Watch This: Vol. 82
by Steven Spoerl
[Editor’s Note: This text originally appeared in the preceding volume of Watch This.]
Anyone that’s been keeping an eye on the site knows that it’s been a busy time for both myself and this place. Making the move to Brooklyn has afforded a much greater opportunity for live coverage and that’s something that’s been increasingly evident over the past few posts. There were still be regular coverage on streaming songs, albums, and videos and all of those categories will be caught up in the very near future.
Despite missing last week’s, Watch This isn’t going to go anywhere either. Ostensibly the beating heart of Heartbreaking Bravery, the weekly series devoted to featuring the best live capture releases of the week is one of this site’s defining features. With two weeks worth of releases to reflect on, there’ll be two installments of Watch This to run tonight. Both feature a variety of site favorites (both artists and sources), full sessions, and- as always- extraordinary performances on both sides of the camera. So, as ever, sit back, adjust the volume to your preference, focus up, and Watch This.
1. Vaadat Charigim (KEXP)
In 2013, Vaadat Charigim released a gem of a record in The World Is Well Lost that seemed to get lost in the mix. Whether that was due to the lyrics being sung in a language other than English (Hebrew, in this case) or the promotional campaign missing its mark is anyone’s best guess but what was abundantly clear, even then, was the band’s conviction. They recently released their sophomore effort, Sinking As A Stone, which sharpened a lot of the band’s best qualities. The band took to the KEXP studios and turned in a powerhouse performance that already seems to be creating converts.
2. Screaming Females – Ripe (TCGS)
Screaming Females are climbing up the “most words written about” ladder with a steadfast assurance around here and that’s not a mistake. Time and time again, the band deliver on unexpectedly profound levels. Whether they’re covering Taylor Swift or allowing themselves to be vulnerable enough to serve as central figures for a revealing Lance Bangs documentary. It’s a dynamic that’s guaranteed their position as a perennial Watch This staple and their uninhibited dedication to their craft (along with a very genuine love) manage to continuously seep through their work. Another name of vital importance to Watch This, comedian Chris Gethard, recently secured a deal that took his cable access show to (much) more expansive realms. Here, the two meet for a fiery, costumed performance of “Ripe“, a standout cut from 2015 highlight Rose Mountain.
3. Strand of Oaks (NPR)
Timothy Showalter is the rare kind of musician who can be equally captivating both unaccompanied and within the context of a full band. HEAL was one of last year’s more unexpectedly brilliant records but it seemed like any time those songs were performed in a live setting, the studio recordings were blown out of the water. NPR’s excellent Tiny Desk Concert series recently had Showalter stop in on his lonesome and they were paid back with a stunning three song performance that should cement Showalter’s status as one of today’s most intrinsically compelling performers. Deeply felt and utterly captivating, this is a songwriting (and solo performance) masterclass.
4. Speedy Ortiz (KEXP)
Nearly every regular source that gets utilized for the curation of Watch This seemed to host Speedy Ortiz over the past month. A few of those videos made it into various installments while a few just barely missed the cut. None of them were anywhere close to as strong as this KEXP-hosted four song knockout. All of the songs in this session are executed with an excess of verve and passion, not in a manner all that dissimilar from the last time they came through the station. Playing nothing but highlights from this year’s outstanding Foil Deer, the session becomes a capsule document of a band in the throes of both artistic reinvention and breakout success.
5. Hop Along (WNYC)
The last artist on this list with a long history of Watch This appearances, Hop Along‘s most definitely the one to have experienced the most momentum in 2015. With the extraordinary Painted Shut (their first effort for Saddle Creek) elevating them from “best-kept secret” status to universal critical adoration, they’ve also managed to considerably expand their fan base. It’s difficult to think of a more deserving band when taking into account the exceptional levels of songwriting and their years spent relentlessly touring small bars and DIY venues. They’re making every possible effort at seizing a moment that’s rightfully theirs and WNYC became the latest channel to capture evidence. In three songs, the band manages to demonstrate every facet that earned them an unprecedented amount of loyalty and support in their early goings while simultaneously establishing what makes them such a cherished act in today’s musical landscape.