Heartbreaking Bravery

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Tag: Pitchfork

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.

Watch This: Ending Another Short Stretch of Static

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We’ve officially arrived at the 950th post of Heartbreaking Bravery, which means it’s time to offer up another mixtape of some sort or another. Since the Watch This series has maintained radio silence over the past two and a half weeks it only felt appropriate to turn to the over-abundance of incredible material that’s surfaced in that time frame. The 25 clips included below range from old favorites to promising new faces, single songs to full sessions, and generally cover the range of what the series was created to support: the very best of the live video platform. It’s unlikely that anyone will watch through the entirety of this packet (as it runs for nearly four hours, if viewed uninterrupted) but it’s worth taking the time to both explore and return to all of the performances contained in Ending Another Short Stretch of Static. So, as always, kick back, focus up, adjust the settings, settle in, and Watch This.

1. Car Seat Headrest – Fill In the Blank (Pitchfork)
2. The Spook School – Gone Home (BreakThruRadio)
3. Meat Wave – Sham King (SideOneDummy)
4. Weaves (3voor12)
5. Ron Gallo (Audiotree)
6. Dusk – Shift Towards Tenderness (This Means War)
7. Izzy True – Which Wish (Bedhead Sessions)
8. Royal Headache – Carolina (Pitchfork)
9. Royal Brat – Avoider + Broken Step (Radio K)
10. Girl Band – Paul (Pitchfork)
11. The Coathangers – Burn Me (Radio K)
12. Japanese Breakfast – Everybody Wants To Love You
13. Free Cake For Every Creature (WKNC)
14. Fear of Men (Audiotree)
15. Majical Cloudz – Silver Car Crash (q on cbc)
16. Jade Imagine – Stay Awake (3RRRFM)
17. Tele Novella – Heavy Balloon (Do512 Austin)
18. Margaret Glaspy (KEXP)
19. Kevin Morby (NPR)
20. PWR BTTM – New Hampshire (WFUV)
21. Wand (KEXP)
22. Declan McKenna – Brazil (The Late Show With Stephen Colbert)
23. Lucy Dacus (NPR)
24. Ólafur Arnalds (ft. Brasstríó Mosfellsdals) – Dalur 
25. Julien Baker (Primavera)

Watch This: The Best of 2016’s First Quarter, Vol. V

[EDITOR’S NOTE: Each of the seven volumes that comprise this Watch This package contain 25 clips apiece. Due to the sheer volume of live videos that have come out during January, February, and March all of the packages will have the same introductory paragraph. Regular Watch This segments will resume on Sunday.]

It’s been a tremendous first quarter for live videos. While Watch This, Heartbreaking Bravery’s weekly series celebrating the very best of the live video format, hasn’t been in operation for roughly three full months, the information required to keep this thing humming (i.e., checking through hundreds of subscriptions and sources for outstanding new material) has been collected at regular intervals. If they were full sessions, single song performances, studio-shot, DIY captures, transcendent songs, or transcendent visual presentations, they were compiled into a massive list. 175 videos wound up making extraordinarily strong impressions, those videos will all be presented here, in the Watch This: The Best of 2016’s First Quarter extended package, one 25-clip presentation at a time. 

Watch the fifth collection of those videos below.

1. Mothers – Grateful For It (Paste)
2. Bully – Trying (KUTX)
3. Sports – Saturday (This Has Got To Stop)
4. Parquet Courts (KEXP)
5. Pinegrove – Old Friends (VHS Sessions)
6. Jason Isbell – Flagship (The Current)
7. Three Man Cannon – Mood (Little Elephant)
8. Jake Morley – Falter (BalconyTV)
9. Lady Lamb – Billions of Eyes (Audiotree)
10. Riothorse Royale – Crash and Glow (Do512)
11. Låpsley – Hurt Me (WFUV)
12. Diet Cig (WKNC)
13. Saintseneca – Such Things (KUTX)
14. Human Music – Dark Zone (Exclaim!)
15. Nectar – Change Your Mind (DZ Records)
16. Bantam Lyons (Faits Divers)
17. Cherry Cola – Bring Me to the Ground (Radio K)
18. Mass Gothic (KEXP)
19. Lithuania – 2009 (WXPN)
20. Low – Murderer (Pitchfork)
21. Soul Low – Spooky Times (Little Elephant)
22. Lucy Dacus – Direct Address (Radio K)
23. Otherkin (3voor12)
24. Soft Fangs – The Light (Fitz Ross)
25. Torres – Son, You Are No Island (Audiotree)

Watch This: The Best of 2016’s First Quarter, Vol. I

[EDITOR’S NOTE: Each of the seven volumes that comprise this Watch This package contain 25 clips apiece. Due to the sheer volume of live videos that have come out during January, February, and March all of the packages will have the same introductory paragraph. Regular Watch This segments will resume on Sunday.]

It’s been a tremendous first quarter for live videos. While Watch This, Heartbreaking Bravery’s weekly series celebrating the very best of the live video format, hasn’t been in operation for roughly three full months, the information required to keep this thing humming (i.e., checking through hundreds of subscriptions and sources for outstanding new material) has been collected at regular intervals. If they were full sessions, single song performances, studio-shot, DIY captures, transcendent songs, or transcendent visual presentations, they were compiled into a massive list. 175 videos wound up making extraordinarily strong impressions, those videos will all be presented here, in the Watch This: The Best of 2016’s First Quarter extended package, one 25-clip presentation at a time. 

Watch the first collection of those videos below.

1. Charly Bliss (Audiotree)
2. Julien Baker (NPR)
3. Happyness (KEXP)
4. Car Seat Headrest (NPR)
5. PWR BTTM (KEXP)
6. Kal Marks – Coffee (Allston Pudding)
7. Fern Mayo (BreakThruRadio)
8. Wolf Alice (NPR)
9. Coke Weed (WKNC)
10. Frankie Cosmos – Outside With the Cuties (Pitchfork)
11. All Dogs – Sunday Morning (Little Elephant)
12. Eskimeaux (BreakThruRadio)
13. Sóley (KEXP)
14. Ty Segall & The Muggers – Candy Sam (Conan)
15. Pinegrove – Need 2 (Little Elephant)
16. Beach House – Irene (Pitchfork)
17. Petal – Sooner (WXPN)
18. Ratboys – Collected (DZ Records)
19. together PANGEA – Blue Mirror (Consequence of Sound)
20. VANT – Parking Lot + Do You Know Me (3voor12)
21. Long Beard (BreakThruRadio)
22. Courtney Barnett – Nobody Really Cares If You Don’t Go to the Party (Colbert)
23. Michael Rault – Nothing Means Nothing (Out of Town Films)
24. Sleater-Kinney – Modern Girl (Austin City Limits)
25. Bo Ningen (KEXP)

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. 91

Hard to believe that there already have been 91 segments of Watch This, but here we are- another week in and five more live clips to feature. For this particular run, full sets get the bulk of the attention while a site favorite and a new name to both this series and this site round things out. Courtney Barnett has been awarded enough spots here over the past few months so we’ll forego featuring yet another incredible turn-in from the rising songwriter to make way for some fresher faces. Barnett led a small but formidable pack of artists who just missed the cut this week, a list that included Elvis Depressedly, Bad Bad Hats, Iceage (x2), Small Feet, lowercase roses, and Hailey Wocjik. All of those, of course, are worth your time and (as is increasingly the case with live videos) deserve more attention than they’re getting. Watch them now or save them for later but make sure you reel in the five clips below because they all boast something inherently special happening on either side of the lens. So, as always, grab a snack, settle in, adjust your screen, focus up, and Watch This.

1. Bellows (WKNC)

Appearing just after a knockout set at Baby’s All Right, this WKNC session finds Oliver Kalb delivering a beautiful solo session of the songs he writes under the moniker Bellows. Frail, unassuming, and utterly captivating, the four songs contained in the clip wield a certain intangible quality that immediately transforms this particular performance into one of the most arresting WKNC has ever produced. Kalb’s vocal tendencies (soft, wavering) bring to mind Sufjan Stevens but where Stevens so frequently opts for grandeur- even in his more intimate moments- Kalb keeps things pinned to a mundane reality. By the time each song’s been sung, both Kalb and WKNC wind up with a staple deserving of a proud placement in their respective canons.

2. Ego Death – Sunlight/Graveyard (Radio K)

No matter how many times it happens, there are few things that can compare to the exhilarating wave of excitement that hits upon discovering a new band that immediately crosses off a long list of preference check marks. Punk attitude, guitar scuzz, nods to the spikier wave of late 80’s and early 90’s alternative genres, and a strong basement pop sensibility are all big ones for this site and Ego Death makes their way through each with ease in this performance of “Sunlight/Graveyard” for Radio K. Gruff, fearless, and extremely dynamic, this is a band to watch and a song worth hearing. You know what to do.

3. Disco Doom (Exploding In Sound)

Having wrapped an extraordinarily successful extended weekend showcase (keep an eye on this site for more on that soon), Exploding In Sound Records is sitting pretty high at the moment. One of the band’s most fascinating acquisitions, Disco Doom, couldn’t make it stateside for the affair but the label continuously showers them with an excess for love. The reasoning behind that devotion becomes abundantly clear to anyone who has the good fortune of familiarizing themselves with the band- or even to anyone who so much as bothers to click play on this video. All of the hallmarks that create a common thread between the Exploding In Sound roster are evident but the band also brings in more than a few nods to bands like Pavement and Dinosaur Jr, immediately carving out a select niche spot in the process. Don’t sleep on this one.

4. Screaming Females – Normal (Razorcake)

Over the past few years, site favorites Screaming Females have essentially become the patron saints of DIY punk. Throw in the fact that they’re an incomparably fierce live act and it’s probably not much of a surprise they’ve appeared on this series with a relative regularity since it kicked off. While a few of those clips have been absolutely stunning in terms of execution, there’s something that just feels right about a DIY clip of the trio in action. Razorcake– one of the premier spots for DIY coverage- recently caught the band in action at the rightfully celebrated Vince Lombardi High School (or, more commonly, VLHS) ripping through Castle Talk highlight “Normal” with their usual verve and fervor. It’s also easily one of the best live representations of the band to date.

5. Ty Segall (3voor12)

A lot of digital ink’s been spilled over the complete levels of insanity that animate Ty Segall’s live show (especially when it’s with Ty Segall Band, as it is here) and all of it’s correct. I was fortunate enough to catch the band on their Slaughterhouse tour, which was pushed even further and felt more like a gleefully indulgent victory lap after Segall and his cohorts capped off a monstrous year that saw the release of no less than three highly acclaimed full-lengths (SlaughterhouseTwnis, and the White Fence collaborative effort Hair). Segall’s just about kept pace since then, only offering a reprieve in advance of a titanic double-album- last year’s excellent Manipulator– and the live shows have managed to grow even more deliriously fierce. With such a huge catalog to pull from, Segall and his band (which includes Mikal Cronin, one of today’s finest songwriters), just about any one of his/their sets could be called “discography spanning” and not even touch on half of the releases. This set, artfully shot by 3voor12 at Amsterdam’s famed Paradiso, certainly qualifies. It’s (unsurprisingly) a wild-eyed barn-burner of a set that hits the fifth gear in its closing stretch, once again reaffirming Segall’s status as one of today’s most invigorating live performers. Don’t be surprised if people are still talking about these shows decades down the line.

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: Vol. 89

Welcome to an extremely late night (early morning?) edition of Watch This– the weekly series that celebrates some of the week’s best performance captures. With 2015 already feeling overstuffed, I’ll forego the usual honorary mentions round-up and simply present the five best captures to have surfaced this week. From site favorites to series favorites to new faces, there’s a fair amount of material to cover. Pro-shot presentations get balanced out by some lovingly lensed DIY clips and- as always- all of the performances contained within those videos are outstanding. So, pour a drink or fix some breakfast, ease in, adjust the volume, focus up, and Watch This.

1. Sleater-Kinney – Bury Our Friends + Entertain (Pitchfork)

The unexpected resurgence of Sleater-Kinney was one of 2015’s first great musical moments and the reverberations from its impact are still being felt. Recently, the band- by all accounts- absolutely owned Pitchfork this year with a monstrous day 2 headlining set that overshadowed Wilco’s Star Wars marathon the previous night and Chance the Rapper’s hometown celebration as the fest’s final headliner. Even just from the two-clip sample contained below, “Bury Our Friends” and “Entertain”, its abundantly clear that Sleater-Kinney are one of the best live bands on the planet right now. A note to other bands splitting bills with the revitalized legends: don’t feel down, feel fortunate you get to be a part of something that can’t help but feel just a little unprecedented.

2. Worriers – They/Them/Theirs (Don Giovanni)

Imaginary Life came out a few days ago, immediately registering as one of the year’s best punk efforts. Even with a collection that strong, “They/Them/Theirs” stands out. Personal, timely, and deeply impassioned, it’s a clarion call for a marginalized sect. The band played their release show at The Knitting Factory last Friday and brought the same verve, force, and resilience to their performance of their song of the year candidate. Scrappy and thrilling, it’s one hell of a showcase for the band’s collective talent.

3. The Trims – With You + Bright Lights City (Jam in the Van)

Every now and then, Jam in the Van will resurface with a session that hits a sweet spot for this site and their recent capture of The Trims found that mark. Bridging post-punk and indie pop hallmarks, the quarter’s landed on a sound that’s unusually compelling when considering their pop-oriented proclivities. Subverting anthemic by-the-numbers move at just about every turn, their music manages to come off as cinematic while still feeling like an outlier. Moody, vibrant, and occasionally bruising, the group seems primed for a breakout and ready to greet whatever may come their way.

4. Young Jesus – Baked Goods (A Fistful of Vinyl)

Young Jesus are no strangers to this site. Ever since releasing their best-of-decade contender Home (a record I simply can’t recommend strongly enough), they’ve been on my radar. The past few years have been a transitional process for the band following their relocation from Chicago to Los Angeles. Earlier this year, the band released the excellent Grow/Decompose and they seem to be settling into their new era quite nicely. Earlier this week, the band unveiled even more new music via a taping of a raw, fiery performance, courtesy of A Fistful of Vinyl. Bold, bloodied, and not even a little glossy, “Baked Goods” is presented in a manner that feels intrinsically connected to the band’s DIY ethos. It’s a startling watch and a strong reminder of how much beauty can be found in imperfection.

5. SOAK (NPR)

It only seemed like a matter of time before Bridie Monds-Watson wound up making an appearance at NPR’s Tiny Desk and now that the moment’s finally arrived, the fit somehow feels even more natural than expected. Here, Monds-Watson’s SOAK project turns in a trio of songs and an impressive array of warm, humorous asides. The closing two numbers, “B a Nobody” and “Wait”, sound as fine as they ever have and “Sea Creatures” proves to be the perfect introductory piece for the set. Grounded and contained, it skews towards the kind of intimacy that the tiny desk was built to elicit from its performers but continues to prove elusive to a fair number of their acts (Monds-Watson namechecks Angel Olsen’s session, who hit extraordinary heights in regards to the series’ intended intimacy and caused the first major Watch This dilemma by pitting that session against an  unforgettable La Blogotheque capture, which wound up securing the spot in that particular installment). All things considered, it makes sense for Monds-Watson to feel trepidation about performing in such a vaunted space but now that everything’s said and done, it’s clear that the SOAK session resides comfortably in the series’ upper echelons.

Watch This: Vol. 88

87 entries in and still going strong, Watch This- the weekly series dedicated to celebrating some of the week’s finest performance clips- has become one of this site’s definitive markers. Great performances are given every day, all over the world, and a few of them have the good fortune of being caught on film- a handful of those are presented in startlingly beautiful ways. Every week, five of those artists’ performance get featured here, while a handful of impressive efforts get highlights as well. This week, those highlights included performances from Jeff Rosenstock, Calexico, Paul Weller, Tedo Stone, Dead Stars, toyGuitar, and Laser Background. Nearly every artist in this 88th installment has been featured on Watch This before, which continues a nearly unprecedented run of inclusions for both Courtney Barnett and Girlpool. Diet Cig officially cements their spot as a staple of the series and KEXP houses another impressive full session. It’s a lot to take in, so, as always, sit up, adjust the volume, lean in, and Watch This.

1.Built to Spill (KEXP)

Doug Martsch and his band of ragtag misfits crafted one of this year’s more unexpectedly stunning records in Untethered Moon, Built To Spill’s strongest collection of songs in over a decade. KEXP recently brought the band in for a session that emphasized the singular energy that helped make Untethered Moon so compelling. Long regarded as one of the best live acts on the circuit, the band proves they’ve earner their status over an impressive four song set. It’s a strong reminder of the talent of a band that seems content to keep pushing themselves for as long as they possibly can.

2. Diet Cig – Pool Boyz + Scene Sick (Out of Town Films)

Ever since Over Easy came out towards the start of the year, Diet Cig has been making regular appearances on Watch This thanks in part to not only that collection’s strength but to the uninhibited joy the duo exude when they perform.  As great as those clips have been, Out of Town Films adds a visual panache that elevates this particular session to one Diet Cig’s brightest moments. There’s a manic energy, guitarist/vocalist’s Alex Luciano’s mischievous smile, jumping bean antics, and Noah Bowman’s committed energy. The fact that the whole thing is capped off with a high-five feels beyond perfect. Carefree, irreverent, and ridiculously entertaining, this is a definitive presentation of a site favorite.

3. Courtney Barnett – Pedestrian at Best + Elevator Operator (Pitchfork)

At this point, it’s entirely possible that no one has made as many Watch This lists as Courtney Barnett. Still riding high on the wave of acclaim that Sometimes I Sit And Think, And Sometimes I Just Sit has built, combined with relentless touring, has landed Barnett in a coveted position that’s secured the songwriter a murderer’s row of outlets that create great live clips. Of course, it helps that Barnett’s a preternaturally gifted performer. Barnett recently delivered a characteristically blistering performance at Pitchfork and the site’s uploaded two performances, “Pedestrian At Best” and “Elevator Operator”, in kind.

4. Parquet Courts – Uncast Shadow of A Southern Myth + Content Nausea (Pitchfork)

Back when some of Parquet Courts were in Teenage Cool Kids, they’d frequently show up for shows in Milwaukee basements and deliver the kind of shambolic performances that’d eventually earn Parquet Courts no shortage of celebratory praise. Since those days, it’s an approach that’s been honed, refined over time, and brought dangerously close to perfection. In yet another strong pairing of fiery performances from Pitchfork, the band ambles through “Uncast Shadow of a Southern Myth” (which was originally a Teenage Cool Kids song) and “Content Nausea” with a wiry, deadpan verve.

5. Girlpool – Crowded Stranger (Sofar Sounds)

If Courtney Barnett’s leading the number of Watch This inclusions, Girlpool likely isn’t too far behind. Having just seen the duo deliver arresting performances at both Baby’s All Right and as a secret headliner at DBTS (a gallery of which will be going up soon), the way the duo commands attention on film is maximized in person- but the best clips come close to capturing that prevailing sense of awe that so often accompanies the live experience. Here, the duo performs “Crowded Stanger”- one of 2015’s more chill-inducing songs- in front of Sofar Sounds’ lenses to a hushed crowd in a London room. It’s a breathtaking rendition that reaffirms the songwriters’ inherent charisma and innate ability, providing another layer of definitive proof that Girlpool are one of today’s most formidable acts.

Watch This: Vol. 85

Welcome to the 85th installment of Watch This, the annual Sunday series that celebrates some of the finest performance captures to find release over the past week. Courtney Barnett, Girlpool, and Torres all continue their respective strangleholds on this series’ feature spots. Heavy on full sets, every artist featured here has earned several words from this site in the past. Of course, as usual, there was stiff competition for the feature spots. Artists responsible for those performances included: Tahiti Boy & the Palmtree Family, Christopher Owens, Christopher Paul Stelling, Sorority Noise, Leon Bridges, Viet Cong, HEALTH, Calexico, Dave Monks, Sam Prekop + Archer PrewittMolina y Los Co´smicos, Forth Wanderers, Shana Cleveland and The Sandcastles, and footage from the FORM Acrosanti anti-festival. It’s another lineup that’s indicative of the five featured clips’ astounding strength. So, as always, grab a drink, sit back, adjust the volume to whatever best reflects your preference, and Watch This.

1. METZ – Spit You Out (3voor12)

METZ are one of the fiercest live bands on the planet right now so their inclusion here isn’t really all that surprising. What’s definitely unexpected, though, is the gorgeous scenery. Performing at the Best Kept Secret festival, the trio took to a house’s front yard and delivered an absolutely blistering rendition of METZ II highlight “Spit You Out”. It’s an exhilarating tour de force from one of this generation’s most exciting bands.

2. Girlpool (NPR)

By now it’s very likely that the trio of songs the duo of Cleo Tucker and Harmony Lebel-Tividad play here have graced this series more than any other songs. However, they’ve never been played on a stage even remotely similar to NPR’s vaunted Tiny Desk Concert series. Now, more than ever, it’s abundantly clear how ingrained these songs are in both members. Intuitive playing, effortless harmonies, and a genuine love for their work and each other once again carries their performances to near-transcendental heights.

3. Speedy Ortiz (unARTigNYC)

First thing’s first: this is not a complete video. Understandable, because the weather started threatening everyone’s equipment, not just Speedy Ortiz’s (who had several technical difficulties throughout a spirited, memorable set). I was fortunate enough to be in attendance for this show- held for free on a pier in Manhattan as part of Hudson River Parks’ Hudson RiverRocks concert series- and weathered a fairly brutal rainfall sans umbrella until the bitter end (the rain started- and the wind picked up- during a beautiful version of “Doomsday”, a song that still manages to elicit goosebumps and stands firm as a Song of the Decade contender). Although it’s not featured in the video, I’ll have a permanently embedded memory of the band losing pedal after pedal (and then amp and PA connections) during a particularly fierce take on “American Horror” that ended with Sadie Dupuis opting to take her guitar off and hold it above her head, allowing the feedback to ring out, like some ritualistic sacrifice to the gods. It was a stunning moment. Unfortunately, Waxahatchee’s set had to be cancelled due to lightning before it even started- but it would have been hard to have made much of an impression after what Speedy Ortiz accomplished in the face of what could have easily been disastrous.

4. Torres – A Proper Polish Welcome (Sunday  Sessions)

There’s something about Torres’ “A Proper Polish Welcome” being played as a solo piece that manages to come off as intrinsically haunted. One of the most arresting moments on one of the year’s best records, it’s lent an even greater pathos when it’s stripped bare. With Sunday Sessions placing all of the emphasis on Mackenzie Scott, the clip nears a strange voyeurism as Scott completely loses herself to both the song and the performance. Gripping and beautiful, it’s a masterclass in solo performance.

5. Courtney Barnett (Moshcam)

Courtney Barnett seems to be making a habit out of crashing Watch This‘ weekly party with astounding full sets and this excellent performance- beautifully lensed by Moshcam- sees the continuation of that pattern. This time around, the songwriter unloads a career-spanning powerhouse homecoming set to an appreciative audience. Barnett’s a preternaturally gifted performer and the band she’s assembled plays well to her seemingly endless strengths. A staggering 16-song set, this serves as one of the definitive documents of Barnett’s abilities and still-ascending level(s) of success.