Watch This: Vol. 95
by Steven Spoerl
Over the past few weeks, this site hasn’t been keeping its daily update regimen due to ongoing business largely unrelated to the site. While there may not be immediate posts, the content is still being collected as it appears. A handful of catch-up posts will be running on the site tonight and tomorrow starting with this slightly belated installment of Watch This, which runs on Sunday and celebrates the best performance captures to have been released in the given week. Two weeks ago this collection was a more subdued, low-key affair than usual and some of that’s carried over to this entry. Considering the advent of fall, it almost feels appropriate that the bulk of the standout performances find themselves locked into an autumnal mode. Only one of the videos featured today is a full, electric band while the rest are solo performances that carry a considerable amount of weight. All of them are worth a high degree of investment. So, as always, lean back, adjust the screen, set the volume, focus up, and Watch This.
1. Izzy True – Absolute Troll (Don Giovanni)
Once again, Watch This finds itself kicking off with an Izzy True clip that comes courtesy of Don Giovanni. Isabel Reidy’s solo project conjured up a very subtle kind of beauty on this year’s outstanding Troll, the young songwriters arrival-at-large. Proving once again to be a commanding presence, Reidy delivers a fierce performance of the EP’s almost-titular track, providing enough artistic flourish to render the performance deeply compelling.
2. Nils Frahm – 4’33” (John Cage Cover Version) (Pitchfork)
“4’33″” is one of the most divisive pieces of music in history. Conceived by John Cage as a commentary on the nature of silence and the human inability to ever fully experience it at its purest state, it’s measures consisted of nothing but rests. Nils Frahm, an accomplished ambient figurehead, took the crux of Cage’s piece and expanded on it in a piece that functions more as a rumination or homage than it does as a straight cover. Unsurprisingly, it’s elegiac, sincere, and more than a little stunning.
3. Craig Finn (KEXP)
Throughout the years, Craig Finn’s won accolades and legions of fans for his work in The Hold Steady and (the still vastly under-appreciated) Lifter Puller. More recently, he’s stepped out on his own as a solo artist, offering up largely acoustic works that zero in on his recent work’s inherent tenderness. Warm and rustic, this quartet of songs feels like a collection of devotionals; Finn’s offering up personal prayers in the dressings of song. Unflinchingly honest and completely uninhibited, this session’s a perfect example of a songwriter whose found completely comfort in their own voice.
4. Beach Slang – Get Lost (Cozy Couch Sessions)
Few bands have made as immediate of an impression as Beach Slang managed to with their first few releases. Drawing deserved comparisons to acts like The Replacements tend to achieve those kinds of results and that particular influence hasn’t ever shown as strong as it does here, in a solo acoustic rendition of “Get Lost”. Rough in all the right places, the whiskey-soaked ballad takes on a broken new life where the cracks grow deeper and the uncertainty stretches out towards eternity- and Cozy Couch affectionately captures its bruised heartbeat with a startling amount of empathy.
5. Ought – Men For Miles (3voor12)
Over the past year or so, this site’s written a lot about Ought, who are currently celebrating the release of a strong sophomore effort, Sun Coming Down. One of the record’s fiercest highlights is the insistent “Men For Miles”, which 3voor12 captured the band performing at Into the Great Wide Open. Operating with all of their typical wiry verve intact, the quartet also delivers a blistering take on their kinetic, melancholic “Passionate Turn”- another one of Sun Coming Down‘s more triumphant moments. Played back-to-back with an uncommon level of passion, the two-song take is enough to cement the band’s status as one of today’s most electric live acts.