Heartbreaking Bravery

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Tag: SideOneDummy

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: Ending Another Short Stretch of Static

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We’ve officially arrived at the 950th post of Heartbreaking Bravery, which means it’s time to offer up another mixtape of some sort or another. Since the Watch This series has maintained radio silence over the past two and a half weeks it only felt appropriate to turn to the over-abundance of incredible material that’s surfaced in that time frame. The 25 clips included below range from old favorites to promising new faces, single songs to full sessions, and generally cover the range of what the series was created to support: the very best of the live video platform. It’s unlikely that anyone will watch through the entirety of this packet (as it runs for nearly four hours, if viewed uninterrupted) but it’s worth taking the time to both explore and return to all of the performances contained in Ending Another Short Stretch of Static. So, as always, kick back, focus up, adjust the settings, settle in, and Watch This.

1. Car Seat Headrest – Fill In the Blank (Pitchfork)
2. The Spook School – Gone Home (BreakThruRadio)
3. Meat Wave – Sham King (SideOneDummy)
4. Weaves (3voor12)
5. Ron Gallo (Audiotree)
6. Dusk – Shift Towards Tenderness (This Means War)
7. Izzy True – Which Wish (Bedhead Sessions)
8. Royal Headache – Carolina (Pitchfork)
9. Royal Brat – Avoider + Broken Step (Radio K)
10. Girl Band – Paul (Pitchfork)
11. The Coathangers – Burn Me (Radio K)
12. Japanese Breakfast – Everybody Wants To Love You
13. Free Cake For Every Creature (WKNC)
14. Fear of Men (Audiotree)
15. Majical Cloudz – Silver Car Crash (q on cbc)
16. Jade Imagine – Stay Awake (3RRRFM)
17. Tele Novella – Heavy Balloon (Do512 Austin)
18. Margaret Glaspy (KEXP)
19. Kevin Morby (NPR)
20. PWR BTTM – New Hampshire (WFUV)
21. Wand (KEXP)
22. Declan McKenna – Brazil (The Late Show With Stephen Colbert)
23. Lucy Dacus (NPR)
24. Ólafur Arnalds (ft. Brasstríó Mosfellsdals) – Dalur 
25. Julien Baker (Primavera)

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)

2015: A Year’s Worth of Memories (Chris Sutter)

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Very few bands have meant as much to me as Meat Wave, who I’ve written about over and over on this site and in other corners of the music world. Their self-titled debut remains one of my favorite records of all time and is still the only cassette that I’ve listened to so much that some sections of it are damaged (a modest estimate would put the number of plays at over 200). In 2014, they played the first Heartbreaking Bravery Presents showcase (their set that night remains one of the most meaningful moments I’ve experienced in music) and I got to know them as individuals a little better, which, on a personal level, made their 2015 run feel even more celebratory. Last year, they signed to SideOneDummy, released one of the best records of the year, one of the best compilation EP’s of the year, and toured the world. They made their name known but retained their humility. Here, guitarist/vocalist and principal songwriter Chris Sutter takes a look at an extended moment he experienced with Drive Like Jehu at the Denver Riot Fest stop that reminded him of the importance of music. Read it below and remember to hold onto the moments where everything clicks into place.

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2015 was the craziest year of my life. The epitome of bittersweet. Life is very mystifying. I’m half-trying to figure out how it all works, half-trying not to disturb it and let it do its thing. The latter has worked out for me more thus far. What makes us all so drawn to or obsessed with music? Or anything for that matter? And how is it that music has provided me with so many amazing opportunities and experiences? I think that you can’t expect anything from it, and in that it presents things to you. That’s how it works in the Meat Wave camp, keep your expectations very low and usually it’s a lot better than what you thought it’d be.

Before the year began, we more or less agreed that we would focus more than ever on traveling, touring and playing well. Because why the fuck not? Yolo. So that’s basically what we did. We released an album in September. We toured the UK and Europe three times(!). We went to fucking Iceland. Toured the US and Canada. We got a beer and a sandwich named after us. We saw so many bands we respect and love. Met so many amazing people. Basically, if we did this, it’s proof that literally anyone can do whatever the fuck they want if they work hard, sometimes make some sacrifices and just really want to do it. We are the luckiest people. Purely. Undeserving, really.

In late August, we drove to Denver, Colorado to play Riot Fest. A mixed bag of bands and artists, with some real gems thrown in. We had no idea how people would respond to us, whether we’d get a good slot, etc. (remember, low expectations). We made a long weekend out of it and brought our friends Andrew and Jonathan with us, which sweetened the deal so much more cause they’re the best. Upon traveling to the fest we were informed that we’d be opening up one of the main stages, essentially opening for Drive Like Jehu and the Pixies, two of my favorite bands ever. Fuck.

That morning we arrived we were golf carted by our liaison to the stage to soundcheck (this never happens). It was the most gorgeous summer morning, a cool breeze mixed with hot-ass sun rays beating down. The fest took place in an open-air arena/jumbo parking lot where they do rodeos. As soon as we got to the stage we realized we were surrounded by all the Pixies gear and they had just soundchecked (WTF).

A couple hours later we played, real early in the afternoon. T’was good. The rest of the day proved to be really bizarre and fun. I was just kind of geeking out the entire time. “Oh shit, there’s the motherfucking GZA eating” or “Captain Sensible just came in to our dressing room (never happens either) and woke Joe up to give him a beer.” We met Andrew W.K. We got up so close to see Iggy Pop, suddenly I turn around to see Thurston Moore, excited as I am, both of us taking pictures of Iggy and his leathery-ass chest. We saw the Pixies, Modest Mouse, Bootsy Collins, Dead Milkmen, Tenacious D, and Snoop Dogg that night. But nothing compares to Drive Like Jehu.

I thought I’d never in my life be able to see Drive Like Jehu. Those guys’ bands influenced me so incredibly much. Just the epitome of badassery. So at the risk of seeming like greedy little snobs, we asked the super generous stage manager Keith if we could get on the side of the stage for Jehu, to which he obliged. So there we were, on the side of the stage as the sun was setting watching Drive Like Jehu expertly put everyone to shame. Tear-inducing. Pure power.

About midway during their set, I look over and there’s fucking Jack Black standing right next to us watching Jehu. WTF. How did we get here? I drunkenly and idiotically said hi to Jack Black. He gave me a thumbs up. But seeing Drive Like Jehu that night was life-affirming. Throughout the year, I’d been wrestling with the prospect of putting so much time into music and sacrificing a lot to do it. Is it worth it? Is it too self-indulgent? What about my future? But it is this moment in seeing Drive Like Jehu and many other moments over the course of the year that slapped me in my dumb face and clearly stated “yes, this is right. Nothing else matters if you have a deep love for something.” Very cheesy, but actually true as hell.

It’s proof of not only music’s, but life’s mystical powers. We’re just huge fans and nerds and students of music, and in that found ourselves surrounded by so many people we had respected and loved for years. It’s given us the opportunity to play to and meet amazing people all over the place; the restoration of my faith in humanity! 2015 kept reminding me of this and how lucky we all are to be able to share and experience in this era of art and music.

-Chris Sutter

2015: A Year’s Worth of Memories (Jamie Coletta)

jamie coletta

One of the people that I bonded with the most over a sheer love of music was SideOneDummy‘s publicity genius, Jamie Coletta. Connecting over everything from our incredibly extensive appreciation for Meat Wave to things as trivial as The Office’s use of silence, it’s been a joy to get to know her over the past year. The world could stand to use more people with her levels of passion and understanding.  Having just run David Anthony’s piece on Coletta, it felt appropriate to run her piece for this series next. Here, she reflects on becoming Microwave‘s manager and her appreciation for her family. Read it below and continue pursuing the things worthy of your unfettered belief.

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Taking Chances

Last year, with the help of Brian Kraus at Alternative Press, I stumbled upon a band from Atlanta, GA called Microwave. All it took was one night and a gram of California’s finest for me to fall completely in love with their debut album Stovall. I remember sitting on my bed, stoned to oblivion, realizing I had just listened to the entire album without stopping once. You guys realize how terrible most bands early/self-releases sound, right? Usually you get through a couple songs and keep their name in the ether of your memory but that’s about it. You never listen to the whole thing without skipping. That’s just ludicrous.

Well that night, I did.

I immediately scoured the internet assuming I’d find one of my A&R peers already on the case, but as you likely know the end of this story since I’ve told it about a million times, I found nothing. I started talking to them casually a few weeks later (truth be told, it was a conversation about The Office that sealed the deal) and before you knew it, we were family. They performed on Audiotree Live in December of 2014. Up until then, things seemed to be moving at a normal pace for a band of their size, but once the Audiotree session went live, everything changed.

All the labels and managers I thought would have initially been interested started calling, and I encouraged the band to feel out all of their options. I knew I wanted to sign them to SideOneDummy but wanted to make sure they felt comfortable before making a decision. At that point, I had never even considered managing a band before. The idea was just so far from my brain.

I met Microwave at SXSW in Austin, TX in March of 2015. We met the first day I arrived and spent every single day of the festival together. I’ve met a lot of people in my life but never have I clicked with a group of people as fast as I did with these guys. That week ended up being crucial in our future as a team. They locked in their booking agents and we started talking about bigger picture goals together.

Before we parted ways, it was like we all just knew. Still, I hadn’t even muttered the words “manager” yet. I sat in the airport waiting for my flight to depart when a manager friend of mine called to ask about their situation. It was the light bulb I needed. After reflecting on that week together and re-listening to Stovall another couple hundred times, I brought it up with the guys and that was that. The adventure of my life began.

Since then, I obviously signed Microwave to SideOneDummy Records. I worked with them to release a split 12’’ with a band from Buffalo, NY called Head North, their first proper release on the label. I also confirmed their first full US support tour with Have Mercy, Transit, and Somos. By the end of 2015, I locked in what will be their biggest touring opportunity to date, supporting The Wonder Years and letlive.  this spring.

If you had told me a year ago today that I would start managing a band and help propel them towards this kind of success by years end, I wouldn’t have believed you. This whole process has taught me the importance of stepping outside of your comfort zone, and I can’t wait to step even farther with these guys in 2016.

Feeling Whole Again

Let me preface this by saying that my family has always been incredibly supportive of me and my endeavors. While at times, especially the beginning, I’m sure they felt skeptic and fearful as I boarded a one-way plane to Los Angeles to work in the “music business” with “punk bands,” they’ve always shown extreme pride and enthusiasm for the life I have built here. But this year, two of them in particular stood out to me in their unwavering display of support.

My brother is four years younger than I am, studying to be a physician’s assistant, and lives in Coventry, Rhode Island. He has two fantastic dogs, a Siberian Husky named Luca (yes, he named his dog after a Brand New song) and a White German Shepherd named Jet (okay, to be fair, this is my mom’s dog but my brother moved and couldn’t bare to separate him from his best friend, Luca). He’s almost as obsessed with The Office as I am, which makes for the easiest gift-giving process of all time.

Like the rest of my family, my brother has always been supportive but this past year, he really took it up a notch. He joined the SideOneDummy Vinyl Club, pre-ordered records (even bought multiple variants of some), stopped into his local record store to check for our releases, and decorated his home with some of his favorite S1D releases. I can’t really explain why but this has had a profound effect on me this year. Every time our warehouse manager would tell me something like “Jamie, your brother just bought two flags and another Microwave variant,” I felt whole.

My sister is two years older than I am, works in social media marketing, and lives in Seattle, WA. She has an incredible wanderlust, having traveled all over Europe and about to embark on a three week solo adventure to Australia and New Zealand. For all intensive purposes, she is my polar opposite in life. As we grew up, we started to notice our characteristic differences, and at times we let it get the best of our relationship. But today, as adults, we find our common ground and a lot of times, it’s music.

My sister almost never misses a SideOneDummy band when they come through Seattle. She’s even gone to see bands she barely knows. She lets them sleep on her floor and get bitten by her dog. My bands are like extensions of my family. They’re my best friends. So whenever I would get a text from her with a photo of them on stage, or hear from them saying that she was super cool and welcoming, I felt connected.

You see, I have this picture (see: the photograph at the top of the page). I’ve kept it in my wallet for years. There’s my older sister (left) and I with our baby brother. I grab it at times when I feel scared, alone, homesick, nostalgic. I hold it in my hand all folded up and squeeze it tight. That picture makes me feel whole. It takes me back to a time of innocence, a time where even if things may not have been so great, it didn’t matter. I had them and we had each other. When you live 3,000 miles away from your family, it’s these little moments I hold onto the most. So sure, my brother simply buys stuff from the record label I work for and my sister steps over sweaty dudes to get her coffee. To anyone else, this may mean nothing. To me, we’re back in that picture again, arm-in-arm, without a care in the world.

-Jamie Coletta

2015: A Year’s Worth of Memories (David Anthony)

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Photograph by Dan Wilcox

Last year, David Anthony (pictured above, second from left) turned in a heartfelt piece about seeing The National with his mom for the first edition of this series. This year, he’s taken the time out of his busy schedule balancing time between fronting the excellent Birches (featured in the above photo) and relentlessly featuring bands over at The AV Club, where he works as an assistant editor, to spotlight another important person in his life: Jamie Coletta. Here, he covers the trail of events that ultimately led to one of 2015’s most exhilarating live clips and ultimately reminds himself to be thankful for his current position, doing work he genuinely loves. Read it below and then find a reason to celebrate the things — and people —  that make life worthwhile.

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The short answer to this question [what was the most meaningful moment for you in 2015] would be one name: Jamie Coletta. There are many great people who work in the music industry — and, though i hope they are being weeded out, a bunch of shitty ones — but few are as passionate as Jamie.

It all started when, in the winter of 2014, she emailed me about a tour she was working on, featuring Andrew Jackson Jihad, The Smith Street Band, Jeff Rosenstock, and Chumped. She asked if the site I work for — The A.V. Club — would be interested in presenting the tour and, given my love of these artists, it was an opportunity I was happy to jump at.

It’d be ridiculous for me to claim credit for Jamie’s work, as she did all the heavy lifting, but together we hatched a plan to get the bandsto do one giant, raucous session when they rolled through Chicago. The result is a wacky video that sees AJJ and Jeff putting together a mashup of songs previously covered in the A.V. Undercover series. While there have been many great Undercovers over the years, none mean as much to me as this one. There was such a pure exuberance in the room that emanates in the video, with the bands rushing through songs, switching instruments, and giving all of themselves in the performance.

This entire experience is something that still doesn’t feel real to me. Even though I only played a tiny role in making it all happen, I’m thankful every day for Jamie giving me the chance to work with some of my favorite bands on this wild thing. And, watching the video now, it still strikes me how lucky I am to even have the chance to work with such amazing people. It’s a feeling that I hope doesn’t fade any time soon.

-David Anthony

 

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.

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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.

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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)

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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)

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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)

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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.