Heartbreaking Bravery

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Tag: No Matter Where We Go

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.

Told Slant – High Dirge (Stream)

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Today unearthed great songs from angelic milk, Heaven For Real, Mourn, Lion’s Den, TSP, Kwesi Foraes, notable videos from The Virginmarys (who almost earned this post’s feature spot by virtue of their clip’s sheer honesty), Whitney, Ty Segall, Mothers, Oh Pep!, and a genuine Album of the Year candidate in Attic Abasement‘s Dream News. It also brought Told Slant‘s breathtaking “High Dirge” out into the world.

After gifting the world with the chill-inducing “Low Hymnal” — still a very strong candidate for 2016’s best song — and the warm “Tsunami”, the Felix Walworth-led project has returned to provided another glimpse at their forthcoming Going By. Of the two songs that have been released, “High Dirge” falls more in line with the somber nature of “Low Hymnal” than the more celebratory sensibilities of “Tsunami”, embracing an otherworldly melancholy that goes a long way in making the song feel endearingly human.

From the startlingly realized scene that opens the track, “High Dirge” never once veers away from the small, every day moments that confirm we’re alive. Whether it’s freshening up in the bathroom or prying yourself open, there’s enough time for a host of questions to emerge. Some of them get tackled, some get ignored, pushed to the wayside out of either fear or despondence.

Walworth addresses, confronts, and reassures those moments with the simple refrain of “It’s a long life, it’s hard to get it right” towards the song’s close, a surprisingly hopeful upgrade from “It’s a long life, I can’t get it right.” “High Dirge” is the third song from Going By to thrive on Walworth’s naked openness, bravely laying everything bare for a clinical dissection that’s as unforgiving as it is insightful.

Yet, the song never nears a feeling of total loss or hopelessness, offering just enough positivity to keep “High Dirge” courageously stretching forward towards something better. While there’s an inherent heartbreak to that glimmer of hope, that same lightness also allows the song to stay grounded and painfully relatable. As usual, the stakes of the narrative are heightened by incredibly tasteful and deeply intuitive instrumental work (the banjo figures of Going By have been nothing short of perfect) that provides “High Dirge” with an impressive dramatic flair.

Ultimately, “High Dirge” feels representative for Told Slant’s current era and marks a high point for Walworth’s songwriting, which may very well be why it also claims the line that gives Going By its title: High dirge for the way that I am going by. That line arrives in the song’s gentle outro section, which underlines the steady uncertainty that serves as the crux of “High Dirge”.

It’s a beautiful tactic that strengthens one of the song’s most important unifying threads before everything fades into silence. One last moment of transcendence in a song that’s destined to be remembered.

Listen to “High Dirge” below and pre-order Going By from Double Double Whammy here.