Heartbreaking Bravery

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Tag: Grass Stain

À La Mode – Total Doom (Stream)

a la mode

Tuesday saw the release of a slew of notable streams from Francie Moon, Cross Country, Left & Right, Kevin Devine, Curse of Lono, Sighs, Springtime Carnivore, Wovenhand, Avid Dancer, Communions, Peeling, Slow Mass, Bellows, Savoy Motel, and Dangers. In addition to that bounty, there were some strong music videos arriving from the likes of Adir L.C., Dust From 1000 Yrs, Bunny, Sam Evian, Joan Shelley, and Minden. A pair of excellent full streams in Sex Stains‘ self-titled and Skyjelly‘s package product were just the cherry on top.

While many of those acts have earned praise from this site in the past, today’s feature — once again — falls to a group of fresh faces. À La Mode only have one self-titled EP to their name but are prepared to change that in the very near future. Following their 2014 self-titled effort, the band’s made some enormous strides forward and arrive completely revitalized with the first single, “Total Doom”, from their forthcoming debut full-length, Perfection Salad.

Opening with an electronic, dance-ready beat turns out to be somewhat of a misdirect with the band throwing their weight into a more traditional setup after the introduction. At no point does the band lose the sense of fun it established at the top, though, and when the synth returns for the chorus it gives a remarkably bleak sentiment an abundance of life. Longing is a well-worn topic but what makes it a continuing source of fascination is that it can be tailored to match their author’s individuality. Here, chronic unrequited longing is given a bedfellow in all-consuming doom.

The dichotomy of vibrancy and gloom is crucial to the track’s success and helps “Total Doom” become an immediate standout. Exceptionally clever songwriting can go a long way in securing longevity and À La Mode offer it in excess for a little over two minutes. From those deceptive opening bars to the damaged, weirdly triumphant closing moments, “Total Doom” is nothing less than an exhilarating breath of fresh air.

Easily one of the most pleasant surprises of recent memory, À La Mode have set an extraordinarily high bar for their upcoming record. If that record comes anywhere close to achieving the peaks they do on “Total Doom”, they’ll have one of 2016’s most inspired records. In any respect, they’ll be a band to watch as the year goes forward. Until then, the best thing to do is to celebrate the overwhelming strength of “Total Doom” and give in to its considerable charm.

Listen to “Total Doom” below and keep an eye on this site for more updates on Perfection Salad.

Watch This: Vol. 108

Once again, there’s been a brief interim since the last Watch This was posted but, as ever, a lot of great material has surfaced in that time. In this volume, there will be an emphasis on full sessions and artists who have made numerous appearances on the site over its two years of existence. All five of these artists have earned glowing reviews for their live shows and are, in a lot of ways, inextricably connected to Heartbreaking Bravery’s development. Only one of these clips is a performance of a standalone song and it’s one of the most gripping live captures of the year. So, as always, sit up, wind down, focus, adjust the settings, and Watch This.

1. All Dogs (Audiotree)

Watching All Dogs‘ exposure explode in 2015 thanks to the release of their extraordinary full-length debut, Kicking Every Day, felt genuinely gratifying. The songs in that collection, like any Maryn Jones-led project, feel brave and personal. Every song is relatable to an extent that’s almost painful; our own damage is reflected in Jones’ interior grappling, which suffuses every ounce of Kicking Every Day. In a live setting, those songs gain even more impact and Audiotree expertly captures that with  this very worthy session.

2. Bully (KEXP)

One of the first shows I saw after moving into an apartment in Brooklyn was thanks to a tweet that sent me sprinting towards Rough Trade. What followed was a whirlwind set by site favorites Bully, that largely pulled from their outstanding Feels Like. KEXP recently hosted the band for an in-studio session that once again finds the band nailing the seemingly paradoxical marriage between sounding polished and downright ragged. Exhilarating and fairly composed, it’s a fascinating look at one of 2015’s most deserving success stories.

3. Waxahatchee (Ithaca Underground)

Katie Crutchfield has been one of the most consistently enthralling songwriters of the past 10 years, elevating a staggering number of projects that have managed to find a near-reverential status among their respective communities and beyond. Eventually, that devotion spread outward and expanded into national recognition only shortly after her first collection as WaxahatcheeAmerican  Weekend, was released. Crutchfield’s released two more records under that moniker (and a few as half of Great Thunder) in the time that’s followed, with both Cerulean Salt and Ivy Tripp finding spots in numerous best-of lists at high-profile publications. Here, Ithaca Underground presents Crutchfield performing an arresting (and beautifully shot) solo set that leaves the audience speechless. It’s a powerful document of an artist who continues to find new ways to impress.

4. Dilly Dally (KEXP)

Dilly Dally came into 2015 riding a wave of buzz surrounding the staggering brilliance of their first few singles and capitalized on those early flashes of potential with ferocious abandon. Nearly every item the band released this year wound up inspiring several paragraphs worth of attention from this site and a few extremely strong reviews for their inspired (and, frankly, inspiring) live shows. Sore, their full-length debut, just served as the cherry on top of an already-appealing sundae. KEXP recently brought the band in for a full session and they responded in kind, gifting the studio an appropriately searing performance.

5. Saintseneca – How Many Blankets Are In The Wolrd? (ANTI-) 

Throughout 2015, ANTI- has produced some of the most beautiful live clips in recent memory (a handful of which have been prominently featured in this series) and that streak continues with this beautiful presentation of Saintseneca‘s Zac Little performing “How Many Blankets Are In The World?” while walking through what appears to be a drainpipe. Easily one of the year’s most gorgeous live captures, this is both a spellbinding performance and a masterclass in composition. Even when Little’s plunged into near-complete darkness, the song itself serves as the clip’s functioning heart, generating a thoughtful overall effect. When Little finally emerges back into the light, it’s a sequence that feels oddly moving, finalizing this as one of the year’s most complete offerings in this category.