Heartbreaking Bravery

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Tag: Total Makeover

2015: A Year’s Worth of Memories (Amanda Dissinger)

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Photograph by Dean Stafford

I don’t actually remember how I first met Amanda Dissinger but I’ve become increasingly grateful for that moment. Ever since that initial introduction, she’s been ceaselessly supportive of just about everything I’ve decided to do and has been a constant voice of reason. It’s why whenever I travel, I take the gorgeous collection of poetry she released last year, This Is How I Will Tell You I Love You, with me as a road companion. We call each other “the best” in an eternal loop with no trace of irony. If she sends me a promotional email for one of the several artists she does publicity for at Terrorbird Media, there’s a decent chance it’ll just devolve into a long string of short email blasts about what’s happening in our lives. For a very brief time, we shared door duties at Baby’s All Right and allowed ourselves to be inspired by the surroundings it offered. Not just one of my favorite authors but one of my absolute favorite people, it’s an honor to be hosting her writing on this site. Below, she tackles a night with Dilly Dally and Julien Baker that rekindled her love for the city where she resides. Read it below and then find a reason to celebrate your own surroundings.

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2015 was a weird year for me. I wrote a book, fell in love, moved to a new apartment, recovered from a weird mysterious muscle illness, and got to work with many rad bands in my full time job. I made new friends, I lost friends, I traveled all over the country, etc. etc. Though it may sound cliché, music is mostly what got me through it all. This year, I got to see some of my very favorite acts in the whole world- from my high school loves Death Cab for Cutie, new favorites like Weaves, and dozens of amazing bands that I do press for from Heaters to Total Makeover to Keeps, and friends’ bands like Big Ups and Charly Bliss.

I got to travel to Toronto for NXNE (by myself) and become immersed in the awesome scene there that’s spearheaded by the amazing Buzz Records and bands like Odonis Odonis, Greys, and Dilly Dally (more on them later). I went with coworkers to Raleigh, NC for Hopscotch Festival and while I had no expectations going in about the town, I became enamored with it, and with its diverse venues and friendly natives. I fell head over heels for Austin, TX and the lively music scene there, encouraged by my boyfriend, a wonderful musician, and the venues he frequents- Cheer Up Charlies, The Mohawk, and Barbarella (for dancing to ’80s music only).

However, this year in music can be best summed up by one cold night in November, when I got to see two of my favorite new artists perform in a back-to-back marathon concert night. In 2015, all of my favorite albums were released by females or female-fronted bands. I loved Carly Rae Jepsen’s whimsical Emotion, the ass-kicking albums by Bully, All Dogs, and Hop Along, and the catchy-as-hell releases from Bad Bad Hats and Laura Stevenson. Above all though, two albums that represented the polarity of my feelings — and the two that I loved the most — were Julien Baker’s Sprained Ankle (representing my vulnerable, emotional and nostalgic self) and Dilly Dally’s blistering, raucous Sore, showcasing the assertive, in-your-face person that I aspire to be.

Miraculously, I got to see four of the artists that made my favorite albums in one week in November in a way that only New York sometimes operates- Tuesday: Bad Bad Hats at Baby’s All Right, Wednesday: Carly Rae Jepsen at Irving Plaza, and Saturday: Dilly Dally at Baby’s, followed by Julien Baker at Mercury Lounge. Though I was recovering from a gnarly cold that week, I still absolutely 100% needed to run around like a chicken with my head cut off and see both of these artists responsible for music that touched me so deeply.

Before that night, I had seen Dilly Dally about three times since 2013. My friends in Toronto who run the aforementioned Buzz Records release constantly hypnotizing and brave music from incredible bands (like all the ones I mentioned above- Weaves, Greys, Odonis and Odonis, as well as bands like The Beverleys, HSY, and so many more). They are all smart, incredibly nice and wonderful people. They’re also my favorite label and everything they touch turns to gold.

By now most people have heard the thrilling ’90s tinged Sore, and I’ve probably listened to it about 1000 times since its release in October. I was thrilled to see a headlining set from them after the album release, especially since I only caught a bit of them at CMJ at like 1am at Santos Party House. At Baby’s, they were at their best, impressing the really large and enthralled crowd who packed the small, sweaty room to hear melodic yet hard-edged tracks like “Green” (one of my favorites since their 7” of it), the pulsating “Desire”, and “Purple Rage”.

I caught most of their set and hopped over on the train with a few people I ran into at the show to see Julien Baker, whose album absolutely devastated me like nothing else I can remember, both on first listen and the many subsequent listens. Singing about addiction, heartbreak, and loneliness, Sprained Ankle stops you in your tracks- after I heard the whole thing in mid-October, I couldn’t listen to anything else.

Once Baker started her set at Mercury Lounge that night, the crowd went so silent that you could hear a feather drop in the room. Her songs were filled with lust and love and memories and I stopped breathing, I’m sure. Her songs are meandering and honest and fearless. In one of my favorites, “Everybody Does”, she sings “you’re gonna run/it’s alright everybody does/you’re gonna run when you find out who I am.” Though her set was too short, I was already 100% certain that everyone I know needed to see her live and hear her album and I am 100% certain that her performance broke my heart.

While it’s a bit sappy, the night reminded me of the reason why I moved to New York. Though I’m still relatively young, I recently lost interest in going out as much as I did when I was 19 or 20 and hopping to two or three shows a night. I felt alienated from the crowd and from the people around me, people who I used to be friends with and see all the time. Before that night, I would go out, stay at a show for an hour or so and immediately go home, lonely and disinterested.

That night in November reminded me of why New York can be so magical, and it gave me something I really needed. It made me realize that sometimes cool things don’t have to be terrible, and sometimes things can change, and the music, the people, and you can all be better than ever.

-Amanda Dissinger

Dusk – Too Sweet (Music Video)

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Capping off tonight’s run of the best music videos of the past few months is Dusk— one of the year’s best new bands– with 2015 highlight “Too Sweet“. Over the course of the past 10 years of my life, I’ve been fortunate enough to meet most of Dusk’s members and share bills with their bands. The most notable of these directly affiliated bands is Tenement, a band I’ve written about on this site in great detail thanks to their key role in my artistic and personal development. As a kid who was just figuring out how to play guitar, I remember stepping foot into The BFG (a DIY punk house venue that the band used to run) and being overwhelmed by the sheer amount of records that the house had amassed, each showing the residents’ eclectic tastes.

I’d later come to find that a bulk of these belonged to Tenement guitarist/vocalist (and Dusk bassist) Amos Pitsch, who had a penchant for old soul and country records from the likes of artists like Sam Cooke and The Louvin Brothers. Those influences would gradually present themselves in subtle ways on Tenement songs (which have been erring closer to the band’s jazz influences) but they’d never featured as prominently as they do with Dusk, who also seem to share a very serious kinship with acts like The Band. After coming out of the gate with “(Do the) Bored Recluse“, the band followed up with “Too Sweet” arriving perfectly at a marriage between classic country and classic soul without ever sounding remotely inauthentic.

That sense of authenticity, the complete rejection of cheap revivalism, is evidenced again in the song’s Finn Bjornerud-directed music video, which simply features the band playing the song in an average living room (like their affiliates, Dusk has a tendency to find the beauty in the everyday rather than try to capture grandeur or bombast). A few striking compositions are spliced in here and there– including an absolutely gorgeous silhouette shot of a soft-lit Ryley Crowe playing pedal steel and a beautiful final group shot cleverly framed by an archway– but more often than not, the clip opts to celebrate the communal act of playing music surrounded by people you love.

Led by Julia Blair’s attention-ensuring crooning, a cavalcade of impressive backing vocal harmonies, and committed performances from all the featured players, “Too Sweet” feels like more than just a music video, it skews closer to a mission statement; celebrate the things you have and strive to elevate the people around you. Defiantly honorable to the end, “Too Sweet” is the most perfect encapsulation of Dusk to date and suggests that the band, thankfully, is only just getting started.

Watch “Too Sweet” below, pick up a copy of the 7″ here, and explore a list of some of the best music videos of the past few months underneath the embed.

Bing & Ruth – Broad Channel
Summer Twins – Ouija
Total Makeover – Self-Destructive
Francis – Follow Me Home
EL VY – No Time to Crank the Sun
Half Japanese – That Is That
James Clark Hangover – Maria
Oscar – Breaking My Phone
Wray – Hypatia
NZCA Lines – Persephone Dreams
Overlake – Travelogue
Rah Rah – Be Your Man
Paul Bergmann – You May Never Know
Pink Lung  – Chinese Watermelons
Laura Stevenson – Jellyfish
Ben Millburn – Don’t You Wait
Big Harp – DIEV
Busdriver – Much
Erica Glyn – The Killing Moon
Neonderthal – The Ride
Jackson Boone – Runaway
Freddie Gibbs – Fuckin’ Up the Count
Lowly – S.W.I.M.
Joey Kneiser – The Wilderness
Tuff Sunshine – Fire in the Hero Building
The Rashita Joneses – White Wave
The Goon Sax – Sometimes Accidentally
Kenrick Lamar – These Walls (ft. Bilal, Anna Wise, and Thundercat)

Diet Cig – Dinner Date (Stream, Live Video)

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Following an unusual slow Tuesday, the mid-week mark kicked things back into high gear and offered up a bevvy of tantalizing releases in all of the three major categories. The full streams that were unveiled included Total Makeover’s spritely self-titled EP, Lost Film’s beautiful, low-key Imago, Donovan Wolfington’s level-elevating How To Treat The Ones You Love, and the exemplary The Last Dance, which is very likely the final release from the great Shady Hawkins. Music videos found strong representation via clips from Royal Headache, Shana Cleveland & The Sandcastles, Karen O, The Smith Street Band (ft. Lucy Wilson), and Marching Church. Single streams had more than a few genuine gems in a haul that saw new material from TenementExpert Alterations, Childbirth, Vision, and Mothers to life- as well as the second half of Diet Cig‘s forthcoming 7″.

A little over a month ago, the band unveiled career highlight “Sleep Talk“, which prompted a great deal of intrigue and excitement in regards to the duo’s future. As the first half of a two-song split, “Sleep Talk” seemed to open up limitless possibilities for the directions the band could take. “Dinner Date”, instead of aiming to push forward, feels content to circle back to the approach that dominated Over Easy, which has held strong as one of this year’s best EP’s. However, “Dinner Date” avoids redundancy by augmenting the band’s more direct methods with an air of resignation in place of the carefree attitude that dominated their first release.

While there’s still more than a few barbed winks scattered throughout “Dinner Date”, it’s easy to hear a steady maturation creeping into Diet Cig’s work; they’re playing with a bolstered confidence level and are proving they’re unafraid of tinkering with a winning formula in the process. Rounding out the relatively adventurous atmospherics of “Sleep Talk” with the startling immediacy of “Dinner Date” not only allows both tracks to emphasize their partner’s best qualities, it also leaves the band with another year-end contender for the 7″ category. Brash, bold, and oddly beautiful, it’s another strong step in an increasingly promising career.

Listen to “Dinner Date” below and pre-order the 7″ ahead of its September 18 release date from site favorites Father/Daughter (for the US) or another site favorite, Art Is Hard (for the UK). Underneath the embedded player, revisit a video of the band performing the song a few months ago at the Father/Daughter Northside showcase.

Salad Boys – Dream Date (Music Video)

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It seems fitting that another stacked week for new releases would find a similarly overloaded endcap. Total Makeover, Soft Fangs, Blackalicious, and Cumstain all had incredible new songs while Melkbelly, Lindi Ortega, and Phylums unveiled outstanding records. Even with the strong representation for those categories, the day belonged to music videos. La Luz’s animated “Black Hole, Weirdo Shine“, sore’s delightfully low-key “elle le fantôme“, Pianos Become the Teeth’s startlingly heartfelt “Ripple Water Shine“, Sharkmuffin’s unapologetic “Tampons Are For Sluts“, Albert Ryan’s lyric clip for “Man“, Kaleo’s gorgeous, inventive “Way Down We Go“, Earl Sweatshirt’s classic, nightmarish “Off Top“, and Deaf Wish’s retro-influenced futurist vision “On” constituted an unusually strong field. Topping everything off was Salad Boys‘ curiously entertaining “Dream Date”.

The narrative through-line’s essentially non-existent in “Dream Date”, leaving the clip to function and thrive on its own singular energy. Directed by Ben Dodd and Salad Boys’ guitarist/vocalist Joe Sampson, the clip finds Sampson placed front and center in various scenic locations. While his isolation could serve as a commentary on loneliness, there’s a wryness and contentment that centers Sampson’s performance and suggests that being alone can be an extraordinary thing. It’s a deceptively clever setup anchored by a committed performance- and a spry basement pop song- that lends “Dream Date” an unavoidable vibrancy. Irreverent, funny, and impossibly light, it’s the kind of video that can act as a reminder of the joy of simply being alive.

Watch “Dream Date” below and pre-order Metalmania ahead of its September 18 release date from Trouble In Mind here.

Radioactivity – Intro/Battered/Slipped Away (Music Video)

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The past handful of days have been keeping 2015’s embarrassment of riches trend alive via outstanding releases in all of this site’s regularly covered categories: single streams, full streams, and music videos. For the sake of brevity, these streams (and the following items) will be listed solely by the artists involved- though all of these links are well worth clicking and reflect strongly on the state of contemporary music.

In the full songs department we received great new items from a handful of artists that included: Reservations, Monogold, Total Makeover, Foals, Hinds, Cowtown, Lithuania, Drinks, Pearl Charles, Connor La Mue, and Museum Mouth. Full stream found strong representation through upcoming releases from Philadelphia Collins, Vundabar, Rat Boy, Ducktails, Feeling Feelings, and Dark Thoughts. Music videos, much like the preceding two categories, had an excessively strong haul with outstanding new clips from Screaming Females, Krill, S, Findlay Brown, Laura Marling, Aaron Taos, Dum Dum Girls, and Kurt Vile. The same feat holds true for today’s featured piece; Radioactivity’s minimal three-track music video that unifies Silent Kill tracks “Intro”, “Battered”, and “Slipped Away” as one visual presentation.

The entire affair, as noted above, is extremely minimal and the premise is incredibly simplistic: Radioactivity plays three songs in a garage warehouse. How its executed is what gives this clip its life; each song brings the cameras progressively closer to the band as they perform before finally drawing in so close that the frame starts incorporating the technicolor exterior tubes to divide the shot in a barebones special effect trick that provides a surprising amount of visual punch. Of course, this being Radioactivity, the songs don’t need a lot of visual finesse to carry through or offer some sort of elevation; they’re already just about perfect. A compact blast teeming with the band’s characteristically snarling energy, this is a video that embraces their no-frills attitude and emphasizes what makes the band truly great.

Watch “Intro/Battered/Slipped Away” below and order the band’s excellent Silent Kill from Dirtnap here. For those of you in the Brooklyn area, you can catch the band at Baby’s All Right on July 30. Tickets for the show can be ordered here.

Fakers – $600 (Stream)

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Losing The Henry Clay People was a painful blow. The last two full-lengths the band released were among some of the best in recent memory. On what would prove to be the band’s swan song, 25 For the Rest of Our Lives, they hit a high in the second song: “The Fakers“. Fortunately, for everyone, the spirit of that band lives on through some of the members’ next project, who are- appropriately- named Fakers. The bite’s in tact and the verve comes through in full on the band’s first release, “$600”.

All snarling guitars, sneered vocals, and propulsive rhythm section work, it’s a vicious demonstration of not just the band’s potential but their power. Couplets like “you asked me how it felt/I said it felt like shit” resonate as heavily as anything guitarist/vocalist achieved as The Henry Clay People’s chief lyricist and the music around Siara’s wry observations remains razor sharp. By the time “$600” draws its last breath, one thing’s very clear: this band’s set on surpassing the expectations that greeted their initial announcement. Keep both eyes on their progress and expect to hear a lot more about this project in the future.

Listen to $600 below and keep an eye on this site for more updates on their upcoming Personality Voices 7″ and more. Underneath the embed, enjoy links to 10 other excellent songs to have come out in the past two weeks.


Total Makeover – Different Shapes
The Foetals – Fine
William Alexander – You Can Take It
Tempest – Tidal Wave
Palehound – Molly
Vundabar – Oulala
Sharkmuffin – First Date
Destruction Unit – If Death Ever Slept
Comfy – Poetic
No Win – Heart Knowing Rest