Heartbreaking Bravery

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Tag: No History

Watch This: Vol. 141

This past week was brimming with exceptional live clips from artists like Happy Diving, Puppy Problems, Wolf Parade, Eros and the Eschaton, Grape Whales, Islands, The Tallest Man On Earth, Matthew Logan Vasquez, Oscar, Villagers, Clique, July Talk, Lisa Hannigan, Whitney, Rogue Valley, Woven In, Mudhoney, Helms Alee, Aidan Knight, Waterstrider, and The Staves. While all of those are worth studying for both the central performances and the way those performances were captured, the five clips featured below managed to become standouts for excelling in those departments. From old favorites to new faces, from legitimate live music video entries to full sessions, from cathartic release to sorrowful introspection, there’s a lot to navigate in these selections. So, as always, sit up, lean in, adjust the settings, focus, block out any distractions, and Watch This.

1. Mitski – First Love / Late Spring + Your Best American Girl (World Cafe)

Ever since Mitski‘s breakout release, Bury Me At Makeout Creek, the songwriter has been a staple of this site’s coverage. The project’s been outstanding both on record and in the live department. Mitski recently stopped by World Cafe to play through the fiery “Your Best American Girl“, easily one of this year’s brightest moments, and “First Love / Late Spring” with the calm confidence that’s propelled the songwriter to widespread acclaim. It’s a welcome reminder of a powerful performer and a beautiful document of the current era of the project.

2. Kevin Devine – No History

Kevin Devine has a storied history of spellbinding performances so it’s no surprise that the songwriter’s continued to sporadically show up in this series. Devine can be an electrifying performer when backed with a full, electric band but there’s a certain magic to his solo acoustic performances that’s only grown more pronounced with this time. “No History” capitalizes on that magic in full, standing confidently as both a gorgeously lensed live clip and — impressively — as bona fide music video.

3. XURS (KEXP)

A new name to this site, XURS recently had somewhat of a coming out party in the KEXP studios, delivering a blistering session of unapologetic noise/punk. Every song the band tears through in this session is absolutely vicious and delivered with enough conviction to knock most other bands flat. Wildly frantic and more than a little exhilarating, the band make the absolute most of a solid opportunity and the end effect seems set to resonate for quite some time.

4. Big Thief (NPR)

Big Thief very quickly became a distinctive part of this site’s identity thanks to the overwhelming strength of this year’s Masterpiece. “Paul“, the title track, and “Lorraine” all get performed here for NPR’s Tiny Desk Concerts series to a small, hushed crowd. The band’s a perfect fit for the series and the setting allows the sweeping, open-road atmospherics that’s a specialty of the band a little extra room to breathe, casting a spell that’s nothing short of entrancing.

5. Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds – I Need You

Only a few installments back, Nick Cave was granted an unforgettable entry in this series thanks to the harrowing clip for “Jesus Alone“, a gorgeous excerpt from the shattering Andrew Dominik documentary One More Time With Feeling. Like “Jesus Alone”, “I Need You” is a clip that’s both haunted and haunting, an examination of an artist going through unspeakable loss. Even these six minutes, isolated from the context of the film and the record, are a wrenching experience. Cave, now more than ever, looks like a ghost attempting to navigate a reality that shouldn’t exist. Deeply sorrowful and intensely moving, “I Need You” is an artful tragedy that’s impossible to shake.

À La Mode – Total Doom (Stream)

a la mode

Tuesday saw the release of a slew of notable streams from Francie Moon, Cross Country, Left & Right, Kevin Devine, Curse of Lono, Sighs, Springtime Carnivore, Wovenhand, Avid Dancer, Communions, Peeling, Slow Mass, Bellows, Savoy Motel, and Dangers. In addition to that bounty, there were some strong music videos arriving from the likes of Adir L.C., Dust From 1000 Yrs, Bunny, Sam Evian, Joan Shelley, and Minden. A pair of excellent full streams in Sex Stains‘ self-titled and Skyjelly‘s package product were just the cherry on top.

While many of those acts have earned praise from this site in the past, today’s feature — once again — falls to a group of fresh faces. À La Mode only have one self-titled EP to their name but are prepared to change that in the very near future. Following their 2014 self-titled effort, the band’s made some enormous strides forward and arrive completely revitalized with the first single, “Total Doom”, from their forthcoming debut full-length, Perfection Salad.

Opening with an electronic, dance-ready beat turns out to be somewhat of a misdirect with the band throwing their weight into a more traditional setup after the introduction. At no point does the band lose the sense of fun it established at the top, though, and when the synth returns for the chorus it gives a remarkably bleak sentiment an abundance of life. Longing is a well-worn topic but what makes it a continuing source of fascination is that it can be tailored to match their author’s individuality. Here, chronic unrequited longing is given a bedfellow in all-consuming doom.

The dichotomy of vibrancy and gloom is crucial to the track’s success and helps “Total Doom” become an immediate standout. Exceptionally clever songwriting can go a long way in securing longevity and À La Mode offer it in excess for a little over two minutes. From those deceptive opening bars to the damaged, weirdly triumphant closing moments, “Total Doom” is nothing less than an exhilarating breath of fresh air.

Easily one of the most pleasant surprises of recent memory, À La Mode have set an extraordinarily high bar for their upcoming record. If that record comes anywhere close to achieving the peaks they do on “Total Doom”, they’ll have one of 2016’s most inspired records. In any respect, they’ll be a band to watch as the year goes forward. Until then, the best thing to do is to celebrate the overwhelming strength of “Total Doom” and give in to its considerable charm.

Listen to “Total Doom” below and keep an eye on this site for more updates on Perfection Salad.