Heartbreaking Bravery

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Tag: Worriers

The Best of the Rest: Honorable Mentions

More than two months have come and gone since the last post went live on this site. True to form, the collection of materials never ceased in that time. A disparity between collection and production grew more intimidating and adjustments were being made continuously as new angles for Heartbreaking Bravery were (and still are) being considered. This remains a one-person operation and it can be a daunting task to take on the level of commitment that was required to keep this place going in its established direction.

More than once, I contemplated just ending its existence but could never escape the thought that representing under-represented music remained a vital necessity, especially in a climate where our tastes are now curated and formed more by coldly computed algorithms than actual human interest. All of the year-end lists overlapped, certain streaming giants heightened the exclusivity of their arrangements with major distributors to the point representing emerging artists without major representation borders the impossible.

Those aspects of the industry need a corrective, something that my friends, contemporaries, and publications worthy of aspiration have all but made their mission (and to that end, I would like to extend another round of personal thanks to bandcamp, GoldFlakePaint, Post-Trashdimestore saints, The AlternativeThe Grey Estates, ROOKIE, She Shreds, Various Small Flames, Swell Tone, and a host of others, along with every alt-weekly in existence). As those correctives became noticeably more impassioned during the brief hiatus from publishing, I found myself getting progressively more inspired to continue on with Heartbreaking Bravery and found myself constantly combing through back catalogs of publications that clearly cared about unheralded voices.

Of course, there are still established voices of note making worthwhile art and they deserve representation (some even staked out their names through hard-fought battles instead of buying their way into recognition) and those artists will be mentioned. However, the scales here — just as was the case in the past — will never be exponentially weighted to favor that recognition. Something that will be profoundly clear below in the list I’ve compiled across these 2+ months of songs, music videos, and records worth experiencing. I don’t expect anyone to actually comb through all of these but please, click around, and hopefully those random clicks will lead to a discovery of a new favorite. Enjoy the list and keep an eye out for more posts in the days to follow.

SONGS

Courters, Mirah, Mush, The Cabin Fever, Unlikely Friends, The Number Ones, Hater, Moonwalks, Lost Boy ?, Gladshot, Kal Marks, The Royal They, Palm, Strand of Oaks, Rosie Carney, Littlefoot, Dirty Fences, Bee Bee Sea (x2), Spice Boys (x2), Leggy, Barren Womb, No Age (x2), Canshaker Pi, The Holy Dark, Oneida, Jane Church, The She’s (x2), Chastity (x2), Lemuria (x2, 3), The Fluids (x2, 3), CIVIC, Luxury Death, Lauren Ruth Ward, Vundabar, Kindling (x2, 3), Sunflower Bean, Curls, Guided By Voices, OCS, The Dazies (x2), Gleemer, HOLY (x2, 3), Big Heet (x2), QWAM, Common Holly (x2), Leah Calvert (x2), Superchunk, Curtis Harding (x2)

Bed Wettin’ Bad BoysNation of Language, A. Savage (x2), Hayley Hendrickx, Kevin Devine (ft. Half Waif), Screaming Females, Ryan Power, Passed Out, Pope, ShitKid (x2), Chemtrails (x2), Whelpwisher (x2), GROUNDS, Skye Wallace, Salad Boys, Cut Worms, Doe PaoroNilüfer Yanya, Protomartyr, Fuzzystar, Miss World (x2), Luggage, Cloud Nothings, St. Vincent, Johanna WarrenYØUTH (x2), M.A.G.S., Son Little, FRAME (x2), Adults, Makthaverskan, The Growlers, The Van T’s, ALCABEAN, Emerson Star, blis. (x2), Surf Rock Is Dead, Tennis Club, The Nickajack Men, Small Forward, Casper Skulls, NE-HI (ft. Jamila Woods), Gestures (x2), Mansions (x2)

Shopping, Monster Rally (x2), The Presolar Sands, Lola Pistola, Who Is She?, The Golden Boys, Lean Year, Jr. Thomas & The Volcanos, BIRDS, CO SONN, Lasse Matthiessen (ft. Sarah Hartman), ghostel, Holy Motors, Ty Segall (x2, 3), Sound of Ceres (x2), Bodies Be Rivers (x2), Jessica Boudreaux (x2), STRFKR, Lull, Invisible Minds, Keto, Goat Girl, Wax Mistress, Deathlist, Mr. Yolk, Poppy Ackroyd (x2), Anamon, Ephrata, The Tin Can Collective, The Violet Whispers, Mean Motor Scooter (x2), Plastic Flowers, Longface, lkffct, Twist, Worriers, Strange Ranger, Table Scraps, Hunter & Wolfe, The County Liners, Elan Noon, Karl Blau, Jesse Jo Stark, The Yada Yada Yadas

OxenFree, Petal (x2), ESSi, Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Tough Age, Gregg Kowalsky, The Saxophones, Century Thief, NADINE, Cina Polada, Line & Circle, Angelica Rockne (x2), Floral Print, Angel Olsen (x2), King Khan, Blush (x2), Fox Face, Runaway Brother, sleeping in, Pistoleros, Moderate Rebels (x2), Sam Michael Trowse, Duncan Kissinger, DMA’s, Peter Matthew Bauer (x2), PONY, Jennie Vee, Joey Sweeney, Mimicking Birds, Andrew Hung, They Might Be Giants (x2), Mavis Staples, Long Neck, Reptaliens, Plush, Krief, Half Waif, Twain, Jessie KivelMichael Jablonka, New PortalsAnne Müller, Birthing HipsAxel Flóvent, Mineral Girls, Major Love, Emily A. Sprague

And The Kids, Hidden Places, Warbly Jets, Mattiel, Joint Effort, Renata Zeiguer, Forced Random, Tobias Reif, Joey Sweeney, Gabrielle Shonk, Sarah Clanton, Dead Leaf Echo, Lankum, Whitney, The Echo Friendly, Meernaa, Gunn-Truscinski Duo, Iron Chic (x2), Gingerlys (x2, 3), Bad History Month, The Gloomies, Jordan Klassen, Bedouine, Daniel Tanghal, Graham Coxon, Cock & Swan, Marine, Aldous Harding, Circuit des Yeux, Glen Hansard, Michael Jablonka, Tempesst, Palo Duro, Small Leaks Sink Ships, FriendshipMÄRVEL, Mt. Doubt, Headroom, Lake Jons, Mister Heavenly, Pearla, Camp Cope, Bat Fangs, Eagle Johnson & Clean Machine, Crater, Memnon Sa

Mallrat, Ora Cogan (x2), Clara Stauch, Feather Beds, Grieving, Refrigerator, Lake Jons, The Clydes (x2), Jaye Bartell, Anna St. Louis, Arielle LaGuette, Erthling,, Execution/Rise, Wilderman, Dream Nails, Tree House, This Will Destroy You, Tracy Bonham (ft. Sadie Dupuis), First Aid Kit, Michael VM, Thom Gillies, Young Mister, Peacock Affect (x2), Kinjac (ft. Kathryn O’Shea), Baths, John K. Samson, Hey Elbow, Racquet, Kenneth Aaron Harris, Jerry Joseph, The Go! Team, Jesse Merchant, Ezra Feinberg, Water From Your Eyes, Airpark, Jerry David Decicca, Leon of Athens, Paddy Hanna, Ride, The Captain of Sorrow, Charlotte Gainsbourg, Purling Hiss

Tenderfoot, Everything By Electricity, I, Alexander, Prurient, S. CareyWalter Martin, Lowpines, Sulky Boy, Glass MuseumClub 8, Mildlife, Vern Matz, Mick Jenkins, Edan Laniado (ft. Orin Jacobson), Benjamin Jaffe, Tangerine, Stonefield, Haily Taylor, swim good now (ft. Half Waif & Georgian Bay), Tim Heidecker (x2), Anna Tivel, Maria Kelly, Balkan Bump (ft. Paul Bertin), Curtis Roush, Fruition, Telete, Loma, Pinkshinyultrablast, Gary War, The Rural Alberta Advantage, Coucheron, avalon, red steppes, LeyyaTrès OuiHit Like A Girl, EMA, Holly Miranda, ILUKA, Magic Wands, Garden City Movement, True Blue, Underwater BoysJason S. Matuskiewicz, giant gutter from outer space, Sundrops, SELLARS, Alice Boman, The Rentals, No Wine For Kittens, Tennis, Eric Slick, Cara Salimando, and Slothrust.

MUSIC VIDEOS 

Twist, CIVIC, Hovvdy (x2), Human People, The Van T’s, Sorry (x2), Petite League, Anna Burch, Shannon & The Clams, Gleemer, OxenFree, Club Night, Moaning, Common Holly, Prom Queen, Liza Anne, Shopping, Good Boy, Robot, The Tin Can Collective, Wavves & Culture Abuse, The Spook School, The Breeders, Oh Sees (x2), Quicksand, Phoebe Bridgers, Vagabon, Deerhoof, Open Mike Eagle (ft. Sammus), Kevin Krauter, Bully (x2), Sego (x2), Pure Violet (x2), Sweater, Marlon Williams (ft. Aldous Harding), The Go! Team, Airpark, Francobollo, Lionlimb, Table Scraps, Anamon, AllegrA, Angel Olsen, PINS, Reptaliens, Flat Worms, Lost Boy ?, L.A. Witch, Anna Tosh

Darkbird, The Prids (x2), Longface (x2, 3), The She’s, Demons, Mt. Doubt, Cherry, Palm, Olden Yolk, Miya Folick, Walrus, Yumi Zouma, Stella Donnelly, Johnny Marr and Maxine Priest, Hatchie, Everyone Is Dirty, The Cheap Thrills, Jesca Hoop, Becca Mancari (x2, 3), The Coathangers, Julie & The Wrong Guys, Madeline Kenney (x2), Miss World, Born Ruffians, Varvara, Soft Fangs, Paul Cherry, Aesop Rock, Typhoon, Hayley Hendrickx, Winter and Trabants, Worriers, Escobar, The Velveteins, The Go! Team, Beatriz, Beliefs (x2), Calexico, Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy, Tim Kuhl, Stillwave, TR/ST, Dream WifeBjörk, Malk, Weaves (x2), Courtney Barnett + Kurt Vile

Avery Tare, Wiki, SAVAK, Trupa Trupa (x2), Tune-Yards, Mauno (x2), Beechwood, Ron Gallo, David Ramirez, MAUDLIN, Hearken, Porches, Julien Baker, Charlotte Gainsbourg, The Magic Lantern, Canshaker Pi, Django Django, Shame (x2), Ocean Wisdom, Legendary Shack Shakers, Duncan Lloyd, Littlefoot, BOYO (x2), Sam Coffey & The Iron Lungs (x2), Wolf Parade, Good Boy, Three Conductor, Se’A (ft. Cellus Hamilton), Single Mothers, Pretty Lights, Charles Howl, NE-HI, Melkbelly, Ought, Steady Sun, Fake Palms, Candace (x2), Dude York, Big K.R.I.T., Blasteroid, Jessica Lea MayfieldMoral High Horses, Emily Haines & The Soft Skeleton, M.R. Bennett

Sprinters, The Horrors, Molly Burch, Tempesst, Montero, VOWWS, Mondo Cozmo, Deca, Strawberry Runners, Dutch Party, Gun Outfit, The Coathangers, Panteon, Nicole Atkins, Moses Sumney, Lower Pink, Sloan Peterson, Lina Tullgren, Monk Parker, Birthing Hips, Guantanamo Baywatch, Derde Verde, Wild Ones, Liars, BADBADNOTGOOD, Wes Montgomery, Alissia, Fufanu, Pale Grey, liv, Turnover, AmplineDan Deacon, The Morelings, The Exbats, The Weather Station, ELETTRODOMESTICO (x2), The Ah, Brenda, Death By Unga Bunga, Billy Woods, Lionlimb, King Krule, New Candys, Hoops, Outsider, Joy Again, Heaven, Romantic States, Quicksand, The Darts

Alex Lahey, Suno Deku, H.C. McEntireFirst Aid Kit, India Ramey, Grounds, Prom Queen, The Soft Moon, High Waisted, Flying Lotus, Alexandra Savior, Underwater Boys, Courtship Ritual, Dude York, St. Vincent, Hunter & Wolfe, King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard, Cloakroom, Ephrata, Kat Myers & The Buzzards, Holy Wars, Soft Swells, Downtown Boys, Prude Boys, Odonis Odonis, CHUCK, Broken Social Scene, Baronen & Satan, Dances, Glitches, Chelou, Teenage Feelings, The Staves, Cool American, Mikko Joensuu, Son Lux, Twinsmith, NEWMEN, Shipping Forecast, HALFNOISE, Sound of Ceres, WHIMM, Mono Club, Michael Nau, Diet Cig, Astronautalis, Tycho, Stillwave, The Pains of Being Pure at Heart, Ice Balloons, Sparks, Torres, Freedom Fry, and Howard Ivans.

FULL STREAMS

Panoptique Electrical, Gingerlys, Fox Face, Surrounder, The Drafts, First BaseMatty Ann, Slothrust, STRFKR, Floral Print, Miss World, dreambeaches, Slight, Foolish Atoms, Permahorn, Bloodsport: The Movie, The Band, Idle Empress, Littlefoot, Dead Hero, Courtney Farren, Bartees & The Strange Fruit, Shamir, Superchunk, Birthing Hips, Gestures, EiS: Live At Shea Stadium, deathlist, Casper Skulls, Jessica Boudreaux, CD-ROM, Colby Miller, Patsy, Robot Apocalypse, False Flag, Bad Daddies, SAVAK, Spiritual Cramp, Covey, WHIMM, Brainstory, Deva Mahal, Angelica Rockne, The Sight, High Waisted, Slanted, Pool Holograph, Mansions, Pura Mania

Mister Heavenly, Lady Parts, Suno Deku, Sob Stories, The Persian Leaps, After Hours Radio, No Vacation, Forest Swords, RAZZ, FURY, Big Heet, Bad Galaxy, King Khan, Rakta, Leor Miller and Francie Cool, Haunted Summer, The Hague, Thought Balloon, Blasteroid, The Telly, Gunn-Truscinski Duo, Longface, Cina Polada, Strawberry Runners, Shoeb Ahmad, Fairy Godmother, Beliefs, Becca Richardson, Roz and the Rice Cakes, Sad Baxter, Hidden Bay Records, Zapoppin’, Rainwater, The Mountain Goats, Sauna Accident, Prawn, Raleigh, Exquisite Ghost, M.R. Bennett, Paperhaus, Nervous Dater, Fool Heavy, Intergalactic Lovers, Omni, and Landlady.

Three Weeks Down: A Handful of Streams

It’s been a little over three weeks since the last regularly scheduled post appeared on this site. In that time, a whole host of excellent songs have been released. Below is a long compilation of some of the best of those offerings. There will be compilation lists in this vein for both music videos and full streams following this one. Following those posts, there’ll be posts featuring seven outstanding entries that have emerged in that time from each category. So, dive in, bookmark this page, and click around. A new favorite band’s always just around the corner for everyone, it’s just a matter of taking the time to look.  

See Through Dresses, BIRDS, Hater, Elle MaryTrü, Jason Loewenstein, Rips, Mt. Doubt, Livingmore (x2), Amy O, Japanese Breakfast, Mise en Scene (x2), Algiers, James Riotto, B Boys, The Drums (x2), The Last Dinosaur, Human Potential, The Rememberables, Deer Tick (x2), Rose Hotel, Nathan Oliver, A Giant Dog, Grim Streaker, Worriers, Slaughter Beach, Dog, Mardou, Psymon Spire, Suntrodden, Rainer Maria, Tomten (x2), Jack Cooper, The Fresh & Onlys, Lee Bains III + The Glory Fires, Quiet Hollers, Baby In Vain

Dentist, SOAR, Montrose Man, Sharon Van Etten, Absolutely Not, Randy’s Got A Playdough Face, Katie Von Schleicher, Hundredth, Night Click, CHIMNEY, Atlas Wynd, Exhausted Pipes, Tall Friend, Spodee Boy, Delafye, L.A. Witch, David Nance, Spit, New Swears, Sun Riah, Sleep Party People, Manzanita Falls, Pronto Mama, Cheap Fantasy, Susanne SundførRadulaFrøkedal, Jacques Labouchere, Single Mothers, Cody & Danz, Pill, Bien, Frightened Rabbit, Ratboys, Trouble, Low Hums, Michael Nau, First Light

Alex D GoldbergSQÜRL, Ride, Dead Heavens, The Domestics, Nathan Oliver, Milburn, House of Feelings, Modern Crowds, Demure for Sure, Broken Social Scene, Dove Lady, bukowski, Partner, The Big Drops, Kazyak, Diet Cig, Monk Parker, Black Thumb, Face of Man, Blimp Rock, DieAlps!, Fronds, Pearl Earl, Abbie Gale, Trevor Sensor, Great Woods, Best Ex, The Bandicoots, Chris Merick Hughes¡Moonbeams No Mas!, TobaccoJason Isbell and the 400 Unit, Moderate Rebels, Rostam, Fallow Land, Banditos

Hammydown, Institute, Eerie Gaits, Parker Longbough, GILA, Cameron Boucher, The Last Dinosaur, LAPêCHE, The Clientele, Maneater, Holy Wars, Guerilla TossHoneyrude, Superorganism, and Rudy Stone.

Watch This: Vol. 146

Continuing on with this week’s two-part installment of Watch This — and officially catching Heartbreaking Bravery back up to both the current release cycle and regular coverage — this volume of the series features a wide range of selections. From the remarkable efforts put forth that centered on performances from Good Personalities, Man Is Not A Bird, Family Mansion, Pinegrove, Naked Giants, Okkervil River (x2), Benjamin Francis LeftwichÖsp, Dramady, Castle Ruins, Henry Jamison, The Felice Brothers, and Bob Mould to the featured items, there’s a depth to the range of options that nicely illustrates what Watch This can offer on a weekly basis. Live edits, full sessions, abbreviated sessions, and an out-and-out concert all make appearances below, from veteran artists and tantalizing new names. So, as always, sit up, adjust the volume, forget any troubles, focus, and Watch This.

1. Mulligrub – Canadian Classic

All the way back in August 2014, Mulligrub found their way into a feature spot on this site thanks to the sheer strength of “Canadian Classic“. The trio’s made consistent appears on Heartbreaking Bravery following that event and “Canadian Classic” has more than proven to have staying power. The band recently unveiled a live edit clip for the song, which finds them playing the song in a balloon-filled room, cutting shots of the members goofing off for the camera to round the visual accompaniment out. It’s an endearing clip and a potent reminder of the telling endurance of “Canadian Classic”.

2. Lucy Dacus (Amoeba)

Touring behind this year’s excellent No Burden, Lucy Dacus continues to impress in the live setting. The latest example of the emerging songwriter’s charismatic prowess comes from Amoeba, who present a gripping three song performance with a loving tenderness that suits the material well. Dacus has had a very strong 2016, steadily increasing favor among critics and fans alike by bridging a fierce intellect with an easy relatability. Every song on display in this session is incredibly formidable enough to suggest Dacus will go on to have a storied career. For now, this is a perfect document of an exciting era for one of today’s brightest emerging songwriters.

3. Gurr – Moby Dick (Auf Klo)

The past few months have seen no shortage of great exuberant indie pop. One of the headlining acts of that haul has quickly become Gurr, a duo who excel at conjuring up sun-speckled bursts of warm tones, reassuring vocals, and carefree sensibilities. In this charming run through “Moby Dick” for Auf Klo, the young musicians find themselves sequestered away in a bathroom stall, trading smiles and playing “Moby Dick” to their hearts content. There’s a clear camaraderie between the pair and that familiarity and connection enhances every second of this clip, right down to the final, celebratory flush.

4. Worriers – Good Luck + Yes All Cops (Live! From the Rock Room)

Worriers have earned themselves a loyal following for several reasons. Whether their crowd’s at their show’s for the pointed social politics, the jangly tension, the ramshackle energy, all of those reasons, or another reason entirely doesn’t matter. What does matter is that the band continuously offers several strong angles into their world and commit to those angles with a fierce conviction. It’s a trait that translates to their live show, which is lovingly captured in this memorable two-song session for Live! From the Rock Room.

5. Okkervil River 

This year’s allowed the opportunity to expand on what Okkervil River meant to the foundation of Heartbreaking Bravery and their key role in forming some of the ideas that would eventually drive the site into existence. Away, the band’s most recent release, has followed a post-release formula all too familiar for the band: fawning critical embrace, relative commercial indifference. Here, the band offers up a recent concert that showcases not only their range and uncanny ability to re-work old songs into fascinating new presentation but their jaw-dropping discography as well. The end result: an honest portrait of one of this young century’s most important bands.

Watch This: Vol. 138

While Car Seat Headrest, Abi Reimold, Lisa Prank, The Dove & The Wolf, Emma Russack, Black Thumb, Mindie Lind, Kiran Leonard, Laura Gibson, Wovenhand, CHVRCHES, Pig Snout, Metronomy, Clique, Skeleton Hands, Gang Gang Dance, Graveyard Club, Men of Paradise, Haux, Arc Iris, David Bazan, Pure Bathing Culture, Typesetter, Lisa Hannigan, and naps all had incredibly strong live video outings — culled from a variety of inspiring sources — last week, it would have been an exercise in futility to run them all together in a focal capacity. Even five featured slots can occasionally feel a touch excessive but it seems that anything less than five doesn’t typically do the format’s offerings justice.

The five clips featured today come from bands that have, in some form or another, garnered positive notices from this site in the past. Seeing these acts continue to grow, expand, succeed, and even flourish has been heartening. Seeing them excel in the live department remains galvanizing. There’s an expansive range from the selected acts (and their accompanying videos), in terms of style. All of them are worthy of praise. So, as always, sit back, tune up, lean in, and Watch This.

1.  Okkervil River (WFUV)

With their forthcoming Away nearing its release date, Okkervil River‘s been making some early rounds to promote the record.  It’s impossible to overstate how important Okkervil River were to the development of this site’s personal ethos, so any time the band makes a return it’s more than welcome. Here, they perform two songs from Away but continue to demonstrate their immense skill at re-interpreting their own material, offering an incredible version of “For Real” — easily one of the best songs since the turn of the century — that hints at their worldview. It’s an immensely impressive session and a memorable portrait of a band that’s never really gotten their due.

2. Worriers – Plans (Live From the Rock Room)

Last year’s Imaginary Life was Worriers‘ finest moment to date and the band still seems to be riding a surge of adrenaline and confidence from that small triumph. The quartet recently visited Live From the Rock Room to deliver a galvanizing rendition of “Plans”, one of that record’s many standouts. The band continues to be defined by both their intelligence and extreme amount of heart, both of which are fully on display in this clip.

3. Prism Tats (KEXP)

Prism Tats have been having a breakout year, releasing their formidable self-titled debut full-length on ANTI- Records and producing a string of praise-worthy music videos. They’ve been touring with some bands that have serious weight behind their names and making a small sea of fresh converts at just about every stop. Here, the band turns in a powerful session for KEXP, revealing their increasingly sharp interplay and knack for subdued, hook-heavy basement pop. The whole clip looks and sounds beautiful, standing as a strong example of what can be accomplished with the right people on both ends of the camera.

4. Big Thief (KDHX)

Masterpiece was an immediate standout upon its release and remains one of 2016’s finest records. It’s catapulted Big Thief into a new level of fame and the band’s responded in kind, continuously sharpening their craft and all but perfecting their penchant for sweeping, open-road anthems tinged with nostalgic hues. The band recently visited the KDHX studios and played through two songs, including the unforgettable and melancholic “Paul“. The band pairs it with a deeply felt run-through of “Vegas”, offering both a very strong reminder of Masterpiece‘s astonishing strength and their breathtaking prowess as a live unit.

5. Fresh  Snow – January Skies (Exclaim!)

For some time now, Fresh Snow have excelled in crafting aggressive, ambient tracks that come fully equipped with a decidedly punk influence. Their live show has been a consistent standout and the band holds nothing back for this atmospheric Exclaim! clip of the band playing “January Skies”. There’s a feeling of rawness through the whole affair that seems to be at odds with the serene lighting, creating a strange, unsettling feeling that elevates this far beyond the standard performance clip. There’s some magic at play here and it continues to cast out the kind of spell that simply can’t be refused.

2015: A Year’s Worth of Memories (Phil McAndrew)

phil mcandrew
Photograph by Shauna Roloff

Last year, Phil McAndrew (pictured above, behind the kit) delivered a heartfelt piece to the first edition of this series. At the core of that piece was a celebration of his younger brother, Ray, and the music he was making with Perfect Pussy. A little while later, he’d become much more than a supportive voice in the audience and create the distinctive comic accompaniment for Astonishing Adventures!, Perfect Pussy’s ferocious split with Joanna Gruesome. It was another small moment of  brilliance in what’s turning into an illustrious career in animation. Even while registering credits for places like MAD Magazine, IFC, Cartoon Network, Random House, and Workman Publishing, McAndrew’s found time to join a band and catch a slew of shows (a few of which I was fortunate enough to be able to take in with him). Below, he covers some of the artists that meant the most to him in 2015 and explores his reintroduction to making music. Read it below and then indulge your own creative sensibilities in any way you see fit.

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2015 was kind of a strange year with lots of ups and downs and sideways and diagonals and such. But if we’re talking strictly music stuff, it was a really excellent year, filled almost entirely with ups.

Thinking back on 2015, I’m flooded with music related memories that felt meaningful in one way or another. Scribbling drawings of my brother Ray and our friend Garret as they started writing the next Perfect Pussy album in my childhood bedroom. Directing a music video for my old friend Jeff York’s new band, Major Player. Hanging out alone late at night and turning the volume way up on new tunes from my brothers Tyler and Ray, who make music together as Toxic Parents and separately in a variety of bands and solo projects like Wealth, Crusher, Perfect Pussy, and MKSEARCH. Getting back into drawing weird flyers for bands my friends play in.

Getting to watch Sleater-Kinney play from backstage at Irving Plaza. Seeing more great shows than I can even count, in huge venues, in small venues, on a pier in Manhattan, in an old car wash, in burrito restaurants and skateboard shops and art spaces, and in basements in my neighborhood…. Sheer Mag, All Dogs, Rainer Maria, Destruction Unit, Really Big Pinecone, Izzy True, Downtown Boys, Fleabite, Harmonica Lewinski, Deerhoof, Warehouse, Pretengineer, Arm Candy, Speedy Ortiz, Olivia Neutron-John, Big Ups, Pity Sex, Aye Nako, Nine of Swords, Waxahatchee, Mannequin Pussy, and dozens of others.

The most meaningful thing that happened for me this year was that I myself started playing music again after a very long hiatus. I hadn’t played drums since sometime in 2010, when jobs and grad school and relationships scattered the members of the bands I used to play in to different states. Five years and two cross-country moves later, my friend and old next-door neighbor Mim asked if I’d be interested in taking over on drums in her band, The Nudes. Right around the same time, my friend and current roommate Shauna, started playing bass in the band (they’d never had a bassist before). I’ve loved The Nudes since I first saw them play when I moved back to upstate New York from Southern California in 2013, so I was pretty thrilled to be asked to play with them.

We’ve played a lot of shows since I joined The Nudes over the summer. My favorite show was here in Syracuse in October with local favorites Malvinas, fellow upstate New Yorkers Green Dreams, and the great Worriers, whose most recent album I can’t stop listening to. The show was packed and everyone was in high spirits. I saw so many smiles at this show. I saw people of all sizes and genders bouncing around together as the bands played, getting wiggly and weird and laughing. Nobody was dancing like a violent psychopath. Everything about this show felt right. It was all of the good things that I missed about playing in bands.

2014 was all about watching my brothers and friends do cool things and conquer the world, only participating in the music scene in my own small, non-musical ways. That continued into 2015, but to get back into playing music myself in a band I love with people I love was nothing less than magical.


-Phil McAndrew

 

15 of ’15: The Best Songs of 2015

All Dogs III

Few lists have been as difficult to put together as this one, which saw upwards of 100 songs competing for a slot as one of the final 15. An extraordinary year for music by any margin, the continuously expanding models of release and outwardly stretching networks of musicians providing an astonishing amount of material that was more than worthwhile. As has been noted in the previous lists, the choices here are completely based on personal subjectivity and exclude the more major releases (like the monumental tracks from Jason Isbell, Courtney Barnett, and Death Grips) as they’ve received countless accolades already and the spotlight deserves to be spread to equally deserving artists that still don’t have access to those levels of exposure. None of these artists appeared on last year’s list but every single act who gets an inclusion this time around feels more than capable of making a return visit at some point in the near future. Somber closing tracks, heartfelt lead-off singles, and a few striking non-singles comprise the contents found below. So, without further ado, here’s 15 of ’15: The Best Songs of 2015.

15. Car Seat Headrest – Something Soon

Originally released in 2011, “Something Soon” was a deeply promising minimalist number from Car Seat Headrest mastermind Will Toledo. In the following years, Toledo expanded his outfit and managed to find a way to successfully reinvent both the Car Seat Headrest project and a few of the old songs in the process, including- of course- “Something Soon”. Oddly, upon its second release, the song felt even more of the moment than it did in its initial run, all while demonstrating a timeless panache that was elevated by things like the three-part vocal harmony that kicks off the explosive second chorus. Revamped and re-energized, “Something Soon” became an endlessly rewarding new career highlight for a band that, a dozen releases into its career, still feels like it’s only just getting started.

14. PWR BTTM – 1994

No one could have possibly predicted the absolutely monstrous run PWR BTTM would put together in 2015 back in January. Even the people that adored the band in their early stages would have been hard pressed to think that they’d have the kind of pull to be the sole focus of features from nationally renowned publications.  That said, the timing couldn’t have been any better and in pairing their split with Jawbreaker Reunion and their towering debut full-length Ugly Cherries, their run couldn’t have been any stronger. One of the band’s most exhilarating moments came in the form of Ugly Cherries highlight “1994” which embodied nearly everything that makes the band necessary: identity exploration, earnest approach, searing guitar work, memorable melodies, and more than a few unbelievably fierce riffs.

13. Ought – Beautiful Blue Sky

Just a year after barely missing this list, Ought came charging back with a new career highlight via the hypnotic “Beautiful Blue Sky“. Scaling back their excessive nervous energy into something that feels more refined, the band latched onto an approach that made them sound like they were in complete control. By substituting an abacus for their lab coats, they also tapped more fully into the inherent power of both their music and their identity. While there’s still a rambling feel to “Beautiful Blue Sky”, it’s one that’s played with casual confidence rather than manic neurosis. Easily one of Tim Darcy’s most fascinating lyric sets to date, the song explores heavy themes with tongue-in-cheek nonchalance, keeping the band’s irreverent spirit in tact. Another masterclass of interlocking grooves, “Beautiful Blue Sky” also has a shot at becoming a modern classic.

12. Mikal Cronin – Made My Mind Up

The first song to be reviewed on Heartbreaking Bravery in 2015 also wound up, as predicted, being one of the year’s finest. While not all of MCIII hit the extravagant heights of MCII, it wasn’t without its moments. The seeming flawlessness of “Made My Mind Up” shouldn’t come as such a surprise after MCII handily established Mikal Cronin as one of this generation’s finest pop songwriters yet it still lands with such breathtaking gracefulness that it’s hard not to be taken aback. A gorgeous piano figure finds a way to seamlessly intertwine itself with Cronin’s characteristically fuzzed-out brand of basement pop, elevating several sections of the song to levels that approach transcendence. When the stop/start dynamics of the chorus come into play, the song just starts moving effortlessly through a motion of grace notes, cementing Cronin’s position as a peerless talent.

11. Girlpool – Crowded Stranger

Girlpool can pull off a lot of varied looks but there’s something about the music they make that takes on a darker sheen that’s impossible to shake. “Plants and Worms” was the song that convinced me the band was great and “Crowded Stranger” only furthers that theory by tapping into a similar approach, one that feels infinitely more foreboding than the duo’s usual material. There’s a certain weightiness and bold uncertainty that accompanies their dips into murkier sensibilities and the effect, almost paradoxically, tends to feel more vibrant. Ostensibly a song about loss, “Crowded Stranger” is a bleak look at internal examination, circumstantial consequence, and bruised perception. One of the band’s most tortured songs to date, it winds up being an exemplary showcase of the band’s formidable grasp on their own pathos. All of those elements factored in to why “Crowded Stranger” were two of the most unforgettable minutes this year.

10. Dilly Dally – Burned by the Cold

Burned by the Cold“, the elegiac closing track to Dilly Dally‘s incendiary full-length debut, Sore, was the moment that cemented that release’s status as a great. After 10 tracks of searing basement punk, the floor suddenly fell out from underneath the band and allowed Katie Monks to take even more complete control of the wheel as everything plummeted down in a free fall. Stripping away a few of the band’s most distinctive elements- Liz Ball’s breathtaking lead guitar work, a bruising rhythm section- and zeroing in on Monks’ unforgettable voice as it echoes through a devastating piano track, Dilly Dally found a genuinely unexpected way to flourish. As the ambient noise that swirls around “Burned by the Cold” intensifies, Monks pushes forward with a sudden vulnerability that makes Sore‘s mesmerizing final moment even more astonishing. Unprecedented by anything in their still young discography, it’s relative bravery proves the band has an untapped depth and, likely, plenty more welcome surprises to come.

9. Eskimeaux – A Hug Too Long

Nearly every song on Eskimeaux‘s masterwork O.K. was considered at one point for a spot on this list as each had a roughly equal claim. “A Hug Too Long” got the nod in the end for being, arguably, the most definitive track on the album. From the quick riff that opens the song to the lilting vocal figure that shortly follows, “A Hug Too Long” is a masterclass in composition and contains nearly everything that makes Eskimeaux such a rewarding project. Flawless melodies, production, and layered harmonies inform the track’s most vibrant moments, which once again show Gabrielle Smith’s masterful command over crafting songs that are as hopeful as they are bittersweet. Charming, endearing, and deceptively light- the song’s actually fairly crushing upon close inspection- “A Hug Too Long” finds a way to make nearly every one of the song’s structural aspects remarkable, lending it an additional emotional weight in the process. A sublime piece of songwriting, it firmly positions Gabrielle Smith as one of our finest emerging songwriters.

8. Hop Along – Waitress

One of the most heartening things to watch progress over the course of 2015 was the ascension of Hop Along, who have deserved far-reaching national acclaim for years but didn’t quite have the resources. Saddle Creek changed that when they signed the band for the release of Painted Shut, a critical knockout and a jaw-dropping show of force. While that record was peppered with several standout moments, it was “Waitress” that stood out most, a signature example of guitarist/vocalist and principal songwriter Frances Quinlan’s mastery of craft. Possessing one of the most arresting voices in music, Quinlan wields it like a weapon and strikes mercilessly as the rest of Hop Along viciously attacks their best track this side of “Tibetan Pop Stars” A series of bruised and beautiful moments culminate in a fiery outro that exemplifies the band’s inherent strengths. Quinlan lets loose several impassioned howls as the propulsive rhythm section goes to work with surgical precision and the guitar work nears an unprecedented level of excellence. Packaged together, it’s the kind of knockout punch that prohibits recovery.

7. Worriers – They/Them/Theirs

2015 saw the discussion surrounding gender identity take massive strides forward and open lines of dialog on a national scale that’d previously been a lot more diminished. It’s not unreasonable to think that the multimedia forms at large played in part in facilitating that transition and one of the most thoughtful and impassioned pleas came from Worriers‘ latest career highlight, “They/Them/Theirs“. Even in stripping away the lyric set, “They/Them/Theirs” is one of the band’s most powerful compositions to date but it’s the pointed narrative of “They/Them/Theirs” that makes it unforgettable, especially in its empathetic opening couplet (“You’ve got a word for one/so there’s a word for all”) and urgent chorus (“You are fighting between a rock and why bother?/we are floating between two ends that don’t matter”). At every step, the narrative’s fueled by a deep-seated frustration over the lack of understanding and driven by sheer determination to set things straight as the music conjures up something that’s both immediately accessible and genuinely thoughtful, enhancing the song’s humanist worldview.

6. Julien Baker – Go On

Like Eskimeaux’s O.K., Julien Baker‘s devastating Sprained Ankle provided a small army of tracks that were in contention for a spot on this list, which ultimately came to a showdown between the record’s unbelievably gorgeous title track and its unforgettable closer. The latter option won out and, in a strange turn of events, aligned it with Dilly Dally’s “Burned by the Cold” as a somber, piano-driven closer that’s unlikely to be released as a single. Following a record of intensely personal disclosures, “Go On”- like the vast majority of Sprained Ankle– felt palpably wounded in way that was frighteningly relatable as it confronted the inevitability of mortality. It’s also the song where Baker sounds the most severely pained and then, suddenly, one of the most chilling moments of 2015 arrives. Nothing in recorded music over the past 12 months hit me harder than the accidental broadcast interference that bleeds through the end of “Go On”, where a static-damaged sermon gets piped into a record that was heavily informed by religion. It’s in those final, largely improvised moments where Sprained Ankle feels genuinely holy.

5. Mike Krol – Less Than Together

Turkey, Mike Krol‘s unbelievably explosive third record, was one of 2015’s most exciting releases for a long string of reasons that included (but were not limited to) redemption for Sleeping in the Aviary and the rapidly growing interest surrounding DIY punk. Confrontational, irreverent, and deliriously fun, Turkey came off like several grenades all detonating simultaneously. Intriguingly, the record’s fiercest track is also its longest, the near-rabid “Less Than Together”, which serves as the record’s penultimate moment. No song got me out of bed in 2015 more times than “Less Than Together”, as its excessively frantic blend of basement punk and basement pop essentially managed to create its own singular energy source. Every element that makes Turkey such an enthralling record is present on “Less Than Together”, as it careens ahead and refuses to be apologetic to anything unfortunate enough to stand in its path. Everything clicks for Krol and the band he’s surrounded himself with as they play off of each other to enormous effect and produce something extraordinary, never pausing to look back at the destruction in their wake.

4. Fred Thomas – Every Song Sung To A Dog

One of the most heartfelt songs of 2015 was also one of the most painfully tragic. While Fred Thomas managed to stack the brilliant All Are Saved to the rafters with emotional moments of clarity in the midst of its intentional chaos, “Every Song Sung To A Dog” managed to leave the sharpest sting. As Thomas makes his way through “Every Song Sung To A Dog“, it becomes clear that the dog in question is Kuma, who served as the main source of inspiration for the songwriter’s last collection (which, accordingly, was also named after- and dedicated to- Kuma). Here, though, Kuma’s passed on and Thomas grapples with the complex emotions that accompany the loss of a loved one and produces something devastating. As the narrative probes at the questions over what separates us from our pets and our own mortality, it also functions at a remarkably high level as a character study of Thomas himself as he tears open his wounds and explores them without hesitation. Memories litter close to all of the dusty corners of “Every Song Sung To A Dog”, transforming it away from hypothetical territory into something that comes across as bravely, uncomfortably real.

3. Mutual Benefit – Not for Nothing

The past 12 months have had their fair share of exceedingly lovely songs, from the tender Cat’s Eyes number that plays over The Duke of Burgundy‘s credit reel to Mothers‘ spellbinding “Too Small for Eyes” to everything Eluvium released but none of them felt as perfectly weightless as Mutual Benefit‘s masterful “Not for Nothing“. Following the breakout success of Love’s Crushing Diamond, Jordan Lee’s project somehow grew even more gently refined, landing on something remarkably beautiful in the process. Nearly every movement of “Not for Nothing”, a song that was recorded for Weathervane Music’s deeply important Shaking Through series, can be viewed as a grace note. From Lee’s soft vocal delivery to the string section to the intuitive drumming and effective, simplistic piano figure, “Not for Nothing” finds a way to cumulative whole that comes off as miraculous. Expanded outward from the first time Lee overheard the phrase “Not for Nothing” used in a phone conversation, the song becomes an antithetical statement to the excess apathy that many of us confront in bulk on a daily basis. In finding and appreciating the world’s splendor as personal doubts seep into the song’s narrative, Mutual Benefit keep their heads pointed towards the sky and walk away with the most beautiful song of 2015.

2. All Dogs – That Kind of Girl

Ever since All Dogs initially unveiled “That Kind of Girl” back on tour in 2014, it’s been a personal favorite. On a standalone basis, it transformed Kicking Every Day into one of the more anticipated DIY-driven records of 2015 and provided a forceful career push for a band that genuinely deserved to have their name circulating around national press outlets on a steady basis. Fortunately (and unsurprisingly), the rest of Kicking Every Day lived up to the promise of “That Kind of Girl” but nothing on the record threatened its position as the band’s finest work (although “Leading Me Back To You“, which was deemed ineligible for this list due to being both a song from some of the members’ previous bands and a partial cover, came close). As the band demonstrated on their first two releases, their strength lies in the way they treat their own vulnerability, bravely kicking out against its currents instead of letting the water wash them away. Far and away the band’s most vicious song in an increasingly impressive discography, “That Kind of Girl” saw guitarist/vocalist Maryn Jones lash out in a way that saw each successive blow leave a deeper impact as Jones’ bandmates unleash a cavalcade of their own frustrations through some of the most impassioned playing of 2015 before claiming a victory and walking away with their flag planted in the dirt.

1. Stove – Wet Food

No song throughout 2015 made me feel more than Stove‘s hopeful, world-weary, defeatist, yearning masterpiece “Wet Food“. I can vividly recall being completely frozen while filming the band providing me with my introductory listen at Palisades (the video of that can be seen below), with chills shooting down my spine multiple times over. All the concern over Ovlov‘s dissolution immediately dissipated and hope for Washer‘s future (who operate at Stove’s rhythm section) suddenly went into overdrive. It joined a rare, elite company of performances and songs that had a similar effect on me (the only other band to hit that mark in 2015 was Dilly Dally’s unexpectedly vicious cover of Drake’s “Know Yourself”, which prompted a near-out-of-body experience). From the moment the guitar sweeps upward into action, “Wet Food” is untouchable. Adorned with subtle, effective bell work, punctuated by a blown-out chorus, it manages to take on the feel of a song whose stakes feel meaningful; this is the rare all-or-nothing song that swings towards the stars and connects with the kind of emphasis that manages to keep it in line. “Wet Food” also joins a class of recent songs where the songwriter addresses themselves by name (see also: Eskimeaux’s “A Hug Too Long”, above), presenting their most internal moments on a very public forum, enhancing the song’s honesty as a result. Bruised, battered, disoriented, and- above all- resilient, “Wet Food” felt like a microcosm of the prevailing personal stories that emerged throughout 2015, securing its rightful position at the top of this list.

CMJ: Day 2 (Pictorial Review)

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With all of the reviews and the videos out of the way, all that’s left is the unveiling of the photographs that were taken during CMJ last week. Starting with this post and continuing on throughout the night, there’ll be galleries of each respective day that include hyperlinks to both the official review of the specified day and the collection of videos. Kicking things off is the day 2 gallery, which– as stated– can be augmented with the official review and the video collection. View the gallery here.

 

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.

CMJ: Day 2 Review

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To get this straight, right off the bat: CMJ’s second day of festivities was the first day I participated in the proceedings so the title from this point forward will be reflective of the official festival dates and, due to the timely nature of the visual edits that something of this magnitude necessitates, there will be additional supplementary material to this post (and all of the forthcoming review posts) in the near-future.

The very first band I saw at CMJ wasn’t actually a band that I saw play; The Midwestern Charm were in town from Milwaukee, WI and deserve another mention in this space because, despite my best efforts, there level of press/exposure is still lacking (though their recent deal with Texas Is Funny is helping make some amends). After a brief hangout stint in the Artist’s Lounge and at a pizza place, I hopped a train to The Cake Shop where I’d hoped to catch the final two acts. Unfortunately, site favorites Diet Cig had just wrapped when I arrived. Balancing that misfortune out was the fact that I still arrived in time to catch all of Worriers’ set, a band I’ve attempted (and subsequently failed) to see at least five times over the past few months.

Worriers packed in a lot of material from their recent effort for Don Giovanni, Imaginary Life, including their career highlight “They/Them/Theirs“, which was an easy set highlight as well. Immediately after their set, which packed enough power to be memorable, I made the walk over to Santos Party House for NME’s unbelievably stacked showcase. As soon as I managed to sneak past security and into the venue before doors were opened, I linked up with Perfect Pussy, who have meant an extraordinary amount to both myself and this site (they can be at least partially credited for its existence).

I’d initially planned on attempting to catch every act on the bill but the prospect of a trip out to Chinatown with Perfect Pussy and a photographer from The Village Voice (who was dutifully shooting the evening’s events for the publication) proved too tantalizing. After sipping tea and watching everyone devour some dim sum, everyone made the trek back to the venue. The rest of the evening was spent running up and down a flight of steps separating two rooms that were hosting alternating sets.

Hooton Tennis Club were first up on the upstairs stage and managed to make a strong impression by virtue of stage presence and some genuinely catchy songs that skew heavily towards powerpop but have enough punk bite to avoid being pigeonholed into the genre. Car Seat Headrest were the next featured band and, riding a massive swell of buzz on the back of their deal with Matador, had a lot of expectations to meet and surpass. They mostly succeeded but were hampered early on by some strange sound issues. Everything had been resolved by the end of their set, which harbored enough heat to justify the intimidating amount of hype.

Well before Car Seat Headrest had wrapped their set, Seratones had kicked off what seemed to be a powerhouse set on the upstairs stage. Infusing blues, soul, and a healthy portion of straight rock n’ roll, the band came off as a towering force. Comparisons to Alabama Shakes seem inevitable but most will likely seem a little misguided. In any case, as soon as this band’s name starts circulating on a larger scale, they’ll be coveted by festivals and a frighteningly large army of people. As soon as the band closed their set, it was back down to watch Nico Yaryan take a considerable amount of time to set up before riding a few overwhelmingly pleasant songs into the territory of an oddly disjointed sleepiness.

Yaryan’s indie-folk outlier set warranted a return visit to the upstairs stage, where Yung kept my attention rapt by pouring everything they had into a ferocious set of hardcore-leaning basement punk numbers that was at least somewhat reminiscent of NE-HI, albeit a version of NE-HI that was a lot more pissed off. It was the perfect antidote to the preceding proceedings and acted a desperately-needed shot of adrenaline. Shopping (UK) kept that energy going downstairs with a set of minimal post-punk that had a lot of people dancing (myself included). Every song in the band’s catalog is deceptively complex but the band delivers everything with ease (and occasionally throw in a wink or a smile for good measure).

Protomartyr has been picking up all kinds of acclaim for their latest release and a hint of furthered confidence could be evidenced in the band’s characteristically deadpan presence. All of the new songs immediately stood out as highlights and kept a growing audience incredibly engaged (of the three times I’ve seen Protomartyr, this crowd was the most appreciative by far). Before their set ended, it was back to the stairwell for the umpteenth trip down the same flight of stairs to (finally) catch Downtown Boys.

While I’m still lukewarm on their recorded material, the band’s a juggernaut live. Vocalist Victoria Ruiz comes off like a vigilante dictator, espousing rousing political speeches about broken systems between songs (speeches that often serve as extended introductions to the song) before the very talented band finally joins her explosion. The crowd was whipped into a frenzy only a few songs in, which was my cue to run upstairs to catch Perfect Pussy.

As mentioned above, this site has a long history with the band (it was built primarily as an outlet for me to have a place to interview the band’s vocalist, Meredith Graves, who quickly became the patron saint of this place by featuring it in any way she could whenever she was given the opportunity). Even with that history running deep, I’d never seen the band play without their synth player, Shaun Sutkus. Sutkus was away on business (he’s still very much a part of the band, so rest easy, concerned parties) but everyone else was present and ready to go.

The band delivered a typically blistering set that included a new song entitled “The Women” that was written as a sort of pro-Planned Parenthood war cry. It was one of the first glimpses at the band’s new material, which they’re justifiably excited about releasing. Seemingly nothing but left turns, stop/start dynamics, and a variety of other compelling tricks, “The Women” is one of the most fascinating things that Perfect Pussy have ever played to an audience. While it didn’t quite get the roaring reception of “Interference Fits“, there’s no doubt in my mind that it’s well on its way.

As soon as Perfect Pussy started winding down, I made a beeline for the basement to see a band I’ve waited nearly two years to see: site favorites Dilly Dally. Playing to a crowd at around one in the morning can be a difficult prospect, especially when you’re already dealing with the pressures that accompany having one of the most celebrated records of the moment. Throw in my own personal feelings about the band and the anxiety levels were high; could they live up? Dilly Dally responded by throwing down a monstrous set that exceeded the confines of the festival and quickly registered as one of the best sets of the year.

Every conceivable aspect of a live show was covered: the banter was entertaining, the band’s four members all fully committed to their stage presence, they conjured up a wall of sound that was enough to send shockwaves through my torso without ever having any sound issues, and at one point Katie Monks– the band’s vocalist/guitarist– got intense enough to break a string. Monks’ voice on its own is an incredibly powerful thing and she can wield it like a loaded weapon but when it’s supported the way it is by her bandmates, it becomes unforgettable.

By the end of Dilly Dally’s set, they’d played a handful of tracks from 2015 highlight Sore, “Candy Mountain“, and covered Drake with a surprising level of menace. It was a jaw-dropping set and provided the perfect note to end an opening day of showgoing. Unforgiving in its raw power and weirdly poetic nature, Dilly Dally’s performance set an unbelievably high bar and the rest of this week will be given an added element of intrigue: will anyone be able to top what they pulled off? It’ll be exciting to find out.

Watch This: Vol. 99

Last week was another particularly strong week for live clips, with two of KEXP’s most memorable sessions of 2015 acting as bookends for this installment of the series. Since the majority of the previous posts introductions had been overflowing with content, this entry seemed like a reasonable time to allow the five featured clips to be the sole focus of the series. For roughly 100 weeks, Watch This has focused on the best live clips to emerge in a given week, so it feels appropriate that this particular volume features one of the most entertaining sets the series has run to date, a new name to the site, and a band that’s a series regular. All of it’s worthy of investment and serves as a testament of how good of a time it is for live videos. So, as always, sit back, adjust the volume, relax, focus up, and Watch This.

1. Mike Krol (KEXP)

At the end of last month Mike Krol threw down one of the best sets I’ve seen all year at Baby’s All Right and brought a lot of the same manic energy to this KEXP session, which features the live renditions of more than half of his latest album. While KEXP’s camera setup required a reduction of the intensity of their lights show, the band still showed up in full costume with an excess of razor wire. Fast, dirty, chaotic, and injected with a childlike glee, this is a KEXP session that the station members will probably be talking about for a long time to come.

2. Mothers – No Crying In Baseball (Audiotree) 

Every so often, Audiotree unearths an incredibly promising emerging act that make the most out of their session time. This time around, that band’s Mothers, whose “No Crying In Baseball” is a remarkably accessible brand of post-punk that comes loaded with enough pop sensibility to have a tremendously wide-reaching appeal. While the song border the virtuosic at times, the quartet plays it with the exact right blend of commitment and detachment up until its explosive, passionate finale.

3. Worriers (BreakThruRadio)

Imaginary Life, Worriers’ latest effort, has managed to stand out in an astonishingly overcrowded 2015. The band recently stopped by BreakThruRadio’s studios for an interview and to perform a few songs from the album, providing an effective reminder of its strength. The live sections are spirited and the interview’s illuminating, cementing this clip’s essential viewing status.

4. Screaming Females – Triumph (Radio K)

It’s been stated before that Screaming Females have been appearing on Watch This for around as long as the series has existed. Nearly every piece of praise that can be directed towards their live performance has already been directed at their live performance but they still don’t seem content and are continuously topping themselves. Every time this band is on any kind of stage, it’s a signal to buckle up and brace for impact. Radio K invited the band in to their studios for a recent performance and the band obliged with a characteristically exceptional performance of “Triumph”.

5. Wimps (KEXP) 

Wimps have slowly been racking up interest for the past few years and that interest seems to be nearing a fever pitch. Releasing records at a startling rate tends to be an attention-getting tactic but, outside of Robert Pollard and a very small handful of others, it’s rare that kind of over-saturation has much artistic merit. Wimps belong to the small handful that are the exception to that rule. Every single one of their releases has been ridiculously enjoyable and they’ve only sharpened their craft as they’ve progressed. That maturation’s very evident in this entertaining KEXP session that already seems to be earning the band a few converts. This is the kind of party that people kick themselves for missing.