Watch This: Vol. 145

by Steven Spoerl

The past week contained a plethora of outstanding performance clips, including memorable takes of Ama, Haley Bonar, Alex Napping, The Seratones, Benjamin Booker, Cate Le Bon, Twin Limb, Pinegrove, The Frights, Matthew Logan Vasquez, Beach Slang, Heaters, Naked Giants, The Sweet Release of Death, Conor Oberst, and King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard. Since there was an excessive amount of incredible material over the past seven days, this will be the first of two tandem Watch This installments. The five featured clips below are heavy on full sessions and include one genuine outlier that was simply too good to pass up featuring. So, with that in mind, take a deep breath, steel some nerves, block out any distractions, adjust the settings, lean in, and Watch This.

1. Big Ups (Audiotree)

As a live act, Big Ups are an extremely enticing draw. They’re explosive performers, their songs are complex and dynamic enough to demand uncommon talent, and the quartet boasts a magnetic playing style. They’ve appeared on several past Watch This entries but occupy an elevated space for this Audiotree session. Characteristically intense and oddly entrancing, this session stands as a career highlight for both the band and the rightfully acclaimed studio.

2. Uni Ika Ai – Already Dead (BreakThruRadio)

2016 has been something of a breakout year for Uni Ika Ai. While they may not be an instantly recognizable name, the act’s been gaining traction on the back of their dreamlike approach to subdued indie pop. Deeply impressive and hard to shake, this enrapturing performance of “Already Dead” for BreakThruRadio is as good an entry point as any for the uninitiated. For more than seven minutes, the band casts a spell that deepens as the song progresses, making one hell of an impression.

3. Explosions in the Sky (KEXP)

cTypically Watch This — and Heartbreaking Bravery in general — is a space reserved for emerging artists but every once in a while a veteran act will issue a reminder of how they earned their status. Case in point: post-rock titans Explosions in the Sky‘s recent KEXP session. The band’s riding another critical surge following the release of this year’s The Wilderness, a record that subtly expanded the band’s scope. As ever, the songs translate beautifully to the live setting and this performance serves as concrete proof.

4. Nothing (KVRX)

When a band’s volume levels are as relentlessly punishing as Nothing‘s, stripping songs to bare acoustics can be a risky prospect. Fortunately, the band are incredibly gifted songwriters, something that comes across with a charming, natural ease in this unassuming KVRX session. There’s a certain amount of grace that often gets overlooked when shoegaze-leaning bands heavily emphasize the most bruising aspects of their approach and each song performed here becomes an essential reminder of that grace, winding up as an unexpected document of one of the genre’s most intriguing acts.

5. Jay Reatard (Pitchfork)

More of an archival release than anything else, this look back at a musician that was lost far too young is vital, painful, and wildly exhilarating. Taking a breathlessly frantic approach, Jay Reatard whips his band into overdrive right out of the gate, ripping through a dozen songs in a fiery twenty minute set, featuring a host of songs that have rightfully carved their place out in history as pivotal genre classics. Reatard was writing out of his mind during the time this was filmed, fresh off the release of Blood Visions (which remains an indisputable classic). An arresting look back at a formidable talent, there’s heartbreak to be found in thinking about what could have been but more than enough heart on display to make up some of the difference.