Watch This: Vol. 88
by Steven Spoerl
87 entries in and still going strong, Watch This- the weekly series dedicated to celebrating some of the week’s finest performance clips- has become one of this site’s definitive markers. Great performances are given every day, all over the world, and a few of them have the good fortune of being caught on film- a handful of those are presented in startlingly beautiful ways. Every week, five of those artists’ performance get featured here, while a handful of impressive efforts get highlights as well. This week, those highlights included performances from Jeff Rosenstock, Calexico, Paul Weller, Tedo Stone, Dead Stars, toyGuitar, and Laser Background. Nearly every artist in this 88th installment has been featured on Watch This before, which continues a nearly unprecedented run of inclusions for both Courtney Barnett and Girlpool. Diet Cig officially cements their spot as a staple of the series and KEXP houses another impressive full session. It’s a lot to take in, so, as always, sit up, adjust the volume, lean in, and Watch This.
1.Built to Spill (KEXP)
Doug Martsch and his band of ragtag misfits crafted one of this year’s more unexpectedly stunning records in Untethered Moon, Built To Spill’s strongest collection of songs in over a decade. KEXP recently brought the band in for a session that emphasized the singular energy that helped make Untethered Moon so compelling. Long regarded as one of the best live acts on the circuit, the band proves they’ve earner their status over an impressive four song set. It’s a strong reminder of the talent of a band that seems content to keep pushing themselves for as long as they possibly can.
2. Diet Cig – Pool Boyz + Scene Sick (Out of Town Films)
Ever since Over Easy came out towards the start of the year, Diet Cig has been making regular appearances on Watch This thanks in part to not only that collection’s strength but to the uninhibited joy the duo exude when they perform. As great as those clips have been, Out of Town Films adds a visual panache that elevates this particular session to one Diet Cig’s brightest moments. There’s a manic energy, guitarist/vocalist’s Alex Luciano’s mischievous smile, jumping bean antics, and Noah Bowman’s committed energy. The fact that the whole thing is capped off with a high-five feels beyond perfect. Carefree, irreverent, and ridiculously entertaining, this is a definitive presentation of a site favorite.
3. Courtney Barnett – Pedestrian at Best + Elevator Operator (Pitchfork)
At this point, it’s entirely possible that no one has made as many Watch This lists as Courtney Barnett. Still riding high on the wave of acclaim that Sometimes I Sit And Think, And Sometimes I Just Sit has built, combined with relentless touring, has landed Barnett in a coveted position that’s secured the songwriter a murderer’s row of outlets that create great live clips. Of course, it helps that Barnett’s a preternaturally gifted performer. Barnett recently delivered a characteristically blistering performance at Pitchfork and the site’s uploaded two performances, “Pedestrian At Best” and “Elevator Operator”, in kind.
4. Parquet Courts – Uncast Shadow of A Southern Myth + Content Nausea (Pitchfork)
Back when some of Parquet Courts were in Teenage Cool Kids, they’d frequently show up for shows in Milwaukee basements and deliver the kind of shambolic performances that’d eventually earn Parquet Courts no shortage of celebratory praise. Since those days, it’s an approach that’s been honed, refined over time, and brought dangerously close to perfection. In yet another strong pairing of fiery performances from Pitchfork, the band ambles through “Uncast Shadow of a Southern Myth” (which was originally a Teenage Cool Kids song) and “Content Nausea” with a wiry, deadpan verve.
5. Girlpool – Crowded Stranger (Sofar Sounds)
If Courtney Barnett’s leading the number of Watch This inclusions, Girlpool likely isn’t too far behind. Having just seen the duo deliver arresting performances at both Baby’s All Right and as a secret headliner at DBTS (a gallery of which will be going up soon), the way the duo commands attention on film is maximized in person- but the best clips come close to capturing that prevailing sense of awe that so often accompanies the live experience. Here, the duo performs “Crowded Stanger”- one of 2015’s more chill-inducing songs- in front of Sofar Sounds’ lenses to a hushed crowd in a London room. It’s a breathtaking rendition that reaffirms the songwriters’ inherent charisma and innate ability, providing another layer of definitive proof that Girlpool are one of today’s most formidable acts.