Your Heart Breaks – America – 2015

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America begins without any cushion. Drummer Chris McFarlane and singer/guitarist Clyde Petersen trip beat- and lyrics-first into the first verse of “Should’ve Known Better” and from there it’s the free-fall off of a two-story roof, the bruised breathlessness upon thudding, the embarrassment and gratefulness of being mostly ok.

Petersen has carried the Your Heart Breaks project from Bloomington to Seattle and a few other bases, but the geography of America is even vaster, transcontinental. Hearing this rainy northwestern band give life to stories of Florida, New Jersey, Arizona is wildly refreshing. The album is equal parts road-trip anthem and hometown lament. Characters are “drunk on blood and small-town power.” They’re driven away by escapist necessity, but eventually reclaimed by instincts “like homing pigeons.” Like any artistic reckoning with America worth its (Atlantic/Pacific/McDonald’s french fry) salt, the romance of America isn’t delivered through polemics or nostalgia or denial, but through the characters, by living in it. Listen to the details Petersen pumps into these songs and try not to fall in love. Kids in Phoenix chugging cans of warm energy drink. Someone’s first hurricane season. A yellow Jaguar with leopard-print seats. Decades of gay jokes. Slow internet. 64-oz margarita Miami. Near-future neo-Atlantis-Miami. Punks and queers in every state. California.

A clunky attempt at triangulation: it’s as melodically perfect as Drag the River, piercing as Steve Earle’s El Corazon and confident as Joni Mitchell’s Court and Spark. For a better idea, listen to the songs below.

Shoulda Known Better

The Echo and the Ocean

1999

Listen and buy America on digital and CD from Your Heart Breaks’ bandcamp. Check out Petersen’s web series Boating with Clyde and discover a bunch of great songwriters.

P.S.: Karl Blau–frequent YHB collaborator–contributes some of his best saxophone work to date, especially on “The Echo and the Ocean.”

Broken Water – Wrought – 2015

wrought

Karl Blau–prolific songwriter from Anacortes WA–made a cool album a few years ago wherein he played grunge versions of songs written by women who influence him. He covered songs by a lot of my favorites–heroes of the pacific-northwest K-Records scene that a young southeastern sun-sickened boy like me mythologized–Mirah, Jean Smith of Mecca Normal, Lois Maffeo, Laura Veirs, Khaela Maricich of The Blow, and Ashley Eriksson of Lake. One songwriter I didn’t recognize was Konako Pooknyw (who sometimes credits herself reversely as “Wynkoop”) of Olympia WA bands Sisters and Broken Water. Her song “Michael Row” leads off Blau’s album, a testament to her place in a newer Olympia mythology.

Though Broken Water’s discography stretches back over five years, Wrought is their first new release since I learned about them. And what an entry point it is. Wrought finds Pooknyw trading off songs with collaborator Jon Hanna, creating a whirlpool of murky, kelp-entangled rock. The trade-off powers the album through at an excellent pace. Hanna’s voice reverberates between Lou Barlow and Bob Mould; Pooknyw’s hits closer to Doug Martsch’s slippery heaviness. Even within many of Wrought‘s songs, there’s a vacillation between noisy and sugary messes–earthquake begetting tidal wave. This collection is not to be missed. Accessible doses of pop destruction are great to come by.
High-Lo

Psycho Static

Find the LP on Midheaven, the digital from Amazon and iTunes, and the rest of Broken Water’s catalogue on their bandcamp.