Heartbreaking Bravery

stevenmps2@gmail.com | @steven_mps | @hbreakbravery

Tag: Clique

Watch This: Vol. 141

This past week was brimming with exceptional live clips from artists like Happy Diving, Puppy Problems, Wolf Parade, Eros and the Eschaton, Grape Whales, Islands, The Tallest Man On Earth, Matthew Logan Vasquez, Oscar, Villagers, Clique, July Talk, Lisa Hannigan, Whitney, Rogue Valley, Woven In, Mudhoney, Helms Alee, Aidan Knight, Waterstrider, and The Staves. While all of those are worth studying for both the central performances and the way those performances were captured, the five clips featured below managed to become standouts for excelling in those departments. From old favorites to new faces, from legitimate live music video entries to full sessions, from cathartic release to sorrowful introspection, there’s a lot to navigate in these selections. So, as always, sit up, lean in, adjust the settings, focus, block out any distractions, and Watch This.

1. Mitski – First Love / Late Spring + Your Best American Girl (World Cafe)

Ever since Mitski‘s breakout release, Bury Me At Makeout Creek, the songwriter has been a staple of this site’s coverage. The project’s been outstanding both on record and in the live department. Mitski recently stopped by World Cafe to play through the fiery “Your Best American Girl“, easily one of this year’s brightest moments, and “First Love / Late Spring” with the calm confidence that’s propelled the songwriter to widespread acclaim. It’s a welcome reminder of a powerful performer and a beautiful document of the current era of the project.

2. Kevin Devine – No History

Kevin Devine has a storied history of spellbinding performances so it’s no surprise that the songwriter’s continued to sporadically show up in this series. Devine can be an electrifying performer when backed with a full, electric band but there’s a certain magic to his solo acoustic performances that’s only grown more pronounced with this time. “No History” capitalizes on that magic in full, standing confidently as both a gorgeously lensed live clip and — impressively — as bona fide music video.

3. XURS (KEXP)

A new name to this site, XURS recently had somewhat of a coming out party in the KEXP studios, delivering a blistering session of unapologetic noise/punk. Every song the band tears through in this session is absolutely vicious and delivered with enough conviction to knock most other bands flat. Wildly frantic and more than a little exhilarating, the band make the absolute most of a solid opportunity and the end effect seems set to resonate for quite some time.

4. Big Thief (NPR)

Big Thief very quickly became a distinctive part of this site’s identity thanks to the overwhelming strength of this year’s Masterpiece. “Paul“, the title track, and “Lorraine” all get performed here for NPR’s Tiny Desk Concerts series to a small, hushed crowd. The band’s a perfect fit for the series and the setting allows the sweeping, open-road atmospherics that’s a specialty of the band a little extra room to breathe, casting a spell that’s nothing short of entrancing.

5. Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds – I Need You

Only a few installments back, Nick Cave was granted an unforgettable entry in this series thanks to the harrowing clip for “Jesus Alone“, a gorgeous excerpt from the shattering Andrew Dominik documentary One More Time With Feeling. Like “Jesus Alone”, “I Need You” is a clip that’s both haunted and haunting, an examination of an artist going through unspeakable loss. Even these six minutes, isolated from the context of the film and the record, are a wrenching experience. Cave, now more than ever, looks like a ghost attempting to navigate a reality that shouldn’t exist. Deeply sorrowful and intensely moving, “I Need You” is an artful tragedy that’s impossible to shake.

Watch This: Vol. 140

As was mentioned in the preceding post, the amount of praise-worthy live clips that were released last week were staggering. RaktaClique, L.A. Witch, Ausmuteants, Adryn, Nina Diaz, Alice Phoebe Lou, and Half Waif were all responsible for impressive entries while the five featured spots below all were claimed by outstanding full sessions. Every single one of these five artists have made a prior appearance on Watch This but the range of their music is surprisingly expansive and contain unknown depths worth meticulously exploring. So, as always, sit back, adjust the settings, relax, block out any distractions, take a deep breath, and Watch This.

1. Oscar (WKNC)

After developing a strong reputation for razor-sharp pop sensibilities, Oscar‘s taken a sharp left and fully embraced the punk tendencies that occasionally peeked through the recorded material. This three songs session for WKNC finds the project in full attack mode, playing with a newfound fervor that’s sharpened into an aggression that seems to have enlivened the live performances with a vengeance.

2. Weaves – One More + Coo Coo (q on cbc)

Just a short while ago, Weaves dropped their debut full-length, which immediately registered as one of 2016’s standout moments for music. Since then, the band’s been on absolute tear, continuing to demonstrate their outsize talent as a live act.  Two of Weaves‘ earliest standouts were “One More” and “Coo Coo”, both of which were recently performed for the cameras and microphones of q on cbc. Even in a space as restrictive for movement as a radio studio booth, the band runs at these songs with just about everything they can muster, leaving a jaw-dropping session in their wake.

3. Margaret Glaspy (NPR)

Margaret Glaspy‘s very quickly becoming a staple of the Watch This series as the songwriter continues to fervently tour behind the incredible Emotions And Math. Glaspy’s distinctive brand of songwriting makes her uniquely suited for the trappings of NPR’s Tiny Desk Concerts series. As ever, Glaspy proves to be a commanding presence, flashing serious levels of skill as a lyricist, guitarist, vocalist, and songwriter. It’s another casually masterful run through genuinely exceptional material from one of 2016’s brightest emerging talents.

4. Clearance (Store Brand Soda)

Ever since the lead-up to the release of Rapid Rewards Clearance have been a band that’s been closely monitored by this site. Their particular incorporation of ’90s influences informs their music in a way that fits a very niche category: punk-inflected basement pop. In a recent session for Store Brand Soda, the band tore through two highlights from their discography and an inspired Soft Boys cover, once again illuminating their numerous strengths in a characteristically carefree fashion.

5. Benjamin Clementine (OpenAir)

Few artists have a presence as immediately striking as Benjamin Clementine‘s, who delivered one of this year’s most unforgettable NPR sessions. Clementine recently stopped by CPR’s OpenAir program to deliver another trio of quietly intense slow-burners that are carried by the weight of not just his vocals but his convictions. These are songs that carry the weight of history on their shoulders, filtered through the perspective of a man who’s climbed a steep uphill battle and fought through an onslaught of hardships. That journey has shaped Clementine into a songwriter that can silence the rowdiest of rooms with ease and leave behind a trail of converts. It’s the type of experience that should not be missed.

Watch This: Vol. 138

While Car Seat Headrest, Abi Reimold, Lisa Prank, The Dove & The Wolf, Emma Russack, Black Thumb, Mindie Lind, Kiran Leonard, Laura Gibson, Wovenhand, CHVRCHES, Pig Snout, Metronomy, Clique, Skeleton Hands, Gang Gang Dance, Graveyard Club, Men of Paradise, Haux, Arc Iris, David Bazan, Pure Bathing Culture, Typesetter, Lisa Hannigan, and naps all had incredibly strong live video outings — culled from a variety of inspiring sources — last week, it would have been an exercise in futility to run them all together in a focal capacity. Even five featured slots can occasionally feel a touch excessive but it seems that anything less than five doesn’t typically do the format’s offerings justice.

The five clips featured today come from bands that have, in some form or another, garnered positive notices from this site in the past. Seeing these acts continue to grow, expand, succeed, and even flourish has been heartening. Seeing them excel in the live department remains galvanizing. There’s an expansive range from the selected acts (and their accompanying videos), in terms of style. All of them are worthy of praise. So, as always, sit back, tune up, lean in, and Watch This.

1.  Okkervil River (WFUV)

With their forthcoming Away nearing its release date, Okkervil River‘s been making some early rounds to promote the record.  It’s impossible to overstate how important Okkervil River were to the development of this site’s personal ethos, so any time the band makes a return it’s more than welcome. Here, they perform two songs from Away but continue to demonstrate their immense skill at re-interpreting their own material, offering an incredible version of “For Real” — easily one of the best songs since the turn of the century — that hints at their worldview. It’s an immensely impressive session and a memorable portrait of a band that’s never really gotten their due.

2. Worriers – Plans (Live From the Rock Room)

Last year’s Imaginary Life was Worriers‘ finest moment to date and the band still seems to be riding a surge of adrenaline and confidence from that small triumph. The quartet recently visited Live From the Rock Room to deliver a galvanizing rendition of “Plans”, one of that record’s many standouts. The band continues to be defined by both their intelligence and extreme amount of heart, both of which are fully on display in this clip.

3. Prism Tats (KEXP)

Prism Tats have been having a breakout year, releasing their formidable self-titled debut full-length on ANTI- Records and producing a string of praise-worthy music videos. They’ve been touring with some bands that have serious weight behind their names and making a small sea of fresh converts at just about every stop. Here, the band turns in a powerful session for KEXP, revealing their increasingly sharp interplay and knack for subdued, hook-heavy basement pop. The whole clip looks and sounds beautiful, standing as a strong example of what can be accomplished with the right people on both ends of the camera.

4. Big Thief (KDHX)

Masterpiece was an immediate standout upon its release and remains one of 2016’s finest records. It’s catapulted Big Thief into a new level of fame and the band’s responded in kind, continuously sharpening their craft and all but perfecting their penchant for sweeping, open-road anthems tinged with nostalgic hues. The band recently visited the KDHX studios and played through two songs, including the unforgettable and melancholic “Paul“. The band pairs it with a deeply felt run-through of “Vegas”, offering both a very strong reminder of Masterpiece‘s astonishing strength and their breathtaking prowess as a live unit.

5. Fresh  Snow – January Skies (Exclaim!)

For some time now, Fresh Snow have excelled in crafting aggressive, ambient tracks that come fully equipped with a decidedly punk influence. Their live show has been a consistent standout and the band holds nothing back for this atmospheric Exclaim! clip of the band playing “January Skies”. There’s a feeling of rawness through the whole affair that seems to be at odds with the serene lighting, creating a strange, unsettling feeling that elevates this far beyond the standard performance clip. There’s some magic at play here and it continues to cast out the kind of spell that simply can’t be refused.

Young Jesus – Void As Lob (Single Review, Live Video)

IMG_1658

Wednesday proved to be exceptionally busy and just as fruitful, unloading a whole host of excellent material in all three major categories. For single songs, there were strong new offerings from Leapling, Dories, Feels, Dogbreth, Vacation, Nils Frahm, Big Jesus, Broncho, No Joy, Haux, Iji, American Monoxide, Look Mexico, Jenny Hval, Cedar Spring MotelThee Oh Sees, and VHS. As if that wasn’t enough there were also great clips from Honus Honus, Dentist, and Cloud Becomes Your Hand as well as impressive full streams from Clique, Karen Meat, and New England Beach Snobs.

All of those titles are worthy of healthy investment but it was a single release from last week that slipped through the coverage cracks to earn today’s feature spot. Occasionally those gaps in coverage are caused by a clerical error, occasionally they’re caused by the wait for an announcement, sometimes (like in the case of this post), it’s a little bit of both. Last week Young Jesus released their latest single, Void As Lob, which pairs live staple “Baked Goods” with the more stream-of-conscious “Hinges”. Earlier today, they announced their Wisconsin date for their tour with fellow site favorites POPE, providing a perfect opportunity to bring up their latest release.

Void As Lob is the band’s first single since last year’s Grow/Decompose, which rightfully earned a place in this site’s Best Albums of 2015 list. The new single continues an astonishing winning streak that started with their breakout effort, Home (which remains a very real Album of the Decade candidate) , and has spanned four years, a cross-country move, a lineup shift, several tours, and an unpredictable rollercoaster of other peaks and valleys. “Baked Goods” and “Hinges”, in that respect, could have easily served as a victory lap but opt for a more challenging approach that makes it abundantly clear that Young Jesus is committed to perpetual growth.

The band’s guitarist/vocalist and principal songwriter (and A Year’s Worth of Memories contributor) John Rossiter revealed that both “Baked Goods” and “Hinges” were the most personal he’s allowed himself to be in his songwriting in some time and that honesty’s evidenced and enhanced by his impassioned delivery, which cuts a touch more sharply than usual.

“Baked Goods” opens up the two-song collection with a narrative that invokes characters from the band’s past as it looks to the future, flashing a renewed emphasis on obtuse storytelling that’s punctuated by acute detail. Musically, it’s a sprawling odyssey that complements the song’s thematic structure to a tee, playing perfectly into Young Jesus’ penchant to defy genres with an instrumental tapestry that pulls from enough sources to sound legitimately singular.

“Hinges” sees the band continuing on in that function, only this time opting to scale back Rossiter’s songwriting flourishes in favor of something more unflinchingly immediate and bravely direct. After a somber piano figure opens the song, “Hinges” evolves into one of the band’s most impressive songs to date. Quiet and heartbreaking, “Hinges” hits its culmination with one simple line: I am ashamed to believe in myself. It’s a line that hits with enough blunt force to knock the wind out of just about anyone, all at once amplifying a host of darkly intimate moments.

As Void As Lob dies out in “Hinges” final moments, which exclusively focus on personal disintegration, the entire release feels like its much more than just two songs. In just over nine minutes, Young Jesus issue a searing statement of intent. Now that they’re firmly settled into their current iteration in their current home, they’re ready to look forward to the future, even if that requires tearing themselves apart. It’s a bold gambit but they’re talented enough to exercise total control and that control pays off beautifully. Void As Lob may only be comprised of two songs but it confidently stands as one of the most exquisite releases of 2016.

Listen to Void As Lob below and pick it up from the band here. Below the bandcamp embed, watch a live clip of the band performing “Baked Goods” last fall.

M. T. Foyer – All I Wanna Do Is Love You + Let’s Make Something Happen (Stream)

mtfoyer

A lot of great tracks have surfaced over the course of 2016 and new ones keep emerging. Trying to keep up with everything can occasionally be overwhelming but it’s bands like M. T. Foyer that make the sifting through the chaos worthwhile. While the band’s grabbed this post’s featured spot, it’d be remiss not to mention there were also great new tracks from site favorites Young Jesus, Clique, Boss Hog, Nail Polish, Paper Twin, Kitten Forever, and Lisa Prank as well.

While those titles linked above are all more than worth their salt, it’s the emergence of M. T. Foyer that earns top billing, thanks to the undeniable strength of their opening 1-2 punch: “All I Wanna Do Is Love You” and “Let’s Make Something Happen”. Anyone familiar with Michael Sienkowski’s past work probably shouldn’t be surprised by the band’s formidable early outing. Sienkowski was essential to Sleeping in the Aviary (a band that’s earned a surprising amount of words from this site, especially considering they’ve been defunct for years), helped develop Mike Krol into a powerhouse, and made some outstanding music as Whatfor.

M. T. Foyer is Sienkowski’s latest project and it continues his sterling track record with an impressive amount of panache. The band, a sextet, recently unveiled the inspired “All I Wanna Do Is Love You”, which updates the golden era of doo-wop and seamlessly molds the influence into something more quintessentially modern, and the breezy duet “Let’s Make Something Happen”.

“All I Wanna Do Is Love You” comes with all the punk bite and ’50s charm of Sleeping in the Aviary’s final studio record, You and Me, Ghost, while still firmly establishing Sienkowski’s singular voice. From the warped instrumentals to the song’s inherent, carefree purity, it’s never anything less than remarkable. Surging with energy, it’s the kind of adrenaline-inducing blast that captures attention. Right out of the gate, M. T. Foyer prove they’re serious contenders and seem to have a complete grip on their own identity.

Where “Let’s Make Something Happen” impresses is in the fact that it retains the identity that “All I Wanna Do Is Love You” while subverting the fundamental songwriting enough to signify that they’ll be far from a one-trick pony. Tapping into the kind of punk-tinged Americana dusting that Dusk is well on their way to perfecting, M. T. Foyer immediately expand their vision in a fairly unexpected — but entirely welcome — manner.

Both songs elevate the other, especially when packaged together. They’re impressive on their own, to be sure, but in providing such a stark, immediate contrast, the differences get enhanced. It’s a pivotal device that demonstrates not only the band’s sprawling talent but their impeccable taste. Nuanced, honest, and extraordinary, “All I Wanna Do Is Love You” and “Let’s Make Something Happen” make sure that M. T. Foyer’s introduction isn’t to be taken lightly; focus on this band and waltzing away with a whole handful of favorites is all but inevitable.

Listen to “All I Wanna Do Is Love You” and “Let’s Make Something Happen” below and keep an eye on this site for further updates on the band.


What A Difference A Month Makes (Music Videos)

In the past month, a lot’s happened on both sides of the coverage spectrum. A lot of sets were documented in that time and will be receiving some attention at some point down the line. A lot of full streams came out, even more songs were released, and quite a few music videos found their way out into the world as well. All three of those formats will have a list dedicated to them and then a slew of individual features will be posted celebrating a handful of exceptional titles. Below is a list of formidable music videos that made a powerful impression over the course of the last month. Take a breath, dive in, and go exploring. 

Mo Troper, Lion’s Den, Tiny Deaths, Tim Heidecker, Weaves, Amber Arcades, Night Idea, Steve Gunn, Littler, Bambara, Braids, Prism Tats, No Parents, Those Pretty Wrongs, Stan Simon & The Hotel Bible, Neil Michael Hagerty & The Howling HexRJD2, Crosss, James Supercave, Eric Bachmann, Tacocat, Julianna Barwick, Acapulco Lips, Conrad Keely, Programm, Lontalius, Clique, Martha, Wilder Adkins, The Spook School, Rozwell Kid, The Loom, Oscar, Bishop Briggs, Angel Du$t, Patience, Band of Horses, The fin., The Raveonettes, Secret Space, Pure Bathing Culture, Howardian, and GOAT.

Modern Baseball, Holy Fuck, Sturgill Simpson, Butch BastardMinor Victories, The Slovaks, The Coathangers, OMNI, Stove, Sløtface, Franky Flowers, Slim Twig, Kino Kimino, D Generation, Pony Time (ft. Lisa Prank), Beverly, Living Hour, Former Belle, Tancred, Mutts, Pet Sun, Teen Suicide, Krano, Your Friend, Dear Boy, The Stargazer Lilies, The Kills, The Loom, Aesop Rock, Cellar Doors, Xiu Xiu, Globelamp, TV Sets, and Eleanor Friedberger, and a surprisingly outstanding fan-shot video for Mike Krol’s “Less Than Together” (one of this site’s picks for Best Songs of 2015) as well as the trailer for Casket Girls’ The Night Machines.

Summer Cannibals – Full Of It (Music Video)

summercannibals

The second of three videos to be featured in this onslaught of posts comes by way of Summer Cannibals. They weren’t the only ones in consideration for the featured spot, thanks to stiff competition from John Congleton and the Nighty Nite, Sundrones, Andrew Bird, Iskha Dhaaf, Rob Crow’s Gloomy Place, Clique, Thin Blue Line, Cellus Hamilton, and LPIII & The Tragedy. While all of those clips deserve the praise they’re bound to be receiving (or have already received) from other publications, it was Summer Cannibals’ “Full of It” that carved out this post’s feature spot.

“Full of It” boasts a setup that has done before by countless other bands: the band plays a song in various locations, occasionally doing a quirky thing or two when they’re in a new interior. What separates the best examples of these from the countless other videos that have embraced the concept are all present here: commitment, energy, and a genuine sense of fun. Everyone in Summer Cannibals looks like they’re having the time of their life throughout the duration of “Full Of It”, unable to suppress their grins on several occasions. Of course, the video’s aided by the frantic energy of the song it was designed to accompany and each side of the equation seems to feed into the earnest sincerity of their counterpart.

Whether they’re brushing their teeth in the bathroom, headbanging in bed, poking their heads through closets, practicing in the basement, or playing in the living room, there’s a very clear sense of joy running throughout the entire affair. The masterstroke here, and one that helps Summer Cannibals further distinguish “Full Of It” from the long tradition punk bands have of shooting these types of music videos, is framing the whole thing as a quasi-real estate tour of a home that’s up for sale. By the time the whole band collapses into bed together, they’ve managed to paint a very endearing picture of the band’s current era. All told, it’s a perfect piece of art for a band that should be making quite a few converts before the year’s over.

Listen to “Full of It” below and pre-order the record from Kill Rock Stars here.