Heartbreaking Bravery

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Tag: Strombo Sessions

Watch This: Vol. 161

Every week this year’s offered up an enticing host of live clips and the week that transpired the week before last proved no exception, keeping the flame not only alive but roaring. The Tablets, Fits, Robyn Hitchcock, Miss Molly Simms, Summer Twins, Perfume Genius, Strand of OaksBenoît Pioulard, Sean Rowe, Rahim AlHaj, Tenement, Flesh World, Bad History Month, Dinosaur Jr, Hi-Tec Emotions, The Paranoyds, Laura Marling, The New Pornographers, Slow Dancer, Lucy & La Mer, Imaginary Tricks, Double Grave, Queen Hilma, Violents & Monica Martin, Juliana Hatfield, Fast Romantics, Atlas Road Crew, Micah P. Henson, The Drive-By Truckers, Tamino, Lucille Furs, Leif Vollebek, Two Houses, Umm, S.H.I.T., and Electric Eye all found themselves at the center of excellent live captures. A group that strong goes a long way in indicating the formidable nature of the featured clips, which include several long-time site favorites. So, as always, sit up, straighten out, adjust the settings, draw the screen a little closer, and Watch This.

1. Waxahatchee – No Curse (Weathervane)

Katie Crutchfield’s no stranger to this site, seemingly all of the songwriter’s projects having been covered in some capacity. Waxahatchee has become Crutchfield’s calling card in recent years and remains the most singularly focused of the musician’s artistic output. Here, Crutchfield and company rip through an enticing new song entitled “No Curse” for Weathervane’s outstanding Shaking Through series. It’s a potent reminder of the inherent power of one of this generation’s finest artists.

2. Hurray for the Riff Raff – Living in the City (The Current)

A handful of releases into an increasingly notable career, Hurray for the Riff Raff continue an impressively upward trajectory. Each consecutive record and performance seems to constitute a new career high for the project, which has never been anything less than commendable. “Living in the City” is just the latest upward rung on a never-ending ladder that seems poised to reach stratospheric heights. Looking down from where the act is now, it’s more than enough to induce a serious amount of vertigo.

3. Vundabar (Audiotree)

One of the more intriguingly frenetic punk bands of recent times, Vundabar have carved out a reputation for themselves by meticulously crafting unpredictable music. Recently, the band swung through Audiotree’s studio to record a session perfectly showcasing the tension and urgency the band’s so adept at creating. Every song in this session is eye-opening and executed to perfection without anyone in the band sacrificing even an ounce of conviction.

4. Nothing (Amoeba)

Watch This veterans, Nothing keep finding new ways to impress. In this Green Room session for Amoeba, the band sacrifices their signature onslaught of volume for something far more intimate and contained. In passing up one of their most noted trademarks, the band also ably demonstrates how good the songs lurking underneath have been since the beginning. Utterly transfixing and devastatingly sincere, this acoustic session stands as an entirely unlikely but wholly welcome new high for the band.

5. Allison Crutchfield (KEXP)

While Katie Crutchfield may have taken the opening slot on the features list in this volume of Watch This, Crutchfield’s twin sister is the one to close it out. As another musician whose projects have been well-documented on this site throughout a lengthy career, Allison Crutchfield seems poised to spearhead a sterling solo career. A lot of supporting evidence can be found to back that claim up, including this abbreviated set for KEXP, which finds the band (which includes Radiator Hospital‘s Sam Cook-Parrott) running through an impressive array of new songs with a sense of unified purpose.

Watch This: Vol. 147

After a brief hiatus, Watch This returns with another two-part installment focusing on the outstanding live videos to have emerged from last Monday through last Sunday.  Japanese Breakfast, Mikey Erg, Quarterbacks, Okkervil River, The Tallest Man On Earth, Robbing Millions, Busman’s Holiday, Sarah White, Ages and Ages, The Aviary, Jamie T, Xenia Rubinos, Tycho, Misimplicity, Local Natives, Naked Giants, and Yonatan Gat were all responsible for notable entries while the five featured clips were genuine standouts. From fresh faces to beloved veterans, there’s a lot to explore. So, as always, sit up, lean in, adjust the volume, focus, and Watch This.

1. Gurr – Walnuss (Auf Klo)

Following up their run through “Moby Dick” that was featured in the last installment of this series, another clip of Gurr playing in a bathroom stall finds its way to a featured slot. Just as endearing and just as heartfelt this round, the ascendant duo delivers a lively take of “Walnuss“. Building on a momentum swing, the band should find their name growing increasingly more recognizable as the year pushes forward.

2. Haley Bonar (NPR)

Haley Bonar has been featured on this series a few times in the past but the songwriter’s in rare form for this Tiny Desk Concert. A genuinely gorgeous run through a set of songs, Bonar exerts a nuanced control that enlivens every second of this session. One of the strongest Tiny Desks of the year, it’s a beautiful showcase of a musician whose finally starting to get due credit.

3. Feels (Pressuredrop.tv)

For the past few years, Feels have been steadily building up an impressive name for themselves through a solid discography and explosive live shows. The latter bit of that formula is expertly documented here in a fiery full session for Pressuredrop.tv. From song to song, Feels sink their teeth into their material and give it their all. As a result, they wind up with one of the more exhilarating full sessions in recent memory.

4. PWR BTTM – All the Boys (The Wild Honey Pie)

Over the past few years, PWR BTTM have become one of the most written-about artists on this site. One of the biggest reasons for this occurrence is the band’s incredible live show. While it’s been lovingly portrayed in the past by several outlets, none of those entries have come close to being as beautifully shot as this take of “All the Boys” for The Wild Honey Pie’s Buzzsessions. A gorgeously lensed clip, “All the Boys” also manages to capture the band’s infectious spirit and undeniable charisma, becoming one of the most definitive portrayals of the band to date.

5. Charles Bradley (Strombo Sessions)

Earlier this month, the music community was hit with tragic news: Charles Bradley, a figure that’s been embraced by an adoring public that stretch multiple genres, was diagnosed with stomach cancer. One of the most inspirational figures in music, the Screamin’ Eagle of Soul was also a regular staple of this series. As a result, there’s a twinge of heartbreak running through this beautiful full session for the Strombo Sessions. Bradley’s characteristic exuberance winds up tipping the scales back to something genuinely heartening before the clip hits its close and provides the proceedings with a sense of genuine triumph. As a whole, it’s a deeply important portrait of one of the most gifted songwriters — and pure performers — of recent memory. Give it the kind of love and attention it (and Bradley) deserves.

Watch This: Vol. 129

Hello and welcome to the 129th installment of Watch This. Just like the previous 128 entries in this series, this volume will focus on the finest live performance videos to be released in a set time frame (this time around being the normal version: this singular, immediate week).  As is usually the case, there was quite a bit of material to sift through that included strong showings from the likes of Margaret Glaspy, Antiphons, The Tallest Man On Earth, Ty Segall & Cory Hanson, Day Wave, Whitney Rose, Beach Slang, Naked Naps, Seratones, Amber Arcades, Hannah Georgas, Boogarins, Alessio Bax, Zach Puls, Totally Mild, Chick Corea & Gary Burton, Venus II, Dream On Nilsson, Dolfish, Dr. Dog, and Bowerbirds. A lot of gems can be found by exploring that list just as the five featured clips offer up an arsenal of astonishing talent on both sides of the camera. So, as always, kick back, crank the volume, get prepared, and Watch This.

1. Bully (Bonnaroo)

After purring out one of last year’s finest records, Bully have been hitting both the road and the festival circuit with staggering force. Feels Like, the record that spawned an extremely promising career, conjured up enough momentum that the band’s carried it to what’s essentially a victory lap. Fortunately for everyone, they’re playing their shows as if they still need to be the first to cross some unseen finish line.

2. Fruit + Flowers – Drug Tax (BreakThruRadio)

For well over a year, Fruit + Flowers have been drawing near to the cusp of becoming a breakout band and in that time, they’ve sharpened their live show to a fine point. That dedication shows in this steely-eyed performance of “Drug Tax” the band delivered for BreakThruRadio, tapping into the kind of fiery determination that a bigger scale — a scale that they deserve — necessitates. Expect to be hearing their name more at some point in the near future.

3. The She’s (PressureDrop.tv)

For as much as it gets featured on this site, the fact remains: good, carefree basement pop — the kind that comes equipped with a band’s singular identity — is surprisingly hard to create. Since they formed, The She’s have been working resiliently to perfect both their approach and that very niche genre. This inspired full session for PressureDrop.tv shows that they’re as close to achieving that goal as anyone.

4. SAVAK – Reaction (BreakThruRadio)

Session musicians are frequently overlooked despite being the backbone of the recording industry. SAVAK is a supergroup of relatively unheralded background players whose cumulative credits include roles in Obits, Holy Fuck, Ted Leo & The Pharmacists, The Cops, Nation of Ulysses, and more. Apart from their former projects and united under one flag, they’ve clicked and transformed into a wrecking crew. This run through “Reaction” is proof.

5. The Thermals (KEXP)

Very few bands boast a discography as absurdly strong as The Thermals, one that’s highlighted by The Body, The Blood, The Machine (which itself is one of the finest records of the past 16 years), yet they’ve managed to retain a nearly unparalleled drive that’s constantly reflected in their work. The band’s live show is when that aspect evolves from an endearing trait to an unavoidable reality. KEXP recently hosted the band (with the very welcome addition of Summer Cannibals‘ Jessica Boudreaux) in their studios and filmed them ripping through some highlights of their most recent effort, We Disappear. A loving document of one of the great DIY-leaning punk acts, it more than earned its spot on this list. Enjoy.

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.

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

[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 seventh and final collection of those videos below.

1. Two Inch Astronaut – At Risk Student (bandwidth.fm)
2. Bob Mould – You Say You (WFUV)
3. The Intelligence (KEXP)
4. Lever – The Task (DZ Records)
5. The Thermals – Always Never Be (Jam in the Van)
6. Saintseneca – Bad Ideas (KUTX)
7. Young Jesus – Oranges (Slanted Manor)
8. Eleventh Dream Day – Go Tell It (Sound Opinions)
9. Julia Holter – Betsy on the Roof (Strombo Sessions)
10. Mothers – It Hurts Until It Doesn’t (Do512)
11. Lucy Dacus – Strange Torpedo (Radio K)
12. Blah Blah Blah – Crying (DZ Records)
13. The Frights – Kids (Allston Pudding)
14. Caveman – Never Going Back (Jam in the Van)
15. Dan San (3voor12)
16. Test Apes (KEXP)
17. All Dogs – Farm (Slanted Manor)
18. Kitten Forever – Brainstorm (Radio K)
19. Bully – Milkman (KUTX)
20. Tancred (Audiotree)
21. PWR BTTM (NPR)
22. Pinegrove – Waveform (BrooklynVegan)
23. Mansfield.Tya – Le dictionnaire Larousse (Faits Divers)
24. Cross Record – Steady Waves (KUTX)
25. Charles Bradley (NPR)

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

[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 sixth collection of those videos below.

1. Lady Lamb – Dear Arkansas Daughter (Audiotree)
2. Lithuania – God In Two Persons (WXPN)
3. Jason Isbell – Something More Than Free (The Current)
4. Lever – The Nerve (DZ Records)
5. Mothers – Burden of Proof (Paste)
6. Kississippi – Googly Eyes (WXPN)
7. Savages – Adore (Colbert)
8. The Dirty Blondes – Because (VHS Sessions)
9. Saintseneca – Sleeper Hold (KUTX)
10. Lucy Dacus – I Don’t Wanna Be Funny Anymore (Radio K)
11. ARNO – Dance Like A Goose (Bruxelles Ma Belle)
12. Devon Goods – Michigan (VHS Sessions)
13. Little Yellow Dog – Time Machine (DZ Records)
14. Two Inch Astronaut – Personal Life (bandwidth.fm)
15. Tangerine (KEXP)
16. Kitten Forever – Cannon (The Current)
17. Eleventh Dream Day – Cheap Gasoline (Sound Opinions)
18. Catbath – Jellyfish (Radio K)
19. Andy Shauf – The Worst In You (La Blogotheque)
20. Choir Vandals – Ghostly (Little Elephant)
21. New Ruin – Disappearances + Del Rosa + Negative Dialectics (Razorcake)
22. Left & Right – Sleep Show (Do512)
23. The Thermals – Thinking of You (Jam in the Van)
24. Blah Blah Blah – Soon as I Get Home Tonight (DZ Records)
25. Julia Holter – Sea Calls Me Home (Strombo Sessions)

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.