Heartbreaking Bravery

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Watch This: Vol. 57

Over the past few days, there haven’t been any posts (discounting today’s Watch This marathon) because material’s been uncharacteristically scarce. That said, it wasn’t a total drought. The Dying Arts released an aesthetic-defining video for “Bed Spins“, SUSAN unveiled the hard-charging “Pancake“, RONiiA (a collaborative project featuring members of Dark Dark Dark and Marijuana Deathsquads) teased their upcoming record with the haunting “Fool’s Game“, and Cellphone provided an advance stream for their excellent upcoming record, Excellent Condtion. All of those are secondary to what today’s all about, though- live performances will always be the focal spot for Sunday’s posts and the third round of today’s series marathon holds a few gems. A lot of familiar faces compose this list, from icons to upstarts, with everyone turning in memorable performances- with the second appearance of a song that’s already appeared once today closing things out in style. So, as always, adjust the settings, lean in, tune everything else out, and Watch This.

1. Curtis Harding – Next Time (3voor12)

Soul Power was one of 2014’s more overlooked records after failing to gain the kind of sustained traction it deserved after Burger did everything in their power to push it into the world. Harding and his band recently stopped by the 3voor12 studios in the Netherlands to deliver a stunning session that was highlighted by this performance of “Next Time”. It’s a perfectly-timed reminder of both Harding’s strength as a songwriter and Soul Power‘s timeless nature. Throwback rock n’ soul has rarely sounded this good.

2. Girlpool – Ideal World (The Media)

Yes, Girlpool‘s been earning themselves an avalanche of kind words from this site lately- and, no, that’s not going to change anytime soon. Cleo Tucker and Harmony Tividad have tapped into something undeniable and genuinely important, advancing a few small movements that are worth all the support in the world. “Ideal World” is a new song that capitalizes on the duo’s strengths; harmonies, wiry compositions, arresting minimalism, and raw, heartfelt emotion. Better still, this video comes courtesy of The Media (full disclosure: a publication that this one’s collaborated with in the past), a publication that sets an example- and a standard- worth striving to follow.

3. Sloan (KEXP)

There may not be a band that’s earned more mentions as an influence without being actively featured on this site more times than Sloan. One of powerpop’s most iconic bands, they’ve produced their share of stone cold classics (Twice Removed and One Chord To Another, especially) and have refused to slow down since becoming one of the 90’s more beloved acts. KEXP recently had them in studio and the band tore through four songs from their recent double-record Commonwealth. It’s yet another example of the band aging gracefully at a practically impossible level and never once losing stride.

4. Delay  (Razorcake)

Delay’s Plain Language was one of the better records of the 2000s and while the band’s output following that release was good, they never quite managed to reach the heights of their career-best. That changed this year, with the release of the dynamic Circle Change (both were released by the unfailingly great Salinas Records). One thing that’s never been in doubt: the band’s live show. Razorcake were on hand to capture a few moments from the band’s recent set at The Wulf Den- none better than the video presented here, which includes impassioned turns from the front two and some powerhouse drumming from Jesse Withers (also of site favorites All Dogs).

5. Cloud Nothings – Now Hear In (Amoeba)

There’s only been one full post that’s happened without mention of Cloud Nothings’ “Now Hear In”, sure, but it’s just too good of a song to not feature at any given opportunity. This week’s Watch This marathon was kicked off with an installment that ended with Cloud Nothings’ bandleader Dylan Baldi delivering an impressive solo acoustic take on the song but here, the whole band gets in on the action. Filmed by Amoeba during the band’s in-store performance, no one holds anything back. Drummer Jayson Gerycz, one of the most formidable talents in today’s music, is near inhuman in the rapid-fire pulverization he delivers from behind the kit- locking in perfectly with bassist TJ Duke. Baldi remains a total anomaly, straddling the line between aggression and apathy in equal measure while becoming a genuinely arresting presence onstage. Cloud Nothings have always been a force to be reckoned with live and they only seem to be getting better as they go, rendering this a clip worth intensive analysis for any aspiring musician. Cloud Nothings have a few tour dates coming up; get to one of their shows as soon as possible- a full set of performances like these deserves as big of an audience as possible.

Watch This: Vol. 56

Part two of today’s three-part Watch This marathon once again returns to a few familiar faces and two new ones that should have been featured all along. It’s another installment that covers the acoustic single take session to full electric set gamut and contains one of the most unique KEXP sessions to have come out of 2014. A few big names and a few emerging ones provide a pretty balanced spread- and all of them provide great performances. These are five clips from the past two weeks that are worth time investment. So, as always, grab a snack, crack a drink, sit back, turn the volume up, and Watch This.

1. TV On The Radio – Happy Idiot (KCRW)

TV On The Radio delivered one of the all-time great late night performances on Letterman years back with a positively fierce version of “Wolf Like Me” that put them on the map. Ever since then, the band’s been subject to extraordinarily high expectations and has rarely disappointed. This year’s Seeds was an undeniably intriguing release, with lead-off single “Happy Idiot” serving as a strong highlight. Live, the song takes on new life and becomes a reminder of some of the things that make TV On The Radio one of this generation’s more fascinating acts. Bonus points for Kyp Malone’s beard, always-incredible falsetto, and Thurston Moore signature jazzmaster.

2. Sorority Noise – Blonde Hair, Black Lungs (Space Jam Sessions)

A few bands quietly emerged over the course of the past eleven months and Sorority Noise were certainly among that group. With a great album and a great split under their belt, a lot of people have started granting them the attention they deserve. Here, they deliver an engaging acoustic performance of the lilting “Blonde Hair, Black Lungs” for Space Jam Sessions that more than lives up to their growing acclaim.

3. Restorations – Wales (Little Elephant)

Every once in a while Little Elephant will deliver on consistently great sessions from incredible live bands and Restorations are currently in the middle of one of their gradual session roll-outs. Having already earned a previous Watch This feature spot, they return with a vengeance. “Wales” is a menacing slow-builder that showcases the band’s penchant for dynamics and tension. For “Wales”, Restorations’ claws come out and dig into every tendon they can find. It’s a ferocious performance from a band that excels in a live setting, making this unmissable.

4. Shilpa Ray – Johnny Thunders’ Fantasy Space Camp (TCGS)

It’s been a while since a performance from The Chris Gethard Show has made an appearance in this feature- and who better to revive it than former Grinderman touring partner Shilpa Ray. Laying waste to a harmonium and a microphone, Ray leads her band through the driving “Johnny Thunders’ Fantasy Space Camp”. The band puts seemingly everything they’ve got on the line and the audience responds in kind. It’s a strong enough performance to make converts out of anyone who wasn’t previously familiar with Shilpa Ray- and it’s more than strong enough to earn a spot in this installment of Watch This.

5. Courtney Barnett (KEXP)

It’s unlikely that there’s been an artist to have more full set Watch This appearances than Courtney Barnett. There’s a reason Barnett and her band keep cracking  their way into these lists; there’s a palpable vibrancy and sense of pure enjoyment to their live show that’s more clear-cut than just about anyone else currently playing music. That said, they’ve never been more entertaining than they are here- appropriately decked out and fully costumed for a Halloween performance that doubles as one of the most memorable sessions the reliably excellent KEXP’s hosted all year.

Watch This: Vol. 55

With a few days of silence and a Watch This-less Sunday firmly in the past, today’s left with a lot of material to catch up on. Two weeks has provided a lot of great performances spread across a sizable range of styles, from full set in-studio sessions to solo acoustic takes. All but one of the bands featured in what will be the first of three Watch This installments has previously been featured on the site- with a great band from Columbus being the lone debut. It’s a lot to admire, a lot to celebrate, and a lot to analyze. So, as always, sit back, adjust the settings, focus, and Watch This.

1. Big Ups (KEXP)

Big Ups‘ Eighteen Hours of Static was one of 2014’s first great releases. All wild-eyed ferocity and unrelenting momentum, it marked the emergence of one of the more exciting young bands. While it still stands as one of the more notable records of the year, it’s since been overshadowed by the band’s incendiary live performance (it’s not a mistake that they keep showing up in this series). Here, they light up KEXP’s studios with a characteristically fiery five-song performance that should only facilitate their ascension. This is a band that fully deserves their growing recognition, don’t make the mistake of letting them slip by unnoticed.

2. Frankie Cosmos – Embody (Radio K)

Frankie Cosmos provided one of the most lovely sets of NXNE a few months back and since then, they’ve only grown more poised. Greta Kline’s an enviably gifted and incredibly prolific songwriter with a high ceiling. Nearly every Frankie Cosmos release has been a gem and ensured the band’s continued recognition. Airy pop songs like the excellent “Embody”, which they perform here for Radio K, are perfectly crafted pieces of- to quote the song- grace and lightness. It’s a warm embrace from an old friend, providing comfort and reassurance in equal measure; simply sublime.

3. Spit (Live at Treehaus)

Spit‘s Getting Low was one of the year’s quiet self-released records, exceedingly excellent but completely unheralded. Easily one of the best submissions this site’s ever received, the project’s now evolved from a solo venture to a full band endeavor- and what a band. Completely expanding on the Exploding in Sound-style tendencies that Getting Low hinted at, they’ve come out of the gate swinging with vicious intent. Spit’s only got one real show under their belt and they’re already very much a band to watch. Fuzzed out and appropriately left of center, this is a band worth greeting with high expectations- with this full live show serving as definitive proof.

4. Day Creeper – The Way You’re Told (The Mug and Brush Sessions)

Columbus, OH has been producing incredible bands at an alarming rate for some time now, with Day Creeper situated firmly in that pack. With a live show that’s just as ferocious as their recorded output, they’re always a great candidate for a feature performance- and the band absolutely lights up The Mug and Brush Sessions’ studio.
“The Way You’re Told” also serves as a tantalizing glimpse at the band’s upcoming Central States. If the rest of the record’s as good as this performance, they’ll have a serious contender on their hands.

5. Cloud Nothings – Now Hear In (Exclaim!)

A lot’s been made of Dylan Baldi’s vocal takes for Cloud Nothings. In most assessments, Jayson Gerycz’s drumming usually works its way into the central conversation (and rightfully so) but one thing that’s continuously evaded scrutiny is Baldi’s inventive guitar work. Stripped all the way back to a solo acoustic performance, it’s an aspect that’s allowed greater focus and opens up the impressive levels of songwriting happening in Cloud Nothings at present. Here, Baldi’s both restrained and subtly aggressive, providing a commanding performance that contributes to Cloud Nothings’ status as one of today’s most exciting bands.