Heartbreaking Bravery

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Tag: Touché Amoré

Iceage – The Day The Music Dies (Music Video)

Over the last stretch of last week, there were some incredible songs with Deeper, Benny P, Stringer, Hundred WatersTouché Amoré, Maria Kelly, Stef Chura, Pinkshinyultrablast, Rachel Angel, Dommergang, Dana Sipos, Leisure Tank, Eleanor Friedberger, and Mystery Art Orchestra all playing a part. There was also the chaotic new clip for “The Day The Music Dies” from the increasingly unpredictable post-punk act Iceage.

Teeming with imagery that hosts a handful of connections to other iconic visuals, the band completely eschews any inhibitions of operating on anything other than a ridiculously grand scale. That grandeur pays dividends, ushering in a bold new era for a band that once seemed content to operate on nearly anarchic terms. In “The Day The Music Dies” they take their mission to the church, light some fires, present a united front, and preach from a pulpit.

All of the confrontational immediacy is escalated by the track itself, which is lent a surprising amount of heft by some incredibly effective horn charts. Fascinating at just about every turn, riddled with allusions to Gothic-tinged entertainment (Paul Thomas Anderson’s There Will Be Blood acting as a more recent reference point), “The Day The Music Dies” finds Iceage comfortable in continuing to expand their boundaries, making Boundless — the band’s forthcoming full-length — one of the more intriguing prospects on the release calendar. The ride to get to that release, should “The Day The Music Dies” be a solid indicator, will be worth taking.

Watch “The Day The Music Dies” below and pre-order Beyondless from Matador here.

Music Videos of the First Quarter: The Honorable Mentions

A little over a week remains in 2017’s first quarter so it felt appropriate — especially considering the recent hiatus — to reflect on some of the best material to have been released over the course of these past three months. What started yesterday with the list of notable full streams will bleed into the following days. Today’s post shifts the focus to some of the most memorable music videos to have surfaced since the start of the year. All of the below videos piqued attention for one reason or the other, either on the film or music side, and deserve as many views as they can possibly receive. So dive in, click around, and explore. Good things await.

Future Islands, Eric Slick, J.E. Sunde (x2), The Spirit of the Beehive (x2, 3), I Am The Polish Army, Caitlin Pasko, Gurr, Retail Space (x2), White Reaper, Demure For Sure, Meursault, Rosie Carney, Pronto MamaTouché Amoré, The Saxophones, Slow Bear, Thao & The Get Down Stay Down, Cass McCombs, NE-HI (x2), Chastity Belt, Francobollo, Ruby Bones, Blaire Alise & The Bombshells, PINS, Honeyblood, Idle Bloom, Hiccup, Xiu Xiu (x2, 3), The Youngest, Durand Jones & The Indications, Blonde Summer, Tobin Sprout

Hurray for the Riff Raff (x2), Beach Slang, Peter Silberman, Clipping., Molly Burch, Tijuana Panthers, Chick Quest, Chaz Bundick Meets the Mattson 2, Los Campesinos!, Wax Idols, The ShiversLee Fields & The Expressions, Bleached, Oceanator, Conor Oberst, Real Estate, D.A. Stern, minihorse, Drakulas, FACIAL, Tall Tall Trees (x2), gobbinjr, Parquet Courts, Band of Horses, Sam Vicari, Slothrust, Many Voices Speak, Happyness, Paul White, Strand of Oaks, Cosmonauts, NxWorries, Batwings Catwings, Mary Lynn

The Velveteins, Marching Church, Imaginary Tricks, Frederick the Younger, Moon Duo (x2), Christine Leakey, Walrus, No Ice, Froth, Nana Grizol, Bellows, Tyler Daniel Bean, The Walters, Flat Mary Road, Teen Vice, Woozles, Danny Denial, Night Shapes, Tough Tits, Swoon Lake, Harem, The Modern Savage, The Little Kicks, Crocodiles, We Leave At Midnight, Delicate Steve, The Smith Street Band, The Magnetic Fields (x2, 3, 4), Bin Chivalry, Summer Moon, JFDR, Six Organs of Admittance, Alex Lahey, Joan of Arc

TrentemøllerLeopold and His Fiction, Hippo Campus, Cherry Glazerr, Curse of Lono, Los Angeles Police Department, IAN SWEET, Surf Curse, Delicate Steve, The Black Angels, Timber Timbre (x2), Skaters (x2), Oxbow, Static Eyes, Young Romance, Space Camp, Bonnie Whitmore & Her Band, Quin Galavis, Tim Kasher, Slam Dunk, Daniel Romano, Big Lonely, Reptaliens, Sammus, Rainbrother, Callow, Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever, Bill MacKay, Moody Beach, My Education, HOTT MT, Century Palm (x2), Arthur Moon

The New Pornographers, Campbell L Sangster, Son & Thief, Yohuna, Girl Scout, Tim Kasher, The Head, Perfume Genius, TW Walsh, Blood Ponies, Laura Marling, Dead Man Winter, Sean Rowe, Kate Crash, Warm Body, Free Pizza, Kidsmoke, John Wesley Coleman III, Hand Habits, Aye Nako, Dirty Projectors, Chris Bathgate, Holy Motors, The Two Tens, FOTR, Amy Klein, London O’Connor, Dan San, Lisa/Liza, Knox Hamilton, Swet Shop Boys, Homebody, No Joy, Sunday Morning, Callow, Local Natives, Fastball

Personal Space, Milemarker, Allison Crutchfield, Brother Ali, Garrett Pierce, High Contrast, Wilsen, Crazy Bones, Spookey Ruben, Mt. Doubt, Fufanu, Circles/Waves, Spinning Coin, BATYA, High Waisted, Hoan, Strange Lot, Tennis, Ex-Girlfriends, Thurston Moore, Skating PollyJammz, Annie Hardy, Early Riser, Jay Som, Communist Daughter, Colin Stetson, Analog Candle, CRYWANK, Cate Le Bon, Phoebe Bridgers, Geotic, Diagrams, Jenny Hval, Mastodon, CHILLEMI, Shocking White, The Cherry Wave, Oshwa

Skyway Man, Equators, The Superweaks, Luke Sital-Singh, Ivy Meissner, Redspencer, Run The JewelsSpiral Stairs, Gothic Tropic, American Wrestlers, Moby & The Void Pacific Choir, Warhaus, Kodak Black, Annabelle’s Curse, The Obsessives, Heart Attack Man, and Harmony Tividad.

16 of ’16: The Best Albums of the Year

Mitski XXV

At long last, we arrive at the end of the 2016 lists with this reflection of the year’s best albums. A lot of criteria need to be met for a record to make this list, for example: a record can’t be primarily composed of reworks of older material (this is the reason Talons’ sublime “Driving Home From Shows” didn’t make the songs list). To be eligible for a featured slot on this list, the record also can’t come from a clearly-established artist, which is the only reason Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds’ Skeleton Tree is being excluded. The Radioheads and David Bowies of the music world all received more than enough positive press and this site has always aimed to give an additional leg up to emerging or unknown artists.

With all of that said, 2016 was an exceptional — and exceptionally diverse — year for music provided you knew where to look. As has been the case, no numerical assignments were given to the below selections. However, the field of titles was so abundantly strong that instead of merely selecting one Album of the Year, there are five. Those five records managed to stand out in an unbelievably exceptional year and picking one of the five to give a singular Album of the Year designation proved to be impossible. That being said, virtually all of the titles below are worth time, investment, and praise.

Once again, the majority of the embedded players belong to bandcamp so be mindful of where the records start (a small handful auto-start at odd points in the record). There’s a fairly wide-ranging display of music to be found below so dive on in and go exploring. Enjoy the list and stay tuned for the third edition of A Year’s Worth of Memories.

Bent Shapes – Wolves of Want

After a string of promising releases, Bent Shapes hit new heights with the galvanizing Wolves of Want, a pitch-perfect basement pop record teeming with memorable hooks. A lovingly crafted work, Wolves of Want finds the band hitting an eyebrow-raising stride and cranking out a formidable batch of songs good enough to grace any mixtape.

Crying – Beyond the Fleeting Gales

One of the most unique and compelling releases of the year, Crying took a bold new step with the riveting Beyond the Fleeting Gales. Taking their early approach and gleefully exploding it into something barely-recognizable, Beyond the Fleeting Gales winds up as one of 2016’s most refreshing, exhilarating, and utterly singular listens.

Mitski – Puberty 2

Embracing the bruising, unforgiving introspection of the breakout Bury Me at Makeout Creek, site favorite Mitski returned with a powerful and acute examination of identity. An artistic leap forward, Puberty 2 saw Mitski wielding an expanded musical palette to arresting effect. Warm, moving, and accepting, it’s not difficult to see why it was one of the year’s most beloved records.

Parquet Courts – Human Performance

Parquet Courts records have made a habit of appearing on year-end lists since the band’s formation several years back. While, admittedly, those were solid records, they don’t come anywhere close to Human Performance, the band’s crowning achievement. The band shed their blood all over this record and it shows in every beautiful, cracked, messy, ramshackle moment.

Mannequin Pussy – Romantic

Another record on this list that saw a band make a staggering leap forward, Romantic was — by some distance — the most impressive work of Mannequin Pussy‘s burgeoning career. One of 2016’s most ferocious records, Romantic saw the band firing on all cylinders on levels that may have even surprised their most devoted fans. It’s a molotov cocktail of a record; hit play and get obliterated.

Big Thief – Masterpiece

One of the year’s most welcome surprises, Big Thief‘s Saddle Creek debut Masterpiece found the band conjuring up the open-road spirit that their label built its name peddling. Gorgeous songwriting, unavoidable emotional intensity, and a clear commitment to the material defined Masterpiece. When all was said and done, the record succeeded in living up to its ostensibly tongue-in-cheek title.

Swim Team – Swim Team

One of the strongest records to come out of Infinity Cat‘s cassette series, Swim Team‘s self-titled is a gamut run trough the punk sub-genres that have defined the past three decades. All of them are successful and infused with the kind of grit and determination that characterize great bands. It’s an unforgettable warning shot from a band that seems hell-bent on using the past to elevate the future.

Car Seat Headrest – Teens of Denial

Easily one of the year’s most celebrated releases, Teens of Denial earned every trickle of positive press that came its way. A landmark record from a project that could have withered under a massively-increased spotlight instead finds Car Seat Headrest operating on an entirely new level. Epics, ballads, and stormy punk numbers abound, illuminating one of 2016’s best coming-of-age stories in virtually any format.

Greys – Outer Heaven

2016 found Greys continuing to determinedly  push their boundaries outward and succeeding with the kind of wild abandon that defines their adrenaline-inducing live show. Outer Heaven was their biggest moment and saw the band effectively blend their delirious energy with a refined sense of atmosphere that enhanced already-great songs. An absolute triumph from one of today’s more fascinating acts.

Hovvdy – Taster

A remarkable, understated, near-flawless record, Hovvdy‘s Taster never received the recognition it was due. Front to back, there are no false moments on this record, only a series of unassuming grace notes that bind it into a gentle, spellbinding whole. Punk-informed bedroom pop, Taster is the product of meticulous dedication to craft and an enormous reserve of genuine feeling. It’s sincerity is a large part of its strength and its strength is overwhelming. Give it innumerable listens and the estimation it deserves.

John K. Samson – Winter Wheat

A painfully beautiful record, Winter Wheat marked the welcome return of John K. Samson. The former Weakerthans bandleader turned in another sorrowful, damaged collection of songs that contained enough glimmers of hope (apart from the devastating opener, which nearly made this year’s song’s list but was abandoned in favor of the record’s emotionally shattering closer) to make the impact even more severe. An atmospheric masterstroke from one of our greatest living songwriters, Winter Wheat is as comfortingly calm as it is completely unforgettable.

ALBUMS OF THE YEAR

Mo Troper – Beloved

In focusing on the dark corners while establishing that darkness wouldn’t exist without some lightness as well, Mo Troper winds up wearing a very tattered heart on his sleeve. While that heart may be showing a considerable amount of scars, it’s still valiantly beating. Pathos, gravitas, and an incredibly inviting structure all combine to make Beloved a must-own but it’s Mo Troper himself who makes this record a masterpiece.

Original feature review here.

PUP – The Dream Is Over

PUP‘s The Dream Is Over, the band’s jaw-dropping sophomore outing, was a release where nearly every song was considered for this year’s best songs list. In the end, the record proved so uniformly excellent across the board that it became literally impossible to define a standout. This is as a complete a punk record that anyone will be likely to hear for a very long time. Narrative focus, overall consistency, composition, conviction, production, sequencing, pacing… in every conceivable aspect, PUP absolutely demolished what were already ridiculously high expectations. One of the most defiant, triumphant releases in recent memory, The Dream Is Over was the shock to the system that the punk genre has sorely needed for years. Unbelievably consistent and weirdly empowering, PUP were able to put their name on one of the most vital records of 2016.

Doe – Some Things Last Longer Than You

Meticulously composed and teeming with unchecked aggression and greater meaning, Doe have offered up something that’s impossible to ignore. At every corner, there’s a breathtaking moment that continuously heightens the overabundance of impact present in Some Things Last Longer Than You. Whether the listener tethers themselves to the record’s multi-tiered narrative functions or to the artistry present in the composition, they’ll walk away contemplating its awe-inspiring depth. In short: Some Things Last Longer Than You isn’t just one of the year’s best records, it’s a full-blown masterpiece.

Original feature review here.

Weaves – Weaves

It’s not just that no one does what Weaves are doing as well as they do, it’s that no one else is even making an attempt. Should Weaves inspire some attempts at this particular eclectic blend of songwriting styles, genres, and cornerstones, this record will retain — and most likely remain in — a position as the gold standard. Grab onto something close and hold on tightly because Weaves is an unpredictable, exhilarating, and ultimately deeply satisfying thrill ride that knows no borders or boundaries. Greet it with an anxious smile and give in to its myriad charms.

Original feature review here.

LVL UP – Return to Love

All told, Return to Love is a document of a band determined to continuously better themselves, a new career high, and a bona fide statement release from one of this generation’s most consistently exciting acts. It’s a series of sustained, connected grace notes that never wavers, even as it openly acknowledges it doesn’t have all of the answers. Not a single second of its run time is wasted and each of the songs are memorable for a wildly varying list of reasons. LVL UP aren’t the type of band to be dissuaded from taking action by a daunting challenge and Return to Love is an assured, steadfast piece of proof.

To put it as succinctly as possible: it’s a masterpiece.

Original feature review here.

Nine more worth hearing:

Tancred – Out of the Garden
Pinegrove – Cardinal
Oh Boland – Spilt Milk
Dark Thoughts – Dark Thoughts
Eluvium – False Readings On
Told Slant – Going By
Mothers – When You Walk A Long Distance You Are Tired
Jean-Michael Blais – II
Minor Victories – Minor Victories

Other honorable mentions:

Frankie Cosmos – Next Thing | Yucky Duster – Yucky Duster | Vanity – Don’t Be Shy | Kane Strang – Blue Cheese | Steve Adamyk Band – Graceland | Lydia Loveless – Real | Touché Amoré – Stage Four | Margaret Glaspy – Emotions and Math | Jeff – Rosenstock – WORRY. | Lucy Dacus – No Burden | Summer Cannibals – Full Of ItNopes – Never Heard Of It | Florist – The Birds Outside Sang | Susan – Never Enough | Abi Reimold – Wriggling | Mal Devisa – Kiid | Julianna Barwick – Will | Mutual Benefit – Skip A Sinking Stone | Big Ups – Before A Million Universes | Diarrhea Planet – Turn To Gold | Japanese Breakfast – Psychopomp | AJJ – The Bible 2 | Angel Olsen – My Woman | Drive-By Truckers – American Band | Charles Bradley – Changes

Strange Ranger – Sunbeams Through Your Head (EP Review)

strange ranger (2)

Over the past two days, there were a handful of exceptional new tracks from the likes of Purling Hiss, Kississippi, Kevin Morby, Pop & Obachan, benngrigg, Busman’s Holiday, Trails and Ways, Emilyn Brodsky, Sun AngleTouché Amoré, Crying, Suburban Living, Kim Gordon, Henry Jamison, Light Fantastic, Levitations, Softspot, Rick Barry, and Shana Falana. Additionally, there were outstanding music videos from Martha (who also found room for an amusing Radiator Hospital cameo), Sex Stains, The White Stripes, Adam Torres, Wolf People, Chromatics, The Kills, Matt Kivel, and Nøise. Rounding everything out were incredible full streams via Oh Boland, Low Culture, Sat. Nite Duets, Left & Right, Human People, LA Font, Bad Kids To The Front, Cheshires, and Toy Cars.

While more than a handful of those were considered for this post’s featured spot, Strange Ranger secured the position by virtue of releasing an EP that contains a few of the finest songs to have been released all year. One of those, the record’s opening and title track, earned a healthy amount of recent praise. “Sunbeams Through Your Head” set an impressive, melancholic tone for its namesake which was released in full earlier today.

Following the haunted title track, Sunbeams Through Your Head could have gone a number of directions but chose to expand on its thesis statement. The EP’s second track, “Life Would Be Cooler”, is by far its longest and one of its most gripping. “Life Would Be Cooler” also turns out to be surprisingly economical in its narrative, painting a portrait of an intense (and intensely damaged) longing in less than 60 words, closing with a devastating plea that drives a staggering amount of genuine feeling home.

It’s an opening salvo that packs an emotional wallop but Strange Ranger stays on course for the next barrage of tracks, remaining unapologetic for their overwhelmingly weary nature and casting an atmospheric pall in the process. In a strange way, it’s almost moving, listening to the band support their most downtrodden tendencies with intuitively empathetic moments in the instrumental composition. “Dolph”, “Whatever You Say”, and especially the gorgeous, instrumental “Thru Your Head” all contain breathtaking moments of a deeply felt compassion.

Everything that the EP works towards comes splintering apart, quite literally, in the manic closing track, “oh oh oh oh”. From the outset of the record’s final statement, the vocals are cracking to the point of breaking as a mournful organ line runs underneath the pained theatrics. Those are the song’s only two elements and they grow more pronounced as the narrative grows more hopeless. Eventually the narrative’s abandoned altogether, buckling underneath its own weight and disappearing into the ether, as the organ figure delivers a somber eulogy. It’s a challenging, mesmerizing way to close out an incredible EP and allows Sunbeams Through Your Head to linger long after it’s gone. It’s company worth keeping.

Listen to Sunbeams Through Your Head below and download it here.

LVL UP – Hidden Driver (Stream)

LVL UP II

Another Tuesday, another slate of astounding new tracks fighting for a feature spot. Little Kid, Soccer Mommy, Hypoluxo, Dinowalrus, The Westerlies, Pavo Pavo, Chris Farren, The Cut Losses, YJY, Slow Mass, The Alpacas, Luxury Death, Bring Prudence, and Touché Amoré (which features a lovely, unexpected turn from guest vocalist Julien Baker) were all in on the action. As ridiculously strong as all of those were, the bulk of the attention will fall to site favorite LVL UP‘s explosive “Hidden Driver”.

Coming on the heels of “Pain“, “Hidden Driver” continues the bold expansions that the quartet’s promised for the forthcoming Return to Love. Right from the onset, “Hidden Driver” is able to assert itself as a beast of a different sort for the band, deftly combining the aesthetics that define their compellingly rough-hewn demo collections and their polished studio work. As the song begins to pick up its ferocity, a synth line becomes increasingly prominent, giving the whole affair an extra touch of vibrancy.

Guitarist/vocalist Dave Benton anchors this contribution, providing a healthy dose of his enviable songwriting gifts and applying a sense of tenacious urgency in the process. Leaning heavily on the spiritual realm for the narrative, Benton gets off one of the most memorable couplets of his career with “God is peaking, softly speaking.” It’s a moment of contemplative euphoria that bristles with life, even as it stares down the barrel of mortality.

All of “Hidden Driver” comes across as one of the most focused things the band’s ever assembled, simultaneously drawing from established patterns and a willingness to explore the unknown (a trait that manifests in both the musical composition and lyrical narrative). The band’s rhythm section has rarely sounded as aggressive as they do in the song’s vicious main section, which culminates with some of the most effective guitar work of LVL UP’s entire discography.

As “Hidden Driver” ultimately dissolves into ambient noise, the anticipation for Return to Love grows stratospheric. “Pain” and “Hidden Driver” on their own have constituted two of 2016’s strongest turn-ins while both hinting at the breadth of the quartet’s broadening scope. If the rest of the record can live up to the precedents set by the first two glimpses, Return to Love will confidently stand as one of the year’s best records. All that’s left to do is wait and put “Return to Love” on repeat.

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

Pope – Feels Like Home! (Stream)

POPE

A lot of excellent tracks have surfaced over the past 12 days. FoozleTouché Amoré, The Regrettes, Conveyor, Public Access TV, Soul Low, Garden Gate, Silent Pictures, Bill Eberle, and Hoops can all lay claim to contributing to the mix. While most of those tracks were attached to forthcoming releases, Pope went a different route and gave a one-off track entitled “Feels Like Home!” a surprise release.

Riding the wave of artistic success that was Fiction, the band’s most recent record, Pope escalate their ferocity and continue excelling at crafting high-impact songs that don’t cross the 100-second threshold. The band’s a possessed animal in the live setting and “Feels Like Home!” marks the closest they’ve ever come to capturing that scintillating determination. By continuing to play to their heaviest post-punk, basement pop, and shoegaze sensibilities with equal measure, the trio’s racking up an enviable discography.

In under 90 seconds, the band reasserts their dominance in breathtaking fashion and turns in one of their best songs to date. Fiery, propulsive, and absolutely enormous, “Feels Like Home!” is another exhilarating peak from a band that’s accustomed to breathtaking heights. With each successive release, Pope is inching ever closer to a surreal perfection within a very niche intersection of sub-genres, effortlessly carving out a position that will earn them praise, respect, and admiration. “Feels Like Home!” shows that the band might just be there already.

Listen to “Feels Like Home” below and pick the song up here.