Heartbreaking Bravery

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Tag: Sound

Dusk – Leaf (Music Video, Live Video)

The first two days of this week brought a lot of good things into the world, including songs from Post Louis, Pllush, Boys, Retirement Party, Julian, White China, Jaye Jayle, Aisha Burns, Hilary WoodsBad Breeding, and Emilie Mover. Additionally, there was a solid slate of music video from artists like gobbinjrSuperchunk, Skating Polly, Operator Music Band, Munroe, and Body Type. Full streams that came from No Problem, Blessed, Tunic, and Miracle Worker rounded things off in style. In the bed of all of those, there was also an announcement that seemed as it if may never come: site favorites Dusk signing to Don Giovanni records for the release of their debut full-length, released alongside a music video for one of the decade’s best songs in “Leaf”.

It’s an announcement that comes hot on the heels of the band’s Dirtnap 7″, The Pain of Loneliness (Goes On and On) b/w Go Easy, which was featured here last week. That review touched upon the band’s identity, something that “Leaf” helped form in their earliest stages. There are certain songs that have the power to make you believe in a band from the jump and, even more rarely, there are songs that can rip through a person so forcefully they’re left on the verge of tears after one listen. “Leaf” is both.

The first song pianist/vocalist Julia Blair wrote for the band, even in its earliest iteration and was the kind of song that had the capacity to level crowds, leaving more than a few people breathless. In the four years since the song was released on their demo, “Leaf” has evolved with the band, the edges of booth smoothed out and refined. There’s a tender sheen “Leaf” carries, indicative of the care that’s been poured into the song over its journey to a proper release.

Now, the song has a video to do it justice, courtesy of Finn Bjornerud, who’s handled the band’s other clips (and a handful for bassist/vocalist Amos Pitsch’s flagship project, Tenement). Anchored by lived-in performances from Rachel Crowl and Helen Kramer, the clip pays tribute to the song’s narrative while offering up the quiet visuals that define life in small-town Wisconsin (and a host of other small towns the country over). Still, Wisconsin feels specific to the band’s music and that kind of celebration is always worth noting, especially when it comes from unexpected places that are too-frequently glossed over or discarded in the pursuit of something bigger.

It’s that kind of dedication and sense of place that’s informed Dusk’s music from the onset but it’s never been extended to their visuals as beautifully as it has with “Leaf”. Landscapes both wintry and autumnal switch back and forth, tethered together with a warmth and determination that the cold seasons seem to bring out in Wisconsin’s citizens, “Leaf” finds its source of life in the smallest moments. Grocery shopping, chopping wood, loving greetings, and prep chef work all play parts (as, of course, do shots of hard liquor).

At every second, in every frame, there’s a resilient grace and a sense of affection on display. That level of welcomeness has been the band’s modus operandi since their formation and it’s only strengthened over time, a sensibility that’s escalated in their music as they moved forward. It hits its current apex here with “Leaf”, Blair’s overlaid harmonies acting in accordance with meticulously crafted visuals, creating the kind of warm blanket that the band extends to its listeners at their best. And make no mistake, “Leaf” earns a spot in that pantheon. This is the type of release that’s worthy of remembrance.

Watch “Leaf” below and pre-order Dusk from Don Giovanni here (and if you’re one of the first 300 to reserve a copy, you’ll receive an additional bonus 7″).

Watch This: Vol. 93

Occasionally there are weeks where there are simply too many excessively strong live performance clips to highlight with just one entry and this week’s established itself as being of that caliber. It’s a rarity that there are exceptions to the setup of five featured clips and an honorable mentions list of hyperlinked material because it’s generally best to err on the side of brevity for these things. I’m not sure I can conjure up a more ringing endorsement than that for the 10 featured clips that will be running tonight and. as usual, that still leaves out a select few one-time feature candidates. Those performances came from the following acts: The Tallest Man On Earth, All Get Out, Mitski, The Superweaks, Glen Hansard, People Like You, and Screaming Females. The excellent nature of those videos also serve a dual purpose as an indicator of the featured clips’ level(s) of quality. So, as always, sit up, adjust the volume, adjust the screen, lean in, focus, and Watch This.

1. Bully – Bully (Sound Opinions)

A few months ago, Bully lit up Rough Trade and proved beyond a shadow of a doubt that they’re an incredible live band. It’s no surprise that this one-off for Sound Opinions crackles with a significant amount of energy. Led by Alicia Bognanno’s stop-you-in-your-tracks vocals it’s- predictably- a seriously impressive example of the band’s considerable amount of charisma and prowess in the live setting. It’s also unmissable.

2. Happyness (NPR)

Over the past few years, Happyness have built themselves a devoted following with their slightly askew approach to a very particular brand of 90’s indebted alt-punk. Now a small handful of records into their career, the trio stopped by NPR’s offices to deliver one of the year’s more memorable Tiny Desk sessions. Wry, wiry, and more than a little droll, they’re a perfect complement to a relaxed Sunday evening.

3. Murder By Death (Audiotree)

For whatever reason, now a large handful of releases into a remarkably consistent discography, Murder By Death still feel at least a little bit like a well-kept secret. This year’s excellent Big Dark Love flew mostly under the radar but saw the band perfecting a mix of their earlier works, which were dominated by a Southern Gothic sensibility, and their more current works, which I’ve frequently described as campfire-haze. Audiotree brought them in for a five-song session that let the band loose in a live setting, where they’ve always had the most pull. Unsurprisingly, the end result is breathtaking.

4. Torres – A Proper Polish Welcome + Harshest Light (Valeria Toumayan)

At this point, Torres has become a staple of this series thanks to 2015 highlight Sprinter and its accompanying post-release campaign. Valeria Toumayan was recently on hand to capture what stands as Torres’ ninth entry in Watch This and sees the young songwriter once again returning to the chilling “A Proper Polish Welcome” (that floating falsetto towards the end of the song kills me every time) as well as the gripping “Harshest Light”. Gorgeous and quietly devastating, this DIY presentation is a bold reaffirmation of Torres’ singular gifts as a solo performer and has a personal feel that perfectly aligns the approaches of the subject and the filmmaker.

5. METZ (KEXP)

METZ are a serious force in the live department. All three occasions I’ve been fortunate enough to catch the trio, they’ve delivered an unforgettable performance that whipped the audience into a feverish frenzy. On the first occasion, it was a small arts center in Champaign-Urbana, on the second it was a blistering homecoming show at a punk bar in Toronto, and- most recently– a midsize venue where the crowd killed the band’s power after being pulled onstage. While all the lights, amps, and various other electronics remain intact for this KEXP session, the band still throws down a blistering set (especially for a radio session) that acts as testimony to their relentless tenacity.