Heartbreaking Bravery

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Tag: Plush

The Best of the Rest: Honorable Mentions

More than two months have come and gone since the last post went live on this site. True to form, the collection of materials never ceased in that time. A disparity between collection and production grew more intimidating and adjustments were being made continuously as new angles for Heartbreaking Bravery were (and still are) being considered. This remains a one-person operation and it can be a daunting task to take on the level of commitment that was required to keep this place going in its established direction.

More than once, I contemplated just ending its existence but could never escape the thought that representing under-represented music remained a vital necessity, especially in a climate where our tastes are now curated and formed more by coldly computed algorithms than actual human interest. All of the year-end lists overlapped, certain streaming giants heightened the exclusivity of their arrangements with major distributors to the point representing emerging artists without major representation borders the impossible.

Those aspects of the industry need a corrective, something that my friends, contemporaries, and publications worthy of aspiration have all but made their mission (and to that end, I would like to extend another round of personal thanks to bandcamp, GoldFlakePaint, Post-Trashdimestore saints, The AlternativeThe Grey Estates, ROOKIE, She Shreds, Various Small Flames, Swell Tone, and a host of others, along with every alt-weekly in existence). As those correctives became noticeably more impassioned during the brief hiatus from publishing, I found myself getting progressively more inspired to continue on with Heartbreaking Bravery and found myself constantly combing through back catalogs of publications that clearly cared about unheralded voices.

Of course, there are still established voices of note making worthwhile art and they deserve representation (some even staked out their names through hard-fought battles instead of buying their way into recognition) and those artists will be mentioned. However, the scales here — just as was the case in the past — will never be exponentially weighted to favor that recognition. Something that will be profoundly clear below in the list I’ve compiled across these 2+ months of songs, music videos, and records worth experiencing. I don’t expect anyone to actually comb through all of these but please, click around, and hopefully those random clicks will lead to a discovery of a new favorite. Enjoy the list and keep an eye out for more posts in the days to follow.

SONGS

Courters, Mirah, Mush, The Cabin Fever, Unlikely Friends, The Number Ones, Hater, Moonwalks, Lost Boy ?, Gladshot, Kal Marks, The Royal They, Palm, Strand of Oaks, Rosie Carney, Littlefoot, Dirty Fences, Bee Bee Sea (x2), Spice Boys (x2), Leggy, Barren Womb, No Age (x2), Canshaker Pi, The Holy Dark, Oneida, Jane Church, The She’s (x2), Chastity (x2), Lemuria (x2, 3), The Fluids (x2, 3), CIVIC, Luxury Death, Lauren Ruth Ward, Vundabar, Kindling (x2, 3), Sunflower Bean, Curls, Guided By Voices, OCS, The Dazies (x2), Gleemer, HOLY (x2, 3), Big Heet (x2), QWAM, Common Holly (x2), Leah Calvert (x2), Superchunk, Curtis Harding (x2)

Bed Wettin’ Bad BoysNation of Language, A. Savage (x2), Hayley Hendrickx, Kevin Devine (ft. Half Waif), Screaming Females, Ryan Power, Passed Out, Pope, ShitKid (x2), Chemtrails (x2), Whelpwisher (x2), GROUNDS, Skye Wallace, Salad Boys, Cut Worms, Doe PaoroNilüfer Yanya, Protomartyr, Fuzzystar, Miss World (x2), Luggage, Cloud Nothings, St. Vincent, Johanna WarrenYØUTH (x2), M.A.G.S., Son Little, FRAME (x2), Adults, Makthaverskan, The Growlers, The Van T’s, ALCABEAN, Emerson Star, blis. (x2), Surf Rock Is Dead, Tennis Club, The Nickajack Men, Small Forward, Casper Skulls, NE-HI (ft. Jamila Woods), Gestures (x2), Mansions (x2)

Shopping, Monster Rally (x2), The Presolar Sands, Lola Pistola, Who Is She?, The Golden Boys, Lean Year, Jr. Thomas & The Volcanos, BIRDS, CO SONN, Lasse Matthiessen (ft. Sarah Hartman), ghostel, Holy Motors, Ty Segall (x2, 3), Sound of Ceres (x2), Bodies Be Rivers (x2), Jessica Boudreaux (x2), STRFKR, Lull, Invisible Minds, Keto, Goat Girl, Wax Mistress, Deathlist, Mr. Yolk, Poppy Ackroyd (x2), Anamon, Ephrata, The Tin Can Collective, The Violet Whispers, Mean Motor Scooter (x2), Plastic Flowers, Longface, lkffct, Twist, Worriers, Strange Ranger, Table Scraps, Hunter & Wolfe, The County Liners, Elan Noon, Karl Blau, Jesse Jo Stark, The Yada Yada Yadas

OxenFree, Petal (x2), ESSi, Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Tough Age, Gregg Kowalsky, The Saxophones, Century Thief, NADINE, Cina Polada, Line & Circle, Angelica Rockne (x2), Floral Print, Angel Olsen (x2), King Khan, Blush (x2), Fox Face, Runaway Brother, sleeping in, Pistoleros, Moderate Rebels (x2), Sam Michael Trowse, Duncan Kissinger, DMA’s, Peter Matthew Bauer (x2), PONY, Jennie Vee, Joey Sweeney, Mimicking Birds, Andrew Hung, They Might Be Giants (x2), Mavis Staples, Long Neck, Reptaliens, Plush, Krief, Half Waif, Twain, Jessie KivelMichael Jablonka, New PortalsAnne Müller, Birthing HipsAxel Flóvent, Mineral Girls, Major Love, Emily A. Sprague

And The Kids, Hidden Places, Warbly Jets, Mattiel, Joint Effort, Renata Zeiguer, Forced Random, Tobias Reif, Joey Sweeney, Gabrielle Shonk, Sarah Clanton, Dead Leaf Echo, Lankum, Whitney, The Echo Friendly, Meernaa, Gunn-Truscinski Duo, Iron Chic (x2), Gingerlys (x2, 3), Bad History Month, The Gloomies, Jordan Klassen, Bedouine, Daniel Tanghal, Graham Coxon, Cock & Swan, Marine, Aldous Harding, Circuit des Yeux, Glen Hansard, Michael Jablonka, Tempesst, Palo Duro, Small Leaks Sink Ships, FriendshipMÄRVEL, Mt. Doubt, Headroom, Lake Jons, Mister Heavenly, Pearla, Camp Cope, Bat Fangs, Eagle Johnson & Clean Machine, Crater, Memnon Sa

Mallrat, Ora Cogan (x2), Clara Stauch, Feather Beds, Grieving, Refrigerator, Lake Jons, The Clydes (x2), Jaye Bartell, Anna St. Louis, Arielle LaGuette, Erthling,, Execution/Rise, Wilderman, Dream Nails, Tree House, This Will Destroy You, Tracy Bonham (ft. Sadie Dupuis), First Aid Kit, Michael VM, Thom Gillies, Young Mister, Peacock Affect (x2), Kinjac (ft. Kathryn O’Shea), Baths, John K. Samson, Hey Elbow, Racquet, Kenneth Aaron Harris, Jerry Joseph, The Go! Team, Jesse Merchant, Ezra Feinberg, Water From Your Eyes, Airpark, Jerry David Decicca, Leon of Athens, Paddy Hanna, Ride, The Captain of Sorrow, Charlotte Gainsbourg, Purling Hiss

Tenderfoot, Everything By Electricity, I, Alexander, Prurient, S. CareyWalter Martin, Lowpines, Sulky Boy, Glass MuseumClub 8, Mildlife, Vern Matz, Mick Jenkins, Edan Laniado (ft. Orin Jacobson), Benjamin Jaffe, Tangerine, Stonefield, Haily Taylor, swim good now (ft. Half Waif & Georgian Bay), Tim Heidecker (x2), Anna Tivel, Maria Kelly, Balkan Bump (ft. Paul Bertin), Curtis Roush, Fruition, Telete, Loma, Pinkshinyultrablast, Gary War, The Rural Alberta Advantage, Coucheron, avalon, red steppes, LeyyaTrès OuiHit Like A Girl, EMA, Holly Miranda, ILUKA, Magic Wands, Garden City Movement, True Blue, Underwater BoysJason S. Matuskiewicz, giant gutter from outer space, Sundrops, SELLARS, Alice Boman, The Rentals, No Wine For Kittens, Tennis, Eric Slick, Cara Salimando, and Slothrust.

MUSIC VIDEOS 

Twist, CIVIC, Hovvdy (x2), Human People, The Van T’s, Sorry (x2), Petite League, Anna Burch, Shannon & The Clams, Gleemer, OxenFree, Club Night, Moaning, Common Holly, Prom Queen, Liza Anne, Shopping, Good Boy, Robot, The Tin Can Collective, Wavves & Culture Abuse, The Spook School, The Breeders, Oh Sees (x2), Quicksand, Phoebe Bridgers, Vagabon, Deerhoof, Open Mike Eagle (ft. Sammus), Kevin Krauter, Bully (x2), Sego (x2), Pure Violet (x2), Sweater, Marlon Williams (ft. Aldous Harding), The Go! Team, Airpark, Francobollo, Lionlimb, Table Scraps, Anamon, AllegrA, Angel Olsen, PINS, Reptaliens, Flat Worms, Lost Boy ?, L.A. Witch, Anna Tosh

Darkbird, The Prids (x2), Longface (x2, 3), The She’s, Demons, Mt. Doubt, Cherry, Palm, Olden Yolk, Miya Folick, Walrus, Yumi Zouma, Stella Donnelly, Johnny Marr and Maxine Priest, Hatchie, Everyone Is Dirty, The Cheap Thrills, Jesca Hoop, Becca Mancari (x2, 3), The Coathangers, Julie & The Wrong Guys, Madeline Kenney (x2), Miss World, Born Ruffians, Varvara, Soft Fangs, Paul Cherry, Aesop Rock, Typhoon, Hayley Hendrickx, Winter and Trabants, Worriers, Escobar, The Velveteins, The Go! Team, Beatriz, Beliefs (x2), Calexico, Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy, Tim Kuhl, Stillwave, TR/ST, Dream WifeBjörk, Malk, Weaves (x2), Courtney Barnett + Kurt Vile

Avery Tare, Wiki, SAVAK, Trupa Trupa (x2), Tune-Yards, Mauno (x2), Beechwood, Ron Gallo, David Ramirez, MAUDLIN, Hearken, Porches, Julien Baker, Charlotte Gainsbourg, The Magic Lantern, Canshaker Pi, Django Django, Shame (x2), Ocean Wisdom, Legendary Shack Shakers, Duncan Lloyd, Littlefoot, BOYO (x2), Sam Coffey & The Iron Lungs (x2), Wolf Parade, Good Boy, Three Conductor, Se’A (ft. Cellus Hamilton), Single Mothers, Pretty Lights, Charles Howl, NE-HI, Melkbelly, Ought, Steady Sun, Fake Palms, Candace (x2), Dude York, Big K.R.I.T., Blasteroid, Jessica Lea MayfieldMoral High Horses, Emily Haines & The Soft Skeleton, M.R. Bennett

Sprinters, The Horrors, Molly Burch, Tempesst, Montero, VOWWS, Mondo Cozmo, Deca, Strawberry Runners, Dutch Party, Gun Outfit, The Coathangers, Panteon, Nicole Atkins, Moses Sumney, Lower Pink, Sloan Peterson, Lina Tullgren, Monk Parker, Birthing Hips, Guantanamo Baywatch, Derde Verde, Wild Ones, Liars, BADBADNOTGOOD, Wes Montgomery, Alissia, Fufanu, Pale Grey, liv, Turnover, AmplineDan Deacon, The Morelings, The Exbats, The Weather Station, ELETTRODOMESTICO (x2), The Ah, Brenda, Death By Unga Bunga, Billy Woods, Lionlimb, King Krule, New Candys, Hoops, Outsider, Joy Again, Heaven, Romantic States, Quicksand, The Darts

Alex Lahey, Suno Deku, H.C. McEntireFirst Aid Kit, India Ramey, Grounds, Prom Queen, The Soft Moon, High Waisted, Flying Lotus, Alexandra Savior, Underwater Boys, Courtship Ritual, Dude York, St. Vincent, Hunter & Wolfe, King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard, Cloakroom, Ephrata, Kat Myers & The Buzzards, Holy Wars, Soft Swells, Downtown Boys, Prude Boys, Odonis Odonis, CHUCK, Broken Social Scene, Baronen & Satan, Dances, Glitches, Chelou, Teenage Feelings, The Staves, Cool American, Mikko Joensuu, Son Lux, Twinsmith, NEWMEN, Shipping Forecast, HALFNOISE, Sound of Ceres, WHIMM, Mono Club, Michael Nau, Diet Cig, Astronautalis, Tycho, Stillwave, The Pains of Being Pure at Heart, Ice Balloons, Sparks, Torres, Freedom Fry, and Howard Ivans.

FULL STREAMS

Panoptique Electrical, Gingerlys, Fox Face, Surrounder, The Drafts, First BaseMatty Ann, Slothrust, STRFKR, Floral Print, Miss World, dreambeaches, Slight, Foolish Atoms, Permahorn, Bloodsport: The Movie, The Band, Idle Empress, Littlefoot, Dead Hero, Courtney Farren, Bartees & The Strange Fruit, Shamir, Superchunk, Birthing Hips, Gestures, EiS: Live At Shea Stadium, deathlist, Casper Skulls, Jessica Boudreaux, CD-ROM, Colby Miller, Patsy, Robot Apocalypse, False Flag, Bad Daddies, SAVAK, Spiritual Cramp, Covey, WHIMM, Brainstory, Deva Mahal, Angelica Rockne, The Sight, High Waisted, Slanted, Pool Holograph, Mansions, Pura Mania

Mister Heavenly, Lady Parts, Suno Deku, Sob Stories, The Persian Leaps, After Hours Radio, No Vacation, Forest Swords, RAZZ, FURY, Big Heet, Bad Galaxy, King Khan, Rakta, Leor Miller and Francie Cool, Haunted Summer, The Hague, Thought Balloon, Blasteroid, The Telly, Gunn-Truscinski Duo, Longface, Cina Polada, Strawberry Runners, Shoeb Ahmad, Fairy Godmother, Beliefs, Becca Richardson, Roz and the Rice Cakes, Sad Baxter, Hidden Bay Records, Zapoppin’, Rainwater, The Mountain Goats, Sauna Accident, Prawn, Raleigh, Exquisite Ghost, M.R. Bennett, Paperhaus, Nervous Dater, Fool Heavy, Intergalactic Lovers, Omni, and Landlady.

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

Slothrust – Horseshoe Crab (Music Video, Live Video)

Slothrust VII

Mozes and the Firstborn, TOY, Backer, Blue States, and Jess Williamson led a strong charge of new songs to get Wednesday off on the right foot. A handful of excellent music videos came from the ranks of Plush, Prince Daddy & The Hyenas, Weyes Blood, Hamilton Leithauser + Rostam, Crushed Out, The Julie Ruin, Belle & Sebastian, and Cass McCombs. Tying everything together in a bow were full streams from DARK MTNS, JEFF The Brotherhood, Gauntly, Dog Orchestra, and Horseback, as well as a memorable five-year anniversary compilation from New Professor where the artist from the label cover each other’s work.

As significant as all of those were, only a few came close to matching the inexplicable emotional pull of the music video for Slothrust‘s “Horseshoe Crab”. After catching the band at Suburbia last year, the band’s maintained a consistent position on this site. Expect that position to progressively intensify as their forthcoming record, Everyone Else, draws closer. “Horseshoe Crab” kicked off the trio’s rollout campaign and now they’re capitalizing on the growing interest the single accrued with an unflinchingly intimate music video that pays homage both to their DIY ethos and their penchant for embracing uncomfortable honesty.

Slothrust built a strong reputation for themselves following the release of “Crockpot“, which easily stands out as one of the best tracks of this current decade. “Horseshoe Crab” comes across as a natural continuation of the template established by “Crockpot”, refining some of the band’s approach in the process. A 2016 highlight, “Horseshoe Crab” now has an intuitive CJ Riehl and Emmy Kenny-directed video as a complementary accompaniment that taps into something inextricably connected to Slothrust’s core.

Cleverly opening on a vantage point that skims a waterline, there’s a tonal sense of bittersweet tranquility that eases viewers into some confrontational imagery: sand, ants crawling over hands, hastily applied nail polish, and a papier mache doll all factor into play. Before long, the focal point becomes guitarist/vocalist Leah Wellbaum, surveying an expansive collection of dolls and figurines on the beach, while stuck in a state of melancholic longing.

All of the early imagery is filtered through an unavoidable sense of nostalgic mourning, lending “Horseshoe Crab” a quiet devastation that elevates the project. Johanna Brooks’ cinematography caters to all of this beautifully, successfully creating an additional empathetic character that also serves as an audience stand-in. Pushing the effect to almost unbearable heights is Brooks’ decision to shoot from Wellbaum’s POV, conjuring up nearly direct access to a deep-seated understanding that becomes so realistic that it approaches levels of genuine duress.

The middle section of “Horseshoe Crab” touches on the distancing that linear time necessitates before plunging fearlessly into a near-euphoric exploration of the unknown. During that connected sequence, the distancing is established by leaving a trail of figurines on a path, one by one. It’s a deeply effective move that’s matched by the arrival of the song’s extraordinary solo, which the video takes as a cue to momentarily ascend before diving back into the water.

In the most breathtaking sequence “Horseshoe Crab” has to offer, there’s a gorgeous underwater shot of Wellbaum sinking to to the bottom of a pool that’s intercut with sea creatures, directly referencing the song’s incredible lyrics. By the clip’s end, the band and the team they’ve assembled to shoot, edit, and produce “Horseshoe Crab” have created an unforgettable meditation on nostalgic loss, alienation, existential crises, and the malleability of longing. It’s an unlikely masterpiece that benefits from its own modesty and it deserves to be remembered fondly.

Watch “Horseshoe Crab” below, view an early performance beneath the initial embed, and pre-order Everyone Else here.

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Plush – Please (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.

Not a long of bands have captured my attention this year as quickly as Plush. “Sheer Power” landed them in this site’s’ 50 Best Songs of 2016’s First Quarter list. Every piece of additional material that’s come out of the band’s camp since the release of that song has proven to be irrepressibly winsome. The quartet takes cues from the best of shoegaze, basement pop, surf, noise, post-punk, and dream-pop to conjure up music that has an inherently majestic sweep.

Each of the five songs that comprise Please, the band’s latest EP, are tinged with some of the characterizing qualities of epics, from the seemingly limitless scope to the penchant to sound as if their music is hopelessly reaching skyward, grasping at impossible boundaries. All five coalesce into a release that occasionally resembles a spiritual journey more than a traditional music release. By the time “Sheer Power”, the EP’s penultimate track, hits its apex, the band’s nearing the transcendent.

“Fixes” provides the EP’s smokey epilogue and ultimately cements its standing as one of 2016’s most extraordinary releases (so far), to the point where predicting Please will surface again in the year-end mentions doesn’t even feel like that bold of a prediction. Please is exceptional in just about every measurable sense and the band executes it flawlessly. Here’s hoping it gets the kind of glowing reception it deserves.   

Listen to Please below and pick up the tape from Father/Daughter here.

The 50 Best Songs of 2016’s First Quarter

Eskimeaux

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.