Heartbreaking Bravery

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Tag: psych pop

Liam Hayes – Fokus (Stream)

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Every once in a while there’s a record, a video, or a song that comes along and shakes things up in the best of ways. Enter: Liam Hayes’ “Fokus”, a song that coasts on the kind of timeless punk-leaning powerpop that Ted Leo built his name on steadily perfecting. Hayes and Leo also share a similar timbre and delivery, along with their penchant for sunny melodicism and driving rhythm sections. Everything feels propulsive and joyous, from the light psych influences to the Byrds-ian jangle. “Fokus”, more than just about any other song to have been released over the past few months, has felt like a sunray forcing its way through the cold to provide some relief. It’s a charging whirlwind of a song that deserves to land on several summertime mixtapes next year- and operates just as effectively as a preview of Slurrup, which deserves to be met with anticipation. Keep the volume up for this one and use it to soundtrack an upcoming road trip, it’s built for travel.

Listen to “Fokus” below and pre-order Slurrup from the reliably great Fat Possum here.

Three Quarters Down (Mixtape)

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[EDITOR’S NOTE: First off, to get this out of the way at the top, there will be no Watch This today. It’s absence will be made up with a unique 50th post next Sunday.]

We recently hit another quarter mark in the year and this site just hit another fifty posts. A digital mixtape- Three Quarters Down– has been curated to celebrate both of these occasions. All 25 songs on display have managed to become favorites in the span of their (admittedly short) existence. It didn’t matter where they came from- splits, records, singles, exclusives- if it was a great song that came out over the course of the past three months, it wound up on the list. However, there are a handful of others that were excluded by virtue of not appearing in Soundcloud’s public library- those will likely get their due in December both here and elsewhere. In the meantime, revisit some of the best songs that led us straight into fall by listening to the mix below.

Beneath the 8tracks player is the original listing of the songs in this collection. Enjoy.

1. Mitski – Townie
2. Two Inch Astronaut – Foulbrood
3. LVL UP – DBTS
4. Little Big League – Tropical Jinx
5. The History of Apple Pie – Jamais Vu
6. Menace Beach – Come On Give Up
7. Thalassocracy – Shimensoka
8. Cellphone – Human Rights
9. Ovlov – Ohmu Shell
10. Mumblr – Sober
11. Trust Fund – Reading The Wrappers
12. Girlpool – Jane
13. Night School – Casiotone
14. Happy Diving – Sad Planet
15. Dilly Dally – Green
16. Washer – Rot
17. Speedy Ortiz – Bigger Party
18. The Midwest Beat – Vortex Hole
19. Bass Drum of Death – For Blood
20. Mannequin Pussy – Sheet City
21. Pity Sex – Acid Reflex
22. Mogwai – Teenage Exorcists
23. Nothing – July The Fourth
24. Dark Blue – Here On My Street
25. Crimson Wave – Say

Ovlov – Ohmu Shell (Stream)

A steady stream of streams flooded most of today’s music news and several of them wound up making strong impressions. Among them were Girlpool’s jittery “Blah Blah Blah“, Bad Power’s hardcore ripper “Jawws“, and Cellphone‘s Halloween-friendly post-punk nightmare “Human Rights“. Nothing continued to improve in exhilarating fashion, hitting a new high with the damaged beauty of “July The Fourth and YAWN bandleader Adam Gil’s new solo project- Dam Gila- offered up the tantalizing pysch-pop of “History“. Mineral’s vocalist, Chris Simpson, streamed Pink Chalk, the lilting record that’s due out soon from his Zookeeper project. Joel Jerome followed up the excellent Babies On Acid with Psychic Thrift Store Folk, which is now streaming in full over at Wondering Sound- a site that also has the distinct pleasure of hosting a full stream of Night School’s Heart Beat EP (which is easily one of the year’s best).  Then, of course, there was Ovlov‘s newest song- the second to be released from the jaw-dropping four-way split 7″ that also includes Krill, LVL UP, and Radiator Hospital.

All four bands on this split have earned the distinction of site favorites thanks to their punk-leaning strains of outsider pop. This will be the latest in a handful of releases born out of the collaboration between Double Double Whammy and Exploding in Sound, which continues to be one of the most exciting things in music. Krill’s “Peanut Butter” had already been unleashed on the world a few weeks back and kicked the obvious promise of the split up a few additional levels. Ovlov take that level of acceleration and floor it, not only offering up one of the best songs of their career but- impossibly- lending even more promise to the split. “Ohmu Shell” is a song that sounds like an assurance; this is a confident band who are fully aware of their identity (something many strive to achieve and fail to accomplish).  There’s a greater immediacy on display then there was on last year’s excellent am and continues their streak of incredible contributions to splits (Little Big League being the latest, following another four-way split with Ex-Breathers, Gnarwhal, and Woozy)- all from this year.

Every time the band steps up to deliver something new, it seems like they’re continuously improving upon their career-best, which is the kind of trajectory that can speak volumes about a band’s potential. Everything about “Ohmu Shell” works to perfection; the guitars charge as much as they swirl, the vocals manage to be alternately impassioned and apathetic- creating a contrast that injects the song’s explosive moments with an obscene amount of energy. There’s a greater emphasis on a skewed 90’s revivalism that’s deeply rooted in the slacker and outsider sub-genres of punk. Ovlov sounds more alive than ever, wide-eyed, determined, and prepared for anything that dares to come their way. If LVL UP and Radiator Hospital deliver on this level (which they’re both fully capable of, considering both of their full-lengths are locks for this site’s Top 10), this split just might be the best thing to come out of 2014.

Listen to “Ohmu Shell” below and pre-order the split from from Double Double Whammy here.

Iceage – Against the Moon (Stream)

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There are days where it can be difficult to scrounge up enough great new releases to warrant an introductory paragraph round-up and there are days that are so generously overflowing with great material it’s nearly impossible to figure out what to feature. Today fell squarely to the latter. There were no less than four outstanding releases in each of the major categories: single stream, music video, and full stream. Cool Ghouls’ psych-laced basement pop rager “And It Grows” gave some new promise to the upcoming record. Mean Creek‘s Chris Keene unveiled the most recent look at his Dream Generation project with the sparse “The Four of Us” and September Girls teased their upcoming EP with the snarling “Veneer“. Veronica Falls‘ James Hoare and Mazes‘ Jack Cooper started a new project called Ultimate Painting, who instantly turned some heads with the carefree open-road ramblings of “Ten Street“.

Over in the realms of the music video, Grubs, Frankie Teardrop (warning: heavy strobes), and Cloud Nothings all released clips defined by lo-fi experementalism while Snævar Njáll Albertsson’s Dad Rocks! project dipped its toes into a gorgeously-lensed narrative involving a heavy existentialist crisis with “In the Seine”. In the space occupied by full streams, Dark Blue offered up their heavy-hitting Album of the Year contender Pure Reality and Tomorrows Tulips did the same for their career-best effort, When. Ex-Breathers made all 12 tracks (and 11 minutes) of their vicious upcoming 7″, ExBx, available for the world to hear, while Zola Jesus occupied similarly dark but incrementally softer territory with her upcoming effort, Taiga. A Winged Victory For The Sullen rounded out the full streams with another ambient near-masterpiece titled Atomos. Of course, there was one another full stream- but the link is being withheld until it’s accompanied by a forthcoming review. In the meantime, today’s focus will be on the song that defines that record: “Against the Moon”.

In an effort not to mince words, one thing should be noted before going any further- namely that Plowing Into The Field of Love is a masterpiece. No record this year has seen a more stunning creative growth or felt more important than Iceage’s new behemoth. Only three records into their still-young career and they’ve already emerged with a full-length that not only operates as a radical left turn but one that rivals anything from the creative rebirth of Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds (or, the Let Love In era). Iceage’s first two records, New Brigade and You’re Nothing, were menacing works that a few people chalked up to exhilarating exercises in intimidation. On Plowing Into The Field Of Love the band relents from that approach and serves a hyper-literate Southern Gothic-indebted masterwork that sees them flexing boldly experimental muscle and an untapped well of what now appears to be endless ambition. No song on Plowing Into The Field of Love illustrates this more than the slow-burning “Against the Moon”, a song that’s well out of the confines of anything the band’s ever done but still feels wholly suited to their identity.

Opening with the quasi-mournful strains of a brass section, it quickly undercuts its brief introduction with shuffling drums and the sustained hums of a chord organ. In those opening 15 seconds, the band manages to establish an astounding grasp on a style that was previously completely foreign to them. By the time the string and piano arrangements kick “Against the Moon” up a few levels into the breathtakingly sublime, it’s one of the bravest things any band this year’s committed to a studio recording. As instrumentally thrilling as “Against the Moon” is, it’s the startling emergence of vocalist Elias Bender Rønnenfelt’s vulnerability that shifts the song from the sublime to the transcendental. For the first time, Rønnenfelt’s lyrics and vocals are given a platform that demands the listener’s unwavering attention and that level of investment is paid off in full. From the song’s arresting opening stanza, enhanced by Rønnenfelt’s world-weary drawl, it’s clear that his personal transition directly correlates with what the band’s accomplished in terms of musicality. “On a pedestal, shining bright. Justify me. Make me right. I can fight it; make it roam- but a fugitive has a tendency to return home.” is the kind of opening line that suggests a genuinely great writer- that the rest of Iceage seems to have embraced and experienced the same level of maturity and rapid artistic growth as Rønnenfelt in the short year that’s followed You’re Nothing is nothing short of mind-bending.

A song that literally arrives with horns, “Against the Moon” stands as Iceage’s definitive entry into the band’s sudden new era, the strongest representation of Plowing Into The Field Of Love‘s myriad of sudden changes, and one of the most immediately striking songs to emerge from the past 4 years. Stripped back far enough to be completely exposed, Iceage shows the world all of its scars, all of its imperfections, and all of its entire being- and it’s a tremendous thing to experience. Even considering all of their previous sonic aggression, nothing they’ve ever produced has hit with a fiercer impact. For a band that’s aim has always been to wound, it’s a devastating reverse that leaves them sounding wounded- but bravely resilient. It’s extraordinarily effective and unflinchingly courageous. Most importantly, “Against the Moon” is the crown jewel of what deserves be regarded as one of this decade’s most important records. Make sure to give this the attention it deserves.

Listen to “Against the Moon” below, pre-order Plowing Into The Field Of Love from Matador here, and keep an eye on this site for a full review at some point in the coming week.

Zulu Pearls – Lightweight (Music Video)

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Today saw the continuance of the staggering amount of great new material that the past few weeks have been offering up. Normally, everything would get one huge recap in the introductory paragraph.  However, there were just too many items that needed to be covered with greater emphasis to warrant just throwing them all in together. This was especially true for the music videos that came out today. From a kaleidoscopic video by Wisconsin favorites The Midwest Beat to a hazy, low-key effort in support of Mutual Benefit’s “Auburn Epitaphs“. Connections released a Hall & Oates-aping clip for their excellent “Aylia” and S unveiled the devastatingly intimate “Losers“, which very nearly earned today’s feature spot. It definitely would have had it not been for the lightly-damaged magic hour ruralism of Zulu Pearls‘ “Lightweight”.

Zulu Pearls, for their part, recall a more restrained, Southern-tinged version of Gap Dream and seem to share that band’s penchant for videos that feature stunning imagery. “Lightweight” finds the band taking a trip to Sweden to spend some time on the road, making friends with a collective that’s fascinated by retro American-built cars. Vehicles are driven, destroyed, and- importantly- gorgeously lensed by cinematographer Kiel Miligan. While that emphasis does provide “Lightweight” with its main draw, it’s the transitional shots of Zulu Pearls taking some time to appreciate their surroundings and take a few beats to have a laugh with each other that pushes the clip towards something really memorable. It’s an extraordinary teaser for Zulu Pearls’ upcoming EP, Singles Deluxe, and functions perfectly as a single. As a music video, it’s incredibly eye-opening and naturalistic, providing Zulu Pearls a platform tantalizing enough to have the potential to bring them the attention they deserve.

Watch “Lightweight” below and keep an eye out for Singles Deluxe‘s October 28 release.

<p><a href=”http://vimeo.com/104500367″>Zulu Pearls – Lightweight (Official Music Video)</a> from <a href=”http://vimeo.com/user1298853″>Zulu Pearls</a> on <a href=”https://vimeo.com”>Vimeo</a&gt;.</p>

Medicine – Move Along – Down the Road (Stream)

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Another day, another string of great releases to cover before moving on to the day’s main event. Among them: a full stream of the sublime split 12″ from Joanna Gruesome and Trust Fund,  a full stream of Terry Malts’ hard-charging Insides EP, and a characteristically incendiary performance from White Lung that also doubles as the official video for Deep Fantasy highlight “I Believe You“. Even with all of those being more than worthy of their own individual features, there was one song that surfaced today which managed to make a surprisingly large impression: Medicine’s “Move Along – Down the Road”.

Ever since Medicine’s surprise comeback record last year, To the Happy Few, they’ve been forcing their audience to re-adjust their expectations. Not that this is a bad thing; they’ve blown nearly all of those expectations out of the water. That trend looks like it’ll continue with their upcoming record Home Everywhere. After the multi-color swirl of lead-off single “Turning” suggested the band might be indulging their more psychedelic impulses, their most recent look at Home Everywhere confirms that with an even greater authority. “Move Along – Down the Road” is a near-claustrophobic cacophony that plays like a pissed-off, alternate world version of Andorra-era Caribou. In short: it’s a thrilling, fascinating, whirlwind of a song that hints towards Home Everywhere becoming one of 2014’s most widely celebrated releases. Medicine seems to be emphasizing their more cinematic sensibilities this time around and it suits their left-field shoegaze to tailored perfection.

Listen to “Move Along – Down the Road” below and pre-order Home Everywhere from iTunes here (all pre-orders will including the accompanying soundtrack to shoegaze documentary “Beautiful Noise“).