Heartbreaking Bravery

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Tag: Ideal World

Watch This: Vol. 101

[EDITOR’S NOTE: Due to the nature of these upcoming posts, a truncated version of this introductory paragraph will be appearing over the next several installments of this series.] It’s been quite some time since the 100th edition of Watch This went up on this site. There have been a lot of factors going into the extended interim but, as usual, a focal point of that absence was to make sure the preparation work was kept up to date. A lot of extraordinary live videos have come out since then and to make this point abundantly clear, here’s a list of artists responsible for performances that didn’t quite make it into the featured five slots over the course of the past handful of weeks: Ride (x2), Josh Ritter (x2), Radkey, Marrow, Seratones, Hooton Tennis Club, Kurt Vile (x2), Indian Askin, Amason, Eden Mulholland, Bobby Bare Jr. (x2), Hanna Asbrook, Lucy & La Mer, Lee Corey Oswald (x2), Wastrels, The Cairo Gang, Wild Ones, Martin Courtney (x2), Small Black, Timeshares, Shopping (x2), The Jacques, Mac McCaughan & the Non-Believers, Raw Pony, Andrew Bird, Air Waves, Izzy True (x2), The Tallest Man On Earth, Elliot Moss, Hemming, Titus Andronicus, Kagoule, Django Django, Summer Cannibals, Lost Lander, Emilie & Ogden, Denai Moore, EL VY, Purple 7, John Grant, Caleb and Carolyn, Fraser A. GormanThe Besnard Lakes, Charly Bliss, Delta Spirit, Joanna Newsom, Oaks, Kevin Garrett, Brilliant Beast, Blitzen Trapper, The Saturday Tea, Other Lives, Rayland Baxter, Low, Speedy Ortiz, Chilly Gonzalez, Murder Shoes, Ava Luna, bAd bAd, Oberhofer (x2), Aye Nako, Jason Isbell, Superbee, Deerhunter, The Ghost Ease, Oscar, Rachel Goodrich, Small Feet, Lucero, Totally Mild, Ukryte Zalety Systemu, Soda Bomb, Jens Kuross, Caspian, Boytoy, Duncan Sheik, PISTA, Slim Twig, Shamir, Contrails, King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard, Courtney Barnett, The Chameleons Vox, Vundabar, Vagabon, Craig Finn, and Soda Shop. Based on the strength of those clips, it’s probably unsurprising that some of the year’s best live captures have also surfaced in that time. Full sessions, single song performances, DIY videos, and impressive turn-ins from radio stations abound. So, as always, sit back, adjust the setting, crank the volume, focus up, and Watch This.

1. Eskimeaux (Audiotree)

No record in 2015 has hit me as hard and as consistently as O.K.,  a deeply felt masterpiece from Eskimeaux. A record I’d liked upon first listen and warmed to progressively over time, it wasn’t until I saw those songs played live that everything seemed to click. Audiotree was fortunate enough to have the band in for a recent session and wound up with what may come to be regarded as the definitive live recording of this era of the band. The performances are uniformly strong and the songs remain spectacular. Simply put: this is unmissable.

2. Julien Baker – Sprained Ankle (BreakThruRadio) 

Likely the only 2015 record to rival O.K.‘s emotional impact is Julien Baker‘s arresting breakout effort Sprained Ankle. With a title track that easily ranks among the year’s finest songs, Baker’s latched onto something genuinely captivating. It’s myriad strengths were emphasized with a gorgeous music video and are once again brought to the fore with this painfully gorgeous live performance. It’s a triumph for one of music’s most promising emerging talents.

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3. Slothrust (Jam in the Van)

In a manner not too dissimilar from Eskimeaux, Slothrust was another band that sold me further on material I’d already liked via the strength of their live show, It’s not surprising, then, that their session for Jam in the Van winds up being one of that series’s strongest entries in months. Topping everything off is a typically strong take on “Crockpot”, which continues to stand as one of the strongest songs of recent memory.

4. Torres – Strange Hellos (Hooke Audio)

Has anyone appeared more times on Watch This throughout the course of 2015 than Torres? Mackenzie Scott’s project continues to turn in spellbinding performances at an alarming rate but, even with that being the case, this version of “Strange Hellos” manages to stand out. Shot as part of Hooke Audio’s live sessions series that challenges artist to re-interpret their material, “Strange Hellos” gets transformed into a jaw-dropping ambient number that may wield even more of a punch than the studio version. It’s a startling reminder of Sprinter‘s most powerful moments.

5. Girlpool (Pressure Drop)

If anyone’s appeared on the 2015 run of Watch This as many (or more) times than Torres, it’s site favorites Girlpool. Harmony Lebel-Tividad and Cleo Tucker put together one hell of a run this year, highlighted by their extraordinary full-length debut Before The World Was Big. In a nine-song session, the duo makes their way through the majority of that record and “Soup”, one of the new numbers they’ve been road-testing on their last few tours. As ever, the performances are assured and showcase the near telepathic connection the band’s developed over the past few years. They’re an act that seems poised to get stronger as they go, which is more than a little impressive considering they’re already one of the best bands currently making music- and this Pressure Drop session serves as proof.

Watch This: Vol. 85

Welcome to the 85th installment of Watch This, the annual Sunday series that celebrates some of the finest performance captures to find release over the past week. Courtney Barnett, Girlpool, and Torres all continue their respective strangleholds on this series’ feature spots. Heavy on full sets, every artist featured here has earned several words from this site in the past. Of course, as usual, there was stiff competition for the feature spots. Artists responsible for those performances included: Tahiti Boy & the Palmtree Family, Christopher Owens, Christopher Paul Stelling, Sorority Noise, Leon Bridges, Viet Cong, HEALTH, Calexico, Dave Monks, Sam Prekop + Archer PrewittMolina y Los Co´smicos, Forth Wanderers, Shana Cleveland and The Sandcastles, and footage from the FORM Acrosanti anti-festival. It’s another lineup that’s indicative of the five featured clips’ astounding strength. So, as always, grab a drink, sit back, adjust the volume to whatever best reflects your preference, and Watch This.

1. METZ – Spit You Out (3voor12)

METZ are one of the fiercest live bands on the planet right now so their inclusion here isn’t really all that surprising. What’s definitely unexpected, though, is the gorgeous scenery. Performing at the Best Kept Secret festival, the trio took to a house’s front yard and delivered an absolutely blistering rendition of METZ II highlight “Spit You Out”. It’s an exhilarating tour de force from one of this generation’s most exciting bands.

2. Girlpool (NPR)

By now it’s very likely that the trio of songs the duo of Cleo Tucker and Harmony Lebel-Tividad play here have graced this series more than any other songs. However, they’ve never been played on a stage even remotely similar to NPR’s vaunted Tiny Desk Concert series. Now, more than ever, it’s abundantly clear how ingrained these songs are in both members. Intuitive playing, effortless harmonies, and a genuine love for their work and each other once again carries their performances to near-transcendental heights.

3. Speedy Ortiz (unARTigNYC)

First thing’s first: this is not a complete video. Understandable, because the weather started threatening everyone’s equipment, not just Speedy Ortiz’s (who had several technical difficulties throughout a spirited, memorable set). I was fortunate enough to be in attendance for this show- held for free on a pier in Manhattan as part of Hudson River Parks’ Hudson RiverRocks concert series- and weathered a fairly brutal rainfall sans umbrella until the bitter end (the rain started- and the wind picked up- during a beautiful version of “Doomsday”, a song that still manages to elicit goosebumps and stands firm as a Song of the Decade contender). Although it’s not featured in the video, I’ll have a permanently embedded memory of the band losing pedal after pedal (and then amp and PA connections) during a particularly fierce take on “American Horror” that ended with Sadie Dupuis opting to take her guitar off and hold it above her head, allowing the feedback to ring out, like some ritualistic sacrifice to the gods. It was a stunning moment. Unfortunately, Waxahatchee’s set had to be cancelled due to lightning before it even started- but it would have been hard to have made much of an impression after what Speedy Ortiz accomplished in the face of what could have easily been disastrous.

4. Torres – A Proper Polish Welcome (Sunday  Sessions)

There’s something about Torres’ “A Proper Polish Welcome” being played as a solo piece that manages to come off as intrinsically haunted. One of the most arresting moments on one of the year’s best records, it’s lent an even greater pathos when it’s stripped bare. With Sunday Sessions placing all of the emphasis on Mackenzie Scott, the clip nears a strange voyeurism as Scott completely loses herself to both the song and the performance. Gripping and beautiful, it’s a masterclass in solo performance.

5. Courtney Barnett (Moshcam)

Courtney Barnett seems to be making a habit out of crashing Watch This‘ weekly party with astounding full sets and this excellent performance- beautifully lensed by Moshcam- sees the continuation of that pattern. This time around, the songwriter unloads a career-spanning powerhouse homecoming set to an appreciative audience. Barnett’s a preternaturally gifted performer and the band she’s assembled plays well to her seemingly endless strengths. A staggering 16-song set, this serves as one of the definitive documents of Barnett’s abilities and still-ascending level(s) of success.

Waxahatchee – Under A Rock (Music Video)

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After the Downies review and accompanying round-up ran yesterday, the plan that was laid out in the introductory paragraphs was set in stone. Then today happened. Over the past few months, the sources where I turn to for material increased- as did the amount of emails I’ve been receiving. Every day, I’m finding roughly twenty things I wish I could dwell on for paragraphs. Contesting that desire is the harsh reality of time- so a few adjustments are going to be made. I currently have more than 250 songs from 2015 to link on the site so I’ll be providing lists of 75 (and one of 25) until that number’s brought to 0. It’ll be an additional part of what- as of tonight- will be regular daily coverage of new content. By the end of next week, things should be back to their normal pace.  It’s been a difficult, transitional time but it killed me to force the site into relative inactivity over the months following the 2014: A Year’s Worth of Memories project (and once again, I’d like to take the time out to sincerely thank all of that series’ incredible contributors- I’m sincerely grateful for your work).

Getting back to what matters, the material to have surfaced today has only reaffirmed the fact 2015 has been an absurdly strong time for music. For full-lengths, there was a powerful self-titled from American Wrestlers and a feral 7″ from recent Don Giovanni act Pinkwash. Music videos had even more to offer with Kopecky unveiling a charming lyric clip for “Quarterback“, Crushed Beak’s astonishingly lovely “History“,  TOPS’ unnerving animated adventure in “Driverless Passenger“, BETS’ artful black-and-white tryst in “Jenny“, and Froth’s blistering “Postcard Radio” (which very nearly earned today’s feature spot). Most of all, though, there were songs.  Site favorites Speedy Ortiz raised expectations for their forthcoming record even higher with the gnarled “Puffer“, Total Babes (who feature Jason Gercyz of Cloud Nothings) unleashed the spiky “Heydays“, and Slonk Donkerson reveled in a heavy sludge influence on “Painted From Memory“.  Death Valley Girls looked forward to warmer weather with “Summertime“, Hip Hatchet wove a delicate folk tapestry with “David’s Wolves“, while Meg Baird followed a similar pattern with “Counterfeiters“. Wave & Rome demonstrated an increasingly tired genre’s potential with “Across the Map” while The National demonstrated their propensity for an elegant consistency via the Sharon Van Etten-assisted “Sunshine On My Back“. Rounding everything off was Yazan’s rousing “Tell Me Baby” and Creative Adult’s hypnotically bleak “Ring Around the Room“.

While every single one of those is worth some level of investment, there’s just something about seeing your friends having a good time that elicits an inexplicably great feeling that’s impossible to sideline. Which is precisely why Waxahatchee‘s new video for “Under A Rock” is falling under tonight’s most meticulous level of scrutiny (and most thorough level of affection). I’ve long held a fondness for videos that celebrate lo-fi, VHS home video aesthetics. There’s a certain sense of time and place that accompanies the aesthetic, which winds up being a perfect match for the subtle sense of nostalgia that permeates all of Katie Crutchfield’s work as Waxahatchee. As one of Merge Records’ newest artists, Crutchfield and her collaborators have started off- predictably- on an extended series of grace notes. Now that NPR has verified Ivy Tripp is as incredible as its previews suggested. It’s fitting then, that the footage that comprises “Under A Rock” feels like a hard-won victory lap. From the lineup that performs the song in the video (it’s difficult to see Allison Crutchfield join her twin and not be reminded of Bad Banana or PS Eliot, two bands that meant a lot to me as I started exploring DIY punk’s fabric nearly a decade ago) to the faces in the crowd (Radiator Hospital‘s Sam Cook-Parrott and Cynthia Schemmer are always a welcome sight- as are the innumerable other familiar faces to appear throughout the clip), “Under A Rock” feels like a homecoming celebration built on mutual fondness and respect- which is a trait that this site will always support.

Watch “Under A Rock” below and pre-order Ivy Tripp from Merge here. Below that, explore 75 great songs from 2015’s first quarter that caught my ears (a few of them are on records that are already out but they’re definitely worth revisiting). Enjoy.

Treasure Fleet – Settle Your Mind
Frankie Teardrop – Get It (Kelly)
Alright – Cold Feet
Erase Errata – History of Handclaps
Modest Mouse – The Best Room
Computer Magic – Shipwrecking
Toner – High & Dry
Der Weg Einer Freiheit – Requiem
Bully – I Remember
clipping. – Summertime
The King Khan & BBQ Show – Illuminations
Seratones – Chokin’ On Your Spit
Rye Pines – Pessimist
Los Angeles Police Department – Insecurity
Johanna Warren – Less Traveled
Mac McCaughan – Lost Again
The Amazing – Safe Island
Death – Look At Your Life
Outfit – Genderless
Lord Huron – The World Ender
Torres – Strange Hellos
The Cribs – Different Angle
Downtown Boys – Monstro
The Twilight Sad – The Airport
Torche – Loose Men
Will Butler – Madonna Can’t Save Me Now
Cillie Barnes – Facework
Dead Heavens – History in My Hands
Blood Sister – Ghost Pussy
Bright Like The Sun – White Lights
Peter Doherty – Flags of the Old Regime
The Babies – Got Old
NEEDS – The Only Good Condo Is A Dead Condo
The Mountain Goats – The Legend of Chavo Guerrero
Ava Luna – Billz
Braids – Taste
Marriages – Skin
Pope – Let Down
Obnox – Menocause
Andy Gabbard – Octoman
St. Vincent – Bad Believer
Nude Beach – Been Waitin’
Mexican Slang – Fever
Never Young – Like A Version
Simon Joyner – You Got Under My Skin
Sun Kil Moon – Ali/Spinks 2
Stalls – Tooth and Nail
Nano Kino – Never Seemed to Happen
TULA – River
In Tall Buildings – Bawl Cry Wail
Frank Black – How You Went So Far
Troy Samuela & Monsoonsiren – Fiend
Passenger Peru – The Best Way to Drown
Girlpool – Ideal World
RA – These Days
Native Lights – Blue Star
Soft Cat – Somebody
Steady Lean – Atkins
A Place to Bury Strangers – We’ve Come So Far
Gill Landry (ft. Laura Marling) – Take This Body
Aero Flynn – Crisp
Calexico (ft. Ben Bridwell) – Falling From the Sky
Lieutenant – Rattled
Laura Marling – I Feel Your Love
Dave Segedy – Car
Jet Setter – Forget About It
Paridolia – Violent I
WAND – Reaper Invert
Young Guv – Crawling Back to You
Chromatics – I Can Never Be Myself When You’re Around
Inventions – Peregrine
Thee Oh Sees – Web
Honeyblood – No Big Deal
Warehouse – Promethean Gaze
ADVAETA – Hazel/Blue Eyes

Watch This: Vol. 57

Over the past few days, there haven’t been any posts (discounting today’s Watch This marathon) because material’s been uncharacteristically scarce. That said, it wasn’t a total drought. The Dying Arts released an aesthetic-defining video for “Bed Spins“, SUSAN unveiled the hard-charging “Pancake“, RONiiA (a collaborative project featuring members of Dark Dark Dark and Marijuana Deathsquads) teased their upcoming record with the haunting “Fool’s Game“, and Cellphone provided an advance stream for their excellent upcoming record, Excellent Condtion. All of those are secondary to what today’s all about, though- live performances will always be the focal spot for Sunday’s posts and the third round of today’s series marathon holds a few gems. A lot of familiar faces compose this list, from icons to upstarts, with everyone turning in memorable performances- with the second appearance of a song that’s already appeared once today closing things out in style. So, as always, adjust the settings, lean in, tune everything else out, and Watch This.

1. Curtis Harding – Next Time (3voor12)

Soul Power was one of 2014’s more overlooked records after failing to gain the kind of sustained traction it deserved after Burger did everything in their power to push it into the world. Harding and his band recently stopped by the 3voor12 studios in the Netherlands to deliver a stunning session that was highlighted by this performance of “Next Time”. It’s a perfectly-timed reminder of both Harding’s strength as a songwriter and Soul Power‘s timeless nature. Throwback rock n’ soul has rarely sounded this good.

2. Girlpool – Ideal World (The Media)

Yes, Girlpool‘s been earning themselves an avalanche of kind words from this site lately- and, no, that’s not going to change anytime soon. Cleo Tucker and Harmony Tividad have tapped into something undeniable and genuinely important, advancing a few small movements that are worth all the support in the world. “Ideal World” is a new song that capitalizes on the duo’s strengths; harmonies, wiry compositions, arresting minimalism, and raw, heartfelt emotion. Better still, this video comes courtesy of The Media (full disclosure: a publication that this one’s collaborated with in the past), a publication that sets an example- and a standard- worth striving to follow.

3. Sloan (KEXP)

There may not be a band that’s earned more mentions as an influence without being actively featured on this site more times than Sloan. One of powerpop’s most iconic bands, they’ve produced their share of stone cold classics (Twice Removed and One Chord To Another, especially) and have refused to slow down since becoming one of the 90’s more beloved acts. KEXP recently had them in studio and the band tore through four songs from their recent double-record Commonwealth. It’s yet another example of the band aging gracefully at a practically impossible level and never once losing stride.

4. Delay  (Razorcake)

Delay’s Plain Language was one of the better records of the 2000s and while the band’s output following that release was good, they never quite managed to reach the heights of their career-best. That changed this year, with the release of the dynamic Circle Change (both were released by the unfailingly great Salinas Records). One thing that’s never been in doubt: the band’s live show. Razorcake were on hand to capture a few moments from the band’s recent set at The Wulf Den- none better than the video presented here, which includes impassioned turns from the front two and some powerhouse drumming from Jesse Withers (also of site favorites All Dogs).

5. Cloud Nothings – Now Hear In (Amoeba)

There’s only been one full post that’s happened without mention of Cloud Nothings’ “Now Hear In”, sure, but it’s just too good of a song to not feature at any given opportunity. This week’s Watch This marathon was kicked off with an installment that ended with Cloud Nothings’ bandleader Dylan Baldi delivering an impressive solo acoustic take on the song but here, the whole band gets in on the action. Filmed by Amoeba during the band’s in-store performance, no one holds anything back. Drummer Jayson Gerycz, one of the most formidable talents in today’s music, is near inhuman in the rapid-fire pulverization he delivers from behind the kit- locking in perfectly with bassist TJ Duke. Baldi remains a total anomaly, straddling the line between aggression and apathy in equal measure while becoming a genuinely arresting presence onstage. Cloud Nothings have always been a force to be reckoned with live and they only seem to be getting better as they go, rendering this a clip worth intensive analysis for any aspiring musician. Cloud Nothings have a few tour dates coming up; get to one of their shows as soon as possible- a full set of performances like these deserves as big of an audience as possible.