Heartbreaking Bravery

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Tag: Sleater-Kinney

Living Body – Choose (Stream)

living body

Over the past few days streams from Stef Chura, Slothrust, Cheap Girls, Ex-Girlfriends, Loamlands, Del Caesar, Yuppies Indeed, Miniature Tigers, The Molochs, Louise Lemon, Dooms Virginia, Big K.R.I.T., Slow Bullet, Field Trip, Julia Holter, and a newly remastered presentation of Clem Snide’s “Parable” all surfaced, serving as strong statements for the artists. There were notable music videos that arrived via Minihorse, Shirley Collins, Mums, Nassau, and Kamikaze Girls. Full streams rounded out the new releases and included memorable titles from the likes of Kevin Devine, Hurry, Uni Ika Ai,  Just, The Dazies, Forest Veil, Personal Space, Jackson Reed, and Earwig. While all of those, as always, are worth exploring, this post’s feature was secured by Living Body’s enchanting “Choose”.

Living Body, a new band that consists of members of Juffage, Sky Larkin, and Vessels (among others), are only a few songs into their career. Yet “Choose”, their most recent single, sounds like the work of a band that’s already released a handful of critically acclaimed records. Incredibly self-assured, remarkably confident, and spellbinding beyond reason, “Choose” is an immediately unforgettable slow-burn of a number. Gorgeous horn charts, a sneakily effective vocal melody, and a genuine sense of identity elevate “Choose” to a level of transcendence that’s incredibly uncommon for new bands to achieve.

Structure and personality in music can carry a band some distance but Living Body separate themselves from many of their peers with direct, emotionally resonant lyricism. “Choose” is the sound of a hard-learned lesson that finds bandleader Jeff T. Smith quietly repeating the mantra “get out while you can” in the song’s painfully beautiful chorus, injecting it with an air of resignation and regret. There’s a lightness to the proceedings but it’s one that’s grounded in a harshly honest reality, evoking the best works of acts like Belle & Sebastian without ever sounding like a carbon copy.

Living Body have a very distinct identity and the extent of their grasp on that aspect of their music is astonishing. There’s a deliberate nature to “Choose” that never betrays the song’s warm nuance or its ability to breathe comfortably on its own. Make no mistake, though, from the contained euphoria of the intro through to the muted, gentle close, “Choose” is consistently breathtaking. One of 2016’s loveliest moments and most promising new bands all wrapped into one irresistible package.

Listen to “Choose” below and pre-order Body Is Working here.

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

[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 fourth collection of those videos below.

1. Saintseneca (KJHK)
2. American Wrestlers (Audiotree)
3. Try the Pie – Thomas
4. The So So Glos – A.D.D. Life (Little Elephant)
5. Courtney Barnett – Dead Fox (Austin City Limits)
6. Pop & Obachan – Elora’s (This Has Got To Stop)
7. Mothers – Mother and Wife (Paste)
8. The Nudes – Pretty (Ithaca Underground)
9. Sleater-Kinney – Fangless (Austin City Limits)
10. Three Man Cannon – Patiently (Little Elephant)
11. Lever – Nickels & Dimes (DZ Records)
12. Thao & The Get Down Stay Down – Nobody Dies (The Current)
13. Julien Baker – Sprained Ankle (Paste)
14. Torres – The Harshest Light (Audiotree)
15. Menacerno – Johnny Cas’ (DZ Records)
16. Kamasi Washington – Fair As Equal (Paste)
17. Human Music – Sending Messages (Exclaim!)
18. Hellrazor (BreakThruRadio)
19. Palehound – Holiest (Public Radio /\ Sessions)
20. The Thermals – My Heart Went Cold (Jam in the Van)
21. Soul Low – Frenemies (Little Elephant)
22. PWR BTTM – Dairy Queen (WFUV)
23. Ancient Whales – To Be (Public Radio /\ Sessions)
24. Des Ark – French Fries Are Magical (Do512)
25. Frigs – Trashyard

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

[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 third collection of those videos below.

1. Thao & The Get Down Stay Down (KEXP)
2. Leapling – Alabaster Snow (VHS Sessions)
3. Ty Segall & The Muggers (KEXP)
4. Jawbreaker Reunion – Small Investments (This Has Got To Stop)
5. Julien Baker – Blacktop (BIRN)
6. Bantam Lyons – Away from the Bar (Faits Divers)
7. Furnsss – Effy (WHUS)
8. Michael Rault (Audiotree)
9. Ratboys – Light Pollution (DZ Records)
10. Savages – Evil (KCRW)
11. Stone Cold Fox – Contagion (Hooke)
12. Darlene Shrugg – First World Blues (Noisemakers)
13. Single Player – Silver Dollar (DZ Records)
14. Parquet Courts – Outside (WFUV)
15. The Dirty Nil – No Weaknesses (Little Elephant)
16. Palm – I Don’t Want to Know (VHS Sessions)
17. Sleater-Kinney – Price Tag (Austin City Limits)
18. Looming – Nailbiter (Trundle Sessions)
19. Courtney – Kids In Blushing Love (DZ Records)
20. EL VY (NPR)
21. Low – Try To Sleep (The Current)
22. Kishi Bashi – Manchester (NPR)

23. Run Forever – Big Vacation (Trundle Sessions)
24. J Fernandez – Read My Mind (Consequence of Sound)
25. Sharon Van Etten – Tarifa (NPR)

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: A Year’s Worth of Memories (Stephen Tringali)

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Last year Stephen Tringali turned in a piece for this series about working on Chastity Belt‘s “Black Sail” music video. In 2015, he worked on a slew of new projects including his debut feature-length documentary Corridor Four, which centers around an officer from the K-9 unit — and military veteran — who was experiencing PTSD after the bravery he exhibited on 9/11, rushing into the Pentagon to attempt to save as many lives as possible.  It’s a big leap from directing and serving as the cinematographer on videos for bands like Big Ups, Low Fat Getting High, and Roomrunner. Here, he talks about seeing Pile play for the first time, discovering Pill Friends, shooting their latest music video, and lists his top 10 albums of 2015. Read it below and hold onto the things you find inspiring.

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My first great musical memory of 2015 was finally getting to see Pile perform. I live in Los Angeles, and I don’t think the band makes it out to the west coast that often. When I saw they’d be playing Los Globos in late March, I marked the date on my calendar and prepared myself to turn down any gigs that might conflict with it. Needless to say, the show was excellent.

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Pile, Los Globos – March 29th, 2015 – Ilford 35mm Black & White 3200 ISO Pushed One Stop

Later that year, I had the chance to make a music video for this group from Pennsylvania called Pill Friends. I honestly can’t remember how in the world I found their record Blessed Suffering, but hearing it brought me straight back to high school in Central Pennsylvania. Since moving to Los Angeles, I’ve grown increasing interested with nostalgia and childhood. What images bring up those memories. How to access them after a long time has passed. I wanted to somehow recreate that feeling of growing up in suburban/rural PA for this video.

The band didn’t have much in the way of a budget, so flying back to PA to shoot this video was out of the question. I decided instead to hitch a ride with a college friend on his way back to Denver, CO and stop off in this small town called Leadville, CO where another college friend was working. We spent 3 days filming the people in the town in a kind of documentary style. It was perhaps the scariest premise I could have come up with for a music video because there was such a huge chance that it would fail. What if no one there wanted to be filmed? What if the town didn’t really have the look I was after? What if we were snowed in for most of the time? There were a million things that could have gone wrong.

And maybe that’s why it’s one of my most memorable experiences from this past year. I wanted to make a video that felt less staged, more impromptu, and more genuine than previous videos I had done. Strangely enough, it worked out. There was something exciting about having no clue what we were going to film that day. Plenty of people said no thank you; please don’t film me. But there were other folks who were completely open to the idea. Mechanics, barbers, skateboarders, kids playing basketball. The result turned out to be a really wonderful portrait of the town.

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LEADVILLE, CO – November 2015

And finally, I got to have coffee with Michael Sincavage of Low Fat Getting High. I made a music video for his band in early 2015, but all of our communication up until that point had been via e-mail or phone. It might seem a little strange, but I don’t actually get to meet many of the bands I make music videos for in person. I’m really proud of the video I made for LFGH and so thankful that Michael gave me an unusual amount of creative control. It was great to finally meet him in person and talk over coffee. There was just something so encouraging and positive about that experience—that I could make a new friend simply because we connected over e-mail and collaborated on a project together.

My favorite records from 2015:

1. Sleater-Kinney – No Cities To Love
2. Dilly Dally – Sore
3. Car Seat Headrest – Teens Of Style
4. Screaming Females – Rose Mountain
5. Built To Spill – Untethered Moon
6. Courtney Barnett – Sometimes I Sit And Think, And Sometimes I Just Sit
7. Yowler – The Offer
8. Ava Luna – Infinite House
9. Pile – You’re Better Than This
10. Protomartyr – The Agent Intellect

-Stephen Tringali

2015: A Year’s Worth of Memories (Phil McAndrew)

phil mcandrew
Photograph by Shauna Roloff

Last year, Phil McAndrew (pictured above, behind the kit) delivered a heartfelt piece to the first edition of this series. At the core of that piece was a celebration of his younger brother, Ray, and the music he was making with Perfect Pussy. A little while later, he’d become much more than a supportive voice in the audience and create the distinctive comic accompaniment for Astonishing Adventures!, Perfect Pussy’s ferocious split with Joanna Gruesome. It was another small moment of  brilliance in what’s turning into an illustrious career in animation. Even while registering credits for places like MAD Magazine, IFC, Cartoon Network, Random House, and Workman Publishing, McAndrew’s found time to join a band and catch a slew of shows (a few of which I was fortunate enough to be able to take in with him). Below, he covers some of the artists that meant the most to him in 2015 and explores his reintroduction to making music. Read it below and then indulge your own creative sensibilities in any way you see fit.

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2015 was kind of a strange year with lots of ups and downs and sideways and diagonals and such. But if we’re talking strictly music stuff, it was a really excellent year, filled almost entirely with ups.

Thinking back on 2015, I’m flooded with music related memories that felt meaningful in one way or another. Scribbling drawings of my brother Ray and our friend Garret as they started writing the next Perfect Pussy album in my childhood bedroom. Directing a music video for my old friend Jeff York’s new band, Major Player. Hanging out alone late at night and turning the volume way up on new tunes from my brothers Tyler and Ray, who make music together as Toxic Parents and separately in a variety of bands and solo projects like Wealth, Crusher, Perfect Pussy, and MKSEARCH. Getting back into drawing weird flyers for bands my friends play in.

Getting to watch Sleater-Kinney play from backstage at Irving Plaza. Seeing more great shows than I can even count, in huge venues, in small venues, on a pier in Manhattan, in an old car wash, in burrito restaurants and skateboard shops and art spaces, and in basements in my neighborhood…. Sheer Mag, All Dogs, Rainer Maria, Destruction Unit, Really Big Pinecone, Izzy True, Downtown Boys, Fleabite, Harmonica Lewinski, Deerhoof, Warehouse, Pretengineer, Arm Candy, Speedy Ortiz, Olivia Neutron-John, Big Ups, Pity Sex, Aye Nako, Nine of Swords, Waxahatchee, Mannequin Pussy, and dozens of others.

The most meaningful thing that happened for me this year was that I myself started playing music again after a very long hiatus. I hadn’t played drums since sometime in 2010, when jobs and grad school and relationships scattered the members of the bands I used to play in to different states. Five years and two cross-country moves later, my friend and old next-door neighbor Mim asked if I’d be interested in taking over on drums in her band, The Nudes. Right around the same time, my friend and current roommate Shauna, started playing bass in the band (they’d never had a bassist before). I’ve loved The Nudes since I first saw them play when I moved back to upstate New York from Southern California in 2013, so I was pretty thrilled to be asked to play with them.

We’ve played a lot of shows since I joined The Nudes over the summer. My favorite show was here in Syracuse in October with local favorites Malvinas, fellow upstate New Yorkers Green Dreams, and the great Worriers, whose most recent album I can’t stop listening to. The show was packed and everyone was in high spirits. I saw so many smiles at this show. I saw people of all sizes and genders bouncing around together as the bands played, getting wiggly and weird and laughing. Nobody was dancing like a violent psychopath. Everything about this show felt right. It was all of the good things that I missed about playing in bands.

2014 was all about watching my brothers and friends do cool things and conquer the world, only participating in the music scene in my own small, non-musical ways. That continued into 2015, but to get back into playing music myself in a band I love with people I love was nothing less than magical.


-Phil McAndrew

 

2015: A Year’s Worth of Memories (Lindsay Hazen)

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When I started Heartbreaking Bravery, its sole intent was to spotlight important voices that weren’t being granted the exposure they deserved. While in the early stages, it primarily featured songwriters, it evolved to include filmmakers, and then — finally — other writers. Anytime I made a new discovery, it gave me a surge of hope for the years to come. Even as some of these roles — especially that of the writer — grew more thankless, it was inspirational to see people who were willing to kick back against an intimidating current. After more than two years of meticulously combing through just about every resource I had to identify emerging talent, I still wasn’t adequately prepared for the pieces Lindsay Hazen was quietly turning in on her personal tumblr. Long-form essays on streaming platforms, deeply personal asides, critical dissections of movements and geographical circumstance; everything I read blew me away. It’s a sincere honor to be publishing her writing on this site and the piece she’s turned in may be her most definitive to date. Below, she explores her diagnosis, the artists that brought her joy and comfort, and the general shape of her 2015. Dive in and give her work a look whenever and wherever it surfaces.

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When I think about 2015, I get overwhelmed. It was a year marked by unmanageability, the sheer amount of events, information, and media unable to be synthesized, catalogued and understood in any satisfying way. My year started off memorizing the lyrics of Colleen Green’s “Pay Attention“, a song which takes up an attitude of assertive indifference to her attention deficiency. As someone whose lifelong fight not to doze off/get lost in the middle of conversations (and lectures, and my own sentences…) is an endless cause of anxiety, it’s such a relief to be able to embrace two and a half minutes of a right for my absent-minded brain to exist in the world, even to the point of sitting in judgement of others.

Whenever I listen to it, “Small talk on the bus, wondering how do some people talk so much/ Small talk at The Smell, talk so small you’d need a microscope to discern much at all,” I hear an echo of “Psycho Killer“, “You start a conversation, you can’t even finish it/You’re talking a lot but you’re not saying anything/ When I have nothing to say, my lips are sealed/Say something once, why say it again?”

It’s ending sort of like it began, anxious and cold. But on a cold December day, I weep quietly to Modern Baseball’s “The Waterboy Returns“. It comes on on my iPod, on the bus, and I run my thumb across the crack in the screen incessantly. I’ve never successfully made it through the song without crying and this is no exception. The first time I heard it, I sobbed hard and loud; now I just turn to the window and let the emotion wash over me, trying to catch my tears on my knuckles as they slip out past my glasses.

2015 was made up of moments like this. Being backpacked in the face by an aggressive guy at a Speedy Ortiz show, only to have them start a hotline just weeks later for people who feel unsafe at their shows. The way the stage lights at the Hard Luck Bar looked through eyes, brimming with tears, as I watched Sorority Noise perform “Using“, hearing the song for the first time. I didn’t cry then, blinked it away. I wonder if this is how normal people always feel. Accepted, joyous, okay. Among people who understand them.

Not drinking alcohol anymore because it’s disastrous for my anxiety, and spending the minutes between each band’s set admiring how brave the girls are at the show – an all ages affair. These teenage punks, eyes lined with black and bags covered in patches and buttons. So grateful that these girls have a place where they could yell and scream and jump; so in awe of how they held their own in a sea of giant men – at 24, I’m just learning to do the same.

The Sorority Noise record was my favourite of the year. I spent a lot of time in the early months of the year shouting songs off their 2014 effort Forgettable in the shower. The anticipation I felt for Joy, Departed was such an integral part of my year. Maybe it’s because it paid off, a powerful and direct series of emotional appeals that oscillate between soaring and slow-burning – sometimes within the same track.

It’s a record that dropped right as I realized that I wasn’t going to be able to stay in the city, just as I had to move away from my friends and my education and my life. It’s a record that I hope one day stands as a classic in the canon of art that explores man vs. self. It is certainly an album which elucidated many thoughts I had about my own mental illness, and led to my being able to develop coping mechanisms for the first time since my diagnosis. I still get a lump in my throat when I hear, “maybe I’m my own greatest fear/ maybe I’m too scared to admit that/ I might not be as dark as I think.”

Next to Joy, Departed, the record that had the most impact on me this year was Krill’s A Distant Fist Unclenching. Where Sorority Noise’s songs felt like the slow blossom of hope in my chest, a hand reaching out to pull me away from all the things I’ve done to myself and my life, Krill songs are like the first fidget coming out of stasis. All of the angles and dissonant reaches.

I can’t think of a song in the world I identify with more than “Brain Problem“, the drums skipping along like arrhythmia and the lyrics part confession and part prayer. Before listening to Krill I didn’t think of there being a separation between my mental illness and my self. Krill gave me a sense of personhood that I was starting to be too jaded to believe I would find in music anymore. I won’t go on because they’ve been eulogized, praised and parsed by minds much finer than mine.

Everything Everything released my favourite pop album of the year, a dystopian rock opera continuing a loose narrative they introduced in the post-apocalyptic banger “My Kz, Ur Bf” a few years ago. Get To Heaven is an album that lets you revel in the sheer amount of evidence that you are the problem, because people are the problem, and we have let the world end around us – and are nostalgic for the way it happened all the same. “Take me to the distant past,” “Did you imagine it in a different way,” “Keep on rubbernecking, yeah, whatever feels familiar.”

There’s been a few difference thinkpieces on the increased awareness/acknowledgement of mental illness in music this year and I listened to a lot of music this year for aforementioned therapeutic/self-help kind of reasons. But, holy hell is it ever lovely to put on Get To Heaven and live in the world that Higgs and company have created – to feel a universalized misery and to find a narrative, to find humour and grand tragedy that leads to a greater sense of catharsis.

There were also a million punk/rock albums by women that just kicked my ass. The Speedy Ortiz record, the Palehound record, Dirty Dishes, Bully, Chelsea Wolfe, MarriagesG.L.O.S.S., The Lonely Parade, not to mention the valiant return of Sleater-Kinney. I don’t know why it’s harder for me to write about these records, or even to speak about them. I push them on others with half-formed sentences, gushing about something that escapes me.

I tell them about the loss and longing in the first moments of “Red Roulette“, and about how I woke up early one morning in August to sit in the backyard just after sunrise and listen to Abyss in full – how the record that reveled in so much lush darkness was somehow even more beautiful in sunlight so bright you could barely open your eyes. I tell the producer/songsmith at my work about how in my most anxious moments I scream along with the G.L.O.S.S demo because of what I can only term as its inclusive alienation. It is a record that feels made for moments when I feel alone and afraid in my house and in my skin. It is a reclamation of the space around me.

I guess the last big thing of the year for me was spending two months with Smokes’ debut, Zone Eater. It opens with the absolutely cutting lyric, “I know I need to evolve instead of revolving,” on “Dead Hand” and repeats into the chorus, continuing, “I need to evaporate, but I’m still devolving.” There’s a detectable desperation, in Nick Maas’ voice and echoed in both the guitar and violin that suggests a critical mass, a return of Saturn, a day that you make a choice and you don’t look back – the record is full of this feeling. Of looking into the face of nihilism and deciding to just fucking leap into being who you want to be.

It makes sense, I learned in reading the press surrounding the record that the second song on the record, “Lemonlime“, is a coming out song. It might just have ended up my favourite song of the year. “I used to be a mind among machines, now I’m a timebomb wearing tight jeans/I was a clock but I couldn’t tell time, but I can tell a lemon from a fucking lime.” “Now I’m a shark, and I still can’t tell time, but I can tell a lemon from a fucking lime.” “I’ve lost all my baby teeth, so what you see is what you’re going to get with me.” “I’m a fucking shark, I eat what I want.” I moved back to the East Coast – I still don’t know whether it was a good decision but “Lemonlime” is the song that made me stop worrying about it.

I finally acknowledged the loss of my own metaphorical baby teeth. Their early single “Body Heat” is on the record, and it’s the one that hooked me. It’s a cinematic song made for walking through the busy streets and feeling everyone move past you like a blur – the violin, fiddle-like, a soundtrack fit for a hero walking into the sunset. ‘’For once in your fucking life, wear your heart like body heat.” There’s a rawness to the emotion on this record that runs right through, even the most starkly Canadian indie music tendencies don’t obscure the boiling blood contained within. And there are songs like “Snakeskin,” that bypass all of that and head right for a heartland that falls somewhere between L’Acadie and Rasputina territory, thrilling and chilling me.

I guess to me, being overwhelmed by music was a welcome distraction from all of the other things that overwhelmed me. The music of 2015 reminded me of all the excitement and enthusiasm and effusiveness with which I loved music as a teenager. I felt so profoundly grateful for music this year. I guess that’s the place that I should leave off – knowing that the music I listened to this year helped me to rediscover the parts of my brain that I liked, helped me to realize that depression hasn’t taken away my ability to feel grateful and fulfilled. I slip out of the imposter syndrome that has cloaked me and all my decisions in doubt and though I stand about as tall as a concrete foundation, I have all of these songs; these melodies; these lyrics; these memories on which to build some fucked up, crazy, beautiful life in the coming year.

-Lindsay Hazen

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. 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. 79

Over the course of the past few weeks, the influx of outstanding live videos has been staggering. Last week the series was put on a brief hold due to other personal obligations but even then, there was the threat of multiple installments for that particular Sunday. Amassing those with the live clips that followed in the subsequent week brings us to this point: there’s simply too much great material to feature to justify relegating anything exceeding the limit of five to the introductory paragraph(s). With this being the case, there will be seven- yes, seven- installments of Watch This to go live throughout the day (and possibly night).

To that end, this very introduction will be running prior to volumes 74-80 to reduce the levels of overall exposition to provide an emphasis on the material at hand. Site favorites Girlpool and Waxahatchee were seemingly everywhere this week, securing multiple entries throughout this run while Faits Divers spread-out documentation of a set from Ought (another site favorite) managed to do the same. As always, each video featured is an exemplary showcase for both artist and host, covering a wide range of sounds and styles. So, as always, sit back, adjust the volume to your preferred settings, sit up straight, lean in (or back), and Watch This.

1. Girlpool – Before The World Was Big (Exclaim!)

Capping off Girlpool’s impressive run of recent live captures is this beautiful take of “Before The World Was Big“, courtesy of Exclaim!. Naturally, there’s a sense of genuine calm that characterizes the clip, the duo’s affability presented clearly. The performance is as crisp as any the band’s delivered; a riveting document of a variety of enviable gifts. The song itself ranks among the year’s best, as does the album, but it’s brought new life given the freedom of the expanse of space provided by a live setting, rendering this clip a can’t-miss prospect.

2. Las Robertas (KEXP)

While an increasing number of bands are adopting a surf influence, there are only a few that are wielding that influence effectively; Las Robertas is one of those bands. KEXP recently played host to the band and received an impassioned set in return. Sunny pop melodies and a decidedly punk nonchalance keep the session lively as an interview provides some insight to the band’s inner workings (and dredges up some amusing anecdotes). Packaged all together, it’s an exhilarating ride that coasts on the dichotomy of being clearly driven but sounding effortlessly carefree.

3. SOAK (La Blogotheque)

Between Courtney Barnett’s recent La Blogotheque turn-in and this deeply felt session for Bridie Monds-Watson’s SOAK project, it’s becoming abundantly clear that the series hasn’t slowed their ambitions. Characteristically gorgeous and surprisingly moving, this pair of songs- “B a Nobody” and “Blud”- become awe-inspiring thanks to both the committed performance and the way the performances are lensed. Monds-Watson exhibits a breathtaking command over control and restraint throughout and, by the video’s end, walks away with one of the most unexpectedly inspiring live moments of the year.

4. Waxahatchee – Under A Rock (Wichita)

Wrapping up the run of Waxahatchee’s recent St. Pancras set is a characteristically spellbinding take of one of 2015’s best singles, “Under A Rock“. Eschewing all of the anthemic rock trappings that made the song sound so defiantly gigantic in the recorded setting in favor of a bare-bones approach, “Under A Rock” becomes another gorgeous showcase for not just Katie Crutchfield but her twin, Allison (of Swearin’), as well. It’s a fitting end-cap for one of 2015’s most gorgeous video sets and affirms that Waxahatchee is operating at the height of her current powers.

5. Sleater-Kinney (Later… With Jools Holland)

One of the year’s most welcome surprises was the return of Sleater-Kinney, not just because they were back (which would have been a welcome return) but because they were back with a vengeance. No Cities To Love felt like an evolution of The Woods (one of my picks for best record of the 2000’s), re-establishing not only the band’s identity but their creative restlessness. The band recently stopped by the vaunted UK show Later… With Jools Holland to deliver a trio of fiery performances (“No Cities To Love”, “Gimme Love”, and “Price Tag”, respectively), resoundingly defeating any adjusted expectations in the process. Even in a nearly decade-long absence, the band hasn’t lost a step.