Heartbreaking Bravery

stevenmps2@gmail.com | @steven_mps | @hbreakbravery

Tag: John Rossiter

Young Jesus – Young Jesus (Album Review)

Well, it took an excessively long while but as of this post this site’s officially back on track and will be resuming its regular daily (or near-daily) schedule moving forward. Making things even sweeter is the incredible release of site favorites Young Jesus‘ self-titled record, which was teased back with the premiere of the “Green” music video a short while back.

Of course, that’s not the only thing that was worth checking out to find release over the first two days of the week. There were also great songs from Jessica Lea Mayfield, Milan to Minsk, Open Mike Eagle, Mavis Staples, and Acid Tongue. A quartet of clips served the music video format well with incredibly strong entries from Colter Wall (who nearly snagged the feature spot), The Man From Managra, Naomi Punk, and Stillwave. Finally, there was a great record unveiled in ViewMaster’s Alternative Classics that was quietly released a few weeks ago but it is more than worth hearing.

Back to the subject at hand: Young Jesus (and, more specifically, Young Jesus). There are some bands that refuse to do anything but grow and push themselves to extend their comfort zone, heighten their ambitions, and take genuine risks. Young Jesus, for nearly a decade now, has been one of those acts. Young Jesus stands as the most definitive example of the band’s willingness to experiment while still retaining the melancholic pull that anchored their earlier works.

From the opening section of Young Jesus it becomes apparent that the band’s decided to fully embrace the noise sections that have become a defining characteristic of their spellbinding live show in recent years. These sections crop up in the opening trio of tracks — “Green”, “River”, and “Eddy” — and don’t really recede from the foreground throughout the rest of the record, spare for a few of Young Jesus‘ lightest moments. Impressively, these sections always sound more pointed than meandering, a testament to Young Jesus’ grip on dynamics, structure, and pace.

Guitarist/vocalist (and A Year’s Worth of Memories contributor) John Rossiter continues to turn in some of the more unexpectedly moving lyric sets while taking a small shift towards the poetic. As always, the band Rossiter has both partially retained and partially assembled are immensely impressive, navigating towering sections with ease and composing arrangements that seem very attuned to emotional response.

While the record may only run for 7 tracks, the band makes them count, particular in the final stretch of the record. “Desert” (formerly “Every Little Landscape”), “Feeling”, and “Storm” all rank among the year’s finest tracks. Each of them contain some of Rossiter’s finest work as a lyricist and Young Jesus’ most sprawling and absorbing work as a band.

Combined, these three tracks run for nearly half an hour and account for the bulk of the record, nearly doubling the combined time of the first four tracks. They also touch on virtually everything that’s ensured this band would be a staple of this site’s coverage. There’s a wellspring of genuine emotion driving these particular songs and it’s readily apparent, from the genuinely pained vocal delivery in the mid-section of “Feeling” to the aggressive bloodletting of a later section in “Storm” to the hushed introspection of “Desert”, every blow hits its mark.

By the time Young Jesus winds to a close it almost feels akin to a great piece of epic literature, with its oscillating emotions, sweeping narratives, and central ideology. It’s a massive work from a band that’s quietly become one of America’s best and it deserves to have a legacy in its wake. Both a bold step forward for a band deeply uninterested in repeating former motions and one of the years finest — and most fascinating — efforts. An essential addition to any music lover’s collection.

Listen to Young Jesus below — and watch a series of videos of the band playing live underneath the bandcamp player — and pick it up from the band here.

Young Jesus – Green (Music Video Premiere)

More than five years have passed since site favorites Young Jesus released Home, a breakthrough of sorts that turned a select few heads at the time of its release. Back then, the band was still calling Chicago home and there were only a few evident hints at the kind of experimentation that would inform their later work. Now based in Los Angeles, the band’s continuing to evolve in a way that’s both unassuming and fearless.

The band’s been taking creative risks lately and those risks have led to riveting material, whether in the form of the ambient tape that paired with a conceptual zine that they were selling on their last tour, the noise sections spliced into their live show, or the winding free-form songs like Void as Lob‘s “Hinges“. No matter what’s being put forth by Young Jesus, there are two unifying threads: an intensity that threatens to overtake everything and split the songs apart at the seams as well as an abundance of feeling to drive those moments.

Most impressively, the band’s maintained a career trajectory that’s essentially just been one ascending line since the turn of the decade and the first look at their forthcoming self-titled full-length doesn’t do anything to dissuade the notion that’ll continue in earnest. “Green” is among the sharpest single entries in their catalog and the music video — premiering below — they’ve crafted as its complement suggests the band’s finding new levels of conviction in both their craft and their identity.

Directed by Jordan Epstein and taking place in a single room, “Green” makes an impression through its attention to detail and commitment to conceptual approach. Each band member is given time center-frame, adorned with a variety of props (furniture, plants, and yarn are all among the featured items). Accentuating everything is the decision to shoot the video as a stop-motion piece and continue the band’s winning penchant for incorporating animation into their clips.

Where “Green” separates itself from the band’s already overflowing — and deeply impressive — discography (and videography) lies in ambition. While everything the band’s done since a little after forming has been uniformly impressive, the pulse that’s always driven Young Jesus at its core seems to be reaching a fever pitch, as if the band’s found itself and has no qualms about what they’re aiming to achieve.

There’s a handful of dichotomies at play that fuel “Green” even further, whether it be the emotional intensity paired with the tacit relaxation surrounding the narrative or the meticulously detailed production design they afforded to a simplistic concept. All of those elements work in tandem to create something that feels removed enough from everything else to feel intangible but accessible enough to feel extraordinary. It’s one of the more quietly compelling moments of the year and more than proves that, while the band’s existence may be nearing the decade mark, they’ve still got a lot left to say.

Watch “Green” below and pre-order Young Jesus here.

The Best Records of 2017’s First Quarter

Just about three full months into 2017 and there have been a litany of great records. In that massively overcrowded field, there were still several records — full-lengths, compilations, EP’s, or otherwise — that managed to stand out. Below are 10 of the most gripping releases to have emerged in 2017’s first quarter, each making an impression that was felt, intensely, for one reason or another. Read about some of those reasons below and listen to each record in the selected embed (just make sure they’re all at the beginning of the record when you hit play). Enjoy.

MO TROPER – GOLD

Last year, Mo Troper put out a proper solo debut full-length, Beloved, which was one of five to receive this site’s Album of the Year designation. In February, Troper unleashed a new collection of songs that’d been written over the past several years and further solidified a status as one of this generation’s premier powerpop songwriters. Not a note’s out of place, the atmospherics serve the song, the melodies are earworms that last for days, and there’s an abundance of feeling driving another outstanding collection.

JOHN ROSSITER – NEVERENDING CATALOG OF TOTAL GARBAGE HEARTBREAK AGGREGATE

Young Jesus‘ name has appeared on this site several times over and John Rossiter‘s been a valuable contributor to the A Year’s Worth of Memories series. Last year, small batches of collections were being released under the Young Jesus name before being pulled because they weren’t full band efforts; all of those songs were Rossiter solo efforts. Thankfully, they recently re-emerged in a gorgeous compilation that ably, compellingly, and movingly demonstrates Rossiter’s formidable songwriting talents.

YUCKY DUSTER – DUSTER’S LAMENT

Easily one of the best releases of 2017’s first three months came in the form of an EP from Yucky Duster, a basement pop band that, seemingly impossibly, keeps finding ways to improve on each successive release. Duster’s Lament is the band’s finest work yet and continues drawing them even closer to attaining outright perfection. All five of the songs the band has on display here manage to be simultaneously carefree and incredibly memorable, entwining two aesthetics that are too frequently at odds. It’s masterful.

FRED THOMAS – CHANGER

A very early Album of the Year candidate, Fred Thomas‘ Changer saw the acclaimed songwriter continuing to elevate his craft in astonishing fashion. Easily Thomas’ sharpest lyrical effort to date, there’s also an urgency to these songs that push them forward with sincerity, feeling, and an irrepressible need to get these statements out into the world. Musically, it’s Thomas’ most ambitious work to date by a considerable stretch and, overall, a triumph bearing a magnitude and scope that’s impossible to ignore.

CLOUD NOTHINGS – LIFE WITHOUT SOUND

Cloud Nothings‘ discography, up to this point, has been littered with superlative releases. When a band achieves that kind of consistency, it’s fair to have high expectations for their new releases. Still, Life Without Sound, the band’s latest, manages to transcend its anticipation and wind up as not only the band’s most ambitious and inventive release but, somehow, its most representative as well. All of the bands eras are fused together here to create a spellbinding work that’s proven to be difficult to forget.

MEAT WAVE – THE INCESSANT

There are a handful of concept records that are widely regarded as some of the greatest releases of all time, despite some hamfisted tendencies. Meat Wave‘s The Incessant side-steps both the trappings of concept records and their characteristically overbearing nature by releasing a collection of acutely pointed missives dealing with one specific topic: the swirling vortex of incoming emotions after a life-altering event. The result is a record that serves as the band’s most abrasive, ambitious, and intense effort to date.

BEACHHEADS – BEACHHEADS

Upon learning at least one member of Kvelertak was in Beachheads, the band’s debut full-length came as a joyous-yet-jarring left turn. Trafficking in sunny powerpop that takes most of its cues from the genres forebears, Beachheads wound up being a deeply unexpected delight. Every song on Beachheads boasts sublime moments and evokes the sort of open-road-and-sunshine aesthetic that’s been so vital to the genres most enduring classics. Beachheads give that aesthetic a slightly modern spin and wind up with a summery gem.

MIDDLE CHILDREN – EARTH ANGEL

Patrick Jennings has been directly responsible for a lot of the music that’s hit me the hardest over the past seven years so news of a solo project was very welcome. Unsurprisingly, given Jennings’ track record (and what he’d accomplished with both Hot New Mexicans and PURPLE 7), Earth Angel is an incredible work. One of the best records likely to be released in 2017, Earth Angel is a quiet, brilliant, and unassuming encapsulation of what’s made Jennings such an essential (if woefully overlooked) voice in today’s music landscape.

STEF CHURA – MESSES

Ever since 2010’s self-titled effort, Stef Chura has been steadily improving, perfecting a strand of punk-tinged basement pop that’s immensely appealing. Messes, Stef Chura’s latest, is the most perfect distillation of this brand of music the act’s offered up yet, thanks in part to the contributions of Fred Thomas (who, as this list indicates, is on a white-hot streak of great releases). Still, Thomas’ contributions wouldn’t mean nearly as much if the source material wasn’t so involving. Messes is the sound of an artist coming into their own and, as a result, the work present on the record winds up being antithetical to the record’s title.

RICK RUDE – MAKE MINE TUESDAY

One of the most intriguing releases of 2017’s earliest stretch came in the form of Rick Rude‘s sprawling, shape-shifting Make Mine Tuesday. Easily the band’s boldest — and best — release in a very strong discography that was uniformly unafraid to take risks, Make Mine Tuesday succeeds as both a masterclass in forward-thinking composition and as a record with immense replay value; these are intricate songs that never seem to get old or become any less engaging. A scintillating mixture of wiry post-punk and basement pop, Make Mine Tuesday finds Rick Rude reaching unprecedented heights. One can’t help but wonder, especially after a release like this one, if they’ll ever return to earth.

2016: A Year’s Worth of Memories

Heartbreaking Bravery recently went offline but all facets of the site are back to being fully operational. Apologies for any inconveniences. All posts that were slated to run during that brief hiatus will appear with this note.

Once again, I’d like to start off with thanking the 2016 crop of contributors for A Year’s Worth of Memories: James Greer, Lindsey-Paige McCloy, Amanda Dissinger, Loren DiBlasi, Katie Preston, Erica Sutherland, Nicola Leel, Jesse Amesmith, Phil McAndrew, Lindsay Hazen, John Rossiter, Sonia Weber, Lily Mastrodimos, Eric Slick, Jerard Fagerberg, Megan Manowitz, Amar Lal, Phyllis Ophelia, Elise Okusami, Isaac Eiger, Alisa Rodriguez, Ryan Wizniak, Nora Scott, Natalie Kirch, and Jessica Leach. There aren’t words powerful enough to adequately convey my gratitude for your efforts, time, care, and consideration. Apologies to anyone that may have contributed something that got lost in the shuffle (if this is you, please send me a note and we can try to work something out for next year).

As you may have noticed, every single entry into this year’s edition of A Year’s Worth of Memories (this one included) either ran or is running with the disclaimer up top. At the start of the year, Heartbreaking Bravery was effectively forced into a hiatus to work out technical complications that occurred due to what essentially amounted to a correspondence glitch. All sorts of things went haywire and reconnecting all the wires was a surprisingly difficult task. A number of things got lost in the shuffle.

For a brief time, I thought about ending the site permanently but reading back through the material that was still left on the table — as well as some of the material that was posted in the past — dissuaded me from calling it quits. These pieces needed to be published and it felt important, maybe even necessary, to continue this site.

While the timing may have rendered the 2016 installment of A Year’s Worth of Memories a little less timely than I would have liked, the pieces themselves largely transcended the time capsule-style trappings typically attributed to these types of works. Many touched on lessons that seemed timeless. All of them made me question what I’d eventually choose to write about it and how I’d present it whenever I did choose. The piece I wrote last year  was outrageously long and I didn’t want to go through something that exhausting again.

Eventually, I decided the best route would be to combine some of the common traits laid out by the 2016 series: splitting the piece into four pieces, focusing on personal triumphs while making room for gnawing anxieties, visual interludes, and paying tribute to the people and events that are worth celebrating. All that and more can be read below.

++

SMALL FESTS & SHOWS

2016 was the year of small festivals; I’d always preferred them to the spectacle-laden retreats that seem to dominate the news cycles every year. Many of these small-scale events I’d been trying to see for years and 2016 just wound up being kind enough to allow me access to events like FRZN Fest, Wicker Park Fest, and Eaux Claires, among others. Unsurprisingly, each held its own share of memorable frustrations and scintillating highlights. In no particular moment, here are some of the standout moments.

Chicago was atypically warm for last year’s annual Music Frozen Dancing, which saw Muuy Biien, Meat Wave, The Spits, and the Black Lips playing outdoors to a packed crowd outside of the Empty Bottle. While all of the bands were good and the Black Lips, as they always do, managed to invoke the high school memories of discovering and participating in that genre of music, nothing could’ve topped Meat Wave unveiling “Glass Teeth” from what would eventually become their next record.

Ragged and sick, the band tore into the new material with the kind of excitement reserved for new material. It was a standout moment of a day that refused to end (my friend Josh and I wound up taking three different forms of public transit after the trains stopped running) after an off-the-books Heavy Times show wrapped in the early hours of the morning. It was a surreal moment and allowed for an extended view of Chicago at night. Exhausted, content, and desperate to get back to our sleeping quarters, it was a difficult night to forget.

Months later, I’d return for the unreasonably stacked Wicker Park Fest, excited to see a long list of friends and more than a few bands that had been on my bucket list. The weather had different plans. Not only did getting turned around on the way to the fest’s first day wind up forcing me to walk a few extra miles before being saved by a generous taxi driver who offered me a free ride after the first rain of the weekend started descending, more than half of the bands I’d intended to see got cancelled because of storms on both days.

Nearly as soon as I got through the gates, I was already rushing to take shelter with a bunch of other festivalgoers who had effectively sequestered themselves in Reckless Records, which would eventually lose power and offer up a faint glow with candles set up in various parts of the store People browsed records, reading materials, and gathered by the wind to watch the storm lift tents out of the ground and send them ricocheting down Paulina St. There was an odd magic to it all.

There were bright musical spots in the midst of all of that chaos, though, including an unbelievably explosive Jeff Rosenstock set that saw the songwriter leaping over the barricade gap, guitar still attached, to crowdsurf at the end of an abbreviated set. The whirlwind nature of Rosenstock’s performance, which came after the storm delays and restrictions were lifted, felt like an appropriate maelstrom of energy; a whirlwind performance driven by some unknowable force.

Five or six songs in length, it’d wind up being the highlight of the festival. Somewhere nearby, one of the trains on the blue line wound up getting blown off the rails by the intense winds and caused festival organizers to proceed with extra caution on the second day, which was hit with an even worse run of weather.

I spent much of that day with Sasha Geffen — the fist young music journalist I can remember truly admiring — who was with me when I was forming the initial idea for A Year’s Worth of Memories and was a vital part of its finalization. We took in great, sunny sets from Bad Bad Hats and Diet Cig before the storm reappeared and spent a lot of time in a powerless Emporium Arcade. During that run — which forced cancellations of both Pile and PUP — I was also fortunate enough to meet A Year’s Worth of Memories contributor David Anthony.

The last memorable moment of that festival caught me paralyzed in between two stages, with Ought ripping into “More Than Any Other Day” on one side and Alvvay‘s launching into “Archie, Marry Me” on the other. I took in both, unable to choose between two of the best songs of the past ten years before rushing over to Ought, who had their industrial sensibilities enhanced by their backdrop, trains running along the blue line in the background while being cloaked in a calm, post-storm glow. It was a perfect way to cap a very chaotic festival.

Three more small festivals had their fair share of spectacular moments as well: Bon Iver debuting an entire record at Eaux Claires, sending chills down my spine for the entirety of “715 – CR∑∑KS” while crickets audibly chirped on the forest perimeter, their sound elevated by the reverential silence of a crowd of thousands. Tickle Torture playing shortly after that set and delivering a slew of the festival’s best moments, including a finale that saw bandleader Elliot Kozel (formerly of Sleeping in the Aviary) getting completely naked while screaming “MY LOVE!” at the top of his lungs. That day starting at the gates, listening to the sounds of an expanded Tenement lineup blowing away a festival crowd and spending that day in the presence of some of my favorite people, including A Year’s Worth of Memories contributors Nina Corcoran (who I wrote about for my piece last year) and Sam Clark (who has played in more than one band with me).

Turkey Fest’s final day had a stellar lineup boasting four great acts: Wood Chickens, Trampoline Team, The Hussy, and Nobunny, with the latter two delivering incredible sets full of ridiculous high-energy antics. FRZN Fest had more than a few moments that wound up being burned into my memory. None more frustrating than an infuriatingly chatty crowd refusing to give Julien Baker anything beyond a modicum of courtesy. None more exciting than a characteristically perfect Charly Bliss set that had me continuously grinning while singing along to songs that comprised the best EP of this current decade and will litter one of 2017’s best records.

As much as I love both Julien Baker and Charly Bliss, though, there was something about Torres‘ set that felt almost holy. Playing after a good Eternal Summers set and the best Palehound set I’ve seen to date, Torres dove headfirst into a set that alternately gave me chills, lifted my spirits, calmed me, and — almost inexplicably — at one point had me on the verge of tears. To top it all off, Torres’ goosebump-inducing one-song encore wound up being tantamount to a religious experience that included a lovely moment between bandleader Mackenzie Scott and my friend Justin. I was fortunate enough to capture that moment in full and revisit it frequently.

For individual shows, there were a number of great outings that were peppered with heartening moments lingering around the peripheries of the main event. Walking into the High Noon Saloon to be greeted with an onslaught of hugs from my friends in Yowler, Eskimeaux, and Frankie Cosmos, only to be whisked away for a coffee reprieve in a nearby shop by Gabby, Greta, and A Year’s Worth of Memories contributor Athylia Paremski, before circling back to a powerhouse show. Charly Bliss and PUP combining for what was, bar none, the most intense show I’ve ever experienced (at one point I was nearly choked out by a girl clutching the neckline of my shirt to keep herself upright in the swirling sea of chaos behind me).

As meaningful as both of those shows were, though, it would have been impossible for anyone to top an event that occurred early on in December: the official reunion of Good Grief, a band that meant an extraordinary amount to me that was nearly gone forever, taking place in Guu’s, the tavern that’s acted as a refuge for me during my various stints in my home town. People from the shows that dominated my fondest Stevens Point memories from that run all flooded in from various parts of the upper Midwest to see this take place and everyone lost their voices screaming along. Making things even sweeter: an opening set from Heavy Looks, led in part by my friend Rosalind Greiert, watching her hit a stride as both a writer and performer, and feeling an irrepressible rush of a million good feelings as I watched her come into her own in real time.

To see something like that happening (both the Heavy Looks set and the Good Grief set), surrounded by friends so close they’re considered family, engaging in something meaningful is an exhilarating feeling and a lot of people who were present are likely still feeling some of those feelings reverberations. Good Grief weren’t exactly a household name before their dissolution but they were — and remain — one of the best bands I’ve ever had the pleasure of seeing. Get caught up by watching the videos from that reunion set right here:

PLAYING MUSIC

In 2016, I had the good fortune of playing the most shows in any given year that I probably ever have in my life. In addition to finishing writing a (forthcoming) solo record, I was able to play in three different bands with people I respect, admire, and care for deeply.

The band I played with the least was the band that I’d played with the most in 2015, A Blue Harbor. Geographic complications have essentially forced us into a hiatus by the middle of the year but we were still able to play a few shows in support of the full-length we’d recorded in Minneapolis in 2015, including a local show for a pop-up art gallery for an arts collective that made me feel a surge of hope for our small town. As unlikely as it seems at this point, something tells me the things this band has to offer have been far from exhausted (and our guitarist/vocalist, Matty, has been releasing a continuous string of excellent material on her own).

I accepted an invitation to join a new band called Doorstopper and have taken up residency behind  the kit. Jarad Olson, the bassist for both Good Grief and Heavy Looks as well as an incredible songwriter in his own right, had teamed up with our friend Melissa Haack to allow her poetry a musical platform in an odd experiment that’s been paying the type of dividends that I’m legitimately not sure any of us had expected. It’s become a band whose mantra has remained — and with good reason — “let’s get weird.” It’s a band that has been given the tag “premenstrual post-punk” and it’s the type of band that takes a suggestion for a “doom-wop” song seriously. And it’s a band that hasn’t stopped getting better and more interesting with each successive practice.

While Doorstopper has been occupying itself in the shadows, building something interesting, I also found myself being re-integrated into a resurgent Holly & the Nice Lions, who played all over the state of Wisconsin in 2016, with a host of fascinating bands. Some of those bands (Bad Wig, Midnight Reruns) were made up of the people we’ve been close friends with for years. Some of those bands (Young Jesus, POPE, Mo Troper) constitute the best emerging bands America has to offer.

One of those bands (Bully) has earned international acclaim. One of those bands (The Muffs) continues to be rightfully revered as not only icons but living legends. Through all of those shows, the weird parties surrounding them, and everything else that the minutiae of being in band carries, we’ve grown closer as a unit and I’m proud to consider both of the other members as family. Whether we were being towed to a house show after blowing a tire or playing hard enough to generate our own blood, we’ve found ways to continuously elevate each other, keep each other in check, and look out for each other. Show after show, song after song, the band kept getting better and we — impossibly — kept enjoying each other’s company more. It’s hard to imagine a better situation.

MY PARTNER

For all of the memorable things I was able to do in both film and music throughout 2016, by the year’s end none of it felt as meaningful as it would have if I didn’t get to share it with my partner, Simone. Throughout the last quarter of the year, we went from being good friends to being inseparable, willfully colliding at nearly every turn. I learned to rediscover the depths of my love for discovering new music by viewing it through her eyes. I rediscovered the importance of engaging in active good. I made up my mind to constantly strive to better myself in productive ways.

A series of shared trips to the various corners of the state of Wisconsin led to some genuinely unforgettable moments, whether it was carving out new, unbeaten paths in gorgeous parks on beautiful days or getting swept up in the (typically far too humid) intensity of shows in basements, dive bars, or anywhere else we might find people playing instruments (or picking up instruments of our own to play each other Bishop Allen songs). I’ll steal her glasses, she’ll steal my camera. We’ll laugh, we’ll listen, we’ll watch, and we’ll keep moving forward.

The survival of Heartbreaking Bravery can, in many ways, be directly attributed to her involvement in my life. All of the frustrating, terrifying events that have happened over the course of the year’s last stretch seemed easier to weather with her at my side and she’s constantly given me at least one major reason to celebrate the future. I’m thankful, grateful, and unbelievably lucky.

A STEP FORWARD

By the end of 2016, Heartbreaking Bravery had gained additional purpose. In the face of one of the most anti-arts (and anti-press) administrations in America’s history, the need to fight back by any means necessary increased. Even before the election, the fact that the current president’s campaign had carried him so far was troublesome. With a milestone rapidly approaching for the site, that happening at the forefront of the nation’s political landscape (and, more directly, America’s landscape), and an unending desire to be productive and actively contribute to good causes, I chose to resolve all of my feelings into one massive project: A Step Forward.

At first, I only expected a handful of people to be interested in contributing to the project. More than half of the artists I reached out to responded immediately and gifted the compilation, designed to serve as Heartbreaking Bravery’s 1000th post, incredible material. In a matter of weeks, I had more than 50 songs kicking around in my inbox. A few months later, my finger was lingering above the publish button, set to release 100 songs from 100 artists that had, in some way or another, been involved with this site’s history. By that point, I’d enlisted the help of Jes Skolnik to locate worthy causes and had struck up a correspondence with the Chicag0-based Rape Victim Advocates. All of the money made from the pay-your-own pricetag of A Step Forward would be going towards that organization.

Looking through all of the songs, whether they were demos, early mixes, new songs, remixes, or old favorites, and all of the artists who had chosen to give me a part of their lives because they believed in the things I was doing and the causes I was supporting was an overwhelming feeling. A lot of people that have had near-death experiences have described the sensation of seeing their life flash before their eyes and, in that moment with my finger hovering over the button to release this compilation, it was hard not to take stock of everything that had happened in my life over the course of this site’s existence. It was a jarring feeling but one that filled me with hope and with love for the people who have supported this place, stuck by my side, and lent their voice to any of the various projects to have run on Heartbreaking Bravery.

I was on the verge of tears when I woke up to the flood of responses the compilation had elicited and how much it had generated for people who put the funds to good use. I’d stayed up for nearly 50 straight hours getting the preparations for the project in place. Cody Dyb, one of my closest friends, was kind enough to let me use his internet to upload the materials (the internet at my house is obscenely slow) and I’d collapsed into a deep sleep shortly after returning home. Phil McAndrew, one of my favorite artists working today (and a regular contributor to this series), contributed an original piece to the project that has become one of my most-treasured renderings.

In the weeks leading up to A Step Forward‘s released, I’d done an ink sketch of what would become Heartbreaking Bravery’s logo. Petite League’s Lorenzo Cook — another Syracuse-based artist whose band contributed an incredible song to the compilation — meticulously tightened and superimposed the logo onto the image for the album art and the banner that can be seen at the top of this segment. I’m unbelievably grateful for both of their contributions and am lucky to count them both as friends. I also have to give special mention, once more, to Fred Thomas.

For more than a few years, I’ve considered Thomas to be one of the best lyricists in music (2017’s Changer finds him attaining stratospheric highs). When I reached out to him about the project and he suggested a song tackling the weird inter-scene dynamics that occur around someone being outed as a sexual predator, I wasn’t just flattered, I was flattened. That the ensuing work would be one of his strangest — partially inspired by S U R V I V E’s outstanding Stranger Things score work and a nice (if unintentional) nod to that particular act’s name — felt appropriate. “What Happens When the Costumes Come Off” is a song that perfectly embodied the tumultuous events that led to the formation of A Step Forward in my mind and has resonated with me ever since my first, oddly disorienting listen. There’s fear present in that song, there’s an incessant questioning, there’s a feeling of damage, but — most importantly — there is a feeling of resilience.

It’s that final feeling, resilience, that I’ve chosen to carry into 2017. With what America’s currently facing, resilience will be necessary. I’ve already been inspired by my friends’ resilience and generosity and I’ve vowed to carry on that spirit as best as possible. I’ve vowed to both make more room for and to elevate the voices of the groups who have been unfairly othered due to location, socioeconomic standing, or — infuriatingly — appearance, religious beliefs, sexual orientation, or gender identity. Historically, the people that have followed this site have shared a similar mindset and I’m constantly humbled by their company. We’re all in this fight together and it’s important to listen to the fears, concerns, and desires of the people that have been denied a platform for the worst reasons all too frequently.

The shows and festivals made 2016, in turns, fascinating, frustrating, and genuinely exciting. The people I was fortunate enough to be playing some of those shows provided 2016 a level of comfort. My partner not only served as a constant source of inspiration but continuously reminded me of the good in the world and all of the reasons that hope should never be abandoned. A Step Forward taught me that I’ll never be alone in my belief that empathy, camaraderie, and compassion will always find a way to thrive and that now, more than ever, it’s important to carry on the work, the ideology, and the spirit of Heartbreaking Bravery. I will do my best to personally embody whatever legacy it may have at every single turn and I will always be honored by the company it’s allowed me to share. 2017 may seem bleak from the outset but I have every reason to find heart in the fight to ensure it’s better than what we expect.

++

Of course, this series wouldn’t be complete if I didn’t thank everyone who’s contributed through the years. As I said earlier, all of your contributions — and the fact that you care at all — mean more than I could ever convey with just words. So thank you, again, to both all of those names listed at the top of this post and all of the following names for their past contributions: Loren DiBlasiSabyn Mayfield, Tica Douglas, Fred ThomasIsabel ReidySami Martasian, Ben GriggBella Mazzetti, David Anthony, Jamie Coletta, Chris SutterCole Kinsler, Gabriela June Tully Claymore, Stephen TringaliToby Reif, Elaiza Santos, Amelia Pitcherella, Katie Bennett, Miranda Fisher, Christine Varriale, Sam Clark, Julia Leiby, Kelly Johnson, Jessi Frick, Nicholas Cummins, Athylia Paremski,  David GlickmanSasha Geffen, Jeanette Wall, Eva Grace Hendricks, Caroline Rayner, Joseph Barchi, Edgar GonzalezShari Heck, Michael Caridi, Dave Benton, Cynthia Ann Schemmer, Tess Duncan, Michelle Zauner, Jeff Bolt, Katie Capri, Quinn Moreland, Oliver Kalb, Ali Donohue, Ray McAndrew, Christopher Good, David Sackllah, Rick Maguire, Stephen Pierce, Johanna Warren, and Patrick Garcia.

As always, I love you all.

2016: A Year’s Worth of Memories (John Rossiter)

Heartbreaking Bravery recently went offline but all facets of the site are back to being fully operational. Apologies for any inconveniences. All posts that were slated to run during that brief hiatus will appear with this note.

One of the bands that Heartbreaking Bravery was built to celebrate was Young Jesus. Ever since Home, the band’s been consistently releasing some of the best material of any year they put something out. The band’s leader, John Rossiter (pictured left), has been kind enough to provide this site with a whole array of material for premieres and publishing, including a piece for the last edition of A Year’s Worth of Memories. Rossiter’s graciously returning for this year’s edition with a piece examining some moments on the bands tours and revelations gleaned from introspection. Read it below.

++

Too many thoughts for this year. Too too many. I don’t even know where to begin and I think that’s part of the point– part of this dark and swirling and sordid winter of a U.S. soul. There’s no single laser-focus problem or answer (I know this is nothing new but I don’t know what else to write).

I wanna write to you like I know you. Maybe we’ve played the same houses, seen the same bands, read the same books. And still you are DISTANT— on some computer or phone (like me right now). There are strands here though, the tiniest bridges or strings. Cobwebs connecting us in some real tenuous ways. Tenuous but they’re there. Together in the no-answer?

This year was, like the last few years, full of touring, recording, work. We played an exhausted two hour improv set in Yorkville, IL where (looking back on it) we probably sounded something like Phish meets Neu!. I got a fever in Houston and missed out on Fuddruckers. Slept on a ranch with ten huskies and a few horse in the middle of a Dallas thunderstorm. Time’s gone gauzy and Like Bill Callahan said in “Jim Cain“, “I used to be darker, then I got lighter, then I got dark again. Something too big to be seen was passing over and over me.”

There was a line from a tune we released this year, where it culminates in me yelling, “I am ashamed to believe in myself!” The more I think about it, the more the whole idea changes. Maybe it doesn’t matter whether I believe in myself. I’ve come to believe in the constant flux construction of it all– the distance and intimacy between me, Eric, Kern, Marcel (the band)– our families, our friends, people at shows– the daily strange process of living.

I’m trying to grant it a certain vigilance and respect and thought. Consideration of space (for people, for things). I don’t know you but I believe in this daily effort, the slow strengthening of our tiny strings. There are Too-Big-Things passing over us. We’ll be around. I’m not sure what kinda model to follow, how our music should be released, at what level our actions need to speak of resistance and care. But I wanna talk about it and hear what you think.

Young Jesus – Neverending Catalogue of Total Garbage (EP Review)

youngjesus

As another week begins, another slate of new streams finds their way out into the world. DonCat, Public Eye, Joyce Manor, Lydia Loveless, Notches, James Edge and the Mindstep, Midnight Faces, Zula, Swoon Lake, and Naked Giants all unveiled strong tracks. There were also impressive music videos from Teen Suicide and Dennis Callaci as well as formidable full streams from Thee Oh Sees and Puppy. While those proved to be fascinating titles, site favorites Young Jesus secured themselves another headline spot with the surprise release of the Neverending Catalogue of Total Garbage EP, which sees bandleader John Rossiter continuing the influx of new material that was promised with last month’s extraordinary “1“.

In keeping with the pattern set by “1”, all of the song titles are assigned numbers and pick up after “2“. Don’t be fooled by the chronological system, each of these four tracks are imbued with the singular personality that’s defined the band’s past few releases. A recurrent thread throughout that past work has been an intangible sadness that finds intriguing ways to manifest. The most direct examples of that trait tend to be Rossiter’s lyricism, which tends to evoke an empathetic, even contemplative sense of basic understanding.

Right from the outset of Neverending Catalogue of Total Garbage, those characteristics are in full effect. “3” is the kind of genre-defying slow-burner that’s become a Rossiter specialty, melancholic and memorable. “Act like I’m seeing with my eyes, act like I’m bleeding all the time. I’m doing fine, I’m doing fine.” is the line that closes out “3” and one of Neverending Catlaogue of Total Garbage‘s most defining moments. It’s simultaneously an unfiltered look at the fractured psyche of the central narrator and a therapeutic release.

While “4” and “6” both sustain the EP’s sense of trajectory, they’re slightly more experimental affairs (the latter, especially so). Even with that experimentation, there are moments of bruised romanticism, underscoring the potential value of this entire project on a grand scale. “5” may be the most traditional inclusion of Neverending Catalogue of Total Garbage and the first of the new recordings to incorporate any sort of percussion. The song also manages to be one of the EP’s most direct moments and still retains the EP’s sense of poetry.

All told, Neverending Catalogue of Total Garbage is a thing of beauty. As a reaffirmation of Young Jesus’ innate artistic ability, it’s heartening. As a continuation of a standalone project, the EP is fascinating. As its own entity, it’s surprisingly essential. Antithetical to its title at every turn, Neverending Catalogue of Total Garbage winds up being a perfect example of 2016’s unexpected vibrancy. Don’t let this surprise release become a glossed-over footnote, provide it with the investment it deserves and walk away rewarded.

Listen to Neverending Catalogue of Total Garbage below and pick it up here.

Young Jesus – 1 (Stream)

youngjesus

Over the past six days, this site’s experienced another brief hiatus (due to both a conflicting travel schedule and a significant amount of preparation time for a forthcoming project). In that time, there were excellent streams that were unveiled by Left & Right, Russian Circles, Las Kellies, Jenny Hval, Vomitface, Corbu, Wovenhand, Royal Oakie, Grieving, Creative Adult, Kestrels, Dream Cult, Chris Staples, and Liam Betson. Site favorites Young Jesus joined the ranks of bands offering up new songs in spectacular fashion with the aching, bittersweet “1”.

Young Jesus’ recent track record has been astonishing. From delivering two of the finest records to be released in the present decade to turning in a few breathtaking live shows, the band’s provided several reasons to keep their name in circulation. Now, we’re all set to be spoiled. Guitarist/vocalist and principal songwriter John Rossiter has set in motion a plan to record, release, and possibly write a new song for each coming week for an indefinite period of time.

Just a few days ago, the first of those songs arrived in the form of “1”, a track teeming with the half-mournful/half-hopeful quality that marks the best of the band’s work. What starts off as a defeatist lullaby soon exceeds its seemingly stark restrictions and blooms into something magnetic and intangible. With just an acoustic guitar and a gentle vocal pattern, Rossiter conjures up a depth of feeling that slowly pulls the listener down, sinking them peacefully into the song as it progresses.

When everything fades at the end, the overall experience feels nearly spiritual; while “1” barely runs past two minutes its ability to form both a world and a feeling so vividly that it doesn’t feel right to measure it in any standard metric. It’s a gorgeous song from a songwriter operating at the top of his game and deserves to hold coveted spots on playlists, spots in any serious music collection, and more praise than it’ll likely receive. Most of all, it simply deserves to be heard.

Listen to “1” below and download the song here.

Young Jesus – Void As Lob (Single Review, Live Video)

IMG_1658

Wednesday proved to be exceptionally busy and just as fruitful, unloading a whole host of excellent material in all three major categories. For single songs, there were strong new offerings from Leapling, Dories, Feels, Dogbreth, Vacation, Nils Frahm, Big Jesus, Broncho, No Joy, Haux, Iji, American Monoxide, Look Mexico, Jenny Hval, Cedar Spring MotelThee Oh Sees, and VHS. As if that wasn’t enough there were also great clips from Honus Honus, Dentist, and Cloud Becomes Your Hand as well as impressive full streams from Clique, Karen Meat, and New England Beach Snobs.

All of those titles are worthy of healthy investment but it was a single release from last week that slipped through the coverage cracks to earn today’s feature spot. Occasionally those gaps in coverage are caused by a clerical error, occasionally they’re caused by the wait for an announcement, sometimes (like in the case of this post), it’s a little bit of both. Last week Young Jesus released their latest single, Void As Lob, which pairs live staple “Baked Goods” with the more stream-of-conscious “Hinges”. Earlier today, they announced their Wisconsin date for their tour with fellow site favorites POPE, providing a perfect opportunity to bring up their latest release.

Void As Lob is the band’s first single since last year’s Grow/Decompose, which rightfully earned a place in this site’s Best Albums of 2015 list. The new single continues an astonishing winning streak that started with their breakout effort, Home (which remains a very real Album of the Decade candidate) , and has spanned four years, a cross-country move, a lineup shift, several tours, and an unpredictable rollercoaster of other peaks and valleys. “Baked Goods” and “Hinges”, in that respect, could have easily served as a victory lap but opt for a more challenging approach that makes it abundantly clear that Young Jesus is committed to perpetual growth.

The band’s guitarist/vocalist and principal songwriter (and A Year’s Worth of Memories contributor) John Rossiter revealed that both “Baked Goods” and “Hinges” were the most personal he’s allowed himself to be in his songwriting in some time and that honesty’s evidenced and enhanced by his impassioned delivery, which cuts a touch more sharply than usual.

“Baked Goods” opens up the two-song collection with a narrative that invokes characters from the band’s past as it looks to the future, flashing a renewed emphasis on obtuse storytelling that’s punctuated by acute detail. Musically, it’s a sprawling odyssey that complements the song’s thematic structure to a tee, playing perfectly into Young Jesus’ penchant to defy genres with an instrumental tapestry that pulls from enough sources to sound legitimately singular.

“Hinges” sees the band continuing on in that function, only this time opting to scale back Rossiter’s songwriting flourishes in favor of something more unflinchingly immediate and bravely direct. After a somber piano figure opens the song, “Hinges” evolves into one of the band’s most impressive songs to date. Quiet and heartbreaking, “Hinges” hits its culmination with one simple line: I am ashamed to believe in myself. It’s a line that hits with enough blunt force to knock the wind out of just about anyone, all at once amplifying a host of darkly intimate moments.

As Void As Lob dies out in “Hinges” final moments, which exclusively focus on personal disintegration, the entire release feels like its much more than just two songs. In just over nine minutes, Young Jesus issue a searing statement of intent. Now that they’re firmly settled into their current iteration in their current home, they’re ready to look forward to the future, even if that requires tearing themselves apart. It’s a bold gambit but they’re talented enough to exercise total control and that control pays off beautifully. Void As Lob may only be comprised of two songs but it confidently stands as one of the most exquisite releases of 2016.

Listen to Void As Lob below and pick it up from the band here. Below the bandcamp embed, watch a live clip of the band performing “Baked Goods” last fall.

Watch This: The Honorable Mentions of 2016’s First Quarter

It’s been quite some time since their was an installment of Watch This, Heartbreaking Bravery’s weekly (when on schedule) round-up of the finest work in the live video field. Coverage is generally split between individual performances and full sessions that are captured in places like basements and professional radio studios. Though there has yet to be a volume of Watch This in 2016, the information regarding the series was collected diligently while it remained quiet.

Due to the overwhelming bevvy of material that’s surfaced over the past three months, the below collection while simply be given via hyperlinks. There’s a lot of information to digest here and — due to the nature of press cycles when bands are on tour — several acts will be listed more than once. Like the recent round-ups, this will be literally impossible to watch in one sitting. The best way to view this material will be to simply bookmark this page and explore the content at random, all of which is definitely worthy of some investment.

More round-ups will follow focusing on the best of the best of the 2016 Watch This field of candidates. Until then, enjoy these examples of excellency in the live video format.

Deep Sea Diver, Lip Talk, Strange Attractor, Potty Mouth, Expert Alterations, Nathaniel Rateliff, Shearwater, Shade, Indian Askin, Mount Moriah, The Wild Reeds, Ty Segall & The Muggers, Kevin Morby, Margaret Glaspy, Seratones, Kakkmaddafakka, Dr. Dog, Valley Queen (x2), Bantam Lyons, Rob Sutherland, Cosmonaut, Alabama Shakes, Long Beard, I Am Oak, Albert Hammond Jr., Amber Arcades, Victoria Reed, Dilly Dally, Sunflower Bean (x2), Fauna Shade, SEGO, Lissie, Declan McKenna, Billie Marten, Adult
Mom

Matt Vasquez, Bird Courage, Nap Eyes, Fraternal Twin, Giant Peach, Lola Marsh, Minnoe, Civic, Kamasi Washington, John Rossiter, Bummed Out Still Glowing,
Little Hurricane, The Perennials, Timothy Bloom, Duncan Sheik, Dilly Dally, Oscar, Langhorne Slim, Rob Courtney, Hinds, Into It. Over It., Bombino, Frank Bell, Ancient Whales (x2), Ripper, Eerie Wanda, The Dazies, Vinyl Thief, Alright Panther (x2), Julia Holter, BRAEVES, Stone Cold Fox, Painted Zeros, The Hunna, Kate Davis, Molly Parden

Super Furry Animals, Dogbreth, Tommy Emmanuel, All Dogs, Rupert Angeleyes, Korey Dane, Comfy, Jeanne Added, The PinesAxel Flóvent, Naked Naps, Ezra Furman & The Boyfriends, Queen of Jeans, Darlene Shrugg, Sun Club (x2), Born Ruffians, Narc Twain, Pale Spectre, Canshaker Pi, No Parents, Idlewild, Woodpigeon, Rubblebucket, WEEED
Homme, Stumpf, J Fernandez, She-Devils, Emilie & Ogden, Fufanu, Most Selfless Cheerleader, Lael Naele, Pinegrove, Keenan O’Meara, Parquet Courts, Avantist, Low Culture

Chris Bathgate, Bombay, Julia Holter, Young Jesus, Heartless Bastards, Wussy, Futurebirds, Ben Folds, Bye Beneco, Posse, E.M.I.L., Battleme, Chill Moody, Mass Gothic, Escondido (x2Feral Moan, Savages, Sharon Jones & The Dap-Kings, Help the Doctor, lowercase roses, Leyya, Hinds, M. Ward, LIGHTS, The Pony (x2), Armani White, Forth WanderersOiseaux-Tempête (ft. G.W. Sok and Gareth Davis), Sonya Kitchell, Chris Bathgate, Emily Mure, Emily Wells, Torii, SWMRS, IAN, Dot.s, Chilly Gonzales, The Flips

Lanterns on the Lake, The Wombats, Rationale, Zula, Marc Scibilia, This Is The Kit, Looming, Bayonne, Crater, The Entrepreneurs, O, Sleep Storm, T. Hardy Morris, SkyBlew, John Coffey, Basia Bulat, Violent Femmes, Jeremy Messersmith, Nicki Bluhm and The Gramblers, Trixie Whitley, Aubrie Sellers, The Bottle Rockets, Max Meser, Tall Heights, Chilly Gonzales & Kiaserr Quartet

 

2015: A Year’s Worth of Memories (John Rossiter)

Young Jesus

Ever since the year of its release, I’ve been confidently referring to Young Jesus‘ staggering Home as an untouchable masterpiece. In the time that’s followed since its release, the band relocated from Chicago to Los Angeles, shifting its core lineup in the process. Guitarist/vocalist and principal songwriter John Rossiter (pictured above, bottom left), remained the band’s driving force. Last year, the band released the outstanding Grow/Decompose — one of my favorite releases of the year — a record that I was very fortunate to be running premieres for in the lead-up to its unveiling. Towards the end of 2015, they swung through Wisconsin and delivered a set that left me absolutely floored. I met Rossiter for the first time that night and we exchanged road stories before parting ways. From that meeting alone, it was readily apparent that he was a genuine, kind person in addition to being an obscenely gifted songwriter. Those are just a few of the reasons that I’m thrilled to be bringing him into the fold of this series. Here, he recounts a show Young Jesus played in Gardena that left a lasting impression on more than one person. Read it below and stay safe in the pit.

++

Gardena Utopia House Show

In early summer, I played a pretty fun set, lots of teens and SoCal punk dads hanging in this backyard in Gardena. While I was having a drink by the hot tub (cover on), a dude who must have been fourteen said, “you drink beer? Nice. I can’t wait til I have a beer today, haven’t had one since yesterday.” Which reminded me SO MUCH of being an awkward 14 year old trying to fit in I really felt an immense sense of empathy and joy.

The kids passing around the Svedka bottle intermittently making out, the mohawk’d kid with the Crass patch sewn on (in response to a punk dad asking, “nice patch, but what are you doing for change?” The kid says “EVERYTHING“). All the bands we’re introduced by a couple of adorable and shy 6 year olds. Somewhere between a house show and a suburban barbecue. Chips and guac. So many dogs on the grill. Dad going up to the mic saying “I got extra dogs up here if anyone wants more.”

The locals, this cool Cap’n Jazz/Do Make Say Think-sounding band Cotton Ships, closed the show, sun just went down, summertime in Los Angeles. People we’re psyched, some moshing,  more making out, smoking cigs. Really idyllic movie start of summer high school/college hangs. Total romance/bliss.

For their closer/encore the band breaks into a super heavy rap-metal cover and immediately EVERYONE starts moshing. We’re just in total shock, all smiles.  Eric (our keyboard player) flies into the pit looking like some indie Cosmo Kramer/Eric Wareheim combo bouncing around laughing hysterically. The mosh kinda breaks apart when a bunch of people fall down. The music stops. One kid is just lying on the ground repeating “ohmygod/ohmygod/ohmygod.” Some other kid walks away saying, “I’m gonna throw up, I SAW THE BONE DUDE!” The injured party looks at our guitar player and yells “THERE IS NO GOD!”

Kid had broken his leg, a decidedly cool ass way to start your summer.

The kid and his leg are fine. Saw him a month ago at our show at The Smell. Very sweet guy and absolutely confidently bipedal again. Not sure if he knows how rad I think his Gardena scene is. How perfect that night was. It’s rare to go back in time for a moment, glad I got to live in that Gardena Utopia Doghouse though.

-John Rossiter