Heartbreaking Bravery

stevenmps2@gmail.com | @steven_mps | @hbreakbravery

Tag: Run For Cover Records

Young Guv – Roll With Me + Every Flower I See (Stream)

For years, Young Guv has been experiencing a steady uptick in public recognition. Like so many other artists that get covered here it’s not necessarily due to something like touring harder or being more prolific in terms of releases (in addition to that music both competing and benefiting from existing in the shadow of a wide umbrella), it’s more a matter of an audience catching up to the quality of an artist’s music All that said, the Ben Cook — who also plays guitar in Fucked Up — project’s also quietly improved over its run, an aspect that’s readily apparent on Young Guv’s most recent offerings: “Roll With Me” and “Every Flower I See”.

One feels like a spiritual brother to Rolling Blackouts C.F, the other, Mike Krol. Both come stamped with Cook’s signature vocal tic, which manages the difficult trick of sounding simultaneously weary and completely energized. Both tracks are easy to fall in love with, exuding the kind of charm that characterized acts like Archers of Loaf and Superchunk in their early breakout moments. Every second, no matter which way the genre influences lean, proves winsome, and Cook further solidifies his place among today’s emerging songwriters. “Roll With Me” and “Every Flower I See” both offer up an early look at Cook’s forthcoming Guv I, which could be mentioned on this site come December if the rest of its anywhere close to this good. Don’t miss this one.

Listen to “Roll With Me” and “Every Flower I See” below and pre-order Guv I from Run For Cover here.

Pinegrove – Size of the Moon (Music Video)

There were a small handful of great releases to make their way out into the world over the past 24 hours, including great new tracks from RatboysCool American, Harmony Woods, Land of Talk, BodYAWN, Jimi Charles Moody, music videos by the likes of Kevin Morby, Hovvdy, Kamasi Washington, Hellrazor, Mt. Wolf, Bill Baird, Laser Background, and a pair of records from Oiseaux-Tempête and Entrail. Still, as good as all those titles were, it’s impossible to compete with the emotional heft generated by documenting a real-life affliction, especially when that documentation’s got the benefit of being set to one of last year’s finest songs: Pinegrove‘s “Size of the Moon”.

While this is, officially, an unofficial video, its also an unforgettable one. Chronicling the fight against Advanced Chronic Lyme’s Disease Monica Arbery — a sister of one of Pinegrove guitarist/vocalist Evan Stephen’s Hall’s friends — is currently waging, the video (directed by Arbery’s brother, Will) is a deeply human look at what it’s like to face down a debilitating disease.

In all of the laughter, all of the tears, all of the dancing, all of the resilience, and all of the strength present throughout “Size of the Moon”, the empathy driving this clip becomes readily apparent and, in turn, makes it an even more powerful document. Remarkable, compelling, and near impossible to shake, “Size of the Moon” gets at the heart of familial love in the face of struggle and makes its case with an abundance of conviction and feeling. Click play and then click over to the medical fund linked below to do something that will yield immediate productive good.

Watch “Size of the Moon” below, pick up Cardinal here, and donate to Monica Arbery’s medical fund here.

15 of ’15: The Best EP’s of 2015

Slight I

Now that all the visual retrospectives are out of the way and the best live videos have been accounted for, it’s time to move onto the records in earnest. Over the course of the next several days there will be “best of” lists for the following categories: music videos, odds and ends (demos, 7″ records, compilations, etc.), songs, and albums. There will also be an Honorable Mentions devotion that covers a massive array of material from the majority of those categories. Following those lists will be the second installment of the A Year’s Worth of Memories series, which will once again feature a murderer’s row of contributors that have been pulled from both the music and film worlds.

For now, we’re turning our attention to the EP’s that made the most formidable impressions over the course of the past 12 months. Well over 100 titles were considered and then boiled down to the 15 that you see below (this was such a strong year for EP’s that the top 5 are essentially interchangeable). Before delving into those titles, it’s worth noting that “best” in the case– as it is in all cases– is just a meaningless formality and the list below is a reflection of subjectivity. I make no claim to be an authoritative voice in these matters, just a person that genuinely enjoys music and uses a platform as a means to attempt to elevate some of the acts that truly deserve to have their names in greater circulation. So, without further ado, here’s 15 of ’15: The Best EP’s of 2015.

15. Idle Bloom – Some Paranoia

Sometimes all you need to do is offer to help carry equipment to be introduced to incredible new bands, which is exactly how I met Callan Dwan, who I would come to learn is not only Mitski’s guitarist but one of the guitarists for two other acts as well: Dogtooth and Idle Bloom. The latter– a shoegaze-obsessed post-punk act (or is it the other way around?)– recently released their Some Paranoia EP, which stealthily builds its momentum in a clever, multifaceted way; not only do the majority of the songs work their way into a cacophonous frenzy but so does the EP as a whole. It’s an exhilarating listen from a promising emerging act and boasts one of the year’s best riffs.

spotify:album:1DC8DB5pwWyTNIZM4tdYxN

14. ThinLips – Your Divorce

An extraordinary opening track can do wonders for any release. An effective opening track will set a precedent and a tone for the ensuing material on the record. Your Divorce‘s opener “Nothing Weird” is both effective and extraordinary. Brandishing a compellingly damaged form of lo-fi leaning pop-punk, ThinLips crafted a vicious, compact stunner of an EP that comes across like a warning shot. In a genre that’s increasingly weakened by diminishing returns from the artists utilizing reverential approach, it’s heartening to see the more subversive acts releasing material that feels genuinely vital.

13. Bad Wig – Bad Wig

Before Bad Wig was Bad Wig, they were The Midwestern Charm, an act that worked their way from a sound that fell closer in line to Ryan Adams to crafting a record that fit better alongside the likes of The Lemonheads. A few member changes and stylistic shifts later, they’d carved out a new identity under their new name. Their introductory act is ferociously ragged and maybe even a little audacious. Most everything else there is to be said about this brilliant collection of punk-tinged micro-pop gems can was covered in last week’s review.

12. Potty Mouth – Potty Mouth

A lot of bands found surprisingly bold ways to shift their sound but none caught me as off-guard as Potty Mouth‘s fearless swan dive into the polished, arena-ready sounds of their self-titled EP. Opening with the skyward stretching of “Cherry Picking” and only building momentum from there, Potty Mouth could very easily signal a new era for a band that was formerly known for reveling in their scrappier tendencies. Every song on the EP connects with a staggering amount of force, nicely correlating with the self-possessed determination found at the root of nearly every song in this collection. Potty Mouth is the kind of rallying call that echoes.

11. Midwives – Cowboy Songs

After releasing a fierce full-length debut back in February, Midwives managed to top themselves as the year was drawing to a close. The shockingly immediate Cowboy Songs dishes out punishment at a startling rate and bristles with real emotion. Things kick off with the vicious “Back in the Saddle” and never look back from there, each subsequent song in this seven and a half minute collection of deranged hardcore acting as a flawless showcase of the band’s brute strength. Cowboy Songs is filled to the brim with the kind of hardcore that thrashes around wildly and refuses to be tamed.

10. Geronimo! – Buzz Yr Girlfriend: Vol. 4 – Why Did You Leave Me?

While a lot of people were justifiably saddened over the losses of Ovlov and Krill, it may have been the departure of Geronimo! that hit hardest. Granted, for the vast majority of my life, they were easily the closest to my location of that trio but the sentiment remains. At the very least, the trio went out on top with their final bow: Buzz Yr Girlfriend: Vol. 4 – Why Did You Leave Me?. Characteristically unwieldy, the band’s final three songs ranked among the best work of a deeply impressive career, each (justifiably) landing a premiere at a massive publication. Fitting levels of recognition for an overwhelmingly powerful final effort.

9. Teksti-TV 666 – 2

One of the biggest surprises of the year for me personally, this blistering EP from Finnish act Teksti-TV 666 practically qualifies as an album by today’s standards (its runtime is over 22 minutes). Full of surging basement pop that’s not too far off from the best of The Marked Men, the aptly named swings for the fences at every turn without hesitation. Incorporating a several-member guitar attack that may rival Diarrhea Planet’s, the band finds new avenues to explore as the record careens headfirst towards something concrete. After the fireworks of “Tuhatvuotinen Harharetki”, the band never lets up and goes on exploratory tangents at will. Psychedelic flourishes, sludge breakdowns, and a serious amount of momentum carry to its status as one of the best of 2015.

spotify:album:51eSFNYpbtrdK605CBWW3f

8. Slight – Hate the Summer

Hate the Summer prompted a few difficult guideline decisions for this list: was it ethical to include an EP anchored by a song that premiered on this site and would a tape release of the EP that included the entirety of an online single that this site ranked as last year’s best be eligible for contention? The answers, obviously, were “absolutely” and “yes.” The latter line of questioning was the one that was scrutinized the most for this list and wound up excluding Meat Wave’s formidable Brother from eligibility (nearly half of the EP pulled from a variety of the band’s other releases, rendering it more of a padded compilation than an EP). With Hate the Summer, the band’s not only expanded the scope of their work but they’ve tapped into something with the three new songs on display here that have the potential to lift this project to new heights of outside recognition. Overall, it’s an important early piece of the trio’s developing history and deserves to be heard as many times as possible.

7. Midnight Reruns – Get Me Out

A staple of this site’s coverage since its introduction, Midnight Reruns rewarded that attention by taking a huge leap with this year with their two strongest releases to date, beginning with this bleary-eyed EP. The Tommy Stinson-produced “Ain’t Gonna Find” sets things in motion and establishes the band’s manic basement pop sensibilities in the early goings, with Graham Hunt’s million-words-a-minute delivery emboldened by the characteristically fierce lead guitar work between Hunt and Karl Giehl. From that blistering opening number, the band takes a step back and sinks their teeth into more left-field territory like the rollicking “Ancient Creature”, which boasts the instantly memorable chorus couplets of “I am the sun, I am the sea/I am an ancient creature/I was born in Madagascar/I was raised by lemurs” and a bruising cover of The Mistreaters’ “The Other Man”.

6. Sheer Mag – II

Another year, another Sheer Mag list placement. Expanding on everything that made the band so great right out of the gate, II was a natural extension of its predecessor, driven by the wild energy of its phenomenal closing track, “Button Up“. All of the glam influences remain and the band likely owes a remarkably huge debt to Marc Bolan but it’s hard to care about influences when the music manages to be so ridiculously entertaining. People will talk about how ’50s pop seeps in around the band’s roughest edges but really, they should probably just stop talking and start dancing. Scrappy and deliriously fun, II‘s another triumph.

5. Diet Cig – Over Easy

No EP soundtracked more aimless drives for me this year than Diet Cig‘s endearingly jubilant Over Easy, which served a necessary reminder that sometimes the most important function music can have is a sense of joy. In the face of a horrifying year in the news, an onslaught of overly-serious releases, and a general downcast pall, Over Easy was a breath of fresh air; a pair of young musicians finding their voice. Every song on Over Easy is memorable not just for its irreverence but for its uncompromising energy and impressive levels of commitment. Warm weather anthems abound and guitarist/vocalist Alex Luciano gets to deliver one of the year’s most scathing kiss-off’s in the final track’s most rousing section.

4. LVL UP – Three Songs

In 2014, site favorites LVL UP topped this site’s Albums of the Year list with ease thanks to the overwhelming brilliance of Hoodwink’d, which was the most perfect distillation of the respective voices of the band’s three principal songwriters to date. Three Songs continues that trend in miniature, allotting a song a piece from Dave Benton, Mike Caridi, and Nick Corbo. All three bring a palpable sense of weariness to the proceedings, immediately rendering this LVL UP’s moodiest record. From the spiky micro-pop of “Blur” to book-ends “The Closing Door” and “Proven Water Rites”, there’s never a dull moment and the band, once again, leave their guts on the table before walking out the door.

3. Ernie – Dog Park

Occasionally, a single song can elevate an already-strong release to unthinkable proportions, which is exactly what happens with Ernie’s delightful Dog Park and its monumental centerpiece, “Sweatpants“. While all four songs contained in Dog Park are memorable and have an impressive host of great moments, it’s the frantic, hook-laden “Sweatpants” that brings the collection together and enhances its immediate surroundings. A surging jolt of relatable discontentment emphasized by a vicious undercurrent of basement pop aesthetics, “Sweatpants” becomes Dog Park‘s definitive moment and simultaneously becomes an unwitting microcosm of 2015’s prevailing sense of disillusionment before turning on that notion in defiance and letting loose a series of blows. Dog Park‘s status as one of 2015’s great releases is cemented in the process.




2. Tenement – Tenement

No band was written about more- or in greater detail- throughout the course of 2015 than Tenement. For nearly 10 years, I’ve been clutching at mostly empty air while damaging my lungs screaming at seemingly empty rooms to go listen to this band. 2015 was the year where everyone started listening. Of the band’s three releases throughout the past 12 months, their self-titled effort was by far the least discussed. Originally released as a limited-run cassette for one of their early tours, the trio decided to release it to the general public several months later, potentially realizing that it deserved a much wider audience. Focusing on the band’s underlying roots, country, folk, and soul influences without ever completely sacrificing their punk bite, Tenement‘s easily the band’s most easygoing collection as well as its most immediately timeless. Keep its open-road sensibilities in mind for your next long drive.

1. Cende – Cende

Capping off an extraordinary year for drummer (and occasional guitarist) Greg Rutkin (LVL UP, Slight, Normal Person, etc.) was Cende’s explosive self-titled debut, which was recently released online (the bandcamp lists the official release as January 1). The band’s been playing these songs out for a while and garnered heavy coverage from this site during its extended Brooklyn residency. An LP is due out in 2016 as well and, after this EP and the live previews, it’s already one of the most highly anticipated releases of 2016. Taking cues from acts like Radioactivity, Cende has already perfected their blend of searing basement pop and unforgiving basement punk. Only two of these songs- including “Widow”, the opening track and one of the year’s finest- go over the 90 second mark and all of them boast hooks powerful enough to keep pulling the listener back, making Cende an endlessly replayable gift. It’s a monstrous release from a band refusing to aim for anything other than greatness and continuous improvement. Cende is one hell of a starting point.

Mitski – Live at Palisades – 7/17/15 (Pictorial Review, Live Video)

IMG_5331

Last night Palisades played host to a bill that guaranteed the venue would sell out well before doors, so expectations for the evening were considerably higher than usual. The night was headlined by Mitski (who has earned her fair share of words on this site) and made room for other site favorites like Brooklyn upstarts Normal Person and The Epoch favorites Eskimeaux. Throw in Elvis Depressedly (who now comfortably reside on Run For Cover’s increasingly fascinating roster) and any promotion outside of the show announcement practically becomes unnecessary; this one sold on its own.

Normal Person played first to a small but appreciative audience (it would progressively swell in size until the room was finally at capacity for Mitski) and brought their all. Their sole EP, the fantastic #0001, has been floating around online in some form or another for years. Recently, the tape was granted a physical release (a copy can- and should- be ordered from It Takes Time here) and it was the band’s first show to promote the tape. As is always the case with the various LVL UP side projects, Normal Person is a band that comes stacked with intimidatingly talented musicians. I only managed to catch the last stretch of their set but it was incredible enough to inspire the thought that it’ll only be a matter of time before they’re headlining these kinds of shows.

Next up was Eskimeaux, a band that’s part of the prolific Epoch collective and riding high on a wave of national acclaim for O.K., one of 2015’s best records. Unsurprisingly, the majority of their set pulled songs from that record and were played with the characteristic passion that The Epoch has become renowned for exhibiting. Nearly every song came laced with an approach that alternated between delicate and furious, spurring feelings of empathy and heartbreak in the process. It was abundantly clear that these songs carried significant meaning for guitarist/vocalist Gabrielle Smith, who delivered them with an uninhibited grace, leading her incredible band (Felix Walworth’s jaw-dropping drumming is worth singling out) through the emotional fraught terrain and- ultimately- delivering one of the best sets of the year.

Following something like Eskimeaux almost requires a certain wildness and that mania was something that Elvis Depressedly was more than happy to supply. My friend and fellow writer Sasha Geffen once said that Elvis Depressedly were “a band that records in lowercase but plays in all caps.” It’s a quote that, for whatever reason, has stuck with me over the years. I was anxious to find out what she meant and wasn’t disappointed to see the band fully embrace a much more chaotic and maximized version of themselves. They’ve assembled a strong band for this tour, which includes Greg Rutkin of LVL UP (and openers Normal Person) behind the kit. Significantly punchier than they are on record, Elvis Depressedly wound up creating a perfect bridge between Eskimeaux and Mitski with a career-spanning set largely mid-tempo numbers that had some psych flourishes and played into vocalist Mat Cothran’s outsize persona.

At this point, Mitski Miyawaki’s project has more than earned its headliner status and it was heartening to look out into the audience to see a diverse crowd of people that was dominated by a front section that skewed more towards the under 21 bracket (Mitski’s guitarist, Callan Dwan, would later reveal to me that she was very grateful for both the venue and the crowd’s size). Towards the very start of her set, Mitski addressed the crowd, thanking them for their support and encouraging the historically marginalized communities to be proud of their roots and “take up as much space as you can”, with a disarming sincerity that’s seen far too infrequently. It was a moving plea that was rooted in honesty, a dynamic that’s been translated effortlessly into her music (which is one of the many reasons behind Bury Me at Makeout Creek almost topping this site’s Best Albums of 2014 list) and is fully ingrained in her demeanor.

With ex-Diarrhea Planet drummer Casey Weissbuch (who’s also the mastermind of Infinity Cat‘s extraordinary cassette series) anchoring the trio, the band dove headfirst into a memorable set that wound up recapturing a lot of the magic of the last Mitski set to get coverage here (no small feat) while supplementing it with new intricacies. Deceptively nuanced and- a recurring theme throughout the night- unerringly heartfelt, it touched on various points throughout the songwriter’s discography, while- understandably- leaning heavily on the Bury Me At Makeout Creek material. If Mitski was baring her soul on the Palisades stage, the audience was reciprocating that generosity with extremely vocal support between songs.

At one point, in one of the evening’s most genuine and communal moments, Miyawaki ran backstage to collect the bottled water on hand for the artists and passed it out to the audience to help them cope with the uncomfortable humidity that only a small space packed with bodies on a warm day can bring. It was one in a series of moments with the band and the audience playing off of each other, which was itself a slight reflection of how well the band played off of each other during a very affirming set. Following the pained howling that closes out “Drunk Walk Home”, the band left the stage leaving its principle voice alone with the spotlight. Two tender songs later, the set was wrapped, and the audience was screaming for an encore that never came. Even if it had, it probably still wouldn’t have satiated the audience’s desires- and, really- why bother tampering with a perfect closing note?

A gallery of photos from the show can be found here and a video containing some of each act’s strongest highlight can be found underneath the gallery.

LVL UP – Three Songs (7″ Stream)

LVL UP XXV

There are very few bands that this site has praised as heavily as LVL UP. Hoodwink’d topped last year’s best records list and their 4-way split with Radiator Hospital, Ovlov, and Krill topped the splits list. My personal contribution to the A Year’s Worth of Memories series was about a day spent with the band in Chicago (one that was capped off by a powerful set at Beat Kitchen). When I moved to Brooklyn, the members of LVL UP that help run (and live in) DBTS welcomed me to that space while I got settled. One of the things I was fortunate enough to experience during that time was a play-through of a test pressing of a 7″ that was unveiled today by The AV Club (in a piece that was- coincidentally- penned by another A Year’s Worth of Memories contributor, David Anthony), LVL UP’s Three Songs.

Created for a tour that the band’s about to embark on with Basement- a band that’s on the increasingly fascinating Run For Cover, the label that’s partnered with LVL UP’s brainchild (Double Double Whammy) for the record’s release. Appropriately, Three Songs is precisely three songs. Every one of the band’s contributing strings n’ songs members take a turn at the lead spot, each deepening a very specific trait of their approach and maximizing their penchant(s) for atmospherics. Dark, brooding, bruising, and deeply fascinating, it’s a new side of LVL UP that skyrockets the band’s already considerable intrigue with each successive song. Don’t be surprised if they wind up towards the top of another list come December.

Listen to Three Songs below and pre-order the 7″ in advance of its September 11 release date from Double Double Whammy and Run For Cover. Additionally, the band will have copies of the 7″ with them on tour, prior to its official release. Beneath the embed, explore a list of other great full streams to have surfaced in the past week.

Spirit of the Beehive – You Are Arrived (But You’ve Been Cheated)
Fine Points – Astral Season
N a p s – You Will Live In A Cool Box
Grave Babies – Holographic Violence
Day Wave – Headcase
Nudes – 5 songs
EEN – ✌ i a n ✌
SSDD – First Comes Money
Samantha Crain – Under Branch & Thorn & Tree
Nano Kino – Never Seemed To Happen
Dan Andriano in the Emergency Room – Party Adjacent
Good Morning – On the Street/You
The Foreign Films – The Record Collector (side 3)

Westkust – Dishwasher (Stream)

Westkust-bw

Continuing on in what promises to be a weekend full of posts, Westkust’s latest tops off a list of four more great songs- all of which appeared within the past week. There was Veruca Salt’s unexpected, punchy return that was spearheaded by “Laughing in the Sugar Bowl“, Nap Eyes’ brilliantly minimalist take on basement pop in “Dark Creedence“, The Hussy’s characteristically spiky “Turning On You“, and J Fernandez’s psych-tinged “Between the Channels“. “Dishwasher” earns the headline of this batch by virtue of sheer power, marking one of Westkust’s strongest offerings thus far.

Westkust had already made a considerable impression with their last single, “Swirl”, which was strong enough to warrant inclusion in our First Quarter Highlights mixtape earlier this year. Now, Makthaverskan’s sister band has begun to expand on their sizable early promise with the propulsive, hard-hitting “Dishwasher”. Utilizing a production style and aesthetic not too dissimilar from site favorites Joanna Gruesome, Westkust definitively carves out their own variant pocket in a very niche genre. Powerpop, twee, post-punk, and shoegaze all collide to create something spectacular. Teeming with personality and tapping into an unlikely fierceness, “Dishwasher” comes off like a warning shot. It also proves that Westkust refuse to be relegated to the sidelines; this is a band intent on a reckoning. Give into their charms or miss out on a golden opportunity.

Listen to “Dishwasher” below and pre-order Last Forever ahead of its July 10 release directly from Run For Cover here.

Watch This: 2015, Vol. 1

static

Familiar faces. Single Songs. Full sets. New bands. It’s been 15 weeks since the last Watch This ran on this site and that’s far, far too long. To help get things up to date, the next three days will see a trilogy of video mixtapes containing 25 of the best live clips to surface from 2015 so far. Next week, the installment will resume its normally paced functions- but for now, clear out some time and get lost in the exciting performances compiled in the embed below. Lean back, turn the volume up, breathe deep, and Watch This.

1. Waxahatchee – Under A Rock (Pitchfork)
2. Tenement – Dreaming Out Loud (Don Giovanni Records)
3. Crying – Sick (BreakThruRadio)
4. Beach Slang (NPR)
5. Speedy Ortiz – The Graduates (Pitchfork)
6. Francisco the Man – In the Corners (Audiotree)
7. Single Mothers – Overdose (Radio K)
8. Sleater-Kinney – Modern Girl (Sound Opinions)
9. Nude Beach + Jody Stephens – My Life Is Right (Don Giovanni Records)
10. Mutts – Five of a Kind (Audiotree)
11. Sun Club – Beauty Meat (Audiotree)
12. Crow Bait – Separate Stations (Don Giovanni Records)
13. Courtney Barnett – An Illustration of Loneliness (Sleepless in New York (Pitchfork)
14. Matthew E. White – Rock & Roll Is Cold (The Current)
15. Makthaverskan – Witness (Pitchfork)
16. Chief Scout – Rollercoaster (Audiotree)
17. Mal Blum – San Cristóbal (Don Giovanni Records)
18. DYGL – Let’s Get Into Your Car (Out of Town Films)
19. American Aquarium – Losing Side of Twenty Five (Jam in the Van)
20. Charles Bradley – The World (Is Going Up In Flames) (Coachella)
21. Sue the Night – The Whale (3FM)
22. Kevin Devine – Bubblegum (Little Elephant)
23. Ride – Vapour Trail (Coachella)
24. The Dodos (KEXP)
25. Cloakroom – Lossed Over + Moon Funeral (Little Elephant)

First Quarter Full Streams, Pt. 2

LVL UP II

As was noted and clearly evidenced by the last post’s overabundance of content, 2015’s off to a particularly strong start in terms of memorable records. While a few of those 75 entries from that post do have a shot at working their way into the upper echelons of the year’s finest by December, the 25 full streams listed below are among 2015’s very finest offerings. From demo compilations of old material to split EP’s to full-lengths, everything on this list is worthy of an immediate purchase. A few of these are pulverizing shows of force, a few are immediate sugar-rush blitzes, and a few are quietly devastating. All of them are releases I’ve listened to multiple times over and formed very extreme connections with on a myriad of levels. Don’t make a regrettable decision by not giving any of the unfamiliar titles a fair shot: there’s a release here for just about everyone.

1. Quarterbacks – Quarterbacks

Quarterbacks have earned a fair amount of praise from this site and a large amount of that’s been for their exhilarating self-titled, which is the band’s first complete full band effort. Recalling the transition that Radiator Hospital made with their brilliant debut full band full-length effort, Something Wild, Quarterbacks doesn’t pull any of its punches. It’s a spiky record that lends Dean Engle’s songs a ferocious punch that comes with a lingering bite.

2. Tenement – Bruised Music: Volume 1

I’ve written an enormous amount of words about my unending love for Tenement. Some of those words can be read in the zine that comes packaged with this record. One of my favorite bands, if not outright favorite, for nearly a decade, Bruised Music: Vol. 1 is the perfect reminder of why I fell for this band in the first place. A compilation of early material from long out-of-print 7″ records, compilations, and other various scraps, this is the definitive starter kit for anyone looking to retrace Tenement’s career path to its humble beginnings. Unsurprisingly, it’s also ridiculously brilliant. Expect to see more words about this record published on this site in the coming months.

3. Krill – A Distant Fist Unclenching

Krill forever.

4. Hailey Wojcik – Book of Beasts

One of the year’s best early surprises, Hailey Wojcik’s Book of Beasts EP has all the makings of what could (and should) prove to be a career-making effort for the singer/songwriter. Dark tones, brilliant composition, strong melody, and an incredibly alluring voice is always a dangerous combination. Here, each one of those elements is shot through with a Gothic Americana sensibility that manages to find its niche in forward thinking. It’s an incredible release and deserves much more attention than it’s been receiving. Bonus points for offering the release up on bandcamp for the price of $6.66.

5. Daddy Issues – Double Loser

Daddy Issues may not be the most recognizable name on the market but we’re less than a month removed from the cassette release of Double Loser and the thing’s already sold out. Now, measuring a record’s strength in terms of sales is generally a deeply problematic formula- but in this case, it seems just. Double Loser has the strength of what could become a celebrated cult classic among a very particular breed of crate-diggers. Undeniably winsome and darkly enchanting, this EP cements Daddy Issues’s position as a band that’s ready for much bigger things.

6. Pope – Fiction

Heavy, cutting, and melodic in a way that hits the intersection of a wide spread of tastes just right, Pope’s Fiction is the kind of record that’s got the verve to last long after it appears on a few best-of lists. Cloaked in a wall-of-noise type production sheathe, Fiction is one of the first quarter’s most unapologetic and propulsive releases. Balancing a suspiciously taut tightrope between shoegaze and post-punk, every song manages to be breathtaking by virtue of sheer cathartic release. Pope’s made something genuinely exhilarating that deserves to be in as many collections as possible.

7. Alanna McArdle – reticular (2012-2013)

While Alanna McArdle may be best known as the lead personality for site favorites Joanna Gruesome, her career doesn’t begin and/or end with that particular band. McArdle recently released a compilation of genuinely stunning (and mostly acoustic) bedroom recordings. The guitarist/vocalist taps into something more bravely vulnerable than the trappings of Joanna Gruesome usually allows for, creating a hushed, spellbinding atmosphere. reticular (2012-2013) has been one of 2015’s more unceremonious releases but it’s also easily one of the year’s most fascinating. Already one of the most-played releases in my library, it’s a monumental entry in the career of one of the more engaging musical figures of our generation.

8. Trust Fund – No One’s Coming For Us

Cut Me Out“, one of No One’s Coming For Us‘ first singles, seemed to be a strong indicator that the band would have something special with their upcoming record. It was a presumption that the record somehow, against reasonable logic, managed to exceed. Easily the strongest effort in the band’s burgeoning discography, No One’s Coming For Us is a specatacular warning shot from the kind of band that seems like they’re setting up for the long haul.

9. Cloakroom – Further Out

Most of the description for Pope’s Fiction also stands true for Cloakroom‘s jaw-dropping Further Out. Except here, Cloakroom adds an extra layer of heaviness, which frequently relents to territory even more accessible than the realms of Pope’s niche operation level. Further Out is going to continue to stand as one of 2015’s most awe-inspiring releases as the months progress and it’ll be the kind of record people will look to for inspiration. It’s an incredible achievement and ranks among the finest releases to carry the vaunted Run For Cover tag.

10. Wildhoney – Sleep Through It

The first two months of 2015 were very kind to bands incorporating a heavy shoegaze bent into their sound, a fact furthered by listening to Wildhoney’s gorgeous full-length debut, Sleep Through It. Embracing the pop sensibilities of the genre and maximizing them without ever drifting out of post-punk’s territories, Wildhoney manages to create an incredibly appealing record that delivers on the promise of their brilliant EP. Sleep Through It is yet another album people are going to be talking about for many months (and hopefully, years) to come.

11. Lady Lamb – After

Goodbye Lady Lamb The Beekeeper, hello Lady Lamb. The rightfully-acclaimed After features songwriter Aly Spaltro at a transition phase in her career. Already a few extraordinary records deep into a continuously promising run of releases, After is already taking Spaltro to the next level(s). With the sudden name change, Spaltro managed to make her brand even more accessible without diminishing any of her other qualities. On the contrary, After may be the fiercest entry in Lady Lamb’s remarkable discography. After was initially teased with the absurdly delightful “Billions of Eyes” and the rest of the record manages to live up to those intensely high levels of promise. Listen below and fall in love all over again.

12. PWR BTTM + Jawbreaker Reunion – Republican National Convention

Two of New York’s finest emerging young bands come together to make a split EP, what can go wrong? Nothing. The answer is nothing. Jawbreaker Reunion continue to be as exciting as ever, PWR BTTM make one hell of a mark, and both “Hold Yer Tongue” and “Adventure Time” rank among the best songs of the year. Every other Valentine’s Day gift paled in comparison.

13. Slutever – Almost Famous

Punchy, strong, and incredibly catchy, Slutever followed up their near-perfect Girlpool split with this piece of magic. Expertly balancing basement pop and basement punk, Slutever take their craft to an entirely new place with Almost Famous, their finest work to date (and an absolute must-own). From the traces of sludge-punk on the reactionary masterpiece “I Miss America” to the hard-charging rush of “Maggot”, Slutever fearlessly follows their whims and explores some previously uncharted territory. Astoundingly, all of it works and leaves the band with a very real contender for EP of the Year.

14. Lighting Bolt – Fantasy Empire

Thousands of writers have tried to extol the virtues of Lightning Bolt’s furor and no one’s ever managed to match the band’s intensity. Sometimes it’s just better to let the reputation for such a singular act to do the talking- but it wouldn’t be fair to the band if I didn’t note that this just may be the very best record the duo’s ever made.

Listen to Fantasy Empire for a limited time over at NPR’s First Listen

15. Sleater-Kinney – No Cities to Love

Sleater-Kinney’s thrilling hiatus-ender, No Cities to Love, was one of the year’s first universally acclaimed records and it’s easy to see (or hear) why. Not just incredible in terms of a comeback record but as a career staple for one of the most legendary bands of our era. The trio’s sharper (and thornier) than they’ve ever been on No Cities to Love and couldn’t have scheduled their re-entrance at a better time for their fierce, commentary-heavy diatribes.

16. Midwives – LP

When Midwives put out their incendiary EP last year, I knew I’d found another Wisconsin-based band to rally behind. Naturally, the hardcore band (which boasts Graham Hunt of Midnight Reruns among its members) has followed that short order of songs up with a gloriously unhinged, shit-kicking full-length. Increasingly scrappy and direct, Midwives may very well have their sights set on bigger things- and if they don’t, those bigger things might find them anyway.

17. Spook The Herd – Freaks b/w Fermented

There’s a very particular breed of 90’s revivalism whose subversion among current bands is becoming increasingly present. Intriguingly, that camp of 90’s acts (the one that bands like Superchunk and Archers of Loaf belonged to) is notoriously difficult to recreate in intriguing ways. Many of the bands that have released records through Exploding in Sound are a part of that current crop of bands who look to that era for influence and it wouldn’t come as a surprise if Spook the Herd joined that list. “Freaks” and “Fermented” are both first-rate examples of revivalism done right.

18. LVL UP – Dark Sided Stuff

Anyone whose been following this site at all for the past few months has likely seen LVL UP come up a few times. Dark Sided Stuff, their most recent release, is a compilation of the demos that would go on to become Hoodwink’d (this sites pick for Album of the Year)  and a few other recordings that were cut during that time. Unsurprisingly, the end result is a brilliant mess that strips the band back to their rawest state, allowing for a further understanding of their process. Enigmatic and charismatic in equal measure, it’s a release well worth anyone’s investment.

19. The Juliana Hatfield Three – Whatever, My Love

The Juliana Hatfield Three may not have sparked as much attention as Sleater-Kinney did when they made an unexpected return to music but Whatever, My Love does occupy a similar space to No Cities to Love. Both are examples of a band making a return to form without much warning, after a long time away, and both include some of the best material of each band’s career. A lot of bands that garner a lot of attention here (All Dogs, Radiator Hospital, etc.) have listed The Juliana Hatfield Three as a major influence and those connections, fascinatingly, have never been more crystallized than they are with Whatever, My Love. Don’t let this one fall to the wayside.

20. Chastity Belt – Time to Go Home

The name Chastity Belt’s another one that’s been kicked around here for a while, thanks mostly to their excellent 2013 LP, No Regerts. Even with as good as that record was, it proved to be impossible to predict just how incredible Time to Go Home would turn out. Chastity Belt have enhanced their identity with their boldest and most fully-realized work to date. Rarely eclipsing mid-tempo, the band allows themselves to settle into comfortably meticulous grooves with a confidence that’s self-assured enough to put a lot of other bands (bands who have been around much, much longer) to absolute shame.

Listen to Time To Go Home over at NPR’s First Listen.

21. Leggy – Nice Try

Grrrls Like Us” provided a fitting end-cap to Leggy’s first major year as a band. They’d previously released the commendably great Cavity Castle EP, which wound up being quite a few people’s favorite EP of 2014. Now, the band’s hell-bent on capitalizing on that momentum and they’re doing it in enthralling fashion. Nice Try, an EP the band released last month, isn’t just the strongest work of their young career- it’s a gigantic leap forward for their songwriting. Never anything less than full-throttle, Nice Try is an invigorating reminder that this band’s not going anyway anytime soon.

22. Matthew E. White – Fresh Blood

Matthew E. White’s Big Inner was one of 2012’s most fascinating- and unique- folk-pop records. Full of wayward experimentalism and intricate arrangements, it showcased White as someone who possessed an original voice. Three years later, he’s unleashed his follow-up: Fresh Blood. While the music’s scaled a back quite a bit in terms of arrangements, the songs here are more immediate, direct, and accessible. By indulging in greater restraint White may have also wound up with something more lasting. Adamantly defiant of easy genre categorization, Fresh Blood makes its mark and leaves an endearing scar that refuses to fade.

23. Mount Eerie – Sauna

Phil Elverum has gone through many phases, shape-shifting at his leisure into whatever suits his mind at the time. One of his most celebrated ongoing projects, Mount Eerie, returned this year with the brilliant Sauna, which offers up an enveloping ambient sprawl. Gently immersive in some spots and dangerously raw in others, it’s one of Elverum’s most compelling tapestries to date.

24. Yowler – The Offer

The Offer‘s devastating title track is one of the only standalone songs to have earned a write-up on this site so far this year. The reason? It’s not just one of the best songs of this year (so far), it’s one of the finest of the decade. “The Offer” is also, appropriately, the most representative song on Maryn Jones’ solo debut (using the Yowler moniker, at least). Cautious, frightened, anxious, and defiant, The Offer is a gut-punch of a record that occasionally nears uncomfortably voyeuristic levels. The Offer is the perfect soundtrack for sleepless nights spent in near-silence, when the only other audible sound is the rain coming down.

25. Spectres – Dying

Rounding out this run of records is, somewhat incredibly, another shoegaze-leaning record that never diminished its brute force. Dipping into the decidedly darker realms of post-punk, Spectres managed to create a behemoth of an LP with the boldly-titled Dying. Opening with a genuinely intimidating noise collage, the band sinks its claws in and proceeds to tear away in the most feral manner possible, continuously refusing to relinquish its grasp. At points, Dying approaches black metal but never loses sight of its overall melodic sensibility. By taking stormier roads, Spectres have managed to start the year off in an impossibly blinding fashion. Listen to the sounds of Dying below.

14 of ’14: The Best 7″ Records of 2014

banner

As always, two quick disclaimers: “best”, in year-end list cases, is a shorthand term indicative of personal admiration which is in no way an attempt to be definitive and the first person restrictions will be lifted for this site’s year-end coverage. This list will be focusing on releases that came out in the 7″ format throughout the course of 2014. Some may fall under the EP umbrella (which will be the next list to run) but each and every title on this list wound up with my appreciation. A staggering amount of 7″ records were released this year and I had the privilege of listening to hundreds throughout the past 12 months. Below will be the 14 strongest 7″ records that I heard all year- the records that stuck with me or gnawed away at my memory. Just like the previous list, below those 14 selections will be a list of every 7″ released in 2014 that made a deep enough impact to be put into consideration for this list (or, rather, every release I came across that deserves to be heard by as many people possible). Enough exposition; onto the picks.

14. Communions – Cobblestones

Expertly blending new wave, post-punk, and something entirely undefinable, Communions’ Cobblestones was one of the year’s most immediately gripping releases. Cobblestones is the kind of release that teems with enough determination and conviction to convince anyone that Communions are in this for the long haul.

13. Mikal Cronin – I Don’t Mind b/w Blue-Eyed Girl

Part of Polyviny’s four-track singles series, “I Don’t Mind” and “Blue-Eyed Girl” were both perfect demonstrations of Mikal Cronin’s penchant for winsome folk-oriented (and punk-informed) pop music. It’s a show of force as much as it is a reveal of Cronin’s most delicate sensibilities. Unfortunately, the A-side is no longer available for streaming but the compellingly plaintive B-side’s been included below.

12. Girl Band – Lawman, De Bom Bom

Girl Band turned in a few of 2014’s most feral offerings. From the 25-second “The Cha Cha Cha” to the songs that give the Law Man and De Bom Bom 7″ releases their name. Serrated and cut-throat, Girl Band have been unleashing bruising post-punk that occasionally verges on hardcore and powerviolence at a steady rate. Watch out for whatever route they decide to take with their upcoming full-length.


11. Dogs On Acid – Dogs On Acid

Taking cues from 90’s powerpop and injecting it with a ferocious energy (and no shortage of grit), Dogs on Acid have crafted something incredibly appealing with their self-titled 7″. Like early Ben Kweller with an added punk bite, both “Make It Easy” and “Waiting For You To Come Home” are ridiculously easy to leave on repeat and more than worth a heavy amount of investment.

10. Jeff Rosenstock – Hey Allison! b/w I’m So Gross

After Bomb The Music Industry! halted operations, Jeff Rosenstock had quite a few roads open to him. He took full advantage in 2014 by not only releasing two outstanding EP’s in his collaborative project with Fake Problems’ Chris Farren as Antarctigo Vespucci and going straight for the throat with his strongest solo effort to date, the fierce Hey Allison! b/w I’m So Gross 7″. The stop/start rhythms in the chorus of “Hey Allison!” alone would have put this in contention for a spot on this list- luckily the rest of the release lives up to that moment.


9. Kindling – Spike & Wave

Kindling’s Spike & Wave 7″ caught my attention immediately after its release. It’s another release heralding in a new era of shoegaze that refuses to back down from experimenting with the genre’s limitations. Subtly embracing elements of twee pop and basement punk, it’s a release that deserves to be in a whole lot of collections.

8. Audacity – Counting the Days

When I started this site, I did it with a post about Audacity, whose Butter Knife was one of 2013’s strongest highlights. In 2014, the band provided another incredibly strong moment with “Counting the Days”- a 7″ headlined by a song that earned both a write-up and a Watch This entry spot. My feelings on that song haven’t changed but Counting the Days’ other song, “Mind Your Own Business”, pushes the whole package (which also features some incredible album art) way over the top.


7. Ausmuteants – Felix Tried to Kill Himself, Stale White Boys Playing Stale Black Music, Fed Through A Tube

Ausmuteants had an absolutely monstrous 2014, releasing no fewer than five titles. Three of those were incendiary 7″ releases that would have easily made this list individually. Grouped together, they’re an absurdly powerful package than goes a long way in cementing Ausmuteants’ reputation as one of the most exciting things happening in music. Felix Tried to Kill Himself, Stale White Boys Playing Stale Black Music, and Fed Through A Tube are overflowing with a hyper-charged psych-tinted punk that’s completely electrifying.



6. Terry & Louie – (I’m) Lookin’ For A Heart b/w She Loves Him

The Exploding Hearts have achieved a deserved status as powerpop legends. Since that band’s tragic ending, two of their members have been steadily releasing incredible music with various outfits. Terry Six and King Louie Bankston have once again teamed up for a new project, Terry & Louie, who now have one powerful career entry with (I’m) Lookin’ For A Heart b/w She Loves Him. The same infectious energy that turned Guitar Romantic into such a beloved classic is on full display here, with Six and Bankston’s pop sensibilities fully in tact. Here’s hoping this isn’t the last we’ve seen of this project.

5. Cloakroom – Lossed Over b/w Dream Warden

At this point, I’m not sure any band’s been mentioned more times without receiving an outright feature spot than Cloakroom (with the exception of a Watch This). There’s a reason they keep showing up; they’re quietly crafting some extraordinary songs and sculpting what promises to be a celebrated career long after they’re gone. Both “Lossed Over” and “Dream Warden” are brooding powerhouses that are towering in scope and deeply nuanced in their dynamics. Cloakroom keep improving with every subsequent release and it’ll only be a matter of time before they get the levels of recognition they deserve.

4. Sheer Mag – Sheer Mag

Sheer Mag exploded into just about everyone’s good graces with their self-titled 7″ release and it’s not difficult to see why; this hits an impressive number of sweet spots for people associated with DIY music. It’s scrappy, it’s lo-fi, it’s undeniably punk, it’s extraordinarily catchy, and it comes loaded with a staggering amount of conviction. These four songs have fought their way into regular rotation since they first came out, refusing to be pushed back and only growing stronger with time.

3. Crimson Wave – Say

Say caught me completely off guard when I first heard it; I was completely entranced and blown away by Crimson Wave’s subtle, understated take on post-punk. Each of these three songs are as balanced as they are delicate as they are cutting. The 7″ is somewhat of an anomaly for the reliably great Accidental Guest Recordings who normally tend towards more noisy, aggressive, and blown-out fare. It’s the level of restraint in Say that helps make it stand out, something that’s accentuated by the cold production. Impossible to shake and easy to latch on to, Say is something that demands to be remembered.

2. Dilly Dally – Candy Mountain, Next Gold

No band in 2014 made a bigger entrance with their 7″ releases than Dilly Dally. Both Candy Mountain and Next Gold feel like instant classics; releases informed by years of genre touch points and a deft sense of how they can all line up into something impossibly gripping. Taking cues from all of the right places and emerging with a fully-formed identity and a real sense of purpose, Dilly Dally offered a welcome jolt to the year’s proceedings. “Candy Mountain” was only the third song to be released in the band’s career and it already feels important; a defining moment not just for a band but their surrounding environment. The amount of weight thrown into these songs is unbelievable and showcase Dilly Dally as a band worth all the excitement in the world.


1. Pile – Special Snowflakes b/w Mama’s Lipstick

It’s difficult to no where to start with a song as monumental as Pile’s earth-shattering career highlight “Special Snowflakes”. I was fortunate enough to witness this song in a live setting only a few months back and completely lost my sense of self. In that moment, everything that wasn’t “Special Snowflakes” faded from my care. Completely spellbound, the band tore through that one song and the audience in front of them reacted accordingly. That experience wasn’t too far removed from the first time I heard “Special Snowflakes“. For more than 7 minutes, I was pummeled into awed submission by what’s not only (easily) one of the best songs of this year but of this decade. “Mama’s Lipstick” provides a haze of smoke in the form of a (very) loose reprise- along with some other comparatively brief moments of brilliance (that piano figure!)- after the hurricane storm of the release’s A-side, assuring its status as one of the most important releases of 2014.

7″ records from 2014 that deserve to be heard: Vanishing Life – People Running | Wildhoney – Seventeen Forever | Pain Dimension – Brainwash | Primitive Parts – TV Wheel b/w The Bench | Palehound – KitchenAudacity – JapanModern Pets – B.I.Y.S. | No Coast – Don’t Be A Gramps b/w Kick Out The Hamm’sThe Yolks – Two Dollars Out the DoorKevin Morby – My NameFriends of Cesar Romero – The Hold b/w Teisco Telstar Stomp | The Ar-KaicsMake It Mine b/w Movin’ On, Sick and Tired b/w Cut Me Down, Why Should I b/w Slave to Her LiesLos Pepes – TonightThe Mandates – Suspicion b/w Wastin’ TimeThe Memories – American SummerBroncho – It’s OnUseless Eaters – Desperate LivingLos Dos Hermanos – Alienor/Paye Ty ChatteDime Runner – Can’t ExpressBalcanes – Plataforma/AutopistaChit Chat – Never KnowThe Achtungs – Total Punk | Dasher – Go RamboNots – Fix b/w ModernCold Institution – Cold InstitutionTashaki Miyaki – Cool RuningsBleached – For The FeelA Million Billion Dying Suns – Strawberry Later 23 b/w Secret TreePretty Pretty – Leather WeatherVideo – Cult of VideoFax Holiday – Brang In BloodPlaces to Hide – Wild N SoftThe Newtown Neurotics – Hypocrite b/w You Said NoMolybden – Woman Who Left BehindThe Gotobeds – New York’s Alright (If You Like Phones & Sex)Michael Rault – Nothing Means NothingEx-Breathers – EXBXMarvelous Mark – Bite MeThe Bilders – The UtopiansFrau – Punk Is My BoyfriendArrest – La Poli BastardaGlue – GlueSeahaven – SilhouetteBasement – Further SkyCancers – DigTwo Houses – DisappointerThe Grave Walks – She’s A SuicideGAMES – Little EliseCherry Glazerr – Had Ten DollazThe Renegades of Punk – Espelho NegroSex Crime – I Am An ObserverWimps – Party at the Wrong TimeThe Band In Heaven – The Boys of Summer of SamThe Mantles – MemoryStandards – KidCommunions – So Long SunEnergy Slime – New DimensionalMea Culpa – DislocationThe ParrotsLoving You Is Hard, Dee Dee DangerousThe Gaggers – Sharp Lies/Hostage