the Boss, Vexx’s Give and Take, The Barbazons’ Avec Plaisir, Nicolas Jaar’s Nymphs II, Diamond Youth’s Nothing Matters, Liza Anne’s Two, and Young Jesus’ Grow/Decompose (which will likely be making a few more appearances on here as time drags on). Songs: Sorority Noise’s “Art School Wannabe“, Expert Alterations’ “Midnight Letters“, Deaf Wish’s “Eyes Closed“, Anna B Savage’s “III“, Bad Meds’ “Hoax Apocalypse“, Vundabar’s “Chop“, and Ratboys’ “Tixis“. Seek all of them out; they’re linked here for a reason. “Botch” is also the featured song for a reason: it’s a monumental step forward for one of today’s more compelling bands.

Eschewing any semblance of sunnier sensibilities to take a plunge into a realm that sees them shoulder to shoulder with Kal Marks and Pile at their darkest, Lady Bones seem to have tapped into something that many bands have attempted (and failed) to capture. Embracing bleak, Gothic-tinged post-punk to an unprecedented degree, Lady Bones sound completely rejuvenated. It takes them less than sixty seconds to establish this sea change before exploding out into an impassioned furor. For three and half minutes the band provides a masterclass in refined dynamics (with an emphasis on tension) and engage in a total rebirth. There’s an unbridled passion that runs deep in “Botch” that seems set to tie over to the band’s upcoming full-length, the provocatively titled Dying. As a standalone single, “Botch” has enough punch to brand the name Lady Bones into the memory of just about anyone who crosses its path- but where the mystery kicks in is how it fits into the larger puzzle. If all of Dying can sustain this level of grim determination and near-feral energy, then Lady Bones may have a bona fide album of the year contender on their hands. With a battering ram of a track like “Botch”, it’s only a matter of time before they start turning some heads.

Listen to “Botch” below and pre-order Dying ahead of its June 3o release date from Midnight Werewolf here.