Heartbreaking Bravery

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Tag: The Smith Street Band

Watch This: Vol. 160

The past seven days have been comprised of great live videos featuring the likes of Trentemøller, Craig Finn & The Uptown Controllers, Slow Caves, Slothrust, Horse Jumper of Love, Helado Negro, Josh T. Pearson & Arianna Monteverdi, Downtown Boys, Nana Grizol, Operators, Sinai Vessel, Pixies, King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard, Tall Tall Trees, The Smith Street Band, RVG, Preservation Hall Jazz Band, Kyle Donovan, Chicano Batman, Black Joe Lewis, Taarka, Nikki Lane, Drive-By Truckers, Real Estate, Peyote Pilgrim, Chicano Batman, Closet Mix, Lithics, Yann Tiersen, The Marias, J. Mascis, Fujiya & Miyagi, and Marty Stuart. As good as those clips were, it was the five below that wound up making the deepest impression. From old favorites to new faces, there’s a decent amount of material to explore. So, as always, sit up straight, adjust the settings, take a deep breath, lean in, and Watch This.

1. Hazel English – Fix (Buzzsession)

Easily — and consistently — the producers of some of the most gorgeous Watch This clips in the series’ history, Buzzsessions hits a new high-water mark with this clip for Hazel English‘s “Fix”. Hazel English has become a staple on this site thanks to the project’s ability to churn out spellbinding pop that combines dream-like atmospherics with aesthetics from several compelling sub-genres to create something utterly winsome. To top off that formula, this is a committed performance propelled even further by breathtaking cinematography; Watch This at its best.

2. Jay Som – The Bus Song (Audiotree)

One of last year’s biggest breakout success stories, Jay Som‘s continued to transform that newfound notoriety into something meaningful. Jay Som recently got to be part of an Audiotree concert series and some enthralling footage of “The Bus Song” has gone public. The band’s in good spirits, there’s an adoring audience, bandleader Melina Duterte is commanding, and everything clicks in just the way a great performance should; this is masterful from all angles.

3. Surf Curse (Jam in the Van)

It’s been a while since a Jam in the Van session has been featured on Watch This but its also been a while since the series has boasted a session this fun. Surf Curse effortlessly blend together elements of surf-pop, basement punk, post-punk, and powerpop to conjure up the type of bright, sunny sound that’s difficult to dislike. Each of these three songs also boast their own brand of weirdness, giving a compelling slant to an aesthetic that’s both familiar and welcome.

4. Fred Thomas – Echolocation (BreakThruRadio)

Changer, Fred Thomas‘ most recent full-length, stands in good shape to be firmly among 2017’s best records as the year winds to a close. Easily the songwriter’s finest effort to date, the record also features some of the songwriter’s most ambitious work. “Echolocation” is one of those more ambitious pieces and Thomas brings it to the BreakThruRadio studios for a gripping performance that showcases his talent for both ability and minimalist composition. Melancholic, haunting, and human, it’s a powerful look at one of today’s greatest songwriters.

5. The Owens – Judgment Day (Allston Pudding)

Capping off the 160th installment of this series is another characteristically strong Basement Session, courtesy of Allston Pudding, by way of The Owens’ aggressively tense and intriguingly gloomy “Judgment Day”. The band’s been kicking around for several years but they’ve never sounded tighter or more in control than they do on their latest, Redemption Day, and that confident precision seems to have bled into their live show as well. Both a perfect document of a band coming into their own and a strong showcase for both Allston Pudding and The Owens, this is the type of clip worth remembering.

Watch This: Vol. 158

Last week’s Monday-Sunday stretch yielded a large handful of outstanding live videos. While normally Watch This segments run on Sunday, this one (and the posts soon to follow) were held back by outside circumstances. The posting on Heartbreaking Bravery will be more frequent going into the future. Getting that rotation started is this crop of clips, which were strong enough to render compelling takes from the following as honorable mentions:

Jesca Hoop, Sigur Rós, Los Gold Fires, AJJ, Hurray for the Riff Raff, Dolfish, The New Pornographers, The Regrettes, Amy O, Sean Rowe, Desert Mountain Tribe, Weyes Blood, Hollerado, Vagabon, Future Islands (x2), Craig Finn, Noname, Deap Vally, Jonny Grave, The Smith Street Band, Car Seat Headrest, Hannah Lee Thompson, Hinds, Beach Slang, Liz Cooper & The Stampede (x2), Lou Canon, Sue the Night, Peter Silberman, Mipso, Juliet K, Ceschi, Anna Tivel, Lillie Mae, Bruise Violet, Hayley Heynderickx, Cold Country, Kyle Morton, Lisa Hannigan, and Kim Janssen.

As is typically the case, that’s a uniformly strong crop that reflects well on the selected features. So, as always, take a seat, calm down, take a deep breath, adjust the settings, lean in, and Watch This.

1. Vagabon (Audiotree)

A staple on this site for a few years, Vagabon‘s finally beginning to receive the levels of admiration, acclaim, and attention they’ve deserved for some time. Touring heavily on one of 2017’s finest releases thus far, the band recently found time to stop by the Audiotree studios and deliver a mesmerizing set. Running through several highlights from Infinite Worlds, the band remains in sharp form throughout and delivers one knockout blow after another, solidifying their status as one of today’s most exciting musical prospects

2. Lady Pills (BIRN)

Lady Pills have made a few brief appearances on this site but this two-song take for BIRN virtually guarantees them expanded coverage. Both “I Hate You” and “Irrelevant” reveal an understanding — if not outright mastery — of a very specific style of songwriting. Energetic, commendably contained, and compelling, the band lights into both tracks with both force and feeling. The instrumental segue that bridges the two songs is a thing of beauty and Lady Pills never stop providing reasons to commit their name to memory.

3. IAN SWEET (PressureDrop.tv)

When a label like Hardly Art shows interest in a band, there’s usually a handful of good reasons behind why they’re paying attention. Occasionally a band crumbles under the pressure or disintegrates in the face of a new set of challenges. IAN SWEET repaid that kindness in full, and then some, with their debut full-length, Shapeshifter. Following the record’s release, the band made a name for themselves on the live circuit. This full session acts as both a document and as definitive proof of their live prowess.



4. Forth Wanderers (KVRX)

A short while back, Forth Wanderers released one of the best EP’s of 2016 in Slop, a staggering career highlight by any metric. They’ve been hard at work ever since, promoting that EP and working on new material. In this intimate, stripped-down KVRX session, the band splits the selections between SlopTough Love, and offers a look ahead. All of the songs remain mesmerizing, even when scaled back to only guitars and vocals, aptly demonstrating that the band’s appeal — and talent — runs far deeper than the surface offerings.



5. Creepoid (Audiotree)

Creepoid‘s built a deeply impressive run over the span of their career, offering up plenty of fascinating twists along the way (the short film Ernest Undead being a notable example). In that time, they’ve also honed their live abilities, transforming into a tightly-knit wrecking crew that knows how to both enhance and accentuate the heaviness of their recorded material while still doing the ambient trappings justice. In this Audiotree session, they bare their teeth and clamp down, drawing a fair amount of blood.

Nothing Stops In November: The Month’s Music Videos

November was a hectic month for a lot of reasons, politically and personally. Barely any posts ran over the past 30 days but, as always, the new releases were accounted for as they were unveiled. As December presses towards 2017, there will be a slew of new posts covering the best material to be released in November as well as the releases that appear throughout the month. Before those run, though, there’ll be extended recaps of some of the most exceptional releases in the three major categories (streams, music videos, and full streams). This post will cover the visual end of that spectrum and offers up a wide array of styles. Go exploring. 

Weyes Blood, Methyl Ethel, Ultimate Painting, Small Feet, Silver Rose, Adam & Elvis, The Franklys, Willie J HealeyLA BÊTE BLOOMS, Communions, Rick Rude, Slowcoaches, Landing, ROYA, NE-HI, Lost Under Heaven, Soft Lions, Shellshag, Littler, Mutts, No Nets, The Evaporators, Drive-By Truckers, Bing & Ruth, Leggy, Quilt, Lydia Loveless, Dizzyride, Bash & Pop, Kissing Party, Jamie T, Jeff Rosenstock, Martin Courtney, Thom Hell, Cass McCombs, Lou Barlow, Drugdealer (ft. Weyes Blood), Aathens.

Sammus (ft. Izzy True), July Talk, Howardian, Invisible Boy, The Empty Page, Ricky Eat Acid, Haybaby, Mikey Erg, Hodgy, Rogov, Marchildon!, Streets of Laredo, Pill Friends, Hello Shark, Owen, Bichkraft, Roosevelt, Margaret Glaspy, Clipping., The So So Glos, Joan of Arc, Jesca Hoop, Luke Temple, Lost in the Cosmos, Cut Off Your Hands, Dear Boy, The Molochs, ANOHNI, Monogold, Young Pioneers, Cherry Glazerr, Terra Lightfoot, The Smith Street Band, Waxlimbs, Hero Fisher (ft. Carol Batton), Delicate Steve.

Yael Naim, NONA, BADBADNOTGOOD (ft. Kaytranada), Uni Ika Ai, Vandaveer, Jarrod Milton, Mount Moriah, Jade Imagine, Brodka, Priests, Wolf People, The Severed Limb, and a trio of clips from Chastity.

2015: A Year’s Worth of Memories (Toby Reif)

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When I first found out about Toby Reif, it was through a staggering 2014 EP that blew me out of the water. I would quickly come to find that we had a handful of mutual friends and shared a similar musical perspective. In December of 2014, Reif quietly joined The Sidekicks- an event I’d only discover after being surprised by Reif’s appearance with them at the Silent Barn in August. What I didn’t know was that the events leading up to Reif becoming a full-fledged member of the band were fraught with a tumultuous uncertainty, even landing him in the hospital at one point. Here, Reif covers all that went into that part of his life and, now that things are on a more stable path, looks towards what might lie ahead. It’s an extraordinary story and a rousing look at personal perseverance, dumb luck, and an amount of sheer will and determination that’s nothing short of inspiring. Read it below and never stop fighting for the things you deserve.

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I’m going to cheat a little bit here and make this more of a two-years-in-review. Growing up in the Pacific Northwest, the “music scene” always seemed like a far off, unobtainable thing that people who lived in New York, Los Angeles, and Chicago got to participate in and people like me watched from afar via YouTube videos and message boards. I had played in small bands in Bellingham, WA for a few years, playing countless local shows to audiences of friends and always dreaming with bandmates about the possibility of touring, but the idea of going anywhere beyond our hometown seemed reserved for people already in those far off places.

January 2014 found me living on the basement floor of a four bedroom house in Seattle with old curtains stapled to the ceiling in place of walls and no furniture beyond a leaky air mattress (I would inflate it every night before going to sleep and wake up on the floor every morning) and a suitcase in place of a dresser. My band — The Palisades — had finally booked our first real tour, a thirty day trip that took us to the east coast and back, and broke up immediately upon returning.

During that month, we played a few good shows, a lot of really bad shows, totaled my parent’s minivan, and lost more money than I’ve had to my name since the tour. The move to Seattle was an attempt to “settle down”. Touring had been a fun little exercise, but at that point it felt like it was time to find one of those real jobs, the kind that provides silly things like a steady schedule, health insurance, and financial stability. As luck would have it, the job hunt went miserably and five months later I was still living in the basement (I did manage to get a good deal on a “scratch-and-dent” Ikea mattress, so I was off the floor).

I held a part-time job hanging posters for a small marketing company and even toured sporadically as a merch-guy/TM. It was around then that a friend of mine named Jason asked if I would be able to host a band from Ohio called The Sidekicks for a week or so while they worked on a new album in Seattle. I tried to play it cool, but I think I did a pretty bad job of hiding my excitement. Awkward Breeds, their third LP, remains one of my all-time favorite records, and the opportunity to be so close to the process of creating a follow up was not something I was going to pass on.

I had hosted a few touring bands over the years and had previously met Steve, lead singer of the Sidekicks, when Saintseneca (which he also plays in) stayed at my house, also arranged by Jason. It didn’t take a huge amount of convincing to get my three roommates, all musicians themselves, to help host the band for that week. Serendipitously, every other house Jason had lined up for the Sidekicks to stay with ended up bailing, leaving the band on our couches and floor for the full five weeks they were in the city. By the time their record was finished and they went back home to Ohio, I considered them all close friends and our four bedroom house felt empty with only four inhabitants.

Through another strange stroke of fortune, a month later my roommates and I were unable to renew the lease on our house. It was around that same time that I was invited to fill in on guitar for a week of shows with another Ohio band called Signals Midwest. I had hosted them on their past two west coast tours and became close friends with them, so it took no convincing at all for me to buy a plane ticket to Cleveland. It didn’t solve the issue of not having a home, but it did manage to put off the need for one by a few weeks.

After the brief trip through the Midwest with them, they extended an invitation for me to come along on a month-long tour with them in Europe a few months later, which I promptly accepted. That whole real-job lifestyle that had brought me to Seattle in the first place was slipping further and further away, and September began with me on a plane to Germany with four friends from Ohio. I was laying on the floor of a cramped apartment in Hamburg, Germany, when I received a message from Matt Climer, drummer of The Sidekicks. Their previous guitarist and vocalist had just quit and they needed someone in Columbus by January to learn three records of material and tour for as much of 2015 as possible.

It only took two days of consideration to agree.

Upon returning to Seattle, I sold most of my belongings and in December I was on a flight to Columbus with a guitar, a suitcase, and a backpack. January 2015 found me living on a couch in Columbus, Ohio as a member of a band I had loved since I was in high school. The beginning of the year was not without it’s hurdles.

On January 10th, less than two weeks before we were due to start six weeks of touring in support of our new record, I collapsed on the floor of my room at 3am.

My roommate drove me to the OSU Medical Center Emergency Room, where six hours later a surgeon chopped my almost-exploded appendix out of my body. It was up in the air whether or not I would be able to go on the tour with the band I had just moved across the country to join. I was released from the hospital the next day, but a week later I was still struggling to hold a guitar.

The band was ready to find a new guitarist for the tour, but I assured them that I would be ready, and on the 23rd, I played my first show with the Sidekicks at a sold-out Baby’s All Right in Brooklyn alongside Cayetana, All Dogs, and Roger Harvey. I kept my guitar against my side for most of the show because it still hurt to have anything resting on my stomach and I was still taking pain meds, but I’ll never forget the feeling of playing some of my favorite songs to an audience I never could have imagined having a year prior.

The night was a blur, and the pace barely slowed for the remainder of the year. In the weeks following that Brooklyn show, we traveled with LVL UP through the Midwest and down the east coast, pursued by a blizzard that would end up chasing us all the way through Texas. When LVL UP finished their leg of the tour, we met up with Cayetana in Nashville and they joined us through the Southwest and up the West Coast.

We returned home from that tour and within two months were headed overseas for a UK tour with Great Cynics. After that, we set out for two weeks on the East Coast with All Dogs, three weeks in Australia supporting The Smith Street Band and Andrew Jackson Jihad, and then returned home to spend two more weeks out with Saintseneca in support of their new record. In what felt like a blink of an eye, that touring-band life that I had wanted for so long and had given up on simply fell into my lap.

January 2016 has found me in a new apartment in Philadelphia, where I’m finally learning how to balance having a life in and out of a band. I just found a steady job that allows for time-off to tour and has even mentioned the possibility of that grown-up touring musician holy grail: health insurance. In six weeks I’m leaving on another five week Sidekicks trip, this time with The World Is A Beautiful Place…, Into It Over It, and Pinegrove, and I am currently finishing up what I hope will become my side project’s first LP.

While I’d like to pretend like I have a firm grasp on my expectations for 2016, the past 24 months have shown me that I have no business pretending to know what will happen next in the next 12. At this risk of sounding exceedingly cheesy, all I can do now is thank the people that have helped me get to where I am now and look forward to whatever happens next.

-Toby Reif

2015: A Year’s Worth of Memories (David Anthony)

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Photograph by Dan Wilcox

Last year, David Anthony (pictured above, second from left) turned in a heartfelt piece about seeing The National with his mom for the first edition of this series. This year, he’s taken the time out of his busy schedule balancing time between fronting the excellent Birches (featured in the above photo) and relentlessly featuring bands over at The AV Club, where he works as an assistant editor, to spotlight another important person in his life: Jamie Coletta. Here, he covers the trail of events that ultimately led to one of 2015’s most exhilarating live clips and ultimately reminds himself to be thankful for his current position, doing work he genuinely loves. Read it below and then find a reason to celebrate the things — and people —  that make life worthwhile.

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The short answer to this question [what was the most meaningful moment for you in 2015] would be one name: Jamie Coletta. There are many great people who work in the music industry — and, though i hope they are being weeded out, a bunch of shitty ones — but few are as passionate as Jamie.

It all started when, in the winter of 2014, she emailed me about a tour she was working on, featuring Andrew Jackson Jihad, The Smith Street Band, Jeff Rosenstock, and Chumped. She asked if the site I work for — The A.V. Club — would be interested in presenting the tour and, given my love of these artists, it was an opportunity I was happy to jump at.

It’d be ridiculous for me to claim credit for Jamie’s work, as she did all the heavy lifting, but together we hatched a plan to get the bandsto do one giant, raucous session when they rolled through Chicago. The result is a wacky video that sees AJJ and Jeff putting together a mashup of songs previously covered in the A.V. Undercover series. While there have been many great Undercovers over the years, none mean as much to me as this one. There was such a pure exuberance in the room that emanates in the video, with the bands rushing through songs, switching instruments, and giving all of themselves in the performance.

This entire experience is something that still doesn’t feel real to me. Even though I only played a tiny role in making it all happen, I’m thankful every day for Jamie giving me the chance to work with some of my favorite bands on this wild thing. And, watching the video now, it still strikes me how lucky I am to even have the chance to work with such amazing people. It’s a feeling that I hope doesn’t fade any time soon.

-David Anthony

 

Diet Cig – Dinner Date (Stream, Live Video)

Diet Cig VIII

Following an unusual slow Tuesday, the mid-week mark kicked things back into high gear and offered up a bevvy of tantalizing releases in all of the three major categories. The full streams that were unveiled included Total Makeover’s spritely self-titled EP, Lost Film’s beautiful, low-key Imago, Donovan Wolfington’s level-elevating How To Treat The Ones You Love, and the exemplary The Last Dance, which is very likely the final release from the great Shady Hawkins. Music videos found strong representation via clips from Royal Headache, Shana Cleveland & The Sandcastles, Karen O, The Smith Street Band (ft. Lucy Wilson), and Marching Church. Single streams had more than a few genuine gems in a haul that saw new material from TenementExpert Alterations, Childbirth, Vision, and Mothers to life- as well as the second half of Diet Cig‘s forthcoming 7″.

A little over a month ago, the band unveiled career highlight “Sleep Talk“, which prompted a great deal of intrigue and excitement in regards to the duo’s future. As the first half of a two-song split, “Sleep Talk” seemed to open up limitless possibilities for the directions the band could take. “Dinner Date”, instead of aiming to push forward, feels content to circle back to the approach that dominated Over Easy, which has held strong as one of this year’s best EP’s. However, “Dinner Date” avoids redundancy by augmenting the band’s more direct methods with an air of resignation in place of the carefree attitude that dominated their first release.

While there’s still more than a few barbed winks scattered throughout “Dinner Date”, it’s easy to hear a steady maturation creeping into Diet Cig’s work; they’re playing with a bolstered confidence level and are proving they’re unafraid of tinkering with a winning formula in the process. Rounding out the relatively adventurous atmospherics of “Sleep Talk” with the startling immediacy of “Dinner Date” not only allows both tracks to emphasize their partner’s best qualities, it also leaves the band with another year-end contender for the 7″ category. Brash, bold, and oddly beautiful, it’s another strong step in an increasingly promising career.

Listen to “Dinner Date” below and pre-order the 7″ ahead of its September 18 release date from site favorites Father/Daughter (for the US) or another site favorite, Art Is Hard (for the UK). Underneath the embedded player, revisit a video of the band performing the song a few months ago at the Father/Daughter Northside showcase.