Heartbreaking Bravery

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Tag: Patio

2016: A Year’s Worth of Memories (Loren DiBlasi)

Heartbreaking Bravery recently went offline but all facets of the site are back to being fully operational. Apologies for any inconveniences. All posts that were slated to run during that brief hiatus will appear with this note.

There are not enough kind words to adequately describe how much Loren DiBlasi has meant to this site and its development. One of the people that’s been supportive since the very beginning. she’s been a vital part of every edition of A Year’s Worth of Memories and has been kind enough to deliver another one of this series’ essential pieces. Life-altering experiences, panic attacks, family, self-assessment, and music abound in another burst of admirable sincerity from the Patio bassist/vocalist and MTV News editor. As always, it’s more than worth the read.

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Not Getting to the Gig

I remember my first show. It was a “concert,” really, but the concept was the same — I was seeing live music, of my own choosing, for the very first time. October 17, 2005. I was sixteen. Franz Ferdinand headlined the Theater at Madison Square Garden with TV On The Radio and Cut Copy (again, 2005). My birthday was months earlier, but I hadn’t asked for a party. Instead, I waited until my favorite band came to my city, then bullied my mom into driving me and three friends to see them. I wasn’t allowed to take the train into the city alone. And yet, I had never felt more free.

This is it, I remember thinking. I’m going to be part of this. At the time, I didn’t think I’d ever play music. I’m not sure I thought I’d write about it, either. I was sixteen. I just knew that it was mine, and now that I’d found it, no one was ever going to take it away from me. Though tiny from my distant seat, the people onstage were gods, not men. The room was huge but the experience was intimate, because it was all happening to me for the first time.

I remember my first panic attack at a show. July 3, 2015. Pile played the Bell House, and I had postponed my Fourth of July weekend trip in order to see them. I was too wrapped up in self-denial to realize that this show, in particular, was one I shouldn’t have planned to attend. Not because of the band (whom I love and haven’t seen since) but because of other, more personal reasons. My deeply broken, damaged heart — and even more damaged mind — simply wasn’t ready. I made it to the bathroom before realizing I could no longer breathe. It was the single worst night of my life.

So much happened in the ten years between those two nights. I developed my passion for writing and left high school. I moved to the city to attend college, mostly in search of more music. I graduated and didn’t get a job. I moved back home. I took the train back and forth for job interviews and intermittent writing gigs. I wrote art reviews, band profiles, even TV recaps. I got paid for none of it. I kept writing whatever I could until people started noticing. It took a long time, but they finally did.

Eventually I said “fuck it” and moved into the house my family owns in Ridgewood, Queens, which they’d kept and rented after moving out of the city. Growing up, the house in Ridgewood wasn’t where I’d thought I’d end up. To my family, Italian and tenacious, that was the place they’d left in favor of better schools and more square footage, and there was no going back. They wanted me to live in the city, but not in Ridgewood. At 24 and broke, I had no choice.

Little did I realize that Ridgewood was exactly where I wanted to be. In Ridgewood I was a short train ride from Williamsburg, home of Death by Audio, Glasslands, and 285 Kent. I was a seven minute drive from Silent Barn, Palisades, and cult house venue David Blaine’s The Steakhouse. Shea Stadium was nearby, too; I even found an internship at a startup music site on the same block as Shea. I always tell people that my career started at Shea, when Dan Goldin introduced me to Derek Evers of Impose at a Big Ups show. I can trace every word I’ve written since back to that single moment. It was March 21, 2014, three days before I turned 25.

Throughout the next year and beyond, I don’t think I missed one show. Going to the show was my life, and the only life I’d ever wanted. Making actual money — to eat, pay my bills, go to the doctor — would come later, but at the time, I didn’t care. I couldn’t buy anything. I walked most places and I was really skinny. But I was there.

I made so many friends there. Label people, band people, fan people like myself. People started sending me their stuff so I could write about it for whatever small publication or local blog I’d be connected to at the time. If two people read it, I’d done my job. I was so happy. I wanted to be a voice within the community that I was starting to make my own. The fact that I now work for an huge corporation is funny to me, still, which isn’t to say I’m not grateful for MTV News and the people (many of them idols) I work with every day. I take nothing for granted.

I consider these sweaty nights at places like Shea and Death By Audio to be the happiest of my life. I didn’t have much — at least not in comparison to what I have now — but it was the beginning of something magical for me. It was the beginning of the life I’d always wanted.

But this isn’t a happy tale — at least, not entirely. When the show is your life, and then you lose it, you have no life. This is what I thought. This is what I believed. I felt it was my fault. I made myself a victim for a long time, and as a result, I stopped going places entirely. Especially to shows.

To say that this dark period was the result of the dissolution of my relationship with another person is extremely diminishing — that’s where it might have began, but there was so much more in the middle. So much emptiness that I had to claw through, so much aloneness that I had to grapple with and make peace with and explore to find the origin of. Not for a second of last year did I feel “normal,” and yet I was finally experiencing human emotions in a very normal way for the first time. Coming to terms with pain is terrifying and yet entirely necessary if you plan to live a “normal” life. Which I’d always wanted to. I never wanted to give up.

I’ve missed so many shows in the last two years. I still miss so many shows. I can blame my schedule or the demands of Patio or money or whatever else I want, but deep down, I know that I am still very afraid. When your emotions are so deeply tied into everything you do and the places you go, it’s hard to walk into a room where you know you are vulnerable (the anticipation is the worst). SXSW was particularly difficult for me this year, despite the fact that my band hadn’t even released any music and was still invited onto a bill alongside Mitski, Washer, Palm, Kal Marks and Guerilla Toss. I got drunk and shed a lot of tears. I also reconnected with old friends and had one of the best days of my life. I shared a moment of clarity with someone that I’d really needed, despite being afraid of it for so long. Thinking about it still makes me cry but I also think it was so beautiful. That’s how I look at the world now; there is no light or darkness. Everything is grey.

Show anxiety often feels extremely specific, and it wasn’t until I started becoming more vocal about it that I realized others around me had been experiencing it, too. Getting to the gig is supposed to be fun and fulfilling — it was my entire social life — but when it’s not, it sucks worse than anything I’ve ever experienced. But what I’ve learned in the past two years is that sometimes it’s okay to stay home, and that’s nothing to feel guilty or ashamed about. Sometimes you need a night in to relax in a robe watching The Golden Girls and eating delivery nachos (this very scenario is what first inspired the concept of “Luxury” that drove Patio’s first EP). Writing music, reading books, and having dinner with old friends are some other things you can do instead of going to the gig. There are other places than the gig. The gig will always be there.

I’ve accepted that it’s at the gig, surrounded by friends, where I often feel most alone. Even this very moment, as I finish work and get ready to go see Washer, my stomach feels queasy and I can’t help but wish I could just go to sleep early tonight. It’s definitely okay to do that, but this time, I won’t. I know that when I climb the stairs to Shea I’ll be climbing my way to a million friends, and it doesn’t matter who else might be there or what anxieties I might face. Sometimes I go to the show; sometimes I play the show; sometimes I stay home from the show. I’m not sure if that ending is happy or sad. But I think next time Pile plays New York, I’ll be there. 

2016: A Year’s Worth of Memories (Lindsey-Paige McCloy)

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Heartbreaking Bravery recently went offline but all facets of the site are back to being fully operational. Apologies for any inconveniences. All posts that were slated to run during that brief hiatus will appear with this note.

Last year, Patio‘s Lindsey-Paige McCloy penned a beautiful, multilayered piece that reflected on some key moments from 2015. For 2016, the emerging musician asked to take a slightly different approach but circled back to a very specific topic. While Patio made another appearance on a year-end list, another Paige-McCloy project — Catbus — found themselves in the Best Songs. Below, Paige-McCloy pays tribute to Catbus band member Phyllis Ophelia in memorable fashion.

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For the second year in a row I’m turning in a down-to-the-wire submission some distance into the following year. Steven somehow agreed to let me send in a demo instead of writing down a reflection using words because I can barely string together a sentence, so I put my amp in my bathtub to see what would happen and then I sat in it for a couple of hours with my Bobkat and the Tascam four track I bought from a man in San Francisco on the internet in October and I made this thing.

This is a lyrically-inaccurate, tape-hiss-ridden version of one of my favorite songs released in 2016 – “Saint Hangover” by Phyllis Ophelia – and really you should listen to the version from Phyllis’s EP Analemma I instead. If for some reason you listened to that song and wondered what it would sound like if it were played by a different person in a freezing cold cast iron bathtub, sporadically double-tracked to tape, run unmixed through a $20 Target boombox, and then recorded to an iPhone voice memo, your wildest dreams have come true.

Sorry to Phyllis for getting the lyrics all wrong and to my roommate Patrick who had to drag my amp out of said freezing cast iron bathtub to shower at 6:30am on Sunday morning because I forgot he had to work.

16 of ’16: The Best EP’s of the Year

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Once again, an increasingly busy schedule has led to a brief gap between posts and diminished the possibilities for year-end coverage. For that reason, there’ll only be three more Best Of pieces before the third round of A Year’s Worth of Memories. Sadly, this means some previous categories will be neglected but don’t let that diminish the importance of things like online singles, compilations, and the other odds and ends releases.

This list will focus on the EP’s that were released this year, which had to be at least four songs or exceed 10 minutes in length (which disqualified some genuinely tremendous releases). A lot of great material came out this year and these EP’s managed to emerge as standouts. For any potential bias to be eliminated, EP’s that premiered here were deemed ineligible (but should still be celebrated). Enjoy the list.

Jack – Resting Places 

One of the more harrowing listens of 2016 was centered around the loss of a loved one. It was an event that seems to have transformed something in Brittany Costa, the mastermind behind Jack and Resting Places. This is an explosive EP and it deserved much more circulation than it received.

Krill – Krill 

A posthumous release from one of the most fiercely beloved bands in DIY punk, Krill‘s self-titled swan song may also be their finest work. Bassist/vocalist employed baritone guitar lines to spectacular effect on Krill, something evident from the EP’s brilliant opening track (“Meat”). Precise and teeming with feeling, it’s one hell of a goodbye.

Eskimeaux – Year of the Rabbit

Following this site’s pick for 2015’s Album of the Year proved to be a shockingly easy feat for Eskimeaux, who quickly released a summery EP overflowing with memorable moments. Year of the Rabbit finds Eskimeaux deepening the best aspects of their music and refining some newer tricks. It’s a breezy listen that carries substantial weight.

Kynnet – …Taas ne Kynnet 

A blast of fired-up basement pop from Finland, Kynnet once again proves to be an uncontainable force with …Taas ne Kynnet. This is hard-charging music that transcends the language divide and effortlessly engages listeners with its overwhelming immediacy. Give in or get out of the way because once …Taas ne Kynnet gets gets going, it’s not stopping.

Forth Wanderers – Slop 

Headlined by its breathtaking title trackSlop is a warning shot from the increasingly ambitious Forth Wanderers. While “Slop” is undoubtedly the standout of the EP, the other three songs don’t ever come across as being overshadowed, revealing flashes of the band’s brilliance. Slop is a uniformly strong outing that packs a serious punch.

Happyness – Tunnel Vision On Your Part 

Happyness teased Tunnel Vision On Your Part with “SB’s Truck“, a song based on the fascinating historical footnote that saw the unlikely pairing of Andre The Giant and Samuel Beckett. The band continues to do no wrong, turning in another immensely enjoyable collection of songs that further their growing reputation as master popsmiths.

Faye – Faye 

An extraordinary debut from an extremely promising band, Faye‘s self-titled is a beautifully crafted work that capitalizes on the sort of subtleties that some veteran acts still have a difficult time navigating. Nearly half of this EP rightfully earned individual features before its release and the EP’s remainder lived up to the promise of those tracks.

Snail Mail – Habit 

2016 saw Snail Mail start to break out and earn some overdue attention on a much larger scale. A lot of that can be attributed to the remarkable (and surprisingly affecting) Habit. Vulnerable, defiant, and tenaciously pointed, Habit‘s the kind of record that burrows under the skin and refuses to leave. A gem and a career best.

Hazel English – Never Going Home 

There were few, if any records, released in 2016 lovelier than Hazel English‘s Never Going Home. A spellbinding mixture of dream pop, basement pop, and post-punk, Never Going Home‘s the kind of painfully beautiful work that deserves to be remembered. It’s a series of grace notes that openly offer contentment and warmth.

Fern Mayo – Hex Signs 

Fern Mayo became a staple of this site’s coverage based on the white-knuckle intensity of their live show and in Hex Signs they manage to harness that intimidating forcefulness. Easily the best work of the band’s burgeoning career, Hex Signs is a confrontational demonstration of the type of strength that refuses to be ignored.

don’t – forget it. 

One of the unique thrills of music writing is the discovery of a young, unknown band from a relatively small area that are doing interesting, impressive things. don’t met all of those qualifications to such an excessive degree with forget it. that it became unforgettable. While possibly the least recognizable name on this list, they deserve the placement.

Patio – Luxury

Being able to watch a band evolve from their first show and thrive in the state of progression is a privilege. It’s even more of a privilege when the band in question is one like Patio, who excel at the formula that makes up Luxury: wiry post-punk that serves up as much dry wit as it does sheer attitude. What’s scary is they’re still only just getting started.

Strange Ranger – Sunbeams Through Your Head 

Sunbeams Through Your Head marked an exhilarating new chapter for Strange Ranger who, almost paradoxically, seemed galvanized in their decision to more fully embrace a downtrodden nature. It’s an EP characterized by moments either brave, bold, or beautiful. An extraordinarily compelling listen and the sound of a band hitting its stride.

Tony Molina – Confront the Truth 

As someone who could claim in-your-face micro-punk as a specialty, Tony Molina‘s gorgeous Confront the Truth likely came as a shock to some. Anyone well-versed in Molina’s work could easily see how the songwriter could conjure up a gentle 7″ full of retro-leaning acoustic pop songs that invoked the spirit of the late ’60 and early ’70s. A sublime work.

Talons’ – Work Stories 

One of the rare records where the distinction between album and EP becomes blurry, Work Stories nevertheless saw Talons’ extend a quiet streak of ridiculously impressive records. Hushed and haunted folk-inflected songs comprise Work Stories, each as breathtakingly gripping as the last. Work Stories is another piece of mastery.

EP OF THE YEAR

Mercury Girls/The Spook School/Wildhoney/Tigercats – Continental Drift 

While the intro to this piece stated that the majority of the odds and ends would be ignored, an exception is being made for the excessively great split EP that saw Mercury Girls (who also released the excellent Ariana 7″ in 2016), The Spook School, Wildhoney, and Tigercats each contribute two songs. Continental Drift doesn’t feel or operate like the majority of split releases by virtue of its exhaustively complete unification.

All four bands on Continental Drift can come across as singular acts, on closer inspection they begin to appear as slight mutations of each other, rendering this split an effortless listen. There could very well be a group of people that’d mistake Continental Drift as the work of one inhumanly talented band (though the shift in accents may provide a tipping point). Each of the four acts bring their best work to the table and make characteristically strong impressions.

Over Continental Drift‘s eight tracks, not only is there never a weak song, there’s never a weak moment. Each of these songs is tightly crafted and masterfully executed, providing each act with a highlight reel that could attract unfamiliar listeners to the rest of their respective discographies. There are so many soaring moments scattered throughout Continental Drift that the end result is stratospheric. In theory, this split was enticing but in its execution Continental Drift achieves a staggering amount of perfection.

Nine more worth checking out:

Lady Bones – Terse
Cleo Tucker – Looking Pretty At the Wall
Devon Welsh – Down the Mountain
Plush – Please
Young Jesus – Void As Lob
Naps – The Most Beautiful Place On Earth
gobbinjr – vom night
CHEW – CHEW
Fake Boyfriend – Mercy

HB1000: A Step Forward (Compilation)

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When I started Heartbreaking Bravery nearly three years ago, I had no intention of pursuing it as a legitimate venture. Now, 1,000 posts, 50,000+ links, and countless words later, the site’s come to be the type of platform I’ve always loved seeing in the world. I could attempt to wax poetic on the nature of personal discovery and growth that running this place has afforded me but Heartbreaking Bravery was never about a single person, it’s always functioned best as a communal entity.

The ideas that formed the basic structure of Heartbreaking Bravery all came from artists producing exceptional work with little recognition. Repeatedly watching that transaction occur proved too disheartening. Whether it was the earliest years of Tenement, the later years of Good Grief, or virtually the entire run of Sleeping in the Aviary, there were always ceaselessly talented artists surrounding me that only ever seemed to receive the slightest of nods.

Heartbreaking Bravery originally aimed — and continues to aim — to provide a more level playing field to emerging artists, without reducing their worth to financial opportunity. Heartbreaking Bravery continues to value the community and intimacy that informs the DIY music world. Heartbreaking Bravery will continue to use the platform it’s been granted to elevate the idea of greater equality.

It’s in that spirit that I’m honored to present A Step Forward, a two-volume compilation spanning 100 tracks that exclusively features artists who are connected to this site’s history. Whether that was through a long history of collaboration or something as small as a twitter follow, the impact was not lost or left unappreciated. There’s a heavy emphasis on artists residing in the cities and states Heartbreaking Bravery has called home (Stevens Point, WI and Brooklyn, NY) and a small selection of songs that were premiered on this site.

100% of the proceeds of A Step Forward will be going to Rape Victim Advocates, a non-profit Chicago-based organization that’s doing vital (and, sadly, necessary) work for survivors of sexual assault. Read more about the organization here. It’s my sincerest hope that every publication that has the privilege of visibility manages to find ways to use any of their influence for productive good and to affect positive change. Please consider donating what you can to a meaningful cause.

Finally, I wanted to express gratitude to all of the artists (and any of their teams) involved — including the inimitable Phil McAndrew, who turned in the extraordinary album art — and all of the people that have allowed, even willed, this site to the point it’s at today. It likely would have disappeared without that support and I owe those people a debt of gratitude that could never be truly repaid. A special thanks to Fred Thomas, whose “What Changes When The Costumes Come Off” was written with the specifics of A Step Forward in mind.

Enjoy the compilation, support independent art, and join me, this site, these artists, and this cause in taking A Step Forward.

Tracklist below.

A Step Forward: Vol. 1*

1. Vacation – Caked Joy Rag (Demo)
2. Mike Krol – Neighborhood Watch (Demo)
3. Dead Stars – So Strange (Demo)
4. Mo Troper – After the Movies (Demo)
5. Fern Mayo – The Sweets (Demo)
6. Hater – Like Hours (Demo)
7. Sharkmuffin – Only Mondays (Demo)
8. Fits – Ice Cream On A Nice Day (Demo)
9. Missy – Patience (Demo)
10. Kodakrome – Skeletons (Demo)
11. Slight – Run (Demo)
12. Long Neck – Goldfinch (Demo)
13. Phyllis Ophelia – Probably Not (Demo)
14. Lever – Cure (Demo)
15. Puppy Problems – Destroyer (Demo)
16. Battle Ave. – Black Jeans (Demo)
17. Yours Are The Only Ears – Alone Bear (Demo)
18. Attendant – Some Other Language (Demo)
19. MKSEARCH – Little Song (Demo)
20. Sulky Boy – Birches (Demo)
21. Heavy Looks – Those Guys (Demo)
22. darn it. – (again) pt. II
23. Phooey! – On an On
24. Arm Candy – Big Clunker
25. DTCV – Le Vampire
26. Clearance – The Queen of Eyes
27. Leggy – I’m Gonna Destroy That Boy
28. Big Air – Hit Me in the Mouth
29. Terry Malts – Look (At the Mess That We’re In)
30. Ubetcha – Musician
31. Two Inch Astonaut – Suckers Share
32. Whelpwisher – Bucket for the Sky
33. Petite League – Magic Johnson
34. The Meltaways (ft. Kate M) – Wrong Words
35. Calumet – Indian Summer
36. Mulligrub – Little Fist
37. Ben Seretan – Stay In Touch
38. Mumblr – Friendship Stew
39. Human People – Useless Things
40. Bethlehem Steel – Florida Two
41. Painted Zeros – Sweet Briar Rose
42. Spit – Paul Westerberg
43. Crusher – Running
44. Pupppy – Stand By Me
45. Aberdeen – Once You Fall In Love
46. Tica Douglas – Enough
47. Peaer – Multiverse
48. The Weasel, Marten Fisher – What Is Love
49. Young Jesus – Mirroring
50. Space Mountain – Earthrise

A Step Forward: Vol. II*

1. Bellows – Bank Checks
2. Cave Curse – Arcadia
3. Fred Thomas – What Changes When the Costumes Come Off
4. Apollo Vermouth – He Sees You, He Loves You
5. Green Dreams – Psychic Woes (Alternate Mix)
6. Lost Boy ? – Have You Seen My Brain (Space Cat Sessions)
7. Mikaela Davis – Pure Divine Love (Early Mix)
8. Nano Kino – Recovery (Early Mix)
9. Trophy Dad – Addison (Early Mix)
10. Alanna McArdle – Less Than (Early Mix)
11. VVHILE – Don’t Belong (Live)
12. Liam Betson – Mispronounced (Live)
13. BAG-DAD – Bruv (Live)
14. Slothrust – Keg Party (Live)
15. The Nudes – Nowhere to Be
16. Sat. Nite Duets – Cemetery Steve
17. Slanted – Fake Party
18. Patio – Gold
19. Greys – No Star
20. No Hoax – Date With Death
21. Dirty Dishes – Red Roulette
22. Yeesh – On Some Dirt
23. Pile – Cut From First Other Tape
24. Even Hand – Nightsmoke the Fuss
25. PURPLE 7 – Wise Up
26. Bad Wig – Machinehead
27. Mary Lynn – Space
28. Pleistocene – CMJ Compilation 1996
29. Color TV – Anybody’s Girl
30. Jacky Boy – Bad
31. Trust Fund – Would That Be An Adventure?
32. Good Grief – City People
33. Adir L.C. – Hangover
34. Milk Crimes – H8RZ
35. À La Mode – Total Doom
36. Inside Voices – Nomad: Begin
37. Doe – Corin
38. Kindling – Became
39. Bueno – Blown Out
40. Horse Teeth – Dark & Gloomy
41. Ron Gallo – Put the Kids to Bed
42. Sun’s Out Bummed Out – Cut All My Hair
43. Eric Slick – The Dirge
44. Fruit & Flowers – Turqoise
45. Shilpa Ray – Hymn
46. Jack – Sister System
47. Strange Ranger – Whatever You Say
48. Johanna Warren – A Bird in the Crocodile’s Mouth
49. Oceanator – Nowhere Nothing
50. Fresh Snow – Eat Me In St. Louis (Bryan W. Bray – Eaten by the Cetacean Mix)

Vol. I

Tracks 1-21: Demos
Tracks 22-50: New Songs

Vol. II

Tracks 1-4: New Songs (cont’d)
Tracks 5-14: Alternate Mixes and Live Songs
Tracks 15-49: Old Favorites
Track 50: Remix

 

Patio – Luxury (EP Review)

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Editor’s Note: There’s been a month-long gap in coverage, thanks to near-incessant travel and other extenuating circumstances. The following run of posts that contain this note will be posts that should have appeared sometime within the past several weeks. Use these posts as an opportunity to catch up to the present release cycle or to simply discover some new music. Either way, enjoy.

One of the people that this site brought into my life was Loren DiBlasi, Patio‘s bassist and one of the regular contributors to the A Year’s Worth of Memories series. Over those few years, DiBlasi brought up Patio on more than one occasion. I was ecstatic to be there for the band’s public unveiling and even more elated (although fairly unsurprised) to find that I adored the music the band was making, to the point that their demo was even included in one of this site’s year-end lists.

Now, the band’s finally offered up their first official release: the compelling Luxury EP. Big Ups‘ Amar Lal sat in the producer’s chair for this one and he brings out several of the important subtleties of the trio’s mix of razor-sharp post-punk and their more pop-oriented sensibilities, the latter being more fully embraced by drummer Alice Suh and guitarist/vocalist Lindsey-Paige McCloy‘s contributions to their excellent project with Phyllis Ophelia, Catbus

Each of the five songs on display throughout Luxury register as individual standouts while still managing to coalesce into a coherent whole (the lyrics and composition, especially, complement each other to a near-perfection). Whether they’re showing remarkable restraint or bringing out every knife in their arsenal, there’s an undercurrent of unflagging conviction that keeps Luxury surging forward towards some unknown destination. With songs as strong as these, ultimately, that destination won’t matter; it’s the thrill of the ride that we’ll remember.

Listen to Luxury below and pick it up from the band here.

The 50 Best Songs of 2016’s First Quarter

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Now that nearly everything’s back up to speed on the three major fronts (streams, full streams, and music videos), it’s time to re-direct the attention to the very best material that emerged in the first three months of 2016. After listening to literally thousands of new songs throughout the course of this year, 50 songs will be embedded below (the original list was just over 50 and the last three cuts were from Public Access T.V., SOAR, and Retired), with the first several artists listed having multiple songs vying for the feature.

Due to the time constraints, each of the songs — while worthy of several paragraphs — will  receive a line or two of text. All of the songs that competed for the feature spot will be hyperlinked. All of these songs, in one way or another, genuinely stood out from the rest of the pack- and beyond that, several of them have proven their worth via their staying power.

From moments of devastating vulnerability (“Low Hymnal”) to electrifying bursts of visceral energy (“DVP”), there’s a lot to digest. Whether carrying the status of new, emerging, proven, or elder statesman, the artists that comprise this list have viable year-end potential. All 50 of these tracks deserve investment. Dive in below and explore a large handful of 2016’s finest gems.

Bent Shapes – New Starts In Old Dominion

After making their mark with a string of consistent releases, Bent Shapes delivered their strongest effort yet with Wolves of Want, which was highlighted by the surging powerpop number “New Starts In Old Dominion”. | Also worth hearing: What We Do Is Public, Realization Hits

Culture Abuse – Turn It Off

A seething mess of chaos and cacophony, Culture Abuse‘s “Turn It Off” was one of young 2016’s most immediate post-punk tunes. Sharp and unrelenting, “Turn It Off” more than makes its mark. | Also worth hearing: Dream On, Peace On Earth

Audacity – Lock On the Door

Self-described by the band as a “Third Eye Blind rip-off song”, “Lock On the Door” is the band’s most successful grime-coated excursion and retains every bit of its predecessors’ considerable charms.  | Also worth hearing: Umbrellas, Dirty Boy.

Mulligrub – Homo Milk & Man in the Moon

Mulligrub managed to impress when they were just starting out and they’ve grown noticeably in a surprisingly short period of time. If this two-song package is any indication, there are some extraordinary things in Mulligrub’s future. | Also worth hearing: Europe

Mo Troper – First Monkey In Space

Mo Troper’s Beloved is my early front-runner for Album of the Year and with songs as perfectly crafted (and presented) as “First Monkey In Space”, that shouldn’t come as a surprise. Big Star-meets-Tony Molina is a very, very good look. | Also worth hearing: After the Movies

Jawbreaker Reunion – Cosmos

Another early year-end candidate came in the form of Jawbreaker Reunion‘s breathtaking “Cosmos”, which saw them tapping back into the lovesick despair that made “E.M.O.” so unforgettable. When the back half kicks in on his one, it’s a moment of powerful transcendence. | Also worth hearing: Small Investments

Kal Marks – Coffee

A sprawling, bruiser of a track, “Coffee” sees Kal Marks continuing to dominate the realms of aggressively down-trodden post-punk, fully equipped with a messy handful of grunge influences. It’s another masterclass from a band who are very nearly peerless. | Also worth hearing: Mankind

Tenement – The Block Is Safe Again

One of three songs on this list to be experiencing a cleaned up re-release, “The Block Is Safe Again” is vintage Tenement. All you really need to see to know that this is incredible is the last word of that first sentence. | Also worth hearing: Freak Cast In Iron

Nicole Dollanganger – Chapel 

Another song that experienced a re-release, “Chapel”, saw Nicole Dollanganger embracing her softest sensibilities and conjuring up something spellbinding. Let it wash over you and give into its dreamlike state, pay attention, though, and you’ll be plunged straight into a delicate nightmare. | Also worth hearing: Beautiful and Bad

Big Ups – National Parks

Shortly after hitting their five year anniversary, Big Ups unloaded a behemoth of a record in Before A Million Universes. The high-wire tension act of “National Parks” was one of its many peaks, providing an able showcase for the band’s commanding sense of self. | Also worth hearing: Hope for Someone

Tancred – Sell My Head

One of 2016’s most pleasant surprises has come in the full-blown emergence of Tancred. Spiky, formidable, and exceptional, everything Jess Abbott’s project has unleashed this year has hit its target. Store this one away right next to the fiercest songs from Palehound and Speedy Ortiz. | Also worth hearing: Control Me

Eskimeaux – WTF

After claiming this site’s Album of the Year distinction, the Epoch quartet known as Eskimeaux has returned with a shimmering new EP. “WTF” continues the band’s winsome penchant for expertly crafted, bittersweet pop songs with a gentle ease. Good luck shaking that chorus section. | Also worth hearing: Power

Solids – Blank Stare

Following a string of strong releases, Solids have a career high on their hands with the Else EP, which boasts four enthralling tracks that combine a host of influences into something melodic and menacing. “Blank Stare” is the EP’s highlight. | Also worth hearing: Wait It Out

Eureka California – Cobwebs on the Wind

Eureka California have proven themselves to be a remarkably consistent band and they’ve rarely ever been granted the spotlight they deserve. Versus, their latest effort, is their most engaging thanks to the jittery energy that propels tracks like “Cobwebs on the Wind” and “Caffeine”. | Also worth hearing: Caffeine

Banned Books – Fuselage

Very few records this year have caught me as off guard or sent me reeling as quickly as Banned Books, the exhilarating self-titled effort from the Philadelphia noise-punk figureheads. “Fuselage” contains some of the band’s most exceptional — and propulsive — work to date. | Also worth hearing: Everything I’ll Ever Need

Hudson Bell – Box of Bones

One of the most difficult decisions to make in compiling this list was which of these two listed songs to feature. “Box of Bones” got the edge for the extraordinary hooks and some jaw-dropping sections of sheer perfection. Hudson Bell is putting together something unreal and more people should be taking note. | Also worth hearing: Hey Doll

Plush – Sheer Power

A sweeping, magisterial work of lush decadence, “Sheer Power” announced Plush’s 2016 run with a heaven-sent explosion. Dynamic, powerful, gorgeous, and towering, “Sheer Power” is the band at their most gripping and one of early 2016’s most spine-tingling offerings. | Also worth hearing: Please Don’t Let Me Go

PUP – DVP

As expected, when PUP resurfaced after making one of the most beloved punk records of this current decade, they were even more feral and wild-eyed than when they left off. “DVP” isn’t just the band’s fiercest song to date, it’s also one of their strongest. Get out of the way or get run over (repeatedly).

Greys – No Star

Another one of Toronto’s finest punk acts, Greys, have been putting together a deeply impressive run over the past few years. They’ve yet to make a bad song and thrive off the tension they inject into the kinetic “No Star”, which expertly balances the band’s most melancholic sensibilities with their most explosive.

The Sun Days – Don’t Need To Be Them

2016 has already had its fair share of excellence in powerop but right now, no one’s doing that genre better than Sweden, who’ve gifted us another extraordinary act in The Sun Days. Album, the band’s debut record, offers up a whole bevvy of what are likely to go down as some of 2016’s loveliest tunes, like the gorgeous “Don’t Need To Be Them”.

Frankie Cosmos – On the Lips

The last of the songs on this list to have a prior release, “On the Lips” finally gets the full band treatment for Frankie Cosmos‘ sprightly Next Thing. Already considered a standout of a very crowded discography, “On the Lips” is pure Frankie Cosmos: light, charming, and memorable.

Oceanator – Nowhere Nothing

Very few songs over the past several years have had a section that laid me as flat as the outro to Oceanator’s “Nowhere Nothing”. The project of Vagabon drummer Elise Okusami, Oceanator’s already showing an astounding level of promise. As a standalone song, it’s breathtaking. As an artist’s introductory number, it’s flat-out unbelievable.

Yoni & Geti – Madeline

Serengeti’s carved out a respectable place for himself throughout the course of a very consistent career. WHY?‘s Yoni Wolf is rightfully regarded as one of this generation’s most remarkable lyricists (by certain circles, at least). Their collaborative project is only just getting started but the lilting powerpop of “Madeline” bodes well for the duo’s future.

EERA – Drive With Fear

“Drive With Fear” was the first song that really pulled me into EERA‘s fascinating world. Combining elements of dream-pop, ambient, and noise into an extremely tantalizing package, the project from Anna Lena Bruland’s landed on something intangible that seems ready to pay dividends as it goes forward. This song alone’s a piece of magic.  

Tacocat – I Hate the Weekend

Tacocat returned with “I Hate the Weekend”, advancing the band’s commendable aversion to disappointing by amplifying what they do best: carefree basement pop that deals with life’s more mundane moments. Sugary, sharp, and well-informed, “I Hate the Weekend” will stand as one of 2016’s greatest anti-parties.

Dilly Dally – Know Yourself

Watching Dilly Dally unexpectedly pull out this Drake cover last year at CMJ prompted what I can only describe as a near-out-of-body experience. I wrote about it extensively a few times and was hoping an official recording of the cover would make its way out into the world. When it arrived, it didn’t disappoint; “Know Yourself” is an absolute monster.

Lucy Dacus – Strange Torpedo

I Don’t Wanna Be Funny Anymore” was one of the best songs of last year and I haven’t been able to shake it since its release. Fortunately, Lucy Dacus had a new batch of equally exceptional songs to round out the incredible No Burden, including “Strange Torpedo”, a very strong showcase of Dacus’ knack for hyper-intelligent songwriting.

Weaves – One More

Weaves have undergone one of the more impressive transformations in music, transitioning from an intriguing world-leaning act to a full-fledged basement pop group. “Shithole” was one of the first indications of their radical switch and they’ve followed it up with the vicious, teeth-baring noise-punk of “One More”.

Free Cake For Every Creature – First Summer In A City

Katie Bennett’s Free Cake For Every Creature project has excelled in making airy bedroom pop that’s grounded by a relatable honesty. “First Summer In A City” is an instant standout, instantly capitalizing on the act’s most breezy and road-weary sensibilities. The slide guitar work here is a thing of quiet perfection. 

Woods – Morning Light

Another band that knows a thing or two about breezy, road-weary sensibilities is Woods, who have sculpted an entire career out of combining the two. One of the most remarkably consistent bands going today, they’ve managed to produce a career highlight with the easygoing, piano-speckled Americana of “Morning Light”.

Music Band – Fortune Guns

Basement pop meets basement punk is where this site pulls most of the bands it features most prominently. Music Band exists squarely in that intersection and have nearly perfected that marriage. “Fortune Guns” is the latest piece of thrilling evidence. 

A Death Forest Index – Myth Retraced

“Myth Retraced” is the kind of song that slowly washes over the listener, pulling them deeper in with each successive wave as the current gets increasingly stronger. A collaboration between A Death Forest Index and Savages’ guitarist, Gemma Thompson, it’s a dark, fractured miracle of a track. 

Carey – You Were Right

Old Flame Records has long specialized in retro-leaning basement pop, building up a roster of acts that have — appropriately — been granted a lot of attention from this site. Carey‘s the latest band to get in on the action and they kicked 2016 off with the blazing “You Were Right”, which more than lives up to the label’s high standard.

Wood Lake – Hollow

Easily the heaviest song on this list, “Hollow” is a swift masterstroke from emerging act Wood Lake. Combining the very best elements of post-hardcore and shoegaze, the band’s latched onto something that feels as exhilarating as it does singular. Gorgeous and punishing isn’t an easy combination to pull off but Wood Lake’s got it down pat.

Dead Stars – Unpopular

Dead Stars have shown up on this site a few times thanks to their ’90s-infused take on basement pop and “Unpopular” is another very worthy addition to a strong discography. Clean when its called for and distorted when it matters, “Unpopular” finds the band in fine form.

Such Hounds – I’ve Been Lost

Riding a syncopation lifted from The Damned’s classic “Neat Neat Neat” in the introduction, Such Hounds’ “I’ve Been Lost” quickly transforms into a beast of its own, lacing its emphatic powerpop with a punk sneer. Insanely catchy and playfully welcoming, it’s a breath of fresh air in an all-too-often overly serious musical landscape.

Told Slant – Low Hymnal

The first time I heard a note of Told Slant‘s “Low Hymnal” was when it was being recorded in DBTS. I’d wake up and listen in on Felix Walworth meticulously recording the song, wondering how the finished version would play. When I heard the rough take, I surrendered myself to chills, on the verge of tears. Now that it’s done, that feeling’s returned.

Mitski – Your Best American Girl

The year Bury Me At Makeout Creek came out it came very close to capturing this site’s Album of the Year distinction. Mitski‘s made a lot of moves in the time that’s followed, watching her audience grow exponentially in the process. “Your Best American Girl” is more than strong enough to allow that trend to continue; it’s a dynamic behemoth.

Yung – Pills

Yung were one of the first bands to really impress me at last year’s CMJ. I’d enjoyed what I’d heard from them previously but their was something intangible happening with their live show that converted me into a full-fledged believer. “Pills”, an expertly crafted basement pop number, serves as a welcome reminder that they’ve elevated their game.

Patio – Arbitrary Numbers

Fortunately, for everyone, Patio‘s only grown more confident since their demo (and their first show). Their upcoming EP, Luxury, is chock-full of memorable post-punk, including “Arbitrary Numbers”, the release’s minimalist pull track. Intelligent, catchy, and well-informed, it shows the band’s well on their way to being a recognizable name.



Jean-Michel Blais (ft. Bufflo) – Nostos

One of the more beautiful piano compositions to have emerged in some time, this collaborative effort between Jean-Michel Blais and Bufflo is a haunting, masterful run that’s weighted by what scans as genuine emotion. All of the ambient elements that spring up manage to enhance the vivid nature of the piece’s most emotive moments.



Fog Lake – Rattlesnake

From its melancholic opening moments to its uneasy close, Fog Lake‘s “Rattlesnake” is a gripping journey through unsparing self-examination. Haunting, haunted, and oddly unnerving, the relatively tranquil “Rattlesnake” is a miniature masterpiece that should go quite a ways in elevating Fog Lake towards a desirable status. 

Tangerine – Sunset

Tangerine have all the energy you’d expect from an exciting emerging act but are able to differentiate themselves thanks to how effectively they wield that energy. “Sunset” is a perfect example, a frantic, sun-soaked, punk-tinged powerpop number that plays like the band was having difficulty containing their sheer joy over the prospect of simply making music. 

Bob Mould – The End of Things

At this point, if you’re reading this site, it’s highly unlikely that Bob Mould‘s an unfamiliar name. The Hüsker Dü co-leader has been on an absolute tear with his solo releases of late, his finest work on those rivaling the best of the band that made him a legend. The fire-breathing “The End of Things” shows that he has absolutely no intentions of slowing down.

Catbus – Fracas

Patio‘s Lindsey-Paige McCloy and Alice Suh make another appearance on this list as part of this new, Phyllis Ophelia-led project that announced itself by way of the uniformly excellent “Catbus”. Post-punk, ’90s pop, and minimalism are woven together here to instantaneously memorable effect. The chorus alone stands as one of 2016’s strongest musical moments.



Museum of Recycling – Stillove

Last year, I was fortunate enough to host the demo premiere of “Stillove”, the standout track from new Big Ups side-project, Museum of Recycling. Heavy, atmospheric, and unrelentingly bruising, “Stillove” sees Joe Galaragga embracing his most melodic sensibilities to spellbinding effect. Get crushed under its formidable weight.

Leapling – Alabaster Snow

While Leapling have had a sizable handful of great tracks leading up to 2016, “Alabaster Snow” showed the band operating on a different level entirely. Easily the band’s best song to date, it’s a chaotic mixture of powerpop and vicious noise-punk that keeps things clean and winds up being even more engaging for its unconventional choices.

Dusk – My Own Design

Tenement‘s Amos Pitsch and Holy Sheboygan!‘s Julia Blair have both had their turn at the helm of Dusk and now, on “My Own Design”, the band moves darn it.‘s Ryley Crowe to the forefront. “My Own Design” is just as timeless and perfect as “(Do the) Bored Recluse” and “Too Sweet“, definitively proving Dusk as a whole belongs at the head of the WI music scene.

The Gotobeds – Real Maths/Too Much

It took me a while to come around on The Gotobeds after the lead-off single from their last record left me fairly cold. This time around, I’d happily go all in on “Real Maths/Too Much”, a pointed burst of post-punk that lingers long after its left. Fiery, insistent, and played with an intense amount of feeling, it’s the band at their absolute best.

Big Thief – Real Love

Another likely contender for multiple year-end lists arrived in the form of Big Thief‘s “Real Love”, a breathtaking tune that’s breathing new life into Saddle Creek’s increasingly impressive roster. A towering masterclass of pure songwriting, “Real Love” is jaw-dropping at nearly every turn, from the sky-bound guitar work to the plaintive honesty that grounds the whole affair. If the rest of the band’s upcoming Masterpiece comes close to matching this song, it’s tongue-in-cheek title won’t carry a shred of irony. “Real Love” is four minutes and 17 seconds of sublime perfection.


2015: A Year’s Worth of Memories

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Before I dive into what made 2015 such an incredible year for me on a personal level, I’d like to take a moment to acknowledge all of the contributor’s to this edition of A Year’s Worth of Memories: Loren DiBlasi, Lindsey-Paige McCloy, Sabyn Mayfield, Nicola Leel, Lindsay Hazen, Tica Douglas, Fred Thomas, Phil McAndrew, Isabel Reidy, Jessica Leach, Sami Martasian, Ben Grigg, Amanda Dissinger, Bella Mazzetti, David Anthony, Jamie Coletta, Chris Sutter, John Rossiter, Cole Kinsler, Megan Manowitz, Gabriela June Tully Claymore, Stephen Tringali, Alisa Rodriguez, Toby Reif, Elaiza Santos, Amelia Pitcherella, Katie Bennett, Miranda Fisher, Christine Varriale, Sam Clark, Julia Leiby, Kelly Johnson, Jessi Frick, Nicholas Cummins, Lily Mastrodimos, Jerard Fagerberg, Athylia Paremski, Eric Slick, David Glickman, and Ryan Wizniak. All of your interest, support, and contributions mean the world to me (more on that below).

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The 12 months that comprised last year were among the most rewarding, the most challenging, and the most outright surreal I’ve experienced in my 26 years of existence. Narrowing it down to one defining moment proved to be a laughable impossibility for me so I’ve taken a cue from several of this edition’s contributors and decided to focus on a series of moments rather than one overarching event.

Before getting to those, though, it’s worth mentioning several of the smallest moments that have managed to stick in my memory. That list goes as follows: drinking tea on the roof of DBTS with Greg Rutkin as we watched the sun rise on my first morning in Brooklyn, looking up a few months later only to suddenly realize that Rutkin, Krill‘s Aaron Ratoff, and myself were all having a half-absent living room jam session, eating bagels on the sidewalk at the crack of dawn with Saintseneca after spending the previous night getting ridiculous at Rocka Rolla, feeling a surge of pride watching Patio play their first show, and getting recognized by Rob Sheffield and Simon Vozick-Levinson (two writers who I’ve admired for years).

Additionally: being pulled further and further into the world of Ronnie Stone, spending an afternoon kicking around with Bad Wig (a WI band made up of people I’ve considered family for years), watching Tenement continue their steady ascension on their own terms, all of the shows I saw that don’t get mentioned in the space below, walking through one of Martin Scorsese’s sets for VINYL with Glueboy‘s Coby Chafets (who was an absolute joy to have as both an NYC guide and as a roommate), being absolutely destroyed by an overwhelming sense of familliarity at a morning screening of The End of the Tour which I was fortune enough to take in with Chandler Levack (one of my favorite directors), and becoming a member of Film Independent.

Further still: getting hugged by Eskimeaux‘s Gabrielle Smith before I could even get out a formal introduction, having Girlpool‘s Harmony Tividad tell me she knew how to spell my last name right after we first met, spending a perfect evening getting to know Callan Dwan (who I’ve been messaging every Sunday since we first met) and Casey Weissbuch following one of their shows playing alongside Mitski, receiving a drunken group phone call from my closest hometown friends on the Fourth of July, and finding the fortune to be a recipient of the continuous support of both Exploding In Sound‘s Dan Goldin and Father/Daughter‘s Jessi Frick.

As well as: feeling completely at ease working doors for both Baby’s All Right and Elvis Guesthouse (a task made even more enjoyable by the welcoming presence of Alex Lilienfeld), spending my first week in Brooklyn waking up to the sounds of Felix Walworth meticulously tracking the forthcoming Told Slant record, and traveling to the twin cities with one of the bands I play bass in — A Blue Harbor — to track Troubled Hearts (and holding the cassette for the first time, suddenly realizing I’d just completed something that had been on my bucket list for over a decade).

And finally: Watching members of Lost Boy ? and Titus Andronicus close out a show at Shea Stadium with a set of on-the-fly Neil Young covers, taking in Exploding in Sound’s Extended Weekend celebration (and being floored by Stove‘s performance of “Wet Food” and — as always — Pile‘s “Special Snowflakes“), feeling a deep sense of camaraderie and an inkling of pride during AdHoc’s Carwash showcase, seeing Used Kids come inches away from reuniting at The Acheron (their only full-length remains quintessential summer listening) during a show that also saw Jeff Bolt manning the kit for Benny the Jet Rodriguez, and spending half a year living in a city where a handful of people actually seemed to care about the work I’d been doing with this very site.

I could go on and on (and on) about the overwhelming bevvy of small moments that I continue to look back on with great fondness or wax ecstatic about the steps taken in 2015 to ensure a more inclusive climate in the music industry (while still recognizing there’s a long way to go) but, after a while, that would become tedious for just about anyone (myself included). Rest assured, there are several more paragraph’s worth of those moments and the scope of the portrait they illustrate would be overwhelming. As is likely evidenced above, it was tremendously difficult for me to pare down what moment stood out most in my chaotic run through 2015 and left me with no less than a dozen absurdly strong candidates.

While a dozen may seem overly self-indulgent, it’s my belief that these 12 moments form the most complete representation of my year. Most of them are connected to my time spent living in Brooklyn (a city that I came to love and hope to return to as a resident), which helped me not only shape my identity but — possibly for the first time — feel a strong sense of validity in my work. 2015 may have been made up of 12 months but the 5+ I spent living in Brooklyn produced 12 of my favorite moments. All of them are covered below.

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Montana & the Marvelles Play In Secret

The first time I remember realizing that I was exactly where I wanted to be was, unsurprisingly, at DBTS. I’d been sleeping on couches for a few days there by that point and getting the swing of the city while navigating my way through a handful of Northside showcases. During that first run, the place was buzzing with both anxiety and excitement over a secret wedding celebration that they were going to be throwing for a close friend. Champagne had been bought in bulk, balloons had been floated to the ceiling, a disco ball had been set in motion, a taco line had been prepared, and a root beer float setup was at the ready by the time the event was set into motion.

Everyone had been told to dress to the tens and looked the part. At that point, I still felt like an interloper was getting increasingly comfortable with my new surroundings. Nearly everyone I’d been introduced to had been extremely welcoming and the first group of people that had made a kind gesture were Montana & the Marvelles, who were wrapping up a rehearsal when I first stepped foot inside of DBTS. The wedding celebration was their first public appearance and they tore into it with a ferocious sense of determination, delivering a handful of great covers in the process.

Watching them that night and looking around at everyone who came out to celebrate reminded me of why I made the decision to move; no other place is as facilitating of those kinds of events (or moments). By the time the band hit their finale — an explosive, joyous cover of Bruce Springsteen’s “Dancing in the Dark” — I was overcome with gratitude and decided, for once, to stop filming and dance. It was also the first of many nights I had that led to everyone taking in the summer night’s breezes on the DBTS rooftop, where I put the finishing touches on my introduction packet for the band. As a whole, it remains one of the times where I felt like I’d actually found a place where I belonged.

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Charly Bliss Makes A Formal Introduction at Northside

One of the bands I was most excited to meet at the outset of my move was Charly Bliss, who had topped my EP’s list in 2014. No person had been trying to persuade me to make the move more than their guitarist/vocalist Eva Hendricks, who had been unbelievably supportive of what I’d been doing prior to my discovery of Charly Bliss (that this note had no bearing on the band becoming one of my absolute favorites made the prospect of meeting even sweeter).

I’d been walking around Brooklyn with a few people from DBTS before the Father/Daughter Northside showcase was scheduled to start and had fielded several excited messages from Hendricks before we ran into each other on a street outside of Shea Stadium. Everyone was happy to see everyone else and Hendricks nearly pulled me to the ground with a hug that neither of us broke until after a full minute had passed. After a long round of catching up, the showcase kicked off in earnest and featured a handful of great performances from bands worth their salt.

Charly Bliss closed the night out and opened their set with the still-unreleased “Percolator“, with Jessi Frick firing off streamers at the climactic point of the introduction, providing a moment that felt transcendental. Surrounded by people I loved, seeing a band I’d granted an endless amount of praise (who were then in the process of becoming one of my favorite live acts at a terrifying pace), and being in the presence of both for the first time was an invigorating jolt that moved me more than just about anything else I experienced in 2015. 

Jason Isbell Pulls the Sun Down at Prospect Park

Jason Isbell‘s an artist that I don’t frequently write about on this space — his stature guarantees him press from so many other outlets already — but genuinely love (and have since my first listen of Drive-By Truckers’ classic Decoration Day). For several summers myself and my friend (and frequent bandmate) Jake Wetuski would take out our guitars and cover Isbell songs with each other, trading leads or playing together. When I found out that Isbell would be playing Prospect Park for the free Celebrate Brooklyn series, I jumped at the chance.

A solo train ride over had me thinking about all of the ways my life had changed that summer, about how I spent most of the flight from O’Hare to LaGuardia listening to Southeastern, about how I was already pining for the company of certain people but finally becoming content with my place in the world. The sounds of Dawn Landes‘ set guided me through Prospect Park to the stage, where I immediately found a place with a good view of the stage that didn’t obstruct or impede anyone else’s view.

Less than forty minutes later, Isbell was setting up on stage and announcing that his wife and bandmate, Amanda Shires, wouldn’t be joining them because she was expecting the arrival of their newborn in the following week. Gleaming with pride and amping up the “aw, shucks” Southern charm, Isbell took advantage of an absolutely perfect spring night and delivered a deeply heartfelt set of material that I’d been waiting years to see in a live setting. It only took about half of a set before I had to fight back tears, as an adoring crowd exploded with applause in the middle of a mesmerizing performance of “Cover Me Up” in response to a key line about sobering up, showering the songwriter with a tremendous display of affection, support, and actual love.

After the sun set and the crowd had exploded in frantic applause after Isbell’s landmark set, he returned to the stage. By that point, the sun had set and no one was making a push for the exit. The band returned, one at a time, slowly locking into “Danko/Manuel“, a song he penned for the Drive-By Truckers as a tribute to the influential members of The Band.

As the song opened with “let the night air cool you off”, it felt as if everything outside of that moment had ceased mattering; this was Isbell’s triumphant 2015 run hitting an apex and seeing a talent like that find the audience and respect he’d so richly deserved for close to 15 years was beyond heartening. Few things gave me as much hope for the future as that specific moment, one that offered up definitive proof that hard work, dedication, and sheer artistry can be rewarded in the way they deserve.

With Isbell’s vocals floating off into the distance, beyond the sea of people seated on blankets in the grass behind the main area, I found something resembling faith and knew that in both New York and Wisconsin, I’d surrounded myself with the right people, people I believed in, and that no matter the slew of hardships I may have to face, that they’d ultimately guide me to the right place. I stayed in that park, staring at that stage, for as long as I was allowed, before removing myself from the spot where I knew I’d wind up okay.

“Doomsday” Lives Up To Its Name at Pier 84

Another free, outdoor show I had the good fortune of attending saw Weyes Blood, Speedy Ortiz, and Waxahatchee joining forces for a mid-day show on a pier in Manhattan overlooking the Hudson River. After a quick stroll through Times Square, I headed for the pier and met up with a handful of my closest friends who were listening to strains of Weyes Blood as they enjoyed a makeshift picnic. Before long, Weyes Blood’s set had ended, more friends had made their presence known, and everyone was milling around the front of the stage, taking in both the sunlight and the river’s breeze.

Before Speedy Ortiz’s set started, the weather very quickly became downcast and quietly threatening. Underneath that stormy backdrop, Speedy Ortiz kicked off one of their most impassioned sets to date. I’ve had a range of experiences with Speedy Ortiz over the past few years but none of them quite matched the way that their performance of “Doomsday” affected me on that pier. “Doomsday” has always hit me hard (it’s an easy song-of-the-decade candidate for me) but when Sadie Dupuis and Darl Ferm started into it that day and rain started coming down (and then picking up as the song progressed), it felt otherworldly.

Something in that performance seemed to ignite something in Speedy Ortiz, who seemed to be channeling a series of pent-up frustrations into a staggering set that culminated with a weather-damaged instrumental freakout as the sky was split open by cracks of lightning that appeared over the Hudson River. By then the crowd had dwindled to a select few brave souls who managed to withstand the torrential downpour.

Waxahatchee’s set was, unfortunately, cancelled due to the weather but I lucked into a fitting epilogue via a bowling-quest-turned-diner-adventure with A Year’s Worth of Memories contributor Gabriela June Tully Claymore, her fellow Stereogum writer James Rettig, and a few friends. Desperately trying to get dry using a bathroom hand-dryer, I found myself unable to suppress a shit-eating grin, knowing full well I was wrapping up a day worth talking about for years to come.  

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Johanna Warren Serenades the Skyline

I saw Johanna Warren three times in 2015, each one differing radically from the other. The first was an hour from my hometown, where I drove to profile her for Consequence of Second. The second time was a basement show that presented a whole host of memorable moments from my introduction to harpist Mikaela Rose Davis (and the spine-tingling Elliott Smith cover she used to soundcheck) to the fabric of a mothering station getting licked by the flame of a few too many candles and interrupting a performance art piece that saw a woman strip naked, consume her own blood from an IV bag, and spit it back out onto a row of carefully arranged flowers in mason jars.

As wild as that basement show was, Warren’s last-minute performance on a rootop overlooking the skylines of both Brooklyn and Manhattan was the one that stood out most. After the show’s original location notified Warren that they’d discovered they had a bed bug infestation the day before her set was scheduled, a group of people worked extremely hard to locate a new venue. Fortunately, Damon Stang had open space on the top of his apartment complex.

Only a dozen or so people showed up, all apparently friends of Warren’s, contributing even greater intimacy to an already intimate evening. An assortment of wine, liquor, and bakery items were all up for grabs and everyone quietly talked among themselves as night swiftly descended, providing Warren with a suitably quiet backdrop. Lit by only the lights of the city and operating without a microphone, Warren delivered a haunting set to a captivated audience that reveled in the majestic sweep of the backdrop, the performance, the night itself, and the experience as a whole. Unexpected and surprisingly moving, it saw Warren fully realizing the effect of music as a healing agent and close a few wounds in the process.     

PWR BTTM Hands Out Ugly Cherries

One of the first bands I ran into after moving to Brooklyn was PWR BTTM, who would very quickly become close friends. They’re people that I’m continuously grateful to have in my life and it’s been an honor to get to know the band’s members. I was very quickly drawn to them for not just their music but their outspoken stance on their values (and their willingness to make them so abundantly clear in any applicable scenario). For all of those reasons and many more, I was tremendously excited to be at their release show for Ugly Cherries, one of my favorite records of 2015.

Charly BlissEva Hendricks had baked a gigantic batch of cupcakes adorned with cherries for the occasion, guitarist/vocalist (and occasional drummer) Benjamin Hopkins had hidden the evening’s outfit away at a thrift store for weeks before claiming it prior to the show, and the opening lineup of Kississippi, Fern Mayo, and Charly Bliss was suitably stacked. The parents of a few of the bands were in attendance and Silent Barn was unbelievably packed.

Three strong sets into the evening and a visibly nervous Hopkins was setting up on stage as drummer (and occasional guitarist/vocalist) Liv Bruce adjusted the kit. I’d seen PWR BTTM a handful of times leading up to that show but none of those sets were adequate preparation for the outpouring of energy from both the band and the audience of their set that night, which felt as much like a celebration as it did a victory lap. Amid screams of “I love you” and “you’re amazing”, PWR BTTM’s songs took on the magnitude of anthems and were, appropriately, granted the requisite scream-a-longs by a dedicated and devoted audience.

For all the moments of blistering energy, disarming sincerity, and delightfully irreverent snark, one of the moments that’s stayed with me was the unveiling of a new song that saw Hopkins pick up a bass and deliver a tender ballad about feeling completely dismantled by different forms of slight abuse, causing Charly Bliss’ Hendricks to break down in tears on the side of the stage, overwhelmed by feelings of protection, love, and empathy. That it came towards the end of a riotous set only heightened its impact, leaving a sold-out room unified in small devastation.

Before long, though, spirits were at the ceiling again and PWR BTTM’s dresses were more than halfway off, and hundreds of people were nearing a state of delirium. Encore chants were inevitable and when the call was swift and immediate, those pleas were rewarded with a frantic rendition of “Carbs” before Hopkins and Bruce exited the stage, visibly exhausted, and subjected themselves to a seemingly endless swarm of overjoyed embraces from a community that rallied behind them and got to take part in a moment that carried significant meaning for far more people than either Hopkins, Bruce, or Fern Mayo’s Nicholas Cummins (who joined the band for several songs) could have ever anticipated.

Mike Krol

Mike Krol Does the Upper Midwest Proud at Baby’s All Right

Before the first Heartbreaking Bravery showcase, the last two shows I’d booked had both featured two bands who had a tremendous impact on my life and musical development: Good Grief and Sleeping in the Aviary. Both bands, sadly, have long ceased operations, though their various members still play together in a handful of projects.

In 2015, Sleeping in the Aviary managed to have somewhat of a resurgence, with both the release of an astonishing outtakes collection ad 80% of the band’s final lineup once again combining forces as Mike Krol‘s backing band. Krol had relocated from the upper Midwest to California on his way to delivering 2015’s blistering Turkey, one of the year’s most exhilarating records (and his extremely unexpected but entirely welcome debut for Merge).

Krol’s stop at Baby’s All Right came shortly after I’d started picking up shifts at the door, pushing my anticipation for the show to even greater heights (it was a show that’d been circled on my calendar in the immediate moments following its announcement). Being connected to yet another venue that would be playing host to a few familiar faces, a few of which I’d grown up playing shows with, felt like an oddly appropriate next step.

The night’s opening bands delivered solid sets but what Mike Krol & co. delivered on that stage that night was unforgettable. Fully attired in the record’s signature fringe’d-up police attire, the band meticulously covered the perimeter of the stage with razor wire and carefully placed a series of lights in the open spaces among the coils. A few minutes later and the band was off, immediately at full-throttle. Out of sheer curiosity, I glanced over my shoulder at the size of the audience and was met with the vision of a sold-out audience all incredibly excited to throw themselves into celebrating an artist that, up until 2015, was only known in select circles for two sharp bandcamp releases.

Krol and his band covered close to his entire discography on that stage, whipping the sizable audience into an absolute frenzy. A surging sea of implacable bodies spiraling aimlessly into each other contributed to the anything-goes attitude that informed the band’s set (a welcome reminder of Sleeping in the Aviary’s heyday). Towards the end, the person running house lights could no longer resist sitting still and slyly tried to supplement the band’s light setup, prompting a startled “what the fuck was that?!” from Krol himself, followed shortly by a “do that again!“, which was delivered with a reckless excitability.

From that moment onward, the band’s seemingly full-blast attack was buoyed even further by a series of frantic lighting triggers from the person manning the boards for their house. As the lights danced all over the iconic backdrop and the overhead lights fell into patterns that complemented the band’s self-triggered perimeter strobes, the entire place descended into something approaching mania. Everything came to a head in their explosive finale and left an entire room of people staring dumbfounded at a stage, equally unsure of what they’d just witnessed and grateful that they were able to take in something so unapologetic in its blistering intensity.

Making the night even sweeter was an unexpected greeting from Krol, who I still hadn’t officially met at the time, after noticing my National Beekeepers Society shirt. We talked Wisconsin music, met up with the rest of the band and a few mutual friends, and Krol let slip that their was going to be a secret Daughter show to close out the venue’s night slot. I wound up making my way into the Daughter show and was blown away by their new material (they announced Not To Disappear at that show and froze my blood with a startling rendition of “Doing The Right Thing“) but couldn’t shake the feeling of overwhelming giddiness from having witnessed some friends from my old home absolutely take apart my new one.  

A Night Out With Nina Corcoran and Paul Thomas Anderson

When I first met Nina Corcoran, we were both looking for each other and completely unaware we were standing less than 10 feet apart. It was at Pitchfork 2014 and we were both lined up to get a good view of St. Vincent (who, as expected, turned in a mesmerizing set). I remembered being a little nervous around her as I still had no idea who she was beyond someone who wrote at Allston Pudding that A Year’s Worth of Memories contributor Christine Varriale thought I’d get along with nicely.

It may have taken about a year but Christine’s assumption seemed almost eerily prophetic. For the first edition of A Year’s Worth of Memories, Nina took me by surprise and included me as a focal point in her piece. After that piece renewed a dialogue between the two of us, it started gradually expanding. After establishing a mutual love for all things Meat Wave, we started talking on close to a weekly basis. Before long, I was living in Brooklyn and we were making plans to meet up on her trips to the city.

We’d met up for meals and all too brief hangout sessions whenever we could but the only time we managed to be in the same place for more than an hour was when we attended the premiere of Paul Thomas Anderson’s Junun at the New York Film Festival. I’d been debating on whether or not to make the effort to go due to an attempt to fight back the irritating plague that is the common cold. I told Nina what was happening and she was empathetic, displaying a casual grace in her understanding.

I missed her, though, and had never had the opportunity to attend a premiere, much less one with an accompanying Q&A from a massively influential director (or one that was responsible for a few of my favorite films). After grabbing a packet of kleenex and a warm sweatshirt, I made the trek out to meet Nina in Manhattan. She immediately greeted me with a warm embrace, making me feel both welcome and comfortable rather than the cold-addled burden I half-expected I’d wind up being.

With the start time of the film still a ways off, we decided to grab some soup from a nearby stand that supplemented our containers with an apple, bread, and pieces of chocolate. I refrained from adding ice cream onto that haul for fear of negatively affecting my health but Nina couldn’t resist its pull and led me to a cute shop that was in the area. After learning I still hadn’t been to Central Park, we walked through its gates and found it to be mostly abandoned, settling down at a table near the grass to quietly eat dinner and discuss the merits of Me and Earl and The Dying Girl, among others.

After we’d finished our meals, we took a nighttime stroll through the park, coming to a stop at a baseball diamond. We stood there together, silent for a moment, before turning around and immediately realizing our size (and our place) as we stared up at the lit-up skyscrapers that comprise the Manhattan skyline. In those fleeting seconds, I forgot everything that wasn’t the fact that I was happy to be sharing this view with a person who’s meant more to me than she’ll likely ever know or realize. I don’t remember what broke the silence but I’m grateful for the small eternity where, cold and all, life felt perfect.

It was difficult to leave that spot but we had a film to catch and while Junun was every bit the film I’d hoped it would be, it paled in comparison to realizing I was wrapped up in something exceedingly lovely and utterly intangible with a person I’ve come to genuinely care for, a person who’s continuously succeeded at an impressively high level, a person who’s constantly given me something to aspire to, a person that’s shown me a lot of my goals aren’t as far away as I occasionally think, and a person who never fails to make my life feel a little more worthwhile.

We’d meet up a few weeks later for a surprisingly painful goodbye brunch before I made my way back to Wisconsin (a state where we’ve both resided) and nearly refused to let go of each other out of the sheer fear of being separated by a seemingly incalculable distance. During that last embrace, I closed my eyes and, for a split second, saw the lights of those buildings that towered over us that night in Manhattan.   

Dilly Dally

Dilly Dally Steals CMJ (With An Unexpected Assist)

My time spent living in Brooklyn was book-ended by the Northside Festival and CMJ, with each providing a whole slew of moments I’ll recall fondly years down the line. Whether it was meeting the people I’d waited so long to meet at the former or celebrating with the people I’d come to know at the latter, each was at least partially defined by an unavoidable sense of community.

CMJ may have had its first two great moments come by way of some of my closest friends (a pizza run with Bad Wig and a Chinatown trip with Perfect Pussy) but my priority for the festival was to do something I’d been desperately hoping to do for the past few years: take in a Dilly Dally set. I didn’t have to wait long, as the first night I went out to CMJ was closed out by the band, I just had to come to terms with my near-crippling fear that their set might be a disappointment. As is often the case, that thought was absolutely demolished mere seconds into listening in on their soundcheck.

While a surprisingly large amount of people had filtered out of Santos Party House’s unbelievably stacked NME showcase by the time Dilly Dally took the stage, they still managed to fill the venue’s basement with legions of people caught between nervous excitement and the early signs of sleep deprivation/fatigue. It only took Dilly Dally a few notes to ignite the room with a thunderous sound that sounded like it was threatening to overtake the sound system’s capacities on more than one occasion.

Everyone in that band put absolutely everything on the line for that performance, diving deep and coming up with a punch ferocious enough to knock even the harshest cynic for a very disorienting six. Guitarist/vocalist Katie Monks unleashed a series of guttural yowls while guitarist Liz Ball tore into one scintillating lead line after another while the rhythm section provided an overwhelming show of force that generated enough power to shake my frame.

As was expected, many of the night’s highlights came courtesy of the live versions of the songs that made up Sore, their brooding full-length debut. Another small handful came from their brilliant early 7″ releases but the moment that I felt myself practically leave my body was when they tore into an absolutely vicious, if miniature, take on Drake’s “Know Yourself” that featured one of the filthiest bass tones I’ve ever heard. Jaw agape, I was standing motionless, hopelessly filming the spectacle while keeping my eyes off of the camera and frozen to the stage, at once separated from and completely tuned into the reality of the situation.

Easily the absolute heaviest thing I heard last year, the band wound up reprising it a few days later during another impressively explosive set at Baby’s All Right for BrooklynVegan’s CMJ showcase, which I sprinted a full mile to make sure I caught. Both of their sets demonstrated the impressive scope of the band’s singular power as live performers and laid just about everyone else who played CMJ to complete waste. No band delivered more impressively on absurd expectations than Dilly Dally, who dominated this site’s December coverage and will likely remain a critical part of conversation well into the future.

Meredith Graves Tears Up at the Honor Press Showcase

Where do I even begin with the unbelievable debt of gratitude I owe to Meredith Graves? One of the reasons I started this site was because I wanted a forum to interview Meredith, who responded in kind to an unsolicited Facebook message and graciously agreed to a Skype session. I had no idea when that was being set up that she would go on to become one of my closest friends, confidants, and most trusted advisers, or that she would eventually start flipping the script to tirelessly attempt to promote and endorse the work I’d been doing on my own.

The summer that followed that initial conversation was mostly spent on the phone with Meredith having hour-long talks about life’s various intricacies, the merits of art, social politics, our deepest fears, our desires, oddball literature, classic film, and anything else that randomly entered our minds. We traded demos, proposed collaborations, and — for some time — became key parts of each other’s daily routine. We’ve relied on each other to keep ourselves tethered to reality and sought out each other’s presence in times of celebration.

We’ve ignored each other, exchanged very sincere declarations of love, and have constantly fought on one another’s behalf. We’ve pitched various outlets pieces focusing on each other’s achievements, attempted to compliment each other to death, and experienced several surreal moments together (from almost breaking a hammock that was too small for either of us on our own to watching Pleasure Leftists play inside of a halfpipe in the attic of a bike shop). We’ve despaired together, we’ve drank together, we’ve schemed together, we’ve surprised each other, we’ve brought each other to the point of tears, and we’ve remained a steadfast part of each other’s lives.

Meredith was responsible for giving me one of my first gigs in Brooklyn, working Perfect Pussy‘s mail order with Ray McAndrew, and has gone out of her way time and time again to fight for my best interests. She’s given me extraordinary introductions to everyone under the sun and flat out earned the title of this site’s patron saint. She pleaded with me to come live in the city where she resided for the three years we’ve been improbably close friends and I finally took her up on the request (for an incredibly large number of reasons, though her presence definitely played a very heavy factor).

For the past several years Meredith’s been attempting to balance twice as much as any normal human could handle but finding reasons to fight. I beamed along with her as she told me that she had a business email and that Honor Press, her newly formed label, had been given the green light from all involved parties. I grinned as she nearly worked herself up to the point of passing out over signing So Stressed, and I immediately made plans to attend the half-secret Honor Press showcase at CMJ as soon as she told me it was going to happen.

On all of the occasions I was able to spend celebrating Meredith’s accomplishments, this one felt different from the outset. Somehow, it seemed more meaningful than any other random show or festival appearance. At some point last year, I don’t know when and I don’t know how, the band Cloud Castle Lake came up in one of our conversations. Meredith had just discovered a very passionate love for the band’s music and I’d recently been blown away by the composition of one of their music videos. Fast forward to September and they’re all standing outside of the Silent Barn, waiting to play a showcase she’d put together, having made the trip over from Ireland for the occasion.

Aye Nako were to open the night and Perfect Pussy were set to close, leaving Cloud Castle Lake in a prime middle slot position. Talking to Meredith outside, it was easy to spot some small trembling; nervous tics betraying both excitement, anxiety, and anticipation. Sleep deprived but positively glowing, she seemed like she wasn’t sure if she wanted the show to start or simply take in the moment prior to the kick-off; the deep breath before the headlong dive towards impact.

She didn’t have to wait long, despite the show starting a little later than scheduled (an occurrence that just about everyone was expecting).

Aye Nako played first and played well, setting an intriguing tone for the evening and for Cloud Castle Lake. What happened next caught just about everyone off guard as the band launched into a set that went from being oddly moving to feeling sacred. Everyone was locked into the tapestries the band was meticulously weaving, swaying absent-mindedly as the band swiftly navigated intricate movements of deeply impressive compositions. I stood by Meredith’s side as she sighed and surrendered completely to the band’s overpowering spell.

About halfway through their set, a moment of clarity hit and the reality of the situation seemed to collapse in on Meredith, who slid her back down the wall, as her eyes brimmed with tears. Surrounded by people she loved, in a place that treated her well, watching her favorite bands play a show she booked, it was as if all of the things that normally weigh heavy on her mind were dissolved in one fell swoop. My heart nearly gave out as I watched her go through the motions of realizing her role in facilitating something that swung on a pendulum from powerful to transcendental.

We locked eyes for a moment and she put my immediate concern at rest with a half-smile, clearly overwhelmed by what was playing out in the room. Shortly after, she regained her composition and joined the rest of the audience in their half-sways as Cloud Castle Lake issued out one quiet, involved prayer after another. The rest of Perfect Pussy were hesitant to take the stage once Daniel McAuley’s last falsetto had receded into the ether, fully aware that Cloud Castle Lake had just transported an entire room of people to a place that many of them were likely discovering for the first time.

To this day, I’m not entirely sure where that performance took Meredith but I’m grateful that she got to take the kind of journey she so richly deserved.

Krill’s Story Comes Full Circle at DBTS

No band has been mentioned in this edition of A Year’s Worth of Memories more times than Krill. Their impact on their respective communities was undeniable and they clearly struck a very deep cord with a lot of the people that comprised those groups. Idolized, celebrated, acclaimed, and fearlessly loved, their decision to call it quits in 2015 prompted a colossal deal of sadness from anyone that’d ever subscribed to the cult of Krill.

Making the blow even worse was the fact that it came in the midst of a creative spree that saw the band experimenting more readily and crafting some of their finest material. The band had strung together a monumental 2015 run, bolstered by the success of their jaw-dropping A Distant Fist Unclenching and hordes of critics’ praise from nationally recognized (and highly influential) publications.

They’d played what was one of the first great sets I saw in 2015, celebrated the 4th of July by playing a show at Silent Barn with Swirlies, and delivered a towering set as a headliner during the second night of Exploding In Sound’s Extended Weekend. While all of those sets were admittedly as inspiring as everyone had made Krill shows out to be, it was their second-to-last ever show, a secret benefit for the Silent Barn’s reconstruction at DBTS, that stood out as the most meaningful.

Not only was the band playing a place I’d briefly called home but it was also where they played their very first show, giving the proceedings an oddly emotional bent. Unsurprisingly, after word got out, the show sold out faster than most DBTS shows and saw the room overflowing with people who wanted to be present for Krill’s last hurrah in a more intimate DIY setting.

Cende and LVL UP played the roles of openers as effectively as possible, delivering solid sets that wouldn’t detract from a moment that was rightfully Krill’s. By the time Krill were adjusting their mix, the main room was overflowing with people and there was a shoulder-to-shoulder crowd lined up the stairwell. Their ensuing set was so perfectly definitive of Krill that it nearly managed to be completely indescribable.

In turns, it was tightly controlled and threatened to completely unravel. Shambolic and poised, it existed in this strange dichotomy that Krill had so expertly exploited for years but rarely with as much purpose as they did during that set. When something nears its end, we, as humans, do our best to make the most of the remaining pieces of its life. Krill knew that by the time the following week rolled around, they’d have given up that aspect of their life and it was abundantly clear that they were hell-bent on making their remaining time count.

Aaron Ratoff’s guitar kept falling out of tune, Ian Becker hit his drums with a greater velocity than usual, and Jonah Furman embraced every aspect of his being en route to a tour de force performance that absolutely demolished the room where they started their career. By the time the inevitable chant of “Krill, Krill, Krill Forever” went up, DBTS resident (and Cende guitarist) Dave Medina had found a way to literally crowdsurf on the audience, enhancing the night’s descent into frenzied insanity. Everyone, as always seemed to be the case with Krill, was in this together; a thriving community that celebrated its best aspects as readily as it acknowledged its weaknesses.

As Krill sprinted towards the finish line, the out-of-control audience came dangerously close to toppling their equipment, and Dave manage to successfully find a way to balance on top of a tattered styrofoam surfboard as he was hoisted up by the crowd, it was incredibly evident that although everyone knew that the run had to end, no one wanted to come back down. Encore chants were given and obliged until it simply became a point of exhaustion, leaving everyone involved with a sense that they’d taken part in something worth talking about years down the line.

Krill is dead; long live Krill; Krill forever.   

Putting Together A Year’s Worth of Memories

To anyone who actually bothered to read through the entirety of the content above (which essentially amounts to a grossly over-indulgent novella), you have my very sincere gratitude and a ton of respect. This is the second year I’ve curated A Year’s Worth of Memories and the response for this round has been even more enthusiastic than when I first tried out the series at the outset of 2015.

I’d once again like to thank the people who were mentioned in this piece’s prologue (especially the returning contributors: Loren DiBlasi, David Glickman, Athylia Paremski, David Glickman, Jessi Frick, Stephen Tringali, Cole Kinsler, Gabriela June Tully Claymore, David Anthony, Phil McAndrew, Sam Clark, Miranda Fisher, and Christine Varriale).

Additionally, I’d like to once again thank last year’s contributors: Sasha Geffen, Jeanette Wall, Eva Grace Hendricks, Caroline Rayner, Joseph Barchi, Edgar Gonzalez, Jesse Amesmith, Shari Heck, Michael Caridi, Dave Benton, Cynthia Ann Schemmer, Tess Duncan, Michelle Zauner, Jeff Bolt, Katie Capri, Quinn Moreland, Oliver Kalb, Ali Donohue, Ray McAndrew, Christopher Good, David Sackllah, Rick Maguire, Stephen Pierce, Johanna Warren, and Patrick Garcia.

Putting together the first two installments of this series has been reassuring in unfathomable ways. Seeing the outpouring of support from people not only willing to listen but express interest in participating from all over the world has meant the world to me; without those reminders this place would likely cease existing. For that, I’m unbelievably grateful. It’s easy to forget how many people you have on your side when you can’t see them in front of you so when so many come together to fight for something that was once just a fraction of an idea, especially when they’re people you’ve admired and celebrated, is a surreal thing to experience.

Heartbreaking Bravery has always been a support structure and to extend that out to other people and give them a chance to express their thanks for others, reflect on themselves, or simply join in a healthy conversation is an incredibly important aspect of what keeps this place functioning. Being able to facilitate something of that nature, especially when the names attached continuously unveil work worth celebrating, has been a profoundly moving experience. It’s been a deeply rewarding experience and it’s helped provide this place with meaning.

To all of the people who became a small part of this site’s history either this year or last year (and to anyone who contributes in any way in the coming years), I will once again simply state: I love you all.

-Steven Spoerl

2015: A Year’s Worth of Memories (Lindsey-Paige McCloy)

IMG_8523

Having just run Loren DiBlasi’s beautiful piece on Patio and the impact Lindsey-Paige (LP) McCloy’s influence had on her life, it only felt right to follow that piece with one from LP herself. I was fortunate enough to meet Lindsey-Paige over the summer and came to regard her as a kindred spirit close to immediately after our introductions. The calm confidence that frequently permeates Patio’s music is personified by the guitarist/vocalist and it’s difficult to feel anything less than completely at ease (or even fairly comforted) in her presence. Below, she tackles moments she experienced that were connected to Dan Bejar, Ought, Phyllis Ophelia, and Krill, and the feelings those moments dredged up. Dive in below and keep an eye on this site for more updates on Patio throughout 2016.

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I don’t really ever write things that aren’t related to “tech for cities,” so it’s taken me a whole hell of a long time to even START writing this down and to think about how to bound this year (when did it even start?  Does anyone remember?  Please advise.) because it’s been a long one.  Big and small, stretchy, recursive somehow.  I keep trying to isolate one musical memory but i’d have to put it in so much context (like, my story of my love of Krill is years long and others have told theirs so much better) that it would be so boring and long, so i’m just going to cop out and use Steven’s (very loose) frame here and talk about four randomly selected bits of bravery — if i can take the liberty of broadly defining that term — that made me feel a thing!

I

Dan Bejar sits down while he’s singing.  He just gets up there with a glass of water and he wanders around in between a ten piece band and a sold-out Webster Hall and then sometimes he sits down.  It might make you feel like he doesn’t care and that he’s phoning it in, that he’d rather be anywhere in the world more than here, a couple blocks south of Union Square on a Sunday night.  In fact, it does make you feel this way – the legendary wordplay’s crystal clear and the melodies bloom out like oil from under a leaky car but the performance is still flat (feeling weird saying this, who am i to make this call? Whatever, just reporting what i was thinking at the time, it’s important for the rest of the story, bear with me).

I was a little surprised, given the general vibe, that he came out for an encore, but he did, and then he just destroyed EVERYTHING.  The band pulled out some horn-heavy numbers and Bejar started going for high notes in an unusual way. There was this one crescendo — I don’t even remember which song they were playing, I was so engrossed — where I think maybe my whole life flashed before my eyes and it seemed as though Bejar had grown to at least twice his usual size. It also seemed like everyone in the whole room was snapped up together into some kind of everything-vortex that he was nonchalantly, expertly marshaling toward some kind of new frontier… or something.  I didn’t get a chance to figure out where we were going because everything dissipated really quickly and then we all left down some slow staircase, but I did know that I’d misjudged the whole thing and that Dan Bejar is definitely a wizard master from another dimension.

II

Ought was billed to play at the same time as Wilco at Pitchfork and i was VERY UPSET.  My brother and i treat festivals like a marathon – we get there early, we don’t ever sit down, and we eat only when its absolutely necessary. We hydrate on a rigid schedule (no alcohol!  could derail focus), we see as many things as possible, and we collapse at 10pm so we can do it all again the next day.  We did not foresee an evil scheduler conspiring against us, placing my two favorite bands playing the festival — Ought, who I had seen and was dying to see again, and Wilco, who I had never seen live and who I love from the depths of my dad-rock heart (aesthetic – cool dad c. 2006) — against each other in the first night headline slot.

Loren, Colin, and I rode, as David heroically drove, all the dang way to Pitchfork, where we met up with my brother. I was going to have to choose between the old and new and I was heartbroken! We took a leap and split the group in two, elder statesmen going to Wilco and the youth pushing up for Ought. We assumed Ought would play for less time than Wilco, and we camped out on the front right (for Ought).  This decision was perhaps our most brilliant call.  Right before they were to release Sun Coming Down, which was probably my favorite album this year, they closed the blue stage with a completely on-fire, in-control set of new and old material. They bravely conducted a sea of flailing and bouncing teens in the miserable heat and showed absolutely everyone up, including Wilco, whose set I did manage to catch as they launched into the hits after they finished playing Star Wars in full.  Thanks for that, Ought.

III

Phyllis Ophelia is both one of my oldest friends and the best songwriter I know.  She writes close and catchy songs about emptiness and risk and love and interpersonal activities. My favorite song of hers is called “Saint Hangover” and you really need to listen to it if you’re just a tiny bit hung over at work, trying to finish writing this piece… maybe that’s just me, OK, still, listen.  I was lucky enough to see her play again recently at the Sidewalk Café.  My favorite part of her performance was watching her pull back a bit, become fully aware of the explicit nature of some of her new material and of the presence of an audience hanging on these words, double down, gamely joke about “being embarrassed” on a mic break in a way that somehow cemented total mastery of the situation and of the central subject matter.  Thanks, Phyllis, for going there and for showing us that it’s OK for us to sing about our bodies and others’ bodies and how they fit together and what we want from them, if we want to, and for doing it so dang beautifully.

IV

Krill got out of the game and it seemed like a signal to close a chapter of some kind (this is what I told Gabe, though I don’t think I closed any chapter despite having one fewer wisdom tooth now than I did when I started listening to Krill, maybe that counts for something).  Thanks to a friend I managed a ticket to their last show, though thanks to dinner I missed Big Ups and half of the Frankie Cosmos set.  Got there just in time to squeeze into a spot in the back near the bathroom and the courtyard door, right in everyone’s way, where improbably, and conveniently, my friends were also standing.  Jonah was there too.  Though through some good friends I’ve met 2/3’s of krill, I’d still not met Jonah.  He’s not the kind of guy you feel like you know through his lyrics or through having seen him perform in many of the months of 2015 (probably 2015 was just my Year of Krill, really).  You feel like you can begin to bound the enigma but then “Torturer” comes out as a single and you have to start all over again, etc.

So, Jonah was by himself with a hoodie up next to the wall, and toward the end of the Frankie Cosmos set he turned toward the wall for some sort of private communion with something, maybe —  he was probably just tired and psyching himself up for the third NYC farewell show that week — but it felt both like I was intruding on something really private (it also feels like I’m violating that privacy by writing about this here… sorry, Krill) and that maybe he needed a hug.  I’m not a hugger, though, so I just sent vibes from my mind, of support and thanks because I really am grateful to Krill for having been Krill.  It can’t have been easy to be Krill and speak to, or for, those of us who thought a lot about our effects on others and on ourselves, who worried about how to feel every day, and who felt everything from complete control to utter aimlessness and disgust over the course of a 24 hour period, who cry to “Purity of Heart” (Loren), or drive the Dakota’s to “Alam No Hris” (Stephen and Gabe), or who were the reason for this whole madness in the first place (Bon), or who really think Aaron’s guitar tone is the best of anyone’s (me, vocally).  I will miss krill, but I’m glad I got to be there for it and I am very grateful to krill for having been.

In summary: everyone who makes music is the best, I love bands I love friends cool great 2015 thanks good ok!

2015: A Year’s Worth of Memories (Loren DiBlasi)

Patio

Now that (an excessively busy) January is a piece of our past and we’ve had ample time to reflect on the events of 2015, it’s time to return to a series that began last year: A Year’s Worth of Memories. Every year, a handful of this site’s favorite people in the worlds of music and film are asked to reflect on the smaller moments that stood out as personal highlights of the preceding year as a more personalized companion piece to the more static run of year-end lists. A long list of potential contributors were asked if they’d be interested in writing a piece and a handful responded in kind, writing beautiful pieces that scratched very personal roots. This year’s first piece comes courtesy of MTVNews editor — and a writer that’s earned bylines at Impose and DIY — Loren DiBlasi (pictured above, playing bass and singing for site favorites Patio), who is one of a handful of contributors returning to A Year’s Worth of Memories. Loren’s remained a constant friend through some harder times and it’s an honor to have her be an ongoing part of the series. Read about what had the most impact on her in 2015 below.

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MY BAND SAVED MY LIFE

I read Our Band Could Be Your Life ten years ago, when I was sixteen, the year I decided what I wanted to be when I grew up: a music writer. It was the same year I read other books like Legs McNeil’s Please Kill Me, and Simon Reynolds’ Rip It Up And Start Again, and realized, hey, this is a thing that people actually do for a living. As my obsession deepened, I amassed an extensive CD collection that started with post-punk revival bands of the time (Bloc Party, Franz Ferdinand, The Futureheads) and worked its way backwards, all the way from Pixies and Sonic Youth to Joy Division, Buzzcocks, and The Fall.

From sixteen on, I didn’t care about anything. I only cared about music. But I didn’t just want to write about it; I wanted to eat it, sleep it, breathe it, and live it until the day I died.

But I never wanted to play it. I didn’t think I could.

There’s this thing with young girls who love music. Except for a few bands I liked — maybe Yeah Yeah Yeahs and The White Stripes — there weren’t many contemporary female musicians I looked up to. If there was a “girl in a band” — the title of Kim Gordon’s memoir, which I would devour a decade later — she was either “not as good” as her male counterparts (the incessant critiquing of Meg White) or she was the dazzling, charismatic lead singer, a figure far more glamorous than I’d ever imagined myself to be (like Gwen Stefani or Kate Jackson of The Long Blondes).

I fancied myself a nerd, an outsider, a weirdo; at the time, I didn’t know many female musicians who reflected those qualities. An exception might be Eleanor Friedberger of The Fiery Furnaces, but again, she wrote lyrics and sang. I was young, timid, and still developing as a writer, let alone a songwriter (and the idea of singing in front of people was scary). I just didn’t think I had it in me.

When I became obsessed with Talking Heads, I worshiped Tina Weymouth; she was cool, and smart, and different in a way I could relate. She had a boy’s haircut, but she was undeniably feminine: her look was chic and classic, and she wore lots of black. She resembled a miniature version of the supermodel Twiggy. I admired her style and her fearless attitude first; her musicianship later. Stop Making Sense was the first time I really noticed the bass on its own, and the idea of playing it — of being like Tina — intrigued me.

But like I said, there’s this thing with girls who love music. I felt that because I was already sixteen, and had never touched an instrument, that it was too late for me. If I hadn’t shown musical promise by that point, I never would. Plus, what if I was bad? Of course, what’s hilarious is that I had never even tried, and I was already writing myself off as incapable or unworthy; this is a classic teenage girl move. Where boys are encouraged, girls are outsiders in music communities, and it takes a lot of time, effort, and courage to break free of that restrictive, deep-rooted thinking.

(Years later, I learned that Tina Weymouth hadn’t picked up the bass until her 20s, to join the already-formed Talking Heads.)

**

Maybe I wasn’t ready to try my hand at music as a teenager. But once I had reached my 20s, and had gained endless insight working as a journalist, it was time. Still, the circumstances had to be just right. First, there was the concept: Patio. My band. Grass is Green, Vulture Shit, and Flagland played a show at David Blaine’s, spring 2014. Friends and I joked about how we had wasted our Saturday, which was drinking at bars, on various outside patios. Even Randy of Vulture Shit said he’d done the same.

“Wouldn’t ‘Patio’ be a fucking perfect band name?” I proposed. “Like a group of distraught millennials sitting outside, drinking away their troubles, when in reality their lives are actually fine.”

It was a joke at first, but eventually the name took on greater meaning for me; it represented a deep sense of boredom with my surroundings and an overall dissatisfaction with life, whether that was a spoiled mentality or not.

The first time I actually held a bass, I was in bed with a boy, a bass player. I liked him. He had resolved to give me a lesson, but somehow the idea of him teaching me how to play made me more uncomfortable than whatever we had done together the night before. When I didn’t know how to place my hands, he laughed at me, and that was it. I was done. I didn’t want to try something new in front of him, or anyone that I didn’t trust.

I didn’t like him for very much longer. When I finally found the person I did trust, things moved a lot more quickly (and that person wasn’t a boy).

**

I met Lindsey-Paige (LP) McCloy through mutual friends later that year, and quickly realized that not only did we talk, act, and dress similarly — something that’s still pointed out to us by friends and strangers alike — but we shared an affinity for everything music- related. The major difference between us was that LP had been playing in bands for years, and I had so much to learn.

Through a combination of weird, serendipitous events — like a sudden breakup that afforded me an abundance of free time, and finding our heroic drummer, Alice Suh — Patio soon evolved from a joke, to a joke band, to an actual band. Immediately, LP and I learned that we worked exceptionally well together; her calm and patience, combined with her talent, is an ideal balance for my rash, dramatic nature. The first song I ever played on bass, per LP’s instruction, was Pavement’s “Cut Your Hair” (ironic because I don’t even like Pavement, but it’s the perfect starter bass line). LP wrote fantastic bass parts to Patio’s first ever song, “Air Japan,” and soon — after lots of practice — I discovered I could write my own parts.

I’ve found that the way I make music is similar to the way I write about it: spontaneous, emotional, and unpredictable. Riffs and melodies seep into my brain while I sleep, or completely unsolicited, a lyric will pop into my head while I’m showering, cooking, or riding the subway. By no means is it an orthodox process, and by no means is it easily replicated. Sometimes I’m happy with the end result — I wrote all the words and parts to my first song, “Baby’s Alright,” while my phone was dying on the M train — and sometimes it’s utter shit. Even when it’s shit, it’s still good. It’s all part of it, even the bad stuff.

There’s nothing I look forward to more than band practice: being trapped in a small, sweaty room with my bandmates. LP has the uncanny ability to translate even my boldest, most bizarre suggestions into actual, cohesive sound, and we’ve collaborated on songs I’m insanely proud of. When my penchant for bleak, dark noise becomes too overwhelming, she cuts me off (or we meet somewhere in the middle, like on the track we’ve semi-jokingly dubbed our “goth country song”). Sometimes I’ll arrive at practice equipped with nothing but a sentence, or I’ll start plucking in a random pattern, and with her guidance, it transforms into something tangible and inspiring. Ours is the healthiest, most meaningful (and longest) relationship I’ve ever had, by far, and for that, I love her to no end.

**

All this year, I’ve worked tirelessly at not just making Patio better, but making myself better. Often, these efforts have been one in the same. After a rough end to 2014 (one which I so openly, or rather drunkenly, detailed right here), and disappointment after disappointment, my positive outlook began to fade, until I hardly recognized myself anymore.

Suddenly, I didn’t want to do the things I’d always loved to do: write, go to shows, interview bands, see friends. After something traumatic happened at a show involving a person I loved more than anything, I could barely leave my bed, let alone leave my house. For months, I couldn’t sleep. I stopped eating almost entirely. I stopped listening to music. I couldn’t go to a show without having a panic attack, or feel completely crippled with anxiety. And if I couldn’t do the things I had always done — the things I was good at, the things that had helped me make a name for myself within our little Brooklyn community — then who was I?

In 2015 I was split open, and Patio helped me feel whole again. My band has given me something new, something fun, something to look forward to. It’s helped me forge a new identity, but it’s also taught me how to embrace my own life again: the friends who love me, the things that give me purpose. Depression and anxiety are both very real, but it’s important to have an outlet that lessens the burden, whatever it may be. I’m lucky to have found a new one, despite the turmoil of this year.

In many ways, Patio is still a joke, but for me, it’s the realest thing I’ve ever had. We write silly, nonsensical songs about diminutive genitalia (“Microballs” is all Alice’s genius) and call fried chicken sandwiches our boyfriends. And yet, I don’t think I’ve ever cared about anything more in my life. Back in my teens, when I read all those books, I knew that I’d one day be a writer, too — and I’ll never stop working at that — but I never, ever imagined that one day, maybe my own band could exist. Now it does. Whatever we accomplish going forward, that feels real, and it feels fucking good.

 

-Loren DiBlasi

15 of ’15: The Best Odds and Ends of 2015

Lost Boy ?

There has been no shortage of outstanding music to find release over the past 12 months over a wide variety of formats. This list (which, once again, is entirely subjective and not meant to be an overarching authoritative statement) pulls from a number of curiosities: splits, vinyl-only releases, demos, and compilations. A few of these slipped through the cracks or were pulled and replaced in the past few weeks, making this one of the stranger year-end lists this site’s likely to ever run. All of those changes will be reflected and noted as they come into play. With all that and mind and a ton of material yet to come it’s high time to jump into 15 of ’15: The Best Odds and Ends of 2015.

15. Patio – Patio Songs

One of the more memorable debut efforts of 2015 also proved to be one of the most promising.Patio– a trio made up of Lindsey-Paige McCloy, Loren DiBlasi, and Alice Suh- had spent years in development. After initially starting as a joke that escalated into reality, the band finally committed some of their material to a recording- the aptly named Patio Songs and secured a lot of word-of-mouth buzz in the process. “luxury” and “air j” both memorably demonstrate the band’s knack for wiry post-punk that comes equipped with noir-ish overtones. Don’t be surprised to see the band expand on their early successes in big ways in 2016.

 

14. Mean Creek – The Best of…

While a lot of bands hung up their cables over the course of 2015, it may have been the loss of Mean Creek that stung the most, simply because they were quitting because of many of the industry’s most severe flaws. Instead of caving into the pressures and demands of outside parties that wanted to model Mean Creek at will as a commercial product instead of an artistic one. When the band decided they’d had enough and were ready to take a bow, they went out in heroic fashion, issuing this best-of collection shortly before their final show. As one last rousing call to arms, the band kicks the compilation of with “Forgotten Streets“, their swan song and a rousing call to arms that provided the band with one last definitive moment.

 

13. PWR BTTM + Jawbreaker Reunion – Republican National Convention

Despite already having one EP under their belt, this was PWR BTTM‘s introduction at large and a searing start to what would prove to be a monumental 2015 for the duo. Jawbreaker Reunion, on the other hand, was riding a wave of critical acclaim and some early success thanks to their extraordinary full-length debut, Lutheran Sisterhood Gun Club, which carved out an impressive ranking for this site’s Best Albums of 2014 list. Both bands turn in impressive efforts for Republican National Convention, which include the anthemic “Hold Yer Tongue” on PWR BTTM’s side and the lively “Andrew In Drag” on Jawbreaker Reunion’s, making this split a worthy entry for each of their discographies.

 

12. No Ruido / No Noise

Edgar Gonzalez has been a vital voice in DIY punk, social ethics, and a legion of other topics but also found time to make a mark with the curation of No Ruido / No Noise– a name-your-price compilation with the proceeds going to the family of Tamir Rice- which will likely go down as the signature release for his recently formed label, Edgar’s Friends. Several of today’s most exciting, politically-minded acts provide a track, from Priests to Perfect Pussy, finding space to include songwriters like Frankie Rose, Fred Thomas, and Radiator Hospital as well. It’s a startling collection that actually has the potential to make a difference via positive impact and that alone puts No Ruido / No Noise in a class of its own.

11. Happy Diving – So Bunted b/w My Zone

After 2014’s towering Big World, no one would have been surprised if Happy Diving had taken time to promote the record and celebrate its success. Instead, they turned around and quickly unleashed the incendiary 7″ that paired “So Bunted” with “My Zone”, each operating as an ample demonstration of the band’s distinctive blend of grunge, sludge, shoegaze, and basement pop. As bruising as they’ve ever been, Happy Diving may hav even turned in a career best with So Bunted b/w My Zone and, at the very least, have certainly demolished any lingering doubts about their levels of promise or capacity for longevity. A formidable effort by any metric, it’s a record that says everything it needs to in under five minutes and leaves an impressive mark.

 

10. Faux Real II

The second installment of Father/Daughter Records‘ immensely entertaining Faux Real series introduces a new collection of covers from fictional bands. An arsenal of site favorites populate Faux Real II, from Krill to Quarterbacks to LVL UP to Allison Crutchfield. Every single track on Faux Real II would be a worthy choice for an album highlight and a few of them- like Sharpless‘ explosive take on the Home Movies classic rock opera piece “Franz Kafka”- manage to wind up being unforgettable. Somehow the series once again manages to swerve away from the seeming inevitability of coming across as a novelty and transcends its premise to function as a curious look at some of the most promising emerging acts of the current moment.

9. Bruising – Emo Friends b/w Honey 

Only a scant few songs into their career, Bruising have already managed to make a considerable impact. After initially forming over a Perfect Pussy t-shirt in a club, the band put together a startling run in 2015 that turned more than a few heads. Excelling in the sort of pop-laden shoegaze that bands like Joanna Gruesome have built a career in crafting, Bruising comes at their hybrid-genre in a manner that feels like their own. For their debut standalone 7″ effort (following the brilliant “Think About Death” for Art Is Hard’s Family Portrait II), the band pairs the lilting “Emo Friends” with the incendiary tones of “Honey” to create something that feels as lasting as it does immediate. If Emo Friends b/w Honey‘s is the band’s first earnest step in their career, it’s a strong enough start to warrant some serious excitement over the band’s future.  


8. Meat Wave – Brother

While some would argue that this should be filed in the EP column, it’s mainly comprised of material the band had either already released on their explosive self-titled (a personal pick for one of the best releases of the 2010’s) or material that would be released on their bruising Delusion Moon LP. Every bit as frantic as its predecessor, Brother wields the same manic approach to even sharper effect, taking Meat Wave‘s music to a place a little darker than their debut. Relentlessly aggressive and downright venomous at every turn, it’s a staggering display of force from a band that seems intent on drawing blood with every new song they release. Brother ends with a trio of songs that don’t appear on Meat Wave or Delusion Moon but, by and large, manage to carry that same level of potency, effectively rendering this an essential starter kit for the uninitiated.

7. Post-Trash: Vol. 1

Just over a month ago, the senate voted to stop federal payments to Planned Parenthood. In response, Post-Trash issued their first (incredibly massive) compilation and announced the proceeds would go to funding Planned Parenthood. It was a strong move in principle alone but the bands that they amassed for this compilation (and the songs they contributed) pushed it into sublime realms. Site favorite Eskimeaux turns in the beautiful “Act Like A Piece of Shit”, Melkbelly provide their fierce “Bathroom at the Beach”, Patio– the band that kicked that list off- offer up a song from their demo, and 50 other bands (Pile, Fern Mayo, Painted Zeros, Soft Fangs, Palehound, Eugene Quell, Sadie Dupuis, Washer, Stove, etc.) all get in on the action. Ultimately, Post-Trash: Vol. 1 is one of the year’s most intimidating compilations due to its length but it also rewards investment at a much higher rate than anything else released this year.

 

6. The Weasel, Marten Fisher – Soundcloud

Perhaps the most left-field inclusion on this list is simply a soundcloud page, though it shouldn’t come as much of a surprise to anyone who’s followed my writing over the course of the year. Colin Bares has managed to impress on exceedingly high levels with his work in bands like The Cost of Living and Good Grief as well as his various solo projects (most notably The Coral Riffs). After a brief, sudden disappearance from songwriting, Bares re-emerged towards the end of 2014 and kept that momentum at high velocity throughout the course of the past 12 months, flying under the banner of The Weasel, Marten Fisher. Bares’ soundcloud became a veritable source of inspiration thanks to an eclectic blend of covers (including two devastating Cyndi Lauper takes) and a large collection of astonishing originals. Nearly all of those songs (and there are a handsome handful) are merely acoustic guitar/vocal demos but when there is a subversion from that template, like on a memorably dark Cat Power cover, the results are arresting. Keep both eyes on this page’s surprisingly frequent updates and expect to be blown away.

Listen to those songs (the 2015 run begins with “Empty Bucket List“, one of the year’s finest songs) and track The Weasel, Marten Fisher’s progress here.


5. Diet Cig – Sleep Talk b/w Dinner Date

While Over Easy was the release that rightfully jump-started Diet Cig‘s career, their finest moment in 2015 didn’t come via that EP (though it deserves it’s many year-end placements), it was their subsequent 7″ that proved their strength. “Sleep Talk“, the band’s finest song out of the few they’ve released thus far, serves as the record’s powerful A-side. Encapsulating the youthful vibrancy and excessive energy that made Over Easy such an infectious listen, it shows that the band has untapped depths with it’s gorgeous, layered outro section. From those haunting final moments, the duo pushes their music into darker territory than usual with the bruising “Dinner Date” that marries Alex Luciano’s characteristically barbed lyrics with uncharacteristically moody instrumentals that add some venom into their suddenly unrestrained menace. Packaged as a whole, Sleep Talk b/w Dinner Date is an extremely promising look at the young band’s future, definitively proving that they’re much more than a one-trick pony.

 

4. Sleeping in the Aviary – Young Love Is Easy

For a band that broke up a few years ago, Sleeping in the Aviary had a monster 2015. Not only did most of the band play on Mike Krol‘s exhilarating Merge Records debut (Turkey), they also joined Krol for several tours and unleashed this manic compilation of some of their finest moments, none of which ever made it to a record’s final cut. From the outset, the band’s in fine form, dishing out their punk-spiked, doo-wop-leaning basement pop songs with unapologetic intensity, unveiling some of their most vicious songs in the process. Whether they’re more tapped into their ’50s influences (“No One As Lonely As Me”), their propensity to go straight for the jugular (opener “Harder Shoulder”), or endearingly irreverent humor (the rambling, acoustic “Dick Gere”), their success rate is astounding. Over the course of their career, the band released four incredible full-lengths and an untouchable split 7″ with The Hussy so it makes sense that they’d leave behind a wealth of material but even from a pragmatic standpoint, the overwhelming strength of Young Love Is Easy is staggering, making it one of the best releases of any format to find release in 2015.

 

3. Dusk – (Do the) Bored Recluse b/w Too Sweet

Every project that’s been connected back to Tenement has been more than worthwhile so it probably shouldn’t come as too much of a surprise that Dusk fit that bill to a tee. What’s slightly more surprising is the direction that the band’s taking, mixing flourishes of gospel with classic country influence and more than a few cues from the golden era of soul. Comparatively, the approach isn’t too dissimilar from The Band’s, it’s just been updated and provided with an additional punk-leaning bite. From the rollicking cow-punk of “(Do the) Bored Recluse” to the blue-eyed soul of “Too Sweet“, there isn’t a false move, the entire 7” just plays like a sustained series of grace notes. Both sides also feature some of the finest backing vocal arrangement in recent memory, ably showcasing the band’s impressive knack for both composition and multi-part harmonies. Equally engaging, both tracks are a clear indicator of the band’s innate charisma and sense of history. While the A-side once again taps into Amos Pitsch’s tendency to transform mundane circumstance into something worth celebrating, the B-side takes an unexpectedly romantic route. Each confirms Dusk as one of our best new acts.


2. Lost Boy ? – Canned 

The last unorthodox inclusion in a list full of them is perhaps the most jarring due to the circumstances surrounding its multi-year, multi-format release. Lost Boy ?‘s Canned was absent from last year’s list, when it had only been released as a cassette (and, subsequently, wasn’t available to stream anywhere) and its placement here acts as a small compensation. In 2015, the band decided to roll it out as an LP, which also made it publicly available for streaming. Far and away, Lost Boy ?’s strongest work to date- in a fairly stacked discography, no less- Canned was a complete distillation of the band’s distinctive personality, spearheaded by Davey Jones. Purportedly written in the midst and aftermath of a breakdown, Jones and his band attack these songs like their lives depended on the outcome. From the snare shots on “Hollywood” to the syncopated vocal syncopation in “Bank” to the casual groove of “Hemorrhage” there’s never a moment that’s anything less than completely electrifying, solidifying Lost Boy ?’s status as one of New York’s finest bands. An arsenal of memorable riffs, tossed-off asides, and genuine emotion fuel Canned and, as a result, it’s a collection that still feels surprisingly fresh after more than a hundred listens. Canned wasn’t just one of the best releases of 2014, it was one of the best of 2015 as well.

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1. Mercury Girls – Demos & Live Songs

No debut effort this year resonated quite like Mercury Girls’ immediately memorable Demos and Live Songs collection, which saw them fall effortlessly into the c86/Slumberland model of punk-informed powerpop. Close to everything on this release is near-flawless, issuing one pop gem after another at an alarming rate. From the dream-pop tones that permeate “Golden” to the band’s incredibly tight-knit live recordings, it’s abundantly clear that they’ve studied their multi-tiered genres’ ancestry in great detail. Everything on Demos & Live Songs works to an airy perfection, firmly establishing the band’s identity and suggesting that whenever their first full-length drops it’ll be met with waves of acclaim. While it’s easy to imagine the band being fairly successful from a commercial standpoint (especially in the terms of such a niche genre), it’s even more apparent that Mercury Girls are built for success- potentially to an intimidating degree- from a critical standpoint at well. Immediate, accessible, and extraordinarily tantalizing, they’ve harnessed something that comes across as surprisingly singular. That aspect of their music will go a long way in helping the band stand out in a field that feels increasingly overcrowded, likely ensuring their spot on several year-end lists to come.