Heartbreaking Bravery

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Tag: Sea Lion

Tenement – Tenement (EP Stream, Review)

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Between the end of last week and the start of this one, this site hasn’t ran a lot of material. A lot of this is due to some upcoming live coverage and the editing that live coverage entails. As is always the case, though, an eye was kept on the emerging content and everything that registered as great was compiled into a list for future reference. Of those lists, the full streams may have been the most stacked, featuring no less than three year-end contenders, including Tenement, this post’s featured EP. For full-lengths, it’d be hard to do much better than the staggering 1-2 punch of the full-length debuts from site favorites All Dogs (Kicking Every Day) and Dogs On Acid (Dogs On Acid) though that didn’t detract from the great new records that started streaming from Frog Eyes, Willis Earl Beal, Fake Palms, i tried to run away when i was 6, Sea Lion, and Tamaryn. Then, of course, there was the re-release of the extremely limited run self-titled tour tape that was released earlier this year by a band that played a crucial role in the development of this site’s functionality, aim, and preference: Tenement.

Following a pattern that emerged around the time Napalm Dream was released, the band’s been ushering in new music with an impressive recklessness. While this time around the band opted to release a behemoth of a double album in Predatory Headlights, rather than opting for the individual split as they did with Napalm Dream and The Blind Wink, they’ve still got material to spare. After kicking this year off with their outstanding early career compilation Bruised Music, Volume 1 (a collection I had the distinct privilege of contributing a piece to for the zine insert that served as the record’s liner notes), they’re restlessly pushing forward with an appropriately ragged five-song collection that they recorded back in February. As mentioned earlier, the tape was held to a run of between 50-60 copies and only made available for their tour with Priests and Vacation.

Tenement’s always been characterized by their steadfast adherence to a DIY ethos but that aspect of their identity has never been so fully reflected by any of their releases than it is here, which is likely why the band opted to make it a self-titled. As the collection plays out, there’s a very real sense that these songs were crafted in a manner where the band felt unburdened by any lingering expectations. Of course, it’s still a Tenement record so the level of songwriting is exceedingly impressive and more than a little indicative of what makes the band one of today’s absolute best.

In a sense (or a few, rather), Tenement‘s actually more attuned to the sensibilities of guitarist/vocalist Amos Pitsch’s Dusk side project. The playing- and feel- from song to song is a lot more loose than Tenement songs tend to wind up being upon their official release and carry on with an easygoing naturalism that renders Tenement an endlessly listenable EP that’s as perfectly suited for open roads as it is a quiet night in. Curiously, all the songs are also titled after a line from the respective choruses or refrains, which is something the band’s generally avoided in the past, which also seems to solidify the fact that this is one of the most direct releases the band’s ever issued. While Pitsch still writes with the flair of a classic Americana novelist, he’s substituted a lot of his more obtuse looks with an emphasis on his lyrics’ more earnest aspects and it suits these songs to perfection. Bassist Jesse Ponkamo and drummer Eric Mayer, as ever, continue to prove their worth as one of today’s most valuable rhythm sections, keeping these songs grounded while still managing to lend them a widescreen appeal, some light menace, a wide-eyed sense of wonder, or an air of gritty determination.

Taken as a whole, Tenement is one of the more unexpected entries in the band’s catalog but it also may be its most quietly rewarding. Favoring understatement over exhilarating moments of power almost exclusively throughout its sub-14 minute run time, Tenement puts a microscope up to one of the band’s more under-utilized modes and results in an unlikely, willing EP that seemed fated to drop off into obscurity just a few short weeks ago. Thankfully, that’s not the case and now anyone who cares has access to “Everyone To Love You”, “Underworld Hotel”, “Witches In A Ritual”, “The Strangest Couple In Love”, and “Roads To Home”. Easily one of the band’s more enigmatic moments, Tenement‘s also one of 2015’s finest releases. Now that it’s finally here, don’t let this one fade into a footnote; turn it up and hit repeat when it’s done.

Listen to Tenement below and pray that it eventually gets repressed in some format. In the meantime, revisit the rest of the band’s unbelievable discography at their bandcamp and watch this site’s own collection of live Tenement videos below the stream.

Saintseneca – Sleeper Hold (Stream, Live Video)

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Now that we’re nearing the final quarter of the year, the already-stacked release schedules are starting to get even more dense as a lot of bands and labels make power play bids for album of the year consideration. One of the titles slated for that wave of new material is Saintseneca‘s just-announced Such Things, an announcement which came with an accompanying single: “Sleeper Hold”. Before getting around to that song, though, it’s worth taking a step back to cover a handful of other notable releases that are well worth your attention.

For single streams, there was Dogs On Acid‘s shape-shifting “Ideal Decanter“, Atlantic Thrills’ surf-indebted (and retro-leaning) basement pop highlight “Bed Bugs“, Connie Constance’s glitchy, slow-burning “Euphoric“, Orchid Mantis’ tantalizing “It Was Gone“, and Century Thief’s slowly unfurling “Pillar“. Additionally, there were outstanding new songs from the likes of Swings, Funeral Advantage, Promised Land Sound, King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard, and Sea Lion. Full streams, while not even close to matching the numbers of the single streams, unearthed one of the year’s best albums in Pleasure LeftistsThe Woods of Heaven and another beautiful full-length in Totally Mild’s Down Time. Sleepy’s extraordinary self-titled EP (another potential year-end contender) rounded the category out with style. Two music videos- Ali Barter’s “Hypercolour” and Valley Maker’s “Only Friend“- made sure that the visual format was very well represented.

Back to the feature: Saintseneca’s latest, “Sleeper Hold”, an even punchier take on the band’s Appalachian folk than anything found on their last record, the exemplary Dark Arc. Having just seen the band take apart Baby’s All Right a little over a week ago, the new material that was played live has been resonating for a short while. “Sleeper Hold”, the lead-off single to the band’s forthcoming Such Things, capitalizes on that resonance by virtue of strength and polish. Immediately employing the under-utilized and extremely effective dynamic of a back-and-forth vocal lead between the band’s two primary voices (those of Zac Little and Maryn Jones), “Sleeper Hold” strikes a refreshingly bold look for the band.

All of the hallmarks that made their previous work so compelling are still firmly in tact, from the smart compositions to Little’s twisted, hyper-literary wordplay. Some of the surprising amount of weight to be found on “Sleeper Hold” is due to the conceptual design of Such Things, which largely grapples with the purposefulness of existence. “Sleeper Hold”, in particular, is about the designs of perception and consciousness. For such heavy material, the music itself is impossibly light, buoyant, and deceptively carefree. Every element of “Sleeper Hold” works incredibly well and reaffirms Saintseneca’s status as one of today’s finest acts. Propulsive, smart, and irresistible, “Sleeper Hold” is the perfectly crafted warning shot of what promises to be one of this year’s finest albums.    

Listen to “Sleeper Hold” below and pre-order Such Things from ANTI- ahead of its release date here. Underneath the player, watch a recent video of the band performing the song at Baby’s All Right.

Dogbreth – Hoarder House (Stream)

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Dogbreth’s been one of my favorite bands ever since I discovered their incredible 2013 full-length, Sentimental Health. New material since then has been scarce, with only one song from 2014 (the great “Close With You“) appearing in between that time and last month, which saw the release of “Hoarder House”. Somehow, in the frantic shuffling of catch-up material, that song got lost- a garish oversight that will be amended with this post. Before exploring that track further, just like the past handful of posts, we’ll take a look at 10 great songs to have earned releases in the past few weeks. Those songs included, but weren’t limited to, Temple’s teeth-gnashing “Like Nothing In This Life“, Sea Lion’s devastating “Room“, Total Babes’ basement pop gut-punch “Blurred Time“, Creepoid’s hypnotic slow-burner “Dried Out“, and Eternal Summers’ typically gorgeous “Gold and Stone“. Sweetening the deal were Little Wings’ compellingly rustic “Where“, Blis.’s impassioned “Floating Somewhere High and Above“, Mini Dresses’ lilting “Are You Real“, Liza Anne’s noir-leaning “Take It Back“, and Annabel’s soaring career highlight “Another Day, Another Vitamin“. All of those releases are worth adding to your collection but this post’s focal point belongs squarely to Dogbreth, who have yet to have any sort of coverage on this site.

It Came From Plan-It-X 2014 is the compilation that “Hoarder House” belongs to, a collection of 40 songs from as many artists who share a relation to the legendary DIY-friendly label. Dogbreth’s contribution provides the release one of its finest moments (site favorites Free Cake For Every Creature and Martha can also claim this distinction) while simultaneously proving that they’ve been refining their sound since their last major release. Echoing shades of the increasingly formidable Salinas roster (Radiator Hospital, in particular), “Hoarder House” is incendiary punk-tinged basement pop. Hooks pile on top of each other until the song threatens to topple itself over, cutting off at a precise moment that seems to be designed to even further its impact. Quick-witted lyrics collide with a surging musical landscape that never shies away from dynamic expansion. Economical and highly affecting, “Hoarder House” accomplishes in under two minutes what a lot of others can’t in three or more. There’s a real sense of place and genuine feeling behind “Hoarder House”, balancing out its accessibility with an impressive amount of verve, setting the anticipation levels for the band’s next release rocketing up to obscene heights. Until that day rolls around, whenever it is, the most anyone can do is just keep hitting repeat.

Listen to “Hoarder House” below and order It Came From Plan-It-X 2014 from Plan-It-X’s bandcamp page.