Heartbreaking Bravery

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Tag: LP

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.

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.

Three Weeks Down: A Handful of Full Streams

The previous two posts have fixated on some of the great material from streams and music videos. All that’s left to cover is the full streams of EPs, splits, comps, and full-length efforts that have emerged in the three weeks or so that Heartbreaking Bravery has been on hiatus. Bookmark this page, rifle through the titles on display, and walk away with a handful of outstanding new music. Enjoy.

Jason Loewenstein, Wishing Rock, Psychic Judge, Guggi DataAgent blå, Milk, Palm, Gland, Dion Lunadon, Konrad, Popular Adultstrü, Vs., Dead Heavens, Gringo, Bad Channels, Poppy, Ackroyd, Early Riser, Boogarins, Steady Sun, Superchunk, Ulrika Spacek, Ethan Daniel Davidson, PANXKING, Mare Island, Molly Nilsson, Terror Watts, Tough Age, CHIMNEY, Empty Heads, Hulaboy and Safe Distance, Marias, Leather Girls, CreaturoS, Swoon Lake, Rachel Baiman, and ROYA as well as the excellent Athens Vs. Trump compilation.

Charly Bliss – Guppy (Album Review, Live Videos)

Reviewing a record that you’ve spent years becoming entwined with, falling in love with, and essentially establishing as a core part of your identity is a difficult prospect. It’s always nerve-wracking to attempt to do justice to something that’s become so personal. When it’s made by people that you’ve grown to love and even consider part of your extended family, it becomes a lot murkier. And yet, every single time Charly Bliss’ Guppy starts up, all of those thoughts fade away and the record rises up, bares its fangs, and clamps down with such a vengeance that it’s difficult to think of anything other than the music’s sheer, overwhelming power.

Guppy is a record I’ve been fortunate enough to watch evolve since its first permutation in 2015, which featured a handful of songs that didn’t make the cut for the official release (including “Turd“, which was released in advance of Guppy as a standalone single) and boasted a production that emphasized the low-end aspect of the band, providing it an immense punch. That Guppy has not only retained that punch but emphasized it by balancing out those levels is nothing short of miraculous.

To get to that point, the band weathered quite a few storms and put more notches in its belt than most people realize. The band first hinted that it might be more than your standard punk-driven basement pop act with the releases of 2013’s A Lot To Say EP, which was highlighted by its towering title track. Following that was the release of an astounding single in “Clean“, the invaluable addition of Dan Shure on bass, and the release of the Soft Serve EP, which — along with their scintillating live show — acted as the band’s calling card for a handful of years.

Soft Serve acted as my introduction to the band and I’ve never been so thoroughly dismantled and blown away by a band I’d never heard of as I was the day I clicked play on that record. It topped Heartbreaking Bravery’s EP’s of the Year list for 2014 and still stands proudly as my personal pick for the best EP of this decade and it’s very unlikely that anything will unseat it by the time 2020 rolls around. No band has every put me all in as quickly as Charly Bliss managed with just three perfect songs.

I didn’t know it at the time but that EP would wind up legitimately changing the course of my life. Eva Grace Hendricks, one of Charly Bliss’ two guitarist/vocalist/songwriter’s, joined the A Year’s Worth of Memories contributors roster shortly after Soft Serve‘s release and wound up being an instrumental part of my decision to relocate to Brooklyn for half of 2015. Our shared, vocal support of each other’s ventures meant a great deal to me at the time and still does today, as it stood (and stands) as the type of mutual support that Heartbreaking Bravery has aimed to establish since the beginning.

Enter: Guppy‘s first run, an astonishing demo that laid out the particulars and quickly overtook everything else in my listening habits. Any doubts that any of the members of Charly Bliss may have had at the time were wildly unwarranted; even at its most humble stages, Guppy was a behemoth of a record. For the next two years, the band would fine-tune different parts of the songs, the production, and they’d introduce new material that usurped a few scattered tracks that were initially grouped in with what would eventually become Guppy.

To promote the record, the band did everything right and still managed to hide a few tricks up their sleeve: touring America as the openers for Veruca Salt and PUP, releasing “Ruby” as an early single and following it up with a characteristically clever music video, unleashing the single greatest Audiotree session I’ve seen (no small feat), and finding ways to advance their jaw-dropping live show, from perfecting four-part harmonies to studiously analyzing old footage to look for subtle tweaks to potentially make. All the while, a handful of labels had taken interest and the band had a huge decision to make and took their time to make sure it was the right one.

Barsuk Records eventually won the rights to Guppy and all of the tenacity they likely poured into their campaign to secure the record should pay massive dividends for the label going forward. It’s a move that helped secure Guppy the vaunted NPR First Listen slot, replete with an effectively effusive write-up. Stereogum immediately awarded the record its Album of the Week honor and Pitchfork gave it the kind of score that’s a short step away from verging on their Best New Music territory (a rarity for the publication’s appraisal of this particular genre).

While all of the praise remains heartening to see and the critical analysis provided to the record was both thoughtful and thought-provoking, it’s difficult to tell if any of those reviewers grasped the magnitude of what this type of record can accomplish if it keeps being awarded effective platforms. It’s also difficult to tell if any of those publications had a handle on not only what this band can eventually become but what they’ve managed to become already. As mentioned above, Guppy is a record capable of obliterating critical thinking as it plays and then rewarding it to an obscene degree when it wraps, putting it in extremely select company.

From the energy-bolstering opening seconds of “Percolator”, Guppy lets its listeners know that they’re in for something that’s as ebullient as it is aggressive, finding a transcendental sweet spot between bubblegum coating and a shockingly dark undercurrent. Hendricks, from the outset, dives into a narrative that grapples with not only her own mortality but the self-awareness everyday interactions have come to necessitate. Spencer Fox, the band’s other guitarist/vocalist/songwriter, provides what’s quickly becoming his trademark: economical but dizzying guitar riffs that don’t sacrifice feeling for technique (or vice versa).

If people weren’t aware that Fox is currently one of the best guitarists in music, Guppy should go a long way in providing that (admittedly understandable) ignorance a remedy. While Soft Serve‘s “Urge to Purge” remains one of the best riffs of the present decade, Guppy is where Fox stakes his claim, something that becomes abundantly clear throughout the course of the record. Not only are all of Fox’s contributions spectacular but the work Dan Shure and Sam Hendricks (Eva’s brother) are doing as a rhythm section have allowed them to quietly become one of the most vicious tandems currently on the circuit.

While Fox and that rhythm section remain impressive throughout, Guppy‘s beating heart rests in Eva Grace Hendricks and that heart’s beating at a relentless pace. Hendricks anchors each one of these songs with a frightening determination and a mischievous joy. All of the come-on’s are equipped with a warning, every smile comes with a missing tooth, and every invitation comes with an advance apology.

In “Ruby”, Hendricks’ loving ode to her therapist, she rides a subway with blood on her hair. On “Glitter”, there’s the realization that a relationship’s shortcomings can sometimes be equally distributed across both parties. In “Scare U”, there’s the recognition of greed and the unapologetic desire to be in complete control.  At seemingly every turn, Hendricks comes to grips with the duality most goodhearted people constantly view as a struggle. By subverting these thoughts and latching onto something defiantly celebratory, Charly Bliss comes together to reclaim their own deeply damaged narratives as learning points, important mistakes, and necessities of personal evolution.

It’s in that context where each of the band’s decisions gains importance. They’re not just making music because they like to make music; they’re using it as a coping outlet. Every single snare hit, vibrato, and squeal comes loaded with personal meaning and they’re reaching those confrontations as a unit, drawing from each other’s strengths to pummel all of the perceived difficulties back into something that feels inconsequential in the face of what they’re doing together. Nothing is half-assed. This is the embrace of life vs. the acquiescence of  a life given over to being constantly haunted by past mistakes.

As that aspect of Guppy comes into focus, it’s legitimately hard not to be blown away on several levels. Chief among them, the strength this band’s gained through both familial experience and shared camaraderie. There’s no judgment present, just the willingness to take a sword to the throats of the dangerous things that threaten the well-being of their friends. If there’s a dragon to be slayed, Charly Bliss’ tactic is to conjure up a battering ram to force it into becoming a piñata and bathing in its blood as the ugliest contents come pouring out, greeting the event as a ritualistic party to share with all their friends.

Managing to make things even more impressive is the fact that the band’s doing this with what’s more of a whip-smart advancement of ’90s slacker punk & powerpop aesthetics than a faceless imitation. Sure, Guppy will get compared to Letters to Cleo, Josie and the Pussycats, and any other act that fits that mold- but (in addition to some possible casual sexism) that’s only faintly scratching the surface of what’s actually happening on this record, especially in terms of composition. That’s a victory all on its own and Guppy should go a long way in contributing to what looks to be a seismic shift in the way bands pull influence from that particular pocket of music.

Guppy is far from a retread and it’s decidedly modern bent helps secure it a spot as one of 2017’s essential releases as well as a bona fide genre classic. There are no standout songs among the 10 because virtually all of them rank among the best to be released this year. From wire-to-wire, Guppy is a breakneck record that revels in destruction and comes off as a staggering show of force. Everything from the dirty ditty-turned-guaranteed showstopper “Black Hole”  to the unrelenting blows administered by “Gatorade”, “DQ”, and “Westermarck” are enough to make anyone sit up and start paying the type of attention this band should’ve been receiving for the past several years.

As “Totalizer” races by with abandon and all of the requisite snark, cleverness, and thoughtfulness that have come to define Charly Bliss songs, it’s still difficult to think most will be adequately prepared for the record’s final breathtaking moment. “Julia”, Guppy‘s sludgy closer, is the heaviest track the band’s committed to record by miles. It’s one final reminder that the band’s not as cute as they appear at first blush and that Guppy, while a fun record on the surface, conceals a wellspring of damage that the band’s not afraid to confront. Full-throated, deeply felt, and ferociously delivered, Guppy is a basement pop record for the ages. Whatever troubles come, I have no doubt that Charly Bliss will be standing above the wreckage, breathing in the smoke and looking to start a roaring fire all their own.

Listen to Guppy below, pick it up from Barsuk here, and watch a collection of live videos that I personally shot of the band playing at six separate shows over the past few years.

The Best Records of 2017’s First Quarter

Just about three full months into 2017 and there have been a litany of great records. In that massively overcrowded field, there were still several records — full-lengths, compilations, EP’s, or otherwise — that managed to stand out. Below are 10 of the most gripping releases to have emerged in 2017’s first quarter, each making an impression that was felt, intensely, for one reason or another. Read about some of those reasons below and listen to each record in the selected embed (just make sure they’re all at the beginning of the record when you hit play). Enjoy.

MO TROPER – GOLD

Last year, Mo Troper put out a proper solo debut full-length, Beloved, which was one of five to receive this site’s Album of the Year designation. In February, Troper unleashed a new collection of songs that’d been written over the past several years and further solidified a status as one of this generation’s premier powerpop songwriters. Not a note’s out of place, the atmospherics serve the song, the melodies are earworms that last for days, and there’s an abundance of feeling driving another outstanding collection.

JOHN ROSSITER – NEVERENDING CATALOG OF TOTAL GARBAGE HEARTBREAK AGGREGATE

Young Jesus‘ name has appeared on this site several times over and John Rossiter‘s been a valuable contributor to the A Year’s Worth of Memories series. Last year, small batches of collections were being released under the Young Jesus name before being pulled because they weren’t full band efforts; all of those songs were Rossiter solo efforts. Thankfully, they recently re-emerged in a gorgeous compilation that ably, compellingly, and movingly demonstrates Rossiter’s formidable songwriting talents.

YUCKY DUSTER – DUSTER’S LAMENT

Easily one of the best releases of 2017’s first three months came in the form of an EP from Yucky Duster, a basement pop band that, seemingly impossibly, keeps finding ways to improve on each successive release. Duster’s Lament is the band’s finest work yet and continues drawing them even closer to attaining outright perfection. All five of the songs the band has on display here manage to be simultaneously carefree and incredibly memorable, entwining two aesthetics that are too frequently at odds. It’s masterful.

FRED THOMAS – CHANGER

A very early Album of the Year candidate, Fred Thomas‘ Changer saw the acclaimed songwriter continuing to elevate his craft in astonishing fashion. Easily Thomas’ sharpest lyrical effort to date, there’s also an urgency to these songs that push them forward with sincerity, feeling, and an irrepressible need to get these statements out into the world. Musically, it’s Thomas’ most ambitious work to date by a considerable stretch and, overall, a triumph bearing a magnitude and scope that’s impossible to ignore.

CLOUD NOTHINGS – LIFE WITHOUT SOUND

Cloud Nothings‘ discography, up to this point, has been littered with superlative releases. When a band achieves that kind of consistency, it’s fair to have high expectations for their new releases. Still, Life Without Sound, the band’s latest, manages to transcend its anticipation and wind up as not only the band’s most ambitious and inventive release but, somehow, its most representative as well. All of the bands eras are fused together here to create a spellbinding work that’s proven to be difficult to forget.

MEAT WAVE – THE INCESSANT

There are a handful of concept records that are widely regarded as some of the greatest releases of all time, despite some hamfisted tendencies. Meat Wave‘s The Incessant side-steps both the trappings of concept records and their characteristically overbearing nature by releasing a collection of acutely pointed missives dealing with one specific topic: the swirling vortex of incoming emotions after a life-altering event. The result is a record that serves as the band’s most abrasive, ambitious, and intense effort to date.

BEACHHEADS – BEACHHEADS

Upon learning at least one member of Kvelertak was in Beachheads, the band’s debut full-length came as a joyous-yet-jarring left turn. Trafficking in sunny powerpop that takes most of its cues from the genres forebears, Beachheads wound up being a deeply unexpected delight. Every song on Beachheads boasts sublime moments and evokes the sort of open-road-and-sunshine aesthetic that’s been so vital to the genres most enduring classics. Beachheads give that aesthetic a slightly modern spin and wind up with a summery gem.

MIDDLE CHILDREN – EARTH ANGEL

Patrick Jennings has been directly responsible for a lot of the music that’s hit me the hardest over the past seven years so news of a solo project was very welcome. Unsurprisingly, given Jennings’ track record (and what he’d accomplished with both Hot New Mexicans and PURPLE 7), Earth Angel is an incredible work. One of the best records likely to be released in 2017, Earth Angel is a quiet, brilliant, and unassuming encapsulation of what’s made Jennings such an essential (if woefully overlooked) voice in today’s music landscape.

STEF CHURA – MESSES

Ever since 2010’s self-titled effort, Stef Chura has been steadily improving, perfecting a strand of punk-tinged basement pop that’s immensely appealing. Messes, Stef Chura’s latest, is the most perfect distillation of this brand of music the act’s offered up yet, thanks in part to the contributions of Fred Thomas (who, as this list indicates, is on a white-hot streak of great releases). Still, Thomas’ contributions wouldn’t mean nearly as much if the source material wasn’t so involving. Messes is the sound of an artist coming into their own and, as a result, the work present on the record winds up being antithetical to the record’s title.

RICK RUDE – MAKE MINE TUESDAY

One of the most intriguing releases of 2017’s earliest stretch came in the form of Rick Rude‘s sprawling, shape-shifting Make Mine Tuesday. Easily the band’s boldest — and best — release in a very strong discography that was uniformly unafraid to take risks, Make Mine Tuesday succeeds as both a masterclass in forward-thinking composition and as a record with immense replay value; these are intricate songs that never seem to get old or become any less engaging. A scintillating mixture of wiry post-punk and basement pop, Make Mine Tuesday finds Rick Rude reaching unprecedented heights. One can’t help but wonder, especially after a release like this one, if they’ll ever return to earth.

Full Streams of the First Quarter: The Honorable Mentions

Technical difficulties forced Heartbreaking Bravery into an effective hiatus at the start of the year but, even through the visible inaction, behind-the-scenes work continued in earnest. Various outlets depths were exhausted, the site’s inbox maintained its regular flood of releases, and everything else that emerged was meticulously examined. Over the course of 2017’s first quarter (minus a week or so), more than 100 great records were released. 10 will be spotlighted in the very near future and the rest of the releases that caused a positive reaction can be found below. Enjoy.

Cool American, Alexander F, The Courtneys, Single Player, Schlotman, Street Stains, Thurst, Teenage Wedding, oso oso, Sam Skinner, Thelma, Wild Pink, Toby Reif, Omni, Pissed Jeans, Baked, WHY?, Neutral Shirt, Hideout, SSWAMPZZ, Boosegumps, Maryn Jones, Luxury Death, UV-TV, Ron Gallo, Matty Ann, Communions, Hanni El Khatib, Vagabon, So Stressed, The Paranoyds, Middle Kids, David Bazan, Toner, minihorse, Fucked Up, Olive & The Pitz, Boreen, Two Moons, wayde, The Spirit of the Beehive

Lunch Ladies, Heavy Pockets, Layperson, Little Person, Laura Marling, Chick Quest, Tobin Spout, Tall Friend, Caitlin Pasko, The Molochs, Trust Fund, Pinegrove
 Radula, Sinai Vessel, CARE, Michael Chapman, Jamie Wyatt, The Modern Savage, Analog CandleLouise Lemón, Heart Attack Man, Matthew Lee Cothran, Retail Space, The Cherry Wave, Frederick the Younger, No Thank You, Railings, Crushed Stars, Fragrance., ShitKid, Joan of Arc, Jim O’Rourke, Black Kids, Knife in the Water, bvdub

The Ocean Party, VICTIME, Career Suicide, Dead Man Winter, Lindenfield, Loess, Redshift Headlights, Balto, Angelus, Fufanu, French Vanilla, The Wild War, Turn to Crime, Souvenir Driver, Stinking Lizaveta, Matteo Vallicelli, Milk Music, Caroline Spence, NAVVI, Cody Crumps, Exasperation, Xiu Xiu, Damaged Bug, Winston Hightower, Kim Free, Kikagaku Moyo, Lilah Larson, Appalache, Eric Burnham, Party of One, Noveller, sir Was, R. Missing, Yawn Mower, Moral Panic, Auditorium, The Pantheon, The Obsessives

Dakota Blue, Skullflower, My Education, Lowlands, Half Waif, Trevor de Brauw, Strange RangerOnce & Future Band, DONCAT, The Visis, Blank Range, Transona Five100%/Joyce Manor, and Dead Tenants/Drome.

A special mention should also be given to these five compilations, all supporting worthy causes: Our First 100 Days (at the time of this writing, this release is still being updated), Sad! A Barsuk Records Compilation for the ACLU, Is There Another Language?, Save the Smell, and Don’t Stop NowA Collection of Covers.

Three Weeks, Eight Records

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Over the past three weeks there have been an impressively large volume of outstanding records to find their way out into the world. A large handful of them were covered in a recent round-up post but there were some that genuinely stood out. With the extent of material involved in this particular format, the best option was to highlight them in one post. While this decision will come at the expense of exhaustively exploring what makes these records so great, know that they’re all more than worth a heavy amount of investment. So, without further ado, here are eight incredible records from the past three weeks.

Lubec – Cosmic Debt

The first of several wild-eyed basement pop records to appear on this list, Lubec‘s Cosmic Debt really emphasizes the band’s frenetic approach to songwriting. Where Cosmic Debt stands out is its coherent fluidity, tethering all of their most erratic moments to an identity that’s teeming with purpose. Front to back, Cosmic Debt‘s an oddly exhilarating record, drawing strength from its cracks, swinging to the end.

Glider – Demos 

A collaborative, multi-country recording project, Glider’s existed in some form or another for years. The act, comprised of Tom Lobban and Louie Newlands, finally released the handful of demos they’ve been recording to the public. Demos features an extraordinary range of two gifted, versatile songwriters who pull cues from powerpop, post-punk, ambient, and a variety of other genres and work them into something legitimately memorable. One of 2016’s most extraordinary surprises.

Poppies – Double Single

“Egghead” and “Mistakes” constitute the entirety of Double Single but Poppies make every second of each song count. Wistful indie pop at its absolute finest, the band coaxes a subdued magic out of familiar terrain, enlivening both songs with a tantalizing personality. Neither song ever breaks above mid-tempo and the music draws the listener in with a calm assurance, suggesting a very bright future for the quartet.

Greys – Warm Shadow 

Having one 2016 triumph under the belt already in the excellent Outer Heaven, Greys seize the opportunity to capitalize on some growing momentum with another outstanding collection of tracks. Considerably poppier and more lo-fi than it’s counterpart from earlier this year, Warm Shadow succeeds as both a GBV-style look at the band’s approach and as an attention-grabbing record that’s incredibly hard to leave. While it may wind up as an anomaly or outlier of Grey’s already extremely impressive career, it’s bound to be one that’s looked upon with fond admiration.

Navy Gangs – Navy Gangs

Navy Gangs have been coming on strong this year, with their self-titled EP serving as the current culmination of some impressively intuitive decision-making. Battered, punk-informed basement pop will likely always be the calling card of Heartbreaking Bravery’s coverage and Navy Gangs experiment with that dynamic to quiet perfection on Navy Gangs. Immediately memorable and capable of rewarding close investment, Navy Gangs should go a long way in ensuring its namesake’s reputation as one of the finest acts in the market.

Sonic Avenues – Disconnector

Since before this site existed, Sonic Avenues have been a personal favorite. The band’s expertise lays in hyper, sugar-coated punk laced with classic pop sensibilities shot through with nods to noise and post-punk. Disconnector, their latest, finds the band continuing to perfect that mixture. Every song’s laced with an unwieldy adrenaline that renders Disconnector surprisingly forceful without ever losing sight of what makes the record — and the band — tick. Tightly wound and characteristically thrilling, it’s another cause for celebration.

Never Young – Singles Tape II: SoftBank

Easily one of 2016’s most ferocious, hyper-charged basement punk EP’s, Never Young‘s Singles Tape II: SoftBank is never anything less than exhilarating. All five of these songs grit their teeth, bare some fangs, and unleash a series of incrementally vicious bites. “I’m washing up with soap”, an unforgettable hook from “Soap”, not only manages to be one of the year’s strangest rallying cries but one of its strongest as well. To dive even further into the band’s extreme tenacity and overabundance of feeling (and “Soap”), just take a look at the last installment of Watch This. If that doesn’t sell this band — and this EP — properly, nothing will.

Crying – Beyond the Fleeting Gales

One of the most eclectic, unique, and electrifying releases in recent memory, Crying’s Beyond the Fleeting Gales calmly trouts out a series of never-ending ideas, all of which feel genuinely inspired. No band is currently attempting what Crying’s accomplished with this insane pastiche of a record. Each song varies wildly in the instrumental mixes incorporated into the mix, sounding like Sleigh Bells one second, New Order the next, and Tobacco the next. To its credit, Beyond the Fleeting Gales‘ restlessness never gets tiring. On the contrary, Crying have released what will likely not just be a career-defining record with Beyond the Fleeting Gales but one of 2016’s most genuinely inspiring works. Have a listen and start making music.

A Two Week Toll: Full Streams

Bringing an end to the opening trio of posts to amend some of the time lost during the hiatus that followed this site’s 1,000th post, the following links will be dedicated to some of the finest full-length streams that appeared over the past two weeks. From site favorites to new names, there’s a wealth of material here that’s worthy of investment. A handful of these may even be legitimate Album of the Year contenders. Carve some time out to listen or just hit play and turn the volume up while working, either way, make sure not to miss some extraordinary records. 

Terry Malts, The ExquisitesLola Kirke, Fake Limbs, HalfsourLilac DazeKuroma, Violence Creeps, Computer Magic, Emily Yacina, Male BondingJenny O, Wild Pink, MONO, Spellbinder, Clorox Girls, Infinity Crush, Ryan Allen and His Extra Arms, Fraternal Twin, Kestrels, Elephants, Hello Shark, Trash Gendar, (ghost), Shana Falana, Suburban Living, Trails and Ways, Lara Yuko, BatzGoat, Peaer, Henry Jamison, Bad Noids, Bellows, The Fabulous Johnsons, Sleeping Lessons, Big Bill, Shelf LifeThe Meltaways, Dog, Paper, Submarine, Balcanes, Warehouse, Kadhja BonetAxis: SovaFuneral Blues, This Frontier Needs HeroesLetters to CleoMr. Martin & The Sensitive GuysPanoptique Electrical, Exotica, HowardianBonzoJustin Peter Kinkel-Schuster, and the Punkinhead 2016 compilation.

Dark Thoughts – Dark Thoughts (Album Review)

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Photograph by Will McAndrew

The first of two full streams that will be going up tonight focuses squarely on Dark Thoughts’ blistering self-titled, their first official release following one of the best demos of 2014Four Songs. Before examining the overwhelming strength of Dark Thoughts, a few more titles have earned a spot on this page: SolidsElse (a strong early candidate for EP of the Year), Suuns’ hypnotizing Hold/Still, Qlowski’s insistent EPand Tuff Slang‘s peppy self-titled. All four are comfortably positioned as full releases that a lot of people will either come to love or love already.

Dark Thoughts finds some separation from the pack that’s linked above by virtue of being effectively straightforward in a genre that tends to grow stagnant whenever anyone’s foolish enough to attempt the feat. So many bands have tried and failed miserably at songs that are frequently (and unfairly) categorized as Ramones-core and while Dark Thoughts certainly embraces an archetype, it does so with an infallible mixture of venom and pure feeling.

From the opening four songs alone — which clock in at a combined total that doesn’t exceed three and a half minutes — Dark Thoughts comes across as a record with all-or-nothing stakes. The trio clearly wants to make a name for themselves and, appropriately, Dark Thoughts will likely be the record to make that happen. When the band absolutely lays into opener “Identity Crisis”, one wonders if they can sustain such a ferocious pace, then they spend the rest of the record making sure that pace is exceeded.

By the time “Anything” closes Dark Thoughts out, the record’s turned into the musical equivalent of someone riding a junker, forcing the accelerator to hug the floor, with neither hand anywhere close to the wheel. Not once does Dark Thoughts lag anywhere throughout the course of its sub-20 minute run time. Yes, a third of the songs present were already released on the demo but they also manage to be more effective than they were when packaged together without a greater context.

Every song on Dark Thoughts would be a worthy single but the record functions its own standalone entity as well; Dark Thoughts is a sublime piece of insanely well-informed genre work that skews as close to Fix My Brain as it does Rocket to Russia. Appropriately, it’s being released by Jeff Bolt‘s commendably consistent Stupid Bag Records, a label that’s built around celebrating DIY-leaning, punk-laced basement pop. It’s a perfect home for a record that careens recklessly and drives straight into an area reserved for modern classics.

Listen to Dark Thoughts below and pick it up from Stupid Bag here.

Littler – Somewhere Else (Stream)

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And the hits keep coming. This past Tuesday may not have been as overflowing with worthwhile material as some recent days have been but it did unearth quite a few feature-worthy items. In the full stream category there was CITRIS‘ elegantly crafted, 90’s-indebted Panic in Hampton Bays, Mumblr‘s dark, created-in-a-day EP Super! Premium! Deluxe!, elle le fantôme’s brooding paint it blacker, and Charm School– one of the year’s best demos- courtesy of Dame. For music videos, Car Seat Headrest got the Matador era of their career off to an extraordinary start with the excellent clip for “Something Soon“, Miss June issued a strong reminder that they’re responsible for one of the year’s finest EP’s via “Student Loan“, while Hayden, Insect Ark, and Media Jeweler rounded the format’s offerings out with flair. A select few individual songs wound up creating a deep impression, a group that included Stove‘s formidable “Jock Dreams“, Miserable’s tender “Palmistry Notes“, Petal’s career highlight “Sooner“, and Fleurie’s swirling “Still Your Girl“.

While all those are worth exploring, it was Littler’s “Somewhere Else” that secured the day’s headline slot by showcasing a good band’s steady ascension to greatness. Having already established a song discography, the band’s become increasingly poised and that newfound confidence has seeped into their songwriting. On “Somewhere Else” the band takes a few risks with their dynamics and they all pay off beautifully. From the slow-burning front section to the supercharged ending, there’s never a false note. Lyrically, it’s an exploration of romantic tendency that benefits greatly from a disarmingly honest approach. With the mantra of “It’s always better somewhere else” dominating the song’s second half, “Somewhere Else” offers an unflinching reminder of the effects of longing- and secures Littler a spot as one of today’s more promising emerging acts. Sharp throughout, this is a song that demands to be heard.

Listen to “Somewhere Else” below and keep an eye on this site for more details on any forthcoming releases.