Heartbreaking Bravery

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Tag: Mackenzie Scott

Splitting at the Break: The Live Photography of 2016’s First Half, Pt. III

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Throughout 2016’s opening two months, I was able to take in two surprisingly contained winter festivals in the upper Midwest: Madison, WI’s FRZN Fest and Chicago, IL’s Music Frozen Dancing. The former ran three days (I was in attendance for the bookends) at the High Noon Saloon while the latter took place outside of the Empty Bottle. Both boasted impressive lineups that reflected well on their venues and, to a larger extent, their cities. Those two fests were the year’s openers and they sent me scrambling for more shows to shoot and I was able to capitalize on several of those opportunities. Whether they were in a basement or at a historic club venue, if cameras were allowed, I’d have mine rolling. Several of the best photographs I managed to capture in that run of months can be found below. Enjoy.

2015: The Best of Watch This

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When Watch This was conceived it was done with the intent to not only critically examine the balance of filmmaking and live performance but celebrate the art of the live video, a format which seems to have fallen to the wayside despite being more fruitful than it’s been since it was introduced. There’s real power behind the clips that manage to seamlessly merge the best qualities of everything that goes into the best live performance videos and they can yield genuinely unforgettable moments (when everything kicks back in on “Waitress”, the held falsetto in “A Proper Polish Welcome”, and a whole host of other chill-inducing moments are scattered throughout this compilation). Those moments are the beating heart behind this series construction and they’re what sustains the project as it presses forward.

Well over 300 live clips were covered on this site in 2015 and this is a collection of 25 that genuinely stood out for one reason or another, whether it was the sheer joy in a performance (Diet Cig), the performer’s ability to freeze blood (Julien Baker, Dilly Dally, SOAK), the trio of artists who appeared on Watch This the most throughout this year (Courtney Barnett, Girlpool, and Torres), an electrifying presentation and performance (July Talk), or a clip that’s a fully functional masterclass in every category that elevates a clip from astonishing to transcendental (Glen Hansard). All of those and more have been plugged into this packet, which culminates in a tour de force reminder of the overwhelming power of what can be achieved on a live platform from the resurgent Sleater-Kinney as one final exclamation point for a truly extraordinary year. So, as always, sit up, focus, adjust the volume, and Watch This.

Watch the 2015 edition of the best-of compilation for Heartbreaking Bravery’s definitive recurring series, Watch This, below. The track list is available under the embed.

1. Hop Along – Waitress (World Cafe)
2. July Talk – Paper Girl (Audiotree)
3. Ronny – Why Do You Have Kids (Gems On VHS)
4. Julien Baker – Sprained Ankle (BreakThruRadio)
5. Mikal Cronin – Say (WFUV)
6. Molly Parden – Weather (GemsOnVHS)
7. Eskimeaux – Folly (This Has Got To Stop)
8. Waxahatchee – Under A Rock (Pitchfork)
9. METZ – Spit You Out (3voor12)
10. Ought – Beautiful Blue Sky (KEXP)
11. Saintseneca – How Many Blankets Are In the World? (ANTI-)
12. Diet Cig – Harvard (In the Attic)
13. SOAK – B a Nobody Blud (La Blogotheque)
14. Dilly Dally – Burned by the Cold (Strombo Sessions)
15. Alex G + Girlpool – Brite Boy (SPIN)
16. Footings (Jenn Harrington)
17. Mike Krol – Suburban Wasteland + Neighborhood Watch (KEXP)
18. Beach Slang – Get Lost (Cozy Couch Sessions)
19. Public Service Broadcasting – Go! (WNYC)
20. Christopher Paul Stelling – Dear Beast (ANTI-)
21. Courtney Barnett – Depreston (La Blogotheque)
22. Algiers – Blood (WFUV)
23. Torres – A Proper Polish Welcome (NPR)
24. Glen Hansard – McCormack’s Wall (ANTI-)
25. Sleater-Kinney (NPR)

 

Watch This: Vol. 81

Anyone that’s been keeping an eye on the site knows that it’s been a busy time for both myself and this place. Making the move to Brooklyn has afforded a much greater opportunity for live coverage and that’s something that’s been increasingly evident over the past few posts. There were still be regular coverage on streaming songs, albums, and videos and all of those categories will be caught up in the very near future.

Despite missing last week’s, Watch This isn’t going to go anywhere either. Ostensibly the beating heart of Heartbreaking Bravery, the weekly series devoted to featuring the best live capture releases of the week is one of this site’s defining features. With two weeks worth of releases to reflect on, there’ll be two installments of Watch This to run tonight. Both feature a variety of site favorites (both artists and sources), full sessions, and- as always- extraordinary performances on both sides of the camera. So, as ever, sit back, adjust the volume to your preference, focus up, and Watch This.

1. DOE – Swings and Roundabouts (BreakThruRadio)

DOE’s session for BreakThruRadio keeps yielding outstanding results (and subsequently finding placement on Watch This). Here, the band takes their compelling, restrained approach to the pop-punk genre and spins it into gold with a strong performance of “Swings and Roundabouts”.

2. Mitski – I Will (Out of Town Films)

Bury Me At Makeout Creek was easily one of last year’s finest records and its pull hasn’t relented since its release. Mitski has been touring steadily as that time’s elapsed, delivering one knockout performance after another and still finding time to sign a deal with Don Giovanni. Out of Town Films recently captured a gorgeously-lensed performance of Bury Me highlight “I Will” and the results are spellbinding.

3. Elvis Perkins (KEXP)

Elvis Perkins has been one of my favorite artists since I was first introduced to the songwriter via an unforgettable Letterman appearance. A few months later, I’d exchange some words with Perkins, who was unfailingly kind and genuinely humble. Overcoming unspeakable tragedy, Perkins made a habit of delivering joyous, life-affirming shows with his band, Elvis Perkins In Dearland, while still managing to pay heartfelt tribute to his deceased parents. After spending a brief time touring the release of Elvis Perkins in Dearland in 2009, Perkins all but disappeared before re-emerging in 2015’s opening stretch. Noticeably more downtrodden, Perkins’ songs have nonetheless managed to retain their inherent charm and a very specific kind of love for those songs comes through beautifully in this recent KEXP session.

4. Cayucas – Moony Eyed Walrus (KCRW)

A lot of the best pop music feels as familiar as it does effortless and “Moony Eyed Walrus” certainly qualifies on both accounts. Boasting an infectious chorus section and impossibly smooth verses, Cayucas crafted something that manages to feel both light and memorable. KCRW recently hosted the band for a live session and they responded by handing in a charming take of their current career highlight.

5. Torres (KEXP)

Continuing on with a consistent domination of Watch This is Torres, who hits an exhilarating peak with this KEXP session. Honestly, at this point, this could be any collection of songs from Sprinter and this would have been all but guaranteed a spot. The sequencing and selection for this particular session, however, feels legitimately inspired. From the heavily atmospheric (and quietly haunting) version of “A Proper Polish Welcome” to the explosively climactic moments of “Cowboy Guilt”, the session’s a sustained series of grace notes that does more than a little justice to one of 2015’s most stunning albums.

Watch This: Vol. 78

Over the course of the past few weeks, the influx of outstanding live videos has been staggering. Last week the series was put on a brief hold due to other personal obligations but even then, there was the threat of multiple installments for that particular Sunday. Amassing those with the live clips that followed in the subsequent week brings us to this point: there’s simply too much great material to feature to justify relegating anything exceeding the limit of five to the introductory paragraph(s). With this being the case, there will be seven- yes, seven- installments of Watch This to go live throughout the day (and possibly night).

To that end, this very introduction will be running prior to volumes 74-80 to reduce the levels of overall exposition to provide an emphasis on the material at hand. Site favorites Girlpool and Waxahatchee were seemingly everywhere this week, securing multiple entries throughout this run while Faits Divers spread-out documentation of a set from Ought (another site favorite) managed to do the same. As always, each video featured is an exemplary showcase for both artist and host, covering a wide range of sounds and styles. So, as always, sit back, adjust the volume to your preferred settings, sit up straight, lean in (or back), and Watch This.

 

1. Chastity Belt – Dull (WFUV)

Time To Go Home was one of the unexpected highlights of this year’s first half, securing Chastity Belt a level of recognition they’ve been deserving for some time. Here, the band turns in a blissfully casual of “Dull”, providing a showcase for their dynamic range. WFUV’s black backdrop provides a fitting background to Chastity Belt’s hazy basement pop and elevates the clip into surprisingly immersive levels.

2. Girlpool – Chinatown (Wichita)

Closing out Wichita’s lovely outdoor trilogy of Girlpool clips is this gorgeous take of Before The World Was Big highlight “Chinatown”. As always, Cleo Tucker and Harmony Lebel-Tividad seem inhumanly connected, playing off each other with an almost telepathic familiarity and ease. Everything comes off as complementary, from the dueling melodies to the timbre of the duo’s vocals. The whole thing exudes a nearly impossible sense of lightness that’s always factored into Girlpool’s music, rendering this a surprisingly revitalizing watch.

3. Waxahatchee – Blue (Pt. II) (Wichita)

Continuing on with Wichita’s gorgeous presentation of the Crutchfield twins performance under Katie’s Waxahatchee guise at St. Pancras Church, this clip features an aching performance of “Blue (Pt. II)”- another highlight from Ivy Tripp. Nothing more than harmonized vocals and an electric guitar guide the performance, the audience hushed throughout. The soft tones and dim lighting provide a perfect visual accompaniment, allowing the clip to become as mesmerizing as the song at its center.

4. Ought – The Weather Song (Faits Divers)

Closing out Ought’s run, courtesy of Faits Divers, is yet another inspired performance of one of More Than Any Other Day‘s several highlights; “The Weather Song”. As always, the band’s animated throughout and delivers a crisp performance that fully demonstrates the band’s enormous live appeal. It seems like every time the band launches into a song, they transform into an unstoppable whirlwind of pure energetic force. Unable to stay still and brimming with manic passion, it makes for compelling viewing and- more importantly- powerful performances.

5. Torres – A Proper Polish Welcome (WFUV)

One of the most delicate songs to emerge out of 2015 is Torres’ jaw-dropping “A Proper Polish Welcome”, a piece of serene beauty characterized by a sense of yearning. It’s Sprinter‘s most breathtaking moment and, in a live setting, it’s powerful enough to freeze blood. WFUV turned their cameras on Mackenzie Scott and co. as they conjured up the slow-burning showstopper, capturing something approaching the levels of transcendence in the process.

Watch This: Vol. 75

Over the course of the past few weeks, the influx of outstanding live videos has been staggering. Last week the series was put on a brief hold due to other personal obligations but even then, there was the threat of multiple installments for that particular Sunday. Amassing those with the live clips that followed in the subsequent week brings us to this point: there’s simply too much great material to feature to justify relegating anything exceeding the limit of five to the introductory paragraph(s). With this being the case, there will be seven- yes, seven- installments of Watch This to go live throughout the day (and possibly night).

To that end, this very introduction will be running prior to volumes 74-80 to reduce the levels of overall exposition to provide an emphasis on the material at hand. Site favorites Girlpool and Waxahatchee were seemingly everywhere this week, securing multiple entries throughout this run while Faits Divers spread-out documentation of a set from Ought (another site favorite) managed to do the same. As always, each video featured is an exemplary showcase for both artist and host, covering a wide range of sounds and styles. So, as always, sit back, adjust the volume to your preferred settings, sit up straight, lean in (or back), and Watch This.

1. Torres – Sprinter (WFUV)

Torres’ Sprinter isn’t just one of 2015’s best songs; it’s also one of 2015’s best albums. The product of Mackenzie Scott’s unforgiving self-examination of her upbringing, Sprinter came loaded with powerful moments. “Sprinter” was one of the most gripping, detailing how Scott, like many notable artist prior, would turn to running as an escape. There’s a genuine sense of voyeurism that manages to subtly settle in, becoming unsettling in the process. It’s an experience that becomes even stronger as the song translates over to the live setting, creating a deep sense of unease before offering a cathartic release- and WFUV captures one of those performances magnificently, doubling the song’s murkier tones with the clip’s visual aesthetic. Don’t miss it.

2. Girlpool – Before The World Was Big (Wichita)

Another stunning title track, Girlpool’s Before The World Was Big, sees the duo continue their relative domination of this stretch of coverage in a clip that comes courtesy of their label, Wichita Recordings. One differentiating factor of this session compared to Girlpool’s others is the fact both Cleo Tucker and Harmony Lebel-Tividad play acoustic guitars rather than their standard bass/guitar setup and the payoff is beautiful. One of Girlpool’s most appealing traits is that their affection for each other is so palpable, permeating nearly every note (and frame) of their work together. In this no-stakes session, the duo’s simply allowed to lean back and enjoy each other’s company, providing some of the lovelier live clips of 2015.

3. Yuck – Middle Sea (Chalk TV)

A lot of speculation surrounded Yuck after they lost a key member, they responded with some of their best material to date. Among the myriad of highlights that came following guitarist/vocalist’s Daniel Blumberg’s departure was “Middle Sea”, a searing burst of revitalized energy. Chalk TV was on hand to capture the band performing the song at a show earlier this year and the creative restlessness that made the song so compelling bleeds through effortlessly.

4. Ought (Faits Diver)

Only one album into their career and Ought have already established themselves as one of the most fascinating acts. Comparisons to LCD Soundsystem, Talking Heads, and David Bowie have all been lobbed at the band and while each comparison’s likely warranted, they only scratch the surface. Deceptively intricate and surprisingly intuitive, Ought have made their mark by crafting the kind of genre-defying hook-filled music that leans towards enormous appeal. “Today More Than Any Other Day” and “Habit” are two perfect examples of this dynamic and Faits Diver now has exhilarating proof of the band’s live prowess (presented in a manner that betrays a likely fascination with David Lynch, rendering it a surprisingly mysterious watch).

5. Waxahatchee (KEXP)

The current touring iteration of Waxahatchee is the finest Katie Crutchfield’s ever assembled, enlisting members of Swearin’ (including her twin, Allison Crutchfield) and other members of the Philadelphia music scene to round out a continuously expanding sound. Here, the band tears through a selection of highlights from one of this year’s gems, Ivy Tripp (Waxahatchee’s first release for Merge Records). Sublimely pure at times, willfully discordant at others, it’s a measured showcase for Crutchfield’s vast range as a songwriter, anchored by an unforgettable voice all the while.

 

Watch This: Vol. 71

To say “it’s been a week” would be putting it mildly. The statement held especially true for the incredible live footage that has been consistently published throughout the week’s duration. In the preceding installment of this series, it was stated that there could have easily been two features instead of one. This week that number increases to three. Every single day, a masterful new video was ushered out into the world. A large handful of those were impeccably produced; gorgeous in vision and stunning in terms of sound, boasting a memorable performance all the while. Lady Lamb, Speedy Ortiz, Jeff Rosenstock, Two Gallants, Mikal Cronin, T. Hardy Morris & the Hardknocks, Twerps, Vijay Iyer Trio, The Technicolors, and Surfer Blood all had live clips introduced that earned their endless replay value. Nearly every single one of those names has been mentioned on this site before (albeit some for entirely different projects) and that trend holds steady for the five clips that are featured below.  So, as always, turn the volume up, shut out all of your looming distractions, lean in, and Watch This.

1. DOE (BreakThruRadio)

Every time DOE’s released something, it’s caught my ear. It’s been immensely satisfying to watch their recognition slowly expand as time progressed. Of course, part of the reasoning behind that growth may be their own self-improvement. Their recent session for BreakThruRadio further illustrates that this band’s primed for a breakout. While the featured song, the hard-charging “Redo/Improve”, is a monstrously catchy bit of punk-inflected basement pop, one of the most welcoming elements of this clip is the band’s winsome affability in the interview segment. Of course, that’s almost immediately forgotten once it splinters off into a brief live clip of the latter two songs included in the clip because DOE’s the kind of band that demands attention when they’re in live mode. Just hit play and start waiting for their name to slowly climb the festival bill font-scale ladder.

2. Bent Shapes – New Starts In Old Dominion (Fitz Ross)

86’d in ’03” was one of this sites favorite songs from last year, as reflected in one of the stranger best of lists. Bent Shapes could have been content to coast on that release for a while but the band’s work ethic ensures that they’ll likely be working until they can’t push themselves any further (hell, even that not might be enough). Impressively, there’s never a decline in quality; they’re writing some of the finest punk-tinged powerpop of today. “New Starts In Old Dominion” is clear evidence that the band’s talents extend past their recorded output and into what they’re able to accomplish live. When a party is this good, it’s not worth being late.

3. Torres – Cowboy Guilt (Public Radio International)

Few records have managed to grip me as strongly as Torres’ Sprinter. Every song on the record contains subtle melody hooks that have the ability to become inescapable over time. “Cowboy Guilt” is a perfect example of this particular dynamic. The guitar riffs, the vocal melody, and the subtle synth work all slowly expand their claws and lodge their way into a territory reserved for things that are next to impossible to forget. None of that shifts in the live setting, even though a few of the arrangements do differ slightly from the studio version. The contrast is part of what makes this particular clip feel so alive; humanity is impossible to fake.

4. Will Butler – What I Want (WFUV)

Policy is one of 2015’s most curios releases and the oddities that made it so compelling are also likely the reason it didn’t find much of an audience. Teeming with droll humor, impressive composition skills, and a surprising amount of pathos, “What I Want” is an incredibly intimate look at the way Butler’s songs operate. Confined to the WFUV studio with only a piano at his disposal, Butler is cast in the intimidating glare of a sole spotlight. His response? Delivering an unlikely, powerful performance that reaffirms the flashes of talent he consistently provides in his main vehicle (you know the one). It’s genuinely stunning.

5. Field Mouse – A Place You Return To In A Dream (Radio K)

Field Mouse have been consistently churning out impressive post-punk for a few years now and seem to only get stronger as they go- the aim of every band with honorable convictions. They recently stopped in the Radio K studios to turn in a blistering take of “A Place You Return To In A Dream”, which leans heavily on the band’s shoegaze influences without eschewing any of their deceptively intuitive pop sensibilities. Surging guitars, soft backing vocals, and committed performances make sure this clip reaches exhilarating levels.