Heartbreaking Bravery

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Tag: Exploding in Sound

The Best Records of November 2018

November had a lot of records competing for attention, covering the various different ends of the spectrum. This post is a look back at some of that month’s best offerings, which seems like a worthy venture even with a new year only a few days out. Whether they were compilations or collections of entirely new material, these are records worth hearing. From local artists to retrospectives from genre legends, there’s a lot to digest. As always, each and every one of these titles are titles worth owning. Dive in below.

1. Wooing – The Clouds

A band that’s making some noticeable moves over the back half of the year finally got a chance to truly show off and seized the opportunity with a stylish fervor. Wooing‘s The Clouds is one of the best post-punk-meets-basement-pop 7″ releases of the year. Both sides come laced with a sense of nervous tension that’s embedded into the band’s icy atmospheric sensibility. Quietly thrilling and uniquely enthralling, The Clouds marks a true arrival for a band that’s living up to their potential.

2. The Weasel, Marten Fisher – Real Deal Therapeutic Bullshit

Over the past decade, Colin Bares has released an astonishing wealth of incredible songs through various projects. Good Grief, The Coral Riffs, Mr. Martin & The Sensitive Guys, The Cost of Living, and The Weasel, Marten Fisher have all earned coverage from this site, each tethered in some way to Bares’ unique songwriting sensibilities. Real Deal Therapeutic Bullshit is a compilation of tracks that have been uploaded to soundcloud over the past two years (with a few extra thrown in for good measure) and ably demonstrate Bares’ uncanny ability to acutely plumb the depths of what it is to be human. Whether it’s the melody, composition, lyrics, or vocal delivery, this is music that stays with anyone who has the fortune of listening and definitively stakes a case for Bares as one of the best songwriters operating today.

3. The Marked Men – On the Other Side

There’s a case to be made for The Marked Men as the golden standard for the basement pop genre and that case would only be strengthened by On the Other Side, a compilation of odds and ends that span the band’s career. Even the quartet’s outtakes would put most of the bands molded in their shape to shame. A raucous, jittery, adrenaline-fueled burst of energy, On the Other Side isn’t just a reminder of band’s strength but a statement; The Marked Men’s legacy isn’t going anywhere anytime soon.

4. Fog Lake – carousel

Shortly after releasing one of this year’s best records, Fog Lake returned with the carousel EP. A fascinating curio that flaunts an incredibly unexpected but entirely welcome ’50s pop influence. As is the case with the best Fog Lake works, carousel is playful, compelling, and haunting in equal measure. Where carousel becomes a singular work is in the commitment, presenting a complex vision that operates as if it’s an artifact that’s out of time. Transfixing and lovely, carousel puts a bow on a breakout year for a worthy artist.

5. Rick Rude – Verb For Dreaming

Rick Rude are a band that’s never received the recognition for their work that its strength warrants. Even with that being the case, the band’s giving that untapped audience every chance to latch on, having released a great record a year since 2016, each of them topping the last. Verb For Dreaming is the band’s new career high, an 11-song explosion of inventive, knotty basement punk. A tremendous effort from an incredible band.

6. Washer / Bethlehem Steel – Split

Exploding In Sound has been an inspiring source of consistency for many, many years and hasn’t showed any signs of wear. A split release between two of the roster’s finest acts, Washer and Bethlehem Steel only reinforces the label’s status. Washer‘s “Super Pop” kicks things off and rank’s among the duo’s best tracks, while Bethlehem Steel contributes a powerhouse from their end with “Fake Sweater”. Each band takes a turn covering each other, making this an indispensable capsule for any fan of the label or either band.

7. The Magic Lantern – To The Islands

Last year, “Holding Hands” provided one of the most breathtaking listening experiences of that time. Devastatingly tender and abundantly warm, the track served as an introduction-at-large to The Magic Lantern. “Holding Hands” acts as the album opener on the project’s newest record, the beautiful To The Islands. A spellbinding run through memorable melodies and narratives, To The Islands is the fullest realization of Jamie Doe’s artistic vision to date. A sublime work from start to finish, To The Islands is a record that’s easy to take in but impossible to shake.

8. Hutch Harris – Only Water

The Thermals announced their departure earlier this year but it only took the band’s guitarist/vocalist Hutch Harris a few months after the announcement to release a new record as a solo act. Only Water isn’t as brazen or as confrontational as any of The Thermals’ work but does allow Harris to explore from a more overtly introspective angle. Only Water operates at a slower tempo but Harris’ knack for intuitive narrative structures holds strong, making Only Water an essential record for anyone still heartbroken over the departure of Harris’ old flagship act.

9. Ellis – The Fuzz

Ellis has making semi-frequent appearances in this site’s coverage leading up to The Fuzz and now that the record’s finally here, that attention feels justified. A confident, mesmeric presentation of wintry atmospherics, bruising, introspective narratives, and startling dynamic, The Fuzz posits Ellis as a major voice. From dream-pop-tinted opener “The Drain” onward, The Fuzz sees Ellis in a loosely experimental mode that leads to the songwriter’s most memorable work, frequently yielding moments of unassuming brilliance. The Fuzz is a bold statement from an artist that shouldn’t be overlooked.

Pile – Cup (Stream)

It’s been a while since anything went up on these pages and there are a lot of reasons behind yet another interim but, as ever, the work continues to be done behind the scenes. Five posts were scheduled to go up before that break and will be going live today. This is one of those posts.

Few bands have earned the type of reverence among its listeners and contemporaries as Pile. Intricate, winding, dynamic compositions have brought them unending admiration and made their discography staggeringly dense, which is something that Odds and Ends addresses. A record that compiles the band’s 7″ releases, compilation contribution, and other assorted castoffs, Odds and Ends serves as something of a career summation and testament.

“Cup” is the record’s lone new, unreleased original track and it’s as unwieldy, tense, and breathtakingly go-for-broke as anything in the band’s towering catalog. After what many see as the best release of the band’s storied DIY-centric career, “Cup” is another bracing reminder that Pile are still on an ascending trajectory, suggesting that they may never truly hit a genuine peak. Raucous, intelligent, and deceptively subtle, “Cup” is the exact brand of brilliance we’ve come to except from what several have breathlessly hailed as the best band in the world.

Listen to “Cup” below and pre-order Odds and Ends from Exploding In Sound here.

Big Ups – Two Parts Together (Album Review, Stream, Live Videos)

From the end of last week to the start of this one there was a smattering of outstanding records with many displaying the sheen of a genuine Album of the Year contender, a group that included new titles from Courtney Barnett, The Sidekicks, Colour Me WednesdayGRLWoodDeeper, Soccer Cousins, Macho Boys, Von K, and Feel Alright. Another one of those records came by way of what may wind up standing as Big Ups’ masterpiece, Two Parts Together.

Riding a string of acclaim for their previous few releases and their scintillating live show, Big Ups have managed to craft something masterful, challenging, and explosive, opting for more of a statement on their relentless pursuit of new highs instead of merely settling for a victory lap. This is as fearless and unhinged as the band has ever sounded, completely embracing their own distinct identity and molding it into something unexpected and deeply rewarding.

Every second of Two Parts Together feels thoughtful, even in the moments where it succumbs into chaos; there’s a calculation to Big Ups’ madness that keeps things from veering towards the unsustainable. Whether they’re indulging their most straightforward sensibilities (“Fear“, “PPP“), ambient interludes (“Tenmile”), verging into sections that betray a Rage Against The Machine influence (“Tell Them”), veer directly into avant garde breakdowns (“Trying To Love”), or delivering the most jaw-dropping song of their career (“Imaginary Dog Walker“), they’re delivering each moment with an astounding amount of conviction.

From wire to wire, Two Parts Together is Big Ups’ most complete and engaging work, a series of high points strung together and then defiantly tightroped. Easily one of the best records of the year, Two Parts Together also cements the band’s status as one of today’s more important bands. They’re on a streak that’s nearly unparalleled within the confines of their genre and they’re doing it in an extremely distinct way, delivering record after record that couldn’t possibly bear any other band’s name.

A new genre classic, Two Parts Together is the sound of a band whose confident that if they hurl themselves into the stratosphere, they’ll stick the landing. As much of a warning as a promise, Big Ups make no bones about this being their time. We should all count ourselves lucky that we’re around to watch, listen, and learn.

Listen to Two Parts Together below and pick it up from Exploding In Sound here. Beneath the record, watch the band rip through five tracks at a recent Madison, WI stop.

Ovlov – Spright (Stream)

From last Friday to the start of this week there were a handful of new songs that made an impact from artists like Emilie Levienaise-Farrouch, Luna Pines, Oh Sees, ahem, The Tamed West, Oldermost, Two People, Harrison Lipton, Samson, io & Titan, and a memorable music video from Dumb. There was also the long-anticipated return of Ovlov, following a string of reunion appearances after their last departure. “Spright”, the band’s first song following their four year near-absence, was worth the wait.

Steve Hartlett, Ovlov’s bandleader, found a way to refine some creative impulses with Stove (a band that walked away with this site’s pick for 2015’s Song of the Year) and has put that education to good use in “Spright”. A song that teems with the kind of melancholic frustration and open yearning that’s defined so much of Hartlett’s past body of work, “Spright” still manages to feel incredibly assured. Even considering the time away, Ovlov is a band that’s fully aware of its identity, and their grappling comes with a level of certainty.

Some things are big enough to force a reckoning and “Spright”, finds its narrative examining the implications of how we can challenge our own comfort by engaging more fearlessly with free will. Backed by an inspired swirl of guitars and a menacing rhythm section, “Spright” manages to erupt. As vicious as it is thoughtful, it’s the perfect way to welcome Ovlov back and stands as an extraordinarily promising first look at their upcoming TRU.

Listen to “Spright” below and pre-order TRU from Exploding In Sound here.

Big Ups – Imaginary Dog Walker (Stream, Live Video)

Over the course of last week, there were some great songs released by the likes of WussyTrü, Jordan Lovelis, Claire Morales, Laughed the Boy, R+R=Now, DIET, Escobar, Little Junior, Sonny Elliot, Two Meters, Dizzy, Raleigh, Wild Pink, Optiganally Yours, Avantist,  and Chris Farren. Big Ups joined in on the fun with their towering “Imaginary Dog Walker”, which has become a consistent highlight of their live shows and serves as the current high water mark for their formidable discography.

A band that’s continuously brimmed with an indistinguishable intensity from the outset, Big Ups’ attack has grown refined over the course of a handful of records. All of them are teeming with cathartic releases and bear evidence that their understanding of their own dynamics has deepened over the course of that run. It’s an understanding that hits a new apex with “Imaginary Dog Walker”, the band using silence and restraint like a weapon, holding the listener hostage and forcing them to really listen.

Brash, abrasive, and extremely disquieting, “Imaginary Dog Walker” is a perfect demonstration of the band’s growth and a fearless monument to their formidable talent. Opening with a small sampling of glitch-pop, “Imaginary Dog Walker” quickly segues into the kind of forward-thinking hardcore that enlivened the band’s past two records (both of which stand as tall now as they did on the day of their release). Soon enough, the band’s back to masterfully navigating a creeping tension, the music acting as a lit fuse of a bomb that always seems like its a second away from detonating.

When “Imaginary Dog Walker” does work itself up into its first genuine frenzy, it’s hard to tell if it’s the moment of release or just the song playing an effective trick. In an impressive feat, that moment manages to belong equally to both outcomes, ushering in both a cavalcade of high-wire frustrations that erupt and a false ending, quickly cutting back into the quieter tendencies of the song’s opening stretch. All the while, the narrative waxes poetic on life and destruction, playing into the unpredictably vicious swings of the music with a honed precision.

In its final minute, the song becomes a towering behemoth, “we walk the dogs” is screamed over and over becoming more of a mantra than a chorus. All the while, the guitar work — which remains some of the most inventive in the genre — and the rhythm section collide into a bludgeoning force, conjuring up a hypnotic storm. It’s dark, it’s eerie, and it’s masterful, it’s also one of the best songs to come out of 2018. Lend it as many listens as possible.

Listen to “Imaginary Dog Walker” (and watch a live video of the song) below and pre-order Two Parts Together from Exploding In Sound.

Two Inch Astronaut – Play To No One (Stream)

A week ago The Mountain Goats, Marcus Norberg and the Dissapointments, Single Mothers, ShitKid, Mountain Movers, Chemtrails, Matthew Sweet, Mankind, Nathan Oliver, The Golden Dregs, and Celebration all offered up fascinating new tracks. Two Inch Astronaut joined their ranks with the explosive “Play To No One”, one of the best individual efforts of what’s becoming an extremely formidable discography. Skewing closer to powerpop than virtually anything the band’s released so far, “Play To No One” reveals just how deep Two Inch Astronaut’s pop sensibilities run and provide a fascinating context for their older material.

All of the elements of post-punk, post-hardcore, and all of their other niche facets are still present but instead of being the focus they’ve been relegated to supporting roles, transforming “Play To No One” into something verging on cathartic. It’s both a release and a bold new direction from a restless act that’s not afraid of subverting expectations. One of their most unlikely, triumphant, and meticulously crafted songs, “Play To No One” winds up among the most impressive works of 2017’s first half. Let it play and hit repeat.

Listen to “Play To No One” below and pre-order Can You Please Not Help from Exploding In Sound here.

Shea Stadium: It’s Not Over Yet

While the Kickstarter drive to help secure Shea Stadium was wildly successful in terms of generating fiscal resources (nearly $100,000) for the beloved DIY Brooklyn venue, their fight’s only just beginning. The musical haven and cultural staple of Brooklyn’s landlords essentially refused the option of renewal to those running its operation, citing plans to convert the lower space into a nightclub as a reason for withholding the required signature to keep Shea Stadium alive at 20 Meadow St.

However, the Kickstarter campaign wasn’t the only thing funding the venue’s efforts of a greater revival. All of the people who had a hand in running Shea Stadium are resolved, now more than ever, to keep Shea Stadium going. The relocation costs provide a much steeper challenge than what would’ve been required to keep the venue alive on 20 Meadow St. and while the Kickstarter certainly helped, Exploding In Sound Records (who have maintained a very close relationship with the venue over the years) recently announced Exploding In Sound: Live at Shea Stadium.

Exploding In Sound: Live at Shea Stadium‘s a compilation of the best live cuts from the venue by the bands that have had a working relationship with the label and all of the proceeds will be directed towards the re-opening of Shea Stadium. To offer a glimpse of what’s on the tape, the label’s offered up a characteristically invigorating Pile performance, which sees the band tearing through “Baby Boy”. It’s a tantalizing preview of what’s destined to be one of the year’s most essential compilations.


In joining the communal outpouring of affection that’s swelled up around Shea Stadium, I’ve compiled all of the Heartbreaking Bravery videos that I personally shot at the venue over the summer of 2015, a near 50-video playlist which includes performances from the following: Attic Abasement, Charly Bliss, Diet Cig, Pupppy, Rivergazer, Clearance, Leapling, Lost Boy ?, Mumblr, Eskimeaux, Mitski, PWR BTTM, Model Train Wreck, Fern Mayo, Fruit & Flowers, Boytoy, & Sharkmuffin. It’s those kind of acts that inspired a loyal following that eventually became something greater: a legitimate community that’s ready to rally behind what’s developed into one of New York’s most important — and necessary — musical institutions. Buy that Exploding In Sound compilation here and revisit some highlights from the venue circa summer 2015 below.

Dirty Dishes – Lackluster (Music Video)

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In the opening days of this week, there has been a bounty of impressive streams from the likes of Hot Shorts, Clearance, Johanna Warren, No Nets, The Glazzies, Phyllis Ophelia, Vexx, Black Thumb, Scott & Charlene’s Wedding, No Age, Teenage Fanclub, Ulrika Spacek, Fond Han, Holy Sons, The Black Black, Wovenhand, Richard Edwards, Crying, Dan Edmonds, Orchin, Infinity Crush, Flock of Dimes, Sharon Van Etten, Delicate Steve, Computer Magic, Power Animal, Lowly, Miracle Sweepstakes, Lilac Daze, J&L Defer, John Travoltage, Smokey Brights, Elijah Ford, Brother Moses, Inner Oceans, and Slaughter Beach, Dog.

While all of those deserve all of the listens they’ll inevitably receive (and likely many more), this post’s featured spot falls to one of last year’s most intriguing breakout acts: Dirty Dishes. The project of Jenny Tuite, Dirty Dishes garnered a sizable amount of acclaim for the astonishing Guilty, a brooding record full of sharp-edged post-punk. More than a full year after its release, Guilty‘s retained a significant amount of bite, which winds up lending to the vitality of the recently released clip for “Lackluster”, one of the record’s many highlights.

“Lackluster” coaxes maximum impact out of a minimal setup. The majority of the video consists of psychedelic projection overlays that are intercut with footage of Tuite performing the song in front of that backdrop. In conjuring up an effectively eerie atmosphere — one that’s furthered by the decision to transition between straight-ahead shots and spliced-in close-up footage of the backdrop and what appear to be some outside sources — the clip manages to elevate the song (and vice versa).

Everything here, all of the subtle effects and edits, the song, the pacing, the dynamic approach of the structure itself, work in tandem to create something unforgettable and wholly hypnotic. It’s a masterclass in DIY artistry and a gripping reminder of Guilty‘s staggering power. Jump into the waters and get lost to the waves.

Watch “Lackluster” below and pick up Guilty here.

Krill – Krill (EP Review)

Krill II

Jay SomMilked, Pro Teens, The World’s Greatest, Chillemi, Mercy, Belgrado, and Son of Rams all recently had full streams that found their way out into the world but, while all of them were outstanding releases, none of them had the significant impact that accompanied Krill‘s posthumous self-titled EP.

Krill’s name has been a staple of this site for around the entirety of its run. The band’s work didn’t come into sharp focus for me (or many other that eventually treated the band like a religion) until I caught their live show, which left me wide-eyed and astounded. The band’s final full-length effort, A Distant Fist Unclenching, was both their finest work and the closest they’ve ever come to capturing the intangible magic present in their live shows.

Losing the band last year was an extremely tough blow and several A Year’s Worth of Memories contributors wrote about the band’s legacy and learning how to reconcile their loss. The other day, the band unexpectedly resurfaced with a glimmer of hope (one characteristically shrouded in self-doubt and misery) with one final release from beyond the grave.

Krill has a lofty title to live up to but it’s the only one that makes sense; it’s the encapsulation of all the eccentricities that made the band so fiercely and fervently adored by an intensely dedicated following. They made no attempts to hide the grotesque nature of their narratives, their uncompromising  approach to songwriting, or the total and complete lack of glamour in their presentation. For all of those reasons (and so many more), the East Coast community that birthed the band became remarkably protective of the trio, placing them on a pedestal that only a few bands have ever managed to near.

When the band was playing their final few shows (one of which I wrote about in detail here), they were playing the songs that would come to make up the astonishing Krill EP. “Meat”, a genuine standout, has the unique distinction of rekindling the fire that the band so effortlessly lit. It’s also one of the first tracks the band wrote to incorporate a baritone guitar and the end result of that decision is one of the band’s most inspired songs.

“Meat” sees the band achieving the full potential of the band, implementing exceptionally thoughtful instrumentation, startling dynamic turns, and brash, confrontational lyrics that directly address loneliness, shame, humiliation, and vulnerability in an arresting, honest fashion. Everyone in the band gives the song everything they’ve got and they wind up with a miniature, self-contained masterpiece and what’s easily not just one of the best tracks in their catalog but one of the best songs of 2016.

The rest of Krill sustains the tone set by “Meat” and transforms the EP into an essential release of the band’s sharpest material instead of a victory lap that coasts on past successes. Risks get taken, vocals crack, and the trio fearlessly embraces moments of uncertainty. All of it’s deeply compelling and a significant reminder of the band’s overwhelming value, which remains a sorely missed asset to the DIY music circuit.

Perhaps the best indicator of the band’s uncompromising vision arrives at the EP’s halfway point with the sprawling, winding “The Void”, an unblinking track that challenges and even encourages listeners to confront their failings and limitations. It’s a bold, provocative song that’s guided along by Krill’s masterful musicianship, genuine understanding, and (one of their most overlooked traits) a subtle dash of empathy driven by a commendably complete sense of humanity.

“Billy” closes the collection out and brings the saga of Krill to its official end with an insistence that Krill will never truly be dead. The values the band stood for, the records they left behind, what they accomplished in their time of existence, all of it will always have a rightful place both in their lives and in the lives of the people who gravitated into their orbit. Even as Krill ultimately falls into a trance and disintegrates into a wall of feedback, blown-out distortion, and white noise, the band’s legacy remains intact and their iconic status keeps growing, even after departing. So, it’s time to say, once more, with certainty and feeling: Krill forever.

Listen to Krill below and pick up a copy here. Watch a large portion of one of the band’s final sets beneath the bandcamp embed.