Heartbreaking Bravery

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Tag: Hamilton Leithauser + Rostam

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.

Slothrust – Horseshoe Crab (Music Video, Live Video)

Slothrust VII

Mozes and the Firstborn, TOY, Backer, Blue States, and Jess Williamson led a strong charge of new songs to get Wednesday off on the right foot. A handful of excellent music videos came from the ranks of Plush, Prince Daddy & The Hyenas, Weyes Blood, Hamilton Leithauser + Rostam, Crushed Out, The Julie Ruin, Belle & Sebastian, and Cass McCombs. Tying everything together in a bow were full streams from DARK MTNS, JEFF The Brotherhood, Gauntly, Dog Orchestra, and Horseback, as well as a memorable five-year anniversary compilation from New Professor where the artist from the label cover each other’s work.

As significant as all of those were, only a few came close to matching the inexplicable emotional pull of the music video for Slothrust‘s “Horseshoe Crab”. After catching the band at Suburbia last year, the band’s maintained a consistent position on this site. Expect that position to progressively intensify as their forthcoming record, Everyone Else, draws closer. “Horseshoe Crab” kicked off the trio’s rollout campaign and now they’re capitalizing on the growing interest the single accrued with an unflinchingly intimate music video that pays homage both to their DIY ethos and their penchant for embracing uncomfortable honesty.

Slothrust built a strong reputation for themselves following the release of “Crockpot“, which easily stands out as one of the best tracks of this current decade. “Horseshoe Crab” comes across as a natural continuation of the template established by “Crockpot”, refining some of the band’s approach in the process. A 2016 highlight, “Horseshoe Crab” now has an intuitive CJ Riehl and Emmy Kenny-directed video as a complementary accompaniment that taps into something inextricably connected to Slothrust’s core.

Cleverly opening on a vantage point that skims a waterline, there’s a tonal sense of bittersweet tranquility that eases viewers into some confrontational imagery: sand, ants crawling over hands, hastily applied nail polish, and a papier mache doll all factor into play. Before long, the focal point becomes guitarist/vocalist Leah Wellbaum, surveying an expansive collection of dolls and figurines on the beach, while stuck in a state of melancholic longing.

All of the early imagery is filtered through an unavoidable sense of nostalgic mourning, lending “Horseshoe Crab” a quiet devastation that elevates the project. Johanna Brooks’ cinematography caters to all of this beautifully, successfully creating an additional empathetic character that also serves as an audience stand-in. Pushing the effect to almost unbearable heights is Brooks’ decision to shoot from Wellbaum’s POV, conjuring up nearly direct access to a deep-seated understanding that becomes so realistic that it approaches levels of genuine duress.

The middle section of “Horseshoe Crab” touches on the distancing that linear time necessitates before plunging fearlessly into a near-euphoric exploration of the unknown. During that connected sequence, the distancing is established by leaving a trail of figurines on a path, one by one. It’s a deeply effective move that’s matched by the arrival of the song’s extraordinary solo, which the video takes as a cue to momentarily ascend before diving back into the water.

In the most breathtaking sequence “Horseshoe Crab” has to offer, there’s a gorgeous underwater shot of Wellbaum sinking to to the bottom of a pool that’s intercut with sea creatures, directly referencing the song’s incredible lyrics. By the clip’s end, the band and the team they’ve assembled to shoot, edit, and produce “Horseshoe Crab” have created an unforgettable meditation on nostalgic loss, alienation, existential crises, and the malleability of longing. It’s an unlikely masterpiece that benefits from its own modesty and it deserves to be remembered fondly.

Watch “Horseshoe Crab” below, view an early performance beneath the initial embed, and pre-order Everyone Else here.

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Mercury Girls – Holly (Stream)

mercury girls

A very full week of new material was essentially topped off over the past few days with excellent new songs from Fond Han (who nearly claimed this post’s featured spot), Bad Sports, Black Marble, TwistCarl Sagan’s Skate Shoes, JEFF The BrotherhoodTennis, Swimsuit AdditionHamilton Leithauser + Rostam, His ClancynessDuchess Says, benjamin783, Tom Brosseau, and Happy Place. There were also great music videos that were offered up by the likes of Trust Fund, Hazel English, Izzy True, Attic AbasementVomitfaceBeach Slang, Katie Dey, Jude Shuma, and, jordaan mason.  While the full streams weren’t as plentiful as they were at the start of the week dozer, Porridge RadioDrowse, Skux, Creative Adult, and Cay Is Okay managed to end the category on a series of strong notes.

At the end of 2015, Mercury Girls found themselves poised at the top of this site’s odds and ends list, thanks to their scintillating demo and live tracks compilation. Since then, they’ve been on a tear, readying their forthcoming full-length and finding time to participate in a four-way split and release an extraordinary 7″ in the process. Earlier on in the week, the band offered a glimpse at that forthcoming four-way split (with The Spook School, Wildhoney, and Tigercats rounding out the other three slots) by way of “Holly”, another sweeping gem of a song that masterfully blends the best of post-punk and powerpop into something that manages to become bittersweet and triumphant simultaneously.

“Holly” also sees the band’s knack for playing off each other increasing to a velocity that’s practically unmatched, generating the kind of momentum that will cause enough impact to knock out just about anybody. Whether it’s the surging guitars, the soaring vocals, the punchy rhythm section, or the band’s astonishing knack for composition, the band continues to seem mistake-free, casually igniting a fire that seems like it could burn forever. Mercury Girls, now several small releases into their career, have yet to release a track that feels anything less than miraculous.

In roughly three minutes, the band conjure up a winsome atmosphere, flawlessly navigate some galvanizing dynamic shifts, and offer up the kind of cohesive, grand-scale artistry that only the best bands ever manage to achieve. With “Holly”, Mercury Girls continue their breathless pursuit of perfection and — importantly — are showing no signs of diminishing returns (which is a fate that relentlessly plagues their niche genre). Inspired, breathtaking, and warm enough to be its own blanket, “Holly” has the capacity to inspire people to start their own bands. When all’s said and done, no compliment can be higher than that one.

Listen to “Holly” below and pre-order Continental Drift here.

Big Eyes – Behind Your Eyes (Stream)

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Yohuna, Communions, Pfarmers, Daphne, Eros and the Eschaton, Cassels, Atlas Engine, Pansy Division, Hamilton Leithauser + Rostam, Esp Ohio, Prudence, The Linedots, Blueheels, and Dog Orchestra all had excellent new songs emerge over the past week and either established or reaffirmed their impressive potential. In addition to that impressive roster, Big Eyes joined the ranks of bands returning in a manner that more than proves they haven’t lost a step.

Kaitlyn Eldridge first caught my attention with Cheeky, back in the mid-’00s. Later on, I’d have the distinct pleasure of sharing a few bills with Eldridge as her ensuing band, Used Kids, went on a long tour with site favorites Tenement. Shortly after that extensive run of dates, Used Kids splintered apart and Eldridge started what would become a new DIY punk staple with Big Eyes and, nearly off the bat, wrote one of the best basement pop songs of the past 16 years.

From the outset, all of Big Eyes’ releases — including a handful of excellent 7″ entries — have been exceptional and Eldridge has anchored all of them with a distinctive writing voice and a deeply relatable personality. With the band’s forthcoming release, Stake My Claim, looming just over the horizon, there’s plenty of reason to greet its arrival with excitement.

Heightening the anticipatory fervor is the recently-released “Behind Your Eyes”, which boasts a characteristically understated chorus section and some of the band’s best verses to date. Masterfully constructed and meticulously executed, “Behind Your Eyes” is a very welcome reminder of the band’s formidable understanding of their genre and their willingness to bend expectations to create moments that come across as legitimately bracing.

It’s an extraordinarily promising listen from a record that’s already shaping up to be a listen that’s tough to shake, which is a feat that most bands can never manage to achieve. Big Eyes aren’t most bands, though, and “Behind Your Eyes” should be irrepressible proof. Give it a try…   and then come back for seconds.

Listen to “Behind Your Eyes” below and pre-order Stake My Claim from Don Giovanni here.