Heartbreaking Bravery

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Tag: Naps

16 of ’16: The Best EP’s of the Year

eskimeaux

Once again, an increasingly busy schedule has led to a brief gap between posts and diminished the possibilities for year-end coverage. For that reason, there’ll only be three more Best Of pieces before the third round of A Year’s Worth of Memories. Sadly, this means some previous categories will be neglected but don’t let that diminish the importance of things like online singles, compilations, and the other odds and ends releases.

This list will focus on the EP’s that were released this year, which had to be at least four songs or exceed 10 minutes in length (which disqualified some genuinely tremendous releases). A lot of great material came out this year and these EP’s managed to emerge as standouts. For any potential bias to be eliminated, EP’s that premiered here were deemed ineligible (but should still be celebrated). Enjoy the list.

Jack – Resting Places 

One of the more harrowing listens of 2016 was centered around the loss of a loved one. It was an event that seems to have transformed something in Brittany Costa, the mastermind behind Jack and Resting Places. This is an explosive EP and it deserved much more circulation than it received.

Krill – Krill 

A posthumous release from one of the most fiercely beloved bands in DIY punk, Krill‘s self-titled swan song may also be their finest work. Bassist/vocalist employed baritone guitar lines to spectacular effect on Krill, something evident from the EP’s brilliant opening track (“Meat”). Precise and teeming with feeling, it’s one hell of a goodbye.

Eskimeaux – Year of the Rabbit

Following this site’s pick for 2015’s Album of the Year proved to be a shockingly easy feat for Eskimeaux, who quickly released a summery EP overflowing with memorable moments. Year of the Rabbit finds Eskimeaux deepening the best aspects of their music and refining some newer tricks. It’s a breezy listen that carries substantial weight.

Kynnet – …Taas ne Kynnet 

A blast of fired-up basement pop from Finland, Kynnet once again proves to be an uncontainable force with …Taas ne Kynnet. This is hard-charging music that transcends the language divide and effortlessly engages listeners with its overwhelming immediacy. Give in or get out of the way because once …Taas ne Kynnet gets gets going, it’s not stopping.

Forth Wanderers – Slop 

Headlined by its breathtaking title trackSlop is a warning shot from the increasingly ambitious Forth Wanderers. While “Slop” is undoubtedly the standout of the EP, the other three songs don’t ever come across as being overshadowed, revealing flashes of the band’s brilliance. Slop is a uniformly strong outing that packs a serious punch.

Happyness – Tunnel Vision On Your Part 

Happyness teased Tunnel Vision On Your Part with “SB’s Truck“, a song based on the fascinating historical footnote that saw the unlikely pairing of Andre The Giant and Samuel Beckett. The band continues to do no wrong, turning in another immensely enjoyable collection of songs that further their growing reputation as master popsmiths.

Faye – Faye 

An extraordinary debut from an extremely promising band, Faye‘s self-titled is a beautifully crafted work that capitalizes on the sort of subtleties that some veteran acts still have a difficult time navigating. Nearly half of this EP rightfully earned individual features before its release and the EP’s remainder lived up to the promise of those tracks.

Snail Mail – Habit 

2016 saw Snail Mail start to break out and earn some overdue attention on a much larger scale. A lot of that can be attributed to the remarkable (and surprisingly affecting) Habit. Vulnerable, defiant, and tenaciously pointed, Habit‘s the kind of record that burrows under the skin and refuses to leave. A gem and a career best.

Hazel English – Never Going Home 

There were few, if any records, released in 2016 lovelier than Hazel English‘s Never Going Home. A spellbinding mixture of dream pop, basement pop, and post-punk, Never Going Home‘s the kind of painfully beautiful work that deserves to be remembered. It’s a series of grace notes that openly offer contentment and warmth.

Fern Mayo – Hex Signs 

Fern Mayo became a staple of this site’s coverage based on the white-knuckle intensity of their live show and in Hex Signs they manage to harness that intimidating forcefulness. Easily the best work of the band’s burgeoning career, Hex Signs is a confrontational demonstration of the type of strength that refuses to be ignored.

don’t – forget it. 

One of the unique thrills of music writing is the discovery of a young, unknown band from a relatively small area that are doing interesting, impressive things. don’t met all of those qualifications to such an excessive degree with forget it. that it became unforgettable. While possibly the least recognizable name on this list, they deserve the placement.

Patio – Luxury

Being able to watch a band evolve from their first show and thrive in the state of progression is a privilege. It’s even more of a privilege when the band in question is one like Patio, who excel at the formula that makes up Luxury: wiry post-punk that serves up as much dry wit as it does sheer attitude. What’s scary is they’re still only just getting started.

Strange Ranger – Sunbeams Through Your Head 

Sunbeams Through Your Head marked an exhilarating new chapter for Strange Ranger who, almost paradoxically, seemed galvanized in their decision to more fully embrace a downtrodden nature. It’s an EP characterized by moments either brave, bold, or beautiful. An extraordinarily compelling listen and the sound of a band hitting its stride.

Tony Molina – Confront the Truth 

As someone who could claim in-your-face micro-punk as a specialty, Tony Molina‘s gorgeous Confront the Truth likely came as a shock to some. Anyone well-versed in Molina’s work could easily see how the songwriter could conjure up a gentle 7″ full of retro-leaning acoustic pop songs that invoked the spirit of the late ’60 and early ’70s. A sublime work.

Talons’ – Work Stories 

One of the rare records where the distinction between album and EP becomes blurry, Work Stories nevertheless saw Talons’ extend a quiet streak of ridiculously impressive records. Hushed and haunted folk-inflected songs comprise Work Stories, each as breathtakingly gripping as the last. Work Stories is another piece of mastery.

EP OF THE YEAR

Mercury Girls/The Spook School/Wildhoney/Tigercats – Continental Drift 

While the intro to this piece stated that the majority of the odds and ends would be ignored, an exception is being made for the excessively great split EP that saw Mercury Girls (who also released the excellent Ariana 7″ in 2016), The Spook School, Wildhoney, and Tigercats each contribute two songs. Continental Drift doesn’t feel or operate like the majority of split releases by virtue of its exhaustively complete unification.

All four bands on Continental Drift can come across as singular acts, on closer inspection they begin to appear as slight mutations of each other, rendering this split an effortless listen. There could very well be a group of people that’d mistake Continental Drift as the work of one inhumanly talented band (though the shift in accents may provide a tipping point). Each of the four acts bring their best work to the table and make characteristically strong impressions.

Over Continental Drift‘s eight tracks, not only is there never a weak song, there’s never a weak moment. Each of these songs is tightly crafted and masterfully executed, providing each act with a highlight reel that could attract unfamiliar listeners to the rest of their respective discographies. There are so many soaring moments scattered throughout Continental Drift that the end result is stratospheric. In theory, this split was enticing but in its execution Continental Drift achieves a staggering amount of perfection.

Nine more worth checking out:

Lady Bones – Terse
Cleo Tucker – Looking Pretty At the Wall
Devon Welsh – Down the Mountain
Plush – Please
Young Jesus – Void As Lob
Naps – The Most Beautiful Place On Earth
gobbinjr – vom night
CHEW – CHEW
Fake Boyfriend – Mercy

Watch This: Vol. 138

While Car Seat Headrest, Abi Reimold, Lisa Prank, The Dove & The Wolf, Emma Russack, Black Thumb, Mindie Lind, Kiran Leonard, Laura Gibson, Wovenhand, CHVRCHES, Pig Snout, Metronomy, Clique, Skeleton Hands, Gang Gang Dance, Graveyard Club, Men of Paradise, Haux, Arc Iris, David Bazan, Pure Bathing Culture, Typesetter, Lisa Hannigan, and naps all had incredibly strong live video outings — culled from a variety of inspiring sources — last week, it would have been an exercise in futility to run them all together in a focal capacity. Even five featured slots can occasionally feel a touch excessive but it seems that anything less than five doesn’t typically do the format’s offerings justice.

The five clips featured today come from bands that have, in some form or another, garnered positive notices from this site in the past. Seeing these acts continue to grow, expand, succeed, and even flourish has been heartening. Seeing them excel in the live department remains galvanizing. There’s an expansive range from the selected acts (and their accompanying videos), in terms of style. All of them are worthy of praise. So, as always, sit back, tune up, lean in, and Watch This.

1.  Okkervil River (WFUV)

With their forthcoming Away nearing its release date, Okkervil River‘s been making some early rounds to promote the record.  It’s impossible to overstate how important Okkervil River were to the development of this site’s personal ethos, so any time the band makes a return it’s more than welcome. Here, they perform two songs from Away but continue to demonstrate their immense skill at re-interpreting their own material, offering an incredible version of “For Real” — easily one of the best songs since the turn of the century — that hints at their worldview. It’s an immensely impressive session and a memorable portrait of a band that’s never really gotten their due.

2. Worriers – Plans (Live From the Rock Room)

Last year’s Imaginary Life was Worriers‘ finest moment to date and the band still seems to be riding a surge of adrenaline and confidence from that small triumph. The quartet recently visited Live From the Rock Room to deliver a galvanizing rendition of “Plans”, one of that record’s many standouts. The band continues to be defined by both their intelligence and extreme amount of heart, both of which are fully on display in this clip.

3. Prism Tats (KEXP)

Prism Tats have been having a breakout year, releasing their formidable self-titled debut full-length on ANTI- Records and producing a string of praise-worthy music videos. They’ve been touring with some bands that have serious weight behind their names and making a small sea of fresh converts at just about every stop. Here, the band turns in a powerful session for KEXP, revealing their increasingly sharp interplay and knack for subdued, hook-heavy basement pop. The whole clip looks and sounds beautiful, standing as a strong example of what can be accomplished with the right people on both ends of the camera.

4. Big Thief (KDHX)

Masterpiece was an immediate standout upon its release and remains one of 2016’s finest records. It’s catapulted Big Thief into a new level of fame and the band’s responded in kind, continuously sharpening their craft and all but perfecting their penchant for sweeping, open-road anthems tinged with nostalgic hues. The band recently visited the KDHX studios and played through two songs, including the unforgettable and melancholic “Paul“. The band pairs it with a deeply felt run-through of “Vegas”, offering both a very strong reminder of Masterpiece‘s astonishing strength and their breathtaking prowess as a live unit.

5. Fresh  Snow – January Skies (Exclaim!)

For some time now, Fresh Snow have excelled in crafting aggressive, ambient tracks that come fully equipped with a decidedly punk influence. Their live show has been a consistent standout and the band holds nothing back for this atmospheric Exclaim! clip of the band playing “January Skies”. There’s a feeling of rawness through the whole affair that seems to be at odds with the serene lighting, creating a strange, unsettling feeling that elevates this far beyond the standard performance clip. There’s some magic at play here and it continues to cast out the kind of spell that simply can’t be refused.

Faye – Faye (EP Review)

faye

Over the past few days, the site’s main focus has been getting back up to speed on the year’s most current releases. To that end, this post (and each of the four posts that will shortly follow) will include a quartet of notable releases from the past few days. This time around, those releases are full streams that came from the following artists: Bird of Youth, Braids, Mutual Benefit, and a split EP with two great sides from Naps and Yikes. It’s Faye, once again, who claim the featured spot.

The trio’s gearing up to release their debut EP and their early offerings have already managed to make a very serious mark. Faye‘s closing two tracks, “Chow Chow” and “Ancient Bones” have already been praised on this site. Those two tracks constitute an extraordinary finale that set very high expectations for the rest of the EP. Fortunately, the opening trio of tracks lives up to the exceptional promise that “Chow Chow” and “Ancient Bones” all but flaunted.

“Yellow Canary” kick things off with a spiky, hook-laden mid-tempo run through some grunge-leaning post-punk. “Teacups” and “Vowels” follow suit, with each establishing their own set of very distinct characteristics. For as specific as Faye’s tastes run, it would’ve been easy for the band to fall into the trap of repetition. Instead, each track on Faye registers as a standout by virtue of being so clearly defined in their separation. It’s a remarkably nuanced and startlingly mature piece of work from a young band. Expect very big things for their future (and play Faye as loud as possible).

Listen to Faye below and pre-order the tape from Tiny Engines here.

Big Huge – Late At Nite (Stream)

big huge

Already a few small releases into a promising career, Big Huge have yet to hit a false note. Instead, they seem to gain strength as they go; sharpening their songwriting ability and honing their presentation accordingly. 2014’s Don’t Be Shy EP was among the year’s more joyous (and promising) basement pop excursions but “Late At Nite” finds the band lighting a much stronger fire.

A little over two minutes, “Late At Nite” hits a lot of familiar beats from the powerpop structure to the gruff vocal delivery. All of it’s been done before but it’s rarely been delivered with such venom. Like a lot of the best music that deals with pent-up aggression, it derives part of its narrative from a very frustrating dichotomy. In this case, that dichotomy comes to the forefront by virtue of the inescapable post-party come-down. On the surface, it’s an absolute joy but buried somewhere in the subtext is a very human examination of some of life’s more intriguing moments. Packaged together, it becomes something that approaches the levels of a summer anthem. Right on time.

Listen to “Late At Nite” below and keep an eye on the site for more information about the band’s upcoming self-titled EP. Beneath the embedded player, enjoy 10 more outstanding songs to find release over the past two weeks.

Vundabar – Darla
We Take Fire – Kashyyyk
Bad Bad Hats – Fight Song
Johnny Marr – Exit Connection
Naps – Sandspurs
Baby in Vain – Muscles
Cold Showers – Plantlife
Street Eaters – Paralyzed
Aye Nako – White Noise
Showyousuck – All Pizza Everything