Heartbreaking Bravery

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Tag: fringe pop

LVL UP at Beat Kitchen – 10/12/14 (Pictorial Review, Video)

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Over the past few months, this site has given plenty of coverage to both LVL UP and the label two of its members founded (and run), Double Double Whammy. Included in the ranks of the Double Double Whammy roster was another artist who’s emerged as a site favorite: Mitski. When the two announced they’d be touring together (and, subsequently that LVL UP would be backing Mitski), being in attendance for the nearest show was a foregone conclusion. On October 12, their tour made its way to Chicago’s Beat Kitchen where they headlined a bill that also included local acts Mtvghosts and Staring Problem.

Mtvghosts kicked things off after narrowly avoiding being no-shows and made their way through an energetic set of Strokes-influenced powerpop (not too dissimilar from Locksley). Now a few releases into their career, they made their way through a high energy set and played off each other nicely. Utilizing an abundance of energy and a clear connection, their set succeeded on pure entertainment value- Staring Problem‘s Lauren Owen would later make an amusing remark on the vocalist’s “Paul McCartney head thing”. While it’s clear Mtvghosts have a very firm grasp on composition and how to write a good pop song, not too much of it had any kind of longevity- although there’s enough talent in the band to suggest that point may not be too far down the line.

After Mtvghosts unabashedly pop concoctions, Staring Problem dove headlong into a set of primal post-punk that was tinged with early goth-punk influences. With songs that felt deadly serious and had pulsating undercurrents of the overwhelmingly bleak, they managed to sink into a groove that left most of the audience in a hypnotic trance. Mtvghosts may have had Staring Problem beat in terms of stage presence but Staring Problem’s songs proved to be immensely gripping, if unrelentingly minimal (their drummer’s kit was bare-bones and the only cymbal it made room for was a hi-hat). Impressive bass riffs dueled with intuitive guitarwork and Owens’ tranced-out vocals. Even with an emphasis on the grave, the band found room for humor; a song called “Pictures of Morrissey In Jake’s Locker” wound up being an unexpected highlight. By the time they exited, it was difficult to imagine they hadn’t made a few converts.

Mitski‘s been making quite a name for herself lately. After two very strong records of avant pop, the songwriter’s made a sharp left turn into blissed-out noise pop. With the distortion cranked up on the extraordinary soon-to-be-released Bury Me At Makeout Creek it’s afforded Mitski the chance to reignite an already impressive career. “Townie“, “First Love/Late Spring“, and “I Don’t Smoke” all showcase layers of a seriously enviable talent in composition and musicianship (as well as some gorgeous- and expansive- production), which shouldn’t be surprising taking into account Mitski’s SUNY Purchase background. Incidentally, SUNY Purchase was where Mitski would meet the members of LVL UP and forge a connection that would have direct implications for both artist’s respective careers.

Taking into account the high-functioning levels of production that provide Bury Me At Makeout Creek part of its character, a large portion of the pre-set anticipation lay in how Mitski would bring these songs to life with the assistance of LVL UP. Less than a minute into “Townie” any doubts that the songs would lose even a fraction of their appeal were absolutely annihilated. Aided by Michael Caridi on guitar and LVL UP bassist Nick Corbo on drums, Mitski lay into the song with a startling amount of intensity, causing the audience to erupt in bewildered applause by the song’s close.

All it took was that first song for Mitski to expand and win over an entire audience, which raises the stakes considerably on the expected reaction to Bury Me At Makeout Creek once it’s out in the world. Caridi and Corbo both flashed extremely impressive chops as Mitski commanded attention with the kind of effortlessness that suggests much bigger things will be happening for the emerging artist in the very near future. When Mitski’s set closed with Mitski absolutely shredding her vocal cords in bouts of guttural screaming at the end of “Drunk Walk Home”, half the audience seemed to be left speechless- and it was difficult to fault them- Mitski had delivered the kind of set that warrants the highest kinds of praise and ensures that even more people will be drawn into her orbit.

After Mitski’s set, it wouldn’t have been too surprising to see someone leaving thinking they’d seen the headliner- but it wasn’t before long that LVL UP proved that they were up to the task of following a gift of a set with another exercise in killer performances. Having already delivered one of the year’s best records in Hoodwink’d and one of the year’s best songs, “Big Snow“, on an absolutely essential split, their live set had quite a bit to live up to. Boasting a discography that’s bursting at the seams with songs that project a casual confidence and an excess of charisma, LVL UP’s very nature is practically defined by their willingness to embrace each the unique personality of each principal songwriter (Caridi, Corbo, and Trace Mountains‘ Dave Benton).

Soft Power“, “Ski Vacation“, “DBTS“, and “I Feel Ok” all hinted at LVL UP excelling as a complementary unit that would easily function when stripped back to individual elements. Balancing on the precipice between detached apathy and unbridled energy, the band’s songs came to weird, vibrant life in the live setting. Everyone traded off vocals with a casually practiced ease and a fiery commitment. True to Space Brothers‘ form, several of the songs bled into each other- with a particular highlight (one of a very large handful) being the opening trio of tracks from that very record. In fact, much of their set played out like a contained suite, with everything retaining maximum impact.

There was more than one point through LVL UP’s set where time seemed to be completely lost, as the band kept the audience engaged while they occupied their own world. Song after song, they demonstrated just about every reason why they’re a band worth celebrating- only emphatically enhancing the live elements of that particular spread. Solos were traded, select songs were extended with surprisingly heavy bridges and outros, and- more than anything else- left-field personality was exuded. Hoodwink’d and Space Brothers were about evenly split throughout the set, and both songs from the band’s incredible split with Porches. were represented as well.

While Corbo, Caridi, and Benton all shared a fair amount of spotlight, drummer Greg Rutkin held everything down with brute force and an unfailingly exact precision that made songs like the closing “ELIXR (19)” sound absolutely massive. Just like on record, everything managed to complement everything else in a manner that made all of LVL UP’s songs feel intensely alive. Before their set, each member had voiced various concerns about their headlining slot and thanks for Beat Kitchen’s kind accommodations (including sound, which was pristine throughout the show). When “ELIXR (19)” drew the set to a powerful close, it provided an exclamation point to a stunning set that coursed past their early apprehensions into the realms of the sublime. If there was any reservation about this before, their set ensured one thing: 2014 is LVL UP’s year. Get on board before it’s too late.

Watch a clip of LVL UP playing “Soft Power” and “Bro Chillers” below. Underneath that, view an extensive photo gallery of the show.

Weaves – Shithole (Stream)

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Following another insane Monday, Tuesday’s kept things humming along at an impressively furious clip. A few of the full album streams that surfaced included CreaturoS’ miraculous psych-punk stomper Popsicle, Nude Beach’s characteristically impressive 77, Dope Body‘s ferocious Lifers, and Marshall Teller supergroup Psychic Markers’ impressive self-titled debut. On the EP and 7″ side of things, the absolutely jaw-dropping four-way split between Krill, LVL UP, Ovlov, and Radiator Hospital started streaming over on Soundcloud, while the split between Girlpool and Slutever= where both bands cover each other’s songs- went up on bandcamp. Vetter Kids also debuted their excellent new EP, Logan, on AV Club.

A fair few single songs started to make the rounds as well: Guided By Voices mastermind Robert Pollard introduced his new project- Ricked Wicky- by way of the hard-charging “Mobility“, Diarrhea Planet continued to improve with the 90’s-influenced throwback “Bamboo Curtain“, Sorority Noise’s “Wesleyand’s Best Dressed” confirmed their growing buzz is fully warranted, Strange Babes ensured that their upcoming debut effort is worth anticipating with the lovely powerpop of “Holiday“, and Ex-Breathers continued breathing fire into their peculiar brand of hardcore with the violently unhinged “Falling Away“. In addition to all of that, the visual medium was well-represented with a highly stylized (and extremely disquieting) black-and-white clip for “Am Gone” from avant pop weirdos Adult Jazz and Routine Involvements‘ surrealist headtrip for their instrumental track, “UFO“.

Having already given the split between Krill, LVL UP, Ovlov, and Radiator Hopsital quite a bit of attention recently, today’s feature fell to an artist who has yet to earn notable coverage on this site: Toronto’s Weaves. Having just missed their set opening for Courtney Barnett at Sonic Boom during NXNE, they’ve been a band that’s been on the cusp of the radar. Previously, the band’s sound has been rooted in a brave kind of DIY punk experimentalism; electronic and dance undercurrents cut apart what would’ve otherwise been straightforward rock n’ roll songs. While that proved to be an angle that kept things interesting, the band’s done away with any tangential excess on “Shithole”- and they might be better off for it.

“Shithole” is the most direct track of Weaves’ still-young career and very likely their best effort to date. Precariously balanced on the tightrope connecting a laid-back vibe to a relentless energy, it still manages to come across as enticing and effortless in equal measure. Ragged guitar riffs meet a sweetly irresistible vocal melody while vocalist Jasmyn Burke’s lyrics push the whole thing towards the sublime. It’s an absolutely stunning track that completely re-defines the rules for a band that was already emerging- and in doing so, forces an adjustment for the expectations that have started surrounding them. All of that is prompted even before the track’s closed out by a relentless, feedback-tinged solo that supplements the cathartic final chorus. If this really is an indication of the direction Weaves is heading in, it’s time to sit up and start paying extremely close attention to this band.

Listen to “Shithole” below and keep both eyes peeled for whatever Weaves has in store to follow it up.

LVL UP – Big Snow (Stream)

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What a day. There was no obvious choice for a feature until LVL UP’s “Big Snow” premiered over at Impose. On the surface, that’s a bland statement- but looking at the company that “Big Snow” joined today, it’s one hell of a testament to LVL UP.  In the single song department there were some legitimately great songs: Run The Jewels’ pulverizing new (Zach De La Rocha-featuring) scorcher “Close Your Eyes (And Count To Fuck)“, Dollface’s impossibly breezy indie pop gem “Churchyard“, Daddy Issues’ distortion-laden post-punk dirge “Ugly When I Cry“, and  a bracing new Crow Bait song- “Separate Stations“- that incorporates members of Iron Chic. There was also Dasher’s foreboding noise-punk minimalism piece, “Teeth“, as well as Vetter Kids’ “I’m Just Your Newest Bluest” which is a perfect representation of the band’s modernist take on classic 90’s emo and noise-punk. “A Million Random Digits” proved that …And You Will Know Us By The Trail Of Dead are far from being done while Wedding Dress’ “Somewhere Darker” makes it clear that Wedding Dress are anxious to make their introduction to the world.

Cellphone also posited themselves as a band ready to make a notable entrance with an enticing and mysterious trailer to promote their upcoming Excellent Condition. Denmark’s Mimas returned to the fold in a big way with the characteristically impressive live-edit clip for “Kissinger’s Jaw” (fans of Exploding in Sound who aren’t well-versed in Big Scary Monsters would do well to take note of this one) and Tangerine released a delightful video for another indie-pop keeper, “You’ll Always Be Lonely”. Ex Hex got in on the action as well, releasing a knockout video for Rips highlight (one of many) “Waterfall“. For full streams there were stunners from The Grayces, Thurston Moore, and a mildly insane (and wildly heavy) split between Big Neck Police and Dog.

Everything hyperlinked in the two paragraphs above stands as both a great way to share music worth listening to and acts as a very long-winded way of saying that featuring “Big Snow” wasn’t a foregone conclusion- at least not until the riff kicked in at the :26 mark. It’s the third song to be streamed from a just-released split between LVL UP, Krill, Ovlov, and Radiator Hospital. “Big Snow” is a song that’s actually been featured on this site before in an admittedly roundabout way- it was the feature piece in the band’s Serious Business session that was featured on Watch This. Even with Hoodwink’d being one of this site’s top contenders (if not top contender) for Album of the Year honors, “Big Snow” manages to stand out as one of the best songs to spring out of the band’s discography.

Having just seen LVL UP take the roof off of Chicago’s Beat Kitchen (pictured above, more to come on that later), it’s allowed the cementing of some previously-held opinions in regards to how the band functions. First and foremost; this is a truly collaborative effort with everything working as a complement to its surrounding elements at an obscenely high level. Second, this music works best as a victory lap for the disenfranchised; it’s both a rousing call to action and a well-meaning embrace for the people who were told they’d never live up to their potential or lived on the fringes of culture. LVL UP’s never been one to shy away from the unconventional (or the irreverent) and that’s a trait that takes bravery to embody. “Big Snow” hints at all of these elements and includes a rare treat; every one of the band’s vocalists (Dave Benton, Nick Corbo, and Mike Caridi, respectively) joins in for one last rousing harmony run before that surging, blissed-out guitar riff rallies the song to its fade-out finish. If Hoodwink’d wasn’t already proof, “Big Snow” certainly cements what’s become an unavoidable fact: LVL UP are one of today’s best bands and they deserve all the accolades that are bound to fall their way.

Listen to “Big Snow” below and pre-order the split it’s on from Double Double Whammy here.

Three Quarters Down (Mixtape)

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[EDITOR’S NOTE: First off, to get this out of the way at the top, there will be no Watch This today. It’s absence will be made up with a unique 50th post next Sunday.]

We recently hit another quarter mark in the year and this site just hit another fifty posts. A digital mixtape- Three Quarters Down– has been curated to celebrate both of these occasions. All 25 songs on display have managed to become favorites in the span of their (admittedly short) existence. It didn’t matter where they came from- splits, records, singles, exclusives- if it was a great song that came out over the course of the past three months, it wound up on the list. However, there are a handful of others that were excluded by virtue of not appearing in Soundcloud’s public library- those will likely get their due in December both here and elsewhere. In the meantime, revisit some of the best songs that led us straight into fall by listening to the mix below.

Beneath the 8tracks player is the original listing of the songs in this collection. Enjoy.

1. Mitski – Townie
2. Two Inch Astronaut – Foulbrood
3. LVL UP – DBTS
4. Little Big League – Tropical Jinx
5. The History of Apple Pie – Jamais Vu
6. Menace Beach – Come On Give Up
7. Thalassocracy – Shimensoka
8. Cellphone – Human Rights
9. Ovlov – Ohmu Shell
10. Mumblr – Sober
11. Trust Fund – Reading The Wrappers
12. Girlpool – Jane
13. Night School – Casiotone
14. Happy Diving – Sad Planet
15. Dilly Dally – Green
16. Washer – Rot
17. Speedy Ortiz – Bigger Party
18. The Midwest Beat – Vortex Hole
19. Bass Drum of Death – For Blood
20. Mannequin Pussy – Sheet City
21. Pity Sex – Acid Reflex
22. Mogwai – Teenage Exorcists
23. Nothing – July The Fourth
24. Dark Blue – Here On My Street
25. Crimson Wave – Say

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.

Watch This: Vol. 48

The 48th installment of Watch This reads like a laundry list of this site’s favorite places to cull videos from; Allston Pudding, The Chris Gethard Show, and Little Elephant among them. Live versions of songs that have previously been fawned over resurface with new levels of urgency and old treasures prove their longevity. Every performance that gets featured here is impassioned and clearly illustrates the respective band’s obvious connections to their own music (with a strain of apathy-fueled music growing steadily prominent, this is- unfortunately- more of a rarity than common occurrence). Trying to wax poetic about most of these videos in this paragraph would most likely just wind up doing them a disservice, so: sit back, turn the volume up, ignore the time, lean in, and Watch This.

1. Little Big League – Property Line (Little Elephant)

There hasn’t been a band in quite a while to pull off what Little Big League achieves by virtue of this placement; this is their third consecutive video to appear in this series- in as many weeks- and they’re all from the same Little Elephant session. So, some straight talk: “Property Line” is one of the year’s best songs and the band’s current career-best effort.  Even though the live version doesn’t have the benefit of those chill-inducing horns, it retains its formidable pull. As always, the band reveals themselves to be an excellent live act and provides several reasons to get excited about their upcoming LP, Tropical Jinx.

2. Sweet John Bloom – Aging In Place (Allston Pudding)

Allston Pudding’s made a habit of making impressive live videos- this outstrips all of their previous work with an assured ease and a new level of confidence that suits them well. An extraordinary live-edit that features a stunning performance from emerging act Sweet John Bloom to promote their upcoming full-length, Weird Prayer. Expertly marrying high-energy basement pop with deliriously frantic post-punk, it’s inclusion would have been an easy decision as an isolated standalone- the additional edits towards the video’s close put it way over the top and render it one of the more artistically inclined live videos to ever appear in this series. Don’t skip out on this one.

3. Protomartyr (La Blogotheque)

Protomartyr’s Under Color of Official Right was one of the highlights of 2014’s first quarter and it’s held its ground ever since its release. Here, the band teams up with La Blogotheque to film stripped-back live performances of “What the Well Said” and “Scum, Rise!” in the moats of Saint-Malo, a port city in France. It’s a fitting backdrop for the band’s take on post-punk, something that bears the influence of their Detroit home. Unsurprisingly, it’s spectacularly shot and bizarrely compelling, continuing La Blogotheque’s unique penchant for producing live footage that excels on those levels.

4. Jeff Rosentstock & Friends – Hey Allison! (TCGS)

Don Giovanni comedy darling Chris Gethard hosts a show. These shows host live acts. It seems that nearly every time a video of these performances surfaces, it earns a spot in this series. Jeff Rosenstock‘s “Hey Allison!” has already emerged as one of the more relentless earworms of the past few weeks and the live version is an all-out blitz. Anytime anyone puts this much heart into music this good, it’s going to earn a write-up. The Chris Gethard Show also has the unique advantage of utilizing a crowd of misfits being encouraged to be as weird as possible, turning single song performances into outright events. There are few things more encouraging than watching a band and an audience enjoy each other’s company in equal measure at an absurdly high degree. This is can’t-miss entertainment.

5. METZ – Get Off! (Pitchfork)

METZ was one of the more unforgettable debuts of the past few years and the band’s live show, easily one of the best around, pushes those songs to exhilarating heights. Employing humanism and sonic annihilation at roughly the same pace, anytime the band takes the stage it’s a small victory for everyone involved. Here, they tear through a fired-up version of “Get Off” and incite some fierce reactions from an adoring crowd. METZ themselves remain as entertaining as ever, putting just about everything they have on the line every time they take the stage- and they’re showing no signs of slowing down.

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.

The History of Apple Pie – Jamais Vu (Music Video)

The-History-of-Apple-Pie

This week was kicked off in powerful fashion thanks to the most recent additions to the never-ending avalanche of new releases. Mitski, Slothrust, and Jeff Rosentstock all had outstanding new songs, increasing the anticipation levels for each of their upcoming records. Mary Timony’s newest project, Ex Hex, have their upcoming record streaming in full over at NPR’s First Listen. On the music video side of things, Nothing offered up a sinister clip (directed by band member Domenic Palermo) composed of nothing but home invasion archival footage for a recently-remastered early acoustic version of “B&E“. There were also two visually stunning videos that surfaced from  Haley Bonar and The Bug, the former being a gentle oneiric caress and the latter being a masterfully composed nightmarish descent of towering proportions. The History of Apple Pie staked out a place in a similar camp with their visually meticulous clip for Feel Something highlight “Jamias Vu”.

Director Alistair Redding has said that the video for “Jamais Vu” took cues from French New Wave pioneer Jean-Luc Godard and indie darling Wes Anderson. From the Robert Yeoman framing symmetry to the highly stylized art production, both influences cut through the clip like a knife. It’d all be distracting if it didn’t wind up being a perfect complement to The History of Apple Pie’s particular brand of whimsy; their exceptional fuzz-cloaked outsider pop somehow given greater emphasis by the striking visual palette. They’re a band that seems to operate in multicolor already and they’ve found a perfect match in Redding’s distinct and well-versed grasp on varying filmic influences. At just past the minute-and-thirty mark, there’s a long shot that switches the focal emphasis to the environmental foreground (which is generally relegated to the backdrop), double-framing the character subjects and providing a perfect point of reference for the composition mastery on display in “Jamais Vu”. Guns fire stars, uniformly dapper battalions stride through fields and scout the woods, and the whole thing’s brilliantly soundtracked by the song it was designed to enhance. It’s a monstrously winsome work of multimedia perfection, with every element working together to hit a surprisingly comprehensive level of artistry. “Jamais Vu” is far too fun to miss.

Watch “Jamais Vu” below and order Feel Something from the excellent UK-based Marshall Teller Records here.