Heartbreaking Bravery

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Tag: Rough Trade

Watch This: The Best of 2017’s First Quarter, Pt. III

The first two parts of this four-part series shedding light on some of the finest live videos to see the light of the day over 2017’s first three months largely focused on single song takes, with a few two-song performances for good measure. The latter two of this series turns the attention to full sessions. Part three, specifically, focuses on long takes of these sessions encompassed in a single video, an area that places like KEXP — who are featured here multiple times — have wisely made their calling card. All of the performances and bands featured in this third installment of this review are worthy of celebration. So, as always, get excited, try to keep calm, lean in, hit play, and Watch This.

PART III

1. Car Seat Headrest (KEXP)
2. PWR BTTM (NPR)
3. Sad13 (WKNC)
4. Cloud Nothings (KEXP)
5. Mannequin Pussy (Audiotree)
6. Hazel English (Rough Trade)
7. Alvvays (CBC Music)
8. Big Thief (NPR)
9. The Spirit of the Beehive (WKNC)
10. Jeff Rosenstock (Little Elephant)
11. Crying (Audiotree)
12. Priests (PressureDrop.tv)
13. Lee Fields & The Expressions (KEXP)
14. Horse Jumper of Love (Audiotree)
15. Angel Olsen (KEXP)
16. The Regrettes (PressureDrop.tv)
17. Thee Oh Sees (KEXP)
18. Mall Walk (PressureDrop.tv)
19. Los Campesinos! (KEXP)
20. Fai Baba (KEXP)
21. Terry Malts (PressureDrop.tv)
22. Haley Bonar (KEXP)
23. Let’s Eat Grandma (KEXP)
24. Valgeir Sigurðsson & Jodie Landau (KEXP)
25. Explosions In The Sky (Moshcam)

Parquet Courts – Human Performance (Music Video)

parquetcourts

There were a lot of great clips to emerge over the past two weeks. Some of the artists responsible for that welcome trend were Angel OlsenGirl Band, ScotDrakula, Free Cake For Every Creature, Fury Things, Nap Eyes, Dinosaur Jr, Deerhoof, AJJ, Wolf Eyes, The Coathangers, The Velveteins, Thin Lips, ON AN ON, MRCH, Adam Olenius, Mumblr, and VHS. As great as several of those wound up being, few could match the bizarrely singular nature of the unforgettable, quasi-nightmarish clip that Parquet Courts offered up for career highlight “Human Performance“.

Likely knowing they’d have to live up to their strongest song to date, Parquet Courts turned in a clip that centered on puppets that boasted an intangible, human quality that makes “Human Performance” at once endlessly fascinating and deeply unnerving. It’s as if the band, through some unholy miracle, found the way to perfectly visualize the most deep-seated neuroses that informs the song. There’s a certain Lynch-ian quality to the proceedings, managing to be painfully grotesque and undeniably human all at once.

As good as “Human Performance” — easily one of this year’s best songs — was on its own, the clip manages to complement it so effectively that it creates a symbiotic relationship with each format heightening the other. From the song’s resigned delivery to the video’s frank depiction of late-life sexual exploration, everything syncs up in a transcendental tapestry of repressed emotions.  In both cases, “Human Performance” is a meditation on what it truly means to be human and all of the limitations that accompany humanity’s frequently cruel realty.

It’s a video that’s proven to be impossible to shake and a watch that practically demands revisits. Bold, original, and even brave, “Human Performance” is a cogent reminder of the artistry that can be granted to — and even defines — the most mundane, trivial details of life. Since it’d be nearly impossible to capture the overwhelming amount of sheer feelings that runs through every single frame of the video, I’ll just shut up and let the clip speak for itself.

Watch “Human Performance” below and pick the record up from Rough Trade here.

Watch This: Another Full Session

There have been a few recent posts that have commented on (and made attempts to amend) the recent hiatus that Watch This experienced. There will be two more extended packets following this installment of the series and then Watch This will be caught back up to the current release cycle. After the last entry — the longest compilation of any kind that’s ever run on this site — nearly exhausted the finest full sessions of the past month and a half, it felt necessary to turn the attention to some more abbreviated sessions.

Now, for the sake of consistency of time, a few full sessions appear toward the end of the compilation below. There are 83 total videos in this package but, as is always the case for this extended version of Watch This, 25 performances are featured. Had they been able to fit in without repeating or more properly aligned with what this entry’s trying to accomplish (without being repeat inclusions for the artist), Charles Bradley & The Extraordinaires, Thao & The Get Down Stay Down, and Sharon Jones & The Dap-Kings all had sessions that would have made the cut. That trio of clips alone should serve as a testament to the strength of this edition of the series. So, as always, sit up, adjust the volume, lean back, and Watch This.

1. Bully (The Current)
2. Those Manic Seas (Little Elephant)
3. Potty Mouth (Bedhead Sessions)
4. Torres (Paste)
5. Eddi Front (Hooke)
6. Alabama Shakes (Paste)
7. Tacocat (WFUV)
8. Thao & The Get Down Stay Down (KCRW)
9. Seratones (WFUV)
10. Frightened Rabbit (KCRW)
11. Music Band (Jam in the Van)
12. Charles Bradley (KINK)
13. Mass Gothic (Rhapsody)
14. Greys (Exclaim!)
15. Izzy True (Don Giovanni)
16. Black Beach (Allston Pudding)
17. Erik Blood (Band In Seattle)
18. Acid Dad (Jam in the Van)
19. Suuns (Exclaim!)
20. Diarrhea Planet (Jam in the Van)
21. Parquet Courts (Rough Trade)
22. Negative Scanner (Pressure Drop)
23. Wild Powwers (Band In Seattle)
24. Burnt Palms (Pressure Drop)
25. Wimps (Band In Seattle)

Parquet Courts – Human Performance (Stream)

parquetcourts

A large handful of great songs have emerged since the turn of April and it’d be a complete disservice to their innumerable strengths to not allow them a mention. As previously stated, these songs will be evenly distributed across all of today’s fixed stream posts. Before putting the latest single from Parquet Courts under the microscope, take a moment to grant the links that are about to follow some attention because they contain great new material from Kalispell, Gingerlys, Christian Fennesz & Jim O’Rourke, Holy Now, Sales, Plastic Flowers, Blessed, Julianna Barwick,  and Julien Baker. Now, onto Parquet Courts.

Over the past few years, Parquet Courts have built their entire reputation on a very particular — and very divisive — sound. The quartet cranks out detached-sounding post-punk at an impressive clip and, somehow, they find a way to imbue each release with a staggering influx of life. It’s one of the more fascinating dichotomies happening on the DIY-leaning circuit right now and as the band’s grown, the disparity between what sounds like apathy and what (admittedly unexpectedly) translates to invigorating energy has only grown further apart. “Human Performance”, the title track from the band’s latest record, is the current apex of this dynamic.

A few members of Parquet Courts had previously hit a similar apex with their finest work as Teenage Cool Kids, a small portion of which was understandably revived for Parquet Courts’ (or, Parkay Quarts’) ouevre. “Human Performance” doesn’t just recall those Teenage Cool Kids peaks, it surpasses them with a bracing surge of confidence from a band that’s mostly come to be known for sounding categorically disinterested in just about everything. For the first time in a long time, Parquet Courts sound actively invested in a narrative on an emotional level, injecting the song with a melancholic touch that suits them astonishingly well.

Tellingly, the band hasn’t just turned in their most impressive musical composition to date, they’ve included what is — far and away — the best lyric set of their still-growing career.  On a purely narrative level, “Human Performance” is relentlessly bleak and tragically poetic. The opening half of chorus alone, comprised of the lines “Witness and know/fracture and hurt/eyes in the fire/blink unrehearsed”, suggests that the band went all in on this one. In prose, tragedy can grow in scope when it grows more acute — especially when done well — simply because of its immediately relatable nature. “Human Performance” not only succeeds on that level but grows even more resonant by exposing Parquet Courts’ surprisingly fragile humanity.

Easily one of 2016’s most unexpectedly brilliant songs, “Human Performance” is also a gigantic stride forward in Parquet Courts’ continuing evolution. From the bold choices that are inserted into the song when they’re least expected (the flute solo being the most obvious example) to the endearing bravery required to be that vulnerable on a very public level, “Human Performance” could very well prove to be a watershed moment for the band’s artistic direction. If it doesn’t usher in a new era for Parquet Courts, at least they’ll have left us this miniature masterpiece.

Listen to “Human Performance” below and order the LP from Rough Trade here.

2015: A Visual Retrospective, Vol. 5

Johanna Warren I

Throughout the course of 2015 I’ve been fortunate enough to attend upwards of 100 shows, festivals big and small, and spend approximately half a year living in a city that hosted a mind-boggling amount of quality shows on a nightly basis. To that end, it’s probably unsurprising that I wound up taking over 10,000 photos this year alone. Over the course of the next few days, this site will be running seven volumes of the shots that stood out as personal favorites, whether that was due to their composition, sentimental attachment, or an intangible emotional or intellectual response. It’s been an honor to be able to take even the smallest part in the ongoing sagas of the artists in the photographs below and an additional thanks is due to the venues that allowed me to shoot (as well as the people who encouraged me to keep shooting).

Enjoy the gallery.

2015: A Visual Retrospective, Vol. 3

Idle Bloom

Throughout the course of 2015 I’ve been fortunate enough to attend upwards of 100 shows, festivals big and small, and spend approximately half a year living in a city that hosted a mind-boggling amount of quality shows on a nightly basis. To that end, it’s probably unsurprising that I wound up taking over 10,000 photos this year alone. Over the course of the next few days, this site will be running seven volumes of the shots that stood out as personal favorites, whether that was due to their composition, sentimental attachment, or an intangible emotional or intellectual response. It’s been an honor to be able to take even the smallest part in the ongoing sagas of the artists in the photographs below and an additional thanks is due to the venues that allowed me to shoot (as well as the people who encouraged me to keep shooting).

Enjoy the gallery.

 

2015: A Visual Retrospective, Vol. 2

Girlpool I

Throughout the course of 2015 I’ve been fortunate enough to attend upwards of 100 shows, festivals big and small, and spend approximately half a year living in a city that hosted a mind-boggling amount of quality shows on a nightly basis. To that end, it’s probably unsurprising that I wound up taking over 10,000 photos this year alone. Over the course of the next few days, this site will be running seven volumes of the shots that stood out as personal favorites, whether that was due to their composition, sentimental attachment, or an intangible emotional or intellectual response. It’s been an honor to be able to take even the smallest part in the ongoing sagas of the artists in the photographs below and an additional thanks is due to the venues that allowed me to shoot (as well as the people who encouraged me to keep shooting).

Enjoy the gallery.

CMJ: Day 3 (Pictorial Review)

Yvette VIII

With all of the videos and the main review of the day’s events accounted for, all that was left of the Day 3 CMJ coverage was the photo gallery. That gallery can be found here.

 

Watch This: Vol. 100

Over the past 100 weeks, this site’s dedicated itself to a variety of pursuits but the defining one seems to be the only recurring series that operates on a regular basis: Watch This. Ever since the first installment, this series has featured the very best live performance captures. Utilizing a wealth of resources that range from band’s personal accounts to radio stations that host high-quality session captures, like KEXP in Seattle or 3voor12 in the Netherlands.

Very rarely has that gaze turned inward, despite producing over 300 live videos in the past four months. With this series now at a landmark number and all of the CMJ reviews accounted for, it seemed appropriate to bypass the outside sources to focus exclusively on the crop of videos that was taken over the past week. Approximately 50 bands, 90 videos, and 100 songs, these clips will be presented in groupings according to which day they were filmed. A few slip out of focus, some start a little late, and some cut off just before their ending, and a few bands are missing due to unfortunate and/or unforeseen circumstance (a dead battery, lighting, and a maxed out sd card were the three most prominent issues) but as a whole, it’s a comprehensive look at the kinds of performances the festival has to offer. So, as always, sit back, relax, ignore any worries, adjust the volume, focus up, and Watch This.

1. CMJ: Day 2

To make things just a touch easier, each of these introductory segments will simply be a very brief recap including a link to the respective day’s official review and the list of artists that appear in the video. Having spent the first official day of CMJ preparing for the rest of the week, the timeline’s off by a day but had this been the first official day, the festival would have kicked off with a band. Splitting time between The Cake Shop and Santos Party House, I managed to get videos of performances from the following artists: Worriers, Hooton Tennis Club, Car Seat Headrest, Seratones, Nico Yaryan, Yung, Shopping, Protomartyr, Downtown Boys, Perfect Pussy, and Dilly Dally. The official review of the day’s events can be found here.

2. CMJ: Day 3

Things kept moving along quickly on the second day, which included a long stretch at an early show over at Rough Trade before taking a brief pause to organize that show’s footage and prepare for the late show at Aviv. Between the two venues, the lineup was characteristically stacked and led to videos of performances from Shopping, Ezra Furman, Georgia, John Grant, What Moon Things, Mumblr, Meat Wave, Painted Zeros, Turn To Crime, and Yvette. The official review of the day’s shows can be found here.

3. CMJ: Day 4 

The festival’s exhausting nature started to creeping in on the third consecutive day of showgoing, though the deliriousness will always be worth the effort in the case of celebrating things like Exploding In Sound (who themselves were celebrating their fourth anniversary), Big Ups (who were celebrating their fifth year as a band), and Double Double Whammy. Once again splitting time between two venues– Palisades and The Silent Barn– I managed to get footage of performances from Leapling, Swings, Mal Devisa (backed by Swings), Dirty Dishes, Kal Marks, Washer, Stove, Palm, Greys, The Spirit of the Beehive, Big Ups, Palehound, Downies, Eskimeaux, and LVL UP. The official review of those events can be read here.

4. CMJ: Day 5

Easily the most exhausting of the five day stretch, the fifth official day of the festival found me completely ignoring food in favor of sprinting a mile to catch one of my favorite acts four times over. While a fraction of the day was spent running to and from an official CMJ showcase and the AdHoc Carwash (which was detached from the festival completely but boasted one of the week’s strongest lineups), the effort proved to be worthwhile, as a large collection of bands delivered knockout sets and everything culminated in a triumphant moment for one of my closest friends. In all the back-and-forth, I was still able to manage to capture performances from the following artists: Protomartyr, Potty Mouth, Pity Sex, Dilly Dally, LVL UP, Porches., Perfect Pussy, Meat Wave, Mothers, and Cloud Castle Lake. The review of that day of relative mania can be read here.

5. CMJ: Day 6

Despite the festival’s posted end date being the October 17, this collaborative showcase a day later between Father/Daughter and Miscreant was still billed as a part of the festival and felt like an appropriate epilogue; a summation of what’d come before and a fitting end-cap for a very strong run. Confined to just one venue, the sleep deprivation caused me to miss the first trio of acts (and quietly curse myself out for doing so in the process) but still show up in time for the final 10. On the final day of reckoning, I captured videos of performances from the following artists: i tried to run away when i was 6, Downies, Romp, Comfy, Vagabon, fern mayo, Bethlehem Steel, Diet Cig, Sports, and PWR BTTM. The official review of the festival’s final event can be read here.

CMJ: Day 3 Review

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After a loaded schedule on what was my first full day of CMJ, I probably should have tried to get more sleep but CMJ doesn’t really play by a logical set of rules and it demands the same from the people committed to covering the various goings on of the week, so as soon as I was up, I was running out of the door to rough trade to catch Shopping at Rough Trade for the second time in two days. The band didn’t disappoint, jumping into another wiry set delivered with verve and a casual ease that clearly demonstrated they weren’t anywhere close to succumbing to fatigue.

After a brief pause between sets, Ezra Furman (who has replaced The Harpoons with His Boyfriend) took the stage with a maniacal energy that translated into a surprisingly compelling live show. I hadn’t seen Furman’s live set for five years or so and the songwriter’s grown considerably as a performer in that time. Emphasizing the bluesier elements of his band, it seemed like every other few songs was a solid highlight and the band’s heaviest moments also tended to hit hardest. It was a memorable set that showcased Furman’s stray dog voice and zippy wordplay with enough force to make it stand out pretty easily.

Of course, that energy can also turn a little sour if things start going wrong and while Furman and his band never fell victim to that dynamic, it was difficult not to at least be a little frustrated with the massive assortment of technical difficulties that delayed Georgia’s set by approximately 40 minutes. Going from relatively contained (but very apparent) to volatile bursts, it was the kind of setback that left both the artist and the crew more than a little flustered.

Finally, after what seemed like two dozen patches, Georgia’s set started in earnest. It was something of a homecoming for the UK songwriter, as she’d previously worked at Rough Trade’s London location. Exhibiting impressive musicianship, the project (which currently plays out as a duo), put on a very convincing show and likely created a few converts. At the tail end of the set, there was some endearing fawning over the showcase’s next act: John Grant.

Grant’s a subversive songwriter, utilizing levity, pathos, and directness in ways that are frequently as disarming as they are entertaining. Playing out on his latest collection, the fantastic Grey Tickles, Black Pressure, Grant found a myriad of ways to make sure his singular voice was heard, loud and clear. Close to every song in Grant’s set straddled an enviable divide and would have worked as well as an opener as it would a finale. Of course, none of them would have been effective in the latter slot as the set’s rightful final number, “Queen of Denmark”, a wry, sprawling ballad punctuated by staggering walls of sound that find the band digging into the heaviness they’re capable of conjuring.

With “Queen of Denmark” bringing things to a tremendously satisfying conclusion, it was immediately back to organization and preparation before running out to Aviv for an unofficial show presented by Exploding in Sound, Gimme Tinitus, and Ipsum, featuring a characteristically stacked lineup of bands that aren’t afraid of embracing music’s inherent noise. Video Daughters were first up and content to dive headfirst into long noise explorations that eventually culminated in a chaotic, piercing number that likely came close to blowing the PA speakers.

It was a fascinating set that set the evening up nicely, acting as a perfect lede for What Moon Things, who are coasting on a perpetually-building wave of buzz and capitalizing on every opportunity with significant force. Mixing elements of grunge and post-punk in a way that feels unique is no easy task but the trio manages to pull it off with aplomb, ripping through sets of memorable songs that don’t back away from left turns or relative fearlessness. More thTuran a few pairs of notable ears were piqued by their final song’s ultimate descent into feedback.

Mumblr and Meat Wave took the next spots, in an eerie, déjà vu-inducing reprise of this site’s first official showcase almost exactly a year ago to the date of their appearance at Aviv. Only, this time, their roles were switched and both bands have shown exceptional growth in that time. Mumblr have been gradually settling into darker territory that slowly unfurls, effectively wrapping listeners up in its coils. While their old songs remain favorites, their new artistic direction’s a fascinating one with seemingly endless possibilities and quite a bit of potential.

Meat Wave, for their part, have been not-so-quietly putting together one hell of a year. The trio’s released an acclaimed record, gone overseas a few times, signed to SideOneDummy and sharpened their live show’s claws into something significantly more intense. All of the new songs the band played sounded considerably heavier and a lot more foreboding (and, as Exploding in Sound founder Dan Goldin mentioned, a lot meaner). Their five-song set (the planned schedule was kept to on a pretty severe level) was a definite highlight for me and I’m positive that’s true for a handful of others as well. After all, it’s hard to argue any Meat Wave set that includes the explosive, jaw-dropping outro of “Panopticon”.

Painted Zeros took the stage after Meat Wave cleared out, eager to continue to test material from their full-length debut (their first effort for Don Giovanni). The level of affection the band has for their new material is palpable and that affection was definitely channeled into their performance, which felt like an improvement on the last set I was able to catch them play (which was fairly impressive in its own right). The slowest, most delicate material played best in a setting that had almost exclusively disallowed anything resembling that band of music through four acts. It would have been a nice reprieve even if it hadn’t been deeply impressive.

Effectively bridging a gap and providing some much-needed air (while still managing to get in a few vicious punches), Turn To Crime and Yvette dragged things back into more primal territory. Turn To Crime did this on a slow-build basis (Meat Wave correctly noted their set’s hypnotic, trance-like effect) through songs that could simultaneously feel meandering and extremely calculated.

Yvette, on the other hand, made the most of their headlining slot by diving into their characteristic insanity. Over the course of the past few years, Yvette have released a handful of very good to great records, including Time Management, their most recent (and a 2015 highlight). The duo’s built up a solid following in that time, who revere their live show- and for good reason. The duo committed themselves to their performance, letting their clothes soak up their sweat and turn a few shades darker. Equal parts performance and process, it was a nearly non-stop barrage of searing noise-punk at a punishing volume that was never anything less than gripping and likely left a few people reeling. As they packed up, it was hard to imagine anything could follow, making it the perfect endcap to another very full day.