Heartbreaking Bravery

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Tag: Premiere

ahem – Sweet Tooth (Song Premiere)

Photography by Taylor Donskey

Last year, ahem had a coming out party with the exceptionally strong Just Wanna Be EP, ensuring their name would be firmly imprinted into the upper echelon of basement punk bands operating in the upper Midwest. The trio’s been playing shows in support of that release since it was unveiled and now have a new song to offer up, for a great cause. “Sweet Tooth” serves as the lead-off track for The Grey Estates’ forthcoming Sugar Rush Volume 2 compilation, which will see all proceeds going towards benefiting QORDS (Queer Oriented Radical Days of Summer), an overnight camp that aims to empower and embolden queer and gender non-conforming youth through emphasizing the communal aspect of making music.

“Sweet Tooth” finds the band picking up right where they left off, firing on all cylinders and working thoughtful compositions into unbridled, immediate energy. Centering the narrative of “Sweet Tooth” on what could be a poetic allegory or could just be face-value fun, ahem give the song everything they’ve got, relentlessly upping its momentum even as it hurtles forward at breakneck pace. A snotty refrain, carefully balanced harmonies, and a bridge that stands as one of the best 28 second runs of music anyone’s likely to hear in a basement punk song all year, “Sweet Tooth” stands defiantly triumphant by the time it comes to its explosive, abrupt close.

The song is both a vital addition for what will undoubtedly be one of the year’s more meaningful releases and a potent reminder of ahem’s formidable strength (as well as an indicator of their growing confidence). It’s an embrace of an outsize, outsider identity and it’s a kick in the face of anything that dares stand in its way. While the running time of the track may be slight, its significance is not. “Sweet Tooth” is something worth celebrating; addictive, unashamed, and true to itself, the song’s an unlikely anthem for the displaced. Help the cause it’s supporting and give it the love it deserves.

Listen to “Sweet Tooth” below and pre-order Sugar Rush Volume 2 here.

Ben Seretan – My Lucky Stars (Music Video Premiere)

Over the years, Ben Seretan has meticulously and methodically developed a reputation that’s as strong as the songwriter’s composition. Affable, curious, and driven, Seretan’s mastered the art of balancing abrasive, sardonic wit with an open earnestness that ultimately winds up working in service of the music. Now, Seretan’s turned that handle on reality to the visual format for a pair of clips from last year’s outstanding Bowl of Plums.

Various Small Flames already ran a wonderful premiere piece for “I Like Your Size” and now this site has the honor of unveiling it’s partner piece, “My Lucky Stars”. Both clips find Seretan shamelessly shotgunning beers, laughing as the chaos unfolds in slow motion, undercutting the heavy emotional undercurrent of the songs with physical comedy. It paints an effective dichotomy that — as this tactic does when used best — elevates both angles (assisted in no small part by the direction of Stephen Straub), rendering what could have easily been construed as a throwaway in less capable hands into something far more lasting and profound.

Adding to the surprising complexity of both the song and the clip is the fact that it’s presented as a continuation of the first movement of “My Lucky Stars”, which appeared on Seretan’s extraordinary self-titled. Speaking to Seretan about the clip, the artist also touched on how song’s evolve in the face of an artist’s perception over time and had this to say:

For me, it’s part of a larger acceptance I’m trying to get to: absolutely everything changes and, in fact, is changing right before your eyes as you’re busy trying to remember it. And even something as solid as a pure, heartfelt song made with care from a place of beautiful intention fades and warps in the sun.

It’s a beautiful sentiment that has a firm basis in reality, speaking volumes to something that might be misconstrued as something that was purely done out of silliness. While comedy and whimsicality certainly play a factor in the clip for “My Lucky Stars”, like everything else Seretan’s released up to this point, there’s always meaning buried somewhere unexpected. Hit play, have a laugh, think about life, and come back for more.

Watch “My Lucky Stars” below and pick up Bowl of Plums here.

Sauna Accident – Mary Jane (Song Premiere)

A week or so into September and there’s already been a handful of exhilarating releases, several of them standing firmly as Album of the Year contenders. It can be easy to be swept up in the glitzy press blitzes assembled for those records and it can be even easier to overlook new music from bands with little to no name recognition while it’s happening. Fortunately, there are still a small handful of people out there who care more about the acts that are breaking than the ones being gifted massive roll-out packages.

One of the smaller bands in question is the duo Sauna Accident, who excel in crafting a sort of hyper-specific, intriguingly woozy brand of post-punk. Lo-fi and unapologetic, the project — which consists of Sophie Ballman and Daniel Hughes — has only released two songs prior to now. Thankfully, “Mary Jane” has arrived to push that song count a tick higher. Arriving in advance of their forthcoming EP, Run to the Log that’s Rotten, which is due out next Friday.

“Mary Jane” takes all of the most promising elements of the project’s opening tracks and watches them coalesce into something greater. Tenacious, foreboding, and a little insidious, “Mary Jane” makes each one of its three minutes and 22 seconds count. It’s a hard-hitting piece of minimalist post-punk that seemingly celebrates its own murkiness. Dark and decisive, the song paints a very promising picture of Sauna Accident’s future.

Listen to “Mary Jane” below and keep an eye on the duo’s bandcamp for further updates on Run to the Log that’s Rotten.

Young Jesus – Green (Music Video Premiere)

More than five years have passed since site favorites Young Jesus released Home, a breakthrough of sorts that turned a select few heads at the time of its release. Back then, the band was still calling Chicago home and there were only a few evident hints at the kind of experimentation that would inform their later work. Now based in Los Angeles, the band’s continuing to evolve in a way that’s both unassuming and fearless.

The band’s been taking creative risks lately and those risks have led to riveting material, whether in the form of the ambient tape that paired with a conceptual zine that they were selling on their last tour, the noise sections spliced into their live show, or the winding free-form songs like Void as Lob‘s “Hinges“. No matter what’s being put forth by Young Jesus, there are two unifying threads: an intensity that threatens to overtake everything and split the songs apart at the seams as well as an abundance of feeling to drive those moments.

Most impressively, the band’s maintained a career trajectory that’s essentially just been one ascending line since the turn of the decade and the first look at their forthcoming self-titled full-length doesn’t do anything to dissuade the notion that’ll continue in earnest. “Green” is among the sharpest single entries in their catalog and the music video — premiering below — they’ve crafted as its complement suggests the band’s finding new levels of conviction in both their craft and their identity.

Directed by Jordan Epstein and taking place in a single room, “Green” makes an impression through its attention to detail and commitment to conceptual approach. Each band member is given time center-frame, adorned with a variety of props (furniture, plants, and yarn are all among the featured items). Accentuating everything is the decision to shoot the video as a stop-motion piece and continue the band’s winning penchant for incorporating animation into their clips.

Where “Green” separates itself from the band’s already overflowing — and deeply impressive — discography (and videography) lies in ambition. While everything the band’s done since a little after forming has been uniformly impressive, the pulse that’s always driven Young Jesus at its core seems to be reaching a fever pitch, as if the band’s found itself and has no qualms about what they’re aiming to achieve.

There’s a handful of dichotomies at play that fuel “Green” even further, whether it be the emotional intensity paired with the tacit relaxation surrounding the narrative or the meticulously detailed production design they afforded to a simplistic concept. All of those elements work in tandem to create something that feels removed enough from everything else to feel intangible but accessible enough to feel extraordinary. It’s one of the more quietly compelling moments of the year and more than proves that, while the band’s existence may be nearing the decade mark, they’ve still got a lot left to say.

Watch “Green” below and pre-order Young Jesus here.

The Young Couples – Tarantula (Song Premiere)

Ian Proper’s been around for some time, making music strong enough to snag the interests of a deeply impressive rotating cast of backing musicians (including members of acts like Cherry Glazerr, Howlo, and Pleistocene) and utilizing them to great effect for his most recent project, The Young Couples. EP.01, the project’s first proper effort will be out in the world soon and Proper’s offering up a tantalizing preview in the form of the biting powerpop of “Tarantula”.

Hook-laden, smartly crafted, and executed with feeling, “Tarantula” teases and attacks in equal measure. Whether it’s a gorgeous but short-lived introduction segment or the lilting vocal melody of the song’s infectious bridge, “Tarantula” manages to provoke and ensnare attention. It’s a classically crafted genre piece that calls to mind genre forebears (Proper’s voice can occasionally eerily resemble an early-era Elvis Costello) and contemporaries alike.

In keeping with a time-honored tradition, “Tarantula” is a song that feels like it runs for half of its actual length because it’s so enjoyable in the moment. By the time it winds to a close, its absence is felt because of the warmth it exudes while its in rotation. From its opening seconds through its boldest production trick (a small but significant moment that arrives at roughly the three-quarters mark of the song), “Tarantula” remains captivating. It’s a welcome reminder that care can be put into songs that sound carefree and it deserves a whole host of new listeners.

Listen to “Tarantula” below and keep an eye on Dadstache for the record’s September 1 release here.

Surfer Rosie – EP 1 (EP Premiere)

The last time we heard from the Laura Daegling-led project Surfer Rosie, they’d just released “Worms“, an explosive whirlwind of frustration and engaging dynamics. Daegling had already more than proven to be a songwriter of worth via Sun’s Out Bummed Out, whose “Cut All My Hair” ranks as one of the finest songs of the past few years. Surfer Rosie provided an opportunity to showcase a much spikier side of Daegling’s arsenal and the hints the band’s been providing leading up to their first proper release — via the increasingly excellent Good Cheer Records label — have all honestly conveyed one simple truth: this EP’s a monster.

Each of the record’s four tracks comes brimming with the same kind of hard-won anxiety and relentlessness that informed “Worms”. “Nerves“, the EP’s opening track, has already been unveiled and sets the tone for a tense and embattled run of songs that don’t shy away from showing a spirited resilience, even as defeatism seeps through the cracks. From that opener onward, EP 1 often sounds like the band’s alternating between a chaotic, mid-sprint catharsis and the gasp-of-breath relief that accompanies the exit and provides a window back to a more stately composure.

“Gilly’s Dream” provides the latter of those two modes throughout and manages to stand out in a short collection full of uniformly strong efforts. By far the calmest track the EP has to offer, “Gilly’s Dream” conjures up a dream-like haze that’s hard to unravel and even harder to want to escape. Subdued, understated, and exuding a near-paradoxic confidence, the song’s an unlikely — and deeply unassuming — spellbinder. It’s also a near-necessity on an EP that has a penchant to wrings emotional responses out of its listeners at intense and unapologetic volumes.

The back half of EP 1 continues to offer up gems, with “Resting Place” and “Chugger” both easily defensible candidates for Surfer Rosie’s best song to date. Whether it’s the gorgeous 80-second intro to the closing track or the hushed extended outro section of “Resting Place”, the band continues to prove their mastery of dynamic composition. At their most muted, the songs find a deep well of strength that manages to make both the narratives and the compositions stick.

Occasionally, when the EPs at its most absorbing, it can feel like being flattened. Instead of terror, though, the feeling that it provokes is reassurance. It’s that same quiet redemption that defines EP 1 and makes Surfer Rosie a band deserving of a great amount of care. In a seemingly unending barrage of detachment that’s taken over various subgenres of punk, it’s refreshing to have a testament to sincerity and openness. At the end of the day, both EP 1 and Surfer Rosie feel like a ceaseless, unpredictable fire that better an exceedingly cold room. We should all consider ourselves lucky to have the opportunity to stare at the constantly shifting embers and be affected by the glow.

The Holy Circle – Early Morning (Song Premiere)

Only a short while ago The Holy Circle were kind enough to offer up a premiere for their “Polaris” music video. Today, a new premiere is on the table: the brooding, pulsating, melancholic “Early Morning”. Taken from the band’s forthcoming self-titled full-length, “Early Morning” is a characteristically dark piece of synth pop, underscoring  the band’s gift with atmospherics as much as it highlights their penchant for forward-thinking composition.

A calm, steadily swirling vortex of mood, emotion, and quiet determination, the track represents another important step forward for the band, whose evolution has been a privilege to witness. Hypnotic and mesmerizing in all of the right ways, “Early Morning” takes on a complex narrative involving perceived beauty and hard-fought individuality, weaving it into a gentle dreamscape couched in some subtle menace, creating an absorbing tapestry that’s difficult to shake. A commentary on the emotional duality of burdensome expectation, “Early Morning” transcends its outward tranquility to become something that cuts deep. One of the band’s finest moments to date.

Listen to “Early Morning” below and pre-order The Holy Circle here as a download, from ANNIHILVS on CD, and from Black Horizons on cassette.

Ben Morey & The Eyes – Black Jacket (Song Premiere)

Ben Morey became a memorable name thanks to an enviable output that included exceptional work with Dumb Angel and Howlo. Morey takes the spotlight here and is surrounded by an ensemble backing cast made up of some of Rochester, NY’s finest musicians (among them: Pleistocene‘s Katie Preston, Mikaela Davis, Green DreamsJesse Amesmith, and members of Attic Abasement).  “New Life”, the breezy first song to be released from the project’s forthcoming full-length, Mt. Doom, gave listeners plenty of reasons to be excited over its release and “Black Jacket” — premiering here — should only heighten that anticipation.

“Black Jacket”, which was recorded in South Wedge Mission and boasts a narrative that Morey described as a “Motorcycle death melodrama” told from the perspective of a teenage ghost. The doo-wop inflected track’s musical aesthetics hearken back to a time where that kind of story would feel snugly at home. It’s an absolutely gorgeous number that capitalizes fully on the 10-piece outfit assembled for the recording (which includes Pleistocene’s Preston).

There’s not a false note to be found on “Black Jacket”, a spirited near-waltz that makes excellent use of its “sha-la-la” backing vocals and spoken word interlude. Too forward-thinking to be strict revivalism and too historically-informed to not be considered nostalgia-inducing, “Black Jacket” straddles a familiarly cozy divide and breathes some new life into that gap. A beautiful piece from a record that grows more fascinating with each new track, “Black Jacket” is both a tantalizing look at Mt. Doom and a perfect addition to anyone’s summer soundtrack.

Listen to “Black Jacket” below and pre-order Mt. Doom LP from City of Quality here and keep an eye on Dadstache for the tape release.

Empty Heads – Meat Mouth (Song Premiere)

The worlds of DIY punk, shoegaze, and bands reveling in lo-fi aesthetics have overlapped for years but the definitive examples of that intersection have, historically, been woefully under-covered. Empty Heads are looking to change that with their upcoming Normality EP, which boasts a collection of songs as fierce, ragged, and determined as “Meat Mouth”, which is premiering below.

Encapsulating a host of influences, from the obvious shoegaze forebears to psych-inflected basement punk contemporaries, “Meat Mouth” is a towering work. Managing to come across as both earnest and reserved simultaneously, “Meat Mouth” exists as something of a paradox, drawing listeners in for closer inspection. In its opening stretch, the song immediately (and successfully) sets out to bruise before its final stretch sees an inspired disintegration that veers incredible close to noise territory, getting significantly heavier before slinking into an eerie ambient work defined by swells of feedback and effects manipulation.

Between those two definitive markers, “Meat Mouth” is anchored by a familiar narrative, which at once expresses self-doubt, self-deprecation, and a buried desire for something resembling normalcy. From thinking sideways to the chemical makeup of the brain, “Meat Mouth” concerns itself with minutiae as much as the big picture, becoming an odd reflection of its own composition. It’s a remarkable work from a band worth hearing and a very strong lead-in to one of 2017’s most formidable EP’s to date.

Listen to “Meat Mouth” below and pre-order Normality from Debt Offensive here.

Bent Denim – Diamond Jubilee (EP Premiere)

Very few music videos that have appeared as features on this site have resonated like Bent Denim’s “Good Night’s Sleep“, which remains a deeply affecting viewing experience. That song was a very strong highlight of Romances You, a record great enough to leave those of us that heard it eagerly awaiting a follow-up. Today, the band delivers on the promise of that record in kind by way of their new EP, Diamond Jubilee.

A name taken from a roadside casino the band spotted during a detour they took while traveling to attempt to sneak into Fort Maccomb (best known for its appearance at the end of True Detective’s first season), Diamond Jubilee ignores easy flash in favor of something far more substantial. As early premieres from Stereogum and GoldFlakePaint seemed to indicate, Diamond Jubilee continues the band’s penchant for rich narratives and melancholic atmospherics.

Both “All My Friends Are Dead” and “Miss You, Kid” were both fairly well-covered at the time of their release and it’s easy to see why. Each of the EP’s opening two tracks conjures up something warm and familiar, carrying a tinge of wistful nostalgia while both emphasizing and accentuating a much deeper emotional pull. Lo-fi elements converge with much bigger ideas and coast along a middle ground that brings out the best of each side. Tender melodies wash over the listener and then disappear into the sand, leaving a faint imprint that carries the promise of a welcome return.

As strong as both “All My Friends Are Dead” and “Miss You, Kid” are, the back stretch of Diamond Jubilee is what transforms the EP into one of the year’s best. From the opening piano figure of “False Leads to Dead Ends” to the gentle cadence of “Daisy” to the title track’s hazy epilogue, Bent Denim continues the most sublime stretch of their catalog to date. Those final three songs lead into each other seamlessly, strengthening the transcendental effect Bent Denim’s capable of producing when they’re at their best and, make no mistake, Diamond Jubilee is the most remarkable work of their career.

Heartrending and heartbreaking in equal measure, Diamond Jubilee finds Bent Denim hitting their stride. In collaborating with Young & Sick‘s Nick van Hofwegen, who contributes backing vocals across the record, the band also opens up their sound ever so slightly, taking it to breathtaking heights. Largely a sobering meditation on everything from conflicting ideologies to facing down mortality, Diamond Jubilee winds up being inexplicably moving. Unassuming and unforgettable, Diamond Jubilee is an EP worth holding onto long after its final notes ring out.

Listen to Diamond Jubilee below and keep an eye out for its official release tomorrow.