Heartbreaking Bravery

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Tag: Kicking Every Day

2015: A Year’s Worth of Memories (Amelia Pitcherella)

amelia pitcherella
Photograph by Aubrey Richey

Over the past few years, I’ve run into the name Amelia Pitcherella dozens of times. At some point in 2015, it was a name that started appearing with greater velocity, at greater volume. Whether it was in bylines, comments left on mutual friends’ social media accounts, or just heard in passing, it became abundantly clear that we existed in the same niche corner of our own little musical world. We now write together at AdHoc and Pitcherella continues to freelance for publications like Impose. Lately, she’s also been creating some very striking music as Most Selfless Cheerleader, embracing an uncanny intimacy that will likely pay dividends as the project moves forward. I’m very excited to be welcoming her to the A Year’s Worth of Memories series and very pleased to see she’s turned her attention to one of last year’s finest records: All Dogs’ Kicking Every Day. Read about what the record meant to her below and remember to hold onto the records you love.

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Kicking Every Day

I was on a Megabus when an editor sent me the advance of All Dogs’ debut LP. On the cusp of a breakup, I hadn’t talked to my partner in a week and I had gone to my hometown of Philadelphia to see some friends because I didn’t know what to do with myself. I was on my way back to Manhattan and feeling particularly unanchored. During my visit I had had trouble talking to people. I felt absent from myself.

My body responded to the record before I had the chance to process it intellectually. By the seventh track I was choking back tears. A few lines on “Leading Me Back to You” chilled me: “I can try not to think about you / but when I’m in my room / you are the light coming through the window / whether or not I want you to.” It wasn’t that they were particularly complex, just that they described honestly exactly what I’d been feeling, the pathetic omnipresence of a person who had made their complete physical exit from my life.

It was the simple candor of the lines that made them so affecting. And then Maryn Jones’ rendition of Fleetwood Mac’s “Silver Springs” in the outro shocked me, wrenched me apart—it was like hearing that song for the first time. Jones’ voice on those lines is desperate and yet there’s this strain of pure unmistakable power in it. I watched the turnpike and started crying. Not a conservative cry—it was a full-blown, snotty bawl.

I was feeling totally humiliated by my own involuntary display, and then “Skin” came on. The lyrics are brash: “Don’t you ever say that I’m wrong ’cause I won’t take it / I will find a way to justify my pain.” Jones is self-deprecating, and she’s also aggressively unapologetic. She turns frustration into pure power. I sat on the bus and calmed myself with the thought that my crying a moment ago was all right, it was justified, and even if it wasn’t, I didn’t need justification. I was going through a lot. It was OK.

A week later, in July, I moved to Philly for the remainder of the summer. I was jobless but rent was absurdly cheap and I resolved to only write and make music for my two months there before finishing up my last semester of school. I was fighting depression and coping with the new loss of someone I’d spent close to two years with, and I figured this would be the last opportunity I had to get a feel for a place without having to worry too much about making ends meet. I was fortunate. That summer was a terrific fever dream. Every morning following my breakup, up until my last day in Philadelphia, I woke up with a new song in my head. When I tell people this, even I can’t wrap my head around it, but strange things happen when you’re left to yourself for weeks on end.

I got into the habit of going to shows and dance parties alone, and I met dozens of people who would come to influence me in the span of a few weeks. I was listening to my friends’ bands on rotation. The summer of 2015 was definitively the first time in my life that I felt like I belonged somewhere. As is the case anywhere, there are issues with the Philly music scene—still in large part a boys’ club, cliquey, no shortage of apologists—but it’s also growing into something really special. There are people who are working so hard to make Philadelphia shows and venues inclusive. Until this point, for whatever reason most of my friends making music happened to be men, and I was so pleased to see that finally change.

I went to All Dogs’ show at PhilaMOCA in August, where they were playing with The Sidekicks and Lithuania (who had just released one of my favorite albums of the year, Hardcore Friends), and talked with Nick and Maryn beforehand for a feature for Impose. I think for some time I had convinced myself that all the people doing good work lived on some other plane, as socially accessible as they may have still been to me. I’d only been interviewing for eight months or so, and each time I interviewed an artist up until then I’d been completely knotted up. But talking to the two of them, I felt comfortable interviewing for what might have been the first time. I was so appreciative of their total warmth and openness.

When they took the stage, they were electric. It was one of the most moving performances I’ve seen—maybe in part because Amanda, Jesse, Maryn, and Nick all have rather understated stage presences. They’re not there to create any kind of spectacle, but it’s so evident that they all care deeply for each other and for the music they’re making. I got chills during “Say”, when Maryn sang tenderly, “When you are not around / I am not alone.” Watching All Dogs play on my own that night, I realized—or, maybe more aptly, I decided—that this was why I had thrown myself into working in music. I wanted to write about moments like this, when an act has the power to completely overwhelm; and I wanted to write about people who weren’t men making music. All Dogs made me want to do music more than I wanted to do anything else.

I had been thinking a lot that summer about Leslie Jamison’s essay “The Grand Unified Theory of Female Pain”, in which she notes that people are too often revolted by displays of pain by women. By no fault of our own it too often comes off as a show, and we ourselves can come to doubt our own experiences. But Jamison ultimately believes it is crucial, or at the very least possible, to bear witness to pain and growing “a larger self around that pain—a self that grows larger than its scars without disowning them, that is neither wound-dwelling nor jaded, that is actually healing.”

All Dogs’ music strikes me as realizing that larger self. It doesn’t shy away from pathos—but the pure strength in it makes it bigger than the pain it addresses. After having listened to Kicking Every Day dozens of times over, I was confident now that it was possible to give the pain I was undergoing a place in my music and in my writing without bathing in it or stamping it out. Jones had mastered this.

When Stevie Nicks wrote the line, “You will never get away from the sound of the woman that loves you,” I wonder if some kind of doubt cropped up in her head. Did she question whether others would take her seriously? Regardless, she went ahead and wrote it anyway, and Jones took it 40 years later and made it her own, and her rendition gave me access to my own feelings, validated them. I’m endlessly grateful.

-Amelia Pitcherella

15 of ’15: The Best Albums of 2015

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2015, close to unanimously, was concerned to be one of the highest points for new music in recent memory. To that end, putting together this list was even more of a nightmarish task than narrowing the 2015 songs down to their 15 slots. There was even a brief moment where expanding this list to 50 slots seemed like a viable action. Ultimately, after literally hundreds of substitutions in the various positions (and countless exclusions and extractions), the formula remained intact. While it was painful to leave an extremely large handful of extraordinary records lingering just outside the perimeter, the 15 records below have earned their spots. Every single one of these has remained in near-constant rotation since the time of their release and will likely resonant well into 2016 and beyond. Dive on in below and reflect on the overwhelming strength of the past 12 months.

15. Meat Wave – Delusion Moon

One of a select few bands to play an instrumental part in the formative stages of this site’s focus (and one of the acts to play the first Heartbreaking Bravery showcase), Meat Wave came through in a big way in 2015. The trio released one of the year’s best oddities, signed to SideOneDummy, and unleashed a behemoth of an album in Delusion Moon. Billed as their first proper full-length (their vicious self-titled, limited-run cassette straddled the line between EP and full-length), Delusion Moon saw the band exploring their darker tendencies to great success. More fully exploring influences like Mission of Burma and Drive Like Jehu, the band acted as a nice counterpoint to the usual brand of ’90s revival and got some kicks in along the way.

14. PWR BTTM – Ugly Cherries

No band’s live show was documented more exhaustively here over 2015 than PWR BTTM, who perfected a simplistic approach with enormous- and enormously successful- ideas. The duo (who is occasionally a trio) set their sights on exploring gender and personal identity and followed through with a startlingly brazen tenacity. Close to every song on Ugly Cherries, their extraordinary full-length debut, play out like the kind of anthems that 2015 desperately needed. For a record that’s quick to be gleefully tongue-in-cheek, Ugly Cherries also offers up some devastating personal moments, lending the band an emotional depth that makes their outsize spirit even more powerful.

13. Midnight Reruns – Force of Nurture

Force of Nurture, Midnight Reruns‘ astonishing sophomore effort, has one of the best A-sides I’ve ever heard. Not to discredit an extremely strong B-side, either, but the run the band puts together from “There’s An Animal Upstairs” to “Sky Blue Water” is just about flawless. All six of those songs were considered for this year’s list of the best songs of 2015 along with the record’s sprawling closer, “Great Southern Rail”, which boasts one of the year’s more jaw-dropping choruses. Bolstered by the involvement of one of the band’s earliest and most vocal supporters- The Replacements’ Tommy Stinson, who produced the record- Midnight Reruns turned in their finest collection of songs to date.

12. Hop Along – Painted Shut

A statement that bears repeating: one of the most heartening aspects of 2015 was watching the deserved ascension of Hop Along, who have been cranking out exquisite material on an exceptionally high platform for several years. Driven by the distinctive, arresting voice of guitarist/vocalist Frances Quinlan and their own unique sensibilities, Hop Along crafted the strongest record of their discography. With new partner Saddle Creek firmly in their corner, the band came to vibrant life and stayed on form, delivering a set of knockout tracks that included “Waitress”, one of this year’s finest. A welcome breath of fresh air, Painted Shut marked the beginning of an exciting new era for one of today’s best bands.

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11. Royal Headache – High

Even as all the news of High being Royal Headache’s finest record (thankfully) receded, the power of their finest offering to date didn’t diminish. Following a brilliant debut, the band may have actually surpassed that record’s promise with their sophomore effort. Highlighted by songs like the towering, defiant title track and the surging “Another World“, High is a genre masterclass of the highest order. Buoyed by an infectious energy that’s constantly verging on manic, there’s never a moment during the record that doesn’t feel like it’s nearing a state of euphoria. When High is firing on all cylinders, as is the case for the vast majority of the record, the band’s as close to being virtually untouchable as is possibly imaginable.

10. Young Jesus – Grow/Decompose

Home, Young Jesus‘ breakout record and a candidate for album of the decade, set extraordinarily high expectations for whatever the band chose as its following release. Crafting a worthy follow-up seemed even more unlikely after the band moved out of Chicago and over to Los Angeles, reassembling their lineup in the process. By that token, Grow/Decompose isn’t just a deeply impressive record, it’s a miraculous one. Guitarist/vocalist John Rossiter sharpens his singular songwriting voice and leads his new outfit with a fiery determination. An immensely satisfying collection of songs, Grow/Decompose feels like a genuine album; structured and paced to near perfection, Grow/Decompose is a reinvigorating- and reinvigorated- frenzy.

9. Dogs On Acid – Dogs On Acid

Dogs On Acid, a band formed out of the ashes of much beloved acts Snowing and Algernon Cadwallader, expanded on one of the best 7″ releases of 2014 with one of the strongest full-length debuts in recent memory. Laced with knockout hooks at just about every turn, Dogs On Acid is a staggering show of power from a band that finds surprising ways to exceed its predecessors. Maximizing their pop sensibilities to astonishing effect, Dogs On Acid inject their first major effort with an insistent, propulsive energy that catapults each of its 10 tracks to unthinkable heights, keeping their punk roots in place along the way. Every song on Dogs On Acid is a genuine highlight, yet the whole affair still manages to come across as so much more than a collection of singles. Bold and brash, this is the kind of record that may never fall out of regular rotation.

8. Tenement – Predatory Headlights

For close to 10 years, I’ve provided near-incessant documentation of Tenement, chronicling their forward motion with increasing intensity as the years progressed. When Heartbreaking Bravery was initially designed, it was constructed with the intention of highlighting bands that weren’t being granted the press that they deserved. In 2015, the world at large finally started catching on to a band that’s meant more to the development of my personal interests in music than any other (I didn’t include their Bruised Music compilation in the oddities list because I contributed a lengthy piece to the record’s insert that expands on that fact). Predatory Headlights, the trio’s latest opus, was a definitive collection of the band’s current era, unafraid of demolishing genre barriers and bold experimentation. Over its intimidating 28 tracks, the album steadily emerges as a genuine- and singular- masterpiece.

7. Julien Baker – Sprained Ankle

For Julien Baker‘s breathtaking breakout record, the young songwriter (previously best known as one of the driving forces behind Forrister) dived fearlessly into a despairing examination of her own psyche. A preoccupation with mortality that was heavily informed by the laws of religion dominates nearly every song on this surprisingly brave collection. From the description of the car wreck in the opener’s first verse all the way through to the passage in “Go On”- Sprained Ankle‘s mesmerizing closing track and one of 2015’s finest songs– about consuming bleach, there’s barely a moment of reprieve. Built almost exclusively around Baker’s voice and acoustic guitar, Sprained Ankle feels progressively more personal as it goes along, each song functioning as a plea, a warning, and a sustained moment of clarity. Tragic and beautiful, Baker’s conjured up a collection of deeply personal songs that feel genuinely sacred.

6. All Dogs – Kicking Every Day

Ever since their earliest releases, All Dogs have been steadily crafting great material and building momentum. Kicking Every Day, the band’s startlingly defiant full-length debut, continues that pattern with an astounding amount of grace. Even with their lineup at full strength following the addition of guitarist Nick Harris (which is paying massive dividends), guitarist/vocalist Maryn Jones’ songs feel more naked than ever, imbuing Kicking Every Day with a voyeuristic look at its principal songwriter’s inner turmoil and unflinching resolve. After the anticipation levels for this record came close to hitting a fever pitch with the release of “That Kind of Girl” (which ranked highly on the songs of the year list), the prospect of a record as extravagantly strong as Kicking Every Day didn’t seem so distant. The record ultimately surpassed those expectations thanks to both the instant acclaim it so richly deserved and its ability to strike all the right chords.

5. Sweet John Bloom – Weird Prayer

Losing Four Eyes, a band that put out one of the best 7″ records of this decade, was a tough pill to swallow. Fortunately, that band found a natural successor in Sweet John Bloom. Continuing to revel in the same brand of endearingly scrappy basement pop and pulling members from a few other outstanding bands, Sweet John Bloom managed to make a mark. Weird Prayer, their first fully fledged full-length, reveals impressive new depths to the band. Employing a rotating cast of songwriters, the record gives ample space to flesh out each one’s distinct personality. From lovely slow-burning tracks like “Bury Ruby” to incendiary highlights like “Tell Me”, Weird Prayer is an enviable showcase that, bizarrely, seems like a victory lap for its various members. There’s a memorable moment or three on each of these 15 tracks, most of which find intriguing dichotomies to exploit over the course of their brief running times. Littered with surprising moments at close to every corner, it’s one of 2015’s most exhilarating releases.

4. Dilly Dally – Sore

Back in 2014, Dilly Dally unleashed a pair of 7″ records that nearly walked away with the top spot in this site’s rankings. In 2015 they followed up their flawless early run with a brilliant standalone single and a bruising full-length teeming with vicious grunge-informed, punk-leaning basement pop numbers. Grimly determined and scuzzy as hell, Sore lands with the force of an atomic bomb. There was a reason that no band earned as many feature pieces on this site over the course of 2014 than Dilly Dally and, even stripped of the brilliant singles that earned those spots, Sore would have registered as a knockout. While the record’s many searing highlights (“Desire“, “Purple Rage“, “The Touch“, etc.) gave the record its fangs, its elegiac closer provided it with both an unexpected emotional depth and a staggering moment of finality (both of which went a long way in securing its ranking as one of 2015’s finest tracks). While Dilly Dally just about stole CMJ and released a small army of outstanding music videos, Sore was their definitive 2015 moment. It’s the kind of record that inspires kids to go out and start bands of their own, making it one of the most powerful releases in recent memory.

3. Mike Krol – Turkey

The sudden resurgence of the (unfortunately) still-deceased Sleeping in the Aviary was an extremely unexpected and welcome development. While they did release an extraordinary demos and rarities collection, the band’s best moment came when the majority of its lineup wound up backing Mike Krol for his latest venture. No record in 2015 felt even close to as unhinged as Turkey, Krol’s first effort for Merge and most deranged outing to date. With a runtime that doesn’t even scratch 19 minutes, Krol and the band he’s assembled run through nine songs at a pace so frantic it’s practically delirious. Every single moment of Turkey is informed by a surging level of energy that it seems like the record might derail itself at any given moment, toppling over because of its own excessive velocity. Miraculously, it manages to sustain that momentum through nine songs of rabid basement pop that draws inspiration from a variety of genres from the past handful of decades, zeroing in on things like ’50s pop and classic soul. Everything on Turkey also benefits from being shot through with Krol’s deadpan comedic sensibility, tongue planted firmly in cheek. By the time the record’s penultimate track hits- the absolutely massive “Less Than Together“- the record’s momentum is white hot. “Piano Shit” winds things down at the very end and allows the listener to review the demolished left in Turkey‘s wake as it coasts to the finish.

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2. Nicole Dollanganger – Natural Born Losers

One of the happier coincidences this site got to experience in 2015 was the realization that the glowing review of Nicole Dollanganger‘s breathtaking Natural Born Losers was its 666th post. An appropriate fact, given the record’s deep obsession with angels, devils, and the spiritual realm. In its opening lines (“I shot an angel with my father’s rifle”), Natural Born Losers flaunts its aim with a threatening gracefulness, ready to turn on a dime at any moment. Dollanganger’s narratives throughout the course of the record are startling exercises in hyper-violence and dueling desires. Whether it’s a BDSM-informed romp as lensed through an experience with an abusive police officer or an extremely disarming sample taken from the animated 1993 cult classic The Halloween Tree, Dollanganger’s either making fresh incisions or pulling gaping wounds even further apart. However, for being so deeply unsettling in its prose, the music that accompanies all of Dollanganger’s nightmarish imagery is as elegant and haunting as her vocals. A lot of Natural Born Losers hinges on exploring some of the weightiest dichotomies in existence and the degree of success to which it achieves in striking fascinating middle grounds in those battles is revelatory. Even more impressive is the fashion in which Dollanganger binds this collection of songs together, especially considering how effectively the record’s haunting line defines (or redefines) everything that’s happened since its steely-eyed opening moment. Put simply: Natural Born Losers is a modern masterpiece.

1. Eskimeaux – O.K.

Eskimeaux‘s O.K. managed to impress on first listen but it wasn’t until seeing the band live that all of its pieces fell more fully into place. That show inspired a return visit to this collection which, in turn, brought about a subsequent revisit (and then that pattern fell into a routine that still hasn’t ceased). On each successive listen, more of O.K. sprang to life. Gabrielle Smith’s project has been making material that’s been more than worthwhile for a large handful of years now but O.K., the project’s most fully-realized outing, saw Smith step across a threshold and into something sublime. A meticulously crafted record, every last one of its countless gears clicks in ways that surprise and delight in equal measure, rewarding heavy investment with a casual ease and providing O.K. with one of its cleverest tricks. In maintaining their casual sensibilities, the record becomes an enjoyable cursory listen but that casualness is surprisingly deceptive.

O.K.‘s a very complex record when it’s dissected into its formative pieces, whether they’re the gorgeous vocal layers that comprise one of the record’s most gorgeous moments on “A Hug Too Long” or Felix Walworth’s explosively idiosyncratic snare work on “Folly“, each finding a way to stand out as an impressive moment in both the small schemes of the songs and the grand sweep of the album. From a lyrical standpoint, Smith packs this record full with bittersweet realizations, internal frustrations, and slivers of a defiant sense of hope that’s steadfast in its refusal to bow to a harsher reality. Even the record’s darkest moment- the brooding “Pocket Full of Posies”, which nearly unseated “A Hug Too Long” in the songs list- subtly acknowledges the inherent innocence of things that are frequently viewed as evil. Even then, O.K.‘s worldview is far from simply being optimistic, it’s far too weary to assume that the best mode of operation is to look for the best in everything; its earned its sophisticated wariness.

What makes O.K. truly stand out, though, is its overwhelming amount of empathy for everything that’s fortunate enough to have worked its way into the record. Easily one of the most readily apparent humanist statements that music yielded this year (which is especially easy to see when the record’s put under a microscope), O.K. draws its strength from its sense of value. It’s a view that resonates throughout the record’s 11 brilliantly crafted songs, providing them with a deeper sense of purpose than most bands can manage. Additionally, all of the inspired decisions that comprise O.K. are augmented by some of the most extraordinary production work of the past several years, stealthily enhancing the cumulative effect of the songs. An awe-inspiring breakthrough for one of today’s most promising acts, O.K. is the kind of record that’s worth preserving for future generations. Find someone deserving to share this with and give in to its inescapable beauty.

Watch This: Vol. 108

Once again, there’s been a brief interim since the last Watch This was posted but, as ever, a lot of great material has surfaced in that time. In this volume, there will be an emphasis on full sessions and artists who have made numerous appearances on the site over its two years of existence. All five of these artists have earned glowing reviews for their live shows and are, in a lot of ways, inextricably connected to Heartbreaking Bravery’s development. Only one of these clips is a performance of a standalone song and it’s one of the most gripping live captures of the year. So, as always, sit up, wind down, focus, adjust the settings, and Watch This.

1. All Dogs (Audiotree)

Watching All Dogs‘ exposure explode in 2015 thanks to the release of their extraordinary full-length debut, Kicking Every Day, felt genuinely gratifying. The songs in that collection, like any Maryn Jones-led project, feel brave and personal. Every song is relatable to an extent that’s almost painful; our own damage is reflected in Jones’ interior grappling, which suffuses every ounce of Kicking Every Day. In a live setting, those songs gain even more impact and Audiotree expertly captures that with  this very worthy session.

2. Bully (KEXP)

One of the first shows I saw after moving into an apartment in Brooklyn was thanks to a tweet that sent me sprinting towards Rough Trade. What followed was a whirlwind set by site favorites Bully, that largely pulled from their outstanding Feels Like. KEXP recently hosted the band for an in-studio session that once again finds the band nailing the seemingly paradoxical marriage between sounding polished and downright ragged. Exhilarating and fairly composed, it’s a fascinating look at one of 2015’s most deserving success stories.

3. Waxahatchee (Ithaca Underground)

Katie Crutchfield has been one of the most consistently enthralling songwriters of the past 10 years, elevating a staggering number of projects that have managed to find a near-reverential status among their respective communities and beyond. Eventually, that devotion spread outward and expanded into national recognition only shortly after her first collection as WaxahatcheeAmerican  Weekend, was released. Crutchfield’s released two more records under that moniker (and a few as half of Great Thunder) in the time that’s followed, with both Cerulean Salt and Ivy Tripp finding spots in numerous best-of lists at high-profile publications. Here, Ithaca Underground presents Crutchfield performing an arresting (and beautifully shot) solo set that leaves the audience speechless. It’s a powerful document of an artist who continues to find new ways to impress.

4. Dilly Dally (KEXP)

Dilly Dally came into 2015 riding a wave of buzz surrounding the staggering brilliance of their first few singles and capitalized on those early flashes of potential with ferocious abandon. Nearly every item the band released this year wound up inspiring several paragraphs worth of attention from this site and a few extremely strong reviews for their inspired (and, frankly, inspiring) live shows. Sore, their full-length debut, just served as the cherry on top of an already-appealing sundae. KEXP recently brought the band in for a full session and they responded in kind, gifting the studio an appropriately searing performance.

5. Saintseneca – How Many Blankets Are In The Wolrd? (ANTI-) 

Throughout 2015, ANTI- has produced some of the most beautiful live clips in recent memory (a handful of which have been prominently featured in this series) and that streak continues with this beautiful presentation of Saintseneca‘s Zac Little performing “How Many Blankets Are In The World?” while walking through what appears to be a drainpipe. Easily one of the year’s most gorgeous live captures, this is both a spellbinding performance and a masterclass in composition. Even when Little’s plunged into near-complete darkness, the song itself serves as the clip’s functioning heart, generating a thoughtful overall effect. When Little finally emerges back into the light, it’s a sequence that feels oddly moving, finalizing this as one of the year’s most complete offerings in this category.

All Dogs – Live at Silent Barn – 8/22/15 (Pictorial Review, Live Video)

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Very few records to have come out of 2015 have earned as many individual words as All Dogs’ Kicking Every Day, a triumphant debut full-length from one of this site’s personal favorites. I’ve been fortunate enough to work with All Dogs in the past and the multimedia piece I was allowed to conduct for The Media wound up producing some of my personal favorite memories. Seeing them in a venue that’s so intrinsically connected to The Media– one of today’s most important publications- was tantalizing enough to make it one of the shows I’d prioritized as soon as it was announced. The lineup surrounding All Dogs was no slouch either, bringing in Florist, Fleabite, and The Sidekicks as support. All of those bands pedigrees packaged together ensured that All Dogs would be playing to a full house and the groundswell of national attention for Kicking Every Day pushed that guarantee a step further.

As a lead-in to the evening’s proceedings, Florist felt like the perfect fit. Surrounded by friends, rejoined by Felix Walworth on drums (who’d been missing from the lineup at their Baby’s show due to touring), and playing a wealth of new material, they managed to entrance the crowd early on and hold their attention to the end. Like the best acts operating in their stylistic vein, Florist managed to make the room extremely intimate and created a palpable sense of togetherness by reducing the audience to a hushed silence. Fleabite, a quarter fronted by A Year’s Worth of Memories contributor Ali Donohue, quickly took the noise levels in the opposite direction but maintained an established sense of intensity.

Having released one of this year’s stronger 7″ records in TTYL (which boasts a cover where Donohue is wearing an All Dogs shirt, no less), the band seemed invigorated. Every song felt meaningful and the band played with conviction, whether it was an old standby or a new piece while embracing feedback with an almost gleeful zest. Before too long following the close of their set, The Sidekicks were up and repeatedly jumping. Another band riding high on the wave of an excellent release- Runners In the Nerved World, their first for Epitaph- the band played with an unparalleled gusto.

Driven in large part by the dual guitar onslaught of Steve Ciolek (who also plays in Saintseneca with All Dogs’ Maryn Jones) and Toby Reif (whose self-titled solo EP stands as one of last year’s best surprises), the band quickly proved to be a deeply formidable live presence. Playing with energy, grace, and a clear love for what they do, every song felt like an all-or-nothing rallying cry and pulled an already involved audience even further in. Closing out with the supercharged Awkward Breeds highlight “DMT” had everyone roaring and likely cemented the status of a large handful of converts while simultaneously providing a perfect build to the night’s headliner.

I’ve spent a lot of paragraphs on this site- and others- detailing what makes All Dogs such an inherently special band and nearly all of them get brought to the forefront in their live performance. Maryn Jones, the band’s guitarist/vocalist, is one of this generation’s finest humanists, constantly painting conflicted portraits of a deeply personal nature that examine and scrutinize faults in a manner that can occasionally feel defiantly celebratory. A lot of these dissections are universally relatable and, as such, can act as a form of therapy (for both Jones, who puts herself under the knife with reckless consistency, and the listener). The band Jones is surrounded by- bassist Amanda Bartley, guitarist Nick Harris, and drummer Jesse Wither- know how to perfectly accentuate Jones’ tales and sensibilities to emphasize both the finer and larger points being made.

In terms of composition and dynamics, the band’s grown in leaps and bounds since the addition of Harris and the decision to start writing together as a band, a trait that’s easily evidenced in the disparity between the band’s still-great 7″ (which served as the basis for one of this site’s first-ever reviews) and the borderline masterpiece that is Kicking Every Day. When the band did reach back to the 7″ in their set, the songs sounded startlingly massive and the new textures made them feel more vital than ever (this was especially true for “Say” which, as it had last year in Milwaukee, sent chills running down my spine). A slew of Kicking Every Day‘s preview tracks’ emotional impact was maximized by both the setting and their execution in the live setting.

The three songs that received features here-“That Kind of Girl“, “Skin“, and “How Long“- all hit their marks with an unapologetic accuracy, heightened by an almost intimidating amount of volume. Every member of the band was in fine form throughout, with each member alternately appearing to lose themselves in the song at hand or take complete and total control of its delivery. Jones’ vocals, perennially light but always suggesting an unbearable weight, sounded as masterful as ever and the band rallied around her tales of damage, self-loathing, defeat, clarity, and uncertainty with unprecedented force.

After a marathon set that covered the band’s still-young discography, the band packed up and left the stage. There was no call for an encore because, at least for a moment, it seemed like All Dogs had said everything they possibly could. While the band will likely always have something more to say, their exit seemed necessary; these songs are so intimately personal that listening to them at length can make for a crippling experience. Thankfully, while the emotional resonance still held fast, it was hard to feel anything other than uplifted. Every band that’d played before them had brought something new to the table and All Dogs wove all of those strengths into a beautiful tapestry that covered the Silent Barn like a blanket for their time onstage, bringing everyone together under an intangible communal cloak and keeping them warm with good intentions. I’m not sure there’s a more perfect way to spend an evening.

Find a photo gallery of the show here and watch a video containing performances from each of the bands that played the show below.

Tenement – Tenement (EP Stream, Review)

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Between the end of last week and the start of this one, this site hasn’t ran a lot of material. A lot of this is due to some upcoming live coverage and the editing that live coverage entails. As is always the case, though, an eye was kept on the emerging content and everything that registered as great was compiled into a list for future reference. Of those lists, the full streams may have been the most stacked, featuring no less than three year-end contenders, including Tenement, this post’s featured EP. For full-lengths, it’d be hard to do much better than the staggering 1-2 punch of the full-length debuts from site favorites All Dogs (Kicking Every Day) and Dogs On Acid (Dogs On Acid) though that didn’t detract from the great new records that started streaming from Frog Eyes, Willis Earl Beal, Fake Palms, i tried to run away when i was 6, Sea Lion, and Tamaryn. Then, of course, there was the re-release of the extremely limited run self-titled tour tape that was released earlier this year by a band that played a crucial role in the development of this site’s functionality, aim, and preference: Tenement.

Following a pattern that emerged around the time Napalm Dream was released, the band’s been ushering in new music with an impressive recklessness. While this time around the band opted to release a behemoth of a double album in Predatory Headlights, rather than opting for the individual split as they did with Napalm Dream and The Blind Wink, they’ve still got material to spare. After kicking this year off with their outstanding early career compilation Bruised Music, Volume 1 (a collection I had the distinct privilege of contributing a piece to for the zine insert that served as the record’s liner notes), they’re restlessly pushing forward with an appropriately ragged five-song collection that they recorded back in February. As mentioned earlier, the tape was held to a run of between 50-60 copies and only made available for their tour with Priests and Vacation.

Tenement’s always been characterized by their steadfast adherence to a DIY ethos but that aspect of their identity has never been so fully reflected by any of their releases than it is here, which is likely why the band opted to make it a self-titled. As the collection plays out, there’s a very real sense that these songs were crafted in a manner where the band felt unburdened by any lingering expectations. Of course, it’s still a Tenement record so the level of songwriting is exceedingly impressive and more than a little indicative of what makes the band one of today’s absolute best.

In a sense (or a few, rather), Tenement‘s actually more attuned to the sensibilities of guitarist/vocalist Amos Pitsch’s Dusk side project. The playing- and feel- from song to song is a lot more loose than Tenement songs tend to wind up being upon their official release and carry on with an easygoing naturalism that renders Tenement an endlessly listenable EP that’s as perfectly suited for open roads as it is a quiet night in. Curiously, all the songs are also titled after a line from the respective choruses or refrains, which is something the band’s generally avoided in the past, which also seems to solidify the fact that this is one of the most direct releases the band’s ever issued. While Pitsch still writes with the flair of a classic Americana novelist, he’s substituted a lot of his more obtuse looks with an emphasis on his lyrics’ more earnest aspects and it suits these songs to perfection. Bassist Jesse Ponkamo and drummer Eric Mayer, as ever, continue to prove their worth as one of today’s most valuable rhythm sections, keeping these songs grounded while still managing to lend them a widescreen appeal, some light menace, a wide-eyed sense of wonder, or an air of gritty determination.

Taken as a whole, Tenement is one of the more unexpected entries in the band’s catalog but it also may be its most quietly rewarding. Favoring understatement over exhilarating moments of power almost exclusively throughout its sub-14 minute run time, Tenement puts a microscope up to one of the band’s more under-utilized modes and results in an unlikely, willing EP that seemed fated to drop off into obscurity just a few short weeks ago. Thankfully, that’s not the case and now anyone who cares has access to “Everyone To Love You”, “Underworld Hotel”, “Witches In A Ritual”, “The Strangest Couple In Love”, and “Roads To Home”. Easily one of the band’s more enigmatic moments, Tenement‘s also one of 2015’s finest releases. Now that it’s finally here, don’t let this one fade into a footnote; turn it up and hit repeat when it’s done.

Listen to Tenement below and pray that it eventually gets repressed in some format. In the meantime, revisit the rest of the band’s unbelievable discography at their bandcamp and watch this site’s own collection of live Tenement videos below the stream.

All Dogs – How Long (Stream)

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As was mentioned in the preceding post, this has been a characteristically enormous week for new music and music videos (at least as far as 2015’s concerned). It makes sense, then, that the most traditionally packed main category (single streams) would log the most outstanding entries. All of the songs that caught my ears or piqued my interest have been hyperlinked below this post’s featured song- All Dogs‘ stunning “How Long”. The third song to be officially released from the band’s forthcoming full-length, Kicking Every Day, “How Long” continues their drastic expansion of dynamic range.

As has been previously noted, the dynamic shift was sparked by two crucial elements: the addition of ex-NONA guitarist Nick Harris and the retooling of the actual songwriting process, allowing the band to collaborate on a much more extensive level. Leading the charge, as always, is Maryn Jones, an enviably gifted songwriter that’s perfected an unshakable blend of humility, honesty, and yearning that can be absolutely devastating. Jones and Harris’ guitar work across all of the tracks in Kicking Every Day‘s rollout campaign have been nothing short of miraculous. Understated, complementary, and intuitive, their instrumental work has managed to maintain a surprisingly emotional heft that only deepens the inherent sadness that permeates the bulk of Jones’ discography (something also exhibited in her work with Saintseneca– who also have a forthcoming record this year- and as Yowler, a project that released a full-length earlier in 2015).

Backed by the rhythm section of Amanda Bartley (bass) and Jesse Wither (drums), all of All Dogs’ songs gain an intimidating set of teeth. Bruised and bristling, the band dives headfirst into Jones’ damaged introspection with a commendable fearlessness, amplifying a deeply personal struggle of self-worth. Putting herself under the knife, Jones is merciless in her meticulous scrutiny of her own value. In Fader’s premiere of the song, Jones issued a statement about “How Long” was “an extended question about when [she] would stop hating [herself].” It takes bravery to acknowledge your own faults and even more to do so on an extremely public level but in a recent conversation I was fortunate enough to have with Jones after Saintseneca’s impressive performance at Baby’s All Right, she revealed that the process of writing and playing music has been deeply therapeutic.

Fortunately, Jones’ self-loathing is given a celebratory tint with a positive angle when framed in the greater context of All Dogs’ work and there’s a very palpable love for their craft that’s continuously evidenced by their breathtaking live show(s). Every now and then, that euphoric swell comes through in their most climactic moments and “How Long” boasts a few particularly great examples. As Jones stretches out and reaches for an answer in those explosive choruses, it’s almost as if the answer’s intangible and not an actual destination- rather, it’s something gleaned by the journey. While it may ultimately be a bittersweet path, at least it’s one shared in the company of genuinely supportive friends. It’s this particular dynamic that makes All Dogs a viable candidate for today’s best band; a willingness to fully explore life’s darkest corners but always retaliate against them while rallying around their central figure with unbridled force, grace, and determination. It’s also what makes “How Long” this week’s finest track.

Listen to “How Long” below and pre-order Kicking Every Day from Salinas here. Underneath the player, browse through a list of the week’s best songs. Enjoy.

PWR BTTM – Dairy Queen
Grape St. – Sharp Dressed Man
Helen – Violet
Big Air – Stay the Night
Alex G – Bug
Jacuzzi Boys – Sun
Wavves – Heavy Metal Detox
Majical Cloudz – Silver Car Crash
Blank Realm – Palace of Love
Timmy’s Organism – Get Up, Get Out
Destroyer – Times Square
Dialect – Chewing Springs/Quietly in the House
Fern Mayo – Going Somewhere
Amy Bezunartea – Oh The Things A Girl Must Do
Kindling – Hate the Police
Scully – Don’t Want That
Tempers – Undoing
Lucero – Can’t You Hear Them Howl
Aneurysm – Stop This Ride
Chance the Rapper & Noname Gypsy – Israel (Sparring)
Ausmuteants – Mates Rates
Numero Group – Spirit Darts
Tideland – All I Know
Thee AHs – John
Palm – Crank
together PANGEA – If You’re Scared
Doe – No Wonder
Gracie – Jesse
Frankie Broyles – Capturer
Marineros – Secretos
Century Palm – Valley Cyan
Threading – Never
Infinity Girl – Young
Last Good Tooth – Our Little Machine
Lost Film – Try
Thayer Sarrano – Touch My Face
Aircraft – Stick
The High Learys – Letter to Alice
Wild Moth – You Found Out
Surf Rock Is Dead – Anymore
Modern Merchant – Be That As It May

All Dogs – Skin (Stream)

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Depending on the releases, some days are made easy and- while the reprieve is welcome- it can be disheartening. Then there are days like today, which offer a frustration spurred by more than a few releases being too good to settle on a definitive feature. For a large portion of the planning that went into this post, the intended feature was going to go to Ought’s most recent blistering, insistent masterwork, “Men For Miles“.  Even in those stages, the song had competition in the likes of Nabil’s jaw-dropping GoPro interactive design that acted as the moody clip for Foals’ fiery “Mountain At My Gates“.

It wasn’t as if that trio was without competition, either. Deer Tick’s gorgeous “Grandfather Song“, Faux Ferocious’ scuzzy “Nowhere To Go“, Team Spirit’s pulsating “Takin’ My Time (Never Enough)“, Doubting Thomas Cruise Control’s frenetic “Lenny Bruce“, Birthmark’s slow-building “Find Yourself” would have constituted an impressive field on their own accord. Elevating the difficulty was the fact two outstanding unique features surfaced in the form of an engrossing Tickle Torture documentary and a full recording of a recent set from Colin Bares (the songwriter behind The Weasel, Marten Fisher project), whose responsible for some of the year’s finest songs.

Even the full streams had a great day, with excellent offerings from bratty scuzz-punks Fox Face, the lo-fi neurotics in Ego, the punk-indebted basement poppers in Vamos, and the increasingly fascinating (and darkly tinted) world of Black Thumb. Rounding the day out were compelling music videos from Wild Ones, Oddisee, and Living Decent. Even with all of that taken into consideration, though, the day still ultimately belonged to All Dogs.

Having just released a surefire song of the year candidate in “That Kind of Girl“, the band was presented with the unenviable  task of selecting the follow-up track for their forthcoming record’s rollout campaign. A lot of different modes can be considered (and ultimately, selected) for this slot and “Skin” seems to fall into one of the trickier categories to pull off: the song that demonstrates the record’s range and scope. In the past, those songs have tended to fall more towards the acute version of sophomore slump than anything else but “Skin” hurdles those traps with no shortage of grace to all but ensure Kicking Every Day will be among 2015’s best releases.

All Dogs have never been shy about finding something beautiful in damage, something that’s been continuously driven home by the frequently devastating lyrics of Maryn Jones (who’s also a member of site favorites Saintseneca and Yowler, the latter being Jones’ solo outfit). “Skin”, over the course of it’s slow-building five minutes and change, finds Jones grappling with some of the prevailing themes throughout her discography: loneliness, self-doubt, resilience, self-sabotage, and quiet redemption. All of which continue to feel deeply personal, nearing a point of voyeurism that only grows more nerve-wracking as the song progresses.

Elevating the feeling of tension is the scintillating dynamic angle that All Dogs uncovered when transitioning their writing process to a full-band ordeal following the addition of guitarist Nick Harris. Every conceivable element that made the band so great to begin with gets amplified by this approach and the dividends are already paying off in startling fashion. The interplay between Jones’ and Harris’ guitar work is increasingly nuanced and the rhythm work’s even more emotive than it’s been in the past, contributing to some newfound atmospherics that complement the band to perfection.

Looking at the sheer magnitude of “Skin” in comparison to anything found on the band’s debut 7″ (which was reviewed in the sixth post to ever run on Heartbreaking Bravery) is revelatory. At the level the band’s currently operating, they’ve unlocked a seemingly boundless arsenal of styles to achieve increasingly varied effects. From the subtle, interlocking post-punk guitar work to the bruised euphoria of the chorus, “Skin” is a jaw-dropping indication of the band’s ever-expanding capabilities. Throw in an earnest, beating heart at the core and All Dogs’ future suddenly looks intimidatingly bright.

All that’s left at this point is to find out whether the band can top perfection.

Listen to “Skin” below and pre-order Kicking Every Day from Salinas here.

All Dogs – That Kind of Girl (Stream, Live Video)

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It’s been a handful of days since a non-series or specialized coverage piece has run on this site so it seems fitting that the song that’s breaking the silence is not just one of the best songs of 2015 but a song that was praised effusively here last fall, when the band responsible- All Dogs– was road-testing new material. It’s been nearly a year since that initial exposure and a few of those still-unreleased songs haven’t faded from memory; there’s something about the upcoming material All Dogs have been harboring that’s impossible to shake. No song has managed to stick harder than “That Kind of Girl”, the first song to be released from their debut full-length, Kicking Every Day, and the song that closed the band’s inspired set in Milwaukee last August.

Before All Dogs played Milwaukee, I had a chance to sit down with the band for an interview/performance piece for The Media in which guitarist/vocalist Maryn Jones revealed that the biggest differentiating factor between the band’s extraordinary self-titled 7″ and Kicking Every Day was the fact that the band (which now includes former NONA guitarist Nick Harris) wrote the songs together rather than expanding on a pre-existing outline. Jones and I recently met back up again when one of her other bands, site favorites Saintseneca, opened for Murder By Death in Milwaukee. At that time, she was looking forward to pushing the release of the All Dogs record- something that carried a clear amount of meaning for the enviably gifted songwriter- while voicing some trepidation over trying to balance tours between her three remarkable projects (Jones also released an absolutely stunning solo record this year under her Yowler moniker).

While that may seem like an unnecessary anecdote, it served as an acutely realized moment of exposition. It’s that duality of enthusiasm and doubt that functions as the crux of some of Jones’ strongest work. A staggering body of work that’s most recent official addition is the surging “That Kind of Girl”. The song itself comes off as a blistering moment of personal triumph, a well-meaning kiss off to a former paramour. It’s a genuinely inspiring tour de force not just for Jones but for the band that surrounds her (one that includes bassist Amanda Bartley and Delay drummer Jesse Wither in addition to Harris) and allows the enterprising songwriter to conjure up a seemingly endless string of emotive hurricanes.

In approximately two and a half minutes, each individual member gets a powerful showcase for what they bring to the band as individual players. For Harris, it’s sharp, intuitive guitar playing, for Bartley, it’s a subtly menacing urgency, and Wither lends the band a considerable punch with powerhouse drumming. It’s the elevated dynamics- already at least somewhat evidenced by “Georgia“, the band’s Le Sigh mixtape contribution- that will make Kicking Every Day one of the most exhilarating releases of 2015. Even if Kicking Every Day‘s August 28 release date still means an excruciating month and a half of waiting, a towering, empathetic, humanist anthem isn’t a bad way to set things in motion. Until that date hates, the best thing- the only thing– to do is just keep hitting repeat.

Listen to “That Kind of Girl” below and keep an eye on Salinas for pre-orders. A live video of the band performing the song- as well as a video of Jones performing a devastating solo take of Kicking Every Day track “Leading Me Back To You” (a song that’s being rescued from Jones’ and Bartley’s old project, Wolfs)- have been included beneath the soundcloud embed. For those of you in Brooklyn, you can catch the band at The Silent Barn on August 22 with The Sidekicks. In the meantime, enjoy the song and the footage below.