Heartbreaking Bravery

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Tag: Matador Records

Iceage – Against The Moon (Music Video)

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Another day’s come and gone, leaving another arsenal of treasures in its wake. Telekinesis teased an upcoming Polyvinyl 4 Track Singles Series 7″ with the vibrant “Can’t See Stars“, Prawn gave the world a glimpse at an EP appendix for last year’s Kingfisher via the stunning “Built For“, and both The Bug and Earth showcased their mastery of sprawling tension on the collaborative “Cold” off of their upcoming Record Store Day 7″. Grooms advanced their psych-damaged and decidedly askew take on pop with the excellent, punk-leaning “Doctor M“. Rounding out the single streams was a fiery Delta Five cover from Audacity and an extraordinarily promising two-song preview of the upcoming split between Joyce Manor and Toys That Kill.

Nano Kino made their enticing self-titled EP (the band’s debut effort) available for streaming (and purchase) over at bandcamp, which was more than enough to cover today’s full streams. Music vidoes had another impressive showing, with solid turn-in’s like Kim Deal’s dryly comedic “Biker Gone“, the unbridled ferocity of Robot Death Kites‘ “Sleep Deprived“, L.A. Witch’s quietly hypnotic “Heart of Darkness“, and “Madora“- yet another ingenious clip from Beverly (the band continues to do absolutely wonderful things with the visual medium). Even with all of those managing to become easy standouts, it was the relentlessly devastating video for Iceage‘s “Against The Moon” (a song that this site already emphatically praised) that hit with the hardest impact.

Directed by the formidable team of Marten Masai Andersen and Kim Thue and starring the inimitable Dan van Husen (best known for his work in Werner Herzog’s Nosferatu The Vampyre and Federico Fellini’s Casanova), “Against The Moon” is shot in striking black-and white and accentuates the song’s inherent sadness. Missa Blue and Louis Backhouse round out the cast in deeply tragic turns that allow them to bare their characters scars. Implicit violence permeates nearly every frame of “Against The Moon”- much of it lensed in a style that comes off as a hybrid between classic noir, western, and horror- with van Husen’s nameless character incessantly leering at the prostitutes played by Blue and Backhouse; his face often a sick portrait of twisted satisfaction.

In the press copy, it states that the video’s intended to double the dichotomy between affirmation and repentance that’s present in Elias Bender Rønnenfelt lyric set. While aspects of that do come through (with a vengeance), it’s the ambiguity that winds up taking centerstage; nearly all of “Against The Moon” is composed of effortlessly arresting one-shots, refusing to let its characters intertwine on an explicit or definitive level. Every moment of staging is rooted more in suggestion than cause or consequence, forcing the viewer to face an array of uncomfortable questions and grapple with things as essential as empathy. It’s a revolving door of character study, presenting each subject with equal care, unafraid to focus in on what appear to be their lowest moments. It’s a psychological nightmare. It’s a brutally meticulous examination of standards. It’s a an unfailingly harsh reminder of life’s darkest corners. It’s beyond important; it’s necessary- and, most of all, it’s a masterpiece.

Watch “Against The Moon” below and order Plowing Into The Field Of Love here.

MOURN – Otitis (Stream)

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Yesterday this site’s coverage was exclusively dedicated to the premiere of Mutts’ incredible “Black Ties & Diamonds“, ensuring that there’d be quite a bit of material to catch up on today. There weren’t a lot of full streams to emerge but the ones that did made it count. Among them: Cloakroom‘s incredible new 7″, Michael Rault‘s sprightly psych-pop cassingle, Cross Wires’ spiky Your History Defaced EP, and Trust Punks’ snarling post-punk ripper Discipline. Each of those are good enough to have a shot at appearing in a few year-end lists and enhance each respective artist’s profile considerably.

In single stream territory, things got relentless with no less than 11 great songs fighting their way out into the world. These included another look at Cellphone‘s upcoming Excellent Condition with the blistering “No Wind In Hell“, Quarterbacks‘ completely revitalized full-band version of Quarterboy highlight “Center“, A Place To Bury Strangers’ unrelentingly aggressive industrial post-punk bruiser “Straight“, and Seagulls’ airy left-field pop number “You & Me”. Colleen Green teased the upcoming I Want To Grow Up with a career-best in the form of “Pay Attention“, Soft Fangs revealed the quietly mesmerizing “Dead Friends“, Elvis Perkins made an unexpected return with the lightly damaged pscyh-folk of “Hogus Pogus” in advance of the upcoming I Aubade, and Leapling celebrated their teaming with Exploding in Sound via the compelling bizzaro pop of “Crooked“. American Wrestlers teased their upcoming 7″ with the driving lo-fi psych-pop of “I Can Do No Wrong“, Noveller revealed the characteristically beautiful “Into The Dunes“, and Two Gallants unleashed a preview of their upcoming We Are Undone with the vicious title track.

Music videos were just as eventful thanks to efforts like Desperate Journalist‘s strikingly minimal clip for their arresting “Control“, an absolutely gorgeous turn-in for Blonde Redhead‘s “The One I Love“, and Belle & Sebastian’s playful nostalgia in the black-and-white-turned-multicolor “The Party Line“. Elvis Depressedly celebrated their Run For Cover Records signing with the endearingly weird video for “No More Sad Songs“, Dizzee Rascal continued his unlikely hot streak with the visual medium in the  supernatural-tinged kung fu revenge tale contained in “Pagans“, and Hey Elbow conducted an unnerving psychedelic visual collage experiment for “Martin“. Viet Cong created an intensely disquieting clip to serve as an accompaniment for their excellent “Continental Shelf“, TOONS went the simple-and-charming route with “Sittin’ Back“, and Angel Olsen deliver the absurdly stunning Rick Alverson-directed “Windows” (which featured startlingly gorgeous cinematography) to round things out in a manner so stunning that it very nearly earned today’s feature spot.

Enter: MOURN. The young band recently became one of Captured Tracks’ most exciting acquisition since site favorites Perfect Pussy. Immediately standing out thanks to their surprisingly young age(s), MOURN seems to have caught just about everyone off-guard thanks to the enviable strengths of their songs. None of those songs landed with as fierce of an impact as their barn-burning “Otitis”. Unfailingly bleak and deeply impassioned, “Otitis” never goes for anything but a merciless kill. All of this played into why the song was previously featured on this site in the 53rd installment of Watch This, where the song grew even sharper fangs. MOURN has been available digitally for some time and comfortably stands as one of 2014’s most exhilarating releases with “Otitis” being its definitive exclamation point. From the wiry verse progressions, to the cavalcade of sharp hooks, to the intuitive harmony work, to the intimidatingly dark chorus, “Otitis” has put MOURN firmly on the map. All of the excitement rests in watching where they go from here.

Listen to “Otitis” below and pre-order MOURN from Captured Tracks here.

Watch This: Vol. 52

With another week behind us (and a few milestones), it’s time to look back at some of the best live videos that surfaced during that time. Unsurprisingly, there were a fair few videos vying for contention- and, in a rare case, there were too many worthy of feature spots to contain to just one installment of this series. To that end, these are the first five entries in what will be another two-part showcase for great live footage. A few bigger names make appearances in volume 52 but, as ever, their performances are characteristically exemplary and impossible to ignore. From a few revered songwriters to the emerging acts, there’s a lot to love. So, as always, sit back, dim the lights, lean in, and Watch This.

1. Two Inch Astronaut (BreakThruRadioTV)

Foulbrood, with all of its sharp left turns and subtle nuances, has a claim as one of 2014’s best records. With the title track and “Part of Your Scene” already hinting at just how much creative muscle’s being flexed on Foulbrood, one of the only real questions was how these songs would hold up in a live setting. With their Live Studio session for BreakThruRadio they put any doubts to rest; this is a band that’s ready to leave a lasting mark.

2. Restorations – Tiny Prayers (Little Elephant)

Restorations have been building up a steady buzz around their name over the past few months and a large part of that’s due to their powerhouse live performances. Little Elephant proves to be the perfect venue to showcase their towering, Midwest-inflected basement punk. With LP3 continuing to make the rounds and live turn-ins like the one featured here, a great future for Restorations is theirs for the taking.

3. Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds – Stagger Less (Austin City Limits)

By this point one thing should be entirely evident; there will never be enough words to do Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds proper justice. Cave’s a freakish force of nature, a preacher who’s actually made of brimstone and fire, and the band he’s assembled behind him are talented enough to match Cave’s genius (a term that’s not used lightly). PBS’ notoriously white bread Austin City Limits series recently made the commendable decision to feature Cave and his collaborative partners for their most recent episode. Understandably, they saved the (brilliantly edited) profanity-riddled Murder Ballads classic “Stagger Lee” as a web exclusive. As can be safely expected, the performance is a killer.

4. Jenny Lewis – Slippery Slopes (KCRW)

The Voyager is one of this year’s great road trip records, Jenny Lewis’ tour-ending show at Minneapolis’ famed First Avenue was an unforgettable display of charisma and raw talent, and Lewis remains one of this generations finest songwriters. Having already established a reputation as one of the more celebrated independent songwriters, Lewis could have easily relegated the rest of her career as a victory lap after various successes with both Rilo Kiley and as a solo act. Thankfully, for everyone, Lewis isn’t one to stay still- and will always be up to the task of providing a stunning performance, like this run through “Slippery Slopes” for KCRW.

5. Fucked Up (Exclaim!)

Fucked Up are one of the more fascinating anomalies in music, a hardcore band that pisses off purists and appeals to people that aren’t normally into harsher genres. A band that makes records tethered to ambitiously sprawling narrative arcs, usually seeped in religion and heavily influenced by epics. Literary, self-aware, and visceral, their records hit like an anvil and their live shows tend to facilitate a palpable sense of community. A few recent performances and interview snippets are featured here in the excellent Coastal Frequencies series, courtesy of Exclaim!. It’s an excellent profile of one of the most interesting bands of the past 15 years.

Girlpool – Plants And Worms (Music Video)

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A lot has happened in the four-day leave that this site took- a leave that officially ends with this post- and there are so many things to cover. It’d be foolish to pretend that this week didn’t just belong to Sleater-Kinney, who released a career-spanning box set, a new single (that was accompanied by a lyric video), and announced their official return. As tempting as it was to take a stab at waxing poetic over everything that band and their return means, their reputation’s already been earned and a million similarly-minded sites will be doing that in the weeks to come. Instead, today’s light will be shined elsewhere and ultimately fall on the band that’s earned the most mentions on this site without ever getting the feature spot. Before Girlpool gets their well-deserved due, though, all three of the regular fields will be recapped, in the order that follows: single stream, full stream, and music video.

Legendary Wings teased their upcoming basement punk ripper Do You See with the excellent “Weather Advisory” while Kal Marks did the same for their forthcoming EP with the forward-thinking bruiser “Zimmerman“. Portastatic proved they haven’t lost a step with the surprisingly great indie pop tune “Hey Salty” and Mitski‘s lead-up campaign for Bury Me At Makeout Creek remained perfect with the entrancing “I Will“. VLMA’s “Slime” and Cellphone‘s “Bad Medusa” were both post-punk stompers good enough to snag each act a handful of new followers. Chris Weisman celebrated the completion of his long-gestating album Monet In The 90‘s by previewing the record with the quietly mesmerizing “Working On My Skateboarding“. Vacation put forth an incredible Jesus And Mary Chain cover, Dirt Dress continued their impressive evolution with “Twelve Pictures“, and Caddywhompus continued extending what have become increasingly massive creative strides with the near-perfect “Entitled“. Davila 666 unveiled the tantalizing “Primero Muertas” in advance of their upcoming record, Pocos Años, Muchos Daños, just as Parts & Labor offered a glimpse at their upcoming record, Receivers, with the outstanding “Nowehre’s Nigh“. Art Is Hard’s Pizza Club series entered its final stretch with Broadbay’s newest noise-punk excursion “Plasticine Dream“, Primitive Parts made a rousing case for being a band to watch out for with “The Bench“, and Wildhoney became the latest act on the stacked Deranged roster to start breaking through on the strength of their towering shoegaze number “Fall In“. Circulatory System turned a few heads with the noise-damaged psych-pop of “It Never Made A Sound” and site favorites Saintseneca released a lovely Lucinda Williams cover. To round things out in the more ambient-leaning fields, there was a stunner from James Blake and a gentle new piece from The Greatest Hoax that easily swam its way into the realms of the sublime.

As for full streams, most of the talk in regards to this week will be dominated by the year-end-bound RTJ2, which is to be fully expected when a sophomore effort absolutely topples its heavily acclaimed predecessor- but don’t let that distract from a slew of other investment-worthy releases. Lace Curtains’ A Signed Piece of Paper also managed to exceed the record it follows in terms of artistic merit- which is a trait that it shares with The Twilight Sad’s Nobody Wants To Be Here And Nobody Wants To Leave. The Unicorns’ Nick Thorburn made his uniquely charming score for the SERIAL podcast available via bandcamp and Fleeting Youth Records made their essential 33-track Blooming (A Fuzz-Fucked Compilationmixtape (which more than lives up to its name) available for streaming via soundcloud. French For Rabbits premiered their arresting folk-inflected Spirits over at Stereogum while NPR’s First Listen series hosted the premiere of Medicine‘s extraordinary Home Everywhere. The Omecs crafted a winsome throwback punk record which they’re now streaming on their bandcamp. Another record to be released via bandcamp, spit’s Getting Low, came dangerously close to being today’s feature by virtue of being a masterful work from an extremely promising songwriter (John Romano) that expertly straddles a curious line between Exploding in Sound and Orchid Tapes. Easily one of this month’s most fascinating records, it’s currently available over at bandcamp for a generous name-your-price fee. Don’t hesitate; this is music worth being in a wide array of collections.

In the music video category, Hurry had a blast with their clever clip for “Oh Whitney“, Dilly Dally got shrouded in smoke for “Candy Mountain“, and S gave the Tacocat bassist some peace of mind in the video for “Vampires“.  Ought danced their hearts out in “New Calm, Pt. 2“, Thurston Moore conducted a nightmarish clip for “Speak to the Wild” (Los Angeles Police Department’s woodland excursion for “Enough Is Enough” was far less menacing), and Split Single inverted normalcy with their positioning for “Monolith“. Broken Water set things up with no shortage of caution in “Love and Poverty“, The Coathangers cheekily provided what’s ostensibly both a puppet-centric video and a left-field visual tour diary in “Drive“, and Beverly cemented their beautiful stylistic approach to the music video format with “Yale’s Life“. DTCV mined a bevvy of filmic influences and utilized them to perfection for “Electrostatic, Inc.” while Public Access TV took a similar route for “In The Mirror“.  Allo Darlin’ kept things amusingly (and effectively) simple for “Bright Eyes“, Nano Kino set the airy “New Love” to a hypnotic visual collage, and Mannequin Pussy remained as energetic and unapologetic as ever with their lo-fi production for “My Baby (Axe Nice)“.

Now, that’s a lot of material to go through for just about anyone but none of those items hit with as hard of an impact as Girlpool‘s absolutely devastating animated video for “Plants and Worms”. From this video alone, it’s shockingly easy to see why such a huge subset of journalists and musicians have latched onto Girlpool so fiercely; their world-weariness, entirely relatable socio-political commentary, and compositional skills all suggest both an age and stage of career that’s vastly accelerated from the actuality of their current positions. The duo, Cleo Tucker and Harmony Tividad (17 & 18 years of age, respectively), are moving at an accelerated pace- release follows release, idea follows idea, and there’s barely any time for an active listener to breathe. Impressively, all of those pieces carry their own distinct identity and they’re frequently accompanied by weighty topics that most songwriters experience an immense struggle to present without tipping into the cloying or cliché. It can be hard to resist the temptation of excess when dealing with important messages and this is where Girlpool excels; not only are their thoughts presented articulately- they’re presented in a manner that’s plaintive enough to be devoid of any easy derision. There’s a deep-rooted humanism and empathy that’s present in their work which is something that will always be admirable- and in their deceptively minimal compositions, the music carries the burden of the weight of those topics to a degree that seems to mirror the band’s inherent level of mutual support.

For “Plants and Worms” they wound up pairing with illustrator Catleya Sherbow, whose art here also acts as a double for Girlpool’s processes. In the Rookie premiere of “Plants and Worms”, Tucker and Tividad give an interview that lends some insight to their history, ideals, and intentions, while revealing that “Plants and Worms” is about accepting the world and how much it has to offer once fear and trepidation is reduced to the point of near-elimination. Neither get any more specific than that- but they don’t need to because the illustration makes a variety of specific instances of everyday fear entirely evident: body image issues, self-image, depression, loneliness, and self-destruction. In Sherbow’s illustrations, everything’s presented as it would be in a children’s book; there’s a soft quality that undercuts the severity of the video’s implications providing a thoughtful contrast that suggests the darkest aspects of the song are universal- but also definitively states that they can be overcome. It’s a crushingly powerful video that becomes impossible to shake after one watch and positions Girlpool in the unlikely position of being a young duo who could (reasonably) become two of this generation’s sharpest social commentators. “Plants and Worms” is likely just the beginning- and it’s already too important to miss.

Watch “Plants and Worms” below and pre-order Girlpool (the EP which “Plants and Worms” is taken from) from Wichita here.

LVL UP – Big Snow (Stream)

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What a day. There was no obvious choice for a feature until LVL UP’s “Big Snow” premiered over at Impose. On the surface, that’s a bland statement- but looking at the company that “Big Snow” joined today, it’s one hell of a testament to LVL UP.  In the single song department there were some legitimately great songs: Run The Jewels’ pulverizing new (Zach De La Rocha-featuring) scorcher “Close Your Eyes (And Count To Fuck)“, Dollface’s impossibly breezy indie pop gem “Churchyard“, Daddy Issues’ distortion-laden post-punk dirge “Ugly When I Cry“, and  a bracing new Crow Bait song- “Separate Stations“- that incorporates members of Iron Chic. There was also Dasher’s foreboding noise-punk minimalism piece, “Teeth“, as well as Vetter Kids’ “I’m Just Your Newest Bluest” which is a perfect representation of the band’s modernist take on classic 90’s emo and noise-punk. “A Million Random Digits” proved that …And You Will Know Us By The Trail Of Dead are far from being done while Wedding Dress’ “Somewhere Darker” makes it clear that Wedding Dress are anxious to make their introduction to the world.

Cellphone also posited themselves as a band ready to make a notable entrance with an enticing and mysterious trailer to promote their upcoming Excellent Condition. Denmark’s Mimas returned to the fold in a big way with the characteristically impressive live-edit clip for “Kissinger’s Jaw” (fans of Exploding in Sound who aren’t well-versed in Big Scary Monsters would do well to take note of this one) and Tangerine released a delightful video for another indie-pop keeper, “You’ll Always Be Lonely”. Ex Hex got in on the action as well, releasing a knockout video for Rips highlight (one of many) “Waterfall“. For full streams there were stunners from The Grayces, Thurston Moore, and a mildly insane (and wildly heavy) split between Big Neck Police and Dog.

Everything hyperlinked in the two paragraphs above stands as both a great way to share music worth listening to and acts as a very long-winded way of saying that featuring “Big Snow” wasn’t a foregone conclusion- at least not until the riff kicked in at the :26 mark. It’s the third song to be streamed from a just-released split between LVL UP, Krill, Ovlov, and Radiator Hospital. “Big Snow” is a song that’s actually been featured on this site before in an admittedly roundabout way- it was the feature piece in the band’s Serious Business session that was featured on Watch This. Even with Hoodwink’d being one of this site’s top contenders (if not top contender) for Album of the Year honors, “Big Snow” manages to stand out as one of the best songs to spring out of the band’s discography.

Having just seen LVL UP take the roof off of Chicago’s Beat Kitchen (pictured above, more to come on that later), it’s allowed the cementing of some previously-held opinions in regards to how the band functions. First and foremost; this is a truly collaborative effort with everything working as a complement to its surrounding elements at an obscenely high level. Second, this music works best as a victory lap for the disenfranchised; it’s both a rousing call to action and a well-meaning embrace for the people who were told they’d never live up to their potential or lived on the fringes of culture. LVL UP’s never been one to shy away from the unconventional (or the irreverent) and that’s a trait that takes bravery to embody. “Big Snow” hints at all of these elements and includes a rare treat; every one of the band’s vocalists (Dave Benton, Nick Corbo, and Mike Caridi, respectively) joins in for one last rousing harmony run before that surging, blissed-out guitar riff rallies the song to its fade-out finish. If Hoodwink’d wasn’t already proof, “Big Snow” certainly cements what’s become an unavoidable fact: LVL UP are one of today’s best bands and they deserve all the accolades that are bound to fall their way.

Listen to “Big Snow” below and pre-order the split it’s on from Double Double Whammy here.

Speedy Ortiz – Doomsday (Stream)

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Even on relatively quiet days, there will be things that warrant a paragraph’s worth of fawning. Today, that distinction could have gone to Big Ups’ gnashed-teeth brawler, “Rash“, just as easily as it could have fallen to We Come From the Same Place, a triumphant new record from Allo Darlin’. There were also attention-demanding examples of overblown visual weirdness that covered the DIY-professional production spread thanks to The New Pornographers and Krill, respectively. Even more left-field than those two videos was the video for “Never Catch Me“, the collaborative single between Flying Lotus and Kendrick Lamar off of the former’s upcoming You’re Dead– an easy 2014 highlight. While all were great for an array of (extremely) varying reasons, none of them hit home quite as hard as Speedy Ortiz’s “Doomsday”, a song that continues the band’s growth in mesmerizing fashion.

A lot of Speedy Ortiz’s most stunning material is tethered to a duality of feelings, whether it’s the wistful melodies contrasting the uplifting affirmations in “No Below” or a vulnerable paranoia being met by the relentless aggression of “American Horror“. It’s something the band seems to have an awareness of and likely why both of those songs wound up as singles. For all of Major Arcana‘s successes last year, the band could have easily used 2014 to coast on a victory lap. Instead, they’ve released an incredibly strong EP (Real Hair) an Adult Swim single (“Bigger Party“), and now they’re following those up with a stunning new effort for Famous Class Records’ LAMC series. “Doomsday” is a song that the band’s been playing out for a while and it’s been an easy set highlight each time thanks to the fact that it’s a genuinely great song. Easily one of Speedy Ortiz’s strongest works to date, it retains all of the elements that caused the band to be celebrated in the first place- only this time, all of those traits feel astonishingly complete. After a string of rightfully-acclaimed releases, Speedy Ortiz have found their identity and crafted something that feels wholly their own- and it’s extraordinary. How “Doomsday” can feel so weighted when nearly every small moment of it suggests something lighter is impossibly impressive; de facto bandleader Sadie Dupuis’ grasp on the material, strong enough to ensure that this is a band emerging musicians will look to as an influence in the years to come. If “Doomsday” is any indication of the material the band has in store, their next record could easily wind up being a classic. Until then, just listen to “Doomsday” on repeat and make sure to get out to one of the band’s upcoming dates with Ex Hex- because those shows won’t be worth missing.

Stream “Doomsday” below and order the 7″ (which is backed by a lovely acoustic track from Chris Weisman) from Famous Class’ bandcamp.

Iceage – Against the Moon (Stream)

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There are days where it can be difficult to scrounge up enough great new releases to warrant an introductory paragraph round-up and there are days that are so generously overflowing with great material it’s nearly impossible to figure out what to feature. Today fell squarely to the latter. There were no less than four outstanding releases in each of the major categories: single stream, music video, and full stream. Cool Ghouls’ psych-laced basement pop rager “And It Grows” gave some new promise to the upcoming record. Mean Creek‘s Chris Keene unveiled the most recent look at his Dream Generation project with the sparse “The Four of Us” and September Girls teased their upcoming EP with the snarling “Veneer“. Veronica Falls‘ James Hoare and Mazes‘ Jack Cooper started a new project called Ultimate Painting, who instantly turned some heads with the carefree open-road ramblings of “Ten Street“.

Over in the realms of the music video, Grubs, Frankie Teardrop (warning: heavy strobes), and Cloud Nothings all released clips defined by lo-fi experementalism while Snævar Njáll Albertsson’s Dad Rocks! project dipped its toes into a gorgeously-lensed narrative involving a heavy existentialist crisis with “In the Seine”. In the space occupied by full streams, Dark Blue offered up their heavy-hitting Album of the Year contender Pure Reality and Tomorrows Tulips did the same for their career-best effort, When. Ex-Breathers made all 12 tracks (and 11 minutes) of their vicious upcoming 7″, ExBx, available for the world to hear, while Zola Jesus occupied similarly dark but incrementally softer territory with her upcoming effort, Taiga. A Winged Victory For The Sullen rounded out the full streams with another ambient near-masterpiece titled Atomos. Of course, there was one another full stream- but the link is being withheld until it’s accompanied by a forthcoming review. In the meantime, today’s focus will be on the song that defines that record: “Against the Moon”.

In an effort not to mince words, one thing should be noted before going any further- namely that Plowing Into The Field of Love is a masterpiece. No record this year has seen a more stunning creative growth or felt more important than Iceage’s new behemoth. Only three records into their still-young career and they’ve already emerged with a full-length that not only operates as a radical left turn but one that rivals anything from the creative rebirth of Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds (or, the Let Love In era). Iceage’s first two records, New Brigade and You’re Nothing, were menacing works that a few people chalked up to exhilarating exercises in intimidation. On Plowing Into The Field Of Love the band relents from that approach and serves a hyper-literate Southern Gothic-indebted masterwork that sees them flexing boldly experimental muscle and an untapped well of what now appears to be endless ambition. No song on Plowing Into The Field of Love illustrates this more than the slow-burning “Against the Moon”, a song that’s well out of the confines of anything the band’s ever done but still feels wholly suited to their identity.

Opening with the quasi-mournful strains of a brass section, it quickly undercuts its brief introduction with shuffling drums and the sustained hums of a chord organ. In those opening 15 seconds, the band manages to establish an astounding grasp on a style that was previously completely foreign to them. By the time the string and piano arrangements kick “Against the Moon” up a few levels into the breathtakingly sublime, it’s one of the bravest things any band this year’s committed to a studio recording. As instrumentally thrilling as “Against the Moon” is, it’s the startling emergence of vocalist Elias Bender Rønnenfelt’s vulnerability that shifts the song from the sublime to the transcendental. For the first time, Rønnenfelt’s lyrics and vocals are given a platform that demands the listener’s unwavering attention and that level of investment is paid off in full. From the song’s arresting opening stanza, enhanced by Rønnenfelt’s world-weary drawl, it’s clear that his personal transition directly correlates with what the band’s accomplished in terms of musicality. “On a pedestal, shining bright. Justify me. Make me right. I can fight it; make it roam- but a fugitive has a tendency to return home.” is the kind of opening line that suggests a genuinely great writer- that the rest of Iceage seems to have embraced and experienced the same level of maturity and rapid artistic growth as Rønnenfelt in the short year that’s followed You’re Nothing is nothing short of mind-bending.

A song that literally arrives with horns, “Against the Moon” stands as Iceage’s definitive entry into the band’s sudden new era, the strongest representation of Plowing Into The Field Of Love‘s myriad of sudden changes, and one of the most immediately striking songs to emerge from the past 4 years. Stripped back far enough to be completely exposed, Iceage shows the world all of its scars, all of its imperfections, and all of its entire being- and it’s a tremendous thing to experience. Even considering all of their previous sonic aggression, nothing they’ve ever produced has hit with a fiercer impact. For a band that’s aim has always been to wound, it’s a devastating reverse that leaves them sounding wounded- but bravely resilient. It’s extraordinarily effective and unflinchingly courageous. Most importantly, “Against the Moon” is the crown jewel of what deserves be regarded as one of this decade’s most important records. Make sure to give this the attention it deserves.

Listen to “Against the Moon” below, pre-order Plowing Into The Field Of Love from Matador here, and keep an eye on this site for a full review at some point in the coming week.

Iceage – Glassy Eyed, Dormant and Veiled (Stream)

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Another day down, another long list of items to discuss. With summer officially over, it’s time to start focusing in on the fall releases. Tomorrow will see the official release of LVL UP’s Hoodwink’d, one of the year’s best records. Similarly, in a few weeks Iceage will release Plowing Into the Field of Love, a record that continues to expand on its promise in leaps and bounds. Before discussing that last point in greater detail, it’s worth mentioning that incredible new pieces of content are appearing with a regularity that’s starting to border the tenacious. Today alone saw the unveiling (or first notable coverage) of music videos from WAND, Lonesome Shack, The Wans, and an absolutely stunning effort from Cloud Castle Lake that plays with space in a manner so fascinating that it nearly earned a very lengthy write-up as today’s feature by virtue of that aspect alone. There was a very strong 7″ that surfaced from Terry & Louie, a duo composed of Terry Six and King Louie Bankston- who both formerly played in The Exploding Hearts (among many other great subsequent projects). And, as always, there were songs- including (but certainly not limited to): a hypnotic Nick Cave-assisted effort by Marianne Faithfull, the first look at Sundials’ Kick, a previously cassette-only exclusive track from AlvvaysGnarwhal‘s contribution to an upcoming four-way split that boasts some of the year’s most intriguing names, and “Audrey’s Song“- a sampling of Trophy Wife’s just-released All The Sides.

Now, onto the main event- which once again comes courtesy of Iceage. Following the excellent trio composed of “The Lord’s Favorite“, “Forever” and “How Many“, comes “Glassy Eyed, Dormant and Veiled”.  After an impressive array of combative styles that proved to be even more antagonistic that the band’s earliest material, “Glassy Eyed, Dormant and Veiled” finds the band reining things back into an unexpected level of restraint, showing an admirable self-awareness that suggests a talent for composition well beyond their years. Recalling an alternately nightmarish Henry’s Dream with this particular at bat, Iceage have managed to definitively establish a creative growth that should pay massive dividends for them once Plowing Into the Field of Love is revealed in full. Guitars course, the prose rages, and the rhythm section manages to be more imposing than ever before. Importantly, it also enhances the band’s newfound penchant for Southern Gothic to an extent that’s, arguably, even more fully-formed than “How Many”.

While it’s still too early to declare it a bona fide masterwork, everything that the four preview tracks have shown, in one way or another, suggests that may be exactly how Plowing Into the Field of Love will come to be defined. If Plowing Into the Field of Love is rounded out by songs that live up to “Glassy Eyed, Dormant and Veiled” (or any of the other three that have been released) and Iceage continues to make music that sounds this brave and timeless, they may wind up being one of this generation’s most celebrated bands. Whatever does wind up happening when Iceage is allowed their big moment, it’ll be worth paying very close attention to- this has already demonstrated the potential to be a watershed moment. “Glassy Eyed, Dormant and Veiled” is just another running step forward towards a full-on cliff dive and if the take-off is as spectacular as the song, we’re all in for one hell of a ride.

Listen to “Glassy Eyed, Dormant and Veiled” below and pre-order Plowing Into the Field of Love here.

Watch This: Vol. 46

Part two of this week’s recap (there really was an absurd amount of great material to go through), this installment of Watch This features videos that emerged during the past few days. Between a handful of full sets, a few videos from places that have become series staples, and, above all else, great performances. Everything on display here is worth taking some time to enjoy and a handful of them will likely warrant return visits. All in all, this set seems like a very fitting way to cap off what’s been one of the strongest weeks for new content that we’ve had this year. So, sit back, open the blinds, turn the volume all the way up, focus, and Watch This.

1. The Midwest Beat – Vortex Hole (Milwaukee Journal Sentinel)

Vortex Hole” was recently featured here as a stream in support of The Midwest Beat’s excellent new full-length, Free of Being. In the video below, the Milwaukee-via-Madison band gets invited to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel studio to tear through the live version. They tear through it with an enviable amount of verve and a peculiar madcap glee that somehow transforms the performance into something endlessly fascinating. It’s one hell of a rendition.

[Due to a temporary embed issue, this video can currently only be seen here]

2. Cloakroom – Asymmetrical (unARTigNYC)

“Asymmetrical” is a characteristically slow-burning song from Cloakroom, who seem to be exploring the middle ground between shoegaze and post-hardcore with a frightening amount of precision and clarity. Easily one of the most fascinating bands to have begun a steady emergence over the past handful of months, Cloakroom still retains a sense of mystery- something that factors directly into their music. This is an astonishing performance from a band that’s worth getting to know.

3. The New Pornographers (NPR)

It’d be easy to argue that, at this point, The New Pornographers are an institution. Between their own releases and their various members solo releases, they’ve put out some of the most highly acclaimed music of this young century. It’s a formidable body of work and  the fact that their most recent effort, Brill Bruisers, both lives up to and earns its spot among their long list of triumphs is fairly astonishing. This full, lovingly shot, NPR performance spans their discography and showcases one arguably indisputable fact: they deserve their acclaim and status.

4. Beverly – Not Ours (BreakThruRadio)

Beverly, the duo made up of Frankie Rose and Drew Citron, released one of the definitive records of the summer with Careers. Ever since that release, footage of the band’s tight-knit live show’s been popping up with an alarming frequency. While Rose is taking some time off to focus on her own solo project, there are still old sessions coming out of the woodwork. Here’s a lighthearted stunner from the always-excellent BreakThruRadio.

5. Cloud Nothings (Pitchfork)

There aren’t many moments in life that are better than watching a great band with extraordinary people on a perfect day. Cloud Nothings were an easy highlight of Pitchfork’s second day and now their whole set can be relived in full. Culling mostly from their 2014 highlight Here and Nowhere Else, their set went a long way in re-establishing the fact that they’re now a power trio (a term that they fully live up to). Not a lot of bands can lose a member and immediately re-define themselves without losing their personality but it’s evident that Cloud Nothings haven’t lost a step.

Iceage – How Many (Stream)

iceage

To put it mildly: it’s been a great day for music videos, unexpected niche releases, and cover songs. Everything that will be receiving a hyperlink in this article was, at one point, set to be today’s feature. From the unexpectedly dazzling cover of the Squidbillies theme song that Neko Case provided for the television show’s season premiere to the lovely visual collage Alvvays offered up as the accompanying video for their lilting “Next of Kin“, it’s been a day of unlikely surprises. In other corners, Grape St. kicked off a Burger series that’ll feature bands from the label performing short sets on-air, Fear of Men delivered a stunning take on Ty Segall’s “Sleeper“, Heat released an impressive video for “Rooms“, and The So So Glos released another outstanding music video for a song off of 2013 highlight Blowout (bringing the overall total to 6). Virtually all of those were highlight-reel worthy pieces for their respective artists and have their own respective merit- but none of them managed to stand out as emphatically as Iceage’s most recent Plowing Into the Field of Love reveal, “How Many”.

After making a tremendous impact with “The Lord’s Favorite” and “Forever“, the increasingly intriguing post-punk band re-affirms the potential for Plowing Into the Field of Love to be a legitimate masterpiece. While Iceage’s first two records, New Brigade and You’re Nothing, were fine releases in their own right, they were easily characterized by a violent bleakness. This time around, the band’s seemingly traded in that approach to attempt something more expansive (and, arguably, more menacing). Where their used to be unrestrained viciousness, there’s now tension, subtle atonality, and total discord- and “How Many” goes to impressive lengths to showcase just how brave of a record Plowing Into the Field of Love (which is due out October 6/7 via Matador) is shaping up to be. From a subtle percussion trick that recalls the proto-industrialism of Einstürzende Neubauten to the unfiltered major key piano progression that interlopes with the vocal melody but acts in stark contrast to much of the rest of the song’s presentation, it’s abundantly clear that Iceage are embracing new ideas with a completely unexpected (but entirely welcome) amount of maturity, verve, and conviction.

There are sections of near-euphoria in the chorus that punctuate the intimidating slow-build of “How Many”, proving that their grasp on the tension-and-release dynamic is as considered as “Forever” suggested it might be (in the review of “Forever” it was noted that Iceage was starting to seem like a natural extension of early Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds- “How Many” re-affirms that thought). As if all of that wasn’t enough, Bender Rønnenfelt’s performance as both a vocalist and a lyricist has taken on a startling measure of depth as he grows further indebted to Southern Gothic in his prose and emerges as a courageous performer behind the microphone- one who’s willing to take sizable risks. Iceage’s rhythm section has become atypically tight and kinetic, while the guitar work remains incendiary. By coming out swinging with three of the year’s most memorable songs, Iceage have given Plowing Into the Field of Love a lot to live up to- and if it does, they may very well have 2014’s most important album on their hands.

Listen to “How Many” below and pre-order Plowing Into the Field of Love here.