Heartbreaking Bravery

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Tag: Strange Relations

Seven Weeks, Fifteen Songs

This post will mark the last of the coverage overhaul necessitated by the seven week hiatus from regular coverage. Records have been covered, music videos have been covered, and a song and a pair of music videos have received standalone posts. Below are the 15 songs that stood out more than any others over that seven week time period and come from all sorts of sources and elicit all sorts of responses. Whether’s it’s the characteristically driving basement pop of Radioactivity or the hushed melancholy of Florist, there’s a lot on display. So quit waiting, jump in, and find a new favorite song. Enjoy.

1. Radioactivity – Sleep 

Every project Jeff Burke‘s been involved in over the past decade has demonstrated the man’s a singular songwriter with an enviable gift. One of Burke’s more recent projects, Radioactivity (pictured above), has at least one Album of the Decade contender under their belt and continues to press forward with the kind of propulsive momentum that drives most of their songs. “Sleep” is a perfect example of that dynamic, a miraculous slice of basement pop that reasserts Burke as one of the genre’s all-time greats.

2. Birdskulls – Over It

Few labels are amassing a discography as consistently impressive — or prolific — as Art Is Hard. Birdskulls‘ “Over It”, one of the labels latest offerings, goes a long way in solidifying Art Is Hard’s status at the forefront of the DIY-leaning punk world. A song that perfectly marries basement pop with basement punk, “Over It” comes overflowing with memorable hooks, biting attitude, and worn aesthetics typical of a band destined for a feverishly loyal following. Leave it on repeat.

3. Honeyrude – Flowers

“Flowers” has been in Honeyrude‘s back pocket since 2015 but the band’s recent upheaval and re-release of the song as part of The Color Blue pays massive dividends in practice. Louder, cleaner, bolder, and more refined, “Flowers” is allowed to fully bloom, exceeding its early potential. It’s a gorgeous moment from a band that continues to impress, its shoegaze inflections perfectly suited to the band’s identity. Warm and towering, it’s likely to stand as the band’s career highlight for some time.

4. Strange Relations – Say You

One of the small handful of bands on this list with a long-standing connection to this site, Strange Relations have been furthering themselves with each successive step they’ve taken. The band recently opened for Charly Bliss in Minneapolis and unveiled a lot of new material, including the brooding, kinetic “Say You”, one of the set’s many highlights. Since their past release, Strange Relations have grown more aggressive, more ambitious, and into a more fascinating band. “Say You” is definitive proof.

5. Dead Stars – Pink Clouds

Several years into a remarkably consistent career, Dead Stars have established themselves as one of the most reliable bands currently mining a ’90s slacker punk influence to great effect. Even with a whole host of outstanding songs to claim as their own, “Pink Clouds” manages to stand out. Easily a career high point for the band, the hard-charging number surpasses the most tantalizing  heights of their earlier work while staying true to the ethos and identity that made them so memorable in the first place.

6. Walter Etc. – April 41st

Walter Etc. has spent the past few months putting out a small string of impressive songs with “April 41st” being the crown jewel of the lot. A laid-back mid-tempo basement pop number that embraces carefree relaxation, the song still manages to find an impressive momentum by playing directly to its lackadaisical tendencies. Near non sequitur’s and a comfortably dazed narrative elevate the song’s aesthetic to strange heights and the best thing anyone could do is let its calm, unhurried spell take over completely.

7. Basement Revolver – Tree Trunks

2017’s already been overly generous in terms of memorable ballads, churning out some of the decade’s best over the first 2/3s of the year. Among those gems sits Basement Revolver‘s gorgeous “Tree Trunks”, a shoegaze-leaning piece of minimalist post-punk. Pop melodies and wiry instrumentation combine to hypnotic effect, while the production of the song’s second half propel it to stratospheric heights.

8. Pinact – Separate Ways

After a three-year wait, Pinact are back and sounding stronger than ever on “Separate Ways”. Bridging the gap between basement pop and pop-punk in exhilarating fashion, the song clamps its teeth down on a surging sense of momentum and finds a way to guide itself to a triumphant finish. It’s easily among the band’s finest work and bodes extremely well for what their future might  have in store. Youthful, vibrant, vicious, and more than a little fun, it’s an unlikely summer anthem.

9. Paul Westerberg – Hawk Ripping At Your Throat

A mysterious song surfaced on Soundcloud a few weeks back from an artist’s page listed as “User 964848511”. Closer inspection revealed it to be Paul Westerberg, operating in the same lo-fi mode that defined the earliest work of his most famous band, The Replacements. Unlike that early work though, “Hawk Ripping at Your Throat” is characterized by a somber, almost foreboding atmosphere. Slow, creeping, and full of white-knuckle suspense, it’s a potent reminder of Westerberg’s legendary talent.

10. Lomelda – Interstate Vision

Lomelda‘s next album will be the project’s first for the impressively consistent — and consistently excellent — Double Double Whammy label. One of the first looks at that record came via the gorgeous “Interstate Vision”, a gentle mid-tempo number with a muted sense of grandeur and a near-cinematic sweep. It’s a lovely song that plays up the projects strongest aesthetic choices as well as emphasizing an unassuming mastery of songwriting. By the track’s end, it’s easy to wish it hadn’t come to a close.

11. SOAR – Fatigue

Last year, SOAR managed to make a strong impression with the material that they were releasing. It seems that their momentum has carried over into 2017 and allowed the band to grow even more emboldened as “Fatigue” — their latest — is as hard-charging and unapologetic as anyone could have hoped. “Fatigue” also plays up their pop sensibilities to great effect, while continuing to mire it in coats of both grit and attitude. It’s a charming track and deserves a whole slew of listens.

12. En Route – I Am the Problem

One of 2017’s most outstanding small releases came recently via En Route’s then is a song EP, another strong record from a growing line of projects working in the space that allows for a happy marriage between bedroom pop and basement punk. “I Am the Problem” was the song chosen to tease the EP and it was an incredibly effective choice as the song carves out a memorable identity for En Route. All of the decisions here, while understated, serve to elevate a legitimately great song from a new band worth knowing.

13. Baby! – If I’m Sorry

Baby! has been releasing a string of ridiculously enticing singles over the past few months and “If I’m Sorry” is the best of an extremely tantalizing lot. Equal parts sweet and biting, “If I’m Sorry” is another mid-tempo slice of quiet perfection from a band that seems to be gearing up for bigger things. Every song they’ve released has been utterly captivating and “If I’m Sorry” takes that facet of their music to new levels. Winsome, pensive, and oddly uplifting, it cements Baby! as one of 2017’s most pleasant surprises.

 

14. Madeline Kenney – Always

For more than a few years, Madeline Kenney has been carving out a place into today’s pantheon of emerging acts who have a genuine shot at their work being not only remembered but coveted after they’ve relaxed into retirement. “Always” is not only another strong indicator of that end goal but the strongest work of Kenney’s career to date. Three and a half minutes of arresting dynamics, clever arrangements, perfect production, and outstanding songwriting. It’s a song that’ll always be worth keeping around.

15. Florist – What I Wanted to Hold

Last year, Florist released one of the year’s finest EPs in The Birds Outside Sang and they’re already gearing up for the release of what looks to be one of this year’s finest full-lengths, If Blue Could Be Happiness. “What I Wanted to Hold” is the song kicking off the roll out campaign for the record and it’s a stunner. In keeping with the band’s best work, “If I Wanted to Hold” is a delicate, wintry number that’s enhanced by its own fragility. Sincere, vulnerable, and searching, it’s one of the year’s most breathtaking songs.

A Week and a Half’s Worth of Material

Over the past week and a half there was a vast arsenal of material that found release across all three major formats. All of the titles that made a sizable impression will be linked to below and all of them are well worth exploring. Over the next few days there will be a laundry list of individual items to find small features but that in no way should deter from the immense value of the songs listed below. If there was enough time to provide each and every one of these entries features of their own, a regular day would have to be well over 24 hours. As it stands, the best approach is to simply bookmark this page and peruse these selections at a preferred pace. Keep an eye out for more updates from this site very soon and enjoy the incredible offerings that are available below.

Streams

The Raveonettes, Coaster, Puerto Rico Flowers, Beachtape, Sad13 (x2), Small Wonder, Two Houses, Floating Room, Hooton Tennis Club, Communions, Monster Rally, Mark Sultan, CRX, Dama Scout, Lady Lamb, Maria Taylor (ft. Conor Oberst), The Cinematic Orchestra (ft. Moses Sumney), Frank Weysos, Parlour Tricks, JD Werner, Del Water Gap, Invisible Boy, Magic Magic Roses, Hand Habits, The Breaks, Tyvek, clipping., Flower Girl, Mark Eitzel, Soft Lions, Cosmonauts, Desperate Journalist, Sonnyskyes, Tyler Daniel BeanSløtface, Cory Hanson, Sinai Vessel, Will Johnson, MOLLY, The Olympian, Boon, Emily Reo, Joanna Newsom, War Nurse, Ramonda Hammer, Sundayman, Yeasayer, Gummy, Sacred Paws, Enemies, BROS, Dead Leaf Echo, Mo Troper, Jarrod Milton, Dante Decaro, wrtch, Miya Folick, and Frankie Cosmos

Music Videos

Flasher, Honeyblood, Gland, Black Marble, Matt Kivel, Emilyn Brodsky, Peacock Affect, The Soonest, Alpenglow, Peder, Peeling, Worms, Girl Ray, Communist Daughter, Moonheart, The Superweaks, Sara Jackson-Holman, Andy Shauf, Monomyth, Victoria + Jean, The Avalanches, Purling Hiss, Tanukichan, Lou Barlow, Pity Sex, Froth, Allison Crutchfield, Strange Relations, Berwanger, Hazel English, Nada, Mayflower, Jess Williamson, Brunch, The Cavemen, Ray & Remora, Busman’s Holiday, Matt Costa, Muncie Girls, Soaker, and Oh Pep!.

Full Streams

Slothrust, Eric Schermerhorn, Tony Molina, Perfume-V, Silent, gobbinjr, Thick, Sam Kogon, Soft Pyramids, Max, Suntrodden, Loamlands, Nocturnal Habits, Choir Boy, Twiga, Angelic Milk, Realms, Parlour Tricks, Skye Wallace, Saba, Dead To Me, Teen Suicide, No Nets, Kevin Morby, Bloody Death Skull, Tournament, King Dude, Spectral Fangs, Communist DaughterSpeak Into My Good Eye‘s The 3rd Annual 24 Hour Songwriting Challenge, and Brown Acid, a joint-effort compilation from Riding Easy Records and Permanent Records that explores some of the heavier music of the ’60s and ’70s.

Artie Tea – Out Of A Seaweed Dream (Album Review)

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Snail Mail, Rod, Midwives, Post Pink, Jordaan Mason, Holy Monitor, and Strange Relations were among the shortlist of bands who unveiled excellent full streams over the course of this site’s recent gap in coverage and they’re all more than deserving of heavy levels of investment. The band claiming the featured spot for this post, however, is a new one that boasts an impressive pedigree; one of Topshelf’s most recent releases, Artie Tea’s Out Of A Seaweed Dream.

 Between the band’s two members, Josh Croteau and Derek Desharnais, the band’s racked up an impressive number of direct connections (including The Clippers, Sneeze, Fucko, and Cough Cough). Combining those acts only hints at Artie Tea’s identity, which echoes shades of classic shoegaze and a few unlikely contemporaries like LVL UP (Croteau’s vocal delivery is particularly reminiscent of Dave Benton’s).

“Attitude” immediately sets the tone for the band’s debut, Out Of A Seaweed Dream, which is overflowing with memorable mid-tempo stompers, killer hooks, and the kind of deceptive discontentment that can serve as propulsive fuel for the creation of praiseworthy art. Throughout the record’s eight tracks and sub-25 minute runtime, Artie Tea never once strikes a false note and creates an intuitive chemistry that serve their songs beautifully.

It’s another winsome notch in an increasingly formidable string of releases from Topshelf Records, who are quickly transforming themselves into a legitimate powerhouse by expanding their horizons in subtle, compelling ways. Out Of A Seaweed Dream‘s not just a surprise standout for the label, it’s one of the year’s great small records. In its almost-title track, “Seaweed Dream”, it even ably demonstrates the band’s scope is likely much larger than what’s offered on their debut. When that reveal finally comes, it looks to be a fulfilling moment. Until then, we should all be more than content to just play these eight songs into oblivion.

Listen to Out Of A Seaweed Dream below and pick it up from Topshelf here.

Strange Relations – Weeknites (Song Premiere)

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Last August, this site had the distinct pleasure of hosting the premiere of Strange Relations’ music video for “Panther’s Conquest” and the differences between that song and their most recent, “Weeknites”, is staggering. While “Panther’s Conquest” was undoubtedly a strong single and a fine piece of work from a band growing comfortable with their footing, “Weeknites” is the sound of a band that knows their strengths and can utilize them to astonishing effect.

The trio still specializes in wiry post-punk that’s as nervy as it is subtle, ultimately revealing a deep kinship to acts like Sonic Youth. It’s something that the best moments of -CENTRISM, the band’s last record, hinted at when it could but never to the extent that it appears here. There’s an emboldened attitude that simultaneously heightens the musical interplay of “Weeknites” while it grounds its narrative. There’s a nervous energy that powers “Weeknites” and draws the listener closer in by conjuring up an air of mystique.

Even as the vocals leap from calculated half-spoken/half-sung whispers to distressed half-screams, the band’s minimalism remains in tact and opens up an incredibly effective chorus. There’s a sultry menace that “Weeknites” alternately hides and brings to the forefront, creating a buoyant sense of unease that goes a long way in establishing the song as something more singular than it may seem at first glance. While “Weeknites” is a curious joy on the first few listens, it does require some investment to realize its full potential; the song’s a meticulously crafted work and that commendable level of effort runs far deeper than the most immediate surface levels.

By the song’s breathtaking final sequence, it’s abundantly clear that the three members of Strange Relations have completely committed themselves to this band. Every facet of “Weeknites” is complementary to the other functions, from the ancillary production to the intuitive drumming, there’s not a single piece that ever threatens to jeopardize the entire operation. Incredibly successful on dynamic, atmospheric, and narrative levels, “Weeknites” marks an exciting new era for Strange Relations. They’ve more than done their part, all that’s left is to wait — and to hope — that larger audiences will follow.

Listen to “Weeknites” below and pre-order Going Out from Tiny Engines here.

Hater – Radius (Stream)

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After a flurry of new material emerged yesterday, Wednesday was kind enough to keep the momentum going, producing new songs from Cross Wires, HSY, Sur Back, Kilo Tango, School ’94, Wymond Miles, Strange Relations, and JOYA. Additionally, there were outstanding clips from Margaret Glaspy, Middle Kids, Public Access TV, Angel Olsen, Icky Blossoms, and Brass Bed. Finally, the full streams were capped off with extremely strong releases from the following artists: Casket Girls, Moonface and Siinai, Cough, The Stargazer Lilies, Dream b/w Comfort, Kalispell, and a reissue of elvis depressedly‘s holo pleasures that comes packaged with a new slate of b-sides. As great as all of those releases were (and they were great), today’s feature spot was confidently claimed by emergent act Hater and their spry “Radius”.

“Radius” is yet another in a long list of successes for the astonishingly prolific — and remarkably consistent — PNKSLM label, who have specialized in curating an aesthetic firmly built around carefree basement pop. Hater fit into that mold with a graceful ease but inject the proceedings with a magisterial sweep that quickly establishes them as one of their roster’s most intriguing acts. Evoking Ty Segall as much as Alvvays, Hater finds a curious middle-ground between two genres that overlap far less frequently than they should (with “Radius” operating as startling proof).

As “Radius” sprints along, arms outstretched, Hater never loses its footing or determination, allowing the song to stay grounded and build momentum all at once. In under two and a half minutes, the band conjures up a beautiful piece of lovingly damaged powerpop, maintaining an irrepressible, hopeful smile throughout all the bruises. Guitars swell, the rhythm section rolls, and the vocals soar in a beautifully woven piece of art that never outstays its welcome. Everything on “Radius” is either perfect or nearing perfection, projecting as much identity as it does confidence. In one song, Hater manages to carve out a name for themselves and it’s a name worth saying; Hater’s a band that deserves all of the mentions that will inevitably come their way.

Stream “Radius” below and pick up the band’s forthcoming EP from PNKSLM here.

Strange Relations – Panther’s Conquest (Music Video Premiere)

strange rlations
Photograph by Kate Essick

Back in March, Strange Relations quietly released the excellent -CENTRISM, a collection of songs teeming with a variety of great influences (indie pop, post-punk, new wave, no wave, hardcore, etc.). It’s an album that deserved greater circulation than it initially received- but, like all great bands that have the tenacity to reach wider platforms- they’re staunchly refusing to be dissuaded by something as trivial as small reception. I’m honored to be hosting the premiere of the music video for the shortest, sharpest, and fiercest song on -CENTRISM, “Panther’s Conquest”.

On -CENTRISM the song feels even more vicious than it does as a standalone piece, thanks to the sequencing choice to have it follow the record’s most gentle moment. Freed of sequential boundaries, the Lewis Wilcox-directed clip is allowed both a freedom and a fierceness that feels intrinsically tied to the spirit of the song. Utilizing striking visuals, great framing, brilliant editing, and a strong turn from Isabel Hendrix in the video’s central role, it plays on an unnerving sense of pulp to great effect.

Intercutting performance footage, cleverly placed snippets of lyrics, an empty, foreboding chair in a parking garage, a photoshoot, and more, “Panther’s Conquest” ultimately comes off as an exploration of personal identity, rendering it an accurate presentation of one of -CENTRISM‘s largest overarching narrative themes. As everything rapidly builds to what feels like may be a horrifying climax, the clip subverts expectations and ends with a different kind of powerful statement. It’s an elegant and graceful punctuation mark that makes the sentiments preceding it even more intriguing. Provocative, thoughtful, and full of beautiful neo-noir touches, it’s not a video to be missed.

Watch “Panter’s Conquest” below and order -CENTRISM here.