Heartbreaking Bravery

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Tag: Tribute

Watch This: Vol. 95

Over the past few weeks, this site hasn’t been keeping its daily update regimen due to ongoing business largely unrelated to the site. While there may not be immediate posts, the content is still being collected as it appears. A handful of catch-up posts will be running on the site tonight and tomorrow starting with this slightly belated installment of Watch This, which runs on Sunday and celebrates the best performance captures to have been released in the given week. Two weeks ago this collection was a more subdued, low-key affair than usual and some of that’s carried over to this entry. Considering the advent of fall, it almost feels appropriate that the bulk of the standout performances find themselves locked into an autumnal mode. Only one of the videos featured today is a full, electric band while the rest are solo performances that carry a considerable amount of weight. All of them are worth a high degree of investment. So, as always, lean back, adjust the screen, set the volume, focus up, and Watch This.

1. Izzy True – Absolute Troll (Don Giovanni)

Once again, Watch This finds itself kicking off with an Izzy True clip that comes courtesy of Don Giovanni. Isabel Reidy’s solo project conjured up a very subtle kind of beauty on this year’s outstanding Troll, the young songwriters arrival-at-large. Proving once again to be a commanding presence, Reidy delivers a fierce performance of the EP’s almost-titular track, providing enough artistic flourish to render the performance deeply compelling.

2. Nils Frahm – 4’33” (John Cage Cover Version) (Pitchfork)

“4’33″” is one of the most divisive pieces of music in history. Conceived by John Cage as a commentary on the nature of silence and the human inability to ever fully experience it at its purest state, it’s measures consisted of nothing but rests. Nils Frahm, an accomplished ambient figurehead, took the crux of Cage’s piece and expanded on it in a piece that functions more as a rumination or homage than it does as a straight cover. Unsurprisingly, it’s elegiac, sincere, and more than a little stunning.

3. Craig Finn (KEXP)

Throughout the years, Craig Finn’s won accolades and legions of fans for his work in The Hold Steady and (the still vastly under-appreciated) Lifter Puller. More recently, he’s stepped out on his own as a solo artist, offering up largely acoustic works that zero in on his recent work’s inherent tenderness. Warm and rustic, this quartet of songs feels like a collection of devotionals; Finn’s offering up personal prayers in the dressings of song. Unflinchingly honest and completely uninhibited, this session’s a perfect example of a songwriter whose found completely comfort in their own voice.

4. Beach Slang – Get Lost (Cozy Couch Sessions)

Few bands have made as immediate of an impression as Beach Slang managed to with their first few releases. Drawing deserved comparisons to acts like The Replacements tend to achieve those kinds of results and that particular influence hasn’t ever shown as strong as it does here, in a solo acoustic rendition of “Get Lost”. Rough in all the right places, the whiskey-soaked ballad takes on a broken new life where the cracks grow deeper and the uncertainty stretches out towards eternity- and Cozy Couch affectionately captures its bruised heartbeat with a startling amount of empathy.

5. Ought – Men For Miles (3voor12)

Over the past year or so, this site’s written a lot about Ought, who are currently celebrating the release of a strong sophomore effort, Sun Coming Down. One of the record’s fiercest highlights is the insistent “Men For Miles”, which 3voor12 captured the band performing at Into the Great Wide Open. Operating with all of their typical wiry verve intact, the quartet also delivers a blistering take on their kinetic, melancholic “Passionate Turn”- another one of Sun Coming Down‘s more triumphant moments. Played back-to-back with an uncommon level of passion, the two-song take is enough to cement the band’s status as one of today’s most electric live acts.

Little Big League – Property Line (Stream)

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With another day drawing to a close, there’s another array of riches to examine. Full streams were made available for two very different releases; It Must Be Love threw their hat into the “Best EP of the Year” ring with their just-released self-titled effort, Art Is Hard’s Jam Kids: 20 Years since Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain, an excellent compilation which featured contributions from a few site favorites (PAWS and Trust Fund, most notably) and- on the heavier, more doom-oriented side of things- Windhand’s side of their upcoming split 10″ with Salem’s Pot, which shows the band hasn’t lost a step last year’s outstanding Soma. Vacation shared an unmastered demo of their highly-anticipated upcoming record and Negative Fun Records made No Other’s exceptional contribution to their ongoing Singles Club series publicly available. As for music videos, any day PUP releases something, it’s going to be a notable day- and their demolition derby-centric clip for “Mabu” kept them in the conversation for “band with the best music videos”. Eugene Quell also released a charming, low-key video for A Great Uselessness highlight “Alta Loma“. In addition to all of that, recent Watch This act Little Big League unveiled the latest look at their upcoming record, Tropical Jinx; “Property Line”.

Following the easygoing basement pop of the title track, “Property Line” finds the band digging a little bit deeper and unearthing something spectacular. There’s a sense of unease on display throughout “Property Lines” that ultimately gets outweighed by the song’s underlying determination, making it an unexpected spiritual companion to All Dogs’ “Say“. As if that dynamic wasn’t enough, the song showcases the band’s creative growth in each members’ various roles. Everything from the composition to the lyricism is sharper than anything Little Big League’s produced to date (which shouldn’t detract from an immensely impressive body of work), rendering the expectations for Tropical Jinx a few levels above where they previously were. When the cathartic brass-assisted climax kicks in, one thing becomes abundantly clear; Little Big League have officially arrived. “Property Line” is a career-best from an emerging band that’s still young enough to improve- though it’ll be difficult to top something as sublime as this.

Listen to “Property Line” below and pre-order Tropical Jinx from Run For Cover Records here.

Attendant – Freaking Out (Review, Stream)

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By now, everyone who has iTunes should have heard the full stream they’re offering up of Death From Above 1979’s revitalized post-reunion effort, The Physical World. Hopefully, there were a few among that crowd who also found time to stream Nervous Like Me the fantastic new record from Cayetana. Great full album streams weren’t the only things to come out of the last few days, though, in addition to a memorable Pavement cover from PAWS, there were also great new songs from Purling Hiss, Nude Beach, and WULFS. Visually, there was an endearing The Adventures of Pete and Pete homage from Diarrhea Planet and two arresting black-and-white clips that came courtesy of Girl Band and Philadelphia’s Queen Jesus.  It’s another act from Philadelphia that made the strongest impression and earned the feature spot today, though: the the stunning debut effort of Radiator Hospital bassist Jon Rybicki’s collaborative project, Attendant.

It’s not uncommon to note that there’s an absurd amount of great music out there that’s overlooked for any number of reasons but it’s always nice to know that sometimes everything lines up and music that may have otherwise gone unnoticed gets an extra push thanks to the people involved. This especially stands true for Attendant’s Freaking Out which features contributions from a murderer’s row of Philadelphia/NYC-based musicians. Mikey Cantor, Radiator Hospital, and Swearin’ (among others) all get a good bit of representation here, lending their considerable talents to one hell of a debut, helping raise an emerging musician’s profile in the process. Rybicki grounds all of these songs with no shortage of gravitas and conviction, mining similar influences to the ones that are so clearly evident in his friends’ projects.

While all of that would likely have proven more than enough to get Freaking Out by, what really puts it over the top is its attention to detail. The production, sequencing, and mastering on this is near-flawless, advancing the release’s personality without being distracting. In terms of composition, it’s frequently thrilling, with songs like the hard-charging “Saturday” providing bursts of near-uncontrollable energy. With all of this taken into account, it’s probably not too surprising that one of Freaking Out‘s closest relatives seems to be Dinosaur Jr.’s classic Bug. Acoustic guitars often provide a base template for each of these seven songs, while shoegaze-leaning levels of reverb and distortion get added to create a sound that’s becoming increasingly prominent in DIY punk circles- one that recognizes the value of looking to the past to push ahead.

That retro-influenced modernity goes a long way in informing Freaking Out, which makes no qualms about utilizing everything at it’s disposal. Every song on here contains at least a few moments of genuine brilliance, whether in the form of lyrics (“I just wanted to be the other people on the bus” is one of the most haunting lines to come out of 2014) or in the song’s structures or compositions. As if all that weren’t enough, it’s varied enough to ensure the listener’s attention and compelling enough to warrant their investment. None of these songs ever eclipse the three minute mark, either, rendering it even more accessible.Yet, despite it’s short run-time, Freaking Out feels like a fully-formed work from a veteran songwriter.

More than a few critics have said that to really gauge an album’s strengths, there should be an extra amount of consideration given to their mid-section. It’s easy to make strong opening and closing cases but it can be difficult to maintain that consistency across a wider spread. In this respect, Freaking Out has virtually no issues. “Dishwasher”, “Call Me Back”, and “Solar Shack” are all mixtape-worthy entries, each holding their own strengths in Rybicki’s frequently mid-tempo world weariness. Even with that taken into consideration, it’d be difficult not to note that a few of Freaking Out‘s best moments do come in the final two songs. From the trumpet-assisted downstroke onslaught of “I Won’t Try to Change Your Mind” to the guest-heavy celebration that is the record’s finale.

In that respect, “Wax Pages” does feel like an appropriate end-cap to a release that seemed determined to extol the virtues of healthy collaboration. Jeff Bolt (of Swearin’ and Radiator Hospital) takes over on drums, Sam Cook-Parrott (Radiator Hospital), Cynthia Schemmer (also of Radiator Hospital), and Kyle Gilbride (of Swearin’) all handle backing vocals, while Mikey Cantor takes a solo and all of them seem maniacally driven by Rybicki, who lent his vocals, guitar work, and bass (in spots) to the songs he wrote. To that end, it almost feels celebratory despite it’s heaviness (and make no mistake, this is a relatively heavy record in both terms of sound and subject matter). Packaged all together, the end result is something that feels oddly alive and utterly unique, even with an army of recognizable influences worn proudly on its sleeve. If it doesn’t find a home on one label or another, it’ll come as a shock. Freaking Out is one of 2014’s best surprises.

Stream Freaking Out below and download it on Attendant’s bandcamp.

Burger Streams Velvet Underground Tribute Compilation

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Burger Records, no strangers to coverage on this site, have gone ahead with their zillionth noteworthy item this year; a full stream of their just-released tribute to Velvet Underground’s White Light/White Heat . While the release does cover all six tracks, it’s no quick cash-grab. Each track is packed to the gills with loving admiration and it’s clear a lot of care went into its making. Only one of the bands here turns in a completely faithful cover, while the majority turn in loving appropriations that suit their respective sounds. Each track and approach culminates in an unflinchingly honest and perfectly-crafted tribute piece.

Of the six tracks, the clear standout seems to be from Netherlands punks Mozes & the Firstborn. Their cover of “Lady Godiva’s Operation” continues an unlikely winning streak the band kicked off earlier this year with the release of their outrageously catchy self-titled record. “Lady Godiva’s Operation” is far from the only reason to listen to this tribute compilation, though.

All of this release is worthwhile, with each band taking memorable turns in a time of remembrance. From Natural Child to Gap Dream, Burger’s roster is well-represented. Curtis Harding, The Memories, and Mr. Elevator and the Brain Hotel are the three bands round out Burger’s cast for this release. Everything on display here comes together and points to one unshakable fact; Lou Reed may be gone but his legacy won’t be forgotten.

Listen to Burger’s tribute below and purchase it from the label here.