Heartbreaking Bravery

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Tag: no

Seven Weeks, Ten Records

Before this week began, it’d been seven weeks since any of this site’s regular coverage had appeared. The first stretch of this week will be dedicated to amending the outstanding material that went uncovered in the interim, while the latter part of the week will feature the present week’s finest offerings. Below are ten standout records to have been released over the long hiatus, from EPs to compilations to full-lengths. There’s a whole host of incredible material shared between these ten records so stop hesitating and just dive straight into this post’s overflowing heart. Enjoy.

Great Grandpa – Plastic Cough 

Expert Eraser“, “Fade“, and “Teen Challenge” all earned feature slots on this site in the lead-up to Plastic Cough‘s release, each one suggesting a seemingly inevitable reality: Great Grandpa throwing their hat into the ring of genuine Album of the Year contenders. The day finally came, Plastic Cough was released, and that inevitability proved to be no joke. Plastic Cough is an absolutely ferocious record, gnashing its teeth at every hairpin turn and gloriously bombastic moment, only pausing to breathe on the gorgeous “Faithful”, a perfectly placed slow-burner that rounds the record out in breathtaking fashion. Plastic Cough is the kind of thrill ride that makes a mark deep enough to last.

Slaughter Beach, Dog – Motorcycle.jpg

Jake Ewald may get the most recognition for his work in Modern Baseball but what the songwriter’s accomplished in Slaughter Beach, Dog is equally — if not even more — compelling. Having already accumulated an incredibly rich and surprisingly expansive sound over the course of a full-length and an EP, Motorcyle.jpg finds Ewald leaning even more confidently into the battered folk trappings that heightened those first two releases. Motorcycle.jpg also skews a little more lo-fi and at times recalls Yankee Bluff, each poignantly bruised track vastly exceeding the aesthetics perceived limitations. It’s another impressive work from a musician worth watching.

Little Star – July Demos

Another one of the acts positioning Good Cheer Records as one of the finest upstart labels, Little Star has managed to turn a lot of heads in recent times, thanks to two sterling full-lengths. The project’s showing no signs of slowing down, even going so far as to release a small collection of demos last month, aptly entitled July Demos. The band’s earned comparisons to legendary acts (Big Star, unsurprisingly, one of the most popular among them) and it’s not difficult to see why those comparisons are being made, even from this small smattering of tracks. All four of the songs on display here are sharply written songs that convey a great deal of emotion in their quiet restraint. Spellbinding work.

Katie Ellen – Cowgirl Blues

Chumped may have been Katie Ellen‘s earliest claim to some modicum of fame but the songwriter’s not being reduced to the ashes left in the wake of that band’s departure, instead opting to venture out on an already promising solo career. Cowgirl Blues is Ellen’s first statement and it’s a bold one. The first two and a half minutes of opening track “Drawing Room” are comprised entirely of extremely light ambient noise, clean guitar, and vocals, as if Ellen is reasserting an individual identity. It’s a deeply effective moment that sets the tone for a record that’s not afraid to show off its bruises, scars, or self-awareness. Front to back, it’s one of the summer’s most captivating listens.

Milked – Death On Mars

Kelly Johnson is the songwriter spearheading Milked, graciously returning to the fold after Geronimo! took their final bow. For anyone who was concerned Johnson would step away from the eccentricities and unpredictable eclecticism that made Geronimo! so fascinating, put aside those fears for good. Death on Mars is as gleefully unwieldy and feral as Geronimo! at their fiercest (undoubtedly helped along by the drumming of Geronimo! bandmate Matt Schwerin). Death On Mars is a towering work that’s not afraid to embrace catharsis or melody even as it careens wildly from song to song, touching on everything from powerpop to hardcore along the way. An absolute triumph of a return.

Midwives – No

No will be the last record Midwives — who appeared in this site’s Best EP’s list in 2013 and 2015 and whose self-titled 7″ was one of the first reviews this site ever ran — will release. While it’s a shame that one of the upper Midwest’s best hardcore bands will be disappearing into the ether, at the very least they managed to go out on top: No is a culmination of everything the group’s accomplished since starting up nearly five years ago. It’s a growling, spitting, snarling beast of a record, unafraid to take prisoners in its sub-18 minute run-time. Bruising and feral, it’s only fitting that such a proudly deranged band would go out kicking, baring its threatening fangs all the while.

Dream Ritual – Summer Promo

Sometimes all it takes for a band to take off is three songs, which is exactly what Dream Ritual‘s offering on Summer Promo, a blistering post-punk EP that doesn’t leave any room for filler. Echoing everyone from Shellac to METZ and everyone in between, Dream Ritual manages to carve out their own distinct identity. “Noise”, “Oil & Canvas”, & “Sunlight Girl” all perfectly marry elements of modern day noise-punk with some of the genre’s earliest defining elements. Whether it’s the metallic-like production or the infusion of pop-leaning melody, it’s clear that Dream Ritual are students of the genre. Thankfully for us, their learning has resulted in one of the summer’s strongest EP’s.

Mike Krol – Mike Krol Is Never Dead: The First Two Records

A few years ago, this site named Mike Krol‘s Turkey one of the best records of 2015 and heavily praised the songwriter’s infectiously joyous live show. Krol had gained notoriety thanks to the cult following that he’d accumulated due to his first two records, Trust Fund and I Hate Jazz, both of which were long out of print by the time Merge announced Krol’s signing and released Turkey. Fortunately, for everyone, Merge has come to the rescue and reissued both of those seminal classics (this according to essentially anyone that owns either) and packaged them with all of the demos for each session. The whole thing’s an exhilarating look at an exhilarating artist and should be considered essential listening for fans of the basement pop genre.

Tunnel Traffic – MEESH

Tunnel Traffic’s MEESH occupies a space that’s always memorable: the record arrived from the artist via unsolicited submission and proceeded to impress at every turn. From opener “Lesson Learned” to the closing “Memorial”, this small release from Adam Hachey’s solo project made a sizable impression. Softer and a little sweeter than expected, MEESH is chock-full of mid-tempo folk-leaning numbers that expand the bedroom pop genre into something faintly unfamiliar. It’s quiet, it’s intimate, it’s unassuming, and it’s utterly spectacular. MEESH weaves an unbreakable trance over its listeners and commands their attention through a narrative journey that feels both direct and cerebral. It’s an incredible accomplishment from a songwriter whose work all but demands to be followed.

Waxahatchee – Out in the Storm (Deluxe Version)

Throughout work with WaxahatcheeP.S. Eliot, Bad Banana, and Great Thunder as well as through a variety of guest roles Katie Crutchfield has become a household name for a very particular sect of people, broadening that base with each successive release. Crutchfield’s latest comes via the Waxahatchee moniker, Out in the Storm. Everything that Waxahatchee has released to date has stood the test of time and remained as impressive — if not more so — as it was at the time of its release. Out in the Storm feels like Crutchfield’s reached another level entirely, combining more than a decade’s worth of knowledge, experience, and style into a mesmerizing, cohesive whole. A career high point for Crutchfield and easily one of the best records of 2017, Out in the Storm‘s definitive version also comes package with the demos for each song on the record, all of which are — like the record itself — well worth hearing.

A Month’s Worth of Music Videos Worth Watching

Songs weren’t the only category absolutely lousy with gems over the past six or seven weeks. In that same time span, a whole host of outstanding music videos made their way into the world, from old favorites, unfamiliar faces, and just about everyone in between. Below is a compilation of some of the most impressive of those offerings. A few more will be featured in some capacity shortly but for now, enjoy the treasure trove of links below. Dive in and swim around a little, there are a lot of great surprises to discover.

Great Grandpa, Sloan Peterson, Pinact, Zuli, Littler, Dearly Beloved, Tashaki Miyaki, Amy O, Kane Strang, Juiceboxxx, Tall Friend, Peach PyramidSiobhan Wilson, Mattiel, Absolutely Not, Jessica Lea Mayfield, Kevin Devine, Widowspeak, Alvvays, Caroline Says, Waxahatchee, Sam Patch, Milked, Mister Heavenly, Mise en Scene, Yi, Japanese Breakfast, The Lonely Biscuits, Spencer Radcliffe & Everyone Else, New Swears, Lee Ranaldo, Big Hush, Melkbelly, MRYGLD, Phoebe Bridgers, Wilder Maker.

James Elkington, Wolf Parade, Aaron D’Alesio, Dave Depper, Sharkmuffin, Cloakroom (x2), Emily Rockarts, Post Lovers, Pkew Pkew Pkew (x2), Torres, Broken Social Scene, Captain We’re Sinking, Secret Crush, Stars, Le Mutant, Oxbow, Laura Carbone, Hamell On Trial, Ha Ha Tonka, OHMME, Grim Streaker, Cody & Danz, Little Junior, Grey Gersten, Chad VanGaalen, Guerilla Toss, Dutch Uncles, Birds, Froth, The Van T’s, RYAN Playground, The Mynabirds, A Giant DogMÄRVEL, Fits, Walrus.

Beach Fossils, Mount Kimbie, Dylan Lancaster, Courtney Marie Andrews, Korey Dane, Fassine, The Savage Radley, Tamino, EMA, Francobollo, Elle Mary & The Bad Men, Wand, Hero FisherCymbals Eat Guitars, Playboy Manbaby, Cotillon, Moses Sumney, The Gift of Gab, Rainbrother, Sheer Mag, The Vacationists, The Broken Hearts, Wild Honey, Auction for the Promise Club, Alice Limoges, Flood Coats, Hammydown, football, etc., Camp Cope, Joy Downer, tunic, Manchester Orchestra, Men I Trust, Oshwa.

Gracie and Rachel, Us and Us Only, Black Kids, Club Night, Angelo De Augustine, Ritual Talk, Algiers, The New Respects, Wieuca, Alex Lahey, Passion Pusher, Steelism, Tattoo Money, Ross Goldstein, Andy Gabbard, Grandbrothers, and a whole series from Raj and the 100’s.

Ghost Gum – More (Stream)

ghost gum

Occasionally, there are days that underwhelm in terms of new releases. Then there are days like today, which churn out more than a dozen legitimate contenders for the headline slot and serve as reminders that we’re currently living in the best (and most accessible) time for new releases. There were incredible songs from Jack (who came a hair’s breadth away from getting a standalone post), Eric Slick, Lost Boy ?, Eyes of Love, Johanna Warren, Soft Candy, No One Mind, Peaer, Diners, Chris Farren, M. Lockwood Porter, Seeing Hands, Nots, Oldermost, Sex Stains, SubRosa, Lambchop, The Minders, Elijah Ford, Sports, and an outstanding one-off cover from site favorite Mo Troper.

Several music videos made an impressive impression as well, including new entries from the camps of Sunflower Bean, Dust From 1000 Yrs, Death Valley Girls, Uni Ika Ai, Silent Pictures, Le Boom, EL VY, WatskyAmber Arcades, and Chris Staples. Tying everything together were the full streams that were unveiled by Pleistocene, Earth Girls, Kindling, Katie Dey, Ant’lrd, and Lié.  In terms of quality, it matched an above-average week’s worth of material. Topping it all off is “More”, a near-perfect new track from Ghost Gum.

After turning some heads last year with “Again“, their contribution to a loaded 4-way split (Loose Tooth, Clique, and Mumblr rounded out the release), the quartet’s returned with a vengeance. “More” comes loaded with hooks, exhilarating moments, and genuine feeling. At every turn, the song provides something fascinating, from the tremolo picking that sets the tone of “More” to the rapid-fire hi-hat pattern to the earworm-ready bass line and guitar riff that kick the track into the fifth gear.

In less than three minutes, Ghost Gum offer a masterclass in dynamic structure, getting the most mileage possible out of a soaring chorus, a searing solo, and a compellingly muted verse that keeps everything grounded and breathes in some fractured humanity. Some aching backing vocals enhance the song’s half-haunted atmosphere to great effect and everything clicks in ways that both satisfy and induce genuine excitement.

When everything’s through, “More” stands as a song that not only lives up to the promise of its title but redefines that very same title as a winking understanding of how listeners should be feeling upon hearing the song’s final notes. Explosive without being bombastic and contemplative without dipping into tedium, “More” is a sharply crafted piece of work from a band that’s been continuously bettering themselves with each successive release. If the rest of their forthcoming release, The Past, The Future, Dwelling There Like Space, is anywhere near this good, it’ll be among the strongest releases of the year.

Listen to “More” below and download it here.

Lower – Bastard Tactics (Music Video)

Lower’s Walk On Heads was one of the more exhilarating debuts of recent memory. That EP was a force to be reckoned with and caught the ears of Matador, who wasted no time in signing the Copenhagen band. They’re all gearing up for the release of Seek Warmer Climes, the Copenhagen band’s first full-length. It’s mostly stayed shrouded in mystery, with neither label or band offering much in the way of previews- until today. We now have a song and an accompanying studio video of the band performing “Bastard Tactics”, which features a more focused take on their downtrodden post-punk. “Bastard Tactics” is enough on its own to ensure expectations for Seek Warmer Climes remain very, very high. With Matador acting as the outlet it’ll be released on, it’s also positioned nicely as another important step for the increasing number of hardcore-leaning bands on the DIY circuit playing music this jagged and drowsy. Expect to be seeing a lot more press surrounding this quasi-revival soon- and expect Lower to join Iceage at the forefront of it all.