Heartbreaking Bravery

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Tag: Philly

All Dogs – How Long (Stream)

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As was mentioned in the preceding post, this has been a characteristically enormous week for new music and music videos (at least as far as 2015’s concerned). It makes sense, then, that the most traditionally packed main category (single streams) would log the most outstanding entries. All of the songs that caught my ears or piqued my interest have been hyperlinked below this post’s featured song- All Dogs‘ stunning “How Long”. The third song to be officially released from the band’s forthcoming full-length, Kicking Every Day, “How Long” continues their drastic expansion of dynamic range.

As has been previously noted, the dynamic shift was sparked by two crucial elements: the addition of ex-NONA guitarist Nick Harris and the retooling of the actual songwriting process, allowing the band to collaborate on a much more extensive level. Leading the charge, as always, is Maryn Jones, an enviably gifted songwriter that’s perfected an unshakable blend of humility, honesty, and yearning that can be absolutely devastating. Jones and Harris’ guitar work across all of the tracks in Kicking Every Day‘s rollout campaign have been nothing short of miraculous. Understated, complementary, and intuitive, their instrumental work has managed to maintain a surprisingly emotional heft that only deepens the inherent sadness that permeates the bulk of Jones’ discography (something also exhibited in her work with Saintseneca– who also have a forthcoming record this year- and as Yowler, a project that released a full-length earlier in 2015).

Backed by the rhythm section of Amanda Bartley (bass) and Jesse Wither (drums), all of All Dogs’ songs gain an intimidating set of teeth. Bruised and bristling, the band dives headfirst into Jones’ damaged introspection with a commendable fearlessness, amplifying a deeply personal struggle of self-worth. Putting herself under the knife, Jones is merciless in her meticulous scrutiny of her own value. In Fader’s premiere of the song, Jones issued a statement about “How Long” was “an extended question about when [she] would stop hating [herself].” It takes bravery to acknowledge your own faults and even more to do so on an extremely public level but in a recent conversation I was fortunate enough to have with Jones after Saintseneca’s impressive performance at Baby’s All Right, she revealed that the process of writing and playing music has been deeply therapeutic.

Fortunately, Jones’ self-loathing is given a celebratory tint with a positive angle when framed in the greater context of All Dogs’ work and there’s a very palpable love for their craft that’s continuously evidenced by their breathtaking live show(s). Every now and then, that euphoric swell comes through in their most climactic moments and “How Long” boasts a few particularly great examples. As Jones stretches out and reaches for an answer in those explosive choruses, it’s almost as if the answer’s intangible and not an actual destination- rather, it’s something gleaned by the journey. While it may ultimately be a bittersweet path, at least it’s one shared in the company of genuinely supportive friends. It’s this particular dynamic that makes All Dogs a viable candidate for today’s best band; a willingness to fully explore life’s darkest corners but always retaliate against them while rallying around their central figure with unbridled force, grace, and determination. It’s also what makes “How Long” this week’s finest track.

Listen to “How Long” below and pre-order Kicking Every Day from Salinas here. Underneath the player, browse through a list of the week’s best songs. Enjoy.

PWR BTTM – Dairy Queen
Grape St. – Sharp Dressed Man
Helen – Violet
Big Air – Stay the Night
Alex G – Bug
Jacuzzi Boys – Sun
Wavves – Heavy Metal Detox
Majical Cloudz – Silver Car Crash
Blank Realm – Palace of Love
Timmy’s Organism – Get Up, Get Out
Destroyer – Times Square
Dialect – Chewing Springs/Quietly in the House
Fern Mayo – Going Somewhere
Amy Bezunartea – Oh The Things A Girl Must Do
Kindling – Hate the Police
Scully – Don’t Want That
Tempers – Undoing
Lucero – Can’t You Hear Them Howl
Aneurysm – Stop This Ride
Chance the Rapper & Noname Gypsy – Israel (Sparring)
Ausmuteants – Mates Rates
Numero Group – Spirit Darts
Tideland – All I Know
Thee AHs – John
Palm – Crank
together PANGEA – If You’re Scared
Doe – No Wonder
Gracie – Jesse
Frankie Broyles – Capturer
Marineros – Secretos
Century Palm – Valley Cyan
Threading – Never
Infinity Girl – Young
Last Good Tooth – Our Little Machine
Lost Film – Try
Thayer Sarrano – Touch My Face
Aircraft – Stick
The High Learys – Letter to Alice
Wild Moth – You Found Out
Surf Rock Is Dead – Anymore
Modern Merchant – Be That As It May

Attendant – Freaking Out (Review, Stream)

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By now, everyone who has iTunes should have heard the full stream they’re offering up of Death From Above 1979’s revitalized post-reunion effort, The Physical World. Hopefully, there were a few among that crowd who also found time to stream Nervous Like Me the fantastic new record from Cayetana. Great full album streams weren’t the only things to come out of the last few days, though, in addition to a memorable Pavement cover from PAWS, there were also great new songs from Purling Hiss, Nude Beach, and WULFS. Visually, there was an endearing The Adventures of Pete and Pete homage from Diarrhea Planet and two arresting black-and-white clips that came courtesy of Girl Band and Philadelphia’s Queen Jesus.  It’s another act from Philadelphia that made the strongest impression and earned the feature spot today, though: the the stunning debut effort of Radiator Hospital bassist Jon Rybicki’s collaborative project, Attendant.

It’s not uncommon to note that there’s an absurd amount of great music out there that’s overlooked for any number of reasons but it’s always nice to know that sometimes everything lines up and music that may have otherwise gone unnoticed gets an extra push thanks to the people involved. This especially stands true for Attendant’s Freaking Out which features contributions from a murderer’s row of Philadelphia/NYC-based musicians. Mikey Cantor, Radiator Hospital, and Swearin’ (among others) all get a good bit of representation here, lending their considerable talents to one hell of a debut, helping raise an emerging musician’s profile in the process. Rybicki grounds all of these songs with no shortage of gravitas and conviction, mining similar influences to the ones that are so clearly evident in his friends’ projects.

While all of that would likely have proven more than enough to get Freaking Out by, what really puts it over the top is its attention to detail. The production, sequencing, and mastering on this is near-flawless, advancing the release’s personality without being distracting. In terms of composition, it’s frequently thrilling, with songs like the hard-charging “Saturday” providing bursts of near-uncontrollable energy. With all of this taken into account, it’s probably not too surprising that one of Freaking Out‘s closest relatives seems to be Dinosaur Jr.’s classic Bug. Acoustic guitars often provide a base template for each of these seven songs, while shoegaze-leaning levels of reverb and distortion get added to create a sound that’s becoming increasingly prominent in DIY punk circles- one that recognizes the value of looking to the past to push ahead.

That retro-influenced modernity goes a long way in informing Freaking Out, which makes no qualms about utilizing everything at it’s disposal. Every song on here contains at least a few moments of genuine brilliance, whether in the form of lyrics (“I just wanted to be the other people on the bus” is one of the most haunting lines to come out of 2014) or in the song’s structures or compositions. As if all that weren’t enough, it’s varied enough to ensure the listener’s attention and compelling enough to warrant their investment. None of these songs ever eclipse the three minute mark, either, rendering it even more accessible.Yet, despite it’s short run-time, Freaking Out feels like a fully-formed work from a veteran songwriter.

More than a few critics have said that to really gauge an album’s strengths, there should be an extra amount of consideration given to their mid-section. It’s easy to make strong opening and closing cases but it can be difficult to maintain that consistency across a wider spread. In this respect, Freaking Out has virtually no issues. “Dishwasher”, “Call Me Back”, and “Solar Shack” are all mixtape-worthy entries, each holding their own strengths in Rybicki’s frequently mid-tempo world weariness. Even with that taken into consideration, it’d be difficult not to note that a few of Freaking Out‘s best moments do come in the final two songs. From the trumpet-assisted downstroke onslaught of “I Won’t Try to Change Your Mind” to the guest-heavy celebration that is the record’s finale.

In that respect, “Wax Pages” does feel like an appropriate end-cap to a release that seemed determined to extol the virtues of healthy collaboration. Jeff Bolt (of Swearin’ and Radiator Hospital) takes over on drums, Sam Cook-Parrott (Radiator Hospital), Cynthia Schemmer (also of Radiator Hospital), and Kyle Gilbride (of Swearin’) all handle backing vocals, while Mikey Cantor takes a solo and all of them seem maniacally driven by Rybicki, who lent his vocals, guitar work, and bass (in spots) to the songs he wrote. To that end, it almost feels celebratory despite it’s heaviness (and make no mistake, this is a relatively heavy record in both terms of sound and subject matter). Packaged all together, the end result is something that feels oddly alive and utterly unique, even with an army of recognizable influences worn proudly on its sleeve. If it doesn’t find a home on one label or another, it’ll come as a shock. Freaking Out is one of 2014’s best surprises.

Stream Freaking Out below and download it on Attendant’s bandcamp.

All Dogs at Bremen Cafe – 8/19/14 (Pictorial Review, Live Video)

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[AUTHOR’S NOTE: First off, just to get this out of the way at the top, this post probably would not have been possible without The Media, a site whose praises deserve to be sung as loudly- and frequently- as possible. Being able to be a part of that place, even just for an issue, was an honor. The fact that I got to spotlight was All Dogs, a band that put out a 7″ last year that I felt very strongly about, ensured that it won’t be an experience I’ll be forgetting anytime soon. All that said, I wound up with an over-abundance of content that, for obvious reasons, couldn’t all be worked into The Media piece. It’d be criminal to let a lot of the material that didn’t run go to waste, so it’ll be running here today. Enjoy.]

All Dogs put out one of this site’s favorite 7″ records of last year, so when word came that they’d be stopping at Bremen Cafe in Milwaukee, not going wasn’t an option. As time progressed and more things got worked out, excitement and anticipation for the show grew incrementally. After the band agreed to an interview (hyperlinked towards the end of the Author’s Note) and guitarist/vocalist Maryn Jones was gracious enough to agree to a small set of acoustic performances, All Dogs’ self-titled 7″ was back to being in near-constant rotation- and wound up being the go-to soundtrack for every editing session this site went through for a few weeks.

During that time, a press email came out detailing an upcoming release from a project called Yowler, which turned out to be a solo vehicle for Jones- and a likely continuation of her excellent early solo material. Somehow, this all came to light during a time that also saw the emergence of Saintseneca’s Tiny Desk Session for NPR (easily one of this year’s finest offerings), all of which pointing to Jones being one of the busiest- and best- songwriters/musicians that we currently have. All of that combined prompted a trip through her discography, which included some absolute gems like the tape from the now-defunct Wolfs (which All Dogs’ bassist, Ama,nda Bartley was also in). As a result of the culmination of all of this, expectations couldn’t have possibly been higher for the band’s live show.

After taking up temporary residence in Ground Zero (one of Milwaukee’s best basement venues) for the interview session, it was into the band’s van and off to Bremen Cafe. While there wasn’t too much time to spend doing anything other than helping clear out space and running out to get food before the show kicked off, it didn’t seem to matter. Everyone seemed to be in high spirits and a lot of old friends were able to exchange a few words before the show kicked off with a ferocious set from Failed Mutation– who proved to be next to impossible to photograph thanks to their incessant levels of energy. From their live show alone, it wasn’t very difficult to see why they’ve earned a reputation as being one of Milwaukee’s best hardcore bands in an increasingly over-crowded scene (it also probably doesn’t hurt to have members of Tenement and Holy Shit! in your band). Failed Mutation wound up packing an absurd amount of spastic energy into a set that probably only ran 15 minutes, all of which was expertly controlled- likely thanks to each individual members discipline and experience. It was a hell of a way to jump-start what would prove to be a surprisingly formidable bill.

Next up was Sin Bad, a relatively new band that features members of both Night Animals and Rich People. Having never heard Sin Bad, it was difficult to gauge whether trepidation or excitement was winning out as Failed Mutation loaded out. Any notions of disappointment were immediately dispelled following the first few seconds of their first song. Boasting a sound not too dissimilar from All Dogs (with maybe just a few dashes more of a sound found pretty frequently on Don Giovanni Records) and an energy that was relatively comparable to Failed Mutation meant their second slot was a perfect transition between the opener and the headliner, while also simultaneously allowing them a more unfettered interest from the sizable and appreciative crowd. By the time Sin Bad’s set was over, it was very clear they’d left an impression and made converts out of several of the previously unaware.

When Sin Bad had packed up and left the stage open for All Dogs, a strange nervousness crept back in- as it usually does prior to seeing a band (especially for the first time) that’s come to mean something on a personal level. Again, it didn’t take very long for that anxiety to abate. It took All Dogs (in a now-cemented four person lineup that includes NONA guitarist Nick Harris and, as always, Delay‘s Jesse Withers) less than three songs to inspire chills. Starting strongly with both “Farm” (from their outstanding split tape with Slouch) and the shortest song from the 7″, “Snow Fences”, they’d guaranteed the investment of everyone watching. Then on the third song, they offered up the first look at their new material, which they’d previously promised sounded like a much fuller and more fleshed-out version of themselves. Not only did that promise hold up, the expectations that came with it were annihilated as that song, currently written down on the setlist as “Skin”, showcased a heavier side of the band that had been previously been hinted at with their current career-best effort, “Say”.

From that point forward, the band tore through a set with a practiced confidence and relative ease, never once seeming anything less than completely genuine and extremely impassioned. Everything clicked, sounding fantastic in the notoriously loud Bremen Cafe. Making the performance even more memorable was the fact that the crowd was reciprocating virtually all of All Dogs’ energy, creating this back-and-forth that pushed both sides to near-perfect places. A few more songs from the split, the 7″, and (hopefully) the upcoming record, and the band had already nearly obliterated every lofty expectation- and then the band switched into high gear for an unforgettable 1-2 gut punch of an ending. That “Say” became the second song of their set to warrant chills and total immobility probably isn’t too surprising, as the studio version of the song is nearly capable of the same effect- but the band’s closing number, a song so recent that they still haven’t given it a title, went a long way in indicating that their upcoming work will be their best material to date. Both, combined, provided an unpredictably intense (even considering the members’ inability to contain their smiles) ending to an extraordinary set from a band who will almost certainly produce a discography of material worth owning on every possible format.

Below, watch a stunning solo acoustic performance of Wolfs’ “Leading Me Back to You” and All Dogs rip through their currently untitled set closer. A photo gallery of both the interview/performance session and the late show can be viewed beneath the videos.

Keep an eye out for all of the emerging details on All Dogs’ upcoming debut LP, which will be released on the always-extraordinary Salinas Records.

Swearin’ – Live at Memorial Union Terrace – 5/30/14 (Pictorial Review, Video)

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There are very few bands that will warrant the subversion of this site’s manifest. One of the rules that this place tends to hold sacred is that the music in question is more important than an individual reaction to it (this eliminates the assumptions involved in writing from a first person perspective). That said, there are a few bands that have managed to flip that script based on the sheer reverence their music has earned. Perfect Pussy and Tenement are the most notable to have it done it so far but today Swearin’ joins their ranks. There’s just something about the band that resonates with me on a really intense personal level. It’s at the point where it’s impossible to distance or separate myself from that reaction. Taking myself out of the equation would, in some way, feel more dishonest than just trying to get across how this band affects me personally- because any time that happens it’s worth dissolving barriers for.

Some exposition: What A Dump, the band’s first demo cassette, is one of my favorite releases of all time. There’s literally nothing in my fairly expansive library that comes even remotely close to matching it for number of plays at this point. Swearin’, the band’s first full-length, is in the top ten of that particular list as well. Despite this being the case, up until last Friday night, I’d never seen the band play live. So, when the opportunity to see the band play for free on a terrace overlooking Lake Mendota came, I dropped everything and jumped at the chance. By the end of that night my enthusiasm and affection for the band and its members had only grown more emphatic. An additional bonus was the fact that the show gave me a chance to finally catch Pretty Pretty live as well, who lived up to their strong early reputation.

Both bands played shortly after the sun finally set on Madison with Pretty Pretty giving a commanding performance that emphasized their strengths as a live act. The Columbus trio”s punk-tinged powerpop never got tiresome and their set only got more impassioned as it went on, gaining a startling momentum until it finally got to a place where the only thing left to do was call it quits for the evening and let Swearin’ take over. Swearin’, for their part, commanded the hell out of their sizeable audience (it’s nice to see free music outdoors on a perfect night proving to be as big of a draw as it’s ever been) and lived up to every ridiculous, lofty expectation I’d been forming for years. A lot of their songs are practically sacred to me at this point and they only grew more vital in the live setting. When their discography spanning set came to a close, strings had been broken, feelings had been poured out, notes had been missed, beer had flowed frrely, an infinite amount of mosquitoes had been swatted, and everyone was all smiles. From “Here to Hear” to “Crashing” to “Dust in the Gold Sack” to “What A Dump” to “Kill ‘Em With Kindness” there was never a moment that felt less than incendiary. My friend Justin summed the whole thing up aptly and admiringly with a simple “Fuckin’ Swearin'”. How right he is.

A video of Swearin’ kicking off their set with “Here to Hear” can be seen below. Below that video is an extensive image gallery of the show. Take a look at both, then make sure to catch them in person whenever they’re in town. It’ll be worth it.