A week ago Fresh Snow, Wilding, The Great Albatross, YUNG, Heaven, CHIMNEY, and Happyness all released compelling music vidoes. Algiers was another one of those acts, returning with the characteristically powerful “The Underside of Power”, drawing once again from an acute understanding of history on both a micro and macro scale and incorporating that knowledge into something as aggressively resilient as it is familiarly sorrowful.
It’s the type of narrative and vision that Henry Busby and Marcus Tortorici bring to vivid life in the direction for the video for “The Underside of the Power”, aided by the intuitive lensing of Anthony Carella. Incorporating public domain footage of the Civil Rights Movement lends the video an air of immediacy, pushing the intensity levels to dangerous levels. Intensity has always been a key component of Algiers’ calling card and “The Underside of Power” doesn’t disappoint, significantly heightening the anticipation for Algiers’ forthcoming record of the same name.
Watch “The Underside of the Power” below and pre-order the record from Matador here.
When I started Heartbreaking Bravery nearly three years ago, I had no intention of pursuing it as a legitimate venture. Now, 1,000 posts, 50,000+ links, and countless words later, the site’s come to be the type of platform I’ve always loved seeing in the world. I could attempt to wax poetic on the nature of personal discovery and growth that running this place has afforded me but Heartbreaking Bravery was never about a single person, it’s always functioned best as a communal entity.
The ideas that formed the basic structure of Heartbreaking Bravery all came from artists producing exceptional work with little recognition. Repeatedly watching that transaction occur proved too disheartening. Whether it was the earliest years of Tenement, the later years of Good Grief, or virtually the entire run of Sleeping in the Aviary, there were always ceaselessly talented artists surrounding me that only ever seemed to receive the slightest of nods.
Heartbreaking Bravery originally aimed — and continues to aim — to provide a more level playing field to emerging artists, without reducing their worth to financial opportunity. Heartbreaking Bravery continues to value the community and intimacy that informs the DIY music world. Heartbreaking Bravery will continue to use the platform it’s been granted to elevate the idea of greater equality.
It’s in that spirit that I’m honored to present A Step Forward, a two-volume compilation spanning 100 tracks that exclusively features artists who are connected to this site’s history. Whether that was through a long history of collaboration or something as small as a twitter follow, the impact was not lost or left unappreciated. There’s a heavy emphasis on artists residing in the cities and states Heartbreaking Bravery has called home (Stevens Point, WI and Brooklyn, NY) and a small selection of songs that were premiered on this site.
100% of the proceeds of A Step Forward will be going to Rape Victim Advocates, a non-profit Chicago-based organization that’s doing vital (and, sadly, necessary) work for survivors of sexual assault. Read more about the organization here. It’s my sincerest hope that every publication that has the privilege of visibility manages to find ways to use any of their influence for productive good and to affect positive change. Please consider donating what you can to a meaningful cause.
Finally, I wanted to express gratitude to all of the artists (and any of their teams) involved — including the inimitable Phil McAndrew, who turned in the extraordinary album art — and all of the people that have allowed, even willed, this site to the point it’s at today. It likely would have disappeared without that support and I owe those people a debt of gratitude that could never be truly repaid. A special thanks to Fred Thomas, whose “What Changes When The Costumes Come Off” was written with the specifics of A Step Forward in mind.
Enjoy the compilation, support independent art, and join me, this site, these artists, and this cause in taking A Step Forward.
A Step Forward: Vol. 1*
1. Vacation – Caked Joy Rag (Demo)
2. Mike Krol – Neighborhood Watch (Demo)
3. Dead Stars – So Strange (Demo)
4. Mo Troper – After the Movies (Demo)
5. Fern Mayo – The Sweets (Demo)
6. Hater – Like Hours (Demo)
7. Sharkmuffin – Only Mondays (Demo)
8. Fits – Ice Cream On A Nice Day (Demo)
9. Missy – Patience (Demo)
10. Kodakrome – Skeletons (Demo)
11. Slight – Run (Demo)
12. Long Neck – Goldfinch (Demo)
13. Phyllis Ophelia – Probably Not (Demo)
14. Lever – Cure (Demo)
15. Puppy Problems – Destroyer (Demo)
16. Battle Ave. – Black Jeans (Demo)
17. Yours Are The Only Ears – Alone Bear (Demo)
18. Attendant – Some Other Language (Demo)
19. MKSEARCH – Little Song (Demo)
20. Sulky Boy – Birches (Demo)
21. Heavy Looks – Those Guys (Demo)
22. darn it. – (again) pt. II
23. Phooey! – On an On
24. Arm Candy – Big Clunker
25. DTCV – Le Vampire
26. Clearance – The Queen of Eyes
27. Leggy – I’m Gonna Destroy That Boy
28. Big Air – Hit Me in the Mouth
29. Terry Malts – Look (At the Mess That We’re In)
30. Ubetcha – Musician
31. Two Inch Astonaut – Suckers Share
32. Whelpwisher – Bucket for the Sky
33. Petite League – Magic Johnson
34. The Meltaways (ft. Kate M) – Wrong Words
35. Calumet – Indian Summer
36. Mulligrub – Little Fist
37. Ben Seretan – Stay In Touch
38. Mumblr – Friendship Stew
39. Human People – Useless Things
40. Bethlehem Steel – Florida Two
41. Painted Zeros – Sweet Briar Rose
42. Spit – Paul Westerberg
43. Crusher – Running
44. Pupppy – Stand By Me
45. Aberdeen – Once You Fall In Love
46. Tica Douglas – Enough
47. Peaer – Multiverse
48. The Weasel, Marten Fisher – What Is Love
49. Young Jesus – Mirroring
50. Space Mountain – Earthrise
A Step Forward: Vol. II*
1. Bellows – Bank Checks
2. Cave Curse – Arcadia
3. Fred Thomas – What Changes When the Costumes Come Off
4. Apollo Vermouth – He Sees You, He Loves You
5. Green Dreams – Psychic Woes (Alternate Mix)
6. Lost Boy ? – Have You Seen My Brain (Space Cat Sessions)
7. Mikaela Davis – Pure Divine Love (Early Mix)
8. Nano Kino – Recovery (Early Mix)
9. Trophy Dad – Addison (Early Mix)
10. Alanna McArdle – Less Than (Early Mix)
11. VVHILE – Don’t Belong (Live)
12. Liam Betson – Mispronounced (Live)
13. BAG-DAD – Bruv (Live)
14. Slothrust – Keg Party (Live)
15. The Nudes – Nowhere to Be
16. Sat. Nite Duets – Cemetery Steve
17. Slanted – Fake Party
18. Patio – Gold
19. Greys – No Star
20. No Hoax – Date With Death
21. Dirty Dishes – Red Roulette
22. Yeesh – On Some Dirt
23. Pile – Cut From First Other Tape
24. Even Hand – Nightsmoke the Fuss
25. PURPLE 7 – Wise Up
26. Bad Wig – Machinehead
27. Mary Lynn – Space
28. Pleistocene – CMJ Compilation 1996
29. Color TV – Anybody’s Girl
30. Jacky Boy – Bad
31. Trust Fund – Would That Be An Adventure?
32. Good Grief – City People
33. Adir L.C. – Hangover
34. Milk Crimes – H8RZ
35. À La Mode – Total Doom
36. Inside Voices – Nomad: Begin
37. Doe – Corin
38. Kindling – Became
39. Bueno – Blown Out
40. Horse Teeth – Dark & Gloomy
41. Ron Gallo – Put the Kids to Bed
42. Sun’s Out Bummed Out – Cut All My Hair
43. Eric Slick – The Dirge
44. Fruit & Flowers – Turqoise
45. Shilpa Ray – Hymn
46. Jack – Sister System
47. Strange Ranger – Whatever You Say
48. Johanna Warren – A Bird in the Crocodile’s Mouth
49. Oceanator – Nowhere Nothing
50. Fresh Snow – Eat Me In St. Louis (Bryan W. Bray – Eaten by the Cetacean Mix)
Tracks 1-21: Demos
Tracks 22-50: New Songs
Tracks 1-4: New Songs (cont’d) Tracks 5-14: Alternate Mixes and Live Songs Tracks 15-49: Old Favorites Track 50: Remix
Ever since hearing the pulverizing, punk-damaged basement pop triumph “No Big Deal” several years back, Terry Malts has been a name that’s stuck. For more than six years, this project’s been evolving in surprising ways and the first track to be released from their forthcoming Lost at theParty, “Seen Everything”, continues to demonstrate their dogged pursuit of artistic growth.
While the elements that made the band a standout in their early goings are still extremely evident, the band’s polished their well-informed pop sensibilities into the focal point of their music- or, at the very least, the focal point of “Seen Everything”. After a string of releases that were fully committed to emphasizing the band’s tenacious aggression, “Seen Everything” finds them easing up a little and coming away with exhilarating results; this is the downhill coast after the uphill battle.
As is usually the case, there’s an abundance of memorable hooks and the band still has a keen knack for how to implement lo-fi aesthetics. The narrative deals with the struggle of acceptance in surprisingly acute ways, offering up brief, rapid-fire vignettes that tie together into a devastatingly complete picture. From every angle, “Seen Everything” is an impressive work and seems to be a statement release for Terry Malts, who are more than ready to transition into a more recognizable name.
“Seen Everything” is a refreshing piece of work from a band that’s still finding compelling ways to flourish without losing any of their ferocious bite. Fascinating, galvanizing, and incredibly immediate, Terry Malts have produced one of the more startling tracks of 2016, setting a very high bar for Lost at the Party. If the rest of the record doesn’t wind up being diminished by this sharp run of near-perfection, it’ll be a permanent staple in a whole lot of collections. Looking at the run the band’s put together so far, it’d be a safe move to clear out a space now.
Listen to “Seen Everything” below and pre-order Lost at the Party from Slumberland here.
The five clips featured today come from bands that have, in some form or another, garnered positive notices from this site in the past. Seeing these acts continue to grow, expand, succeed, and even flourish has been heartening. Seeing them excel in the live department remains galvanizing. There’s an expansive range from the selected acts (and their accompanying videos), in terms of style. All of them are worthy of praise. So, as always, sit back, tune up, lean in, and Watch This.
1. Okkervil River (WFUV)
With their forthcoming Away nearing its release date, Okkervil River‘s been making some early rounds to promote the record. It’s impossible to overstate how important Okkervil River were to the development of this site’s personal ethos, so any time the band makes a return it’s more than welcome. Here, they perform two songs from Away but continue to demonstrate their immense skill at re-interpreting their own material, offering an incredible version of “For Real” — easily one of the best songs since the turn of the century — that hints at their worldview. It’s an immensely impressive session and a memorable portrait of a band that’s never really gotten their due.
2. Worriers – Plans (Live From the Rock Room)
Last year’s Imaginary Life was Worriers‘ finest moment to date and the band still seems to be riding a surge of adrenaline and confidence from that small triumph. The quartet recently visited Live From the Rock Room to deliver a galvanizing rendition of “Plans”, one of that record’s many standouts. The band continues to be defined by both their intelligence and extreme amount of heart, both of which are fully on display in this clip.
3. Prism Tats (KEXP)
Prism Tats have been having a breakout year, releasing their formidable self-titled debut full-length on ANTI- Records and producing a string of praise-worthy music videos. They’ve been touring with some bands that have serious weight behind their names and making a small sea of fresh converts at just about every stop. Here, the band turns in a powerful session for KEXP, revealing their increasingly sharp interplay and knack for subdued, hook-heavy basement pop. The whole clip looks and sounds beautiful, standing as a strong example of what can be accomplished with the right people on both ends of the camera.
4. Big Thief (KDHX)
Masterpiece was an immediate standout upon its release and remains one of 2016’s finest records. It’s catapulted Big Thief into a new level of fame and the band’s responded in kind, continuously sharpening their craft and all but perfecting their penchant for sweeping, open-road anthems tinged with nostalgic hues. The band recently visited the KDHX studios and played through two songs, including the unforgettable and melancholic “Paul“. The band pairs it with a deeply felt run-through of “Vegas”, offering both a very strong reminder of Masterpiece‘s astonishing strength and their breathtaking prowess as a live unit.
5. Fresh Snow – January Skies (Exclaim!)
For some time now, Fresh Snow have excelled in crafting aggressive, ambient tracks that come fully equipped with a decidedly punk influence. Their live show has been a consistent standout and the band holds nothing back for this atmospheric Exclaim! clip of the band playing “January Skies”. There’s a feeling of rawness through the whole affair that seems to be at odds with the serene lighting, creating a strange, unsettling feeling that elevates this far beyond the standard performance clip. There’s some magic at play here and it continues to cast out the kind of spell that simply can’t be refused.
After a large handful of extended posts, Watch This will be back to its weekly schedule following this collection. Watch This has been an essential part of Heartbreaking Bravery since its first era as its very foundations are rooted in a philosophy that complements this space’s mission statement. They’re frequently ignored despite their astonishing level of artistry and are rarely featured in any meaningful way on any other forum. Live documentation is deeply important as it creates an immediate visual aid for a multifaceted chapter of history (and specifically the intersections that occur between venues/locations and artists).
Once again, 25 bands are featured in the below packet. Among these videos are performances that run the gamut from explosive covers (Meat Wave tackling Elliott Smith, Tacocat taking on Katy Perry), head-turning solo performances (Declan McKenna), confident experimentation (Operators, Fresh Snow, Blasteroid), and adrenaline-fueled thrill rides (Audacity, PWR BTTM, Mike Krol), among several other performance modes. Everything on display in this collection is worth studying, whether it’s the fillmmaking aspect or the performances themselves. There’s a lot to ingest so, as always, sit up straight, adjust the volume, get settled, and Watch This.
1. Audacity – Dirty Boy (BreakThruRadio) 2. PWR BTTM – Ugly Cherries (Radio K) 3. Meat Wave – Speed Trials (SideOneDummy) 4. Stephen Steinbrink – Absent Mind (Little Elephant) 5. Moving Panoramas – Radar (BreakThruRadio) 6. David Bazan – Both Hands (KEXP) 7. The Zolas – Swooner (Light Organ) 8. Chris Bathgate – Nicosia (Radio K) 9. Hype – Last Man On Earth (DZ Records) 10. Operators – Space Needle (WFUV) 11. DIIE – Miracles & Magic Are Real (Radio K) 12. The So So Glos – Dancing Industry (Little Elephant) 13. Declan McKenna – Brazil (Conan) 14. Fresh Snow – Your Thirst For Magic Has Been Quenched By Death! (Exclaim!) 15. Mike Krol – This Is The News (KINK) 16. Tacocat – Roar (The AV Club) 17. The Kills – Tape Song (KCRW) 18. Guerilla Toss – Eraser Stargazer Forever (BreakThruRadio) 19. Blasteroid – Triple D (VHS Sessions) 20. GoGoPenguin – Branches Break (WFUV) 21. Saintseneca – How Many Blankets Are In The World (WXPN) 22. Murder By Death – Foxglove (Paste) 23. Nada Surf – Friend Hospital (World Cafe) 24. Furnsss – Roll With It (VHS Sessions) 25. Lee Fields – Don’t Leave Me This Way (KDHX)
Before diving into the particulars of the forthcoming lists, it’s worth addressing the distinction made in the headline. Each of the categories that received a list in 2015 (music videos, songs, EP’s, albums, odds and ends) will be expanded upon in this post. However, there are still two forthcoming film lists but each of those will include the honorable mentions along with the featured rankings. An obscene amount of great material came out over the 12 months that comprised the past year so any attempts to cover everything would be futile. If anyone’s exhausted the below lists, a more comprehensive version can be found by exploring the following tags: stream, full stream, EP stream, and music video. Explore some of the top tier picks that didn’t make it onto the year-end lists via the tags below.
Following the slice-of-life aesthetic that the band returned to for “River“, the band indulges their more Refn-like tendencies for the Jon Washington and Zac Little-directed “Bad Ideas”. Wielding surreal imagery, quasi-nightmarish costuming, gorgeous cinematography, and a committed central performance from Little to maximum dramatic effect, “Bad Ideas” is one of the more arresting clips to come along in recent memory.
It’s a presentation that’s loosely connected to the excellent Such Things‘ lofty ambitions, marked by something that approaches being intentionally impenetrable. Beautifully choreographed, crisply edited, and endlessly entertaining, “Bad Ideas” is an instantly memorable clip from a band that’s no stranger to producing unforgettable imagery (there’s a shot of a flare at the 2:38 mark in “Bad Ideas” that ranks as one of the most impressively staged shots I’ve seen all year).
Once again, skateboarding make an inclusion, likely underscoring the band’s continuing narrative centered around motion. There’s not a false note to be found in “Bad Ideas” and the band expertly balances pathos with levity. The end result’s a gripping piece of expressionism from a band that’s operating with an increasing level of fearlessness. Saintseneca’s doing some genuinely fascinating things with their material, we should all just count ourselves as fortunate to be along for the ride.
Watch “Bad Ideas” below and order Such Things from ANTI- here.
It’s been a busy week on multiple levels. Accordingly, there’s been a small gap in coverage. Of course, the release schedule towards this time of year clicks into fifth gear and unleashes a cavalcade of new material upon an unsuspecting public. All three formats had multiple entries worth multiple listens and looks. Chief among them, as usual, was the individual song slate. Since covering all of the great songs to have come out over the past few days would be pointless from a pragmatic standpoint, they’ll be listed below- and it has been a strong few days for this particular category. A large handful of the songs contained in the list below the song in the headline would have been featured on any given day over the past handful of months. That, of course, also bolsters the strength of the song that can lay claim as this post’s focal point: Dilly Dally’s fierce “Purple Rage”.
Over the past year, Dilly Dally have established themselves as a serious force, becoming one of this site’s most celebrated acts in the process. After coming dangerously close to topping the year-end list for 7″ releases, the band immediately set about crafting a debut full-length to capitalize on a shockingly strong statement and lay waste to the notion that whatever magic they tapped into for those first two releases couldn’t be sustained. Justabouteverything the band’s released this year has earned serious praise here and “Purple Rage” arguably tops them all. From the coy title- a winking nod towards the Prince classic- to the total embrace of anger (an aspect that informs and drives a lot of the band’s music), “Purple Rage” has all the makings of a knockout blow. In its execution, it exceeds those elements and becomes a jaw-dropping showstopper that showcases the band at their most relentlessly bruising.
Even its mechanics are notable; anger’s an emotion that rises and guitarist/vocalist Katie Monks’ vocals mirror that rise at the song’s outset, growing (subtly) more impassioned as the song progresses. Once again, the lead guitar tones seem to cut through the mix with a vengeance, all at once occupying a space that feels vibrant, eerie, and menacing. The rhythm section’s practically required to be frighteningly propulsive considering the song’s subject matter and it elevates the song to a higher level by both adhering to and subverting those expectations throughout the song’s three minute run-time. Every element acts in perfect complement to the others, conjuring up a foreboding, and maybe even threatening, atmosphere. It’s the kind of song that pierces immediately and then gleefully rips open the wound it created. Manic, wild-eyed, resilient, and unforgiving, “Purple Rage” is another meticulously crafted and deeply felt examination of base human instinct, allowing it to reside comfortable in an already shockingly brilliant discography. Should the rest of Sore live up to its previews, the band may have a viable Album of the Year contender on their bloodied up hands.
Listen to “Purple Rage” below and pre-order Sore ahead of its release date here. Below the player, explore a long list of some of the week’s most notable songs.
At just past midweek, the content that’s been publicly issued over the past few days has struck the right notes far more often than it’s fallen flat. All three major categories (full stream, single stream, and music video) will be covered via recap. Two single streams and one music video will offer up the headlines, with this post’s feature falling solely to Pleasure Leftists‘ current career highlight, “Protection”. Back in June of last year, the band performed a scorching version of the song (video included below) in Toronto as part of a memorable opening set, eliciting both applause and chills.
Ever since that performance, “Protection” has been my favorite Pleasure Leftists song and the reference point I’d frequently cite to justify my excitement over the band’s forthcoming record. As the new songs have ushered in, that excitement’s only managed to swell to intimidating proportions. Anything less than spectacular would feel like a letdown but- thankfully- the preview material’s only reinforced the opinion that The Woods of Heaven would be a serious year-end contender.
Now that “Protection” has found an official release, those chills that the band first inspired more than a year ago have resurfaced with a vengeance. Everything that made “Protection” such an unforgettable punch the first time around has been sharpened, groomed into something clear-eyed and dangerous. While the band certainly takes cues from the industrial contrasts that inspired the best post-punk in the genre’s formative years, they’ve also managed to imprint a distinctly modern bite on a familiar formula. Cold, wounded, euphoric, relentless, resilient, and inspired, “Protection” is the sound of a once-great band surpassing their perceived potential and reaching something otherworldly.
Listen to “Protection” below and pre-order The Woods of Heaven ahead of its late August release from Deranged here. Beneath the embed, watch the band performing the song live in Toronto last year and explore some of the week’s best songs beneath the video.