Heartbreaking Bravery

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Shea Stadium: It’s Not Over Yet

While the Kickstarter drive to help secure Shea Stadium was wildly successful in terms of generating fiscal resources (nearly $100,000) for the beloved DIY Brooklyn venue, their fight’s only just beginning. The musical haven and cultural staple of Brooklyn’s landlords essentially refused the option of renewal to those running its operation, citing plans to convert the lower space into a nightclub as a reason for withholding the required signature to keep Shea Stadium alive at 20 Meadow St.

However, the Kickstarter campaign wasn’t the only thing funding the venue’s efforts of a greater revival. All of the people who had a hand in running Shea Stadium are resolved, now more than ever, to keep Shea Stadium going. The relocation costs provide a much steeper challenge than what would’ve been required to keep the venue alive on 20 Meadow St. and while the Kickstarter certainly helped, Exploding In Sound Records (who have maintained a very close relationship with the venue over the years) recently announced Exploding In Sound: Live at Shea Stadium.

Exploding In Sound: Live at Shea Stadium‘s a compilation of the best live cuts from the venue by the bands that have had a working relationship with the label and all of the proceeds will be directed towards the re-opening of Shea Stadium. To offer a glimpse of what’s on the tape, the label’s offered up a characteristically invigorating Pile performance, which sees the band tearing through “Baby Boy”. It’s a tantalizing preview of what’s destined to be one of the year’s most essential compilations.

In joining the communal outpouring of affection that’s swelled up around Shea Stadium, I’ve compiled all of the Heartbreaking Bravery videos that I personally shot at the venue over the summer of 2015, a near 50-video playlist which includes performances from the following: Attic Abasement, Charly Bliss, Diet Cig, Pupppy, Rivergazer, Clearance, Leapling, Lost Boy ?, Mumblr, Eskimeaux, Mitski, PWR BTTM, Model Train Wreck, Fern Mayo, Fruit & Flowers, Boytoy, & Sharkmuffin. It’s those kind of acts that inspired a loyal following that eventually became something greater: a legitimate community that’s ready to rally behind what’s developed into one of New York’s most important — and necessary — musical institutions. Buy that Exploding In Sound compilation here and revisit some highlights from the venue circa summer 2015 below.

PWR BTTM – LOL (Stream)

Over the years, PWR BTTM have earned themselves a novella’s worth of praise from this site. Throughout that time, like every great band tends to, they’ve grown considerably better and have managed to fearlessly push themselves in new, unexpected directions. Pageant, by all accounts, is the band’s boldest statement yet and it’s anchored by songs like “LOL”, which may just be their career highlight. While all of PWR BTTM’s songs have a considerable amount of merit, it’s when they’re at their most vulnerable and frail that the impact deepens.

As great and as necessary as their triumphant songs are, the wounded honesty in songs like “LOL” have the kind of vitality that can legitimately save lives. Judging from a handful of stories, reactions, and confessions that the band’s music has prompted from their listeners, that sentiment’s not as hyperbolic as one might think. In this particular case, Ben Hopkins turns the knife inward and offers up an exacting, incisive take on their own identity and the self-discovery that defined that path.

The composition itself ranks among the most audacious of the band’s career, making room for everything from a tasteful horn chart to operatic backing vocals, while Hopkins delivers a deeply felt vocal. “LOL” culminates in a cathartic final sequence that may be the heaviest thing the band’s ever recorded, lending an already-powerful moment even more weight. “LOL” proves the band’s ready and willing to keep moving forward and at the end of the day, there’s not a lot that’s more important than the kind of commitment that requires. It’s difficult to imagine that there won’t be a devoted army of people offering encouragement at every step, with band and audience locked into a cycle of the kind of compassion, empathy, and understanding that the world desperately needs.

Listen to “LOL” below and pre-orded Pageant from Polyvinyl here.

Another Two Weeks Worth of Music Videos

Over the course of the past two weeks, an impressive slew of music videos have fought their way out into the world. While a very select few will be highlighted in the very near-future, it’d be inexcusable to dismiss the titles below without any recognition whatsoever. Provided that time wasn’t such a restrictive issue, each and every one of these would be receiving a feature write-up dedicated to analyzing what makes them great. Truly, each one of these clips is more than worth several viewings, so stop reading and start clicking. Who knows? This pool might just contain a few new favorites. Enjoy.

Charly BlissGirlpool, Hovvdy, Bad Moves, The Seams, PWR BTTM, Palehound, Aye Nako, Dude York, Wilding, Big Eyes, Alien Boy, Juliana Hatfield, B Boys, Big Thief, Monster Movie, Baked, Clipping., The New Year, Dead Leaf Echo, Craig Finn, Sparks, Wolf People, Sloan Peterson, The Calm Fiasco, Hoops, Pontiak, Toro Y Moi, Dream Wife, Slowdive, The Drums, Arc Flash, LT Wade, Shit Girlfriend, Nana Grizol, Plastic Flowers, R. Ring, Future Islands, Reptaliens, INVSN, Sharkmuffin, Marcus Norberg and the Disappointments, Lexie RothStolen Jars (x2)

Bridges and Powerlines, Beach Fossils, Blonde Summer, Communions, The Wild Reeds, Little Star, Circle, Emotional, Boyhood, Akinyemi, Winstons, Souvenir Driver (x2), Hand Habits, Boss Hog, Grace Sings Sludge, Leather Girls, Trementina, Mutts, Kamikaze Girls, Hermano Stereo, Sleep Party People, Explosions In The Sky, The Buttertones, Tall Tall Trees, No Kill, Skaters, Mise en Scene, Danny Brown, Rubblebucket, Bleached, C Duncan, Slow Turismo, Conor Oberst, ShitKid, Aldous Harding, Gorillaz, Small Black, A Tribe Called Quest, and Michael Kiwanuka.

Watch This: The Best of 2017’s First Quarter, Pt. III

The first two parts of this four-part series shedding light on some of the finest live videos to see the light of the day over 2017’s first three months largely focused on single song takes, with a few two-song performances for good measure. The latter two of this series turns the attention to full sessions. Part three, specifically, focuses on long takes of these sessions encompassed in a single video, an area that places like KEXP — who are featured here multiple times — have wisely made their calling card. All of the performances and bands featured in this third installment of this review are worthy of celebration. So, as always, get excited, try to keep calm, lean in, hit play, and Watch This.


1. Car Seat Headrest (KEXP)
3. Sad13 (WKNC)
4. Cloud Nothings (KEXP)
5. Mannequin Pussy (Audiotree)
6. Hazel English (Rough Trade)
7. Alvvays (CBC Music)
8. Big Thief (NPR)
9. The Spirit of the Beehive (WKNC)
10. Jeff Rosenstock (Little Elephant)
11. Crying (Audiotree)
12. Priests (PressureDrop.tv)
13. Lee Fields & The Expressions (KEXP)
14. Horse Jumper of Love (Audiotree)
15. Angel Olsen (KEXP)
16. The Regrettes (PressureDrop.tv)
17. Thee Oh Sees (KEXP)
18. Mall Walk (PressureDrop.tv)
19. Los Campesinos! (KEXP)
20. Fai Baba (KEXP)
21. Terry Malts (PressureDrop.tv)
22. Haley Bonar (KEXP)
23. Let’s Eat Grandma (KEXP)
24. Valgeir Sigurðsson & Jodie Landau (KEXP)
25. Explosions In The Sky (Moshcam)

Watch This: The Honorable Mentions of 2017’s First Quarter

Over the course of 2017’s opening three months, a lot of great material was released. Naturally, the most abundantly rich category wasn’t simply songs, music videos, or full releases, it was live videos. It’s been quite some time since the last Watch This ran on this site, an oversight being amended tonight, and in that time scores of great clips have surfaced. Below is an extensive list of some of the finest to have emerged over that time and all of which are more than worth the their runtimes. Of course, it’d be impossible to watch all of these in one sitting, so feel free to bookmark the page and sift through the selections whenever the feeling takes

Mitski, Jay Som, The Walkmen, Kississippi, SUÐNE-HI, Kamasi WashingtonMonica LaPlante, Tokyo Police Club, Money, Tank and the Bangas, Mary LynnCanshaker Pi, Allah-LasYeeshCommunionsHurray for the Riff Raff, Andy Shauf, Blue Rodeo, MOON, Temples, Born Ruffians,  Justin Vernon & Sean Carey, L.A. Salami (x2, 3), Bruno BavotaHórmónar, Mustard Gas and Roses, Pinegrove, Jean-Michael Blais & CFCF, Dude York (x2), Bash & Pop, Nail Polish, Ron Gallo, Lume, Slaughter Beach, Dog

Craig Finn (x2, 3), Honeyblood, Middle Kids (x2), No Parents, The Molochs, The Black Watch, Sløtface (x2), Looming, Lemuria, Campdogzz, Black Marble Selection, Clara Clara, ELLA, American Wrestlers (x2), The Coathangers, Outer SpacesSam Kogon (x2), Lilah Larson, Michal Pydo, Old 97s (x2, 3), Lizzo (x2), The Madcaps, Snail Mail, The Mysterons, Subcutanea, Holy Tunics, Hamilton Leithauser (x2, 3), Alex Lahey, GreyfaceAxel Flóvent, Diarrhea Planet, Peter Silberman, Luxury Death, Suburban Living

Microwave, The Cigarette Bums, RoyaCarinea, The Orions, Secret Crush, Tyrone Cotton, Fast Romantics, Izzy True (x2), Hand Habits, Priests (x2), Reality Something, Frances Cone, Moss, White Mystery, Tennis, Louie Louie, Adna, Let’s Eat Grandma, Kite Base, Twin Limb, Ty Segall, Morus Alba, Odd Robot, Coals, The New Pornographers (x2), VANT, Shame, Sierra Hull, MOON, Rose Cousins (x2, 3), Food Court, Grace Joyner, Mrs., Michael Nau, Nikki Lane (x2, 3), FIDLAR (x2, 3), The Melvins, Skyway Man, Big Eyes

Cherry Glazerr (x2), BAB, Savoy Motel (x2, 3), Laura Marling (x2), Mikey Erg, Thumpers, Fishbach, Emma Ruth Rundle, Horse Thief (x2), Black Marble, The Album Leaf (x2), Wet Lips, Bev Rage and the Drinks, Her Again, Esme Patterson, Death and Memphis, Nancy Pants, Mirel Wagner, John Doe, The Two Tens, Avi Buffalo, Lisa Hannigan, Andy Shauf, Mark Eitzel (x2), Marching Church, Chris Farren, Ahem, Cloud Nothings, BABY, Sweet Crude, Chicano Batman, Rubblebucket, Looks Like Mountains, Ladywolf

Black Joe Lewis and the Honeybears, Dead Man Winter (x2), Good DoomTÖLVA, Monobody, The Shacks, Fleurie, Molotoy, Parlor Walls, YDIMITU, The Gotobeds, Peacock Affect, Austra (x2), Dave Brannigan, Papier Tigre, Elephant Stone, You Blew It, Grand Parc, PAVVLA, Alice Jemima, Dusk (x2), Jens Lekman, PWR BTTM, Melkbelly, Nail Polish, Leif Vollebek, Shull, Jennifer Niceley, House of Wolves, Chuck Prophet, Fair City Fire, The Reptilian, Lil Sluggers, Mint Green, Local Natives, Henry Jamison

The Sonics, Nocturnal Habits, Julia Lucille, Loamlands, Halldór Eldjárn, The Hill Country Devil, DakaBrakha, The Chinchees, Oddissee, Way Worse, BADBADNOTGOOD, Tenfold, The Staves, The Vaughns, Sunflower Bean, Flasher, Weyes Blood, Charlotte Cardin, Mammút, Benjaminto, Naked Giants (x2), Hippo Campus, Delicate Steve (x2), White Reaper, Gurr, Muncie Girls, Julien Doré, Birdtalker, Mario Batkovic, Seu Jorge, Ace Henderson, Nudity, High Waisted, John Craigie, Sammus (x2, 3), Beach Slang

45ACIDBABIES (x2), Fiona Silver, Calico, Viagra Boys, Fox and the Acres, The Veils, Anna McLukie, Iguana Death Cult, Sad13 (x2), DIA, Hospital Job, Katie Ellen, Albin de la Simone, Nick Hakim, Holy Pinto, Nessi Gomes, Radio Eliza, Michigan Rattlers, Wallacy Willians e os Besouros, Dæphne, The Mysterons, Cincin, Listener, Rykarda Parasol, Magic Bronson, (T-T)b, Tourists, Foxing, Eyukalpitus, Twin Lords, Dijon, Red Baraat, Dan Layus, Camp Claude, Solilians, Andy Svarthol, Octave Noire, Benoît Lizen

Bishop Nehru, No Win, Hits Like A Girl, Sauna Accident, Bullet Points, Golden Grands, Strand of Oaks (x2, 3), The Singing Butcher, Fishbone, See Gulls, Santoros, Burn Fetish, Wildwood Kin, Noam Pikelny, Alejandro y Maria Laura, Gang of Four, RLLBLL, Star Anna, Industrial Revelation, Lohai, And Also the Trees, Bror Gunnar Jansson, Jealous of the Birds, Star Parks, Shawn Fogel, Joel and Bill Plaskett, Ess See, Edna Vazquez, Plastic Picnic, Rodney Crowell, Mother Mother, Molly Burch (x2, 3), Blind Pilot

The Kraken Quartet, Fraea, Other SunsNina Diaz & Luz Elena Mendoza, Alexandra Savior, The Big Pink, From Indian Lakes, Mike Wexler, Nimrod, Tyte Jeff, Mega Bog, Big Star’s Third, Robyn Hitchcock, Strange Americans, Clap Your Hands Say Yeah, Community Daughter, Severin Bells, Talmud Beach, Timber Timbre, Tall Heights, Tim Kasher, Sundara Karma, Guantanamo Baywatch, STEVENSTEVEN, ZenSoFly, asdfhg., Olivensteins, Becca Stevens, Grandaddy, Bad Licks, Maren Morris, The Memories, Sloucher

Klangstof, Moses Hightower, Les Aventures de President Bongo, Kite Base, Barbagallo, Mike Doughty, The Pukes, Mothers, Tom Tukker, Modern English, American Football, Kristin Hersh, Christopher Paul Stelling, Yasmine Hamdan, Candy Ambulance, Amelia Curran, Dane Terry, Midijoyful, Drumbeat Red, Jesca Hoop, South City Revival, The Awful Truth, Ages and Ages, and The Spring Standards.

The Best Music Videos of 2017’s First Quarter

Being the type of place that’s always been as concerned with film (even if it hasn’t always been so visible in print) as new music releases, music videos occupy a special distinction. To that effect, it’s probably not too surprising that 50 clips are featured in this piece. Some being celebrated for the technicality present in the filmmaking, some for being a perfectly complementary marriage of sight and sound, and some for being commendable takes on the source material. Lyric videos, music videos, and interactive videos are all represented below in the featured videos, split up into two playlists. This is a very varied package celebrating a large handful of some of the best independent-minded artists and filmmakers currently gifting their efforts to the world at large. Dive in and enjoy.


1. Charly Bliss – Percolator
2. Doe – Monopoly
3. Hiccup – Teasin’
4. Meat Wave – Run You Out
5. Pissed Jeans – The Bar Is Low
6. Cloud Nothings – Internal World
7. Yeesh – End Results
8. Parquet Courts – Outside
9. Cayetana – Mesa
10. PWR BTTM – Answer My Text
11. Yucky Duster – Elementary School Dropout
12. Beachheads – Moment of Truth
13. Kane Strang – Oh So You’re Off I See
14. Billy Moon – I W K
15. Idles – Mother
16. Cass McCombs – I’m A Shoe
17. Angel Olsen – Pops
18. Ruth Carp and the Fish Heads – I’m So Scared
19. Dominic – Emotional Businessman
20. R Ring – Cutter
21. Zuzu – What You Want
22. Snail Mail – Thinning
23. CARE – Solitude
24. WHY? – This Ole King
25. Mount Eerie – Ravens



1. Jeff Rosenstock – Pash Rash
2. Alexander F – Call Me Pretty
3. Idles – Stendahl Syndrome
4. Split Single – Untry Love
5. Tim Darcy – Still Waking Up
6. Diet Cig – Tummy Ache
7. R Ring – 100 Dollar Heat
8. Poppies – Mistakes
9. PWR BTTM – Big Beautiful Day
10. LVL UP – Blur
11. Sløtface – Empire Records
12. Vundabar – Shuffle
13. WHY? – Proactive Evolution
14. Vallens – Sin So Vain
15. Baked – Danelectroladyland
16. Tashaki Miyaki – City
17. Girlpool – 123
18. Chemtrails – Aeons
19. Summer Twins – Stop & Go
20. John Andrews & The Yawns – Drivers
21. The Chinchees – Gorp
22. Mo Troper – Cooler
23. Conor Oberst – Till St. Dymphna Kicks Us Out
24. Strand of Oaks – Cry
25. Craig Finn – God In Chicago

16 of ’16: The Best Songs of the Year


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.


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

16 of ’16: The Best Music Videos of the Year


It’s been a while since anything’s run on this site but, as always, everything that’s being put on the table is being assessed and evaluated. A Year’s Worth of Memories‘ third edition is just around the corner but before those recollections begin, it only seems fair to take a look back at the best of what 2016 had to offer. This will be the first year where a numerical rankings system is abandoned, a decision that wasn’t made lightly but is being enforced for a variety of reasons specific to this over-stuffed year (meaning that the numerical rankings system may appear again roughly 12 months from now).

For whatever reason, music videos are largely viewed by the general public as having fallen out of favor, which is a genuine shame considering what’s being done with the form. Lemonade seemed to revive some interest and open up potential possibilities for the future but it’s still a format that the public’s left by the wayside. Here at Heartbreaking Bravery, the best of these have been traditionally celebrated because they represent the perfect marriage of music and film. 2016 presented a whole new slate of incredible material, headlined by an unbelievable string of videos from Minor Victories and PUP, that were worth praising.

Here are 16 of the best clips to have appeared throughout the year.

Kevin Morby – Dorothy

Christopher Good has directed a handful of videos that have been featured on this site over the years but may have turned in a career best with Kevin Morby’s “Dorothy“. Embracing Morby’s open road aesthetics, Good allows “Dorothy” to gracefully coast along at a breezy pace, infusing it with an inordinate amount of perfect cues and tongue-in-cheek humor. It’s sublime craftsmanship that not only complements but elevates its already-great source material.

Courtney Barnett – Elevator Operator

After cracking last year’s music video list with the jaw-dropping clip for “Kim’s Caravan”, Courtney Barnett makes another appearance thanks to the fascinating, cameo-heavy video for “Elevator Operator“. Blending Barnett’s signature wit with a staggering moment of quiet existentialism that arrives out of nowhere, “Elevator Operator” sees the celebrated songwriter aiming for new heights and reaching a stratospheric level.

John K. Samson – Postdoc Blues

Former Weakerthans bandleader John K. Samson made an incredibly welcome return with 2016’s outstanding Winter Wheat. One of that record’s highlights, “Postdoc Blues“, received the music video treatment and is the rare clip that benefits from an incredibly direct and literal simplicity. Created for a good cause and executed to a characteristically unassuming brand of perfection, “Postdoc Blues” is a breath of fresh air.

Parquet Courts – Human Performance

No music video from 2016 proved to be more grotesquely haunting than Parquet Courts‘ oddly disturbed, puppet-driven clip for “Human Performance“. It’s intensely human, ridiculously unnerving, and extremely hard to shake. “Human Performance” props up its own ugliness in an effectively defiant act of genuinely brave showmanship. A singular piece from a fascinating directorial voice, “Human Performance” wound up as one of 2016’s most fascinating moments.

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

Easily one of 2016’s best songs, Cymbals Eat Guitars‘ “4th of July, Philadelphia (SANDY)” also served as one of the year’s best music videos. Shot through with nostalgia and an abundance of feeling, “4th of July, Philadelphia (SANDY)” managed the impossible task of both referencing an indisputable classic and standing on its own. A perfect marriage of lyric video and traditional music video, Cymbals Eat Guitars may have created something bordering on timeless.

LVL UP – The Closing Door

The first major music video effort from LVL UP came courtesy of House of Nod, who were given the unenviable task of capturing the searing spiritual search present all throughout the band’s latest effort, Return to Love, and turned in an absolute gem. “The Closing Door” relies heavily on imagery and metaphor but never seems anything less than grounded. “The Closing Door” climaxes in a beautiful final sequence that’s moving, hopeful, and reassuring, three things that become sorely necessary in a difficult year.

Potty Mouth – Smash Hit

There are a lot of ways a music video can achieve greatness, whether it be through breathtaking visuals, inspired direction, a memorable concept, by complementing the song, or, in the case of Potty Mouth‘s “Smash Hit“, being astonishingly representative of the band.  An effective mix of glitz, glamour, and grit, “Smash Hit” finds the trio vamping for the cameras and giving a tenacious central performance. It’s an exhilarating burst from a band that’s attained an assured confidence.

Vagabon – The Embers

“The Embers” served as site favorites Vagabon‘s introduction-at-large for a sizable audience and it’s one hell of an introduction. Utilizing a visual style that’s not too distant from Destin Daniel Cretton’s Short Term 12 (one of the best films of this young century), “The Embers” is immediately gripping. The empowering, symbolism-heavy narrative is as striking as the imagery and all of it clicks into something that verges on the transcendental. In short: it’s unmissable.

Japanese Breakfast – Everybody Wants to Love You

Another clip from the inimitable House of Nod, Japanese Breakfast‘s “Everybody Wants to Love You” popped up on many of these year-end music video lists and it’s incredibly easy to see why. A celebration of heritage and individuality as well as a moving tribute to a deceased parent, “Everybody Wants to Love You” is loaded with sincerity and meaning. Vibrant with the faintest touch of melancholy, it’s an unforgettable demonstration of personal strength and unerring resolve.

Dilly Dally – Snakehead

Likely the funniest music video to be released in 2016, Dilly Dally‘s “Snakehead” music video skewers its own format at every turn, while clearly being a meticulously crafted clip born out of a deep love and understanding of music videos. Biting captions, self-aware performances, and contextual knowledge make “Snakehead” obscenely endearing and skyrocket its worth in the process. Pointed, snarky, and a hell of a lot of fun, “Snakehead” is nothing less than a knockout.

PWR BTTM – West Texas

2016 was a very kind year for PWR BTTM and one of the duo’s opening shots was the sweeping music video for “West Texas”. Epic in scope and unapologetic in its cinematic debt, “West Texas” is a swaggering blast of bravado that touches on just about everything that’s made PWR BTTM so beloved in such a short amount of time. The identity politics, the showmanship, the willingness to be subversive, and the ability to string everything together with fiendishly sly, self-aware humor.

Hazel English – Never Going Home

Hazel English delivered one of the year’s best EP’s with the exceedingly lovely Never Going Home, which boasted a title track that received an absolutely gorgeous visual accompaniment. While the lyric video for “I’m Fine“, the studio clip for “It’s Not Real“, and the clip for “Control” all merited individual consideration for this list, it was the soft lensing and natural, delicate charm of “Never Going Home” that made the deepest impression. It casts a spell that’s worthy of a complete surrender.

Mitski – Happy

Part of a trio of impressive Mitski clips (including “Your Best American Girl” and “A Burning Hill“), “Happy” packed a powerful enough punch to secure the spot on this list. Paying homage to heritage, race relations, historical tension, military occupation, and a bevvy of classic films,  Maegan Houang brings a fiery directorial touch to an outstanding concept and executes with staggering purpose. By the time “Happy” winds to an end, it’s difficult to wish for anything other than an expansion into a feature length film.

Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds – Trio

While Angel Olsen, The Avalanches, and DJ Shadow (ft. Run the Jewels) were among some of the bigger names making genuinely outstanding music videos, what filmmaker Andrew Dominik accomplished with his clips of Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds playing a trio of clips (“I Need You“, “Jesus Alone“, and “Girl In Amber“) from the band’s shattering Skeleton Tree simply can’t be ignored. This is both performance and performance filmmaking of the highest possible level.

Minor Victories – Cogs (Orchestral Variation)

Only one band could rival what Minor Victories achieved in the music video format in 2016 (but we’ll get to that band in a moment). Minor Victories aggressively established an arresting visual aesthetic and turned in an incredible number of clips that could have very easily wound up in this spot. “Cogs“, “Folk Arp“, “Scattered Ashes (Song for Richard)“, “A Hundred Ropes“, “Breaking My Light“, and “Give Up the Ghost (Orchestral Variation)” were all gripping in various ways, making the most of crisp black-and-white cinematography. Their finest moment, however, came with the release of “Cogs (Orchestral Variation)“, an expansive, intimate character study and the band’s most ambitious offering to date. It’s harrowing, it’s riveting, and it’s easily one of the best clips of 2016.


PUP – Sleep in the Heat

In 2013, PUP‘s “Reservoir” topped the year-end music video list I contributed to PopMatters. In 2014, PUP’s “Guilt Trip” topped this site’s very first year-end music videos list. In 2015, PUP managed to crack the year-end music video list once again with “Dark Days“. This year, the band continued an unprecedented run of dominance in the format with no less than three legitimate year-end contenders, each wildly different from the other.

From the playful, game-happy lyric clip for “DVP” to the relentless shock-and-awe brutality of the terrifyingly-named “If This Tour Doesn’t Kill You, I Will“, the band was firing on all cylinders. Still, none of that could’ve been adequate preparation for what they and director Jeremy Schaulin-Rioux achieved with “Sleep in the Heat”, a successor to “Guilt Trip” that came several years after filming on “Guilt Trip” wrapped- and after “Guilt Trip” star Finn Wolfhard landed another lucrative starring role in Netflix’s Stranger Things.

Just as “If This Tour Doesn’t Kill You, I Will” intercut footage of “Reservoir” to establish a sense of history to ground its narrative and supply additional meaning, “Sleep in the Heat” opens with the startlingly vivid footage of its natural predecessor. The actors that were assembled in “Guilt Trip” resume their posts as stand-in’s for PUP’s members in their earlier days and each of them — particularly Wolfhard, who turns in what’s easily the best work of his burgeoning career in this clip — give committed performances.

Taking on the role of a scrappy touring band, the young cast find themselves navigating the frequently dire circumstances that are all too familiar to anyone that’s ever hopped in a van to drive four hours to play a show in a basement to five people. There’s a sense of lived-in realism that bolsters everything in the clip, which seeps in from the onset and never relinquishes its hold. Early on, “Sleep in the Heat” takes a curious turn when a stray dog takes a shining to the band’s food and follows them to their next brief stop, endearing itself to the band to the point where they bring it on board as a rescue.

Here’s where the narrative crux of “Sleep in the Heat” — a song written about guitarist/vocalist Stefan Babcock’s deceased chameleon — begins to sink in and all anyone can do is prepare for devastation. Not too long after that sudden, sinking realization, things in the video begin to get bleak. The dog gets sick and needs a surgical procedure, unable to cover the expense, Wolfhard (as the young Babcock) pawns a guitar mid-tour to provide for the animal that’s quickly become a new best friend. The surgery goes forward but it isn’t enough.

In one of the most emotionally shattering music video montages of recent memory, the band members of PUP are photographed holding their own deceased pets, lending a heartbreaking reality to an already emotionally charged clip. Several stages of the process of dealing with death all collide at once and it’s a forceful, resonant moment that immediately registers as singular.

As brilliant as that moment is, it’s not until the final passage where everything’s really driven home. Wolfhard’s back to the front of the band, guitar slung across his body once more (a perfect shot revealing he’d broken through the pawn shop glass to steal it back is just one of many grace notes scattered throughout the clip), looking delirious, hollow, and broken as footage of the wounded dog being tended to is intercut with Wolfhard overcome with emotion while screaming the song’s final chorus: Yesterday I went back to my apartment to see how you’d been holding up, you hadn’t been eating, I thought you were sleeping but you’re not waking up. I want you to know that I’d spend every bit of my pitiful savings and loans just to see you again… but I know I won’t.

The screen fades to black and resumes after a brief pause only to reveal rocks being piled on top of a freshly-dug patch of dirt. The camera pulls back and reveals one word, spray painted on the rock pile’s surface: PUP. Another pause and another cut to black occurs before “Sleep in the Heat” offers one final nod to its prequel and closes with a shot of the van moving forward down an open road, looking ahead to new triumphs, heartbreak, and everything else life has to offer. 

Watch This: Vol. 147

After a brief hiatus, Watch This returns with another two-part installment focusing on the outstanding live videos to have emerged from last Monday through last Sunday.  Japanese Breakfast, Mikey Erg, Quarterbacks, Okkervil River, The Tallest Man On Earth, Robbing Millions, Busman’s Holiday, Sarah White, Ages and Ages, The Aviary, Jamie T, Xenia Rubinos, Tycho, Misimplicity, Local Natives, Naked Giants, and Yonatan Gat were all responsible for notable entries while the five featured clips were genuine standouts. From fresh faces to beloved veterans, there’s a lot to explore. So, as always, sit up, lean in, adjust the volume, focus, and Watch This.

1. Gurr – Walnuss (Auf Klo)

Following up their run through “Moby Dick” that was featured in the last installment of this series, another clip of Gurr playing in a bathroom stall finds its way to a featured slot. Just as endearing and just as heartfelt this round, the ascendant duo delivers a lively take of “Walnuss“. Building on a momentum swing, the band should find their name growing increasingly more recognizable as the year pushes forward.

2. Haley Bonar (NPR)

Haley Bonar has been featured on this series a few times in the past but the songwriter’s in rare form for this Tiny Desk Concert. A genuinely gorgeous run through a set of songs, Bonar exerts a nuanced control that enlivens every second of this session. One of the strongest Tiny Desks of the year, it’s a beautiful showcase of a musician whose finally starting to get due credit.

3. Feels (Pressuredrop.tv)

For the past few years, Feels have been steadily building up an impressive name for themselves through a solid discography and explosive live shows. The latter bit of that formula is expertly documented here in a fiery full session for Pressuredrop.tv. From song to song, Feels sink their teeth into their material and give it their all. As a result, they wind up with one of the more exhilarating full sessions in recent memory.

4. PWR BTTM – All the Boys (The Wild Honey Pie)

Over the past few years, PWR BTTM have become one of the most written-about artists on this site. One of the biggest reasons for this occurrence is the band’s incredible live show. While it’s been lovingly portrayed in the past by several outlets, none of those entries have come close to being as beautifully shot as this take of “All the Boys” for The Wild Honey Pie’s Buzzsessions. A gorgeously lensed clip, “All the Boys” also manages to capture the band’s infectious spirit and undeniable charisma, becoming one of the most definitive portrayals of the band to date.

5. Charles Bradley (Strombo Sessions)

Earlier this month, the music community was hit with tragic news: Charles Bradley, a figure that’s been embraced by an adoring public that stretch multiple genres, was diagnosed with stomach cancer. One of the most inspirational figures in music, the Screamin’ Eagle of Soul was also a regular staple of this series. As a result, there’s a twinge of heartbreak running through this beautiful full session for the Strombo Sessions. Bradley’s characteristic exuberance winds up tipping the scales back to something genuinely heartening before the clip hits its close and provides the proceedings with a sense of genuine triumph. As a whole, it’s a deeply important portrait of one of the most gifted songwriters — and pure performers — of recent memory. Give it the kind of love and attention it (and Bradley) deserves.

PWR BTTM – I Wanna Boi (Music Video)


Only a very select few acts have been featured on this site more times than PWR BTTM.  They’ve been a consistent staple of Heartbreaking Bravery’s coverage for nearly two years and it’s been a privilege to watch them grow as artists and performers, not just because it allowed insight to their artistic growth, but because it’s offered the opportunity to watch them grow more comfortable with their position — and their skin — as well. A lot of the duo’s music has centered around their identity and they’ve become outspoken advocates for the LGBTQ+ community that they call home.

They’ve grown progressively more committed to those roles through their music videos, using the format as a way to advance their message in the most clear and concise terms possible. In that regard, “I Wanna Boi”, their most recent clip — and one of Ugly Cherries‘ brightest moments — may be their most effective clip to date. “I Wanna Boi” mostly ceneters on Liv Bruce vamping around a classic Victorian Gothic house, mouthing the words to the song. As with all of PWR BTTM’s work, there’s a nakedly direct sense of personality that the suffuses the work, emboldened by the fact Bruce co-directed the clip with Anneliese Cooper,

Boasting an enticing central performance, gorgeous visuals (courtesy of cinematographer Emily Dubin), and a healthy dose of attitude, “I Wanna Boi” quickly becomes one of 2016’s most compelling videos. Everything that gets worked into the clip, from a brief scooter run outside to a blow-up doll as a stand-in for an unknown romantic lead, pushes “I Wanna Boi” to increasing levels of greatness. There’s not a false move to be found throughout the clip’s run and “I Wanna Boi” winds up as one of the band’s most thrillingly complete works as a result. Shot through with pathos and levity, it’s a perfect document of one of today’s most important bands.

Watch “I Wanna Boi” below and download Ugly Cherries here.