Heartbreaking Bravery

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Tag: Portland

2016: A Year’s Worth of Memories (Erica Sutherland)

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

Littlefoot has earned consistent mentions on this site ever since their set at DBTS acted as an overdue introduction. Over that time, I’ve been fortunate enough to get to know Erica Sutherland a little better, whose constantly involved in any number of fascinating projects. Sutherland graciously agreed to be a part of this edition of A Year’s Worth of Memories and offered up a beautiful photojournal chronicling a fateful 2016 trip that had a finale that was a little terrifying before it became necessarily heartening. Take in the sights (and accompanying memories) below.

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At the beginning of 2016, I flew to California to escape the harsh Boston winter and go on my first solo tour. After a stressful fall and an even more stressful week, I was ready to get away for a while. It was my first time seeing most of the west coast, and I was about to be traveling with two of the most easygoing people I’ve ever met. Scott, my photographer friend from Providence, works long hours at a pizza shop so he can save up money to travel.

I’m always impressed by Scott, because along with being a dreamer, he gets things done. He doesn’t just talk about things like going on a trip to Spain with a bunch of his friends to take photos, he actually does it. Miles, whose project, California Redemption Value, I was touring with, never seems bothered or stressed out by anything. He just kind of floats. He has a mysterious accent that has a little bit of a southern twang to it, even though he grew up in California.

When I started writing this, it became a detailed account of everything we saw, everyone we met, and all the bands we played with. For the sake of anyone with a short attention span (myself included), I’m just going to write my favorite moments as a list.


THE DRIVE

Everything along route 1 // listening to Mississippi Mixtapes // stopping in Eureka, CA and finding an abandoned train car // running around on a foggy beach at sunset, somewhere in Northern California // driving through all of the wide open spaces, the kind you don’t see back east // reading Stevie Nicks’ biography // many many trips to In-N-Out Burger

LOS ANGELES

Staying with Kaede, Jason & Lucy (three of my favorite humans) & their dog Monkey (one of my favorite non-humans) by the beach in Corona del Mar // meeting up with our pals Ian Sweet to play a show at a bowling alley // watching Nicey Music’s pop princess Banny Grove cut a rug on stage while wearing an amazing wig // window shopping on Rodeo Drive pretending I’m Julia Roberts in Pretty Woman // playing a show at Gnarburger with Shannon from Feels // being in the audience on the Conan O’Brien show


PORTLAND

Mississippi Records // playing with Haste and Brumes (she plays an electric harp!!!) // getting a big hug from my long lost pal Chip King // hanging out with Ty Segall & the Muggers (Miles’ friend Garth who we were staying with was opening for them) // Powell’s Bookstore


OLYMPIA

Skrill Meadow’s karaoke-style set // lots and lots of coffee // meeting Phoebe from Tiny Thunder Jewelry // our new friend Opio (same birthday as me!! same year!!) // meeting all of Miles’ old friends



SEATTLE

Playing with CAMP and Night Cadet // staying with Jenn Champion and her cute dogs // picking the nose of the Fremont Troll // octopuses on ice at Pike’s Market // riding the ferris wheel with Scott // taking a day off to explore Snoqualmie, the filming location of Twin Peaks >> the waterfall at the Great Northern, coffee and cherry pie at the diner, Ronette’s bridge




OAKLAND

Playing with Peacers and the Moonsaults! // exploring BIG SUR, the most magical place on earth, before the show


SAN DIEGO

Playing with Fake Tides & Big Bloom (& Miles at all of these shows – I never get tired of listening to CRV) // and what followed:

My memory of what happened after our last show in San Diego is a little fuzzy. I woke up back in LA with a fierce hangover and a Facebook message from a stranger that said “Did you lose something?” It was only then that I realized at some point during the night I’d lost my backpack, which contained my wallet, passport, medicines etc… basically my entire life. The woman who’d messaged me said her mother had found the backpack and asked her daughter to find me on Facebook to tell me, since she didn’t speak much English herself.

Miles and I drove back to San Diego, arriving at a tiny house where we were met by two elderly Mexican women and my backpack. I thanked them profusely in English while they spoke to me in Spanish, their hands gesturing in a manner that I assumed meant they were talking about how they found my backpack. The fact that a complete stranger cared enough to go out of their way to help me get my things back gave me that warm-fuzzy-“oh good, I still have faith in humanity” kind of feeling. I texted her daughter afterwards to thank her for getting in touch with me, and she responded, We’re all put on this Earth to help each other.

A year later, with the Trump administration rearing its ugly head, her words are more important than ever.

All photographs by Scott LaChapelle.

Strange Ranger – Sunbeams Through Your Head (EP Review)

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Over the past two days, there were a handful of exceptional new tracks from the likes of Purling Hiss, Kississippi, Kevin Morby, Pop & Obachan, benngrigg, Busman’s Holiday, Trails and Ways, Emilyn Brodsky, Sun AngleTouché Amoré, Crying, Suburban Living, Kim Gordon, Henry Jamison, Light Fantastic, Levitations, Softspot, Rick Barry, and Shana Falana. Additionally, there were outstanding music videos from Martha (who also found room for an amusing Radiator Hospital cameo), Sex Stains, The White Stripes, Adam Torres, Wolf People, Chromatics, The Kills, Matt Kivel, and Nøise. Rounding everything out were incredible full streams via Oh Boland, Low Culture, Sat. Nite Duets, Left & Right, Human People, LA Font, Bad Kids To The Front, Cheshires, and Toy Cars.

While more than a handful of those were considered for this post’s featured spot, Strange Ranger secured the position by virtue of releasing an EP that contains a few of the finest songs to have been released all year. One of those, the record’s opening and title track, earned a healthy amount of recent praise. “Sunbeams Through Your Head” set an impressive, melancholic tone for its namesake which was released in full earlier today.

Following the haunted title track, Sunbeams Through Your Head could have gone a number of directions but chose to expand on its thesis statement. The EP’s second track, “Life Would Be Cooler”, is by far its longest and one of its most gripping. “Life Would Be Cooler” also turns out to be surprisingly economical in its narrative, painting a portrait of an intense (and intensely damaged) longing in less than 60 words, closing with a devastating plea that drives a staggering amount of genuine feeling home.

It’s an opening salvo that packs an emotional wallop but Strange Ranger stays on course for the next barrage of tracks, remaining unapologetic for their overwhelmingly weary nature and casting an atmospheric pall in the process. In a strange way, it’s almost moving, listening to the band support their most downtrodden tendencies with intuitively empathetic moments in the instrumental composition. “Dolph”, “Whatever You Say”, and especially the gorgeous, instrumental “Thru Your Head” all contain breathtaking moments of a deeply felt compassion.

Everything that the EP works towards comes splintering apart, quite literally, in the manic closing track, “oh oh oh oh”. From the outset of the record’s final statement, the vocals are cracking to the point of breaking as a mournful organ line runs underneath the pained theatrics. Those are the song’s only two elements and they grow more pronounced as the narrative grows more hopeless. Eventually the narrative’s abandoned altogether, buckling underneath its own weight and disappearing into the ether, as the organ figure delivers a somber eulogy. It’s a challenging, mesmerizing way to close out an incredible EP and allows Sunbeams Through Your Head to linger long after it’s gone. It’s company worth keeping.

Listen to Sunbeams Through Your Head below and download it here.

Rod – Cemetery (Stream)

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Great new tracks from Chook Race, TERRY, Milemarker, Heliotropes, Night School, Big Neck Police, TTNG, Morgan Dealt, Parlour, Waxahatchee, and Jay Arner surfaced over the past several days, making a considerable impression. While all of them essentially guaranteed a short, healthy stretch of new releases, it was the latest from Rod that hit hardest. The band’s next up on the release calendar for Good Cheer, who have been having a remarkable 2016 run (one that’s been highlighted by Mo Troper‘s astonishing Beloved) and “Cemetery” — Rod’s latest — makes sure their impressive pace is maintained.

In under 100 seconds, Rod makes their presence known via soaring, venomous basement pop that feels like it’s always on the verge of spontaneous combustion and doing everything in its power to keep everything under control. As the vocals switch back and forth between pointed singing and vicious screaming, the velocity of “Cemetery” increases to dangerous levels. The hard-charging guitars contort and stab as the propulsive rhythm section work transforms the song into a white-hot wrecking ball of pure feeling. It’s an exhilarating look at what’s sure to be an extremely formidable — and very intimidating — record.

Listen to “Cemetery” below and keep an eye on Good Cheer Records’ store page — and this site — for further updates on the band.

Mo Troper – Beloved (Album 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.

If you know me at all, then at some point over the past few months you’ve heard me talk (probably half-incoherently) about my excessive love for Mo Troper’s basement pop masterpiece, Beloved. My favorite release of 2016 thus far, for any format, the record’s been in near-constant rotation ever since the label (Good Cheer) patched over an advance copy. The thrill of that initial listen gets rekindled from the quick feedback crackle at the onset of opener “Happy Birthday” onward, at the point of nearly 100 full listens.

Literally everything about this record works. From the lo-fi-skewing production value, to the inordinate amount of hooks, to the vocal and instrumental melodies. There’s not a false note to be found anywhere on Beloved, which is paced and sequenced as masterfully as anything I’ve heard over the past 15 years. Pulling cues from classic powerop acts like Big Star and just as many from more punk-minded acts like The Replacements, Mo Troper’s landed on a sound that echoes the battered classics of contemporaries and legends alike.

Beyond the exceptionally well-composed songwriting, the lyrical narratives of Beloved feel unflinching honest in their openness. Whether Troper’s tackling heartache, bro culture, or his own anxieties, it never scans as anything less than completely sincere. In that respect, Beloved becomes one of the bravest records to emerge from the genre in recent years. By casting out sideways glances in favor of plain terminology, the record gains a large portion of its appeal by being unabashedly, terrifyingly realistic.

The lyrical strength of Beloved comes to a head in one of its starkest moments, the bass/vocals centerpiece “Somebody Special” (which arrives on the heels of “Judy Garland”, one of several songs on Beloved that could be a legitimate candidate for Song of the Year). One of the record’s most definitive moments comes at the heart of “Somebody Special” when Troper viciously takes himself apart and, in an instant, finds the strength to reconfigure:

And every boy you’ve spoiled since
has kissed you better than I ever could
It’s the big teeth and bad attitude
but I can live with that
I haven’t killed anyone yet

It’s in those moments where Beloved goes from being an unfathomably strong record to being an out-and-out genre classic (and, should time prove helpful, an outright classic). Troper stakes his heart in those moments and gifts it to anyone fortunate enough to be listening. Any of the perceived projections about Beloved being another routine run through both powerpop and sloppy, punk-leaning rock n’ roll hallmarks are eviscerated in one short passage; Beloved doesn’t just succeed in carrying out Troper’s artistic vision, it’s an immediate extension of himself, bruises and all.

Following the unforgettable devastation that “Somebody Special” provides is another run-through some of the most memorable basement pop to be released since the turn of the century. Whether that comes in the form of the anthemic punch of “Paint” and “Eighteen” or the endearing, pointed snark (and the frighteningly relatable confessions) of “Star Wars” doesn’t matter. What matters is that these songs exist in the first place because they were desperately needed.

Far too much of today’s musical landscape is taken up by fake posturing, band’s running through check marks to attempt to secure an audience, revenue, or a prized place in an emerging scene. Beloved discards literally every notion of false pretense to focus on something that chooses to embrace the unflattering nature of what it means to be human. It’s a record that’s seething with frustrations, disappointment, and a desire for something better, something more.

When Beloved finally hits its apex, with the towering eight-plus minutes of “The Biggest” (which never once repeats a section of lyrics and commendably avoids any discernible chorus) it’s genuinely breathtaking. Cutting in all of the right ways, it’s both a snarling condemnation of Troper’s own psyche and a wary treatsie on just about any form of empowerment that naturally accompanies any sort of authoritarian position (even in the most acute sense).

Beloved‘s final, minute-long song, “Teeth”, once again loops the focus back to the objects of its title, bringing out a clever metaphor more vividly. Teeth decay, teeth rot, teeth fall out, and teeth die. They’re a microcosm of what we experience as humans. Sure, there are moments where they’re cleansed, given treatment, or cared for, but their eventual collapse is inevitable. It’s an elegant, if surprisingly dark, statement but it’s firmly rooted in the reflective nature that drives so much of Beloved.

In focusing on the dark corners while establishing that darkness wouldn’t exist without some lightness as well, Mo Troper winds up wearing a very tattered heart on his sleeve. While that heart may be showing a considerable amount of scars, it’s still valiantly beating. Pathos, gravitas, and an incredibly inviting structure all combine to make Beloved a must-own but it’s Mo Troper himself who makes this record a masterpiece.

Listen to Beloved below and order a copy from Good Cheer here.

Bob Mould – I Don’t Know You Anymore (Music Video)

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While this site tends to place its focus on upcoming bands, it’d feel inappropriate to not cover notable new pieces of content from an artist that very clearly influenced well over half of the bands that do get written about on here. Especially if it’s as singular as Bob Mould’s new Funny or Die-presented music video for Beauty & Ruin single “I Don’t Know You Anymore”.

Starting off with a memorably self-deprecating appearance from The Decemberists’ Colin Meloy, it doesn’t take too long for the video to reveal its fundamental structure: new age marketing-meets-old world formatting. Through a barrage of comedic happenstances involving mustaches, Apple product boxes, celebrity cameos, and limited edition appeal, Mould winds up successfully selling a whole lot of his music by the tale’s end. In real life, Mould can probably rely on his name alone (Beauty & Ruin following Silver Age and retaining all of its impact redefines his penchant for obscenely high-quality consistency) to get his music out to the masses but him selling music in an alternate world still feels like a victory.

Watch “I Don’t Know You Anymore” below and pick up a copy of Beauty & Ruin immediately.