Heartbreaking Bravery

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Tag: Midwives

Seven Weeks, Ten Records

Before this week began, it’d been seven weeks since any of this site’s regular coverage had appeared. The first stretch of this week will be dedicated to amending the outstanding material that went uncovered in the interim, while the latter part of the week will feature the present week’s finest offerings. Below are ten standout records to have been released over the long hiatus, from EPs to compilations to full-lengths. There’s a whole host of incredible material shared between these ten records so stop hesitating and just dive straight into this post’s overflowing heart. Enjoy.

Great Grandpa – Plastic Cough 

Expert Eraser“, “Fade“, and “Teen Challenge” all earned feature slots on this site in the lead-up to Plastic Cough‘s release, each one suggesting a seemingly inevitable reality: Great Grandpa throwing their hat into the ring of genuine Album of the Year contenders. The day finally came, Plastic Cough was released, and that inevitability proved to be no joke. Plastic Cough is an absolutely ferocious record, gnashing its teeth at every hairpin turn and gloriously bombastic moment, only pausing to breathe on the gorgeous “Faithful”, a perfectly placed slow-burner that rounds the record out in breathtaking fashion. Plastic Cough is the kind of thrill ride that makes a mark deep enough to last.

Slaughter Beach, Dog – Motorcycle.jpg

Jake Ewald may get the most recognition for his work in Modern Baseball but what the songwriter’s accomplished in Slaughter Beach, Dog is equally — if not even more — compelling. Having already accumulated an incredibly rich and surprisingly expansive sound over the course of a full-length and an EP, Motorcyle.jpg finds Ewald leaning even more confidently into the battered folk trappings that heightened those first two releases. Motorcycle.jpg also skews a little more lo-fi and at times recalls Yankee Bluff, each poignantly bruised track vastly exceeding the aesthetics perceived limitations. It’s another impressive work from a musician worth watching.

Little Star – July Demos

Another one of the acts positioning Good Cheer Records as one of the finest upstart labels, Little Star has managed to turn a lot of heads in recent times, thanks to two sterling full-lengths. The project’s showing no signs of slowing down, even going so far as to release a small collection of demos last month, aptly entitled July Demos. The band’s earned comparisons to legendary acts (Big Star, unsurprisingly, one of the most popular among them) and it’s not difficult to see why those comparisons are being made, even from this small smattering of tracks. All four of the songs on display here are sharply written songs that convey a great deal of emotion in their quiet restraint. Spellbinding work.

Katie Ellen – Cowgirl Blues

Chumped may have been Katie Ellen‘s earliest claim to some modicum of fame but the songwriter’s not being reduced to the ashes left in the wake of that band’s departure, instead opting to venture out on an already promising solo career. Cowgirl Blues is Ellen’s first statement and it’s a bold one. The first two and a half minutes of opening track “Drawing Room” are comprised entirely of extremely light ambient noise, clean guitar, and vocals, as if Ellen is reasserting an individual identity. It’s a deeply effective moment that sets the tone for a record that’s not afraid to show off its bruises, scars, or self-awareness. Front to back, it’s one of the summer’s most captivating listens.

Milked – Death On Mars

Kelly Johnson is the songwriter spearheading Milked, graciously returning to the fold after Geronimo! took their final bow. For anyone who was concerned Johnson would step away from the eccentricities and unpredictable eclecticism that made Geronimo! so fascinating, put aside those fears for good. Death on Mars is as gleefully unwieldy and feral as Geronimo! at their fiercest (undoubtedly helped along by the drumming of Geronimo! bandmate Matt Schwerin). Death On Mars is a towering work that’s not afraid to embrace catharsis or melody even as it careens wildly from song to song, touching on everything from powerpop to hardcore along the way. An absolute triumph of a return.

Midwives – No

No will be the last record Midwives — who appeared in this site’s Best EP’s list in 2013 and 2015 and whose self-titled 7″ was one of the first reviews this site ever ran — will release. While it’s a shame that one of the upper Midwest’s best hardcore bands will be disappearing into the ether, at the very least they managed to go out on top: No is a culmination of everything the group’s accomplished since starting up nearly five years ago. It’s a growling, spitting, snarling beast of a record, unafraid to take prisoners in its sub-18 minute run-time. Bruising and feral, it’s only fitting that such a proudly deranged band would go out kicking, baring its threatening fangs all the while.

Dream Ritual – Summer Promo

Sometimes all it takes for a band to take off is three songs, which is exactly what Dream Ritual‘s offering on Summer Promo, a blistering post-punk EP that doesn’t leave any room for filler. Echoing everyone from Shellac to METZ and everyone in between, Dream Ritual manages to carve out their own distinct identity. “Noise”, “Oil & Canvas”, & “Sunlight Girl” all perfectly marry elements of modern day noise-punk with some of the genre’s earliest defining elements. Whether it’s the metallic-like production or the infusion of pop-leaning melody, it’s clear that Dream Ritual are students of the genre. Thankfully for us, their learning has resulted in one of the summer’s strongest EP’s.

Mike Krol – Mike Krol Is Never Dead: The First Two Records

A few years ago, this site named Mike Krol‘s Turkey one of the best records of 2015 and heavily praised the songwriter’s infectiously joyous live show. Krol had gained notoriety thanks to the cult following that he’d accumulated due to his first two records, Trust Fund and I Hate Jazz, both of which were long out of print by the time Merge announced Krol’s signing and released Turkey. Fortunately, for everyone, Merge has come to the rescue and reissued both of those seminal classics (this according to essentially anyone that owns either) and packaged them with all of the demos for each session. The whole thing’s an exhilarating look at an exhilarating artist and should be considered essential listening for fans of the basement pop genre.

Tunnel Traffic – MEESH

Tunnel Traffic’s MEESH occupies a space that’s always memorable: the record arrived from the artist via unsolicited submission and proceeded to impress at every turn. From opener “Lesson Learned” to the closing “Memorial”, this small release from Adam Hachey’s solo project made a sizable impression. Softer and a little sweeter than expected, MEESH is chock-full of mid-tempo folk-leaning numbers that expand the bedroom pop genre into something faintly unfamiliar. It’s quiet, it’s intimate, it’s unassuming, and it’s utterly spectacular. MEESH weaves an unbreakable trance over its listeners and commands their attention through a narrative journey that feels both direct and cerebral. It’s an incredible accomplishment from a songwriter whose work all but demands to be followed.

Waxahatchee – Out in the Storm (Deluxe Version)

Throughout work with WaxahatcheeP.S. Eliot, Bad Banana, and Great Thunder as well as through a variety of guest roles Katie Crutchfield has become a household name for a very particular sect of people, broadening that base with each successive release. Crutchfield’s latest comes via the Waxahatchee moniker, Out in the Storm. Everything that Waxahatchee has released to date has stood the test of time and remained as impressive — if not more so — as it was at the time of its release. Out in the Storm feels like Crutchfield’s reached another level entirely, combining more than a decade’s worth of knowledge, experience, and style into a mesmerizing, cohesive whole. A career high point for Crutchfield and easily one of the best records of 2017, Out in the Storm‘s definitive version also comes package with the demos for each song on the record, all of which are — like the record itself — well worth hearing.

Streams of the First Quarter: The Honorable Mentions

Less than a week remains in 2017’s first quarter and the year’s already earned solid representation thanks to a slew of incredible releases. Below this paragraph are links to approximately 500 of the finest songs that the January-to-March period had to offer. A few of which are from widely renowned artists but the vast majority are from the artists who deserve more recognition than they receive.

Now, it’s practically impossible to imagine any one individual is going to sit down and listen to every single one of the songs here but that’s not exactly the purpose of these lists. This, as was the case with the others, is a capsule of a time period that offered up art that was (mostly) lost to the shuffle. It’s a representative account of what was happening behind-the-scenes while this site was in its extended hiatus.

Most importantly, it’s a way to recognize and honor the artists responsible for crafting pieces that both deserved and earned praise, even if it’s in a relatively minor form. This will likely be one of the longest lists of links to ever run on this site and it’s likely best to just click around until something strikes a chord. So, bookmark this page, dive in, and explore what the world’s produced over this first quarter and keep an eye on this site for a few short “best of” posts before Heartbreaking Bravery resumes its regular daily coverage. Enjoy.

NE-HI, Hater (x2), Knife in the Water (x2), Thelma, The Districts, Flasher, Catholic Action, Growl, Happyness, Land of Talk (x2), Canshaker Pi, Baby!, Gold Connections (x2, 3), Jay Som (x2), Go Fever, The Mells, The Chinchees, Aye Nako, Greatest Champion Alive, Diet Cig (x2, 3), High Sunn, Tall Friend (x2, 3), Do Make Say Think, Boss Hog (x2), Fog Lake (x2), Littler, Real Life Buildings (x2), The Proper Ornaments, Alex Napping (x2), Bruising, YURT, Analog Candle (x2), The Courtneys (x2), Wild Pink (x2), Amanda Glasser

Lunch Ladies (x2, 3), B Boys, Molly BurchIdle Bloom, WHY?, Vengeance, Phoebe Bridgers, Kane Strang, Former Bullies, The Spookfish (x2), Dude York (x2), Ben Grigg (x2, 3), Agent blå, Andrew Goldring, Fragrance., Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever, Spiral Stairs (x2), Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy, Guided By Voices (x2), Future Teens, WaydeÀ La Mode, Fraidycat, Robyn Hitchcock (x2), Eric Slick, Terry Malts, Sharkmuffin, Ride, Joan Shelley, PONY, The Coathangers, Juliana Hatfield (x2), Sorority Noise (x2), Slow Caves

No Thank You (x2, 3), Francobollo, Great Profile, Mount Song, Real EstateHawkmoon, Casper Skulls, Century Palm (x2), Deathlist (x2), Rosie Carney, Superorganism, Goldblooms, Day Wave, Wire, Cotillon (x2, 3), Will Johnson (x2), Anti Pony, Personal Best, Mind Rays (x2, 3), Ty Segall (x2, 3), Bonny Doon (x2), Arc Flash (x2), Tobin Sprout, Slowdive, Top Down, Mise en Scene, Thunder Dreamer, Hiccup (x2), Bent Denim, The Molochs, Caitlin Pasko, Cold Beat, Oak House

Mad OnesThe FeeliesWavves (x2), Tonstartssbandht (x2), Those Lavender Whales (x2), Overlake, Winstons, Vagabon, MaganaTrust Fund, Fuzzystar (x2), Baked (x2), Loose Tooth (x2, 3), The Sloppy Heads, The Cairo Gang (x2), Vundabar, Chick Quest (x2), Holy Sheboygan (x2), The Craters, Doug Tuttle, Walter Martin, Nadine Khouri, Holy Now, Vassals, The Obsessives (x2), Orchid Mantis, Thin Lips, Apocalypse, Communions, Olden Yolk, Dion Lunadon, Emperor X, Shadow Band, Richard Edwards, Adna

Bleached (x2), SaltlandTim Kasher (x2), Warm SodaAlyeskaMatthew Squires, You’re Jovian, Little Star, Mothpuppy, Midwives, Monster Movie, Jessica Denison + JonesElijah, Loom, Your Old Droog, Mimi Raver, Smidley, Beachheads, Clap Your Hands Say Yeah (x2), Cesar Ruiz, Leather Can, Woods, The Yugos (x2), Adam Torres (x2), L.A. Witch, David Bazan, Luxury Death (x2), Imaginary Tricks, Strange Lot (x2), Lomelda, Sacred Spirits, Matty Ann, The Hernies, Destrends, ELLA, Adult Mom, Second Still

The Dove & The Wolf, Gang of Youths, Trementina (x2), Good Good Blood, SheerOrchin, Anna Coogan, WALL, Artificial Pleasure, Sera Cahoone, Annie Hardy (x2), Priests, Laura Marling, Yawn Mower (x2), Toby Foster, Wear Your Wounds, The Present Age, The Knitts (x2), Junior Astronomers, No Vacation, Wolf Girl, Peter Bjorn and John, Cassandra Jenkins (x2, 3, 4), A Valley Son (x2), Jons, Sinai Vessel, Yellow Paper Planes, Seven Deaths, Snakehole, Sondre Lerche (x2), Varvara, Karen Elson

Tiger! Shit! Tiger! Tiger!, Wilding, Common MinerDan Misha GoldmanCymbals Eat Guitars, Lost Boy ?, Moon DialThe Birthday Letters, UV-TV, Girl As Wave, Big Surr, Nightlands, Menace Beach, Boytoy, Melby, Dali Vision, Desperate Journalist, Alex G, Knifey, Aquarian Blood, Winstons, High Up, Joshua James, I Am the Polish Army, Feral Ohms, French Vanilla, Bad Breeding, The Octopus Project, Born Without Bones, Laughed The Boy, Jake Xerxes Fussell (x2, 3), Cindy Lee, The Cover Letter, Michael Nau

Lyrie and the Duckies, Vorhees, Blank SquarePatterson Hood, Jon McKiel, Whips, WompsKikagaku Moyo, Brandon Koebs, Surf Dads, LT Wade, Daddy Issues, David Bazan, Matthew Lee Cothran, Jake Clarke, Spur, Loose Buttons (x2), Bilge Rat, Saw Black, Lowly, Jackson Boone, Superchunk, Desert Culture, Julia Lucille, The Darling Buds, Ducks Unlimited, Hoops, Taft Mashburn, Summer Moon, Conifer Vista, My Education, The Wooden Sky, Her’s, Teen Daze, Rubblebucket, Platinum Boys, Jens Lekman, Threefifty

Sam Coffey & The Iron Lungs, Nadia KazmiShelby Earl, Preservation Hall Jazz Band, Circus DevilsFire in the Radio, Half Waif, Metric, Sampha, Deadwall, Ground and Grave, Martin Rev, Craig FinnOiseaux-Tempête, Raj and the 100’s, The Wintyr, TW Walsh, ShitKid, Joel Michael Howard, Evening Darling, FOTR, Pollen Rx, Lillie Mae, Kyle T. Hurley, Hite, Tara Jane O’Neil (x2), Louise Lemón, PalomaStacey, Two Moons, POND, Business of Dreams, Billy Moon, Low Roar, She-Devils, White Reaper, Tiny Vipers

SOFTSPOT, Gorillaz, ROYA, BottlerThe Megaphonic Thrift, Caves, The New PornographersJulie Byrne, BNQT, COTE, Damaged Bug, Railings, Mark Eitzel, Deleter, Code Orange, Goddamnit, Cory Branan, No Joy, Blak Emoji, Tropical Skin Byrds, Empty Lungs, Tomber Lever, Rainbrother, Max Subar, Little Person, Perhapsy, Other Houses, Dehd, Niilo Smeds (x2), Morning Teleportation, The Co Founder, Show Me the Body, Kory Quinn, Tow’rs, Circle, Maria Kelly, Cosima, John Craigie, Holy Motors, Benjamin Booker

Me Not You, Her HarbourHeath Green and the Maksehifters, CodistMatt Maltese, Thurston Moore, Pissed Jeans, Feist, Odd Couple, A Deer A Horse, Cassels, Thad Kopec, Turn to CrimeTorgeir Waldemar, Oyama, Said the Whale, Altar Eagles (x2), Grace Mitchell, Radiator King, Minus the Bear, The Tarantula Waltz, Hiva OaTrès Oui, The Buttertones, Winston Hightower, Crooked Bangs, Los Angeles Police Department, CFM, Diagrams, Boosegumps, Marcus Norberg and the Disappointments

The Nickajack Men, Semi-Attractive Boys, BanditosRachel Kilgour, Broken Field Runner, Residuels, Jim and the French Vanilla, Wooden Wand, Emma Ruth Rundle, Batz, Monograms, Operator Music Band, RF Shannon (x2), LAKE, Ha Ha Tonka, Fufanu, Coast Modern, The Glass Eyes, Keto, Loess, Go By Ocean, Unstoppable Death Machines, Frederick the Younger, Bendigo Fletcher, Meatbodies, The Bingers, Slingshot Dakota, Astro Tan, Football, etc., Planning for Burial, Delafye, Dim Wit, Retail SpaceEmma Gatrill, Gnod, Mark Lanegan Band, and Leon of Athens.

 

 

 

Artie Tea – Out Of A Seaweed Dream (Album Review)

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Snail Mail, Rod, Midwives, Post Pink, Jordaan Mason, Holy Monitor, and Strange Relations were among the shortlist of bands who unveiled excellent full streams over the course of this site’s recent gap in coverage and they’re all more than deserving of heavy levels of investment. The band claiming the featured spot for this post, however, is a new one that boasts an impressive pedigree; one of Topshelf’s most recent releases, Artie Tea’s Out Of A Seaweed Dream.

 Between the band’s two members, Josh Croteau and Derek Desharnais, the band’s racked up an impressive number of direct connections (including The Clippers, Sneeze, Fucko, and Cough Cough). Combining those acts only hints at Artie Tea’s identity, which echoes shades of classic shoegaze and a few unlikely contemporaries like LVL UP (Croteau’s vocal delivery is particularly reminiscent of Dave Benton’s).

“Attitude” immediately sets the tone for the band’s debut, Out Of A Seaweed Dream, which is overflowing with memorable mid-tempo stompers, killer hooks, and the kind of deceptive discontentment that can serve as propulsive fuel for the creation of praiseworthy art. Throughout the record’s eight tracks and sub-25 minute runtime, Artie Tea never once strikes a false note and creates an intuitive chemistry that serve their songs beautifully.

It’s another winsome notch in an increasingly formidable string of releases from Topshelf Records, who are quickly transforming themselves into a legitimate powerhouse by expanding their horizons in subtle, compelling ways. Out Of A Seaweed Dream‘s not just a surprise standout for the label, it’s one of the year’s great small records. In its almost-title track, “Seaweed Dream”, it even ably demonstrates the band’s scope is likely much larger than what’s offered on their debut. When that reveal finally comes, it looks to be a fulfilling moment. Until then, we should all be more than content to just play these eight songs into oblivion.

Listen to Out Of A Seaweed Dream below and pick it up from Topshelf here.

Watch This: Vol. 126

It’s been quite some time since there was a regular installment of Watch This, a fact that was mostly due to travel in the pursuit of live coverage. That same pursuit pushed back this installment a few days as the post that precedes this one — and its accompanying preparation — took weekend priority. Now that it’s been posted, the wheel of Watch This can resume spinning freely (and will soon resume their position as a Sunday staple). As way of compensation for the delay, there’ll be two volumes of Watch This posted tonight. This post wJuill focus on standalone performances while the forthcoming post will tackle full sessions.

Additionally, a list of artists responsible for some great performance clips can be accessed by clicking the following hyperlinks: Cable Ties, didi, SOAK, Marissa Nadler, More Humans, Midwives, Sunflower Bean, Kurt Vile, Desert Mountain Tribe, Stephen Steinbrink, PUP, Tamaryn, Neely, Yael Naim, Laura Jean, Seramic, and Andrew Bird. It’s a long list of artists and performances that illustrates the sheer strength of the featured selections. So, as always, sit down, turn the volume back, lean in, and Watch This.

1. PUP – If This Tour Doesn’t Kill You, I Will (q on cbc)

After tearing apart the 7th St. Entry last Friday and earning the bulk of this site’s previous post, PUP have essentially guaranteed themselves a featured spot any time one of their live videos surfaces from a pro-shot source. Here, the quartet takes on the most intimidatingly-named song of the year with fervor, delivering a characteristically impassioned run that seems to lay everything on the line. It’s fiery, it’s ferocious, and it’s a very worthy addition to the Watch This catalog.

2. Speedy Ortiz – Dot X (Stereogum)

Speedy Ortiz recently unveiled a great new EP, the cheekily-named Foiled Again, which saw the band hitting the road and continuing to sharpen their already formidable live show. Stereogum recently caught them ripping their way through “Dot X”, a standout from Foil Deer. The band’s in rare form here, looking comfortable as they navigate the song’s hairpin dynamic turns with ease. It’s a compelling look at a great band that’s still in an impressive stride.

3. Lady Lamb – Spat Out Spit (Audiotree)

After a long stretch away, Lady Lamb returns to a standalone Watch This feature with a masterful run through “Spat Out Spit” that was lovingly captured by Audiotree. The song remains as unavoidable as it was on the day it was released and Lady Lamb’s Aly Spaltro’s only grown more confident as a performer in that time. Using “Spat Out Spit” as evidence, it’s not a surprise that Lady Lamb’s stages keep getting bigger.

4. Charles Bradley – Nobody But You (The Current)

Few people have had a run as inspiring as Charles Bradley over the past several years. The man’s gone from a literal nobody to a living legend at an age where most people would be contemplating retirement. Instead of giving up, Bradley’s had an extended coming out party that’s earned him legions of adoring fans, the respect of everyone, and a long string of impressive distinctions. Just as heartening as Bradley’s story is his music (as well as his prowess as a live performer). The Current captured him beautifully via this heartfelt run through “Nobody But You”.

5. Julien Baker – Photobooth (The AV Club)

Normally, this series doesn’t focus on covers. However, Julien Baker isn’t a normal artist and The AV Club’s Undercover series isn’t your run-of-the-mill covers generator. Both the series and the artist draw the best out of each other on this occasion, as Baker turns in a heartbreaking rendition of the admired Death Cab for Cutie slow-burner “Photobooth”. Baker applies her trademark devastation to the song and lets shattering emotion bleed through every single one of the songs crevices. Breathtaking, gentle, and undeniably beautiful, it’s both a declaration and reaffirmation of Baker’s talent as well as the worth of the Undercover series. Don’t miss out.

The Honorable Mentions of the 2015 Music Categories

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Before diving into the particulars of the forthcoming lists, it’s worth addressing the distinction made in the headline. Each of the categories that received a list in 2015 (music videos, songs, EP’s, albums, odds and ends) will be expanded upon in this post. However, there are still two forthcoming film lists but each of those will include the honorable mentions along with the featured rankings. An obscene amount of great material came out over the 12 months that comprised the past year so any attempts to cover everything would be futile. If anyone’s exhausted the below lists, a more comprehensive version can be found by exploring the following tags: stream, full stream, EP stream, and music video. Explore some of the top tier picks that didn’t make it onto the year-end lists via the tags below.

Music Videos

Screaming Females – Hopeless | Cayetana – Scott, Get the Van I’m Moving | Ephrata – Say A Prayer | ANAMIA – LuciaJoanna Newsom – Sapokinakan | Battles – The Yabba | FIDLAR – 40 Oz. On Repeat | PINS – Young Girls | Doomtree – Final Boss | Hundred Waters – Innocent | Celestial Shore – Now I Know | Donnie Trumpet & The Social Experiment – Sunday Candy | Modest Mouse – Coyotes | Girlpool – Before The World Was Big | Laura Marling – Gurdijeff’s Daughter | Bay Uno – Wait For Your Love | The Staves – Black & White | Young Buffalo – No  Idea | Avid Dancer – All Your Words Are Gone | Avi Buffalo – Think It’s Gonna Happen Again | Adir L.C. – Buyer’s Instinct | Midnight Reruns – Canadian Summer | Daughter – Doing The Right Thing | John Grant – Disappointing | Waxahatchee – Under A Rock | Wimps – Dump | Potty Mouth – Cherry Picking | Froth – Nothing Baby | The Libertines – Heart of the Matter | Car Seat Headrest – Something Soon | Mike Krol – Neighborhood Watch | Savages – The Answer | Kurt Vile – Pretty Pimpin | Bully – Trying | Sheer – Uneasy  | Will Butler – Anna

EPs

Snail Mail – Sticki | Kindling – Galaxies | Eugene Quell – I Will Work The Land | Gumbus – Crimbus Rock | Rye Pines – Rye Pines | Feral Jenny – Greatest Hits | Slutever – Almost Famous | Gracie – Gracie | Nice Guys – Chips in the Moonlight | Anomie – Anomie | Kitner – Stay Sad | Animal Flag – EP 2 | Never Young – Never Young | Birches – Birches | Alimony Hustle – Gutter Gutter Strike Strike Gutter Gutter | The Lumes – Lust | Pretty Pretty – Talkin’ to the WallsVomitface – Another Bad Year | PALMAS – To the Valley | Greys – Repulsion | Wild Pink – Good Life | The Glow – Lose | Spirit of the Beehive – You Are Arrived (But You’ve Been Cheated) | Shady Hawkins – The Last Dance | Holy Esque – Submission | Ashland – Ashland | Isabel Rex – American Colliquialisms/Two Hexes | Pet Cemetery – Dietary Requirements | Milk Crimes – Milk Crimes | Rubber Band Gun – Making A Fool of Myself | Creative Adult – Ring Around the Room | Amber Edgar – Good Will Rise | La Casa al Mare – This Astro | Trophy Dad – Shirtless Algebra Fridays | Glueboy – Videorama | Birds in Row – Personal War | YVETTE – Time Management | Communions – Cobblestones | O-Face – Mint | Day Wave – Headcase | Granny – EGG | Van Dammes – Better Than Sex | Vallis Alps – Vallis Alps | Little Children – Traveling Through Darkness | Philadelphia Collins – Derp Swervin’ | The Tarantula Waltz – Lynx | Nicolas Jaar – Nymphs II | The Japanese House – Pools To Bathe In | Guerilla Toss – Flood Dosed | Los Planetas – Dobles Fatigas | See Through Dresses – End of Days | Earl Sweatshirt – Solace | Kississippi – We Have No Future, We’re All Doomed | Yumi Zouma – EP II | G.L.O.S.S. – Girls Living Outside of Society’s Shit | Fresh Snow – WON | Girl Band – The Early Years | XXIX – Wafia | together PANGEA – The Phage | Ty Segall – Mr. Face | Young Guv – Ripe 4 Luv

Songs

Yowler – The Offer | Meat Wave – Cosmic Zoo | Pleasure Leftists – Protection | Saintseneca – Sleeper Hold | Slight – Hate the Summer | Sports – The Washing Machine | Diet Cig – Sleep Talk | LVL UP – The Closing Door | Royal Headache – High | Tica Douglas – All Meanness Be Gone | Speedy Ortiz – Raising the Skate | Phooey! – Molly’s at the Laundromat | Adir L.C. – Buyer’s Instinct | Sweet John Bloom – Tell Me | Pile – Mr. Fish | Screaming Females – Hopeless | Ernie – Sweatpants | Bad Wig – Stargazer | Dusk – Too Sweet | Painted Zeros – Only You | Krill – Torturer | Young Jesus – Milo | Tenement – Ants + Flies | Midnight Reruns – Richie the Hammer | Melkbelly – Mt. Kool Kid | The Weasel, Marten Fisher – Empty Bucket List | Soul Low – Always Watchin’ Out | Eluvium – Neighboring In Telescopes | Algiers – Blood | Institute – Cheerlessness | Bruising – Think About Death | Vacation – Like Snow | Cende – Widow | Alex G – Brite Boy | Bully – Trying | Nicole Dollanganger – You’re So Cool | Sheer – Uneasy | Laura Stevenson – Claustrophobe | Kathryn Calder – New Millenium | The Foetals – Nothing | Lady Bones – Botch | Dogs On Acid – Let the Bombs Fall Off | Fraser A. Gorman – Shiny Gun | Bandit – The Drive Home | Mercury Girls – Golden | ThinLips – Nothing Weird | Wimps – Dump | S.M. Wolf – Help Me Out | Glueboy – Back to You | Mean Creek – Forgotten Streets | Ratboys – Tixis | PINS – Young Girls | Shilpa Ray – Johnny Thunders Fantasy Space Camp | White Reaper – Make Me Wanna Die | Lady Lamb – Spat Out Spit | Washer – Joe | Pupppy – Puking (Merry Christmas) | Midwives – Back in the Saddle Again | Torres – Strange Hellos | METZ – Spit You Out | Jeff Rosenstock – You In Weird Cities | Little Wings – Hollowed Log | Bent Denim – Good Night’s Sleep | Waxahatchee – Under A Rock

Albums

Girlpool – Before The World Was Big | Screaming Females – Rose MountainYowler – The Offer | Saintseneca – Such Things | Bully – Feels Like | Tica Douglas – Joey | Evans the Death – Expect Delays | Torres – Sprinter | Waxahatchee – Ivy Tripp | Fred Thomas – All Are Saved | Krill – A Distant Fist Unclenching | Ratboys – AOID | Joanna Gruesome – Peanut Butter | METZ – II | Little Wings – ExplainsSlanted – Forever | Bent Denim – Romances You | Someone Still Loves You Boris Yeltsin – The High Country | White Reaper – White Reaper Does It Again | The Armed – Untitled | Shilpa Ray – Last Year’s Savage | The Foetals – Meet the Foetals | Car Seat Headrest – Teens of Style | Wimps – Suitcase | Westkust – Last Forever | Girl Band – Holding Hands With Jamie | Cloakroom – Further Out | Stove – Is Stupider | Johanna Warren – numun | Speedy Ortiz – Foil Deer | Mikal Cronin – MCIII | Adir L.C. – Oceanside Cities | Negative Scanner – Negative Scanner | Pleasure Leftists – The Woods of Heaven | Haybaby – Sleepy Kids | Heather Woods Broderick – Glider | Lady Lamb – After | Pile – You’re Better Than This | Algiers – Algiers | Fraser A. Gorman – Slow Gum | POPE – Fiction | Petal Head – Raspberry Cough | Shannen Moser – You Shouldn’t Be Doing That

Odds and Ends

DBTS: BS2 | Spook the Herd – Freaks b/w Fermented | Kinjac – Possession b/w Possessed | Carbonleak – Waveland b/w Bearing | Vexx – Give and Take | Nervous Trend – Shattered | CCTV – 7″ | Puppy Problems – Practice Kissing | Flagland + Washer | MONO + The Ocean | Uh Huh + Jake McElvie & The Countertops | Alanna McArdle – Bedroom/Balloons | Chris Broom – Meade House Demos | Composite – Demos 2015 | The Library – 100% | Dark Thoughts – Two More Songs From… | Wendy Alembic – Collected Early Works | Toby Reif – 2015 Demos

15 of ’15: The Best EP’s of 2015

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Now that all the visual retrospectives are out of the way and the best live videos have been accounted for, it’s time to move onto the records in earnest. Over the course of the next several days there will be “best of” lists for the following categories: music videos, odds and ends (demos, 7″ records, compilations, etc.), songs, and albums. There will also be an Honorable Mentions devotion that covers a massive array of material from the majority of those categories. Following those lists will be the second installment of the A Year’s Worth of Memories series, which will once again feature a murderer’s row of contributors that have been pulled from both the music and film worlds.

For now, we’re turning our attention to the EP’s that made the most formidable impressions over the course of the past 12 months. Well over 100 titles were considered and then boiled down to the 15 that you see below (this was such a strong year for EP’s that the top 5 are essentially interchangeable). Before delving into those titles, it’s worth noting that “best” in the case– as it is in all cases– is just a meaningless formality and the list below is a reflection of subjectivity. I make no claim to be an authoritative voice in these matters, just a person that genuinely enjoys music and uses a platform as a means to attempt to elevate some of the acts that truly deserve to have their names in greater circulation. So, without further ado, here’s 15 of ’15: The Best EP’s of 2015.

15. Idle Bloom – Some Paranoia

Sometimes all you need to do is offer to help carry equipment to be introduced to incredible new bands, which is exactly how I met Callan Dwan, who I would come to learn is not only Mitski’s guitarist but one of the guitarists for two other acts as well: Dogtooth and Idle Bloom. The latter– a shoegaze-obsessed post-punk act (or is it the other way around?)– recently released their Some Paranoia EP, which stealthily builds its momentum in a clever, multifaceted way; not only do the majority of the songs work their way into a cacophonous frenzy but so does the EP as a whole. It’s an exhilarating listen from a promising emerging act and boasts one of the year’s best riffs.

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14. ThinLips – Your Divorce

An extraordinary opening track can do wonders for any release. An effective opening track will set a precedent and a tone for the ensuing material on the record. Your Divorce‘s opener “Nothing Weird” is both effective and extraordinary. Brandishing a compellingly damaged form of lo-fi leaning pop-punk, ThinLips crafted a vicious, compact stunner of an EP that comes across like a warning shot. In a genre that’s increasingly weakened by diminishing returns from the artists utilizing reverential approach, it’s heartening to see the more subversive acts releasing material that feels genuinely vital.

13. Bad Wig – Bad Wig

Before Bad Wig was Bad Wig, they were The Midwestern Charm, an act that worked their way from a sound that fell closer in line to Ryan Adams to crafting a record that fit better alongside the likes of The Lemonheads. A few member changes and stylistic shifts later, they’d carved out a new identity under their new name. Their introductory act is ferociously ragged and maybe even a little audacious. Most everything else there is to be said about this brilliant collection of punk-tinged micro-pop gems can was covered in last week’s review.

12. Potty Mouth – Potty Mouth

A lot of bands found surprisingly bold ways to shift their sound but none caught me as off-guard as Potty Mouth‘s fearless swan dive into the polished, arena-ready sounds of their self-titled EP. Opening with the skyward stretching of “Cherry Picking” and only building momentum from there, Potty Mouth could very easily signal a new era for a band that was formerly known for reveling in their scrappier tendencies. Every song on the EP connects with a staggering amount of force, nicely correlating with the self-possessed determination found at the root of nearly every song in this collection. Potty Mouth is the kind of rallying call that echoes.

11. Midwives – Cowboy Songs

After releasing a fierce full-length debut back in February, Midwives managed to top themselves as the year was drawing to a close. The shockingly immediate Cowboy Songs dishes out punishment at a startling rate and bristles with real emotion. Things kick off with the vicious “Back in the Saddle” and never look back from there, each subsequent song in this seven and a half minute collection of deranged hardcore acting as a flawless showcase of the band’s brute strength. Cowboy Songs is filled to the brim with the kind of hardcore that thrashes around wildly and refuses to be tamed.

10. Geronimo! – Buzz Yr Girlfriend: Vol. 4 – Why Did You Leave Me?

While a lot of people were justifiably saddened over the losses of Ovlov and Krill, it may have been the departure of Geronimo! that hit hardest. Granted, for the vast majority of my life, they were easily the closest to my location of that trio but the sentiment remains. At the very least, the trio went out on top with their final bow: Buzz Yr Girlfriend: Vol. 4 – Why Did You Leave Me?. Characteristically unwieldy, the band’s final three songs ranked among the best work of a deeply impressive career, each (justifiably) landing a premiere at a massive publication. Fitting levels of recognition for an overwhelmingly powerful final effort.

9. Teksti-TV 666 – 2

One of the biggest surprises of the year for me personally, this blistering EP from Finnish act Teksti-TV 666 practically qualifies as an album by today’s standards (its runtime is over 22 minutes). Full of surging basement pop that’s not too far off from the best of The Marked Men, the aptly named swings for the fences at every turn without hesitation. Incorporating a several-member guitar attack that may rival Diarrhea Planet’s, the band finds new avenues to explore as the record careens headfirst towards something concrete. After the fireworks of “Tuhatvuotinen Harharetki”, the band never lets up and goes on exploratory tangents at will. Psychedelic flourishes, sludge breakdowns, and a serious amount of momentum carry to its status as one of the best of 2015.

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8. Slight – Hate the Summer

Hate the Summer prompted a few difficult guideline decisions for this list: was it ethical to include an EP anchored by a song that premiered on this site and would a tape release of the EP that included the entirety of an online single that this site ranked as last year’s best be eligible for contention? The answers, obviously, were “absolutely” and “yes.” The latter line of questioning was the one that was scrutinized the most for this list and wound up excluding Meat Wave’s formidable Brother from eligibility (nearly half of the EP pulled from a variety of the band’s other releases, rendering it more of a padded compilation than an EP). With Hate the Summer, the band’s not only expanded the scope of their work but they’ve tapped into something with the three new songs on display here that have the potential to lift this project to new heights of outside recognition. Overall, it’s an important early piece of the trio’s developing history and deserves to be heard as many times as possible.

7. Midnight Reruns – Get Me Out

A staple of this site’s coverage since its introduction, Midnight Reruns rewarded that attention by taking a huge leap with this year with their two strongest releases to date, beginning with this bleary-eyed EP. The Tommy Stinson-produced “Ain’t Gonna Find” sets things in motion and establishes the band’s manic basement pop sensibilities in the early goings, with Graham Hunt’s million-words-a-minute delivery emboldened by the characteristically fierce lead guitar work between Hunt and Karl Giehl. From that blistering opening number, the band takes a step back and sinks their teeth into more left-field territory like the rollicking “Ancient Creature”, which boasts the instantly memorable chorus couplets of “I am the sun, I am the sea/I am an ancient creature/I was born in Madagascar/I was raised by lemurs” and a bruising cover of The Mistreaters’ “The Other Man”.

6. Sheer Mag – II

Another year, another Sheer Mag list placement. Expanding on everything that made the band so great right out of the gate, II was a natural extension of its predecessor, driven by the wild energy of its phenomenal closing track, “Button Up“. All of the glam influences remain and the band likely owes a remarkably huge debt to Marc Bolan but it’s hard to care about influences when the music manages to be so ridiculously entertaining. People will talk about how ’50s pop seeps in around the band’s roughest edges but really, they should probably just stop talking and start dancing. Scrappy and deliriously fun, II‘s another triumph.

5. Diet Cig – Over Easy

No EP soundtracked more aimless drives for me this year than Diet Cig‘s endearingly jubilant Over Easy, which served a necessary reminder that sometimes the most important function music can have is a sense of joy. In the face of a horrifying year in the news, an onslaught of overly-serious releases, and a general downcast pall, Over Easy was a breath of fresh air; a pair of young musicians finding their voice. Every song on Over Easy is memorable not just for its irreverence but for its uncompromising energy and impressive levels of commitment. Warm weather anthems abound and guitarist/vocalist Alex Luciano gets to deliver one of the year’s most scathing kiss-off’s in the final track’s most rousing section.

4. LVL UP – Three Songs

In 2014, site favorites LVL UP topped this site’s Albums of the Year list with ease thanks to the overwhelming brilliance of Hoodwink’d, which was the most perfect distillation of the respective voices of the band’s three principal songwriters to date. Three Songs continues that trend in miniature, allotting a song a piece from Dave Benton, Mike Caridi, and Nick Corbo. All three bring a palpable sense of weariness to the proceedings, immediately rendering this LVL UP’s moodiest record. From the spiky micro-pop of “Blur” to book-ends “The Closing Door” and “Proven Water Rites”, there’s never a dull moment and the band, once again, leave their guts on the table before walking out the door.

3. Ernie – Dog Park

Occasionally, a single song can elevate an already-strong release to unthinkable proportions, which is exactly what happens with Ernie’s delightful Dog Park and its monumental centerpiece, “Sweatpants“. While all four songs contained in Dog Park are memorable and have an impressive host of great moments, it’s the frantic, hook-laden “Sweatpants” that brings the collection together and enhances its immediate surroundings. A surging jolt of relatable discontentment emphasized by a vicious undercurrent of basement pop aesthetics, “Sweatpants” becomes Dog Park‘s definitive moment and simultaneously becomes an unwitting microcosm of 2015’s prevailing sense of disillusionment before turning on that notion in defiance and letting loose a series of blows. Dog Park‘s status as one of 2015’s great releases is cemented in the process.




2. Tenement – Tenement

No band was written about more- or in greater detail- throughout the course of 2015 than Tenement. For nearly 10 years, I’ve been clutching at mostly empty air while damaging my lungs screaming at seemingly empty rooms to go listen to this band. 2015 was the year where everyone started listening. Of the band’s three releases throughout the past 12 months, their self-titled effort was by far the least discussed. Originally released as a limited-run cassette for one of their early tours, the trio decided to release it to the general public several months later, potentially realizing that it deserved a much wider audience. Focusing on the band’s underlying roots, country, folk, and soul influences without ever completely sacrificing their punk bite, Tenement‘s easily the band’s most easygoing collection as well as its most immediately timeless. Keep its open-road sensibilities in mind for your next long drive.

1. Cende – Cende

Capping off an extraordinary year for drummer (and occasional guitarist) Greg Rutkin (LVL UP, Slight, Normal Person, etc.) was Cende’s explosive self-titled debut, which was recently released online (the bandcamp lists the official release as January 1). The band’s been playing these songs out for a while and garnered heavy coverage from this site during its extended Brooklyn residency. An LP is due out in 2016 as well and, after this EP and the live previews, it’s already one of the most highly anticipated releases of 2016. Taking cues from acts like Radioactivity, Cende has already perfected their blend of searing basement pop and unforgiving basement punk. Only two of these songs- including “Widow”, the opening track and one of the year’s finest- go over the 90 second mark and all of them boast hooks powerful enough to keep pulling the listener back, making Cende an endlessly replayable gift. It’s a monstrous release from a band refusing to aim for anything other than greatness and continuous improvement. Cende is one hell of a starting point.

Idle Bloom – Pride Line (Stream, Live Video)

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It’s been a while since there’s been a standalone post on this site so it seemed appropriate to have that spell broken by a recent favorite: Idle Bloom. Before diving too far into that, though, it’s worth noting that since it’s been such a long time since the last standard post, each of the forthcoming posts will be equipped with a list of the outstanding tracks, videos, or full streams that have come out in that time. While the attention will be returned to Idle Bloom and their latest, some attention should also be given to some excellent new songs from Eluvium, Tracks, Laika’s Orbit, Big Hush, The Foetals, Ripper, Flowers, Kevin Devine, Sioux Falls, Patsy’s Rats, Big Ups, Goldmund, and Midwives. All of those songs are worth several listens but it’s time to get back to this post’s focal point: Idle Bloom and their towering “Pride Line”.

Driven by a gripping lead guitar line that froze me when the band pulled this song out for their knockout set at Alpahville, “Pride Line” is one of the band’s most definitive entries to date. While psychedelic flourishes permeate throughout the track, it’s even more heavily informed by shoegaze without ever coming across as revivalist. As the main riff slashes its way through the song, frequently augmented by wordless falsettos, everything supporting it steadily builds towards a climactic outro figure that does away with any perceived lightness and comes crashing down with bruising force. A dynamic powerhouse from a band that feels like they’re just getting started, “Pride Line” is an electrifying masterclass in atmospherics without ever relinquishing its sense of purpose. Get on board or get the hell out of the way because this will take you to the ground.

Listen to “Pride Line” and watch a video of the band performing the song live below. Pre-order Some Paranoia here before its Friday release.

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.

Wyatt Blair – Girls! (Stream)

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During the brief hiatus that this site recently took (more will be revealed for the reasons behind that at a later date) there was a lot of incredible music that got put out into the world. Merge offered up a stream of Underlay, the upcoming EP from Twerps, Midwives and Foreign Lawns both hosted streams of their just-released split cassette via their respective bandcamps, The Dirty Nil rounded out the songs on their 7″ with the typically aggressive (and typically excellent) “Guided by Vices“, and a host of other great new songs were made available from the likes of The Lemons, Run The Jewels, S, Tyrannosaurus Dead, CassavetesThe Unicorns, King Tuff, and Only Real.

Once again, though, the release grabbing a feature spot here is one that’s connected to Burger Records, whose winning streak is threatening to surpass its already absurd white-hot peak. Not only does Wyatt Blair’s Banana Cream Dream deserve this spot thanks to the strength of “Girls!”- it also deserves it because it’s another release that’s for a very good cause. Every copy that’s sold of Banana Cream Dream will help raise money for the “My Friends Place” charity, which helps homeless children in Los Angeles secure food and shelter.

Genuinely helpful effects aside, “Girls!” is a song as outrageously fun as Banana Cream Dream‘s artwork (pictured above), taking off at a sprint and exuding a sense of joy that keeps it vital. It’s outsider basement pop at its finest and has the potential to be one of Burger Records’ more definitive songs. Palm-mutes, exuberant melodies, and an unstoppable momentum keep the listeners attention and it plays with vocal samples to great effect. All in all, “Girls!” is a song as good as the cause that this release is endorsing, which means it deserves to be heard thousands of times over.

Listen to “Girls!” below and help out an important charity by picking up a copy of Banana Cream Dream here.

Nervosas at Center Street Free Space and Quarters Rock N Roll Palace – 3/1/14 (Live Review)

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On March 1, 2014, the entirety of Milwaukee was emitting a low hum- the result of hundreds of amps coming to life. There was the East Side Music Festival, which stood as a celebration of local music (Heartbreaking Bravery favorites The Sleepwalkers, Midnight Reruns, and The Midwestern Charm were all well represented), that spanned several participating venues and featured headlining sets from Why? and POS. Beach Patrol, Jake Simmons, and Tim Schweiger & the Middlemen were the bands making up a stellar bill over at Bremen Cafe, outside of the fest. Another non-fest show that was likely worth seeing had Ringo Deathstarr headlining Mad Planet. There was a show in seemingly every venue in the city- and Nervosas played two of them.

First up was a show in the basement of DIY library collective Center Street Free Space alongside Strange Matter and Crowdpleaser. After having some trouble with a faulty mic stand that essentially just gave out before Strange Matter began (both a cinder block and a weighted bucket were used as position anchors) the show started with an incredibly impressive set from Milwaukee hardcore veterans Strange Matter. After a few lineup changes and toting a new 7″, ennui actuation dissolver, the band was in fine form throughout a rapid-fire set. Blending all kinds of influences into a fairly original sound that leans heavily on hardcore, Strange Matter have built a strong reputation for themselves by virtue of their releases. If this show was any indication, though, their live show may have surpassed their recorded output in terms of quality- and that’s saying something.

Next to bat was Crowdpleaser, another Milwaukee band toying with genre limitations in slightly unexpected ways. Pushing their volumes to dangerous heights, the band played passionately and were genuinely excited to be sharing a bill with Nervosas. Their excitement was even more justified by the similarities between the two bands. Both Crowdpleaser and Nervosas share a similarly-mined strand of goth-punk that a lot of today’s bands can’t claim. There’s also a peculiar restlessness to be found in both bands’ music. Neither band is afraid of the unsparingly bleak, either. While there are more than a few differences between Crowdpleaser and Nervosas, and while there were a fair amount of technical difficulties, Crowdpleaser’s set felt like a completely natural precursor for the perpetually anxious Nervosas.

When Nervosas finally took over they did it with a manic determination that made their set one of the most cathartic experiences imaginable. Truly looking like that went both ways (band and audience feeding into each other on a barely-controlled loop) they grew progressively more intense as the set went on. Afterwards guitarist, Mickey, would reveal that she was trying to frantically keep up with the rest of her band who purportedly never play that fast. Whether that was a false claim is anyone’s best guess but at various points throughout the set, their drummer, Nick, would lose time and recover quickly with well-timed blast beats. All the while Jeff (their bassist and vocalist) would be careening through songs from the few outstanding releases they have so far, completely caught up in the moment. The only times the weirdly hypnotic and utterly dark spell was broken came when one of them would let the song get away from them (though they all recovered incredibly quickly) and not be able to help a smile. It’s impossible to gauge how long their set was as everyone was completely caught up in the moment, watching the band teeter on the edge of total collapse and reign things in at all the right moments. Making this even more memorable was the low turnout rate for the show- the benefit being that everyone who was there clearly cared enough to make sure that they were there so they could shout along “APAB” at all the right moments and support a band they loved. By the time the band finished tearing through a particularly rousing take on “Poison Ivy” nearly everyone that was present had likely already made up their minds to make their way over to the late show to see them again.

Between the end of the Free Space show and the start of the show at Quarters, a stop was made at Bremen Cafe in hopes to catch one of the three bands playing that night- while that proved to be an impossibility it’s worth noting that Jake Simmons,  Tim Schweiger & the Middlemen, and Beach Patrol all come very highly recommended and wouldn’t have been missed any other night. By the time the short walk to Quarters was made, feedback was already ringing throughout the venue, a half circle had been formed in front of the stage, and Midwives were about to go off. Having just seen Midwives member Graham Hunt lead Midnight Reruns through another energetic set just a week prior it was nice to see him fully embracing the role of a hardcore guitarist, while it was nice to see Sahan Jayasuriya back behind a kit for a band he believes in. Both of them need the band for different reasons; for Hunt it’s the ability to cut loose and be as grimy as possible, something that fronting Midnight Reruns doesn’t afford him- and for Jayasuriya it’s both the advantage of input into creative control and the sense of connection that comes with being part of something from the ground up, instead of coming into the fold late (something he’s experienced surprisingly often).

It was evident throughout Midwives’ set how badly those points counted for them as they poured their fucking hearts into their set by attacking their instruments with the kind of brute force only found in the best hardcore bands. As both Hunt and Jayasuriya lost their respective minds on their instruments, their vocalist was stalking the hell out of the open space in front of the stage shouting for all his worth and their bassist kept everything in check by holding down his parts while furiously nodding his head along. Ripping through the songs from their vicious debut 7″ (they used the night to celebrate its physical release) and a whole lot of new songs (many of which will be appearing on the LP they’ll be recording this week), it started to feel like the band announcing a bigger kind of arrival. While their studio work is already enormously impressive (despite being only four songs), this is the kind of band that lives for a live setting- they didn’t disappoint and hopefully won’t be disappearing anytime soon.

After quite a bit of set up, take-down, and tuning, Technicolor Teeth turned up their amps to typically deafening volumes and greeted the audience with their shoegaze-heavy nightmare pop. Ever since first seeing this band a few years back and watching them evolve, it’s been clear that they’ve tapped into something inherently special. As they’ve progressed they’ve toyed with the boundaries of genre and exploited the buried aspects of a few different styles rather than settling for something as simple as revivalism. They’re pushing things in new and intriguing directions; finding a home in what was once considered a dormant style and looking forward instead of traveling back. Easily the night’s longest set, they nonetheless were as captivating as usual and likely won over anyone they hadn’t. While their set seemed to be heavy on newer material, it all clicked and felt coherent enough to keep the audience interested despite being a band who’s prone to playing up a drowsy-high aesthetic. There were a few blinding flashes of energy that helped push that along and as a collective unit, the band played close to flawlessly, wrapped up in a weird kind of power approach. A large part of the credit for this is likely due to drummer Amos Pitsch (who uses his time outside of the band to do things like front Tenement) who continues to operate on an almost obscene level of musicality (so much so that it prompted a well-intentioned and sarcastic “Thanks for drumming before me, Amos. That sucked.” from Nick) and provides the band with a considerable punch. In any case, Technicolor Teeth played like they meant it and is a must-catch prospect- they’ll be playing the Accidental Guest Recordings showcase at SXSW, don’t miss it.

After Technicolor Teeth wrapped up and everyone assessed their levels of hearing damage, Nervosas set back up for a final run. Only this time, it wasn’t to 15 people- it was to a packed bar that was threatening to close in on max capacity. As a result, the energy level of the decidedly frenetic show at Free Space somehow got kicked up a few more levels. This time, the audience wound up begging the band for an encore that they never got; and that was alright- Nervosas seemingly left every inch of themselves on that stage. Absolutely ripping through highlights from their best-of-decade worthy self-titled like “Less Than Human”, “Viva Viva”, “Extinct Species”, “Waste of Time”, and (once again) “Stellarcore”, “Poison Ivy” and “APAB” along with some deeper cuts like Rev 45 lead-off track “Junky”. All of this was performed as wild-eyed as possible, with each member being almost inhumanly committed to delivering their songs at maximum levels of impact. None of the three could stay still even between songs, feet tapping and bodies swaying back and forth, anxious to jump into whatever was next. During the songs, that restlessness was even more present as the band would literally throw themselves from side to side (and into the walls on more than one occasion), while attempting to keep themselves in control of the music. Their levels of success on these levels were improbable, as all of the things apart from the audience size were both duplicated and maximized from their set just a few hours before. By the time the calls for an encore were hitting their peak, the band was onstage, packing up, absolutely spent. They’d made their mark and knew their was nothing left to possibly be given.

As the show turned into an afterparty with the assistance of Rio Turbo, friends old and new caught up, got drinks, and found their way into dances, conversations, and the streets. Everyone buzzing on the adrenaline high that accompanies the truly great shows. Everyone that played caught up with each other and their admirers, gave their thanks to each, and bought or traded merch before heading off. Now that all the smoke’s cleared, all that’s left to do is keep both eyes peeled for the next time Nervosas show up- because if these shows were any indication, this is a band that should never be missed.

A few photographs from the shows can be found below.