Littler, Mass Gothic, Kino Kimino, Ty Segall, Henry Chadwick, Angel Du$t, Little Scream, and Talons were responsible for all but the last of the great music videos to emerge over the course of this site’s mini-hiatus. After being gone for nearly two weeks (thanks to both other musical obligations and preparation work for an upcoming feature on this very space), there were quite a few titles to consider. Ultimately, this final music video spotlight allotted to that stretch of time went to perennial site favorite Courtney Barnett (and her excellent new video).
After experiencing a massive breakout year that saw Barnett do everything from hosting SNL to being nominated for an overdue Grammy, the expectations for any new release for the songwriter have been set extraordinarily high. Thankfully, Barnett’s had a surprisingly long history of avoiding literally any form of disappointment and the brilliant Sunny Leunig-directed video for Sometimes I Sit And Think, and Sometimes I Just Sit‘s invigorating lead-off track is no exception.
Opening the clip on a tongue-in-cheek discussion carried out by Sleater-Kinney sets a lively pace both for the clip’s narrative and for the astonishing amount of cameos packed into the sub-six minute running time. Not soon after the coy cold open, Barnett takes up the titular role and Keunig sets about dismantling any expectations that decision may bring.
Apart from one legitimately breathtaking sequence of relative quiet that cuts away from the song completely, “Elevator Operator” exudes a kind of surprisingly specific irreverence and well-meaning snark that’s proven to be a Barnett specialty. Not long after that staggering moment of existentialism — which is anchored by an impressive performance from Barnett — “Elevator Operator” slides right back into its natural groove, cementing its status as a more-than-worthy addition to Barnett’s enviable output.
Watch “Elevator Operator” below and pick up a copy of Sometimes I Sit and Think, and Sometimes I Just Sit here.
Only a little past its halfway point, 2015’s already been an absurdly strong year for music. Numerically staggering, it’s yielded a handful of classics across a variety of genres and a plethora of outstanding small releases. While this mix skews more towards the latter than, say, Kendrick Lamar’s To Pimp A Butterfly, it’s still worth noting how kind this year’s release schedule has been across the board. To reflect on some of this year’s best offerings so far- and to celebrate this site’s 550th post- a mixtape’s been curated for your enjoyment. Nearly all of these songs and artists have been featured on the site previously, lending this particular mix a more retrospective feel than a few of the past entries in the mixtape series, but they’re all worth celebrating as much as possible. Ranging from folk and ambient flourishes to heavy 90’s influences to thoroughly modern post-punk to spritely basement pop, there’s an entry for just about every genre marker that receives regular coverage on the site.
So, without further ado, here’s a mixtape of some of 2015’s strongest highlights (at least so far, there are still quite a few promising items for the year’s latter half). The tracklist for 2015: Halfway Home can be found beneath the embed. Enjoy.
1. Girlpool – Before The World Was Big 2. Waxahatchee – Under A Rock 3. Mean Creek – Forgotten Streets 4. Royal Headache – Hgih 5. Radioactivity – Pretty Girl 6. Diet Cig – Breathless 7. Washer – Joe 8. Courtney Barnett – Pedestrian At Best 9. Mikal Cronin – Made My Mind Up 10. Torres – Sprinter 11. Jason Isbell – 24 Frames (Live) 12. theweaselmartenfisher – Empty Bucket List
13. Pupppy – Puking (Merry Christmas!) 14. Christopher Paul Stelling – Dear Beast 15. Fraser A. Gorman – Shiny Gun 16. Young Jesus – Milo 17. Girls Names – Reticence 18. Institute – Cheerlessness 19. Happy Diving – So Bunted 20. Downies – Widow 21. Meat Wave – Erased 22. Connor La Mue – Stargazer 23. Bruising – Think About Death 24. Meredith Graves – Took The Ghost to the Movies 25. Yowler – The Offer
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. Girlpool (Consequence of Sound)
Over the past year, Girlpool have been experiencing a quiet, rapid ascension in notoriety thanks to a singular take on songwriting. More than just about any other band operating, the duo have established a legitimate identity that manages to feel both familiar and singular. Here, in a lovingly shot session for Consequence of Sound, they provide some insight to their process and deliver two characteristically strong performances of Before The World Was Big‘s title track and “I Like That You Can See It”. It’s a powerful reminder of their seemingly limitless strengths and a perfect document of a young band on the cusp of reaching spectacular heights.
2. Diet Cig – Harvard (Play Too Much)
There’s a joy inherent to Diet Cig‘s music that translates so effortlessly into their live presentation that practically guarantees them a Watch This feature spot every time a video surfaces. Over Easyremains one of the year’s best- and most endlessly listenable- releases, while Diet Cig’s live show continues to gain velocity. It’s an explosive combination that renders the duo one of the more exciting prospects in today’s music. Manic energy, genuine passion, and their visible love for their craft are given a defining image towards the clip’s closing minutes as guitarist/vocalist strikes a power stance, perched on the top of her amp and Noah Bowman’s bass drum, practically bursting with joy. All together, it’s the exact kind of thing this site was built to celebrate.
3. Screaming Females – Shake It Off (AV Club)
Back in the 22nd volume of Watch This, The AV Club’s Undercover series took all five spots in a featured retrospective. One of those five selections was Screaming Females‘ incendiary Sheryl Crowe cover. The band and the series recently partnered up again, the band once again applying their unlikely brand to an even more unlikely cover; Taylor Swift’s inescapable “Shake It Off”. Played (mostly) straight with a fiery verve, the standout moment- unsurprisingly- is a deviation that allows guitarist/vocalist Marissa Paternoster to tear into a solo after a perfect breakdown. It’s one of the year’s most unexpectedly endearing moments.
4. Courtney Barnett – Depreston (La Blogotheque)
Courtney Barnett‘s Sometimes I Sit And Think, And Sometimes I Just Sit will almost certainly hold true as one of 2015’s most delightful titles. As enjoyable as the record is, though, there are moments of arresting pathos and gravitas that appear throughout. One of the most fascinating is Barnett’s treatsie on suburban malaise; “Depreston”. Barnett recently met up with the usually-great La Blogotheque for a performance capture that manages to transcend the bulk of the series’ considerable output. Simply put: it’s unforgettable.
5. Hop Along (KEXP)
One of the year’s most welcome breakout success stories was that of Hop Along’s sudden increase in exposure, recognition, and acclaim (all of which the band’s deserved since before the release of Get Disowned). Instead of being daunted by the attention, the band seems to be thriving off it- pushing themselves to go even further. That drive’s reflected in this full session for KEXP that finds Frances Quinlan and co. front and center for a lively outdoor showcase featuring songs from both Get Disowned and 2015 Album of the Year candidate Painted Shut. As if all of that wasn’t enough reason to watch (and the fact that the band’s live show’s been so powerful that they’ve been a staple of this series since it started), this set also features a back-to-back pairing of “Waitress” and “Tibetan Songs”, which will always be a moment far too perfect for words.
After two consecutive clips dealing with extremely heavy subject matter, switching focus to much lighter fare almost seems necessary. Before getting into the carefree fun-fest that is Fraser A. Gorman’s latest clip for “Shiny Gun”, there will be one last video round-up to get the coverage of the format caught back up to the present release cycle. Heartless Bastards unveiled their confrontational “Gates of Dawn“, Angelic Milk went the irreverent effects route for “IDK How“, Fred Thomas indulged in some light masochism for “Cops Don’t Care, Pt. II“, Leon Bridges furthered his throwback aesthetic with “Better Man“, Elisa Ambrogio tapped into a deeply moving wistfulness through “Arkansas“, Vince Staples flexed some serious artistic muscle with the arresting “Señorita“, and Glockabelle’s immensely lovable 8-bit lunacy intensified with “Wolf BBQ“. All seven clips deserve a few run-throughs and quite a bit of attention. Of course, so does Fraser A. Gorman’s “Shiny Gun”, which is why it wound up as this post’s headline selection.
After some humorous text-only exposition- over some tongue-in-cheek broadcast music- about news anchors getting fired for unprofessional behavior (and then starting a band), “Shiny Gun” takes us back to that final, fateful day in the studio. What follows is an absurd collection of non-responses after a bevvy of failed studio re-direct attempts, with a cast of misfit anchors (including site favorite Courtney Barnett) doing an abysmal job at their actual job, completely ignoring everything and looking miserable in the process. That sense of downtrodden misery carries throughout the black-and-white broadcast, that is, until someone shows up with some guitars. After the first hand-off results in a twangy solo (cue Gorman’s enthused “Deep!”), the whole thing switches back over to technicolor as the studio side anchors get to shed their shackles cut loose as Gorman’s “Shiny Gun” (which is the closest thing I’ve heard to someone accurately emulating The Band in ages) takes them home. It’s one of the more joyous, deadpan clips to emerge from this year and it certainly bodes well for Gorman’s upcoming Slow Gum (which is being released on Courtney Barnett’s own Milk! Records label), which is sounding more promising by the minute. If you were looking for something enjoyably simplistic and carefree to unwind with tonight, you’ve just struck gold.
Watch “Shiny Gun” below and pre-order SlowGum, which will be available via Milk! in Australia, House Anxiety/Marathon Artists in the UK, here.
Courtney Barnett’s Sometimes I Sit And Think And Sometimes I Just Sit has managed to standout from an already over-crowded 2015 since its release. It reaffirms Barnett’s clout as a songwriter by effectively expanding her range. “Kim’s Caravan”, a sprawling treatsie on Austarlia’s increasingly ravaged landscape, being the record’s most arresting example. Recently, it was given a Bec Kingma-directed clip that more than did the song’s serious subject matter justice. Before diving too far into that video’s innumerable strengths, it’s worth noting that the past few weeks have been full of great clips. To help get the site caught back up, the next few posts will be devoted to those clips- just like the handful preceding Watch This were connected to songs.
Each of these posts will come with a featured video and ten accompanying clips, all of which are worthy of heavy investment. Starting off this round of music videos are Eternal Summers’ stop-motion “Together Or Alone“, Mittenfields’ color-damaged clip for “Optimists“, Sheer Mag’s characteristically scrappy “Fan the Flames“, currents’ deranged revenge fantasy “Build Ups“, and The Wooden Sky’s low-key dancefloor romance “Saturday Night“. Whitewash’s hallucinatory “Tentacle”, Peach Kelli Pop’s blissed-out sugar rush “Princess Castle 1987“, Night School’s incredibly lo-fi singalong “Unkind“, Coeds’ stock visual-effects experiment “Sensitive Boys“, and Never Young’s intensely dark “Like A Version” round out this post’s offerings. While, as mentioned, they’re all worth repeat viewings, this post’s focus belongs to Barnett’s stark, mesmerizing clip for “Kim’s Caravan”.
While it may be too early to brandish a term like masterpiece, it’s certainly tempting. Kingma’s vision- especially when paired with Joshua Aylett’s photography direction- recalls fellow Australian filmmaker John Hillcoat (The Proposition may actually be the closest companion to “Kim’s Caravan”). An almost harsh sense of rural lyricism is on full display as the clip traces over desolate scenery, downtrodden inhabitants, and Barnett herself to create a bold artistic statement. Coming on the heels of the nonchalant “Pedestrian At Best“, “Kim’s Caravan” takes on the feeling of an epic. After establishing a palpable sense of loss, the clip arrives at an arresting climax that includes what will likely go down as one of 2015’s most unforgettable shots. Packaged all together it’s just about enough to knock the wind out of anyone lucky enough to lose themselves to the video’s spell.
Watch “Kim’s Caravan” below and order Sometimes I Sit And Think, And Sometimes I Just Sit here.
There are few things more exciting to me than coming across a band worth getting excited about- and the latest addition to that list is Pleistocene, whose “Liberteen” is nothing short of a sugar high. Before getting around to that, though, just like the posts leading up to this one, there will be ten songs that get mentioned based on their strength. 2015 has supplied no shortage of outstanding music in its first four months and these have all surfaces in the past few weeks. Included in those ranks were Glockabelle’s typically insane “Wolf BBQ“, FFS’ dancefloor-ready “Johnny Delusional“, Rose Windows’ winningly complex “Strip Mall Babylon“, and a new solo song from one of the most brilliant songwriters I’ve ever encountered, Colin Bares (of The Coral Riffs, Good Grief, and The Cost of Living), entitled “Infinite Celebrity“. Additionally, there was Western Plaza’s carefree basement pop tune “Thrift Store Girl“, Turnover’s light, charming “Humming“, and Prurient’s terrifyingly brilliant “Greenpoint“. Piling things on were Blur’s freshly rejuvenated “My Terracotta Heart“, O-Face’s sunny indie pop number “Yolanda“, and site favorite Courtney Barnett’s beautiful cover of John Cale’s “Close Watch“. While each and every single one of those is a title worth purchasing, it’s Pleistocene‘s “Liberteen” that earned this post’s feature.
Pleistocene have been a band for a while and have somehow evaded my detection in their time of existence. I’m already attempting to make up for lost time but, even more than that, looking forward to what the band’s got lined up for the future. “Liberteen” is the first glimpse of the band’s forthcoming Space Trap EP (due out via Cherish Records) and it lands every blow it throws. A series of sweet grace notes, it’s another song that deftly combines some subtle twee elements with powerpop and fuzzed-out punk. In short, it’s just about perfect. Melodic beyond reason and effortlessly light without ever seeming disposable, “Liberteen” is the perfect soundtrack for this spring and that distinction will likely extend to summer. Insistent, beautiful, and immensely likable, Pleistocene have thrown their stake into a niche area that’s directly in line with what this site loves to cover. If the rest of Space Trap follows suit, it may just become one of the year’s more memorable releases.
Listen to “Liberteen” below and keep an eye on this site for more coverage of both Space Trap and Pleistocene.
Let’s just get this out of the way at the top: Sometimes I Sit And Think, And Sometimes I Just Sit is one of the greatest record titles since Yo La Tengo’s classic I Am Not Afraid of You And I Will Beat Your Ass. It’s a slyly self-deprecating line and it immediately illustrates Courtney Barnett‘s penchant for the wryly downtrodden- something she exploits the absolute hell out of in both the clip for “Pedestrian At Best” and the actual song. Even though we’re not even a full two months into 2015, “Pedestrian At Best” already seems to be occupying space in an upper-upper-tier register that precious few others have reached (Will Butler’s absurdly likable clip for the equally likable “Anna” being a definite candidate). What immediately makes “Pedestrian At Best” stand out is that it’s the most cutting thing in Barnett’s increasingly enviable discography. As if the frighteningly sharp teeth of the music wasn’t enough, this is easily the most unleashed and verbose Barnett’s allowed herself to be lyrically as well, occasionally bringing to mind a Stage Names-era Will Sheff at his most fearlessly unhinged.
As genuinely great as “Pedestrian At Best” is on its own, it’s the clip that renders this a definitive entry for Barnett’s early career. Emphatically punctuating Barnett’s stylistic tendencies, it balances a tautly-drawn tightrope between an abysmally bleak worldview and entertainingly subtle, tongue-in-cheek humor that continuously keeps things balanced. In a surprisingly compelling performance as the “Clown of 2013” that seems to pull a lot of inspiration from silent film’s golden era, Barnett gets to unleash a clever commentary on the nature of the indie press hype cycle and never falls out of focus. It’s that same cleverness that elevated her to her current status as one of today’s more revered young songwriters, it’s just coming across as slightly more refined. The band Barnett’s surrounded by (often quasi-sardonically referred to as “The Barnetts”) sounds like their matching her stride for stride in terms of ascending sharpness. Importantly, “Pedestrian At Best” also suggests that Barnett’s growing more spirited and vibrant as her career progresses, which could yield towering dividends for her future. We’re lucky to have a songwriter- and band- like this to claim for our generation- “Pedestrian At Best”, if anything, is an exacting reminder of why.
Watch “Pedestrian At Best” below and pre-order Sometimes I Sit And Think, And Sometimes I Just Sit here.