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.