Heartbreaking Bravery

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Tag: Lance Jr.

Watch This: Vol. 104

[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. 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 (Ithaca Underground)

Another full session from Eskimeaux as they continue to play out in support of the brilliant O.K., this particular session also stands as what may very well be Ithaca Underground’s finest capture. A DIY presentation, it catches a much less manufactured look at Eskimeaux’s tantalizing live show with their strongest lineup. Songs like “Folly” remain as breathtaking as ever, while the viewer has the added benefit of an actual spectator vantage point, making the experience a touch more immersive. As everything comes together, this quickly becomes a vital document of an important part of Eskimeaux’s history. It’s not just worth watching, it’s worth all of the inevitable return visits as well.

2. Wet Nurse (BreakThruRadio)

Scrappy basement pop is the lifeblood of this site and that occasionally can bleed over into the realm of pop-punk. Wet Nurse manage to find a compelling middle ground that makes them a fascinating variable whenever they’re lumped in with either category. “Belly Hurts” might be the best example of that middle ground and this BreakThruRadio session captures it– and the band’s general identity– with characteristic verve.

3. Courtney Barnett (Austin City Limits)

In addition to Torres and Girlpool, the only other artist to become a permanent fixture of this series’s coverage throughout 2015 has been Courtney Barnett. An unlikely mega-success, Barnett’s been racking up acclaim, sales, and new fans with abandon. One of the biggest aspects of the songwriter’s draw are live performances and this two song effort for her Austin City Limits session is a formidable example of that particular strength.

4. Mall Walk (KEXP)

Weird, dissonant post-punk with garage trappings has popped up more than a few times on this site and will continue to pop up anytime it’s done as well as Mall Walk does it here. One of KEXP’s spikier sessions in recent memory, it’s a five song onslaught that finds the trio firing on all cylinders. Aggressively bleak, a little unwieldy, and unreasonably propulsive, it catches the trio at a crucial point of momentum building. Expect to be hearing their name a lot more sometime soon.

5. Braids (3voor12)

Sometimes a performance comes along and reminds you why you ever started caring about music. This is one of those performances. Anchored by the band’s unconventional approach to composition, the band commits to this three song performance and winds up with a session that feels essential. Wildly impressive and strangely moving,  this isn’t a session to be missed.

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.

Watch This: Vol. 56

Part two of today’s three-part Watch This marathon once again returns to a few familiar faces and two new ones that should have been featured all along. It’s another installment that covers the acoustic single take session to full electric set gamut and contains one of the most unique KEXP sessions to have come out of 2014. A few big names and a few emerging ones provide a pretty balanced spread- and all of them provide great performances. These are five clips from the past two weeks that are worth time investment. So, as always, grab a snack, crack a drink, sit back, turn the volume up, and Watch This.

1. TV On The Radio – Happy Idiot (KCRW)

TV On The Radio delivered one of the all-time great late night performances on Letterman years back with a positively fierce version of “Wolf Like Me” that put them on the map. Ever since then, the band’s been subject to extraordinarily high expectations and has rarely disappointed. This year’s Seeds was an undeniably intriguing release, with lead-off single “Happy Idiot” serving as a strong highlight. Live, the song takes on new life and becomes a reminder of some of the things that make TV On The Radio one of this generation’s more fascinating acts. Bonus points for Kyp Malone’s beard, always-incredible falsetto, and Thurston Moore signature jazzmaster.

2. Sorority Noise – Blonde Hair, Black Lungs (Space Jam Sessions)

A few bands quietly emerged over the course of the past eleven months and Sorority Noise were certainly among that group. With a great album and a great split under their belt, a lot of people have started granting them the attention they deserve. Here, they deliver an engaging acoustic performance of the lilting “Blonde Hair, Black Lungs” for Space Jam Sessions that more than lives up to their growing acclaim.

3. Restorations – Wales (Little Elephant)

Every once in a while Little Elephant will deliver on consistently great sessions from incredible live bands and Restorations are currently in the middle of one of their gradual session roll-outs. Having already earned a previous Watch This feature spot, they return with a vengeance. “Wales” is a menacing slow-builder that showcases the band’s penchant for dynamics and tension. For “Wales”, Restorations’ claws come out and dig into every tendon they can find. It’s a ferocious performance from a band that excels in a live setting, making this unmissable.

4. Shilpa Ray – Johnny Thunders’ Fantasy Space Camp (TCGS)

It’s been a while since a performance from The Chris Gethard Show has made an appearance in this feature- and who better to revive it than former Grinderman touring partner Shilpa Ray. Laying waste to a harmonium and a microphone, Ray leads her band through the driving “Johnny Thunders’ Fantasy Space Camp”. The band puts seemingly everything they’ve got on the line and the audience responds in kind. It’s a strong enough performance to make converts out of anyone who wasn’t previously familiar with Shilpa Ray- and it’s more than strong enough to earn a spot in this installment of Watch This.

5. Courtney Barnett (KEXP)

It’s unlikely that there’s been an artist to have more full set Watch This appearances than Courtney Barnett. There’s a reason Barnett and her band keep cracking  their way into these lists; there’s a palpable vibrancy and sense of pure enjoyment to their live show that’s more clear-cut than just about anyone else currently playing music. That said, they’ve never been more entertaining than they are here- appropriately decked out and fully costumed for a Halloween performance that doubles as one of the most memorable sessions the reliably excellent KEXP’s hosted all year.

Watch This: Vol. 38

Well, it’s been a long battle but it seems like the impossible has finally arrived and Watch This has been brought back up to speed. To celebrate, the 38th installment will feature no single performance but rather small (or full) sets from a set of five. All of the artists that appear in this list could rightfully be considered site favorites (and, hell, one of them has essentially become Heartbreaking Bravery’s flagship band) and will undoubtedly be featured more in the future. In the case of Courtney Barnett, an isolated performance from her included set has already been given a spot in a past Watch This– but packaged together with the rest of an extraordinary performance, it proved too tantalizing to pass up (this may very well be the only repeat performance Watch This ever runs). All of that being the case, this is quite a lot to take in- so, lean back, settle in, turn the speakers up, and Watch This.

1. Bleeding Rainbow (KEXP)

Kicking off a trio of KEXP sets is a band who recently earned a spot towards the top of the Music Video Mixtape,  Bleeding Rainbow. Bringing four of their best songs out for the occasion, the shoegaze-leaning quartet drives home just how forceful these songs are capable of being. It’s a startling performance from a band that continues to pick up momentum. Don’t get caught in their way.

2. Fear of Men (KEXP)

Fear of Men’s Loom was an important step for a band that had long been deserving of a push forward. In the live setting, the songs get an even airier texture than they do on record, lending it a wide-open feel that propels them to greater heights. All four songs deserve repeat viewings in their own right but are even better when played as a set. A very welcome reminder of a record worth more discussion that it’s received.

3. Courtney Barnett (KEXP)

As stated in the video’s introduction, A Sea of Split Peas was one of 2014’s great surprises; a star-making effort from a relative unknown. Here, KEXP celebrates it as fully as possible, turning their lenses (and audio equipment) onto this massive eight-song set from The Triple Door as part of their VIP Club concert series. As it progresses, Barnett grows more comfortable and more confident, eventually bringing everything home with the can’t-fail 1-2 combination of “Avant Gardener” and “History Eraser”. Don’t miss it.

4. Saintseneca (NPR)

Dark Arc, Saintseneca‘s ANTI- debut, made a lot of people (finally) sit up and take notice of them- and even lent the members other respective projects (All Dogs and The Sidekicks, especially) some well-deserved exposure. For a band built from that background, something like this- an NPR Tiny Desk Session feature- feels like nothing short of a major triumph. There are very few things that feel more right than a band worthy of a major break actually catches one. To top everything off, this particular session is an absolute stunner and stands as one of NPR’s best sessions in recent memory.  

5. Perfect Pussy (Pitchfork)

Close to everything that could be said about Perfect Pussy’s set at Pitchfork has already been covered– but, if the opportunity to write even more about this band presents itself, I’ll jump at it. While live footage capture can never come close to doing the experience of actually seeing a band like Perfect Pussy justice, it’s difficult to argue against when its presented so beautifully. The more I watch these videos, the more I come back to a recurring thought: music and musicians, at large, are split into two groups- the technicians vs. the feelers. In the former category, bands will often sacrifice energy to present their music with as much polished precision as possible, whereas in the latter category, perfect technique is an acceptable casualty because it stands in the way of unfiltered passion. I will always stand on- and stand up for- the side of the latter. It’s a position that Perfect Pussy fully embodies and it makes their sets that much more thrilling (there’s a reason I’ve gone well out of my way to see them no less than eight times this year-so-far). So, while Meredith Graves‘ voice is noticeably raw (she’d been on a 12+ hour sabbatical from speaking the night before after noticing it was shot and fearing she might lose it completely), it’s also a small testament to courage. Ultimately, it’s exactly the kind of thing that gives a performance like this an incredible amount of character- and it has the potential to inspire legions of aspiring musicians to get behind a microphone so they can pour their hearts out.