Heartbreaking Bravery

stevenmps2@gmail.com | @steven_mps | @hbreakbravery

Tag: Courtney Barnett

Courntey Barnett – Elevator Operator (Music Video)

Courtney Barnett I

Littler, Mass Gothic, Kino Kimino, Ty Segall, Henry Chadwick, Angel Du$t, Little Scream, and Talons were responsible for all but the last of the great music videos to emerge over the course of this site’s mini-hiatus. After being gone for nearly two weeks (thanks to both other musical obligations and preparation work for an upcoming feature on this very space), there were quite a few titles to consider. Ultimately, this final music video spotlight allotted to that stretch of time went to perennial site favorite Courtney Barnett (and her excellent new video).

After experiencing a massive breakout year that saw Barnett do everything from hosting SNL to being nominated for an overdue Grammy, the expectations for any new release for the songwriter have been set extraordinarily high. Thankfully, Barnett’s had a surprisingly long history of avoiding literally any form of disappointment and the brilliant Sunny Leunig-directed video for Sometimes I Sit And Think, and Sometimes I Just Sit‘s invigorating lead-off track is no exception.

Opening the clip on a tongue-in-cheek discussion carried out by Sleater-Kinney sets a lively pace both for the clip’s narrative and for the astonishing amount of cameos packed into the sub-six minute running time. Not soon after the coy cold open, Barnett takes up the titular role and Keunig sets about dismantling any expectations that decision may bring.

Apart from one legitimately breathtaking sequence of relative quiet that cuts away from the song completely, “Elevator Operator” exudes a kind of surprisingly specific irreverence and well-meaning snark that’s proven to be a Barnett specialty. Not long after that staggering moment of existentialism — which is anchored by an impressive performance from Barnett — “Elevator Operator” slides right back into its natural groove, cementing its status as a more-than-worthy addition to Barnett’s enviable output.

Watch “Elevator Operator” below and pick up a copy of Sometimes I Sit and Think, and Sometimes I Just Sit here.

Watch This: Vol. 128

Lady Lamb, Eleanor Friedberger, La Luz, Bob Mould, Tangerine, Weaves, Lacrymosa, Bye Beneco, The Big Pink, Weaves, Sex Tide, David Bazan, Plants and Animals, LUH, The Wooden Sky, Mumblr, Bleached, Adult Mom, Hattie Marsh, Stephen Steinbrink, Destroyer, Mount Moriah, Muuy Biien, Young Magic, The Kills, Adeline HotelDeclan McKenna, Palehound, Friendship, Titus Andronicus, Petal, and Foals all had very strong live videos surface over the past seven days. Unsurprisingly, that cast of titles underscores the strength of the five performance that are highlighted in this, the 128th installment of the Watch This series. I’ve been fortunate enough to catch each of the five acts featured below and can confirm that these captures come close to doing them justice, chronicling their charisma, emotional pull, and talent spectacularly. So, as always, sit up, adjust the settings, elevate the volume, block out all distractions, and Watch This.

1. Seratones (Audiotree)

Ever since Seratones‘ run at last year’s CMJ, the band’s been slowly escalating nearly every facet of their already-formidable presentation. Boasting one of the most awe-inspiring vocalists currently on the circuit, the band delivers a commanding performance here for Audiotree. Grabbing onto something won’t save you from being flattened.

2. Car Seat Headrest – Fill In The Blank + Vincent (WXPN)

Teens of Denial still confidently stands as one of 2016’s finest records, a fact that will inevitably be reflected by several sources come December, and thanks to the band’s live show it’s still gaining traction. The band tore through “Fill In The Blank” and “Vincent”, the record’s opening two tracks, for WXPN. It’s a masterful run that shows Car Seat Headrest have plenty of tricks up their sleeves.

3. Courtney Barnett (Strombo Sessions)

Courtney Barnett may very well hold the record for the most Watch This series appearances at this point. An endlessly gifted — and obscenely likable — performer, Barnett’s hyper-intelligent songwriting is allowed to thrive in the live setting. All of those qualities can become even more pronounced in her endearing solo performances, which is squarely the case with this beautiful set that comes courtesy of Strombo Sessions.

4. Midnight Reruns – Richie the Hammer (Set List)

Last year, Midnight Reruns‘ brilliant Force of Nurture made a very strong showing in this site’s year-end rankings and a large reason for that placement was guitarist/vocalist (and principal songwriter) Graham Hunt’s growth as a lyricist. The record’s most surprising moment may very well have been the emotional devastation contained in “Richie the Hammer”, which the band recently performed for WPR’s excellent Set List series.

5. Weaves (NPR)

After several years of stellar performances and continuous evolution, Weaves have managed to create quite a few converts. “Shithole“, a fiery moment of reinvention, kicked off a run of songs that currently comprise the most formidable stretch of the band’s still-blossoming career. The band takes on a trio of those selections for one of the most galvanizing Tiny Desk sessions in recent memory. It’s downright electric.

Watch This: Resuscitations, Pt. I

Two Watch This posts will run tonight, bringing the series back up to the current release cycle. After more than 100 entries and several long-form packages, Watch This has only managed to expand in both scope and range. The underlying principle remains steadfast: this is a project to celebrate the very best in live performance video, one of the most under-recognized and under-appreciated multimedia art forms in the music and film world. An intense amount of craft is required to make a live video memorable (or, failing that craft, a formidable level of personality) and some of the people who are brave enough to make entries turn in unforgettable work.

Below are 25 great performances from 25 artists who are worth exploring. Whether it’s PUP tearing through the strongest opening 1-2 punch any record’s boasted this year, Courtney Barnett putting her heart into a gentle solo rendition of “Depreston“, Midnight Reruns unveiling a new song, or Small Houses putting a warm spin on a Weakerthans classic, there are a lot of moments to appreciate embedded into this compilation. Old favorites and emerging acts found themselves posited as the centerpiece(s) of artful documentation and this installment of Watch This is a presentation of those documents. So, as always, turn up the volume, calm down, lean in, and Watch This.

1. Summer Cannibals – Go Home (KEXP)
2. Sunflower Bean – Easier Said (The Current)
3. Meat Wave – Delusion Moon (Ratio Beerworks)
4. Small Houses – Watermark (Onder Ivloed)
5. PUP – If This Tour Doesn’t Kill You, I Will + DVP (Stiegl)
6. Bird Laww – In My Sleep (Public Radio /\)
7. The Black Angels – Better Off Alone (Jam in the Van)
8. Mise En Scene – Show Me You’re Real (BreakThruRadio)
9. Wolf Solent – Countless Minds (Sea Records)
10. Courtney Barnett – Depreston (The Current)
11. The Coathangers – Make It Right (Paste)
12. Midnight Reruns – Warm Days (Set List)
13. Kevin Morby – Singing Saw + Doroth (The Daily Indie)
14. Katie Von Schleicher (Jenn Harrington)
15. Emily Yacina – Soft Stuff (This Has Got To Stop)
16. Bob Mould – Voices In My Head (Sound Opinions)
17. Palehound – Healthier Folk (Radio K)
18. Hemming – All I Want (Weathervane)
19. Odio Paris – En Junio (BalconyTV)
20. Mike Krol – Neighborhood Watch (Radio K)
21. Journalism – Watching & Waiting (BreakThruRadio)
22. David Bazan – Oblivion (Little Elephant)
23. Murder By Death – Shiola (Paste)
24. Lucy Dacus – Green Eyes, Red Face (BreakThruRadio)
25. Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever – Clean Slate (3RRR)

Watch This: The Best of 2016’s First Quarter, Vol. IV

[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 fourth collection of those videos below.

1. Saintseneca (KJHK)
2. American Wrestlers (Audiotree)
3. Try the Pie – Thomas
4. The So So Glos – A.D.D. Life (Little Elephant)
5. Courtney Barnett – Dead Fox (Austin City Limits)
6. Pop & Obachan – Elora’s (This Has Got To Stop)
7. Mothers – Mother and Wife (Paste)
8. The Nudes – Pretty (Ithaca Underground)
9. Sleater-Kinney – Fangless (Austin City Limits)
10. Three Man Cannon – Patiently (Little Elephant)
11. Lever – Nickels & Dimes (DZ Records)
12. Thao & The Get Down Stay Down – Nobody Dies (The Current)
13. Julien Baker – Sprained Ankle (Paste)
14. Torres – The Harshest Light (Audiotree)
15. Menacerno – Johnny Cas’ (DZ Records)
16. Kamasi Washington – Fair As Equal (Paste)
17. Human Music – Sending Messages (Exclaim!)
18. Hellrazor (BreakThruRadio)
19. Palehound – Holiest (Public Radio /\ Sessions)
20. The Thermals – My Heart Went Cold (Jam in the Van)
21. Soul Low – Frenemies (Little Elephant)
22. PWR BTTM – Dairy Queen (WFUV)
23. Ancient Whales – To Be (Public Radio /\ Sessions)
24. Des Ark – French Fries Are Magical (Do512)
25. Frigs – Trashyard

Watch This: The Best of 2016’s First Quarter, Vol. I

[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 first collection of those videos below.

1. Charly Bliss (Audiotree)
2. Julien Baker (NPR)
3. Happyness (KEXP)
4. Car Seat Headrest (NPR)
5. PWR BTTM (KEXP)
6. Kal Marks – Coffee (Allston Pudding)
7. Fern Mayo (BreakThruRadio)
8. Wolf Alice (NPR)
9. Coke Weed (WKNC)
10. Frankie Cosmos – Outside With the Cuties (Pitchfork)
11. All Dogs – Sunday Morning (Little Elephant)
12. Eskimeaux (BreakThruRadio)
13. Sóley (KEXP)
14. Ty Segall & The Muggers – Candy Sam (Conan)
15. Pinegrove – Need 2 (Little Elephant)
16. Beach House – Irene (Pitchfork)
17. Petal – Sooner (WXPN)
18. Ratboys – Collected (DZ Records)
19. together PANGEA – Blue Mirror (Consequence of Sound)
20. VANT – Parking Lot + Do You Know Me (3voor12)
21. Long Beard (BreakThruRadio)
22. Courtney Barnett – Nobody Really Cares If You Don’t Go to the Party (Colbert)
23. Michael Rault – Nothing Means Nothing (Out of Town Films)
24. Sleater-Kinney – Modern Girl (Austin City Limits)
25. Bo Ningen (KEXP)

2016: The First Two Months (Streams)

littler
Littler

Now that the 2015 edition of A Year’s Worth of Memories has officially wrapped, it’s time to dive headfirst into 2016. There’s been a long delay in posting due to all of the recurring series and, simply, covering the volume of what’s been released in January, February, and the first few days of March. It’s precisely because of the jaw-dropping amount of material that the next few posts on this site will merely be a collection of links. Since it’d be humanly impossible to get through even a large chunk of this in one setting, it may be best to just bookmark this page and peruse the below list at your own leisure. After all of the single stream, full stream, and music video links lists are up, the focus will shift to a handful of standout releases. Once that’s all been said and done, Heartbreaking Bravery will resume operations as normal.

Explore some of 2015’s excellent early offerings below.

Yuck – Cannonball || Yucky Duster – Seashell Song || Hovvdy – Problem || Skaters – Head On to Nowhere || Lost Film – Still Youth || Robert Pollard – My Daughter Yes She Knows || Horse Jumper of Love – Bagel Breath || The Pooches – Heart Attack || Lou Doillon – Where To Start || Martha Ffion – Wallflower || Pity Sex – Bonhomie || Brittany Costa – Harbor || Self Defense Family – In Those Dark Satanic Mills || Kane Strang – Things Are Never Simple || Nothing – Vertigo Flowers || Gun Outfit – Make Me Promise || Summer Flake – Wine Won’t Wash Away || Ladada – New Psych || Alex Napping – Trembles Part II || Hit Bargain – The Circuits That Cannot Be Cut || Hard Girls – Dulcet Tones || Sioux Falls – Dinosaur Dying || Fake Laugh – Mind Tricks || Mind Spiders – Running || Arbor Labor Union – Radiant Mountain Road || Parakeet – Sugar Rush || John Dillon – The Fox || Littler – Of Wandering || Grayling – Bidding War

The Raveonettes – Run Mascara Run || Horse Jumper of Love – Ugly Brunette || Pinemen – Predictions || High Waisted – Door || Neighbors – Angel O || Waxahatchee – With You || ROMP – Backfire || The So So Glos – Dancing Industry || Littler – Phantom Limb || Gun Outfit – Expansion Pact || Bambara – All the Ugly Things || Miserable – Oven || Witching Waves – Flowers || Fucko – Best Little Something in Somewhere || Mind Spiders – Cold || Littler – Slippery || Journalism – Everywhere I Look || Carey – Hey Caty || Plastic Flowers – Diver || A Dead Forest Index – No Paths || Japanese Breakfast – Everybody Wants To Love You || Drug Pizza – No Reaction || Music Band – Day Stealer || Alma Elste – Limitless || Field Report – Your Friend Tia || Bad Cop – Ain’t From Here || Gun Outfit – King of Hearts || Agent Blå – Frustrerad || Jennifer O’Connor – It’s A Lie || Takénobu – Curtain Call

Låpsley – Cliff || The Thermals – Hey You || Frankie Cosmos – Sinister || Mothers – Coppermines || Operators – Cold Light || Wire – Nocturnal Koreans || Steady Holiday – No Matter || La Sera – I Need An Angel || Jackson Whalan & Jules Jenssen – Home Again || Japanese Breakfast – In Heaven || Caveman – Never Going Back || Beat Awfuls – You’re Not Gonna Love Me Anymore || Guerilla Toss – Diamond Girls || Brass Bed – Be Anything || Sunflower Bean – Easier Said || Snow Roller – Too Good || Doug Tuttle – It Calls On Me || Frances Cone – Arizona || Abi Reimold – Vessel || Twin River – Antony || Beach Baby – Sleeperhead || Aleyska – Everglow || John Congleton and the Nighty Nite – Until It Goes || Great Pagans – Call of the Void || ROMP – Avoiding Boys || Mike Bell & the Movies – Fucked If You Do || Heron Oblivion – Your Hollows || Tiger Army – Prisoner of the Night

Eagulls – My Life In Rewind || Courtney Barnett – Three Packs A Day || David Vassalotti – Ines De Castro || Baby Birds Don’t Drink Milk – Don’t Wanna Fall In Love || Guerilla Toss – Grass Shack || Sorority Noise – Either Way || Spookyland – God’s Eyes || Jennifer O’Connor – Black Sky || Chumped – Not the One || Florist – A Hospital + Crucifix Made of Plastic || John Congleton & the Nighty Nite – Your Temporary Custodian || Andrew Bird (ft. Fiona Apple) – Left Handed Kisses || The Thermals – My Heart Went Cold || Summer Flake – Shoot and Score || Quilt – Roller || Space Raft – Mountain || What Moon Things – Party Down the Street || Soar – Speak Write || B Boys – Get A Grip || Beach Skulls – Santa Fe || Rolling Blackouts C.F. – Write Back || Yndi Halda – Together Those Leaves || Amber Arcades – Right Now || Mára – Surfacing || Nai Harvest – Just Like You || Tim Woulfe – Be Clarity

Operator – Bebop Radiohaus || Abi Reimold – Sugar || Sarah Neufeld – Where The Light Comes In || Ali Beletic – Stone Fox || Dunes – Runner || DTCV – Bourgeois Pop || Gladiola – The Uninvited Guest || Earl Sweatshirt – Wind In My Sails || Wavves x Cloud Nothings – I Find || Soda – Blonde On Blonde || The Dead Ships – Company Line || Pkew Pkew Pkew – Mid 20’s Skateboarder || Gioia – Circling || Tangerine – Sunset || Mrs Magician – Forgiveness || Acid Dad – Don’t Get Taken || Summer Cannibals – Go Home || B Boys – Seagulls || David Vassalotti – Broken Rope || The Coathangers – Nosebleed Weekend || Fucko – Buzz || Ulrika Spacek – Beta Male || Alexei Shishkin – Yucca Street || Day Wave – Stuck || Ashley Shadow – Tonight || Journalism – Faces || The Hanged Man – Invisible Tree || Sofia Hardig – Sitting Still || VHS – Wheelchair || Phosphene – Silver || The Castillians – Come What May

Kidsmoke – Cut Yourself Loose || Future of the Left – The Limits of Battleships || Woodes – Daggers & Knives || Dusk – When Sleep Washes Over || Sheer Mag – Can’t Stop Fighting || Murena Murena – Lovely Homes || Woods – Can’t See At All || case/lang/veirs – Atomic Number || Eagulls – Lemontrees || Crater – Summer Skin || Flowers – Bitter Pill || Cat’s Eyes – Chameleon Queen || Pity Sex – Burden You || Tiny Deaths – The Gardener || Journalism – Watching and Waiting || The Middle Infield – Shadow || Kyle Forester – Won’t Go Crazy || Dark Blue – Vicious Romance || Grubby Little Hands – No Such Thing || Wussy – Dropping Houses || Jo Passed – Lego My Ego || Frightened Rabbit – Death Dream || Bombay Harabee – Interval || Fear of Men – Fall Forever Island || Fleurie – Sirens || Kane Strang – Full Moon, Hungry Sun || Kindness – A Retelling || Nothing Works – Dark Musick

Risley – Kill the Clock || Anna Meredith – Taken || ROMP – Last Year || Yikes – Thought You’d Stay || Chirping – Corona || Keeps – Let It Fall (Keeping Time) || Sound of Ceres – Dagger Only Run || Mike Newman – Vinny || Beverly – Victoria || Dirty Dishes – All of Me || Raury (ft. Take A Daytrip) – Home || Shonen Knife – Jump Into the New World || Head Wound City – Scraper || James Supercave – Burn || Shitkid – Oh Please Be A Cocky Cool Kid || Moderat – Reminder || Avante Black – Imaginary Love || Sonya Kitchell – Follow Me In || Charlie Hilton – Funny Anyway || Explosions in the Sky – Disintegration Anxiety || The Raveonettes – The World Is Empty (Without You) || Tinted Sun – Only One || Zula – Not the Same || Nicholas Krgovich – Written in the Wind || Slingshot Dakota – Paycheck || Day Wave – Gone || Matt Kivel – Violets || The Body – Hallow/Hollow || Future of the Left – If AT&T Drank Tea What Would BP Do? || Wintersleep – Santa Fe || Pop. 1280 – Chromidia || Gladiola – Greatest Hits || Sean Lennon – Demon Daughter || Acid Dad – Fool’s Gold

I’m An Island – Vitamin D || Night Moves – Carl Sagan || Phosphene – Be Mine || Risley – Warpaint On || Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy – Rich Wife Full of Happiness || Cross Record – Basket || Ashley Shadow – Tonight || Francis – Turning A Hand || Delta Will – A Dream || Dam Gila – What Fire || Nap Eyes – Lion In Chains || Scott Yoder – Looking Back In Blue || Holy Esque – Tear || Rob Crow – Oh, the Sadmakers || Whitney – No Woman || Marissa Nadler – Janie In Love || Teen Suicide – The Stomach of the Earth || Benny Boeldt – Valley Amnesia || Vandaveer – A Little Time Off Ahead || The Cradle – The Screen of Skin || James Bishop – Tailspin || Inner Space Orchestra – One Way Glass || Mirror Travel – Yesca || Two People – Fading || Hundred Waters – Forgive Me For Giving Up || Jaill – Paint Me Scary || Ryley Walker & Charles Rumback – Dhoodan || Scott Yoder – Silver Boy || Body Origami – Bright Hunger

Slingshot Dakota – Lewlyweds || Flower – Deadly Ill || TEEN – Please || Mavis Staples – Dedicated || Relick – Offering || Alpenglow – Solitude || Nathaniel Bellows (ft. Timo Andres) – It Never Ends || Say No! To Architecture – Wieder’s Floor || Chelsea Wolfe – Hypnos || M. Ward – Confession || Geddy D (ft. Darius Minwalla) – For You This Fall || Morly – The Choir || Turnover – Humblest Pleasures || Weird Dreams – The Ladder || Jo Passed – No, Joy (I’m Not Real, Girl) || RJD2 – Peace of What || Bill Eberle – Too Late To Take It Back || Those Pretty Wrongs – Ordinary || Still Parade – Walk in the Park || No Side – AM Revised || Hayden Calnin – Cut Love || Inspired & the Sleep – Die Slow || Pined – Wray || Copperfox – Feel in the Void || Michael Nau – While You Stand By || Laura Gibs0n – The Cause || Say No! To Architecture – Cocaine, Eh || Tangerine – Tender || Chambers – Yeagin Shone

Melaena Cadiz – California || Andy Ferro – Crystal Tongue || Nap Eyes – Roll It || Violent Soho – Viceroy || Jon Patrick Walker – Hideous Monster || Bat For Lashes – I Do || Andy Ferro – Sugar and Milk || Naps – Social Skills || Los Angeles Police Dept. – Hard || Sound of Ceres – Hand Of Winter || Pillow Talk – Monogamy (Demo) || RJD2 – The Sheboygan Left || Andy Ferro – Hood || Proud Parents – Saab Story || Muncie Girls – Balloon || Carter Tanton (ft. Sharon Van Etten) – Twenty-Nine Palms || Ghost Riders – Rolla Olak || Death Grips – Hot Head || CFM – Purple Spine || Human People – In My Speakers || Kevin Garrett – Refuse || Iska Dhaaf – Invisible Cities || Chris Maxwell – Arkansas Summer || Step Sisters – Vox Pop || Bianca Casady – Daisy Chain || Ship Thieves – Undertakers || South of France – Washed Up || Dear Boy – Local Roses || Lontalius – It’s Not Love || Merival – Kicking You Out

DJDS – I Don’t Love You || The Sherlocks – Last Night || Wanderwild – Optimist || Soft Fangs – Birthday || Anenon – Once || My Golden Calf – Young Pioneers || Drowners – Cruel Ways || Darla and the Love – End of the Party || Minotaurs – Stayed Too Long || The Flats – Machinery || Lust For Youth – Sudden Ambitions || Chris Storrow – A True Christian || The Bulls – Prudence || The Gills – Gimme Gimme || Lust For Youth – Stardom || Lionlimb – Just Because || Sonya Kitchell – Hurricane || Wet – All the Ways || Public Memory – Ringleader || Eric Bachmann – Mercy || James Blake – Modern Soul || Soft Fangs – The Wilderness || Reed Turchi – Offamymind || Yonaka – Ignorance || Public Memory – Zig Zag || Henrietta – Arrows || Shirlette Ammons (ft. Amelia Meath) – Aviator || Gideon Benson – Talk Talk

2015: A Year’s Worth of Memories (Stephen Tringali)

StephenHeadShot

Last year Stephen Tringali turned in a piece for this series about working on Chastity Belt‘s “Black Sail” music video. In 2015, he worked on a slew of new projects including his debut feature-length documentary Corridor Four, which centers around an officer from the K-9 unit — and military veteran — who was experiencing PTSD after the bravery he exhibited on 9/11, rushing into the Pentagon to attempt to save as many lives as possible.  It’s a big leap from directing and serving as the cinematographer on videos for bands like Big Ups, Low Fat Getting High, and Roomrunner. Here, he talks about seeing Pile play for the first time, discovering Pill Friends, shooting their latest music video, and lists his top 10 albums of 2015. Read it below and hold onto the things you find inspiring.

++

My first great musical memory of 2015 was finally getting to see Pile perform. I live in Los Angeles, and I don’t think the band makes it out to the west coast that often. When I saw they’d be playing Los Globos in late March, I marked the date on my calendar and prepared myself to turn down any gigs that might conflict with it. Needless to say, the show was excellent.

pile
Pile, Los Globos – March 29th, 2015 – Ilford 35mm Black & White 3200 ISO Pushed One Stop

Later that year, I had the chance to make a music video for this group from Pennsylvania called Pill Friends. I honestly can’t remember how in the world I found their record Blessed Suffering, but hearing it brought me straight back to high school in Central Pennsylvania. Since moving to Los Angeles, I’ve grown increasing interested with nostalgia and childhood. What images bring up those memories. How to access them after a long time has passed. I wanted to somehow recreate that feeling of growing up in suburban/rural PA for this video.

The band didn’t have much in the way of a budget, so flying back to PA to shoot this video was out of the question. I decided instead to hitch a ride with a college friend on his way back to Denver, CO and stop off in this small town called Leadville, CO where another college friend was working. We spent 3 days filming the people in the town in a kind of documentary style. It was perhaps the scariest premise I could have come up with for a music video because there was such a huge chance that it would fail. What if no one there wanted to be filmed? What if the town didn’t really have the look I was after? What if we were snowed in for most of the time? There were a million things that could have gone wrong.

And maybe that’s why it’s one of my most memorable experiences from this past year. I wanted to make a video that felt less staged, more impromptu, and more genuine than previous videos I had done. Strangely enough, it worked out. There was something exciting about having no clue what we were going to film that day. Plenty of people said no thank you; please don’t film me. But there were other folks who were completely open to the idea. Mechanics, barbers, skateboarders, kids playing basketball. The result turned out to be a really wonderful portrait of the town.

leadville
LEADVILLE, CO – November 2015

And finally, I got to have coffee with Michael Sincavage of Low Fat Getting High. I made a music video for his band in early 2015, but all of our communication up until that point had been via e-mail or phone. It might seem a little strange, but I don’t actually get to meet many of the bands I make music videos for in person. I’m really proud of the video I made for LFGH and so thankful that Michael gave me an unusual amount of creative control. It was great to finally meet him in person and talk over coffee. There was just something so encouraging and positive about that experience—that I could make a new friend simply because we connected over e-mail and collaborated on a project together.

My favorite records from 2015:

1. Sleater-Kinney – No Cities To Love
2. Dilly Dally – Sore
3. Car Seat Headrest – Teens Of Style
4. Screaming Females – Rose Mountain
5. Built To Spill – Untethered Moon
6. Courtney Barnett – Sometimes I Sit And Think, And Sometimes I Just Sit
7. Yowler – The Offer
8. Ava Luna – Infinite House
9. Pile – You’re Better Than This
10. Protomartyr – The Agent Intellect

-Stephen Tringali

15 of ’15: The Best Songs of 2015

All Dogs III

Few lists have been as difficult to put together as this one, which saw upwards of 100 songs competing for a slot as one of the final 15. An extraordinary year for music by any margin, the continuously expanding models of release and outwardly stretching networks of musicians providing an astonishing amount of material that was more than worthwhile. As has been noted in the previous lists, the choices here are completely based on personal subjectivity and exclude the more major releases (like the monumental tracks from Jason Isbell, Courtney Barnett, and Death Grips) as they’ve received countless accolades already and the spotlight deserves to be spread to equally deserving artists that still don’t have access to those levels of exposure. None of these artists appeared on last year’s list but every single act who gets an inclusion this time around feels more than capable of making a return visit at some point in the near future. Somber closing tracks, heartfelt lead-off singles, and a few striking non-singles comprise the contents found below. So, without further ado, here’s 15 of ’15: The Best Songs of 2015.

15. Car Seat Headrest – Something Soon

Originally released in 2011, “Something Soon” was a deeply promising minimalist number from Car Seat Headrest mastermind Will Toledo. In the following years, Toledo expanded his outfit and managed to find a way to successfully reinvent both the Car Seat Headrest project and a few of the old songs in the process, including- of course- “Something Soon”. Oddly, upon its second release, the song felt even more of the moment than it did in its initial run, all while demonstrating a timeless panache that was elevated by things like the three-part vocal harmony that kicks off the explosive second chorus. Revamped and re-energized, “Something Soon” became an endlessly rewarding new career highlight for a band that, a dozen releases into its career, still feels like it’s only just getting started.

14. PWR BTTM – 1994

No one could have possibly predicted the absolutely monstrous run PWR BTTM would put together in 2015 back in January. Even the people that adored the band in their early stages would have been hard pressed to think that they’d have the kind of pull to be the sole focus of features from nationally renowned publications.  That said, the timing couldn’t have been any better and in pairing their split with Jawbreaker Reunion and their towering debut full-length Ugly Cherries, their run couldn’t have been any stronger. One of the band’s most exhilarating moments came in the form of Ugly Cherries highlight “1994” which embodied nearly everything that makes the band necessary: identity exploration, earnest approach, searing guitar work, memorable melodies, and more than a few unbelievably fierce riffs.

13. Ought – Beautiful Blue Sky

Just a year after barely missing this list, Ought came charging back with a new career highlight via the hypnotic “Beautiful Blue Sky“. Scaling back their excessive nervous energy into something that feels more refined, the band latched onto an approach that made them sound like they were in complete control. By substituting an abacus for their lab coats, they also tapped more fully into the inherent power of both their music and their identity. While there’s still a rambling feel to “Beautiful Blue Sky”, it’s one that’s played with casual confidence rather than manic neurosis. Easily one of Tim Darcy’s most fascinating lyric sets to date, the song explores heavy themes with tongue-in-cheek nonchalance, keeping the band’s irreverent spirit in tact. Another masterclass of interlocking grooves, “Beautiful Blue Sky” also has a shot at becoming a modern classic.

12. Mikal Cronin – Made My Mind Up

The first song to be reviewed on Heartbreaking Bravery in 2015 also wound up, as predicted, being one of the year’s finest. While not all of MCIII hit the extravagant heights of MCII, it wasn’t without its moments. The seeming flawlessness of “Made My Mind Up” shouldn’t come as such a surprise after MCII handily established Mikal Cronin as one of this generation’s finest pop songwriters yet it still lands with such breathtaking gracefulness that it’s hard not to be taken aback. A gorgeous piano figure finds a way to seamlessly intertwine itself with Cronin’s characteristically fuzzed-out brand of basement pop, elevating several sections of the song to levels that approach transcendence. When the stop/start dynamics of the chorus come into play, the song just starts moving effortlessly through a motion of grace notes, cementing Cronin’s position as a peerless talent.

11. Girlpool – Crowded Stranger

Girlpool can pull off a lot of varied looks but there’s something about the music they make that takes on a darker sheen that’s impossible to shake. “Plants and Worms” was the song that convinced me the band was great and “Crowded Stranger” only furthers that theory by tapping into a similar approach, one that feels infinitely more foreboding than the duo’s usual material. There’s a certain weightiness and bold uncertainty that accompanies their dips into murkier sensibilities and the effect, almost paradoxically, tends to feel more vibrant. Ostensibly a song about loss, “Crowded Stranger” is a bleak look at internal examination, circumstantial consequence, and bruised perception. One of the band’s most tortured songs to date, it winds up being an exemplary showcase of the band’s formidable grasp on their own pathos. All of those elements factored in to why “Crowded Stranger” were two of the most unforgettable minutes this year.

10. Dilly Dally – Burned by the Cold

Burned by the Cold“, the elegiac closing track to Dilly Dally‘s incendiary full-length debut, Sore, was the moment that cemented that release’s status as a great. After 10 tracks of searing basement punk, the floor suddenly fell out from underneath the band and allowed Katie Monks to take even more complete control of the wheel as everything plummeted down in a free fall. Stripping away a few of the band’s most distinctive elements- Liz Ball’s breathtaking lead guitar work, a bruising rhythm section- and zeroing in on Monks’ unforgettable voice as it echoes through a devastating piano track, Dilly Dally found a genuinely unexpected way to flourish. As the ambient noise that swirls around “Burned by the Cold” intensifies, Monks pushes forward with a sudden vulnerability that makes Sore‘s mesmerizing final moment even more astonishing. Unprecedented by anything in their still young discography, it’s relative bravery proves the band has an untapped depth and, likely, plenty more welcome surprises to come.

9. Eskimeaux – A Hug Too Long

Nearly every song on Eskimeaux‘s masterwork O.K. was considered at one point for a spot on this list as each had a roughly equal claim. “A Hug Too Long” got the nod in the end for being, arguably, the most definitive track on the album. From the quick riff that opens the song to the lilting vocal figure that shortly follows, “A Hug Too Long” is a masterclass in composition and contains nearly everything that makes Eskimeaux such a rewarding project. Flawless melodies, production, and layered harmonies inform the track’s most vibrant moments, which once again show Gabrielle Smith’s masterful command over crafting songs that are as hopeful as they are bittersweet. Charming, endearing, and deceptively light- the song’s actually fairly crushing upon close inspection- “A Hug Too Long” finds a way to make nearly every one of the song’s structural aspects remarkable, lending it an additional emotional weight in the process. A sublime piece of songwriting, it firmly positions Gabrielle Smith as one of our finest emerging songwriters.

8. Hop Along – Waitress

One of the most heartening things to watch progress over the course of 2015 was the ascension of Hop Along, who have deserved far-reaching national acclaim for years but didn’t quite have the resources. Saddle Creek changed that when they signed the band for the release of Painted Shut, a critical knockout and a jaw-dropping show of force. While that record was peppered with several standout moments, it was “Waitress” that stood out most, a signature example of guitarist/vocalist and principal songwriter Frances Quinlan’s mastery of craft. Possessing one of the most arresting voices in music, Quinlan wields it like a weapon and strikes mercilessly as the rest of Hop Along viciously attacks their best track this side of “Tibetan Pop Stars” A series of bruised and beautiful moments culminate in a fiery outro that exemplifies the band’s inherent strengths. Quinlan lets loose several impassioned howls as the propulsive rhythm section goes to work with surgical precision and the guitar work nears an unprecedented level of excellence. Packaged together, it’s the kind of knockout punch that prohibits recovery.

7. Worriers – They/Them/Theirs

2015 saw the discussion surrounding gender identity take massive strides forward and open lines of dialog on a national scale that’d previously been a lot more diminished. It’s not unreasonable to think that the multimedia forms at large played in part in facilitating that transition and one of the most thoughtful and impassioned pleas came from Worriers‘ latest career highlight, “They/Them/Theirs“. Even in stripping away the lyric set, “They/Them/Theirs” is one of the band’s most powerful compositions to date but it’s the pointed narrative of “They/Them/Theirs” that makes it unforgettable, especially in its empathetic opening couplet (“You’ve got a word for one/so there’s a word for all”) and urgent chorus (“You are fighting between a rock and why bother?/we are floating between two ends that don’t matter”). At every step, the narrative’s fueled by a deep-seated frustration over the lack of understanding and driven by sheer determination to set things straight as the music conjures up something that’s both immediately accessible and genuinely thoughtful, enhancing the song’s humanist worldview.

6. Julien Baker – Go On

Like Eskimeaux’s O.K., Julien Baker‘s devastating Sprained Ankle provided a small army of tracks that were in contention for a spot on this list, which ultimately came to a showdown between the record’s unbelievably gorgeous title track and its unforgettable closer. The latter option won out and, in a strange turn of events, aligned it with Dilly Dally’s “Burned by the Cold” as a somber, piano-driven closer that’s unlikely to be released as a single. Following a record of intensely personal disclosures, “Go On”- like the vast majority of Sprained Ankle– felt palpably wounded in way that was frighteningly relatable as it confronted the inevitability of mortality. It’s also the song where Baker sounds the most severely pained and then, suddenly, one of the most chilling moments of 2015 arrives. Nothing in recorded music over the past 12 months hit me harder than the accidental broadcast interference that bleeds through the end of “Go On”, where a static-damaged sermon gets piped into a record that was heavily informed by religion. It’s in those final, largely improvised moments where Sprained Ankle feels genuinely holy.

5. Mike Krol – Less Than Together

Turkey, Mike Krol‘s unbelievably explosive third record, was one of 2015’s most exciting releases for a long string of reasons that included (but were not limited to) redemption for Sleeping in the Aviary and the rapidly growing interest surrounding DIY punk. Confrontational, irreverent, and deliriously fun, Turkey came off like several grenades all detonating simultaneously. Intriguingly, the record’s fiercest track is also its longest, the near-rabid “Less Than Together”, which serves as the record’s penultimate moment. No song got me out of bed in 2015 more times than “Less Than Together”, as its excessively frantic blend of basement punk and basement pop essentially managed to create its own singular energy source. Every element that makes Turkey such an enthralling record is present on “Less Than Together”, as it careens ahead and refuses to be apologetic to anything unfortunate enough to stand in its path. Everything clicks for Krol and the band he’s surrounded himself with as they play off of each other to enormous effect and produce something extraordinary, never pausing to look back at the destruction in their wake.

4. Fred Thomas – Every Song Sung To A Dog

One of the most heartfelt songs of 2015 was also one of the most painfully tragic. While Fred Thomas managed to stack the brilliant All Are Saved to the rafters with emotional moments of clarity in the midst of its intentional chaos, “Every Song Sung To A Dog” managed to leave the sharpest sting. As Thomas makes his way through “Every Song Sung To A Dog“, it becomes clear that the dog in question is Kuma, who served as the main source of inspiration for the songwriter’s last collection (which, accordingly, was also named after- and dedicated to- Kuma). Here, though, Kuma’s passed on and Thomas grapples with the complex emotions that accompany the loss of a loved one and produces something devastating. As the narrative probes at the questions over what separates us from our pets and our own mortality, it also functions at a remarkably high level as a character study of Thomas himself as he tears open his wounds and explores them without hesitation. Memories litter close to all of the dusty corners of “Every Song Sung To A Dog”, transforming it away from hypothetical territory into something that comes across as bravely, uncomfortably real.

3. Mutual Benefit – Not for Nothing

The past 12 months have had their fair share of exceedingly lovely songs, from the tender Cat’s Eyes number that plays over The Duke of Burgundy‘s credit reel to Mothers‘ spellbinding “Too Small for Eyes” to everything Eluvium released but none of them felt as perfectly weightless as Mutual Benefit‘s masterful “Not for Nothing“. Following the breakout success of Love’s Crushing Diamond, Jordan Lee’s project somehow grew even more gently refined, landing on something remarkably beautiful in the process. Nearly every movement of “Not for Nothing”, a song that was recorded for Weathervane Music’s deeply important Shaking Through series, can be viewed as a grace note. From Lee’s soft vocal delivery to the string section to the intuitive drumming and effective, simplistic piano figure, “Not for Nothing” finds a way to cumulative whole that comes off as miraculous. Expanded outward from the first time Lee overheard the phrase “Not for Nothing” used in a phone conversation, the song becomes an antithetical statement to the excess apathy that many of us confront in bulk on a daily basis. In finding and appreciating the world’s splendor as personal doubts seep into the song’s narrative, Mutual Benefit keep their heads pointed towards the sky and walk away with the most beautiful song of 2015.

2. All Dogs – That Kind of Girl

Ever since All Dogs initially unveiled “That Kind of Girl” back on tour in 2014, it’s been a personal favorite. On a standalone basis, it transformed Kicking Every Day into one of the more anticipated DIY-driven records of 2015 and provided a forceful career push for a band that genuinely deserved to have their name circulating around national press outlets on a steady basis. Fortunately (and unsurprisingly), the rest of Kicking Every Day lived up to the promise of “That Kind of Girl” but nothing on the record threatened its position as the band’s finest work (although “Leading Me Back To You“, which was deemed ineligible for this list due to being both a song from some of the members’ previous bands and a partial cover, came close). As the band demonstrated on their first two releases, their strength lies in the way they treat their own vulnerability, bravely kicking out against its currents instead of letting the water wash them away. Far and away the band’s most vicious song in an increasingly impressive discography, “That Kind of Girl” saw guitarist/vocalist Maryn Jones lash out in a way that saw each successive blow leave a deeper impact as Jones’ bandmates unleash a cavalcade of their own frustrations through some of the most impassioned playing of 2015 before claiming a victory and walking away with their flag planted in the dirt.

1. Stove – Wet Food

No song throughout 2015 made me feel more than Stove‘s hopeful, world-weary, defeatist, yearning masterpiece “Wet Food“. I can vividly recall being completely frozen while filming the band providing me with my introductory listen at Palisades (the video of that can be seen below), with chills shooting down my spine multiple times over. All the concern over Ovlov‘s dissolution immediately dissipated and hope for Washer‘s future (who operate at Stove’s rhythm section) suddenly went into overdrive. It joined a rare, elite company of performances and songs that had a similar effect on me (the only other band to hit that mark in 2015 was Dilly Dally’s unexpectedly vicious cover of Drake’s “Know Yourself”, which prompted a near-out-of-body experience). From the moment the guitar sweeps upward into action, “Wet Food” is untouchable. Adorned with subtle, effective bell work, punctuated by a blown-out chorus, it manages to take on the feel of a song whose stakes feel meaningful; this is the rare all-or-nothing song that swings towards the stars and connects with the kind of emphasis that manages to keep it in line. “Wet Food” also joins a class of recent songs where the songwriter addresses themselves by name (see also: Eskimeaux’s “A Hug Too Long”, above), presenting their most internal moments on a very public forum, enhancing the song’s honesty as a result. Bruised, battered, disoriented, and- above all- resilient, “Wet Food” felt like a microcosm of the prevailing personal stories that emerged throughout 2015, securing its rightful position at the top of this list.

15 of ’15: The Best Music Videos of 2015

Courtney Barnett I

Before we begin on this list, it’s worth noting- once again- that this publication isn’t one that’s overly concerned with the artists that already have received major levels of exposure (it’s also worth noting that “best” is a formality and a pale reflection of lists born out of subjectivity that are constructed around a fairly rigid set of rules). That said, I’d be remiss to not mention that what I personally believe to be the three most important clips of the year (Kendrick Lamar’s “Alright“, Vince Staples’ “Señorita“, and Run the Jewels’ “Close Your Eyes (and Count to Fuck)“) all used multifaceted black-and-white presentation to haunting, startlingly effective- and extremely pointed- levels. While those acts may have had access to expanded resources, the artists that made this list were able to find ways to flourish on technical and artistic levels. These clips are only scratching the surface of an extraordinary year for music videos but still managed to find ways to stand out from the crowd.

15. Fraser A. Gorman – Shiny Gun

Was there any narrative-driven clip as lighthearted as Fraser A. Gorman‘s “Shiny Gun” in 2015 (or 2014 for that matter)? Operating with a freewheeling sense of camaraderie and a genuine sense of fun, it’s a nearly iconic clip for an artist that deserves to be recognized on his own merits rather than just as an associate of label boss Courtney Barnett (who has a delightful cameo in the video). From the dryly comic premise to the impromptu guitar solo session that acts as its resolution, “Shiny Gun” is pure entertainment.

14. S – Remember Love

Last year, S appeared on this list for the heartbreaking “Losers” clip, which was teeming with genuine emotion and presented in bare-bones, DIY fashion. “Remember Love” sees S continuing to succeed on both of those accounts in instantly memorable ways. Ostensibly a parable about the metaphorical ghosts and skeletons that accompany the dissolution of relationships, “Remember Love” pulls off providing them with a physical form. By all accounts, the provided costume should feel too on-the-nose yet the video somehow finds a way to humanize its characterization to a point where the clip’s climax- and surprisingly profound final moment- feels genuinely devastating.

13. Diet Cig – Scene Sick

Over Easy, Diet Cig‘s immediately likable debut EP, established the duo as a fount of brash youthfulness and sheer joy, even in songs that dealt with some weightier issues. Even in a strong year for the band that saw the release of a few more clips and a tremendous 7″, nothing captured their aesthetic more than their video for “Scene Sick”. A simplistic concept maximized to an absurd level of success, it finds guitarist/vocalist Alex Luciano gleefully dancing next to a stone-faced Noah Bowman (the band’s drummer) before a brief rest that sees them both exploding into a frenzy of completely carefree moves over the most apt of refrains. No stakes are ever present and the duo dive into their roles with ecstatic abandon.

12. Dilly Dally – Desire

In December, no band was mentioned more times on this site than Dilly Dally, whose Sore has been in near-constant rotation here since its release. While the clips for “The Touch” and (especially) “Purple Rage” made strong impressions, it was “Desire” that managed to cut deepest. A visual realization of the record’s most central themes, “Desire” also managed to capture the band’s defining dichotomy: exploring the inherent beauty of what’s generally perceived as ugliness. The willingness to explore what makes us human so boldly resonated loudly when it was confined to the record but seeing a depiction of our mundane flaws married to a celebration of our sensuality and sense of wonder turned “Desire” into a staggering experience.

11. Eskimeaux – Broken Necks

Eskimeaux‘s O.K. was a watershed moment for Gabrielle Smith’s project, striking a perfect balance between somber reflection and a prevailing sense of closeted optimism. “Broken Necks” focuses most heavily on the optimistic side of that equation, bringing the song’s more twee elements to vibrant life as Smith and a cohort of friends walk and/or dance their way through a host of familiar locations scattered around New York. Smith turns in a charismatic central performance, flashing impressive depth as the video progresses through a variety of distinctive modes (deadpan, ethereal, meditative, etc.). Visually, it’s mesmerizing and finds ways to incorporate a few quick tricks into something that winds up feeling like one of Eskimeaux’s most defining moments.

10. Denai Moore – Blame

Every so often, a music video comes along that boasts enough firepower in its technical elements to prove unforgettable. In Denai Moore‘s clip for “Blame“, everything is firing on all cylinders. From Moore’s turn as a detached passenger to an inspired performance from an antagonized outsider to the gorgeous icy landscape and breathtaking cinematography, it’s a surprisingly moving piece of work. Tapping into a noir-ish narrative that focuses heavily on loss, unfettered emotion, and our capacity for empathy, it’s a striking vision. From its layered worldview to the video’s elevation of the song that acts as its driving force, “Blame” is an uncontested triumph.

9. Alex G – Brite Boy

Another clip that focuses heavily on loss, Alex G‘s “Brite Boy“, found a way to excel in its attention to implicit detail. Using only black outlines on a white background, “Brite Boy” infuses its classic-leaning animation with a palpable sense of longing. As its two protagonists adventure their way through bouts of surrealism and moments of clarity, a divide begins to emerge and deepen in heartbreaking fashion. It’s an emotionally crippling tour de force cut from a fairly unique cloth that’s already starting to feel more than a little timeless.

8. Bandit – The Drive Home

Easily one of the most stunning turn-in’s from a cinematographer working in this format in 2015, Bandit‘s “The Drive Home” benefits from the evocative framing that heightens the song’s cinematic inclinations considerably. Easily Of Life‘s most blinding highlight, the Derek Scearce-helmed clip elevates the emotional heft of “The Drive Home” via cold color palettes and sweeping, majestic presentation. Open roads, snow-capped mountains, and jaw-dropping visuals combine and culminate in a memorable final moment that completely removes the clip’s lone human element, ultimately revealing itself as an ego-less appreciation of our surroundings. It’s a powerful decision that cements the status of “The Drive Home” as one of the finest music videos of 2015.

7. PUP – Dark Days

In 2013, PUP‘s vicious- and viciously entertaining- clip for “Reservoir” earned a spot at the top of the music videos list I co-authored for PopMatters for that year. In 2014, the band followed suit with their unforgettable origin story video for “Guilt Trip“. Both were directed by the creative team of Chandler Levack and Jeremy Schaulin-Rioux, who once again crack this year’s list with the animated clip for “Dark Days“, extending a remarkable run of success with aplomb. Here, the gears are switched from relative bleakness and shocking moments of violence to a modest animated presentation of the decidedly unglamorous lives of touring musicians in a mid-level band. A sense of realism informs close to every step of “Dark Days”, from its unfettered highs to its most crushing lows. By providing what also effectively functions as a distillation of the band’s manic energy, Levack and Schaulin-Rioux have crafted yet another gem.

6. Courtney Barnett – Kim’s Caravan

One of 2015’s more unexpected commentaries came via Courtney Barnett‘s commendably bleak clip for “Kim’s Caravan“, which honed in on Australia’s most ravaged landscapes while simultaneously providing an unflinchingly intimate portrait of the inhabitants of those areas. Not too far removed from the works of John Hillcoat, “Kim’s Caravan” finds strength in its most somber tones. As the clip progresses, a foreboding sense of doom gets amplified to successively higher levels before culminating in some of the most startling and unforgettable shots of any music video to have been released in the past five years. As shattered glass rains down upon Barnett’s body and a trailer gets abandoned as it burns, the disappointment and anger fueling the clip crystallize. As Barnett walks offscreen in its final moments, it comes across as an impassioned plea and provides a fitting end piece to one of the more effective message videos in recent memory.

5. Girl Band – Why They Hide Their Bodies Under My Garage?

Did any other band find a foothold in definitive visual representation as Girl Band in the past 12 months? It’s doubtful. One of the more difficult decisions going into this list’s ultimate ranking was whether to include “Why They Hide Their Bodies Under My Garage?” or “Paul”, as each operated on a singular playing field that’s paid massive dividends for the band. Ultimately, the former was selected for being both the introduction to the band’s distinctive approach and the meticulous, surgeon-like precision required for it to work. Playing like one of David Lynch’s wet nightmares, “Why They Hide Their Bodies Under My Garage” focuses on the removal of a corpse’s internal organs before taking a sudden left turn into one of the more nightmarish dance parties imaginable, shattering an enormous amount of tension and providing the rest of us with a glimpse of the arsenal of deranged imagery Girl Band had in store for their breakout year.

 

4. Hammock – In the Middle of this Nowhere + My Mind Was A Fog… My Heart Became A Bomb

While it’s likely this pairing functions more as a short film than a music video, it succeeds on its own merits to a strong enough degree that the cumulative result felt like an appropriate candidate for this list. Astounding on a technical level, both “My Mind Was A Fog… My Heart Became A Bomb” and “In the Middle of this Nowhere” also succeed in eliciting an emotional response from their high-concept proceedings. Centering on a narrative where a virus has all but wiped out the world’s population, a survivor returns to his now-desolate home that he’d built with his family to try and rebuild his life by any means necessary. Another intimate portrayal of a character whose fate is all but doomed, the setting of these clips allow them to grasp at weightier themes than usual, where things like abandonment are amplified considerably by the circumstance. As the protagonist’s resolve rapidly deteriorates with each subsequent attempt at rekindling his past, Hammock‘s lilting ambient score propels each of the clips towards being modern classics.


3. Bent Denim – Good Night’s Sleep 

It’s difficult to think of a clip that commanded more force with its synergy than Bent Denim‘s aching “Good Night’s Sleep“. A pained examination of the psyche after the loss of a child, its a wrenching, empathetic character study that captures the feeling of being directionless to heartrending effect. In presenting the narrative through the lens of home movies, it imbues the narrative with a discomforting notion that it’s a tragedy that many of us will have to face and find a way to reconcile. The video’s soft tones enhance the intuitively maternal characterization of the clip’s lone performer and adds untold depths of heartbreak to the shot that lingers on a sign that simply says “Momma tried”. Whether “Good Night’s Sleep” deals with death, miscarriage, custody, or abortion is up to the perception of the viewer but any way it’s spun, the video retains its gut-wrenching emotional impact and its level of care for its protagonist. It’s an astonishingly moving portrait rendered with the care it deserves and it’s also one of the finest DIY efforts of this decade.

2. Julien Baker – Sprained Ankle

An extraordinary amount of work and hyper-meticulous planning has to go into pulling off a successful tracking shot, which is why a few of the finest examples (Children of MenHard BoiledThe Shining, etc.) are considered some of the most iconic moments in cinema. In 2015, there were three of these that genuinely stood out: the entirety of the German heist thriller Victoria, the electric second boxing match in Creed, and Sabyn Mayfield’s clip for the extraordinary title track from Julien Baker‘s masterwork Sprained Ankle. It’s a record that’s predominant theme is our mortality, a fact laid bare by the opening lines of “Sprained Ankle”, and Baker conveys the weight of that obsession flawlessly throughout the course of the video. Appearing onscreen as a battered athlete surrounded by a decrepit gymnasium, the imagery drives home the somewhat tragic fact that everything is constantly aging from the moment it’s born into this world. Eventually, the camera pushes past Baker to explore the tattered walls and fading ceiling insulation before circling back to the ground and providing one last look at a now-abandoned gym, haunted by what’s no longer present.

1. The Fjords – All In

2015 was a deplorable year in terms of senselessly violent acts that were carried out on scales both grand and miniature. From school shootings to accidental bombings, there was barely a reprieve from the damage. It seems fitting, then, that the clip at the very top of this list would offer some sort of commentary on today’s excessive levels of heinously shocking violence. Here, though, the clip in question gains intrigue because of how balanced it manages to be in that commentary, touching on both the displacement that can drive those actions and the childlike mindset that goes into their execution. Nostalgia also plays a factor in “All In“, which is a monumental first effort at a narrative-driven music video for The Fjords (“Almost Real” was granted a compelling lyric video), connecting the thread of media influence to its sudden, unexpected bloodshed. Heightening the disconcerting events that inform “All In”, is the fact that the protagonist is a young child, whose played with a steely commitment that’s nearly as jarring as the clip’s climactic confrontation in front of a hot dog stand. All at once, “All In” manages to succeed as a pointed commentary, a revenge fantasy, and one of the most startling pieces of magic realism in recent memory. Timely and timeless, it’s a towering achievement by any measure and its message lingers long after its first shot rings out.

2015: The Best of Watch This

sntsnca

When Watch This was conceived it was done with the intent to not only critically examine the balance of filmmaking and live performance but celebrate the art of the live video, a format which seems to have fallen to the wayside despite being more fruitful than it’s been since it was introduced. There’s real power behind the clips that manage to seamlessly merge the best qualities of everything that goes into the best live performance videos and they can yield genuinely unforgettable moments (when everything kicks back in on “Waitress”, the held falsetto in “A Proper Polish Welcome”, and a whole host of other chill-inducing moments are scattered throughout this compilation). Those moments are the beating heart behind this series construction and they’re what sustains the project as it presses forward.

Well over 300 live clips were covered on this site in 2015 and this is a collection of 25 that genuinely stood out for one reason or another, whether it was the sheer joy in a performance (Diet Cig), the performer’s ability to freeze blood (Julien Baker, Dilly Dally, SOAK), the trio of artists who appeared on Watch This the most throughout this year (Courtney Barnett, Girlpool, and Torres), an electrifying presentation and performance (July Talk), or a clip that’s a fully functional masterclass in every category that elevates a clip from astonishing to transcendental (Glen Hansard). All of those and more have been plugged into this packet, which culminates in a tour de force reminder of the overwhelming power of what can be achieved on a live platform from the resurgent Sleater-Kinney as one final exclamation point for a truly extraordinary year. So, as always, sit up, focus, adjust the volume, and Watch This.

Watch the 2015 edition of the best-of compilation for Heartbreaking Bravery’s definitive recurring series, Watch This, below. The track list is available under the embed.

1. Hop Along – Waitress (World Cafe)
2. July Talk – Paper Girl (Audiotree)
3. Ronny – Why Do You Have Kids (Gems On VHS)
4. Julien Baker – Sprained Ankle (BreakThruRadio)
5. Mikal Cronin – Say (WFUV)
6. Molly Parden – Weather (GemsOnVHS)
7. Eskimeaux – Folly (This Has Got To Stop)
8. Waxahatchee – Under A Rock (Pitchfork)
9. METZ – Spit You Out (3voor12)
10. Ought – Beautiful Blue Sky (KEXP)
11. Saintseneca – How Many Blankets Are In the World? (ANTI-)
12. Diet Cig – Harvard (In the Attic)
13. SOAK – B a Nobody Blud (La Blogotheque)
14. Dilly Dally – Burned by the Cold (Strombo Sessions)
15. Alex G + Girlpool – Brite Boy (SPIN)
16. Footings (Jenn Harrington)
17. Mike Krol – Suburban Wasteland + Neighborhood Watch (KEXP)
18. Beach Slang – Get Lost (Cozy Couch Sessions)
19. Public Service Broadcasting – Go! (WNYC)
20. Christopher Paul Stelling – Dear Beast (ANTI-)
21. Courtney Barnett – Depreston (La Blogotheque)
22. Algiers – Blood (WFUV)
23. Torres – A Proper Polish Welcome (NPR)
24. Glen Hansard – McCormack’s Wall (ANTI-)
25. Sleater-Kinney (NPR)