Heartbreaking Bravery

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Tag: No Joy

Streams of the First Quarter: The Honorable Mentions

Less than a week remains in 2017’s first quarter and the year’s already earned solid representation thanks to a slew of incredible releases. Below this paragraph are links to approximately 500 of the finest songs that the January-to-March period had to offer. A few of which are from widely renowned artists but the vast majority are from the artists who deserve more recognition than they receive.

Now, it’s practically impossible to imagine any one individual is going to sit down and listen to every single one of the songs here but that’s not exactly the purpose of these lists. This, as was the case with the others, is a capsule of a time period that offered up art that was (mostly) lost to the shuffle. It’s a representative account of what was happening behind-the-scenes while this site was in its extended hiatus.

Most importantly, it’s a way to recognize and honor the artists responsible for crafting pieces that both deserved and earned praise, even if it’s in a relatively minor form. This will likely be one of the longest lists of links to ever run on this site and it’s likely best to just click around until something strikes a chord. So, bookmark this page, dive in, and explore what the world’s produced over this first quarter and keep an eye on this site for a few short “best of” posts before Heartbreaking Bravery resumes its regular daily coverage. Enjoy.

NE-HI, Hater (x2), Knife in the Water (x2), Thelma, The Districts, Flasher, Catholic Action, Growl, Happyness, Land of Talk (x2), Canshaker Pi, Baby!, Gold Connections (x2, 3), Jay Som (x2), Go Fever, The Mells, The Chinchees, Aye Nako, Greatest Champion Alive, Diet Cig (x2, 3), High Sunn, Tall Friend (x2, 3), Do Make Say Think, Boss Hog (x2), Fog Lake (x2), Littler, Real Life Buildings (x2), The Proper Ornaments, Alex Napping (x2), Bruising, YURT, Analog Candle (x2), The Courtneys (x2), Wild Pink (x2), Amanda Glasser

Lunch Ladies (x2, 3), B Boys, Molly BurchIdle Bloom, WHY?, Vengeance, Phoebe Bridgers, Kane Strang, Former Bullies, The Spookfish (x2), Dude York (x2), Ben Grigg (x2, 3), Agent blå, Andrew Goldring, Fragrance., Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever, Spiral Stairs (x2), Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy, Guided By Voices (x2), Future Teens, WaydeÀ La Mode, Fraidycat, Robyn Hitchcock (x2), Eric Slick, Terry Malts, Sharkmuffin, Ride, Joan Shelley, PONY, The Coathangers, Juliana Hatfield (x2), Sorority Noise (x2), Slow Caves

No Thank You (x2, 3), Francobollo, Great Profile, Mount Song, Real EstateHawkmoon, Casper Skulls, Century Palm (x2), Deathlist (x2), Rosie Carney, Superorganism, Goldblooms, Day Wave, Wire, Cotillon (x2, 3), Will Johnson (x2), Anti Pony, Personal Best, Mind Rays (x2, 3), Ty Segall (x2, 3), Bonny Doon (x2), Arc Flash (x2), Tobin Sprout, Slowdive, Top Down, Mise en Scene, Thunder Dreamer, Hiccup (x2), Bent Denim, The Molochs, Caitlin Pasko, Cold Beat, Oak House

Mad OnesThe FeeliesWavves (x2), Tonstartssbandht (x2), Those Lavender Whales (x2), Overlake, Winstons, Vagabon, MaganaTrust Fund, Fuzzystar (x2), Baked (x2), Loose Tooth (x2, 3), The Sloppy Heads, The Cairo Gang (x2), Vundabar, Chick Quest (x2), Holy Sheboygan (x2), The Craters, Doug Tuttle, Walter Martin, Nadine Khouri, Holy Now, Vassals, The Obsessives (x2), Orchid Mantis, Thin Lips, Apocalypse, Communions, Olden Yolk, Dion Lunadon, Emperor X, Shadow Band, Richard Edwards, Adna

Bleached (x2), SaltlandTim Kasher (x2), Warm SodaAlyeskaMatthew Squires, You’re Jovian, Little Star, Mothpuppy, Midwives, Monster Movie, Jessica Denison + JonesElijah, Loom, Your Old Droog, Mimi Raver, Smidley, Beachheads, Clap Your Hands Say Yeah (x2), Cesar Ruiz, Leather Can, Woods, The Yugos (x2), Adam Torres (x2), L.A. Witch, David Bazan, Luxury Death (x2), Imaginary Tricks, Strange Lot (x2), Lomelda, Sacred Spirits, Matty Ann, The Hernies, Destrends, ELLA, Adult Mom, Second Still

The Dove & The Wolf, Gang of Youths, Trementina (x2), Good Good Blood, SheerOrchin, Anna Coogan, WALL, Artificial Pleasure, Sera Cahoone, Annie Hardy (x2), Priests, Laura Marling, Yawn Mower (x2), Toby Foster, Wear Your Wounds, The Present Age, The Knitts (x2), Junior Astronomers, No Vacation, Wolf Girl, Peter Bjorn and John, Cassandra Jenkins (x2, 3, 4), A Valley Son (x2), Jons, Sinai Vessel, Yellow Paper Planes, Seven Deaths, Snakehole, Sondre Lerche (x2), Varvara, Karen Elson

Tiger! Shit! Tiger! Tiger!, Wilding, Common MinerDan Misha GoldmanCymbals Eat Guitars, Lost Boy ?, Moon DialThe Birthday Letters, UV-TV, Girl As Wave, Big Surr, Nightlands, Menace Beach, Boytoy, Melby, Dali Vision, Desperate Journalist, Alex G, Knifey, Aquarian Blood, Winstons, High Up, Joshua James, I Am the Polish Army, Feral Ohms, French Vanilla, Bad Breeding, The Octopus Project, Born Without Bones, Laughed The Boy, Jake Xerxes Fussell (x2, 3), Cindy Lee, The Cover Letter, Michael Nau

Lyrie and the Duckies, Vorhees, Blank SquarePatterson Hood, Jon McKiel, Whips, WompsKikagaku Moyo, Brandon Koebs, Surf Dads, LT Wade, Daddy Issues, David Bazan, Matthew Lee Cothran, Jake Clarke, Spur, Loose Buttons (x2), Bilge Rat, Saw Black, Lowly, Jackson Boone, Superchunk, Desert Culture, Julia Lucille, The Darling Buds, Ducks Unlimited, Hoops, Taft Mashburn, Summer Moon, Conifer Vista, My Education, The Wooden Sky, Her’s, Teen Daze, Rubblebucket, Platinum Boys, Jens Lekman, Threefifty

Sam Coffey & The Iron Lungs, Nadia KazmiShelby Earl, Preservation Hall Jazz Band, Circus DevilsFire in the Radio, Half Waif, Metric, Sampha, Deadwall, Ground and Grave, Martin Rev, Craig FinnOiseaux-Tempête, Raj and the 100’s, The Wintyr, TW Walsh, ShitKid, Joel Michael Howard, Evening Darling, FOTR, Pollen Rx, Lillie Mae, Kyle T. Hurley, Hite, Tara Jane O’Neil (x2), Louise Lemón, PalomaStacey, Two Moons, POND, Business of Dreams, Billy Moon, Low Roar, She-Devils, White Reaper, Tiny Vipers

SOFTSPOT, Gorillaz, ROYA, BottlerThe Megaphonic Thrift, Caves, The New PornographersJulie Byrne, BNQT, COTE, Damaged Bug, Railings, Mark Eitzel, Deleter, Code Orange, Goddamnit, Cory Branan, No Joy, Blak Emoji, Tropical Skin Byrds, Empty Lungs, Tomber Lever, Rainbrother, Max Subar, Little Person, Perhapsy, Other Houses, Dehd, Niilo Smeds (x2), Morning Teleportation, The Co Founder, Show Me the Body, Kory Quinn, Tow’rs, Circle, Maria Kelly, Cosima, John Craigie, Holy Motors, Benjamin Booker

Me Not You, Her HarbourHeath Green and the Maksehifters, CodistMatt Maltese, Thurston Moore, Pissed Jeans, Feist, Odd Couple, A Deer A Horse, Cassels, Thad Kopec, Turn to CrimeTorgeir Waldemar, Oyama, Said the Whale, Altar Eagles (x2), Grace Mitchell, Radiator King, Minus the Bear, The Tarantula Waltz, Hiva OaTrès Oui, The Buttertones, Winston Hightower, Crooked Bangs, Los Angeles Police Department, CFM, Diagrams, Boosegumps, Marcus Norberg and the Disappointments

The Nickajack Men, Semi-Attractive Boys, BanditosRachel Kilgour, Broken Field Runner, Residuels, Jim and the French Vanilla, Wooden Wand, Emma Ruth Rundle, Batz, Monograms, Operator Music Band, RF Shannon (x2), LAKE, Ha Ha Tonka, Fufanu, Coast Modern, The Glass Eyes, Keto, Loess, Go By Ocean, Unstoppable Death Machines, Frederick the Younger, Bendigo Fletcher, Meatbodies, The Bingers, Slingshot Dakota, Astro Tan, Football, etc., Planning for Burial, Delafye, Dim Wit, Retail SpaceEmma Gatrill, Gnod, Mark Lanegan Band, and Leon of Athens.

 

 

 

Emily Yacina – A Curse (Music Video)

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As the work week approaches its end, new material finds its way out into the world. This Thursday boasted intriguing new songs from Lina Tullgren, Peter Broderick, TERRY, Reality Something, No Joy, and Alexandra Savior. Moonface and Siinai, Private Victories, Grubby Little Hands, and The Blind Pets all released compelling new music videos. Full streams posted an impressive cast of entries as well, including new records from Soccer Mommy, Mikey Erg, Great Barriers, VHS, and The Dove and the Wolf. While, as ever, all of those are worthy of multiple revisits, it was a music video that slipped through the cracks earlier this week that ultimately wound up with this post’s feature spot.

Emily Yacina has built a career out of reveling in a comforting softness, conjuring up tantalizing beds of sound and enveloping the listener with the blankets. There’s an inherent warmth in her work that becomes effortlessly inviting while simultaneously creating a pull that stems from a deceptive emotional intricacy. The Sophie Savides-directed video for “A Curse” — which is gorgeously lensed by Kelly Jeffrey — capitalizes on all of those elements with an enticing precision.

Opening on a shot of a forlorn Yacina in a bathtub set against a clinically white backdrop, the camera draws closer, slowly pulling us into her world. Two vases of flowers adorn that backdrop, offering signs of life that soon blossom as the perspective switches to Yacina’s POV which reveals that she’s submerged in a milk-like liquid that single flowers populate. Another perspective shift and the flowers are suddenly everywhere, as a wellspring of noises calmly enter into the track.

Yacina captivates throughout, delivering a startlingly poignant performance that speaks to her abilities as both a composer and a performer. As the clip progresses, the sincerity in Yacina’s songwriting grows clearer as she bravely conveys every emotion that carries “A Curse” with a poise that seems effortless. Eventually, the camera pulls back out in a cyclical reveal that underscores the pained loneliness that informs the narrative of “A Curse” in a moment of reserved devastation.

Overall, “A Curse” is a deeply felt, elegant entry into Emily Yacina’s already impressive body of work. Open, honest, and incisive, it’s perfectly demonstrative of what can be achieved with an idea, a strong team, and a wealth of conviction. In that sense alone, it’s inspiring. What makes it worthwhile extends beyond its underpinnings to its execution. “A Curse” is exceptional at every turn and winds up being a definitive portrait of a formidable artist. After a dip into “A Curse”, it’s proving to be nearly impossible to work up the resolve to leave.

Watch “A Curse” below and pick up Soft Stuff here.

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.

Eskimeaux – Broken Necks (Music Video)

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I don’t know how this site has gone 650 posts without ever giving a headline slot to Eskimeaux, whose phenomenal 2015 effort– the coyly titled O.K. has been in near-constant rotation over the course of the past few months.  Gabrielle Smith’s Epoch project has appeared on this site a handful of times and even led off the recently published fall mix. Sooner or later something was bound to crack the feature-less streak and today it arrived in the form of a casually brilliant music video. While the medium did have a fairly strong week, it was the clip for “Broken Necks” that wound up here for reasons that skewed both objective and subjective.

Objectively, it’s a work of technical brilliance from House of Nod, who continue to impress while operating on an exceptionally high tier. Crisp editing (the stop motion is particularly enjoyable), gorgeous visuals, measured pacing, & committed performances all heighten an intentionally loose narrative that capitalizes on the song’s curious exuberance while still carving out space for its inherent bleakness (something that’s punctuated by Smith’s surprisingly capable deadpan moments). Accentuating that whimsicality are the several mini-sequences that play out like gifs, a move that could have proven too twee had it not been effectively balanced out by some astoundingly graceful long shots.

On the subjective side of things, this is a video that illustrates several of the things I love about the place I’ve come to call home for a little over a season. As run-down as it can seem, New York City (and especially Brooklyn) readily facilitates art. It’s evident in everything from the structural layout of the buildings to the graffiti that adorns their walls. For the lack of a better term, there is a strange sort of magic that the area carries, something that’s been heightened by its residents. A lot of the locations that were used in this video have come to have very significant meaning to me and I consider myself fortunate to know a handful of the people involved in the project on both sides of the lens. In that sense, not only does it succeed on its basic functions but it also operates as a living document of a specific place in time.

With all of the reasons listed above infused into one 207-second presentation, “Broken Necks” can’t help but feel (almost excessively) vibrant. It’s the perfect companion piece for O.K.‘s dueling emotional modes and a strong showcase for both Eskimeaux and House of Nod. By virtue of being so thrillingly alive and refreshingly original, “Broken Necks” surpasses merely being notable and draws closer to being unforgettable. A charming and remarkably endearing showcase of wit, composition, and genuine talent, it deserves as many views as possible.

Watch “Broken Necks” below and pick up a copy of O.K. from site favorites Double Double Whammy here. Beneath the music video watch a live performance of the song. Underneath both clips, explore a list of other great music videos to find release this week.

Puppy Problems – Daisy
Hethers – Guiding Light
J Fernandez – Between the Channels
Tuff Sunshine – Dreamin
Magnet School – British Monuments
Dogs In Ecstasy – Do Me Ronnie
Beliefs – 1992
Bully – Too Tough
No Joy – Judith
Ricked Wicky – Poor Substitute
Moby & The Void Pacific Choir – The Light Is Clear In My Eyes
Sarah Bethe Nelson – Fast Moving Clouds
Other Lives – Easy Way Out
Algiers – And When You Fall
Samson the Truest – Afterall
Mal Blum – Robert Frost
Math the Band the Band – Didn’t Have Time to Think
Destruction Unit – Salvation
Idles – The Idles Chant

Sweet John Bloom – Weird Prayer (Album Review, Stream)

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As has been mentioned multiple times over, this site saw a recent shift from standard coverage to specialty coverage thanks to a move. In the few weeks that have passed in that time, a slew of exciting new releases made their way out into the world. One of the finest- and, frankly, most overlooked- was Sweet John Bloom’s fiery Weird Prayer. That record will be the focus of this piece, while a list of 50 excellent full streams to have recently appeared will be included beneath the embedded bandcamp player. Before immediately going there, though, let’s focus on the matter at hand: Sweet John Bloom’s full-length debut.

Formed out of the ashes of several other bands (including Four Eyes, who released one of the best 7″ records in recent memory with Towards the End of Cosmic Loneliness), Sweet John Bloom already had a fairly impressive pedigree out of the gate. It’s not surprising that the band managed to click as tightly as they have, especially considering their respective former bands had all established a familiarity by virtue of shared spaces (bills, scenes, etc.). Even with all of that taken into account, Weird Prayer‘s pure strength still manages to surpass expectations.

A collection of 15 dirtied up, punk-leaning basement pop songs, the record not only succeeds in effortlessly conveying the band’s identity but in coming off as a genuine record; something that’s meant to be heard in full. Naturally sequenced and expertly paced, it’s a considerable achievement for a first at-bat operating with this medium as a collective unit. Each section of Weird Prayer comes off as considered as it does impassioned, rendering the whole thing an invigorating shot of adrenaline. Vocal leads are traded with ease, there’s a killer melody buried in just about every passage, and the flawless production makes sure to include enough bursts of weirdness- like the absolutely stunning outro to “Night Thing”- to keep the whole thing zipping along at a startling clip.

For as willfully rough as Weird Prayer sounds, it’s also a record that’s partially defined by finesse. Deceptively elegant guitar figures play with the limits of restraint even as they’re pushed to the red. The rhythm section work always serves a purpose beyond just simply being a base and the lyricism, while occasionally buried with the vocals in the mix, is frequently poignant. Sweet John Bloom also manage to find as much success experimenting with their more gentle sensibilities as they do when they give in to their desire to be abrasive.

“Blood Moon” sees the band finding the perfect balance between the gentle/abrasive dichotomy and, in the context of the record, the song feels even livelier and massive than it did as a standalone single. It’s one of several songs on the record that go beyond anthemic to the realms of catharsis without ever succumbing to over-simplification. It’s part of why the record never loses an unfailing sense of urgency that goes well beyond most of the songs’ inherent immediacy, which sets up a tall order for Weird Prayer‘s final stretch.

In most cases where an album’s almost exclusively built on raucous barn-burners, the weight eventually builds and the load becomes unsustainable; there’s a reason why rollercoasters don’t extend for hours and why successful action films need exposition. Weird Prayer deals nicely with this by offering a gradual come-down by easing off the gas pedal and utilizing a tempo that creeps in a little under the established average for most of its closing numbers. Even then, Sweet John Bloom don’t cede their penchant for a confrontational aesthetic; the 1-2 punch of “Death; and Everything’s Paid For” and “Trust  Me” feels particularly vital and bristles with a world-conquering energy. Fittingly, “Aging In Place”- the first song to be shared from Weird Prayer– brings everything home in a finale that’s both familiar and intensely rousing; an exhilarating end-cap to one of the year’s finest records.

Pick up Weird Prayer from Tiny Engines here and listen to it by clicking play below. Underneath the bandcamp player, browse 50 other great recent full streams.

Radioactivity – Silent Kill
J Fernandez – Many Levels of Laughter
Fight Amp – Constantly Off
Yukon Blonde – On Blonde
Sissy – Gave Birth To A Mum
Expert Alterations – Expert Alterations
Spray Paint – Punters On A Barge
Ballroom – Ballroom
Bad Boys – Demo
Year of Glad – Year of Glad
Little Children – Travelling Through Darkness
The Fur Coats – Short-Brain
Magic Potion – Melt
Oscar – Beautiful Words
Sea Cycles – Ground & Air
Prinzhorn Dance School – Home Economics
Senpai – Hell In My Head b/w Mind Honey
Arm Candy – Arm Candy
Institue – Catharsis
Chris Weisman – Chaos Isn’t Single
Max Gowan – Big People
Falling Stacks – No Wives
Hints – No Regrets In Old English
No Joy – More Faithful
Pleistocene – Space Trap
Long Neck – Heights
No Friends – I’m Not Real
Marvelous Mark – Bite Me
HDSPNS – HDSPNS
KEN Mode – Success
Walleater – I/II
Sweatshop Boys – Always Polite, Never Happy
Wavves x Cloud Nothings – Wavves x Cloud Nothings
Tough Age – I Get The Feeling Central
Sea of Bees – Build A Boat To The Sun
C H R I S T – T O W E R
Alden Penner – Canada In Space
Teen Daze – Morning World
Fell To Low – Low In The Dust
Palm – Ostrich Vacation
Bully – Feels Like
Bruise – demos.
The Armed – Untitled
Cold Cave – Full Cold Moon
Self Defense Family – Heaven Is Earth
Wild Pink – Good Life
Nicolas Jaar – Nymphs III
Creepoid – Cemetery Highrise Slum
Gnarwhal – Shinerboy
Lady Bones – Dying

Watch This: Vol. 83

While the past week has been, by and large, dedicated to live coverage (a knock-on effect of moving  to a city that hosts multiple shows a night), I’ve still been keeping a wayward eye on both the present release cycle of songs, records, and live captures. It’s the latter category that this post, the 83rd installment of a series that celebrates some of the week’s best live footage, will use as its focus. As usual, there were more than five entries to be considered for a final spot and the clips that didn’t make the cut aren’t worth ignoring, either. So, when you’re done with the feature videos, double back and check out some recently posted performances by Advaeta, Izzy True, Painted Zeros, The Tallest Man On Earth, and Gianna Lauren. Until then, sit back, adjust the lighting to your preference, turn the volume up, lean in, and Watch This.

1. Mikal Cronin – Say (WFUV)

Mikal Cronin, now three records into what’s proving to be an astonishing solo career, has a legitimate claim at being one of this generation’s finest pop songwriters. While MCIII didn’t quite reach the heights of perfection that its immediate predecessor managed but it was compromised of several golden moments, nonetheless. One of those moments came in the form of “Say”, which Cronin and has band dive headfirst into here for WFUV, perfectly capturing that fleeting moment of uncertainty before being consumed by the feelings that accompany any notable dive, jump, or other drastic action.

2. PINS (KEXP)

One of this year’s more intriguing breakout acts, PINS have been making the most out of their newfound attention. They’re delivering at seemingly every opportunity, this KEXP session most certainly included. A jagged band with intriguingly sharp edges, they’ve made no qualms about embracing post-punk’s inherent rawness. In four songs, they manage to fully establish their identity and will more than likely wind up with a few more converts on their hands.

3. Hop Along (NPR)

At this point, Hop Along‘s on this list more often than not and close to all that can be said about their live show has been said in this column already. Here, they get to experiment with stripping back ever so slightly for NPR’s Tiny Desk Sessions series and the results are predictably stunning. Frances Quinlan’s vocals are given even more emphasis but the music’s intrinsically gentle qualities are also given the opportunity to be maximized, capitalizing on a dynamic that suits the band to quiet perfection. As usual, it’s a performance that’s not worth missing.

4. Tica Douglas – All Meanness Be Gone (WMUA)

Joey was one of 2015’s most welcome surprises back when it was released (and maintains that position now). In that record’s penultimate track, “All Meanness Be Gone”, nearly every aspect of Joey‘s identity-intensive narrative is spun together in a tapestry that’s as devastating as it is heartening. WMUA recently had Douglas in for a solo acoustic session that included a heartfelt performance of the song, one of the year’s best, which can (and should) be seen below.

5. No Joy (KEXP)

At this point the heap of bands fighting to distinguish themselves from each other that operate in the middle ground between traditional post-punk and shoegaze is so expansive that it’s nearly impossible. No Joy manage to make it look effortless in a commanding KEXP session that sees them playing songs old and new. Occasionally muddled but never murky, these four songs present No Joy as an unlikely powerhouse who are clearly ready for bigger stages. Heavy, uncompromising, and ultimately exhilarating, it’s both KEXP and No Joy at their absolute finest.

Tenement – Dull Joy (Stream)

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Predatory Highlights. June 2. Doon giovanni Records. We’ll get to all of this shortly but first, a recap, as it’s been some time since the last non-Watch This post ran on this site. Coming up over the next few days will be a run of songs and videos focusing on some of the best of what’s emerged since the start of this month. Each of the highlighted songs will come equipped with no less than 10 others worth hearing in the accompanying post(s). Up first: “Idiot“, an extraordinary laid-back basement pop tune from Dustin Lovelis’ upcoming Dimensions. There was also the The Go! Team’s revitalized, energetic “Ye Ye Yamaha“, Torres’ unpredictably frenetic “Cowboy Guilt” (furthering Sprinter‘s album of the year potential), PINS’ jaunty “Young Girls“, and Blonde Elvis’ fired up powerpop gem “Oh Mary“. To top everything off there was Fraternal Twins’ slow-burning “Skin Gets Hot“, The Japanese House’s hypnotic “Sister“, KEN Mode’s furious “These Tight Jeans“, No Joy’s hazy “Moon In My Mouth“, and The Lagoonas’ fiery basement punk gut-punch, “Color Spectrum“. While, as always, every single one of these tracks is worthy of a high investment level, the headline goes to a band that’s now intrinsically tied to this site: Tenement.

Before diving into the dissection of yesterday’s big news surrounding the band’s upcoming release, it’s worth noting (on a very personal level) that in my time writing, few things have meant more to me than being able to contribute a piece for the zine insert that came equipped with Bruised Music: Volume 1, the band’s collection of earlier material that came out last month. Tenement are a band that have meant varying degrees to various people but they’ve managed to affect my life for what’s nearing ten years through both their music and their continued kindness. I grew up alongside their progression and they’re directly responsible for introducing me to the greater DIY scene that this site was built to celebrate (which is a space that may not even exist without that influence). They’re the first band I can remember booking and they’re a band I’ve been referring to as “Wisconsin’s best band” since the first time I saw them live- so, naturally, their upcoming record’s been one I’ve been tracking closely. Yesterday, the trio blew the lid off of that record- which has been meticulously shaped over the course of the past three years- via a typically incredible AV Club premiere that came loaded with details.

Predatory Highlights will be released on June 2 via the band’s (relatively) new home, the increasingly vaunted Don Giovanni Records. It will be a double-album. It’s set to contain both the band’s towering pop sensibilities that Napalm Dream zeroed in on while also accentuating the curious experiments that provided Blind Wink with an immediate cult classic aesthetic. In short, Predatory Highlights will be the band’s most ambitious- and most visible- release to date. Kicking off its campaign with a track as immensely accessible as “Dull Joy” is a brilliant strategic move as it encapsulates the band’s most immediate elements while hinting at the stranger terrain they’re capable of covering. As much as ever, guitarist/vocalist Amos Pitsch is in fine form both lyrically and musically- the song structure’s bold, the chord progressions are thrillingly inventive, and the lyric copy still reads like classic, downtrodden Americana.

While most of it will strike listeners who are familiar with the band as vintage Tenement, they still find room for a curveball- and that moment provides “Dull Joy” it’s most exhilarating moment. After the band locks into its standard basement pop/hardcore/power punk groove, they launch into a bridge that goes into full-blown r&b/pop mode, complete with falsetto. For any other band, a moment that conventional would seem rote but here, it adds a new dimension to the band’s already staggering depth. Accentuating the impact of Pitsch’s characteristically brilliant turn-in is yet another formidable display of intuitive talent from the band’s rhythm section- bassist Jesse Ponkamo and drummer Eric Mayer- which remains one of the best currently operating. Everything comes together on “Dull Joy” to not only prove that Tenement’s continuously raising their own otherwise unreachable bar but that they’ve also still got plenty of tricks up their sleeves. It may still be early and this may be the very first glimpse of Predatory Highlight but I don’t think I’m alone in thinking that Tenement could have a future classic on their hands with what looks to be a monumental release. If it doesn’t wind up near the very top of this site’s Albums of the Year list when December rolls around, no one will be more surprised than me.

Listen to “Dull Joy” below and pre-order Predatory Highlights from Don Giovanni here.

Downies – Widow (Stream)

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Photo by Seth Applebaum

For a while now, I’ve been teasing Heartbreaking Bravery’s brief transition to full-blown catch-up mode. And, well, that time has come. Each of the ensuing posts will contain so much more than just the song, video, or album in the headline. Single songs will each come equipped with a list of 75 other great tunes to have appeared in 2015. A new music video mixtape will be arriving shortly as well as several other mixtapes to re-ignite the Watch This series, which time dictated be temporarily relegated to the sidelines. A lot of things will be heading in a lot of directions in the coming months so coverage may be sporadic but I will be damned if I let this site out of my thoughts and intentions for even a second.

With all of that noted, it’s time to get back to what drives this site’s existence: legitimately great art propelled by a DIY ethos. A lot of incredible music has emerged over the past several weeks with gems arriving every day (extremely recent company includes Eskimeaux, Sharpless, Flagland, Flyying Colours, Mitski, Upset, and so many more) so selecting one to feature has become an unenviable task- but sometimes history makes it easy. I was fortunate enough to hear some roughs of a band called Downies towards the start of the year and it immediately became one of my favorite releases, something that came as no surprise considering the group’s pedigree (I’ve yet to come across a LVL UP-affiliated project that I dislike, which can also be said of Porches.). Pushing things over the edge was the fact that Downies came off like a version of Purple 7 that was even more pop-happy but sacrificed none of that band’s considerable punch.

That exhilarating dynamic is perhaps most present in “Widow”, the band’s recently-unveiled warning shot. On its surface, it’s a frantically paced gut-punch that’s forceful enough to stop just about anyone in their tracks. Live, it’s a firecracker that seems hell-bent on total destruction. Stripped back to its bare essentials, it’s a song driven by a troubled subtext that’s directly hinted at in the title. Even setting aside the dissections of its particulars, “Widow” is a staggering show of force from a band that deserves to be ushered in with a high level of excitement.

Listen to “Widow” below and keep an eye on this site for continuing coverage of the band and the upcoming EP that houses this song. Beneath that is a list of 75 incredible songs that I wish I could attribute more words to, as they truly deserve to be held in praise, but- at this point- there’s simply too many items that have amassed. Soon, the site will be caught up and current releases will be accounted for as they enter the fold. For now, enjoy “Widow” and a long list of treasures.

NEEDS – Rescue Don
Walleater – Swallow You
Turn To Crime – Without A Care
Built to Spill – Never Be the Same
Thin Lips – Nothing Weird
Hollow Sunshine – Careful Travel
Toro Y Moi – Run Baby Run
Dutch Uncles – Realm
Cillie Barnes – Earthquake Season at the Crystal Convention
No Joy – Everything New
Inheaven – Regeneration
Crying – Patriot
Torres – Sprinter
Hop Along – Powerful Man
Ronnie Stone & The Lonely Riders – Kiss the Daddy
Dolores Haze – I Got My Gun
The Teen Age – Low Cunning
Funeral Advantage – I Know Him
Shadow Age – Silaluk
YAST – When You’re Around
Mittenfields – Optimists
Coeds – Sensitive Boys
PJ Bond – The Better Option
Pfarmers – The Ol’ River Gang
Round Eye – City Livin’
Val Son – Sundays
Lowin – Best Laid Plans
Alright – Watercolors
The Midwestern Charm – Can’t Stand It
The Bloodhounds – La Coahuila
Broken Water – Wasted
Trans Van Santos – The Flight
Weed – Yr Songs
Elliot Moss – Best Light
Girls Names – Zero Triptych
Communions – Out of My World
Two Sheds – Get It Out
Free Cake For Every Creature – The Day To Day
Elvis Perkins (ft. Alec Ounsworth) – Mexican Ritual
Loose Tooth – Pickwick Average
Barbazons – Bad Catholics
Eternal Summers – Together Or Alone
Someone Still Loves You Boris Yeltsin – Step Brother City
Mall Walk – Container
Verses Narrow – Passive
Nevada Nevada – Anger Tango
Annabel – Everything
Triumph of the Wild – Brown Dog Blues
Mitski – Square (Live Solo Piano)
Chick Quest – Somebody Call A Doctor
Downtown Boys – Future Police
Honey Butter (ft. Chris Savor) – Times
Tanlines – Invisible Ways
Heaters – Mean Green
Warm Soda – I Wanna Go Fast
Diamond Youth – Thought I Had It Right
LA Font – Whisperer
Palma Violets – English Tongue
Prinzhorn Dance School – Reign
FFS – Piss Off
Avid Dancer – Not Far To Go
Cheatahs – Murasaki
Jaga Jazzist – Starfire
Flyying Colours – Running Late
Eskimeaux – I Admit I’m Scared
Sharpless – Franz Kafka (Home Movies)
Flagland – Awesome Song, Kerry Jan
Tomboy – Tomboy Anthem
The Moi Non Plus – Away With Words
Upset – Glass Ceiling
Panther Ray – Get to You
The Weaks – Frances Quinlan Will Have Her Revenge on Philadelphia
Ka – Pruitt Igoe
Dogs On Acid – Substitute (The Who)
Creepoid – American Smile