Heartbreaking Bravery

stevenmps2@gmail.com | @steven_mps | @hbreakbravery

Tag: stream

Cagework – Good Ideas (Stream)

A little over a week had passed in July and the month had already seen some memorable music videos from artists like: JIANT, Sonny Falls, Moaning Lisa, Francobollo, Jay Rock, Tiny Eyes, Frontperson, Carcinoma, Pale Grey, and Elise Davis. While all of those entries managed to carve their places as standouts, Cagework’s fiery “Good Ideas” proved too formidable not to feature.

A perfect halfway point between post-punk and basement pop, “Good Ideas” surges and seethes with an abundance of clarity. Tenacious, scintillating, and insanely addictive, “Good Ideas” quickly reveals all of the reasons why its title is so apt. An adrenaline-fueled three minute explosion, it’s the kind of song that makes people sit up and take notice of an artist and their existing discography. While all of Cagework’s previous material is well worth the listen, the future that “Good Ideas” seems to be indicating looks even more promising.

Listen to “Good Ideas” below and pick it up here.

Gash – Always Pissed (Song Premiere)

Any time there’s a band that convinces someone to start a label, there’s always an innate quality about them that justifies such a passionate response. It’s a theory that’s been held up in practice countless times over and applies to Gash — a power trio from Eau Claire, WI — who are largely responsible for stoking the fire of what would become Heavy Meadow Records. Curiously, the band’s forthcoming Haha will be Heavy Meadow’s third release but it also stands a reasonable chance of being the label’s earliest calling card.

Haha was recorded by Seth Tracy of Double Grave and “Always Pissed” is the first look at the record. Sludgy, grunge-adjacent, and teeming with slacker punk tendencies (deliberate pacing, sardonic humor, etc.), “Always Pissed” comes equipped with a heavy dose of reverb and attitude. Through the grime, there’s a pop song buried at the center, creating a competitive balance that winds up propelling the song into its own world. It’s dirty, it’s powerful, and it’s got a measure of casual brilliance. Turn it on and turn it up.

Listen to “Always Pissed” below and pre-order Haha from Heavy Meadow here.

The Best Songs of June 2018’s Final Half

A ridiculous amount of great songs came out over the final half of June 2018, roughly tripling the output of music videos and records. In accordance, the below list will be expanded from the preceding features’ three-slot format to a selection of nine. As usual, there’s a fairly vast palette of styles and influences to sample, each song offering up a distinctly unique thrill. Dive into the fray and get swept up in the chaos.

Whitney Ballen – Go

The first look at the fantastic forthcoming You’re A Shooting Star, I’m A Sinking Ship. Ballen uses a hushed vocal — one that’s curiously reminiscent of Nicole Dollanganger — on “Go” like a weapon, drawing the listener into a difficult narrative that acts as an effective counterweight to the casually optimistic sheen embedded into the musical arrangement. A fascinating presentation of the dichotomies resonating at the center of most mental health struggles, “Go”, while brilliant, only scratches the surface of Ballen’s capabilities.

Curling – Still Green

Following their appearance in the Best Songs list for June 2018’s first half, Curling come back to top themselves with “Still Green.” A basement pop rave-up that exudes the intensely relatable weariness of the slacker punk movement of the early ’90s, “Still Green” incorporates enough modern bent to ensure it won’t fall prey to accusations of tired revivalism. There’s an abundance of life thriving at the song’s surface and Curling makes sure each of the song’s 164 seconds land with maximum impact.

Ovlov – Stick

Not to be outdone by Curling’s repeat heroics as a featured act, Ovlov notch their third consecutive feature nod with the brooding, explosive “Stick”. All three songs to tease the band’s upcoming Tru have made a formidable case that we’re on the verge of hearing one of the year’s best records. While the first two — “Spright” and “Short Morgan” — relied on volume and power, “Stick” ensures that Tru won’t be a one-note affair. Unexpected, oddly moving, and incredibly engaging, “Stick” is a song that deserves to be left on repeat.

Sean Henry – Imperfection

Sean Henry‘s past work has been unfairly overlooked for all the usual, dispiriting reasons but the songwriter’s latched on to something with Fink that just might be strong enough to overcome those intangible obstacles. “Imperfection” was the final track to be released ahead of Fink‘s unveiling and it ably showcases an artist in full control of their creative powers. From the production choices to the delivery itself, “Imperfection” winds up coming surprisingly close to standing as a direct opposite of its own title.

Dentist – Corked

A familiar name to the site, Dentist have been steadily working towards their big moment, earning every lesson and success that’s come their way. In that pursuit, they’ve released a handful of great songs but “Corked”, their latest, doesn’t just set a new high but a new precedent. The band’s lit onto something that feels wholly their own and are prepared to accelerate their pacing from a jog to a sprint. “Corked”, as fine a basement pop song as anyone’s likely to hear this season, is a tantalizing indicator of what Dentist has in store for the future.

Slothrust – Peach

Slothrust‘s another name that’s been printed on these pages a handful of times and “Peach” is the latest reason to type it out. The lead-off single from The Pact, “Peach” is a galvanizing burst of the band’s singular brand of slacker pop. More immediate and self-contained than a lot of the trio’s earlier work, “Peach” makes a morsel feel like a mouthful, before becoming an entire meal. It’s the band’s shortest single to date but it lingers when it’s gone. Don’t miss this one.

Jonathan Something – Fine

Clocking in at just under two minutes, Jonathan Something’s “Fine” still finds time to stand out. A throwback pop song that reveals an astonishing array of influences (everything from Motown to disco to powerpop), “Fine” manages to feel comfortably familiar and thrillingly new over the course of its brief run time. Jonathan Something delivers it all with poise, conviction, and a sincerity that translates into one of the year’s most purely enjoyable songs.

Tony Molina – Wrong Town

A master of the micro song, Tony Molina has found a niche way to thrive since the earliest Ovens songs. Even as Molina’s edges have softened, there’s been a profound sense of assurance that’s cut through the noise. In addition to that gentle confidence, there’s always been a palpable sense of place; Molina knows the places worth belonging to even as his narratives question definitive decision-making. “Wrong Town” is the latest in a string of tender, ’60s-influenced folk-adjacent pieces. Warm and heartrending, “Wrong Town” deserves a visit.

Gia Margaret – Birthday

Gia Margaret‘s “Birthday” is a genre-demolishing track that’s been roping listeners into its orbit since its initial release. Bits of dream pop, shoegaze, and shoegaze find fascinating new intersections throughout the song, which is anchored by Margaret’s soft, spellbinding vocal performance. From front to back, “Birthday” is breathtaking in its unexpected scope and considerable beauty. A transcendent, mesmerizing work.

 

The Final Half of June 2018: Streams, Music Videos, and Full Streams

The final half of June wasn’t quite as loaded as its immediate predecessor but it came surprisingly close. A deluge of material found release in every major format. Iconic acts remixed prominent genre figures, legends were paid tribute, and a handful of new faces made a deep impression. Below is the chronicling of everything that made a notable splash. Three individual installments focusing on some additional highlights from this stretch will follow this post shortly. For now (and for however many times anyone feels like clicking over) enjoy the best of the rest.

STREAMS

Saintseneca, Rat Columns, Free Cake For Every Creature, Chakra Efendi, Weller, Angelo De Augustine, Van Dale, Murder By Death, Alien Boy, Saturday Night, Many Voices Speak, Mogwai, Basement Revolver, Bad Bad Hats, Sudakistan, Teksti-TV 666 (x2), Eric Bachmann, Silverbacks, Signal, The Rareflowers, The Rock’N’Roll HiFives, The Cradle, Emma Ruth Rundle, Steady Holiday, El Ten Eleven, Joey Sweeney, Marissa Nadler, Bad Western, Wild Pink, Jason Isbell, Sego, The Mountain Goats, A Place to Bury Strangers/Slowdive, Oh Sees, Daniel Bachman, Sleep Party People, Bellows, Taylor Janzen, Purling Hiss, Hater, Lou Rogai, LT Wade, Send Medicine, TMBOY, J. Marco, Michael Nau, Night Flight, and Lokoy.

MUSIC VIDEOS

SilverbacksTrü, Ohmme, Tomberlin, Claire Morales, Batz, blushh, Los Blancos, Flasher, Talos, Strange Rooms, Self Defense Family, Hifiklub & Lee Ranaldo, Deerhoof, Amen Dunes, Jay Rock, Zzzwalk, Domenico Lancellotti, Joan of Arc, Yumi Zouma, Who Is She?, Russian Baths, Life In Vacuum, IRMA VEP, Ocean Potion, Shy Boys, Drawing Boards, Cicada Rhythm, and Delta Sleep.

FULL STREAMS

Dumb, Henrik Appel, The Innocence Mission, Self Defense Family, Lily Konigsberg, Western Medication, Katie Herzig, No Love, Modern Rituals, Converge, Avid Dancer, Dott, and a Built to Spill covers compilation.

LVL UP – Orchard (Stream, Live Videos)

A note here, before things get too much further. I try to make it a habit to not write or use a first person perspective on this site and when I do make an exception, it’s to convey the personal connection I have to the material. LVL UP‘s goodbye note and their swan song might go beyond being just personal. Theirs was a band I loved fiercely, from the very moment my friend Sasha introduce me to them at her Chicago apartment. All it took was one live video for me to feel like I was being leveled; they were operating in a genre I loved but subverting it in a way that legitimately obliterated (and subsequently redefined) how I approached writing my own music.

From that point forward, I would listen to the band obsessively. I got to know their side projects, the bands they were in that preceded LVL UP, the bands they were forming. The first time I saw them was with Sasha again at Beat Kitchen in Chicago, where we all shared a meal with Mitski, who was touring alongside the band and in the early stages of becoming a legitimate powerhouse. Over the course of that day and getting to know the people in the band, there was a palpable kindness that was extended to me, operating without the knowledge that I was the one who labored over multiple pieces dissecting what made their music so distinct and so important.

They’d find out by the end of the night and respond in kind but by then, they’d already established themselves as the type of people who create their own families, housing them with empathy and affection. A few years later, I would find myself quite literally sleeping under the roof of their de facto home base, DBTS, during my brief stint living in New York. By that point, I’d already crowned Hoodwink‘d 2014’s Album of the Year and would be a year removed from giving Return to Love the same accolade.

It’s incredibly important to note here that those records didn’t receive those positions because LVL UP was kind to me; I had no idea that the members would become integral — if somewhat distant — parts of my life when Sasha hit play on that video. They earned those spots because their music always gave me a sense of belonging, which is exceedingly rare. I was fascinated by the collaboration, which seemed to establish an equal footing, and I was blown away by their articulation of a very specific sect of early adulthood.

Whether Nick, Dave, or Mike were expressing heartache, betrayal, wonderment, isolation, or warmth, the way the narratives took shape always found a way to hit me especially hard. It wasn’t just that the lyrics or instrumentation were impressive, there was an abundance of heart and humility that resonated with me to the point where my countless personal retreats into the worlds they conjured felt like a part of my identity.

Moving into DBTS for a short stretch only served to strengthen and accentuate things that I’d already learned; LVL UP wasn’t just a four person band. LVL UP was a family that extended beyond the confines of music. “They don’t love you like we do” wasn’t just a lyric, it was a way of living that’s spawned unforgettable moments for not just their friends but listeners the world over that found that same connection to their music that I held tight.

Considering every inch of those aspects of the band, their announcement a few short weeks ago and the release of “Orchard” have made the goodbye especially painful. Coming on the back of their most celebrated record (along with signing to Sub Pop), the band’s future seemed wide open. Everything seemed to be clicking, even as the trio of core songwriters dipped into their respective solo projects (Trace Mountains, Spirit Was, and The Glow) with an increased dedication while drummer Greg Rutkin found success in Cende, a band that was gone too soon.

It’s in those solo projects (and the various others that all four members have played pivotal roles) that there resides hope for what LVL UP can offer in the future. Each of their albums, 7″s, and odds and ends compilations encapsulates the kind of legacy that people will point to as a source of inspiration for years to come. “Orchard” is a worthy addition to that legacy and the most bittersweet moment of a discography that never shied away from challenging dichotomies.

Everyone gets a turn in front of the microphone one final time, sharing harmonies together with the knowledge that this will be their last time, imbuing the song with a sense of longing and finality. In that context, “Orchard” becomes devastating; it’s the end of an era that heralded innumerable arrivals, songs, and moments. There’s a palpable weight in the delivery, as if the members of LVL UP themselves were still struggling to come to terms with the decision to have one final outing before hanging up their banner for good.

Over that final three minutes and 48 seconds, the band lean into their interplay to incredible effect, pushing it to the forefront for a deeply felt goodbye. Fittingly, considering the circumstances, “Orchard” is the most melancholic moment of the band’s career, replete with elegiac, swirling organ lines cascading down onto reverb-laden vocals. The song’s kept at mid-tempo but still feels urgent, as if holding back from collapse; mirroring those of us who have struggled with this being the last new song we’ll likely ever hear from the band.

From a narrative perspective, “Orchard” seems to touch on a metaphor that applies to the history these four people have built together, from the ground up. An orchard turns out to be an apt metaphor as LVL UP waxes poetic on the nature of change; life and death being inextricably intertwined, one providing the inevitability of the other. Even through that wistful lens, there’s a sliver of hope in the allowance of rebirth. If “Orchard” truly winds up being the band’s parting gift to those who were fortunate enough to cross the path of their music, it’s an exquisite one.

All we can do now is hope that Nick Corbo, Greg Rutkin, Dave Benson, and Mike Caridi keep finding ways to keep the flames they stoked alive in some way or another. LVL UP’s dissolution may offer difficult routes to reconciliation, but the space it affords is lit with a rare kind of promise that will be a comfort in the ongoing rolling blackout of treasured NYC DIY institutions. Fortunately, the band’s not ready for a final goodbye quite yet and will be taking an extended bow on a farewell tour.

Read the band’s goodbye note and buy tickets for one of the farewell tour dates listed as soon as they become available.

“We have decided to retire this project. It has been an extremely rewarding journey beyond anything we could have ever realistically imagined,” LVL UP said in a statement. “The band began in a college dorm room in 2011 as a lighthearted recording project. We have since been lucky enough to tour nationally and internationally over the last seven years with the support of many lovely people, and will never be able to thank our friends, families, and loved ones enough for providing such warmth throughout this experience. Our deepest gratitude goes out to every label, band, and person who’s played a role in this wild ride.”

08/27 – Boston, MA @ Great Scott
08/28 – Montréal, QC @ Bar Le Ritz
08/29 – Toronto, ON @ The Garrison
08/30 – Cleveland, OH @ Mahall’s
08/31 – Chicago, IL @ Beat Kitchen
09/01 – Minneapolis, MN @ 7th St Entry
09/04 – Missoula, MN @ Union Ballroom
09/05 – Seattle, WA @ Barboza
09/06 – Portland, OR @ Mississippi Studios
09/08 – San Francisco, CA @ Cafe Du Nord
09/09 – Los Angeles, CA @ The Echo
09/10 – Phoenix, AZ @ Rebel Lounge
09/13 – Dallas, TX @ Three Links
09/14 – Austin, TX @ Barracuda
09/16 – Nashville, TN @ High Watt
09/17 – Asheville, NC @ The Mothlight
09/18 – Carrboro, NC @ Cat’s Cradle
09/19 – Richmond, VA @ The Camel
09/20 – Washington, DC @ DC9
09/21 – Philadelphia, PA @ Boot & Saddle
09/28 – New York, NY @ Bowery Ballroom

Watch a collection of personally shot live videos and listen to “Orchard” below.

The Best Songs of June’s First Half

As evidenced by the last handful of posts, the first two weeks of June were not short on exceptional material. Songs, by virtue of length and abundance, had an especially strong showing. The five below include a few career highlights from longtime favorites and a few impressive entries from fresher faces. All of them would be perfect additions to the warm weather playlists being pulled into existence as spring melts into summer. Discover their strength below.

Ovlov – Short Morgan

If anyone had any doubts that Ovlov would be better than they’ve ever been should they return, “Short Morgan” should permanently erase those thoughts. One of the fiercest tracks the band’s released to date, “Short Morgan” is an adrenaline surge that marries the elements that catapulted Dinosaur Jr to cult icons with the frustration-laced introspection that’s come to define Ovlov’s identity. Ragged, vicious, and pointed, “Short Morgan” is more than enough to suggest we might be looking at one of the year’s great albums in their forthcoming TRU.

The Beths – Happy Unhappy

Making a return to the spotlight, The Beths deliver in kind with “Happy Unhappy”, an unexpected summer anthem. Twee-leaning powerpop through a punk-tinged lens, “Happy Unhappy” is a sugar rush of ingenuity, layering hook after hook until the band’s built something as towering as it is irresistible. Everything from the persistent backing vocals to the guitar interplay in the pre-chorus and on the bridge combines to leave “Happy Unhappy” standing tall as The Beths finest work. Give this one the attention it deserves.

The Ophelias – General Electric

Much like The Beths “Happy Unhappy”, The Ophelias “General Electric” is tailor made for a carefree summer afternoon. A hypnotic collage of sounds, “General Electric” expertly blends powerpop with some twee and experimental trappings. Brilliantly produced by WHY?‘s Yoni Wolf and impeccably structured, it’s an immensely welcome introduction-at-large for an incredibly promising act. Every second of this is captivating, creating an enchanting pull that’s difficult to refuse. A collection of clever twist and turns, it marks The Ophelias as a band worth hearing.

Curling – Radio King

Basement pop that’s informed by post-punk and runs slightly askew is a hallmark of Heartbreaking Bravery’s general coverage and is presented in its fullest potential on Curling’s “Radio King”. Utilizing vocals that are more than a little reminiscent of Ted Leo, Curling avoids comparisons to The Pharmacists outright by embracing a more disjointed approach. Falling somewhere in between the genre lines drawn by Flying Nun and Rough Trade, “Radio King” shows Curling are more than comfortable planting their flag in the in-between. “Curling King” is the perfect way to reveal that flag’s mesmeric colors.

Free Cake For Every Creature – Around You

Capping off a trio of songs that expertly blends twee shrapnel with powerpop aesthetics, Free Cake For Every Creature‘s “Around You” is a strong reminder of the talent at the heart of the project. Driven by a hyper-specific narrative and imaginative instrumentation, “Around You” finds Free Cake For Every Creature reaching new heights ahead of their forthcoming The Bluest Star. Destined to be a staple of the project’s live show for years to come, the song offers an embarrassment of riches, from the guitar work that graces the chorus to the restrained delivery. It’s unmissable.

The Best Full Streams of June’s First Half

In the opening half of June, a large handful of worthwhile records found their way into the public consciousness. Most of the five below (with one notable exception), only gained traction among niche audiences but were imbued with the kind of power that can make those numbers grow in increments. All of them, as ever, are more than worthy of purchasing from the band or label responsible for their release. A handful lived up to the hype and at least one seemed to appear from the ether. Give them all the kind of investment they deserve.

Snail Mail – Lush

Easily the highest-profile record on this list, site favorites Snail Mail made good on their early promise with a Matador debut. Debuting at a heartening 56 on the Billboard charts, Lush catapults the project into the public eye. Riding a wave of acclaim for their strong early work, sterling live show, smart marketing, and the strength of their advance singles ensured that Lush would be greeted with fanfare. That it’s devoid of any glaring weaknesses or gaps leaves the record as a testament to Lindsey Jordan’s abilities as a songwriter but more importantly, establishes Snail Mail as a genuine artist.

Flasher – Constant Image

Constant Image, the debut full-length from Flasher is one hell of a coming out party. Taut, hyper-melodic, and genre-blurring, the record’s a perfect encapsulation of a band that’s fully aware they’re coming into their own. Everything from the production to the sequencing here serves a larger whole rather than relegating distinctive sections. Every song on Constant Image is a career high for a band that’s already amassed a fairly impressive discography over a few short releases. Constant Image shouldn’t just put their name on the map but lock itself into the kind of heavy rotation slot that doesn’t get vacated.

Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever – Hope Downs

Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever are an act that’s been featured on this site multiple times for a handful of years, which makes it all the more surprising that Hope Downs is their first official album. What’s not as surprising, especially given that time to figure things out, is that it arrives fully-formed and eschews all of the easy traps lesser-versed bands fall into so frequently. The band knows there’s an advantage to risk-taking that doesn’t overreach and has figured out how to fully lock into their open-road identity. Hope Downs applies that wisdom spectacularly and winds up as an Americana-tinged triumph.

The Knees – Stammer

Likely the least recognizable release on this list, The Knees’ Stammer more than earns a spot among its contemporaries. Two songs of great, delirious post-punk that find fascinating ways to ramble with purpose. Aimless bridges on the title track add an impressive amount of hazy atmosphere, while the ridiculously fun “abcdefghijklmnopqrstuvwxyz” offers up a galvanizing version of a childhood classic. Subversive, unexpected, brimming with confidence, and delivered with a tenacious conviction, Stammer is one of the great unexpected surprises of 2018’s middle stretch. Give it a listen and leave it on repeat.

Dusk – Dusk

Dusk is a tricky record to judge on merit, as it’s essentially a glorified repurposing of a demo that was released by the earliest iteration of the band. Four songs are added (including one that’s an alternate take on a song from bassist/vocalist Amos Pitsch‘s other project, Tenement) and provide a layered depth which is welcome but where Dusk earns its spot on the list in its reinvention. Every single one of these songs benefits from what the band has become and to present them as a collective reintroduction makes sense, considering those changes have been so drastic.

As a collective, Dusk leans into soul as much as classic country, congealing all of their influence into something that’s become reminiscent of The Band, which is a far cry from their first recording. All of the songs here prove worthy of longevity, enhancing an aspect of timelessness. Dusk’s a remarkable band that’s found their power through evolution, settling into a final form that’s got a whole host of material up its sleeve. For now, we should all be more than content to sink into the spells these songs weave and be grateful to have another genuinely great record to add to our collections.

June’s First Half: Honorable Mentions (Songs, Music Videos, Full Streams)

The first half of June carried plenty of surprises. This month has been, notably, dominated by major hip-hop artists and included the release of several major records that have the capacity to hijack year-end lists. Those releases have never been the focal point of this site and this won’t be the post where that changes. Every item on this list, as always, deserves more attention than it’ll receive. Following this list, there will be a few other key releases that get highlighted but these songs, clips, and records deserve all the support they can get, including the below listings and anyone willing to click their links. Enjoy.

SONGS:

Rob Dickson, Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever, Dead Sullivan, Henrik Appel, Cuesta Loeb, Protomartyr, Amos and Spencer, Fleabite, Thin Lips, Dumb, The Molochs, Spencer Radcliffe, Kevin Krauter, Bleeth, Everything By Electricity, Scattered Clouds, Susie Scurry, MOURN, The Rareflowers, Clean Spill, Guts Club, Darren Jessee, Orions Belte, Late Bloomer, Laurel Halo, The Ophelias, Freedom Baby, Kaitlyn Aurelia Smith, Alexander BIggs, Manatree, Runtom Knuten, Manchester Orchestra, Sun June, Angelo De Augustine, Ancestors, ShitKid, Icecapades, Deafheaven, Baby Blue, Frida, Cigarettes After Sex, R+R=NOW, Van Common, Hana Vu, The Dirty Nil, Stalagmites, Wild Nothing, Birdtalker, Jon Spencer, Two Meters, Claw Marks, El Ten Eleven, Birds In Row, Color Tongue, serpentwithfeet, Estrons, Echo Courts, Lazyeyes, Death Grips, Mom Jeans, Gold Star, and a massive offering from Ben Seretan (which accompanies a behemoth multimedia art project that’s worth tracking).

MUSIC VIDEOS:

Clearance, Strange Relations, Death Bells, LIFE, oso oso, The Essex Green, White Woods, Devon Welsh, NEEDS, Thirsty Curses, lemin., Spiritualized, Cold Fronts, Empath, Dirty Projectors, Anna Calvi, VedeTT, The Beths, Cornelia Murr, King Princess, The Fur Coats, Stringer, The Due Diligence, NOTHING, Howard, White Denim, Animal House, and Sad Baxter.

FULL STREAMS: 

Miranda Winters, Petal, Spiritual Cramp, Deux Trois, Dark Thoughts, Dos Santos, Some Gorgeous Accident, Johnny Conqueroo, Tancred, Blushh, Juliana Daugherty, Giant Peach, Hala, Anthony Green, Two Meters, Cold Meat, June Gloom/Rock Solid, CASCINE and Stadiums & Shrines’ Dreams compilation, Palberta, Bloody Knives, Will Henriksen, Surf Dads, God Bless Relative, GRLWood, and Ana Egge.

Good Grief – Here Come the Waterworks (EP Review, Stream, Live Video Presentation)

Before getting too far into this specific review/essay, a slew of disclaimers are in order. First, I play drums in a band that includes a member of Good Grief. Second, all four of these members became close friends and supporters of my work in and outside of Heartbreaking Bravery and are tethered to the same self-created family that we all desperately needed to survive in a small, isolated city in the middle of Wisconsin. Third (and possibly the most important of these three): I didn’t know any of these people until I saw Good Grief play for the first time nearly a decade ago, an instance that immediately registered as one of those world-caving experiences of startling discovery; I knew these were my people before they allowed me into their family.

If entertainment truly lives and dies at the intersection of talent, connections, and insistence, I will go to bat for this band long after they hang up their cables.

That last statement is one I can say with an abundance of conviction, as I was still screaming recommendations at people in passing (and in person) in a four and a half year absence. For a long while it seemed like the band would be permanently dissolved, leaving behind a memorable legacy for the people who were there the first time around, packing in basements and losing their voices screaming along to songs like “Basic Math” and “Flirting With Death“. All that was left was a distant, desperate hope for a reunion or for the songs that never got recorded at the end of the run to find their way to a posthumous release (while holding on to the several hours of live footage I’d amassed with a white-knuckle grip).

In late 2016, the band returned and filled out a local bar that was packed with enough pent-up longing and energy from both the band and the audience that the place nearly disintegrated in the moment. Shortly after, there was a promise of more shows and new material. Here Come the Waterworks is the fulfillment of both that promise and the platform for a handful of songs that were nearly lost apart from that previously mentioned footage (along with the scattered clips of a select few other people).

A handful of post-reunion shows and the band’s picking up right where they left off, a little more poised, a little more learned, and more willing to challenge themselves. All of those points are made abundantly clear on “State of Disbelief”, “Blood and Kin”, and “Gumming Up the Works”, the half of the EP that’s entirely new material. The other half belongs to the songs that were rescued (“High Society”, “Holy Smokes”, and “In Through the Outhouse”), which have been brushed up and injected with a startling sense of galvanization.

Here Come the Waterworks also represents the most evenly split release of the band’s discography, which now spans 2 EP’s and 2 full-length efforts. Half of these songs are led by Colin Bares, who continues to astonish here as he has in previous projects The Coral Riffs, The Weasel, Marten Fisher, The Cost of Living (a project that was born out of Good Grief’s initial dissolution which also retained drummer Jess Nowaczyk), and Mr. Martin and the Sensitive Guys (another project that Good Grief bassist Jarad Olson lent his considerable talent [in addition to spearheading a solo project]). The other half are headed up by Dirk Gunderson, who carved out a name for himself through not only Good Grief but Heavy Looks (which also features Olson) but also by way f some impressive solo work by way of The Deadly Vices.

Across six songs, everyone lays it on the line, committing to their material with a newfound understanding of what they can create. Guitars are left out of tune in spots to create dissonance, vocal overlays enhance the atmosphere in multiple spots, and when the harmonies hit, they hit hard. Gunderson and Bares both provide some of the best work of their respective careers. Their off-kilter pop and unrepentant punk influences still thrive at an intersection that owes a meaningful debt to acts like The Unicorns and The Libertines while offering enough distinct personality to create its own category.

Smart composition, clever hooks, and no shortage of attitude are littered across this EP, which is comprised of nothing but high points. The band’s thoughtfulness is evident throughout Here Come the Waterworks but never sacrifices the immediacy that’s drawn so many people into their circle over the years. There’s no room for error or filler and each member has an intrinsic understanding of how the others work, which translates into a tight-knit formula that elevates the material to a significant degree; Bares’ pained vocals are served by Gunderson’s ambient leads while Gunderson’s unbridled tenacity is enhanced by a characteristically busy and propulsive rhythm section (and so on).

All of it works just as it’s always worked, only this time around the band’s fully aware of their most minuscule machinations and have fine-tuned every facet of their operation. It’s a level of dedication that’s created a snarling behemoth; the years where they stepped away are met here with a vengeance. “Gumming Up the Works”, especially, feels like a declaration of intent; this is a band that’s here to strengthen their own sizable mark. Here Come the Waterworks is a new chapter for the band, and their future, suddenly, has risen from absence and bloomed into an open boundlessness.

When all’s said and done, the last note played, Good Grief resuscitated from the urn’s ashes, this EP stands as a spotless example of what this site was built to celebrate, something that doesn’t come as much of a surprise given that Good Grief were a fundamental part of this entire site’s creation and will continue to be an integral part of Heartbreaking Bravery going forward. It’s a band that’s entwined with the DNA of everything this place — and like-minded places — hope to accomplish: to serve as a platform where elevating hidden or overlooked voices becomes not only possible but the desired goal.

Geographical privilege, lack of funds, lack of notoriety… none of those things matter. All that matters is the music and the people responsible for the music’s creation. This is a band of people doing their best to be kind, writing songs that could go toe-to-toe with an entire arsenal of forgettable acts who are gifted late night TV slots, but there’s a modesty to what they do that none only makes it difficult to gain traction but be seen or heard at all. Hopefully, this post doesn’t wind up being the only piece to attempt a richly-deserved course correction.

Still, Here Come the Waterworks stands proudly as an astonishing release that deserves a far wider audience than it’ll likely get as it’s forced to stare down disappointingly arbitrary mitigating factors. Even with that being the case, the EP’s a testament to the bands who know that making a noticeable impact in the macro doesn’t matter if you can meaningful shape the lives of the people who are present enough to be reached. It’s a record that’s been around five years in the making and it’s a record that makes me proud of the people I chose to align myself with: a piece of art that re-enforces those decisions with abandon.

Good Grief were one of a very select handful of bands who changed the direction of my life and these six songs casually reflect those moments. They made my hometown feel more like an actual home. We lived in basements, we drank together, we suffered with each other, we celebrated with each other, and we did our best to make something meaningful, not just on our own but together. It’s beyond heartening to have that indomitable spirit not only survive an extended break but be rekindled into the roaring fire that is Here Come the Waterworks.

Listen to (and watch) Here Come the Waterworks below, pick it up here, and keep an eye on this site for more updates on one of the best bands more people deserve to know.

The Five Best Records of the Past Two Weeks

A lot of records can come out in the 14-day span that comprised the last two full weeks. Most of those records are doomed to either be lost or forgotten. A handful of those records will be kept and loved by a select few people. Very few, if any, will leave a visible legacy. In the moment, none of that comes close to mattering. We’ve lost some of the best records of all time to ash, dust, and erosion. These five records, with any luck, will be five that people fight to protect. They’ll be honored by people that care. And they’ll stay attached to this list until this site disappears or loses any living connection. Enjoy these to the fullest while they’re present.

1. Peach Kelli Pop – Gentle Leader

Several years and releases deep into a career, Peach Kelli Pop return with Gentle Leader, their strongest entry in an impossibly charming discography. Continuing to produce fired up basement pop of the highest order, the band immediately sets Gentle Leader ablaze with the scintillating “Hello Kitty Knife”, setting the record’s pace at full sprint from the jump. It’s an attention-ensuring opener and the band pays it off in kind with the nine tracks that follow. Each track exudes an irrepressible exuberance, offering a welcome, joyous reprieve from the deluge of summer records grappling with unspeakable heaviness.

2. THICK – Would You Rather?

THICK have been making some noticeable waves for the past few years, seemingly pushing harder and with more determination at each opportunity they were afforded the chance to make an impression. The band’s Would You Rather? is the finest example of this to date. A self-assured four song EP that finds them taking some small risks (the scream-alongs and tempo shifts of “Be Myself” are a perfect indicator) while embracing their core identity. Teeming with energy and channeling well-earned frustration into production, Would You Rather? is the kind of release that reminds us we can learn from our own angst and punch back at the wrongs of the world.

3. sewingneedle – user error

A handful of weeks ago, Heartbreaking Bravery had the honor of premiering “234”, the lead-off track from sewingneedle‘s user error, a blistering record that should have a lot of people taking notice. Call it post-grunge, post-hardcore, post-punk, but don’t dismiss it as being a product of past influences. user error is a distinctly modern beast, one that bucks and seethes and digs its hooves into the ground and its claws into flesh. Aggressive at every turn — including its haunted, near-melancholic atmosphere — and fearless in its execution, user error is the sound of a band that knows it can seize an impressive future by virtue of creating their own moments.

4. Momma – Interloper

Following 2016’s introductory thanks come again EP, Momma have come back with a sterling debut full-length in Interloper. Full of mid-tempo slow-burn basement pop and clever songwriting, the record’s a testament to their emergent talent. It’s a record that’s aware of its tone and establishes its own mesmerizing pace with exacting precision. Pulling from just about every corner of the indie rock canon, Momma finds a way to create something that manages to sound both familiar and distinct enough to avoid being lumped in with any specific movement. A fascinating, compelling listen from a band whose career continues to be worth watching.

5. Hatchie – Sugar & Spice

Already destined to be another illustrious feather in Double Double Whammy‘s already impressive hat, Hatchie’s Sugar & Spice is a bracing look backwards, tapping into the warmth that coats nostalgia’s fondest sides. Soft and full of hard-won clarity, Sugar & Spice fearlessly announces Hatchie as a major talent. Dream pop that refuses to shut its eyes, Sugar & Spice is the kind of EP that doesn’t just resonate but lingers after the initial thrill’s worn off, showing an intricately assembled tapestry that delights in revealing a multitude of layers. It’s an essential addition to any serious record collector’s summer haul and as clear-eyed of a debut effort that 2018’s produced.