Heartbreaking Bravery

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Tag: Rash

Watch This: Vol. 55

With a few days of silence and a Watch This-less Sunday firmly in the past, today’s left with a lot of material to catch up on. Two weeks has provided a lot of great performances spread across a sizable range of styles, from full set in-studio sessions to solo acoustic takes. All but one of the bands featured in what will be the first of three Watch This installments has previously been featured on the site- with a great band from Columbus being the lone debut. It’s a lot to admire, a lot to celebrate, and a lot to analyze. So, as always, sit back, adjust the settings, focus, and Watch This.

1. Big Ups (KEXP)

Big Ups‘ Eighteen Hours of Static was one of 2014’s first great releases. All wild-eyed ferocity and unrelenting momentum, it marked the emergence of one of the more exciting young bands. While it still stands as one of the more notable records of the year, it’s since been overshadowed by the band’s incendiary live performance (it’s not a mistake that they keep showing up in this series). Here, they light up KEXP’s studios with a characteristically fiery five-song performance that should only facilitate their ascension. This is a band that fully deserves their growing recognition, don’t make the mistake of letting them slip by unnoticed.

2. Frankie Cosmos – Embody (Radio K)

Frankie Cosmos provided one of the most lovely sets of NXNE a few months back and since then, they’ve only grown more poised. Greta Kline’s an enviably gifted and incredibly prolific songwriter with a high ceiling. Nearly every Frankie Cosmos release has been a gem and ensured the band’s continued recognition. Airy pop songs like the excellent “Embody”, which they perform here for Radio K, are perfectly crafted pieces of- to quote the song- grace and lightness. It’s a warm embrace from an old friend, providing comfort and reassurance in equal measure; simply sublime.

3. Spit (Live at Treehaus)

Spit‘s Getting Low was one of the year’s quiet self-released records, exceedingly excellent but completely unheralded. Easily one of the best submissions this site’s ever received, the project’s now evolved from a solo venture to a full band endeavor- and what a band. Completely expanding on the Exploding in Sound-style tendencies that Getting Low hinted at, they’ve come out of the gate swinging with vicious intent. Spit’s only got one real show under their belt and they’re already very much a band to watch. Fuzzed out and appropriately left of center, this is a band worth greeting with high expectations- with this full live show serving as definitive proof.

4. Day Creeper – The Way You’re Told (The Mug and Brush Sessions)

Columbus, OH has been producing incredible bands at an alarming rate for some time now, with Day Creeper situated firmly in that pack. With a live show that’s just as ferocious as their recorded output, they’re always a great candidate for a feature performance- and the band absolutely lights up The Mug and Brush Sessions’ studio.
“The Way You’re Told” also serves as a tantalizing glimpse at the band’s upcoming Central States. If the rest of the record’s as good as this performance, they’ll have a serious contender on their hands.

5. Cloud Nothings – Now Hear In (Exclaim!)

A lot’s been made of Dylan Baldi’s vocal takes for Cloud Nothings. In most assessments, Jayson Gerycz’s drumming usually works its way into the central conversation (and rightfully so) but one thing that’s continuously evaded scrutiny is Baldi’s inventive guitar work. Stripped all the way back to a solo acoustic performance, it’s an aspect that’s allowed greater focus and opens up the impressive levels of songwriting happening in Cloud Nothings at present. Here, Baldi’s both restrained and subtly aggressive, providing a commanding performance that contributes to Cloud Nothings’ status as one of today’s most exciting bands.

Speedy Ortiz – Doomsday (Stream)

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Even on relatively quiet days, there will be things that warrant a paragraph’s worth of fawning. Today, that distinction could have gone to Big Ups’ gnashed-teeth brawler, “Rash“, just as easily as it could have fallen to We Come From the Same Place, a triumphant new record from Allo Darlin’. There were also attention-demanding examples of overblown visual weirdness that covered the DIY-professional production spread thanks to The New Pornographers and Krill, respectively. Even more left-field than those two videos was the video for “Never Catch Me“, the collaborative single between Flying Lotus and Kendrick Lamar off of the former’s upcoming You’re Dead– an easy 2014 highlight. While all were great for an array of (extremely) varying reasons, none of them hit home quite as hard as Speedy Ortiz’s “Doomsday”, a song that continues the band’s growth in mesmerizing fashion.

A lot of Speedy Ortiz’s most stunning material is tethered to a duality of feelings, whether it’s the wistful melodies contrasting the uplifting affirmations in “No Below” or a vulnerable paranoia being met by the relentless aggression of “American Horror“. It’s something the band seems to have an awareness of and likely why both of those songs wound up as singles. For all of Major Arcana‘s successes last year, the band could have easily used 2014 to coast on a victory lap. Instead, they’ve released an incredibly strong EP (Real Hair) an Adult Swim single (“Bigger Party“), and now they’re following those up with a stunning new effort for Famous Class Records’ LAMC series. “Doomsday” is a song that the band’s been playing out for a while and it’s been an easy set highlight each time thanks to the fact that it’s a genuinely great song. Easily one of Speedy Ortiz’s strongest works to date, it retains all of the elements that caused the band to be celebrated in the first place- only this time, all of those traits feel astonishingly complete. After a string of rightfully-acclaimed releases, Speedy Ortiz have found their identity and crafted something that feels wholly their own- and it’s extraordinary. How “Doomsday” can feel so weighted when nearly every small moment of it suggests something lighter is impossibly impressive; de facto bandleader Sadie Dupuis’ grasp on the material, strong enough to ensure that this is a band emerging musicians will look to as an influence in the years to come. If “Doomsday” is any indication of the material the band has in store, their next record could easily wind up being a classic. Until then, just listen to “Doomsday” on repeat and make sure to get out to one of the band’s upcoming dates with Ex Hex- because those shows won’t be worth missing.

Stream “Doomsday” below and order the 7″ (which is backed by a lovely acoustic track from Chris Weisman) from Famous Class’ bandcamp.