Heartbreaking Bravery

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Tag: July Demos

Seven Weeks, Ten Records

Before this week began, it’d been seven weeks since any of this site’s regular coverage had appeared. The first stretch of this week will be dedicated to amending the outstanding material that went uncovered in the interim, while the latter part of the week will feature the present week’s finest offerings. Below are ten standout records to have been released over the long hiatus, from EPs to compilations to full-lengths. There’s a whole host of incredible material shared between these ten records so stop hesitating and just dive straight into this post’s overflowing heart. Enjoy.

Great Grandpa – Plastic Cough 

Expert Eraser“, “Fade“, and “Teen Challenge” all earned feature slots on this site in the lead-up to Plastic Cough‘s release, each one suggesting a seemingly inevitable reality: Great Grandpa throwing their hat into the ring of genuine Album of the Year contenders. The day finally came, Plastic Cough was released, and that inevitability proved to be no joke. Plastic Cough is an absolutely ferocious record, gnashing its teeth at every hairpin turn and gloriously bombastic moment, only pausing to breathe on the gorgeous “Faithful”, a perfectly placed slow-burner that rounds the record out in breathtaking fashion. Plastic Cough is the kind of thrill ride that makes a mark deep enough to last.

Slaughter Beach, Dog – Motorcycle.jpg

Jake Ewald may get the most recognition for his work in Modern Baseball but what the songwriter’s accomplished in Slaughter Beach, Dog is equally — if not even more — compelling. Having already accumulated an incredibly rich and surprisingly expansive sound over the course of a full-length and an EP, Motorcyle.jpg finds Ewald leaning even more confidently into the battered folk trappings that heightened those first two releases. Motorcycle.jpg also skews a little more lo-fi and at times recalls Yankee Bluff, each poignantly bruised track vastly exceeding the aesthetics perceived limitations. It’s another impressive work from a musician worth watching.

Little Star – July Demos

Another one of the acts positioning Good Cheer Records as one of the finest upstart labels, Little Star has managed to turn a lot of heads in recent times, thanks to two sterling full-lengths. The project’s showing no signs of slowing down, even going so far as to release a small collection of demos last month, aptly entitled July Demos. The band’s earned comparisons to legendary acts (Big Star, unsurprisingly, one of the most popular among them) and it’s not difficult to see why those comparisons are being made, even from this small smattering of tracks. All four of the songs on display here are sharply written songs that convey a great deal of emotion in their quiet restraint. Spellbinding work.

Katie Ellen – Cowgirl Blues

Chumped may have been Katie Ellen‘s earliest claim to some modicum of fame but the songwriter’s not being reduced to the ashes left in the wake of that band’s departure, instead opting to venture out on an already promising solo career. Cowgirl Blues is Ellen’s first statement and it’s a bold one. The first two and a half minutes of opening track “Drawing Room” are comprised entirely of extremely light ambient noise, clean guitar, and vocals, as if Ellen is reasserting an individual identity. It’s a deeply effective moment that sets the tone for a record that’s not afraid to show off its bruises, scars, or self-awareness. Front to back, it’s one of the summer’s most captivating listens.

Milked – Death On Mars

Kelly Johnson is the songwriter spearheading Milked, graciously returning to the fold after Geronimo! took their final bow. For anyone who was concerned Johnson would step away from the eccentricities and unpredictable eclecticism that made Geronimo! so fascinating, put aside those fears for good. Death on Mars is as gleefully unwieldy and feral as Geronimo! at their fiercest (undoubtedly helped along by the drumming of Geronimo! bandmate Matt Schwerin). Death On Mars is a towering work that’s not afraid to embrace catharsis or melody even as it careens wildly from song to song, touching on everything from powerpop to hardcore along the way. An absolute triumph of a return.

Midwives – No

No will be the last record Midwives — who appeared in this site’s Best EP’s list in 2013 and 2015 and whose self-titled 7″ was one of the first reviews this site ever ran — will release. While it’s a shame that one of the upper Midwest’s best hardcore bands will be disappearing into the ether, at the very least they managed to go out on top: No is a culmination of everything the group’s accomplished since starting up nearly five years ago. It’s a growling, spitting, snarling beast of a record, unafraid to take prisoners in its sub-18 minute run-time. Bruising and feral, it’s only fitting that such a proudly deranged band would go out kicking, baring its threatening fangs all the while.

Dream Ritual – Summer Promo

Sometimes all it takes for a band to take off is three songs, which is exactly what Dream Ritual‘s offering on Summer Promo, a blistering post-punk EP that doesn’t leave any room for filler. Echoing everyone from Shellac to METZ and everyone in between, Dream Ritual manages to carve out their own distinct identity. “Noise”, “Oil & Canvas”, & “Sunlight Girl” all perfectly marry elements of modern day noise-punk with some of the genre’s earliest defining elements. Whether it’s the metallic-like production or the infusion of pop-leaning melody, it’s clear that Dream Ritual are students of the genre. Thankfully for us, their learning has resulted in one of the summer’s strongest EP’s.

Mike Krol – Mike Krol Is Never Dead: The First Two Records

A few years ago, this site named Mike Krol‘s Turkey one of the best records of 2015 and heavily praised the songwriter’s infectiously joyous live show. Krol had gained notoriety thanks to the cult following that he’d accumulated due to his first two records, Trust Fund and I Hate Jazz, both of which were long out of print by the time Merge announced Krol’s signing and released Turkey. Fortunately, for everyone, Merge has come to the rescue and reissued both of those seminal classics (this according to essentially anyone that owns either) and packaged them with all of the demos for each session. The whole thing’s an exhilarating look at an exhilarating artist and should be considered essential listening for fans of the basement pop genre.

Tunnel Traffic – MEESH

Tunnel Traffic’s MEESH occupies a space that’s always memorable: the record arrived from the artist via unsolicited submission and proceeded to impress at every turn. From opener “Lesson Learned” to the closing “Memorial”, this small release from Adam Hachey’s solo project made a sizable impression. Softer and a little sweeter than expected, MEESH is chock-full of mid-tempo folk-leaning numbers that expand the bedroom pop genre into something faintly unfamiliar. It’s quiet, it’s intimate, it’s unassuming, and it’s utterly spectacular. MEESH weaves an unbreakable trance over its listeners and commands their attention through a narrative journey that feels both direct and cerebral. It’s an incredible accomplishment from a songwriter whose work all but demands to be followed.

Waxahatchee – Out in the Storm (Deluxe Version)

Throughout work with WaxahatcheeP.S. Eliot, Bad Banana, and Great Thunder as well as through a variety of guest roles Katie Crutchfield has become a household name for a very particular sect of people, broadening that base with each successive release. Crutchfield’s latest comes via the Waxahatchee moniker, Out in the Storm. Everything that Waxahatchee has released to date has stood the test of time and remained as impressive — if not more so — as it was at the time of its release. Out in the Storm feels like Crutchfield’s reached another level entirely, combining more than a decade’s worth of knowledge, experience, and style into a mesmerizing, cohesive whole. A career high point for Crutchfield and easily one of the best records of 2017, Out in the Storm‘s definitive version also comes package with the demos for each song on the record, all of which are — like the record itself — well worth hearing.

Diet Cig – Sleep Talk (Stream)

Diet Cig VIII

And the hits just keep on coming. While Wednesday was packed to the gills with great new content, today’s haul may make it look slim in comparison. A few music videos made their marks and included the likes of Cotillon’s hazy “Convenience“, Julia Holter’s tender “Feel You“, and In Tall Buildings’ deceptively intuitive “Flare Gun“. Full streams made just as strong of an impression through incredible demos from Dan Webb & the Spiders and Chondria, while Seulah and Bad Bad Hats capped off the format’s Thursday run with a pair of intriguing long-players (Phase III and Psychic Reader, respectively).

As for single streams, the week managed to get even stronger via the staggering amount of genuinely great new songs that were made publicly available. Yuck sounded reinvigorated on “Hold Me Closer“, Wild Moth revealed a set of ever-sharpening teeth with “Buried“, Le Tour embraced their most eclectic sensibilities in “Friend“, and Long Limbs gave Art Is Hard another notch in their white-hot winning streak through the release of “Past Tense“. Heaters continued to dive down the nightmarish psychedelic rabbit hole they’ve been traversing in “Propane“, FUR struck the perfect balance between power pop and indie pop with the charming “Creature“, Glass Vault produced some compelling dream pop with “Sojourn“, SOCIETY released the transcendental, genre-demolishing “Protocol“, and James Elkington & Nathan Salsburg’s ethereal acoustic duet “Up of Stairs” ensured the day was packed with intensive listening.

While, as always, all of those titles hyperlinked above are worth the traveling that accompanies a click, today’s feature (once again) falls on two familiar faces: Diet Cig. Alex Luciano and Noah Bowman already made a strong impression with what proved to simultaneously be one of the most hyper-charged and carefree releases of 2015, Over Easy, which has continued receiving attention and picking up accolades as time surges forward. Now, they’re set to capitalize on that momentum with a just-announced 7″ that’s headlined by “Sleep Talk”.

Guitarist/vocalist has always reveled in a blunt honesty that’s delivered with a coy wink and the opening lines of “Pillow Talk” provides that approach with an ample spotlight. As a narrative wind-up, those insights quickly slide the scale from sly to scathing until the moment of truth hits, accompanied by a frenzied burst of downstrokes and power drumming. It’s a moment of self-acceptance that feels like it’s bordering on catharsis, underlined by the couplet that toppled the breaking point: “Only here under obligation/it’s hard to pretend this is a vacation.”

What follows is a surprisingly wrenching tale of self-exploration that’s anchored in the ruins of a relationship. Just as a charging middle section seems like it’s threatening to speed off into a reckless oblivion, “Sleep Talk” scales itself back for an absolutely gorgeous final figure. Luciano’s vocals are overlayed to provide a slightly unsettling (but frighteningly compelling) chorus effect as a bed for the most expressive and refined guitar playing of Diet Cig’s (admittedly limited) discography to date.

It’s a genuinely stunning moment in a great song that suggests Diet Cig may have much bigger things in store for the horizon. As the last refrain of “If I told you I loved you/I don’t know who/it would scare away faster” comes cascading down, it becomes very clear that “Sleep Talk” isn’t just going to stand as a defining moment in the emerging band’s career but as a deeply personal monument to a lot of people harboring varying levels of insecurity. This is damaged romanticism at its absolute finest and yet another perfect example of why people should be paying even closer attention to a band that’s not even close to getting their due.

Listen to “Sleep Talk” below and pre-order the 7″ from site favorite(s) Father/Daughter (in conjunction with Art Is Hard) ahead of its September 18 release date here. Beneath the embed watch a live clip of the duo performing the records B-side, “Dinner Date”.