Heartbreaking Bravery

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Tag: show

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.

All Dogs – Skin (Stream)

All Dogs V

Depending on the releases, some days are made easy and- while the reprieve is welcome- it can be disheartening. Then there are days like today, which offer a frustration spurred by more than a few releases being too good to settle on a definitive feature. For a large portion of the planning that went into this post, the intended feature was going to go to Ought’s most recent blistering, insistent masterwork, “Men For Miles“.  Even in those stages, the song had competition in the likes of Nabil’s jaw-dropping GoPro interactive design that acted as the moody clip for Foals’ fiery “Mountain At My Gates“.

It wasn’t as if that trio was without competition, either. Deer Tick’s gorgeous “Grandfather Song“, Faux Ferocious’ scuzzy “Nowhere To Go“, Team Spirit’s pulsating “Takin’ My Time (Never Enough)“, Doubting Thomas Cruise Control’s frenetic “Lenny Bruce“, Birthmark’s slow-building “Find Yourself” would have constituted an impressive field on their own accord. Elevating the difficulty was the fact two outstanding unique features surfaced in the form of an engrossing Tickle Torture documentary and a full recording of a recent set from Colin Bares (the songwriter behind The Weasel, Marten Fisher project), whose responsible for some of the year’s finest songs.

Even the full streams had a great day, with excellent offerings from bratty scuzz-punks Fox Face, the lo-fi neurotics in Ego, the punk-indebted basement poppers in Vamos, and the increasingly fascinating (and darkly tinted) world of Black Thumb. Rounding the day out were compelling music videos from Wild Ones, Oddisee, and Living Decent. Even with all of that taken into consideration, though, the day still ultimately belonged to All Dogs.

Having just released a surefire song of the year candidate in “That Kind of Girl“, the band was presented with the unenviable  task of selecting the follow-up track for their forthcoming record’s rollout campaign. A lot of different modes can be considered (and ultimately, selected) for this slot and “Skin” seems to fall into one of the trickier categories to pull off: the song that demonstrates the record’s range and scope. In the past, those songs have tended to fall more towards the acute version of sophomore slump than anything else but “Skin” hurdles those traps with no shortage of grace to all but ensure Kicking Every Day will be among 2015’s best releases.

All Dogs have never been shy about finding something beautiful in damage, something that’s been continuously driven home by the frequently devastating lyrics of Maryn Jones (who’s also a member of site favorites Saintseneca and Yowler, the latter being Jones’ solo outfit). “Skin”, over the course of it’s slow-building five minutes and change, finds Jones grappling with some of the prevailing themes throughout her discography: loneliness, self-doubt, resilience, self-sabotage, and quiet redemption. All of which continue to feel deeply personal, nearing a point of voyeurism that only grows more nerve-wracking as the song progresses.

Elevating the feeling of tension is the scintillating dynamic angle that All Dogs uncovered when transitioning their writing process to a full-band ordeal following the addition of guitarist Nick Harris. Every conceivable element that made the band so great to begin with gets amplified by this approach and the dividends are already paying off in startling fashion. The interplay between Jones’ and Harris’ guitar work is increasingly nuanced and the rhythm work’s even more emotive than it’s been in the past, contributing to some newfound atmospherics that complement the band to perfection.

Looking at the sheer magnitude of “Skin” in comparison to anything found on the band’s debut 7″ (which was reviewed in the sixth post to ever run on Heartbreaking Bravery) is revelatory. At the level the band’s currently operating, they’ve unlocked a seemingly boundless arsenal of styles to achieve increasingly varied effects. From the subtle, interlocking post-punk guitar work to the bruised euphoria of the chorus, “Skin” is a jaw-dropping indication of the band’s ever-expanding capabilities. Throw in an earnest, beating heart at the core and All Dogs’ future suddenly looks intimidatingly bright.

All that’s left at this point is to find out whether the band can top perfection.

Listen to “Skin” below and pre-order Kicking Every Day from Salinas here.