Heartbreaking Bravery

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Tag: Other Lives

Watch This: Vol. 101

[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. A lot of extraordinary live videos have come out since then and to make this point abundantly clear, here’s a list of artists responsible for performances that didn’t quite make it into the featured five slots over the course of the past handful of weeks: Ride (x2), Josh Ritter (x2), Radkey, Marrow, Seratones, Hooton Tennis Club, Kurt Vile (x2), Indian Askin, Amason, Eden Mulholland, Bobby Bare Jr. (x2), Hanna Asbrook, Lucy & La Mer, Lee Corey Oswald (x2), Wastrels, The Cairo Gang, Wild Ones, Martin Courtney (x2), Small Black, Timeshares, Shopping (x2), The Jacques, Mac McCaughan & the Non-Believers, Raw Pony, Andrew Bird, Air Waves, Izzy True (x2), The Tallest Man On Earth, Elliot Moss, Hemming, Titus Andronicus, Kagoule, Django Django, Summer Cannibals, Lost Lander, Emilie & Ogden, Denai Moore, EL VY, Purple 7, John Grant, Caleb and Carolyn, Fraser A. GormanThe Besnard Lakes, Charly Bliss, Delta Spirit, Joanna Newsom, Oaks, Kevin Garrett, Brilliant Beast, Blitzen Trapper, The Saturday Tea, Other Lives, Rayland Baxter, Low, Speedy Ortiz, Chilly Gonzalez, Murder Shoes, Ava Luna, bAd bAd, Oberhofer (x2), Aye Nako, Jason Isbell, Superbee, Deerhunter, The Ghost Ease, Oscar, Rachel Goodrich, Small Feet, Lucero, Totally Mild, Ukryte Zalety Systemu, Soda Bomb, Jens Kuross, Caspian, Boytoy, Duncan Sheik, PISTA, Slim Twig, Shamir, Contrails, King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard, Courtney Barnett, The Chameleons Vox, Vundabar, Vagabon, Craig Finn, and Soda Shop. Based on the strength of those clips, it’s probably unsurprising that some of the year’s best live captures have also surfaced in that time. 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 (Audiotree)

No record in 2015 has hit me as hard and as consistently as O.K.,  a deeply felt masterpiece from Eskimeaux. A record I’d liked upon first listen and warmed to progressively over time, it wasn’t until I saw those songs played live that everything seemed to click. Audiotree was fortunate enough to have the band in for a recent session and wound up with what may come to be regarded as the definitive live recording of this era of the band. The performances are uniformly strong and the songs remain spectacular. Simply put: this is unmissable.

2. Julien Baker – Sprained Ankle (BreakThruRadio) 

Likely the only 2015 record to rival O.K.‘s emotional impact is Julien Baker‘s arresting breakout effort Sprained Ankle. With a title track that easily ranks among the year’s finest songs, Baker’s latched onto something genuinely captivating. It’s myriad strengths were emphasized with a gorgeous music video and are once again brought to the fore with this painfully gorgeous live performance. It’s a triumph for one of music’s most promising emerging talents.

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3. Slothrust (Jam in the Van)

In a manner not too dissimilar from Eskimeaux, Slothrust was another band that sold me further on material I’d already liked via the strength of their live show, It’s not surprising, then, that their session for Jam in the Van winds up being one of that series’s strongest entries in months. Topping everything off is a typically strong take on “Crockpot”, which continues to stand as one of the strongest songs of recent memory.

4. Torres – Strange Hellos (Hooke Audio)

Has anyone appeared more times on Watch This throughout the course of 2015 than Torres? Mackenzie Scott’s project continues to turn in spellbinding performances at an alarming rate but, even with that being the case, this version of “Strange Hellos” manages to stand out. Shot as part of Hooke Audio’s live sessions series that challenges artist to re-interpret their material, “Strange Hellos” gets transformed into a jaw-dropping ambient number that may wield even more of a punch than the studio version. It’s a startling reminder of Sprinter‘s most powerful moments.

5. Girlpool (Pressure Drop)

If anyone’s appeared on the 2015 run of Watch This as many (or more) times than Torres, it’s site favorites Girlpool. Harmony Lebel-Tividad and Cleo Tucker put together one hell of a run this year, highlighted by their extraordinary full-length debut Before The World Was Big. In a nine-song session, the duo makes their way through the majority of that record and “Soup”, one of the new numbers they’ve been road-testing on their last few tours. As ever, the performances are assured and showcase the near telepathic connection the band’s developed over the past few years. They’re an act that seems poised to get stronger as they go, which is more than a little impressive considering they’re already one of the best bands currently making music- and this Pressure Drop session serves as proof.

Eskimeaux – Broken Necks (Music Video)

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I don’t know how this site has gone 650 posts without ever giving a headline slot to Eskimeaux, whose phenomenal 2015 effort– the coyly titled O.K. has been in near-constant rotation over the course of the past few months.  Gabrielle Smith’s Epoch project has appeared on this site a handful of times and even led off the recently published fall mix. Sooner or later something was bound to crack the feature-less streak and today it arrived in the form of a casually brilliant music video. While the medium did have a fairly strong week, it was the clip for “Broken Necks” that wound up here for reasons that skewed both objective and subjective.

Objectively, it’s a work of technical brilliance from House of Nod, who continue to impress while operating on an exceptionally high tier. Crisp editing (the stop motion is particularly enjoyable), gorgeous visuals, measured pacing, & committed performances all heighten an intentionally loose narrative that capitalizes on the song’s curious exuberance while still carving out space for its inherent bleakness (something that’s punctuated by Smith’s surprisingly capable deadpan moments). Accentuating that whimsicality are the several mini-sequences that play out like gifs, a move that could have proven too twee had it not been effectively balanced out by some astoundingly graceful long shots.

On the subjective side of things, this is a video that illustrates several of the things I love about the place I’ve come to call home for a little over a season. As run-down as it can seem, New York City (and especially Brooklyn) readily facilitates art. It’s evident in everything from the structural layout of the buildings to the graffiti that adorns their walls. For the lack of a better term, there is a strange sort of magic that the area carries, something that’s been heightened by its residents. A lot of the locations that were used in this video have come to have very significant meaning to me and I consider myself fortunate to know a handful of the people involved in the project on both sides of the lens. In that sense, not only does it succeed on its basic functions but it also operates as a living document of a specific place in time.

With all of the reasons listed above infused into one 207-second presentation, “Broken Necks” can’t help but feel (almost excessively) vibrant. It’s the perfect companion piece for O.K.‘s dueling emotional modes and a strong showcase for both Eskimeaux and House of Nod. By virtue of being so thrillingly alive and refreshingly original, “Broken Necks” surpasses merely being notable and draws closer to being unforgettable. A charming and remarkably endearing showcase of wit, composition, and genuine talent, it deserves as many views as possible.

Watch “Broken Necks” below and pick up a copy of O.K. from site favorites Double Double Whammy here. Beneath the music video watch a live performance of the song. Underneath both clips, explore a list of other great music videos to find release this week.

Puppy Problems – Daisy
Hethers – Guiding Light
J Fernandez – Between the Channels
Tuff Sunshine – Dreamin
Magnet School – British Monuments
Dogs In Ecstasy – Do Me Ronnie
Beliefs – 1992
Bully – Too Tough
No Joy – Judith
Ricked Wicky – Poor Substitute
Moby & The Void Pacific Choir – The Light Is Clear In My Eyes
Sarah Bethe Nelson – Fast Moving Clouds
Other Lives – Easy Way Out
Algiers – And When You Fall
Samson the Truest – Afterall
Mal Blum – Robert Frost
Math the Band the Band – Didn’t Have Time to Think
Destruction Unit – Salvation
Idles – The Idles Chant

Watch This: Vol. 84

Nothing was posted on this site over the holiday weekend but there were multiple items that were being prepared. One of them, naturally, was the weekly installment of Watch This– a series that celebrates some of the finest live video captures of that week. A lot of familiar faces are featured in this installment, especially considering the massive promotional runs that the teams for Courtney Barnett and Torres (two of the more exciting live acts of the moment) have managed to string together. Once again, a lot of videos that were considered for feature in this 84th issue point towards a fascinating spike of quality in this format. Artists in those videos include: The Kyle Sowashes, Andrew Bird, Fat White Family, Perfume Genius, The Fall, Rozwell Kid, DYGL, Mitski, Klangstof, Strand of Oaks, Heartless Bastards, Other Lives, and Crosss. So, as always, sit up, lean in, settle down, focus up, and Watch This.

1. Alvvays – Archie, Marry Me (BBC)

“Archie, Marry Me” was first released in 2013 to a small amount of claim but eventually blossomed into one of 2014’s defining songs with its re-release. Now, two years after it was first introduced to the world, it still sounds vital despite the amount of playtime (and references) it’s received. Alvvays recently played the Glastonbury festival and knocked the single out of the park with a heartfelt rendition- something that wasn’t lost on an effusive crowd. Fortunately, for everyone, the BBC had their cameras rolling and captured the whole thing.

2. Courtney Barnett – The Fox (The Current)

Courtney Barnett is an exhilarating performer and her insistent placement in this series is continuously justified and warranted. Barnett and her band recently stopped by the twin cities to deliver a powerhouse set as part of the Rock The Garden festival. While the songwriter had strong showings via a solo performance of “Depreston” for Jimmy Fallon and a typically charged take on “Pedestrian At Best“, it was the capture of “The Fox” that played strongest, earning its placement here.

3. Torres (Sound Opinions)

Over the past several installments of this series, no artist has made as many appearances as Torres. Now deep into a fierce touring schedule, Mackenzie Scott’s assembled a (relatively) new crew of musicians to perform the songs and the group taps into three of Sprinter‘s more subdued tracks for Consequence of Sound’s Sound Opinions series. Never anything less than enthralling, there’s a gentle- but firm- grip that gets held throughout this run of “Son, You Are No Island”, “The Harshest Light”, and “Ferris Wheel”. There’s some strange magic at work here and it’s best to just let go and lose yourself to its power.

4. PINS – Young Girls (WFUV)

Wild Nights has already established PINS as one of 2015’s most exciting breakout acts and here- in a characteristically angular session for WFUV- the band stealthily unloads on the record’s finest song, “Young Girls”. It’s a startling reminder of the quartets considerable talent(s) and will likely act as a perfect introduction for anyone unfamiliar with the band. Confident and measured, completely self-aware and reassuringly uninhibited, their performance here goes a long way in laying out the myriad of bigger opportunities that will become available to this band over time.

5. Exquisite Corpse (NPR)

Some things are just so enticing and beautiful that they warrant featuring, no matter their distance from the regular coverage spectrum. In this clip, a small troupe of jazz musicians comprised of different groups play a game of exquisite corpse, with each section taking an idea from one group’s presentation of a song and expanding on it until it becomes a whole; an evolving construction that provides room for individual showcases without ever succumbing to anything other than camaraderie and trust. Gorgeously lensed- and performed on Duke Ellington’s grave- this is a truly remarkable piece of work, noteworthy by even NPR’s enviable standards.