A trio of videos found a way to make their presence felt over the past two weeks. Each of the three featured videos stand out for very distinct reasons with minimal overlap. From mastery of craft to self-awareness to successful experiments in restraint, there’s a lot of variety. Every example finds a way to enhance a great song with a video that proves to be the equal of the source material’s strength. Take a look (and a listen) below.
Slothrust – Double Down
After finding success through their past few releases, Slothrust is allowing their ambition to expand. The band’s forthcoming The Pact is their boldest work to date and has the potential to carry the band to greater success. A lot of that stems from the band making the right moves at the right time — in addition to their spectacular live show — and “Double Down” is proof, its surrealist world-building is impeccable. From the abrupt staging and cinematography that introduces the viewer to “Double Down”, Slothrust make it abundantly clear that they’re not content with stagnation. They’re out to prove something and the staggering clip for “Double Down” (those first moments are especially gripping) sees them off to a solid start.
Mozes and the Firstborn – Hello
Mozes and the Firstborn have been making impressive music for a handful of years now, running the gamut from arresting intensity to playfully entertaining. “Hello”, and its visual accompaniment, find a way to skew towards the latter while retaining some of the former. An infectious pop song married to a clever concept, “Hello” finds Mozes and the Firstborn’s vocalist running behind a camera, lip-syncing to the song while runners in an actual marathon jostle past. Shirts get discarded, revealing words and phrases, a cigarette gets smoked, and a range of spectators emotions fly by in one of the more unexpectedly blissful clips of 2018.
Free Cake For Every Creature – Be Home Soon
Katie Bennett continues to impress at just about every turn, though the Free Cake For Every Creature project remains the songwriter’s calling card. Here, the project gets an appropriately gentle illustrated video for the quietly moving “Be Home Soon”. Rivkah Gevinson created the clip for “Be Home Soon”, which combines collage work and stop motion photography to an enchanting effect, the song quietly washing over the proceedings. There’s a modicum of saturation washing through the clip’s coloration and playing into a wistful, nostalgic sensibility. Unexpectedly mesmerizing and characteristically lovely, “Be Home Soon” is up there with the finest work to bear the Free Cake For Every Creature name.
The final half of June wasn’t quite as loaded as its immediate predecessor but it came surprisingly close. A deluge of material found release in every major format. Iconic acts remixed prominent genre figures, legends were paid tribute, and a handful of new faces made a deep impression. Below is the chronicling of everything that made a notable splash. Three individual installments focusing on some additional highlights from this stretch will follow this post shortly. For now (and for however many times anyone feels like clicking over) enjoy the best of the rest.
As evidenced by the last handful of posts, the first two weeks of June were not short on exceptional material. Songs, by virtue of length and abundance, had an especially strong showing. The five below include a few career highlights from longtime favorites and a few impressive entries from fresher faces. All of them would be perfect additions to the warm weather playlists being pulled into existence as spring melts into summer. Discover their strength below.
Ovlov – Short Morgan
If anyone had any doubts that Ovlov would be better than they’ve ever been should they return, “Short Morgan” should permanently erase those thoughts. One of the fiercest tracks the band’s released to date, “Short Morgan” is an adrenaline surge that marries the elements that catapulted Dinosaur Jr to cult icons with the frustration-laced introspection that’s come to define Ovlov’s identity. Ragged, vicious, and pointed, “Short Morgan” is more than enough to suggest we might be looking at one of the year’s great albums in their forthcoming TRU.
The Beths – Happy Unhappy
Making a return to the spotlight, The Beths deliver in kind with “Happy Unhappy”, an unexpected summer anthem. Twee-leaning powerpop through a punk-tinged lens, “Happy Unhappy” is a sugar rush of ingenuity, layering hook after hook until the band’s built something as towering as it is irresistible. Everything from the persistent backing vocals to the guitar interplay in the pre-chorus and on the bridge combines to leave “Happy Unhappy” standing tall as The Beths finest work. Give this one the attention it deserves.
The Ophelias – General Electric
Much like The Beths “Happy Unhappy”, The Ophelias “General Electric” is tailor made for a carefree summer afternoon. A hypnotic collage of sounds, “General Electric” expertly blends powerpop with some twee and experimental trappings. Brilliantly produced by WHY?‘s Yoni Wolf and impeccably structured, it’s an immensely welcome introduction-at-large for an incredibly promising act. Every second of this is captivating, creating an enchanting pull that’s difficult to refuse. A collection of clever twist and turns, it marks The Ophelias as a band worth hearing.
Curling – Radio King
Basement pop that’s informed by post-punk and runs slightly askew is a hallmark of Heartbreaking Bravery’s general coverage and is presented in its fullest potential on Curling’s “Radio King”. Utilizing vocals that are more than a little reminiscent of Ted Leo, Curling avoids comparisons to The Pharmacists outright by embracing a more disjointed approach. Falling somewhere in between the genre lines drawn by Flying Nun and Rough Trade, “Radio King” shows Curling are more than comfortable planting their flag in the in-between. “Curling King” is the perfect way to reveal that flag’s mesmeric colors.
Free Cake For Every Creature – Around You
Capping off a trio of songs that expertly blends twee shrapnel with powerpop aesthetics, Free Cake For Every Creature‘s “Around You” is a strong reminder of the talent at the heart of the project. Driven by a hyper-specific narrative and imaginative instrumentation, “Around You” finds Free Cake For Every Creature reaching new heights ahead of their forthcoming The Bluest Star. Destined to be a staple of the project’s live show for years to come, the song offers an embarrassment of riches, from the guitar work that graces the chorus to the restrained delivery. It’s unmissable.
Heartbreaking Bravery recently went offline but all facets of the site are back to being fully operational. Apologies for any inconveniences. All posts that were slated to run during that brief hiatus will appear with this note.
Last year, Jessica Leach turned in an entry to this series that focused on meaningful growth in the cultural landscape. Leach first appeared on my radar thanks to the stellar Basement Babes zine. That endeavor dissolved due to geographic complications but Leach’s voice remains a vital one so it’s a privilege to be hosting this piece. The vitality of art, the legacy Basement Babes left behind (on both a micro and macro scale), and the value of progression are all touched on below. It’s intimate, effective, and another one of this series’ definitive entries. Read it below and remember to value the good things left to the past while working to ensure a positive future. Enjoy.
I’m honored to be contributing to A Year’s Worth of Memories for the second time. Last year, I provided somewhat of a personal account on the progress I saw in 2015. At that time, I felt an intense mixture of fear and optimism. Unfortunately, as we now know, the former was more in tune to what came than the latter.
Looking back at all the horrible things that happened, I’d say the overarching theme of the year was loss. Some were suffered personally, others were felt worldwide. To me, 2016 meant losing a few too many of my most important role models, quitting my “safe” full-time job to change careers and sadly ending Basement Babes, the zine that I co-ran with my friend Yasmina Tawil for the better part of two years. Yasmina had moved to Brooklyn, and we decided that trying to publish the zine living apart would be too much of a challenge.
While that all made sense and felt right, I knew I would miss having that constant outlet to create and share work. When the stress of my job was hindering my creative senses, I’d be pushed by the publication of the zine to get going again, or I’d have the work of our contributors to inspire me.
The silver lining was that Yasmina and I got to say goodbye to Basement Babes with a sold out show at the Middle East Upstairs in Cambridge. The lineup featured Diet Cig, free cake for every creature, and Daephne – three bands whose incredible music carried me through many difficulties throughout the year. For that reason, it seemed only right that they would play Basement Babes into the zine afterlife.
We always said that when we’d go out, we’d go out with a bang, and that show was everything I imagined and more. It was okay if more people were there to see the bands than to say goodbye to us. Just being on the outskirts of that crowded room, knowing they were there in some way because Basement Babes existed, made me feel we must have done something right.
As we sold the last of our issues and buttons that night, though, I wondered how I would again feel these small connections to an artistic community I’d been part of for so long. In the moment, I consoled myself by believing I no longer needed them as much as I used to. Now, on the brink of a terrifying presidency, maybe I’ll try to find my way back in. There’s that push again. Begging me to turn my fear into something wonderful.
In 2016, it felt like every time I moved two steps forward, something would pummel me to the ground. Hard. And yet, just like any other year, many of these major setbacks were made better or made sense of through art. Whether it was creating my own or experiencing others, art was a tiny speck of goodness in a pile of shit that kept me hanging on. I’m happy that as long as it lived, Basement Babes at least provided me with some of that kind of cathartic creativity. It will be hard to fill its shoes.
Six weeks is a long time to go without running a Watch This and the 50 selections that ran in the 150th installment (the preceding post) barely scratched the surface. To get deeper into the extraordinary wealth of material worth exploring, a sequel of sorts seemed necessary. There’s absolutely no way that a single person is going to watch everything listed below but each link is genuinely exceptional and deserved to be featured. Whether they were part of a series, a great capture, a great performance, or notable for another reason, they’re all linked for a reason. So, bookmark the page and explore at will. Stop waiting and Watch This.
We’ve officially arrived at the 950th post of Heartbreaking Bravery, which means it’s time to offer up another mixtape of some sort or another. Since the Watch This series has maintained radio silence over the past two and a half weeks it only felt appropriate to turn to the over-abundance of incredible material that’s surfaced in that time frame. The 25 clips included below range from old favorites to promising new faces, single songs to full sessions, and generally cover the range of what the series was created to support: the very best of the live video platform. It’s unlikely that anyone will watch through the entirety of this packet (as it runs for nearly four hours, if viewed uninterrupted) but it’s worth taking the time to both explore and return to all of the performances contained in Ending Another Short Stretch of Static. So, as always, kick back, focus up, adjust the settings, settle in, and Watch This.
1. Car Seat Headrest – Fill In the Blank (Pitchfork) 2. The Spook School – Gone Home (BreakThruRadio) 3. Meat Wave – Sham King (SideOneDummy) 4. Weaves (3voor12) 5. Ron Gallo (Audiotree) 6. Dusk – Shift Towards Tenderness (This Means War) 7. Izzy True – Which Wish (Bedhead Sessions) 8. Royal Headache – Carolina (Pitchfork) 9. Royal Brat – Avoider + Broken Step (Radio K) 10. Girl Band – Paul (Pitchfork) 11. The Coathangers – Burn Me (Radio K) 12. Japanese Breakfast – Everybody Wants To Love You 13. Free Cake For Every Creature (WKNC) 14. Fear of Men (Audiotree) 15. Majical Cloudz – Silver Car Crash (q on cbc) 16. Jade Imagine – Stay Awake (3RRRFM) 17. Tele Novella – Heavy Balloon (Do512 Austin) 18. Margaret Glaspy (KEXP) 19. Kevin Morby (NPR) 20. PWR BTTM – New Hampshire (WFUV) 21. Wand (KEXP) 22. Declan McKenna – Brazil (The Late Show With Stephen Colbert) 23. Lucy Dacus (NPR) 24. Ólafur Arnalds (ft. Brasstríó Mosfellsdals) – Dalur 25. Julien Baker (Primavera)
PressureDrop.tv has been responsible for a lot of the more memorable full sessions of recent memory but the series recently topped themselves with this no-holds-barred session from site favorites Summer Cannibals. None of the other performers on the series’ enviable roster of guests have matched the sheer velocity of Summer Cannibals’ energy here and the visuals match that propulsion. Nearly every second of the performance feels perfectly complementary and suggests that PressureDrop.tv just might be realizing their full potential.
2. free cake for every creature – All You Gotta Be When You’re 23 Is Yourself (BreakThruRadio)
free cake for every creature have appeared on this site numerous times but with each successive link, they’ve bettered themselves and hit yet another apex with this BreakThruRadio performance of “All You Gotta Be When You’re 23 Is Yourself”, a standout from their most recent release. Conjuring up a spell of subdued magic, the band effortlessly breezes through the track and closes it out with a soft smile.
3. Clearance – You’ve Been Pre-Approved (Constellation Chicago)
One of last year’s more overlooked releases came in the form of Clearance‘s excellent Rapid Rewards[full disclosure: my photography is used for the back art] and the record’s allure has actually grown since its release. A large part of that is thanks to Mike Bellis’ knowledgeable songwriting, which is front and center in this recent solo take of one of that record’s many highlights, “You’ve Been Pre-Approved”.
4. Tancred (Little Elephant)
Something is happening in these Tancred videos for Little Elephant that both suggests they’re unfinished and creates a curious pull that’s not entirely dissimilar from quicksand. The performance from the band, as ever, is sharp as hell but the audio sounds canned, as if only an overhead mic was picking the band up. That effect winds up working in tandem with the band’s influences astonishingly well, creating a damaged VHS sound quality that transforms this session into a surprisingly gratifying Easter egg.
5. Julien Baker (Exclaim!)
If a pro-shot Julien Baker session emerges over the course of any given week, it’s probably safe to assume that it’ll find representation in this series. Baker’s an innately talented performer and a mesmerizing lyricist that’s already managed to carve out a space next to Elliott Smith as one of the most effective and intimate narrators of tragedy that the music world’s had in quite some time. All of those qualities infuse this recent two-song performance for Exclaim! with a hypnotic sadness that manages to be both reassuring and heartrending all at once.
Likely knowing they’d have to live up to their strongest song to date, Parquet Courts turned in a clip that centered on puppets that boasted an intangible, human quality that makes “Human Performance” at once endlessly fascinating and deeply unnerving. It’s as if the band, through some unholy miracle, found the way to perfectly visualize the most deep-seated neuroses that informs the song. There’s a certain Lynch-ian quality to the proceedings, managing to be painfully grotesque and undeniably human all at once.
As good as “Human Performance” — easily one of this year’s best songs — was on its own, the clip manages to complement it so effectively that it creates a symbiotic relationship with each format heightening the other. From the song’s resigned delivery to the video’s frank depiction of late-life sexual exploration, everything syncs up in a transcendental tapestry of repressed emotions. In both cases, “Human Performance” is a meditation on what it truly means to be human and all of the limitations that accompany humanity’s frequently cruel realty.
It’s a video that’s proven to be impossible to shake and a watch that practically demands revisits. Bold, original, and even brave, “Human Performance” is a cogent reminder of the artistry that can be granted to — and even defines — the most mundane, trivial details of life. Since it’d be nearly impossible to capture the overwhelming amount of sheer feelings that runs through every single frame of the video, I’ll just shut up and let the clip speak for itself.
Watch “Human Performance” below and pick the record up from Rough Trade here.
In addition to all of those bands’ new releases, there was also another outstanding installment of the DBTS:BS series via their third volume: DBTS:BS3. While all of those succeeded on their own terms, it was — unsurprisingly — the second of Tenement‘s Bruised Musiccompilation series that wound up registering as a genuine standout (and subsequently snagging this post’s featured spot).
For close to a decade now, Tenement has been one of the most influential bands in my life, both directly and tangentially. At this point, no band has been covered on this site more extensively than the Wisconsin trio, who I’ve lobbied for endlessly- to anyone who would listen. At some point, their songs became such a personal marker for me that they inseparably intertwined themselves to very specific parts of my life. To that extent, when I listen to Bruised Music Vol. 2, it’s extremely difficult to separate the music from my own personal history. However, it’s not entirely impossible to divide them into arenas that are mutually exclusive.
A large part of the connection I have to these songs can be directly sourced back to what made Tenement my favorite band: the surprisingly literary aspects of the songwriting, the unapologetic commitment to carving out an incredibly well-informed pop-sensibility, the absolute refusal to adhere or appropriate any of the trends that have unceremoniously appeared and disappeared throughout the time of their existence, and a genuine, undeniable, uncompromising passion for the music they make, fearless risks and all.
On the first collection of the Bruised Music compilations, I contributed an extensive piece for the record’s insert on how the band played a large role in shaping my tastes and — to some extent — my own humanity. While Bruised Music Vol. 1 was an impressively comprehensive look at the band’s earliest era, Bruised Music Vol. 2 is a different beast entirely. Where its predecessor was more concerned with the band shaping a very particular sound, the latter excels in that sound’s expansion, deconstruction, and absolute demolition.
While there are still moments speckled all over Bruised Music Vol. 2 that are reminiscent of their early works, the majority of their latter efforts are imbued with a more adventurous approach to songwriting. A cleaned up version of “Taking Everything” — a song that originally appeared on a 2011 7″ that ranks as one of the best entries in an extraordinary discography before being released again in demo form on a Burger-issued cassette package of Napalm Dream — which kicks the compilation off, may be the record’s most straightforward moment.
Where this version of “Taking Everything” differentiates itself between the powerful 7″ version and the frantically-paced demo version rests squarely in the drumming pattern, which ultimately winds up being a fascinating glimpse at the band’s decision-making process. Considering how overwhelmingly thoughtful Tenement’s songwriting construction has proven to be, time and time again, that’s not something that should be taken for granted. All of the subtle intricacies that have come to define the band’s musical aesthetic only point to an unavoidable conclusion: this band’s not just surpassing their peers as pure composers, they’re offering up masterclasses at an alarming rate.
It’s patently absurd that Bruised Music Vol. 2 is going to be viewed, largely, as a collection of scraps because they scan as essential elements of the band’s oeuvre. Whether it’s the more direct fare of Bruised Music Vol. 2‘s opening run or the more avant garde leanings that shape the record’s back half, there’s an evident level of painstaking care that goes a long way in making sure everything is represented adequately.
Toy pianos, sheer noise, and unrelenting dissonance inform the collection’s braver moments, like the instrumental “Jet Slug”, which casually reaffirm Tenement’s well-earned status as a singular act operating on the fringes of punk, noise, hardcore, and powerpop. For every stacked-to-the-heavens pop-leaning anthem that appears, there’s a stark counterbalance that arrives in tracks like Sick Club Vol. 3‘s extraordinary, convention-defying “Books on Hell and Sermons on TV”. While the band may have made their name on the former, it’s their unbelievable skill with the latter that’s elevated them from one of the most exciting bands presently operating to one of the outright best.
One part of Tenement’s ethos that never gets enough recognition is their complete and total willingness to disregard their most commercially accessible trappings in favor of intensely bold choices that have left sizable portions of their audiences feeling completely alienated. Whether that’s via the typically downtrodden Realism-Americana-Southern Gothic narrative hybrids of Amos Pitsch’s lyrics, the band’s embrace of John Cage-esque explorations of noise, or their continued refusal to be pigeonholed into any particular genre (much to the chagrin of many purists), they’ve established themselves as their own entity.
Bruised Music Vol. 2 functions strongly enough to have a legitimate shot at becoming the definitive example of how Tenement evolved into one of America’s most fascinating bands. None of these songs are weak and each one benefits from a very specific personality that betrays the band’s small-town upper Midwest upbringing. As a collection, it’s fairly representative of Tenement’s 2010-2014 era. As a standalone record, it’s stronger than most acts best release. As a demonstration of everything that has distinguished Tenement as one of the most inspirational acts in contemporary music, it’s an absolute necessity.
Listen to Bruised Music Vol. 2 below and order it from Grave Mistake here.
Now that nearly everything’s back up to speed on the three major fronts (streams, full streams, and music videos), it’s time to re-direct the attention to the very best material that emerged in the first three months of 2016. After listening to literally thousands of new songs throughout the course of this year, 50 songs will be embedded below (the original list was just over 50 and the last three cuts were from Public Access T.V., SOAR, and Retired), with the first several artists listed having multiple songs vying for the feature.
Due to the time constraints, each of the songs — while worthy of several paragraphs — will receive a line or two of text. All of the songs that competed for the feature spot will be hyperlinked. All of these songs, in one way or another, genuinely stood out from the rest of the pack- and beyond that, several of them have proven their worth via their staying power.
From moments of devastating vulnerability (“Low Hymnal”) to electrifying bursts of visceral energy (“DVP”), there’s a lot to digest. Whether carrying the status of new, emerging, proven, or elder statesman, the artists that comprise this list have viable year-end potential. All 50 of these tracks deserve investment. Dive in below and explore a large handful of 2016’s finest gems.
A seething mess of chaos and cacophony, Culture Abuse‘s “Turn It Off” was one of young 2016’s most immediate post-punk tunes. Sharp and unrelenting, “Turn It Off” more than makes its mark. | Also worth hearing: Dream On, Peace On Earth
Audacity – Lock On the Door
Self-described by the band as a “Third Eye Blind rip-off song”, “Lock On the Door” is the band’s most successful grime-coated excursion and retains every bit of its predecessors’ considerable charms. | Also worth hearing: Umbrellas, Dirty Boy.
Mulligrub – Homo Milk & Man in the Moon
Mulligrub managed to impress when they were just starting out and they’ve grown noticeably in a surprisingly short period of time. If this two-song package is any indication, there are some extraordinary things in Mulligrub’s future. | Also worth hearing: Europe
Mo Troper – First Monkey In Space
Mo Troper’s Beloved is my early front-runner for Album of the Year and with songs as perfectly crafted (and presented) as “First Monkey In Space”, that shouldn’t come as a surprise. Big Star-meets-Tony Molina is a very, very good look. | Also worth hearing: After the Movies
Jawbreaker Reunion – Cosmos
Another early year-end candidate came in the form of Jawbreaker Reunion‘s breathtaking “Cosmos”, which saw them tapping back into the lovesick despair that made “E.M.O.” so unforgettable. When the back half kicks in on his one, it’s a moment of powerful transcendence. | Also worth hearing: Small Investments
Kal Marks – Coffee
A sprawling, bruiser of a track, “Coffee” sees Kal Marks continuing to dominate the realms of aggressively down-trodden post-punk, fully equipped with a messy handful of grunge influences. It’s another masterclass from a band who are very nearly peerless. | Also worth hearing: Mankind
Tenement – The Block Is Safe Again
One of three songs on this list to be experiencing a cleaned up re-release, “The Block Is Safe Again” is vintage Tenement. All you really need to see to know that this is incredible is the last word of that first sentence. | Also worth hearing: Freak Cast In Iron
Nicole Dollanganger – Chapel
Another song that experienced a re-release, “Chapel”, saw Nicole Dollanganger embracing her softest sensibilities and conjuring up something spellbinding. Let it wash over you and give into its dreamlike state, pay attention, though, and you’ll be plunged straight into a delicate nightmare. | Also worth hearing: Beautiful and Bad
Big Ups – National Parks
Shortly after hitting their five year anniversary, Big Ups unloaded a behemoth of a record in Before A Million Universes. The high-wire tension act of “National Parks” was one of its many peaks, providing an able showcase for the band’s commanding sense of self. | Also worth hearing: Hope for Someone
Tancred – Sell My Head
One of 2016’s most pleasant surprises has come in the full-blown emergence of Tancred. Spiky, formidable, and exceptional, everything Jess Abbott’s project has unleashed this year has hit its target. Store this one away right next to the fiercest songs from Palehound and Speedy Ortiz. | Also worth hearing: Control Me
Eskimeaux – WTF
After claiming this site’s Album of the Year distinction, the Epoch quartet known as Eskimeaux has returned with a shimmering new EP. “WTF” continues the band’s winsome penchant for expertly crafted, bittersweet pop songs with a gentle ease. Good luck shaking that chorus section. | Also worth hearing: Power
Solids – Blank Stare
Following a string of strong releases, Solids have a career high on their hands with the Else EP, which boasts four enthralling tracks that combine a host of influences into something melodic and menacing. “Blank Stare” is the EP’s highlight. | Also worth hearing: Wait It Out
Eureka California – Cobwebs on the Wind
Eureka California have proven themselves to be a remarkably consistent band and they’ve rarely ever been granted the spotlight they deserve. Versus, their latest effort, is their most engaging thanks to the jittery energy that propels tracks like “Cobwebs on the Wind” and “Caffeine”. | Also worth hearing: Caffeine
Banned Books – Fuselage
Very few records this year have caught me as off guard or sent me reeling as quickly as Banned Books, the exhilarating self-titled effort from the Philadelphia noise-punk figureheads. “Fuselage” contains some of the band’s most exceptional — and propulsive — work to date. | Also worth hearing: Everything I’ll Ever Need
Hudson Bell – Box of Bones
One of the most difficult decisions to make in compiling this list was which of these two listed songs to feature. “Box of Bones” got the edge for the extraordinary hooks and some jaw-dropping sections of sheer perfection. Hudson Bell is putting together something unreal and more people should be taking note. | Also worth hearing: Hey Doll
Plush – Sheer Power
A sweeping, magisterial work of lush decadence, “Sheer Power” announced Plush’s 2016 run with a heaven-sent explosion. Dynamic, powerful, gorgeous, and towering, “Sheer Power” is the band at their most gripping and one of early 2016’s most spine-tingling offerings. | Also worth hearing: Please Don’t Let Me Go
PUP – DVP
As expected, when PUP resurfaced after making one of the most beloved punk records of this current decade, they were even more feral and wild-eyed than when they left off. “DVP” isn’t just the band’s fiercest song to date, it’s also one of their strongest. Get out of the way or get run over (repeatedly).
Greys – No Star
Another one of Toronto’s finest punk acts, Greys, have been putting together a deeply impressive run over the past few years. They’ve yet to make a bad song and thrive off the tension they inject into the kinetic “No Star”, which expertly balances the band’s most melancholic sensibilities with their most explosive.
The Sun Days – Don’t Need To Be Them
2016 has already had its fair share of excellence in powerop but right now, no one’s doing that genre better than Sweden, who’ve gifted us another extraordinary act in The Sun Days. Album, the band’s debut record, offers up a whole bevvy of what are likely to go down as some of 2016’s loveliest tunes, like the gorgeous “Don’t Need To Be Them”.
Frankie Cosmos – On the Lips
The last of the songs on this list to have a prior release, “On the Lips” finally gets the full band treatment for Frankie Cosmos‘ sprightly Next Thing. Already considered a standout of a very crowded discography, “On the Lips” is pure Frankie Cosmos: light, charming, and memorable.
Oceanator – Nowhere Nothing
Very few songs over the past several years have had a section that laid me as flat as the outro to Oceanator’s “Nowhere Nothing”. The project of Vagabon drummer Elise Okusami, Oceanator’s already showing an astounding level of promise. As a standalone song, it’s breathtaking. As an artist’s introductory number, it’s flat-out unbelievable.
Yoni & Geti – Madeline
Serengeti’s carved out a respectable place for himself throughout the course of a very consistent career. WHY?‘s Yoni Wolf is rightfully regarded as one of this generation’s most remarkable lyricists (by certain circles, at least). Their collaborative project is only just getting started but the lilting powerpop of “Madeline” bodes well for the duo’s future.
EERA – Drive With Fear
“Drive With Fear” was the first song that really pulled me into EERA‘s fascinating world. Combining elements of dream-pop, ambient, and noise into an extremely tantalizing package, the project from Anna Lena Bruland’s landed on something intangible that seems ready to pay dividends as it goes forward. This song alone’s a piece of magic.
Tacocat – I Hate the Weekend
Tacocat returned with “I Hate the Weekend”, advancing the band’s commendable aversion to disappointing by amplifying what they do best: carefree basement pop that deals with life’s more mundane moments. Sugary, sharp, and well-informed, “I Hate the Weekend” will stand as one of 2016’s greatest anti-parties.
Dilly Dally – Know Yourself
Watching Dilly Dally unexpectedly pull out this Drake cover last year at CMJ prompted what I can only describe as a near-out-of-body experience. I wrote about it extensively a few times and was hoping an official recording of the cover would make its way out into the world. When it arrived, it didn’t disappoint; “Know Yourself” is an absolute monster.
Lucy Dacus – Strange Torpedo
“I Don’t Wanna Be Funny Anymore” was one of the best songs of last year and I haven’t been able to shake it since its release. Fortunately, Lucy Dacus had a new batch of equally exceptional songs to round out the incredible No Burden, including “Strange Torpedo”, a very strong showcase of Dacus’ knack for hyper-intelligent songwriting.
Weaves – One More
Weaves have undergone one of the more impressive transformations in music, transitioning from an intriguing world-leaning act to a full-fledged basement pop group. “Shithole” was one of the first indications of their radical switch and they’ve followed it up with the vicious, teeth-baring noise-punk of “One More”.
Free Cake For Every Creature – First Summer In A City
Katie Bennett’s Free Cake For Every Creature project has excelled in making airy bedroom pop that’s grounded by a relatable honesty. “First Summer In A City” is an instant standout, instantly capitalizing on the act’s most breezy and road-weary sensibilities. The slide guitar work here is a thing of quiet perfection.
Woods – Morning Light
Another band that knows a thing or two about breezy, road-weary sensibilities is Woods, who have sculpted an entire career out of combining the two. One of the most remarkably consistent bands going today, they’ve managed to produce a career highlight with the easygoing, piano-speckled Americana of “Morning Light”.
Music Band – Fortune Guns
Basement pop meets basement punk is where this site pulls most of the bands it features most prominently. Music Band exists squarely in that intersection and have nearly perfected that marriage. “Fortune Guns” is the latest piece of thrilling evidence.
A Death Forest Index – Myth Retraced
“Myth Retraced” is the kind of song that slowly washes over the listener, pulling them deeper in with each successive wave as the current gets increasingly stronger. A collaboration between A Death Forest Index and Savages’ guitarist, Gemma Thompson, it’s a dark, fractured miracle of a track.
Carey – You Were Right
Old Flame Records has long specialized in retro-leaning basement pop, building up a roster of acts that have — appropriately — been granted a lot of attention from this site. Carey‘s the latest band to get in on the action and they kicked 2016 off with the blazing “You Were Right”, which more than lives up to the label’s high standard.
Wood Lake – Hollow
Easily the heaviest song on this list, “Hollow” is a swift masterstroke from emerging act Wood Lake. Combining the very best elements of post-hardcore and shoegaze, the band’s latched onto something that feels as exhilarating as it does singular. Gorgeous and punishing isn’t an easy combination to pull off but Wood Lake’s got it down pat.
Dead Stars – Unpopular
Dead Stars have shown up on this site a few times thanks to their ’90s-infused take on basement pop and “Unpopular” is another very worthy addition to a strong discography. Clean when its called for and distorted when it matters, “Unpopular” finds the band in fine form.
Such Hounds – I’ve Been Lost
Riding a syncopation lifted from The Damned’s classic “Neat Neat Neat” in the introduction, Such Hounds’ “I’ve Been Lost” quickly transforms into a beast of its own, lacing its emphatic powerpop with a punk sneer. Insanely catchy and playfully welcoming, it’s a breath of fresh air in an all-too-often overly serious musical landscape.
Told Slant – Low Hymnal
The first time I heard a note of Told Slant‘s “Low Hymnal” was when it was being recorded in DBTS. I’d wake up and listen in on Felix Walworth meticulously recording the song, wondering how the finished version would play. When I heard the rough take, I surrendered myself to chills, on the verge of tears. Now that it’s done, that feeling’s returned.
Mitski – Your Best American Girl
The year Bury Me At Makeout Creekcame out it came very close to capturing this site’s Album of the Year distinction. Mitski‘s made a lot of moves in the time that’s followed, watching her audience grow exponentially in the process. “Your Best American Girl” is more than strong enough to allow that trend to continue; it’s a dynamic behemoth.
Yung – Pills
Yung were one of the first bands to really impress me at last year’s CMJ. I’d enjoyed what I’d heard from them previously but their was something intangible happening with their live show that converted me into a full-fledged believer. “Pills”, an expertly crafted basement pop number, serves as a welcome reminder that they’ve elevated their game.
Patio – Arbitrary Numbers
Fortunately, for everyone, Patio‘s only grown more confident since their demo (and their first show). Their upcoming EP, Luxury, is chock-full of memorable post-punk, including “Arbitrary Numbers”, the release’s minimalist pull track. Intelligent, catchy, and well-informed, it shows the band’s well on their way to being a recognizable name.
Jean-Michel Blais (ft. Bufflo) – Nostos
One of the more beautiful piano compositions to have emerged in some time, this collaborative effort between Jean-Michel Blais and Bufflo is a haunting, masterful run that’s weighted by what scans as genuine emotion. All of the ambient elements that spring up manage to enhance the vivid nature of the piece’s most emotive moments.
Fog Lake – Rattlesnake
From its melancholic opening moments to its uneasy close, Fog Lake‘s “Rattlesnake” is a gripping journey through unsparing self-examination. Haunting, haunted, and oddly unnerving, the relatively tranquil “Rattlesnake” is a miniature masterpiece that should go quite a ways in elevating Fog Lake towards a desirable status.
Tangerine – Sunset
Tangerine have all the energy you’d expect from an exciting emerging act but are able to differentiate themselves thanks to how effectively they wield that energy. “Sunset” is a perfect example, a frantic, sun-soaked, punk-tinged powerpop number that plays like the band was having difficulty containing their sheer joy over the prospect of simply making music.
Bob Mould – The End of Things
At this point, if you’re reading this site, it’s highly unlikely that Bob Mould‘s an unfamiliar name. The Hüsker Dü co-leader has been on an absolute tear with his solo releases of late, his finest work on those rivaling the best of the band that made him a legend. The fire-breathing “The End of Things” shows that he has absolutely no intentions of slowing down.
Catbus – Fracas
Patio‘s Lindsey-Paige McCloy and Alice Suh make another appearance on this list as part of this new, Phyllis Ophelia-led project that announced itself by way of the uniformly excellent “Catbus”. Post-punk, ’90s pop, and minimalism are woven together here to instantaneously memorable effect. The chorus alone stands as one of 2016’s strongest musical moments.
Museum of Recycling – Stillove
Last year, I was fortunate enough to host the demo premiere of “Stillove”, the standout track from new Big Ups side-project, Museum of Recycling. Heavy, atmospheric, and unrelentingly bruising, “Stillove” sees Joe Galaragga embracing his most melodic sensibilities to spellbinding effect. Get crushed under its formidable weight.
Leapling – Alabaster Snow
While Leapling have had a sizable handful of great tracks leading up to 2016, “Alabaster Snow” showed the band operating on a different level entirely. Easily the band’s best song to date, it’s a chaotic mixture of powerpop and vicious noise-punk that keeps things clean and winds up being even more engaging for its unconventional choices.
Dusk – My Own Design
Tenement‘s Amos Pitsch and Holy Sheboygan!‘s Julia Blair have both had their turn at the helm of Dusk and now, on “My Own Design”, the band moves darn it.‘s Ryley Crowe to the forefront. “My Own Design” is just as timeless and perfect as “(Do the) Bored Recluse” and “Too Sweet“, definitively proving Dusk as a whole belongs at the head of the WI music scene.
The Gotobeds – Real Maths/Too Much
It took me a while to come around on The Gotobeds after the lead-off single from their last record left me fairly cold. This time around, I’d happily go all in on “Real Maths/Too Much”, a pointed burst of post-punk that lingers long after its left. Fiery, insistent, and played with an intense amount of feeling, it’s the band at their absolute best.
Big Thief – Real Love
Another likely contender for multiple year-end lists arrived in the form of Big Thief‘s “Real Love”, a breathtaking tune that’s breathing new life into Saddle Creek’s increasingly impressive roster. A towering masterclass of pure songwriting, “Real Love” is jaw-dropping at nearly every turn, from the sky-bound guitar work to the plaintive honesty that grounds the whole affair. If the rest of the band’s upcoming Masterpiece comes close to matching this song, it’s tongue-in-cheek title won’t carry a shred of irony. “Real Love” is four minutes and 17 seconds of sublime perfection.