Heartbreaking Bravery

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Tag: lost

À La Mode – Total Doom (Stream)

a la mode

Tuesday saw the release of a slew of notable streams from Francie Moon, Cross Country, Left & Right, Kevin Devine, Curse of Lono, Sighs, Springtime Carnivore, Wovenhand, Avid Dancer, Communions, Peeling, Slow Mass, Bellows, Savoy Motel, and Dangers. In addition to that bounty, there were some strong music videos arriving from the likes of Adir L.C., Dust From 1000 Yrs, Bunny, Sam Evian, Joan Shelley, and Minden. A pair of excellent full streams in Sex Stains‘ self-titled and Skyjelly‘s package product were just the cherry on top.

While many of those acts have earned praise from this site in the past, today’s feature — once again — falls to a group of fresh faces. À La Mode only have one self-titled EP to their name but are prepared to change that in the very near future. Following their 2014 self-titled effort, the band’s made some enormous strides forward and arrive completely revitalized with the first single, “Total Doom”, from their forthcoming debut full-length, Perfection Salad.

Opening with an electronic, dance-ready beat turns out to be somewhat of a misdirect with the band throwing their weight into a more traditional setup after the introduction. At no point does the band lose the sense of fun it established at the top, though, and when the synth returns for the chorus it gives a remarkably bleak sentiment an abundance of life. Longing is a well-worn topic but what makes it a continuing source of fascination is that it can be tailored to match their author’s individuality. Here, chronic unrequited longing is given a bedfellow in all-consuming doom.

The dichotomy of vibrancy and gloom is crucial to the track’s success and helps “Total Doom” become an immediate standout. Exceptionally clever songwriting can go a long way in securing longevity and À La Mode offer it in excess for a little over two minutes. From those deceptive opening bars to the damaged, weirdly triumphant closing moments, “Total Doom” is nothing less than an exhilarating breath of fresh air.

Easily one of the most pleasant surprises of recent memory, À La Mode have set an extraordinarily high bar for their upcoming record. If that record comes anywhere close to achieving the peaks they do on “Total Doom”, they’ll have one of 2016’s most inspired records. In any respect, they’ll be a band to watch as the year goes forward. Until then, the best thing to do is to celebrate the overwhelming strength of “Total Doom” and give in to its considerable charm.

Listen to “Total Doom” below and keep an eye on this site for more updates on Perfection Salad.

Johanna Warren – True Colors (Music Video) (NSFW)

Johanna Warren I

It’s been about a week since a regular post ran on here, which mostly just means there’s a lot of content to come. A lot of great songs and albums have managed to appear in a very short window of time. All of those will be put on pause as this post gives sole focus to the more visually-inclined main category of this site (though plans are still in motion for film to factor into coverage): music videos.

Fucked Up’s fearlessly experimental multimedia experience for “Year of the Hare“, FIDLAR’s endearing, homage-heavy “40oz. on repeat“, Liza Anne’s absolutely gorgeous “Lost“, Braids’ stunning visual accompaniment to their career highlight “Miniskirt“, and Blur’s immensely enjoyable “Ong Ong” all proved to be notable highlights. Joining them were Pleistocene’s playfully shambolic “Pulp“, Swervedriver’s multicolor, kaleidoscopic “I Wonder?“, Izzy True’s tantalizingly bare-bones lyric clip for “Swole“, Demons’ skate spree in “Radical Cure“, Eternal Summers’ color-bled “Gold And Stone“, and We Were Promised Jetpacks’ beautiful, arresting “A Part Of It“.

Then, there was Johanna Warren’s “True Colors”.

Before diving into the blisteringly intense content of the video itself, it’s worth taking a step back to take a look at the history of the video- one that’s intrinsically intertwined with this site. At some point late last year, I’d latched onto Warren’s music thanks to her tour with site favorite Mitski. At some point during that time, Warren and I began talking and she eventually agreed to contribute a piece to the diaristic year-end segment A Year’s Worth of MemoriesHer piece stood out immediately, primarily because it was about something that hadn’t ever materialized.

When I caught up with Warren in Menasha- a small town in the middle of Wisconsin- to profile her for Consequence of Sound, I was eager to discuss the video. I’d been listening to nūmūn religiously in preparation and had a very distinct idea for what I thought the clip- initially intended for “Black Moss”- would be if it was ever resuscitated. Warren assured me it hadn’t escaped her mind (not surprising considering her initial levels of unease- feelings which would return leading up to the record’s premiere) and was still hoping to return to the concept for a future release.

Somewhere along the way, the song shifted and- during filming- took on a new life. Originally envisioned to be something far more gentle, the concept was adjusted into something much rawer (and, likely, much more important). To go into further details at this point would be relatively pointless as Warren provided an eloquent analysis of its mechanics in a statement issued to Stereogum, where the video premiered. That statement can also be read below.

This song is about traversing and transgressing boundaries: the tenuous lines that separate physical and metaphysical, waking and dreaming, and our moral categories of right and wrong. It’s about walking barefoot down the fertile coastline where binaries touch and exploring what hidden, buried parts of your soul might stir awake and flourish if you free yourself from the shackles of what society deems appropriate. It’s about surrendering to the wild — specifically the wild feminine, which has been so oppressed and forgotten — and communing in a primal, magical way with the powerful forces of nature.

The scene depicted in this video is an initiation rite. Throughout human history, spiritual practices have involved elements of bondage, flagellation, and submission as a means of entering altered states of consciousness/getting close to God. These days, most of us feel like we don’t have access to visionary experiences, largely because organized religions have convinced us they are the gatekeepers to spirituality. But there is a basic evolutionary human need for the expansion of consciousness, and that drives some of us to engage in activities that have been scorned, demonized and/or criminalized by our puritanical society, such as exploring psychedelics, magick, and BDSM—all of which, when done safely and consentually, can be effective keys in unlocking altered/ecstatic states (and all of which, I believe, are the subject of increased mainstream interest right now specifically because of our culture’s gaping spiritual deficit).

The making of this video was an experience I curated for myself with the support and guidance of two trusted, beloved collaborators: Gretchen Heinel, a radical feminist genius whose evocative body of work explores BDSM, body modification, and ritual; and Damon Stang, a highly gifted and learned Witch and practitioner of queer urban folk magic. In light of important ongoing discussions and valid sensitivities around issues of consent and violence towards women, let me clearly state my stance as an empowered creative woman who believes every human has the right to do with his or her body exactly what he or she chooses, short of infringing the rights of a fellow being. The struggle to reclaim that right is at the heart of so many key social issues right now: gay marriage, abortion rights, legalizing marijuana and other controlled substances, etc. For me, making this video felt like a radical reclaiming of my right to do with my body exactly what I want.

On my drive home from the shoot, a critical little voice in my head asked me why the hell I did this, and I happily replied, “Because I fucking wanted to.” It was fun and empowering and sexy and beautiful and deep and magical, I learned so much about myself and I have no regrets. It’s crazy, though, how even knowing all that, watching the video and thinking of others watching it, I find myself judging myself SO HARD and feeling a lot of fear. But just as my anxiety reaches a peak, I hear my own voice sing, “Forget the duality of wrong and right,” and I’m like… “Oh yeah, good point.”

It’s at once a spellbinding look at the psyche of one of the more interesting artists of the moment and an incredibly charged statement. Genuinely unsettling and superbly directed by the team of Gretchen Heinel and Damon Stang, it verges on being an extremely difficult watch but it soon becomes impossible to look away. As a representation of one of Warren’s most successful dichotomies (an inexplicable- and often light- gentleness paired with a searing- and frequently dark- intensity). Operating on the fringes of both dream and nightmare, “True Colors” is one of 2015’s boldest visual works to date.   

Watch “True Colors” below and pick up nūmūn from Team Love here.

Reigning Sound – Falling Rain (Stream)

Over the span of their existence and an extraordinary discography, Reigning Sound have carved out a place in the contemporary musical landscape that seems fated to wind up as One of America’s Great Forgotten Rock Bands only to be rediscovered years down the road by crate-diggers who will have no idea what they’re in for. Of course, the band does have a strong foothold in certain circles and anyone that owns even one of their records (Time Bomb High School and Home for Orphans are both outright classics) knows that they’re a genuinely great band. Those fortunate enough to find themselves involved in those circles will undoubtedly do their best to pass down this music to the next generation. However, there are times when being overlooked for so long can be tiresome or grate the wrong way in the grand scheme of things, especially from a label standpoint, so a round of applause to Merge for putting their faith in this band and signing them ahead of the July 15 release of Shattered.

Both the band and the label have offered up the first taste of Shattered with “Falling Rain”, a song that exists squarely in the band’s sweet spot. There’s a sense of familiarity, a warm analog crackle, and Greg Cartwright’s masterful songwriting and inviting persona driving “Falling Rain”. It’s another entry in the band’s catalog that feels like it could have been a lost hit from virtually anywhere in the span of the last 40 years or so. That particular brand of timelessness is always an impressive thing to be able to boast and it’s where Reigning Sound have made their home over the course of their career. Cartwright’s already proven himself to be one of this generation’s best songwriters and “Falling Rain” is only further proof of his enviable command over both composition and personality. Hopefully Merge’s support carries this band from a best-kept secret to a household name. There are few bands that deserve that transition as much as Reigning Sound does.

Listen to “Falling Rain” below and discover (or rediscover) one of America’s best bands.