Heartbreaking Bravery

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Tag: Jay Som

The 35 Best Songs of 2018’s First Two Months

Two months and one week into 2018, the year’s already seen a slew of legitimately great songs. Below are 35 that managed to stand just a cut above the bevvy of incoming tracks that populated the most recent post on this site. While a select few picks below have two entries in this list, it’s still a varied list that features a diverse cast of overflowing talent. It should also be noted that a few songs were cut from consideration as the records they belong to will be featured in an upcoming post. At any rate, no matter how the tallies for representation work, this list is a testament to the strength of 2018’s early material. Make sure these aren’t forgotten.

1. Say Sue Me – Old Town

Last year, Say Sue Me put out an intoxicating and winsome record and are already gearing up for the release of a new record. “Old Town”, the strongest single to emerge from the early round of releases for the project’s forthcoming Where We Were Together, acts as a memorable showcase of what made people fall so hard for this band in the first place. Breezy melodies, smart arrangements, and a paradoxical mixture of urgency and relaxation combine once again for one of early 2018’s most charming tracks.

2. Canshaker Pi – Put A Record Out

“Put A Record Out” bristles and grunts out of the gate and gains a head of steam as things move along, embracing the noise/punk flourishes that have come to define the current era’s iteration of post-punk. It’s Canshaker Pi making a willfully gnarled statement and delivering it with enough force to make sure it leaves a sizable imprint. When it’s done, it’s enough to leave a listener breathless. Keep up or get trampled.

3. Jay Som – Hot Bread

The rightful owner of this site’s Best Song of 2016 distinction, Jay Som has been not-so-quietly making waves over the last year. Racking up an endless amount of accolades and new listeners, the tireless Melina Duterte has remained on a tear, releasing new music at a startling rate. “Hot Bread”, released as part of a Valentine’s Day playlist for Amazon, ably demonstrates that Jay Som’s scope will continue to grow with the project’s ambitions, leaving us to count ourselves lucky to be witnesses.

4. (SANDY) Alex G – fay

An enigmatic release from an increasingly subversive artist, “fay” stands as one of the crown jewels of (SANDY) Alex G‘s recent efforts. Posted to the act’s official YouTube account with no type of buildup or press release, the song’s allowed to breathe freely (and gently) on its own terms. Paired with a truly bizarre “about” statement, “fay” acts as a mesmerizing puzzle box full of the kind of sticks-for-weeks hooks that (SANDY) Alex G built a name on, it’s a welcome reminder of a formidable talent.

5. Big Ups – PPP

Big Ups have staked their claim as one of the most fascinating hardcore-leaning acts in recent memory and snarled at anyone who even tried to touch the flag they planted. To remind everyone of how they earned their place, the band ushered out “PPP” as an advance warning to what’ll surely lie in wait on the band’s forthcoming Two Parts Together. Intricate harmonic work, versatile performances, and unhinged bristling combine for another intense triumph.

6. illuminati hotties – (You’re Better) Than Ever

“(You’re Better) Than Ever” will act as an introductory piece to illuminati hotties for a great many and it’s hard to imagine too many people walking away from the band’s warm invitation. A sunny melody shot through with basement pop trappings, “(You’re Better) Than Ever” succeeds on every level, from pristine production to bursts of joyous, unbridled energy. It’s a strong starting step for a band that seems determined to take off sprinting.

7-8. Forth Wanderers – Nevermine + Not For Me

A band on a continuous uptick, Forth Wanderers prove once again why their name carries weight with this two song combo that reasserts their position as one of today’s more tantalizing acts. “Nevermine” and “Not For Me” are both — in what’s become a heartening trend, as it happens with each of their new releases — career high points for the band, who have matured into a confident, focused machine, finding a way to retain an abundance of heart in the process.

9. Hit Bargain – Capitulate

One of a handful of songs on this list that act as a razor-sharp burst of noise-punk, “Capitulate” finds Hit Bargain intentionally wielding a level of ugliness with unbridled aggression. It’s a furious run through genre touch points that takes on life as it barrels headlong into some unknown destination. The band’s expertise is evident and their execution is flawless, rendering “Capitulate” a potent warning of Hit Bargain’s capabilities.

10. Kal Marks – Today I Walked Down To The Tree, Read A Book, And When I Was Done I Went Back Inside

A mainstay of this site’s coverage, Kal Marks has continuously expanded their ambition with each successive release and “Today I Walked Down To The Tree…” keeps that trend in place. A winding, four minute slow-burner, the song finds Kal Marks at their most unabashedly pensive. While Kal Marks still finds moments of catharsis in those minutes, the experience as a whole towers above its individual moments; it’s a breathtaking feat from a band always worth hearing.

11. Stef Chura – Degrees

“Degrees” has been covered more exhaustively than any other individual Stef Chura release thanks to the involvement of Car Seat Headrest‘s Will Toledo.  Hopefully Toledo’s high-profile involvement will be more than enough to turn people onto Chura’s excellent early work. At any rate, “Degrees” — a towering piece of incredibly strong Americana-tinged indie rock — does stand as Chura’s boldest effort to date and effectively heightens the anticipation for what the songwriter’s future holds in store.

12. Juan De Fuca – A Place To Wait

A few seconds is all it takes for Juan De Fuca’s “A Place To Wait” to announce itself with clarity. A post-punk number shot through with nervous jitters, the track seems simplistic at first blush before rewarding a closer look with a tapestry of layers. Delivered with confidence, teeming with feeling, and unafraid to reach for stratospheric heights, “A Place To Wait” became one of 2018’s more pleasant surprises and it’s hard to imagine that status changing.

13. Haley Hendrickx – Untitled God Song

Oom Sha La La” was a song that managed to hook a whole lot of people into Haley Hendrickx‘s world but it also set a dangerously high precedent. “Untitled God Song” went a long way in assuaging any lingering doubts. A slow, tender track, “Untitled God Song” finds Hendrickx establishing a voice, marrying empathy with wariness to great effect. Warm tones and an arresting vocal delivery ensure the song a place as a piece of breathtaking artistry.

14. Superchunk – Erasure

Storied veterans making comebacks that reassert the band’s music as relevant among a new sect of contemporaries isn’t all that common, which is why when it happens it tends to be doubly impressive. That’s exactly the scenario Superchunk has found themselves in since the release of Majesty Shredding and it’s a space they continue to occupy with What A Time To Be Alive, which boasted “Erasure” as a lead-off single. All told: Still energetic, still distinctive, still perfectly Superchunk.

15-16. Frankie Cosmos – Jesse + Being Alive

Over an endless amount of self-releases and some incredibly smart campaigning, Frankie Cosmos have found themselves in an unlikely position of being revered as a bastion of consistency and as a tantalizing emergent act. Greta Kline’s project has navigated the transition from solo project to full band with no shortage of grace and the band, now more than ever, feels complete. Both “Jesse” and “Being Alive” prove the band’s as adept at invention as reinvention, keeping Frankie Cosmos’ unassuming charm intact all the while.

17. Kid Dakota – Keep Coming Back

Few records over the first two months of this year have proved to be as inventive as Kid Dakota‘s Denervation, a collection of kaleidoscopic powerpop that’s highlighted by the inspired 7-minute “Keep Coming Back”. Intricate arrangements, a cavalcade of effective hooks, and a casual assurance congeal into something ridiculously captivating. Whether it’s the snaky snyth riff or the stabs of the guitar-led bridge or the extended outro, “Keep Coming Back” makes sure it offers enough to make a strong case to heed the title’s command.

18. Ed Schrader’s Music Beat – Riddles

Ed Schrader’s Music Beat already boasts a 4+ year history of crafting memorably minimalist post-punk, which made the band’s announcement of a Dan Deacon-produced record as enticing as it was baffling. On Riddles the duo hits new heights by leaping outside of their established narrative to cling onto something unexpected, a move and effect underscored nicely by the record’s piano-driven title track that sees the band falling a lot closer to early Cold Cave than Death From Above 1979.

19. Pale Kids – St. Theresa

Father/Daughter Records has become a proven entity in securing bands that effectively fuse outsize energy with unapologetic sincerity and Pale Kids are no exception. “St. Theresa” stands as proof of the formula, with the quartet leaning into a 2 minute outburst of hyper-melodic basement pop. Pointed, unrestrained, and fueled by as much snark as conviction, “St. Theresa” is yet another welcome shot of adrenaline from the promising quartet.

20. Many Rooms – which is to say, everything

The first moment of genuine tranquility on this list belongs to Many Room‘s gorgeous “which is to say, everything”. Pitched at a hush, the song soothes the nerves as it glides along for its four minutes, never rising past a measured whisper. Informed by both a sense of a loss and a sense of curiosity, “which is to say, everything” positions Many Rooms as an act whose name is worth committing to memory.

21-22. Boys – End of Time + Rabbits

Accentuating dream pop influences in powerpop has served bands like Alvvays incredibly well over the past few years. Boys is another name to add to that list, with the act releasing two beautiful pieces centered around that genre hybrid in “End of Time” and “Rabbits”. “End of Time” showcasing the band’s sense of reservation and “Rabbits” playing to their own curious brand of insistence. Composed and beautifully crafted, they’re worthy additions to any carefree summer night playlist.

23. Courtney Marie Andrews – May Your Kindness Remain

Far and away the most country-leaning track among these 35 selections, Courtney Marie Andrews proves what the genre can still offer when it extends beyond a set of self-imposed limitations. Bringing strains of gospel influence to the forefront, Andrews manages to craft a heartfelt paean to the virtues of kindness. As the organ swells and the choir provides support, the collaborative balance finds itself intrinsically connected to the song’s central message. When it ends, the song does everything in its power to make sure its message is heard.

24. Walter Martin – Me & McAlevey

One of the more unexpected delights in recent music has been the quiet emergence of Walter Martin — best known for his organ playing in The Walkmen — as a singular songwriting force. Last year’s My Kinda Music was an extraordinary (and woefully overlooked) presentation of Martin’s abilities and boasted a handful of gems like “Hey Matt“, a song that gets a lovely sequel in “Me & McAlevey”. It’s another piece of affecting folk shot through with a distinctly modern wit.

25. Liza Anne – Small Talks

In its first minute Liza Anne‘s “Small Talks” manages to be reminiscent of a handful of recent artists and songs, yet it never comes across like an imitation and hits the considerable heights of its predecessors. Exuberant, determined, and delivered with as much urgency as conviction, “Small Talks” manages to sink its hooks in deep. An utterly winsome technicolor burst of warmth and certainty, it’s incredibly endearing- and worth leaving on repeat.

26-27. Trace Mountains – Cary’s Dreams + Turn Twice

While most people are likely to know Dave Benson from LVL UP, the songwriter’s solo project, Trace Mountains, has been releasing equally rewarding material for years (with a handful of instances of those songs becoming breeding grounds for LVL UP reworkings). On “Cary’s Dream” and “Turn Twice”, Benson manages to look to the forward and reach to the past. “Cary’s Dreams” is a testament to Benson’s vision, offering up a reminder of his considerable gifts while “Turn Twice” — first released in demo form several years ago — proves just how effective the multi-instrumentalist is with a bold brand of reinvention.

28. Paul De Jong – You Fucken Sucker

Opening with electro glitches and a hypnotic strumming pattern, Paul De Jong‘s “You Fucken Sucker” quickly changes shape as the lyrics kick in as a soothing voice starts reciting the verses to Mary Had A Little Lamb before things change even more drastically. It’s in the reveal of the chorus where the song separates itself and arrives as something intoxicating in its willingness to beguile. A playful piece shot through with dark humor, “You Fucken Sucker” more than proves that Paul De Jong is still fully capable of thriving outside of The Books.

29. Remember Sports – Up From Below

The return of Remember Sports — formerly just SPORTS — at the onset of 2018 got the year off to a heartening start. “Up From Below” quickly followed that announcement to make it abundantly clear that the band had held onto their sense of tenacity as well as their ability to craft a perfect piece of basement pop. Med-fi, hyper, and ridiculously catchy, “Up From Below” has already set an extremely precedent for what the future might have in store.

30. Fenne Lily. – On Hold

The opening bars of Fenne Lily.’s mesmerizing “On Hold” should be all it takes to secure just about anyone’s interest. Delivered with arresting tenderness, those first moments are strengthened as the song takes shape, exercising a measure of restraint that doubles as unexpected, incredibly cultivated tension. There are no big moments of catharsis but “On Hold” has different goals in mind; every step of the journey is as important as moments of celebration. Spellbinding from start to close, “On Hold” is a well-earned triumph.

31. Vundabar – Tonight I’m Wearing Silk

Over the past few months, Vundabar have found the size of their audience rapidly growing and it’s in large part due to the artistic leap the band’s taken with songs like “Tonight I’m Wearing Silk”. Teeming with memorable riffs, unexpected dynamics, and a butcher’s selection of hooks, “Tonight I’m Wearing Silk” almost comes across like a victory lap. Vundabar have found a way to heighten every single one of their innumerable strengths and the results are already paying off. “Tonight I’m Wearing Silk” is a keepsake for everyone fortunate enough to be following along.

32-33. Bonny Doon – A Lotta Things + I Am Here (I Am Alive)

When Salinas released Bonny Doon‘s sweeping self-titled record last year, it was greeted as the band’s coming out party. A lot of people took notice of the band’s charismatic, including the reliably excellent Woodsist label who quickly found a way to get the band on their roster. With “A Lotta Things” and “I Am Here (I Am Alive)” now both out in the world, it’s plainly evident that Woodsist made another in a history of great decisions, as Bonny Doon have found a way to capitalize on their sprawling punk-informed Americana. Both tracks are new career highs for the band and offer a strong signal that for many, their forthcoming Longwave could just wind up in the discussion for Album of the Year.

34. Half Waif – Torches

All it took was seeing a recent Half Waif set for the band to significantly elevate their position of interest to this site’s overall coverage. While the band’s older material had been touched upon several times in the past, it’s in their new material where they’ve tapped into something that feels genuinely different. “Torches” is a perfect example of that new space, as it presents the most fully-realized version of the band’s identity to date, opening up their synth-led electro-pop into something a touch more experimental and a degree more forceful. Unapologetic in its stance and fearless in its execution, “Torches” marks an exciting new era for a band worthy of a close watch.

35. Mount Eerie – Distortion

The recent decision to list Mount Eerie‘s “Real Death” as 2017’s Song of the Year — let alone, covered at all — was a surprisingly difficult one due to its tragic, uncomfortably intimate narrative. How Phil Elverum’s project has sustained multiple tour runs in support of that record is beyond the comprehension of most observers, who have left those shows visibly shaken. Elverum recently rolled out a sequel to that record, which continues to expand on the sudden death of his wife and his trepidation over how to greet single parenthood in the shadow of the other person responsible for his daughter’s very being.

“Distortion”, an 11-minute tour de force, was one of the first looks at Now Only and remains one of its most awkward, gripping moments. From the devastating opening verse to allegories invoking beat poets, every second of “Distortion” is felt in full as Elverum continues to allow us full access into an unimaginable position. By repeatedly tearing open his wounds, Elverum seems to be searching for a means to heal, cautiously allowing listeners to join the grieving, the fears, the concerns, and the memories of a woman who’s come to define a good portion of his own existence. It’s brutally unforgiving but in its own way, it finds a sliver of beauty in the empathy that it presents. In short: it’s unforgettable.

2018: A Long Look, A Longer Listen (The First Two Months)

A persistent and all-consuming myth among people that refuse to commit a shred of investment to any sort of search is that “good music just doesn’t exist anymore.” It’s the same sort of thinking present in the cavalcade of thoughtless attempts to shift any sort of blame for societal ills to a younger generation based solely on an outlook that was defined by a vastly different era. Fortunately, there are a host of artists to emphatically disprove brand of thinking and act as a counter to what could be construed as a subtle, insidious form of ageism. Below there are literally hundreds of links providing access to various songs, music videos, and records.

All of them are worth a shot and a good many of them are vastly different from their surrounding links. Each of those items came out in 2018 and there’s an entire world more of them waiting to be discovered by the people willing to put in the work. So use these as a starter pack of sorts or just scroll through and see what today’s musicians can offer. It’s a boundless scope and when its allowed to not just exist but thrive, there are a multitude of reasons to celebrate. Enjoy.

SONGS

Okkervil River, Hop Along, OughtFrøkedal, ConnectionsNoble Son, Mount EerieRich Girls, DuskTherese Litner, Soccer MommyHindsEric Benoit, JACK (x2), The Radio Dept., Parker Longbough, Rat Kid CoolWhy Bonnie (x2), Holy Now (x2), High Sunn (x2), Odina, Spielbergs, The Breeders, Shark ToysJouska (x2), Yazan, Johanna Warren, No Thank You, Drive Me Home Please, Your Old Droog, Charly Bliss, Liza Anne, Father John Misty, Rolling Blackouts C.F., Chemtrails, Katie Von SchleicherWavves & Culture Abuse, VALES, Sharaya Summers, Katie Dey, War On Women, The Goldberg Sisters (x2), Busdriver (x2), Queen of Jeans (x2), Shell of A Shell (x2), Soccer Mommy (x2)

Bodies Be Rivers, Cold Fronts, Three Man Cannon, Russian Baths (x2, 3), Rachel Angel, Francobollo, Big Air, Dryspell (x2), Deanna Petcoff, Sam Levin, Good Air, Helena DelandTrès Oui, Josh Rouse, Sarah Mary ChadwickDustedBonny Doon, Jay Som (x2), Golden Drag, In Tall Buildings, Mastersystem, The Love-Birds, School Disco, Caroline Rose, Zomber, Drawing Boards, SALES, Big Bliss, Wax IdolsErika Wennerstrom (x2), Droopies, Jalen N’GondaKid Dakota (x2), Haley Hendrickx, Tim Kuhl, Sunflower Bean, BambaraBenjamin Lazar Davis (x2), Hanz, Courtney Marie Andrews (x2), Verge Collection, Now, Now, Lowpines, Hurry (x2), Pole Siblings, Birds of Passage

Bush Tetras, Maria Kelly, Rafiq Bahtia, Cut Worms, Death By Unga Bunga, Sitcom, Natalie Shay, Wussy, Citris, Sculpture Club, TheodoreElan Noon (x2), Avalon, Terror Pigeon, Greg Mendez, Neil O’NeilDélage (x2, 3), Anna McClellan, Nap Eyes (x2), BILK, Malena Zavala, Camp Cope, Guerilla Toss, Damaged Bug, Gentle Leader XIV, Kraus, Bummerville (x2), WINDHAND, Numb.erErik Phillips, Oberon Rose, Lizzie Loveless, Hot Snakes, Girlpool, American Nightmare, Dr. Octagon (x2), Runaway Brother, A Grave With No Name, Samara Lubelski, vaarwell, The Golden DregsBelle MareChappo, HOLY, Vamping, Noble SonS. Carey, Ed Schrader’s Music Beat (x2), TT

Sofia Härdig, GrouperAir Waves (x2), Tenderfoot (x2), Sunflower Bean, Josh Mover & The Shakers, Jean-Michael BlaisMany RoomsFreedom Baby, La Luzilluminati hottiesThe Black Lips & The Khan FamilyMelvins, Extravision, AnemoneEverett Bird, Parquet Courts, Life In VacuumSuperteen, Cindy Lee, Ricky Lewis, BUDDIESam Moss, Sego, BRNDADungen & Woods, Loma, John Craigie (x2), Lanikai, Pony LeagueDreamend, Sea Moya, Oceanator, Holly Miranda, Renata Zeiguer, Deathlist, Wilder MakerLea Bertucci, Cutouts, Sur Back (x2), I’m Kingfisher, ANMLPLNET, Oneida, wyd, Western Scene, Bad BreedingThe Drums, Bob HolroydWill Stewart, Varvara

Jerry David Decicca, Redolent, Lokki, ROOS, QWAM, Water From Your Eyes, Old S Resort, Jesse Merchant, Dead Sullivan, John Moods, They Might Be Giants, Cool Ghouls, Strawberry Mountain, The Low Anthem, Peacock Affect, The fin., Ezra Feinberg, EMA, Sloan, The Voidz, VOWWS, Nature Shots, Narrow Head, Sleepyhead, Bob Holroyd, Virginia Wing, Orchid MantisYoung Statues, Kate Teague, Leyya, Pinky Pinky, Mind Over MirrorsWalter Martin, Beach House, The Sea and the Cake, Alice Bag, Eels, Hero-Fisher, Andy CookDatarock, Dabrye, Swear TapesTerra Naomi, FeverbonesPariuh, David Byrne, Palm, Youth In A Roman FieldKid Koala, LokkiHelena Deland

Freedom Fry, ARXX, Troels Abrahamsen, Young Fathers, Post Louis, SpandrelsHannah Epperson, Saw Black, Iceage, Dylan CarlsonAmerican Pleasure Club, Swampmeat Family Band, Pearl Charles, Chez Ali, Compltr, Refrigerator, The Nectars, Candy Ambulance, Death, Jack Watts., Simon D JamesToebow, yndi halda, SabiyhaEllie Schmidly, Sitcom, Doby Watson, Laura Veirs, Lost Horizons, Lost Under Heaven, Andy Jenkins, Guts Club, Yo La Tengo, Media Jeweler, The Saxophones, Hum, Margaret Glaspy, Cary Illinois, Susan the Cat, I Hate You Just Kidding, Tee Grizzley, Barren Womb, Madeline Kenney, I Think Like Midnight, Spirit In The Room, Torgeir Waldemar, LuxGaze, and Japanese Breakfast.

MUSIC VIDEOS

Ought, Parquet Courts, Shy Kids (x2), Caroline Rose, Billy Moon, Screaming Females, Car Seat Headrest, Current Joys (x2, 3, 4), Somehow, Night Flowers (x2), Palehound, Heaven, Look Vibrant, Pip Blom, Ultimate Painting, Royal Brat, CorridorFalcon Jane, Olden Yolk (x2), Stella Donnelly, Nap Eyes, Winter, Wendyfix (x2), Dusted, Superorganism, Pale Kids, Z Berg, Son Lux, Palm, The Spook School, Clint Michigan, Girl Ray, Rostam, Japanese Breakfast, OdinaFrankie Cosmos, Von K, Dogeyed

Shopping (x2), Speedy Ortiz, Treehouses, Holiday Ghosts, Sports Team, Sonny Smith, Bully, Tremends, Bethlehem Steel, Soccer Mommy, The ArmedPJ Harvey & Harry Escott, Lucy Dacus, Moaning (x2), Cloud Castle Lake, Albert Hammond Jr., Chris Dave and the Drumhedz, FlasherNative Sun, Emma Tricca, Partner, Drowse, Barren Womb, Martha Ffion (x2), Honduras, S. Carey, Middle Kids, Newspoke (x2, 3), Callow, Charlotte Day Wilson, Suuns, Goat Girl, Shamir, Death Bells, Guppy, Half Waif (x2)

ROOS, Natalie Prass, Cornelius (x2), Peach Kelli Pop, King Tuff (x2), The Winter Passing, Renata Zeiguer, La Luz, Bat Fangs, Jess WilliamsonSkating Polly, Lionlimb (x2), Charlotte Gainsbourg, Michael RaultGianni Paci, Queen of Jeans, Dirty Fences, Sorry, Wiggy Giggy, Lemuria, Tough Age, Yours Are the Only Earsnothing,nowhere., Jack Ladder & The Dreamlanders, Kal MarksScuffleSløtface, Kal Marks, Coping SkillsLauren Ruth Ward (x2, 3), Charmpit, They Might Be Giants, Hurry, First Aid Kit

Sharon Jones & the Dap Kings, Fun Fare, Daddy Issues, The AmazingJeff Rosenstock, boerdJanelle Monáe, Sc Mira, Ed Schrader’s Music Beat, Surrounder, Iceage, The Go! Team, Mavis Staples, Eels, Margo Price, Titus Andronicus, Alice Bag, Oddnesse, Jessica RiskerFRANKIIEDestroyer, Spinning Coin, Damien Jurado, Ed Schrader’s Music BeatLa Bête BloomsThe Lonely Biscuits, Prawn, Hippo Campus, New Spell, Dream Wife, Echo Pressure, Amen Dunes, Leroy Francis, Laurie Anderson & Kronos Quartet

Montero, ShitKid, The Dazies, Marlon Williams, Lazy DayLaura Veirs, Lily Allen, Fruition, No Age, YACHT, Sunny War, Cut Worms, Glen Hansard, Trevor Ransom, Hannah Epperson, Seafoam, VedeTTClever Girls, In Tall Buildings, Fufanu, Lowpines, Tiny Fighter, The Prids, STRFKR, Hinds, SuperchunkTFS, Tallies, American Pleasure Club, Johanna Warren, Sam Himself, Men I TrustJessica Lea MayfieldA Place To Bury Strangers, Bad MovesRazorbumpsMoviestar, Teen CreepsPoppy AckroydCaroline Says, Charles Howl, Loma, Fontaines DC, CrumbAlessi’s Ark, Jenny Wilson, The Regrettes, Bummerville, GluedTenderfoot, Tree House, Susie Q, and si,irene.

FULL STREAMS

Vundabar, Hello Flora, Emily Yacina, Kal Marks, Harmony Tividad, Corey Flood, Johanna Warren, Palm, Plain Dog, Candace, Hovvdy, American Pleasure Club, Bat Fangs, Dark Thoughts, Poppy Ackroyd, Erik Phillips, Grave School, Cameron Boucher/Field Medic, The Number Ones, Margaret Glaspy, The Hold Steady, Guided By Voices, Superchunk, Bleary, Lillet Blanc, Hurry, Bedbug, I Hate You Just Kidding, Sidney Gish, weary, ther, Sunshine Faces, Elan Noon, Bodies Be Rivers, Hex, Hobbyist, Las Rosas

Dryspell, Rik & the Pigs, Amaya Laucirica, No MuseumsZinskē, First Thought Worst Thought, Sur Back, Little Star, Mind Spiders, Lowpines, Shopping, Mimicking Birds, Scrap Brain, The Go! Team, Th Da Freak, Shareef Keyes & The Groove, ShitKid, Unlikely Friends, Kid Dakota, Lightwash, Berry, Matthew Politoski, Holy Motors, Blushing, Shakey Graves, Tim Kuhl, Pando, Leyya, Shamir (x2), bristletongue, Dealer Plates, Hank Wood & the Hammerheads, closer, Bummerville, Tropical Trash, Brutal Birthday

Special Explosion, Hookworms, Lisa/Liza, Russian Baths, VOWWS, A Lily, Caroline Says, BB & The Blips, Listener, Balkan Bump, Martha Ffion, Corniglia, Qwam, HOLY, Spice Boys, Hour, Conviction, Cassandra Jenkins, Refrigerator, Sweeney, mita, and compilations from Z Tapes and Emotional Response (x2).

17 of ’17: The Best Songs of the Year

2017 was a staggeringly balanced year in terms of memorable musical output. To honor that consistency, the typical run of 17 songs will be complemented by a list — in no particular order — of 83 other great songs to find release throughout the year. As usual, the “best” tag simply acts as shorthand for the music I was fortunate enough to consume from January through December, which had an individual song list that tallied well into the quadruple digits.

Names that are already familiar to year-end lists on this publication reside comfortably alongside artists who are still looking to make a larger impression. Non-singles are included with some of the year’s strongest advance tracks and songs that tip towards hardcore rub shoulders with some quiet basement pop numbers. There’s a lot to contemplate — both inside and outside of the top 17 selections — and even more to celebrate.

These are the 17 best songs of 2017.

Enjoy.

Great Grandpa – Teen Challenge

One of the great album openers of 2017, “Teen Challenge” reintroduced a noticeably more explosive version of Great Grandpa that wasn’t afraid of hairpin turns or controlled catharsis. From the outset of “Teen Challenge” the band is swinging for the fences but it’s not until the enormous final section where something deeply impressive transforms into something legitimately inspiring. It’s a celebratory song that comes loaded with conviction and is delivered with the type of determination that refuses to be held back.

Mo Troper – Your Brand

One of this site’s picks for last year’s Album of the Year honors, Mo Troper returned this year with two records. One, a collection of older material reworked for Troper’s current band, the other, an inspired effort of new material that saw Troper expanding his ambitions to legitimately unexpected degrees. The elevation of both songwriting and production on Exposure & Response is particularly evident in career highlight “Your Brand“, which finds Troper turning his gaze towards the brand-obsessed inhabitants of social media, people who treat themselves as corporate entities and flaunt varying levels of entitlement.

Occasionally, those same denizens find the levels between tongue-in-cheek mockery and unwitting sincerity blurring into an unrecognizable definition. It’s a richly-deserved skewering that’s shot through with a resigned understanding. The tasteful string and brass arrangements that adorn “Your Brand” send the song to euphoric heights even as Troper is weighed down in the bog of a tragicomic reality. It’s a masterful outing that positions Troper as one of the most promising pop songwriters of this generation.

Cende – What I Want

Cende‘s first and final full-length effort was an enticing effort headlined by a slew of singles that all warranted consideration for placement on this list (and earned individual write-ups). None of them wound up impressing quite as deeply as the song boasting the record’s most challenging — and towering — arrangement, the Greta Kline-featuring “What I Want“. Falsettos, a lilting string arrangement, and an incendiary bridge showed off Cende’s formidable range, tilting from something approaching the saccharine to a vicious instrumental outburst at the click of a hi-hat.

Charly Bliss – Westermarck

Few bands have earned as much attention and praise from this site as Charly Bliss over its four-year existence and it was heartening to watch the band break out in 2017 with one of the year’s most affirming releases in Guppy. While every track on that record is noteworthy for one reason or another, it was “Westermarck” that kept revealing deeper facets of itself. A rousing meditation on uncertainty couched in an unapologetic joy of simply being alive, the song became an unlikely anthem for anyone questioning their partner’s motives (especially in significantly skewed familial setting).

Common Holly – Nothing

Tender, sparse, and wrought with longing, Common Holly‘s “Nothing” proves how adequately minimalist formulas can maximize difficult emotions. It’s a bare-bones run through a personal affirmation, rendering something that appears delicate at first blush searing at second glance. More than that, “Nothing” introduces Common Holly as a deceptively powerful artist with the capacity to deliver breathtaking turns in the quietest rooms.

Weaves – Puddle

Riding a wave of critical adulation and having earned the respect of their contemporaries, Weaves returned in 2017 with Wide Open, an aptly named run that they billed as their Americana effort. While the record takes a lot of notable cues from that genre, the band’s wildly erratic, genre-obliterating core remained intact with the barn-burning closer “Puddle” acting as the clearest indication that the band’s unpredictable firepower was still fully intact.

Fred Thomas – Misremembered

Following a record as momentous as All Are Saved will always be a difficult task but to surpass high expectations in the way that Fred Thomas managed with Changer is a rarity. From the record’s dynamic opening track, Thomas proves to be more focused than ever, spinning barbed tapestries of lived-in realism with unmatched verve. “Misremembered” isn’t just a testament to Thomas’ lyricism, either, the fiery music that serves as its backdrop propelling it to stratospheric heights.

Big Thief – Breathe In My Lungs

A lot of outlets gave Big Thief‘s breathtaking “Mary” a deserving amount of love, ranking both the song — and the record it resides — as the year’s best. Meanwhile, the band’s devastating B-side, “Breathe In My Lungs”, flew under the radar. As is often the case with bands as prolific and talented as Big Thief, “Breathe In My Lungs” is so much more than just a castaway or afterthought, it’s one of their most heartrending numbers, expertly using the considerable weight of guitarist/vocalist Adrianne Lenker’s singular voice to turn in some of the year’s most unforgettably damaged romanticism.

Cayetana – Bus Ticket

2017 saw a very large handful of bands taking the next step in their evolution but few seemed to take their strides forward with as much assurance as Cayetana, who zeroed in on what’s long been the crux of their songwriting: mental health. No song conveyed this more than their staggering “Bus Ticket“, which saw the band slowing the tempo and accelerating the force the trio’s always put into their compositions. Managing to be direct and atmospheric simultaneously, “Bus Ticket” stands proudly as a career high for a band that’s found their voice.

Yucky Duster – Elementary School Dropout

One of the year’s most unabashedly exuberant records came in the form of Yucky Duster‘s latest EP, Duster’s Lament. Headlined by the effusive “Elementary School Dropout”, the band offered up an irresistible slice of joyful basement pop that grounded it’s more playful elements with some effective self-deprecation. Expertly toeing the balance between the light and the bleak, “Elementary School Dropout” stood out as 3 of 2017’s most outright fun minutes in a year where that sort of thing was desperately needed.

Strange Relations – Say You

One of the boldest re-introductions of 2017 came by way of Strange Relations‘ enormously confident Editorial You, which was teeming with memorable bursts of icy post-punk that saw the band considerably elevating their grasp on composition. One of the most significant individual outings for the project comes on the record’s second track, “Say You“, which conjures up a steely demeanor and enhances it with fiercely jagged musical interplay. Both minimalist and towering, it’s an obscenely impressive song from a young band that seems determined to continuously reach for greater heights.

Covey – Call Home

There were a lot of songs that came out over 2017’s 12 months that occupied a similar space as Covey‘s “Call Home”: laid back, lovely, unassuming, and tinged with regret, loneliness, and despair. None of them wound up staying the way “Call Home” managed to stay; the song’s melodies and gorgeous chorus humming along and dominating unexpected spaces of memory when it could’ve just as easily rescinded into oblivion. Every return listen offered a new take and at some point, the song migrated from being a pleasant curiosity to something far more essential: one of the year’s best.

IDLES – Mother

Recently given Music Video of the Year honors, IDLES‘ “Mother” also comes off as a ferocious head-turning effort when stripped from its hyper-intense visual accompaniment. Vocalist Joe Talbot repeats several mantras throughout “Mother” — written as a tortured tribute to his own late mother, whose portrait graces the record’s cover — each of them decrying two evils: one political, one sexual, both too frequently intertwined into a nightmarish whole.

Viciously opposed to a system that uses a weighted system to the benefit of the people who are afforded privilege, the song is a startling reminder of the seething anger and frustration of the people who oppose those systems. It’s a clarion call delivered with an excess of venom, using it’s hardcore leanings to drive a message home hard enough that the ramifications of our choices are left lingering in the smoke.

Palehound – If You Met Her

A beacon of consistency over the past several years, news of a new Palehound record was welcome when it was first announced. The first few singles were packed full of the band’s usual tricks but then “If You Met Her” arrived and decimated everything. A hard-hitting look at how the loss of someone you know can affect your own perception of what it means to die, “If You Met Her” immediately registered as not just Palehound’s darkest effort but the project’s best as well.

It’s a gripping, grounded meditation on life itself and it’s delivered with such empathetic understanding that it’s nearly impossible to listen to the song in full without running through an avalanche of feeling. Anything that inspires that level of emotional response and visceral reaction is worth noting — and in the case of “If You Met Her”, it’s more than worth celebrating.

Young Jesus – Feeling

A longtime staple of this site’s coverage, Young Jesus have continuously found exciting ways to evolve as a band in the face of a slew of obstacles that leave lesser bands stumbling. From nearly complete lineup shifts to a refocused experimentation to a relocation that took them from the upper Midwest to the West Coast. The band’s latest effort saw a quick self-release suddenly disappear only to be re-released shortly after by Saddle Creek.

All it takes to understand why such a revered label would take on the band is one listen to “Feeling”, a sprawling 10-minute opus which beautifully showcases the band’s remarkable range, guitarist/vocalist John Rossiter‘s penchant for blending memorable poetry with unforgettable melody, and a growing fearlessness. It’s a heart-stopping moment on what remains one of 2017’s most woefully overlooked records and reaffirms Young Jesus’ place as one of today’s best bands.

The Magic Lantern – Holding Hands

Easily one of 2017’s outright loveliest moments, The Magic Lantern‘s “Holding Hands” casts a spellbinding magic all its own within its opening figures, as a yearning vocal is laid on a bed of gentle saxophone figurines. As the notes and vocals hold — with as much purpose as the imagined goal of the narration, no less — the song winds up with enough power from two core elements to elicit chills.

When the body of “Holding Hands” takes shape as the drums kick in, providing yet another one of 2017’s most perfectly-realized moments, it becomes abundantly clear that something miraculous is happening on the track. By the time it all winds to a ghostly close, “Holding Hands” has left a mark that deserves to be called upon fondly in the days to come. In all of it’s warmth and care, “Holding Hands” pushes forward from a simple greatness and achieves something far closer to transcendence.

SONG OF THE YEAR:

Mount Eerie – Real Death

When Mount Eerie‘s “Real Death” first arrived, it was set to get a standalone feature. That post never arrived as I personally struggled with the decision to attempt to bring any sort of discourse to something so nakedly personal, which held true for A Crow Looked At Me (the record it’s from) as well. As time passed, that decision lingered, though it became increasingly difficult to listen to both the song and the record, famously written about the death of the songwriter’s wife and recorded in the studio she’d built in their house, on the instruments she left behind.

Even without being able to listen to the song, the memory of the song stayed as strongly as the feelings that accompanied the first listen (as well as the subsequent ones). It’s the sound of Phil Elverum tearing his own wounded heart out of his body to present to the world so that they can understand what kind of grief accompanies something so tragically world-shifting.

While every moment of “Real Death” is shattering, the weight of it becomes nearly unbearable when Elverum shifts the lyrics from oblique poetry to a hyper-specific narrative, recounting one moment of singular heartbreak that arrived with a package that has late wife had secretly ordered for their daughter. In that retelling, Elverum envisions his wife, living with the knowledge that her wife would be ending, thinking ahead and wanting to provide comfort for the people she loved.

Not only does that specific moment touch upon why Geneviève was someone he loved so fiercely but, in doing so, provides the song’s listeners a glimpse into her character as well. It effectively shifts the tonality of the record even further toward heartbreak by painting such an intimate portrait, making “Real Death” come across as even more unmistakably, painfully human. It’s a tribute to an artist that so many of us wish we knew and stands as a stark reminder to cherish the ones we do know while we can and to strive to match their gifts with our own.

By positing real-life implications alongside meaningful execution, “Real Death” became something much larger than the sum of its parts. In plumbing the depths of personal loss, Elverum’s Mount Eerie projected gifted us something hard to experience and impossible to forget. With any luck, it will steer us towards more effectively demonstrating our love when it can be appreciated by the people for which it’s intended.

 

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The Best of the Rest

18-21

22-26

27-32

Middle Children – Baby Boom
Joyce Manor – NBTSA
Thurst – Forever Poser
The New Years – Recent History
Monomyth – Puppet Creek
Hermetic – Strategic Default

33-100

Protomartyr – A Private Understanding
Alexander F – Call Me Pretty
Pile – Dogs
Vagabon – Cold Apartment
Cloud Nothings – Internal World
Prom Queen – Blonde
Holiday Ghosts – Can’t Bear To Be Boring
Washer – Dog Go Bark
Grouper – Children
Slaughter Beach, Dog – Fish Fry
Fits – Ice Cream On A Nice Day
Meat Wave – Run You Out
The Spirit of the Beehive – Ricky (Caught Me Tryin’)
Walter Etc. – April 41st
Chemtrails – Deranged
Juila Louise – Brat
See Through Dresses – Lucy’s Arm
Amy O – Lavender Night
Modern Baseball – This Song Is Gonna Buy Brendan Lukens A New Pair of Socks
Girlpool – It Gets More Blue
The Total Bettys – Stay Here All Night
Tica Douglas – Same Thing
Midnight Reruns – Warm Days
WHY? – Proactive Evolution
Hand Habits – Sun Beholds Me
Long Neck – Mine/Yours
Julien Baker – Appointments
Anna Burch – Asking 4 A Friend
Palm – Walkie Talkie
Single Mothers – People Are Pets
Lydia Loveless – Desire
Deem Spencer – Soap
Two Inch Astronaut – Play To No One
Blessed – Headache
Diet Cig – Maid of the Mist
Madeline Kenney – Big One
Dream Wife – Somebody
Bethlehem Steel – Finger It Out
Strange Ranger – House Show
Miya Folick – Trouble Adjusting
Jesca Hoop – Pegasi
Fiji-13 – Mansplain It To Me BB
Idle Bloom – Dust
Florist – What I Wanted To Hold
Beachheads – It Feels Alright
Fruit & Flowers – Out of Touch
Ratboys – The Record
Schlotman – Holy Basil
Lost Balloons – Numb
John Rossiter – Mom Guitar
Lomelda – Interstate Vision
Walter Martin (ft. Matt Berninger) – Hey Matt
Jay Som – The Bus Song
Japanese Breakfast – The Body Is A Blade
Screaming Females – Glass House
Phoebe Bridgers – Smoke Signals
Open Mike Eagle (ft. Sammus) – Hymnal
Half Waif – Frost Burn
Petite League – Pocketknife
Say Sue Me – Bad Habit
Petal – 15
Waxahatchee – Silver
Jason Isbell & the 400 Unit – If We Were Vampires
Siobhan Wilson – Whatever Helps
Sammi Lanzetta – Circles
Deep State – Nothing Speaking
Saintseneca – Moon Barks at the Dog
Lithuania – 5000 Year Leap

17 of ’17: The Best Music Videos of the Year

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Arriving fashionably late, the Heartbreaking Bravery year-end lists kick off in earnest with a celebration of the visual medium. There were incredibly strong visual efforts put forward by the people that could afford to have lavish budgets for just about any facet of their creative output (with Kendrick Lamar having an especially fruitful year) but this space wasn’t designed to celebrate those artists. Instead, the 17 selections featured below represent some of the finest works that flew by at a quieter pace, whether they came from storied veterans or exciting upstarts.

The format established last year will continue on this year, with one (or several) item designated the top spot and the remaining selections featured with no discernible ranking. Both the songs and albums list will follow this format as well. So, dive in, pick your poison, and try to guide yourself to a fate no worse than spending an hour or more playing the world’s most audacious interactive music video. Here are the 17 best music videos of 2017.

Hazel English – Fix

Throughout Hazel English‘s first few releases, the songwriter’s proved adept at crafting memorably beautiful clips and “Fix” stands proudly as English’s current best. A romantic, softly-lit tone poem “Fix” consists of little more than two people at an undefined stage in their relationship traversing some beautiful scenery together. Superbly directed and masterfully edited, “Fix” carries a subtle emotional resonance that propels it from being simply good to something masterful.

Jay Som – The Bus Song

The artist responsible for last year’s Song of the Year returned to set 2017 on fire, breaking out in momentous fashion. The highlight of Jay Som‘s ascent came by way of this House of Nod-produced (and Michelle Zauner-directed) clip for “The Bus Song”. A joyous celebration of music, friendship, and the intertwining link between the two, “The Bus Song” is teeming with affection, wearing its heartfelt sincerity not on its sleeve but as a badge of honor, displayed proudly on its chest.

Zebra Katz – Blk & Wht

One of the most haunting clips to come out of this decade, Zebra Katz‘s “Blk & Wht” is a harrowing recreation of the experiences its actors endured as refugees attempting to clear border security. As grim and stark as the song itself, “Blk & Wht” takes on a nightmarish sheen of realism that’s fully elevated thanks to the people involved in the project. It’s hypnotic, it’s terrifying, it’s unbelievably well-executed and transcends the form of music video and tips towards effective activism (something that’s incredibly hard to do without coming across as ham-fisted or cloying) by proving immensely hard to shake.

Japanese Breakfast – The Body Is A Blade

Directing Jay Som’s “The Bus Song” wasn’t the only impressive feat Michelle Zauner completed this year. Zauner also collaborated with House of Nod again for this meditative clip tinged with tragedy for her own project, Japanese Breakfast. Beautifully combining archival footage from her past with the present state of being, “The Body Is A Blade” paints a complex and deeply human portrait. Empathetic, poetic, and laced with an abundance of warmth (in tonality, coloration, and emotion), “The Body Is A Blade” immediately stood out as one of the year’s best upon release and looks even stronger today.

PUP – Old Wounds

It’s not often that this site prints obscenities but “Old Wounds” warrants the following: Jeremy Schaulin-Rioux is a fucking maniac. The director’s been instrumental in guiding PUP to claiming Music Video of the Year honors for 3 of the past 5 years and — with this entry included — has been included in the “Best Of” lists for the other two. Even with that track record, it would have been difficult to predict Schaulin-Rioux would go off the deep end to create a choose your own adventure video game masquerading as a music video in the form of 73 separate clips (many of them containing accessibly esoteric jokes from prominent music journalists) to form a cohesive whole for the shortest — and fiercest — song on the band’s triumphant sophomore effort The Dream Is Over. Click play and lose yourself to a rabbit hole that you’ll never want to leave. You’ve been warned.

Fog Lake – Rattlesnake

Fog Lake‘s “Rattlesnake” was one of 2016’s most captivating songs and 2017 gifted it the kind of visual it so richly deserved. Lacking any sort of traditional narrative allowed for something far more thoughtful and moving, as the Forest Erwin-shot clip paid tribute to both environment and inhabitant in mesmerizing fashion. Tender, intuitive, and impalpable, “Rattlesnake” follows a filmic imprint that’s served auteurs like Terrence Malick and Shane Carruth well over their best works. That “Rattlesnake” would fit comfortably alongside their finest stretches is a minor miracle.

Open Mike Eagle (ft. Sammus) – Hymnal

A bizarre satirization of televangelism, Open Mike Eagle‘s Sammus-featuring “Hymnal” stands out immediately. Comfortably drawing the viewers in from an easily-identifiable vantage point, “Hymnal” then proceeds to reveal itself as a meticulously-constructed and perfectly executed piece of oddball humor that falls more in line with Tim & Eric than just about any other clip that’s come out over the past few years. Boasting an incredible amount of specificity, “Hymnal” plays out like a fever dream that’s impossible to escape. Thankfully, for all of us, it’s wildly enjoyable and rewards investment tenfold.

Julia Louise – Brat

One of a handful of videos on this list that mark a perfect distillation and representation of the artist responsible, Julia Louise‘s “Brat” also acts as an engaging introduction-at-large. Both a minimalist portrait of Louise and a vehicle to convey the frustrations and realizations of “Brat”, the clip finds life via honesty. A series of small, everyday moments stitched together through some compelling photography and anchored by a winsome central performance, “Brat” is a clever, tongue-in-cheek testament to Louise’s already formidable talents.

Craig Finn – God In Chicago

Likely the biggest name on this list thanks to a position as the bandleader of The Hold Steady, Craig Finn has still found a way to slip through the cracks. Finn’s solo material, while exceptional, has gone largely unheralded. The spoken word, narrative-driven “God In Chicago” ranked as a career high before the video and the Kris Merc-directed clip elevated it even further on Finn’s considerably long list of achievements. A gorgeous illustration of a significant relationship doomed to slowly erode over time, every inch of “God In Chicago” should be felt in full by the millions of people who have lived that experience. It’s a miniature masterpiece.

Pissed Jeans – The Bar Is Low

2017 proved to be intensely difficult for a cavalcade of reasons so any time anyone married a similar intensity to nonsensical joy provided a welcome escape. Enter: Pissed Jean‘s “The Bar Is Low”. Easily the furthest the band has embraced their buried comedic leanings, the clip earns its place here by virtue of the commitment everyone lends their performance as underachieving-but-desperately-trying gym rats. The deadpan stares, the intimidating glances, the absolute absurdity, and the off-the-charts aggression combine for the year’s most memorably fun clip.

Anamon – Fast Car

While Pissed Jeans took the comedic escapism route, Anamon offered something a little more grounded: a hangout clip that was unwavering in its sincerity. Delivered with conviction, “Fast Car’ consists of nothing more than the band taking their dog on a day out to some open spots to relax and enjoy a beautiful day. The photography direction throughout “Fast Car” provides a sweeping sense of freedom that accompanies those exact trips. There are no stakes and any lingering fears wither in the presence of good company and picturesque scenery. Sometimes that’s all anyone needs and “Fast Car” captures that essential truth to perfection.

The Last Dinosaur – Atoms

Comprised of nothing but discarded Super 8 footage gleaned from storage units and yard sales, “Atoms” quietly establishes a sense of history through its visuals as the song fixates on the full implications of mortality. When a project’s intent is to convey the entirety of life, it’s not often that it can actually manage to achieve something that resembles a complete understanding but The Last Dinosaur have carved out their spot in today’s music by subverting and/or challenging expectations. “Atoms” is a moving reminder of their penchant for coaxing out things that are as empathetic as they are beautiful.

Protormartyr – A Private Understanding

Following a blueprint established and reinforced by some of cinema’s most antagonistic filmmakers, Protomartyr‘s clip for “A Private Understanding” manages to tap into the same type of sinister energy as its forebears. An inexplicably nerve-wracking sequence set at what appears to be either a meticulously designed retirement home or a grossly exquisite restaurant attempting to pass itself off as a “home experience”, “A Private Understanding” creates and mercilessly attacks that cognitive dissonance while employing film techniques popularized in Greek and Korean cinema. As hypnotic as it is baffling, “A Private Understanding” demands consideration long after its closing seconds.

Deep State – Heavy Lunch

Deep State‘s kinetic clip for its equally kinetic “Heavy Lunch” follows an exceptionally minimalist formula: one person dances their way across the screen to a song. It’s a trope that’s reached a point of over-saturation in recent years and seems to have lost some of its merit. However, when one so exceptionally joyful and energetic comes into focus, its myriad pleasures are impossible to deny and the Ethan Payne-directed “Heavy Lunch” finds an abundance of meaning in its gleeful sprint.

Palehound – If You Met Her

Crafting a clip for songs that register as immediate standouts for reasons of a clearly personal nature will always prove a challenge. When those challenges aren’t just met but diminished to the point of evaporation under the final product, that music video will likely stand the test of time as one of the greats. Palehound‘s “If You Met Her” — created by a group of teenagers attending Real to Reel Filmschool — finds itself in a position where it can already form a solid case for that type of longevity. While Kempner’s project allowed itself to be guided by the ghost of Heatmiser for the song itself, the video grapples with other spirits. The religious imagery, the sense of being stuck between haunting and being haunted, and the quiet, tragic desperation at the heart of both the song and the video render “If You Met Her” one of this decade’s finest efforts, on both counts.

Charly Bliss – Westermarck

Over the course of this site’s existence, Charly Bliss emerged as a coverage staple. 2017 was the first year that afforded the band a true reckoning and they responded in kind, dropping one of the year’s best records, touring relentlessly (both as a headliner and opening up for enormous names), and releasing a string of fun music videos. No clip the band’s released can hold a candle to what they managed to create for “Westermarck“, which strips away any perceivable artifice in favor of something that served as an effective antidote to 2017’s grim climate. Pure, unbridled joy drives “Westermarck” to stratospheric heights, contagious in its own effervescence and committed to its convictions. A perfect distillation of the band’s identity and something to point to as a symbol of hope for the future. “Westermarck” deserves to be held up as an example of how to effectively translate the giddiest of emotions for years to come.

MUSIC VIDEO OF THE YEAR:

IDLES – Mother

No video landed as hard, reflected the times as well, or demanded attention as well as the snarling behemoth that was IDLES‘ clip for “Mother”, a seething call to action against sexual predators and the conditions that allow a surprising percentage of them to be excused so easily. Not just one of the most hypnotic clips of this year but of this century, “Mother” contains little more than IDLES’ vocalist Joe Talbot smashing a table full of ceramics in front of a portrait of his deceased mother — whose ashes were slipped into the vinyl pressings of the band’s latest, -BRUTALISM — as he rails against an economically unjust system that essentially forces poverty onto the lower classes, heightening their exhaustion under the guise of production for the benefit of the upper class.

It’s a commanding performance and Talbot’s anger is palpable and barely containable as each individual piece gets smashed to bits as the camera lens nearly disintegrates under the weight of his piercing stare. Wearing an opened pink blazer and pink pants, the opening image of “Mother” is arresting enough but what carries it to the realms of being genuinely unforgettable is the clip’s closing moments where the song ends and the video continues in silence, Talbot making sure every last piece is hurtled towards a ground already covered in shards of plates, cups, and figurines.

When everything has suffered the brunt of Talbot’s wrath, he pauses, walks back to the poster of his mother hanging pointedly in the background, puts his hand to her lips and walks off camera. There is still smoke. There is still fire. And there, in that conclusion, as the anger lingers, is where “Mother” stakes its place as one of the great music videos of our time.  

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Honorable Mentions:

Cayetana – Bus Ticket
Kevin Morby – City Music
Single Mothers – People Are Pets

The Very Best of the Very Rest: The Best Music Videos of the Past Two Months

Closing out the year, Heartbreaking Bravery will be running recaps of the past two months to lead into the year-end lists, which will run when the year is officially over. Here, an eye is turned towards some excellent music videos that have been released in November and December. Outlandish lyric clips, gorgeous visuals, great songs, tongue-in-cheek humor, and unbridled sincerity combine to form 19 clips that demand to be seen. Enjoy.

 

  1. Mannequin Pussy – Emotional High 
  2. Winter – Jaded
  3. Charly Bliss – Scare U
  4. Radiator Hospital – Nothing Nice
  5. Anna Burch – 2 Cool 2 Care
  6. Casper Skulls – Lingua Fraca + Primeval
  7. The Spook School – Still Alive
  8. Stef Chura – Speeding Ticket
  9. Japanese Breakfast – The Body Is A Blade
  10. Amos Pitsch – Lake Effect
  11. Yucky Duster – Construction Man
  12. Screaming Females – Glass House
  13. Jay Som – The Bus Song
  14. Fuzzystar – Superhero
  15. Good Boy – Fishing With A Shotgun
  16. Anamon – Fast Car
  17. Young Jesus – Feeling
  18. Sharon Jones & The Dap-Kings – Matter of Time + Call On God

Jason Isbell & The 400 Unit – If We Were Vampires (Stream)

In the past week or so there were a handful of notable music videos that emerged from the likes of Simon Doom, Real Estate, American Lips, Jay Som, Andy Shauf, Slow Dancer, Chromatics, TERRY, Sam Mullany, and Andy Gabbard. All of them were entertaining for various reasons and all of them are worthy of repeat viewings. As is always the case, music videos weren’t the only thing finding their way out of the shadows. Songs and records were unveiled but nothing landed with as much impact as Jason Isbell & The 400 Unit’s “If We Were Vampires”.

Normally, the features on Heartbreaking Bravery are granted to either emerging or off-the-radar artists, musicians as established and widely-celebrated as Isbell pick up enough notices elsewhere. To that effect, something has to be monumentally moving for an artist of that type of stature to earn a feature. “If We Were Vampires” is, unmistakably, one of those pieces. Isbell’s made a habit out of writing those types of numbers, including one of the most devastatingly beautiful songs since the turn of the century in “Cover Me Up“, a heartfelt ode to his wife and collaborator, Amanda Shires, who served as a constant reminder life was worth living.

If “Cover Me Up” centered around the conceit of Shires acting as a necessary rebirth for Isbell, “If We Were Vampires” subverts that narrative and explicitly focuses on how Shires’ presence will either make life unbearable to navigate if she passes first while recognizing that the trade-off will be worthwhile because she’ll have been there up until that point. All of those emotions are magnified considerably when taking into stock the various accounts of how Shires legitimately saved Isbell from a variety of vices that could’ve potentially ended his life. As the best partners tend to do, Shires not only gave Isbell hope but gave him a new lease on life; for Isbell Shires and his very life are inextricably intertwined to a stratospheric degree of intensity.

That love’s something that’s been present throughout his recent work and has been clearly evident in his banter (he nearly reduced an entire crowd to tears at Prospect Park in 2015 just talking about Shires, while she was on hiatus from performing to deliver the couple’s first child). In a recent interview, Isbell mentioned that when he first performed “If We Were Vampires” it was legitimately hard for him to make it to the end and admitted that’s still occasionally the case as Shires watched on with a mixture of pride and genuine understanding. They’d just run through the song and it was impossible not to notice Shires’ loving gaze as the two harmonized carried just a hint of sadness, the chorus’ final line “but one day I’ll be gone or you’ll be gone” likely hitting uncomfortably close to home.

It’s that juxtaposition of life with someone you love that makes dying a more acceptable fate. It’s a heavy concept that Isbell toys with masterfully here, envisioning both himself and Shires as vampires, content to play it cool because they didn’t have to account for that impending destination waiting on some unknown horizon. In the very next stanza, Isbell discards that scenario entirely, surmising that “time running out is a gift” and pledging every last one of his seconds to be offered up in the service of the woman he loves, a woman that both saved his life and gave him a reason to live. It’s earnest, it’s heartfelt, it’s deeply empathetic, and it stands proudly as another heartrending masterpiece from one of our generation’s finest songwriters. Hit play and keep the people you love close enough for them to know they give other people’s lives just a little more meaning.

Listen to “If We Were Vampires” below and pre-order The Nashville Sound here.

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.

Watch This: The Honorable Mentions of 2017’s First Quarter

Over the course of 2017’s opening three months, a lot of great material was released. Naturally, the most abundantly rich category wasn’t simply songs, music videos, or full releases, it was live videos. It’s been quite some time since the last Watch This ran on this site, an oversight being amended tonight, and in that time scores of great clips have surfaced. Below is an extensive list of some of the finest to have emerged over that time and all of which are more than worth the their runtimes. Of course, it’d be impossible to watch all of these in one sitting, so feel free to bookmark the page and sift through the selections whenever the feeling takes

Mitski, Jay Som, The Walkmen, Kississippi, SUÐNE-HI, Kamasi WashingtonMonica LaPlante, Tokyo Police Club, Money, Tank and the Bangas, Mary LynnCanshaker Pi, Allah-LasYeeshCommunionsHurray for the Riff Raff, Andy Shauf, Blue Rodeo, MOON, Temples, Born Ruffians,  Justin Vernon & Sean Carey, L.A. Salami (x2, 3), Bruno BavotaHórmónar, Mustard Gas and Roses, Pinegrove, Jean-Michael Blais & CFCF, Dude York (x2), Bash & Pop, Nail Polish, Ron Gallo, Lume, Slaughter Beach, Dog

Craig Finn (x2, 3), Honeyblood, Middle Kids (x2), No Parents, The Molochs, The Black Watch, Sløtface (x2), Looming, Lemuria, Campdogzz, Black Marble Selection, Clara Clara, ELLA, American Wrestlers (x2), The Coathangers, Outer SpacesSam Kogon (x2), Lilah Larson, Michal Pydo, Old 97s (x2, 3), Lizzo (x2), The Madcaps, Snail Mail, The Mysterons, Subcutanea, Holy Tunics, Hamilton Leithauser (x2, 3), Alex Lahey, GreyfaceAxel Flóvent, Diarrhea Planet, Peter Silberman, Luxury Death, Suburban Living

Microwave, The Cigarette Bums, RoyaCarinea, The Orions, Secret Crush, Tyrone Cotton, Fast Romantics, Izzy True (x2), Hand Habits, Priests (x2), Reality Something, Frances Cone, Moss, White Mystery, Tennis, Louie Louie, Adna, Let’s Eat Grandma, Kite Base, Twin Limb, Ty Segall, Morus Alba, Odd Robot, Coals, The New Pornographers (x2), VANT, Shame, Sierra Hull, MOON, Rose Cousins (x2, 3), Food Court, Grace Joyner, Mrs., Michael Nau, Nikki Lane (x2, 3), FIDLAR (x2, 3), The Melvins, Skyway Man, Big Eyes

Cherry Glazerr (x2), BAB, Savoy Motel (x2, 3), Laura Marling (x2), Mikey Erg, Thumpers, Fishbach, Emma Ruth Rundle, Horse Thief (x2), Black Marble, The Album Leaf (x2), Wet Lips, Bev Rage and the Drinks, Her Again, Esme Patterson, Death and Memphis, Nancy Pants, Mirel Wagner, John Doe, The Two Tens, Avi Buffalo, Lisa Hannigan, Andy Shauf, Mark Eitzel (x2), Marching Church, Chris Farren, Ahem, Cloud Nothings, BABY, Sweet Crude, Chicano Batman, Rubblebucket, Looks Like Mountains, Ladywolf

Black Joe Lewis and the Honeybears, Dead Man Winter (x2), Good DoomTÖLVA, Monobody, The Shacks, Fleurie, Molotoy, Parlor Walls, YDIMITU, The Gotobeds, Peacock Affect, Austra (x2), Dave Brannigan, Papier Tigre, Elephant Stone, You Blew It, Grand Parc, PAVVLA, Alice Jemima, Dusk (x2), Jens Lekman, PWR BTTM, Melkbelly, Nail Polish, Leif Vollebek, Shull, Jennifer Niceley, House of Wolves, Chuck Prophet, Fair City Fire, The Reptilian, Lil Sluggers, Mint Green, Local Natives, Henry Jamison

The Sonics, Nocturnal Habits, Julia Lucille, Loamlands, Halldór Eldjárn, The Hill Country Devil, DakaBrakha, The Chinchees, Oddissee, Way Worse, BADBADNOTGOOD, Tenfold, The Staves, The Vaughns, Sunflower Bean, Flasher, Weyes Blood, Charlotte Cardin, Mammút, Benjaminto, Naked Giants (x2), Hippo Campus, Delicate Steve (x2), White Reaper, Gurr, Muncie Girls, Julien Doré, Birdtalker, Mario Batkovic, Seu Jorge, Ace Henderson, Nudity, High Waisted, John Craigie, Sammus (x2, 3), Beach Slang

45ACIDBABIES (x2), Fiona Silver, Calico, Viagra Boys, Fox and the Acres, The Veils, Anna McLukie, Iguana Death Cult, Sad13 (x2), DIA, Hospital Job, Katie Ellen, Albin de la Simone, Nick Hakim, Holy Pinto, Nessi Gomes, Radio Eliza, Michigan Rattlers, Wallacy Willians e os Besouros, Dæphne, The Mysterons, Cincin, Listener, Rykarda Parasol, Magic Bronson, (T-T)b, Tourists, Foxing, Eyukalpitus, Twin Lords, Dijon, Red Baraat, Dan Layus, Camp Claude, Solilians, Andy Svarthol, Octave Noire, Benoît Lizen

Bishop Nehru, No Win, Hits Like A Girl, Sauna Accident, Bullet Points, Golden Grands, Strand of Oaks (x2, 3), The Singing Butcher, Fishbone, See Gulls, Santoros, Burn Fetish, Wildwood Kin, Noam Pikelny, Alejandro y Maria Laura, Gang of Four, RLLBLL, Star Anna, Industrial Revelation, Lohai, And Also the Trees, Bror Gunnar Jansson, Jealous of the Birds, Star Parks, Shawn Fogel, Joel and Bill Plaskett, Ess See, Edna Vazquez, Plastic Picnic, Rodney Crowell, Mother Mother, Molly Burch (x2, 3), Blind Pilot

The Kraken Quartet, Fraea, Other SunsNina Diaz & Luz Elena Mendoza, Alexandra Savior, The Big Pink, From Indian Lakes, Mike Wexler, Nimrod, Tyte Jeff, Mega Bog, Big Star’s Third, Robyn Hitchcock, Strange Americans, Clap Your Hands Say Yeah, Community Daughter, Severin Bells, Talmud Beach, Timber Timbre, Tall Heights, Tim Kasher, Sundara Karma, Guantanamo Baywatch, STEVENSTEVEN, ZenSoFly, asdfhg., Olivensteins, Becca Stevens, Grandaddy, Bad Licks, Maren Morris, The Memories, Sloucher

Klangstof, Moses Hightower, Les Aventures de President Bongo, Kite Base, Barbagallo, Mike Doughty, The Pukes, Mothers, Tom Tukker, Modern English, American Football, Kristin Hersh, Christopher Paul Stelling, Yasmine Hamdan, Candy Ambulance, Amelia Curran, Dane Terry, Midijoyful, Drumbeat Red, Jesca Hoop, South City Revival, The Awful Truth, Ages and Ages, and The Spring Standards.

Streams of the First Quarter: The Honorable Mentions

Less than a week remains in 2017’s first quarter and the year’s already earned solid representation thanks to a slew of incredible releases. Below this paragraph are links to approximately 500 of the finest songs that the January-to-March period had to offer. A few of which are from widely renowned artists but the vast majority are from the artists who deserve more recognition than they receive.

Now, it’s practically impossible to imagine any one individual is going to sit down and listen to every single one of the songs here but that’s not exactly the purpose of these lists. This, as was the case with the others, is a capsule of a time period that offered up art that was (mostly) lost to the shuffle. It’s a representative account of what was happening behind-the-scenes while this site was in its extended hiatus.

Most importantly, it’s a way to recognize and honor the artists responsible for crafting pieces that both deserved and earned praise, even if it’s in a relatively minor form. This will likely be one of the longest lists of links to ever run on this site and it’s likely best to just click around until something strikes a chord. So, bookmark this page, dive in, and explore what the world’s produced over this first quarter and keep an eye on this site for a few short “best of” posts before Heartbreaking Bravery resumes its regular daily coverage. Enjoy.

NE-HI, Hater (x2), Knife in the Water (x2), Thelma, The Districts, Flasher, Catholic Action, Growl, Happyness, Land of Talk (x2), Canshaker Pi, Baby!, Gold Connections (x2, 3), Jay Som (x2), Go Fever, The Mells, The Chinchees, Aye Nako, Greatest Champion Alive, Diet Cig (x2, 3), High Sunn, Tall Friend (x2, 3), Do Make Say Think, Boss Hog (x2), Fog Lake (x2), Littler, Real Life Buildings (x2), The Proper Ornaments, Alex Napping (x2), Bruising, YURT, Analog Candle (x2), The Courtneys (x2), Wild Pink (x2), Amanda Glasser

Lunch Ladies (x2, 3), B Boys, Molly BurchIdle Bloom, WHY?, Vengeance, Phoebe Bridgers, Kane Strang, Former Bullies, The Spookfish (x2), Dude York (x2), Ben Grigg (x2, 3), Agent blå, Andrew Goldring, Fragrance., Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever, Spiral Stairs (x2), Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy, Guided By Voices (x2), Future Teens, WaydeÀ La Mode, Fraidycat, Robyn Hitchcock (x2), Eric Slick, Terry Malts, Sharkmuffin, Ride, Joan Shelley, PONY, The Coathangers, Juliana Hatfield (x2), Sorority Noise (x2), Slow Caves

No Thank You (x2, 3), Francobollo, Great Profile, Mount Song, Real EstateHawkmoon, Casper Skulls, Century Palm (x2), Deathlist (x2), Rosie Carney, Superorganism, Goldblooms, Day Wave, Wire, Cotillon (x2, 3), Will Johnson (x2), Anti Pony, Personal Best, Mind Rays (x2, 3), Ty Segall (x2, 3), Bonny Doon (x2), Arc Flash (x2), Tobin Sprout, Slowdive, Top Down, Mise en Scene, Thunder Dreamer, Hiccup (x2), Bent Denim, The Molochs, Caitlin Pasko, Cold Beat, Oak House

Mad OnesThe FeeliesWavves (x2), Tonstartssbandht (x2), Those Lavender Whales (x2), Overlake, Winstons, Vagabon, MaganaTrust Fund, Fuzzystar (x2), Baked (x2), Loose Tooth (x2, 3), The Sloppy Heads, The Cairo Gang (x2), Vundabar, Chick Quest (x2), Holy Sheboygan (x2), The Craters, Doug Tuttle, Walter Martin, Nadine Khouri, Holy Now, Vassals, The Obsessives (x2), Orchid Mantis, Thin Lips, Apocalypse, Communions, Olden Yolk, Dion Lunadon, Emperor X, Shadow Band, Richard Edwards, Adna

Bleached (x2), SaltlandTim Kasher (x2), Warm SodaAlyeskaMatthew Squires, You’re Jovian, Little Star, Mothpuppy, Midwives, Monster Movie, Jessica Denison + JonesElijah, Loom, Your Old Droog, Mimi Raver, Smidley, Beachheads, Clap Your Hands Say Yeah (x2), Cesar Ruiz, Leather Can, Woods, The Yugos (x2), Adam Torres (x2), L.A. Witch, David Bazan, Luxury Death (x2), Imaginary Tricks, Strange Lot (x2), Lomelda, Sacred Spirits, Matty Ann, The Hernies, Destrends, ELLA, Adult Mom, Second Still

The Dove & The Wolf, Gang of Youths, Trementina (x2), Good Good Blood, SheerOrchin, Anna Coogan, WALL, Artificial Pleasure, Sera Cahoone, Annie Hardy (x2), Priests, Laura Marling, Yawn Mower (x2), Toby Foster, Wear Your Wounds, The Present Age, The Knitts (x2), Junior Astronomers, No Vacation, Wolf Girl, Peter Bjorn and John, Cassandra Jenkins (x2, 3, 4), A Valley Son (x2), Jons, Sinai Vessel, Yellow Paper Planes, Seven Deaths, Snakehole, Sondre Lerche (x2), Varvara, Karen Elson

Tiger! Shit! Tiger! Tiger!, Wilding, Common MinerDan Misha GoldmanCymbals Eat Guitars, Lost Boy ?, Moon DialThe Birthday Letters, UV-TV, Girl As Wave, Big Surr, Nightlands, Menace Beach, Boytoy, Melby, Dali Vision, Desperate Journalist, Alex G, Knifey, Aquarian Blood, Winstons, High Up, Joshua James, I Am the Polish Army, Feral Ohms, French Vanilla, Bad Breeding, The Octopus Project, Born Without Bones, Laughed The Boy, Jake Xerxes Fussell (x2, 3), Cindy Lee, The Cover Letter, Michael Nau

Lyrie and the Duckies, Vorhees, Blank SquarePatterson Hood, Jon McKiel, Whips, WompsKikagaku Moyo, Brandon Koebs, Surf Dads, LT Wade, Daddy Issues, David Bazan, Matthew Lee Cothran, Jake Clarke, Spur, Loose Buttons (x2), Bilge Rat, Saw Black, Lowly, Jackson Boone, Superchunk, Desert Culture, Julia Lucille, The Darling Buds, Ducks Unlimited, Hoops, Taft Mashburn, Summer Moon, Conifer Vista, My Education, The Wooden Sky, Her’s, Teen Daze, Rubblebucket, Platinum Boys, Jens Lekman, Threefifty

Sam Coffey & The Iron Lungs, Nadia KazmiShelby Earl, Preservation Hall Jazz Band, Circus DevilsFire in the Radio, Half Waif, Metric, Sampha, Deadwall, Ground and Grave, Martin Rev, Craig FinnOiseaux-Tempête, Raj and the 100’s, The Wintyr, TW Walsh, ShitKid, Joel Michael Howard, Evening Darling, FOTR, Pollen Rx, Lillie Mae, Kyle T. Hurley, Hite, Tara Jane O’Neil (x2), Louise Lemón, PalomaStacey, Two Moons, POND, Business of Dreams, Billy Moon, Low Roar, She-Devils, White Reaper, Tiny Vipers

SOFTSPOT, Gorillaz, ROYA, BottlerThe Megaphonic Thrift, Caves, The New PornographersJulie Byrne, BNQT, COTE, Damaged Bug, Railings, Mark Eitzel, Deleter, Code Orange, Goddamnit, Cory Branan, No Joy, Blak Emoji, Tropical Skin Byrds, Empty Lungs, Tomber Lever, Rainbrother, Max Subar, Little Person, Perhapsy, Other Houses, Dehd, Niilo Smeds (x2), Morning Teleportation, The Co Founder, Show Me the Body, Kory Quinn, Tow’rs, Circle, Maria Kelly, Cosima, John Craigie, Holy Motors, Benjamin Booker

Me Not You, Her HarbourHeath Green and the Maksehifters, CodistMatt Maltese, Thurston Moore, Pissed Jeans, Feist, Odd Couple, A Deer A Horse, Cassels, Thad Kopec, Turn to CrimeTorgeir Waldemar, Oyama, Said the Whale, Altar Eagles (x2), Grace Mitchell, Radiator King, Minus the Bear, The Tarantula Waltz, Hiva OaTrès Oui, The Buttertones, Winston Hightower, Crooked Bangs, Los Angeles Police Department, CFM, Diagrams, Boosegumps, Marcus Norberg and the Disappointments

The Nickajack Men, Semi-Attractive Boys, BanditosRachel Kilgour, Broken Field Runner, Residuels, Jim and the French Vanilla, Wooden Wand, Emma Ruth Rundle, Batz, Monograms, Operator Music Band, RF Shannon (x2), LAKE, Ha Ha Tonka, Fufanu, Coast Modern, The Glass Eyes, Keto, Loess, Go By Ocean, Unstoppable Death Machines, Frederick the Younger, Bendigo Fletcher, Meatbodies, The Bingers, Slingshot Dakota, Astro Tan, Football, etc., Planning for Burial, Delafye, Dim Wit, Retail SpaceEmma Gatrill, Gnod, Mark Lanegan Band, and Leon of Athens.

 

 

 

16 of ’16: The Best Songs of the Year

LVL UP II

Following suit with the two previous examples, the best songs of 2016 list will abandon the traditional numerical format in favor of a more open approach that concentrates on the best material of the year without offering too many individual designations. The majority of the songs featured on this list were under-represented on lists by far more visible publications (and a few that were fairly represented are listed below the main list as honorable mentions) and fall under the genres normally covered by this site. Of course, this list — just like any other — can’t claim to be truly representative but it does offer a decent encapsulation of 2016 releases that deserved to be celebrated.

An additional note: most of the embeds come from bandcamp, so songs will auto-play after the initial listen. This was intentional to ease the access to the records that can claim these songs and to more directly benefit the artists that brought them into the world.

Enjoy the list.

Mo Troper – Happy Birthday

One of the strongest debut records of last year was Mo Troper‘s Beloved, an entirely unexpected but wholly welcome powerpop masterpiece. While just about every song on Beloved was considered for this list, it seemed appropriate to go with “Happy Birthday” which set the tone for a fearsome record that deserved far more recognition.

Doe – Sincere

Some Things Last Longer Than You was a blistering statement from Doe, a band that had been steadily gaining momentum for years. It was a perfectly structured record that allowed its songs an equal amount of weight but “Sincere” still managed to emerge as a standout single. Fiery and full of conviction, it was one of 2016’s best moments.


Told Slant – Low Hymnal

Low Hymnal” was a song that I was fortunate enough to hear forming in its earliest stages but the finished product still managed to wind up as a transcendental experience. There’s genuine pain at the root of Told Slant‘s “Low Hymnal” that lends to the overwhelming weight of the song’s unforgettable final stanza. A gorgeous and moving masterwork.

Parquet Courts – Human Performance

In the title track for their career best, Human Performance, Parquet Courts hit an exhilarating new high point. “Human Performance” is a tightly-coiled and deeply felt examination of the human condition that finds the band stretching in new directions with a fearlessness that makes the song as gripping as it is immediate.

Yucky Duster – Gofer

A pitch-perfect pop song, Yucky Duster‘s “Gofer” became one of 2016’s most unexpected summer anthems. It’s a pure delight at every perfectly-navigated hairpin turn, serving up some of the most meticulously constructed guitar pop in recent memory. A perfect blend of style and substance, “Gofer” is a triumph from a band worth watching.

Cymbals Eat Guitars – Philadelphia, 4th of July (SANDY)

While Pretty Years saw Cymbals Eat Guitars continue to evolve their sound, no moment of the record was more jaw-dropping than the towering “Philadelphia, 4th of July (SANDY)“. An eye-opening display of formidable strength and untapped ferocity, the song saw the band perfecting just about every facet of their already-impressive songwriting.

LVL UP – Spirit Was

Pain” and “Hidden Driver” got a fair amount of attention from year-end lists but the most representative moment of LVL UP‘s Return To Love was the bittersweet “Spirit Was“, which also ranks as one of the band’s best. Vocalist/bassist Nick Corbo provided Return To Love its beating heart and “Spirit Was” marked the moment it completely opened.

Big Thief – Real Love

It takes a certain type of boldness to title a record Masterpiece but when that record features songs like “Real Love“, that title just seems apt. In some moments “Real Love” is breezy and open, while others finds Big Thief baring their fangs. Throw in one of the most effective guitar solos of the past few years and “Real Love” quietly emerges as a new classic.

Jawbreaker Reunion – Cosmos

Before hanging up their cables, Jawbreaker Reunion were kind enough to deliver one last album in haha and then what 😉, which lived up to the bands sterling track record. The best moment of a great record came via “Cosmos“, a gorgeous ballad examining serious topics that quickly transforms into a forceful reckoning. In short: it’s perfect.

Car Seat Headrest – The Ballad of the Costa Concordia

Likely the most celebrated record appearing on this list, Car Seat Headrest‘s Teens of Denial‘s most breathtaking moment was largely ignored by other outlets. “The Ballad of the Costa Concordia” is a sprawling meditation on hopelessness that somehow finds a way to seamlessly work in a brief, heartrending cover of Dido’s “White Flag”. A genuine achievement.

Fred Thomas – Brickwall

Fred Thomas is making and releasing music at a relatively relentless rate, which is a trait that typically produces a lot of filler material. Thomas somehow keeps getting better, something that’s clearly evident in “Brickwall“, a characteristically acerbic slice-of-life send-up that highlights Changer, which will go down as one of 2017’s finest.

Cloud Nothings – Modern Act

Rarely does a band come across as progressive while revisiting their earlier sounds, yet “Modern Act” finds a way to fuse progression with refinement in its revisitations. A brilliant hybrid of virtually every stage of the band’s career “Modern Act” is both a victory lap and an engrossing look at Cloud Nothings‘ increasingly promising future.

Slothrust – Horseshoe Crab

Crockpot” was the kind of unforgettable song that could make a band’s career, that Slothrust has surpassed those dazzling heights so quickly is a staggering accomplishment. “Horseshoe Crab” is the kind of track that can stop people in their tracks. It’s a spellbinding song from a band unafraid to rip the bleeding heart out of their own chest.

Catbus – Fracas

A standalone release — and lone track — from a band that features Phyllis Ophelia and members of Patio, Catbus‘ “Fracas” is a riveting hybrid of post-punk and basement pop. The verses ensnare the listeners attention before the chorus blooms and casts an unbreakable spell. Exceedingly lovely and perfectly crafted, “Fracas” is an absolute gem.

John K. Samson – Virtute At Rest

No song in 2016 carried more emotional resonance than John K. Samson‘s devastating final chapter to the Virtute trilogy. Plaintive, painfully intimate, and tinged with a deeply damaged sense of hope, the song finds Virtute’s owner resurrecting the neglected cat to beg for forgiveness. Harrowing and unforgettable, “Virtute At Rest” was a knockout blow.

SONG OF THE YEAR

Jay Som – I Think You’re Alright

There’s a grace and elegance that’s identifiable even through the light damage that Jay Som applies to “I Think You’re Alright” that brings Sparklehorse to mind. Now, direct comparisons on this site are few and far between — especially in the case of such notable luminaries — but it’s next to impossible not to hear the ghost of Mark Linkous lovingly haunting every last second of “I Think You’re Alright”.

Melina Duterte, the mastermind behind the Jay Som project, has listed Sparklehorse as a major influence and the two share a kindred, empathetic spirit- something that shows in the delicate tenderness of “I Think You’re Alright” and maintains its convictions throughout the rest of Jay Som’s discography. While that discography is an enviable one, “I Think You’re Alright” remains its crown jewel, thanks to not only the song’s sublime instrumentation but a narrative that plays perfectly into the song’s soft lyricism.

All at once, uplifting and resigned, “I Think  You’re Alright” occupies a fascinating space. There’s a lot going on in “I Think You’re Alright”, from the subdued atmosphere to the way that instrumentation interacts in its final quarter. When it’s playing, though, none of that’s taken into account as “I Think You’re Alright” has the ability to envelop the listener in a very specific feeling, rendering it a unique (and uniquely moving) listen. Not just one of the finest of this year but of the past decade.

Nine more worth hearing:

PWR BTTM – Projection
Mitski – Your Best American Girl
Weaves – Coo Coo
Margaret Glaspy – You and I
Forth Wanderers – Slop
Bent Shapes – New Starts In Old Dominion
Eskimeaux – WTF
Tancred – Sell My Head
Young Jesus – Baked Goods