Heartbreaking Bravery

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Tag: Yoni Wolf

WHY? – Please take me home, I don’t belong here. (Music Video)

In the mid-2000’s, Yoni Wolf decided to turn a solo pseudonym into a full band and WHY? set off on charting one of the most fascinating career paths of any band in recent memory. After that 2004 turning point, WHY? would release what are widely, but quietly, hailed as classics in Elephant Eyelash and Alopecia, two chameleon-esque records that veer in and out of hip-hop, folk, indie rock, alt-pop, ambient, and a long list of other genres.

A dedicated fanbase sprang up in the wake of those two releases, prompting investigations into the group-specific slang that dominated Wolf’s lyrics. People forged intense, meaningful relationship with the work on display, which felt so offbeat yet intensely personal. “Suicide notes” was a phrase that was tossed around when it came to dissecting the band’s narratives, sometimes sung, sometimes rapped, sometimes whispered, and the hypnotically kaleidoscopic music behind those words elevated them further to an extent that came off as genuinely inspired.

Past those two releases, the band took on a few new forms and shapes, which unsurprisingly drew waves of conflicting opinions between the project’s most faithful listeners. Eskimo Snow, one of the band’s most gorgeously arranged and beautifully produced records, gave some fans pause as it found the band embracing their quietest sensibilities. The fans who loved that record, in turn, were thrown ajar by the band’s subsequent works which largely skewed more confrontational and abrasive, yet no one seemed to want to stop listening to any of it altogether.

Some EP’s, LP’s, and one-off’s after their attention-ensnaring run of early material, the band have arrived at AOKOHIO, which they’ve unveiled by parcel through video sequences that tackle the forthcoming record sequentially. While movements I and II were both fascinating in their own right, it’s movement III, Please take me home, I don’t belong here., that did the most damage.

Ostensibly, Please take me home, I don’t belong here., serves as somewhat of an open-hearted love letter to Wolf’s brother and extraordinarily gifted bandmate Josiah, whose contributions to WHY?’s instrumental template over the years have proved invaluable. Additionally, this run of songs also seems to be a half-buried plea for self-preservation. Miles Joris-Peyrafitte serves as the director and elevates each note with the type of grace and sensitivity that the subject matter deserves, turning the entire affair into a spellbinding treatsie on the nature of life, emphasizing its finite nature to an extraordinary degree without ever becoming hamfisted.

“The Launch”, “High Dive”, “Mr. Fifth’s Plea”, and “Good Fire” are the songs that are covered in the movement and each exemplifies the best qualities of WHY?, drawing directly from the past to shape their present. Please take me home, I don’t belong here. understands that relationship and navigates it deftly, allowing the clip’s subtext to suggest that beyond extending Wolf’s continued fatalistic obsessions, the end results can be boiled down to the micro and applied to the history of the band.

Footage of Wolf miming along to the song alone in a chair are interspersed with unearthed home movies of the Wolf brothers as young children, flooding the clip with the type of tenderness that so often bleeds into shattering emotional recognition. And sure enough, by the time the sequence comes to a close, it’s difficult not to be fighting back some stray tears. More than just being exceptionally well-crafted and executed, Please take me home, I don’t belong here. feels important; the product of a mind that’s always had too much to say to make room for the truths that too often go unsaid.

Gripping, tense, and deeply empathetic, Please take me home, I don’t belong here. stands firm as one of 2019’s most unexpected gut-punches. A devastating reminder of WHY?’s commitment to not only exploring their own artistry but the nature of humanity, dropping the sardonic wit that’s so often accompanied their incisive past self-examinations to simply lay every card on the table, look up, and allow something in that’s rarely appeared throughout their discography: hope.

Watch “Please take me home, I don’t belong here.” below and pre-order AOKOHIO here.

WHY? – The Barely Blur (Music Video)

The first two days of this week have ushered forth excellent music videos from GospelbeacH, Top Down, Pulgas, The Tambo Rays, Rodes Rollins, Sparks, Demure for Sure, Smidley, Kikagaku Moyo, Justus Profit, and Honeyfitz. WHY? also joined in on the fun, releasing an inventive, vivid clip for Moh Lhean‘s gorgeous closing track, “The Barely Blur”. Colorful, thought-provoking, and straddling the realm of the surreal, “The Barely Blur” joins a very distinctive line of videos that the project’s unleashed over the course of their career.

Utilizing intimate footage of joggers (underscoring the band’s long-held interest in fitness regimens) largely presented in intense close-ups, “The Barely Blur” taps into something ethereal off the bat. It’s a sensibility that’s heightened by both the song’s casually epic sweep and the digital footage that’s intercut with the more human elements. In exploring the duality between its two core paradoxes (grandeur vs. modesty and artificial vs. organic), “The Barely Blur” touches on something intangible, wisely choosing to observe and present rather than to solve. It’s a heady, gorgeous, mind-bending trip and it’s another solid entry into an enviable artistic output.

Watch “The Barely Blur” below and pick up Moh Lhean from Joyful Noise here.

Mitski – Happy (Music Video)

Mitski IV

Over the past handful of days, several notable music videos have found release. Yoni & Geti (who almost claimed this post’s featured spot thanks to the editing alone), Band of Horses, Mumblr, Dead Stars, Fear of Men, Gemma Ray, Nicholas Allbrook, Atoms and Void, SomosCate Le Bon, Omni, Thin Lips, Braids, and The Good Life Ben Seretan, all had clips deserving of multiple looks and Steve Gunn offered up an endearing lyric video. There was even a Henry Rollins-starring trailer for a new Dinosaur Jr record. Ultimately, it was the latest clip from Mitski that earned this post’s feature.

Following the unforgettable “Your Best American Girl” clip would’ve been a daunting task for any artist (or filmmaker) but “Happy” accomplishes it with astonishing ease. Directed by the inimitable Maegan Houang — whose work has been praised on this site before and likely will again — “Happy” creates a challenging narrative that touches on everything from personal intimacy to self-doubt to self-loathing to gender politics and race relations (among others).

Exquisitely shot and paced, the story unfolds delicately, revealing a growing wound between a woman and her military husband. Suspicions are confirmed and the wound grows deeper, creating a tightly-wound level of tension that’s only drawn tighter as the clip progresses. Fueling the atmosphere is Houang’s assured direction, giving nods to legendary filmmakers like Wong Kar-wai and Alfred Hitchcock along the way, layering on the cues to subtly underscore the passage of time.

Everything in “Happy” feels like it’s heading towards some climactic moment, a confrontation that exists on a purely personal basis. While that climactic moment does arrive, “Happy” manages to successfully subvert those expectations while remaining true to the heart of the video. At first blush, the final sequence may not seem overtly personal but dig deep enough and it becomes heartbreaking in its symbolism.

Those final moments are full of untold tragedy, harsh reality, and keen awareness. It’s terrifying and confrontational all at once, full of a well-placed rage that imbues the entire affair with a passion that retroactively alters every one of the clip’s preceding vignettes. One of the most satisfying narrative presentations the format’s had in recent memory, “Happy” winds up being more than masterful; it’s legitimately memorable. Easily one of 2016’s finest clips, “Happy” demonstrates Mitski’s taste and convictions in equal measure, ultimately culminating in one of the artist’s finest offerings to date.

Watch “Happy” below and pre-order Puberty 2 here.

March 2016: The Streams

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In keeping with the past several recap posts, a lot of material will be listed below. I wish I could have granted each of these individual songs more words than just a generic introductory paragraph extolling their high quality of work but time can be extremely cruel and leave few desirable options. March was an extraordinary month for music, if you knew where to look and could spare the investment. Below is a list of the individual streams that surfaced during the month, each one worth several looks.

Once again, there’s simply too much material to consume in one sitting so this page is best experienced via a bookmark and return explorations. Following this post, the site will be running a premiere or two and then lists of the very best streams and live videos of 2016’s first quarter but until then, taking a trip through the below titles should be a rewarding experience that keeps everyone occupied. You may even find a new favorite band. Happy hunting. 

The Sun Days – Get Him Off Your Mind | Loco Ono – Sunny Day | Kidsmoke – Heartache | Summer Cannibals – Say My Name | Peter Bjorn and John – Breakin’ Point | Diarrhea Planet – Life Pass | A Place To Bury Strangers – Oh No / Cool Sensations / Gong Home | Marisa Anderson – Into the Light | Pinkwash – Longer Now | Polonium – Tuberculosis | Psychic Teens – End | Magic Potion – Milk | Yoni & Geti – Lunchline | Eagulls – Skipping | The Thermals – Thinking of You | Holy Now – Wake Up | Crow’s Feet – Surge // Swell

Fews – 100 Goosebumps | ShitKid – 666 | Museum Mouth – Incubus Tattoo | Haybaby – Joke/Rope | Jay Arner – Crystal Ball | Mo Kenney – Mountains to the Mess | Oberhofer – Alone Man | Hockey Dad – So Tired | Pacific Heights (ft. Louis Baker) – Buried by the Burden | Moonface and Siinai – Risto’s Riff | Patrick LaBahn – Equanimity | Scott Yoder – Looking Back In Blue | The Coathangers – Squeeki TikiSofia Härdig – Streets | The Person & The People – Hot Summer Nights | Megafauna – Desire | ANGEL DU$T – UPSIDE DOWN

Lattice Moore – Superused | Pinkwash – Burning Too | New Madrid – Darker Parts | Big Deal – Say Yes | Mrs. Magician – No Action | Small Circle – Please Don’t Touch the Moon | Greater Pyrenees – Homemade Blood | Blondfire – Domino | Former Belle – Honey Bee | Parker Millsap – The Very Last Day | Puce Mary – Night Is A Trap II | Turnover – Change Irreversible | Lontalius – I Was More Than | Iska Dhaaf – Invisible CitiesOdonis Odonis – Needs | Beach Skulls – Dreamin’ Blue | Peder (ft. Oh Land) – Still Life | MOURN – Storyteller

Eliza Shaddad – Always | Follin – Memories | Ghost King – Bones 1 & 2 | Steady Holiday – Open Water | Trace – Honey | Guided By Voices – My Zodiac Companion | Former Belle – I Woke Up In Chicago | Gabriel Bruce – Metal Soul | Margo Price – Hands of Time | Krano – Mi E Ti | Head Wound City – Born to Burn | Grayling – Empath | Tuff Slang – Nothing All the Time | Morly – PluckySelf Defense Family – Baby Mother Home | Jack Frederick – In My Dreams | John Doe (ft. Debbie Harry) – Go Baby Go | Modern Baseball – Everyday

Chris Cohen – In A Fable | John Dillon – Holy Fool | Ben Millburn – Hold Up | Amanda Palmer – Machete | James Bishop – Another Day | Lisa Prank – Starting Again | Foals – Rain | Arthur Moor – Wind Up | Hayes Carll – The Magic Kid | Russian Baths – Ambulance | Colleen Green – Between the Lines | P.O.S. – sleepdrone/superposition | Colin Stetson – SORROW III (Extract II)Idle Bloom – Good Hope (Demo) | Snow Roller – Cycling | case/lang/veirs – Best Kept Secret | Ashley Shadow – Tired | Beverly – Contact | Dowsing – Dissolve

Yeasayer – Gerson’s Whistle | OCCY – No Way | Iska Dhaaf – Lost | ANGEL DU$T – STAY | Darla and the Blonde – Vampyr | BOYFRNDZ – Hiatus | Summer Heart – The Forbidden | Phosphene – Wild Decay | Mt. Wolf – St. Michael | Seratones – Chandelier | Martha’s View – Baby In Vain | Dowsing – Kept Me Around | Victoria+Jean – Takes You Like A Rose | Dal Niente & Deerhoof – meltDown Upshot: 6. Cherubim (Marcos Balter) | Miserable – Violet

Home for the Holidays & A Guide to Surviving (Mixtape 001)

Well, it’s been a brief but substantial fifty day run and this, the 50th post, seemed as good a place as any to celebrate something so small and meaningless. To that end, Heartbreaking Bravery is offering up its first official mixtape; Home for the Holidays. Look for one every fifty posts. Some will have themes, some will just serve as reviews for the past near-two-months of coverage the site provides.

Home for the Holidays was a unique challenge. For the songs to qualify they had to fit within the general aesthetic of what Heartbreaking Bravery would normally cover- they would also have to mention Christmas without being a Christmas-specific song. All of these songs are here for a reason and deserve to be heard. A welcome alternative to the endless barrage of the same twenty songs getting played in seemingly every location. Both the mixtape and the accompanying guide to surviving are below.


1. Tenement – Spit in the Wind

Did anyone honestly expect this list to start with anything else? It’s no secret how this site feels about this band. They’ve mastered the exploration of lower middle-class difficulty and it really comes through on the chorus of this Napalm Dream standout. “Father pissing on the Christmas tree, suicide for the family” is a masterclass in both explicit and implicit imagery as well as tone-setting.

2. The Wombats – Moving to New York

Sleep-deprivation, needless excitement, and suspecting disappointment. “Looks like Christmas came early” has never sounded so true. 

3. Sundials – Christmas Day

One of 2013’s most exceptional compilations was the collection of Sundials songs from 2009 to 2012. “Christmas Day” closed the collection out with flare, emphasizing how ugly financial situations can be made ten times worse by the holidays with a surprising amount of verve. 

4. The Weakerthans – Exiles Among You

The Weakerthans were (are?) one of the most consistently impressive bands on the circuit and released a few records that qualify as classics. On their standout sophomore effort Left & Leaving was this gem, that included a heartbreaking moment where the protagonist shoplifts for Christmas and ignores her family. A perfectly executed example of estrangement.

5. Titus Andronicus – No Future Part Three: Escape From No Future

On Titus Andronicus’ masterpiece The Monitor, the band managed to cover an endless arsenal of subjects. One of the strongest moments in a record full of them was “No Future Part Three” with its rapid shifts in pace and tone. There’s anger, there’s grim determination, a palpable sense of sadness, and a devastating Christmas list. 

6. Neutral Milk Hotel – Two-Headed Boy

One of 2013’s biggest moments was the return of Neutral Milk Hotel, prompting many to revisit In the Aeroplane, Over the Sea and “Two-Headed Boy” in particular. That song contains a fierce ending of bitter abandonment set under Christmas trees, elevating the importance of the act. Brutal, harsh, and brilliant. 

7. Waxahatchee – Rose, 1956

There are very few records as pointed and barbed as American Weekend, a record that’s only managed to grow stronger with time. “Rose, 1956” stands out for a variety of reasons but the mention of Christmas Eve at the song’s opening drives home how specific it is, which makes it more revealing in turn. 

8. Bon Iver – Blood Bank

Bon Iver is almost too obvious of a choice for this but it’s hard to look past the muted elegiac title-track of the band’s sole EP. Not only do the levels of wistfulness feel appropriate but the song nicely underscores the possibility of truly understanding difficult moments. One of Bon Iver’s most stunning moments. 

9. Why? – The Fall of Mr. Fifths

Why? have always managed to effortlessly evoke very specific feelings with their arrangements alone. Yoni Wolf’s lyrics generally accentuate that feeling masterfully and “Mr. Fifths” is no exception. There’s an underlying theme of fear and obsession here that touches on the rising death rates that surround the holiday season. 

10. The Hold Steady – One for the Cutters

Quite possibly The Hold Steady’s most inventive moment, this harpsichord-driven tale paints the most realistic portrait of the sort of culture that exists in the shadows the band has managed in years. An absolutely stunning achievement that culminates in the central character’s defeated-beyond-reason return to her family at Christmas. 

11. Sparklehorse – Little Fat Baby

Mark Linkous’ penchant for subtlety resonates throughout this song, in part an understated allegory about (seemingly) the prominence of Christmas. It’s a subdued-yet-jarring yarn that feels intensely personal. 

12. Belle & Sebastian – I Don’t Love Anyone

Fleeting moments of self-doubt and occasional resentment spring up in early winter more than anyone would like to admit. Self-evaluation becomes a bitter process and all of the potential disappointment can manifest itself outwards. The best way to deal with it is just to acknowledge it and move on.

13. The National – It Never Happened

“We look younger than we feel and older than we are” is a beyond perfect way to describe the holiday hangover that’s constantly present, lingering around the corner. The easygoing pace of “It Never Happened” mirrors the pose some people will themselves into just to survive the rougher patches.

14. Okkervil River – Where the Spirit Left Us

The first of of two Okkervil songs on this list, “Where the Spirit Left Us” pinpointed a certain kind of well-informed nostalgia that was brought to life in a dazzlingly vivid manner. There’s a small-town longing that matches up nicely with the resigned minutiae  surrounding any large family gathering.

15. The Weakerthans – My Favorite Chords

John K. Samson does environmental setting better than almost anyone penning lyrics today. The fact that The Weakerthans can often be described as wintry only heightens the reason for this song’s inclusion.

16. Tom Waits – Christmas Card From A Hooker in Minneapolis

A wildcard among these 21 tracks, “Christmas Card From A Hooker in Minneapolis” qualifies based on the title, not a lyric contained within the song. One of Waits’ most towering achievements and one of the best moments on his classic Blue Valentine.

17. Ben Folds Five – Brick

Did you really expect this not to make the list? It’s a song about the aftermath of a Christmas Eve abortion. One of the most frighteningly realistic songs in recent memory. At the very least, let this one invoke deep sympathy.

18. Palace Songs – Christmastime in the Mountains

Okkervil River artist Will Schaff brought this song to the list as it was experiencing a rough draft dating back to last December. “Christmastime in the Mountains” is stark, beautiful, and nicely summarizes the empty feelings that can occasionally hit at this time of year.

19. Why? – Kevin’s Cancer

Yoni Wolf has been operating in his own territory for a long time now. This is the second Why? song to be included but the way Wolf and company operate only furthers situational reality. 

20. Elliott Smith – King’s Crossing

From A Basement on Hill bafflingly exists simultaneously as one of the most personal and impersonal records to be released in the past 15 years. It’s posthumous status elevates the impact of searingly revealing songs, yet those involved with it say that the record was far from finished and released with only the mixes Elliott had left behind when he tragically passed away. “King’s Crossing” stands out as one of the record’s most personal (and most biting) moments, reflecting the holiday’s darker spirit.

21. Okkervil River – Calling and Not Calling My Ex

This is the song that inspired the idea for this collection several years back. It’s Sheff at his most pointed. Sleigh bells in the background offer up an ever fuller world-building experience for an environment surrounding the introspection that often hits hardest towards the end of the year.

Happy Holidays.

HB