Heartbreaking Bravery

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Tag: Work

A Two Week Toll: Full Streams

Bringing an end to the opening trio of posts to amend some of the time lost during the hiatus that followed this site’s 1,000th post, the following links will be dedicated to some of the finest full-length streams that appeared over the past two weeks. From site favorites to new names, there’s a wealth of material here that’s worthy of investment. A handful of these may even be legitimate Album of the Year contenders. Carve some time out to listen or just hit play and turn the volume up while working, either way, make sure not to miss some extraordinary records. 

Terry Malts, The ExquisitesLola Kirke, Fake Limbs, HalfsourLilac DazeKuroma, Violence Creeps, Computer Magic, Emily Yacina, Male BondingJenny O, Wild Pink, MONO, Spellbinder, Clorox Girls, Infinity Crush, Ryan Allen and His Extra Arms, Fraternal Twin, Kestrels, Elephants, Hello Shark, Trash Gendar, (ghost), Shana Falana, Suburban Living, Trails and Ways, Lara Yuko, BatzGoat, Peaer, Henry Jamison, Bad Noids, Bellows, The Fabulous Johnsons, Sleeping Lessons, Big Bill, Shelf LifeThe Meltaways, Dog, Paper, Submarine, Balcanes, Warehouse, Kadhja BonetAxis: SovaFuneral Blues, This Frontier Needs HeroesLetters to CleoMr. Martin & The Sensitive GuysPanoptique Electrical, Exotica, HowardianBonzoJustin Peter Kinkel-Schuster, and the Punkinhead 2016 compilation.

Watch This: Vol. 100

Over the past 100 weeks, this site’s dedicated itself to a variety of pursuits but the defining one seems to be the only recurring series that operates on a regular basis: Watch This. Ever since the first installment, this series has featured the very best live performance captures. Utilizing a wealth of resources that range from band’s personal accounts to radio stations that host high-quality session captures, like KEXP in Seattle or 3voor12 in the Netherlands.

Very rarely has that gaze turned inward, despite producing over 300 live videos in the past four months. With this series now at a landmark number and all of the CMJ reviews accounted for, it seemed appropriate to bypass the outside sources to focus exclusively on the crop of videos that was taken over the past week. Approximately 50 bands, 90 videos, and 100 songs, these clips will be presented in groupings according to which day they were filmed. A few slip out of focus, some start a little late, and some cut off just before their ending, and a few bands are missing due to unfortunate and/or unforeseen circumstance (a dead battery, lighting, and a maxed out sd card were the three most prominent issues) but as a whole, it’s a comprehensive look at the kinds of performances the festival has to offer. So, as always, sit back, relax, ignore any worries, adjust the volume, focus up, and Watch This.

1. CMJ: Day 2

To make things just a touch easier, each of these introductory segments will simply be a very brief recap including a link to the respective day’s official review and the list of artists that appear in the video. Having spent the first official day of CMJ preparing for the rest of the week, the timeline’s off by a day but had this been the first official day, the festival would have kicked off with a band. Splitting time between The Cake Shop and Santos Party House, I managed to get videos of performances from the following artists: Worriers, Hooton Tennis Club, Car Seat Headrest, Seratones, Nico Yaryan, Yung, Shopping, Protomartyr, Downtown Boys, Perfect Pussy, and Dilly Dally. The official review of the day’s events can be found here.

2. CMJ: Day 3

Things kept moving along quickly on the second day, which included a long stretch at an early show over at Rough Trade before taking a brief pause to organize that show’s footage and prepare for the late show at Aviv. Between the two venues, the lineup was characteristically stacked and led to videos of performances from Shopping, Ezra Furman, Georgia, John Grant, What Moon Things, Mumblr, Meat Wave, Painted Zeros, Turn To Crime, and Yvette. The official review of the day’s shows can be found here.

3. CMJ: Day 4 

The festival’s exhausting nature started to creeping in on the third consecutive day of showgoing, though the deliriousness will always be worth the effort in the case of celebrating things like Exploding In Sound (who themselves were celebrating their fourth anniversary), Big Ups (who were celebrating their fifth year as a band), and Double Double Whammy. Once again splitting time between two venues– Palisades and The Silent Barn– I managed to get footage of performances from Leapling, Swings, Mal Devisa (backed by Swings), Dirty Dishes, Kal Marks, Washer, Stove, Palm, Greys, The Spirit of the Beehive, Big Ups, Palehound, Downies, Eskimeaux, and LVL UP. The official review of those events can be read here.

4. CMJ: Day 5

Easily the most exhausting of the five day stretch, the fifth official day of the festival found me completely ignoring food in favor of sprinting a mile to catch one of my favorite acts four times over. While a fraction of the day was spent running to and from an official CMJ showcase and the AdHoc Carwash (which was detached from the festival completely but boasted one of the week’s strongest lineups), the effort proved to be worthwhile, as a large collection of bands delivered knockout sets and everything culminated in a triumphant moment for one of my closest friends. In all the back-and-forth, I was still able to manage to capture performances from the following artists: Protomartyr, Potty Mouth, Pity Sex, Dilly Dally, LVL UP, Porches., Perfect Pussy, Meat Wave, Mothers, and Cloud Castle Lake. The review of that day of relative mania can be read here.

5. CMJ: Day 6

Despite the festival’s posted end date being the October 17, this collaborative showcase a day later between Father/Daughter and Miscreant was still billed as a part of the festival and felt like an appropriate epilogue; a summation of what’d come before and a fitting end-cap for a very strong run. Confined to just one venue, the sleep deprivation caused me to miss the first trio of acts (and quietly curse myself out for doing so in the process) but still show up in time for the final 10. On the final day of reckoning, I captured videos of performances from the following artists: i tried to run away when i was 6, Downies, Romp, Comfy, Vagabon, fern mayo, Bethlehem Steel, Diet Cig, Sports, and PWR BTTM. The official review of the festival’s final event can be read here.

Perfect Pussy at Soybomb HQ – 6/21/14 (Review, Photos, Video)

Cellphone V

While NXNE provided a lot of the most memorable moments I’ve had so far this year, I’d be completely and totally remiss not to pay special attention to one of the non-festival shows: an absolutely stacked lineup flying under the Summer Melt banner and taking place in the middle of a halfpipe. Originally, the show (heavy on local Toronto acts) was going to be headlined by the Cleveland-based Pleasure Leftists– an incredibly casual last-minute offer allowed Perfect Pussy to step in literally hours beforehand as a secret headliner. To their credit, their secret remained a secret (unlike the Spoon debacle just a night before) and caught several attendees by surprise as they entered the venue (which had set times drawn up on a long sheet of paper and in plain sight). A late arrival meant missing a slew of talented bands including Wrong Hole, Das Rad, Toronto Homicide Squad, Petra Glynt, and Teenanger.

Even five bands in, the night was far from over. It didn’t take long for Cellphone (pictured above) to set up and it took even less time for them to impress. On record, the quartet emphasizes their roughness, eclecticism, and electronic leanings. Live? They explode with a fury worthy of the hardest-hitting bands of STT’s golden age. Hüsker Dü, Black Flag, and (especially) Dinosaur Jr. all came to mind as apparent touchstones during different parts of their set, which stayed rooted in something totally intangible and unique to them. Hardcore influences and progressions cut apart riff-heavy melodicism and the band frequently sounds like they’re on the verge of spiraling out of control. It’s a controlled mania that had more than a few people shoving and dancing as hard as they possibly could by their set’s end. It was one of a very large handful of shows the band played throughout the NXNE dates and the practice showed- the end result was the best set of the trip from a band I’d previously never heard of.

Toronto’s Ice Cream may not have had the blinding energy of Cellphone but they certainly weren’t lacking in intrigue. The band’s a very minimalist post-punk act made up of nothing more than vocals, bass, a very occasional guitar, and synth. While they were stealthily making their way through their set (and the bottom of a bottle of liquor), they ran a bubble machine to its dregs. A little more than halfway through their set, a very-probably-inebriated audience member kept trying (and partially succeeding) at getting the bubbles back up and running, as the band played on, relatively amused and unconcerned. Most of their set hinged on bright melodies and pop-leaning basslines but when they deviated away from this, especially towards the end of their set, they found new life and hit new peaks. When their set finally wound down, they’d succeeded in creating an impression while simultaneously leaving the space wide-open for Pleasure Leftists to do just about anything they wanted.

Pleasure Leftists took full advantage of what was essentially a new slate after Ice Cream wound things down. After a string of strong releases on Deranged Records, the Cleveland band was in rare form, which was likely in part to the excessive amount of touring they’ve been doing lately. They’ve sharpened their brand of brooding post-punk and the fangs  that they’ve grown along with it. While the whole band is incredibly formidable in their respective roles and fully capable of creating towering soundscapes of tension-filled dread, vocalist Haley Morris still stands out. Onstage, Morris is a force to be reckoned with; a constant- and constantly expressive- larger-than-life presence. Pouring an endless supply of nervous energy and pure feeling into her delivery, Morris commands attention so completely that it occasionally runs the risk of losing track of what’s happening around her- don’t make that mistake. Pleasure Leftists’ instrumentalists are so well-versed in post-punk that on first listen someone could easily mistake them for a long-lost 70’s UK band that split small club bills with Warsaw. Their set was everything anyone could hope for and was rousing enough to leave the audience absolutely stunned. Everything that Pleasure Leftists are currently doing is clicking so neatly into place that it’s impossible to expect their trajectory to stabilize in anything other than ascension.

Finally, at a time roughly between 3:00 and 3:30 A.M., Perfect Pussy had set up and was off with their usual intensity. It’s no secret how I feel about this band and this won’t be the last time I write about them- or come even remotely close. I have made my feelings about them very public on multiple occasions and will continue to do so- because they are firmly rooted in all of the ethos that I believe in. Morality, integrity, independence, acceptance, and a commitment to DIY are all present in both their music and their interview. Vocalist Meredith Graves, in particular, has been very vocal about things that people need to start being more vocal about (and almost all of them are extensions of basic human kindness, compassion, and empathy). I would probably know next to none of this if I hadn’t been absolutely blown away by their 2013 demo I have lost all desire for feeling and made it a point to get as close to the band, who were making music I loved so fiercely and championing ideals I so firmly believed in, as I possibly could. It’s been a downright honor to watch the public interest in them skyrocket since the release of that demo and when Say Yes to Love came out, it made them feel revelatory all over again.

As with any band experiencing success, this meant seeing the venues housing them gradually grow- and the tickets fly much faster than they used to. So, when Graves pulled me aside after their Great Hall appearance for a beer at a Toronto bar to catch up and explain the events of the previous night, I was already on a barely-contained adrenaline rush. When we were interrupted by a guy offering to add Perfect Pussy onto an already-stacked bill that was being topped by Pleasure Leftists in a halfpipe in the middle of the night, all I could do was look at a noticeably excited Graves and hope she’d say yes. After all the details got figured out, it became evident fairly quickly that this was probably going to be the show that I remembered most from the Toronto stay. A band I’d loved and been chomping at the bit to see for the longest time (Pleasure Leftists) playing in a small, DIY space with who is arguably my favorite band of the moment playing after them as a secret headliner? With local support to top everything off, it seemed fail-proof. It was. Even though the late slot meant playing to an exhausted/subdued crowd, when Perfect Pussy tore into their set, it finally felt like they were at home. It was the exact kind of space that the band has fostered mutually symbiotic relationships with- even as their stature would suggest they’ve outgrown them.

It felt like a subtle, extraordinary moment and it was a privilege to be there to witness something like that happen. Even though the band’s set was abbreviated (even for them), it still hit with the force of an all-out military strike and the band laid just about everything they had on the line. Drummer Garrett Koloski was simultaneously battling to keep his kit upright and continuing to beat the living shit out of it- bassist Greg Ambler was tapping into an inward violence- guitarist Ray McAndrew was thrashing about more spiritedly than ever- synth/noise artist Shaun Sutkus was tucked away in the back, occasionally letting the music move him into making frantic body motions- and vocalist Meredith Graves (easily one of the finest bad leaders that this generation’s produced) commanding as much attention as humanly possible without being consumed by the din around her. All of the songs they played that evening were initially written down on a sheet of paper, cut into ribbons, and placed in a hat where the setlist was drawn out of- with the exception of one, which McAndrew took it upon himself to launch into, without warning, adding an element of surprise for both the audience and his bandmates. That moment was the only sly sidestep in an otherwise pulverizing, straightforward set that re-confirmed Perfect Pussy as one of the most entertaining live bands currently playing shows. By the time “Advance Upon the Real” wound down into Sutkus’ noise epilogue, they’d provided the evening with enough punch and verve to ensure that it wouldn’t be an evening that anyone who was present for it forget about it anytime soon. It didn’t feel like they’d officially arrived; it felt like they’d arrived home.

The photo gallery of this show can be accessed by clicking the link below. Beneath that link is a video of Perfect Pussy ending their set with “Advance Upon the Real”.

Soybomb HQ (Photo Gallery)

Perfect Pussy – Say Yes to Love (Album Review)

At this point, no artist has earned as many mentions on Heartbreaking Bravery as Perfect Pussy. They’ve been such an influence on this space that I’ve made my peace with breaking Heartbreaking Bravery’s no first-person narrative rule when it comes to them for coverage. They’ve had a deeply personal impact and it’s not something that I take for granted. As both payback to them and as a kindness, when something as major as Say Yes to Love comes along, the only reaction I can offer is one that’s totally uninhibited. Where Meredith Graves lays her soul bare in the music, I’ll attempt to get to the core of mine in response. This isn’t some secondhand chore, either, it’s born of the same instinctively guttural nature so prominent in the band’s music. All of that, and reasons I’ll get to shortly, serves as enough reason to sever the ties of a faceless mask and dive into Say Yes to Love completely free of any filter that may impede personal sincerity.

That the crux of the last conversation I had with Graves was sincerity has been touched on before but is worth mentioning again to aid in some contextualization of Say Yes to Love. It’s a record full of unbridled confessionals, taking any notion of passivity and strangling it to death. Graves emerged as one of the more fearless lyricists out there last year with the release of the band’s career-making demo I have lost all desire for feeling.  There were no reservations about holding back or closing people out, it was a cathartic gut-spilling on a deeply personal level. More impressively, and this isn’t something that’s mentioned often, is that it was highly literate. Graves is an admitted Barthes disciple and a voracious reader and that continues to show itself in her lyrics. It’s part of what made I have lost all desire for feeling so arresting and it’s what helps push Say Yes to Love to even greater heights.

Say Yes to Love is a record that showcases a surprising depth of range for the band that was only previously hinted at. From “Driver“, their fucking firecracker of an opener, straight through to the pulsating damaged electronic looping of “VII”, there are moments that will legitimately stun (and completely baffle) a fair amount of anyone lucky enough to listen to it. While “Driver” has been covered before, it’s worth noting that the song only grows stronger with each consecutive listen. When the music gets heavy and Graves drags one syllable of some unintelligible word to the peak of the mix is still one of the most thrilling moments of music I’ve heard this year. Everything’s delivered at breakneck pace and, in an incredibly rare case, there are no diminishing returns to be found in its intensity. The same holds true for the rest of the band’s music, which is likely another reason they’re experiencing a growing groundswell of success.

Much like Rooms of the House, this is a record that doesn’t take its foot off the gas pedal and hurtles itself towards an unknown destination, almost hoping for total catastrophe. There’s never a moment on Say Yes to Love that isn’t blisteringly intense, even when it’s at its quietest (“Interference Fits“) or indulging in disorienting electronic work. There’s always an exhilarating sense of not giving a fuck and letting go. It doesn’t matter what’s being let go either- whether it be control, memories, defenses, or order, there’s a definite sense of freedom to be found here. All of Say Yes to Love feels like a feral animal that’s longed to escape for decades only to have woken up without any constraints. Each of these eight songs is rabid and wild-eyed, wrapped up in nothing but cathartic honesty and temperamental attitude.

Earlier tonight the band played a characteristically fierce set as part of NPR’s SXSW showcase before Graves and noisemaker Shaun Sutkus sat down with NPR afterwards to discuss many things. One of them was the shifting nature of punk and how that while it is something that’s continuously evolving, one thing’s always stayed relatively similar: the attitude. On this front, it’s difficult to think of a higher-visibility punk band so fully embracing that aspect of the genre’s undeniable aesthetic. While the band’s music certainly flirts with art punk and hardcore, they’re never going to shake the punk descriptor because of how deeply that attitude is embedded into their music. It’s something that moves past Graves’ stunning lyricism and Sutkus’ unconventional approach to the way they present themselves onstage both physically and verbally- it’s even apparent in Graves’ empathy, kindness, and open honesty offstage. There are no apologies, everything is unbridled and nothing is held back. It’s fucked up and it’s beautiful- which may be the perfect way to describe Say Yes to Love.

Finding beauty in the damaged aspects of life is one of Graves’ underlining messages, intentional or not, and it’s worth celebrating. It’s not all of an anxiety-inducing seriousness, though, there are definitely some aspects of pure joy and just-for-the-hell-of-it brand fun scattered throughout the band’s music. Whether it’s a sly turn-of-phase, a winking chord progression, lighting off firecrackers in a local park before running from the cops, or swirling Graves’ menstrual blood into clear vinyl LP’s for the deluxe release of Say Yes to Love, it’s abundantly clear that the band’s youthful nature is as spry as it ever was. It’s hard not to spot that sense of fun in the relentless 1-2-3 punch of “Bells”, “Big Stars”, and “Work”. “Bells” has a jumpy glee-inducing tempo-shifting ending, “Big Stars” has its tongue firmly planted in its cheek from the get-go (the title alone…), and “Work”, while being the most serious of a three song set intense enough to render anyone breathless, has a fun-as-hell (albeit ridiculously pulverizing) final minute. That “Work” has such a ridiculously high level of intensity is no mistake, as it precedes “Interference Fits”, not only the center piece of the record, not only Graves’ most personal moment, not only the band’s mot stunning accomplishment, but one of the outright best songs of the past several years.

When “Work” ends abruptly and trails off into feedback, it sets up the surprisingly gorgeous first section of “Interference Fits”, which has Graves exploring her deepest fears and desires in a very public forum. Then, it happens. One of my favorite moments of any song; a measure of silence. That silence comes directly after the record’s most devastating moment, that finds Graves pleading out into nothingness “Since when do we say yes to love?!” It’s a moment that allows the listener to pause and reflect on the gravity of that question, one that should hopefully open up an internal dialogue for anyone who’s ever doubted the various positions of love in everyday life. It’s also a moment of restraint from a band known for being exhaustively restless. Most importantly, though, it’s a reprieve that makes the ensuing back half of “Interference Fits” sound absolutely massive, unleashing a deep-seated moment of catharsis as the band goes off like a volcano and a cavalcade of vocals descend on the listener, interfering with each other, as if Graves is inviting us to her own personal struggle. It’s intensely voyeuristic and- prefaced with that measure of silence- all too real. I’ll forever be grateful that there’s nearly a full minute of feedback to close that song out, as it allows some time to regain stability and composure.

Following “Interference Fits” is Say Yes to Love‘s shortest track, “Dig”, which doesn’t even eclipse a minute and a half but does effectively work as a shot in the arm after the ridiculously powerful “Interference Fits” and the record’s next big moment- “Advance Upon the Real”. Having originally appeared on the wonderful Beyond Inversion compilation, “Advance Upon the Real” showcases both extremes of Perfect Pussy- the frenzied hardcore-influenced assault of the band at their most revved up and the minimal deconstruction that so often serve as the band’s buried soundbed. In the song’s opening minute and a half, it’s an all-out auditory blitz- but when it hits that 1:30 mark it scales back drastically, revealing an ambient drone that’s manipulated so perfectly it feels like a lost Eluvium track. When it yields control, the record reveals its most shocking moment: “VII”.

If Perfect Pussy hadn’t made the impression they were subversive, they’re certainly going to be wearing that tag proudly now. “VII” is, by a long stretch, the most jarring and outright insane thing they’ve committed to a recording. The only point of reference that I can possibly think of for the almost nightmarish sound experimentation that takes place in “VII” is Giles Corey’s Deconstructionist, a 90+ minute sound experiment designed to induce trances, possession states, and out-of-body experiences that actually required instructional literature to guide the listener through the preparation. While, granted, “VII” is nowhere near as intensive on anything to be found in Deconstructionist, it skews closer to that than, say, the most unsettling points of Tim Hecker’s Virgins. It’s an extremely unsettling end to a record that lives up to and surpasses a few dozen mountains worth of expectations. With “VII”, Perfect Pussy manages to shatter any misconceptions about barriers they’re willing to cross. For Say Yes to Love, largely a positive record, to end on a note of sustained ambient menace (Graves’ vocals only appear briefly, distorted almost beyond recognition, rattling off bulletin points – among other things) is just the right level of total insanity to up the respective levels of anticipation on whatever the band does next (still waiting on more news of that split 7″ with Joanna Gruesome).

Once Say Yes to Love plays itself out, it’s almost impossible to not want to dive right back into it. It’s a record that’s built for exploring. Once again, Graves has held up a mirror to herself and the world will be poised to see themselves in it as well. There are oceans of things to relate to that are littered throughout Say Yes to Love. They’re all on open display, Graves is under the knife, guitars are splicing her open and the drums are pushing everyone further into their respective roles. “Driver”, “Advance Upon the Real”, and especially “Interference Fits” all feel more vibrant and alive as part of a masterfully sequenced and paced collection, while all of the new songs strike nerves deep enough to become memorable. None of the band’s immediacy has been sacrificed and- if anything- they sound simultaneously more joyous and more pissed off than they ever have before. With their increasing levels of visibility, Say Yes to Love also seems poised to deepen the divide between those celebrating the band and those mercilessly deriding it. Be prepared to have an opinion and back it up because this band isn’t going away anytime soon- and as long as they keep making music this good, I’ll be one of the people on the rooftops, shouting their praises as loud as I possibly can.

Stream Say Yes to Love over at NPR’s First Listen series and pick the record up when it comes out on 3/18 via Captured Tracks. “Interference Fits” can be streamed below.