Heartbreaking Bravery

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Tag: PWR BTTM

Watch This: Vol. 144

To ease Watch This back into its regularly scheduled rotation, the following will focus on the two weeks that occurred after the last installment was published. In that time, Acapulco Lips (x2), Wasted On You, Chain of Flowers, Pinegrove, Peter Bjorn and John, Sunbathe, Good Personalities, Bad Cop / Bad Cop, Claire Cottrill, The Brokedowns, Kississippi, Haley Bonar, Billie Marten, Bayonne (x2), Entrance, Lush (x2), The Blank Tapes, JFDR, The Frights, Teleman, The Districts, Doe, Marissa Nadler, Joshua Bell & Jeremy Denk, No Honeymoon, Aaron & Bryce Dessner with Ben Lanz and Boys Noize, BlackGlass, The Minders, Super Furry Animals, Kristin Kontrol, Tenement, Queen of Jeans, Michael Kiwanuka, Breanna Barbara, Corbu, All People, Boss Fight, Margo Price, Titus Andronicus, Brass Bed, Somos, Oliver John-Rodgers, Foxing, The Wombats, and PWR BTTM all found themselves at the center of outstanding performance clips. Competition that strong says more about the strength of the five featured clips that could be conveyed with mere words. All five bands have been featured on the site in the past and the performances range from genuinely exhilarating to utterly devastating. So, as always, sit up, lean in, adjust the volume, block out any excess noise, focus, take a deep breath, and Watch This.

1. Never Young – Soap (Prisma Guitars)

Immediately kicking things back into the highest gear possible is this Prisma Guitars session from site favorites Never Young. Easily one of the most explosive single-song performance clips to ever be featured throughout the 140+ installments of this series, the quartet careens through an adrenaline-inducing take on “Soap” that sees them giving the session their everything. Beautifully shot and presented with an enormous amount of conviction, this is exactly the type of clip that Watch This was built to celebrate.

2. Greys (KEXP)

Greys have made several appearances throughout this series’ run and touring on their recently-released Outer Heaven‘s allowing them even more opportunities to be featured. The band recently stopped by the KEXP studios for a full session that features songs from their past three releases, including their most recent work, Warm Shadow. As always, the band plays with a barely-contained energy, an incredible amount of tenacity, and a deep-seated passion that makes this another vital document of one of today’s most exciting acts.

3. Heliotropes – Primates (BreakThruRadio)

For a few years now, Heliotropes have been quietly carving out an impressive name for themselves, earning the respect of both critics and their peers. Creatively restless and endlessly intriguing, the band continues to impress with this BreakThruRadio performance of “Primates”. It’s a glimpse towards the future the band’s angling towards and it’s impossibly tantalizing. One of their finest songs to date, “Primates” keys in on the band’s wiriest post-punk tendencies and sporadically cuts them to shreds. If this is indicative of the rest of the band’s forthcoming material, start bracing for something genuinely explosive.

4. The Coathangers (KEXP)

The second KEXP session of this installment features The Coathangers, who have been touring hard behind their excellent Nosebleed Weekend. Celebrating both that record and the 20th anniversary of the label that released the record, Suicide Squeeze, finds the band in exceptionally high spirits. All of that culminated in an unshakable, infectious joy that drives this session, making it both immediately accessible and surprisingly memorable. The trio remains in fine form throughout the session, playing with ramshackle glee while maintaining an impressively tight grasp on the songs, creating what could be considered a definitive portrait.

5. Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds – Girl In Amber

After enduring unspeakable loss, Nick Cave allowed filmmaker Andrew Dominik into his creative process to create One More Time With Feeling, a documentary that follows both the creation of Skeleton Tree and Cave’s battle with grief in the wake of his youngest son’s tragic death. It’s excruciatingly heartrending from an outsider’s perspective and Dominik elegantly underscores how unthinkably difficult it’d be to be in that situation. In the third studio video to be released from the project, Cave continues to look completely lost and withdrawn, as if perpetually trying to wrestle his thoughts down.

“Girl In Amber” also expertly incorporates Dominik’s inspired direction and the technical wizardry that went into the 3D, black-and-white filming of One More Time With Feeling. The overall effect’s equal parts haunting and haunted, creating an unforgettable impression. This is a staggering work of bravery and artistry, each colliding with the other to produce something as singular as it is captivating. As the camera circles Cave, surveying his every movement and placing him at the center of swirling uncertainty, Cave repeats “don’t touch me” as the video cuts to black, providing one last breathtaking moment of a miniature masterpiece.

PWR BTTM – New Hampshire (Stream, Live Video)

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For a while now, Benjamin Hopkins has found strength and empowerment through naked vulnerability, a trait that’s on full display with PWR BTTM‘s breathtaking “New Hampshire”. Penned when Hopkins was experiencing a sense of displacement, the track’s gone through various mutations for a few years and has (finally) arrived fully-formed for the UK deluxe edition of Ugly Cherries alongside the astonishing “Projection“.

Easily one of the duo’s gentlest songs — and in small bursts, one of their most gnarled — “New Hampshire” is an intimate look into a fractured psyche. From the onset, Hopkins is grappling with questions of mortality, greeting death with open arms. It’s a brave moment and that bravery doesn’t waver throughout the course of “New Hampshire” as it plunges into the depths of bleak certainty, finding ways to inject it with small grasps at hope.

That “New Hampshire” seems to paint death as a release provides the song with the bruising devastation that’s unified PWR BTTM’s strongest work, allowing some insight to the daily struggles the duo are forced to face in their everyday lives. By being so open about their preferences both Hopkins and Liv Bruce have been walking a double-edged sword as queer ambassadors, receiving celebration and (unfortunately) displaced derision in the process.

It’s a position that’s led the band to become increasingly accustomed to applying their openness and sincerity to a grander scale, which has also inflated the opportunity for confrontation. All of those experiences have been imbuing the band’s recent works and leading to some genuinely beautiful moments after being paired with the duo’s innate musical ability. Even in the smallest touches, like the bell runs or vocal rounds in the second half of “New Hampshire”, the emotive scope is evident.

“New Hampshire” is three and a half minutes of slowly lowering any remaining guards, stepping out into the open, and accepting an ephemeral fate. Tacit and direct in turns, PWR BTTM once again find a way to navigate uncomfortable corners with an unfathomable amount of grace and feeling. It’s an absolutely gorgeous song, even at its most barbed, and effectively demonstrates PWR BTTM’s growing range as artists. Far more than just a bonus track, the song’s both one of PWR BTTM’s strongest moments and one of 2016’s most essential offerings. Wounded, firm, and lovely, “New Hampshire” is unforgettable.

Listen to “New Hampshire” below and watch a video of the band performing the song earlier this year beneath the soundcloud embed. Order Ugly Cherries here.

Watch This: Vol. 135

In just a little over two weeks an insane amount of quality live videos have emerged, featuring the following artists: Ezra Furman, Woods, Day Wave, Joy Again, You Won’t, Kevin Morby, Acapulco Lips, Sonya Kitchell, Houndmouth, Queen of Jeans (x2), Christian Lee Hutson, Terry, John Congleton and the Nighty Nite, Mothers, Robb Young and the Elms, Marc Ribot’s Ceramic Dog, Kalispell (x2), Fear of MenOsekre & The Lucky Bastards, FitsEmily Blue, Henrietta, Adia Victoria, Ubetcha, The Staves (x2), Arc Flash, Michael Nau, Bewilder, The Jayhawks, Slingshot Dakota (x2), Whitney, Vagabon, Quilt, LAYNE, Rye Pines, Minor Victories, Allah-Las, Esme Patterson (x2, 3), Midijoyful, Secret Space, The Mono Jacks, A Dead Forest Index, Explosions in the Sky, Death Valley Girls, Half Waif, The Albert Square, Your Friend, Marlon Williams, Rogue Valley, Metronomy, Gregory Porter, Summer Twins (x2), Surgeons In Heat, Amy Klein, The Belvederes, Frameworks, Oddisee, CHILDREN, Doubles, Gwenno (x2), and Titus Andronicus.

Looking through all of those, it’s impossible to say that this is a bad time for live music (and for the documentation of live music). The overwhelming strength of that above list should indicate that this installment of Watch This will have some extraordinarily strong features. There’s some astonishing talent on display throughout the three full sessions and two individual clips listed below, which include one of the bands that was essential to the site’s foundation and a few fresh faces that have been turning all sorts of heads with their recent work. So, as always, push all the distractions aside, relax, lean in, and Watch This.

1. Tenement – Feral Cat Tribe + Lost Love Star Lust (Set List)

Anyone that’s frequented this site over the time of its existence has seen an unprecedented amount of praise granted to Tenement, a band that was instrumental in providing the building blocks for this site. Over nearly 10 years, I’ve had the surreal privilege of watching the trio develop to the point they’re at today (Rolling Stone recently named them one of the 10 great modern punk bands and the New York Times dedicated an entire podcast installment to the band last year). Here, the band gets to flash their live chops in a session for Wisconsin Public Radio’s Set List series, offering up an impressively powerful pair of tracks that only hint at the band’s astonishing scope.

2. Car Seat Headrest – Fill In The Blank (The Current)

After 2015’s Teens of Style generated quite a bit of momentum for Car Seat Headrest, the solo-project-turned-full-band capitalized on that surge of recognition emphatically with this year’s Teens of Denial. Landing several high-profile festival appearances as a result, the band’s grown gradually tighter over their past few tours. This performance of “Fill In The Blank” for The Current demonstrates that growth and nicely captures the band’s irrepressible drive.

3. PWR BTTM – West Texas + Serving Goffman (WFUV)

Like Tenement, PWR BTTM have become a towering presence in terms of this site’s coverage tendencies, something that came as a direct result of the band’s fiery live show. Here, the band turn in characteristically bold performances of both “West Texas” and “Serving Goffman” for WFUV, perfectly summarized by the half-shocked, half-elated smile that Benjamin Hopkins throws the camera after some errant headphones threaten to momentarily overtake the song. There’s a genuine joy that exists in that moment which the duo have consistently brought to their shows, making them one of the finest live acts on the circuit.

4. Weaves – Human (Low Four)

Weaves have made a habit out of appearing on the Watch This series this year, thanks in large part to the release of their monumental self-titled debut. The quartet recently stopped by the Old Granada Studios to unleash a sharp burst of their hyper-spastic strain of punk-tinged basement pop by way of this inspired run through “Human”, offering a revealing glimpse at their members formidable chops. As fascinating as it is exhilarating, it’s a perfect example of what can be accomplished by thinking a little outside of the typical boundaries.

5. And The Kids – Kick Rocks + Picture (WFUV)

One of the bands that really started to make a push over the past year has been And The Kids, who have seized every opportunity they’ve been given with a startling amount of poise. WFUV recently had the band into their studio and the trio delivered in full, tearing through “Kick Rocks” and “Picture” in a way that likely left several of the studio members jaws agape. Complex and nuanced, the band flawlessly executes a series of hairpin turns, layered harmonies, and language shifts while throwing in a few sly smiles for good measure. It’s an unbelievably impressive performance and more than deserves to close out this edition of Watch This.

Watch This: Ending Another Short Stretch of Static

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We’ve officially arrived at the 950th post of Heartbreaking Bravery, which means it’s time to offer up another mixtape of some sort or another. Since the Watch This series has maintained radio silence over the past two and a half weeks it only felt appropriate to turn to the over-abundance of incredible material that’s surfaced in that time frame. The 25 clips included below range from old favorites to promising new faces, single songs to full sessions, and generally cover the range of what the series was created to support: the very best of the live video platform. It’s unlikely that anyone will watch through the entirety of this packet (as it runs for nearly four hours, if viewed uninterrupted) but it’s worth taking the time to both explore and return to all of the performances contained in Ending Another Short Stretch of Static. So, as always, kick back, focus up, adjust the settings, settle in, and Watch This.

1. Car Seat Headrest – Fill In the Blank (Pitchfork)
2. The Spook School – Gone Home (BreakThruRadio)
3. Meat Wave – Sham King (SideOneDummy)
4. Weaves (3voor12)
5. Ron Gallo (Audiotree)
6. Dusk – Shift Towards Tenderness (This Means War)
7. Izzy True – Which Wish (Bedhead Sessions)
8. Royal Headache – Carolina (Pitchfork)
9. Royal Brat – Avoider + Broken Step (Radio K)
10. Girl Band – Paul (Pitchfork)
11. The Coathangers – Burn Me (Radio K)
12. Japanese Breakfast – Everybody Wants To Love You
13. Free Cake For Every Creature (WKNC)
14. Fear of Men (Audiotree)
15. Majical Cloudz – Silver Car Crash (q on cbc)
16. Jade Imagine – Stay Awake (3RRRFM)
17. Tele Novella – Heavy Balloon (Do512 Austin)
18. Margaret Glaspy (KEXP)
19. Kevin Morby (NPR)
20. PWR BTTM – New Hampshire (WFUV)
21. Wand (KEXP)
22. Declan McKenna – Brazil (The Late Show With Stephen Colbert)
23. Lucy Dacus (NPR)
24. Ólafur Arnalds (ft. Brasstríó Mosfellsdals) – Dalur 
25. Julien Baker (Primavera)

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 Photography of 2016’s First Half, Pt. V

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After installments I, II, III, and IV, this site is officially caught up to the current release cycle in every coverage category: single streams, full streams, music videos, live videos, live photography, and the (usually weekly) Watch This series. Going forward, the goal will continue to be at least one post a day (a rough average that’s been maintained for two and a half years, despite some lengthy hiatuses). Expect live reviews to return to the fold as early as next week and for everything else to resume or continue its regular functionality. Thanks to anyone who stuck with this site through the early lulls in this year’s first half and thanks to the artists and venues who graciously allowed — and even encouraged — photography. Heartbreaking Bravery wouldn’t exist without you and I will continue to look for ways to pay you back in kind. Find the last packet of photos from the year so far below and explore all of the others via the hyperlinks up top or by simply scrolling down. Enjoy!

 

Splitting at the Break: The Live Photography of 2016’s First Half, Pt. IV

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From January to the end of May, I put up thousands of miles travelling to see (and play) shows. Normally, the shows that happen at that intersection would be ignored on these pages as it feels self-promotional and this site was designed to more fully endorse the works of others. For both the live video recap and these galleries, I’ve made an exception for Jungles. The band’s an extraordinary live act that’s best served by their actual set (no photography or videos could do them justice because the areas beyond those mediums restrictions are where the band derives most of their strength). It’s a rare circumstance but considering their severe lack of name recognition stateside, placing them in these galleries felt more than appropriate. Click on to see a few photos of them and several others that I was fortunate enough to catch in the first half of 2016. Enjoy.

 

Splitting at the Break: The Live Photography of 2016’s First Half, Pt. III

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Throughout 2016’s opening two months, I was able to take in two surprisingly contained winter festivals in the upper Midwest: Madison, WI’s FRZN Fest and Chicago, IL’s Music Frozen Dancing. The former ran three days (I was in attendance for the bookends) at the High Noon Saloon while the latter took place outside of the Empty Bottle. Both boasted impressive lineups that reflected well on their venues and, to a larger extent, their cities. Those two fests were the year’s openers and they sent me scrambling for more shows to shoot and I was able to capitalize on several of those opportunities. Whether they were in a basement or at a historic club venue, if cameras were allowed, I’d have mine rolling. Several of the best photographs I managed to capture in that run of months can be found below. Enjoy.

Splitting at the Break: The Live Photography of 2016’s First Half, Pt. II

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Throughout the first six months, I was fortunate enough to catch (and photograph) the following acts: American Wrestlers, Palehound, Eternal Summers, Torres, Julien Baker, Charly Bliss, Muuy Biien, Meat Wave, The Spits Black Lips, Jungles, Mr. Martin & The Sensitive Guys, Bag-Dad, Haunter, Miserable Friend, Heavycritters, Yoko and the Oh No’s, PWR BTTM, Micah Schnabel (of Two Cow Garage), Dyke Drama, Potty Mouth, Beach Slang, Yowler, Eskimeaux, Frankie Cosmos, Oops, and Dilly Dally. All of that photography will be presented — as previously mentioned — through a five-part gallery. The second installment touches on more of the best selections from those sets. As always, the gallery can be accessed below. Enjoy.

Splitting at the Break: The Live Photography of 2016’s First Half, Pt. I

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Over the past six months, the site’s experienced a few hiatuses. While some of those hiatuses were due to personal reasons, the majority were because of long stretches of time spent on the road. During the course of those six months, I was fortunate enough to catch a small handful of shows (and play a few more). No live photography from 2016 has been posted (discounting the header photo that’s ran for the Told Slant feature spots and the Meat Wave photo that ran in conjuncture with the Live Videos segment) and below is a gallery — the first of five — designed to amend the oversight. Enjoy.