Heartbreaking Bravery

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17 of ’17: The Best Albums of the Year

Looking back on 2017 was an exhausting effort that seemed to uncover a surprising truth: a lot of the year’s best records wound up standing out by a fairly wide margin. Not just because of the strength of their singles but because of the herculean overall efforts of the acts responsible for the year’s standout songs. To that end, the considerable overlap between the selections for Song and Album of the Year — by far the most that’s ever occurred in the four years these lists have been running — isn’t too surprising.

After listening to hundreds upon hundreds of records throughout the span of 2017, what was a little surprising turned out to be the endurance levels of the records being considered for this list. Some that seemed like surefire locks in the first few months of their release faded, while a few that lingered on the perimeter seemed to gain strength with each successive revisit. One thing that can be said for all the records included in this list is that they’re forceful works that have already proven to have attained the kind of longevity that will serve them well going forward.

From site favorites to year-end mainstays to new faces, the 17 records below offer up an interesting variety. Mental health, youth, aging, hope, despair, and togetherness are all dissected. Icy post-punk numbers, deeply personal folk, and outbursts of irrepressible energy stand shoulder-to-shoulder here, representing a microcosm of what many rightfully saw as one of the most challenging years in recent memory. Take a look back at these releases and grab hold, they should serve the future well.

Washer – All Aboard

Every release tied to Washer‘s name so far has been worth the listen but the band took a massive step forward in 2017 to release their first truly great record with All Aboard. Over the years, the duo has managed to perfect a very particular strain of post-punk, honing their minimalist setup into a jet-propelled engine. Overflowing with career highs for the band, this 15 track titan of a record proves the project’s range, versatility, and talent. It’s an essential release that managed to stand out among a very crowded field.

Great Grandpa – Plastic Cough

Great Grandpa‘s first official full-length absolutely explodes from the outset, “Teen Challenge” obliterating any lingering doubts that this band was ready to take on the world. Plastic Cough‘s ensuing nine tracks go on to continuously elevate the bar the band continuously sets for itself, running a stylistic gamut that ranged from hushed and burdened introspection to moments of gnarled violence. It’s an impressive show of force that never runs out of steam.

Petite League – Rips One Into the Night

Lorenzo Cook, the driving creative force behind Petite League, has been toiling away in relative obscurity for the past few years despite a string of formidable releases. In 2017, Petite League didn’t just make their biggest push into larger recognition, the band also made their best record to date in Rips One Into the Night. Clever lyricism, thoughtful arrangements, mid-fi production, and a charismatic presence elevated the project to a greater level of recognition that was long overdue (and still lacking, all things considered). A seamless mixture of bedroom and basement pop, Rips One Into the Night more than proves Petite League can play with the heavy hitters.

Cayetana – New Kind of Normal

For decades, mental health was something that artists seemed more inclined to subvert in their art, presenting it in a sly sideways glance rather than opting for something more direct. Over the past few years, that approach has noticeably shifted and brought to light some of the best works since the turn of the century. Cayetana‘s most recent effort — their career highlight New Kind of Normal — can now proudly join their ranks. As complete of a record as anything that’s come out this decade, it’s a harrowing confrontation with limitation, impulse, and the kind of desire usually left to the shadows. It also boasts the best arrangements of the band’s discography. A triumph.

Young Jesus – Young Jesus

Three full-lengths to their name and Young Jesus still has a perfect record, each three of those wildly different releases landing the continuously-evolving band a spot in the Album of the Year lists. With that kind of pedigree, self-titling a record would seem like a bold gambit to most but Young Jesus seems to suggest that the band’s in full control of its voice, having radically shifted its lineup and moved clear across the country. Poetic, thoughtful, euphoric, and devastating, Young Jesus easily set itself apart in 2017, thanks in no small part to the record’s towering final three songs, which may well have constituted the year’s most ambitious — and memorable — runs of music.

Deep State – Thought Garden

One of the year’s more overlooked records was also one that proved to have an excess of verve. Bristling with feeling, Deep State‘s Thought Garden was a masterclass in how to effectively translate kinetic energy without losing narrative focus. In lashing back at ennui with a concentrated frustration, Deep Thought created one of 2017’s most unexpectedly fiery releases. Brash and necessary, Thought Garden was — and remains — a record worth remembering, especially in larger conversations.

Weaves – Wide Open

Following a breakthrough record that catapults you from “best-kept secret” status to critical darlings is never an easy task but it was one Weaves had no trouble side-stepping with the breezy, playful Wide Open. Drawing influence from some of Americana’s high watermarks, the band melded and warped those traits into something tantalizingly singular, marrying those cues with tempos and structures that owe slightly more to the East than the West. Genre-melting and world-conquering, Wide Open more than proved Weaves to be one of the premier bands of the moment.

Landlines – Landlines

A small, self-released record that more than held its own against records with more fanfare, Landlines‘ self-titled found its plays incrementally increasing after its September debut. Beautifully combining the finest points of post-punk and basement punk into a cohesive whole that owed as much to Pavement as it did to Parquet Courts, Landlines never stopped impressing. One of the most exquisitely crafted records on this list, Landlines comes jam-packed with little delights that ensure each song is differentiated from the next but that the record stands as a complete whole. It’s a remarkable work that richly deserves a much, much larger audience.

Strange Relations – Editorial You

Few things are as thrilling as a band that’s confidently taking the type of measures that will push them to greater heights. Whether that’s expanding their ambition, increasing their levels of fearlessness, openly experimenting with ideas that may seem counter-intuitive, or simply spending more time on their craft, the end product typically winds up being something of note. In the case of Strange Relations‘ Editorial You, which encapsulates each of the tactics listed above, it’s also wildly successful. Editorial You is unmistakably the sound of a promising act finding their voice and confidently surging forward, fully equipped and ready for whatever might lie in wait

Fred Thomas – Changer

The clarity of voice on Fred Thomas‘ Changer is legitimately astounding. Thomas being one of this generation’s best lyricists hasn’t really been that much of a secret for a while but Changer takes those writing gifts to stratospheric highs with meditations on isolation, aging, individuality, and trying to feel alive. Changer doesn’t just survive on cleverness or memorable turns of phrase though, elevating itself through instrumental composition, demonstrating Thomas’ expanding palette in breathtaking fashion. Far and away the songwriter’s most direct work, Changer also stands proudly as an exhilarating career high. Not just the record that boasted 2017’s best book of lyrics but easily one of the year’s finest all-around efforts as well.

Big Thief – Capacity

One of 2016’s most promising breakout acts didn’t take long to issue a follow-up strong enough to eliminate any lingering doubt over their considerable talent. Big Thief‘s Masterpiece was touted by many at the end of 2016 as one of the year’s best, even more publications followed suit with Capacity in 2017. Retaining the grand sweep of their breakout work, Big Thief got a little more exacting with Capacity. Deeply informed by tragedy and difficult circumstance, Capacity plays like more of a rallying cry than a death rattle, the band finding the heart and humanity in every broken shard of their past and clinging to it in the present as a means of knowing there will be hope for the future.

Cloud Nothings – Life Without Sound

Like Young Jesus, Cloud Nothings have registered a placement on the Album of the Year lists with each of their last three full-lengths. Ever since reforming as a full band, Cloud Nothings have been on an absolute tear, pushing their own limitations at every step (having slightly different lineups for each record likely necessitated a certain level of adaptation). Life Without Sound, however, is the first record the band’s made where it feels like they’re drawing from their past for inspiration. Typically, that glance backwards indicates a band running out of ideas but Life Without Sound is subversive and unpredictable enough to suggest that couldn’t be further from the truth for Cloud Nothings. This is a monstrous, career-encapsulating effort from a band that will always refuse to go quietly.

Tica Douglas – Our Lady Star of the Sea, Help and Protect Us

Over the past several years, Tica Douglas has quietly become one of our best songwriters. Joey went a long way in earning Douglas a reputation as a songwriter worth watching and Our Lady Star of the Sea, Help and Protect Us should further strengthen that argument. It’s a gorgeous record full of unsparing self-examinations and hard-won moments of hope and contentment. Each song taken as an individual piece is riveting but packaged together as a whole, the effect toes the line of being overwhelming. A complete listen is an immersive experience, with all of the scars and all of the healing being felt at every step. When all is said and done, Our Lady Star of the Sea, Help and Protect Us stands as a proud testament to both Douglas’ singular vision and resilient character.

Cende – #1 Hit Single

A band that was gone far too soon at least stayed long enough to gift the rest of us with their only proper full-length, #1 Hit Single. Cende — which boasted members of LVL UP and Porches — has been playing most of these songs out for years before this release and found exhilarating ways to do them justice. Whether it was through string arrangements, guest vocalists, or the production sheen, everything clicked and #1 Hit Single became one of the most winsome basement pop records of this decade in the process. Whip-smart composition, note-perfect execution, and attitude to spare ensured that Cende had enough through one EP and one full-length to leave a legacy that mattered.

Palehound – A Place I’ll Always Go 

One of a handful of artists on this list whose releases have gotten incrementally more impressive with each successive release, it’s hard to imagine how Palehound will top what they’ve achieved with A Place I’ll Always Go. Bandleader Ellen Kempner is in fine form throughout the record, delivering career highs across the board when each compositions is broken down (lyrics, guitar riffs, etc.). A Place I’ll Always Go is also massively successful in terms of pace and tonality, helping the record secure a position as the band’s most fully-formed and complete work. As enthralling as it is captivating, A Place I’ll Always Go solidifies and reaffirms Palehound status as an act worthy of our full attention.

Mo Troper – Exposure & Response

One of last year’s Album of the Year selections, Mo Troper returned this year with the startlingly bold Exposure & Response, that sees the songwriter taking enormous strides forward. From the opening cascade of Beach Boys-esque overlapping vocals on both “Rock and Roll Will Change the World” and “Wedding” to the unexpected grandeur of album highlight “Your Brand” to just about every other surprising minuscule detail on Exposure & Response, Troper finds ways to not just surprise but engage.

Everything that made Beloved seem as if it was destined to earn a rabid cult following and be hailed as a lost genre classic is still intact while other facets of Troper’s formidable songwriting talent has been expanded. Exposure & Response resides comfortably at the intersection of classical maneuvering and modernist delivery as Troper anchors the proceedings with trademark bursts of self-deprecating self-awareness. It’s a landmark record from a burgeoning talent that begs to be left on repeat. Somehow, it gets better every time.

Album of the Year:

Charly Bliss – Guppy

A record that’d been lingering in purgatory for nearly three years finally saw the light of day in 2017 as Charly Bliss set out to light the world on fire. Guppy, at every stage of its development, has always been a knockout record. In its first iteration, it was a growling monster full of low-end bite and emphatic force. The band stripped it back a little, polishing the edges and swapping out a few songs to present something more refined while still retaining a certain edge.

The record’s immediate success came as a surprise to virtually no one that had been paying a lick of attention to the band over the past several years. Touring with high-profile bands — whether they were storied bands with rabid fanbases or exciting upstarts — ensured their range of listeners would be wide. Every step the band’s taken over the past 5 years has been savvy, something that was already evidenced with what remains this decade’s best EP, 2014’s Soft Serve.

Still, making smart business decisions can’t generate any sort of impression if the product is subpar. Fortunately, for everyone, Charly Bliss’ insane musical pedigree (all four members have degrees in musical fields) essentially ensures that they’ll be operating at an extraordinarily high level when it comes to actually writing songs. Guppy provides an excess of proof that Charly Bliss — in addition to being masterful at their craft — have held onto an internal fire that’s fueled their music since their modest beginning.

“Percolator” kicks Guppy off with an insane surge of adrenaline, taking the band from 0 to 200 in one quick crescendo, leaving everyone else to catch up to the trail of dust the band leaves in its wake. Memorable song to memorable song, the quartet rips through their winsome brand of bubblegrunge with aplomb. Mixing twee asides with moments of vicious reality, the band creates a 10 course feast that somehow manages to feel both of the moment and timeless all at once.

A record that brings self-loathing, friendship, earnest sincerity, self-empowerment, and the way they all manage to connect into startling focus, Guppy is as much of a success as a narrative as it is in the instrumental arrangement department. The record’s ridiculously powerful — and surprisingly heavy — “Julia” even sees the band flexing its range, proving that they’ve got quite a bit more up their sleeves.

When all the smoke’s cleared and Guppy has disappeared into the ether, the impression it left in the moment never fades and keeps pushing for rediscovery. It’s a record full of hooks that dig in and stay. It’s a record that’s as willing to open scabs as it is to mend wounds. It’s a record that knows how to have several cakes and eat every last one. Finally, it’s a record that stands out as an easy pick for 2017’s Album of the Year.

The Very Best of the Very Rest: The Best Full Streams of 2017’s Final Stretch

Making one last recap run before the year-end lists go up, now that the year has officially expired, this post will serve solely to focus on the most exceptional records to come into focus over 2017’s final stretch. Often, these records get overshadowed precisely because of the competitive spotlit-nature of those year-end lists. More times than not, this batch of records also — much like Oscar season in the realm of film — contain the records labels hold back in hopes they’ll still be fresh in people’s minds while compiling those lists. Ignoring those for smaller releases that come across like distant memories can be harder than most think, which is why the below selections cater to the records that would have earned themselves serious year-end consideration no matter when they were released. So, make sure these are queued up to their opening track and listen to 21 records that don’t just deserved to be played, but remembered.

Mo Troper – Exposure & Response

Weaves – Wide Open

Climax Landers – Climax Landers

Whelpwisher – Notice to Airmen

Even Hand – Phototropic

Radiator Hospital – Play The Songs You Like

Fits – All Belief Is Paradise

Bethlehem Steel – Party Naked Forever

Lithuania – White Reindeer

Coma Cinema – Loss Memory

Goon – Happy Omen

Tosser – Tosser

Upper Wilds – Guitar Module 2017

Dumb Things – Dumb Things

The Miami Dolphins – Water You Waiting For

Pope – True Talent Champion

Holiday Ghosts – Holiday Ghosts

Prom Queen – Doom-Wop

Dharma Dogs – Music for the Terminally Besotted

Mathhaverskan – III

Slaughter Beach, Dog – Birdie

Landlines – Landlines (Album Review)

In the course of the past few days, only a small handful of truly great records have emerged. Washer unveiled a legitimate Album of the Year candidate with All Aboard, Total Yuppies revealed their exceptional Care EP, and Nassau continued to improve with Heron. On top of that trio of full streams, there was a sneak peek at the upcoming Pope record — and there was also the incredible self-titled effort from Landlines (a band that includes some member overlap with The Woolen Men).

Landlines is exactly the type of band and record that Heartbreaking Bravery was built to support. An absolutely monstrous effort from a legitimately great band that has minimal name recognition outside of their given region, both Landlines and Landlines deserve far more notice than either will likely receive without securing contracts with the right PR team. The recorded landed in the site’s inbox by way of the band directly, who seem committed to the DIY ethos that’s fairly apparent in their music.

In the accompanying bio that was patched over with the record, a lot of classic rock acts get name checked but Landlines can be accurately summed as existing in the central field between the triangular points represented by Pavement, Parquet Courts, and Flying Nun Records. These are wiry post-punk songs with slacker punk leanings, basement pop aesthetics, and aggressively clean tones. They’re cleverly arranged and expertly executed, running the gamut from the energetic onslaught of opener “Hanging Around” to the unapologetic powerpop of closer “Survived”.

A record that’s littered with smart observations, compelling musical ideas, and united by an incredibly convincing identity, Landlines actually manages to outstrip several records being discussed as Album of the Year candidates by a reasonable margin. Make no mistake, while this is a largely unassuming record it’s also one of the more tightly-crafted and complete releases of the past nine months. Landlines exude confidence throughout and deliver several knockout blows in their self-titled, which is comprised exclusively of songs worthy of mix tape inclusions. Hit play below and hit purchase when it ends.

Listen to Landlines below and pick the record up here.

Holiday Ghosts – Can’t Bear to Be Boring (Stream)

The last few days have been monstrously impressive for new singles, with tracks from Nervous Dater, Worst Gift, Bethlehem Steel, Everyone Is Dirty, Julia Jacklin, Mini Dresses, Makthaverskan, Far Lands, Swimming Bell, Monogold, Flotation Toy WarningSwimming Tapes, Prawn, Autobahn, Peach Pit, Jonny Polonsky, Jesse Kivel, Grooms, Outsider, Ross McHenry Trio, The Clientele, Destroyer, and Silk ‘N’ Oak all making great impressions. As good as all of those were, “Can’t Bear to Be Boring” deserved a feature spot.

Holiday Ghosts have been teasing their impressive forthcoming self-titled debut with excellent tracks for a while now but none of them have wielded the kind of irrepressible drive and sardonic wit that define “Can’t Bear to Be Boring”. Defiantly chaotic and clearly influenced by the work of Courtney Barnett, “Can’t Bear to Be Boring” manages a charm all its own. Lo-fi, catchy, clever, and charismatic, the track proves Holiday Ghosts are willing to extend their boundaries in unexpected ways. It’s one of the most joyous two and a half minute blasts of basement pop anyone’s likely to hear this year. It’s a welcoming party that should not be missed.

Listen to “Can’t Bear to Be Boring” below and pre-order Holiday Ghosts here.

Young Jesus – Young Jesus (Album Review)

Well, it took an excessively long while but as of this post this site’s officially back on track and will be resuming its regular daily (or near-daily) schedule moving forward. Making things even sweeter is the incredible release of site favorites Young Jesus‘ self-titled record, which was teased back with the premiere of the “Green” music video a short while back.

Of course, that’s not the only thing that was worth checking out to find release over the first two days of the week. There were also great songs from Jessica Lea Mayfield, Milan to Minsk, Open Mike Eagle, Mavis Staples, and Acid Tongue. A quartet of clips served the music video format well with incredibly strong entries from Colter Wall (who nearly snagged the feature spot), The Man From Managra, Naomi Punk, and Stillwave. Finally, there was a great record unveiled in ViewMaster’s Alternative Classics that was quietly released a few weeks ago but it is more than worth hearing.

Back to the subject at hand: Young Jesus (and, more specifically, Young Jesus). There are some bands that refuse to do anything but grow and push themselves to extend their comfort zone, heighten their ambitions, and take genuine risks. Young Jesus, for nearly a decade now, has been one of those acts. Young Jesus stands as the most definitive example of the band’s willingness to experiment while still retaining the melancholic pull that anchored their earlier works.

From the opening section of Young Jesus it becomes apparent that the band’s decided to fully embrace the noise sections that have become a defining characteristic of their spellbinding live show in recent years. These sections crop up in the opening trio of tracks — “Green”, “River”, and “Eddy” — and don’t really recede from the foreground throughout the rest of the record, spare for a few of Young Jesus‘ lightest moments. Impressively, these sections always sound more pointed than meandering, a testament to Young Jesus’ grip on dynamics, structure, and pace.

Guitarist/vocalist (and A Year’s Worth of Memories contributor) John Rossiter continues to turn in some of the more unexpectedly moving lyric sets while taking a small shift towards the poetic. As always, the band Rossiter has both partially retained and partially assembled are immensely impressive, navigating towering sections with ease and composing arrangements that seem very attuned to emotional response.

While the record may only run for 7 tracks, the band makes them count, particular in the final stretch of the record. “Desert” (formerly “Every Little Landscape”), “Feeling”, and “Storm” all rank among the year’s finest tracks. Each of them contain some of Rossiter’s finest work as a lyricist and Young Jesus’ most sprawling and absorbing work as a band.

Combined, these three tracks run for nearly half an hour and account for the bulk of the record, nearly doubling the combined time of the first four tracks. They also touch on virtually everything that’s ensured this band would be a staple of this site’s coverage. There’s a wellspring of genuine emotion driving these particular songs and it’s readily apparent, from the genuinely pained vocal delivery in the mid-section of “Feeling” to the aggressive bloodletting of a later section in “Storm” to the hushed introspection of “Desert”, every blow hits its mark.

By the time Young Jesus winds to a close it almost feels akin to a great piece of epic literature, with its oscillating emotions, sweeping narratives, and central ideology. It’s a massive work from a band that’s quietly become one of America’s best and it deserves to have a legacy in its wake. Both a bold step forward for a band deeply uninterested in repeating former motions and one of the years finest — and most fascinating — efforts. An essential addition to any music lover’s collection.

Listen to Young Jesus below — and watch a series of videos of the band playing live underneath the bandcamp player — and pick it up from the band here.

One Great Week, Five Great Records

A small handful of anticipated records were released over the past week, as well as a few surprises. From veteran acts to those looking to capitalize on heavily acclaimed debuts to new acts with no name recognition looking to make the mark, it was a typically diverse week in the world of music. Five of those records hit incredibly hard and will be expanded upon in the main section but don’t let that distract you from some incredible releases by the following: Small Circle, Dead Stars, Claire Nelson-Lifson, Partner, Tomberlin, Even As We Speak, Baby Jesus, L.A. Witch, and Small Souls, all of which nearly were featured themselves. As always, everything’s worth hearing, so block out any excess noise and surrender to the magnetic pull of each and every one of these releases.

1. Alvvays – Antisocialites

Alvvays had a lot to live up to after their breakthrough debut and they’ve more than delivered with Antisocialites, expanding on the ideas and the aesthetic of their winsome first record. All of the impossibly magnetic melodies are intact while the arrangements are a hair sharper this time around, the instrumental interplay and vocal decisions bolstering an immensely likable record. Sometimes the records we hope bands will make wind up being made and Antisocialites is one of those records. Hit play and fall in love.

2. Sundial Mottos – Sundial Mottos

Sundial Mottos are a new band, who just happen to feature A Years Worth of Memories contributor Alisa Rodriguez, as well as Midnight RerunsGraham Hunt and Brady Murphy. They also just happen to be extremely good and responsible for one of the best EP’s to come out of the Upper Midwest this year with their self-titled debut. Hunt remains one of the better lyricists working today and delivers another acutely-realized and lived-in narratives with the opener “Service Industry”, which also boasts some effective slide work. It’s an impressive start to an EP that never comes close to wearing out its welcome.

3. Strange Relations – Editorial You

Strange Relations have made a habit of snagging feature write-ups on this site — most recently with Editorial You‘s exceptional “Say You” — so it’s probably too much of a surprise to see their name here yet again. Editorial You, the band’s latest record is also, by far, the best work of their already formidable discography. The band’s grip on dynamics, arrangements, and atmospherics (and just about everything else that can make a record great) has grown and their mastery is on full display throughout the record. Easily one of the year’s most intriguing, inventive, and downright arresting records.

4. Beachtape – Hold Music

Beachtape, another band from the excellent Sweden-based punk label PNKSLM have been featured on Heartbreaking Bravery a few times before, always offering up hints at their identity. With Hold Music, the band finally feels complete. An astonishingly good EP that blends elements of dream-pop, surf, shoegaze, and basement punk into an extremely enticing tapestry, Hold Music is the type of EP that’s destined to turn quite a few heads. It’s hard not to imagine that if Beachtape continues down the path they’re on, a lot more people will know their name.

5. Lomelda – Thx

One of the more gently unassuming songwriters of the past few years, Lomelda, found a nice push in signing to Double Double Whammy (a label already responsible for the release of several of the years best records including Cende and Great Grandpa) for Thx, one of this year’s finest bedroom pop records. Wielding an incredibly enticing sense of melody and a penchant for relatable narratives, Thx quietly swings for the fences and finds itself lost in thought as it rounds the bases. An absolutely soundtrack for the colder seasons.

Palehound – If You Met Her (Music Video)

As this Monday and Tuesday both disappear into the rear view, it’s important to take stock of the notable records that have emerged in that time. Ainsley Farell, Sweet Baby Jesus, Sam Craighead, Adult Mom, Chris Bathgate, The I.L.Y’s, Do Make Say Think, Tricot, Yung, Gouge Away, and B L A C K I E all revealed impressive full streams and there was an outstanding compilation released to celebrate the seventh anniversary of GoldFlakePaint. The focus for this particular piece falls back to the music video format, thanks to a career best showing from site favorites Palehound.

A small army was assembled to create Palehound’s latest piece, a music video for “If You Met Her” that lands with devastating clarity. Tom Quigley, Sara Tesh, Michael Escobar, Kiely Quinn, Rachel Newman, Tatiana Marquez, Jeovana Almeida, Zane Ryan, Tatiana Marquez, and Caitlin Leblanc all hard a part to play in pulling off a clip that’s already struck a nerve with a whole host of viewers. Guitarist/vocalist and principal songwriter Ellen Kempner’s completely isolated in the clip, lending the narrative’s open vulnerability and existential fear even more heft.

Kempner does little more than navigate a seemingly abandoned house in the clip, allowing both the song — easily one of Palehound’s finest — and video to take on a haunted bent. There’s angst here, to be sure, but it’s the kind of acute and intensely focused angst that propels it past the realms of the cliché into something unnerving, despairing, and utterly terrifying. Grappling with insignificance and mortality in a way that presents the slightest hint of optimism amid a heavy resignation, there are echoes of Elliott Smith to be found in “If You Met Her” (a comparison that should never be used lightly).

“If You Met Her” is an astonishing work as a standalone song but the visuals the assembled team have provided the track render it transcendental. There are slight nods to something holy in several of the shots, underscoring the religious angle that’s always lingering in heavy existential crises. Whether the song (and video) is intended as a prayer, a warning, or a reminder may never be truly known but for now, we should all consider ourselves lucky to be able to explore the work on display. “If You Met Her” is not the type of clip — or song — to leave anyone’s memory anytime soon.

Watch “If You Met Her” below and pre-order A Place I’ll Always Go from Polyvinyl here.

Crushing – Crushing (EP Review)

During the back half of last week, a small collection of great full streams surfaced from artists like Wooden Wand, Max Gowan, Us Weekly, Piss Test, Gnarwhal, Hour of the Time Majesty Twelve, and HOTKID. While all of those were compelling listens that deserve no shortage of time or attention, it was Crushing‘s self-titled EP that made an impression deep enough to secure this post’s featured slot.

The songs that teased Crushing may have piqued some interest but now that the EP’s finally arrived in full, it’s fair to say that it wildly exceeded expectations. From the onset of EP opener “Oi Jealousy”, the band delivers with a combined level of confidence, conviction, and articulation that’s hard for most seasoned bands to possess. Each one of these basement pop tracks is razor-sharp, utilizing the genre’s history to its advantage. Whether it’s the incorporation of both dream-pop and powerpop aesthetics on “Sleeping Bag” to the bedroom pop trappings on “Telling Lies” to the more straightforward punk styling of “Oi Jealousy” and “Emery Board”, the band runs the gamut of what’s come to shape basement pop.

Everything works, no matter how many angles the band pulls from or at, managing to congeal those influences into a coherent whole that’s significantly more powerful than its individual parts. By the time it’s all over and the smoke’s cleared, it’s hard not to want to go straight back to the beginning and put a match up to the powder keg for one more explosion. One of 2017’s most unexpected surprises, Crushing is an incredible work from a band that’s carved out a strong identity. Both the band and their self-titled effort should stand as examples of 2017’s finest.

Listen to Crushing below and pick it up here.

Full Streams of the First Quarter: The Honorable Mentions

Technical difficulties forced Heartbreaking Bravery into an effective hiatus at the start of the year but, even through the visible inaction, behind-the-scenes work continued in earnest. Various outlets depths were exhausted, the site’s inbox maintained its regular flood of releases, and everything else that emerged was meticulously examined. Over the course of 2017’s first quarter (minus a week or so), more than 100 great records were released. 10 will be spotlighted in the very near future and the rest of the releases that caused a positive reaction can be found below. Enjoy.

Cool American, Alexander F, The Courtneys, Single Player, Schlotman, Street Stains, Thurst, Teenage Wedding, oso oso, Sam Skinner, Thelma, Wild Pink, Toby Reif, Omni, Pissed Jeans, Baked, WHY?, Neutral Shirt, Hideout, SSWAMPZZ, Boosegumps, Maryn Jones, Luxury Death, UV-TV, Ron Gallo, Matty Ann, Communions, Hanni El Khatib, Vagabon, So Stressed, The Paranoyds, Middle Kids, David Bazan, Toner, minihorse, Fucked Up, Olive & The Pitz, Boreen, Two Moons, wayde, The Spirit of the Beehive

Lunch Ladies, Heavy Pockets, Layperson, Little Person, Laura Marling, Chick Quest, Tobin Spout, Tall Friend, Caitlin Pasko, The Molochs, Trust Fund, Pinegrove
 Radula, Sinai Vessel, CARE, Michael Chapman, Jamie Wyatt, The Modern Savage, Analog CandleLouise Lemón, Heart Attack Man, Matthew Lee Cothran, Retail Space, The Cherry Wave, Frederick the Younger, No Thank You, Railings, Crushed Stars, Fragrance., ShitKid, Joan of Arc, Jim O’Rourke, Black Kids, Knife in the Water, bvdub

The Ocean Party, VICTIME, Career Suicide, Dead Man Winter, Lindenfield, Loess, Redshift Headlights, Balto, Angelus, Fufanu, French Vanilla, The Wild War, Turn to Crime, Souvenir Driver, Stinking Lizaveta, Matteo Vallicelli, Milk Music, Caroline Spence, NAVVI, Cody Crumps, Exasperation, Xiu Xiu, Damaged Bug, Winston Hightower, Kim Free, Kikagaku Moyo, Lilah Larson, Appalache, Eric Burnham, Party of One, Noveller, sir Was, R. Missing, Yawn Mower, Moral Panic, Auditorium, The Pantheon, The Obsessives

Dakota Blue, Skullflower, My Education, Lowlands, Half Waif, Trevor de Brauw, Strange RangerOnce & Future Band, DONCAT, The Visis, Blank Range, Transona Five100%/Joyce Manor, and Dead Tenants/Drome.

A special mention should also be given to these five compilations, all supporting worthy causes: Our First 100 Days (at the time of this writing, this release is still being updated), Sad! A Barsuk Records Compilation for the ACLU, Is There Another Language?, Save the Smell, and Don’t Stop NowA Collection of Covers.

2016: A Year’s Worth of Memories (Ryan Wizniak)

Heartbreaking Bravery recently went offline but all facets of the site are back to being fully operational. Apologies for any inconveniences. All posts that were slated to run during that brief hiatus will appear with this note.

In the piece he wrote for A Year’s Worth of Memories last year, Meat Wave’s Ryan Wizniak chose to celebrate fellow Chicago greats Melkbelly. For the 2016 edition, Wizniak continues to celebrates his peers, this time bringing records from Oozing Wound, Luggage, Foul Tip, and Lifestyles into the fold. It’s always heartening to see a musician lift up the musicians that surround them and this piece is no exception. Explore the records listed below and keep an eye on this site throughout 2017 for more updates on Wizniak’s various projects. Enjoy.

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Another year, another never-ending buffet of great music to consume. Below are a few albums that you may or may not have missed while filling up on extra servings of Angel Olsen or Iggy Pop.

Oozing Wound – Whatever Forever

Hearing the Ooze evolve from their excellent first tape to their flawless third full length has been a serious treat. The chemistry between Zack, Kevin and Kyle is in full force on this one as they plow through track after track of their own brand of genuinely uncategorizable, punishing noise. If this is metal, it’s certainly pushing the genre in a much more exciting and expansive direction by refusing to stick to the tropes that have been kicking around for the last thirty years, so keep your lazy Slayer comparisons to yourself. Whatever Forever is a solid addition to an already fantastic catalogue and stands out as one of the years most unique and exciting releases.

Luggage – Sun 

One of my favorite memories of 2016 was taking a trip to Madison with Joe to catch Luggage open up for Michigan legends, Protomartyr. It was my first time attending one of their shows and I was blown away by their sheer volume and force. While Sun may have its share of shoegazery post-punk rippers it also boasts long, beautiful entrancing passages courtesy of Michael Vallera’s guitar work and propelled by the pummeling and repetitive rhythm section of Luca Cimmarusti and Michael John Grant. Keep an eye out for these boys, they are already hard at work on new material.

Foul Tip – Forever Driftin’ 

On this release Adam Luksetich and Ed Bornstein stretch the idea of what a post-punk drum and bass duo can do. There truly isn’t a weak spot on this record. Even the lyrics are top notch. 10/10. Bonus: It also boasts one of the most interesting Black Sabbath covers around.

Lifestyles – Lifestyles 

Lifestyles is a grungy, no bullshit, noise rock group featuring members of Lil Tits, Foul Tip, and Touched by a Ghoul. While it’s easy to put Lifestyles under the grunge umbrella (they have mastered the genres tension and release moments to perfection), they do away the slacker sloppiness of their forebears and opt to take a more driving and cerebral route instead. It’s a fun ride filled with enough earworms to keep your mind off of the terrible political climate that has swept the country.