Heartbreaking Bravery

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Tag: Rooms of the House

14 of ’14: The Best Albums of 2014

LVL UP II

One last time for one last 2014 list: “best” is in no way an attempt to be an objective statement. The terminology is shorthand to reflect personal taste and is not to be construed as anything more. Also, for the purposes of a more personal summary in this year-end coverage period, this site’s regular restriction on first person will be lifted. In 2014, I listened to more music that was released throughout the year than any other in my life. Numbering well upwards of a thousand releases, it proved impossible to keep tracks on everything (I’m already certain a few of these lists are missing more than a few titles that I genuinely loved)- but there were a few items that were worth remembering. Below are 14 records that managed to carve their way into my esteem both instantaneously and through the process of time. Below that is what turned into the most extensive list I’ve ever assembled, one that acts as an unnecessary validation that good music is being created at an excessively high volume (all of which is hyperlinked to either a full stream or a representative portion). We’re living in a golden age for access and music continues to reap the benefits allowed by technology.  In that spirit, it’s worth noting that a lot of the names included below won’t always be the most recognizable- this is due to both that volume and the fact this site’s built on a foundation that ensures bands who are marginalized will be given the consideration they deserve. So, with all of that noted, it’s time to move on to the main attraction: 14 of ’14: The Best Albums of 2014.

14. Taulard – Les Abords Du Lycée

2014’s most unexpected gem, Les Abords Du Lycée, is a mesmerizing listening that drives home taut organ/drums/vocals post-punk with a startling amount of verve. Endlessly charismatic and unpredictable, the dozen tracks on display here constantly twist and turn, never once daring to let the listener catch their breath. Mood and tempo changes abound on one of 2014’s most fearlessly unique records. Even for those who aren’t even remotely well-versed in the French language, Les Abords Du Lycée should be a thrilling listen; something like unbridled passion can always translate well enough to near the universal.

13. La Dispute – Rooms of the House

What’s easily one of 2014’s boldest concepts roots La Dispute’s mesmerizing Rooms of the House, a record that shows La Dispute’s rapid maturation with a weary grace. Centered around a meticulously brilliant narrative device, it’s a record that stunned me on my first few listens before growing into an inescapable force of nature that refused to leave my thoughts. As bleak as anything the post-hardcore has ever produced, Rooms of the House finds its strength through focus and restraint, zeroing in on difficult topics with a keen eye and an abundance of determination. Blisteringly personal and nearly voyeuristic, it stands as one of 2014’s fiercest artistic statements.

12. Two Inch Astronaut – Foulbrood

Two Inch Astronaut’s Foulbrood has come up more than a few times on the site over the past handful of months thanks to its casual brilliance. Wielding an enticing palette of influences ranging from Drive Like Jehu to their contemporaries in Exploding in Sound, Two Inch Astronaut managed to conjure up one of the most impressive sophomore efforts of the year. The title track, “Part of Your Scene“, and “Dead White Boy” all earned themselves individual write-ups on the basis of their appealingly off-kilter and ragged identity. Foulbrood‘s a record that knows exactly what it wants to be and goes straight for the throat, sending a trail of viscera flying it its wake.

11. Cloud Nothings – Here and Nowhere Else

One of the things I kept coming back to throughout the course of music in 2014 was Jayson Gerycz’s drumming on this record. Not just because it’s a staggering individual performance but because there’s an undefinable, inherent quality that exists within that drumming which drives this record to obscene heights. Impossibly, stripped of the drumming, the record succeeds wildly in an acoustic setting and demonstrates Dylan Baldi’s increasing proficiency as a songwriter, a vocalist, and a guitarist. After losing a member in guitarist Joe Boyer, Cloud Nothings somehow managed to transform themselves into an act that was simultaneously heavier and poppier than when they were a quartet. Importantly, this is a record that’s built to last and it’s only grown on me as the year’s progressed (and that trend’s not showing any signs of slowing).

10. Ought – More Than Any Other Day

As beguiling as it is bewitching, Ought’s brit-pop influenced post-punk masterpiece was a record that sounded triumphant right out of the gate. Slowly, that triumph turned to transcendence and the songs contained within More Than Any Other Day became unavoidable mission statements. In terms of scope, the majority of More Than Any Other Day feels as epic as LCD Soundsystem operating at their best. Both acts share a penchant for sprawling structures and self-containment, bridging a gap between intimacy and grandeur with a knack for deceptive, intricate songwriting. Anthemic and mundane, More Than Any Other Day was like a shot of adrenaline straight to the heart, waiting for the resuscitated with a sly grin and a memorable, tossed-off joke. Excessively charming and utterly winsome, it’s a record that felt (and still feels) necessary.

9. Jawbreaker Reunion – Lutheran Sisterhood Gun Club

“E.M.O.”, Lutheran Sisterhood Gun Club‘s thrilling centerpiece, recently appeared in this site’s best songs of 2014 list- but the song’s only one part of a much larger picture. At once, one of the year’s most joyous and pissed off releases, Jawbreaker Reunion tore through a variety of serious issues with aplomb on their absolutely stunning debut effort. Other than distilling songs like “Laughing Alone Eating a Salad” with a wicked sense of humor, the whole affair’s imbued with an enviably powerful sense of songcraft. Lo-fi, DIY, punk, and teeming with an understanding of classic pop, Lutheran Sisterhood Gun Club was one of 2014’s boldest introductions- it was also one of its best.

8. PURPLE 7 – Jewel Finger

PURPLE 7 boasts a lineup that’s accompanied by an impressive pedigree. Members of the band have previously played in bands like Defiance, Ohio, Landlord, and Hot New Mexicans (whose self-titled record ranks among my all-time favorites and currently leads my “best of decade” selections). Unsurprisingly, their debut LP effort hits a lot of sweet spots, including a gritty middle point between basement punk and basement pop. Simply put, this is a stunning collection of songs that was overlooked by most to a baffling degree after its release. Grounded, humble, and heartfelt, Jewel Finger is one of the records that reminds me of the reasons I started this site. This is music that deserves to be celebrated.

7. Angel Olsen – Burn Your Fire For No Witness

Arguably 2014’s first truly great release, Angel Olsen’s Burn Your Fire For No Witness saw the songwriter transition from a promising talent into one of the year’s most arresting figures. Embracing a fuller sound and a newfound confidence, Burn Your Fire For No Witness broke Angel Olsen’s career wide open with an onslaught of genuinely haunting tunes. Whether they were relentlessly spare or soaked in noir-ish tendencies, they were uniformly captivating; both the storm and the eerie silence before. Raw, tender, and occasionally antagonistic, Burn Your Fire For No Witness was one thing above all else: unforgettable.

6. Cymbals Eat Guitars – LOSE

From the devastating opening lines all the way through to the climactic finish, LOSE holds its ground as one 2014’s most frighteningly personal albums. Largely influenced by the death of a friend close to the band, it’s a meditation on loss and the surrounding aspects of something so tragic. Easily Cymbals Eat Guitars’ finest work to date both lyrically and musically, it’s a powerful (and powerfully moving) listen. “Warning”, in particular, cuts deep- which is one of the reasons why it wound up on the best songs of 2014 list just a few days ago. Incredibly impassioned and brave in its sincerity, LOSE finds a level of catharsis in its emotional turbulence, lending it a charge that renders it one of the year’s most human (and most important) releases.

5. Perfect Pussy – Say Yes To Love

Perfect Pussy, for better or worse, have become intrinsically linked with this site. From Meredith Graves’ insistence on tangential involvement (which I’ll forever be grateful for) to the fact that the band’s greater ascension matched up with the very start of this site, they’re a band I’ve gone step for step with since bringing Heartbreaking Bravery into existence. None of that would have happened if I hadn’t been so fiercely drawn to the things that they were doing, though, which is why I approached them in the first place. Ever since those beginnings, it’s been a privilege to watch them progress, to travel at lengths to watch them play, and to see them release a record as enormously powerful as Say Yes To Love, a collection which houses my favorite song of 2014 (and possibly of this decade so far). Unapologetic, personal, damaged, resilient, powerful, feral, oddly triumphant, and unbelievably intense, Say Yes To Love operates as a perfect reminder for all of the reasons why I fell in love with this band- and why I’ll continue to pay close attention to their movements.

4. Iceage – Plowing Into The Field of Love

No band in 2014 made a more stunning artistic leap than Iceage, who went from a static blur to matching the swaggering heights of Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds after discovering their voice. Plowing Into The Field Of Love was a startlingly radical change of pace for Iceage, who imbue the record with a curious restraint and a sense of deeply haunted Americana. Southern Gothic touch points are littered throughout the record’s bleak landscape, while making room for plaintive ornamentation in the form of brass, string, and piano figures. Darker and more self-aware than anything in the band’s career, Plowing Into The Field Of Love earned them quite a few words of praise from this very site. Augmented by some legitimately extraordinary music videos, Plowing Into The Field Of Love proved to be an unexpectedly rattling experience. Easily one of the year’s most divisive records (as is the case with any left turns this sharp), it suggested Iceage’s ambitions ran way deeper than anyone expected and, subsequently, that they had the know-how to see those ambitions to fruition. In chasing their whimsy they wound up with something I wouldn’t fault anyone for calling a masterpiece.

3. Mitski – Bury Me At Makeout Creek

My connection with Mitski’s music is something that will always hold a very personal resonance. I’ll leave most of the reasoning behind that statement to a forthcoming piece but it’s worth noting in regards to a record that’s so unabashedly self-exploratory. Bury Me At Makeout Creek was an enthralling re-introduction for Mitski, who saw it rightfully skyrocket her name recognition. Top to bottom, it’s an extraordinary effort that re-defined her artistic capabilities after a string of meticulously composed records that leaned on chamber pop tendencies. Here, that past gets blown to bits almost immediately. One of my favorite experiences in music listening all year came when “Texas Reznikoff” explodes in its final section- another came while listening to one of the best songs I’ve heard this decade (for obvious reasons, considering that statement). Where Bury Me At Makeout Creek manages to approach the transcendental is in the process of allowing listeners to hear an artist coming into their own. Part of Mitski’s identity is laid bare by Bury Me At Makeout Creek: it’s the unwillingness to accept identity as a static object and the desire to question its cumulative elements. That search is what gives Bury Me At Makeout Creek its bruised heart- and it’s why musicians will use it as a source of inspiration for several years to come.

2. Radiator Hospital – Torch Song

After the exhilarating highs of Something Wild, Radiator Hospital had a tall order for their follow-up. Fortunately (and unsurprisingly), they obliterated those towering expectations with Torch Song. Sounding more confident- and more polished- than ever before, Torch Song cemented Sam Cook-Parrott’s status as one of this generation’s keenest emerging voices. Paying attention to the minutiae of everyday experiences and injecting them with a self-deprecating sense of poetry laced with pessimism, the songs contained on this record all aim to cut and find their mark with an incredible amount of ease. Having already established themselves as one of today’s more formidable units musically, Torch Song has the added benefit of having four loaded personalities find each other in total harmony, each acting as a complement to the other. Personal diatribes, small journeys of self-discovery, and a sense of empathy inform Torch Song and help cultivate its unassuming charm. There’s not a weak track among the record’s 15 songs and it maintains an assured sense of pace throughout its relatively breezy runtime. By the time it draws to a close, it stands as one of the most fully-formed and rewarding records of recent memory.

1. LVL UP – Hoodwink’d

I don’t think any record resonated more for me throughout the course of 2014 than LVL UP’s Hoodwink’d, which I revered with literally no reservations. 2014’s strongest sophomore effort, Hoodwink’d saw LVL UP expanding most of the elements that made Space Brothers such an incredible release and retained all the others. Unreasonably refined and exceedingly personable, LVL UP have always found a strength in accentuating their members’ unique personalities and that trend got pushed to the forefront for their second full-length (which was co-released by Double Double Whammy and Exploding in Sound). Utilizing a distinctly unique take on their 90’s influences, the band also reveled in the benefits of a cleaner production that allowed them to sound more massive than they ever have in the past. No release felt more timely than Hoodwink’d, either, with the record practically serving as a stand-in voice for a disenfranchised sect of people. Alternately crushingly heavy, viciously poppy, relentlessly personal, and completely worn-out, Hoodwink’d never loses sight of its own mechanics. There’s a level of mutual understanding on display here that separates it from the rest of the year’s releases. Everyone feeds off each other, everyone supports each other, and everyone contributes to one hell of a set without even coming close to overstaying their welcome. Conversely, Hoodwink’d also ranks as one of the year’s most welcoming releases, radiating an empathetic warmth in its tone (and in its tones). As an entry in LVL UP’s catalog, it’s their career best. As a general 2014 release, it’s the best thing I had the privilege of hearing all year.

[EDITOR’S NOTE: All of the titles below without an accompanying link can be streamed in the order they’re listed via the embedded spotifly player below the list.]

Albums from 2014 that deserve to be heard:  Mean Creek – Local Losers | Happyness – Weird Little Birthday | Dark Blue – Pure Reality | Band Practice – Make Nice | Little Big League – Tropical Jinx | Happy Diving – Big World | Tweens – Tweens | Big Ups – Eighteen Hours of Static | Geronimo! – Cheap Trick | Greys – If Anything | Alvvays – Alvvays | White Lung – Deep Fantasy | Caddywhompus – Feathering A Nest | Left & Right – Five Year Plan | Ty Segall – Manipulator | Brain F/ – Empty Set | We Need Secrets – Melancholy and the Archive | Makthaverskan – II | Playlounge – Pilot | Eternal Summers – The Drop Beneath | MOURN – MOURN | Run the Jewels – Run the Jewels 2 | The History of Apple Pie – Feel Something | Flying Lotus – You’re Dead! | Trace Mountains – Buttery Sprouts | Dead Stars – Slumber | Fear of Men – Loom | PAWS – Youth Culture Forever | Swans – To Be Kind | The Yolks – King of Awesome | Crabapple – Is It You? | The Coasts – Racilia | Purling Hiss – Weirdon | Reigning Sound – Shattered | Creepoid – Creepoid | Saintseneca – Dark Arc | Mannequin Pussy – Gypsy Pervert | Fucked Up – Glass Boys | Music Band – Can I Live | Glish – Glish | Liam Betson – The Cover of Hunter | Frankie CosmosZentropy, Donutes, Affirms Glinting | Girl Tears – Tension | Martha – Courting Strong | Hurry – Everything/Nothing | The Spirit of the Beehive – The Spirit of the Beehive | Protomartyr – Under Official Color of Right | The Gary – Farewell Foolish Objects | Spit – Getting Low | Nothing – Guilty of Everything | Sharpless – The One I Wanted To Be | Legendary Wings – Do You See | Therapy? – Act of Contrition | Chris Weisman – Monet in the 90’s | Mumblr – Full of Snakes | Cayetana – Nervous Like Me | Free Cake for Every Creature – “pretty good” | Ed Schrader’s Music Beat – Party Jail | S – Cool Choices | Allo Darlin’ – We Come From The Same Place | Sneeze – Wilt | Quarterbacks – Quarterboy | The Twilight Sad – No One Wants To Be Here And No One Wants To Leave | Filmstrip – Moments of Matter | Bleeding Rainbow – Interrupt | La Sera – Hour of the Dawn | Big K.R.I.T. – Cadillactica | Gold-Bears – Dalliance | Sharon Van Etten – Are We There | Nude Beach – ’77 | A Winged Victory For The Sullen – Atomos | The Gotobeds – Poor People Are Revolting | Nots – We Are Nots | Alex G – DSU | Lower – Seek Warmer Climes | Young Widows – Easy Pain | CreaturoS – Popsicle | Mr. Gnome – The Heart Of A Dark Star | Parquet Courts – Sunbathing Animal | Ex Hex – Rips | Trust Punks – Discipline | Failures’ Union – Tethering | Odonis Odonis – Hard Boiled Soft Boiled | Beverly – Careers | The Number Ones – The Number Ones | Tigers Jaw – Charmer | Tiger High – Inside The Acid Coven | Straight Arrows – Rising | Dead Soft – Dead Soft | The Lemons – Hello, We’re The Lemons | Baked – Debt | MAZES – Wooden AquariumSleepyhead – Wild Sometimes | Native America – Grown Up Wrong | The Wans – He Said, She Said | Trophy Wife – All the Sides | Doe – First Four | Lushes – What Am I Doing | Ultimate Painting – Ultimate Painting | Haley Bonar – Last War | The Casket Girls – True Love Kills The Fairy Tale | Slothrust – Of Course You Do | Sorority Noise – Forgettable | Team Spirit – Killing Time | Feral Trash – Trashfiction | Blank Pages – Blank Pages | Mr. Dream – Ultimate In Luxury | Carsick Cars – 3 | SUNN O))) & Ulver – Terrestrials | This Will Destroy You – Another Language | Vanna Inget – Ingen Botten | The Real Energy – Beyond Delay | Muuy Bien – DYI | Young Ladies – We Get By | Eureka California – Crunch | Negative Scanner – Negative Scanner | Violent Change – A Celebration Of Taste | Black Wine – Yell BossImpo & The Tents – Peek After A Poke | Tomorrows Tulips – When | Mountain Bike – Mountain Bike | The Lees of Memory – Sisyphus Says | Telepathic Lines – Telepathic Lines | The Shivas – You Know What To Do | Allah-Las – Worship the Sun | Das Rad – Radiation | The Coathangers – Suck My Shirt | Crow Bait – Sliding Through The Halls Of Fate | together PANGEA – Badillac | Deerhoof – La Isla Bonita | PUJOL – Kludge | FF – Lord | Aj Davila Y Terror Amor – Beibi | Emilyn Brodsky – Emilyn Brodsky Eats Her Feelings | Young Statues – Flatlands Are Your Friend | Cancers – Fatten the Leeches | Sam Coffey + The Iron Lungs – Gates of Hell | Courtney Barnett – The Double EP: A Sea of Split Peas | The Ar-Kaics – The Ar-Kaics | Beach Day – Native Echoes | Hiss Golden Messenger – Lateness of Dancers | Dude York – Dehumanize | Gino & The Goons – Shake It! | Kevin Morby – Still Life | Bob Mould – Beauty & Ruin | Wyatt Blair – Banana Cream Dream | Queen Jesus – Darkness Yea, Yea | Joel Jerome – Psychedelic Thrift Store Folk | Espectrostatic – Escape From WitchtropolisCheap Girls – Famous Graves | Davila 666 – Pocos Anos, Muchos Danos | Parts & Labor – Receivers | Nick Thorburn – Music From SERIAL | DTCVHilarious Heaven, The Early Year | Bellows – Blue Breath | Teenager – E P L P | Spider Bags – Frozen Letter | The Paperhead – Africa Avenue | Parkay Quarts – Content Nausea | The Jazz June – After The Earthquake | Michael Sincavage – Empty Apartments (Supporting Actors) | Restorations – LP3 | MONO – The Last Dawn, Rays of Darkness | Matthew Melton – Outside of Paradise | The Vaselines – V For Vaselines | Total Control – Typical System | The Velveteens – Sun’s Up | Step-Panther – Strange But NiceExit Verse – Exit Verse | Slippertails – There’s A Disturbing Trend | Globelamp – Star Dust | Champ – Champ | Le Rug – Swelling (My Own Worst Anime) | VLMA – VLMA | Turn To Crime – Can’t Love | ScotDrakula – ScotDrakula | Warehouse – Tesseract | Muhammadali – Future Songs | Unwelcome Guests – Wavering | Baby Ghosts – Maybe Ghosts | White Mystery – Dubble Dragon | Constant Lovers – Experience Feelings | Future Islands – Singles | Maica Mia – Des Era | Tacocat – NVM | Popstrangers – Fortuna | Curtis Harding – Soul Power | New Swears – Junkfood Forever, Bedtime Whatever | The Miami Dolphins – Becky | Thee Oh Sees – Drop | Fasano – The Factory LP | Dum Dum Girls – Too True | Yellow Ostrich – Cosmos | Metronomy – Love Letters | Great Cynics – Like I Belong | Neighborhood Brats – Recovery | Connections – Into Sixes | Three Man Cannon – Pretty Many People | Grouper – Ruins | YOB – Clearing The Path To Ascend | Thee Silver Mt Zion Memorial Orchestra – Fuck Off Get Free We Pour Light On Everything | Apollo Brown – Thirty Eight | Hookworms – The Hum | Wrekmeister Harmonies – Then It All Came Down | Lee Fields & The Expressions – Emma Jean | What Moon Things – What Moon Things | Guided By VoicesMotivational Jumpsuit, Cool Planet | Gem Club – In Roses | Saturday’s Kids – The Lunatic | King of Cats – Working Out | Shopping – Tvff Noogies | The Love Triangle – Clever Clever | Nightmare Boyzzz – Bad Patterns | Future Virgins – Late Republic | Parasol – Not There | Lenguas Largas – Come On In | Cocktails – Adult Life | Generation Loss – Generation Loss | Feral Future – Haematic | Posse – Soft Opening | Diners – Always Room | Mimicking Birds – EONS | The Freezing Hands – Coma Cave ’13 | Amanda X – Amnesia | Predator – The Complete EarthWatery Love – Decorative Feeding | The Estranged – The Estranged | Steve Adamyk Band – Dial Tone | The Cry! – Dangerous Game | Ruined Fortune – Ruined Fortune | Good Throb – Fuck Off | The Elsinores – Dreams of Youth | The Bugs – The Right Time | Vacation Club – Heaven Is Too High | Freinds of Cesar Romero – Cinco Seis | Leather – Easy | Los Pepes – Los Pepes For Everyone | Juanita Y Los Felos – Nueva Numancia | Dan Webb and the SpidersEine Kleine Akustichmusik, Now It Can Be Told | Bozo Moto – BozoMoto | Low Life – Dogging | Moth – First Second | Rhythm of Cruelty – Dysphoria | Siamese Twins – Still Corner | Departure Kids – On The Go | Blessed State – Head Space | Flagland – Love Hard | Manateees – Sit N Spin | White Ass – White Ass | Ausmuteants – Order Of Operation | The Gutters – Eventually | Hysterese – Hysterese | The Ricky C Quartet – Recent Affairs | Hoax Hunters – Comfort & Safety | Arctic Flowers – Weaver

14 of ’14: The Best Music Videos of 2014

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In all best-of coverage, there’s no room for any objectivity positing (“Best” is usually just shorthand for “most admired”), which is why this site’s long-held first person restriction will be dropped to allow me to speak more personally in an effort to better explain the contents of this list’s (and all of the lists to follow) personal effect on myself. In 2014, I watched (and covered) more music videos than any year of my life- allowing an intake of genuinely great content that made compiling this list a dream and a nightmare. After spending weeks reviewing old clips (while keeping up with the videos enjoying December releases), I settled on the selections below as the 14 that hit me hardest over the past 12 months. This list will be the first entry in more than a week’s worth of year-end coverage that I’m beyond excited to share with everyone. So, with all of that said- it’s my privilege to present Heartbreaking Bravery’s 14 of ’14: The Best Music Videos of the Year.

14. Left & Right – Low Expectations

A few months ago, Left & Right released this absolute gem of a music video. Imbued with a DIY irreverence, a purposeful sense of direction, winningly off-beat humor, unabashedly committed performances, and some genuinely great cinematography, “Low Expectations” became an unexpected standout; a clip that came out of the gate swinging and (somehow) landing every single blow. Easily one of 2014’s most unexpectedly charming (and ridiculously enjoyable) clips.

13. Saintseneca – Happy Alone

Saintseneca’s Dark Arc was one of 2014’s most deserved breakout moments and nothing punctuated that shift more than the Christopher Good-helmed clip for “Happy Alone”. Emphasizing the song’s central themes by providing a bubble that practically forces isolation onto bandleader Zac Little, it’s a visually striking clip that got harder to shake as the year progressed. By grounding its elements of surrealism with an abundance of naturalism, it provided an artful counterpoint to something like Perfume Genius’ “Queen” (which, incidentally, was shot by Good). Importantly, it also proved that Saintseneca were officially on their way to bigger and better things.

12. Angel Olsen – Windows

I’m not sure there was a music video to come out of 2014 that was more startlingly gorgeous than this Rick Alverson-directed clip for Angel Olsen’s heart-stopping Burn Your Fire For No Witness highlight “Windows”. By incorporating Southern Gothic Americana style rural imagery into Olsen’s plaintive folk-leaning sensibilities, Alverson managed to create an evocative portrait of one of this generation’s finest songwriters. Leading up to an oddly moving (and admittedly eccentric) climax, the whole thing’s so artfully rendered it begins to feel as complete as some of the year’s best films. Delicate and aggressive in all the right places, “Windows” more than earned a spot on this list.

11. Beverly – Honey Do

“Honey Do” was my introduction to Beverly, just as it was for many others, so when news broke that they’d shot a music video for the song, it felt worthy of anticipation. Most of the expectations I had were exceeded in the first few frames and as the video progressed, so did my appreciation. Eschewing any kind of image-building, this was the first in a string of Beverly clips that largely eschewed celebrity in favor of celebrating artistry. Shot in crisp black-and-whites, “Honey Do” is a tender portrait of Los Angeles and its inhabitants and a promising mission statement from one of 2014’s more engaging new acts.

10. S – Losers 

Initially just a clip that came and went with very little fanfare (from a great record with a similar reception), “Losers” immediately felt deeply personal and genuinely heartfelt. Ostensibly a reflection on perception, self-esteem, and harsh reality, the thematic elements in the lyrics get brought to vivid life in a lovingly shot clip that somehow brings them to devastating proportions. DIY in spirit with a focal point on self-expression and identity, it’s become legitimately unforgettable; a long, heavy sigh of acceptance with only the faintest glimmer of hope reverberating throughout the weary cynicism. While “Vampires” was a great deal of fun, it’s “Losers” that deserves the lion’s share of attention for being one of 2014’s strongest buried treasures.

9. Iceage – Against the Moon

Honestly, “The Lord’s Favorite” and “Forever” both could have made this list but it felt more appropriate to limit bands to one entry apiece. With that being the case, it’s Plowing Into The Field Of Love highlight “Against the Moon” that gets the nod; all of the reasons for its inclusion were previously detailed pretty extensively here.

8. Anna Calvi & David Byrne – Strange Weather

Soft saturation. An autumnal palette. Digital film. One of the most delicately directed cinematography performances in any visual medium this year. An implicitly tragic narrative arc that suggests internal (and possible external) suffering. All of these come together in the sublime clip for an equally sublime cover of Kareen Ann’s “Strange Weather”, courtesy of Anna Calvi & David Byrne. One view was all it took for this to become one of the most difficult to shake clips of the year. Masterfully composed and brilliantly executed, it’s nothing short of an emotionally intuitive masterpiece.

7. Diarrhea Planet – Babyhead

I got to use “diaper skull flume explosion” while writing the tags for this one in the initial write-up; what more explanation do you need? “Babyhead” was pure madcap glee on a level not too dissimilar to Wrong Hole’s equally shameless, equally deranged lyric video for “Wrong Hole“. There are times when total insanity can be kind of beautiful. I’m not sure this is one of them but it’s still ridiculously fun.

6. Kid Moxie & The Gaslamp Killer – Museum Motel

No music video kept ricocheting around the corners of my brain more than this deeply unnerving clip from Kid Moxie & The Gaslamp Killer. Operating on a visual level that rivals what was achieved in Under The Skin, it uses waters, shadows, and contrast in a darkly seductive fashion that burrows its way into any brain fortunate enough to find its way over. An ingeniously subtle use of superimposed imagery on a lone snare drum drives up the feeling of unrelenting loneliness and palpable loss. It’s a deeply alluring and deceptively minimal visual representation of a stunning song. One that’s worth putting more than halfway up a “Best of 2014” list.

5. La Dispute – Woman (Reading)

Since this was the last one of the last non-list features to be posted here, it’d seem redundant to simply retrace everything that’s already been said.

4. Girlpool – Plants and Worms

Catleya Sherbow created this unbelievably stunning clip for Girlpool, 2014’s best duo, and touched on a number of pressure points- namely, acceptance and doubt. In the end, it’s about acceptance, and while that message does come laced with a visual that could potentially double as suicide, it still somehow manages to come off as comforting. “Plants and Worms” hits with the force of a world-stopping realization and echoes long after it ends, providing a staggering moment of beauty for Girlpool and a warm reassurance for just about everyone else.

3. clipping. – Work Work

Yes, the video for “Never Gonna Catch Me”- the Flying Lotus and Kendrick Lamar collaboration- was incredible. Not a lot of people are going to dismiss that claim. However, it’s another destined-to-be-iconic clip from that genre field that made a deep(er) impression on me; the video for the clipping. and Cocc Pistol Cree collaboration “Work Work”. Tracing a narrative arc that uses a laser-sharp focus on the act of curb-stomping, enhanced by some thought-provoking visual surrealism, it immediately became one of 2014’s most arresting clips and its status hasn’t let up. If there was a tracking shot more provocative than the one at the start of “Work Work”, then I’d love to see it. Until then, I’m just going to keep returning to this one.

2. Cymbals Eat Guitars – Warning

No clip from 2014 came imbued with more unwavering passion than the Crosshair-starring clip for “Warning”. All anyone needs to see is the thumbnail shot for this video to see a glimpse of how unfailingly heartfelt “Warning” winds up being. Matthew Reed tapped into a transcendental kind of magic that collapses a variety of bridges (age, taste) with a near-shocking ease. Ever since this was first released, I’ve been revisiting it with a great frequency because, like most great art, it pulls the viewer back in and rewards investment. Breathtakingly lensed, brilliantly edited, and furiously paced, this was a perfect accompaniment to one of the year’s most emotionally-charged records. Cymbals Eat Guitars may have intended the song to be a warning about love and loss but, backed by the video, it becomes one of the year’s most life-affirming moments.

1. PUP – Guilt Trip

Back in 2013, I had the honor of naming PUP’s “Reservoir” the best music video of 2013 for PopMatters. While that video was a cathartic release that was a near-perfect representation of the maelstrom of a particularly rowdy live show, their video for “Guilt Trip” (once again speared by the creative team of Chandler Levack and Jeremy Schaulin-Rioux) was a much more serious affair. Weirdly attuned to my own childhood experiences probably lent it a few small favors in terms of my esteem but, doing my best to separate myself from that strange fact, it boasts a series of career-bests from Levack and Schaulin Rioux: cinematography, editing, the performances they elicited from an impressively talented young cast, narrative, and overall direction among the list. “Guilt Trip” also includes one of the most genuinely heart-stopping moments I’ve seen in any clip, infusing it with a sense of brutal reality (if only for a moment), emphasized by a single shot that drives the point home. My initial claim that it could have a shot at carving out a spot for “Video of the Decade” still doesn’t seem so far off- but it’s worth keeping an eye on Levack and Schaulin-Rioux to see if they can keep repeating a ridiculously impressive pattern.

La Dispute – Woman (Reading) (Music Video)

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Centering a music video around a lone dancer performing a solo routine in 2014 is a bold move as it’s inevitably going to call to mind one of the most ubiquitous clips of the year. La Dispute went ahead and did it anyway- and the result’s one of the year’s most breathtaking achievements in the visual format there’s been in a handful of months. Rooms of the House was one of a select few records that made a deep enough impact to warrant a full review from this site and “Woman (Reading)” was one of its many standout moments. Unrelentingly powerful in its acute dissection of a relationship on the fringes of disintegrating, the song now has an equally striking video to match.

Yes, this is- as noted above- a solo routine from a single dancer but where it differs from Sia’s “Chandelier” is in the details. Where “Chandelier” was an intimate exploration of the boundless beauty of youthfulness on a private level, “Woman (Reading)” turns outward; it’s shame and struggle plays out in public. There’s still a strong thematic pull on isolation but it’s pained and forced rather than in tune with self-discovery. as the video progresses along with the story told in the lyric set, the fluidity of the movements decreases and the routine transforms from a relative lightness to a brute imperfection. The genuinely stunning cinematography (courtesy of Matt Vahey) draws back from the close-ups that are so prominent in the video’s first half as the change occurs, allowing its central subject greater freedom while suggesting a second narrative in the subtext; another character who grows more willfully distant as the character in frame self-destructs.

By the video’s end the dancer’s beaten, brutalized, covered in dirt and- more than anything- alone. In the final movements, there’s a glimmer of resilience in the acceptance of these facts, thanks in part to a masterful performance by Julie Ann Minaai and the intuitive direction (and editing) of Niall Coffey. In that moment “Woman (Reading)” completes its transformative experience both for the character and the viewers drawn in by the extraordinarily moving story played out in the video. It’s autumnal, it’s brave, it’s fiercely moving, and it’s unforgettable. Don’t let it pass by unnoticed.

Watch “Woman (Reading)” below and order Rooms of the House here.

NXNE 2014: A Listener’s Guide (Mixtape)

It’s been 200 days since the idea of Heartbreaking Bravery was actually put into motion. In that time, multiple recurring features have been launched and it began to become something a little more than just a hobby. The more effort that was put into the content that went up, the greater the response was. Now, the site’s been viewed in nearly 80 countries, been granted media accreditation outside of the country, and helped form some meaningful relationships. Most importantly, though, it served- and will continue to serve- as a place of unwavering support for artists rooted in the DIY scene doing things on their own terms.

Now, anyone who has been paying attention to recent content will know that this site’s been running a lot of coverage in anticipation of this year’s NXNE. Anyone who’s been following the content for a long time will know that every 50 posts brings a new mixtape. This being the case, it only made sense to draw up a mixtape that served as an abbreviated listener’s guide for anyone who needed a crash course before heading to Toronto next month. That mix can be found below and features both long-held favorites and a few artists outside of this site’s normal comfort zone. All of the songs are worth a listen and the tracklist for the mix can be found below. Below all of that are hyperlinks to posts 100-199 (post 100 includes hyperlinks to the first 99). Enjoy.

Heartbreaking Bravery Presents: NXNE 2014: A Listener’s Guide

1. Swearin’ – What A Dump
2. Spoon – Don’t Make Me A Target
3. METZ – Wet Blanket
4. PS I Love You – Facelove
5. Greys – Use Your Delusion
6. Perfect Pussy – Interference Fits
7. Swans – My Birth
8. St. Vincent – Cheerleader
9. Courtney Barnett – Avant Gardener
10. Odonis Odonis – I’d Prefer Walking
11. Eagulls – Nerve Ending
12. White Mystery – People Power
13. Beliefs – Long Wings
14. Run the Jewels – A Christmas Fucking Miracle
15. Pusha T – Nosetalgia
16. Mac DeMarco – Brother
17. Future Islands – Seasons (Waiting On You)
18. Christian Hansen – Ma-Me-O
19. Mutual Benefit – Golden Wake
20. My Darling Fury – Blots in the Margin
21. Low – Murderer
22. Robert Ellis – Only Lies
23. Typhoon – Common Sentiments
24. Speedy Ortiz – No Below
25. Tim Hecker – Live Room

Here’s the last set of 100 articles, hyperlinked for convenience. Enjoy the exploration.


HB100: Heartbreaking Bravery: A Retrospective

HB101: Great Cynics – Whatever You Want (Music Video)
HB102: Watch This: Vol. 12
HB103: Bleeding Rainbow – Tell Me (Stream)
HB104: Beverly – Honey Do (Stream)
HB105: Brain F/ – Sicks (Stream)
HB106: Vertical Scratchers – Memory Shards (Stream)
HB107: Carsick Cars – Wild Grass (Stream)
HB108: Summer Twins – Carefree (Music Video)
HB109: Archie Powell & the Exports – Everything’s Fucked (Stream)
HB110: Perfect Pussy – I (Music Video)
HB111: Watch This: Vol. 13
HB 112: Mozes and the Firstborn – Bloodsucker (Music Video)
HB113: Cheap Girls – Knock Me Down (Stream)
HB114: Watch This: Vol. 14
HB115: Perfect Pussy – Interference Fits (Stream)
HB116: PAWS – Tongues (Stream)
HB117: Screaming Females – Lights Out (Live) (Stream)
HB118: Technicolor Teeth – Can You Keep Me Out of Hell (Stream)
HB119: Silence Dogood – Chairman of the Bored (Stream)
HB120: Watch This: Vol. 15
HB121: Nervosas at Center Street Free Space and Quarters Rock N Roll Palace – 3/1/14 (Live Review)
HB122: White Lung – Drown With the Monster (Music Video)
HB123: Tweens – Be Mean (Music Video)
HB124: La Sera – Losing to the Dark (Stream)
HB125: Creepoid – Baptism (Music Video)
HB126: Dum Dum Girls – Are You Okay (Short Film)
HB127: Watch This: Vol. 16
HB128: Green Dreams – Bug Sex (Music Video)
HB129: Playlounge – Waves and Waves and Waves (Stream)
HB130: Molybden – Woman Who Left Behind (7″ Review)
HB131: La Dispute – Rooms of the House (Album Review)
HB132: Perfect Pussy – Say Yes to Love (Album Review)
HB133: Watch This: Vol. 17
HB134: Mr. Dream – Cheap Heat (Stream)
HB135: Fucked Up – Paper the House (Music Video)
HB136: Bleeding Rainbow – Images (Music Video)
HB137: Sleep Party People – In Another World (Stream)
HB138: Help Save Fort Foreclosure (Indiegogo Campaign)
HB139: Tashaki Miyaki – Cool Runnings (Music Video)
HB140: Thee Oh Sees – The Lens (Music Video)
HB141: Diarrhea Planet – Babyhead (Music Video)
HB142: Green Dreams – Eye Contact (Stream)
HB143: Watch This: Vol. 18
HB144: Tumul – Nature Master (Music Video)
HB145: Young Widows – King Sol (Stream)
HB146: Priests – Right Wing (Stream)
HB147: Antarctigo Vespucci – I’m Giving Up On U2 (Stream)
HB148: Ernest Undead (Short Film)
HB149: Watch This: Vol. 19
HB150: First Quarter Finish (Mixtape)
HB151: Perfect Pussy at 7th St. Entry – 3/30/14 (Live Review)
HB152: Perfect Pussy at Township – 4/1/14 (Live Video)
HB153: The Sleepwalkers – Come Around (Music Video)
HB154: Watch This: Vol. 20
HB155: Tweens – Forever (Music Video)
HB156: Reigning Sound – Falling Rain (Stream)
HB157: New Swears – Midnight Lover (Music Video)
HB158: Shannon & the Clams – Mama (Stream)
HB159: Gold-Bears – For You (Stream)
HB160: PUP – Lionheart (Music Video)
HB161: The So So Glos – Speakeasy (Music Video)
HB162: Archie Powell & the Exports – Holes (Music Video)
HB163: Mean Creek – My Madeline (Music Video)
HB164: Watch This: Vol. 21
HB165: Greys – Guy Picciotto (Music Video)
HB166: PAWS – Owls Talons Clenching My Heart (Stream)
HB167: Perfect Pussy – Candy’s Room (Stream)
HB168: Watch This: Vol. 22
HB169: 5 to see at NXNE 2014: Vol. 1
HB170: Girl Band – The Cha Cha Cha (Stream)
HB171: Cloud Nothings at High Noon Saloon – 5/2/14 (Pictorial Review)
HB172: Watch This: Vol. 23
HB173: 5 to see at NXNE 2014: Vol. 2
HB174: Savages – Fuckers (Music Video)
HB175: Midnight Reruns at Polack Inn – 5/7/14 (Pictorial Review, Video)
HB176: Watch This: Vol. 24
HB177: Watch This: Vol. 25
HB178: PAWS – Owls Talons Clenching My Heart (Music Video)
HB179: Priests – Doctor (Stream)
HB180: Lady Bones + Horsehands (Split Review)
HB181: Fucked Up – Sun Glass (Music Video)
HB182: 5 to See at NXNE 2014: Vol. 3
HB183: Cymbals Eat Guitars – Jackson (Stream)
HB184: Dead Stars – Someone Else (Music Video)
HB185: 5 to see at NXNE 2014: Vol. 4
HB186: Lower – Bastard Tactics (Music Video)
HB187: Bad History Month – Staring At My Hands (Stream)
HB188: White Lung – Face Down (Music Video)
HB189: Greys – Use Your Delusion (Stream)
HB190: 5 to See at NXNE 2014: Vol. 5
HB191: The Rich Hands – Teenager (Stream)
HB192: Clap Your Hands Say Yeah – As Always (Music Video)
HB193: The Pharmacy – Masten Lake Lagoon (Stream)
HB194: 5 to See at NXNE 2014: Vol. 6
HB195: Naomi Punk – Television Man (Stream)
HB196: Watch This: Vol. 26
HB197: Geronimo! – Euphoria (Stream)
HB198: Watch This: Vol. 27
HB199: PUP – Guilt Trip (Music Video)

First Quarter Finish (Mixtape)

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Well, Heartbreaking Bravery’s another 50 posts in, which means that it’s time for another mixtape- and the timing couldn’t be any better. As April springs forth, a new quarter begins and leaves the first part of the year behind, opening it up for examination. First Quarter Finish is a testament to the the startling strength of 2014’s first three months and is largely composed of music that’s been featured on this site. Perfect Pussy‘s “Driver” kicks things off in a typically frenzied fashion, reflecting the purpose of this collection as acutely as possible. Make no mistake, this is a batch of songs that traffic in very high intensity even in their quietest moments.

From tour-only tapes to standout cuts off early Album of the Year contenders like Burn Your Fire for No Witness, Here and Nowhere Else, and Rooms of the House to eerily hypnotic momentsderanged apathetic insanity, and a very long list of promising glimpses at upcoming records, it’s truly been a hell of a start and deserves celebration. Listen to the sounds of that celebration below (if the player is not appearing onscreen, it can also be accessed here).


TRACKLIST

1. Perfect Pussy – Driver
2. La Sera – Losing to the Dark
3. Cheap Girls – Knock Me Down
4. Archie Powell & the Exports – Everything’s Fucked
5. Crow Bait – 83
6. Big Air – Cemetery With A View
7. PAWS – Tongues
8. Brain F≠ – Sicks
9. Antarctigo Vespucci – I’m Giving Up On U2
10. Playlounge – Waves and Waves and Waves
11. Vertical Scratchers – Memory Shards
12. Angel Olsen – Forgiven/Forgotten
13. Silence Dogood – Chairman of the Bored
14. Priests – Right Wing
15. Green Dreams – Eye Contact
16. Fucked Up – Paper the House
17. Creepoid – Baptism
18. La Dispute – Woman (in Mirror)
19. Sleep Party People – In Another World
20. Odonis Odonis – Order in the Court
21. PILE – Special Snowflakes
22. Young Widows – King Sol
23. Protomartyr – Scum, Rise!
24. Technicolor Teeth – Tomb
25. Cloud Nothings – I’m Not Part of Me

La Dispute – Rooms of the House (Album Review)

HUDSONVILLE MI 1956

La Dispute always seem to ignite genre arguments, which is a shame because really (while every side does seem to have some merit) the bottom line often gets overshadowed. That bottom line? They’re a band who have staked out their position not by having a hand in a myriad of styles but by making legitimately great music. Their upcoming record, Rooms of the House (due out 3/18 via Staple Records), is even more definitive proof of this. There are very few bands playing with structure- and narrative structure- quite like La Dispute. All of their past trademarks are more prominent than they’ve ever been on Rooms of the House. From the deeply concerned and fiercely empathetic delivery concerning the traits of their songs protagonists to the stealth-morphing of time signatures and tempos, Rooms of the House is as unmistakenly La Dispute as possible.

Opener “HUDSONVILLE, MI 1956” wastes no time in laying the record’s groundwork: the first lines are as follows- “There are bridges over rivers, there are moments of collapse. There are drivers with their feet on the glass; you can kick but you can’t get out. There is history in the rooms of the house.” Immediately, they’ve presented a subverted thesis that they don’t reveal the full extent of until it becomes apparent. Using a house and its objects as the source material is an inspired idea and in the right hands (La Dispute’s, certainly) yields extraordinary results. Projecting history into the mundane, “HUDSONVILLE” goes from that brief introduction to an absolutely harrowing tale of separation during a spell of severe storms. The phones are cut, the radio’s are all yelling out warnings, and lovers try to focus on anything but the fact that those closest to them may be dead. As first songs go, it’s among the best of the past few years. Not a bad start.

Coexisting with the narratives is the band’s music itself, all bottled-up fury that tends to operate on a tension-explosion dynamic, never losing an ounce of its verve. There are very few moments throughout Rooms of the House where the band scales back its intensity- whether it be the quiet kind or full-throttle. One of those moments that takes solace in relative relaxation (at least for a while) is the record’s third track “Woman (in mirror)”, which (at least in terms of instrumental arrangement) strongly resembles In Rainbows. It winds up being a strangely good look for La Dispute, who prove definitively that they can do wonders with a laid back, clean, groove-heavy track. As always, Jordan Dreyer’s lyrics are beyond exceptional (this is the guy that gave us King Park, after all) and he continues to be a viable candidate for one of this generation’s best songwriters. “Woman (reading)”, at least until it descends into controlled chaos, and “Objects in Space” also reside snugly with “Woman (in mirror)” and its chilled-out territory. Each offering up a fair few surprises and winding up with equal worth.

As nice as it is to hear La Dispute so fully embrace the quieter nature of their identity, the band still thrives on bursts of violence. It’s that sense of genuine danger that made “For Mayor In Splitsville” an early standout (with an incredible video to match), with its emotional turbulence maximized. Nothing is held back, everything’s a travesty, and that’s frustrating as hell. That “Splitsville” has characters who are treated as equally as the ones in “HUDSONVILLE” may strike some sensitive people as callous but it, once again, points to Dreyer’s strengths as a storyteller. While nearly everyone in Rooms of the House is dragged through hell and back, they’re all given equal care and consideration. There’s beauty in the mundane, damaged or not, and a good story’s always worth telling. Every good story also has a very present instability and makes room for uncertainty as an important factor. La Dispute tend to live in those margins, not caring as much about the resolve as they do about the journey. It’s a trait that plays directly into what makes Rooms of the House so successful as a collection of stories and what ties them all together. The house metaphor is used heavily throughout the record but really it’s strongest unifying factor is the open fears of the protagonists in the heart of their respective stories.

When Rooms of the House has exhausted all of its punches and winds down with “Objects In Space”, songs like the absolutely furious “Stay Happy There” are still resonating; their shots buried into the fabric of the story as a whole. Everything splits apart and crumbles, buckling under the weight of its volatile nature. Depending on how empathetic the listener tends to be, they’ll either be drained or riveted- often both. This is the kind of work that merits a pause once it’s run through, though. It’s not a light piece and it requires a fair amount of investment. Fortunately, that investment gets rewarded tenfold and the listener’s not only left with an outstanding record but an incredibly memorable story and frighteningly immersive experience. While La Dispute certainly weren’t making anything that wasn’t worth listening to before this, with Rooms of the House they’ve managed to top themselves. It’s an incredible record and will very likely experience a strong amount of support come December. Until then, all that’s left to do is get lost in its stories.

Watch the video for “For Mayor In Splitsville” below and stream the whole record over at the band’s soundcloud.