Heartbreaking Bravery

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Tag: punkgaze

Toby Reif – 2014 (EP Stream)

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Photograph by Matthew Gilbertson

One of the best benefits of running a site is that it opens up the floodgates to great new music via unsolicited submissions. A few personal favorites have fought their way through that weird, uncharted territory that would otherwise have slipped by, potentially unnoticed. From Mulligrub to Spit to Space Mountain, it’s allowed the unearthing of a jaw-dropping assortment of treasures. Add Toby Reif’s vicious EP, 2014, to that list immediately. 2014 is a towering achievement that unleashes itself on the listener from the outset, courtesy of “Bug”, a snarling track that’s  instrumental save for the layered ambient vocal samples towards the close. Equal parts post-punk and shoegaze, it falls into a territory not too far removed from the majority of Happy Diving’s excellent Big World.

“Skullkid”, 2014‘s ensuing track, flips the emphasis over to the (heavily distorted) vocals, which lash out of the speakers and make exacting cuts with no remorse. Once again, it’s a viscerally punishing track that sounds absolutely massive without bothering to cater to anything except for Reif’s formidable creative drive. Everything closes with the slow-burning “Going For A Walk And Then A Run At Night When I Should Be Sleeping”, which starts off on a delicate ambient tone before blooming into something much stranger. It’s a fitting end-cap to a genuinely great EP that should, if not anything else, establish Reif as an artistic force. Here’s hoping 2014 and Reif both find the audiences they deserve.

Listen to 2014 below.

LVL UP – Big Snow (Stream)

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What a day. There was no obvious choice for a feature until LVL UP’s “Big Snow” premiered over at Impose. On the surface, that’s a bland statement- but looking at the company that “Big Snow” joined today, it’s one hell of a testament to LVL UP.  In the single song department there were some legitimately great songs: Run The Jewels’ pulverizing new (Zach De La Rocha-featuring) scorcher “Close Your Eyes (And Count To Fuck)“, Dollface’s impossibly breezy indie pop gem “Churchyard“, Daddy Issues’ distortion-laden post-punk dirge “Ugly When I Cry“, and  a bracing new Crow Bait song- “Separate Stations“- that incorporates members of Iron Chic. There was also Dasher’s foreboding noise-punk minimalism piece, “Teeth“, as well as Vetter Kids’ “I’m Just Your Newest Bluest” which is a perfect representation of the band’s modernist take on classic 90’s emo and noise-punk. “A Million Random Digits” proved that …And You Will Know Us By The Trail Of Dead are far from being done while Wedding Dress’ “Somewhere Darker” makes it clear that Wedding Dress are anxious to make their introduction to the world.

Cellphone also posited themselves as a band ready to make a notable entrance with an enticing and mysterious trailer to promote their upcoming Excellent Condition. Denmark’s Mimas returned to the fold in a big way with the characteristically impressive live-edit clip for “Kissinger’s Jaw” (fans of Exploding in Sound who aren’t well-versed in Big Scary Monsters would do well to take note of this one) and Tangerine released a delightful video for another indie-pop keeper, “You’ll Always Be Lonely”. Ex Hex got in on the action as well, releasing a knockout video for Rips highlight (one of many) “Waterfall“. For full streams there were stunners from The Grayces, Thurston Moore, and a mildly insane (and wildly heavy) split between Big Neck Police and Dog.

Everything hyperlinked in the two paragraphs above stands as both a great way to share music worth listening to and acts as a very long-winded way of saying that featuring “Big Snow” wasn’t a foregone conclusion- at least not until the riff kicked in at the :26 mark. It’s the third song to be streamed from a just-released split between LVL UP, Krill, Ovlov, and Radiator Hospital. “Big Snow” is a song that’s actually been featured on this site before in an admittedly roundabout way- it was the feature piece in the band’s Serious Business session that was featured on Watch This. Even with Hoodwink’d being one of this site’s top contenders (if not top contender) for Album of the Year honors, “Big Snow” manages to stand out as one of the best songs to spring out of the band’s discography.

Having just seen LVL UP take the roof off of Chicago’s Beat Kitchen (pictured above, more to come on that later), it’s allowed the cementing of some previously-held opinions in regards to how the band functions. First and foremost; this is a truly collaborative effort with everything working as a complement to its surrounding elements at an obscenely high level. Second, this music works best as a victory lap for the disenfranchised; it’s both a rousing call to action and a well-meaning embrace for the people who were told they’d never live up to their potential or lived on the fringes of culture. LVL UP’s never been one to shy away from the unconventional (or the irreverent) and that’s a trait that takes bravery to embody. “Big Snow” hints at all of these elements and includes a rare treat; every one of the band’s vocalists (Dave Benton, Nick Corbo, and Mike Caridi, respectively) joins in for one last rousing harmony run before that surging, blissed-out guitar riff rallies the song to its fade-out finish. If Hoodwink’d wasn’t already proof, “Big Snow” certainly cements what’s become an unavoidable fact: LVL UP are one of today’s best bands and they deserve all the accolades that are bound to fall their way.

Listen to “Big Snow” below and pre-order the split it’s on from Double Double Whammy here.

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.

Meat Wave – Brother (Music Video)

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[EDITOR’S NOTE: Apologies for the delay on this post, it was held up pending a confirmation. That confirmation just came through and a regular daily wrap-up of today’s releases will be posted later on in the evening. This post has been edited to reflect its current standing.]

Tuesday was a much quieter today for great new releases than Monday’s mind-boggling output- but the few things that were released managed to hold their ground. Menace Beach’s “Come On Give Up” gave the day a swift kick and got things moving with fuzzed-out basement pop. Happy Diving teased their upcoming full-length Big World with another attention-ensuring track, “Sad Planet“, which provides a glimpse of what’s turning out to be a fairly enviable range (and is one of the year’s better songs). AV Club also contributed to today’s haul with the full stream of the record that’s earned quite a few mentions on this site over the past few weeks: Little Big League’s Tropical Jinx, which emphatically capitalizes on its early promise and is more than good enough to be listened to on a regular basis well into 2015.

Now, admittedly, there’s more than one reason that Meat Wave’s first music video, “Brother”, earned today’s feature spot. Before getting to the auxiliary aspects, two things are worth noting: 1. Meat Wave is a band that’s been on this site’s radar for a long while. 2. “Brother” is one of the more perfect visual representations of a band’s style this year. Those two facts alone would have given it today’s feature spot, with the rest just acting as a sizable bonus. “Brother” is an all-out blitz of a song, reveling in an off-the-rails aggression that’s always guaranteed the band was a serious force to be reckoned with- something the video taps into expertly.

Made up entirely of jagged quick-cuts and stop motion shots, “Brother” is as deliriously frenetic as it is disorienting and ferocious. What makes it stand out is a peculiar sense of humor that the band brings to the clip. It’s also worth mentioning that this is a video for a song that was released two years ago, from a record that’s still holding up impossibly well. With the video providing a reminder that this music is as immediate (and feral) as it’s ever been, Meat Wave’s also managed to bring across a very subtle message in the visual medium: the knives are out and the band’s no longer content to stay still. This is likely part of the reasons as to why the band will be joining site favorites Geronimo! (whose Cheap Trick is one of this year’s best records) on their farewell tour- which is a topic that brings up something else entirely.

Heartbreaking Bravery will be presenting a stop on the tour.

On October 18, both bands will be stopping at a house venue (The Powerstrip) in Stevens Point, WI. Sweetening the deal is the fact that they’ll be joined by Mumblr, a Philadelphia-based band whose recently released Full of Snakes  is full of highlights (“Sober” being one of 2014’s finest songs) and exists in the exact space that this site most frequently celebrates; the perfect marriage of basement punk and basement pop. It’ll be the first of what will hopefully be many forays into live shows (and subsequent documentation). Cameras will be rolling and footage will certainly be appearing at some point in the future. So, stay tuned and try to make it out- this should be a celebration to remember.

Watch “Brother” below, download Meat Wave from the band’s bandcamp, and check out the flyer for the show below the video (as well as all of Meat Wave’s other tour dates).

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10-14- Beachland Ballroom- Cleveland, OH^
10-17- Kryptonite – Rockford, IL*
10-18- Powerstrip- Stevens Point, WI*
10-20- Township- Chicago, IL*&
10-21- Mahall’s- Cleveland, OH*
10-22- Sharkweek- Pittsburgh, PA*
10-23- Philamoca- Philadelphia, PA*
10-24- Shea Stadium- Brooklyn, NY
10-25- Silent Barn- Brooklyn, NY*

* = w/ Geronimo!
^ = w/ The Lemons, Lasers and Fast and Shit
& = w/ Dope Body, High Priests


Allah-Las – Follow You Down (Music Video)

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Another day down, another great batch of streams and videos to show for it. First off: a full record stream from The Growlers, who have a career-best on their hands with Chinese Fountain. Representing the music video side of things, there was YAWN’s fascinating video for “Flytrap” and then a whole host of great single song streams. New Orleans duo Caddywhompus started to gain some attention on the back of “Stuck“, Glish made a deep impression with their towering “Pretty Car“, and Radical Dads carved out a place for themselves with the jumpy “In the Water“. Sonic Avenues’ second exclusive track for the deluxe version of their classic self-titled surfaced, as did great brand-new songs from FF, Doe, and Allo Darlin‘. However, despite all those great candidates for a feature, there was one thing that kept creeping back up; Allah-Las music video for “Follow You Down”.

From the immediate outset, it becomes apparent that “Follow You Down” isn’t going to be overtly conventional. Mixing the band’s trademark 60’s garage-grit revivalism with a quasi-Western, the video coaxes as much intrigue out of that contrast as possible. With both mediums emphasizing the lo-fi (and the low-key) aspects of the band’s presentation, things in the Sasha Eisenman-directed clip get fairly ridiculous pretty quickly- but that doesn’t stop it from being compelling or losing any momentum. The actual story in the video’s a fairly straightforward narrative that plays out, in full accordance with their chosen style, like a great Western- right down to the quietly tragic/humorous ending. “Follow You Down” on its own was a fun rock n’ soul-tinged throwback but the video manages to give it new life. All in all, it’s an absolute blast and goes quite a ways in proving that sometimes the best videos come out of a band letting their guard down and allowing themselves to have fun.

Watch “Follow You Down” below and order the just-released Worship the Sun (which “Follow You Down” is taken off of) over at Allah-Las’ bandcamp.

Watch This: Vol. 44

Welcome to a late-night installment of Watch This, the 44th in the weekly series that celebrates the best live performances to surface in the previous week. This time around, there’s a split between full sets, late night performances, and DIY presentations that all include bands that have previously earned themselves features (or extended mentions) on this site. Whether it’s another jaw-dropping full set from White Lung or a revitalized Death From Above 1979 diving headfirst into their single, these are all worth watching. Normally Watch This is posted much earlier on Sunday, so in the spirit of today’s delay, the featured videos get darker in atmosphere as they progress. Day turns to night and Volume 44 gets to lay claim to five great performances. So, sit back, relax, take a drink, ease up, and Watch This.

1. Death From Above 1979 – Trainwreck 1979 (The Late Show with David Letterman)

The Physical World, Death From Above 1979’s long-awaited follow-up to the classic You’re A Woman, I’m A Machine, may have disappointed a few people with absurd expectations. Most of them were hung up on their own projections of what they thought the band should be instead of letting them come out of hibernation to evolve naturally. It’s hard to think that any of them would be disappointed by a performance like this one, which winds up being part of a late surge of memorable talk show performances.

2. Benny the Jet Rodriguez – Alley Cat (Razorcake)

Is the sound on this the greatest? No. Does it need to be? Same answer. Is this a great take on a great song from a great record? Absolutely. Does the combination of logos, titles, and credits make it difficult to definitively credit? Extremely. How are more people not talking about Benny the Jet Rodriguez and Home. Run? That’s impossible to say- but it needs to change. When should that change start? Right now. Does every city deserve a venue like VLHS? Definitely.

3. Diarrhea Planet (KEXP)

Diarrhea Planet may have released a very good record the other year that holds up as a standalone piece but their reputation was almost entirely built by virtue of their excitable live shows. This KEXP session goes a long way in confirming any of the uninitiated’s suspicions that they have a penchant for the irreverent and wild- and that’s all that really needs to be said. Just watch the video.

4. White Lung (unARTigNYC) 

This isn’t the first full White Lung set to earn itself a feature on Watch This. Hell, it’s not even the first one that comes courtesy of unARTigNYC. All that said, the band keeps managing to get better, a feat of borderline absurdity considering they’re already one of the better live acts out there today. Easily the best-looking and best-sounding White Lung set to find its way onto Watch This, their recent set at Palisades found them in their fieriest form (especially after a very tense moment towards the start of the set that found vocalist Mish Way pushed to the point of physically accosting and ultimately ejecting an audience member)- absolutely laying waste to a selection of songs that leaned heavily on 2014 standout Deep Fantasy. Even if the whole set was emotionally charged thanks to the severely unfortunate circumstances, it provided a handful of thrilling moments and cemented White Lung’s status as one of today’s most exciting bands.

5. Nothing (KEXP)

Nothing are notorious for eardrum-obliterating volume levels when they play live, which seems fitting for a band so prone to relentless heaviness. Here, they hold nothing back and give KEXP one of the station’s more memorable sessions- creating an entrancing sprawl that sides towards the heavily atmospheric. Guilty of Everything was a high point of mid-2014 and is well-represented here. Apart from a few fairly awkward interview exchanges (which is probably putting it mildly), the individual song performances are weirdly mesmerizing. All in all, it’s hard to ask for a better way to cap off another great week of documented live music.

Attendant – Freaking Out (Review, Stream)

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By now, everyone who has iTunes should have heard the full stream they’re offering up of Death From Above 1979’s revitalized post-reunion effort, The Physical World. Hopefully, there were a few among that crowd who also found time to stream Nervous Like Me the fantastic new record from Cayetana. Great full album streams weren’t the only things to come out of the last few days, though, in addition to a memorable Pavement cover from PAWS, there were also great new songs from Purling Hiss, Nude Beach, and WULFS. Visually, there was an endearing The Adventures of Pete and Pete homage from Diarrhea Planet and two arresting black-and-white clips that came courtesy of Girl Band and Philadelphia’s Queen Jesus.  It’s another act from Philadelphia that made the strongest impression and earned the feature spot today, though: the the stunning debut effort of Radiator Hospital bassist Jon Rybicki’s collaborative project, Attendant.

It’s not uncommon to note that there’s an absurd amount of great music out there that’s overlooked for any number of reasons but it’s always nice to know that sometimes everything lines up and music that may have otherwise gone unnoticed gets an extra push thanks to the people involved. This especially stands true for Attendant’s Freaking Out which features contributions from a murderer’s row of Philadelphia/NYC-based musicians. Mikey Cantor, Radiator Hospital, and Swearin’ (among others) all get a good bit of representation here, lending their considerable talents to one hell of a debut, helping raise an emerging musician’s profile in the process. Rybicki grounds all of these songs with no shortage of gravitas and conviction, mining similar influences to the ones that are so clearly evident in his friends’ projects.

While all of that would likely have proven more than enough to get Freaking Out by, what really puts it over the top is its attention to detail. The production, sequencing, and mastering on this is near-flawless, advancing the release’s personality without being distracting. In terms of composition, it’s frequently thrilling, with songs like the hard-charging “Saturday” providing bursts of near-uncontrollable energy. With all of this taken into account, it’s probably not too surprising that one of Freaking Out‘s closest relatives seems to be Dinosaur Jr.’s classic Bug. Acoustic guitars often provide a base template for each of these seven songs, while shoegaze-leaning levels of reverb and distortion get added to create a sound that’s becoming increasingly prominent in DIY punk circles- one that recognizes the value of looking to the past to push ahead.

That retro-influenced modernity goes a long way in informing Freaking Out, which makes no qualms about utilizing everything at it’s disposal. Every song on here contains at least a few moments of genuine brilliance, whether in the form of lyrics (“I just wanted to be the other people on the bus” is one of the most haunting lines to come out of 2014) or in the song’s structures or compositions. As if all that weren’t enough, it’s varied enough to ensure the listener’s attention and compelling enough to warrant their investment. None of these songs ever eclipse the three minute mark, either, rendering it even more accessible.Yet, despite it’s short run-time, Freaking Out feels like a fully-formed work from a veteran songwriter.

More than a few critics have said that to really gauge an album’s strengths, there should be an extra amount of consideration given to their mid-section. It’s easy to make strong opening and closing cases but it can be difficult to maintain that consistency across a wider spread. In this respect, Freaking Out has virtually no issues. “Dishwasher”, “Call Me Back”, and “Solar Shack” are all mixtape-worthy entries, each holding their own strengths in Rybicki’s frequently mid-tempo world weariness. Even with that taken into consideration, it’d be difficult not to note that a few of Freaking Out‘s best moments do come in the final two songs. From the trumpet-assisted downstroke onslaught of “I Won’t Try to Change Your Mind” to the guest-heavy celebration that is the record’s finale.

In that respect, “Wax Pages” does feel like an appropriate end-cap to a release that seemed determined to extol the virtues of healthy collaboration. Jeff Bolt (of Swearin’ and Radiator Hospital) takes over on drums, Sam Cook-Parrott (Radiator Hospital), Cynthia Schemmer (also of Radiator Hospital), and Kyle Gilbride (of Swearin’) all handle backing vocals, while Mikey Cantor takes a solo and all of them seem maniacally driven by Rybicki, who lent his vocals, guitar work, and bass (in spots) to the songs he wrote. To that end, it almost feels celebratory despite it’s heaviness (and make no mistake, this is a relatively heavy record in both terms of sound and subject matter). Packaged all together, the end result is something that feels oddly alive and utterly unique, even with an army of recognizable influences worn proudly on its sleeve. If it doesn’t find a home on one label or another, it’ll come as a shock. Freaking Out is one of 2014’s best surprises.

Stream Freaking Out below and download it on Attendant’s bandcamp.