Heartbreaking Bravery

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Tag: Matthew E. White

Lemuria – Kicking In (Music Video)

The last few days of the previous week brought a host of excellent music videos into the world: Courtney Barnett, Tancred, Ganser, Flasher, Clint Michigan, Cryptic Street, Erin Rae, Yuno, Yes You Are, Erika Wennerstrom, Mazzy Star, Canshaker Pi, The Drew Thomson Foundation, A Deer A Horse, Andy Jenkins, Thelma, and Neighbor Lady all having a hand in the action. Lemuria was another act to get in on the fun, offering up a reminder of the strength of their recent Recreational Hate with a characteristically good-hearted clip for “Kicking  In” ahead of their umpteenth tour.

“Kicking In”, an album highlight from Recreational Hate, finds the band expanding on their classic country influences, conjuring up the kind of wide-open imagery perfectly suited to a music video. The band capitalized wisely, moving to the desert for a satirical deconstruction of the music video process. It’s an exceedingly clever conceit that takes a turn towards the end and offers up a heartwarming resolution to the difficulties and interpersonal conflicts — and petty resentment — that can drive wedges between cast and crew on adventurous shoots. A note-perfect testament to the band’s legacy, “Kicking In” is about as perfect of a music video as Lemuria could have crafted. Just like the band’s music, “Kicking In” is a welcoming invitation to come in, get warmed, and enjoy the party.

Watch “Kicking In” below and pick up Recreational Hate from the band here.

Princess Reason – Your Divorce (Stream)

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Today will be dedicated to two posts: the first (the one you’re reading now), will cover a large handful of yesterday’s notable releases while the ensuing entry will bring everything up to speed. While there wasn’t an intimidating excess of new material on Wednesday, like there has been in the past, it still managed to unearth some very strong pieces. Ms. John Soda had their tantalizingly light new single “Hero Whales“, Camper Van Beethoven’s willfully ridiculous Sharknado 3: Oh Hell No! song “Long Way To Go“, Doubting Thomas Cruise Control offered another compelling new look at their forthcoming record via “Soft Focus“, Blake Schwarzenbach provided a glimpse at his upcoming solo material with the quietly pulsating “Sanity Is Waiting“, and Donovan Wolfington maintained both their searing aggression and surprisingly light pop touch via “Solo Cup“.

For music videos, there was the menacing grit of Memory Pills’ “Beauty of the City“, Matthew E. White’s moving “Vision (No Skin Version)“, Jenny Hval’s dream-laden “Sabbath“, and Gem Club’s strangely harrowing “Braid“. The full streams wound up with incredibly strong representation from an individual release: Antarctigo Vespucci’s s debut full-length effort, the incredibly strong Leavin’ La Vida Loca. Today’s featured item circles back to the single song streams and strings together lackadaisical basement pop with punk attitude as well as anything else to have found release this year.

With the light drawl that hearkens back to the slacker pop of the 90’s there’s an obvious Pavement comparison to be made here, especially with the off-the-cuff lyrical delivery fully ingrained in Princess Reason‘s DNA but those comparisons can only stretch so far; Princess Reason deserve to be judged on their own merit, not be held to the gold standard of a genre iconoclast. “Your Divorce” is a smartly-crafted burst of outsider pop, making room for some entirely unexpected moments that elevate the song from being good to being genuinely memorable. It’s a rambling, ramshackle number that headlines a forthcoming 7″ with the kind of confidence and finesse that suggest this band’s in the midst of something that should secure them quite a bit of attention going forward. An unlikely, biting summer anthem for the romantically down-and-out “Your Divorce” may have a lot of roots in the past but it still manages to come across as a breath of fresh air.

Listen to “Your Divorce” below and pre-order the 7″ from Nebraskan Coast here.

Left & Right – 5 Year Plan (Music Video)

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Continuing on with April’s music video catch-up mode allows for the inclusion of a dozen more clips- with one gaining the primary focus. Before getting around to the title included in the headline, it’s time to turn the attention towards 11 other clips worth watching. Among those entries were The OBGM’s snarling “Torpedo“, Weird Wombs’ staged party in “Luxury Punks“, Desparecidos’ typically political “City on the Hill“, and Matthew E. White’s endearingly warm “Feeling Good Is Good Enough“. Expanding the number count for excellent clips were Owen Pallett’s skillfully crafted “The Sky Behind the Flag“, Talkies’ lightly altered “Never Fear“, American Wrestlers’ retro “Kelly“, and Broken Water’s uncomfortably dystopian “1984“. Bringing this contained collection to a close were Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy’s breathtaking “Gloria“, Sam Amidon’s coming-of-age narrative “Blue Mountains“, and All Boy/All Girl’s noir-infused “Lion“. Each of those videos are deserving of thoughtful contemplation but- for this post- the lion’s share of the attention is (once again) being directed toward site favorites Left & Right.

The last time a Left & Right video surfaced, it was met on this site with a ton of praise that held enough water to secure it a spot on our best videos of 2014 list. One of that video’s most distinctly unique elements was that it didn’t actually feature anyone in Left & Right. For the surging “5 Year Plan”, the band flips the script entirely and only allow themselves to be subjects for the lens. In under 100 seconds, the band unleashes a frantically paced performance clip that incorporates some exhilarating editing and genuinely committed performances from the band. Filmed in a manner that brings the feeling of taking in a live performance to the forefront, “5 Year Plan” is a lot more nuanced than it first appears. Sharply accentuating the song’s manic energy, the clip quickly reveals itself to be as intuitive as it is heartfelt, providing Left & Right their second consecutive outright triumph in the music video department.

Watch “5 Year Plan” below and pre-order the LP of Five Year Plan from Old Flame Records here.

Watch This: 2015, Vol. 1

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Familiar faces. Single Songs. Full sets. New bands. It’s been 15 weeks since the last Watch This ran on this site and that’s far, far too long. To help get things up to date, the next three days will see a trilogy of video mixtapes containing 25 of the best live clips to surface from 2015 so far. Next week, the installment will resume its normally paced functions- but for now, clear out some time and get lost in the exciting performances compiled in the embed below. Lean back, turn the volume up, breathe deep, and Watch This.

1. Waxahatchee – Under A Rock (Pitchfork)
2. Tenement – Dreaming Out Loud (Don Giovanni Records)
3. Crying – Sick (BreakThruRadio)
4. Beach Slang (NPR)
5. Speedy Ortiz – The Graduates (Pitchfork)
6. Francisco the Man – In the Corners (Audiotree)
7. Single Mothers – Overdose (Radio K)
8. Sleater-Kinney – Modern Girl (Sound Opinions)
9. Nude Beach + Jody Stephens – My Life Is Right (Don Giovanni Records)
10. Mutts – Five of a Kind (Audiotree)
11. Sun Club – Beauty Meat (Audiotree)
12. Crow Bait – Separate Stations (Don Giovanni Records)
13. Courtney Barnett – An Illustration of Loneliness (Sleepless in New York (Pitchfork)
14. Matthew E. White – Rock & Roll Is Cold (The Current)
15. Makthaverskan – Witness (Pitchfork)
16. Chief Scout – Rollercoaster (Audiotree)
17. Mal Blum – San Cristóbal (Don Giovanni Records)
18. DYGL – Let’s Get Into Your Car (Out of Town Films)
19. American Aquarium – Losing Side of Twenty Five (Jam in the Van)
20. Charles Bradley – The World (Is Going Up In Flames) (Coachella)
21. Sue the Night – The Whale (3FM)
22. Kevin Devine – Bubblegum (Little Elephant)
23. Ride – Vapour Trail (Coachella)
24. The Dodos (KEXP)
25. Cloakroom – Lossed Over + Moon Funeral (Little Elephant)

Sheer Mag – Button Up (Stream)

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Continuing on in the quest to get the site caught up on all the things that caught my attention in 2015 affords some unique opportunities. One of them is the chance to celebrate a few of the truly great items that surfaced over the course of this year’s first three months. By the end of tonight, all of those will be featured in some form- be it a list inclusion, a mix, or some words. In this post, there won’t be a lot of material from the past two weeks (with the notable exception of a jaunty tune from The Splits and an absolute stunner of a track from one-time site contributor Johanna Warren) but it should still serve as a healthy reminder of 2015’s formidable early strengths. One of those songs, Sheer Mag’s “Button Up” will be receiving the greatest amount of focus. Below that, as has been custom, are 75 outstanding songs from this year’s first quarter. Now, back to this post’s main draw.

Sheer Mag have been picking up a great amount of notoriety in important circles since the release of their 7″ from last year, which was strong enough to land on the site’s Best 7″ Records of 2014 list. “Button Up”, the band’s first new material since that EP, is a refinement of everything that’s made Sheer Mag so exciting from the beginning. “Button Up” retains the band’s appealing lo-fi punch but their pop sensibilities are sharper than ever, rendering “Button Up” an unlikely heavyweight. Impossibly crunchy guitars, powerful vocals, and a sense of joy permeate throughout this track and provide Sheer Mag with a valid claim as one of the most exciting upcoming bands on the market. If the rest of their upcoming 7″ can hit similar peaks, it’s not unlikely that they’ll be appearing on quite a few December lists (ours included).

Listen to “Button Up” below and keep an eye on this site for more coverage surrounding the band’s upcoming release. Beneath the embed are 75 outstanding songs from 2015’s opening stretch.

The Cribs – I See Your Pictures Every Day
Football, etc. – Open
Princess – Black Window
Novella – Land Gone
Eric Chenaux – Skullsplitter
Pinkshinyultrablast – Land’s End
Vagaband – Gabrielle
HOLY – Demon’s Hand
Tall Tales and the Silver Lining – This Time Around
Divers – Breathless
Michael Stec – Party Dress
The Brian Jonestown Massacre – Philadelphia Story
Cyberbully Mom Club – Anabelle (Love Soft)
Passenger Peru – Break My Neck
The Splits – I Know
Alice – Nightmare
Lightning Bolt – The Metal East
Guantanamo Baywatch – Too Late
Maribou State – Rituals
Dastardly – The Hollow
Aero Flynn – Twist
The Minus 5 – The History You Hate
Braids – Miniskirt
Faith Healer – Universe
Karen Meat & the Computer – If I Were Yours
Chris Weisman – Backpack People
Jeff Rosenstock – You, In Weird Cities
The Dodos – Retriever
Busses – Wizard of the Eye
Obnox – Cynthia Piper at the Gates of Dawn
Twerps – I Don’t Mind
Sonny & the Sunsets – Happy Carrot Health Food Store
The Muscadettes – Pearl and Oyster
Waxahatchee – Air
Matthew E. White – Rock N’ Roll Is Cold
Nic Hessler – Hearts, Repeating
Grooms – Comb The Feelings Through Your Hair
Pops Staples – Somebody Was Watching
Moon King – Roswell
Caught On Tape – Full Bleed
Oscar – Daffodil Days
EULA – Noose
Inventions – Springworlds
Dirty Dishes – Guilty
Johanna Warren – True Colors
Happyness – Don’t Know Why (Norah Jones)
JEFF The Brotherhood – Coat Check Girl
Johnny Marr – Struck
Leapling – N.E.R.V.E.
The Juliana Hatfield Three – Ordinary Guy
Tyler Ditter – Echo Off the World
Fruit Bomb – Normcore Girlfriend
Dorthia Cottrell – Kneeler
In Tall Buildings – Unmistakable
Kind of Like Spitting – Stress Cadet
Fort Lean – I Don’t Mind
Native Lights – Black Wall Street
Wire – Joust & Jostle
Marika Hackman – Monday Afternoon
Football, etc. – Sunday
Sammy Kay – Highs and Lows
Wolf Solent – Hold On
Solvey – Solvey
All Boy/All Girl – Glitters
Threading – Ember
Lucern Raze – Someone Like You
Pelican Movement – Light Like Before
Carmen Villain – Quietly
Ghastly Menace – Real Life
Irontom – In the Day and the Dark
Sun Hotel – After Peggy Tells Her Parents They Never Had Any Trouble In Their Relationship
Wand – Self Hypnosis in 3 Days
Quarterbacks – Night Changes (One Direction cover)
Lost Boy ? – Love You Only
Broken Water – High-Lo

First Quarter Clips, Pt. 4 (Video Mixtape)

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Ever sine the 2014 edition of A Year’s Worth of Memories came to its standard close (there may still be a forthcoming epilogue), this site’s been in constant catch-up mode. It’s not a mode that’s going to be entirely evaded- as there is still quite a bit of ground to cover along the single stream battle lines- but, as of this post, Heartbreaking Bravery’s all caught up on 2015 music videos. Having run approximately 1110 music videos from the year thus far, it’s astonishing that there are still enough to carry through a regular video mixtape set of 25 selections. For the first time, these will be presented jukebox style. Music’s always evolving, always rotating, and there are so many different sounds that deserve appreciation- but the best music (and the best clips) all exist alongside each other in enviably creative territories. Acting as complements to each other while simultaneously forming a much larger picture, the 25 music videos below are among the young year’s finest. From Pussy Riot’s breathtaking protest video to Flying Lotus’ continuous visual mastery to Ephrata’s barn-burning tiff, these clips represent some of the finest work being done in their given medium. Coverage on music videos will continue at regular pace form this point forward but it’s definitely worth setting aside an hour or two to explore some of today’s great art. Click play below and get swept up in the spree.

COLLECTION V

1. Nightmare Boy – Chivalry Is Alive and Well in Glasgow
2. SEAZOO – Panda Pains
3. Spirit Club – Duster
4. Matthew E. White – Rock & Roll Is Cold
5. Pompeii – Blueprint
6. Pussy Riot – I Can’t Breathe
7. Gaz Coombes – Detroit
8. William Ryan Fritch (feat. Esme Patterson) – Still
9. Hundred Waters – Show Me Love
10. The Amazing – Picture You
11. Woman’s Hour – Devotion
12. Weyes Blood – Bad Magic
13. Flying Lotus – Corronus, The Terminator
14. The Afghan Whigs – The Lottery
15. Big Noble – Atlantic Din
16. Only You – Let Me Burn
17. Ephrata – Say A Prayer
18. The Green Seed – Gotchoo
19. The Cush – Orange Like Water
20. Secret Space – Stay For A While
21. Dazed Pilots – Sinner
22. Boxed In – Mystery
23. Grounders – Pull It Over Me
24. ANAMAI – Lucia
25. Annalibera – Blooms

First Quarter Full Streams, Pt. 2

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As was noted and clearly evidenced by the last post’s overabundance of content, 2015’s off to a particularly strong start in terms of memorable records. While a few of those 75 entries from that post do have a shot at working their way into the upper echelons of the year’s finest by December, the 25 full streams listed below are among 2015’s very finest offerings. From demo compilations of old material to split EP’s to full-lengths, everything on this list is worthy of an immediate purchase. A few of these are pulverizing shows of force, a few are immediate sugar-rush blitzes, and a few are quietly devastating. All of them are releases I’ve listened to multiple times over and formed very extreme connections with on a myriad of levels. Don’t make a regrettable decision by not giving any of the unfamiliar titles a fair shot: there’s a release here for just about everyone.

1. Quarterbacks – Quarterbacks

Quarterbacks have earned a fair amount of praise from this site and a large amount of that’s been for their exhilarating self-titled, which is the band’s first complete full band effort. Recalling the transition that Radiator Hospital made with their brilliant debut full band full-length effort, Something Wild, Quarterbacks doesn’t pull any of its punches. It’s a spiky record that lends Dean Engle’s songs a ferocious punch that comes with a lingering bite.

2. Tenement – Bruised Music: Volume 1

I’ve written an enormous amount of words about my unending love for Tenement. Some of those words can be read in the zine that comes packaged with this record. One of my favorite bands, if not outright favorite, for nearly a decade, Bruised Music: Vol. 1 is the perfect reminder of why I fell for this band in the first place. A compilation of early material from long out-of-print 7″ records, compilations, and other various scraps, this is the definitive starter kit for anyone looking to retrace Tenement’s career path to its humble beginnings. Unsurprisingly, it’s also ridiculously brilliant. Expect to see more words about this record published on this site in the coming months.

3. Krill – A Distant Fist Unclenching

Krill forever.

4. Hailey Wojcik – Book of Beasts

One of the year’s best early surprises, Hailey Wojcik’s Book of Beasts EP has all the makings of what could (and should) prove to be a career-making effort for the singer/songwriter. Dark tones, brilliant composition, strong melody, and an incredibly alluring voice is always a dangerous combination. Here, each one of those elements is shot through with a Gothic Americana sensibility that manages to find its niche in forward thinking. It’s an incredible release and deserves much more attention than it’s been receiving. Bonus points for offering the release up on bandcamp for the price of $6.66.

5. Daddy Issues – Double Loser

Daddy Issues may not be the most recognizable name on the market but we’re less than a month removed from the cassette release of Double Loser and the thing’s already sold out. Now, measuring a record’s strength in terms of sales is generally a deeply problematic formula- but in this case, it seems just. Double Loser has the strength of what could become a celebrated cult classic among a very particular breed of crate-diggers. Undeniably winsome and darkly enchanting, this EP cements Daddy Issues’s position as a band that’s ready for much bigger things.

6. Pope – Fiction

Heavy, cutting, and melodic in a way that hits the intersection of a wide spread of tastes just right, Pope’s Fiction is the kind of record that’s got the verve to last long after it appears on a few best-of lists. Cloaked in a wall-of-noise type production sheathe, Fiction is one of the first quarter’s most unapologetic and propulsive releases. Balancing a suspiciously taut tightrope between shoegaze and post-punk, every song manages to be breathtaking by virtue of sheer cathartic release. Pope’s made something genuinely exhilarating that deserves to be in as many collections as possible.

7. Alanna McArdle – reticular (2012-2013)

While Alanna McArdle may be best known as the lead personality for site favorites Joanna Gruesome, her career doesn’t begin and/or end with that particular band. McArdle recently released a compilation of genuinely stunning (and mostly acoustic) bedroom recordings. The guitarist/vocalist taps into something more bravely vulnerable than the trappings of Joanna Gruesome usually allows for, creating a hushed, spellbinding atmosphere. reticular (2012-2013) has been one of 2015’s more unceremonious releases but it’s also easily one of the year’s most fascinating. Already one of the most-played releases in my library, it’s a monumental entry in the career of one of the more engaging musical figures of our generation.

8. Trust Fund – No One’s Coming For Us

Cut Me Out“, one of No One’s Coming For Us‘ first singles, seemed to be a strong indicator that the band would have something special with their upcoming record. It was a presumption that the record somehow, against reasonable logic, managed to exceed. Easily the strongest effort in the band’s burgeoning discography, No One’s Coming For Us is a specatacular warning shot from the kind of band that seems like they’re setting up for the long haul.

9. Cloakroom – Further Out

Most of the description for Pope’s Fiction also stands true for Cloakroom‘s jaw-dropping Further Out. Except here, Cloakroom adds an extra layer of heaviness, which frequently relents to territory even more accessible than the realms of Pope’s niche operation level. Further Out is going to continue to stand as one of 2015’s most awe-inspiring releases as the months progress and it’ll be the kind of record people will look to for inspiration. It’s an incredible achievement and ranks among the finest releases to carry the vaunted Run For Cover tag.

10. Wildhoney – Sleep Through It

The first two months of 2015 were very kind to bands incorporating a heavy shoegaze bent into their sound, a fact furthered by listening to Wildhoney’s gorgeous full-length debut, Sleep Through It. Embracing the pop sensibilities of the genre and maximizing them without ever drifting out of post-punk’s territories, Wildhoney manages to create an incredibly appealing record that delivers on the promise of their brilliant EP. Sleep Through It is yet another album people are going to be talking about for many months (and hopefully, years) to come.

11. Lady Lamb – After

Goodbye Lady Lamb The Beekeeper, hello Lady Lamb. The rightfully-acclaimed After features songwriter Aly Spaltro at a transition phase in her career. Already a few extraordinary records deep into a continuously promising run of releases, After is already taking Spaltro to the next level(s). With the sudden name change, Spaltro managed to make her brand even more accessible without diminishing any of her other qualities. On the contrary, After may be the fiercest entry in Lady Lamb’s remarkable discography. After was initially teased with the absurdly delightful “Billions of Eyes” and the rest of the record manages to live up to those intensely high levels of promise. Listen below and fall in love all over again.

12. PWR BTTM + Jawbreaker Reunion – Republican National Convention

Two of New York’s finest emerging young bands come together to make a split EP, what can go wrong? Nothing. The answer is nothing. Jawbreaker Reunion continue to be as exciting as ever, PWR BTTM make one hell of a mark, and both “Hold Yer Tongue” and “Adventure Time” rank among the best songs of the year. Every other Valentine’s Day gift paled in comparison.

13. Slutever – Almost Famous

Punchy, strong, and incredibly catchy, Slutever followed up their near-perfect Girlpool split with this piece of magic. Expertly balancing basement pop and basement punk, Slutever take their craft to an entirely new place with Almost Famous, their finest work to date (and an absolute must-own). From the traces of sludge-punk on the reactionary masterpiece “I Miss America” to the hard-charging rush of “Maggot”, Slutever fearlessly follows their whims and explores some previously uncharted territory. Astoundingly, all of it works and leaves the band with a very real contender for EP of the Year.

14. Lighting Bolt – Fantasy Empire

Thousands of writers have tried to extol the virtues of Lightning Bolt’s furor and no one’s ever managed to match the band’s intensity. Sometimes it’s just better to let the reputation for such a singular act to do the talking- but it wouldn’t be fair to the band if I didn’t note that this just may be the very best record the duo’s ever made.

Listen to Fantasy Empire for a limited time over at NPR’s First Listen

15. Sleater-Kinney – No Cities to Love

Sleater-Kinney’s thrilling hiatus-ender, No Cities to Love, was one of the year’s first universally acclaimed records and it’s easy to see (or hear) why. Not just incredible in terms of a comeback record but as a career staple for one of the most legendary bands of our era. The trio’s sharper (and thornier) than they’ve ever been on No Cities to Love and couldn’t have scheduled their re-entrance at a better time for their fierce, commentary-heavy diatribes.

16. Midwives – LP

When Midwives put out their incendiary EP last year, I knew I’d found another Wisconsin-based band to rally behind. Naturally, the hardcore band (which boasts Graham Hunt of Midnight Reruns among its members) has followed that short order of songs up with a gloriously unhinged, shit-kicking full-length. Increasingly scrappy and direct, Midwives may very well have their sights set on bigger things- and if they don’t, those bigger things might find them anyway.

17. Spook The Herd – Freaks b/w Fermented

There’s a very particular breed of 90’s revivalism whose subversion among current bands is becoming increasingly present. Intriguingly, that camp of 90’s acts (the one that bands like Superchunk and Archers of Loaf belonged to) is notoriously difficult to recreate in intriguing ways. Many of the bands that have released records through Exploding in Sound are a part of that current crop of bands who look to that era for influence and it wouldn’t come as a surprise if Spook the Herd joined that list. “Freaks” and “Fermented” are both first-rate examples of revivalism done right.

18. LVL UP – Dark Sided Stuff

Anyone whose been following this site at all for the past few months has likely seen LVL UP come up a few times. Dark Sided Stuff, their most recent release, is a compilation of the demos that would go on to become Hoodwink’d (this sites pick for Album of the Year)  and a few other recordings that were cut during that time. Unsurprisingly, the end result is a brilliant mess that strips the band back to their rawest state, allowing for a further understanding of their process. Enigmatic and charismatic in equal measure, it’s a release well worth anyone’s investment.

19. The Juliana Hatfield Three – Whatever, My Love

The Juliana Hatfield Three may not have sparked as much attention as Sleater-Kinney did when they made an unexpected return to music but Whatever, My Love does occupy a similar space to No Cities to Love. Both are examples of a band making a return to form without much warning, after a long time away, and both include some of the best material of each band’s career. A lot of bands that garner a lot of attention here (All Dogs, Radiator Hospital, etc.) have listed The Juliana Hatfield Three as a major influence and those connections, fascinatingly, have never been more crystallized than they are with Whatever, My Love. Don’t let this one fall to the wayside.

20. Chastity Belt – Time to Go Home

The name Chastity Belt’s another one that’s been kicked around here for a while, thanks mostly to their excellent 2013 LP, No Regerts. Even with as good as that record was, it proved to be impossible to predict just how incredible Time to Go Home would turn out. Chastity Belt have enhanced their identity with their boldest and most fully-realized work to date. Rarely eclipsing mid-tempo, the band allows themselves to settle into comfortably meticulous grooves with a confidence that’s self-assured enough to put a lot of other bands (bands who have been around much, much longer) to absolute shame.

Listen to Time To Go Home over at NPR’s First Listen.

21. Leggy – Nice Try

Grrrls Like Us” provided a fitting end-cap to Leggy’s first major year as a band. They’d previously released the commendably great Cavity Castle EP, which wound up being quite a few people’s favorite EP of 2014. Now, the band’s hell-bent on capitalizing on that momentum and they’re doing it in enthralling fashion. Nice Try, an EP the band released last month, isn’t just the strongest work of their young career- it’s a gigantic leap forward for their songwriting. Never anything less than full-throttle, Nice Try is an invigorating reminder that this band’s not going anyway anytime soon.

22. Matthew E. White – Fresh Blood

Matthew E. White’s Big Inner was one of 2012’s most fascinating- and unique- folk-pop records. Full of wayward experimentalism and intricate arrangements, it showcased White as someone who possessed an original voice. Three years later, he’s unleashed his follow-up: Fresh Blood. While the music’s scaled a back quite a bit in terms of arrangements, the songs here are more immediate, direct, and accessible. By indulging in greater restraint White may have also wound up with something more lasting. Adamantly defiant of easy genre categorization, Fresh Blood makes its mark and leaves an endearing scar that refuses to fade.

23. Mount Eerie – Sauna

Phil Elverum has gone through many phases, shape-shifting at his leisure into whatever suits his mind at the time. One of his most celebrated ongoing projects, Mount Eerie, returned this year with the brilliant Sauna, which offers up an enveloping ambient sprawl. Gently immersive in some spots and dangerously raw in others, it’s one of Elverum’s most compelling tapestries to date.

24. Yowler – The Offer

The Offer‘s devastating title track is one of the only standalone songs to have earned a write-up on this site so far this year. The reason? It’s not just one of the best songs of this year (so far), it’s one of the finest of the decade. “The Offer” is also, appropriately, the most representative song on Maryn Jones’ solo debut (using the Yowler moniker, at least). Cautious, frightened, anxious, and defiant, The Offer is a gut-punch of a record that occasionally nears uncomfortably voyeuristic levels. The Offer is the perfect soundtrack for sleepless nights spent in near-silence, when the only other audible sound is the rain coming down.

25. Spectres – Dying

Rounding out this run of records is, somewhat incredibly, another shoegaze-leaning record that never diminished its brute force. Dipping into the decidedly darker realms of post-punk, Spectres managed to create a behemoth of an LP with the boldly-titled Dying. Opening with a genuinely intimidating noise collage, the band sinks its claws in and proceeds to tear away in the most feral manner possible, continuously refusing to relinquish its grasp. At points, Dying approaches black metal but never loses sight of its overall melodic sensibility. By taking stormier roads, Spectres have managed to start the year off in an impossibly blinding fashion. Listen to the sounds of Dying below.