Heartbreaking Bravery

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Tag: Review

PUP – Sibling Rivalry (Music Video)

From 2013 to 2017, PUP managed to string together an incredibly unlikely feat: in three of those five years, I awarded the band the Music Video of the Year distinction (both here and over at PopMatters). Directors Chandler Levack and Jeremy Schaulin-Rioux played an instrumental role in that run, producing a handful of other clips for the band that picked up similar accolades in the process. For “Sibling Rivalry”, PUP take a slightly different approach and allow Martin MacPherson to helm the clip, which is based on the slice-of-life, tongue-in-cheek comics that bandleader Stefan Babcock has produced for years.

In terms of conceit, it’s deceptively brilliant, allowing the humor of the narrative to be amplified while honoring the childhood roots that allowed the song to exist at all in a myriad of ways. Impressively, the clip coaxes some genuine laugh-out-loud moments out of the misadventures of Babcock and his sister as it reflects on pasts (likely both real and imagined/exaggerated) where they continuously try to one-up each other’s recklessly freewheeling impulsiveness.

A tremendous clip from the jump, beautifully animated and ingeniously illustrated, “Sibling Rivalry” stands as the finest example of PUP’s under-discussed penchant for quick-witted and painfully relatable comedy. Both a visual treat and a genuinely heartfelt love letter to what appears to be one of the most healthy dysfunctional relationships imaginable, “Sibling Rivalry” is a more than deserving addition to the band’s continued run of excellence in the medium, which rivals — and may even exceed — any other act this decade.

Watch “Sibling Rivalry” below and pick up a copy of Morbid Stuff here.

Paear – Don’t (Stream)

A few years ago, Peaer put out a ridiculously strong self-titled record that saw the trio nearly perfect a curious blend of math-rock, Midwestern emo, and east coast indie, all of which was shot through with an undeniably punk sensibility. They’ve toured hard since that record’s release and tightened the screws on that formula, amplifying certain aspects (a sludge/grunge influence has started to peek through with a little more regularity) and growing more surgical in their overall precision.

All of those qualities coalesce on Don’t, the first look the band’s offering at their upcoming A Healthy Earth, and it’s a doozy. The track starts off restrained, winds itself up, takes an enormous leap and starts swinging recklessly from the rafters. A startlingly clear track, “Don’t” showcases the absolute best qualities of Peaer and tees up A Healthy Earth with a palpable sends of purpose. Peaer have a lot left to say, we should be grateful that we’re in a position to listen.

Listen to “Don’t” below and pre-order a copy of A Healthy Earth from Tiny Engines here.

Petite League – New York Girls (Music Video)

For several years, Lorezno Cook’s been leading Petite League through memorably scrappy basement pop that’s earned a number of features from this site. RATTLER, the project’s forthcoming record, seems set to continue that trend. “New York Girls” offered up the first look at the record, a song that was quickly gifted a fitting clip courtesy of Cook and bandmate Adam Greenberg (the latter shot, edited, colored, and co-directed). The clip’s premise is simple enough, focusing on Gaby Giangola (aka Goth Girflriend) lip sync’ing along to the song, giving fittingly a wry performance.

Sometimes the math really only has to be that simple: a good performance, a solid idea, and a great idea have been the sturdy basis for so many enjoyable clips in the past. “New York Girls” belongs in their company. Vintage Petite League and a splash of both color and new blood push “New York Girls” over the edge and allow to stand on its own as a worthy entrance into the music video canon. Watch it more than once.

Watch “New York Girls” below and pre-order RATTLER here.

Holy Tunics – Hit Parade Lemonade Supersonic Spree (Album Review, Stream)

To survive in an overcrowded environment is on thing, to get anyone to pay attention to what you’re doing is another, and to find people who are adamant in celebrating what you’ve accomplished within those specific parameters is an entirely separate beast. Yet, Holy Tunics have endured and the recommendations from people with trustworthy judgment seem to be a quiet constant. While the band’s never truly taken off, they’ve clearly earned the respect of their contemporaries and the enthusiasm of the people active in those worlds.

Hit Parade Lemonade Supersonic Spree, the band’s latest record, should be more than enough to strengthen those existing truths. An impulsive but remarkably cohesive record, Hit Parade Lemonade Supersonic Spree finds the band indulging in the sense of fun that’s energized each of their past releases, drawing from the knowledge gleaned from those records to heighten every minute detail. Every song on Hit Parade Lemonade Supersonic Spree seems to draw from the history of powerpop and slacker punk, allowing the quartet to shape memorable tracks that fly by when they’re present but stick in the listeners memory when they’ve finished.

Whether it’s the surging guitar squall of the intro to “Rocket To The Alien Planet” or the familiar jangle of closer “Yesterday’s A Painted Butterfly”, Hit Parade Lemonade Supersonic Spree showcases Holy Tunics as a band that’s keenly aware of the history inherent to their own music. Fortunately, they’re also smart enough to know how to avoid making those trappings sound stale, picking the precisely right moments to throw in a wild curveball, leaving Hit Parade Lemonade Supersonic Spree as one of the most outright fun listens of the summer.

Listen to Hit Parade Lemonade Supersonic Spree below and pick it up from Meritorio Records here.

Richard Spitzer – Synthesizer (Stream)

Once in a rare while, a singer-songwriter steps out of the boundaries of their main vehicle to take on an a more layered identity. Artists constantly branch out to explore other avenues of music, whether it’s a new band or simply a genre shift. Richard Spitzer’s name belongs on that list. Spitzer’s project Loveskills found the songwriter creating largely introspective electro-pop in the vein of acts like Hot Chip, only suffusing the project with a more club-leaning bent. Recently, Spitzer decided to temporarily put that project on hold to release music under his own name, announcing the change with the lovely “Synthesizer.”

In a little over 100 seconds, Spitzer proves to be a deft songwriting talent, crafting a warm, funny ode to the instrument that enlivened so much of his previous project. Acoustic guitar and vocal overlays comprise the entirety of “synthesizer” (not a synth in earshot) and Spitzer somehow manages to recall a swath of admirable lyricists in the song’s short runtime: Sufjan Stevens, Stuart Murdoch, Sean Bonnette, and Owen Ashworth among their ranks. Each of those artists have navigated similarly indie folk-friendly territory with sincerity, humor, and grace, which Spitzer matches here, creating an indelible impression. For as much as he clearly loves the instrument and its capacity to create enormous soundscapes, we should consider ourselves fortunate he’s taking some time away to create something that’s both refreshingly familiar and intriguingly new.

Listen to “Synthesizer” below and keep an eye on this site for further updates on Spitzer’s upcoming self-titled record, which is due out July 19.

Mannequin Pussy – Cream (Music Video)

Following “Drunk II” and “Who You Are“, arguably the two most stadium-friendly tracks of Mannequin Pussy‘s career, the band immediately incinerated the errant idea that they’d gone soft with “Cream” and it’s nightmare of a music video. “Cream” finds the band operating at their most abrasive, crafting a confrontational shot of unbridled aggression packed into a concise run of hardcore-leaning basement punk.

Using horror films as a reference to drive home the point of the narrative’s severity, “Cream” finds bandleader Marisa Dabice getting uncomfortably close and personal with everyone in sight, tunneling a hole into them with incendiary bouts of unchecked aggression. In its own strange way, “Cream” manages to attain a therapeutic sort of quality that borders catharsis. Enveloped by funhouse pastels and warped masks, Dabice fights through the trappings to a fiendish, blackly comic final moment that serves as a distillation of everything offered up by “Cream”. Clever and occasionally garish, the Hanna Hamilton-helmed clip is a very welcome addition to the band’s work.

Watch “Cream” below and pick up Patience here.

Charly Bliss – Young Enough (Music Video)

In Young Enough, Charly Bliss once again found their way to one of the year’s best records. The record’s title track served as a show-stopping centerpiece, affording Hendricks a jaw-dropping moment of not only self-understanding but self-reclamation and personal forgiveness. A clear-eyed ode to making peace with the trauma the world’s inflicted on you, the song stands tall as an astonishing ballad from not just a single person but an entire band rediscovering their purpose.

Henry Kaplan returns to the director’s seat for “Young Enough” after gifting Charly Bliss one of 2019’s best — and most concisely edited — clips in the memorable “Hard To Believe”. Kaplan takes a different approach for “Young Enough” and the result’s breathtaking. Intended as a loving homage to Kate Bush’s “Running Up that Hill“, “Young Enough” posits the band as a capital A Artist. There are certain beats that rhyme with the Kate Bush clip, especially when it comes to the costuming and choreography, but there’s more than enough original material throughout the clip to qualify it as a genuine standout.

Boasting some of the most pure and gorgeous music video cinematography in recent memory (courtesy of DoP Chris Ripley) and anchored by an overwhelmingly committed central performance from bandleader Eva Hendricks, “Young Enough” carves out spots as both a visual feast and as a towering personal statement and possibly even a statement of intent. It’s immensely hard to look away from the clip at any given moment, as it plays off the idea of time and healing while utilizing a small arsenal of gorgeous visual effects that the clip expertly deploys in key moments to heighten the sense of the narrative’s daunting magnitude.

The world turns sideways, the people close to you offer support, and everything goes hazy at certain points in everyone’s life but it’s up to the individual on whether or not those times of hardship are insurmountable or if there’s a time where you can muster enough resolve to confront them directly. “Young Enough” uses this as a central truth, hinting its way towards a resolution that will never be truly comfortable and necessitates the ugly acceptance of living with defeat. Navigating the aftermath and coming through on the other side without self-loathing is where it gets truly difficult.

Evading that trap of self-defeat or corralling it into something healthy is what makes the final stretch of “Young Enough” so affecting. For the majority of “Young Enough”, the camera rightfully fixates on Hendricks as she navigates that terrain but slowly and steadily, the other band members are pulled into the frame and begin appearing with greater frequency until they’re all united at the end, hammering home a point that enlivened Guppy‘s subtext: the importance of community and friendship.

Without the people closest to us, we can become untethered and lose ourselves in the mist of uncertainty. Our friends and our communities are the bedrock of self-realization and, in our worst times, they can be genuinely life-saving aspects. Kaplan and Hendricks find a way to honor her friends, family, and closest collaborators in those closing frames, underscoring and highlighting a simple, obvious truth: Charly Bliss may have been exactly the vessel Hendricks needed to find a path back to understanding her own truth. If that’s the case, no words could possibly do the power of this clip, this record, or this band enough justice. All we can do is try.

Watch “Young Enough” below and pick up a copy of the record here.

Cool Original – Never Stop Hanging Out + Alien Boy – If We Don’t Speak (Music Video)

Every so often, an inspired idea that’s reflective of the core tenets of this site appears and offers a reaffirmation of those beliefs/virtues. A collaborative music video with two like-minded acts just enjoying the concept and sharing each other’s company’s. Cool Original and Alien Boy do just that in a pair of clips for “Never Stop Hanging Out” and “If We Don’t Speak”, each a highlight of their band’s respective catalogue.

The videos themselves operate on a simple conceit: each band a rotating cast of friends take turns as the central subject in a stock photo shoot, with sync’ed live performances occasionally interspersed into the proceedings with a fittingly lo-fi visual effect. Each clip on its own is heartening but as a collaborative effort, it’s genuinely moving. Community clearly matters to each of these acts and eschewing conventional boundaries to celebrate each other’s work is an example of how progressive thinking can be healthily integrated into traditional norms. It’s hard not to feel immensely proud watching how this all came together and even harder not to hope more acts follow in their footsteps.

Watch the collaborative video(s) below, pre-order Cool Original’s I Never Said I Didn’t Care here and Alien Boy’s Sleeping Lessons here.

Tennis System – Shelf Life (Stream)

Punishing shoegaze has a habit of brushing up against elusive feelings of transcendence in its best moments and Tennis System waste literally no time in capturing that effect on “Shelf Life”, opening with a pummeling intro that sets a tone not just for the song but likely the band’s forthcoming record as a whole. It’s unavoidable and all-enveloping, embracing the full effect of maxed out volume and surging forward with reckless abandon.

Everything Tennis System try throughout this winding behemoth of a track works to an exhaustive extent but the result’s more galvanizing than exhausting. Whether it’s that enormous intro, the ambient bridge, or the adrenaline-fueled final section, “Shelf Life” exudes a kind of mythic strength. Inspired and a little inspiring, “Shelf Life” is a warning that rings out clear: Tennis System have arrived.

Listen to “Shelf Life” below and pre-order Lovesick here.

Kishi Bashi – Violin Tsunami (Music Video)

Julia and Mike McCoy have brought about a breathtakingly singular vision in their astonishing animated clip for Kishi Bashi‘s “Violin Tsunami”. Gorgeously crafted and delivered with no reservation in conviction or sincerity, “Violin Tsunami” is achingly beautiful throughout its runtime, using some reserved and extraordinarily powerful imagery to undercut the tragic reality of the clip’s conclusion. Every frame of “Violin Tsunami” is mesmerizing and bristling with raw feeling, drawing from the well of humanity itself to serve an arc worthy of that stature. Pained, haunting, and concealing more than a glimmer of hope, “Violin Tsunami” stands firmly in its message and winds up as one of the strongest pieces of animation, let alone music videos, 2019’s had to offer.

Watch “Violin Tsunami” below and pick up a copy of Omoiyari from Joyful Noise here.