The Half Cloth Guide to the Count Your Lucky Stars Records Moving Sale
by Chad Jewett
Michigan-based modern emo curators and ultra-indie success story Count Your Lucky Stars Records are having an enormous sale this month (10-to-50% off, and running through August 31st). As longtime fans of the label – and precisely the sort of people who will likely be earmarking half a paycheck for this sale – we decided to offer our shortlist of discounted CYLS Records releases you should catch up on:
Football, etc. – Audible
Gorgeously homespun and poignantly confessional, Football etc.’s 2013 full-length Audible felt like the culmination of a three year period that saw the earth-toned Houston trio building greater and greater versions of their reedy pastoral emo, forming more and more striking versions of their crisp, rolling synthesis of The Promise Ring and Takeoffs & Landings. Now in its second pressing (you can choose between Gold and Clear variants), Audible already seems like one of those records that will be adored ten years from now, and remains striking a year on.
Recommended tracks: “Fair”, “Audible”, “Time Out”
Annabel – Youth In Youth
If you’re even a casual reader of Half Cloth, you’ve likely heard us write and speak about Annabel’s 2012 album in hushed, reverent tones. Condensing the bittersweet, American mythos of The Beach Boys into Saves The Day shapes and complicating the results with the suburban critique of Deseparecidos and Criteria, Youth In Youth remains one of the two or three most ambitious and finely-crafted records of the emo renaissance. Even more incredible is the fact that this archetypal stuff ends up as dense, thrilling pop music, almost elementally catchy as it is conceptually challenging.
Recommended tracks: “Young American”, “Anti-Decisions”, “Our Days Were Numbered”
Kind of Like Spitting – 100 Dollar Room
One of several excellent reissues by Count Your Lucky Stars (check out Benton Falls’ Fighting Starlight as well), 100 Dollar Room, the 2002 album from cult indie-pop favorites Kind of Like Spitting has founds its way into the aesthetic of many a current CYLS alum. Singular yet profoundly pleasurable, idiosyncratic yet underrated in its influence, 100 Dollar Room now plays like the bridge between Pinkerton and modern breakthroughs like The Hotelier’s Home, Like NoPlace Is There and Empire! Empire!’s recent You Will Eventually Be Forgotten.
Recommended Tracks: “One Bird, One Stone”, “Scene”, “Pick A Town, Find A Box, Live Alone”
Brave Bird – T-Minus Grand Gesture
Arriving as the Michigan band’s final statement (the quartet would break up shortly after the LP’s release), Brave Bird’s T-Minus Grand Gesture was a fitting coda. Like the band, T-Minus is cerebral and enigmatic, embracing yet aloof, and fascinatingly hard to categorize. Spanning gorgeously textured stretches of quiet indie-pop rumination (“I Don’t Wanna Know”, “Rekindle”) through heart-skip pop-punk (“Macaroni Time”) and alt-country inflected Midwestern emo (“Hard Enough”), Brave Bird closed out their short run by summarizing past ideas and leaving the enthralling traces of future breakthroughs.
Recommended Tracks: “Rekindle”, “TMINUSGRANDGESTURE”, “Hard Enough”
Joie de Vivre – We’re All Better Than This
Following up the radiant, twilit emo sparkle of the already-classic The North End with a denser, more muscular sound, Joie De Vivre’s We’re All Better Than This ended up working past one emo narrative (the horn-and-arpeggio footprints of American Football) and ending up in another – the condensed follow-up patterned by The Promise Ring’s Very Emergency or Rainer Maria’s A Better Version of Me. But as has always been the case with Joie de Vivre, there is much to recommend about the imaginative touch that the Michigan quintet brings to post-hardcore’s stylistic totems – for instance, the Sufjan Steven’s dramatic flare of ““Going To A Going Away Party,” a clever deconstruction of a twenty year catalog of the emo Midwest.
Recommended Tracks: “I Was Sixteen Ten Years Ago”, “Going To A Going Away Party”, “Who Cares”
Two Knights – Shut Up
A staggering revitalization of emo at its most mathematic and self-immolating, Texas duo Two Knights released one of the finest albums of this year on the fearless, moving, and incredibly re-playable Shut Up. Able to nimbly pivot between painful-sounding squalls of shouted autobiography into sparkling arpeggios or pop climaxes, Shut Up is melodic post-hardcore at its most intuitive, flexible, and poignant, the brainy graph-work of math rock somehow made to express deeply human foibles and anxieties. With their debut full-length (still in its first pressing!!), Two Knights approach three decades of emo, indie rock, and art music and turn the whole thing into dazzling, jazz-timed confetti.
Recommended Tracks: “Just Pick a Dead End and Chill Out Till You Die”, “Dear God, This Parachute is a Knapsack”, “Leave My Body in Milwaukee”