Heartbreaking Bravery

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Tag: Infinity Cat Recordings

Daddy Issues – Locked Out (Stream)

Last week Palehound, Jason Isbell, Quin Galavis, Bent Denim, Wilder Maker, Jeff Rosenstock, Debbie DownerAgent blå, Kane Strang, The No Ones, and Sløtface all unveiled great new tracks. Another great song came from Daddy Issues, who continue to get better with every step. “Locked Out”, the band’s latest, is a new career highlight for the trio and offers up a whole lot of reasons to get very excited about the band’s future.

A mid-tempo number that gains impact as it goes, “Locked Out” is a restrained work from a band that’s frequently their best when they’re at their most frantic. Instead of going to that well, they find a whole new depth of impact by relying on brute strength. Conjuring up a formidable amount of power with both the song’s composition and the self-aware narrative, “Locked Out” finds Daddy Issues hitting the exact right notes. Putting “Locked Out” over the top is the adventurous solo section, which proves the band’s willing to take the type of risks that could transform them into a much more recognized name. If Daddy Issues continue to make these types of decisions, it’ll be hard to argue against them being a legitimately great band.

Listen to “Locked Out” below and pre-order Deep Dream from Infinity Cat here.

Screaming Females (Documentary Review, Stream)

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Since this site resumed regular coverage, there’s been a few excellent music-focused documentaries that have earned coverage. Girlpool, Pops Staples, The Epoch, and Butch Walker were the central subjects of all the preceding 2015 docs but tonight’s film brings Screaming Females‘ more recent paths to light. It’s a definitive capture of one of this generation’s most exciting bands as they continue their unlikely ascension. Before focusing all of the attention on the Lance Bangs-directed portrait of the perennial site favorites, it’s worth bringing up a few other great items to have recently surfaced as well. For the full streams, there was 100%’s hauntingly minimalist It gets darker and, as always, the newest additions to NPR’s vaunted First Listen series (Laura Marling’s Short Movie and JEFF The Brotherhood’s Wasted On The Dream are particularly memorable). Kendrick Lamar’s To Pimp A Butterfly was also just released a week ahead of schedule and it seems set to continue elevating his increasingly impressive career. All of those things are worth spending time getting to know but they’re not what this post’s about- that distinction, as stated, goes to Lance Bangs’ diaristic Screaming Females short.

One thing that Screaming Females brings into sharp focus over its two-part installment is guitarist/vocalist Marissa Paternoster’s battle with an illness that became so severe that it forced the band to cancel an array of tour dates in support of Ugly. Around the mid-point of the documentary, Paternoster is in visible pain when she recalls the events, all the while remaining admirably steadfast in her convictions, never wanting to let anyone down. Paternoster was eventually diagnosed with fibromyalgia in addition to her mononucleosis. Never has their commitment to a DIY ethos been delivered with more clarity than it is in those harrowing minutes. While Screaming Females finds its voice in the opening minutes, with bassist King Mike providing a short, impact-heavy, list for why the band plays as many shows as they do. As the film progress, the band’s natural rapport cuts through the group vignettes like a knife; this is a band that clearly enjoys each other’s company, which is endlessly important. Memories, both painful and entertaining, are recounted, while the future’s left wide open.

In approximately 20 minutes, Lance Bangs (who assembled everything masterfully, with a well-informed eye) manages to place the kind of spotlight on Screaming Females that they deserve, emphasizing the exact traits that cause me to continue to rally behind this band with no reservations. It’s a committed tale of a dedicated band- one who refuses to lose sight of the intangible elements that built their career in its earliest stages. There’s a genuine honesty present in Screaming Females that’s impossible to ignore, providing a crystallized account of how and why the band operates. Determination and passion are present in nearly every frame and, as each new piece of information is given, it’s abundantly clear that this trio of people are hell-bent on continuing to pursue the things they love most with no hesitation. In the end, the documentary doesn’t just wind up being heartfelt but it also succeeds in being legitimately inspirational. We could all learn a thing or two from this kind of passion.

Watch Screaming Females below and order Rose Mountain (the band’s finest work to date) from Don Giovanni here.

14 of ’14: The Best Music Videos of 2014

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In all best-of coverage, there’s no room for any objectivity positing (“Best” is usually just shorthand for “most admired”), which is why this site’s long-held first person restriction will be dropped to allow me to speak more personally in an effort to better explain the contents of this list’s (and all of the lists to follow) personal effect on myself. In 2014, I watched (and covered) more music videos than any year of my life- allowing an intake of genuinely great content that made compiling this list a dream and a nightmare. After spending weeks reviewing old clips (while keeping up with the videos enjoying December releases), I settled on the selections below as the 14 that hit me hardest over the past 12 months. This list will be the first entry in more than a week’s worth of year-end coverage that I’m beyond excited to share with everyone. So, with all of that said- it’s my privilege to present Heartbreaking Bravery’s 14 of ’14: The Best Music Videos of the Year.

14. Left & Right – Low Expectations

A few months ago, Left & Right released this absolute gem of a music video. Imbued with a DIY irreverence, a purposeful sense of direction, winningly off-beat humor, unabashedly committed performances, and some genuinely great cinematography, “Low Expectations” became an unexpected standout; a clip that came out of the gate swinging and (somehow) landing every single blow. Easily one of 2014’s most unexpectedly charming (and ridiculously enjoyable) clips.

13. Saintseneca – Happy Alone

Saintseneca’s Dark Arc was one of 2014’s most deserved breakout moments and nothing punctuated that shift more than the Christopher Good-helmed clip for “Happy Alone”. Emphasizing the song’s central themes by providing a bubble that practically forces isolation onto bandleader Zac Little, it’s a visually striking clip that got harder to shake as the year progressed. By grounding its elements of surrealism with an abundance of naturalism, it provided an artful counterpoint to something like Perfume Genius’ “Queen” (which, incidentally, was shot by Good). Importantly, it also proved that Saintseneca were officially on their way to bigger and better things.

12. Angel Olsen – Windows

I’m not sure there was a music video to come out of 2014 that was more startlingly gorgeous than this Rick Alverson-directed clip for Angel Olsen’s heart-stopping Burn Your Fire For No Witness highlight “Windows”. By incorporating Southern Gothic Americana style rural imagery into Olsen’s plaintive folk-leaning sensibilities, Alverson managed to create an evocative portrait of one of this generation’s finest songwriters. Leading up to an oddly moving (and admittedly eccentric) climax, the whole thing’s so artfully rendered it begins to feel as complete as some of the year’s best films. Delicate and aggressive in all the right places, “Windows” more than earned a spot on this list.

11. Beverly – Honey Do

“Honey Do” was my introduction to Beverly, just as it was for many others, so when news broke that they’d shot a music video for the song, it felt worthy of anticipation. Most of the expectations I had were exceeded in the first few frames and as the video progressed, so did my appreciation. Eschewing any kind of image-building, this was the first in a string of Beverly clips that largely eschewed celebrity in favor of celebrating artistry. Shot in crisp black-and-whites, “Honey Do” is a tender portrait of Los Angeles and its inhabitants and a promising mission statement from one of 2014’s more engaging new acts.

10. S – Losers 

Initially just a clip that came and went with very little fanfare (from a great record with a similar reception), “Losers” immediately felt deeply personal and genuinely heartfelt. Ostensibly a reflection on perception, self-esteem, and harsh reality, the thematic elements in the lyrics get brought to vivid life in a lovingly shot clip that somehow brings them to devastating proportions. DIY in spirit with a focal point on self-expression and identity, it’s become legitimately unforgettable; a long, heavy sigh of acceptance with only the faintest glimmer of hope reverberating throughout the weary cynicism. While “Vampires” was a great deal of fun, it’s “Losers” that deserves the lion’s share of attention for being one of 2014’s strongest buried treasures.

9. Iceage – Against the Moon

Honestly, “The Lord’s Favorite” and “Forever” both could have made this list but it felt more appropriate to limit bands to one entry apiece. With that being the case, it’s Plowing Into The Field Of Love highlight “Against the Moon” that gets the nod; all of the reasons for its inclusion were previously detailed pretty extensively here.

8. Anna Calvi & David Byrne – Strange Weather

Soft saturation. An autumnal palette. Digital film. One of the most delicately directed cinematography performances in any visual medium this year. An implicitly tragic narrative arc that suggests internal (and possible external) suffering. All of these come together in the sublime clip for an equally sublime cover of Kareen Ann’s “Strange Weather”, courtesy of Anna Calvi & David Byrne. One view was all it took for this to become one of the most difficult to shake clips of the year. Masterfully composed and brilliantly executed, it’s nothing short of an emotionally intuitive masterpiece.

7. Diarrhea Planet – Babyhead

I got to use “diaper skull flume explosion” while writing the tags for this one in the initial write-up; what more explanation do you need? “Babyhead” was pure madcap glee on a level not too dissimilar to Wrong Hole’s equally shameless, equally deranged lyric video for “Wrong Hole“. There are times when total insanity can be kind of beautiful. I’m not sure this is one of them but it’s still ridiculously fun.

6. Kid Moxie & The Gaslamp Killer – Museum Motel

No music video kept ricocheting around the corners of my brain more than this deeply unnerving clip from Kid Moxie & The Gaslamp Killer. Operating on a visual level that rivals what was achieved in Under The Skin, it uses waters, shadows, and contrast in a darkly seductive fashion that burrows its way into any brain fortunate enough to find its way over. An ingeniously subtle use of superimposed imagery on a lone snare drum drives up the feeling of unrelenting loneliness and palpable loss. It’s a deeply alluring and deceptively minimal visual representation of a stunning song. One that’s worth putting more than halfway up a “Best of 2014” list.

5. La Dispute – Woman (Reading)

Since this was the last one of the last non-list features to be posted here, it’d seem redundant to simply retrace everything that’s already been said.

4. Girlpool – Plants and Worms

Catleya Sherbow created this unbelievably stunning clip for Girlpool, 2014’s best duo, and touched on a number of pressure points- namely, acceptance and doubt. In the end, it’s about acceptance, and while that message does come laced with a visual that could potentially double as suicide, it still somehow manages to come off as comforting. “Plants and Worms” hits with the force of a world-stopping realization and echoes long after it ends, providing a staggering moment of beauty for Girlpool and a warm reassurance for just about everyone else.

3. clipping. – Work Work

Yes, the video for “Never Gonna Catch Me”- the Flying Lotus and Kendrick Lamar collaboration- was incredible. Not a lot of people are going to dismiss that claim. However, it’s another destined-to-be-iconic clip from that genre field that made a deep(er) impression on me; the video for the clipping. and Cocc Pistol Cree collaboration “Work Work”. Tracing a narrative arc that uses a laser-sharp focus on the act of curb-stomping, enhanced by some thought-provoking visual surrealism, it immediately became one of 2014’s most arresting clips and its status hasn’t let up. If there was a tracking shot more provocative than the one at the start of “Work Work”, then I’d love to see it. Until then, I’m just going to keep returning to this one.

2. Cymbals Eat Guitars – Warning

No clip from 2014 came imbued with more unwavering passion than the Crosshair-starring clip for “Warning”. All anyone needs to see is the thumbnail shot for this video to see a glimpse of how unfailingly heartfelt “Warning” winds up being. Matthew Reed tapped into a transcendental kind of magic that collapses a variety of bridges (age, taste) with a near-shocking ease. Ever since this was first released, I’ve been revisiting it with a great frequency because, like most great art, it pulls the viewer back in and rewards investment. Breathtakingly lensed, brilliantly edited, and furiously paced, this was a perfect accompaniment to one of the year’s most emotionally-charged records. Cymbals Eat Guitars may have intended the song to be a warning about love and loss but, backed by the video, it becomes one of the year’s most life-affirming moments.

1. PUP – Guilt Trip

Back in 2013, I had the honor of naming PUP’s “Reservoir” the best music video of 2013 for PopMatters. While that video was a cathartic release that was a near-perfect representation of the maelstrom of a particularly rowdy live show, their video for “Guilt Trip” (once again speared by the creative team of Chandler Levack and Jeremy Schaulin-Rioux) was a much more serious affair. Weirdly attuned to my own childhood experiences probably lent it a few small favors in terms of my esteem but, doing my best to separate myself from that strange fact, it boasts a series of career-bests from Levack and Schaulin Rioux: cinematography, editing, the performances they elicited from an impressively talented young cast, narrative, and overall direction among the list. “Guilt Trip” also includes one of the most genuinely heart-stopping moments I’ve seen in any clip, infusing it with a sense of brutal reality (if only for a moment), emphasized by a single shot that drives the point home. My initial claim that it could have a shot at carving out a spot for “Video of the Decade” still doesn’t seem so far off- but it’s worth keeping an eye on Levack and Schaulin-Rioux to see if they can keep repeating a ridiculously impressive pattern.

Left & Right – Low Expectations (Music Video)

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Left & Right‘s Five Year Plan will likely come to be regarded as one of 2014’s most under-appreciated releases. Available now as a limited-run cassette from Infinity Cat Recordings’ ongoing series, it’s a record entirely devoid of weak songs. Full of unrestrained punk blitzes that build momentum until momentum’s no longer an issue, it’s the kind of release most bands bands operating in the genre only dream of creating. One of the first looks at the record, the excellent “Low Expectations“, already earned kind words from this site months back. “Low Expectations” eventually only amounted to an all-too-brief teaser for just how incredible Five Year Plan wound up being. Easily one of the year’s catchiest songs, it’s now got an equally joyful video that hits just as many perfect notes.

Before going too much further into what makes “Low Expectations” so spectacular, it’s worth noting that this wasn’t the only great video to emerge from the past few days. There was also a gorgeous animated clip for Old Hundred’s “Casey” that certainly warrants some attention.  While “Casey” is great (any video that can evoke shades of Okkervil River’s classic “For Real” clip is worth several looks), it doesn’t jump out as quickly as Left & Right’s gleefully madcap video for “Low Expectations”. Cleverly conceptualized and brilliantly executed, “Low Expectations” tells the story of two friends attempting to find success via a sidewalk pizza stand only to meet indifference and derision from an unimpressed public who forces them into reinvention. What happens next is too good to spoil and absurdly well-shot for what’s ostensibly a DIY clip. Committed performances only sweeten the deal and  a real sense of joy manages to infuse the whole affair, elevating the video to near-miraculous levels. All in all, “Low Expectations” winds up being a surprisingly representative clip in regards to Left & Right’s spirit and ethos; it’s a party that no one deserves to miss.

Watch “Low Expectations” below and pick up their Five Year Plan cassette from Infinity Cat here.

Chandos – ..Pretty Sure it’s ‘Tang Top’ (Stream)

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With the entirety of yesterday’s post dedicated to Mitski’s miracle of a record, Bury Me At Makeout Creek, there’s quite a bit to catch up on today. There were a bevvy of single streams that included Le Rug’s blown-out rager “Dudley“, Ghastly Menace’s vibrant pop confection “Closing“, and The Dodos’ triumphant return single “Competition“. There was also a sprawling, punchy piece of anthemic open-road folk in the form of Small Houses’ outstanding “Staggers and Rise” as well as another look at YAWN bandleader Adam Gil’s solo project, Dam Gila, via “Home Again“. Rounding things out for the single stream category was a demo from The Guests (a new band featuring members of Sheer Mag), a typically bold Liars b-side, and a Girlpool cover of one of the most achingly romantic songs ever recorded.

In the realms of the music video there was an equally plentiful pool of treasures that included Diarrhea Planet’s oddly compelling fantasia in “Kids“, Metronomy’s stunning woodland-set magic surrealism in “The Upsetter“, and Spider Bags’ subtly nightmarish visual effects collage “Eyes of Death“. Additionally, there was Dream Generation’s stark “The Spirit of America“, She Keeps Bees’ gorgeous “Owl“, Owen Pallett’s inexplicably powerful “In Conflict“, and Corners’ masterfully executed “The Spaceship“. As if that wasn’t enough, the full streams that appeared over the past few days matched the rough output of both the single song and music video output with some truly outstanding efforts coming to light- like Caddywhompus‘ strong bid for Album of the Year contention with Feathering A Nest. The Paperhead emerged with their latest throwback-heavy gem, Africa Avenue, while Parkay Quarts built on their renewed buzz with the wiry Content Nausea. Open Wide released a demo of quietly stunning folk-leaning ballads, Ex Cops threw a darkly-tinted dance party with Daggers, The Jazz June resurfaced with some shockingly strong material in After the Earthquake, and Nots left burn marks with the scalding punk tantrums of We Are Nots.

All of those items are worth sitting down and spending time with but it was recent Carpark Records acquisition Chandos’ “..Pretty Sure it’s ‘Tang Top'” that gets today’s feature spot. It’s a vicious piece of sharp, 90’s-indebted punk, equal parts Acid Fast, PS I Love You, and Speedy Ortiz, “..Pretty Sure it’s ‘Tang Top'” flies along, never bothering to do anything but build momentum through its myriad twists and sharp left turns. Tempos shift, personality gets exuded, and Chandos (formerly Chandeliers) wind up with something that sounds as raw as it does inspired. On Carpark’s ridiculously impressive roster, Chandos falls somewhere between Cloud Nothings and Popstrangers, which is really just shorthand for saying that Chandos’ upcoming record- Rats In Your Bed– is well worth an extremely high level of anticipation. If “..Pretty Sure it’s ‘Tang Top'” is any indication, Chandos is in the midst of a creative peak that will likely yield the band’s strongest material to date. If everything clicks as well as it does in this song, Rats In Your Bed could very well be the first great release of 2015 when it’s released on January 27. Mark the calendar now.

Listen to “..Pretty Sure it’s ‘Tang Top'” below and pre-order Rats In Your Bed from Carpark here.

Cymbals Eat Guitars – Warning (Music Video)

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With another traditionally huge Monday just about in the books, it’s time to recap a large portion of the great material that was released. NPR’s First Listen series was typically stocked and contained Bedhead‘s discography as well as the upcoming records from Big K.R.I.T. and Hookworms. There was also the aggressively bleary noise-psych of Energy Slime’s debut 7″, New Dimensional. Stereogum played host to a slew of impressive song premieres: Lemuria‘s sprightly “Froggy Smoke“, Chief Scout’s kinetic basement pop stunner “Oh Shit“, Whirr‘s newest heavy-hitter “Ease“, and Cloakroom‘s Matt Talbott-assisted “Dream Warden“. In other reaches of the internet, The Sidekicks announced a new record and signing with Epitaph with the typically excellent “Deer” and Diarrhea Planet continued to up the anticipation for their upcoming EP, Aliens in the Outfield, with the absolutely stunning closer- and very likely their career-best- “Peg Daddy“. Empty Apartments’ punchy lo-fi treasure “Lefty (Cardboard Box)“, Terrorista’s jumpy basement punk brawler “Darren vs Bag“, and The Coathangers‘ savage Gun Club cover all also found their way into the world.

To round things out there were also outstanding new music videos that included a tantalizing introduction to what will be a multi-part series from Kevin Devine via “She Can See Me“, an intense visual stimuli overload in the form of Naomi Punk‘s “Television Man” video, Desert Sharks’ revenge fantasy in “crazycrazy“, and Elbow’s artful ode to motorcross in the artfully composed “New York Morning“. There was also The Twilight Sad‘s gorgeous black-and-white clip for “Last January“, Yesway’s hauntingly minimalistic “Let Go“, and Appomattox‘s celebratory career-ending exclamation point in the skate-heavy video for “Yr Soul“. While all of those operated on various levels of unique excellence, it’s tough to outmaneuver that towering scope of one of the year’s most powerful albums- especially when the music video for one of its best songs feels so perfectly assembled.

LOSE is a record that carries the burden of the heavy emotions that come with the loss of a close friend. “Warning” is one of its few moments of total exhilaration; a release of the pent up frustration, angst, despair, and complete helplessness in the face of death. It’s a staggeringly powerful moment on the record and hits stratospheric heights when paired with- and accompanied by- the record’s implicit narratives. In the brilliantly directed music video, Cymbals Eat Guitars are reverted back to youth via teenage stand-ins who deliver some commendably impassioned (and entirely convincing) performances as they mimic the song. A sense of well-placed nostalgia is subtly added in through quick cuts revealing some classic posters and albums that likely served as influences for the band (and for Benjamin High, whose early departure was the event that inspired much of LOSE). “Warning” is lovingly edited and gorgeously lensed, it’s a video that manages to evoke a deeply-felt well of emotions. It’s a surprisingly moving complement to a song- and record- that deserved nothing less.

Watch “Warning” below and buy LOSE directly from Barsuk here.

Weaves – Shithole (Stream)

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Following another insane Monday, Tuesday’s kept things humming along at an impressively furious clip. A few of the full album streams that surfaced included CreaturoS’ miraculous psych-punk stomper Popsicle, Nude Beach’s characteristically impressive 77, Dope Body‘s ferocious Lifers, and Marshall Teller supergroup Psychic Markers’ impressive self-titled debut. On the EP and 7″ side of things, the absolutely jaw-dropping four-way split between Krill, LVL UP, Ovlov, and Radiator Hospital started streaming over on Soundcloud, while the split between Girlpool and Slutever= where both bands cover each other’s songs- went up on bandcamp. Vetter Kids also debuted their excellent new EP, Logan, on AV Club.

A fair few single songs started to make the rounds as well: Guided By Voices mastermind Robert Pollard introduced his new project- Ricked Wicky- by way of the hard-charging “Mobility“, Diarrhea Planet continued to improve with the 90’s-influenced throwback “Bamboo Curtain“, Sorority Noise’s “Wesleyand’s Best Dressed” confirmed their growing buzz is fully warranted, Strange Babes ensured that their upcoming debut effort is worth anticipating with the lovely powerpop of “Holiday“, and Ex-Breathers continued breathing fire into their peculiar brand of hardcore with the violently unhinged “Falling Away“. In addition to all of that, the visual medium was well-represented with a highly stylized (and extremely disquieting) black-and-white clip for “Am Gone” from avant pop weirdos Adult Jazz and Routine Involvements‘ surrealist headtrip for their instrumental track, “UFO“.

Having already given the split between Krill, LVL UP, Ovlov, and Radiator Hopsital quite a bit of attention recently, today’s feature fell to an artist who has yet to earn notable coverage on this site: Toronto’s Weaves. Having just missed their set opening for Courtney Barnett at Sonic Boom during NXNE, they’ve been a band that’s been on the cusp of the radar. Previously, the band’s sound has been rooted in a brave kind of DIY punk experimentalism; electronic and dance undercurrents cut apart what would’ve otherwise been straightforward rock n’ roll songs. While that proved to be an angle that kept things interesting, the band’s done away with any tangential excess on “Shithole”- and they might be better off for it.

“Shithole” is the most direct track of Weaves’ still-young career and very likely their best effort to date. Precariously balanced on the tightrope connecting a laid-back vibe to a relentless energy, it still manages to come across as enticing and effortless in equal measure. Ragged guitar riffs meet a sweetly irresistible vocal melody while vocalist Jasmyn Burke’s lyrics push the whole thing towards the sublime. It’s an absolutely stunning track that completely re-defines the rules for a band that was already emerging- and in doing so, forces an adjustment for the expectations that have started surrounding them. All of that is prompted even before the track’s closed out by a relentless, feedback-tinged solo that supplements the cathartic final chorus. If this really is an indication of the direction Weaves is heading in, it’s time to sit up and start paying extremely close attention to this band.

Listen to “Shithole” below and keep both eyes peeled for whatever Weaves has in store to follow it up.

Ovlov – Ohmu Shell (Stream)

A steady stream of streams flooded most of today’s music news and several of them wound up making strong impressions. Among them were Girlpool’s jittery “Blah Blah Blah“, Bad Power’s hardcore ripper “Jawws“, and Cellphone‘s Halloween-friendly post-punk nightmare “Human Rights“. Nothing continued to improve in exhilarating fashion, hitting a new high with the damaged beauty of “July The Fourth and YAWN bandleader Adam Gil’s new solo project- Dam Gila- offered up the tantalizing pysch-pop of “History“. Mineral’s vocalist, Chris Simpson, streamed Pink Chalk, the lilting record that’s due out soon from his Zookeeper project. Joel Jerome followed up the excellent Babies On Acid with Psychic Thrift Store Folk, which is now streaming in full over at Wondering Sound- a site that also has the distinct pleasure of hosting a full stream of Night School’s Heart Beat EP (which is easily one of the year’s best).  Then, of course, there was Ovlov‘s newest song- the second to be released from the jaw-dropping four-way split 7″ that also includes Krill, LVL UP, and Radiator Hospital.

All four bands on this split have earned the distinction of site favorites thanks to their punk-leaning strains of outsider pop. This will be the latest in a handful of releases born out of the collaboration between Double Double Whammy and Exploding in Sound, which continues to be one of the most exciting things in music. Krill’s “Peanut Butter” had already been unleashed on the world a few weeks back and kicked the obvious promise of the split up a few additional levels. Ovlov take that level of acceleration and floor it, not only offering up one of the best songs of their career but- impossibly- lending even more promise to the split. “Ohmu Shell” is a song that sounds like an assurance; this is a confident band who are fully aware of their identity (something many strive to achieve and fail to accomplish).  There’s a greater immediacy on display then there was on last year’s excellent am and continues their streak of incredible contributions to splits (Little Big League being the latest, following another four-way split with Ex-Breathers, Gnarwhal, and Woozy)- all from this year.

Every time the band steps up to deliver something new, it seems like they’re continuously improving upon their career-best, which is the kind of trajectory that can speak volumes about a band’s potential. Everything about “Ohmu Shell” works to perfection; the guitars charge as much as they swirl, the vocals manage to be alternately impassioned and apathetic- creating a contrast that injects the song’s explosive moments with an obscene amount of energy. There’s a greater emphasis on a skewed 90’s revivalism that’s deeply rooted in the slacker and outsider sub-genres of punk. Ovlov sounds more alive than ever, wide-eyed, determined, and prepared for anything that dares to come their way. If LVL UP and Radiator Hospital deliver on this level (which they’re both fully capable of, considering both of their full-lengths are locks for this site’s Top 10), this split just might be the best thing to come out of 2014.

Listen to “Ohmu Shell” below and pre-order the split from from Double Double Whammy here.

Mikal Cronin – I Don’t Mind / Blue-Eyed Girl (Stream)

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With this week’s Thursday nearly done, it’s time to look back at everything it had to offer. Fear of Men gave the world a shadowy video for “Tephra“, while Lower opted for a more disorienting approach to the visual medium, and Lace Curtains went for the comedy with “Pink and Gold“- a video that also doubled as the latest look towards the project’s upcoming LP, A Signed Piece of Paper. Happy Diving teased Big World with a stream of “Space Ooze”, which sees the band upping their tendency for aggression past what was hinted at with “Weird Dream“. Similarly, Diarrhea Planet previewed their upcoming LP, Aliens in the Outfield, with the frantic basement punk of “Heat Wave“, their best song to date. Adventures unveiled their side of an upcoming split with site favorites Pity Sex, while Native America generated some interest with the punk-indebted blissed-out dream pop of “Naturally Lazy“. While all of that’s worth looking into, the item that really stuck out was Mikal Cronin’s single for Polyvinyl’s 4-track series, which he quietly announced was available to stream on YouTube through his Twitter last night.

Cronin, coming off of releasing what was arguably 2013’s best record, has long shown a penchant for the pensive; MCII‘s “Don’t Let Me Go” and “Piano Mantra” being fine examples. With the two tracks he’s given to the Polyvinyl series- which rotates around the simple premise of notable artists sending each other a 4-track Tascam cassette recorder to record two songs, which are then pressed as exclusive 7″ records and sent off to subscribers- Cronin continues his enviable gifts with songs that are characterized by a wide-eyed sense of wonder. Beginning with the acoustic sun-splashed Kinks revivalism of “I Don’t Mind”, it’s clear that Cronin’s ability to craft a perfect pop song is still in tact, from the earworm-worthy hooks to a breathtaking melodic sensibility. By the time the piano arrangement emerges at the end to take the song to its close, it’s already a career highlight for an artist that has no shortage of them. “Blue-Eyed Girl” strips things back even further, finding Cronin carrying a ukelele-driven song without ever approaching overtly twee territory. It’s a lovely, lilting song that definitively cements Cronin’s status as a master craftsman. Both songs complement each other in a way that feels entirely naturalistic, rendering this particular entry into Polyvinyl’s series as one of 2014’s most welcome delights.

Listen to “I Don’t Mind” and “Blue-Eyed Girl” below and sign up for the 2015 Polyvinyl 4-track Singles series here.

Left & Right – Low Expectations (Stream)

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Infinity Cat’s quietly been building themselves been building themselves a roster worth the envy of most other labels. While bands like Diarrhea Planet and JEFF The Brotherhood ensure their name is kept in circulation, it’s the smaller artists like Left & Right that keep the label vital. It’s not a mistake that Superchunk and Archers of Loaf are both referenced in Left & Right’s bio, nor is it a mistake that “Low Expectations” has been circulating around some of the higher-profile taste-making music sites; it’s a sharp song, finely tuned and full of 90’s lo-fi outsider pop hallmarks.

What sets “Low Expectations” apart from an increasingly crowded quasi-revivalist field is the delivery. Left & Right have never been short on passion and it’s still peaking through their work with Five Year Plan, the third entry in Infinity Cat’s Cassette Series (following efforts from both Music Band and Guerilla Toss). There’s a certain sense of history that’s paired with a modernism that helps keep their work grounded and distances it from the risk of feeling dated. Left & Right do anything but live up to the song’s title- the anticipation for the September 9 release of Five Year Plan is through the roof.

Listen to “Low Expectations” below and get a free download of the song by pre-ordering Five Year Plan from Infinity Cat here.