Heartbreaking Bravery

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Tag: Soak

Watch This: Vol. 126

It’s been quite some time since there was a regular installment of Watch This, a fact that was mostly due to travel in the pursuit of live coverage. That same pursuit pushed back this installment a few days as the post that precedes this one — and its accompanying preparation — took weekend priority. Now that it’s been posted, the wheel of Watch This can resume spinning freely (and will soon resume their position as a Sunday staple). As way of compensation for the delay, there’ll be two volumes of Watch This posted tonight. This post wJuill focus on standalone performances while the forthcoming post will tackle full sessions.

Additionally, a list of artists responsible for some great performance clips can be accessed by clicking the following hyperlinks: Cable Ties, didi, SOAK, Marissa Nadler, More Humans, Midwives, Sunflower Bean, Kurt Vile, Desert Mountain Tribe, Stephen Steinbrink, PUP, Tamaryn, Neely, Yael Naim, Laura Jean, Seramic, and Andrew Bird. It’s a long list of artists and performances that illustrates the sheer strength of the featured selections. So, as always, sit down, turn the volume back, lean in, and Watch This.

1. PUP – If This Tour Doesn’t Kill You, I Will (q on cbc)

After tearing apart the 7th St. Entry last Friday and earning the bulk of this site’s previous post, PUP have essentially guaranteed themselves a featured spot any time one of their live videos surfaces from a pro-shot source. Here, the quartet takes on the most intimidatingly-named song of the year with fervor, delivering a characteristically impassioned run that seems to lay everything on the line. It’s fiery, it’s ferocious, and it’s a very worthy addition to the Watch This catalog.

2. Speedy Ortiz – Dot X (Stereogum)

Speedy Ortiz recently unveiled a great new EP, the cheekily-named Foiled Again, which saw the band hitting the road and continuing to sharpen their already formidable live show. Stereogum recently caught them ripping their way through “Dot X”, a standout from Foil Deer. The band’s in rare form here, looking comfortable as they navigate the song’s hairpin dynamic turns with ease. It’s a compelling look at a great band that’s still in an impressive stride.

3. Lady Lamb – Spat Out Spit (Audiotree)

After a long stretch away, Lady Lamb returns to a standalone Watch This feature with a masterful run through “Spat Out Spit” that was lovingly captured by Audiotree. The song remains as unavoidable as it was on the day it was released and Lady Lamb’s Aly Spaltro’s only grown more confident as a performer in that time. Using “Spat Out Spit” as evidence, it’s not a surprise that Lady Lamb’s stages keep getting bigger.

4. Charles Bradley – Nobody But You (The Current)

Few people have had a run as inspiring as Charles Bradley over the past several years. The man’s gone from a literal nobody to a living legend at an age where most people would be contemplating retirement. Instead of giving up, Bradley’s had an extended coming out party that’s earned him legions of adoring fans, the respect of everyone, and a long string of impressive distinctions. Just as heartening as Bradley’s story is his music (as well as his prowess as a live performer). The Current captured him beautifully via this heartfelt run through “Nobody But You”.

5. Julien Baker – Photobooth (The AV Club)

Normally, this series doesn’t focus on covers. However, Julien Baker isn’t a normal artist and The AV Club’s Undercover series isn’t your run-of-the-mill covers generator. Both the series and the artist draw the best out of each other on this occasion, as Baker turns in a heartbreaking rendition of the admired Death Cab for Cutie slow-burner “Photobooth”. Baker applies her trademark devastation to the song and lets shattering emotion bleed through every single one of the songs crevices. Breathtaking, gentle, and undeniably beautiful, it’s both a declaration and reaffirmation of Baker’s talent as well as the worth of the Undercover series. Don’t miss out.

2015: The Best of Watch This

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When Watch This was conceived it was done with the intent to not only critically examine the balance of filmmaking and live performance but celebrate the art of the live video, a format which seems to have fallen to the wayside despite being more fruitful than it’s been since it was introduced. There’s real power behind the clips that manage to seamlessly merge the best qualities of everything that goes into the best live performance videos and they can yield genuinely unforgettable moments (when everything kicks back in on “Waitress”, the held falsetto in “A Proper Polish Welcome”, and a whole host of other chill-inducing moments are scattered throughout this compilation). Those moments are the beating heart behind this series construction and they’re what sustains the project as it presses forward.

Well over 300 live clips were covered on this site in 2015 and this is a collection of 25 that genuinely stood out for one reason or another, whether it was the sheer joy in a performance (Diet Cig), the performer’s ability to freeze blood (Julien Baker, Dilly Dally, SOAK), the trio of artists who appeared on Watch This the most throughout this year (Courtney Barnett, Girlpool, and Torres), an electrifying presentation and performance (July Talk), or a clip that’s a fully functional masterclass in every category that elevates a clip from astonishing to transcendental (Glen Hansard). All of those and more have been plugged into this packet, which culminates in a tour de force reminder of the overwhelming power of what can be achieved on a live platform from the resurgent Sleater-Kinney as one final exclamation point for a truly extraordinary year. So, as always, sit up, focus, adjust the volume, and Watch This.

Watch the 2015 edition of the best-of compilation for Heartbreaking Bravery’s definitive recurring series, Watch This, below. The track list is available under the embed.

1. Hop Along – Waitress (World Cafe)
2. July Talk – Paper Girl (Audiotree)
3. Ronny – Why Do You Have Kids (Gems On VHS)
4. Julien Baker – Sprained Ankle (BreakThruRadio)
5. Mikal Cronin – Say (WFUV)
6. Molly Parden – Weather (GemsOnVHS)
7. Eskimeaux – Folly (This Has Got To Stop)
8. Waxahatchee – Under A Rock (Pitchfork)
9. METZ – Spit You Out (3voor12)
10. Ought – Beautiful Blue Sky (KEXP)
11. Saintseneca – How Many Blankets Are In the World? (ANTI-)
12. Diet Cig – Harvard (In the Attic)
13. SOAK – B a Nobody Blud (La Blogotheque)
14. Dilly Dally – Burned by the Cold (Strombo Sessions)
15. Alex G + Girlpool – Brite Boy (SPIN)
16. Footings (Jenn Harrington)
17. Mike Krol – Suburban Wasteland + Neighborhood Watch (KEXP)
18. Beach Slang – Get Lost (Cozy Couch Sessions)
19. Public Service Broadcasting – Go! (WNYC)
20. Christopher Paul Stelling – Dear Beast (ANTI-)
21. Courtney Barnett – Depreston (La Blogotheque)
22. Algiers – Blood (WFUV)
23. Torres – A Proper Polish Welcome (NPR)
24. Glen Hansard – McCormack’s Wall (ANTI-)
25. Sleater-Kinney (NPR)

 

Watch This: Vol. 94

[EDITOR’S NOTE: A modified version of this paragraph appeared in the preceding post due to the nature of the pieces] Occasionally there are weeks where there are simply too many excessively strong live performance clips to highlight with just one entry and this week’s established itself as being of that caliber. It’s a rarity that there are exceptions to the setup of five featured clips and an honorable mentions list of hyperlinked material because it’s generally best to err on the side of brevity for these things. I’m not sure I can conjure up a more ringing endorsement than that for the 10 featured clips that will be running tonight. With the first half out of the way, it’s time to turn to the latter selections, all of which carry just as much impact as their predecessors. So, as always, sit up, adjust the volume, adjust the screen, lean in, focus, and Watch This.

1. Tacocat – Volcano (Rhapsody)

Throughout the week a lot was made of Tacocat‘s Rhapsody session due to their excellent Ramones cover but the band also delivered a fiery take on “Volcano”, an original that outshines the cover that circulated so many times over the past several days. “Volcano” is a perfect example of the band’s winsome sensibility and the band delivers it in earnest, with a palpable amount of affection for their craft. It’s an absolute joy to watch unfold and the perfect clip to kick off the second section.

2. Screaming Females – Ripe + Broken Neck (WFUV)

Ever since Watch This was initiated nearly two years ago, Screaming Females have been making frequent appearances in the series. The reasoning behind that decision’s uncomplicated: the band’s one of this generation’s best live acts. Some things are fairly cut and dry and the trio’s formidable abilities as a live act are nearly unparalleled in the DIY circuit. Still riding high on the success of this year’s tremendous Rose Mountain, the band stopped by the WFUV studios to turn in two fiery performances and extend their winning streak to even further lengths.

3. Froth (KEXP)

In the midst of quietly putting together a strong year loaded with promise and potential, Froth stopped by the KEXP studios for a full session that provided a glimpse at what makes them one today’s more exciting bands. Finding a common ground between basement pop and shoegaze, the quartet’s bridged that gap and traversed every compelling mile between the two genres. While the music’s got an immediate nature, it’s best explored through serious investment where it reaps seemingly unlimited rewards. Already fascinating material is given new life in the live context, where it’s performed with a great amount of verve and genuine care.

4. Fake Palms – Sparkles (Exclaim!)

Fake Palms have landed their name on this site a small handful of times now thanks to a strong 2015 that saw them steadily emerging as a viable candidate for best new act in an overcrowded year. “Sparkles” was one of their breakthrough moments and Exclaim! recently caught the quartet gifting their cameras an explosive version of the tune in a picturesque outdoor setting. The combination makes for an unreasonably compelling piece of art that should help the band further their case for being one of the year’s more memorable acts.

5. SOAK (KEXP)

Very few songs this year have managed to freeze blood as quickly as SOAK‘s 2015 highlight “B a Nobody”. Bridie Monds-Watson- the enviably gifted songwriter operating under the SOAK moniker- seems to recognize this and is coaxing the appropriate mileage out of the song. Wisely kicking off this KEXP session with the tune to set the tone, it’s quickly followed by an effective trio that firmly establishes Monds-Watson as one of today’s premier young talents. KEXP’s cameras almost seem to be lensing Monds-Watson reverentially throughout this session, which provides the affair with a dimension that contributes to its stunning impact. Don’t miss this one.

Watch This: Vol. 89

Welcome to an extremely late night (early morning?) edition of Watch This– the weekly series that celebrates some of the week’s best performance captures. With 2015 already feeling overstuffed, I’ll forego the usual honorary mentions round-up and simply present the five best captures to have surfaced this week. From site favorites to series favorites to new faces, there’s a fair amount of material to cover. Pro-shot presentations get balanced out by some lovingly lensed DIY clips and- as always- all of the performances contained within those videos are outstanding. So, pour a drink or fix some breakfast, ease in, adjust the volume, focus up, and Watch This.

1. Sleater-Kinney – Bury Our Friends + Entertain (Pitchfork)

The unexpected resurgence of Sleater-Kinney was one of 2015’s first great musical moments and the reverberations from its impact are still being felt. Recently, the band- by all accounts- absolutely owned Pitchfork this year with a monstrous day 2 headlining set that overshadowed Wilco’s Star Wars marathon the previous night and Chance the Rapper’s hometown celebration as the fest’s final headliner. Even just from the two-clip sample contained below, “Bury Our Friends” and “Entertain”, its abundantly clear that Sleater-Kinney are one of the best live bands on the planet right now. A note to other bands splitting bills with the revitalized legends: don’t feel down, feel fortunate you get to be a part of something that can’t help but feel just a little unprecedented.

2. Worriers – They/Them/Theirs (Don Giovanni)

Imaginary Life came out a few days ago, immediately registering as one of the year’s best punk efforts. Even with a collection that strong, “They/Them/Theirs” stands out. Personal, timely, and deeply impassioned, it’s a clarion call for a marginalized sect. The band played their release show at The Knitting Factory last Friday and brought the same verve, force, and resilience to their performance of their song of the year candidate. Scrappy and thrilling, it’s one hell of a showcase for the band’s collective talent.

3. The Trims – With You + Bright Lights City (Jam in the Van)

Every now and then, Jam in the Van will resurface with a session that hits a sweet spot for this site and their recent capture of The Trims found that mark. Bridging post-punk and indie pop hallmarks, the quarter’s landed on a sound that’s unusually compelling when considering their pop-oriented proclivities. Subverting anthemic by-the-numbers move at just about every turn, their music manages to come off as cinematic while still feeling like an outlier. Moody, vibrant, and occasionally bruising, the group seems primed for a breakout and ready to greet whatever may come their way.

4. Young Jesus – Baked Goods (A Fistful of Vinyl)

Young Jesus are no strangers to this site. Ever since releasing their best-of-decade contender Home (a record I simply can’t recommend strongly enough), they’ve been on my radar. The past few years have been a transitional process for the band following their relocation from Chicago to Los Angeles. Earlier this year, the band released the excellent Grow/Decompose and they seem to be settling into their new era quite nicely. Earlier this week, the band unveiled even more new music via a taping of a raw, fiery performance, courtesy of A Fistful of Vinyl. Bold, bloodied, and not even a little glossy, “Baked Goods” is presented in a manner that feels intrinsically connected to the band’s DIY ethos. It’s a startling watch and a strong reminder of how much beauty can be found in imperfection.

5. SOAK (NPR)

It only seemed like a matter of time before Bridie Monds-Watson wound up making an appearance at NPR’s Tiny Desk and now that the moment’s finally arrived, the fit somehow feels even more natural than expected. Here, Monds-Watson’s SOAK project turns in a trio of songs and an impressive array of warm, humorous asides. The closing two numbers, “B a Nobody” and “Wait”, sound as fine as they ever have and “Sea Creatures” proves to be the perfect introductory piece for the set. Grounded and contained, it skews towards the kind of intimacy that the tiny desk was built to elicit from its performers but continues to prove elusive to a fair number of their acts (Monds-Watson namechecks Angel Olsen’s session, who hit extraordinary heights in regards to the series’ intended intimacy and caused the first major Watch This dilemma by pitting that session against an  unforgettable La Blogotheque capture, which wound up securing the spot in that particular installment). All things considered, it makes sense for Monds-Watson to feel trepidation about performing in such a vaunted space but now that everything’s said and done, it’s clear that the SOAK session resides comfortably in the series’ upper echelons.

Watch This: Vol. 87

Every Sunday, Watch This runs on this site to celebrate some of the finest performance captures to have surfaced over the past seven days. Here and there, exceptions are made to facilitate some genuinely great performances (this is one of those weeks) but the central focus remains the same: the celebration of a confusingly under-discussed presentation format that allows great filmmaking to intersect with great performances. As has been the case over recent weeks, a lot of clips didn’t wind up in the featured five slot (including some performances from artists who did make it into those positions), which is telling of the quality of those clips that are discussed in greater extent. Those artists include: Jack and Eliza, Nic Hessler, Happyness, Titus Andronicus (x2), SOAK, Oscar, The Sun Parade (x2), On and On, The Wilderness (x2), Restorations, Drenge (x2), Mommy Long Legs, and site favorites Tenement. All of those are worth the clicks but today’s all about the five clips below the introductory paragraph. So, as always, sit back, adjust the volume, clear your mind of clutter, focus up, and Watch This.


1. Happyness – It’s On You (WFUV)

Happyness have earned their fair share of love on this site and they continue to impress here, in a spirited rendition of “It’s On You”, for Watch This staple WFUV. One of the reasons WFUV keeps showing up in these lists is the way they present the performances; a black backdrop means no visual distractions. It’s a tactic that’s proven troublesome for some bands but Happyness have always been capable of spinning minimalist tendencies into gold and this performance is one of those times.

2. Eskimeaux – Sleeppy Bear (Portals)

On very rare occasions, the format of Watch This will ever-so-slightly deviate from its traditional setup to accommodate an item that was lost in the preceding weeks’ shuffle. Despite Eskimeaux making an increasing number of appearances on the site as of late, the stunning performance clip Portals produced of “Sleepy Bear” somehow became one of those items. Far too lovely to let fall to the wayside, “Sleepy Bear” places all of its emphasis on Gabrielle Smith- the driving creative force behind Eskimeaux- and the results are spellbinding.

3. Diet Cig (BreakThruRadio)

This isn’t the first time Diet Cig have shown up and raised hell on Watch This and it’s seriously unlikely that it’ll be the last. A duo of firecrackers, the band’s entertainment value seems to continuously escalate as the velocity of their headfirst dive into embracing a gleeful insanity increases. As always, their performances here come off like an unexpectedly forceful gut-punch followed by a mischievous, half-apologetic smile.

4. Titus Andronicus – Fatal Flaw (WNYC)

At present, Titus Andronicus have two out-and-out masterpieces under their belt. The Most Lamentable Tragedy, the band’s just-released double album, is the first time they’ve matched the heights of The Monitor and part of that is thanks to a similarly sprawling ambition that’s equaled by the frighteningly honest conviction of bandleader Patrick Stickles. Of course, it wouldn’t have landed in that position without genuinely great songs in its bold narrative arc. The band recently stopped by WNYC’s studios to deliver a performance of a few of those songs, delivering the strongest performance in this particularly raucous take on single “Fatal Flaw”.

5. SOAK – Wait (WFUV)

When SOAK last appeared on Watch This, the young songwriter was centered in a clip that will undoubtedly be featured again as part of this site’s annual year-end roundup celebrating the best of the series. Here, in a breathtaking performance for WFUV, the same grace, devastation, and haunted frailty that made SOAK’s first Watch This entrance so compelling is brought to the fore with a similar effortlessness. It’s absolutely mesmerizing.

Watch This: Vol. 79

Over the course of the past few weeks, the influx of outstanding live videos has been staggering. Last week the series was put on a brief hold due to other personal obligations but even then, there was the threat of multiple installments for that particular Sunday. Amassing those with the live clips that followed in the subsequent week brings us to this point: there’s simply too much great material to feature to justify relegating anything exceeding the limit of five to the introductory paragraph(s). With this being the case, there will be seven- yes, seven- installments of Watch This to go live throughout the day (and possibly night).

To that end, this very introduction will be running prior to volumes 74-80 to reduce the levels of overall exposition to provide an emphasis on the material at hand. Site favorites Girlpool and Waxahatchee were seemingly everywhere this week, securing multiple entries throughout this run while Faits Divers spread-out documentation of a set from Ought (another site favorite) managed to do the same. As always, each video featured is an exemplary showcase for both artist and host, covering a wide range of sounds and styles. So, as always, sit back, adjust the volume to your preferred settings, sit up straight, lean in (or back), and Watch This.

1. Girlpool – Before The World Was Big (Exclaim!)

Capping off Girlpool’s impressive run of recent live captures is this beautiful take of “Before The World Was Big“, courtesy of Exclaim!. Naturally, there’s a sense of genuine calm that characterizes the clip, the duo’s affability presented clearly. The performance is as crisp as any the band’s delivered; a riveting document of a variety of enviable gifts. The song itself ranks among the year’s best, as does the album, but it’s brought new life given the freedom of the expanse of space provided by a live setting, rendering this clip a can’t-miss prospect.

2. Las Robertas (KEXP)

While an increasing number of bands are adopting a surf influence, there are only a few that are wielding that influence effectively; Las Robertas is one of those bands. KEXP recently played host to the band and received an impassioned set in return. Sunny pop melodies and a decidedly punk nonchalance keep the session lively as an interview provides some insight to the band’s inner workings (and dredges up some amusing anecdotes). Packaged all together, it’s an exhilarating ride that coasts on the dichotomy of being clearly driven but sounding effortlessly carefree.

3. SOAK (La Blogotheque)

Between Courtney Barnett’s recent La Blogotheque turn-in and this deeply felt session for Bridie Monds-Watson’s SOAK project, it’s becoming abundantly clear that the series hasn’t slowed their ambitions. Characteristically gorgeous and surprisingly moving, this pair of songs- “B a Nobody” and “Blud”- become awe-inspiring thanks to both the committed performance and the way the performances are lensed. Monds-Watson exhibits a breathtaking command over control and restraint throughout and, by the video’s end, walks away with one of the most unexpectedly inspiring live moments of the year.

4. Waxahatchee – Under A Rock (Wichita)

Wrapping up the run of Waxahatchee’s recent St. Pancras set is a characteristically spellbinding take of one of 2015’s best singles, “Under A Rock“. Eschewing all of the anthemic rock trappings that made the song sound so defiantly gigantic in the recorded setting in favor of a bare-bones approach, “Under A Rock” becomes another gorgeous showcase for not just Katie Crutchfield but her twin, Allison (of Swearin’), as well. It’s a fitting end-cap for one of 2015’s most gorgeous video sets and affirms that Waxahatchee is operating at the height of her current powers.

5. Sleater-Kinney (Later… With Jools Holland)

One of the year’s most welcome surprises was the return of Sleater-Kinney, not just because they were back (which would have been a welcome return) but because they were back with a vengeance. No Cities To Love felt like an evolution of The Woods (one of my picks for best record of the 2000’s), re-establishing not only the band’s identity but their creative restlessness. The band recently stopped by the vaunted UK show Later… With Jools Holland to deliver a trio of fiery performances (“No Cities To Love”, “Gimme Love”, and “Price Tag”, respectively), resoundingly defeating any adjusted expectations in the process. Even in a nearly decade-long absence, the band hasn’t lost a step.

Brain F≠ – Sicks (Stream)

It’s been another one of those days. A day with a cavalcade of new and noteworthy music news descending at an impossible velocity. There was official live performance videos from Cloud Nothings (which came with an accompanying tour announcement), Fever the Ghost, and Those Darlins. Following that, official videos from Metronomy (which has the distinction of being directed by Michel Gondry), OFF!Soak, Tacocat, and Quilt. Additionally, there was new music from Black Lips, The CoathangersCreative Adult, Denney and the JetsEx-Cult, and Woods (which would’ve been the feature today but it’s difficult to shake the feeling that With Light and With Love is going to be picking up a lot of press in the days to come). All adding up to an overload of material before the day even hit its halfway point. In the midst of all that chaos, a song by Brain F≠ (pronounced Brain Flannel, apparently) called “Sicks” managed to stand out.

Brain F≠ sound sort of like Be Your Own PET and OFF! were thrown into a blender while riding an adrenaline high, attempting to beat each other to death. “Sicks” is a manic blast of charged-up punk-leaning hardcore that’s accessible enough to snag a lot of potential interest. That interest will undoubtedly be coming their way following today’s release of Empty Set (via a joint release between Grave Mistake and Sorry State Records), the full-length that “Sicks” is taken from. Importantly, the band seems to have already grasped one of the keys to an early success- and that lies in the fact that no matter how aggressive Brain F≠ gets, they always retain a sense of fun that’s often far too buried (and crucial) to music that operates on the fringes of hardcore. “Sicks” is a genuine moment of excitement from a band worth getting excited over. Hear “Sicks” below and go destroy something useless.