Bandwidth is about to turn one year old — next February. So it feels a little premature to be looking back on 2014 when we didn’t exist the whole year. Nevertheless! Our live video series is growing fast and (in my biased opinion) getting better with each installment. By this time next year, it will be a full-fledged toddler — albeit one who dances strangely, swears casually and rocks a mustache.
To commemorate Bandwidth’s not-quite-first year, I’ve skimmed through our YouTube channel and picked out some of my favorite videos from the 75 we published in 2014. Some were shot by Bandwidth video director and co-founder Raul Zahir De Leon in his own Wilderness Bureau studio; others we shot at WAMU headquarters in the room normally used by WAMU’s Bluegrass Country. Some earned hundreds of likes and one highly unexpected shout-out from Paul Krugman; others are still hidden gems. But across the board, I think we succeeded in capturing superlative performances from a remarkable set of independent artists — and we’re only getting started.
Here’s a look at the best stuff we caught on camera this year. Want more? Check out our playlist of all our videos so far.
Sylvan Esso, “Coffee”
Something about electronic-pop duo Sylvan Esso makes people swoony and crazy, and this video — our most popular to date — is solid proof.
Most unfairly ignored
Los Master Plus, “Suave Leve”
Not many people have watched our two videos with Mexico’s hammy, machismo-skewering Los Master Plus, and I haven’t been able to shake the feeling that a great injustice has been done. The duo’s over-the-top performance of “Suave Leve” was the most fun we’ve had yet in the WAMU studio. If you love fun, you know what to do, folks.
Frankie Cosmos, “Birthday Song”
The indie-pop songwriter otherwise known as Greta Kline (daughter of actor Kevin Kline) sparkled this year, propelled by her tuneful collection of simple little songs, Zentropy. Kline doesn’t seem to care about guitar wizardry, big statements or tracks much longer than two minutes. But she’s got a fantastic ear for melodies — the kind you can’t easily dislodge from your head. For her session at the Wilderness Bureau, Raul and his crew went all out: They threw her a birthday party with the sparkle (and cuteness) that made Zentropy such a special release this year.
This performance from rising pop band Phox is one of my favorites for the lovely song alone — Monica Martin’s voice! — and one passerby on the street felt it deserved a round of applause, too.
Best D.C. band performance
Ex Hex, “Everywhere”
Loudest. Session. Ever. D.C.’s own Ex Hex nearly shattered the window in our studio with this monstrous performance of a standout from their debut album, Rips.
The Clientele, “Porcelain”
The Clientele wasn’t the only British act we filmed this year, but the indie-pop greats encapsulate a sound that I can only associate with rainy England. The band’s live take on “Porcelain” — a highlight from their 2003 record The Violet Hour — was also one of our most pristine and beautifully recorded. Worth many repeat listens.
Sierra Leone’s Refugee All-Stars, “Ghana Baby”
This low-key backyard performance from one of the world’s most acclaimed Sierra Leonean ensembles is wonderful in many ways — its intimacy and sense of humor, the group’s unquestionable mastery of its sound — but I still find myself revisiting this video just to giggle at bandleader Ruben Koroma’s T-shirt: It’s golf-themed, and it says “Teerific Grandpa.”
Most likely to make you cry
Rodrigo Amarante, “The Ribbon”
I was unaware of Brazilian songwriter Rodrigo Amarante until this year, and that’s my bad. At least I had the brains to help bring him into Raul’s studio, where he delivered the most soulful performance captured there this year — and made it look so effortless.
Best use of harp
Mikaela Davis, “Feels Like Forever”
Try not to be enchanted by this.
Best arm movements
My Brightest Diamond, “Lover Killer”
My Brightest Diamond’s Shara Worden was already well on her way to blowing our minds with her intense performance at the Bureau — and then she busted out these striking arm movements, ratcheting the whole thing up a notch. She’s incredible.
Deer Tick and Vanessa Carlton, “In Our Time”
I’m happy I was (somehow) unaware that this was the same Vanessa Carlton that recorded THAT SONG until after we finished this great session with her husband’s band, Deer Tick. It means I was able to converse with her like a normal human — and without once thinking of Terry Crews in that scene from White Chicks.
Mark Mulcahy, “Badly Madly”
I love the studio-recorded version of this earworm from Mark Mulcahy, but seeing his bandmates gamely belt it out alongside him on the couch reminds me why we got into this whole video business in the first place.
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