Heartbreaking Bravery

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Tag: Novella

Julien Baker – Sprained Ankle (Music Video)

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Every few months or so, a music video comes along and manages to steal breath, freeze blood, and make time stand still. In those moments, careers on both sides of the lens can get pushed forward with a momentum that borderlines shocking and– importantly– keeps the medium pushing forward instead of succumbing to a rote stagnancy. Julien Baker’s “Sprained Ankle” is one of those videos.

Even on its own, the title track of Baker’s astounding Sprained Ankle is gripping. A haunted, downcast meditation on self-worth and perseverance, “Sprained Ankle” could have accompanied a strong photograph and it would have made a mark. Director Sabyn Mayfield and cinematographer David Newbert, thankfully, had a different vision in mind. While “Sprained Ankle” does start on a near-frozen one shot of a dejected Baker staring at the floor, it slowly unfurls into something that feels transcendent.

As the song’s guitar harmonics ring out, the camera pulls back to reveal an isolated Baker in the damaged expanse of a demolished classroom. As Baker makes her way through an emotionally crippling set of lyrics, the camera slowly surveys the surroundings without ever abandoning Baker is the focal point; she’s at the heart of the damage. As the lyrics draw to a close, the camera approaches Baker before finally pushing past her shoulder as the song descends into a wordless, layered chorus.

Finally, in that wordless section, the camera peers upward, focusing on the ceiling insulation in between the structural gaps. As the camera explores that aspect of the gradual destruction, there’s a palpable sense of sadness that accompanies the moment, driving home the thematic point of inevitable decay with an astonishing amount of grace. Presented as a tracking shot, “Sprained Ankle” concludes by sweeping from the roof back down to tarnished earth, pulling back to reveal Baker’s vanished entirely to inject the clip with a feeling of an almost sorrowful abandonment.

Ultimately, “Sprained Ankle” comes across as deeply human. It’s a tacit statement about the cyclical nature of loss and an unforgettable examination of self-awareness. It’s an unforgettable moment from an artist who deserves a lot more discussion going forward. Don’t let this one fade into the recesses of the forgotten anytime soon.

Watch “Sprained Ankle” below and pre-order the record from 6131 here. Below the embed, explore an extensive collection of some of the past few weeks’ best videos.

Farao – Warriors
R. Ring – Loud Underneath
Violent Mae – In the Sun
The Spirit of the Beehive – You Are Arrived (But You’ve Been Cheated)
Hey Lover – I’ve Got A Car
Skaters – Mental Case
Big Eyes – Local Celebrity
The Bandicoots – Overnight Innovator
Acid Fast – Momma Grey
Fog Lake – Shanty Town
Split Feet – Selective Mommery
A Place To Bury Strangers – Supermaster
Wand – Sleepy Dog
Mooner – Alison
Novella – Sentences
Billie Marten – Bird
Conner Youngblood – The Badlands
EL VY – Need A Friend
John Andrews and the Yawns – Peace of Mind
Moon King – Roswell
Rain – Slur
Joanna Newsom – Divers
The Zephyr Bones – Weird Summer
Eliot Sumner – I Followed You Home
Wells – Shepherd
Idle Bloom – Fare Fumo

Joanna Gruesome – Peanut Butter (Album Review, Stream)

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Joanna Gruesome‘s a name that’s been appearing on this site consistently throughout its duration and Peanut Butter‘s ensured that trend’s been one that continued throughout 2015’s first stretch. Weird Sister was one of the best records of 2013 and it came out just before Heartbreaking Bravery started operating, which meant they likely factored into the decision to create (and sustain) this space. In 2014, their Astonishing Adventures split with Perfect Pussy nearly topped our best splits of 2014 list (where Peanut Butter standout “Psykcick Espionage” made its debut) and they’ve earned themselves several standalone features through their music videos as well as their recorded output. In short, the band had a lot to live up to with Peanut Butter and they answered those expectations with a deafening roar.

Embracing the dynamics that made them such a compelling act out of the gate, they’ve managed to refine their approach and incorporate a much heavier emphasis on dissonance. Peanut Butter is Joanna Gruesome’s heaviest, noisiest, and most accomplished work to date, extending a narrative arc of continuous improvement. For a band that already packed a punch, throwing in stabbing noise freakouts that punctuate a large number of Peanut Butter‘s tracks might seem unnecessarily excessive. What sets Joanna Gruesome apart from some of their like-minded kin when it comes to this department is their unwavering understanding of restraint. “I Wanna Relax” starts with sheer white noise- but it’s cut off at the head almost as soon as it appears, effectively rendering it a jarring warning of the content that lies ahead.

Joanna Gruesome didn’t set out to pull punches on Peanut Butter and much of the record comes off like an assault. Impressively, even with the strengthened bent on atonality, the band hasn’t sacrificed any of their melody- they’ve enhanced it. “Last Year”, the record’s opening track, is one of the best examples of this duality and sets the tone for the nine tracks that follow. Never dipping under mid-tempo, the band keeps things at a sprint throughout the record, never allowing the listener a reprieve. The closest they come is the band’s surprisingly gentle closer, “Hey! I Wanna Be Yr Best Friend”, which feels like the transcendental calm that descends after a violent storm.

Part of what makes Joanna Gruesome’s storm so electric is the way vocalist Alanna McCardle weaves her ideologies into her narratives, subtly drawing the line to gender expectations through tales of difficult relationships and personal angst. Throughout Peanut Butter McCardle grapples with what and what isn’t good, torturing herself by questioning her own motivations. At times, the self-examination is brutal but it’s softened by the band’s pop sensibilities, which are continuing to produce some of the most gorgeous moments of any band currently making music. Terrifying, exhilarating, and unfailingly brilliant, Peanut Butter isn’t just Joanna Gruesome’s current crown jewel, it’s also one of the brightest spots of a year that’s already overflowing with greatness. To further illustrate that last point, a list of titles worth hearing will be included at the very bottom of this page (which also acts as an addendum to the preceding post).

Before you scan through those titles, though, make sure to listen to Peanut Butter over at NPR’s First Listen (the Spotify embed will take the place of that link once the record goes live).

Pre-order Peanut Butter from the always-great Slumberland here.

Now, as promised, an accompanying list of some other previously unlisted 2015 titles that are more than worth your attention.

Johanna Warren – nūmūn
Pfarmers – Gunnera
Sick Sad World – Fear and Lies
Glockabelle – Wolf BBQ
Fraternal Twin – Skin Gets Hot
Coliseum – Anxiety’s Kiss
DTCV – Uptime!
Clean Girls – Despite You
Turnover – Peripheral Vision
Battle Ave – Year of Nod
Tres Padres – Father’s Day / A Lot to Maintain
Vomitface – Another Bad Year
Eskimeaux – O.K.
Crocodiles – Boys
Novella – Land
Blanck Mess – Dumb Flesh
Miss June – Matriarchy
Art Is Hard – Family Portrait Pt. II

Sheer Mag – Button Up (Stream)

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Continuing on in the quest to get the site caught up on all the things that caught my attention in 2015 affords some unique opportunities. One of them is the chance to celebrate a few of the truly great items that surfaced over the course of this year’s first three months. By the end of tonight, all of those will be featured in some form- be it a list inclusion, a mix, or some words. In this post, there won’t be a lot of material from the past two weeks (with the notable exception of a jaunty tune from The Splits and an absolute stunner of a track from one-time site contributor Johanna Warren) but it should still serve as a healthy reminder of 2015’s formidable early strengths. One of those songs, Sheer Mag’s “Button Up” will be receiving the greatest amount of focus. Below that, as has been custom, are 75 outstanding songs from this year’s first quarter. Now, back to this post’s main draw.

Sheer Mag have been picking up a great amount of notoriety in important circles since the release of their 7″ from last year, which was strong enough to land on the site’s Best 7″ Records of 2014 list. “Button Up”, the band’s first new material since that EP, is a refinement of everything that’s made Sheer Mag so exciting from the beginning. “Button Up” retains the band’s appealing lo-fi punch but their pop sensibilities are sharper than ever, rendering “Button Up” an unlikely heavyweight. Impossibly crunchy guitars, powerful vocals, and a sense of joy permeate throughout this track and provide Sheer Mag with a valid claim as one of the most exciting upcoming bands on the market. If the rest of their upcoming 7″ can hit similar peaks, it’s not unlikely that they’ll be appearing on quite a few December lists (ours included).

Listen to “Button Up” below and keep an eye on this site for more coverage surrounding the band’s upcoming release. Beneath the embed are 75 outstanding songs from 2015’s opening stretch.

The Cribs – I See Your Pictures Every Day
Football, etc. – Open
Princess – Black Window
Novella – Land Gone
Eric Chenaux – Skullsplitter
Pinkshinyultrablast – Land’s End
Vagaband – Gabrielle
HOLY – Demon’s Hand
Tall Tales and the Silver Lining – This Time Around
Divers – Breathless
Michael Stec – Party Dress
The Brian Jonestown Massacre – Philadelphia Story
Cyberbully Mom Club – Anabelle (Love Soft)
Passenger Peru – Break My Neck
The Splits – I Know
Alice – Nightmare
Lightning Bolt – The Metal East
Guantanamo Baywatch – Too Late
Maribou State – Rituals
Dastardly – The Hollow
Aero Flynn – Twist
The Minus 5 – The History You Hate
Braids – Miniskirt
Faith Healer – Universe
Karen Meat & the Computer – If I Were Yours
Chris Weisman – Backpack People
Jeff Rosenstock – You, In Weird Cities
The Dodos – Retriever
Busses – Wizard of the Eye
Obnox – Cynthia Piper at the Gates of Dawn
Twerps – I Don’t Mind
Sonny & the Sunsets – Happy Carrot Health Food Store
The Muscadettes – Pearl and Oyster
Waxahatchee – Air
Matthew E. White – Rock N’ Roll Is Cold
Nic Hessler – Hearts, Repeating
Grooms – Comb The Feelings Through Your Hair
Pops Staples – Somebody Was Watching
Moon King – Roswell
Caught On Tape – Full Bleed
Oscar – Daffodil Days
EULA – Noose
Inventions – Springworlds
Dirty Dishes – Guilty
Johanna Warren – True Colors
Happyness – Don’t Know Why (Norah Jones)
JEFF The Brotherhood – Coat Check Girl
Johnny Marr – Struck
Leapling – N.E.R.V.E.
The Juliana Hatfield Three – Ordinary Guy
Tyler Ditter – Echo Off the World
Fruit Bomb – Normcore Girlfriend
Dorthia Cottrell – Kneeler
In Tall Buildings – Unmistakable
Kind of Like Spitting – Stress Cadet
Fort Lean – I Don’t Mind
Native Lights – Black Wall Street
Wire – Joust & Jostle
Marika Hackman – Monday Afternoon
Football, etc. – Sunday
Sammy Kay – Highs and Lows
Wolf Solent – Hold On
Solvey – Solvey
All Boy/All Girl – Glitters
Threading – Ember
Lucern Raze – Someone Like You
Pelican Movement – Light Like Before
Carmen Villain – Quietly
Ghastly Menace – Real Life
Irontom – In the Day and the Dark
Sun Hotel – After Peggy Tells Her Parents They Never Had Any Trouble In Their Relationship
Wand – Self Hypnosis in 3 Days
Quarterbacks – Night Changes (One Direction cover)
Lost Boy ? – Love You Only
Broken Water – High-Lo

First Quarter Clips, Pt. 2 (Video Mixtape)

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We’re not even three months into 2015 and it’s already yielded a sprawling treasure trove of the kind of music-related items that are worth cherishing. It’s been a particularly strong year for music videos, with some titles from last year’s best releases getting their just treatment balanced out by some tantalizing clips sending expectations for the forthcoming releases that they’re attached to rocketing up to stratospheric heights. Animation, lyric videos, puppetry, seductively slow cinematography, static shots, dancing corpses, subtitled documentary footage, blood, more puppets (it’s been a great time for puppets in music videos), and self-shot footage are just some of the traits that define this two-part collection of 50 of the year’s most engaging clips. All of them, from the folk-leaning lilt of the second collection and the largely DIY punch of its predecessor, deserve praise. Don’t allow the fact they haven’t received any accompanying text beyond this introductory paragraph to do them a disservice; a few of theses videos rank as the best thing the attached band’s ever done and several others continue stunning individual stylistic penchants. More than anything, though, this is a collection that’s intended to represent the diversity and strength of 2015’s earliest offerings in the visual medium. Whether the video comes from an established act or a relatively unknown band, as always, is largely besides the point: this is art worth celebrating. Set aside an hour or two and dive into the madness- and keep an eye on this site for a continuation of this series that should be appearing in the coming days.

COLLECTION II

1. Mitski – Townie
2. Hailey Wojcik – XO Skeleton 
3. Doomtree – Final Boss
4. Hundred Waters – Innocent
5. Palma Violets – Danger in the Club
6. Girl Band – Why They Hide Their Bodies Under My Garage?
7. Jawbreaker Reunion – My Own
8. Screaming Females – Hopeless
9. Museum Mouth – Sacred
10. Celestial Shore – Now I Know
11. Chastity Belt – Time To Go Home 
12. Cloakroom – Starchild Skull
13. Modest Mouse – Coyotes
14. Girlpool – Chinatown
15. Sweet John Bloom – Blood Moon
16. Bass Drum of Death – Better Days
17. Colleen Green – TV
18. Turbo Fruits – The Way I Want You
19. Young Widows – King Sol
20. Evans the Death – Enabler
21. Green Dreams – Rich Man/Poor Man
22. Japanese Breakfast – The Woman That Loves You
23. Michael Rault – Still Not Sad
24. A Place to Bury Strangers – We’ve Come So Far
25. Karen O – Day Go By

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COLLECTION III

1. Gothic Tropic – Underwater Games
2. Laura Marling – False Hope
3. Beech Creeps – Son of Sud
4. Ultimate Painting – Riverside
5. Elvis Perkins – Hogus Pogus
6. Trust Fund – Essay to Write 
7. Mount Eerie – This
8. Kevin Morby – Dancer
9. Seagulls – You and Me
10. Bay Uno – Wait For Your Love
11. Jose Gonzalez – Leaf Off / The Cave
12. The Staves – Black & White
13. Big Noble – Ocean Picture
14. Inventions – Springworlds
15. S. Carey – Neverending Fountain
16. Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy – Boundlessness
17. Ava Luna – Coat of Shellac
18. Novella – Land Gone
19. Young Buffalo – No Idea
20. Avi Buffalo – Think It’s Gonna Happen Again
21. HUMANS – Tell Me
22. Kathryn Calder – Take A Little Time
23. Sondre Lerche – Lucky Guy
24. Doe Paoro – Traveling
25. Asaf Avidan – Over My Head