Heartbreaking Bravery

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Tag: Nancy

The Best Songs of November 2018

With November just two weeks out of view and AOTY season still drowning everyone’s feeds (our forthcoming coverage will arrive, as it always has, at the very end of the year), now seemed like a perfect time to reflect on what the past month had to offer. Whether it was the James Bond theme of the future, a surprise side-project, or a local band syncing up with a major name, there was a lot worthy of reflection. Below are a dozen of those standouts.

1. Mike Krol – I Wonder

Ever since catching the tail end of the first show Mike Krol ever played with a backing band (that band being Krol’s close collaborators Sleeping in the Aviary), it’s been hard to ignore the songwriter’s appeal, drive, charisma, and commitment. Merge picked Krol up a few years ago before the release of Turkey, which just might be one of the most fun basement pop records of the decade. “I Wonder” finds Krol sticking to a familiar formula but making room for more surprises, like enlisting partner — and Mege labelmate — Allison Crutchfield (Swearin’) for backup vocals and pushing the run time well past 100 seconds. As is always the case with Krol, it works. Brilliantly.

2. Mister Goblin – Nothing You Do (Happens)

Losing Two Inch Astronaut was a considerable blow to a scene that had claimed them as a linchpin. Sam Woodring, that band’s guitarist, vocalist, and principal songwriter, couldn’t leave well enough alone, returning now with a new project called Mister Goblin that picks up right where Two Inch Astronaut left off. “Nothing You Do (Happens)” was one of the first looks at the project and is one of the best tracks to have the fortune of Woodring’s involvement. Inventive, fiery, and mesmerizing, the post-emo/hardcore/punk/whatever track is a welcome reintroduction.

3. HAVVK – Always The Same

“Always The Same” is a slow-burning track that swings on a pendulum between indie pop and post-punk, alternately gentle and unwieldy. There’s a hypnotic effect that the swings back and forth achieves, pulling the listener increasingly deeper into something strangely brilliant. Small, surreal touches abound on the track, which should go some ways in establishing HAVVK’s name. Hard to miss and easy to love, “Always The Same” is a track worth investment.

4. Nancy – I’m Not Getting Sober, I’m Just Getting Older (Helluva Guy)

A lot can be achieved in 100 seconds or less, a fact that’s more or less the crux of the entire basement pop genre. Nancy offers up the zillionth piece of supporting evidence in the 96 second blast of “I’m Not Getting Sober, I’m Just Getting Older (Helluva Guy)”, a track overflowing with smart hooks and a quick wit. Short, punchy, and incredibly effective, “I’m Not Getting Sober, I’m Just Getting Older (Helluva Guy)” is a song that’s more than worth the commitment.

5. The Yada Yada Yadas – Human Emotion

Riding an opening section that falls somewhere between The Polyphonic Spree and early Flaming Lips, The Yada Yada Yadas take another strong turn on “Human Emotion”. The song eventually dovetails into other segments, touching on everything from brit-pop to the slacker movement of the late ’90s, without ever feeling empty for its revivalist tendencies. Fascinating and surprisingly explosive, “Human Emotion” goes off like a firework and outright refuses to come back down.

6. Silverbacks – Just In The Band

“Just In The Band” find Silverbacks well on their way to transforming into a fully fledged post-punk powerhouse. Frantic in just about every sense, “Just In The Band” never fully looses its tether from the anchor, staying intact enough to create a sense of urgent direction. It’s a wildly impressive work from a band that’s very clearly ready for their breakout moment. It’s only a matter of time before the tether breaks and they take off.

7. Disq – Communication

“Communication” sees Disq pairing with Saddle Creek for an intriguing 7″ series, while also hitting on a career high. A noise-damaged basement pop number laced with basement punk tendencies, “Communication” is surprisingly volatile. The band’s penchant for melody remains at that heart of their work but “Communication” suggests that their experimentation with atmospheric choices could propel them to previously unseen heights.

8. Mo Troper – Never Dream of Dying

Aggressively — and humorously — marketed by the label as the theme to the next James Bond film, Mo Troper‘s “Never Dream of Dying” finally saw release after months of soft teases. The franchise would be lucky to have this one. All of the traditional Bond theme hallmarks are in place, from the sweeping orchestral section to the classic ending and everything in between. Even separated from its own framework, the song feels like a rousing triumph, making it perfectly at home in Troper’s incessantly impressive repertoire. It’s a classic.

9. Chelou – Out of Sight

One of the more left-field surprises of the past few weeks, Chelou’s “Out of Sight” operates as one of those rare, transfixing tracks that doesn’t sound like it’s connected to a specific time. Echoing shades of Hot Chip, RJD2, and other pop-minded acts in a similar vein, “Out of Sight” creates a mesmeric tapestry out of a collage that veers from classic metal flourishes to art-pop. A genuinely remarkable track that more than deserves the plays its been racking up since appearing online.

10. YOWL – John the Collector

YOWL continues to impress every time they reappear, stringing together an incredibly strong collection of tracks that’s continuously raised their profile. “John the Collector” is the band’s latest shot of bleary post-punk. Hazy but energetic, the band keeps their foot on the pedal, taking off towards some unknowable destination. A shout-sung narrative covers the breadth of things as varied as familiarity, friendship, and destruction, culminating in a powerful resolution that tips its hat towards the intrigue of letting some things go unsolved.

11. And The Kids – Champagne Ladies

It’s been a while since we’ve heard anything new from And The Kids but “Champagne Ladies” is here to amend that trend. One of the band’s most immediate and accessible songs, “Champagne Ladies” finds the project aligned nicely with acts like Middle Kids, who rely on a distinctly rural sense of wonder to ground anthemic melodies. From the palm-muted rhythm guitar figure to the bells providing “Champagne Ladies” a splash of color, everything here congeals into a sum far greater than its parts, ably demonstrating And The Kids’ continuing growth as songwriters.

12. Maria Kelly – July

“July” is yet another breathtaking track from Maria Kelly, an artist who’s no stranger to crafting wintry soundscapes. While the title may suggest a summery affair, “July” is as icy as anything Kelly’s released. Soft, pointed, and quietly lacerating, “July” cuts to the bone. A clinical self-dissection, the song’s blunt honesty is challenging and rewarding in equal measure. There’s some solace to be found in “July” but it’s through the recognition of shared pain. Haunting and intimate, the track cements Kelly’s position as an artist worth knowing.

Alex G – Brite Boy (Music Video)

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As explained in the last post, it’s been fairly difficult to get posts up over the past few months, so a bit  of catching up is in order. A lot of outstanding music videos have been released in that time, so we’ll be focusing on some of the very finest in the featured slots and granting the others some of the recognition they deserve in the lists that run at the bottom of these posts. Alex G‘s “Brite Boy” finds itself in the featured spot here- and with good reason.

So often, artists go for the most direct, immediate, accessible route and find reasonable levels of success. The artists that opt to eschew that approach in favor of more understated work have a much steeper battle to fight. Alex G has always been one of the artists that belongs to that latter camp and that aspect of the artist’s aesthetic is brought to the forefront in the animated clip for “Brite Boy”. A continuously-evolving collage of surrealist cartoon imagery (while still making room for two concrete characters wrapped up in a tragic narrative), the Elliot Bech-directed clip enhances both the song’s sense of subdued melancholy and its damaged sense of hope, rendering it an inexplicably moving experience. A palpable sense of loss dominates the latter half of “Brite Boy” and, by the time the clip draws to a close, manages to cut astonishingly deep.

Watch “Brite Boy” below, pick up a copy of Beach Music here, and explore a list of some of the best music videos of the past few months underneath the embed.

Twin Limb – Don’t Even Think
Monogold – Pink Lemonade
Winter – All The Things You Do
Patsy’s Rats – Burnin’  Honey
White Reaper – Make Me Wanna Die
Daughter – Numbers
Speedy Ortiz – My Dead Girl
Laika’s Orbit – No Matter What It Takes
Chastity Belt – Lydia
Psychic Love – Nancy
Calexico – Bullets & Rocks
The Staves – Make It Holy
Adult Dude – Bonehead
John Grant – Down Here
Palm – Ankles
Luke Top – On the Shore
Eleanor Friedberger – He Didn’t Mention His Mother
Stone Cold Fox – Contagion
Historian – Pulled Under
The Coathangers – Watch Your Back
Jaala – Salt Shaker
The Spook School – I Want To Kiss You
Angel Snow – I Need You
Julia Brown – Snow Day
The Libertines – You’re My Waterloo
Long Beard – Turkeys
The Gooch Palms – Tiny Insight
Roger Harvey – City Deer
Gun Outfit – In Orbit
Great Grandpa – Mostly Here

Tenement – Live at The Acheron – 6/25/15 (Pictorial Review, Live Video)

Tenement III

Toys That Kill played an invigorating set at The Acheron on June 23. Two days later, Tenement did the same on a bill where they weren’t even technically the headliner (that distinction went to Warthog, whose set I didn’t manage to catch). Nancy kicked the show off with a costumed, attitude-heavy set. Really, the night seemed to belong to the middle three bands: two of the best acts in hardcore and, of course, Tenement– a band that’s been written about on here with alarming- but entirely justified- regularity.

A night defined by aggression, tension, cathartic release, and genuine surprise (perhaps best summarized by a brief, impromptu cover of Limp Bizkit’s “Break Stuff”) was highlighted by Ivy, Big Zit, and Tenement. Ivy played as ferociously as possible and Big Zit took that manic energy and injected their own brand of frenetic weirdness. Tenement (with Tyler Ditter filling  in on bass for Jesse Ponkamo) delivered a bruising set- that can be seen in full below- that served as a powerful reminder of why Tenement’s one of the best bands currently operating.

A gallery of photos of Ivy, Big Zit, and Tenement can be seen below. A pair of performances from Ivy can be seen beneath the gallery as well as the full Tenement set. Enjoy.