Heartbreaking Bravery

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Tag: Sean Henry

Two Weeks, Three Records

In nearly every two week run this year, it seems like there’s been a record that’s posed a legitimate threat to crack a handful of year-end lists. It’s been true from literally the opening seconds of 2018, which saw the surprise release of Jeff Rosenstock‘s exceptional POST-. While there have been a few lulls in select spots, that intensity’s remained and fueled a great year for music. A trio of records that emerged over the past few weeks have the kind of potency to either crack those lists or carve out a spot as a well-hidden cult favorite. All three are worth hearing. Dive in below.

Ovlov – TRU

The three advance singles that teased Ovlov‘s unexpected comeback album, TRU, all netted featured positions and seemed to suggest the band was operating in rare form. Turns out, that suggestion only scratched the surface of what turned out to be a monumental effort from the recently reunited act. The finest Ovlov record by some margin, TRU is a towering behemoth that could only exist through the lens of a band that’s kept finding ways to survive themselves. An examination of impulse, longing, and mental health, TRU bristles and seethes at an unmatched velocity, anchored by the burden of knowledge.

Scintillating from start to finish, buoyed by a series of inspired moments, TRU is tethered together with a narrative through line that makes it feel overwhelmingly whole, even in the face of its persistent ruminations on incompletion. While the band still finds life at the intersection of grunge, slacker punk, and basement pop, the way they’ve reshaped that musical identity on TRU is commendable. Wielding an expanded palette, a seemingly limitless scope, and a desire to improve, Ovlov have created what’s easily one of 2018’s finest records. Additionally, TRU acts as a very welcome reminder of a singular band’s extraordinary talent.

Pipsy – Users

Giddy, scrappy basement pop gifted with dream pop and powerpop sensibilities, Pippy’s Users was an incredibly welcome find what had been proving to be an otherwise desolate patch of new releases. The kind of record that makes sifting through an endless amount of dreck worthwhile, Users is teeming with the liveliness that can serve as its own adrenaline injection. Full of hooks, the record never eases off its acceleration pedal, resulting in a ragged, irresistible collection of distinctly crafted basement pop.

Sean Henry – Fink

It’d been apparent from Fink‘s advanced tracks that Sean Henry had tapped into something a little more otherworldly than usual, swinging from one contemporary reference point to another but refusing to offer tidy reconciliations. A record that’s intentionally opaque, Fink weaponizes its musical palette and allows it to convey emotional heft in lieu of easily idenitifiable narratives; the musical equivalent of Shane Carruth’s absorbing Upstream Color. A record that’s content to soak in the dirt and the grime of the world, wallow in its own carefully guarded desperation, and reluctantly admit to slivers of hope, Fink finds Sean Henry operating at a new, fascinating level. It’s a journey worth the misguided shortcuts, scratches, and tangles. Every bruise is worth earning in Fink‘s fucked up wonderland of folk-tinged, psych-damaged, punk-learned basement pop.

The Best Songs of June 2018’s Final Half

A ridiculous amount of great songs came out over the final half of June 2018, roughly tripling the output of music videos and records. In accordance, the below list will be expanded from the preceding features’ three-slot format to a selection of nine. As usual, there’s a fairly vast palette of styles and influences to sample, each song offering up a distinctly unique thrill. Dive into the fray and get swept up in the chaos.

Whitney Ballen – Go

The first look at the fantastic forthcoming You’re A Shooting Star, I’m A Sinking Ship. Ballen uses a hushed vocal — one that’s curiously reminiscent of Nicole Dollanganger — on “Go” like a weapon, drawing the listener into a difficult narrative that acts as an effective counterweight to the casually optimistic sheen embedded into the musical arrangement. A fascinating presentation of the dichotomies resonating at the center of most mental health struggles, “Go”, while brilliant, only scratches the surface of Ballen’s capabilities.

Curling – Still Green

Following their appearance in the Best Songs list for June 2018’s first half, Curling come back to top themselves with “Still Green.” A basement pop rave-up that exudes the intensely relatable weariness of the slacker punk movement of the early ’90s, “Still Green” incorporates enough modern bent to ensure it won’t fall prey to accusations of tired revivalism. There’s an abundance of life thriving at the song’s surface and Curling makes sure each of the song’s 164 seconds land with maximum impact.

Ovlov – Stick

Not to be outdone by Curling’s repeat heroics as a featured act, Ovlov notch their third consecutive feature nod with the brooding, explosive “Stick”. All three songs to tease the band’s upcoming Tru have made a formidable case that we’re on the verge of hearing one of the year’s best records. While the first two — “Spright” and “Short Morgan” — relied on volume and power, “Stick” ensures that Tru won’t be a one-note affair. Unexpected, oddly moving, and incredibly engaging, “Stick” is a song that deserves to be left on repeat.

Sean Henry – Imperfection

Sean Henry‘s past work has been unfairly overlooked for all the usual, dispiriting reasons but the songwriter’s latched on to something with Fink that just might be strong enough to overcome those intangible obstacles. “Imperfection” was the final track to be released ahead of Fink‘s unveiling and it ably showcases an artist in full control of their creative powers. From the production choices to the delivery itself, “Imperfection” winds up coming surprisingly close to standing as a direct opposite of its own title.

Dentist – Corked

A familiar name to the site, Dentist have been steadily working towards their big moment, earning every lesson and success that’s come their way. In that pursuit, they’ve released a handful of great songs but “Corked”, their latest, doesn’t just set a new high but a new precedent. The band’s lit onto something that feels wholly their own and are prepared to accelerate their pacing from a jog to a sprint. “Corked”, as fine a basement pop song as anyone’s likely to hear this season, is a tantalizing indicator of what Dentist has in store for the future.

Slothrust – Peach

Slothrust‘s another name that’s been printed on these pages a handful of times and “Peach” is the latest reason to type it out. The lead-off single from The Pact, “Peach” is a galvanizing burst of the band’s singular brand of slacker pop. More immediate and self-contained than a lot of the trio’s earlier work, “Peach” makes a morsel feel like a mouthful, before becoming an entire meal. It’s the band’s shortest single to date but it lingers when it’s gone. Don’t miss this one.

Jonathan Something – Fine

Clocking in at just under two minutes, Jonathan Something’s “Fine” still finds time to stand out. A throwback pop song that reveals an astonishing array of influences (everything from Motown to disco to powerpop), “Fine” manages to feel comfortably familiar and thrillingly new over the course of its brief run time. Jonathan Something delivers it all with poise, conviction, and a sincerity that translates into one of the year’s most purely enjoyable songs.

Tony Molina – Wrong Town

A master of the micro song, Tony Molina has found a niche way to thrive since the earliest Ovens songs. Even as Molina’s edges have softened, there’s been a profound sense of assurance that’s cut through the noise. In addition to that gentle confidence, there’s always been a palpable sense of place; Molina knows the places worth belonging to even as his narratives question definitive decision-making. “Wrong Town” is the latest in a string of tender, ’60s-influenced folk-adjacent pieces. Warm and heartrending, “Wrong Town” deserves a visit.

Gia Margaret – Birthday

Gia Margaret‘s “Birthday” is a genre-demolishing track that’s been roping listeners into its orbit since its initial release. Bits of dream pop, shoegaze, and shoegaze find fascinating new intersections throughout the song, which is anchored by Margaret’s soft, spellbinding vocal performance. From front to back, “Birthday” is breathtaking in its unexpected scope and considerable beauty. A transcendent, mesmerizing work.

 

The Five Best Music Videos of the Past Two Weeks

Two weeks may not seem like much of a span in the grand scheme of things but in terms of releases, it means a mountain of art to climb. During that journey, some sections manage to make more vivid impressions than others. This list specifically fixates on music videos and focuses on the clips that made a deep impression. Every artist in this list has been featured on this site in some way before but just because they’ve earned past accolades never ensures a repeat performance. A large amount of credit is due here to five artists who continuously push their own envelope. Take a breath and scroll down to explore their latest works.

1. Gurr – Hot Summer

Gurr made a big impression with 2016’s outstanding In My Head, a record overflowing with memorable basement pop. “Hot Summer” is the emergent act’s latest reminder of their undeniable talent, replete with a mesmerizing visual treatment. A series of vignettes all evoking vivid memories of past summer seasons while looking ahead to the summers that lie in wait, “Hot Summer” makes sure its title is apt. Both the clip and the video are triumphant gems and offer a welcome return for Gurr.

2. Clearance – Had A Fantastic

Over the past handful of years, Clearance have been kicking around the upper Midwest, touring when they can, and committing to their own improvement. That steadfast insistence has been paying dividends for each of the band’s releases and will see its current culmination in At Your Leisure (which will also be their first effort for Topshelf Records). “Had A Fantastic” is the first look at the record, a driving mid-tempo number that imbues their basement pop with post-punk influences. The compelling video (washed out in faded whites and yellows) is just the cherry on top.

3. Dusk – Old Magnolia

Uniting with their videographer Finn Bjornerud once again, Dusk have turned in another clip that plays homage to their own reality. Fixating on more central Wisconsin locations, “Old Magnolia” also provides the opportunity for Ryley Crowe (one of the band’s five notable songwriters) to be featured front and center. Leaning hard into classic folk, country, and Americana influences, “Old Magnolia” may be the purest distillation of the band’s overarching identity to date. Warm, tender, and familiar, it’s another worthy addition to an already exceptional repertoire.

4. Sean Henry – The Ants

“The Ants” immediately comes across as one of Sean Henry‘s most arresting tracks but the video manages to elevate it from memorable to unforgettable. Tapping into the underlying dread and melancholy, “The Ants” becomes a creeping nightmare of a video. Off-kilter and defiantly strange, the clip finds Henry in the spotlight, donning a set of fake teeth and sulking around a cityscape as dusk turns to night turns to day. Weird, unavoidable, and mesmerizing, “The Ants” is as effective of a complement to its attached song as anyone’s likely to produce this year.

5. Fog Lake – Push

Coming just days after the release of Fog Lake‘s haunting “California” was “Push” and its accompanying music video. “Push” opens up in somewhat generic territory, ostensibly opting for an obvious melodramatic narrative before subverting its story to startling effect. That sudden change comes by way of one of the most brilliant transition edits the music video format’s offered in recent memory, as one scene hurtles into the next, literally altering the narrative (and the central character’s) timeline.

Sudden and extremely effective, that tactic’s employed multiple times, each instance magnifying the effect. It’s brilliant filmmaking from both director Noah Kentis and cinematographer Bella Gonzales. “Push”, as a standalone song, would have stood as another of Fog Lake’s hidden masterpieces. Combined with the video, it becomes the project’s high point. A perfect mixture of empathy, elegance, and artistry, “Push” is the kind of video that doesn’t deserve to be forgotten.

 

Royal Headache – Another World (Stream)

rohe

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

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

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

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

Bully – Trying (Music Video)

Bully XI

It’s been a hectic two weeks. One move to Brooklyn and nearly a dozen live reviews later, there’s barely been time to run anything other than specialty coverage. In the interim since the move, I’ve been accumulating the pieces of media that have managed to catch my attention. This particular post will be dedicated to the music videos that managed to fight their way onto my radar, with the feature falling squarely on Bully’s endearing clip for Feels Like‘s hell-raising “Trying” (and an accompanying list of every other title via a list of hyperlinks).

As mentioned above, most of the coverage has been geared towards live documentation, including a fierce in-store set from Bully, who managed to inject that same raw intensity into their latest clip. Shot in a straightforward black-and-white, the official visual representation of “Trying” manages to nicely echo the band’s very apparent 90’s influence. Utilizing a lot of shaky devices to compelling effect (the quick zoom, in particular, is utilized astoundingly well), the video’s central narrative finds an uplifting exuberance in its simplicity; Bully break into an amusement park and a pair of security guards attempt to track them down. There’s a very visible affection for the project on display throughout, exuding a very sincere giddiness that ultimately elevates “Trying” into one of the years most memorably fun videos. It’s a testament to the band’s intrinsic charisma as much as it is to their career savvy. Put simply: this isn’t something worth missing.

Watch “Trying” below and order a copy of Feels Like here. Beneath the embed, there are links to several other videos that came out in the past two weeks that are worth watching.

Bob Thiele & The Forest Rangrs (ft. Alison Mosshart) – Trying To Believe
EERA – White Water
Vomitface – Luckiest Man Alive
Dances – Holy Fool
Farao – Hunter
Chastity – Manning Hill
Natalie Prass – Birds of Prey
Vacation – Decaying
PINS – Everyone Says
Solvey – The Weight
Father John Misty – I Love You, Honeybear
Shannon and the Clams – Corvette
Hippo Campus – Suicide Saturday
Beirut – No No No
Katie Dey – Unkillable
The Spirit of the Beehive – World Access
Pale Angels – Piss Water
Hemingway – No Hard Feelings
Sean Henry – The Crow
The Amazing – Safe Island
Mogwai – Helicon 1
Girlpool – Magnifying Glass
The Armed – Paradise Day