Heartbreaking Bravery

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Tag: Rainer Maria

The 15 Best Songs of August

We may only be a week into September but there have already been a handful of notable releases to find their way out into the world this month. Those items will be appraised in due time and given the recognition they richly deserve but for now, it’s worth taking the outstanding songs of last month into account. While a dozen bands appear on this list, a trio of them managed to release two songs that hit harder than anything else. Normally, these would be whittled down to one specific inclusion but all three cases proved so impossibly deserving that it became impossible to not highlight both. So, take a deep breath and dive on into the 15 best songs of August. Enjoy.

Weaves – 53 + Walkaway

One of last year’s most breathtaking breakout acts, Weaves had been surging forward for a few years before the momentum carried them over the top. Thankfully, it doesn’t appear that their momentum has slowed a bit, with the project’s two new songs suggesting that it may have even found a way to accelerate. Both “53” and “Walkaway” are towering testaments to the band’s formidable strengths, from their unparalleled grip on dynamics to the ability to conjure a larger-than-life feeling, this pair constitutes two of 2017’s absolute strongest tracks.

Rainer Maria – Forest Mattress

Re-emerging from some cruel shadow that kept Rainer Maria away for far too long, the band more than proved they’ve still got what it takes to craft an incredible record. Among Rainer Maria‘s most scintillating highlights was “Forest Mattress”, an incisive burst of pop-leaning post-punk. Arresting, melancholic, and even a little hopeful, “Forest Mattress” stands as a song befitting of 2017’s most welcome comeback. An invigorating return to form for a band that’s always deserved far more recognition than they’ve received.

Common Holly – Nothing

Simplistic, taut, and driven by an utterly gorgeous vocal melody, Common Holly’s “Nothing” was one hell of a way to turn a few heads. A beautiful piano figure, minimalist percussion, and a staggering amount of conviction combined to propel “Nothing” from a run-of-the-mill bedroom pop song to something impossible to ignore. Every second of this track managed to soothe, grip, and impress. It’s an extraordinary introduction to an artist that will be more than worth watching.

Abraham King – Spit

Abraham King’s “Spit” has all the hallmarks of a great basement pop track, with a few key distinctions that manage to elevate it to stratospheric heights. Whether it’s the production or the range of influences driving “Spit”, there’s something to admire in each one of the song’s turns. Instrumental arrangements and a vocal delivery that elicit an emotive response, a running time that feels all too brief, “Spit” finds an unassuming route to transcendence.

METZ – Drained Lake

One of the most blisteringly intense bands of this decade, METZ have never slowed down to smell the roses, instead opting to set the entire garden on fire and spray gasoline and throw molotov cocktails into the flames until they start threatening the nearest forest. “Drained Lake” is one of the trio’s most ferocious songs to date, while also somehow being one of the most melodic efforts of their discography. It’s weird, it’s twisted, and it’s perfectly METZ. Get out of the way or get reduced to a pile of ashes.

Lost Boy ? – Heavy Heart

A perennial site favorite, the Davey Jones-led Lost Boy ? has been growing more experimental in recent years. “Heavy Heart”, a song recently posted to Lost Boy ?’s soundcloud, takes that experimentation to new levels by fully embracing the sound that drove some of the most iconic movies — and movie soundtracks — of the ’80s. From an opening that establishes that familiar tone to a Wolf Parade-esque vocal delivery, “Heavy Heart” both intrigues and entices, acting as both a warm blanket and a surprisingly effective shot in the arm.

Washer – Dog Go Bark + Bass 2

Washer have found a way to be the model of consistency throughout the past several years. Never anything less than superlative and steadily, continuously improving, their forthcoming All Aboard appropriately contains the strongest work of their career. The last two songs to be released in advance of the record stand as a proof positive clam of support. “Dog Go Bark” and “Bass 2” both operate in similar strong structures yet sound so radically different, it’s nearly impossible to notice. This is Washer at their absolute peak, churning out songs that are as memorable as they are explosive. Get swept up in the fray and never leave.

Madeline Kenney – Big One

The last time a round-up of the best songs to appear over the course of a small hiatus ran on this site, Madeline Kenney‘s “Always” found itself snugly situated among the featured tracks. Kenney continues that winning streak here with the sprawling “Big One”. Operating as the calm in the eye of a storm, “Big One” sees Kenney asserting will and tapping into a deep well of personal strength. Bold, provocative, and spellbinding, it goes a long way in proving that “Always” was no fluke.

Weakened Friends – Hate Mail

While Kendrick Lamar may still be the most sought after musician for a feature spot for most of the music world, a certain pocket of ’90s-indebted slacker punk bands would likely give that distinction to Dinosaur Jr‘s J Mascis. Rarely has Mascis been utilized more expertly or made more sense as a guest than the legendary guitarist does on “Hate Mail”. Weakened Friends comes out swinging on this track, conjuring both the spirit of a decade past and enough determination and innovation to continue to nudge that sound forward. It’s a monstrous song with a beautiful assist and should find a loving home in the libraries of people who still make their partners mix tapes.

Mike Caridi – Two Dogs

LVL UP‘s Mike Caridi has quietly been releasing some excellent music as The Glow and issuing out some equally impressive songs on soundcloud. “Two Dogs” may be one of Caridi’s finest. Recorded over a year ago, “Two Dogs” retains Caridi’s songwriting signatures, featuring everything from a breezy vocal melody to being a little battered by noise. It’s light, it’s fun, and — most importantly — it sticks. As is always the case with the best Caridi-authored tracks, one listen never feels like enough.

Grouper – Children

Recorded for Ruins but separated from the final product, “Children” stands as one of the most gentle and moving songs of Grouper‘s career. Released in part to benefit the Silvia Rivera Law Project, Transgender Law Center, and the Trans Assistance Project, “Children” stands as a testament to the empathy fueling Grouper’s most notable works. Calming at first blush, the song takes on a more sinister bent as the narrative comes into focus, painting a drastic duality between tone and message. By the time “Children” has fully revealed itself, it’s impossible to escape.

Strange Ranger – Sophie + House Show

Strange Ranger has gone on a commendable evolution over the past few years, resulting in the project’s most sterling  individual efforts. “Sophie” and “House Show” the first two tracks to tease the band’s upcoming Daymoon. Both exude the kind of spellbinding melancholy that informed their best work and see the band’s grip on songwriting tightening to the point where their knuckles turn collectively white. “Sophie” is the calm and “House Show” is the storm but both offer an endless array of rewards. This is the sound of a band coming into their own, unafraid to gamble or take cues, and expressing a singular identity with an abundance of conviction.

 

 

A Month’s Worth of Songs Worth Hearing

It’s been a long stretch since the last main update ran on this site. Part of the reason for its absence is a slow relocation from central Wisconsin to Madison and all of the accompanying transitional necessities. Part of it’s due to my own musical obligations (Heartbreaking Bravery remains a one-person operation). All of that said, the work and updates that keep this place afloat have continued in earnest. Below, there are over 200 songs that emerged over the past month (and a few additional weeks) that deserve to be heard. There will be a handful more that are touched on in the near future but for now, bookmark this page and explore the endless amount of reasons why the people who claim there’s no interesting music being made today have no idea what they’re talking about.

Patsy’s Rats, Fake Palms, Queen Moo, Swanning, Baby!, Lomelda, UV-TV, Jack Cooper, Gorgeous, Shannon Lay, Small Reactions (x2), Lina Tullgren, Atlas Wynd, Melina Mae, Jenny O., Terror Watts, Ephrata, Amy OBunny, Apollo Vermouth, Beachtape, Girl Ray, Speedy Ortiz, The Cribs, Cannery Terror, Arrows of Love (x2), Easy Love, Pardoner (x2), Walter Etc., Maneka, The Lovebirds, Birds, Becca Mancari, Holiday Ghosts, together PANGEA, Soft Fangs, Honey, Downtown Boys, The Districts, Club Night.

Monk Parker, Guided By Voices, Big Hush, Deerhoof, The Duke Spirit, Partner, Space Mountain, Surfer Rosie, The Mynabirds, Mini Dresses, Winter, Wieuca, Knifey, A. Savage, Katie Ellen, Guilt Mountain, EMA, Ayo River, Luke Sital-Singh, Black Beach, The Travelling Band, Curtis Harding, Black Belt Eagle Scout, Culture Abuse, Alvvays, The Sighs, Earth Girl Helen Brown, Holy Hum, Hypoluxo, The Fresh & Onlys, Dream Ritual, Guantanamo Baywatch, Brian Dewar, Warbly Jets, Nick Cave & Warren Ellis, Oh Sees.

Annie Hart (x2), Sløtface, Company of Thieves, Lushloss, Las Rosas, Boris, Shelley ShortCRITTÉ, Joey Sweeney & The Neon Grease, Lambchop, Dina Maccabee, Hiss Golden Messenger, Looming, Faith Healer, Jogging House, Filthy Friends, TV Sets, Goat Girl, No Friends, Hairpins, The Warp/The Weft, Body Origami, Broken Social Scene, Shagg, Omni, Ice Balloons (x2), Max Chillen and the Kerbside Collective, Anna Tosh, Carmen Villain, Dabble, Hayden Calnin, Hand Habits, WHIMM, Grizzly Bear, Turnover, Coast Modern.

Sparks, Ian Randall Thornton, Har-Di-Har, Sam Coffey & The Iron Lungs, The Shivers, Broncho, James Riotto, Naomi Punk, Tamino, Fassine, Shabazz Palaces, Jordan Klassen, Wet Dream, Offa Rex, Emily Reo, Kan Wakan, Night Talk, Cina Polada, Bombz, Cold Specks, Juiceboxxx, Pearl Earl, Zola Jesus, Absolutely NotNØMADS, Space Camp, Poppy Ackroyd, Oro Swimming Hour, Flesh WorldLød, Nassau, Living, The Anatomy of Frank, Quiet Hollers, Elle Mary & The Bad Men, Stone Irr, Lil Tits, Crooked Teeth.

King Borneo, Kazyak (x2), Swimming Tapes, Prism Tats (x2), Bloody Your Hands, Tom Hale, Fake Billy and the False Prophets, Electric Eye, Briana Marela, The Tambo Rays, Oly Sherman, Wicca Phase Springs Eternal, Everyone Is Dirty, Gladys Lazer, Fronds, Mappe Of (x2), Lee Bains III & The Glory Fires, Shout Out Louds, Heavenalive, Kabells, Flood Coats, Tempest le Mans, Spirit Award, Babygirl, Kinder, Weatherboy, Pawns, Memnon Sa, Mark Springer, Reese McHenry & Spider Bags, Triptides, Cadet Kelly.

The Weather Station, Will Hoge, A Valley Son, Shy, Low, Dent May, Parent, Jordan B. Wright, Kele OkerekeTed Leo, Blank Range, Tomo Nakayama, The Woggles, Whispertown, The Two Tens, Wild Honey, Sam ValdezSusanne Sundfør, Pill, Peakes, Muskets, THE VAN T’s, Ruby FrayRainer Maria, METZ, Lens Mozer, and Petite League.

Three Weeks Down: A Handful of Streams

It’s been a little over three weeks since the last regularly scheduled post appeared on this site. In that time, a whole host of excellent songs have been released. Below is a long compilation of some of the best of those offerings. There will be compilation lists in this vein for both music videos and full streams following this one. Following those posts, there’ll be posts featuring seven outstanding entries that have emerged in that time from each category. So, dive in, bookmark this page, and click around. A new favorite band’s always just around the corner for everyone, it’s just a matter of taking the time to look.  

See Through Dresses, BIRDS, Hater, Elle MaryTrü, Jason Loewenstein, Rips, Mt. Doubt, Livingmore (x2), Amy O, Japanese Breakfast, Mise en Scene (x2), Algiers, James Riotto, B Boys, The Drums (x2), The Last Dinosaur, Human Potential, The Rememberables, Deer Tick (x2), Rose Hotel, Nathan Oliver, A Giant Dog, Grim Streaker, Worriers, Slaughter Beach, Dog, Mardou, Psymon Spire, Suntrodden, Rainer Maria, Tomten (x2), Jack Cooper, The Fresh & Onlys, Lee Bains III + The Glory Fires, Quiet Hollers, Baby In Vain

Dentist, SOAR, Montrose Man, Sharon Van Etten, Absolutely Not, Randy’s Got A Playdough Face, Katie Von Schleicher, Hundredth, Night Click, CHIMNEY, Atlas Wynd, Exhausted Pipes, Tall Friend, Spodee Boy, Delafye, L.A. Witch, David Nance, Spit, New Swears, Sun Riah, Sleep Party People, Manzanita Falls, Pronto Mama, Cheap Fantasy, Susanne SundførRadulaFrøkedal, Jacques Labouchere, Single Mothers, Cody & Danz, Pill, Bien, Frightened Rabbit, Ratboys, Trouble, Low Hums, Michael Nau, First Light

Alex D GoldbergSQÜRL, Ride, Dead Heavens, The Domestics, Nathan Oliver, Milburn, House of Feelings, Modern Crowds, Demure for Sure, Broken Social Scene, Dove Lady, bukowski, Partner, The Big Drops, Kazyak, Diet Cig, Monk Parker, Black Thumb, Face of Man, Blimp Rock, DieAlps!, Fronds, Pearl Earl, Abbie Gale, Trevor Sensor, Great Woods, Best Ex, The Bandicoots, Chris Merick Hughes¡Moonbeams No Mas!, TobaccoJason Isbell and the 400 Unit, Moderate Rebels, Rostam, Fallow Land, Banditos

Hammydown, Institute, Eerie Gaits, Parker Longbough, GILA, Cameron Boucher, The Last Dinosaur, LAPêCHE, The Clientele, Maneater, Holy Wars, Guerilla TossHoneyrude, Superorganism, and Rudy Stone.

2015: A Year’s Worth of Memories (Phil McAndrew)

phil mcandrew
Photograph by Shauna Roloff

Last year, Phil McAndrew (pictured above, behind the kit) delivered a heartfelt piece to the first edition of this series. At the core of that piece was a celebration of his younger brother, Ray, and the music he was making with Perfect Pussy. A little while later, he’d become much more than a supportive voice in the audience and create the distinctive comic accompaniment for Astonishing Adventures!, Perfect Pussy’s ferocious split with Joanna Gruesome. It was another small moment of  brilliance in what’s turning into an illustrious career in animation. Even while registering credits for places like MAD Magazine, IFC, Cartoon Network, Random House, and Workman Publishing, McAndrew’s found time to join a band and catch a slew of shows (a few of which I was fortunate enough to be able to take in with him). Below, he covers some of the artists that meant the most to him in 2015 and explores his reintroduction to making music. Read it below and then indulge your own creative sensibilities in any way you see fit.

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2015 was kind of a strange year with lots of ups and downs and sideways and diagonals and such. But if we’re talking strictly music stuff, it was a really excellent year, filled almost entirely with ups.

Thinking back on 2015, I’m flooded with music related memories that felt meaningful in one way or another. Scribbling drawings of my brother Ray and our friend Garret as they started writing the next Perfect Pussy album in my childhood bedroom. Directing a music video for my old friend Jeff York’s new band, Major Player. Hanging out alone late at night and turning the volume way up on new tunes from my brothers Tyler and Ray, who make music together as Toxic Parents and separately in a variety of bands and solo projects like Wealth, Crusher, Perfect Pussy, and MKSEARCH. Getting back into drawing weird flyers for bands my friends play in.

Getting to watch Sleater-Kinney play from backstage at Irving Plaza. Seeing more great shows than I can even count, in huge venues, in small venues, on a pier in Manhattan, in an old car wash, in burrito restaurants and skateboard shops and art spaces, and in basements in my neighborhood…. Sheer Mag, All Dogs, Rainer Maria, Destruction Unit, Really Big Pinecone, Izzy True, Downtown Boys, Fleabite, Harmonica Lewinski, Deerhoof, Warehouse, Pretengineer, Arm Candy, Speedy Ortiz, Olivia Neutron-John, Big Ups, Pity Sex, Aye Nako, Nine of Swords, Waxahatchee, Mannequin Pussy, and dozens of others.

The most meaningful thing that happened for me this year was that I myself started playing music again after a very long hiatus. I hadn’t played drums since sometime in 2010, when jobs and grad school and relationships scattered the members of the bands I used to play in to different states. Five years and two cross-country moves later, my friend and old next-door neighbor Mim asked if I’d be interested in taking over on drums in her band, The Nudes. Right around the same time, my friend and current roommate Shauna, started playing bass in the band (they’d never had a bassist before). I’ve loved The Nudes since I first saw them play when I moved back to upstate New York from Southern California in 2013, so I was pretty thrilled to be asked to play with them.

We’ve played a lot of shows since I joined The Nudes over the summer. My favorite show was here in Syracuse in October with local favorites Malvinas, fellow upstate New Yorkers Green Dreams, and the great Worriers, whose most recent album I can’t stop listening to. The show was packed and everyone was in high spirits. I saw so many smiles at this show. I saw people of all sizes and genders bouncing around together as the bands played, getting wiggly and weird and laughing. Nobody was dancing like a violent psychopath. Everything about this show felt right. It was all of the good things that I missed about playing in bands.

2014 was all about watching my brothers and friends do cool things and conquer the world, only participating in the music scene in my own small, non-musical ways. That continued into 2015, but to get back into playing music myself in a band I love with people I love was nothing less than magical.


-Phil McAndrew