Heartbreaking Bravery

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Tag: drone

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.

LVL UP – Big Snow (Stream)

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What a day. There was no obvious choice for a feature until LVL UP’s “Big Snow” premiered over at Impose. On the surface, that’s a bland statement- but looking at the company that “Big Snow” joined today, it’s one hell of a testament to LVL UP.  In the single song department there were some legitimately great songs: Run The Jewels’ pulverizing new (Zach De La Rocha-featuring) scorcher “Close Your Eyes (And Count To Fuck)“, Dollface’s impossibly breezy indie pop gem “Churchyard“, Daddy Issues’ distortion-laden post-punk dirge “Ugly When I Cry“, and  a bracing new Crow Bait song- “Separate Stations“- that incorporates members of Iron Chic. There was also Dasher’s foreboding noise-punk minimalism piece, “Teeth“, as well as Vetter Kids’ “I’m Just Your Newest Bluest” which is a perfect representation of the band’s modernist take on classic 90’s emo and noise-punk. “A Million Random Digits” proved that …And You Will Know Us By The Trail Of Dead are far from being done while Wedding Dress’ “Somewhere Darker” makes it clear that Wedding Dress are anxious to make their introduction to the world.

Cellphone also posited themselves as a band ready to make a notable entrance with an enticing and mysterious trailer to promote their upcoming Excellent Condition. Denmark’s Mimas returned to the fold in a big way with the characteristically impressive live-edit clip for “Kissinger’s Jaw” (fans of Exploding in Sound who aren’t well-versed in Big Scary Monsters would do well to take note of this one) and Tangerine released a delightful video for another indie-pop keeper, “You’ll Always Be Lonely”. Ex Hex got in on the action as well, releasing a knockout video for Rips highlight (one of many) “Waterfall“. For full streams there were stunners from The Grayces, Thurston Moore, and a mildly insane (and wildly heavy) split between Big Neck Police and Dog.

Everything hyperlinked in the two paragraphs above stands as both a great way to share music worth listening to and acts as a very long-winded way of saying that featuring “Big Snow” wasn’t a foregone conclusion- at least not until the riff kicked in at the :26 mark. It’s the third song to be streamed from a just-released split between LVL UP, Krill, Ovlov, and Radiator Hospital. “Big Snow” is a song that’s actually been featured on this site before in an admittedly roundabout way- it was the feature piece in the band’s Serious Business session that was featured on Watch This. Even with Hoodwink’d being one of this site’s top contenders (if not top contender) for Album of the Year honors, “Big Snow” manages to stand out as one of the best songs to spring out of the band’s discography.

Having just seen LVL UP take the roof off of Chicago’s Beat Kitchen (pictured above, more to come on that later), it’s allowed the cementing of some previously-held opinions in regards to how the band functions. First and foremost; this is a truly collaborative effort with everything working as a complement to its surrounding elements at an obscenely high level. Second, this music works best as a victory lap for the disenfranchised; it’s both a rousing call to action and a well-meaning embrace for the people who were told they’d never live up to their potential or lived on the fringes of culture. LVL UP’s never been one to shy away from the unconventional (or the irreverent) and that’s a trait that takes bravery to embody. “Big Snow” hints at all of these elements and includes a rare treat; every one of the band’s vocalists (Dave Benton, Nick Corbo, and Mike Caridi, respectively) joins in for one last rousing harmony run before that surging, blissed-out guitar riff rallies the song to its fade-out finish. If Hoodwink’d wasn’t already proof, “Big Snow” certainly cements what’s become an unavoidable fact: LVL UP are one of today’s best bands and they deserve all the accolades that are bound to fall their way.

Listen to “Big Snow” below and pre-order the split it’s on from Double Double Whammy here.

Saintseneca – Happy Alone (Music Video)

Between the streaming of Terrestrials the behemoth of a collaborative album between Sunn O))) and Ulver, the announcement of a Bad Banana reunion show, John Dwyer releasing his first material post-Oh Sees hiatus, Big Air publicly unveiling their excellent debut tape, Buds, Fear of Men releasing a very promising sneak peek of their upcoming debut full-length Loom, a surprisingly punchy new track entitled “Any Wonder” from Yellow Ostrich, Mary Timony’s newest project, Ex Hex, offering up a hard-charging sample of their upcoming Merge debut, the cleverly constructed first music video to come out of the pairing of Nada Surf’s Matthew Caws and Julianna Hatfield for their Minor Alps project, an NPR Tiny Desk Session from The Pixies, the energetic black-and-white music video premiere of The Orwells’ “The Righteous One“, a live performance video of an all-acoustic run through of upcoming Drive-By Truckers track “Made Up English Oceans“, and Angel Olsen‘s absolutely stunning smoky, seductively noir-ish music video for upcoming Burn Your Fire for No Witness track “Hi-Five“, it’s been one hell of a Monday. Then, to top it all off, there’s the video that managed to edge out all of this to become today’s focus piece; Saintseneca‘s extraordinary clip for upcoming Dark Arc track “Happy Alone”.

Dark Arc, at this point easily one of the year’s most anticipated albums, should officially herald the arrival of Saintseneca, a band that was previously best known for being a conglomeration of two excellent Ohio basement punk bands; All Dogs and The Sidekicks. They’ve been maintaining an entrancing (and incredibly effective) rollout campaign for Dark Arc, their Anti- records debut, and seem poised to continue rewarding the investment of anyone who’s paying attention. “Happy Alone” has officially elevated their art form even further. The Christopher Good clip is clearly indebted to a vast array of arthouse influences and features stunning handheld cinematography, a gorgeous (magic hour-infused) color palette, inspired editing, yet another great song from the band, and band member Zac Little’s head in a giant bubble as he makes his way through everyday tasks.

It’s borderline dadaism and dips in and out of some Warhol-level pop art as it goes along to the most weirdly entrancing effect. It works as a surface level piece and as a light commentary on the nature of loneliness. There’s really absolutely no reason for any of it to add up to the inexplicably powerful whole that it is but it manages to do that and a little more. On its own, “Happy Alone” is definitive enough to act as a perfect introductory piece to the uninitiated while being singular enough to plausibly rank as one of the bands most important moments in their continuing evolution during this much-deserved groundswell of success. Above all else, though, it’s just a beautiful piece of art. That’s something that will always be worth rewarding. Watch it below.