Heartbreaking Bravery

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Tag: The Mug and Brush Sessions

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: Vol. 84

Nothing was posted on this site over the holiday weekend but there were multiple items that were being prepared. One of them, naturally, was the weekly installment of Watch This– a series that celebrates some of the finest live video captures of that week. A lot of familiar faces are featured in this installment, especially considering the massive promotional runs that the teams for Courtney Barnett and Torres (two of the more exciting live acts of the moment) have managed to string together. Once again, a lot of videos that were considered for feature in this 84th issue point towards a fascinating spike of quality in this format. Artists in those videos include: The Kyle Sowashes, Andrew Bird, Fat White Family, Perfume Genius, The Fall, Rozwell Kid, DYGL, Mitski, Klangstof, Strand of Oaks, Heartless Bastards, Other Lives, and Crosss. So, as always, sit up, lean in, settle down, focus up, and Watch This.

1. Alvvays – Archie, Marry Me (BBC)

“Archie, Marry Me” was first released in 2013 to a small amount of claim but eventually blossomed into one of 2014’s defining songs with its re-release. Now, two years after it was first introduced to the world, it still sounds vital despite the amount of playtime (and references) it’s received. Alvvays recently played the Glastonbury festival and knocked the single out of the park with a heartfelt rendition- something that wasn’t lost on an effusive crowd. Fortunately, for everyone, the BBC had their cameras rolling and captured the whole thing.

2. Courtney Barnett – The Fox (The Current)

Courtney Barnett is an exhilarating performer and her insistent placement in this series is continuously justified and warranted. Barnett and her band recently stopped by the twin cities to deliver a powerhouse set as part of the Rock The Garden festival. While the songwriter had strong showings via a solo performance of “Depreston” for Jimmy Fallon and a typically charged take on “Pedestrian At Best“, it was the capture of “The Fox” that played strongest, earning its placement here.

3. Torres (Sound Opinions)

Over the past several installments of this series, no artist has made as many appearances as Torres. Now deep into a fierce touring schedule, Mackenzie Scott’s assembled a (relatively) new crew of musicians to perform the songs and the group taps into three of Sprinter‘s more subdued tracks for Consequence of Sound’s Sound Opinions series. Never anything less than enthralling, there’s a gentle- but firm- grip that gets held throughout this run of “Son, You Are No Island”, “The Harshest Light”, and “Ferris Wheel”. There’s some strange magic at work here and it’s best to just let go and lose yourself to its power.

4. PINS – Young Girls (WFUV)

Wild Nights has already established PINS as one of 2015’s most exciting breakout acts and here- in a characteristically angular session for WFUV- the band stealthily unloads on the record’s finest song, “Young Girls”. It’s a startling reminder of the quartets considerable talent(s) and will likely act as a perfect introduction for anyone unfamiliar with the band. Confident and measured, completely self-aware and reassuringly uninhibited, their performance here goes a long way in laying out the myriad of bigger opportunities that will become available to this band over time.

5. Exquisite Corpse (NPR)

Some things are just so enticing and beautiful that they warrant featuring, no matter their distance from the regular coverage spectrum. In this clip, a small troupe of jazz musicians comprised of different groups play a game of exquisite corpse, with each section taking an idea from one group’s presentation of a song and expanding on it until it becomes a whole; an evolving construction that provides room for individual showcases without ever succumbing to anything other than camaraderie and trust. Gorgeously lensed- and performed on Duke Ellington’s grave- this is a truly remarkable piece of work, noteworthy by even NPR’s enviable standards.

Watch This: Vol. 63

[Please refer to Vol. 59 for the introductory paragraph.]

1. White Reaper (BreakThruRadio)

BreakThruRadio has a wonderful habit of hosting bands that just can’t help but lose their minds a little when they play. White Reaper look like they’re practically jumping out of their skin here, with everyone seemingly set to their most vicious attack mode. It’s difficult to tell what’s more electrified; their guitars (and synth) or the people controlling them. A few brief-but-entertaining interview segments are included and they accentuate just how ridiculously energetic White Reaper are when they perform. All of the evidence is below.

2. Day Creeper – Turning Into A Man (The Mug and Brush Sessions)

The Columbus-based Day Creeper already appeared once on this series previously and made a pretty deep impression. They’re back now, with a casual vengeance and just as much grit. “Turning Into A Man” emphasizes their more creative tendencies while also allowing a more unobstructed view of some surprisingly strong lyricism. While this was said once already, it deserves repeating: Day Creeper are a band worth watching.

3. Big Ups – Not Today (BreakThruRadio)

Big Ups are making a dangerous push towards being the most featured band on Watch This, which- considering their typically blistering performances- isn’t all that surprising. Eighteen Hours of Static was one of 2014’s first truly great albums and the band’s only been building momentum since its release. They’re building up a head of steam as they charge headfirst towards the new year, pity anyone who gets in their way. In yet another monster performance for BreakThruRadio, they flick back and forth between detached empathy and boiled-over frustration with a terrifying precision, casually teasing their fast-clip tension/explosion dynamic. At this point, it doesn’t seem like there’s all that much out of their reach- and that’s partially in thanks to performances like this one.

4. Allo Darlin’ (KEXP)

It’s always a pleasure to hear something as downright winsome as We Come From the Same Place. Allo Darlin’ have created something that feels timeless and sounds ridiculously lovely. There’s a certain soft romanticism (often marginally damaged) that plays a central figure to the best indie pop and that holds true for We Come From the Same Place– a record that could (arguably) wind up standing as a genre classic. In the interview segments, the band’s personable. In the performance set pieces, they’re nearly transcendent.

5. La Sera – Losing to the Dark (Last Call With Carson Daly)

Rounding out La Sera’s triumphant Watch This trifecta is a wild-eyed run through one of 2014’s most unexpectedly ferocious lead-off singles, the errant firework that is “Losing to the Dark“.  As rabid as the song sounds on record, Katy Goodman and her band kick it up a few levels live- to the point where it almost seems like the entire band is trying to outrun themselves for fear of being trampled by their own creation. All manic adrenaline and seething resentment, it transforms itself into both a shot in the arm and a knife to the jugular. Vicious guitar riffs make the incisions and by the end of it all, the band’s already laughing everyone out of the room- and, somehow, the only viable option is to beg for seconds.

[Due to some technical issues, this video can only currently be seen here.]

Watch This: Vol. 55

With a few days of silence and a Watch This-less Sunday firmly in the past, today’s left with a lot of material to catch up on. Two weeks has provided a lot of great performances spread across a sizable range of styles, from full set in-studio sessions to solo acoustic takes. All but one of the bands featured in what will be the first of three Watch This installments has previously been featured on the site- with a great band from Columbus being the lone debut. It’s a lot to admire, a lot to celebrate, and a lot to analyze. So, as always, sit back, adjust the settings, focus, and Watch This.

1. Big Ups (KEXP)

Big Ups‘ Eighteen Hours of Static was one of 2014’s first great releases. All wild-eyed ferocity and unrelenting momentum, it marked the emergence of one of the more exciting young bands. While it still stands as one of the more notable records of the year, it’s since been overshadowed by the band’s incendiary live performance (it’s not a mistake that they keep showing up in this series). Here, they light up KEXP’s studios with a characteristically fiery five-song performance that should only facilitate their ascension. This is a band that fully deserves their growing recognition, don’t make the mistake of letting them slip by unnoticed.

2. Frankie Cosmos – Embody (Radio K)

Frankie Cosmos provided one of the most lovely sets of NXNE a few months back and since then, they’ve only grown more poised. Greta Kline’s an enviably gifted and incredibly prolific songwriter with a high ceiling. Nearly every Frankie Cosmos release has been a gem and ensured the band’s continued recognition. Airy pop songs like the excellent “Embody”, which they perform here for Radio K, are perfectly crafted pieces of- to quote the song- grace and lightness. It’s a warm embrace from an old friend, providing comfort and reassurance in equal measure; simply sublime.

3. Spit (Live at Treehaus)

Spit‘s Getting Low was one of the year’s quiet self-released records, exceedingly excellent but completely unheralded. Easily one of the best submissions this site’s ever received, the project’s now evolved from a solo venture to a full band endeavor- and what a band. Completely expanding on the Exploding in Sound-style tendencies that Getting Low hinted at, they’ve come out of the gate swinging with vicious intent. Spit’s only got one real show under their belt and they’re already very much a band to watch. Fuzzed out and appropriately left of center, this is a band worth greeting with high expectations- with this full live show serving as definitive proof.

4. Day Creeper – The Way You’re Told (The Mug and Brush Sessions)

Columbus, OH has been producing incredible bands at an alarming rate for some time now, with Day Creeper situated firmly in that pack. With a live show that’s just as ferocious as their recorded output, they’re always a great candidate for a feature performance- and the band absolutely lights up The Mug and Brush Sessions’ studio.
“The Way You’re Told” also serves as a tantalizing glimpse at the band’s upcoming Central States. If the rest of the record’s as good as this performance, they’ll have a serious contender on their hands.

5. Cloud Nothings – Now Hear In (Exclaim!)

A lot’s been made of Dylan Baldi’s vocal takes for Cloud Nothings. In most assessments, Jayson Gerycz’s drumming usually works its way into the central conversation (and rightfully so) but one thing that’s continuously evaded scrutiny is Baldi’s inventive guitar work. Stripped all the way back to a solo acoustic performance, it’s an aspect that’s allowed greater focus and opens up the impressive levels of songwriting happening in Cloud Nothings at present. Here, Baldi’s both restrained and subtly aggressive, providing a commanding performance that contributes to Cloud Nothings’ status as one of today’s most exciting bands.

Watch This: Vol. 28

Getting Watch This back on pace, admittedly, has been a bit of a struggle. The reasons for this have been exhaustively detailed over the last few but it’s still gratifying to know that consistency is within reach. This will (hopefully) be the last delayed Watch This for quite some time, as it brings the series back to its normal rotation. The series wouldn’t be where it is without some astoundingly great live captures and performances, though, and this 28th installment is no exception. Ranging from old favorites to newcomers to an encore performance from the band that capped off Vol. 27 in a searing blaze, this entry just feels right. So, sit down, relax, take a bite of a vegan-friendly muffin, and Watch This.

1. Emilyn Brodsky – Someone Belongs Here (TCGS)

There are certain artists that can feel like a refreshing breeze rolling off some unnamed ocean and Emilyn Brodsky is one of them. Here, Brodsky takes her ukelele, considerable lyrical talents, and an enviably arresting voice to The Chris Gethard Show for a performance of “Someone Belongs Here”. Apart from not falling neatly into any genre, it’s a powerhouse performance that sees Brodsky adding emphatic exclamation points wherever possible. It’s a startling introduction to an artist that looks to be more than worth keeping up with.

2. Vertical Scratchers – Break the Truth (The Mug and Brush Sessions)

2014’s only half over but it’s already packed quite a few pleasant surprises. One of the most notable was the duo Vertical Scratchers, who had an insanely strong pedigree and debuted a record full of gnarled powerpop jams (Daughter of Everything) on Merge. Here, they take to The Mug and Brush Sessions studio to play through a praiseworthy rendition of “Break the Truth”. It’s a great reminder of an astonishingly good record and showcases the band’s admirable chops in their respective roles, more than earning it a rightful spot on this installment of Watch This.

3. The Orwells – Let It Burn (The Live Room)

Now that everyone’s had time to weigh in on Disgraceland, The Orwells’ latest full-length, the attention can be placed back on what they’re best at: performing. While there’s certainly an apathetic, lethargic, and almost nihilistic quality to the performance of “Let It Burn” here, it somehow feeds into the song and winds up making this whole thing almost terrifyingly bleak but utterly compelling. This is the best version of a paradox imaginable.

4. Wish – Nothing to Say (Exclaim!)

Wish have been a fairly difficult band to find great performance footage of but, recently, Exclaim! made that much easier. Here the band showcases their own brand of post-punk and shoegaze marriage with “Nothing to Say”. It’s a fairly gorgeous clip and the band confidently strides their way through the song leaving little doubt that they’re worthy of the acclaim that will no doubt be coming their way.

5. Big Ups (BreakThruRadioTV)

Yes, they get the 5 slot again. Why? Because these guys seriously aren’t fucking around.