Heartbreaking Bravery

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Tag: Talons

16 of ’16: The Best EP’s of the Year

eskimeaux

Once again, an increasingly busy schedule has led to a brief gap between posts and diminished the possibilities for year-end coverage. For that reason, there’ll only be three more Best Of pieces before the third round of A Year’s Worth of Memories. Sadly, this means some previous categories will be neglected but don’t let that diminish the importance of things like online singles, compilations, and the other odds and ends releases.

This list will focus on the EP’s that were released this year, which had to be at least four songs or exceed 10 minutes in length (which disqualified some genuinely tremendous releases). A lot of great material came out this year and these EP’s managed to emerge as standouts. For any potential bias to be eliminated, EP’s that premiered here were deemed ineligible (but should still be celebrated). Enjoy the list.

Jack – Resting Places 

One of the more harrowing listens of 2016 was centered around the loss of a loved one. It was an event that seems to have transformed something in Brittany Costa, the mastermind behind Jack and Resting Places. This is an explosive EP and it deserved much more circulation than it received.

Krill – Krill 

A posthumous release from one of the most fiercely beloved bands in DIY punk, Krill‘s self-titled swan song may also be their finest work. Bassist/vocalist employed baritone guitar lines to spectacular effect on Krill, something evident from the EP’s brilliant opening track (“Meat”). Precise and teeming with feeling, it’s one hell of a goodbye.

Eskimeaux – Year of the Rabbit

Following this site’s pick for 2015’s Album of the Year proved to be a shockingly easy feat for Eskimeaux, who quickly released a summery EP overflowing with memorable moments. Year of the Rabbit finds Eskimeaux deepening the best aspects of their music and refining some newer tricks. It’s a breezy listen that carries substantial weight.

Kynnet – …Taas ne Kynnet 

A blast of fired-up basement pop from Finland, Kynnet once again proves to be an uncontainable force with …Taas ne Kynnet. This is hard-charging music that transcends the language divide and effortlessly engages listeners with its overwhelming immediacy. Give in or get out of the way because once …Taas ne Kynnet gets gets going, it’s not stopping.

Forth Wanderers – Slop 

Headlined by its breathtaking title trackSlop is a warning shot from the increasingly ambitious Forth Wanderers. While “Slop” is undoubtedly the standout of the EP, the other three songs don’t ever come across as being overshadowed, revealing flashes of the band’s brilliance. Slop is a uniformly strong outing that packs a serious punch.

Happyness – Tunnel Vision On Your Part 

Happyness teased Tunnel Vision On Your Part with “SB’s Truck“, a song based on the fascinating historical footnote that saw the unlikely pairing of Andre The Giant and Samuel Beckett. The band continues to do no wrong, turning in another immensely enjoyable collection of songs that further their growing reputation as master popsmiths.

Faye – Faye 

An extraordinary debut from an extremely promising band, Faye‘s self-titled is a beautifully crafted work that capitalizes on the sort of subtleties that some veteran acts still have a difficult time navigating. Nearly half of this EP rightfully earned individual features before its release and the EP’s remainder lived up to the promise of those tracks.

Snail Mail – Habit 

2016 saw Snail Mail start to break out and earn some overdue attention on a much larger scale. A lot of that can be attributed to the remarkable (and surprisingly affecting) Habit. Vulnerable, defiant, and tenaciously pointed, Habit‘s the kind of record that burrows under the skin and refuses to leave. A gem and a career best.

Hazel English – Never Going Home 

There were few, if any records, released in 2016 lovelier than Hazel English‘s Never Going Home. A spellbinding mixture of dream pop, basement pop, and post-punk, Never Going Home‘s the kind of painfully beautiful work that deserves to be remembered. It’s a series of grace notes that openly offer contentment and warmth.

Fern Mayo – Hex Signs 

Fern Mayo became a staple of this site’s coverage based on the white-knuckle intensity of their live show and in Hex Signs they manage to harness that intimidating forcefulness. Easily the best work of the band’s burgeoning career, Hex Signs is a confrontational demonstration of the type of strength that refuses to be ignored.

don’t – forget it. 

One of the unique thrills of music writing is the discovery of a young, unknown band from a relatively small area that are doing interesting, impressive things. don’t met all of those qualifications to such an excessive degree with forget it. that it became unforgettable. While possibly the least recognizable name on this list, they deserve the placement.

Patio – Luxury

Being able to watch a band evolve from their first show and thrive in the state of progression is a privilege. It’s even more of a privilege when the band in question is one like Patio, who excel at the formula that makes up Luxury: wiry post-punk that serves up as much dry wit as it does sheer attitude. What’s scary is they’re still only just getting started.

Strange Ranger – Sunbeams Through Your Head 

Sunbeams Through Your Head marked an exhilarating new chapter for Strange Ranger who, almost paradoxically, seemed galvanized in their decision to more fully embrace a downtrodden nature. It’s an EP characterized by moments either brave, bold, or beautiful. An extraordinarily compelling listen and the sound of a band hitting its stride.

Tony Molina – Confront the Truth 

As someone who could claim in-your-face micro-punk as a specialty, Tony Molina‘s gorgeous Confront the Truth likely came as a shock to some. Anyone well-versed in Molina’s work could easily see how the songwriter could conjure up a gentle 7″ full of retro-leaning acoustic pop songs that invoked the spirit of the late ’60 and early ’70s. A sublime work.

Talons’ – Work Stories 

One of the rare records where the distinction between album and EP becomes blurry, Work Stories nevertheless saw Talons’ extend a quiet streak of ridiculously impressive records. Hushed and haunted folk-inflected songs comprise Work Stories, each as breathtakingly gripping as the last. Work Stories is another piece of mastery.

EP OF THE YEAR

Mercury Girls/The Spook School/Wildhoney/Tigercats – Continental Drift 

While the intro to this piece stated that the majority of the odds and ends would be ignored, an exception is being made for the excessively great split EP that saw Mercury Girls (who also released the excellent Ariana 7″ in 2016), The Spook School, Wildhoney, and Tigercats each contribute two songs. Continental Drift doesn’t feel or operate like the majority of split releases by virtue of its exhaustively complete unification.

All four bands on Continental Drift can come across as singular acts, on closer inspection they begin to appear as slight mutations of each other, rendering this split an effortless listen. There could very well be a group of people that’d mistake Continental Drift as the work of one inhumanly talented band (though the shift in accents may provide a tipping point). Each of the four acts bring their best work to the table and make characteristically strong impressions.

Over Continental Drift‘s eight tracks, not only is there never a weak song, there’s never a weak moment. Each of these songs is tightly crafted and masterfully executed, providing each act with a highlight reel that could attract unfamiliar listeners to the rest of their respective discographies. There are so many soaring moments scattered throughout Continental Drift that the end result is stratospheric. In theory, this split was enticing but in its execution Continental Drift achieves a staggering amount of perfection.

Nine more worth checking out:

Lady Bones – Terse
Cleo Tucker – Looking Pretty At the Wall
Devon Welsh – Down the Mountain
Plush – Please
Young Jesus – Void As Lob
Naps – The Most Beautiful Place On Earth
gobbinjr – vom night
CHEW – CHEW
Fake Boyfriend – Mercy

Seven Weeks of Streams

Charly Bliss LIV

The last two months or so, while dwindling down in the release compartment, have been stacked with great material.  Mac McCaughanGrouper, SOHN, Trashclub, Palberta, Rosebug, Ben Varian, sad13, Sam Skinner, So Stressed, benngrigg, and Keroscene all released impressive material in the past week or so and deserve attention but the twenty(-two) tracks listed below more than earned their feature placements. A lot of favorites and some new names co-exist in the run-down, which can (and should) be explored below.

Charly Bliss – Turd

An insane amount of praise has been showered on Charly Bliss in the confines of this site. They’ve deserved even more. The band’s currently in the midst of sharpening a full-length they’ve been working on for more than two full years. “Turd” is a tantalizing glimpse at what’s to come, a molotov cocktail of classic pop influences teeming with a confrontational punk sensibility that, paradoxically, manages to be incredibly inviting.

Yucky Duster – Elementary School Dropout

Gofer” remains one of the most infectious pop songs to have been written since the turn of the century. Yucky Duster‘s just-unveiled “The Ropes” shows they’ve got no intentions of slowing down and “Elementary School Dropout” proves the band’s whip-smart intelligence is fully intact. Jaunty, enticing, and oddly moving, the song’s making it next to impossible to wait for their forthcoming EP, Lament.

WHY? – This Ole King

Elephant EyelashAlopeciaEskimo Snow, and maybe even Oaklandazulasylum deserve to be regarded as modern classics. While still releasing some immensely thoughtful material, WHY? hasn’t managed to match those releases in the years that have passed since Eskimo Snow. “This Ole King”, the band’s most arresting composition in a handful of years, offers up a ray of hope. Tasteful and weirdly enchanting, it’s already earned a spot as one of WHY?’s finest individual works.

Cloud Nothings – Internal World

Cloud Nothings have been enjoying a deeply impressive streak since becoming a full band several years ago. From the cold, steel trap that was Attack On Memory to the relentlessly bruising Here and Nowhere Else, they’ve demonstrated a lot of range. “Internal World” continues to hint at their forthcoming record taking the best parts of all three of those releases and congealing them into something incredibly compelling. It’s another impressive piece of an already fascinating puzzle.

Amos Pitsch – Shift Towards Tenderness

No band has earned more rapturous praise (or more praise in general) than Tenement. DUSK have earned themselves a fair few accolades as well. If Amos Pitsch (guitar/vocals in Tenement and bass/vocals in DUSK) is involved with a song, there’s a very strong chance it’ll be receiving praise here. Pitsch has mostly avoided releasing solo works, which makes “Shift Towards Tenderness” something of a surprise. Not a surprise? “Shift Towards Tenderness” being another unassuming tour de force from one of this generation’s finest songwriters.

Luxury Death – Painkiller

“Painkiller” is another impressive notch in the belt of one of today’s finest labels, Art Is Hard. Peppy and packing a considerable amount of bite, the Luxury Death single is a microcosm of what makes both the band and the label releasing the single so formidable. Immensely appealing and constructed with a clearly apparent thoughtfulness, there are no false moves among a series of refreshing grace notes.

Permit – Track #1

One of 2016’s most pleasant surprises, Permit took off running. The band’s Vol. I EP was a galvanizing blast of glam-inflected punk with a serious amount of classic pop overtones. Headlining those proceedings was “Track #1”, which immediately sets the band up as kindred spirits to Sheer Mag. Sharp, fierce,  and immediately memorable, “Track #1” easily ranks among the year’s most exciting listens.

No Sun – Drown In You

2016 didn’t have quite as many out-and-out shoegaze powerhouse releases as many of the preceding years but the genre still had some incredibly bright moments. One such  moment came in the form of No Sun‘s towering “Drown In You”, which operates with a menacing ferocity in its opening two and a half minutes before turning elegiac for an extended outro. It’s unmissable.

Super Capsule – Frost

An incendiary burst of incisive post-punk, filtered through a post-hardcore lens, Super Capsule’s “Frost” teems with aggression. It also serves as a notice to start sitting up and paying attention to the band, who seem hell-bent on creating an army of converts by demolishing genre boundaries with a relentlessly precise attack. Trying to form a defense simply isn’t an option.

Lost Boy ? – I’m An Alligator (Deathwish) + Shoo – Bop

Lost Boy ? has appeared with regularity on Heartbreaking Bravery since it began more than three years ago. The Davey Jones outfit is likely to see that trend continue, especially considering the incessant releases. Once again, serving up plenty of oddball charm “I’m An Alligator (Deathwish)” and “Shoo – Bop” showcase Jones’ immeasurable talent for crafting memorable, hook-heavy basement pop. Short, brilliant, and singular, Lost Boy ? continues to extend an unlikely winning streak with panache.

Cooler – Metal Moths

A surging punk-informed behemoth, “Metal Moths” brings to mind classic forebears while remaining unflinchingly modern. It’s an impressive offering from Cooler, who have come out swinging with their sophomore EP, Phantom Phuzz. “Metal Moths” is the collection’s crown jewel and contains enough firepower to turn an increasing number of heads with every passage. Keep both eyes on this quartet, they’ve proven they’re worth following.

Cayetana – Trails

Cayetana keep finding new ways to improve. After a string of career highlights, the band graciously dropped “Trails”, a breathtaking ballad that showcases a surprising penchant for vulnerability amid their typical all-consuming storm of noises. It’s a spellbinding moment from one of today’s more exciting punk acts, demonstrating newfound depth and a refined sense of dynamics that elevates “Trails” from being merely great to being transcendental.

Slumbers – Doboom Soom

It’s been a good year for the emergent Slumbers, who’ve been carving out a name for themselves with intelligent folk-tinged bedroom pop. “Doboom Soom” may be their finest moment to date, an airy take on the line between loneliness and self-preservation that cuts through its instrumental warmth with a narrative of astounding clarity. If Slumbers can keep topping themselves the way they’ve been lately, their name may accumulate considerable clout in the coming years.

John Wesley Coleman – Shovel + Hang Tight

For a handful of years, John Wesley Coleman has been a beacon of consistency. Every release bearing the songwriter’s name has been formidable enough to warrant serious attention and yet larger familiarity in the public eye has eluded Coleman. “Shovel” and “Hang Tight” are both worthy reminders of Coleman’s enviable gifts as a songwriter and worthy entries into an incredible discography. Start getting familiar if you haven’t already or simply revisit a pair of genuinely great tracks.

Tapestries – Carline

A dreamy punk-skirting number that owes quite a bit to the more notable alternative genre permutations of the past few decades (Brit-pop, in particular), “Carline” is an immediate standout. Well-crafted and delivered with a palpable sense of passion, it ably provides a window to Tapestries’ considerable artistic growth over the past several years. Inspired and even a little inspiring, “Carline” is the type of song that reminds people of why they love music.

Stove – I’d Walk A Mile For A Camel

Stove topped last year’s Best Songs list with the soaring “Wet Food” and, instead of taking time to recalibrate after a tremendous 2016, have been releasing music at a rapid pace. “I’d Walk A Mile For A Camel” serves as another strong highlight for the Steve Hartlett-led project, even though it’s a far cry from the epic scope of “Wet Food”. That versatility has served Hartlett well in the past and here, he leads Stove through a perfect marriage of lo-fi basement punk and irrepressible basement punk. It’s another triumph.

The Sloppy Heads – The Suck

2016 has also been fairly kind to The Sloppy Heads, who have cranked out a number of vibrant basement pop numbers that lingered long after their final notes faded away. “The Suck” may have been the absolute best of this crop, striking a perfect balance between being coy and being pointed. As economic and pragmatic as the production of “The Suck” is, the song itself never stops reaching skyward and sweeps the listener up into that journey with a delicate ease.

Wild Pink – Wizard of Loneliness

Last year’s Good Life EP provided a solid introduction to Wild Pink and the band’s been capitalizing on the momentum that Good Life generated. In addition to making a series of smart moves, they’ve also been sharpening their craft, something that’s plainly evident in the exceptional “Wizard of Loneliness”, a light powerpop number that recalls Nada Surf at their finest. Gentle, atmospheric, and captivating, “Wizard of Loneliness” goes a long way in proving that Wild Pink may have a shot at achieving the kind of longevity that’s pursued by any band worth their salt and only attained by a minuscule fraction.

Daniel Klag – Inmost Light

A nearly 17-minute ambient masterpiece from the remarkable Daniel Klag, “Inmost Light” preserves his status as one of the genre’s most exciting voices. Gently unfurling, with deliberate caution and care, “Inmost Light” is — as all of the best ambient works are — a transporting experience. Volume swells, string arrangements, and ambient washes all come together to create something that verges on rapturous as it progresses. One of Klag’s most moving  pieces in what’s quickly becoming a storied career, “Inmost Light” is a beautiful reminder of what can be accomplished through patience, precision, and an abundance of feeling.

Talons’ – Driving Home From Shows

Originally released as part of 2013’s demo collection After Talons’ Demos, Talons” “Driving Home From Shows” recently received a slight revamp for Broken Circles’ Everything Melts Eventually: Vol. II compilation. The song remains a masterpiece. Michael Tolan injects the song with a staggering amount of grace and warmth. Tinted with a painfully relatable nostalgia, “Driving Home From Shows” presents the most acute details with shattering certainty. There’s a sense of empathy that guides the longing of “Driving Home From Shows”, heightening its unexpected emotive punch. Even more than when it appeared as a demo, “Driving Home From Shows” is the type of song that deserves to be put in a vault and preserved for future generations. It’s a beautiful piece that soothes and stings in equal measure. Don’t let it slip through the cracks.

Courntey Barnett – Elevator Operator (Music Video)

Courtney Barnett I

Littler, Mass Gothic, Kino Kimino, Ty Segall, Henry Chadwick, Angel Du$t, Little Scream, and Talons were responsible for all but the last of the great music videos to emerge over the course of this site’s mini-hiatus. After being gone for nearly two weeks (thanks to both other musical obligations and preparation work for an upcoming feature on this very space), there were quite a few titles to consider. Ultimately, this final music video spotlight allotted to that stretch of time went to perennial site favorite Courtney Barnett (and her excellent new video).

After experiencing a massive breakout year that saw Barnett do everything from hosting SNL to being nominated for an overdue Grammy, the expectations for any new release for the songwriter have been set extraordinarily high. Thankfully, Barnett’s had a surprisingly long history of avoiding literally any form of disappointment and the brilliant Sunny Leunig-directed video for Sometimes I Sit And Think, and Sometimes I Just Sit‘s invigorating lead-off track is no exception.

Opening the clip on a tongue-in-cheek discussion carried out by Sleater-Kinney sets a lively pace both for the clip’s narrative and for the astonishing amount of cameos packed into the sub-six minute running time. Not soon after the coy cold open, Barnett takes up the titular role and Keunig sets about dismantling any expectations that decision may bring.

Apart from one legitimately breathtaking sequence of relative quiet that cuts away from the song completely, “Elevator Operator” exudes a kind of surprisingly specific irreverence and well-meaning snark that’s proven to be a Barnett specialty. Not long after that staggering moment of existentialism — which is anchored by an impressive performance from Barnett — “Elevator Operator” slides right back into its natural groove, cementing its status as a more-than-worthy addition to Barnett’s enviable output.

Watch “Elevator Operator” below and pick up a copy of Sometimes I Sit and Think, and Sometimes I Just Sit here.