Watch This: Vol. 139

by Steven Spoerl

Last week, from Monday morning to Sunday night, there were an over-abundance of incredible live clips. Fear of Men, Black Mountain, The Brokedowns, Thunderpussy, Peter Bjorn and John, Esme Patterson, Dott, and Yael Naim were responsible for several notable entries. Five more acts that made their mark with single song sessions will be featured below, while five acts who unveiled outstanding full session installments will be featured in this series’ forthcoming volume. All but one of the artists featured in the 139th edition of Watch This have been featured on this site in the past. From genuine, wrenching sorrow to authoritative command to biting tongue-in-cheek humor, there’s a lot to admire in these clips. So, as always, take a deep breath, lean in, turn the volume up until it can’t go any further, and Watch This.

1. Angel Olsen – Shut Up Kiss Me (The Late Show With Stephen Colbert)

“Shut Up Kiss Me” was an unforgettable track from the moment it debuted and it’s actually gained strength over the time that’s elapsed since its release. It marked a new era of Angel Olsen and saw the songwriting brimming with newfound poise, confidence, and a healthy dose of attitude. Here, the song gets an additional injection of fire and fury for Colbert’s studio and the performance leaves everyone outside of the stage in a haze of smoke.

2. Greys – Blown Out (BreakThruRadio)

Greys have been one of the most intense bands on the live circuit for several years now and they’re continuously finding ways to top themselves. It doesn’t seem to matter if they’re playing to ten people in a basement, a peak festival slot, or a radio studio, they’re constantly dead-set on total annihilation. This year’s excellent Outer Heaven was a small triumph for the band, highlighted by tracks like “Blown Out”. Here, the band runs through that track for BreakThruRadio with abandon, doing everything to make sure they leave a permanent imprint.

3. AJJ – No More Shame, No More Fear, No More Dread (The Trundle Sessions)

There are few people who have put in the kind of dogged effort AJJ’s Sean Bonette has all but exemplified for over a decade. All of that work’s culminated in the project’s finest moment, The Bible 2, which confidently stands as one of 2016’s best records. “No More Shame, No More Fear, No More Dread” is the record’s breathtaking centerpiece, a nakedly emotional ballad that doesn’t pull any punches in its introspective wishing. Bonette’s solo performance of the song for The Trundle Sessions is arguably more powerful, stripping away the excess instrumentation to elevate the song’s inherent humility. It’s an unforgettable turn from a songwriter worth celebrating.

4. Fiji-13 – Mainsplain It To Me (Radio K)

An uptick in exposure for unabashedly feminist bands has opened the floodgates for more acts to follow suit and Fiji-13 has taken up that mantle with relish. “Mansplain It To Me” is about as snarky as they come but the message isn’t lost in the comedic riffing (which hits an apex in the song’s unbelievably perfect bridge). For just under two and a half minutes, Fiji-13 unleash a rapid-fire series of self-deprecation and surf-tinged basement pop. It’s not difficult to see this band hitting a point where they influence a whole new crop of kids to pick up some instruments and take some determined stabs at the patriarchy.

5. Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds – Jesus Alone

There are few things more unfathomable to most than the loss of their child. The unimaginable anguish that accompanies that moment can turn every second of every day into a waking nightmare full of doubt, second-guessing, self-loathing, and seething resentment. It takes a special kind of bravery to allow a camera crew to intrude on that grief and document it in full, especially when that intrusion occurs mere months after that passing. Nick Cave has proven himself to be, again and again, an atypical creature with the kind of singular artistic vision that leaves behind a legacy.

Filmmaker Andrew Dominik crafted one of the best films of this century in The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford — a film that was scored by Cave & Warren Ellis — and, by all accounts, has created another masterpiece with his portrayal of Cave in the forthcoming One More Time With Feeling, which follows the songwriter as he navigates his grief and writes the band’s soon-to-be-released Skeleton Tree. In the first extended preview, the band runs through “Jesus Alone”, which is shot in crisp black-and-white emphasizing Cave’s vocal recording session and intercutting them with additional footage studio.

The cinematography is masterful, the editing is exquisite, but the sense of overwhelming despair is unshakable. Throughout everything, it’s clear that the creative team behind One More Time With Feeling have their hearts in the right places. The tragedy that brought all of this about is treated with enormous respect and virtually nothing comes off as exploitative. It’s a jarring experience due to an emotive power to leave just about anyone shell-shocked, providing the most minuscule of windows into Cave’s emotional state. His sense of loss and longing is felt at every second of one of the most harrowing songs in some time. In short: this is a masterpiece.