Heartbreaking Bravery

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Tag: Ovlov

The Best Records of October 2018

October was an absolutely extraordinary month for record releases, seeing the unveiling of a large handful of Album of the Year contenders. A handful of site favorites offered up new material as well, with several of those titles appearing below. No matter the length (EP, LP, 7″, etc.), there was an abundance of memorable titles. Only one band of the 10 selected below had yet to appear in any of Heartbreaking Bravery’s coverage. As for the rest? They’re further solidifying their respective statuses as some of the most promising acts in music.

1. Stove – ‘s Favorite Friend 

On their sophomore full-length, Stove expand both their ambitions and their skyward sprawl with their most inspired release to date. Comprised of an existence’s worth of longing, fear, anxiety, tenderness, and understanding, ‘s Favorite Friend has the marks of a classic. Devastating and hopeful in turns, the Stove record marks the second astonishing album that Steve Hartlett’s released this year, following Ovlov‘s TRU. Deeply personal and all the more mesmeric for that trait, ‘s Favorite Friend reaffirms Hartlett’s enormous musical talent and provides a reassurance; you might not always entirely defeat your demons but making peace with some of them can go a long way.

2. Strange Ranger – How It All Went By

Strange Ranger have been enjoying a steady evolution that’s already paying increasing dividends. How It All Went By, the band’s latest, is their strongest release to date, continuing an upward trajectory that started several releases back. Unapologetic in its inventiveness, How It All Went By recalls the works of everyone from Joyce Manor to Neil Young, mining a select few genre’s for flourishes that complement the band’s core identity. Oddly hypnotic and abundantly warm, How It All Went By is an EP that’s worth owning.

3. IAN SWEET – Crush Crusher

The last time IAN SWEET released a record, the results were strong enough to catapult them from emergent act to critical darlings. Crush Crusher, the band’s most recent effort, is one of affirmation: the early praise was warranted. Explosive, thoughtful, and genre-resistant, IAN SWEET has crafted something that thrives in near-impossible dichotomies. Tender and violent, explosive and tranquil, urgent and contemplative, every last second of Crush Crusher comes laced with a certain amount of nervous energy, transforming the entire affair into a spellbinding experience.

4. Adeline Hotel – away together

After a few years of playing together, Adeline Hotel is starting to increase their pace. away together is a strong enough record that it could feasibly multiply their audience by some degree. A near perfect soundtrack for the transition from fall to winter, away together‘s indie folk reckonings lend an even greater familiarity to the everyday, giving the mundane greater meaning. Easily the strongest songs of the band’s young career, away together should leave the kind of mark that’s recalled fondly and without malice.

5. Gabby’s World – Beast On Beast

A few name changes have taken place since Gabby’s World was awarded this site’s Album of the Year distinction for O.K. but the band’s heart remains unchanged. Beast On Beast makes that revelation plain from the record’s opening track, the breathtaking “Winter Withdraw”.  Guitarist/vocalist Gabrielle Smith remains one of the more intuitive songwriters working today, gifting the record with airy melodies that carry punch and conviction. Beast On Beast, like the project’s best works, serves as both a rallying cry and a knowing offer of acceptance, doing its best to make sure there’s some warmth when the world gets cold.

6. Interbellum – Dead Pets, Old Griefs

As mentioned in the introductory paragraph, only one project on this list had yet to make an appearance on Heartbreaking Bravery. Enter: Interbellum. Dead Pets, Old Griefs is a fascinating effort from multi-instrumentalist Karl Maltar. Interbellum, Maltar’s project, enlisted several friends for a record that straddles the divides between indie pop, slacker punk, and bedroom pop, giving a distinctly modern twist to the kind of template that used to be a Sparklehorse specialty. For every memorably raucous moment on Dead Pets, Old Griefs, there are several hushed, deeply introspective ones to balance the scales. It’s a staggering work from a name worth remembering.

7. Strange Relations – Sideline Kid

One of the best, if not the best, post-punk projects the upper Midwest has  to offer, Strange Relations keep accelerating their own momentum. Last year the project released Editorial You, a record that showcased the band’s confidence. Just a year later, they’ve returned with their most restrained — and fascinating — effort to date in the 3-song EP Sideline Kid. The EP finds the band being increasingly adventurous with their ambient experimentation while remaining fearless in their bare-bones minimalism. All three tracks are fascinating for different reasons and the cumulative effect is potent enough to give Sideline Kid serious consideration as one of the year’s best EP’s.

8. GABI – Empty Me

A record that’s been anticipated for some time in very specific circles of the art world, GABI’s Empty Me finally arrived in full and lived up to the promise of the surrounding buzz. Haunting chamber pop of the highest order, Empty Me traffics in curious extremes, from emotive weight to the sprawl of the composition that serves as the record’s anchor. For all of the lightness Empty Me exudes in its softest moment, there’s a pervasive sense of doubt permeating its shadowy corners. An astonishingly complete work, Empty Me works its way towards unforgettable as it progresses, slowly immersing its listeners under the weight of the gravity felt at the record’s core.

9. Cloud Nothings – Last Building Burning

The opening seconds of Last Building Burning make one thing extraordinarily clear: Cloud Nothings aren’t fucking around. After what some considered the lightest work of their career since Dylan Baldi turned his project from a one-man affair into a full band ordeal, Last Building Burning immediately lights a kerosene torch and takes off with reckless abandon. “On An Edge” is the most purposeful opener we’re likely to hear this year, with the band in a rare echelon of attack mode. Fortunately, the rest of the record backs its strength up with some of the band’s strongest songwriting. Easily one of 2018’s best outings, Last Building Burning is a potent reminder that aggression can be productive when wielded with care.

10. Yowler – Black Dog In My Path

A strong case can be made for Maryn Jones as one of the most vital musicians of this past decade. Jones has provided invaluable contributions to Saintseneca as a (now former) member, fronted All Dogs, contributed to records from bands like Radiator Hospital, released memorable solo material before and after any of that started happening, and has turned Yowler into a recognizable name. While Jones will inevitably downplay the impact those contributions have had, it’s an astonishing pedigree.

Yowler’s latest record, Black Dog In My Path, in some ways comes across as the sum of that experience: this is the broadest and most ambitious record to bear Jones’ name. It’s also one of the best. Trading in uforgiving self-deprecation and an acute awareness, Black Dog In My Path can be a punishing listen when it fixates on unthinkably low moments but the music breathes just enough optimism and life to make the whole thing feel unflinchingly human. One of the fullest realizations of Jones’ incredible talent, it’s a record that’ll still be worth visiting a decade down the line.

Two Weeks, Three Records

In nearly every two week run this year, it seems like there’s been a record that’s posed a legitimate threat to crack a handful of year-end lists. It’s been true from literally the opening seconds of 2018, which saw the surprise release of Jeff Rosenstock‘s exceptional POST-. While there have been a few lulls in select spots, that intensity’s remained and fueled a great year for music. A trio of records that emerged over the past few weeks have the kind of potency to either crack those lists or carve out a spot as a well-hidden cult favorite. All three are worth hearing. Dive in below.

Ovlov – TRU

The three advance singles that teased Ovlov‘s unexpected comeback album, TRU, all netted featured positions and seemed to suggest the band was operating in rare form. Turns out, that suggestion only scratched the surface of what turned out to be a monumental effort from the recently reunited act. The finest Ovlov record by some margin, TRU is a towering behemoth that could only exist through the lens of a band that’s kept finding ways to survive themselves. An examination of impulse, longing, and mental health, TRU bristles and seethes at an unmatched velocity, anchored by the burden of knowledge.

Scintillating from start to finish, buoyed by a series of inspired moments, TRU is tethered together with a narrative through line that makes it feel overwhelmingly whole, even in the face of its persistent ruminations on incompletion. While the band still finds life at the intersection of grunge, slacker punk, and basement pop, the way they’ve reshaped that musical identity on TRU is commendable. Wielding an expanded palette, a seemingly limitless scope, and a desire to improve, Ovlov have created what’s easily one of 2018’s finest records. Additionally, TRU acts as a very welcome reminder of a singular band’s extraordinary talent.

Pipsy – Users

Giddy, scrappy basement pop gifted with dream pop and powerpop sensibilities, Pippy’s Users was an incredibly welcome find what had been proving to be an otherwise desolate patch of new releases. The kind of record that makes sifting through an endless amount of dreck worthwhile, Users is teeming with the liveliness that can serve as its own adrenaline injection. Full of hooks, the record never eases off its acceleration pedal, resulting in a ragged, irresistible collection of distinctly crafted basement pop.

Sean Henry – Fink

It’d been apparent from Fink‘s advanced tracks that Sean Henry had tapped into something a little more otherworldly than usual, swinging from one contemporary reference point to another but refusing to offer tidy reconciliations. A record that’s intentionally opaque, Fink weaponizes its musical palette and allows it to convey emotional heft in lieu of easily idenitifiable narratives; the musical equivalent of Shane Carruth’s absorbing Upstream Color. A record that’s content to soak in the dirt and the grime of the world, wallow in its own carefully guarded desperation, and reluctantly admit to slivers of hope, Fink finds Sean Henry operating at a new, fascinating level. It’s a journey worth the misguided shortcuts, scratches, and tangles. Every bruise is worth earning in Fink‘s fucked up wonderland of folk-tinged, psych-damaged, punk-learned basement pop.

The Best Songs of June 2018’s Final Half

A ridiculous amount of great songs came out over the final half of June 2018, roughly tripling the output of music videos and records. In accordance, the below list will be expanded from the preceding features’ three-slot format to a selection of nine. As usual, there’s a fairly vast palette of styles and influences to sample, each song offering up a distinctly unique thrill. Dive into the fray and get swept up in the chaos.

Whitney Ballen – Go

The first look at the fantastic forthcoming You’re A Shooting Star, I’m A Sinking Ship. Ballen uses a hushed vocal — one that’s curiously reminiscent of Nicole Dollanganger — on “Go” like a weapon, drawing the listener into a difficult narrative that acts as an effective counterweight to the casually optimistic sheen embedded into the musical arrangement. A fascinating presentation of the dichotomies resonating at the center of most mental health struggles, “Go”, while brilliant, only scratches the surface of Ballen’s capabilities.

Curling – Still Green

Following their appearance in the Best Songs list for June 2018’s first half, Curling come back to top themselves with “Still Green.” A basement pop rave-up that exudes the intensely relatable weariness of the slacker punk movement of the early ’90s, “Still Green” incorporates enough modern bent to ensure it won’t fall prey to accusations of tired revivalism. There’s an abundance of life thriving at the song’s surface and Curling makes sure each of the song’s 164 seconds land with maximum impact.

Ovlov – Stick

Not to be outdone by Curling’s repeat heroics as a featured act, Ovlov notch their third consecutive feature nod with the brooding, explosive “Stick”. All three songs to tease the band’s upcoming Tru have made a formidable case that we’re on the verge of hearing one of the year’s best records. While the first two — “Spright” and “Short Morgan” — relied on volume and power, “Stick” ensures that Tru won’t be a one-note affair. Unexpected, oddly moving, and incredibly engaging, “Stick” is a song that deserves to be left on repeat.

Sean Henry – Imperfection

Sean Henry‘s past work has been unfairly overlooked for all the usual, dispiriting reasons but the songwriter’s latched on to something with Fink that just might be strong enough to overcome those intangible obstacles. “Imperfection” was the final track to be released ahead of Fink‘s unveiling and it ably showcases an artist in full control of their creative powers. From the production choices to the delivery itself, “Imperfection” winds up coming surprisingly close to standing as a direct opposite of its own title.

Dentist – Corked

A familiar name to the site, Dentist have been steadily working towards their big moment, earning every lesson and success that’s come their way. In that pursuit, they’ve released a handful of great songs but “Corked”, their latest, doesn’t just set a new high but a new precedent. The band’s lit onto something that feels wholly their own and are prepared to accelerate their pacing from a jog to a sprint. “Corked”, as fine a basement pop song as anyone’s likely to hear this season, is a tantalizing indicator of what Dentist has in store for the future.

Slothrust – Peach

Slothrust‘s another name that’s been printed on these pages a handful of times and “Peach” is the latest reason to type it out. The lead-off single from The Pact, “Peach” is a galvanizing burst of the band’s singular brand of slacker pop. More immediate and self-contained than a lot of the trio’s earlier work, “Peach” makes a morsel feel like a mouthful, before becoming an entire meal. It’s the band’s shortest single to date but it lingers when it’s gone. Don’t miss this one.

Jonathan Something – Fine

Clocking in at just under two minutes, Jonathan Something’s “Fine” still finds time to stand out. A throwback pop song that reveals an astonishing array of influences (everything from Motown to disco to powerpop), “Fine” manages to feel comfortably familiar and thrillingly new over the course of its brief run time. Jonathan Something delivers it all with poise, conviction, and a sincerity that translates into one of the year’s most purely enjoyable songs.

Tony Molina – Wrong Town

A master of the micro song, Tony Molina has found a niche way to thrive since the earliest Ovens songs. Even as Molina’s edges have softened, there’s been a profound sense of assurance that’s cut through the noise. In addition to that gentle confidence, there’s always been a palpable sense of place; Molina knows the places worth belonging to even as his narratives question definitive decision-making. “Wrong Town” is the latest in a string of tender, ’60s-influenced folk-adjacent pieces. Warm and heartrending, “Wrong Town” deserves a visit.

Gia Margaret – Birthday

Gia Margaret‘s “Birthday” is a genre-demolishing track that’s been roping listeners into its orbit since its initial release. Bits of dream pop, shoegaze, and shoegaze find fascinating new intersections throughout the song, which is anchored by Margaret’s soft, spellbinding vocal performance. From front to back, “Birthday” is breathtaking in its unexpected scope and considerable beauty. A transcendent, mesmerizing work.

 

The Best Songs of June’s First Half

As evidenced by the last handful of posts, the first two weeks of June were not short on exceptional material. Songs, by virtue of length and abundance, had an especially strong showing. The five below include a few career highlights from longtime favorites and a few impressive entries from fresher faces. All of them would be perfect additions to the warm weather playlists being pulled into existence as spring melts into summer. Discover their strength below.

Ovlov – Short Morgan

If anyone had any doubts that Ovlov would be better than they’ve ever been should they return, “Short Morgan” should permanently erase those thoughts. One of the fiercest tracks the band’s released to date, “Short Morgan” is an adrenaline surge that marries the elements that catapulted Dinosaur Jr to cult icons with the frustration-laced introspection that’s come to define Ovlov’s identity. Ragged, vicious, and pointed, “Short Morgan” is more than enough to suggest we might be looking at one of the year’s great albums in their forthcoming TRU.

The Beths – Happy Unhappy

Making a return to the spotlight, The Beths deliver in kind with “Happy Unhappy”, an unexpected summer anthem. Twee-leaning powerpop through a punk-tinged lens, “Happy Unhappy” is a sugar rush of ingenuity, layering hook after hook until the band’s built something as towering as it is irresistible. Everything from the persistent backing vocals to the guitar interplay in the pre-chorus and on the bridge combines to leave “Happy Unhappy” standing tall as The Beths finest work. Give this one the attention it deserves.

The Ophelias – General Electric

Much like The Beths “Happy Unhappy”, The Ophelias “General Electric” is tailor made for a carefree summer afternoon. A hypnotic collage of sounds, “General Electric” expertly blends powerpop with some twee and experimental trappings. Brilliantly produced by WHY?‘s Yoni Wolf and impeccably structured, it’s an immensely welcome introduction-at-large for an incredibly promising act. Every second of this is captivating, creating an enchanting pull that’s difficult to refuse. A collection of clever twist and turns, it marks The Ophelias as a band worth hearing.

Curling – Radio King

Basement pop that’s informed by post-punk and runs slightly askew is a hallmark of Heartbreaking Bravery’s general coverage and is presented in its fullest potential on Curling’s “Radio King”. Utilizing vocals that are more than a little reminiscent of Ted Leo, Curling avoids comparisons to The Pharmacists outright by embracing a more disjointed approach. Falling somewhere in between the genre lines drawn by Flying Nun and Rough Trade, “Radio King” shows Curling are more than comfortable planting their flag in the in-between. “Curling King” is the perfect way to reveal that flag’s mesmeric colors.

Free Cake For Every Creature – Around You

Capping off a trio of songs that expertly blends twee shrapnel with powerpop aesthetics, Free Cake For Every Creature‘s “Around You” is a strong reminder of the talent at the heart of the project. Driven by a hyper-specific narrative and imaginative instrumentation, “Around You” finds Free Cake For Every Creature reaching new heights ahead of their forthcoming The Bluest Star. Destined to be a staple of the project’s live show for years to come, the song offers an embarrassment of riches, from the guitar work that graces the chorus to the restrained delivery. It’s unmissable.

Ovlov – Spright (Stream)

From last Friday to the start of this week there were a handful of new songs that made an impact from artists like Emilie Levienaise-Farrouch, Luna Pines, Oh Sees, ahem, The Tamed West, Oldermost, Two People, Harrison Lipton, Samson, io & Titan, and a memorable music video from Dumb. There was also the long-anticipated return of Ovlov, following a string of reunion appearances after their last departure. “Spright”, the band’s first song following their four year near-absence, was worth the wait.

Steve Hartlett, Ovlov’s bandleader, found a way to refine some creative impulses with Stove (a band that walked away with this site’s pick for 2015’s Song of the Year) and has put that education to good use in “Spright”. A song that teems with the kind of melancholic frustration and open yearning that’s defined so much of Hartlett’s past body of work, “Spright” still manages to feel incredibly assured. Even considering the time away, Ovlov is a band that’s fully aware of its identity, and their grappling comes with a level of certainty.

Some things are big enough to force a reckoning and “Spright”, finds its narrative examining the implications of how we can challenge our own comfort by engaging more fearlessly with free will. Backed by an inspired swirl of guitars and a menacing rhythm section, “Spright” manages to erupt. As vicious as it is thoughtful, it’s the perfect way to welcome Ovlov back and stands as an extraordinarily promising first look at their upcoming TRU.

Listen to “Spright” below and pre-order TRU from Exploding In Sound here.

Watch This: The Best of 2017’s First Quarter, Pt. IV

In the final segment of the Watch This revival spread, the focus — as it was in part three — continues to be placed on sessions that deserving artists did for quality outlets. Only this time around, the sessions aren’t encompassed into one video, they’re sliced up into individual clips, which have been strung together here for the sake of expediency. While the video counter may show a very intimidating 71 for the amount of videos featured, it’s really only 25 performances (with most being only two or three songs overall). Even if it’s unlikely that someone will find the time to watch through every last one of these clips, there’s an equally likely chance that someone may wind up finding a new favorite band or song. All of it’s worth exploring to a great extent and each clip — and performance — deserves praise. So, as always, sit up straight, adjust the settings, take a deep breath, lean in, focus, and Watch This.

PART IV

1. Cloud Nothings (KCRW)
2. Screaming Females (Moschcam)
3. Fraser A. Gorman (World Cafe)
4. Hazel English (KCRW)
5. NE-HI (JBTV)
6. Sad13 (Paste)
7. Heat (Indie88)
8. Potty Mouth (JBTV)
9. Ovlov (Little Elephant)
10. The Regrettes (Jam in the Van)
11. Ron Gallo (World Cafe)
12. Stef Chura (Paste)
13. Nnamdi Ogbonnaya (Audiotree)
14. Diet Cig (Paste)
15. Hockey Dad (Moshcam)
16. Slaughter Beach, Dog (Little Elephant)
17. Death By Unga Bunga (Paste)
18. Slow Mass (Audiotree)
19. Lady Lamb (Paste)
20. AJJ (Little Elephant)
21. Jesca Hoop (WFUV)
22. Ratboys (Little Elephant)
23. Alejandro Escovedo (WFUV)
24. Kate Davis (ONE ON ONE)
25. Strand of Oaks (World Cafe)

2015: A Year’s Worth of Memories (Ben Grigg)

ben grigg
Photograph by Mark Federighi

We lost a lot of great bands in 2015 to varying degrees of mourning and despair. Krill’s final bow obviously struck a nerve but it’s important to remember that they weren’t the only band to step down. While Ovlov managed to find a spiritual continuation via Stove, Geronimo! — who I penned a hybrid eulogy/review for back in March, just a small handful of months after they played this site’s first showcase — have taken a somewhat different path. Guitarist/vocalist Kelly Johnson and keys master Ben Grigg have been devoting their time to various new projects. All of them will undoubtedly be worth hearing. Grigg was kind enough to reflect on the loss of Ovlov and what it meant to him to be at their final show. Read it below and make sure you see your friends’ bands while they’re still around.

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2015 was a year of change for me. Every year changes people, but last year was a big one for me. The band I had played in since 2007, Geronimo!, called it quits, I left the comfort of a familiar job for the intimidating challenge of a new one, and I moved into a house far from my old neighborhood to the west side of Chicago. The good thing about change though is that it usually forces growth. You lose some comfort for the sake of coming closer to who you want to be. That’s the hope at least.

Pretty soon after our band played its last show, the realization set in that I had no plans for my free time. Intellectually, I had known the that this would happen, but I was not prepared for the reality of it. I would come home after work and have nothing to do. Every day of the week. I found myself contemplating what the hell I was doing with my life. Shit.

Suddenly, amidst all the free time and emo soul searching, I developed an itch to get a plane ticket and travel out to Brooklyn for a weekend. It became imperative. At the time, it wasn’t clear to me why I had to do this. But, with some distance, I can see what was going on in my head. Without playing shows, I wasn’t getting out east to see the friends I had made through past tours. I wasn’t sure when I’d be able to get out there again and somehow it seemed like a way to get some closure on that part of band life.

As luck would have it, some pals of mine in a band called Clearance from Chicago were playing in June at Shea Stadium. It seemed like as good a time as any. I joked to the guys in Clearance that I’d see them In Brooklyn but I doubt they believed me. A few days later, Ovlov announced that they would be playing their last show that same weekend, also at Shea. That sealed the deal. I bought plane tickets.

Getting to see Ovlov one last time was especially meaningful to me.We first played with them back in 2011 on an east coast tour and got along with them pretty immediately. On that tour they invited us to their friend’s beach house in Rhode Island. Drinks that night famously consisted almost entirely of Beer 30. We had to leave pretty early the next morning for a long drive to the next show, but awoke to find a bunch of groceries meant for us and a hilariously illegible note from Ovlov and their friend Gator. It was about the coolest thing that had happened to us as a band. Over the next four years, we played with Ovlov many more times and got to know them. They felt like our first real band friends.

I don’t have too many vivid memories from watching them play that last show at Shea. It’s more of a mixture of visceral fleeting moments. Feeling the floor moving, getting my ears blasted, chanting along to “I can’t wait to watch TV”. It was the perfect goodbye to Ovlov, and somehow, in the most cliche way possible, a goodbye to a part of my life. I’ll be in other bands, hopefully I’ll come out to the east coast again and see a lot of the same people. But, that experience, that specific part of my life was gone.

That night, I stayed up with friends waiting until the wee hours of the morning when my flight left LaGuardia. These are the kind of friends that I had the privilege of making from being in a band. The kind that will stay up until 5am after a show to see you off. It was the perfect end to the weekend. All things told, I got to reconnect and hang out with a ton of people that had made my experiences playing in Geronimo so meaningful. It was all I could have hoped for and it made me feel so damn thankful to have had the opportunity to play music and meet all these great people.

By the end of the year, I was back playing music with friends in Chicago. With any luck, 2016 will be a year of first shows, not last ones. New growth. Every year can’t be a 2015, but it’s good to have them every now and then.

-Ben Grigg

CMJ: Day 4 Review

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With the fourth day of CMJ kicking off and the level of work required to keep up with the festival starting to take its toll, I slept through the alarm clock I had set to ensure I could catch LVL UP‘s early set at Palisades to kick off Exploding In Sound’s joint CMJ showcase and fourth birthday celebration. Running in just after the band had torn down left a sinking feeling that was quickly replaced with contentment as the Leapling project found its stride in a (mostly) solo set– the bassist from Dirty Dishes joined in on two songs– of gentle pop songs. Despite missing LVL UP, it was a wonderful way to sink into the day’s proceedings.

Flagland took a while to set up but even that couldn’t match the ambition or length of their new songs, which feel like a collection of fully-realized micro-punk songs condensed into a long-running, coherent whole. All of the songs the band was testing out were rooted in their dynamics and exceeded 10 minutes in length, finding intriguing ways to bridge the gaps between sections that were frequently radically different from each other, despite being housed in the same structure. Look out for their upcoming record because it’ll be one of the more fascinating releases of whatever time it arrives.

Swings, who have down-scaled their quiet aggression into something more quiet and moody offered up a set that acted as an epilogue of sorts to Flagland’s bold madness. They cycled through songs that felt tranquil but never uninteresting. Retaining the sense of mystery that made them so compelling to begin with, the band sounded confident and looked relaxed. They also provided one of the day’s most unexpected highlights by bringing out their current tourmate, Mal Devisa, to perform one of her numbers with the band backing her and Devisa delivered in full, giving a commanding one-song performance that drew what may have been the day’s loudest applause.

Dirty Dishes and Kal Marks played next, each offering different takes on off-kilter post-punk with grunge and shoegaze influences. The former opted to go the more serene route (while still making room for a few fiery moments) to tremendous effect while the latter dug deep into the sludgy darkness that permeates both genres when they’re at their most menacing. Back to back, it was an extraordinarily effective combination that established a sense of building momentum, which is a feat that a lot of lineups aim for but few ever accomplish. Both bands tested out new songs and each act had the audience’s attention held rapt. One practiced finesse while the other embraced chaos, acting as an intriguing sign of things to come.

Following Kal Marks’ explosive performance was another pairing, this one even more pragmatic: Washer and Stove. While the former’s been subsumed by the latter, they’re still their own project and have a genuinely great set of songs scheduled for release in early 2016. The vast majority of their set stuck to the new material, which is easily some of the duo’s best, while still making room for a few crowd favorites. After technical problems killed off Steve Hartlett’s guest solo towards the end of Washer’s set, he was joined by the last remaining member of Stove to lead Washer through their final songs as a quarter before they all took a break and reassembled for a Stove set.

Ostensibly a slight continuation of Hartlett’s previous project, Ovlov, his current one is making some serious moves. Even before Is Stupider‘s release, it’s clear that Stove’s harboring some of Hartlett’s career best-work and that the project contains, and is surrounded by, people who genuinely believe in this music. Crafting towering anthems of damaged hope and unwavering resiliency, it’s hard not to fiercely connect to what’s happening here, which is beginning to feel downright vital. “Wet Food“, the project’s current calling card, is one of the year’s finest songs and its best qualities are only amplified live, cultivating an unforgettable feeling of near-transcendence every time it hits (it’s one of the few songs that’s given me chills in a live setting on more than one occasion). Closing with a monstrous number that has an exhilarating outro section that stretches into forever, it’s difficult to think that this band doesn’t have huge things waiting for it, just around the wing.

Palm continued their massive 2015, which has seen them carve out a massively respected name for themselves, with another set of enviable musicianship and tight-knit chemistry. All of the band’s songs are puzzles with interlocking pieces that tend to immediately swivel into something genuinely unexpected and occasionally jarring (in the best way possible).

That kind of commitment to excessively complicated craft often leaves the players fairly confined so the transition from Palm to Greys was a startling– but welcome– one. Greys are one of the single most energetic live bands playing out on the circuit and they brought every inch of that inspired fervor to the Palisades stage where they ripped through a career-spanning set with reckless abandon, including a brand new song (“We wrote this like two days ago”, quipped guitarist/vocalist Shehzaad Jiwani) that sounded incredibly promising. It was a characteristically ferocious set that went a long way in proving that the band’s far from done.

The Spirit of the Beehive and Big Ups followed Greys, each bringing their own brand of manic energy to the Palisades stage. The Spirit of the Beehive, a five-piece, dipped into a raucous set of slacker pop songs with a surprising amount of emotion and nuance, while taking the volume back up to punishing levels. Stretching over their limited but enviable catalog, it was an extraordinary set from an act that still doesn’t seem to be getting the attention they genuinely deserve.

Big Ups, however, have been picking up plenty of attention and that focus is warranted. The band’s one of the best live acts in a city overflowing with bands trying to stake a claim to that throne but falling excessively short of Big Ups at their worst. Thankfully, that was far from the case here which saw Big Ups celebrating their own anniversary and pulling out one of the most blistering sets of the night, once again reminding everyone of their curious power.

Another act having a career-making year, Palehound, closed out the showcase with a set that prominently featured this year’s excellent Dry Food. As a few people were quick to point out, the band was playing as a trio and not as a quartet as the previous incantation of the band had been. Regardless, Ellen Kempner led her band through a set of songs that definitely managed to make an impression. Impressive musicianship abounded and the band landed every one of their blows, providing the showcase with a graceful exit.

As soon as Palehound’s set wrapped, despite not having eaten or drank anything for approximately 16 hours, I ran over to Silent Barn to catch the remainder of the Double Double Whammy showcase and got there just a song or two into what proved to be another memorable Downies set. The band, made up of various members from other great bands, was in fine form and playing with the sort of intensity you’d expect from a band that cites Radioactivity (and The Marked Men, by extension) as one of its bigger influences. Closing things out with a monumental track from their forthcoming LP, the band left the audience dancing and hungry for more.

Eskimeaux, playing out with a new bassist, quickly sated their appetites with another spellbinding set comprised of songs from O.K., which may very well be this year’s best record. Playing with their usual amount of grace, the band connected to their audience with ease, serenading them with tales of personal longing and unspeakable loss. Through it all, guitarist/vocalist Gabrielle Smith stayed the project’s centerpiece, striking a commanding presence that always felt welcoming rather than imposing, like a warm embrace from an old friend. In that near-familial sense, Eskimeaux succeeded in playing up the communal aspects of the recently re-opened Silent Barn to heartwarming effect. Before stepping off the stage, it was abundantly clear that everyone in the audience was on her side.

Capping the day’s events off was another incredibly strong set from LVL UP, half of which run Double Double Whammy, to an adoring crowd that was clearly there to show their support for everything the band’s done. After missing them at the very start of the day, catching them closing thing down only managed to bolster an already pervasive feeling of triumph. Tearing through their discography with gleeful determination, the band led a sizable late-night crowd in massive singalongs, and affirmed their love by delivering one of the day’s most memorable sets. It was yet another perfect ending to a day that offered absolutely no reprieve. Was it worth the effort? Absolutely.

14 of ’14: The Best Splits of 2014

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Once again, it feels necessary to start with a (likely unnecessary) disclaimer about the word “best” when it comes to year-end posts. “Best”, in nearly every case, is just shorthand for “most admired”, it’s not a stab at a definitive statement; in these kinds of rankings there’s no room for any perceived objectivity. Another quick note before diving into this list in earnest; for all year-end coverage, the first person narrative restriction that’s usually implemented here will be dropped to allow me to speak on a more personal level, as these are the released that affected me personally and reflect my own personal tastes. 2014 was a fairly strong year for split releases, which are experiencing a new level of exposure thanks to the renewed interest in cassettes and vinyl, as those are the two formats they’re on most frequently. There were two, three, and four band splits released over the past 12 months that ranked among my favorite releases in any format. As holds true for every year, not everything can be listened to (I’m sure something like the extremely limited-run Florist/Eskimeaux tape is incredible but I came to it too late to snag a copy) Labels have been rallying around these releases particularly hard, in part because there’s an allowance for collaboration with other like-minded labels that isn’t always possible with standard single-band releases. From bands covering each other on flip sides of the same tape to bands trading off places throughout a release to a few of the year’s best songs, there’s a lot to explore in the list below- a list that cheats the “14” rule ever so slightly with the rules being bent for the top two spots (it just didn’t seem fair to have two bands being responsible for four of the top five spots). Dive on in and hear 14(+) of the splits that deserve homes in as many collections as possible.

[EDITOR’S NOTE: A few of the releases included below are set to autoplay in weird parts of these releases so keep an eye out and listen to each in full.]

14. Adult Mom / Cyberbully Mom Club / i tried to run away when i was 6 (but got too scared to cross the street)

Cyberbully Mom Club quietly put together one of the most impressive runs of genuinely great releases this year and this split- with Adult Mom (who also had a pretty great year) and i tried to run away when i was 6 (but got too scared to cross the street)– still managed to be a standout effort. As spellbinding as it sincere, it’s a record worth keeping around for a very long while.

13. Big Ups / Washer

Big Ups are easily one of the most exciting bands of today and they keep pushing themselves to go further with each subsequent release. On this split with Washer, both bands give it their all and wind up with one of the stronger short entries in Exploding in Sound’s ridiculously impressive 2014 catalog.

12. Dikembe / The Jazz June

A resurgent The Jazz June came out of a 12 year absence with their best song to date (and one of the catchiest chorus hooks of the year) and had it paired with an up-and-coming band that shared some of their best qualities. Between the two songs on display here, the split the two bands released felt more complete and unified than a lot of bands’ own full-lengths.

11. Joyce Manor / Toys That Kill

Never Hungover Again earned Joyce Manor typically strong critical returns but it was their split with outsider punk perennials Toys That Kill that hit hardest. Each of the four songs included in this split feature both bands at their absolute best; tinkering with the lines that separate punk from pop with an exacting, exhilarating precision.

10. Dog / Big Neck Police

Damaged. Delirious. Dangerous. Terrifying. Four words that could all aptly describe the relentlessly aggressive bleakness of this split between Dog and Big Neck Police. Seven songs that offer the perfect descent into complete and total chaos while flirting with tension dynamics to create a genuinely pulverizing effect.


9. Big Eyes / Post Teens

Big Eyes have been releasing incredible material ever since their demo so it’s no surprise that this split with Post Teens (who also had an excellent split with Rose Cross this year) fought its way into this list. Pairing with Post Teens proved to be surprisingly sensible as both bands like to go full-force as much as possible and- more often than not (this split being one example)- wind up with rousing results.

8. Trust Fund / Lone Omi / Something

Utilizing a little-used tactic can create intrigue pretty instantaneously and the decision to alternate bands throughout this six song set- formally titled Sick of Hits Vol. 2- is something that pays off beautifully. Reeks of Effort is a label that’s built its name around bands that challenge the conception of twee; any time there’s a danger of things becoming overtly whimsical they get cut to shreds by barbed wire. It’s a dynamic that makes Reeks of Effort’s roster- and Sick of Hits Vol. 2– worth celebrating.

7. Speedy Ortiz / Chris Weisman

“Doomsday” isn’t just one of the best songs of this year, it’s arguably the best of Speedy Ortiz’s career (and possibly even one of the best of the decade). That song alone would have been strong enough to land this release- the best of the laudable LAMC series to date- a spot on this list. Fortunately, it’s backed by a beautifully plaintive song from Chris Weisman (whose Monet in the 90’s was one of this year’s hidden gems) that somehow holds its own as the flipside to such a powerful song. Together, they make for the year’s best two-song release.

6. Girlpool / Slutever

I haven’t made even the slightest effort to hide my love of Girlpool, a young duo that embodies things which make them worth rallying behind. Here, Cleo Tucker and Harmony Tividad cover their friends in Slutever (who return the favor) while contributing two arresting originals. While Slutever haven’t quite enjoyed Girlpool’s level of exposure, they stepped up to the plate for this split and connected hard enough to create what should be some long-lasting repercussions. Fierce and unapologetic, it’s definitive proof that neither band’s going to be backing down anytime soon.

5. Bad History Month / Dust From 1000 Years

Staring At My Hands” is a song that’s come to mean quite a lot to me over the past few months and it’s the strongest moment on this split cassette/split LP from Bad History Month (formerly Fat History Month/Sad History Month) and Dust From 1000 Years. That’s not to downplay any of the others; this is a genuinely mesmerizing release at every turn. Willfully left-field and wrapped in the same cloth, it reverberates long after the final notes of the hazily elegiac “Party Song”.

4. Mannequin Pussy / Dog Legs

One of the year’s most unexpectedly incendiary releases, this weird anomaly (it can- somehow- rightfully be called both a split and an EP compilation) was a sharp, glancing punch to the face. Teeth get bared, sharpened fingernails get flashed, and fists get clenched ten times over. Mannequin Pussy and Dog Legs both turn things up to 11 and advance their agendas with brute force. Immediate, engaging, and intimidatingly powerful, it easily ranks among 2014’s finest releases. During the split’s limited release run it also came with the added bonus of a 16 page zine featuring artwork from both acts.

3. Whirr / Nothing

Both Whirr and Nothing, two of the biggest names in today’s crop of shoegaze-heavy bands, released full-lengths this year. While both of those releases were well worth spending time on, it wasn’t until they came together that they made something extraordinary. Every song on this split ranks in the realms of career-best for both acts, as if they were all successive dares rooted in incredibly formidable one-upmanship. At four songs, this managed to stand out as one of 2014’s most impressively towering releases; the scope and depth of each song is a complete shock because of how expansive they manage to become without ever tipping into the comically bombastic. An extraordinary effort from two bands that sound incredible together (which is unsurprising, considering they share at least one member) and completely revitalized in such a contained setting.

2. Joanna Gruesome (Joanna Gruesome / Perfect Pussy, Joanna Gruesome / Trust Fund, Joanna Gruesome / Tyrannosaurus Dead)

In 2014, there were two bands that aimed for the fences and went way beyond when it came to split releases. Joanna Gruesome was one of them. It would have been much more of a nightmare for the rankings between these two had Joanna Gruesome’s split with Tyrannosaurs Dead included a new song rather than one of Weird Sister‘s many highlights. Between their extraordinary Astonishing Adventures split with site favorites Perfect Pussy (whose contributions were as dazzling as anything they’ve done) and their split EP with site favorites Trust Fund, they were responsible for half of two of the year’s finest releases- and what halves they were. “Psykick Espionage”, “Jerome (Liar)”, “…And Keep on Reaching for Those Stars”, “Reading the Wrappers”, “No Pressure”, “Scared”. Six songs that would have made up one of the best EP’s of any of the past 10 years or more. Joanna Gruesome are quickly turning into an unstoppable force of nature and pretty soon there are only going to be two options: get caught up in their spell or get the hell out of their way.


1. Ovlov (Ovlov / Little Big League, Krill / LVL UP / Ovlov / Radiator Hospital, Ex-Breathers / Ovlov / Gnarwhal / Woozy)

If any band had a more impressive year with splits than Joanna Gruesome, it was Ovlov. Turning in some of the year’s best songs (“The Great Crocodile” and “Ohmu’s Shell”, respectively) on the year’s best four-band split and what was easily one of 2014’s best two-band splits (with Little Big League’s “Year of the Sunhouse” also registering as one of 2014’s strongest highlights) is no small feat. Their contribution to their split with Gnarwhal, Woozy, and Ex-Breathers was that release’s strongest moment- they had a lot more competition from Krill, LVL UP (“Big Snow” being yet another year-end worthy highlight on its own accord), and Radiator Hospital (though both still would have earned a spot somewhere on this list had it been kept to individual releases). Ovlov’s songs- much like the songs on display in the Whirr/Nothing split- are absolute monsters, showcasing the band’s range in a breathtaking display of power. Should any of these songs be good indicators for the full-length Ovlov is ramping up to, then we’re in for some serious fireworks whenever it drops. For now, this small collection of songs is more than enough to tide anyone over until- and then well past- that album’s release.



Watch This: Best of 2014 (Video Mixtape)

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Live music videos never seem to get the emphasis they deserve. It’s part of why Watch This was created; to celebrate stunning documents of equally stunning performances. A good band can make a great record but a truly great band usually excels in the live setting. With 2014 winding to a close (and with another 100 posts in the past), it seemed appropriate to start reflecting on some of the year’s best offerings. Lists of LP’s, EP’s, 7″ releases, and more will be forthcoming but today the focus will fall on live clips. And, yes, 2014’s not quite over yet and there will be a few weeks worth of live clips to consider (in addition to the past few weeks, which will be focused on in the posts immediately following this one) and “best” is still subjective- but the videos contained in this mix were simply too good to just feature once. If there’s enough material, an appendix will be added around the start of next year.

To be eligible for this video mixtape, the videos involved had to have been previously featured in Watch This and not contain an interview sequence. Full sets were ruled out as well (with a lone exception being made for one of 2014’s best videos in any capacity to provide a sense of closure to the proceedings). These videos were pulled in from as many places as possible with only Chart Attack, La Blogotheque, and Little Elephant making repeat entries (with two each). From the painfully gorgeous (Mutual Benefit, Angel Olsen) to sublime perfection (Radiator Hospital, Little Big League) to the absurdly impressive (Kishi Bashi) to the most electric late night performance of 2014 (Ty Segall), there’s a little something for everyone. 25 clips are included and listed below, with a hyperlink provided to their respective installments in Watch This‘ always expanding catalog. Since this brings the site to another 100 post mark, hyperlinks will be provided to posts 300-399 for anyone interested in checking out past material. With all of this exposition out of the way, there’s really only one thing left to do: sit back, focus up, and Watch This.

1. Audacity – Counting the Days (Jam in the Van) — vol. 24
2. Greys – Guy Picciotto (Chart Attack) — vol. 24
3. Radiator Hospital – Fireworks (BNTYK) — vol. 51
4. Ovlov – Where’s My Dini? (Little Elephant) — vol. 23
5. Frankie Cosmos – Embody (Radio K) — vol. 55
6. Mean Creek – My Madeline (Wondering Sound) — vol. 19
7. Joanna Gruesome – Anti-Parent Cowboy Killers (BTR) — vol. 51
8. Sweet John Bloom – Aging In Place (Allston Pudding) — vol. 48
9. Emilyn Brodsky – Someone Belongs Here (TCGS) — vol. 28
10. Mitski – First Love // Late Spring (bandwidth) — vol. 43
11. Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds – Jubilee Street (ACL) — vol. 54
12. Sharon Van Etten – Serpents (Pitchfork) — vol. 40
13. Mutual Benefit – C.L. Rosarian (Bruxelles Ma Belle) — vol. 19
14. Angel Olsen – Enemy (La Blogotheque) — Vol. 11
15. Kishi Bashi – Philosophize In It! Chemicalize In It! (WNYC) — vol. 29
16. Little Big League – Year of the Sunhouse (Little Elephant) — vol. 45
17. Screaming Females – It All Means Nothing (Audiotree) — vol. 27
18. Ty Segall – Feel (Conan) — vol. 40
19. Dilly Dally – Candy Mountain (Chart Attack) — vol. 51
20. Cloud Nothings – Now Hear In (Amoeba) — vol. 57
21. MOURN – Otits (Captured Tracks) — vol. 53
22. Courtney Barnett – History Eraser (KEXP) — vol. 34
23. Lee Fields – Don’t Leave Me This Way (La Blogotheque) — vol. 54
24. Jenny Lewis – Slippery Slopes (KCRW) — vol. 52
25. Saintseneca (NPR) — vol. 38

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HB300: Songs of Summer: 2014 (Mixtape)
HB301: together PANGEA – Badillac (Music Video)
HB302: Night School – Birthday (Stream)
HB303: The Midwest Beat – Vortex Hole (Stream)
HB304: Watch This: Vol. 42
HB305: All Dogs at Bremen Cafe – 8/19/14 (Pictorial Review, Videos)
HB306: Attendant – Freaking Out (Review, Stream)
HB307: Grape St. – Free Stuff (Stream)
HB308: Iceage – Forever (Music Video)
HB309: Ed Schrader’s Music Beat – Televan (Music Video)
HB310: Young Jesus – G (Stream)
HB311: Watch This: Vol. 43
HB312: LVL UP – Ski Vacation (Stream)
HB313: Radiator Hospital at Cocoon Room – 9/8/14 (Pictorial Review, Video)
HB314: Nano Kino – Eyes Before Words (Music Video)
HB315: Tenement at Mickey’s Tavern – 9/9/14 (Pictorial Review, Videos)
HB316: Bass Drum of Death – For Blood (Stream)
HB317: Pretty Pretty – Feels Like Rain (Stream)
HB318: Watch This: Vol. 44
HB319: Medicine – Move Along – Down the Road (Stream)
HB320: Mitski – Townie (Stream)
HB321: Allah-Las – Follow You Down (Music Video)
HB322: Sonic Avenues – Teenage Brain (Music Video)
HB323: Iceage – How Many (Stream)
HB324: The Honeydips – No Shirt, No Shoes (Music Video)
HB325: Watch This: Vol. 45
HB326: Watch This: Vol. 46
HB327: Iceage – Glassy Eyed, Dormant and Veiled (Stream)
HB328: Zulu Pearls – Lightweight (Music Video)
HB329: Two Inch Astronaut – Foulbrood (Stream)
HB330: Little Big League – Property Line (Stream)
HB331: Mikal Cronin – I Don’t Mind / Blue-Eyed Girl (Stream)
HB332: Mutts – Everyone Is Everyone (Lyric Video)
HB333: LVL UP – Hoodwink’d (Album Review, Stream)
HB334: Watch This: Vol. 47
HB335: The History of Apple Pie – Jamais Vu (Music Video)
HB336: Iceage – Against the Moon (Stream)
HB337: Speedy Ortiz – Doomsday (Stream)
HB338: Hurry – Oh Whitney (Stream)
HB339: Thalassocracy – Shimensoka (Stream)
HB340: Mitski – iPhone Voice Memo (Stream)
HB341: Watch This: Vol. 48
HB342: Watch This: Vol. 49
HB343: Screaming Females – Wishing Well (Stream)
HB344: Meat Wave – Brother (Music Video)
HB345: Joanna Gruesome – Jerome (Liar) / Trust Fund – Reading the Wrappers (Music Video)
HB346: Ovlov – Ohmu Shell (Stream)
HB347: Ty Segall – The Singer (Music Video)
HB348: Pet Sun – Gimme Your Soul (Music Video)
HB349: Washer – Rot (Stream)
HB350: Three Quarters Down (Mixtape)
HB351: LVL UP – Big Snow (Stream)
HB352: Weaves – Shithole (Stream)
HB353: Pile at The Burlington Bar – 10/10/14 (Pictorial Review, Video)
HB354: Audacity – Counting the Days (Stream)
HB355: LVL UP at Beat Kitchen – 10/12/14 (Pictorial Review, Video)
HB356: Two Inch Astronaut – Part Of Your Scene (Stream)
HB357: Watch This: Vol. 50
HB358: Girlpool – Plants and Worms (Stream)
HB359: Watch This: Vol. 51
HB360: Cherry Glazerr – Nurse Ratched (Stream)
HB361: The Gotobeds – Wasted On Youth (Music Video)
HB362: Happy Diving – Big World (Album Stream)
HB363: Filmstrip – Don’t You Know (Stream)
HB364: Nobunny – Nightmare Night (Short Film)
HB365: Heartbreaking Bravery Presents, Vol. 1: Meat Wave, Mumblr, Geronimo! (Videos)
HB366: Watch This: Vol. 52
HB367: Watch This: Vol. 53
HB368: Cymbals Eat Guitars – Warning (Music Video)
HB369: Mitski – Bury Me At Makeout Creek (Album Review, Stream, Photos, Videos)
HB370: Chandos – ..Pretty Sure it’s ‘Tang Top’ (Stream)
HB371: Toby Coke – Face Taker (Stream)
HB372: Two Inch Astronaut – Dead White Boy (Stream)
HB373: Left & Right – Low Expectations (Music Video)
HB374: Watch This: Vol. 54
HB375: Deerhoof – Exit Only (Music Video)
HB376: Meat Wave – Sham King (Stream)
HB377: Kal Marks – It Was A Very Hard Year (Stream)
HB378: Band Practice – Bartending At Silent Barn (Stream)
HB379: Big Lonely – Dirty Clocks (Music Video)
HB380: Slight – Run (EP Review, Stream)
HB381: Screaming Females – Ripe (Stream)
HB382: Girlpool – Blah Blah Blah (Music Video)
HB383: Mutts – Black Ties & Diamonds (Song Premiere)
HB384: MOURN – Otitis (Stream)
HB385: Iceage – Against The Moon (Music Video)
HB386: Watch This: Vol. 55
HB387: Watch This: Vol. 56
HB388: Watch This: Vol. 57
HB389: Kal Marks – Don’t Pussy Foot With A Pussy Footer (Stream)
HB390: Trust Fund – Cut Me Out (Stream)
HB391: Alex G – Soaker (Stream)
HB392: Band Practice – Theme Song (Stream)
HB393: Chandos – Cobra Points (Stream)
HB394: Screaming Females – Empty Head (Stream)
HB395: Title Fight – Chlorine (Music Video)
HB396: Space Mountain – California Blue (Stream)
HB397: Liam Hayes – Fokus (Stream)
HB398: Toby Reif – 2014 (EP Stream)
HB399: Beliefs – Tidal Wave (Music Video)