Heartbreaking Bravery

stevenmps2@gmail.com | @steven_mps | @hbreakbravery

Tag: LUSH

The Best Full Streams of June’s First Half

In the opening half of June, a large handful of worthwhile records found their way into the public consciousness. Most of the five below (with one notable exception), only gained traction among niche audiences but were imbued with the kind of power that can make those numbers grow in increments. All of them, as ever, are more than worthy of purchasing from the band or label responsible for their release. A handful lived up to the hype and at least one seemed to appear from the ether. Give them all the kind of investment they deserve.

Snail Mail – Lush

Easily the highest-profile record on this list, site favorites Snail Mail made good on their early promise with a Matador debut. Debuting at a heartening 56 on the Billboard charts, Lush catapults the project into the public eye. Riding a wave of acclaim for their strong early work, sterling live show, smart marketing, and the strength of their advance singles ensured that Lush would be greeted with fanfare. That it’s devoid of any glaring weaknesses or gaps leaves the record as a testament to Lindsey Jordan’s abilities as a songwriter but more importantly, establishes Snail Mail as a genuine artist.

Flasher – Constant Image

Constant Image, the debut full-length from Flasher is one hell of a coming out party. Taut, hyper-melodic, and genre-blurring, the record’s a perfect encapsulation of a band that’s fully aware they’re coming into their own. Everything from the production to the sequencing here serves a larger whole rather than relegating distinctive sections. Every song on Constant Image is a career high for a band that’s already amassed a fairly impressive discography over a few short releases. Constant Image shouldn’t just put their name on the map but lock itself into the kind of heavy rotation slot that doesn’t get vacated.

Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever – Hope Downs

Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever are an act that’s been featured on this site multiple times for a handful of years, which makes it all the more surprising that Hope Downs is their first official album. What’s not as surprising, especially given that time to figure things out, is that it arrives fully-formed and eschews all of the easy traps lesser-versed bands fall into so frequently. The band knows there’s an advantage to risk-taking that doesn’t overreach and has figured out how to fully lock into their open-road identity. Hope Downs applies that wisdom spectacularly and winds up as an Americana-tinged triumph.

The Knees – Stammer

Likely the least recognizable release on this list, The Knees’ Stammer more than earns a spot among its contemporaries. Two songs of great, delirious post-punk that find fascinating ways to ramble with purpose. Aimless bridges on the title track add an impressive amount of hazy atmosphere, while the ridiculously fun “abcdefghijklmnopqrstuvwxyz” offers up a galvanizing version of a childhood classic. Subversive, unexpected, brimming with confidence, and delivered with a tenacious conviction, Stammer is one of the great unexpected surprises of 2018’s middle stretch. Give it a listen and leave it on repeat.

Dusk – Dusk

Dusk is a tricky record to judge on merit, as it’s essentially a glorified repurposing of a demo that was released by the earliest iteration of the band. Four songs are added (including one that’s an alternate take on a song from bassist/vocalist Amos Pitsch‘s other project, Tenement) and provide a layered depth which is welcome but where Dusk earns its spot on the list in its reinvention. Every single one of these songs benefits from what the band has become and to present them as a collective reintroduction makes sense, considering those changes have been so drastic.

As a collective, Dusk leans into soul as much as classic country, congealing all of their influence into something that’s become reminiscent of The Band, which is a far cry from their first recording. All of the songs here prove worthy of longevity, enhancing an aspect of timelessness. Dusk’s a remarkable band that’s found their power through evolution, settling into a final form that’s got a whole host of material up its sleeve. For now, we should all be more than content to sink into the spells these songs weave and be grateful to have another genuinely great record to add to our collections.

Snail Mail – Let’s Find An Out (Stream)

The middle of last week saw the release of a slew of great songs from the following artists: Francobollo, Rock Solid, An Horse, Saturday Night, Neko Case, Resina, Beach Skulls, gobbinjr, YOB, Goodfight, Culture Abuse, End ChristianSonny Elliot, Sam Evian, Aisha Burns, Trust Fund, Egg Men, Collections of Colonies of Bees, White Cliffs, Strawberry Mountains, and MIGHTY. Joining those ranks was the most recent Snail Mail single, “Let’s Find An Out”, which is as spellbinding as its predecessors.

While songs like “Heat Wave” focused on what Lindsey Jordan’s project can accomplish when it’s intent on detonation, “Let’s Find An Out” scales things back to something far more intimate. A gorgeous fingerpicked guitar pattern serves as an instrumental bed with some light percussion as Jordan waxes poetic on the nature of change, giving mortality the slightest of consideration while keeping the narrative persistently rooted to the present.

It’s a beautiful track that never becomes cloying or cumbersome in its examination of larger ideas, embracing its own modesty and delivering something heartfelt and memorable; the kind of journey that’s always worth taking.

Listen to “Let’s Find An Out” below and pre-order Lush from Matador here.

The Streams, Music Videos, and Full Streams of December’s First Half

As the year-end list slate of material approaches, this publication (and many others) have a tendency to get backed up. Being run by a single person puts Heartbreaking Bravery at a greater disadvantage in those terms. Other mitigating life factors have proven to be fairly significant in terms of time allotment. However, no matter how many things there wind up being to balance, keeping up with the latest releases never gets neglected. While there are a handful of tracks, music videos, and full streams that will be receiving (likely brief) individual features, there are many others that have recently emerged which deserve celebration. Those can all be accessed below, split into each respective category. Enjoy.

Streams

Rosebug, MainLand, Them Are Us Too, Doubting Thomas Cruise Control, Exam Season, Mrs. Magician, Ben Grigg, Hand Habits, Baked, Little Scream, Antonio Williams and Kerry McCoy, John Wesley Coleman, HeatNevāda Nevada, Active Bird Community, Rick Rude, The Feelies, Sam Skinner, Infinity Crush, Fog Lake, Low, Sister Helen, Ali Burress, Oliver Wilde, Holy Now, clipping. (ft. SICKNESS)Moon Duo, Joan of Arc, Serengeti + Sicker Man, Palberta, The Jesus and Mary Chain, Tino Drima, The Bushwick Hotel, DYVE, Six Organs of Admittance, orchid mantis, Peter Silberman, MeatbodiesTim Cohen, Broken Chairs, Sonya Kitchell, The Sadies (ft. Kurt Vile),  Owl Paws, The Modern Savage, Career Suicide, Thelma, Because, Loose Buttons, Del Paxton, Sinai Vessel, Saw Black, Thula Borah, Kohli Calhoun, and Gone Is Gone.

Music Videos

Fern Mayo, Los Bengala, Shame,  The Big Moon, Strand of Oaks, Matthew Squires, The Molochs, Mozes and the Firstborn, Square Peg Round Hole, The Lonely Biscuits, The Adventures of the Silver Spaceman, C Duncan, Dakota, Girl Ray, OhBoy!, Holy Fuck, SPORTS, The Wave Pictures, Serengeti + Sicker Man, New Fries, Winter, Ab-Soul, Boogarins, Heat, Lucidalabrador, Real Numbers, Rainbrother, Dizzyride, Joseph King and the Mad Crush, Auditorium, Joyce Manor, Hollow Everdaze, Greg Gaffin, Tesla BoyTrentemøller, Emily Reo, Monogold, Dark Tea, Hurray for the Riff Raff, Ravi Shavi, Pleistocene, Katie Gately, Anti Pony, Watsky, Aquaserge, and Preoccupations.

Full Streams

Stove, Slanted, Kissing Party, Alejandro Bento, Rebel Kind, The Velvet Ants, Nike, AD.UL.T, Tim Carr, Andrew Younker, Lucy and the Rats, CARE, Miss Chain & The Broken Heels, The Obsessives, Night Flowers, Baby Acid, Ocean Music, Year of Suns, BRUCH, Ian Wayne, and the second incredible Post-Trash compilation, aptly titled Post-Trash: Volume Two.

Nothing Stops In November: The Month’s Streams

While only two premiere spots ran on this site over the course of November, there was more than enough new material being released to keep anyone attempting to track it all extremely occupied. A total of nearly 200 outstanding songs found their way out into the world and, just as the preceding posts did for full streams and music videos, this post will serve as a recap of the majority of those titles. If there were enough time to provide all of these tracks feature spots, they’d be receiving a lot more words. However, that shouldn’t distract from their merit; all of these tracks are more than worth hearing. So, bookmark the page, click around, and discover a few new favorites. 

Hater, Alyeska, Dama Scout, Fred Thomas, Turtlenecked, Pissed Jeans, Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever, Wild Pink, PermitTy Segall, The Courtneys, Julien Baker, brunch., Holy Now, Breast Massage, Hideout (x2), Jitterz, Drakulas, Ted Leo, Peter Silberman, Creepoid, ot to, not to, Luxury Death, Leapling, Day Wave, No Sun, Matthew Squires, Skyway Man, Dominic, Tobin Sprout, D.A. Stern, Minor Moon, Dear Georgiana, Slumbers, FRIGS, Nadia Reid, Mark Sultan, Polyester, Imaginary People, Shiny Wet Machine.

Magic Magic Roses, Spelling Reform, The Velveteins, Rubblebucket, Cate Le Bon, A Valley Son (x2), Old Gray, The Besnard Lakes, Swampmeat, Heat, Fascinations Grand Chorus, Alexander F, Mica Levi, Steady Hands, Bell the Band, Urochromes, Idle Bloom, Mainland, Thelma, The Regrettes, Modern Baseball, Holiday Ghosts, Los Campesinos!, Fear of Me, Lilah Larson, Frederick the Younger, Silver Rose, Lucidalabrador, The Molochs, Molly Burch, Tim Cohen, Rainbrother, AD.UL.T. (x2), Decorum, MELT, Emmy the Great.

GOLDBLOOMS, The Adventures of the Silver Spaceman (x2), We Leave at Midnight (x2), Dooms Virginia, Rosebug, Paperhead, OhBoy!, whenyoung, Caitlin Pasko, Lampshades, Pie Face Girls, Brandon Can’t Dance, Kevin Krauter, Childcare, Mind Rays, Eric Matthews, The Velvet Ants, The Black Clouds, Diagrams, Marine, Corner Suns, So Stressed, Crash Club, Future Peers, Proper Ornaments, Trudy and The Romance, Will Johnson, Fond Han, Natalie Bouloudis, Jordan Burchel, Big Mother Gig, Elliot, Once & Future Band.

Chaz Bundick Meets the Mattson 2, Pure Moods, Dude York, Sam Brockington, Del Caesar, John Travoltage, Camp Cope, Mutts, Pollen Rx, Cloakroom, Mr. Universe, Carroll, Purmamarca, Ben Pagano & The Space Machine, Tim Carr, Eat Fast, Landing, Louise Burns, Toothless, Plastic Pinks, Less Acrobats, Knifey, Known To Collapse, Cassels, Tracy Bonham, Brasstronaut, Satin Cowboys, Surf Rock Is Dead, Fruit Bats, Steph Barrak, Oliver Houston, The Sloppy Heads, Chavez, Aan, Sex Drive, The Saddest Landscape, Xiu XiuLiving Body, Lowly, JERK, Medium Mystic, Dutch Uncles, COTE, Koresma, Jailbox, Hajk, Archawah, Levek, and Grave School.

Watch This: Vol. 144

To ease Watch This back into its regularly scheduled rotation, the following will focus on the two weeks that occurred after the last installment was published. In that time, Acapulco Lips (x2), Wasted On You, Chain of Flowers, Pinegrove, Peter Bjorn and John, Sunbathe, Good Personalities, Bad Cop / Bad Cop, Claire Cottrill, The Brokedowns, Kississippi, Haley Bonar, Billie Marten, Bayonne (x2), Entrance, Lush (x2), The Blank Tapes, JFDR, The Frights, Teleman, The Districts, Doe, Marissa Nadler, Joshua Bell & Jeremy Denk, No Honeymoon, Aaron & Bryce Dessner with Ben Lanz and Boys Noize, BlackGlass, The Minders, Super Furry Animals, Kristin Kontrol, Tenement, Queen of Jeans, Michael Kiwanuka, Breanna Barbara, Corbu, All People, Boss Fight, Margo Price, Titus Andronicus, Brass Bed, Somos, Oliver John-Rodgers, Foxing, The Wombats, and PWR BTTM all found themselves at the center of outstanding performance clips. Competition that strong says more about the strength of the five featured clips that could be conveyed with mere words. All five bands have been featured on the site in the past and the performances range from genuinely exhilarating to utterly devastating. So, as always, sit up, lean in, adjust the volume, block out any excess noise, focus, take a deep breath, and Watch This.

1. Never Young – Soap (Prisma Guitars)

Immediately kicking things back into the highest gear possible is this Prisma Guitars session from site favorites Never Young. Easily one of the most explosive single-song performance clips to ever be featured throughout the 140+ installments of this series, the quartet careens through an adrenaline-inducing take on “Soap” that sees them giving the session their everything. Beautifully shot and presented with an enormous amount of conviction, this is exactly the type of clip that Watch This was built to celebrate.

2. Greys (KEXP)

Greys have made several appearances throughout this series’ run and touring on their recently-released Outer Heaven‘s allowing them even more opportunities to be featured. The band recently stopped by the KEXP studios for a full session that features songs from their past three releases, including their most recent work, Warm Shadow. As always, the band plays with a barely-contained energy, an incredible amount of tenacity, and a deep-seated passion that makes this another vital document of one of today’s most exciting acts.

3. Heliotropes – Primates (BreakThruRadio)

For a few years now, Heliotropes have been quietly carving out an impressive name for themselves, earning the respect of both critics and their peers. Creatively restless and endlessly intriguing, the band continues to impress with this BreakThruRadio performance of “Primates”. It’s a glimpse towards the future the band’s angling towards and it’s impossibly tantalizing. One of their finest songs to date, “Primates” keys in on the band’s wiriest post-punk tendencies and sporadically cuts them to shreds. If this is indicative of the rest of the band’s forthcoming material, start bracing for something genuinely explosive.

4. The Coathangers (KEXP)

The second KEXP session of this installment features The Coathangers, who have been touring hard behind their excellent Nosebleed Weekend. Celebrating both that record and the 20th anniversary of the label that released the record, Suicide Squeeze, finds the band in exceptionally high spirits. All of that culminated in an unshakable, infectious joy that drives this session, making it both immediately accessible and surprisingly memorable. The trio remains in fine form throughout the session, playing with ramshackle glee while maintaining an impressively tight grasp on the songs, creating what could be considered a definitive portrait.

5. Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds – Girl In Amber

After enduring unspeakable loss, Nick Cave allowed filmmaker Andrew Dominik into his creative process to create One More Time With Feeling, a documentary that follows both the creation of Skeleton Tree and Cave’s battle with grief in the wake of his youngest son’s tragic death. It’s excruciatingly heartrending from an outsider’s perspective and Dominik elegantly underscores how unthinkably difficult it’d be to be in that situation. In the third studio video to be released from the project, Cave continues to look completely lost and withdrawn, as if perpetually trying to wrestle his thoughts down.

“Girl In Amber” also expertly incorporates Dominik’s inspired direction and the technical wizardry that went into the 3D, black-and-white filming of One More Time With Feeling. The overall effect’s equal parts haunting and haunted, creating an unforgettable impression. This is a staggering work of bravery and artistry, each colliding with the other to produce something as singular as it is captivating. As the camera circles Cave, surveying his every movement and placing him at the center of swirling uncertainty, Cave repeats “don’t touch me” as the video cuts to black, providing one last breathtaking moment of a miniature masterpiece.

2016: The First Two Months (Music Videos)

Saintseneca I
Saintseneca

Now that both the songs and the full streams have received the massive overhaul treatment in an effort to get this site caught up to the current releases, it’s time to turn to music videos. A few key videos will be featured over the next few days but that shouldn’t take away from the merits of the clips listed below, which number near 200. Whether it was an outstanding song, concept, or visual presentation, something made the below videos stand out from the endless array of clips that I saw since the turn of the year. Like the previous two posts, there’s absolutely no way that these can be consumed in one sitting. The best course of action would be to simply bookmark this page and explore it at random. Go cra

Tacocat – I Hate the Weekend || The I Don’t Cares – Whole Lotta Nothin’ || Carroll – Bad Water || Dogs On Acid – No Trigger || Go!Zilla – Pollution || Saintseneca – Sleeper Hold || Saul Williams – The Noise Came From Here || Husky Loops – Dead || Ex Head – Slowcoahces || Holy Pinto – Matches || Summer Flake – Shoot And Score || Phooey! – Wurld || Teleman – Düsseldorf || The Foxymorons – Spinning On A Needle || Fake Laugh – Mind Tricks || La Sera – High Notes || Bob Mould – Voices In My Head || Car Seat Headrest – Vincent || Yak – Victorious (National Anthem) || Pookie & the Poodlez – New Policy || Fraternal Twin – Boil || Beliefs – Swooner || Cate Le Bon – Wonderful || Big Thief – Masterpiece || Protomartyr – Dope Cloud || Teen Suicide – Alex || theMind – Mercury Rising || Ulrika Spacek – Strawberry Glue || Suede – Pale Snow || The Staves – Horizons

Eleanor Friedberger – Because I Asked You || Charles Bradley – Change for the World || together PANGEA – My Head Is On Too Tight || All Dogs – Sunday Morning || Abi Reimold – Vessel || Cayetana – freedom 1313 || Free Cake For Every Creature – For You || Mothers – No Crying In Baseball || Parquet Courts – Dust || Sea Ghost – Dog 69 || Minor Victories – A Hundred Ropes || Peach Kelli Pop – Heart Eyes || Lush – Out of Control || Kevin Morby – I Have Been to the Mountain || Show Me the Body – Body War || Neko Case – Man || White Wine – Where Is My Line? || Oscar – Sometimes || Spookyland – God’s Eyes || Teen Suicide – Alex || Frankie Cosmos – Is It Possible / Sleep Song || METZ – Eraser || KEN Mode – Absolutely Not || Glint – While You Sleep || LUH – I&I || Marlon Williams – Dark Child || Try the Pie – Root to Branch || Frøkedal – The Sign || Loop Line – Parts Unknown

Frankie Cosmos – Outside With the Cuties || Molly Drag – Rabbits || Beliefs – Leave With You || Phylums – Cold Coffee || Thao & The Get Down Stay Down – Astonished Man || Andy Ferro – Hood || WALL – Cuban Cigars || Mogwai – Ether || C Duncan – Say || Eleanor Friedberger – Sweetest Girl || Skylar Spence – I Can’t Be Your Superman || High Waisted – Party in the Back || Emilie & Ogden – Ten Thousand || Cigarette – Housewife || Vukovar – The Blood Garden || Pill Friends – Bleed || Wussy – Dropping Houses || Kelsey Lu – Morning After Coffee || Beverly – Victoria || Kathryn Joseph – The Outtakes || Ty Segall – Emotional Mugger || Reuben Hollebon – Common Table || Francis – Turning A Hand || Youth Lagoon – Rotten Human || Bleached – Keep On Keepin’ On || The Besnard Lakes – The Plain Moon || Monogold – Orchard Beach || A Giant Dog – Sex & Drugs

Andy Ferr0 – Sugar and Milk || Whitney – No Woman || Cherry – Alligators || Witching Waves – The Threat || Matthew Logan Vasquez – Everything I Do Is Out || TEEN – Free Time || FIDLAR – Why Generation || The Pains of Being Pure at Heart – Hell || Mount Moriah – Baby Blue || Death Index – FUP || Dan Rico – Soft Feeling || Red Pill – 90s Money || Sun Seeker – Georgia Dust || Mass Gothic – Every Night You’ve Got To Save Me || Steve Mason – Planet Sizes || Holy Fever – Find Your Fame || Nocando – Last Man Standing || Memory Rounds – Everywhere Near || Nicholas Krgovich – Sunset Tower || Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy – When Thy Song Flows Through Me || Foals – Birch Tree || Moderat – Reminder || Computer Magic – Fuzz || South of France – Washed Up || Cavern of Anti Matter (ft. Bradford Cox) – Liquid Gate || Vandaveer – A Little Time Off Ahead || Hobosexual – Illegal Sensations

Andy Ferro – Crystal Tongue || Death Index – Little ‘N’ Pretty || Eddi Front – Prayer || Field Division – Modest Mountains || Sheer Mag – Nobody’s Baby || Aesop Rock – Rings || Childbirth – Breast Coast || Sparrows Gate – Ghost Blue || Roo Panes – Where I Want To Go || Rolling Blackouts C.F. – Wither With You || M. Ward – Girl From Conejo Valley || Beirut – Perth || Night Moves – Denise, Don’t Wanna See You Cry || Step Sisters – Dumb Love || O’Brother – Deconstruct || Museyroom – Ballad || Mind the Journey – Rose Colored Glasses || Giant Sand – Texting Feist || Mount Moriah – Precita || Wood Lake – Easy Love || Mossy – Electric Chair || River Tiber – No Talk || Let’s Eat Grandma – Deep Six Textbook || Automagik – Fucked Up || The Weather Station – Floodsplain || Hero Fisher – Breathe || Lionlimb – Domino || Girl Pants – Jupiter || The Range – Five Four

Fruit Bomb – Happy || Lushlife + CSLSX – The Waking World ft. I Break Horses || Candace – New Future || The Big Ship – Maybe I Don’t Know || Migrant Kids – Thread || Weezer – L.A. Girlz || Tim Woulfe – Riptide || Mercury Rev – Coming Up for Air || Spencer Radcliffe – Relief || Doe Paoro – The Wind || Photo Ops – Memories That Glow || Bill Eberle – When You’re Gone || Anya Marina – Gimme Resurrection || Kendrick Lamar – God Is Gangsta || The Manor – Don’t Like Going Places || Pale Dian – In A Day || Frightened Rabbit – Get Out || Shearwater – Quiet Americans || You Won’t – Ya Ya Ya || Muncie Girls – Respect || Otherwhile – Haunt You || Flying Lotus – FUCKKKYOUUU || Low Cut High Tops – Raise Hell || Ben Watt – Between Two Fires || Melaena Cadiz – At the Symphony || Mike Benecke – Astral Line

LVL UP at Beat Kitchen – 10/12/14 (Pictorial Review, Video)

IMG_9159

Over the past few months, this site has given plenty of coverage to both LVL UP and the label two of its members founded (and run), Double Double Whammy. Included in the ranks of the Double Double Whammy roster was another artist who’s emerged as a site favorite: Mitski. When the two announced they’d be touring together (and, subsequently that LVL UP would be backing Mitski), being in attendance for the nearest show was a foregone conclusion. On October 12, their tour made its way to Chicago’s Beat Kitchen where they headlined a bill that also included local acts Mtvghosts and Staring Problem.

Mtvghosts kicked things off after narrowly avoiding being no-shows and made their way through an energetic set of Strokes-influenced powerpop (not too dissimilar from Locksley). Now a few releases into their career, they made their way through a high energy set and played off each other nicely. Utilizing an abundance of energy and a clear connection, their set succeeded on pure entertainment value- Staring Problem‘s Lauren Owen would later make an amusing remark on the vocalist’s “Paul McCartney head thing”. While it’s clear Mtvghosts have a very firm grasp on composition and how to write a good pop song, not too much of it had any kind of longevity- although there’s enough talent in the band to suggest that point may not be too far down the line.

After Mtvghosts unabashedly pop concoctions, Staring Problem dove headlong into a set of primal post-punk that was tinged with early goth-punk influences. With songs that felt deadly serious and had pulsating undercurrents of the overwhelmingly bleak, they managed to sink into a groove that left most of the audience in a hypnotic trance. Mtvghosts may have had Staring Problem beat in terms of stage presence but Staring Problem’s songs proved to be immensely gripping, if unrelentingly minimal (their drummer’s kit was bare-bones and the only cymbal it made room for was a hi-hat). Impressive bass riffs dueled with intuitive guitarwork and Owens’ tranced-out vocals. Even with an emphasis on the grave, the band found room for humor; a song called “Pictures of Morrissey In Jake’s Locker” wound up being an unexpected highlight. By the time they exited, it was difficult to imagine they hadn’t made a few converts.

Mitski‘s been making quite a name for herself lately. After two very strong records of avant pop, the songwriter’s made a sharp left turn into blissed-out noise pop. With the distortion cranked up on the extraordinary soon-to-be-released Bury Me At Makeout Creek it’s afforded Mitski the chance to reignite an already impressive career. “Townie“, “First Love/Late Spring“, and “I Don’t Smoke” all showcase layers of a seriously enviable talent in composition and musicianship (as well as some gorgeous- and expansive- production), which shouldn’t be surprising taking into account Mitski’s SUNY Purchase background. Incidentally, SUNY Purchase was where Mitski would meet the members of LVL UP and forge a connection that would have direct implications for both artist’s respective careers.

Taking into account the high-functioning levels of production that provide Bury Me At Makeout Creek part of its character, a large portion of the pre-set anticipation lay in how Mitski would bring these songs to life with the assistance of LVL UP. Less than a minute into “Townie” any doubts that the songs would lose even a fraction of their appeal were absolutely annihilated. Aided by Michael Caridi on guitar and LVL UP bassist Nick Corbo on drums, Mitski lay into the song with a startling amount of intensity, causing the audience to erupt in bewildered applause by the song’s close.

All it took was that first song for Mitski to expand and win over an entire audience, which raises the stakes considerably on the expected reaction to Bury Me At Makeout Creek once it’s out in the world. Caridi and Corbo both flashed extremely impressive chops as Mitski commanded attention with the kind of effortlessness that suggests much bigger things will be happening for the emerging artist in the very near future. When Mitski’s set closed with Mitski absolutely shredding her vocal cords in bouts of guttural screaming at the end of “Drunk Walk Home”, half the audience seemed to be left speechless- and it was difficult to fault them- Mitski had delivered the kind of set that warrants the highest kinds of praise and ensures that even more people will be drawn into her orbit.

After Mitski’s set, it wouldn’t have been too surprising to see someone leaving thinking they’d seen the headliner- but it wasn’t before long that LVL UP proved that they were up to the task of following a gift of a set with another exercise in killer performances. Having already delivered one of the year’s best records in Hoodwink’d and one of the year’s best songs, “Big Snow“, on an absolutely essential split, their live set had quite a bit to live up to. Boasting a discography that’s bursting at the seams with songs that project a casual confidence and an excess of charisma, LVL UP’s very nature is practically defined by their willingness to embrace each the unique personality of each principal songwriter (Caridi, Corbo, and Trace Mountains‘ Dave Benton).

Soft Power“, “Ski Vacation“, “DBTS“, and “I Feel Ok” all hinted at LVL UP excelling as a complementary unit that would easily function when stripped back to individual elements. Balancing on the precipice between detached apathy and unbridled energy, the band’s songs came to weird, vibrant life in the live setting. Everyone traded off vocals with a casually practiced ease and a fiery commitment. True to Space Brothers‘ form, several of the songs bled into each other- with a particular highlight (one of a very large handful) being the opening trio of tracks from that very record. In fact, much of their set played out like a contained suite, with everything retaining maximum impact.

There was more than one point through LVL UP’s set where time seemed to be completely lost, as the band kept the audience engaged while they occupied their own world. Song after song, they demonstrated just about every reason why they’re a band worth celebrating- only emphatically enhancing the live elements of that particular spread. Solos were traded, select songs were extended with surprisingly heavy bridges and outros, and- more than anything else- left-field personality was exuded. Hoodwink’d and Space Brothers were about evenly split throughout the set, and both songs from the band’s incredible split with Porches. were represented as well.

While Corbo, Caridi, and Benton all shared a fair amount of spotlight, drummer Greg Rutkin held everything down with brute force and an unfailingly exact precision that made songs like the closing “ELIXR (19)” sound absolutely massive. Just like on record, everything managed to complement everything else in a manner that made all of LVL UP’s songs feel intensely alive. Before their set, each member had voiced various concerns about their headlining slot and thanks for Beat Kitchen’s kind accommodations (including sound, which was pristine throughout the show). When “ELIXR (19)” drew the set to a powerful close, it provided an exclamation point to a stunning set that coursed past their early apprehensions into the realms of the sublime. If there was any reservation about this before, their set ensured one thing: 2014 is LVL UP’s year. Get on board before it’s too late.

Watch a clip of LVL UP playing “Soft Power” and “Bro Chillers” below. Underneath that, view an extensive photo gallery of the show.