Watch This: Vol. 107
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. Ought (KEXP)
Easily one of the more electrifying acts on the touring circuit, Ought recently swung by KEXP’s studios to flex some serious muscle. Culling a session from their outstanding sophomore effort Sun Coming Down, the quartet rips through four songs with a vicious intensity that’s rooted in a straight-laced affectation. Even with that aspect of their identity pushed to its near maximum, the band still finds ways to drag out some deep-seated weirdness and, as a result, the session comes absolutely alive.
2. Tijuana Panthers (Jam in the Van)
Anytime Jam in the Van brings in a scrappy punk-tinged basement pop band, the results are electric and this session with Tijuana Panthers is no different. Tearing through the requisite trio of songs, the band differentiates themselves from a growing pack through sheer commitment. It’s easy to tell that this band doesn’t just love playing these songs but they genuinely believe in them as well.
3. Fraser A. Gorman – Dark Eyes (WFUV)
As an act finds their way to greater and greater success, one of the most important things they can do is deflect some of that attention to artists they feel are deserving of spotlights that have eluded them for one reason or another. It’s in that respect that Courtney Barnett continues to strike me as a patron saint of the unheralded as she continues doing incredible work with her Milk imprint. One artist Barnett managed to elevate considerably was Fraser A. Gorman, who was responsible for some of 2015’s finest material with Slow Gum. An unassuming presence that’s extraordinarily well-versed in American roots music, Gorman recently appeared at CMJ where WFUV captured him leading his band through a spirited version of “Dark Eyes” that suggests he’s more than ready for a greater share of attention.
4. Salad Boys (KEXP)
Metalmania was one of 2015’s most pleasant surprises and helped heighten Salad Boys‘ recognition. All five songs the band brings out for KEXP exist in a mold that was clearly shaped– or at least heavily informed– by a love of Flying Nun Records. Everything here works to a casual perfection, whether the band’s embracing the janglier pop or dipping their way into some fuzzed out excursion, it’s executed with flair. Throw in an illuminating interview and this becomes an essential document of a band on the cusp of breaking out.
5. Car Seat Headrest (3voor12)
Car Seat Headreast won over a lot of people this past CMJ and wound up being one of the marathon’s early highlights. After starting out as a bandcamp bedroom pop project, it’s graduated into a full-fledged band a la Cloud Nothings, and subsequently received a serious boost from a high-profile deal with Matador. The band’s picked up an additional guitarist since their CMJ run and it’s expanded their sound in intriguing ways. 3voor12 brought the band in for a session that sees them continuing to capitalize on their groundswell of momentum with memorably sharp performances, including a knockout take of 2015 highlight “Something Soon”. If the band can continue to match the pace on display here, we’re in for some genuinely extraordinary material down the road.