Heartbreaking Bravery

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Tag: Gorgeous Bully

The 5 Best Records of August

Over the course of August (save for a few days towards the very beginning), a lot of exceptional records were released. The five featured below managed to stand out in a genuinely crowded field, which is never an easy task. From breezy basement pop records to an enormous shoegaze-leaning effort, all of these are more than worthy of a purchase. Don’t just read the words beneath the titles and above the embeds and give them enough revisits to make them familiar. Enjoy the trip.

Amy O – Elastic

The pinnacle of summer-friendly listening, Amy O‘s Elastic came brimming with irresistible charm. Sunny melodies, narratives that seemed charming at first blush and slowly revealed their fangs, and some genuinely inspired instrumental work powered this little release and allowed it to showcase its deceptive vigor. From standout opener “Lavender Night” to the sweet-then-punchy closer, there is not a false moment on Elastic. An utterly winsome record for every second it’s playing, Elastic is one of 2017’s finest surprises.

Walter Etc. – Gloom Cruise

Another of 2017’s more charming breakthrough efforts came from Walter Etc. who crafted and delivered a beautiful, unassuming basement pop record in Gloom Cruise. Demonstrating a wide array of influences, the band nonetheless finds a way to form an identity unique to them throughout the course of the 10 exceptional songs that comprise the record. Hooks that are equally unassuming and irresistible absolutely litter Gloom Cruise, which is buoyed by its sense of melody. While the record wouldn’t sound too out of place had it been released a decade ago, it’s hard to imagine it would’ve sounded too out of place had it been released a decade from now either. A thrilling listen.

Petite League – Rips One Into the Night

A long-time site favorite, Petite League went all in for Rips One Into the Night. From the noticeable advance push for the record to the contents of the record itself, the Lorenzo Cook-led project seized the type of fearlessness that fits their conviction perfectly. Rips One Into the Night is the band’s strongest effort to date, driven by acutely-realized narratives about young adulthood and the boldest arrangements of the project’s career, the record grips as much as it entices. Risks get taken — especially in the record’s explosive final section — and the rewards reveal themselves tenfold. The furthest thing from a swing and a miss imaginable.

Gorgeous Bully – Great Blue

Tattered basement pop at its absolute peak, Gorgeous Bully‘s Great Blue draws an incredible amount of strength from both its presentation and the songs at its core. Noise-damaged and incredibly sharp, Great Blue hums along and never really stops finding ways to build momentum throughout the course of its run-time. A dozen songs, all of which finding fascinating ways to incorporate punk influences, it presents Gorgeous Bully at their absolute best. Ragged, dogged, and tenacious, Great Blue is a record that finds compelling ways to make an unforgettable mark.

Cloakroom – Time Well

Cloakroom‘s name has been appearing on this site since around the time it came into existence nearly four years ago. Over that time, the band’s managed to find exciting ways to develop, whether it was by expanding their range or furthering their ambitions. Time Well finds them in a different league entirely. This is an absolutely massive record, equally content to soothe and pulverize, embrace and eschew accessible melodies, disorient and hypnotize. Easily the heaviest — and most audacious — work of the band’s already formidable career, Time Well should go down as one of the best efforts from any of the countless shoegaze-leaning bands of this decade.

Gorgeous Bully – Just Like Before (Stream)

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Over the past few days Outer Spaces, Audreytina, Huh, Beach Skulls, Space Raft, and Frameworks all released exceptional music videos that are well worth seeing. Since the songs of the past few days were covered in the preceding post (and full streams will be covered in the post immediately following this one), the attention will be returned once more to an outstanding song: Gorgeous Bully’s “Just Like Before”.

Building off a breathtaking introduction, “Just Like Before” never loses hold of its vast scope. Instrumentally, the song straddles a near-impossible divide between being completely controlled and surging forward, threatening to break away from its confines at any moment. In that relative chaos, they weave a heartbreaking narrative that manages to embolden both the song’s restraint as well as its chaotic, brooding unwieldiness.

“Just Like Before”, against some odds, never finds itself toppling over; this is a masterfully executed piece of basement pop that thrives off its meticulous pacing and stormy atmospherics. It’s an astonishing track that ably demonstrates Gorgeous Bully’s continuing growth as an outfit. Every little subtlety and nuance the band packs into “Just Like Before” serves itself as much as it serves its surrounding components. From the start to the end, it’s a staggering triumph that proves Gorgeous Bully doesn’t intend on going away anytime soon.

Listen to “Just Like Before” below and pre-order their forthcoming 7″ here.

Casey Jordan Weissbuch – Dream (Stream)

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Very few people working in punk-leaning music today have strung together a track record as strong as Casey Weissbuch. With a career that includes work with the likes of Mitski, Diarrhea Planet, Colleen Green, and Jaill (among a long list of equally impressive artists), as well as projects that operate as a clearer vehicle for his own distinct songwriting voice (Slanted, Gumbus, and Trapped all being fine examples) in addition to running Infinity Cat‘s consistently excellent cassette series. Now, he’s returned with a recording project that boasts his own name and, as a result, scans as Weissbuch’s most personal endeavor to date.

Before diving too much further into that project, it’s worth taking a beat to recognize some excellent songs to have emerged since the beginning of April. A small handful of those songs will be covered in this post while the remainder will be evenly distributed across the six fixed stream posts set to follow this one. Those songs came from the likes of Basement Revolver, Proto  Idiot, Crusher, Margaret Glaspy, Hurry, Ben Lukas Boysen, Gland, Walleater, and Gorgeous Bully– all of which constitute an extremely tempting slew of titles. As incredible as those nine tracks wound up being (and, make no mistake, they’re all very serious contenders), Weissbuch’s “Dream” was the number that secured this post’s feature spot.

“Dream”, appropriately, boasts several of Weissbuch’s most recognizable songwriting traits. A straight rhythm that finds a shocking amount of power in its relative simplicity, a melodic sensibility that’s deeply indebted to the slacker punk movement of the early ’90s, and sharply intuitive atmospheric work that manages to make the smallest details feel like enormous moments. In some instances, Weissbuch’s approach results in brief flashes of material that are as reminiscent of Elliott Smith as they are of Sebadoh.

While Weissbuch has an admirable tendency to embrace his influences to their fullest extent possible, it’s worth noting that he’s also cultivated them into something that can stand on its own. Beyond that, songs like “Dream” are recognizably Weissbuch’s. Every time he’s been granted the spotlight, he’s laced his material with honesty, self-deprecation, and a sense of deceptive liveliness buried in narratives that have a tendency to lean towards the mundane. It’s a formula that’s paid massive dividends for his work as a songwriter in the past and “Dream” sees Weissbuch dangerously close to perfecting its formula.

As an introductory song to a new outlet for Weissbuch, it’s extraordinarily promising. In addition to the song’s thoughtful composition and meticulous attention to detail, when it’s scaled back to an area devoid of critical dissection, “Dream” is still an engaging song. While it certainly rewards investment, it’s nearly as effective as a piece of music that just washes over the listener. All told, it’s a track that thrives off its own modesty but, upon close inspection, betrays something approaching greatness.

Listen to “Dream” below and keep an eye on this site for more updates from the project.

Tenement – Bruised Music Vol. 2 (Album Review)

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It’s only a week and a half into April but there have already been a slew of outstanding full streams to snake their way out into the public world. Among those titles are worthwhile efforts from the following: Kevin Morby, Good Dog, Culture Abuse, ShitKid, Space Raft, Holy Pinto, Free Cake For Every Creature, Ashley Shadow, Former Belle, Slushies, Wilder AdkinsKidpolaroid, Reptilians From Andromeda, Gorgeous Bully, John Shakespear, Cotopaxi, Dana Falconberry & Medicine Bow, Murena Murena, and In  Love With A Ghost.

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 Music compilation 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.