Heartbreaking Bravery

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Tag: Four Eyes

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

Watch This: Vol. 14

Once again, apologies are in order. Live content was suspended as there was, unfortunately, no possible way to get anything up since the last posting. Regular content resumes with this round of catching-up. Sunday will see the return of the regularly-scheduled Watch This programming. Now that everything’s been brought up to speed, this 14th installment of the series features several of the program’s most trusted resources (KEXP, Jam in the Van, etc) and spans quite a few genres. Read, watch, and listen to everything below.

1. Capsula (KEXP Session)

This week’s kicking off with something a little unorthodox- an Argentinian band based in Spain that primarily plays covers. The distinction? They’re some seriously fucking great covers. This isn’t the stereotypical classic-rock-by-the-numbers cash-grab, there are moments of serious passion and inventiveness here. All of these songs are reworked in sly ways that play to the band’s frantic energy. Bonus points for the best “Moonage Daydream” cover since The White Stripes’ version was being passed around as a live bootleg.

2. Tara Fox – Morning Light (Jam in the Van)

Oh, Jam in the Van, will you ever tire of bands that wear hats when they play? As long as they’re as winsome as Tara Fox, it honestly won’t matter (it doesn’t really matter now, it’s just a strange recurring trend). Tara Fox, for their part, conjure up Americana that’s infused with both Burger-friendly surf aesthetics and a few hints of 60’s pop tendencies. It all works impossibly well in the van setting and feels perfect for the open road.

3. Cate Le Bon (NPR Tiny Desk Session)

NPR once again mines a great singer/songwriter record for a stunning session. While Cate Le Bon’s 2012 triumph Mug Museum may not have been released as recently as Burn Your Fire For No Witness, the two do share some similar qualities. They’re also the records that are responsible for 2013’s two best Tiny Desk concerts to date. Le Bon reveals herself to be not only a capable performer but a tantalizing one.

4. Deafheaven – Sunbather (Live at 285 Kent)

Very few bands managed to anger as many people as Deafheaven did last year. Their crime? Making an outstanding record that had serious crossover potential. Black metal elitists were up in arms, shoegaze enthusiasts were full of cynical trepidation, and no one wanted to claim them as part of their genre. Only Perfect Pussy have matched their ratio of critical acclaim to critical vitriol since the release of Sunbather.  While it can still be difficult to fully embrace the style of vocals Deafheaven rely on, their actual music is undeniable and their live performances have been well-documented as being one of the more captivating prospects out there. Pitchfork’s ongoing series of the RIP 285 Kent videos has likely come to a conclusion with this absolutely immense performance of Sunbather‘s title track. Major credit is also due to the audio engineer on this one as it sounds absolutely phenomenal. A very fulfilling 10 and a half minutes.

5. Four Eyes – SOS (Live)

Four Eyes are an incredibly hard band to find information on beyond basic facts. Whether this band still exist is anyone who’s not in the know’s best guess. They don’t appear to have any official page of any sort and they only have two 7″ records to their name. Both Four Eyes and Towards the End of Cosmic Loneliness are fucking incredible records full of riff-heavy basement punk. There are shades of early 90’s SST all over both of them and “SOS” is among the group’s very best. Here’s hoping that the band hasn’t hung it up. This is incredible music that deserves to be heard.