Watch This: Vol. 77

by Steven Spoerl

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.