Heartbreaking Bravery

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Tag: You Can’t Always Be Liked

Midnight Reruns – Force of Nurture (Album Review, Stream)

Midnight Reruns IV

Formatted in the same pattern as the last post due to the time constraints that CMJ prompted, the full streams collected in the interim from regularly scheduled coverage are listed at the very bottom of this post. It’s a decision that also allows the sole focus to be placed on Midnight Reruns‘ incredible sophomore effort, Force of Nurture. It’s worth noting that this is a band I’ve had the privilege of tracking since around the time of their first EP‘s release, which precedes this site’s existence, and they were one of the bands I created Heartbreaking Bravery to celebrate (they’ll always have the distinction of being the first band ever to appear on Watch This, which has now run for 100 segments).

During that time, I’ve been fortunate enough to catch a number of the band’s explosive live shows, which have– with good reason– mostly veered towards the material on Force of Nurture. The band put together a nice pre-release run for the album, including a very strong EP and the release of two of 2015’s best songs in “There’s An Animal Upstairs” and “Canadian Summer“. As good as all of those items were, they’d fail to suggest the extent of Force of Nurture‘s sheer weight, even if they were packaged together.

In a statement issued to Substream, who hosted the record’s premiere, guitarist/vocalist Graham Hunt spoke of the loss of a close personal friend, an event that reverberates throughout the record with a staggering force. It’s most noticeably present in the record’s connecting thematic elements; uncertainty, regret, struggle, and loss. Even Force of Nurture‘s most ostensibly positive moments come with the caveat of being opaque enough to suggest there could be a tremendously dark underlying subtext.

Aside from the record’s earned weariness, the compositions far exceed what the band accomplished on their extremely impressive self-titled debut, which is no mean feat. A very palpable debt to The Replacements is heavily reinforced by Force of Nurture‘s credits, which list Tommy Stinson (one of the group’s earliest supporters) as the record’s producer. While there are still aspects of the Thin Lizzy twin-lead dynamic that were so often cited in regards to their earlier work, the band leans more heavily on their Big Star influence this time around to exhilarating effect.

Hunt, as hinted at above, turns in a jaw-dropping lyric sheet that expertly bridges the record’s muted optimism with its struggles in solipism. Everything, down to our own most microbiological functions, is put on trial; no answers are granted and the questions that are posed cut deep. Debauchery runs rampant but the band never lets its determination flag, committing to “making people laugh” even in their bleakest moments.

As relentlessly dark as this is all sounding, the band still finds a way to present themselves through fiery guitar work, sun-soaked melodies, and propulsive rhythm section work that lends the proceedings the kind of vibrancy that renders Force of Nurture an addictive listen. It’s mid-section run, in particular, somehow manages to pull off a relative weightlessness in the face of its tragic, bruised lyricism. Whether its something like the strained relationship at the crux of “Where’s Ace?” or the dreamlike self-aggrandizement of “Sky Blue Water” that ends in a tragicomic defeat, there’s a very peculiar bite to the record that makes it feel deeply personal and unflinchingly vital.

By the time the band’s exhausted their arsenal of incredibly effective hooks (the only 2015 records I can think of that have approached being even remotely close to this successful in that sense are Sweet John Bloom’s Weird Prayer and Dogs On Acid’s self-titled), they’ve run an exhaustive gamut of hard-earned lessons and navigated the journey with a wary resiliency. As they well know, and devastatingly note on “Great Southern Rail”, the record’s sprawling eight minute closer, sometimes all it takes is just one gunshot.

As a personal exercise, Force of Nurture feels therapeutic in a way that seemed to be crushingly necessary. As a standalone full-length, it’s essential. Easily one of 2015’s most invigorating, affirming, and incendiary records, Force of Nurture aim goes far beyond most band’s goals and they hit their mark with a memorable emphasis. So, as things get difficult, depression lingers, houses burn, friends are lost, and seasons vanish to a place beyond recovery, we now have a deeply empathetic record to help us through those times. For that, we collectively owe Midnight Reruns a debt of gratitude- and a place for Force of Nurture in our collections.

Listen to Force of Nurture below and order a copy from Dusty Medical here. Beneath the embed, explore a list of some of the finest records to find release over the past few weeks.

Trust Fund – Seems Unfair
Laura Stevenson – Cocksure
Petal – Shame
Jonathan Bree – A Little Night Music
Ex-Breathers – Past Tense
Modern Baseball – Holy Ghost
Slanted – Lost Forever: B-Sides From Forever
Sleep Kit – Standby Me
Postcode – The Dandelion Radio Session
Wendy Alembic – Collected Early Works
Sports – All of Something
Community Records Compilation Vol. 5
Witch Coast – Burnt Out By 3PM
Walter – Get Well Soon
The Love Coffin – Veranda
Spray Paint – Dopers
Julien Baker – Sprained Ankle
Expert Alterations – You Can’t Always Be Liked
Alien Boy – Never Getting Over It
Dyke Drama – Tender Resignation
Florist – Vacation
Stumpf – Barf Radio
Greys – Repulsion
Haybaby – Sleepy Kids
Dead Painters – Aluminum Gold

Midnight Reruns – There’s An Animal Upstairs (Stream)

Midnight Reruns IV

It’s been a long while since an individual song was featured on this site, a happenstance that’s left the floodgates open and the banks flooded. To that end, there’s a long list of those songs that will be included over the majority of the next few posts- all of those outpourings will, as always, will be accompanied by a featured song. This post’s headlined by a band that’s no stranger to this site but still relatively unknown to the listening world at large: Midnight Reruns.

The band’s sophomore full-length, following an extremely promising debut and a sophomore EP that expanded on that promise, was produced by Tommy Stinson and is due out in a few weeks on Dusty Medical (their first for the label). It’s a hard-charging burst of hook-heavy, punk-leaning rock n’ roll that sounds distinctly Midwest and the assault is led by the surging “There’s An Animal Upstairs”, which– nearly impossibly– also benefits from a genuine sense of breeziness.

Marked by the band’s characteristically formidable dual-guitar attack (something that’s earned them more than a few Thin Lizzy comparisons) and guitarist/vocalist Graham Hunt’s increasingly impressive lyrics, “There’s An Animal Upstairs” takes the already raised bar and kicks it up a few levels. Highlighting this ongoing evolution are the opening lines of a chorus section that floored me on first, second, and 40th listen: “I can feel my proteins burn/and I can feel my atoms/I can feel my stomach churn/and overflow with acid”- a section that hints at what the rest of the album has to offer.

Riding their usual crest of half-drunk Replacements heroics, the song also finds the Milwaukee quartet deepening their grasp on dynamics as well. Everything about “There’s An Animal Upstairs” clicks so well that it practically justifies the awed pre-release compliments its been picking up on its own power. There’s a certain sense of identity that accompanies the song, lending it a considerable amount of power and furthering its immediacy.

Every shift the song takes is maximized for its fullest impact, with each of those hairpin turns navigated with a precision that somehow compliments the songs giddy, shambolic aesthetic. It’s a song of conflicting components that continuously find surprising ways to reconcile and ensure that “There’s An Animal Upstairs” isn’t just great but genuinely memorable. An earworm with an incredible amount of substance, it’s also one of the best songs of the year and should prove more than a little helpful in ensuring Midnight Reruns their proper place on the map.

Listen to “There’s An Animal Upstairs” below, pre-order Force of Nurture from Dusty Medical here, and scan through a long list of some great recent songs beneath the embed.

Joanna Newsom – Leaving the City
Helvetia – Crumbs Like Saucers
Saul Williams – Horn of the Clock-Bike
Gun Outfit – Dream All Over
Jono McCleery – This Idea of Us
Primitive Parts – Troubles
Emilie Levienaise-Farrouch – Strelka
Seratones – Necromancer
Vision – Inneraction
Black Abba – Betting on Death
BREVE – Movement
Little Fevers – Make It Easy
Historian – Pulled Over
Ex-Breathers – Car
Expert Alterations – You Can’t Always Be Liked
Keeps – I Don’t Mind
Operator – Requirements
Lust For Youth – Better Looking Brother
Bethlehem Steel – 87s
NØMADS – Traumatophobia
Wavves – Pony
Frankie Cosmos – Sand
Prom Body – Ultimate Warrior
Billie Marten – Bird 
Hazel English – Fix
Cheatahs – Signs to Lorelei
Black Honey – Corrine
Joseph Giant – On the Run
Swings – Tiles
Kinsey – Youth
Woozy – Gilding the Lily
Casket Girls – Sixteen Forever
Mal Blum – Robert Frost
Palmas – I Want To Know (Your Love)
Let’s Say We Did – Sometimes Every Second Is A Dream
Go Deep – Palms
Spencer Radcliffe – Mermaid
Evil Wizardry – Ajax Takes Both
Tracks – Moonlight
Skinny Girl Diet – Silver Spoons
Black Lips – Freedom Fries
Decorations – Girls
Alex Chilltown – Cwtch
SULK – Black Infinity (Upside Down)
Air Waves (ft. Jana Hunter) – Thunder
Microwave – Thinking of you,
Long Beard – Dream
Softspot – Abalone
Dan Friel – Life (Pt. I)
Oberhofer – Sun Halo
Club 8 – Love Dies