Heartbreaking Bravery

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Tag: Mom & Pop Records

Lady Lamb the Beekeeper – Billions of Eyes (Music Video)

ladylamb

Due to some lingering technical issues (most notably the loss of a laptop), there’s been a brief delay in regularly-scheduled content. Last week alone was devoid of anything other than Watch This installments, a lone song premiere, and a few 2014 pictorial reviews. To amend that, the next three posts will be focused exclusively on the best of the best to have surfaced last week in the three major categories: music video, single stream, and full stream. Following that will be a recap of this week-thus-far and the second-to-last pictorial review. With all of that exposition out of the way, it’s time to move on to the first major topic: last week’s music videos.

Last week’s haul of new clips did make for some interesting debate over which to feature, as they were all deserving. Ultimately, there was no wrong answer and it seemed most appropriate to go with an artist who’d previously never been covered on the site, Lady Lamb the Beekeeper, who crafted something deeply alluring with the “Billions of Eyes” video. Joining the ranks of “Billions of Eyes” were an unbelievable cast of gems that included: Trust Fund‘s impossibly endearing “Cut Me Out“,  The Midwestern Charm‘s screwball revenge thriller “General Drag“, Alex G‘s charmingly off-kilter “Harvey“, HOLY’s staunchly lo-fi “Silver of Your Heart“, The Dead Ships’ blurred adventure trip “Canyon“, Belle & Sebastian’s characteristically soft-edged “Nobody’s Empire“, and I Love You But I’ve Chosen Darkness’ usual disquiet manifesting in “You Are Dead to Me“. All great clips that will reward anyone able to cut out a half an hour of viewing time in their day-to-day.

Now, back to the featured highlight: Lady Lamb the Beekeeper’s infectiously punchy indie pop and the effortlessly brilliant “Billions of Eyes”. In the clip, Winston Smith-esque collages meet the pop-art sensibility of Wes Anderson in an immediately engaging video that blurs the lines between traditionalism and modernism. It’s difficult to call “Billions of Eyes” a music video or a lyric video definitively because, more than any other clip in recent memory, there’s an emphasis on the strongest elements of both categories. It’s a sly trick that almost diverts attention away from how well-crafted and intuitively paced “Billions of Eyes” winds up being. Ferocious editing sneaks in and consumes the whole affair in the final act, well after the tastefully-presented home video footage has been established. Never anything less than thrilling, it’s as fine of an introduction-at-large that Lady Lamb the Beekeeper (or anyone else) could have possibly hoped for- and it’s one of 2014’s most refreshing videos. If the rest of After (due out via Mom + Pop on March 3) can live up to this extraordinarily high precedent, anyone fortunate enough to hear it will be in for quite the ride.

Watch “Billions of Eyes” below and pre-order After here.

 

Iceage – Against the Moon (Stream)

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

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

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

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

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

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

Parquet Courts – Black and White (Music Video)

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Yes, Sunbathing Animal is as good as everyone says it is. No, the band’s not reinventing any wheels but they’re one of the best at fully committing to the mechanics behind what makes them spin. Their minimalism has always been one of their strongest appeals and the way they use restraint is aggressive to the point of being abrasive- but it works. Everything somehow clicks in to this chaos that feeds off its own energy, like something that’s constantly trying to hold on to whatever life remains in a death rattle that never really comes.

One of Sunbathing Animal’s best examples of this is the infectiously ragged “Black and White”. True to its name, the video the band’s released for it is presented in grainy black and white footage. There are several pieces of what are designed to appear (and one that may actually be) found footage of pedestrians walking away from the camera that trails them on the New York street where vocalist Andrew Savage resides. By having their videos central figures firmly rooted in anonymity it nicely contrasts the fact that this was an in-house production; band members Austin Brown and Johann Rashid directed the clip. When the video finally reaches a conclusion, in an appropriate bit of subtle continuity, it winds up right where the video for “Sunbathing Animal” took place. Nice touch.

Watch “Black and White” below and take a long walk sometime soon (preferably while blaring Sunbathing Animal).