Heartbreaking Bravery

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Tag: Sore

2015: A Year’s Worth of Memories (Stephen Tringali)

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Last year Stephen Tringali turned in a piece for this series about working on Chastity Belt‘s “Black Sail” music video. In 2015, he worked on a slew of new projects including his debut feature-length documentary Corridor Four, which centers around an officer from the K-9 unit — and military veteran — who was experiencing PTSD after the bravery he exhibited on 9/11, rushing into the Pentagon to attempt to save as many lives as possible.  It’s a big leap from directing and serving as the cinematographer on videos for bands like Big Ups, Low Fat Getting High, and Roomrunner. Here, he talks about seeing Pile play for the first time, discovering Pill Friends, shooting their latest music video, and lists his top 10 albums of 2015. Read it below and hold onto the things you find inspiring.

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My first great musical memory of 2015 was finally getting to see Pile perform. I live in Los Angeles, and I don’t think the band makes it out to the west coast that often. When I saw they’d be playing Los Globos in late March, I marked the date on my calendar and prepared myself to turn down any gigs that might conflict with it. Needless to say, the show was excellent.

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Pile, Los Globos – March 29th, 2015 – Ilford 35mm Black & White 3200 ISO Pushed One Stop

Later that year, I had the chance to make a music video for this group from Pennsylvania called Pill Friends. I honestly can’t remember how in the world I found their record Blessed Suffering, but hearing it brought me straight back to high school in Central Pennsylvania. Since moving to Los Angeles, I’ve grown increasing interested with nostalgia and childhood. What images bring up those memories. How to access them after a long time has passed. I wanted to somehow recreate that feeling of growing up in suburban/rural PA for this video.

The band didn’t have much in the way of a budget, so flying back to PA to shoot this video was out of the question. I decided instead to hitch a ride with a college friend on his way back to Denver, CO and stop off in this small town called Leadville, CO where another college friend was working. We spent 3 days filming the people in the town in a kind of documentary style. It was perhaps the scariest premise I could have come up with for a music video because there was such a huge chance that it would fail. What if no one there wanted to be filmed? What if the town didn’t really have the look I was after? What if we were snowed in for most of the time? There were a million things that could have gone wrong.

And maybe that’s why it’s one of my most memorable experiences from this past year. I wanted to make a video that felt less staged, more impromptu, and more genuine than previous videos I had done. Strangely enough, it worked out. There was something exciting about having no clue what we were going to film that day. Plenty of people said no thank you; please don’t film me. But there were other folks who were completely open to the idea. Mechanics, barbers, skateboarders, kids playing basketball. The result turned out to be a really wonderful portrait of the town.

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LEADVILLE, CO – November 2015

And finally, I got to have coffee with Michael Sincavage of Low Fat Getting High. I made a music video for his band in early 2015, but all of our communication up until that point had been via e-mail or phone. It might seem a little strange, but I don’t actually get to meet many of the bands I make music videos for in person. I’m really proud of the video I made for LFGH and so thankful that Michael gave me an unusual amount of creative control. It was great to finally meet him in person and talk over coffee. There was just something so encouraging and positive about that experience—that I could make a new friend simply because we connected over e-mail and collaborated on a project together.

My favorite records from 2015:

1. Sleater-Kinney – No Cities To Love
2. Dilly Dally – Sore
3. Car Seat Headrest – Teens Of Style
4. Screaming Females – Rose Mountain
5. Built To Spill – Untethered Moon
6. Courtney Barnett – Sometimes I Sit And Think, And Sometimes I Just Sit
7. Yowler – The Offer
8. Ava Luna – Infinite House
9. Pile – You’re Better Than This
10. Protomartyr – The Agent Intellect

-Stephen Tringali

2015: A Year’s Worth of Memories (Amanda Dissinger)

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Photograph by Dean Stafford

I don’t actually remember how I first met Amanda Dissinger but I’ve become increasingly grateful for that moment. Ever since that initial introduction, she’s been ceaselessly supportive of just about everything I’ve decided to do and has been a constant voice of reason. It’s why whenever I travel, I take the gorgeous collection of poetry she released last year, This Is How I Will Tell You I Love You, with me as a road companion. We call each other “the best” in an eternal loop with no trace of irony. If she sends me a promotional email for one of the several artists she does publicity for at Terrorbird Media, there’s a decent chance it’ll just devolve into a long string of short email blasts about what’s happening in our lives. For a very brief time, we shared door duties at Baby’s All Right and allowed ourselves to be inspired by the surroundings it offered. Not just one of my favorite authors but one of my absolute favorite people, it’s an honor to be hosting her writing on this site. Below, she tackles a night with Dilly Dally and Julien Baker that rekindled her love for the city where she resides. Read it below and then find a reason to celebrate your own surroundings.

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2015 was a weird year for me. I wrote a book, fell in love, moved to a new apartment, recovered from a weird mysterious muscle illness, and got to work with many rad bands in my full time job. I made new friends, I lost friends, I traveled all over the country, etc. etc. Though it may sound cliché, music is mostly what got me through it all. This year, I got to see some of my very favorite acts in the whole world- from my high school loves Death Cab for Cutie, new favorites like Weaves, and dozens of amazing bands that I do press for from Heaters to Total Makeover to Keeps, and friends’ bands like Big Ups and Charly Bliss.

I got to travel to Toronto for NXNE (by myself) and become immersed in the awesome scene there that’s spearheaded by the amazing Buzz Records and bands like Odonis Odonis, Greys, and Dilly Dally (more on them later). I went with coworkers to Raleigh, NC for Hopscotch Festival and while I had no expectations going in about the town, I became enamored with it, and with its diverse venues and friendly natives. I fell head over heels for Austin, TX and the lively music scene there, encouraged by my boyfriend, a wonderful musician, and the venues he frequents- Cheer Up Charlies, The Mohawk, and Barbarella (for dancing to ’80s music only).

However, this year in music can be best summed up by one cold night in November, when I got to see two of my favorite new artists perform in a back-to-back marathon concert night. In 2015, all of my favorite albums were released by females or female-fronted bands. I loved Carly Rae Jepsen’s whimsical Emotion, the ass-kicking albums by Bully, All Dogs, and Hop Along, and the catchy-as-hell releases from Bad Bad Hats and Laura Stevenson. Above all though, two albums that represented the polarity of my feelings — and the two that I loved the most — were Julien Baker’s Sprained Ankle (representing my vulnerable, emotional and nostalgic self) and Dilly Dally’s blistering, raucous Sore, showcasing the assertive, in-your-face person that I aspire to be.

Miraculously, I got to see four of the artists that made my favorite albums in one week in November in a way that only New York sometimes operates- Tuesday: Bad Bad Hats at Baby’s All Right, Wednesday: Carly Rae Jepsen at Irving Plaza, and Saturday: Dilly Dally at Baby’s, followed by Julien Baker at Mercury Lounge. Though I was recovering from a gnarly cold that week, I still absolutely 100% needed to run around like a chicken with my head cut off and see both of these artists responsible for music that touched me so deeply.

Before that night, I had seen Dilly Dally about three times since 2013. My friends in Toronto who run the aforementioned Buzz Records release constantly hypnotizing and brave music from incredible bands (like all the ones I mentioned above- Weaves, Greys, Odonis and Odonis, as well as bands like The Beverleys, HSY, and so many more). They are all smart, incredibly nice and wonderful people. They’re also my favorite label and everything they touch turns to gold.

By now most people have heard the thrilling ’90s tinged Sore, and I’ve probably listened to it about 1000 times since its release in October. I was thrilled to see a headlining set from them after the album release, especially since I only caught a bit of them at CMJ at like 1am at Santos Party House. At Baby’s, they were at their best, impressing the really large and enthralled crowd who packed the small, sweaty room to hear melodic yet hard-edged tracks like “Green” (one of my favorites since their 7” of it), the pulsating “Desire”, and “Purple Rage”.

I caught most of their set and hopped over on the train with a few people I ran into at the show to see Julien Baker, whose album absolutely devastated me like nothing else I can remember, both on first listen and the many subsequent listens. Singing about addiction, heartbreak, and loneliness, Sprained Ankle stops you in your tracks- after I heard the whole thing in mid-October, I couldn’t listen to anything else.

Once Baker started her set at Mercury Lounge that night, the crowd went so silent that you could hear a feather drop in the room. Her songs were filled with lust and love and memories and I stopped breathing, I’m sure. Her songs are meandering and honest and fearless. In one of my favorites, “Everybody Does”, she sings “you’re gonna run/it’s alright everybody does/you’re gonna run when you find out who I am.” Though her set was too short, I was already 100% certain that everyone I know needed to see her live and hear her album and I am 100% certain that her performance broke my heart.

While it’s a bit sappy, the night reminded me of the reason why I moved to New York. Though I’m still relatively young, I recently lost interest in going out as much as I did when I was 19 or 20 and hopping to two or three shows a night. I felt alienated from the crowd and from the people around me, people who I used to be friends with and see all the time. Before that night, I would go out, stay at a show for an hour or so and immediately go home, lonely and disinterested.

That night in November reminded me of why New York can be so magical, and it gave me something I really needed. It made me realize that sometimes cool things don’t have to be terrible, and sometimes things can change, and the music, the people, and you can all be better than ever.

-Amanda Dissinger

15 of ’15: The Best Albums of 2015

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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.

Watch This: Vol. 108

Once again, there’s been a brief interim since the last Watch This was posted but, as ever, a lot of great material has surfaced in that time. In this volume, there will be an emphasis on full sessions and artists who have made numerous appearances on the site over its two years of existence. All five of these artists have earned glowing reviews for their live shows and are, in a lot of ways, inextricably connected to Heartbreaking Bravery’s development. Only one of these clips is a performance of a standalone song and it’s one of the most gripping live captures of the year. So, as always, sit up, wind down, focus, adjust the settings, and Watch This.

1. All Dogs (Audiotree)

Watching All Dogs‘ exposure explode in 2015 thanks to the release of their extraordinary full-length debut, Kicking Every Day, felt genuinely gratifying. The songs in that collection, like any Maryn Jones-led project, feel brave and personal. Every song is relatable to an extent that’s almost painful; our own damage is reflected in Jones’ interior grappling, which suffuses every ounce of Kicking Every Day. In a live setting, those songs gain even more impact and Audiotree expertly captures that with  this very worthy session.

2. Bully (KEXP)

One of the first shows I saw after moving into an apartment in Brooklyn was thanks to a tweet that sent me sprinting towards Rough Trade. What followed was a whirlwind set by site favorites Bully, that largely pulled from their outstanding Feels Like. KEXP recently hosted the band for an in-studio session that once again finds the band nailing the seemingly paradoxical marriage between sounding polished and downright ragged. Exhilarating and fairly composed, it’s a fascinating look at one of 2015’s most deserving success stories.

3. Waxahatchee (Ithaca Underground)

Katie Crutchfield has been one of the most consistently enthralling songwriters of the past 10 years, elevating a staggering number of projects that have managed to find a near-reverential status among their respective communities and beyond. Eventually, that devotion spread outward and expanded into national recognition only shortly after her first collection as WaxahatcheeAmerican  Weekend, was released. Crutchfield’s released two more records under that moniker (and a few as half of Great Thunder) in the time that’s followed, with both Cerulean Salt and Ivy Tripp finding spots in numerous best-of lists at high-profile publications. Here, Ithaca Underground presents Crutchfield performing an arresting (and beautifully shot) solo set that leaves the audience speechless. It’s a powerful document of an artist who continues to find new ways to impress.

4. Dilly Dally (KEXP)

Dilly Dally came into 2015 riding a wave of buzz surrounding the staggering brilliance of their first few singles and capitalized on those early flashes of potential with ferocious abandon. Nearly every item the band released this year wound up inspiring several paragraphs worth of attention from this site and a few extremely strong reviews for their inspired (and, frankly, inspiring) live shows. Sore, their full-length debut, just served as the cherry on top of an already-appealing sundae. KEXP recently brought the band in for a full session and they responded in kind, gifting the studio an appropriately searing performance.

5. Saintseneca – How Many Blankets Are In The Wolrd? (ANTI-) 

Throughout 2015, ANTI- has produced some of the most beautiful live clips in recent memory (a handful of which have been prominently featured in this series) and that streak continues with this beautiful presentation of Saintseneca‘s Zac Little performing “How Many Blankets Are In The World?” while walking through what appears to be a drainpipe. Easily one of the year’s most gorgeous live captures, this is both a spellbinding performance and a masterclass in composition. Even when Little’s plunged into near-complete darkness, the song itself serves as the clip’s functioning heart, generating a thoughtful overall effect. When Little finally emerges back into the light, it’s a sequence that feels oddly moving, finalizing this as one of the year’s most complete offerings in this category.

Dilly Dally – The Touch (Music Video)

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Continuing on with the onslaught of catch-up posts, we return once again to a fiery live-edit clip from one of Toronto’s fiercest live bands: Dilly Dally. An easy CMJ highlight, the band annihilated what seemed to be impossibly high expectations and delivered two of the best sets of the year. A site favorite since their first single, it’s been a joy to watch the band ride the crest of a surging wave of acclaim for Sore, one of 2015’s best records, and deliver at an extraordinarily high level on every platform they’re given. “The Touch” is just the latest in a string of triumphs and, despite Sore being their debut album, it already feels like a victory lap.

As atmospheric imagery is overlaid and intercut with performance footage, “The Touch” takes on the manic feel that partially defines the band’s aesthetic while also bring another important dimension into focus: the idea that there’s inherent beauty to be found in things that most would perceive as ugly or mundane. There’s always a certain emphasis on elegance at the surface of Dilly Dally’s work, whether it’s Sore‘s arresting album art or in their previous music videos, that comes laced with a confrontational moment; nothing’s ever truly at peace. “The Touch” reinforces that ideology with its vivid imagery, relentless energy, and bruising commitment, providing the band with a fitting final flourish to a year where they became one of music’s most distinctive new voices.

Watch “The Touch” below, pick up a copy of Sore here, and explore a list of some of the best music videos of the past few months underneath the embed.

Post Life – Dissolve
Stove – Aged Hype
MMOTHS – Deu
Day Wave – Come Home Now
Tracy Bryant – Subterranean
Beautiful Breakdown – Transmission Party
Line & Circle – Like A Statue
Julia Holter – Silhouette
Lou Barlow – Nerve
The Dirty Nil – No Weaknesses
Yvette – Calm and Content
Adam Busch – Tiger
Menace Beach – Holidays are Heavy
The Lonely Wild – Snow
Beliefs – Leaper
Soupcans – Crimes 1
NRVS LVRS – 2 Young 2 Know
Beach Slang – Bad Art & Weird Ideas
Suede – Like Kids
Little Fevers – Bones
Unknown Mortal Orchestra – Necessary Evil
The fin. – Night Time
The Shrine – Coming Down Quick
Cave Curse – Stoned & Dethroned
EL VY – Silent Ivy Hotel
The Lonely Together – Congregation
Girls Named Benji – Murder Shoes
Vulva Culture (x4)
Yassou (x5)

CMJ: Day 2 Review

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To get this straight, right off the bat: CMJ’s second day of festivities was the first day I participated in the proceedings so the title from this point forward will be reflective of the official festival dates and, due to the timely nature of the visual edits that something of this magnitude necessitates, there will be additional supplementary material to this post (and all of the forthcoming review posts) in the near-future.

The very first band I saw at CMJ wasn’t actually a band that I saw play; The Midwestern Charm were in town from Milwaukee, WI and deserve another mention in this space because, despite my best efforts, there level of press/exposure is still lacking (though their recent deal with Texas Is Funny is helping make some amends). After a brief hangout stint in the Artist’s Lounge and at a pizza place, I hopped a train to The Cake Shop where I’d hoped to catch the final two acts. Unfortunately, site favorites Diet Cig had just wrapped when I arrived. Balancing that misfortune out was the fact that I still arrived in time to catch all of Worriers’ set, a band I’ve attempted (and subsequently failed) to see at least five times over the past few months.

Worriers packed in a lot of material from their recent effort for Don Giovanni, Imaginary Life, including their career highlight “They/Them/Theirs“, which was an easy set highlight as well. Immediately after their set, which packed enough power to be memorable, I made the walk over to Santos Party House for NME’s unbelievably stacked showcase. As soon as I managed to sneak past security and into the venue before doors were opened, I linked up with Perfect Pussy, who have meant an extraordinary amount to both myself and this site (they can be at least partially credited for its existence).

I’d initially planned on attempting to catch every act on the bill but the prospect of a trip out to Chinatown with Perfect Pussy and a photographer from The Village Voice (who was dutifully shooting the evening’s events for the publication) proved too tantalizing. After sipping tea and watching everyone devour some dim sum, everyone made the trek back to the venue. The rest of the evening was spent running up and down a flight of steps separating two rooms that were hosting alternating sets.

Hooton Tennis Club were first up on the upstairs stage and managed to make a strong impression by virtue of stage presence and some genuinely catchy songs that skew heavily towards powerpop but have enough punk bite to avoid being pigeonholed into the genre. Car Seat Headrest were the next featured band and, riding a massive swell of buzz on the back of their deal with Matador, had a lot of expectations to meet and surpass. They mostly succeeded but were hampered early on by some strange sound issues. Everything had been resolved by the end of their set, which harbored enough heat to justify the intimidating amount of hype.

Well before Car Seat Headrest had wrapped their set, Seratones had kicked off what seemed to be a powerhouse set on the upstairs stage. Infusing blues, soul, and a healthy portion of straight rock n’ roll, the band came off as a towering force. Comparisons to Alabama Shakes seem inevitable but most will likely seem a little misguided. In any case, as soon as this band’s name starts circulating on a larger scale, they’ll be coveted by festivals and a frighteningly large army of people. As soon as the band closed their set, it was back down to watch Nico Yaryan take a considerable amount of time to set up before riding a few overwhelmingly pleasant songs into the territory of an oddly disjointed sleepiness.

Yaryan’s indie-folk outlier set warranted a return visit to the upstairs stage, where Yung kept my attention rapt by pouring everything they had into a ferocious set of hardcore-leaning basement punk numbers that was at least somewhat reminiscent of NE-HI, albeit a version of NE-HI that was a lot more pissed off. It was the perfect antidote to the preceding proceedings and acted a desperately-needed shot of adrenaline. Shopping (UK) kept that energy going downstairs with a set of minimal post-punk that had a lot of people dancing (myself included). Every song in the band’s catalog is deceptively complex but the band delivers everything with ease (and occasionally throw in a wink or a smile for good measure).

Protomartyr has been picking up all kinds of acclaim for their latest release and a hint of furthered confidence could be evidenced in the band’s characteristically deadpan presence. All of the new songs immediately stood out as highlights and kept a growing audience incredibly engaged (of the three times I’ve seen Protomartyr, this crowd was the most appreciative by far). Before their set ended, it was back to the stairwell for the umpteenth trip down the same flight of stairs to (finally) catch Downtown Boys.

While I’m still lukewarm on their recorded material, the band’s a juggernaut live. Vocalist Victoria Ruiz comes off like a vigilante dictator, espousing rousing political speeches about broken systems between songs (speeches that often serve as extended introductions to the song) before the very talented band finally joins her explosion. The crowd was whipped into a frenzy only a few songs in, which was my cue to run upstairs to catch Perfect Pussy.

As mentioned above, this site has a long history with the band (it was built primarily as an outlet for me to have a place to interview the band’s vocalist, Meredith Graves, who quickly became the patron saint of this place by featuring it in any way she could whenever she was given the opportunity). Even with that history running deep, I’d never seen the band play without their synth player, Shaun Sutkus. Sutkus was away on business (he’s still very much a part of the band, so rest easy, concerned parties) but everyone else was present and ready to go.

The band delivered a typically blistering set that included a new song entitled “The Women” that was written as a sort of pro-Planned Parenthood war cry. It was one of the first glimpses at the band’s new material, which they’re justifiably excited about releasing. Seemingly nothing but left turns, stop/start dynamics, and a variety of other compelling tricks, “The Women” is one of the most fascinating things that Perfect Pussy have ever played to an audience. While it didn’t quite get the roaring reception of “Interference Fits“, there’s no doubt in my mind that it’s well on its way.

As soon as Perfect Pussy started winding down, I made a beeline for the basement to see a band I’ve waited nearly two years to see: site favorites Dilly Dally. Playing to a crowd at around one in the morning can be a difficult prospect, especially when you’re already dealing with the pressures that accompany having one of the most celebrated records of the moment. Throw in my own personal feelings about the band and the anxiety levels were high; could they live up? Dilly Dally responded by throwing down a monstrous set that exceeded the confines of the festival and quickly registered as one of the best sets of the year.

Every conceivable aspect of a live show was covered: the banter was entertaining, the band’s four members all fully committed to their stage presence, they conjured up a wall of sound that was enough to send shockwaves through my torso without ever having any sound issues, and at one point Katie Monks– the band’s vocalist/guitarist– got intense enough to break a string. Monks’ voice on its own is an incredibly powerful thing and she can wield it like a loaded weapon but when it’s supported the way it is by her bandmates, it becomes unforgettable.

By the end of Dilly Dally’s set, they’d played a handful of tracks from 2015 highlight Sore, “Candy Mountain“, and covered Drake with a surprising level of menace. It was a jaw-dropping set and provided the perfect note to end an opening day of showgoing. Unforgiving in its raw power and weirdly poetic nature, Dilly Dally’s performance set an unbelievably high bar and the rest of this week will be given an added element of intrigue: will anyone be able to top what they pulled off? It’ll be exciting to find out.

Dilly Dally – Purple Rage (Music Video)

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It’s been an insane stretch since the last update on this site went up. Hundreds of items have been collected, a handful of shows have been documented, and everything’s been accounted for as its emerged. Since there’s so much material to catch up on, the posts will be divided by format and focus on one  individual piece. First up is yet another extraordinary clip from site favorites Dilly Dally, who now seem constitutionally incapable of creating  anything less than near-perfection. Everything they’ve released so far has been ceaselessly praised on this site and, despite a surprisingly large handful of feature spots in those posts, they still haven’t released a full-length. “Purple Rage“, the band’s latest single, has expectations for their impending debut set tantalizingly high and now they’ve got another memorable music video pouring fuel on that fire.

Dilly Dally have separated themselves from their peers by a commitment to thematic narratives in their music videos and “Purple Rage” may be the most exquisite example of their dedication to date. In various statements about the record’s underlying ideologies Dilly Dally have constructed a world of guttural instinct and basic humanism that they’ve carefully expanded on through both their songs and videos. “Purple Rage” errs more towards the uglier side of the emotional spectrum, touching upon things like disgust, fear, and- of course- rage. Directors Adam Christopher Seward and Stefi Murphy also hint at dysmorphia in the clip, presenting their central character as, almost impossibly, a literal and metaphorical symbol for dejection.

It’s an effective trick that’s only enhanced by the derision that the character was met with in real time as the video was filmed in its various crowd-heavy locales. As a character study, it almost says more about the creature’s surroundings than the creature itself, while providing a heavy amount of empathy to its central figure. Deeply cinematic, unflinchingly bold, and more than a little fearless, “Purple Rage” is the mark of a band who’s characterized by their determination to not only push forward but to continuously challenge themselves to improve as both people and artists in the process. There’s an intimate beauty to be found in things most would presume to be inherent ugliness and “Purple Rage” drives that point home by not just understanding but willfully celebrating the mundane aspects of life.

As a piece of art, “Purple Rage” is as striking as it is exhilarating; an unforgettably beautiful portrait of humanism and it’s delicate dichotomy of the grotesque and graceful elements that comprise our identities.

Watch “Purple Rage” below and pre-order Sore ahead of its release date here. Below the video, explore several other memorable clips that came out in the recess since the last post appeared.

Trust Fund – Football
The Libertines – Heart of the Matter
Seagoat – Your Side
The Spook School – Binary
Thayer Sorrano – Crease
Kirt Debrique – Tell Me How You Know
John Grant (ft. Tracy Thorn) – Disappointing
Waveless – Dark Day
Nocando – Osaka
Julia Holter – Sea Calls Me Home
Mal Blum – Better Go
Kiwis Cure Batten – Team Ball Player Thing
Carroll – Alligator
Majical Cloudz – Silver Car Crash
NOTS – Reactor
Vundabar – Oulala
HSY – Sally

 

 

 

 

Dilly Dally – Purple Rage (Stream)

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It’s been a busy week on multiple levels. Accordingly, there’s been a small gap in coverage. Of course, the release schedule towards this time of year clicks into fifth gear and unleashes a cavalcade of new material upon an unsuspecting public. All three formats had multiple entries worth multiple listens and looks. Chief among them, as usual, was the individual song slate. Since covering all of the great songs to have come out over the past few days would be pointless from a pragmatic standpoint, they’ll be listed below- and it has been a strong few days for this particular category. A large handful of the songs contained in the list below the song in the headline would have been featured on any given day over the past handful of months. That, of course, also bolsters the strength of the song that can lay claim as this post’s focal point: Dilly Dally’s fierce “Purple Rage”.

Over the past year, Dilly Dally have established themselves as a serious force, becoming one of this site’s most celebrated acts in the process. After coming dangerously close to topping the year-end list for 7″ releases, the band immediately set about crafting a debut full-length to capitalize on a shockingly strong statement and lay waste to the notion that whatever magic they tapped into for those first two releases couldn’t be sustained. Just about everything the band’s released this year has earned serious praise here and “Purple Rage” arguably tops them all. From the coy title- a winking nod towards the Prince classic- to the total embrace of anger (an aspect that informs and drives a lot of the band’s music), “Purple Rage” has all the makings of a knockout blow. In its execution, it exceeds those elements and becomes a jaw-dropping showstopper that showcases the band at their most relentlessly bruising.

Even its mechanics are notable; anger’s an emotion that rises and guitarist/vocalist Katie Monks’ vocals mirror that rise at the song’s outset, growing (subtly) more impassioned as the song progresses. Once again, the lead guitar tones seem to cut through the mix with a vengeance, all at once occupying a space that feels vibrant, eerie, and menacing. The rhythm section’s practically required to be frighteningly propulsive considering the song’s subject matter and it elevates the song to a higher level by both adhering to and subverting those expectations throughout the song’s three minute run-time. Every element acts in perfect complement to the others, conjuring up a foreboding, and maybe even threatening, atmosphere. It’s the kind of song that pierces immediately and then gleefully rips open the wound it created. Manic, wild-eyed, resilient, and unforgiving, “Purple Rage” is another meticulously crafted and deeply felt examination of base human instinct, allowing it to reside comfortable in an already shockingly brilliant discography. Should the rest of Sore live up to its previews, the band may have a viable Album of the Year contender on their bloodied up hands.

Listen to “Purple Rage” below and pre-order Sore ahead of its release date here. Below the player, explore a long list of some of the week’s most notable songs.

Saintseneca – River
Big Air – Vibe Patrol
Greys – Repulsion
Blessed Feathers – Wyoming/Dakota
Cold Sweats – Waste of A Day
Shunkan – The Pink Noise
Wildhoney – Laura
The Beverleys – Visions
Carroll – Green Acres
Season of Mist – Night Drive
Kisses – The Nile
Long Beard – Hates the Party
Language-Arts – Neighbor
Cuntz – Chinese Dream Boat
Sweet Talk – Witness
Shadow in the Tracks – Timeless
Braided Veins – A Means To An End
Little Fevers – Can’t Get Enough
Zola Jesus – Circles
Mansionair – Speak Easy
Fresh Snow (ft. Damian Abraham) – Don’t Fuck A Gift Horse in the Mouth
Beach Slang – Young Alive
Shmu – Pictionary
Youth Lagoon – Rotten Human
Hinds – Garden
Inheaven – Better Town
Chromatics – Shadow
Hiccup – Fuckup
Amy Bezunartea – Something To Show You
Roger Harvey – Lovers Can Be Monsters
Amanda X – Quilted
The Cribs – Wish I Knew You In the 90’s
Driftoff – Straphanger
The Mantles – Police My Love
Run Forever – Weight Under Me
The Diamond Center – Messenger of Wonder
Operator – I, Banana
Obnox – See Me
Chvrches – Clearest Blue 

Salad Boys – Dream Date (Music Video)

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It seems fitting that another stacked week for new releases would find a similarly overloaded endcap. Total Makeover, Soft Fangs, Blackalicious, and Cumstain all had incredible new songs while Melkbelly, Lindi Ortega, and Phylums unveiled outstanding records. Even with the strong representation for those categories, the day belonged to music videos. La Luz’s animated “Black Hole, Weirdo Shine“, sore’s delightfully low-key “elle le fantôme“, Pianos Become the Teeth’s startlingly heartfelt “Ripple Water Shine“, Sharkmuffin’s unapologetic “Tampons Are For Sluts“, Albert Ryan’s lyric clip for “Man“, Kaleo’s gorgeous, inventive “Way Down We Go“, Earl Sweatshirt’s classic, nightmarish “Off Top“, and Deaf Wish’s retro-influenced futurist vision “On” constituted an unusually strong field. Topping everything off was Salad Boys‘ curiously entertaining “Dream Date”.

The narrative through-line’s essentially non-existent in “Dream Date”, leaving the clip to function and thrive on its own singular energy. Directed by Ben Dodd and Salad Boys’ guitarist/vocalist Joe Sampson, the clip finds Sampson placed front and center in various scenic locations. While his isolation could serve as a commentary on loneliness, there’s a wryness and contentment that centers Sampson’s performance and suggests that being alone can be an extraordinary thing. It’s a deceptively clever setup anchored by a committed performance- and a spry basement pop song- that lends “Dream Date” an unavoidable vibrancy. Irreverent, funny, and impossibly light, it’s the kind of video that can act as a reminder of the joy of simply being alive.

Watch “Dream Date” below and pre-order Metalmania ahead of its September 18 release date from Trouble In Mind here.

Royal Headache – Another World (Stream)

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

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

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

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