Watch This: Vol. 141

by Steven Spoerl

This past week was brimming with exceptional live clips from artists like Happy Diving, Puppy Problems, Wolf Parade, Eros and the Eschaton, Grape Whales, Islands, The Tallest Man On Earth, Matthew Logan Vasquez, Oscar, Villagers, Clique, July Talk, Lisa Hannigan, Whitney, Rogue Valley, Woven In, Mudhoney, Helms Alee, Aidan Knight, Waterstrider, and The Staves. While all of those are worth studying for both the central performances and the way those performances were captured, the five clips featured below managed to become standouts for excelling in those departments. From old favorites to new faces, from legitimate live music video entries to full sessions, from cathartic release to sorrowful introspection, there’s a lot to navigate in these selections. So, as always, sit up, lean in, adjust the settings, focus, block out any distractions, and Watch This.

1. Mitski – First Love / Late Spring + Your Best American Girl (World Cafe)

Ever since Mitski‘s breakout release, Bury Me At Makeout Creek, the songwriter has been a staple of this site’s coverage. The project’s been outstanding both on record and in the live department. Mitski recently stopped by World Cafe to play through the fiery “Your Best American Girl“, easily one of this year’s brightest moments, and “First Love / Late Spring” with the calm confidence that’s propelled the songwriter to widespread acclaim. It’s a welcome reminder of a powerful performer and a beautiful document of the current era of the project.

2. Kevin Devine – No History

Kevin Devine has a storied history of spellbinding performances so it’s no surprise that the songwriter’s continued to sporadically show up in this series. Devine can be an electrifying performer when backed with a full, electric band but there’s a certain magic to his solo acoustic performances that’s only grown more pronounced with this time. “No History” capitalizes on that magic in full, standing confidently as both a gorgeously lensed live clip and — impressively — as bona fide music video.

3. XURS (KEXP)

A new name to this site, XURS recently had somewhat of a coming out party in the KEXP studios, delivering a blistering session of unapologetic noise/punk. Every song the band tears through in this session is absolutely vicious and delivered with enough conviction to knock most other bands flat. Wildly frantic and more than a little exhilarating, the band make the absolute most of a solid opportunity and the end effect seems set to resonate for quite some time.

4. Big Thief (NPR)

Big Thief very quickly became a distinctive part of this site’s identity thanks to the overwhelming strength of this year’s Masterpiece. “Paul“, the title track, and “Lorraine” all get performed here for NPR’s Tiny Desk Concerts series to a small, hushed crowd. The band’s a perfect fit for the series and the setting allows the sweeping, open-road atmospherics that’s a specialty of the band a little extra room to breathe, casting a spell that’s nothing short of entrancing.

5. Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds – I Need You

Only a few installments back, Nick Cave was granted an unforgettable entry in this series thanks to the harrowing clip for “Jesus Alone“, a gorgeous excerpt from the shattering Andrew Dominik documentary One More Time With Feeling. Like “Jesus Alone”, “I Need You” is a clip that’s both haunted and haunting, an examination of an artist going through unspeakable loss. Even these six minutes, isolated from the context of the film and the record, are a wrenching experience. Cave, now more than ever, looks like a ghost attempting to navigate a reality that shouldn’t exist. Deeply sorrowful and intensely moving, “I Need You” is an artful tragedy that’s impossible to shake.