Heartbreaking Bravery

stevenmps2@gmail.com | @steven_mps | @hbreakbravery

Tag: july

The Best Songs of November 2018

With November just two weeks out of view and AOTY season still drowning everyone’s feeds (our forthcoming coverage will arrive, as it always has, at the very end of the year), now seemed like a perfect time to reflect on what the past month had to offer. Whether it was the James Bond theme of the future, a surprise side-project, or a local band syncing up with a major name, there was a lot worthy of reflection. Below are a dozen of those standouts.

1. Mike Krol – I Wonder

Ever since catching the tail end of the first show Mike Krol ever played with a backing band (that band being Krol’s close collaborators Sleeping in the Aviary), it’s been hard to ignore the songwriter’s appeal, drive, charisma, and commitment. Merge picked Krol up a few years ago before the release of Turkey, which just might be one of the most fun basement pop records of the decade. “I Wonder” finds Krol sticking to a familiar formula but making room for more surprises, like enlisting partner — and Mege labelmate — Allison Crutchfield (Swearin’) for backup vocals and pushing the run time well past 100 seconds. As is always the case with Krol, it works. Brilliantly.

2. Mister Goblin – Nothing You Do (Happens)

Losing Two Inch Astronaut was a considerable blow to a scene that had claimed them as a linchpin. Sam Woodring, that band’s guitarist, vocalist, and principal songwriter, couldn’t leave well enough alone, returning now with a new project called Mister Goblin that picks up right where Two Inch Astronaut left off. “Nothing You Do (Happens)” was one of the first looks at the project and is one of the best tracks to have the fortune of Woodring’s involvement. Inventive, fiery, and mesmerizing, the post-emo/hardcore/punk/whatever track is a welcome reintroduction.

3. HAVVK – Always The Same

“Always The Same” is a slow-burning track that swings on a pendulum between indie pop and post-punk, alternately gentle and unwieldy. There’s a hypnotic effect that the swings back and forth achieves, pulling the listener increasingly deeper into something strangely brilliant. Small, surreal touches abound on the track, which should go some ways in establishing HAVVK’s name. Hard to miss and easy to love, “Always The Same” is a track worth investment.

4. Nancy – I’m Not Getting Sober, I’m Just Getting Older (Helluva Guy)

A lot can be achieved in 100 seconds or less, a fact that’s more or less the crux of the entire basement pop genre. Nancy offers up the zillionth piece of supporting evidence in the 96 second blast of “I’m Not Getting Sober, I’m Just Getting Older (Helluva Guy)”, a track overflowing with smart hooks and a quick wit. Short, punchy, and incredibly effective, “I’m Not Getting Sober, I’m Just Getting Older (Helluva Guy)” is a song that’s more than worth the commitment.

5. The Yada Yada Yadas – Human Emotion

Riding an opening section that falls somewhere between The Polyphonic Spree and early Flaming Lips, The Yada Yada Yadas take another strong turn on “Human Emotion”. The song eventually dovetails into other segments, touching on everything from brit-pop to the slacker movement of the late ’90s, without ever feeling empty for its revivalist tendencies. Fascinating and surprisingly explosive, “Human Emotion” goes off like a firework and outright refuses to come back down.

6. Silverbacks – Just In The Band

“Just In The Band” find Silverbacks well on their way to transforming into a fully fledged post-punk powerhouse. Frantic in just about every sense, “Just In The Band” never fully looses its tether from the anchor, staying intact enough to create a sense of urgent direction. It’s a wildly impressive work from a band that’s very clearly ready for their breakout moment. It’s only a matter of time before the tether breaks and they take off.

7. Disq – Communication

“Communication” sees Disq pairing with Saddle Creek for an intriguing 7″ series, while also hitting on a career high. A noise-damaged basement pop number laced with basement punk tendencies, “Communication” is surprisingly volatile. The band’s penchant for melody remains at that heart of their work but “Communication” suggests that their experimentation with atmospheric choices could propel them to previously unseen heights.

8. Mo Troper – Never Dream of Dying

Aggressively — and humorously — marketed by the label as the theme to the next James Bond film, Mo Troper‘s “Never Dream of Dying” finally saw release after months of soft teases. The franchise would be lucky to have this one. All of the traditional Bond theme hallmarks are in place, from the sweeping orchestral section to the classic ending and everything in between. Even separated from its own framework, the song feels like a rousing triumph, making it perfectly at home in Troper’s incessantly impressive repertoire. It’s a classic.

9. Chelou – Out of Sight

One of the more left-field surprises of the past few weeks, Chelou’s “Out of Sight” operates as one of those rare, transfixing tracks that doesn’t sound like it’s connected to a specific time. Echoing shades of Hot Chip, RJD2, and other pop-minded acts in a similar vein, “Out of Sight” creates a mesmeric tapestry out of a collage that veers from classic metal flourishes to art-pop. A genuinely remarkable track that more than deserves the plays its been racking up since appearing online.

10. YOWL – John the Collector

YOWL continues to impress every time they reappear, stringing together an incredibly strong collection of tracks that’s continuously raised their profile. “John the Collector” is the band’s latest shot of bleary post-punk. Hazy but energetic, the band keeps their foot on the pedal, taking off towards some unknowable destination. A shout-sung narrative covers the breadth of things as varied as familiarity, friendship, and destruction, culminating in a powerful resolution that tips its hat towards the intrigue of letting some things go unsolved.

11. And The Kids – Champagne Ladies

It’s been a while since we’ve heard anything new from And The Kids but “Champagne Ladies” is here to amend that trend. One of the band’s most immediate and accessible songs, “Champagne Ladies” finds the project aligned nicely with acts like Middle Kids, who rely on a distinctly rural sense of wonder to ground anthemic melodies. From the palm-muted rhythm guitar figure to the bells providing “Champagne Ladies” a splash of color, everything here congeals into a sum far greater than its parts, ably demonstrating And The Kids’ continuing growth as songwriters.

12. Maria Kelly – July

“July” is yet another breathtaking track from Maria Kelly, an artist who’s no stranger to crafting wintry soundscapes. While the title may suggest a summery affair, “July” is as icy as anything Kelly’s released. Soft, pointed, and quietly lacerating, “July” cuts to the bone. A clinical self-dissection, the song’s blunt honesty is challenging and rewarding in equal measure. There’s some solace to be found in “July” but it’s through the recognition of shared pain. Haunting and intimate, the track cements Kelly’s position as an artist worth knowing.

Seven Weeks, Fifteen Songs

This post will mark the last of the coverage overhaul necessitated by the seven week hiatus from regular coverage. Records have been covered, music videos have been covered, and a song and a pair of music videos have received standalone posts. Below are the 15 songs that stood out more than any others over that seven week time period and come from all sorts of sources and elicit all sorts of responses. Whether’s it’s the characteristically driving basement pop of Radioactivity or the hushed melancholy of Florist, there’s a lot on display. So quit waiting, jump in, and find a new favorite song. Enjoy.

1. Radioactivity – Sleep 

Every project Jeff Burke‘s been involved in over the past decade has demonstrated the man’s a singular songwriter with an enviable gift. One of Burke’s more recent projects, Radioactivity (pictured above), has at least one Album of the Decade contender under their belt and continues to press forward with the kind of propulsive momentum that drives most of their songs. “Sleep” is a perfect example of that dynamic, a miraculous slice of basement pop that reasserts Burke as one of the genre’s all-time greats.

2. Birdskulls – Over It

Few labels are amassing a discography as consistently impressive — or prolific — as Art Is Hard. Birdskulls‘ “Over It”, one of the labels latest offerings, goes a long way in solidifying Art Is Hard’s status at the forefront of the DIY-leaning punk world. A song that perfectly marries basement pop with basement punk, “Over It” comes overflowing with memorable hooks, biting attitude, and worn aesthetics typical of a band destined for a feverishly loyal following. Leave it on repeat.

3. Honeyrude – Flowers

“Flowers” has been in Honeyrude‘s back pocket since 2015 but the band’s recent upheaval and re-release of the song as part of The Color Blue pays massive dividends in practice. Louder, cleaner, bolder, and more refined, “Flowers” is allowed to fully bloom, exceeding its early potential. It’s a gorgeous moment from a band that continues to impress, its shoegaze inflections perfectly suited to the band’s identity. Warm and towering, it’s likely to stand as the band’s career highlight for some time.

4. Strange Relations – Say You

One of the small handful of bands on this list with a long-standing connection to this site, Strange Relations have been furthering themselves with each successive step they’ve taken. The band recently opened for Charly Bliss in Minneapolis and unveiled a lot of new material, including the brooding, kinetic “Say You”, one of the set’s many highlights. Since their past release, Strange Relations have grown more aggressive, more ambitious, and into a more fascinating band. “Say You” is definitive proof.

5. Dead Stars – Pink Clouds

Several years into a remarkably consistent career, Dead Stars have established themselves as one of the most reliable bands currently mining a ’90s slacker punk influence to great effect. Even with a whole host of outstanding songs to claim as their own, “Pink Clouds” manages to stand out. Easily a career high point for the band, the hard-charging number surpasses the most tantalizing  heights of their earlier work while staying true to the ethos and identity that made them so memorable in the first place.

6. Walter Etc. – April 41st

Walter Etc. has spent the past few months putting out a small string of impressive songs with “April 41st” being the crown jewel of the lot. A laid-back mid-tempo basement pop number that embraces carefree relaxation, the song still manages to find an impressive momentum by playing directly to its lackadaisical tendencies. Near non sequitur’s and a comfortably dazed narrative elevate the song’s aesthetic to strange heights and the best thing anyone could do is let its calm, unhurried spell take over completely.

7. Basement Revolver – Tree Trunks

2017’s already been overly generous in terms of memorable ballads, churning out some of the decade’s best over the first 2/3s of the year. Among those gems sits Basement Revolver‘s gorgeous “Tree Trunks”, a shoegaze-leaning piece of minimalist post-punk. Pop melodies and wiry instrumentation combine to hypnotic effect, while the production of the song’s second half propel it to stratospheric heights.

8. Pinact – Separate Ways

After a three-year wait, Pinact are back and sounding stronger than ever on “Separate Ways”. Bridging the gap between basement pop and pop-punk in exhilarating fashion, the song clamps its teeth down on a surging sense of momentum and finds a way to guide itself to a triumphant finish. It’s easily among the band’s finest work and bodes extremely well for what their future might  have in store. Youthful, vibrant, vicious, and more than a little fun, it’s an unlikely summer anthem.

9. Paul Westerberg – Hawk Ripping At Your Throat

A mysterious song surfaced on Soundcloud a few weeks back from an artist’s page listed as “User 964848511”. Closer inspection revealed it to be Paul Westerberg, operating in the same lo-fi mode that defined the earliest work of his most famous band, The Replacements. Unlike that early work though, “Hawk Ripping at Your Throat” is characterized by a somber, almost foreboding atmosphere. Slow, creeping, and full of white-knuckle suspense, it’s a potent reminder of Westerberg’s legendary talent.

10. Lomelda – Interstate Vision

Lomelda‘s next album will be the project’s first for the impressively consistent — and consistently excellent — Double Double Whammy label. One of the first looks at that record came via the gorgeous “Interstate Vision”, a gentle mid-tempo number with a muted sense of grandeur and a near-cinematic sweep. It’s a lovely song that plays up the projects strongest aesthetic choices as well as emphasizing an unassuming mastery of songwriting. By the track’s end, it’s easy to wish it hadn’t come to a close.

11. SOAR – Fatigue

Last year, SOAR managed to make a strong impression with the material that they were releasing. It seems that their momentum has carried over into 2017 and allowed the band to grow even more emboldened as “Fatigue” — their latest — is as hard-charging and unapologetic as anyone could have hoped. “Fatigue” also plays up their pop sensibilities to great effect, while continuing to mire it in coats of both grit and attitude. It’s a charming track and deserves a whole slew of listens.

12. En Route – I Am the Problem

One of 2017’s most outstanding small releases came recently via En Route’s then is a song EP, another strong record from a growing line of projects working in the space that allows for a happy marriage between bedroom pop and basement punk. “I Am the Problem” was the song chosen to tease the EP and it was an incredibly effective choice as the song carves out a memorable identity for En Route. All of the decisions here, while understated, serve to elevate a legitimately great song from a new band worth knowing.

13. Baby! – If I’m Sorry

Baby! has been releasing a string of ridiculously enticing singles over the past few months and “If I’m Sorry” is the best of an extremely tantalizing lot. Equal parts sweet and biting, “If I’m Sorry” is another mid-tempo slice of quiet perfection from a band that seems to be gearing up for bigger things. Every song they’ve released has been utterly captivating and “If I’m Sorry” takes that facet of their music to new levels. Winsome, pensive, and oddly uplifting, it cements Baby! as one of 2017’s most pleasant surprises.

 

14. Madeline Kenney – Always

For more than a few years, Madeline Kenney has been carving out a place into today’s pantheon of emerging acts who have a genuine shot at their work being not only remembered but coveted after they’ve relaxed into retirement. “Always” is not only another strong indicator of that end goal but the strongest work of Kenney’s career to date. Three and a half minutes of arresting dynamics, clever arrangements, perfect production, and outstanding songwriting. It’s a song that’ll always be worth keeping around.

15. Florist – What I Wanted to Hold

Last year, Florist released one of the year’s finest EPs in The Birds Outside Sang and they’re already gearing up for the release of what looks to be one of this year’s finest full-lengths, If Blue Could Be Happiness. “What I Wanted to Hold” is the song kicking off the roll out campaign for the record and it’s a stunner. In keeping with the band’s best work, “If I Wanted to Hold” is a delicate, wintry number that’s enhanced by its own fragility. Sincere, vulnerable, and searching, it’s one of the year’s most breathtaking songs.

Seven Weeks, Five Music Videos

Seven weeks is a long time to abandon regular coverage but that interim’s come to a close and the time’s now come to feature some of the very best material of that span. Putting aside that obscenely perfect Charly Bliss video (and another video that will be featured in the very near future), the below selections stood out as the five best clips to emerge over those seven weeks. Old favorites and new faces collide, while everything from unhinged animation to quiet contemplation secure the focal point. So, dive in and explore some of the best examples that the medium has to offer and revisit them at will. Enjoy.

Protomartyr – A Private Understanding 

While it’s true Protomartyr have sculpted a career and reputation on being consistently excellent, very few people could have anticipated the staggering leap forward “A Private Understanding” represented in both scope and ambition. Easily the most impressive moment of the band’s already distinguished career, “A Private Understanding” came with an intensely arresting visual accompaniment. Centering on a hypnotic central performance the clip for “A Private Understanding” grabs existential crisis by the throat and squeezes until existential crisis is all that’s left. Equal parts Michael Haneke and Roy Andersson, it’s a coy and relentlessly bleak triumph.

Jen Cloher – Regional Echo

“Regional Echo” and the similarly dreamlike “Forgot Myself” clip both nearly made this list with the former getting the push thanks in large part to its more pronounced melancholy. Jen Cloher may be a faintly familiar name to some thanks to her considerably more famous partner, Courtney Barnett, but the songwriter’s forthcoming self-titled full-length’s seeking to lessen that dynamic and allow Cloher’s songwriting merits to be the guitarist/vocalist’s calling card. “Regional Echo” is a trance-inducing clip, teeming with soft lyricism and no shortage of conviction. It’s a gorgeous video and a strong testament to Cloher’s considerable talent.

M.A.G.S. – Demon

Over the past few years, restraint’s been a tough task for a lot of music videos to master, much less turn into a form of aggression. There have been some high-profile examples in recent time (and Minor Victories more than proved it can still be done with brute strength in a modern setting over the course of last year).  It’s barely been attempted in more DIY-leaning settings, which makes M.A.G.S.‘ gripping clip for “Demon” even more surprising. Everything from the Academy ratio the clip’s presented in to the classically iconic imagery of the pink room manages to both ensnare attention and heighten the immediacy of the clip. It’s an unexpected, unassuming glimpse at brilliance.

Soccer Mommy – Allison

“Allison”, both as a song and as a video, calmly continues Soccer Mommy‘s string of seemingly continuous grace notes. A gently mesmerizing clip that seems to reflect the tranquility of the water it was shot beside, the visuals of Allison work as a perfect complement to the source material. Touching on everything from a search for peace to the decision to move forward, “Allison” coaxes maximum impact out of its minimalist confines, conjuring up a lasting impression that lingers well after the clip winds to its hushed close. The musical equivalent of a tenderly loved and well-worn blanket, it’s hard to come away from “Allison” without immediately wanting to be wrapped back up again.

Julie & The Wrong Guys – You Wanted What I Wanted

Every once in a while, there’s a band that comes along and unleashes absolute hell in the form of their introduction-at-large. One of the latest examples of this is the incendiary “You Wanted What I Wanted” form Julie & The Wrong Guys, a gnarled, battered monster of a post-punk track. Appropriately, the video for “You Wanted What I Wanted” features deranged, quasi-nightmarish imagery, fusing traditional and digital animation with a ramshackle glee as the song hurtles towards an explosive climax that further proves Julie & The Wrong Guys are coming out of the woodwork to make their name known. Punk bite, pop hooks, smart visuals, and a whole lot of attitude all combine to ensure that Julie & The Wrong Guys is a name worth committing to memory.

A Month’s Worth of Records Worth Hearing

Just like the songs and music videos that came filtering out over the extended interim of this site’s regular coverage hiatus, killer records didn’t stop revealing themselves over that stretch of time. While, by their very nature, the titles that jumped out proved to be fewer than their more individually-minded counterparts, there was still a lot of outstanding material packed into the compilations, splits, EPs, 7″s, and full-lengths listed below. While this list — or any list — can’t claim to be truly representative of everything that came out, these acts are responsible for some of the best titles to have crossed this site’s path over the past six weeks:

Lushloss, Wet Lips, Talking Dog, Johnny Utah, See Through Dresses, Tundrastomper, Demure for Sure, VOIGHT-KAMPFF, STRFKR, City of Caterpillar, Horse Girl, Crumb, Friends of Cesar Romero, The Deslondes, Juiceboxxx, Ben Morey & The Eyes, The Crashers, Colour of Spring, Lillian King, Nearby Pastures, Cody & Danz, Siobhan Wilson, Fallow Land, Teddy and the Rough Riders, tunic, Flowers of Evil, Dream Version, Dove Lady, Eerie Gaits, Pill, Pawns, The Good Graces, Liam J Hennessy, [.que], Triptides, Aviator, and splits from Jeff Rosenstock and SkaSucks, Hinds and Los Nastys, Black Beach and Nice Guys, as well as an outstanding new compilation entry from Genius Loci.