Heartbreaking Bravery

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Tag: Oliver Kalb

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

Watch This: Vol. 91

Hard to believe that there already have been 91 segments of Watch This, but here we are- another week in and five more live clips to feature. For this particular run, full sets get the bulk of the attention while a site favorite and a new name to both this series and this site round things out. Courtney Barnett has been awarded enough spots here over the past few months so we’ll forego featuring yet another incredible turn-in from the rising songwriter to make way for some fresher faces. Barnett led a small but formidable pack of artists who just missed the cut this week, a list that included Elvis Depressedly, Bad Bad Hats, Iceage (x2), Small Feet, lowercase roses, and Hailey Wocjik. All of those, of course, are worth your time and (as is increasingly the case with live videos) deserve more attention than they’re getting. Watch them now or save them for later but make sure you reel in the five clips below because they all boast something inherently special happening on either side of the lens. So, as always, grab a snack, settle in, adjust your screen, focus up, and Watch This.

1. Bellows (WKNC)

Appearing just after a knockout set at Baby’s All Right, this WKNC session finds Oliver Kalb delivering a beautiful solo session of the songs he writes under the moniker Bellows. Frail, unassuming, and utterly captivating, the four songs contained in the clip wield a certain intangible quality that immediately transforms this particular performance into one of the most arresting WKNC has ever produced. Kalb’s vocal tendencies (soft, wavering) bring to mind Sufjan Stevens but where Stevens so frequently opts for grandeur- even in his more intimate moments- Kalb keeps things pinned to a mundane reality. By the time each song’s been sung, both Kalb and WKNC wind up with a staple deserving of a proud placement in their respective canons.

2. Ego Death – Sunlight/Graveyard (Radio K)

No matter how many times it happens, there are few things that can compare to the exhilarating wave of excitement that hits upon discovering a new band that immediately crosses off a long list of preference check marks. Punk attitude, guitar scuzz, nods to the spikier wave of late 80’s and early 90’s alternative genres, and a strong basement pop sensibility are all big ones for this site and Ego Death makes their way through each with ease in this performance of “Sunlight/Graveyard” for Radio K. Gruff, fearless, and extremely dynamic, this is a band to watch and a song worth hearing. You know what to do.

3. Disco Doom (Exploding In Sound)

Having wrapped an extraordinarily successful extended weekend showcase (keep an eye on this site for more on that soon), Exploding In Sound Records is sitting pretty high at the moment. One of the band’s most fascinating acquisitions, Disco Doom, couldn’t make it stateside for the affair but the label continuously showers them with an excess for love. The reasoning behind that devotion becomes abundantly clear to anyone who has the good fortune of familiarizing themselves with the band- or even to anyone who so much as bothers to click play on this video. All of the hallmarks that create a common thread between the Exploding In Sound roster are evident but the band also brings in more than a few nods to bands like Pavement and Dinosaur Jr, immediately carving out a select niche spot in the process. Don’t sleep on this one.

4. Screaming Females – Normal (Razorcake)

Over the past few years, site favorites Screaming Females have essentially become the patron saints of DIY punk. Throw in the fact that they’re an incomparably fierce live act and it’s probably not much of a surprise they’ve appeared on this series with a relative regularity since it kicked off. While a few of those clips have been absolutely stunning in terms of execution, there’s something that just feels right about a DIY clip of the trio in action. Razorcake– one of the premier spots for DIY coverage- recently caught the band in action at the rightfully celebrated Vince Lombardi High School (or, more commonly, VLHS) ripping through Castle Talk highlight “Normal” with their usual verve and fervor. It’s also easily one of the best live representations of the band to date.

5. Ty Segall (3voor12)

A lot of digital ink’s been spilled over the complete levels of insanity that animate Ty Segall’s live show (especially when it’s with Ty Segall Band, as it is here) and all of it’s correct. I was fortunate enough to catch the band on their Slaughterhouse tour, which was pushed even further and felt more like a gleefully indulgent victory lap after Segall and his cohorts capped off a monstrous year that saw the release of no less than three highly acclaimed full-lengths (SlaughterhouseTwnis, and the White Fence collaborative effort Hair). Segall’s just about kept pace since then, only offering a reprieve in advance of a titanic double-album- last year’s excellent Manipulator– and the live shows have managed to grow even more deliriously fierce. With such a huge catalog to pull from, Segall and his band (which includes Mikal Cronin, one of today’s finest songwriters), just about any one of his/their sets could be called “discography spanning” and not even touch on half of the releases. This set, artfully shot by 3voor12 at Amsterdam’s famed Paradiso, certainly qualifies. It’s (unsurprisingly) a wild-eyed barn-burner of a set that hits the fifth gear in its closing stretch, once again reaffirming Segall’s status as one of today’s most invigorating live performers. Don’t be surprised if people are still talking about these shows decades down the line.

A Small Victory in 600 Moves (Video Mixtape)

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Heartbreaking Bravery has never been an overtly traditional blog. Yes, some commonplace elements and recurring themes keep it from falling apart but its essentially come to operate as a living journal of the things that have piqued my interest. It’s allowed me a place to provide documentation of recent events that blend recap aesthetics with critical analysis while simultaneously operating as a platform to showcase lesser-known bands. When it was initially devised, its sole purpose was to grant me an outlet to be able to keep writing but- over time- it grew into something that eventually had a heavy impact on my life. Whether through enabling visits to Toronto or being one of the biggest root causes of the recent relocation to Brooklyn, it’s played an enormously active role in shaping some of the biggest decisions I’ve ever made- and it’s been directly responsible for linking me to a handful of genuinely invaluable people that I’d be twice as lost without.

Now on its 600th post- and with the blue moon just barely behind us- it felt appropriate to allow the rarest of overtly personal posts. Over the near-two months I’ve been residing in Brooklyn, I’ve had the privilege of both witnessing and playing a part in some genuinely unforgettable moments. For a large handful of them, I was fortunate enough to have the camera on and rolling. The 25 clips that are all contained in this sequence are videos I’ve shot personally since landing in New York. From a breathtaking acoustic rooftop performance overlooking the city’s industry-driven sprawl to an inexplicably perfect moment at a secret wedding to secret headliners to a slew of site favorites, there’s a lot of content here- all of which made me feel like I was in the exact right place. It’s an offering that acts both as a celebration of a small accomplishment in terms of longevity and as a sincere thanks to a part of the world that has so readily accepted- and celebrated- both myself and this site. I’m genuinely unsure of what the future holds but if it’s anything as exciting as the past few months have proven to be, I’ll consider myself fortunate to share it with both my friends and anyone kind enough to lend any attention to this site.

Below the video, you can find a tracklist of the sequencing and- as this is another 100 posts- there will be links to the preceding 100 posts. Click play and browse at will. Enjoy.

1. Girlpool – Crowded Stranger (Live at Baby’s all Right)
2. Diet Cig – Dinner Date (Live at Shea Stadium)
3. Frankie Cosmos – On the Lips (Live at DBTS)
4. Radioactivity – World of Pleasure (Live at Baby’s All Right)
5. Dogs On Acid – Make It Easy (Live at DBTS)
6. PWR BTTM – Projection (Live at Palisades)
7. Slothrust – Crockpot (Live at Suburbia)
8. Charly Bliss – Dairy Queen (Live at Shea Stadium)
9. Told Slant – I Am Not (Live at Silent Barn)
10. Montana and the Marvelles – Stand By Me (Live at DBTS)
11. Lost Boy ? (ft. Patrick Stickles) – Big Business Monkey (Live at Shea Stadium)
12. Idle Bloom – Dust (Live at Alphaville)
13. Swirlies – Wait Forever (Live at Silent Barn)
14. Tenement – Crop Circle Nation + Dull Joy (Live at The Acheron)
15. Bully – Brainfreeze (Live at Rough Trade)
16. Rebecca Ryskalczyk – Other Otters (Live at DBTS)
17. Attic Abasement – Sorry About Your Dick (Live at Shea Stadium)
18. Eskimeaux – Folly (Live at Palisades)
19. Krill – Turd (Live at Silent Barn)
20. Littlefoot – Worrydoll (Live at DBTS)
21. Florist – 1914 (Live at Baby’s All Right)
22. Mitski – I Will (Live at Palisades)
22. Adir L.C. – Inside Out (Live at DBTS)
24. Johanna Warren – Survive (Live)
25. Benny The Jet Rodriguez – Alley Cat (Live at The Acheron)

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HB500: Casting A Glance (Video Mixtape)
HB501: Mutual Benefit – Not For Nothing (Stream)
HB502: Hammock – My Mind Was A Fog… My Heart Became A Bomb + In the Middle of Nowhere (Music Video)
HB503: The Fjords – All In (Music Video)
HB504: Fraser A. Gorman – Shiny Gun (Music Video)
HB505: Tenement – Curtains Closed (Stream)
HB506: Lady Bones – Botch (Stream)
HB507: So Stressed – Apple Hill (Stream)
HB508: Watch This: Vol. 72
HB509: Girlpool – Before The World Was Big (Music Video)
HB510: Ice Melting in the Back of a Pickup Truck (Short Film Premiere)
HB511: Worriers – They/Them/Theirs (Stream)
HB512: Westkust – Dishwasher (Stream)
HB513: Total Babes – Heydays (Music Video)
HB514; Weed – Thousand Pounds (Music Video)
HB515; La Lenguas – Love You All the Time (Stream)
HB516: MOURN – Gertrudis, Get Through This! (Stream)
HB517: Institute – Cheerlessness (Stream)
HB518: Blue Smiley – OK (Album Stream)
HB519: Molly – People (Music Video)
HB520: Diamond Youth – Thought I Had It Right (Music Video)
HB521: Heather Woods Broderick – Wyoming (Music Video)
HB522: Wactch This: Vol. 73
HB523: Lady Bones – 24 Hour Party Girl (Stream)
HB524: Radioactivity – I Know (Stream)
HB525: Splitting at the Break: A Visual Retrospective of 2015’s First Half (Pictorial Review, Live Video)
HB526: Johanna Warren – True Colors (Music Video) (NSFW)
HB527: Royal Headache – High (Stream)
HB528: Hey Hallways – Anything At All (Music Video)
HB529: Watch This: Vol. 74
HB530: Watch This: Vol. 75
HB531: Watch This: Vol. 76
HB532: Watch This: Vol. 77
HB533: Watch This: Vol. 78
HB534: Watch This: Vol. 79
HB535: Watch This: Vol. 80
HB536: Sulky Boy – Things Betwixt (Stream)
HB537: Girls Names – Reticence (Stream)
HB538: Happy Diving – So Bunted (Stream)
HB539: Father/Daughter Northside Showcase 2015 (Pictorial Review, Live Videos)
HB540: Introducing: Montana and the Marvelles
HB541: Miscreant Records Northside Showcase 2015 (Pictorial Review, Live Videos)
HB542: Bully – Live at Rough Trade – 6/15/15 (Pictorial Review, Live Video)
HB543: Exploding in Sound Northside Showcase 2015 (Pictorial Review, Live Video)
HB544: Painted Zeros – Live at Alphaville – 6/17/15 (Pictorial Review, Live Video)
HB545: Tenement – Predatory Headlights (Album Review, Stream)
HB546: Dogs On Acid – Live at DBTS – 6/19/15 (Pictorial Review, Live Video)
HB547: Watch This: Vol. 81
HB548: Watch This: Vol. 82
HB549: Lost Boy ? – Live at Shea Stadium – 6/20/15 (Pictorial Review, Live Video)
HB550: 2015: Halfway Home (Mixtape)
HB551: Bully – Trying (Music Video)
HB552: Toys That Kill – Live at The Acheron – 6/23/15 (Pictorial Review, Live Video)
HB553: Tenement – Live at The Acheron – 6/25/15 (Pictorial Review, Live Videos)
HB554: Watch This: Vol. 83
HB555: Sweet John Bloom – Weird Prayer (Album Review, Stream)
HB556: Raury – Devil’s Whisper (Music Video)
HB557: Fakers – $600 (Stream)
HB558: Cherry Glazerr – Sip O’ Poison (Stream)
HB559: Coaster – Paralyzed (Stream)
HB560: Nervoasas – Parallels (Stream)
HB561; Big Huge – Late At Nite (Stream)
HB562: The Hussy – Turning On You (Stream)
HB563: Gurr – I Don’t Like You (Stream)
HB564: Vacation – Like Snow (Stream, Live Video)
HB565: Big Air – Barking Dog (Music Video Premiere)
HB566: Trust Fund (ft. Alanna McArdle) – Dreams (Stream)
HB567: Pleasure Leftists – You You (Stream)
HB568: Ben Seretan – Take 3 (Song Premiere)
HB569: White Reaper – Last 4th of July (Stream)
HB570: Watch This: Vol. 84
HB571: Swirlies – Live at The Silent Barn – 7/4/15 (Pictorial Review, Live Video)
HB572: Noun – I’m Afraid of What I’ll Do (Stream)
HB573: Meat Wave – Delusion Moon (Stream)
HB574: PWR BTTM – Ugly Cherries (Stream)
HB575: Diet Cig – Sleep Talk (Stream)
HB576: Watch This: Vol. 85
HB577: Slothrust – Live at Suburbia – 7/10/15 (Pictorial Review, Live Video)
HB578: All Dogs – That Kind of Girl (Stream, Live Video)
HB579: Dilly Dally – Desire (Stream)
HB580: LVL UP – Three Songs (7″ Stream)
HB581: PUP – Dark Days (Music Video)
HB582: Royal Headache – Another World (Music Video)
HB583: Mitski – Live at Palisades – 7/17/15
HB584: Watch This: Vol. 86
HB585: Radioactivity – Intro/Battered/Slipped Away (Music Video)
HB586: Princess Reason – Your Divorce (Stream)
HB587: Rebecca Ryskalczyk – We’re Brothers (Demo Stream)
HB588: Phylums – Go Home (Stream)
HB589: Watch This: Vol. 87
HB590: Meat Wave – Delusion Moon (Music Video)
HB591: A Short Stretch (Pitctorial Review)
HB592: Dogs On Acid – Make It Easy (Stream)
HB593: SPORTS – The Washing Machine (Stream)
HB594: A Short Stretch (Video Review)
HB595: All Dogs – Skin (Stream)
HB596: Girlpool – Live at Baby’s All Right – 7/29/15 (Pictorial Review, Live Video)
HB597: Heat – This Life (Music Video)
HB598: The Foetals – Malted (Stream)
HB599: Watch This: Vol. 88

Miscreant Records Northside Showcase 2015 (Pictorial Review, Live Video)

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While two days ago held the distinction of the first appearance of Montana and the Marvelles, that event only covered part of the day. An entire Miscreant showcase preceded those proceedings, providing a platform for several site favorites. Put together by Jeanette Wall and a team that she’d assembled around her, the day started with some delicious free food (there was a grillout in Palisades’ garden section) and strong sets from the first two bands: Comfy and O-Face. Both have a very specific take on indie pop and complement each other to a tee, immediately establishing a sense of comforting familiarity.

Nicholas Nicholas proved to be a relative anomaly among the otherwise punk-leaning bands, opting instead for a more subdued take on dream pop. Fern Mayo (a band fronted by A Year’s Worth of Memories contributor Katie Capri) set thing back to reflecting a greater urgency with an unexpectedly fiery set that managed to make room for an endearing Rilo Kiley cover. PWR BTTM annihilated just about everyone after a genuinely uproarious set by Mary Houlihan- one of several stand-ups to perform between bands- which roped in PWR BTTM’s Benjamin Walter Hopkins for a long guitar-driven bit involving a Bruce Springsteen concert that gave Houlihan a glimpse into something unexpected as a child.

Joe Pera bridged the gap between PWR BTTM and Jawbreaker Reunion– whose Lutheran Sisterhood Gun Club remains one of last year’s very best– with a memorable set that played off of the crowd to perfection. At one point, Pera haphazardly strapped Jawbreaker Reunion’s Bella Mazzetti’s bass on before proclaiming himself to be “supergroup Powerbreaker Reunion”, which bled into the final band’s introduction. Jawbreaker Reunion seized their headlining spot with a glee and dove headfirst into a ramshackle set with abandon, capping off an exceptional afternoon of friends, comedy, food, and live music.

Photos and videos of the showcase are below as well as two clips of Told Slant’s set at Silent Barn later on that night. Enjoy.


1. O-Face
2. Comfy
3. Nicholas Nicholas
4. Fern Mayo (x2)
5. PWR BTTM (x3)
6. Jawbreaker Reunion (x3)


Watch This: Vol. 72

Once again, the candidates for this week’s Watch This– the weekly series that celebrates the best live videos to have emerged in the previous week- came in droves. At this point, it’s getting genuinely difficult to keep tabs on all of them because of the sheer number of videos (and new series) that are being unearthed. To that end, it’s almost more indicative of the featured crop’s formidable strength to list the other titles that were in contention- all of which are more than worth the click. The bands in those videos included: Bellows, Diarrhea Planet (twice), Two Inch Astronaut, Jeff Rosenstock, Mountain Bike, Vomitface, Craft Spells, and Strange Relations. Below, in this 72nd installment, the featured crop’s a little more subdued than usual but starts off with one of the most staggeringly powerful live videos to have run this year. So, as always, lean in, turn the volume up, push any lingering doubt to the side, and Watch This.

1. Hop Along – Waitress (World Cafe) 

The most immediately apparent draw to Hop Along has always been Frances Quinlan’s voice. It’s a powerhouse; unforgettable after even the briefest of exposures. It’s also the kindest red herring, something that doesn’t necessarily suggest that a lot of the band’s inherent power is drawn from defiantly embracing vulnerability. For a long while, though a pairing like that shouldn’t have ended in this particular path, the band felt like a carefully-guarded secret. Now, with a universally acclaimed record and a Saddle Creek deal (the label’s strongest move in recent memory), a much larger group of people have taken notice.

Ensuring that their rapid ascension is far from over, the band have perfected their live show (it’s also why they’ve appeared on Watch This multiple times throughout this series’ run) and recently set up camp in World Cafe’s studio to deliver a powerful performance of Painted Shut highlight “Waitress”. Apart from exuding a transcendent gracefulness throughout “Waitress” (easily a song of the year candidate), there’s a moment that occurs at about the 2:20 mark that is the precise kind of breathtaking moment that Watch This was built to celebrate. With nothing but grace notes and limitless passion, this is as good as this series gets. Watch it below.

2. John Davey – Sugarmask (Cozy Couch Sessions)

Another artist that’s made a handful of Watch This appearances is singer/songwriter John Davey, whose brand of deeply humane folk has always resonated with a casual finesse. Davey recently stopped by to deliver a heartfelt  performance of a new song entitled “Sugarmask”, which ranks as yet another stunner in already enviable collection of songs. Poignant and endearing, “Sugarmask” is an arresting song and it’s given about as strong of a showcase imaginable through this clip.

3. Mikal Cronin (KEXP)

MCIII has proven to be a little more divisive among critics than expected, with one of the most levelheaded assessments coming from Sloan’s Jay Ferguson in a very balanced piece for The Talkhouse. After Cronin’s monumental MCII (my personal Album of the Year pick for 2013), that uncertainty on something as ambitious as MCIII should probably have been expected. It’s telling, though, that there hasn’t been much conflict over Cronin’s skills as a live performer. He’s only grown stronger as the shows played under his own name accumulate and that continuously building confidence is brought to full-bloom in a gorgeous session for KEXP. While the songs may lose some of their grandeur without the sweeping string and brass sections (which were all arranged by Cronin, who plays most of the instruments on MCIII), they gain quite a bit of punch in a more traditional set-up. All in all, the whole thing operates as a decisive reminder that Cronin’s still one of the most gifted pop songwriters working today.

4. Eskimeaux – Folly (This Has Got To Stop)

Gabrielle Smith’s Eskimeaux project recently released what will undoubtedly stand as one of the year’s most beautiful, unassuming records by the time 2015’s over. That record, O.K., is rooted in subtly intense personal explorations that all carry a hushed quality. “Folly” is one of the record’s most spellbinding moments as it feels like a culmination of Smith’s songwriting aesthetic. In a recent session for This Has To Got Stop, she performed it solo, perched on a chair, eyes cast down or closed, lost in the music. It’s mesmerizing. It’s also worth noting that Smith nearly appeared in this installment twice, once here, and once as a part of Bellows‘ incredible NPR Tiny Desk session (which is also deserving of several watches).

5. Tom Waits – Take One Last Look (Late Show With David Letterman)

Over the years, David Letterman has championed young, emerging punk bands to a heartening degree while maintaining great relationships with musical icons. One of the most notable partnerships in the latter category was Letterman’s connection with Tom Waits, who honored the departing host with a new song, “One Last Look”. With the pedigrees of both men at an incredibly visible and highly respected level, a move like this had all of the makings of a classic late-night moment and it didn’t disappoint. Waits honored Letterman with the most tender of farewells, accompanied by accordionist Gabriel Donohue and bassist Larry Taylor, Waits delivered the kind of timeless, dusty Americana that made Mule Variations an instant classic. Inherently powerful and extraordinarily moving, “Take One Last Look” is something that deserves to be remembered.

2014: A Year’s Worth of Memories, Pt. 3

A million and half thank you’s are due to everyone who’s contributed pieces to this ongoing series so far: Michelle Zauner, Sam Clark, Tess Duncan, Caroline Rayner, Cynthia Ann Schemmer, Eva Grace Hendricks, Dave Benton, Michael Caridi, Shari Heck, David Anthony, Quinn Moreland, Gabriela June Tully Claymore, Jesse Amesmith, Katie Capri, Jeff Bolt, and everyone who contributed a piece to this round. Hats off to Jesse Frick, Stephen Tringali, Oliver Kalb, David Glickman, and Loren Diblasi for all of the wonderful pieces included below. As always, it’s the most surreal, sincere honor to be able to be providing all of this wonderful writing a home. Enough from me, on to what’s really important: part 3 of 2014: A Year’s Worth of Memories.

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Partying (Unofficially)

Hands down my favorite musical moments of the year happened in Austin and Brooklyn, the locations of our unofficial SXSW and CMJ parties, respectively. When you run or work at a label, most interactions with bands, fans, media, and peers are all done virtually. But all bets are off once we’re on the same turf. There is no better feeling after spending 6+ months on a record release or planning a showcase than to see people ENJOYING what you helped to create.

Presenting a show at a festival like SXSW or CMJ is a massive undertaking, a huge pain in the ass of an undertaking. Finding sponsors to help cover venue rentals and bar tabs, scheduling 12+ bands’ time slots around their 15+ other shows, politely screaming in sync with everyone else’s promoting of their own shows, not to mention doing all of this in your spare time outside of your day job- it’s exhausting.

But then I think back to the evening of March 13, 2014- Monster Rally’s Ted Feighan is doing his fucking awesome thing on the second of two stages at our Liberation SXSW party with Gold Robot, Small Plates, and Inflated Records. For a few moments, everyone in the crowd throws their grievances and inhibitions out the window and starts dancing. It no longer matters what website you write for or who you manage or “ugh, I can’t believe that guy who refuses to reply to my emails is here!” For once, everyone remembers why we hustle, why we sacrifice, why we believe and soak it in.

Fast forward to October 24, 2014. I’m standing in the back of The Silent Barn, a community space that I have the utmost respect and undying love for. The Silent Barn is what arts communities around the world should be. It also currently houses some of my favorite Muppet people as well as Gravesend Studios, a recording space that every band in NYC needs to check out. But I digress. Through various ebbs and flows, Jeanette of Miscreant Zine & Records and I team up and with the help of Nina at Silent Barn decide to shoot for a 12-hour party because 6-hour parties are for chumps.

The line-up came together like buttah. We managed to squeeze in 19 of our favorite musical people and everyone played a full set! Jeanette and Liz put together a phenomenal issue of The Miscreant special for the party with submissions from all of the performers. My dad and stepmom flew in from Miami to come to the party. Friends from all over swung by throughout the day to say hi, drink wine, get haircuts, and just enjoy being with one another. We underestimated the schedule so the 12-hour party turned into a 14-hour party but that didn’t faze us- we were still dancing like mad at almost 4am with Moon Bounce closing out the night. It was a beautiful thing.

Now, looking forward to 2015, a new year filled with new records and new parties to organize and I think to myself, I am one lucky son of a gun. Thanks to everyone who made this year so special- much love to you all.

xx Jessi

-Jessi Frick (Father/Daughter Records)

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Setting Sail

This past year, I was fortunate enough to work on several music videos for artists that I truly respect as either the cinematographer (Roomrunner, Chastity Belt, Speedy Ortiz) or the director (Connections, Big Ups).

Many may already know the struggles of making independent music videos- they don’t pay much (or anything at all); the budgets are incredibly small but the expectations are high; and they would mostly be impossible to produce if it were not for the devoted and passionate filmmakers who make them.

The second music video I worked on this year- Chastity Belt’s “Black Sail”- stands out as the most intense, most gratifying memory of 2014. My friend Maegan Houang had pitched the band a sprawling western/horror concept and asked me to be the cinematographer on the video. The treatment was spectacular and Maegan is one of the most talented directors I know. Of course I wanted to be involved.

We prepared for the video over the coming months but the sheer scale of it did not really hit me until I arrived in Yucca Valley the day before the shoot. There, sitting on the side of the road, was an enormous tractor-trailer towing a full-size Conestoga wagon. Beside it were period-correct barrels, broken chairs, rifles- everything a production designer might have on a production with a real budget. I had no idea how Maegan had pulled this together but I assumed she had done it through pure tenacity.

Getting the wagon to the location was an entirely different issue. Between it and the filming location was a long and winding sand path, some small hills, and even more sand and bushes. The tractor-trailer obviously couldn’t take the wagon any farther, so we hitched it to a 4×4 that slowly towed the wagon through the terrain. All the while, we had to turn the wagon’s wheels by hand and guide it along.

I fell asleep that night curled up in a sleeping bag in the back of my car (remember, this was a low budget music video). My ears were ringing. I knew this meant that my stress level was at an all-time high. I felt an enormous pressure to make this video look better than anything I had ever shot before. The potential for everything to fall perfectly into place on the first day of the shoot could not have been greater. And that’s exactly why I had nightmares of the entire production going up in flames.

Thankfully, this did not happen. We had all prepared well. I had an excellent crew (1st assistant camera Vito Huizar, key grip Nate Thomson, and many others). And the weather was kind to us.

After the video premiered online in late August of 2014, Stereogum featured it on their 5 Best Videos Of The Week list. It was accepted into the Los Angeles Music Video Festival and won the Audience Award. Reflecting back on the project, I could not be more proud of my contribution.

-Stephen Tringali (Director/Cinematographer)

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Some Thoughts About The Epoch and My Year

When I think back on my year, I first think of my friends and how proud I am of them for everything they’ve accomplished in just a few months. Though 2014 is the first year that our collective The Epoch has really come into the fore in New York City, the truth is that each of us in the collective has been working on our separate projects for almost four years now. Instead of writing about my favorite moment or album of this year, I want to share some thoughts about our collective’s history and the significance this year played in re-forming my ideas about being a part of a music scene.

Henry Crawford, who now plays under the moniker Small Wonder, used to play in a loud rock band called The Mighty Handful. Their shows were spectacles, in a variety of ways. Jack Greenleaf, often instead of playing an instrument, would throw confetti at the audience and run back and forth around the stage like those two extra members of Arcade Fire. Henry and Jack Ferencz, the co-frontman, would flail and convulse violently. An inaudible violin and the occasional appearance of brass players were sort of a ploy to assure the audience of the intelligence and ambitiousness of the band. There were tons of things that were over the top and nearly lame about The Mighty Handful but they were also a beautiful band to see. All of them were around sixteen years old and were so earnestly excited about their band that, even when they sounded terrible, their energy infected everyone in the room. They were willing to fall on their face and seem ridiculous and it made them able to achieve higher heights than the more “mature” pre-chill-wave bands that they were playing shows with in 2008.

Eventually the members of the Mighty Handful broke up and went to college in different cities. Those of us who remained friends formed separate solo projects, most of us adopting a lighter touch and quieter sound. In 2011, we began calling our group of musician friends “The Epoch,” and started to use the word ‘collective’ to describe the group dynamic we’d already had for a number of years. Though all of the old members of the Mighty Handful are now embarrassed by their high school super-group, the Mighty Handful’s lofty ambition and high-stakes rocking-out hasn’t really left us– I think that in some ways our collective’s slogan “The Epoch is Now” is basically a reflection of the same bravado that guided the Mighty Handful to rock out so hard. We’ve just re-contextualized their boyish energy into a somber stoicism that appears more humble but is basically just a less teenage way of demonstrating that we’re super serious about the music we’re making.

In January of this year, Henry released an album called Wendy, a downtrodden and elegant record that’s hugely dynamic and sonically intricate. It’s a really demanding album that took Henry about three years to write and a year to record, the product of long periods of hunkering down with Jack Greenleaf, who produced and arranged the record. Wendy got the attention of a number of blogs and was basically the first Epoch project that got some notice in the “blogosphere.” It was the first of a slew of Epoch projects that came out in the first part of this year. In April, I released my second album as Bellows, Blue Breath, which I began writing working on in late 2011 and continued to write, record and revise for almost three years. In May, Jack Greenleaf released his second album as Sharpless, a painstaking record called The One I Wanted To Be. All three of these albums made minor blips in the NYC indie blog circuit. They circulated moderately well around mid-level blogs and ended up getting tape and vinyl releases on small indie labels. The attention was hugely important to us and we talked about it almost obsessively in the spring and summer. Then, as is the way of the Internet, people stopped talking about the albums and moved onto other things.

It was then that we started to freak out. Had Wendy gotten enough attention? Had people understood Blue Breath? Was some information about J-Pop necessary to see what Jack was going for with Sharpless? Reading these questions back to myself, they look totally ridiculous. It’s tough to admit the amount of emotional stress each of us went through over the inevitable decay of our blog cycle, but it’s totally true and worth discussing.

At sixteen, the allure of rockstardom can be deeply entangled in the way you develop as a young artist. Most teenage bands emulate the songwriters that speak to them the most. I know in my high school music scene, we had sound-a-likes of Joy Division, Modest Mouse, and The Replacements, to name a few. It’s not that we were plagiarizing— it was more like practicing a foreign language: translating other peoples’ words can be the easiest way to figure out how to speak by yourself.

I’ve found that songwriting is a performance, not just in the obvious sense, but also because it involves constantly and aggressively reimagining your personality. Obviously no one is as dark and brooding as their songs suggest (or as bubbly and outgoing, as the case may be), but the songs they sing depict a darker aspect of their everyday self that isn’t readily available to anyone other than close friends. Performing a “character” when you sing a song you wrote isn’t as glam or gaudy an act as it might sound- I think a lot of artists and singers like to show a more serious side of themselves, possibly because they think it’ll be more easily believed or swallowed by their audience, or maybe because it feels good to exorcise hidden parts of yourself that you don’t get to express in everyday life. The character can be so close to the real person that it’s very hard to distinguish them- sometimes it might not even be a noticeable difference, but I’ve found that there’s always a distance between the person a song tells you about and the person who you meet after a show.

I’ve only recently been able to notice a difference between the voice I use when I write Bellows songs and the person I am in public. The union of these two distinct personalities is interesting to me and is something I’ve been trying to explore in my music lately (the song “Cease to Be”, the last track on my album Blue Breath is about this idea. I describe a close friend of mine looking at herself in the mirror and seeing a complete person, a sort of net-zero of self-image and reflected self: “You look at her once and you know completely/she is the way that you thought she’d be/something like clarity that I seek out/to look in the mirror and cease to be”).

It’s increasingly clear to me, however, that the character a songwriter presents to the public very quickly becomes a product. Songwriters who become popular very quickly lose access to the private, personal characters they invent once they begin the process of signing off time and effort to companies with the ability to turn their art into money. I’m not really a kook or conspiracy theorist about the music industry, but I do think that it can be a problem when music is sold as a seemingly “authentic” experience of confessional, hyper-real access to a singer’s private life. We have a culture in our indie rock world that puts these “characters” songwriters invent on a very high pedestal. I’ve heard that Elliott Smith, the prototype of the depressed, drug-addicted songwriter on whom so many songwriters base their unstable and reckless behavior, was nothing like the person his songs made him out to be. By the end of his career, it’s obvious that he was deeply disturbed by how commodified his depression and addiction were- he was becoming rich off of his own pain- and was expected to stay in pain forever in order to keep the checks coming.

Obviously I’m not famous by any means, so my doubts about the industry around DIY and indie music communities are mostly speculative. But as I see more of my friends move into low and mid-levels of popularity, I see them stricken with the same questions. Do you want a company to require you to tour six months out of the year? Was that the reason you made your first record? Do you want your time off touring to be sequestered to the task of writing something that matches (or hopefully exceeds) your last record? Even when that last record took you three years to write? And by whose standards can you even judge the worth of your music if not your own? The further distanced you are from the process of actually making your art, the more difficult it is answer these questions. When I was most distressed about whether my album was doing well in the blog world, I was least connected to the actual music I had made. I would walk my dog around my neighborhood listening to the album on repeat, but may as well have been listening to nothing. My anxiety made it impossible to hear what I had done, because I was so intent on hearing it from everybody’s ears but my own.

It seems to me that the only way to survive as a person trying to take things seriously in this unforgiving music world is to create your own fulfillment. If the act of writing songs itself is no longer satisfying to you, you’ve already failed yourself. There’s no possibility of failing or succeeding in the wider world of indie music because you’ve categorically denied yourself the ability to experience real joy or satisfaction. Everything is hollow because you’ve projected an image yourself that’s so far removed from the person you are in private that you don’t even have access to that person anymore.

At the risk of sounding corny, I’m going to end this with three sort of self-important/self-flagellating reminders I’ve been trying to drill into my own brain:

  1. Access yourself. Write songs because you want to. Not for an album. Not for a blog or record label. Because, again, you want to and because you have to believe that something pure guided you to be so psyched about making music when you were sixteen and there wasn’t anybody coming to your shows.
  2. The private act of making music is the only thing that matters- the stuff that’s created behind closed doors when nobody’s commenting and there’s nobody else to hear and appreciate it but you.

    3.  There’s no Album of the Year.

-Oliver Kalb (Bellows)

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Upon Seeing Majical Cloudz at Fun Fun Fun Fest

I saw Majical Cloudz for the first time five days after my aunt had died. We were close, and devastating doesn’t even begin to cover what I felt when I received the phone call from my mom that she had passed away. I spent that whole day stumbling around Austin feeling hollow, bursting into tears when I started to talk or think about her. I didn’t want to do anything at all in the days that followed but I made it out for the show, in large part to help celebrate a friend’s birthday. “Childhood’s End” had already made its way onto my iPod, but Impersonator hadn’t come out yet, and for the most part I was entering the show knowing little of what to expect; just a few overheard stories about their sets being powerful. The duo took the stage nonchalantly and, over the course of the show, latched onto something inside of me. The songs were simple, sparse, but carried a weight to them, a sense of importance that could not be shaken. I left their show thinking how desperately I wanted- no- needed to experience their music again.

I grabbed a copy of Impersonator as soon as I possibly could; I listened to that album practically every day of 2013, internalizing every song, every lyric. “Childhood’s End” became about my emotional state, the romanticism of “Silver Rings” became a source of small comfort. I couldn’t listen to “Bugs Don’t Buzz” for long stretches of time; the way it way it talked so point-blank about death was something I couldn’t always handle. My favorite track, though, was the last one, “Notebook”, a song about comforting a loved one in a hospital while confronting one’s own mortality. I lost count of the nights where I would stay up to three in the morning, listening to that song, wanting to scream the line “I don’t want to turn to the Bible yet”. This is the album- and the band- that got me through a terrible time in my life.

And so after more than a year, I finally got to see them perform again. I skipped out on seeing Dinosaur Jr to get the best spot possible and waited patiently. Matt Otto and Devon Walsh soon took the stage, just as casually as they did last time, and began to play. A complete hush quickly fell over the audience (something I’ve only witnessed at Majical Cloudz shows) and the opening lines of “This is Magic” came out of the speakers. The next song was “Notebook”, which Welsh dedicated to me after I yelped for joy. I was wanted to tell him everything that song meant to me, but all I could do was sing along. I would have been content with this show, re-experiencing the quiet intensity that I witnessed before, now being a little more aware of what I was experiencing. Instead though, for the fourth song Welsh stepped into the crowd and started performing from there. The dynamic changed instantly, as the audience began to move to the music, singing and even shouting along to the lyrics.

Suddenly, this wasn’t about me experiencing music that meant something to me; it was about the audience collectively experiencing these songs together. We swayed when Welshed asked us to, crouched down for another song. People swarmed around Welsh, wanting to be as close to him as possible, to sing every word along with him. Everyone hung on every moment; even the new songs were mesmerizing (one with the line “I’ll be your friend ‘till I’m buried in the ground” in particular left a dull pain in my chest). In between every song I would turn and look at the people around me. Everyone wore the same small smile, one crafted from the sense of knowing that the people next to you were experiencing, in their own way, the same brilliant catharsis as you. The band ended the show with “Bugs Don’t Buzz”, with the song’s ominous piano lines sounding even more foreboding at such a high volume. And yet as the lyrics came in, as Welsh and the crowd sang about love crumbling in the face of death, there was no dread in the air. Because these songs weren’t about the end, they were about living a life, despite knowing the end was there. Experiencing that feeling, surrounded by strangers all experiencing similar feelings, was amazing. Welsh and Otto managed to make the tent they were performing in, at a massive music festival, seem like the most intimate spot in the world.

They were performing again later that night, but I didn’t go; I couldn’t experience something like that twice.

-David Glickman (The Daily Texan)

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Navigating Adulthood in 2014 (via Lyric)

Being a grown up is hard. You don’t realize how hard until adulthood slaps you in the face. I suffered several of these brutal attacks in 2014, my 25th year of existence. Quarter-life crisis? That’s a thing, I guess. This year, I was bruised and battered like never before, sometimes at my own hand. But while many of life’s punches left their mark- and in some cases, the pain still stings- I survived, and that’s probably worth something. Isn’t it?

“How easily we forget in order to live.” – Priests, “Design Within Reach

For the purposes of this essay, let’s go with a resounding, “Yes!” But when you’re 25, every day feels like a question. Am I doing the right thing? Am I going to be happy? Is this person I’m spending time with going to make me happy? Should I even bother letting him try?

Of course, 2014 wasn’t all doom and gloom, although it’s always easier to harp on the darker moments. This year brought several triumphs, both personal and professional, and an abundance of good times with good people. As usual, music functioned at the epicenter: going to shows, hearing new records, meeting musicians I admire, and even making my own music (however poorly) for the first time.

All in all, nothing new. And yet, in the overall scheme of things, 2014 has been noticeably different. I’ve always allowed music to soundtrack the important, and also not-so important, moments of my life: every change, every milestone, and every achievement. Still, this year, it was uncanny how my favorite songs and albums seemed to align with whatever was happening, as it was happening, in my life. Suddenly, lyrics rang true like never before; melodies haunted my brain for hours on end; I worried that musicians I had never even met might be invading my dreams, engineering them without my knowledge or consent.

“Do I bother to define myself beyond what they allow? Have I already forgotten how?” – Parquet Courts, “Black & White

If nothing else, 2014 was eventful. My first trip to SXSW was an endless blaze of bands, booze, and (literal) body surfing. Death By Audio closed, taking a tiny piece of my soul along with it. I (probably) saw Guy Picciotto on the subway. I was hired, I was fired. I started a band. I fell in love. Now I’ve reached the end, and to be quite frank, I’m fucking exhausted. So where do we go from here?

“I often get the feeling I don’t have any sensation/ It isn’t much of a feeling.” – Viet Cong, “Unconscious Melody

I guess we rewind, right back to the beginning. Some people are just inherently good at life. I’ve never considered myself one of them. Raised by a badass single mom from Brooklyn, I’ve always believed that my strong will is mainly what’s gotten me this far; that, plus my affinity for foul language (you can’t trust anyone whose parents never taught them to curse). I’ve never shied away from anything, really, but I’ve still never been jazzed by the idea of taking on the “Real World.” In 2014, I was thrust straight into its clutches, mostly against my will.

We all know that writing– like any creative endeavor– simply isn’t lucrative. There’s no set career path to follow, and especially with music writing, there aren’t any rules. After graduating college with a butt-load of student debt and not much else, I quickly realized that the occupation of “writer” was mostly reserved for the fictional realm of movies and television. In order to survive, I would need a job to support my ambitions.

Just before turning 25, I was hired at my first real job, and before the year was through, I was let go. At the time, the thought of returning to a life of freelancing- mainly, a life of financial uncertainty- was utterly terrifying. Then, I had a breakthrough: hadn’t writing been really, really good to me this year? Sometimes, it’s easy to feel like you haven’t accomplished anything at all, because being a writer means second-guessing your every move, whether it be the placement of a comma or a meaningful life decision. Most of the time, that isn’t the case at all. Usually, you’re far better off than you think.

“As it breaks, the summer will wake/ But the winter will wash what’s left of the taste.” – Future Islands, “Seasons (Waiting On You)

This past spring, I was lucky to find a home at Impose and I’m so thankful for all the opportunities I’ve had because of it. Last year, when I was working mostly for no pay at small, local blogs, becoming a staff writer at my favorite site was nothing short of a Les Mis-style impossible dream. Now, as the year comes to a close, I’m taking on new assignments from new outlets and collaborating with like-minded people like never before (and have the free time to do so). By no means is it easy, but for the first time in my life, I feel like a real-life music writer. I’m not so numb with terror anymore. In fact, it feels pretty good.

“Finally I know what love is/ It’s the feeling that you’re being pulled apart by horses.” – Flagland, “Superlove

Alas, we’ve finally reached the fun stuff. At 25, after years of fancying myself an emotionless humanoid shell, I discovered that I, too, am susceptible to feelings. If you prick me, I do bleed, and unfortunately that blood is the same color as every other broken-hearted girl in Brooklyn. It was a hard realization, but once the damage had been done, there was no turning back. Fuck!

It’s okay, though. I mean, it’s not okay- getting dicked around by someone is never okay, and allowing it to happen more than once is even less okay- but still, there’s something to be gained in losing at love. Knowing that the struggle is, indeed, all too real. Knowing that you gave it your all. Knowing that you’ve said all there is to say, even when saying it hurts more than you ever thought possible. Knowing that time really does make everything better, and that good friends (and alcohol) definitely help speed up the process.

“I wish someone would swallow me.” – Krill, “Turd

Are you not supposed to write so candidly about these things? I don’t know, because like I said, in writing there are no rules. This year, I’ve interviewed some of my favorite bands on the planet and struggled with this very concept. Objectivity in music journalism is something I’ve never been able to fully wrap my head around. How can music writing be objective when music itself is anything but? If a song or a record or a band is able to move you, and in turn you’re able to share with others how you’ve been moved, isn’t that the whole point? Isn’t that why you do it?

I’ve always imagined myself an outsider. That’s why working so closely with music has always appealed to me. Music makes it okay to feel whatever you want, because as long as someone else feels the same, you’re not alone. This is how bonds are formed; they’re most definitely the truest bonds I’ve ever experienced. Obviously, it’s best that some lines don’t become blurred- I’ve learned that lesson the hard way, a couple times over now- but isn’t the messier stuff always the best stuff? At least sometimes?

“We’re all the fucking same.” – Ought, “Today More Than Any Other Day

Early this year, I sat down for an interview with my friend Joe, whose band Big Ups released one of my favorite records of 2014. Something he said during our talk really stuck with me, and has stuck with me ever since. Regarding his band’s debut, Eighteen Hours of Static, he said, “the record asks a lot of questions, because I don’t know what the answers are.” We were discussing what it’s like to be our age, and to see the things we see every day, and to feel the things we feel all the time. I don’t believe I’ve ever had the answers, and even at 25, I still don’t. I also don’t think that’s a bad thing.

Maybe don’t listen to anything I say. Maybe I’m drinking white wine straight from the bottle right now, and maybe my judgment is a bit clouded (hint: it is). Regardless, I can’t shake the feeling that everything will be okay in 2015, or maybe even better than okay. This year presented itself with a lot of problems, but starting now, I plan to live each day with the blind faith that they’ll soon be solved. Is that what being grown up means? 2014 wasn’t the year I grew up, exactly, but it was the year I started to get there.

-Loren DiBlasi (Impose, DIY)