Heartbreaking Bravery

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Tag: BTR Live Studio

Watch This: Vol. 72

Once again, the candidates for this week’s Watch This– the weekly series that celebrates the best live videos to have emerged in the previous week- came in droves. At this point, it’s getting genuinely difficult to keep tabs on all of them because of the sheer number of videos (and new series) that are being unearthed. To that end, it’s almost more indicative of the featured crop’s formidable strength to list the other titles that were in contention- all of which are more than worth the click. The bands in those videos included: Bellows, Diarrhea Planet (twice), Two Inch Astronaut, Jeff Rosenstock, Mountain Bike, Vomitface, Craft Spells, and Strange Relations. Below, in this 72nd installment, the featured crop’s a little more subdued than usual but starts off with one of the most staggeringly powerful live videos to have run this year. So, as always, lean in, turn the volume up, push any lingering doubt to the side, and Watch This.

1. Hop Along – Waitress (World Cafe) 

The most immediately apparent draw to Hop Along has always been Frances Quinlan’s voice. It’s a powerhouse; unforgettable after even the briefest of exposures. It’s also the kindest red herring, something that doesn’t necessarily suggest that a lot of the band’s inherent power is drawn from defiantly embracing vulnerability. For a long while, though a pairing like that shouldn’t have ended in this particular path, the band felt like a carefully-guarded secret. Now, with a universally acclaimed record and a Saddle Creek deal (the label’s strongest move in recent memory), a much larger group of people have taken notice.

Ensuring that their rapid ascension is far from over, the band have perfected their live show (it’s also why they’ve appeared on Watch This multiple times throughout this series’ run) and recently set up camp in World Cafe’s studio to deliver a powerful performance of Painted Shut highlight “Waitress”. Apart from exuding a transcendent gracefulness throughout “Waitress” (easily a song of the year candidate), there’s a moment that occurs at about the 2:20 mark that is the precise kind of breathtaking moment that Watch This was built to celebrate. With nothing but grace notes and limitless passion, this is as good as this series gets. Watch it below.

2. John Davey – Sugarmask (Cozy Couch Sessions)

Another artist that’s made a handful of Watch This appearances is singer/songwriter John Davey, whose brand of deeply humane folk has always resonated with a casual finesse. Davey recently stopped by to deliver a heartfelt  performance of a new song entitled “Sugarmask”, which ranks as yet another stunner in already enviable collection of songs. Poignant and endearing, “Sugarmask” is an arresting song and it’s given about as strong of a showcase imaginable through this clip.

3. Mikal Cronin (KEXP)

MCIII has proven to be a little more divisive among critics than expected, with one of the most levelheaded assessments coming from Sloan’s Jay Ferguson in a very balanced piece for The Talkhouse. After Cronin’s monumental MCII (my personal Album of the Year pick for 2013), that uncertainty on something as ambitious as MCIII should probably have been expected. It’s telling, though, that there hasn’t been much conflict over Cronin’s skills as a live performer. He’s only grown stronger as the shows played under his own name accumulate and that continuously building confidence is brought to full-bloom in a gorgeous session for KEXP. While the songs may lose some of their grandeur without the sweeping string and brass sections (which were all arranged by Cronin, who plays most of the instruments on MCIII), they gain quite a bit of punch in a more traditional set-up. All in all, the whole thing operates as a decisive reminder that Cronin’s still one of the most gifted pop songwriters working today.

4. Eskimeaux – Folly (This Has Got To Stop)

Gabrielle Smith’s Eskimeaux project recently released what will undoubtedly stand as one of the year’s most beautiful, unassuming records by the time 2015’s over. That record, O.K., is rooted in subtly intense personal explorations that all carry a hushed quality. “Folly” is one of the record’s most spellbinding moments as it feels like a culmination of Smith’s songwriting aesthetic. In a recent session for This Has To Got Stop, she performed it solo, perched on a chair, eyes cast down or closed, lost in the music. It’s mesmerizing. It’s also worth noting that Smith nearly appeared in this installment twice, once here, and once as a part of Bellows‘ incredible NPR Tiny Desk session (which is also deserving of several watches).

5. Tom Waits – Take One Last Look (Late Show With David Letterman)

Over the years, David Letterman has championed young, emerging punk bands to a heartening degree while maintaining great relationships with musical icons. One of the most notable partnerships in the latter category was Letterman’s connection with Tom Waits, who honored the departing host with a new song, “One Last Look”. With the pedigrees of both men at an incredibly visible and highly respected level, a move like this had all of the makings of a classic late-night moment and it didn’t disappoint. Waits honored Letterman with the most tender of farewells, accompanied by accordionist Gabriel Donohue and bassist Larry Taylor, Waits delivered the kind of timeless, dusty Americana that made Mule Variations an instant classic. Inherently powerful and extraordinarily moving, “Take One Last Look” is something that deserves to be remembered.

Watch This: Vol. 71

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.

Watch This: 2015, Vol. 1

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Familiar faces. Single Songs. Full sets. New bands. It’s been 15 weeks since the last Watch This ran on this site and that’s far, far too long. To help get things up to date, the next three days will see a trilogy of video mixtapes containing 25 of the best live clips to surface from 2015 so far. Next week, the installment will resume its normally paced functions- but for now, clear out some time and get lost in the exciting performances compiled in the embed below. Lean back, turn the volume up, breathe deep, and Watch This.

1. Waxahatchee – Under A Rock (Pitchfork)
2. Tenement – Dreaming Out Loud (Don Giovanni Records)
3. Crying – Sick (BreakThruRadio)
4. Beach Slang (NPR)
5. Speedy Ortiz – The Graduates (Pitchfork)
6. Francisco the Man – In the Corners (Audiotree)
7. Single Mothers – Overdose (Radio K)
8. Sleater-Kinney – Modern Girl (Sound Opinions)
9. Nude Beach + Jody Stephens – My Life Is Right (Don Giovanni Records)
10. Mutts – Five of a Kind (Audiotree)
11. Sun Club – Beauty Meat (Audiotree)
12. Crow Bait – Separate Stations (Don Giovanni Records)
13. Courtney Barnett – An Illustration of Loneliness (Sleepless in New York (Pitchfork)
14. Matthew E. White – Rock & Roll Is Cold (The Current)
15. Makthaverskan – Witness (Pitchfork)
16. Chief Scout – Rollercoaster (Audiotree)
17. Mal Blum – San Cristóbal (Don Giovanni Records)
18. DYGL – Let’s Get Into Your Car (Out of Town Films)
19. American Aquarium – Losing Side of Twenty Five (Jam in the Van)
20. Charles Bradley – The World (Is Going Up In Flames) (Coachella)
21. Sue the Night – The Whale (3FM)
22. Kevin Devine – Bubblegum (Little Elephant)
23. Ride – Vapour Trail (Coachella)
24. The Dodos (KEXP)
25. Cloakroom – Lossed Over + Moon Funeral (Little Elephant)

Watch This: Vol. 63

[Please refer to Vol. 59 for the introductory paragraph.]

1. White Reaper (BreakThruRadio)

BreakThruRadio has a wonderful habit of hosting bands that just can’t help but lose their minds a little when they play. White Reaper look like they’re practically jumping out of their skin here, with everyone seemingly set to their most vicious attack mode. It’s difficult to tell what’s more electrified; their guitars (and synth) or the people controlling them. A few brief-but-entertaining interview segments are included and they accentuate just how ridiculously energetic White Reaper are when they perform. All of the evidence is below.

2. Day Creeper – Turning Into A Man (The Mug and Brush Sessions)

The Columbus-based Day Creeper already appeared once on this series previously and made a pretty deep impression. They’re back now, with a casual vengeance and just as much grit. “Turning Into A Man” emphasizes their more creative tendencies while also allowing a more unobstructed view of some surprisingly strong lyricism. While this was said once already, it deserves repeating: Day Creeper are a band worth watching.

3. Big Ups – Not Today (BreakThruRadio)

Big Ups are making a dangerous push towards being the most featured band on Watch This, which- considering their typically blistering performances- isn’t all that surprising. Eighteen Hours of Static was one of 2014’s first truly great albums and the band’s only been building momentum since its release. They’re building up a head of steam as they charge headfirst towards the new year, pity anyone who gets in their way. In yet another monster performance for BreakThruRadio, they flick back and forth between detached empathy and boiled-over frustration with a terrifying precision, casually teasing their fast-clip tension/explosion dynamic. At this point, it doesn’t seem like there’s all that much out of their reach- and that’s partially in thanks to performances like this one.

4. Allo Darlin’ (KEXP)

It’s always a pleasure to hear something as downright winsome as We Come From the Same Place. Allo Darlin’ have created something that feels timeless and sounds ridiculously lovely. There’s a certain soft romanticism (often marginally damaged) that plays a central figure to the best indie pop and that holds true for We Come From the Same Place– a record that could (arguably) wind up standing as a genre classic. In the interview segments, the band’s personable. In the performance set pieces, they’re nearly transcendent.

5. La Sera – Losing to the Dark (Last Call With Carson Daly)

Rounding out La Sera’s triumphant Watch This trifecta is a wild-eyed run through one of 2014’s most unexpectedly ferocious lead-off singles, the errant firework that is “Losing to the Dark“.  As rabid as the song sounds on record, Katy Goodman and her band kick it up a few levels live- to the point where it almost seems like the entire band is trying to outrun themselves for fear of being trampled by their own creation. All manic adrenaline and seething resentment, it transforms itself into both a shot in the arm and a knife to the jugular. Vicious guitar riffs make the incisions and by the end of it all, the band’s already laughing everyone out of the room- and, somehow, the only viable option is to beg for seconds.

[Due to some technical issues, this video can only currently be seen here.]

Watch This: Vol. 60

[Please refer to Vol. 59 for the introductory paragraph.]

1. Two Inch Astronaut – Cigarettes, Boys And Movies (BreakThruRadio)

One of late 2014’s real gems was Two Inch Astronaut’s current career-highlight, Foulbrood. Filled with a nervous tension and exploring curious bridges between genres, the band zeroed in on the remarkable formula set out by their thrilling debut. Sound in structure, compelling in atmosphere, and engaging live, they make for perfect candidates to places like the venerable BreakThruRadio, which recently hosted a live session for the band which found them delivering a stunning live version of the excellent “Cigarettes, Boys And Movies”.

2. Broncho (3voor12)

Snotty punk’ed out basement poppers Broncho recently swung through Le Guess Who? festival in Utrecht. 3voor12, as ever, was on hand to capture the band tearing through a manic set of earworm-friendly numbers. Broncho, for their part, deliver their songs with a wide-eyed gusto. Legs tap rapidly up and down, hips sway unapologetically, and the band loses themselves in their music. It’s an outwardly strong performance that suggests that Broncho, even having been on the scene for a handful of years, are nowhere close to being done.

3. Liquor Store (3voor12)

Le Guess Who? (and 3voor12) not only managed to rope in Broncho for a stellar showcase but celebrated punk act Liquor Store as well. Anyone familiar with Liquor Store knows what the video immediately below holds in store: an abundance of snarling riffs, shouted lower-register lyrics, an off-the-cuff feel, and a whole lot of deceptive slop. For years the band’s built a sound that plays directly to their strengths as both songwriters and performers. Once this band steps on the gas pedal, they never decelerate; they only know how to apply pressure.

4. Protomartyr (Sound Opinions)

Under Official Color of Right catapulted Protomartyr into the greater public’s eye on sheer strength. One of 2014’s most fascinating records, the band filled it with restraint and a tendency to lean towards an atmosphere of disquiet. At times it’s an almost unbearably tense experience that benefits from a vice-like grip rooted in unrelenting bleakness. Somehow that combination translates to an odd brand of contained catharsis when kept to a singular listening experience. Live, the band taps into the same mood without any kind of hesitation- and they strengthen it with their physical presence. Sound Opinions catches them exactly where they should, right in the act.

Sonic Avenues (KEXP)

One of a handful of smaller bands going who can boast a near-perfect discography, Sonic Avenues have been the deserving center of praise from quite a few genre specialists. With both an incredible reissue and an incredible new record out in 2014, it’s felt (increasingly) like the band’s just a few steps shy of exploding. Affable and energetic, they deliver one of the best sets KEXP’s hosted in some time. None of them seem to be able to contain their excitement while playing and it’s a beautiful thing to watch- so quit reading and click play.

 

Watch This: Vol. 41

The Watch This series, up to this point, has mostly placed the overall focus on videos that just feature a band performing. For the 41th installment, that rule gets slightly modified. With the exception of a typically astounding performance from Noun (Screaming Females’ Marissa Paternoster’s extraordinarily consistent solo project), every video to earn a feature spot in this volume features a brief interview with the band playing music. In the case of the videos that bookend this week’s Watch This, the result is incredibly endearing- while the rest manage to be moderately informative without stripping away a sense of playfulness. More importantly though, the performances included below are uniformly outstanding and deserved to be spotlighted. With that said, it was a very difficult class of videos to select from, thanks to the abundance of great performances that surfaced from artists like Unicycle Loves You, Cousins, Bahamas, Jenny LewisHollow Boys, Cheap Girls, and St. Vincent. So, as always, pour a drink, grab a seat, adjust the contrast, turn up the volume, and Watch This.

1. White Lung, ft. Katie Crutchfield – Dead Star (Noisey)

In what seems like a gift tailor-made for this series, White Lung’s Mish Way and Waxahatchee’s Katie Crutchfield teamed up together for a pair of acoustic performances. Crutchfield holds down guitar and melody duty on this stripped-down take of White Lung’s excellent “Wrong Star”. Before the performance, the two share a few words and a palpable connection, subtly setting the stage for how complementary their musical abilities wind up being. Unsurprisingly, this is a gem of a performance that reaffirms both artist’s deserved status.

2. White Reaper (Consequence of Sound)

Delivering a fiercely committed performance, White Reaper gives Consequence of Sound (and everyone else) a startling reminder of the strength of their debut EP. Here, they hold nothing back and just go full-throttle, emphasizing the kind of spastic energy that’s frequently a hallmark of the most entertaining live bands. In the short-form interview, the band discusses the meaning behind both “Half Bad” and “Oh Yeah”, giving a direct line of insight for their work- an increasing rarity. Starting and ending with two memorable performances, this is a can’t-miss video.



3. Noun – You and Mr. Rogers (Don Giovanni)

Screaming Females’ Marissa Paternoster’s solo project, Noun, should be every bit as prominent as her main vehicle. After releasing an incredible 7″ and what’s one of the decade’s finest LP’s, Holy Hell, Paternoster understandably refocused on Screaming Females. Lately, though, she’s been playing solo shows with greater frequency and quietly unveiling new material. Here, Don Giovanni captures Paternoster delivering a gripping take on a song called “You and Mr. Rogers” that showcases her raw talent. It’s genuinely stunning, offering up a more fully-formed portrait of Paternoster’s quieter side. All of the applause at the end of the clip is absolutely warranted.

4. Mannequin Pussy (BreakThruRadio)

Mannequin Pussy’s Kiss Me Tender EP was a beast of a release that was highlighted by the unrelentingly fierce “Kiss“, which also headlines their recent session for BreakThruRadio’s excellent Serious Business series. In the video, there’s the standard irreverent interview portion that is intercut with some blistering live footage of one of today’s more exciting new on-the-rise bands (it’s worth noting their first demos were released back in 2011). “My Baby (Axe Nice)” and “Anything” also get featured here, cementing Mannequin Pussy as another live act that’s not worth missing.

5. Waxahatchee, ft. Mish Way – Coast to Coast (Noisey)

Returning to the collaboration of Katie Crutchfield and Mish Way, the pair reverse the featured project- this time delivering an arresting performance of Waxahatchee’s “Coast to Coast”. Way’s melody lines float along effortlessly, providing a welcome layer to an all-acoustic take of what was easily one of last year’s finest songs. Even though Cerulean Salt only came out last year (as did Groovy Kind of Love), this performance alone is enough to reignite excitement for whatever Crutchfield has in store next.