Heartbreaking Bravery

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Tag: Review

Honeyfitz – October Air (Lyric Video Premiere)

One of the most distinct pleasures of running something like Heartbreaking Bravery is the unsolicited submissions that wind up hitting home. Artists from all corners of the world, several of which using their own bedroom as their primary recording space, making music that deserves to be heard by so many more people than what music’s disheartening industry politics will ever allow. This site was created as a push-back against the idea that something needs to attract an excess of clicks to be featured and it’s why when something as oddly moving and quietly superlative as Honeyfitz’s “October Air” comes along, it gets its due celebration.

Elihu Jones, the mastermind behind Honeyfitz, has been making exceptional records for the past few years. Old Patterns, Honeyfitz’s forthcoming effort, looks to be the project’s finest to date and it’s highlighted by tracks like “In Circles“, “Dream Restless“, and “October Air”. The latter of that trio’s premiering here today with a gorgeous, simplistic hybrid clip that acts both as a hypnotic visualizer that underpins the passing of time as well as a straightforward lyric clip.

It’s elegant, clever, and uniquely absorbing in its construction but everything’s heightened by the song itself, which is sung with an urgent quaver and awash in pristine tones as much as it is noise damage. Clocking in at just under two minutes, it’s a testament to Honeyfitz’s penchant for coaxing maximal impact out of a minimal setup and it’s a beautiful window into one of today’s many great bedroom pop artists. This is exactly the type of effort that should receive a lot more praise.

Watch “October Air” below and pre-order Old Patterns here.

Havania Whaal – Supermoon (Song Premiere)

The genres of psych, shoegaze, and punk have all peacefully co-existed at various intersections throughout the past several decades but rarely have the three been as equally represented as they are on Havania Whaal’s “Supermoon”, an uneasy, five and a half minute triumph. Woozy tones drift in and out, the drums hit hard, the vocals fight their way through endless layers of reverb echo and a string instrument or two throw things even further off kilter.

Havania Whaal have been quietly gaining momentum over the past three years and everything seems to be coming to a head for the trio with “Supermoon” more than likely to pique a lot of additional interest. The song’s masterfully structured, allowing each element to both breathe on its own and congeal with the others to create an enormous sum.
Every second of “Supermoon” feels, impossibly, calculated and spur-of-the-moment, conjuring up an additional sense of uncertainty to accompany the light cognitive dissonance the production already does well to provoke.

It’s a fascinating and immensely enjoyable moment for a band that seems to destined to both keep its audience on its toes and keep their listeners happily engaged. Don’t miss out on one of this month’s most pleasant surprises.

Listen to “Supermoon” below and keep an eye on this site for more updates on Havania Whaal.

The Holy Circle – Early Morning (Song Premiere)

Only a short while ago The Holy Circle were kind enough to offer up a premiere for their “Polaris” music video. Today, a new premiere is on the table: the brooding, pulsating, melancholic “Early Morning”. Taken from the band’s forthcoming self-titled full-length, “Early Morning” is a characteristically dark piece of synth pop, underscoring  the band’s gift with atmospherics as much as it highlights their penchant for forward-thinking composition.

A calm, steadily swirling vortex of mood, emotion, and quiet determination, the track represents another important step forward for the band, whose evolution has been a privilege to witness. Hypnotic and mesmerizing in all of the right ways, “Early Morning” takes on a complex narrative involving perceived beauty and hard-fought individuality, weaving it into a gentle dreamscape couched in some subtle menace, creating an absorbing tapestry that’s difficult to shake. A commentary on the emotional duality of burdensome expectation, “Early Morning” transcends its outward tranquility to become something that cuts deep. One of the band’s finest moments to date.

Listen to “Early Morning” below and pre-order The Holy Circle here as a download, from ANNIHILVS on CD, and from Black Horizons on cassette.

Jason Isbell & The 400 Unit – If We Were Vampires (Stream)

In the past week or so there were a handful of notable music videos that emerged from the likes of Simon Doom, Real Estate, American Lips, Jay Som, Andy Shauf, Slow Dancer, Chromatics, TERRY, Sam Mullany, and Andy Gabbard. All of them were entertaining for various reasons and all of them are worthy of repeat viewings. As is always the case, music videos weren’t the only thing finding their way out of the shadows. Songs and records were unveiled but nothing landed with as much impact as Jason Isbell & The 400 Unit’s “If We Were Vampires”.

Normally, the features on Heartbreaking Bravery are granted to either emerging or off-the-radar artists, musicians as established and widely-celebrated as Isbell pick up enough notices elsewhere. To that effect, something has to be monumentally moving for an artist of that type of stature to earn a feature. “If We Were Vampires” is, unmistakably, one of those pieces. Isbell’s made a habit out of writing those types of numbers, including one of the most devastatingly beautiful songs since the turn of the century in “Cover Me Up“, a heartfelt ode to his wife and collaborator, Amanda Shires, who served as a constant reminder life was worth living.

If “Cover Me Up” centered around the conceit of Shires acting as a necessary rebirth for Isbell, “If We Were Vampires” subverts that narrative and explicitly focuses on how Shires’ presence will either make life unbearable to navigate if she passes first while recognizing that the trade-off will be worthwhile because she’ll have been there up until that point. All of those emotions are magnified considerably when taking into stock the various accounts of how Shires legitimately saved Isbell from a variety of vices that could’ve potentially ended his life. As the best partners tend to do, Shires not only gave Isbell hope but gave him a new lease on life; for Isbell Shires and his very life are inextricably intertwined to a stratospheric degree of intensity.

That love’s something that’s been present throughout his recent work and has been clearly evident in his banter (he nearly reduced an entire crowd to tears at Prospect Park in 2015 just talking about Shires, while she was on hiatus from performing to deliver the couple’s first child). In a recent interview, Isbell mentioned that when he first performed “If We Were Vampires” it was legitimately hard for him to make it to the end and admitted that’s still occasionally the case as Shires watched on with a mixture of pride and genuine understanding. They’d just run through the song and it was impossible not to notice Shires’ loving gaze as the two harmonized carried just a hint of sadness, the chorus’ final line “but one day I’ll be gone or you’ll be gone” likely hitting uncomfortably close to home.

It’s that juxtaposition of life with someone you love that makes dying a more acceptable fate. It’s a heavy concept that Isbell toys with masterfully here, envisioning both himself and Shires as vampires, content to play it cool because they didn’t have to account for that impending destination waiting on some unknown horizon. In the very next stanza, Isbell discards that scenario entirely, surmising that “time running out is a gift” and pledging every last one of his seconds to be offered up in the service of the woman he loves, a woman that both saved his life and gave him a reason to live. It’s earnest, it’s heartfelt, it’s deeply empathetic, and it stands proudly as another heartrending masterpiece from one of our generation’s finest songwriters. Hit play and keep the people you love close enough for them to know they give other people’s lives just a little more meaning.

Listen to “If We Were Vampires” below and pre-order The Nashville Sound here.

Fruit & Flowers – Out of Touch (Music Video)

In the time that’s elapsed since the last non-premiere post was published here, there have been excellent songs by Beach Fossils, Stalagmites, Gold Dime, CHIMNEY, Bad Channels, Plastic Picnic, Hayden Calnin, Night Click, Ethan Daniel Davidson, The Technicolors, Blimp Rock, Elle Mary & The Bad MenNØMADS, and Holy Boy that have all been unveiled. As if that wasn’t enough, there was a small host of exceptional music videos to find release, headlined by “Out of Touch”, the first proper visual effort from site favorites Fruit & Flowers.

Drug Tax, the band’s forthcoming EP, is out next month and to preview the release, they’ve offered up a beach-heavy clip that comes courtesy of Thomas Ignatius, who highlights what makes the band so appealing. There’s a sense of fun permeating throughout “Out of Touch” that’s both familiar and inviting. Surf elements blend seamlessly into psych elements, the visual effects and color grading offering an acute reflection of the band’s musical aesthetic. It’s a deceptively clever and impossibly entertaining moment of quiet catharsis that more than proves Fruit & Flowers are ready to advance their career to even higher levels.

Listen to “Out of Touch” below and pre-order Drug Tax from Little Dickman here.

Bent Denim – Diamond Jubilee (EP Premiere)

Very few music videos that have appeared as features on this site have resonated like Bent Denim’s “Good Night’s Sleep“, which remains a deeply affecting viewing experience. That song was a very strong highlight of Romances You, a record great enough to leave those of us that heard it eagerly awaiting a follow-up. Today, the band delivers on the promise of that record in kind by way of their new EP, Diamond Jubilee.

A name taken from a roadside casino the band spotted during a detour they took while traveling to attempt to sneak into Fort Maccomb (best known for its appearance at the end of True Detective’s first season), Diamond Jubilee ignores easy flash in favor of something far more substantial. As early premieres from Stereogum and GoldFlakePaint seemed to indicate, Diamond Jubilee continues the band’s penchant for rich narratives and melancholic atmospherics.

Both “All My Friends Are Dead” and “Miss You, Kid” were both fairly well-covered at the time of their release and it’s easy to see why. Each of the EP’s opening two tracks conjures up something warm and familiar, carrying a tinge of wistful nostalgia while both emphasizing and accentuating a much deeper emotional pull. Lo-fi elements converge with much bigger ideas and coast along a middle ground that brings out the best of each side. Tender melodies wash over the listener and then disappear into the sand, leaving a faint imprint that carries the promise of a welcome return.

As strong as both “All My Friends Are Dead” and “Miss You, Kid” are, the back stretch of Diamond Jubilee is what transforms the EP into one of the year’s best. From the opening piano figure of “False Leads to Dead Ends” to the gentle cadence of “Daisy” to the title track’s hazy epilogue, Bent Denim continues the most sublime stretch of their catalog to date. Those final three songs lead into each other seamlessly, strengthening the transcendental effect Bent Denim’s capable of producing when they’re at their best and, make no mistake, Diamond Jubilee is the most remarkable work of their career.

Heartrending and heartbreaking in equal measure, Diamond Jubilee finds Bent Denim hitting their stride. In collaborating with Young & Sick‘s Nick van Hofwegen, who contributes backing vocals across the record, the band also opens up their sound ever so slightly, taking it to breathtaking heights. Largely a sobering meditation on everything from conflicting ideologies to facing down mortality, Diamond Jubilee winds up being inexplicably moving. Unassuming and unforgettable, Diamond Jubilee is an EP worth holding onto long after its final notes ring out.

Listen to Diamond Jubilee below and keep an eye out for its official release tomorrow.

Hoop – To Know Your Tone (Stream)

As another day recedes in the rear view mirror, it’s time to take stock of the goods it provided. There were excellent tracks from The Drums, B Boys, Gold Class, Us and Us Only, Loco Ono, Turtlenecked, Institute, and an unreleased demo from Ultimate Painting. Music videos were well represented by strong pieces that sprung from the likes of The Geraldine Fibbers, The Coathangers, Nick Hakim, Tiny Hazard, HOTT MT, and Daniel Martin Moore. Bringing everything to a nice close were full streams from The Wisconaut, Emperor X, and Sophie Sputnik.

While all of those, as always, are more than worth the time anyone’s willing to invest, today’s featured slot goes to Hoop’s arresting “To Know Your Tone”, from their forthcoming Super Genuine, which features a vocal assist from solo artist Allyson Foster. In a brief explanation of the inspiration for the song’s narrative, lyricist Caitlin Roberts offered the following: “To Know Your Tone” is about the power of asking for support and receiving support, and what it’s like to listen deeply to someone you don’t know very well but empathize with strongly. It’s about allowing tears to fall on the desert of isolation. 

A perfect summation of the humanism that’s always been at the core of Hoop’s music, the explanation goes a long way in explaining the overarching message of “To Know Your Tone” but what really elevates the song is the composition. Muted, hushed, nervous, and aggressive, “To Know Your Tone” benefits from an incredibly dark tone, providing both a contrast and a context to the song’s empathetic narrative. Allyson Foster delivers the vocal with a committed certainty, consumed by the song’s inherent power.

Appropriately, Foster stepped in to sing the song when Roberts lost her voice, underscoring the message of “To Know Your Tone” to an eerie perfection. Hoop — not to be confused with Hoops — and Foster work in tandem perfectly, complementing each other’s sensibilities with ease. The end result of their collaborative effort is both a tribute and testament to the very power of collaboration and the beauty present in asking for and receiving help. A gripping meditation on therapeutic connections, “To Know Your Tone” is also one of the year’s most quietly affecting tracks.

Listen to “Know Your Tone” below and pre-order Super Genuine from the band here.

Steady Lean – Bandages + Some Better Somethin’ (Stream)


Photograph by John Michael Ferrer

Today was a great day for new releases, ushering in compelling songs from Bloody Your Hands, The I.L.Y’s, Land of Talk, Peeling, R.G. Lowe, and Twinsmith. There were also strong efforts to be found in the music video department, courtesy of artists like Beach Fossils, Heavy Heart, and The Charlatans. Rounding everything out were outstanding full streams from the likes of Buildings, Harmony Woods, Trophy Dad, The Broken Hearts, and Walter Martin. Most of those releases got a very strong push from at least one well-known outlet, while the excellent new online single from Joe Gutierrez’s solo project turned full band Steady Lean flew under the radar.

Over the past few years, Steady Lean’s sound’s been carefully cultivated and refined, morphing from simplistic bedroom folk trappings to a sound resembling some of the forward-thinking punk-tinged Americana artists like Fraser A. Gorman and Kevin Morby.  Bandages b/w Some Better Somethin’ keeps that trend very much alive, showcasing Steady Lean at their most raucous. “Bandages” serves as both a solid introduction for the pair of tracks and as an introduction-at-large for those unfamiliar with Steady Lean. An agreeably gritty, energetic number “Bandages” showcases Gutierrez’s growth as a songwriter.

Humorous stabs of tongue-in-cheek couplets are mixed with salient insight and a rambling narrative with ease, bringing to mind a coterie of songwriters who are frequently considered as all-time greats. “Some Better Somethin'” picks up where “Bandages” left off, again allowing Gutierrez to interject both a sense of world-weariness and urgency into the proceedings. It’s a solid pairing, each track complementing each other in minuscule ways and forming a greater whole. By far the project’s most exciting release to date, Bandages b/w Some Better Somethin‘ is bound to leave listeners eager to discover what might be laying just around the corner.

Listen to Bandages b/w  Some Better Somethin’ below and pick it up from the band here.

Grim Streaker – Guts (Music Video)

A lot of great bands released fascinating new videos last week, including New Swears, Sufjan Stevens/Bryce Dessner/Nico Muhly/James McAlister, Thelma, Rostam, Peaness, and Hater. Grim Streaker was another one of those acts, providing their standout “Guts” — which this site pegged as one of early 2017’s finest songs — with an appropriately ferocious music video. Stephen Venezia’s direction provides “Guts” with all of the relentless immediacy and punishing nature it deserves, wisely centering the clip on the band performing. Shot in black-and-white widescreen (with white borders), it’s visual aesthetic is incredibly appealing and the band prove to be magnetic subjects. For all of its feral tendencies, “Guts” also winds up being oddly empowering, transforming it into a bone-rattling call to take direct action to pursue the things worth pursuing. Watch the video to get galvanized and let the song ring out as that journey’s soundtrack.

Watch “Guts” below and pick it up from the band here.

Palm – Walkie Talkie (Stream, Live Video)

Over the course of the past week The Moonlight Love, The Shivas, Four Star Riot, Holy Oak, The Nickajack MenNØMADS, Baby Guru, BNQT, Juiceboxxx, Rosie Carney, and Adopted Highways all unveiled strong new tracks. Palm also surfaced with the standout “Walkie Talkie”, which has been a staple of the band’s live show for years and still stands as their career highlight. Frantic, complex, invigorating, and inventive, “Walkie Talkie” is Palm firing on all cylinders with no hesitation and no remorse.

Oscillating between various riffs and figures — both vocal and instrumental — at a furious pace, “Walkie Talkie” takes aim and hits its mark, repeatedly, bludgeoning it into oblivion. It’s an incendiary piece of work from one of the most obscenely talented emergent bands and it’s the type of track that needs to be heard to be believed. Palm’s set to make a whole new slew of converts in the wake of “Walkie Talkie” and it’s hard to imagine they’ll be content with stopping; “Walkie Talkie” is a warning shot and it goes a long way in underscoring the notion that Palm seems destined for deadliness.

Listen to “Walkie Talkie” (and watch the band tear through the song at DBTS in 2015) below and pre-order Shadow Expert from Carpark here.