Heartbreaking Bravery

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Tag: Projection

16 of ’16: The Best Songs of the Year

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Following suit with the two previous examples, the best songs of 2016 list will abandon the traditional numerical format in favor of a more open approach that concentrates on the best material of the year without offering too many individual designations. The majority of the songs featured on this list were under-represented on lists by far more visible publications (and a few that were fairly represented are listed below the main list as honorable mentions) and fall under the genres normally covered by this site. Of course, this list — just like any other — can’t claim to be truly representative but it does offer a decent encapsulation of 2016 releases that deserved to be celebrated.

An additional note: most of the embeds come from bandcamp, so songs will auto-play after the initial listen. This was intentional to ease the access to the records that can claim these songs and to more directly benefit the artists that brought them into the world.

Enjoy the list.

Mo Troper – Happy Birthday

One of the strongest debut records of last year was Mo Troper‘s Beloved, an entirely unexpected but wholly welcome powerpop masterpiece. While just about every song on Beloved was considered for this list, it seemed appropriate to go with “Happy Birthday” which set the tone for a fearsome record that deserved far more recognition.

Doe – Sincere

Some Things Last Longer Than You was a blistering statement from Doe, a band that had been steadily gaining momentum for years. It was a perfectly structured record that allowed its songs an equal amount of weight but “Sincere” still managed to emerge as a standout single. Fiery and full of conviction, it was one of 2016’s best moments.


Told Slant – Low Hymnal

Low Hymnal” was a song that I was fortunate enough to hear forming in its earliest stages but the finished product still managed to wind up as a transcendental experience. There’s genuine pain at the root of Told Slant‘s “Low Hymnal” that lends to the overwhelming weight of the song’s unforgettable final stanza. A gorgeous and moving masterwork.

Parquet Courts – Human Performance

In the title track for their career best, Human Performance, Parquet Courts hit an exhilarating new high point. “Human Performance” is a tightly-coiled and deeply felt examination of the human condition that finds the band stretching in new directions with a fearlessness that makes the song as gripping as it is immediate.

Yucky Duster – Gofer

A pitch-perfect pop song, Yucky Duster‘s “Gofer” became one of 2016’s most unexpected summer anthems. It’s a pure delight at every perfectly-navigated hairpin turn, serving up some of the most meticulously constructed guitar pop in recent memory. A perfect blend of style and substance, “Gofer” is a triumph from a band worth watching.

Cymbals Eat Guitars – Philadelphia, 4th of July (SANDY)

While Pretty Years saw Cymbals Eat Guitars continue to evolve their sound, no moment of the record was more jaw-dropping than the towering “Philadelphia, 4th of July (SANDY)“. An eye-opening display of formidable strength and untapped ferocity, the song saw the band perfecting just about every facet of their already-impressive songwriting.

LVL UP – Spirit Was

Pain” and “Hidden Driver” got a fair amount of attention from year-end lists but the most representative moment of LVL UP‘s Return To Love was the bittersweet “Spirit Was“, which also ranks as one of the band’s best. Vocalist/bassist Nick Corbo provided Return To Love its beating heart and “Spirit Was” marked the moment it completely opened.

Big Thief – Real Love

It takes a certain type of boldness to title a record Masterpiece but when that record features songs like “Real Love“, that title just seems apt. In some moments “Real Love” is breezy and open, while others finds Big Thief baring their fangs. Throw in one of the most effective guitar solos of the past few years and “Real Love” quietly emerges as a new classic.

Jawbreaker Reunion – Cosmos

Before hanging up their cables, Jawbreaker Reunion were kind enough to deliver one last album in haha and then what 😉, which lived up to the bands sterling track record. The best moment of a great record came via “Cosmos“, a gorgeous ballad examining serious topics that quickly transforms into a forceful reckoning. In short: it’s perfect.

Car Seat Headrest – The Ballad of the Costa Concordia

Likely the most celebrated record appearing on this list, Car Seat Headrest‘s Teens of Denial‘s most breathtaking moment was largely ignored by other outlets. “The Ballad of the Costa Concordia” is a sprawling meditation on hopelessness that somehow finds a way to seamlessly work in a brief, heartrending cover of Dido’s “White Flag”. A genuine achievement.

Fred Thomas – Brickwall

Fred Thomas is making and releasing music at a relatively relentless rate, which is a trait that typically produces a lot of filler material. Thomas somehow keeps getting better, something that’s clearly evident in “Brickwall“, a characteristically acerbic slice-of-life send-up that highlights Changer, which will go down as one of 2017’s finest.

Cloud Nothings – Modern Act

Rarely does a band come across as progressive while revisiting their earlier sounds, yet “Modern Act” finds a way to fuse progression with refinement in its revisitations. A brilliant hybrid of virtually every stage of the band’s career “Modern Act” is both a victory lap and an engrossing look at Cloud Nothings‘ increasingly promising future.

Slothrust – Horseshoe Crab

Crockpot” was the kind of unforgettable song that could make a band’s career, that Slothrust has surpassed those dazzling heights so quickly is a staggering accomplishment. “Horseshoe Crab” is the kind of track that can stop people in their tracks. It’s a spellbinding song from a band unafraid to rip the bleeding heart out of their own chest.

Catbus – Fracas

A standalone release — and lone track — from a band that features Phyllis Ophelia and members of Patio, Catbus‘ “Fracas” is a riveting hybrid of post-punk and basement pop. The verses ensnare the listeners attention before the chorus blooms and casts an unbreakable spell. Exceedingly lovely and perfectly crafted, “Fracas” is an absolute gem.

John K. Samson – Virtute At Rest

No song in 2016 carried more emotional resonance than John K. Samson‘s devastating final chapter to the Virtute trilogy. Plaintive, painfully intimate, and tinged with a deeply damaged sense of hope, the song finds Virtute’s owner resurrecting the neglected cat to beg for forgiveness. Harrowing and unforgettable, “Virtute At Rest” was a knockout blow.

SONG OF THE YEAR

Jay Som – I Think You’re Alright

There’s a grace and elegance that’s identifiable even through the light damage that Jay Som applies to “I Think You’re Alright” that brings Sparklehorse to mind. Now, direct comparisons on this site are few and far between — especially in the case of such notable luminaries — but it’s next to impossible not to hear the ghost of Mark Linkous lovingly haunting every last second of “I Think You’re Alright”.

Melina Duterte, the mastermind behind the Jay Som project, has listed Sparklehorse as a major influence and the two share a kindred, empathetic spirit- something that shows in the delicate tenderness of “I Think You’re Alright” and maintains its convictions throughout the rest of Jay Som’s discography. While that discography is an enviable one, “I Think You’re Alright” remains its crown jewel, thanks to not only the song’s sublime instrumentation but a narrative that plays perfectly into the song’s soft lyricism.

All at once, uplifting and resigned, “I Think  You’re Alright” occupies a fascinating space. There’s a lot going on in “I Think You’re Alright”, from the subdued atmosphere to the way that instrumentation interacts in its final quarter. When it’s playing, though, none of that’s taken into account as “I Think You’re Alright” has the ability to envelop the listener in a very specific feeling, rendering it a unique (and uniquely moving) listen. Not just one of the finest of this year but of the past decade.

Nine more worth hearing:

PWR BTTM – Projection
Mitski – Your Best American Girl
Weaves – Coo Coo
Margaret Glaspy – You and I
Forth Wanderers – Slop
Bent Shapes – New Starts In Old Dominion
Eskimeaux – WTF
Tancred – Sell My Head
Young Jesus – Baked Goods

PWR BTTM – Projection (Stream, Live Video)

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The last few days held a whole host of incredible new songs from the likes of Turtlenecked, ScotDrakula, Animal Lover, Dolores, Rips, Dott, Sex Stains, Devon Welsh, Dogbreth, Honey Bucket, Lumer, Atticus Ross and Leopold Ross, Raccoon Fighter, Jenn Champion, Field Mouse, Luke Winslow, The Pooches, Butch Bastard, Ravenna Woods, Young Summer, Bellows, Rosemary Fairweather, Alice MK, Grey Gersten, JEFF The Brotherhood, and Royal Oakie as well as a two-song sampler of the forthcoming record from Echo Courts. While all of those songs should receive listens, it’s an old favorite finally finding release to capture this post’s featured spot.

The first time I saw PWR BTTM was at Miscreant’s Northside showcase last year and it immediately ensured the band a hefty amount of future coverage (especially in the live department). Having been impressed by their earlier material, I wasn’t entirely sure what to expect that day but it was one particular song that convinced me PWR BTTM was capable of achieving greatness: “Projection”.

Over time, “Projection” solidified its spot as my favorite song in the band’s arsenal. From Benjamin Hopkins’ remarkably tasteful guitar theatrics to a startlingly intimate lyric set to Liv Bruce’s intuitive drumming to the exchanged vocal leads, the song highlights several of PWR BTTM’s strongest aspects. From that first performance over a year ago, the band’s kept it as a live staple and subsequently afforded me the opportunity to document it several times over.

Recently, PWR BTTM announced they would be partnering with the excellent Big Scary Monsters label for their European releases, beginning with an extended version of Ugly Cherries that will come equipped with “Projection” (it’ll be available as a standalone single in America). While the band offers a mischievous wink towards the song’s main influence with its title, the narrative of “Projection” takes a much more serious tone.

From its opening couplet onward, “Projection” offers a very acute look at the displacement its songwriters have been subjected to because of their identities and preferences, rendering it heartbreaking in its realism– something enhanced even more by the song’s direct approach.

With its reprise of “my skin wasn’t made for the weather”, it’d be easy for the song to tip towards defeatism and while that’s an element that never completely disappears, the music surrounding the narrative becomes a retaliatory burst of frustration that seems to energize the band; they’ve found an outlet through creating music that feels like home. In that regard, “Projection” could be viewed as somewhat celebratory, though its down-trodden narrative keeps it tethered to the earth.

In creating that dichotomy, PWR BTTM fully demonstrate their enviable gifts as songwriters who have an uncanny understanding of their identity as a band (with only one full-length under their belt, no less). “Projection” finds every element of their songwriting at a stratospheric peak, underlining the hefty emotional undercurrent that informs their work but frequently winds up getting overlooked.

It’s an extraordinary song that offers insight, frustration, joy, longing, and some of their finest composition work to date. Empathetic and earnest in its unblinking sincerity, “Projection” is the type of song that’s capable of making converts out of skeptics; a genuine work of art. Greet the song’s official arrival with the kind of understanding and care that should be granted to others throughout life, free of discriminatory practices, prejudices, and blind hatred. Grab a copy, reciprocate its warmth, and never let its message fall out of reach… then hit repeat.

Listen to “Projection” below — and watch an early live performance of the song — and keep an eye on this site for more news on any of PWR BTTM’s forthcoming releases.

Splitting at the Break: The Live Videos of 2016’s First Half

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2016 is just about at its midway mark and there hasn’t been any live coverage on this site since before the year turned over. There have been a number of extenuating circumstances preventing the live documentation that has been captured this year from being posted (travel, time, other commitments, etc.) but that changes today. Below are ten video packets from ten shows that I was fortunate enough to catch — and shoot — this year.

Normally, as a general rule of thumb, I avoid posting anything from shows I play but am making an exception for the Jungles package because the band’s woefully under-represented in America for their undeniable strength as a live act.  A few other packets may be missing an artist or two but what’s below is the vast majority of what I’ve seen over the past six months.

Whether it’s Meat Wave ripping through a crushing new song on a (freakishly sunny) winter day in Chicago, Beach Slang covering The Replacements two times over, or Torres making everyone’s hairs stand on end with an unforgettable one-song encore, these are worth a look and were a privilege to experience. A photo gallery will be coming within the next few days but for now, enjoy the footage.

American Wrestlers, Eternal Summers, Palehound, and Torres. 

Julien Baker and Charly Bliss. 

Muuy Biien, Meat Wave, The Spits, and Black Lips. 

Runners, Beech Creeps, and Heavy Times. 

Jungles. 

Mr. Martin & The Sensitive Guys, BAG-DAD, Haunter, Miserable Friend, and Heavycritters. 

Yoko and the Oh No’s and PWR BTTM. 

Micah Schnabel, Dyke Drama, Potty Mouth, and Beach Slang. 

Yowler, Eskimeaux, and Frankie Cosmos. 

Oops and Dilly Dally. 

A Small Victory in 600 Moves (Video Mixtape)

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Heartbreaking Bravery has never been an overtly traditional blog. Yes, some commonplace elements and recurring themes keep it from falling apart but its essentially come to operate as a living journal of the things that have piqued my interest. It’s allowed me a place to provide documentation of recent events that blend recap aesthetics with critical analysis while simultaneously operating as a platform to showcase lesser-known bands. When it was initially devised, its sole purpose was to grant me an outlet to be able to keep writing but- over time- it grew into something that eventually had a heavy impact on my life. Whether through enabling visits to Toronto or being one of the biggest root causes of the recent relocation to Brooklyn, it’s played an enormously active role in shaping some of the biggest decisions I’ve ever made- and it’s been directly responsible for linking me to a handful of genuinely invaluable people that I’d be twice as lost without.

Now on its 600th post- and with the blue moon just barely behind us- it felt appropriate to allow the rarest of overtly personal posts. Over the near-two months I’ve been residing in Brooklyn, I’ve had the privilege of both witnessing and playing a part in some genuinely unforgettable moments. For a large handful of them, I was fortunate enough to have the camera on and rolling. The 25 clips that are all contained in this sequence are videos I’ve shot personally since landing in New York. From a breathtaking acoustic rooftop performance overlooking the city’s industry-driven sprawl to an inexplicably perfect moment at a secret wedding to secret headliners to a slew of site favorites, there’s a lot of content here- all of which made me feel like I was in the exact right place. It’s an offering that acts both as a celebration of a small accomplishment in terms of longevity and as a sincere thanks to a part of the world that has so readily accepted- and celebrated- both myself and this site. I’m genuinely unsure of what the future holds but if it’s anything as exciting as the past few months have proven to be, I’ll consider myself fortunate to share it with both my friends and anyone kind enough to lend any attention to this site.

Below the video, you can find a tracklist of the sequencing and- as this is another 100 posts- there will be links to the preceding 100 posts. Click play and browse at will. Enjoy.

1. Girlpool – Crowded Stranger (Live at Baby’s all Right)
2. Diet Cig – Dinner Date (Live at Shea Stadium)
3. Frankie Cosmos – On the Lips (Live at DBTS)
4. Radioactivity – World of Pleasure (Live at Baby’s All Right)
5. Dogs On Acid – Make It Easy (Live at DBTS)
6. PWR BTTM – Projection (Live at Palisades)
7. Slothrust – Crockpot (Live at Suburbia)
8. Charly Bliss – Dairy Queen (Live at Shea Stadium)
9. Told Slant – I Am Not (Live at Silent Barn)
10. Montana and the Marvelles – Stand By Me (Live at DBTS)
11. Lost Boy ? (ft. Patrick Stickles) – Big Business Monkey (Live at Shea Stadium)
12. Idle Bloom – Dust (Live at Alphaville)
13. Swirlies – Wait Forever (Live at Silent Barn)
14. Tenement – Crop Circle Nation + Dull Joy (Live at The Acheron)
15. Bully – Brainfreeze (Live at Rough Trade)
16. Rebecca Ryskalczyk – Other Otters (Live at DBTS)
17. Attic Abasement – Sorry About Your Dick (Live at Shea Stadium)
18. Eskimeaux – Folly (Live at Palisades)
19. Krill – Turd (Live at Silent Barn)
20. Littlefoot – Worrydoll (Live at DBTS)
21. Florist – 1914 (Live at Baby’s All Right)
22. Mitski – I Will (Live at Palisades)
22. Adir L.C. – Inside Out (Live at DBTS)
24. Johanna Warren – Survive (Live)
25. Benny The Jet Rodriguez – Alley Cat (Live at The Acheron)

++

HB500: Casting A Glance (Video Mixtape)
HB501: Mutual Benefit – Not For Nothing (Stream)
HB502: Hammock – My Mind Was A Fog… My Heart Became A Bomb + In the Middle of Nowhere (Music Video)
HB503: The Fjords – All In (Music Video)
HB504: Fraser A. Gorman – Shiny Gun (Music Video)
HB505: Tenement – Curtains Closed (Stream)
HB506: Lady Bones – Botch (Stream)
HB507: So Stressed – Apple Hill (Stream)
HB508: Watch This: Vol. 72
HB509: Girlpool – Before The World Was Big (Music Video)
HB510: Ice Melting in the Back of a Pickup Truck (Short Film Premiere)
HB511: Worriers – They/Them/Theirs (Stream)
HB512: Westkust – Dishwasher (Stream)
HB513: Total Babes – Heydays (Music Video)
HB514; Weed – Thousand Pounds (Music Video)
HB515; La Lenguas – Love You All the Time (Stream)
HB516: MOURN – Gertrudis, Get Through This! (Stream)
HB517: Institute – Cheerlessness (Stream)
HB518: Blue Smiley – OK (Album Stream)
HB519: Molly – People (Music Video)
HB520: Diamond Youth – Thought I Had It Right (Music Video)
HB521: Heather Woods Broderick – Wyoming (Music Video)
HB522: Wactch This: Vol. 73
HB523: Lady Bones – 24 Hour Party Girl (Stream)
HB524: Radioactivity – I Know (Stream)
HB525: Splitting at the Break: A Visual Retrospective of 2015’s First Half (Pictorial Review, Live Video)
HB526: Johanna Warren – True Colors (Music Video) (NSFW)
HB527: Royal Headache – High (Stream)
HB528: Hey Hallways – Anything At All (Music Video)
HB529: Watch This: Vol. 74
HB530: Watch This: Vol. 75
HB531: Watch This: Vol. 76
HB532: Watch This: Vol. 77
HB533: Watch This: Vol. 78
HB534: Watch This: Vol. 79
HB535: Watch This: Vol. 80
HB536: Sulky Boy – Things Betwixt (Stream)
HB537: Girls Names – Reticence (Stream)
HB538: Happy Diving – So Bunted (Stream)
HB539: Father/Daughter Northside Showcase 2015 (Pictorial Review, Live Videos)
HB540: Introducing: Montana and the Marvelles
HB541: Miscreant Records Northside Showcase 2015 (Pictorial Review, Live Videos)
HB542: Bully – Live at Rough Trade – 6/15/15 (Pictorial Review, Live Video)
HB543: Exploding in Sound Northside Showcase 2015 (Pictorial Review, Live Video)
HB544: Painted Zeros – Live at Alphaville – 6/17/15 (Pictorial Review, Live Video)
HB545: Tenement – Predatory Headlights (Album Review, Stream)
HB546: Dogs On Acid – Live at DBTS – 6/19/15 (Pictorial Review, Live Video)
HB547: Watch This: Vol. 81
HB548: Watch This: Vol. 82
HB549: Lost Boy ? – Live at Shea Stadium – 6/20/15 (Pictorial Review, Live Video)
HB550: 2015: Halfway Home (Mixtape)
HB551: Bully – Trying (Music Video)
HB552: Toys That Kill – Live at The Acheron – 6/23/15 (Pictorial Review, Live Video)
HB553: Tenement – Live at The Acheron – 6/25/15 (Pictorial Review, Live Videos)
HB554: Watch This: Vol. 83
HB555: Sweet John Bloom – Weird Prayer (Album Review, Stream)
HB556: Raury – Devil’s Whisper (Music Video)
HB557: Fakers – $600 (Stream)
HB558: Cherry Glazerr – Sip O’ Poison (Stream)
HB559: Coaster – Paralyzed (Stream)
HB560: Nervoasas – Parallels (Stream)
HB561; Big Huge – Late At Nite (Stream)
HB562: The Hussy – Turning On You (Stream)
HB563: Gurr – I Don’t Like You (Stream)
HB564: Vacation – Like Snow (Stream, Live Video)
HB565: Big Air – Barking Dog (Music Video Premiere)
HB566: Trust Fund (ft. Alanna McArdle) – Dreams (Stream)
HB567: Pleasure Leftists – You You (Stream)
HB568: Ben Seretan – Take 3 (Song Premiere)
HB569: White Reaper – Last 4th of July (Stream)
HB570: Watch This: Vol. 84
HB571: Swirlies – Live at The Silent Barn – 7/4/15 (Pictorial Review, Live Video)
HB572: Noun – I’m Afraid of What I’ll Do (Stream)
HB573: Meat Wave – Delusion Moon (Stream)
HB574: PWR BTTM – Ugly Cherries (Stream)
HB575: Diet Cig – Sleep Talk (Stream)
HB576: Watch This: Vol. 85
HB577: Slothrust – Live at Suburbia – 7/10/15 (Pictorial Review, Live Video)
HB578: All Dogs – That Kind of Girl (Stream, Live Video)
HB579: Dilly Dally – Desire (Stream)
HB580: LVL UP – Three Songs (7″ Stream)
HB581: PUP – Dark Days (Music Video)
HB582: Royal Headache – Another World (Music Video)
HB583: Mitski – Live at Palisades – 7/17/15
HB584: Watch This: Vol. 86
HB585: Radioactivity – Intro/Battered/Slipped Away (Music Video)
HB586: Princess Reason – Your Divorce (Stream)
HB587: Rebecca Ryskalczyk – We’re Brothers (Demo Stream)
HB588: Phylums – Go Home (Stream)
HB589: Watch This: Vol. 87
HB590: Meat Wave – Delusion Moon (Music Video)
HB591: A Short Stretch (Pitctorial Review)
HB592: Dogs On Acid – Make It Easy (Stream)
HB593: SPORTS – The Washing Machine (Stream)
HB594: A Short Stretch (Video Review)
HB595: All Dogs – Skin (Stream)
HB596: Girlpool – Live at Baby’s All Right – 7/29/15 (Pictorial Review, Live Video)
HB597: Heat – This Life (Music Video)
HB598: The Foetals – Malted (Stream)
HB599: Watch This: Vol. 88

Slothrust – Live at Suburbia – 7/10/15 (Pictorial Review, Live Video)

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One of the best things about a place like Brooklyn is that if you wind up having to miss out on one show, there’s another one happening just a short distance away that could very easily have or exceed the impact of the show you missed. While my initial plan to see Rainer Maria fell through, it was heartbreaking for a moment- until I was reminded that PWR BTTM and Slothrust were headlining a nearby show. Anyone that’s come across this site lately likely already knows exactly how this place feels about PWR BTTM and eagle-eyed observers with an astounding memory capacity may recall that Slothrust got shortlisted in our round-up of 2014’s best releases for the extraordinary Of Course You Do. Having both acts on the same bill made for an easy decision, despite quite a bit of competition.

Lowlives and Nonsense opened the show and while my late arrival meant having to miss the former entirely, I did manage to catch the end of the latter’s set. Suburbia- the venue that hosted the show- proved to be a better fit for the band than Aviv, where they’d recently played as part of the collaborative Northside showcase that was put on by Ipsum, Gimme Tinnitus, and Exploding in Sound. Playing to an appreciative crowd, Nonsense played off of each other quite well and se the stage nicely for PWR BTTM. Once again, PWR BTTM proved to be an absolute force- even in the face of lost pedals and a string breaking, the charismatic duo never had a moment that was anything less than obscenely compelling.  The band’s putting out Ugly Cherries– one of the year’s best records- in September and their set previewed a lot of material from that release while also still incorporating long-standing staples like the anthemic “Hold Yer Tongue”. As usual, their set was a convincing (and probably even inspiring) demonstration of energy, resilience, mischief, and enviable skill. In short; it was just about perfect.

Slothrust, a band that I’d previously only ever maintained a glancing familiarity with, followed PWR BTTM with a powerhouse set that more than justified their top bill placement. From the onset, it was evident that the band’s built up an extremely loyal and devoted fan base. By the end of their set, it was easy to see what inspired that devotion. Both on record and live, Slothrust are operating on a very different level than just about any band running their circuit(s). Combining elements of grunge, folk, Americana, punk, powerpop, and even prog into something that feels remarkably singular, they’ve crafted an identity that manages to both be accessible and refreshingly unique.

With Leah Wallbaum’s biting- and frequently deeply personal- lyrics leading the band’s frenzied charges in their most chaotic moments (and anchoring the band when they exercise their restraint), Slothrust very quickly transform into a band that people not only strongly identify with but want to see succeed. Even at their most irreverent, there’s a level of conviction that translates so easily for Slothrust that it’s nearly impossible not to be mesmerized by the music they’re making/playing. That aspect of the band held especially true for the 1-2 punch of a genuinely stunning Britney Spears cover (“…Baby One More Time)” and “Crockpot“, their extraordinary closing number and current career highlight. In those climactic moments, the band managed to showcase nearly all of their varying draws and limitless appeal, ultimately providing an emphatic endpoint to an exhilarating set- and ensuring that this site will be covering them a lot more closely in the following months.

A photo gallery of PWR BTTM and Slothrust’s sets can be seen here and a video containing a large portion of both bands’ sets can be found below. Enjoy.