Heartbreaking Bravery

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Tag: Nils Frahm

Young Jesus – Void As Lob (Single Review, Live Video)

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Wednesday proved to be exceptionally busy and just as fruitful, unloading a whole host of excellent material in all three major categories. For single songs, there were strong new offerings from Leapling, Dories, Feels, Dogbreth, Vacation, Nils Frahm, Big Jesus, Broncho, No Joy, Haux, Iji, American Monoxide, Look Mexico, Jenny Hval, Cedar Spring MotelThee Oh Sees, and VHS. As if that wasn’t enough there were also great clips from Honus Honus, Dentist, and Cloud Becomes Your Hand as well as impressive full streams from Clique, Karen Meat, and New England Beach Snobs.

All of those titles are worthy of healthy investment but it was a single release from last week that slipped through the coverage cracks to earn today’s feature spot. Occasionally those gaps in coverage are caused by a clerical error, occasionally they’re caused by the wait for an announcement, sometimes (like in the case of this post), it’s a little bit of both. Last week Young Jesus released their latest single, Void As Lob, which pairs live staple “Baked Goods” with the more stream-of-conscious “Hinges”. Earlier today, they announced their Wisconsin date for their tour with fellow site favorites POPE, providing a perfect opportunity to bring up their latest release.

Void As Lob is the band’s first single since last year’s Grow/Decompose, which rightfully earned a place in this site’s Best Albums of 2015 list. The new single continues an astonishing winning streak that started with their breakout effort, Home (which remains a very real Album of the Decade candidate) , and has spanned four years, a cross-country move, a lineup shift, several tours, and an unpredictable rollercoaster of other peaks and valleys. “Baked Goods” and “Hinges”, in that respect, could have easily served as a victory lap but opt for a more challenging approach that makes it abundantly clear that Young Jesus is committed to perpetual growth.

The band’s guitarist/vocalist and principal songwriter (and A Year’s Worth of Memories contributor) John Rossiter revealed that both “Baked Goods” and “Hinges” were the most personal he’s allowed himself to be in his songwriting in some time and that honesty’s evidenced and enhanced by his impassioned delivery, which cuts a touch more sharply than usual.

“Baked Goods” opens up the two-song collection with a narrative that invokes characters from the band’s past as it looks to the future, flashing a renewed emphasis on obtuse storytelling that’s punctuated by acute detail. Musically, it’s a sprawling odyssey that complements the song’s thematic structure to a tee, playing perfectly into Young Jesus’ penchant to defy genres with an instrumental tapestry that pulls from enough sources to sound legitimately singular.

“Hinges” sees the band continuing on in that function, only this time opting to scale back Rossiter’s songwriting flourishes in favor of something more unflinchingly immediate and bravely direct. After a somber piano figure opens the song, “Hinges” evolves into one of the band’s most impressive songs to date. Quiet and heartbreaking, “Hinges” hits its culmination with one simple line: I am ashamed to believe in myself. It’s a line that hits with enough blunt force to knock the wind out of just about anyone, all at once amplifying a host of darkly intimate moments.

As Void As Lob dies out in “Hinges” final moments, which exclusively focus on personal disintegration, the entire release feels like its much more than just two songs. In just over nine minutes, Young Jesus issue a searing statement of intent. Now that they’re firmly settled into their current iteration in their current home, they’re ready to look forward to the future, even if that requires tearing themselves apart. It’s a bold gambit but they’re talented enough to exercise total control and that control pays off beautifully. Void As Lob may only be comprised of two songs but it confidently stands as one of the most exquisite releases of 2016.

Listen to Void As Lob below and pick it up from the band here. Below the bandcamp embed, watch a live clip of the band performing “Baked Goods” last fall.

Watch This: Vol. 95

Over the past few weeks, this site hasn’t been keeping its daily update regimen due to ongoing business largely unrelated to the site. While there may not be immediate posts, the content is still being collected as it appears. A handful of catch-up posts will be running on the site tonight and tomorrow starting with this slightly belated installment of Watch This, which runs on Sunday and celebrates the best performance captures to have been released in the given week. Two weeks ago this collection was a more subdued, low-key affair than usual and some of that’s carried over to this entry. Considering the advent of fall, it almost feels appropriate that the bulk of the standout performances find themselves locked into an autumnal mode. Only one of the videos featured today is a full, electric band while the rest are solo performances that carry a considerable amount of weight. All of them are worth a high degree of investment. So, as always, lean back, adjust the screen, set the volume, focus up, and Watch This.

1. Izzy True – Absolute Troll (Don Giovanni)

Once again, Watch This finds itself kicking off with an Izzy True clip that comes courtesy of Don Giovanni. Isabel Reidy’s solo project conjured up a very subtle kind of beauty on this year’s outstanding Troll, the young songwriters arrival-at-large. Proving once again to be a commanding presence, Reidy delivers a fierce performance of the EP’s almost-titular track, providing enough artistic flourish to render the performance deeply compelling.

2. Nils Frahm – 4’33” (John Cage Cover Version) (Pitchfork)

“4’33″” is one of the most divisive pieces of music in history. Conceived by John Cage as a commentary on the nature of silence and the human inability to ever fully experience it at its purest state, it’s measures consisted of nothing but rests. Nils Frahm, an accomplished ambient figurehead, took the crux of Cage’s piece and expanded on it in a piece that functions more as a rumination or homage than it does as a straight cover. Unsurprisingly, it’s elegiac, sincere, and more than a little stunning.

3. Craig Finn (KEXP)

Throughout the years, Craig Finn’s won accolades and legions of fans for his work in The Hold Steady and (the still vastly under-appreciated) Lifter Puller. More recently, he’s stepped out on his own as a solo artist, offering up largely acoustic works that zero in on his recent work’s inherent tenderness. Warm and rustic, this quartet of songs feels like a collection of devotionals; Finn’s offering up personal prayers in the dressings of song. Unflinchingly honest and completely uninhibited, this session’s a perfect example of a songwriter whose found completely comfort in their own voice.

4. Beach Slang – Get Lost (Cozy Couch Sessions)

Few bands have made as immediate of an impression as Beach Slang managed to with their first few releases. Drawing deserved comparisons to acts like The Replacements tend to achieve those kinds of results and that particular influence hasn’t ever shown as strong as it does here, in a solo acoustic rendition of “Get Lost”. Rough in all the right places, the whiskey-soaked ballad takes on a broken new life where the cracks grow deeper and the uncertainty stretches out towards eternity- and Cozy Couch affectionately captures its bruised heartbeat with a startling amount of empathy.

5. Ought – Men For Miles (3voor12)

Over the past year or so, this site’s written a lot about Ought, who are currently celebrating the release of a strong sophomore effort, Sun Coming Down. One of the record’s fiercest highlights is the insistent “Men For Miles”, which 3voor12 captured the band performing at Into the Great Wide Open. Operating with all of their typical wiry verve intact, the quartet also delivers a blistering take on their kinetic, melancholic “Passionate Turn”- another one of Sun Coming Down‘s more triumphant moments. Played back-to-back with an uncommon level of passion, the two-song take is enough to cement the band’s status as one of today’s most electric live acts.