Heartbreaking Bravery

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Tag: The Same Thing

The Best Songs of 2017’s First Quarter

Anyone keeping regular tabs on this site will be fully aware that only a few days ago a list of around 500 great songs from the first quarter was just published, which means the songs featured in this list* are genuinely extraordinary. Ranging from highlights of records that are already receiving glowing reviews (Pile, Midnight Reruns) to the lead-off single of what’s undoubtedly the Heartbreaking Bravery pick for the year’s most anticipated record (Charly Bliss), these 15 tracks constitute the very best of the early best. Old favorites and new faces are both featured and  everything’s more than worth a whole slew of listens, so jump in and start swimming.

*Any of the songs that were previously featured in the Quarter 1 Best Of roundups for music videos and records were deemed ineligible for this list, in an effort to spread the attention as much as possible. 

Charly Bliss – Glitter

Anyone who has paid even an iota of attention to this site and its coverage selection over the past several years should be aware of Charly Bliss. Following what stands so far as the best EP of the current decade, an introductory full-length should seem like a daunting challenge. “Glitter” decimates any of the doubt that none of us should have ever harbored in the first place. A pitch-perfect burst of spiked bubblegum punk, it’s a characteristically enthralling look at what’s bound to be one of the year’s best records.

Chemtrails – Deranged

A relatively fresh band to this site’s featured selections, Chemtrails‘ “Deranged” is the exact type of song that seems determined to force a change in that regard. Swooping down from the heavens, “Deranged” is an exhilarating run through snotty, synth-driven basement pop that comes teeming with an energy that’s unmistakably, ferociously punk. An effortless, summery anthem, “Deranged” sticks with the listener thanks to its deceptive intelligence and unavoidable hooks.

The Spirit of the Beehive – Ricky (Caught Me Tryin’)

Was there any hook in 2017’s first quarter as ridiculously addictive and inescapable as the one at the center of “Ricky (Caught Me Tryin’)”? The amount of times the melody accompanying the title of this song personally floated through my head over the first few months of this year is nothing short of staggering. Fortunately, the rest of the song is as brilliant as that central hook, ably demonstrating the considerable allure that nearly every song to come out of The Spirit of the Beehive‘s discography boasts.

Deep State – No Idea Pt. II

An explosion of basement punk given only the slightest powerpop sheen, Deep State’s “No Idea Pt. II” recklessly kicks and careens with abandon. Pure energy congeals with concise, tightly-wound songwriting for a display of formidable power that’s hard to forget. Short, scrappy, and overflowing with conviction, “No Idea Pt. II” is more than enough reason to get incredibly excited for whatever Deep State’s future holds in store.

Petite League – Pulling Teeth

Last year, Petite League were kind enough to gift this site with “Magic Johnson” for the A Step Forward compilation and that track’s been on near-constant repeat ever since that moment. “Magic Johnson was an affirmation of something that’d already grown apparent: every new Petite League release is worth your attention. “Pulling Teeth”, their latest, serves as both reaffirmation and as statement. This is a band that’s hell-bent on improving with each consecutive release and they have the tenacity and the intelligence to make sure that goal’s accomplished.

Froth – Passing Thing

Most of Froth‘s most gripping efforts in the past have been hazy affairs imbued with gentle atmospheric aesthetics so the opening moments of “Passing Thing” don’t come as much of a surprise. What follows is a different story. After erupting into a cavalcade of noise that paradoxically both invites and discards a sense of tension “Passing Thing” leans in hard on the band’s shoegaze influences for an unexpectedly urgent reminder of the kind of forcefulness that’s always been evident just below Froth’s typically relaxed surface.

The New Year – Recent History

“Recent History”, the first music to be released from The New Year in nearly a decade, sounds more masterfully composed than most locked-in bands who are hitting their stride can manage. It helps, of course, that the members can be rightfully considered pioneers thanks to their astounding contributions to music both pre- and post-Bedhead. Still, “Recent History” is as quietly invigorating as slowly unwinding post-punk numbers come and The New Year infuse it with a hard-fought career’s worth of feeling.

Hand Habits – Sun Beholds Me

Hand Habits have made a name for themselves crafting sweeping, elegiac folk-tinged numbers over the years. The band has a uniformly strong discography but it’s hard to remember a track over that time as pure and lovely as the six-minute “Sun Beholds Me”. Haunting atmospherics and a pensive vocal melody find the perfect marriage to achieve a near-spiritual transcendence and leave Hand Habits with a striking career high that’s as gentle as it is memorable. An absolute triumph in every way.

Modern Baseball – This Song’s Gonna Buy Brendan Lukens A New Pair of Socks

Few bands can offer up a career re-positioning as fascinating as the one Modern Baseball have accomplished over the past few years. Originally heralded as the potential saviors of both emo and pop-punk, the band’s steadily shifted towards something that tips far closer to Guided By Voices and Built to Spill than The Promise Ring. “This Song’s Gonna Buy Brendan Lukens A New Pair of Socks” is the most recent example and includes scintillating guitar work while retaining some of the tongue-in-cheek snark and humility that endeared the band to its early fans. Impressive is an understatement.

Grim Streaker – Guts

Another furiously-paced burst of aggressive basement punk with a few basement pop trappings, Grim Streaker’s “Guts” is the kind of song that makes people sit up and take notice. For a little under two and a half minutes, Grim Streaker just throws one haymaker after the other, from the frantic synth work to the energetic, deeply-felt vocals. “Guts” is, unquestionably, a knockout punch. Should Grim Streaker keep this kind of pace up, we’ll all be hearing their name more frequently in the coming years.

Dream Wife – Somebody

Many times when musicians opt for the overtly political route — whether it be protest songs or self-congratulatory statements — it comes off as trite and frequently overbearing. Which is why when these topics are treated with nuance instead of being reduced to a bland bottom line, the effect tends to be greater. Case in point: Dream Wife’s “Somebody”, which features both the simplistic (but deeply meaningful) rallying cry of “I am not my body/I am somebody” and verses that articulate that point in clever ways. Dream Wife understand the effects of prose better than most and, as a result, they’ve wound up with what will likely be one of the strongest sociopolitical tracks of 2017.

Caddywhompus – Waiting Room

While Decent and Splinter were among some of the stronger tracks of the past several months, it was “Waiting Room” that stood out as Caddywhompus‘ finest effort. All three are sterling tracks, undoubtedly, but the inventiveness present in each of the many movements populating “Waiting Room” give it the slightest of edges, a fact that bodes very well for the band’s forthcoming Odd Hours. As dynamic and fascinating as ever, Caddywhompus seems poised to unveil not only a career high but one of the year’s finest records.

Pile – Dogs

Leaning On A Wheel and Texas showed that Pile, one of the most singular acts in today’s visible musical landscape, hadn’t lost an ounce of whatever unholy magic they’d poured into their earlier releases. “Dogs”, on the other hand, hinted towards something even larger. To be sure, A Hairshirt of Purpose did not disappoint. Still, “Dogs” remained an unquestionable highlight; sprawling, orchestral, and fearless, it’s another perfect example of the type of craft, conviction, and fearlessness that have transformed Pile into the unlikeliest of icons.

Tica Douglas – The Same Thing

One of the emerging solo acts that’s earned a handful of feature spots on this site over the past few years is Tica Douglas, whose restlessness continuously informs their music. “The Same Thing”, Douglas’ latest, somehow feels like a different animal entirely. A sweeping anthem that comes chock-full of the doubt, introspection, and exacting, unsparing self-analysis that have permeated throughout Douglas’ earlier works but “The Same Thing” somehow feels even more resolved and at peace than those earlier numbers. From quiet open to the wildly explosive burst to set off the track’s final 90 seconds, wire-to-wire, this is Douglas’ best work to date.

Midnight Reruns – Warm Days

Both Hold Up the Mirror and Scorpion were strong indicators that Midnight Reruns‘ Spectator Sports would inevitably wind up being another great record from a band with a near-spotless track record. While, unsurprisingly, that’s been fully revealed to be the case, it’s the record’s final track — not one of the advance singles — that makes the strongest impression. “Warm Days” is one of Midnight Reruns’ most representative tracks to date, from the dueling twin leads to the perfectly placed harmonies to the intensive understanding of their songwriting strengths, the song’s as much of a declaration of power as it is a victory lap. Listen to it below and watch a video of them playing the song live last year in Green Bay, WI.

LVL UP – Spirit Was (Stream)

LVL UP II

The first two days of this week saw strong songs released from the following artists: Painted Zeros, Sneaks, Devon Welsh, Cheap Girls, Lilac Daze, Casper Skulls, Dweller on the Threshold, Idiot Genes, gobbinjr, Faux Ferocious, Halfsour, Pip Blom, Elephants, Split Single, Rose Hip, Weyes Blood, Thick, Cameron AG, Preoccupations, Oldermost, Tim Hecker, The Shacks, Swet Shop Boys, The Cradle, Gallery 47, Monomyth, Robot Princess, Pumarosa, COPY, decker., Slaughter Beach, Dog, and The Perennials, as well as a great Modern Lovers cover from Sunflower Bean. That’s an intense amount of genuinely exceptional material, which says a lot about the strength of this post’s featured track: LVL UP‘s “Spirit Was”.

Pain” and “Hidden Driver” have set an impressive early tone for LVL UP’s forthcoming Return to Love — an easy album of the year candidate — and now “Spirit Was” joins their ranks. From its opening seconds, it’s evident that “Spirit Was” would be foregoing the heaviness of “Pain” and the urgency of “Hidden Driver” in favor of the more dream-like qualities that have given previous tracks like “Proven Water Rites” a tremendous amount of impact, despite their more serene nature.

As was the case with “Proven Water Rites”, bassist Nick Corbo is at the helm of “Spirit Was”, suffusing the tune with a distinctive blend of weariness, downtrodden longing, and a glimmer of faith in the possibility that there’s more to life than struggle. Like a lot of Return to Love (which can be streamed upon pre-order), “Spirit Was” showcases a heavier, grunge-leaning side of LVL UP that they’d only shown glimpses of in their earlier works. There’s a genuinely intangible quality to this song that elevates it beyond being a good song and transforms it into something impossibly compelling.

Every single second of “Spirit Was” seems to have an incalculable depth of meaning and importance to its authors, going far deeper than just the narrative. LVL UP are playing as if the stakes are life or death and they’re hedging all of their bets on survival, at all costs. From the very welcome addition — and surprising prominence — of piano flourishes to the empathetic rhythm section work to the intuitive guitar interplay, there’s not a false move to be found. It’s an astonishing moment of poise from a band that’s operating at the peak of their powers, paying tribute to their past while not taking their eyes off of the future.

By its end, “Spirit Was” serves as an incredibly assured testament to the artistic prowess that the band’s attained over several years of evolving their craft.  None of them have ever sounded more impressive than they do on Return to Love both in an individual capacity and as a unit. “Spirit Was” is a perfect example of that progress and a cogent argument for their tenacious commitment to artistic growth. Subdued, atmospheric, and oddly reassuring, “Spirit Was” is the sound of a band on the verge of perfection. It’s a peak that deserves to be experienced by everyone so stop reading now and just hit play.

Listen to “Spirit Was” below and pre-order Return to Love from Sub Pop here.

Yankee Bluff – I (EP Review)

Dogs On Acid II

To close out last week, a variety of great songs got released from the likes of Jeff Rosenstock, Sharon Jones & the Dap-Kings, The Channels, YJY, Morgan Delt, Color Tongue, Pill, Multicult, Alphabetic, dreambeaches, and DYAN. While all of those tracks were certainly worthy of a great deal of attention, this featured spot goes to the surprise debut from Yankee Bluff, a band that was born out of the ashes of site favorites Dogs On Acid (pictured above), who announced both this new project and their end in a recent Facebook post.

While losing Dogs On Acid is tough to swallow, the sudden appearance of Yankee Bluff helps smooth out the transition. Helping matters even further is the fact that their debut EP, I, easily ranks as one of the format’s finest entries of the year. Beginning with “Agessi”, demonstrates the songwriters’ increasing knack for nuanced basement pop and distances them even further from their emo roots.

Anchored by a compellingly battered production aesthetic, everything in comes across as surprisingly grounded without sacrificing some towering pop-leaning hooks. As the EP progresses, a folk undercurrent slowly emerges, recalling some of Tenement‘s more Americana-informed works. By the time hits its halfway point, Yankee Bluff have fully announced themselves as a democratic collective, allowing each member’s respective voice the opportunity to become distinctive, bringing their contemporaries in LVL UP to mind.

There aren’t any weak patches throughout the EP, with each song demonstrating a new angle that Yankee Bluff manages to successfully explore, a trait that will undoubtedly work to their advantage down the line. Whether they’re latched onto the near-anthems that Dogs On Acid cranked out a startling rate or the slow-burning acoustic act that defines the EP’s penultimate track, they also manage to cultivate a singular identity and establish themselves as a very serious force.

Ultimately, stands as an unlikely — and unexpected — triumph. In the wake of losing one of the best bands of the past few years, we’ve been gifted a band that’s very capable of taking up the mantle. is as good of a debut as anyone’s likely to hear this year and opens up the doors for even more impressive material in the coming years.

As Dogs On Acid recedes into the distance, it’ll be incredibly reassuring to have the privilege of watching their spiritual successor keep their flame alive and burning while forging an entirely new path. Even at the start of the party, there’s already an abundance of riches. Pick them up and hold them close, value them with the respect they deserve, and don’t make the mistake of letting them disappear without acknowledgement. After all, nothing lasts forever.

Listen to below and pick it up here.