Heartbreaking Bravery

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Tag: open work

Watch This: Vol. 106

[EDITOR’S NOTE: Due to the nature of these upcoming posts, a truncated version of this introductory paragraph will be appearing over the next several installments of this series.] It’s been quite some time since the 100th edition of Watch This went up on this site. There have been a lot of factors going into the extended interim but, as usual, a focal point of that absence was to make sure the preparation work was kept up to date. Full sessions, single song performances, DIY videos, and impressive turn-ins from radio stations abound. So, as always, sit back, adjust the setting, crank the volume, focus up, and Watch This.

1. Built to Spill – Good Enough (Joyful Noise)

Earlier this year, Built to Spill released their best record in over a decade. To help them celebrate that impressive achievement, Joyful Noise invited the band in for one of their Almost Live From… sessions and the band turned in a strong rendition of beloved rarity “Good Enough”. Weary, quiet, and and just about perfect, this is a powerful look at the current era of one of the most quietly celebrated acts in music.

2. Radioactivity – Sickness/Don’t Try (Razorcake)

One of the fiercest basement pop acts of this generation, Radioactivity have built up an impressive reputation over the course of their brief history, rivaling that of their sister band, The Marked Men. While their sophomore effort, this year’s Silent Kill, was no slouch, the band’s self-titled debut remains one of the best records to emerge in this decade. Razorcake caught the band tearing through the two opening tracks of that debut at VLHS last month and (thankfully) posted the results so that everyone could revel in the frenzy.

3. Ought – Beautiful Blue Sky (Radio K)

Back at the start of October, Ought put on a memorable set at Secret Project Robot that emphasized their off-kilter brand of nervous energy. “Beautiful Blue Sky” is the band’s most complete distillation of those tendencies to date and serves as one of many high watermarks for the quartet. Radio K recently hosted them for a session that saw the band turn in yet another inspired rendition of the song, which still feels as engrossing as it did when it was being road-tested as early as last year.

4. Fern Mayo – Open Work (This Has Got To Stop)

I first came to know Katie Capri as a writer and admired her work in that field before being introduced to her musical project, Fern Mayo. Capri would eventually pen a memorable screed against the assumption that Brooklyn DIY was dead in a piece for the first installment of A Year’s Worth of Memories and I’d eventually be blown away by a few of her songs. One of those songs, “Open Work”, felt like the tipping point of a good band becoming something more meaningful. This Has Got To Stop shot an outstanding acoustic rendition of the song on a rooftop that highlights Capri’s natural magnetism as both a songwriter and a performer.

5. Johanna Warren – Pin Oaks (Splendor Sessions)

A few of my fondest memories of 2015 involve time spent with Johanna Warren, whose gentle nūmūn ranks among this year’s finest offerings. Warren carries a tranquility with her that frequently tips over into a light serenity and that aspect of her personality informs her music, even in its stormiest moments. It’s that oddly specific sensibility that makes Warren’s solo acoustic performances feel like the purest presentation of not just her music but her entire being. Here, Warren turns in a characteristically captivating performance of “Pin Oaks” in a van that makes room for some gorgeous shots of the songwriter idling by a body of water. It’s an appropriately beautiful document of a moment that feels as if it’s only a few steps removed from being holy.

Ernie – Sweatpants (Stream)

ernie

As was stated earlier on,  it’s been a while since a single stream has been featured on this site- about three weeks to be exact. To remedy that, all of the songs that have been collected over that period of time (all of which made incredibly favorable impressions) will be featured in a trio of posts, beginning with this one. Each post will focus on one genuine standout and include a hyperlinked list of the others beneath the embedded player, bringing the site up to the present release cycle.

Kicking this process off is Ernie’s raucous “Sweatpants”, an unabashedly melodic song that’s not afraid of flashing some serrated edges. A towering vocal melody powers “Sweatpants”, while the guitar, bass, and drums surge underneath. Mining the typically rich field of malaise for lyrical content, Ernie finds a contrast between spry musicality and downtrodden lyrical content and exploits the divide to maximum effect. It’d be a tremendously downcast affair were it not for the defiantly energetic musical approach. Nuanced, balanced, and deceptively subtle, “Sweatpants” is a song that deserves to be in the collections of anyone who’s ever visited this site more than once.  

Listen to “Sweatpants” below  and pre-order Dog Park from Soft Speak Records here. Underneath the embed, explored a handful of other great songs to find release over the past three weeks.

Never Young – Stress Hed
Polyon – Blue
Haybaby – Doored
Puddle Splasher – Forget My Name
The Noise Figures – Shoot the Moon
Fern Mayo – Open Work
Sports – Get Bummed Out
Palm – Ankles
Roger Harvey – Arrow/Plane
Smokes – Lemonlime
Lilly Wolf – Terrible Mistake
Boys – Believe Anything
Shunkan – Paleontologist
Pity Sex – What  Might Soothe You
Violent Mae – In the Sun
See Through Dresses – Drag Scene
Kindling – Blinding Wave
Modern Baseball – The Thrash Particle
Swings – Sea
S.M. Wolf – We All Decided No
William Alexander – Giant Fade
Soldiers of Fortune (ft. Cass McCombs) – Old Roman Wall
Dumb Numbers – I Dreamed I Saw Jack Nance Last Night
Bambara – An Ill Son
Margot & The Nuclear So and So’s – Broadripple Is Burning (Living Room Version)

A Short Stretch (Video Review)

Idle Bloom VII

As was recently explained in the pictorial review of the just-initiated A Short Stretch series, there’s been an increased focus on live documentation. With that being the case, coverage for a few shows gets relegated to the sidelines as this site does upkeep on the current release cycle and features on a handful of other live shows. It’s far from a perfect system but it’d be inexcusable to simply let the photos and footage of shows that don’t get feature reviews waste away on the sidelines. In an effort to amend this, A Short Stretch was created. Here’s how the video portion will work: each band with footage will get a very brief write-up- or capsule review- of their show to accompany the live video(s). So, it’s time to take a look back at some of the great performances from shows that went uncovered.

Eskimeaux

Following a riveting performance at Palisades, Eskimeaux delivered an equally mesmerizing set at Shea Stadium, despite sweltering heat. The below video is the final piece of that set, a characteristically powerful rendition of O.K. highlight “I Admit I’m Scared”.

Mitski

With Eskimeaux having just set the stage with a beautiful set prior, Mitski went ahead and dove headfirst into an impassioned set that had everyone in Shea sweating, smiling, screaming, and dancing. Starting the night off with two of the strongest highlights on Bury Me At Makeout Creek– one of 2014’s best albums– proved to be a great move.

Model Train Wreck

Going into Model Train Wreck’s set at Shea Stadium on July 22, I had no prior knowledge of the band and wasn’t sure what to expect. It took them less than a song to ensure my full attention. Dark, bruising post-punk that’s unafraid of embracing a heavy pop sensibility is a look that more bands should consider attempting. This is definitely a band worth celebrating. 

Fern Mayo

After catching Fern Mayo’s ridiculously impressive set at Miscreant’s Northside showcase, catching the band’s live show again was an inevitability. For round 2, the band sounded even sharper than they had a month ago at Palisades, driven by some strong musicianship and the fiercely original songwriting of Katie Capri (who provided this site with an important piece for the inaugural A Year’s Worth of Memories series). This won’t be the last time they’re featured on this site.

PWR BTTM

It’s taken a little over a month for PWR BTTM to become one of the most-written about bands here at Heartbreaking Bravery. A large part of the reasoning behind the centralized coverage is the duo’s insane live show. Even taking the pointed visual theatrics out of the question, the band’s an absolute powerhouse. Ugly Cherries, the band’s forthcoming full-length, is one of the year’s stronger releases and the band continues to push themselves to their limits when they play, as if they’re performing some sort of self-exorcism for the benefit of their audience. That dynamic was put on full display once again at Shea, where they weathered some technical difficulties to deliver yet another memorable set.

Johanna Warren

A very select few shows are instantly unforgettable and more often than not the reasoning boils down to circumstance. On this occasion, a last-minute change of location was made in the interest of the people who were hoping to see Johanna Warren (another A Year’s Worth of Memories contributor) perform. The original house venue that was set to host the show discovered a bed bug infestation so the songwriter took to social media to find an emergency replacement. After some negotiating, the show was re-sculpted completely and turned into an all-acoustic affair that was set to take place on a roof in Bushwick, which coincidentally offered a stunning view of the city that stretched outwards for miles. Only a small handful of some of Warren’s friends showed up and enjoyed the perks of such an intimate affair (and the generosity of those who provided free beer, wine, and snacks for the guests). Poetry was read to set the tone and then- with the moon shining brightly- Warren took a seat in front of the Brooklyn (and Manhattan) skylines to play a career-spanning selection of songs (including some that had never been performed in public) for a hushed audience. Not even the overhead jet noise could dampen the spell cast by something so sublime.

Idle Bloom

Just a week after laying waste to two crowds as Mitski’s guitarist, Callan Dwan (pictured above) wound up playing another show in Brooklyn after meeting up with one of her other two bands in the interim. Idle Bloom was a name that I’d seen on bills before but I’d never really had the chance to delve into the band’s discography- something that’s fairly limited, as of this writing. After Zen Hed (a new band featuring members of some prominent bands) set the stage for Idle Bloom with a shambolic set of scrappy rock n’ roll, the quartet took the stage and proceeded to dismantle their audience with an affecting blend of shoegaze, post-punk, and dark pop that was topped off with some subtle, well-placed psych flourishes. Fierce, grounded, staggeringly powerful, and- at their best- breathtaking, Idle Bloom wound up delivering one of the finest (and most unexpected) sets I’ve seen all year. With their full-length record currently going through the necessary processes in the lead-up to its release, this is definitely a band to watch closely. Stay tuned to this site for more updates on the band (as well as the record) and click play to discover an emerging act that’s worth meeting with no shortage of excitement.