Heartbreaking Bravery

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Tag: split tape

14 of ’14: The Best Splits of 2014

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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.



Joanna Gruesome – Jerome (Liar) / Trust Fund – Reading The Wrappers (Music Video)

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After a very strong start to the week, today’s bevvy of notable content kept things moving at an aggressive clip. Nots stepped up and made sure their voice was heard with “Decadence“, a searing lo-fi blast from their upcoming record, We Are Nots. The Dead Ships made a mark with the punchy basement pop of “Canyon“, which brought to mind a more refined PURPLE 7. “Candy Mountain” heralded the official arrival-at-large of Dilly Dally, whose Candy Mountain 7″ just got skyrocketed up to “must-own” status. Run For Cover Records look set to continue on with a stunning run of records, if Young Statues’ soaring “Natives” is any indication. On any other day, Crimson Wave‘s extraordinary Say/Calling You 7″ would have earned today’s feature spot and has a very good chance at gate-crashing more than a few year-end lists. Joanna Gruesome and Trust Fund’s decision to release partnering complementary videos to promote their incredible split 12″ proved too intriguing of a prospect to let slide without providing some well-deserved focus.

Now, before getting to the videos the brilliance of Joanna Gruesome and Trust Fund’s split needs to be mentioned here for about the billionth time. Both bands are natural complements to each other, with each accentuating similar tendencies in dynamics and sound on an equal level. All six tracks are stunners and it’s a record that can be incredibly hard to pull away from once it’s started rotating. London-based artist Rose Robbins was the creative force driving the twin videos to their respective enchanting heights (and an even more stunning effect as a whole). In the Impose premiere of both videos, Robbins explained some of the fascinating process behind the bulk of the artistic decision-making that went into the finished product(s).

Joanna Gruesome’s “Jerome (Liar)” sounds as vital as it did the day it was released and the video taps into the band’s sense of fun with great precision. It’s a firecracker of a song that ignites  their side of the split, operating in a way not entirely dissimilar from Trust Fund’s “Reading The Wrappers”- which also receives Robbins’ endearingly playful visual treatment. Both videos are injected with cartoon animation that feels naturally suited to Joanna Gruesome and Trust Fund’s partnership. That partnership is an underlying thematic device is a very simple, and affecting, touch that works wonders. Balancing a relatively lighthearted tone with weighty issues is never an easy task but Robbins manages to pull it off with aplomb. It’s a relentlessly entertaining experience that’s all but guaranteed to trigger a few genuine smiles- which is an achievement that should never be undervalued. This isn’t just great entertainment, it’s great art.

Watch “Jerome (Liar)” and “Reading The Wrappers” below- and order their split 12″ here.

All Dogs at Bremen Cafe – 8/19/14 (Pictorial Review, Live Video)

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[AUTHOR’S NOTE: First off, just to get this out of the way at the top, this post probably would not have been possible without The Media, a site whose praises deserve to be sung as loudly- and frequently- as possible. Being able to be a part of that place, even just for an issue, was an honor. The fact that I got to spotlight was All Dogs, a band that put out a 7″ last year that I felt very strongly about, ensured that it won’t be an experience I’ll be forgetting anytime soon. All that said, I wound up with an over-abundance of content that, for obvious reasons, couldn’t all be worked into The Media piece. It’d be criminal to let a lot of the material that didn’t run go to waste, so it’ll be running here today. Enjoy.]

All Dogs put out one of this site’s favorite 7″ records of last year, so when word came that they’d be stopping at Bremen Cafe in Milwaukee, not going wasn’t an option. As time progressed and more things got worked out, excitement and anticipation for the show grew incrementally. After the band agreed to an interview (hyperlinked towards the end of the Author’s Note) and guitarist/vocalist Maryn Jones was gracious enough to agree to a small set of acoustic performances, All Dogs’ self-titled 7″ was back to being in near-constant rotation- and wound up being the go-to soundtrack for every editing session this site went through for a few weeks.

During that time, a press email came out detailing an upcoming release from a project called Yowler, which turned out to be a solo vehicle for Jones- and a likely continuation of her excellent early solo material. Somehow, this all came to light during a time that also saw the emergence of Saintseneca’s Tiny Desk Session for NPR (easily one of this year’s finest offerings), all of which pointing to Jones being one of the busiest- and best- songwriters/musicians that we currently have. All of that combined prompted a trip through her discography, which included some absolute gems like the tape from the now-defunct Wolfs (which All Dogs’ bassist, Ama,nda Bartley was also in). As a result of the culmination of all of this, expectations couldn’t have possibly been higher for the band’s live show.

After taking up temporary residence in Ground Zero (one of Milwaukee’s best basement venues) for the interview session, it was into the band’s van and off to Bremen Cafe. While there wasn’t too much time to spend doing anything other than helping clear out space and running out to get food before the show kicked off, it didn’t seem to matter. Everyone seemed to be in high spirits and a lot of old friends were able to exchange a few words before the show kicked off with a ferocious set from Failed Mutation– who proved to be next to impossible to photograph thanks to their incessant levels of energy. From their live show alone, it wasn’t very difficult to see why they’ve earned a reputation as being one of Milwaukee’s best hardcore bands in an increasingly over-crowded scene (it also probably doesn’t hurt to have members of Tenement and Holy Shit! in your band). Failed Mutation wound up packing an absurd amount of spastic energy into a set that probably only ran 15 minutes, all of which was expertly controlled- likely thanks to each individual members discipline and experience. It was a hell of a way to jump-start what would prove to be a surprisingly formidable bill.

Next up was Sin Bad, a relatively new band that features members of both Night Animals and Rich People. Having never heard Sin Bad, it was difficult to gauge whether trepidation or excitement was winning out as Failed Mutation loaded out. Any notions of disappointment were immediately dispelled following the first few seconds of their first song. Boasting a sound not too dissimilar from All Dogs (with maybe just a few dashes more of a sound found pretty frequently on Don Giovanni Records) and an energy that was relatively comparable to Failed Mutation meant their second slot was a perfect transition between the opener and the headliner, while also simultaneously allowing them a more unfettered interest from the sizable and appreciative crowd. By the time Sin Bad’s set was over, it was very clear they’d left an impression and made converts out of several of the previously unaware.

When Sin Bad had packed up and left the stage open for All Dogs, a strange nervousness crept back in- as it usually does prior to seeing a band (especially for the first time) that’s come to mean something on a personal level. Again, it didn’t take very long for that anxiety to abate. It took All Dogs (in a now-cemented four person lineup that includes NONA guitarist Nick Harris and, as always, Delay‘s Jesse Withers) less than three songs to inspire chills. Starting strongly with both “Farm” (from their outstanding split tape with Slouch) and the shortest song from the 7″, “Snow Fences”, they’d guaranteed the investment of everyone watching. Then on the third song, they offered up the first look at their new material, which they’d previously promised sounded like a much fuller and more fleshed-out version of themselves. Not only did that promise hold up, the expectations that came with it were annihilated as that song, currently written down on the setlist as “Skin”, showcased a heavier side of the band that had been previously been hinted at with their current career-best effort, “Say”.

From that point forward, the band tore through a set with a practiced confidence and relative ease, never once seeming anything less than completely genuine and extremely impassioned. Everything clicked, sounding fantastic in the notoriously loud Bremen Cafe. Making the performance even more memorable was the fact that the crowd was reciprocating virtually all of All Dogs’ energy, creating this back-and-forth that pushed both sides to near-perfect places. A few more songs from the split, the 7″, and (hopefully) the upcoming record, and the band had already nearly obliterated every lofty expectation- and then the band switched into high gear for an unforgettable 1-2 gut punch of an ending. That “Say” became the second song of their set to warrant chills and total immobility probably isn’t too surprising, as the studio version of the song is nearly capable of the same effect- but the band’s closing number, a song so recent that they still haven’t given it a title, went a long way in indicating that their upcoming work will be their best material to date. Both, combined, provided an unpredictably intense (even considering the members’ inability to contain their smiles) ending to an extraordinary set from a band who will almost certainly produce a discography of material worth owning on every possible format.

Below, watch a stunning solo acoustic performance of Wolfs’ “Leading Me Back to You” and All Dogs rip through their currently untitled set closer. A photo gallery of both the interview/performance session and the late show can be viewed beneath the videos.

Keep an eye out for all of the emerging details on All Dogs’ upcoming debut LP, which will be released on the always-extraordinary Salinas Records.

Joanna Gruesome – Jerome (Liar) (Stream)

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There were a very small handful of songs to be unveiled in the past few weeks that warranted extreme levels of excitement and Joanna Gruesome‘s “Jerome (Liar)” was definitely one of them. Essentially a preview for a very promising upcoming split the band has coming out in late September with the equally great Trust Fund, it’s also a perfect reminder of what made Weird Sister one of last year’s best releases. Wide-eyed, pissed off, riff-happy, and prone to spastic bursts of sonic chaos, “Jerome (Liar)” is Joanna Gruesome at their best.

An unashamedly pop melody practically floats over the impact-heavy collisions of the verse sections and syncs up beautifully with a monstrous chorus that recalls the very best of Rather Ripped-era Sonic Youth. “Jerome (Liar)” also has the benefit of being an atypically short song for the Cardiff band, lending it even more immediacy than the staggering amount the band’s become renowned for so effortlessly possessing. Their teeth become fangs and retract again but they’re always locked in a vice-like grip on whoever’s fortunate enough to get in their way. This is impassioned outsider pop at it’s absolute finest- and most shoegaze-friendly. HHBTM Records will be handling the US release and distribution of the split while Reeks of Effort will cater to the UK. Both labels are worth investing time in and, if “Jerome (Liar)” winds up being the definitive song of this split, this very release may very well become the crown jewel of each respective side.

While details of Joanna Gruesome’s impending split with Perfect Pussy (which this site was beyond honored to have the pleasure of announcing) are still scant, this release seems more than poised to hold everyone over- and likely past- the day that anxiously-awaited release finally becomes available.

Listen to “Jerome (Liar)” below and pre-order the 12″ here and the cassette here.