Heartbreaking Bravery

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Tag: Review

Young Guv – Roll With Me + Every Flower I See (Stream)

For years, Young Guv has been experiencing a steady uptick in public recognition. Like so many other artists that get covered here it’s not necessarily due to something like touring harder or being more prolific in terms of releases (in addition to that music both competing and benefiting from existing in the shadow of a wide umbrella), it’s more a matter of an audience catching up to the quality of an artist’s music All that said, the Ben Cook — who also plays guitar in Fucked Up — project’s also quietly improved over its run, an aspect that’s readily apparent on Young Guv’s most recent offerings: “Roll With Me” and “Every Flower I See”.

One feels like a spiritual brother to Rolling Blackouts C.F, the other, Mike Krol. Both come stamped with Cook’s signature vocal tic, which manages the difficult trick of sounding simultaneously weary and completely energized. Both tracks are easy to fall in love with, exuding the kind of charm that characterized acts like Archers of Loaf and Superchunk in their early breakout moments. Every second, no matter which way the genre influences lean, proves winsome, and Cook further solidifies his place among today’s emerging songwriters. “Roll With Me” and “Every Flower I See” both offer up an early look at Cook’s forthcoming Guv I, which could be mentioned on this site come December if the rest of its anywhere close to this good. Don’t miss this one.

Listen to “Roll With Me” and “Every Flower I See” below and pre-order Guv I from Run For Cover here.

Graham Hunt – Change Their Mind (Stream)

Graham Hunt‘s name should be a familiar one to anyone in the upper Midwest who pays attention to the region’s scrappy basement pop scene. Midnight Reruns, Midwives, and Sundial Mottos all benefited from Hunt’s involvement and the totality of that output, in addition to a smattering of solo material, helped the songwriter secure a spot in Mike Krol‘s most recent touring band. Every year seems to bring a handful of releases with Hunt’s name on them and whether they’ve been standalone singles or full records, the results have been uniformly exceptional.

“Change Their Mind”, Hunt’s most recent track, stands in select company as one of the finest. Utilizing a strong production team (including Hunt’s old Midwives bandmate Sahan Jayisuriya, whose beat-making project Cold Lunch is well worth a look) and an arsenal of decisive hooks, Hunt embraces the thoughtfulness that’s characterized much of the songwriter’s past material and the slacker vibes of ’90s alt-pop. Imagine something of a cross between the composition nuance LEN’s infectious “Steal My Sunshine”, the oddly immediate, laissez faire outlook of Beck’s “Loser”, and the type of well-worn melodies that dominated Ben Kweller’s Sha Sha, and that should offer an inkling of what kind of terrain Hunt’s occupying here.

Surprisingly grounded for having so much of a wild streak, “Change Their Mind” isn’t just one of the best offerings of Hunt’s career, it’s one of the more engaging tracks to be released over the past seven months. A decidedly minor-key triumph, “Change Their Mind” belongs on as many mix tapes as possible. Immediate and immediately thrilling, the song’s a freeing reminder of how much the slacker pop genre still has to offer.

Listen to “Change Their Mind” below and download it for a price of your choosing here.

Deadbeat Beat – You Lift Me Up (Music Video)

Creating music that’s reminiscent of the past without sounding like a tepid retread is a deceptively difficult tightrope to walk but Deadbeat Beat seem to have that balance down pat on “You Lift Me Up”. Americana-tinged basement pop that carries a comforting familiarity while making just enough space for a modern bent, the track’s been given an appropriately crafted music video that borrows from ’60s imagery while utilizing bleeding edge effects. The Jack Schmier-directed clip’s a mirror of its source material, offering a complementary layer to a breezy, enjoyable total package.

Watch “You Lift Me Up” below and pre-order How Far here.

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.