Heartbreaking Bravery

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Tag: I Don’t Smoke

Watch This: Vol. 84

Nothing was posted on this site over the holiday weekend but there were multiple items that were being prepared. One of them, naturally, was the weekly installment of Watch This– a series that celebrates some of the finest live video captures of that week. A lot of familiar faces are featured in this installment, especially considering the massive promotional runs that the teams for Courtney Barnett and Torres (two of the more exciting live acts of the moment) have managed to string together. Once again, a lot of videos that were considered for feature in this 84th issue point towards a fascinating spike of quality in this format. Artists in those videos include: The Kyle Sowashes, Andrew Bird, Fat White Family, Perfume Genius, The Fall, Rozwell Kid, DYGL, Mitski, Klangstof, Strand of Oaks, Heartless Bastards, Other Lives, and Crosss. So, as always, sit up, lean in, settle down, focus up, and Watch This.

1. Alvvays – Archie, Marry Me (BBC)

“Archie, Marry Me” was first released in 2013 to a small amount of claim but eventually blossomed into one of 2014’s defining songs with its re-release. Now, two years after it was first introduced to the world, it still sounds vital despite the amount of playtime (and references) it’s received. Alvvays recently played the Glastonbury festival and knocked the single out of the park with a heartfelt rendition- something that wasn’t lost on an effusive crowd. Fortunately, for everyone, the BBC had their cameras rolling and captured the whole thing.

2. Courtney Barnett – The Fox (The Current)

Courtney Barnett is an exhilarating performer and her insistent placement in this series is continuously justified and warranted. Barnett and her band recently stopped by the twin cities to deliver a powerhouse set as part of the Rock The Garden festival. While the songwriter had strong showings via a solo performance of “Depreston” for Jimmy Fallon and a typically charged take on “Pedestrian At Best“, it was the capture of “The Fox” that played strongest, earning its placement here.

3. Torres (Sound Opinions)

Over the past several installments of this series, no artist has made as many appearances as Torres. Now deep into a fierce touring schedule, Mackenzie Scott’s assembled a (relatively) new crew of musicians to perform the songs and the group taps into three of Sprinter‘s more subdued tracks for Consequence of Sound’s Sound Opinions series. Never anything less than enthralling, there’s a gentle- but firm- grip that gets held throughout this run of “Son, You Are No Island”, “The Harshest Light”, and “Ferris Wheel”. There’s some strange magic at work here and it’s best to just let go and lose yourself to its power.

4. PINS – Young Girls (WFUV)

Wild Nights has already established PINS as one of 2015’s most exciting breakout acts and here- in a characteristically angular session for WFUV- the band stealthily unloads on the record’s finest song, “Young Girls”. It’s a startling reminder of the quartets considerable talent(s) and will likely act as a perfect introduction for anyone unfamiliar with the band. Confident and measured, completely self-aware and reassuringly uninhibited, their performance here goes a long way in laying out the myriad of bigger opportunities that will become available to this band over time.

5. Exquisite Corpse (NPR)

Some things are just so enticing and beautiful that they warrant featuring, no matter their distance from the regular coverage spectrum. In this clip, a small troupe of jazz musicians comprised of different groups play a game of exquisite corpse, with each section taking an idea from one group’s presentation of a song and expanding on it until it becomes a whole; an evolving construction that provides room for individual showcases without ever succumbing to anything other than camaraderie and trust. Gorgeously lensed- and performed on Duke Ellington’s grave- this is a truly remarkable piece of work, noteworthy by even NPR’s enviable standards.

Mitski – Bury Me At Makeout Creek (Album Review, Stream, Photos, Videos)

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Mitski’s Bury Me At Makeout Creek may very well be the year’s most stunning record. A bold lead-off sentiment, sure, but one that’s entirely warranted. Mitski’s first two records, LUSH and Retired from Sad, New Career in Business, were carefully orchestrated records of an off-kilted brand of chamber pop, occasionally punctuated by shards of distorted aggression. Nearly all of it fit neatly into the traditional singer/songwriter confines while still revealing a noticeable streak of creative mischief. For her third record, Mitski’s gone and blown up her previous formula by stripping things back to their essentials and blowing them up with a madcap glee. It’s a template that serves as the formula for the strongest, boldest work of her career.

Townie” was the song to suggest that Mitski had created something truly powerful by proving the early promise of “First Love // Late Spring” was far from a fluke. “I Don’t Smoke” followed just a while after and teased the extent of the creative risk-taking packed into Bury Me At Makeout Creek. “Texas Reznikoff” sets the tone early, with a gently-picked acoustic guitar that provides a warm bed for Mitski’s mesmerizing vocals before a brief shard of feedback serves as a fleeting warning for the volcanic eruption that takes place a little past halfway through the track, providing a downright vicious ending. “Townie”, with it’s once-in-a-lifetime chorus, kicks the momentum up a few notches while keeping Bury Me At Makeout Creek impressively ragged and resoundingly fierce.

Both of those songs don’t shy away from an easily identifiable resilience, which is part of what makes most of this record so compelling in lyric copy alone. As a writer, Bury Me At Makeout Creek demonstrates Mitski’s knack for probing a well of humanity with an attention to the most acute details that suggests a rare kind of talent.  It’s something that’s especially evident in the chorus of “First Love // Late Spring”, which finds Mitski grappling with the uncertainty of love: “Please don’t say you love me” and “One word from you and I would jump off this ledge I’m on” aren’t particularly light sentiments- but Bury Me At Makeout Creek is a record unafraid of shouldering the burdens of the heaviest thoughts and emotions.

From “Francis Forever” to “Drunk Walk Home”, the record’s mid-section reveals the lengths of Mitski’s artistic growth and newfound fearlessness. “Jobless Monday” has the clearest shades of the 50’s and 60’s pop influence that appear with a careful subtlety throughout what’s a decidedly modern record, allowing a faintly psychedelic haze to elevate it into something that practically transcends genre. “I Don’t Smoke” is easily the record’s most experimental moment, bringing in a thoroughly menacing take on industrialism and seamlessly adding it into an already impressively widespread palette of influences. “Francis Forever” brings in twin guitar leads and fully reinforces that this new version of Mitski is the most personal by it’s close. While all three of those songs are great in their own right and help shape Bury Me At Makeout Creek‘s identity, it’s the record’s most confrontational moment that will drop the most jaws: “Drunk Walk Home”.

Having seen firsthand the stunned reaction of an entire room when Mitski played a blistering version of this in Chicago at Beat Kitchen just a few weeks ago, the levels of abrasion and the startling nature of “Drunk Walk Home” are impossible to ignore. “For I’m starting to learn I may never be- but though I may never be free, fuck you and your money” is as attention-ensuring of a line as anyone can possibly manage and Mitski delivers it with such a relentless conviction that by the team she ends the song with unrestrained, vocal cord-shredding screaming, it shouldn’t come as too much of a surprise. When taking into account the entirety of Bury Me At Makeout Creek up to that point has been spent putting impossibly difficult feelings under a microscope and shredding them to pieces, those screams are fully justified; they’re an act of pure exhilaration in the face of all of the mounting frustrations, uncertainties, conflicts, and unguarded emotions.

“I Will” clears the smoke left behind by “Drunk Walk Home” by virtue of restraint. It’s a truly lovely song that’s clothed in minimal trappings and a palpable tension, one that builds as the song progresses and constantly threatens to break to give way to another massive moment- but that particular explosion never comes. As a whole, it may be the strongest example of Mitski’s maturity and craftsmanship to be found on Bury Me At Makeout Creek while also serving as the perfect lead-in to “Carry Me Home”. Yet another song that could feasibly be labeled as Bury Me At Makeout Creek‘s centerpiece (something that more than half of the record could claim), “Carry Me Home” starts with an absolutely gorgeous introduction before another cataclysmic shift that feels like an unexpectedly meaningful embrace from an old friend. In that inexplicably moving burst of warmth, there’s a plea that helps define the record’s overarching sentiments; no matter how insane things get, compassion will always be needed and empathy will always be welcome- no one should have to go through life alone.

The lilting “Last Words Of A Shooting Star” closes the record out, offering up the starkest moment. Composed of nothing but Mitski’s gift of a voice, a finger-picked guitar, an ambient swell, and lyrics revolving around the most unglamorous elements of mortality, it becomes a truly arresting epilogue. When that final volume swell dies out, it’s the last piece of a brilliantly-constructed jigsaw puzzle; a grace note to cap off a series of small perfections. Everything throughout Bury Me At Makeout Creek falls into the exact right place, from the sequencing (which nearly provides an intangible secondary narrative) to the mastering, there are no false steps to be found, right down to the final bittersweet “goodbye”. All of the smallest components of Bury Me At Makeout Creek– and all of its tasteful grandeur- ring true, rendering it both a fascinating anomaly and one of the best things that’s been released in the past several years.

Bury Me At Makeout Creek is a record that deserves to be celebrated now and listened to for years to come. It’s a brave new front for one of this generation’s most exciting new artists and another massive victory for Double Double Whammy‘s win column. Tellingly, Mitski’s already released at least one excellent new song (which was recently pulled) since the completion of Bury Me At Makeout Creek, inadvertently indicating a creative restlessness that could pay massive dividends down the line. Until then, Bury Me At Makeout Creek should be held as a high-water mark that other artists would do well to look to as a source of influence and a record that critics would be well within their right to hail as what it truly is: a masterpiece.

Listen to Bury Me At Makeout Creek below and pre-order it from Double Double Whammy here. Below the player embed, watch the video sets of Mitski that originally ran in The Media and Watch This: Vol. 50 as well as previously unseen photos taken from the video shoot for The Media.

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

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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.