Heartbreaking Bravery

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Tag: Review

The Best Records of October 2018

October was an absolutely extraordinary month for record releases, seeing the unveiling of a large handful of Album of the Year contenders. A handful of site favorites offered up new material as well, with several of those titles appearing below. No matter the length (EP, LP, 7″, etc.), there was an abundance of memorable titles. Only one band of the 10 selected below had yet to appear in any of Heartbreaking Bravery’s coverage. As for the rest? They’re further solidifying their respective statuses as some of the most promising acts in music.

1. Stove – ‘s Favorite Friend 

On their sophomore full-length, Stove expand both their ambitions and their skyward sprawl with their most inspired release to date. Comprised of an existence’s worth of longing, fear, anxiety, tenderness, and understanding, ‘s Favorite Friend has the marks of a classic. Devastating and hopeful in turns, the Stove record marks the second astonishing album that Steve Hartlett’s released this year, following Ovlov‘s TRU. Deeply personal and all the more mesmeric for that trait, ‘s Favorite Friend reaffirms Hartlett’s enormous musical talent and provides a reassurance; you might not always entirely defeat your demons but making peace with some of them can go a long way.

2. Strange Ranger – How It All Went By

Strange Ranger have been enjoying a steady evolution that’s already paying increasing dividends. How It All Went By, the band’s latest, is their strongest release to date, continuing an upward trajectory that started several releases back. Unapologetic in its inventiveness, How It All Went By recalls the works of everyone from Joyce Manor to Neil Young, mining a select few genre’s for flourishes that complement the band’s core identity. Oddly hypnotic and abundantly warm, How It All Went By is an EP that’s worth owning.

3. IAN SWEET – Crush Crusher

The last time IAN SWEET released a record, the results were strong enough to catapult them from emergent act to critical darlings. Crush Crusher, the band’s most recent effort, is one of affirmation: the early praise was warranted. Explosive, thoughtful, and genre-resistant, IAN SWEET has crafted something that thrives in near-impossible dichotomies. Tender and violent, explosive and tranquil, urgent and contemplative, every last second of Crush Crusher comes laced with a certain amount of nervous energy, transforming the entire affair into a spellbinding experience.

4. Adeline Hotel – away together

After a few years of playing together, Adeline Hotel is starting to increase their pace. away together is a strong enough record that it could feasibly multiply their audience by some degree. A near perfect soundtrack for the transition from fall to winter, away together‘s indie folk reckonings lend an even greater familiarity to the everyday, giving the mundane greater meaning. Easily the strongest songs of the band’s young career, away together should leave the kind of mark that’s recalled fondly and without malice.

5. Gabby’s World – Beast On Beast

A few name changes have taken place since Gabby’s World was awarded this site’s Album of the Year distinction for O.K. but the band’s heart remains unchanged. Beast On Beast makes that revelation plain from the record’s opening track, the breathtaking “Winter Withdraw”.  Guitarist/vocalist Gabrielle Smith remains one of the more intuitive songwriters working today, gifting the record with airy melodies that carry punch and conviction. Beast On Beast, like the project’s best works, serves as both a rallying cry and a knowing offer of acceptance, doing its best to make sure there’s some warmth when the world gets cold.

6. Interbellum – Dead Pets, Old Griefs

As mentioned in the introductory paragraph, only one project on this list had yet to make an appearance on Heartbreaking Bravery. Enter: Interbellum. Dead Pets, Old Griefs is a fascinating effort from multi-instrumentalist Karl Maltar. Interbellum, Maltar’s project, enlisted several friends for a record that straddles the divides between indie pop, slacker punk, and bedroom pop, giving a distinctly modern twist to the kind of template that used to be a Sparklehorse specialty. For every memorably raucous moment on Dead Pets, Old Griefs, there are several hushed, deeply introspective ones to balance the scales. It’s a staggering work from a name worth remembering.

7. Strange Relations – Sideline Kid

One of the best, if not the best, post-punk projects the upper Midwest has  to offer, Strange Relations keep accelerating their own momentum. Last year the project released Editorial You, a record that showcased the band’s confidence. Just a year later, they’ve returned with their most restrained — and fascinating — effort to date in the 3-song EP Sideline Kid. The EP finds the band being increasingly adventurous with their ambient experimentation while remaining fearless in their bare-bones minimalism. All three tracks are fascinating for different reasons and the cumulative effect is potent enough to give Sideline Kid serious consideration as one of the year’s best EP’s.

8. GABI – Empty Me

A record that’s been anticipated for some time in very specific circles of the art world, GABI’s Empty Me finally arrived in full and lived up to the promise of the surrounding buzz. Haunting chamber pop of the highest order, Empty Me traffics in curious extremes, from emotive weight to the sprawl of the composition that serves as the record’s anchor. For all of the lightness Empty Me exudes in its softest moment, there’s a pervasive sense of doubt permeating its shadowy corners. An astonishingly complete work, Empty Me works its way towards unforgettable as it progresses, slowly immersing its listeners under the weight of the gravity felt at the record’s core.

9. Cloud Nothings – Last Building Burning

The opening seconds of Last Building Burning make one thing extraordinarily clear: Cloud Nothings aren’t fucking around. After what some considered the lightest work of their career since Dylan Baldi turned his project from a one-man affair into a full band ordeal, Last Building Burning immediately lights a kerosene torch and takes off with reckless abandon. “On An Edge” is the most purposeful opener we’re likely to hear this year, with the band in a rare echelon of attack mode. Fortunately, the rest of the record backs its strength up with some of the band’s strongest songwriting. Easily one of 2018’s best outings, Last Building Burning is a potent reminder that aggression can be productive when wielded with care.

10. Yowler – Black Dog In My Path

A strong case can be made for Maryn Jones as one of the most vital musicians of this past decade. Jones has provided invaluable contributions to Saintseneca as a (now former) member, fronted All Dogs, contributed to records from bands like Radiator Hospital, released memorable solo material before and after any of that started happening, and has turned Yowler into a recognizable name. While Jones will inevitably downplay the impact those contributions have had, it’s an astonishing pedigree.

Yowler’s latest record, Black Dog In My Path, in some ways comes across as the sum of that experience: this is the broadest and most ambitious record to bear Jones’ name. It’s also one of the best. Trading in uforgiving self-deprecation and an acute awareness, Black Dog In My Path can be a punishing listen when it fixates on unthinkably low moments but the music breathes just enough optimism and life to make the whole thing feel unflinchingly human. One of the fullest realizations of Jones’ incredible talent, it’s a record that’ll still be worth visiting a decade down the line.

Two Months, Six Music Videos

Two months in a world where new releases never stop building can unearth a lifetime’s worth of new material. Whether it’s songs, music videos, or records, there will be more than enough material to keep anyone whose willing to invest the time occupied for weeks on end. This post will take a look back at six of the most notable clips to find release since the last regularly scheduled feature post went up, ranging from short films to compilations to animation. All of these are worth the time.

Lucero – Long Way Back Home

Jeff Nichols has been one of this generation’s best filmmakers since Take Shelter‘s release in 2011. Two people who have been inextricably intertwined in that development are Michael Shannon — who has delivered a number of tour de force performances for the director — and sibling Ben Nichols, who fronts Lucero and has gifted many of Jeff’s films songs for the end credits. “Long Way Back Home” is another impressive collaborative effort from all three talents, with strong ties back to Jeff’s debut feature Shotgun Stories. It’s an incredibly captivating look at a fractured relationship, invoking a sense of dread, deceit, and finality. We could all stand to learn a lot from the brothers Nichols, Shannon, and game co-stars Garrett Hedlund and Scoot McNairy.

illuminati hotties – Cuff

illuminati hotties are in the throes of a breakout year, stacking up impressive pieces with ease. “Cuff” is a psychedelic stream-of-consciousness onslaught of imagery that perplexes and soothes in equal measure, centering around an anthropomorphic fish going through a daily routine. It’s a gripping piece of animation and a vivid display of imagination, the two coalescing into a memorable clip from one of 2018’s hungriest emergent acts.

Courtney Barnett – Charity

Few independently-minded artists seem as deserving of a sweeping victory lap as Courtney Barnett, who has consistently done things on her own terms, whether it be launching a label to ensure total creative and artistic freedom or simply hanging on to the joy of performing in the face of growing audiences and the expectations that accompany that growth. Barnett has yet to make a disappointing record and seems to thrive in the pursuit of artistic evolution. The clip for “Charity” feels like that victory lap, blending in hangout footage with live edit clips from monstrous sold-out shows. It’s a moment that Barnett’s earned and, like everything else the songwriter’s released, immensely enjoyable.

Young Jesus – Saganism vs. Buddhism 

One of the staples of Heartbreaking Bravery’s coverage since it was started five years ago has been Young Jesus, who have moved from Chicago to L.A. and worked their way up from self-releases to a deal with Saddle Creek. Their forthcoming The Whole Things Is Just There is the band’s most ambitious and fearless work to date, which will be their first true effort for their new label. In keeping with their growing sense of experimentation, the band’s releases a music video for “Saganism vs. Buddhism” that the band self-directed, going from a tongue-in-cheek intro that finds bandleader John Rossiter embracing cringe comedy to the illustrations and stop-motion work that has been a mainstay of their visual work for several years. Fascinating and teeming with confidence, “Saganism vs. Buddhism” proves the band’s not concerned about adhering to anything other than the identity they’ve carved out for themselves.

Advance Base – Your Dog 

The simplistic conceit for Advanced Base’s “Your Dog” clip is rendered remarkably effective thanks to the song’s immense emotional heft. Compiled of nothing but fan-sourced photographs of people’s pets “Your Dog” becomes almost unbearably sad. A song written as a tribute to the fallout of a relationship where a partner visits more for an animal than their disappearing partner, the video manages to cut into something lasting, to devastating effect. It’s a draining experience, one that makes implicit and explicit statements about varying degrees of mortality; a reminder that everything has an expiration date. Startling and imbued with raw feeling, “Your Dog” is the kind of clip that sticks.

Dilly Dally – Doom

Dilly Dally‘s “Doom” appears to be the next installment in a series of of music videos that double as a direct commentary on Dilly Dally’s absence and rebirth. The band’s already made varying statements about how they collectively weathered a few trips through personal hell while facing down various addictions and how those experiences nearly buried the band. The clip for “I Feel Free” found bandleader Katie Monk’s literally unearthing the corpses of the other members and urging them to come back to life while “Doom” posits Monks as a torch-bearing leader guiding them to a spiritual ascension. Full of vivid imagery, soft hues, and more than a few nods to witchcraft, “Doom” makes it abundantly clear that Dilly Dally has returned- and that they’re intent on a reckoning.

 

 

Two Months, 12 Songs

Nearly two months have come and gone since the last true feature article was published on these pages. In that time, thousands of good songs have found release, hundreds of records have made varying impressions, and more than a few music videos managed to snag viewers’ attention. This post looks at a dozen of the finest songs to have come out in that time, from names new and familiar. Dive in below.

Charly Bliss – Heaven

Last year’s pick for this site’s Album of the Year distinction recently made an unexpected return on the back of standalone single “Heaven”, which guitarist/vocalist calls the band’s first attempt at a genuinely hopeful look at romantic love. The band balances that optimism out with one of the heaviest and darkest-sounding songs of their emergent career, demonstrating the band’s range and understanding of overarching dynamics. Exhilarating and powerful, “Heaven” is a welcome reminder of Charly Bliss‘ limitless appeal.

Stove – Mosquiter 

In 2015, Stove walked away with this site’s Song of the Year distinction for “Wet Food”, which remains one of the finest songs of this decade. The band’s been relatively quiet of late, which is understandable considering the re-emergence of Steve Hartlett’s other project, Ovlov. Both Ovlov and Stove had new material planned for 2018 and “Mosquiter” is the first look at Stove’s forthcoming ‘s Favorite Friend. “Mosquiter” is a perfect example of what makes Stove worth celebrating, blending painfully relatable experiences into songs that swirl, seethe, and soothe. In short: it’s life-affirming.

Cloud Nothings – Leave Him Now

Cloud Nothings have developed an astonishing level of consistency, something that should be abundantly clear by the time anyone hits play on “Leave Him Now”. Even with that said, it would’ve been hard to predict the explosiveness of “Leave Him Now” which surges through its run time with the tenacity of the band’s best work. It’s a continuation of a recent trend for the band, acting as something of a career summation, focusing in on various aspects of the band’s earlier records and tethering them into something that walks the line between new and lived-in. Both immediate and thoughtful, “Leave Him Now” is one of the best songs of 2018.

Squid – The Dial

“The Dial” will serve as an introduction-at-large to Squid for many, which will make the impact significantly more forceful. To put it bluntly, “The Dial” is an absolute monster of a post-punk song, finding the band effectively navigate pop appeal and post-hardcore intensity. There’s an ambient interlude, a section where the vocals become unhinged screams, and more than a few interlocking grooves that operate as interstitial threads. “The Dial” is a behemoth of a track, making Squid’s presence known. Keep both eyes on this band and keep this song on repeat.

Gouge Away – Ghost

Gouge Away have quietly become one of today’s best post-hardcore bands, building a name for themselves on a string of outstanding releases. “Ghost” is the latest from the band, which manages to be one of their softest moments and their best track to date. Coasting along at a mid-tempo pace, the band leans into each down stroke with conviction and seem to be operating at the height of confidence, evidenced by the risk involved in a boundary-stretching song. It’s a risk that pays staggering dividends; “Ghost” is the kind of track that makes a whole new audience take notice.

Hovvdy – Easy

Cranberry was a consensus pick as one of early 2018’s great records, giving Hovvdy‘s name considerable weight among a certain section of artists and fans. A few tours later and the band’s followed up that extraordinary release with a gorgeous single, headlined by “Easy”. A soothing slow-burn, “Easy” is characteristic of the band’s best work, drawing in the listener and making sure they stick around to enjoy every subtle nuance embedded into an intoxicating strain of indie pop. Beautiful, meditative, and compelling, “Easy” is a can’t-miss.

Strange Ranger – New Hair

Following up a record that guarantees a cult following, no matter the size, is never an easy feat. Fortunately, Strange Ranger prove up to the task on “New Hair”, the best track of the band’s career. An explosive burst of basement pop, “New Hair” finds Strange Ranger embracing their powerpop tendencies but injecting a level of grit and determination into it that prevent the track from being remotely saccharine, while still finding a way to encapsulate their older prominent influences. It’s impressive and effective, suggesting Strange Ranger aren’t content with cheap trills and searching for longevity.

Pip Blom – Come Home

Over the past several years, Pip Blom have been transforming themselves from a band with promise to a project that’s threatening to break out as an emergent act. “Come Home” suggests that it’s only a matter of time before Pip Blom start making bigger waves, operating as an irresistible slice of insistent indie pop. Informed by post-punk and incredibly aware of effective composition with an expert’s grasp on dynamic structure, “Come Home” is the kind of track that’s tough to shake. It’s also a track that guarantees repeat plays.

Swearin’ – Future Hell

One of the most heartening developments of this past year has been the promise of new material from the recently reunited Swearin’, a band that put out this decade’s best demo and one of its best records. Guitarist/vocalist Kyle Gilbride once again takes center stage, voice teeming with both determination and conviction while the band gives the track their all. Intuitive guitar figures and a solid rhythm section elevate the material further, erasing any doubts that Swearin’ have lost a step in their absence. We should all be thankful they’ve returned.

Gabby’s World – Winter, Withdraw

Recently Gabrielle Smith‘s Eskimeaux project shed that moniker in favor of Ó, which turned out to be a temporary placeholder that’s now made way for what should be the project’s final name: Gabby’s World. With that change, the project seems to have a renewed sense of purpose, something evidenced by the ambition of “Winter, Withdraw”. One of the project’s most gorgeous and most breathtaking moments, “Winter, Withdraw” will be the lead-off track for Gabby’s World’s forthcoming Beast on Beast and sets an extraordinarily high bar when paired with other advance track “Rear View“. Whether or not Gabby’s World can live up to the early precedent shouldn’t even be a question.

Yowler – Angel + Where Is My Light

Maryn Jones is either directly responsible or has played a pivotal role in some of the best records and songs of this decade already, thanks to the songwriter’s involvement in both All Dogs and Saintseneca. Yowler, Jones’ solo project, always can claim an entry or two in that category, and returns this year with Black Dog In My Path. Two of the advance tracks for the record occupy different territory but showcase the project’s shift to a full band. Angel is a tender, wistful track that fits in with the project’s earlier material while “Where Is My Light” is a shock to the system, plunging Yowler into unfamiliar — and incredibly dark — depths, incorporating a sludge influence to breathtaking effect for one of this year’s most thrillingly unexpected turns. Both tracks paired together have more than enough to suggest that Yowler may be on the verge of releasing one of 2018’s most inspired records. None of us deserve Jones’ run but we should all be eternally grateful to bear witness.

Young Jesus – Deterritory (Music Video)

It’s been a while since anything went up on these pages and there are a lot of reasons behind yet another interim but, as ever, the work continues to be done behind the scenes. Five posts were scheduled to go up before that break and will be going live today. This is one of those posts.

There have been few bands that this publication pushed as hard or as consistently over its near-five year span as Young Jesus, who have released two astonishing albums in that time span and are on the brink of unveiling a third. The Whole Thing Is Just Here is the first true release for Saddle Creek, who wisely snapped the band up after catching the live show — a near-religious experience — to issue S/T a proper (re-)release. The move seems set to pay dividends for the label as the band’s constantly realizing their voice through a series of unpredictable progressions, rendering all of their new material revelatory.

“Deterritory” is the latest evidence of that curious trend. It’s an absolutely towering track that leans hard into the band’s refined sense of exploration, swinging without notice from ambient noise-punk to post-hardcore to Saddle Creek’s signature open-road, Americana-tinted indie rock, all in six minutes. Bandleader John Rossiter’s always had a penchant for the arts and raw creation that’s anchored by an uncommon understanding, something that’s brought to the forefront once again in the simple but strangely compelling clip for “Deterritory”, which takes its time in playing out and trusts its viewing audience and doesn’t offer a clean-cut resolution, reflecting what separates this band from so many of their contemporaries: Young Jesus know, now more than ever, nothing’s more important than the journey.

Watch “Deterritory” below and pre-order The Whole Thing Is Just Here from Saddle Creek here.

 

 

Cloud Nothings – The Echo of the World (Stream)

It’s been a while since anything went up on these pages and there are a lot of reasons behind yet another interim but, as ever, the work continues to be done behind the scenes. Five posts were scheduled to go up before that break and will be going live today. This is one of those posts.

On the last Cloud Nothings record, the band effectively presented an amalgamation of the project’s entire history, providing a fascinating bent to an excellent record. The band’s set to return with Last Building Burning, their forthcoming album. “The Echo of the World” is the first peek into what the record has to offer and suggests the band may have pared down their approach to presenting a career summation, this time congealing individual aspects that made their earlier work standout.

It’s an exhilarating and even exhausting listen — even at a relatively scant four minutes — but it provides the music itself a renewed sense of purpose, allowing guitarist/vocalist Dylan Baldi’s pained, existential screaming to once again be underscored by ambient, noise-driven guitar work and punched home by the relentless, unmatched drumming of Jayson Gerycz. “The Echo of the World” is an absolutely ferocious work that finds Cloud Nothings in full-on attack mode, baring newly-sharpened fangs. If this is an indicator of Last Building Burning‘s tone, we should all be looking forward to basking in its fire-lit glow.

Listen to “The Echo of the World” below and pre-order Last Building Burning from Carpark here.

Mike Krol – An Ambulance b/w Never Know (7″ Review, Stream)

A few weeks ago site favorite Mike Krol returned with the typically explosive “An Ambulance“, the songwriter’s first release since Turkey (apart from a well-deserved deluxe reissue). “An Ambulance” more than proved Krol hasn’t lost a step in the interim, flaunting all of the characteristics that made his early work scintillating enough to snag the attention of Merge, who wisely added the basement pop auteur to their roster. An Ambulance b/w Never Know finds the label continuing to reap the benefits of that decision, which offers up two incredible tracks that are as infectious as they are aggressive.

With “An Ambulance” already given due credit (click the link above to go to the previous feature), “Never Know” gets the bulk of the attention here. It’s a song that finds Krol tapping further into the strain of pop music that defined the ’50s, which is an area that was effectively mined by contemporaries — and frequent collaborators — Sleeping in the Aviary. It’s a side Krol’s music doesn’t always feature but one that’s consistently worked to the material’s benefit, which is decidedly the case on “Never Know”, an outrageously fun track with a classic spin.

Together, “An Ambulance” and “Never Know” constitute one of the year’s best standalone 7″ releases and offer a tantalizing glimpse towards a more comprehensive project that Krol’s been hinting at in recent weeks. Strap in for the ride and use this as the soundtrack in the getaway car. Whenever the next stop arrives, this will be a stretch worth revisiting.

Listen to An Ambulance b/w Never Know below and pick up a copy from Merge here.

Marbled Eye – Laughing Sound (Stream)

Taking less than a second to establish that there’s a threat of detonation is always a bold way to start a track and that brand of weaponization is fearlessly deployed in Marbled Eye‘s “Laughing Sound”, one of the best post-punk tracks of the year thus far. The quartet rides that foreboding intro into a jittery tempo that never truly explodes, the band reeling in with the kind of measured restraint that defines the genre. Yet, that lingering threat remains throughout the track’s entirety, never dissipating enough to provide a level of safety or comfort.

Constantly teetering back and forth between total annihilation and crumbling to pieces, “Laughing Sound” should serve as a remarkably perfect lead-off track for Marbled Eye’s forthcoming Leisure. A behemoth of a song as it currently stands, it’ll be fascinating to hear in the context of the record. For now, we should be more than content to just loop this one until every twist and turn’s been committed to memory.

Listen to “Laughing Sound” below and pre-order Leisure from the band here.

Tomberlin – Self-Help (Music Video)

Just before releasing one of the most devastating albums of the year in the achingly gorgeous At Weddings, Tomberlin offered up one last peek towards that incredible record with the Laura-Lynn Petrick-directed clip for “Self-Help”, which lays bare the kind of arresting nakedness that gets put under the knife throughout the course of the album. Centered around the artist and a trip to the aquarium, the clip for “Self-Help” drives home the pervasive tendency to feel small outlined against the wonders of life that gets considered and dissected in At Weddings.

No answers are offered, no questions are explicitly asked, but “Self-Help” punches home existential wonderment with an unapologetic precision. Viewers might get lost in “Self-Help” but it’s difficult to predict to what extent, as there’s enough at stake here to level someone particularly vulnerable. Bravely articulated and fearless in its vulnerability, “Self-Help” is art at its most honest, which can go a long way towards a greater survival.

Watch “Self-Help” below and pick up a copy of At Weddings from Saddle Creek here.

Alien Boy – If We Don’t Speak (Stream)

Consistently engaging and constantly intriguing, Alien Boy have been a name to watch for a while now and, if “If We Don’t Speak” is any indication, are preparing for bigger things. Not just in terms of audience but scope. Everything from the production to the arrangement style has been tweaked and “If We Don’t Speak” is comparatively towering over Alien Boy’s past releases (which remain worthy of investment). Here, the project bridges subversive pop-punk with shoegaze to an effect that’s genuinely startling.

A lot of bands in the past few years have been attempting to bridge those two genres but most haven’t come halfway close to the seamless overlapping that “If We Don’t Speak” contains. Washed-out reverb, punishing guitars, an aching melody, a bruised narrative, and a tenacious determination collide to elevate the sound to stratospheric heights that conjure a genuine feeling of awe. It’s a behemoth of a track that’s not content to just reach skyward, it’s one that successfully seizes the universe.

Listen to “If We Don’t Speak” below and pre-order Sleeping Lessons from Tiny Engines here.

 

The Beths – You Wouldn’t Like Me (Music Video)

On Friday, The Beths released one of 2018’s best albums so far in the astonishing Future Me Hates Me, a record overflowing with sugar-coated basement pop that comes with just enough bite to truly stand out. One of the strongest moments of that record — which, again, is uniformly great — comes by way of “You Wouldn’t Like Me”, which was recently given an Ezra Simons-helmed music video that stands as the band’s best clip to date.

Ceaselessly charming, gifted with a vibrant palette, and full of clever, tongue-in-cheek moments, the clip acts as a perfect summation of the band’s appeal. There’s something familiar about the surface but there’s a competing intricacy that suggests the individualized vision at The Beth’s core. Warm, welcoming, and ridiculously winsome, “You Wouldn’t Like Me” offers up a worst-case argument for its title, clearly outlining just how much about this band, this record, and this clip, is not only worth liking but outright loving.

Watch “You Wouldn’t Like Me” below and pick up a copy of Future Me Hates Me from Carpark here.