Heartbreaking Bravery

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Tag: Terry

Jason Isbell & The 400 Unit – If We Were Vampires (Stream)

In the past week or so there were a handful of notable music videos that emerged from the likes of Simon Doom, Real Estate, American Lips, Jay Som, Andy Shauf, Slow Dancer, Chromatics, TERRY, Sam Mullany, and Andy Gabbard. All of them were entertaining for various reasons and all of them are worthy of repeat viewings. As is always the case, music videos weren’t the only thing finding their way out of the shadows. Songs and records were unveiled but nothing landed with as much impact as Jason Isbell & The 400 Unit’s “If We Were Vampires”.

Normally, the features on Heartbreaking Bravery are granted to either emerging or off-the-radar artists, musicians as established and widely-celebrated as Isbell pick up enough notices elsewhere. To that effect, something has to be monumentally moving for an artist of that type of stature to earn a feature. “If We Were Vampires” is, unmistakably, one of those pieces. Isbell’s made a habit out of writing those types of numbers, including one of the most devastatingly beautiful songs since the turn of the century in “Cover Me Up“, a heartfelt ode to his wife and collaborator, Amanda Shires, who served as a constant reminder life was worth living.

If “Cover Me Up” centered around the conceit of Shires acting as a necessary rebirth for Isbell, “If We Were Vampires” subverts that narrative and explicitly focuses on how Shires’ presence will either make life unbearable to navigate if she passes first while recognizing that the trade-off will be worthwhile because she’ll have been there up until that point. All of those emotions are magnified considerably when taking into stock the various accounts of how Shires legitimately saved Isbell from a variety of vices that could’ve potentially ended his life. As the best partners tend to do, Shires not only gave Isbell hope but gave him a new lease on life; for Isbell Shires and his very life are inextricably intertwined to a stratospheric degree of intensity.

That love’s something that’s been present throughout his recent work and has been clearly evident in his banter (he nearly reduced an entire crowd to tears at Prospect Park in 2015 just talking about Shires, while she was on hiatus from performing to deliver the couple’s first child). In a recent interview, Isbell mentioned that when he first performed “If We Were Vampires” it was legitimately hard for him to make it to the end and admitted that’s still occasionally the case as Shires watched on with a mixture of pride and genuine understanding. They’d just run through the song and it was impossible not to notice Shires’ loving gaze as the two harmonized carried just a hint of sadness, the chorus’ final line “but one day I’ll be gone or you’ll be gone” likely hitting uncomfortably close to home.

It’s that juxtaposition of life with someone you love that makes dying a more acceptable fate. It’s a heavy concept that Isbell toys with masterfully here, envisioning both himself and Shires as vampires, content to play it cool because they didn’t have to account for that impending destination waiting on some unknown horizon. In the very next stanza, Isbell discards that scenario entirely, surmising that “time running out is a gift” and pledging every last one of his seconds to be offered up in the service of the woman he loves, a woman that both saved his life and gave him a reason to live. It’s earnest, it’s heartfelt, it’s deeply empathetic, and it stands proudly as another heartrending masterpiece from one of our generation’s finest songwriters. Hit play and keep the people you love close enough for them to know they give other people’s lives just a little more meaning.

Listen to “If We Were Vampires” below and pre-order The Nashville Sound here.

Watch This: Vol. 135

In just a little over two weeks an insane amount of quality live videos have emerged, featuring the following artists: Ezra Furman, Woods, Day Wave, Joy Again, You Won’t, Kevin Morby, Acapulco Lips, Sonya Kitchell, Houndmouth, Queen of Jeans (x2), Christian Lee Hutson, Terry, John Congleton and the Nighty Nite, Mothers, Robb Young and the Elms, Marc Ribot’s Ceramic Dog, Kalispell (x2), Fear of MenOsekre & The Lucky Bastards, FitsEmily Blue, Henrietta, Adia Victoria, Ubetcha, The Staves (x2), Arc Flash, Michael Nau, Bewilder, The Jayhawks, Slingshot Dakota (x2), Whitney, Vagabon, Quilt, LAYNE, Rye Pines, Minor Victories, Allah-Las, Esme Patterson (x2, 3), Midijoyful, Secret Space, The Mono Jacks, A Dead Forest Index, Explosions in the Sky, Death Valley Girls, Half Waif, The Albert Square, Your Friend, Marlon Williams, Rogue Valley, Metronomy, Gregory Porter, Summer Twins (x2), Surgeons In Heat, Amy Klein, The Belvederes, Frameworks, Oddisee, CHILDREN, Doubles, Gwenno (x2), and Titus Andronicus.

Looking through all of those, it’s impossible to say that this is a bad time for live music (and for the documentation of live music). The overwhelming strength of that above list should indicate that this installment of Watch This will have some extraordinarily strong features. There’s some astonishing talent on display throughout the three full sessions and two individual clips listed below, which include one of the bands that was essential to the site’s foundation and a few fresh faces that have been turning all sorts of heads with their recent work. So, as always, push all the distractions aside, relax, lean in, and Watch This.

1. Tenement – Feral Cat Tribe + Lost Love Star Lust (Set List)

Anyone that’s frequented this site over the time of its existence has seen an unprecedented amount of praise granted to Tenement, a band that was instrumental in providing the building blocks for this site. Over nearly 10 years, I’ve had the surreal privilege of watching the trio develop to the point they’re at today (Rolling Stone recently named them one of the 10 great modern punk bands and the New York Times dedicated an entire podcast installment to the band last year). Here, the band gets to flash their live chops in a session for Wisconsin Public Radio’s Set List series, offering up an impressively powerful pair of tracks that only hint at the band’s astonishing scope.

2. Car Seat Headrest – Fill In The Blank (The Current)

After 2015’s Teens of Style generated quite a bit of momentum for Car Seat Headrest, the solo-project-turned-full-band capitalized on that surge of recognition emphatically with this year’s Teens of Denial. Landing several high-profile festival appearances as a result, the band’s grown gradually tighter over their past few tours. This performance of “Fill In The Blank” for The Current demonstrates that growth and nicely captures the band’s irrepressible drive.

3. PWR BTTM – West Texas + Serving Goffman (WFUV)

Like Tenement, PWR BTTM have become a towering presence in terms of this site’s coverage tendencies, something that came as a direct result of the band’s fiery live show. Here, the band turn in characteristically bold performances of both “West Texas” and “Serving Goffman” for WFUV, perfectly summarized by the half-shocked, half-elated smile that Benjamin Hopkins throws the camera after some errant headphones threaten to momentarily overtake the song. There’s a genuine joy that exists in that moment which the duo have consistently brought to their shows, making them one of the finest live acts on the circuit.

4. Weaves – Human (Low Four)

Weaves have made a habit out of appearing on the Watch This series this year, thanks in large part to the release of their monumental self-titled debut. The quartet recently stopped by the Old Granada Studios to unleash a sharp burst of their hyper-spastic strain of punk-tinged basement pop by way of this inspired run through “Human”, offering a revealing glimpse at their members formidable chops. As fascinating as it is exhilarating, it’s a perfect example of what can be accomplished by thinking a little outside of the typical boundaries.

5. And The Kids – Kick Rocks + Picture (WFUV)

One of the bands that really started to make a push over the past year has been And The Kids, who have seized every opportunity they’ve been given with a startling amount of poise. WFUV recently had the band into their studio and the trio delivered in full, tearing through “Kick Rocks” and “Picture” in a way that likely left several of the studio members jaws agape. Complex and nuanced, the band flawlessly executes a series of hairpin turns, layered harmonies, and language shifts while throwing in a few sly smiles for good measure. It’s an unbelievably impressive performance and more than deserves to close out this edition of Watch This.

Doe – Sincere (Music Video)

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Tuffy, TERRY, CuckooLander, Soft Fangs, Valley Queen, Cheena, Suuns, and Hot Flash Heat Wave were just a small handful of the bands responsible for releasing exceptional music videos over the past two weeks. While all of them were worth watching, it was the visual accompaniment for Doe‘s recent standout “Sincere” that earns this post’s spotlight.

One of the many reasons for Doe’s artistic success has been their willingness to subvert expectations. Whether those might be the limits of their genres or even in their instrumental approach (two guitarists, no bassist), they’ve continuously excelled in winking at normalcy. Now, they’ve applied that approach to the music video format and the results are both endearing and massively entertaining.

In “Sincere”, the band experiments with a visual depiction of malaise, the somewhat tired trope of grossout food footage, and even something as subtle as ratio presentation. For a clip where there’s ostensibly nothing happening as far as a linear narrative thread is concerned (apart from the meditation on how repetitive and mundane life can be), that’s an impressively complex setup.

Mixing in low-grade special effects, strong visual composition, and crisp editing, “Sincere” is progressively elevated throughout its overall running time. As with all great clips, the song and the video inform each other, operating in a symbiotic relationship with virtually no drawback. As the band members dispassionately mime the words to the song in an effectively tongue-in-cheek runner, the Andrew Northrop-directed clip capitalizes on a modicum of momentum to hit a climactic section that involves the band remaining blasé while a variety of odd things happen with their food selections.

It’s a humorous moment, elevated by the band’s impressive deadpan performances but it’s overshadowed by the last section of “Sincere”, which takes a sharp left and sees guitarist/vocalist (and A Year’s Worth of Memories contributor) Nicola Leel breaking character and dissolving into laughter before rapidly cutting to a series of loose chaos and finally settling on a short vacuum clean-up sequence.

In those moments, “Sincere” transforms from an entertaining curiosity into a legitimately great video. By pulling back the layers of conventional expectation that’s normally applied to the type of clip that’s typically so aggressively straight-laced, Doe open up an invigorating new territory. It’s a wildly satisfying reveal that paints the entirety of “Sincere” as both radical deconstruction and loving homage. In short, it’s perfectly, unequivocally Doe.

Watch “Sincere” below and pre-order Some Things Last Longer Than You from Old Flame here.

Emily Yacina – A Curse (Music Video)

emily yacina

As the work week approaches its end, new material finds its way out into the world. This Thursday boasted intriguing new songs from Lina Tullgren, Peter Broderick, TERRY, Reality Something, No Joy, and Alexandra Savior. Moonface and Siinai, Private Victories, Grubby Little Hands, and The Blind Pets all released compelling new music videos. Full streams posted an impressive cast of entries as well, including new records from Soccer Mommy, Mikey Erg, Great Barriers, VHS, and The Dove and the Wolf. While, as ever, all of those are worthy of multiple revisits, it was a music video that slipped through the cracks earlier this week that ultimately wound up with this post’s feature spot.

Emily Yacina has built a career out of reveling in a comforting softness, conjuring up tantalizing beds of sound and enveloping the listener with the blankets. There’s an inherent warmth in her work that becomes effortlessly inviting while simultaneously creating a pull that stems from a deceptive emotional intricacy. The Sophie Savides-directed video for “A Curse” — which is gorgeously lensed by Kelly Jeffrey — capitalizes on all of those elements with an enticing precision.

Opening on a shot of a forlorn Yacina in a bathtub set against a clinically white backdrop, the camera draws closer, slowly pulling us into her world. Two vases of flowers adorn that backdrop, offering signs of life that soon blossom as the perspective switches to Yacina’s POV which reveals that she’s submerged in a milk-like liquid that single flowers populate. Another perspective shift and the flowers are suddenly everywhere, as a wellspring of noises calmly enter into the track.

Yacina captivates throughout, delivering a startlingly poignant performance that speaks to her abilities as both a composer and a performer. As the clip progresses, the sincerity in Yacina’s songwriting grows clearer as she bravely conveys every emotion that carries “A Curse” with a poise that seems effortless. Eventually, the camera pulls back out in a cyclical reveal that underscores the pained loneliness that informs the narrative of “A Curse” in a moment of reserved devastation.

Overall, “A Curse” is a deeply felt, elegant entry into Emily Yacina’s already impressive body of work. Open, honest, and incisive, it’s perfectly demonstrative of what can be achieved with an idea, a strong team, and a wealth of conviction. In that sense alone, it’s inspiring. What makes it worthwhile extends beyond its underpinnings to its execution. “A Curse” is exceptional at every turn and winds up being a definitive portrait of a formidable artist. After a dip into “A Curse”, it’s proving to be nearly impossible to work up the resolve to leave.

Watch “A Curse” below and pick up Soft Stuff here.

Rod – Cemetery (Stream)

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Great new tracks from Chook Race, TERRY, Milemarker, Heliotropes, Night School, Big Neck Police, TTNG, Morgan Dealt, Parlour, Waxahatchee, and Jay Arner surfaced over the past several days, making a considerable impression. While all of them essentially guaranteed a short, healthy stretch of new releases, it was the latest from Rod that hit hardest. The band’s next up on the release calendar for Good Cheer, who have been having a remarkable 2016 run (one that’s been highlighted by Mo Troper‘s astonishing Beloved) and “Cemetery” — Rod’s latest — makes sure their impressive pace is maintained.

In under 100 seconds, Rod makes their presence known via soaring, venomous basement pop that feels like it’s always on the verge of spontaneous combustion and doing everything in its power to keep everything under control. As the vocals switch back and forth between pointed singing and vicious screaming, the velocity of “Cemetery” increases to dangerous levels. The hard-charging guitars contort and stab as the propulsive rhythm section work transforms the song into a white-hot wrecking ball of pure feeling. It’s an exhilarating look at what’s sure to be an extremely formidable — and very intimidating — record.

Listen to “Cemetery” below and keep an eye on Good Cheer Records’ store page — and this site — for further updates on the band.

What A Difference A Month Makes (Streams)

As was discussed in the preceding two posts, there’s been a serious lull of inaction on this site as of late as far as posting is concerned. A large reason for that was the fact that the majority of that coverage gap was spent traveling thousands of miles to document sets from bands like Oops, Dilly Dally, Yowler, Eskimeaux, Frankie Cosmos, Beach Slang, Potty Mouth, Dyke Drama, PWR BTTM, and more.

The resulting documentation will be posted at some point in the near future but the hefty amount of visual content (not to mention the act of traveling itself) necessitated a publishing break. However, as usual, every new piece of incoming information was accounted for in the interim. Full streams and music videos have already been covered so it’s time that the attention was turned towards individual songs.

A list of some of the finest new tunes to have emerged over the past month can be found below. Since there are so many, it may be best to bookmark this page and explore its contents at a more leisurely pace to avoid being overwhelmed. Jump on in and go swimming.

Basketball Shorts, Mikey Erg, Bird of Youth, Las Rosas, Mitski, The Big Moon, Nicholas Allbrook, The Gotobeds, Nothing, Fawnn, Leapling, Speedy Ortiz, Yours Are the Only Ears, Don Vail, Frail, Stephen Steinbrink, Yeesh, Pkew Pkew Pkew, Haley Bonar, And The Kids, Gauntly, Summer Cannibals, case/lang/veirs (x2), Psychic Teens (x2), Glenn Davis, Dogheart, Cat’s Eyes, benjamin783 (x2), Ian William Craig, Terry, Emily Jane White, Walleater, VATS, Alice Bag (x2), Mutual Benefit, Blowout, Mike Adams At His Honest Weight, and Outer Spaces.

The Monkees, Tens, Yung, Star Parks, Marissa Nadler, Brenda’s Friend, elvis depressedly (x2), Rick Redbeard, Sega Genocide (x2), Honey (x2), GØGGS, The Dan Ryan (x2), Male Gaze, Heaters, Leif Erikson, Blessed, Boys, Mumblr, Anthony Sanders, Swanning, Kvelertak, Hollowtapes (x2), Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy, OVER, Erin Tobey, Quiet Hollers, The Clientele, Young Magic, LUKA, Yikes, Teen BodyFew Bits, Fear of Men (x2), Joy Void, Message to Bears (ft. Will Samson), Baby In Vain, Local Natives, Scroll Downers, and Psychic Heat.

OHIOANDaniel Wilson, The Invisible, Ultraviolence, Oddissee, Bad Channels, Dentists, Deerhoof, Hayden Calnin, The Mercury Programs, Yoni & Geti, Marisa AndersonColleen Green, Lisa Prank, Ultimate PaintingJuniore, Spice Boys, Stone Cold Fox, Avalanche, Beliefs, Museum Mouth, Psychic Ills, Flat Worms, Robin Pecknold, Mock Orange, Magic Potion, Retail Space, VHSBag-Dad, Casper Skulls, Peach Kelli Pop, Aloha, JPNSGRLS, Adeline Hotel, WoodsColder, The Mystery Lights, Islands, Sego, Casey Jordan Weissbuch, Honey Radar, and an unexpected Car Seat Headrest cover of a Radiohead classic as well as an unexpected Yuck cover of an Elliott Smith staple.

Prison Whites – Deceiver (Stream)

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From the end of last week to the start of this week doesn’t exactly constitute a lot of time but it’s more than enough to ensure a heap of great new songs find release. A few of those songs were Little May’s gorgeous ambient pop masterclass “Seven Hours“, Loma Prieta’s vicious return to form in “Never Remember“, Psychic Blood’s bruising “Blur World“, and “Glasgow Coma Scale Blues“, the latest triumphant reunion track from The Libertines. Låpsley’s serene “Hurt Me“, Lushes’ cock-eyed “Circus” (which very nearly took this post’s featured spot), Longings’ compellingly bleak “Vacancy“, Palace Winter’s atmospheric “Menton“, and Terry’s gleefully off-kilter “Talk About Terry” topped off the short stretch’s haul in style. As great as all of those songs were, it was the lead-off single from Prison Whites’ forthcoming debut that hit hardest.

Clocking in at a time that starts to approach five minutes in length, “Deceiver” is the sound of a band who refuse to quit- which is odd, considering the band’s essentially just starting. Impressively, the trio never loses an ounce of the infectious energy of their ferocious basement pop attack. Armed with a serious amount of tenacity, a sugar-coated pop sensibility, and an unmistakably punk attitude and energy, Prison Whites have hit the ground at a fall sprint with no intention of looking back. What’s most impressive isn’t the band’s immediate sense of velocity but their consistency. They’ve somehow already managed to find their footing.

After two and a half minutes of some of the most explosive basement pop to emerge all year, the band dives headfirst into a bridge that creates some tension around their madness, only to have that tension steadily build back up into a frenzied hurricane of a final section. It’s expertly crafted, it feels concise despite its length, and its completely exhilarating. Manic and bloodthirsty, “Deceiver” is one of the most startling warning shots not just of 2015 but of recent memory. Don’t let this band out of your sight (and if you blink, prepare to find them miles ahead of where they just were). Fat Cat will be releasing the band’s tape at some point in the near future. Buy it as soon as it’s available.

Listen to “Deceiver” below and keep an eye on this site for more updates on the band.