Heartbreaking Bravery

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Tag: FPR

Liam Hayes – Fokus (Stream)

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Every once in a while there’s a record, a video, or a song that comes along and shakes things up in the best of ways. Enter: Liam Hayes’ “Fokus”, a song that coasts on the kind of timeless punk-leaning powerpop that Ted Leo built his name on steadily perfecting. Hayes and Leo also share a similar timbre and delivery, along with their penchant for sunny melodicism and driving rhythm sections. Everything feels propulsive and joyous, from the light psych influences to the Byrds-ian jangle. “Fokus”, more than just about any other song to have been released over the past few months, has felt like a sunray forcing its way through the cold to provide some relief. It’s a charging whirlwind of a song that deserves to land on several summertime mixtapes next year- and operates just as effectively as a preview of Slurrup, which deserves to be met with anticipation. Keep the volume up for this one and use it to soundtrack an upcoming road trip, it’s built for travel.

Listen to “Fokus” below and pre-order Slurrup from the reliably great Fat Possum here.

Joanna Gruesome – Jerome (Liar) / Trust Fund – Reading The Wrappers (Music Video)

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After a very strong start to the week, today’s bevvy of notable content kept things moving at an aggressive clip. Nots stepped up and made sure their voice was heard with “Decadence“, a searing lo-fi blast from their upcoming record, We Are Nots. The Dead Ships made a mark with the punchy basement pop of “Canyon“, which brought to mind a more refined PURPLE 7. “Candy Mountain” heralded the official arrival-at-large of Dilly Dally, whose Candy Mountain 7″ just got skyrocketed up to “must-own” status. Run For Cover Records look set to continue on with a stunning run of records, if Young Statues’ soaring “Natives” is any indication. On any other day, Crimson Wave‘s extraordinary Say/Calling You 7″ would have earned today’s feature spot and has a very good chance at gate-crashing more than a few year-end lists. Joanna Gruesome and Trust Fund’s decision to release partnering complementary videos to promote their incredible split 12″ proved too intriguing of a prospect to let slide without providing some well-deserved focus.

Now, before getting to the videos the brilliance of Joanna Gruesome and Trust Fund’s split needs to be mentioned here for about the billionth time. Both bands are natural complements to each other, with each accentuating similar tendencies in dynamics and sound on an equal level. All six tracks are stunners and it’s a record that can be incredibly hard to pull away from once it’s started rotating. London-based artist Rose Robbins was the creative force driving the twin videos to their respective enchanting heights (and an even more stunning effect as a whole). In the Impose premiere of both videos, Robbins explained some of the fascinating process behind the bulk of the artistic decision-making that went into the finished product(s).

Joanna Gruesome’s “Jerome (Liar)” sounds as vital as it did the day it was released and the video taps into the band’s sense of fun with great precision. It’s a firecracker of a song that ignites  their side of the split, operating in a way not entirely dissimilar from Trust Fund’s “Reading The Wrappers”- which also receives Robbins’ endearingly playful visual treatment. Both videos are injected with cartoon animation that feels naturally suited to Joanna Gruesome and Trust Fund’s partnership. That partnership is an underlying thematic device is a very simple, and affecting, touch that works wonders. Balancing a relatively lighthearted tone with weighty issues is never an easy task but Robbins manages to pull it off with aplomb. It’s a relentlessly entertaining experience that’s all but guaranteed to trigger a few genuine smiles- which is an achievement that should never be undervalued. This isn’t just great entertainment, it’s great art.

Watch “Jerome (Liar)” and “Reading The Wrappers” below- and order their split 12″ here.

Perfect Pussy – Leash Called Love (Stream)

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For better or worse, Perfect Pussy has become inextricably linked to this site. Vocalist Meredith Graves was one of the first to know that it existed- and that’s no mistake. There’s a courageousness that both she and the rest of Perfect Pussy exhibit frequently in regards to topics that deserve to be talked about far more often. Whether it’s the name itself calling awareness to some of the more inherent problems of pornography, the infuriating persecution of femininity, the overwhelming lack of diversity present in today’s most celebrated music, the trials of both depression and body image, or the emphasis on individuality, they’re always willing to be vocally active about taking the most humane stand. There’s a no-nonsense, no-tolerance policy on any institution or school of thought promoting unjust oppression that attracted me to the band as it was something I wanted to incorporate and endorse on Heartbreaking Bravery. With Graves at the center, it only made sense to reach out to her after this site began- which wound up leading to what is still this site’s first and only interview piece (where, coincidentally, their split with Joanna Gruesome was first announced). After all, her band was a very explicit part of what inspired this place’s existence.

Since then, I’ve followed them to Chicago, Minneapolis, and Toronto, seen them play to crowds of 30 people and more than 3,000. I’ve abandoned my exclusion rule on first-person narratives specifically for them because the only way that I feel I can properly define their music is by my personal reactions to it. There’s a naked honesty to the band that hinges on Graves’ devastatingly impressive lyrical prowess but is enforced in full by the sonic brutality that surrounds them. Prose is met with raw power and neither lack immediacy or longevity, meaning that not only do the band’s values line up with this sites- their music is a perfect fit for what Heartbreaking Bravery tends to celebrate most emphatically. In a sense, they’ve become extended family and it’s been a privilege to watch them grow as this site has progressed alongside them.

All of that said, it only feels right to forego another general rule-of-thumb and shine a light on their recent Sugarcubes cover. It’s technically their first properly released cover as a full band, considering the still-outstanding “Candy’s Room” take was delivered by an abbreviated lineup of the band who rounded themselves out with outside help. Their are similarities between that cover and this stunning take on “Leash Called Love”, with Graves’ lightly distorted (and sweetly sung) vocals playing perfectly alongside a propulsive bed of noise that occasionally borders the irreverent, in essence becoming a note-perfect homage to both Sugarcubes and Björk in general. In a months-old text, Graves explained to me that during this particular recording she had no voice after four months of touring and was unable to hit any of the notes- the strain doesn’t show, though, and “Leash Called Loves” is the band’s breeziest work date, coming off as both light and sounding impressively effortless while still packing one hell of a punch. With Joanna Gruesome being the band on the other side of the split, the release is coming into its own after Perfect Pussy’s reveal, considering that they too have now managed to intertwine a sense of twee and fierce noise with both precision and panache.

In a tried-and-true fashion, four of the members of Perfect Pussy allow themselves to cede into the background in favor of letting noise-master Shaun Sutkus manipulate the mood of the song, this time going for something intense and foreboding that re-contextualizes much of what came before it as Graves’ vocals get turned into a nightmarish, distorted ambient wall. It’s a jarring left turn that plays to the band’s penchant for subversion. Effectively breaking up the song into two halves, it’ll also go a long way in lending their side of the split an even more complete feel. With Joanna Gruesome’s “Psykick Espionage” now out in the world, it’s relatively safe to assume that this split will be among the best of the year and a must-own item thanks to not only the songs but Phil McAndrew’s incredible politically-minded artwork and his supplementary comic book that the split will ship with. As always, Captured Tracks will be responsible for Perfect Pussy’s side, and both Slumberland and Fortuna POP! will be representing Joanna Gruesome. All three labels will be going in together on the release, ensuring it the built-in audience that it deserves. If this doesn’t cement both Perfect Pussy and Joanna Gruesome as two of the best bands we currently have the honor of experiencing, I’m not sure what else possibly could.

Listen to “Leash Called Love” below and make sure to own a copy of the split as soon as that becomes a possibility.