Heartbreaking Bravery

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Tag: David Letterman

Watch This: Vol. 69

After almost four full months, regular Watch This coverage is ready to resume. Once again, every Sunday, there will be an examination of five of the preceding week’s strongest live video clips. The live video’s a historically under-appreciated form of multimedia but one of the most difficult to master. Fortunately, this week had no shortage of strong examples, making it difficult to narrow it down to just five selections. While Jason Isbell and Amanda Shires’ lovingly tender Warren Zevon cover and Chastity Belt’s KEXP session aren’t featured in the ensuing collection, they’re both deserving of multiple watches. Joining those two videos in that distinction are the five clips listed below, which cover a very broad genre spectrum. All of them are worthy of praise. So, as always, sit down, lean back, forget about your troubles, and Watch This.

1. Cloud Nothings – I’m Not Part Of Me (Coachella)

Here and Nowhere Else still sounds as vital and as necessary as it did since it was released. “I’m Not Part Of Me”, the album’s closing track (and one of our best songs of 2014), still packs an enormous punch and that’s an aspect of the song that only gets enhanced in the live setting. Dylan Baldi remains a fascinating songwriter (and underrated composer) and Jayson Gercyz still seems nearly inhuman behind the kit, making this Coachella performance a must-watch.

2. Natalie Prass – Why Don’t You Believe In Me (Bruxelles Ma Belle)

Natalie Prass’ self-titled record was one of the first major surprises of 2015 and, accordingly, was met with universal acclaim. Here, Prass strips the fleshed-out arrangements of the record back to a bare-bones dual guitar setup. Softly lensed and starkly intimate, Bruxelles Ma Belle captures what may be one of Prass’ most captivating performances yet. R&B-inflected folk cascades across a deserted dining hall and fills every inch of the unlikely venue with feeling, rendering this clip unmissable.

3. Public Service Broadcasting – Go! (WNYC)

Occasionally a band will appear off to the edges on my radar and I’ll forget to check them out before a reminder surfaces in plain view. Public Service Broadcasting were one of those acts and this performance of “Go!” was one hell of a reminder. Starting off as a keys-and-sample led ambient piece before erupting into a monstrous, inventive, forward-thinking beast of a genre-defying song, “Go!” encapsulates close to everything an act primed for a breakout should have. Impassioned, deeply-felt, smartly crafted, and musically boundless, “Go!” provides a feeling of genuine exhilaration. Taking cues from decades’ worth of musical trends, deviations, and subversions, “Go!” quickly becomes unforgettable.

4. Happyness (KEXP)

Weird Little Birthday was a strange release that never seemed to garner the levels of attention it deserved. Whether this was due to the spaced-out release schedule, the rollout campaign, or just issues with timing is anyone’s best guess but those that were fortunate enough to hear it all seemed to be fully on board (it very nearly cracked this site’s best albums of 2014 list). The band recently stopped by KEXP’s offices to deliver a deeply intriguing set that doubled as a demonstration of the band’s seemingly limitless potential. Running the gamut from spaced-out ambient territory to 90’s-leaning slacker pop, it’s the type of performance strong enough to create converts and reinforce the convictions of the already faithful.

5. John Davey – Burning and Bright (GemsOnVHS)

When Heartbreaking Bravery was built part of its structure was a keen focus on immensely promising artists who had yet to receive a higher level of recognition. John Davey fits squarely into this category and, as such, has already received coverage on the site. Here, GemsOnVHS turns their cameras on Davey as he makes his way through the gripping “Burning and Bright”, intercutting sweetly homespun footage of the various stages of a shared meal with the performance to create their best video since the stunning Molly Parden turn-in. Imbued with a familial sense that’s emphasized by the song, it’s a genuinely gorgeous final product that also, incidentally, brings this 69th installment of Watch This to a warm, fitting close.

Watch This: Vol. 44

Welcome to a late-night installment of Watch This, the 44th in the weekly series that celebrates the best live performances to surface in the previous week. This time around, there’s a split between full sets, late night performances, and DIY presentations that all include bands that have previously earned themselves features (or extended mentions) on this site. Whether it’s another jaw-dropping full set from White Lung or a revitalized Death From Above 1979 diving headfirst into their single, these are all worth watching. Normally Watch This is posted much earlier on Sunday, so in the spirit of today’s delay, the featured videos get darker in atmosphere as they progress. Day turns to night and Volume 44 gets to lay claim to five great performances. So, sit back, relax, take a drink, ease up, and Watch This.

1. Death From Above 1979 – Trainwreck 1979 (The Late Show with David Letterman)

The Physical World, Death From Above 1979’s long-awaited follow-up to the classic You’re A Woman, I’m A Machine, may have disappointed a few people with absurd expectations. Most of them were hung up on their own projections of what they thought the band should be instead of letting them come out of hibernation to evolve naturally. It’s hard to think that any of them would be disappointed by a performance like this one, which winds up being part of a late surge of memorable talk show performances.

2. Benny the Jet Rodriguez – Alley Cat (Razorcake)

Is the sound on this the greatest? No. Does it need to be? Same answer. Is this a great take on a great song from a great record? Absolutely. Does the combination of logos, titles, and credits make it difficult to definitively credit? Extremely. How are more people not talking about Benny the Jet Rodriguez and Home. Run? That’s impossible to say- but it needs to change. When should that change start? Right now. Does every city deserve a venue like VLHS? Definitely.

3. Diarrhea Planet (KEXP)

Diarrhea Planet may have released a very good record the other year that holds up as a standalone piece but their reputation was almost entirely built by virtue of their excitable live shows. This KEXP session goes a long way in confirming any of the uninitiated’s suspicions that they have a penchant for the irreverent and wild- and that’s all that really needs to be said. Just watch the video.

4. White Lung (unARTigNYC) 

This isn’t the first full White Lung set to earn itself a feature on Watch This. Hell, it’s not even the first one that comes courtesy of unARTigNYC. All that said, the band keeps managing to get better, a feat of borderline absurdity considering they’re already one of the better live acts out there today. Easily the best-looking and best-sounding White Lung set to find its way onto Watch This, their recent set at Palisades found them in their fieriest form (especially after a very tense moment towards the start of the set that found vocalist Mish Way pushed to the point of physically accosting and ultimately ejecting an audience member)- absolutely laying waste to a selection of songs that leaned heavily on 2014 standout Deep Fantasy. Even if the whole set was emotionally charged thanks to the severely unfortunate circumstances, it provided a handful of thrilling moments and cemented White Lung’s status as one of today’s most exciting bands.

5. Nothing (KEXP)

Nothing are notorious for eardrum-obliterating volume levels when they play live, which seems fitting for a band so prone to relentless heaviness. Here, they hold nothing back and give KEXP one of the station’s more memorable sessions- creating an entrancing sprawl that sides towards the heavily atmospheric. Guilty of Everything was a high point of mid-2014 and is well-represented here. Apart from a few fairly awkward interview exchanges (which is probably putting it mildly), the individual song performances are weirdly mesmerizing. All in all, it’s hard to ask for a better way to cap off another great week of documented live music.

5 to See at NXNE 2014: Vol. 6

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

1. Benjamin Booker

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

What to Watch:

2. Pusha T

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

What to Watch:

3. Future Islands

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

What to Watch:

4. Camera

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

What to Watch:

5. White Mystery

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

What to Watch: