Teeming with imagery that hosts a handful of connections to other iconic visuals, the band completely eschews any inhibitions of operating on anything other than a ridiculously grand scale. That grandeur pays dividends, ushering in a bold new era for a band that once seemed content to operate on nearly anarchic terms. In “The Day The Music Dies” they take their mission to the church, light some fires, present a united front, and preach from a pulpit.
All of the confrontational immediacy is escalated by the track itself, which is lent a surprising amount of heft by some incredibly effective horn charts. Fascinating at just about every turn, riddled with allusions to Gothic-tinged entertainment (Paul Thomas Anderson’s There Will Be Blood acting as a more recent reference point), “The Day The Music Dies” finds Iceage comfortable in continuing to expand their boundaries, making Boundless — the band’s forthcoming full-length — one of the more intriguing prospects on the release calendar. The ride to get to that release, should “The Day The Music Dies” be a solid indicator, will be worth taking.
Watch “The Day The Music Dies” below and pre-order Beyondless from Matador here.
Ending a short recess, the following quartet of posts will feature some of the best songs to emerge from a week to two weeks ago. Following those posts, there’ll be a series of posts featuring the best material that’s come out over the past few days. Kicking things off is a strong showing of tracks from the following: The Side Eyes, Meursalt, Bernice, Pole Siblings, Brainstory, Birdsworth, Fotocrime, Max Subar, Sleepy, and Pinky Pinky (covering Jeannie Piersol). As good as all of those were, it was The Total Betty’s “Stay Here All Night” that ensnared attention the most emphatically.
“Stay Here All Night” actually came out several weeks ago but somehow managed to evade detection, which is a shame and warrants remedying (both here and for whoever else missed this one on the first go-round). The first track to tease the band’s outstanding forthcoming record, Peach, “Stay Here All Night” boasts all sorts of small triumphs and congeals them into something utterly winsome. From the driving melody to the barbed witticisms to the intuitive production, there’s not a false note to be found. “Two guys walk into a bar and I strike out with them both” also might just wind up being the line of the summer.
A basement pop song with heaps of sneering punk attitude, “Stay Here All Night” is an invigorating shot to the system. The Total Betty’s aren’t messing around and when they are, they let us in on the joke. This is a deeply, ridiculously impressive look at what has the potential to be a sleeper hit. Get on board early and enjoy the ride.
Listen to “Stay Here All Night” below and pre-order Peach from the band here.
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.
While the past week has been, by and large, dedicated to live coverage (a knock-on effect of moving to a city that hosts multiple shows a night), I’ve still been keeping a wayward eye on both the present release cycle of songs, records, and live captures. It’s the latter category that this post, the 83rd installment of a series that celebrates some of the week’s best live footage, will use as its focus. As usual, there were more than five entries to be considered for a final spot and the clips that didn’t make the cut aren’t worth ignoring, either. So, when you’re done with the feature videos, double back and check out some recently posted performances by Advaeta, Izzy True, Painted Zeros, The Tallest Man On Earth, and Gianna Lauren. Until then, sit back, adjust the lighting to your preference, turn the volume up, lean in, and Watch This.
1. Mikal Cronin – Say (WFUV)
Mikal Cronin, now three records into what’s proving to be an astonishing solo career, has a legitimate claim at being one of this generation’s finest pop songwriters. While MCIII didn’t quite reach the heights of perfection that its immediate predecessor managed but it was compromised of several golden moments, nonetheless. One of those moments came in the form of “Say”, which Cronin and has band dive headfirst into here for WFUV, perfectly capturing that fleeting moment of uncertainty before being consumed by the feelings that accompany any notable dive, jump, or other drastic action.
2. PINS (KEXP)
One of this year’s more intriguing breakout acts, PINS have been making the most out of their newfound attention. They’re delivering at seemingly every opportunity, this KEXP session most certainly included. A jagged band with intriguingly sharp edges, they’ve made no qualms about embracing post-punk’s inherent rawness. In four songs, they manage to fully establish their identity and will more than likely wind up with a few more converts on their hands.
3. Hop Along (NPR)
At this point, Hop Along‘s on this list more often than not and close to all that can be said about their live show has been said in this column already. Here, they get to experiment with stripping back ever so slightly for NPR’s Tiny Desk Sessions series and the results are predictably stunning. Frances Quinlan’s vocals are given even more emphasis but the music’s intrinsically gentle qualities are also given the opportunity to be maximized, capitalizing on a dynamic that suits the band to quiet perfection. As usual, it’s a performance that’s not worth missing.
4. Tica Douglas – All Meanness Be Gone (WMUA)
Joeywas one of 2015’s most welcome surprises back when it was released (and maintains that position now). In that record’s penultimate track, “All Meanness Be Gone”, nearly every aspect of Joey‘s identity-intensive narrative is spun together in a tapestry that’s as devastating as it is heartening. WMUA recently had Douglas in for a solo acoustic session that included a heartfelt performance of the song, one of the year’s best, which can (and should) be seen below.
5. No Joy (KEXP)
At this point the heap of bands fighting to distinguish themselves from each other that operate in the middle ground between traditional post-punk and shoegaze is so expansive that it’s nearly impossible. No Joy manage to make it look effortless in a commanding KEXP session that sees them playing songs old and new. Occasionally muddled but never murky, these four songs present No Joy as an unlikely powerhouse who are clearly ready for bigger stages. Heavy, uncompromising, and ultimately exhilarating, it’s both KEXP and No Joy at their absolute finest.
The Marked Men’s 2006 masterpiece Fix My Brain was one of the decade’s only indisputable basement pop classics. While their unexpected follow-up Ghosts was good, it failed to reach the heights of its predecessor. Afterwards, The Marked Men slowly disappeared, playing only a scant few dates a year, if that. Earlier this year the Denton, TX band headlined Dirtnap Records’ massive 14 year anniversary shows in Seattle and Portland, reminding everyone that they were still on the top of their respective games. Which brings us to the here and now; Marked Men members Jeff Burke and Mark Ryan’s new band, Radioactivity.
Radioactivity have just released their self-titled debut record and it more than lives up to the promise of their involvement. While Ghosts was an admirably slight misstep, Radioactivity feels like the more natural successor to Fix My Brain. Even though Radioactivity isn’t a Marked Men release, it has all of that band’s vintage staples in tact. Vocal melodies are crisp and catchy while the guitar-riff heavy arrangements offer up plenty of memorable hooks. All of this is anchored by a propulsive rhythm section that props up Radioactivity‘s most thrilling moments.
Generally when a band manages to put out a release that’s more than a dozen tracks deep there’s bound to be a weak track or two. Radioactivity avoids this trap in thrilling fashion, offering up 13 standout tracks that don’t deserve to be skipped over. From opening track “Sickness” to their final moment on “Trusted You”, Radioactivity pilots their way through an absurd amount of peaks and ultimately wind up with a new classic on their hands. It will be a legitimately stunning development if this record isn’t featured on several year-end lists, especially when taking into account some of the more specialized publications.
Trying to pinpoint all of the highlights on Radioactivity would be an exercise in gross futility because they’re peppered all over every manic track. Radioactivity’s energy throughout this, while not unexpected, is worth marveling over. All 13 tracks are emphasized by perfect sequencing and elevated by the record’s masterful pacing. Moment after moment is full of a rejuvenated sense of purpose, displaying a sense of uninhibited joy. This is a whirlwind masterclass in a certain style of songwriting and deserves to be in as many collections as possible.
Fix My Brain defined a genre for more than a few people and stood in a class of its own. After a seven year wait for something as worthy, Radioactivity’s self-titled debut has finally proved there can be something that joins its ranks. While it’s still Mark Ryan and Jeff Burke, the band do qualify as a new project despite all the similarities to its predecessor. Whether or not Radioactivity can improve on their astounding start is anyone’s best guess but a lot of people will be anxious to find out. After all, Ryan and Burke have proved they can duplicate their successes. If anyone’s capable of pulling off the miraculous twice, it’d be them.
Radioactivity can be purchased from the always reliable Dirtnap and can be streamed below.