Heartbreaking Bravery

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Tag: Royal Headache

Watch This: Ending Another Short Stretch of Static

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We’ve officially arrived at the 950th post of Heartbreaking Bravery, which means it’s time to offer up another mixtape of some sort or another. Since the Watch This series has maintained radio silence over the past two and a half weeks it only felt appropriate to turn to the over-abundance of incredible material that’s surfaced in that time frame. The 25 clips included below range from old favorites to promising new faces, single songs to full sessions, and generally cover the range of what the series was created to support: the very best of the live video platform. It’s unlikely that anyone will watch through the entirety of this packet (as it runs for nearly four hours, if viewed uninterrupted) but it’s worth taking the time to both explore and return to all of the performances contained in Ending Another Short Stretch of Static. So, as always, kick back, focus up, adjust the settings, settle in, and Watch This.

1. Car Seat Headrest – Fill In the Blank (Pitchfork)
2. The Spook School – Gone Home (BreakThruRadio)
3. Meat Wave – Sham King (SideOneDummy)
4. Weaves (3voor12)
5. Ron Gallo (Audiotree)
6. Dusk – Shift Towards Tenderness (This Means War)
7. Izzy True – Which Wish (Bedhead Sessions)
8. Royal Headache – Carolina (Pitchfork)
9. Royal Brat – Avoider + Broken Step (Radio K)
10. Girl Band – Paul (Pitchfork)
11. The Coathangers – Burn Me (Radio K)
12. Japanese Breakfast – Everybody Wants To Love You
13. Free Cake For Every Creature (WKNC)
14. Fear of Men (Audiotree)
15. Majical Cloudz – Silver Car Crash (q on cbc)
16. Jade Imagine – Stay Awake (3RRRFM)
17. Tele Novella – Heavy Balloon (Do512 Austin)
18. Margaret Glaspy (KEXP)
19. Kevin Morby (NPR)
20. PWR BTTM – New Hampshire (WFUV)
21. Wand (KEXP)
22. Declan McKenna – Brazil (The Late Show With Stephen Colbert)
23. Lucy Dacus (NPR)
24. Ólafur Arnalds (ft. Brasstríó Mosfellsdals) – Dalur 
25. Julien Baker (Primavera)

Staring Down the Sun (Mixtape)

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After a whirlwind catch-up session saw around 80 new posts go up in the past month, this site’s falling back into old habits. Namely, the preservation of implementing some sort of mixtape for every at every 50-post interval. With summer officially kicking off next week, it felt appropriate to create a mix in anticipation of the increasingly warm weather. Somehow,  Heartbreaking Bravery’s now also 900 posts into its existence and some sort of commentary felt fitting as well. To that end, the 25 songs selected below are mostly tracks that have been featured — in some way or another — on this site throughout the course of those 900 posts (including Audacity’s “Hole in the Sky”, which was the the focal point of Heartbreaking Bravery’s first post).

A lot of the songs in Staring Down the Sun are songs that have carried me through previous summers, propelling me forward or comforting me with warmth  and familiarity. It’s those two traits, warmth and familiarity, that are underlined most emphatically on this mix as they’re two of the season’s most consistently definitive draws. As such, Staring Down the Sun is a mix that’s heavily populated by friends, old and new, to sustain the kind of camaraderie that’s so often reinvigorated by sense of contentment and desire for exploration that frequently accompanies the season.

Open the windows, call up some friends, start a band, stoke the embers of the fire in the backyard, enjoy the scenery, travel to a new city, go swimming, or do whatever it takes to enjoy the shifting weather. Whatever the option, there’s now a soundtrack to accompany those moments available for the taking. Grab it and go.

Staring Down the Sun‘s tracklist can be found below the embed. Underneath the tracklist are hyperlinks to the preceding 100 posts. Enjoy.

1. Used Kids – Midwest Midsummer
2. PUP – DVP
3. Audacity – Hole in the Sky
4. Patsy’s Rats – Rock N’ Roll Friend
5. Goodnight Loving – Dead Fish On the Banks
6. PURPLE 7 – Wise Up
7. The Marked Men – Fix My Brain
8. Screaming Females – Wishing Well
9. Good Grief – Cold Compress
10. Jay Som – I Think You’re Alright
11. Icarus Himself – Digging Holes
12. Bent Shapes – New Starts In Old Dominion
13. Jawbreaker Reunion – Friends Theme Song
14. Midnight Reruns – King of Pop
15. Dogs On Acid – Make It Easy
16. Sleeping in the Aviary – Love Song
17. Swearin’ – Hundreds and Thousands
18. Sweet John Bloom – Aging In Place
19. Meat Wave – Cosmic Zoo
20. Mo Troper – Princess
21. Mike Krol – Left Out (Attn: SoCal Garage Rockers)
22. Royal Headache – High
23. Weaves – One More
24. Tenement – Near You
25. Swim Team – Teenage Brain

++

HB800: Watch This: The Best of 2016’s First Quarter, Vol. VI
HB801: Watch This: The Best of 2016’s First Quarter, Vol. VII
HB802: Tenement – Bruised Music Vol. 2 (Album Review)
HB803: Watch This: Vol. 120
HB804: Casey Jordan Weissbuch – Dream (Stream)
HB805: Parquet Courts – Human Performance (Stream)
HB806: Minor Victories – Folk Arp (Music Video)
HB807: Lady Bones – Weight (Stream)
HB808: Ratboys – Not Again (Stream)
HB809: Summer Cannibals – Full Of It (Music Video)
HB810: Faye – Chow Chow (Stream)
HB811: Yucky Duster – Gofer (Stream)
HB812: Catbus – Fracas (Music Video)
HB813: Hudson Bell – Box of Bones (Stream)
HB814: Dark Thoughts (Album Review)
HB815: Eskimeaux – Year of the Rabbit (EP Review)
HB816: The Side Eyes – I Don’t Want To Go To School (Stream)
HB817: Mercury Girls – Ariana (Stream)
HB818: Mitski – Your Best American Girl (Music Video)
HB819: Mo Troper – Star Wars (Stream)
HB820: What A Difference A Month Makes (Full Streams)
HB821: What A Difference A Month Makes (Music Videos)
HB822: What A Difference A Month Makes (Streams)
HB823: Patio – Luxury (EP Review)
HB824: Greys – Outer Heaven (Album Review)
HB825: Alexis Taylor – I’m Ready (Stream)
HB826: Lady Bones – Ice Cream (Stream)
HB827: Deerhoof – Plastic Thrills (Stream)
HB828: Ratboys – Not Again (Music Video)
HB829: Told Slant – Tsunami (Music Video)
HB830: Ought – Beautiful Blue Sky (Music Video)
HB831: EERA – Drive With Fear (Music Video)
HB832: Patsy’s Rats – Rock N’ Roll Friend (Music Video)
HB833: WRAY – Pined (Music Video)
HB834: Mutual Benefit – Lost Dreamers (Music Video)
HB835: Faye – Ancient Bones (Stream)
HB836: Big Thief – Humans (Stream)
HB837: Twist – Soaked (Stream)
HB838: Jackal Onasis – The New Ron (Stream)
HB839: Casket Girls – Tears of A Clown (Stream)
HB840: Diarrhea Planet – Bob Dylan’s Grandma (Stream)
HB841: Cadet Kelly – Throttle You (Stream)
HB842: Beverly – The Blue Swell (Album Review)
HB843: Nano Kino – Surfing on the Void (EP Review)
HB844: Devon Welsh – Down the Mountain (Album Review)
HB845: Frankie Teardrop – Hell Yep (Album Review)
HB846: Major Leagues – Dream States (EP Review)
HB847: Dogheart – Real Mood (EP Review)
HB848: Lady Bones – Terse (EP Review)
HB849: Mulligrub – Soft Grudge (Album Review)
HB850: Plush – Please (EP Review)
HB851: Mo Troper – Beloved (Album Review)
HB852: Color TV – Anybody’s Girl (Music Video)
HB853: Faye – Faye (EP Review)
HB854: Lonely Ghost – Funereal (Album Review)
HB855: Happyness – SB’s Truck (Stream)
HB856: Mercury Girls – All That Heaven Allows (Stream)
HB857: Big Thief – Paul (Stream)
HB858: Charly Bliss – Ruby (Music Video, Live Video)
HB859: M. T. Foyer – All I Wanna Do Is Love You + Let’s Make Something Happen (Stream)
HB860: Petite League – Zookeeper (Stream)
HB861: Woahnows – Mess (Music Video)
HB862: NE-HI – Buried on the Moon (Stream)
HB863: Hollowtapes – Tall (EP Premiere)
HB864: Oceanator – Sunrise (Song Premiere)
HB865: Mitski – Happy (Music Video)
HB866: Birth (Defects) – Hanshin
HB867: Mock Orange – Put the Kid on the Sleepy Horse (Album Review)
HB868: Told Slant – High Dirge (Stream)
HB869: Young Jesus – Void As Lob (Single Review, Live Video)
HB870: Watch This: A Long List of Honorable Mentions from A Brief Stretch of Time
HB871: Watch This: A Full Session of Full Sessions
HB872: Naked Hour – Always on the Weekend (Stream)
HB873: Gorgeous Bully – Just Like Before (Stream)
HB874: Jay Som – I Think You’re Alright (Stream)
HB875: Quilt – Padova (Music Video)
HB876: Watch This: Another Full Session
HB877: Splitting at the Break: The Live Videos of 2016’s First Half
HB878: Watch This: Resuscitations, Pt. I
HB879: Watch This: Resuscitations, Pt. II
HB880: Trophy Dad/Barbara Hans (Split Single Review)
HB881: Hater – Radius (Stream)
HB882: Splitting at the Break: The Live Photography of 2016’s First Half, Pt. I
HB883: Splitting at the Break: The Live Photography of 2016’s First Half, Pt. II
HB884: Splitting at the Break: The Live Photography of 2016’s First Half, Pt. III
HB885: Splitting at the Break: The Live Photography of 2016’s First Half, Pt. IV
HB886: Splitting at the Break: The Live Photography of 2016’s First Half, Pt. V
HB887: Tenement – Feral Cat Tribe (Music Video)
HB888: PUP – Live at the 7th St. Entry – 6/3/16 (Pictorial Review, Live Video)
HB889: Watch This: Vol. 126
HB890: Watch This: Vol. 127
HB891: Rod – Cemetery (Stream)
HB892: Trust Fund – Together (Stream)
HB893: Even Hand – Sighted (Album Review)
HB894: Future Biff – I Crashed Your Car (EP Review)
HB895: Jacky Boy – Bad (Song Premiere)
HB896: Lithuania – Kill The Thing You Love (Stream)
HB897: Watch This: Vol. 128
HB898: Weaves – Weaves (Album Review)
HB899: Dentist – Joel (Stream) [Contains hyperlinks to post 700-799]

The Honorable Mentions of the 2015 Music Categories

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Before diving into the particulars of the forthcoming lists, it’s worth addressing the distinction made in the headline. Each of the categories that received a list in 2015 (music videos, songs, EP’s, albums, odds and ends) will be expanded upon in this post. However, there are still two forthcoming film lists but each of those will include the honorable mentions along with the featured rankings. An obscene amount of great material came out over the 12 months that comprised the past year so any attempts to cover everything would be futile. If anyone’s exhausted the below lists, a more comprehensive version can be found by exploring the following tags: stream, full stream, EP stream, and music video. Explore some of the top tier picks that didn’t make it onto the year-end lists via the tags below.

Music Videos

Screaming Females – Hopeless | Cayetana – Scott, Get the Van I’m Moving | Ephrata – Say A Prayer | ANAMIA – LuciaJoanna Newsom – Sapokinakan | Battles – The Yabba | FIDLAR – 40 Oz. On Repeat | PINS – Young Girls | Doomtree – Final Boss | Hundred Waters – Innocent | Celestial Shore – Now I Know | Donnie Trumpet & The Social Experiment – Sunday Candy | Modest Mouse – Coyotes | Girlpool – Before The World Was Big | Laura Marling – Gurdijeff’s Daughter | Bay Uno – Wait For Your Love | The Staves – Black & White | Young Buffalo – No  Idea | Avid Dancer – All Your Words Are Gone | Avi Buffalo – Think It’s Gonna Happen Again | Adir L.C. – Buyer’s Instinct | Midnight Reruns – Canadian Summer | Daughter – Doing The Right Thing | John Grant – Disappointing | Waxahatchee – Under A Rock | Wimps – Dump | Potty Mouth – Cherry Picking | Froth – Nothing Baby | The Libertines – Heart of the Matter | Car Seat Headrest – Something Soon | Mike Krol – Neighborhood Watch | Savages – The Answer | Kurt Vile – Pretty Pimpin | Bully – Trying | Sheer – Uneasy  | Will Butler – Anna

EPs

Snail Mail – Sticki | Kindling – Galaxies | Eugene Quell – I Will Work The Land | Gumbus – Crimbus Rock | Rye Pines – Rye Pines | Feral Jenny – Greatest Hits | Slutever – Almost Famous | Gracie – Gracie | Nice Guys – Chips in the Moonlight | Anomie – Anomie | Kitner – Stay Sad | Animal Flag – EP 2 | Never Young – Never Young | Birches – Birches | Alimony Hustle – Gutter Gutter Strike Strike Gutter Gutter | The Lumes – Lust | Pretty Pretty – Talkin’ to the WallsVomitface – Another Bad Year | PALMAS – To the Valley | Greys – Repulsion | Wild Pink – Good Life | The Glow – Lose | Spirit of the Beehive – You Are Arrived (But You’ve Been Cheated) | Shady Hawkins – The Last Dance | Holy Esque – Submission | Ashland – Ashland | Isabel Rex – American Colliquialisms/Two Hexes | Pet Cemetery – Dietary Requirements | Milk Crimes – Milk Crimes | Rubber Band Gun – Making A Fool of Myself | Creative Adult – Ring Around the Room | Amber Edgar – Good Will Rise | La Casa al Mare – This Astro | Trophy Dad – Shirtless Algebra Fridays | Glueboy – Videorama | Birds in Row – Personal War | YVETTE – Time Management | Communions – Cobblestones | O-Face – Mint | Day Wave – Headcase | Granny – EGG | Van Dammes – Better Than Sex | Vallis Alps – Vallis Alps | Little Children – Traveling Through Darkness | Philadelphia Collins – Derp Swervin’ | The Tarantula Waltz – Lynx | Nicolas Jaar – Nymphs II | The Japanese House – Pools To Bathe In | Guerilla Toss – Flood Dosed | Los Planetas – Dobles Fatigas | See Through Dresses – End of Days | Earl Sweatshirt – Solace | Kississippi – We Have No Future, We’re All Doomed | Yumi Zouma – EP II | G.L.O.S.S. – Girls Living Outside of Society’s Shit | Fresh Snow – WON | Girl Band – The Early Years | XXIX – Wafia | together PANGEA – The Phage | Ty Segall – Mr. Face | Young Guv – Ripe 4 Luv

Songs

Yowler – The Offer | Meat Wave – Cosmic Zoo | Pleasure Leftists – Protection | Saintseneca – Sleeper Hold | Slight – Hate the Summer | Sports – The Washing Machine | Diet Cig – Sleep Talk | LVL UP – The Closing Door | Royal Headache – High | Tica Douglas – All Meanness Be Gone | Speedy Ortiz – Raising the Skate | Phooey! – Molly’s at the Laundromat | Adir L.C. – Buyer’s Instinct | Sweet John Bloom – Tell Me | Pile – Mr. Fish | Screaming Females – Hopeless | Ernie – Sweatpants | Bad Wig – Stargazer | Dusk – Too Sweet | Painted Zeros – Only You | Krill – Torturer | Young Jesus – Milo | Tenement – Ants + Flies | Midnight Reruns – Richie the Hammer | Melkbelly – Mt. Kool Kid | The Weasel, Marten Fisher – Empty Bucket List | Soul Low – Always Watchin’ Out | Eluvium – Neighboring In Telescopes | Algiers – Blood | Institute – Cheerlessness | Bruising – Think About Death | Vacation – Like Snow | Cende – Widow | Alex G – Brite Boy | Bully – Trying | Nicole Dollanganger – You’re So Cool | Sheer – Uneasy | Laura Stevenson – Claustrophobe | Kathryn Calder – New Millenium | The Foetals – Nothing | Lady Bones – Botch | Dogs On Acid – Let the Bombs Fall Off | Fraser A. Gorman – Shiny Gun | Bandit – The Drive Home | Mercury Girls – Golden | ThinLips – Nothing Weird | Wimps – Dump | S.M. Wolf – Help Me Out | Glueboy – Back to You | Mean Creek – Forgotten Streets | Ratboys – Tixis | PINS – Young Girls | Shilpa Ray – Johnny Thunders Fantasy Space Camp | White Reaper – Make Me Wanna Die | Lady Lamb – Spat Out Spit | Washer – Joe | Pupppy – Puking (Merry Christmas) | Midwives – Back in the Saddle Again | Torres – Strange Hellos | METZ – Spit You Out | Jeff Rosenstock – You In Weird Cities | Little Wings – Hollowed Log | Bent Denim – Good Night’s Sleep | Waxahatchee – Under A Rock

Albums

Girlpool – Before The World Was Big | Screaming Females – Rose MountainYowler – The Offer | Saintseneca – Such Things | Bully – Feels Like | Tica Douglas – Joey | Evans the Death – Expect Delays | Torres – Sprinter | Waxahatchee – Ivy Tripp | Fred Thomas – All Are Saved | Krill – A Distant Fist Unclenching | Ratboys – AOID | Joanna Gruesome – Peanut Butter | METZ – II | Little Wings – ExplainsSlanted – Forever | Bent Denim – Romances You | Someone Still Loves You Boris Yeltsin – The High Country | White Reaper – White Reaper Does It Again | The Armed – Untitled | Shilpa Ray – Last Year’s Savage | The Foetals – Meet the Foetals | Car Seat Headrest – Teens of Style | Wimps – Suitcase | Westkust – Last Forever | Girl Band – Holding Hands With Jamie | Cloakroom – Further Out | Stove – Is Stupider | Johanna Warren – numun | Speedy Ortiz – Foil Deer | Mikal Cronin – MCIII | Adir L.C. – Oceanside Cities | Negative Scanner – Negative Scanner | Pleasure Leftists – The Woods of Heaven | Haybaby – Sleepy Kids | Heather Woods Broderick – Glider | Lady Lamb – After | Pile – You’re Better Than This | Algiers – Algiers | Fraser A. Gorman – Slow Gum | POPE – Fiction | Petal Head – Raspberry Cough | Shannen Moser – You Shouldn’t Be Doing That

Odds and Ends

DBTS: BS2 | Spook the Herd – Freaks b/w Fermented | Kinjac – Possession b/w Possessed | Carbonleak – Waveland b/w Bearing | Vexx – Give and Take | Nervous Trend – Shattered | CCTV – 7″ | Puppy Problems – Practice Kissing | Flagland + Washer | MONO + The Ocean | Uh Huh + Jake McElvie & The Countertops | Alanna McArdle – Bedroom/Balloons | Chris Broom – Meade House Demos | Composite – Demos 2015 | The Library – 100% | Dark Thoughts – Two More Songs From… | Wendy Alembic – Collected Early Works | Toby Reif – 2015 Demos

15 of ’15: The Best Albums of 2015

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2015, close to unanimously, was concerned to be one of the highest points for new music in recent memory. To that end, putting together this list was even more of a nightmarish task than narrowing the 2015 songs down to their 15 slots. There was even a brief moment where expanding this list to 50 slots seemed like a viable action. Ultimately, after literally hundreds of substitutions in the various positions (and countless exclusions and extractions), the formula remained intact. While it was painful to leave an extremely large handful of extraordinary records lingering just outside the perimeter, the 15 records below have earned their spots. Every single one of these has remained in near-constant rotation since the time of their release and will likely resonant well into 2016 and beyond. Dive on in below and reflect on the overwhelming strength of the past 12 months.

15. Meat Wave – Delusion Moon

One of a select few bands to play an instrumental part in the formative stages of this site’s focus (and one of the acts to play the first Heartbreaking Bravery showcase), Meat Wave came through in a big way in 2015. The trio released one of the year’s best oddities, signed to SideOneDummy, and unleashed a behemoth of an album in Delusion Moon. Billed as their first proper full-length (their vicious self-titled, limited-run cassette straddled the line between EP and full-length), Delusion Moon saw the band exploring their darker tendencies to great success. More fully exploring influences like Mission of Burma and Drive Like Jehu, the band acted as a nice counterpoint to the usual brand of ’90s revival and got some kicks in along the way.

14. PWR BTTM – Ugly Cherries

No band’s live show was documented more exhaustively here over 2015 than PWR BTTM, who perfected a simplistic approach with enormous- and enormously successful- ideas. The duo (who is occasionally a trio) set their sights on exploring gender and personal identity and followed through with a startlingly brazen tenacity. Close to every song on Ugly Cherries, their extraordinary full-length debut, play out like the kind of anthems that 2015 desperately needed. For a record that’s quick to be gleefully tongue-in-cheek, Ugly Cherries also offers up some devastating personal moments, lending the band an emotional depth that makes their outsize spirit even more powerful.

13. Midnight Reruns – Force of Nurture

Force of Nurture, Midnight Reruns‘ astonishing sophomore effort, has one of the best A-sides I’ve ever heard. Not to discredit an extremely strong B-side, either, but the run the band puts together from “There’s An Animal Upstairs” to “Sky Blue Water” is just about flawless. All six of those songs were considered for this year’s list of the best songs of 2015 along with the record’s sprawling closer, “Great Southern Rail”, which boasts one of the year’s more jaw-dropping choruses. Bolstered by the involvement of one of the band’s earliest and most vocal supporters- The Replacements’ Tommy Stinson, who produced the record- Midnight Reruns turned in their finest collection of songs to date.

12. Hop Along – Painted Shut

A statement that bears repeating: one of the most heartening aspects of 2015 was watching the deserved ascension of Hop Along, who have been cranking out exquisite material on an exceptionally high platform for several years. Driven by the distinctive, arresting voice of guitarist/vocalist Frances Quinlan and their own unique sensibilities, Hop Along crafted the strongest record of their discography. With new partner Saddle Creek firmly in their corner, the band came to vibrant life and stayed on form, delivering a set of knockout tracks that included “Waitress”, one of this year’s finest. A welcome breath of fresh air, Painted Shut marked the beginning of an exciting new era for one of today’s best bands.

11. Royal Headache – High

Even as all the news of High being Royal Headache’s finest record (thankfully) receded, the power of their finest offering to date didn’t diminish. Following a brilliant debut, the band may have actually surpassed that record’s promise with their sophomore effort. Highlighted by songs like the towering, defiant title track and the surging “Another World“, High is a genre masterclass of the highest order. Buoyed by an infectious energy that’s constantly verging on manic, there’s never a moment during the record that doesn’t feel like it’s nearing a state of euphoria. When High is firing on all cylinders, as is the case for the vast majority of the record, the band’s as close to being virtually untouchable as is possibly imaginable.

10. Young Jesus – Grow/Decompose

Home, Young Jesus‘ breakout record and a candidate for album of the decade, set extraordinarily high expectations for whatever the band chose as its following release. Crafting a worthy follow-up seemed even more unlikely after the band moved out of Chicago and over to Los Angeles, reassembling their lineup in the process. By that token, Grow/Decompose isn’t just a deeply impressive record, it’s a miraculous one. Guitarist/vocalist John Rossiter sharpens his singular songwriting voice and leads his new outfit with a fiery determination. An immensely satisfying collection of songs, Grow/Decompose feels like a genuine album; structured and paced to near perfection, Grow/Decompose is a reinvigorating- and reinvigorated- frenzy.

9. Dogs On Acid – Dogs On Acid

Dogs On Acid, a band formed out of the ashes of much beloved acts Snowing and Algernon Cadwallader, expanded on one of the best 7″ releases of 2014 with one of the strongest full-length debuts in recent memory. Laced with knockout hooks at just about every turn, Dogs On Acid is a staggering show of power from a band that finds surprising ways to exceed its predecessors. Maximizing their pop sensibilities to astonishing effect, Dogs On Acid inject their first major effort with an insistent, propulsive energy that catapults each of its 10 tracks to unthinkable heights, keeping their punk roots in place along the way. Every song on Dogs On Acid is a genuine highlight, yet the whole affair still manages to come across as so much more than a collection of singles. Bold and brash, this is the kind of record that may never fall out of regular rotation.

8. Tenement – Predatory Headlights

For close to 10 years, I’ve provided near-incessant documentation of Tenement, chronicling their forward motion with increasing intensity as the years progressed. When Heartbreaking Bravery was initially designed, it was constructed with the intention of highlighting bands that weren’t being granted the press that they deserved. In 2015, the world at large finally started catching on to a band that’s meant more to the development of my personal interests in music than any other (I didn’t include their Bruised Music compilation in the oddities list because I contributed a lengthy piece to the record’s insert that expands on that fact). Predatory Headlights, the trio’s latest opus, was a definitive collection of the band’s current era, unafraid of demolishing genre barriers and bold experimentation. Over its intimidating 28 tracks, the album steadily emerges as a genuine- and singular- masterpiece.

7. Julien Baker – Sprained Ankle

For Julien Baker‘s breathtaking breakout record, the young songwriter (previously best known as one of the driving forces behind Forrister) dived fearlessly into a despairing examination of her own psyche. A preoccupation with mortality that was heavily informed by the laws of religion dominates nearly every song on this surprisingly brave collection. From the description of the car wreck in the opener’s first verse all the way through to the passage in “Go On”- Sprained Ankle‘s mesmerizing closing track and one of 2015’s finest songs– about consuming bleach, there’s barely a moment of reprieve. Built almost exclusively around Baker’s voice and acoustic guitar, Sprained Ankle feels progressively more personal as it goes along, each song functioning as a plea, a warning, and a sustained moment of clarity. Tragic and beautiful, Baker’s conjured up a collection of deeply personal songs that feel genuinely sacred.

6. All Dogs – Kicking Every Day

Ever since their earliest releases, All Dogs have been steadily crafting great material and building momentum. Kicking Every Day, the band’s startlingly defiant full-length debut, continues that pattern with an astounding amount of grace. Even with their lineup at full strength following the addition of guitarist Nick Harris (which is paying massive dividends), guitarist/vocalist Maryn Jones’ songs feel more naked than ever, imbuing Kicking Every Day with a voyeuristic look at its principal songwriter’s inner turmoil and unflinching resolve. After the anticipation levels for this record came close to hitting a fever pitch with the release of “That Kind of Girl” (which ranked highly on the songs of the year list), the prospect of a record as extravagantly strong as Kicking Every Day didn’t seem so distant. The record ultimately surpassed those expectations thanks to both the instant acclaim it so richly deserved and its ability to strike all the right chords.

5. Sweet John Bloom – Weird Prayer

Losing Four Eyes, a band that put out one of the best 7″ records of this decade, was a tough pill to swallow. Fortunately, that band found a natural successor in Sweet John Bloom. Continuing to revel in the same brand of endearingly scrappy basement pop and pulling members from a few other outstanding bands, Sweet John Bloom managed to make a mark. Weird Prayer, their first fully fledged full-length, reveals impressive new depths to the band. Employing a rotating cast of songwriters, the record gives ample space to flesh out each one’s distinct personality. From lovely slow-burning tracks like “Bury Ruby” to incendiary highlights like “Tell Me”, Weird Prayer is an enviable showcase that, bizarrely, seems like a victory lap for its various members. There’s a memorable moment or three on each of these 15 tracks, most of which find intriguing dichotomies to exploit over the course of their brief running times. Littered with surprising moments at close to every corner, it’s one of 2015’s most exhilarating releases.

4. Dilly Dally – Sore

Back in 2014, Dilly Dally unleashed a pair of 7″ records that nearly walked away with the top spot in this site’s rankings. In 2015 they followed up their flawless early run with a brilliant standalone single and a bruising full-length teeming with vicious grunge-informed, punk-leaning basement pop numbers. Grimly determined and scuzzy as hell, Sore lands with the force of an atomic bomb. There was a reason that no band earned as many feature pieces on this site over the course of 2014 than Dilly Dally and, even stripped of the brilliant singles that earned those spots, Sore would have registered as a knockout. While the record’s many searing highlights (“Desire“, “Purple Rage“, “The Touch“, etc.) gave the record its fangs, its elegiac closer provided it with both an unexpected emotional depth and a staggering moment of finality (both of which went a long way in securing its ranking as one of 2015’s finest tracks). While Dilly Dally just about stole CMJ and released a small army of outstanding music videos, Sore was their definitive 2015 moment. It’s the kind of record that inspires kids to go out and start bands of their own, making it one of the most powerful releases in recent memory.

3. Mike Krol – Turkey

The sudden resurgence of the (unfortunately) still-deceased Sleeping in the Aviary was an extremely unexpected and welcome development. While they did release an extraordinary demos and rarities collection, the band’s best moment came when the majority of its lineup wound up backing Mike Krol for his latest venture. No record in 2015 felt even close to as unhinged as Turkey, Krol’s first effort for Merge and most deranged outing to date. With a runtime that doesn’t even scratch 19 minutes, Krol and the band he’s assembled run through nine songs at a pace so frantic it’s practically delirious. Every single moment of Turkey is informed by a surging level of energy that it seems like the record might derail itself at any given moment, toppling over because of its own excessive velocity. Miraculously, it manages to sustain that momentum through nine songs of rabid basement pop that draws inspiration from a variety of genres from the past handful of decades, zeroing in on things like ’50s pop and classic soul. Everything on Turkey also benefits from being shot through with Krol’s deadpan comedic sensibility, tongue planted firmly in cheek. By the time the record’s penultimate track hits- the absolutely massive “Less Than Together“- the record’s momentum is white hot. “Piano Shit” winds things down at the very end and allows the listener to review the demolished left in Turkey‘s wake as it coasts to the finish.

2. Nicole Dollanganger – Natural Born Losers

One of the happier coincidences this site got to experience in 2015 was the realization that the glowing review of Nicole Dollanganger‘s breathtaking Natural Born Losers was its 666th post. An appropriate fact, given the record’s deep obsession with angels, devils, and the spiritual realm. In its opening lines (“I shot an angel with my father’s rifle”), Natural Born Losers flaunts its aim with a threatening gracefulness, ready to turn on a dime at any moment. Dollanganger’s narratives throughout the course of the record are startling exercises in hyper-violence and dueling desires. Whether it’s a BDSM-informed romp as lensed through an experience with an abusive police officer or an extremely disarming sample taken from the animated 1993 cult classic The Halloween Tree, Dollanganger’s either making fresh incisions or pulling gaping wounds even further apart. However, for being so deeply unsettling in its prose, the music that accompanies all of Dollanganger’s nightmarish imagery is as elegant and haunting as her vocals. A lot of Natural Born Losers hinges on exploring some of the weightiest dichotomies in existence and the degree of success to which it achieves in striking fascinating middle grounds in those battles is revelatory. Even more impressive is the fashion in which Dollanganger binds this collection of songs together, especially considering how effectively the record’s haunting line defines (or redefines) everything that’s happened since its steely-eyed opening moment. Put simply: Natural Born Losers is a modern masterpiece.

1. Eskimeaux – O.K.

Eskimeaux‘s O.K. managed to impress on first listen but it wasn’t until seeing the band live that all of its pieces fell more fully into place. That show inspired a return visit to this collection which, in turn, brought about a subsequent revisit (and then that pattern fell into a routine that still hasn’t ceased). On each successive listen, more of O.K. sprang to life. Gabrielle Smith’s project has been making material that’s been more than worthwhile for a large handful of years now but O.K., the project’s most fully-realized outing, saw Smith step across a threshold and into something sublime. A meticulously crafted record, every last one of its countless gears clicks in ways that surprise and delight in equal measure, rewarding heavy investment with a casual ease and providing O.K. with one of its cleverest tricks. In maintaining their casual sensibilities, the record becomes an enjoyable cursory listen but that casualness is surprisingly deceptive.

O.K.‘s a very complex record when it’s dissected into its formative pieces, whether they’re the gorgeous vocal layers that comprise one of the record’s most gorgeous moments on “A Hug Too Long” or Felix Walworth’s explosively idiosyncratic snare work on “Folly“, each finding a way to stand out as an impressive moment in both the small schemes of the songs and the grand sweep of the album. From a lyrical standpoint, Smith packs this record full with bittersweet realizations, internal frustrations, and slivers of a defiant sense of hope that’s steadfast in its refusal to bow to a harsher reality. Even the record’s darkest moment- the brooding “Pocket Full of Posies”, which nearly unseated “A Hug Too Long” in the songs list- subtly acknowledges the inherent innocence of things that are frequently viewed as evil. Even then, O.K.‘s worldview is far from simply being optimistic, it’s far too weary to assume that the best mode of operation is to look for the best in everything; its earned its sophisticated wariness.

What makes O.K. truly stand out, though, is its overwhelming amount of empathy for everything that’s fortunate enough to have worked its way into the record. Easily one of the most readily apparent humanist statements that music yielded this year (which is especially easy to see when the record’s put under a microscope), O.K. draws its strength from its sense of value. It’s a view that resonates throughout the record’s 11 brilliantly crafted songs, providing them with a deeper sense of purpose than most bands can manage. Additionally, all of the inspired decisions that comprise O.K. are augmented by some of the most extraordinary production work of the past several years, stealthily enhancing the cumulative effect of the songs. An awe-inspiring breakthrough for one of today’s most promising acts, O.K. is the kind of record that’s worth preserving for future generations. Find someone deserving to share this with and give in to its inescapable beauty.

Diet Cig – Dinner Date (Stream, Live Video)

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Following an unusual slow Tuesday, the mid-week mark kicked things back into high gear and offered up a bevvy of tantalizing releases in all of the three major categories. The full streams that were unveiled included Total Makeover’s spritely self-titled EP, Lost Film’s beautiful, low-key Imago, Donovan Wolfington’s level-elevating How To Treat The Ones You Love, and the exemplary The Last Dance, which is very likely the final release from the great Shady Hawkins. Music videos found strong representation via clips from Royal Headache, Shana Cleveland & The Sandcastles, Karen O, The Smith Street Band (ft. Lucy Wilson), and Marching Church. Single streams had more than a few genuine gems in a haul that saw new material from TenementExpert Alterations, Childbirth, Vision, and Mothers to life- as well as the second half of Diet Cig‘s forthcoming 7″.

A little over a month ago, the band unveiled career highlight “Sleep Talk“, which prompted a great deal of intrigue and excitement in regards to the duo’s future. As the first half of a two-song split, “Sleep Talk” seemed to open up limitless possibilities for the directions the band could take. “Dinner Date”, instead of aiming to push forward, feels content to circle back to the approach that dominated Over Easy, which has held strong as one of this year’s best EP’s. However, “Dinner Date” avoids redundancy by augmenting the band’s more direct methods with an air of resignation in place of the carefree attitude that dominated their first release.

While there’s still more than a few barbed winks scattered throughout “Dinner Date”, it’s easy to hear a steady maturation creeping into Diet Cig’s work; they’re playing with a bolstered confidence level and are proving they’re unafraid of tinkering with a winning formula in the process. Rounding out the relatively adventurous atmospherics of “Sleep Talk” with the startling immediacy of “Dinner Date” not only allows both tracks to emphasize their partner’s best qualities, it also leaves the band with another year-end contender for the 7″ category. Brash, bold, and oddly beautiful, it’s another strong step in an increasingly promising career.

Listen to “Dinner Date” below and pre-order the 7″ ahead of its September 18 release date from site favorites Father/Daughter (for the US) or another site favorite, Art Is Hard (for the UK). Underneath the embedded player, revisit a video of the band performing the song a few months ago at the Father/Daughter Northside showcase.

Royal Headache – Another World (Stream)

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A few years ago, Royal Headache came barreling out of nowhere and struck with enough blunt momentum to create a crater that pulled a large handful of notable minds into their world. In the time that’s followed the release of their incredible self-titled record, they’ve managed to create a fascinating story by carving out their own epilogue and assemble what promises to be their finest release to date. Due out in August, High has already generated a significant amount of anticipation on the strength of its fiery title track (which is holding strong as one of 2015’s best songs). Those expectations get pushed even further up the spectrum with “Another World”.

In a week of some seriously extraordinary releases (see the list of links at the bottom for proof), Royal Headache once again managed to conjure up a true standout that sees them surging towards the barriers of their own perceived limitations and doing everything they can to dismantle them with sheer momentum. It’s their most tightly-crafted song to date, rife with memorable hooks and genuinely explosive moments. As a new song with an open future, it would have been exhilarating in its promise- as a part of the band’s extended death rattle (the band’s vocalist was allowed to depart under the conditions that he stay on to complete the record and the subsequent promotional tour), it’s unforgettable. Wild-eyed, manic, impassioned, and deeply felt, “Another World” is another peak for a band that will be leaving us far too soon- but doing so at the height of their powers, on their own terms, and at the absolute top of the mountain.

Listen to “Another World” below and pre-order High from What’s Your Rupture? here. Beneath the embed, explore a list of great songs to have surfaced throughout the week (if for some reason you’ve been doubting the overwhelming strength of this year’s release crop, remember that the below list is comprised of individual songs that all found release in the same week).

SPORTS – Saturday
Mike Krol – This is the News
Dogs On Acid – The Prick
American Pinup – The Radio
Sean Henry – Sad ‘C’
The Good Life – Forever Coming Down
Lower – At The Endless Party
Promised Land Sound – She Takes Me There
Slow and Steady – Pendulum
Sally Crewe – Later Than You Think
Jackson Boone – Moonbeam
Born Ruffians – We Made It
Chris Staples – Cheap Shades
Barrence Whitfield & The Savages – The Claw
The Golden Eaves – No Other
elle le fantôme – Sore
Sweet Cobra – Complaints
Generifus – No Surprise
Zig Zags – Sunken City
Adult Mom – Laying On My Floor
VHS – Superhuman Happiness
Emilie & Ogden – Ten Thousand
Little Wings – Live To Tell
PINS – Live and Let Go
Marissa Nadler – Solitude
Wavves – Way Too Much

2015: Halfway Home (Mixtape)

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Only a little past its halfway point, 2015’s already been an absurdly strong year for music. Numerically staggering, it’s yielded a handful of classics across a variety of genres and a plethora of outstanding small releases. While this mix skews more towards the latter than, say, Kendrick Lamar’s To Pimp A Butterfly, it’s still worth noting how kind this year’s release schedule has been across the board. To reflect on some of this year’s best offerings so far- and to celebrate this site’s 550th post- a mixtape’s been curated for your enjoyment. Nearly all of these songs and artists have been featured on the site previously, lending this particular mix a more retrospective feel than a few of the past entries in the mixtape series, but they’re all worth celebrating as much as possible. Ranging from folk and ambient flourishes to heavy 90’s influences to thoroughly modern post-punk to spritely basement pop, there’s an entry for just about every genre marker that receives regular coverage on the site.

So, without further ado, here’s a mixtape of some of 2015’s strongest highlights (at least so far, there are still quite a few promising items for the year’s latter half). The tracklist for 2015: Halfway Home can be found beneath the embed. Enjoy.



1. Girlpool – Before The World Was Big

2. Waxahatchee – Under A Rock
3. Mean Creek – Forgotten Streets
4. Royal Headache – Hgih
5. Radioactivity – Pretty Girl
6. Diet Cig – Breathless
7. Washer – Joe
8. Courtney Barnett – Pedestrian At Best
9. Mikal Cronin – Made My Mind Up
10. Torres – Sprinter
11. Jason Isbell – 24 Frames (Live)
12. theweaselmartenfisher – Empty Bucket List
13. Pupppy – Puking (Merry Christmas!)

14. Christopher Paul Stelling – Dear Beast
15. Fraser A. Gorman – Shiny Gun
16. Young Jesus – Milo
17. Girls Names – Reticence
18. Institute – Cheerlessness
19. Happy Diving – So Bunted
20. Downies – Widow
21. Meat Wave – Erased
22. Connor La Mue – Stargazer
23. Bruising – Think About Death
24. Meredith Graves – Took The Ghost to the Movies
25. Yowler – The Offer