Heartbreaking Bravery

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Tag: Donovan Wolfington

Watch This: Vol. 149

The past week was teeming with outstanding live videos. Japanese Breakfast, Margaret Glaspy, Tacocat, Dolfish, The Conquerors, Liz Cooper & The Stampede, Nassau, Hamilton Leithauser + Rostam (x2), Computer Magic, Alex Izenberg, The Lemon Twigs, Runaway Brother, Julia Jacklin, Jay Smart, Full Body, Conor Oberst, Ira Wolf, The Blank Tapes, Donovan Wolfington, The Malady of Sevendials, Sammus, Tom Brosseau, Casper Skulls, Jordie Lane & the Sleepers, King Charles, Diet Cig, Gallery 47, Pat Otto, Lilian, Kyle Craft, and Thirdstory all offered up incredible entries and, in the process, pointed to the overwhelming strength of the five clips featured below. New faces and old favorites abound in full sessions, late night triumphs, and single song performances. So, as always, sit up, lean in, focus, adjust the settings, block out any distractions, and Watch This.

1. Real Life Buildings (WKNC)

A New York institution for some years now, Real Life Buildings’ members have been extremely active in the DIY punk scene and accumulated an impressive pedigree. It’s easy to forget that fact when they play, though, as their music sounds so complete. Here, the project takes to the WKNC studios and delivers an inspired set of slightly askew basement pop. It’s a series of thrilling moments from a band that more than deserves their continuously growing reputation as one of the state’s finest acts.

2. Yohuna – Apart (Radio K)

In Patientness, the Johanne Swanson-led Yohuna delivered one of the year’s most quietly compelling releases. Operating as a trio for the live shows, Yohuna recently stopped by the Radio K studios and offered up a gripping take on “Apart”, one of the many highlights from Patientness. Calm, collected, and enticing, it’s a perfect example of the project’s innate level of talent.

3, Porches – Car (KEXP)

When Watch This was in its earliest stages, Porches. would make infrequent appearances that mostly came courtesy of fan-shot footage of solo performances. In that time, the project’s reach has considerably widened, the period at the end of the name’s been all but abandoned, and it’s successfully transitioned into a full band that boasts an incredible cast of musicians. Porches hit a career highlight with “Car” and they recently gifted KEXP with this arresting run through the song. Good luck escaping the vice grip of that miraculous hook.

4. Julia Jacklin – Pool Party (The Current)

The ascendant Julia Jacklin’s been making quite a splash lately, drawing comparisons to the likes of Sharon Van Etten, Angel Olsen, and Leonard Cohen. Just a few seconds into this gorgeous run through “Pool Party” and it’s abundantly clear that Jacklin’s tapped into that intangible element that can propel talented people to new levels of fame. A beautiful performance of a gorgeous song, it’s hard not to just leave the clip on repeat.

5. Mitski – Your Best American Girl (Colbert)

Anytime anyone from the DIY circuit starts succeeding on a grander level, it’s a heartening development, especially in the cases of artists that stay true to their convictions. Watching Mitski sit in with Stephen Colbert’s house band and lead them through selections from a discography that’s been well-covered here in the past served as a moment of triumph. The cherry on top? A full, heartfelt rendition of “Your Best American Girl” — one of 2016’s best songs — with the house band urging the song forward. All told, it was a well-earned, inspiring moment from an artist whose work deserves to be celebrated.

IAN SWEET – #23 (Music Video)

ian sweet

Over the past several days, there have been excellent music videos to surface from Caspian, DJ Shadow, The Hairs, Clipping., Pleistocene, WL, Pop & Obachan, Donovan Wolfington, Chromatics, Matt Kivel, Dogbreth, Hiss Golden Messenger, Joyce Manor, The Cradle, The Avalanches, Barren Womb, and Walker Lukens. A few of those will undoubtedly be appearing on some year-end lists but that doesn’t mean that the rest should be ignored. All of those titles are worthy endeavors that deserve a certain amount of investment.

As good as all of those clips wound up being, this post’s feature was secured by IAN SWEET‘s endearing, Michael Jordan-influenced “#23”. Tenderly shot and directed by Eleanor Petry, “#23” imbues the subdued tone of the song into a clip that jumps, seamlessly, back and forth from a pick-up game in a park to a varied romp through Coney Island. There’s a lyrical poetry to the imagery that winds up complementing the best song of IAN SWEET’s emergent career.

In four minutes, IAN SWEET (and Petry) conjure up a narrative that feels alternately introspective and fearlessly outgoing, demonstrating a range of humanity that should serve the band well down the line. There’s a keen awareness to the entire affair that’s infused with a heavy amount of empathy, allowing “#23” to radiate a kind of warmth that’s been increasingly rare in the landscape of the punk-tinged basement pop genre. Should the rest of their forthcoming Shapeshifter live up to this precedent, we may very well be looking at — and listening to — one of the finest records of 2016.

Watch “#23” below and pre-order Shapeshifter from Hardly Art here.

Watch This: Vol. 110

Now that Watch This is caught up to its usual weekly routine, the rest of the week will be spent dragging the coverage for other formats up to the present release cycle. Following that round of catching up, the site will be turning its focus towards year-end lists and the second edition of A Year’s Worth of Memories. Before we hit that point, though, it feels more necessary than ever to shine a light on some of the best live capture performances from this past week. Again, a strong week’s relegated a slew of extremely strong candidates to the honorable mentions, which include performances from Palehound, The Courtneys, Green Dreams, Vinyl Williams, Albert Hammond Jr., Futurebirds, The Bottle Rockets, Husbands, Noah Gunderson, Caleb and Carolyn, Donovan Wolfington, The Dick and Jane Project, Doe Paoro, Gudrid Hansdottir, Youth Lagoon, Shopping, and Battles.  Site favorites abound in the featured section and the whole thing wraps with one of the year’s finest– and most unexpected– live clips.  So, as always, kick back, focus up, adjust the volume, and Watch This.

1. The Sidekicks – Hell Is Warm (Radio K)

In “Hell Is Warm” The Sidekicks have written themselves a shockingly strong opening number, so it should come as no surprise that it’s been leading off a lot of their recent sets. By that same token, it makes perfect sense as an exhilarating standalone number.  Here, the quartet tears through the song in a session hosted by Radio K, delivering a blistering version that  arguably improves on the excellent studio take.

2. Bad Canoes – Radio Without Rules (Don Giovanni)

Some people are natural performers who imbue every project they appear in with a radical charisma that elevates everything in their reach. Marissa Paternoster is one of those performers.  In the deliriously scrappy Bad Canoes, Paternoster’s divorced from her guitar and allowed free reign over the stage, careening around with a reckless abandon as the rest of Bad Canoes alternates between contained proto-punk and building up a swirling wall of chaos. Packaged together, it’s electrifying.

3. Wimps – Dump (Band In Seattle)

One of the most purely entertaining videos of the past few months has been for Wimps‘ all-too-relatable “Dump“, a 2015 standout. The trio’s most  recent effort, Suitcase, is a brilliant collection of basement pop gems that coast by effortlessly but carry enough weight to be memorable. Here, the band takes their brand of goofy irreverence and sharpen it for a memorable run through “Dump”, unable to suppress some very heartfelt smiles along the way.

4. Alex G + Girlpool – Brite Boy (SPIN)

Alex G‘s “Brite Boy” hasn’t left my mind since writing up the song’s heartbreaking video earlier this week. Here, in a performance for SPIN, the song takes on an additional glow thanks to the support provided by site favorites Girlpool. Ostensibly a song about isolation, loneliness, and loss, it somehow transforms into an even more heartrending experience as Girlpool’s Cleo Tucker and Harmony Lebel-Tividad join in for the song’s backing vocal part, before joining each other in a half-choreographed, half-spontaneous dance during the song’s instrumental outro that’s surprisingly moving. Affectionate, human, and strangely devastating, it’s a performance that seems poised to circulate for many years to come.

5. Dilly Dally – Burned by the Cold (Strombo Sessions)

Few songs have hit me harder this year than “Burned by the Cold”, the album closer from Dilly Dally‘s astonishing Sore. Easily one of my favorite songs of 2015 (more on that later), the song showcases the band’s commitment to range and capacity for subversion. From a purely logistical standpoint, it seemed unlikely that the band would ever latch onto the song for their live set and that it was doomed to a life of record confinement. Thankfully, George Stroumboulopoulos’ home, where The Strombo Show is filmed, comes equipped with a piano. Dilly Dally recently appeared on the show as guests and gifted everyone with this stunning rendition of “Burned by the Cold”, which is presented here in crisp black-and-white, enhancing the song’s wintry aesthetic. It’s because of performances like this one that Watch This came into existence and it’s a beautiful coda for Dilly Dally’s extraordinary year.

Watch This: Vol. 96

It’s been quite some time since Watch This made an appearance due to a variety of extenuating circumstances. However, the series was still going through upkeep in its absence. This will be the first of four posts that collects and features the best live performance captures in that same amount of time, each in a chronological order. Going back four weeks, there were intriguing clips from Bear’s Den, Juan Wauters, Redthread, The Good Life (x2), Bertrand Belin, Laura Marling, Telekinesis, Beirut, Julia Holter, FIDLAR, Ride, and Donovan Wolfington. It was a suitably strong crop of clips but the five to earn featured spots here earner their respective positions for a reason. So, as always, lean in, focus up, and Watch This.

1. Cayetana – Serious Things Are Stupid (Little Elephant)

Cayetana have made a few appearances on this series before but their performance of “Serious Things Are Stupid” for Little Elephant is their best clip to date. The camerawork here’s intentionally loose and matches the band’s aesthetic in a thoughtful way while the performance is committed, tight-knit, and delivered with verve. It’s a short blast that winds up being remarkably effective.

2. PWR BTTM (BreakThruRadio)

Anyone that’s clicked on this site anytime since summer rolled around has likely seen a mountain of praise directed towards PWR BTTM, who remain one of the most entertaining live bands on the circuit. With that being the case, it shouldn’t be much of a surprise anytime they make a Watch This appearance. Here, they deliver some typically fierce performances and provide their host with a transformative experience.

3. Meat Wave – Cosmic Zoo (Audiotree)

There have been more than a few posts on this site discussing Meat Wave‘s fundamental importance to this site’s development and the trio keeps delivering at an exceptional level. 2015’s outstanding Delusion Moon has helped the band gain significant momentum and they’re capitalizing on that momentum at every conceivable level. Audiotree recently hosted the band for a session and they led their set off with the surging “Cosmic Zoo“, delivering the song with a bracing immediacy.

4. Madalean Gauze – Accumulations of Life  (WXPN)

This performance of “Accumulations of Life” was my introduction to the spiky guitar pop of Madalean Gauze, a band that comes across as immediately relatable and extremely well-versed. As a first piece, it’s a near-perfect blend of practiced and promising, solidifying theirs as a name to watch straight out of the gate. Vibrant and alive, “Accumulations of Life” is an incredibly enjoyable look at an intriguing emerging act.

5. Glen Hansard – McCormack’s Wall (ANTI-)

Occasionally a clip surfaces and immediately registers as transcendental. I can vividly remembering having that thought upon first watches of a very small selection of the 500+ performances that have been featured on this series- yet, “McCormack’s Wall” manages to stand out even among those few. Deeply cinematic, characteristically heartfelt, thematically rich, tenderly shot, crisply edited, and beautifully presented, “McCormack’s Wall” occasionally comes across as a tone poem. Easily one of the most gorgeous clips to ever run in this series, “McCormack’s Wall” is a pinnacle of what can be achieved with the format. Share this one with family.

Diet Cig – Dinner Date (Stream, Live Video)

Diet Cig VIII

Following an unusual slow Tuesday, the mid-week mark kicked things back into high gear and offered up a bevvy of tantalizing releases in all of the three major categories. The full streams that were unveiled included Total Makeover’s spritely self-titled EP, Lost Film’s beautiful, low-key Imago, Donovan Wolfington’s level-elevating How To Treat The Ones You Love, and the exemplary The Last Dance, which is very likely the final release from the great Shady Hawkins. Music videos found strong representation via clips from Royal Headache, Shana Cleveland & The Sandcastles, Karen O, The Smith Street Band (ft. Lucy Wilson), and Marching Church. Single streams had more than a few genuine gems in a haul that saw new material from TenementExpert Alterations, Childbirth, Vision, and Mothers to life- as well as the second half of Diet Cig‘s forthcoming 7″.

A little over a month ago, the band unveiled career highlight “Sleep Talk“, which prompted a great deal of intrigue and excitement in regards to the duo’s future. As the first half of a two-song split, “Sleep Talk” seemed to open up limitless possibilities for the directions the band could take. “Dinner Date”, instead of aiming to push forward, feels content to circle back to the approach that dominated Over Easy, which has held strong as one of this year’s best EP’s. However, “Dinner Date” avoids redundancy by augmenting the band’s more direct methods with an air of resignation in place of the carefree attitude that dominated their first release.

While there’s still more than a few barbed winks scattered throughout “Dinner Date”, it’s easy to hear a steady maturation creeping into Diet Cig’s work; they’re playing with a bolstered confidence level and are proving they’re unafraid of tinkering with a winning formula in the process. Rounding out the relatively adventurous atmospherics of “Sleep Talk” with the startling immediacy of “Dinner Date” not only allows both tracks to emphasize their partner’s best qualities, it also leaves the band with another year-end contender for the 7″ category. Brash, bold, and oddly beautiful, it’s another strong step in an increasingly promising career.

Listen to “Dinner Date” below and pre-order the 7″ ahead of its September 18 release date from site favorites Father/Daughter (for the US) or another site favorite, Art Is Hard (for the UK). Underneath the embedded player, revisit a video of the band performing the song a few months ago at the Father/Daughter Northside showcase.

Princess Reason – Your Divorce (Stream)

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Today will be dedicated to two posts: the first (the one you’re reading now), will cover a large handful of yesterday’s notable releases while the ensuing entry will bring everything up to speed. While there wasn’t an intimidating excess of new material on Wednesday, like there has been in the past, it still managed to unearth some very strong pieces. Ms. John Soda had their tantalizingly light new single “Hero Whales“, Camper Van Beethoven’s willfully ridiculous Sharknado 3: Oh Hell No! song “Long Way To Go“, Doubting Thomas Cruise Control offered another compelling new look at their forthcoming record via “Soft Focus“, Blake Schwarzenbach provided a glimpse at his upcoming solo material with the quietly pulsating “Sanity Is Waiting“, and Donovan Wolfington maintained both their searing aggression and surprisingly light pop touch via “Solo Cup“.

For music videos, there was the menacing grit of Memory Pills’ “Beauty of the City“, Matthew E. White’s moving “Vision (No Skin Version)“, Jenny Hval’s dream-laden “Sabbath“, and Gem Club’s strangely harrowing “Braid“. The full streams wound up with incredibly strong representation from an individual release: Antarctigo Vespucci’s s debut full-length effort, the incredibly strong Leavin’ La Vida Loca. Today’s featured item circles back to the single song streams and strings together lackadaisical basement pop with punk attitude as well as anything else to have found release this year.

With the light drawl that hearkens back to the slacker pop of the 90’s there’s an obvious Pavement comparison to be made here, especially with the off-the-cuff lyrical delivery fully ingrained in Princess Reason‘s DNA but those comparisons can only stretch so far; Princess Reason deserve to be judged on their own merit, not be held to the gold standard of a genre iconoclast. “Your Divorce” is a smartly-crafted burst of outsider pop, making room for some entirely unexpected moments that elevate the song from being good to being genuinely memorable. It’s a rambling, ramshackle number that headlines a forthcoming 7″ with the kind of confidence and finesse that suggest this band’s in the midst of something that should secure them quite a bit of attention going forward. An unlikely, biting summer anthem for the romantically down-and-out “Your Divorce” may have a lot of roots in the past but it still manages to come across as a breath of fresh air.

Listen to “Your Divorce” below and pre-order the 7″ from Nebraskan Coast here.

PWR BTTM – Ugly Cherries (Stream)

PWR BTTM III

Wednesday, for whatever reason, has become a traditionally stacked day for the release slate. Today’s already ushered in more than a dozen notable releases from all across the world, spanning about as much terrain musically as it does geographically. Music videos wound up with a fairly strong outing and included some stunning visuals that were brought into focus by the likes of Ducktails, Creepoid, Destroyer, and Albert Hammond Jr., constituting the strongest showing for the format in weeks.

Curiously, the full stream category was completely absent from the day’s proceedings (so far, at least) but that did make room for another impressive haul of singles. Donovan Wolfington got a little heavier and a lot more focused with “Ollie North“, Manatree ushered in some tropical tones through their sccuzzed-up indie pop number “Animal Qualities“, Wand and Sunflower Bean continued to revel in psychedelia with “Stolen Footprints” and “The Stalker“, respectively.

Ultimate Painting continued sharpening their shambolic, widescreen Americana via “(I’ve Got The) Sanctioned Blues“, Tenement released the winningly scrappy demo take of Predatory Headlights standout “Hive of Hives“, and Cold Beat continued to create compelling tapestries by merging distinctly left-field influences once again in the tension/explosion masterclass “Cracks“. Fake Palms let loose the pulverizing “Sparkles“, Palehound released another stunner in “Healthier Folk“, Antarctigo Vespucci continued subverting expectations and delivering at an unreasonably high level with “Impossible To Place“, Diät resurfaced with the urgent, punishing “Toonie“, Autobahn brought out a similarly menacing gut-punch through “Society“, and Chelsea Wolfe deepened the foreboding overtones of those last two numbers with the slow-burning “After the Fall“.

While any number of those songs could have been selected as the feature for today’s post, the distinction goes to a duo that’s earned some coverage here in the past: PWR BTTM. Today the band not only announced their upcoming record and the necessary details but released the title track as well. Father/Daughter and Miscreant will be joining forces once again to release the excellent Ugly Cherries on September 18. And while “Ugly Cherries” is fairly representative of the full-length’s best qualities, there are still a variety of surprises and nuances to explore once the record drops.

Until then, though, we’ve got “Ugly Cherries” to place under a lens and obsess over.  If the song sounds familiar, it may be due to the fact that it’s been a staple of the band’s live set for quite some time- or maybe you’ve heard it playing as the theme song for the excellent live series that’s hosted by Play Too Much. Maybe you just think the chord progression lead-in is “Undone — The Sweater Song” (it’s not but you’d probably be forgiven for the confusion). Any way that it gets processed, though, the simple unavoidable fact is that it’s an absolute powerhouse of a song, swinging for the fences and connecting with a startling emphasis.

PWR BTTM, a band that consists of Benjamin Hopkins and Liv Bruce, have developed the kind of rapport that most bands can only dream about achieving. From their impressive musical synchronicity (they frequently switch guitar, drum, and vocal positions) right down to the atypically engaging stage banter that peppers their energetic live show, there’s an intrinsic connection that’s both palpable and natural- something that translates to the studio versions of the songs.

“Ugly Cherries” hits some of the duo’s favorite beats (gender identity, examination, doubt, shamelessly bombastic shredding, and acceptance, among them) without ever losing its sense of urgency or vitality. As a powerful display of finesse and deceptive strength, it’s a near-perfect mission statement for the band. As a warning shot for the record that’s now on its way out into the world, it might be enough to incite a riot. I’m almost positive they wouldn’t have it any other way.

Listen to “Ugly Cherries” below and order the record from site favorite(s) Father/Daughter Records (in association with Miscreant Records) ahead of its September 18 release date by following the label hyperlinks.

Carsick Cars – Wild Grass (Stream)

After two days enduring a seeming avalanche of new content from nearly every corner of music, Thursday has gradually tapered off of that relentless pace. Still, there were rippers from Thee Oh Sees, Tweens, Palehounds, Broken Gold, and Donovan Wolfington (especially Donovan Wolfington). There was also a new video from post-hardcore titans La Dispute (the band responsible for “King Park“, one of the most stunning pieces of songwriting in the past few years) and a beautiful, humorous, genre-encapsulating medley video from Don Giovanni’s Shellshag. At the end of the day, though, the song that stood out strongest was “Wild Grass” from Chinese trio Carsick Cars’ upcoming 3.

Carsick Cars may not be a huge name stateside but the band’s reputation in their homeland is certainly well-established and somewhere over the past nine years they managed to catch the ears of Sonic Youth (and subsequently play shows with them before their split). While Sonic Youth is, sadly, no more (at least for now), it’s easy to see their influence on Carsick Cars. If someone claimed that Steve Shelley was the person behind the kit on “Wild Grass”, there’d be no reason not to believe them. Their clean guitar tones are reminiscent of Moore and Ronaldo’s in the band’s latter-era run (Rather Ripped, in particular) and their pop sensibilities are similar. In fact, while “Wild Grass” does come off as an extraordinary Rather Ripped outtake (albeit one that’s sung in Chinese), where the bands do differ is in how far they take that pop sensibility. Carsick Cars are a few notches less noise-prone than their predecessors but they compensate for it with an emphasis on melody. That effortless powerpop melodicism is what makes “Wild Grass” really stand out and bodes well for the rest of 3.

While “Wild Grass” is certainly promising, it’s always been impossible to pin Carsick Cars down from record to record. They’ll likely have a few surprises in store for 3, which will be released later this month. If the past is any indication, those surprises will be worth the wait. Hear “Wild Grass” below and hope that the rest of winds up being as good or better.