Heartbreaking Bravery

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Tag: Strange Ranger

Watch This: Vol. 142

From this past Monday to this just recently-ended Sunday, there were a slew of great live clips that came from the likes of Ben Seretan, Johanna Warren, Cymbals Eat Guitars, Chook Race, Ty Segall, Dog & Wolf, Daniel Lanois, Charles Bradley, Odanah, Strange Ranger, Flock of Dimes, July Talk (x2), Sleepy Kitty, Maszer, Lisa Hannigan, Half Waif, Gia Greene, The Felice BrothersEsmé Patterson, Elvis Depressedly, Jessie Kilguss, Alaska, Ghosts I’ve Met, MUNA, Underground Rider, American Trappist, Marlon Williams, James Vincent McMorrow, Hinds, Ile, and Keaton Henson. The strength of those video, as always, is indicative of the substance contained in the five featured performances below. From old favorites to emerging artists, there’s a lot of material to explore. So, as always, sit up, lean in, crank the volume, and Watch This.

1. Teenage Fanclub – Thin Air (BBC)

For decades, certain pockets of the music world have treated Teenage Fanclub with a reverence that’s typically reserved for deities. In the time that’s elapsed since they formed in 1989, the band’s amassed a devoted following but — as this performance for BBC’s Radio 6 definitively demonstrates — they haven’t lost a step. Still boasting all of the charm in the world, “Thin Air” is a reminder of their casual timelessness.

2. Weaves (KEXP)

Since the release of their incendiary self-titled debut earlier this year, Weaves have become a mainstay of the Watch This series. Tackling a quartet of songs here, the quartet brings their wild energy to the KEXP studios for one of the station’s best sessions of the year. As ever, the band’s a relentless force, attacking each of these songs with the conviction and tenacity that’s earned them a dedicated, steadily-increasing following.

3. gobbinjr – Firefly (Boxfish Sessions)

A few years into a promising career, Emma Witmer — who masterminds the gobbinjr project — has been releasing delicate pop songs that sound airy but boast a substantial amount of weight. “Firefly” is a prime example and its performance here, for Cuttlefish Collective’s Boxfish Sessions, is a thing of singular beauty. With only vocals, an omnichord, and a pre-programmed drum track, “Firefly” surpasses being simply mesmerizing and winds up at a place of transcendence.

4. Tuns – Mixed Messages + Mind Over Matter (Indie88Toronto)

Whether Tuns is a side project, a supergroup, or a curiosity is irrelevant, what’s important is that they’re writing great songs. Legendary pedigree aside, Tuns would’ve likely been turning heads. While the band’s members’ projects certainly hold a particular amount of influence over their sound (Sloan likely being the most notable of the bunch), there’s a spark here that should help the project establish their own identity. Either way, “Mixed Messages” and “Mind Over Matter” are worth celebrating.

5. PUP (CBC)

Earlier this year, PUP released their fiery sophomore effort, The Dream Is Over. Several strides forward from their explosive debut, the record opened up their already frantic live show and sent the band’s members careening to every corner of stages the world over with wild abandon. The band recently stopped by CBC’s studios to tear through several key songs from their Polaris-nominated record — including “If This Tour Doesn’t Kill You, I Will” and “DVP”, two of the year’s finest songs — and the resulting document is an exhilarating portrait of a wild-eyed band that refuses to hit the brakes.

Strange Ranger – Sunbeams Through Your Head (EP Review)

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Over the past two days, there were a handful of exceptional new tracks from the likes of Purling Hiss, Kississippi, Kevin Morby, Pop & Obachan, benngrigg, Busman’s Holiday, Trails and Ways, Emilyn Brodsky, Sun AngleTouché Amoré, Crying, Suburban Living, Kim Gordon, Henry Jamison, Light Fantastic, Levitations, Softspot, Rick Barry, and Shana Falana. Additionally, there were outstanding music videos from Martha (who also found room for an amusing Radiator Hospital cameo), Sex Stains, The White Stripes, Adam Torres, Wolf People, Chromatics, The Kills, Matt Kivel, and Nøise. Rounding everything out were incredible full streams via Oh Boland, Low Culture, Sat. Nite Duets, Left & Right, Human People, LA Font, Bad Kids To The Front, Cheshires, and Toy Cars.

While more than a handful of those were considered for this post’s featured spot, Strange Ranger secured the position by virtue of releasing an EP that contains a few of the finest songs to have been released all year. One of those, the record’s opening and title track, earned a healthy amount of recent praise. “Sunbeams Through Your Head” set an impressive, melancholic tone for its namesake which was released in full earlier today.

Following the haunted title track, Sunbeams Through Your Head could have gone a number of directions but chose to expand on its thesis statement. The EP’s second track, “Life Would Be Cooler”, is by far its longest and one of its most gripping. “Life Would Be Cooler” also turns out to be surprisingly economical in its narrative, painting a portrait of an intense (and intensely damaged) longing in less than 60 words, closing with a devastating plea that drives a staggering amount of genuine feeling home.

It’s an opening salvo that packs an emotional wallop but Strange Ranger stays on course for the next barrage of tracks, remaining unapologetic for their overwhelmingly weary nature and casting an atmospheric pall in the process. In a strange way, it’s almost moving, listening to the band support their most downtrodden tendencies with intuitively empathetic moments in the instrumental composition. “Dolph”, “Whatever You Say”, and especially the gorgeous, instrumental “Thru Your Head” all contain breathtaking moments of a deeply felt compassion.

Everything that the EP works towards comes splintering apart, quite literally, in the manic closing track, “oh oh oh oh”. From the outset of the record’s final statement, the vocals are cracking to the point of breaking as a mournful organ line runs underneath the pained theatrics. Those are the song’s only two elements and they grow more pronounced as the narrative grows more hopeless. Eventually the narrative’s abandoned altogether, buckling underneath its own weight and disappearing into the ether, as the organ figure delivers a somber eulogy. It’s a challenging, mesmerizing way to close out an incredible EP and allows Sunbeams Through Your Head to linger long after it’s gone. It’s company worth keeping.

Listen to Sunbeams Through Your Head below and download it here.

Strange Ranger – Sunbeams Through Your Head (Stream)

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While the full streams and music videos to close out last week were accounted for in the preceding post, there were still streams from The Exquisites, Nots, Human People, Gurr, Sun Angle, Lubec, Hippocampus, Goes Cube, Klozapin, Toy Cars, Muuy Biien, Public Access TV, Yuppies Indeed, Lizzy Rose, KROY, Early Morning Rebel, Grapell, and Personal Space that deserved a whole lot of credit. While this post exists in part to amend that oversight, it has a dual purpose in putting the focus on Strange Ranger — who were formerly releasing music under the moniker Sioux Falls — and their extraordinary new track, “Sunbeams Through Your Head”.

Opening with a haunted segment driven by a glacial guitar figure and haunting falsetto, “Sunbeams Through Your Head” immediately stands out. There’s an intangible quality to the intro that’s progressively expanded on throughout the course of the song, which runs just under the two minute mark. While it boast a short run time, there’s nothing easy or simplistic about the song’s ensuing tapestries of ambient overlays and meticulous instrumentation (some of it being slightly reminiscent of Told Slant‘s recent masterwork, Going By).

Not a single moment of “Sunbeams Through Your Head” is anything less than gripping, allowing the listener to be slowly submerged into a serene parallel universe. Even as the song gains intensity in its latter moments, there’s a peaceful quality that manifests itself at every turn, creating an absorbing experience that borders the transcendent. Dynamic, gorgeous, and absolutely breathtaking, it’s difficult to imagine that there could be anything better than “Sunbeams Through Your Head” to serve as the start of the band’s newest chapter. If nothing else, it’s a potent reminder that theirs is a story that deserves to be followed.

Listen to “Sunbeams Through Your Head” below and pre-order the record here.