Heartbreaking Bravery

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Tag: Ugly Cherries

A Short Stretch (Video Review)

Idle Bloom VII

As was recently explained in the pictorial review of the just-initiated A Short Stretch series, there’s been an increased focus on live documentation. With that being the case, coverage for a few shows gets relegated to the sidelines as this site does upkeep on the current release cycle and features on a handful of other live shows. It’s far from a perfect system but it’d be inexcusable to simply let the photos and footage of shows that don’t get feature reviews waste away on the sidelines. In an effort to amend this, A Short Stretch was created. Here’s how the video portion will work: each band with footage will get a very brief write-up- or capsule review- of their show to accompany the live video(s). So, it’s time to take a look back at some of the great performances from shows that went uncovered.

Eskimeaux

Following a riveting performance at Palisades, Eskimeaux delivered an equally mesmerizing set at Shea Stadium, despite sweltering heat. The below video is the final piece of that set, a characteristically powerful rendition of O.K. highlight “I Admit I’m Scared”.

Mitski

With Eskimeaux having just set the stage with a beautiful set prior, Mitski went ahead and dove headfirst into an impassioned set that had everyone in Shea sweating, smiling, screaming, and dancing. Starting the night off with two of the strongest highlights on Bury Me At Makeout Creek– one of 2014’s best albums– proved to be a great move.

Model Train Wreck

Going into Model Train Wreck’s set at Shea Stadium on July 22, I had no prior knowledge of the band and wasn’t sure what to expect. It took them less than a song to ensure my full attention. Dark, bruising post-punk that’s unafraid of embracing a heavy pop sensibility is a look that more bands should consider attempting. This is definitely a band worth celebrating. 

Fern Mayo

After catching Fern Mayo’s ridiculously impressive set at Miscreant’s Northside showcase, catching the band’s live show again was an inevitability. For round 2, the band sounded even sharper than they had a month ago at Palisades, driven by some strong musicianship and the fiercely original songwriting of Katie Capri (who provided this site with an important piece for the inaugural A Year’s Worth of Memories series). This won’t be the last time they’re featured on this site.

PWR BTTM

It’s taken a little over a month for PWR BTTM to become one of the most-written about bands here at Heartbreaking Bravery. A large part of the reasoning behind the centralized coverage is the duo’s insane live show. Even taking the pointed visual theatrics out of the question, the band’s an absolute powerhouse. Ugly Cherries, the band’s forthcoming full-length, is one of the year’s stronger releases and the band continues to push themselves to their limits when they play, as if they’re performing some sort of self-exorcism for the benefit of their audience. That dynamic was put on full display once again at Shea, where they weathered some technical difficulties to deliver yet another memorable set.

Johanna Warren

A very select few shows are instantly unforgettable and more often than not the reasoning boils down to circumstance. On this occasion, a last-minute change of location was made in the interest of the people who were hoping to see Johanna Warren (another A Year’s Worth of Memories contributor) perform. The original house venue that was set to host the show discovered a bed bug infestation so the songwriter took to social media to find an emergency replacement. After some negotiating, the show was re-sculpted completely and turned into an all-acoustic affair that was set to take place on a roof in Bushwick, which coincidentally offered a stunning view of the city that stretched outwards for miles. Only a small handful of some of Warren’s friends showed up and enjoyed the perks of such an intimate affair (and the generosity of those who provided free beer, wine, and snacks for the guests). Poetry was read to set the tone and then- with the moon shining brightly- Warren took a seat in front of the Brooklyn (and Manhattan) skylines to play a career-spanning selection of songs (including some that had never been performed in public) for a hushed audience. Not even the overhead jet noise could dampen the spell cast by something so sublime.

Idle Bloom

Just a week after laying waste to two crowds as Mitski’s guitarist, Callan Dwan (pictured above) wound up playing another show in Brooklyn after meeting up with one of her other two bands in the interim. Idle Bloom was a name that I’d seen on bills before but I’d never really had the chance to delve into the band’s discography- something that’s fairly limited, as of this writing. After Zen Hed (a new band featuring members of some prominent bands) set the stage for Idle Bloom with a shambolic set of scrappy rock n’ roll, the quartet took the stage and proceeded to dismantle their audience with an affecting blend of shoegaze, post-punk, and dark pop that was topped off with some subtle, well-placed psych flourishes. Fierce, grounded, staggeringly powerful, and- at their best- breathtaking, Idle Bloom wound up delivering one of the finest (and most unexpected) sets I’ve seen all year. With their full-length record currently going through the necessary processes in the lead-up to its release, this is definitely a band to watch closely. Stay tuned to this site for more updates on the band (as well as the record) and click play to discover an emerging act that’s worth meeting with no shortage of excitement.

Slothrust – Live at Suburbia – 7/10/15 (Pictorial Review, Live Video)

Slothrust VII

One of the best things about a place like Brooklyn is that if you wind up having to miss out on one show, there’s another one happening just a short distance away that could very easily have or exceed the impact of the show you missed. While my initial plan to see Rainer Maria fell through, it was heartbreaking for a moment- until I was reminded that PWR BTTM and Slothrust were headlining a nearby show. Anyone that’s come across this site lately likely already knows exactly how this place feels about PWR BTTM and eagle-eyed observers with an astounding memory capacity may recall that Slothrust got shortlisted in our round-up of 2014’s best releases for the extraordinary Of Course You Do. Having both acts on the same bill made for an easy decision, despite quite a bit of competition.

Lowlives and Nonsense opened the show and while my late arrival meant having to miss the former entirely, I did manage to catch the end of the latter’s set. Suburbia- the venue that hosted the show- proved to be a better fit for the band than Aviv, where they’d recently played as part of the collaborative Northside showcase that was put on by Ipsum, Gimme Tinnitus, and Exploding in Sound. Playing to an appreciative crowd, Nonsense played off of each other quite well and se the stage nicely for PWR BTTM. Once again, PWR BTTM proved to be an absolute force- even in the face of lost pedals and a string breaking, the charismatic duo never had a moment that was anything less than obscenely compelling.  The band’s putting out Ugly Cherries– one of the year’s best records- in September and their set previewed a lot of material from that release while also still incorporating long-standing staples like the anthemic “Hold Yer Tongue”. As usual, their set was a convincing (and probably even inspiring) demonstration of energy, resilience, mischief, and enviable skill. In short; it was just about perfect.

Slothrust, a band that I’d previously only ever maintained a glancing familiarity with, followed PWR BTTM with a powerhouse set that more than justified their top bill placement. From the onset, it was evident that the band’s built up an extremely loyal and devoted fan base. By the end of their set, it was easy to see what inspired that devotion. Both on record and live, Slothrust are operating on a very different level than just about any band running their circuit(s). Combining elements of grunge, folk, Americana, punk, powerpop, and even prog into something that feels remarkably singular, they’ve crafted an identity that manages to both be accessible and refreshingly unique.

With Leah Wallbaum’s biting- and frequently deeply personal- lyrics leading the band’s frenzied charges in their most chaotic moments (and anchoring the band when they exercise their restraint), Slothrust very quickly transform into a band that people not only strongly identify with but want to see succeed. Even at their most irreverent, there’s a level of conviction that translates so easily for Slothrust that it’s nearly impossible not to be mesmerized by the music they’re making/playing. That aspect of the band held especially true for the 1-2 punch of a genuinely stunning Britney Spears cover (“…Baby One More Time)” and “Crockpot“, their extraordinary closing number and current career highlight. In those climactic moments, the band managed to showcase nearly all of their varying draws and limitless appeal, ultimately providing an emphatic endpoint to an exhilarating set- and ensuring that this site will be covering them a lot more closely in the following months.

A photo gallery of PWR BTTM and Slothrust’s sets can be seen here and a video containing a large portion of both bands’ sets can be found below. Enjoy.

PWR BTTM – Ugly Cherries (Stream)

PWR BTTM III

Wednesday, for whatever reason, has become a traditionally stacked day for the release slate. Today’s already ushered in more than a dozen notable releases from all across the world, spanning about as much terrain musically as it does geographically. Music videos wound up with a fairly strong outing and included some stunning visuals that were brought into focus by the likes of Ducktails, Creepoid, Destroyer, and Albert Hammond Jr., constituting the strongest showing for the format in weeks.

Curiously, the full stream category was completely absent from the day’s proceedings (so far, at least) but that did make room for another impressive haul of singles. Donovan Wolfington got a little heavier and a lot more focused with “Ollie North“, Manatree ushered in some tropical tones through their sccuzzed-up indie pop number “Animal Qualities“, Wand and Sunflower Bean continued to revel in psychedelia with “Stolen Footprints” and “The Stalker“, respectively.

Ultimate Painting continued sharpening their shambolic, widescreen Americana via “(I’ve Got The) Sanctioned Blues“, Tenement released the winningly scrappy demo take of Predatory Headlights standout “Hive of Hives“, and Cold Beat continued to create compelling tapestries by merging distinctly left-field influences once again in the tension/explosion masterclass “Cracks“. Fake Palms let loose the pulverizing “Sparkles“, Palehound released another stunner in “Healthier Folk“, Antarctigo Vespucci continued subverting expectations and delivering at an unreasonably high level with “Impossible To Place“, Diät resurfaced with the urgent, punishing “Toonie“, Autobahn brought out a similarly menacing gut-punch through “Society“, and Chelsea Wolfe deepened the foreboding overtones of those last two numbers with the slow-burning “After the Fall“.

While any number of those songs could have been selected as the feature for today’s post, the distinction goes to a duo that’s earned some coverage here in the past: PWR BTTM. Today the band not only announced their upcoming record and the necessary details but released the title track as well. Father/Daughter and Miscreant will be joining forces once again to release the excellent Ugly Cherries on September 18. And while “Ugly Cherries” is fairly representative of the full-length’s best qualities, there are still a variety of surprises and nuances to explore once the record drops.

Until then, though, we’ve got “Ugly Cherries” to place under a lens and obsess over.  If the song sounds familiar, it may be due to the fact that it’s been a staple of the band’s live set for quite some time- or maybe you’ve heard it playing as the theme song for the excellent live series that’s hosted by Play Too Much. Maybe you just think the chord progression lead-in is “Undone — The Sweater Song” (it’s not but you’d probably be forgiven for the confusion). Any way that it gets processed, though, the simple unavoidable fact is that it’s an absolute powerhouse of a song, swinging for the fences and connecting with a startling emphasis.

PWR BTTM, a band that consists of Benjamin Hopkins and Liv Bruce, have developed the kind of rapport that most bands can only dream about achieving. From their impressive musical synchronicity (they frequently switch guitar, drum, and vocal positions) right down to the atypically engaging stage banter that peppers their energetic live show, there’s an intrinsic connection that’s both palpable and natural- something that translates to the studio versions of the songs.

“Ugly Cherries” hits some of the duo’s favorite beats (gender identity, examination, doubt, shamelessly bombastic shredding, and acceptance, among them) without ever losing its sense of urgency or vitality. As a powerful display of finesse and deceptive strength, it’s a near-perfect mission statement for the band. As a warning shot for the record that’s now on its way out into the world, it might be enough to incite a riot. I’m almost positive they wouldn’t have it any other way.

Listen to “Ugly Cherries” below and order the record from site favorite(s) Father/Daughter Records (in association with Miscreant Records) ahead of its September 18 release date by following the label hyperlinks.