Heartbreaking Bravery

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The Honeydips – No Shirt, No Shoes (Music Video)

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It’s almost disheartening to see this week wind to a close. Discounting the features, it’s offered up enough material to warrant hyperlinks to 29 streams, 12 music videos, and one radio session (so far- and that’s not counting the three streams that are set to be linked in this article). Consuming it all approached levels of what could be conceivably termed entertainment gluttony. If all of that wasn’t enough, the over-abundance of worthwhile material will be extending into tomorrow’s Watch This series- but that’s two steps too far. Pulling back a bit, it should be noted that one of this month’s most fascinating releases, Mannequin Pussy’s Gypsy Pervert, was somehow lost in the frantic day-to-day shuffling that occurs behind the scenes. That was a mistake and that record deserves to be listened to- a few times. Back to today: there was an EP that surfaced from Postcode which jangled as sweetly as any powerpop release this year and a strangely addicting full-length from O-Face called Taste. Even with all of that to consider, The Honeydips’ music video for “No Shirt, No Shoes” proved too tantalizing not to earn today’s future spot.

The Honeydips are an emerging Chicago band who released their self-titled EP via Known Pleasure earlier today. “No Shirt, No Shoes” was one of the songs from The Honeydips that best exemplified the EP’s strongest aspects- things that are further heightened by the low-key video. Gnarled guitars, forceful drumming, and a controlled energy help turn “No Shirt, No Shoes” into a warped piece of charging, reverb-heavy basement punk. All of that generally points to a DIY aesthetic, an ideal that’s enforced by the low-budget video. In the clip, there’s not much more than a skateboarding sequence, a dead party with some limp attempts at blowing bubbles out of pipes (which kicks off a short montage of various other items in the members’ mouths), and a genuinely great shot involving sparklers. All of it feels slightly damaged, which somehow ends up elevating the artistry- and coherency- of whatever weird magic’s on display here. It’s completely unexpected and definitely worth taking some time to admire. Watch it below and download The Honeydips here.

Bass Drum of Death – For Blood (Stream)

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Next month Bass Drum of Death will release Rip This (which was produced by Unknown Mortal Orchestra’s Jacob Portrait), their follow-up to last year’s scuzzy self-titled effort. “For Blood”, the most recent look at Rip This finds the band upping the ante, sounding confident and more powerful than ever. While the formula’s still very recognizably their own, they’ve managed to inject more immediacy and adrenaline into the most engaging aspects of their music; booming drums, wiry guitar riffs and catchy melodies delivered as brashly as possible. Throw in a few plinked-out piano notes, the most powerful chorus section the band’s ever produced, and a touch more conviction than usual and “For Blood” very easily becomes their career-best. If the rest of Rip This winds up sounding this good, it won’t be long before Bass Drum of Death starts popping up more in regular conversation.

Stream “For Blood” below and pre-order the record from Innovative Leisure ahead of its October 7 release.

Songs of Summer: 2014 (Mixtape)

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Another hundred posts in and this site’s still humming along. As tradition dictates, today is one of the only days that doesn’t get dedicated to the outstanding just-released content (though there was an incredible amount, which will be covered tomorrow)- and features a digital mixtape instead. There was a lot of talk over what the song of the summer was and no real general consensus in any type of forum. In the spirit of that surprisingly diverse conversation, the mixtape features the songs that resonated throughout this place most strongly during what proved to be an incredibly memorable summer (covering both NXNE and Pitchfork festivals among the many highlights). As the season approaches its end, it only felt right to shine a light on some of those songs one more time before the year draws to a close.

A few of these have been featured in previous playlists but that should only stand as a testament to their longevity. While a few weren’t even released in summer, they definitely struck a deeper chord as the surroundings finally caught up to the mood they inhabited. Every single one of them can be streamed below (a tracklist is also provided) and, being that this marks another hundred posts- and in the event anyone was curious in catching something they missed, hyperlinks to posts No. 200-299 are given beneath the tracklist. So, turn the volume all the way up and enjoy some great music while the warm weather’s still here.

Stream Songs of Summer: 2014 below and feel free to navigate through any of the listed hyperlinks.

1. Lost Boy ? – Hollywood
2. LVL UP – Soft Power
3. Radiator Hospital – Cut Your Bangs
4. The Coasts – I Just Wanna Be A Star
5. The Yolks – You Don’t Live Here No More
6. Tweens – Forever
7. The Sleepwalkers – My Best Was Never Good Enough
8. Bent Shapes – 86’d in ’03
9. The Freezing Hands – Good Morning Takeout
10. Happyness – Anything I Do Is All Right
11. Dead Stars – Summer Bummer
12. Joanna Gruesome – Jerome (Liar)
13. Perfect Pussy – Leash Called Love (Sugarcubes Cover)
14. Eugene Quell – Hell Presidente
15. Happy Diving – Weird Dream
16. Mean Creek – My Madeline
17. Cymbals Eat Guitars – Warning
18. Left & Right – Low Expectations
19. Mulligrub – Canadian Classic
20. Dude York – Believer
21. Cayetana – Scott Get the Van, I’m Moving
22. Lenguas Largas – Kawasaki Dream
23. Wyatt Blair – Girls!
24. Jawbreaker Reunion – Empire
25. Reigning Sound – Falling Rain

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HB200: NXNE 2014: A Listener’s Guide (Mixtape)
HB201: Sam Coffey & the Iron Lungs – Calgary Hill (Music Video)
HB202: Swearin’ at Memorial Union Terrace – 5/30/14 (Pictorial Review, Video)
HB203: Watch This: Vol. 27
HB204: Watch This: Vol. 28
HB205: Pretty Pretty – Leather Weather (Stream)
HB206: Haunted Heads – VV (Stream)
HB207: Marvelous Mark – Bite Me (Music Video)
HB208: Mean Creek – Anxiety Girl (Music Video)
HB209: Bob Mould – I Don’t Know You Anymore (Music Video)
HB210: Parquet Courts – Black and White (Music Video)
HB211: Greys – Use Your Delusion (Music Video)
HB212: Beverly – Honey Do (Music Video)
HB213: Jawbreaker Reunion – Lutheran Sisterhood Gun Club (Review)
HB214: Green Dreams – Rich Man Poor Man (Review)
HB215: Watch This: Vol. 29
HB216: Watch This: Vol. 30
HB217: La Sera – Fall in Place (Music Video)
HB218: Lemuria – Brilliant Dancer (Music Video)
HB219: The Midwestern Charm – Growing Pains (Trailer)
HB220: NXNE: Day 1 (Pictorial Review)
HB221: Watch This: Vol. 31
HB222: NXNE: Day 2 (Pictorial Review, Video)
HB223: NXNE Day 3: Greys, Benjamin Booker, Viet Coing (Photo Gallery)
HB224: NXNE Day 3: Speedy Ortiz, Swearin’, Spoon (Photo Gallery)
HB225: NXNE Day 3: Perfect Pussy (Photo Gallery)
HB226: NXNE Day 4: Creep Highway, Perfect Pussy, Frankie Cosmos, Swearin’ (Photo Gallery)
HB227: NXNE Day 5: Courtney Barnett, Army Girls (Photo Gallery)
HB228: Soybomb HQ: Cellphone, Ice Cream, Pleasure Leftists, Perfect Pussy (Photo Gallery)
HB229: Smiling Buddha: Pleasure Leftists, Holy Fuck, METZ (Photo Gallery)
HB230: NXNE: Day 3 (Review, Videos, Photos, Videos)
HB231: NXNE Day 3: Perfect Pussy (Review, Photos)
HB232: NXNE Day 4 + 5 (Review, Photos)
HB233: Perfect Pussy at Soybomb HQ – 6/21/14 (Review, Video)
HB234: METZ at Smiling Buddha – 6/22/14 (Review, Video)
HB235: Deafheaven at Bottom Lounge – 7/18/14 (Review, Photos)
HB236: Pitchfork Festival Day 2 (Review)
HB237: Pitchfork Festival Day 3 (Review)
HB238: Pitchfork Festival Day 3: Perfect Pussy (Review)
HB239: Watch This: Vol. 32
HB240: Watch This: Vol. 33
HB241: Watch This: Vol. 34
HB242: Watch This: Vol. 35
HB243: Watch This: Vol. 36
HB244: Watch This: Vol. 37
HB245: LVL UP – Soft Power (Stream)
HB246: Cymbals Eat Guitars – Warning (Stream)
HB247: Iceage – The Lord’s Favorite (Music Video)
HB248: Terry Malts – Let You In (Stream)
HB249: Dead Stars – Summer Bummer (Music Video)
HB250: Songs in Screen: A Look Back (Music Video Mixtape)
HB251: The Frankl Project – Day at the Races (Stream)
HB252: Cancers – Moral Net (Stream)
HB253: Watch This: Vol. 38
HB254: Mannequin Pussy – Kiss (Stream)
HB255: Vacation – Every Direction (Stream)
HB256: The Midwestern Charm – Bloodbath (Stream)
HB257: Dude York – Believer (Stream)
HB258: PURPLE 7 – Wise Up (Stream)
HB259: Lost Boy ? – Hollywood (Stream)
HB260: Mulligrub – Canadian Classic (Stream)
HB261: Purling Hiss – Learning Slowly (Stream)
HB262: Sam Coffey & the Iron Lungs – Gates of Hell (Music Video)
HB263: Two Houses – Disappointer (Stream)
HB264: Cayetana – Scotty Get the Van, I’m Moving (Stream)
HB265: Shy Boys – Life Is Peachy (Music Video)
HB266: Low Expectations – Left & Right (Stream)
HB267: Sonic Avenues – Bored With Love (Stream)
HB268: Joanna Gruesome – Jerome (Liar) (Stream)
HB269: The Yolks – You Don’t Live Here No More (Stream)
HB270: Bent Shapes – 86’d in ’03 (Stream)
HB271: Watch This: Vol. 39
HB272: Ex-Breathers – Pocket (Stream)
HB273: Liam Betson – Rapture in Heat (Stream)
HB274: Allison Crutchfield – Berlin (Stream)
HB275: The Ar-Kaics – Be My Baby (Stream)
HB276: Even Hand – Even Hand (Album Review, Stream)
HB277: Naomi Punk – Firehose Face (Music Video)
HB278: Kindling – Sunspots (Stream)
HB279: Places to Hide – Nowhere Bound (Stream)
HB280: We Need Secrets – How You Remember (Stream)
HB281: LVL UP – I Feel Ok (Stream)
HB282: Girl Tears – Candy Darling (Stream)
HB283: Ex Hex – Beast (Stream)
HB284: The Freezing Hands – Good Morning Takeout (Stream)
HB285: Follies – I Make Sense (Stream)
HB286: Happy Diving – Weird Dream (Stream)
HB287: Big Ups – Justice (Music Video)
HB288: Radiator Hospital – Bedtime Story (Music Video)
HB289: Space Raft at Crunchy Frog – 8/16/14 (Pictorial Review)
HB290: Watch This: Vol. 40
HB291: The Seeers – Without Lites (Stream)
HB292: Dark Blue – Here On My Street (Stream)
HB293: Lenguas Largas – Kawasaki Dream (Stream)
HB294: Wyatt Blair – Girls! (Stream)
HB295: Perfect Pussy – Leash Called Love (Stream)
HB296: Eternal Summers – Window (Stream)
HB297: Watch This: Vol. 41
HB298: Eugene Quell – A Great Useleness (Review, Stream)
HB299: LVL UP – DBTS (Stream)

Eugene Quell – A Great Uselessness (EP Review, Stream)

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During the mad scramble of post-festival coverage, there was more than a month’s worth of material to go over. So, naturally, some releases slipped through the cracks. What that was attributed to is impossible to definitively state. Now, with today being a relatively slow day for new material (apart from the NPR First Listen streams of the new Blonde Redhead and The Gotobeds, that is), there’s a perfect opportunity to feature what’s proven to be one of the best releases of August: Eugene Quell’s A Great Uselessness.

Continuing on where the delightfully raucous Eugene Otto Quell left off back in January, Quell’s second EP of the year expands on everything that made his debut effort such an unlikely powerhouse. There’s still a weary confidence that roots these songs in something that feels both entirely real and connected to something completely intangible. All of the songs still feel like they’d fit snugly into the Double Double Whammy and Exploding in Sound wheelhouses, full of peculiar melodicism and searing blasts of fuzz. Off-kilter pop gets consumed by a ragged punk influence, resulting in something inexplicably compelling and expertly delivered.

What sets Quell apart from a growing number of like-minded peers is his grasp on songcraft. Every single one of the four songs on A Great Uselessness twists and turns, taking left turns where they could have just gone straight. It’s something that’s evidenced straightaway with the harsh 1-2 punch of “Hell Presidente” and “That One Song”, which both feature a completely unhinged manic energy and a tendency to lean towards the subversive. In the case of the former, it’s an absolutely gorgeous slow-burning bridge that winds up being a calm spot of sea in the middle of an otherwise ferocious onslaught- while “That One Song”, on the other hand,  grows even fiercer and more deranged before falling apart into remarkably compelling ambient chaos.

Both of those first two songs also reveal Quell’s grunge, emo (think Sunny Day Real Estate), post-punk, and indie influences, something that A Great Uselessness‘ penultimate track, “Alta Loma” also underscores. Where the EP cements itself as a collection necessity, though, is the elegiac acoustic closer “And There Goes the Drugs”. For that song, Quell presents himself at his most vulnerable, leaning closer to Elliott Smith than Archers of Loaf.  It’s a genuinely stunning moment that caps off another extraordinary effort from the Brighton-based musician, closing A Great Uselessness out on a note of intrigue that manages to further his promise. This isn’t just one of the best EP’s of August- it’s one of the best of the year.  

Listen to A Great Uselessness below (and read along, as Quell’s graciously provided lyrical copy for each song) and order it from his bandcamp here (for US residents ordering a physical copy, expect to pay shipping).

Places to Hide – Nowhere Bound (Stream)

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Places To Hide have been locked into a spot worth envying for some time now, appearing- and frequently headlining- absolutely stacked bills with the finest bands from rosters like Salinas and Double Double Whammy. Everyone seems to be on their side or putting in a good word or five for the Atlanta-based quartet and that loyalty’s being repaid in full, courtesy of the band’s distinctly original take on a peculiar 90’s bent, basement pop, and scuzz-punk- all filtered through an impressive lo-fi sensibility.

Near the end of July, the band unveiled the Wild N Soft EP, offering up the careening push-and-pull of “Nowhere Bound” as a free preview on their bandcamp. Encapsulating just about everything that’s helped transform the band into something approaching the territories of “underground’s best-kept secret”, “Nowhere Bound” is a malaise-filled rager worthy of the band’s discography. Vocals are traded, a haunting wordless melody sets the song’s tone, off-kilter instrumental work clashes and complements in a manner that recalls Speedy Ortiz at their absolute finest, and sections of blistering fuzz punctuate what otherwise sounds deceptively lazy (a hallmark of late 80’s/early 90’s SST). Combine all of those elements and inject them with a keen awareness for the modern musical landscape and it’s no surprise that Places To Hide have become as celebrated as they are.

Hear “Nowhere Bound” below and expect to be reading their name a few more times on this site.

Left & Right – Low Expectations (Stream)

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Infinity Cat’s quietly been building themselves been building themselves a roster worth the envy of most other labels. While bands like Diarrhea Planet and JEFF The Brotherhood ensure their name is kept in circulation, it’s the smaller artists like Left & Right that keep the label vital. It’s not a mistake that Superchunk and Archers of Loaf are both referenced in Left & Right’s bio, nor is it a mistake that “Low Expectations” has been circulating around some of the higher-profile taste-making music sites; it’s a sharp song, finely tuned and full of 90’s lo-fi outsider pop hallmarks.

What sets “Low Expectations” apart from an increasingly crowded quasi-revivalist field is the delivery. Left & Right have never been short on passion and it’s still peaking through their work with Five Year Plan, the third entry in Infinity Cat’s Cassette Series (following efforts from both Music Band and Guerilla Toss). There’s a certain sense of history that’s paired with a modernism that helps keep their work grounded and distances it from the risk of feeling dated. Left & Right do anything but live up to the song’s title- the anticipation for the September 9 release of Five Year Plan is through the roof.

Listen to “Low Expectations” below and get a free download of the song by pre-ordering Five Year Plan from Infinity Cat here.

Purling Hiss – Learning Slowly (Stream)

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In a quest to continue making up for the time lost to the month-long festival coverage dedication, several gems have been unearthed. Most of these songs have been in heavy rotation since first appearing and several even soundtracked the long festival editing process. Purling Hiss’ “Learning Slowly” earned its position as one of the most-heavily played while the NXNE and Pitchfork spots were being finalized. Jagged and hypnotic, “Learning Slowly” is a personal best for Purling Hiss and one hell of a tease for the band’s upcoming Weirdon.

Purling Hiss have made a career out of spiky lo-fi basement punk and “Learning Slowly” sees them continuing steadily on their quest to perfect the genre. Easily their most accessible- and catchiest- song to date, “Learning Slowly” could prove to be an effective warning shot for a (deservedly) broader audience. Fortunately, the band’s kept both their character and integrity in tact, which will likely take Weirdon a long way. Purling Hiss has a few things to say- and as “Learning Slowly” seems to indicate, they’re all worth listening to.

Listen to “Learning Slowly” below and keep an eye out for Weirdon‘s eventual release via Drag City.

The Midwestern Charm – Bloodbath (Stream)

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Over the past few years Milwaukee-via-Oshkosh act The Midwestern Charm have gone through their fair share of changes. Most immediately evident, though, is the fierceness that characterizes their just-released sophomore full-length, Growing Pains, that was almost entirely absent from their self-titled debut. Trading a prominent Ryan Adams influence in for a sound more indebted to The Lemonheads was a move that paid off, as Growing Pains is easily the band’s finest material to date. While the whole record’s worth several spins, it’s the lead-off track that really stands out.

“Bloodbath”, more than any other song on Growing Pains, is indicative of what the band’s like in a live setting; relatively unhinged, not afraid of feedback, and unashamedly ragged. All of it’s anchored by an emphatic vocal performance from bandleader Connor S. La Mue, whose frequently trenchant lyrics help elevate The Midwestern Charm past a lot of their would-be peers. While it did take La Mue years to settle on finalized lyrics for “Bloodbath”, there was never a bad version of the song. As the band evolved over time, so did “Bloodbath”, with special attention being paid to Ryan McCrary’s searing lead guitar work. Ultimately, the song wound up not just being a personal best for the band but one of the best songs to come out of WI this year (incidentally, a few members of The Midwestern Charm are also directly responsible for a few other truly great WI-based songs from this year thanks to their status as members of The Sleepwalkers). “Bloodbath” is basement pop at its finest.

Listen to “Bloodbath” below and make sure to catch The Midwestern Charm live as soon as humanly possible (a list of tour dates can be found here).

Green Dreams – Rich Man/Poor Man (Review, Stream)

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Let’s start this off by getting unconventional: Green Dreams were the first band to send this site music for review/feature consideration. After being told to keep in touch following that initial exchange, they lived up to their promise of doing so. That led to subsequent coverage of a music video, an incendiary song, and that song’s inclusion on an early best-of playlist. Now, the 7″ that the song “Eye Contact” had been teased from is available for streaming in full- and it sees the band absolutely annihilating their previous high-water mark.

Each of the four tracks on Rich Man/Poor Man feature the band playing with a renewed sense of vigor, a tighter focus, and indulging their heavier hardcore tendencies. With pinpoint precision, the band bludgeons the unwitting into submission by virtue of the high-impact punishment they unleash here. From the opening duo of songs that gives this 7″ its name, the level of confidence on display is almost staggering- but that confidence is earned in full.  “Rich Man” sets the bar high with a furious hybrid of sludge, hardcore, and post-punk. Guitarist and vocalist Jesse Amesmith has never been in finer form, spitting each new lyric out with an astonishing sense of purpose. Equally impressive is the furious rhythm section interplay between drummer Trevor Amesmith and bassist Ben Kruger- something that comes into even sharper focus during the explosive final minute of “Poor Man”.

While the only essential additional thing to be said about Rich Man/Poor Man‘s excellent closing track is that it provides a great end cap to an extraordinary release, it’s probably worth noting that it’s still among the best songs to have been released this year. Even with that being the case, it’s certainly possible that one of the small handful of songs to top it is “Country Mouse”, the one that immediately precedes it. More than any other song on Rich Man/Poor Man “Country Mouse” radiates Green Dreams’ newly sharpened fierceness. Blasts of noise-punk that threaten to verge into the realm of total chaos and tear the song into multiple shreds keep intruding in on the verse while the chorus sounds like it’s fighting to hold itself together. Shards of feedback lash out at the high-intensity guitarwork and the whole thing winds up being an absolutely essential listen (a major tip of the hat is also due to Shaun Sutkus, who worked his usual recording room magic to help give this a subtle, extra kick).

All suspicions of this 7″ being a must-own have been confirmed. What will easily stand as one of 2014’s best at the end of the year is now available for purchase through Cherish Records or Green Dreams’ bandcamp. Don’t miss out on this. Grab a copy while they’re still available.

Listen to Rich Man/Poor Man below and pick it up by following the hyperlink above.

Parquet Courts – Black and White (Music Video)

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Yes, Sunbathing Animal is as good as everyone says it is. No, the band’s not reinventing any wheels but they’re one of the best at fully committing to the mechanics behind what makes them spin. Their minimalism has always been one of their strongest appeals and the way they use restraint is aggressive to the point of being abrasive- but it works. Everything somehow clicks in to this chaos that feeds off its own energy, like something that’s constantly trying to hold on to whatever life remains in a death rattle that never really comes.

One of Sunbathing Animal’s best examples of this is the infectiously ragged “Black and White”. True to its name, the video the band’s released for it is presented in grainy black and white footage. There are several pieces of what are designed to appear (and one that may actually be) found footage of pedestrians walking away from the camera that trails them on the New York street where vocalist Andrew Savage resides. By having their videos central figures firmly rooted in anonymity it nicely contrasts the fact that this was an in-house production; band members Austin Brown and Johann Rashid directed the clip. When the video finally reaches a conclusion, in an appropriate bit of subtle continuity, it winds up right where the video for “Sunbathing Animal” took place. Nice touch.

Watch “Black and White” below and take a long walk sometime soon (preferably while blaring Sunbathing Animal).