Watch This: Vol. 7
by Steven Spoerl
Traditionally, the first week or so of a new year is one of the slowest (if not the absolute slowest) for notable music items. Fortunately for everyone, there are some places that cease to stop producing incredible content and just barrel on forward. Which is why the main section in this week’s edition of Watch This only features full sets from one of the most incomparable institutions in music; KEXP. Year after year the Seattle radio station has been providing the most incredible live sessions (audio and video) this side of NPR. The past week or so has been no exception and served as a strong reminder of what makes 90.3 so important. Enjoy.
Wimps, a local Seattle band, raised one hell of a racket last year and found themselves in more than one basement punk enthusiasts top 10 list. They’re an intriguing proposition that immediately seem just a little off as they deviate from the norm in both sound and appearance- which, frankly, is exactly what most scenes need more of. Their session here is light and inspired, offering up an early indicator of something special.
2. Crystal Antlers
There are very few bands as immediately attention-catching as Crystal Antlers, who push all the write buttons via their genre melting pot sound. Tints of shoegaze, post-punk, powerpop, no-wave, and ambient characterize their best releases and the band’s a force to be reckoned with live. None of this changes for their KEXP session, which only furthers the chances of the station having secured what may be likely to be one of the year’s best sessions in its first week.
3. Pétur Ben
Like Crystal Antlers, Pétur Ben is a beyond-appealing mix of influences, recalling everyone from David Bowie at his most relaxed to Joy Division at their most spry to The Smiths in full-on smoldering mode and Dinosaur Jr at their most restrained. Hailing from Iceland, both Ben and the group he’s assembled behind himself are already one of the year’s great surprises. Everything on display here clicks effortlessly and comes off seeming like something that would’ve been considered classic today had it been released 30 years ago and has a shot at being considered classic to those in the know 30 years from now.
Apart from Gap Dream, I’m not sure I’ve ever seen the Burger Records aesthetic embraced as fully as Wampire have managed. Their psychedelic garage pop comes in the technicolor variety, complete with oddly-shaped brightly-colored sunglasses. Wampire’s sound also manages to exist in one of the smaller paradox that makes Burger such an interesting label; it’s undoubtedly relaxed but there’s a sincere sense of urgency coursing through each respective song’s veins. All of this would just be a footnote if the band’s music weren’t so absurdly good- and it is absurdly good- for proof just watch the session below.
5. Gravys Drop – I Get Down (Music Video)
Gumball was one of 2013’s most overlooked releases and brimmed with an enthused confidence that made the record all the more enjoyable. One of Burger Records’ artistic triumphs, the label recently released a music video for the fun-loving band that accurately captures the sort of no-stakes ethics at work in bands like this. It’s a refreshing reminder that there are still bands (and labels) out there that know they’re allowed to relax and enjoy themselves. One of the best summer records anyone could hope for. Listen to it in full here and keep an eye out for more from Gravys Drop in the future.