20 Dec 2015

10 KEXP radio sessions you need to watch

Unlike most local radio stations, people give a shit about KEXP, a listener powered Seattle station. Not only that, but people all over the world give a shit about KEXP, a station completely dedicated to bringing the people of the internet video sessions of upcoming and established alternative artists. For years now, it's been bringing us KEXP sessions, ususally 4 or 5 songs long and featuring a bit of dialogue, and if you're looking for time to kill, it's always an idea to just put one on and fall in love with the band.

So because of my love of this Seattle station, I got thinking; what are the best sessions? What should everyone see? So I put together this list for you to work your way through as and when it suits you.

DIIV - 2012
NYC dream-pop band weren't the fiercely followed alt powerhouses they're viewed as now when KEXP roped them in for a session, but I think this shows that they always had a lot of potential right from the get go. Look out especially for the drawn out version of Air Conditioning, which you'd really like to think will creep its way back into the 2016 setlists like it did first time I saw 'em.

Grimes - 2012
Visions era Claire Boucher was a completely mesmerising artist on record, but like a lot of artists her art begged the question; could this be recreated live? If so, could just one person do it? Obviously that wouldn't detract from the artistic majesty of the finished product, but it was an interesting thought. With this, the Canadian producer showed she had the talent, the equipment and the know how to churn out especially mesmerising versions of the stuff on record. Truly incredible to watch.

Parquet Courts - 2013
The station's had this lot on a few times, but nothing quite matched their SXSW performance live for KEXP at a Texan bicycle store. Incessant rockabilly-meets-math rock bangers just flow and flow, with some of the tightest playing you'll see in an indie band really hitting you hard. They're still stellar, Parquet Courts, but when the material is 80% Light Up Gold nothing could have stopped them.

Ought - 2015
Montreal post-punk band Ought are the hottest thing in the world right now, if you're a pretentious art student that thinks too much about life, WHICH I AM. This session features a really incredible version of existential dancealong Beautiful Blue Sky and Dinosaur Jr-meets-Talking Heads quirk-pop number Men For Miles. It sees one of the coolest  bands there is at their best.

Dilly Dally - 2015
My first introduction to a band I'd only really read about on blogs slash social media came through KEXP's session with Dilly Dally - a gnarly thrashy indie band fronted by powerful frontwoman Katie Monks and her voice that could smash through glass. This session basically showcases so much energy, and flags up Monks' gravelly voice and the band's ability to string together a brilliantly danceable melody

Chastity Belt - 2015
Again, this was my first introduction to a band who've gone on to become one of my absolute favourites. This session just puts across everything I love about the band Chastity Belt; the Seattle scenesters seem ridiculously cool, showcase some brilliant songwriting, and  talk to the host about feminist issues; WHAT'S NOT TO LOVE? After seeing this I went to Rough Trade, gave the boys there fifteen of my finest pounds and returned with this band's latest album in it's aesthetically gorgeous glory.

 Arctic Monkeys - 2011
[the 9 y/o indie kid-in-the-making whose favourite album was Whatever People Say... speaks in a disappointed tone] Alex Turner is now someone I really can't cope with these days, and his sleazy coke opuses are so far away from what appeals to me that I just don't care, but goddammit, this session. From the promo tour to the Suck It And See record, this shows the raw talent the frontman has; a beautiful few cuts from that album acoustically, if this doesn't move you at least a little you're probably lying to seem cooler than me.

The War On Drugs - 2014
Again, another artist I'm not crazy about, but in this intimate setting the space-age Springsteening of critical darlings War On Drugs is something that you've just gotta lay off and respect... Here, the band's sound is meaningful, and Granduciel's voice has a lot more emotion than it does on the Lost In The Dream album that no one really shut up about last year. An Ocean In Between The Waves cuts through me like a dagger, and Red Eyes is just really a banger - this is a solid session, and I'd give it a listen even if you're cynical about the band.

Ride - 2015
This little acoustic set the band did a few months back is really something you should see. It's one of the first Ride performances you can catch online if you were unlucky/stupid enough to miss them on their tours this year. They do Vapour Trail, they do Twisterella, hell - they even do Only Now, which is probably actually my highlight. This is just essential, ESSENTIAL I SAY.

Bully - 2015
I know most this list is sessions from this year, but in all fairness that is when I discovered the station. The last one on the list is Bully, who put out a wonderful debut this year with Feels Like. Whilst the album was being released, a lot was made of the fact that fiery frontwoman Alicia Bognanno was a wizard in the studio, so maybe the punch they pack in session knocked me for six... Here, the highlight is probably the rocky version of Trying, although this is a good watch all the way through.

 Big thank you to KEXP for existing. You are the good guys. There's an app you can download to listen, and here's their website.

(written by calum cashin)