[EDITOR’S NOTE: Each of the seven volumes that comprise this Watch This package contain 25 clips apiece. Due to the sheer volume of live videos that have come out during January, February, and March all of the packages will have the same introductory paragraph. Regular Watch This segments will resume on Sunday.]
It’s been a tremendous first quarter for live videos. While Watch This, Heartbreaking Bravery’s weekly series celebrating the very best of the live video format, hasn’t been in operation for roughly three full months, the information required to keep this thing humming (i.e., checking through hundreds of subscriptions and sources for outstanding new material) has been collected at regular intervals. If they were full sessions, single song performances, studio-shot, DIY captures, transcendent songs, or transcendent visual presentations, they were compiled into a massive list. 175 videos wound up making extraordinarily strong impressions, those videos will all be presented here, in the Watch This: The Best of 2016’s First Quarter extended package, one 25-clip presentation at a time.
Watch the fifth collection of those videos below.
1. Mothers – Grateful For It (Paste) 2. Bully – Trying (KUTX) 3. Sports – Saturday (This Has Got To Stop) 4. Parquet Courts (KEXP) 5. Pinegrove – Old Friends (VHS Sessions) 6. Jason Isbell – Flagship (The Current) 7. Three Man Cannon – Mood (Little Elephant) 8. Jake Morley – Falter (BalconyTV) 9. Lady Lamb – Billions of Eyes (Audiotree) 10. Riothorse Royale – Crash and Glow (Do512) 11. Låpsley – Hurt Me (WFUV) 12. Diet Cig (WKNC) 13. Saintseneca – Such Things (KUTX) 14. Human Music – Dark Zone (Exclaim!) 15. Nectar – Change Your Mind (DZ Records) 16. Bantam Lyons (Faits Divers) 17. Cherry Cola – Bring Me to the Ground (Radio K) 18. Mass Gothic (KEXP) 19. Lithuania – 2009 (WXPN) 20. Low – Murderer (Pitchfork) 21. Soul Low – Spooky Times (Little Elephant) 22. Lucy Dacus – Direct Address (Radio K) 23. Otherkin (3voor12) 24. Soft Fangs – The Light (Fitz Ross) 25. Torres – Son, You Are No Island (Audiotree)
After the past few days were spent on catching this site up on the studio releases, music videos, and radio sessions that came to light over the past few weeks, it’s time to turn the attention towards the best live clips to have surfaced in that time. All of the bands in this week’s collection- the 73rd installment of the series- have already been featured on the site. As usual, there was an overabundance of material to work with and there were multiple entries deserving of attention. Waxahatchee, Froth, Jeff Rosenstock, Eternal Summers, Husky, Surfer Blood, and Steve Smyth all had outstanding performance clips. The five featured clips switch between single song performances and full sets, all of which come from great artists. So, as always, sit back, turn the volume up, tune out any worries, relax, and Watch This.
1. Cayetana – Madame B (World Cafe)
Once again, we’re kicking things off with a World Cafe clip from a band that challenges genre limitations. Cayetana’s Nervous Like Me was one of 2014’s stronger records and saw the band finally receive some of the recognition they’d been deserving for years. Part of that is likely due to relentless touring which has paid massive dividends for the trio in the live department. Here, they turn in a powerful performance of Nervous Like Me highlight “Madame B” and give a resounding demonstration of why they’re worth the praise they’ve received in the process.
2. PWR BTTM – West Texas (Play Too Much)
PWR BTTM’s “Hold Yer Tongue” was one of 2015’s first great songs, which was why it was included in our First Quarter Highlightsmixtape. Turns out the band’s not just fascinating in the studio; their live act’s got all sorts of intrigue. More notably, though, it packs a lot of force. Cut away any of the frivolity or things that could be construed as gimmicks and there’s still a deeply impressive musicality at play. Paired with a fierce stage presence from both members (they frequently switch duties on guitar, vocals, and drums), their appeal expands to dangerous levels. All of that, and maybe even a little more, is evidenced in this Play Too Much clip of “West Texas”.
3. Kevin Morby (3voor12)
For a while now, Kevin Morby‘s been kicking away in the shadows, delivering one stunning record and performance after another. While a healthy few have latched onto Morby’s magic those numbers are still relatively slim, all things considered. None of it has affected Morby, though, and he’s only growing stronger as he goes. In his London Calling performance, lovingly shot by 3voor12, he tears into a trio of tracks with abandon. Starting off with a deeply felt version of the sprawling “Harlem River”, Morby and his band set the tone early for what quickly becomes an awe inspiring set. Hell, maybe it can be capped off at just inspiring.
4. Lady Lamb (KEXP)
After shortening her project’s moniker two words, Aly Spaltro- like Cayetana before her- started picking up the attention she’s so richly deserved for years. After, Spaltro’s first record as Lady Lamb is full of career highlights but it’s teeth are sharpened into fangs in the live setting. Irresistibly clever and intensely dynamic, Spaltro leads her band through the record’s sharp passages with a clear-eyed ferocity. All four songs in this KEXP session, including the massive After single “Billions of Eyes“, are performed with a joyous passion, one that’s betrayed by the band’s quick, uncontainable smiles throughout the half an hour session. Add in an illuminating interview and the end result is a new KEXP classic.
5. Kevin Devine (Off The Avenue)
Kevin Devine’s earned his share of love on this site and, coincidentally, has made the most appearances here through the Watch This series. Devine’s always been a dynamo live and that holds true now more than ever, as evidenced by this 1-2 knockout punch for Consequence of Sound’s Off The Avenue series session. Ever since Devine released Bubblegum he’s been skewing more towards an incendiary hybrid of basement pop and basement punk. “She Can See Me” and “Cotton Crush” are both electrifying pieces of work aided by the band’s unerring conviction. All in all, it’s just another extension in what’s proving to be a formidable winning streak from one of today’s most quietly compelling songwriters. Don’t miss out on what happens when he turns the volume up.
To say “it’s been a week” would be putting it mildly. The statement held especially true for the incredible live footage that has been consistently published throughout the week’s duration. In the preceding installment of this series, it was stated that there could have easily been two features instead of one. This week that number increases to three. Every single day, a masterful new video was ushered out into the world. A large handful of those were impeccably produced; gorgeous in vision and stunning in terms of sound, boasting a memorable performance all the while. Lady Lamb, Speedy Ortiz, Jeff Rosenstock, Two Gallants, Mikal Cronin, T. Hardy Morris & the Hardknocks, Twerps, Vijay Iyer Trio, The Technicolors, and Surfer Blood all had live clips introduced that earned their endless replay value. Nearly every single one of those names has been mentioned on this site before (albeit some for entirely different projects) and that trend holds steady for the five clips that are featured below. So, as always, turn the volume up, shut out all of your looming distractions, lean in, and Watch This.
1. DOE (BreakThruRadio)
Every time DOE’s released something, it’s caught my ear. It’s been immensely satisfying to watch their recognition slowly expand as time progressed. Of course, part of the reasoning behind that growth may be their own self-improvement. Their recent session for BreakThruRadio further illustrates that this band’s primed for a breakout. While the featured song, the hard-charging “Redo/Improve”, is a monstrously catchy bit of punk-inflected basement pop, one of the most welcoming elements of this clip is the band’s winsome affability in the interview segment. Of course, that’s almost immediately forgotten once it splinters off into a brief live clip of the latter two songs included in the clip because DOE’s the kind of band that demands attention when they’re in live mode. Just hit play and start waiting for their name to slowly climb the festival bill font-scale ladder.
2. Bent Shapes – New Starts In Old Dominion (Fitz Ross)
“86’d in ’03” was one of this sites favorite songs from last year, as reflected in one of the stranger best of lists. Bent Shapes could have been content to coast on that release for a while but the band’s work ethic ensures that they’ll likely be working until they can’t push themselves any further (hell, even that not might be enough). Impressively, there’s never a decline in quality; they’re writing some of the finest punk-tinged powerpop of today. “New Starts In Old Dominion” is clear evidence that the band’s talents extend past their recorded output and into what they’re able to accomplish live. When a party is this good, it’s not worth being late.
3. Torres – Cowboy Guilt (Public Radio International)
Few records have managed to grip me as strongly as Torres’ Sprinter. Every song on the record contains subtle melody hooks that have the ability to become inescapable over time. “Cowboy Guilt” is a perfect example of this particular dynamic. The guitar riffs, the vocal melody, and the subtle synth work all slowly expand their claws and lodge their way into a territory reserved for things that are next to impossible to forget. None of that shifts in the live setting, even though a few of the arrangements do differ slightly from the studio version. The contrast is part of what makes this particular clip feel so alive; humanity is impossible to fake.
4. Will Butler – What I Want (WFUV)
Policy is one of 2015’s most curios releases and the oddities that made it so compelling are also likely the reason it didn’t find much of an audience. Teeming with droll humor, impressive composition skills, and a surprising amount of pathos, “What I Want” is an incredibly intimate look at the way Butler’s songs operate. Confined to the WFUV studio with only a piano at his disposal, Butler is cast in the intimidating glare of a sole spotlight. His response? Delivering an unlikely, powerful performance that reaffirms the flashes of talent he consistently provides in his main vehicle (you know the one). It’s genuinely stunning.
5. Field Mouse – A Place You Return To In A Dream (Radio K)
Field Mouse have been consistently churning out impressive post-punk for a few years now and seem to only get stronger as they go- the aim of every band with honorable convictions. They recently stopped in the Radio K studios to turn in a blistering take of “A Place You Return To In A Dream”, which leans heavily on the band’s shoegaze influences without eschewing any of their deceptively intuitive pop sensibilities. Surging guitars, soft backing vocals, and committed performances make sure this clip reaches exhilarating levels.
Due to some lingering technical issues (most notably the loss of a laptop), there’s been a brief delay in regularly-scheduled content. Last week alone was devoid of anything other than Watch This installments, a lone song premiere, and a few 2014 pictorial reviews. To amend that, the next three posts will be focused exclusively on the best of the best to have surfaced last week in the three major categories: music video, single stream, and full stream. Following that will be a recap of this week-thus-far and the second-to-last pictorial review. With all of that exposition out of the way, it’s time to move on to the first major topic: last week’s music videos.
Last week’s haul of new clips did make for some interesting debate over which to feature, as they were all deserving. Ultimately, there was no wrong answer and it seemed most appropriate to go with an artist who’d previously never been covered on the site, Lady Lamb the Beekeeper, who crafted something deeply alluring with the “Billions of Eyes” video. Joining the ranks of “Billions of Eyes” were an unbelievable cast of gems that included: Trust Fund‘s impossibly endearing “Cut Me Out“, The Midwestern Charm‘s screwball revenge thriller “General Drag“, Alex G‘s charmingly off-kilter “Harvey“, HOLY’s staunchly lo-fi “Silver of Your Heart“, The Dead Ships’ blurred adventure trip “Canyon“, Belle & Sebastian’s characteristically soft-edged “Nobody’s Empire“, and I Love You But I’ve Chosen Darkness’ usual disquiet manifesting in “You Are Dead to Me“. All great clips that will reward anyone able to cut out a half an hour of viewing time in their day-to-day.
Now, back to the featured highlight: Lady Lamb the Beekeeper’s infectiously punchy indie pop and the effortlessly brilliant “Billions of Eyes”. In the clip, Winston Smith-esque collages meet the pop-art sensibility of Wes Anderson in an immediately engaging video that blurs the lines between traditionalism and modernism. It’s difficult to call “Billions of Eyes” a music video or a lyric video definitively because, more than any other clip in recent memory, there’s an emphasis on the strongest elements of both categories. It’s a sly trick that almost diverts attention away from how well-crafted and intuitively paced “Billions of Eyes” winds up being. Ferocious editing sneaks in and consumes the whole affair in the final act, well after the tastefully-presented home video footage has been established. Never anything less than thrilling, it’s as fine of an introduction-at-large that Lady Lamb the Beekeeper (or anyone else) could have possibly hoped for- and it’s one of 2014’s most refreshing videos. If the rest of After (due out via Mom + Pop on March 3) can live up to this extraordinarily high precedent, anyone fortunate enough to hear it will be in for quite the ride.
Watch “Billions of Eyes” below and pre-order After here.