Watch This: Vol. 29

by Steven Spoerl

[EDITOR’S NOTE: Another few days have come and gone since a feature-less Sunday. This time, for the first time in a while, technical issues weren’t the cause of the brief delay in posting; I’m currently going through an exhaustive- and exhausting- training that’s consuming most of my time. A lot of content has been organized during this brief interim and will be posted over the weekend.]

During the compilation of the 29th installment of Watch This it became clear that we currently live in an extraordinary time for music. Image is becoming less of an issue, creating on synthesizers, loops, decays, and manipulations are considered organic, and raw talent is being earnestly celebrated. It’s something that allows this feature, and this installment, to be diverse. Without that opportunity for diversity, anything can run the risk of being inclusive. While there is a definite focal point of music that gets emphasized here, this feature allows for a broader range than usual in terms of style just for the sake of showcasing incredible live music. It’s an open-door policy and was inspired by similar policies that help keep great art vital. So, read a book, watch a film, attend a showcase, or Watch This- but, above all else, do everything possible to ensure great art continues to get made.

1. Gap Dream – Shine Your Light (Jam in the Van)

There were a lot of memorable music videos released in 2013 and, even with that considered, “Shine Your Light” still manages to stand out. Whether it was the concept, how well the music and imagery played into each other, or something else entirely- is up for discussion. As much impact as that video had, it seems the same can be said of the song. Jam in the Van made their usual stop at Burgerama and had Gap Dream climb in to deliver a knockout performance of “Shine Your Light” and a few others that are worth watching.

2. Pink Mink – Campbell’s Soup Kids (Radio K)

Pink Mink has been making their gloriously weird powerpop-indebted lo-fi punk for a few years now and have only managed to grow fiercer because of it. Here, they take to the Radio K studios to unleash “Campbell’s Soup Kids” on anyone who’ll listen. It’s a great performance from one of Minneapolis’ longer-standing bands. While the space restriction does make everything come off as just a touch too stunted, make sure to see this band live whenever possible; they were one of the small font highlights of the one-and-done SoundTown Festival back in 201 and have become even sharper over the past three years.

3. The London Souls – The Sound (Jam in the Van)

Jam in the Van strikes again. This time, they’ve brought The London Souls along for the ride. That The London Souls were scooped up at the New Orleans Jazz Fest for this showcase shouldn’t come as a surprise; just listen to the drums. What does come as a surprise? How satisfying this band’s live performance winds up being by taking a slightly off-kilter approach to a genre mix that would usually just result in a reserve-for-fairs situation. Everyone’s on top of their game here, lending this performance an unusual amount of impact.

4. Mansions – If You’re Leaving (Little Elephant)

Little Elephant continues its exception streak of outstanding sessions. Only a few weeks after Ovlov monopolized this series, Mansions seem poised to do the same. All of the hallmarks from their Vol. 27 entry are still present; a gnarled-to-hell bass tone, a strong sense of dynamics, and a fascinating structure. Genres collide and everything just explodes forward. It’s astonishing. Don’t be surprised if they wind up making a few more appearances in this series as it goes on.

5. Kishi Bashi – Philosophize In It! Chemicalize With It! (WNYC)

Perfect Pussy. Tenement. Swearin’. Technicolor Teeth. These are the only artists I’ve ever broken the narrative rule of Heartbreaking Bravery for. Add Kishi Bashi to the list. Ever since seeing the nearly inhuman performances on KEXP and for the Cardinal Sessions, I’ve been certain of one thing: Kaoru Ishibashi, the man at the center of Kishi Bashi, is a genius. There’s really no other way to explain or phrase this. Easily one of the most commanding and obscenely talented solo performers I’ve ever encountered, I’ve been waiting for an excuse to feature him in this series. In this respect, WNYC has delivered emphatically. Unbelievably, since those jaw-dropping solo performances, Ishibashi has managed to wrangle a supporting cast around him that manages to complement his project perfectly while still managing to stand out on their own (take note of the stuttered, shuffling drums and the absolutely killer distorted banjo tone just past the bridge). We’re all lucky to be alive to witness this kind of artistry.