Heartbreaking Bravery

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Watch This: Vol. 144

To ease Watch This back into its regularly scheduled rotation, the following will focus on the two weeks that occurred after the last installment was published. In that time, Acapulco Lips (x2), Wasted On You, Chain of Flowers, Pinegrove, Peter Bjorn and John, Sunbathe, Good Personalities, Bad Cop / Bad Cop, Claire Cottrill, The Brokedowns, Kississippi, Haley Bonar, Billie Marten, Bayonne (x2), Entrance, Lush (x2), The Blank Tapes, JFDR, The Frights, Teleman, The Districts, Doe, Marissa Nadler, Joshua Bell & Jeremy Denk, No Honeymoon, Aaron & Bryce Dessner with Ben Lanz and Boys Noize, BlackGlass, The Minders, Super Furry Animals, Kristin Kontrol, Tenement, Queen of Jeans, Michael Kiwanuka, Breanna Barbara, Corbu, All People, Boss Fight, Margo Price, Titus Andronicus, Brass Bed, Somos, Oliver John-Rodgers, Foxing, The Wombats, and PWR BTTM all found themselves at the center of outstanding performance clips. Competition that strong says more about the strength of the five featured clips that could be conveyed with mere words. All five bands have been featured on the site in the past and the performances range from genuinely exhilarating to utterly devastating. So, as always, sit up, lean in, adjust the volume, block out any excess noise, focus, take a deep breath, and Watch This.

1. Never Young – Soap (Prisma Guitars)

Immediately kicking things back into the highest gear possible is this Prisma Guitars session from site favorites Never Young. Easily one of the most explosive single-song performance clips to ever be featured throughout the 140+ installments of this series, the quartet careens through an adrenaline-inducing take on “Soap” that sees them giving the session their everything. Beautifully shot and presented with an enormous amount of conviction, this is exactly the type of clip that Watch This was built to celebrate.

2. Greys (KEXP)

Greys have made several appearances throughout this series’ run and touring on their recently-released Outer Heaven‘s allowing them even more opportunities to be featured. The band recently stopped by the KEXP studios for a full session that features songs from their past three releases, including their most recent work, Warm Shadow. As always, the band plays with a barely-contained energy, an incredible amount of tenacity, and a deep-seated passion that makes this another vital document of one of today’s most exciting acts.

3. Heliotropes – Primates (BreakThruRadio)

For a few years now, Heliotropes have been quietly carving out an impressive name for themselves, earning the respect of both critics and their peers. Creatively restless and endlessly intriguing, the band continues to impress with this BreakThruRadio performance of “Primates”. It’s a glimpse towards the future the band’s angling towards and it’s impossibly tantalizing. One of their finest songs to date, “Primates” keys in on the band’s wiriest post-punk tendencies and sporadically cuts them to shreds. If this is indicative of the rest of the band’s forthcoming material, start bracing for something genuinely explosive.

4. The Coathangers (KEXP)

The second KEXP session of this installment features The Coathangers, who have been touring hard behind their excellent Nosebleed Weekend. Celebrating both that record and the 20th anniversary of the label that released the record, Suicide Squeeze, finds the band in exceptionally high spirits. All of that culminated in an unshakable, infectious joy that drives this session, making it both immediately accessible and surprisingly memorable. The trio remains in fine form throughout the session, playing with ramshackle glee while maintaining an impressively tight grasp on the songs, creating what could be considered a definitive portrait.

5. Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds – Girl In Amber

After enduring unspeakable loss, Nick Cave allowed filmmaker Andrew Dominik into his creative process to create One More Time With Feeling, a documentary that follows both the creation of Skeleton Tree and Cave’s battle with grief in the wake of his youngest son’s tragic death. It’s excruciatingly heartrending from an outsider’s perspective and Dominik elegantly underscores how unthinkably difficult it’d be to be in that situation. In the third studio video to be released from the project, Cave continues to look completely lost and withdrawn, as if perpetually trying to wrestle his thoughts down.

“Girl In Amber” also expertly incorporates Dominik’s inspired direction and the technical wizardry that went into the 3D, black-and-white filming of One More Time With Feeling. The overall effect’s equal parts haunting and haunted, creating an unforgettable impression. This is a staggering work of bravery and artistry, each colliding with the other to produce something as singular as it is captivating. As the camera circles Cave, surveying his every movement and placing him at the center of swirling uncertainty, Cave repeats “don’t touch me” as the video cuts to black, providing one last breathtaking moment of a miniature masterpiece.

Watch This: Vol. 68

It only took about four months to elapse and required some serious legwork but Watch This will be resuming its regular format now and it’s regular pace on Sunday. Below are five live clips from last week that stood out. From old standbys to exciting new bands, each and every one of these takes is worth seeing. All five represent the absolute pinnacle of what can be accomplished with instruments, microphones, a camera, and some tasteful editing. So, enough with the lead-in, it’s time to sit back, turn the volume up, pour a drink, dim the lights, and Watch This.

1. Cymbals Eat Guitar (KEXP)

LOSE was easily one of last year’s best records and Cymbals Eat Guitars’ finest moment to date. Tackling sensitive topics with enough verve and vulnerability to make most acoustic singer/songwriters blush, the band created something that landed with enough force that it’s repercussions are still reverberating nearly halfway into this year. In the live setting, the band sinks its teeth into those songs with enough bleary-eyed fervor that it occasionally elevates their impact. KEXP recently turned their lenses on the band as they glided through a scorching set that fully demonstrated LOSE‘s formidable magnitude.

2. Lee Bains III & The Glory Fires – Sweet Disorder (Jam in the Van)

Back in October, Lee Bains III & The Glory Fires played their hearts out to less than twenty people in a small Milwaukee bar. It was one of the most impassioned sets that I’ve seen in the past few years and the band delivers that trademark intensity to Jam in the Van for what’s currently that series’ best session of 2015. All manic energy, grit, and relentless determination, the band turns in an absolute monster live take of “Sweet Disorder” that could convert more than a few people on its own.

3. Nots – Reactor (BreakThruRadio)

Nots’ self-titled full-length for Goner Records last year was one of the strongest moments of 2014 for the legendary punk label. Ever since that release, the band’s been touring at a reckless pace and honing their live show- something that’s easily evidenced in yet another outstanding BTR live clip. “Reactor” is one of the band’s best songs and the band injects it with a self-possessed fury that accelerates the song into a whirlwind of near-chaos that suits Nots’ aesthetic to perfection.

4. A Place To Bury Strangers – We’ve Come So Far (KEXP)

I’m not sure KEXP has a hosted an individual performance that’s as singularly vicious as A Place To Bury Strangers’ recent run-through of “We’ve Come So Far”, which goes so far beyond the memorable stage antics that helps transform this into one of the station’s most visually stunning offerings in some time. Light projections, noise solos, and a flood light that’s wielded as both a slide and as a weapon go a long way in making this version of “We’ve Come So Far” stick but what really gives the performance its teeth is the way every band member seems to forget their surroundings and just lay into their respectable roles in a way that indicates this is less of a performance and more of a deranged, otherworldly ritual.

5. The Districts (Out of Town Films) 

While The Districts recorded output hasn’t quite gripped me like I’ve expected, in a live setting the band’s an entirely different beast. Here, lovingly filmed by the excellent Out of Town Films, they deliver a scorcher of set that more than backs up the band’s considerable buzz. Stunning cinematography and a killer set of songs take this to the realms of a near-classic document of an exciting young band. Only growing stronger as they go, The Districts (and Out of Town Films) turn in a vital reminder of their sizable strengths. Don’t let this one slide by quietly.