Heartbreaking Bravery

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Tag: Radiator Hospital

One Great Week, Five Great Songs

September got off to an exceptionally strong start, with the month already yielding incredible new songs from the following laundry list of artists: Lost Boy ?, Wand, Lina Tullgren, Miss World, Dead Leaf Echo, Danielle Luppi & Parquet Courts, Death By Unga Bunga, Queen of Swords, Trudy and the RomanceSLØTFACE, Partner, Suno Deko, Gleemer, TFS, After Hours Radio, Prawn, Mal Devisa, Field Medic, Ryan Koenig, Raleigh, Tough Age, Mt. Doubt, Havah, Moses Sumney, Infinity Girl, Heaters, The Fluids, Ora Corgan (x2), Aiming for Enrike, SLONK, Sales, Earl Grey, St. Vincent, Gun Outfit, Rostam, Charlotte Gainsbourg, The Helio Sequence, Happy Hollows, and Silver Torches.

Somehow, despite the unreal amount of incredible tracks in that treasure trove, that was still just scratching the tip of the iceberg. Below were the five songs that leapt out most from an embarrassment of riches. Most of the names are familiar and some are acts in the midst of welcome resurgences. All of them are worth turning on and turning up, so push the volume levels up and go exploring. Enjoy.

1. Sports – Making It Right

A short while ago, Sports were hinting that their run might be over following the release of their excellent All of Something. Fortunately, as “Making It Right” makes abundantly clear, that wound up not being the case. They may even allude to that false alarm with the clever “you’re calling my bluff” line. In a little over 100 seconds, Sports proves that they’re not just back but that they’re at the absolute top of their game.

2. Slaughter Beach, Dog – Fish Fry

As Slaughter Beach, Dog, Modern Baseball‘s Jake Ewald has been releasing music that’s been on par with — or threatening to outstrip — that of his main vehicle. “”Fish Fry” is yet another deeply absorbing entry into Ewald’s solo discography. Characteristically unassuming, “Fish Fry” is as sharp as anything Ewald’s released. Putting the modern day ennui of young adulthood under the microscope, the loneliness on display in”Fish Fry” almost sounds romantic before the reality of it all sets in and it just comes across as painfully sad, enhancing the song’s already magnetic pull.

3. Magic Potion – Rest Yr Skull 

Magic Potion already have a quality EP and LP to their name and have only improved over time. The Rest Yr Skull 7″ is the next release on the table and the band have anchored it with the title track. Like a lot of bands on the consistently outstanding PNKSLM roster, the band pulls the majority of their influences from slacker punk and slacker pop movement of the ’90s, advancing the aesthetic with something intangibly modern. “Rest Yr Skull” is as fine of an example of that formula as anyone’s likely to hear all year, a charming slice of driving basement pop with an irresistible melody.

4. Bad History Month – Being Nothing

For a time, it looked as if Bad History Month may have disappeared for good. Luckily, “Being Nothing” arrived last week to dissuade anyone from that notion. A career highlight in a fascinating and deeply inventive discography, “Being Nothing” fully celebrates the oddities that have made the project’s past releases so essential. Folk-informed, noise-damaged, and utterly arresting, “Being Nothing” could not have come from anyone else. Psychedelic overtones push one of the most defiantly nonconformist songs of 2017 to even greater heights. It’s unmissable.

5. Radiator Hospital – Pastoral Radio Hit

“Pastoral Radio Hit” is the second glimpse at the forthcoming record from site favorites Radiator Hospital, whose “Dance Number” clip cracked the recent top 10 list for August. The song’s hard-charging at first blush, full of restraint at second, and brilliantly explores the dichotomy between the two at third. It’s an endlessly fascinating piece of music that lives up to its title and confirms that Radiator Hospital’s forthcoming Play The Songs You Like will be one of their discography’s most adventurous entries. Turn it up, put it on repeat, and find a new thing to love each time it winds to a close.

The 10 Best Music Videos of August

August blew threw 2017 with no hesitation and left an enormous pile of exceedingly great material in its wake. This post will key in on the ten best music videos to be released over that period of time (with the first week shaved off and a few days of September tacked on). A lot of site favorites make appearances below but a new name or two found a way to make a splash. Each of those artists and clips has earned the praise they’ve been given or are about to receive. 2o17’s been overflowing with great clips and these are only adding to the year’s abundant strength. Dive in and go exploring.

Mike Krol – Fifteen Minutes

Over the past several years, Mike Krol has made a habit out of reveling in the playfully sardonic. Turkey, Krol’s astonishing breakthrough record — and first release for Merge — laid those groundworks bare. So it shouldn’t come as too much of a surprise that Krol’s next step was to go back in time, re-release his first two records (cult staples among a very specific sect of the DIY punk crowd) and make a bizarre, tongue-in-cheek music video starring a mannequin for a song that came out six years ago. It’s perfectly Krol.

Weaves – Walkaway

Weaves‘ self-titled was one of the best records of the past few years and the band’s been making good on that momentum that release generated with their advance singles for their forthcoming release. “Walkaway”, the most recent, is anthemic, empowering, and has the kind of staying power to remain on the college airwaves for years to come. The song also now boasts a beautiful clip featuring the band getting a touch of aggression out in a sweeping field. It’s a striking video that somehow manages to make the song feel even more titanic than usual.

Lost Balloons – Noose

One of 2017’s best surprises thus far has been the duo Lost Balloons who feature the talents of Jeff Burke and Yusuke Okada, two names a large handful of people in both America and Japan should already have memorized. The project’s debut effort, Hey Summer, was the type of unassuming basement pop record that tends to stick longer in people’s minds than most would expect and they’ve granted one of that album’s best songs a beautiful animated clip in “Noose”. It’s a gorgeous tapestry that’s worth admiring.

Radiator Hospital – Dance Number

It’s been a while since Radiator Hospital released their incredible Torch Song so news of a new record was incredibly welcome. Even better: the announcement came on the back of the release of this charmingly straightforward clip for the characteristically excellent “Dance Number”, which renews the case for Sam Cook-Parrott as one of this generation’s most emotionally affecting lyricists. Poignant, bittersweet, and undeniably catchy, it’s a great song bolstered by a surprisingly effective video.

Charly Bliss – DQ

No band’s name has appeared on this site more over the past two years than Charly Bliss. The band’s recently-released Guppy went a long way in ensuring their prominence and a handful of excellent clips and performances kept their name in the rotation. “DQ” now joins their ranks, standing as one of the band’s most playful — and personal — videos. Guitarist/vocalist Eva Hendricks co-directed the clip alongside Andrew Costa (who helmed quite a few of the band’s other videos), which features everything from trampolines to cows to football sleds to a dog that’s great at playing dead. As is always the case with the band, it’s an absolute blast and surprisingly hard to forget.

Kielo – Radiate

A while back Kielo released an absolutely breathtaking song/video combination in “In Water” and the Laura Schultz-led project has now doubled down on that measure with the spellbinding “Radiate”. Comprised largely of photography-centric cinematography, the clip allows the song to be elevated by calming visuals, creating an effect that’s both warm and inescapable. It’s a genuinely gorgeous thing to behold and deserves all of the views and listens that can possibly come its way.

Bully – Feel the Same

One of the more invigorating acts of the past few years, Bully have shown virtually no signs of slowing down. The band’s also growing a little more confrontational, as evidenced by their nearly-antagonistic clip for “Feel the Same”, which features nothing but a balloon expanding in a darkened empty room until it starts leaking a stream of yellow liquid. As simple as it is, the imagery is incredibly hard to shake and the concept sticks. It’s bold, it’s abrasive, and it fits the band like a glove.

Julia Louise – Brat

A new name to Heartbreaking Bravery, Julia Louise somehow managed to evade this site’s radar over the past few years. Still, it’s hard to imagine the songwriter could’ve had a better introduction-at-large than the clip for “Brat”, a song that subverts the limitations of emo and standard pop-punk to mesmerizing effect. Aided by strong visuals, a charismatic central performance from Louise and a sense of conviction, “Brat” is the sound (and look) of an artist coming fully into their own.

Fog Lake – Rattlesnake

Last year Fog Lake‘s “Rattlesnake” slithered its way into at least one best-of list that ran on this site. The song’s proven to have legitimate staying power and has now been granted a beautiful visual accompaniment. Calm, a little eerie, and deeply empathetic, “Rattlesnake” follows a man as he explores New York City, alone and content to wander. It’s incredibly affecting and stirs up a genuine, intangible reaction by simply disallowing the constraints of a discernible narrative and opting to focus on the emotional pull at the crux of being at home and separated from that home all at the same time.

See Through Dresses – Lucy’s Arm

A few months ago, See Through Dresses played an incendiary set as an opener for Charly Bliss in Minneapolis. The highlight of their set came via an impassioned run through “Lucy’s Arm”, a clear standout from their exceptional Horse of the Other World. The band’s wisely decided to go ahead and give the song the music video treatment, a decision that’s resulted in an arresting black-and-white clip with minimal effects. It’s a surprisingly effective clip that serves as an honorable testament to the song’s overwhelming power.

2016: The First Two Months (Full Streams)

Jawbreaker Reunion II

Now that the songs have, by and large, been brought up to the present release cycle, it only seemed fitting to turn the attention towards some of 2016’s strongest records. Since records are more time-consuming than individual songs, none of them will be featured individually in the next week. However, all of the records below are more than worthy of investment. A small handful of these even have a shot of being expanded on at the end of the year. For now, though, I’ll simply provide another list for exploration. Once again, there’s absolutely no way these can be listened to in one sitting so it may be best to just bookmark the page and return at will. From demo debuts of solo projects (Potty Mouth‘s Aberdeen Weems) to triumphant returns (Jawbreaker Reunion, photographed above) to fascinating splits (Great Thunder and Radiator Hospital) to outstanding compilations, there’s a lot to discover. Dive in below and find some new bands worth following.

Jawbreaker Reunion – Haha and then What 😉 || Margaret Glaspy – You and I b/w Somebody to Anybody || Purling Hiss – Something || Kal Marks – Life Is Alright, Everybody Dies || Two Inch Astronaut – Personal Life || Aberdeen – Blue Lemon Demos || ROMP – Departure From Venus || Lucy Dacus – No Burden || Swim Team – Swim Team || Rita Fishbone – Spilt Milk || Hothead – Hothead || Sioux Falls – Rot Forever || Past Life – EP I || Abi Reimold – Wriggling || Nice Try – Nice Try || Krafftmalerei Plagiat || Lawndry – EP || Baby Birds Don’t Drink Milk – Burritos || Mal Devisa – Kiid || Kane Strang – Blue Cheese || Big Ups – Before A Million Universes || Årabrot – The Gospel || Michael Nau – Mowing || Looks Like Mountains – Quick, Before We’re All Dead! || High Waisted – On Ludlow || Sin Kitty – Softer || Rafter – A Sploded Battery || Candy – Azure || Baklaava – Dane On

Fake Boyfriend – Mercy || Axed Crown – Amnesty || Soda – Without A Head || Fucko – Dealing With the Weird || Opposites – Joon II and Got My Cough || Journalism – Faces || Sarah Neufeld – The Ridge || Great Deceivers – Ask Me About Your Strong Suits || Burnt Palms – Back On My Wall || Adult Books – Running From the Blows || Dead Stars – Bright Colors || Acid Dad – Let’s Plan A Robbery || yndi halda – Under Summer || Sheer Mag – III || Edgar Clinks – Bath w/ Frozen Cat || Tangerine – Sugar Teeth || Muncie Girls – From Caplan to Belsize || Risley – Risley || Great Thunder/Radiator Hospital – Wedding Album || Pinegrove – Cardinal || Acid Fast – Last Night on Earth || Making Fuck – Harrowing End || Nick Thorburn – Serial S2 || Fred Thomas – Minim || Dude York – Lose Control b/w Love Is || Self Defense Family – Superior || Jo Passed – Out || POP ETC – Souvenir

Pinkshinyultrablast – Grandfeathered || Nap Eyes – Thought Rock Fish Scale || Art Week 2016 || Crater – Talk To Me So I Can Fall Asleep || Tuff Love – Resort || The Castillians – You & Me || Sitcom – Gig Bag || Howardian – A Smurf at Land’s End || Mass Gothic/Ex-Amazed – Split || Step Sisters – Thick || Rob Crow’s Gloomy Place – You’re Doomed. Be Nice. || Washer – Here Comes Washer || Titus Andronicus/Craig Finn – No Faith/No Future/No Problem || Frameworks – Time Spent || I’m An Island – Bored Days, Old Years || Wussy – Forever Sounds || Nathaniel Bellows – The Old Illusions || Keeps – Brief Spirit || Serac – Songs for the Broken Hearted || This Heel – This Heel III || Cotton Ships – Cotton Ships || Truly – Henry || Acid Tongue – The Dead Man’s Cat Walk || Dying Adolescence – Dear You, It Can’t Wait. || Proud Parents – Sharon Is Karen || Cayetana – Tired Eyes

JOYA – Surround b/w Kitsilano || The Two Tens – Volume || Leggy – Dang || Cellar Doors – Frost b/w Prism || Celebration Guns – Quitter || Quarterly – Quarterly || Hollow Hand – Ancestral Lands || Sierpien – Stench Up to Heaven || Cherry – Gloom || Relick – Twin House || Sun Dummy – Bunny || Lionlimb – Shoo || Tiny Knives – Black Haze || Chives – Drip || Chris Storrow – The Ocean’s Door || Bombay Harabee – Goldmine || Swaying Wires – I Left A House Burning || The Spook School – Binary / David Bowie Songs || Tender Defender – Tender Defender || Mozes and the Firstborn – Power Ranger || DRÆMHOUSE – Only Friends || Molly Drag – Tethered Rendering || Black Thumb – Black Thumb

Dusk – (Do The) Bored Recluse (Stream)

dusk

Chances are, if you’ve read this site on even a casual basis, you’ve read a handful of words about the importance of Tenement. It’s possible anyone digging deeper has caught a few mentions of bands like Technicolor TeethBlack Thumb, or darn it., in addition to the more detailed tracking of Amos Pitsch‘s main vehicle. Now, the prolific multi-instrumentalist is back with a new outfit, made up of people involved with the previously mentioned bands (as well as Holy Sheboygan!). As has been the case with all of Pitsch’s projects, it’s taken an astonishingly short amount of time for Dusk to register as noteworthy.

Even separating the collective pedigrees of its ragtag members from the project, the music they’re making feels vital. “(Do The) Bored Recluse” is a perfect jumping off point for the band and they couldn’t have timed its release more perfectly. Dominated by warm analog tones and a punk-tinged country feel, the song’s a perfect soundtrack for the part of the world that’s transitioning from summer to fall, evoking images of leaf-strewn roads and unkempt patios. In managing to come off as both incredibly driven and surprisingly easygoing, “(Do The) Bored Recluse” strikes another delicate balance and expertly coasts to its conclusion.

A perfect piece of punchy Americana, “(Do The) Bored Recluse” isn’t just a great song; it’s one of the year’s most effective warning shots and a tantalizing signal of some extraordinary things to come. Keep both eyes peeled on this project, you won’t be disappointed.

Listen to “(Do The) Bored Recluse” below and pre-order the 7″ from Forward! Records here. Underneath the embed, explored a handful of other great songs to find release over the past three weeks.

Pom Poms – Betty
Beach Baby – Limousine
Radiator Hospital – Will You Find Me
Sea Ghost – Cowboy Hat
Beach Slang – Anything, Anything (Dramarama)
Saintseneca – Bad Ideas
Oscar – Breaking My Phone
Protomartyr – I Forgive You
Technicolor Teeth – Dying Leaves (Demo)
Wildhoney – Thin Air
Tobias Reif – Demo
DMAs – Lay Down
Lags – War Was Over
Girls Names – I Was You
Paul Bergmann – You May Never Know
Aneurysm – Veronica
Julien Baker – Brittle Boned
Rare Monk – Warning Pulse
Breakfast Muff – I Want To Want To
Big Eater – Lazy Days
Dan Friel – Rattler
Indiago – Been So Long
Gláss – Glass(-accent)
Gun Outfit – Dream All Over
Kirk Knight (ft. Noname Gypsy & Thundercat) – Dead Friends

Meat Wave – Delusion Moon (Music Video)

meatwave

Clean slates are always an intriguing thing to fill and this week’s off to a strong start with great entries into all of the site’s regularly-covered formats. i tried to run away when i was 6’s “June July May“, Craig Finn’s “Maggie, I’ve Been Searching for Our Son“, and Palehound’s “Cushioned Caging” constituted a very strong field of representatives for the single song stream while there were fascinating clips to be found in Gold Class’ “Life As A Gun” and Springtime Carnivore’s “Other Side of the Boundary“. Full streams also found life via the first installment of Apollonian Sound’s charity singles series (featuring Algebra II and site favorites Radiator Hospital), Adult Dude’s fiery Adult Moods, and Los Manglers’ vibrant Between Worlds.

Today’s feature spots casts its lens on Meat Wave, a band that’s played a pivotal role in the development of this site and the music it covers. Their first record, an incredible self-titled effort, was the very first tape I ever wore thin in various spots. The trio was also one of the only bands to secure an On the Up inclusion (an assessment that’s continuing to come to fruition in some genuinely unexpected- and exhilarating- ways) and took part in the first Heartbreaking Bravery showcase. Now, they’ve signed to SideOneDummy and are upping the anticipation for an incredible record entitled Delusion Moon that will be out on September 18.

Meat Wave’s most recent move in the rollout campaign for Delusion Moon came earlier today with the unveiling of the video for the record’s vicious title track. Just as the song drives home a foreboding feeling with no shortage of a venomous menace, the video aims to unsettle in a similar fashion. Utilizing strobes and some inventive film editing, the Andrew Robert Morrisson-directed clip finds value and inspiration in aggressive minimalism, much like the music of its subjects. It’s a deeply disorienting watch, opting for a bold cognitive dissonance that’s presented in a way that feels removed from countless other clips’ meager attempts at producing similar results. Ultimately, “Delusion Moon” is defined by its convictions and the end result is a striking, memorable triumph.

Watch “Delusion Moon” below and pre-order the record from SideOneDummy.

First Quarter Songs, Pt. 1 (Mixtape)

Protomartyr XV

We’re a little more than three months into 2015 and the influx of great new material in the year’s first quarter has been astounding. It was a transitional time period for the site, with dozens of authors pitching in personal recollection pieces regarding the previous year. During that time, I also started a full-time position, disallowing a production rate as frequent as the one held throughout the entirety of 2014. However, during these opening months, I haven’t stopped listening, collecting, exploring, and thinking about every new release that I was fortunate enough to find. There are more than 250 songs, 90 full streams,  and 115 music videos to cover, so- while a few will be given full features- it only made sense to bring everything up to speed via long lists of the things worth mentioning. To begin, here are 25 great songs from 2015 that deserve to be heard. Don’t let the fact that there are no accompanying descriptions short-change the value of these songs; this is the first batch of what already looks like the strongest crop of new music we’ve had in years. The track list, and embedded player, is below. Listen to these songs, pay attention to these artists, buy these records, and go to their shows. Don’t make the mistake of letting any of them pass by unnoticed.

1. The Juliana Hatfield Three – Wood
2. Swerverdriver – Autodidact
3. Gal Pals – Here’s to the Gals
4. Chastity Belt – Time to Go Home
5. Beech Creeps – Times Be Short
6. Will Butler – Take My Side
7. Dick Diver – Tearing The Posters Down
8. Shadow Age – A Portrait of A Young Man Dying
9. The Zoltars – Sincere
10. Robot Princess – Action Park
11. Colleen Green – TV
12. Alex G – Sarah
13. Sam Cook-Parrott & Allison Crutchfield – Something About What Happens
14. Chris Weisman – Don’t Be Slow
15. Dorthia Cottrell – Oak Grove
16. Cloud Castle Lake – Glacier
17. Simon Joyner – You Got Under My Skin
18. Eaves – Spin
29. Steady Lean – Atkins
20. Shilpa Ray – Pop Song For Euthanasia
21. Rye Pines – Pessimist
22. Moon Duo – Slow Down Low
23. DOE – Basement
24. Weed – Stay in the Summer
25. LVL UP – Somebody Kill Me Please 

Diet Cig – Over Easy (EP Review, Stream)

dietcig

Tonight Diet Cig are playing an absolutely stacked release show to celebrate the arrival of their debut, which arrives in the form of the irresistible Over Easy EP. It’s already generated a great deal of buzz around the band- and for good reason. Guitarist/vocalist Alex Luciano’s as gifted as anyone with melody, creating an army of utterly charming moments over the EP’s five tracks. Even the title of the opening track, “Breathless”, hints towards some of the band’s more winsome pop sensibilities, evoking the spirit of Jean-Luc Godard. On the musical spectrum, Diet Cig deal in an intriguing cross-section between DIY punk and bedroom pop (which isn’t too far removed from what Quarterbacks have been up to lately), opening up an endless line of possibilities for tantalizing bills (they’d be as at home on a bill with All Dogs as they would Bellows).

What’s helping Diet Cig get comfortably situated at the front of an increasingly exciting DIY basement pop movement is their coherence. Not a single track on Over Easy outshines the other- each one’s a standout that renders the whole affair an early front-runner for EP of the Year (it certainly would have made last year’s extraordinarily strong list had it come out a few months earlier). “Harvard” is as dynamic- and as humorously scathing- as “Scene Sick”, just as “Pool Boyz” and “Cardboard” can go toe-to-toe in terms of scrappy lo-fi momentum and sly deprecation. Surf, twee, and vintage pop influences abound throughout the EP’s 10 exhilarating minutes. More than anything, Over Easy is a sugar-coated onslaught of raw feeling, clever construction, and extraordinary musical interplay between Luciano and drummer Noah Bowman (also of the fantastic Earl Boykins).

At some point, Over Easy becomes an understated showcase for the duo’s natural, easygoing chemistry. Bowman and Luciano expertly create a subtle sense of tension, exploiting their music’s underlying sense of urgency at nearly every turn without ever getting overly serious. Sure, the lyrics may come off as alternately biting and winking but that it’s all presented in a fashion that’s so joyful on the surface may be slightly betraying the band’s enormous potential (as was the case with much of Radiator Hospital‘s earlier work). Diet Cig are a band that are already fully aware- and playing directly to- their enviable strengths, making them a band worth vigilantly following. With a start as absurdly strong as Over Easy, they’re already well on their way to what looks to be an extremely promising career. For now, let’s all just enjoy one of the most delightful pieces of music to emerge over the past several months.

Listen to the hyper-charged log flume ride that is Over Easy below and order the EP from the inimitable Father/Daughter Records here.  

2014: A Year’s Worth of Memories, Pt. 5

Four installments in and this series, designed to emphasize meaningful moments- on a personal level- in music throughout the course of 2014, is going strong. In the fifth installment, Space Mountain’s Cole Kinsler writes about Pile’s Rick Maguire and Pile’s Rick Maguire writes about Yautja. Additionally, David Sackllah writes about both great film and great music (a trend that will be repeated throughout the coming year), Stephen Pierce tackles confronting devastation, and Miranda Fisher looks back on an interview before looking ahead to her next project. As always, it’s an absolute honor to be presenting such extraordinary pieces from equally extraordinary people. Everything they’ve got to say is always worthwhile and their words here are no exception. So, enough introductory grandstanding (or whatever this is), and on to part five of 2014: A Year’s Worth of Memories.

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One Night, When Rick Went Solo

I moved to Boston for work, not really having any close friends in the area. I jumped into the music scene and found a bunch of my now-favorite bands. Ever since I’ve been heartened by how sincere and unpretentious everyone has been. I feel a pretty strong attachment to the city now. Sometime in June I saw Rick from Pile play a solo set at a house in Jamaica Plain. He played in a living room to maybe 30 or 40 people sitting on the floor. There was still some chatter in the room when he sat down and unassumingly began his set with “Purse and Fares”. I’ll never forget the sound of his huge voice in that little room. It was a really cool night. I was blown away, and may or may not have gotten teary-eyed a few times. How beautiful his songs were suddenly hit me. I went solo but the handful of people I met were all super nice and probably just as excited as I was. It’s always awesome to be a part of something like that because it feels so special. I’ll never forget it.

-Cole Kinsler (Space Mountain)

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Yautja

I wish I had something better prepared for this but the only thing about 2014 that is coming to mind and then consistently blows said mind is Yautja. Their album Songs of Descent is great. Also, we were lucky enough to tour with the likes of (New England) Patriots, Grass is Green, Fax Holiday, Big Ups, and Speedy Ortiz, and that was pretty great. Hanging out with old friends and making new ones.

-Rick Maguire (Pile)

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A Case of Whiplash and Fireworks

2014 was a whirlwind of a year, with ups and downs both personal and social. I made a lot of new friends, grew apart from some old ones, moved back to the city I grew up after four years away, and began a new job. I wouldn’t have been able to make it through the year, or any year, without the great people and music that I found throughout the year. I wanted to touch on two pieces of art here that blew me away, one that left me trembling in a theater and a four-minute song that tore me apart emotionally every time I heard it.

Part 1 – An accurately named film

On paper, Whiplash doesn’t sound like the most tantalizing concept: A prodigious student at an elite jazz school studies with an esteemed yet abusive teacher. The film pulls the audience into a world of technicality, constantly name-dropping great musicians such as Buddy Rich, drawing the viewer into a highly specialized world that means everything to the people involved. Thankfully, a knowledge of jazz, its styles, or its legends isn’t required to enjoy the film. The movie winks at that, about halfway through, when Andrew (Miles Teller), the aforementioned student, attends a family dinner with his uncle and cousins. The whole family keeps on bragging about his cousin’s mediocre achievements in football, as Andrew throws a tantrum for not receiving recognition for being accepted into one of the most prestigious jazz bands in the country. It’s a familiar sentiment for many, where one has reached a level in their concentration that is highly laudable, but the people they have grown up around, of whose approval they seek, don’t understand or care about.

Director Damien Chazelle does an exemplary job of pulling the viewer into Andrew’s mind frame, that of an obsessively ambitious musician who has eclipsed many of his peers, and refuses to back down when faced with obstacles. Only in his case, the obstacle is immense, the cruel, sadistic teacher of the top class at the top school, the fearsome Terrence Fletcher, played excellently by J.K. Simmons. Simmons delivers a tightly controlled performance, stalking his classroom with an icy cool that is always on the verge of becoming unhinged fury. Fletcher snaps often throughout the movie, subjecting his students, and Andrew especially, to a tirade of verbal, emotional, and physical abuse. Simmons doesn’t play it one-note, offering bits of approval, luring in his students with seductive techniques that they have a chance at winning his approval, typically before striking that down.

Whiplash is a thrilling battle of wills; one that also shows the isolation that can go hand-in-hand with ambition. Andrew pushes away his family and girlfriend to achieve his goal of being the best drummer and winning Fletcher’s approval, pushing his body to extremes and making some supremely reckless decisions. The film properly vilifies both student and teacher in their quest to push each other to a breaking point, showing how the extremity of talent or drive doesn’t always make a person likable or sympathetic.

What Whiplash does excellently, is build up its story, getting the viewer to care about its two supremely flawed leads, and then amplifying the stakes before leading into possibly the most thrilling third acts in cinema in the past five years. As Whiplash plows ahead to its finish, the viewer, like the characters, get locked into a full-throttle ride that leaves the heart pounding, and had everyone in the theater in a tight sweat. I can’t recommend Whiplash enough, a visceral journey that felt like a master-class in getting the wind kicked out of you.

Part 2- A little spark doesn’t mean you’re the only one

Three and a half years ago, I met the love of my life, a wonderful woman who is extremely strong, caring, and supportive. I count myself extremely lucky that she wants to be around me. Before that, I spent most of my life in middle school, high school, and college, very unlucky in romance. Like many teenagers, I went through a cycle of crushes. There were times I put myself out there, and got turned, and other times where I resigned to be a sad sack about it and keep it to myself.

There’s two parts to every crush. There’s the fun part, the part where you think the person might like you back. You’re filled with joy and excitement every time you see their name. Your phone vibrates and your heart jumps a little because it might be that person texting you. Then there’s the other part, the uncertainty, the longing, and the nagging feeling that it won’t end well. That’s the painful part, where you don’t know how the other person feels, but hope and pray that it’s the same way you do.

That second part is what grounds “Fireworks” by Radiator Hospital, and made it such a poignant song that when I first heard it, it made me relive every crush of my teenage years. Sam-Cook Parrott does the astounding job of including the song twice on his album. The first version you hear is sung by Maryn Jones of All Dogs, and presents the first character in the tale. She reminisces about a walk with a friend that “went further than we thought it would.” She wonders why he doesn’t call, imploring that her boyfriend isn’t at home. She knows it won’t work, and tries to forget him, even though she knows it’s futile. She asks if he felt the fireworks, and affirms, as if she’s trying to convince herself, that “a little spark doesn’t mean you’re the only one.”

On its own, the song would be a devastating tale of a longing feeling that isn’t returned, but the addition of the reprise towards the end of the album makes it so much more. This time around, you hear the exact same song sung by Parrott, from the male character’s point of view. The lyrics are almost identical, with subtle but important changes. “I think of them often, when he gets home” is changed to “I think of them often, when I’m alone”. “I looked at you like you meant something” is changed to “I looked at you, thought I’d never stop looking.” The meaning is similar, but the difference in words adds a layer of intimacy and authenticity to the song. The events and circumstances are the same, but both people remember them and feel them in slightly different ways.

Both “Fireworks” and its reprise are a master class example in songwriting. Few songs do as good a job as capturing such an intense, familiar feeling. By telling the story from both perspectives, Parrott makes it feel real, complicated, and intense. Hearing it brought me back to being 17, wondering if the girl about to go to college might actually like me back. It made me remember these vivid, specific memories in my life. I’ve talked to friends, who had a similar reaction from the song, applying it to situations in their life. Fireworks isn’t great just because it’s relatable, but the fact that it touches on something so specific and familiar, while being universal enough to apply to people of completely different circumstances, makes it a shining example of stellar songwriting.

-David Sackllah (i am full of light)

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Reigniting the Spark

It’s hard, when you’re the obsessive type, to reconcile endings; to change.

The year began for me at a turning point. The outlet for my prior six years of singular drive and dedication– bicycle racing– had ended its season with a question mark hanging over it. Because of a knee injury, that trajectory was sidelined. Stir-crazy, restless, and of course wondering what I had been working toward and what I hoped to get out of it, that question mark only grew as time went on and the problem persisted– worsened, even. Panic set in, then desperation. Eventually, I settled on a sense of existential detachment: You know, that kind of place you can work yourself into where you’re kinda aware of just how stupid it is to be so passionate and depressed about something as ephemeral as whatever that object of your affection may be, but mostly you’re terrified, gripped by a fear of embracing the void and figuring out what’s next.

When you’re in that sort of dark place, you have to embrace what light exists- otherwise make your own. It’s an elemental thing. So I looked toward what had been there the whole time: The soundtrack, pushed from the background to the forefront.

Loveless has been a significant part of my life since 1998. I didn’t understand it then but I was fascinated and enraptured by the sounds that– as a kid that grew up on Crass, Born Against, and Reversal of Man– sounded impossibly otherworldly. That record, and then Isn’t Anything, the EPs, everything but the first 12” really, followed me everywhere, not stopping at bike racing. They were there during long summer rides, winters in the basement on the trainer or freezing in crosswinds, intervals and recovery timed to the pulsing spikes and valleys of whatever record was on. I wasn’t so far out of the loop that I didn’t hear about MBV in 2013 and my February that year was soundtracked by that, pretty exclusively. Immersed, I got to thinking about what my favorite new records were from the previous year and I couldn’t really think of any.

Of course, at that point, I was on the outside, looking in: Nothing new was making its way onto my radar, unless it was by a band that I cared about before putting on blinders. It used to be, though, that new music consumed me, as a part of– through my youth– several vibrant, active DIY punk communities. Cynthia Ann Schemmer, a friend of mine from when we were both living in Brooklyn, just published an absolutely jaw-dropping year-end piece on The Media wherein she writes of separating yourself from this conjoined twin that begins growing with you when you get into punk. Effectively, I had done this at age 26 when I decided to focus all of my effort away from that world, but I think that we’re all, for better or for worse, endlessly followed by that ghost. It haunts you everywhere; manifests itself in everything.

In my case, at the end of 2013, it showed up as that gut feeling that you get when you first hear something that instantly hits as relatable. It showed up, too, in dictating what, exactly, that means to me: Relatable is coming from house shows. Relatable is a sense of community and togetherness, which that world builds and nurtures. The friends that played in DIY punk bands a decade ago that are also carrying that ghost with them down divergent roads these days– they’re relatable. And there are so many of them. Listening to old friends forge new paths away from punk but still working within that ‘code of being’ that we all lived by in our more dogmatic days reminded me of how limitless we all can be. Seeing friends succeed while holding true to themselves is such a hugely inspiring and incredibly empowering thing to bear witness to, and it sparked a flame inside me.

I can’t nail down a single record or band that reignited that spark. There wasn’t a singular “a-ha” discovery but instead a heightened appreciation- in addition to my friends’ new bands finding success beyond basement shows, like Parquet Courts & Merchandise– for the music that had been there all along. MBV, Spacemen 3, Yo La Tengo: Loud, weird guitar music. Being without an outlet for whatever compulsion governed my actions when I was racing bikes, I dove in, down some wormhole or another trying to find music that embodied whatever it is about those bands that has resonated so heavily with me. One day it was the search for something repetitive and built around a drone, the next it was full-volume fuzz blasts, then the next day it was damaged pop. Eventually, all at once. Through Gimme Tinnitus, which became gospel after I saw it name-checked somewhere on some friend’s band’s page, the curtain was pulled back and I became aware of a whole world that had been passing me by.

I found out about Exploding In Sound Records and went through their entire catalog alarmingly fast. I was surprised to see that so many of the bands on Dan & Dave’s label that I was falling in love with were from within a two-hour radius of where I live. Continuing to turn over rocks, I found that an acquaintance of mine from a lifetime ago was making perfectly hyper jangle pop with some other folks as Bent Shapes, whose song “Hex Maneuvers” was one of my most-played songs after discovering it late last year, until their single “86’d in ‘03” dethroned it as my go-to song of theirs. I guess I really hadn’t been paying any attention at all: I had a ton of catching up to do.

The funny thing about feeling the level of excitement and newness that I found at that point is that everything becomes so incredibly urgent, immediate, and entirely possible. When I was young, I remember saying that I couldn’t imagine ever being at a point in life where I was not playing music. Though I remained a member of the mostly-hibernating DIY punk band Ampere, I barely touched my guitar in the time between my first and last time racing a bike. 2014, and the bands I heard in 2014, pushed me to change that. Obsessively, I went for it full-blast. Fast forward to the end of spring, and I had written about fifteen songs for a new band that began in late February.

Who knows fully what would or wouldn’t have been possible with or without the records that I heard and drew inspiration from this year; I think each one has been as important as the last, and will be as important as the next. It’s about filling space and finding that essence- that indescribable feeling of childish excitement and abandon. Some sort of connection. Each record that has factored into my life in 2014 has provided me with exactly what I needed through my darkest moments of reflection: A light.

It’s got to be the biggest cliché in the book to note that from even the most disappointing endings comes the promise of a new tomorrow. When one dream comes to an end, another is right around the corner, etc. etc. I guess the key is to not get too bogged down in grieving what’s departed, to continue to move forward. To apply everything you’ve learned from one path in life to another. There are universalities everywhere, ways that everything can seem to line up and connect. The ghost of the past can show up in anywhere. I can’t help but see this past year as a blur: Darkness faded into optimism, a sinking feeling of hopelessness transitioned to dedication & drive, and all along the way I was taken aback at how very fortunate I am– we all are– to be a part of whatever it is that we’re a part of, right at this very moment in time.
SOME OF MY MOST-LIKED THINGS IN 2014:

CheatahsCheatahs LP
Bent Shapes – 86’d in ’03b EP
WildhoneySeventeen Forever 7”
Sweet John Bloom – Picky 12”
Parquet Courts – Sunbathing Animal
Power PyramidSilence
Working – More Weight EP

THE RECORDS FROM 2015 THAT ALREADY RULE:

Sweet John Bloom – Weird Prayer
Wildhoney – Sleep Through It
KrillA Distant Fist Unclenching
California XNights in the Dark
Dweller on the ThresholdVolume 2
Longings LP

-Stephen Pierce (Kindling, writer, Exploding in Sound)

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Interviewing Neil Hagerty

At this point in my life, I’ve done enough interviews and I know myself well enough that I’m well aware I’m always going to get nervous before interviews. It’s just a given. I’m prone to anxiety anyway, and when you add in the excitement of talking to someone whose work I respect and the pressure of trying to get some usable material out of it, my nerves multiply exponentially. In 2014 I was lucky enough to interview a lot of my favorite musicians, and from Cheetah Chrome to Life Stinks, my heart was always racing in the moments leading up to the interview. But nothing compared to the sheer panic I felt on my way to interview Neil Hagerty in Denver last May.

I’m sure part of my anxiety was due to the fact that I am an embarrassingly huge fan of Hagerty and his work with Pussy Galore and Royal Trux — I think he’s the greatest guitarist of the last 25 years, at least. But the intensity of this particular freak-out was largely due to the fact that I was going it alone. Since my friend Jon asked me to create the writing section for his then photography-only zine, Rubberneck, in 2012, he has been at nearly every interview I’ve done. He takes pictures, he cracks jokes that get cut from transcription immediately, but most importantly to me, he’s a calming force. Just having one of my best friends in the room with me gives me the confidence to get through situations that otherwise would have undoubtedly sent me spiraling into a panic attack were he not there. Which is exactly what happened in the car that night in Denver. I couldn’t stop my hands from shaking, my heart from racing. I practiced breathing exercises to try to calm down. I was dipping out of a ladies’ weekend to go see Hagerty’s current project, the Howling Hex, and interview him. And although my girlfriends are wonderful and supportive (shoutout HFC!), they had no clue who this guy was or why I was so worried about fucking everything up.

But I somehow managed to not fuck up! We talked and he was nice and didn’t say anything about my nervous stuttering or the tremors in my hands. Instead, he gave thoughtful, revealing answers to all of my questions (which you can read in Rubberneck #10.) Seven months later, I’m sure he wouldn’t recognize my name, much less pick me out of a lineup. But that night I couldn’t have asked for more from someone I was interviewing, down to his offer, in the brief, terrifying moment I thought I’d lost the recording, to meet me for lunch and redo the whole thing the next day. Then the Howling Hex played and I finally got to see Hagerty on guitar. Every riff, every solo was perfect, seemingly effortlessly so. The man is a guitar wizard. The way his hands move is inhuman. Ten seconds into their set, I felt a catharsis. By the ten minute mark, a reverie. Of all the great sets I was lucky to see last year, nothing came close to the electricity I felt while watching the Howling Hex.

There were six people watching.

I don’t know why I get moved to panic over a musician whom the population of the bar couldn’t be bothered to swivel on their stools to watch. Are they wrong? Am I? (Both?) All I know is that the Howling Hex’s set that night meant more to me than to anyone else in that room, and more than anything else last year.

A month later, when Jon told me he wanted to end Rubberneck, I was heartbroken. I cried basically nonstop for two months. And when he suggested I start a new zine, it made me angry. How could I do it myself? But the more I thought about it, the more I saw the possibilities, the opportunities to do things I couldn’t with Rubberneck. And so going forward with my new zine, Casting Couch, while I know that Jon’s going to be there with me — whether he wants to admit it or not — I also know that I can do it alone if I need to.

2014 was a shit year in so many ways, both global and personal. But it was also the year that I interviewed Neil Michael Hagerty. And I did it by my god damn self.

Casting Couch: coming April 2015.

-Miranda Fisher (Rubberneck, Casting Couch, The Zoltars)

2014: A Year’s Worth of Memories, Pt. 1

I don’t know where to begin. In all honest, at this very moment, I’m at a complete and total loss. The support and kindness lent to me and this thing that I’ve created has been gratifying beyond reason and some of the responses to the things I’ve shot, written, and posted over the past year (and some change) have been overwhelming on a deeply personal level. When I first started Heartbreaking Bravery, I did it so I could write about the things I love and publish them more immediately than an outside editing process would allow. I did it to keep myself in practice with writing. I did it so that there could be another outlet, no matter how small, to lend a greater focus to marginalized artists. I did it to celebrate DIY music, to celebrate great publications, and to celebrate great writers. I did it so I could write about live music documentation and so I could analyze the contents of great music videos. At no point did I expect to gain support from the people behind the art I loved. I did it so I could explore something like the idea that Sasha Geffen- a writer that I greatly admire and a friend that I greatly appreciate- helped me develop on a trip to Kentucky; a year-end piece that focused on moments in music rather than relying solely on individual lists of top albums or songs. At no point did I expect the site- or the idea- to start expanding into what they have become.

2014 was an extraordinary year for music. I listened to more new music than I ever have in the past, met some extraordinary people, became aware of a lot more things that were happening across the DIY landscape, and saw some people I know and admire start succeeding on greater levels.  Today, it’s my absolute privilege to share with you the first portion of something I’ve been working on relentlessly for the past few months. Below is a compilation of musicians, label heads, music video directors, artists, and writers whose work I’ve admired from afar for lengths of time. Each of them has contributed a recollection of the music-related things that meant something to them throughout the past year. More parts of this series will be running throughout the week to grant the pieces the emphasis they deserve. I consider myself unbelievably fortunate to be hosting all of these pieces and am eternally grateful to each contributor. A quick note to them: each of you, whether you knew it or not, meant something to me before all of this insanity kicked off and you all now have my undying gratitude in addition to my unfailing admiration. So, without further ado, it’s my absolute honor to present: Heartbreaking Bravery’s 2014: A Year’s Worth of Memories, Pt. 1.

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Deserving of Gratitude

2014: the year my mom died, I got married and we released Tropical Jinx all within three weeks. Yes, really. It was the year of a lot of heartbreak and a lot of love. In May we found out my mother had stage four cancer, and a very short five months later we lost her to it. I wrote a eulogy two weeks after I wrote my wedding vows. I slept in hospitals for weeks. Music, whether I was listening to it, performing it, writing it, or interacting with its community, played a huge part in giving me strength and helping me through.

Things I’m grateful for in the year 2014:

“The Struggle”

In March, Ian (Little Big League’s drummer) and I (Michelle+Ian=MACHINE) turned twenty-five in front of exactly four people in a giant, brightly lit college auditorium. We debuted all of Tropical Jinx, played our entire discography in chronological order to two friends who’d come with us, and the sound guy and booker who watched us from two folding chairs in the back while smoking e-cigarettes. At the end of the show some old guy somehow affiliated with the school gave us our $500 check and asked if we had played two sets of one hour as the college had apparently requested in a contract that was never sent to us. I drank a can of high life in the van and maybe cried a little bit on the dark four-hour drive home while reflecting on what Max Stern from Signals Midwest and I refer to as a prime example of “The Struggle”.

Cleveland, in general

Everyone is always like—Cleveland sucks! Why on earth would anyone want to go there? It’s not even like we have some huge following in Cleveland. So why is it that anytime I tour, even if it’s five to six hours out of the way, I will play a show in Cleveland? And the reason is—Cleveland fucking rules! Every time I’ve gone to Cleveland I have had an amazing time. Even when we were sick and our van broke down in Cleveland we got put up in the craziest house I’ve ever seen. It looked like a sixties opium den. Lava lamps, fur rugs, and Soviet army hats were everywhere. We played Magic: The Gathering there for like eight hours while our van was getting fixed. Big ups to Jesse from Cherry Cola Champions! He is the nicest dude and has booked like every single one of our shows in Cleveland!

Also an awesome Cleveland person, Nina Holzer (who I know only by touring through Cleveland), always puts us up and is just everything you want in a badass, music-loving woman. Watching Bars of Gold play Brite Winter Fest in a filled-to-the-brims bike shop. These dudes have lived the struggle twice as long as I have and put on the most raucous show I’ve ever seen. Watching my friend get so drunk he tried to take a swig from a roll of duct tape before proceeding to fall asleep standing up during Bars of Gold’s set. Falling on my ass a million times while loading out of said bike shop in February on hard iced over snow, post so many shots of fireball. Happy Dog, where I got tater tots with a can of SpaghettiO’s and fried egg piled on top. What the fuck. You go, Cleveland.

People who spoke the fuck up

Meredith Graves from Perfect Pussy, Christian Holden from The Hotelier, Max Stern from Signals Midwest. Joyce Manor. Saintseneca. Fuck anyone who says you aren’t hard. How could anyone get upset with an artist who chooses not to work with other artists or promoters who were publicly accused of domestic violence and rape? Or for stopping a show because young, stoked girls at the front are getting pummeled by dudes twice their size, making them feel even more like they don’t belong there? The answer is —a lot, apparently.

I got socked in the face by a drunk front dude this year because I got all girls-to-the-front and wasn’t going to let two really aggressive moshers get in the way of supporting my friend’s band. And then I get hit in the face by the front man! This is a friend of mine, who didn’t apologize, because he thought I was punk enough or something and would think it was funny. Uh, dude. No! It means something when a front person says hey, let’s have fun, but look the fuck out for each other. Do you know how cool it is to watch people propelled to mosh around and crowd surf when your band plays live? It’s awesome! It very rarely ever happens at a Little Big League show, but every time it happens, I am so excited! I feel so fucking cool! I can’t imagine having the true good person-ness and lack of ego to say, hey, I can tell from here things are getting out of hand, cut it the fuck out. These people were just so impressively outspoken about what just seems so obviously right and fair, all the while under the spotlight of vicious online commentators and at the risk of losing what little money they probably make. Also, Azealia Banks! I just watched this interview and it is just so real and important and emotional. The way the two dudes in the interview condescend to her just drives me nuts. Just—bravo, thank you, and I’m sorry the world is so fucking horrible.

Albums, EP’s & Singles

Azealia Banks’ Broke With Expensive Taste, Spirit of the Beehive’s s/t, Mitski’s Bury Me at Makeout Creek, LVL Up’s Hoodwink’d, The Hotelier’s Home, Like No Place Is There Is, Mr. Twin Sister’s s/t, Alex G’s DSU, Frankie Cosmo’s Zentropy, Perfect Pussy’s Say Yes To Love, FKA Twigs’ LP1, Crying’s Get Olde/Second Wind, Chad Van Gaalen’s Shrink Dust, Perfume Genius’ Too Bright, Angel Olsen’s Burn Your Fire For No Witness, Hundred Waters’ Murmurs, Makthaverskan’s II, and all the Ovlov and Porches. singles that came out this year.

Touring with Foxing & The Hotelier

This was our last big tour before I moved back to Oregon to be with my family. There was a lot of anxiety waiting for the dust of a hard, second chemo treatment to settle and see if we’d beaten it or not. I cried a lot because I just felt so guilty being away from my family during such a hard time. But it was also just the best tour ever. The Hotelier and Foxing are the very best dudes and are so, so hard working and talented and real. We went to Typhoon Lagoon. We went night swimming in Ft. Lauderdale. Christian Holden is just my hero. JP from Rescuer and I talked hours into the night like little girls in Tampa and I got to feed his terrifying, giant pet pig an enormous zucchini.

Wedding Songs

When we found out my mother’s cancer was terminal, my family went to Korea for a last vacation and as a way for my mother to say goodbye to her country. Our plans were shot down. My mom became violently ill and had to stay in the hospital the entire two weeks we were there. I slept there, by her side, every single night. We were planning an emergency medical evacuation to get back to the states. I called my partner from the hospital. I asked him to marry me. I asked him because I knew it would make my mom hold on a little longer. Because I didn’t want things to end that way. I wanted it to end with flowers and macaroons and my mom watching her only kid get married. Because I was in love, and it would have broken my heart if we’d just waited and she wasn’t there when the day did come around.

I saw my mother’s face light up as I walked down the aisle to Smog’s “Mother of the World”, and walked away, hand in hand with my partner to Wilco’s “She’s a Jar”. Summerteeth has gotten me through every single break up of my life, and to be all shit, I am a jar with a heavy lid and to find someone that just opens you up and loves all of you as you walk together to a buffet table lined with Korean BBQ? That’s a great feeling.

-Michelle Zauner (Little Big League, Japanese Breakfast)

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Favorite Music Moment of 2014 — Ex­-Cult at MACROCK

Every April, I take a trip to Harrisonburg, Virginia for MACROCK. The independent music festival is a two­day event in the Blue Ridge Mountains that I coordinated with a team of my friends in college. (MACROCK was once associated with James Madison University, but no longer receives funding from the school and is now a DIY production.) In the past, I’ve lost my voice by the end of the weekend from a combination of singing along, drinking, and catching up with my friends who either still live there or made the same annual pilgrimage I did. This year was no different. I got to see rad bands like Ex Hex, Amanda X, and Charly Bliss for the first time at Clementine. I watched the totally silly madness that unfolds without fail in that town during a Diarrhea Planet show. I discovered teenage sister duo Skating Polly as they tore up the Blue Nile stage, trading off guitar, bass, and Kliph Scurlock’s drum kit. But Ex-­Cult was the band that made this MACROCK particularly exceptional.

When I first discovered the Memphis punk band last year, I became obsessed with their self­-titled record. It was unruly but focused, an album overcome with vicious hysteria but anchored by tight instrumental skill. I had seen them live once before — at 285 Kent in Brooklyn the previous October — but that was before I’d spent much time with their recordings. My best friend Marisa’s band, Vulgar, played some shows with them and hearing her talk about Ex­-Cult’s chaotic sets got me more than stoked to see them again at MACROCK. She didn’t get too specific, but urged, “You need to see them tonight.” Her word was good enough for me.

I skipped their official MACROCK show at Clementine for the after­show at my friend’s house, My Mansion. It was well past 2am when Ex­-Cult started playing, late enough that I had sobered up and reached the point of existing in a hazy blur, as is common by the end of MACROCK weekend. The room in which Ex-­Cult played (one that I helped paint an unappetizing shade of orange many moons ago), was tiny. There’s always a mattress propped up on the back wall, though it’s been known to make its way on top of the crowd, usually carrying some adventurous show­goer. But that was the vibe of MACROCK itself: A weekend-­long party for downtown Harrisonburg, one that kicks off Thursday night. And right in the middle of this city­wide party was an aggro band playing a small room around 3am.

It wasn’t warm outside yet, maybe in the 40’s or 50’s at this point, but it felt like I sweat more in that hour than I have in my life. I had no idea they would play for that long — Ex­-Cult was a punk band after all. I guessed 20 minutes tops. But Midnight Passenger was due out later that month and they must have played their entire catalog. The raucous corkscrew melody of “Knives on Both Sides” soundtracked bodies slamming against walls, “M.P.D.” riled up drunken attendees with metallic, discordant chord progressions, and one of my favorites, “Shot the Beehive” even had Marisa crowdsurfing. J.B. Horrell stared the crowd down with wild-­eyed sternness throughout, expertly shredding through garage-­psych solos without missing a beat. Chris Shaw growled out sinister lyrics with more violence and frenzy than
could ever be felt from their recordings. I was blown away. It may sound hyperbolic- but it’s true.

I know that it is because I don’t normally hang out in the middle of the crowd during punk sets. I’m skinny, I wear glasses, and just generally don’t enjoy close contact with other humans, even if half of those humans are my friends. But getting to watch Ex-­Cult was worth any sweat and bruises that might come from sticking around and getting into the thick of it. I was constantly squeezed in between roughly four other people, so much so that my bra came undone on its own from all the bending, pushing, and shoving. Everyone was going totally nuts as I focused on the utterly impressive and consistent musicianship of this band as kids constantly crashed into them for a solid hour.

Eventually I had to leave — before their last song or two — due to heat and dehydration. I stumbled outside, my hair completely damp, and I must have looked like a rat that just crawled out of a sewer. I collapsed outside on some concrete next to my friend to recover. All I could think was, “I can’t wait to see them again.”

-Tess Duncan (writer/editor, Wondering Sound)

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Ricky Eat Acid’s Three Love Songs

A package from Orchid Tapes showed up on my doorstep at the end of a very snowy and cold February.  Inside the box was a piece of hard candy, a bag of tea, a small thank-you note, and a copy of Ricky Eat Acid’s Three Love Songs on baby blue vinyl.  I had first become privy to Sam Ray’s electronic project at the advent of the new year; I was initially drawn in by the pulsating “In my dreams we’re almost touching” but soon found myself emotionally attached to his more melancholic compositions which favored the juxtaposition of faint piano melodies with washes of white noise and feedback.

I was fresh out of an upper-level composition and history class on electronic music and my discovery of Ricky Eat Acid allowed me to make the rare, immediate connection from the classroom to the real world.  I could hear hints of Hugh Le Caine and I noticed a very conscious use of space consistent with a minimalist approach to composition- but I could also listen to Three Love Songs without ever trying to dissect the nuances of its construction.  It was soothing and fluid and soon proved to be one of the rare albums that I could routinely get lost inside of.  I made do with the digital version while my physical copy was packaged and shipped but I carved out some listening time on the evening the album arrived.

Up until the needle dropped, Three Love Songs had primarily served as my soundtrack to the frigid Wisconsin winter that was exacting vengeance on my city, its drones and swells mirroring the stillness of frozen trees and the punishing gusts of wind they would occasionally succumb to. In an indoor setting, however, the album radiated warmth and revealed its true sense of polarity.  Alone in my bedroom with eyes closed to avoid any visual distractions or associations, Three Love Songs began to more clearly dictate an entire spectrum of emotions, from haunting uncertainty to elation to what can only be described as a consoling embrace.  I began to truly connect with the album’s intimacy during that span of forty-five minutes lying on my bedroom floor, and Three Love Songs consequently served as my musical compass of 2014, a personal reference point that has kept me grounded throughout one hell of a year.

-Sam Clark (founder, Dimestore Saints)

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HEY HALLWAYS “ABSENCE MAKES THE HEART FORGET”

Radiator Hospital toured out to California this summer- and while it was by far my best experience of the year- that is not what I want to write about. There’s too much, so let me focus on one part, which is the folks of the Bay Area and the art they produce. Maybe it’s a combination of the opposite sea’s salt and the genuine personalities of the friends I’ve made, but it all feels so real and true. A lot of these people probably have no idea, because in the grand scheme of friendship our ranks may be low, but I really cherish the heart-to-hearts I’ve had with some of them. Overcoming grief, self-doubt, and our own demons dominate many of the conversations we’ve had and they’ve truly split me open. And so, I was honored to play (the last show) at the House of the Dead Rat in San Jose. It was, by far, my favorite show of the five-week tour. Aside from Radiator Hospital, the show included Try the Pie, Joyride!, Pigeon Island, Wuv, and Tall Can. Surrounded by some of my favorite people and musicians, it felt like a dreamy haze.

At the end of the night, Jason Brownstein handed me a tape of his solo music. Jason’s one of those people I’ve mentioned above whose friendship and conversation I hold dear. We’ve discussed our fears of creating and pushing ourselves, something he even mentioned when handing me the tape, so I was wild about him releasing his solo music. Radiator Hospital put it on in the van when we left San Jose for Southern California and I immediately knew that it would be one of my favorite releases of 2014.

Jason plays in Joyride! and Permanent Ruin, but in June he quit his day job so he could write his first solo record in 6 years. Hey Hallways’ Absence Makes the Heart Forget is a collection of five songs that remind me of why I got into punk in the first place. You can hear the fear and conquering in every note and every word. Fierce guitars and melodic vocals envelope Jason’s thoughtful and self-aware lyrics. They question how he got to where he is, how he sometimes slips, and how he can move forward. In between songs are recorded pieces of conversations with his father, a seemingly complicated relationship perhaps addressed in the opener, “Proven Facts”. On side B is a 9-minute piece of lyric-less music that, for me, serves as a moment of self-reflection. The piece was recorded in 2011, two years prior to the tracks on side A but with the addition of his father’s voice. Side B says to me that we need the past to push us forward, to move us in the direction we want to go. Ending the tape on this note from long ago is a perfect nonlinear conclusion.

On the track, “Anything At All”, Jason sings the following:

Is it enough to justify spending all my time thinking about myself or how I got this mind or how to dispose of it or spending all my time trying to help somebody else? I’d rather wait inside, but I’m lucky to feel anything at all.

I think such thoughts every day. I go to therapy and spend a great deal of time on me, and sometimes I feel guilty for it. They could come off as selfish, these things we do, but they’re not. The music, the self-improvement, and the conquering of emotional pasts and presents are the things we need to get by in this life. Things aren’t easy in Absence Makes the Heart Forget and we are better for it.  Where there was once forgetting, there is now remembering. There are feelings buried deep that have resurfaced and there are new feelings where there was once old dark holes. Hey Hallways confidently unearths a plethora of emotions and creates a truly resonate release. None of these emotions are anything we haven’t heard before- they are the same old feelings most of us deal with daily- but Hey Hallways presents them to us in a refreshing way and I’m glad to call Jason a friend who sheds new light on dark days.

-Cynthia Ann Schemmer (Radiator Hospital, solo artist, managing editor, She Shreds)

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Releasing Zentropy

In January of 2014, LVL UP sat in a Holiday Inn somewhere in Indiana, after an 11 hour driving day doing 25 mph on a sheet of ice highway. The arctic vortex was in full swing, and sort of bumming us out, having cancelled what looked to be some really awesome shows with Pity Sex. Earlier that day Dave and I had posted the pre-orders to Frankie Cosmos’s Zentropy, the first LP we would put out as Double Double Whammy. Being totally unsure about how well the record would sell, we ordered a modest 300 records for first press. So, after having a really stressful and scary driving day in a white out blizzard, we finally got a chance to check our emails at the motel. Well, at some point during that day things had really snowballed (pun intended) for the Frankie pre-order- and to our complete amazement we had received 100+ preorders in less than 24 hours. From that moment on we knew that Frankie Cosmos would soon take over the world. That was a real standout moment in music for DDW!

-Michael Caridi & Dave Benton (Double Double Whammy, LVL UP)

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Women In Music 

I’ve been so inspired by all of the women kicking ass in this past year. The ones who kicked ass didn’t do it subtly and I think that has been my favorite thing about 2014. Also, Jawbreaker Reunion.

-Shari Heck (Cyberbully Mom Club)

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2014 in Six Parts

I stayed up until three in the morning, and I still can’t remember everyone I saw this year and everything I heard this year and I can’t figure out all of my feelings about this year. I’ve been listening to Liz Pelly’s voice memos for inspiration. I want to say something elegant and resonant, but I’ve been failing, so here are my disorganized musings.

1.

I used to be afraid of interviewing anyone, because I have lived my entire life under the impression that I have nothing interesting to say and that I ask weird questions. I have tried to take up as little space as possible in order to avoid bothering anyone else. I have often dreamed of disappearing.

Even though I have spent quite a bit of time this year working to unlearn a history of self-hate, sometimes I am still terrified to speak, so I wonder how I held conversations with Cynthia Schemmer and Meredith Graves and Katie Crutchfield without visibly freaking out.

Cynthia and Meredith and Katie are three of my heroes.

I still think about how Cynthia said that sometimes she’ll write an essay, then rip it apart and write it again, differently. I still think about what Meredith said about writing songs as a way to transform sadness. I still think about how Katie explained her writing process, how she takes forever to craft images.

Perhaps these conversations sparked a little bit of personal confidence. I realized that I am not insignificant. I realized that I am capable of forming friendships with women who inspire me. I realized that I can connect with others through honesty.

2.

I was wearing a black skirt and tights and boots the day I wandered through the rain into Queens to see Priests and Downtown Boys for the first time. Katie Alice Greer talked about how she feels like Downtown Boys are not afraid of anything.

I am afraid of everything.

During one of her speeches between songs, Victoria Ruiz said that we should no longer be bodies defined by borders but beings created by liberation. Perhaps this will sound hyperbolic, but I felt like part of a revolution. I felt electric. I felt inspired and empowered.

And I realized that I have a voice.

3.

I saw Neutral Milk Hotel. Afterwards, I could hardly speak.

4.

I thought about leaving New York while standing by the East River and freezing and listening to All Dogs.

I thought more about leaving New York while walking down a street that smelled like snow and pepper and dead fish and listening to Great Thunder.

I thought even more about leaving New York while walking back from the library as fast as I could and trying to stave off a panic attack and listening to Perfect Pussy.

5.

One night while cleaning up the kitchen, I put on Radiator Hospital, and I collapsed to the floor in tears, because I realized that I was living inside “Our Song“.

6.

“This would all be so much easier if I had nothing more to say”

Angel Olsen gets me.

-Caroline Rayner (writer, Tiny Mix Tapes, The Le Sigh)

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Discovering Girlpool

Last summer, at the suggestion of one of my professors, I decided that it was absolutely crucial for Charly Bliss to embark on our first tour. We all live in New York, so of course it probably would have made more sense financially to tour the East Coast, but I’ve never been one for practicality. Instead, we decided we would fly to Seattle the day after school ended and careen down the west coast in my best friend’s grandmother’s van.

Anyone who has ever booked a tour by themselves will tell you that it involves constant anxiety and the replies to your zillions of sent “Hey! We’re a band from New York and we would love to play with you in San Francisco/Olympia/LA…” e-mails are few and far between. When it came time to actually book our flights, I lied to the band, telling them that I was finished booking, when in reality I had only confirmed three shows.

It was right around then, after much Facebook band page surfing, that I discovered Girlpool. I can’t really describe it any way other than kind of magical, which sounds stupid, but is true. Digital interactions usually feel really blah, but finding Girlpool’s page reminded me of the first time I realized that I could look for music myself and not just listen to whatever my older brothers or my parents liked; subsequently gobbling up every Rilo Kiley song I could find and feeling like I had some special secret on my iPod as I rode the bus to and from middle school.

Listening to their music felt like that- like a secret. Like listening to someone’s diary, which is a songwriting cliche, but also true. In The Punk Singer, when Kathleen Hanna talks about her 1998 Julie Ruin record she says, “It sounds like you could hear a human being’s fingers all over it.” That’s what Girlpool sounds like. When I saw the obscure allusion to The Princess Diaries in their bio, I thought it was too good to be true.

A few months later, at the very end of our tour, we played with them at Pehrspace and I remember being really shocked by how the room was simultaneously silent and electric while they played. No one was checking their cellphone or anything, everyone was totally absorbed. The show happened to fall on the night that Cleo was graduating from high school and I still feel really honored that we got to be a part of it. We also played with SUSAN and Feels and I remember being awestruck the whole night. I didn’t even want to drink after the show, we just went and got milkshakes and talked through the night like forty times.

But really this is all exposition because my favorite moment in music this year was watching Girlpool open for Jenny Lewis at Terminal Five. Harmony and Cleo lived on my couch for a few weeks in October/November while they were in New York for CMJ, and as spellbinding as every Girlpool show I’ve ever seen has been, seeing them play for thousands of people, and opening for my all-time hero of all heroes, after having spent three weeks together watching Curb Your Enthusiasm, talking at length about being away from home for the first time, eating despicable amounts of Thai food… I guess, generally getting to know both of them for the two huge-hearted whip-smart g00fballs that they are, was really special.

While they were in the middle of “Alone at the Show” I tweeted “I LOVVVVEEE BEEEEINNNNGGG AAAA GIRRRRLLLL!!!!!!” from the balcony, and that’s exactly how I felt. As several witnesses can attest, Cleo’s parents included, I cried the whole way through.

-Eva Grace Hendricks (Charly Bliss)

14 of ’14: The Best Albums of 2014

LVL UP II

One last time for one last 2014 list: “best” is in no way an attempt to be an objective statement. The terminology is shorthand to reflect personal taste and is not to be construed as anything more. Also, for the purposes of a more personal summary in this year-end coverage period, this site’s regular restriction on first person will be lifted. In 2014, I listened to more music that was released throughout the year than any other in my life. Numbering well upwards of a thousand releases, it proved impossible to keep tracks on everything (I’m already certain a few of these lists are missing more than a few titles that I genuinely loved)- but there were a few items that were worth remembering. Below are 14 records that managed to carve their way into my esteem both instantaneously and through the process of time. Below that is what turned into the most extensive list I’ve ever assembled, one that acts as an unnecessary validation that good music is being created at an excessively high volume (all of which is hyperlinked to either a full stream or a representative portion). We’re living in a golden age for access and music continues to reap the benefits allowed by technology.  In that spirit, it’s worth noting that a lot of the names included below won’t always be the most recognizable- this is due to both that volume and the fact this site’s built on a foundation that ensures bands who are marginalized will be given the consideration they deserve. So, with all of that noted, it’s time to move on to the main attraction: 14 of ’14: The Best Albums of 2014.

14. Taulard – Les Abords Du Lycée

2014’s most unexpected gem, Les Abords Du Lycée, is a mesmerizing listening that drives home taut organ/drums/vocals post-punk with a startling amount of verve. Endlessly charismatic and unpredictable, the dozen tracks on display here constantly twist and turn, never once daring to let the listener catch their breath. Mood and tempo changes abound on one of 2014’s most fearlessly unique records. Even for those who aren’t even remotely well-versed in the French language, Les Abords Du Lycée should be a thrilling listen; something like unbridled passion can always translate well enough to near the universal.

13. La Dispute – Rooms of the House

What’s easily one of 2014’s boldest concepts roots La Dispute’s mesmerizing Rooms of the House, a record that shows La Dispute’s rapid maturation with a weary grace. Centered around a meticulously brilliant narrative device, it’s a record that stunned me on my first few listens before growing into an inescapable force of nature that refused to leave my thoughts. As bleak as anything the post-hardcore has ever produced, Rooms of the House finds its strength through focus and restraint, zeroing in on difficult topics with a keen eye and an abundance of determination. Blisteringly personal and nearly voyeuristic, it stands as one of 2014’s fiercest artistic statements.

12. Two Inch Astronaut – Foulbrood

Two Inch Astronaut’s Foulbrood has come up more than a few times on the site over the past handful of months thanks to its casual brilliance. Wielding an enticing palette of influences ranging from Drive Like Jehu to their contemporaries in Exploding in Sound, Two Inch Astronaut managed to conjure up one of the most impressive sophomore efforts of the year. The title track, “Part of Your Scene“, and “Dead White Boy” all earned themselves individual write-ups on the basis of their appealingly off-kilter and ragged identity. Foulbrood‘s a record that knows exactly what it wants to be and goes straight for the throat, sending a trail of viscera flying it its wake.

11. Cloud Nothings – Here and Nowhere Else

One of the things I kept coming back to throughout the course of music in 2014 was Jayson Gerycz’s drumming on this record. Not just because it’s a staggering individual performance but because there’s an undefinable, inherent quality that exists within that drumming which drives this record to obscene heights. Impossibly, stripped of the drumming, the record succeeds wildly in an acoustic setting and demonstrates Dylan Baldi’s increasing proficiency as a songwriter, a vocalist, and a guitarist. After losing a member in guitarist Joe Boyer, Cloud Nothings somehow managed to transform themselves into an act that was simultaneously heavier and poppier than when they were a quartet. Importantly, this is a record that’s built to last and it’s only grown on me as the year’s progressed (and that trend’s not showing any signs of slowing).

10. Ought – More Than Any Other Day

As beguiling as it is bewitching, Ought’s brit-pop influenced post-punk masterpiece was a record that sounded triumphant right out of the gate. Slowly, that triumph turned to transcendence and the songs contained within More Than Any Other Day became unavoidable mission statements. In terms of scope, the majority of More Than Any Other Day feels as epic as LCD Soundsystem operating at their best. Both acts share a penchant for sprawling structures and self-containment, bridging a gap between intimacy and grandeur with a knack for deceptive, intricate songwriting. Anthemic and mundane, More Than Any Other Day was like a shot of adrenaline straight to the heart, waiting for the resuscitated with a sly grin and a memorable, tossed-off joke. Excessively charming and utterly winsome, it’s a record that felt (and still feels) necessary.

9. Jawbreaker Reunion – Lutheran Sisterhood Gun Club

“E.M.O.”, Lutheran Sisterhood Gun Club‘s thrilling centerpiece, recently appeared in this site’s best songs of 2014 list- but the song’s only one part of a much larger picture. At once, one of the year’s most joyous and pissed off releases, Jawbreaker Reunion tore through a variety of serious issues with aplomb on their absolutely stunning debut effort. Other than distilling songs like “Laughing Alone Eating a Salad” with a wicked sense of humor, the whole affair’s imbued with an enviably powerful sense of songcraft. Lo-fi, DIY, punk, and teeming with an understanding of classic pop, Lutheran Sisterhood Gun Club was one of 2014’s boldest introductions- it was also one of its best.

8. PURPLE 7 – Jewel Finger

PURPLE 7 boasts a lineup that’s accompanied by an impressive pedigree. Members of the band have previously played in bands like Defiance, Ohio, Landlord, and Hot New Mexicans (whose self-titled record ranks among my all-time favorites and currently leads my “best of decade” selections). Unsurprisingly, their debut LP effort hits a lot of sweet spots, including a gritty middle point between basement punk and basement pop. Simply put, this is a stunning collection of songs that was overlooked by most to a baffling degree after its release. Grounded, humble, and heartfelt, Jewel Finger is one of the records that reminds me of the reasons I started this site. This is music that deserves to be celebrated.

7. Angel Olsen – Burn Your Fire For No Witness

Arguably 2014’s first truly great release, Angel Olsen’s Burn Your Fire For No Witness saw the songwriter transition from a promising talent into one of the year’s most arresting figures. Embracing a fuller sound and a newfound confidence, Burn Your Fire For No Witness broke Angel Olsen’s career wide open with an onslaught of genuinely haunting tunes. Whether they were relentlessly spare or soaked in noir-ish tendencies, they were uniformly captivating; both the storm and the eerie silence before. Raw, tender, and occasionally antagonistic, Burn Your Fire For No Witness was one thing above all else: unforgettable.

6. Cymbals Eat Guitars – LOSE

From the devastating opening lines all the way through to the climactic finish, LOSE holds its ground as one 2014’s most frighteningly personal albums. Largely influenced by the death of a friend close to the band, it’s a meditation on loss and the surrounding aspects of something so tragic. Easily Cymbals Eat Guitars’ finest work to date both lyrically and musically, it’s a powerful (and powerfully moving) listen. “Warning”, in particular, cuts deep- which is one of the reasons why it wound up on the best songs of 2014 list just a few days ago. Incredibly impassioned and brave in its sincerity, LOSE finds a level of catharsis in its emotional turbulence, lending it a charge that renders it one of the year’s most human (and most important) releases.

5. Perfect Pussy – Say Yes To Love

Perfect Pussy, for better or worse, have become intrinsically linked with this site. From Meredith Graves’ insistence on tangential involvement (which I’ll forever be grateful for) to the fact that the band’s greater ascension matched up with the very start of this site, they’re a band I’ve gone step for step with since bringing Heartbreaking Bravery into existence. None of that would have happened if I hadn’t been so fiercely drawn to the things that they were doing, though, which is why I approached them in the first place. Ever since those beginnings, it’s been a privilege to watch them progress, to travel at lengths to watch them play, and to see them release a record as enormously powerful as Say Yes To Love, a collection which houses my favorite song of 2014 (and possibly of this decade so far). Unapologetic, personal, damaged, resilient, powerful, feral, oddly triumphant, and unbelievably intense, Say Yes To Love operates as a perfect reminder for all of the reasons why I fell in love with this band- and why I’ll continue to pay close attention to their movements.

4. Iceage – Plowing Into The Field of Love

No band in 2014 made a more stunning artistic leap than Iceage, who went from a static blur to matching the swaggering heights of Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds after discovering their voice. Plowing Into The Field Of Love was a startlingly radical change of pace for Iceage, who imbue the record with a curious restraint and a sense of deeply haunted Americana. Southern Gothic touch points are littered throughout the record’s bleak landscape, while making room for plaintive ornamentation in the form of brass, string, and piano figures. Darker and more self-aware than anything in the band’s career, Plowing Into The Field Of Love earned them quite a few words of praise from this very site. Augmented by some legitimately extraordinary music videos, Plowing Into The Field Of Love proved to be an unexpectedly rattling experience. Easily one of the year’s most divisive records (as is the case with any left turns this sharp), it suggested Iceage’s ambitions ran way deeper than anyone expected and, subsequently, that they had the know-how to see those ambitions to fruition. In chasing their whimsy they wound up with something I wouldn’t fault anyone for calling a masterpiece.

3. Mitski – Bury Me At Makeout Creek

My connection with Mitski’s music is something that will always hold a very personal resonance. I’ll leave most of the reasoning behind that statement to a forthcoming piece but it’s worth noting in regards to a record that’s so unabashedly self-exploratory. Bury Me At Makeout Creek was an enthralling re-introduction for Mitski, who saw it rightfully skyrocket her name recognition. Top to bottom, it’s an extraordinary effort that re-defined her artistic capabilities after a string of meticulously composed records that leaned on chamber pop tendencies. Here, that past gets blown to bits almost immediately. One of my favorite experiences in music listening all year came when “Texas Reznikoff” explodes in its final section- another came while listening to one of the best songs I’ve heard this decade (for obvious reasons, considering that statement). Where Bury Me At Makeout Creek manages to approach the transcendental is in the process of allowing listeners to hear an artist coming into their own. Part of Mitski’s identity is laid bare by Bury Me At Makeout Creek: it’s the unwillingness to accept identity as a static object and the desire to question its cumulative elements. That search is what gives Bury Me At Makeout Creek its bruised heart- and it’s why musicians will use it as a source of inspiration for several years to come.

2. Radiator Hospital – Torch Song

After the exhilarating highs of Something Wild, Radiator Hospital had a tall order for their follow-up. Fortunately (and unsurprisingly), they obliterated those towering expectations with Torch Song. Sounding more confident- and more polished- than ever before, Torch Song cemented Sam Cook-Parrott’s status as one of this generation’s keenest emerging voices. Paying attention to the minutiae of everyday experiences and injecting them with a self-deprecating sense of poetry laced with pessimism, the songs contained on this record all aim to cut and find their mark with an incredible amount of ease. Having already established themselves as one of today’s more formidable units musically, Torch Song has the added benefit of having four loaded personalities find each other in total harmony, each acting as a complement to the other. Personal diatribes, small journeys of self-discovery, and a sense of empathy inform Torch Song and help cultivate its unassuming charm. There’s not a weak track among the record’s 15 songs and it maintains an assured sense of pace throughout its relatively breezy runtime. By the time it draws to a close, it stands as one of the most fully-formed and rewarding records of recent memory.

1. LVL UP – Hoodwink’d

I don’t think any record resonated more for me throughout the course of 2014 than LVL UP’s Hoodwink’d, which I revered with literally no reservations. 2014’s strongest sophomore effort, Hoodwink’d saw LVL UP expanding most of the elements that made Space Brothers such an incredible release and retained all the others. Unreasonably refined and exceedingly personable, LVL UP have always found a strength in accentuating their members’ unique personalities and that trend got pushed to the forefront for their second full-length (which was co-released by Double Double Whammy and Exploding in Sound). Utilizing a distinctly unique take on their 90’s influences, the band also reveled in the benefits of a cleaner production that allowed them to sound more massive than they ever have in the past. No release felt more timely than Hoodwink’d, either, with the record practically serving as a stand-in voice for a disenfranchised sect of people. Alternately crushingly heavy, viciously poppy, relentlessly personal, and completely worn-out, Hoodwink’d never loses sight of its own mechanics. There’s a level of mutual understanding on display here that separates it from the rest of the year’s releases. Everyone feeds off each other, everyone supports each other, and everyone contributes to one hell of a set without even coming close to overstaying their welcome. Conversely, Hoodwink’d also ranks as one of the year’s most welcoming releases, radiating an empathetic warmth in its tone (and in its tones). As an entry in LVL UP’s catalog, it’s their career best. As a general 2014 release, it’s the best thing I had the privilege of hearing all year.

[EDITOR’S NOTE: All of the titles below without an accompanying link can be streamed in the order they’re listed via the embedded spotifly player below the list.]

Albums from 2014 that deserve to be heard:  Mean Creek – Local Losers | Happyness – Weird Little Birthday | Dark Blue – Pure Reality | Band Practice – Make Nice | Little Big League – Tropical Jinx | Happy Diving – Big World | Tweens – Tweens | Big Ups – Eighteen Hours of Static | Geronimo! – Cheap Trick | Greys – If Anything | Alvvays – Alvvays | White Lung – Deep Fantasy | Caddywhompus – Feathering A Nest | Left & Right – Five Year Plan | Ty Segall – Manipulator | Brain F/ – Empty Set | We Need Secrets – Melancholy and the Archive | Makthaverskan – II | Playlounge – Pilot | Eternal Summers – The Drop Beneath | MOURN – MOURN | Run the Jewels – Run the Jewels 2 | The History of Apple Pie – Feel Something | Flying Lotus – You’re Dead! | Trace Mountains – Buttery Sprouts | Dead Stars – Slumber | Fear of Men – Loom | PAWS – Youth Culture Forever | Swans – To Be Kind | The Yolks – King of Awesome | Crabapple – Is It You? | The Coasts – Racilia | Purling Hiss – Weirdon | Reigning Sound – Shattered | Creepoid – Creepoid | Saintseneca – Dark Arc | Mannequin Pussy – Gypsy Pervert | Fucked Up – Glass Boys | Music Band – Can I Live | Glish – Glish | Liam Betson – The Cover of Hunter | Frankie CosmosZentropy, Donutes, Affirms Glinting | Girl Tears – Tension | Martha – Courting Strong | Hurry – Everything/Nothing | The Spirit of the Beehive – The Spirit of the Beehive | Protomartyr – Under Official Color of Right | The Gary – Farewell Foolish Objects | Spit – Getting Low | Nothing – Guilty of Everything | Sharpless – The One I Wanted To Be | Legendary Wings – Do You See | Therapy? – Act of Contrition | Chris Weisman – Monet in the 90’s | Mumblr – Full of Snakes | Cayetana – Nervous Like Me | Free Cake for Every Creature – “pretty good” | Ed Schrader’s Music Beat – Party Jail | S – Cool Choices | Allo Darlin’ – We Come From The Same Place | Sneeze – Wilt | Quarterbacks – Quarterboy | The Twilight Sad – No One Wants To Be Here And No One Wants To Leave | Filmstrip – Moments of Matter | Bleeding Rainbow – Interrupt | La Sera – Hour of the Dawn | Big K.R.I.T. – Cadillactica | Gold-Bears – Dalliance | Sharon Van Etten – Are We There | Nude Beach – ’77 | A Winged Victory For The Sullen – Atomos | The Gotobeds – Poor People Are Revolting | Nots – We Are Nots | Alex G – DSU | Lower – Seek Warmer Climes | Young Widows – Easy Pain | CreaturoS – Popsicle | Mr. Gnome – The Heart Of A Dark Star | Parquet Courts – Sunbathing Animal | Ex Hex – Rips | Trust Punks – Discipline | Failures’ Union – Tethering | Odonis Odonis – Hard Boiled Soft Boiled | Beverly – Careers | The Number Ones – The Number Ones | Tigers Jaw – Charmer | Tiger High – Inside The Acid Coven | Straight Arrows – Rising | Dead Soft – Dead Soft | The Lemons – Hello, We’re The Lemons | Baked – Debt | MAZES – Wooden AquariumSleepyhead – Wild Sometimes | Native America – Grown Up Wrong | The Wans – He Said, She Said | Trophy Wife – All the Sides | Doe – First Four | Lushes – What Am I Doing | Ultimate Painting – Ultimate Painting | Haley Bonar – Last War | The Casket Girls – True Love Kills The Fairy Tale | Slothrust – Of Course You Do | Sorority Noise – Forgettable | Team Spirit – Killing Time | Feral Trash – Trashfiction | Blank Pages – Blank Pages | Mr. Dream – Ultimate In Luxury | Carsick Cars – 3 | SUNN O))) & Ulver – Terrestrials | This Will Destroy You – Another Language | Vanna Inget – Ingen Botten | The Real Energy – Beyond Delay | Muuy Bien – DYI | Young Ladies – We Get By | Eureka California – Crunch | Negative Scanner – Negative Scanner | Violent Change – A Celebration Of Taste | Black Wine – Yell BossImpo & The Tents – Peek After A Poke | Tomorrows Tulips – When | Mountain Bike – Mountain Bike | The Lees of Memory – Sisyphus Says | Telepathic Lines – Telepathic Lines | The Shivas – You Know What To Do | Allah-Las – Worship the Sun | Das Rad – Radiation | The Coathangers – Suck My Shirt | Crow Bait – Sliding Through The Halls Of Fate | together PANGEA – Badillac | Deerhoof – La Isla Bonita | PUJOL – Kludge | FF – Lord | Aj Davila Y Terror Amor – Beibi | Emilyn Brodsky – Emilyn Brodsky Eats Her Feelings | Young Statues – Flatlands Are Your Friend | Cancers – Fatten the Leeches | Sam Coffey + The Iron Lungs – Gates of Hell | Courtney Barnett – The Double EP: A Sea of Split Peas | The Ar-Kaics – The Ar-Kaics | Beach Day – Native Echoes | Hiss Golden Messenger – Lateness of Dancers | Dude York – Dehumanize | Gino & The Goons – Shake It! | Kevin Morby – Still Life | Bob Mould – Beauty & Ruin | Wyatt Blair – Banana Cream Dream | Queen Jesus – Darkness Yea, Yea | Joel Jerome – Psychedelic Thrift Store Folk | Espectrostatic – Escape From WitchtropolisCheap Girls – Famous Graves | Davila 666 – Pocos Anos, Muchos Danos | Parts & Labor – Receivers | Nick Thorburn – Music From SERIAL | DTCVHilarious Heaven, The Early Year | Bellows – Blue Breath | Teenager – E P L P | Spider Bags – Frozen Letter | The Paperhead – Africa Avenue | Parkay Quarts – Content Nausea | The Jazz June – After The Earthquake | Michael Sincavage – Empty Apartments (Supporting Actors) | Restorations – LP3 | MONO – The Last Dawn, Rays of Darkness | Matthew Melton – Outside of Paradise | The Vaselines – V For Vaselines | Total Control – Typical System | The Velveteens – Sun’s Up | Step-Panther – Strange But NiceExit Verse – Exit Verse | Slippertails – There’s A Disturbing Trend | Globelamp – Star Dust | Champ – Champ | Le Rug – Swelling (My Own Worst Anime) | VLMA – VLMA | Turn To Crime – Can’t Love | ScotDrakula – ScotDrakula | Warehouse – Tesseract | Muhammadali – Future Songs | Unwelcome Guests – Wavering | Baby Ghosts – Maybe Ghosts | White Mystery – Dubble Dragon | Constant Lovers – Experience Feelings | Future Islands – Singles | Maica Mia – Des Era | Tacocat – NVM | Popstrangers – Fortuna | Curtis Harding – Soul Power | New Swears – Junkfood Forever, Bedtime Whatever | The Miami Dolphins – Becky | Thee Oh Sees – Drop | Fasano – The Factory LP | Dum Dum Girls – Too True | Yellow Ostrich – Cosmos | Metronomy – Love Letters | Great Cynics – Like I Belong | Neighborhood Brats – Recovery | Connections – Into Sixes | Three Man Cannon – Pretty Many People | Grouper – Ruins | YOB – Clearing The Path To Ascend | Thee Silver Mt Zion Memorial Orchestra – Fuck Off Get Free We Pour Light On Everything | Apollo Brown – Thirty Eight | Hookworms – The Hum | Wrekmeister Harmonies – Then It All Came Down | Lee Fields & The Expressions – Emma Jean | What Moon Things – What Moon Things | Guided By VoicesMotivational Jumpsuit, Cool Planet | Gem Club – In Roses | Saturday’s Kids – The Lunatic | King of Cats – Working Out | Shopping – Tvff Noogies | The Love Triangle – Clever Clever | Nightmare Boyzzz – Bad Patterns | Future Virgins – Late Republic | Parasol – Not There | Lenguas Largas – Come On In | Cocktails – Adult Life | Generation Loss – Generation Loss | Feral Future – Haematic | Posse – Soft Opening | Diners – Always Room | Mimicking Birds – EONS | The Freezing Hands – Coma Cave ’13 | Amanda X – Amnesia | Predator – The Complete EarthWatery Love – Decorative Feeding | The Estranged – The Estranged | Steve Adamyk Band – Dial Tone | The Cry! – Dangerous Game | Ruined Fortune – Ruined Fortune | Good Throb – Fuck Off | The Elsinores – Dreams of Youth | The Bugs – The Right Time | Vacation Club – Heaven Is Too High | Freinds of Cesar Romero – Cinco Seis | Leather – Easy | Los Pepes – Los Pepes For Everyone | Juanita Y Los Felos – Nueva Numancia | Dan Webb and the SpidersEine Kleine Akustichmusik, Now It Can Be Told | Bozo Moto – BozoMoto | Low Life – Dogging | Moth – First Second | Rhythm of Cruelty – Dysphoria | Siamese Twins – Still Corner | Departure Kids – On The Go | Blessed State – Head Space | Flagland – Love Hard | Manateees – Sit N Spin | White Ass – White Ass | Ausmuteants – Order Of Operation | The Gutters – Eventually | Hysterese – Hysterese | The Ricky C Quartet – Recent Affairs | Hoax Hunters – Comfort & Safety | Arctic Flowers – Weaver