Watch This: Vol. 87

by Steven Spoerl

Every Sunday, Watch This runs on this site to celebrate some of the finest performance captures to have surfaced over the past seven days. Here and there, exceptions are made to facilitate some genuinely great performances (this is one of those weeks) but the central focus remains the same: the celebration of a confusingly under-discussed presentation format that allows great filmmaking to intersect with great performances. As has been the case over recent weeks, a lot of clips didn’t wind up in the featured five slot (including some performances from artists who did make it into those positions), which is telling of the quality of those clips that are discussed in greater extent. Those artists include: Jack and Eliza, Nic Hessler, Happyness, Titus Andronicus (x2), SOAK, Oscar, The Sun Parade (x2), On and On, The Wilderness (x2), Restorations, Drenge (x2), Mommy Long Legs, and site favorites Tenement. All of those are worth the clicks but today’s all about the five clips below the introductory paragraph. So, as always, sit back, adjust the volume, clear your mind of clutter, focus up, and Watch This.

1. Happyness – It’s On You (WFUV)

Happyness have earned their fair share of love on this site and they continue to impress here, in a spirited rendition of “It’s On You”, for Watch This staple WFUV. One of the reasons WFUV keeps showing up in these lists is the way they present the performances; a black backdrop means no visual distractions. It’s a tactic that’s proven troublesome for some bands but Happyness have always been capable of spinning minimalist tendencies into gold and this performance is one of those times.

2. Eskimeaux – Sleeppy Bear (Portals)

On very rare occasions, the format of Watch This will ever-so-slightly deviate from its traditional setup to accommodate an item that was lost in the preceding weeks’ shuffle. Despite Eskimeaux making an increasing number of appearances on the site as of late, the stunning performance clip Portals produced of “Sleepy Bear” somehow became one of those items. Far too lovely to let fall to the wayside, “Sleepy Bear” places all of its emphasis on Gabrielle Smith- the driving creative force behind Eskimeaux- and the results are spellbinding.

3. Diet Cig (BreakThruRadio)

This isn’t the first time Diet Cig have shown up and raised hell on Watch This and it’s seriously unlikely that it’ll be the last. A duo of firecrackers, the band’s entertainment value seems to continuously escalate as the velocity of their headfirst dive into embracing a gleeful insanity increases. As always, their performances here come off like an unexpectedly forceful gut-punch followed by a mischievous, half-apologetic smile.

4. Titus Andronicus – Fatal Flaw (WNYC)

At present, Titus Andronicus have two out-and-out masterpieces under their belt. The Most Lamentable Tragedy, the band’s just-released double album, is the first time they’ve matched the heights of The Monitor and part of that is thanks to a similarly sprawling ambition that’s equaled by the frighteningly honest conviction of bandleader Patrick Stickles. Of course, it wouldn’t have landed in that position without genuinely great songs in its bold narrative arc. The band recently stopped by WNYC’s studios to deliver a performance of a few of those songs, delivering the strongest performance in this particularly raucous take on single “Fatal Flaw”.

5. SOAK – Wait (WFUV)

When SOAK last appeared on Watch This, the young songwriter was centered in a clip that will undoubtedly be featured again as part of this site’s annual year-end roundup celebrating the best of the series. Here, in a breathtaking performance for WFUV, the same grace, devastation, and haunted frailty that made SOAK’s first Watch This entrance so compelling is brought to the fore with a similar effortlessness. It’s absolutely mesmerizing.