Heartbreaking Bravery

stevenmps2@gmail.com | @steven_mps | @hbreakbravery

Watch This: Vol. 80

Over the course of the past few weeks, the influx of outstanding live videos has been staggering. Last week the series was put on a brief hold due to other personal obligations but even then, there was the threat of multiple installments for that particular Sunday. Amassing those with the live clips that followed in the subsequent week brings us to this point: there’s simply too much great material to feature to justify relegating anything exceeding the limit of five to the introductory paragraph(s). With this being the case, there will be seven- yes, seven- installments of Watch This to go live throughout the day (and possibly night).

To that end, this very introduction will be running prior to volumes 74-80 to reduce the levels of overall exposition to provide an emphasis on the material at hand. Site favorites Girlpool and Waxahatchee were seemingly everywhere this week, securing multiple entries throughout this run while Faits Divers spread-out documentation of a set from Ought (another site favorite) managed to do the same. As always, each video featured is an exemplary showcase for both artist and host, covering a wide range of sounds and styles. So, as always, sit back, adjust the volume to your preferred settings, sit up straight, lean in (or back), and Watch This.

1. Shopping – For Your Money (FatCat)

Shopping’s Consumer Complaints finally saw a US release after making its dent elsewhere last year (it appeared multiple times in “best of” categories through niche outlets like maximumrocknroll), ensuring that their songs would once again refuse to leave my head for weeks at a time. One of the most difficult to shake is “For Your Money”, which the band tackles here with no shortage of wiry verve. It’s a strong reminder of the band’s assurance in crafting minimal post-punk that packs in hooks but refuses to pack in its punches. Sustaining tension throughout, it’s a hypnotic look at one of today’s more promising young bands. Get on board now and watch the rewards follow.

2. Tubelight – Straight Into The Sun (3voor12)

Netherlands’ 3voor12 has consistently cast a spotlight on some of the more fascinating international acts throughout the past several years and Tubelight recently joined their ranks. Offering up a gritty take on post-punk riddled with snarky lyrics and an impressive urgency, they manage to strike a perfect balance between immediate and accessible. “Straight Into The Sun” is a perfect encapsulation of this dynamic, even as it threatens to go off the rails at seemingly every turn. Passionate and unyielding, it’s another unlikely gem that’s not worth missing.

3. Penicillin Baby – Working Man (Audiotree)

Much like Las Robertas, Penicillin Baby have found a way to incorporate a surf influence without seeming like they’re clinging to a trendy retread as a security device. Instead, that influence seems to invigorate the entirety of the band’s work along with a variety of other touch points from the worlds of 50’s and 60’s pop. Organs swirl, guitars branch off into tangential figures, and the rhythm section keeps everything humming along. Measured and exhilarating, it’s a near-perfect showing for a band that comes loaded with potential. Give into their charms and enjoy the ride.

4. Algiers – Claudette (WFUV)

WFUV’s capture of Algiers’ “Claudette” finishes off the 1-2 punch combination that started with “Blood”. Once again, it’s a stark reminder of why Algiers are one of the most exciting emerging acts and a perfect example of their ability to seamlessly combine familiar genres into something that feels unique. Taking cues from musical trends that date back centuries and marrying them to a thoroughly modern stance takes a staggering amount of skill and Algiers continue to make it look (and sound) effortless. Bold, brash, and unavoidable, Algiers may just be 2015’s best new band- they certainly haven’t provided any reasons to think otherwise.

5. Bad History Month – Angel Devil (Pony Problems)

One of the most expansive pieces of the first installment of this site’s year-end project, A Year’s Worth of Memories, was directly centered around Bad History Month, a moniker chosen by a man operating under the psuedonym Jeff Meff. Pony Problems Productions caught Meff in action last year, deliver a stunning take of “Angel Devil” and only just recently made the clip publicly available. As far as artist portrayals go, it feels definitive; a perfect showcase of Meff’s frenetic tendencies and winningly off-kilter songwriting sensibilities. As far as performances go? It’s a technical knockout.

Watch This: Vol. 79

Over the course of the past few weeks, the influx of outstanding live videos has been staggering. Last week the series was put on a brief hold due to other personal obligations but even then, there was the threat of multiple installments for that particular Sunday. Amassing those with the live clips that followed in the subsequent week brings us to this point: there’s simply too much great material to feature to justify relegating anything exceeding the limit of five to the introductory paragraph(s). With this being the case, there will be seven- yes, seven- installments of Watch This to go live throughout the day (and possibly night).

To that end, this very introduction will be running prior to volumes 74-80 to reduce the levels of overall exposition to provide an emphasis on the material at hand. Site favorites Girlpool and Waxahatchee were seemingly everywhere this week, securing multiple entries throughout this run while Faits Divers spread-out documentation of a set from Ought (another site favorite) managed to do the same. As always, each video featured is an exemplary showcase for both artist and host, covering a wide range of sounds and styles. So, as always, sit back, adjust the volume to your preferred settings, sit up straight, lean in (or back), and Watch This.

1. Girlpool – Before The World Was Big (Exclaim!)

Capping off Girlpool’s impressive run of recent live captures is this beautiful take of “Before The World Was Big“, courtesy of Exclaim!. Naturally, there’s a sense of genuine calm that characterizes the clip, the duo’s affability presented clearly. The performance is as crisp as any the band’s delivered; a riveting document of a variety of enviable gifts. The song itself ranks among the year’s best, as does the album, but it’s brought new life given the freedom of the expanse of space provided by a live setting, rendering this clip a can’t-miss prospect.

2. Las Robertas (KEXP)

While an increasing number of bands are adopting a surf influence, there are only a few that are wielding that influence effectively; Las Robertas is one of those bands. KEXP recently played host to the band and received an impassioned set in return. Sunny pop melodies and a decidedly punk nonchalance keep the session lively as an interview provides some insight to the band’s inner workings (and dredges up some amusing anecdotes). Packaged all together, it’s an exhilarating ride that coasts on the dichotomy of being clearly driven but sounding effortlessly carefree.

3. SOAK (La Blogotheque)

Between Courtney Barnett’s recent La Blogotheque turn-in and this deeply felt session for Bridie Monds-Watson’s SOAK project, it’s becoming abundantly clear that the series hasn’t slowed their ambitions. Characteristically gorgeous and surprisingly moving, this pair of songs- “B a Nobody” and “Blud”- become awe-inspiring thanks to both the committed performance and the way the performances are lensed. Monds-Watson exhibits a breathtaking command over control and restraint throughout and, by the video’s end, walks away with one of the most unexpectedly inspiring live moments of the year.

4. Waxahatchee – Under A Rock (Wichita)

Wrapping up the run of Waxahatchee’s recent St. Pancras set is a characteristically spellbinding take of one of 2015’s best singles, “Under A Rock“. Eschewing all of the anthemic rock trappings that made the song sound so defiantly gigantic in the recorded setting in favor of a bare-bones approach, “Under A Rock” becomes another gorgeous showcase for not just Katie Crutchfield but her twin, Allison (of Swearin’), as well. It’s a fitting end-cap for one of 2015’s most gorgeous video sets and affirms that Waxahatchee is operating at the height of her current powers.

5. Sleater-Kinney (Later… With Jools Holland)

One of the year’s most welcome surprises was the return of Sleater-Kinney, not just because they were back (which would have been a welcome return) but because they were back with a vengeance. No Cities To Love felt like an evolution of The Woods (one of my picks for best record of the 2000’s), re-establishing not only the band’s identity but their creative restlessness. The band recently stopped by the vaunted UK show Later… With Jools Holland to deliver a trio of fiery performances (“No Cities To Love”, “Gimme Love”, and “Price Tag”, respectively), resoundingly defeating any adjusted expectations in the process. Even in a nearly decade-long absence, the band hasn’t lost a step.

Watch This: Vol. 78

Over the course of the past few weeks, the influx of outstanding live videos has been staggering. Last week the series was put on a brief hold due to other personal obligations but even then, there was the threat of multiple installments for that particular Sunday. Amassing those with the live clips that followed in the subsequent week brings us to this point: there’s simply too much great material to feature to justify relegating anything exceeding the limit of five to the introductory paragraph(s). With this being the case, there will be seven- yes, seven- installments of Watch This to go live throughout the day (and possibly night).

To that end, this very introduction will be running prior to volumes 74-80 to reduce the levels of overall exposition to provide an emphasis on the material at hand. Site favorites Girlpool and Waxahatchee were seemingly everywhere this week, securing multiple entries throughout this run while Faits Divers spread-out documentation of a set from Ought (another site favorite) managed to do the same. As always, each video featured is an exemplary showcase for both artist and host, covering a wide range of sounds and styles. So, as always, sit back, adjust the volume to your preferred settings, sit up straight, lean in (or back), and Watch This.

 

1. Chastity Belt – Dull (WFUV)

Time To Go Home was one of the unexpected highlights of this year’s first half, securing Chastity Belt a level of recognition they’ve been deserving for some time. Here, the band turns in a blissfully casual of “Dull”, providing a showcase for their dynamic range. WFUV’s black backdrop provides a fitting background to Chastity Belt’s hazy basement pop and elevates the clip into surprisingly immersive levels.

2. Girlpool – Chinatown (Wichita)

Closing out Wichita’s lovely outdoor trilogy of Girlpool clips is this gorgeous take of Before The World Was Big highlight “Chinatown”. As always, Cleo Tucker and Harmony Lebel-Tividad seem inhumanly connected, playing off each other with an almost telepathic familiarity and ease. Everything comes off as complementary, from the dueling melodies to the timbre of the duo’s vocals. The whole thing exudes a nearly impossible sense of lightness that’s always factored into Girlpool’s music, rendering this a surprisingly revitalizing watch.

3. Waxahatchee – Blue (Pt. II) (Wichita)

Continuing on with Wichita’s gorgeous presentation of the Crutchfield twins performance under Katie’s Waxahatchee guise at St. Pancras Church, this clip features an aching performance of “Blue (Pt. II)”- another highlight from Ivy Tripp. Nothing more than harmonized vocals and an electric guitar guide the performance, the audience hushed throughout. The soft tones and dim lighting provide a perfect visual accompaniment, allowing the clip to become as mesmerizing as the song at its center.

4. Ought – The Weather Song (Faits Divers)

Closing out Ought’s run, courtesy of Faits Divers, is yet another inspired performance of one of More Than Any Other Day‘s several highlights; “The Weather Song”. As always, the band’s animated throughout and delivers a crisp performance that fully demonstrates the band’s enormous live appeal. It seems like every time the band launches into a song, they transform into an unstoppable whirlwind of pure energetic force. Unable to stay still and brimming with manic passion, it makes for compelling viewing and- more importantly- powerful performances.

5. Torres – A Proper Polish Welcome (WFUV)

One of the most delicate songs to emerge out of 2015 is Torres’ jaw-dropping “A Proper Polish Welcome”, a piece of serene beauty characterized by a sense of yearning. It’s Sprinter‘s most breathtaking moment and, in a live setting, it’s powerful enough to freeze blood. WFUV turned their cameras on Mackenzie Scott and co. as they conjured up the slow-burning showstopper, capturing something approaching the levels of transcendence in the process.

Watch This: Vol. 77

Over the course of the past few weeks, the influx of outstanding live videos has been staggering. Last week the series was put on a brief hold due to other personal obligations but even then, there was the threat of multiple installments for that particular Sunday. Amassing those with the live clips that followed in the subsequent week brings us to this point: there’s simply too much great material to feature to justify relegating anything exceeding the limit of five to the introductory paragraph(s). With this being the case, there will be seven- yes, seven- installments of Watch This to go live throughout the day (and possibly night).

To that end, this very introduction will be running prior to volumes 74-80 to reduce the levels of overall exposition to provide an emphasis on the material at hand. Site favorites Girlpool and Waxahatchee were seemingly everywhere this week, securing multiple entries throughout this run while Faits Divers spread-out documentation of a set from Ought (another site favorite) managed to do the same. As always, each video featured is an exemplary showcase for both artist and host, covering a wide range of sounds and styles. So, as always, sit back, adjust the volume to your preferred settings, sit up straight, lean in (or back), and Watch This.

1. Telekinesis (KEXP)

It takes a rare kind of personality to make a completely solo set utterly captivating and Michael Benjamin Lerner has always been one of the people capable of delivering on those levels. That fact’s clearly evidenced in this outdoor set for KEXP, where there’s a clear love for his craft. All of it translates into a vibrant, effortless showcase for his Telekinesis project, including an absolutely mesmerizing cover of Wire’s “Outdoor Miner” to get things moving.

2. Algiers – Blood (WFUV)

Few emerging bands have given more reason for excitement than the boundary-pushing Algiers. Infusing a vast array of influences into something that feels wholly original, the band’s ascent has been rapid and- more importantly- justified. With the political bent of their music on complete display in the intro of “Blood” furthering the cause for excitement not just on a career level but inciting a deeper fascination on the performance level as well, the cards are lining up for Algiers’ future. Bringing everything to a haunting, weathered realization is the bulk of the performance itself- a jaw-dropping display of raw, innate talent.

3. Ought – Pleasant Heart (Faits Divers)

Ought’s More Than Any Other Day was one of this site’s picks for the best albums of 2014 and the album hasn’t lost a step since its release. As great as that record was (and it was great), the band’s always excelled more as a live act, thanks to their kinetic motion. All of the best live bands recognize that the greatest advantage of playing the songs is the freedom to warp, subvert, and bend their own art rather than keeping it static. Ought’s never backed away from experimenting with the space they’re given in that setting and Faits Divers has provided exhilarating proof with an inspired take of “Pleasant Heart”.

4. Waxahatchee – Stale By Noon (Wichita)

A lot of Katie Crutchfield’s most inspired songs, from “Noccalula” to “Singer’s No Star“, have been piano-based. “Stale By Noon” is one of the most recent entries into that repertoire, providing Ivy Tripp with one of its most arresting moments. Allison Crutchfield’s presence somehow makes this particular rendition feel even more intensely personal. Lit by candles and aided by nothing but each other, their instruments, and an adoring audience, this intimate performance of “Stale by Noon” is a powerful testament of both Crutchfield’s unwavering magnetism.

5. Fred Thomas – Bad Blood (BreakThruRadio)

All Are Saved was my all-too-late introduction to Fred Thomas and it’s also holding firm as one of my favorite releases of 2015. It’s unflinchingly earnest and utterly sincere, grounded in a damaged humanism that makes it easily relatable. Close to every song on the record contains a moment of breathtaking clarity that deals heavily with some of life’s more conventionally unappealing minutiae. “Bad Blood” is a sustained series of those moments, captured here by BreakThruRadio in a clip that manages to secure an emphasis in all of the right places, doing its part to secure Thomas’ spot as one of the strongest songwriters operating today.

Watch This: Vol. 76

Over the course of the past few weeks, the influx of outstanding live videos has been staggering. Last week the series was put on a brief hold due to other personal obligations but even then, there was the threat of multiple installments for that particular Sunday. Amassing those with the live clips that followed in the subsequent week brings us to this point: there’s simply too much great material to feature to justify relegating anything exceeding the limit of five to the introductory paragraph(s). With this being the case, there will be seven- yes, seven- installments of Watch This to go live throughout the day (and possibly night).

To that end, this very introduction will be running prior to volumes 74-80 to reduce the levels of overall exposition to provide an emphasis on the material at hand. Site favorites Girlpool and Waxahatchee were seemingly everywhere this week, securing multiple entries throughout this run while Faits Divers spread-out documentation of a set from Ought (another site favorite) managed to do the same. As always, each video featured is an exemplary showcase for both artist and host, covering a wide range of sounds and styles. So, as always, sit back, adjust the volume to your preferred settings, sit up straight, lean in (or back), and Watch This.

1. Ought – Gemini (Faits Diver)

Continuing on with Faits Diver’s recent documentation of Ought, this clip finds the band confined to a warehouse space delivering another energized and insistent performance of “Gemini”. Restless and unrelenting, it finds Ought in top form, uninhibited by anything other than their own outsize charisma. It’s electrifying.

2. Chastity Belt – Time To Go Home (WFUV)

Chastity Belt hit their current career peak with their revitalizing Time To Go Home which boasted one of the band’s best moments throughout an already-impressive discography in the title song. WFUV recently hosted the band for a session and allowed them to cut loose on a few songs, “Time To Go Home” included. Tempo shifts, a distinctly 90’s influence, and a lingering sense of unease ensure that this clip transforms into something surprisingly hard to shake.

3. Waxahatchee – Blue (Wichita)

As outstanding as Katie Crutchfield’s project can be when it blooms into the full band setting, it’s just as effective- and occasionally even more effective- when it strips itself back to a rawer intimacy. Wichita recently gifted the world a session with just Crutchfield and her twin sister Allison (who she’d played with in both P.S. Eliot and Bad Banana), delivering a few of the songs from Ivy Tripp in a quiet setting (in this case, a shattering take on “Blue”) – and the results are magnetic.

4. Girlpool – Cherry Picking (Wichita)

Another Wichita session worth looking into that pares back an artist’s sound (though this time the change is significantly more slight) finds site favorites Girlpool playing acoustic guitars in open air. As always, the vocal interplay between the duo helps ground the song at hand- “Cherry Picking” this time around- and their uncanny sense of melodic sensibility elevates a modest performance to something indefinable. Eyes closed in a blissful determination, Cleo Tucker and Harmony Lebel-Tividad deliver another deft knockout.

5. Christopher Paul Stelling – Dear Best (ANTI-)

There are few joys that can compare to finding an outsider artist that delivers nothing but grace notes. Christopher Paul Stelling fits that bell and in this clip, courtesy of ANTI- Records, his performance skills prove to be transportive. Stelling’s a calm master of a haunted subset of rustic folk, wielding both his guitar and voice with a nuanced skill that will continue to serve Stelling well as his star inevitably rises. While he may be operating in a niche field, Stelling’s talent is boundless and here, he’s found himself in the dead center of one of 2015’s most unexpectedly stunning live clips.