Heartbreaking Bravery

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Tag: Nicole Dollanganger

March’s Honorable Mentions

Only a few days into April (and a few posts away from resuming regular daily updates), it seems as good a time as any to look back at some of the outstanding tracks, clips, and records March had to offer. Since the first week of March was largely covered by the last big recap, the focus here is on the material to find release in the month’s subsequent three weeks. An incredible round of songs, some sterling music videos, and a few standout records managed to make their mark. Below is a compilation of items worth hearing and seeing, so don’t miss a beat and save this tab to explore to your heart’s content.

STREAMS

Mastersystem, Bad Breeding, Pllush, The Sidekicks, Tancred, Drens, Deeper, Hop Along, Iceage, Haley, Spielbergs, Wheelbarrel, Air Waves, Holy Now, Lawn, Yazan (x2), Sharaya Summers, Daniel Tanghal, Dose, Eureka California, Simeon Walker, John Parish, Sibille Attar, Moon Racer, Pre Nup, The Love-Birds, Oceanator, Archie and the Bunkers, Escondido, Death By Unga Bunga, Leisure Tank, The Magic Lantern, Coping Skills, Weller, Character Actor, Ruler, Emily Isherwood, Nice Try, Connections, Vlad Holida.

Lazy Legs, Cold Fronts, Craig Finn, Stimmerman (x2), Dear Nora, Kevin Devine, Brooke Annibale, Nick Cave & Warren Ellis (x2), Frederick The Younger, Co Sonn, Swear Tapes, Fiddlehead, boerd, King Tuff, Bernice, Miya Folick, Forest Ray, Aisha Burns, Wye Oak, Tangents, INVSN, DreamendSofia Härdig, No Thank You (x2), L.A. Girlfriend, John Prine, Paul De Jong, Mary Lattimore, Spritzer, Saba, Swell Spells, Erin Rae, Chakra Efendi, Greyhounds, Redolent, Ivan Moult, Neighbor Lady, Hiss Golden Messenger.

77:78, Deerest, Goat Girl, The Dead Tongues, currin (x2), Scratch, Ganser, Kathryn Joseph, Confuse-Ray, Slow Mass (x2), Pole Siblings, DMA’s, Adam Ackerman, Turtlenecked, Gold Connections, Sen Morimoto, War On Women, Kississippi, Belly, Dana Murray, Yolanda, The Cavemen, HAWK, Remission, Andy Cook, White China, LANKS, and A Deer A Horse.

MUSIC VIDEOS

Fenne Lily, Sulky Boy, Night Flowers, Bonny Doon, Oddnesse, Albert Hammond Jr, Tremends, Locate S, 1, Sun June, KNIFEY, Las Rosas, Mastersystem, Ought, Rozwell Kid, RF Shannon, Alex Lahey, Launder, Soccer Mommy, Speedy Ortiz, Wax Idols, Sleepy Zuhoski, Loma, Courtney Barnett, Francobollo, Flasher, Volage, Hinds, Porlolo, The By Gods, Frankie Cosmos, Okkervil River, Crooked Teeth, Laura Veirs, S. Carey, The Dazies, Sam Evian, Alice Bag, Jo Passed, Young Valley, Quiet As A Mouse, Canshaker Pi, Death By Unga Bunga, Sean McMahon, Vive la Void, Yuki Ame, Preoccupations, Moviestar, LICE, Tomma Intet, and Phosphenes.

FULL STREAMS

Daniel Klag, Gentle Heat, Queen of Jeans, The Bordellos, Swampmeat Family Band, Erika Wennerstrom, Rat Kid Cool, T.C. Crosser, and half of the upcoming Nicole Dollanganger record.

The 50 Best Songs of 2016’s First Quarter

Eskimeaux

Now that nearly everything’s back up to speed on the three major fronts (streams, full streams, and music videos), it’s time to re-direct the attention to the very best material that emerged in the first three months of 2016. After listening to literally thousands of new songs throughout the course of this year, 50 songs will be embedded below (the original list was just over 50 and the last three cuts were from Public Access T.V., SOAR, and Retired), with the first several artists listed having multiple songs vying for the feature.

Due to the time constraints, each of the songs — while worthy of several paragraphs — will  receive a line or two of text. All of the songs that competed for the feature spot will be hyperlinked. All of these songs, in one way or another, genuinely stood out from the rest of the pack- and beyond that, several of them have proven their worth via their staying power.

From moments of devastating vulnerability (“Low Hymnal”) to electrifying bursts of visceral energy (“DVP”), there’s a lot to digest. Whether carrying the status of new, emerging, proven, or elder statesman, the artists that comprise this list have viable year-end potential. All 50 of these tracks deserve investment. Dive in below and explore a large handful of 2016’s finest gems.

Bent Shapes – New Starts In Old Dominion

After making their mark with a string of consistent releases, Bent Shapes delivered their strongest effort yet with Wolves of Want, which was highlighted by the surging powerpop number “New Starts In Old Dominion”. | Also worth hearing: What We Do Is Public, Realization Hits

Culture Abuse – Turn It Off

A seething mess of chaos and cacophony, Culture Abuse‘s “Turn It Off” was one of young 2016’s most immediate post-punk tunes. Sharp and unrelenting, “Turn It Off” more than makes its mark. | Also worth hearing: Dream On, Peace On Earth

Audacity – Lock On the Door

Self-described by the band as a “Third Eye Blind rip-off song”, “Lock On the Door” is the band’s most successful grime-coated excursion and retains every bit of its predecessors’ considerable charms.  | Also worth hearing: Umbrellas, Dirty Boy.

Mulligrub – Homo Milk & Man in the Moon

Mulligrub managed to impress when they were just starting out and they’ve grown noticeably in a surprisingly short period of time. If this two-song package is any indication, there are some extraordinary things in Mulligrub’s future. | Also worth hearing: Europe

Mo Troper – First Monkey In Space

Mo Troper’s Beloved is my early front-runner for Album of the Year and with songs as perfectly crafted (and presented) as “First Monkey In Space”, that shouldn’t come as a surprise. Big Star-meets-Tony Molina is a very, very good look. | Also worth hearing: After the Movies

Jawbreaker Reunion – Cosmos

Another early year-end candidate came in the form of Jawbreaker Reunion‘s breathtaking “Cosmos”, which saw them tapping back into the lovesick despair that made “E.M.O.” so unforgettable. When the back half kicks in on his one, it’s a moment of powerful transcendence. | Also worth hearing: Small Investments

Kal Marks – Coffee

A sprawling, bruiser of a track, “Coffee” sees Kal Marks continuing to dominate the realms of aggressively down-trodden post-punk, fully equipped with a messy handful of grunge influences. It’s another masterclass from a band who are very nearly peerless. | Also worth hearing: Mankind

Tenement – The Block Is Safe Again

One of three songs on this list to be experiencing a cleaned up re-release, “The Block Is Safe Again” is vintage Tenement. All you really need to see to know that this is incredible is the last word of that first sentence. | Also worth hearing: Freak Cast In Iron

Nicole Dollanganger – Chapel 

Another song that experienced a re-release, “Chapel”, saw Nicole Dollanganger embracing her softest sensibilities and conjuring up something spellbinding. Let it wash over you and give into its dreamlike state, pay attention, though, and you’ll be plunged straight into a delicate nightmare. | Also worth hearing: Beautiful and Bad

Big Ups – National Parks

Shortly after hitting their five year anniversary, Big Ups unloaded a behemoth of a record in Before A Million Universes. The high-wire tension act of “National Parks” was one of its many peaks, providing an able showcase for the band’s commanding sense of self. | Also worth hearing: Hope for Someone

Tancred – Sell My Head

One of 2016’s most pleasant surprises has come in the full-blown emergence of Tancred. Spiky, formidable, and exceptional, everything Jess Abbott’s project has unleashed this year has hit its target. Store this one away right next to the fiercest songs from Palehound and Speedy Ortiz. | Also worth hearing: Control Me

Eskimeaux – WTF

After claiming this site’s Album of the Year distinction, the Epoch quartet known as Eskimeaux has returned with a shimmering new EP. “WTF” continues the band’s winsome penchant for expertly crafted, bittersweet pop songs with a gentle ease. Good luck shaking that chorus section. | Also worth hearing: Power

Solids – Blank Stare

Following a string of strong releases, Solids have a career high on their hands with the Else EP, which boasts four enthralling tracks that combine a host of influences into something melodic and menacing. “Blank Stare” is the EP’s highlight. | Also worth hearing: Wait It Out

Eureka California – Cobwebs on the Wind

Eureka California have proven themselves to be a remarkably consistent band and they’ve rarely ever been granted the spotlight they deserve. Versus, their latest effort, is their most engaging thanks to the jittery energy that propels tracks like “Cobwebs on the Wind” and “Caffeine”. | Also worth hearing: Caffeine

Banned Books – Fuselage

Very few records this year have caught me as off guard or sent me reeling as quickly as Banned Books, the exhilarating self-titled effort from the Philadelphia noise-punk figureheads. “Fuselage” contains some of the band’s most exceptional — and propulsive — work to date. | Also worth hearing: Everything I’ll Ever Need

Hudson Bell – Box of Bones

One of the most difficult decisions to make in compiling this list was which of these two listed songs to feature. “Box of Bones” got the edge for the extraordinary hooks and some jaw-dropping sections of sheer perfection. Hudson Bell is putting together something unreal and more people should be taking note. | Also worth hearing: Hey Doll

Plush – Sheer Power

A sweeping, magisterial work of lush decadence, “Sheer Power” announced Plush’s 2016 run with a heaven-sent explosion. Dynamic, powerful, gorgeous, and towering, “Sheer Power” is the band at their most gripping and one of early 2016’s most spine-tingling offerings. | Also worth hearing: Please Don’t Let Me Go

PUP – DVP

As expected, when PUP resurfaced after making one of the most beloved punk records of this current decade, they were even more feral and wild-eyed than when they left off. “DVP” isn’t just the band’s fiercest song to date, it’s also one of their strongest. Get out of the way or get run over (repeatedly).

Greys – No Star

Another one of Toronto’s finest punk acts, Greys, have been putting together a deeply impressive run over the past few years. They’ve yet to make a bad song and thrive off the tension they inject into the kinetic “No Star”, which expertly balances the band’s most melancholic sensibilities with their most explosive.

The Sun Days – Don’t Need To Be Them

2016 has already had its fair share of excellence in powerop but right now, no one’s doing that genre better than Sweden, who’ve gifted us another extraordinary act in The Sun Days. Album, the band’s debut record, offers up a whole bevvy of what are likely to go down as some of 2016’s loveliest tunes, like the gorgeous “Don’t Need To Be Them”.

Frankie Cosmos – On the Lips

The last of the songs on this list to have a prior release, “On the Lips” finally gets the full band treatment for Frankie Cosmos‘ sprightly Next Thing. Already considered a standout of a very crowded discography, “On the Lips” is pure Frankie Cosmos: light, charming, and memorable.

Oceanator – Nowhere Nothing

Very few songs over the past several years have had a section that laid me as flat as the outro to Oceanator’s “Nowhere Nothing”. The project of Vagabon drummer Elise Okusami, Oceanator’s already showing an astounding level of promise. As a standalone song, it’s breathtaking. As an artist’s introductory number, it’s flat-out unbelievable.

Yoni & Geti – Madeline

Serengeti’s carved out a respectable place for himself throughout the course of a very consistent career. WHY?‘s Yoni Wolf is rightfully regarded as one of this generation’s most remarkable lyricists (by certain circles, at least). Their collaborative project is only just getting started but the lilting powerpop of “Madeline” bodes well for the duo’s future.

EERA – Drive With Fear

“Drive With Fear” was the first song that really pulled me into EERA‘s fascinating world. Combining elements of dream-pop, ambient, and noise into an extremely tantalizing package, the project from Anna Lena Bruland’s landed on something intangible that seems ready to pay dividends as it goes forward. This song alone’s a piece of magic.  

Tacocat – I Hate the Weekend

Tacocat returned with “I Hate the Weekend”, advancing the band’s commendable aversion to disappointing by amplifying what they do best: carefree basement pop that deals with life’s more mundane moments. Sugary, sharp, and well-informed, “I Hate the Weekend” will stand as one of 2016’s greatest anti-parties.

Dilly Dally – Know Yourself

Watching Dilly Dally unexpectedly pull out this Drake cover last year at CMJ prompted what I can only describe as a near-out-of-body experience. I wrote about it extensively a few times and was hoping an official recording of the cover would make its way out into the world. When it arrived, it didn’t disappoint; “Know Yourself” is an absolute monster.

Lucy Dacus – Strange Torpedo

I Don’t Wanna Be Funny Anymore” was one of the best songs of last year and I haven’t been able to shake it since its release. Fortunately, Lucy Dacus had a new batch of equally exceptional songs to round out the incredible No Burden, including “Strange Torpedo”, a very strong showcase of Dacus’ knack for hyper-intelligent songwriting.

Weaves – One More

Weaves have undergone one of the more impressive transformations in music, transitioning from an intriguing world-leaning act to a full-fledged basement pop group. “Shithole” was one of the first indications of their radical switch and they’ve followed it up with the vicious, teeth-baring noise-punk of “One More”.

Free Cake For Every Creature – First Summer In A City

Katie Bennett’s Free Cake For Every Creature project has excelled in making airy bedroom pop that’s grounded by a relatable honesty. “First Summer In A City” is an instant standout, instantly capitalizing on the act’s most breezy and road-weary sensibilities. The slide guitar work here is a thing of quiet perfection. 

Woods – Morning Light

Another band that knows a thing or two about breezy, road-weary sensibilities is Woods, who have sculpted an entire career out of combining the two. One of the most remarkably consistent bands going today, they’ve managed to produce a career highlight with the easygoing, piano-speckled Americana of “Morning Light”.

Music Band – Fortune Guns

Basement pop meets basement punk is where this site pulls most of the bands it features most prominently. Music Band exists squarely in that intersection and have nearly perfected that marriage. “Fortune Guns” is the latest piece of thrilling evidence. 

A Death Forest Index – Myth Retraced

“Myth Retraced” is the kind of song that slowly washes over the listener, pulling them deeper in with each successive wave as the current gets increasingly stronger. A collaboration between A Death Forest Index and Savages’ guitarist, Gemma Thompson, it’s a dark, fractured miracle of a track. 

Carey – You Were Right

Old Flame Records has long specialized in retro-leaning basement pop, building up a roster of acts that have — appropriately — been granted a lot of attention from this site. Carey‘s the latest band to get in on the action and they kicked 2016 off with the blazing “You Were Right”, which more than lives up to the label’s high standard.

Wood Lake – Hollow

Easily the heaviest song on this list, “Hollow” is a swift masterstroke from emerging act Wood Lake. Combining the very best elements of post-hardcore and shoegaze, the band’s latched onto something that feels as exhilarating as it does singular. Gorgeous and punishing isn’t an easy combination to pull off but Wood Lake’s got it down pat.

Dead Stars – Unpopular

Dead Stars have shown up on this site a few times thanks to their ’90s-infused take on basement pop and “Unpopular” is another very worthy addition to a strong discography. Clean when its called for and distorted when it matters, “Unpopular” finds the band in fine form.

Such Hounds – I’ve Been Lost

Riding a syncopation lifted from The Damned’s classic “Neat Neat Neat” in the introduction, Such Hounds’ “I’ve Been Lost” quickly transforms into a beast of its own, lacing its emphatic powerpop with a punk sneer. Insanely catchy and playfully welcoming, it’s a breath of fresh air in an all-too-often overly serious musical landscape.

Told Slant – Low Hymnal

The first time I heard a note of Told Slant‘s “Low Hymnal” was when it was being recorded in DBTS. I’d wake up and listen in on Felix Walworth meticulously recording the song, wondering how the finished version would play. When I heard the rough take, I surrendered myself to chills, on the verge of tears. Now that it’s done, that feeling’s returned.

Mitski – Your Best American Girl

The year Bury Me At Makeout Creek came out it came very close to capturing this site’s Album of the Year distinction. Mitski‘s made a lot of moves in the time that’s followed, watching her audience grow exponentially in the process. “Your Best American Girl” is more than strong enough to allow that trend to continue; it’s a dynamic behemoth.

Yung – Pills

Yung were one of the first bands to really impress me at last year’s CMJ. I’d enjoyed what I’d heard from them previously but their was something intangible happening with their live show that converted me into a full-fledged believer. “Pills”, an expertly crafted basement pop number, serves as a welcome reminder that they’ve elevated their game.

Patio – Arbitrary Numbers

Fortunately, for everyone, Patio‘s only grown more confident since their demo (and their first show). Their upcoming EP, Luxury, is chock-full of memorable post-punk, including “Arbitrary Numbers”, the release’s minimalist pull track. Intelligent, catchy, and well-informed, it shows the band’s well on their way to being a recognizable name.



Jean-Michel Blais (ft. Bufflo) – Nostos

One of the more beautiful piano compositions to have emerged in some time, this collaborative effort between Jean-Michel Blais and Bufflo is a haunting, masterful run that’s weighted by what scans as genuine emotion. All of the ambient elements that spring up manage to enhance the vivid nature of the piece’s most emotive moments.



Fog Lake – Rattlesnake

From its melancholic opening moments to its uneasy close, Fog Lake‘s “Rattlesnake” is a gripping journey through unsparing self-examination. Haunting, haunted, and oddly unnerving, the relatively tranquil “Rattlesnake” is a miniature masterpiece that should go quite a ways in elevating Fog Lake towards a desirable status. 

Tangerine – Sunset

Tangerine have all the energy you’d expect from an exciting emerging act but are able to differentiate themselves thanks to how effectively they wield that energy. “Sunset” is a perfect example, a frantic, sun-soaked, punk-tinged powerpop number that plays like the band was having difficulty containing their sheer joy over the prospect of simply making music. 

Bob Mould – The End of Things

At this point, if you’re reading this site, it’s highly unlikely that Bob Mould‘s an unfamiliar name. The Hüsker Dü co-leader has been on an absolute tear with his solo releases of late, his finest work on those rivaling the best of the band that made him a legend. The fire-breathing “The End of Things” shows that he has absolutely no intentions of slowing down.

Catbus – Fracas

Patio‘s Lindsey-Paige McCloy and Alice Suh make another appearance on this list as part of this new, Phyllis Ophelia-led project that announced itself by way of the uniformly excellent “Catbus”. Post-punk, ’90s pop, and minimalism are woven together here to instantaneously memorable effect. The chorus alone stands as one of 2016’s strongest musical moments.



Museum of Recycling – Stillove

Last year, I was fortunate enough to host the demo premiere of “Stillove”, the standout track from new Big Ups side-project, Museum of Recycling. Heavy, atmospheric, and unrelentingly bruising, “Stillove” sees Joe Galaragga embracing his most melodic sensibilities to spellbinding effect. Get crushed under its formidable weight.

Leapling – Alabaster Snow

While Leapling have had a sizable handful of great tracks leading up to 2016, “Alabaster Snow” showed the band operating on a different level entirely. Easily the band’s best song to date, it’s a chaotic mixture of powerpop and vicious noise-punk that keeps things clean and winds up being even more engaging for its unconventional choices.

Dusk – My Own Design

Tenement‘s Amos Pitsch and Holy Sheboygan!‘s Julia Blair have both had their turn at the helm of Dusk and now, on “My Own Design”, the band moves darn it.‘s Ryley Crowe to the forefront. “My Own Design” is just as timeless and perfect as “(Do the) Bored Recluse” and “Too Sweet“, definitively proving Dusk as a whole belongs at the head of the WI music scene.

The Gotobeds – Real Maths/Too Much

It took me a while to come around on The Gotobeds after the lead-off single from their last record left me fairly cold. This time around, I’d happily go all in on “Real Maths/Too Much”, a pointed burst of post-punk that lingers long after its left. Fiery, insistent, and played with an intense amount of feeling, it’s the band at their absolute best.

Big Thief – Real Love

Another likely contender for multiple year-end lists arrived in the form of Big Thief‘s “Real Love”, a breathtaking tune that’s breathing new life into Saddle Creek’s increasingly impressive roster. A towering masterclass of pure songwriting, “Real Love” is jaw-dropping at nearly every turn, from the sky-bound guitar work to the plaintive honesty that grounds the whole affair. If the rest of the band’s upcoming Masterpiece comes close to matching this song, it’s tongue-in-cheek title won’t carry a shred of irony. “Real Love” is four minutes and 17 seconds of sublime perfection.


The Honorable Mentions of the 2015 Music Categories

Saintseneca I

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 Albums of 2015

Eskimeaux

2015, close to unanimously, was concerned to be one of the highest points for new music in recent memory. To that end, putting together this list was even more of a nightmarish task than narrowing the 2015 songs down to their 15 slots. There was even a brief moment where expanding this list to 50 slots seemed like a viable action. Ultimately, after literally hundreds of substitutions in the various positions (and countless exclusions and extractions), the formula remained intact. While it was painful to leave an extremely large handful of extraordinary records lingering just outside the perimeter, the 15 records below have earned their spots. Every single one of these has remained in near-constant rotation since the time of their release and will likely resonant well into 2016 and beyond. Dive on in below and reflect on the overwhelming strength of the past 12 months.

15. Meat Wave – Delusion Moon

One of a select few bands to play an instrumental part in the formative stages of this site’s focus (and one of the acts to play the first Heartbreaking Bravery showcase), Meat Wave came through in a big way in 2015. The trio released one of the year’s best oddities, signed to SideOneDummy, and unleashed a behemoth of an album in Delusion Moon. Billed as their first proper full-length (their vicious self-titled, limited-run cassette straddled the line between EP and full-length), Delusion Moon saw the band exploring their darker tendencies to great success. More fully exploring influences like Mission of Burma and Drive Like Jehu, the band acted as a nice counterpoint to the usual brand of ’90s revival and got some kicks in along the way.

14. PWR BTTM – Ugly Cherries

No band’s live show was documented more exhaustively here over 2015 than PWR BTTM, who perfected a simplistic approach with enormous- and enormously successful- ideas. The duo (who is occasionally a trio) set their sights on exploring gender and personal identity and followed through with a startlingly brazen tenacity. Close to every song on Ugly Cherries, their extraordinary full-length debut, play out like the kind of anthems that 2015 desperately needed. For a record that’s quick to be gleefully tongue-in-cheek, Ugly Cherries also offers up some devastating personal moments, lending the band an emotional depth that makes their outsize spirit even more powerful.

13. Midnight Reruns – Force of Nurture

Force of Nurture, Midnight Reruns‘ astonishing sophomore effort, has one of the best A-sides I’ve ever heard. Not to discredit an extremely strong B-side, either, but the run the band puts together from “There’s An Animal Upstairs” to “Sky Blue Water” is just about flawless. All six of those songs were considered for this year’s list of the best songs of 2015 along with the record’s sprawling closer, “Great Southern Rail”, which boasts one of the year’s more jaw-dropping choruses. Bolstered by the involvement of one of the band’s earliest and most vocal supporters- The Replacements’ Tommy Stinson, who produced the record- Midnight Reruns turned in their finest collection of songs to date.

12. Hop Along – Painted Shut

A statement that bears repeating: one of the most heartening aspects of 2015 was watching the deserved ascension of Hop Along, who have been cranking out exquisite material on an exceptionally high platform for several years. Driven by the distinctive, arresting voice of guitarist/vocalist Frances Quinlan and their own unique sensibilities, Hop Along crafted the strongest record of their discography. With new partner Saddle Creek firmly in their corner, the band came to vibrant life and stayed on form, delivering a set of knockout tracks that included “Waitress”, one of this year’s finest. A welcome breath of fresh air, Painted Shut marked the beginning of an exciting new era for one of today’s best bands.

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11. Royal Headache – High

Even as all the news of High being Royal Headache’s finest record (thankfully) receded, the power of their finest offering to date didn’t diminish. Following a brilliant debut, the band may have actually surpassed that record’s promise with their sophomore effort. Highlighted by songs like the towering, defiant title track and the surging “Another World“, High is a genre masterclass of the highest order. Buoyed by an infectious energy that’s constantly verging on manic, there’s never a moment during the record that doesn’t feel like it’s nearing a state of euphoria. When High is firing on all cylinders, as is the case for the vast majority of the record, the band’s as close to being virtually untouchable as is possibly imaginable.

10. Young Jesus – Grow/Decompose

Home, Young Jesus‘ breakout record and a candidate for album of the decade, set extraordinarily high expectations for whatever the band chose as its following release. Crafting a worthy follow-up seemed even more unlikely after the band moved out of Chicago and over to Los Angeles, reassembling their lineup in the process. By that token, Grow/Decompose isn’t just a deeply impressive record, it’s a miraculous one. Guitarist/vocalist John Rossiter sharpens his singular songwriting voice and leads his new outfit with a fiery determination. An immensely satisfying collection of songs, Grow/Decompose feels like a genuine album; structured and paced to near perfection, Grow/Decompose is a reinvigorating- and reinvigorated- frenzy.

9. Dogs On Acid – Dogs On Acid

Dogs On Acid, a band formed out of the ashes of much beloved acts Snowing and Algernon Cadwallader, expanded on one of the best 7″ releases of 2014 with one of the strongest full-length debuts in recent memory. Laced with knockout hooks at just about every turn, Dogs On Acid is a staggering show of power from a band that finds surprising ways to exceed its predecessors. Maximizing their pop sensibilities to astonishing effect, Dogs On Acid inject their first major effort with an insistent, propulsive energy that catapults each of its 10 tracks to unthinkable heights, keeping their punk roots in place along the way. Every song on Dogs On Acid is a genuine highlight, yet the whole affair still manages to come across as so much more than a collection of singles. Bold and brash, this is the kind of record that may never fall out of regular rotation.

8. Tenement – Predatory Headlights

For close to 10 years, I’ve provided near-incessant documentation of Tenement, chronicling their forward motion with increasing intensity as the years progressed. When Heartbreaking Bravery was initially designed, it was constructed with the intention of highlighting bands that weren’t being granted the press that they deserved. In 2015, the world at large finally started catching on to a band that’s meant more to the development of my personal interests in music than any other (I didn’t include their Bruised Music compilation in the oddities list because I contributed a lengthy piece to the record’s insert that expands on that fact). Predatory Headlights, the trio’s latest opus, was a definitive collection of the band’s current era, unafraid of demolishing genre barriers and bold experimentation. Over its intimidating 28 tracks, the album steadily emerges as a genuine- and singular- masterpiece.

7. Julien Baker – Sprained Ankle

For Julien Baker‘s breathtaking breakout record, the young songwriter (previously best known as one of the driving forces behind Forrister) dived fearlessly into a despairing examination of her own psyche. A preoccupation with mortality that was heavily informed by the laws of religion dominates nearly every song on this surprisingly brave collection. From the description of the car wreck in the opener’s first verse all the way through to the passage in “Go On”- Sprained Ankle‘s mesmerizing closing track and one of 2015’s finest songs– about consuming bleach, there’s barely a moment of reprieve. Built almost exclusively around Baker’s voice and acoustic guitar, Sprained Ankle feels progressively more personal as it goes along, each song functioning as a plea, a warning, and a sustained moment of clarity. Tragic and beautiful, Baker’s conjured up a collection of deeply personal songs that feel genuinely sacred.

6. All Dogs – Kicking Every Day

Ever since their earliest releases, All Dogs have been steadily crafting great material and building momentum. Kicking Every Day, the band’s startlingly defiant full-length debut, continues that pattern with an astounding amount of grace. Even with their lineup at full strength following the addition of guitarist Nick Harris (which is paying massive dividends), guitarist/vocalist Maryn Jones’ songs feel more naked than ever, imbuing Kicking Every Day with a voyeuristic look at its principal songwriter’s inner turmoil and unflinching resolve. After the anticipation levels for this record came close to hitting a fever pitch with the release of “That Kind of Girl” (which ranked highly on the songs of the year list), the prospect of a record as extravagantly strong as Kicking Every Day didn’t seem so distant. The record ultimately surpassed those expectations thanks to both the instant acclaim it so richly deserved and its ability to strike all the right chords.

5. Sweet John Bloom – Weird Prayer

Losing Four Eyes, a band that put out one of the best 7″ records of this decade, was a tough pill to swallow. Fortunately, that band found a natural successor in Sweet John Bloom. Continuing to revel in the same brand of endearingly scrappy basement pop and pulling members from a few other outstanding bands, Sweet John Bloom managed to make a mark. Weird Prayer, their first fully fledged full-length, reveals impressive new depths to the band. Employing a rotating cast of songwriters, the record gives ample space to flesh out each one’s distinct personality. From lovely slow-burning tracks like “Bury Ruby” to incendiary highlights like “Tell Me”, Weird Prayer is an enviable showcase that, bizarrely, seems like a victory lap for its various members. There’s a memorable moment or three on each of these 15 tracks, most of which find intriguing dichotomies to exploit over the course of their brief running times. Littered with surprising moments at close to every corner, it’s one of 2015’s most exhilarating releases.

4. Dilly Dally – Sore

Back in 2014, Dilly Dally unleashed a pair of 7″ records that nearly walked away with the top spot in this site’s rankings. In 2015 they followed up their flawless early run with a brilliant standalone single and a bruising full-length teeming with vicious grunge-informed, punk-leaning basement pop numbers. Grimly determined and scuzzy as hell, Sore lands with the force of an atomic bomb. There was a reason that no band earned as many feature pieces on this site over the course of 2014 than Dilly Dally and, even stripped of the brilliant singles that earned those spots, Sore would have registered as a knockout. While the record’s many searing highlights (“Desire“, “Purple Rage“, “The Touch“, etc.) gave the record its fangs, its elegiac closer provided it with both an unexpected emotional depth and a staggering moment of finality (both of which went a long way in securing its ranking as one of 2015’s finest tracks). While Dilly Dally just about stole CMJ and released a small army of outstanding music videos, Sore was their definitive 2015 moment. It’s the kind of record that inspires kids to go out and start bands of their own, making it one of the most powerful releases in recent memory.

3. Mike Krol – Turkey

The sudden resurgence of the (unfortunately) still-deceased Sleeping in the Aviary was an extremely unexpected and welcome development. While they did release an extraordinary demos and rarities collection, the band’s best moment came when the majority of its lineup wound up backing Mike Krol for his latest venture. No record in 2015 felt even close to as unhinged as Turkey, Krol’s first effort for Merge and most deranged outing to date. With a runtime that doesn’t even scratch 19 minutes, Krol and the band he’s assembled run through nine songs at a pace so frantic it’s practically delirious. Every single moment of Turkey is informed by a surging level of energy that it seems like the record might derail itself at any given moment, toppling over because of its own excessive velocity. Miraculously, it manages to sustain that momentum through nine songs of rabid basement pop that draws inspiration from a variety of genres from the past handful of decades, zeroing in on things like ’50s pop and classic soul. Everything on Turkey also benefits from being shot through with Krol’s deadpan comedic sensibility, tongue planted firmly in cheek. By the time the record’s penultimate track hits- the absolutely massive “Less Than Together“- the record’s momentum is white hot. “Piano Shit” winds things down at the very end and allows the listener to review the demolished left in Turkey‘s wake as it coasts to the finish.

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2. Nicole Dollanganger – Natural Born Losers

One of the happier coincidences this site got to experience in 2015 was the realization that the glowing review of Nicole Dollanganger‘s breathtaking Natural Born Losers was its 666th post. An appropriate fact, given the record’s deep obsession with angels, devils, and the spiritual realm. In its opening lines (“I shot an angel with my father’s rifle”), Natural Born Losers flaunts its aim with a threatening gracefulness, ready to turn on a dime at any moment. Dollanganger’s narratives throughout the course of the record are startling exercises in hyper-violence and dueling desires. Whether it’s a BDSM-informed romp as lensed through an experience with an abusive police officer or an extremely disarming sample taken from the animated 1993 cult classic The Halloween Tree, Dollanganger’s either making fresh incisions or pulling gaping wounds even further apart. However, for being so deeply unsettling in its prose, the music that accompanies all of Dollanganger’s nightmarish imagery is as elegant and haunting as her vocals. A lot of Natural Born Losers hinges on exploring some of the weightiest dichotomies in existence and the degree of success to which it achieves in striking fascinating middle grounds in those battles is revelatory. Even more impressive is the fashion in which Dollanganger binds this collection of songs together, especially considering how effectively the record’s haunting line defines (or redefines) everything that’s happened since its steely-eyed opening moment. Put simply: Natural Born Losers is a modern masterpiece.

1. Eskimeaux – O.K.

Eskimeaux‘s O.K. managed to impress on first listen but it wasn’t until seeing the band live that all of its pieces fell more fully into place. That show inspired a return visit to this collection which, in turn, brought about a subsequent revisit (and then that pattern fell into a routine that still hasn’t ceased). On each successive listen, more of O.K. sprang to life. Gabrielle Smith’s project has been making material that’s been more than worthwhile for a large handful of years now but O.K., the project’s most fully-realized outing, saw Smith step across a threshold and into something sublime. A meticulously crafted record, every last one of its countless gears clicks in ways that surprise and delight in equal measure, rewarding heavy investment with a casual ease and providing O.K. with one of its cleverest tricks. In maintaining their casual sensibilities, the record becomes an enjoyable cursory listen but that casualness is surprisingly deceptive.

O.K.‘s a very complex record when it’s dissected into its formative pieces, whether they’re the gorgeous vocal layers that comprise one of the record’s most gorgeous moments on “A Hug Too Long” or Felix Walworth’s explosively idiosyncratic snare work on “Folly“, each finding a way to stand out as an impressive moment in both the small schemes of the songs and the grand sweep of the album. From a lyrical standpoint, Smith packs this record full with bittersweet realizations, internal frustrations, and slivers of a defiant sense of hope that’s steadfast in its refusal to bow to a harsher reality. Even the record’s darkest moment- the brooding “Pocket Full of Posies”, which nearly unseated “A Hug Too Long” in the songs list- subtly acknowledges the inherent innocence of things that are frequently viewed as evil. Even then, O.K.‘s worldview is far from simply being optimistic, it’s far too weary to assume that the best mode of operation is to look for the best in everything; its earned its sophisticated wariness.

What makes O.K. truly stand out, though, is its overwhelming amount of empathy for everything that’s fortunate enough to have worked its way into the record. Easily one of the most readily apparent humanist statements that music yielded this year (which is especially easy to see when the record’s put under a microscope), O.K. draws its strength from its sense of value. It’s a view that resonates throughout the record’s 11 brilliantly crafted songs, providing them with a deeper sense of purpose than most bands can manage. Additionally, all of the inspired decisions that comprise O.K. are augmented by some of the most extraordinary production work of the past several years, stealthily enhancing the cumulative effect of the songs. An awe-inspiring breakthrough for one of today’s most promising acts, O.K. is the kind of record that’s worth preserving for future generations. Find someone deserving to share this with and give in to its inescapable beauty.

Wrap Up Warm (Mixtape)

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Over the course of the past 100 posts, I’ve been fortunate enough to spend a lot of time living in Brooklyn and rejoining some of my oldest friends (and family) in central Wisconsin while working on various records and tours. A lot more time than usual has elapsed since the last 100 post update and this one for a variety of reasons and yielded an even more substantial amount of material than usual, including a wealth of CMJ coverage. Now in it’s second year, there’s still new developments being made for the site as everything else continues to evolve naturally. At the last 50-post interval, I ran a mixtape for fall. Now, I’ll be turning my attention to the winter as we stare into its cold, unforgiving face. Just as fall has aspects that can be characterized through music (autumnal tones, the confrontation of mortality, bruised romanticism, etc), winter has its own set of unique traits.

While it’s true there’s an inherent sadness that’s attached to winter (suicide projections skyrocket, SAD takes full effect, and illness percentages elevate considerably), there’s also an inherent warmth. Blizzards hit and the strongest defense becomes warm drinks, companionship, and additional heat- all of which carry a connotation that directly connects with the various trials the season presents. Even the most grizzled cynic can find some comfort in the comforting embrace of an additional blanket. As the scene outside falls victim to uncompromising temperatures, violent winds, and patches of black ice, the transformation can become oddly compelling when paired with the right music. Below’s mix includes 25 songs that elevate the startlingly vivid nature of even the bleakest winter landscapes, complementing their strange, surprisingly emotional dichotomies. Whether you’re curled up under a blanket watching the snow fall, layered up and exploring the outdoors, or simply trying to make sense of the sudden change, this is your soundtrack.

Listen to Wrap Up Warm via the embed below and find its tracklist underneath the player. Beneath the tracklist, explore hyperlinks to the site’s past 100 posts. Enjoy.

SIDE A

1. Torres – A Proper Polish Welcome
2. The Antlers – Kettering
3. Nicole Dollanganger – A Marvelous Persona
4. Wolfs – Leading Me Back To You
5. Bent Denim – Good Night’s Sleep
6. Julien Baker – Sprained Ankle
7. Dilly Dally – Burned by the Cold
8. Okkervil River – A Glow
9. Angel Olsen – White Fire
10. Sleeping in the Aviary – You’re A Party
11. Young Jesus – Milo
12. Eskimeaux – That’s OK
13. Elliott Smith – I Didn’t Understand

SIDE B

14. Why? – Eskimo Snow
15. Girlpool – Dear Nora
16. Infinity Crush – Heaven
17. Hop Along – Happy To See Me
18. Waxahatchee – Noccalula
19. Jason Isbell – Elephant
20. Eluvium – An Accidental Memory in the Case of Death
21. Johanna Warren – We Fell
22. S – Remember Love
23. DeYarmond Edison – Silent Signs
24. Joanna Newsom – Does Not Suffice
25. Yowler – The Offer

As always, hyperlinks to the site’s last 100 posts are included below.

HB601: Pleasure Leftists – Protection (Stream, Live Video)
HB602: Meat Wave – Cosmic Zoo (Stream)
HB603: PWR BTTM – Ugly Cherries (Music Video)
HB604: Salad Boys – Dream Date (Music Video)
HB605: Watch This: Vol. 89
H606: Tenement – Vultures (Stream)
HB607: Strange Relations – Panther’s Conquest (Music Video Premiere)
HB608: Radioactivity – Live at Baby’s All Right – 7/30/15 (Pictorial Review, Live Video)
HB609: Frankie Cosmos – Live at DBTS – 8/1/15 (Pictorial Review, Live Video)
HB610: Sharkmuffin – Live at Shea Stadium – 8/7/15 (Pictorial Review, Live Video)
HB611: Saintseneca – Live at Baby’s All Right – 8/8/15 (Pictorial Review, Live Video)
HB612: Johanna Warren – Live a The Grove – 8/9/15 (Pictorial Review, Live Video)
HB613: Charly Bliss – Live at McCarren Park – 8/12/15 (Pictorial Review, Live Video)
HB614: Dilly Dally – Desire (Music Video)
HB615: All Dogs – How Long (Stream)
HB616: Watch This: Vol. 90
HB617: Quarterbacks – Live at Baby’s All Right – 8/13/15 (Pictorial Review, Live Video)
HB618: Saintseneca – Sleeper Hold (Stream, Live Video)
HB619: Shannon & the Clams – It’s Too Late (Stream)
HB620: Diet Cig – Dinner Date (Stream, Live Video)
HB621: Watch This: Vol. 91
HB622: CITRIS – On the Sidelines (Music Video)
HB623: Tenement – Tenement (EP Stream, Review)
HB624: NE-HI – Turncoat (Music Video)
HB625: Prison Whites – Deceiver (Stream)
HB626: Mike Krol – Neighborhood Watch (Music Video)
HB627: Kathryn Calder – New Millennium (Stream)
HB628: Exploding In Sound’s Extended Weekend: Days 1 & 2 (Pictorial Review, Live Video)
HB629: Mike Krol – Turkey (Album Review, Stream)
HB630: All Dogs – Live at Silent Barn – 8/22/15 (Pictorial Review, Live Video)
HB631: PWR BTTM – West Texas (Stream, Live Video)
HB632: Watch This: Vol. 92
HB633: OBN III’s – Let The Music (Stream)
HB634: Littler – Somewhere Else (Stream)
HB635: Melkbelly – Mnt. Kool Kid (Stream)
HB636: PWR BTTM – 1994 (Stream, Live Video)
HB637: Meat Wave – Cosmic Zoo (Stream)
HB638: Watch This: Vol. 93
HB639: Watch This: Vol. 94
HB640: The Libertines – Heart of the Matter (Stream)
HB641: Dilly Dally – Purple Rage (Stream)
HB642: Watch This: Vol. 95
HB643: Dilly Dally – Purple Rage (Music Video)
HB644: Saintseneca – River (Music Video)
HB645: A Short Stretch at The Silent Barn (Pictorial Review, Live Video)
HB646: Ronnie Stone & The Lonely Riders – Live at Baby’s All Right – 8/29/15 (Pictorial Review, Live Video)
HB647: Froth – Nothing Baby (Music Video)
HB648: Hung Toys – Lurid (Album Review, Stream)
HB649: Midnight Reruns – There’s An Animal Upstairs (Stream)
HB650: Arriving at the Fall (Mixtape)
HB651: Eskimeaux – Broken Necks (Music Video)
HB652: Gumbus – Crimbus Rock (EP Review, Stream)
HB653: Ernie – Sweatpants (Stream)
HB654: Bruising – Emo Friends (Stream)
HB655: Dusk – (Do The) Bored Recluse (Stream)
HB656: Mike Krol – Live at Baby’s All Right – 9/29/15 (Pictorial Review, Live Video)
HB657: Daughter – Live at Baby’s All Right – 9/30/15 (Pictorial Review, Live Video)
HB658: Ought – Live at Secret Project Robot Art Experiment – 10/2/15 (Pictorial Review)
HB659: Bad Cello – Live at Palisades – 10/4/15 (Pictorial Review, Live Video)
HB660: Junun (Film Review)
HB661: Midnight Reruns – Canadian Summer (Music Video, Live Video)
HB662: Stove – Wet Food (Stream, Live Video)
HB663: Saintseneca – Bad Ideas (Music Video)
HB664: Dusk – Too Sweet (Stream)
HB665: Laura Stevenson – Claustrophone (Stream)
HB666: Nicole Dollanganger – Natural Born Losers (Album Review, Stream)
HB667: Watch This: Vol. 96
HB668: Watch This: Vol. 97

HB669: Watch This: Vol. 98
HB670: Watch This: Vol. 99
HB671: DBTS: BS2 (Compilation Premiere)
HB672: Sheer – Uneasy (Music Video)
HB673: S – Remember Love (Music Video)
HB674: CMJ: Day 2 Review
HB675: CMJ: Day 3 Review
HB676: CMJ: Day 4 Review
HB677: CMJ: Day 5 Review
HB678: CMJ: Day 6 Review
HB679: Watch This: Vol. 100
HB680: CMJ: Day 2 (Pictorial Review)
HB681: CMJ: Day 3 (Pictorial Review)
HB682: CMJ: Day 4 (Pictorial Review)
HB683: CMJ: Day 5 (Pictorial Review)
HB684: CMJ: Day 6 (Pictorial Review)
HB685: Young Jesus – Holy Ghost (Music Video Premiere)
HB686: WASHA – Night/Day (Music Video Premiere)
HB687: Slight – Hate the Summer (Song Premiere)
HB688: Painted Zeros – Only You (Stream)
HB689: Midnight Reruns – Force of Nurture (Album Review, Stream)
HB690: Julien Baker – Sprained Ankle (Music Video)
HB691: CITRIS – Little Scars (Music Video Premiere)
HB692: Adir L.C. – Buyer’s Instinct (Music Video Premiere)
HB693: Watch This: Vol. 101
HB694: Watch This: Vol. 102
HB695: Watch This: Vol. 103
HB696: Watch This: Vol. 104
HB697: Watch This: Vol. 105
HB698: Watch This: Vol. 106
HB699: Watch This: Vol. 107

Nicole Dollanganger – Natural Born Losers (Album Review, Stream)

Nicole Dollanganger

“I shot an angel with my father’s rifle. I should have set it free but I let it bleed.” Those lines open Nicole Dollanganger’s Natural Born Losers, the young songwriter’s fifth full-length (but first for Eerie, an artists’ co-op that was co-founded by Grimes specifically so this record could reach a wider audience), which is comprised of nothing but 2015’s most haunting pop songs. What follows is an examination of life’s darker corners, usually cast in the guise of gripping magic realism and supplemented with consistently breathtaking guitar work. Feedback ripples through these songs like blood, providing some lightly menacing color to their ghostly pallor.

Even with an excess of starkness and grotesque violence, there’s a certain elegance in the songs’ delicate filters. Dollangangers airy vocals at times verge on otherworldly, suffusing an overwhelming sense of doom with a near-paradoxical lightness. Hope is fleeting in Natural Born Losers but Dollanganger’s ability to understand and present the beauty in that bleakness renders it a vital, possibly even essential, record. Only two songs in and stories about how her room’s divided by chalk dolls on one side and guns on the other become just a touch more illuminating and meaningful.

There’s a war that’s constantly being waged in Natural Born Killers and the stakes are never relegated to the background. As the album glides forward, the Molotov cocktail of violence and (deceptive) innocence becomes increasingly bracing, allowing the record’s atmospherics to emerge as a complementary focal point. As swans necks break, cops are baited into violence for the purpose of sexual pleasure, executioners are meticulously observed, Satan gets tempted, and mouths are filled with fresh reptilian blood, Dollanganger hovers over her narratives, exerting terrifying control and indulging a shadowy sensibility that’s, disconcertingly, presented as something approaching hedonism.

All throughout Natural Born Losers, the tempo’s downplayed to a near-whisper, allowing for a strange maximization of both Dollanganger’s dynamics and aesthetics. In the record’s chill-inducing lead-off singles, “Angels of Porn (II)” and “You’re So Cool”, this approach is emphasized to achieve a heightened dramatic effect. In the former, the song builds its way into a wall of sound, driven by snaky guitar lines and a committed vocal performance that contains the verse Natural Born Losers hinges on: “I’d give my body to Satan if I could only keep my soul, but I can’t seem to find the split between them anymore.” The latter elevates the record’s considerable level of tension and cloaks itself in ambiguity and pulls at the threads of what’s good, what’s evil, and what’s preferable without ever offering a clear reconciliation.

It’s that song, “You’re So Good”, that unifies and clearly lays out the major thematic elements of Natural Born Losers while also acting as a strong finale. For a record that’s so committed to its cinematic tendencies, it also makes sense that it might follow the rule of bookending (a technique that, traditionally, is supposed to show how much in a given story has evolved based on the first and final frames). Following that law, Dollanganger brings Natural Born Losers to a conclusion that serves as its most haunting moment: “I see the future and there’s no death. ‘Cause, you and I, we’re angels.”

It’s in that moment where it’s difficult to find any words and best to simply resign to a stunned silence before taking a deep breath, collect a modicum of composure, and hit repeat.

Listen to Natural Born Losers below and order it here.