Heartbreaking Bravery

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Tag: march 2018

The Best Full Streams of March 2018

The closing three weeks of March unearthed a handful of extraordinary records from emergent acts and proven entities. Five of the best to find release over that time are listed below, covering a spectrum that stretches from twee-laced indie pop to uncompromising noise/punk. All of the records on display here are standouts for one reason or another and uniformly deserve more attention than they’ll get (though some will undoubtedly have very strong and vocal praise). Dive in below and enjoy the swim.

1. Empath – Liberating Guilt and Fear

A basement punk supergroup of sorts, Empath have the unlikely and unenviable task of distinguishing themselves from the shadows of the acts in the members’ collective history. Liberating Guilt and Fear goes a long way in making sure that’s achieved. Blistering, fun, and unforgiving, Empath’s versatility and ability to combine patches that seem at odds make Liberating Guilt and Fear one of the essential releases of 2018’s first quarter. Unpredictable and brilliant, it’s an EP that’s not to be missed.

2. Major Murphy – No. 1

Major Murphy‘s been around for a handful of years now but the band seems set to make a bigger push than ever with No. 1, a gently kaleidoscopic work of art that deftly combines elements of psych, powerpop, and basement punk into a hypnotic whole. Exceptional composition and production always play well off each other but it’s an especially effective combination when, as is the case here, they work in tandem to create an additional layer of depth. In all, an extremely pleasant surprise.

3. Frankie Cosmos – Vessel

Over what’s already an illustrious and surprisingly expansive career, Frankie Cosmos (both as a solo project and in full band mode) have never delivered a disappointing record. While that sort of consistency is a testament to a rare brand of prolific talent, there’s still a sliver of room allowed for something like Vessel; a record that towers above the others and visibly stands as a career high. Combining new material and reworked versions of old staples, Vessel also manages to come across as a representational statement that’s primed to resonate for years to come.

4. Charles – Charles II

One of the avenues that places like Heartbreaking Bravery are afforded is the personal submission. Far more often than not, it’s a wasteland of mediocrity that’s intended audience strays far from this site’s sensibilities. Then there are rare occasions where something like Charles’ Charles II shows up and completely justifies the hundreds of hours spent sifting through that material.

One of the most astonishing basement punk records of 2018 so far, Charles II is a tightly-controlled explosion of an EP, calling to mind the legacy of acts like Four Eyes, Dogs On Acid, and Bent Shapes. Heartbreaking Bravery was built to celebrate, support, and promote releases like this one and anytime one lands in the mailbox, it’s not just a thrill, it’s a reminder of why this place exists. So stop reading this and just hit play already.

5. Trace Mountains – A Partner To Lean On

LVL UP‘s Dave Benson has been performing as Trace Mountains for a handful of years now and already has one record that’s considering something of a bedroom pop cult classic in 2016’s Buttery Sprouts & Other Songs. A continued critical and commercial ascension for Benson’s main vehicle’s ensured an additional layer of visibility and anticipation for any work bearing the songwriter’s name but A Partner To Lean On seems to have neatly avoided any pitfalls of that pressure.

Benson subverts all sorts of expectations on A Partner To Lean On, from leaning into a new embrace of synth-pop to wildly expanding the project’s ambitions while, impressively, managing to keep the record grounded. Like Frankie Cosmos’ Vessel, Trace Mountains’ latest is an enticing mixture of new material and reworked versions of old offerings. It’s a complete work and in the record’s pitch-perfect title track, Benson crafts another viable candidate for Song of the Year.

The Best Music Videos of March 2018

March 2018 packed a hell of a punch in nearly every major musical release category, with the notable exception being music videos. There were a lot of solid clips that found release but only a scant few that managed to cross the threshold into “genuine standout” territory. Three of those are listed below, covering an intriguing range of styles. One of the young year’s best lyric clips, one of the best tracking shots, and one one of the most tonally effective clips comprise this list. Watching the trio of videos is a short journey compared to several of these lists but one that’s extremely worthwhile.

1. Peach Kelli Pop – Drug Store’s Symbol of Happiness

The concept of Peach Kelli Pop‘s “Drug Store’s Symbol of Happiness” is a simple one but its execution is so meticulously detailed and flawless, the entire affair is considerably elevated. The staging, the imagery, and the song manage to coalesce into something that feels thrillingly complete. A song is sung, a camera follows, and little slices of life flicker away in the background. It’s just a few ingredients but sometimes that’s all a capable director needs to craft one of the most magnetic clips of 2018’s first quarter.

2. Snail Mail – Pristine

Snail Mail have been riding a richly deserved wave of critical acclaim over the past year, finding clever ways to get their material a boost and making sure their live show is a next to an unmissable event. Matador Records took notice and found a way to secure the rights to the band’s upcoming record, a smart move that’s already paying dividends with the charming and characteristically lo-fi lyric video for “Pristine”, which subverts and breathes life into what’s become a needlessly restrictive format in recent times.

3. Harry Permezel – Wax Man

Typically, an act leaning heavily into influences from around two decades ago will skew closer to the likes of Built to Spill and Dinosaur Jr than Grandaddy, Sparklehorse, or Heatmiser exercising their softer tendencies. Harry Permezel’s “Wax Man” falls squarely into that latter category and the clip that’s accompanying the song is all but a portal back into that world. It’s laced with nostalgia, beautifully crafted, and immensely effective in conveying the faded sensibilities of both that era and Permezel’s own music. All told, “Wax Man” is a journey worth taking.

The Best Songs of March 2018

The last three weeks of March brought a lot of excellent tracks into the world but the 10 below managed to separate themselves as genuine standouts. A trio of acts that appeared in the last “Best Of” featured segment strike again while the rest of the acts here are either old favorites or making first-time appearances. From scintillating noise-punk to gentle washes of ambient folk, there’s a lot here to explore. Find a new favorite song below.

1. Spring Onion – I Did My Taxes For Free Online

Sometimes all an artist needs is one song to snag an audience and that may very well be the case with Spring Onion’s “I Did My Taxes For Free Online”, which boasts some of the hallmarks that have made acts like Told Slant, Radiator Hospital, and LVL UP so beloved. Immensely relatable, beautifully constructed, and coming from an unsparing, honest place, “I Did My Taxes For Free Online” is a strong early testament to an emergent talent worth remembering.

2-3. illuminati hotties – Paying Off The Happiness + Cuff

illuminati hotties are building up an insane amount of momentum on their way to the release of their debut album, Kiss Yr Frenemies. The band’s already been featured in the monthly best-of columns once this year and they’re doubling up here with the 1-2 combo of the irresistible hooks of “Paying Off The Happiness” and the introspective reckoning of “Cuff”. Both songs continue to demonstrate the band’s strengths and, taken with “(You’re Better) Than Ever” suggests they might not have any weaknesses.

4. bed. – Replay

A characteristically melancholic piece of muted, driving basement pop, bed.‘s “Replay” is imbued with the kind of considered energy that’s gained the band a small but fiercely loyal following. Measured and slightly unpredictable, “Replay” toys with extremes its narrative and its composition, allowing the two to play off each other to great effect. It’s a standout piece in what’s already a stellar discography and suggests the band’s peak is either arriving or already here. No complaints either way.

5. Maria Kelly – Small Talk

“Small Talk”, the latest from Maria Kelly is a masterclass in creating gentle tension and magnetic atmosphere. Smart production, tender composition, and an effectively wistful delivery combine into something intangible, creating something that pulls and mesmerizes in equal measure. It’s a gorgeous piece of ambient folk, weaving a spell that all but submerges the listener into a separate, empathetic world.

6. Closet Goth – Touch Myself

Easily the fiercest song in this 10 track list, Closet Goth’s “Touch Myself” makes no bones about being aggressive, exploding out of the gate and building speed as it goes, not content unless everything in its path is completely demolished. References to Silver Jews are nearly buried in the noise-centric production, intentionally drowning out — and simultaneously enhancing — some intense caterwauling. Vicious, ragged, and uncompromising, “Touch Myself” leaves wreckage in its wake as it winds to a fun, unexpected close.

7. Fenne Lily – Car Park

The second artist on this list to make a consecutive appearance in the monthly “best of” columns, Fenne Lily‘s “Car Park” is another strong example of the breadth of the songwriter’s scope. In slowing down the tempo and widening the lens, Fenne Lily taps into something that skews closer to world-building than atmosphere construction. It’s a beautiful piece of modern Americana that seems to indicate Lily’s bag of tricks might be more expansive than most know.

8. Annabel Allum – Rascal

“Rascal”, the latest track from Annabel Allum is a perfect example of how a minimal setup can lead to enormous moments. Borrowing cues from slacker punk, folk, Americana, post-rock, and ambient, Annabel Allum wind up with an enticing piece of genre-bending excellence. Impassioned performances at every slot and a meticulously constructed arrangement congeal into one of the more breathtaking moments of 2018’s first quarter.

9. Say Sue Me – After Falling Asleep

The third and final artist to appear in consecutive monthly Best Of’s Say Sue Me follow their initial outing with yet another strong track from their excellent forthcoming Where We Were Together. “After Falling Asleep”, the band’s newest offering, opens with an almost intensely quiet moment before blooming into a seductive burst of indie pop. Soft edges and a wide-eyed approach has been a pattern that’s served Say Sue Me well in the past and it continues to do so on the lovely “After Falling Asleep”, one of their most irresistible tracks to date.

10. Bent Denim – Chasing Catherine

Last year, this site had the privilege of premiering Diamond Jubilee, an extraordinary EP from site favorites Bent Denim. Now, the act’s returned with “Chasing Catherine”, another show-stopping bit of softly hued ambient pop that more than justifies its place in their increasingly impressive discography. Bent Denim can conjure up a very specific type of mood better than just about any of their contemporaries and it shows in “Chasing Catherine”, a short slow-burner that immediately invokes the feeling of a calm summer night and keeps that fire flickering until its hushed, tender close.