Heartbreaking Bravery

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Tag: SideOneDummy Records

Watch This: Vol. 159

Two weeks ago, there was a seven-day stretch of live videos that were released and they included gems from the following: PJ Harvey, Joe Kopel, Bash & Pop, Lisa Mitchell, Active Bird Community, Violent Change, Real Estate, Cameron Avery, The Wooden SkyAla.ni at Château de Fontainebleau, Calexico, Max Richter & the 12 Ensemble, Moon Duo, The Proper Ornaments, Atriarch, Tycho, Aimee Man, Jennifer Niceley, Living Body, Corsicana, Dinosaur Jr., Microwave, Joel Plaskett & Bill Plaskett, Sierra Hull, CAT CLYDE, KOLARS, Tinariwen, Perturbazione, King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard, George Winston, and Preservation Hall Jazz Band. All of those videos were compelling but it was the five below that wound up standing out most. So, as always, sit back, relax, clear your mind, and Watch This.

1. Car Seat Headrest – Working Girl (She’s Not A Single Version) (Conan)

Following last year’s outstanding Teens of Denial, Car Seat Headrest have been gifting the world one outstanding late night performance after the other. Here, the band’s penchant for altering their material for those performances rears its head once again and they transform “Unforgiving Girl (She’s Not an)” into a leaner, poppier, more radio-friendly anthem. It’s an endearing turn from a band that never seems to run out of small surprises.

2. Daddy Issues – Dandelion (Paste)

More than three years into what’s turning out to be an illustrious career, Daddy Issues have been quietly becoming one of the best largely under-the-radar bands touring the circuit.  The band turns in a stripped-back, three-song performance here for Paste and the session serves as a powerful showcase for  their talent. The trio’s got a record looming on the horizon and they’re playing with the confidence of an act who knows they’re on the verge of making the next big step in their personal evolution.

3. AJJ – Junkie Church (SideOneDummy)

Last year, AJJ released The Bible 2, a career highlight on every conceivable level. It’s a record that’s still resonating strongly, suggesting the type of longevity typically attributed to classic records. A large part of this is because of songs like “Junkie Church”, which gets a twitchy, tender performance here in a mesmerizing clip. Driven by narrative prose and feeling, the video more than earns its place as a part of this series.

4. Ty Segall (KEXP)

Anyone that’s seen Ty Segall live knows that the bands he assembles around himself are fully capable of tearing the roof of any given venue. The adrenaline and volume levels are typically off the charts and both band and audience are typically driven into a wild frenzy. Stripping Ty Segall of an energetic audience to feed off doesn’t seem to matter either, something proven by this rousing KEXP session which finds Segall and the band (which includes Mikal Cronin) in rare form.

Drive-By Truckers (Sound Opinions)

One of 2016’s more overlooked records came from the perennially overlooked Drive-By Truckers, who have remained dazzlingly consistent since the departure of their most famous memberAmerican Band, the project’s most overtly political record since their formation, caused an intriguing rift between many of their fans. The band’s politics have virtually always been present on their recorded work but hearing those views articulated so acutely proved to be too much for some, which is a shame. There are deeply important messages littering American Band and they’re all presented with unapologetic clarity, most memorably in “What It Means, something that Patterson Hood and Mike Cooley lay bare in this memorable four-song session for Sound Opinions.

Watch This: Resuscitations, Pt. II

After a large handful of extended posts, Watch This will be back to its weekly schedule following this collection. Watch This has been an essential part of Heartbreaking Bravery since its first era as its very foundations are rooted in a philosophy that complements this space’s mission statement. They’re frequently ignored despite their astonishing level of artistry and are rarely featured in any meaningful way on any other forum. Live documentation is deeply important as it creates an immediate visual aid for a multifaceted chapter of history (and specifically the intersections that occur between venues/locations and artists).

Once again, 25 bands are featured in the below packet. Among these videos are performances that run the gamut from explosive covers (Meat Wave tackling Elliott Smith, Tacocat taking on Katy Perry), head-turning solo performances (Declan McKenna), confident experimentation (Operators, Fresh Snow, Blasteroid), and adrenaline-fueled thrill rides (Audacity, PWR BTTM, Mike Krol), among several other performance modes. Everything on display in this collection is worth studying, whether it’s the fillmmaking aspect or the performances themselves. There’s a lot to ingest so, as always, sit up straight, adjust the volume, get settled, and Watch This.

1. Audacity – Dirty Boy (BreakThruRadio)
2. PWR BTTM – Ugly Cherries (Radio K)
3. Meat Wave – Speed Trials (SideOneDummy)
4. Stephen Steinbrink – Absent Mind (Little Elephant)
5. Moving Panoramas – Radar (BreakThruRadio)
6. David Bazan – Both Hands (KEXP)
7. The Zolas – Swooner (Light Organ)
8. Chris Bathgate – Nicosia (Radio K)
9. Hype – Last Man On Earth (DZ Records)
10. Operators – Space Needle (WFUV)
11. DIIE – Miracles & Magic Are Real (Radio K)
12. The So So Glos – Dancing Industry (Little Elephant)
13. Declan McKenna – Brazil (Conan)
14. Fresh Snow – Your Thirst For Magic Has Been Quenched By Death! (Exclaim!)
15. Mike Krol – This Is The News (KINK)
16. Tacocat – Roar (The AV Club)
17. The Kills – Tape Song (KCRW)
18. Guerilla Toss – Eraser Stargazer Forever (BreakThruRadio)
19. Blasteroid – Triple D (VHS Sessions)
20. GoGoPenguin – Branches Break (WFUV)
21. Saintseneca – How Many Blankets Are In The World (WXPN)
22. Murder By Death – Foxglove (Paste)
23. Nada Surf – Friend Hospital (World Cafe)
24. Furnsss – Roll With It (VHS Sessions)
25. Lee Fields – Don’t Leave Me This Way (KDHX)

15 of ’15: The Best Albums of 2015

Eskimeaux

2015, close to unanimously, was concerned to be one of the highest points for new music in recent memory. To that end, putting together this list was even more of a nightmarish task than narrowing the 2015 songs down to their 15 slots. There was even a brief moment where expanding this list to 50 slots seemed like a viable action. Ultimately, after literally hundreds of substitutions in the various positions (and countless exclusions and extractions), the formula remained intact. While it was painful to leave an extremely large handful of extraordinary records lingering just outside the perimeter, the 15 records below have earned their spots. Every single one of these has remained in near-constant rotation since the time of their release and will likely resonant well into 2016 and beyond. Dive on in below and reflect on the overwhelming strength of the past 12 months.

15. Meat Wave – Delusion Moon

One of a select few bands to play an instrumental part in the formative stages of this site’s focus (and one of the acts to play the first Heartbreaking Bravery showcase), Meat Wave came through in a big way in 2015. The trio released one of the year’s best oddities, signed to SideOneDummy, and unleashed a behemoth of an album in Delusion Moon. Billed as their first proper full-length (their vicious self-titled, limited-run cassette straddled the line between EP and full-length), Delusion Moon saw the band exploring their darker tendencies to great success. More fully exploring influences like Mission of Burma and Drive Like Jehu, the band acted as a nice counterpoint to the usual brand of ’90s revival and got some kicks in along the way.

14. PWR BTTM – Ugly Cherries

No band’s live show was documented more exhaustively here over 2015 than PWR BTTM, who perfected a simplistic approach with enormous- and enormously successful- ideas. The duo (who is occasionally a trio) set their sights on exploring gender and personal identity and followed through with a startlingly brazen tenacity. Close to every song on Ugly Cherries, their extraordinary full-length debut, play out like the kind of anthems that 2015 desperately needed. For a record that’s quick to be gleefully tongue-in-cheek, Ugly Cherries also offers up some devastating personal moments, lending the band an emotional depth that makes their outsize spirit even more powerful.

13. Midnight Reruns – Force of Nurture

Force of Nurture, Midnight Reruns‘ astonishing sophomore effort, has one of the best A-sides I’ve ever heard. Not to discredit an extremely strong B-side, either, but the run the band puts together from “There’s An Animal Upstairs” to “Sky Blue Water” is just about flawless. All six of those songs were considered for this year’s list of the best songs of 2015 along with the record’s sprawling closer, “Great Southern Rail”, which boasts one of the year’s more jaw-dropping choruses. Bolstered by the involvement of one of the band’s earliest and most vocal supporters- The Replacements’ Tommy Stinson, who produced the record- Midnight Reruns turned in their finest collection of songs to date.

12. Hop Along – Painted Shut

A statement that bears repeating: one of the most heartening aspects of 2015 was watching the deserved ascension of Hop Along, who have been cranking out exquisite material on an exceptionally high platform for several years. Driven by the distinctive, arresting voice of guitarist/vocalist Frances Quinlan and their own unique sensibilities, Hop Along crafted the strongest record of their discography. With new partner Saddle Creek firmly in their corner, the band came to vibrant life and stayed on form, delivering a set of knockout tracks that included “Waitress”, one of this year’s finest. A welcome breath of fresh air, Painted Shut marked the beginning of an exciting new era for one of today’s best bands.

11. Royal Headache – High

Even as all the news of High being Royal Headache’s finest record (thankfully) receded, the power of their finest offering to date didn’t diminish. Following a brilliant debut, the band may have actually surpassed that record’s promise with their sophomore effort. Highlighted by songs like the towering, defiant title track and the surging “Another World“, High is a genre masterclass of the highest order. Buoyed by an infectious energy that’s constantly verging on manic, there’s never a moment during the record that doesn’t feel like it’s nearing a state of euphoria. When High is firing on all cylinders, as is the case for the vast majority of the record, the band’s as close to being virtually untouchable as is possibly imaginable.

10. Young Jesus – Grow/Decompose

Home, Young Jesus‘ breakout record and a candidate for album of the decade, set extraordinarily high expectations for whatever the band chose as its following release. Crafting a worthy follow-up seemed even more unlikely after the band moved out of Chicago and over to Los Angeles, reassembling their lineup in the process. By that token, Grow/Decompose isn’t just a deeply impressive record, it’s a miraculous one. Guitarist/vocalist John Rossiter sharpens his singular songwriting voice and leads his new outfit with a fiery determination. An immensely satisfying collection of songs, Grow/Decompose feels like a genuine album; structured and paced to near perfection, Grow/Decompose is a reinvigorating- and reinvigorated- frenzy.

9. Dogs On Acid – Dogs On Acid

Dogs On Acid, a band formed out of the ashes of much beloved acts Snowing and Algernon Cadwallader, expanded on one of the best 7″ releases of 2014 with one of the strongest full-length debuts in recent memory. Laced with knockout hooks at just about every turn, Dogs On Acid is a staggering show of power from a band that finds surprising ways to exceed its predecessors. Maximizing their pop sensibilities to astonishing effect, Dogs On Acid inject their first major effort with an insistent, propulsive energy that catapults each of its 10 tracks to unthinkable heights, keeping their punk roots in place along the way. Every song on Dogs On Acid is a genuine highlight, yet the whole affair still manages to come across as so much more than a collection of singles. Bold and brash, this is the kind of record that may never fall out of regular rotation.

8. Tenement – Predatory Headlights

For close to 10 years, I’ve provided near-incessant documentation of Tenement, chronicling their forward motion with increasing intensity as the years progressed. When Heartbreaking Bravery was initially designed, it was constructed with the intention of highlighting bands that weren’t being granted the press that they deserved. In 2015, the world at large finally started catching on to a band that’s meant more to the development of my personal interests in music than any other (I didn’t include their Bruised Music compilation in the oddities list because I contributed a lengthy piece to the record’s insert that expands on that fact). Predatory Headlights, the trio’s latest opus, was a definitive collection of the band’s current era, unafraid of demolishing genre barriers and bold experimentation. Over its intimidating 28 tracks, the album steadily emerges as a genuine- and singular- masterpiece.

7. Julien Baker – Sprained Ankle

For Julien Baker‘s breathtaking breakout record, the young songwriter (previously best known as one of the driving forces behind Forrister) dived fearlessly into a despairing examination of her own psyche. A preoccupation with mortality that was heavily informed by the laws of religion dominates nearly every song on this surprisingly brave collection. From the description of the car wreck in the opener’s first verse all the way through to the passage in “Go On”- Sprained Ankle‘s mesmerizing closing track and one of 2015’s finest songs– about consuming bleach, there’s barely a moment of reprieve. Built almost exclusively around Baker’s voice and acoustic guitar, Sprained Ankle feels progressively more personal as it goes along, each song functioning as a plea, a warning, and a sustained moment of clarity. Tragic and beautiful, Baker’s conjured up a collection of deeply personal songs that feel genuinely sacred.

6. All Dogs – Kicking Every Day

Ever since their earliest releases, All Dogs have been steadily crafting great material and building momentum. Kicking Every Day, the band’s startlingly defiant full-length debut, continues that pattern with an astounding amount of grace. Even with their lineup at full strength following the addition of guitarist Nick Harris (which is paying massive dividends), guitarist/vocalist Maryn Jones’ songs feel more naked than ever, imbuing Kicking Every Day with a voyeuristic look at its principal songwriter’s inner turmoil and unflinching resolve. After the anticipation levels for this record came close to hitting a fever pitch with the release of “That Kind of Girl” (which ranked highly on the songs of the year list), the prospect of a record as extravagantly strong as Kicking Every Day didn’t seem so distant. The record ultimately surpassed those expectations thanks to both the instant acclaim it so richly deserved and its ability to strike all the right chords.

5. Sweet John Bloom – Weird Prayer

Losing Four Eyes, a band that put out one of the best 7″ records of this decade, was a tough pill to swallow. Fortunately, that band found a natural successor in Sweet John Bloom. Continuing to revel in the same brand of endearingly scrappy basement pop and pulling members from a few other outstanding bands, Sweet John Bloom managed to make a mark. Weird Prayer, their first fully fledged full-length, reveals impressive new depths to the band. Employing a rotating cast of songwriters, the record gives ample space to flesh out each one’s distinct personality. From lovely slow-burning tracks like “Bury Ruby” to incendiary highlights like “Tell Me”, Weird Prayer is an enviable showcase that, bizarrely, seems like a victory lap for its various members. There’s a memorable moment or three on each of these 15 tracks, most of which find intriguing dichotomies to exploit over the course of their brief running times. Littered with surprising moments at close to every corner, it’s one of 2015’s most exhilarating releases.

4. Dilly Dally – Sore

Back in 2014, Dilly Dally unleashed a pair of 7″ records that nearly walked away with the top spot in this site’s rankings. In 2015 they followed up their flawless early run with a brilliant standalone single and a bruising full-length teeming with vicious grunge-informed, punk-leaning basement pop numbers. Grimly determined and scuzzy as hell, Sore lands with the force of an atomic bomb. There was a reason that no band earned as many feature pieces on this site over the course of 2014 than Dilly Dally and, even stripped of the brilliant singles that earned those spots, Sore would have registered as a knockout. While the record’s many searing highlights (“Desire“, “Purple Rage“, “The Touch“, etc.) gave the record its fangs, its elegiac closer provided it with both an unexpected emotional depth and a staggering moment of finality (both of which went a long way in securing its ranking as one of 2015’s finest tracks). While Dilly Dally just about stole CMJ and released a small army of outstanding music videos, Sore was their definitive 2015 moment. It’s the kind of record that inspires kids to go out and start bands of their own, making it one of the most powerful releases in recent memory.

3. Mike Krol – Turkey

The sudden resurgence of the (unfortunately) still-deceased Sleeping in the Aviary was an extremely unexpected and welcome development. While they did release an extraordinary demos and rarities collection, the band’s best moment came when the majority of its lineup wound up backing Mike Krol for his latest venture. No record in 2015 felt even close to as unhinged as Turkey, Krol’s first effort for Merge and most deranged outing to date. With a runtime that doesn’t even scratch 19 minutes, Krol and the band he’s assembled run through nine songs at a pace so frantic it’s practically delirious. Every single moment of Turkey is informed by a surging level of energy that it seems like the record might derail itself at any given moment, toppling over because of its own excessive velocity. Miraculously, it manages to sustain that momentum through nine songs of rabid basement pop that draws inspiration from a variety of genres from the past handful of decades, zeroing in on things like ’50s pop and classic soul. Everything on Turkey also benefits from being shot through with Krol’s deadpan comedic sensibility, tongue planted firmly in cheek. By the time the record’s penultimate track hits- the absolutely massive “Less Than Together“- the record’s momentum is white hot. “Piano Shit” winds things down at the very end and allows the listener to review the demolished left in Turkey‘s wake as it coasts to the finish.

2. Nicole Dollanganger – Natural Born Losers

One of the happier coincidences this site got to experience in 2015 was the realization that the glowing review of Nicole Dollanganger‘s breathtaking Natural Born Losers was its 666th post. An appropriate fact, given the record’s deep obsession with angels, devils, and the spiritual realm. In its opening lines (“I shot an angel with my father’s rifle”), Natural Born Losers flaunts its aim with a threatening gracefulness, ready to turn on a dime at any moment. Dollanganger’s narratives throughout the course of the record are startling exercises in hyper-violence and dueling desires. Whether it’s a BDSM-informed romp as lensed through an experience with an abusive police officer or an extremely disarming sample taken from the animated 1993 cult classic The Halloween Tree, Dollanganger’s either making fresh incisions or pulling gaping wounds even further apart. However, for being so deeply unsettling in its prose, the music that accompanies all of Dollanganger’s nightmarish imagery is as elegant and haunting as her vocals. A lot of Natural Born Losers hinges on exploring some of the weightiest dichotomies in existence and the degree of success to which it achieves in striking fascinating middle grounds in those battles is revelatory. Even more impressive is the fashion in which Dollanganger binds this collection of songs together, especially considering how effectively the record’s haunting line defines (or redefines) everything that’s happened since its steely-eyed opening moment. Put simply: Natural Born Losers is a modern masterpiece.

1. Eskimeaux – O.K.

Eskimeaux‘s O.K. managed to impress on first listen but it wasn’t until seeing the band live that all of its pieces fell more fully into place. That show inspired a return visit to this collection which, in turn, brought about a subsequent revisit (and then that pattern fell into a routine that still hasn’t ceased). On each successive listen, more of O.K. sprang to life. Gabrielle Smith’s project has been making material that’s been more than worthwhile for a large handful of years now but O.K., the project’s most fully-realized outing, saw Smith step across a threshold and into something sublime. A meticulously crafted record, every last one of its countless gears clicks in ways that surprise and delight in equal measure, rewarding heavy investment with a casual ease and providing O.K. with one of its cleverest tricks. In maintaining their casual sensibilities, the record becomes an enjoyable cursory listen but that casualness is surprisingly deceptive.

O.K.‘s a very complex record when it’s dissected into its formative pieces, whether they’re the gorgeous vocal layers that comprise one of the record’s most gorgeous moments on “A Hug Too Long” or Felix Walworth’s explosively idiosyncratic snare work on “Folly“, each finding a way to stand out as an impressive moment in both the small schemes of the songs and the grand sweep of the album. From a lyrical standpoint, Smith packs this record full with bittersweet realizations, internal frustrations, and slivers of a defiant sense of hope that’s steadfast in its refusal to bow to a harsher reality. Even the record’s darkest moment- the brooding “Pocket Full of Posies”, which nearly unseated “A Hug Too Long” in the songs list- subtly acknowledges the inherent innocence of things that are frequently viewed as evil. Even then, O.K.‘s worldview is far from simply being optimistic, it’s far too weary to assume that the best mode of operation is to look for the best in everything; its earned its sophisticated wariness.

What makes O.K. truly stand out, though, is its overwhelming amount of empathy for everything that’s fortunate enough to have worked its way into the record. Easily one of the most readily apparent humanist statements that music yielded this year (which is especially easy to see when the record’s put under a microscope), O.K. draws its strength from its sense of value. It’s a view that resonates throughout the record’s 11 brilliantly crafted songs, providing them with a deeper sense of purpose than most bands can manage. Additionally, all of the inspired decisions that comprise O.K. are augmented by some of the most extraordinary production work of the past several years, stealthily enhancing the cumulative effect of the songs. An awe-inspiring breakthrough for one of today’s most promising acts, O.K. is the kind of record that’s worth preserving for future generations. Find someone deserving to share this with and give in to its inescapable beauty.

Meat Wave – Cosmic Zoo (Music Video)

meatwave

It’s been an incredible week for new releases up to this point, so naturally it’s going out with a towering show of force. Fleurie’s glitchy Arrows EP and Craig Finn’s reinvigorated Faith in the Future provided the full streams with a memorable haul while Lou Barlow, Taxidermists, Dog Paper Submarine, and La Sera combined forces to ensure that the visual medium was extremely well-represented. Single songs had a jaw-dropping day yet again with two folk-heavy songs establishing themselves as unlikely song of the year contenders (Lost Balloons’ “Don’t Count On Me” and Futurebirds’ “Hotel Parties“, respectively) while also producing an extraordinary field that included highlights from Varsity, Shelf Life, Prison Whites, Dresses, Psychic Blood, The Intelligence, and Jacques Le Coque. In the middle of that whirlwind, site favorites Meat Wave also unveiled a stunning black-and-white clip for Delusion Moon highlight “Cosmic Zoo“.

A lot of words have been printed about Meat Wave on this site and that’s not a trend that’s likely to change; the band have been a steadfast part of my listening habits even before this site was brought into existence two years ago. The trio played our first showcase, were one of the only On the Up entries, and are responsible for the most-listened-to tape of my considerable collection. After approximately three years of yelling at people to listen to this band, a lot of them are finally starting to come around- a feat that’s no likely influenced by their new home, SideOneDummy. Now with the release of their forthcoming record- the fierce Delusion Moon– swiftly approaching, the band are offering up a video for one of its strongest moments: “Cosmic Zoo”. Andrew Robert Morrison once again takes the reins for the clip and offers up what may be the band’s most effective video to date, eschewing any real plot-based narrative in favor of focusing on the band’s humanity. Interspersing live clips with clips of the trio hanging out with their friends, the crisp, classically composed shots (a few of which echo the work of Anton Corbijn) are injected with an abundance of life. Accelerating the subtle emotional pull of the approach is the song itself, which is as gripping as the clip. It’s another reminder of Meat Wave’s tenacity but it’s also a demonstration of their more modest sensibilities. In short: it’s perfect.

Watch “Cosmic Zoo” over at Nerdist (where it was premiered by A Year’s Worth of Memories contributor Nina Corcoran) and pre-order Delusion Moon from SideOneDummy ahead of its September 18 release date here. Revisit the majority of the band’s set from the first Heartbreaking Bravery showcase below.

 

Meat Wave – Cosmic Zoo (Stream)

meatwave

While the vast majority of the week’s best songs found a home in the preceding posts, one of them deserved its own headline: Meat Wave’s “Cosmic Zoo”. For years now, Meat Wave have been a staple of my own personal listening habits. I was thrilled when they were the band that became the driving force behind Heartbreaking Bravery’s first showcase and their self-titled remains the only tape I’ve managed to wear thin (you can only listen to “Panopticon” so many times before it starts warping). Before diving too much further, though, a quick detour to cover the best full streams of the week-so-far seems warranted. Between inspired records from Lithuania, Sharkmuffin, and Wimps, it’s been a good week (not to mention just about everything streaming over at NPR’s First Listen). Now that we’ve got that out of the way, back to “Cosmic Zoo”.

Following the releases of “Erased“, “Sham King“, “NRA“, and “Delusion Moon“, “Cosmic Zoo” becomes the fifth preview of the band’s upcoming sophomore effort Delusion Moon (which comes on the heels of this year’s outstanding Brother EP). Appropriately, the song’s the fifth on Delusion Moon and has a lot of sway over Delusion Moon‘s building momentum. In the context of the record, it rockets that momentum to stratospheric heights. As a standalone single, it immediately conjures up a startling amount of energy and- over the course of a blistering three minutes- focuses that energy into a series of repeated blows, each hitting their mark with a startling ferocity. Whether it’s the riff that cuts everything to ribbons approximately 1/3rd of the way into the song (one of my favorite moments of music this year), the staccato outro, or the increasingly intense rhythm work of Joe Gac and Ryan Wizniak, it’s an unavoidable show of force.

While force alone would have made “Cosmic Zoo” a must-listen, it’s also headier than it initially seems. Tying into a structure that guitarist/vocalist Chris Sutter designed, it’s part of an overarching narrative that touches on motion sickness and the lunar cycles. Adding a venomous bite to what feels, increasingly, like deeply personal lyrical territory, “Cosmic Zoo” takes on the feel of a meteor, hurtling towards earth, hell-bent on destruction. Like Delusion Moon itself, “Cosmic Zoo” is a snarling tour de force that demonstrates the overwhelming bulk of Meat Wave’s strongest qualities. Brash, unavoidable, and just about perfect, it’s the kind of adrenaline jolt that’s strong enough to keep any week humming along.

Listen to “Cosmic Zoo” below and pre-order Delusion Moon from SideOneDummy ahead of its September 18 release date here. Underneath the embed, revisit a large portion of their set from our showcase.

Meat Wave – Delusion Moon (Music Video)

meatwave

Clean slates are always an intriguing thing to fill and this week’s off to a strong start with great entries into all of the site’s regularly-covered formats. i tried to run away when i was 6’s “June July May“, Craig Finn’s “Maggie, I’ve Been Searching for Our Son“, and Palehound’s “Cushioned Caging” constituted a very strong field of representatives for the single song stream while there were fascinating clips to be found in Gold Class’ “Life As A Gun” and Springtime Carnivore’s “Other Side of the Boundary“. Full streams also found life via the first installment of Apollonian Sound’s charity singles series (featuring Algebra II and site favorites Radiator Hospital), Adult Dude’s fiery Adult Moods, and Los Manglers’ vibrant Between Worlds.

Today’s feature spots casts its lens on Meat Wave, a band that’s played a pivotal role in the development of this site and the music it covers. Their first record, an incredible self-titled effort, was the very first tape I ever wore thin in various spots. The trio was also one of the only bands to secure an On the Up inclusion (an assessment that’s continuing to come to fruition in some genuinely unexpected- and exhilarating- ways) and took part in the first Heartbreaking Bravery showcase. Now, they’ve signed to SideOneDummy and are upping the anticipation for an incredible record entitled Delusion Moon that will be out on September 18.

Meat Wave’s most recent move in the rollout campaign for Delusion Moon came earlier today with the unveiling of the video for the record’s vicious title track. Just as the song drives home a foreboding feeling with no shortage of a venomous menace, the video aims to unsettle in a similar fashion. Utilizing strobes and some inventive film editing, the Andrew Robert Morrisson-directed clip finds value and inspiration in aggressive minimalism, much like the music of its subjects. It’s a deeply disorienting watch, opting for a bold cognitive dissonance that’s presented in a way that feels removed from countless other clips’ meager attempts at producing similar results. Ultimately, “Delusion Moon” is defined by its convictions and the end result is a striking, memorable triumph.

Watch “Delusion Moon” below and pre-order the record from SideOneDummy.

PUP – Dark Days (Music Video)

pup

The combination of PUP and Chandler Levack and Jeremy Schaulin-Rioux’s collaborative filmmaking team has proven to be historically successful with me over the years. Last year, I cited “Guilt Trip” as 2014’s best music video on this site and in the preceding year, I awarded top honors to “Reservoir” over at PopMatters. In the videos that have come between (and followed) there simply hasn’t been one that hasn’t been highlighted in some form on Heartbreaking Bravery. “Dark Days”, the team’s latest effort, is another triumph of both artistry and form.

Once again, Levack and Shcaulin-Rioux have managed to find an intriguing way to tap into both the bands identity and their unwavering humanism. This time around, they achieve this through a slightly unexpected medium within the format: anime-inspired animations (courtesy of Solis Animation Inc.). Turning the focal point to the deceptively glamorous life of a touring band, all of the trivialities and hardships of life on the road all receive their respective turns under the spotlight.

Yes, there’s still an exhilarating run of the time spent on the stage, playing your heart out for an appreciative audience, and an endless slew of memorable moments spent in transit but the good moments tend to act as cathartic release for touring’s inevitable hardships (sickness, mental and physical exhaustion, fights, hunger, potential monetary loss, leaving your friends after only seeing them for moments, navigating relationships with the people back home, and figuring out how to correlate the peaks and valleys of personal life with life on the road, among countless other factors) but its rarely been presented this clearly. It’s a subject that’s been broached countless times (one of the best examples of this is Thor Harris’ guide to touring and his insights on touring with depression) but has frequently struggled to achieve a finished product so compelling.

The art direction- as it’s always been with Levack and Shcaulin-Rioux at the helm- is breathtaking and the editing gives “Dark Days” a vibrancy that lends to its relatable nature. “Dark Days” took a somewhat staggering six months to create and the considerable amount of work involved shows. Tour documentaries have rarely been this compelling and the same can be said for music video streaks this stratospheric. Unsurprisingly, again, the music and the clip elevate each other in a manner that gives new life to the song and a staggering vitality to the video. It’s something that deserves to not just be seen- but to be remembered.

Watch “Dark Days” below and order a copy of the band’s self-titled record here. Beneath the clip, explore a mixture of 25 great full streams and other music videos to have found release in the past handful of days. Enjoy.

Nothing – Something in the Way
Sharkmuffin – First Date
Frog Eyes – Joe With the Jam
Palmas – Stay Away
Flowers of Evil – Until You Feel the Cut
Copywrite – Philophobia
Dave Monks – Gasoline
Palma Violets – Girl, You Couldn’t Do Much Better on the Beach
Heather Woods Broderick – Mama Shelter
Albert Hammond Jr. – Losing Touch
Yo La Tengo – Friday, I’m In Love
Teen Daze – Morning World
Jacuzzi Boys – Happy Damage
Mexican Knives – Beach Song
Trust Fund (ft. Alanna McArdle) – Dreams
Coliseum – Sharp Fangs, Pale Flesh
Pixx – Fall In
Broen – Iris
City Calm Down – Rabbit Run

 

14 of ’14: The Best Music Videos of 2014

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In all best-of coverage, there’s no room for any objectivity positing (“Best” is usually just shorthand for “most admired”), which is why this site’s long-held first person restriction will be dropped to allow me to speak more personally in an effort to better explain the contents of this list’s (and all of the lists to follow) personal effect on myself. In 2014, I watched (and covered) more music videos than any year of my life- allowing an intake of genuinely great content that made compiling this list a dream and a nightmare. After spending weeks reviewing old clips (while keeping up with the videos enjoying December releases), I settled on the selections below as the 14 that hit me hardest over the past 12 months. This list will be the first entry in more than a week’s worth of year-end coverage that I’m beyond excited to share with everyone. So, with all of that said- it’s my privilege to present Heartbreaking Bravery’s 14 of ’14: The Best Music Videos of the Year.

14. Left & Right – Low Expectations

A few months ago, Left & Right released this absolute gem of a music video. Imbued with a DIY irreverence, a purposeful sense of direction, winningly off-beat humor, unabashedly committed performances, and some genuinely great cinematography, “Low Expectations” became an unexpected standout; a clip that came out of the gate swinging and (somehow) landing every single blow. Easily one of 2014’s most unexpectedly charming (and ridiculously enjoyable) clips.

13. Saintseneca – Happy Alone

Saintseneca’s Dark Arc was one of 2014’s most deserved breakout moments and nothing punctuated that shift more than the Christopher Good-helmed clip for “Happy Alone”. Emphasizing the song’s central themes by providing a bubble that practically forces isolation onto bandleader Zac Little, it’s a visually striking clip that got harder to shake as the year progressed. By grounding its elements of surrealism with an abundance of naturalism, it provided an artful counterpoint to something like Perfume Genius’ “Queen” (which, incidentally, was shot by Good). Importantly, it also proved that Saintseneca were officially on their way to bigger and better things.

12. Angel Olsen – Windows

I’m not sure there was a music video to come out of 2014 that was more startlingly gorgeous than this Rick Alverson-directed clip for Angel Olsen’s heart-stopping Burn Your Fire For No Witness highlight “Windows”. By incorporating Southern Gothic Americana style rural imagery into Olsen’s plaintive folk-leaning sensibilities, Alverson managed to create an evocative portrait of one of this generation’s finest songwriters. Leading up to an oddly moving (and admittedly eccentric) climax, the whole thing’s so artfully rendered it begins to feel as complete as some of the year’s best films. Delicate and aggressive in all the right places, “Windows” more than earned a spot on this list.

11. Beverly – Honey Do

“Honey Do” was my introduction to Beverly, just as it was for many others, so when news broke that they’d shot a music video for the song, it felt worthy of anticipation. Most of the expectations I had were exceeded in the first few frames and as the video progressed, so did my appreciation. Eschewing any kind of image-building, this was the first in a string of Beverly clips that largely eschewed celebrity in favor of celebrating artistry. Shot in crisp black-and-whites, “Honey Do” is a tender portrait of Los Angeles and its inhabitants and a promising mission statement from one of 2014’s more engaging new acts.

10. S – Losers 

Initially just a clip that came and went with very little fanfare (from a great record with a similar reception), “Losers” immediately felt deeply personal and genuinely heartfelt. Ostensibly a reflection on perception, self-esteem, and harsh reality, the thematic elements in the lyrics get brought to vivid life in a lovingly shot clip that somehow brings them to devastating proportions. DIY in spirit with a focal point on self-expression and identity, it’s become legitimately unforgettable; a long, heavy sigh of acceptance with only the faintest glimmer of hope reverberating throughout the weary cynicism. While “Vampires” was a great deal of fun, it’s “Losers” that deserves the lion’s share of attention for being one of 2014’s strongest buried treasures.

9. Iceage – Against the Moon

Honestly, “The Lord’s Favorite” and “Forever” both could have made this list but it felt more appropriate to limit bands to one entry apiece. With that being the case, it’s Plowing Into The Field Of Love highlight “Against the Moon” that gets the nod; all of the reasons for its inclusion were previously detailed pretty extensively here.

8. Anna Calvi & David Byrne – Strange Weather

Soft saturation. An autumnal palette. Digital film. One of the most delicately directed cinematography performances in any visual medium this year. An implicitly tragic narrative arc that suggests internal (and possible external) suffering. All of these come together in the sublime clip for an equally sublime cover of Kareen Ann’s “Strange Weather”, courtesy of Anna Calvi & David Byrne. One view was all it took for this to become one of the most difficult to shake clips of the year. Masterfully composed and brilliantly executed, it’s nothing short of an emotionally intuitive masterpiece.

7. Diarrhea Planet – Babyhead

I got to use “diaper skull flume explosion” while writing the tags for this one in the initial write-up; what more explanation do you need? “Babyhead” was pure madcap glee on a level not too dissimilar to Wrong Hole’s equally shameless, equally deranged lyric video for “Wrong Hole“. There are times when total insanity can be kind of beautiful. I’m not sure this is one of them but it’s still ridiculously fun.

6. Kid Moxie & The Gaslamp Killer – Museum Motel

No music video kept ricocheting around the corners of my brain more than this deeply unnerving clip from Kid Moxie & The Gaslamp Killer. Operating on a visual level that rivals what was achieved in Under The Skin, it uses waters, shadows, and contrast in a darkly seductive fashion that burrows its way into any brain fortunate enough to find its way over. An ingeniously subtle use of superimposed imagery on a lone snare drum drives up the feeling of unrelenting loneliness and palpable loss. It’s a deeply alluring and deceptively minimal visual representation of a stunning song. One that’s worth putting more than halfway up a “Best of 2014” list.

5. La Dispute – Woman (Reading)

Since this was the last one of the last non-list features to be posted here, it’d seem redundant to simply retrace everything that’s already been said.

4. Girlpool – Plants and Worms

Catleya Sherbow created this unbelievably stunning clip for Girlpool, 2014’s best duo, and touched on a number of pressure points- namely, acceptance and doubt. In the end, it’s about acceptance, and while that message does come laced with a visual that could potentially double as suicide, it still somehow manages to come off as comforting. “Plants and Worms” hits with the force of a world-stopping realization and echoes long after it ends, providing a staggering moment of beauty for Girlpool and a warm reassurance for just about everyone else.

3. clipping. – Work Work

Yes, the video for “Never Gonna Catch Me”- the Flying Lotus and Kendrick Lamar collaboration- was incredible. Not a lot of people are going to dismiss that claim. However, it’s another destined-to-be-iconic clip from that genre field that made a deep(er) impression on me; the video for the clipping. and Cocc Pistol Cree collaboration “Work Work”. Tracing a narrative arc that uses a laser-sharp focus on the act of curb-stomping, enhanced by some thought-provoking visual surrealism, it immediately became one of 2014’s most arresting clips and its status hasn’t let up. If there was a tracking shot more provocative than the one at the start of “Work Work”, then I’d love to see it. Until then, I’m just going to keep returning to this one.

2. Cymbals Eat Guitars – Warning

No clip from 2014 came imbued with more unwavering passion than the Crosshair-starring clip for “Warning”. All anyone needs to see is the thumbnail shot for this video to see a glimpse of how unfailingly heartfelt “Warning” winds up being. Matthew Reed tapped into a transcendental kind of magic that collapses a variety of bridges (age, taste) with a near-shocking ease. Ever since this was first released, I’ve been revisiting it with a great frequency because, like most great art, it pulls the viewer back in and rewards investment. Breathtakingly lensed, brilliantly edited, and furiously paced, this was a perfect accompaniment to one of the year’s most emotionally-charged records. Cymbals Eat Guitars may have intended the song to be a warning about love and loss but, backed by the video, it becomes one of the year’s most life-affirming moments.

1. PUP – Guilt Trip

Back in 2013, I had the honor of naming PUP’s “Reservoir” the best music video of 2013 for PopMatters. While that video was a cathartic release that was a near-perfect representation of the maelstrom of a particularly rowdy live show, their video for “Guilt Trip” (once again speared by the creative team of Chandler Levack and Jeremy Schaulin-Rioux) was a much more serious affair. Weirdly attuned to my own childhood experiences probably lent it a few small favors in terms of my esteem but, doing my best to separate myself from that strange fact, it boasts a series of career-bests from Levack and Schaulin Rioux: cinematography, editing, the performances they elicited from an impressively talented young cast, narrative, and overall direction among the list. “Guilt Trip” also includes one of the most genuinely heart-stopping moments I’ve seen in any clip, infusing it with a sense of brutal reality (if only for a moment), emphasized by a single shot that drives the point home. My initial claim that it could have a shot at carving out a spot for “Video of the Decade” still doesn’t seem so far off- but it’s worth keeping an eye on Levack and Schaulin-Rioux to see if they can keep repeating a ridiculously impressive pattern.

Watch This: Vol. 48

The 48th installment of Watch This reads like a laundry list of this site’s favorite places to cull videos from; Allston Pudding, The Chris Gethard Show, and Little Elephant among them. Live versions of songs that have previously been fawned over resurface with new levels of urgency and old treasures prove their longevity. Every performance that gets featured here is impassioned and clearly illustrates the respective band’s obvious connections to their own music (with a strain of apathy-fueled music growing steadily prominent, this is- unfortunately- more of a rarity than common occurrence). Trying to wax poetic about most of these videos in this paragraph would most likely just wind up doing them a disservice, so: sit back, turn the volume up, ignore the time, lean in, and Watch This.

1. Little Big League – Property Line (Little Elephant)

There hasn’t been a band in quite a while to pull off what Little Big League achieves by virtue of this placement; this is their third consecutive video to appear in this series- in as many weeks- and they’re all from the same Little Elephant session. So, some straight talk: “Property Line” is one of the year’s best songs and the band’s current career-best effort.  Even though the live version doesn’t have the benefit of those chill-inducing horns, it retains its formidable pull. As always, the band reveals themselves to be an excellent live act and provides several reasons to get excited about their upcoming LP, Tropical Jinx.

2. Sweet John Bloom – Aging In Place (Allston Pudding)

Allston Pudding’s made a habit of making impressive live videos- this outstrips all of their previous work with an assured ease and a new level of confidence that suits them well. An extraordinary live-edit that features a stunning performance from emerging act Sweet John Bloom to promote their upcoming full-length, Weird Prayer. Expertly marrying high-energy basement pop with deliriously frantic post-punk, it’s inclusion would have been an easy decision as an isolated standalone- the additional edits towards the video’s close put it way over the top and render it one of the more artistically inclined live videos to ever appear in this series. Don’t skip out on this one.

3. Protomartyr (La Blogotheque)

Protomartyr’s Under Color of Official Right was one of the highlights of 2014’s first quarter and it’s held its ground ever since its release. Here, the band teams up with La Blogotheque to film stripped-back live performances of “What the Well Said” and “Scum, Rise!” in the moats of Saint-Malo, a port city in France. It’s a fitting backdrop for the band’s take on post-punk, something that bears the influence of their Detroit home. Unsurprisingly, it’s spectacularly shot and bizarrely compelling, continuing La Blogotheque’s unique penchant for producing live footage that excels on those levels.

4. Jeff Rosentstock & Friends – Hey Allison! (TCGS)

Don Giovanni comedy darling Chris Gethard hosts a show. These shows host live acts. It seems that nearly every time a video of these performances surfaces, it earns a spot in this series. Jeff Rosenstock‘s “Hey Allison!” has already emerged as one of the more relentless earworms of the past few weeks and the live version is an all-out blitz. Anytime anyone puts this much heart into music this good, it’s going to earn a write-up. The Chris Gethard Show also has the unique advantage of utilizing a crowd of misfits being encouraged to be as weird as possible, turning single song performances into outright events. There are few things more encouraging than watching a band and an audience enjoy each other’s company in equal measure at an absurdly high degree. This is can’t-miss entertainment.

5. METZ – Get Off! (Pitchfork)

METZ was one of the more unforgettable debuts of the past few years and the band’s live show, easily one of the best around, pushes those songs to exhilarating heights. Employing humanism and sonic annihilation at roughly the same pace, anytime the band takes the stage it’s a small victory for everyone involved. Here, they tear through a fired-up version of “Get Off” and incite some fierce reactions from an adoring crowd. METZ themselves remain as entertaining as ever, putting just about everything they have on the line every time they take the stage- and they’re showing no signs of slowing down.

Thalassocracy – Shimensoka (Stream)

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Today saw the release of three fuzzed out songs. Two were heavily indebted to shoegaze while the other was a wiry post-punk bruiser. In the case of the former, one of those songs marked one of the most interesting anomalies of Mogwai’s considerable career. “Teenage Exorcists” found the band sidling up to a sound that wasn’t too dissimilar from The History of Apple Pie. Bratty vocals, fuzzed-out riffs, swirling guitars, bright vocal melodies, and a killer middle eight all add up to one of the most intriguing sidesteps any major name’s made this year. Joining Mogwai in the ranks of great bands releasing strong shoegaze-leaning basement pop songs today was The Lees of Memory, a band that features at least one ex-Superdrag member. That 90’s influence pays huge dividends on the towering “Little Fallen Star“, a slow-burning six-minute cut from the band’s just released Sisyphus Says. In the territory that wasn’t overtly occupied by a punk-laden ambient sprawl Thalassocracy‘s “Shimensoka” bared teeth sharp enough to ensure that it’d get noticed.

“Shimensoka” is aggressively minimal without also blending in the increasingly trendy chaos a la Parquet Courts and Naomi Punk (not to mention an endless amount of others setting up camp with that formula). It’s Thalassocracy’s contribution to Art Is Hard’s increasingly on-point Pizza Club singles series. Opening with a few light touches of organs, that soft palette is quickly cut to shreds by a jackknife rhythm section and a threatening guitar line, which is fitting considering the song’s title (shimensoka is a Japanese word with a meaning that roughly translates to “facing extreme hostility; defeat is inevitable”). Populated by genuinely strange moments, it becomes an incredibly compelling look at what Thalassocracy is capable of achieving. They’ve already got an impressive pedigree, thanks to a lineup that boasts members of Grubs and Slothboat. Easily the darkest track of today’s trio of tunes- it’s also the most hypnotic, aptly showcasing the band’s penchant for quiet ferocity. “Shimensoka” is a remarkable step forward for a band that seems intent on making a run of things. Expect to be hearing more about them in the future.

Listen to (and download) “Shimensoka” below and sing up to be a member of The Pizza Club here.