Heartbreaking Bravery

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Tag: blues

Watch This: Vol. 43

It’s almost hard to believe that there have been 43 weeks since the first installment of Watch This was posted. Over the course of that time, this series has boasted a variety of recurring staples, one of the earliest of which being the “Band/Artist to Watch” segment that was devoted to the fifth and final slot. After being dormant for the vast majority of the series, that particular stamp re-emerges today in anticipation of an incredible release from an artist that’s been too-frequently described as a “best kept secret”. Along with the re-emergence of that sub-series, there’s a return to Little Elephant, a look at NPR’s Field Recordings series, yet another video to be featured from Exploding in Sound’s takeover of Serious Business, and a recent portrait of a band that doesn’t deserve to be overlooked. What it all winds up amounting to is one strange, wonderful capsule that explores some of the finest artists of the moment delivering performances worth remembering. So, sit back, turn the volume up, adjust the visual settings to personal preference, take a drink of something refreshing, focus, and Watch This.

1. Benjamin Booker – Have You Seen My Son? (NPR)

It’s been said before on this site a few times but it bears repeating: Benjamin Booker absolutely tore his set up at the Horseshoe Tavern at NXNE back in June. His debut self-titled record on ATO lived up to some fairly high expectations, revealing him as an extremely worthwhile new talent- and while it does have a sense of vulnerability, it’s usually buried underneath gnarled tones and emphatic gruffness. Here, Booker strips standout single “Have You Seen My Son?” to its barest form; an acoustic ballad. Add in some gorgeous cinematography, courtesy of NPR, and it’s required viewing.

2. Mitski – First Love / Last Spring (Bandwidth)

Every once in a while, there’s an artist that manages to appear on a variety of trustworthy sources but, for some reason or another, gets overlooked or forgotten. Mitski had the misfortune of falling to the latter category a few times this year by virtue of coming up on days that were already ridiculously over-filled with content. After seeing the light perfection that is this utterly enchanting performance of “First Love / Last Spring”, it’s difficult to not want to go back and ensure the mistake of overlooking them was never made to begin with. “First Love / Last Spring” is as sweet of a song as anyone’s put out this year. So, to Mitski: sorry for being late to the party but thanks for sticking around; life’s better with this music in it.

3. Shy, Low – Saudade (Little Elephant)

There haven’t been too many Little Elephant videos to appear that warranted consideration for the Watch This series since Mansions’ thrilling two-song set from way back in May. Fortunately, Shy, Low have provided enough water to make up for that particular drought. “Saudade” is a fascinating mixture of shoegaze, post-rock, golden-era emo, math, and a cavalcade of their connected fringe sub-genres. Every note gets played with investment and commitment while still being technically impressive, which is a medium that a lot of bands strive for but few ever achieve so concisely. “Saudade” is the perfect example of the more aggressive kind of music that’s incredibly easy to get lost in.

4. Baked (BreakThruRadio)

At this point, it’s probably safe to assume that if a video emerges from the Exploding in Sound takeover of BreakThruRadio’s Serious Business series, it will wind up being featured here. Virtually all of them have been nothing short of praise-worthy and Baked’s session continues that trend with ease. Baked themselves have come ridiculously close to landing feature spots on this very site numerous times for their eccentric take on some of this place’s most-frequented genres. In their session, those eccentricities are on full display in both their interview segments and their live form, making for some incredibly compelling viewing.

5. John Davey – Grand Emporium (Xack Gibson)

There are certain performances that manage to stick with a person and John Davey’s capable of delivering them. That’s said with no shortage of authority, having seen Davey deliver a solo acoustic set in a small WI basement to next to no one only a handful of years back. It was a relatively truncated set but it’s proven to be unforgettable thanks to the spellbinding nature of the songs. This being the case, the “Artist to Know” final slot section of Watch This is being revived to feature a gorgeous  black-and-white video that features Davey performing one of his most impressive songs: “Grand Emporium”. Not too much has changed since this video was shot four years ago; Davey’s songwriting remains as nuanced and gripping as ever while allowing some subtle growths in terms of production. All that can be heard on Davey’s sophomore effort, Living Is Trying, which can (and should) be pre-ordered from Dilated Time Records here. “Grand Emporium” also provides a good platform to give this reminder: Heartbreaking Bravery would be nothing without DIY ethos and the artists that embody them across a variety of genres and fields. If a song in a genre that’s not typically covered here manages to come off as transcendental and provides an opportunity to feature an extremely impressive emerging talent, it will get featured. Here’s one of those songs- and one of those talents.


Watch This: Vol. 40

Welcome to the 40th installment of Heartbreaking Bravery’s Watch This series, a weekly examination of the best live videos to have surfaced over the past week. Volume 40 has no shortage of riches to offer and may be one of the strongest offerings of the series to date. From two fiery KEXP sessions to the late night performance of the year, there’s a little something for everyone. Acoustic sessions and feedback freakouts are all contained within and, as is always the case, every band to have secured a spot this week puts on a live show that’s worth seeing multiple times over. So, sit back, focus, turn the volume up to deafening heights, and Watch This.

1. Benjamin Booker (KEXP)

With his now (rightfully) hotly-anticipated record just around the corner, the timing on this KEXP Session couldn’t be more perfect. After Booker’s stunning NXNE performance, the amount of verve on display here isn’t the least bit surprising. ATO Records dug up a diamond with Booker and if he winds up making as much of an impact as he deserves, radio stations will be better off for it.

2. Black Wine – No Reason (Don Giovanni)

Last week Black Wine released the excellent Yell Boss, which included the standout cut “No Reason”. Here, Don Giovanni captures the band running through a brilliant acoustic rendition of that song while also operating as a perfect document of a band having fun just being a band. It’s a riff-happy stomper that showcases the band at their absolute best, making it a can’t-miss affair.

3. Sharon Van Etten – Serpents (Pitchfork)

There are very few voices on the planet more arresting that Sharon Van Etten’s, which is a fact that’s loosely evidenced on record but becomes irrefutable fact in a live setting. Van Etten’s also an artist that can do wonders with a shifting sonic template and when she taps into her darker side it’s usually enough to stop just about anyone in their tracks. “Serpents” found her perfecting that aesthetic and has only grown as a song since its first reveal, which is something that winds up on full display with this performance from Day 1 of last month’s Pitchfork Music Festival. 

4. Ty Segall – Feel (Conan)

It seemed like ever since Future Islands’ career-making turn on Letterman, people have been desperate to anoint the “late-night performance of the year”. The War On Drugs’ “Red Eyes” run-through (also on Letterman) had a lot of people talking as well (as did The Orwells’ Letterman turn) but none of them have felt as furious, as vital, or as sincerely impassioned as what Ty Segall and his band pulled off on Conan O’Brien earlier this week. Previewing “Feel” off of his outstanding new record, Manipulator, Segall and company fearlessly make their way through some vicious solos, a percussion breakdown, and a barrage of insane falsettos before finally pulling off one of the most memorable television performances in quite some time.

5. Cloud Nothings (KEXP)

In all honesty, this entire write-up could be dedicated to what Jayson Gerycz pulls off behind the kit here. That kind of talent is rare enough that it borders on something approaching the realms of the inhuman. That it doesn’t overshadow what Dylan Baldi manages to accomplish with his unbelievably intense vocal/fretwork/lyrical onslaught is nothing short of astounding. Cloud Nothings are operating at an obscenely high level right now, with their live shows consistently outstripping what they managed to accomplish with the 1-2 punch of Attack On Memory and Here and Nowhere Else– two  of the finest records of this decade.  In short: see this band as soon as humanly possible.

5 to See at NXNE 2014: Vol. 6

It’s been said here before countless times already but the NXNE lineup for this year is absolutely ridiculous. Featuring an endless array of rising stars and premier acts from a wide selection of genres, Toronto’s set itself up quite nicely for an influx of incredible music, dedicated journalists, and devoted fans. Music wristbands are still available for an incredibly reasonable price and are well worth taking advantage of. It’s the best way to get access to the festival’s final leg and a shot at entrance to see the sets from the artists listed below, the volume 6 class of the 5 to See series.

1. Benjamin Booker

What to Know: Benjamin Booker just signed to ATO Records and will be releasing his self-titled effort in August. From the short previews of Benjamin Booker that have been available so far, it’s increasingly apparent that ATO made the right move. With a sound that incorporates equal amounts of blues, soul, punk, motown, and their evolutionary trajectories over the last handful of decades, it’s already positioned as a likely crossover hit. Live? It’s incendiary. Watch the fiery Letterman clip below for further proof.

What to Watch:

2. Pusha T

What to Know: Pusha T rose to prominence as half of Clipse, who created an untouchable classic in 2006 with Hell Hath No Fury. Since the release of that reord both Pusha T and No Malice have chosen to go their separate ways and explore solo routes. This resulted in another modern classic with Pusha T’s 2013 stunner, My Name Is My Name. With a live set to back up why he’s become one of the most acclaimed and celebrated artists in rap/hip-hop, this will be a set that fills up capacity fast. Don’t miss it.

What to Watch:

3. Future Islands

What to Know: Already hailed as one of 2014’s best live acts, Future Islands have been doing their best to earn that title. There was an explosion of interest in the band after their hypnotic Letterman performance drew national attention. While a lot of it seemed to be directly linked to vocalist Sam Herring’s unique dancing, it also came as an exclamation mark to a wave of buzz that had been steadily building around them. Reports of recent shows have made it abundantly clear that their shows have been constantly verging on getting out of hand thanks to frenzied audiences. Like Pusha T, this is going to be a priority set for a lot of people attending the festival- so get to wherever they are as early as possible, the crowd reaction alone should be a sight worth seeing.

What to Watch:

4. Camera

What to Know: Camera’s Radiate was a little-discussed triumph. Emphasizing the more punk elements of krautrock, the trio’s staked their name on guerilla performances in public places. Don’t be surprised to see them set up just about anywhere during the course of their Toronto stay- and don’t be shocked if their playing stops a lot of people dead in their tracks. Great music’s universal.

What to Watch:

5. White Mystery

What to Know: The Chicago duo have become mainstays of the DIY punk circuit, touring fiercely and building their reputation on frantic live shows. Four LP’s and two 7″s deep into their discography, the duo (composed of siblings Alex and Francis White) is still performing behind their most recent (and strongest) effort, Telepathic. A few late night show appearances have boosted their profile and they’re gearing up for what looks to be a major run towards bigger things. This is a set that won’t be worth missing.

What to Watch: