Heartbreaking Bravery

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Tag: John Romano

Space Mountain – California Blue (Stream)

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Yes, Space Mountain sounds an awful lot like Trace Mountains– and not just in name. Make no mistake, though, while Dave Benton (also of LVL UP) and Cole Kinsler do share similar voices, similar solo project names, similar aesthetics, and similar deliveries- Space Mountain is still very much Kinsler’s own project. There’s a very strong identity that infuses both “California Blue” and “Love Song“, the two tracks Kinsler’s using to tease the forthcoming Wilderness Explorer. All things considered, the Space Mountain project may actually be veering closer towards Spit‘s incredible Getting Low. “California Blue” toys with a lot of different kinds of damage; personal, aesthetic, and structural being chief examples. It’s effortlessly compelling and carves out a place as an artist to watch for Space Mountain with genuine ease. Enchantingly layered and utterly heartfelt, this is the kind of lo-fi, left-of-center bedroom music well worth anyone’s devotion.

Listen to “California Blue” below and pre-order Wilderness Explorer from Space Mountain’s bandcamp.

Watch This: Vol. 55

With a few days of silence and a Watch This-less Sunday firmly in the past, today’s left with a lot of material to catch up on. Two weeks has provided a lot of great performances spread across a sizable range of styles, from full set in-studio sessions to solo acoustic takes. All but one of the bands featured in what will be the first of three Watch This installments has previously been featured on the site- with a great band from Columbus being the lone debut. It’s a lot to admire, a lot to celebrate, and a lot to analyze. So, as always, sit back, adjust the settings, focus, and Watch This.

1. Big Ups (KEXP)

Big Ups‘ Eighteen Hours of Static was one of 2014’s first great releases. All wild-eyed ferocity and unrelenting momentum, it marked the emergence of one of the more exciting young bands. While it still stands as one of the more notable records of the year, it’s since been overshadowed by the band’s incendiary live performance (it’s not a mistake that they keep showing up in this series). Here, they light up KEXP’s studios with a characteristically fiery five-song performance that should only facilitate their ascension. This is a band that fully deserves their growing recognition, don’t make the mistake of letting them slip by unnoticed.

2. Frankie Cosmos – Embody (Radio K)

Frankie Cosmos provided one of the most lovely sets of NXNE a few months back and since then, they’ve only grown more poised. Greta Kline’s an enviably gifted and incredibly prolific songwriter with a high ceiling. Nearly every Frankie Cosmos release has been a gem and ensured the band’s continued recognition. Airy pop songs like the excellent “Embody”, which they perform here for Radio K, are perfectly crafted pieces of- to quote the song- grace and lightness. It’s a warm embrace from an old friend, providing comfort and reassurance in equal measure; simply sublime.

3. Spit (Live at Treehaus)

Spit‘s Getting Low was one of the year’s quiet self-released records, exceedingly excellent but completely unheralded. Easily one of the best submissions this site’s ever received, the project’s now evolved from a solo venture to a full band endeavor- and what a band. Completely expanding on the Exploding in Sound-style tendencies that Getting Low hinted at, they’ve come out of the gate swinging with vicious intent. Spit’s only got one real show under their belt and they’re already very much a band to watch. Fuzzed out and appropriately left of center, this is a band worth greeting with high expectations- with this full live show serving as definitive proof.

4. Day Creeper – The Way You’re Told (The Mug and Brush Sessions)

Columbus, OH has been producing incredible bands at an alarming rate for some time now, with Day Creeper situated firmly in that pack. With a live show that’s just as ferocious as their recorded output, they’re always a great candidate for a feature performance- and the band absolutely lights up The Mug and Brush Sessions’ studio.
“The Way You’re Told” also serves as a tantalizing glimpse at the band’s upcoming Central States. If the rest of the record’s as good as this performance, they’ll have a serious contender on their hands.

5. Cloud Nothings – Now Hear In (Exclaim!)

A lot’s been made of Dylan Baldi’s vocal takes for Cloud Nothings. In most assessments, Jayson Gerycz’s drumming usually works its way into the central conversation (and rightfully so) but one thing that’s continuously evaded scrutiny is Baldi’s inventive guitar work. Stripped all the way back to a solo acoustic performance, it’s an aspect that’s allowed greater focus and opens up the impressive levels of songwriting happening in Cloud Nothings at present. Here, Baldi’s both restrained and subtly aggressive, providing a commanding performance that contributes to Cloud Nothings’ status as one of today’s most exciting bands.

Girlpool – Plants And Worms (Music Video)

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A lot has happened in the four-day leave that this site took- a leave that officially ends with this post- and there are so many things to cover. It’d be foolish to pretend that this week didn’t just belong to Sleater-Kinney, who released a career-spanning box set, a new single (that was accompanied by a lyric video), and announced their official return. As tempting as it was to take a stab at waxing poetic over everything that band and their return means, their reputation’s already been earned and a million similarly-minded sites will be doing that in the weeks to come. Instead, today’s light will be shined elsewhere and ultimately fall on the band that’s earned the most mentions on this site without ever getting the feature spot. Before Girlpool gets their well-deserved due, though, all three of the regular fields will be recapped, in the order that follows: single stream, full stream, and music video.

Legendary Wings teased their upcoming basement punk ripper Do You See with the excellent “Weather Advisory” while Kal Marks did the same for their forthcoming EP with the forward-thinking bruiser “Zimmerman“. Portastatic proved they haven’t lost a step with the surprisingly great indie pop tune “Hey Salty” and Mitski‘s lead-up campaign for Bury Me At Makeout Creek remained perfect with the entrancing “I Will“. VLMA’s “Slime” and Cellphone‘s “Bad Medusa” were both post-punk stompers good enough to snag each act a handful of new followers. Chris Weisman celebrated the completion of his long-gestating album Monet In The 90‘s by previewing the record with the quietly mesmerizing “Working On My Skateboarding“. Vacation put forth an incredible Jesus And Mary Chain cover, Dirt Dress continued their impressive evolution with “Twelve Pictures“, and Caddywhompus continued extending what have become increasingly massive creative strides with the near-perfect “Entitled“. Davila 666 unveiled the tantalizing “Primero Muertas” in advance of their upcoming record, Pocos Años, Muchos Daños, just as Parts & Labor offered a glimpse at their upcoming record, Receivers, with the outstanding “Nowehre’s Nigh“. Art Is Hard’s Pizza Club series entered its final stretch with Broadbay’s newest noise-punk excursion “Plasticine Dream“, Primitive Parts made a rousing case for being a band to watch out for with “The Bench“, and Wildhoney became the latest act on the stacked Deranged roster to start breaking through on the strength of their towering shoegaze number “Fall In“. Circulatory System turned a few heads with the noise-damaged psych-pop of “It Never Made A Sound” and site favorites Saintseneca released a lovely Lucinda Williams cover. To round things out in the more ambient-leaning fields, there was a stunner from James Blake and a gentle new piece from The Greatest Hoax that easily swam its way into the realms of the sublime.

As for full streams, most of the talk in regards to this week will be dominated by the year-end-bound RTJ2, which is to be fully expected when a sophomore effort absolutely topples its heavily acclaimed predecessor- but don’t let that distract from a slew of other investment-worthy releases. Lace Curtains’ A Signed Piece of Paper also managed to exceed the record it follows in terms of artistic merit- which is a trait that it shares with The Twilight Sad’s Nobody Wants To Be Here And Nobody Wants To Leave. The Unicorns’ Nick Thorburn made his uniquely charming score for the SERIAL podcast available via bandcamp and Fleeting Youth Records made their essential 33-track Blooming (A Fuzz-Fucked Compilationmixtape (which more than lives up to its name) available for streaming via soundcloud. French For Rabbits premiered their arresting folk-inflected Spirits over at Stereogum while NPR’s First Listen series hosted the premiere of Medicine‘s extraordinary Home Everywhere. The Omecs crafted a winsome throwback punk record which they’re now streaming on their bandcamp. Another record to be released via bandcamp, spit’s Getting Low, came dangerously close to being today’s feature by virtue of being a masterful work from an extremely promising songwriter (John Romano) that expertly straddles a curious line between Exploding in Sound and Orchid Tapes. Easily one of this month’s most fascinating records, it’s currently available over at bandcamp for a generous name-your-price fee. Don’t hesitate; this is music worth being in a wide array of collections.

In the music video category, Hurry had a blast with their clever clip for “Oh Whitney“, Dilly Dally got shrouded in smoke for “Candy Mountain“, and S gave the Tacocat bassist some peace of mind in the video for “Vampires“.  Ought danced their hearts out in “New Calm, Pt. 2“, Thurston Moore conducted a nightmarish clip for “Speak to the Wild” (Los Angeles Police Department’s woodland excursion for “Enough Is Enough” was far less menacing), and Split Single inverted normalcy with their positioning for “Monolith“. Broken Water set things up with no shortage of caution in “Love and Poverty“, The Coathangers cheekily provided what’s ostensibly both a puppet-centric video and a left-field visual tour diary in “Drive“, and Beverly cemented their beautiful stylistic approach to the music video format with “Yale’s Life“. DTCV mined a bevvy of filmic influences and utilized them to perfection for “Electrostatic, Inc.” while Public Access TV took a similar route for “In The Mirror“.  Allo Darlin’ kept things amusingly (and effectively) simple for “Bright Eyes“, Nano Kino set the airy “New Love” to a hypnotic visual collage, and Mannequin Pussy remained as energetic and unapologetic as ever with their lo-fi production for “My Baby (Axe Nice)“.

Now, that’s a lot of material to go through for just about anyone but none of those items hit with as hard of an impact as Girlpool‘s absolutely devastating animated video for “Plants and Worms”. From this video alone, it’s shockingly easy to see why such a huge subset of journalists and musicians have latched onto Girlpool so fiercely; their world-weariness, entirely relatable socio-political commentary, and compositional skills all suggest both an age and stage of career that’s vastly accelerated from the actuality of their current positions. The duo, Cleo Tucker and Harmony Tividad (17 & 18 years of age, respectively), are moving at an accelerated pace- release follows release, idea follows idea, and there’s barely any time for an active listener to breathe. Impressively, all of those pieces carry their own distinct identity and they’re frequently accompanied by weighty topics that most songwriters experience an immense struggle to present without tipping into the cloying or cliché. It can be hard to resist the temptation of excess when dealing with important messages and this is where Girlpool excels; not only are their thoughts presented articulately- they’re presented in a manner that’s plaintive enough to be devoid of any easy derision. There’s a deep-rooted humanism and empathy that’s present in their work which is something that will always be admirable- and in their deceptively minimal compositions, the music carries the burden of the weight of those topics to a degree that seems to mirror the band’s inherent level of mutual support.

For “Plants and Worms” they wound up pairing with illustrator Catleya Sherbow, whose art here also acts as a double for Girlpool’s processes. In the Rookie premiere of “Plants and Worms”, Tucker and Tividad give an interview that lends some insight to their history, ideals, and intentions, while revealing that “Plants and Worms” is about accepting the world and how much it has to offer once fear and trepidation is reduced to the point of near-elimination. Neither get any more specific than that- but they don’t need to because the illustration makes a variety of specific instances of everyday fear entirely evident: body image issues, self-image, depression, loneliness, and self-destruction. In Sherbow’s illustrations, everything’s presented as it would be in a children’s book; there’s a soft quality that undercuts the severity of the video’s implications providing a thoughtful contrast that suggests the darkest aspects of the song are universal- but also definitively states that they can be overcome. It’s a crushingly powerful video that becomes impossible to shake after one watch and positions Girlpool in the unlikely position of being a young duo who could (reasonably) become two of this generation’s sharpest social commentators. “Plants and Worms” is likely just the beginning- and it’s already too important to miss.

Watch “Plants and Worms” below and pre-order Girlpool (the EP which “Plants and Worms” is taken from) from Wichita here.