Heartbreaking Bravery

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Tag: Ouija

Watch This: Vol. 137

While the past week wasn’t as exhaustive for live videos as it has been recently, there were still some impressive entries featuring a variety of great acts like Jenny Lewis, Same, The Fever, The Academic, Band of Horses, Typesetter, Astronomique, Future Generations, Martin Courtney, The Staves, Bleached, Adia Victoria, Ages and Ages, Caveman, Summer Twins, Mr. Airplane Man, Julia Holter, Warren Franklin & TFF, Israel Nash, Metric, Justin Peter Kinkel-Schuster, and Tamaryn. Even with all of those in the mix, there were still five genuine standouts, from site favorites to the perennially overlooked. So, as always, sit back, adjust the settings, block out any circumstantial distractions, focus up, and Watch This.

1. Big Eyes – Stake My Claim (BreakThruRadio)

Fresh off releasing one of the year’s best basement pop records, Big Eyes come through in a major way yet again via this performance of that record’s title track, “Stake My Claim”. While the band certainly has made a sizable impression thanks to their recorded work, they’ve been an even more dangerous force as a live act. After going through several mutations, the band’s finally landed on a unit that allows their sound to be as expansive — and as aggressive — as possible.

2. Boss Hog (KEXP)

One of many projects to include DIY punk icon Jon Spencer, Boss Hog first gained some notoriety in the late ’80s thanks to their sudden existence (they were created out of a need to fill a vacancy on a bill at CBGB’s), vocalist Christina Martinez playing that first show nude, and their relentlessly aggressive hybrid of punk sub-genres. The band’s been experiencing a resurgence lately, which led them to the KEXP studios for this gorgeously-lensed session presented in crisp black-and-white. From just about every angle, everything happening here is exhilarating.

3. Mumblr – Mudmouth + Domingo (Out of Town Films)

After the beginning of their career brought about a handful of upbeat, party-leaning (but surprisingly introspective) anthems the quartet went through some sort of awakening. A lot of their more recent material has approached being confrontational thanks to a newfound darkness and a staggering amount of patience. The band’s been stretching their influences in surprising ways and nearly all of them are present in this beautifully-shot two song turn-in for Out of Town Films, which doubles as a definitive showcase for this era of one of the more fascinating bands making music right now.

4. Tigercats – Rent Control (Fortuna POP!)

Every once in a while, a spectacularly made live video surfaces and causes people to question its validity as a live presentation. In many cases, most assume it’s just a particularly convincing music video. This is the fate that awaits Tigercats’ scintillating new “Rent Control”, which is one of the more memorable entries in that niche format in recent memory. Set in a house overflowing with people (presumably friends of the band), there’s a liveliness that informs “Rent Control” and elevates it past similar efforts. The song itself is an exuberant burst of indie pop and every aspect of the clip ties together beautifully, ensuring it a spot on this list.

5. Japanese Breakfast (Audiotree)

Michelle Zauner anchored one of my personal favorite entries in this entire series’ run in Little Big League‘s extraordinary “Year of the Sunhouse” clip from Little Elephant and has remained a powerhouse performer in the time that’s passed since that clip. Zauner’s other project, Japanese Breakfast, has been turning quite a few heads since the release of their excellent Psychopomp. The band recently wrapped a tour with Mitski and Jay Som, taking control of every opportunity to better their already-formidable live show. Their recent session for Audiotree demonstrated the band’s continuously evolving live show and curiously quiet strengths. The entire session is masterful both in performance and presentation, leaving behind an artifact that should be visited and revisited for quite some time.

Dusk – Too Sweet (Music Video)

dusk

Capping off tonight’s run of the best music videos of the past few months is Dusk— one of the year’s best new bands– with 2015 highlight “Too Sweet“. Over the course of the past 10 years of my life, I’ve been fortunate enough to meet most of Dusk’s members and share bills with their bands. The most notable of these directly affiliated bands is Tenement, a band I’ve written about on this site in great detail thanks to their key role in my artistic and personal development. As a kid who was just figuring out how to play guitar, I remember stepping foot into The BFG (a DIY punk house venue that the band used to run) and being overwhelmed by the sheer amount of records that the house had amassed, each showing the residents’ eclectic tastes.

I’d later come to find that a bulk of these belonged to Tenement guitarist/vocalist (and Dusk bassist) Amos Pitsch, who had a penchant for old soul and country records from the likes of artists like Sam Cooke and The Louvin Brothers. Those influences would gradually present themselves in subtle ways on Tenement songs (which have been erring closer to the band’s jazz influences) but they’d never featured as prominently as they do with Dusk, who also seem to share a very serious kinship with acts like The Band. After coming out of the gate with “(Do the) Bored Recluse“, the band followed up with “Too Sweet” arriving perfectly at a marriage between classic country and classic soul without ever sounding remotely inauthentic.

That sense of authenticity, the complete rejection of cheap revivalism, is evidenced again in the song’s Finn Bjornerud-directed music video, which simply features the band playing the song in an average living room (like their affiliates, Dusk has a tendency to find the beauty in the everyday rather than try to capture grandeur or bombast). A few striking compositions are spliced in here and there– including an absolutely gorgeous silhouette shot of a soft-lit Ryley Crowe playing pedal steel and a beautiful final group shot cleverly framed by an archway– but more often than not, the clip opts to celebrate the communal act of playing music surrounded by people you love.

Led by Julia Blair’s attention-ensuring crooning, a cavalcade of impressive backing vocal harmonies, and committed performances from all the featured players, “Too Sweet” feels like more than just a music video, it skews closer to a mission statement; celebrate the things you have and strive to elevate the people around you. Defiantly honorable to the end, “Too Sweet” is the most perfect encapsulation of Dusk to date and suggests that the band, thankfully, is only just getting started.

Watch “Too Sweet” below, pick up a copy of the 7″ here, and explore a list of some of the best music videos of the past few months underneath the embed.

Bing & Ruth – Broad Channel
Summer Twins – Ouija
Total Makeover – Self-Destructive
Francis – Follow Me Home
EL VY – No Time to Crank the Sun
Half Japanese – That Is That
James Clark Hangover – Maria
Oscar – Breaking My Phone
Wray – Hypatia
NZCA Lines – Persephone Dreams
Overlake – Travelogue
Rah Rah – Be Your Man
Paul Bergmann – You May Never Know
Pink Lung  – Chinese Watermelons
Laura Stevenson – Jellyfish
Ben Millburn – Don’t You Wait
Big Harp – DIEV
Busdriver – Much
Erica Glyn – The Killing Moon
Neonderthal – The Ride
Jackson Boone – Runaway
Freddie Gibbs – Fuckin’ Up the Count
Lowly – S.W.I.M.
Joey Kneiser – The Wilderness
Tuff Sunshine – Fire in the Hero Building
The Rashita Joneses – White Wave
The Goon Sax – Sometimes Accidentally
Kenrick Lamar – These Walls (ft. Bilal, Anna Wise, and Thundercat)