Heartbreaking Bravery

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Tag: Smokes

2015: A Year’s Worth of Memories (Lindsay Hazen)

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When I started Heartbreaking Bravery, its sole intent was to spotlight important voices that weren’t being granted the exposure they deserved. While in the early stages, it primarily featured songwriters, it evolved to include filmmakers, and then — finally — other writers. Anytime I made a new discovery, it gave me a surge of hope for the years to come. Even as some of these roles — especially that of the writer — grew more thankless, it was inspirational to see people who were willing to kick back against an intimidating current. After more than two years of meticulously combing through just about every resource I had to identify emerging talent, I still wasn’t adequately prepared for the pieces Lindsay Hazen was quietly turning in on her personal tumblr. Long-form essays on streaming platforms, deeply personal asides, critical dissections of movements and geographical circumstance; everything I read blew me away. It’s a sincere honor to be publishing her writing on this site and the piece she’s turned in may be her most definitive to date. Below, she explores her diagnosis, the artists that brought her joy and comfort, and the general shape of her 2015. Dive in and give her work a look whenever and wherever it surfaces.

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When I think about 2015, I get overwhelmed. It was a year marked by unmanageability, the sheer amount of events, information, and media unable to be synthesized, catalogued and understood in any satisfying way. My year started off memorizing the lyrics of Colleen Green’s “Pay Attention“, a song which takes up an attitude of assertive indifference to her attention deficiency. As someone whose lifelong fight not to doze off/get lost in the middle of conversations (and lectures, and my own sentences…) is an endless cause of anxiety, it’s such a relief to be able to embrace two and a half minutes of a right for my absent-minded brain to exist in the world, even to the point of sitting in judgement of others.

Whenever I listen to it, “Small talk on the bus, wondering how do some people talk so much/ Small talk at The Smell, talk so small you’d need a microscope to discern much at all,” I hear an echo of “Psycho Killer“, “You start a conversation, you can’t even finish it/You’re talking a lot but you’re not saying anything/ When I have nothing to say, my lips are sealed/Say something once, why say it again?”

It’s ending sort of like it began, anxious and cold. But on a cold December day, I weep quietly to Modern Baseball’s “The Waterboy Returns“. It comes on on my iPod, on the bus, and I run my thumb across the crack in the screen incessantly. I’ve never successfully made it through the song without crying and this is no exception. The first time I heard it, I sobbed hard and loud; now I just turn to the window and let the emotion wash over me, trying to catch my tears on my knuckles as they slip out past my glasses.

2015 was made up of moments like this. Being backpacked in the face by an aggressive guy at a Speedy Ortiz show, only to have them start a hotline just weeks later for people who feel unsafe at their shows. The way the stage lights at the Hard Luck Bar looked through eyes, brimming with tears, as I watched Sorority Noise perform “Using“, hearing the song for the first time. I didn’t cry then, blinked it away. I wonder if this is how normal people always feel. Accepted, joyous, okay. Among people who understand them.

Not drinking alcohol anymore because it’s disastrous for my anxiety, and spending the minutes between each band’s set admiring how brave the girls are at the show – an all ages affair. These teenage punks, eyes lined with black and bags covered in patches and buttons. So grateful that these girls have a place where they could yell and scream and jump; so in awe of how they held their own in a sea of giant men – at 24, I’m just learning to do the same.

The Sorority Noise record was my favourite of the year. I spent a lot of time in the early months of the year shouting songs off their 2014 effort Forgettable in the shower. The anticipation I felt for Joy, Departed was such an integral part of my year. Maybe it’s because it paid off, a powerful and direct series of emotional appeals that oscillate between soaring and slow-burning – sometimes within the same track.

It’s a record that dropped right as I realized that I wasn’t going to be able to stay in the city, just as I had to move away from my friends and my education and my life. It’s a record that I hope one day stands as a classic in the canon of art that explores man vs. self. It is certainly an album which elucidated many thoughts I had about my own mental illness, and led to my being able to develop coping mechanisms for the first time since my diagnosis. I still get a lump in my throat when I hear, “maybe I’m my own greatest fear/ maybe I’m too scared to admit that/ I might not be as dark as I think.”

Next to Joy, Departed, the record that had the most impact on me this year was Krill’s A Distant Fist Unclenching. Where Sorority Noise’s songs felt like the slow blossom of hope in my chest, a hand reaching out to pull me away from all the things I’ve done to myself and my life, Krill songs are like the first fidget coming out of stasis. All of the angles and dissonant reaches.

I can’t think of a song in the world I identify with more than “Brain Problem“, the drums skipping along like arrhythmia and the lyrics part confession and part prayer. Before listening to Krill I didn’t think of there being a separation between my mental illness and my self. Krill gave me a sense of personhood that I was starting to be too jaded to believe I would find in music anymore. I won’t go on because they’ve been eulogized, praised and parsed by minds much finer than mine.

Everything Everything released my favourite pop album of the year, a dystopian rock opera continuing a loose narrative they introduced in the post-apocalyptic banger “My Kz, Ur Bf” a few years ago. Get To Heaven is an album that lets you revel in the sheer amount of evidence that you are the problem, because people are the problem, and we have let the world end around us – and are nostalgic for the way it happened all the same. “Take me to the distant past,” “Did you imagine it in a different way,” “Keep on rubbernecking, yeah, whatever feels familiar.”

There’s been a few difference thinkpieces on the increased awareness/acknowledgement of mental illness in music this year and I listened to a lot of music this year for aforementioned therapeutic/self-help kind of reasons. But, holy hell is it ever lovely to put on Get To Heaven and live in the world that Higgs and company have created – to feel a universalized misery and to find a narrative, to find humour and grand tragedy that leads to a greater sense of catharsis.

There were also a million punk/rock albums by women that just kicked my ass. The Speedy Ortiz record, the Palehound record, Dirty Dishes, Bully, Chelsea Wolfe, MarriagesG.L.O.S.S., The Lonely Parade, not to mention the valiant return of Sleater-Kinney. I don’t know why it’s harder for me to write about these records, or even to speak about them. I push them on others with half-formed sentences, gushing about something that escapes me.

I tell them about the loss and longing in the first moments of “Red Roulette“, and about how I woke up early one morning in August to sit in the backyard just after sunrise and listen to Abyss in full – how the record that reveled in so much lush darkness was somehow even more beautiful in sunlight so bright you could barely open your eyes. I tell the producer/songsmith at my work about how in my most anxious moments I scream along with the G.L.O.S.S demo because of what I can only term as its inclusive alienation. It is a record that feels made for moments when I feel alone and afraid in my house and in my skin. It is a reclamation of the space around me.

I guess the last big thing of the year for me was spending two months with Smokes’ debut, Zone Eater. It opens with the absolutely cutting lyric, “I know I need to evolve instead of revolving,” on “Dead Hand” and repeats into the chorus, continuing, “I need to evaporate, but I’m still devolving.” There’s a detectable desperation, in Nick Maas’ voice and echoed in both the guitar and violin that suggests a critical mass, a return of Saturn, a day that you make a choice and you don’t look back – the record is full of this feeling. Of looking into the face of nihilism and deciding to just fucking leap into being who you want to be.

It makes sense, I learned in reading the press surrounding the record that the second song on the record, “Lemonlime“, is a coming out song. It might just have ended up my favourite song of the year. “I used to be a mind among machines, now I’m a timebomb wearing tight jeans/I was a clock but I couldn’t tell time, but I can tell a lemon from a fucking lime.” “Now I’m a shark, and I still can’t tell time, but I can tell a lemon from a fucking lime.” “I’ve lost all my baby teeth, so what you see is what you’re going to get with me.” “I’m a fucking shark, I eat what I want.” I moved back to the East Coast – I still don’t know whether it was a good decision but “Lemonlime” is the song that made me stop worrying about it.

I finally acknowledged the loss of my own metaphorical baby teeth. Their early single “Body Heat” is on the record, and it’s the one that hooked me. It’s a cinematic song made for walking through the busy streets and feeling everyone move past you like a blur – the violin, fiddle-like, a soundtrack fit for a hero walking into the sunset. ‘’For once in your fucking life, wear your heart like body heat.” There’s a rawness to the emotion on this record that runs right through, even the most starkly Canadian indie music tendencies don’t obscure the boiling blood contained within. And there are songs like “Snakeskin,” that bypass all of that and head right for a heartland that falls somewhere between L’Acadie and Rasputina territory, thrilling and chilling me.

I guess to me, being overwhelmed by music was a welcome distraction from all of the other things that overwhelmed me. The music of 2015 reminded me of all the excitement and enthusiasm and effusiveness with which I loved music as a teenager. I felt so profoundly grateful for music this year. I guess that’s the place that I should leave off – knowing that the music I listened to this year helped me to rediscover the parts of my brain that I liked, helped me to realize that depression hasn’t taken away my ability to feel grateful and fulfilled. I slip out of the imposter syndrome that has cloaked me and all my decisions in doubt and though I stand about as tall as a concrete foundation, I have all of these songs; these melodies; these lyrics; these memories on which to build some fucked up, crazy, beautiful life in the coming year.

-Lindsay Hazen

Ernie – Sweatpants (Stream)

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As was stated earlier on,  it’s been a while since a single stream has been featured on this site- about three weeks to be exact. To remedy that, all of the songs that have been collected over that period of time (all of which made incredibly favorable impressions) will be featured in a trio of posts, beginning with this one. Each post will focus on one genuine standout and include a hyperlinked list of the others beneath the embedded player, bringing the site up to the present release cycle.

Kicking this process off is Ernie’s raucous “Sweatpants”, an unabashedly melodic song that’s not afraid of flashing some serrated edges. A towering vocal melody powers “Sweatpants”, while the guitar, bass, and drums surge underneath. Mining the typically rich field of malaise for lyrical content, Ernie finds a contrast between spry musicality and downtrodden lyrical content and exploits the divide to maximum effect. It’d be a tremendously downcast affair were it not for the defiantly energetic musical approach. Nuanced, balanced, and deceptively subtle, “Sweatpants” is a song that deserves to be in the collections of anyone who’s ever visited this site more than once.  

Listen to “Sweatpants” below  and pre-order Dog Park from Soft Speak Records here. Underneath the embed, explored a handful of other great songs to find release over the past three weeks.

Never Young – Stress Hed
Polyon – Blue
Haybaby – Doored
Puddle Splasher – Forget My Name
The Noise Figures – Shoot the Moon
Fern Mayo – Open Work
Sports – Get Bummed Out
Palm – Ankles
Roger Harvey – Arrow/Plane
Smokes – Lemonlime
Lilly Wolf – Terrible Mistake
Boys – Believe Anything
Shunkan – Paleontologist
Pity Sex – What  Might Soothe You
Violent Mae – In the Sun
See Through Dresses – Drag Scene
Kindling – Blinding Wave
Modern Baseball – The Thrash Particle
Swings – Sea
S.M. Wolf – We All Decided No
William Alexander – Giant Fade
Soldiers of Fortune (ft. Cass McCombs) – Old Roman Wall
Dumb Numbers – I Dreamed I Saw Jack Nance Last Night
Bambara – An Ill Son
Margot & The Nuclear So and So’s – Broadripple Is Burning (Living Room Version)