Heartbreaking Bravery

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Tag: perfection

The History of Apple Pie – Jamais Vu (Music Video)

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This week was kicked off in powerful fashion thanks to the most recent additions to the never-ending avalanche of new releases. Mitski, Slothrust, and Jeff Rosentstock all had outstanding new songs, increasing the anticipation levels for each of their upcoming records. Mary Timony’s newest project, Ex Hex, have their upcoming record streaming in full over at NPR’s First Listen. On the music video side of things, Nothing offered up a sinister clip (directed by band member Domenic Palermo) composed of nothing but home invasion archival footage for a recently-remastered early acoustic version of “B&E“. There were also two visually stunning videos that surfaced from  Haley Bonar and The Bug, the former being a gentle oneiric caress and the latter being a masterfully composed nightmarish descent of towering proportions. The History of Apple Pie staked out a place in a similar camp with their visually meticulous clip for Feel Something highlight “Jamias Vu”.

Director Alistair Redding has said that the video for “Jamais Vu” took cues from French New Wave pioneer Jean-Luc Godard and indie darling Wes Anderson. From the Robert Yeoman framing symmetry to the highly stylized art production, both influences cut through the clip like a knife. It’d all be distracting if it didn’t wind up being a perfect complement to The History of Apple Pie’s particular brand of whimsy; their exceptional fuzz-cloaked outsider pop somehow given greater emphasis by the striking visual palette. They’re a band that seems to operate in multicolor already and they’ve found a perfect match in Redding’s distinct and well-versed grasp on varying filmic influences. At just past the minute-and-thirty mark, there’s a long shot that switches the focal emphasis to the environmental foreground (which is generally relegated to the backdrop), double-framing the character subjects and providing a perfect point of reference for the composition mastery on display in “Jamais Vu”. Guns fire stars, uniformly dapper battalions stride through fields and scout the woods, and the whole thing’s brilliantly soundtracked by the song it was designed to enhance. It’s a monstrously winsome work of multimedia perfection, with every element working together to hit a surprisingly comprehensive level of artistry. “Jamais Vu” is far too fun to miss.

Watch “Jamais Vu” below and order Feel Something from the excellent UK-based Marshall Teller Records here.

Nano Kino – Eyes Before Words (Music Video)

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Since the majority of the start of this week was spent on the road, it’s been difficult to be as vigilant about keeping up with the new music and videos that have been coming out. Today, that changed and the amount of great content is almost overwhelming. Every single one of the items that are going to be hyperlinked following this sentence are worthy of being the feature item. Those include full album streams from Mumblr and Sleepyhead (their first in 15 years), and a stream of Parquet Courts and Future Punx’s split 7″. There were excellent music videos from Death From Above 1979, Lace Curtains, and Brick Mower. Most of all, though, there were great new songs. Cut Teeth offered up a post-hardcore ripper, Ovlov provided a tantalizing glimpse at their upcoming 4-way split with Ex-Breathers, Woozy, and Gnarwhal. There was a smoky piece of folk-psych from Mail the Horse, a new Pity Sex song that ranks among the best of the year and teases an upcoming split with Adventures (it’s also their career-best), a new look at an upcoming EP from the increasingly popular Girlpool, a fiery Stereolab cover from Greys, another indicator that Dark Blue’s Pure Reality will be one of the year’s best records, another gentle piece of bliss from Eternal Summers, a snappy piece of riff-happy outsider pop from Little Big League that- like the Pity Sex song from just a few hyperlinks ago- ranks among the year’s best, another incendiary look at Meatbodies’ upcoming record on In the Red, and a brand-new career highlight for King Tuff. That’s one hell of a haul.

All of those are likely to get features elsewhere- if they haven’t already had them (and most have)- and Heartbreaking Bravery would be nothing if it wasn’t for the bands that are flying under the radar. Those are the kind of bands that this place strives to support- and Nano Kino (which translates to “very small cinema”) is one of them. And while the duo does include Duncan Lloyd of Maximo Park (and Decade in Exile), their profile’s currently surprisingly contained- which isn’t likely to last too long. There are chilly atmospheres that permeate throughout the duo’s music, using no-wave and post-punk as their major touchpoints while exuding an icy demeanor not too far removed from The xx. A lot of the band’s intrigue gets an extra push thanks to the mysterious vocal performances of Sarah Surl, the duo’s other member. While there’s still a considerable sense of mystery to be found in the textured guitar work that Lloyd provides, Surl gives it a strange sense of humanism that allows Nano Kino to eclipse so many similarly-minded acts.

Nano Kino currently have plans to release their debut record in the early parts of next year but have promised to tease pieces of the record in the lead-up campaign. One of the first pieces they’ve offered up is a visually stunning black-and-white clip that emphasizes the band’s penchant for noir-ish sensibilities. Bringing in other visual aesthetics to the fold (there’s a prominent French new wave influence running throughout this- as well as a lot of glances towards Spain’s golden-era of silent film), “Eyes Before Words” winds up being a quietly intense experience. Using grainy superimposed imagery (that’s occasionally stripped back to isolation) to maximum effect helps make this a video that stays with the viewer long after the final whispers of the fade-out. It’s unrelentingly poised and announces Nano Kino as a band that’s embraced a very particular vision- one that could wind up meriting critical and commercial success. Whatever the future does hold for Nano Kino, it’ll be a pleasure watching them fight their way forward- especially if the ensuing releases all manage to be as arresting as “Eyes Before Words”.

Watch “Eyes Before Words” below and keep an eye on this site for updates in the coming months.

Iceage – Forever (Music Video)

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The past few days have been outstanding for unmitigated ambiguity. No less than three of the best songs of 2014-so-far have emerged, each tinged with at least a small tendency towards the unforgivingly bleak. Baltimore’s rightfully-celebrated Roomrunner (somehow) wound up being the lightest of the three by virtue of allowing in a stronger pop influence on their outstanding new single, “Chrono Trigger“. Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds cemented their status as one of the most consistently brilliant bands of all time with an outtake from last year’s mesmerizing Push the Sky Away that’s being featured in the undoubtedly extraordinary quasi-documentary that centers around Cave, 20,000 Days on Earth. Between those two, it almost seemed impossible that anything else would land today’s feature spot- until Iceage released their jaw-dropping song-video combination for “Forever”, the next gigantic stride in an ongoing evolution that “The Lord’s Favorite” kicked off in spectacular fashion a little over a month ago.

While “Forever” doesn’t have the subtle optimism of “The Lord’s Favorite”, it keeps their trademark tension in tact, while allowing the band to stretch out a little more than usual. In an almost too-coincidental twist, it’s as if the band’s picked up the primordial nightmarish post-punk that characterized Nick Cave’s earliest works. Arriving with an accompanying note detailing the band’s upcoming record, Plowing Into the Field of Love (due out on Matador in a little over a month), “Forever” becomes the record’s second song to suggest that this could be a game-changing record for the landscapes of popular taste. While the song sears, broods, and brutalizes with the absolute best of them, it’s the visually stunning Pattinama Coleman-directed video that winds up pushing the whole thing into the sublime. Getting maximum effect out of a decidedly minimal approach is never an easy task to accomplish but “Forever” winds up pulling it off with ease. Whether that’s because of the band members’ natural charisma, damaged magnetism, a cavalcade of genuinely arresting looks, or the noir-ish presentation is impossible to say- but there’s something with an undeniable, intrinsic pull that centers “Forever” which suggests that this band has a greater grip on their identity than just about anyone else right now.

When the song’s closing minutes kick in and the video pulls back to an old man that seemed oddly intrusive during his first appearance inspired some of the fiercest chills to be provided by any music video this year. If “Forever” is topped by any song on Plowing Into the Field of Love, it’ll warrant consideration for Album of the Year honors. All that’s left to do now is wait in earnest, to see if the record can live up to its first two offerings. With the way things have been playing out, there’s reason to believe that’ll be the case.

Watch “Forever” below and pre-order Plowing Into the Field of Love from Matador, before it comes out on October 6, here.

Parquet Courts – Black and White (Music Video)

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Yes, Sunbathing Animal is as good as everyone says it is. No, the band’s not reinventing any wheels but they’re one of the best at fully committing to the mechanics behind what makes them spin. Their minimalism has always been one of their strongest appeals and the way they use restraint is aggressive to the point of being abrasive- but it works. Everything somehow clicks in to this chaos that feeds off its own energy, like something that’s constantly trying to hold on to whatever life remains in a death rattle that never really comes.

One of Sunbathing Animal’s best examples of this is the infectiously ragged “Black and White”. True to its name, the video the band’s released for it is presented in grainy black and white footage. There are several pieces of what are designed to appear (and one that may actually be) found footage of pedestrians walking away from the camera that trails them on the New York street where vocalist Andrew Savage resides. By having their videos central figures firmly rooted in anonymity it nicely contrasts the fact that this was an in-house production; band members Austin Brown and Johann Rashid directed the clip. When the video finally reaches a conclusion, in an appropriate bit of subtle continuity, it winds up right where the video for “Sunbathing Animal” took place. Nice touch.

Watch “Black and White” below and take a long walk sometime soon (preferably while blaring Sunbathing Animal).

PUP – Guilt Trip (Music Video)

They did it again. Emphatically. It’s been a while since a band made music videos this consistently great that were so separated stylistically. First, there was the relentless, cathartic bloodshed of “Reservoir” [which I named the best music video of 2013 over at PopMatters]. That was then followed by the one-shot video for “Lionheart” that undoubtedly hit a personal nerve for a lot of people. Somewhere along the way, PUP was finally released internationally and the band started picking up the wider recognition it deserved. Even with all of that taken into consideration, the band may have outdone themselves with the utterly stunning “Guilt Trip” music video.

Enhancing the cinematic elements of their previous clips tenfold, it tells an unlikely origin story that’s as visceral as it is bleakly compelling. Chandler Levack and Jeremy Schaulin-Rioux take the helm as the directing team and fill each frame with a sense of purpose to the point that it’s almost jarring, as that’s a style that’s increasingly fallen out of practice in the format as of late. Additionally, from the gorgeous first shot all the way through to the last, this is some of the best cinematography to have emerged this year in any format. From bullying to underage drinking to blood pacts to a dead cop to the most perfect conflict resolution imaginable, every single new scene and development lands with as much impact as the visuals themselves (keep an eye out for the images that happen in a silent, tension-filled interim, they’re among the most arresting of the past few years).

By the time the brilliant epilogue shot hits, acting as both a summary and a metaphor, it’ll be easy to feel absolutely spent. An entire adolescense, from the most harrowing moments to the most zealously joyful, can be found in these three minutes and 50 seconds. The way these images are presented resonates so profoundly that it’s almost difficult to separate them from real memories. Perfectly realized and featuring four unbelievably strong performances from its young cast, “Guilt Trip” doesn’t just have a shot at being the best video of this year- but one of the best of the decade.

Watch “Guilt Trip” below and relive the highs and lows of childhood all over again.

Watch This: Vol. 19

No, this isn’t some sort of high-level deception designed to trick someone into thinking today is Sunday. It’s not. So why’s this the first Watch This to get a Saturday feature? The answer’s pretty simple, actually. It’s hard to write an article on a drive from central WI to Minneapolis. It’s probably even harder to get one in when a Perfect Pussy show is going on, especially when The Miami Dolphins and Condominium are the supporting acts. Coverage of that will be arriving shortly after the fact but it will take up most of Sunday- hence the early Watch This post. Now, since the consistency of just about everything has been thrown into total disarray by something as harmless as logic, this Watch This will be making a fleet little sidestep as well; the emphasis will be placed largely on acoustic (or practically acoustic) performances from singer-songwriters worth knowing- though there is one notable exception. With all that in mind, kick back, relax, plug in, turn up, do whatever needs doing, and start Saturday off on the right foot. Seriously, Watch This.

1. Mean Creek – My Madeline (Wondering Sound)

Mean Creek have been making a dent in all of the right places recently and if the subsequent attention they’re receiving because of it is phasing them, it’s really not showing. Here, they take to Wondering Sound (a relatively new site that’s finding themselves in a similar position by virtue of an enviable cast of writers and a fair amount of eclecticism) to perform a stripped-down version of “My Madeline”. It’s easy to see what an increasing number of people are getting worked up over; this is great music evoking decades of American classics at just the right time.

2. Kevin Devine – Bubblegum (BalconyTV)

2013 was a busy year for Kevin Devine- the man released two full-lengths and was touring incessantly. Recently, Devine took to a wintry balcony to perform a ballad version of the title track from Bubblegum, one of that pair of releases (and one of the year’s best). While it doesn’t quite reach the heights of his performance of “Brother’s Blood” at Banquet Records, not much does. It’s still miles above what most others toiling around in that genre are doing and well worth a few watches. Get on it.

3. Small Houses – Revel, Revel (GemsOnVHS)

There are few performers anyone can hope to come across that are as arresting as Jeremy Quentin, who performs under the moniker Small Houses- sometimes with a band, sometimes on his lonesome. Having seen him perform both solo and with a band to very different crowds (once was a very intimate living room show, the other as the first act on a bill that included Tenement and Used Kids), it’s easy to testify to his raw natural talent and innate ability to draw in just about anyone. “Revel, Revel”, lensed lovingly by GemsOnVHS, is even more proof of this and confirms Quentin as one of the best folk artists this generation has to offer.

4. Mutual Benefit – C.L. Rosarian (Bruxelles Ma Belle)

Love’s Crushing Diamond was one of last year’s small delights, a sprawling record full of intricately woven tapestries that comforted as much as they provided pause. It was an extended moment of stunning clarity and found people rallying around it with dedication so fierce it became inspirational. In this video, Jordan Lee and his touring companions present a downright gorgeous version of “C.L. Rosarian”, hitting one grace note after another. By the video’s end it’s transformed from a performance to something more transcendent and inexplicably moving; something to get completely lost in after being enveloped by its embrace.

5. Cheatahs (KEXP)

The KEXP performances that have really jumped out and held the viewer/listener in a stranglehold since Cloud Nothings perfected what could be done with the format have been few and far between. For their part, Cheatahs make one of the more valiant efforts that small studio room has seen since that nearly two-years old session and nearly pull it off. While the final stretch does lose some of the session’s early momentum, the entire thing’s still incredibly impressive and more than enough to crash its way into this volume of Watch This. Keep an eye out for this band, they may have just enough elements working in their favor to do some serious damage.

Ernest Undead (Short Film)

“Trolls! Trolls! Save the kids! Trolls!” are the lines of dialogue that open Rick Whitehead’s Ernest Undead, as an MPAA-style design advises viewers this feature will be rated R for “pervasive strong horror violence and gore, language and sexuality” over pitch black rather than blue, green, or red. As opening sequences for musically-indebted short films go, that’s an extremely promising start. Follow that with a quiet shot of a graveyard that recalls both the cinematography of Roger Deakins and classic horror films, then people are going to be paying attention. When all of that winds up being a prologue to a visceral main plot that unfolds over Creepoid’s “Gout”, from their extraordinary self-titled LP, there’s no way it won’t get coverage on this site.

Having such a well-informed and artfully executed introduction opens up a world of potential directions but the route Whitehead chooses to go is both genuinely unexpected and ridiculously enjoyable. It’s not too far after a brief flashback look at the titular character that the plot of Ernest Undead reveals itself: a quiet unassuming suburb (shot and presented in an enticingly muted autumnal palette) is thrown into fear as an increasing number of children are kidnapped… by trolls. Yes, trolls. A little further down the line and a gang of “young Creepoids” (an utterly inspired concept brought to its fullest realization) have collected and fully intend on retaliating after turning down various temptations- the stranger in a van with candy bit is used to great comedic effect- at the hands of the trolls. They take matters into their own hands for a while before enlisting the help of an old friend. How they get to that point is best left unspoiled here- just know that it’s incredible.

While the story unfolds and the plot’s pushed into the exhilarating realms of surprisingly grounded absurdist black comedy, Creepoid’s “Gout” provides a considerable amount of atmosphere that helps elevate Ernest Undead to thrilling and unexpected heights. It’s gorgeously lensed throughout, an absolute joy to watch, and is a definitive declaration of Whitehead’s talent. Between the arthouse triumph of Are You Okay and the madcap glee of the low-budget suspense/horror-aping Ernest Undead, the bar has officially been set for 2014’s musically-driven short films- hopefully the rest of the field rises to the challenge. Watch Ernest Undead below and stick around for the absolutely insane stinger at the end. Buy Creepoid here. Say no to trolls. Enjoy.