Heartbreaking Bravery

stevenmps2@gmail.com | @steven_mps | @hbreakbravery

Tag: Tamaryn

Watch This: Vol. 137

While the past week wasn’t as exhaustive for live videos as it has been recently, there were still some impressive entries featuring a variety of great acts like Jenny Lewis, Same, The Fever, The Academic, Band of Horses, Typesetter, Astronomique, Future Generations, Martin Courtney, The Staves, Bleached, Adia Victoria, Ages and Ages, Caveman, Summer Twins, Mr. Airplane Man, Julia Holter, Warren Franklin & TFF, Israel Nash, Metric, Justin Peter Kinkel-Schuster, and Tamaryn. Even with all of those in the mix, there were still five genuine standouts, from site favorites to the perennially overlooked. So, as always, sit back, adjust the settings, block out any circumstantial distractions, focus up, and Watch This.

1. Big Eyes – Stake My Claim (BreakThruRadio)

Fresh off releasing one of the year’s best basement pop records, Big Eyes come through in a major way yet again via this performance of that record’s title track, “Stake My Claim”. While the band certainly has made a sizable impression thanks to their recorded work, they’ve been an even more dangerous force as a live act. After going through several mutations, the band’s finally landed on a unit that allows their sound to be as expansive — and as aggressive — as possible.

2. Boss Hog (KEXP)

One of many projects to include DIY punk icon Jon Spencer, Boss Hog first gained some notoriety in the late ’80s thanks to their sudden existence (they were created out of a need to fill a vacancy on a bill at CBGB’s), vocalist Christina Martinez playing that first show nude, and their relentlessly aggressive hybrid of punk sub-genres. The band’s been experiencing a resurgence lately, which led them to the KEXP studios for this gorgeously-lensed session presented in crisp black-and-white. From just about every angle, everything happening here is exhilarating.

3. Mumblr – Mudmouth + Domingo (Out of Town Films)

After the beginning of their career brought about a handful of upbeat, party-leaning (but surprisingly introspective) anthems the quartet went through some sort of awakening. A lot of their more recent material has approached being confrontational thanks to a newfound darkness and a staggering amount of patience. The band’s been stretching their influences in surprising ways and nearly all of them are present in this beautifully-shot two song turn-in for Out of Town Films, which doubles as a definitive showcase for this era of one of the more fascinating bands making music right now.

4. Tigercats – Rent Control (Fortuna POP!)

Every once in a while, a spectacularly made live video surfaces and causes people to question its validity as a live presentation. In many cases, most assume it’s just a particularly convincing music video. This is the fate that awaits Tigercats’ scintillating new “Rent Control”, which is one of the more memorable entries in that niche format in recent memory. Set in a house overflowing with people (presumably friends of the band), there’s a liveliness that informs “Rent Control” and elevates it past similar efforts. The song itself is an exuberant burst of indie pop and every aspect of the clip ties together beautifully, ensuring it a spot on this list.

5. Japanese Breakfast (Audiotree)

Michelle Zauner anchored one of my personal favorite entries in this entire series’ run in Little Big League‘s extraordinary “Year of the Sunhouse” clip from Little Elephant and has remained a powerhouse performer in the time that’s passed since that clip. Zauner’s other project, Japanese Breakfast, has been turning quite a few heads since the release of their excellent Psychopomp. The band recently wrapped a tour with Mitski and Jay Som, taking control of every opportunity to better their already-formidable live show. Their recent session for Audiotree demonstrated the band’s continuously evolving live show and curiously quiet strengths. The entire session is masterful both in performance and presentation, leaving behind an artifact that should be visited and revisited for quite some time.

Watch This: Vol. 126

It’s been quite some time since there was a regular installment of Watch This, a fact that was mostly due to travel in the pursuit of live coverage. That same pursuit pushed back this installment a few days as the post that precedes this one — and its accompanying preparation — took weekend priority. Now that it’s been posted, the wheel of Watch This can resume spinning freely (and will soon resume their position as a Sunday staple). As way of compensation for the delay, there’ll be two volumes of Watch This posted tonight. This post wJuill focus on standalone performances while the forthcoming post will tackle full sessions.

Additionally, a list of artists responsible for some great performance clips can be accessed by clicking the following hyperlinks: Cable Ties, didi, SOAK, Marissa Nadler, More Humans, Midwives, Sunflower Bean, Kurt Vile, Desert Mountain Tribe, Stephen Steinbrink, PUP, Tamaryn, Neely, Yael Naim, Laura Jean, Seramic, and Andrew Bird. It’s a long list of artists and performances that illustrates the sheer strength of the featured selections. So, as always, sit down, turn the volume back, lean in, and Watch This.

1. PUP – If This Tour Doesn’t Kill You, I Will (q on cbc)

After tearing apart the 7th St. Entry last Friday and earning the bulk of this site’s previous post, PUP have essentially guaranteed themselves a featured spot any time one of their live videos surfaces from a pro-shot source. Here, the quartet takes on the most intimidatingly-named song of the year with fervor, delivering a characteristically impassioned run that seems to lay everything on the line. It’s fiery, it’s ferocious, and it’s a very worthy addition to the Watch This catalog.

2. Speedy Ortiz – Dot X (Stereogum)

Speedy Ortiz recently unveiled a great new EP, the cheekily-named Foiled Again, which saw the band hitting the road and continuing to sharpen their already formidable live show. Stereogum recently caught them ripping their way through “Dot X”, a standout from Foil Deer. The band’s in rare form here, looking comfortable as they navigate the song’s hairpin dynamic turns with ease. It’s a compelling look at a great band that’s still in an impressive stride.

3. Lady Lamb – Spat Out Spit (Audiotree)

After a long stretch away, Lady Lamb returns to a standalone Watch This feature with a masterful run through “Spat Out Spit” that was lovingly captured by Audiotree. The song remains as unavoidable as it was on the day it was released and Lady Lamb’s Aly Spaltro’s only grown more confident as a performer in that time. Using “Spat Out Spit” as evidence, it’s not a surprise that Lady Lamb’s stages keep getting bigger.

4. Charles Bradley – Nobody But You (The Current)

Few people have had a run as inspiring as Charles Bradley over the past several years. The man’s gone from a literal nobody to a living legend at an age where most people would be contemplating retirement. Instead of giving up, Bradley’s had an extended coming out party that’s earned him legions of adoring fans, the respect of everyone, and a long string of impressive distinctions. Just as heartening as Bradley’s story is his music (as well as his prowess as a live performer). The Current captured him beautifully via this heartfelt run through “Nobody But You”.

5. Julien Baker – Photobooth (The AV Club)

Normally, this series doesn’t focus on covers. However, Julien Baker isn’t a normal artist and The AV Club’s Undercover series isn’t your run-of-the-mill covers generator. Both the series and the artist draw the best out of each other on this occasion, as Baker turns in a heartbreaking rendition of the admired Death Cab for Cutie slow-burner “Photobooth”. Baker applies her trademark devastation to the song and lets shattering emotion bleed through every single one of the songs crevices. Breathtaking, gentle, and undeniably beautiful, it’s both a declaration and reaffirmation of Baker’s talent as well as the worth of the Undercover series. Don’t miss out.

Tenement – Tenement (EP Stream, Review)

Tenement II

Between the end of last week and the start of this one, this site hasn’t ran a lot of material. A lot of this is due to some upcoming live coverage and the editing that live coverage entails. As is always the case, though, an eye was kept on the emerging content and everything that registered as great was compiled into a list for future reference. Of those lists, the full streams may have been the most stacked, featuring no less than three year-end contenders, including Tenement, this post’s featured EP. For full-lengths, it’d be hard to do much better than the staggering 1-2 punch of the full-length debuts from site favorites All Dogs (Kicking Every Day) and Dogs On Acid (Dogs On Acid) though that didn’t detract from the great new records that started streaming from Frog Eyes, Willis Earl Beal, Fake Palms, i tried to run away when i was 6, Sea Lion, and Tamaryn. Then, of course, there was the re-release of the extremely limited run self-titled tour tape that was released earlier this year by a band that played a crucial role in the development of this site’s functionality, aim, and preference: Tenement.

Following a pattern that emerged around the time Napalm Dream was released, the band’s been ushering in new music with an impressive recklessness. While this time around the band opted to release a behemoth of a double album in Predatory Headlights, rather than opting for the individual split as they did with Napalm Dream and The Blind Wink, they’ve still got material to spare. After kicking this year off with their outstanding early career compilation Bruised Music, Volume 1 (a collection I had the distinct privilege of contributing a piece to for the zine insert that served as the record’s liner notes), they’re restlessly pushing forward with an appropriately ragged five-song collection that they recorded back in February. As mentioned earlier, the tape was held to a run of between 50-60 copies and only made available for their tour with Priests and Vacation.

Tenement’s always been characterized by their steadfast adherence to a DIY ethos but that aspect of their identity has never been so fully reflected by any of their releases than it is here, which is likely why the band opted to make it a self-titled. As the collection plays out, there’s a very real sense that these songs were crafted in a manner where the band felt unburdened by any lingering expectations. Of course, it’s still a Tenement record so the level of songwriting is exceedingly impressive and more than a little indicative of what makes the band one of today’s absolute best.

In a sense (or a few, rather), Tenement‘s actually more attuned to the sensibilities of guitarist/vocalist Amos Pitsch’s Dusk side project. The playing- and feel- from song to song is a lot more loose than Tenement songs tend to wind up being upon their official release and carry on with an easygoing naturalism that renders Tenement an endlessly listenable EP that’s as perfectly suited for open roads as it is a quiet night in. Curiously, all the songs are also titled after a line from the respective choruses or refrains, which is something the band’s generally avoided in the past, which also seems to solidify the fact that this is one of the most direct releases the band’s ever issued. While Pitsch still writes with the flair of a classic Americana novelist, he’s substituted a lot of his more obtuse looks with an emphasis on his lyrics’ more earnest aspects and it suits these songs to perfection. Bassist Jesse Ponkamo and drummer Eric Mayer, as ever, continue to prove their worth as one of today’s most valuable rhythm sections, keeping these songs grounded while still managing to lend them a widescreen appeal, some light menace, a wide-eyed sense of wonder, or an air of gritty determination.

Taken as a whole, Tenement is one of the more unexpected entries in the band’s catalog but it also may be its most quietly rewarding. Favoring understatement over exhilarating moments of power almost exclusively throughout its sub-14 minute run time, Tenement puts a microscope up to one of the band’s more under-utilized modes and results in an unlikely, willing EP that seemed fated to drop off into obscurity just a few short weeks ago. Thankfully, that’s not the case and now anyone who cares has access to “Everyone To Love You”, “Underworld Hotel”, “Witches In A Ritual”, “The Strangest Couple In Love”, and “Roads To Home”. Easily one of the band’s more enigmatic moments, Tenement‘s also one of 2015’s finest releases. Now that it’s finally here, don’t let this one fade into a footnote; turn it up and hit repeat when it’s done.

Listen to Tenement below and pray that it eventually gets repressed in some format. In the meantime, revisit the rest of the band’s unbelievable discography at their bandcamp and watch this site’s own collection of live Tenement videos below the stream.

Dum Dum Girls – Are You Okay (Short Film)

It’s probably fair to say that when most people woke up today, they didn’t think they’d be watching a Dum Dum Girls short film written and conceptualized by Bret Easton Ellis that eclipsed 11 minutes. Yet, that’s exactly what happened to a large section of the people who pay attention to those kinds of things- and we’re all the better for it. There’s a compelling vagueness to the film itself (which includes some gorgeous additional score work from Tamaryn and Drew McDowell), that centers around a rich psychologically-involved narrative. Brewer is at the helm of the strikingly visual Are You Okay and throws in characteristically seductive flourishes throughout.

After an intense opening sequence that establishes Dum Dum Girls’ lead personality Dee Dee Penny as a patient in a therapy session (after an evocative opening shot of a desolate landscape that pans outwards over the sound of heavy breathing) who’s challenged to recreate an imaginary double of herself. As Penny goes deeper into the task, fully embracing all of its set parameters, Are You Okay begins to mount a sense of dread. Charles Ray’s postmodern Two Boys art piece is used masterfully throughout, intensifying the feeling of disorientation.

“Are You Okay?” winds up being the film’s centerpiece- and rightfully so, as this is ostensibly a showcase to serve the song (one of Too True‘s stronger highlights). The goth-noir tendencies are perfectly suited to the progressing tension that’s so present throughout the entirety of Are You Okay. While the song itself does lend a new dynamic to the film, it’s the introduction and epilogue pieces that drive the song to noticeably greater heights. All in all, it’s a gorgeous piece of multidimensional art that ignores the limitations of traditional formatting. As a result, it’s one of the most compelling things to have been unveiled in the artist/video category this year. Watch it below and get treated to some world-class cinematography and surprisingly exceptional acting.