Heartbreaking Bravery

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Tag: folk

Ovlov – Ohmu Shell (Stream)

A steady stream of streams flooded most of today’s music news and several of them wound up making strong impressions. Among them were Girlpool’s jittery “Blah Blah Blah“, Bad Power’s hardcore ripper “Jawws“, and Cellphone‘s Halloween-friendly post-punk nightmare “Human Rights“. Nothing continued to improve in exhilarating fashion, hitting a new high with the damaged beauty of “July The Fourth and YAWN bandleader Adam Gil’s new solo project- Dam Gila- offered up the tantalizing pysch-pop of “History“. Mineral’s vocalist, Chris Simpson, streamed Pink Chalk, the lilting record that’s due out soon from his Zookeeper project. Joel Jerome followed up the excellent Babies On Acid with Psychic Thrift Store Folk, which is now streaming in full over at Wondering Sound- a site that also has the distinct pleasure of hosting a full stream of Night School’s Heart Beat EP (which is easily one of the year’s best).  Then, of course, there was Ovlov‘s newest song- the second to be released from the jaw-dropping four-way split 7″ that also includes Krill, LVL UP, and Radiator Hospital.

All four bands on this split have earned the distinction of site favorites thanks to their punk-leaning strains of outsider pop. This will be the latest in a handful of releases born out of the collaboration between Double Double Whammy and Exploding in Sound, which continues to be one of the most exciting things in music. Krill’s “Peanut Butter” had already been unleashed on the world a few weeks back and kicked the obvious promise of the split up a few additional levels. Ovlov take that level of acceleration and floor it, not only offering up one of the best songs of their career but- impossibly- lending even more promise to the split. “Ohmu Shell” is a song that sounds like an assurance; this is a confident band who are fully aware of their identity (something many strive to achieve and fail to accomplish).  There’s a greater immediacy on display then there was on last year’s excellent am and continues their streak of incredible contributions to splits (Little Big League being the latest, following another four-way split with Ex-Breathers, Gnarwhal, and Woozy)- all from this year.

Every time the band steps up to deliver something new, it seems like they’re continuously improving upon their career-best, which is the kind of trajectory that can speak volumes about a band’s potential. Everything about “Ohmu Shell” works to perfection; the guitars charge as much as they swirl, the vocals manage to be alternately impassioned and apathetic- creating a contrast that injects the song’s explosive moments with an obscene amount of energy. There’s a greater emphasis on a skewed 90’s revivalism that’s deeply rooted in the slacker and outsider sub-genres of punk. Ovlov sounds more alive than ever, wide-eyed, determined, and prepared for anything that dares to come their way. If LVL UP and Radiator Hospital deliver on this level (which they’re both fully capable of, considering both of their full-lengths are locks for this site’s Top 10), this split just might be the best thing to come out of 2014.

Listen to “Ohmu Shell” below and pre-order the split from from Double Double Whammy here.

Screaming Females – Wishing Well (Stream)

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Even with recent Monday’s bringing a lot of great new content into the world, today was exceptionally gigantic. Everything that appears in a hyperlink is worth clicking over to experience and choosing what to feature was insanely difficult. Enough with the exposition, though, because there’s a lot to mention- which is why each of these categories will be provided with their own paragraph (starting with this very one). In the world of full streams, NPR’s First Listen series presented Meattbodies’ self-titeld stomper, New Noise Magazine put up a full stream of Heart Attack Man’s excellent Acid Rain EP, Stereogum hosted the first stream of Greylag’s enchanting self-titled debut, and Dark Thoughts posted the blistering (and damn near perfect) ripper of an EP, Four Songs, on their own.

Over in the territory of single song streams, Radical Dads posted the remarkably compelling “Cassette Brain“, Popstrangers continued to excel with a Mack Morrison cover, post-hardcore supergroup Vanishing Life lived up to their promise (and then some) with the vicious “People Running“, The Mantles raised the anticipation for their forthcoming Memory with its jumpy title track, there was the deliriously riffed-out “Mortality Jam” that came courtesy of Hound, another extremely promising look at Night School‘s upcoming EP (following the outstanding “Birthday“), Wilful Boys’ snarling rager “Anybody There“,  the pulverizing new synth’ed out post-everything track “10,000 Summers” from the incredibly unlikely group of people that make up No Devotion, and an absolutely breathtaking song from Infinity Crush called “Heaven” that easily ranks among the most gorgeous pieces of music to be released this year (and very nearly took today’s feature spot).

Jumping to the realms of the more visually-inclined medium, things were just as tantalizing with no less than seven music videos worth watching. Greys crafted a creatively animated and hard-hitting skate-heavy clip for If Anything bruiser “Adderall“, Lushes hit a sweet spot with their repetition in “Traffic“, Obits used minimalism to a sizable effect in the low-key clip for “Machines“, newcomer Pix made a splash with a subtly haunting accompaniment for the stunning “A Way To Say Goodbye“, The Wooden Sky raised their profile with a fascinating short film to back “Saturday Night“, site favorites Radiator Hospital premiered a lovely DIY clip for “Bedtime Stories (Reprise)” over at Rookie, and Martha more than lived up to all of their praise with the unabashedly joyous video for “Present, Tense” (another entry that came dangerously close to being today’s feature).

Even with all of that formidable competition nipping at its heels, Screaming Females‘ “Wishing Well” managed to be a clear-cut standout. Boasting one of the most massive choruses the band’s ever had, some of the lightest verses they’ve ever conjured up, and an overwhelmingly sunny melody, it’s impossible to ignore. “Wishing Well”, by all accounts, is an absolute monster of a track and lays waste to the poppiest territory they’ve ever tread. Guitarist and vocalist Marissa Paternoster keeps herself in check, showing surprising restraint and a vice-like grip on total command. It’s no secret that Screaming Females are one of the best live bands currently playing shows- and it’s not even remotely surprising that “Wishing Well” has become both a fan favorite and an undeniable staple of their live set.

As Paternoster noted in the brief segment that ran with the Rolling Stone premiere of “Wishing Well”, a lot of people will likely view this as a departure for the band- despite the fact their regular dynamics are still in tact. Sure, it’s more melodic than anything they’ve done in the past but it’s also unmistakably Screaming Females, definitively proving the group’s unique identity. In terms of aggression, “Wishing Well” skews closer to Paternoster’s Noun project and acts as an exhilarating bridge between both vehicles, suspended by pure determination and innate talent. “Wishing Well” is easily one of 2014’s most thrilling songs and comes backed with what may very well be the band’s personal best- “Let Me In” (another fan favorite and live staple)- rendering this 7″ nothing short of an event.

Listen to “Wishing Well” below and make sure to pick up the 7″ it headlines directly from the band on one of their upcoming tour dates or pre-order it from iTunes.

Mitski – iPhone Voice Memo 10/4/14 (Stream)

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Today was a day that seemed to be defined by a quiet nature, something that was born out of the still fall weather and a severe lack of noteworthy releases (especially considering the steady overabundance of material throughout the past two weeks). Sure, there were premieres of things like Dirt Dress’ “Revelations“, Low Culture’s “Reservations“, and Young Mammals’ Alto Seco that were egregiously overlooked over the course of the past few days that could have easily earned a feature spot today- but nothing felt as appropriate as Mitski‘s demo.

Quietly released on tumblr (and currently without an official title), the song’s an embodiment of the DIY aesthetic that Heartbreaking Bravery was designed to showcase. Self-recorded onto an iPhone as a voice memo, it strips Mitski’s music- something that’s becoming increasingly production-friendly- back to barebones, completely opening up a brave vulnerability that brings the act of listening to the song uncomfortably close to voyeurism. Unsurprisingly, the song itself is absolutely stunning and continues to add new depths to Mitski’s undeniable talent. Haunting, compelling, and melancholic in equal measure, the song’s a window into the songwriting process of one of today’s most fascinating emerging artists and pushes the anticipation for the upcoming Bury Me At Makeout Creek to absurd heights (despite the fact it won’t be included on the record). Most importantly, it’s a stunning song that deserves the attention of as many listeners as possible.

Listen to the song below and pre-order Bury Me At Makeout Creek from Double Double Whammy here. For those interested in hearing more of Mitski in solo acoustic mode, watch the video below the embed of a recent solo set at Dong Island (courtesy of Dong Island).

Iceage – Against the Moon (Stream)

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There are days where it can be difficult to scrounge up enough great new releases to warrant an introductory paragraph round-up and there are days that are so generously overflowing with great material it’s nearly impossible to figure out what to feature. Today fell squarely to the latter. There were no less than four outstanding releases in each of the major categories: single stream, music video, and full stream. Cool Ghouls’ psych-laced basement pop rager “And It Grows” gave some new promise to the upcoming record. Mean Creek‘s Chris Keene unveiled the most recent look at his Dream Generation project with the sparse “The Four of Us” and September Girls teased their upcoming EP with the snarling “Veneer“. Veronica Falls‘ James Hoare and Mazes‘ Jack Cooper started a new project called Ultimate Painting, who instantly turned some heads with the carefree open-road ramblings of “Ten Street“.

Over in the realms of the music video, Grubs, Frankie Teardrop (warning: heavy strobes), and Cloud Nothings all released clips defined by lo-fi experementalism while Snævar Njáll Albertsson’s Dad Rocks! project dipped its toes into a gorgeously-lensed narrative involving a heavy existentialist crisis with “In the Seine”. In the space occupied by full streams, Dark Blue offered up their heavy-hitting Album of the Year contender Pure Reality and Tomorrows Tulips did the same for their career-best effort, When. Ex-Breathers made all 12 tracks (and 11 minutes) of their vicious upcoming 7″, ExBx, available for the world to hear, while Zola Jesus occupied similarly dark but incrementally softer territory with her upcoming effort, Taiga. A Winged Victory For The Sullen rounded out the full streams with another ambient near-masterpiece titled Atomos. Of course, there was one another full stream- but the link is being withheld until it’s accompanied by a forthcoming review. In the meantime, today’s focus will be on the song that defines that record: “Against the Moon”.

In an effort not to mince words, one thing should be noted before going any further- namely that Plowing Into The Field of Love is a masterpiece. No record this year has seen a more stunning creative growth or felt more important than Iceage’s new behemoth. Only three records into their still-young career and they’ve already emerged with a full-length that not only operates as a radical left turn but one that rivals anything from the creative rebirth of Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds (or, the Let Love In era). Iceage’s first two records, New Brigade and You’re Nothing, were menacing works that a few people chalked up to exhilarating exercises in intimidation. On Plowing Into The Field Of Love the band relents from that approach and serves a hyper-literate Southern Gothic-indebted masterwork that sees them flexing boldly experimental muscle and an untapped well of what now appears to be endless ambition. No song on Plowing Into The Field of Love illustrates this more than the slow-burning “Against the Moon”, a song that’s well out of the confines of anything the band’s ever done but still feels wholly suited to their identity.

Opening with the quasi-mournful strains of a brass section, it quickly undercuts its brief introduction with shuffling drums and the sustained hums of a chord organ. In those opening 15 seconds, the band manages to establish an astounding grasp on a style that was previously completely foreign to them. By the time the string and piano arrangements kick “Against the Moon” up a few levels into the breathtakingly sublime, it’s one of the bravest things any band this year’s committed to a studio recording. As instrumentally thrilling as “Against the Moon” is, it’s the startling emergence of vocalist Elias Bender Rønnenfelt’s vulnerability that shifts the song from the sublime to the transcendental. For the first time, Rønnenfelt’s lyrics and vocals are given a platform that demands the listener’s unwavering attention and that level of investment is paid off in full. From the song’s arresting opening stanza, enhanced by Rønnenfelt’s world-weary drawl, it’s clear that his personal transition directly correlates with what the band’s accomplished in terms of musicality. “On a pedestal, shining bright. Justify me. Make me right. I can fight it; make it roam- but a fugitive has a tendency to return home.” is the kind of opening line that suggests a genuinely great writer- that the rest of Iceage seems to have embraced and experienced the same level of maturity and rapid artistic growth as Rønnenfelt in the short year that’s followed You’re Nothing is nothing short of mind-bending.

A song that literally arrives with horns, “Against the Moon” stands as Iceage’s definitive entry into the band’s sudden new era, the strongest representation of Plowing Into The Field Of Love‘s myriad of sudden changes, and one of the most immediately striking songs to emerge from the past 4 years. Stripped back far enough to be completely exposed, Iceage shows the world all of its scars, all of its imperfections, and all of its entire being- and it’s a tremendous thing to experience. Even considering all of their previous sonic aggression, nothing they’ve ever produced has hit with a fiercer impact. For a band that’s aim has always been to wound, it’s a devastating reverse that leaves them sounding wounded- but bravely resilient. It’s extraordinarily effective and unflinchingly courageous. Most importantly, “Against the Moon” is the crown jewel of what deserves be regarded as one of this decade’s most important records. Make sure to give this the attention it deserves.

Listen to “Against the Moon” below, pre-order Plowing Into The Field Of Love from Matador here, and keep an eye on this site for a full review at some point in the coming week.

Mikal Cronin – I Don’t Mind / Blue-Eyed Girl (Stream)

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With this week’s Thursday nearly done, it’s time to look back at everything it had to offer. Fear of Men gave the world a shadowy video for “Tephra“, while Lower opted for a more disorienting approach to the visual medium, and Lace Curtains went for the comedy with “Pink and Gold“- a video that also doubled as the latest look towards the project’s upcoming LP, A Signed Piece of Paper. Happy Diving teased Big World with a stream of “Space Ooze”, which sees the band upping their tendency for aggression past what was hinted at with “Weird Dream“. Similarly, Diarrhea Planet previewed their upcoming LP, Aliens in the Outfield, with the frantic basement punk of “Heat Wave“, their best song to date. Adventures unveiled their side of an upcoming split with site favorites Pity Sex, while Native America generated some interest with the punk-indebted blissed-out dream pop of “Naturally Lazy“. While all of that’s worth looking into, the item that really stuck out was Mikal Cronin’s single for Polyvinyl’s 4-track series, which he quietly announced was available to stream on YouTube through his Twitter last night.

Cronin, coming off of releasing what was arguably 2013’s best record, has long shown a penchant for the pensive; MCII‘s “Don’t Let Me Go” and “Piano Mantra” being fine examples. With the two tracks he’s given to the Polyvinyl series- which rotates around the simple premise of notable artists sending each other a 4-track Tascam cassette recorder to record two songs, which are then pressed as exclusive 7″ records and sent off to subscribers- Cronin continues his enviable gifts with songs that are characterized by a wide-eyed sense of wonder. Beginning with the acoustic sun-splashed Kinks revivalism of “I Don’t Mind”, it’s clear that Cronin’s ability to craft a perfect pop song is still in tact, from the earworm-worthy hooks to a breathtaking melodic sensibility. By the time the piano arrangement emerges at the end to take the song to its close, it’s already a career highlight for an artist that has no shortage of them. “Blue-Eyed Girl” strips things back even further, finding Cronin carrying a ukelele-driven song without ever approaching overtly twee territory. It’s a lovely, lilting song that definitively cements Cronin’s status as a master craftsman. Both songs complement each other in a way that feels entirely naturalistic, rendering this particular entry into Polyvinyl’s series as one of 2014’s most welcome delights.

Listen to “I Don’t Mind” and “Blue-Eyed Girl” below and sign up for the 2015 Polyvinyl 4-track Singles series here.

LVL UP – Ski Vacation (Stream)

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It’s been an insane past few days. Full streams, videos, and songs worth writing about have been emerging at a breakneck pace and making deciding what to feature a near-herculean task of decisiveness. There was a monumentally important music video from Mean Creek‘s Chris Keene for his upcoming solo record as Dream Generation, an interactive piece of unbridled fun from Ty Segall for the title track off of Manipulator, characteristically cinematic videos from both Beverly and Fucked Up– who have each been doing wonders with the visual medium, a video that practically defines Bob Mould’s workmanlike nature, and a Jane Forsyth & Ian Pollard-helmed video for Parquet Courts’ “Bodies Made Of“- which proved to be an astoundingly sensible creative pairing. There were full streams of the gently gnarled She Keeps Bees full-length, the psych-trip of the White Fence and Jack Name split, and a new Greylag song, “Yours to Shake“, that showed some serious teeth. Picking between all of those seemed as if it might be impossible until, once again, LVL UP made the decision fairly easy.

At this point, noting that LVL UP’s upcoming Hoodwink’d is this site’s front-runner for Album of the Year seems redundant. It’s a 15-song masterpiece that sees the band perfecting their best aspects and surpassing an arsenal of lofty expectations in the process. This is something that this site’s touched on in reviews for the first three songs to be teased from the record: “Soft Power“, “I Feel Ok“, and “DBTS“. Now, the band’s released the fourth look at the now-imminent Hoodwink’d with “Ski Vacation” which shows the band expanding their sonic palette yet again. Boasting a tranquil atmosphere and no shortage of jangly guitar tones, the song integrates some subtle-yet-effective surf tendencies into the band’s outsider pop aesthetic- and the end result is spectacular. What jumps out about all of the songs that the band’s been previewing is that they stand on their own extraordinarily well and would warrant serious consideration for pushes as Hoodwink’d singles- but as a collective piece they’re extraordinary and complement each other better than just about anything that even bothers to casually flirt with genre-hopping tendencies. In that respect, Hoodwink’d might be the first record 2014 produces that would be deserving of a title no smaller than masterpiece. “Ski Vacation” is just the fourth of 15 dimensions.

For some essential reading on Hoodwink’d, please go to Sasha Geffen’s Interview piece– where the track premiered- to scroll through a can’t-miss interview that sheds some light on what went into making the record.

Stream “Ski Vacation” below and pre-order Hoodwink’d from Double Double Whammy (which has played host to several of 2014’s best releases and is in the midst of an absurd winning streak)- who will be co-releasing it with Exploding in Sound (see: last parenthesis)-  here.

Watch This: Vol. 43

It’s almost hard to believe that there have been 43 weeks since the first installment of Watch This was posted. Over the course of that time, this series has boasted a variety of recurring staples, one of the earliest of which being the “Band/Artist to Watch” segment that was devoted to the fifth and final slot. After being dormant for the vast majority of the series, that particular stamp re-emerges today in anticipation of an incredible release from an artist that’s been too-frequently described as a “best kept secret”. Along with the re-emergence of that sub-series, there’s a return to Little Elephant, a look at NPR’s Field Recordings series, yet another video to be featured from Exploding in Sound’s takeover of Serious Business, and a recent portrait of a band that doesn’t deserve to be overlooked. What it all winds up amounting to is one strange, wonderful capsule that explores some of the finest artists of the moment delivering performances worth remembering. So, sit back, turn the volume up, adjust the visual settings to personal preference, take a drink of something refreshing, focus, and Watch This.

1. Benjamin Booker – Have You Seen My Son? (NPR)

It’s been said before on this site a few times but it bears repeating: Benjamin Booker absolutely tore his set up at the Horseshoe Tavern at NXNE back in June. His debut self-titled record on ATO lived up to some fairly high expectations, revealing him as an extremely worthwhile new talent- and while it does have a sense of vulnerability, it’s usually buried underneath gnarled tones and emphatic gruffness. Here, Booker strips standout single “Have You Seen My Son?” to its barest form; an acoustic ballad. Add in some gorgeous cinematography, courtesy of NPR, and it’s required viewing.

2. Mitski – First Love / Last Spring (Bandwidth)

Every once in a while, there’s an artist that manages to appear on a variety of trustworthy sources but, for some reason or another, gets overlooked or forgotten. Mitski had the misfortune of falling to the latter category a few times this year by virtue of coming up on days that were already ridiculously over-filled with content. After seeing the light perfection that is this utterly enchanting performance of “First Love / Last Spring”, it’s difficult to not want to go back and ensure the mistake of overlooking them was never made to begin with. “First Love / Last Spring” is as sweet of a song as anyone’s put out this year. So, to Mitski: sorry for being late to the party but thanks for sticking around; life’s better with this music in it.

3. Shy, Low – Saudade (Little Elephant)

There haven’t been too many Little Elephant videos to appear that warranted consideration for the Watch This series since Mansions’ thrilling two-song set from way back in May. Fortunately, Shy, Low have provided enough water to make up for that particular drought. “Saudade” is a fascinating mixture of shoegaze, post-rock, golden-era emo, math, and a cavalcade of their connected fringe sub-genres. Every note gets played with investment and commitment while still being technically impressive, which is a medium that a lot of bands strive for but few ever achieve so concisely. “Saudade” is the perfect example of the more aggressive kind of music that’s incredibly easy to get lost in.

4. Baked (BreakThruRadio)

At this point, it’s probably safe to assume that if a video emerges from the Exploding in Sound takeover of BreakThruRadio’s Serious Business series, it will wind up being featured here. Virtually all of them have been nothing short of praise-worthy and Baked’s session continues that trend with ease. Baked themselves have come ridiculously close to landing feature spots on this very site numerous times for their eccentric take on some of this place’s most-frequented genres. In their session, those eccentricities are on full display in both their interview segments and their live form, making for some incredibly compelling viewing.

5. John Davey – Grand Emporium (Xack Gibson)

There are certain performances that manage to stick with a person and John Davey’s capable of delivering them. That’s said with no shortage of authority, having seen Davey deliver a solo acoustic set in a small WI basement to next to no one only a handful of years back. It was a relatively truncated set but it’s proven to be unforgettable thanks to the spellbinding nature of the songs. This being the case, the “Artist to Know” final slot section of Watch This is being revived to feature a gorgeous  black-and-white video that features Davey performing one of his most impressive songs: “Grand Emporium”. Not too much has changed since this video was shot four years ago; Davey’s songwriting remains as nuanced and gripping as ever while allowing some subtle growths in terms of production. All that can be heard on Davey’s sophomore effort, Living Is Trying, which can (and should) be pre-ordered from Dilated Time Records here. “Grand Emporium” also provides a good platform to give this reminder: Heartbreaking Bravery would be nothing without DIY ethos and the artists that embody them across a variety of genres and fields. If a song in a genre that’s not typically covered here manages to come off as transcendental and provides an opportunity to feature an extremely impressive emerging talent, it will get featured. Here’s one of those songs- and one of those talents.


Watch This: Vol. 42

Well, another week has come and gone, leaving a great set of live sets in its wake. From a pair of performance pairs courtesy of Jimmy Kimmel Live, another extraordinary edition to the Exploding in Sound takeover of BreakThruRadio’s excellent Serious Business series, a newly-surfaced trio of beautifully-lensed performance clips from Pitchfork, and a typically incendiary blast to the gut from one of Canada’s finest emerging artists, it was a great week for the long-form. There were, of course, a few other excellent videos that surfaced over the course of the past seven days- ranging from an excellent KEXP session from The Fresh & Onlys to performances that had personal stakes at hand (more on this tomorrow). There was a lot more to take in than usual but the five sets below earned their spots by virtue of approaching the transcendental. So, kick back, don’t dare turn the volume down, focus up, and Watch This.

1. Greys (Radio K)

Greys tore it up every time they took the stage during the whirlwind week that was NXNE. They’ve earned a fair amount of words from this site by not just making great music but by putting on great performances- and, in both cases, revealing a visible passion for what they’re doing- an increasing rarity. Here, they stop by the University of Minnesota’s student-run radio station, Radio K, to deliver a non-stop barrage of a performance. Turn the volume up and hold on to yr lid.

2. Sharon Van Etten (Jimmy Kimmel Live)

Are We There has proven to be one of the year’s most engaging quieter records and has firmly established Van Etten at the forefront of her contemporaries. It’s a welcome development that feels as if it’s been justifiably earned. Van Etten was a force to be reckoned with right out of the gate, delivering performances like this attention-ensuring take of “Give Out” for BaebleMusic or lending even more emotional gravity to one of the most emotionally charged records of all time. So, after keeping an eye on Van Etten’s progress for the past six years or so, it’s thrilling to see her commanding as much attention and acclaim as she over the past few years. With more performances like these two stunning takes on “Tarifa” and “Break Me”, that critical and commercial ascension’s unlikely to change anytime soon.

3. Slowdive (Pitchfork)

Slowdive was one of the more quietly celebrated shoegaze bands before their recent revival, allowing others to catch up on what many had known all along; this is a band worth holding onto. When Pitchfork announced that the band would be playing on US soil for the first time in over 20 years, there was reason for nonsensical levels of excitement. Not only did Slowdive meet those ridiculous levels of expectations, they temporarily turned the festival grounds into something completely undefinable. There wasn’t a set that weekend that inspired more looks of sheer awe.  Fortunately, Pitchfork has their cameras rolling and lovingly documented a moment that’s not likely to be forgotten by anyone lucky enough to take part in it anytime soon.

4. Bob Mould (Jimmy Kimmel Live)

That Bob Mould is still cranking out masterful records probably shouldn’t come as a surprise, considering his enviable track record of all-time classics (Zen ArcadeNew Day RisingCopper Blue, etc.). What does come as a welcome surprise is the commercial success he continues to maintain throughout what’s proving to be one of the more inspired solo resurgences since Dinosaur Jr.’s. Jimmy Kimmel recently invited Mould onto his show and received a masterclass in how to deliver great performances in return. With the serviceable Taylor Hawkins standing in for the inimitable Jon Wurster, Mould more than proves it only takes one revered elder statesman to carry the hell out of a live show.

5. Pile (BreakThruRadio)

The Exploding in Sound takeover of BreakThruRadio’s Serious Business has yielded some of the series’ best entries. Pile continuing this trend shouldn’t be that shocking- the band’s currently boasting one of the most impressively consistent discographies in music. Special Snowflakes was one of the year’s best releases in any format, Dripping and Magic Isn’t Real both deserve to be considered classics, and somehow the band’s live show manages to blow the studio versions of those songs out of the water. “Tin Foil Hat” is the featured song here while both “Special Snowflakes” and “Fear of Drunk With” are intercut with some humorous banter about their long-standing issues with one specific city. Packaged together, this becomes absolutely essential viewing material.

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).