Heartbreaking Bravery

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Tag: Spin

2016: A Year’s Worth of Memories (James Greer)

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For the past three years, a series has run on this site called A Year’s Worth of Memories, which features a collection of some of the most fascinating artists, directors, and writers working within the confines of entertainment reflecting on the most meaningful items and/or moments they experienced throughout the past year. It’s a tremendous honor to be kicking off this year’s (slightly belated) edition of A Year’s Worth of Memories with a piece from James Greer (pictured above, center), who once left an editorial position at SPIN magazine to join Guided By Voices in time to record Alien Lanes and Under the Bushes, Under the Stars.

His credits as a screenwriter include Max Keeble’s Big Move, Just My Luck, and The Spy Next Door. Greer also received acclaim for his novels Artificial Light and The Failure. Currently, Greer plays in an excellent project called DTCV (who I must thank again for their contribution to the A Step Forward compilation).  Here, he reflects on the shell shock that accompanied a particularly disheartening discovery on tour. Enjoy.

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We Have to Tell the Americans

In 2016 the weird turned pro in a big way. Famous people died, infamous people lied, and we (with an assist from Russia) elected a Twitter troll for president. Most people can’t wait to kick last year to the curb, and though I’m wary of confirmation bias, it does feel like we got an extra portion of suck with our rations, no matter what you like to eat. I’m using “eat” as a metaphor. I think.

My cluttered iCal tells me that lots of stuff happened to me, personally. Some of which I even remember. We toured Europe for the first time ever in February. We moved from Joshua Tree to Columbus, Ohio in March, and we’ve been on tour more or less perpetually since then, finishing up the year with a two month odyssey in Europe that I’m still processing in a secret enclave in the French alps. It’s not actually secret, just too boring to explain. DTCV’s bandleader Lola G.’s parents live here. She’s visiting them and I’m trying to catch up on the back log of writing deadlines I begged off for the last two months.

Touring puts you in a kind of extended fugue state, which gets more pronounced the longer you’re out. This effect is further compounded when you tour overseas; at length you (hopefully) establish some kind of equilibrium, but there’s a point, and it’s different for everyone, when you hit the wall, so to speak. When you just don’t want to go on, when you’re bone-tired of loading and unloading flight cases of gear up and down flights of stairs, and driving in strange countries — some of which require you to learn new driving habits, like in the U.K., where they make you drive on the wrong side of the road, or Italy, where the rule of law doesn’t apply to cars, apparently —  and the most difficult part of every show: trying to park the goddamn van.

The further you are from home, both temporally and physically, the more dislocated you become from behavioral norms. Band interactions start to resemble the worst kind of reality TV. Not all the shows are great. Some objectively suck. Sometimes the whole thing seems like a waste of time and money and most importantly creative energy. It’s easy to lose sight of your original intent when you’re freezing in an anarchist squat in Switzerland staring down two more weeks of the same uphill slog. We crossed the alps four times on this tour — all of them: German, Swiss, Austrian, Italian, and French — so please forgive my overuse of climbing jargon. I have at leas thus far resisted saying “This tour had a lot of ups and downs.” Oops.

But I’d do it all again in a hot minute. The great and good shows far outnumbered the less-great and less-good ones, and it’s awe-inspiring to watch Lola every night play and sing her songs for over an hour with undiminished energy and enthusiasm and raw emotion. It’s an honor to play guitar in her band. I’ve had really good luck in the people I’ve played music with. In general, too, I’ve been incredibly lucky in the opportunities I’ve been given, and I daily thank whatever Druidic deity is responsible. I’m hoping it’s the moon. I like the moon.

For all the great and good things that happened during our odyssey — and for all the other great, good, less good, and bad (very bad) things that happened the rest of the year — one moment stands out not for its awfulness, per se, but because  of the strange way the awfulness introduced itself. It’s hard to find another event in 2016 more dispiriting than the result of the presidential election, but it wasn’t the result so much as our disconnect from that result that affected me. We were six hours removed from Eastern time, and nine hours from the West Coast, so November 7 for us was just another show. We played with an excellent British band called Dead Rabbits in Hamburg at Hafenklang, a rock club in an old recording studio situated right on the river Elbe.

Of course the election was on our minds, but when we had left in late October to go to Europe we were as confident as anyone else (among our peer group, at least, which is part of the problem) that no way in hell would Collective America elect as president the dude German newspapers had taken to calling the “Horrorclown.” We’d all done our part. Our bass player Kyle and Dan our drummer were Ohio-based and had voted early. Lola is a French citizen and can’t vote. I’d tweeted some disparaging stuff about Trump. And voted, too, but as a California resident the tweets seemed more impactful.

When we finished the show, and later when we went to bed in the band apartment the club had given us and Dead Rabbits on the top floor of the club (it’s a big club), it was still early in the evening on the East Coast of the U.S. and polls had only just closed. Early results didn’t indicate the Clinton landslide we were expecting, but we weren’t worried. And we had to be in Amsterdam early the next day for soundcheck, a five hundred kilometer drive. So I went to sleep excited to wake up the next morning to find that we’d elected our first female president.

The Brits didn’t sleep. They stayed up drinking and talking and following the election results. They may have been less confident in the polls after what they’d just gone through with Brexit. Or maybe they were just less worn out than we were. I don’t remember the details very clearly. Dan may have stayed up with them a while. Kyle says he lay in bed awake for a while obsessively checking his phone, but eventually gave up and fell asleep. But I remember one thing very clearly: waking up much earlier than usual, like about five or six in the morning, to hear a fraught babble of hushed voices in the next room, where Dead Rabbits were bunked. “We have to tell the Americans,” I heard one of them say. But they didn’t have to tell the Americans, because in that moment I knew that the unthinkable had happened.

It didn’t seem real. Because a lot of things on tour start to seem unreal, or at least surreal, we incorporated the news about the Horrorclown into the general tour fugue. But it was deflating, no question. The next couple of shows were not great from a performance point of view. I took to renaming one of our songs “I Killed Donald Trump With My Big Fucking Dick,” a tribute to Sonic Youth’s maybe less civic-spirited “I Killed Christgau etc…” but then, I wasn’t trying to be funny (and I recognize the gag itself is in monumentally poor/problematic taste, but I wasn’t interested at the time in good taste or any kind of taste. I was just really fucking angry). It was a futile effort to offset the despair that knotted my gut when I heard the words “We have to tell the Americans” and is still there.

Everyone in Europe kept telling us it will be all right. In Italy they reminded us about Berlusconi, their own personal Horrorclown, and how they’d survived twenty years of him. The U.S. isn’t Italy, but maybe they’re right, maybe we will survive, but surviving isn’t really what I signed up for. I want to keep creating — writing books, playing guitar, working on films — without the looming threat of Armageddon or to Planned Parenthood. I suppose the looming threat of Armageddon or to Planned Parenthood has been there my whole life, but it’s never fun to see the leering visage of fascism made corporeal and, you know, in charge of our nuclear arsenal.

On the other hand, Lola’s plan to retreat from the world and live in a cabin in some remote forest just got a boost. I’ll gladly join her, should she make the leap. See? There’s always an upside.

 

— James Greer

 

 

Watch This: Six Weeks of Honorable Mentions

Six weeks is a long time to go without running a Watch This and the 50 selections that ran in the 150th installment (the preceding post) barely scratched the surface. To get deeper into the extraordinary wealth of material worth exploring, a sequel of sorts seemed necessary. There’s absolutely no way that a single person is going to watch everything listed below but each link is genuinely exceptional and deserved to be featured. Whether they were part of a series, a great capture, a great performance, or notable for another reason, they’re all linked for a reason. So, bookmark the page and explore at will. Stop waiting and Watch This.

Middle Kids, Big Thief (x2), Nada Surf, Weaves, Dude York (x2), Kodakrome, Okkervil River (x2, 3), Ariana Brophy, Tokyo Police Club, Kishi Bashi, The Peekaboos, Gauntly, Title Tracks, SuperGlu, Journalism, School Damage, Julia Jacklin (x2), Dinosaur Jr. (x2), Hype, Loney Dear, Free Cake For Every Creature, Lever,  Midnight Faces, Jackie Islands, Mr. Ma’am, The Shelters, Tara Terra (x2), The Lemon Twigs, Boxed In, James Vincent McMorrow, Diet Cig, Alright Panther, Slothrust (x2), Weyes Blood, Slow Down Molasses.

SuunsJFDR, Kuroma, Young In The City, Justin Peter Kinkel-Schuster, Post Child, Suburban Living, MOM, Big Jesus, The Thermals, Minor Victories, Tectonics, Adia Victoria (x2), Disorder Kid, Shadowhouse, Tobacco, Holly Lovell, Out the Car Window, Vaginaboys, Parquet Courts (x2), Fossette, Mount Kimbie, Keaton Henson & Lisa Hannigan, Loch Lomond, BADBADNOTGOOD, PLANEADOR, Dinowalrus, Spruce Trap, Golden Suits, Giorgieness, Golden Suits, Joe Bordenaro, Ages And Ages, Lucy Dacus.

Lina TullgrenPatsy’s Rats, Belle Mare, Julien Baker, Pipeline, Gymshorts, David Bazan, The Woolen Men, Moderat, Allah-Las, Mean Jeans, Smoking Popes, Baba Dochia, Bobby Rush, Honey Bucket, Blanket Party, Nassau, Moondle, Conor Oberst (x2, 3), Dulce Y Agraz, Annabel, Talune, RY X, Ira Wolf, Day Wave, Oxymorons, Ess See, Bigjoy, Racing Heart, Richard Maule, Joe Bel, Dirty Laundry, Purling Hiss, Cory Kilgannon, Menacerno, The Roalde Dahls, Huey P, Haathi, Bad Cop/Bad Cop (x2), Cold Mountain ChildSóley.

MidijoyfulBlack EyesAttacca Quartet, Sims (x2), Gates, Evan Opitz, Sea Inside, Josh Pyke, Lyerr, Nature & Madness, Alma Forrer, Warpaint, Corbu, Dr. Martino, Male Gaze, Jack Garratt, Eros and the Eschaton, Marin Patenaude, Andreas Mattsson, Whitney, Hiss Golden Messenger (v), Matthew McNeal, Margo Price, The Minders, Zebra, Absolutely Not, Henry Bateman, Zen Mother, Royal Canoe, Love, The Twains, Shannen Moser, Billie Marten, Scott Matthews, Andy Place and The CoolheadsSignal To Noise.

Leisure Club, B00tyJoe Chunk, Pearl Earl, Drift Mouth, The Britanys, Miossec, Lisa Prank (x2), The Secret Sisters, Lost Walks, Smokey Brights, TTNG, Yori Swart, Hartford/FochtJesca Hoop, Moon Hooch, Aaron Lee Tasjan (x2), Ryley WalkerEstá Vivo, Alejandro Escovedo (x2), Lisa Hannigan, Lobo Marino, The Lavender Flu, MRCH, Divers, Pale Tongue, Floating Points, Deathsticks, Prettiest Eyes, Bat For Lashes, The Stops, Campo-Formio, Jessica Martins, Berriloom, Them Dead Poets, Looms.

Down GownAndrew Leahey & The Homestead, Vice Device, The Growlers, Digable Planets, Jack Grelle, Abhi Tambe, Spazzare, SUSTO, Lilah Larson, Shlomo Franklin, Ivy Meissner (ft. Uncivilized), Sex Crime, Chris JamesThe War On Peace (x2), Mohit Mukhi, Sanguine and Shiny, Dirty Fences, Band of Horses, Merynn Jean, Tom Stephens, Red Dons, The Domestics, The Saturday Giant, Public Eye, Pantomime, The Minus 5, Violetta Zironi, EYE, Laura Sjin, Black Bear Rodeo, Nacho Picasso, Old Fashioned Lover Boy.

Lithics, Hunt Hunt Hunt Camp, Robert Ellis, Wizard Rifle, Holy SonsAkın Sevgör, Ofelia Ofelia, Animal Spirit, Daniela Andrade, Rae Spoon, Dead Snow Monster, Magnetic Ghost, Zimmerman, Murder By Death, Steve Gunn, First Pet, The Malady of Sevendials, Liset Alea, VLNY, Oracle Room, Sky Village, Riley Pinkerton, Ricky Roosevelt, Sahil Bahl, Tall Juan, Alexandra Savior, Lisa Crawley, Youthpool, Gia Margaret, Battleme, Oathbreaker, SOBI, Eric Burton, Arkells, SALESSarah De Warren and Drive-By Truckers.

Watch This: Vol. 136

The past week saw a lot of great live videos swimming to the shore from the depths of nowhere. There were outstanding featured performances in those clips from Adir L.C., The Curls, Lydia Loveless, Courtney Barnett, Ultimate Painting, Dogbreth, Los Blenders, Kinda Rad Kinda Sad, Summer Twins, Rich Girls, Slingshot Dakota, The Staves, Caveman, Eric Bachmann, Brendan Canning, Lisa Prank, Vetiver, Paridisia, Porches, Mimes of Wine, SALES, Typesetter, and Julien Baker. For the 136th installment of this series, the attention turns to a handful of folk-influenced artists who are either making their mark or reaping what they’ve sown throughout their careers. So, as always, sit back, adjust the settings, take a breath, and Watch This.

1. Margaret Glaspy (OpenAir)

Margaret Glaspy‘s had a deeply impressive 2016. The young songwriter released a breakthrough record, continuously boasts one of the better live shows on the market, and has handled the transition into the public eye with the poised confidence of a seasoned veteran. Here, Glaspy gives Colorado Public Radio’s OpenAir a powerful look at that live show, landing a few knockout punches throughout a rousing four-song performance.

2. Dusk – (Do the) Bored Recluse + Leaf (Set List)

No band has been written about or praised more by this site than Tenement, who have been the consummate example of what this site was built around supporting. Through that band’s decade-long existence, bandleader Amos Pitsch has been involved in a number of other projects but something about Dusk feels just a little bit different. The band’s comprised of several of the most impressive musical figures in Wisconsin’s relatively isolated Fox Valley area, whose singular visions act in complementary tandem. Beautiful harmonies, a sense of history, and a tenacious commitment help define the band’s identity. All of those traits are on full display for this gorgeous two-song turn-in for Wisconsin Public Radio’s excellent Set List series.

3. Green Dreams – Don’t Pray For Me (Katie Krulock)

Ever since the release of 2014’s excellent Rich Man, Poor Man, Green Dreams have been relatively quiet. All of that’s about to change as the band preps a new release, which the band provided a tantalizing glimpse at through the form of this live acoustic video. The typically ferocious project reveals their pensive side on the lilting “Don’t Pray For Me”, while still retaining the overwhelming narrative darkness that’s been so prominent in their past releases. Beautifully lensed and delicately performed, the video’s a powerful reminder of Green Dreams’ numerous gifts.

4. Bernie & the Wolf (DZ Records)

For more than three years, Bernie & the Wolf have quietly been perfecting a mix of influences and forming a sound that’s not too distant from the best of Saddle Creek’s offerings. Open, sprawling, and teeming with distinctly American influences (and history), their songs are immediately warmly familiar and entirely winsome. DZ Records recently capture the band delivering an impassioned set, keying in on “Ethyl”, “Catch Some”, and “Pretty On Me”, three genuine standouts from what promises to be one of the best releases of its given year.

5. Bon Iver (SPIN)

Typically, these spots are reserved for unheralded artists, independent-leaning moments, and videos where the performers aren’t hundreds of feet away. It takes a lot to overturn any of those qualifications and overturning all of them is essentially unprecedented. Even though Bon Iver’s Eaux Claires live unveiling of the forthcoming record — something I was fortunate enough to attend — was a genuinely Big Moment that will be exhaustively covered by nearly every serious music publication, the way it was introduced felt intrinsically connected to the foundations of this site.

As a person who’s lived the vast majority of life in a small Wisconsin town, watching someone like Justin Vernon selflessly elevate an enitre artistic community has been heartening. Watching him debut an entire album live, in front of a hushed audience of thousands, at a genre-balanced festival he founded in his own small Wisconsin hometown was actively inspiring. While Vernon’s rollout campaign for Bon Iver’s forthcoming 22, A Million was designed to benefit the projects’s chosen slot, it was also an effort to highlight the other artists (like Tenement and Tickle Torture) who were a part of the Eaux Claires festival.

In that methodology, Vernon’s added another heartfelt notch in his continuing efforts to expand Wisconsin’s woefully underrated music community by any means at his disposal. On top of all of that, though, the actual performance of 22, A Million was an unforgettable event that was enhanced by the location (Bon Iver’s music has always been perfectly suited to Wisconsin’s wilderness) and the weather.

Just before the set began, what had been a steady downpour of rain lasting hours had suddenly stopped and night had fully descended. Throughout the set, there was an eerie calm that was punctuated by the noise of crickets that had taken residence in and outside of the festival grounds, creating an ambient wellspring of noise that further enhanced the glitchy electronics that permeate throughout 22, A Million (they became especially evident during the quietest moments, rounding out those songs in an unforgettable fashion).

While all of the main set can be heard and seen below in a video that SPIN livestreamed from the crowd, the encore set (which isn’t part of the video) provided what may have been the most defining moment of the festival.

Playing a selection of songs that wildly varied from their original versions, the band pulled out a fairly faithful rendition of “Creature Fear” that culminated in an apocalyptic wall of noise outro section. In the lead-up to those breathtaking final moments, a blisteringly intense lightning storm had erupted behind a heavy cloud, providing an unexpected assist that felt entirely in tune with the weekend’s joyous collaborative efforts. In that moment, the audience, the band, the city of Eau Claire, and Wisconsin itself became part of a unified moment that transcended easy category, leaving an indelible mark on Eau Claires, on Eaux Claires, and on everyone who took a moment to take in their surroundings.

Watch This: Vol. 128

Lady Lamb, Eleanor Friedberger, La Luz, Bob Mould, Tangerine, Weaves, Lacrymosa, Bye Beneco, The Big Pink, Weaves, Sex Tide, David Bazan, Plants and Animals, LUH, The Wooden Sky, Mumblr, Bleached, Adult Mom, Hattie Marsh, Stephen Steinbrink, Destroyer, Mount Moriah, Muuy Biien, Young Magic, The Kills, Adeline HotelDeclan McKenna, Palehound, Friendship, Titus Andronicus, Petal, and Foals all had very strong live videos surface over the past seven days. Unsurprisingly, that cast of titles underscores the strength of the five performance that are highlighted in this, the 128th installment of the Watch This series. I’ve been fortunate enough to catch each of the five acts featured below and can confirm that these captures come close to doing them justice, chronicling their charisma, emotional pull, and talent spectacularly. So, as always, sit up, adjust the settings, elevate the volume, block out all distractions, and Watch This.

1. Seratones (Audiotree)

Ever since Seratones‘ run at last year’s CMJ, the band’s been slowly escalating nearly every facet of their already-formidable presentation. Boasting one of the most awe-inspiring vocalists currently on the circuit, the band delivers a commanding performance here for Audiotree. Grabbing onto something won’t save you from being flattened.

2. Car Seat Headrest – Fill In The Blank + Vincent (WXPN)

Teens of Denial still confidently stands as one of 2016’s finest records, a fact that will inevitably be reflected by several sources come December, and thanks to the band’s live show it’s still gaining traction. The band tore through “Fill In The Blank” and “Vincent”, the record’s opening two tracks, for WXPN. It’s a masterful run that shows Car Seat Headrest have plenty of tricks up their sleeves.

3. Courtney Barnett (Strombo Sessions)

Courtney Barnett may very well hold the record for the most Watch This series appearances at this point. An endlessly gifted — and obscenely likable — performer, Barnett’s hyper-intelligent songwriting is allowed to thrive in the live setting. All of those qualities can become even more pronounced in her endearing solo performances, which is squarely the case with this beautiful set that comes courtesy of Strombo Sessions.

4. Midnight Reruns – Richie the Hammer (Set List)

Last year, Midnight Reruns‘ brilliant Force of Nurture made a very strong showing in this site’s year-end rankings and a large reason for that placement was guitarist/vocalist (and principal songwriter) Graham Hunt’s growth as a lyricist. The record’s most surprising moment may very well have been the emotional devastation contained in “Richie the Hammer”, which the band recently performed for WPR’s excellent Set List series.

5. Weaves (NPR)

After several years of stellar performances and continuous evolution, Weaves have managed to create quite a few converts. “Shithole“, a fiery moment of reinvention, kicked off a run of songs that currently comprise the most formidable stretch of the band’s still-blossoming career. The band takes on a trio of those selections for one of the most galvanizing Tiny Desk sessions in recent memory. It’s downright electric.

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. 110

Now that Watch This is caught up to its usual weekly routine, the rest of the week will be spent dragging the coverage for other formats up to the present release cycle. Following that round of catching up, the site will be turning its focus towards year-end lists and the second edition of A Year’s Worth of Memories. Before we hit that point, though, it feels more necessary than ever to shine a light on some of the best live capture performances from this past week. Again, a strong week’s relegated a slew of extremely strong candidates to the honorable mentions, which include performances from Palehound, The Courtneys, Green Dreams, Vinyl Williams, Albert Hammond Jr., Futurebirds, The Bottle Rockets, Husbands, Noah Gunderson, Caleb and Carolyn, Donovan Wolfington, The Dick and Jane Project, Doe Paoro, Gudrid Hansdottir, Youth Lagoon, Shopping, and Battles.  Site favorites abound in the featured section and the whole thing wraps with one of the year’s finest– and most unexpected– live clips.  So, as always, kick back, focus up, adjust the volume, and Watch This.

1. The Sidekicks – Hell Is Warm (Radio K)

In “Hell Is Warm” The Sidekicks have written themselves a shockingly strong opening number, so it should come as no surprise that it’s been leading off a lot of their recent sets. By that same token, it makes perfect sense as an exhilarating standalone number.  Here, the quartet tears through the song in a session hosted by Radio K, delivering a blistering version that  arguably improves on the excellent studio take.

2. Bad Canoes – Radio Without Rules (Don Giovanni)

Some people are natural performers who imbue every project they appear in with a radical charisma that elevates everything in their reach. Marissa Paternoster is one of those performers.  In the deliriously scrappy Bad Canoes, Paternoster’s divorced from her guitar and allowed free reign over the stage, careening around with a reckless abandon as the rest of Bad Canoes alternates between contained proto-punk and building up a swirling wall of chaos. Packaged together, it’s electrifying.

3. Wimps – Dump (Band In Seattle)

One of the most purely entertaining videos of the past few months has been for Wimps‘ all-too-relatable “Dump“, a 2015 standout. The trio’s most  recent effort, Suitcase, is a brilliant collection of basement pop gems that coast by effortlessly but carry enough weight to be memorable. Here, the band takes their brand of goofy irreverence and sharpen it for a memorable run through “Dump”, unable to suppress some very heartfelt smiles along the way.

4. Alex G + Girlpool – Brite Boy (SPIN)

Alex G‘s “Brite Boy” hasn’t left my mind since writing up the song’s heartbreaking video earlier this week. Here, in a performance for SPIN, the song takes on an additional glow thanks to the support provided by site favorites Girlpool. Ostensibly a song about isolation, loneliness, and loss, it somehow transforms into an even more heartrending experience as Girlpool’s Cleo Tucker and Harmony Lebel-Tividad join in for the song’s backing vocal part, before joining each other in a half-choreographed, half-spontaneous dance during the song’s instrumental outro that’s surprisingly moving. Affectionate, human, and strangely devastating, it’s a performance that seems poised to circulate for many years to come.

5. Dilly Dally – Burned by the Cold (Strombo Sessions)

Few songs have hit me harder this year than “Burned by the Cold”, the album closer from Dilly Dally‘s astonishing Sore. Easily one of my favorite songs of 2015 (more on that later), the song showcases the band’s commitment to range and capacity for subversion. From a purely logistical standpoint, it seemed unlikely that the band would ever latch onto the song for their live set and that it was doomed to a life of record confinement. Thankfully, George Stroumboulopoulos’ home, where The Strombo Show is filmed, comes equipped with a piano. Dilly Dally recently appeared on the show as guests and gifted everyone with this stunning rendition of “Burned by the Cold”, which is presented here in crisp black-and-white, enhancing the song’s wintry aesthetic. It’s because of performances like this one that Watch This came into existence and it’s a beautiful coda for Dilly Dally’s extraordinary year.

First Quarter Songs, Pt. 1 (Mixtape)

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We’re a little more than three months into 2015 and the influx of great new material in the year’s first quarter has been astounding. It was a transitional time period for the site, with dozens of authors pitching in personal recollection pieces regarding the previous year. During that time, I also started a full-time position, disallowing a production rate as frequent as the one held throughout the entirety of 2014. However, during these opening months, I haven’t stopped listening, collecting, exploring, and thinking about every new release that I was fortunate enough to find. There are more than 250 songs, 90 full streams,  and 115 music videos to cover, so- while a few will be given full features- it only made sense to bring everything up to speed via long lists of the things worth mentioning. To begin, here are 25 great songs from 2015 that deserve to be heard. Don’t let the fact that there are no accompanying descriptions short-change the value of these songs; this is the first batch of what already looks like the strongest crop of new music we’ve had in years. The track list, and embedded player, is below. Listen to these songs, pay attention to these artists, buy these records, and go to their shows. Don’t make the mistake of letting any of them pass by unnoticed.

1. The Juliana Hatfield Three – Wood
2. Swerverdriver – Autodidact
3. Gal Pals – Here’s to the Gals
4. Chastity Belt – Time to Go Home
5. Beech Creeps – Times Be Short
6. Will Butler – Take My Side
7. Dick Diver – Tearing The Posters Down
8. Shadow Age – A Portrait of A Young Man Dying
9. The Zoltars – Sincere
10. Robot Princess – Action Park
11. Colleen Green – TV
12. Alex G – Sarah
13. Sam Cook-Parrott & Allison Crutchfield – Something About What Happens
14. Chris Weisman – Don’t Be Slow
15. Dorthia Cottrell – Oak Grove
16. Cloud Castle Lake – Glacier
17. Simon Joyner – You Got Under My Skin
18. Eaves – Spin
29. Steady Lean – Atkins
20. Shilpa Ray – Pop Song For Euthanasia
21. Rye Pines – Pessimist
22. Moon Duo – Slow Down Low
23. DOE – Basement
24. Weed – Stay in the Summer
25. LVL UP – Somebody Kill Me Please