Heartbreaking Bravery

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Tag: The Midwestern Charm

15 of ’15: The Best EP’s of 2015

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Now that all the visual retrospectives are out of the way and the best live videos have been accounted for, it’s time to move onto the records in earnest. Over the course of the next several days there will be “best of” lists for the following categories: music videos, odds and ends (demos, 7″ records, compilations, etc.), songs, and albums. There will also be an Honorable Mentions devotion that covers a massive array of material from the majority of those categories. Following those lists will be the second installment of the A Year’s Worth of Memories series, which will once again feature a murderer’s row of contributors that have been pulled from both the music and film worlds.

For now, we’re turning our attention to the EP’s that made the most formidable impressions over the course of the past 12 months. Well over 100 titles were considered and then boiled down to the 15 that you see below (this was such a strong year for EP’s that the top 5 are essentially interchangeable). Before delving into those titles, it’s worth noting that “best” in the case– as it is in all cases– is just a meaningless formality and the list below is a reflection of subjectivity. I make no claim to be an authoritative voice in these matters, just a person that genuinely enjoys music and uses a platform as a means to attempt to elevate some of the acts that truly deserve to have their names in greater circulation. So, without further ado, here’s 15 of ’15: The Best EP’s of 2015.

15. Idle Bloom – Some Paranoia

Sometimes all you need to do is offer to help carry equipment to be introduced to incredible new bands, which is exactly how I met Callan Dwan, who I would come to learn is not only Mitski’s guitarist but one of the guitarists for two other acts as well: Dogtooth and Idle Bloom. The latter– a shoegaze-obsessed post-punk act (or is it the other way around?)– recently released their Some Paranoia EP, which stealthily builds its momentum in a clever, multifaceted way; not only do the majority of the songs work their way into a cacophonous frenzy but so does the EP as a whole. It’s an exhilarating listen from a promising emerging act and boasts one of the year’s best riffs.

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14. ThinLips – Your Divorce

An extraordinary opening track can do wonders for any release. An effective opening track will set a precedent and a tone for the ensuing material on the record. Your Divorce‘s opener “Nothing Weird” is both effective and extraordinary. Brandishing a compellingly damaged form of lo-fi leaning pop-punk, ThinLips crafted a vicious, compact stunner of an EP that comes across like a warning shot. In a genre that’s increasingly weakened by diminishing returns from the artists utilizing reverential approach, it’s heartening to see the more subversive acts releasing material that feels genuinely vital.

13. Bad Wig – Bad Wig

Before Bad Wig was Bad Wig, they were The Midwestern Charm, an act that worked their way from a sound that fell closer in line to Ryan Adams to crafting a record that fit better alongside the likes of The Lemonheads. A few member changes and stylistic shifts later, they’d carved out a new identity under their new name. Their introductory act is ferociously ragged and maybe even a little audacious. Most everything else there is to be said about this brilliant collection of punk-tinged micro-pop gems can was covered in last week’s review.

12. Potty Mouth – Potty Mouth

A lot of bands found surprisingly bold ways to shift their sound but none caught me as off-guard as Potty Mouth‘s fearless swan dive into the polished, arena-ready sounds of their self-titled EP. Opening with the skyward stretching of “Cherry Picking” and only building momentum from there, Potty Mouth could very easily signal a new era for a band that was formerly known for reveling in their scrappier tendencies. Every song on the EP connects with a staggering amount of force, nicely correlating with the self-possessed determination found at the root of nearly every song in this collection. Potty Mouth is the kind of rallying call that echoes.

11. Midwives – Cowboy Songs

After releasing a fierce full-length debut back in February, Midwives managed to top themselves as the year was drawing to a close. The shockingly immediate Cowboy Songs dishes out punishment at a startling rate and bristles with real emotion. Things kick off with the vicious “Back in the Saddle” and never look back from there, each subsequent song in this seven and a half minute collection of deranged hardcore acting as a flawless showcase of the band’s brute strength. Cowboy Songs is filled to the brim with the kind of hardcore that thrashes around wildly and refuses to be tamed.

10. Geronimo! – Buzz Yr Girlfriend: Vol. 4 – Why Did You Leave Me?

While a lot of people were justifiably saddened over the losses of Ovlov and Krill, it may have been the departure of Geronimo! that hit hardest. Granted, for the vast majority of my life, they were easily the closest to my location of that trio but the sentiment remains. At the very least, the trio went out on top with their final bow: Buzz Yr Girlfriend: Vol. 4 – Why Did You Leave Me?. Characteristically unwieldy, the band’s final three songs ranked among the best work of a deeply impressive career, each (justifiably) landing a premiere at a massive publication. Fitting levels of recognition for an overwhelmingly powerful final effort.

9. Teksti-TV 666 – 2

One of the biggest surprises of the year for me personally, this blistering EP from Finnish act Teksti-TV 666 practically qualifies as an album by today’s standards (its runtime is over 22 minutes). Full of surging basement pop that’s not too far off from the best of The Marked Men, the aptly named swings for the fences at every turn without hesitation. Incorporating a several-member guitar attack that may rival Diarrhea Planet’s, the band finds new avenues to explore as the record careens headfirst towards something concrete. After the fireworks of “Tuhatvuotinen Harharetki”, the band never lets up and goes on exploratory tangents at will. Psychedelic flourishes, sludge breakdowns, and a serious amount of momentum carry to its status as one of the best of 2015.

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8. Slight – Hate the Summer

Hate the Summer prompted a few difficult guideline decisions for this list: was it ethical to include an EP anchored by a song that premiered on this site and would a tape release of the EP that included the entirety of an online single that this site ranked as last year’s best be eligible for contention? The answers, obviously, were “absolutely” and “yes.” The latter line of questioning was the one that was scrutinized the most for this list and wound up excluding Meat Wave’s formidable Brother from eligibility (nearly half of the EP pulled from a variety of the band’s other releases, rendering it more of a padded compilation than an EP). With Hate the Summer, the band’s not only expanded the scope of their work but they’ve tapped into something with the three new songs on display here that have the potential to lift this project to new heights of outside recognition. Overall, it’s an important early piece of the trio’s developing history and deserves to be heard as many times as possible.

7. Midnight Reruns – Get Me Out

A staple of this site’s coverage since its introduction, Midnight Reruns rewarded that attention by taking a huge leap with this year with their two strongest releases to date, beginning with this bleary-eyed EP. The Tommy Stinson-produced “Ain’t Gonna Find” sets things in motion and establishes the band’s manic basement pop sensibilities in the early goings, with Graham Hunt’s million-words-a-minute delivery emboldened by the characteristically fierce lead guitar work between Hunt and Karl Giehl. From that blistering opening number, the band takes a step back and sinks their teeth into more left-field territory like the rollicking “Ancient Creature”, which boasts the instantly memorable chorus couplets of “I am the sun, I am the sea/I am an ancient creature/I was born in Madagascar/I was raised by lemurs” and a bruising cover of The Mistreaters’ “The Other Man”.

6. Sheer Mag – II

Another year, another Sheer Mag list placement. Expanding on everything that made the band so great right out of the gate, II was a natural extension of its predecessor, driven by the wild energy of its phenomenal closing track, “Button Up“. All of the glam influences remain and the band likely owes a remarkably huge debt to Marc Bolan but it’s hard to care about influences when the music manages to be so ridiculously entertaining. People will talk about how ’50s pop seeps in around the band’s roughest edges but really, they should probably just stop talking and start dancing. Scrappy and deliriously fun, II‘s another triumph.

5. Diet Cig – Over Easy

No EP soundtracked more aimless drives for me this year than Diet Cig‘s endearingly jubilant Over Easy, which served a necessary reminder that sometimes the most important function music can have is a sense of joy. In the face of a horrifying year in the news, an onslaught of overly-serious releases, and a general downcast pall, Over Easy was a breath of fresh air; a pair of young musicians finding their voice. Every song on Over Easy is memorable not just for its irreverence but for its uncompromising energy and impressive levels of commitment. Warm weather anthems abound and guitarist/vocalist Alex Luciano gets to deliver one of the year’s most scathing kiss-off’s in the final track’s most rousing section.

4. LVL UP – Three Songs

In 2014, site favorites LVL UP topped this site’s Albums of the Year list with ease thanks to the overwhelming brilliance of Hoodwink’d, which was the most perfect distillation of the respective voices of the band’s three principal songwriters to date. Three Songs continues that trend in miniature, allotting a song a piece from Dave Benton, Mike Caridi, and Nick Corbo. All three bring a palpable sense of weariness to the proceedings, immediately rendering this LVL UP’s moodiest record. From the spiky micro-pop of “Blur” to book-ends “The Closing Door” and “Proven Water Rites”, there’s never a dull moment and the band, once again, leave their guts on the table before walking out the door.

3. Ernie – Dog Park

Occasionally, a single song can elevate an already-strong release to unthinkable proportions, which is exactly what happens with Ernie’s delightful Dog Park and its monumental centerpiece, “Sweatpants“. While all four songs contained in Dog Park are memorable and have an impressive host of great moments, it’s the frantic, hook-laden “Sweatpants” that brings the collection together and enhances its immediate surroundings. A surging jolt of relatable discontentment emphasized by a vicious undercurrent of basement pop aesthetics, “Sweatpants” becomes Dog Park‘s definitive moment and simultaneously becomes an unwitting microcosm of 2015’s prevailing sense of disillusionment before turning on that notion in defiance and letting loose a series of blows. Dog Park‘s status as one of 2015’s great releases is cemented in the process.




2. Tenement – Tenement

No band was written about more- or in greater detail- throughout the course of 2015 than Tenement. For nearly 10 years, I’ve been clutching at mostly empty air while damaging my lungs screaming at seemingly empty rooms to go listen to this band. 2015 was the year where everyone started listening. Of the band’s three releases throughout the past 12 months, their self-titled effort was by far the least discussed. Originally released as a limited-run cassette for one of their early tours, the trio decided to release it to the general public several months later, potentially realizing that it deserved a much wider audience. Focusing on the band’s underlying roots, country, folk, and soul influences without ever completely sacrificing their punk bite, Tenement‘s easily the band’s most easygoing collection as well as its most immediately timeless. Keep its open-road sensibilities in mind for your next long drive.

1. Cende – Cende

Capping off an extraordinary year for drummer (and occasional guitarist) Greg Rutkin (LVL UP, Slight, Normal Person, etc.) was Cende’s explosive self-titled debut, which was recently released online (the bandcamp lists the official release as January 1). The band’s been playing these songs out for a while and garnered heavy coverage from this site during its extended Brooklyn residency. An LP is due out in 2016 as well and, after this EP and the live previews, it’s already one of the most highly anticipated releases of 2016. Taking cues from acts like Radioactivity, Cende has already perfected their blend of searing basement pop and unforgiving basement punk. Only two of these songs- including “Widow”, the opening track and one of the year’s finest- go over the 90 second mark and all of them boast hooks powerful enough to keep pulling the listener back, making Cende an endlessly replayable gift. It’s a monstrous release from a band refusing to aim for anything other than greatness and continuous improvement. Cende is one hell of a starting point.

A Short Review (Live Video Compilation)

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Ever since relocating back to central Wisconsin from Brooklyn, this place has been playing catch-up in a variety of fields (look at the preceding 15 posts for overwhelming proof), which left live coverage staggering over to the wayside. To partially amend that fact, I’ve compiled a collection of live videos from that rough time frame. Beginning with Krill‘s second-to-last show (an extremely memorable set at DBTS, which ended with literal crowdsurfing) and working to a reprisal of the Bad Wig footage that was contained in the recent review of their EP, there’s a lot of ground to cover. Included in that range are the videos from the first set from The Glow and the second set from Museum of Recycling, an extraordinary full set from site favorites Young Jesus, PWR BTTM and Mitski taking over Wisconsin, Midnight Reruns proving their worth with a powerhouse set in Green Bay, and LVL UP tearing into an inspired rendition of “DBTS” on hallowed ground. All of that and a whole lot more can be seen in the videos below. Enjoy.

CENDE

LVL UP

KRILL

MUSEUM OF RECYCLING

THE GLOW

SLIGHT

NORMAL PERSON

HEAVY LOOKS

YOUNG JESUS

HUE BLANC’S JOYLESS ONES

SOUL LOW

MIDNIGHT RERUNS

SPACE RAFT

PWR BTTM

PALEHOUND

MITSKI

BAD WIG

CMJ: Day 2 Review

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To get this straight, right off the bat: CMJ’s second day of festivities was the first day I participated in the proceedings so the title from this point forward will be reflective of the official festival dates and, due to the timely nature of the visual edits that something of this magnitude necessitates, there will be additional supplementary material to this post (and all of the forthcoming review posts) in the near-future.

The very first band I saw at CMJ wasn’t actually a band that I saw play; The Midwestern Charm were in town from Milwaukee, WI and deserve another mention in this space because, despite my best efforts, there level of press/exposure is still lacking (though their recent deal with Texas Is Funny is helping make some amends). After a brief hangout stint in the Artist’s Lounge and at a pizza place, I hopped a train to The Cake Shop where I’d hoped to catch the final two acts. Unfortunately, site favorites Diet Cig had just wrapped when I arrived. Balancing that misfortune out was the fact that I still arrived in time to catch all of Worriers’ set, a band I’ve attempted (and subsequently failed) to see at least five times over the past few months.

Worriers packed in a lot of material from their recent effort for Don Giovanni, Imaginary Life, including their career highlight “They/Them/Theirs“, which was an easy set highlight as well. Immediately after their set, which packed enough power to be memorable, I made the walk over to Santos Party House for NME’s unbelievably stacked showcase. As soon as I managed to sneak past security and into the venue before doors were opened, I linked up with Perfect Pussy, who have meant an extraordinary amount to both myself and this site (they can be at least partially credited for its existence).

I’d initially planned on attempting to catch every act on the bill but the prospect of a trip out to Chinatown with Perfect Pussy and a photographer from The Village Voice (who was dutifully shooting the evening’s events for the publication) proved too tantalizing. After sipping tea and watching everyone devour some dim sum, everyone made the trek back to the venue. The rest of the evening was spent running up and down a flight of steps separating two rooms that were hosting alternating sets.

Hooton Tennis Club were first up on the upstairs stage and managed to make a strong impression by virtue of stage presence and some genuinely catchy songs that skew heavily towards powerpop but have enough punk bite to avoid being pigeonholed into the genre. Car Seat Headrest were the next featured band and, riding a massive swell of buzz on the back of their deal with Matador, had a lot of expectations to meet and surpass. They mostly succeeded but were hampered early on by some strange sound issues. Everything had been resolved by the end of their set, which harbored enough heat to justify the intimidating amount of hype.

Well before Car Seat Headrest had wrapped their set, Seratones had kicked off what seemed to be a powerhouse set on the upstairs stage. Infusing blues, soul, and a healthy portion of straight rock n’ roll, the band came off as a towering force. Comparisons to Alabama Shakes seem inevitable but most will likely seem a little misguided. In any case, as soon as this band’s name starts circulating on a larger scale, they’ll be coveted by festivals and a frighteningly large army of people. As soon as the band closed their set, it was back down to watch Nico Yaryan take a considerable amount of time to set up before riding a few overwhelmingly pleasant songs into the territory of an oddly disjointed sleepiness.

Yaryan’s indie-folk outlier set warranted a return visit to the upstairs stage, where Yung kept my attention rapt by pouring everything they had into a ferocious set of hardcore-leaning basement punk numbers that was at least somewhat reminiscent of NE-HI, albeit a version of NE-HI that was a lot more pissed off. It was the perfect antidote to the preceding proceedings and acted a desperately-needed shot of adrenaline. Shopping (UK) kept that energy going downstairs with a set of minimal post-punk that had a lot of people dancing (myself included). Every song in the band’s catalog is deceptively complex but the band delivers everything with ease (and occasionally throw in a wink or a smile for good measure).

Protomartyr has been picking up all kinds of acclaim for their latest release and a hint of furthered confidence could be evidenced in the band’s characteristically deadpan presence. All of the new songs immediately stood out as highlights and kept a growing audience incredibly engaged (of the three times I’ve seen Protomartyr, this crowd was the most appreciative by far). Before their set ended, it was back to the stairwell for the umpteenth trip down the same flight of stairs to (finally) catch Downtown Boys.

While I’m still lukewarm on their recorded material, the band’s a juggernaut live. Vocalist Victoria Ruiz comes off like a vigilante dictator, espousing rousing political speeches about broken systems between songs (speeches that often serve as extended introductions to the song) before the very talented band finally joins her explosion. The crowd was whipped into a frenzy only a few songs in, which was my cue to run upstairs to catch Perfect Pussy.

As mentioned above, this site has a long history with the band (it was built primarily as an outlet for me to have a place to interview the band’s vocalist, Meredith Graves, who quickly became the patron saint of this place by featuring it in any way she could whenever she was given the opportunity). Even with that history running deep, I’d never seen the band play without their synth player, Shaun Sutkus. Sutkus was away on business (he’s still very much a part of the band, so rest easy, concerned parties) but everyone else was present and ready to go.

The band delivered a typically blistering set that included a new song entitled “The Women” that was written as a sort of pro-Planned Parenthood war cry. It was one of the first glimpses at the band’s new material, which they’re justifiably excited about releasing. Seemingly nothing but left turns, stop/start dynamics, and a variety of other compelling tricks, “The Women” is one of the most fascinating things that Perfect Pussy have ever played to an audience. While it didn’t quite get the roaring reception of “Interference Fits“, there’s no doubt in my mind that it’s well on its way.

As soon as Perfect Pussy started winding down, I made a beeline for the basement to see a band I’ve waited nearly two years to see: site favorites Dilly Dally. Playing to a crowd at around one in the morning can be a difficult prospect, especially when you’re already dealing with the pressures that accompany having one of the most celebrated records of the moment. Throw in my own personal feelings about the band and the anxiety levels were high; could they live up? Dilly Dally responded by throwing down a monstrous set that exceeded the confines of the festival and quickly registered as one of the best sets of the year.

Every conceivable aspect of a live show was covered: the banter was entertaining, the band’s four members all fully committed to their stage presence, they conjured up a wall of sound that was enough to send shockwaves through my torso without ever having any sound issues, and at one point Katie Monks– the band’s vocalist/guitarist– got intense enough to break a string. Monks’ voice on its own is an incredibly powerful thing and she can wield it like a loaded weapon but when it’s supported the way it is by her bandmates, it becomes unforgettable.

By the end of Dilly Dally’s set, they’d played a handful of tracks from 2015 highlight Sore, “Candy Mountain“, and covered Drake with a surprising level of menace. It was a jaw-dropping set and provided the perfect note to end an opening day of showgoing. Unforgiving in its raw power and weirdly poetic nature, Dilly Dally’s performance set an unbelievably high bar and the rest of this week will be given an added element of intrigue: will anyone be able to top what they pulled off? It’ll be exciting to find out.

Dusk – Too Sweet (Stream)

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Even though more than two dozen of the past week’s items have been covered, there’s still a large handful of releases that haven’t been mentioned. Dusk’s B-side to “(Do The) Bored Recluse” led a formidable pack of noteworthy new songs and full streams. In the former caAtegory, there were memorable new numbers from Florist, Tigue, The Coathangers, Pinegrove, Foxing, Tenement, Historian, Monella, and Total Abuse, as well as a respectable Fugazi cover from The Dirty Nil. The full streams were well-represented with an eclectic trio of releases from Weyes Blood, Operator, and Bad Wig. All of those are, as always, worthy of investment- but it was Dusk’s latest that felt most deserving of this post’s headline.

As previously stated– and evidenced by this very post– any time anything Tenement-related surfaces, there’s a decent chance it’s going to get featured. There has been no other band I’ve recommended more times over the course of the past eight years and the band’s many side projects have warranted a great deal of attention; Dusk is no different. A collective of some of the sharpest musical minds in Wisconsin’s Fox Valley area, Dusk magnify Tenement’s relatively contained classic country influence into something effortlessly convincing.

“Too Sweet” sees the vocal lead shifting from Amos Pitsch to Julia Blair, who has no trouble carving out a commanding presence as the song’s central player. Nuanced pedal steel work and an impressive keys figure drive the song’s open-road feel, while Pitsch’s layered backing vocals inject the song with the kind of character that’s come to define his main vehicle. All the while, the rhythm section remains focused, covering up the song’s saccharine sensibilities with a coating of grit; a trick that plays directly into the song’s lyrical content.

It’s a clear-eyed love song that’s covered in bruises and it exhibits an incredible amount of promise for the members’ latest undertaking. “Too Sweet” also cements (Do The) Bored Recluse b/w Too Sweet‘s status as one of this year’s finest 7″ releases. Make sure it’s in as many collections as possible by following the order link below; this isn’t something to be missed.

Listen to “Too Sweet” below and pick up a copy of the 7″ from Forward! Records here.

Connor La Mue – Stargazer (Stream)

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I’ve come to regard a lot of my friends as family over the course of my time playing in bands, booking shows, and documenting as much of Wisconsin’s music scene as I possibly could. Two of the bands I made really early, meaningful connections with were The Sleepwalkers and recent Texas Is Funny signees The Midwestern Charm; two bands that have been intrinsically connected since their formations. Both acts have shared members for years, one of which being Connor La Mue (who fronts The Midwestern Charm and is The Sleepwalkers’ bassist), who has quietly been releasing solo demos under his own name. One of them, “Stargazer”, is among the best La Mue’s ever written. Before going too in-depth on that, though, it’s worth noting that yet again there’s been a lot of incredible music to appear over the past two months. Among those songs: Thee Oh Sees’ blissed-out psych-punk tune “The Ceiling“, Algiers’ punishing, soulful “Black Eunnuch“, Braid’s propulsive “Because I Am“, Damien Jurado’s magnetically weary “Oh The Land Blues“, and Ancient Sky’s massive, brooding “Garbage Brain“. Continuing to rack up the great songs count were Tracey Thorn’s gentle “Let Me In“, Michael Rault’s breezy psych-pop throwback “Lover’s Lie“, Ryn Weaver’s enchanting ambient pop piece “The Fool“, Blanck Mass’ unrelenting “Detritus“, and Tim Kasher’s sprawling folk-tinged Chris Farren cover “Half Full“. Now, with all of those accounted for, it’s time to refocus on the punchy, lo-fi micro-punk of “Stargazer”.

La Mue’s built himself a consistently impressive discography but hasn’t gone the full solo route since his formative years in music. Now, he’s grown restless, with the attention surrounding his work at an all-time high. That restlessness seeps its way into “Stargazer” which is, all at once, the shortest, most immediate, most bruising, and most freeing thing he’s committed to any sort of recording. Built around a drum track, La Mue fully indulges a 90’s influence that may owe a bigger debt to Guided By Voices than his work with either the Charm or The Sleepwalkers may have suggested. Raw, exhilarating, and bold, “Stargazer” hinges on the repeated mantra of “Do you ever wonder where we came from?” betraying its creators sense of wonderment to a fascinating degree. When the solo comes sweeping in to lead “Stargazer” to its rousing finish, it’s a genuinely stunning moment. Gritty and absurdly promising, “Stargazer” seems to point out, against all odds, that La Mue- after around 10 years of making and releasing music- is only just getting started.

Listen to “Stargazer” below and keep an eye on this site for more from La Mue’s other projects.

White Reaper – Make Me Wanna Die (Stream)

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2015 already seems like its building towards a tidal wave of great releases that will consume everything in its path and today’s another one offering some formidable contributions. Since there weren’t too many full streams worth noting, it seems like that’d be an ideal starting point. While the medium may not have had the most impressive numerical outing, Big Moth more than filled the void with the self-titled EP. Hints of basement pop, basement punk, and the golden age of emo/post-hardcore resonate throughout the release (in a manner not too dissimilar from Attendant’s Freaking Out), securing it a spot as one of 2015’s finest debuts to date. For music videos, there was an inspired trio of clips: the infectiously joyous “East Coast Cities” (a giddy highlight off of Crabapple’s excellent Is It You), clipping.’s brilliant, striking “Intro“, and TV On the Radio’s soulful, delicate “Trouble“.

Unsurprisingly, single streams- once again- came out swinging. Which is as good a place as any to point out that the decisions for which item to headline have been nightmarish mental bloodbaths (in the best way possible). Roughly half of what’s linked to in this post that isn’t directly embedded below put up a fight to earn this piece’s central focus. From Pupppy‘s droll mid-tempo masterpiece “Or Maybe We’re Not” to The Midwestern Charm‘s re-release of fiery Growing Pains highlight “General Drag” (a live video of which exists in our archives), there were almost too many great songs to consider. Joining their ranks were Birds of Night’s compellingly moody “Asleep in the Pine”, The Dead Ships’ dark, frenetic “Floorboards“, and the retro-psych of Fauna Shade’s ridiculously enjoyable “Marzipan“. Completing the batch were Mac DeMarco’s touring band’s band (Walter TV) and their “Surf Metal“, Day Wave’s typically introspective “Drag“, and the unnervingly hypnotic ambient folk of Wilsen’s “Garden“.

As difficult as it was, a decision had to be made and White Reaper wound up outsprinting everyone else with the frantic, frenzied assault of their debut full-length’s lead-off single “Make Me Wanna Die”. After last year’s outstanding self-titled EP and a handful of mentions on this site, expectations for their first LP were raised. Add in the fact that the band signed to Polyvinyl (joining a slew of site favorites in the process), and the anticipation heightens. “Make Me Wanna Die” both justifies those high levels of anticipation and delivers a devastating gut-punch to any doubts surrounding the record’s early expectations. Fuzzed-out, punchy, and more manic than ever, the band also somehow found a way to refine their pop sensibilities, creating something that easily ranks among the year’s best. From the jaunty synth hook to the blistering pace, White Reaper appear to not only be in complete control of their craft but at the current height of their powers. Catchy as hell and packed with meaning, “Make Me Wanna Die” is a monstrous first look at what could be one of the surprise albums of 2015. After the drums kick in cloaked in a wall of noise and the count-off hits, it’s nothing but a whirlwind of surging lo-fi heat that strikes the perfect balance between scuzz-punk and powerpop. If the rest of the amusingly-titled White Reaper Does It Again lives up to what the band achieves here, it’ll be one hell of a thrill ride.

Listen to “Make Me Wanna Die” below and pre-order White Reaper Does It Again from Polyvinyl ahead of its July 17 release date here.

Downies – Widow (Stream)

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Photo by Seth Applebaum

For a while now, I’ve been teasing Heartbreaking Bravery’s brief transition to full-blown catch-up mode. And, well, that time has come. Each of the ensuing posts will contain so much more than just the song, video, or album in the headline. Single songs will each come equipped with a list of 75 other great tunes to have appeared in 2015. A new music video mixtape will be arriving shortly as well as several other mixtapes to re-ignite the Watch This series, which time dictated be temporarily relegated to the sidelines. A lot of things will be heading in a lot of directions in the coming months so coverage may be sporadic but I will be damned if I let this site out of my thoughts and intentions for even a second.

With all of that noted, it’s time to get back to what drives this site’s existence: legitimately great art propelled by a DIY ethos. A lot of incredible music has emerged over the past several weeks with gems arriving every day (extremely recent company includes Eskimeaux, Sharpless, Flagland, Flyying Colours, Mitski, Upset, and so many more) so selecting one to feature has become an unenviable task- but sometimes history makes it easy. I was fortunate enough to hear some roughs of a band called Downies towards the start of the year and it immediately became one of my favorite releases, something that came as no surprise considering the group’s pedigree (I’ve yet to come across a LVL UP-affiliated project that I dislike, which can also be said of Porches.). Pushing things over the edge was the fact that Downies came off like a version of Purple 7 that was even more pop-happy but sacrificed none of that band’s considerable punch.

That exhilarating dynamic is perhaps most present in “Widow”, the band’s recently-unveiled warning shot. On its surface, it’s a frantically paced gut-punch that’s forceful enough to stop just about anyone in their tracks. Live, it’s a firecracker that seems hell-bent on total destruction. Stripped back to its bare essentials, it’s a song driven by a troubled subtext that’s directly hinted at in the title. Even setting aside the dissections of its particulars, “Widow” is a staggering show of force from a band that deserves to be ushered in with a high level of excitement.

Listen to “Widow” below and keep an eye on this site for continuing coverage of the band and the upcoming EP that houses this song. Beneath that is a list of 75 incredible songs that I wish I could attribute more words to, as they truly deserve to be held in praise, but- at this point- there’s simply too many items that have amassed. Soon, the site will be caught up and current releases will be accounted for as they enter the fold. For now, enjoy “Widow” and a long list of treasures.

NEEDS – Rescue Don
Walleater – Swallow You
Turn To Crime – Without A Care
Built to Spill – Never Be the Same
Thin Lips – Nothing Weird
Hollow Sunshine – Careful Travel
Toro Y Moi – Run Baby Run
Dutch Uncles – Realm
Cillie Barnes – Earthquake Season at the Crystal Convention
No Joy – Everything New
Inheaven – Regeneration
Crying – Patriot
Torres – Sprinter
Hop Along – Powerful Man
Ronnie Stone & The Lonely Riders – Kiss the Daddy
Dolores Haze – I Got My Gun
The Teen Age – Low Cunning
Funeral Advantage – I Know Him
Shadow Age – Silaluk
YAST – When You’re Around
Mittenfields – Optimists
Coeds – Sensitive Boys
PJ Bond – The Better Option
Pfarmers – The Ol’ River Gang
Round Eye – City Livin’
Val Son – Sundays
Lowin – Best Laid Plans
Alright – Watercolors
The Midwestern Charm – Can’t Stand It
The Bloodhounds – La Coahuila
Broken Water – Wasted
Trans Van Santos – The Flight
Weed – Yr Songs
Elliot Moss – Best Light
Girls Names – Zero Triptych
Communions – Out of My World
Two Sheds – Get It Out
Free Cake For Every Creature – The Day To Day
Elvis Perkins (ft. Alec Ounsworth) – Mexican Ritual
Loose Tooth – Pickwick Average
Barbazons – Bad Catholics
Eternal Summers – Together Or Alone
Someone Still Loves You Boris Yeltsin – Step Brother City
Mall Walk – Container
Verses Narrow – Passive
Nevada Nevada – Anger Tango
Annabel – Everything
Triumph of the Wild – Brown Dog Blues
Mitski – Square (Live Solo Piano)
Chick Quest – Somebody Call A Doctor
Downtown Boys – Future Police
Honey Butter (ft. Chris Savor) – Times
Tanlines – Invisible Ways
Heaters – Mean Green
Warm Soda – I Wanna Go Fast
Diamond Youth – Thought I Had It Right
LA Font – Whisperer
Palma Violets – English Tongue
Prinzhorn Dance School – Reign
FFS – Piss Off
Avid Dancer – Not Far To Go
Cheatahs – Murasaki
Jaga Jazzist – Starfire
Flyying Colours – Running Late
Eskimeaux – I Admit I’m Scared
Sharpless – Franz Kafka (Home Movies)
Flagland – Awesome Song, Kerry Jan
Tomboy – Tomboy Anthem
The Moi Non Plus – Away With Words
Upset – Glass Ceiling
Panther Ray – Get to You
The Weaks – Frances Quinlan Will Have Her Revenge on Philadelphia
Ka – Pruitt Igoe
Dogs On Acid – Substitute (The Who)
Creepoid – American Smile

2014: A Pictorial Review, Pt. 4

Perfect Pussy VIII

One thing that this site has strived to maintain is its own visual aesthetic. While it’d be impossible to find a photo in the archives for every given band that headlines a post, an original photo will be posted anytime the opportunity presents itself. Upgrading cameras halfway through the year provided a bevvy of new opportunities and the subsequent implementation of a more photo-centric presence. That’s not by mistake. Photography (especially event photography) has always been an important crux of multimedia journalism. It can be a way to implicitly (or explicitly) convey some of the more minute details of a singular moment to a reader- or it can simply act as an intriguing supplement. Those were just a few of reasons that went into the decision behind a headfirst dive into photography investment (on both a personal and public level) and factored into why one camera or another was brought along to every show this site covered in the past year. Now, with 2015 just around the corner, seemed like as good a time as any to showcase a few photographs from the past 12 months that stood out as personal favorites. Since there are a few too many to go up all at once, they’ll be posted at random as part of installments that will run from now to the start of January. Most of these shots have been published on the site before (or on The Media), though there are a few that will be appearing for the first time. Enjoy!

Lady Lamb the Beekeeper – Billions of Eyes (Music Video)

ladylamb

Due to some lingering technical issues (most notably the loss of a laptop), there’s been a brief delay in regularly-scheduled content. Last week alone was devoid of anything other than Watch This installments, a lone song premiere, and a few 2014 pictorial reviews. To amend that, the next three posts will be focused exclusively on the best of the best to have surfaced last week in the three major categories: music video, single stream, and full stream. Following that will be a recap of this week-thus-far and the second-to-last pictorial review. With all of that exposition out of the way, it’s time to move on to the first major topic: last week’s music videos.

Last week’s haul of new clips did make for some interesting debate over which to feature, as they were all deserving. Ultimately, there was no wrong answer and it seemed most appropriate to go with an artist who’d previously never been covered on the site, Lady Lamb the Beekeeper, who crafted something deeply alluring with the “Billions of Eyes” video. Joining the ranks of “Billions of Eyes” were an unbelievable cast of gems that included: Trust Fund‘s impossibly endearing “Cut Me Out“,  The Midwestern Charm‘s screwball revenge thriller “General Drag“, Alex G‘s charmingly off-kilter “Harvey“, HOLY’s staunchly lo-fi “Silver of Your Heart“, The Dead Ships’ blurred adventure trip “Canyon“, Belle & Sebastian’s characteristically soft-edged “Nobody’s Empire“, and I Love You But I’ve Chosen Darkness’ usual disquiet manifesting in “You Are Dead to Me“. All great clips that will reward anyone able to cut out a half an hour of viewing time in their day-to-day.

Now, back to the featured highlight: Lady Lamb the Beekeeper’s infectiously punchy indie pop and the effortlessly brilliant “Billions of Eyes”. In the clip, Winston Smith-esque collages meet the pop-art sensibility of Wes Anderson in an immediately engaging video that blurs the lines between traditionalism and modernism. It’s difficult to call “Billions of Eyes” a music video or a lyric video definitively because, more than any other clip in recent memory, there’s an emphasis on the strongest elements of both categories. It’s a sly trick that almost diverts attention away from how well-crafted and intuitively paced “Billions of Eyes” winds up being. Ferocious editing sneaks in and consumes the whole affair in the final act, well after the tastefully-presented home video footage has been established. Never anything less than thrilling, it’s as fine of an introduction-at-large that Lady Lamb the Beekeeper (or anyone else) could have possibly hoped for- and it’s one of 2014’s most refreshing videos. If the rest of After (due out via Mom + Pop on March 3) can live up to this extraordinarily high precedent, anyone fortunate enough to hear it will be in for quite the ride.

Watch “Billions of Eyes” below and pre-order After here.

 

2014: A Pictorial Review, Pt. 3

Swearin'

One thing that this site has strived to maintain is its own visual aesthetic. While it’d be impossible to find a photo in the archives for every given band that headlines a post, an original photo will be posted anytime the opportunity presents itself. Upgrading cameras halfway through the year provided a bevvy of new opportunities and the subsequent implementation of a more photo-centric presence. That’s not by mistake. Photography (especially event photography) has always been an important crux of multimedia journalism. It can be a way to implicitly (or explicitly) convey some of the more minute details of a singular moment to a reader- or it can simply act as an intriguing supplement. Those were just a few of reasons that went into the decision behind a headfirst dive into photography investment (on both a personal and public level) and factored into why one camera or another was brought along to every show this site covered in the past year. Now, with 2015 just around the corner, seemed like as good a time as any to showcase a few photographs from the past 12 months that stood out as personal favorites. Since there are a few too many to go up all at once, they’ll be posted at random as part of installments that will run from now to the start of January. Most of these shots have been published on the site before (or on The Media), though there are a few that will be appearing for the first time. Enjoy!