Heartbreaking Bravery

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Tag: P4k

Watch This: Vol. 145

The past week contained a plethora of outstanding performance clips, including memorable takes of Ama, Haley Bonar, Alex Napping, The Seratones, Benjamin Booker, Cate Le Bon, Twin Limb, Pinegrove, The Frights, Matthew Logan Vasquez, Beach Slang, Heaters, Naked Giants, The Sweet Release of Death, Conor Oberst, and King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard. Since there was an excessive amount of incredible material over the past seven days, this will be the first of two tandem Watch This installments. The five featured clips below are heavy on full sessions and include one genuine outlier that was simply too good to pass up featuring. So, with that in mind, take a deep breath, steel some nerves, block out any distractions, adjust the settings, lean in, and Watch This.

1. Big Ups (Audiotree)

As a live act, Big Ups are an extremely enticing draw. They’re explosive performers, their songs are complex and dynamic enough to demand uncommon talent, and the quartet boasts a magnetic playing style. They’ve appeared on several past Watch This entries but occupy an elevated space for this Audiotree session. Characteristically intense and oddly entrancing, this session stands as a career highlight for both the band and the rightfully acclaimed studio.

2. Uni Ika Ai – Already Dead (BreakThruRadio)

2016 has been something of a breakout year for Uni Ika Ai. While they may not be an instantly recognizable name, the act’s been gaining traction on the back of their dreamlike approach to subdued indie pop. Deeply impressive and hard to shake, this enrapturing performance of “Already Dead” for BreakThruRadio is as good an entry point as any for the uninitiated. For more than seven minutes, the band casts a spell that deepens as the song progresses, making one hell of an impression.

3. Explosions in the Sky (KEXP)

cTypically Watch This — and Heartbreaking Bravery in general — is a space reserved for emerging artists but every once in a while a veteran act will issue a reminder of how they earned their status. Case in point: post-rock titans Explosions in the Sky‘s recent KEXP session. The band’s riding another critical surge following the release of this year’s The Wilderness, a record that subtly expanded the band’s scope. As ever, the songs translate beautifully to the live setting and this performance serves as concrete proof.

4. Nothing (KVRX)

When a band’s volume levels are as relentlessly punishing as Nothing‘s, stripping songs to bare acoustics can be a risky prospect. Fortunately, the band are incredibly gifted songwriters, something that comes across with a charming, natural ease in this unassuming KVRX session. There’s a certain amount of grace that often gets overlooked when shoegaze-leaning bands heavily emphasize the most bruising aspects of their approach and each song performed here becomes an essential reminder of that grace, winding up as an unexpected document of one of the genre’s most intriguing acts.

5. Jay Reatard (Pitchfork)

More of an archival release than anything else, this look back at a musician that was lost far too young is vital, painful, and wildly exhilarating. Taking a breathlessly frantic approach, Jay Reatard whips his band into overdrive right out of the gate, ripping through a dozen songs in a fiery twenty minute set, featuring a host of songs that have rightfully carved their place out in history as pivotal genre classics. Reatard was writing out of his mind during the time this was filmed, fresh off the release of Blood Visions (which remains an indisputable classic). An arresting look back at a formidable talent, there’s heartbreak to be found in thinking about what could have been but more than enough heart on display to make up some of the difference.

2015: The Best of Watch This

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When Watch This was conceived it was done with the intent to not only critically examine the balance of filmmaking and live performance but celebrate the art of the live video, a format which seems to have fallen to the wayside despite being more fruitful than it’s been since it was introduced. There’s real power behind the clips that manage to seamlessly merge the best qualities of everything that goes into the best live performance videos and they can yield genuinely unforgettable moments (when everything kicks back in on “Waitress”, the held falsetto in “A Proper Polish Welcome”, and a whole host of other chill-inducing moments are scattered throughout this compilation). Those moments are the beating heart behind this series construction and they’re what sustains the project as it presses forward.

Well over 300 live clips were covered on this site in 2015 and this is a collection of 25 that genuinely stood out for one reason or another, whether it was the sheer joy in a performance (Diet Cig), the performer’s ability to freeze blood (Julien Baker, Dilly Dally, SOAK), the trio of artists who appeared on Watch This the most throughout this year (Courtney Barnett, Girlpool, and Torres), an electrifying presentation and performance (July Talk), or a clip that’s a fully functional masterclass in every category that elevates a clip from astonishing to transcendental (Glen Hansard). All of those and more have been plugged into this packet, which culminates in a tour de force reminder of the overwhelming power of what can be achieved on a live platform from the resurgent Sleater-Kinney as one final exclamation point for a truly extraordinary year. So, as always, sit up, focus, adjust the volume, and Watch This.

Watch the 2015 edition of the best-of compilation for Heartbreaking Bravery’s definitive recurring series, Watch This, below. The track list is available under the embed.

1. Hop Along – Waitress (World Cafe)
2. July Talk – Paper Girl (Audiotree)
3. Ronny – Why Do You Have Kids (Gems On VHS)
4. Julien Baker – Sprained Ankle (BreakThruRadio)
5. Mikal Cronin – Say (WFUV)
6. Molly Parden – Weather (GemsOnVHS)
7. Eskimeaux – Folly (This Has Got To Stop)
8. Waxahatchee – Under A Rock (Pitchfork)
9. METZ – Spit You Out (3voor12)
10. Ought – Beautiful Blue Sky (KEXP)
11. Saintseneca – How Many Blankets Are In the World? (ANTI-)
12. Diet Cig – Harvard (In the Attic)
13. SOAK – B a Nobody Blud (La Blogotheque)
14. Dilly Dally – Burned by the Cold (Strombo Sessions)
15. Alex G + Girlpool – Brite Boy (SPIN)
16. Footings (Jenn Harrington)
17. Mike Krol – Suburban Wasteland + Neighborhood Watch (KEXP)
18. Beach Slang – Get Lost (Cozy Couch Sessions)
19. Public Service Broadcasting – Go! (WNYC)
20. Christopher Paul Stelling – Dear Beast (ANTI-)
21. Courtney Barnett – Depreston (La Blogotheque)
22. Algiers – Blood (WFUV)
23. Torres – A Proper Polish Welcome (NPR)
24. Glen Hansard – McCormack’s Wall (ANTI-)
25. Sleater-Kinney (NPR)

 

Watch This: Vol. 90

With an overstuffed week (even for 2015’s standards), Watch This will scale back ever so slightly and forego the usual honorary mentions round-up that has accompanied so many recent editions of the series. Duos are a recurring theme for this 90th installment, with two entries from Pitchfork (both two songs apiece) and two entries from NPR. A handful of site favorites are featured and a few relatively under-utilized names get the recognition they deserve as well. As always, the performances are strong and the package as a whole is a great representation of excellence in the performance sense on both sides of the camera. So, as always, grab a snack, settle in, adjust the volume, focus up, and Watch This.

1. Quarterbacks – Weekend (Radio K)

After going the full band route and unexpectedly releasing one of the year’s most ferocious basement pop records, Quarterbacks’ live show quickly took on an incredible amount of urgency. Radio K recently brought the trio in for a session where the band tore into a blistering version of “Weekend”. Immediate, scrappy, and extremely punk (also: bonus points for the drummer’s Stupid Bag shirt), this is the snappiest turn-in that Radio K’s had in a very long while.

2. Waxahatchee – La Loose + Bonfire (Pitchfork)

Earlier this year Katie Crutchfield celebrated her biggest release to date with the wonderful Ivy Tripp. It was the acclaimed songwriter’s first effort for Merge and its successes have landed Crutchfield and her band a variety of coveted positions, including a recent performing slot at the Pitchfork Music Festival. During her triumphant set, both “La Loose” and “Bonfire” were lovingly captured and made publicly available for an endless amount of repeat visits. Confident, calm, and poised, these are performances worth remembering.

3. Restorations (NPR)

After winning over a large sect of fans existing on the plane of a very large genre intersection, Restorations have yet to stop climbing. NPR recently brought the band in for one of their Tiny Desk sessions and the band responded in kind, delivering a set of ragged, heart-on-sleeve quasi-ballads. Distinctly American, Restorations seem to take pride in their roots and incorporate a bevvy of elements from an indiscriminate range of influences. Everything comes across as genuine and grounded, helping this to stand as one of the better Tiny Desk performances of the year.

4. Ought – The Weather Song + Sun’s Coming Down (Pitchfork)

Back after last year’s dust had settled, Ought‘s More Than Any Other Day wound up fending off hundreds of contenders to claim a spot on this site’s best albums of the year list. The band’s already threatening to duplicate that feat and to build anticipation for their forthcoming release (as well as road test some of their new material), they’ve been making a few high-profile appearances. One of those came at the Pitchfork Music Festival, where the band made their way through a fiery set with their typical amount of verve and unleashed two stunners in “The Weather Song” and “Sun’s Coming Down”. Both songs provide ample evidence that Ought’s one of the best live bands currently on the circuit.

5. Torres (NPR)

Along with Courtney Barnett and Girlpool, Torres is an artist that just can’t seem to stop showing up in this series. It probably helps that seemingly every outlet that Mackenzie Scott and her band have been hitting are already regularly featured in this series. In this case, it also helps that the last time Scott was lensed by NPR, it made for what may very well be the year’s most jaw-dropping live clip. Here, Scott leads her band through three of Sprinter‘s strongest tracks, including a reprise (full-band) performance of “A Proper Polish Welcome”, one of 2015’s finest songs. It’s a characteristically gripping performance and a perfect fit for one of music’s most quietly vaunted stages.

Watch This: 2015, Vol. 2

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Just like yesterday, and just like tomorrow, there will be a video mixtape compiling some of the most electrifying live performance clips of this past year in an effort to breathe some much-needed life back into the Watch This series that was once a regular staple. In the absolute blur that has been the past four months, this site held onto every scrap of notable material that came swinging through the winter breezes, even if they weren’t always posted about immediately. Watch This once stood as this place’s pulse, a heartbeat that directly emphasized a too-frequently overlooked part of musical culture: stunning live clips. Each week, five from that week would be compiled, written about, and strongly admired. Winsome performances and genuinely stunning a/v are the regular driving forces behind some of the very best the series has ever had to offer- and several of the 25 clips presented here (all selected because they represent the very best of what 2015’s had to offer) certainly fit that mold. Since that’s about as strong of a lead-in as I can manage, I’ll go ahead and leave off- once again- with the tag: sit back, turn the volume up, zero in, and Watch This.

1. Will Butler – Take My Side (Late Show with David Letterman)
2. Sleater-Kinney – No Cities to Love (Sound Opinions)
3. Tenement – Cage That Keeps You In (Don Giovanni Records)
4. Light FM – Pointless (3FM)
5. Parquet Courts – Uncast Shadow Of A Southern Myth (Coachella)
6. Twerps – Simple Feelings (Pitchfork)
7. NE-HI – Sunbleed (Radio K)
8. Torres – Sprinter (WNYC)
9. Nude Beach (KEXP)
10. Ride – Seagull (KCRW)
11. Unlikely Friends – Wasted It & Sunken Eyes (KEXP)
12. Cherry Glazerr – Had Ten Dollaz (KEXP)
13. Glen Hansard – Being In Love (Late Show with David Letterman)
14. Alvvays – Archie, Marry Me (KEXP)
15. The Staves – Black & White + Teeth White (La Blogotheque)
16. Saintseneca – Fed Up With Hunger (Exclaim)
17. Kevin Morby – All My Life (Bandwith.fm)
18. Laura Marling – Walk Alone (NPR)
19. Avers – Harvest (Bandwith.fm)
20. Sand Creeps – No Idea Laughter (Radio K)
21. Creepoid (unARTigNYC)
22. Bully – I Remember (Pitchfork)
23. Toro Y Moi – Empty Nesters (KCRW)
24. Kevin Devine – Go Haunt Someone Else (Little Elephant)
25. Courtney Barnett (NPR)

Watch This: 2015, Vol. 1

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Familiar faces. Single Songs. Full sets. New bands. It’s been 15 weeks since the last Watch This ran on this site and that’s far, far too long. To help get things up to date, the next three days will see a trilogy of video mixtapes containing 25 of the best live clips to surface from 2015 so far. Next week, the installment will resume its normally paced functions- but for now, clear out some time and get lost in the exciting performances compiled in the embed below. Lean back, turn the volume up, breathe deep, and Watch This.

1. Waxahatchee – Under A Rock (Pitchfork)
2. Tenement – Dreaming Out Loud (Don Giovanni Records)
3. Crying – Sick (BreakThruRadio)
4. Beach Slang (NPR)
5. Speedy Ortiz – The Graduates (Pitchfork)
6. Francisco the Man – In the Corners (Audiotree)
7. Single Mothers – Overdose (Radio K)
8. Sleater-Kinney – Modern Girl (Sound Opinions)
9. Nude Beach + Jody Stephens – My Life Is Right (Don Giovanni Records)
10. Mutts – Five of a Kind (Audiotree)
11. Sun Club – Beauty Meat (Audiotree)
12. Crow Bait – Separate Stations (Don Giovanni Records)
13. Courtney Barnett – An Illustration of Loneliness (Sleepless in New York (Pitchfork)
14. Matthew E. White – Rock & Roll Is Cold (The Current)
15. Makthaverskan – Witness (Pitchfork)
16. Chief Scout – Rollercoaster (Audiotree)
17. Mal Blum – San Cristóbal (Don Giovanni Records)
18. DYGL – Let’s Get Into Your Car (Out of Town Films)
19. American Aquarium – Losing Side of Twenty Five (Jam in the Van)
20. Charles Bradley – The World (Is Going Up In Flames) (Coachella)
21. Sue the Night – The Whale (3FM)
22. Kevin Devine – Bubblegum (Little Elephant)
23. Ride – Vapour Trail (Coachella)
24. The Dodos (KEXP)
25. Cloakroom – Lossed Over + Moon Funeral (Little Elephant)

Watch This: Vol. 62

[Please refer to Vol. 59 for the introductory paragraph.]

1. Lower – Bastard Tactics (Radio K)

Seek Warmer Climes was a restless and unforgiving record that found Lower making huge strides and revealing a widescreen ambition. “Bastard Tactics” was one of the standout moments and a song that suggested the band was in search of something more. Radio K let the band invade its studios and filmed them as they tore the subtly foreboding “Bastard Tactics” to shreds.

2. Perfect Pussy (Pitchfork)

No band has meant more to this site than Perfect Pussy. No band has been covered on this site more than Perfect Pussy. Why? Time plays a factor; the band was just starting to emerge when the site was just starting. Perfect Pussy’s politics match up with what this site strives to enforce either implicitly or explicitly. Their music exists on a spectrum that this site was built to support and the band readily embraces a DIY ethos that this site was built to celebrate. They’ve become one of the most divisive bands of the last several years and incited a staggering amount of vitriol over policies built off of an empathetic foundation. Vocalist Meredith Graves has emerged as one of the stronger voices in a variety of things that can no longer be neglected and has penned some of the most memorable lyrics of the past two years. While a lot of these statements are extremely subjective, one thing isn’t: this band lives for the live setting. No matter how battered they are mentally or physically, no matter how much adversity they’re (somewhat inexplicably) forced to face, and no matter how downright exhausted they are, one thing never changes: they transform into extremes of themselves after all of their amps are up and running. Graves may be on the verge of losing her voice because of her repeatedly public exorcisms (which are often violent) of extremely personal information while on stage and things may sound like their threatening to fall apart at any given second but that’s part of what makes the band fascinating. There’s a palpable sense of danger and uncertainty that the band conjures up while they’re on whatever stage they’re given and, no matter how rough things get, they’ve never failed to come out of the other side grinning through their collective grimace, that much stronger for the battle. Their marathon set for Pitchfork Paris? No exception.

3. Strand of Oaks – Mirage Year (Out of Town Films)

Strand of Oaks’ Heal was as immersive and elegiac as just about anything to have been released over the past 12 months. Easily the band’s finest work to date, it saw them expanding on early promise in leaps and bounds. “Mirage Year” was one of the most startlingly gorgeous moments on an already unreasonably strong album. Out Of Town Films set up camp and turned their lenses on the band as they set to work on delivering a jaw-dropping performance that only gets stronger as it goes, with everything culminating in a breathtaking guitar freakout that brings the song to a smoky close. Add in some top-tier cinematography and the end result’s not only inexplicably moving- it’s also one of the best live clips this series has ever had in its ranks.  Watch it below.

4. Ought (Pitchfork)

Was there any record more unexpected this year than Ought’s More Than Any Other Day? More importantly, how many were as brilliant? For just about 46 minutes, the band fearlessly collapses the connections between post-punk, electro-pop, noise-punk, and brit-pop while exploring the lightly-treaded territories that best suit their whimsy. More than just about any record, More Than Any Other Day sounded like a mission statement that was shot straight through with youthful abandon, disregard for conventionalism, and a slightly askew professionalism. Endearingly spastic and undeniably strange, their set for Pitchfork Paris becomes hypnotic and nearly impossible to evade once it’s in motion. Piercing and precise, the band’s already shockingly close to a willfully weird perfection.

5. La Sera – Hour of the Dawn (Last Call With Carson Daly)

In 2013, Mikal Cronin made his name known by virtue of releasing the perfect summer album in MCII. La Sera came dangerously close to achieving the same thing this year with the towering Hour of the Dawn. Last Call With Carson Daly has been the most music-centric late night network television program going for some time now, allotting multiple-song performances to their featured artists on a regular basis. As was previously mentioned, even in crowded company, La Sera’s stood out as one of the best the show’s ever seen. “Hour of the Dawn” is the second of the three songs to be featured in one episode- and in this setting, it comes vibrantly alive.

[Due to some technical issues, this video can only currently be seen here.]

Watch This: Vol. 40

Welcome to the 40th installment of Heartbreaking Bravery’s Watch This series, a weekly examination of the best live videos to have surfaced over the past week. Volume 40 has no shortage of riches to offer and may be one of the strongest offerings of the series to date. From two fiery KEXP sessions to the late night performance of the year, there’s a little something for everyone. Acoustic sessions and feedback freakouts are all contained within and, as is always the case, every band to have secured a spot this week puts on a live show that’s worth seeing multiple times over. So, sit back, focus, turn the volume up to deafening heights, and Watch This.

1. Benjamin Booker (KEXP)

With his now (rightfully) hotly-anticipated record just around the corner, the timing on this KEXP Session couldn’t be more perfect. After Booker’s stunning NXNE performance, the amount of verve on display here isn’t the least bit surprising. ATO Records dug up a diamond with Booker and if he winds up making as much of an impact as he deserves, radio stations will be better off for it.

2. Black Wine – No Reason (Don Giovanni)

Last week Black Wine released the excellent Yell Boss, which included the standout cut “No Reason”. Here, Don Giovanni captures the band running through a brilliant acoustic rendition of that song while also operating as a perfect document of a band having fun just being a band. It’s a riff-happy stomper that showcases the band at their absolute best, making it a can’t-miss affair.

3. Sharon Van Etten – Serpents (Pitchfork)

There are very few voices on the planet more arresting that Sharon Van Etten’s, which is a fact that’s loosely evidenced on record but becomes irrefutable fact in a live setting. Van Etten’s also an artist that can do wonders with a shifting sonic template and when she taps into her darker side it’s usually enough to stop just about anyone in their tracks. “Serpents” found her perfecting that aesthetic and has only grown as a song since its first reveal, which is something that winds up on full display with this performance from Day 1 of last month’s Pitchfork Music Festival. 

4. Ty Segall – Feel (Conan)

It seemed like ever since Future Islands’ career-making turn on Letterman, people have been desperate to anoint the “late-night performance of the year”. The War On Drugs’ “Red Eyes” run-through (also on Letterman) had a lot of people talking as well (as did The Orwells’ Letterman turn) but none of them have felt as furious, as vital, or as sincerely impassioned as what Ty Segall and his band pulled off on Conan O’Brien earlier this week. Previewing “Feel” off of his outstanding new record, Manipulator, Segall and company fearlessly make their way through some vicious solos, a percussion breakdown, and a barrage of insane falsettos before finally pulling off one of the most memorable television performances in quite some time.

5. Cloud Nothings (KEXP)

In all honesty, this entire write-up could be dedicated to what Jayson Gerycz pulls off behind the kit here. That kind of talent is rare enough that it borders on something approaching the realms of the inhuman. That it doesn’t overshadow what Dylan Baldi manages to accomplish with his unbelievably intense vocal/fretwork/lyrical onslaught is nothing short of astounding. Cloud Nothings are operating at an obscenely high level right now, with their live shows consistently outstripping what they managed to accomplish with the 1-2 punch of Attack On Memory and Here and Nowhere Else– two  of the finest records of this decade.  In short: see this band as soon as humanly possible.

Pitchfork Festival: Day 3 (Review)

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After the threat of a storm cleared up, Day 3 was given a gentle opening courtesy of Mutual Benefit. Jordan Lee’s project released one of last year’s best records in Love’s Crushing Diamond which was featured heavily throughout their set. More than a few moments warranted an unexpected chill down the spine, a very rare feat for a band so unassuming. It was genuinely difficult to leave but it proved a little more difficult to pass up the opportunity to catch the end of Speedy Ortiz’s set while securing a good spot for Perfect Pussy. Speedy Ortiz played with their usual amount of verve, injecting their songs with off-kilter humor and small surprises. “Bigger Party“, their recent Adult Swim-endorsed single, drew a strong reaction- as did fan favorites “American Horror” off of this year’s great Real Hair EP and “Indoor Soccer” off of their excellent early EP, Sports. When everything ended in a cataclysm of precisely-controlled noise, it seemed like Speedy Ortiz were exactly where they belonged.

Once more, Perfect Pussy‘s set felt too important to be given a brief summary so it will be given a separate, full review after the Day 3 recap. Rest assured: it was an extraordinary performance that felt like a defining moment for the band. Just like a few days prior, the band following Perfect Pussy were divisive metal act Deafheaven. While Deafheaven did feel slightly out of place in the broad daylight, it did provide the festival some unexpected balance- and it was mixed to near-perfection. Drawing what was easily one of the most diverse crowds of the festival, watching the passerby reactions to the band’s signature sound was nearly as intriguing as the band themselves. Having already seen them two nights ago in a more appropriate setting, it was off to catch the heavily-acclaimed Isaiah Rashad, who delivered his set with a comfortable confidence. While Rashad’s lyrics often hit the same beat, that repetition is easily distracted from by some innovative production work. Rashad himself was an engaging presence that kept the crowd involved with natural charisma, star magnetism, and some festival-appropriate choruses. It was a nice break from the high-level intensity of the previous three acts and wound up striking the perfect balance between relaxing and exciting, offering festivalgoers a chance to catch their breath while their attention remained invested in the performance.

Dum Dum Girls kept that balance exactly where it should have been with their peculiar brand of easygoing, subtly psych-glam-inflected, dream-pop. Everyone seemed to be in a sedated trance only a few songs in, eyes fixated to the stage, where the the band was running through a set emphasizing their most recent material (most notably this year’s enchanting Too True). They’ll be back in the Midwest before too long and, as evidenced by just a handful of songs, are definitely worth seeing (catch them at the High Noon Saloon on October 23). After a brief reprieve, it was time to catch a few songs from ScHoolboy Q, a figurehead of the increasingly influential Black Hippy crew. Q’s Habits & Contradictions was one of hip-hop’s defining records just a few years ago and it’s power- and Q’s stature- have only grown since. He lived up to every expectation and delivered a set just as lively as both Pusha T and Danny Brown’s attention-demanding performances from the previous day.  It was another strong example of the festival’s genre sensibility for the category and it was nothing short of thrilling to see Q take full advantage of his slot.

What followed ScHoolboy Q was an impromptu-heavy stunner of a set from Canadian duo Majical Cloudz. Devon Walsh and Matthew Otto are responsible for Impersonator, a haunting and minimal triumph of a record that stands as one of the best releases of the decade so far. It’s a record whose success no one could have predicted the extent of- just as no one could have predicted that less than two songs into their set, Otto’s keyboard (responsible for the bulk of the band’s music) would die completely. After frantic, futile attempts were made at a fix, the band embraced the dire conditions and weathered them with no shortage of bravery. Their first post-instrument-death piece was an a cappella rendition of “Bugs Don’t Buzz“, an immediately arresting performance that set the tone for what was to come. From that point forward, Walsh would graciously extend the microphone to anyone that wanted to sing one of their songs, beatbox, or even tell a joke- all while making sure the performance was kept relatively reigned in. More vocal-only renditions of songs from Impersonator were given- and loops were used whenever possible- and, for the grand finale, they took the now-useless keyboard and smashed it to smithereens in a moment of pure catharsis. It was genuinely unforgettable and wound up being a perfect transition to the next band on the schedule.

The recently reunited (and massively influential) Slowdive thankfully encountered no technical difficulties and sounded as perfect as they ever have, cranking their amps up to their breaking points and calmly making their way through a set of several now-legendary songs. Appropriately, their audience was in an entranced awe thanks to the still-spellbinding music emanating from the stage, as affecting now as it was two decades ago. This performance was one of the band’s only US dates and they made every moment of it count. After Slowdive wrapped up, there was just enough time for a brief break before Grimes took over and played to an absolutely packed crowd. Visions is now over two and a half years in the past but it’s proved formidable enough to keep serious attention focused on Clair Boucher, the artist behind the project. Grimes’ only release since then was last month’s “Go“, which earned a large amount of attention and acclaim. From the crowd’s reaction to Grimes’ set (which often felt more appropriate for a pop star than an emerging electronic artist, right down to the fan allowing Boucher’s hair to blow in the wind) it was abundantly clear that the public opinion of her has grown drastically since the release of Visions. “Oblivion” had a lot of people screaming and the audience seemed more than a little reluctant to see her leave but there was still one performer to go: Kendrick Lamar.

At this point, Kendrick is one of the few people in music who don’t need an introduction- and that showed in his set. Mostly pulling from the already-considered-stone-cold-classic good kid, m.A.A.d city he delivered one of the festivals most confident sets, while managing to keep it from tipping over into easy braggadocio, proving to be more than worthy of the festival’s ultimate headlining slot. His audience was huge and rapturous; it seemed like half of the Day 3 attendees were there solely to see the man himself. He didn’t disappoint those expectations- or even come close. Everyone who could drink was drinking, everyone who could dance was dancing, and no one was walking away disappointed. Songs like “Swimming Pools (Drank)” elicited mass crowd shout-a-longs and Lamar used his time as well as he possibly could. He’s clearly one of the biggest names in music (this is thanks in part to the fact he’s now earned a bottomless well of guest verses for just about everyone) and has no intentions of going anywhere but up. There were very few choices that would have felt more appropriate to bring everything home. It was the best-case-scenario closing to a festival that continues to get more impressive- and if that keeps up, it won’t be worth missing by the time it rolls around next year.

Pitchfork Festival: Day 2 (Review)

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Days 2 and 3 of the Pitchfork Festival were spent seeing the festival shows themselves, rather than the after shows. Who needed after shows when the lineups for both days were so unbelievably stacked? Day 2 started with Cloud Nothings laying into a very frantic set that recalled their recent High Noon Saloon appearance. Drawing entirely from Attack on Memory and Here and Nowhere Else, their set translated well to an outdoor festival setting. With the additional benefit of good weather, the day was off on the right foot. Before their set ended, it was off to catch Mas Ysa ending his, an impressive display of eclecticism and eccentric electronic work. It was a decided change of pace from Cloud Nothings’ assault just moments before- but it kept the audience just as engaged.

Pusha T was forced to play a shortened set after a late arrival but no one seemed to mind; there were more than a few people on the verge of losing their minds during his short time onstage. My Name Is My Name, one of last year’s stronger highlights, was well represented (predictably, “Nosetalgia” received the biggest reception- no surprise Kendrick appearance, though) as was his back catalog. Pusha handled the lion’s share of the performing himself and showcased the dazzling skill and charisma anyone that’s been paying attention to him since Clipse knows that he’s capable of. It was a standout set, even if it didn’t take up the full time slot. tUnE-yArDs played to another very packed crowd that proved to be just as entranced and receptive as Pusha T’s. Merrill Garbus and company played  off of each other expertly, offering up enviable displays of both percussive and vocal prowess. It felt appropriate in the setting and completely of the moment. Their last two songs drew two of the loudest cheers of the festival.

Next up on the schedule was Danny Brown, green-tipped hair and all, who absolutely invigorated what was starting to feel like a lull in the day’s actions. Perfect Pussy’s Meredith Graves was also on hand to watch this set and talked about punk, energy, unpredictably, danger, catharsis, and how Brown’s set embodied just about all of it. Brown’s last two records (XXX and Old, respectively) are two of the finest entries in hip-hop for the decade-so-far and his live show lived up to- and possibly surpassed- that recorded output. At this point he’s no longer a star in the making- he’s a bona fide star. Look out for whatever comes out of his camp next (fingers crossed on what seems to be a possibly impending collaboration with The Avalanches) because it’ll be more than worth paying attention to.

After Brown’s rousing set, it was back across the grounds for St. Vincent, still riding his on this year’s outstanding self-titled record. Annie Clark led her band through a set that leaned heavily on that record while occasionally glancing back (“Cheerleader“, in particular, was awe-inducing), always leaving at least one foot planted in her increasing fondness for futurist aesthetics. When she broke from that mold, though, the effects became staggeringly visceral. One of the most unexpected (and aggressive) moments of the festival, for instance, came when Clark led her band down into a free-for-all noise jam that bordered on chaos as it became increasingly heavier. Towards the end of this, Clark threw her guitar to the stage and started abusing it before crawling over to the bass drum, headbutting it repeatedly, rhythmically, before retreating and staying down, holding her head, clearly in some anguish. She would stay in that position for some time before a stagehand came and draped another guitar over her after receiving assurance that she was okay. It was a moment driven by pure, total feeling– and it was spectacular.

Neutral Milk Hotel put on some extraordinary shows after their surprise reunion last year (their Covington, KY show was particularly memorable) and they haven’t really stopped since. True to their wishes, the display screens for the festival were temporarily killed for their set. No cameras, no footage, just music and a shared experience. And what an experience it was. Literally thousands of people sang along in unison to personal favorites off of the band’s landmark achievement, In the Aeroplane, Over the Sea, and several jaws dropped when they went for their relatively deep cuts (“Ruby Bulbs” was as emotional as ever and “Ferris Wheel on Fire” remains transcendent in a live setting). It was mixed well, the band played with as much force as they did meaning and everyone in the audience was smiling, enjoying a moment that would have seemed impossible just a year and a half ago. It was the obvious choice to end the evening and felt akin to magic. Day 3 would have a lot to live up to.

Below watch a video of Cloud Nothings playing “I’m Not Part of Me” that was recently posted by the hosts of the festival themselves.

Watch This: Vol. 30

Well, it finally happened. Waatch This is officially back on track and back to its regular every-Sunday rotation- and this week was particularly stacked. There was an incredible Serious Business feature from BreakThruRadio on Hive Bent, a beautiful Allston Pudding session with Saintseneca, and Mansions turned in what was arguably their best performance for an absolutely incendiary run for Little Elephant. None of them made this week’s installment. There were various reasons that kept each of them out and what wound up being featured was a fairly eclectic mix of full sets, single songs, old favorites, and at least one face that’s completely new to this site. So, sit back, relax, continue on with some day drinking, and Watch This.

1. Bob Mould – I Don’t Know You Anymore (The Current)

Bob Mould should be a household name by now. One of the most influential and well-respected songwriters to emerge from the 80’s/90’s DIY punk/hardcore heyday, he’s already amassed an army of untouchable classics that have his name on them and he’s in the midst of a staggering resurgence that’s currently seeing him match his past glory. Beauty & Ruin is one of 2014’s best and isn’t in danger of losing that position by year’s end. It’s driven by gems like “I Don’t Know You Anymore” which Mould recently deliver a commanding solo performance of for Minneapolis’ 89.3 The Current. That can be seen below.

2. Archie Powell & the Exports – Everything’s Fucked (Jam in the Van)

This isn’t the first time that this song’s appeared on this site and the feelings towards it haven’t changed. “Everything’s Fucked” is a song that aims to scorch the earth that surrounds it and shows a total disregard for anything attempting to get in its way. Here, the band delivers a fierce, ragged performance of it for Jam in the Van during their SXSW stay and hold absolutely nothing back. It’s a jolt of energy that’s strong enough to inject a jump-start into any dreary Sunday; keep it on file for those occasions.

3. Hop Along (unARTigNYC)

unARTigNYC is back in a big way this week: this is the first of three videos the channel posted that will be featured as the extended closing sequence for this week’s Watch This. Now, this will come with a touch of Deja Vu for any longtime readers of the site as Vol. 15 also featured a full Hop Along set that was also posted by unARTigNYC that was also captured at Saint Vitus. Lightning can strike twice. The only real differences are the sets and the fact that this was a Pitchfork showcase that also featured Pleasure Leftists, Frankie Cosmos, and the band occupying this installment’s fifth slot All of the new material Hop Along has been playing out is pointing towards one thing; whenever that record drops, it’s going to be a big deal that a lot of people will be very passionate about. Expect to see a stream of praise coming from sites like this one the moment that happens. For now, just enjoy the fact there are things like this out there to keep everyone excited (and deeply impressed).

4. Charles Bradley – The World Is Going Up In Flames (unARTigNYC)

Are there any stories in music from this decade more inspiring than the ascension of Charles Bradley? It’s sincerely doubtful. Plucked from obscurity during his days as a James Brown impersonator, he impressed all the right people and wound up signing a deal with Daptone Records, the most influential label in soul. Before that moment, and during the interim, the now-65 year old Bradley went through some extraordinarily harsh times. Almost dying and experiencing great personal tragedy didn’t deter him, though, and in 2011 his debut record No Time for Dreaming was met the same way his sophomore effort, 2013’s Victim of Love was: they both garnered immediate acclaimed and helped elevate Bradley to being one of the biggest names in his genre. Now affectionately known as “The Screaming Eagle of Soul”, Bradley has greeted any kind of interest with overwhelming appreciation and humility. If there’s one thing to feel good about in music, it’s his success- a success driven by charisma and raw natural talent.

5. Perfect Pussy (unARTigNYC)

Perfect Pussy, the band whose name makes Hop Along’s Frances Quinlan blush every time she says it, headlined the recent Pitchfork showcase at Saint Vitus. They also now have a commanding lead as the band featured most on this site, which should mean that close to everything’s already been said about them here. While that might be the case, I’m not even close to done talking about Perfect Pussy and I doubt I’ll ever be. Part of the reason for this is their high-velocity live show. Each of their shows is its own beast, though they all seem to clock in at around 20 minutes, which are infused with the most blistering whirlwind of sound and unrepentant aggression anyone could imagine (this fact has caused a lot of confusion from people who aren’t familiar with hardcore and the people that don’t understand how quickly high-intensity physical exertion can lead to dangerous levels of exhaustion). Vocalist Meredith Graves greets the triviality of those complaints the only way she knows how: with a smile (for proof of this, check the :40 mark for a memorable quip). Her lyrics are some of the most unflinchingly honest I’ve ever encountered and, impossibly, stand as both a complement and contrast to the band’s performance. In prose, Perfect Pussy can come off as slightly withdrawn and full of guarded desperation- but even then, it’s so forward that it feels like that same gut-punch the live show so readily and consistently provides. Here, the band’s in fine form, Graves is the physical manifestation of an internal maelstrom or three; Shaun Sutkus project a steely, detached calm to provide some stability behind his setup of synths; the rhythm section of Greg Ambler and Garrett Koloski both make sure they’re as physically present as Graves is and guitarist Ray McAndrew keeps his head down while providing an additional thrashing body. If it sounds chaotic, it’s because it is- it’s also all so improbably controlled that it makes their sets unforgettable affairs- no matter how long or short they wind up being. Add all of these qualities to the fact that Graves is currently one of the most outspoken public figures in an ongoing fight against multiple kinds of oppression and Perfect Pussy winds up exactly where they should be: as one of the most important bands that we’ve got. See them (and support them) as soon as humanly possible.