Heartbreaking Bravery

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Tag: Tiny Desk Concert

Watch This: Vol. 141

This past week was brimming with exceptional live clips from artists like Happy Diving, Puppy Problems, Wolf Parade, Eros and the Eschaton, Grape Whales, Islands, The Tallest Man On Earth, Matthew Logan Vasquez, Oscar, Villagers, Clique, July Talk, Lisa Hannigan, Whitney, Rogue Valley, Woven In, Mudhoney, Helms Alee, Aidan Knight, Waterstrider, and The Staves. While all of those are worth studying for both the central performances and the way those performances were captured, the five clips featured below managed to become standouts for excelling in those departments. From old favorites to new faces, from legitimate live music video entries to full sessions, from cathartic release to sorrowful introspection, there’s a lot to navigate in these selections. So, as always, sit up, lean in, adjust the settings, focus, block out any distractions, and Watch This.

1. Mitski – First Love / Late Spring + Your Best American Girl (World Cafe)

Ever since Mitski‘s breakout release, Bury Me At Makeout Creek, the songwriter has been a staple of this site’s coverage. The project’s been outstanding both on record and in the live department. Mitski recently stopped by World Cafe to play through the fiery “Your Best American Girl“, easily one of this year’s brightest moments, and “First Love / Late Spring” with the calm confidence that’s propelled the songwriter to widespread acclaim. It’s a welcome reminder of a powerful performer and a beautiful document of the current era of the project.

2. Kevin Devine – No History

Kevin Devine has a storied history of spellbinding performances so it’s no surprise that the songwriter’s continued to sporadically show up in this series. Devine can be an electrifying performer when backed with a full, electric band but there’s a certain magic to his solo acoustic performances that’s only grown more pronounced with this time. “No History” capitalizes on that magic in full, standing confidently as both a gorgeously lensed live clip and — impressively — as bona fide music video.

3. XURS (KEXP)

A new name to this site, XURS recently had somewhat of a coming out party in the KEXP studios, delivering a blistering session of unapologetic noise/punk. Every song the band tears through in this session is absolutely vicious and delivered with enough conviction to knock most other bands flat. Wildly frantic and more than a little exhilarating, the band make the absolute most of a solid opportunity and the end effect seems set to resonate for quite some time.

4. Big Thief (NPR)

Big Thief very quickly became a distinctive part of this site’s identity thanks to the overwhelming strength of this year’s Masterpiece. “Paul“, the title track, and “Lorraine” all get performed here for NPR’s Tiny Desk Concerts series to a small, hushed crowd. The band’s a perfect fit for the series and the setting allows the sweeping, open-road atmospherics that’s a specialty of the band a little extra room to breathe, casting a spell that’s nothing short of entrancing.

5. Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds – I Need You

Only a few installments back, Nick Cave was granted an unforgettable entry in this series thanks to the harrowing clip for “Jesus Alone“, a gorgeous excerpt from the shattering Andrew Dominik documentary One More Time With Feeling. Like “Jesus Alone”, “I Need You” is a clip that’s both haunted and haunting, an examination of an artist going through unspeakable loss. Even these six minutes, isolated from the context of the film and the record, are a wrenching experience. Cave, now more than ever, looks like a ghost attempting to navigate a reality that shouldn’t exist. Deeply sorrowful and intensely moving, “I Need You” is an artful tragedy that’s impossible to shake.

Watch This: Ending Another Short Stretch of Static

static

We’ve officially arrived at the 950th post of Heartbreaking Bravery, which means it’s time to offer up another mixtape of some sort or another. Since the Watch This series has maintained radio silence over the past two and a half weeks it only felt appropriate to turn to the over-abundance of incredible material that’s surfaced in that time frame. The 25 clips included below range from old favorites to promising new faces, single songs to full sessions, and generally cover the range of what the series was created to support: the very best of the live video platform. It’s unlikely that anyone will watch through the entirety of this packet (as it runs for nearly four hours, if viewed uninterrupted) but it’s worth taking the time to both explore and return to all of the performances contained in Ending Another Short Stretch of Static. So, as always, kick back, focus up, adjust the settings, settle in, and Watch This.

1. Car Seat Headrest – Fill In the Blank (Pitchfork)
2. The Spook School – Gone Home (BreakThruRadio)
3. Meat Wave – Sham King (SideOneDummy)
4. Weaves (3voor12)
5. Ron Gallo (Audiotree)
6. Dusk – Shift Towards Tenderness (This Means War)
7. Izzy True – Which Wish (Bedhead Sessions)
8. Royal Headache – Carolina (Pitchfork)
9. Royal Brat – Avoider + Broken Step (Radio K)
10. Girl Band – Paul (Pitchfork)
11. The Coathangers – Burn Me (Radio K)
12. Japanese Breakfast – Everybody Wants To Love You
13. Free Cake For Every Creature (WKNC)
14. Fear of Men (Audiotree)
15. Majical Cloudz – Silver Car Crash (q on cbc)
16. Jade Imagine – Stay Awake (3RRRFM)
17. Tele Novella – Heavy Balloon (Do512 Austin)
18. Margaret Glaspy (KEXP)
19. Kevin Morby (NPR)
20. PWR BTTM – New Hampshire (WFUV)
21. Wand (KEXP)
22. Declan McKenna – Brazil (The Late Show With Stephen Colbert)
23. Lucy Dacus (NPR)
24. Ólafur Arnalds (ft. Brasstríó Mosfellsdals) – Dalur 
25. Julien Baker (Primavera)

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: A Full Session of Full Sessions

As was mentioned in the last post to run on this site, Watch This — the (usually) weekly series celebrating the very best in newly-released live video presentation — experienced an extended hiatus in the wake of incessant traveling and the frantic catch-up mode that traveling necessitated. Over the course of the next week, there’ll be a small handful of collections to get the series back on track.

The collection below contains 25 of the best full sessions released over the past month and a half. KEXP, Audiotree, and NPR (understandably) dominate the selections as they’re all operating at a gold standard level for full session presentation. The final result is a compilation that features an arsenal of site favorites and nears the 11 hour mark in running time. To that end, it’s likely best viewed in small bursts so a page bookmark is recommended. Everything, in true Watch This fashion, is worth seeing (and hearing). So, as always, sit up straight, adjust the settings to your preference, and Watch This.

1. Lucy Dacus (Audiotree)
2. Palehound (NPR)
3. Eleanor Friedberger (KEXP)
4. Seratones (NPR)
5. And the Kids (Audiotree)
6. Florist (NPR)
7. Sunflower Bean (KEXP)
8. Mall Walk (KEXP)
9. PWR BTTM (TCGS)
10. Hockey Dad (3voor12)
11. Diarrhea Planet (KEXP)
12. Blue Crime (3voor12)
13. Bob Mould (KEXP)
14. Yuck (KEXP)
15. Car Seat Headrest (KEXP)
16. Quilt (KEXP)
17. Deep Sea Diver (KEXP)
18. Acid Dad (Audiotree)
19. The Ergs! (TCGS)
20. Pinegrove (Audiotree)
21. Operators (KEXP)
22. Strand of Oaks (KEXP)
23. Julien Baker (Amoeba)
24. Benjamin Clementine (NPR)
25. Jason Isbell (Front Row)

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: Vol. 93

Occasionally there are weeks where there are simply too many excessively strong live performance clips to highlight with just one entry and this week’s established itself as being of that caliber. It’s a rarity that there are exceptions to the setup of five featured clips and an honorable mentions list of hyperlinked material because it’s generally best to err on the side of brevity for these things. I’m not sure I can conjure up a more ringing endorsement than that for the 10 featured clips that will be running tonight and. as usual, that still leaves out a select few one-time feature candidates. Those performances came from the following acts: The Tallest Man On Earth, All Get Out, Mitski, The Superweaks, Glen Hansard, People Like You, and Screaming Females. The excellent nature of those videos also serve a dual purpose as an indicator of the featured clips’ level(s) of quality. So, as always, sit up, adjust the volume, adjust the screen, lean in, focus, and Watch This.

1. Bully – Bully (Sound Opinions)

A few months ago, Bully lit up Rough Trade and proved beyond a shadow of a doubt that they’re an incredible live band. It’s no surprise that this one-off for Sound Opinions crackles with a significant amount of energy. Led by Alicia Bognanno’s stop-you-in-your-tracks vocals it’s- predictably- a seriously impressive example of the band’s considerable amount of charisma and prowess in the live setting. It’s also unmissable.

2. Happyness (NPR)

Over the past few years, Happyness have built themselves a devoted following with their slightly askew approach to a very particular brand of 90’s indebted alt-punk. Now a small handful of records into their career, the trio stopped by NPR’s offices to deliver one of the year’s more memorable Tiny Desk sessions. Wry, wiry, and more than a little droll, they’re a perfect complement to a relaxed Sunday evening.

3. Murder By Death (Audiotree)

For whatever reason, now a large handful of releases into a remarkably consistent discography, Murder By Death still feel at least a little bit like a well-kept secret. This year’s excellent Big Dark Love flew mostly under the radar but saw the band perfecting a mix of their earlier works, which were dominated by a Southern Gothic sensibility, and their more current works, which I’ve frequently described as campfire-haze. Audiotree brought them in for a five-song session that let the band loose in a live setting, where they’ve always had the most pull. Unsurprisingly, the end result is breathtaking.

4. Torres – A Proper Polish Welcome + Harshest Light (Valeria Toumayan)

At this point, Torres has become a staple of this series thanks to 2015 highlight Sprinter and its accompanying post-release campaign. Valeria Toumayan was recently on hand to capture what stands as Torres’ ninth entry in Watch This and sees the young songwriter once again returning to the chilling “A Proper Polish Welcome” (that floating falsetto towards the end of the song kills me every time) as well as the gripping “Harshest Light”. Gorgeous and quietly devastating, this DIY presentation is a bold reaffirmation of Torres’ singular gifts as a solo performer and has a personal feel that perfectly aligns the approaches of the subject and the filmmaker.

5. METZ (KEXP)

METZ are a serious force in the live department. All three occasions I’ve been fortunate enough to catch the trio, they’ve delivered an unforgettable performance that whipped the audience into a feverish frenzy. On the first occasion, it was a small arts center in Champaign-Urbana, on the second it was a blistering homecoming show at a punk bar in Toronto, and- most recently– a midsize venue where the crowd killed the band’s power after being pulled onstage. While all the lights, amps, and various other electronics remain intact for this KEXP session, the band still throws down a blistering set (especially for a radio session) that acts as testimony to their relentless tenacity.

Watch This: Vol. 85

Welcome to the 85th installment of Watch This, the annual Sunday series that celebrates some of the finest performance captures to find release over the past week. Courtney Barnett, Girlpool, and Torres all continue their respective strangleholds on this series’ feature spots. Heavy on full sets, every artist featured here has earned several words from this site in the past. Of course, as usual, there was stiff competition for the feature spots. Artists responsible for those performances included: Tahiti Boy & the Palmtree Family, Christopher Owens, Christopher Paul Stelling, Sorority Noise, Leon Bridges, Viet Cong, HEALTH, Calexico, Dave Monks, Sam Prekop + Archer PrewittMolina y Los Co´smicos, Forth Wanderers, Shana Cleveland and The Sandcastles, and footage from the FORM Acrosanti anti-festival. It’s another lineup that’s indicative of the five featured clips’ astounding strength. So, as always, grab a drink, sit back, adjust the volume to whatever best reflects your preference, and Watch This.

1. METZ – Spit You Out (3voor12)

METZ are one of the fiercest live bands on the planet right now so their inclusion here isn’t really all that surprising. What’s definitely unexpected, though, is the gorgeous scenery. Performing at the Best Kept Secret festival, the trio took to a house’s front yard and delivered an absolutely blistering rendition of METZ II highlight “Spit You Out”. It’s an exhilarating tour de force from one of this generation’s most exciting bands.

2. Girlpool (NPR)

By now it’s very likely that the trio of songs the duo of Cleo Tucker and Harmony Lebel-Tividad play here have graced this series more than any other songs. However, they’ve never been played on a stage even remotely similar to NPR’s vaunted Tiny Desk Concert series. Now, more than ever, it’s abundantly clear how ingrained these songs are in both members. Intuitive playing, effortless harmonies, and a genuine love for their work and each other once again carries their performances to near-transcendental heights.

3. Speedy Ortiz (unARTigNYC)

First thing’s first: this is not a complete video. Understandable, because the weather started threatening everyone’s equipment, not just Speedy Ortiz’s (who had several technical difficulties throughout a spirited, memorable set). I was fortunate enough to be in attendance for this show- held for free on a pier in Manhattan as part of Hudson River Parks’ Hudson RiverRocks concert series- and weathered a fairly brutal rainfall sans umbrella until the bitter end (the rain started- and the wind picked up- during a beautiful version of “Doomsday”, a song that still manages to elicit goosebumps and stands firm as a Song of the Decade contender). Although it’s not featured in the video, I’ll have a permanently embedded memory of the band losing pedal after pedal (and then amp and PA connections) during a particularly fierce take on “American Horror” that ended with Sadie Dupuis opting to take her guitar off and hold it above her head, allowing the feedback to ring out, like some ritualistic sacrifice to the gods. It was a stunning moment. Unfortunately, Waxahatchee’s set had to be cancelled due to lightning before it even started- but it would have been hard to have made much of an impression after what Speedy Ortiz accomplished in the face of what could have easily been disastrous.

4. Torres – A Proper Polish Welcome (Sunday  Sessions)

There’s something about Torres’ “A Proper Polish Welcome” being played as a solo piece that manages to come off as intrinsically haunted. One of the most arresting moments on one of the year’s best records, it’s lent an even greater pathos when it’s stripped bare. With Sunday Sessions placing all of the emphasis on Mackenzie Scott, the clip nears a strange voyeurism as Scott completely loses herself to both the song and the performance. Gripping and beautiful, it’s a masterclass in solo performance.

5. Courtney Barnett (Moshcam)

Courtney Barnett seems to be making a habit out of crashing Watch This‘ weekly party with astounding full sets and this excellent performance- beautifully lensed by Moshcam- sees the continuation of that pattern. This time around, the songwriter unloads a career-spanning powerhouse homecoming set to an appreciative audience. Barnett’s a preternaturally gifted performer and the band she’s assembled plays well to her seemingly endless strengths. A staggering 16-song set, this serves as one of the definitive documents of Barnett’s abilities and still-ascending level(s) of success.

Watch This: Vol. 82

[Editor’s Note: This text originally appeared in the preceding volume of Watch This.]

Anyone that’s been keeping an eye on the site knows that it’s been a busy time for both myself and this place. Making the move to Brooklyn has afforded a much greater opportunity for live coverage and that’s something that’s been increasingly evident over the past few posts. There were still be regular coverage on streaming songs, albums, and videos and all of those categories will be caught up in the very near future.

Despite missing last week’s, Watch This isn’t going to go anywhere either. Ostensibly the beating heart of Heartbreaking Bravery, the weekly series devoted to featuring the best live capture releases of the week is one of this site’s defining features. With two weeks worth of releases to reflect on, there’ll be two installments of Watch This to run tonight. Both feature a variety of site favorites (both artists and sources), full sessions, and- as always- extraordinary performances on both sides of the camera. So, as ever, sit back, adjust the volume to your preference, focus up, and Watch This.

1. Vaadat Charigim (KEXP)

In 2013, Vaadat Charigim released a gem of a record in The World Is Well Lost that seemed to get lost in the mix. Whether that was due to the lyrics being sung in a language other than English (Hebrew, in this case) or the promotional campaign missing its mark is anyone’s best guess but what was abundantly clear, even then, was the band’s conviction. They recently released their sophomore effort, Sinking As A Stone, which sharpened a lot of the band’s best qualities. The band took to the KEXP studios and turned in a powerhouse performance that already seems to be creating converts.

2. Screaming Females – Ripe (TCGS)

Screaming Females are climbing up the “most words written about” ladder with a steadfast assurance around here and that’s not a mistake. Time and time again, the band deliver on unexpectedly profound levels. Whether they’re covering Taylor Swift or allowing themselves to be vulnerable enough to serve as central figures for a revealing Lance Bangs documentary. It’s a dynamic that’s guaranteed their position as a perennial Watch This staple and their uninhibited dedication to their craft (along with a very genuine love) manage to continuously seep through their work. Another name of vital importance to Watch This, comedian Chris Gethard, recently secured a deal that took his cable access show to (much) more expansive realms. Here, the two meet for a fiery, costumed performance of “Ripe“, a standout cut from 2015 highlight  Rose Mountain.

3. Strand of Oaks (NPR)

Timothy Showalter is the rare kind of musician who can be equally captivating both unaccompanied and within the context of a full band. HEAL was one of last year’s more unexpectedly brilliant records but it seemed like any time those songs were performed in a live setting, the studio recordings were blown out of the water. NPR’s excellent Tiny Desk Concert series recently had Showalter stop in on his lonesome and they were paid back with a stunning three song performance that should cement Showalter’s status as one of today’s most intrinsically compelling performers. Deeply felt and utterly captivating, this is a songwriting (and solo performance) masterclass.

4. Speedy Ortiz (KEXP)

Nearly every regular source that gets utilized for the curation of Watch This seemed to host Speedy Ortiz over the past month. A few of those videos made it into various installments while a few just barely missed the cut. None of them were anywhere close to as strong as this KEXP-hosted four song knockout. All of the songs in this session are executed with an excess of verve and passion, not in a manner all that dissimilar from the last time they came through the station. Playing nothing but highlights from this year’s outstanding Foil Deer, the session becomes a capsule document of a band in the throes of both artistic reinvention and breakout success.

5. Hop Along (WNYC)

The last artist on this list with a long history of Watch This appearances, Hop Along‘s most definitely the one to have experienced the most momentum in 2015. With the extraordinary Painted Shut (their first effort for Saddle Creek) elevating them from “best-kept secret” status to universal critical adoration, they’ve also managed to considerably expand their fan base. It’s difficult to think of a more deserving band when taking into account the exceptional levels of songwriting and their years spent relentlessly touring small bars and DIY venues. They’re making every possible effort at seizing a moment that’s rightfully theirs and WNYC became the latest channel to capture evidence. In three songs, the band manages to demonstrate every facet that earned them an unprecedented amount of loyalty and support in their early goings while simultaneously establishing what makes them such a cherished act in today’s musical landscape.

Watch This: Vol. 72

Once again, the candidates for this week’s Watch This– the weekly series that celebrates the best live videos to have emerged in the previous week- came in droves. At this point, it’s getting genuinely difficult to keep tabs on all of them because of the sheer number of videos (and new series) that are being unearthed. To that end, it’s almost more indicative of the featured crop’s formidable strength to list the other titles that were in contention- all of which are more than worth the click. The bands in those videos included: Bellows, Diarrhea Planet (twice), Two Inch Astronaut, Jeff Rosenstock, Mountain Bike, Vomitface, Craft Spells, and Strange Relations. Below, in this 72nd installment, the featured crop’s a little more subdued than usual but starts off with one of the most staggeringly powerful live videos to have run this year. So, as always, lean in, turn the volume up, push any lingering doubt to the side, and Watch This.

1. Hop Along – Waitress (World Cafe) 

The most immediately apparent draw to Hop Along has always been Frances Quinlan’s voice. It’s a powerhouse; unforgettable after even the briefest of exposures. It’s also the kindest red herring, something that doesn’t necessarily suggest that a lot of the band’s inherent power is drawn from defiantly embracing vulnerability. For a long while, though a pairing like that shouldn’t have ended in this particular path, the band felt like a carefully-guarded secret. Now, with a universally acclaimed record and a Saddle Creek deal (the label’s strongest move in recent memory), a much larger group of people have taken notice.

Ensuring that their rapid ascension is far from over, the band have perfected their live show (it’s also why they’ve appeared on Watch This multiple times throughout this series’ run) and recently set up camp in World Cafe’s studio to deliver a powerful performance of Painted Shut highlight “Waitress”. Apart from exuding a transcendent gracefulness throughout “Waitress” (easily a song of the year candidate), there’s a moment that occurs at about the 2:20 mark that is the precise kind of breathtaking moment that Watch This was built to celebrate. With nothing but grace notes and limitless passion, this is as good as this series gets. Watch it below.

2. John Davey – Sugarmask (Cozy Couch Sessions)

Another artist that’s made a handful of Watch This appearances is singer/songwriter John Davey, whose brand of deeply humane folk has always resonated with a casual finesse. Davey recently stopped by to deliver a heartfelt  performance of a new song entitled “Sugarmask”, which ranks as yet another stunner in already enviable collection of songs. Poignant and endearing, “Sugarmask” is an arresting song and it’s given about as strong of a showcase imaginable through this clip.

3. Mikal Cronin (KEXP)

MCIII has proven to be a little more divisive among critics than expected, with one of the most levelheaded assessments coming from Sloan’s Jay Ferguson in a very balanced piece for The Talkhouse. After Cronin’s monumental MCII (my personal Album of the Year pick for 2013), that uncertainty on something as ambitious as MCIII should probably have been expected. It’s telling, though, that there hasn’t been much conflict over Cronin’s skills as a live performer. He’s only grown stronger as the shows played under his own name accumulate and that continuously building confidence is brought to full-bloom in a gorgeous session for KEXP. While the songs may lose some of their grandeur without the sweeping string and brass sections (which were all arranged by Cronin, who plays most of the instruments on MCIII), they gain quite a bit of punch in a more traditional set-up. All in all, the whole thing operates as a decisive reminder that Cronin’s still one of the most gifted pop songwriters working today.

4. Eskimeaux – Folly (This Has Got To Stop)

Gabrielle Smith’s Eskimeaux project recently released what will undoubtedly stand as one of the year’s most beautiful, unassuming records by the time 2015’s over. That record, O.K., is rooted in subtly intense personal explorations that all carry a hushed quality. “Folly” is one of the record’s most spellbinding moments as it feels like a culmination of Smith’s songwriting aesthetic. In a recent session for This Has To Got Stop, she performed it solo, perched on a chair, eyes cast down or closed, lost in the music. It’s mesmerizing. It’s also worth noting that Smith nearly appeared in this installment twice, once here, and once as a part of Bellows‘ incredible NPR Tiny Desk session (which is also deserving of several watches).

5. Tom Waits – Take One Last Look (Late Show With David Letterman)

Over the years, David Letterman has championed young, emerging punk bands to a heartening degree while maintaining great relationships with musical icons. One of the most notable partnerships in the latter category was Letterman’s connection with Tom Waits, who honored the departing host with a new song, “One Last Look”. With the pedigrees of both men at an incredibly visible and highly respected level, a move like this had all of the makings of a classic late-night moment and it didn’t disappoint. Waits honored Letterman with the most tender of farewells, accompanied by accordionist Gabriel Donohue and bassist Larry Taylor, Waits delivered the kind of timeless, dusty Americana that made Mule Variations an instant classic. Inherently powerful and extraordinarily moving, “Take One Last Look” is something that deserves to be remembered.

Watch This: Vol. 71

To say “it’s been a week” would be putting it mildly. The statement held especially true for the incredible live footage that has been consistently published throughout the week’s duration. In the preceding installment of this series, it was stated that there could have easily been two features instead of one. This week that number increases to three. Every single day, a masterful new video was ushered out into the world. A large handful of those were impeccably produced; gorgeous in vision and stunning in terms of sound, boasting a memorable performance all the while. Lady Lamb, Speedy Ortiz, Jeff Rosenstock, Two Gallants, Mikal Cronin, T. Hardy Morris & the Hardknocks, Twerps, Vijay Iyer Trio, The Technicolors, and Surfer Blood all had live clips introduced that earned their endless replay value. Nearly every single one of those names has been mentioned on this site before (albeit some for entirely different projects) and that trend holds steady for the five clips that are featured below.  So, as always, turn the volume up, shut out all of your looming distractions, lean in, and Watch This.

1. DOE (BreakThruRadio)

Every time DOE’s released something, it’s caught my ear. It’s been immensely satisfying to watch their recognition slowly expand as time progressed. Of course, part of the reasoning behind that growth may be their own self-improvement. Their recent session for BreakThruRadio further illustrates that this band’s primed for a breakout. While the featured song, the hard-charging “Redo/Improve”, is a monstrously catchy bit of punk-inflected basement pop, one of the most welcoming elements of this clip is the band’s winsome affability in the interview segment. Of course, that’s almost immediately forgotten once it splinters off into a brief live clip of the latter two songs included in the clip because DOE’s the kind of band that demands attention when they’re in live mode. Just hit play and start waiting for their name to slowly climb the festival bill font-scale ladder.

2. Bent Shapes – New Starts In Old Dominion (Fitz Ross)

86’d in ’03” was one of this sites favorite songs from last year, as reflected in one of the stranger best of lists. Bent Shapes could have been content to coast on that release for a while but the band’s work ethic ensures that they’ll likely be working until they can’t push themselves any further (hell, even that not might be enough). Impressively, there’s never a decline in quality; they’re writing some of the finest punk-tinged powerpop of today. “New Starts In Old Dominion” is clear evidence that the band’s talents extend past their recorded output and into what they’re able to accomplish live. When a party is this good, it’s not worth being late.

3. Torres – Cowboy Guilt (Public Radio International)

Few records have managed to grip me as strongly as Torres’ Sprinter. Every song on the record contains subtle melody hooks that have the ability to become inescapable over time. “Cowboy Guilt” is a perfect example of this particular dynamic. The guitar riffs, the vocal melody, and the subtle synth work all slowly expand their claws and lodge their way into a territory reserved for things that are next to impossible to forget. None of that shifts in the live setting, even though a few of the arrangements do differ slightly from the studio version. The contrast is part of what makes this particular clip feel so alive; humanity is impossible to fake.

4. Will Butler – What I Want (WFUV)

Policy is one of 2015’s most curios releases and the oddities that made it so compelling are also likely the reason it didn’t find much of an audience. Teeming with droll humor, impressive composition skills, and a surprising amount of pathos, “What I Want” is an incredibly intimate look at the way Butler’s songs operate. Confined to the WFUV studio with only a piano at his disposal, Butler is cast in the intimidating glare of a sole spotlight. His response? Delivering an unlikely, powerful performance that reaffirms the flashes of talent he consistently provides in his main vehicle (you know the one). It’s genuinely stunning.

5. Field Mouse – A Place You Return To In A Dream (Radio K)

Field Mouse have been consistently churning out impressive post-punk for a few years now and seem to only get stronger as they go- the aim of every band with honorable convictions. They recently stopped in the Radio K studios to turn in a blistering take of “A Place You Return To In A Dream”, which leans heavily on the band’s shoegaze influences without eschewing any of their deceptively intuitive pop sensibilities. Surging guitars, soft backing vocals, and committed performances make sure this clip reaches exhilarating levels.