Heartbreaking Bravery

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Tag: Grubs

Hung Toys – Lurid (Album Review, Stream)

hung toys

There have been several dozen records unveiled in the past few weeks that merit attention. One of the latest in that string of releases has been flying completely under the radar despite the pedigree of the musician responsible. While Geronimo! weren’t the most well-known band but they meant a lot to a small but devoted following. I was happy to count myself among the converted and having the band headline this site’s first showcase on their farewell tour was something I won’t be forgetting anytime soon. However, the more you pour yourself into something, the more it stings when the container shatters.

While Geronimo! is officially over, a few of the bands members are working on new projects- the latest being guitarist/vocalist Kelly Johnson’s solo venture Hung Toys. Earlier this week, Johnson’s project released Lurid a full-length collection that finds the songwriter immediately diving back into the propulsive effects of his old project. Opener “Gotta Drink Some Water” is a monster of a basement punk song that’s as bruising as it is intriguing. It’d be easy for the rest of Lurid to fall short in the song’s tremendous wake but Johnson manages to subvert and expand central ideas across the rest of the record, exploring a range of styles that recall everyone from Terry Malts to, of course, Geronimo!.

All of Lurid comes off as an incendiary gut-punch and only the title track, the record’s sprawling closer, exceeds the 2 minute and 10 second mark. At times the record plays like a gambit and runs the risk of appearing as a genre exercise. By the time the record’s halfway mark gets highlighted by the searing instrumental attack that is “Blendered”, it becomes clear that Johnson’s songwriting is too capable (and substantial) to be reduced to something that hackneyed. Lurid is a record that rewards investment and begs for repeat listens, wielding its unerring immediacy as a formidable weapon. Powerful, brute, and spectacular, Lurid stands as one of 2015’s most welcome- and unexpected- entries.

Listen to Lurid below and explore a list of some of the best records to surface over the past two weeks.

The Yolks – Don’t Cry Anymore
Grubs – It Must Be Grubs
Alimony Hustle – BNOC b/w Zero Chill
Bob Keelaghan – Country Fresh: A Ghost Guitar Soundtrack
Hot Flash Heat Wave – Neapolitan
James Elkington & Nathan Salsburg – Ambsace
Salad Boys – Metalmania
Astronauts, etc – Mind Out Wandering
Nuclear Age – The Distinct Sounds of…
Pontiak – NOPE/JEPPE
Roger Lion – Roger Lion
Media Jeweler – $99 R/T Hawaii
Broomfiller – Third Stage Propellor Index
Guerilla Toss – Flood Dosed
Baston – Gesture
Yonatan Gat & Gal Lazer – Physical Copy
Carroll – Carroll
Blonde Summer – Paradise
Alone at 3AM – Show the Blood
Tedo Stone – To the Marshes
Jóhann Jóhannsson – Sicario
Diät – Positive Energy
BIG|BRAVE – Au De La
Rat Columns – Do You Remember Real Pain
Wand – 1000 Days
Tommy Stinson – L.M.A..O.
Lucern Raze – Happy & Astray
Summer Twins – Limbo
Blessed Feathers – There Will Be No Sad Tomorrow
Daniel Klag – Reality and Self
Dead Heavens – Adderall Highway
Loma Prieta – Self Portrait
Spencer Radcliffe – Looking In
Holy ’57 – Au Naturel

Melkbelly – Mnt. Kool Kid (Stream)

melkbelly
Photograph by Taylor Schneider

At the midweek marker, remarkable releases have continued to be doled out at a breakneck pace. In some ways, that overwhelming magnitude contributes to a slew of smaller releases getting overlooked at their time of release. Today’s featured items was one of those- and it was strong enough to fight off this recent batch to secure the majority of the focus. That, by no means, should detract from the value of the field it’s included in, which continues to cement 2015’s status as one of the strongest years for new music in recent memory. Full streams had the quietest output for the day, yielding only La Misma’s great full-length Kanizadi. Music videos had a heavier crop, boasting strong new clips from Made Violent, Microwave, SadGirl, Little Wings, and Martin Courtney. As always, the individual streams seemed to make the most sizable dent with formidable entries from the likes of GrubsFern Mayo, YungEx-BreathersMidday Veil, Modern Baseball, Drug Church, Brian Carpenter & The Confessions, and Battles.

While everything in the linked above paragraph is worth a click, it’s when Melkbelly‘s latest wound up making its way here that the feature spot really clicked. The band’s not the most well-known act but has secured some high-profile support lately- most notably via this excellent Talkhouse piece from Speedy Ortiz’s Sadie Dupuis. While the piece used the band’s recent outstanding Bathroom at the Beach 7″ as its focal point, they’ve managed to quietly unveil another new standalone track on their bandcamp (a place that’s composed entirely of standalone entries). “Mnt. Kool Kid” sacrifices some of the band’s immediate melodicism in favor of emphasizing their more aggressive noise tendencies. Over four minutes, the band rides the crest of a stark, menacing bass hum and uses it as a catapult for both a brief, outsider pop section and a towering main section that manages to come off as, almost paradoxically, a more expansive and contained version of Lightning Bolt at their best.

Bruising at every turn, “Mnt. Kool Kid” is a commanding show of force that highlights all of Melkbelly’s strongest looks and continues to see the quartet tightening their craft into something that feels genuinely powerful. Unflinching, unmoored, and unforgettable “Mnt. Kool Kid” is the sound of a band continuing to lock into a groove that should set them spinning to an explosive finish. For now, be content to sit back and watch the band burn everything they pass; sometimes the passages to the climactic moments wind up carrying even more meaning than the resolution. A song this good doesn’t deserve to succumb to a fate where it largely passes by unnoticed.

Listen to “Mnt. Kool Kid” below and get lost in an exhilarating course correction. Keep an eye on this site for further Melkbelly updates.

Pleasure Leftists – Protection (Stream, Live Video)

Pleasure Leftists XX

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.

Yung – Blue Uniforms
Grubs – Windwaker
Wolf Eyes – Enemy Ladder
Split Screens – Black Pines
Hypocrite In A Hippy Crypt – Better Days
Potty Mouth – Cherry Picking
Kinsey – Wide Awake
Blacklisters – I Knock Myself Out
Lou Barlow – Moving
Princess Reason – Drag + Blur
Spencer Radcliffe – Mia
Long Beard – Porch
Steve Lewis – Off This Rock
The Ukiah Drag – Criminal Authority
Ex-Cult – Stick The Knife In
Beach Slang – Bad Art & Weirdo Ideas
Swimm – Belly
Boytoy – Postal
Low – What Part Of Me
Piles – Olivia
Tijuana Panthers – Set Forth
Heat Dust – Seeking A Paraxis
Chain of Flowers – Crisis
Something Anorak – I Don’t Want To Work It Out
The Most Serene Republic – Ontario Morning
Widowspeak – Dead Love (So Still)
Fake Problems – Holy Attitude
Fine Print – Tell Me
Briana Marela – Take Care of Me
TRAAMS – Succulent Thunder Anthem
Sales – Big Sis
Fresh Snow – Proper Burial
Shelf Life – Sinking Just Right

Thalassocracy – Shimensoka (Stream)

thalassocracy

Today saw the release of three fuzzed out songs. Two were heavily indebted to shoegaze while the other was a wiry post-punk bruiser. In the case of the former, one of those songs marked one of the most interesting anomalies of Mogwai’s considerable career. “Teenage Exorcists” found the band sidling up to a sound that wasn’t too dissimilar from The History of Apple Pie. Bratty vocals, fuzzed-out riffs, swirling guitars, bright vocal melodies, and a killer middle eight all add up to one of the most intriguing sidesteps any major name’s made this year. Joining Mogwai in the ranks of great bands releasing strong shoegaze-leaning basement pop songs today was The Lees of Memory, a band that features at least one ex-Superdrag member. That 90’s influence pays huge dividends on the towering “Little Fallen Star“, a slow-burning six-minute cut from the band’s just released Sisyphus Says. In the territory that wasn’t overtly occupied by a punk-laden ambient sprawl Thalassocracy‘s “Shimensoka” bared teeth sharp enough to ensure that it’d get noticed.

“Shimensoka” is aggressively minimal without also blending in the increasingly trendy chaos a la Parquet Courts and Naomi Punk (not to mention an endless amount of others setting up camp with that formula). It’s Thalassocracy’s contribution to Art Is Hard’s increasingly on-point Pizza Club singles series. Opening with a few light touches of organs, that soft palette is quickly cut to shreds by a jackknife rhythm section and a threatening guitar line, which is fitting considering the song’s title (shimensoka is a Japanese word with a meaning that roughly translates to “facing extreme hostility; defeat is inevitable”). Populated by genuinely strange moments, it becomes an incredibly compelling look at what Thalassocracy is capable of achieving. They’ve already got an impressive pedigree, thanks to a lineup that boasts members of Grubs and Slothboat. Easily the darkest track of today’s trio of tunes- it’s also the most hypnotic, aptly showcasing the band’s penchant for quiet ferocity. “Shimensoka” is a remarkable step forward for a band that seems intent on making a run of things. Expect to be hearing more about them in the future.

Listen to (and download) “Shimensoka” below and sing up to be a member of The Pizza Club here.

Iceage – Against the Moon (Stream)

iceage

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.