Heartbreaking Bravery

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Tag: surf

Ex-Hex – Beast (Stream)

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Mary Timony’s career so far is loaded with material that influenced- or will influence- generations worth of musicians. This being the case, any time a Timony project releases new material it’s worth paying attention to- mostly because it always seems to end up as being good as “Beast”, Ex-Hex’s most recent sampling from their upcoming debut album Rips. Following the excellent pairing of “Hot and Cold” and “Don’t Wanna Lose“, “Beast” lives up to the extraordinarily high standard set by those two tracks.

Where “Beast” sets itself from the other two is in the gleeful pacing and shred-happy riffing. Propulsive in all of the best ways, it’s another song that could easily work as a summer soundtrack years into the future. There’s a certain timelessness to it that’s not uncommon to Timony’s work, which is part of what makes the bulk of it so memorable. A few different decades are evoked thanks to the influences that “Beast” wears so proudly on its sleeve; 70’s surf, 80’s  proto-punk, and 90’s powerpop being the big three. It’s a massively enjoyable way to spend a few minutes and ensures the promise of Rips being a record worth owning.

Listen to “Beast” below and pre-order rips directly from Merge here.

The Yolks – You Don’t Live Here No More (Stream)

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Towards the end of last month, Chicago’s The Yolks released the extraordinary Kings of Awesome on Randy Records, which is a record that’s now also being released as a cassette through the infallible Burger Records. One listen to “You Don’t Live Here No More” and it’s plain to see why Burger jumped at the chance to partner up with Randy for a joint release; in 84 seconds, the band evokes decades worth of great American music from 50’s soul to 60’s r&b drenched pop to 90’s outsider pop. While there’s a definite analog sound at play here, it still doesn’t feel like a true throwback- the band’s too aware of the present to come across as antiquated.

In addition to all of that, the lyrics follow a typical blues pattern: there’s a repeated heartbreak-heavy phrase that gets twisted after two lines and adorned with the obligatory “baby” on the second through-line. Yet somehow, the repetition’s not something that calls attention to itself, it feels organic enough that it just glides by, largely unnoticed thanks to the extraordinarily catchy vocal melody and clean, surf-indebted guitar work. When the song finally breaks open as the drums kick in, it’s clear that The Yolks know exactly what they’re doing- and everyone’s all the better for it.

Listen to “You Don’t Live Here No More” below and make sure to either grab the LP from Randy Records here or the cassette from Burger here.

Shy Boys – Life Is Peachy (Music Video)

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Between Saintseneca’s “Happy Alone” and Perfume Genius’ “Queen“, Christopher Good’s already responsible for two of the most arresting music videos of the year. A few days ago the Director/Editor/Producer unveiled his most recent effort, a constantly-evolving visual puzzle for Shy Boys’ characteristically surf-tinged “Life Is Peachy”. Playing with the linearity of time, the video hinges on a repeated chase involving a thief and a dental patient. It’s an intriguing concept and Good gives it his typically artful execution. As the single chase scene repeats, tiny details are added and subtracted. One mirror evolves into three, red evolves into blue, and a “Wanted” poster is brought full circle by a series of Polaroids. It’s the perfect balance of accessible simplicity and subtle high-concept, essentially becoming a mirror of the song. Everything’s always in motion, everything builds momentum, and it all comes together with a satisfying close. Music videos are rarely more clever than they are here, which is something that’s deserving of celebration.

Watch “Life Is Peachy” below and order it from High Dive here.

Jawbreaker Reunion – Lutheran Sisterhood Gun Club (Review, Stream)

Jawbreaker Reunion

Once in a rare while there’s a band that springs up suddenly and immediately hits all the right notes, sweet spots, and pleasure points. They’re the kind of bands that are immediate, engaging, and reveal untapped expanses of potential while still managing to come across as fully-formed just out of the gate. Enter: Jawbreaker Reunion. With only two EP’s to their name, this Annandale-on-Hudson, New York quartet just self-released their debut full-length Lutheran Sisterhood Gun Club and are set for some serious gate-crashing.

There’s a very unique, very distinct mixture of intelligent humor, depth, and an incredible amount of pop sensibility on display throughout Lutheran Sisterhood Gun Club that sets it apart from a lot of its peers. All the songs are catchy as hell, bristling with attitude, and manage to pack a knockout punch in just under 18 minutes. From album opener “Empire” onward, it’s made abundantly clear that the band’s tapped into something special by utilizing a fairly original approach to combining key characteristics of great soul, surf, doo-wop,  powerpop, and punk (for that fact alone, if this record doesn’t wind up getting pressed to wax by someone, it’ll be a travesty).

While most of the songs on Lutheran Sisterhood Gun Club only run about a minute and a half, a few managed to break the two minute mark- including the incredible highlight “E.M.O.”. Riding a crest of gently propulsive riffs, the band explore territory that’s just a few shades darker than the rest of the record and wind up with not just the best song on the record but one of the best of the year. When the chorus of “I don’t want to wait anymore, you don’t have to wait, accepting that there is no cure” rings out a final time, it feels unflinchingly honest. It’s a rare moment where the band allows their guard to fall down- and instead of cloaking their missives in biting humor, they opt for a brave vulnerability. It’s extraordinary.

They don’t let the moment linger too long, though. In the very next song, there’s the gleeful couplet of “So just go ahead and try it/I’m a fucking pussy riot!” buried in a song that’s built around challenging gender identity. Most of the songs on Lutheran Sisterhood Gun Club are either socially or politically pointed and all of those points are exceptional- and exceptionally well made. It’s a record that’s not afraid to back down from a fight, which is a fact that’s never more crystallized than it is on than on profanity-laced closer “Jeggings”. Tapping into a deep well of anger and frustration, their final rallying cry gets directed at body image discrimination and winds up summarizing everything Lutheran Sisterhood Gun Club stands for.

After “Jeggings” throws it out its final “Ass” chant, the band’s torn through 10 tracks and wound up with a perfectly paced, masterfully sequenced, and astonishingly great debut (one that’s made even easier to love after finding out it was recorded in a living room and bathroom). Shots get fired, a wide selection of earworms get revealed, an endless amount of smiles are more than earned- and Lutheran Sisterhood Gun Club stands tall as one of the very best of 2014. Don’t be surprised if this one winds up on more than a few folks’ year-end lists. It’s already approaching a direct guarantee for one of them.

Listen to Luthan Sisterhood Gun Club below and get inspired.

Shannon & the Clams – Mama (Stream)

Not too far removed from Reigning Sound on the very-particular-brand-of-timelessness is Shannon & the Clams, the doo-wop-leaning throwback outfit. Led by the powerhouse vocals of Shannon Shaw, the band’s earned their place on many specialists year-end lists over the past several years for their distinct take on the basement pop aesthetic, seamlessly blending in specific influences from the last 60 years into their core sound.

While last year’s Dreams in the Rat House wasn’t their best record, it was close to their best record. Maintaining a standard of excellence as high as they’ve been over the years isn’t an easy feat but it looks as if they’re barreling along anyway. The most recent piece of evidence working in their favor is “Mama” taking from an upcoming split 7″ with Portland punk rippers Guantanamo Baywatch (both acts share common ground via both Suicide Squeeze, the label releasing the split, and Burger). “Mama” comes off as breezy and effortless as the bulk of the band’s very best material. There’s an elusive looseness as well as a hint of perfectionism running through “Mama”, making it a somewhat paradoxical and completely enthralling listen.

If Guantanamo Baywatch’s side proves to be even half as good as this, then 2014 will have one of its first contenders for split of the year. Listen to “Mama” below and pick up the split when it comes out on April 29.