Heartbreaking Bravery

stevenmps2@gmail.com | @steven_mps | @hbreakbravery

Tag: Sam Cook-Parrott

Watch This: Vol. 51

It’s been two weeks since the last regular Watch This segment, which means that there was twice as much to keep tabs on throughout the series’ (relative) absence. Every band that’s featured in the 51st installment has been previously covered on the site, which means a lot of old (and new) favorites are swinging for the fences. All five bands put out a great release this year and every single one of them had an incredible live performance surface over the past 14 days. There’s fuzz, lilt, and an abundance of passion all packaged together in the 51st round of this weekly spot and everything’s worth devouring. So, as always, pour a drink, sit back, turn the volume up to blistering heights, get comfortable, and Watch This.

1. Joanna Gruesome – Anti-Parent Cowboy Killers (BreakThruRadioTV)

For not releasing a full-length this year, 2014’s been very strong for the Joanna Gruesome camp. A few incredible splits (one of which was first announced here nearly a year ago), a great collaborative music video pairing, one of the year’s best songs, and a few appearances in this very series all hint that this is a band determined to continuously achieve more at a breakneck pace. That determination paired with live performances on par with this run through “Anti-Parent Cowboy Killers” and it’ll be impossible to stand in their way.

2. Dilly Dally – Candy Mountain (Chart Attack)

Dilly Dally is a name that’s been appearing with a frequent regularity as of late and that’s no mistake; any emerging act that comes off as a fully-realized project is worth several spotlights. “Green” and “Candy Mountain” both surfaced relatively recently and immediately became talking points among a very specific subset of circles. Punk, shoegaze, and indie pop all find a brooding middle ground in the band’s music and Katie Monk’s voice is as attention-ensuring as they come. Chart Attack had them in for a session that definitely proves their live act’s not to be trifled with, either.

3. Cheap Girls – Amazing Grace (Little Elephant)

A very specific brand of 90’s nostalgia is triggered by Cheap Girls’ music, which often plays like a carefully assembled and loving homage to the alternative sounds of that era. They’ve yet to make a weak record and continue to excel in the live department, which is the area that best exemplifies how they made their stock and trade. Famous Graves extended Cheap Girls’ winning streak with a practiced ease and the band keeps delivering memorable performance. This take on “Amazing Grace” is no exception.

4. Fear of Men – Green Sea (Faits Divers)

Loom already seems to have become one of 2014’s most overlooked records, which is a small tragedy. That record’s lack of what should have been well-deserved attention allowed Fear of Men to continue quietly excelling at just about everything they attempt, with their live performances attaining and carrying a certain hypnotic quality. Here, they deliver an acoustic version of “Green Sea” in Dijon and cement a spot as one of today’s most under-appreciated acts.

5. Radiator Hospital – Fireworks (BNTYK)

More than a few kind words have been used on Radiator Hospital and Torch Song (easily one of the year’s best records) via this site over the past year. So, it’s no surprise that “Fireworks” is on this list- especially considering BNTYK is one of the only video series to ever have a Watch This installment dedicated exclusively to their videos. Here, though, both Radiator Hospital and BNTYK outdo themselves and the results are utterly sublime. When the chorus hits, it’s a visceral gut-punch that offers direct insight to what makes the band so special, while the way it’s lensed is worthy of the moment. It’s a genuinely powerful example of what a truly great live video can accomplish. This is must-see entertainment operating at a level of excellence on a multitude of levels; don’t miss out.

Radiator Hospital at Cocoon Room – 9/8/14 (Pictorial Review, Video)

Radiator Hospital II

When Radiator Hospital announced Milwaukee as a stop on their tour, not going wasn’t an option. After all, Torch Song has had more plays this year than just about any other record from 2014 so far. “Cut Your Bangs” was a personal pick for “song of the summer” and more than earned it’s inclusion in this site’s summer songs mixtape. They’re a band that embodies next to everything that’s worth celebrating about the DIY ethos in punk-leaning independent music (something that was touched on by the band directly with their attached note in The Media premiere of  their “Bedtime Stories” music video). As if that wasn’t enough, Radiator Hospital also gets to claim Jeff Bolt (who also drums in site favorites Swearin’ and runs Stupid Bag Records– also a site favorite) as a member.

After the two and a half hour drive down to Milwaukee, it didn’t take too long for the night’s plans to be set into motion. While Radiator Hospital was the priority, there was a late show happening across town at Boone & Crockett featuring an Ian Olvera solo set and semi-recent Watch This honorees Lee Bains III & The Glory Fires. Having never been to Cocoon Room or Boone & Crockett it was difficult to know what to expect but both proved to be intriguing venues that’ll likely warrant repeat visits. Cocoon Room came across as a small DIY art gallery and had already set their bill into motion with a welcoming set from King Courteen shortly after the projected start time. Due to a late arrival, there were only a few King Courteen songs that managed to be taken in but from those alone, it was easy to see a very distinct, considerable talent- one that’ll likely be around a while.

During the last moments of King Courteen’s gripping set another thing became abundantly clear: thanks to how dimly-lit Cocoon Room was, it was going to be very difficult to shoot the bands playing. King Courteen proved impossible and it didn’t seem like that’d be changing for any of the following acts. Radiator Hospital wound up playing second, allowing Lousy Trouts the final slot and it didn’t take them long to lament the lack of light, either. After bluffing her way through a guitar solo while laughing to herself, Cynthia Schemmer smiled and offered up the fact the band usually plays in more light- which probably should have been seen as a subtle plea to get a few additional bulbs turned on- but things stayed the same. Not that it detracted from much of anything as Radiator Hospital blazed through a 9-song set that leaned heavily on the best moments of Torch Song (“Cut Your Bangs”, “Five & Dime”, “Leather & Lace”, etc) while still making room for the deserves-to-be-considered-classic “Our Song”.

If the lack of light didn’t affect them too much outside of Schemmer’s ridiculously fun solo, it was a little bit disheartening to hear that Cocoon Room was dealing with a shot speaker cable, forcing the mix to one side- which meant sacrificing a fair bit of bandleader Sam Cook-Parrott’s vocals. Even with that factored in, Radiator Hospital played with more conviction than most bands manage in perfect circumstances. Bolt was as on point as ever, Schemmer and Cook-Parrott both put next to everything they had into their playing and singing, and bassist Jon Rybicki (whose recent record as Attendant earned a lot of love here) played as emphatically as possible, providing the songs with an extra bit of punch. Both the audience and the band seemed to be enjoying themselves, which isn’t always the case- but that night everyone operated under the understanding that great music deserves attention, applause, and praise. Even with the dim lights and PA issues, it was a memorable experience and an impressive set- one that ensured Radiator Hospital a position on the “can’t-miss” list for live acts.

After Radiator Hospital wrapped up, the venue got a little too crowded a little too quickly and the heat became too much, so (after some time spent catching up with the members of Radiator Hospital outside the venue), it was off to Boone & Crockett for Sub Pop signees Lee Bains III & The Glory Fires. While arriving late meant having to miss Ian Olvera (who also fronts The Sleepwalkers), it’s a safe bet that he put on a great set that probably shouldn’t have been missed- and if Lee Bains III & The Glory Fires’ first half of their set was as incendiary as the back stretch, then the same can definitely be said for them. Bains and his band play a ferocious strand of southern rock that embraces a manic punk energy, allowing each individual member to fly off the handle at will. It took less than two seconds of being in the venue to see Bains jump off the stage and barrel his way into the audience before jumping back up and taking a perch on the bass drum- before falling to the floor and punching a malfunctioning pedal. That string of actions set the tone for what was to follow, as the band tore through song after song and ripped through a wide-reaching selection of riffs and solos while working themselves into an intense sweat. There were no sections where they lost pace or momentum and by the time they finished, it felt like the room (a small bar that specializes in mixology) had just sustained an atomic blast… and the band was only playing with their “little” amps. It wouldn’t have been surprising if the following night saw them burning Green Bay’s Lyric Room to the ground. Currently, they’re getting set to embark on a tour with Southern stalwarts Drive-By Truckers and that’s a bill that needs to be taken advantage of, if at all possible. Keep it in mind.

All in all, it was a night of great music and impressive lyricism (especially in the case of Radiator Hospital, whose Torch Song boasts some of the strongest writing of the year) that showcased how vital Milwaukee is to fostering independent-minded music. King Courteen displayed promise, Radiator Hospital solidified their on-the-rise position with a vicious authoritativeness, and Lee Bains III & The Glory Fires proved that they weren’t an act to be trifled with using as much wild-eyed intensity as humanly possible. And, on nights like those- especially when they’re spent with good friends- it’s impossible not to fall in love with music all over again.

Due to the lighting at each venue being very limited, there weren’t a lot of photos worth posting but a small handful is better than nothing. View those below and videos of Radiator Hospital and Lee Bains III & The Glory Fires beneath the gallery.


Attendant – Freaking Out (Review, Stream)

attndnt

By now, everyone who has iTunes should have heard the full stream they’re offering up of Death From Above 1979’s revitalized post-reunion effort, The Physical World. Hopefully, there were a few among that crowd who also found time to stream Nervous Like Me the fantastic new record from Cayetana. Great full album streams weren’t the only things to come out of the last few days, though, in addition to a memorable Pavement cover from PAWS, there were also great new songs from Purling Hiss, Nude Beach, and WULFS. Visually, there was an endearing The Adventures of Pete and Pete homage from Diarrhea Planet and two arresting black-and-white clips that came courtesy of Girl Band and Philadelphia’s Queen Jesus.  It’s another act from Philadelphia that made the strongest impression and earned the feature spot today, though: the the stunning debut effort of Radiator Hospital bassist Jon Rybicki’s collaborative project, Attendant.

It’s not uncommon to note that there’s an absurd amount of great music out there that’s overlooked for any number of reasons but it’s always nice to know that sometimes everything lines up and music that may have otherwise gone unnoticed gets an extra push thanks to the people involved. This especially stands true for Attendant’s Freaking Out which features contributions from a murderer’s row of Philadelphia/NYC-based musicians. Mikey Cantor, Radiator Hospital, and Swearin’ (among others) all get a good bit of representation here, lending their considerable talents to one hell of a debut, helping raise an emerging musician’s profile in the process. Rybicki grounds all of these songs with no shortage of gravitas and conviction, mining similar influences to the ones that are so clearly evident in his friends’ projects.

While all of that would likely have proven more than enough to get Freaking Out by, what really puts it over the top is its attention to detail. The production, sequencing, and mastering on this is near-flawless, advancing the release’s personality without being distracting. In terms of composition, it’s frequently thrilling, with songs like the hard-charging “Saturday” providing bursts of near-uncontrollable energy. With all of this taken into account, it’s probably not too surprising that one of Freaking Out‘s closest relatives seems to be Dinosaur Jr.’s classic Bug. Acoustic guitars often provide a base template for each of these seven songs, while shoegaze-leaning levels of reverb and distortion get added to create a sound that’s becoming increasingly prominent in DIY punk circles- one that recognizes the value of looking to the past to push ahead.

That retro-influenced modernity goes a long way in informing Freaking Out, which makes no qualms about utilizing everything at it’s disposal. Every song on here contains at least a few moments of genuine brilliance, whether in the form of lyrics (“I just wanted to be the other people on the bus” is one of the most haunting lines to come out of 2014) or in the song’s structures or compositions. As if all that weren’t enough, it’s varied enough to ensure the listener’s attention and compelling enough to warrant their investment. None of these songs ever eclipse the three minute mark, either, rendering it even more accessible.Yet, despite it’s short run-time, Freaking Out feels like a fully-formed work from a veteran songwriter.

More than a few critics have said that to really gauge an album’s strengths, there should be an extra amount of consideration given to their mid-section. It’s easy to make strong opening and closing cases but it can be difficult to maintain that consistency across a wider spread. In this respect, Freaking Out has virtually no issues. “Dishwasher”, “Call Me Back”, and “Solar Shack” are all mixtape-worthy entries, each holding their own strengths in Rybicki’s frequently mid-tempo world weariness. Even with that taken into consideration, it’d be difficult not to note that a few of Freaking Out‘s best moments do come in the final two songs. From the trumpet-assisted downstroke onslaught of “I Won’t Try to Change Your Mind” to the guest-heavy celebration that is the record’s finale.

In that respect, “Wax Pages” does feel like an appropriate end-cap to a release that seemed determined to extol the virtues of healthy collaboration. Jeff Bolt (of Swearin’ and Radiator Hospital) takes over on drums, Sam Cook-Parrott (Radiator Hospital), Cynthia Schemmer (also of Radiator Hospital), and Kyle Gilbride (of Swearin’) all handle backing vocals, while Mikey Cantor takes a solo and all of them seem maniacally driven by Rybicki, who lent his vocals, guitar work, and bass (in spots) to the songs he wrote. To that end, it almost feels celebratory despite it’s heaviness (and make no mistake, this is a relatively heavy record in both terms of sound and subject matter). Packaged all together, the end result is something that feels oddly alive and utterly unique, even with an army of recognizable influences worn proudly on its sleeve. If it doesn’t find a home on one label or another, it’ll come as a shock. Freaking Out is one of 2014’s best surprises.

Stream Freaking Out below and download it on Attendant’s bandcamp.

Radiator Hospital – Bedtime Story (Music Video)

radhos

There are very few things that were as consistent in 2014 as Radiator Hospital’s career-best effort, Torch Song. Mixing Sam Cook-Parrott’s characteristic pathos, humility, heart, and grit into a fiery new breed of songwriting, the record showcased the very best of what today’s outsider pop has to offer. While the inimitable Salinas Records will be releasing the LP in the very-near future, it’s already lived through an endless amount of plays via the band’s bandcamp (where the lyrics to each song have also been made graciously available). Torch Song is a full-length that’s almost over-stuffed with highlights, from the opening trio of tracks alone (“Leather & Lace”, “Blue Gown”, and “Cut Your Bangs”, respectively) straight through to the rambling, off-kilter closer (“Midnight Nothing”), the band’s crafted a very strong contender for album of the year honors.

“Bedtime Story” is essential to that, it’s right in the record’s halfway stretch and manages to both sustain and further Torch Song‘s momentum- no small task for a towering fifteen-song effort. Now, it’s been given a warm, black-and-white video that revels in the “old home movie” aesthetic. There’s a nostalgic familiarity that runs strongly through the veins of Radiator Hospital’s work, something that Perfect Pussy‘s Meredith Graves touched on expertly with her piece for The Talkhouse, that the video for “Bedtime Story” plays off of perfectly. Featuring little more than lo-fi clips of the band and their friends, it’s a low-key entry that’s both personal and personable, rendering it an impossibly welcoming bit of multimedia art for the people that really care.

This is a video that premiered over at The Media, which is one of the only things that can claim to be as consistently excellent in 2014 as Torch Song was- and Cook-Parrott offers a perfect explanation for why he chose that venue as the vehicle to premiere the video. As always, it’s worth reading and reflecting on (a trait that The Media seems to specialize in) and can be read here.

Watch “Bedtime Story” below and make sure to order a copy of Torch Song directly from Salinas here.

RADIATOR HOSPITAL, “Bedtime Story” from the media on Vimeo.

Allison Crutchfield – Berlin (Stream)

Swearin' XXXVIV

Just a few days ago Allison Crutchfield surprised just about everyone by releasing a surprise solo EP (with a fair amount of additional help from Radiator Hospital‘s Sam Cook-Parrott) on a new bandcamp page with absolutely no advance warning. Considering that Crutchfield’s been a part of a few of the better bands of the past decade (Bad Banana, Dear MarjeP.S. Eliot, and Swearin’), the news sent a ripple through a few different communities. There was one major lingering question before taking the plunge and listening to Lean In To It– what would it sound like? It’s difficult to imagine anyone expected it to be a subdued, largely down-tempo glitchy lo-fi bedroom pop record but that’s exactly what it turned out to be- and it still managed to be as stunning as everyone expected.

All seven tracks on Lean In To It add up to something that’s more than worth the $5 price tag that accompanies it, a total anomaly that confounds as much as it entices. Everything on display throughout the EP is compelling to an absurd degree and while that is in part because of the release’s completely unexpected nature, it’s also due to Crutchfield’s undeniable talent as a songwriter. While the six tracks that precede it all have their own merit, it’s the closing track (“Berlin”) that really ties Lean In To It together. A warm synthesizer line props up a gently gnarled guitar line while a damaged drum track cuts everything apart from underneath. Topping everything off is Crutchfield’s always-arresting voice detailing a deeply introspective trip and a fierce longing to match. It’s a staggering amount of heartache that leads up to the release’s final line, which is exactly where the EP gets its name. All in all, it’s another stunning triumph for one of this generation’s more gifted talents and it deserves as wide of an audience as possible.

Listen to “Berlin” below and pick up the whole thing over at Crutchfield’s bandcamp, then join a growing number of people hoping this finds an outlet for a physical release.