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Tag: Vagabon

Streams of the First Quarter: The Honorable Mentions

Less than a week remains in 2017’s first quarter and the year’s already earned solid representation thanks to a slew of incredible releases. Below this paragraph are links to approximately 500 of the finest songs that the January-to-March period had to offer. A few of which are from widely renowned artists but the vast majority are from the artists who deserve more recognition than they receive.

Now, it’s practically impossible to imagine any one individual is going to sit down and listen to every single one of the songs here but that’s not exactly the purpose of these lists. This, as was the case with the others, is a capsule of a time period that offered up art that was (mostly) lost to the shuffle. It’s a representative account of what was happening behind-the-scenes while this site was in its extended hiatus.

Most importantly, it’s a way to recognize and honor the artists responsible for crafting pieces that both deserved and earned praise, even if it’s in a relatively minor form. This will likely be one of the longest lists of links to ever run on this site and it’s likely best to just click around until something strikes a chord. So, bookmark this page, dive in, and explore what the world’s produced over this first quarter and keep an eye on this site for a few short “best of” posts before Heartbreaking Bravery resumes its regular daily coverage. Enjoy.

NE-HI, Hater (x2), Knife in the Water (x2), Thelma, The Districts, Flasher, Catholic Action, Growl, Happyness, Land of Talk (x2), Canshaker Pi, Baby!, Gold Connections (x2, 3), Jay Som (x2), Go Fever, The Mells, The Chinchees, Aye Nako, Greatest Champion Alive, Diet Cig (x2, 3), High Sunn, Tall Friend (x2, 3), Do Make Say Think, Boss Hog (x2), Fog Lake (x2), Littler, Real Life Buildings (x2), The Proper Ornaments, Alex Napping (x2), Bruising, YURT, Analog Candle (x2), The Courtneys (x2), Wild Pink (x2), Amanda Glasser

Lunch Ladies (x2, 3), B Boys, Molly BurchIdle Bloom, WHY?, Vengeance, Phoebe Bridgers, Kane Strang, Former Bullies, The Spookfish (x2), Dude York (x2), Ben Grigg (x2, 3), Agent blå, Andrew Goldring, Fragrance., Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever, Spiral Stairs (x2), Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy, Guided By Voices (x2), Future Teens, WaydeÀ La Mode, Fraidycat, Robyn Hitchcock (x2), Eric Slick, Terry Malts, Sharkmuffin, Ride, Joan Shelley, PONY, The Coathangers, Juliana Hatfield (x2), Sorority Noise (x2), Slow Caves

No Thank You (x2, 3), Francobollo, Great Profile, Mount Song, Real EstateHawkmoon, Casper Skulls, Century Palm (x2), Deathlist (x2), Rosie Carney, Superorganism, Goldblooms, Day Wave, Wire, Cotillon (x2, 3), Will Johnson (x2), Anti Pony, Personal Best, Mind Rays (x2, 3), Grim Streaker, Ty Segall (x2, 3), Bonny Doon (x2), Arc Flash (x2), Tobin Sprout, Slowdive, Top Down, Mise en Scene, Thunder Dreamer, Hiccup (x2), Bent Denim, The Molochs, Caitlin Pasko, Cold Beat, Oak House

Mad OnesThe FeeliesWavves (x2), Tonstartssbandht (x2), Those Lavender Whales (x2), Overlake, Winstons, Vagabon, MaganaTrust Fund, Fuzzystar (x2), Baked (x2), Loose Tooth (x2, 3), The Sloppy Heads, The Cairo Gang (x2), Vundabar, Chick Quest (x2), Holy Sheboygan (x2), The Craters, Doug Tuttle, Walter Martin, Nadine Khouri, Holy Now, Vassals, The Obsessives (x2), Orchid Mantis, Thin Lips, Apocalypse, Communions, Olden Yolk, Dion Lunadon, Emperor X, Shadow Band, Richard Edwards, Adna

Bleached (x2), SaltlandTim Kasher (x2), Warm SodaAlyeskaMatthew Squires, You’re Jovian, Little Star, Mothpuppy, Midwives, Monster Movie, Jessica Denison + JonesElijah, Loom, Your Old Droog, Mimi Raver, Smidley, Beachheads, Clap Your Hands Say Yeah (x2), Cesar Ruiz, Leather Can, Woods, The Yugos (x2), Adam Torres (x2), L.A. Witch, David Bazan, Luxury Death (x2), Imaginary Tricks, Strange Lot (x2), Lomelda, Sacred Spirits, Matty Ann, The Hernies, Destrends, ELLA, Adult Mom, Second Still

The Dove & The Wolf, Gang of Youths, Trementina (x2), Good Good Blood, SheerOrchin, Anna Coogan, WALL, Artificial Pleasure, Sera Cahoone, Annie Hardy (x2), Priests, Laura Marling, Yawn Mower (x2), Toby Foster, Wear Your Wounds, The Present Age, The Knitts (x2), Junior Astronomers, No Vacation, Wolf Girl, Peter Bjorn and John, Cassandra Jenkins (x2, 3, 4), A Valley Son (x2), Jons, Sinai Vessel, Yellow Paper Planes, Seven Deaths, Snakehole, Sondre Lerche (x2), Varvara, Karen Elson

Tiger! Shit! Tiger! Tiger!, Wilding, Common MinerDan Misha GoldmanCymbals Eat Guitars, Lost Boy ?, Moon DialThe Birthday Letters, UV-TV, Girl As Wave, Big Surr, Nightlands, Menace Beach, Boytoy, Melby, Dali Vision, Desperate Journalist, Alex G, Knifey, Aquarian Blood, Winstons, High Up, Joshua James, I Am the Polish Army, Feral Ohms, French Vanilla, Bad Breeding, The Octopus Project, Born Without Bones, Laughed The Boy, Jake Xerxes Fussell (x2, 3), Cindy Lee, The Cover Letter, Michael Nau

Lyrie and the Duckies, Vorhees, Blank SquarePatterson Hood, Jon McKiel, Whips, WompsKikagaku Moyo, Brandon Koebs, Surf Dads, LT Wade, Daddy Issues, David Bazan, Matthew Lee Cothran, Jake Clarke, Spur, Loose Buttons (x2), Bilge Rat, Saw Black, Lowly, Jackson Boone, Superchunk, Desert Culture, Julia Lucille, The Darling Buds, Ducks Unlimited, Hoops, Taft Mashburn, Summer Moon, Conifer Vista, My Education, The Wooden Sky, Her’s, Teen Daze, Rubblebucket, Platinum Boys, Jens Lekman, Threefifty

Sam Coffey & The Iron Lungs, Nadia KazmiShelby Earl, Preservation Hall Jazz Band, Circus DevilsFire in the Radio, Half Waif, Metric, Sampha, Deadwall, Ground and Grave, Martin Rev, Craig FinnOiseaux-Tempête, Raj and the 100’s, The Wintyr, TW Walsh, ShitKid, Joel Michael Howard, Evening Darling, FOTR, Pollen Rx, Lillie Mae, Kyle T. Hurley, Hite, Tara Jane O’Neil (x2), Louise Lemón, PalomaStacey, Two Moons, POND, Business of Dreams, Billy Moon, Low Roar, She-Devils, White Reaper, Tiny Vipers

SOFTSPOT, Gorillaz, ROYA, BottlerThe Megaphonic Thrift, Caves, The New PornographersJulie Byrne, BNQT, COTE, Damaged Bug, Railings, Mark Eitzel, Deleter, Code Orange, Goddamnit, Cory Branan, No Joy, Blak Emoji, Tropical Skin Byrds, Empty Lungs, Tomber Lever, Rainbrother, Max Subar, Little Person, Perhapsy, Other Houses, Dehd, Niilo Smeds (x2), Morning Teleportation, The Co Founder, Show Me the Body, Kory Quinn, Tow’rs, Circle, Maria Kelly, Cosima, John Craigie, Holy Motors, Benjamin Booker

Me Not You, Her HarbourHeath Green and the Maksehifters, CodistMatt Maltese, Thurston Moore, Pissed Jeans, Feist, Odd Couple, A Deer A Horse, Cassels, Thad Kopec, Turn to CrimeTorgeir Waldemar, Oyama, Said the Whale, Altar Eagles (x2), Grace Mitchell, Radiator King, Minus the Bear, The Tarantula Waltz, Hiva OaTrès Oui, The Buttertones, Winston Hightower, Crooked Bangs, Los Angeles Police Department, CFM, Diagrams, Boosegumps, Marcus Norberg and the Disappointments

The Nickajack Men, Semi-Attractive Boys, BanditosRachel Kilgour, Broken Field Runner, Residuels, Jim and the French Vanilla, Wooden Wand, Emma Ruth Rundle, Batz, Monograms, Operator Music Band, RF Shannon (x2), LAKE, Ha Ha Tonka, Fufanu, Coast Modern, The Glass Eyes, Keto, Loess, Go By Ocean, Unstoppable Death Machines, Frederick the Younger, Bendigo Fletcher, Meatbodies, The Bingers, Slingshot Dakota, Astro Tan, Football, etc., Planning for Burial, Delafye, Dim Wit, Retail SpaceEmma Gatrill, Gnod, Mark Lanegan Band, and Leon of Athens.

 

 

 

Full Streams of the First Quarter: The Honorable Mentions

Technical difficulties forced Heartbreaking Bravery into an effective hiatus at the start of the year but, even through the visible inaction, behind-the-scenes work continued in earnest. Various outlets depths were exhausted, the site’s inbox maintained its regular flood of releases, and everything else that emerged was meticulously examined. Over the course of 2017’s first quarter (minus a week or so), more than 100 great records were released. 10 will be spotlighted in the very near future and the rest of the releases that caused a positive reaction can be found below. Enjoy.

Cool American, Alexander F, The Courtneys, Single Player, Schlotman, Street Stains, Thurst, Teenage Wedding, oso oso, Sam Skinner, Thelma, Wild Pink, Toby Reif, Omni, Pissed Jeans, Baked, WHY?, Neutral Shirt, Hideout, SSWAMPZZ, Boosegumps, Maryn Jones, Luxury Death, UV-TV, Ron Gallo, Matty Ann, Communions, Hanni El Khatib, Vagabon, So Stressed, The Paranoyds, Middle Kids, David Bazan, Toner, minihorse, Fucked Up, Olive & The Pitz, Boreen, Two Moons, wayde, The Spirit of the Beehive

Lunch Ladies, Heavy Pockets, Layperson, Little Person, Laura Marling, Chick Quest, Tobin Spout, Tall Friend, Caitlin Pasko, The Molochs, Trust Fund, Pinegrove
 Radula, Sinai Vessel, CARE, Michael Chapman, Jamie Wyatt, The Modern Savage, Analog CandleLouise Lemón, Heart Attack Man, Matthew Lee Cothran, Retail Space, The Cherry Wave, Frederick the Younger, No Thank You, Railings, Crushed Stars, Fragrance., ShitKid, Joan of Arc, Jim O’Rourke, Black Kids, Knife in the Water, bvdub

The Ocean Party, VICTIME, Career Suicide, Dead Man Winter, Lindenfield, Loess, Redshift Headlights, Balto, Angelus, Fufanu, French Vanilla, The Wild War, Turn to Crime, Souvenir Driver, Stinking Lizaveta, Matteo Vallicelli, Milk Music, Caroline Spence, NAVVI, Cody Crumps, Exasperation, Xiu Xiu, Damaged Bug, Winston Hightower, Kim Free, Kikagaku Moyo, Lilah Larson, Appalache, Eric Burnham, Party of One, Noveller, sir Was, R. Missing, Yawn Mower, Moral Panic, Auditorium, The Pantheon, The Obsessives

Dakota Blue, Skullflower, My Education, Lowlands, Half Waif, Trevor de Brauw, Strange RangerOnce & Future Band, DONCAT, The Visis, Blank Range, Transona Five100%/Joyce Manor, and Dead Tenants/Drome.

A special mention should also be given to these five compilations, all supporting worthy causes: Our First 100 Days (at the time of this writing, this release is still being updated), Sad! A Barsuk Records Compilation for the ACLU, Is There Another Language?, Save the Smell, and Don’t Stop NowA Collection of Covers.

2016: A Year’s Worth of Memories (Elise Okusami)

Heartbreaking Bravery recently went offline but all facets of the site are back to being fully operational. Apologies for any inconveniences. All posts that were slated to run during that brief hiatus will appear with this note.

As part of Laetita Tamko’s Vagabon project and as the bandleader of Oceanator, Elise Okusami has become a very familiar name to this site over the past few years. “Nowhere Nothing“, a standout Oceanator song, would’ve cracked this site’s list of best songs had Okusami not graciously allowed its usage for the A Step Forward compilation. It’s a song that’s resonated since its introduction and one that’s pulled this site even further into Okusami’s orbit. Below, the multi-talented musician recalls a Wolf Parade show at McCarren Park that led to a wellspring of genuine emotion. It’s a beautiful reminder of the power of music and can be read below. Enjoy.

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I’d been getting lazy about going places.  I might have still been trying to shake off that winter funk, even though it was June already.  Once I was at work, at home, wherever, I tended to stay put, unable to generate any sort of inertia to go to a new location.  So, even though I’d been planning for months to go to this Wolf Parade show in McCarren Park – especially after being super bummed when all five of their Bowery Ballroom shows sold out even though I was online, ready to buy the minute they went on sale (this keeps happening, the robots are taking over and ruining everything already) – I still found myself leaning on the bar at work and chatting with a coworker when I should have been heading to the show.

The friends I thought were going had all bailed, so I was in the process of bailing, too, when four friends texted me at once asking me why I wasn’t there.  I literally shoved my backpack under my desk at work, got on my bike, and raced to the park.  It wasn’t far, but I still made it in my personal record time, not even taking the time to plug in my headphones and queue up any music for the trip.  I was jittery and nervous as the line moved forwards, worrying that any second they were going to cut it off and say the show was too full, but my worries were unfounded.  I got in easily, and found my friends all the way up at the front as the opening band was still playing.

As much as I had, and still do, love Apologies to the Queen Mary, I had never taken the leap into their other albums.  I knew every song and every moment of that album, but not too much of the other ones.  That didn’t take away from the experience any.  I am shy, most of the time.  Especially in large groups.  But at this show I found myself dancing, not worrying about what I looked like or what anyone around me thought.

I cried, literally, when the band dropped out and the piano played its riff alone in the middle of “Animal in Your Care“, before the rest of the band came back in.  Seeing them perform, seeing how much fun they were having, how excited they were by the size of the crowd even as, what I definitely consider, a pretty huge band, only added to the experience.  It’s the way I hope to always feel about music – happy to be where I am, enjoying the performance, and being appreciative of the opportunity to do so.

That feeling was something I took with me all summer.  I’m still not entirely sure why that concert moved me more than any of the other shows I’d been to this past year – and there have been some absolutely fantastic ones.  Something about that one really stuck out, though.  It couldn’t have come at a better time for me, pulling me out of a funk and launching me into summer, and even sticking with me now.

16 of ’16: The Best Music Videos of the Year

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It’s been a while since anything’s run on this site but, as always, everything that’s being put on the table is being assessed and evaluated. A Year’s Worth of Memories‘ third edition is just around the corner but before those recollections begin, it only seems fair to take a look back at the best of what 2016 had to offer. This will be the first year where a numerical rankings system is abandoned, a decision that wasn’t made lightly but is being enforced for a variety of reasons specific to this over-stuffed year (meaning that the numerical rankings system may appear again roughly 12 months from now).

For whatever reason, music videos are largely viewed by the general public as having fallen out of favor, which is a genuine shame considering what’s being done with the form. Lemonade seemed to revive some interest and open up potential possibilities for the future but it’s still a format that the public’s left by the wayside. Here at Heartbreaking Bravery, the best of these have been traditionally celebrated because they represent the perfect marriage of music and film. 2016 presented a whole new slate of incredible material, headlined by an unbelievable string of videos from Minor Victories and PUP, that were worth praising.

Here are 16 of the best clips to have appeared throughout the year.

Kevin Morby – Dorothy

Christopher Good has directed a handful of videos that have been featured on this site over the years but may have turned in a career best with Kevin Morby’s “Dorothy“. Embracing Morby’s open road aesthetics, Good allows “Dorothy” to gracefully coast along at a breezy pace, infusing it with an inordinate amount of perfect cues and tongue-in-cheek humor. It’s sublime craftsmanship that not only complements but elevates its already-great source material.

Courtney Barnett – Elevator Operator

After cracking last year’s music video list with the jaw-dropping clip for “Kim’s Caravan”, Courtney Barnett makes another appearance thanks to the fascinating, cameo-heavy video for “Elevator Operator“. Blending Barnett’s signature wit with a staggering moment of quiet existentialism that arrives out of nowhere, “Elevator Operator” sees the celebrated songwriter aiming for new heights and reaching a stratospheric level.

John K. Samson – Postdoc Blues

Former Weakerthans bandleader John K. Samson made an incredibly welcome return with 2016’s outstanding Winter Wheat. One of that record’s highlights, “Postdoc Blues“, received the music video treatment and is the rare clip that benefits from an incredibly direct and literal simplicity. Created for a good cause and executed to a characteristically unassuming brand of perfection, “Postdoc Blues” is a breath of fresh air.

Parquet Courts – Human Performance

No music video from 2016 proved to be more grotesquely haunting than Parquet Courts‘ oddly disturbed, puppet-driven clip for “Human Performance“. It’s intensely human, ridiculously unnerving, and extremely hard to shake. “Human Performance” props up its own ugliness in an effectively defiant act of genuinely brave showmanship. A singular piece from a fascinating directorial voice, “Human Performance” wound up as one of 2016’s most fascinating moments.

Cymbals Eat Guitars – 4th of July, Philadelphia (SANDY)

Easily one of 2016’s best songs, Cymbals Eat Guitars‘ “4th of July, Philadelphia (SANDY)” also served as one of the year’s best music videos. Shot through with nostalgia and an abundance of feeling, “4th of July, Philadelphia (SANDY)” managed the impossible task of both referencing an indisputable classic and standing on its own. A perfect marriage of lyric video and traditional music video, Cymbals Eat Guitars may have created something bordering on timeless.

LVL UP – The Closing Door

The first major music video effort from LVL UP came courtesy of House of Nod, who were given the unenviable task of capturing the searing spiritual search present all throughout the band’s latest effort, Return to Love, and turned in an absolute gem. “The Closing Door” relies heavily on imagery and metaphor but never seems anything less than grounded. “The Closing Door” climaxes in a beautiful final sequence that’s moving, hopeful, and reassuring, three things that become sorely necessary in a difficult year.

Potty Mouth – Smash Hit

There are a lot of ways a music video can achieve greatness, whether it be through breathtaking visuals, inspired direction, a memorable concept, by complementing the song, or, in the case of Potty Mouth‘s “Smash Hit“, being astonishingly representative of the band.  An effective mix of glitz, glamour, and grit, “Smash Hit” finds the trio vamping for the cameras and giving a tenacious central performance. It’s an exhilarating burst from a band that’s attained an assured confidence.

Vagabon – The Embers

“The Embers” served as site favorites Vagabon‘s introduction-at-large for a sizable audience and it’s one hell of an introduction. Utilizing a visual style that’s not too distant from Destin Daniel Cretton’s Short Term 12 (one of the best films of this young century), “The Embers” is immediately gripping. The empowering, symbolism-heavy narrative is as striking as the imagery and all of it clicks into something that verges on the transcendental. In short: it’s unmissable.

Japanese Breakfast – Everybody Wants to Love You

Another clip from the inimitable House of Nod, Japanese Breakfast‘s “Everybody Wants to Love You” popped up on many of these year-end music video lists and it’s incredibly easy to see why. A celebration of heritage and individuality as well as a moving tribute to a deceased parent, “Everybody Wants to Love You” is loaded with sincerity and meaning. Vibrant with the faintest touch of melancholy, it’s an unforgettable demonstration of personal strength and unerring resolve.

Dilly Dally – Snakehead

Likely the funniest music video to be released in 2016, Dilly Dally‘s “Snakehead” music video skewers its own format at every turn, while clearly being a meticulously crafted clip born out of a deep love and understanding of music videos. Biting captions, self-aware performances, and contextual knowledge make “Snakehead” obscenely endearing and skyrocket its worth in the process. Pointed, snarky, and a hell of a lot of fun, “Snakehead” is nothing less than a knockout.

PWR BTTM – West Texas

2016 was a very kind year for PWR BTTM and one of the duo’s opening shots was the sweeping music video for “West Texas”. Epic in scope and unapologetic in its cinematic debt, “West Texas” is a swaggering blast of bravado that touches on just about everything that’s made PWR BTTM so beloved in such a short amount of time. The identity politics, the showmanship, the willingness to be subversive, and the ability to string everything together with fiendishly sly, self-aware humor.

Hazel English – Never Going Home

Hazel English delivered one of the year’s best EP’s with the exceedingly lovely Never Going Home, which boasted a title track that received an absolutely gorgeous visual accompaniment. While the lyric video for “I’m Fine“, the studio clip for “It’s Not Real“, and the clip for “Control” all merited individual consideration for this list, it was the soft lensing and natural, delicate charm of “Never Going Home” that made the deepest impression. It casts a spell that’s worthy of a complete surrender.

Mitski – Happy

Part of a trio of impressive Mitski clips (including “Your Best American Girl” and “A Burning Hill“), “Happy” packed a powerful enough punch to secure the spot on this list. Paying homage to heritage, race relations, historical tension, military occupation, and a bevvy of classic films,  Maegan Houang brings a fiery directorial touch to an outstanding concept and executes with staggering purpose. By the time “Happy” winds to an end, it’s difficult to wish for anything other than an expansion into a feature length film.

Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds – Trio

While Angel Olsen, The Avalanches, and DJ Shadow (ft. Run the Jewels) were among some of the bigger names making genuinely outstanding music videos, what filmmaker Andrew Dominik accomplished with his clips of Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds playing a trio of clips (“I Need You“, “Jesus Alone“, and “Girl In Amber“) from the band’s shattering Skeleton Tree simply can’t be ignored. This is both performance and performance filmmaking of the highest possible level.

Minor Victories – Cogs (Orchestral Variation)

Only one band could rival what Minor Victories achieved in the music video format in 2016 (but we’ll get to that band in a moment). Minor Victories aggressively established an arresting visual aesthetic and turned in an incredible number of clips that could have very easily wound up in this spot. “Cogs“, “Folk Arp“, “Scattered Ashes (Song for Richard)“, “A Hundred Ropes“, “Breaking My Light“, and “Give Up the Ghost (Orchestral Variation)” were all gripping in various ways, making the most of crisp black-and-white cinematography. Their finest moment, however, came with the release of “Cogs (Orchestral Variation)“, an expansive, intimate character study and the band’s most ambitious offering to date. It’s harrowing, it’s riveting, and it’s easily one of the best clips of 2016.

MUSIC VIDEO OF THE YEAR

PUP – Sleep in the Heat

In 2013, PUP‘s “Reservoir” topped the year-end music video list I contributed to PopMatters. In 2014, PUP’s “Guilt Trip” topped this site’s very first year-end music videos list. In 2015, PUP managed to crack the year-end music video list once again with “Dark Days“. This year, the band continued an unprecedented run of dominance in the format with no less than three legitimate year-end contenders, each wildly different from the other.

From the playful, game-happy lyric clip for “DVP” to the relentless shock-and-awe brutality of the terrifyingly-named “If This Tour Doesn’t Kill You, I Will“, the band was firing on all cylinders. Still, none of that could’ve been adequate preparation for what they and director Jeremy Schaulin-Rioux achieved with “Sleep in the Heat”, a successor to “Guilt Trip” that came several years after filming on “Guilt Trip” wrapped- and after “Guilt Trip” star Finn Wolfhard landed another lucrative starring role in Netflix’s Stranger Things.

Just as “If This Tour Doesn’t Kill You, I Will” intercut footage of “Reservoir” to establish a sense of history to ground its narrative and supply additional meaning, “Sleep in the Heat” opens with the startlingly vivid footage of its natural predecessor. The actors that were assembled in “Guilt Trip” resume their posts as stand-in’s for PUP’s members in their earlier days and each of them — particularly Wolfhard, who turns in what’s easily the best work of his burgeoning career in this clip — give committed performances.

Taking on the role of a scrappy touring band, the young cast find themselves navigating the frequently dire circumstances that are all too familiar to anyone that’s ever hopped in a van to drive four hours to play a show in a basement to five people. There’s a sense of lived-in realism that bolsters everything in the clip, which seeps in from the onset and never relinquishes its hold. Early on, “Sleep in the Heat” takes a curious turn when a stray dog takes a shining to the band’s food and follows them to their next brief stop, endearing itself to the band to the point where they bring it on board as a rescue.

Here’s where the narrative crux of “Sleep in the Heat” — a song written about guitarist/vocalist Stefan Babcock’s deceased chameleon — begins to sink in and all anyone can do is prepare for devastation. Not too long after that sudden, sinking realization, things in the video begin to get bleak. The dog gets sick and needs a surgical procedure, unable to cover the expense, Wolfhard (as the young Babcock) pawns a guitar mid-tour to provide for the animal that’s quickly become a new best friend. The surgery goes forward but it isn’t enough.

In one of the most emotionally shattering music video montages of recent memory, the band members of PUP are photographed holding their own deceased pets, lending a heartbreaking reality to an already emotionally charged clip. Several stages of the process of dealing with death all collide at once and it’s a forceful, resonant moment that immediately registers as singular.

As brilliant as that moment is, it’s not until the final passage where everything’s really driven home. Wolfhard’s back to the front of the band, guitar slung across his body once more (a perfect shot revealing he’d broken through the pawn shop glass to steal it back is just one of many grace notes scattered throughout the clip), looking delirious, hollow, and broken as footage of the wounded dog being tended to is intercut with Wolfhard overcome with emotion while screaming the song’s final chorus: Yesterday I went back to my apartment to see how you’d been holding up, you hadn’t been eating, I thought you were sleeping but you’re not waking up. I want you to know that I’d spend every bit of my pitiful savings and loans just to see you again… but I know I won’t.

The screen fades to black and resumes after a brief pause only to reveal rocks being piled on top of a freshly-dug patch of dirt. The camera pulls back and reveals one word, spray painted on the rock pile’s surface: PUP. Another pause and another cut to black occurs before “Sleep in the Heat” offers one final nod to its prequel and closes with a shot of the van moving forward down an open road, looking ahead to new triumphs, heartbreak, and everything else life has to offer. 

Six Weeks of Music Videos (Video Mixtape)

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Six weeks is a long time to go without posting an individual feature piece on a music video (discounting premieres). With the end of the year fast approaching, it’s not surprising that many of the clips that have come out in the time this site’s been on a relative hiatus, there have been a handful of the format’s best entries for the 2016 crop. PUP maintained their unrelenting stranglehold on an obscene level of excellence with the most emotionally affecting clip of a ridiculously impressive filmography, Vagabon emerged with a galvanizing sense of renewed purpose, Emilyn Brodsky continued to do wonders with stop motion, Tenement continued to further their own distinct identity in the visual arts department, The Seams offered up a double dose of refined hyper-editing, and everyone else found a way to rise above their contemporaries to create indelible pieces of art worth celebrating. So, below, dive in and get comfortable with the best 25 clips of the past six weeks.

Additional note: Trace Mountains’ excellent clip for “Bring the Mountain to Me” wasn’t available on YouTube and couldn’t be included in the below mix. Make sure to give that one a watch as well.

1. PUP – Sleep in the Heat
2. Meat Wave – The Incessant
3. Stove – Blank
4. The Seams – Remembrance Day
5. Holy Tunics – Forget Your Love
6. Julia Jacklin – Don’t Let the Kids Win
7. Vagabon – The Embers
8. Hellrazor – Raise Your Rifle
9. Lazertits – Boss Bitch
10. Slothrust – Rotten Pumpkin
11. Vacation – Every Direction
12. The Raveonettes – Fast Food
13. Poppies – Told
14. WHOOP-Szo – Another Show
15. Bruising – I Don’t Mind
16. Sløtface – Bright Lights
17. Tim Darcy – Tall Glass of Water
18. Self Talk – Untitled 
19. Petal – Chandelier
20. Tenement – Hive of Hives
21. Stef Chura – Spotted Gold
22. Fred Thomas – Voiceover
23. Emilyn Brodsky – Hands Off the Stove
24. The Seams – Seeds
25. MOURN – Irrational Friend

Watch This: Vol. 135

In just a little over two weeks an insane amount of quality live videos have emerged, featuring the following artists: Ezra Furman, Woods, Day Wave, Joy Again, You Won’t, Kevin Morby, Acapulco Lips, Sonya Kitchell, Houndmouth, Queen of Jeans (x2), Christian Lee Hutson, Terry, John Congleton and the Nighty Nite, Mothers, Robb Young and the Elms, Marc Ribot’s Ceramic Dog, Kalispell (x2), Fear of MenOsekre & The Lucky Bastards, FitsEmily Blue, Henrietta, Adia Victoria, Ubetcha, The Staves (x2), Arc Flash, Michael Nau, Bewilder, The Jayhawks, Slingshot Dakota (x2), Whitney, Vagabon, Quilt, LAYNE, Rye Pines, Minor Victories, Allah-Las, Esme Patterson (x2, 3), Midijoyful, Secret Space, The Mono Jacks, A Dead Forest Index, Explosions in the Sky, Death Valley Girls, Half Waif, The Albert Square, Your Friend, Marlon Williams, Rogue Valley, Metronomy, Gregory Porter, Summer Twins (x2), Surgeons In Heat, Amy Klein, The Belvederes, Frameworks, Oddisee, CHILDREN, Doubles, Gwenno (x2), and Titus Andronicus.

Looking through all of those, it’s impossible to say that this is a bad time for live music (and for the documentation of live music). The overwhelming strength of that above list should indicate that this installment of Watch This will have some extraordinarily strong features. There’s some astonishing talent on display throughout the three full sessions and two individual clips listed below, which include one of the bands that was essential to the site’s foundation and a few fresh faces that have been turning all sorts of heads with their recent work. So, as always, push all the distractions aside, relax, lean in, and Watch This.

1. Tenement – Feral Cat Tribe + Lost Love Star Lust (Set List)

Anyone that’s frequented this site over the time of its existence has seen an unprecedented amount of praise granted to Tenement, a band that was instrumental in providing the building blocks for this site. Over nearly 10 years, I’ve had the surreal privilege of watching the trio develop to the point they’re at today (Rolling Stone recently named them one of the 10 great modern punk bands and the New York Times dedicated an entire podcast installment to the band last year). Here, the band gets to flash their live chops in a session for Wisconsin Public Radio’s Set List series, offering up an impressively powerful pair of tracks that only hint at the band’s astonishing scope.

2. Car Seat Headrest – Fill In The Blank (The Current)

After 2015’s Teens of Style generated quite a bit of momentum for Car Seat Headrest, the solo-project-turned-full-band capitalized on that surge of recognition emphatically with this year’s Teens of Denial. Landing several high-profile festival appearances as a result, the band’s grown gradually tighter over their past few tours. This performance of “Fill In The Blank” for The Current demonstrates that growth and nicely captures the band’s irrepressible drive.

3. PWR BTTM – West Texas + Serving Goffman (WFUV)

Like Tenement, PWR BTTM have become a towering presence in terms of this site’s coverage tendencies, something that came as a direct result of the band’s fiery live show. Here, the band turn in characteristically bold performances of both “West Texas” and “Serving Goffman” for WFUV, perfectly summarized by the half-shocked, half-elated smile that Benjamin Hopkins throws the camera after some errant headphones threaten to momentarily overtake the song. There’s a genuine joy that exists in that moment which the duo have consistently brought to their shows, making them one of the finest live acts on the circuit.

4. Weaves – Human (Low Four)

Weaves have made a habit out of appearing on the Watch This series this year, thanks in large part to the release of their monumental self-titled debut. The quartet recently stopped by the Old Granada Studios to unleash a sharp burst of their hyper-spastic strain of punk-tinged basement pop by way of this inspired run through “Human”, offering a revealing glimpse at their members formidable chops. As fascinating as it is exhilarating, it’s a perfect example of what can be accomplished by thinking a little outside of the typical boundaries.

5. And The Kids – Kick Rocks + Picture (WFUV)

One of the bands that really started to make a push over the past year has been And The Kids, who have seized every opportunity they’ve been given with a startling amount of poise. WFUV recently had the band into their studio and the trio delivered in full, tearing through “Kick Rocks” and “Picture” in a way that likely left several of the studio members jaws agape. Complex and nuanced, the band flawlessly executes a series of hairpin turns, layered harmonies, and language shifts while throwing in a few sly smiles for good measure. It’s an unbelievably impressive performance and more than deserves to close out this edition of Watch This.

Oceanator – Sunrise (Song Premiere)

oceanator

There were very few songs released over the past year that hit as hard as Oceanator’s breathtaking “Nowhere Nothing“, which not only served as an extremely formidable introductory piece for the project but bludgeoned its way into this site’s 50 Best Songs of 2016’s First Quarter list. Now, the project — masterminded by Vagabon drummer Elise Okusami — is following up that first glimpse with another meaningful look.

“Sunrise” is the latest Oceanator track and it trades out the relentlessly dark brooding of “Nowhere Nothing” for a warmth that feels true to its title. That warmth isn’t just present in the tones of the driving bass, surf guitar, or synths that define the song’s carefree approach, its also evidenced by the lyric set. In one song, Oceanator veers sharply away from the introspective damage that made “Nowhere Nothing” such a hair-raising experience to focus on something a little less miserable; romantic yearning.

Framed by a simple desire to have someone to share in some warm weather experiences, “Sunrise” succeeds as a narrative by managing to get its point across in broad strokes while putting an acute point on personal tendencies. The bouncy, breezy instrumental approach distracts from the inherent loneliness that drives the subtext of “Sunrise” and keeps the song in a place that’s much more immediate, allowing it to breathe and enhancing the carefree nature of its surface.

In two songs, Oceanator proves to be a project with a surprising amount of range, depth, understanding, and versatility. Equally successful on two very opposite side of the spectrum, “Nowhere Nothing” and “Sunrise” offer up a very clear indication that this project could very well bloom into a serious vehicle that attains an impressive level of name recognition and praise.

“Sunrise” isn’t just ancillary, though, it’s also an impressive song in its own right and its an essential addition to any summer soundtrack. Any way it’s spun, it’s a song that demands to be heard and refuses to live by any rules other than its own. Keep an eye on Oceanator, with a track record this strong at such an early stage, whatever’s waiting around the corner is worthy of a tremendous level of anxious anticipation. “Sunrise” will be more-than-welcome company as Oceanator constructs its next step.

Listen to “Sunrise” below and download it here.

2015: A Visual Retrospective, Vol. 4

Car Seat Headrest

Throughout the course of 2015 I’ve been fortunate enough to attend upwards of 100 shows, festivals big and small, and spend approximately half a year living in a city that hosted a mind-boggling amount of quality shows on a nightly basis. To that end, it’s probably unsurprising that I wound up taking over 10,000 photos this year alone. Over the course of the next few days, this site will be running seven volumes of the shots that stood out as personal favorites, whether that was due to their composition, sentimental attachment, or an intangible emotional or intellectual response. It’s been an honor to be able to take even the smallest part in the ongoing sagas of the artists in the photographs below and an additional thanks is due to the venues that allowed me to shoot (as well as the people who encouraged me to keep shooting).

Enjoy the gallery.

 

Watch This: Vol. 101

[EDITOR’S NOTE: Due to the nature of these upcoming posts, a truncated version of this introductory paragraph will be appearing over the next several installments of this series.] It’s been quite some time since the 100th edition of Watch This went up on this site. There have been a lot of factors going into the extended interim but, as usual, a focal point of that absence was to make sure the preparation work was kept up to date. A lot of extraordinary live videos have come out since then and to make this point abundantly clear, here’s a list of artists responsible for performances that didn’t quite make it into the featured five slots over the course of the past handful of weeks: Ride (x2), Josh Ritter (x2), Radkey, Marrow, Seratones, Hooton Tennis Club, Kurt Vile (x2), Indian Askin, Amason, Eden Mulholland, Bobby Bare Jr. (x2), Hanna Asbrook, Lucy & La Mer, Lee Corey Oswald (x2), Wastrels, The Cairo Gang, Wild Ones, Martin Courtney (x2), Small Black, Timeshares, Shopping (x2), The Jacques, Mac McCaughan & the Non-Believers, Raw Pony, Andrew Bird, Air Waves, Izzy True (x2), The Tallest Man On Earth, Elliot Moss, Hemming, Titus Andronicus, Kagoule, Django Django, Summer Cannibals, Lost Lander, Emilie & Ogden, Denai Moore, EL VY, Purple 7, John Grant, Caleb and Carolyn, Fraser A. GormanThe Besnard Lakes, Charly Bliss, Delta Spirit, Joanna Newsom, Oaks, Kevin Garrett, Brilliant Beast, Blitzen Trapper, The Saturday Tea, Other Lives, Rayland Baxter, Low, Speedy Ortiz, Chilly Gonzalez, Murder Shoes, Ava Luna, bAd bAd, Oberhofer (x2), Aye Nako, Jason Isbell, Superbee, Deerhunter, The Ghost Ease, Oscar, Rachel Goodrich, Small Feet, Lucero, Totally Mild, Ukryte Zalety Systemu, Soda Bomb, Jens Kuross, Caspian, Boytoy, Duncan Sheik, PISTA, Slim Twig, Shamir, Contrails, King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard, Courtney Barnett, The Chameleons Vox, Vundabar, Vagabon, Craig Finn, and Soda Shop. Based on the strength of those clips, it’s probably unsurprising that some of the year’s best live captures have also surfaced in that time. Full sessions, single song performances, DIY videos, and impressive turn-ins from radio stations abound. So, as always, sit back, adjust the setting, crank the volume, focus up, and Watch This.

1. Eskimeaux (Audiotree)

No record in 2015 has hit me as hard and as consistently as O.K.,  a deeply felt masterpiece from Eskimeaux. A record I’d liked upon first listen and warmed to progressively over time, it wasn’t until I saw those songs played live that everything seemed to click. Audiotree was fortunate enough to have the band in for a recent session and wound up with what may come to be regarded as the definitive live recording of this era of the band. The performances are uniformly strong and the songs remain spectacular. Simply put: this is unmissable.

2. Julien Baker – Sprained Ankle (BreakThruRadio) 

Likely the only 2015 record to rival O.K.‘s emotional impact is Julien Baker‘s arresting breakout effort Sprained Ankle. With a title track that easily ranks among the year’s finest songs, Baker’s latched onto something genuinely captivating. It’s myriad strengths were emphasized with a gorgeous music video and are once again brought to the fore with this painfully gorgeous live performance. It’s a triumph for one of music’s most promising emerging talents.

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3. Slothrust (Jam in the Van)

In a manner not too dissimilar from Eskimeaux, Slothrust was another band that sold me further on material I’d already liked via the strength of their live show, It’s not surprising, then, that their session for Jam in the Van winds up being one of that series’s strongest entries in months. Topping everything off is a typically strong take on “Crockpot”, which continues to stand as one of the strongest songs of recent memory.

4. Torres – Strange Hellos (Hooke Audio)

Has anyone appeared more times on Watch This throughout the course of 2015 than Torres? Mackenzie Scott’s project continues to turn in spellbinding performances at an alarming rate but, even with that being the case, this version of “Strange Hellos” manages to stand out. Shot as part of Hooke Audio’s live sessions series that challenges artist to re-interpret their material, “Strange Hellos” gets transformed into a jaw-dropping ambient number that may wield even more of a punch than the studio version. It’s a startling reminder of Sprinter‘s most powerful moments.

5. Girlpool (Pressure Drop)

If anyone’s appeared on the 2015 run of Watch This as many (or more) times than Torres, it’s site favorites Girlpool. Harmony Lebel-Tividad and Cleo Tucker put together one hell of a run this year, highlighted by their extraordinary full-length debut Before The World Was Big. In a nine-song session, the duo makes their way through the majority of that record and “Soup”, one of the new numbers they’ve been road-testing on their last few tours. As ever, the performances are assured and showcase the near telepathic connection the band’s developed over the past few years. They’re an act that seems poised to get stronger as they go, which is more than a little impressive considering they’re already one of the best bands currently making music- and this Pressure Drop session serves as proof.

CMJ: Day 6 (Pictorial Review)

Diet Cig III

With this post, the site’s focus on CMJ will recede into the background and give way to music’s present release cycle (and some sporadic film coverage). Having covered every angle of the festival up to this point, the only thing left is the unveiling of the photos from the collaborative Father/Daughter and Miscreant showcase that served as the festival’s Homecoming-themed epilogue. The videos from that day can be seen here, the review can be read here, and the photo gallery can be viewed here.