Heartbreaking Bravery

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Tag: Review

Zebra Katz – Blk & Wht (Music Video)

Over the past several days, there have been pieces touching on some of the best material to be released over the seven weeks that preceded the current week. Two of those were individually-focused pieces. Zebra Katz’s astonishing Ada Bligaard Søby-directed clip for “Blk & Wht” will serve as the focal point of the third and final individual release to earn a standalone featured slot. Originally premiered by Nowness with an eye-opening interview about the clip with its director.

All throughout “Blk & Wht” there is a creeping sensation that’s impossible to shake, the suspense is taut and the drama is palpable. At any moment, it seems as it something’s about to go horrendously wrong. At the center of this swirling mass of inevitable chaos and horror are a group of refugees, who have banded together to try to heighten their chances of survival. Lending a great deal of credibility to their committed performances is the harrowing fact that all of them have experienced the terror presented in “Blk & Wht” on their own journeys.

Those very people — as well as the song — served as the main inspiration behind the “Blk & Wht” clip, allowing Søby to concentrate on the experiences of the refugees both in and around Copenhagen. Every actor and actress in “Blk & Wht” agreed to travel out to a forest and revisit one of the darkest periods of their lives and it shows; empathy and genuine terror intertwine throughout every ambient frame of “Blk & Wht”. It’s a striking, startling vision and it’s impossible to shake. Hit play below and get swept up in the refugee’s dishearteningly commonplace nightmare.

Watch “Blk & Wht” below and keep an eye on this site for more updates on Zebra Katz.

The Young Couples – Tarantula (Song Premiere)

Ian Proper’s been around for some time, making music strong enough to snag the interests of a deeply impressive rotating cast of backing musicians (including members of acts like Cherry Glazerr, Howlo, and Pleistocene) and utilizing them to great effect for his most recent project, The Young Couples. EP.01, the project’s first proper effort will be out in the world soon and Proper’s offering up a tantalizing preview in the form of the biting powerpop of “Tarantula”.

Hook-laden, smartly crafted, and executed with feeling, “Tarantula” teases and attacks in equal measure. Whether it’s a gorgeous but short-lived introduction segment or the lilting vocal melody of the song’s infectious bridge, “Tarantula” manages to provoke and ensnare attention. It’s a classically crafted genre piece that calls to mind genre forebears (Proper’s voice can occasionally eerily resemble an early-era Elvis Costello) and contemporaries alike.

In keeping with a time-honored tradition, “Tarantula” is a song that feels like it runs for half of its actual length because it’s so enjoyable in the moment. By the time it winds to a close, its absence is felt because of the warmth it exudes while its in rotation. From its opening seconds through its boldest production trick (a small but significant moment that arrives at roughly the three-quarters mark of the song), “Tarantula” remains captivating. It’s a welcome reminder that care can be put into songs that sound carefree and it deserves a whole host of new listeners.

Listen to “Tarantula” below and keep an eye on Dadstache for the record’s September 1 release here.

Surfer Rosie – EP 1 (EP Premiere)

The last time we heard from the Laura Daegling-led project Surfer Rosie, they’d just released “Worms“, an explosive whirlwind of frustration and engaging dynamics. Daegling had already more than proven to be a songwriter of worth via Sun’s Out Bummed Out, whose “Cut All My Hair” ranks as one of the finest songs of the past few years. Surfer Rosie provided an opportunity to showcase a much spikier side of Daegling’s arsenal and the hints the band’s been providing leading up to their first proper release — via the increasingly excellent Good Cheer Records label — have all honestly conveyed one simple truth: this EP’s a monster.

Each of the record’s four tracks comes brimming with the same kind of hard-won anxiety and relentlessness that informed “Worms”. “Nerves“, the EP’s opening track, has already been unveiled and sets the tone for a tense and embattled run of songs that don’t shy away from showing a spirited resilience, even as defeatism seeps through the cracks. From that opener onward, EP 1 often sounds like the band’s alternating between a chaotic, mid-sprint catharsis and the gasp-of-breath relief that accompanies the exit and provides a window back to a more stately composure.

“Gilly’s Dream” provides the latter of those two modes throughout and manages to stand out in a short collection full of uniformly strong efforts. By far the calmest track the EP has to offer, “Gilly’s Dream” conjures up a dream-like haze that’s hard to unravel and even harder to want to escape. Subdued, understated, and exuding a near-paradoxic confidence, the song’s an unlikely — and deeply unassuming — spellbinder. It’s also a near-necessity on an EP that has a penchant to wrings emotional responses out of its listeners at intense and unapologetic volumes.

The back half of EP 1 continues to offer up gems, with “Resting Place” and “Chugger” both easily defensible candidates for Surfer Rosie’s best song to date. Whether it’s the gorgeous 80-second intro to the closing track or the hushed extended outro section of “Resting Place”, the band continues to prove their mastery of dynamic composition. At their most muted, the songs find a deep well of strength that manages to make both the narratives and the compositions stick.

Occasionally, when the EPs at its most absorbing, it can feel like being flattened. Instead of terror, though, the feeling that it provokes is reassurance. It’s that same quiet redemption that defines EP 1 and makes Surfer Rosie a band deserving of a great amount of care. In a seemingly unending barrage of detachment that’s taken over various subgenres of punk, it’s refreshing to have a testament to sincerity and openness. At the end of the day, both EP 1 and Surfer Rosie feel like a ceaseless, unpredictable fire that better an exceedingly cold room. We should all consider ourselves lucky to have the opportunity to stare at the constantly shifting embers and be affected by the glow.

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.