Heartbreaking Bravery

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Tag: scuzz-punk

Three Quarters Down (Mixtape)

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[EDITOR’S NOTE: First off, to get this out of the way at the top, there will be no Watch This today. It’s absence will be made up with a unique 50th post next Sunday.]

We recently hit another quarter mark in the year and this site just hit another fifty posts. A digital mixtape- Three Quarters Down– has been curated to celebrate both of these occasions. All 25 songs on display have managed to become favorites in the span of their (admittedly short) existence. It didn’t matter where they came from- splits, records, singles, exclusives- if it was a great song that came out over the course of the past three months, it wound up on the list. However, there are a handful of others that were excluded by virtue of not appearing in Soundcloud’s public library- those will likely get their due in December both here and elsewhere. In the meantime, revisit some of the best songs that led us straight into fall by listening to the mix below.

Beneath the 8tracks player is the original listing of the songs in this collection. Enjoy.

1. Mitski – Townie
2. Two Inch Astronaut – Foulbrood
3. LVL UP – DBTS
4. Little Big League – Tropical Jinx
5. The History of Apple Pie – Jamais Vu
6. Menace Beach – Come On Give Up
7. Thalassocracy – Shimensoka
8. Cellphone – Human Rights
9. Ovlov – Ohmu Shell
10. Mumblr – Sober
11. Trust Fund – Reading The Wrappers
12. Girlpool – Jane
13. Night School – Casiotone
14. Happy Diving – Sad Planet
15. Dilly Dally – Green
16. Washer – Rot
17. Speedy Ortiz – Bigger Party
18. The Midwest Beat – Vortex Hole
19. Bass Drum of Death – For Blood
20. Mannequin Pussy – Sheet City
21. Pity Sex – Acid Reflex
22. Mogwai – Teenage Exorcists
23. Nothing – July The Fourth
24. Dark Blue – Here On My Street
25. Crimson Wave – Say

Allah-Las – Follow You Down (Music Video)

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Another day down, another great batch of streams and videos to show for it. First off: a full record stream from The Growlers, who have a career-best on their hands with Chinese Fountain. Representing the music video side of things, there was YAWN’s fascinating video for “Flytrap” and then a whole host of great single song streams. New Orleans duo Caddywhompus started to gain some attention on the back of “Stuck“, Glish made a deep impression with their towering “Pretty Car“, and Radical Dads carved out a place for themselves with the jumpy “In the Water“. Sonic Avenues’ second exclusive track for the deluxe version of their classic self-titled surfaced, as did great brand-new songs from FF, Doe, and Allo Darlin‘. However, despite all those great candidates for a feature, there was one thing that kept creeping back up; Allah-Las music video for “Follow You Down”.

From the immediate outset, it becomes apparent that “Follow You Down” isn’t going to be overtly conventional. Mixing the band’s trademark 60’s garage-grit revivalism with a quasi-Western, the video coaxes as much intrigue out of that contrast as possible. With both mediums emphasizing the lo-fi (and the low-key) aspects of the band’s presentation, things in the Sasha Eisenman-directed clip get fairly ridiculous pretty quickly- but that doesn’t stop it from being compelling or losing any momentum. The actual story in the video’s a fairly straightforward narrative that plays out, in full accordance with their chosen style, like a great Western- right down to the quietly tragic/humorous ending. “Follow You Down” on its own was a fun rock n’ soul-tinged throwback but the video manages to give it new life. All in all, it’s an absolute blast and goes quite a ways in proving that sometimes the best videos come out of a band letting their guard down and allowing themselves to have fun.

Watch “Follow You Down” below and order the just-released Worship the Sun (which “Follow You Down” is taken off of) over at Allah-Las’ bandcamp.

Pretty Pretty – Feels Like Rain (Stream)

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Once again, the past few days have provided a decent amount of material making it difficult to figure out which to feature. Most notably, two vicious post-punk numbers from the likes of Cycle Schmeichel and BODY. The former is full of a restlessness that aids Cycle Schmeichel’s wiry post-punk tendencies well, while the latter is a foreboding piece of hard-charging, rapidly-building tension characterized by nervousness before allowing an exhilarating release. Both are among the best songs to have come out of this month thus far- and September’s already seen two of the strongest weeks for new music this year. On top of both of those, Pretty Pretty finally released their Sweater Leather 7″ tracks via their bandcamp, which they’d previously teased with the sugar-coated title trackSweater Leather not only manages to live up to the promise of that initial look but occasionally surpasses it, including “Feels Like Rain”- the closing track.

While “Feels Like Rain” isn’t quite as hard-charging as the trio of tracks that come before it (including easy standout “You Say“), it does manage to act as a perfect finale piece’ it summarizes nearly everything that precede that moment while serving as a reminder of Pretty Pretty’s specific strengths. From the call-and-response vocals to the vintage 90’s crunch in the guitar tones, it’s difficult not to see “Feels Like Rain”- and Pretty Pretty, by extension- for what it is: a perfect slice of sun-splashed punk-leaning popwerpop. There’s an underlying intelligence in the song’s composition that reveals itself in the details; the light riffing before the main guitar part kicks in, the subtly clever lyrics, and the general dynamics all point towards Pretty Pretty being a band that takes their songwriting very seriously. Fortunately, their efforts pay off in full and make Sweater Weather one of the more memorable 7″ releases of the year.

Listen to “Feels Like Rain” below and keep an eye on both Let’s Pretend and Mandible for the impending release of the physical copy.

Bass Drum of Death – For Blood (Stream)

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Next month Bass Drum of Death will release Rip This (which was produced by Unknown Mortal Orchestra’s Jacob Portrait), their follow-up to last year’s scuzzy self-titled effort. “For Blood”, the most recent look at Rip This finds the band upping the ante, sounding confident and more powerful than ever. While the formula’s still very recognizably their own, they’ve managed to inject more immediacy and adrenaline into the most engaging aspects of their music; booming drums, wiry guitar riffs and catchy melodies delivered as brashly as possible. Throw in a few plinked-out piano notes, the most powerful chorus section the band’s ever produced, and a touch more conviction than usual and “For Blood” very easily becomes their career-best. If the rest of Rip This winds up sounding this good, it won’t be long before Bass Drum of Death starts popping up more in regular conversation.

Stream “For Blood” below and pre-order the record from Innovative Leisure ahead of its October 7 release.

Nano Kino – Eyes Before Words (Music Video)

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Since the majority of the start of this week was spent on the road, it’s been difficult to be as vigilant about keeping up with the new music and videos that have been coming out. Today, that changed and the amount of great content is almost overwhelming. Every single one of the items that are going to be hyperlinked following this sentence are worthy of being the feature item. Those include full album streams from Mumblr and Sleepyhead (their first in 15 years), and a stream of Parquet Courts and Future Punx’s split 7″. There were excellent music videos from Death From Above 1979, Lace Curtains, and Brick Mower. Most of all, though, there were great new songs. Cut Teeth offered up a post-hardcore ripper, Ovlov provided a tantalizing glimpse at their upcoming 4-way split with Ex-Breathers, Woozy, and Gnarwhal. There was a smoky piece of folk-psych from Mail the Horse, a new Pity Sex song that ranks among the best of the year and teases an upcoming split with Adventures (it’s also their career-best), a new look at an upcoming EP from the increasingly popular Girlpool, a fiery Stereolab cover from Greys, another indicator that Dark Blue’s Pure Reality will be one of the year’s best records, another gentle piece of bliss from Eternal Summers, a snappy piece of riff-happy outsider pop from Little Big League that- like the Pity Sex song from just a few hyperlinks ago- ranks among the year’s best, another incendiary look at Meatbodies’ upcoming record on In the Red, and a brand-new career highlight for King Tuff. That’s one hell of a haul.

All of those are likely to get features elsewhere- if they haven’t already had them (and most have)- and Heartbreaking Bravery would be nothing if it wasn’t for the bands that are flying under the radar. Those are the kind of bands that this place strives to support- and Nano Kino (which translates to “very small cinema”) is one of them. And while the duo does include Duncan Lloyd of Maximo Park (and Decade in Exile), their profile’s currently surprisingly contained- which isn’t likely to last too long. There are chilly atmospheres that permeate throughout the duo’s music, using no-wave and post-punk as their major touchpoints while exuding an icy demeanor not too far removed from The xx. A lot of the band’s intrigue gets an extra push thanks to the mysterious vocal performances of Sarah Surl, the duo’s other member. While there’s still a considerable sense of mystery to be found in the textured guitar work that Lloyd provides, Surl gives it a strange sense of humanism that allows Nano Kino to eclipse so many similarly-minded acts.

Nano Kino currently have plans to release their debut record in the early parts of next year but have promised to tease pieces of the record in the lead-up campaign. One of the first pieces they’ve offered up is a visually stunning black-and-white clip that emphasizes the band’s penchant for noir-ish sensibilities. Bringing in other visual aesthetics to the fold (there’s a prominent French new wave influence running throughout this- as well as a lot of glances towards Spain’s golden-era of silent film), “Eyes Before Words” winds up being a quietly intense experience. Using grainy superimposed imagery (that’s occasionally stripped back to isolation) to maximum effect helps make this a video that stays with the viewer long after the final whispers of the fade-out. It’s unrelentingly poised and announces Nano Kino as a band that’s embraced a very particular vision- one that could wind up meriting critical and commercial success. Whatever the future does hold for Nano Kino, it’ll be a pleasure watching them fight their way forward- especially if the ensuing releases all manage to be as arresting as “Eyes Before Words”.

Watch “Eyes Before Words” below and keep an eye on this site for updates in the coming months.

Watch This: Vol. 43

It’s almost hard to believe that there have been 43 weeks since the first installment of Watch This was posted. Over the course of that time, this series has boasted a variety of recurring staples, one of the earliest of which being the “Band/Artist to Watch” segment that was devoted to the fifth and final slot. After being dormant for the vast majority of the series, that particular stamp re-emerges today in anticipation of an incredible release from an artist that’s been too-frequently described as a “best kept secret”. Along with the re-emergence of that sub-series, there’s a return to Little Elephant, a look at NPR’s Field Recordings series, yet another video to be featured from Exploding in Sound’s takeover of Serious Business, and a recent portrait of a band that doesn’t deserve to be overlooked. What it all winds up amounting to is one strange, wonderful capsule that explores some of the finest artists of the moment delivering performances worth remembering. So, sit back, turn the volume up, adjust the visual settings to personal preference, take a drink of something refreshing, focus, and Watch This.

1. Benjamin Booker – Have You Seen My Son? (NPR)

It’s been said before on this site a few times but it bears repeating: Benjamin Booker absolutely tore his set up at the Horseshoe Tavern at NXNE back in June. His debut self-titled record on ATO lived up to some fairly high expectations, revealing him as an extremely worthwhile new talent- and while it does have a sense of vulnerability, it’s usually buried underneath gnarled tones and emphatic gruffness. Here, Booker strips standout single “Have You Seen My Son?” to its barest form; an acoustic ballad. Add in some gorgeous cinematography, courtesy of NPR, and it’s required viewing.

2. Mitski – First Love / Last Spring (Bandwidth)

Every once in a while, there’s an artist that manages to appear on a variety of trustworthy sources but, for some reason or another, gets overlooked or forgotten. Mitski had the misfortune of falling to the latter category a few times this year by virtue of coming up on days that were already ridiculously over-filled with content. After seeing the light perfection that is this utterly enchanting performance of “First Love / Last Spring”, it’s difficult to not want to go back and ensure the mistake of overlooking them was never made to begin with. “First Love / Last Spring” is as sweet of a song as anyone’s put out this year. So, to Mitski: sorry for being late to the party but thanks for sticking around; life’s better with this music in it.

3. Shy, Low – Saudade (Little Elephant)

There haven’t been too many Little Elephant videos to appear that warranted consideration for the Watch This series since Mansions’ thrilling two-song set from way back in May. Fortunately, Shy, Low have provided enough water to make up for that particular drought. “Saudade” is a fascinating mixture of shoegaze, post-rock, golden-era emo, math, and a cavalcade of their connected fringe sub-genres. Every note gets played with investment and commitment while still being technically impressive, which is a medium that a lot of bands strive for but few ever achieve so concisely. “Saudade” is the perfect example of the more aggressive kind of music that’s incredibly easy to get lost in.

4. Baked (BreakThruRadio)

At this point, it’s probably safe to assume that if a video emerges from the Exploding in Sound takeover of BreakThruRadio’s Serious Business series, it will wind up being featured here. Virtually all of them have been nothing short of praise-worthy and Baked’s session continues that trend with ease. Baked themselves have come ridiculously close to landing feature spots on this very site numerous times for their eccentric take on some of this place’s most-frequented genres. In their session, those eccentricities are on full display in both their interview segments and their live form, making for some incredibly compelling viewing.

5. John Davey – Grand Emporium (Xack Gibson)

There are certain performances that manage to stick with a person and John Davey’s capable of delivering them. That’s said with no shortage of authority, having seen Davey deliver a solo acoustic set in a small WI basement to next to no one only a handful of years back. It was a relatively truncated set but it’s proven to be unforgettable thanks to the spellbinding nature of the songs. This being the case, the “Artist to Know” final slot section of Watch This is being revived to feature a gorgeous  black-and-white video that features Davey performing one of his most impressive songs: “Grand Emporium”. Not too much has changed since this video was shot four years ago; Davey’s songwriting remains as nuanced and gripping as ever while allowing some subtle growths in terms of production. All that can be heard on Davey’s sophomore effort, Living Is Trying, which can (and should) be pre-ordered from Dilated Time Records here. “Grand Emporium” also provides a good platform to give this reminder: Heartbreaking Bravery would be nothing without DIY ethos and the artists that embody them across a variety of genres and fields. If a song in a genre that’s not typically covered here manages to come off as transcendental and provides an opportunity to feature an extremely impressive emerging talent, it will get featured. Here’s one of those songs- and one of those talents.


Songs of Summer: 2014 (Mixtape)

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Another hundred posts in and this site’s still humming along. As tradition dictates, today is one of the only days that doesn’t get dedicated to the outstanding just-released content (though there was an incredible amount, which will be covered tomorrow)- and features a digital mixtape instead. There was a lot of talk over what the song of the summer was and no real general consensus in any type of forum. In the spirit of that surprisingly diverse conversation, the mixtape features the songs that resonated throughout this place most strongly during what proved to be an incredibly memorable summer (covering both NXNE and Pitchfork festivals among the many highlights). As the season approaches its end, it only felt right to shine a light on some of those songs one more time before the year draws to a close.

A few of these have been featured in previous playlists but that should only stand as a testament to their longevity. While a few weren’t even released in summer, they definitely struck a deeper chord as the surroundings finally caught up to the mood they inhabited. Every single one of them can be streamed below (a tracklist is also provided) and, being that this marks another hundred posts- and in the event anyone was curious in catching something they missed, hyperlinks to posts No. 200-299 are given beneath the tracklist. So, turn the volume all the way up and enjoy some great music while the warm weather’s still here.

Stream Songs of Summer: 2014 below and feel free to navigate through any of the listed hyperlinks.

1. Lost Boy ? – Hollywood
2. LVL UP – Soft Power
3. Radiator Hospital – Cut Your Bangs
4. The Coasts – I Just Wanna Be A Star
5. The Yolks – You Don’t Live Here No More
6. Tweens – Forever
7. The Sleepwalkers – My Best Was Never Good Enough
8. Bent Shapes – 86’d in ’03
9. The Freezing Hands – Good Morning Takeout
10. Happyness – Anything I Do Is All Right
11. Dead Stars – Summer Bummer
12. Joanna Gruesome – Jerome (Liar)
13. Perfect Pussy – Leash Called Love (Sugarcubes Cover)
14. Eugene Quell – Hell Presidente
15. Happy Diving – Weird Dream
16. Mean Creek – My Madeline
17. Cymbals Eat Guitars – Warning
18. Left & Right – Low Expectations
19. Mulligrub – Canadian Classic
20. Dude York – Believer
21. Cayetana – Scott Get the Van, I’m Moving
22. Lenguas Largas – Kawasaki Dream
23. Wyatt Blair – Girls!
24. Jawbreaker Reunion – Empire
25. Reigning Sound – Falling Rain

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HB200: NXNE 2014: A Listener’s Guide (Mixtape)
HB201: Sam Coffey & the Iron Lungs – Calgary Hill (Music Video)
HB202: Swearin’ at Memorial Union Terrace – 5/30/14 (Pictorial Review, Video)
HB203: Watch This: Vol. 27
HB204: Watch This: Vol. 28
HB205: Pretty Pretty – Leather Weather (Stream)
HB206: Haunted Heads – VV (Stream)
HB207: Marvelous Mark – Bite Me (Music Video)
HB208: Mean Creek – Anxiety Girl (Music Video)
HB209: Bob Mould – I Don’t Know You Anymore (Music Video)
HB210: Parquet Courts – Black and White (Music Video)
HB211: Greys – Use Your Delusion (Music Video)
HB212: Beverly – Honey Do (Music Video)
HB213: Jawbreaker Reunion – Lutheran Sisterhood Gun Club (Review)
HB214: Green Dreams – Rich Man Poor Man (Review)
HB215: Watch This: Vol. 29
HB216: Watch This: Vol. 30
HB217: La Sera – Fall in Place (Music Video)
HB218: Lemuria – Brilliant Dancer (Music Video)
HB219: The Midwestern Charm – Growing Pains (Trailer)
HB220: NXNE: Day 1 (Pictorial Review)
HB221: Watch This: Vol. 31
HB222: NXNE: Day 2 (Pictorial Review, Video)
HB223: NXNE Day 3: Greys, Benjamin Booker, Viet Coing (Photo Gallery)
HB224: NXNE Day 3: Speedy Ortiz, Swearin’, Spoon (Photo Gallery)
HB225: NXNE Day 3: Perfect Pussy (Photo Gallery)
HB226: NXNE Day 4: Creep Highway, Perfect Pussy, Frankie Cosmos, Swearin’ (Photo Gallery)
HB227: NXNE Day 5: Courtney Barnett, Army Girls (Photo Gallery)
HB228: Soybomb HQ: Cellphone, Ice Cream, Pleasure Leftists, Perfect Pussy (Photo Gallery)
HB229: Smiling Buddha: Pleasure Leftists, Holy Fuck, METZ (Photo Gallery)
HB230: NXNE: Day 3 (Review, Videos, Photos, Videos)
HB231: NXNE Day 3: Perfect Pussy (Review, Photos)
HB232: NXNE Day 4 + 5 (Review, Photos)
HB233: Perfect Pussy at Soybomb HQ – 6/21/14 (Review, Video)
HB234: METZ at Smiling Buddha – 6/22/14 (Review, Video)
HB235: Deafheaven at Bottom Lounge – 7/18/14 (Review, Photos)
HB236: Pitchfork Festival Day 2 (Review)
HB237: Pitchfork Festival Day 3 (Review)
HB238: Pitchfork Festival Day 3: Perfect Pussy (Review)
HB239: Watch This: Vol. 32
HB240: Watch This: Vol. 33
HB241: Watch This: Vol. 34
HB242: Watch This: Vol. 35
HB243: Watch This: Vol. 36
HB244: Watch This: Vol. 37
HB245: LVL UP – Soft Power (Stream)
HB246: Cymbals Eat Guitars – Warning (Stream)
HB247: Iceage – The Lord’s Favorite (Music Video)
HB248: Terry Malts – Let You In (Stream)
HB249: Dead Stars – Summer Bummer (Music Video)
HB250: Songs in Screen: A Look Back (Music Video Mixtape)
HB251: The Frankl Project – Day at the Races (Stream)
HB252: Cancers – Moral Net (Stream)
HB253: Watch This: Vol. 38
HB254: Mannequin Pussy – Kiss (Stream)
HB255: Vacation – Every Direction (Stream)
HB256: The Midwestern Charm – Bloodbath (Stream)
HB257: Dude York – Believer (Stream)
HB258: PURPLE 7 – Wise Up (Stream)
HB259: Lost Boy ? – Hollywood (Stream)
HB260: Mulligrub – Canadian Classic (Stream)
HB261: Purling Hiss – Learning Slowly (Stream)
HB262: Sam Coffey & the Iron Lungs – Gates of Hell (Music Video)
HB263: Two Houses – Disappointer (Stream)
HB264: Cayetana – Scotty Get the Van, I’m Moving (Stream)
HB265: Shy Boys – Life Is Peachy (Music Video)
HB266: Low Expectations – Left & Right (Stream)
HB267: Sonic Avenues – Bored With Love (Stream)
HB268: Joanna Gruesome – Jerome (Liar) (Stream)
HB269: The Yolks – You Don’t Live Here No More (Stream)
HB270: Bent Shapes – 86’d in ’03 (Stream)
HB271: Watch This: Vol. 39
HB272: Ex-Breathers – Pocket (Stream)
HB273: Liam Betson – Rapture in Heat (Stream)
HB274: Allison Crutchfield – Berlin (Stream)
HB275: The Ar-Kaics – Be My Baby (Stream)
HB276: Even Hand – Even Hand (Album Review, Stream)
HB277: Naomi Punk – Firehose Face (Music Video)
HB278: Kindling – Sunspots (Stream)
HB279: Places to Hide – Nowhere Bound (Stream)
HB280: We Need Secrets – How You Remember (Stream)
HB281: LVL UP – I Feel Ok (Stream)
HB282: Girl Tears – Candy Darling (Stream)
HB283: Ex Hex – Beast (Stream)
HB284: The Freezing Hands – Good Morning Takeout (Stream)
HB285: Follies – I Make Sense (Stream)
HB286: Happy Diving – Weird Dream (Stream)
HB287: Big Ups – Justice (Music Video)
HB288: Radiator Hospital – Bedtime Story (Music Video)
HB289: Space Raft at Crunchy Frog – 8/16/14 (Pictorial Review)
HB290: Watch This: Vol. 40
HB291: The Seeers – Without Lites (Stream)
HB292: Dark Blue – Here On My Street (Stream)
HB293: Lenguas Largas – Kawasaki Dream (Stream)
HB294: Wyatt Blair – Girls! (Stream)
HB295: Perfect Pussy – Leash Called Love (Stream)
HB296: Eternal Summers – Window (Stream)
HB297: Watch This: Vol. 41
HB298: Eugene Quell – A Great Useleness (Review, Stream)
HB299: LVL UP – DBTS (Stream)

Eugene Quell – A Great Uselessness (EP Review, Stream)

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During the mad scramble of post-festival coverage, there was more than a month’s worth of material to go over. So, naturally, some releases slipped through the cracks. What that was attributed to is impossible to definitively state. Now, with today being a relatively slow day for new material (apart from the NPR First Listen streams of the new Blonde Redhead and The Gotobeds, that is), there’s a perfect opportunity to feature what’s proven to be one of the best releases of August: Eugene Quell’s A Great Uselessness.

Continuing on where the delightfully raucous Eugene Otto Quell left off back in January, Quell’s second EP of the year expands on everything that made his debut effort such an unlikely powerhouse. There’s still a weary confidence that roots these songs in something that feels both entirely real and connected to something completely intangible. All of the songs still feel like they’d fit snugly into the Double Double Whammy and Exploding in Sound wheelhouses, full of peculiar melodicism and searing blasts of fuzz. Off-kilter pop gets consumed by a ragged punk influence, resulting in something inexplicably compelling and expertly delivered.

What sets Quell apart from a growing number of like-minded peers is his grasp on songcraft. Every single one of the four songs on A Great Uselessness twists and turns, taking left turns where they could have just gone straight. It’s something that’s evidenced straightaway with the harsh 1-2 punch of “Hell Presidente” and “That One Song”, which both feature a completely unhinged manic energy and a tendency to lean towards the subversive. In the case of the former, it’s an absolutely gorgeous slow-burning bridge that winds up being a calm spot of sea in the middle of an otherwise ferocious onslaught- while “That One Song”, on the other hand,  grows even fiercer and more deranged before falling apart into remarkably compelling ambient chaos.

Both of those first two songs also reveal Quell’s grunge, emo (think Sunny Day Real Estate), post-punk, and indie influences, something that A Great Uselessness‘ penultimate track, “Alta Loma” also underscores. Where the EP cements itself as a collection necessity, though, is the elegiac acoustic closer “And There Goes the Drugs”. For that song, Quell presents himself at his most vulnerable, leaning closer to Elliott Smith than Archers of Loaf.  It’s a genuinely stunning moment that caps off another extraordinary effort from the Brighton-based musician, closing A Great Uselessness out on a note of intrigue that manages to further his promise. This isn’t just one of the best EP’s of August- it’s one of the best of the year.  

Listen to A Great Uselessness below (and read along, as Quell’s graciously provided lyrical copy for each song) and order it from his bandcamp here (for US residents ordering a physical copy, expect to pay shipping).