Heartbreaking Bravery

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Tag: Tiny Engines

Alien Boy – If We Don’t Speak (Stream)

Consistently engaging and constantly intriguing, Alien Boy have been a name to watch for a while now and, if “If We Don’t Speak” is any indication, are preparing for bigger things. Not just in terms of audience but scope. Everything from the production to the arrangement style has been tweaked and “If We Don’t Speak” is comparatively towering over Alien Boy’s past releases (which remain worthy of investment). Here, the project bridges subversive pop-punk with shoegaze to an effect that’s genuinely startling.

A lot of bands in the past few years have been attempting to bridge those two genres but most haven’t come halfway close to the seamless overlapping that “If We Don’t Speak” contains. Washed-out reverb, punishing guitars, an aching melody, a bruised narrative, and a tenacious determination collide to elevate the sound to stratospheric heights that conjure a genuine feeling of awe. It’s a behemoth of a track that’s not content to just reach skyward, it’s one that successfully seizes the universe.

Listen to “If We Don’t Speak” below and pre-order Sleeping Lessons from Tiny Engines here.

 

Kindling – Black Eye (Music Video Premiere)

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For the past few years, this site’s paid close to attention to the work being done by Kindling, one of the more promising names in the new wave of shoegaze acts that have been releasing exceptional music. Stephen Pierce, one of the band’s guitarist/vocalists, has emerged as a source of inspiration in those times. Overcoming injury and contributing to items that aimed to make a positive change. Character is often reflected in music so it’s no surprise that Kindling’s has always been both reassuring and incredibly tantalizing.

The band released an outstanding full-length entitled Everywhere Else just a handful of months ago and are releasing an appropriately retro-minded clip for one of the record’s highlights, “Black Eye”. Using hazy overlays and strange coloration, the band invokes memories of a variety of classic ’90s clips from shoegaze, grunge, and downer punk acts. Fittingly, the visual approach also speaks to the narrative of “Black Eye”, which is driven by feelings of alienation and despair.

That sense of sadness permeates through every frame of “Black Eye”, even as the Alle Kern-directed clip eventually settles into determined resilience. “Black Eye” is a smoky, nostalgic, emotional gut-punch that never feels its length. Kindling’s constantly in the center of the tornado that’s perpetually swirling around them and the clip somehow illustrates, at least in part, how at home they are in those surroundings. Incredibly compelling and even a little thought-provoking, “Black Eye” is the band at their best. Why take shelter when you could get swept up in the fray?

Watch “Black Eye” below and pick up Everywhere Else here.

Mannequin Pussy – Romantic (Stream)

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There were outstanding music videos from Potty Mouth (which very nearly claimed this post’s feature spot), Jeff Rosenstock, WL, Haley Bonar, No Nets, T-Rextasy, Public Access TV, Tom Brosseau, NOTHING, Cass McCombs, Candy, Sargent, Maxwell Drummey, This Is The Kit, and Jonny Fritz to emerge over the past 48 hours. Joining those clips were quality full streams that came courtesy of Hiding Place, Mozes and the Firstborn, Slow Mass, Dust From 1000 Yrs, Wovenhand, BLKKATHY, and Whiskey Myers. All of them deserve all of the attention that they’ll inevitably receive but today’s featured spot falls to an old site favorite: Mannequin Pussy.

Following some seriously impressive turns at the start of their career, Mannequin Pussy have hit an astonishing career high with “Romantic”. Opening with a surge of unexpected momentum amid a wall-of-sound shoegaze-friendly opening figure that seems intent on decimating in its path, the band suddenly veers back into a section that’s more delicate than anything in their discography (so far, at least). What follows is a back-and-forth battering ram of dynamic dichotomies in both the music and the narrative.

“I get along with everyone I meet, I’m so sweet” is the unassuming opening line of “Romantic”, which sets an uncertain tone that quickly fixates on much darker undertones. There’s a desperate, pleading moment before the chorus that brings the dramatic stakes of the narrative to light and once the intentions of the band’s statements become clear, the music gains a staggering amount of force. While the narrative hits upon some difficult subject matter, the emotive backdrop of the vocal delivery and instrumental figures never lose themselves to easy trappings. It’s a deeply impressive work from a young basement punk band that’s been finding exciting ways to surprise their audience. If “Romantic” is any indication, that audience should be getting a whole lot bigger in the very near future.

Listen to “Romantic” below and pre-order the record here.

Strange Relations – Weeknites (Song Premiere)

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Last August, this site had the distinct pleasure of hosting the premiere of Strange Relations’ music video for “Panther’s Conquest” and the differences between that song and their most recent, “Weeknites”, is staggering. While “Panther’s Conquest” was undoubtedly a strong single and a fine piece of work from a band growing comfortable with their footing, “Weeknites” is the sound of a band that knows their strengths and can utilize them to astonishing effect.

The trio still specializes in wiry post-punk that’s as nervy as it is subtle, ultimately revealing a deep kinship to acts like Sonic Youth. It’s something that the best moments of -CENTRISM, the band’s last record, hinted at when it could but never to the extent that it appears here. There’s an emboldened attitude that simultaneously heightens the musical interplay of “Weeknites” while it grounds its narrative. There’s a nervous energy that powers “Weeknites” and draws the listener closer in by conjuring up an air of mystique.

Even as the vocals leap from calculated half-spoken/half-sung whispers to distressed half-screams, the band’s minimalism remains in tact and opens up an incredibly effective chorus. There’s a sultry menace that “Weeknites” alternately hides and brings to the forefront, creating a buoyant sense of unease that goes a long way in establishing the song as something more singular than it may seem at first glance. While “Weeknites” is a curious joy on the first few listens, it does require some investment to realize its full potential; the song’s a meticulously crafted work and that commendable level of effort runs far deeper than the most immediate surface levels.

By the song’s breathtaking final sequence, it’s abundantly clear that the three members of Strange Relations have completely committed themselves to this band. Every facet of “Weeknites” is complementary to the other functions, from the ancillary production to the intuitive drumming, there’s not a single piece that ever threatens to jeopardize the entire operation. Incredibly successful on dynamic, atmospheric, and narrative levels, “Weeknites” marks an exciting new era for Strange Relations. They’ve more than done their part, all that’s left is to wait — and to hope — that larger audiences will follow.

Listen to “Weeknites” below and pre-order Going Out from Tiny Engines here.

Faye – Faye (EP Review)

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Over the past few days, the site’s main focus has been getting back up to speed on the year’s most current releases. To that end, this post (and each of the four posts that will shortly follow) will include a quartet of notable releases from the past few days. This time around, those releases are full streams that came from the following artists: Bird of Youth, Braids, Mutual Benefit, and a split EP with two great sides from Naps and Yikes. It’s Faye, once again, who claim the featured spot.

The trio’s gearing up to release their debut EP and their early offerings have already managed to make a very serious mark. Faye‘s closing two tracks, “Chow Chow” and “Ancient Bones” have already been praised on this site. Those two tracks constitute an extraordinary finale that set very high expectations for the rest of the EP. Fortunately, the opening trio of tracks lives up to the exceptional promise that “Chow Chow” and “Ancient Bones” all but flaunted.

“Yellow Canary” kick things off with a spiky, hook-laden mid-tempo run through some grunge-leaning post-punk. “Teacups” and “Vowels” follow suit, with each establishing their own set of very distinct characteristics. For as specific as Faye’s tastes run, it would’ve been easy for the band to fall into the trap of repetition. Instead, each track on Faye registers as a standout by virtue of being so clearly defined in their separation. It’s a remarkably nuanced and startlingly mature piece of work from a young band. Expect very big things for their future (and play Faye as loud as possible).

Listen to Faye below and pre-order the tape from Tiny Engines here.

Faye – Chow Chow (Stream)

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April’s been a very strong month for new song releases in its early goings, this much has been evidenced by great new cuts from Supermoon, And the Kids, Mutual Benefit, Phooey!, Attic Abasement, Traitrs, Seratones, The Lees of Memory, and Leggy. All of those songs have managed to find a whole host of pleasure points and deserve the array of admiration that should be directed their way. Another song worthy of praise is the one that this post was constructed to feature: Faye’s brooding post-punk dirge “Chow Chow”.

A sludgy bass line and a dissonant guitar part kick things off before the song blooms into a punchy pop-skewing number lamenting the lack of anything noticeably unique in daily, run-of-the-mill livelihood. Towards the end of the chorus section, “Chow Chow” betrays Faye’s desire for adventure and their refusal to accept status quos, a common admirable trait in emerging bands worth their salt. Over the course of a scant two minutes (and some change), Faye make their mark and take a shot at genuine longevity. “Chow Chow” ensure their place as a band to watch.

Listen to “Chow Chow” below and pre-order Faye here.

Sweet John Bloom – Weird Prayer (Album Review, Stream)

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As has been mentioned multiple times over, this site saw a recent shift from standard coverage to specialty coverage thanks to a move. In the few weeks that have passed in that time, a slew of exciting new releases made their way out into the world. One of the finest- and, frankly, most overlooked- was Sweet John Bloom’s fiery Weird Prayer. That record will be the focus of this piece, while a list of 50 excellent full streams to have recently appeared will be included beneath the embedded bandcamp player. Before immediately going there, though, let’s focus on the matter at hand: Sweet John Bloom’s full-length debut.

Formed out of the ashes of several other bands (including Four Eyes, who released one of the best 7″ records in recent memory with Towards the End of Cosmic Loneliness), Sweet John Bloom already had a fairly impressive pedigree out of the gate. It’s not surprising that the band managed to click as tightly as they have, especially considering their respective former bands had all established a familiarity by virtue of shared spaces (bills, scenes, etc.). Even with all of that taken into account, Weird Prayer‘s pure strength still manages to surpass expectations.

A collection of 15 dirtied up, punk-leaning basement pop songs, the record not only succeeds in effortlessly conveying the band’s identity but in coming off as a genuine record; something that’s meant to be heard in full. Naturally sequenced and expertly paced, it’s a considerable achievement for a first at-bat operating with this medium as a collective unit. Each section of Weird Prayer comes off as considered as it does impassioned, rendering the whole thing an invigorating shot of adrenaline. Vocal leads are traded with ease, there’s a killer melody buried in just about every passage, and the flawless production makes sure to include enough bursts of weirdness- like the absolutely stunning outro to “Night Thing”- to keep the whole thing zipping along at a startling clip.

For as willfully rough as Weird Prayer sounds, it’s also a record that’s partially defined by finesse. Deceptively elegant guitar figures play with the limits of restraint even as they’re pushed to the red. The rhythm section work always serves a purpose beyond just simply being a base and the lyricism, while occasionally buried with the vocals in the mix, is frequently poignant. Sweet John Bloom also manage to find as much success experimenting with their more gentle sensibilities as they do when they give in to their desire to be abrasive.

“Blood Moon” sees the band finding the perfect balance between the gentle/abrasive dichotomy and, in the context of the record, the song feels even livelier and massive than it did as a standalone single. It’s one of several songs on the record that go beyond anthemic to the realms of catharsis without ever succumbing to over-simplification. It’s part of why the record never loses an unfailing sense of urgency that goes well beyond most of the songs’ inherent immediacy, which sets up a tall order for Weird Prayer‘s final stretch.

In most cases where an album’s almost exclusively built on raucous barn-burners, the weight eventually builds and the load becomes unsustainable; there’s a reason why rollercoasters don’t extend for hours and why successful action films need exposition. Weird Prayer deals nicely with this by offering a gradual come-down by easing off the gas pedal and utilizing a tempo that creeps in a little under the established average for most of its closing numbers. Even then, Sweet John Bloom don’t cede their penchant for a confrontational aesthetic; the 1-2 punch of “Death; and Everything’s Paid For” and “Trust  Me” feels particularly vital and bristles with a world-conquering energy. Fittingly, “Aging In Place”- the first song to be shared from Weird Prayer– brings everything home in a finale that’s both familiar and intensely rousing; an exhilarating end-cap to one of the year’s finest records.

Pick up Weird Prayer from Tiny Engines here and listen to it by clicking play below. Underneath the bandcamp player, browse 50 other great recent full streams.

Radioactivity – Silent Kill
J Fernandez – Many Levels of Laughter
Fight Amp – Constantly Off
Yukon Blonde – On Blonde
Sissy – Gave Birth To A Mum
Expert Alterations – Expert Alterations
Spray Paint – Punters On A Barge
Ballroom – Ballroom
Bad Boys – Demo
Year of Glad – Year of Glad
Little Children – Travelling Through Darkness
The Fur Coats – Short-Brain
Magic Potion – Melt
Oscar – Beautiful Words
Sea Cycles – Ground & Air
Prinzhorn Dance School – Home Economics
Senpai – Hell In My Head b/w Mind Honey
Arm Candy – Arm Candy
Institue – Catharsis
Chris Weisman – Chaos Isn’t Single
Max Gowan – Big People
Falling Stacks – No Wives
Hints – No Regrets In Old English
No Joy – More Faithful
Pleistocene – Space Trap
Long Neck – Heights
No Friends – I’m Not Real
Marvelous Mark – Bite Me
HDSPNS – HDSPNS
KEN Mode – Success
Walleater – I/II
Sweatshop Boys – Always Polite, Never Happy
Wavves x Cloud Nothings – Wavves x Cloud Nothings
Tough Age – I Get The Feeling Central
Sea of Bees – Build A Boat To The Sun
C H R I S T – T O W E R
Alden Penner – Canada In Space
Teen Daze – Morning World
Fell To Low – Low In The Dust
Palm – Ostrich Vacation
Bully – Feels Like
Bruise – demos.
The Armed – Untitled
Cold Cave – Full Cold Moon
Self Defense Family – Heaven Is Earth
Wild Pink – Good Life
Nicolas Jaar – Nymphs III
Creepoid – Cemetery Highrise Slum
Gnarwhal – Shinerboy
Lady Bones – Dying

Institute – Cheerlessness (Stream)

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A lot of great material was ushered forth over the past week and the lion’s share of the great items to find promotion or premiere were songs. Destroyer swung for the fences and connected emphatically with the massive “Dream Lover“, Bad Bad Hats balanced sweet with spiky in “Shame“, Porcelain Raft conjured up another alluringly atmospheric dreamscape with “Half Awake“, and Adult Mom hit a career peak with the reactionary, synth-laden “Survival“. Institute take the feature spot for this batch of songs thanks to a sprawling behemoth of a track entitled “Cheerlessness”.

Institute have been kicking away in Austin, TX for quite some time now and, thanks to their determined scrappiness, recently signed a deal with the vaunted Sacred Bones. They recently announced their first effort for the label, Catharsis, and provided a track along with the announcement. That song, “Cheerlessness”, is a relentless four-minute post-punk monster. Embracing all of the elements that make the genre so fascinating (tension, dynamic shifts, a bleak cynicism, sly subtlety, etc.) to create something that still manages to come across with a new, fully-formed identity is impressive. More impressive is the levels of conviction in display in “Cheerlessness”, from the instrumentation to the vocal delivery. Every punch the band throws hits its mark with enough brute force to leave a reverberating warning: we’re all in for one hell of a reckoning once Catharsis arrives.

Listen to “Cheerlessness” below and pre-order Catharsis from Sacred Bones here.

So Stressed – Apple Hill (Stream)

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Over the course of the year, one format or another has been stuck functioning in catch-up mode. Today, with this post, everything that falls under the regular umbrella coverage will be brought up to the present release cycle. In a way, then, it makes sense that something as blistering and urgent as “Apple Hill” grabs this post’s focus. Even more fitting is the fact that it comes from the first band to be signed to Honor Press, the newly created label of Perfect Pussy‘s Meredith Graves (whose fundamental importance to this site and its continued existence simply can’t be overstated). While all of that will be addressed shortly in greater detail, it wasn’t the only excellent musical offering ushered out into the world over the past week. To that end, just as in the preceding post, a list of full streams and songs that deserve hearing.

Full streams: Miserable Friend’s Thawed, Flawed and Suffering, Pinact’s Stand Still and Rot, Telepathic’s Powers of Ten, Thee Oh Sees’ Mutilator Defeated At Last, Ceremony’s The L-Shaped Man, Holly Miranda’s self-titled, Hot Chip’s Why Make Sense?, God Damn’s Vultures, Weedeater’s Goliathan, Super Unison’s self-titled, and a split from Martha and Benny The Jet Rodriguez. Songs: Ancient Sky’s “Two Lights“, Wild Pink’s “Is This Hotel Haunted“, Cancers’ “Missed“, The Absolute’s “Smile“, Kevin Devine’s “Gießen“, Jaill’s “Got An F“, Methyl Ethel’s “Twilight Driving“, Ecstatic Vision’s “Don’t Kill the Vibe“, Hollow Sunshine’s “Morning Green“, and Sweet John Bloom’s “Next Thing” (which very nearly earned this post’s feature spot). Rounding everything out was Run The Jewels’ strikingly animated clip for Run The Jewels 2 highlight “Early“. Then, of course, there was So Stressed’s hellishly snarling “Apple Hill”, which shows the band greatly expanding on the potential hinted at by their lead-off single “Merv King & the Phantoms“.

“Apple Hill” scales back the feverish tenacity of “Merv King” for something that manages to come off as both more brutal and more refined. Marrying post-punk, noise punk, and one of the more sinister breeds of hardcore definitely isn’t an easy look to pull off convincingly but “Apple Hill” wields that formula like a weapon. Brimming with an astonishing confidence and unerring conviction, it immediately transforms itself into something undeniable. Starkly unforgiving and shockingly immediate, it lays some deeply compelling groundwork for the band’s upcoming record, the exquisitely titled The Unlawful Trade of Greco-Roman Art. It’s a deceptively intuitive piece of songwriting that revels in its own pent-up frustration and, finally, the shards of cathartic release embedded throughout “Apple Hill”. The bass gets buried in fuzz, the drums zero in on the instruments intrinsic ability to become propulsive, the guitar line throws convention to the wind, and the vocals take the whole thing to a fascinating, wild-eyed realm. By the song’s end, So Stressed have created an immersive world that’s as punishing as it is intriguing; an unexpectedly strong effort that sets up The Unlawful Trade of Greco-Roman Art. Give into its whirlwind ferocity or get the hell out of the way.

Listen to “Apple Hill” below and pre-order The Unlawful Trade of Greco-Roman Art from Honor Press here.

T. Hardy Morris – My Me (Stream)

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Back in 2011 I saw Dead Confederate play an incendiary set at Summerfest in a baffling early afternoon slot to roughly 100 people. It was a surreal experience that validated a lot of my growing suspicions about the way the hype machine works (at the time, the band was in the midst of the tour for their critically acclaimed debut effort) but it also shed light on guitarist/vocalist’s T. Hardy Morris’ seemingly intrinsic talents and his impossibly engaging presence. Over the years following that performance, he’s cultivated that talent into something even sharper, cutting his teeth on a variety of projects (including, but not limited to, Diamond Rugs). He’s set to release another solo record, Hardy and the Hardknocks: Drownin’ On A Mountaintop, and is previewing it with “My Me”, one of the most electrifying songs of his already fairly vast discography.

Of course, “My Me” was only one highlight in a sea of great releases from the past week’s treasure trove of material, so before it gets dissected, a few other notable titles will get the mentions they deserve. The titles in that category (and in this collection) are as follows: Liza Anne’s wistful “Ocean“, Robert Pollard’s cheeky “Take Me To Yolita“, Maribou State and Pedestrian’s collaborative effort “The Clown“, The Bats Pajamas’ lightly menacing “Wrong House“, Walleater’s mesmerizing “Sin Eater“, Rosetta’s bombastic “Untitled V“, Ducktails’ shimmery “Headbanging in the Mirror“, Citizen’s murky “Cement“, and a stunning new demo entitled “Your Heart” that came courtesy of site favorites Girlpool. While all nine of those tracks deserve as many plays that they can get, it’s the latest from T. Hardy Morris that- somewhat unexpectedly- snagged this post’s headline.

“My Me” is another strong example of Morris’ grasp on how to combine genres that don’t seem like they would complement each other at all into something surprisingly immediate (and immediately accessible). Taking cues from country, shoegaze, sludge, and punk, “My Me” is a masterclass in eclecticism, sure, but it’s also an absurdly catchy song that revels in an endearingly youthful enthusiasm. Morris has been impressive since “The Rat” put him on the map but “My Me” is another piece of evidence that Morris is progressing steadily as a songwriter as he goes, making him one to continue watching. The rise/fall vocal dynamic is used like a weapon in “My Me” and the muddy guitars behind his howls (and pointed commentary on self-exploration) push the song to incredible heights. A sunny melody runs through everything, lending the whole affair a feeling of fun that’s become uncommon in today’s musical landscape (which is also why the whistle at approximately 1:24 makes me smile every time I hear it and will undoubtedly remain one of my favorite musical moments from this year as it barrels along). While “My Me” bodes well for Hardy and the Hardknocks: Drownin’ On A Mountaintop, it’ll be hard to care if anything tops “My Me” because we still get a song this perfect out of the deal.

Listen to “My Me” below and pre-order Hardy and the Hardknocks: Drownin’ On A Mountaintop ahead of its June 23 release from Dangerbird here.