Heartbreaking Bravery

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Tag: Rough Trade Records

Parquet Courts – Human Performance (Music Video)

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There were a lot of great clips to emerge over the past two weeks. Some of the artists responsible for that welcome trend were Angel OlsenGirl Band, ScotDrakula, Free Cake For Every Creature, Fury Things, Nap Eyes, Dinosaur Jr, Deerhoof, AJJ, Wolf Eyes, The Coathangers, The Velveteins, Thin Lips, ON AN ON, MRCH, Adam Olenius, Mumblr, and VHS. As great as several of those wound up being, few could match the bizarrely singular nature of the unforgettable, quasi-nightmarish clip that Parquet Courts offered up for career highlight “Human Performance“.

Likely knowing they’d have to live up to their strongest song to date, Parquet Courts turned in a clip that centered on puppets that boasted an intangible, human quality that makes “Human Performance” at once endlessly fascinating and deeply unnerving. It’s as if the band, through some unholy miracle, found the way to perfectly visualize the most deep-seated neuroses that informs the song. There’s a certain Lynch-ian quality to the proceedings, managing to be painfully grotesque and undeniably human all at once.

As good as “Human Performance” — easily one of this year’s best songs — was on its own, the clip manages to complement it so effectively that it creates a symbiotic relationship with each format heightening the other. From the song’s resigned delivery to the video’s frank depiction of late-life sexual exploration, everything syncs up in a transcendental tapestry of repressed emotions.  In both cases, “Human Performance” is a meditation on what it truly means to be human and all of the limitations that accompany humanity’s frequently cruel realty.

It’s a video that’s proven to be impossible to shake and a watch that practically demands revisits. Bold, original, and even brave, “Human Performance” is a cogent reminder of the artistry that can be granted to — and even defines — the most mundane, trivial details of life. Since it’d be nearly impossible to capture the overwhelming amount of sheer feelings that runs through every single frame of the video, I’ll just shut up and let the clip speak for itself.

Watch “Human Performance” below and pick the record up from Rough Trade here.

Parquet Courts – Human Performance (Stream)

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A large handful of great songs have emerged since the turn of April and it’d be a complete disservice to their innumerable strengths to not allow them a mention. As previously stated, these songs will be evenly distributed across all of today’s fixed stream posts. Before putting the latest single from Parquet Courts under the microscope, take a moment to grant the links that are about to follow some attention because they contain great new material from Kalispell, Gingerlys, Christian Fennesz & Jim O’Rourke, Holy Now, Sales, Plastic Flowers, Blessed, Julianna Barwick,  and Julien Baker. Now, onto Parquet Courts.

Over the past few years, Parquet Courts have built their entire reputation on a very particular — and very divisive — sound. The quartet cranks out detached-sounding post-punk at an impressive clip and, somehow, they find a way to imbue each release with a staggering influx of life. It’s one of the more fascinating dichotomies happening on the DIY-leaning circuit right now and as the band’s grown, the disparity between what sounds like apathy and what (admittedly unexpectedly) translates to invigorating energy has only grown further apart. “Human Performance”, the title track from the band’s latest record, is the current apex of this dynamic.

A few members of Parquet Courts had previously hit a similar apex with their finest work as Teenage Cool Kids, a small portion of which was understandably revived for Parquet Courts’ (or, Parkay Quarts’) ouevre. “Human Performance” doesn’t just recall those Teenage Cool Kids peaks, it surpasses them with a bracing surge of confidence from a band that’s mostly come to be known for sounding categorically disinterested in just about everything. For the first time in a long time, Parquet Courts sound actively invested in a narrative on an emotional level, injecting the song with a melancholic touch that suits them astonishingly well.

Tellingly, the band hasn’t just turned in their most impressive musical composition to date, they’ve included what is — far and away — the best lyric set of their still-growing career.  On a purely narrative level, “Human Performance” is relentlessly bleak and tragically poetic. The opening half of chorus alone, comprised of the lines “Witness and know/fracture and hurt/eyes in the fire/blink unrehearsed”, suggests that the band went all in on this one. In prose, tragedy can grow in scope when it grows more acute — especially when done well — simply because of its immediately relatable nature. “Human Performance” not only succeeds on that level but grows even more resonant by exposing Parquet Courts’ surprisingly fragile humanity.

Easily one of 2016’s most unexpectedly brilliant songs, “Human Performance” is also a gigantic stride forward in Parquet Courts’ continuing evolution. From the bold choices that are inserted into the song when they’re least expected (the flute solo being the most obvious example) to the endearing bravery required to be that vulnerable on a very public level, “Human Performance” could very well prove to be a watershed moment for the band’s artistic direction. If it doesn’t usher in a new era for Parquet Courts, at least they’ll have left us this miniature masterpiece.

Listen to “Human Performance” below and order the LP from Rough Trade here.

First Quarter Clips, Pt. 2 (Video Mixtape)

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We’re not even three months into 2015 and it’s already yielded a sprawling treasure trove of the kind of music-related items that are worth cherishing. It’s been a particularly strong year for music videos, with some titles from last year’s best releases getting their just treatment balanced out by some tantalizing clips sending expectations for the forthcoming releases that they’re attached to rocketing up to stratospheric heights. Animation, lyric videos, puppetry, seductively slow cinematography, static shots, dancing corpses, subtitled documentary footage, blood, more puppets (it’s been a great time for puppets in music videos), and self-shot footage are just some of the traits that define this two-part collection of 50 of the year’s most engaging clips. All of them, from the folk-leaning lilt of the second collection and the largely DIY punch of its predecessor, deserve praise. Don’t allow the fact they haven’t received any accompanying text beyond this introductory paragraph to do them a disservice; a few of theses videos rank as the best thing the attached band’s ever done and several others continue stunning individual stylistic penchants. More than anything, though, this is a collection that’s intended to represent the diversity and strength of 2015’s earliest offerings in the visual medium. Whether the video comes from an established act or a relatively unknown band, as always, is largely besides the point: this is art worth celebrating. Set aside an hour or two and dive into the madness- and keep an eye on this site for a continuation of this series that should be appearing in the coming days.

COLLECTION II

1. Mitski – Townie
2. Hailey Wojcik – XO Skeleton 
3. Doomtree – Final Boss
4. Hundred Waters – Innocent
5. Palma Violets – Danger in the Club
6. Girl Band – Why They Hide Their Bodies Under My Garage?
7. Jawbreaker Reunion – My Own
8. Screaming Females – Hopeless
9. Museum Mouth – Sacred
10. Celestial Shore – Now I Know
11. Chastity Belt – Time To Go Home 
12. Cloakroom – Starchild Skull
13. Modest Mouse – Coyotes
14. Girlpool – Chinatown
15. Sweet John Bloom – Blood Moon
16. Bass Drum of Death – Better Days
17. Colleen Green – TV
18. Turbo Fruits – The Way I Want You
19. Young Widows – King Sol
20. Evans the Death – Enabler
21. Green Dreams – Rich Man/Poor Man
22. Japanese Breakfast – The Woman That Loves You
23. Michael Rault – Still Not Sad
24. A Place to Bury Strangers – We’ve Come So Far
25. Karen O – Day Go By

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COLLECTION III

1. Gothic Tropic – Underwater Games
2. Laura Marling – False Hope
3. Beech Creeps – Son of Sud
4. Ultimate Painting – Riverside
5. Elvis Perkins – Hogus Pogus
6. Trust Fund – Essay to Write 
7. Mount Eerie – This
8. Kevin Morby – Dancer
9. Seagulls – You and Me
10. Bay Uno – Wait For Your Love
11. Jose Gonzalez – Leaf Off / The Cave
12. The Staves – Black & White
13. Big Noble – Ocean Picture
14. Inventions – Springworlds
15. S. Carey – Neverending Fountain
16. Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy – Boundlessness
17. Ava Luna – Coat of Shellac
18. Novella – Land Gone
19. Young Buffalo – No Idea
20. Avi Buffalo – Think It’s Gonna Happen Again
21. HUMANS – Tell Me
22. Kathryn Calder – Take A Little Time
23. Sondre Lerche – Lucky Guy
24. Doe Paoro – Traveling
25. Asaf Avidan – Over My Head

Happy Diving – Weird Dream (Stream)

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This week has had no shortage of great material to choose from thanks to great new songs from the likes of Glish (whose upcoming self-titled is among the year’s best releases), Miss Destiny, Straight Arrows, Colleen Green, Cozy, and VCR. There were also eye-catching music videos from the likes of site favorites Creepoid and Happyness to round things out on the visual end of the spectrum. One of the most arresting things to be introduced into the world, though, was Happy Diving’s lo-fi basement punk rager “Weird Dream”.

Bookending a song with sheets of feedback is a bold move that normally indicates a fair amount of aggression. It’s a trick that Dinosaur Jr. has used to great effect and a proclivity that Happy Diving seems to have picked up (among a few others that offer a strong connection between the two bands). From the scorching guitar work to the scuzzy production, “Happy Diving” isn’t content to drift by without landing a cavalcade of punches. As damaging as it is damaged, the song’s one hell of an introduction to a band on the verge of releasing their debut record, Big World, through a label as revered as Father/Daughter Records. If “Weird Dreams” does prove to be truly indicative of what Big World has in store, October 21 can’t get here fast enough.

Listen to “Weird Dream” below and make sure to pre-order Big World directly from Father/Daughter Records here.

Parquet Courts – Black and White (Music Video)

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Yes, Sunbathing Animal is as good as everyone says it is. No, the band’s not reinventing any wheels but they’re one of the best at fully committing to the mechanics behind what makes them spin. Their minimalism has always been one of their strongest appeals and the way they use restraint is aggressive to the point of being abrasive- but it works. Everything somehow clicks in to this chaos that feeds off its own energy, like something that’s constantly trying to hold on to whatever life remains in a death rattle that never really comes.

One of Sunbathing Animal’s best examples of this is the infectiously ragged “Black and White”. True to its name, the video the band’s released for it is presented in grainy black and white footage. There are several pieces of what are designed to appear (and one that may actually be) found footage of pedestrians walking away from the camera that trails them on the New York street where vocalist Andrew Savage resides. By having their videos central figures firmly rooted in anonymity it nicely contrasts the fact that this was an in-house production; band members Austin Brown and Johann Rashid directed the clip. When the video finally reaches a conclusion, in an appropriate bit of subtle continuity, it winds up right where the video for “Sunbathing Animal” took place. Nice touch.

Watch “Black and White” below and take a long walk sometime soon (preferably while blaring Sunbathing Animal).