Heartbreaking Bravery

stevenmps2@gmail.com | @steven_mps | @hbreakbravery

Tag: Off the Avenue

Watch This: Vol. 83

While the past week has been, by and large, dedicated to live coverage (a knock-on effect of moving  to a city that hosts multiple shows a night), I’ve still been keeping a wayward eye on both the present release cycle of songs, records, and live captures. It’s the latter category that this post, the 83rd installment of a series that celebrates some of the week’s best live footage, will use as its focus. As usual, there were more than five entries to be considered for a final spot and the clips that didn’t make the cut aren’t worth ignoring, either. So, when you’re done with the feature videos, double back and check out some recently posted performances by Advaeta, Izzy True, Painted Zeros, The Tallest Man On Earth, and Gianna Lauren. Until then, sit back, adjust the lighting to your preference, turn the volume up, lean in, and Watch This.

1. Mikal Cronin – Say (WFUV)

Mikal Cronin, now three records into what’s proving to be an astonishing solo career, has a legitimate claim at being one of this generation’s finest pop songwriters. While MCIII didn’t quite reach the heights of perfection that its immediate predecessor managed but it was compromised of several golden moments, nonetheless. One of those moments came in the form of “Say”, which Cronin and has band dive headfirst into here for WFUV, perfectly capturing that fleeting moment of uncertainty before being consumed by the feelings that accompany any notable dive, jump, or other drastic action.

2. PINS (KEXP)

One of this year’s more intriguing breakout acts, PINS have been making the most out of their newfound attention. They’re delivering at seemingly every opportunity, this KEXP session most certainly included. A jagged band with intriguingly sharp edges, they’ve made no qualms about embracing post-punk’s inherent rawness. In four songs, they manage to fully establish their identity and will more than likely wind up with a few more converts on their hands.

3. Hop Along (NPR)

At this point, Hop Along‘s on this list more often than not and close to all that can be said about their live show has been said in this column already. Here, they get to experiment with stripping back ever so slightly for NPR’s Tiny Desk Sessions series and the results are predictably stunning. Frances Quinlan’s vocals are given even more emphasis but the music’s intrinsically gentle qualities are also given the opportunity to be maximized, capitalizing on a dynamic that suits the band to quiet perfection. As usual, it’s a performance that’s not worth missing.

4. Tica Douglas – All Meanness Be Gone (WMUA)

Joey was one of 2015’s most welcome surprises back when it was released (and maintains that position now). In that record’s penultimate track, “All Meanness Be Gone”, nearly every aspect of Joey‘s identity-intensive narrative is spun together in a tapestry that’s as devastating as it is heartening. WMUA recently had Douglas in for a solo acoustic session that included a heartfelt performance of the song, one of the year’s best, which can (and should) be seen below.

5. No Joy (KEXP)

At this point the heap of bands fighting to distinguish themselves from each other that operate in the middle ground between traditional post-punk and shoegaze is so expansive that it’s nearly impossible. No Joy manage to make it look effortless in a commanding KEXP session that sees them playing songs old and new. Occasionally muddled but never murky, these four songs present No Joy as an unlikely powerhouse who are clearly ready for bigger stages. Heavy, uncompromising, and ultimately exhilarating, it’s both KEXP and No Joy at their absolute finest.

Watch This: Vol. 73

After the past few days were spent on catching this site up on the studio releases, music videos, and radio sessions that came to light over the past few weeks, it’s time to turn the attention towards the best live clips to have surfaced in that time. All of the bands in this week’s collection- the 73rd installment of the series- have already been featured on the site. As usual, there was an overabundance of material to work with and there were multiple entries deserving of attention. Waxahatchee, Froth, Jeff Rosenstock, Eternal Summers, Husky, Surfer Blood, and Steve Smyth all had outstanding performance clips. The five featured clips switch between single song performances and full sets, all of which come from great artists. So, as always, sit back, turn the volume up, tune out any worries, relax, and Watch This.

1. Cayetana – Madame B (World Cafe)

Once again, we’re kicking things off with a World Cafe clip from a band that challenges genre limitations. Cayetana’s Nervous Like Me was one of 2014’s stronger records and saw the band finally receive some of the recognition they’d been deserving for years. Part of that is likely due to relentless touring which has paid massive dividends for the trio in the live department. Here, they turn in a powerful performance of Nervous Like Me highlight “Madame B” and give a resounding demonstration of why they’re worth the praise they’ve received in the process.

2. PWR BTTM – West Texas (Play Too Much)

PWR BTTM’s “Hold Yer Tongue” was one of 2015’s first great songs, which was why it was included in our First Quarter Highlights mixtape. Turns out the band’s not just fascinating in the studio; their live act’s got all sorts of intrigue. More notably, though, it packs a lot of force. Cut away any of the frivolity or things that could be construed as gimmicks and there’s still a deeply impressive musicality at play. Paired with a fierce stage presence from both members (they frequently switch duties on guitar, vocals, and drums), their appeal expands to dangerous levels. All of that, and maybe even a little more, is evidenced in this Play Too Much clip of “West Texas”.

3. Kevin Morby (3voor12)

For a while now, Kevin Morby‘s been kicking away in the shadows, delivering one stunning record and performance after another. While a healthy few have latched onto Morby’s magic those numbers are still relatively slim, all things considered. None of it has affected Morby, though, and he’s only growing stronger as he goes. In his London Calling performance, lovingly shot by 3voor12, he tears into a trio of tracks with abandon. Starting off with a deeply felt version of the sprawling “Harlem River”, Morby and his band set the tone early for what quickly becomes an awe inspiring set. Hell, maybe it can be capped off at just inspiring.

4. Lady Lamb (KEXP)

After shortening her project’s moniker two words, Aly Spaltro- like Cayetana before her- started picking up the attention she’s so richly deserved for years. After, Spaltro’s first record as Lady Lamb is full of career highlights but it’s teeth are sharpened into fangs in the live setting. Irresistibly clever and intensely dynamic, Spaltro leads her band through the record’s sharp passages with a clear-eyed ferocity. All four  songs in this KEXP session, including the massive After single “Billions of Eyes“, are performed with a joyous passion, one that’s betrayed by the band’s quick, uncontainable smiles throughout the half an hour session. Add in an illuminating interview and the end result is a new KEXP classic.

5. Kevin Devine (Off The Avenue)

Kevin Devine’s earned his share of love on this site and, coincidentally, has made the most appearances here through the Watch This series. Devine’s always been a dynamo live and that holds true now more than ever, as evidenced by this 1-2 knockout punch for Consequence of Sound’s Off The Avenue series session. Ever since Devine released Bubblegum he’s been skewing more towards an incendiary hybrid of basement pop and basement punk. “She Can See Me” and “Cotton Crush” are both electrifying pieces of work aided by the band’s unerring conviction. All in all, it’s just another extension in what’s proving to be a formidable winning streak from one of today’s most quietly compelling songwriters. Don’t miss out on what happens when he turns the volume up.