Heartbreaking Bravery

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Tag: Sleeper

Watch This: Vol. 158

Last week’s Monday-Sunday stretch yielded a large handful of outstanding live videos. While normally Watch This segments run on Sunday, this one (and the posts soon to follow) were held back by outside circumstances. The posting on Heartbreaking Bravery will be more frequent going into the future. Getting that rotation started is this crop of clips, which were strong enough to render compelling takes from the following as honorable mentions:

Jesca Hoop, Sigur Rós, Los Gold Fires, AJJ, Hurray for the Riff Raff, Dolfish, The New Pornographers, The Regrettes, Amy O, Sean Rowe, Desert Mountain Tribe, Weyes Blood, Hollerado, Vagabon, Future Islands (x2), Craig Finn, Noname, Deap Vally, Jonny Grave, The Smith Street Band, Car Seat Headrest, Hannah Lee Thompson, Hinds, Beach Slang, Liz Cooper & The Stampede (x2), Lou Canon, Sue the Night, Peter Silberman, Mipso, Juliet K, Ceschi, Anna Tivel, Lillie Mae, Bruise Violet, Hayley Heynderickx, Cold Country, Kyle Morton, Lisa Hannigan, and Kim Janssen.

As is typically the case, that’s a uniformly strong crop that reflects well on the selected features. So, as always, take a seat, calm down, take a deep breath, adjust the settings, lean in, and Watch This.

1. Vagabon (Audiotree)

A staple on this site for a few years, Vagabon‘s finally beginning to receive the levels of admiration, acclaim, and attention they’ve deserved for some time. Touring heavily on one of 2017’s finest releases thus far, the band recently found time to stop by the Audiotree studios and deliver a mesmerizing set. Running through several highlights from Infinite Worlds, the band remains in sharp form throughout and delivers one knockout blow after another, solidifying their status as one of today’s most exciting musical prospects

2. Lady Pills (BIRN)

Lady Pills have made a few brief appearances on this site but this two-song take for BIRN virtually guarantees them expanded coverage. Both “I Hate You” and “Irrelevant” reveal an understanding — if not outright mastery — of a very specific style of songwriting. Energetic, commendably contained, and compelling, the band lights into both tracks with both force and feeling. The instrumental segue that bridges the two songs is a thing of beauty and Lady Pills never stop providing reasons to commit their name to memory.

3. IAN SWEET (PressureDrop.tv)

When a label like Hardly Art shows interest in a band, there’s usually a handful of good reasons behind why they’re paying attention. Occasionally a band crumbles under the pressure or disintegrates in the face of a new set of challenges. IAN SWEET repaid that kindness in full, and then some, with their debut full-length, Shapeshifter. Following the record’s release, the band made a name for themselves on the live circuit. This full session acts as both a document and as definitive proof of their live prowess.



4. Forth Wanderers (KVRX)

A short while back, Forth Wanderers released one of the best EP’s of 2016 in Slop, a staggering career highlight by any metric. They’ve been hard at work ever since, promoting that EP and working on new material. In this intimate, stripped-down KVRX session, the band splits the selections between SlopTough Love, and offers a look ahead. All of the songs remain mesmerizing, even when scaled back to only guitars and vocals, aptly demonstrating that the band’s appeal — and talent — runs far deeper than the surface offerings.



5. Creepoid (Audiotree)

Creepoid‘s built a deeply impressive run over the span of their career, offering up plenty of fascinating twists along the way (the short film Ernest Undead being a notable example). In that time, they’ve also honed their live abilities, transforming into a tightly-knit wrecking crew that knows how to both enhance and accentuate the heaviness of their recorded material while still doing the ambient trappings justice. In this Audiotree session, they bare their teeth and clamp down, drawing a fair amount of blood.

Birth (Defects) – Ascetic (Stream)

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[EDITOR’S NOTE: With the site now entering emergency year-end catch-up mode thanks to the cruel, mocking nature of time, tonight’s trio of posts will simply be short reviews of the song(s) in the headline(s) and an accompanying list of tracks that deserve to be heard.]

One of the people that I’ve been fortunate enough to get to know since starting up this site has been Sean Gray, who- in addition to running Accidental Guest Recordings- has been an invaluable voice in contemporary criticism (especially as a leading figure in the accessibility movement). Easily one of the most knowledgeable figures in post-punk and hardcore, it shouldn’t come as much of a surprise that his own project, Birth (Defects), absolutely rip. “Ascetic”, the band’s first official single, is a punishing piece of music that has no interest in frills and lands its succession of blows with terrifying precision. Dark, violent, and teetering on the verge of chaos, it’s a captivating first look at a project that already feels as important as it does necessary. High velocity translates to maximum impact and no one’s spared an onslaught that leaves the kind of mark that deserves to be cherished.

Listen to “Ascetic” below and pick up “Ascetic b/w Forged” here. Underneath the embed, explore a list of great songs to have appeared over the course of the last several months.

Kevin Devine – No One Says You Have To
Our Girl – Sleeper
Sarah Neufeld – The Ridge
Wonky Tonk – Denmark
WALL – Cuban Cigars
Meercaz and The Visions – Kate… Actually
Past Life – Sever Your Love
Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever – Clean Slate
Berwanger – Demonios
The Gonzo Show – Roxy’s Rage
Beverly – Crooked Cop
Heron Oblivion – Oriar
Joseph Sant – Nor’easter
CTM – Escorted/The Road
The Gromble – Real Sympathy
Eugene Quell – London Pollen
Le Rug – 1779
The Post – Easy Way Out
Eight Bells – Hating
The She’s – Cherry Red
The Brainstems – Red Line

Iceage – How Many (Stream)

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To put it mildly: it’s been a great day for music videos, unexpected niche releases, and cover songs. Everything that will be receiving a hyperlink in this article was, at one point, set to be today’s feature. From the unexpectedly dazzling cover of the Squidbillies theme song that Neko Case provided for the television show’s season premiere to the lovely visual collage Alvvays offered up as the accompanying video for their lilting “Next of Kin“, it’s been a day of unlikely surprises. In other corners, Grape St. kicked off a Burger series that’ll feature bands from the label performing short sets on-air, Fear of Men delivered a stunning take on Ty Segall’s “Sleeper“, Heat released an impressive video for “Rooms“, and The So So Glos released another outstanding music video for a song off of 2013 highlight Blowout (bringing the overall total to 6). Virtually all of those were highlight-reel worthy pieces for their respective artists and have their own respective merit- but none of them managed to stand out as emphatically as Iceage’s most recent Plowing Into the Field of Love reveal, “How Many”.

After making a tremendous impact with “The Lord’s Favorite” and “Forever“, the increasingly intriguing post-punk band re-affirms the potential for Plowing Into the Field of Love to be a legitimate masterpiece. While Iceage’s first two records, New Brigade and You’re Nothing, were fine releases in their own right, they were easily characterized by a violent bleakness. This time around, the band’s seemingly traded in that approach to attempt something more expansive (and, arguably, more menacing). Where their used to be unrestrained viciousness, there’s now tension, subtle atonality, and total discord- and “How Many” goes to impressive lengths to showcase just how brave of a record Plowing Into the Field of Love (which is due out October 6/7 via Matador) is shaping up to be. From a subtle percussion trick that recalls the proto-industrialism of Einstürzende Neubauten to the unfiltered major key piano progression that interlopes with the vocal melody but acts in stark contrast to much of the rest of the song’s presentation, it’s abundantly clear that Iceage are embracing new ideas with a completely unexpected (but entirely welcome) amount of maturity, verve, and conviction.

There are sections of near-euphoria in the chorus that punctuate the intimidating slow-build of “How Many”, proving that their grasp on the tension-and-release dynamic is as considered as “Forever” suggested it might be (in the review of “Forever” it was noted that Iceage was starting to seem like a natural extension of early Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds- “How Many” re-affirms that thought). As if all of that wasn’t enough, Bender Rønnenfelt’s performance as both a vocalist and a lyricist has taken on a startling measure of depth as he grows further indebted to Southern Gothic in his prose and emerges as a courageous performer behind the microphone- one who’s willing to take sizable risks. Iceage’s rhythm section has become atypically tight and kinetic, while the guitar work remains incendiary. By coming out swinging with three of the year’s most memorable songs, Iceage have given Plowing Into the Field of Love a lot to live up to- and if it does, they may very well have 2014’s most important album on their hands.

Listen to “How Many” below and pre-order Plowing Into the Field of Love here.