Heartbreaking Bravery

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Tag: J Mascis

The 15 Best Songs of August

We may only be a week into September but there have already been a handful of notable releases to find their way out into the world this month. Those items will be appraised in due time and given the recognition they richly deserve but for now, it’s worth taking the outstanding songs of last month into account. While a dozen bands appear on this list, a trio of them managed to release two songs that hit harder than anything else. Normally, these would be whittled down to one specific inclusion but all three cases proved so impossibly deserving that it became impossible to not highlight both. So, take a deep breath and dive on into the 15 best songs of August. Enjoy.

Weaves – 53 + Walkaway

One of last year’s most breathtaking breakout acts, Weaves had been surging forward for a few years before the momentum carried them over the top. Thankfully, it doesn’t appear that their momentum has slowed a bit, with the project’s two new songs suggesting that it may have even found a way to accelerate. Both “53” and “Walkaway” are towering testaments to the band’s formidable strengths, from their unparalleled grip on dynamics to the ability to conjure a larger-than-life feeling, this pair constitutes two of 2017’s absolute strongest tracks.

Rainer Maria – Forest Mattress

Re-emerging from some cruel shadow that kept Rainer Maria away for far too long, the band more than proved they’ve still got what it takes to craft an incredible record. Among Rainer Maria‘s most scintillating highlights was “Forest Mattress”, an incisive burst of pop-leaning post-punk. Arresting, melancholic, and even a little hopeful, “Forest Mattress” stands as a song befitting of 2017’s most welcome comeback. An invigorating return to form for a band that’s always deserved far more recognition than they’ve received.

Common Holly – Nothing

Simplistic, taut, and driven by an utterly gorgeous vocal melody, Common Holly’s “Nothing” was one hell of a way to turn a few heads. A beautiful piano figure, minimalist percussion, and a staggering amount of conviction combined to propel “Nothing” from a run-of-the-mill bedroom pop song to something impossible to ignore. Every second of this track managed to soothe, grip, and impress. It’s an extraordinary introduction to an artist that will be more than worth watching.

Abraham King – Spit

Abraham King’s “Spit” has all the hallmarks of a great basement pop track, with a few key distinctions that manage to elevate it to stratospheric heights. Whether it’s the production or the range of influences driving “Spit”, there’s something to admire in each one of the song’s turns. Instrumental arrangements and a vocal delivery that elicit an emotive response, a running time that feels all too brief, “Spit” finds an unassuming route to transcendence.

METZ – Drained Lake

One of the most blisteringly intense bands of this decade, METZ have never slowed down to smell the roses, instead opting to set the entire garden on fire and spray gasoline and throw molotov cocktails into the flames until they start threatening the nearest forest. “Drained Lake” is one of the trio’s most ferocious songs to date, while also somehow being one of the most melodic efforts of their discography. It’s weird, it’s twisted, and it’s perfectly METZ. Get out of the way or get reduced to a pile of ashes.

Lost Boy ? – Heavy Heart

A perennial site favorite, the Davey Jones-led Lost Boy ? has been growing more experimental in recent years. “Heavy Heart”, a song recently posted to Lost Boy ?’s soundcloud, takes that experimentation to new levels by fully embracing the sound that drove some of the most iconic movies — and movie soundtracks — of the ’80s. From an opening that establishes that familiar tone to a Wolf Parade-esque vocal delivery, “Heavy Heart” both intrigues and entices, acting as both a warm blanket and a surprisingly effective shot in the arm.

Washer – Dog Go Bark + Bass 2

Washer have found a way to be the model of consistency throughout the past several years. Never anything less than superlative and steadily, continuously improving, their forthcoming All Aboard appropriately contains the strongest work of their career. The last two songs to be released in advance of the record stand as a proof positive clam of support. “Dog Go Bark” and “Bass 2” both operate in similar strong structures yet sound so radically different, it’s nearly impossible to notice. This is Washer at their absolute peak, churning out songs that are as memorable as they are explosive. Get swept up in the fray and never leave.

Madeline Kenney – Big One

The last time a round-up of the best songs to appear over the course of a small hiatus ran on this site, Madeline Kenney‘s “Always” found itself snugly situated among the featured tracks. Kenney continues that winning streak here with the sprawling “Big One”. Operating as the calm in the eye of a storm, “Big One” sees Kenney asserting will and tapping into a deep well of personal strength. Bold, provocative, and spellbinding, it goes a long way in proving that “Always” was no fluke.

Weakened Friends – Hate Mail

While Kendrick Lamar may still be the most sought after musician for a feature spot for most of the music world, a certain pocket of ’90s-indebted slacker punk bands would likely give that distinction to Dinosaur Jr‘s J Mascis. Rarely has Mascis been utilized more expertly or made more sense as a guest than the legendary guitarist does on “Hate Mail”. Weakened Friends comes out swinging on this track, conjuring both the spirit of a decade past and enough determination and innovation to continue to nudge that sound forward. It’s a monstrous song with a beautiful assist and should find a loving home in the libraries of people who still make their partners mix tapes.

Mike Caridi – Two Dogs

LVL UP‘s Mike Caridi has quietly been releasing some excellent music as The Glow and issuing out some equally impressive songs on soundcloud. “Two Dogs” may be one of Caridi’s finest. Recorded over a year ago, “Two Dogs” retains Caridi’s songwriting signatures, featuring everything from a breezy vocal melody to being a little battered by noise. It’s light, it’s fun, and — most importantly — it sticks. As is always the case with the best Caridi-authored tracks, one listen never feels like enough.

Grouper – Children

Recorded for Ruins but separated from the final product, “Children” stands as one of the most gentle and moving songs of Grouper‘s career. Released in part to benefit the Silvia Rivera Law Project, Transgender Law Center, and the Trans Assistance Project, “Children” stands as a testament to the empathy fueling Grouper’s most notable works. Calming at first blush, the song takes on a more sinister bent as the narrative comes into focus, painting a drastic duality between tone and message. By the time “Children” has fully revealed itself, it’s impossible to escape.

Strange Ranger – Sophie + House Show

Strange Ranger has gone on a commendable evolution over the past few years, resulting in the project’s most sterling  individual efforts. “Sophie” and “House Show” the first two tracks to tease the band’s upcoming Daymoon. Both exude the kind of spellbinding melancholy that informed their best work and see the band’s grip on songwriting tightening to the point where their knuckles turn collectively white. “Sophie” is the calm and “House Show” is the storm but both offer an endless array of rewards. This is the sound of a band coming into their own, unafraid to gamble or take cues, and expressing a singular identity with an abundance of conviction.

 

 

Watch This: Vol. 160

The past seven days have been comprised of great live videos featuring the likes of Trentemøller, Craig Finn & The Uptown Controllers, Slow Caves, Slothrust, Horse Jumper of Love, Helado Negro, Josh T. Pearson & Arianna Monteverdi, Downtown Boys, Nana Grizol, Operators, Sinai Vessel, Pixies, King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard, Tall Tall Trees, The Smith Street Band, RVG, Preservation Hall Jazz Band, Kyle Donovan, Chicano Batman, Black Joe Lewis, Taarka, Nikki Lane, Drive-By Truckers, Real Estate, Peyote Pilgrim, Chicano Batman, Closet Mix, Lithics, Yann Tiersen, The Marias, J. Mascis, Fujiya & Miyagi, and Marty Stuart. As good as those clips were, it was the five below that wound up making the deepest impression. From old favorites to new faces, there’s a decent amount of material to explore. So, as always, sit up straight, adjust the settings, take a deep breath, lean in, and Watch This.

1. Hazel English – Fix (Buzzsession)

Easily — and consistently — the producers of some of the most gorgeous Watch This clips in the series’ history, Buzzsessions hits a new high-water mark with this clip for Hazel English‘s “Fix”. Hazel English has become a staple on this site thanks to the project’s ability to churn out spellbinding pop that combines dream-like atmospherics with aesthetics from several compelling sub-genres to create something utterly winsome. To top off that formula, this is a committed performance propelled even further by breathtaking cinematography; Watch This at its best.

2. Jay Som – The Bus Song (Audiotree)

One of last year’s biggest breakout success stories, Jay Som‘s continued to transform that newfound notoriety into something meaningful. Jay Som recently got to be part of an Audiotree concert series and some enthralling footage of “The Bus Song” has gone public. The band’s in good spirits, there’s an adoring audience, bandleader Melina Duterte is commanding, and everything clicks in just the way a great performance should; this is masterful from all angles.

3. Surf Curse (Jam in the Van)

It’s been a while since a Jam in the Van session has been featured on Watch This but its also been a while since the series has boasted a session this fun. Surf Curse effortlessly blend together elements of surf-pop, basement punk, post-punk, and powerpop to conjure up the type of bright, sunny sound that’s difficult to dislike. Each of these three songs also boast their own brand of weirdness, giving a compelling slant to an aesthetic that’s both familiar and welcome.

4. Fred Thomas – Echolocation (BreakThruRadio)

Changer, Fred Thomas‘ most recent full-length, stands in good shape to be firmly among 2017’s best records as the year winds to a close. Easily the songwriter’s finest effort to date, the record also features some of the songwriter’s most ambitious work. “Echolocation” is one of those more ambitious pieces and Thomas brings it to the BreakThruRadio studios for a gripping performance that showcases his talent for both ability and minimalist composition. Melancholic, haunting, and human, it’s a powerful look at one of today’s greatest songwriters.

5. The Owens – Judgment Day (Allston Pudding)

Capping off the 160th installment of this series is another characteristically strong Basement Session, courtesy of Allston Pudding, by way of The Owens’ aggressively tense and intriguingly gloomy “Judgment Day”. The band’s been kicking around for several years but they’ve never sounded tighter or more in control than they do on their latest, Redemption Day, and that confident precision seems to have bled into their live show as well. Both a perfect document of a band coming into their own and a strong showcase for both Allston Pudding and The Owens, this is the type of clip worth remembering.

A Two Week Toll: Streams

It’s been a little over two weeks since this site’s run regular coverage. After the 1,000th post, there was a decision to be made over whether to continue on Heartbreaking Bravery in a severely limited capacity, a full capacity, or use the A Step Forward compilation as a final exclamation point. Before long, continuing on with a daily regiment felt like the right decision. This post and the dozen plus posts that will follow will all be a coordinated effort to get caught back up to the present release cycle.

The opening trio of posts will all feature a laundry list of items that are more than deserving of attention while the ensuing posts will be dedicated features for a singular item. A few Watch This installments will be posted and the rest of the coverage will be split into the three major tiers: streams, music videos, and full streams. Kicking things off is this collection of outstanding songs to have emerged during the brief hiatus. Dive in and go swimming.

Crying, Hellrazor, CasselsSlowcoaches, CoasterHalfsour, Private Interests, Minihorse, Very Fresh, Honeyblood, Fucked Up, Terry Malts, Kevin Devine, Joyride!, Teen SuicideLA BÊTE BLOOMS, The Exquisites, Penelope Isles, Nice Try, Dag, Jess Williamson, Chemtrails, Really Big Pinecone, John K. Samson, Soviet Soviet, American Wrestlers, Fake Limbs, The Tuts, Lubec, CarrollGirlboss, Gladkill, Hollow EverdazeBoogarinsLOKIT, Parlour Tricks, Vanishing Life, Wistappear, gobbinjr, Dmitry Evgrafov, Hidden Ritual, Lucidalabrador, Many Voices Speak, Future States.

Flamingosis, Sexy Jesus, Magana, Glacial Pace, Plastic Flowers, Super Unison, WTCHS, Tape Deck Mountain, Dexateens, Planes Mistaken for Stars, The Flat Five, HMLTD, Wovoka Gentle, Homebody, Pop & Obachan, Soft PyramidsFascinations Grand Chorus, Warhaus, Future DeathEmily ReoAffordable Hybrid, Light Fantastic, Temples, Michael ChapmanHiss Golden Messenger, The Dazies, Hippo CampusDoubles, LolahikoYouth Funeral, Lou Barlow, Pure Moods, Floating Room, James Parry, I’m Glad It’s You (x2), Communist Daughter, Henry Jamison, and J Mascis.

The Seeers – Without Lites (Stream)

seeers

Over the past day or two, a lot of great music’s been made available to the world. Among them, outstanding records by the likes of Ty Segall, J Mascis, Dead Soft, and SW/MM/NG. There were debuts of great new songs by Death From Above 1979, Love Cop, and The Twilight Sad. Additionally, a few great new music videos surfaced from bands like The Pharmacy, The Wytches, and Lace Curtains. All of those got a fair amount of publicity, and rightfully so, but one that’s slipped by relatively unnoticed that deserves more attention than it’s been getting is The Seeers’ “Without Lites”.

Unveiled to tease Windian Records’ upcoming entry in their subscription series (their third run of releases), “Without Lites” is a sub-two minute burst of punk-indebted outsider powerpop. Fretboards get scorched, melodies float along with ease, and the song makes no qualms about revealing its fangs. Blasts of distortion and powerhouse drumming propel it to absurd heights, marking The Seeers as a band worth keeping both eyes on. “Without Lites” also manages to extend Windian’s winning streak, continuing their transformation into one of the more fascinating labels currently putting out great music. By the end of “Without Lites” it’s only natural to want to hit repeat- and that’s something that doesn’t change.

Listen to “Without Lites” below and make sure to subscribe over at Windian once the third box set becomes available.

Watch This: Vol. 32

Well, festival coverage has officially ceased. This site will now be resuming its regular features. One of the few recurring segments, Watch This, was largely overlooked and sorely missed in the pursuit of getting as much NXNE and Pitchfork Festival material up as possible. That all changes today. This will be the first of several Watch This installments to go up in the very near future. With more than a month’s worth of material to look back on, there was a treasure trove of videos that couldn’t be whittled down to a definitive five. So, while some videos from outside forces that were connected to NXNE and Pitchfork will earn a few spots, the emphasis will be on the videos that left the deepest impression in this features absence. Now that all that’s been said, sit back, prepare for the best, and Watch This.

1. Cloud Nothings – Pattern Walks (Pitchfork)

Cloud Nothings’ set at the Pitchfork Festival was one of a staggering number of highlights. One of a very small number of bands that thrive on aggression to be featured in the lineup wound up working to their advantage and the crowd paid them back in full. It was a triumphant showcase for a band that continues to get better as a live act. Missing them whenever their close would be a major disservice.

2. Courtney Barnett – Scotty Says (Chart Attack)

There were very few lower-key sets that stood out more than Courtney Barnett’s Sonic Boom appearance during NXNE and, thankfully, Chart Attack was on hand to capture a great performance of “Scotty Says” that’s intercut with a delightful mini-interview. The whole thing’s worth watching and can be chalked up to another emphatic mark in the win column for the emerging Australian songwriter.

3. Flagland (BreakThruRadioTV)

Another strong entry in BreakThruRadioTV’s Serious Business series is this entry for New York City’s Flagland. Mixing performances with some raw live footage that culminated with a great performance of “Awesome Song Kerry Yawn”. From that alone, it’s easy to see why both Nirvana and Weezer are name-dropped in their introductory paragraph.

4. Dinosaur Jr. – Freak Scene (unARTigNYC)

There’s not a lot to say about Dinosaur Jr. that hasn’t been said already. The trio’s one of the more influential bands of the past several decades and responsible for a handful of classic albums and singles. Among them is “Freak Scene”, which sounds as vital now as it did when it was first released.

5. White Mystery  – Good Girl / Smoke (Audiotree)

Chicago duo White Mystery has been flying just under the radar for what feels like years, despite appearances on late night talk shows and a healthy amount of critical acclaim. Over that amount of time, their reputation’s steadily grown and the band’s sharpened their live act considerably. Audiotree was wise enough to not overlook all of this and bring the band in for a feature performance. It’s hard to imagine anyone was disappointed.