Heartbreaking Bravery

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Tag: Wolf Parade

2016: A Year’s Worth of Memories (Elise Okusami)

Heartbreaking Bravery recently went offline but all facets of the site are back to being fully operational. Apologies for any inconveniences. All posts that were slated to run during that brief hiatus will appear with this note.

As part of Laetita Tamko’s Vagabon project and as the bandleader of Oceanator, Elise Okusami has become a very familiar name to this site over the past few years. “Nowhere Nothing“, a standout Oceanator song, would’ve cracked this site’s list of best songs had Okusami not graciously allowed its usage for the A Step Forward compilation. It’s a song that’s resonated since its introduction and one that’s pulled this site even further into Okusami’s orbit. Below, the multi-talented musician recalls a Wolf Parade show at McCarren Park that led to a wellspring of genuine emotion. It’s a beautiful reminder of the power of music and can be read below. Enjoy.

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I’d been getting lazy about going places.  I might have still been trying to shake off that winter funk, even though it was June already.  Once I was at work, at home, wherever, I tended to stay put, unable to generate any sort of inertia to go to a new location.  So, even though I’d been planning for months to go to this Wolf Parade show in McCarren Park – especially after being super bummed when all five of their Bowery Ballroom shows sold out even though I was online, ready to buy the minute they went on sale (this keeps happening, the robots are taking over and ruining everything already) – I still found myself leaning on the bar at work and chatting with a coworker when I should have been heading to the show.

The friends I thought were going had all bailed, so I was in the process of bailing, too, when four friends texted me at once asking me why I wasn’t there.  I literally shoved my backpack under my desk at work, got on my bike, and raced to the park.  It wasn’t far, but I still made it in my personal record time, not even taking the time to plug in my headphones and queue up any music for the trip.  I was jittery and nervous as the line moved forwards, worrying that any second they were going to cut it off and say the show was too full, but my worries were unfounded.  I got in easily, and found my friends all the way up at the front as the opening band was still playing.

As much as I had, and still do, love Apologies to the Queen Mary, I had never taken the leap into their other albums.  I knew every song and every moment of that album, but not too much of the other ones.  That didn’t take away from the experience any.  I am shy, most of the time.  Especially in large groups.  But at this show I found myself dancing, not worrying about what I looked like or what anyone around me thought.

I cried, literally, when the band dropped out and the piano played its riff alone in the middle of “Animal in Your Care“, before the rest of the band came back in.  Seeing them perform, seeing how much fun they were having, how excited they were by the size of the crowd even as, what I definitely consider, a pretty huge band, only added to the experience.  It’s the way I hope to always feel about music – happy to be where I am, enjoying the performance, and being appreciative of the opportunity to do so.

That feeling was something I took with me all summer.  I’m still not entirely sure why that concert moved me more than any of the other shows I’d been to this past year – and there have been some absolutely fantastic ones.  Something about that one really stuck out, though.  It couldn’t have come at a better time for me, pulling me out of a funk and launching me into summer, and even sticking with me now.

Watch This: Vol. 143

Typically Watch This installments run on Sunday but the 143rd installment was given a later slot for a specific reason. While the videos covered  in this post will have been released, exclusively, in the time frame of last Monday to this past Sunday, this particular entry serves as somewhat of a gap-fill. The next post to run after this one will be the 1,000th that Heartbreaking Bravery has published and there will be a brief period of inactivity, only punctuated by the 143rd volume of Watch This.

The placement shouldn’t detract from the overwhelming strength of the formidable quality of the featured clips, which staved off particularly intense competition from the likes of Kevin Morby, Good Personalities, Saul Williams, Post Child, Hurry, Wolf Parade, Quilt, Suuns, Yung, Waterstrider, Gringo Star, The Pack A.D., Fauna Shade, Fascinating, The Minders, The Posies, Teeth & Tongue, Xenia Rubinos, Communist Daughter, Chris Cohen, Paper Bird, and Bully to secure the five highlighted slots. So, as always, sit up, lean in, adjust the settings, take a deep breath, and Watch This.

1. Margaret Glaspy – Emotions and Math + Pins and Needles (World Cafe)

In the past few months Margaret Glaspy has managed to become a staple of this series thanks to both songwriting and the subdued but outsized personality that the songwriter exudes in every performance. Glaspy’s two-song set for World Cafe is particularly crisp, offering up two spellbinding runs through two of Emotions and Math‘s brightest moments: the quietly exhilarating title track and “Pins and Needles”. Don’t miss out on this one.

2. Long Neck – Rosy + 10,000 Year Old Woman (Boxfish Sessions)

For the past few years, Lily Mastridomos has been releasing mesmerizing music under the moniker Long Neck. Known primarily for Jawbreaker Reunion, Mastridomos’ solo project allows the emphasis to fall to uninhibited tales of heartache. In Mastridomos’ shattering entry to this site’s A Year’s Worth of Memories, there was a courageously open emphasis on personal depression, something that informs both “Rosy” and “10,000 Year Old Woman” to heartbreaking effect in one of the finest Boxfish Sessions to date.

3. PUP – Doubts (q on cbc)

A lot has been written on this site about PUP, from their galvanizing live show to their self-titled debut (which has the distinction of being the first album review to run on Heartbreaking Bravery) to this year’s extraordinary The Dream Is Over, a record that earned them a Polaris Prize nomination. Here, the band stops by the q on cbc studio and unleashing holy hell with a fiercely committed take on “Doubts” that underscores the band’s terrifying level of conviction as well as their sheer force of will. It’s a characteristically exceptional performance and an outstanding document of a band that’s intent on pushing themselves to the absolute limit.

4. Tuxis Giant – Almost Enough (Boxfish Sessions)

The second Boxfish Session to be featured finds the spotlight falling to Tuxis Grant, an emerging songwriter who has a penchant for bleary-eyed folk that comes with a twinge of a punk-informed sensibility. “Almost Enough”, the song performed here, is a breathtaking example of Tuxis Giant’s considerable songwriting gifts, never becoming anything less than incredibly memorable. “Even when it isn’t hungry, it eats” is a refrain that sticks, perfectly complementing a compellingly singular introspective lens. If “Almost Enough” is any indication, Tuxis Giant will be a name worth learning.

5. Japanese Breakfast (PressureDrop.tv)

2016 has been a breakout year for Japanese Breakfast, the project of Michelle ZaunerLittle Big League, Zauner’s other band, had a handful of entries throughout the existence of this series. Japanese Breakfast seems set on continuing that tradition with a remarkable amount of poise. While all of the songs the band runs through for this PressureDrop.tv session are consistently impressive, “Everybody Wants to Love You” stands out as a particularly inspired highlight. It’s the start of an exclamation mark on the band’s coming out party, creating room for both celebration of what’s come before and wild anticipation for what comes next.

Watch This: Vol. 141

This past week was brimming with exceptional live clips from artists like Happy Diving, Puppy Problems, Wolf Parade, Eros and the Eschaton, Grape Whales, Islands, The Tallest Man On Earth, Matthew Logan Vasquez, Oscar, Villagers, Clique, July Talk, Lisa Hannigan, Whitney, Rogue Valley, Woven In, Mudhoney, Helms Alee, Aidan Knight, Waterstrider, and The Staves. While all of those are worth studying for both the central performances and the way those performances were captured, the five clips featured below managed to become standouts for excelling in those departments. From old favorites to new faces, from legitimate live music video entries to full sessions, from cathartic release to sorrowful introspection, there’s a lot to navigate in these selections. So, as always, sit up, lean in, adjust the settings, focus, block out any distractions, and Watch This.

1. Mitski – First Love / Late Spring + Your Best American Girl (World Cafe)

Ever since Mitski‘s breakout release, Bury Me At Makeout Creek, the songwriter has been a staple of this site’s coverage. The project’s been outstanding both on record and in the live department. Mitski recently stopped by World Cafe to play through the fiery “Your Best American Girl“, easily one of this year’s brightest moments, and “First Love / Late Spring” with the calm confidence that’s propelled the songwriter to widespread acclaim. It’s a welcome reminder of a powerful performer and a beautiful document of the current era of the project.

2. Kevin Devine – No History

Kevin Devine has a storied history of spellbinding performances so it’s no surprise that the songwriter’s continued to sporadically show up in this series. Devine can be an electrifying performer when backed with a full, electric band but there’s a certain magic to his solo acoustic performances that’s only grown more pronounced with this time. “No History” capitalizes on that magic in full, standing confidently as both a gorgeously lensed live clip and — impressively — as bona fide music video.

3. XURS (KEXP)

A new name to this site, XURS recently had somewhat of a coming out party in the KEXP studios, delivering a blistering session of unapologetic noise/punk. Every song the band tears through in this session is absolutely vicious and delivered with enough conviction to knock most other bands flat. Wildly frantic and more than a little exhilarating, the band make the absolute most of a solid opportunity and the end effect seems set to resonate for quite some time.

4. Big Thief (NPR)

Big Thief very quickly became a distinctive part of this site’s identity thanks to the overwhelming strength of this year’s Masterpiece. “Paul“, the title track, and “Lorraine” all get performed here for NPR’s Tiny Desk Concerts series to a small, hushed crowd. The band’s a perfect fit for the series and the setting allows the sweeping, open-road atmospherics that’s a specialty of the band a little extra room to breathe, casting a spell that’s nothing short of entrancing.

5. Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds – I Need You

Only a few installments back, Nick Cave was granted an unforgettable entry in this series thanks to the harrowing clip for “Jesus Alone“, a gorgeous excerpt from the shattering Andrew Dominik documentary One More Time With Feeling. Like “Jesus Alone”, “I Need You” is a clip that’s both haunted and haunting, an examination of an artist going through unspeakable loss. Even these six minutes, isolated from the context of the film and the record, are a wrenching experience. Cave, now more than ever, looks like a ghost attempting to navigate a reality that shouldn’t exist. Deeply sorrowful and intensely moving, “I Need You” is an artful tragedy that’s impossible to shake.