Heartbreaking Bravery

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Tag: Julia Blair

Dusk – Leaf (Music Video, Live Video)

The first two days of this week brought a lot of good things into the world, including songs from Post Louis, Pllush, Boys, Retirement Party, Julian, White China, Jaye Jayle, Aisha Burns, Hilary WoodsBad Breeding, and Emilie Mover. Additionally, there was a solid slate of music video from artists like gobbinjrSuperchunk, Skating Polly, Operator Music Band, Munroe, and Body Type. Full streams that came from No Problem, Blessed, Tunic, and Miracle Worker rounded things off in style. In the bed of all of those, there was also an announcement that seemed as it if may never come: site favorites Dusk signing to Don Giovanni records for the release of their debut full-length, released alongside a music video for one of the decade’s best songs in “Leaf”.

It’s an announcement that comes hot on the heels of the band’s Dirtnap 7″, The Pain of Loneliness (Goes On and On) b/w Go Easy, which was featured here last week. That review touched upon the band’s identity, something that “Leaf” helped form in their earliest stages. There are certain songs that have the power to make you believe in a band from the jump and, even more rarely, there are songs that can rip through a person so forcefully they’re left on the verge of tears after one listen. “Leaf” is both.

The first song pianist/vocalist Julia Blair wrote for the band, even in its earliest iteration and was the kind of song that had the capacity to level crowds, leaving more than a few people breathless. In the four years since the song was released on their demo, “Leaf” has evolved with the band, the edges of booth smoothed out and refined. There’s a tender sheen “Leaf” carries, indicative of the care that’s been poured into the song over its journey to a proper release.

Now, the song has a video to do it justice, courtesy of Finn Bjornerud, who’s handled the band’s other clips (and a handful for bassist/vocalist Amos Pitsch’s flagship project, Tenement). Anchored by lived-in performances from Rachel Crowl and Helen Kramer, the clip pays tribute to the song’s narrative while offering up the quiet visuals that define life in small-town Wisconsin (and a host of other small towns the country over). Still, Wisconsin feels specific to the band’s music and that kind of celebration is always worth noting, especially when it comes from unexpected places that are too-frequently glossed over or discarded in the pursuit of something bigger.

It’s that kind of dedication and sense of place that’s informed Dusk’s music from the onset but it’s never been extended to their visuals as beautifully as it has with “Leaf”. Landscapes both wintry and autumnal switch back and forth, tethered together with a warmth and determination that the cold seasons seem to bring out in Wisconsin’s citizens, “Leaf” finds its source of life in the smallest moments. Grocery shopping, chopping wood, loving greetings, and prep chef work all play parts (as, of course, do shots of hard liquor).

At every second, in every frame, there’s a resilient grace and a sense of affection on display. That level of welcomeness has been the band’s modus operandi since their formation and it’s only strengthened over time, a sensibility that’s escalated in their music as they moved forward. It hits its current apex here with “Leaf”, Blair’s overlaid harmonies acting in accordance with meticulously crafted visuals, creating the kind of warm blanket that the band extends to its listeners at their best. And make no mistake, “Leaf” earns a spot in that pantheon. This is the type of release that’s worthy of remembrance.

Watch “Leaf” below and pre-order Dusk from Don Giovanni here (and if you’re one of the first 300 to reserve a copy, you’ll receive an additional bonus 7″).

Tenement – Feral Cat Tribe (Music Video)

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Sat. Nite Duets, Field Mouse, Voir Voir, Spook the Herd, FRIGS, Cool Ghouls, Kiss Concert, Conveyor, Pill, Death Valley Girls, Mikey Erg, and The Veils constituted one of the most impressive days for standalone streams in recent memory while Yucky Duster, Oneirogen, and Faithless Town made sure the full streams weren’t too far behind. There was also an impressive slate of music videos from the likes of Happy Accidents, High Waisted, Pkew Pkew Pkew, The Avalanches, Stefan Welch, Wand, and PJ Harvey. All of those releases deserve a hefty amount of investment but the band that snagged today’s feature spot — probably unsurprisingly at this point — was Tenement.

Few bands, if any, have had more words written about them in these spaces and I haven’t pushed any band more than Tenement. I’ve written about the trio at literally every opportunity over the past eight years and the band keeps providing reasons to sing their praises. Somehow, despite their lengthy history, “Feral Cat Tribe” stands as the band’s first official video. Featuring guitarist/vocalist Amos Pitsch’s Dusk roommates (Colin Wilde, Matt Stranger, and Julia Blair), “Feral Cat Tribe” also heavily promotes Tenement’s own ethos (stay true to what works on a DIY platform and elevate the talented people that surround you in the process).

The video itself is a dizzying, disorienting run through a relatively nondescript building as the band (and their friends) mime their way through “Feral Cat Tribe”, a highlight from one of last year’s best albums. “Feral Cat Tribe” is a shot in a way that evokes the 360-angle video trend without ever succumbing into gimmickry or egregious pageantry, opting to make a slight statement on the nature of art: no matter how it’s dressed, if the material’s core maintains its convictions, it’ll more than likely be worthwhile.

Swooping camera angles, quick edits, and constantly, continuously moving pieces are also reflective of the commendable principles the band’s endorsed since their beginning. This is music and filmmaking that’s tethered to the earth and openly embraces all of its cracks, flaws, and bruises. For Tenement’s entire career, the band’s been finding ways to find beauty in damage and the clip for “Feral Cat Tribe” continues that trend on the visual spectrum. There’s a certain level of courageousness that’s required to even attempt what Tenement’s been doing lately and they’re continuing to make it look effortless.

Whether the band’s evoking classic Americana art forms or simply building their own identity, they’re doing it with uncanny precision and a wealth of feeling. “Feral Cat Tribe” — what’s said to be the first of many music videos for Predatory Headlights  —  suggests the band’s grasp extends even further than what they’ve previously shown. A fascinating clip from one of the best bands currently going, “Feral Cat Tribe” further cements their status as one of today’s most trustworthy acts; everything the band delivers is battered gold.

Watch “Feral Cat Tribe” below and pick up Predatory Headlights from Don Giovanni here.

Dusk – Too Sweet (Music Video)

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Capping off tonight’s run of the best music videos of the past few months is Dusk— one of the year’s best new bands– with 2015 highlight “Too Sweet“. Over the course of the past 10 years of my life, I’ve been fortunate enough to meet most of Dusk’s members and share bills with their bands. The most notable of these directly affiliated bands is Tenement, a band I’ve written about on this site in great detail thanks to their key role in my artistic and personal development. As a kid who was just figuring out how to play guitar, I remember stepping foot into The BFG (a DIY punk house venue that the band used to run) and being overwhelmed by the sheer amount of records that the house had amassed, each showing the residents’ eclectic tastes.

I’d later come to find that a bulk of these belonged to Tenement guitarist/vocalist (and Dusk bassist) Amos Pitsch, who had a penchant for old soul and country records from the likes of artists like Sam Cooke and The Louvin Brothers. Those influences would gradually present themselves in subtle ways on Tenement songs (which have been erring closer to the band’s jazz influences) but they’d never featured as prominently as they do with Dusk, who also seem to share a very serious kinship with acts like The Band. After coming out of the gate with “(Do the) Bored Recluse“, the band followed up with “Too Sweet” arriving perfectly at a marriage between classic country and classic soul without ever sounding remotely inauthentic.

That sense of authenticity, the complete rejection of cheap revivalism, is evidenced again in the song’s Finn Bjornerud-directed music video, which simply features the band playing the song in an average living room (like their affiliates, Dusk has a tendency to find the beauty in the everyday rather than try to capture grandeur or bombast). A few striking compositions are spliced in here and there– including an absolutely gorgeous silhouette shot of a soft-lit Ryley Crowe playing pedal steel and a beautiful final group shot cleverly framed by an archway– but more often than not, the clip opts to celebrate the communal act of playing music surrounded by people you love.

Led by Julia Blair’s attention-ensuring crooning, a cavalcade of impressive backing vocal harmonies, and committed performances from all the featured players, “Too Sweet” feels like more than just a music video, it skews closer to a mission statement; celebrate the things you have and strive to elevate the people around you. Defiantly honorable to the end, “Too Sweet” is the most perfect encapsulation of Dusk to date and suggests that the band, thankfully, is only just getting started.

Watch “Too Sweet” below, pick up a copy of the 7″ here, and explore a list of some of the best music videos of the past few months underneath the embed.

Bing & Ruth – Broad Channel
Summer Twins – Ouija
Total Makeover – Self-Destructive
Francis – Follow Me Home
EL VY – No Time to Crank the Sun
Half Japanese – That Is That
James Clark Hangover – Maria
Oscar – Breaking My Phone
Wray – Hypatia
NZCA Lines – Persephone Dreams
Overlake – Travelogue
Rah Rah – Be Your Man
Paul Bergmann – You May Never Know
Pink Lung  – Chinese Watermelons
Laura Stevenson – Jellyfish
Ben Millburn – Don’t You Wait
Big Harp – DIEV
Busdriver – Much
Erica Glyn – The Killing Moon
Neonderthal – The Ride
Jackson Boone – Runaway
Freddie Gibbs – Fuckin’ Up the Count
Lowly – S.W.I.M.
Joey Kneiser – The Wilderness
Tuff Sunshine – Fire in the Hero Building
The Rashita Joneses – White Wave
The Goon Sax – Sometimes Accidentally
Kenrick Lamar – These Walls (ft. Bilal, Anna Wise, and Thundercat)

Dusk – Too Sweet (Stream)

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Even though more than two dozen of the past week’s items have been covered, there’s still a large handful of releases that haven’t been mentioned. Dusk’s B-side to “(Do The) Bored Recluse” led a formidable pack of noteworthy new songs and full streams. In the former caAtegory, there were memorable new numbers from Florist, Tigue, The Coathangers, Pinegrove, Foxing, Tenement, Historian, Monella, and Total Abuse, as well as a respectable Fugazi cover from The Dirty Nil. The full streams were well-represented with an eclectic trio of releases from Weyes Blood, Operator, and Bad Wig. All of those are, as always, worthy of investment- but it was Dusk’s latest that felt most deserving of this post’s headline.

As previously stated– and evidenced by this very post– any time anything Tenement-related surfaces, there’s a decent chance it’s going to get featured. There has been no other band I’ve recommended more times over the course of the past eight years and the band’s many side projects have warranted a great deal of attention; Dusk is no different. A collective of some of the sharpest musical minds in Wisconsin’s Fox Valley area, Dusk magnify Tenement’s relatively contained classic country influence into something effortlessly convincing.

“Too Sweet” sees the vocal lead shifting from Amos Pitsch to Julia Blair, who has no trouble carving out a commanding presence as the song’s central player. Nuanced pedal steel work and an impressive keys figure drive the song’s open-road feel, while Pitsch’s layered backing vocals inject the song with the kind of character that’s come to define his main vehicle. All the while, the rhythm section remains focused, covering up the song’s saccharine sensibilities with a coating of grit; a trick that plays directly into the song’s lyrical content.

It’s a clear-eyed love song that’s covered in bruises and it exhibits an incredible amount of promise for the members’ latest undertaking. “Too Sweet” also cements (Do The) Bored Recluse b/w Too Sweet‘s status as one of this year’s finest 7″ releases. Make sure it’s in as many collections as possible by following the order link below; this isn’t something to be missed.

Listen to “Too Sweet” below and pick up a copy of the 7″ from Forward! Records here.