Heartbreaking Bravery

stevenmps2@gmail.com | @steven_mps | @hbreakbravery

Tag: split 7″

The Best Records of November 2018

November had a lot of records competing for attention, covering the various different ends of the spectrum. This post is a look back at some of that month’s best offerings, which seems like a worthy venture even with a new year only a few days out. Whether they were compilations or collections of entirely new material, these are records worth hearing. From local artists to retrospectives from genre legends, there’s a lot to digest. As always, each and every one of these titles are titles worth owning. Dive in below.

1. Wooing – The Clouds

A band that’s making some noticeable moves over the back half of the year finally got a chance to truly show off and seized the opportunity with a stylish fervor. Wooing‘s The Clouds is one of the best post-punk-meets-basement-pop 7″ releases of the year. Both sides come laced with a sense of nervous tension that’s embedded into the band’s icy atmospheric sensibility. Quietly thrilling and uniquely enthralling, The Clouds marks a true arrival for a band that’s living up to their potential.

2. The Weasel, Marten Fisher – Real Deal Therapeutic Bullshit

Over the past decade, Colin Bares has released an astonishing wealth of incredible songs through various projects. Good Grief, The Coral Riffs, Mr. Martin & The Sensitive Guys, The Cost of Living, and The Weasel, Marten Fisher have all earned coverage from this site, each tethered in some way to Bares’ unique songwriting sensibilities. Real Deal Therapeutic Bullshit is a compilation of tracks that have been uploaded to soundcloud over the past two years (with a few extra thrown in for good measure) and ably demonstrate Bares’ uncanny ability to acutely plumb the depths of what it is to be human. Whether it’s the melody, composition, lyrics, or vocal delivery, this is music that stays with anyone who has the fortune of listening and definitively stakes a case for Bares as one of the best songwriters operating today.

3. The Marked Men – On the Other Side

There’s a case to be made for The Marked Men as the golden standard for the basement pop genre and that case would only be strengthened by On the Other Side, a compilation of odds and ends that span the band’s career. Even the quartet’s outtakes would put most of the bands molded in their shape to shame. A raucous, jittery, adrenaline-fueled burst of energy, On the Other Side isn’t just a reminder of band’s strength but a statement; The Marked Men’s legacy isn’t going anywhere anytime soon.

4. Fog Lake – carousel

Shortly after releasing one of this year’s best records, Fog Lake returned with the carousel EP. A fascinating curio that flaunts an incredibly unexpected but entirely welcome ’50s pop influence. As is the case with the best Fog Lake works, carousel is playful, compelling, and haunting in equal measure. Where carousel becomes a singular work is in the commitment, presenting a complex vision that operates as if it’s an artifact that’s out of time. Transfixing and lovely, carousel puts a bow on a breakout year for a worthy artist.

5. Rick Rude – Verb For Dreaming

Rick Rude are a band that’s never received the recognition for their work that its strength warrants. Even with that being the case, the band’s giving that untapped audience every chance to latch on, having released a great record a year since 2016, each of them topping the last. Verb For Dreaming is the band’s new career high, an 11-song explosion of inventive, knotty basement punk. A tremendous effort from an incredible band.

6. Washer / Bethlehem Steel – Split

Exploding In Sound has been an inspiring source of consistency for many, many years and hasn’t showed any signs of wear. A split release between two of the roster’s finest acts, Washer and Bethlehem Steel only reinforces the label’s status. Washer‘s “Super Pop” kicks things off and rank’s among the duo’s best tracks, while Bethlehem Steel contributes a powerhouse from their end with “Fake Sweater”. Each band takes a turn covering each other, making this an indispensable capsule for any fan of the label or either band.

7. The Magic Lantern – To The Islands

Last year, “Holding Hands” provided one of the most breathtaking listening experiences of that time. Devastatingly tender and abundantly warm, the track served as an introduction-at-large to The Magic Lantern. “Holding Hands” acts as the album opener on the project’s newest record, the beautiful To The Islands. A spellbinding run through memorable melodies and narratives, To The Islands is the fullest realization of Jamie Doe’s artistic vision to date. A sublime work from start to finish, To The Islands is a record that’s easy to take in but impossible to shake.

8. Hutch Harris – Only Water

The Thermals announced their departure earlier this year but it only took the band’s guitarist/vocalist Hutch Harris a few months after the announcement to release a new record as a solo act. Only Water isn’t as brazen or as confrontational as any of The Thermals’ work but does allow Harris to explore from a more overtly introspective angle. Only Water operates at a slower tempo but Harris’ knack for intuitive narrative structures holds strong, making Only Water an essential record for anyone still heartbroken over the departure of Harris’ old flagship act.

9. Ellis – The Fuzz

Ellis has making semi-frequent appearances in this site’s coverage leading up to The Fuzz and now that the record’s finally here, that attention feels justified. A confident, mesmeric presentation of wintry atmospherics, bruising, introspective narratives, and startling dynamic, The Fuzz posits Ellis as a major voice. From dream-pop-tinted opener “The Drain” onward, The Fuzz sees Ellis in a loosely experimental mode that leads to the songwriter’s most memorable work, frequently yielding moments of unassuming brilliance. The Fuzz is a bold statement from an artist that shouldn’t be overlooked.

Mercury Girls – Holly (Stream)

mercury girls

A very full week of new material was essentially topped off over the past few days with excellent new songs from Fond Han (who nearly claimed this post’s featured spot), Bad Sports, Black Marble, TwistCarl Sagan’s Skate Shoes, JEFF The BrotherhoodTennis, Swimsuit AdditionHamilton Leithauser + Rostam, His ClancynessDuchess Says, benjamin783, Tom Brosseau, and Happy Place. There were also great music videos that were offered up by the likes of Trust Fund, Hazel English, Izzy True, Attic AbasementVomitfaceBeach Slang, Katie Dey, Jude Shuma, and, jordaan mason.  While the full streams weren’t as plentiful as they were at the start of the week dozer, Porridge RadioDrowse, Skux, Creative Adult, and Cay Is Okay managed to end the category on a series of strong notes.

At the end of 2015, Mercury Girls found themselves poised at the top of this site’s odds and ends list, thanks to their scintillating demo and live tracks compilation. Since then, they’ve been on a tear, readying their forthcoming full-length and finding time to participate in a four-way split and release an extraordinary 7″ in the process. Earlier on in the week, the band offered a glimpse at that forthcoming four-way split (with The Spook School, Wildhoney, and Tigercats rounding out the other three slots) by way of “Holly”, another sweeping gem of a song that masterfully blends the best of post-punk and powerpop into something that manages to become bittersweet and triumphant simultaneously.

“Holly” also sees the band’s knack for playing off each other increasing to a velocity that’s practically unmatched, generating the kind of momentum that will cause enough impact to knock out just about anybody. Whether it’s the surging guitars, the soaring vocals, the punchy rhythm section, or the band’s astonishing knack for composition, the band continues to seem mistake-free, casually igniting a fire that seems like it could burn forever. Mercury Girls, now several small releases into their career, have yet to release a track that feels anything less than miraculous.

In roughly three minutes, the band conjure up a winsome atmosphere, flawlessly navigate some galvanizing dynamic shifts, and offer up the kind of cohesive, grand-scale artistry that only the best bands ever manage to achieve. With “Holly”, Mercury Girls continue their breathless pursuit of perfection and — importantly — are showing no signs of diminishing returns (which is a fate that relentlessly plagues their niche genre). Inspired, breathtaking, and warm enough to be its own blanket, “Holly” has the capacity to inspire people to start their own bands. When all’s said and done, no compliment can be higher than that one.

Listen to “Holly” below and pre-order Continental Drift here.

Miss June / Astro Children (Split 7″ Review)

miss june

Tying together the final loose ends of the exceptional material that surfaced over this site’s recent mini-hiatus are full streams from the following: Silent Pictures, Puddle Splasher, Beef Jerk, Nona, The By Gods, and Lord Bendtner. As always, each of those titles are deserving of as many — and likely more — listens that they’ll inevitably receive but today’s feature spot falls to one of the year’s most ferocious split 7″ releases.

Each band provides one song to the split and each band makes that song count. Miss June (pictured above) kicks things off with an explosive burst of noise entitled “Anxiety on Repeat” that quickly falls into a back-and-forth pattern of frantic verses and monstrous sections of noise/punk that suggests some unholy union between Sonic Youth and Le Tigre. In under two minutes and thirty seconds, the band provides a whirlwind of pure exhilaration and unbridled emotion that dissects, embraces, and curses anxious impulses all at once. Abrasive, startling, and brilliant, it would have made the 7″ worth the purchase on its own.

Of course, Astro Children step up to the plate for the flip-side, grit the teeth and connect with all of their collective might. Their song, “When You Lose”, takes on a more sinister, insidious approach that slowly draws the listener in with a tantalizing sense of creeping darkness. Subtle, eerie, and altogether haunting, “When You Lose” shows the band operating at a level that many seasoned bands could never hope to match. It’s a beautiful complement to the meteoric force of “Anxiety On Repeat” and ultimately secure the split a spot as one of this year’s finest releases.

Listen to the split below and pick it up here.

What A Difference A Month Makes (Full Streams)

Let’s get this out of the way at the top: there hasn’t been a post on this site for roughly a month. A large part of that development is due to the fact that for approximately half of that timeframe, I’ve been on the road and either playing or taking in shows (the majority of which will be receiving coverage here at some point in the near future). During that stretch, a lot of material has surfaced. From extremely strong post-punk debuts to an astonishing, simultaneous 35-record release, it’s been a fascinating month. Below is a collection of some of the finest releases that have emerged over the past several weeks. Enjoy.

Gland, Phosphene, Husdon Bell, No Ditching + Baby Ghosts, Mean Jeans, Dump Him, Free TimeTender Age, Hurry, J. Robbins, Hayden Calnin, Wood Lake, Animal Faces, A Giant Dog, Haybaby, Museum Mouth, JulianCrossed Wires, Hovvdy, Nearly Oratorio, Psychedelic Witchcraft, Plants & Animals, Pity Sex, Those Pretty Wrongs, Tyler Jordan and the Negative Space, Grubby Little Hands, Beach Skulls, Lenguas Largas, Sorority Noise, TV SetsDoctor Barber and Fog.

Spice BoysYoni & Geti, Klaus Johann Grobe, Quinn Walker (x35), Colleen Green, Modern Baseball, skating, The Duke Spirit, Kikagaku Moyo, Star Parks, Hydropark, Pinkwash, Stone Cold Fox, Half Waif, Lacerate, microsoft saint, Mo Kenney, Hey Lover, Cave States, CE Schneider Topical, Dietrich & Barnes, Britta Phillips, Praise, Boyscouts + Ylayali, Oliver Wilde, Flasher, Acapulco Lips, Constant CompanionGrayling, and an outstanding new Z Tapes compilation.

Milk Crimes – Milk Crimes (EP Review, Stream)

mc

[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 album(s) in the headline(s) and an accompanying list of records that deserve to be heard.]

Every so often, a band explodes onto my radar by virtue of a simple email message and thoroughly captures my attention. Milk Crimes are one of these bands and their explosive self-titled EP, which recalls a number of acts from the impeccable Reeks of Effort roster at their most manic (while still clinging to the frantic pop sensibility that serves as one of their more defining elements).

Milk Crimes is comprised of five vicious punk-tinged basement pop numbers, each one barreling headfirst towards some unplanned destination. The trio trades vocals at will and are unified in their determinedly scrappy approach as individual musicians, conjuring up something that feels exhilarating because of the constant looming threat that it’ll all fall apart at any minute (yet never does). Wildly energetic and abrasively confrontational, it’s one of 2015’s finest hidden gems and deserves a lot more discussion than it’s getting. Get on board.

Listen to Milk Crimes below and pick it up here. Below the embed, explore a collection of some of the best full streams to surface over the past several months.

Sevdaliza – Children of Silk
Rubber Bang Gun – Making A Fool of Myself
Fórn + Yautja – Split 7″
Nervous Trend – Shattered
Val Hollie – Val Hollie
Total Abuse – Excluded
Ashland – Ashland
Bethlehem Steel – Docking
Lysol – Demo
Correatown – Embrace the Fuzzy Unknown
Jacobus – Jacobus
Goldmund – Sometimes
100% – Incantation
The Empty Gestures – Total Collapse
Z Tapes’ Christmas Benefit Compilation
Emily Yacina – Soft Stuff
The Just Luckies – Same Kids, Same Things
PC Worship – Basement Hysteria
Petal – Raspberry Cough
Skaters – Advent Calendar
Marvelous Mark – Crushin’

Mike Krol – Neighborhood Watch (Music Video)

mikekrol

After a relatively slow start, the Tuesday push of new releases saw the content push rapidly accelerating and left us with a little under three dozen items to cover. Once again, there were some strong full streams from great artists like Infinity Girl, Modern Merchant, Wild Moth, Peterborough Pirates, and The Invisible Strings (as well as the 16th LAMC split, this time between La Luz and Scully). A handful of great music videos made their way out into the world, coming from acts like Potty Mouth, Findlay Brown, The Good Life, Django Django, Sea of Bees, Whitewash, and Floating Points. Then, of course, came the slew of single streams that included outstanding new entries from a field consisting of no less than Spencer RadcliffeLow, Small Black, Sudakistan, Farao, Kevin Devine (covering The Cure), Varsity, Amanda X, Hurry Up, Blonde Summer, Library Voices, Antibodies, Active Bird Community, and Protomartyr. It was a lot to take in and literally everything linked above, as always, is worth checking out- but today’s focus falls to a name new to most but familiar to me: Mike Krol.

For years, Krol’s been involved with the DIY punk scene in the upper Midwest and found himself in frequent collaboration with the tragically under-appreciated (and sadly defunct) Minneapolis-via-Madison act Sleeping in the Aviary. It’s a collaboration that continues today (several of the band’s former members play on Krol’s upcoming Merge debut Turkey), which probably isn’t surprising considering how frequently they toured together (Sleeping in the Aviary was Krol’s backing band on more than one occasion) and the fact that Sleeping in the Aviary literally dedicated a song to Krol in its title on one of the best split 7″ records of the 2000’s.

Already a few great releases into his career, Krol’s deal with Merge has ensured a lot more eyes will be trained on his next few moves and so far, the songwriter hasn’t disappointed. After “This Is the News“, Turkey‘s fiery as hell lead-off track, it was abundantly clear that Krol’s wielding more power than ever- and doing it with an almost vengeful force. For his latest feat, he’s enlisted Rob Hatch-Miller and Puloma Basu to direct a screwball clip for Turkey highlight “Neighborhood Watch”. Adopting a vocal approach that has some uncanny similarities to Davey Jones of Lost Boy ? makes “Neighborhood Watch” sound immediately familiar (and endlessly enjoyable) on record, it’s the clip that pushes it over the edge. Emphasizing Krol’s penchant for irreverence and incorporating a barrage of winking edits, “Neighborhood Watch” infuses itself with enough self-effacing slapstick to make it one of 2015’s more enjoyable outings. For some tongue-in-cheek humor and yet another genuinely great song, this one’s going to be hard to beat.

Watch “Neighborhood Watch” below and pre-order Turkey from Merge here.

Meredith Graves – Took the Ghost to the Movies (Stream, Photos)

Meredith Graves XXII

One of the things I’ve been looking forward to about 2015 is the gradual unveiling of Meredith Graves‘ solo project. It’s something the tirelessly creative artist has had in the cards for more than a year. Now, after a near-torturous developmental stage marked by immovable deadlines and increasingly heightened expectations, the first look towards what that solo project might wind up sounding similar to has arrived. “Took the Ghost to the Movies” is Graves’ side of Kevin Devine’s  Devinyl split 7″ series. As an evolutionary step in Graves’ solo career, it’s full of intrigue. Bridging elements of her past projects- the damaged romanticim of the lo-fi folk outfit Mouse and the Love & Light Orkestra and the feral intensity of the wall-of-noise acolytes Shoppers, to create something that’s extremely representative of the trials Graves has faced throughout her personal life and her professional career.

I make that last claim with the benefit of knowing Meredith, who has consistently remained one of this site’s most avid supporters since the outset of the project, and her empathetic ideals. “Took the Ghost to the Movies”, more than anything else she’s done, has reminded me of specific moments that I’ve been fortunate enough to have with Graves. Whether it be letting an interview devolve into a Skype hangout session, letting our brains melt into nothingness on a small hammock in the middle of Pitchfork last year, the way she greeted me at NXNE when I showed up (relatively) unannounced in another country, NXNE’s tensest moment, staying up forever on Jes Skolnik’s couch waiting for food to be delivered, spending a summer lost in a cavalcade of exchanged calls and messages, or trading solo demos of new songs in an effort of encouragement to lessen the burden of the near-herculean task she was faced with while coming up with songs for her solo project.

All of those moments are present once again when I play through “Took the Ghost to the Movies” (something I’ve done more than 10 times at this point) but the one that sticks out most is the demo exchange. One of those demos stands out clearest. Having never heard any of Graves’ rawer material it was almost startling to hear a song coming from her stripped back to its barest essentials (nothing but acoustic guitar and vocals). The song itself was a serene ambient folk number with multitracked vocals that was devastating in its tranquility. It was a song I took with me; listening to it in secret through headphones on road trips or out in places where bodies of water met land and rock(s). Several storms were soundtracked by that small, humble recording throughout the summer and listening to it always felt like a warm embrace from a friend.

That song would become “Took the Ghost to the Movies”.

In its original stage, “Took the Ghost to the Movies” was entirely unexpected and inexplicably gorgeous. Over the past year, the song’s morphed into a sprawling beast of a song, finding its identity in a heavy shoegaze bent that was only hinted at in Shoppers. Opening with a gentle misdirect, “Took the Ghost to the Movies” suddenly unloads a series of brutal snare hits that sound like a slow-motion machine gun while a sprawling, dense, ambient guitar creates an atmosphere that’s both impossibly ominous and completely reassuring. In the SPIN feature where the track premiered, Graves brings up her appreciation for My Bloody Valentine, Slowdive, and Nothing, and the dichotomies that earned each of those bands their vaunted reputations (and, in My Bloody Valentine’s case, legendary stature) are reflected to some degree in Graves’ first outing bearing only her name.

Graves has endured a vile resistance that’s still (infuriatingly) the common norm when a powerful non-male voice emerges and is willing to fight for things that matter (just look at any of BrooklynVegan’s comment threads on literally any post involving Perfect Pussy or Graves for further proof). With that fight and those experiences come burdens. Regret, self-doubt, sadness, anger, frustration, and a whole host of other inherently difficult barricades to happiness. Fortunately, Graves’ skin is thick and she’s been able to find contentment, happiness, and- more often than not- vindication. It’s something that Graves’ troubled past has prepared her for and it factors into why she resists the things she finds harmful. It’s also how she can create things that sound as formidable (and as damaged) as “Took the Ghost to the Movies”.

Returning to guitar for the first time since Shoppers seems to have reinvigorated Graves’ quieter aggression. In Perfect Pussy, she’s allowed to be uninhibited in her presentation of that aggression thanks to unrestricted motion and an emphasis on, well, emphasis. For “Took the Ghost to the Movies”, the reintroduction of guitar has allowed her to tap into something otherworldly that enhances the atmosphere rather than punctuating the reasons it exists. It’s a subtle change of pace but it suits the song incredibly well, even as the drums threaten to destroy everything (and, in turn, create a slow-burn tension that propels the song into stunning territories). While Graves’ vocals are still buried, so is some of the pain that they illustrate. Not everyone that’s faced the things Graves has faced has made it out to tell those stories; it’s only natural that some of it’s a little more hidden than expected.

Triumphant, defiant, and inescapable, “Took the Ghost to the Movies” is as boldly confident as anything Graves (always and forever this site’s patron saint) has done, and it provides no shortage of hope for the songwriter’s future endeavors. Uncompromising and defined by slivers of hope in the midst of a surprisingly bleak landscape, the song gives Kevin Devine a lot to compete with for his side of the split.

Pre-order Devinyl Splits No. 2 from Bad Timing here and listen to the final cut of “Took the Ghost to the Movies” below. Underneath the embed, revisit a collection of photographs of Graves that have previously run on this site in conjunction with this site’s coverage of Perfect Pussy. Enjoy (and don’t hesitate on that pre-order).

14 of ’14: The Best Splits of 2014

banner

Once again, it feels necessary to start with a (likely unnecessary) disclaimer about the word “best” when it comes to year-end posts. “Best”, in nearly every case, is just shorthand for “most admired”, it’s not a stab at a definitive statement; in these kinds of rankings there’s no room for any perceived objectivity. Another quick note before diving into this list in earnest; for all year-end coverage, the first person narrative restriction that’s usually implemented here will be dropped to allow me to speak on a more personal level, as these are the released that affected me personally and reflect my own personal tastes. 2014 was a fairly strong year for split releases, which are experiencing a new level of exposure thanks to the renewed interest in cassettes and vinyl, as those are the two formats they’re on most frequently. There were two, three, and four band splits released over the past 12 months that ranked among my favorite releases in any format. As holds true for every year, not everything can be listened to (I’m sure something like the extremely limited-run Florist/Eskimeaux tape is incredible but I came to it too late to snag a copy) Labels have been rallying around these releases particularly hard, in part because there’s an allowance for collaboration with other like-minded labels that isn’t always possible with standard single-band releases. From bands covering each other on flip sides of the same tape to bands trading off places throughout a release to a few of the year’s best songs, there’s a lot to explore in the list below- a list that cheats the “14” rule ever so slightly with the rules being bent for the top two spots (it just didn’t seem fair to have two bands being responsible for four of the top five spots). Dive on in and hear 14(+) of the splits that deserve homes in as many collections as possible.

[EDITOR’S NOTE: A few of the releases included below are set to autoplay in weird parts of these releases so keep an eye out and listen to each in full.]

14. Adult Mom / Cyberbully Mom Club / i tried to run away when i was 6 (but got too scared to cross the street)

Cyberbully Mom Club quietly put together one of the most impressive runs of genuinely great releases this year and this split- with Adult Mom (who also had a pretty great year) and i tried to run away when i was 6 (but got too scared to cross the street)– still managed to be a standout effort. As spellbinding as it sincere, it’s a record worth keeping around for a very long while.

13. Big Ups / Washer

Big Ups are easily one of the most exciting bands of today and they keep pushing themselves to go further with each subsequent release. On this split with Washer, both bands give it their all and wind up with one of the stronger short entries in Exploding in Sound’s ridiculously impressive 2014 catalog.

12. Dikembe / The Jazz June

A resurgent The Jazz June came out of a 12 year absence with their best song to date (and one of the catchiest chorus hooks of the year) and had it paired with an up-and-coming band that shared some of their best qualities. Between the two songs on display here, the split the two bands released felt more complete and unified than a lot of bands’ own full-lengths.

11. Joyce Manor / Toys That Kill

Never Hungover Again earned Joyce Manor typically strong critical returns but it was their split with outsider punk perennials Toys That Kill that hit hardest. Each of the four songs included in this split feature both bands at their absolute best; tinkering with the lines that separate punk from pop with an exacting, exhilarating precision.

10. Dog / Big Neck Police

Damaged. Delirious. Dangerous. Terrifying. Four words that could all aptly describe the relentlessly aggressive bleakness of this split between Dog and Big Neck Police. Seven songs that offer the perfect descent into complete and total chaos while flirting with tension dynamics to create a genuinely pulverizing effect.


9. Big Eyes / Post Teens

Big Eyes have been releasing incredible material ever since their demo so it’s no surprise that this split with Post Teens (who also had an excellent split with Rose Cross this year) fought its way into this list. Pairing with Post Teens proved to be surprisingly sensible as both bands like to go full-force as much as possible and- more often than not (this split being one example)- wind up with rousing results.

8. Trust Fund / Lone Omi / Something

Utilizing a little-used tactic can create intrigue pretty instantaneously and the decision to alternate bands throughout this six song set- formally titled Sick of Hits Vol. 2- is something that pays off beautifully. Reeks of Effort is a label that’s built its name around bands that challenge the conception of twee; any time there’s a danger of things becoming overtly whimsical they get cut to shreds by barbed wire. It’s a dynamic that makes Reeks of Effort’s roster- and Sick of Hits Vol. 2– worth celebrating.

7. Speedy Ortiz / Chris Weisman

“Doomsday” isn’t just one of the best songs of this year, it’s arguably the best of Speedy Ortiz’s career (and possibly even one of the best of the decade). That song alone would have been strong enough to land this release- the best of the laudable LAMC series to date- a spot on this list. Fortunately, it’s backed by a beautifully plaintive song from Chris Weisman (whose Monet in the 90’s was one of this year’s hidden gems) that somehow holds its own as the flipside to such a powerful song. Together, they make for the year’s best two-song release.

6. Girlpool / Slutever

I haven’t made even the slightest effort to hide my love of Girlpool, a young duo that embodies things which make them worth rallying behind. Here, Cleo Tucker and Harmony Tividad cover their friends in Slutever (who return the favor) while contributing two arresting originals. While Slutever haven’t quite enjoyed Girlpool’s level of exposure, they stepped up to the plate for this split and connected hard enough to create what should be some long-lasting repercussions. Fierce and unapologetic, it’s definitive proof that neither band’s going to be backing down anytime soon.

5. Bad History Month / Dust From 1000 Years

Staring At My Hands” is a song that’s come to mean quite a lot to me over the past few months and it’s the strongest moment on this split cassette/split LP from Bad History Month (formerly Fat History Month/Sad History Month) and Dust From 1000 Years. That’s not to downplay any of the others; this is a genuinely mesmerizing release at every turn. Willfully left-field and wrapped in the same cloth, it reverberates long after the final notes of the hazily elegiac “Party Song”.

4. Mannequin Pussy / Dog Legs

One of the year’s most unexpectedly incendiary releases, this weird anomaly (it can- somehow- rightfully be called both a split and an EP compilation) was a sharp, glancing punch to the face. Teeth get bared, sharpened fingernails get flashed, and fists get clenched ten times over. Mannequin Pussy and Dog Legs both turn things up to 11 and advance their agendas with brute force. Immediate, engaging, and intimidatingly powerful, it easily ranks among 2014’s finest releases. During the split’s limited release run it also came with the added bonus of a 16 page zine featuring artwork from both acts.

3. Whirr / Nothing

Both Whirr and Nothing, two of the biggest names in today’s crop of shoegaze-heavy bands, released full-lengths this year. While both of those releases were well worth spending time on, it wasn’t until they came together that they made something extraordinary. Every song on this split ranks in the realms of career-best for both acts, as if they were all successive dares rooted in incredibly formidable one-upmanship. At four songs, this managed to stand out as one of 2014’s most impressively towering releases; the scope and depth of each song is a complete shock because of how expansive they manage to become without ever tipping into the comically bombastic. An extraordinary effort from two bands that sound incredible together (which is unsurprising, considering they share at least one member) and completely revitalized in such a contained setting.

2. Joanna Gruesome (Joanna Gruesome / Perfect Pussy, Joanna Gruesome / Trust Fund, Joanna Gruesome / Tyrannosaurus Dead)

In 2014, there were two bands that aimed for the fences and went way beyond when it came to split releases. Joanna Gruesome was one of them. It would have been much more of a nightmare for the rankings between these two had Joanna Gruesome’s split with Tyrannosaurs Dead included a new song rather than one of Weird Sister‘s many highlights. Between their extraordinary Astonishing Adventures split with site favorites Perfect Pussy (whose contributions were as dazzling as anything they’ve done) and their split EP with site favorites Trust Fund, they were responsible for half of two of the year’s finest releases- and what halves they were. “Psykick Espionage”, “Jerome (Liar)”, “…And Keep on Reaching for Those Stars”, “Reading the Wrappers”, “No Pressure”, “Scared”. Six songs that would have made up one of the best EP’s of any of the past 10 years or more. Joanna Gruesome are quickly turning into an unstoppable force of nature and pretty soon there are only going to be two options: get caught up in their spell or get the hell out of their way.


1. Ovlov (Ovlov / Little Big League, Krill / LVL UP / Ovlov / Radiator Hospital, Ex-Breathers / Ovlov / Gnarwhal / Woozy)

If any band had a more impressive year with splits than Joanna Gruesome, it was Ovlov. Turning in some of the year’s best songs (“The Great Crocodile” and “Ohmu’s Shell”, respectively) on the year’s best four-band split and what was easily one of 2014’s best two-band splits (with Little Big League’s “Year of the Sunhouse” also registering as one of 2014’s strongest highlights) is no small feat. Their contribution to their split with Gnarwhal, Woozy, and Ex-Breathers was that release’s strongest moment- they had a lot more competition from Krill, LVL UP (“Big Snow” being yet another year-end worthy highlight on its own accord), and Radiator Hospital (though both still would have earned a spot somewhere on this list had it been kept to individual releases). Ovlov’s songs- much like the songs on display in the Whirr/Nothing split- are absolute monsters, showcasing the band’s range in a breathtaking display of power. Should any of these songs be good indicators for the full-length Ovlov is ramping up to, then we’re in for some serious fireworks whenever it drops. For now, this small collection of songs is more than enough to tide anyone over until- and then well past- that album’s release.



Iceage – Against The Moon (Music Video)

iceage

Another day’s come and gone, leaving another arsenal of treasures in its wake. Telekinesis teased an upcoming Polyvinyl 4 Track Singles Series 7″ with the vibrant “Can’t See Stars“, Prawn gave the world a glimpse at an EP appendix for last year’s Kingfisher via the stunning “Built For“, and both The Bug and Earth showcased their mastery of sprawling tension on the collaborative “Cold” off of their upcoming Record Store Day 7″. Grooms advanced their psych-damaged and decidedly askew take on pop with the excellent, punk-leaning “Doctor M“. Rounding out the single streams was a fiery Delta Five cover from Audacity and an extraordinarily promising two-song preview of the upcoming split between Joyce Manor and Toys That Kill.

Nano Kino made their enticing self-titled EP (the band’s debut effort) available for streaming (and purchase) over at bandcamp, which was more than enough to cover today’s full streams. Music vidoes had another impressive showing, with solid turn-in’s like Kim Deal’s dryly comedic “Biker Gone“, the unbridled ferocity of Robot Death Kites‘ “Sleep Deprived“, L.A. Witch’s quietly hypnotic “Heart of Darkness“, and “Madora“- yet another ingenious clip from Beverly (the band continues to do absolutely wonderful things with the visual medium). Even with all of those managing to become easy standouts, it was the relentlessly devastating video for Iceage‘s “Against The Moon” (a song that this site already emphatically praised) that hit with the hardest impact.

Directed by the formidable team of Marten Masai Andersen and Kim Thue and starring the inimitable Dan van Husen (best known for his work in Werner Herzog’s Nosferatu The Vampyre and Federico Fellini’s Casanova), “Against The Moon” is shot in striking black-and white and accentuates the song’s inherent sadness. Missa Blue and Louis Backhouse round out the cast in deeply tragic turns that allow them to bare their characters scars. Implicit violence permeates nearly every frame of “Against The Moon”- much of it lensed in a style that comes off as a hybrid between classic noir, western, and horror- with van Husen’s nameless character incessantly leering at the prostitutes played by Blue and Backhouse; his face often a sick portrait of twisted satisfaction.

In the press copy, it states that the video’s intended to double the dichotomy between affirmation and repentance that’s present in Elias Bender Rønnenfelt lyric set. While aspects of that do come through (with a vengeance), it’s the ambiguity that winds up taking centerstage; nearly all of “Against The Moon” is composed of effortlessly arresting one-shots, refusing to let its characters intertwine on an explicit or definitive level. Every moment of staging is rooted more in suggestion than cause or consequence, forcing the viewer to face an array of uncomfortable questions and grapple with things as essential as empathy. It’s a revolving door of character study, presenting each subject with equal care, unafraid to focus in on what appear to be their lowest moments. It’s a psychological nightmare. It’s a brutally meticulous examination of standards. It’s a an unfailingly harsh reminder of life’s darkest corners. It’s beyond important; it’s necessary- and, most of all, it’s a masterpiece.

Watch “Against The Moon” below and order Plowing Into The Field Of Love here.

Big Lonely – Dirty Clocks (Music Video)

biglo

Continuing on with tonight’s round-up of some of the best material to have emerged over the course of the past two days, there’s another small handful of things to celebrate. Music videos were strongly represented by the surgical precision of Primitive Parts‘ post-punk party “TV Wheels” and Meatbodies‘ raw lo-fi visual experimentation in “Rotten“. Washer unleashed another blast of frenetic chaos with the jittery “Rinse & Spit” and Ex-Cult previewed their upcoming record with the relentless post-punk frenzy of “Cigarette Machine“. Rounding things out was the full stream of Curse Purse’s harsh and willfully destructive self-titled EP. All four are worth some investment but it was a clever video from Big Lonely that wound up standing out and snagging this particular feature spot.

Immediately setting itself up as a hockey video, “Dirty Clocks” opens on a line of people decked out in the Toronto Maple Leafs blue and white. Any ideas of this being a traditional team-worship type of video are immediately thrown out of the window with the first quick cut, which reveals a man taking money at the door of a fairly nondescript house. It doesn’t take too long for the premise to kick itself into motion, quickly establishing a battle royale in the world of underground table top hockey. According to the press copy, this is largely a piece about loss, which does come through- particularly in the video’s closing scene- but it does also have its celebratory elements. No matter the outcome, it’s a shared experience, one that reaches a fever pitch near the climactic moment. The character set up as the hero may lose to prove a very humanizing point but there’s still a dedication for the craft that comes through via some surprisingly beautiful cinematography. Alcohol is spilled, voices are lost, friends are hugged, and the powerpop song propelling everything forward even leans into a blistering section that nears post-hardcore. Everything is cleverly constructed and cued to perfection. It’s eloquently staged and delivered in earnest, rendering “Dirty Clocks” a fascinating piece of work from a band that seems hell-bent on making all of the right moves.

Watch “Dirty Clocks” below and keep an eye on Big Lonely, this kind of ambition usually yields great dividends.