Heartbreaking Bravery

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Tag: America

Watch This: Vol. 137

While the past week wasn’t as exhaustive for live videos as it has been recently, there were still some impressive entries featuring a variety of great acts like Jenny Lewis, Same, The Fever, The Academic, Band of Horses, Typesetter, Astronomique, Future Generations, Martin Courtney, The Staves, Bleached, Adia Victoria, Ages and Ages, Caveman, Summer Twins, Mr. Airplane Man, Julia Holter, Warren Franklin & TFF, Israel Nash, Metric, Justin Peter Kinkel-Schuster, and Tamaryn. Even with all of those in the mix, there were still five genuine standouts, from site favorites to the perennially overlooked. So, as always, sit back, adjust the settings, block out any circumstantial distractions, focus up, and Watch This.

1. Big Eyes – Stake My Claim (BreakThruRadio)

Fresh off releasing one of the year’s best basement pop records, Big Eyes come through in a major way yet again via this performance of that record’s title track, “Stake My Claim”. While the band certainly has made a sizable impression thanks to their recorded work, they’ve been an even more dangerous force as a live act. After going through several mutations, the band’s finally landed on a unit that allows their sound to be as expansive — and as aggressive — as possible.

2. Boss Hog (KEXP)

One of many projects to include DIY punk icon Jon Spencer, Boss Hog first gained some notoriety in the late ’80s thanks to their sudden existence (they were created out of a need to fill a vacancy on a bill at CBGB’s), vocalist Christina Martinez playing that first show nude, and their relentlessly aggressive hybrid of punk sub-genres. The band’s been experiencing a resurgence lately, which led them to the KEXP studios for this gorgeously-lensed session presented in crisp black-and-white. From just about every angle, everything happening here is exhilarating.

3. Mumblr – Mudmouth + Domingo (Out of Town Films)

After the beginning of their career brought about a handful of upbeat, party-leaning (but surprisingly introspective) anthems the quartet went through some sort of awakening. A lot of their more recent material has approached being confrontational thanks to a newfound darkness and a staggering amount of patience. The band’s been stretching their influences in surprising ways and nearly all of them are present in this beautifully-shot two song turn-in for Out of Town Films, which doubles as a definitive showcase for this era of one of the more fascinating bands making music right now.

4. Tigercats – Rent Control (Fortuna POP!)

Every once in a while, a spectacularly made live video surfaces and causes people to question its validity as a live presentation. In many cases, most assume it’s just a particularly convincing music video. This is the fate that awaits Tigercats’ scintillating new “Rent Control”, which is one of the more memorable entries in that niche format in recent memory. Set in a house overflowing with people (presumably friends of the band), there’s a liveliness that informs “Rent Control” and elevates it past similar efforts. The song itself is an exuberant burst of indie pop and every aspect of the clip ties together beautifully, ensuring it a spot on this list.

5. Japanese Breakfast (Audiotree)

Michelle Zauner anchored one of my personal favorite entries in this entire series’ run in Little Big League‘s extraordinary “Year of the Sunhouse” clip from Little Elephant and has remained a powerhouse performer in the time that’s passed since that clip. Zauner’s other project, Japanese Breakfast, has been turning quite a few heads since the release of their excellent Psychopomp. The band recently wrapped a tour with Mitski and Jay Som, taking control of every opportunity to better their already-formidable live show. Their recent session for Audiotree demonstrated the band’s continuously evolving live show and curiously quiet strengths. The entire session is masterful both in performance and presentation, leaving behind an artifact that should be visited and revisited for quite some time.

Watch This: Vol. 109

Since the preceding post covered the time lapse between the last run of Watch This and tonight’s posts, this introductory paragraph will lean slightly harder on the material that’s actually come out in that interim. Two weeks can feel like an overwhelming amount of time when faced with the endless expanse of releases in any format and the live video is no exception. It can occasionally be difficult to narrow down these selections to just five when considering them all, which was the case this week as worthy efforts surfaced from the following artists: Shopping, Hooton Tennis Club, Ed Schrader’s Music Beat, Bad Bad Hats, Kurt Vile, Flavor Crystal, Hinds, Joanna Newsom, Courtney Barnett, FIDLAR, Fury Things, Black Box  Revelation, Eliot Sumner, Low, Glen Hansard, Martin Courtney, Deaf Wish, Raury, Zanders, Six Organs of Admittance, Oscar, Protomartyr, Palm, Sun Club, Julia Holter, Woozy, Caleb and Carolyn, The Tambourine Girls, Little May, Forever Pavot, Mellow Diamond, why+the+wires, Iguana Death Cult, and Okkervil River. Obviously, with a list like that, the below selections are comprised of clips that truly managed to stand out, for one reason or another. So, as always, lean in, relax, adjust the volume, and Watch This.

1. Car Seat Headrest (KEXP)

Car Seat Headrest was another band from 2015 that had gained previous traction and capitalized in blinding fashion, showing a complete disregard for the thought of looking back. Understandably, KEXP invited them into their studio for a session and the band delivered one of 2015’s most towering sets in recent memory. At a monstrous running time that exceeds most full-length efforts, it’s actually a fairly intimidating ask- or, it would be if the music (and performance) wasn’t so immediately likable. Will Toledo’s got an enviable gift for pop songwriting and for subverting expectations, leading the charge in a session that more than justifies the swirling interest surrounding the band.

2. Dilly Dally (BreakThruRadio)

If this site’s love for Dilly Dally hasn’t been made abundantly clear by now, this very sentence will probably at least give you a small indication. After torching the stages of Santos Party House and Baby’s All Right during CMJ, the band’s kept pace with their music and maintained a deliriously frantic touring schedule. All of that time playing out is paying off, tightening the screws on their already-formidable live show. It’s evident in every live clip that surfaces, including this revealing session with BreakThruRadio that includes some endearing interview segments. Turn it up and fall in love.

3. The Lumes – Nervous + Satan (The Daily Indie)

Every so often, a relatively unknown band crops up on my radar and blows me away with how complete they seem and The Lumes definitely qualifies as one of those bands. A lightly menacing post-punk trio that excels in atmospheric work, they’ve managed to carve out a thoughtful identity that feels more singular than it should just two releases into their career. Here, they perform vicious takes on “Nervous” and “Satan”, the tracks that bookend their outstanding Lust EP. The trio gives their all in both performances and ultimately secures a spot on this installment of Watch This thanks to their overwhelming strength.

4. Woozy – Hush (Little Elephant)

It’s been a while since Little Elephant’s hosted a session as strong as the one Woozy’s provided, committing another jewel to that particular crown with this committed take on “Hush”. Marrying genres with ease and integrating surprisingly explosive moments in fits and starts, “Hush” may actually be one of the band’s most definitive songs. Leaning heavily into their post-punk and grunge angles, they still find ways to surprise in territory that’s generally far more straightforward. Ultimately, it’s another extremely impressive showing from a band that seems surprisingly determined to top themselves with each successive outing.

5. Bandit – The Drive Home + Dragon (Audiotree)

Closing out this run of Watch This is a performance that feels like a genuine finale, courtesy of Bandit’s beautiful renditions of two Of Life‘s highlights: “The Drive Home” and “Dragon”. The former of those two songs received one of the most gorgeous music videos of the year and has the capacity to overwhelm listeners with genuine feeling, amplifying atmospheric currents as it progresses. “Dragon” is a track that operates in a similar vein and, packaged together, they manage to elevate each other’s best qualities, which is why- in spite of a deeply impressive full session– this performance is being highlighted individually. Exemplifying all of Bandit’s finest qualities as both a band and as a live act, Audiotree struck gold with the band’s turn-in of these two songs, leaving behind something that the studio might be talking about for quite some time.

First Quarter Clips, Pt. 1 (Video Mixtape)

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As was laid out in yesterday’s mixtape, for the next few days this site will be in strict catch-up mode. Mixtapes of some of the best material to emerge in the first three months of 2015 will be running until everything’s brought up to the present-day release cycle. A few items here and there will be granted individual focus pieces but don’t let that distract from the importance of the songs and clips in all of the past and forthcoming lists (as well as the one on display here). It’s been a strong year for music videos across several genres, which is something this package of clips is intended to emphasize. From site favorites Mumblr‘s stroke of brilliance in incorporating actual live footage from their previous shows into “Got It” to the Bob’s Burgers tribute to Sleater-Kinney to the searing, soulful “Keep In Mind (Asshole)”, there’s a lot here to admire. Dive in below and explore a few of this year’s richest treasures.

COLLECTION I

1. Mumblr – Got It
2. Toro Y Moi – Empty Nesters
3. Heaters – Levitate Thigh
4. Menace Beach – Tastes Like Medicine
5. California X – Hadley, MA
6. Protomartyr – Want Remover
7. Destruction Unit – Final Flight
8. MOURN – Your Brain Is Made of Candy
9. Young Guv – Crushing Sensation
10. Cyberbully Mom Club – Bobby Pins
11. King Tuff – Headbanger
12. Sleater-Kinney – A New Wave
13. Cayetana – Scott Get the Van, I’m Moving
14. Ex Hex – Don’t Wanna Lose
15. Franky Flowers – Fell In Love
16. Gal Pals – Do You Ever?
17. Celestial Shore – Weekenders
18. Twerps – Stranger
19. Kuroma – Simon’s in the Jungle
20. Kool Stuff Katie – Cars
21. Fear of Men – America
22. This is the Kit – Bashed Out
23. Tori Vasquez – Keep In Mind (Asshole)
24. Only Real – Can’t Get Happy
25. The Dodos – Competition

Zulu Pearls – Lightweight (Music Video)

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Today saw the continuance of the staggering amount of great new material that the past few weeks have been offering up. Normally, everything would get one huge recap in the introductory paragraph.  However, there were just too many items that needed to be covered with greater emphasis to warrant just throwing them all in together. This was especially true for the music videos that came out today. From a kaleidoscopic video by Wisconsin favorites The Midwest Beat to a hazy, low-key effort in support of Mutual Benefit’s “Auburn Epitaphs“. Connections released a Hall & Oates-aping clip for their excellent “Aylia” and S unveiled the devastatingly intimate “Losers“, which very nearly earned today’s feature spot. It definitely would have had it not been for the lightly-damaged magic hour ruralism of Zulu Pearls‘ “Lightweight”.

Zulu Pearls, for their part, recall a more restrained, Southern-tinged version of Gap Dream and seem to share that band’s penchant for videos that feature stunning imagery. “Lightweight” finds the band taking a trip to Sweden to spend some time on the road, making friends with a collective that’s fascinated by retro American-built cars. Vehicles are driven, destroyed, and- importantly- gorgeously lensed by cinematographer Kiel Miligan. While that emphasis does provide “Lightweight” with its main draw, it’s the transitional shots of Zulu Pearls taking some time to appreciate their surroundings and take a few beats to have a laugh with each other that pushes the clip towards something really memorable. It’s an extraordinary teaser for Zulu Pearls’ upcoming EP, Singles Deluxe, and functions perfectly as a single. As a music video, it’s incredibly eye-opening and naturalistic, providing Zulu Pearls a platform tantalizing enough to have the potential to bring them the attention they deserve.

Watch “Lightweight” below and keep an eye out for Singles Deluxe‘s October 28 release.

<p><a href=”http://vimeo.com/104500367″>Zulu Pearls – Lightweight (Official Music Video)</a> from <a href=”http://vimeo.com/user1298853″>Zulu Pearls</a> on <a href=”https://vimeo.com”>Vimeo</a&gt;.</p>

Watch This: Vol. 44

Welcome to a late-night installment of Watch This, the 44th in the weekly series that celebrates the best live performances to surface in the previous week. This time around, there’s a split between full sets, late night performances, and DIY presentations that all include bands that have previously earned themselves features (or extended mentions) on this site. Whether it’s another jaw-dropping full set from White Lung or a revitalized Death From Above 1979 diving headfirst into their single, these are all worth watching. Normally Watch This is posted much earlier on Sunday, so in the spirit of today’s delay, the featured videos get darker in atmosphere as they progress. Day turns to night and Volume 44 gets to lay claim to five great performances. So, sit back, relax, take a drink, ease up, and Watch This.

1. Death From Above 1979 – Trainwreck 1979 (The Late Show with David Letterman)

The Physical World, Death From Above 1979’s long-awaited follow-up to the classic You’re A Woman, I’m A Machine, may have disappointed a few people with absurd expectations. Most of them were hung up on their own projections of what they thought the band should be instead of letting them come out of hibernation to evolve naturally. It’s hard to think that any of them would be disappointed by a performance like this one, which winds up being part of a late surge of memorable talk show performances.

2. Benny the Jet Rodriguez – Alley Cat (Razorcake)

Is the sound on this the greatest? No. Does it need to be? Same answer. Is this a great take on a great song from a great record? Absolutely. Does the combination of logos, titles, and credits make it difficult to definitively credit? Extremely. How are more people not talking about Benny the Jet Rodriguez and Home. Run? That’s impossible to say- but it needs to change. When should that change start? Right now. Does every city deserve a venue like VLHS? Definitely.

3. Diarrhea Planet (KEXP)

Diarrhea Planet may have released a very good record the other year that holds up as a standalone piece but their reputation was almost entirely built by virtue of their excitable live shows. This KEXP session goes a long way in confirming any of the uninitiated’s suspicions that they have a penchant for the irreverent and wild- and that’s all that really needs to be said. Just watch the video.

4. White Lung (unARTigNYC) 

This isn’t the first full White Lung set to earn itself a feature on Watch This. Hell, it’s not even the first one that comes courtesy of unARTigNYC. All that said, the band keeps managing to get better, a feat of borderline absurdity considering they’re already one of the better live acts out there today. Easily the best-looking and best-sounding White Lung set to find its way onto Watch This, their recent set at Palisades found them in their fieriest form (especially after a very tense moment towards the start of the set that found vocalist Mish Way pushed to the point of physically accosting and ultimately ejecting an audience member)- absolutely laying waste to a selection of songs that leaned heavily on 2014 standout Deep Fantasy. Even if the whole set was emotionally charged thanks to the severely unfortunate circumstances, it provided a handful of thrilling moments and cemented White Lung’s status as one of today’s most exciting bands.

5. Nothing (KEXP)

Nothing are notorious for eardrum-obliterating volume levels when they play live, which seems fitting for a band so prone to relentless heaviness. Here, they hold nothing back and give KEXP one of the station’s more memorable sessions- creating an entrancing sprawl that sides towards the heavily atmospheric. Guilty of Everything was a high point of mid-2014 and is well-represented here. Apart from a few fairly awkward interview exchanges (which is probably putting it mildly), the individual song performances are weirdly mesmerizing. All in all, it’s hard to ask for a better way to cap off another great week of documented live music.

Reigning Sound – Falling Rain (Stream)

Over the span of their existence and an extraordinary discography, Reigning Sound have carved out a place in the contemporary musical landscape that seems fated to wind up as One of America’s Great Forgotten Rock Bands only to be rediscovered years down the road by crate-diggers who will have no idea what they’re in for. Of course, the band does have a strong foothold in certain circles and anyone that owns even one of their records (Time Bomb High School and Home for Orphans are both outright classics) knows that they’re a genuinely great band. Those fortunate enough to find themselves involved in those circles will undoubtedly do their best to pass down this music to the next generation. However, there are times when being overlooked for so long can be tiresome or grate the wrong way in the grand scheme of things, especially from a label standpoint, so a round of applause to Merge for putting their faith in this band and signing them ahead of the July 15 release of Shattered.

Both the band and the label have offered up the first taste of Shattered with “Falling Rain”, a song that exists squarely in the band’s sweet spot. There’s a sense of familiarity, a warm analog crackle, and Greg Cartwright’s masterful songwriting and inviting persona driving “Falling Rain”. It’s another entry in the band’s catalog that feels like it could have been a lost hit from virtually anywhere in the span of the last 40 years or so. That particular brand of timelessness is always an impressive thing to be able to boast and it’s where Reigning Sound have made their home over the course of their career. Cartwright’s already proven himself to be one of this generation’s best songwriters and “Falling Rain” is only further proof of his enviable command over both composition and personality. Hopefully Merge’s support carries this band from a best-kept secret to a household name. There are few bands that deserve that transition as much as Reigning Sound does.

Listen to “Falling Rain” below and discover (or rediscover) one of America’s best bands.

The Sleepwalkers – Come Around (Music Video Premiere)

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There are very few records that have required as much patience as The Sleepwalkers’ just-released Lost My Mind in Stereo. That’s not to say it required a vast amount of dedication to appreciate; it just took a very long time to get released and was difficult not to share with just about everyone. Other than the USA Today premere of the extraordinary lead-off track “My Best Was Never Good Enough“, these songs have only existed in the world as a small handful of rough demos and live staples of Sleepwalkers’ sets. Now, the record’s finally out and the band’s granted this site the music video premiere for standout cut “Come Around”.

Lost My Mind in Stereo is a record full of songs that feel instantly classic, sharp blasts of music that are finely-tuned examples of both great songwriting and American culture. “Come Around” is one of the many examples where all of that is readily apparent. Incorporating everything from 60’s jangle to 90’s powerpop, there are no false notes. In the video, the band plays through the song in Oshkosh, WI venue Reptile Palace and intercuts footage of decidedly freewheeling shenanigans in the Fox Valley area, mostly involving food (Bron Sage’s Kyle Merckx also makes a few brief but memorable appearances). By the time “Come Around” fades into black and flashes a subliminal “WOOF”, it’s hard not to feel like a part of The Sleepwalkers’ world. It’s another instance of the band finding the exact pulse of a very particular timelessness and running with it. We’re all the better for it.

Watch “Come Around” below and make every day feel like the 4th of July.