Watch This: Vol. 105
by Steven Spoerl
[EDITOR’S NOTE: Due to the nature of these upcoming posts, a truncated version of this introductory paragraph will be appearing over the next several installments of this series.] It’s been quite some time since the 100th edition of Watch This went up on this site. There have been a lot of factors going into the extended interim but, as usual, a focal point of that absence was to make sure the preparation work was kept up to date. Full sessions, single song performances, DIY videos, and impressive turn-ins from radio stations abound. So, as always, sit back, adjust the setting, crank the volume, focus up, and Watch This.
1. Young Jesus – Every Little Landscape (The Trundle Sessions)
After a brief restructuring period, Young Jesus came out swinging in 2015 with one of the year’s finest records and an even more ferocious live show than they’d had with their previous iteration. As if that wasn’t enough, they’ve been teasing new material in their live sessions. “Every Little Landscape” is another look at the band’s promising future that showcases guitarist/vocalist’s enviable knack for songwriting. It’s a quiet, impressive moment that suggests the band’s far from done.
2. Woozy – Gilding the Lily (Little Elephant)
Every once in a while, Little Elephant brings a band into their studio that challenges their preferred style of music while still adapting some characteristics of those genres. Utilizing elements of ambient, post-rock, ’90s emo, and a wealth of other genres, Woozy hit upon a career highlight with “Gilding the Lily”, a song that’s performed here with no shortage of focus or determination. A masterclass in dynamics and composition, it’s a deeply impressive look at a band well worth our attention.
3. Ultimate Painting (3voor12)
After a strong debut effort in 2014, Ultimate Painting came surging back this year with even more formidable material. Utilizing the same breezy aesthetic, the band turns in a set of open-road anthems for 3voor12. The performances are uniformly strong and bristling with an almost paradoxical relaxed energy. Jangly, folk-informed basement pop at its absolute finest, this is another step forward for a band that seems determined to make a mark.
4. Alex G – Soaker + Rules (WXPN)
Over the past several years, Alex G has built up a surprisingly passionate cult following thanks to a string of bandcamp releases, the right connections, and relentless touring. The project had its breakthrough last year with DSU and reached greater heights with this year’s outstanding Beach Music. WXPN recently invited the band into their studio and they responded with impassioned takes on both “Soaker” and “Rules”, providing the station with one of their best sessions of the year.
5. Julien Baker (OurVinyl)
Some artists just have a natural gift for creating transcendental moments and Julien Baker has carved out a spot in their midst. Sprained Ankle, her aching treatsie on mortality and human limitations, is comprised of nothing but those moments. Whenever a record like that comes into the public eye, it’s never surprising when the live performances buckle under the weight of personal expectation. On rare occasions, the artist responsible for the collection will actually enhance the emotional impact via a commitment to the material that can feel devastating. Baker belongs to the latter category and OurVinyl provides a (gorgeously shot) definitive document of those instances. “Something”, “Sprained Ankle”, and “Rejoice” are all chill-inducing and reaffirm Baker’s position as one of 2015’s most striking songwriters.