Watch This: Vol. 106
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. Built to Spill – Good Enough (Joyful Noise)
Earlier this year, Built to Spill released their best record in over a decade. To help them celebrate that impressive achievement, Joyful Noise invited the band in for one of their Almost Live From… sessions and the band turned in a strong rendition of beloved rarity “Good Enough”. Weary, quiet, and and just about perfect, this is a powerful look at the current era of one of the most quietly celebrated acts in music.
2. Radioactivity – Sickness/Don’t Try (Razorcake)
One of the fiercest basement pop acts of this generation, Radioactivity have built up an impressive reputation over the course of their brief history, rivaling that of their sister band, The Marked Men. While their sophomore effort, this year’s Silent Kill, was no slouch, the band’s self-titled debut remains one of the best records to emerge in this decade. Razorcake caught the band tearing through the two opening tracks of that debut at VLHS last month and (thankfully) posted the results so that everyone could revel in the frenzy.
3. Ought – Beautiful Blue Sky (Radio K)
Back at the start of October, Ought put on a memorable set at Secret Project Robot that emphasized their off-kilter brand of nervous energy. “Beautiful Blue Sky” is the band’s most complete distillation of those tendencies to date and serves as one of many high watermarks for the quartet. Radio K recently hosted them for a session that saw the band turn in yet another inspired rendition of the song, which still feels as engrossing as it did when it was being road-tested as early as last year.
4. Fern Mayo – Open Work (This Has Got To Stop)
I first came to know Katie Capri as a writer and admired her work in that field before being introduced to her musical project, Fern Mayo. Capri would eventually pen a memorable screed against the assumption that Brooklyn DIY was dead in a piece for the first installment of A Year’s Worth of Memories and I’d eventually be blown away by a few of her songs. One of those songs, “Open Work”, felt like the tipping point of a good band becoming something more meaningful. This Has Got To Stop shot an outstanding acoustic rendition of the song on a rooftop that highlights Capri’s natural magnetism as both a songwriter and a performer.
5. Johanna Warren – Pin Oaks (Splendor Sessions)
A few of my fondest memories of 2015 involve time spent with Johanna Warren, whose gentle nūmūn ranks among this year’s finest offerings. Warren carries a tranquility with her that frequently tips over into a light serenity and that aspect of her personality informs her music, even in its stormiest moments. It’s that oddly specific sensibility that makes Warren’s solo acoustic performances feel like the purest presentation of not just her music but her entire being. Here, Warren turns in a characteristically captivating performance of “Pin Oaks” in a van that makes room for some gorgeous shots of the songwriter idling by a body of water. It’s an appropriately beautiful document of a moment that feels as if it’s only a few steps removed from being holy.