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Tag: Minor Victories

16 of ’16: The Best Albums of the Year

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At long last, we arrive at the end of the 2016 lists with this reflection of the year’s best albums. A lot of criteria need to be met for a record to make this list, for example: a record can’t be primarily composed of reworks of older material (this is the reason Talons’ sublime “Driving Home From Shows” didn’t make the songs list). To be eligible for a featured slot on this list, the record also can’t come from a clearly-established artist, which is the only reason Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds’ Skeleton Tree is being excluded. The Radioheads and David Bowies of the music world all received more than enough positive press and this site has always aimed to give an additional leg up to emerging or unknown artists.

With all of that said, 2016 was an exceptional — and exceptionally diverse — year for music provided you knew where to look. As has been the case, no numerical assignments were given to the below selections. However, the field of titles was so abundantly strong that instead of merely selecting one Album of the Year, there are five. Those five records managed to stand out in an unbelievably exceptional year and picking one of the five to give a singular Album of the Year designation proved to be impossible. That being said, virtually all of the titles below are worth time, investment, and praise.

Once again, the majority of the embedded players belong to bandcamp so be mindful of where the records start (a small handful auto-start at odd points in the record). There’s a fairly wide-ranging display of music to be found below so dive on in and go exploring. Enjoy the list and stay tuned for the third edition of A Year’s Worth of Memories.

Bent Shapes – Wolves of Want

After a string of promising releases, Bent Shapes hit new heights with the galvanizing Wolves of Want, a pitch-perfect basement pop record teeming with memorable hooks. A lovingly crafted work, Wolves of Want finds the band hitting an eyebrow-raising stride and cranking out a formidable batch of songs good enough to grace any mixtape.

Crying – Beyond the Fleeting Gales

One of the most unique and compelling releases of the year, Crying took a bold new step with the riveting Beyond the Fleeting Gales. Taking their early approach and gleefully exploding it into something barely-recognizable, Beyond the Fleeting Gales winds up as one of 2016’s most refreshing, exhilarating, and utterly singular listens.

Mitski – Puberty 2

Embracing the bruising, unforgiving introspection of the breakout Bury Me at Makeout Creek, site favorite Mitski returned with a powerful and acute examination of identity. An artistic leap forward, Puberty 2 saw Mitski wielding an expanded musical palette to arresting effect. Warm, moving, and accepting, it’s not difficult to see why it was one of the year’s most beloved records.

Parquet Courts – Human Performance

Parquet Courts records have made a habit of appearing on year-end lists since the band’s formation several years back. While, admittedly, those were solid records, they don’t come anywhere close to Human Performance, the band’s crowning achievement. The band shed their blood all over this record and it shows in every beautiful, cracked, messy, ramshackle moment.

Mannequin Pussy – Romantic

Another record on this list that saw a band make a staggering leap forward, Romantic was — by some distance — the most impressive work of Mannequin Pussy‘s burgeoning career. One of 2016’s most ferocious records, Romantic saw the band firing on all cylinders on levels that may have even surprised their most devoted fans. It’s a molotov cocktail of a record; hit play and get obliterated.

Big Thief – Masterpiece

One of the year’s most welcome surprises, Big Thief‘s Saddle Creek debut Masterpiece found the band conjuring up the open-road spirit that their label built its name peddling. Gorgeous songwriting, unavoidable emotional intensity, and a clear commitment to the material defined Masterpiece. When all was said and done, the record succeeded in living up to its ostensibly tongue-in-cheek title.

Swim Team – Swim Team

One of the strongest records to come out of Infinity Cat‘s cassette series, Swim Team‘s self-titled is a gamut run trough the punk sub-genres that have defined the past three decades. All of them are successful and infused with the kind of grit and determination that characterize great bands. It’s an unforgettable warning shot from a band that seems hell-bent on using the past to elevate the future.

Car Seat Headrest – Teens of Denial

Easily one of the year’s most celebrated releases, Teens of Denial earned every trickle of positive press that came its way. A landmark record from a project that could have withered under a massively-increased spotlight instead finds Car Seat Headrest operating on an entirely new level. Epics, ballads, and stormy punk numbers abound, illuminating one of 2016’s best coming-of-age stories in virtually any format.

Greys – Outer Heaven

2016 found Greys continuing to determinedly  push their boundaries outward and succeeding with the kind of wild abandon that defines their adrenaline-inducing live show. Outer Heaven was their biggest moment and saw the band effectively blend their delirious energy with a refined sense of atmosphere that enhanced already-great songs. An absolute triumph from one of today’s more fascinating acts.

Hovvdy – Taster

A remarkable, understated, near-flawless record, Hovvdy‘s Taster never received the recognition it was due. Front to back, there are no false moments on this record, only a series of unassuming grace notes that bind it into a gentle, spellbinding whole. Punk-informed bedroom pop, Taster is the product of meticulous dedication to craft and an enormous reserve of genuine feeling. It’s sincerity is a large part of its strength and its strength is overwhelming. Give it innumerable listens and the estimation it deserves.

John K. Samson – Winter Wheat

A painfully beautiful record, Winter Wheat marked the welcome return of John K. Samson. The former Weakerthans bandleader turned in another sorrowful, damaged collection of songs that contained enough glimmers of hope (apart from the devastating opener, which nearly made this year’s song’s list but was abandoned in favor of the record’s emotionally shattering closer) to make the impact even more severe. An atmospheric masterstroke from one of our greatest living songwriters, Winter Wheat is as comfortingly calm as it is completely unforgettable.

ALBUMS OF THE YEAR

Mo Troper – Beloved

In focusing on the dark corners while establishing that darkness wouldn’t exist without some lightness as well, Mo Troper winds up wearing a very tattered heart on his sleeve. While that heart may be showing a considerable amount of scars, it’s still valiantly beating. Pathos, gravitas, and an incredibly inviting structure all combine to make Beloved a must-own but it’s Mo Troper himself who makes this record a masterpiece.

Original feature review here.

PUP – The Dream Is Over

PUP‘s The Dream Is Over, the band’s jaw-dropping sophomore outing, was a release where nearly every song was considered for this year’s best songs list. In the end, the record proved so uniformly excellent across the board that it became literally impossible to define a standout. This is as a complete a punk record that anyone will be likely to hear for a very long time. Narrative focus, overall consistency, composition, conviction, production, sequencing, pacing… in every conceivable aspect, PUP absolutely demolished what were already ridiculously high expectations. One of the most defiant, triumphant releases in recent memory, The Dream Is Over was the shock to the system that the punk genre has sorely needed for years. Unbelievably consistent and weirdly empowering, PUP were able to put their name on one of the most vital records of 2016.

Doe – Some Things Last Longer Than You

Meticulously composed and teeming with unchecked aggression and greater meaning, Doe have offered up something that’s impossible to ignore. At every corner, there’s a breathtaking moment that continuously heightens the overabundance of impact present in Some Things Last Longer Than You. Whether the listener tethers themselves to the record’s multi-tiered narrative functions or to the artistry present in the composition, they’ll walk away contemplating its awe-inspiring depth. In short: Some Things Last Longer Than You isn’t just one of the year’s best records, it’s a full-blown masterpiece.

Original feature review here.

Weaves – Weaves

It’s not just that no one does what Weaves are doing as well as they do, it’s that no one else is even making an attempt. Should Weaves inspire some attempts at this particular eclectic blend of songwriting styles, genres, and cornerstones, this record will retain — and most likely remain in — a position as the gold standard. Grab onto something close and hold on tightly because Weaves is an unpredictable, exhilarating, and ultimately deeply satisfying thrill ride that knows no borders or boundaries. Greet it with an anxious smile and give in to its myriad charms.

Original feature review here.

LVL UP – Return to Love

All told, Return to Love is a document of a band determined to continuously better themselves, a new career high, and a bona fide statement release from one of this generation’s most consistently exciting acts. It’s a series of sustained, connected grace notes that never wavers, even as it openly acknowledges it doesn’t have all of the answers. Not a single second of its run time is wasted and each of the songs are memorable for a wildly varying list of reasons. LVL UP aren’t the type of band to be dissuaded from taking action by a daunting challenge and Return to Love is an assured, steadfast piece of proof.

To put it as succinctly as possible: it’s a masterpiece.

Original feature review here.

Nine more worth hearing:

Tancred – Out of the Garden
Pinegrove – Cardinal
Oh Boland – Spilt Milk
Dark Thoughts – Dark Thoughts
Eluvium – False Readings On
Told Slant – Going By
Mothers – When You Walk A Long Distance You Are Tired
Jean-Michael Blais – II
Minor Victories – Minor Victories

Other honorable mentions:

Frankie Cosmos – Next Thing | Yucky Duster – Yucky Duster | Vanity – Don’t Be Shy | Kane Strang – Blue Cheese | Steve Adamyk Band – Graceland | Lydia Loveless – Real | Touché Amoré – Stage Four | Margaret Glaspy – Emotions and Math | Jeff – Rosenstock – WORRY. | Lucy Dacus – No Burden | Summer Cannibals – Full Of ItNopes – Never Heard Of It | Florist – The Birds Outside Sang | Susan – Never Enough | Abi Reimold – Wriggling | Mal Devisa – Kiid | Julianna Barwick – Will | Mutual Benefit – Skip A Sinking Stone | Big Ups – Before A Million Universes | Diarrhea Planet – Turn To Gold | Japanese Breakfast – Psychopomp | AJJ – The Bible 2 | Angel Olsen – My Woman | Drive-By Truckers – American Band | Charles Bradley – Changes

16 of ’16: The Best Music Videos of the Year

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It’s been a while since anything’s run on this site but, as always, everything that’s being put on the table is being assessed and evaluated. A Year’s Worth of Memories‘ third edition is just around the corner but before those recollections begin, it only seems fair to take a look back at the best of what 2016 had to offer. This will be the first year where a numerical rankings system is abandoned, a decision that wasn’t made lightly but is being enforced for a variety of reasons specific to this over-stuffed year (meaning that the numerical rankings system may appear again roughly 12 months from now).

For whatever reason, music videos are largely viewed by the general public as having fallen out of favor, which is a genuine shame considering what’s being done with the form. Lemonade seemed to revive some interest and open up potential possibilities for the future but it’s still a format that the public’s left by the wayside. Here at Heartbreaking Bravery, the best of these have been traditionally celebrated because they represent the perfect marriage of music and film. 2016 presented a whole new slate of incredible material, headlined by an unbelievable string of videos from Minor Victories and PUP, that were worth praising.

Here are 16 of the best clips to have appeared throughout the year.

Kevin Morby – Dorothy

Christopher Good has directed a handful of videos that have been featured on this site over the years but may have turned in a career best with Kevin Morby’s “Dorothy“. Embracing Morby’s open road aesthetics, Good allows “Dorothy” to gracefully coast along at a breezy pace, infusing it with an inordinate amount of perfect cues and tongue-in-cheek humor. It’s sublime craftsmanship that not only complements but elevates its already-great source material.

Courtney Barnett – Elevator Operator

After cracking last year’s music video list with the jaw-dropping clip for “Kim’s Caravan”, Courtney Barnett makes another appearance thanks to the fascinating, cameo-heavy video for “Elevator Operator“. Blending Barnett’s signature wit with a staggering moment of quiet existentialism that arrives out of nowhere, “Elevator Operator” sees the celebrated songwriter aiming for new heights and reaching a stratospheric level.

John K. Samson – Postdoc Blues

Former Weakerthans bandleader John K. Samson made an incredibly welcome return with 2016’s outstanding Winter Wheat. One of that record’s highlights, “Postdoc Blues“, received the music video treatment and is the rare clip that benefits from an incredibly direct and literal simplicity. Created for a good cause and executed to a characteristically unassuming brand of perfection, “Postdoc Blues” is a breath of fresh air.

Parquet Courts – Human Performance

No music video from 2016 proved to be more grotesquely haunting than Parquet Courts‘ oddly disturbed, puppet-driven clip for “Human Performance“. It’s intensely human, ridiculously unnerving, and extremely hard to shake. “Human Performance” props up its own ugliness in an effectively defiant act of genuinely brave showmanship. A singular piece from a fascinating directorial voice, “Human Performance” wound up as one of 2016’s most fascinating moments.

Cymbals Eat Guitars – 4th of July, Philadelphia (SANDY)

Easily one of 2016’s best songs, Cymbals Eat Guitars‘ “4th of July, Philadelphia (SANDY)” also served as one of the year’s best music videos. Shot through with nostalgia and an abundance of feeling, “4th of July, Philadelphia (SANDY)” managed the impossible task of both referencing an indisputable classic and standing on its own. A perfect marriage of lyric video and traditional music video, Cymbals Eat Guitars may have created something bordering on timeless.

LVL UP – The Closing Door

The first major music video effort from LVL UP came courtesy of House of Nod, who were given the unenviable task of capturing the searing spiritual search present all throughout the band’s latest effort, Return to Love, and turned in an absolute gem. “The Closing Door” relies heavily on imagery and metaphor but never seems anything less than grounded. “The Closing Door” climaxes in a beautiful final sequence that’s moving, hopeful, and reassuring, three things that become sorely necessary in a difficult year.

Potty Mouth – Smash Hit

There are a lot of ways a music video can achieve greatness, whether it be through breathtaking visuals, inspired direction, a memorable concept, by complementing the song, or, in the case of Potty Mouth‘s “Smash Hit“, being astonishingly representative of the band.  An effective mix of glitz, glamour, and grit, “Smash Hit” finds the trio vamping for the cameras and giving a tenacious central performance. It’s an exhilarating burst from a band that’s attained an assured confidence.

Vagabon – The Embers

“The Embers” served as site favorites Vagabon‘s introduction-at-large for a sizable audience and it’s one hell of an introduction. Utilizing a visual style that’s not too distant from Destin Daniel Cretton’s Short Term 12 (one of the best films of this young century), “The Embers” is immediately gripping. The empowering, symbolism-heavy narrative is as striking as the imagery and all of it clicks into something that verges on the transcendental. In short: it’s unmissable.

Japanese Breakfast – Everybody Wants to Love You

Another clip from the inimitable House of Nod, Japanese Breakfast‘s “Everybody Wants to Love You” popped up on many of these year-end music video lists and it’s incredibly easy to see why. A celebration of heritage and individuality as well as a moving tribute to a deceased parent, “Everybody Wants to Love You” is loaded with sincerity and meaning. Vibrant with the faintest touch of melancholy, it’s an unforgettable demonstration of personal strength and unerring resolve.

Dilly Dally – Snakehead

Likely the funniest music video to be released in 2016, Dilly Dally‘s “Snakehead” music video skewers its own format at every turn, while clearly being a meticulously crafted clip born out of a deep love and understanding of music videos. Biting captions, self-aware performances, and contextual knowledge make “Snakehead” obscenely endearing and skyrocket its worth in the process. Pointed, snarky, and a hell of a lot of fun, “Snakehead” is nothing less than a knockout.

PWR BTTM – West Texas

2016 was a very kind year for PWR BTTM and one of the duo’s opening shots was the sweeping music video for “West Texas”. Epic in scope and unapologetic in its cinematic debt, “West Texas” is a swaggering blast of bravado that touches on just about everything that’s made PWR BTTM so beloved in such a short amount of time. The identity politics, the showmanship, the willingness to be subversive, and the ability to string everything together with fiendishly sly, self-aware humor.

Hazel English – Never Going Home

Hazel English delivered one of the year’s best EP’s with the exceedingly lovely Never Going Home, which boasted a title track that received an absolutely gorgeous visual accompaniment. While the lyric video for “I’m Fine“, the studio clip for “It’s Not Real“, and the clip for “Control” all merited individual consideration for this list, it was the soft lensing and natural, delicate charm of “Never Going Home” that made the deepest impression. It casts a spell that’s worthy of a complete surrender.

Mitski – Happy

Part of a trio of impressive Mitski clips (including “Your Best American Girl” and “A Burning Hill“), “Happy” packed a powerful enough punch to secure the spot on this list. Paying homage to heritage, race relations, historical tension, military occupation, and a bevvy of classic films,  Maegan Houang brings a fiery directorial touch to an outstanding concept and executes with staggering purpose. By the time “Happy” winds to an end, it’s difficult to wish for anything other than an expansion into a feature length film.

Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds – Trio

While Angel Olsen, The Avalanches, and DJ Shadow (ft. Run the Jewels) were among some of the bigger names making genuinely outstanding music videos, what filmmaker Andrew Dominik accomplished with his clips of Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds playing a trio of clips (“I Need You“, “Jesus Alone“, and “Girl In Amber“) from the band’s shattering Skeleton Tree simply can’t be ignored. This is both performance and performance filmmaking of the highest possible level.

Minor Victories – Cogs (Orchestral Variation)

Only one band could rival what Minor Victories achieved in the music video format in 2016 (but we’ll get to that band in a moment). Minor Victories aggressively established an arresting visual aesthetic and turned in an incredible number of clips that could have very easily wound up in this spot. “Cogs“, “Folk Arp“, “Scattered Ashes (Song for Richard)“, “A Hundred Ropes“, “Breaking My Light“, and “Give Up the Ghost (Orchestral Variation)” were all gripping in various ways, making the most of crisp black-and-white cinematography. Their finest moment, however, came with the release of “Cogs (Orchestral Variation)“, an expansive, intimate character study and the band’s most ambitious offering to date. It’s harrowing, it’s riveting, and it’s easily one of the best clips of 2016.

MUSIC VIDEO OF THE YEAR

PUP – Sleep in the Heat

In 2013, PUP‘s “Reservoir” topped the year-end music video list I contributed to PopMatters. In 2014, PUP’s “Guilt Trip” topped this site’s very first year-end music videos list. In 2015, PUP managed to crack the year-end music video list once again with “Dark Days“. This year, the band continued an unprecedented run of dominance in the format with no less than three legitimate year-end contenders, each wildly different from the other.

From the playful, game-happy lyric clip for “DVP” to the relentless shock-and-awe brutality of the terrifyingly-named “If This Tour Doesn’t Kill You, I Will“, the band was firing on all cylinders. Still, none of that could’ve been adequate preparation for what they and director Jeremy Schaulin-Rioux achieved with “Sleep in the Heat”, a successor to “Guilt Trip” that came several years after filming on “Guilt Trip” wrapped- and after “Guilt Trip” star Finn Wolfhard landed another lucrative starring role in Netflix’s Stranger Things.

Just as “If This Tour Doesn’t Kill You, I Will” intercut footage of “Reservoir” to establish a sense of history to ground its narrative and supply additional meaning, “Sleep in the Heat” opens with the startlingly vivid footage of its natural predecessor. The actors that were assembled in “Guilt Trip” resume their posts as stand-in’s for PUP’s members in their earlier days and each of them — particularly Wolfhard, who turns in what’s easily the best work of his burgeoning career in this clip — give committed performances.

Taking on the role of a scrappy touring band, the young cast find themselves navigating the frequently dire circumstances that are all too familiar to anyone that’s ever hopped in a van to drive four hours to play a show in a basement to five people. There’s a sense of lived-in realism that bolsters everything in the clip, which seeps in from the onset and never relinquishes its hold. Early on, “Sleep in the Heat” takes a curious turn when a stray dog takes a shining to the band’s food and follows them to their next brief stop, endearing itself to the band to the point where they bring it on board as a rescue.

Here’s where the narrative crux of “Sleep in the Heat” — a song written about guitarist/vocalist Stefan Babcock’s deceased chameleon — begins to sink in and all anyone can do is prepare for devastation. Not too long after that sudden, sinking realization, things in the video begin to get bleak. The dog gets sick and needs a surgical procedure, unable to cover the expense, Wolfhard (as the young Babcock) pawns a guitar mid-tour to provide for the animal that’s quickly become a new best friend. The surgery goes forward but it isn’t enough.

In one of the most emotionally shattering music video montages of recent memory, the band members of PUP are photographed holding their own deceased pets, lending a heartbreaking reality to an already emotionally charged clip. Several stages of the process of dealing with death all collide at once and it’s a forceful, resonant moment that immediately registers as singular.

As brilliant as that moment is, it’s not until the final passage where everything’s really driven home. Wolfhard’s back to the front of the band, guitar slung across his body once more (a perfect shot revealing he’d broken through the pawn shop glass to steal it back is just one of many grace notes scattered throughout the clip), looking delirious, hollow, and broken as footage of the wounded dog being tended to is intercut with Wolfhard overcome with emotion while screaming the song’s final chorus: Yesterday I went back to my apartment to see how you’d been holding up, you hadn’t been eating, I thought you were sleeping but you’re not waking up. I want you to know that I’d spend every bit of my pitiful savings and loans just to see you again… but I know I won’t.

The screen fades to black and resumes after a brief pause only to reveal rocks being piled on top of a freshly-dug patch of dirt. The camera pulls back and reveals one word, spray painted on the rock pile’s surface: PUP. Another pause and another cut to black occurs before “Sleep in the Heat” offers one final nod to its prequel and closes with a shot of the van moving forward down an open road, looking ahead to new triumphs, heartbreak, and everything else life has to offer. 

Watch This: Six Weeks of Honorable Mentions

Six weeks is a long time to go without running a Watch This and the 50 selections that ran in the 150th installment (the preceding post) barely scratched the surface. To get deeper into the extraordinary wealth of material worth exploring, a sequel of sorts seemed necessary. There’s absolutely no way that a single person is going to watch everything listed below but each link is genuinely exceptional and deserved to be featured. Whether they were part of a series, a great capture, a great performance, or notable for another reason, they’re all linked for a reason. So, bookmark the page and explore at will. Stop waiting and Watch This.

Middle Kids, Big Thief (x2), Nada Surf, Weaves, Dude York (x2), Kodakrome, Okkervil River (x2, 3), Ariana Brophy, Tokyo Police Club, Kishi Bashi, The Peekaboos, Gauntly, Title Tracks, SuperGlu, Journalism, School Damage, Julia Jacklin (x2), Dinosaur Jr. (x2), Hype, Loney Dear, Free Cake For Every Creature, Lever,  Midnight Faces, Jackie Islands, Mr. Ma’am, The Shelters, Tara Terra (x2), The Lemon Twigs, Boxed In, James Vincent McMorrow, Diet Cig, Alright Panther, Slothrust (x2), Weyes Blood, Slow Down Molasses.

SuunsJFDR, Kuroma, Young In The City, Justin Peter Kinkel-Schuster, Post Child, Suburban Living, MOM, Big Jesus, The Thermals, Minor Victories, Tectonics, Adia Victoria (x2), Disorder Kid, Shadowhouse, Tobacco, Holly Lovell, Out the Car Window, Vaginaboys, Parquet Courts (x2), Fossette, Mount Kimbie, Keaton Henson & Lisa Hannigan, Loch Lomond, BADBADNOTGOOD, PLANEADOR, Dinowalrus, Spruce Trap, Golden Suits, Giorgieness, Golden Suits, Joe Bordenaro, Ages And Ages, Lucy Dacus.

Lina TullgrenPatsy’s Rats, Belle Mare, Julien Baker, Pipeline, Gymshorts, David Bazan, The Woolen Men, Moderat, Allah-Las, Mean Jeans, Smoking Popes, Baba Dochia, Bobby Rush, Honey Bucket, Blanket Party, Nassau, Moondle, Conor Oberst (x2, 3), Dulce Y Agraz, Annabel, Talune, RY X, Ira Wolf, Day Wave, Oxymorons, Ess See, Bigjoy, Racing Heart, Richard Maule, Joe Bel, Dirty Laundry, Purling Hiss, Cory Kilgannon, Menacerno, The Roalde Dahls, Huey P, Haathi, Bad Cop/Bad Cop (x2), Cold Mountain ChildSóley.

MidijoyfulBlack EyesAttacca Quartet, Sims (x2), Gates, Evan Opitz, Sea Inside, Josh Pyke, Lyerr, Nature & Madness, Alma Forrer, Warpaint, Corbu, Dr. Martino, Male Gaze, Jack Garratt, Eros and the Eschaton, Marin Patenaude, Andreas Mattsson, Whitney, Hiss Golden Messenger (v), Matthew McNeal, Margo Price, The Minders, Zebra, Absolutely Not, Henry Bateman, Zen Mother, Royal Canoe, Love, The Twains, Shannen Moser, Billie Marten, Scott Matthews, Andy Place and The CoolheadsSignal To Noise.

Leisure Club, B00tyJoe Chunk, Pearl Earl, Drift Mouth, The Britanys, Miossec, Lisa Prank (x2), The Secret Sisters, Lost Walks, Smokey Brights, TTNG, Yori Swart, Hartford/FochtJesca Hoop, Moon Hooch, Aaron Lee Tasjan (x2), Ryley WalkerEstá Vivo, Alejandro Escovedo (x2), Lisa Hannigan, Lobo Marino, The Lavender Flu, MRCH, Divers, Pale Tongue, Floating Points, Deathsticks, Prettiest Eyes, Bat For Lashes, The Stops, Campo-Formio, Jessica Martins, Berriloom, Them Dead Poets, Looms.

Down GownAndrew Leahey & The Homestead, Vice Device, The Growlers, Digable Planets, Jack Grelle, Abhi Tambe, Spazzare, SUSTO, Lilah Larson, Shlomo Franklin, Ivy Meissner (ft. Uncivilized), Sex Crime, Chris JamesThe War On Peace (x2), Mohit Mukhi, Sanguine and Shiny, Dirty Fences, Band of Horses, Merynn Jean, Tom Stephens, Red Dons, The Domestics, The Saturday Giant, Public Eye, Pantomime, The Minus 5, Violetta Zironi, EYE, Laura Sjin, Black Bear Rodeo, Nacho Picasso, Old Fashioned Lover Boy.

Lithics, Hunt Hunt Hunt Camp, Robert Ellis, Wizard Rifle, Holy SonsAkın Sevgör, Ofelia Ofelia, Animal Spirit, Daniela Andrade, Rae Spoon, Dead Snow Monster, Magnetic Ghost, Zimmerman, Murder By Death, Steve Gunn, First Pet, The Malady of Sevendials, Liset Alea, VLNY, Oracle Room, Sky Village, Riley Pinkerton, Ricky Roosevelt, Sahil Bahl, Tall Juan, Alexandra Savior, Lisa Crawley, Youthpool, Gia Margaret, Battleme, Oathbreaker, SOBI, Eric Burton, Arkells, SALESSarah De Warren and Drive-By Truckers.

Minor Victories – Cogs (Orchestral Version) (Music Video)

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EDITOR’S NOTE: This series of posts reflects back on some of the best material to be released over the past few weeks. Each post with this heading is a part of this series. After this series has concluded regular coverage will resume.

No band this year has managed to string together a run of music videos more astonishing than Minor Victories. “Cogs” and “Folk Arp” both earned featured slots on this site while “Scattered Ashes (Song for Richard)” and “A Hundred Ropes” both appeared in collective round-ups that covered two specific stretches of time. All four of those clips came laced with an electrifying intensity that the band presented in different ways.

“Cogs”, arguably, was the most effective in establishing that intensity, tracking a man fleeing a hooded figure wielding a rifle in a patch of woods. Tension-fueled and riveting beyond measure, the prospect of a follow-up act would’ve been daunting in the hands of less capable filmmakers. In “Cogs (Orchestral Version)”, the concept present in “Cogs” is flipped on its head, as the narrative focal point becomes a murderer coming to grips with his actions.

“Cogs (Orchestral Version)” is part of an upcoming record entitled Orchestral Variations that presents orchestral interpretations of the songs on the band’s impressive self-titled debut. The conceit that lays the foundation for the record taps into an emotive core that winds up emboldening the visuals of “Cogs (Orchestral Version)”, which is the most expansive of the band’s videos to date.

There’s a bleak, daunting story that’s painted in several exquisitely lensed black-and-white frames, capitalizing on the band’s penchant for vivid imagery and meticulous detail. Virtually every shot in “Cogs (Orchestral Version)” is gorgeous and the pain present in the central character becomes increasingly unbearable as the clip asks us to examine, scrutinize, and even empathize with a monster. It’s absorbing, disturbing, and shockingly effective. It’s also one of the best music videos of the year.

Watch “Cogs (Orchestral Version)” below and keep an eye on this site for more information regarding Orchestral Variations.

Watch This: Vol. 135

In just a little over two weeks an insane amount of quality live videos have emerged, featuring the following artists: Ezra Furman, Woods, Day Wave, Joy Again, You Won’t, Kevin Morby, Acapulco Lips, Sonya Kitchell, Houndmouth, Queen of Jeans (x2), Christian Lee Hutson, Terry, John Congleton and the Nighty Nite, Mothers, Robb Young and the Elms, Marc Ribot’s Ceramic Dog, Kalispell (x2), Fear of MenOsekre & The Lucky Bastards, FitsEmily Blue, Henrietta, Adia Victoria, Ubetcha, The Staves (x2), Arc Flash, Michael Nau, Bewilder, The Jayhawks, Slingshot Dakota (x2), Whitney, Vagabon, Quilt, LAYNE, Rye Pines, Minor Victories, Allah-Las, Esme Patterson (x2, 3), Midijoyful, Secret Space, The Mono Jacks, A Dead Forest Index, Explosions in the Sky, Death Valley Girls, Half Waif, The Albert Square, Your Friend, Marlon Williams, Rogue Valley, Metronomy, Gregory Porter, Summer Twins (x2), Surgeons In Heat, Amy Klein, The Belvederes, Frameworks, Oddisee, CHILDREN, Doubles, Gwenno (x2), and Titus Andronicus.

Looking through all of those, it’s impossible to say that this is a bad time for live music (and for the documentation of live music). The overwhelming strength of that above list should indicate that this installment of Watch This will have some extraordinarily strong features. There’s some astonishing talent on display throughout the three full sessions and two individual clips listed below, which include one of the bands that was essential to the site’s foundation and a few fresh faces that have been turning all sorts of heads with their recent work. So, as always, push all the distractions aside, relax, lean in, and Watch This.

1. Tenement – Feral Cat Tribe + Lost Love Star Lust (Set List)

Anyone that’s frequented this site over the time of its existence has seen an unprecedented amount of praise granted to Tenement, a band that was instrumental in providing the building blocks for this site. Over nearly 10 years, I’ve had the surreal privilege of watching the trio develop to the point they’re at today (Rolling Stone recently named them one of the 10 great modern punk bands and the New York Times dedicated an entire podcast installment to the band last year). Here, the band gets to flash their live chops in a session for Wisconsin Public Radio’s Set List series, offering up an impressively powerful pair of tracks that only hint at the band’s astonishing scope.

2. Car Seat Headrest – Fill In The Blank (The Current)

After 2015’s Teens of Style generated quite a bit of momentum for Car Seat Headrest, the solo-project-turned-full-band capitalized on that surge of recognition emphatically with this year’s Teens of Denial. Landing several high-profile festival appearances as a result, the band’s grown gradually tighter over their past few tours. This performance of “Fill In The Blank” for The Current demonstrates that growth and nicely captures the band’s irrepressible drive.

3. PWR BTTM – West Texas + Serving Goffman (WFUV)

Like Tenement, PWR BTTM have become a towering presence in terms of this site’s coverage tendencies, something that came as a direct result of the band’s fiery live show. Here, the band turn in characteristically bold performances of both “West Texas” and “Serving Goffman” for WFUV, perfectly summarized by the half-shocked, half-elated smile that Benjamin Hopkins throws the camera after some errant headphones threaten to momentarily overtake the song. There’s a genuine joy that exists in that moment which the duo have consistently brought to their shows, making them one of the finest live acts on the circuit.

4. Weaves – Human (Low Four)

Weaves have made a habit out of appearing on the Watch This series this year, thanks in large part to the release of their monumental self-titled debut. The quartet recently stopped by the Old Granada Studios to unleash a sharp burst of their hyper-spastic strain of punk-tinged basement pop by way of this inspired run through “Human”, offering a revealing glimpse at their members formidable chops. As fascinating as it is exhilarating, it’s a perfect example of what can be accomplished by thinking a little outside of the typical boundaries.

5. And The Kids – Kick Rocks + Picture (WFUV)

One of the bands that really started to make a push over the past year has been And The Kids, who have seized every opportunity they’ve been given with a startling amount of poise. WFUV recently had the band into their studio and the trio delivered in full, tearing through “Kick Rocks” and “Picture” in a way that likely left several of the studio members jaws agape. Complex and nuanced, the band flawlessly executes a series of hairpin turns, layered harmonies, and language shifts while throwing in a few sly smiles for good measure. It’s an unbelievably impressive performance and more than deserves to close out this edition of Watch This.

Minor Victories – Cogs (Music Video)

minor victories

Monday and Tuesday have all but come and gone, gifting us great new tracks from Young Jesus, The Regrettes, Purling Hiss, Drive-By Truckers, Sat. Nite Duets, Hoops, Cheena, Cass McCombs, Virgin of the Birds, Morgan Delt, The PoochesMutts, Tall Heights, and Indira Valey. Sweetening the deal were eye-catching music videos courtesy of Cara dal Forno, Boogarins, Numerators, AJJ, Slow Club, and Soto Voce. Rounding everything out was a surprisingly formidable slate of full streams belonging to artists like Stove, Dogbreth, Field Mouse, Good Morning TV, Russian Circles, Restorations, Super Defense, Soul Low, Daniel Kerr, Lungbutter, and Nato Coles & the Blue Diamond Band.

All of the above links contained strong material but none of those titles were as legitimately breathtaking as Minor Victories‘ latest music video, “Cogs”. The band’s been steadily revealing some of the most captivating music videos of 2016 by embracing the virtue of restraint. The best of those — the strangely moving clip for “Folk Arp” — saw them perfecting the art of the static shot, which had defined their prior two clips (“Breaking My Light” and “A Hundred Ropes“).

Following the conclusion of that static shot trilogy, the band’s turned their attention to motion. “Cogs”, which was released Monday, hinges on an exceptionally acute sense of fluidity. Presented once again through a crisp black and white, “Cogs” opens on a slow-panning shot of seemingly empty woods. Before long, a figure enters the frame at full sprint, though the video never wavers in its commitment to slow motion, unfolding at a pace that considerably heightens the tension. It’s an expertly staged trick, allowing the serenity of the setting to take on sinister undertones.

As “Cogs” goes through the motions, the central figure’s pulled tighter to the lens and some disconcerting imagery comes into play. The person assumed to be the protagonist of “Cogs” is a balding man, dressed in a hospital gown, whose movement grows more frantic and erratic with each step. It imbues “Cogs” with a sense of mystery that elevates the tension even further, prompting a series of questions that will go largely unanswered.

One of those question does find an answer at around the halfway mark as “Cogs” expertly stages the man’s exit from frame with the entrance of a figure in a poncho. Its imagery that echoes Yorgos Lanthimos’ The Lobster and winds up benefiting from the association. The similarities serve to expand the scope of the questioning surrounding the contained narrative of “Cogs”, while offering an outcome that similarly manages to become both definitive on a small scale and ambiguous on a much larger one.

Swirling around everything is the bruising maelstrom of “Cogs” itself, a barbed, punishing song that’s one of the band’s most tenacious offerings. Surging forward with a euphoric sense of clarity and purpose, “Cogs” injects its visual accompaniment with so much additional urgency that the clip feels as if its about to come to life. It’s a staggering accomplishment that’s utterly transfixing through every frame, from its unassuming opening to its startling grand finale. In short: it’s a masterpiece.

Watch “Cogs” below and pick up Minor Victories from Fat Possum here.

What A Difference A Month Makes (Music Videos)

In the past month, a lot’s happened on both sides of the coverage spectrum. A lot of sets were documented in that time and will be receiving some attention at some point down the line. A lot of full streams came out, even more songs were released, and quite a few music videos found their way out into the world as well. All three of those formats will have a list dedicated to them and then a slew of individual features will be posted celebrating a handful of exceptional titles. Below is a list of formidable music videos that made a powerful impression over the course of the last month. Take a breath, dive in, and go exploring. 

Mo Troper, Lion’s Den, Tiny Deaths, Tim Heidecker, Weaves, Amber Arcades, Night Idea, Steve Gunn, Littler, Bambara, Braids, Prism Tats, No Parents, Those Pretty Wrongs, Stan Simon & The Hotel Bible, Neil Michael Hagerty & The Howling HexRJD2, Crosss, James Supercave, Eric Bachmann, Tacocat, Julianna Barwick, Acapulco Lips, Conrad Keely, Programm, Lontalius, Clique, Martha, Wilder Adkins, The Spook School, Rozwell Kid, The Loom, Oscar, Bishop Briggs, Angel Du$t, Patience, Band of Horses, The fin., The Raveonettes, Secret Space, Pure Bathing Culture, Howardian, and GOAT.

Modern Baseball, Holy Fuck, Sturgill Simpson, Butch BastardMinor Victories, The Slovaks, The Coathangers, OMNI, Stove, Sløtface, Franky Flowers, Slim Twig, Kino Kimino, D Generation, Pony Time (ft. Lisa Prank), Beverly, Living Hour, Former Belle, Tancred, Mutts, Pet Sun, Teen Suicide, Krano, Your Friend, Dear Boy, The Stargazer Lilies, The Kills, The Loom, Aesop Rock, Cellar Doors, Xiu Xiu, Globelamp, TV Sets, and Eleanor Friedberger, and a surprisingly outstanding fan-shot video for Mike Krol’s “Less Than Together” (one of this site’s picks for Best Songs of 2015) as well as the trailer for Casket Girls’ The Night Machines.

Minor Victories – Folk Arp (Music Video)

minor victories

After an unbelievably stacked March saw the music video format take off at a sprint, April’s shaping up to be a beast as formidable as its predecessor. Just like the fixed stream posts that will be appearing throughout the rest of tonight, the music video features will all come equipped with shortlists of other titles worthy of attention. In this first round, that included videos from Kidsmoke, Molly, Solids, Journalism, The Bandicoots, The DronesSteady Holiday, Sundrones, Katie Von Schleicher, and Dreamcrusher. While, as stated, those clips were all great in their own right, it was Minor Victories’ most recent music video that made the strongest impression.

Minor Victories have been slowly stringing together an incredibly impressive run of music videos, each one establishing and enhancing a surprisingly artful visual aesthetic. “Folk Arp” returns to the static shot black & white presentation that made “A Hundred Ropes” so striking. However, the similarities between their presentation end at that point. Outdoor samurais are swapped out for a skeleton crew of employees working in a pizzeria. With a shot that uses a boombox as its centering point, “Folk Arp” allows itself to play out quietly, to tremendous effect.

Utilizing the simplest of premises, “Folk Arp” gradually involves into an emotionally involving character study. Accentuated by the slow-burning intensity of the song’s dynamic setup, the secondary action takes on a ridiculously powerful sheen that finds the band, once again, coaxing maximum effect out of a minimalist setup. As the employees go about their daily routine, the shot stays unchanged, proving that there can be motion in stillness. No matter how frequently patterns may seem stagnant, evolution — at least on the most minute level — is occurring. It’s the most mundane of details but “Folk Arp” seems to be arguing for its undeniable importance. A contained, nuanced work, “Folk Arp” deserves to be used as a reference point for years to come.

Watch “Folk Arp” below and pre-order the band’s self-titled ahead of its June 3 release from Fat Possum here.

2016: The First Two Months (Music Videos)

Saintseneca I
Saintseneca

Now that both the songs and the full streams have received the massive overhaul treatment in an effort to get this site caught up to the current releases, it’s time to turn to music videos. A few key videos will be featured over the next few days but that shouldn’t take away from the merits of the clips listed below, which number near 200. Whether it was an outstanding song, concept, or visual presentation, something made the below videos stand out from the endless array of clips that I saw since the turn of the year. Like the previous two posts, there’s absolutely no way that these can be consumed in one sitting. The best course of action would be to simply bookmark this page and explore it at random. Go cra

Tacocat – I Hate the Weekend || The I Don’t Cares – Whole Lotta Nothin’ || Carroll – Bad Water || Dogs On Acid – No Trigger || Go!Zilla – Pollution || Saintseneca – Sleeper Hold || Saul Williams – The Noise Came From Here || Husky Loops – Dead || Ex Head – Slowcoahces || Holy Pinto – Matches || Summer Flake – Shoot And Score || Phooey! – Wurld || Teleman – Düsseldorf || The Foxymorons – Spinning On A Needle || Fake Laugh – Mind Tricks || La Sera – High Notes || Bob Mould – Voices In My Head || Car Seat Headrest – Vincent || Yak – Victorious (National Anthem) || Pookie & the Poodlez – New Policy || Fraternal Twin – Boil || Beliefs – Swooner || Cate Le Bon – Wonderful || Big Thief – Masterpiece || Protomartyr – Dope Cloud || Teen Suicide – Alex || theMind – Mercury Rising || Ulrika Spacek – Strawberry Glue || Suede – Pale Snow || The Staves – Horizons

Eleanor Friedberger – Because I Asked You || Charles Bradley – Change for the World || together PANGEA – My Head Is On Too Tight || All Dogs – Sunday Morning || Abi Reimold – Vessel || Cayetana – freedom 1313 || Free Cake For Every Creature – For You || Mothers – No Crying In Baseball || Parquet Courts – Dust || Sea Ghost – Dog 69 || Minor Victories – A Hundred Ropes || Peach Kelli Pop – Heart Eyes || Lush – Out of Control || Kevin Morby – I Have Been to the Mountain || Show Me the Body – Body War || Neko Case – Man || White Wine – Where Is My Line? || Oscar – Sometimes || Spookyland – God’s Eyes || Teen Suicide – Alex || Frankie Cosmos – Is It Possible / Sleep Song || METZ – Eraser || KEN Mode – Absolutely Not || Glint – While You Sleep || LUH – I&I || Marlon Williams – Dark Child || Try the Pie – Root to Branch || Frøkedal – The Sign || Loop Line – Parts Unknown

Frankie Cosmos – Outside With the Cuties || Molly Drag – Rabbits || Beliefs – Leave With You || Phylums – Cold Coffee || Thao & The Get Down Stay Down – Astonished Man || Andy Ferro – Hood || WALL – Cuban Cigars || Mogwai – Ether || C Duncan – Say || Eleanor Friedberger – Sweetest Girl || Skylar Spence – I Can’t Be Your Superman || High Waisted – Party in the Back || Emilie & Ogden – Ten Thousand || Cigarette – Housewife || Vukovar – The Blood Garden || Pill Friends – Bleed || Wussy – Dropping Houses || Kelsey Lu – Morning After Coffee || Beverly – Victoria || Kathryn Joseph – The Outtakes || Ty Segall – Emotional Mugger || Reuben Hollebon – Common Table || Francis – Turning A Hand || Youth Lagoon – Rotten Human || Bleached – Keep On Keepin’ On || The Besnard Lakes – The Plain Moon || Monogold – Orchard Beach || A Giant Dog – Sex & Drugs

Andy Ferr0 – Sugar and Milk || Whitney – No Woman || Cherry – Alligators || Witching Waves – The Threat || Matthew Logan Vasquez – Everything I Do Is Out || TEEN – Free Time || FIDLAR – Why Generation || The Pains of Being Pure at Heart – Hell || Mount Moriah – Baby Blue || Death Index – FUP || Dan Rico – Soft Feeling || Red Pill – 90s Money || Sun Seeker – Georgia Dust || Mass Gothic – Every Night You’ve Got To Save Me || Steve Mason – Planet Sizes || Holy Fever – Find Your Fame || Nocando – Last Man Standing || Memory Rounds – Everywhere Near || Nicholas Krgovich – Sunset Tower || Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy – When Thy Song Flows Through Me || Foals – Birch Tree || Moderat – Reminder || Computer Magic – Fuzz || South of France – Washed Up || Cavern of Anti Matter (ft. Bradford Cox) – Liquid Gate || Vandaveer – A Little Time Off Ahead || Hobosexual – Illegal Sensations

Andy Ferro – Crystal Tongue || Death Index – Little ‘N’ Pretty || Eddi Front – Prayer || Field Division – Modest Mountains || Sheer Mag – Nobody’s Baby || Aesop Rock – Rings || Childbirth – Breast Coast || Sparrows Gate – Ghost Blue || Roo Panes – Where I Want To Go || Rolling Blackouts C.F. – Wither With You || M. Ward – Girl From Conejo Valley || Beirut – Perth || Night Moves – Denise, Don’t Wanna See You Cry || Step Sisters – Dumb Love || O’Brother – Deconstruct || Museyroom – Ballad || Mind the Journey – Rose Colored Glasses || Giant Sand – Texting Feist || Mount Moriah – Precita || Wood Lake – Easy Love || Mossy – Electric Chair || River Tiber – No Talk || Let’s Eat Grandma – Deep Six Textbook || Automagik – Fucked Up || The Weather Station – Floodsplain || Hero Fisher – Breathe || Lionlimb – Domino || Girl Pants – Jupiter || The Range – Five Four

Fruit Bomb – Happy || Lushlife + CSLSX – The Waking World ft. I Break Horses || Candace – New Future || The Big Ship – Maybe I Don’t Know || Migrant Kids – Thread || Weezer – L.A. Girlz || Tim Woulfe – Riptide || Mercury Rev – Coming Up for Air || Spencer Radcliffe – Relief || Doe Paoro – The Wind || Photo Ops – Memories That Glow || Bill Eberle – When You’re Gone || Anya Marina – Gimme Resurrection || Kendrick Lamar – God Is Gangsta || The Manor – Don’t Like Going Places || Pale Dian – In A Day || Frightened Rabbit – Get Out || Shearwater – Quiet Americans || You Won’t – Ya Ya Ya || Muncie Girls – Respect || Otherwhile – Haunt You || Flying Lotus – FUCKKKYOUUU || Low Cut High Tops – Raise Hell || Ben Watt – Between Two Fires || Melaena Cadiz – At the Symphony || Mike Benecke – Astral Line