Heartbreaking Bravery

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Tag: West Texas

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. 

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.

Splitting at the Break: The Live Videos of 2016’s First Half

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2016 is just about at its midway mark and there hasn’t been any live coverage on this site since before the year turned over. There have been a number of extenuating circumstances preventing the live documentation that has been captured this year from being posted (travel, time, other commitments, etc.) but that changes today. Below are ten video packets from ten shows that I was fortunate enough to catch — and shoot — this year.

Normally, as a general rule of thumb, I avoid posting anything from shows I play but am making an exception for the Jungles package because the band’s woefully under-represented in America for their undeniable strength as a live act.  A few other packets may be missing an artist or two but what’s below is the vast majority of what I’ve seen over the past six months.

Whether it’s Meat Wave ripping through a crushing new song on a (freakishly sunny) winter day in Chicago, Beach Slang covering The Replacements two times over, or Torres making everyone’s hairs stand on end with an unforgettable one-song encore, these are worth a look and were a privilege to experience. A photo gallery will be coming within the next few days but for now, enjoy the footage.

American Wrestlers, Eternal Summers, Palehound, and Torres. 

Julien Baker and Charly Bliss. 

Muuy Biien, Meat Wave, The Spits, and Black Lips. 

Runners, Beech Creeps, and Heavy Times. 

Jungles. 

Mr. Martin & The Sensitive Guys, BAG-DAD, Haunter, Miserable Friend, and Heavycritters. 

Yoko and the Oh No’s and PWR BTTM. 

Micah Schnabel, Dyke Drama, Potty Mouth, and Beach Slang. 

Yowler, Eskimeaux, and Frankie Cosmos. 

Oops and Dilly Dally. 

March 2016: The Music Videos

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While January and February certainly had their fair share of great music videos, March saw an influx of truly great clips find their way out into the world. From Johanna Warren‘s extraordinary “Great Lake” (which I was fortunate enough to premiere over at Consequence of Sound) to a new, patently excellent, video from PUP, the format’s found its stride. Apart from the music videos, there was an outstanding Vaadat Charigim mini-documentary chronicling their first US tour.

Since there were so many clips — and since so many were so exceptional — they’ll be split into two categories below. At the very bottom of the page will be the honorable mentions category and above that will be a slew of videos that have positioned themselves to be early year-end contenders. Since “Great Lake” was already mentioned above, it won’t be below. Similarly, since Yours Are the Only Ears’ aching, gorgeous video for “Low” is the only non-YouTube entry, it will simply be listed in this paragraph (but rest assured, it’s more than worth your time). For the sake of convenience, 31 music videos are featured- one for each day in March.

Watch some of the finest clips of a young 2016 via the embed (with an accompanying tracklist tucked underneath) and explore the laundry list of exceptional titles in the honorable mentions category below the player. Enjoy.

1. PWR BTTM – West Texas
2. Dilly Dally – Snakehead
3. Palehound – Molly
4. Foul Tip – Drifting
5. Greys – Blown Out
6. Big Ups – National Parks
7. PUP – If This Tour Doesn’t Kill You, I Will
8. The Crookes – The World Is Waiting
9. Mutual Benefit – Not for Nothing
10. Alex G – Mud
11. Free Cake For Every Creature – Talking Quietly of Anything With You
12. Lucy Dacus – I Don’t Wanna Be Funny Anymore
13. El Perro Del Mar – In the Woods
14. Kevin Morby – Dorothy
15. Abi Reimold – Mask
16. Daughter – How
17. Eluvium – Life Through Bombardment Vol. 2
18. Bent Shapes – New Starts In Old Dominion
19. Nancy Pants – I’ve Got A Crush On You And Everybody Knows It 
20. Outer Spaces – I Saw You
21. Eleanor Friedberger – Never Is A Long Time
22. PJ Harvey – The Community of Hope
23. Sunflower Bean – Easier Said
24. James Edge and the Mindstep – On A Red Horse
25. Furnsss – Slow Dark Water
26. The Lemons – Ice Cream Shop
27. Quilt – Roller
28. Marissa Nadler – All the Colors of the Dark
29. PAWS – No Grace
30. Savages – Adore
31. Hayden Calnin – Cut Love

Honorable Mentions

Kino Kimino – Passion | Car Seat Headrest – Drunk Drivers/Killer Whales | NOTHING – Eaten by Worms | The Mynabirds – Velveteen | Miya Folick – Oceans | Laura Carbone – Swans | Wilder Adkins – Our Love Is A Garden | Head Wound City – Scraper | Fear of Men – Island | Thin Lips – Never AgainSioux Falls – Dom | La Sera – I Need An Angel | Tim Heidecker – In Glendale | DTCV – Capital Ennui | José González – With the Ink of a Ghost | B Boys – Get A Grip | Trevor Sensor – Pacing the Cage

Teen Suicide – The Big Joyous Celebration | Ladada – Old Wave | Dam Gila – The Undertow | Brodka – Horses | Ashley Shadow – Tonight | Hurry – Nothing to Say | Mumblr – Super! | Long Beard – Porch | We Are Scientists – Buckle | Steve Gunn – Conditions Wild | My Bubba – Charm | Amber Arcades – Right Now | Kwesi Foraes – Devils Child | Saul Williams – Down For Some Ignorance | NOTHING – Vertigo Flowers | The Amazons – Stay With Me | Holy Pinto – Hospital Room | Whitney – Golden Days | Luke Top – Chariot

King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard – Gamma Knife | Eskimeaux – Drunk | Andy Shauf – The Magician | Innerspace Orchestra – One Way Glass | Crows – Whisper | Deep Sea Diver – See These Eyes | The Hunt – Hawk | Jerkagram – Cloud Builder | Julianna Barwick – Nebula | The Dirty Nil – Wrestle Yü To Hüsker Dü | Sarah Neufeld – We’ve Got A Lot | Cat’s Eyes – Drag | Zones – Tides | The Drones – Taman Shud | Andy Stott – ButterfliesThe Lemons – Shark BaitGrey Waves – Remember Me | Wood Lake – Hollow | Black Mountain – Florian Saucer Attack | Fleabite – Missing Everyone | Haelos – Separate Lives | Nada Surf – Rushing | PAWS – No Grace

Watch This: Vol. 100

Over the past 100 weeks, this site’s dedicated itself to a variety of pursuits but the defining one seems to be the only recurring series that operates on a regular basis: Watch This. Ever since the first installment, this series has featured the very best live performance captures. Utilizing a wealth of resources that range from band’s personal accounts to radio stations that host high-quality session captures, like KEXP in Seattle or 3voor12 in the Netherlands.

Very rarely has that gaze turned inward, despite producing over 300 live videos in the past four months. With this series now at a landmark number and all of the CMJ reviews accounted for, it seemed appropriate to bypass the outside sources to focus exclusively on the crop of videos that was taken over the past week. Approximately 50 bands, 90 videos, and 100 songs, these clips will be presented in groupings according to which day they were filmed. A few slip out of focus, some start a little late, and some cut off just before their ending, and a few bands are missing due to unfortunate and/or unforeseen circumstance (a dead battery, lighting, and a maxed out sd card were the three most prominent issues) but as a whole, it’s a comprehensive look at the kinds of performances the festival has to offer. So, as always, sit back, relax, ignore any worries, adjust the volume, focus up, and Watch This.

1. CMJ: Day 2

To make things just a touch easier, each of these introductory segments will simply be a very brief recap including a link to the respective day’s official review and the list of artists that appear in the video. Having spent the first official day of CMJ preparing for the rest of the week, the timeline’s off by a day but had this been the first official day, the festival would have kicked off with a band. Splitting time between The Cake Shop and Santos Party House, I managed to get videos of performances from the following artists: Worriers, Hooton Tennis Club, Car Seat Headrest, Seratones, Nico Yaryan, Yung, Shopping, Protomartyr, Downtown Boys, Perfect Pussy, and Dilly Dally. The official review of the day’s events can be found here.

2. CMJ: Day 3

Things kept moving along quickly on the second day, which included a long stretch at an early show over at Rough Trade before taking a brief pause to organize that show’s footage and prepare for the late show at Aviv. Between the two venues, the lineup was characteristically stacked and led to videos of performances from Shopping, Ezra Furman, Georgia, John Grant, What Moon Things, Mumblr, Meat Wave, Painted Zeros, Turn To Crime, and Yvette. The official review of the day’s shows can be found here.

3. CMJ: Day 4 

The festival’s exhausting nature started to creeping in on the third consecutive day of showgoing, though the deliriousness will always be worth the effort in the case of celebrating things like Exploding In Sound (who themselves were celebrating their fourth anniversary), Big Ups (who were celebrating their fifth year as a band), and Double Double Whammy. Once again splitting time between two venues– Palisades and The Silent Barn– I managed to get footage of performances from Leapling, Swings, Mal Devisa (backed by Swings), Dirty Dishes, Kal Marks, Washer, Stove, Palm, Greys, The Spirit of the Beehive, Big Ups, Palehound, Downies, Eskimeaux, and LVL UP. The official review of those events can be read here.

4. CMJ: Day 5

Easily the most exhausting of the five day stretch, the fifth official day of the festival found me completely ignoring food in favor of sprinting a mile to catch one of my favorite acts four times over. While a fraction of the day was spent running to and from an official CMJ showcase and the AdHoc Carwash (which was detached from the festival completely but boasted one of the week’s strongest lineups), the effort proved to be worthwhile, as a large collection of bands delivered knockout sets and everything culminated in a triumphant moment for one of my closest friends. In all the back-and-forth, I was still able to manage to capture performances from the following artists: Protomartyr, Potty Mouth, Pity Sex, Dilly Dally, LVL UP, Porches., Perfect Pussy, Meat Wave, Mothers, and Cloud Castle Lake. The review of that day of relative mania can be read here.

5. CMJ: Day 6

Despite the festival’s posted end date being the October 17, this collaborative showcase a day later between Father/Daughter and Miscreant was still billed as a part of the festival and felt like an appropriate epilogue; a summation of what’d come before and a fitting end-cap for a very strong run. Confined to just one venue, the sleep deprivation caused me to miss the first trio of acts (and quietly curse myself out for doing so in the process) but still show up in time for the final 10. On the final day of reckoning, I captured videos of performances from the following artists: i tried to run away when i was 6, Downies, Romp, Comfy, Vagabon, fern mayo, Bethlehem Steel, Diet Cig, Sports, and PWR BTTM. The official review of the festival’s final event can be read here.

A Short Stretch (Video Review)

Idle Bloom VII

As was recently explained in the pictorial review of the just-initiated A Short Stretch series, there’s been an increased focus on live documentation. With that being the case, coverage for a few shows gets relegated to the sidelines as this site does upkeep on the current release cycle and features on a handful of other live shows. It’s far from a perfect system but it’d be inexcusable to simply let the photos and footage of shows that don’t get feature reviews waste away on the sidelines. In an effort to amend this, A Short Stretch was created. Here’s how the video portion will work: each band with footage will get a very brief write-up- or capsule review- of their show to accompany the live video(s). So, it’s time to take a look back at some of the great performances from shows that went uncovered.

Eskimeaux

Following a riveting performance at Palisades, Eskimeaux delivered an equally mesmerizing set at Shea Stadium, despite sweltering heat. The below video is the final piece of that set, a characteristically powerful rendition of O.K. highlight “I Admit I’m Scared”.

Mitski

With Eskimeaux having just set the stage with a beautiful set prior, Mitski went ahead and dove headfirst into an impassioned set that had everyone in Shea sweating, smiling, screaming, and dancing. Starting the night off with two of the strongest highlights on Bury Me At Makeout Creek– one of 2014’s best albums– proved to be a great move.

Model Train Wreck

Going into Model Train Wreck’s set at Shea Stadium on July 22, I had no prior knowledge of the band and wasn’t sure what to expect. It took them less than a song to ensure my full attention. Dark, bruising post-punk that’s unafraid of embracing a heavy pop sensibility is a look that more bands should consider attempting. This is definitely a band worth celebrating. 

Fern Mayo

After catching Fern Mayo’s ridiculously impressive set at Miscreant’s Northside showcase, catching the band’s live show again was an inevitability. For round 2, the band sounded even sharper than they had a month ago at Palisades, driven by some strong musicianship and the fiercely original songwriting of Katie Capri (who provided this site with an important piece for the inaugural A Year’s Worth of Memories series). This won’t be the last time they’re featured on this site.

PWR BTTM

It’s taken a little over a month for PWR BTTM to become one of the most-written about bands here at Heartbreaking Bravery. A large part of the reasoning behind the centralized coverage is the duo’s insane live show. Even taking the pointed visual theatrics out of the question, the band’s an absolute powerhouse. Ugly Cherries, the band’s forthcoming full-length, is one of the year’s stronger releases and the band continues to push themselves to their limits when they play, as if they’re performing some sort of self-exorcism for the benefit of their audience. That dynamic was put on full display once again at Shea, where they weathered some technical difficulties to deliver yet another memorable set.

Johanna Warren

A very select few shows are instantly unforgettable and more often than not the reasoning boils down to circumstance. On this occasion, a last-minute change of location was made in the interest of the people who were hoping to see Johanna Warren (another A Year’s Worth of Memories contributor) perform. The original house venue that was set to host the show discovered a bed bug infestation so the songwriter took to social media to find an emergency replacement. After some negotiating, the show was re-sculpted completely and turned into an all-acoustic affair that was set to take place on a roof in Bushwick, which coincidentally offered a stunning view of the city that stretched outwards for miles. Only a small handful of some of Warren’s friends showed up and enjoyed the perks of such an intimate affair (and the generosity of those who provided free beer, wine, and snacks for the guests). Poetry was read to set the tone and then- with the moon shining brightly- Warren took a seat in front of the Brooklyn (and Manhattan) skylines to play a career-spanning selection of songs (including some that had never been performed in public) for a hushed audience. Not even the overhead jet noise could dampen the spell cast by something so sublime.

Idle Bloom

Just a week after laying waste to two crowds as Mitski’s guitarist, Callan Dwan (pictured above) wound up playing another show in Brooklyn after meeting up with one of her other two bands in the interim. Idle Bloom was a name that I’d seen on bills before but I’d never really had the chance to delve into the band’s discography- something that’s fairly limited, as of this writing. After Zen Hed (a new band featuring members of some prominent bands) set the stage for Idle Bloom with a shambolic set of scrappy rock n’ roll, the quartet took the stage and proceeded to dismantle their audience with an affecting blend of shoegaze, post-punk, and dark pop that was topped off with some subtle, well-placed psych flourishes. Fierce, grounded, staggeringly powerful, and- at their best- breathtaking, Idle Bloom wound up delivering one of the finest (and most unexpected) sets I’ve seen all year. With their full-length record currently going through the necessary processes in the lead-up to its release, this is definitely a band to watch closely. Stay tuned to this site for more updates on the band (as well as the record) and click play to discover an emerging act that’s worth meeting with no shortage of excitement.

Watch This: Vol. 73

After the past few days were spent on catching this site up on the studio releases, music videos, and radio sessions that came to light over the past few weeks, it’s time to turn the attention towards the best live clips to have surfaced in that time. All of the bands in this week’s collection- the 73rd installment of the series- have already been featured on the site. As usual, there was an overabundance of material to work with and there were multiple entries deserving of attention. Waxahatchee, Froth, Jeff Rosenstock, Eternal Summers, Husky, Surfer Blood, and Steve Smyth all had outstanding performance clips. The five featured clips switch between single song performances and full sets, all of which come from great artists. So, as always, sit back, turn the volume up, tune out any worries, relax, and Watch This.

1. Cayetana – Madame B (World Cafe)

Once again, we’re kicking things off with a World Cafe clip from a band that challenges genre limitations. Cayetana’s Nervous Like Me was one of 2014’s stronger records and saw the band finally receive some of the recognition they’d been deserving for years. Part of that is likely due to relentless touring which has paid massive dividends for the trio in the live department. Here, they turn in a powerful performance of Nervous Like Me highlight “Madame B” and give a resounding demonstration of why they’re worth the praise they’ve received in the process.

2. PWR BTTM – West Texas (Play Too Much)

PWR BTTM’s “Hold Yer Tongue” was one of 2015’s first great songs, which was why it was included in our First Quarter Highlights mixtape. Turns out the band’s not just fascinating in the studio; their live act’s got all sorts of intrigue. More notably, though, it packs a lot of force. Cut away any of the frivolity or things that could be construed as gimmicks and there’s still a deeply impressive musicality at play. Paired with a fierce stage presence from both members (they frequently switch duties on guitar, vocals, and drums), their appeal expands to dangerous levels. All of that, and maybe even a little more, is evidenced in this Play Too Much clip of “West Texas”.

3. Kevin Morby (3voor12)

For a while now, Kevin Morby‘s been kicking away in the shadows, delivering one stunning record and performance after another. While a healthy few have latched onto Morby’s magic those numbers are still relatively slim, all things considered. None of it has affected Morby, though, and he’s only growing stronger as he goes. In his London Calling performance, lovingly shot by 3voor12, he tears into a trio of tracks with abandon. Starting off with a deeply felt version of the sprawling “Harlem River”, Morby and his band set the tone early for what quickly becomes an awe inspiring set. Hell, maybe it can be capped off at just inspiring.

4. Lady Lamb (KEXP)

After shortening her project’s moniker two words, Aly Spaltro- like Cayetana before her- started picking up the attention she’s so richly deserved for years. After, Spaltro’s first record as Lady Lamb is full of career highlights but it’s teeth are sharpened into fangs in the live setting. Irresistibly clever and intensely dynamic, Spaltro leads her band through the record’s sharp passages with a clear-eyed ferocity. All four  songs in this KEXP session, including the massive After single “Billions of Eyes“, are performed with a joyous passion, one that’s betrayed by the band’s quick, uncontainable smiles throughout the half an hour session. Add in an illuminating interview and the end result is a new KEXP classic.

5. Kevin Devine (Off The Avenue)

Kevin Devine’s earned his share of love on this site and, coincidentally, has made the most appearances here through the Watch This series. Devine’s always been a dynamo live and that holds true now more than ever, as evidenced by this 1-2 knockout punch for Consequence of Sound’s Off The Avenue series session. Ever since Devine released Bubblegum he’s been skewing more towards an incendiary hybrid of basement pop and basement punk. “She Can See Me” and “Cotton Crush” are both electrifying pieces of work aided by the band’s unerring conviction. All in all, it’s just another extension in what’s proving to be a formidable winning streak from one of today’s most quietly compelling songwriters. Don’t miss out on what happens when he turns the volume up.