Heartbreaking Bravery

stevenmps2@gmail.com | @steven_mps | @hbreakbravery

Tag: Eliot Sumner

Watch This: Vol. 109

Since the preceding post covered the time lapse between the last run of Watch This and tonight’s posts, this introductory paragraph will lean slightly harder on the material that’s actually come out in that interim. Two weeks can feel like an overwhelming amount of time when faced with the endless expanse of releases in any format and the live video is no exception. It can occasionally be difficult to narrow down these selections to just five when considering them all, which was the case this week as worthy efforts surfaced from the following artists: Shopping, Hooton Tennis Club, Ed Schrader’s Music Beat, Bad Bad Hats, Kurt Vile, Flavor Crystal, Hinds, Joanna Newsom, Courtney Barnett, FIDLAR, Fury Things, Black Box  Revelation, Eliot Sumner, Low, Glen Hansard, Martin Courtney, Deaf Wish, Raury, Zanders, Six Organs of Admittance, Oscar, Protomartyr, Palm, Sun Club, Julia Holter, Woozy, Caleb and Carolyn, The Tambourine Girls, Little May, Forever Pavot, Mellow Diamond, why+the+wires, Iguana Death Cult, and Okkervil River. Obviously, with a list like that, the below selections are comprised of clips that truly managed to stand out, for one reason or another. So, as always, lean in, relax, adjust the volume, and Watch This.

1. Car Seat Headrest (KEXP)

Car Seat Headrest was another band from 2015 that had gained previous traction and capitalized in blinding fashion, showing a complete disregard for the thought of looking back. Understandably, KEXP invited them into their studio for a session and the band delivered one of 2015’s most towering sets in recent memory. At a monstrous running time that exceeds most full-length efforts, it’s actually a fairly intimidating ask- or, it would be if the music (and performance) wasn’t so immediately likable. Will Toledo’s got an enviable gift for pop songwriting and for subverting expectations, leading the charge in a session that more than justifies the swirling interest surrounding the band.

2. Dilly Dally (BreakThruRadio)

If this site’s love for Dilly Dally hasn’t been made abundantly clear by now, this very sentence will probably at least give you a small indication. After torching the stages of Santos Party House and Baby’s All Right during CMJ, the band’s kept pace with their music and maintained a deliriously frantic touring schedule. All of that time playing out is paying off, tightening the screws on their already-formidable live show. It’s evident in every live clip that surfaces, including this revealing session with BreakThruRadio that includes some endearing interview segments. Turn it up and fall in love.

3. The Lumes – Nervous + Satan (The Daily Indie)

Every so often, a relatively unknown band crops up on my radar and blows me away with how complete they seem and The Lumes definitely qualifies as one of those bands. A lightly menacing post-punk trio that excels in atmospheric work, they’ve managed to carve out a thoughtful identity that feels more singular than it should just two releases into their career. Here, they perform vicious takes on “Nervous” and “Satan”, the tracks that bookend their outstanding Lust EP. The trio gives their all in both performances and ultimately secures a spot on this installment of Watch This thanks to their overwhelming strength.

4. Woozy – Hush (Little Elephant)

It’s been a while since Little Elephant’s hosted a session as strong as the one Woozy’s provided, committing another jewel to that particular crown with this committed take on “Hush”. Marrying genres with ease and integrating surprisingly explosive moments in fits and starts, “Hush” may actually be one of the band’s most definitive songs. Leaning heavily into their post-punk and grunge angles, they still find ways to surprise in territory that’s generally far more straightforward. Ultimately, it’s another extremely impressive showing from a band that seems surprisingly determined to top themselves with each successive outing.

5. Bandit – The Drive Home + Dragon (Audiotree)

Closing out this run of Watch This is a performance that feels like a genuine finale, courtesy of Bandit’s beautiful renditions of two Of Life‘s highlights: “The Drive Home” and “Dragon”. The former of those two songs received one of the most gorgeous music videos of the year and has the capacity to overwhelm listeners with genuine feeling, amplifying atmospheric currents as it progresses. “Dragon” is a track that operates in a similar vein and, packaged together, they manage to elevate each other’s best qualities, which is why- in spite of a deeply impressive full session– this performance is being highlighted individually. Exemplifying all of Bandit’s finest qualities as both a band and as a live act, Audiotree struck gold with the band’s turn-in of these two songs, leaving behind something that the studio might be talking about for quite some time.

Julien Baker – Sprained Ankle (Music Video)

julien baker

Every few months or so, a music video comes along and manages to steal breath, freeze blood, and make time stand still. In those moments, careers on both sides of the lens can get pushed forward with a momentum that borderlines shocking and– importantly– keeps the medium pushing forward instead of succumbing to a rote stagnancy. Julien Baker’s “Sprained Ankle” is one of those videos.

Even on its own, the title track of Baker’s astounding Sprained Ankle is gripping. A haunted, downcast meditation on self-worth and perseverance, “Sprained Ankle” could have accompanied a strong photograph and it would have made a mark. Director Sabyn Mayfield and cinematographer David Newbert, thankfully, had a different vision in mind. While “Sprained Ankle” does start on a near-frozen one shot of a dejected Baker staring at the floor, it slowly unfurls into something that feels transcendent.

As the song’s guitar harmonics ring out, the camera pulls back to reveal an isolated Baker in the damaged expanse of a demolished classroom. As Baker makes her way through an emotionally crippling set of lyrics, the camera slowly surveys the surroundings without ever abandoning Baker is the focal point; she’s at the heart of the damage. As the lyrics draw to a close, the camera approaches Baker before finally pushing past her shoulder as the song descends into a wordless, layered chorus.

Finally, in that wordless section, the camera peers upward, focusing on the ceiling insulation in between the structural gaps. As the camera explores that aspect of the gradual destruction, there’s a palpable sense of sadness that accompanies the moment, driving home the thematic point of inevitable decay with an astonishing amount of grace. Presented as a tracking shot, “Sprained Ankle” concludes by sweeping from the roof back down to tarnished earth, pulling back to reveal Baker’s vanished entirely to inject the clip with a feeling of an almost sorrowful abandonment.

Ultimately, “Sprained Ankle” comes across as deeply human. It’s a tacit statement about the cyclical nature of loss and an unforgettable examination of self-awareness. It’s an unforgettable moment from an artist who deserves a lot more discussion going forward. Don’t let this one fade into the recesses of the forgotten anytime soon.

Watch “Sprained Ankle” below and pre-order the record from 6131 here. Below the embed, explore an extensive collection of some of the past few weeks’ best videos.

Farao – Warriors
R. Ring – Loud Underneath
Violent Mae – In the Sun
The Spirit of the Beehive – You Are Arrived (But You’ve Been Cheated)
Hey Lover – I’ve Got A Car
Skaters – Mental Case
Big Eyes – Local Celebrity
The Bandicoots – Overnight Innovator
Acid Fast – Momma Grey
Fog Lake – Shanty Town
Split Feet – Selective Mommery
A Place To Bury Strangers – Supermaster
Wand – Sleepy Dog
Mooner – Alison
Novella – Sentences
Billie Marten – Bird
Conner Youngblood – The Badlands
EL VY – Need A Friend
John Andrews and the Yawns – Peace of Mind
Moon King – Roswell
Rain – Slur
Joanna Newsom – Divers
The Zephyr Bones – Weird Summer
Eliot Sumner – I Followed You Home
Wells – Shepherd
Idle Bloom – Fare Fumo