Heartbreaking Bravery

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Tag: II

Blessed – Headache (Stream)

There has been no shortage of scrappy, wiry post-punk in the opening quarter of 2017 but few have been as scrappy, as wiry, or as vicious as Blessed’s “Headache”, a track that brings to mind both forebears like Les Savy Fav and contemporaries like Ought. There’s an unbelievable amount of tension and nervous energy running through the five minutes of “Headache”, which keeps the track compelling, energetic, and surprisingly thoughtful. It’s an intense, insistent song that easily ranks as the band’s finest work. Hit play and hold on tight, “Headache” is a fearsome ride.

Listen to “Headache” below and pre-order the 12″ from Cointoss here.

Full Streams of the First Quarter: The Honorable Mentions

Technical difficulties forced Heartbreaking Bravery into an effective hiatus at the start of the year but, even through the visible inaction, behind-the-scenes work continued in earnest. Various outlets depths were exhausted, the site’s inbox maintained its regular flood of releases, and everything else that emerged was meticulously examined. Over the course of 2017’s first quarter (minus a week or so), more than 100 great records were released. 10 will be spotlighted in the very near future and the rest of the releases that caused a positive reaction can be found below. Enjoy.

Cool American, Alexander F, The Courtneys, Single Player, Schlotman, Street Stains, Thurst, Teenage Wedding, oso oso, Sam Skinner, Thelma, Wild Pink, Toby Reif, Omni, Pissed Jeans, Baked, WHY?, Neutral Shirt, Hideout, SSWAMPZZ, Boosegumps, Maryn Jones, Luxury Death, UV-TV, Ron Gallo, Matty Ann, Communions, Hanni El Khatib, Vagabon, So Stressed, The Paranoyds, Middle Kids, David Bazan, Toner, minihorse, Fucked Up, Olive & The Pitz, Boreen, Two Moons, wayde, The Spirit of the Beehive

Lunch Ladies, Heavy Pockets, Layperson, Little Person, Laura Marling, Chick Quest, Tobin Spout, Tall Friend, Caitlin Pasko, The Molochs, Trust Fund, Pinegrove
 Radula, Sinai Vessel, CARE, Michael Chapman, Jamie Wyatt, The Modern Savage, Analog CandleLouise Lemón, Heart Attack Man, Matthew Lee Cothran, Retail Space, The Cherry Wave, Frederick the Younger, No Thank You, Railings, Crushed Stars, Fragrance., ShitKid, Joan of Arc, Jim O’Rourke, Black Kids, Knife in the Water, bvdub

The Ocean Party, VICTIME, Career Suicide, Dead Man Winter, Lindenfield, Loess, Redshift Headlights, Balto, Angelus, Fufanu, French Vanilla, The Wild War, Turn to Crime, Souvenir Driver, Stinking Lizaveta, Matteo Vallicelli, Milk Music, Caroline Spence, NAVVI, Cody Crumps, Exasperation, Xiu Xiu, Damaged Bug, Winston Hightower, Kim Free, Kikagaku Moyo, Lilah Larson, Appalache, Eric Burnham, Party of One, Noveller, sir Was, R. Missing, Yawn Mower, Moral Panic, Auditorium, The Pantheon, The Obsessives

Dakota Blue, Skullflower, My Education, Lowlands, Half Waif, Trevor de Brauw, Strange RangerOnce & Future Band, DONCAT, The Visis, Blank Range, Transona Five100%/Joyce Manor, and Dead Tenants/Drome.

A special mention should also be given to these five compilations, all supporting worthy causes: Our First 100 Days (at the time of this writing, this release is still being updated), Sad! A Barsuk Records Compilation for the ACLU, Is There Another Language?, Save the Smell, and Don’t Stop NowA Collection of Covers.

16 of ’16: The Best Albums of the Year

Mitski XXV

At long last, we arrive at the end of the 2016 lists with this reflection of the year’s best albums. A lot of criteria need to be met for a record to make this list, for example: a record can’t be primarily composed of reworks of older material (this is the reason Talons’ sublime “Driving Home From Shows” didn’t make the songs list). To be eligible for a featured slot on this list, the record also can’t come from a clearly-established artist, which is the only reason Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds’ Skeleton Tree is being excluded. The Radioheads and David Bowies of the music world all received more than enough positive press and this site has always aimed to give an additional leg up to emerging or unknown artists.

With all of that said, 2016 was an exceptional — and exceptionally diverse — year for music provided you knew where to look. As has been the case, no numerical assignments were given to the below selections. However, the field of titles was so abundantly strong that instead of merely selecting one Album of the Year, there are five. Those five records managed to stand out in an unbelievably exceptional year and picking one of the five to give a singular Album of the Year designation proved to be impossible. That being said, virtually all of the titles below are worth time, investment, and praise.

Once again, the majority of the embedded players belong to bandcamp so be mindful of where the records start (a small handful auto-start at odd points in the record). There’s a fairly wide-ranging display of music to be found below so dive on in and go exploring. Enjoy the list and stay tuned for the third edition of A Year’s Worth of Memories.

Bent Shapes – Wolves of Want

After a string of promising releases, Bent Shapes hit new heights with the galvanizing Wolves of Want, a pitch-perfect basement pop record teeming with memorable hooks. A lovingly crafted work, Wolves of Want finds the band hitting an eyebrow-raising stride and cranking out a formidable batch of songs good enough to grace any mixtape.

Crying – Beyond the Fleeting Gales

One of the most unique and compelling releases of the year, Crying took a bold new step with the riveting Beyond the Fleeting Gales. Taking their early approach and gleefully exploding it into something barely-recognizable, Beyond the Fleeting Gales winds up as one of 2016’s most refreshing, exhilarating, and utterly singular listens.

Mitski – Puberty 2

Embracing the bruising, unforgiving introspection of the breakout Bury Me at Makeout Creek, site favorite Mitski returned with a powerful and acute examination of identity. An artistic leap forward, Puberty 2 saw Mitski wielding an expanded musical palette to arresting effect. Warm, moving, and accepting, it’s not difficult to see why it was one of the year’s most beloved records.

Parquet Courts – Human Performance

Parquet Courts records have made a habit of appearing on year-end lists since the band’s formation several years back. While, admittedly, those were solid records, they don’t come anywhere close to Human Performance, the band’s crowning achievement. The band shed their blood all over this record and it shows in every beautiful, cracked, messy, ramshackle moment.

Mannequin Pussy – Romantic

Another record on this list that saw a band make a staggering leap forward, Romantic was — by some distance — the most impressive work of Mannequin Pussy‘s burgeoning career. One of 2016’s most ferocious records, Romantic saw the band firing on all cylinders on levels that may have even surprised their most devoted fans. It’s a molotov cocktail of a record; hit play and get obliterated.

Big Thief – Masterpiece

One of the year’s most welcome surprises, Big Thief‘s Saddle Creek debut Masterpiece found the band conjuring up the open-road spirit that their label built its name peddling. Gorgeous songwriting, unavoidable emotional intensity, and a clear commitment to the material defined Masterpiece. When all was said and done, the record succeeded in living up to its ostensibly tongue-in-cheek title.

Swim Team – Swim Team

One of the strongest records to come out of Infinity Cat‘s cassette series, Swim Team‘s self-titled is a gamut run trough the punk sub-genres that have defined the past three decades. All of them are successful and infused with the kind of grit and determination that characterize great bands. It’s an unforgettable warning shot from a band that seems hell-bent on using the past to elevate the future.

Car Seat Headrest – Teens of Denial

Easily one of the year’s most celebrated releases, Teens of Denial earned every trickle of positive press that came its way. A landmark record from a project that could have withered under a massively-increased spotlight instead finds Car Seat Headrest operating on an entirely new level. Epics, ballads, and stormy punk numbers abound, illuminating one of 2016’s best coming-of-age stories in virtually any format.

Greys – Outer Heaven

2016 found Greys continuing to determinedly  push their boundaries outward and succeeding with the kind of wild abandon that defines their adrenaline-inducing live show. Outer Heaven was their biggest moment and saw the band effectively blend their delirious energy with a refined sense of atmosphere that enhanced already-great songs. An absolute triumph from one of today’s more fascinating acts.

Hovvdy – Taster

A remarkable, understated, near-flawless record, Hovvdy‘s Taster never received the recognition it was due. Front to back, there are no false moments on this record, only a series of unassuming grace notes that bind it into a gentle, spellbinding whole. Punk-informed bedroom pop, Taster is the product of meticulous dedication to craft and an enormous reserve of genuine feeling. It’s sincerity is a large part of its strength and its strength is overwhelming. Give it innumerable listens and the estimation it deserves.

John K. Samson – Winter Wheat

A painfully beautiful record, Winter Wheat marked the welcome return of John K. Samson. The former Weakerthans bandleader turned in another sorrowful, damaged collection of songs that contained enough glimmers of hope (apart from the devastating opener, which nearly made this year’s song’s list but was abandoned in favor of the record’s emotionally shattering closer) to make the impact even more severe. An atmospheric masterstroke from one of our greatest living songwriters, Winter Wheat is as comfortingly calm as it is completely unforgettable.

ALBUMS OF THE YEAR

Mo Troper – Beloved

In focusing on the dark corners while establishing that darkness wouldn’t exist without some lightness as well, Mo Troper winds up wearing a very tattered heart on his sleeve. While that heart may be showing a considerable amount of scars, it’s still valiantly beating. Pathos, gravitas, and an incredibly inviting structure all combine to make Beloved a must-own but it’s Mo Troper himself who makes this record a masterpiece.

Original feature review here.

PUP – The Dream Is Over

PUP‘s The Dream Is Over, the band’s jaw-dropping sophomore outing, was a release where nearly every song was considered for this year’s best songs list. In the end, the record proved so uniformly excellent across the board that it became literally impossible to define a standout. This is as a complete a punk record that anyone will be likely to hear for a very long time. Narrative focus, overall consistency, composition, conviction, production, sequencing, pacing… in every conceivable aspect, PUP absolutely demolished what were already ridiculously high expectations. One of the most defiant, triumphant releases in recent memory, The Dream Is Over was the shock to the system that the punk genre has sorely needed for years. Unbelievably consistent and weirdly empowering, PUP were able to put their name on one of the most vital records of 2016.

Doe – Some Things Last Longer Than You

Meticulously composed and teeming with unchecked aggression and greater meaning, Doe have offered up something that’s impossible to ignore. At every corner, there’s a breathtaking moment that continuously heightens the overabundance of impact present in Some Things Last Longer Than You. Whether the listener tethers themselves to the record’s multi-tiered narrative functions or to the artistry present in the composition, they’ll walk away contemplating its awe-inspiring depth. In short: Some Things Last Longer Than You isn’t just one of the year’s best records, it’s a full-blown masterpiece.

Original feature review here.

Weaves – Weaves

It’s not just that no one does what Weaves are doing as well as they do, it’s that no one else is even making an attempt. Should Weaves inspire some attempts at this particular eclectic blend of songwriting styles, genres, and cornerstones, this record will retain — and most likely remain in — a position as the gold standard. Grab onto something close and hold on tightly because Weaves is an unpredictable, exhilarating, and ultimately deeply satisfying thrill ride that knows no borders or boundaries. Greet it with an anxious smile and give in to its myriad charms.

Original feature review here.

LVL UP – Return to Love

All told, Return to Love is a document of a band determined to continuously better themselves, a new career high, and a bona fide statement release from one of this generation’s most consistently exciting acts. It’s a series of sustained, connected grace notes that never wavers, even as it openly acknowledges it doesn’t have all of the answers. Not a single second of its run time is wasted and each of the songs are memorable for a wildly varying list of reasons. LVL UP aren’t the type of band to be dissuaded from taking action by a daunting challenge and Return to Love is an assured, steadfast piece of proof.

To put it as succinctly as possible: it’s a masterpiece.

Original feature review here.

Nine more worth hearing:

Tancred – Out of the Garden
Pinegrove – Cardinal
Oh Boland – Spilt Milk
Dark Thoughts – Dark Thoughts
Eluvium – False Readings On
Told Slant – Going By
Mothers – When You Walk A Long Distance You Are Tired
Jean-Michael Blais – II
Minor Victories – Minor Victories

Other honorable mentions:

Frankie Cosmos – Next Thing | Yucky Duster – Yucky Duster | Vanity – Don’t Be Shy | Kane Strang – Blue Cheese | Steve Adamyk Band – Graceland | Lydia Loveless – Real | Touché Amoré – Stage Four | Margaret Glaspy – Emotions and Math | Jeff – Rosenstock – WORRY. | Lucy Dacus – No Burden | Summer Cannibals – Full Of ItNopes – Never Heard Of It | Florist – The Birds Outside Sang | Susan – Never Enough | Abi Reimold – Wriggling | Mal Devisa – Kiid | Julianna Barwick – Will | Mutual Benefit – Skip A Sinking Stone | Big Ups – Before A Million Universes | Diarrhea Planet – Turn To Gold | Japanese Breakfast – Psychopomp | AJJ – The Bible 2 | Angel Olsen – My Woman | Drive-By Truckers – American Band | Charles Bradley – Changes

A Week and a Half’s Worth of Material

Over the past week and a half there was a vast arsenal of material that found release across all three major formats. All of the titles that made a sizable impression will be linked to below and all of them are well worth exploring. Over the next few days there will be a laundry list of individual items to find small features but that in no way should deter from the immense value of the songs listed below. If there was enough time to provide each and every one of these entries features of their own, a regular day would have to be well over 24 hours. As it stands, the best approach is to simply bookmark this page and peruse these selections at a preferred pace. Keep an eye out for more updates from this site very soon and enjoy the incredible offerings that are available below.

Streams

The Raveonettes, Coaster, Puerto Rico Flowers, Beachtape, Sad13 (x2), Small Wonder, Two Houses, Floating Room, Hooton Tennis Club, Communions, Monster Rally, Mark Sultan, CRX, Dama Scout, Lady Lamb, Maria Taylor (ft. Conor Oberst), The Cinematic Orchestra (ft. Moses Sumney), Frank Weysos, Parlour Tricks, JD Werner, Del Water Gap, Invisible Boy, Magic Magic Roses, Hand Habits, The Breaks, Tyvek, clipping., Flower Girl, Mark Eitzel, Soft Lions, Cosmonauts, Desperate Journalist, Sonnyskyes, Tyler Daniel BeanSløtface, Cory Hanson, Sinai Vessel, Will Johnson, MOLLY, The Olympian, Boon, Emily Reo, Joanna Newsom, War Nurse, Ramonda Hammer, Sundayman, Yeasayer, Gummy, Sacred Paws, Enemies, BROS, Dead Leaf Echo, Mo Troper, Jarrod Milton, Dante Decaro, wrtch, Miya Folick, and Frankie Cosmos

Music Videos

Flasher, Honeyblood, Gland, Black Marble, Matt Kivel, Emilyn Brodsky, Peacock Affect, The Soonest, Alpenglow, Peder, Peeling, Worms, Girl Ray, Communist Daughter, Moonheart, The Superweaks, Sara Jackson-Holman, Andy Shauf, Monomyth, Victoria + Jean, The Avalanches, Purling Hiss, Tanukichan, Lou Barlow, Pity Sex, Froth, Allison Crutchfield, Strange Relations, Berwanger, Hazel English, Nada, Mayflower, Jess Williamson, Brunch, The Cavemen, Ray & Remora, Busman’s Holiday, Matt Costa, Muncie Girls, Soaker, and Oh Pep!.

Full Streams

Slothrust, Eric Schermerhorn, Tony Molina, Perfume-V, Silent, gobbinjr, Thick, Sam Kogon, Soft Pyramids, Max, Suntrodden, Loamlands, Nocturnal Habits, Choir Boy, Twiga, Angelic Milk, Realms, Parlour Tricks, Skye Wallace, Saba, Dead To Me, Teen Suicide, No Nets, Kevin Morby, Bloody Death Skull, Tournament, King Dude, Spectral Fangs, Communist DaughterSpeak Into My Good Eye‘s The 3rd Annual 24 Hour Songwriting Challenge, and Brown Acid, a joint-effort compilation from Riding Easy Records and Permanent Records that explores some of the heavier music of the ’60s and ’70s.

The Honorable Mentions of the 2015 Music Categories

Saintseneca I

Before diving into the particulars of the forthcoming lists, it’s worth addressing the distinction made in the headline. Each of the categories that received a list in 2015 (music videos, songs, EP’s, albums, odds and ends) will be expanded upon in this post. However, there are still two forthcoming film lists but each of those will include the honorable mentions along with the featured rankings. An obscene amount of great material came out over the 12 months that comprised the past year so any attempts to cover everything would be futile. If anyone’s exhausted the below lists, a more comprehensive version can be found by exploring the following tags: stream, full stream, EP stream, and music video. Explore some of the top tier picks that didn’t make it onto the year-end lists via the tags below.

Music Videos

Screaming Females – Hopeless | Cayetana – Scott, Get the Van I’m Moving | Ephrata – Say A Prayer | ANAMIA – LuciaJoanna Newsom – Sapokinakan | Battles – The Yabba | FIDLAR – 40 Oz. On Repeat | PINS – Young Girls | Doomtree – Final Boss | Hundred Waters – Innocent | Celestial Shore – Now I Know | Donnie Trumpet & The Social Experiment – Sunday Candy | Modest Mouse – Coyotes | Girlpool – Before The World Was Big | Laura Marling – Gurdijeff’s Daughter | Bay Uno – Wait For Your Love | The Staves – Black & White | Young Buffalo – No  Idea | Avid Dancer – All Your Words Are Gone | Avi Buffalo – Think It’s Gonna Happen Again | Adir L.C. – Buyer’s Instinct | Midnight Reruns – Canadian Summer | Daughter – Doing The Right Thing | John Grant – Disappointing | Waxahatchee – Under A Rock | Wimps – Dump | Potty Mouth – Cherry Picking | Froth – Nothing Baby | The Libertines – Heart of the Matter | Car Seat Headrest – Something Soon | Mike Krol – Neighborhood Watch | Savages – The Answer | Kurt Vile – Pretty Pimpin | Bully – Trying | Sheer – Uneasy  | Will Butler – Anna

EPs

Snail Mail – Sticki | Kindling – Galaxies | Eugene Quell – I Will Work The Land | Gumbus – Crimbus Rock | Rye Pines – Rye Pines | Feral Jenny – Greatest Hits | Slutever – Almost Famous | Gracie – Gracie | Nice Guys – Chips in the Moonlight | Anomie – Anomie | Kitner – Stay Sad | Animal Flag – EP 2 | Never Young – Never Young | Birches – Birches | Alimony Hustle – Gutter Gutter Strike Strike Gutter Gutter | The Lumes – Lust | Pretty Pretty – Talkin’ to the WallsVomitface – Another Bad Year | PALMAS – To the Valley | Greys – Repulsion | Wild Pink – Good Life | The Glow – Lose | Spirit of the Beehive – You Are Arrived (But You’ve Been Cheated) | Shady Hawkins – The Last Dance | Holy Esque – Submission | Ashland – Ashland | Isabel Rex – American Colliquialisms/Two Hexes | Pet Cemetery – Dietary Requirements | Milk Crimes – Milk Crimes | Rubber Band Gun – Making A Fool of Myself | Creative Adult – Ring Around the Room | Amber Edgar – Good Will Rise | La Casa al Mare – This Astro | Trophy Dad – Shirtless Algebra Fridays | Glueboy – Videorama | Birds in Row – Personal War | YVETTE – Time Management | Communions – Cobblestones | O-Face – Mint | Day Wave – Headcase | Granny – EGG | Van Dammes – Better Than Sex | Vallis Alps – Vallis Alps | Little Children – Traveling Through Darkness | Philadelphia Collins – Derp Swervin’ | The Tarantula Waltz – Lynx | Nicolas Jaar – Nymphs II | The Japanese House – Pools To Bathe In | Guerilla Toss – Flood Dosed | Los Planetas – Dobles Fatigas | See Through Dresses – End of Days | Earl Sweatshirt – Solace | Kississippi – We Have No Future, We’re All Doomed | Yumi Zouma – EP II | G.L.O.S.S. – Girls Living Outside of Society’s Shit | Fresh Snow – WON | Girl Band – The Early Years | XXIX – Wafia | together PANGEA – The Phage | Ty Segall – Mr. Face | Young Guv – Ripe 4 Luv

Songs

Yowler – The Offer | Meat Wave – Cosmic Zoo | Pleasure Leftists – Protection | Saintseneca – Sleeper Hold | Slight – Hate the Summer | Sports – The Washing Machine | Diet Cig – Sleep Talk | LVL UP – The Closing Door | Royal Headache – High | Tica Douglas – All Meanness Be Gone | Speedy Ortiz – Raising the Skate | Phooey! – Molly’s at the Laundromat | Adir L.C. – Buyer’s Instinct | Sweet John Bloom – Tell Me | Pile – Mr. Fish | Screaming Females – Hopeless | Ernie – Sweatpants | Bad Wig – Stargazer | Dusk – Too Sweet | Painted Zeros – Only You | Krill – Torturer | Young Jesus – Milo | Tenement – Ants + Flies | Midnight Reruns – Richie the Hammer | Melkbelly – Mt. Kool Kid | The Weasel, Marten Fisher – Empty Bucket List | Soul Low – Always Watchin’ Out | Eluvium – Neighboring In Telescopes | Algiers – Blood | Institute – Cheerlessness | Bruising – Think About Death | Vacation – Like Snow | Cende – Widow | Alex G – Brite Boy | Bully – Trying | Nicole Dollanganger – You’re So Cool | Sheer – Uneasy | Laura Stevenson – Claustrophobe | Kathryn Calder – New Millenium | The Foetals – Nothing | Lady Bones – Botch | Dogs On Acid – Let the Bombs Fall Off | Fraser A. Gorman – Shiny Gun | Bandit – The Drive Home | Mercury Girls – Golden | ThinLips – Nothing Weird | Wimps – Dump | S.M. Wolf – Help Me Out | Glueboy – Back to You | Mean Creek – Forgotten Streets | Ratboys – Tixis | PINS – Young Girls | Shilpa Ray – Johnny Thunders Fantasy Space Camp | White Reaper – Make Me Wanna Die | Lady Lamb – Spat Out Spit | Washer – Joe | Pupppy – Puking (Merry Christmas) | Midwives – Back in the Saddle Again | Torres – Strange Hellos | METZ – Spit You Out | Jeff Rosenstock – You In Weird Cities | Little Wings – Hollowed Log | Bent Denim – Good Night’s Sleep | Waxahatchee – Under A Rock

Albums

Girlpool – Before The World Was Big | Screaming Females – Rose MountainYowler – The Offer | Saintseneca – Such Things | Bully – Feels Like | Tica Douglas – Joey | Evans the Death – Expect Delays | Torres – Sprinter | Waxahatchee – Ivy Tripp | Fred Thomas – All Are Saved | Krill – A Distant Fist Unclenching | Ratboys – AOID | Joanna Gruesome – Peanut Butter | METZ – II | Little Wings – ExplainsSlanted – Forever | Bent Denim – Romances You | Someone Still Loves You Boris Yeltsin – The High Country | White Reaper – White Reaper Does It Again | The Armed – Untitled | Shilpa Ray – Last Year’s Savage | The Foetals – Meet the Foetals | Car Seat Headrest – Teens of Style | Wimps – Suitcase | Westkust – Last Forever | Girl Band – Holding Hands With Jamie | Cloakroom – Further Out | Stove – Is Stupider | Johanna Warren – numun | Speedy Ortiz – Foil Deer | Mikal Cronin – MCIII | Adir L.C. – Oceanside Cities | Negative Scanner – Negative Scanner | Pleasure Leftists – The Woods of Heaven | Haybaby – Sleepy Kids | Heather Woods Broderick – Glider | Lady Lamb – After | Pile – You’re Better Than This | Algiers – Algiers | Fraser A. Gorman – Slow Gum | POPE – Fiction | Petal Head – Raspberry Cough | Shannen Moser – You Shouldn’t Be Doing That

Odds and Ends

DBTS: BS2 | Spook the Herd – Freaks b/w Fermented | Kinjac – Possession b/w Possessed | Carbonleak – Waveland b/w Bearing | Vexx – Give and Take | Nervous Trend – Shattered | CCTV – 7″ | Puppy Problems – Practice Kissing | Flagland + Washer | MONO + The Ocean | Uh Huh + Jake McElvie & The Countertops | Alanna McArdle – Bedroom/Balloons | Chris Broom – Meade House Demos | Composite – Demos 2015 | The Library – 100% | Dark Thoughts – Two More Songs From… | Wendy Alembic – Collected Early Works | Toby Reif – 2015 Demos

15 of ’15: The Best EP’s of 2015

Slight I

Now that all the visual retrospectives are out of the way and the best live videos have been accounted for, it’s time to move onto the records in earnest. Over the course of the next several days there will be “best of” lists for the following categories: music videos, odds and ends (demos, 7″ records, compilations, etc.), songs, and albums. There will also be an Honorable Mentions devotion that covers a massive array of material from the majority of those categories. Following those lists will be the second installment of the A Year’s Worth of Memories series, which will once again feature a murderer’s row of contributors that have been pulled from both the music and film worlds.

For now, we’re turning our attention to the EP’s that made the most formidable impressions over the course of the past 12 months. Well over 100 titles were considered and then boiled down to the 15 that you see below (this was such a strong year for EP’s that the top 5 are essentially interchangeable). Before delving into those titles, it’s worth noting that “best” in the case– as it is in all cases– is just a meaningless formality and the list below is a reflection of subjectivity. I make no claim to be an authoritative voice in these matters, just a person that genuinely enjoys music and uses a platform as a means to attempt to elevate some of the acts that truly deserve to have their names in greater circulation. So, without further ado, here’s 15 of ’15: The Best EP’s of 2015.

15. Idle Bloom – Some Paranoia

Sometimes all you need to do is offer to help carry equipment to be introduced to incredible new bands, which is exactly how I met Callan Dwan, who I would come to learn is not only Mitski’s guitarist but one of the guitarists for two other acts as well: Dogtooth and Idle Bloom. The latter– a shoegaze-obsessed post-punk act (or is it the other way around?)– recently released their Some Paranoia EP, which stealthily builds its momentum in a clever, multifaceted way; not only do the majority of the songs work their way into a cacophonous frenzy but so does the EP as a whole. It’s an exhilarating listen from a promising emerging act and boasts one of the year’s best riffs.

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14. ThinLips – Your Divorce

An extraordinary opening track can do wonders for any release. An effective opening track will set a precedent and a tone for the ensuing material on the record. Your Divorce‘s opener “Nothing Weird” is both effective and extraordinary. Brandishing a compellingly damaged form of lo-fi leaning pop-punk, ThinLips crafted a vicious, compact stunner of an EP that comes across like a warning shot. In a genre that’s increasingly weakened by diminishing returns from the artists utilizing reverential approach, it’s heartening to see the more subversive acts releasing material that feels genuinely vital.

13. Bad Wig – Bad Wig

Before Bad Wig was Bad Wig, they were The Midwestern Charm, an act that worked their way from a sound that fell closer in line to Ryan Adams to crafting a record that fit better alongside the likes of The Lemonheads. A few member changes and stylistic shifts later, they’d carved out a new identity under their new name. Their introductory act is ferociously ragged and maybe even a little audacious. Most everything else there is to be said about this brilliant collection of punk-tinged micro-pop gems can was covered in last week’s review.

12. Potty Mouth – Potty Mouth

A lot of bands found surprisingly bold ways to shift their sound but none caught me as off-guard as Potty Mouth‘s fearless swan dive into the polished, arena-ready sounds of their self-titled EP. Opening with the skyward stretching of “Cherry Picking” and only building momentum from there, Potty Mouth could very easily signal a new era for a band that was formerly known for reveling in their scrappier tendencies. Every song on the EP connects with a staggering amount of force, nicely correlating with the self-possessed determination found at the root of nearly every song in this collection. Potty Mouth is the kind of rallying call that echoes.

11. Midwives – Cowboy Songs

After releasing a fierce full-length debut back in February, Midwives managed to top themselves as the year was drawing to a close. The shockingly immediate Cowboy Songs dishes out punishment at a startling rate and bristles with real emotion. Things kick off with the vicious “Back in the Saddle” and never look back from there, each subsequent song in this seven and a half minute collection of deranged hardcore acting as a flawless showcase of the band’s brute strength. Cowboy Songs is filled to the brim with the kind of hardcore that thrashes around wildly and refuses to be tamed.

10. Geronimo! – Buzz Yr Girlfriend: Vol. 4 – Why Did You Leave Me?

While a lot of people were justifiably saddened over the losses of Ovlov and Krill, it may have been the departure of Geronimo! that hit hardest. Granted, for the vast majority of my life, they were easily the closest to my location of that trio but the sentiment remains. At the very least, the trio went out on top with their final bow: Buzz Yr Girlfriend: Vol. 4 – Why Did You Leave Me?. Characteristically unwieldy, the band’s final three songs ranked among the best work of a deeply impressive career, each (justifiably) landing a premiere at a massive publication. Fitting levels of recognition for an overwhelmingly powerful final effort.

9. Teksti-TV 666 – 2

One of the biggest surprises of the year for me personally, this blistering EP from Finnish act Teksti-TV 666 practically qualifies as an album by today’s standards (its runtime is over 22 minutes). Full of surging basement pop that’s not too far off from the best of The Marked Men, the aptly named swings for the fences at every turn without hesitation. Incorporating a several-member guitar attack that may rival Diarrhea Planet’s, the band finds new avenues to explore as the record careens headfirst towards something concrete. After the fireworks of “Tuhatvuotinen Harharetki”, the band never lets up and goes on exploratory tangents at will. Psychedelic flourishes, sludge breakdowns, and a serious amount of momentum carry to its status as one of the best of 2015.

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8. Slight – Hate the Summer

Hate the Summer prompted a few difficult guideline decisions for this list: was it ethical to include an EP anchored by a song that premiered on this site and would a tape release of the EP that included the entirety of an online single that this site ranked as last year’s best be eligible for contention? The answers, obviously, were “absolutely” and “yes.” The latter line of questioning was the one that was scrutinized the most for this list and wound up excluding Meat Wave’s formidable Brother from eligibility (nearly half of the EP pulled from a variety of the band’s other releases, rendering it more of a padded compilation than an EP). With Hate the Summer, the band’s not only expanded the scope of their work but they’ve tapped into something with the three new songs on display here that have the potential to lift this project to new heights of outside recognition. Overall, it’s an important early piece of the trio’s developing history and deserves to be heard as many times as possible.

7. Midnight Reruns – Get Me Out

A staple of this site’s coverage since its introduction, Midnight Reruns rewarded that attention by taking a huge leap with this year with their two strongest releases to date, beginning with this bleary-eyed EP. The Tommy Stinson-produced “Ain’t Gonna Find” sets things in motion and establishes the band’s manic basement pop sensibilities in the early goings, with Graham Hunt’s million-words-a-minute delivery emboldened by the characteristically fierce lead guitar work between Hunt and Karl Giehl. From that blistering opening number, the band takes a step back and sinks their teeth into more left-field territory like the rollicking “Ancient Creature”, which boasts the instantly memorable chorus couplets of “I am the sun, I am the sea/I am an ancient creature/I was born in Madagascar/I was raised by lemurs” and a bruising cover of The Mistreaters’ “The Other Man”.

6. Sheer Mag – II

Another year, another Sheer Mag list placement. Expanding on everything that made the band so great right out of the gate, II was a natural extension of its predecessor, driven by the wild energy of its phenomenal closing track, “Button Up“. All of the glam influences remain and the band likely owes a remarkably huge debt to Marc Bolan but it’s hard to care about influences when the music manages to be so ridiculously entertaining. People will talk about how ’50s pop seeps in around the band’s roughest edges but really, they should probably just stop talking and start dancing. Scrappy and deliriously fun, II‘s another triumph.

5. Diet Cig – Over Easy

No EP soundtracked more aimless drives for me this year than Diet Cig‘s endearingly jubilant Over Easy, which served a necessary reminder that sometimes the most important function music can have is a sense of joy. In the face of a horrifying year in the news, an onslaught of overly-serious releases, and a general downcast pall, Over Easy was a breath of fresh air; a pair of young musicians finding their voice. Every song on Over Easy is memorable not just for its irreverence but for its uncompromising energy and impressive levels of commitment. Warm weather anthems abound and guitarist/vocalist Alex Luciano gets to deliver one of the year’s most scathing kiss-off’s in the final track’s most rousing section.

4. LVL UP – Three Songs

In 2014, site favorites LVL UP topped this site’s Albums of the Year list with ease thanks to the overwhelming brilliance of Hoodwink’d, which was the most perfect distillation of the respective voices of the band’s three principal songwriters to date. Three Songs continues that trend in miniature, allotting a song a piece from Dave Benton, Mike Caridi, and Nick Corbo. All three bring a palpable sense of weariness to the proceedings, immediately rendering this LVL UP’s moodiest record. From the spiky micro-pop of “Blur” to book-ends “The Closing Door” and “Proven Water Rites”, there’s never a dull moment and the band, once again, leave their guts on the table before walking out the door.

3. Ernie – Dog Park

Occasionally, a single song can elevate an already-strong release to unthinkable proportions, which is exactly what happens with Ernie’s delightful Dog Park and its monumental centerpiece, “Sweatpants“. While all four songs contained in Dog Park are memorable and have an impressive host of great moments, it’s the frantic, hook-laden “Sweatpants” that brings the collection together and enhances its immediate surroundings. A surging jolt of relatable discontentment emphasized by a vicious undercurrent of basement pop aesthetics, “Sweatpants” becomes Dog Park‘s definitive moment and simultaneously becomes an unwitting microcosm of 2015’s prevailing sense of disillusionment before turning on that notion in defiance and letting loose a series of blows. Dog Park‘s status as one of 2015’s great releases is cemented in the process.




2. Tenement – Tenement

No band was written about more- or in greater detail- throughout the course of 2015 than Tenement. For nearly 10 years, I’ve been clutching at mostly empty air while damaging my lungs screaming at seemingly empty rooms to go listen to this band. 2015 was the year where everyone started listening. Of the band’s three releases throughout the past 12 months, their self-titled effort was by far the least discussed. Originally released as a limited-run cassette for one of their early tours, the trio decided to release it to the general public several months later, potentially realizing that it deserved a much wider audience. Focusing on the band’s underlying roots, country, folk, and soul influences without ever completely sacrificing their punk bite, Tenement‘s easily the band’s most easygoing collection as well as its most immediately timeless. Keep its open-road sensibilities in mind for your next long drive.

1. Cende – Cende

Capping off an extraordinary year for drummer (and occasional guitarist) Greg Rutkin (LVL UP, Slight, Normal Person, etc.) was Cende’s explosive self-titled debut, which was recently released online (the bandcamp lists the official release as January 1). The band’s been playing these songs out for a while and garnered heavy coverage from this site during its extended Brooklyn residency. An LP is due out in 2016 as well and, after this EP and the live previews, it’s already one of the most highly anticipated releases of 2016. Taking cues from acts like Radioactivity, Cende has already perfected their blend of searing basement pop and unforgiving basement punk. Only two of these songs- including “Widow”, the opening track and one of the year’s finest- go over the 90 second mark and all of them boast hooks powerful enough to keep pulling the listener back, making Cende an endlessly replayable gift. It’s a monstrous release from a band refusing to aim for anything other than greatness and continuous improvement. Cende is one hell of a starting point.

Joanna Gruesome – Peanut Butter (Album Review, Stream)

jogru

Joanna Gruesome‘s a name that’s been appearing on this site consistently throughout its duration and Peanut Butter‘s ensured that trend’s been one that continued throughout 2015’s first stretch. Weird Sister was one of the best records of 2013 and it came out just before Heartbreaking Bravery started operating, which meant they likely factored into the decision to create (and sustain) this space. In 2014, their Astonishing Adventures split with Perfect Pussy nearly topped our best splits of 2014 list (where Peanut Butter standout “Psykcick Espionage” made its debut) and they’ve earned themselves several standalone features through their music videos as well as their recorded output. In short, the band had a lot to live up to with Peanut Butter and they answered those expectations with a deafening roar.

Embracing the dynamics that made them such a compelling act out of the gate, they’ve managed to refine their approach and incorporate a much heavier emphasis on dissonance. Peanut Butter is Joanna Gruesome’s heaviest, noisiest, and most accomplished work to date, extending a narrative arc of continuous improvement. For a band that already packed a punch, throwing in stabbing noise freakouts that punctuate a large number of Peanut Butter‘s tracks might seem unnecessarily excessive. What sets Joanna Gruesome apart from some of their like-minded kin when it comes to this department is their unwavering understanding of restraint. “I Wanna Relax” starts with sheer white noise- but it’s cut off at the head almost as soon as it appears, effectively rendering it a jarring warning of the content that lies ahead.

Joanna Gruesome didn’t set out to pull punches on Peanut Butter and much of the record comes off like an assault. Impressively, even with the strengthened bent on atonality, the band hasn’t sacrificed any of their melody- they’ve enhanced it. “Last Year”, the record’s opening track, is one of the best examples of this duality and sets the tone for the nine tracks that follow. Never dipping under mid-tempo, the band keeps things at a sprint throughout the record, never allowing the listener a reprieve. The closest they come is the band’s surprisingly gentle closer, “Hey! I Wanna Be Yr Best Friend”, which feels like the transcendental calm that descends after a violent storm.

Part of what makes Joanna Gruesome’s storm so electric is the way vocalist Alanna McCardle weaves her ideologies into her narratives, subtly drawing the line to gender expectations through tales of difficult relationships and personal angst. Throughout Peanut Butter McCardle grapples with what and what isn’t good, torturing herself by questioning her own motivations. At times, the self-examination is brutal but it’s softened by the band’s pop sensibilities, which are continuing to produce some of the most gorgeous moments of any band currently making music. Terrifying, exhilarating, and unfailingly brilliant, Peanut Butter isn’t just Joanna Gruesome’s current crown jewel, it’s also one of the brightest spots of a year that’s already overflowing with greatness. To further illustrate that last point, a list of titles worth hearing will be included at the very bottom of this page (which also acts as an addendum to the preceding post).

Before you scan through those titles, though, make sure to listen to Peanut Butter over at NPR’s First Listen (the Spotify embed will take the place of that link once the record goes live).

Pre-order Peanut Butter from the always-great Slumberland here.

Now, as promised, an accompanying list of some other previously unlisted 2015 titles that are more than worth your attention.

Johanna Warren – nūmūn
Pfarmers – Gunnera
Sick Sad World – Fear and Lies
Glockabelle – Wolf BBQ
Fraternal Twin – Skin Gets Hot
Coliseum – Anxiety’s Kiss
DTCV – Uptime!
Clean Girls – Despite You
Turnover – Peripheral Vision
Battle Ave – Year of Nod
Tres Padres – Father’s Day / A Lot to Maintain
Vomitface – Another Bad Year
Eskimeaux – O.K.
Crocodiles – Boys
Novella – Land
Blanck Mess – Dumb Flesh
Miss June – Matriarchy
Art Is Hard – Family Portrait Pt. II

A Third of the Way: Full Streams, 2015

“2015 has been a monstrous year for new music”, or some deviation of that phrase, has become a refrain that continues to gain strength as the year progresses. We’ve already tackled a long list of the first quarter full lengths that captured our attention but, as is the case with any year, April afforded a chance to get caught up on some titles while the new ones kept emerging. I genuinely wish I had the time to go over all of these titles in details (and I may wind up expanding on a few of them when December rolls around) but, unfortunately, time’s proving to be a cruel factor. Over the first four months of the year, I was committed to a full-time position and then navigated the slow exit from that position in order to pursue a move to Brooklyn. During that time span, I was collecting everything as it appeared and began to pitch out to larger publications. At one point I was working  an average of 75 hours a week. I made sure to never lose sight of new music and began compiling a list of the things I came across that I genuinely loved.

Whether it be something regional like Strange Relations’ -Centrism, something highly publicized like METZ’s II, any number of records from bands that have earned the tag “site favorite” (Speedy Ortiz, Sheer Mag, Purple 7, Courtney Barnett, Mikal Cronin, etc), or something that should have picked up more press than it did (Mittenfield’s Optimists, Bent Denim’s Romances You, etc), there were a lot of records that deserved to be fully featured. Hell, there are even a handful that are going to be running on the ensuing post- but 75 already feels like a scary number for one list. That being the case, it’ll be impossible for someone to listen through to all of these titles in one sitting. It’s best left as a bookmark, something to return to for the purpose of exploring. It’s a list that isn’t restricted to just one genre, it covers close to the entire gamut of the styles of music that regularly get featured on this site, meaning you’re bound to find something you love buried in the wealth of titles.

So, explore at will. Buy the titles that catch your ear and keep celebrating great art.

Enjoy.


Sleeping in the Aviary – Young Love Is Easy (Unreleased Demos)
Pocket Hercules – Pocket Hercules
Personal Best – Arnos Vale
Dusk – Demos
Fred Thomas – All Are Saved
Strange Relations – -CENTRISM
Try The Pie – Total Domestication
Pupppy – Shit in the Apple Pie
Hop Along – Painted Shut
Speedy Ortiz – Foil Deer
Flout – Gims
ThinLips – Divorce Year
Seagoat – Seagoat

Weird Mob – Wizards
Creative Adult – Ring Around the Room
Tomten – Bitter Pill b/w Humdrum Doom Song
METZ – II
The Lees of Memory – Soft Places b/w Within A Dream II
The Splits – The Splits II
Um Are – Child Prodigy
Baby Birds Don’t Drink Milk – Kill The Fuzz
Loose Tooth – Easy Easy East
Pale Angels – Imaginary People
Fleabite – TTYL
Cop – Render
Bill Fay – Who Is The Sender
Sheer Mag – II
Shopping – Consumer Complaints
Red Cosmos – Dreaming In Unison
Throw Vision – Were It Will
Steven King – Shakin In My Boots
Colin Stetson & Sarah Neufeld – Never Were The Way She Was
LA Font – Hangtime Vol. 1
Timeshares – Already Dead
Torres – Sprinter
Jacco Gardner – Hypnophobia
Bent Denim – Romance You
InfestDC – DZ Tapes
Violent Femmes – Happy New Year
Tomboy – Sweetie
Purple 7 – Gulf of the Afterglow
Elvis Depressedly – New Alhambra
Mouth – Mouth
Braids – Deep In the Iris
Yeesh – No Problem
Annalibera – Nevermind I Love You
Andy Gabbard – Fluff
Bay Uno – Catalina
Birches – Birches
Alimony Hustle – Gutter Gutter Strike Strike Gutter Gutter
The Black Ships – Dead Empires
Mac McCaughan – Non-Believers
Simon Joyner – Grass, Branch & Bone
Karate Dancer – Jyu Kumite EP
Toothtaker + Mestizo – Everybody’s Enemy
Sacred Paws – Six Songs
Mittenfields – Optimists
Pretty Pretty – Talkin’ To The Walls
Godspeed You! Black Emperor – Asunder, Sweet and Other Distress
The Sleepwalkers – Mortimer b/w Choose Your Own Ending
Candy Darling – Going Straight b/w Waves
Soda Bomb – Wanna Jam?
Kuroma – Kuromarama
Waxahatchee – Ivy Tripp
Total Love – Total Love
Van Dammes – Better Than Sex
Michael Rault – Living Daylight
Courtney Barnett – Sometimes I Sit And Think, And Sometimes I Just Sit
The Dead Ships – EP 1
Blue Blood – This Is The Life
DVS – DVTV
Tussilago – Holy Train
Earl Sweatshirt – Solace
Warm Soda – Symbolic Dream
Mikal Cronin – MCIII

METZ – Spit You Out (Stream)

METZ I

While there may still be a large handful of full streams to mention from 2015’s beginnings, it’s a small enough array to justify pushing off to the side for just a while. Today officially marks the return to regular coverage as an every day staple and today, more than any other day, feels like the precise right time to kick things back into high gear. While there weren’t a lot of music video that managed to sink their way in, Holy Pinto’s laid-back animated clip for “Tooth” and Oddisee’s black-and-white journey in “CounterClockwise” still constitute a strong showing for the medium. Full streams packed a little more heat in numbers, with a pair of demos coming into sharp focus, courtesy of Composite and Dominadora, respectively (a personal thanks to Pansy Twist Distro‘s Amy for tips on both). In the non-demo corners of that particular sphere, there were treasures to be found in the spiked post-punk of Bad Future‘s Nightchurch, the joyfully scattershot eclecticism of The Danger Boys’ self-titled effort, the scrappy grit of the indie pop found on VARSITY‘s most recent full-length, and Telepathic’s reassuringly brilliant Powers of Ten EP, which lessens the pain caused by the sudden departure of site favorites Bleeding Rainbow (Telepathic features members of the band).

As usual, there was a glut of incredible songs worth touching on, a few of which nearly snagged tonight’s headline. A pairing of elder statesman from the independent scene had a good day out with both Conor Oberst’s Desaparecidos marking their official return with “City on the Hill” to tease a forthcoming record (Payola) and Superchunk’s Mac McCaughan providing a reminder of why he remains one of the more influential voices in music with the lightly damaged (and wholly brilliant) “Box Batteries“.  Moon King provided alluring lilt with “Impossible“,  Town Portal took off the safety with the gnarled “Bonus Trigger“, Blank Pages blurred the line between basement pop and post-punk with “No Reception“, and 15 year-old wunderkind Billie Marten turned in a haunting folk stunner with “Heavy Weather“. Howard also turned in an arresting folk tune by way of “Religion” while Battle Ave carved out an atmospheric niche with the downtrodden “Aleph“. A trio of punk scrappers rounded things out with Hinds (formerly known as Deers) unveiling the finalized version of the slow-burning “Trippy Gum“, The Teen Age elevating the anticipation for their forthcoming record with the driving “Pieces“, and Loose Tooth wreaking all kinds of havoc with their latest, the rousing “Skinny Chewy“.

Even with all of those items coming out swinging, the day- and this piece’s focus- belongs to METZ. Arriving only a day after “Acetate” fearlessly pummeled its way onto the site’s First Quarter Highlights mixtape, “Spit You Out” comes flying off the handle, kicking down any doors that are in its path. One of the biggest criticisms METZ– the band’s acclaimed debut- faced was that it was too one-note; song structures were too similar and the band couldn’t shake its comfort zone. At the same time, praise for their live show began appearing in just about any publication that paid the band any mind. Personally, I loved the no-bullshit approach bent of their debut but “Spit You Out” does suggest the band might have latched onto something tremendously exciting by deviating from their more conventional tendencies (which aren’t really all that conventional anyway). One thing the characteristically hell-raising does do better than any of its predecessors is imitate the band’s exhilarating live show. Riding one of the band’s strangest riffs throughout the course of the song, guitarist/vocalist Alex Edkins sounds as manic as ever- only relenting for a thrilling extended section that feels tuned in to what the band aims for live. Apart from that, there are a few other production flourishes here and there that suggest II, the appropriately-named album to which “Acetate” and “Spit You Out” belong, could be one of 2015’s finest releases. Noise solos, a tambourine that somehow manages to sound menacing, and a whole lot of attitude combine to serve as a warning: METZ aren’t planning on going anywhere until they finish what they started.

Listen to “Spit You Out” below and pre-order II from Sub Pop here.

2014: A Year’s Worth of Memories, Pt. 2

Yesterday, it was my distinct privilege to start running pieces that were contributed to Heartbreaking Bravery for a long-gestating project. A long list of some of my favorite writers, label heads, music video directors, and musicians (many of whom have had their work covered here in the past) were kind enough to contribute pieces focusing on some of their favorite moments in music over the course of 2014. These pieces will continue to run throughout the week and I’m unbelievably grateful for everyone involved. Below, David Anthony fondly recalls taking in The National with someone of great importance, Quinn Moreland muses over her peers’ achievements, Gabriela June Tully Claymore tackles Bad History Month’s “Staring At My Hands” and its many personal connotations, Jesse Amesmith covers a particularly memorable show, Katie Capri rails against false assumptions, and Jeff Bolt revisits a show with The Marked Men. So, once again, it’s an absolute honor to present 2014: A Year’s Worth of Memories.

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A Night Out with The National

While I consider myself lucky to have several moments rush to mind– seeing American Football’s “secret” reunion being the closest runner-up– the experience that will stick with me the longest was seeing The National with my mom. Sure, that might not be the coolest answer in the world but there was one small exchange that made it, unquestionably, the most memorable musical moment of 2014.

First thing’s first, I have to tell you a bit about my mom. She’s always been into music of varying kinds. Some of my earliest memories are linked to her blaring Springsteen on Saturday morning, listening to Dookie as she drove me to school, or her cleaning the house to Sam Cooke. The second, and perhaps most important point, is that my mom is a saint. If she were to detail the number of ‘90s pop-punk bands she took me to see while she stood in the back of dingy punk clubs, I’m fairly certain you’d agree. It’s these circumstances that make this National show stand out to me. It’s a moment where our interests overlapped and instead of her having to stand in the back of a dive bar- or me uncomfortably sit in the nosebleeds of an arena- we could meet in the middle and enjoy music without any pretenses.

The show itself was as good as any other National show I’ve seen, but it was the band’s encore that sealed it. When vocalist Matt Berninger jumped into the audience and began walking across seats during “Mr. November” I saw my mom’s eyes light up. She grabbed my arm and looked at me with the biggest smile, and in that moment I felt like she understood what’s made music such an integral part of my life. She was raised on stadiums and rock stars, so seeing a front-person become one with the crowd gave her the same feeling those pop-punk and hardcore bands did for me over a decade ago. It may have only been a brief moment, but it reminded me why music is so vital. At its best, it brings people together and allows them to feel part of something bigger than themselves, even if it’s just for a second.

-David Anthony (Digital Manager, The AV Club)

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Peers in 2014

2014 was weird and crazy and cool in so many ways, it feels impossible to pick one or even two or three specific #FavoriteMusicMoments. However, I can summarize many moments with one simple Frankie Cosmos lyric: “My heroes are my friends / my friends are my heroes.” My favorite musical memory of 2014 was any time I was blown away by my peers, whether at a live concert, on a recording, or even a YouTube video (this is so cheesy, I’m sorry). Just a few people who turned me into a starry-eyed Q are the entire Epoch crew, team Double Double Whammy, the staff and writers at The Media, the Alex G gang, Jawbreaker Reunion, Girlpool, Frankie Cosmos… that’s more than a few but not nearly everyone. I was inspired by anyone (minus total jerks or sexist assholes because there were a lot of those too) who was involved with music in any fashion in 2014. So I guess my favorite musical “moments” were the times it was truly evident that my peers are my heroes.

-Quinn Moreland (Associate Editor, Impose)

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Bad History Month’s “Staring At My Hands” and Learning to Breathe Easy

I turned 21 in a bar on June 15th, sandwiched between the almost shockingly audacious advances of a former coworker and a girl that I had befriended at school but still didn’t know all too well. I had been in Buenos Aires the day before, saying goodbye to the uneven cobblestone streets, the violent rainstorms. I found myself back in New York unmoored and uncertain—an official Grown Up without an apartment, without a job, and without any sense of who my friends were. Here, I pause to examine my existence as a total “post study abroad experience” stereotype—alienated from my homeland, and in turn, myself. I was in free-fall, descending too quickly into the real world, and in those first few days I thought that the turbulence would kill me.

I do not mean to make this an essay about “poor me” but rather one about “poor us,” when we lose sight of who we once were and have no idea who we want to will ourselves to become.

My readjustment period of several weeks expanded into a month, then into a summer. The morning after my birthday, I awoke to the news that a friend had unexpectedly died. I was told that he drowned in a pool- and my ribs began to crack open to make room for an inexplicable emptiness.

What followed can only now be described as farce. I learned that the former friend subletting what was supposed to be my room was refusing to move out. After spending two weeks on another’s couch, I moved into my future roommate’s room while she was away in California, and I got my old restaurant job back. A week later, I awoke to find my body covered in small bumps—rows of three that trickled down my arms my legs, my brow-line and eyelids. I found one bed bug crawling across the sheets that morning. I found another when I stripped the bed, and dozens as I peeled away the plastic corners of the box spring that didn’t belong to me.

I spent the next two months in motion as little bits of my stunted world continued to fall apart.

In an effort to recover what was left of my sanity, to remember who I had been and what I had enjoyed before I left New York, I tried to burrow myself in a familiar musical landscape. I remembered that I liked going to shows, I liked the familiarity of dozens of strangers swaying alongside me. I had loose plans for the future and an obscenely long list of goals. I didn’t really believe in God but I believed in something undefined. I was motivated without subscribing to a concrete belief system. I did’t keep up with the local scene while I was away, but somehow I found myself listening to Famous Cigarettes, a split EP that the Boston-based band Bad History Month (formerly Fat History Month) released a month before. Rather, I found myself listening specifically to “Staring At My Hands”, the lead-off single, on repeat.

“Staring At My Hands” begins with an almost imperceptible, echoing thud. A heartbeat. It’s a slow build that Jeff Meff’s wayward lyrics eventually weave themselves into. Instrumentally, the song is so textural it’s practically tangible but the almost desperate proximity of his voice never feels jarring. If anything, the introductory moments of “Staring At My Hands” carry you beyond stripped-back skin, dipping into a single strand of streaming consciousness. Meff sings, “Inevitably all my molecules dissolved and then my problems/ Were all resolved/ I spent a lifetime deciding which way I should go and now that I’m gone/ I finally know.”

I first listened to “Staring At My Hands” in the apartment that was not yet mine, the subletter who was supposed to be gone skulking around in my room. I was probably waiting for an exterminator or examining the dishes that had amassed in the sink while I was away sleeping on couches and in beds that I shouldn’t have been in. I spent an excessive amount of time on the train that summer, attempting to seamlessly transition to and from the various apartments I was staying in, figuring out what clothing to dry for approximately 25 minutes on the hottest setting so as not to spread the infestation along with my miserable disposition. Never entirely sure where I would end up each night, I started carrying a backpack containing a change of clothes, a toothbrush, and a book with me everywhere I went. In transit, I listened to “Staring At My Hands” or I didn’t listen to anything.

Making my way back to a friend’s apartment for the night, my throat began to constrict when Meff wailed, “Staring at my hands and picturing them decomposing/ Feeling my existence as a ripple on an endless ocean/ Not even a drop/ I will take no substance with me when I’m gone.” All summer I felt like a ghost—another person on the subway, face glued to the window, watching for passing graffiti. “Staring At My Hands” is about being lost in the space between, and my own feeling of absolute transience accompanied by the song’s oceanic thorough line forced me to imagine and then reimagine what drowning in an ocean, or in a pool, must feel like. I wondered if there was any difference and then, wishing for nothing but numbness, I wondered if that mattered.

Every night I dreamt of bed bugs. I would spastically jolt awake to find myself scratching long after the bites had disappeared. When I didn’t dream of bed bugs, I would lie with my face against a pillow envisioning lungs filling up with fluid, the unbelievable weight of a waterlogged body.

Up until this point I had always considered myself to be “just fine” most of the time. There had been bouts of crippling depression in high school subdued by the cliché remedy of poor decision-making and crappy movies on repeat. That was the kind of depression that could be mended, the kind of sadness that comes with being an adolescent. The kind where you can take your index finger and point at the small things in your life that are making you unhappy. But the feeling of that summer was entirely new. I could point at all of the things in my life that were depressing—and there were a lot—but realizing that I felt hollow, that I couldn’t bare the effort of caring about any of it beyond the surface level of daily upsets, frightened me.

The morning after sleeping on a friend’s couch for the umpteenth time, she asked me to describe how I felt. I told her that every morning I woke up to A Great Emptiness, or what most people would jokingly refer to as an existential crisis. I read Albert Camus’ “The Myth of Sisyphus” in my senior year of high school, right before graduation. I thought it was really pretentious. In that purgatorial academic space, I found the central ideas of Camus’ essay to be objectively interesting, but never personally applicable. Although it’s a fairly complex text, the argument at the center of the Camus’ treatise on existentialism is essentially whether or not one should kill themselves is they believe the world to be devoid of Godliness. Camus describes life as an incessant struggle—Sisyphus rolling a boulder up a mountain, only to watch it tumble to the ground—until we die, our spirit interned along with the corpse. The essay is extensive: written in five parts, it totals nearly 140 pages. I recently revisited “The Myth Of Sisyphus” and couldn’t help but think that Bad History Month explained Camus’ argument better- and in less than five minutes. “Staring At My Hands” is a song about coming to terms with your inconsequential existence and being okay with feeling small. It is about choosing to live.

“Staring At My Hands” references A Great Emptiness as an ocean, the intermediary space that one encounters before arriving at capital N Nowhere (Meff capitalizes the word “Nowhere” on the lyrics sheet that comes along with the Famous Cigarettes cassette). There is a line that I remember hearing very clearly one night in the Bergen Street station. I think it was a Tuesday. I had been reading Junot Diaz’s “This is How You Lose Her”, but decided that I was depressed enough on my own thank you, and put it away. In the moment that I closed the book, Meff’s whispered declaration felt cavernous, “Dying while you’re still alive/ Suddenly you’ve opened your eyes/ It’s only when you realize that you’re going Nowhere that you finally arrive.” I admire the decisive nature of Meff’s lyricism, the absolute self-assurance, the complete sense of control. Every time I listened to “Staring At My Hands,” I exhaled my anxieties and I felt absolved.

I do not know what Jeff Meff looks like, and I do not know how old he is. I know that his real name is Sean but I’ve chosen to hold onto his elusive persona. As I begin to bundle the loosened bits of my life back together, it has become very important that I leave Jeff Meff and his band in the transient space that I found Famous Cigarettes in. For now, I want his lyrics to exist in what he names the “Imagined Separation Between Things.”

Looking for solace in the absurd is an exercise in total futility. Now, I search for it in cadences and honest voices. “Staring At My Hands” is immediate validation that the world cannot produce an overarching, predictable narrative, but the song gives me a momentary sense of purpose. It manifests in small ways. Instead of planning where I will be next year, I plan what I will eat for dinner, or what show I will go to on Friday. I stay late for the extra drink and prolonged conversations- I ignore my intolerably long to-do list to walk the Eastern Parkway. I stopped thinking that I still have time to do the things that I had been “meaning to do.” I am trying to believe less in what might be and more in the immediacy of what I hear. My perception of time elongates and fills out spaces of uncertainty now that I have stopped trying to get anywhere.

Someday, I will be ready for Bad History Month and I to exist in the same world, for “Staring At My Hands” to exit the imagined space and become just another song. Someday, I might see Jeff Meff perform “Staring At My Hands” and maybe my eyes will well up with tears or maybe I won’t feel a thing. For now, the song exists as part of my own consciousness—I tell people to listen to it when they find themselves in crisis, when they need the reminder that everything is not “going wrong,” it is simply “going.”

There is a moment in “Staring At My Hands” when the heartbeat-like thud falls away, long enough for Meff to sing, “Nervous outside of a bar, focus on a single star until it/ Disappears/ Reaching for the comfort of just how small things are.” This is the definitive centerpiece of the song, muted and astral. It sparkles. Months after discovering “Staring At My Hands,” this line is so peaceful, so lovely, that it’s almost burdensome. As if Meff and I alone have found a sort of antidote, a kind of answer. I left the realm of A Great Emptiness that summer to travel Nowhere- and I accept it.

-Gabriela June Tully Claymore (Writer, Stereogum)

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A Show in Rochester

This past July my friends Perfect Pussy and Feral Future were on tour and decided to meet up in Rochester, NY to play a show with my band Green Dreams (and Utah Jazz, an excellent band from Buffalo). There was a miscommunication when the show got booked, and an extra band got added to the lineup. When the band was contacted and told “sorry, misunderstanding, you can’t play” they didn’t take it well, and after begging to play and being told “no”, members of that band and their friends decided to boycott the show.

Rochester has that problem that I’m sure a lot of scenes have: the same guys play in different formations of the same bands playing the same type of music and like to think they have a monopoly on the scene. I’m not saying they aren’t making good music, or that there isn’t space for what anyone has to offer, but I am saying that the cool-kid apathetic circle jerk vibe is toxic and it really numbs my buns. It was important to my friends- and very important to me- that all the bands that played this show have non-male persons in them, and besides… it was OUR show. What they really didn’t like hearing was that it was someone else’s party, that nobody on our end cared if they came to the show or not, and it didn’t go over well. There’s a right way for women in our scene to participate and behave, and then there’s the wrong way. I’ll let you guess which category I fall into.

Haters have always buzzed around my head like flies (cuz I’m the shit! HOHOHO) so I swatted them away and went about my business, getting more and more excited for one of the best shows I have had the pleasure of playing here in Rochester. I bunkered down and made a flyer that was a mash-up based on two of my favorite pieces of art: Judith Slaying Holofernes by Artemisia Gentileschi and Sedmikrásky, a Czechoslovakian art film made by Věra Chytilová. It’s pink and bloody and there are Miyazaki sprites and flowers and fruit all over it. I poured a lot of love and respect for the bands we shared the bill with into making it, and was excited to make prints and have a great time.

As expected the trolls had a field day with my flyer, and jumped on an opportunity to belittle and shame the show and the work I had put into it. GASP! “IT DEPICTS VIOLENCE TOWARDS MEN!” “WHO DOES SHE THINK SHE IS?!” My detractors think that being socially conscious requires some sort of score keeping, that because my politics include intersectional feminism and smashing the patriarchal police state that every action I take should be righteous by all accounts, like I owe it to them to continuously prove myself. It’s exhausting, and I take a lot of hits so that hopefully the next generation of punx in our small city can grow up in a more inclusive, safer space than it is now.

Long story short, I got (and continue to get) a lot of shit for just being myself and wanting to do my own thing leading up to the show. I was nervous. I had put a lot into it, what if nobody came? What if my antagonists show up and start something? What if someone dumps pig blood all over me? The thing about letting the haters get under your skin is that 99% of the time the worst of it is in your head. Nobody can say anything half as mean about you as you can say about yourself when you think the world is against you. The day of the show arrived along with my friends from out of town, and I began to understand that it doesn’t actually matter if some people don’t like what you do or how you do it. My music isn’t for everyone, but the people that it IS for love it and me dearly.

I was surrounded by mutual admiration and support the entire evening. We ran around and took pictures, laughed and told jokes and secrets, caught each other up on our travels and adventures. As the venue filled, I noticed how many young people I didn’t know were in attendance… and I started to suspect that what I had been feeling was exactly right; if your scene doesn’t welcome you with open arms then it’s time to make your own scene. I was so concerned with the people who were trying to keep me down that I didn’t realize how many people were there holding me up, singing along, and cheering me on.

The show was incredible. People were happy, friendly, and excited to be there. TWO YOUNG PEOPLE MADE CAKES WITH OUR BANDS NAMES ON THEM AND BROUGHT THEM TO THE SHOW FOR US! CAKES!! WITH OUR BANDS NAMES ON THEM! SERIOUSLY!! You can’t make this shit up. There was an all-girl mosh pit. We laughed until we cried and then hugged until we cried more. We made speeches.  People made .gifs of us. It was everything I’ve ever wanted or needed in punk: community, passion, forward thinking young people, and cakes. When it was all said and done it stood as the most incredible moment of my past year… because I finally felt at home in my hometown. All it took was stepping back to realize that the scene I needed didn’t exist without me there to fight for it.

-Jesse Amesmith (Green Dreams)

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Brooklyn DIY’s Not Dead Yet

2014 is the year I broke a long dry spell with music by somewhat unconsciously flooding every aspect of my life with it.

This year marked a rapid paradigm shift in the Brooklyn DIY community. The closure of 285 Kent, then Death By Audio and soon Glasslands killed Willamsburg as it was/had been. As I got my sea legs as a music writer and musician myself, the moaning about the death of New York DIY was reaching a fever pitch. That volume never seemed representative to me because, honestly, I hadn’t gone to shows at those venues since 2013 anyway. The shows moved further away from Manhattan a while ago… at least the ones I was going to.

The Borough of Brooklyn alone is bigger than the entire city of Philadelphia. Over 96 square miles. Within them there will always be untapped resources.  Sure, there are extra logistical obstacles in this city. But giving up the ship because a giant yacht docked on your old turf? That’s just boring.

Stuff had been bustling further from Williamsburg for years but 2014 took a giant leap away from Manhattan’s glaring sheen. To the south and west were Palisades, Silent Barn, Trans Pecos, David Blaine’s The Steakhouse, 94 Evergreen, Emet. These are spaces with poles in the middle of the room, with stages at the bottom of a flight of stairs, in backyards enclosed in a sheet metal triangle or in front of warped glass overlooking the Freedom Tower.

Of the six spaces mentioned above, the last two shuttered in 2014 too. Their organizers, though, found new spaces. Slackgaze (behind 94 Evergreen) opened Nola, Darling in Chelsea, moving against the current Manhattan exodus. The people behind Emet just opened Aviv in Greenpoint, which is estimated to be the largest DIY space operating in Brooklyn right now.

These venues are held together with spit and elbow grease, sweat and most definitely some tears. They’re not fancy, and that’s what makes them so exhilarating. They’re just people and music without much polish. That’s my favorite kind of place to be anywhere, but they’re especially meaningful in New York, a city caked in layers of veneer.

This year was flooded with moments surrounding music, every weekend a new favorite replacing the last. My most recent favorite was in the middle of December. The day after 50,000 people marched through Manhattan declaring black lives matter, I sat under a cellar door on Malcolm X Boulevard watching 90 people host a hypnotic neo-jazz band from Georgia called Red Sea.

The show flier deemed the venue “X”, maybe just for the night or for more shows to come. I’ve learned you shouldn’t count on a “next time” in these situations. The bouncer who ushered us into the unmarked barroom above the dusty basement’s soundproofed ceiling suggested this meeting place had a long underground history. Probably not one rife with experimental rock.

Upstate acts Palm, Annie Blech, Dog, and they city’s own Big Neck Police joined Red Sea that night. Each set’s dissonance seared its way up my spine with every elegantly placed wrong note- another theme of 2014. That basement, though, is what left the biggest impression on me.

Between its crumbling concrete walls, I saw people who play twee pop music. I saw people who play nu metal. I saw people whose music defies categorization. We were all enthralled. We were there watching a community of musicians share their art and host members of a sister community in their own. We were there showing support. Through late-listed addresses, unmarked doors and a few thickets of cobwebs, we sought out that shitty basement in the middle of a borough that the uninspired roll their eyes at. By being there, we know inspiration is still there, still churning out amazing music from amazing people. By being there, we keep it going.

That night I saw what you can’t with your eyes rolled back inside your skull. ‘DIY’ shows aren’t going to die in New York anytime soon. They just don’t have time to cater to people unmotivated by what’s found off the beaten path.

-Katie Capri (Fern Mayo, Impose)

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A Marked Men Party

2014 was a great year for me, maybe the best I’ve had yet.  I turned 30 this year, traveled a lot, saw a bunch of great shows, and also (most importantly) said “fuck this” to having a boss and started only working for myself. I was trying to think of my favorite memory this year and a lot of things came to mind: Playing a midnight show with Tony Molina and Big Eyes under the Grey’s Ferry Bridge, playing a generator show with Acid Fast and Constant Insult at Graffiti Pier in N. Philly, hanging out with far away friends and eating huge burritos in California, and Tommy Borst’s birthday party in Michigan City Indiana (Tommy walked through fire that night, fell through my drums, tried to destroy his own P.A. and probably made fun of everyone there. Jon [Rybicki] & I took mushrooms way too late in the night and I fell asleep in the basement without telling anyone. Jon thought I walked out to the woods and drowned in the pond behind Tommy’s house).

I’d have to say that my favorite memory of 2014 was playing with the Marked Men on my 30th birthday in New York.  The day before my birthday I was helping my friend Tim with some work at his shop.  It was a long Friday and I was excited to get home and go see some friends from Ohio who were playing in Philly that night.  I stopped by their sound check on the way home to pick up my friend Evan who was on tour with them for dinner. When we got to my house I was very surprised to find it empty- with the exception of my friend Ken from Richmond and one of my oldest best friends, Marco, from Detroit.  When I asked “what the hell are you doing here?!” I was answered with “making cookies”.  Marco flew in from Detroit and Ken took the bus up from RVA to surprise me for my birthday the next day.  Over the course of the evening some more folks showed up and we ate cookies and drank copious amounts of beer.  Realistically that was more than enough of a birthday for me but to add the next day’s show on top of it was too perfect. Now I’ll be honest, I fucking hate New York.

I have a lot of great friends there and have had some really great times there- but overall it’s not for me.  The show and the people involved and other friends that came made it feel good and right, though. All the bands that played were friends, and a lot of friends from NY and Philly came to the show to hang out (which is all I care about from a birthday, having friends around hanging out). The bill for the show was Worriers, Radiator Hospital, Iron Chic, and Marked Men. I hadn’t seen Marked Men in probably 7 years or so, so I was very excited to see them again. Jeff Burke writes- and has written- some of my favorite pop based punk music of all time. He’s shy and humble, but not stand offish.  He has no problem having a great conversation with you but might not be the one to start it if you’re not that close. I really like that about him. A lot of people hold him in a high regard but the ego that sometimes shows up with that stature has never been a part of him.

It was really cool to see Joe again too, he’d booked a show for Swearin’ a couple years before with his band Low Culture (who are amazing) and we had a fun night at his house in Los Cruces.  After we played, which was an okay set, not our best but definitely not our worst, I started in on party mode. I tried to keep it together as best I could among all the shots and beers people offer you on a birthday night. I did a great job of it too! After the show we all went to the now defunct Lulu’s down the street for drinks and to continue with the party.  After many more drinks and illicit things the night was finally called and we went to a nice un-comfy floor for sleep. It was a nice easy ending to a fun, wild night.

2015 has a lot to contend with, let see what happens.

-Jeff Bolt (Swearin’, Radiator Hospital, founder, Stupid Bag Records)