Watch This: Vol. 79

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. 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.