Heartbreaking Bravery

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Tag: Miniskirt

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.

Johanna Warren – True Colors (Music Video) (NSFW)

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It’s been about a week since a regular post ran on here, which mostly just means there’s a lot of content to come. A lot of great songs and albums have managed to appear in a very short window of time. All of those will be put on pause as this post gives sole focus to the more visually-inclined main category of this site (though plans are still in motion for film to factor into coverage): music videos.

Fucked Up’s fearlessly experimental multimedia experience for “Year of the Hare“, FIDLAR’s endearing, homage-heavy “40oz. on repeat“, Liza Anne’s absolutely gorgeous “Lost“, Braids’ stunning visual accompaniment to their career highlight “Miniskirt“, and Blur’s immensely enjoyable “Ong Ong” all proved to be notable highlights. Joining them were Pleistocene’s playfully shambolic “Pulp“, Swervedriver’s multicolor, kaleidoscopic “I Wonder?“, Izzy True’s tantalizingly bare-bones lyric clip for “Swole“, Demons’ skate spree in “Radical Cure“, Eternal Summers’ color-bled “Gold And Stone“, and We Were Promised Jetpacks’ beautiful, arresting “A Part Of It“.

Then, there was Johanna Warren’s “True Colors”.

Before diving into the blisteringly intense content of the video itself, it’s worth taking a step back to take a look at the history of the video- one that’s intrinsically intertwined with this site. At some point late last year, I’d latched onto Warren’s music thanks to her tour with site favorite Mitski. At some point during that time, Warren and I began talking and she eventually agreed to contribute a piece to the diaristic year-end segment A Year’s Worth of MemoriesHer piece stood out immediately, primarily because it was about something that hadn’t ever materialized.

When I caught up with Warren in Menasha- a small town in the middle of Wisconsin- to profile her for Consequence of Sound, I was eager to discuss the video. I’d been listening to nūmūn religiously in preparation and had a very distinct idea for what I thought the clip- initially intended for “Black Moss”- would be if it was ever resuscitated. Warren assured me it hadn’t escaped her mind (not surprising considering her initial levels of unease- feelings which would return leading up to the record’s premiere) and was still hoping to return to the concept for a future release.

Somewhere along the way, the song shifted and- during filming- took on a new life. Originally envisioned to be something far more gentle, the concept was adjusted into something much rawer (and, likely, much more important). To go into further details at this point would be relatively pointless as Warren provided an eloquent analysis of its mechanics in a statement issued to Stereogum, where the video premiered. That statement can also be read below.

This song is about traversing and transgressing boundaries: the tenuous lines that separate physical and metaphysical, waking and dreaming, and our moral categories of right and wrong. It’s about walking barefoot down the fertile coastline where binaries touch and exploring what hidden, buried parts of your soul might stir awake and flourish if you free yourself from the shackles of what society deems appropriate. It’s about surrendering to the wild — specifically the wild feminine, which has been so oppressed and forgotten — and communing in a primal, magical way with the powerful forces of nature.

The scene depicted in this video is an initiation rite. Throughout human history, spiritual practices have involved elements of bondage, flagellation, and submission as a means of entering altered states of consciousness/getting close to God. These days, most of us feel like we don’t have access to visionary experiences, largely because organized religions have convinced us they are the gatekeepers to spirituality. But there is a basic evolutionary human need for the expansion of consciousness, and that drives some of us to engage in activities that have been scorned, demonized and/or criminalized by our puritanical society, such as exploring psychedelics, magick, and BDSM—all of which, when done safely and consentually, can be effective keys in unlocking altered/ecstatic states (and all of which, I believe, are the subject of increased mainstream interest right now specifically because of our culture’s gaping spiritual deficit).

The making of this video was an experience I curated for myself with the support and guidance of two trusted, beloved collaborators: Gretchen Heinel, a radical feminist genius whose evocative body of work explores BDSM, body modification, and ritual; and Damon Stang, a highly gifted and learned Witch and practitioner of queer urban folk magic. In light of important ongoing discussions and valid sensitivities around issues of consent and violence towards women, let me clearly state my stance as an empowered creative woman who believes every human has the right to do with his or her body exactly what he or she chooses, short of infringing the rights of a fellow being. The struggle to reclaim that right is at the heart of so many key social issues right now: gay marriage, abortion rights, legalizing marijuana and other controlled substances, etc. For me, making this video felt like a radical reclaiming of my right to do with my body exactly what I want.

On my drive home from the shoot, a critical little voice in my head asked me why the hell I did this, and I happily replied, “Because I fucking wanted to.” It was fun and empowering and sexy and beautiful and deep and magical, I learned so much about myself and I have no regrets. It’s crazy, though, how even knowing all that, watching the video and thinking of others watching it, I find myself judging myself SO HARD and feeling a lot of fear. But just as my anxiety reaches a peak, I hear my own voice sing, “Forget the duality of wrong and right,” and I’m like… “Oh yeah, good point.”

It’s at once a spellbinding look at the psyche of one of the more interesting artists of the moment and an incredibly charged statement. Genuinely unsettling and superbly directed by the team of Gretchen Heinel and Damon Stang, it verges on being an extremely difficult watch but it soon becomes impossible to look away. As a representation of one of Warren’s most successful dichotomies (an inexplicable- and often light- gentleness paired with a searing- and frequently dark- intensity). Operating on the fringes of both dream and nightmare, “True Colors” is one of 2015’s boldest visual works to date.   

Watch “True Colors” below and pick up nūmūn from Team Love here.

Sheer Mag – Button Up (Stream)

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Continuing on in the quest to get the site caught up on all the things that caught my attention in 2015 affords some unique opportunities. One of them is the chance to celebrate a few of the truly great items that surfaced over the course of this year’s first three months. By the end of tonight, all of those will be featured in some form- be it a list inclusion, a mix, or some words. In this post, there won’t be a lot of material from the past two weeks (with the notable exception of a jaunty tune from The Splits and an absolute stunner of a track from one-time site contributor Johanna Warren) but it should still serve as a healthy reminder of 2015’s formidable early strengths. One of those songs, Sheer Mag’s “Button Up” will be receiving the greatest amount of focus. Below that, as has been custom, are 75 outstanding songs from this year’s first quarter. Now, back to this post’s main draw.

Sheer Mag have been picking up a great amount of notoriety in important circles since the release of their 7″ from last year, which was strong enough to land on the site’s Best 7″ Records of 2014 list. “Button Up”, the band’s first new material since that EP, is a refinement of everything that’s made Sheer Mag so exciting from the beginning. “Button Up” retains the band’s appealing lo-fi punch but their pop sensibilities are sharper than ever, rendering “Button Up” an unlikely heavyweight. Impossibly crunchy guitars, powerful vocals, and a sense of joy permeate throughout this track and provide Sheer Mag with a valid claim as one of the most exciting upcoming bands on the market. If the rest of their upcoming 7″ can hit similar peaks, it’s not unlikely that they’ll be appearing on quite a few December lists (ours included).

Listen to “Button Up” below and keep an eye on this site for more coverage surrounding the band’s upcoming release. Beneath the embed are 75 outstanding songs from 2015’s opening stretch.

The Cribs – I See Your Pictures Every Day
Football, etc. – Open
Princess – Black Window
Novella – Land Gone
Eric Chenaux – Skullsplitter
Pinkshinyultrablast – Land’s End
Vagaband – Gabrielle
HOLY – Demon’s Hand
Tall Tales and the Silver Lining – This Time Around
Divers – Breathless
Michael Stec – Party Dress
The Brian Jonestown Massacre – Philadelphia Story
Cyberbully Mom Club – Anabelle (Love Soft)
Passenger Peru – Break My Neck
The Splits – I Know
Alice – Nightmare
Lightning Bolt – The Metal East
Guantanamo Baywatch – Too Late
Maribou State – Rituals
Dastardly – The Hollow
Aero Flynn – Twist
The Minus 5 – The History You Hate
Braids – Miniskirt
Faith Healer – Universe
Karen Meat & the Computer – If I Were Yours
Chris Weisman – Backpack People
Jeff Rosenstock – You, In Weird Cities
The Dodos – Retriever
Busses – Wizard of the Eye
Obnox – Cynthia Piper at the Gates of Dawn
Twerps – I Don’t Mind
Sonny & the Sunsets – Happy Carrot Health Food Store
The Muscadettes – Pearl and Oyster
Waxahatchee – Air
Matthew E. White – Rock N’ Roll Is Cold
Nic Hessler – Hearts, Repeating
Grooms – Comb The Feelings Through Your Hair
Pops Staples – Somebody Was Watching
Moon King – Roswell
Caught On Tape – Full Bleed
Oscar – Daffodil Days
EULA – Noose
Inventions – Springworlds
Dirty Dishes – Guilty
Johanna Warren – True Colors
Happyness – Don’t Know Why (Norah Jones)
JEFF The Brotherhood – Coat Check Girl
Johnny Marr – Struck
Leapling – N.E.R.V.E.
The Juliana Hatfield Three – Ordinary Guy
Tyler Ditter – Echo Off the World
Fruit Bomb – Normcore Girlfriend
Dorthia Cottrell – Kneeler
In Tall Buildings – Unmistakable
Kind of Like Spitting – Stress Cadet
Fort Lean – I Don’t Mind
Native Lights – Black Wall Street
Wire – Joust & Jostle
Marika Hackman – Monday Afternoon
Football, etc. – Sunday
Sammy Kay – Highs and Lows
Wolf Solent – Hold On
Solvey – Solvey
All Boy/All Girl – Glitters
Threading – Ember
Lucern Raze – Someone Like You
Pelican Movement – Light Like Before
Carmen Villain – Quietly
Ghastly Menace – Real Life
Irontom – In the Day and the Dark
Sun Hotel – After Peggy Tells Her Parents They Never Had Any Trouble In Their Relationship
Wand – Self Hypnosis in 3 Days
Quarterbacks – Night Changes (One Direction cover)
Lost Boy ? – Love You Only
Broken Water – High-Lo