Heartbreaking Bravery

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Tag: Zac Little

Watch This: Resuscitations, Pt. II

After a large handful of extended posts, Watch This will be back to its weekly schedule following this collection. Watch This has been an essential part of Heartbreaking Bravery since its first era as its very foundations are rooted in a philosophy that complements this space’s mission statement. They’re frequently ignored despite their astonishing level of artistry and are rarely featured in any meaningful way on any other forum. Live documentation is deeply important as it creates an immediate visual aid for a multifaceted chapter of history (and specifically the intersections that occur between venues/locations and artists).

Once again, 25 bands are featured in the below packet. Among these videos are performances that run the gamut from explosive covers (Meat Wave tackling Elliott Smith, Tacocat taking on Katy Perry), head-turning solo performances (Declan McKenna), confident experimentation (Operators, Fresh Snow, Blasteroid), and adrenaline-fueled thrill rides (Audacity, PWR BTTM, Mike Krol), among several other performance modes. Everything on display in this collection is worth studying, whether it’s the fillmmaking aspect or the performances themselves. There’s a lot to ingest so, as always, sit up straight, adjust the volume, get settled, and Watch This.

1. Audacity – Dirty Boy (BreakThruRadio)
2. PWR BTTM – Ugly Cherries (Radio K)
3. Meat Wave – Speed Trials (SideOneDummy)
4. Stephen Steinbrink – Absent Mind (Little Elephant)
5. Moving Panoramas – Radar (BreakThruRadio)
6. David Bazan – Both Hands (KEXP)
7. The Zolas – Swooner (Light Organ)
8. Chris Bathgate – Nicosia (Radio K)
9. Hype – Last Man On Earth (DZ Records)
10. Operators – Space Needle (WFUV)
11. DIIE – Miracles & Magic Are Real (Radio K)
12. The So So Glos – Dancing Industry (Little Elephant)
13. Declan McKenna – Brazil (Conan)
14. Fresh Snow – Your Thirst For Magic Has Been Quenched By Death! (Exclaim!)
15. Mike Krol – This Is The News (KINK)
16. Tacocat – Roar (The AV Club)
17. The Kills – Tape Song (KCRW)
18. Guerilla Toss – Eraser Stargazer Forever (BreakThruRadio)
19. Blasteroid – Triple D (VHS Sessions)
20. GoGoPenguin – Branches Break (WFUV)
21. Saintseneca – How Many Blankets Are In The World (WXPN)
22. Murder By Death – Foxglove (Paste)
23. Nada Surf – Friend Hospital (World Cafe)
24. Furnsss – Roll With It (VHS Sessions)
25. Lee Fields – Don’t Leave Me This Way (KDHX)

2015: A Year’s Worth of Memories (Julia Leiby)

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I first came across Julia Leiby’s writing thanks to their contributions over at Post-Trash, where they continuously demonstrated a keen grasp of music and excellent taste. Over the past few months, we’ve had some light interactions across various social media platforms. Usually, it’s something simple- but close to every single time, it’s connected back to music. Another photographer/music writer who also writes music, Leiby constantly endorses the artists she loves and frequently acts as a voice of support. I’m excited to be welcoming them to the A Year’s Worth of Memories series and am excited to be hosting their piece, a lovely look at four songs that defined each season of their 2015. Find out what those songs are below and never hesitate to reach out to the people who are positively impacting your life.

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Winter

Tiny Planets – Sports – from the album Sunchokes

I started booking house shows in the spring of 2014, with one show in April and then more once my junior year of college was underway. Together, my friend Mitch and I would put together a bill and run things, asking for donations, setting up, and hosting the bands. Winter of 2015 was a particularly brutal winter with temperatures in the low teens and seemingly never-ending blankets of snow. I was dealing with the end of something I wouldn’t really call a ‘relationship’ but it was important to me nonetheless.

I was sleeping in until almost noon every day, and I skipped a 9:20 AM class I had so often that the times I did go, we were covering material that was completely foreign to me. But, the shows were really what I looked forward to, and they were so stellar that winter. People came out in droves to see bands like The Obsessives, Sports, Eskimeaux, and Adult Mom play in houses. The shows were packed and went off with a hitch every time, save for when a moshing crowd broke the wobbly floor of the Pink Mistress show house. One of my favorite shows of that winter was when Sports played at Wolf Haus. Carmen, Jack, Benji, and James play emotional, catchy power pop, and they went to Kenyon College which is about two hours outside of Athens.

The song “Tiny Planets” is my favorite on their record that was out at the time, an ode to the joy, nervousness and confusion that comes with new love, as Carmen belts out triumphantly, “you’re the reason why/ I can never hide / lying side by side / this is worth a try.” That winter was a golden age for shows and being excited about live music in Athens.

Spring

Yowler – Yowler – from the album The Offer

When I was 18 years old, I went to my first house show ever at a place called The Dollhouse. There was no AC in the house, it had pink walls, and I was feeling so undone and out of place around punks much older than me. I can’t remember who else played the show, but Saintseneca headlined. I remember there was no actual drummer, just a man stomping on a wooden box, as Zac Little feverishly played guitar and Maryn Jones provided gorgeous harmonies. After this show, I was so excited to go to college in Ohio and experience the music scene there. Saintseneca was the only band I knew who were from there, and their existence validated my choice to leave my home state of Maryland.

I have been following Maryn Jones’ music virtually since then.

Three days before my birthday in February 2015 Maryn released The Offer, a beautiful, intimate record made of two elements, just Maryn’s sweet voice and quiet guitar. I would walk around in the late spring, when it was getting warmer, listening to this record and feeling so at peace. As the weather thawed, so did my mind. This record helped me pull out of a deep sadness I had felt for months and months, and probably was part of the reason why I decided to do a girls rock camp and started to play guitar in March of 2015.

Summer

Yolanda – Doubles (formerly O-FACE) – from the EP Mint

Summer of 2015 was, in a word, wild. I expected a quiet summer at home, working retail, going to shows, hanging out with my friend Sarah from high school, sleeping in as late as I could and letting the time pass like the breeze. Instead, I started a band, played two shows with bands that I deeply admired, went to New York for almost a week, and recorded a 5-track EP in a studio, all while meeting a lot of new people who left lasting impressions on me.

At the time, I was listening to the Mint EP by the Philly-by-way-of-Bard band O-FACE, who are now called Doubles. They have a song called “Yolanda” which is an upbeat song addressed to a partner or friend about not doubting yourself, and the chorus is exuberant; singer Preston practically yells “You’re the one for me”. I had so many crushes that summer, and I would listen to this song and melt into my feelings, all while feeling motivated and confident to make music for the first time ever.

Fall/Winter

Plant Boy – Brittle Brian – from the album Verisune

Although Verisune by Brittle Brian came out in July of 2015, I didn’t really delve deep into it until the fall when I was back at school in Athens. Continuing to run shows, I was invested in difficult classes and feeling really disheartened about my major/chosen profession of photoj. I felt a pit of dread in my stomach when I went to my once most anticipated class, my capstone class for photojournalism. I was also talking to someone who lived very far away and hanging onto the last strands and memories of what I had with them.

My friend Adam, who has his own project called Lemon Meringue Die, told me about Brittle Brian and I just keep coming back to this record. Victoria Rose writes sparse, experimental pop songs about Daniel Johnston, touching, and love in a creaky, high voice and though her subjects are heavy, the record is soothing and perfect for winding down after a tough or disappointing day. I would basically listen to this record constantly from September to December and I still throw it on these days too. I remember playing a pretty terrifying solo show (my first ever solo show) and then crying during the next band’s set because my friends didn’t come to see me play.

They went to a party instead.

I hit up my friend Evan to try to feel better and he said ‘just put on Brittle Brian and chill out’ and once I got home I did just that. Songs like “Plant Boy” are reminiscent of Alex G in their ability to take you to a place that is reflective, honest, and cathartic. We listened to this record when my band went on our first tour because my drummer loves her stuff too. Looking back on 2015, I can’t wait to see what records will define my 2016. I’m really excited about the music coming out this year and what the future will hold for me.

-Julia Leiby

2015: The Best of Watch This

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When Watch This was conceived it was done with the intent to not only critically examine the balance of filmmaking and live performance but celebrate the art of the live video, a format which seems to have fallen to the wayside despite being more fruitful than it’s been since it was introduced. There’s real power behind the clips that manage to seamlessly merge the best qualities of everything that goes into the best live performance videos and they can yield genuinely unforgettable moments (when everything kicks back in on “Waitress”, the held falsetto in “A Proper Polish Welcome”, and a whole host of other chill-inducing moments are scattered throughout this compilation). Those moments are the beating heart behind this series construction and they’re what sustains the project as it presses forward.

Well over 300 live clips were covered on this site in 2015 and this is a collection of 25 that genuinely stood out for one reason or another, whether it was the sheer joy in a performance (Diet Cig), the performer’s ability to freeze blood (Julien Baker, Dilly Dally, SOAK), the trio of artists who appeared on Watch This the most throughout this year (Courtney Barnett, Girlpool, and Torres), an electrifying presentation and performance (July Talk), or a clip that’s a fully functional masterclass in every category that elevates a clip from astonishing to transcendental (Glen Hansard). All of those and more have been plugged into this packet, which culminates in a tour de force reminder of the overwhelming power of what can be achieved on a live platform from the resurgent Sleater-Kinney as one final exclamation point for a truly extraordinary year. So, as always, sit up, focus, adjust the volume, and Watch This.

Watch the 2015 edition of the best-of compilation for Heartbreaking Bravery’s definitive recurring series, Watch This, below. The track list is available under the embed.

1. Hop Along – Waitress (World Cafe)
2. July Talk – Paper Girl (Audiotree)
3. Ronny – Why Do You Have Kids (Gems On VHS)
4. Julien Baker – Sprained Ankle (BreakThruRadio)
5. Mikal Cronin – Say (WFUV)
6. Molly Parden – Weather (GemsOnVHS)
7. Eskimeaux – Folly (This Has Got To Stop)
8. Waxahatchee – Under A Rock (Pitchfork)
9. METZ – Spit You Out (3voor12)
10. Ought – Beautiful Blue Sky (KEXP)
11. Saintseneca – How Many Blankets Are In the World? (ANTI-)
12. Diet Cig – Harvard (In the Attic)
13. SOAK – B a Nobody Blud (La Blogotheque)
14. Dilly Dally – Burned by the Cold (Strombo Sessions)
15. Alex G + Girlpool – Brite Boy (SPIN)
16. Footings (Jenn Harrington)
17. Mike Krol – Suburban Wasteland + Neighborhood Watch (KEXP)
18. Beach Slang – Get Lost (Cozy Couch Sessions)
19. Public Service Broadcasting – Go! (WNYC)
20. Christopher Paul Stelling – Dear Beast (ANTI-)
21. Courtney Barnett – Depreston (La Blogotheque)
22. Algiers – Blood (WFUV)
23. Torres – A Proper Polish Welcome (NPR)
24. Glen Hansard – McCormack’s Wall (ANTI-)
25. Sleater-Kinney (NPR)

 

2015: A Visual Retrospective, Vol. 7

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

The preceding galleries can be accessed via these links:

2015: A Visual Retrospective, Vol. 1
2015: A Visual Retrospective, Vol. 2
2015: A Visual Retrospective, Vol. 3
2015: A Visual Retrospective, Vol. 4
2015: A Visual Retrospective, Vol. 5
2015: A Visual Retrospective, Vol. 6

Enjoy the gallery.

 

2015: A Visual Retrospective, Vol. 6

Potty Mouth

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

Enjoy the gallery.

 

2015: A Visual Retrospective, Vol. 3

Idle Bloom

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

Enjoy the gallery.

 

2015: A Visual Retrospective, Vol. 1

Radioactivity

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

Enjoy the gallery.

Saintseneca – Sleeper Hold (Stream, Live Video)

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Now that we’re nearing the final quarter of the year, the already-stacked release schedules are starting to get even more dense as a lot of bands and labels make power play bids for album of the year consideration. One of the titles slated for that wave of new material is Saintseneca‘s just-announced Such Things, an announcement which came with an accompanying single: “Sleeper Hold”. Before getting around to that song, though, it’s worth taking a step back to cover a handful of other notable releases that are well worth your attention.

For single streams, there was Dogs On Acid‘s shape-shifting “Ideal Decanter“, Atlantic Thrills’ surf-indebted (and retro-leaning) basement pop highlight “Bed Bugs“, Connie Constance’s glitchy, slow-burning “Euphoric“, Orchid Mantis’ tantalizing “It Was Gone“, and Century Thief’s slowly unfurling “Pillar“. Additionally, there were outstanding new songs from the likes of Swings, Funeral Advantage, Promised Land Sound, King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard, and Sea Lion. Full streams, while not even close to matching the numbers of the single streams, unearthed one of the year’s best albums in Pleasure LeftistsThe Woods of Heaven and another beautiful full-length in Totally Mild’s Down Time. Sleepy’s extraordinary self-titled EP (another potential year-end contender) rounded the category out with style. Two music videos- Ali Barter’s “Hypercolour” and Valley Maker’s “Only Friend“- made sure that the visual format was very well represented.

Back to the feature: Saintseneca’s latest, “Sleeper Hold”, an even punchier take on the band’s Appalachian folk than anything found on their last record, the exemplary Dark Arc. Having just seen the band take apart Baby’s All Right a little over a week ago, the new material that was played live has been resonating for a short while. “Sleeper Hold”, the lead-off single to the band’s forthcoming Such Things, capitalizes on that resonance by virtue of strength and polish. Immediately employing the under-utilized and extremely effective dynamic of a back-and-forth vocal lead between the band’s two primary voices (those of Zac Little and Maryn Jones), “Sleeper Hold” strikes a refreshingly bold look for the band.

All of the hallmarks that made their previous work so compelling are still firmly in tact, from the smart compositions to Little’s twisted, hyper-literary wordplay. Some of the surprising amount of weight to be found on “Sleeper Hold” is due to the conceptual design of Such Things, which largely grapples with the purposefulness of existence. “Sleeper Hold”, in particular, is about the designs of perception and consciousness. For such heavy material, the music itself is impossibly light, buoyant, and deceptively carefree. Every element of “Sleeper Hold” works incredibly well and reaffirms Saintseneca’s status as one of today’s finest acts. Propulsive, smart, and irresistible, “Sleeper Hold” is the perfectly crafted warning shot of what promises to be one of this year’s finest albums.    

Listen to “Sleeper Hold” below and pre-order Such Things from ANTI- ahead of its release date here. Underneath the player, watch a recent video of the band performing the song at Baby’s All Right.

Saintseneca – Live at Baby’s All Right – 8/8/15 (Pictorial Review, Live Video)

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Before I left Wisconsin for Brooklyn, I made sure to see one last show: Saintseneca and Murder By Death. The latter had been the band headlining the first major show I’d seen on my own accord and the former had been one of my favorite bands for years and I had yet to see them live. While Murder By Death were undoubtedly impressive, Saintseneca’s live show blew me away. As soon as I heard the band would be headlining a show at Baby’s All Right, I made sure my schedule for the evening was cleared. Once again, the band delivered an extraordinary performance- but not before two opening sets.

Jess Williamson was the first to take the stage and immediately grabbed the audience’s attention with a haunting solo song before inviting her band to join her onstage. While Williamson’s first song had been fairly atmospheric, the addition of the band quickly catapulted that dynamic of her music into territory that felt downright cinematic. Playing nothing but new songs, Williamson and her band made their way through a haunting set of bruised folk songs with a Southern Gothic influence. Impressive, intricate, understated, and incredibly dynamic, it was a spellbinding performance from an artist deserving of a great deal of attention.

Following Williamson’s set was the decidedly more straightforward swing-for-the-rafters anthemic pop of Multimagic. While the band did tend to feel fairly by-the-numbers, they offered enough moments of subversion to both keep things interesting and guarantee an explosion in popularity should they be fortunate enough to find their music placed in the right television (or film) environment. Multimagic played with a great deal of finesse and had some similar structural approaches to their songwriting as the night’s headliners so their spot felt like a perfect lede for Saintseneca.

Currently preparing the release of the follow-up to 2014’s rightfully adored Dark Arc, the band wasted no time in diving into their incredible new material. From the live previews alone, I’d be shocked if their forthcoming record didn’t wind up being one of my favorites of 2015, as the bulk of them managed to expand and refine some of the elements that rendered Dark Arc one of my favorites of last year. Baby’s All Right was the band’s last show of their current tour, so they came to the stage with a considerable amount of practice and it reflected in both the new songs and the old material, which continued to sound remarkable. “Fed Up With Hunger” is one of the only songs to have managed to strike me as spine-tingling on record and that feeling multiplied tenfold.

“Fed Up With Hunger” wasn’t the only song to elicit chills, either, they came in waves as the band progressed through a set that saw them navigating hairpin turns and striking dynamic shifts with ease. Whether they opted for the quiet, acoustic route or the raucous, fuzzed-out intensity that seems to be a welcome hallmark of their newest material, the band fell into a focus that practically disallowed any false moves. Crowd favorites like the excellent “Happy Alone” radiated with life and that vibrancy was reflected by an appreciative audience (one that, unfortunately, did contain a small faction of people that felt inclined to talk over some of the set’s more gentle moments). Saintseneca ended their main set with the same song they’d ended their opening set in Milwaukee with just a few months before- a blistering, feedback-happy number that’s far and away the most intense song in the band’s discography- before being cheered back for an encore.

After a few false starts and a surprising amount of conversation, the band decided to go out with “James”, the incredible closing song from their first album, Last. It felt like an appropriately communal moment to cap off a set that included some incredible banter, sparked more than a few spirited singalongs, and a generally positive atmosphere. Also, if there’s a better way to signify that you’re entering a new era than playing the last song on the first record (one titled Last, no less) as the last song of the last tour before your next record comes out, i’m not sure what it is- but “James” did feel like the perfect selection regardless of trivial extenuating circumstance. While the evening may have had its ups and downs, “James” made sure that it went out in perfect harmony.

Click over to the full photo gallery of the show here and watch some of the evening’s performances in the video below.

Watch This: Vol. 54

With another week of predictably great live outings behind us, it’s time to look back on some of the best videos to surface in that stretch. It’s also another week were limiting the selections to five can be frustrating, as it means excluding things like S’ gorgeous KEXP session and an equally stunning set from She Keeps Bees for bandwidth. That said, the fact that those aren’t in the featured five is a particularly strong indicator for this week’s overwhelming strength. Full sets made a sizable impression and secured three spots in this series’ 54 installment while Watch This returns to Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds’ Austin City Limits session and pays a visit to a soul legend. There’s a lot of memorable material on display, all of it worthy of a serious amount of admiration. So, as always, sit back, mute the world, let all of the distractions dissolve, adjust the volume to appropriately blistering levels, relax, and Watch This.

1. PUJOL (KEXP)

PUJOL’s The United States of Being was the kind of quiet career-making record that had the potential to push the band onto the radar’s of some influential people. However, any time that happens it also heavily increases the levels of expectation for a follow-up. A contract with Saddle Creek and one excellent record later, PUJOL’s doing their best to put those doubts to rest. One thing that’s never been in doubt? The band’s ability to deliver a killer live performance, which is exactly what they turn in via this blistering (and absurdly fun) four-song set for the unfailingly great KEXP.

2. Lee Fields – Don’t Leave Me This Way (La Blogotheque)

There are few things more reassuring to see than a person being celebrated for doing something they both excel at and clearly love. In their most recent video for their acclaimed Take Away series, La Blogotheque turned their lenses on soul legend Lee Cooks delivering a powerful performance of “Don’t Leave Me This Way” to a group of appreciative bystanders, accompanied only by a guitarist. It’s a staggeringly beautiful reminder of Fields’ natural prowess as a performer and an incredible moment that was lovingly captured for everyone to visit (and revisit) for years to come.

3. Ex Hex (WNYC)

Rips was one of 2014’s best reminders of classic rock’s curious longevity. The Mary Timony-led Ex Hex specializes in creating the kind of timeless earworms that aren’t tied down to any particular scene or movement, just the band’s commitment to the project.  Here, they confidently make their way through three songs from one the year’s most carefree records for WNYC, seeming as poised as ever. Timony’s a naturally gifted leader and a charismatic vocalist, all of which ensures that no Ex Hex performance is worth overlooking.

4. Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds (Austin City Limits)

“Jubilee Street” was one of the most mesmerizing moments on Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds’ latest career highlight, Push the Sky Away. Live, it takes on new life and breathes a new kind of fire with a surging outro that progressively increases the tempo. Easily one of the band’s most impressively massive live songs, the performance they delivered for Austin City Limits was predictably inspired, with Cave flying from the mic to the piano, becoming as frantic as the song itself over repeated cries of “I’m transforming; I’m flying; I’m vibrating; look at me now!”- directions that become impossible to ignore as one of the greatest bandleaders in the history of music sheds all traces of inhibition as his band urges him forward and lets him sink his teeth into yet another transcendental performance.

5. Saintseneca (KEXP)

Watch This38th entry included one of the most beautiful videos this series has ever had the pleasure of featuring; Saintseneca’s Tiny Desk Session. Unsurprisingly, the band hasn’t lost an ounce of their touch and deliver yet another brilliant performance for KEXP. Easily one of the most intriguing bands to carve out a name for themselves in 2014, their brand of subtly punk-influenced Appalachian folk helped turn Dark Arc into a very real candidate for Album of the Year. Here, the band runs through four songs and hit a series of impressive grace notes, making room for standout takes of the painfully gorgeous “Fed Up With Hunger” and the driving “Happy Alone”. All told, it’s a perfectly timed reminder of a band and record worth their acclaim.