Heartbreaking Bravery

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Tag: Noah Bowman

2015: A Year’s Worth of Memories (Jessi Frick)

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Few people have had as direct of an effect on this site’s coverage as Jessi Frick and the work she does with Father/Daughter Records. For the past few years we’ve been locked in a never-ending battle of vocal support and have frequently fought on behalf of the same bands and records. She’s seen me at my most enthusiastic (the Northside showcase), my most exhausted (the CMJ showcase), and a few stops along the way. Always an inspiration and a source of strange comfort, she’s fiercely protective of the artists on her label and the people she loves (for example: every artist on her label). With that in mind, it’s probably unsurprising that for her piece as a returning contributor to A Year’s Worth of Memories focuses on an act that meets that criteria. Here, she talks about the enormous impact one band had on her 2015. Read it below and then find a way to celebrate the family you’ve built.

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2015: Year of the Cig

When you run a record label, it’s essentially like being the matriarch (in my case) of a big ass family. You love your children equally for their enduring and sometimes unique qualities, and are always there to love and nurture them as well as disciplining them when they get out of line. Their lives are my life and my life is their life and together we are a wildly dysfunctional congregation of misfits.

In late 2014 I received an email from Dean Engle, a musician whose work I highly admire. In the email he tipped me off to a band from his hometown of New Paltz, NY called Diet Cig. I clicked the link. It took all of five seconds for me to fall helplessly in love with them. I needed this band in my life. It turned out their personalities nearly outshone their music — Alex & Noah immediately became the ying to my yang. They are everything I wanted to be and do when I was in my early 20’s. They are spontaneous and reckless and FUN.

Luckily, they welcomed me into their world, thus kicking off what was to be the most insane year in the history of this label. Everyone went ballistic and it was the ultimate. Diet Cig are a band that literally leaves it all out on the stage. They work hard for you have the best time of your life. Offstage, Noah and Alex are caring, dedicated people who are a joy to be in the same space with.

Now, a year later, we talk almost every single day. When I don’t hear from them in over 48 hours, I get nervous like a mom. I literally can’t imagine a time in my life when we weren’t best buds. Basically 2015 was the best.

-Jessi Frick

15 of ’15: The Best EP’s of 2015

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Now that all the visual retrospectives are out of the way and the best live videos have been accounted for, it’s time to move onto the records in earnest. Over the course of the next several days there will be “best of” lists for the following categories: music videos, odds and ends (demos, 7″ records, compilations, etc.), songs, and albums. There will also be an Honorable Mentions devotion that covers a massive array of material from the majority of those categories. Following those lists will be the second installment of the A Year’s Worth of Memories series, which will once again feature a murderer’s row of contributors that have been pulled from both the music and film worlds.

For now, we’re turning our attention to the EP’s that made the most formidable impressions over the course of the past 12 months. Well over 100 titles were considered and then boiled down to the 15 that you see below (this was such a strong year for EP’s that the top 5 are essentially interchangeable). Before delving into those titles, it’s worth noting that “best” in the case– as it is in all cases– is just a meaningless formality and the list below is a reflection of subjectivity. I make no claim to be an authoritative voice in these matters, just a person that genuinely enjoys music and uses a platform as a means to attempt to elevate some of the acts that truly deserve to have their names in greater circulation. So, without further ado, here’s 15 of ’15: The Best EP’s of 2015.

15. Idle Bloom – Some Paranoia

Sometimes all you need to do is offer to help carry equipment to be introduced to incredible new bands, which is exactly how I met Callan Dwan, who I would come to learn is not only Mitski’s guitarist but one of the guitarists for two other acts as well: Dogtooth and Idle Bloom. The latter– a shoegaze-obsessed post-punk act (or is it the other way around?)– recently released their Some Paranoia EP, which stealthily builds its momentum in a clever, multifaceted way; not only do the majority of the songs work their way into a cacophonous frenzy but so does the EP as a whole. It’s an exhilarating listen from a promising emerging act and boasts one of the year’s best riffs.

14. ThinLips – Your Divorce

An extraordinary opening track can do wonders for any release. An effective opening track will set a precedent and a tone for the ensuing material on the record. Your Divorce‘s opener “Nothing Weird” is both effective and extraordinary. Brandishing a compellingly damaged form of lo-fi leaning pop-punk, ThinLips crafted a vicious, compact stunner of an EP that comes across like a warning shot. In a genre that’s increasingly weakened by diminishing returns from the artists utilizing reverential approach, it’s heartening to see the more subversive acts releasing material that feels genuinely vital.

13. Bad Wig – Bad Wig

Before Bad Wig was Bad Wig, they were The Midwestern Charm, an act that worked their way from a sound that fell closer in line to Ryan Adams to crafting a record that fit better alongside the likes of The Lemonheads. A few member changes and stylistic shifts later, they’d carved out a new identity under their new name. Their introductory act is ferociously ragged and maybe even a little audacious. Most everything else there is to be said about this brilliant collection of punk-tinged micro-pop gems can was covered in last week’s review.

12. Potty Mouth – Potty Mouth

A lot of bands found surprisingly bold ways to shift their sound but none caught me as off-guard as Potty Mouth‘s fearless swan dive into the polished, arena-ready sounds of their self-titled EP. Opening with the skyward stretching of “Cherry Picking” and only building momentum from there, Potty Mouth could very easily signal a new era for a band that was formerly known for reveling in their scrappier tendencies. Every song on the EP connects with a staggering amount of force, nicely correlating with the self-possessed determination found at the root of nearly every song in this collection. Potty Mouth is the kind of rallying call that echoes.

11. Midwives – Cowboy Songs

After releasing a fierce full-length debut back in February, Midwives managed to top themselves as the year was drawing to a close. The shockingly immediate Cowboy Songs dishes out punishment at a startling rate and bristles with real emotion. Things kick off with the vicious “Back in the Saddle” and never look back from there, each subsequent song in this seven and a half minute collection of deranged hardcore acting as a flawless showcase of the band’s brute strength. Cowboy Songs is filled to the brim with the kind of hardcore that thrashes around wildly and refuses to be tamed.

10. Geronimo! – Buzz Yr Girlfriend: Vol. 4 – Why Did You Leave Me?

While a lot of people were justifiably saddened over the losses of Ovlov and Krill, it may have been the departure of Geronimo! that hit hardest. Granted, for the vast majority of my life, they were easily the closest to my location of that trio but the sentiment remains. At the very least, the trio went out on top with their final bow: Buzz Yr Girlfriend: Vol. 4 – Why Did You Leave Me?. Characteristically unwieldy, the band’s final three songs ranked among the best work of a deeply impressive career, each (justifiably) landing a premiere at a massive publication. Fitting levels of recognition for an overwhelmingly powerful final effort.

9. Teksti-TV 666 – 2

One of the biggest surprises of the year for me personally, this blistering EP from Finnish act Teksti-TV 666 practically qualifies as an album by today’s standards (its runtime is over 22 minutes). Full of surging basement pop that’s not too far off from the best of The Marked Men, the aptly named swings for the fences at every turn without hesitation. Incorporating a several-member guitar attack that may rival Diarrhea Planet’s, the band finds new avenues to explore as the record careens headfirst towards something concrete. After the fireworks of “Tuhatvuotinen Harharetki”, the band never lets up and goes on exploratory tangents at will. Psychedelic flourishes, sludge breakdowns, and a serious amount of momentum carry to its status as one of the best of 2015.

8. Slight – Hate the Summer

Hate the Summer prompted a few difficult guideline decisions for this list: was it ethical to include an EP anchored by a song that premiered on this site and would a tape release of the EP that included the entirety of an online single that this site ranked as last year’s best be eligible for contention? The answers, obviously, were “absolutely” and “yes.” The latter line of questioning was the one that was scrutinized the most for this list and wound up excluding Meat Wave’s formidable Brother from eligibility (nearly half of the EP pulled from a variety of the band’s other releases, rendering it more of a padded compilation than an EP). With Hate the Summer, the band’s not only expanded the scope of their work but they’ve tapped into something with the three new songs on display here that have the potential to lift this project to new heights of outside recognition. Overall, it’s an important early piece of the trio’s developing history and deserves to be heard as many times as possible.

7. Midnight Reruns – Get Me Out

A staple of this site’s coverage since its introduction, Midnight Reruns rewarded that attention by taking a huge leap with this year with their two strongest releases to date, beginning with this bleary-eyed EP. The Tommy Stinson-produced “Ain’t Gonna Find” sets things in motion and establishes the band’s manic basement pop sensibilities in the early goings, with Graham Hunt’s million-words-a-minute delivery emboldened by the characteristically fierce lead guitar work between Hunt and Karl Giehl. From that blistering opening number, the band takes a step back and sinks their teeth into more left-field territory like the rollicking “Ancient Creature”, which boasts the instantly memorable chorus couplets of “I am the sun, I am the sea/I am an ancient creature/I was born in Madagascar/I was raised by lemurs” and a bruising cover of The Mistreaters’ “The Other Man”.

6. Sheer Mag – II

Another year, another Sheer Mag list placement. Expanding on everything that made the band so great right out of the gate, II was a natural extension of its predecessor, driven by the wild energy of its phenomenal closing track, “Button Up“. All of the glam influences remain and the band likely owes a remarkably huge debt to Marc Bolan but it’s hard to care about influences when the music manages to be so ridiculously entertaining. People will talk about how ’50s pop seeps in around the band’s roughest edges but really, they should probably just stop talking and start dancing. Scrappy and deliriously fun, II‘s another triumph.

5. Diet Cig – Over Easy

No EP soundtracked more aimless drives for me this year than Diet Cig‘s endearingly jubilant Over Easy, which served a necessary reminder that sometimes the most important function music can have is a sense of joy. In the face of a horrifying year in the news, an onslaught of overly-serious releases, and a general downcast pall, Over Easy was a breath of fresh air; a pair of young musicians finding their voice. Every song on Over Easy is memorable not just for its irreverence but for its uncompromising energy and impressive levels of commitment. Warm weather anthems abound and guitarist/vocalist Alex Luciano gets to deliver one of the year’s most scathing kiss-off’s in the final track’s most rousing section.

4. LVL UP – Three Songs

In 2014, site favorites LVL UP topped this site’s Albums of the Year list with ease thanks to the overwhelming brilliance of Hoodwink’d, which was the most perfect distillation of the respective voices of the band’s three principal songwriters to date. Three Songs continues that trend in miniature, allotting a song a piece from Dave Benton, Mike Caridi, and Nick Corbo. All three bring a palpable sense of weariness to the proceedings, immediately rendering this LVL UP’s moodiest record. From the spiky micro-pop of “Blur” to book-ends “The Closing Door” and “Proven Water Rites”, there’s never a dull moment and the band, once again, leave their guts on the table before walking out the door.

3. Ernie – Dog Park

Occasionally, a single song can elevate an already-strong release to unthinkable proportions, which is exactly what happens with Ernie’s delightful Dog Park and its monumental centerpiece, “Sweatpants“. While all four songs contained in Dog Park are memorable and have an impressive host of great moments, it’s the frantic, hook-laden “Sweatpants” that brings the collection together and enhances its immediate surroundings. A surging jolt of relatable discontentment emphasized by a vicious undercurrent of basement pop aesthetics, “Sweatpants” becomes Dog Park‘s definitive moment and simultaneously becomes an unwitting microcosm of 2015’s prevailing sense of disillusionment before turning on that notion in defiance and letting loose a series of blows. Dog Park‘s status as one of 2015’s great releases is cemented in the process.




2. Tenement – Tenement

No band was written about more- or in greater detail- throughout the course of 2015 than Tenement. For nearly 10 years, I’ve been clutching at mostly empty air while damaging my lungs screaming at seemingly empty rooms to go listen to this band. 2015 was the year where everyone started listening. Of the band’s three releases throughout the past 12 months, their self-titled effort was by far the least discussed. Originally released as a limited-run cassette for one of their early tours, the trio decided to release it to the general public several months later, potentially realizing that it deserved a much wider audience. Focusing on the band’s underlying roots, country, folk, and soul influences without ever completely sacrificing their punk bite, Tenement‘s easily the band’s most easygoing collection as well as its most immediately timeless. Keep its open-road sensibilities in mind for your next long drive.

1. Cende – Cende

Capping off an extraordinary year for drummer (and occasional guitarist) Greg Rutkin (LVL UP, Slight, Normal Person, etc.) was Cende’s explosive self-titled debut, which was recently released online (the bandcamp lists the official release as January 1). The band’s been playing these songs out for a while and garnered heavy coverage from this site during its extended Brooklyn residency. An LP is due out in 2016 as well and, after this EP and the live previews, it’s already one of the most highly anticipated releases of 2016. Taking cues from acts like Radioactivity, Cende has already perfected their blend of searing basement pop and unforgiving basement punk. Only two of these songs- including “Widow”, the opening track and one of the year’s finest- go over the 90 second mark and all of them boast hooks powerful enough to keep pulling the listener back, making Cende an endlessly replayable gift. It’s a monstrous release from a band refusing to aim for anything other than greatness and continuous improvement. Cende is one hell of a starting point.

2015: The Best of Watch This

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When Watch This was conceived it was done with the intent to not only critically examine the balance of filmmaking and live performance but celebrate the art of the live video, a format which seems to have fallen to the wayside despite being more fruitful than it’s been since it was introduced. There’s real power behind the clips that manage to seamlessly merge the best qualities of everything that goes into the best live performance videos and they can yield genuinely unforgettable moments (when everything kicks back in on “Waitress”, the held falsetto in “A Proper Polish Welcome”, and a whole host of other chill-inducing moments are scattered throughout this compilation). Those moments are the beating heart behind this series construction and they’re what sustains the project as it presses forward.

Well over 300 live clips were covered on this site in 2015 and this is a collection of 25 that genuinely stood out for one reason or another, whether it was the sheer joy in a performance (Diet Cig), the performer’s ability to freeze blood (Julien Baker, Dilly Dally, SOAK), the trio of artists who appeared on Watch This the most throughout this year (Courtney Barnett, Girlpool, and Torres), an electrifying presentation and performance (July Talk), or a clip that’s a fully functional masterclass in every category that elevates a clip from astonishing to transcendental (Glen Hansard). All of those and more have been plugged into this packet, which culminates in a tour de force reminder of the overwhelming power of what can be achieved on a live platform from the resurgent Sleater-Kinney as one final exclamation point for a truly extraordinary year. So, as always, sit up, focus, adjust the volume, and Watch This.

Watch the 2015 edition of the best-of compilation for Heartbreaking Bravery’s definitive recurring series, Watch This, below. The track list is available under the embed.

1. Hop Along – Waitress (World Cafe)
2. July Talk – Paper Girl (Audiotree)
3. Ronny – Why Do You Have Kids (Gems On VHS)
4. Julien Baker – Sprained Ankle (BreakThruRadio)
5. Mikal Cronin – Say (WFUV)
6. Molly Parden – Weather (GemsOnVHS)
7. Eskimeaux – Folly (This Has Got To Stop)
8. Waxahatchee – Under A Rock (Pitchfork)
9. METZ – Spit You Out (3voor12)
10. Ought – Beautiful Blue Sky (KEXP)
11. Saintseneca – How Many Blankets Are In the World? (ANTI-)
12. Diet Cig – Harvard (In the Attic)
13. SOAK – B a Nobody Blud (La Blogotheque)
14. Dilly Dally – Burned by the Cold (Strombo Sessions)
15. Alex G + Girlpool – Brite Boy (SPIN)
16. Footings (Jenn Harrington)
17. Mike Krol – Suburban Wasteland + Neighborhood Watch (KEXP)
18. Beach Slang – Get Lost (Cozy Couch Sessions)
19. Public Service Broadcasting – Go! (WNYC)
20. Christopher Paul Stelling – Dear Beast (ANTI-)
21. Courtney Barnett – Depreston (La Blogotheque)
22. Algiers – Blood (WFUV)
23. Torres – A Proper Polish Welcome (NPR)
24. Glen Hansard – McCormack’s Wall (ANTI-)
25. Sleater-Kinney (NPR)

 

2015: A Visual Retrospective, Vol. 7

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Throughout the course of 2015 I’ve been fortunate enough to attend upwards of 100 shows, festivals big and small, and spend approximately half a year living in a city that hosted a mind-boggling amount of quality shows on a nightly basis. To that end, it’s probably unsurprising that I wound up taking over 10,000 photos this year alone. Over the course of the next few days, this site will be running seven volumes of the shots that stood out as personal favorites, whether that was due to their composition, sentimental attachment, or an intangible emotional or intellectual response. It’s been an honor to be able to take even the smallest part in the ongoing sagas of the artists in the photographs below and an additional thanks is due to the venues that allowed me to shoot (as well as the people who encouraged me to keep shooting).

The preceding galleries can be accessed via these links:

2015: A Visual Retrospective, Vol. 1
2015: A Visual Retrospective, Vol. 2
2015: A Visual Retrospective, Vol. 3
2015: A Visual Retrospective, Vol. 4
2015: A Visual Retrospective, Vol. 5
2015: A Visual Retrospective, Vol. 6

Enjoy the gallery.

 

Diet Cig – Dinner Date (Stream, Live Video)

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Following an unusual slow Tuesday, the mid-week mark kicked things back into high gear and offered up a bevvy of tantalizing releases in all of the three major categories. The full streams that were unveiled included Total Makeover’s spritely self-titled EP, Lost Film’s beautiful, low-key Imago, Donovan Wolfington’s level-elevating How To Treat The Ones You Love, and the exemplary The Last Dance, which is very likely the final release from the great Shady Hawkins. Music videos found strong representation via clips from Royal Headache, Shana Cleveland & The Sandcastles, Karen O, The Smith Street Band (ft. Lucy Wilson), and Marching Church. Single streams had more than a few genuine gems in a haul that saw new material from TenementExpert Alterations, Childbirth, Vision, and Mothers to life- as well as the second half of Diet Cig‘s forthcoming 7″.

A little over a month ago, the band unveiled career highlight “Sleep Talk“, which prompted a great deal of intrigue and excitement in regards to the duo’s future. As the first half of a two-song split, “Sleep Talk” seemed to open up limitless possibilities for the directions the band could take. “Dinner Date”, instead of aiming to push forward, feels content to circle back to the approach that dominated Over Easy, which has held strong as one of this year’s best EP’s. However, “Dinner Date” avoids redundancy by augmenting the band’s more direct methods with an air of resignation in place of the carefree attitude that dominated their first release.

While there’s still more than a few barbed winks scattered throughout “Dinner Date”, it’s easy to hear a steady maturation creeping into Diet Cig’s work; they’re playing with a bolstered confidence level and are proving they’re unafraid of tinkering with a winning formula in the process. Rounding out the relatively adventurous atmospherics of “Sleep Talk” with the startling immediacy of “Dinner Date” not only allows both tracks to emphasize their partner’s best qualities, it also leaves the band with another year-end contender for the 7″ category. Brash, bold, and oddly beautiful, it’s another strong step in an increasingly promising career.

Listen to “Dinner Date” below and pre-order the 7″ ahead of its September 18 release date from site favorites Father/Daughter (for the US) or another site favorite, Art Is Hard (for the UK). Underneath the embedded player, revisit a video of the band performing the song a few months ago at the Father/Daughter Northside showcase.

Watch This: Vol. 87

Every Sunday, Watch This runs on this site to celebrate some of the finest performance captures to have surfaced over the past seven days. Here and there, exceptions are made to facilitate some genuinely great performances (this is one of those weeks) but the central focus remains the same: the celebration of a confusingly under-discussed presentation format that allows great filmmaking to intersect with great performances. As has been the case over recent weeks, a lot of clips didn’t wind up in the featured five slot (including some performances from artists who did make it into those positions), which is telling of the quality of those clips that are discussed in greater extent. Those artists include: Jack and Eliza, Nic Hessler, Happyness, Titus Andronicus (x2), SOAK, Oscar, The Sun Parade (x2), On and On, The Wilderness (x2), Restorations, Drenge (x2), Mommy Long Legs, and site favorites Tenement. All of those are worth the clicks but today’s all about the five clips below the introductory paragraph. So, as always, sit back, adjust the volume, clear your mind of clutter, focus up, and Watch This.


1. Happyness – It’s On You (WFUV)

Happyness have earned their fair share of love on this site and they continue to impress here, in a spirited rendition of “It’s On You”, for Watch This staple WFUV. One of the reasons WFUV keeps showing up in these lists is the way they present the performances; a black backdrop means no visual distractions. It’s a tactic that’s proven troublesome for some bands but Happyness have always been capable of spinning minimalist tendencies into gold and this performance is one of those times.

2. Eskimeaux – Sleeppy Bear (Portals)

On very rare occasions, the format of Watch This will ever-so-slightly deviate from its traditional setup to accommodate an item that was lost in the preceding weeks’ shuffle. Despite Eskimeaux making an increasing number of appearances on the site as of late, the stunning performance clip Portals produced of “Sleepy Bear” somehow became one of those items. Far too lovely to let fall to the wayside, “Sleepy Bear” places all of its emphasis on Gabrielle Smith- the driving creative force behind Eskimeaux- and the results are spellbinding.

3. Diet Cig (BreakThruRadio)

This isn’t the first time Diet Cig have shown up and raised hell on Watch This and it’s seriously unlikely that it’ll be the last. A duo of firecrackers, the band’s entertainment value seems to continuously escalate as the velocity of their headfirst dive into embracing a gleeful insanity increases. As always, their performances here come off like an unexpectedly forceful gut-punch followed by a mischievous, half-apologetic smile.

4. Titus Andronicus – Fatal Flaw (WNYC)

At present, Titus Andronicus have two out-and-out masterpieces under their belt. The Most Lamentable Tragedy, the band’s just-released double album, is the first time they’ve matched the heights of The Monitor and part of that is thanks to a similarly sprawling ambition that’s equaled by the frighteningly honest conviction of bandleader Patrick Stickles. Of course, it wouldn’t have landed in that position without genuinely great songs in its bold narrative arc. The band recently stopped by WNYC’s studios to deliver a performance of a few of those songs, delivering the strongest performance in this particularly raucous take on single “Fatal Flaw”.

5. SOAK – Wait (WFUV)

When SOAK last appeared on Watch This, the young songwriter was centered in a clip that will undoubtedly be featured again as part of this site’s annual year-end roundup celebrating the best of the series. Here, in a breathtaking performance for WFUV, the same grace, devastation, and haunted frailty that made SOAK’s first Watch This entrance so compelling is brought to the fore with a similar effortlessness. It’s absolutely mesmerizing.

Diet Cig – Sleep Talk (Stream)

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And the hits just keep on coming. While Wednesday was packed to the gills with great new content, today’s haul may make it look slim in comparison. A few music videos made their marks and included the likes of Cotillon’s hazy “Convenience“, Julia Holter’s tender “Feel You“, and In Tall Buildings’ deceptively intuitive “Flare Gun“. Full streams made just as strong of an impression through incredible demos from Dan Webb & the Spiders and Chondria, while Seulah and Bad Bad Hats capped off the format’s Thursday run with a pair of intriguing long-players (Phase III and Psychic Reader, respectively).

As for single streams, the week managed to get even stronger via the staggering amount of genuinely great new songs that were made publicly available. Yuck sounded reinvigorated on “Hold Me Closer“, Wild Moth revealed a set of ever-sharpening teeth with “Buried“, Le Tour embraced their most eclectic sensibilities in “Friend“, and Long Limbs gave Art Is Hard another notch in their white-hot winning streak through the release of “Past Tense“. Heaters continued to dive down the nightmarish psychedelic rabbit hole they’ve been traversing in “Propane“, FUR struck the perfect balance between power pop and indie pop with the charming “Creature“, Glass Vault produced some compelling dream pop with “Sojourn“, SOCIETY released the transcendental, genre-demolishing “Protocol“, and James Elkington & Nathan Salsburg’s ethereal acoustic duet “Up of Stairs” ensured the day was packed with intensive listening.

While, as always, all of those titles hyperlinked above are worth the traveling that accompanies a click, today’s feature (once again) falls on two familiar faces: Diet Cig. Alex Luciano and Noah Bowman already made a strong impression with what proved to simultaneously be one of the most hyper-charged and carefree releases of 2015, Over Easy, which has continued receiving attention and picking up accolades as time surges forward. Now, they’re set to capitalize on that momentum with a just-announced 7″ that’s headlined by “Sleep Talk”.

Guitarist/vocalist has always reveled in a blunt honesty that’s delivered with a coy wink and the opening lines of “Pillow Talk” provides that approach with an ample spotlight. As a narrative wind-up, those insights quickly slide the scale from sly to scathing until the moment of truth hits, accompanied by a frenzied burst of downstrokes and power drumming. It’s a moment of self-acceptance that feels like it’s bordering on catharsis, underlined by the couplet that toppled the breaking point: “Only here under obligation/it’s hard to pretend this is a vacation.”

What follows is a surprisingly wrenching tale of self-exploration that’s anchored in the ruins of a relationship. Just as a charging middle section seems like it’s threatening to speed off into a reckless oblivion, “Sleep Talk” scales itself back for an absolutely gorgeous final figure. Luciano’s vocals are overlayed to provide a slightly unsettling (but frighteningly compelling) chorus effect as a bed for the most expressive and refined guitar playing of Diet Cig’s (admittedly limited) discography to date.

It’s a genuinely stunning moment in a great song that suggests Diet Cig may have much bigger things in store for the horizon. As the last refrain of “If I told you I loved you/I don’t know who/it would scare away faster” comes cascading down, it becomes very clear that “Sleep Talk” isn’t just going to stand as a defining moment in the emerging band’s career but as a deeply personal monument to a lot of people harboring varying levels of insecurity. This is damaged romanticism at its absolute finest and yet another perfect example of why people should be paying even closer attention to a band that’s not even close to getting their due.

Listen to “Sleep Talk” below and pre-order the 7″ from site favorite(s) Father/Daughter (in conjunction with Art Is Hard) ahead of its September 18 release date here. Beneath the embed watch a live clip of the duo performing the records B-side, “Dinner Date”.

2015: Halfway Home (Mixtape)

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Only a little past its halfway point, 2015’s already been an absurdly strong year for music. Numerically staggering, it’s yielded a handful of classics across a variety of genres and a plethora of outstanding small releases. While this mix skews more towards the latter than, say, Kendrick Lamar’s To Pimp A Butterfly, it’s still worth noting how kind this year’s release schedule has been across the board. To reflect on some of this year’s best offerings so far- and to celebrate this site’s 550th post- a mixtape’s been curated for your enjoyment. Nearly all of these songs and artists have been featured on the site previously, lending this particular mix a more retrospective feel than a few of the past entries in the mixtape series, but they’re all worth celebrating as much as possible. Ranging from folk and ambient flourishes to heavy 90’s influences to thoroughly modern post-punk to spritely basement pop, there’s an entry for just about every genre marker that receives regular coverage on the site.

So, without further ado, here’s a mixtape of some of 2015’s strongest highlights (at least so far, there are still quite a few promising items for the year’s latter half). The tracklist for 2015: Halfway Home can be found beneath the embed. Enjoy.



1. Girlpool – Before The World Was Big

2. Waxahatchee – Under A Rock
3. Mean Creek – Forgotten Streets
4. Royal Headache – Hgih
5. Radioactivity – Pretty Girl
6. Diet Cig – Breathless
7. Washer – Joe
8. Courtney Barnett – Pedestrian At Best
9. Mikal Cronin – Made My Mind Up
10. Torres – Sprinter
11. Jason Isbell – 24 Frames (Live)
12. theweaselmartenfisher – Empty Bucket List
13. Pupppy – Puking (Merry Christmas!)

14. Christopher Paul Stelling – Dear Beast
15. Fraser A. Gorman – Shiny Gun
16. Young Jesus – Milo
17. Girls Names – Reticence
18. Institute – Cheerlessness
19. Happy Diving – So Bunted
20. Downies – Widow
21. Meat Wave – Erased
22. Connor La Mue – Stargazer
23. Bruising – Think About Death
24. Meredith Graves – Took The Ghost to the Movies
25. Yowler – The Offer

Father/Daughter Records Northside Showcase 2015 (Pictorial Review, Live Video)

Charly Bliss IX

A lot of the coverage on this site is going to look a little different in the coming months. As much love as I have in my heart for Wisconsin, a change of scenery was necessary. After a long day of travel and some time to explore, a show felt necessary. One attended by a handful of contributors to last year’s A Year’s Worth of Memories series, thrown by one of this site’s most-covered labels, and headlined by the band that topped this site’s list of the best 2014 EP’s and “necessary” turned very quickly to catharsis. Shea Stadium packed in a reasonable crowd, each one seemingly devoted to either one or all of the bands, despite the considerable humidity essentially rendering the venue a sweatbox.

Pupppy, Rivergazer, Diet Cig, Attic Abasement, and Charly Bliss were all in fine form and there was a very palpable and genuine love running throughout each respective bands for the music they were making. Some opted for a more relaxed route (Rivergazer, Attic Abasement) without sacrificing any of their innate magnetism while others took a more frenzied approach (Diet Cig, Charly Bliss). Pupppy kicked things off by splitting the difference between the two extremes. The sound was incredible throughout, the crowd was dancing, and spirits were high. In all, it was a perfect jumping-off point for NYC coverage and a heartening reminder that all the ill-informed naysayers about Brooklyn’s DIY scene being dead are still completely, unequivocally wrong.

Scan through a photo set and video set containing pictures and clips of each band below.

 

 

1. Pupppy – Outkast
2. Rivergazer – Lonely
3. Diet Cig – Dinner Date
4. Attic Abasement – Sorry About Your Dick
5. Charly Bliss – The Golden Age
6. Charly Bliss – Dairy Queen
7. Charly Bliss – Pacer

Watch This: Vol. 74

Over the course of the past few weeks, the influx of outstanding live videos has been staggering. Last week the series was put on a brief hold due to other personal obligations but even then, there was the threat of multiple installments for that particular Sunday. Amassing those with the live clips that followed in the subsequent week brings us to this point: there’s simply too much great material to feature to justify relegating anything exceeding the limit of five to the introductory paragraph(s). With this being the case, there will be seven- yes, seven– installments of Watch This to go live throughout the day (and possibly night).

To that end, this very introduction will be running prior to volumes 74-80 to reduce the levels of overall exposition to provide an emphasis on the material at hand. Site favorites Girlpool and Waxahatchee were seemingly everywhere this week, securing multiple entries throughout this run while Faits Divers spread-out documentation of a set from Ought (another site favorite) managed to do the same. As always, each video featured is an exemplary showcase for both artist and host, covering a wide range of sounds and styles. So, as always, sit back, adjust the volume to your preferred settings, sit up straight, lean in (or back), and Watch This.

1. Girlpool (Consequence of Sound)

Over the past year, Girlpool have been experiencing a quiet, rapid ascension in notoriety thanks to a singular take on songwriting. More than just about any other band operating, the duo have established a legitimate identity that manages to feel both familiar and singular. Here, in a lovingly shot session for Consequence of Sound, they provide some insight to their process and deliver two characteristically strong performances of Before The World Was Big‘s title track and “I Like That You Can See It”. It’s a powerful reminder of their seemingly limitless strengths and a perfect document of a young band on the cusp of reaching spectacular heights.

2. Diet Cig – Harvard (Play Too Much)

There’s a joy inherent to Diet Cig‘s music that translates so effortlessly into their live presentation that practically guarantees them a Watch This feature spot every time a video surfaces. Over Easy remains one of the year’s best- and most endlessly listenable- releases, while Diet Cig’s live show continues to gain velocity. It’s an explosive combination that renders the duo one of the more exciting prospects in today’s music. Manic energy, genuine passion, and their visible love for their craft are given a defining image towards the clip’s closing minutes as guitarist/vocalist strikes a power stance, perched on the top of her amp and Noah Bowman’s bass drum, practically bursting with joy. All together, it’s the exact kind of thing this site was built to celebrate.

3. Screaming Females – Shake It Off (AV Club)

Back in the 22nd volume of Watch This, The AV Club’s Undercover series took all five spots in a featured retrospective. One of those five selections was Screaming Females‘ incendiary Sheryl Crowe cover. The band and the series recently partnered up again, the band once again applying their unlikely brand to an even more unlikely cover; Taylor Swift’s inescapable “Shake It Off”. Played (mostly) straight with a fiery verve, the standout moment- unsurprisingly- is a deviation that allows guitarist/vocalist Marissa Paternoster to tear into a solo after a perfect breakdown. It’s one of the year’s most unexpectedly endearing moments.

4. Courtney Barnett – Depreston (La Blogotheque)

Courtney Barnett‘s Sometimes I Sit And Think, And Sometimes I Just Sit will almost certainly hold true as one of 2015’s most delightful titles. As enjoyable as the record is, though, there are moments of arresting pathos and gravitas that appear throughout. One of the most fascinating is Barnett’s treatsie on suburban malaise; “Depreston”. Barnett recently met up with the usually-great La Blogotheque for a performance capture that manages to transcend the bulk of the series’ considerable output. Simply put: it’s unforgettable.

5. Hop Along (KEXP)

One of the year’s most welcome breakout success stories was that of Hop Along’s sudden increase in exposure, recognition, and acclaim (all of which the band’s deserved since before the release of Get Disowned). Instead of being daunted by the attention, the band seems to be thriving off it- pushing themselves to go even further. That drive’s reflected in this full session for KEXP that finds Frances Quinlan and co. front and center for a lively outdoor showcase featuring songs from both Get Disowned and 2015 Album of the Year candidate Painted Shut. As if all of that wasn’t enough reason to watch (and the fact that the band’s live show’s been so powerful that they’ve been a staple of this series since it started), this set also features a back-to-back pairing of “Waitress” and “Tibetan Songs”, which will always be a moment far too perfect for words.