Heartbreaking Bravery

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Tag: Luxury

16 of ’16: The Best EP’s of the Year

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Once again, an increasingly busy schedule has led to a brief gap between posts and diminished the possibilities for year-end coverage. For that reason, there’ll only be three more Best Of pieces before the third round of A Year’s Worth of Memories. Sadly, this means some previous categories will be neglected but don’t let that diminish the importance of things like online singles, compilations, and the other odds and ends releases.

This list will focus on the EP’s that were released this year, which had to be at least four songs or exceed 10 minutes in length (which disqualified some genuinely tremendous releases). A lot of great material came out this year and these EP’s managed to emerge as standouts. For any potential bias to be eliminated, EP’s that premiered here were deemed ineligible (but should still be celebrated). Enjoy the list.

Jack – Resting Places 

One of the more harrowing listens of 2016 was centered around the loss of a loved one. It was an event that seems to have transformed something in Brittany Costa, the mastermind behind Jack and Resting Places. This is an explosive EP and it deserved much more circulation than it received.

Krill – Krill 

A posthumous release from one of the most fiercely beloved bands in DIY punk, Krill‘s self-titled swan song may also be their finest work. Bassist/vocalist employed baritone guitar lines to spectacular effect on Krill, something evident from the EP’s brilliant opening track (“Meat”). Precise and teeming with feeling, it’s one hell of a goodbye.

Eskimeaux – Year of the Rabbit

Following this site’s pick for 2015’s Album of the Year proved to be a shockingly easy feat for Eskimeaux, who quickly released a summery EP overflowing with memorable moments. Year of the Rabbit finds Eskimeaux deepening the best aspects of their music and refining some newer tricks. It’s a breezy listen that carries substantial weight.

Kynnet – …Taas ne Kynnet 

A blast of fired-up basement pop from Finland, Kynnet once again proves to be an uncontainable force with …Taas ne Kynnet. This is hard-charging music that transcends the language divide and effortlessly engages listeners with its overwhelming immediacy. Give in or get out of the way because once …Taas ne Kynnet gets gets going, it’s not stopping.

Forth Wanderers – Slop 

Headlined by its breathtaking title trackSlop is a warning shot from the increasingly ambitious Forth Wanderers. While “Slop” is undoubtedly the standout of the EP, the other three songs don’t ever come across as being overshadowed, revealing flashes of the band’s brilliance. Slop is a uniformly strong outing that packs a serious punch.

Happyness – Tunnel Vision On Your Part 

Happyness teased Tunnel Vision On Your Part with “SB’s Truck“, a song based on the fascinating historical footnote that saw the unlikely pairing of Andre The Giant and Samuel Beckett. The band continues to do no wrong, turning in another immensely enjoyable collection of songs that further their growing reputation as master popsmiths.

Faye – Faye 

An extraordinary debut from an extremely promising band, Faye‘s self-titled is a beautifully crafted work that capitalizes on the sort of subtleties that some veteran acts still have a difficult time navigating. Nearly half of this EP rightfully earned individual features before its release and the EP’s remainder lived up to the promise of those tracks.

Snail Mail – Habit 

2016 saw Snail Mail start to break out and earn some overdue attention on a much larger scale. A lot of that can be attributed to the remarkable (and surprisingly affecting) Habit. Vulnerable, defiant, and tenaciously pointed, Habit‘s the kind of record that burrows under the skin and refuses to leave. A gem and a career best.

Hazel English – Never Going Home 

There were few, if any records, released in 2016 lovelier than Hazel English‘s Never Going Home. A spellbinding mixture of dream pop, basement pop, and post-punk, Never Going Home‘s the kind of painfully beautiful work that deserves to be remembered. It’s a series of grace notes that openly offer contentment and warmth.

Fern Mayo – Hex Signs 

Fern Mayo became a staple of this site’s coverage based on the white-knuckle intensity of their live show and in Hex Signs they manage to harness that intimidating forcefulness. Easily the best work of the band’s burgeoning career, Hex Signs is a confrontational demonstration of the type of strength that refuses to be ignored.

don’t – forget it. 

One of the unique thrills of music writing is the discovery of a young, unknown band from a relatively small area that are doing interesting, impressive things. don’t met all of those qualifications to such an excessive degree with forget it. that it became unforgettable. While possibly the least recognizable name on this list, they deserve the placement.

Patio – Luxury

Being able to watch a band evolve from their first show and thrive in the state of progression is a privilege. It’s even more of a privilege when the band in question is one like Patio, who excel at the formula that makes up Luxury: wiry post-punk that serves up as much dry wit as it does sheer attitude. What’s scary is they’re still only just getting started.

Strange Ranger – Sunbeams Through Your Head 

Sunbeams Through Your Head marked an exhilarating new chapter for Strange Ranger who, almost paradoxically, seemed galvanized in their decision to more fully embrace a downtrodden nature. It’s an EP characterized by moments either brave, bold, or beautiful. An extraordinarily compelling listen and the sound of a band hitting its stride.

Tony Molina – Confront the Truth 

As someone who could claim in-your-face micro-punk as a specialty, Tony Molina‘s gorgeous Confront the Truth likely came as a shock to some. Anyone well-versed in Molina’s work could easily see how the songwriter could conjure up a gentle 7″ full of retro-leaning acoustic pop songs that invoked the spirit of the late ’60 and early ’70s. A sublime work.

Talons’ – Work Stories 

One of the rare records where the distinction between album and EP becomes blurry, Work Stories nevertheless saw Talons’ extend a quiet streak of ridiculously impressive records. Hushed and haunted folk-inflected songs comprise Work Stories, each as breathtakingly gripping as the last. Work Stories is another piece of mastery.

EP OF THE YEAR

Mercury Girls/The Spook School/Wildhoney/Tigercats – Continental Drift 

While the intro to this piece stated that the majority of the odds and ends would be ignored, an exception is being made for the excessively great split EP that saw Mercury Girls (who also released the excellent Ariana 7″ in 2016), The Spook School, Wildhoney, and Tigercats each contribute two songs. Continental Drift doesn’t feel or operate like the majority of split releases by virtue of its exhaustively complete unification.

All four bands on Continental Drift can come across as singular acts, on closer inspection they begin to appear as slight mutations of each other, rendering this split an effortless listen. There could very well be a group of people that’d mistake Continental Drift as the work of one inhumanly talented band (though the shift in accents may provide a tipping point). Each of the four acts bring their best work to the table and make characteristically strong impressions.

Over Continental Drift‘s eight tracks, not only is there never a weak song, there’s never a weak moment. Each of these songs is tightly crafted and masterfully executed, providing each act with a highlight reel that could attract unfamiliar listeners to the rest of their respective discographies. There are so many soaring moments scattered throughout Continental Drift that the end result is stratospheric. In theory, this split was enticing but in its execution Continental Drift achieves a staggering amount of perfection.

Nine more worth checking out:

Lady Bones – Terse
Cleo Tucker – Looking Pretty At the Wall
Devon Welsh – Down the Mountain
Plush – Please
Young Jesus – Void As Lob
Naps – The Most Beautiful Place On Earth
gobbinjr – vom night
CHEW – CHEW
Fake Boyfriend – Mercy

Patio – Luxury (EP Review)

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Editor’s Note: There’s been a month-long gap in coverage, thanks to near-incessant travel and other extenuating circumstances. The following run of posts that contain this note will be posts that should have appeared sometime within the past several weeks. Use these posts as an opportunity to catch up to the present release cycle or to simply discover some new music. Either way, enjoy.

One of the people that this site brought into my life was Loren DiBlasi, Patio‘s bassist and one of the regular contributors to the A Year’s Worth of Memories series. Over those few years, DiBlasi brought up Patio on more than one occasion. I was ecstatic to be there for the band’s public unveiling and even more elated (although fairly unsurprised) to find that I adored the music the band was making, to the point that their demo was even included in one of this site’s year-end lists.

Now, the band’s finally offered up their first official release: the compelling Luxury EP. Big Ups‘ Amar Lal sat in the producer’s chair for this one and he brings out several of the important subtleties of the trio’s mix of razor-sharp post-punk and their more pop-oriented sensibilities, the latter being more fully embraced by drummer Alice Suh and guitarist/vocalist Lindsey-Paige McCloy‘s contributions to their excellent project with Phyllis Ophelia, Catbus

Each of the five songs on display throughout Luxury register as individual standouts while still managing to coalesce into a coherent whole (the lyrics and composition, especially, complement each other to a near-perfection). Whether they’re showing remarkable restraint or bringing out every knife in their arsenal, there’s an undercurrent of unflagging conviction that keeps Luxury surging forward towards some unknown destination. With songs as strong as these, ultimately, that destination won’t matter; it’s the thrill of the ride that we’ll remember.

Listen to Luxury below and pick it up from the band here.

Patio – Patio Songs (Demo Review, Stream, Live Video)

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As 2015’s progressed, a handful of people I’ve been fortunate enough to know have come out swinging with intriguing musical projects. Two projects that immediately jump to mind are the no-holds-barred Kodakrome and the seductively noir-ish Patio. I was fortunate enough to host some of Loren DiBlasi’s writing in the first A Year’s Worth of Memories and have been consistently struck by the prevalent thoughtfulness of her many other pieces at places like Impose and MTVNews.

A similar thoughtfulness courses through Patio’s music, which finally found an official release via a two-song demo that was released at the end of October, right around the time this site’s regular coverage went on an extended hiatus. There’s a very palpable sense of history on display in both “luxury” and “air j” which echo shades of everything from post-punk pioneers like The Gun Club and The Birthday Party to contemporaries like Big Ups.

Lindsey-Paige McCloy takes on the bulk of the band’s vocal duties, effortlessly conjuring up an air of subtle mystique while the band’s rhythm section (made up of DiBlasi on bass and Alice Suh on drums, both  of whom also tackle an occasional vocal part) keep everything grounded. Everything’s played for maximum effect and is exceedingly impressive in terms of atmosphere, thanks in large part to the band’s understanding that post-punk generally functions best when it scales itself back.

Part of the success of the band’s minimalist approach lies in their gift with understatement; when McCloy and DiBlasi trade vocal leads on “luxury”, it never feels anything less than casually supportive (the polar opposite of the traded vocals dynamic on The Libertines). After Patio Songs immediately announces its voice in the shrugging, half-detached, tragicomical “luxury”, Patio flashes some formidable pop sensibility in “air j”, which evokes the very best of ’90s alternative radio and caps a very worthy introduction to one of 2015’s most promising new acts. Don’t be surprised if they wind up making the slacker punk soundtrack of next summer.

Listen to Patio Songs below, watch a pair of videos of the band playing their first show, and pick the demo up here. Underneath the embeds, explore a list of other great full streams to have appeared in the past few months.

Le Rug – Game Over
Goth Babe – Fuzz Ghost

Dick Stusso – Nashville Dreams/Sings the Blues
Globelamp – The Orange Glow
Palm – Trading Basics
Sheer – Uneasy
Soggy Creep – Drag the Well
Noun – Throw Your Body On The Gears And Stop The Machine With Your Blood
The Dictaphone – Hazmat
Three Man Cannon – Will I Know You Then
Zanders – Buried Men
Swings – Sugarwater
Big Hush – Who’s Smoking Your Spirit?
Slight – Hate the Summer
Eugene Quell – I Will Work The Land
Marriage + Cancer – Killjoy b/w Nothing’s Wrong When Nothing’s Real
Addie Pray – Screentime
Failed Mutation – See You Tomorrow
Kindling – Galaxies
Wrekmeister Harmonies – Night of Your Ascension
Miya Folick – Strange Darling

Kal Marks – It Was A Very Hard Year (Stream)

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Now that all of the great music videos and full streams from the first part of this week are accounted for, it’s time to turn the lens to the handful of single songs that managed to stand out. JOYA crafted a punchy tune that wielded an 80’s new wave punk influence masterfully with “Regale“, The Velveteens unveiled a beautiful indie pop slow-burner titled “Loneliness“, and California X came out swinging with career highlight “Nights In The Dark“- which will also serve as the title for their forthcoming record. My Drunken Haze gave life to the oddly hypnotic “Yellow Balloon“, Step-Panther gave a guided heist tour in their curiously dynamic “Nowhere“, and School ’94 revealed their gorgeous 80’s-indebted ballad “Like You“. Despite all of those songs being worthy of their own write-ups, it’s hard to just glaze past something as powerful as Kal Marks‘ “It Was A Very Hard Year”.

One of 2013’s strongest records was Kal Marks’ sprawling, gloom-infused post-punk masterpiece Life Is Murder, Now, only a year later, they’re preparing to release what will be one of this year’s best EP’s- Just A Lonely Fart. All of the implicit dread that informed Life Is Murder is still incredibly present in Just A Lonely Fart, which was previously teased with lead-off track “Zimmerman“. While “Zimmerman” dealt in political explosives with sharp social commentary, “It Was A Very Hard Year” pulls the reins back and delves into something equally terrifying; what it means to be human. Both songs (and their inspirations) were touched on in the interview that accompanied the song’s premiere, lending a greater insight to the thought processes driving Just A Lonely Fart. Empathy plays a heavy factor and manages to punctuate the incredibly tense “It Was A Very Hard Year” in surprisingly engaging and intriguingly subtle ways. It’s a brilliant closer that builds itself into a hurricane before settling into a quiet oblivion, successfully casting Just A Lonely Fart as one of 2014’s most striking releases. Don’t make the mistake of letting this one fall to the wayside.

Listen to “It Was A Very Hard Year” below and pre-order Just A Lonely Fart from Kal Marks’ bandcamp.