Heartbreaking Bravery

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Tag: Patrick Jennings

Dreaming Out Loud: Vol. 2 (Patrick Jennings)

Earlier this year, Ben Morey and Katie Preston broke ground on Dreaming Out Loud, an intimate live performance series for this site. Watching the two of them together made it clear that, no matter the future of this site’s editorial content, this was a series that needed to continue. Before too long, a few more appearances had been booked, including one from a man whose music has meant a lot to me over the course of this decade: Patrick Jennings.

Whether playing as a solo artist, with Middle Children, with PURPLE 7, or with Hot New Mexicans, Jennings has proved to have an innate sense of humility, honesty, and conviction. He’s been a crucial part of several of my favorite albums and songs of the past 13+ years and it was an honor to play host. Regrettably, both of my SD cards for my usual camera went haywire, leading to an impromptu iPhone filming session, making editing next to impossible. On the other hand, the raw, uncut nature of this volume of Dreaming Out Loud speaks to Jennings’ work as an artist, cat’s meows and all. A worthy trade-off.

During the filming, Jennings gave me the opportunity to pick the set list, leaving me frozen. If I’d taken that offer in full, Jennings and the band he had in tow would’ve missed their show that night by a few hours. Instead of requesting about four album’s worth of songs, he provided the courtesy of a three-song set spanning his discography. A new solo track, a Purple 7 gem, and the opener off Hot New Mexicans’ debut album, It’s Called Leaning Back. One full band, two in true solo acoustic fashion. Opting to kneel rather than sit, Jennings and co. provided a brief, mesmerizing run through one of the most remarkable catalogs in DIY punk.

Watch the performance below.

Patrick Jennings – Immediate (Album Stream, Review)

Hot New Mexicans, PURPLE 7, and Middle Children have all put out some of the present decade’s best basement punk (and basement pop) records. A common thread running through all of those titles is Patrick Jennings, who has gained notoriety inside DIY punk circles for exceptionally strong songwriting but has been wildly overlooked outside of those circles. For those fortunate enough to have heard Jennings’ work, they’re aware that anything the songwriter puts out is worthy of some anticipation.

Yet, that anticipation is never quite afforded to artists like Jennings due to the nature of how bands and songwriters in that sphere operate. If you’re not following their personal soundcloud, seeing them test new material on tour in a sweaty dive bar, or they’re not posting new snippets of songs on social media, it’s impossible to know whether new material’s coming at all. When this post was first being written, the included content was the demos of these songs that Jennings had posted to a personal soundcloud. When that playlist was pulled, it was hard to know whether to be doubtful or hopeful.

Thankfully, a short while late, Immediate arrived as a fully-formed record, with the earlier songs fleshed out in full band arrangements. And, as always, the songs continue to impress. A personal friend once told me that when Jennings sang, they believed him. That air of conviction has bled through all of the songwriter’s past work and continues to peek through on Immediate. There’s a rough-hewn scrappiness that’s served as Jennings’ trademark, accentuating and strengthening a constant that’s served the material to perfection: mid-fi production.

Production value’s not typically an overwhelmingly important detail but there’s a very GBV-esque quality to all of Jennings’ materials that seems to exist so harmoniously with the actual material that its next to impossible not to view it as another instrument when it comes to the work on display. With some brief exceptions, it’s become an unlikely trademark that continues to pay rewarding dividends, lending those records a cassette-like quality that honors the history of multiple genres.

On Immediate, Jennings continues and expands on where the songwriter’s last solo effort, Careful Now, left off. Most of these are mid-tempo basement pop rockers that draw from punk, Americana, and soul to congeal into something singular. From top to bottom, Immediate is unmistakably the work of Jennings, who has cultivated a fascinating identity in a pocket of the music world that tends to bleed together.

A record that lives up to its title, Immediate is a record that sinks in right away, a brusque and enjoyable ride through pointed narratives and straightforward tempos. Immediate revels in the mundane and takes care in its embellishments, proving yet again that Jennings deserves far more attention. While this post isn’t nearly enough, at least it might be a start. Don’t miss out on this one.

Listen to Immediate below and download a copy here

The Best Records of 2017’s First Quarter

Just about three full months into 2017 and there have been a litany of great records. In that massively overcrowded field, there were still several records — full-lengths, compilations, EP’s, or otherwise — that managed to stand out. Below are 10 of the most gripping releases to have emerged in 2017’s first quarter, each making an impression that was felt, intensely, for one reason or another. Read about some of those reasons below and listen to each record in the selected embed (just make sure they’re all at the beginning of the record when you hit play). Enjoy.

MO TROPER – GOLD

Last year, Mo Troper put out a proper solo debut full-length, Beloved, which was one of five to receive this site’s Album of the Year designation. In February, Troper unleashed a new collection of songs that’d been written over the past several years and further solidified a status as one of this generation’s premier powerpop songwriters. Not a note’s out of place, the atmospherics serve the song, the melodies are earworms that last for days, and there’s an abundance of feeling driving another outstanding collection.

JOHN ROSSITER – NEVERENDING CATALOG OF TOTAL GARBAGE HEARTBREAK AGGREGATE

Young Jesus‘ name has appeared on this site several times over and John Rossiter‘s been a valuable contributor to the A Year’s Worth of Memories series. Last year, small batches of collections were being released under the Young Jesus name before being pulled because they weren’t full band efforts; all of those songs were Rossiter solo efforts. Thankfully, they recently re-emerged in a gorgeous compilation that ably, compellingly, and movingly demonstrates Rossiter’s formidable songwriting talents.

YUCKY DUSTER – DUSTER’S LAMENT

Easily one of the best releases of 2017’s first three months came in the form of an EP from Yucky Duster, a basement pop band that, seemingly impossibly, keeps finding ways to improve on each successive release. Duster’s Lament is the band’s finest work yet and continues drawing them even closer to attaining outright perfection. All five of the songs the band has on display here manage to be simultaneously carefree and incredibly memorable, entwining two aesthetics that are too frequently at odds. It’s masterful.

FRED THOMAS – CHANGER

A very early Album of the Year candidate, Fred Thomas‘ Changer saw the acclaimed songwriter continuing to elevate his craft in astonishing fashion. Easily Thomas’ sharpest lyrical effort to date, there’s also an urgency to these songs that push them forward with sincerity, feeling, and an irrepressible need to get these statements out into the world. Musically, it’s Thomas’ most ambitious work to date by a considerable stretch and, overall, a triumph bearing a magnitude and scope that’s impossible to ignore.

CLOUD NOTHINGS – LIFE WITHOUT SOUND

Cloud Nothings‘ discography, up to this point, has been littered with superlative releases. When a band achieves that kind of consistency, it’s fair to have high expectations for their new releases. Still, Life Without Sound, the band’s latest, manages to transcend its anticipation and wind up as not only the band’s most ambitious and inventive release but, somehow, its most representative as well. All of the bands eras are fused together here to create a spellbinding work that’s proven to be difficult to forget.

MEAT WAVE – THE INCESSANT

There are a handful of concept records that are widely regarded as some of the greatest releases of all time, despite some hamfisted tendencies. Meat Wave‘s The Incessant side-steps both the trappings of concept records and their characteristically overbearing nature by releasing a collection of acutely pointed missives dealing with one specific topic: the swirling vortex of incoming emotions after a life-altering event. The result is a record that serves as the band’s most abrasive, ambitious, and intense effort to date.

BEACHHEADS – BEACHHEADS

Upon learning at least one member of Kvelertak was in Beachheads, the band’s debut full-length came as a joyous-yet-jarring left turn. Trafficking in sunny powerpop that takes most of its cues from the genres forebears, Beachheads wound up being a deeply unexpected delight. Every song on Beachheads boasts sublime moments and evokes the sort of open-road-and-sunshine aesthetic that’s been so vital to the genres most enduring classics. Beachheads give that aesthetic a slightly modern spin and wind up with a summery gem.

MIDDLE CHILDREN – EARTH ANGEL

Patrick Jennings has been directly responsible for a lot of the music that’s hit me the hardest over the past seven years so news of a solo project was very welcome. Unsurprisingly, given Jennings’ track record (and what he’d accomplished with both Hot New Mexicans and PURPLE 7), Earth Angel is an incredible work. One of the best records likely to be released in 2017, Earth Angel is a quiet, brilliant, and unassuming encapsulation of what’s made Jennings such an essential (if woefully overlooked) voice in today’s music landscape.

STEF CHURA – MESSES

Ever since 2010’s self-titled effort, Stef Chura has been steadily improving, perfecting a strand of punk-tinged basement pop that’s immensely appealing. Messes, Stef Chura’s latest, is the most perfect distillation of this brand of music the act’s offered up yet, thanks in part to the contributions of Fred Thomas (who, as this list indicates, is on a white-hot streak of great releases). Still, Thomas’ contributions wouldn’t mean nearly as much if the source material wasn’t so involving. Messes is the sound of an artist coming into their own and, as a result, the work present on the record winds up being antithetical to the record’s title.

RICK RUDE – MAKE MINE TUESDAY

One of the most intriguing releases of 2017’s earliest stretch came in the form of Rick Rude‘s sprawling, shape-shifting Make Mine Tuesday. Easily the band’s boldest — and best — release in a very strong discography that was uniformly unafraid to take risks, Make Mine Tuesday succeeds as both a masterclass in forward-thinking composition and as a record with immense replay value; these are intricate songs that never seem to get old or become any less engaging. A scintillating mixture of wiry post-punk and basement pop, Make Mine Tuesday finds Rick Rude reaching unprecedented heights. One can’t help but wonder, especially after a release like this one, if they’ll ever return to earth.

PURPLE 7 – Wise Up (Stream)

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Among the few who have heard (and loved) it, there aren’t very many records to have been released since the turn of the century that can come even close to touching Hot New Mexicans’ should-be-classic self-titled sophomore effort. Hot New Mexicans was that band’s final release before their bandleader, Patrick Jennings, moved camp from Athens to Bloomington and joined up with Will Statler  (of Defiance, Ohio and Landlord) and Chris Mott (also of Landlord) to form PURPLE 7. Following their excellent five-song effort, Volume Two, the band’s released Jewel Finger in a limited edition LP run, which marks their first full-length to receive a physical release.

Quietly self-released just a little under a month ago, Jewel Finger is an absolute stunner and, from top to bottom, one of 2014’s very best. More than just a sum of the band member’s previous projects, they’ve already established an original voice of their very own. While the influences of their past work are still very clearly present, they’ve tapped into something else that feels entirely new, despite still trafficking in left field basement pop. From the attention-ensuring opening songs to the absolutely gorgeous title track and the arresting closer, this is a full-bodied work from a band confident enough to present themselves in a completely unguarded fashion. Most representative of all of this, though, is the raucous “Wise Up”.

“Wise Up” seems to stand out in a record literally full of highlights thanks to featuring an even more manic energy than the songs that surround it. From the stop/start rhythms to the buzzsaw riffs, menacing bass line, and impassioned vocal delivery, it’s the point where Jewel Finger shifts from truly great to completely transcendental. Continuously working in new ideas with verve and panache, “Wise Up” refuses to relent from being as gnarled, and as engaging, as possible. It’s the defining moment of a genuinely great record and deserves to be heard by anyone with even just a passing interest in the genre. This is a masterclass in songwriting and cements PURPLE 7’s growing importance- and reputation. Modern music doesn’t get much better than this.

Listen to “Wise Up” below and make sure to order a copy of Jewel Finger before they’re gone- this is a record that needs to be in as many collections as possible.

Watch This: Vol. 12

Another week, another Watch This. In this 12th installment, there are full sets, acoustic takes, and studio performances. From the Albini-indebted strains of Into It. Over It. to the irrepressible manic glee of Los Campesinos! there’s plenty of range in this week’s edition. Enough with the introductions, onto the music. Watch it all below. 

1. Cumulus – Middle (KEXP)

Cumulus recently stopped by Seattle’s most legendary radio station to deliver a set full of sugary shoegaze pop. “Middle” is all kinds of accessible, offering the clearest signal yet of the extent of shoegaze’s resurgence. A dirtied up bass line and swirling guitar lines wash over an undeniably pop vocal, while the song itself is packed full of hooks. All of the sudden, the future of pop music doesn’t look as bleak as it once did. There’s serious potential for a major crossover here. For now, take a step back and marvel at how effortlessly graceful this performance of “Middle” really is.

2. Los Campesinos! – Cemetery Gaits/What Death Leaves Behind (Brooklyn Vegan)

Los Campesinos! have been an anomaly for a long while now. Their brand of twee-punk, even as it evolved into something more aggressive and cynical, was always leaning too far twee for the punk kids and too far punk for the twee kids. A few on the outer rings of both circles had trouble accepting them because they were either too accessible or not accessible enough.  That unwillingness  to commit to the easily classifiable has always made them interesting and the band thrive on it. Their high-energy live performances have always been reliably endearing as well. This BV Studio Session is no exception.

3. Into It. Over It. –  Where Your Nights Often End (Audiotree)

Into It. Over It. are a band that’s becoming similarly hard to pin down. Very frequently grouped into the emo-revival discussion, the band’s resisted embracing and denying that classification in equal measure. Frequently appearing on bills alongside the likes of LVL UP and Ovlov, their live set has also sparked a fair bit of admiration. They’re one of the bands that evokes the Albini studio aesthetic most readily. For proof of this, watch the exquisitely filmed Audiotree video of “Where Your Nights Often End” below, which features Kate from Kittyhawk on backing vocals.

4. Cassavettes – Full Set

Cassavettes recently played Philadelphia and youtuber Will McAndrew was on hand to shoot the whole thing as it happened at the reliably excellent house venue The Great Indoors. Noisey recently posited that Philly has the best punk scene in the country and fondly extols the virtues of its bands but doesn’t speak much on how supportive that scene is to the bands that pass through. With more and more full sets like this hard-hitter from Boston-based basement punks Cassavettes (think The State Lottery with a little less gruff), it’s hard to argue Noisey on that one.

5. Hot New Mexicans – Damned Distractions (Pink Couch Sessions)

This week’s Watch This band to know is unique in a certain distinction; it’s no longer a band. That said, Hot New Mexicans are a band that people deserve to be hearing about for a very long time. After a promising debut, the band released a string of classics with their self-titled sophomore effort (a legitimate best-of-decade contender) and a pair of seriously incredible 7″ releases. In a way, the closest band to Hot New Mexicans was the “band to know” from the very first Watch This, PURPLE 7 (they share a pivotal member). In this clip, Patrick Jennings (the aforementioned PURPLE 7 member) plays an acoustic version of Hot New Mexicans standout “Damned Distractions” for IYMI’s Pink Couch Sessions series (who will be featured on Watch This soon). Enjoy- and order/buy Hot New Mexicans material wherever it can be found. It’s a collection necessity.