For the past 5+ years, I’ve been dividing this site’s content between three main platforms: Soundcloud, YouTube, and bandcamp. A rare Spotify link appeared on occasion for truly exceptional releases but I tried my best to avoid that situation entirely. I chose those three for ease of access and general convenience, as they seemed to provide a more direct way to unlock off-the-radar artists and their work, while not engaging in the casual classicism that’s built into paid subscription services. The extent of how much I used those sites will be revealed in the ensuing post, which may or may not break this site entirely, but to warm up, I’ll divide the best offerings of the past two months between those triangular points. Songs, music videos, and records are all accounted for and will be mixed in together. Click on anything and reap the rewards of that decision.
One day into 2018, the year already had a ridiculously strong record thanks to a clever release strategy for the latest from Jeff Rosenstock. Not a lot of time had passed before the year saw more record’s join that record, POST-, in talks about the ceiling for what this year can produce. Over the first two months, 10 records — including POST- — managed to make a lasting impression, from records that showcased what their genres can offer at their peak to records that do away with genre subscriptions entirely. A long list of records managed to connect but these 10 managed to stand out. Dive in and enjoy the swim.
1. Evening Standards – Evening Standards
For anyone who found themselves dismayed at the news of Purple 7‘s dissolution, Evening Standards is a perfect reassurance. Chris Mott’s newest project, Evening Standards takes the torch from his old act with a clear-eyed assurance and presses its foot on the accelerator with a little more aggression. Already a viable contender for being the year’s best basement pop record (it would’ve been in last year’s conversation without question), Evening Standards is a relentless debut that refuses to pull punches. From the powerful opening track to the stratospheric heights of “Lil Green Man” to the well-earned finality of its closer, it’s a record that deserves to be delivered at maximum volume.
2. Anna Burch – Quit the Curse
One of the first breakout records of 2018 was Anna Burch‘s confident Quit the Curse, which found a way to intertwine a carefree sound with pointed narratives that touch on everything from anxiety to uncertainty to self-empowerment. Sculpting elements of surf, powerpop, folk, and slacker punk into an intoxicating sound that echoes Sleeping in the Aviary‘s later era, Burch fashions something that’s familiar, fresh, and winsome. Delivered with a smirk, a wink, and an I-dare-you-to-even-try-it smile, the songs on Quit the Curse go a long way in establishing Burch’s artistic identity. When it ends, it’s enough to have most eager for the inevitable extension.
3. Jeff Rosenstock – POST-
Despite being a prominent genre name for years, Jeff Rosenstock‘s career took a massive stride into wider recognition with 2016’s outstanding WORRY.. In typical punk fashion, it didn’t take Rosenstock long to craft a follow-up effort. What’s surprising about POST-, which was surprise-released on the first day of 2018, isn’t its success but it’s wild ambition. Best exemplified by the seven-and-a-half minute “USA”, POST- finds Rosenstock at both his most visible and his most fearless. Every song on this thing is approached at full-tilt and delivered with the desperation of someone fighting for their life. It’s raucous, it’s unpredictable, it’s shockingly complete, and it will always stand tall as 2018’s first great record.
4. The Royal They – Foreign Being
The Royal They find themselves in the relatively unique position of finding themselves launched into much larger conversations because of their extraordinary sophomore album, Foreign Being. All but weaponizing a genre-obliterating mixture of post-punk, post-hardcore, basement pop, spoken word, indie pop, and a host of other influences, the band lets fly from the onset with the exhilarating 1-2 combo of “C.N.T.” and “Sludgefucker”, firmly establishing their authority and digging in their claws with no reservation. Vicious, experimental, and engrossing from start to finish, Foreign Being has the early distinction of being one of the first quarter’s strongest surprises.
5. Ought – Room Inside the World
Now three records into their career, it seems as if Ought is incapable of making an errant move. They’ve slowly expanded their identity, scope, and ambitions over the course of each of those successive records and seem incredibly comfortable in forging their own path. Tim Darcy‘s foray into solo work even seems to have invigorated the songwriter’s main vehicle, allowing Room Inside the World more space to breathe. Ought are at their most polished here but there’s still that strain of tension and neurotic nerves that defined their earlier material. Room Inside the World is the perfect next step for a band that seems determined to be the authoritative voice in their corner of post-punk.
6. Royal Brat – Eyesore
A common trend among acts who are revered for their live act is an inability to craft a record that does their set justice. Royal Brat curb that trend with Eyesore, a record as explosive as they are on stage. Eyesore‘s songs sit around a 100-second average but that’s more than enough time for the band to get their message across. A record about finding redemption and power in living as a survivor, Eyesore finds meaning in its pointed outbursts. Buoyed by attitude and conviction, it’s a dogged triumph that announces the band as a force that’s hellbent on being granted a reckoning.
7. JACK – Alchemical Rounds
Brittany Costa has a long history as a songwriter and musician but has never seemed more at home than she has when positioned at the forefront of JACK. A collection of demos and a genuinely moving EP already under the project’s belt, Costa dives forward and continues to reckon with questions of character, mortality, and certainty. It’s an unwieldy record that conjures up a storm as unwieldy — and unyielding — as the questions that fuel its dark, unapologetic narrative. Costa continues to impress at every level and has delivered yet another fully-realized masterstroke that kicks away the cobwebs from some rooms that people less bold still aren’t willing to explore.
8. Screaming Females – All At Once
“Glass House” — one of last year’s most powerful songs — was one of the first looks at Screaming Females‘ All At Once and serves it well as the lead-off track. The band’s aggression, present even when showing restraint, is one of the most potent keys to their continued success. The placement of “Glass House” sets the tone for what’s to follow, which winds up being the trio’s most decisive work to date. All At Once wears its many bruises like badges of honor, as the band draws from past wounds and experiences to determine its stance and braces for the worst. Chaotic in theory but precisely controlled, All At Once is another masterstroke from a group of vaunted prizefighters.
9. Ratboys – GL
A long-held but underutilized tradition among bands is releasing an EP as an addendum to a larger body of work. When they work, the end result can’t only just make a project more comprehensive but strengthen it’s foundation (see: Okkervil River‘s Black Sheep Boy AppendixEP). Ratboys joins that select pantheon of acts with the extraordinary GL which rivals its formidable predecessor, GN, as a complete work. Containing some of the finest work of the young band’s career, GL exudes the same kind of sprawling, wide-open humanity that’s provided their discography a beating heart. Electric and captivating, GN finds a memorable way to hit all the right notes.
10. Long Neck – Will This Do?
During Jawbreaker Reunion‘s brief but exceptional run, guitarist/vocalist Lily Mastrodimos emerged as an incredibly engaging voice. Fortunately, Mastrodimos had a solo vehicle to keep those talents sharp in Jawbreaker Reunion’s absence. Now that project, Long Neck, has taken the leap that’s served acts like Cloud Nothings and Car Seat Headrest extraordinarily well and gone the full band route. After a handful of extremely strong releases that saw Mastrodimos alone in the spotlight, Will This Do?, as challenging and bleak as it can seem, also comes with a twinge of celebration.
A handful of the finest work of Mastrodimos’ already exceptional discography gets a home in Will This Do?, an incredibly versatile and assured record that explores the themes that have populated the work of both Long Neck’s first iteration and Jawbreaker Reunion. Mortality is confronted head on, self-doubt tugs at the corners of the fabrics keeping the tapestry intact, and a resilient determination shines through the uncomfortably heavy thematic meditation. Joy is in short supply — but still present — on Will This Do? but a hard-earned understanding seems boundless in both its quiet moments and its moments of naked reckoning.
Tethered together by humanity and empathy, Will This Do? benefits from both its fearlessness and its persistent uncertainty. Explosive dynamics and inspired compositions keep it interesting on the surface but its in the many carefully constructed layers — both lyrically and musically — where it evolves into something genuinely gripping.
The record also has the benefit of starting strong but ending with one of the strongest four songs stretches anyone’s produced in recent memory (a run that boasts some of the most vivid and haunting imagery imaginable, especially in the unforgettable closing moments of “Milky Way”) that propels Will This Do? past the conversation of simply being one of 2018’s best and position it as one of the strongest records of this present decade. In what seems to be a time of crisis, Long Neck have flipped the script, seized their own direction and left a trail of smoke in their wake.
2017 was a staggeringly balanced year in terms of memorable musical output. To honor that consistency, the typical run of 17 songs will be complemented by a list — in no particular order — of 83 other great songs to find release throughout the year. As usual, the “best” tag simply acts as shorthand for the music I was fortunate enough to consume from January through December, which had an individual song list that tallied well into the quadruple digits.
Names that are already familiar to year-end lists on this publication reside comfortably alongside artists who are still looking to make a larger impression. Non-singles are included with some of the year’s strongest advance tracks and songs that tip towards hardcore rub shoulders with some quiet basement pop numbers. There’s a lot to contemplate — both inside and outside of the top 17 selections — and even more to celebrate.
These are the 17 best songs of 2017.
Great Grandpa – Teen Challenge
One of the great album openers of 2017, “Teen Challenge” reintroduced a noticeably more explosive version of Great Grandpa that wasn’t afraid of hairpin turns or controlled catharsis. From the outset of “Teen Challenge” the band is swinging for the fences but it’s not until the enormous final section where something deeply impressive transforms into something legitimately inspiring. It’s a celebratory song that comes loaded with conviction and is delivered with the type of determination that refuses to be held back.
Mo Troper – Your Brand
One of this site’s picks for last year’s Album of the Year honors, Mo Troper returned this year with two records. One, a collection of older material reworked for Troper’s current band, the other, an inspired effort of new material that saw Troper expanding his ambitions to legitimately unexpected degrees. The elevation of both songwriting and production on Exposure & Responseis particularly evident in career highlight “Your Brand“, which finds Troper turning his gaze towards the brand-obsessed inhabitants of social media, people who treat themselves as corporate entities and flaunt varying levels of entitlement.
Occasionally, those same denizens find the levels between tongue-in-cheek mockery and unwitting sincerity blurring into an unrecognizable definition. It’s a richly-deserved skewering that’s shot through with a resigned understanding. The tasteful string and brass arrangements that adorn “Your Brand” send the song to euphoric heights even as Troper is weighed down in the bog of a tragicomic reality. It’s a masterful outing that positions Troper as one of the most promising pop songwriters of this generation.
Cende – What I Want
Cende‘s first and final full-length effort was an enticing effort headlined by a slew of singles that all warranted consideration for placement on this list (and earned individual write-ups). None of them wound up impressing quite as deeply as the song boasting the record’s most challenging — and towering — arrangement, the Greta Kline-featuring “What I Want“. Falsettos, a lilting string arrangement, and an incendiary bridge showed off Cende’s formidable range, tilting from something approaching the saccharine to a vicious instrumental outburst at the click of a hi-hat.
Charly Bliss – Westermarck
Few bands have earned as much attention and praise from this site as Charly Bliss over its four-year existence and it was heartening to watch the band break out in 2017 with one of the year’s most affirming releases in Guppy. While every track on that record is noteworthy for one reason or another, it was “Westermarck” that kept revealing deeper facets of itself. A rousing meditation on uncertainty couched in an unapologetic joy of simply being alive, the song became an unlikely anthem for anyone questioning their partner’s motives (especially in significantly skewed familial setting).
Common Holly – Nothing
Tender, sparse, and wrought with longing, Common Holly‘s “Nothing” proves how adequately minimalist formulas can maximize difficult emotions. It’s a bare-bones run through a personal affirmation, rendering something that appears delicate at first blush searing at second glance. More than that, “Nothing” introduces Common Holly as a deceptively powerful artist with the capacity to deliver breathtaking turns in the quietest rooms.
Weaves – Puddle
Riding a wave of critical adulation and having earned the respect of their contemporaries, Weaves returned in 2017 with Wide Open, an aptly named run that they billed as their Americana effort. While the record takes a lot of notable cues from that genre, the band’s wildly erratic, genre-obliterating core remained intact with the barn-burning closer “Puddle” acting as the clearest indication that the band’s unpredictable firepower was still fully intact.
Fred Thomas – Misremembered
Following a record as momentous as All Are Saved will always be a difficult task but to surpass high expectations in the way that Fred Thomas managed with Changeris a rarity. From the record’s dynamic opening track, Thomas proves to be more focused than ever, spinning barbed tapestries of lived-in realism with unmatched verve. “Misremembered” isn’t just a testament to Thomas’ lyricism, either, the fiery music that serves as its backdrop propelling it to stratospheric heights.
Big Thief – Breathe In My Lungs
A lot of outlets gave Big Thief‘s breathtaking “Mary” a deserving amount of love, ranking both the song — and the record it resides — as the year’s best. Meanwhile, the band’s devastating B-side, “Breathe In My Lungs”, flew under the radar. As is often the case with bands as prolific and talented as Big Thief, “Breathe In My Lungs” is so much more than just a castaway or afterthought, it’s one of their most heartrending numbers, expertly using the considerable weight of guitarist/vocalist Adrianne Lenker’s singular voice to turn in some of the year’s most unforgettably damaged romanticism.
Cayetana – Bus Ticket
2017 saw a very large handful of bands taking the next step in their evolution but few seemed to take their strides forward with as much assurance as Cayetana, who zeroed in on what’s long been the crux of their songwriting: mental health. No song conveyed this more than their staggering “Bus Ticket“, which saw the band slowing the tempo and accelerating the force the trio’s always put into their compositions. Managing to be direct and atmospheric simultaneously, “Bus Ticket” stands proudly as a career high for a band that’s found their voice.
Yucky Duster – Elementary School Dropout
One of the year’s most unabashedly exuberant records came in the form of Yucky Duster‘s latest EP, Duster’s Lament. Headlined by the effusive “Elementary School Dropout”, the band offered up an irresistible slice of joyful basement pop that grounded it’s more playful elements with some effective self-deprecation. Expertly toeing the balance between the light and the bleak, “Elementary School Dropout” stood out as 3 of 2017’s most outright fun minutes in a year where that sort of thing was desperately needed.
Strange Relations – Say You
One of the boldest re-introductions of 2017 came by way of Strange Relations‘ enormously confident Editorial You, which was teeming with memorable bursts of icy post-punk that saw the band considerably elevating their grasp on composition. One of the most significant individual outings for the project comes on the record’s second track, “Say You“, which conjures up a steely demeanor and enhances it with fiercely jagged musical interplay. Both minimalist and towering, it’s an obscenely impressive song from a young band that seems determined to continuously reach for greater heights.
Covey – Call Home
There were a lot of songs that came out over 2017’s 12 months that occupied a similar space as Covey‘s “Call Home”: laid back, lovely, unassuming, and tinged with regret, loneliness, and despair. None of them wound up staying the way “Call Home” managed to stay; the song’s melodies and gorgeous chorus humming along and dominating unexpected spaces of memory when it could’ve just as easily rescinded into oblivion. Every return listen offered a new take and at some point, the song migrated from being a pleasant curiosity to something far more essential: one of the year’s best.
IDLES – Mother
Recently given Music Video of the Year honors, IDLES‘ “Mother” also comes off as a ferocious head-turning effort when stripped from its hyper-intense visual accompaniment. Vocalist Joe Talbot repeats several mantras throughout “Mother” — written as a tortured tribute to his own late mother, whose portrait graces the record’s cover — each of them decrying two evils: one political, one sexual, both too frequently intertwined into a nightmarish whole.
Viciously opposed to a system that uses a weighted system to the benefit of the people who are afforded privilege, the song is a startling reminder of the seething anger and frustration of the people who oppose those systems. It’s a clarion call delivered with an excess of venom, using it’s hardcore leanings to drive a message home hard enough that the ramifications of our choices are left lingering in the smoke.
Palehound – If You Met Her
A beacon of consistency over the past several years, news of a new Palehound record was welcome when it was first announced. The first few singles were packed full of the band’s usual tricks but then “If You Met Her” arrived and decimated everything. A hard-hitting look at how the loss of someone you know can affect your own perception of what it means to die, “If You Met Her” immediately registered as not just Palehound’s darkest effort but the project’s best as well.
It’s a gripping, grounded meditation on life itself and it’s delivered with such empathetic understanding that it’s nearly impossible to listen to the song in full without running through an avalanche of feeling. Anything that inspires that level of emotional response and visceral reaction is worth noting — and in the case of “If You Met Her”, it’s more than worth celebrating.
Young Jesus – Feeling
A longtime staple of this site’s coverage, Young Jesus have continuously found exciting ways to evolve as a band in the face of a slew of obstacles that leave lesser bands stumbling. From nearly complete lineup shifts to a refocused experimentation to a relocation that took them from the upper Midwest to the West Coast. The band’s latest effort saw a quick self-release suddenly disappear only to be re-released shortly after by Saddle Creek.
All it takes to understand why such a revered label would take on the band is one listen to “Feeling”, a sprawling 10-minute opus which beautifully showcases the band’s remarkable range, guitarist/vocalist John Rossiter‘s penchant for blending memorable poetry with unforgettable melody, and a growing fearlessness. It’s a heart-stopping moment on what remains one of 2017’s most woefully overlooked records and reaffirms Young Jesus’ place as one of today’s best bands.
The Magic Lantern – Holding Hands
Easily one of 2017’s outright loveliest moments, The Magic Lantern‘s “Holding Hands” casts a spellbinding magic all its own within its opening figures, as a yearning vocal is laid on a bed of gentle saxophone figurines. As the notes and vocals hold — with as much purpose as the imagined goal of the narration, no less — the song winds up with enough power from two core elements to elicit chills.
When the body of “Holding Hands” takes shape as the drums kick in, providing yet another one of 2017’s most perfectly-realized moments, it becomes abundantly clear that something miraculous is happening on the track. By the time it all winds to a ghostly close, “Holding Hands” has left a mark that deserves to be called upon fondly in the days to come. In all of it’s warmth and care, “Holding Hands” pushes forward from a simple greatness and achieves something far closer to transcendence.
SONG OF THE YEAR:
Mount Eerie – Real Death
When Mount Eerie‘s “Real Death” first arrived, it was set to get a standalone feature. That post never arrived as I personally struggled with the decision to attempt to bring any sort of discourse to something so nakedly personal, which held true for A Crow Looked At Me (the record it’s from) as well. As time passed, that decision lingered, though it became increasingly difficult to listen to both the song and the record, famously written about the death of the songwriter’s wife and recorded in the studio she’d built in their house, on the instruments she left behind.
Even without being able to listen to the song, the memory of the song stayed as strongly as the feelings that accompanied the first listen (as well as the subsequent ones). It’s the sound of Phil Elverum tearing his own wounded heart out of his body to present to the world so that they can understand what kind of grief accompanies something so tragically world-shifting.
While every moment of “Real Death” is shattering, the weight of it becomes nearly unbearable when Elverum shifts the lyrics from oblique poetry to a hyper-specific narrative, recounting one moment of singular heartbreak that arrived with a package that has late wife had secretly ordered for their daughter. In that retelling, Elverum envisions his wife, living with the knowledge that her wife would be ending, thinking ahead and wanting to provide comfort for the people she loved.
Not only does that specific moment touch upon why Geneviève was someone he loved so fiercely but, in doing so, provides the song’s listeners a glimpse into her character as well. It effectively shifts the tonality of the record even further toward heartbreak by painting such an intimate portrait, making “Real Death” come across as even more unmistakably, painfully human. It’s a tribute to an artist that so many of us wish we knew and stands as a stark reminder to cherish the ones we do know while we can and to strive to match their gifts with our own.
By positing real-life implications alongside meaningful execution, “Real Death” became something much larger than the sum of its parts. In plumbing the depths of personal loss, Elverum’s Mount Eerie projected gifted us something hard to experience and impossible to forget. With any luck, it will steer us towards more effectively demonstrating our love when it can be appreciated by the people for which it’s intended.
The Best of the Rest
Middle Children – Baby Boom
Joyce Manor – NBTSA
Thurst – Forever Poser
The New Years – Recent History
Monomyth – Puppet Creek
Hermetic – Strategic Default
Protomartyr – A Private Understanding
Alexander F – Call Me Pretty
Pile – Dogs
Vagabon – Cold Apartment
Cloud Nothings – Internal World
Prom Queen – Blonde
Holiday Ghosts – Can’t Bear To Be Boring
Washer – Dog Go Bark
Grouper – Children
Slaughter Beach, Dog – Fish Fry
Fits – Ice Cream On A Nice Day
Meat Wave – Run You Out
The Spirit of the Beehive – Ricky (Caught Me Tryin’)
Walter Etc. – April 41st
Chemtrails – Deranged
Juila Louise – Brat
See Through Dresses – Lucy’s Arm
Amy O – Lavender Night
Modern Baseball – This Song Is Gonna Buy Brendan Lukens A New Pair of Socks
Girlpool – It Gets More Blue
The Total Bettys – Stay Here All Night
Tica Douglas – Same Thing
Midnight Reruns – Warm Days
WHY? – Proactive Evolution
Hand Habits – Sun Beholds Me
Long Neck – Mine/Yours
Julien Baker – Appointments
Anna Burch – Asking 4 A Friend
Palm – Walkie Talkie
Single Mothers – People Are Pets
Lydia Loveless – Desire
Deem Spencer – Soap
Two Inch Astronaut – Play To No One
Blessed – Headache
Diet Cig – Maid of the Mist
Madeline Kenney – Big One
Dream Wife – Somebody
Bethlehem Steel – Finger It Out
Strange Ranger – House Show
Miya Folick – Trouble Adjusting
Jesca Hoop – Pegasi
Fiji-13 – Mansplain It To Me BB
Idle Bloom – Dust
Florist – What I Wanted To Hold
Beachheads – It Feels Alright
Fruit & Flowers – Out of Touch
Ratboys – The Record
Schlotman – Holy Basil
Lost Balloons – Numb
John Rossiter – Mom Guitar
Lomelda – Interstate Vision
Walter Martin (ft. Matt Berninger) – Hey Matt
Jay Som – The Bus Song
Japanese Breakfast – The Body Is A Blade
Screaming Females – Glass House
Phoebe Bridgers – Smoke Signals
Open Mike Eagle (ft. Sammus) – Hymnal
Half Waif – Frost Burn
Petite League – Pocketknife
Say Sue Me – Bad Habit
Petal – 15
Waxahatchee – Silver
Jason Isbell & the 400 Unit – If We Were Vampires
Siobhan Wilson – Whatever Helps
Sammi Lanzetta – Circles
Deep State – Nothing Speaking
Saintseneca – Moon Barks at the Dog
Lithuania – 5000 Year Leap
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.
While this is, officially, an unofficial video, its also an unforgettable one. Chronicling the fight against Advanced Chronic Lyme’s Disease Monica Arbery — a sister of one of Pinegrove guitarist/vocalist Evan Stephen’s Hall’s friends — is currently waging, the video (directed by Arbery’s brother, Will) is a deeply human look at what it’s like to face down a debilitating disease.
In all of the laughter, all of the tears, all of the dancing, all of the resilience, and all of the strength present throughout “Size of the Moon”, the empathy driving this clip becomes readily apparent and, in turn, makes it an even more powerful document. Remarkable, compelling, and near impossible to shake, “Size of the Moon” gets at the heart of familial love in the face of struggle and makes its case with an abundance of conviction and feeling. Click play and then click over to the medical fund linked below to do something that will yield immediate productive good.
Watch “Size of the Moon” below, pick up Cardinal here, and donate to Monica Arbery’s medical fund here.
In the final segment of the Watch This revival spread, the focus — as it was in part three — continues to be placed on sessions that deserving artists did for quality outlets. Only this time around, the sessions aren’t encompassed into one video, they’re sliced up into individual clips, which have been strung together here for the sake of expediency. While the video counter may show a very intimidating 71 for the amount of videos featured, it’s really only 25 performances (with most being only two or three songs overall). Even if it’s unlikely that someone will find the time to watch through every last one of these clips, there’s an equally likely chance that someone may wind up finding a new favorite band or song. All of it’s worth exploring to a great extent and each clip — and performance — deserves praise. So, as always, sit up straight, adjust the settings, take a deep breath, lean in, focus, and Watch This.
1. Cloud Nothings (KCRW)
2. Screaming Females (Moschcam)
3. Fraser A. Gorman (World Cafe)
4. Hazel English (KCRW)
5. NE-HI (JBTV)
6. Sad13 (Paste)
7. Heat (Indie88)
8. Potty Mouth (JBTV)
9. Ovlov (Little Elephant)
10. The Regrettes (Jam in the Van)
11. Ron Gallo (World Cafe)
12. Stef Chura (Paste)
13. Nnamdi Ogbonnaya (Audiotree)
14. Diet Cig (Paste)
15. Hockey Dad (Moshcam)
16. Slaughter Beach, Dog (Little Elephant)
17. Death By Unga Bunga (Paste)
18. Slow Mass (Audiotree)
19. Lady Lamb (Paste)
20. AJJ (Little Elephant)
21. Jesca Hoop (WFUV)
22. Ratboys (Little Elephant)
23. Alejandro Escovedo (WFUV)
24. Kate Davis (ONE ON ONE)
25. Strand of Oaks (World Cafe)
After a brief hiatus, coverage on Heartbreaking Bravery is resuming with a quick post, a small handful of year-end lists, and the return of A Year’s Worth of Memories. To start, the focus will be on clips; Ratboys, Men I Trust, PINS, Bloody Death Skull, and Moby & The Void Pacific Choir all put out great videos at the tail end of 2016 but the latest from Chick Quest proved to be a genuine standout.
A simple, direct clip, for a simple, direct song “Savant Garde” somehow manages to pack a surprising amount of punch. Each of the band members mime their parts and dance in front of an empty club’s brick wall (and, in the case of a sizable portion of the vocals, a red curtain). The premise is simple but the execution is sublime. There’s a tension that the track drums up which the video capitalizes on by subtly emphasizing its empty spaces. It’s a brilliant touch and it elevates “Savant Garde” considerably. Easily a career highlight for the band, the clip they’ve provided does it justice.
Watch “Savant Garde” below and keep an eye on this site for more details on their forthcoming record.
Editor’s Note: There’s been a month-long gap in coverage, thanks to near-incessant travel and other extenuating circumstances. The following run of posts that contain this note will be posts that should have appeared sometime within the past several weeks. Use these posts as an opportunity to catch up to the present release cycle or to simply discover some new music. Either way, enjoy.
Ever since the release of last year’s excellent AOID, site favorites Ratboys have been on a very winsome streak. The current culmination of that streak is their outstanding digital single “Not Again“, which saw the band continuing to elevate themselves into a serious force via their own organic evolution. Now, the band’s unveiled a charming music video to accompany the track.
The endearing clip, which comes courtesy of Kenna Hynes and Tiny Ship Co., finds an empowering bent in a fairly simplistic structure; the band practices, the band gets into a paint fight, and the paint fight becomes a more communal act once the band opens themselves up to the public. It’s in the latter part of the clip’s composition where the subtle, elegant metaphor kicks in and touches on the dynamic shifts from practice to performance. It’s a surprisingly elegant statement, made even more uplifting for the warmth its given in the visual treatment.
The slow-motion sequences of “Not Again” are beautifully composed and both video and song wind up in a healthy symbiotic relationship that pushes each foundation to greater heights. It’s another perfect step forward for Ratboys, who are hitting a formidable stride. More importantly, it’s a reminder that embracing music can be as important as embracing your friends (and vice versa). Funny, heartening, and just about perfect, this is a clip worth remembering.
Watch “Not Again” below and pick up the digital single from the band here.
Last year, Ratboys quietly put out one of 2016’s best records with AOID, a record that’s only benefited from repeat listens (which have existed in abundance). The band’s returned with the playful “Not Again”, a welcome breath of fresh air. Before going too far into the examination of “Not Again”, though, a handful of other great tunes should be mentioned. Since the start of April, a whole host of worthwhile songs have appeared, including releases from Grieving, Little Scream, Bengtsarvet, Empty Houses, Ultraviolence, LUKA, Dave Harrington Group, The Shaker Hymn, and Greater Pyreneese. Despite those tracks’ formidable strengths, it was Ratboys who secured the feature spot.
AOID saw the quartet sharpening their songwriting approach, fine-tuning how they implemented the folk and Americana attributes of their aesthetic into something that closely resembles basement pop but still manages to sound singular, while faintly recalling some of the finest acts on Saddle Creek, a label that built their reputation on bands who boasted a similar musical blend. “Not Again” finds Ratboys’ songwriting growing even sharper, with the band paying a greater interest to choices in dynamics, resulting in one of their fullest-sounding tracks to date.
Additionally, guitarist/vocalist and principal songwriter Julia Steiner has grown more assured in the band’s narrative approach, concocting an acutely-realized dissection on mortality that functions as a celebration of being alive to experience life in its maddening, confounding, and ultimately reassuring fullness. The lyric set here is just as impressive as the crisp instrumental work and production, with everything coming together seamlessly to ensure “Not Again” its rightful place as the band’s current career highlight.
On a level that’s purely concerned with composition, “Not Again” registers as incredibly thoughtful, even for a band that’s already known for their abilities as songwriters. This is never more clear than in the sudden burst of power that closes the song out, following a quiet, enticing bridge. It’s the perfect way to end a song that may very well signal an entirely new level for the band as a unit, both in terms of artistry and commercial success. In any case, the fact that they’re continuing to make music and continuously improving in the process is more than enough cause for celebration.
Listen to “Not Again” below and download it from the band here.
[EDITOR’S NOTE: Each of the seven volumes that comprise this Watch This package contain 25 clips apiece. Due to the sheer volume of live videos that have come out during January, February, and March all of the packages will have the same introductory paragraph. Regular Watch This segments will resume on Sunday.]
It’s been a tremendous first quarter for live videos. While Watch This, Heartbreaking Bravery’s weekly series celebrating the very best of the live video format, hasn’t been in operation for roughly three full months, the information required to keep this thing humming (i.e., checking through hundreds of subscriptions and sources for outstanding new material) has been collected at regular intervals. If they were full sessions, single song performances, studio-shot, DIY captures, transcendent songs, or transcendent visual presentations, they were compiled into a massive list. 175 videos wound up making extraordinarily strong impressions, those videos will all be presented here, in the Watch This: The Best of 2016’s First Quarter extended package, one 25-clip presentation at a time.
Watch the third collection of those videos below.
1. Thao & The Get Down Stay Down (KEXP) 2. Leapling – Alabaster Snow (VHS Sessions) 3. Ty Segall & The Muggers (KEXP) 4. Jawbreaker Reunion – Small Investments (This Has Got To Stop) 5. Julien Baker – Blacktop (BIRN) 6. Bantam Lyons – Away from the Bar (Faits Divers) 7. Furnsss – Effy (WHUS) 8. Michael Rault (Audiotree) 9. Ratboys – Light Pollution (DZ Records) 10. Savages – Evil (KCRW) 11. Stone Cold Fox – Contagion (Hooke) 12. Darlene Shrugg – First World Blues (Noisemakers) 13. Single Player – Silver Dollar (DZ Records) 14. Parquet Courts – Outside (WFUV) 15. The Dirty Nil – No Weaknesses (Little Elephant) 16. Palm – I Don’t Want to Know (VHS Sessions) 17. Sleater-Kinney – Price Tag (Austin City Limits) 18. Looming – Nailbiter (Trundle Sessions) 19. Courtney – Kids In Blushing Love (DZ Records) 20. EL VY (NPR) 21. Low – Try To Sleep (The Current) 22. Kishi Bashi – Manchester (NPR) 23. Run Forever – Big Vacation (Trundle Sessions) 24. J Fernandez – Read My Mind (Consequence of Sound) 25. Sharon Van Etten – Tarifa (NPR)