Heartbreaking Bravery

stevenmps2@gmail.com | @steven_mps | @hbreakbravery

Tag: Ezra Furman

Watch This: Vol. 135

In just a little over two weeks an insane amount of quality live videos have emerged, featuring the following artists: Ezra Furman, Woods, Day Wave, Joy Again, You Won’t, Kevin Morby, Acapulco Lips, Sonya Kitchell, Houndmouth, Queen of Jeans (x2), Christian Lee Hutson, Terry, John Congleton and the Nighty Nite, Mothers, Robb Young and the Elms, Marc Ribot’s Ceramic Dog, Kalispell (x2), Fear of MenOsekre & The Lucky Bastards, FitsEmily Blue, Henrietta, Adia Victoria, Ubetcha, The Staves (x2), Arc Flash, Michael Nau, Bewilder, The Jayhawks, Slingshot Dakota (x2), Whitney, Vagabon, Quilt, LAYNE, Rye Pines, Minor Victories, Allah-Las, Esme Patterson (x2, 3), Midijoyful, Secret Space, The Mono Jacks, A Dead Forest Index, Explosions in the Sky, Death Valley Girls, Half Waif, The Albert Square, Your Friend, Marlon Williams, Rogue Valley, Metronomy, Gregory Porter, Summer Twins (x2), Surgeons In Heat, Amy Klein, The Belvederes, Frameworks, Oddisee, CHILDREN, Doubles, Gwenno (x2), and Titus Andronicus.

Looking through all of those, it’s impossible to say that this is a bad time for live music (and for the documentation of live music). The overwhelming strength of that above list should indicate that this installment of Watch This will have some extraordinarily strong features. There’s some astonishing talent on display throughout the three full sessions and two individual clips listed below, which include one of the bands that was essential to the site’s foundation and a few fresh faces that have been turning all sorts of heads with their recent work. So, as always, push all the distractions aside, relax, lean in, and Watch This.

1. Tenement – Feral Cat Tribe + Lost Love Star Lust (Set List)

Anyone that’s frequented this site over the time of its existence has seen an unprecedented amount of praise granted to Tenement, a band that was instrumental in providing the building blocks for this site. Over nearly 10 years, I’ve had the surreal privilege of watching the trio develop to the point they’re at today (Rolling Stone recently named them one of the 10 great modern punk bands and the New York Times dedicated an entire podcast installment to the band last year). Here, the band gets to flash their live chops in a session for Wisconsin Public Radio’s Set List series, offering up an impressively powerful pair of tracks that only hint at the band’s astonishing scope.

2. Car Seat Headrest – Fill In The Blank (The Current)

After 2015’s Teens of Style generated quite a bit of momentum for Car Seat Headrest, the solo-project-turned-full-band capitalized on that surge of recognition emphatically with this year’s Teens of Denial. Landing several high-profile festival appearances as a result, the band’s grown gradually tighter over their past few tours. This performance of “Fill In The Blank” for The Current demonstrates that growth and nicely captures the band’s irrepressible drive.

3. PWR BTTM – West Texas + Serving Goffman (WFUV)

Like Tenement, PWR BTTM have become a towering presence in terms of this site’s coverage tendencies, something that came as a direct result of the band’s fiery live show. Here, the band turn in characteristically bold performances of both “West Texas” and “Serving Goffman” for WFUV, perfectly summarized by the half-shocked, half-elated smile that Benjamin Hopkins throws the camera after some errant headphones threaten to momentarily overtake the song. There’s a genuine joy that exists in that moment which the duo have consistently brought to their shows, making them one of the finest live acts on the circuit.

4. Weaves – Human (Low Four)

Weaves have made a habit out of appearing on the Watch This series this year, thanks in large part to the release of their monumental self-titled debut. The quartet recently stopped by the Old Granada Studios to unleash a sharp burst of their hyper-spastic strain of punk-tinged basement pop by way of this inspired run through “Human”, offering a revealing glimpse at their members formidable chops. As fascinating as it is exhilarating, it’s a perfect example of what can be accomplished by thinking a little outside of the typical boundaries.

5. And The Kids – Kick Rocks + Picture (WFUV)

One of the bands that really started to make a push over the past year has been And The Kids, who have seized every opportunity they’ve been given with a startling amount of poise. WFUV recently had the band into their studio and the trio delivered in full, tearing through “Kick Rocks” and “Picture” in a way that likely left several of the studio members jaws agape. Complex and nuanced, the band flawlessly executes a series of hairpin turns, layered harmonies, and language shifts while throwing in a few sly smiles for good measure. It’s an unbelievably impressive performance and more than deserves to close out this edition of Watch This.

2015: A Visual Retrospective, Vol. 3

Idle Bloom

Throughout the course of 2015 I’ve been fortunate enough to attend upwards of 100 shows, festivals big and small, and spend approximately half a year living in a city that hosted a mind-boggling amount of quality shows on a nightly basis. To that end, it’s probably unsurprising that I wound up taking over 10,000 photos this year alone. Over the course of the next few days, this site will be running seven volumes of the shots that stood out as personal favorites, whether that was due to their composition, sentimental attachment, or an intangible emotional or intellectual response. It’s been an honor to be able to take even the smallest part in the ongoing sagas of the artists in the photographs below and an additional thanks is due to the venues that allowed me to shoot (as well as the people who encouraged me to keep shooting).

Enjoy the gallery.

 

CMJ: Day 3 (Pictorial Review)

Yvette VIII

With all of the videos and the main review of the day’s events accounted for, all that was left of the Day 3 CMJ coverage was the photo gallery. That gallery can be found here.

 

Watch This: Vol. 100

Over the past 100 weeks, this site’s dedicated itself to a variety of pursuits but the defining one seems to be the only recurring series that operates on a regular basis: Watch This. Ever since the first installment, this series has featured the very best live performance captures. Utilizing a wealth of resources that range from band’s personal accounts to radio stations that host high-quality session captures, like KEXP in Seattle or 3voor12 in the Netherlands.

Very rarely has that gaze turned inward, despite producing over 300 live videos in the past four months. With this series now at a landmark number and all of the CMJ reviews accounted for, it seemed appropriate to bypass the outside sources to focus exclusively on the crop of videos that was taken over the past week. Approximately 50 bands, 90 videos, and 100 songs, these clips will be presented in groupings according to which day they were filmed. A few slip out of focus, some start a little late, and some cut off just before their ending, and a few bands are missing due to unfortunate and/or unforeseen circumstance (a dead battery, lighting, and a maxed out sd card were the three most prominent issues) but as a whole, it’s a comprehensive look at the kinds of performances the festival has to offer. So, as always, sit back, relax, ignore any worries, adjust the volume, focus up, and Watch This.

1. CMJ: Day 2

To make things just a touch easier, each of these introductory segments will simply be a very brief recap including a link to the respective day’s official review and the list of artists that appear in the video. Having spent the first official day of CMJ preparing for the rest of the week, the timeline’s off by a day but had this been the first official day, the festival would have kicked off with a band. Splitting time between The Cake Shop and Santos Party House, I managed to get videos of performances from the following artists: Worriers, Hooton Tennis Club, Car Seat Headrest, Seratones, Nico Yaryan, Yung, Shopping, Protomartyr, Downtown Boys, Perfect Pussy, and Dilly Dally. The official review of the day’s events can be found here.

2. CMJ: Day 3

Things kept moving along quickly on the second day, which included a long stretch at an early show over at Rough Trade before taking a brief pause to organize that show’s footage and prepare for the late show at Aviv. Between the two venues, the lineup was characteristically stacked and led to videos of performances from Shopping, Ezra Furman, Georgia, John Grant, What Moon Things, Mumblr, Meat Wave, Painted Zeros, Turn To Crime, and Yvette. The official review of the day’s shows can be found here.

3. CMJ: Day 4 

The festival’s exhausting nature started to creeping in on the third consecutive day of showgoing, though the deliriousness will always be worth the effort in the case of celebrating things like Exploding In Sound (who themselves were celebrating their fourth anniversary), Big Ups (who were celebrating their fifth year as a band), and Double Double Whammy. Once again splitting time between two venues– Palisades and The Silent Barn– I managed to get footage of performances from Leapling, Swings, Mal Devisa (backed by Swings), Dirty Dishes, Kal Marks, Washer, Stove, Palm, Greys, The Spirit of the Beehive, Big Ups, Palehound, Downies, Eskimeaux, and LVL UP. The official review of those events can be read here.

4. CMJ: Day 5

Easily the most exhausting of the five day stretch, the fifth official day of the festival found me completely ignoring food in favor of sprinting a mile to catch one of my favorite acts four times over. While a fraction of the day was spent running to and from an official CMJ showcase and the AdHoc Carwash (which was detached from the festival completely but boasted one of the week’s strongest lineups), the effort proved to be worthwhile, as a large collection of bands delivered knockout sets and everything culminated in a triumphant moment for one of my closest friends. In all the back-and-forth, I was still able to manage to capture performances from the following artists: Protomartyr, Potty Mouth, Pity Sex, Dilly Dally, LVL UP, Porches., Perfect Pussy, Meat Wave, Mothers, and Cloud Castle Lake. The review of that day of relative mania can be read here.

5. CMJ: Day 6

Despite the festival’s posted end date being the October 17, this collaborative showcase a day later between Father/Daughter and Miscreant was still billed as a part of the festival and felt like an appropriate epilogue; a summation of what’d come before and a fitting end-cap for a very strong run. Confined to just one venue, the sleep deprivation caused me to miss the first trio of acts (and quietly curse myself out for doing so in the process) but still show up in time for the final 10. On the final day of reckoning, I captured videos of performances from the following artists: i tried to run away when i was 6, Downies, Romp, Comfy, Vagabon, fern mayo, Bethlehem Steel, Diet Cig, Sports, and PWR BTTM. The official review of the festival’s final event can be read here.

CMJ: Day 3 Review

IMG_9475

After a loaded schedule on what was my first full day of CMJ, I probably should have tried to get more sleep but CMJ doesn’t really play by a logical set of rules and it demands the same from the people committed to covering the various goings on of the week, so as soon as I was up, I was running out of the door to rough trade to catch Shopping at Rough Trade for the second time in two days. The band didn’t disappoint, jumping into another wiry set delivered with verve and a casual ease that clearly demonstrated they weren’t anywhere close to succumbing to fatigue.

After a brief pause between sets, Ezra Furman (who has replaced The Harpoons with His Boyfriend) took the stage with a maniacal energy that translated into a surprisingly compelling live show. I hadn’t seen Furman’s live set for five years or so and the songwriter’s grown considerably as a performer in that time. Emphasizing the bluesier elements of his band, it seemed like every other few songs was a solid highlight and the band’s heaviest moments also tended to hit hardest. It was a memorable set that showcased Furman’s stray dog voice and zippy wordplay with enough force to make it stand out pretty easily.

Of course, that energy can also turn a little sour if things start going wrong and while Furman and his band never fell victim to that dynamic, it was difficult not to at least be a little frustrated with the massive assortment of technical difficulties that delayed Georgia’s set by approximately 40 minutes. Going from relatively contained (but very apparent) to volatile bursts, it was the kind of setback that left both the artist and the crew more than a little flustered.

Finally, after what seemed like two dozen patches, Georgia’s set started in earnest. It was something of a homecoming for the UK songwriter, as she’d previously worked at Rough Trade’s London location. Exhibiting impressive musicianship, the project (which currently plays out as a duo), put on a very convincing show and likely created a few converts. At the tail end of the set, there was some endearing fawning over the showcase’s next act: John Grant.

Grant’s a subversive songwriter, utilizing levity, pathos, and directness in ways that are frequently as disarming as they are entertaining. Playing out on his latest collection, the fantastic Grey Tickles, Black Pressure, Grant found a myriad of ways to make sure his singular voice was heard, loud and clear. Close to every song in Grant’s set straddled an enviable divide and would have worked as well as an opener as it would a finale. Of course, none of them would have been effective in the latter slot as the set’s rightful final number, “Queen of Denmark”, a wry, sprawling ballad punctuated by staggering walls of sound that find the band digging into the heaviness they’re capable of conjuring.

With “Queen of Denmark” bringing things to a tremendously satisfying conclusion, it was immediately back to organization and preparation before running out to Aviv for an unofficial show presented by Exploding in Sound, Gimme Tinitus, and Ipsum, featuring a characteristically stacked lineup of bands that aren’t afraid of embracing music’s inherent noise. Video Daughters were first up and content to dive headfirst into long noise explorations that eventually culminated in a chaotic, piercing number that likely came close to blowing the PA speakers.

It was a fascinating set that set the evening up nicely, acting as a perfect lede for What Moon Things, who are coasting on a perpetually-building wave of buzz and capitalizing on every opportunity with significant force. Mixing elements of grunge and post-punk in a way that feels unique is no easy task but the trio manages to pull it off with aplomb, ripping through sets of memorable songs that don’t back away from left turns or relative fearlessness. More thTuran a few pairs of notable ears were piqued by their final song’s ultimate descent into feedback.

Mumblr and Meat Wave took the next spots, in an eerie, déjà vu-inducing reprise of this site’s first official showcase almost exactly a year ago to the date of their appearance at Aviv. Only, this time, their roles were switched and both bands have shown exceptional growth in that time. Mumblr have been gradually settling into darker territory that slowly unfurls, effectively wrapping listeners up in its coils. While their old songs remain favorites, their new artistic direction’s a fascinating one with seemingly endless possibilities and quite a bit of potential.

Meat Wave, for their part, have been not-so-quietly putting together one hell of a year. The trio’s released an acclaimed record, gone overseas a few times, signed to SideOneDummy and sharpened their live show’s claws into something significantly more intense. All of the new songs the band played sounded considerably heavier and a lot more foreboding (and, as Exploding in Sound founder Dan Goldin mentioned, a lot meaner). Their five-song set (the planned schedule was kept to on a pretty severe level) was a definite highlight for me and I’m positive that’s true for a handful of others as well. After all, it’s hard to argue any Meat Wave set that includes the explosive, jaw-dropping outro of “Panopticon”.

Painted Zeros took the stage after Meat Wave cleared out, eager to continue to test material from their full-length debut (their first effort for Don Giovanni). The level of affection the band has for their new material is palpable and that affection was definitely channeled into their performance, which felt like an improvement on the last set I was able to catch them play (which was fairly impressive in its own right). The slowest, most delicate material played best in a setting that had almost exclusively disallowed anything resembling that band of music through four acts. It would have been a nice reprieve even if it hadn’t been deeply impressive.

Effectively bridging a gap and providing some much-needed air (while still managing to get in a few vicious punches), Turn To Crime and Yvette dragged things back into more primal territory. Turn To Crime did this on a slow-build basis (Meat Wave correctly noted their set’s hypnotic, trance-like effect) through songs that could simultaneously feel meandering and extremely calculated.

Yvette, on the other hand, made the most of their headlining slot by diving into their characteristic insanity. Over the course of the past few years, Yvette have released a handful of very good to great records, including Time Management, their most recent (and a 2015 highlight). The duo’s built up a solid following in that time, who revere their live show- and for good reason. The duo committed themselves to their performance, letting their clothes soak up their sweat and turn a few shades darker. Equal parts performance and process, it was a nearly non-stop barrage of searing noise-punk at a punishing volume that was never anything less than gripping and likely left a few people reeling. As they packed up, it was hard to imagine anything could follow, making it the perfect endcap to another very full day.

Bent Denim – Good Night’s Sleep (Music Video)

bd

After a ridiculously packed month of material and a few small campaigns, this site’s nearly caught up on songs and music videos. There are 18 songs to get to and ten videos that aren’t contained in this post’s headline. What is going to be the primary focus of this post is also one of the best clips of the year (and possibly the decade) but we’ll get to that in due time. Before then, we’ll start with the lion’s share of the pre-feature coverage: single streams. Since there are so many, I won’t go into too much detail in listing the attributes that make them great, just know that they are genuinely great. In no particular order those songs are: Young Jesus’ “Dirt“, Fort Lean’s “New Hobbies“, Sweet John Bloom’s “Tell Me“, Chelsea Wolfe’s “Iron Moon“, Battle Ave.’s “Solar Queen“, Diamond Youth’s “No Control“, Colornoise’s “Amalie“, Spraynard’s “Bench“, and The Trendees’ “Motorcycles (Make Loud Noises)“. Joining that already formidable pile were Crosss’ “Golden Hearth“, Jack + Eliza’s “Oh No“, Elliot Moss’ “VCR Machine“, Lull’s “Bubble Tea“, Porcelain Raft’s “All In My Head“, Stranger Wilds’ “Pronoia“, Ezra Furman’s “Lousy Connection“, Mike Viola’s “Stairway to Paradise“, and Inheaven’s “Slow“.

Much like the songs listed above, the music videos over the past week or so have covered a similarly expansive musical spread. Among these videos were Something Anorak’s absurdly lush “I Am A Doctor“, Heaters’ retro dancehall exhibition “Mean Green“, ANAMAI’s extremely unsettling “Half“, Iron & Wine’s surprisingly beautiful indie wrestling fever dream “Everyone’s Summer of ’95“, and Palma Violets’ gleefully raucous “English Tongue“. Also included in this run were Ceremony’s stark career highlight “Your Life In France“, Jamie xx’s slow-burning, jaw-dropping “Gosh“, Death From Above 1979’s wild-eyed Amish party clip “Virgins“, The Rentals’ eerie, foreboding “It’s Time To Come Home“, and “Keep Your Stupid Dreams Alive“-  a comically psychedelic animated adventure from The Prefab Messiahs. And then there was Bent Denim’s devastating, unforgettable “Good Night’s Sleep“.

Abortion has always been- and likely always will be- a difficult subject to address. Treatment either empathetic or unerringly sympathetic has rendered some recent works (like last year’s outstanding Obvious Child or The Antlers’ wrenching “Bear“) into pieces of art equipped with a lasting resonance. It’s the same reason that Ben Folds Five’s “Brick” has retained its value as an emotionally difficult piece of pop culture and it’s why the deeply-felt clip for “Good Night’s Sleep” is nearly impossible to watch without feeling emptied. After one viewing, it’s difficult to return to the video’s thesis shot: a vacant child’s swing, rocking gently in silence. It’s an arresting image that sets the tone for the ensuing emotional onslaught. Intertwining two visions (a la Derek Cianfrance’s masterpiece, Blue Valentine)- one decidedly more hopeful than the other- Bent Denim present a vision that cuts in a manner that’s brutally immediate.

Accentuating the video’s sense of pain and longing is the home video visual aesthetic, which suits the gentle tones of the song to a sublime perfection. All in all, “Good Night’s Sleep” is an intensely compassionate, moving portrait of both sides’ turmoil following what comes off as a difficult decision (one via audio and one through the clip, which features a gripping performance from its lead). In either case, the emotions are so palpable that the whole thing feels uncomfortably voyeuristic and intensely harrowing. It’s a situation that’s more familiar than most parties would let on but it’s rarely presented as delicately or as realistically as it is in “Good Night’s Sleep”. At the clip’s conclusion, to drive everything home in a way that’s definitively final, the viewer’s returned to the thesis image: a lone child’s swing, once projected to be full, once again swaying in silence.

Watch “Good Night’s Sleep” below and order Romances You from the band’s bandcamp.