Heartbreaking Bravery

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Tag: Sundials

Happy Diving – Big World (Album Stream)

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A few of 2014’s most interesting releases surfaced this week and continued to expand 2014’s shockingly great output. There was Glish‘s unflinchingly heavy and absolutely monstrous self-titled shoegaze stunner, easily both one of 2014’s finest and most fascinating records. Sundials continued crafting excellent 90’s punk-indebted left-field powerpop with their Kick EP, which is also their first effort for Topshelf Records and Espectrostatic offered up the eerie, foreboding ambient psych masterpiece Escape From Witchtropolis just in time for Halloween- and some seriously great accompanying album art.  Then there was the full stream of a record that’s (rightfully) earned a lot of love on this very site: Happy Diving’s Big World.

Ever since Happy Diving came roaring into view with songs like the irresistibly charged-up “Weird Dream“, Big World has been the kind of record teeming with enough potential to elicit salivation. Now that it’s finally out in the world, all of that anticipation has been obliterated; Big World annihilates those expectations. Savage, fuzzed-out, damaged, and absolutely massive even before it hits the halfway point, it’s a record that pays off Father/Daughter Records’ early investment in the band with what’s easily one of the year’s most essential records. Sequenced and produced to perfection, even the minutiae manages to come off as enviable. Only a little over a year into their career, Happy Diving are swinging for the fences and connecting with just about everything that falls into their aim(s). Bottom line: don’t miss this and support something great while it unfolds in the present.

Listen to Big World below and pre-order it from Father/Daughter here.

Iceage – Glassy Eyed, Dormant and Veiled (Stream)

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Another day down, another long list of items to discuss. With summer officially over, it’s time to start focusing in on the fall releases. Tomorrow will see the official release of LVL UP’s Hoodwink’d, one of the year’s best records. Similarly, in a few weeks Iceage will release Plowing Into the Field of Love, a record that continues to expand on its promise in leaps and bounds. Before discussing that last point in greater detail, it’s worth mentioning that incredible new pieces of content are appearing with a regularity that’s starting to border the tenacious. Today alone saw the unveiling (or first notable coverage) of music videos from WAND, Lonesome Shack, The Wans, and an absolutely stunning effort from Cloud Castle Lake that plays with space in a manner so fascinating that it nearly earned a very lengthy write-up as today’s feature by virtue of that aspect alone. There was a very strong 7″ that surfaced from Terry & Louie, a duo composed of Terry Six and King Louie Bankston- who both formerly played in The Exploding Hearts (among many other great subsequent projects). And, as always, there were songs- including (but certainly not limited to): a hypnotic Nick Cave-assisted effort by Marianne Faithfull, the first look at Sundials’ Kick, a previously cassette-only exclusive track from AlvvaysGnarwhal‘s contribution to an upcoming four-way split that boasts some of the year’s most intriguing names, and “Audrey’s Song“- a sampling of Trophy Wife’s just-released All The Sides.

Now, onto the main event- which once again comes courtesy of Iceage. Following the excellent trio composed of “The Lord’s Favorite“, “Forever” and “How Many“, comes “Glassy Eyed, Dormant and Veiled”.  After an impressive array of combative styles that proved to be even more antagonistic that the band’s earliest material, “Glassy Eyed, Dormant and Veiled” finds the band reining things back into an unexpected level of restraint, showing an admirable self-awareness that suggests a talent for composition well beyond their years. Recalling an alternately nightmarish Henry’s Dream with this particular at bat, Iceage have managed to definitively establish a creative growth that should pay massive dividends for them once Plowing Into the Field of Love is revealed in full. Guitars course, the prose rages, and the rhythm section manages to be more imposing than ever before. Importantly, it also enhances the band’s newfound penchant for Southern Gothic to an extent that’s, arguably, even more fully-formed than “How Many”.

While it’s still too early to declare it a bona fide masterwork, everything that the four preview tracks have shown, in one way or another, suggests that may be exactly how Plowing Into the Field of Love will come to be defined. If Plowing Into the Field of Love is rounded out by songs that live up to “Glassy Eyed, Dormant and Veiled” (or any of the other three that have been released) and Iceage continues to make music that sounds this brave and timeless, they may wind up being one of this generation’s most celebrated bands. Whatever does wind up happening when Iceage is allowed their big moment, it’ll be worth paying very close attention to- this has already demonstrated the potential to be a watershed moment. “Glassy Eyed, Dormant and Veiled” is just another running step forward towards a full-on cliff dive and if the take-off is as spectacular as the song, we’re all in for one hell of a ride.

Listen to “Glassy Eyed, Dormant and Veiled” below and pre-order Plowing Into the Field of Love here.

Two Houses – Disappointer (Stream)

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Let’s Pretend Records are one of the most consistent record labels in America, yet their releases are niche enough that they haven’t had an act break through to a wider audience. While it’s unlikely that day will ever come (though it’d be welcome if it did), they’re probably better off for it. Between Vacation, Dead Dog, Treasure Fleet, PURPLE 7, Tight BrosVånna Inget, Kicking Spit, and Nervosas, they’ve had a direct hand in some of the very best records of the last few years. Now, to extend their unlikely winning streak, the label’s partnering up with Rad Girlfriend Records to release Two Houses’ Disappointer 7″.

Operating in a left-field punk-leaning basement pop vein (a la Cheap Girls, Sundials, The Sidekicks, etc.), the Chicago-based trio’s crafted an unlikely collection of songs, highlighted by the title track. While all of the songs include unexpected passages, it’s “Disappointer” that twists and turns the most, making room for atmospheric riffing, surprisingly effective syncopation, and a very strong lyrical outing that underscores how arresting blending miniature vignettes into something whole can really be. It’s an incredibly strong moment that defines what’s easily the band’s finest offering yet.

Listen to “Disappointer” below and pick up a copy of the EP here.

Mulligrub – Canadian Classic (Stream)

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Pop-punk is a maligned genre- and, disappointingly, it’s earned the majority of its scorn by virtue of being largely tepid and uninspired. Ideas are recycled to an alarming extent, the execution’s often overly-bombastic and instantly forgettable. That’s why bands like Lemuria, The Frankl Project, Sundials, Little Lungs, PUP, and the bands that exist (or existed) alongside them are embraced like breaths of fresh air; they’re bands that subvert the genre so completely it’s difficult to define them as part of the genre. Grit, humility, and a sense of empathy help separate them from an overcrowded field- and half the time, they come off as punk bands with an easily traceable love for powerpop anyway. All of the artists that occupy that position have created a niche that labels like Salinas frequently celebrate.  Add Winnipeg’s Mulligrub to that list immediately.

Last month, the trio released the Canadian Classic single online, which is a two-song effort highlighted by the title track, in advance of their forthcoming full-length. “Canadian Classic” announced Mulligrub as a band who has remarkable control of their craft, navigating a variety of passages with a clear-eyed confidence that should serve them extraordinarily well. Musically, it’s closest spiritual kin is likely Radiator Hospital at their most unabashedly poppy, which is really just a slightly longer way of saying that it’s a song that should definitely be listened to. Additionally, there’s a prominent 90’s alternative influence that skews a little closer to Swearin’, solidifying it as a can’t-miss prospect. “Canadian Classic” is backed by “Chicken”, a subtle slow-builder that showcases the band’s range and cements their spot as an act to watch. So, start listening, start watching, just don’t make the mistake of glazing past this band or these songs.

Listen to Canadian Classic below and snag a copy of the band’s upcoming full-length at the first available opportunity.

Watch This: Vol. 16

Well, the stars didn’t quite align and this is, once again, a few days past-due. That’s the bad news. The good news? A bout with poor health (while admittedly not producing much content) did prompt a few brainstorming sessions. As a compromise for this edition’s lateness, it’ll be another spotlight piece (in the way of Vol. 9). Except this time, instead of BNTYK, the attention’s been turned to the Pink Couch Sessions series ([PCS] for short). While this site’s already praised IYMI for a myriad of reasons, and included a few [PCS] pieces here and there, giving them their own Watch This just felt necessary. While there were a few pretty extraordinary videos that were left out, Saintseneca, Big EyesHop Along, and Waxahatchee, have all been covered recently- or covered enough- that it felt justifiable to spread the focus elsewhere. After all, Heartbreaking Bravery would be nothing if it wasn’t constantly looking for new music to showcase. All that’s left is to find a drink, sit back, and watch this.

1. P.S. Eliot – We’d Never Agree

Before Katie Crutchfield started Waxahatchee and Allison Crutchfield was at the center of Swearin’, they were both in P.S. Eliot. This version of “We’d Never Agree” served as an introduction to the band for a fair few people and was a very early indicator of the extent of their respective talents. Katie’s front and center here, as arresting as she’s ever been.

2. Teenage Cool Kids – Landlocked State

Making their second straight appearance in a Watch This features edition, Teenage Cool Kids run though “Landlocked State”. The acoustic format allows the emphasis to be placed on the band’s extraordinary lyrical ability, always one of their strongest elements. They’ve rarely sounded better.

3. Sundials – Crosby Sucks

Midwestern winters can exacerbate already considerable levels of discontentment. There are four things that help pass the time when this happens: music, friends, drinking, and hockey. “Crosby Sucks”, in addition to being a showcase for Sundials’ great left-field basement pop, is a perfect distillation of all four.

4. The Sidekicks – 1940’s Fighter Jet

Steve Clolek has been making quite a name for himself lately. As a member of Saintseneca, his profile’s rising- and as a residual effect of that, The Sidekicks are also getting a fair amount of attention. They deserve it, too. Awkward Breeds was one of 2012’s best records and “1940’s Fighter Jet” was one of its most stunning moments.  Clolek delivers an even more powerful solo version here.

5. Busman’s Holiday – Mr. Spaceman

There are few things that would’ve been more appropriate for a [PCS] grand finale than this rousing take on “Mr. Spaceman” courtesy of Busman’s Holiday. Hitting all the sweet spots of a variety of genres spanning from chamber pop to twee to folk-punk, this is the kind of performance that can make a convert out of just about anyone. The melody, the strings, and the snare work all come together to create something magical.

Watch This: Vol. 8

1-2. Jason Isbell + Neko Case (Austin City Limits)

Watch it here.

3. Moonface – Black is Back in Style  (Live on ExclaimTV)

4. Buffalo Moon – Machista (Live on The Current)

5. Sundials – 710 (Music Video)

Watch it here.

25 Best Demo’s, EP’s, 7″ Singles, and Compilations of 2013

2013 was an incredible year for music that held a seemingly infinite amount of great releases in nearly every possible genre and sub-genre. Cassettes popularity exploded, vinyl sales increased by more than 30%, and the importance of demo’s finally became apparent. In a sea of widely-publicized releases that got mountains of praise, it was a joy to find what composes much of this list.  While a few spots are technically taken up by more than one release, those ties always come courtesy of a band generous enough to release more than one item and have it live up to whatever had preceded it. So, with that caveat in mind, here are the 25 best demo’s, EP’s, 7″ singles, splits, and compilations of 2013.


25. Split Feet – Fall 2013

Chicago’s Split Feet were one of the upper Midwest’s better surprises of 2013 and this demo announced their entrance authoritatively. The rest of the space could be consumed by an attempt to wax poetic on the demo’s respective virtues but, to spare everyone some time, it’s worth pointing out that’s already been done here. Stream the Fall 2013 demo below.

24. The Hotels – Leslie

Here’s an interesting, barely-relevant fact; The Hotels’ excellent Leslie EP was released on the same day Heartbreaking Bravery started. Leslie incorporates nearly all of the staple items on the musical laundry list that this site celebrates most frequently. There’s an emphasis on the kind of influences that keep it on the fringes of the emo-revival alongside bands like Swearin’ and All Dogs but finds itself living in the moment far too much to be tied to a revival. It’s immediacy pays huge dividends but it’s Leslie‘s precision that landed it on this list. Listen to it below.

23. Globelamp – Star Dust

Like Split Feet’s demo, Globelamp’s undeniable unique EP has already been celebrated here. Despite already having a few releases, this felt like a debut. Star Dust‘s nervous energy felt impossibly grounded and promises bigger things for the duo. Hear Star Dust below.

22. Elvis Christ – And So It Shall Be

No one’s going to deny that Elvis Christ is more likable to be noticed for his contributions to Nobunny than his solo work, which, based on the strength of And So It Shall Be is due for a change in the near-future.  There’s definitely a Nobunny influence coursing through the five tracks on display but they pack enough punch to secure it a spot on this list. One of Burger Records’ best tape releases from their best year. Hear it below. 

21. Joseph Frankl – Breakers

Joseph Frankl released two great records on very different platforms this year. As the drummer for The Frankl Project, he was a part of one of 2013’s (and perhaps the decade’s) best pop-punk records. Not too long after he uploaded this two-song single to his bandcamp as a self-release. Breakers exists along the same lines as yesterday’s On the Up honorees Technicolor Teeth. This is driving shoegaze that feels authentic and well-informed and not like a pale imitation. Both songs are among the year’s best and deserve way more attention than they’ve received. Hear Breakers below.

20. The Orwells – Other Voices/Who Needs You

2013 was a breakout year for these young Chicago scrappers. From Jam  in the Van sessions to NPR music video premieres, it was hard to go more than a few months without hearing about them. A lot of this, of course, was due to both of the outstanding EP’s they gave to the world in 2013 (as well as a split cassingle with FIDLAR for Record Store Day), all of which were given a tape release via Burger Records. A production assist from TV On the Radio’s Dave Sitek undoubtedly piqued a lot of interests even further than they had been but that wouldn’t mean anything if the music didn’t actually live up to the hype. Thankfully, it has. Hear both EP’s in full below. 


19. Dead Beach – Purple Scissors/Cool Mutants Split

Let’s Pretend released a lot of incredible material in 2013 but this was easily their best in the short-form department. Both Purple Scissors and the Cool Mutants split were recorded by PURPLE 7’s Patrick Jennings (who formerly fronted Hot New Mexicans) and both bands’ influences are evident throughout both the EP and the split. They both carry the slightly off-kilter, raw, and insanely melodic traits that nearly all of Let’s Pretend’s roster has come to be known for. Hear both releases in their entirety below.




18. La Luz – Damp Face

Anyone who’s been following this site probably won’t be too surprised at finding yet another Burger release on this list but it’s hard to argue against placements for any of the label’s releases; they’ve been consistently excellent and positioned themselves at the forefront of basement pop. La Luz had a turbulent year, suffering both triumphs and devastating setbacks. As horrific as their accident was, people are more likely to associate 2013 with both of the band’s outstanding releases rather than personal tragedy. Both their It’s Alive full-length and Damp Face EP have managed to jumpstart a promising career for their band and they’re already showing no signs of slowing, fighting back relentlessly at whatever obstacles come there way. Hear some of that fight bleed into their music by listening to Damp Face below.

17. Midwives – Midwives

Midwives’ self-titled debut is another of the entries on this list that’s already been covered and the thing’s got some serious legs. Its staying power has been incredibly impressive and went a long way in securing it a spot on this list. Get familiar with Wisconsin’s best new hardcore act by listening to Midwives’ introductory piece below.

16. Lemuria – Brilliant Dancer

As good as The Distance Is So Big was, this 7″ teaser the band released ahead of it may actually exceed it in terms of greatness. Both “Brilliant Dancer” and “Helloing” rank among the best songs in Lemuria’s impressive catalog, providing them the b/w format cuts out any excess and lets them operate as a sharp adrenaline shot that emphasizes the band’s best qualities. Brilliant Dancer is about as precise as Lemuria gets and sacrifices none of their sugar-rush basement pop. Hear it below (and catch them live whenever possible).

15. Summer Twins – Forget Me

As has been mentioned before and is likely to be mentioned again, Burger Records had an absolutely monstrous 2013, as far as EP’s are concerned the label didn’t put out anything better last year than the Summer Twins’ near-perfect Forger Me. Mining a 50’s doo-wop and 60’s girl group influence in equal measure, they offered up five of the most assured and gorgeous songs of the year, with the title track being one of the year’s outright best. While the rest of the songs don’t quite match the heights of “Forget Me”, they come close enough to more than justify a spot on this list. Hear Forget Me below.



14. Huge Face – Huge Face

Huge Face are yet another band that may occasionally find their name tossed into the emo-revival conversation that’s happening right now despite leaning closer to Guided by Voices and late-era Wipers than Sunny Day Real Estate. In the grand scheme of things, though, it really doesn’t matter. Huge Face stands up just fine on its own. The most modern touchpoint here would be Wolf Parade, as the bands share several similar sensibilities, even if the execution on how their lensed varies ever-so-slightly. No matter how it’s looked at, it’s fairly clear that this is a great release. Listen to it below.

13. Pusrad – Modern Anatomi

Clocking in at just over four and a half minutes, these ten songs refuse to fuck around. That steadfast commitment is an integral part of all great hardcore bands’ aesthetic, Pusrad included. Already moving at an incredibly prolific pace, Pusrad keep getting better with each one. Modern Anatomi is an exhilarating blast of fierce, old-school hardcore that’s as relentless as it is creative. One of the genre’s best releases in any format in 2013. Hear it below.



12. Upset/Swearin’/Waxahatchee/Screaming Females – Guided by Voices Tribute 7″

All anyone really needed to do for this one was look at the title. Upset, Swearin’, Waxahatchee, and Screaming Females are four of the better bands going today and each paying tribute to a specific Guided by Voices track is an undeniably sensible move. This is as much of a four-band pairing as it is a five and it exceeds its own promise. That’s one hell of an accomplishment. Unfortunately, no streams of this are currently available but it’s available for purchase (highly recommended) via the link below.

Purchase the Guided by Voices Tribute 7″ from Salinas Records

11. Sundials – Always Whatever (A Collection of Songs from 2009-2012)

Releasing a set-year retrospective can be a tempting prospect for any band that feels it’s entered a new stage; rarely do they exceed on the levels of Sundials’ Always Whatever (A Collection of Songs from 2009-2012). By forgoing the inclusion of several songs from their two main releases, First 6 Songs and When I Couldn’t Breathe, there’s an allowance for the unexpected which infuses Always Whatever with a vitality it may have sorely lacked. This is a stunning collection of melodic basement punk songs that should only help the anticipation build for whatever the band’s next move is. Get familiar with Sundials by listening to Always Whatever below.

10. Technicolor Teeth – Blood Pool

There aren’t very many bands out there who can claim to be as exciting as Technicolor Teeth. Only a few years (and two releases) into their career, they’ve managed to make a deep impression on a lot of their peers and grab the attentions of people that may help elevate them to infamy. They’ve essentially been posited as the new forefront of shoegaze by embracing it as fully as possible while still thriving to make it their own. After the rousing success and tonal darkness of Teenage Pagans, it’s unlikely that anyone thought the aspect they’d play up the most for their follow-up was their warm dream-pop influence. Granted, they haven’t sacrificed much of their morbidity or dark atmosphere and instead reinvent that side of themselves as well. As a result, they’ve wound up with the best nightmare-pop 7″ of 2013. It’s difficult to say how long this band will stay buried but expect to be hearing their names a lot more sometime soon.


9. The Dirty Nil/Northern Primitive – Split

The Dirty Nil’s split 7″ with Northern Primitive was one of the more unique splits of 2013 just for the variance of style on display. Both bands tend to err towards doom without actually crossing that bridge completely, with the former keeping at least one foot very firmly planted in early 90’s indie a la Dinosaur Jr. and The Pixies while the latter perilously straddles multiple genre lines at once. Of the two, The Dirty Nil takes the more straightforward route (and is none the less thrilling for it) while Northern Primitive throws everything they’ve got into their side, riding an eerie atmosphere into a crushing crescendo before gracefully falling back out. An absolutely stunning display piece for two of Canada’s best-kept secrets. Hear it below.



8. Jeff Rosenstock – Summer

Over the years, IYMI has become one of the most trusted sources out there for on-the-rise bands playing the basement punk circuit and have frequently offered early glimpses at bands like Swearin’ and Jason Anderson in the bandcamp “optional donation” mode (the site also is responsible for the incredible Pink Couch Sessions series). This year, they went ahead and added Jeff Rosenstock to the list by featuring his incredible Summer 7″, which managed to be one of the most explosive scuzz-pop 7″ singles of 2013. An absolute must-own. Hear both “Teenager” and “Go On Get” below.



7. Tweens – Demo CD-R

Tweens were one of the great breakout successes of the gutter circuits in 2013, releasing nothing but demos which were subsequently devoured and praised at a rate fast enough to give anyone whiplash. The Cincinnati trio have become one of the more talked-about and sought-after prospects in recent memory based solely on the strength of a demo CD-R which is impressive enough in itself. The fact that their bandleader, Bridgette, had only recently learned guitar before before starting Tweens is a completely different level of impressive. Tweens are set to release their debut full-length in March and that day can’t get here fast enough. Until then, listen to a few selections from the now-sold out demo below.



6. All Dogs – 7″

One of Salinas’ most exciting new prospects has already drawn comparisons to seemingly half of that label’s roster, which is precisely what makes it so appealing. Over the past few years Salinas has carefully cultivated a sound that prides itself on a lo-fi 90’s indie punk influence. All Dogs profile is set to get another boost with the impending release of Saintseneca’s upcoming LP on Anti-, as the bands share members. A lot more could be said about this release but, once again, it’s worth noting that much of it has already been said. Listen to All Dogs’ triumphant 7″ below.



5. Various Artists – Beyond Inversion: A Benefit for Rachael’s Women’s Center in DC

Over Heartbreaking Bravery’s short existence, the release that’s garnered the most coverage from this site is undoubtedly Accidental Guest’s incredible Beyond Inversion benefit compilation. It’s a compilation that has its heart squarely in the right place, while perfectly adhering to the best aesthetics of the basement scene. There’s a selflessness that’s on display here through the involved bands’ naturally camaraderie. It’s also a perfect representation of its time, culminating in a capsule-worthy artifact that sheds this generation in the most positive light imaginable. Which is precisely why there was more than just one article devoted to it. Beyond Inversion may be seeing a vinyl release at some point in the near future but the initial cassette release sold out in pre-orders. Thankfully, the whole thing is available for streaming and can be heard below.



4. Acid Fast – Rabid Moon

While Rabid Moon finally was given a proper vinyl release last week, it’s been available as a cassette for several months, courtesy of Stupid Bag Records. Far and away one of the most impressive cassette-only full-length’s to be granted a 2013 release, it allowed for a monumental build-up to it’s run as a 2014 record. In the span between the two official releases, the band’s picked up press from Punknews, the AV Club, and earned On the Up honors from this very site. Rabid Moon is an absolute monster of a record that channels the spirit of Archers of Loaf, has the unhinged energy that made Big Kids so great, and it deserves every accolade that’s undoubtedly coming its way. Hear the first three songs from the record below.

3. LVL UP – Extra Worlds/Porches. Split

LVL UP prove themselves again and again with each consecutive release. How this band isn’t fucking huge yet is anyone’s best guess and it still seems like that’ll happen in due time. One of the most thrilling and accessible bands going right now, LVL UP absolutely crushed 2013 with an outstanding EP and a split with Porches. that was every bit the EP’s equal. In both cases, this is full-throttle basement punk with powerpop flourishes that doesn’t skimp on aggression or melody. Flashes of everything from The Replacements at their best to Weezer at their best are all present and filtered organically enough to come across as an influence and not an imitation. It seems unlikely that LVL UP will be slowing down anytime soon. Hear both Extra Worlds and their split with Porches. below.


2. Perfect Pussy – I have lost all desire for feeling

There were no releases last year that felt as harrowing and personal as Perfect Pussy’s demo tape. It didn’t matter which way it was spun, the listener’s reaction, vocalist Meredith Graves’ determined confessionals, or the cultural dialogue it inspired; this was a personal affair. It was also an incredible piece of music, relentlessly energetic and unabashedly unapologetic in composition, production, and lyrical content. It was  a demo (and band) that meant a lot to this site, which is why Meredith Graves was chosen (and graciously agreed to be) Heartbreaking Bravery’s first interviewI have lost all desire for feeling also earned one of this site’s very first reviews and set off a chain reaction of positive effects that have extended into 2014. Listen to I have lost all desire for feeling below.

1. Tenement – Screaming Females Split + More Compilation/Puke and Destroy #2/Sick Club Vol. 3/Something to Dü

Sometimes things are predictable for a reason; this site hasn’t been shy about its feelings for Tenement. Despite not releasing any official LP’s or EP’s in 2013, they experienced one of their most successful years to date on the strength of their 7″ releases. There was their unbelievable entry into the Sick Club series on Cowabunga!, their stellar section of Puke & Destroy alongside Holy Shit!, Gleam Gardens, and The What-A-Nights, and an unbelievable (and entirely unexpected) compilation on bandcamp centered around their attention-demanding split with Screaming Females.  Additionally, the band also contributed to do the excellent Something to Dü five-band tribute on Dead Broke Rekerds offering up a volume-shifting take on “Obnoxious”. Throughout all of it, the band manages to show their full range from the battered and haunting “Ants and Flies” demo to their usual hardcore-tinged basement pop- as well as their usual lo-fi freakouts. It didn’t matter what mode they were in, everything from “Books on Hell + Sermons on T.V.” to “Twig” deserved an infinite amount of listens and serious year-end considerations. The scariest part of all this is that it still feels like this band is just getting started, especially considering the band already has two LP’s lined up for release on Grave Mistake and Don Giovanni, respectively, for next year. Hear all four of the band’s major 2013 releases below.




Home for the Holidays & A Guide to Surviving (Mixtape 001)

Well, it’s been a brief but substantial fifty day run and this, the 50th post, seemed as good a place as any to celebrate something so small and meaningless. To that end, Heartbreaking Bravery is offering up its first official mixtape; Home for the Holidays. Look for one every fifty posts. Some will have themes, some will just serve as reviews for the past near-two-months of coverage the site provides.

Home for the Holidays was a unique challenge. For the songs to qualify they had to fit within the general aesthetic of what Heartbreaking Bravery would normally cover- they would also have to mention Christmas without being a Christmas-specific song. All of these songs are here for a reason and deserve to be heard. A welcome alternative to the endless barrage of the same twenty songs getting played in seemingly every location. Both the mixtape and the accompanying guide to surviving are below.


1. Tenement – Spit in the Wind

Did anyone honestly expect this list to start with anything else? It’s no secret how this site feels about this band. They’ve mastered the exploration of lower middle-class difficulty and it really comes through on the chorus of this Napalm Dream standout. “Father pissing on the Christmas tree, suicide for the family” is a masterclass in both explicit and implicit imagery as well as tone-setting.

2. The Wombats – Moving to New York

Sleep-deprivation, needless excitement, and suspecting disappointment. “Looks like Christmas came early” has never sounded so true. 

3. Sundials – Christmas Day

One of 2013’s most exceptional compilations was the collection of Sundials songs from 2009 to 2012. “Christmas Day” closed the collection out with flare, emphasizing how ugly financial situations can be made ten times worse by the holidays with a surprising amount of verve. 

4. The Weakerthans – Exiles Among You

The Weakerthans were (are?) one of the most consistently impressive bands on the circuit and released a few records that qualify as classics. On their standout sophomore effort Left & Leaving was this gem, that included a heartbreaking moment where the protagonist shoplifts for Christmas and ignores her family. A perfectly executed example of estrangement.

5. Titus Andronicus – No Future Part Three: Escape From No Future

On Titus Andronicus’ masterpiece The Monitor, the band managed to cover an endless arsenal of subjects. One of the strongest moments in a record full of them was “No Future Part Three” with its rapid shifts in pace and tone. There’s anger, there’s grim determination, a palpable sense of sadness, and a devastating Christmas list. 

6. Neutral Milk Hotel – Two-Headed Boy

One of 2013’s biggest moments was the return of Neutral Milk Hotel, prompting many to revisit In the Aeroplane, Over the Sea and “Two-Headed Boy” in particular. That song contains a fierce ending of bitter abandonment set under Christmas trees, elevating the importance of the act. Brutal, harsh, and brilliant. 

7. Waxahatchee – Rose, 1956

There are very few records as pointed and barbed as American Weekend, a record that’s only managed to grow stronger with time. “Rose, 1956” stands out for a variety of reasons but the mention of Christmas Eve at the song’s opening drives home how specific it is, which makes it more revealing in turn. 

8. Bon Iver – Blood Bank

Bon Iver is almost too obvious of a choice for this but it’s hard to look past the muted elegiac title-track of the band’s sole EP. Not only do the levels of wistfulness feel appropriate but the song nicely underscores the possibility of truly understanding difficult moments. One of Bon Iver’s most stunning moments. 

9. Why? – The Fall of Mr. Fifths

Why? have always managed to effortlessly evoke very specific feelings with their arrangements alone. Yoni Wolf’s lyrics generally accentuate that feeling masterfully and “Mr. Fifths” is no exception. There’s an underlying theme of fear and obsession here that touches on the rising death rates that surround the holiday season. 

10. The Hold Steady – One for the Cutters

Quite possibly The Hold Steady’s most inventive moment, this harpsichord-driven tale paints the most realistic portrait of the sort of culture that exists in the shadows the band has managed in years. An absolutely stunning achievement that culminates in the central character’s defeated-beyond-reason return to her family at Christmas. 

11. Sparklehorse – Little Fat Baby

Mark Linkous’ penchant for subtlety resonates throughout this song, in part an understated allegory about (seemingly) the prominence of Christmas. It’s a subdued-yet-jarring yarn that feels intensely personal. 

12. Belle & Sebastian – I Don’t Love Anyone

Fleeting moments of self-doubt and occasional resentment spring up in early winter more than anyone would like to admit. Self-evaluation becomes a bitter process and all of the potential disappointment can manifest itself outwards. The best way to deal with it is just to acknowledge it and move on.

13. The National – It Never Happened

“We look younger than we feel and older than we are” is a beyond perfect way to describe the holiday hangover that’s constantly present, lingering around the corner. The easygoing pace of “It Never Happened” mirrors the pose some people will themselves into just to survive the rougher patches.

14. Okkervil River – Where the Spirit Left Us

The first of of two Okkervil songs on this list, “Where the Spirit Left Us” pinpointed a certain kind of well-informed nostalgia that was brought to life in a dazzlingly vivid manner. There’s a small-town longing that matches up nicely with the resigned minutiae  surrounding any large family gathering.

15. The Weakerthans – My Favorite Chords

John K. Samson does environmental setting better than almost anyone penning lyrics today. The fact that The Weakerthans can often be described as wintry only heightens the reason for this song’s inclusion.

16. Tom Waits – Christmas Card From A Hooker in Minneapolis

A wildcard among these 21 tracks, “Christmas Card From A Hooker in Minneapolis” qualifies based on the title, not a lyric contained within the song. One of Waits’ most towering achievements and one of the best moments on his classic Blue Valentine.

17. Ben Folds Five – Brick

Did you really expect this not to make the list? It’s a song about the aftermath of a Christmas Eve abortion. One of the most frighteningly realistic songs in recent memory. At the very least, let this one invoke deep sympathy.

18. Palace Songs – Christmastime in the Mountains

Okkervil River artist Will Schaff brought this song to the list as it was experiencing a rough draft dating back to last December. “Christmastime in the Mountains” is stark, beautiful, and nicely summarizes the empty feelings that can occasionally hit at this time of year.

19. Why? – Kevin’s Cancer

Yoni Wolf has been operating in his own territory for a long time now. This is the second Why? song to be included but the way Wolf and company operate only furthers situational reality. 

20. Elliott Smith – King’s Crossing

From A Basement on Hill bafflingly exists simultaneously as one of the most personal and impersonal records to be released in the past 15 years. It’s posthumous status elevates the impact of searingly revealing songs, yet those involved with it say that the record was far from finished and released with only the mixes Elliott had left behind when he tragically passed away. “King’s Crossing” stands out as one of the record’s most personal (and most biting) moments, reflecting the holiday’s darker spirit.

21. Okkervil River – Calling and Not Calling My Ex

This is the song that inspired the idea for this collection several years back. It’s Sheff at his most pointed. Sleigh bells in the background offer up an ever fuller world-building experience for an environment surrounding the introspection that often hits hardest towards the end of the year.

Happy Holidays.

HB