Video Review

July 28, 2011

Debut single and music video, “Anna Sun,” from breakout Ohio (it’s always Ohio) indie rockers, Walk the Moon. The first day I had a chance to check out this video, I was in absolute awe. They shot the whole video in one cut à la Russian Ark? Ho yah! …Or so I thought. When I finally started compiling this treasure trove, I gave it my undivided attention. Twice. Maybe thrice (lead singer Nicholas Petricca is très adorable). And promptly realized that the single cut is only the first portion in a potpourri of dancing joy. Watch it for the multiple types of film roll (shot in studio, shot in natural light, shot on vintage film, or at least with vintage, Super8-esque effects), the dazzlingly bright colors, and to throw a hop into your step! “We got no money, but we got heart… What do you know? This house is falling apart./ What can I say? This house is falling apart…” Some of the best hooks I’ve heard in a while… or since “Pumped Up Kicks.” Ha. Giggles.

This whimsical little vid. features the band members of Fair Fjola lackadaisically bobbing along to “Water Tower” while their animated little log cabin house floats away in a great big animated flood among some very whimsical mountain peaks (Would be hard to find such triangular formations out in any real-life mountain ranges… is all I’m sayin’!).

This creation to accompany Blonde Redhead’s “Equus” is also a semi- or mostly-animated extravaganza… The whole thing is actually severely disturbing.  The female lead of the band, Kazu Makino, who in 2002 was trampled by a horse after it bucked her, transformed the traumatic event that disfigured one side of her face (and left her to reconstruct her singing voice and self-perception) into fantastical, lyrical tales like “Equus”: “Sometimes I think I must/ just let you be a horse./ All I want is to be a rider,/ to be part of you.” The semi-animated video seems to feature all the band members, with the instrumentalist twins playing Kazu’s doctors and Kazu playing herself, with her face almost entirely masked and flattened by the animation effects and her body turned into a mannequin-robot mechanical entity. It also, of course, prominently features a horse and then a panoply of horses. … “Equus, by nature,/ timid creature,/ ready to run away. Equus, by nature,/ timid creature,/ cares nothing/ for the plans they made.” Better Propaganda has speculated that the band’s creative process was already centered around world-weariness before The Accident. That might be a fair assessment, but as this video and one or two other songs were my first introduction to the 18 year-old band, I cannot at this moment judge that assessment. But disturbing effects and imagery aside, I’m quite glad Kazu got back on her feet and brought those breathy vocals back. Otherwise, I would be down one heck of an indie band (signed to 4AD!) in my listening dossier!

“Mr. Peterson” – Perfume Genius

This is another one of those instances where I wasn’t paying enough attention the first time I encountered something. When I first heard “Mr. Peterson,” the main thing I noticed was the Joy Division reference – which carried extra points in my tally. But I missed the whole point of the story. In the video, it’s beyond difficult to ignore the palpable pain of singer Mike Hadreas as he relives the story of the teacher with a thing for the sixteen year-old, who commits suicide the same year. The stark simplicity of the video, just two keyboards and their players spotlighted against a black backdrop, definitely honors that life.

“Round the Moon” – Summer Camp

Here I absolutely have to resort to the words of TurnTable DJ Neowman – ” This video is awesome, too… it’s like a cut from some crazy 80’s Swedish movie.” Having watched the film and mulled over it for a couple days, I can definitively say that Neowman is absolutely right. There is no better way to describe this video than to summon the ghost of Ingmar Bergman (and maybe a bit of John Hughes, while you’re at it). From the color processing to the coming-of-age themes (Someone tell that girl she is much too young to be sleeping with that bullied-about, leather-jacket-wearing houligan and that there is never a good age to wear miniskirts that miniature!), 80’s all the way. Minus those cars that date back probably earlier than just the 80’s.

“Vampires” – Mr. Gnome

Oy. Where do I even start? I watched this epic ten-minute narrative twice this week, and both times, I shirked from the gruesome images on-screen and resorted to peeking at the frames through my fingers, only difference being that the second time I was prepared, with a blanket to hold tight for reassurance. I guess it’s a bit of a new day “Thriller,” but with buckets and buckets of blood. The story revolves around four characters who work on the set of a some wacky children’s television program titled, tellingly, Space Magic. With some intensive drug use, glorification of fire-arms, and a ghoulish army of sharp-toothed vampire-zombies sprinkled in for good measure. You might pick up a whiff of Pulp Fiction, I Am Legend, Alice in Wonderland, and some horrifically demented Pappyland, etc.. A ghastly short which might be three parts horrid, five parts pure genius.

“Shake Me Down” – Cage the Elephant

Okay, this one isn’t so much a new find as just brilliant, in every sense of the word. Whimsy, love, loss – the very stuff of existence and the hardiest stuff for creative inspiration. Not much else to say! “In my life, I have seen/ people walk into the sea,/ just to find memories,/ plagued by constant misery,/ their eyes cast down…”

Oh, and I forgot to mention! It’s made me cry every single time I’ve watched it. That powerful!

“Simple Math” – Manchester Orchestra

I really don’t know anything about this group and am not feeling up to researching them at the moment. I only know that they make me think of Mannheim Streamroller… and then gag. Until the music starts in, of course. And this video? Just… Wow. A whirlwind tour through childhood, imagination, and a deer-riffic wood, with some great staging, effects, and editing. I can’t remember much of the song at the moment, but the imagery certainly stuck with me.

“Out Getting Ribs” – Zoo Kid

This kid is way too young to be singing with that voice! What is going on? Gah! What? Woah! Wow. So this is Archy Marshall, 16 or 17 year-old vocal wunderkind. Well, yeah, he plays instruments, too, but can’t you hear it? Ohmygod. Leave it to the Brits! I think there’s a new Brit indie icon on the horizon. If he can just manage some snazzier titles for his tracks!

I’m really confused by the lone observer in the room here. Is that his mom? Can someone please explain it to me? What the ‘eck is she doing there?

“Frontier Psychiatrist” – The Avalanches

The Avalanches are hands-down my favorite Aussie group (and that’s saying a lot, with disbanded Leonardo’s Bride quite close to my heart). I love what they do with radio, er – audio, collage. Lots of recycled and collage art I’m gushing about these days… which is a good thing, as I am always gushing to myself. So this means the terrain of this little blog, Turtle-landia, is moving toward more and more nuanced reflections of those cultural insights lodged somewhere in my thoughts. Woo. Anywho… The Avalanches! Apparently their collage aptitude goes beyond the merely audible. What the heck is going on here? (Oh, sorry. Is that refrain getting too familiar?) My favorite part are the dancing sheets. What’s yours?

“Seven Sisters,” self-made/homemade/home-brewed music collaboration from the Bastard Child of Rock And Roll – self-christened Le Blorr – based out of the dueling worlds of New York and Florida, not-at-all-understandably unsigned, and quite possibly the next big thing, electronic, drum-loving duo of Adam Winn and Chris Hess are… (I’m gonna go out on a limb here…) decidely bigger and better than, but still close genre neighbors to, Film School. If it were even a contest, this video should cinch the deal. Look, just look. Muted mermaid-enchanted waters and the way the air bubbles multiply to evoke the feel of shimmering stars… it doesn’t get much better than this.

…Oh, you noticed the predominance of double-lettering, too?

First Aid Kit, energetic, shimmering, siren, Swedish sister duo, covers “Tiger Mountain Peasant Song” off the 2008 debut album from Seattle’s Simon & Garfunkel, The Fleet Foxes. We’re transplanted to another wooded scene, though this one’s much more serene than Manchester Orchestra’s. All quite stunning in its simplicity!

Elevator Poem

May 11, 2011

I’ve been busy travel-planning, packing, and traveling “by land, by boat, by dirigible” (“Sons and Daughters,” The Decemberists) … Well, fine! Taxi, plane, bus, moving walkway, plane, moving walkway, shuttle/train/subway, and car (for a whopping thirteen hours!), to be accurate. I’m hoping to write up something this week about composing good travel mixes and being a good roadtrip DJ — we’ll see how fast I can churn that out. In the meantime, some travel-themed poetics I composed in a jiffy while stressing out over the countdown to my first plane’s boarding time. And you thought we were all done with poetry! And so, with no further ado:

Door Door Open Close

Insert Fire

Run Stop Emerge Stop

What Wedding?

April 28, 2011

Well, I was going to post some of my notes from the process of writing that cento for the National Poetry Month Cento (NaPoMoCento) contest, but that’s the magic of a week’s wait–I no longer feel compelled by the dangling strands of verse congealed on the page. One of my most influential writing teachers always extolled us students that the writing process for any given project is never truly over. Revision is a sticky, messy, frustrating, interminable, thankless, but ultimately rewarding and insightful journey. Which explains why even some of the lines retained in any given poem can still make a writer recoil in horror. Oh well?

Before wrapping up this second meta post in one night, I just want to explain that the following creation is in no way meant to deride the significance or romantic beauty of the occasion marking these twenty-four hours with its history and fame and extremely pinpointed focus on celebrity and spectacle. But I felt it would be too grotesque to take in all these disparate and often bizarre details of Britain’s Royal Wedding and not create something from all the information overload. You know, at least redeem myself in some way for all my shared stake in fawning over modern icons, celebrities, and royalty hold-outs in the twenty-first century? Otherwise, the pointlessness of being so invested in strangers’ lives (made less strange and more known, relate-able, examined than even possibly my own life, thanks to relentless media and all its glaring lights and shrill, droning commentary) would be pretty much unforgivable. Consider this a debate opened!

So, to reiterate, this poem is a bit drafty. If ever there is a legitimately published version (or multiple spawned published versions), it will most likely not look like this one. In any case, I’d like to share my imaginative examination of the mythologies (in both meanings, as larger-than-life, exploded truths and perverted falsities) of the Kate & Will story–some say fairy-tale, but last I checked, Kate didn’t seem to be sprouting wings or giving the impression of struggling to keep said fluttering wings flat against her back. It seems that the work would be more meaningful in its proper context than removed from it by a year or more. Curious to hear your thoughts!

I mean…WAIT!

Wedding? What wedding?

So we shot for thirty and ended up with twelve song-poems. That’s so much better than nothing. Next year, next year! Meliora! That’s the key — “always better.” Improvement may very well come in fits and starts, but when it eventually shows up, gosh is it invigorating!

Poetry month is coming to a close, but before the door shuts, at least officially, I’ve got some creations of my own to share, mostly in somewhat gestational stages but nonetheless relevant. I need to challenge myself to share my work, and this is one of those times I’ll be using the expanded purview of this blog to explore culture in general. Perhaps one day another blog I set up a long time ago to address culture wholly will find its wings. But I also don’t think it’s particularly healthy to either 1) spend so much of my lifetime online or 2) attempt to run so many gosh-darned blogs.

La!

I know I just shared another brilliantly composed song from The National a couple days ago, but while that bit was impromptu, this one was planned into the National Poetry Month schedule over here in Turtle-land. “The Geese of Beverly Road” is probably tied with a gazillion other songs by the Ohio-via-Brooklyn band for my third-favorite out of their entire collection. By far, the aspect of The National I most adore is the way that Matt Berninger’s lyrics get stretched across the entire ouevre. There’s all this delicious repeating imagery of feathers, swan-geese, and such, the threads of which you can spend years following across their albums, like some young kid in a red coat chasing a red balloon down city streets.

"Serve me the sky with a big slice of lemon..."

In this case, the geese reappear two albums after Alligator, on “Vanderlyle Crybaby Geeks” from High Violet. And, in between, we mistakenly listened to our mother-in-laws and passed over the “swans on t.v.” while asking Jenny to “Wake Up Your Saints.” When the geese make their comeback, they manage to flock there with the swans. “Man, it’s all been forgiven. Swans are a swimmin’. I’ll explain everything to the geese.”

As this marathon month of blogging progresses, my stockpile of readily-available adjectives and other discuss-able material diminishes, and I find myself lavishing blander and blander praise on musical compositions I genuinely love. Really need to take some cues from established music bloggers and bona fide music journalists.

I wanted to share something clever about a step-by-step of how to explain everything to the geese (and why doing so is a good idea), but right now, I’m too spent. To be continued!

The Geese of Beverly Road

We’ll take ourselves out in the street
And wear the blood in our cheeks,
Like red roses.

We’ll go from car to sleeping car
And whisper in their sleeping ears,
“We were here, we were here.”
We’ll set off the geese of Beverly Road.

Hey, love, we’ll get away with it.
We’ll run like we’re awesome, totally genius.
Hey, love, we’ll get away with it.
We’ll run like we’re awesome.

We won’t be disappointed.
We’ll fight like girls for our place at the table,
Our room on the floor.
We’ll set off the geese of Beverly Road.

Hey, love, we’ll get away with it.
We’ll run like we’re awesome, totally genius.
Hey, love, we’ll get away with it.
We’ll run like we’re awesome.

We’re the heirs to the glimmering world,
We’re the heirs to the glimmering world.
We’re the heirs to the glimmering world,
We’re the heirs to the glimmering world.

We’re drunk and sparking, our legs are open,
Our hands are covered in cake,
But I swear we didn’t have any.
No, I swear we didn’t have any.

Hey, love, we’ll get away with it.
We’ll run like we’re awesome, totally genius.
Hey, love, we’ll get away with it.
We’ll run like we’re awesome.

We’re the heirs to the glimmering world,
We’re the heirs to the glimmering world.
We’re the heirs to the glimmering world,
We’re the heirs to the glimmering world.

Oh, come, come be my waitress, and serve me tonight,
Serve me the sky up tonight.
Oh, come, come be my waitress, and serve me tonight,
Serve me the sky with a big slice of lemon.

We’re the heirs to the glimmering world,
We’re the heirs to the glimmering world.
We’re the heirs to the glimmering world,
We’re the heirs to the glimmering world.

Oh, come, come be my waitress and serve me tonight,
Serve me the sky up tonight.
Oh, come, come be my waitress and serve me tonight,
serve me the sky with a big slice of lemon.

Common Vs. Common

April 4, 2011

Today only!

Geographers’ Special: Cities, Decadence, et cetera …

Another day featuring bands with male vocalists. I kind of feel like I need to wedge The Go-Go’s in here somewhere just to balance it out. Or Portishead, maybe. And it’s another British and another American band. C’mon, other countries, catch up! (Actually, that’s ultimately the focus of this blog – more on that in future posts!)

Architectural Style: Brutalism. Exhibit A.

I’m really glad I had the month divvied up before I started blogging musical poetry for National Poetry Month because it sure keeps things flowing smoothly around here, but I’ve only stuck to the chosen song once (on the 2nd), and every other day, I’ve shuffled things around, made alternate arrangements. Today, I changed my mind, on a dime, as usual, this time due to a lovely line I came across in an interview with poet Catherine Theis on the semi-blog from Salt Publishing. She responded to a question, in part, with the remark, “The inside of a verse play or poem (or a painting or a song) is one of the last decadent places on earth.” I then went hunting for a decadent song tucked away in my little list of April’s flowers. (If you didn’t guess on the first day, yes, that’s a layered reference to all these gorgeously-written and mellifluously-echoed songs, as well as the fact that in spite of April’s showers, April has some of its own flowers.) And after paying more careful attention to the exact wording of one of my newer favorite compositions from Editors, “The Boxer,” off their most recent 2009 album, In This Light and On This Evening, I decided it would make an even better double-feature with my second-favorite creation from The National, “City Middle,” off of Alligator, from way back in 2005. The amateur geographer in me tries to look for inspiration even in diversions, like rock music obsessions, which really shouldn’t be considered diversions but appreciated for the high art they so often achieve (and critiqued when they don’t, of course!).  I think part of me feels guilty for lavishing more attention on this blog than on my more academically-oriented endeavors. Ah well. Music heals those wounds, too.

Architectural Style: Brutalism. Exhibit B.

As much as I want to wrap this up and get this syndicated to you guys, some points I shouldn’t put off:

1. If there’s a Simon & Garfunkel connection in Editors’ lyrics, it’s slight, but I don’t disavow its potential presence. That would, of course, only make the gravelly-smooth beauty of the song more delectable.

2. “City Middle” (and its counterpart, “Karen”) features some of The National’s most explicit, grimy lyrics, but the instrumentation and vocals are so beautiful that they would perfectly make up for the partially crude storyline if the storyline itself didn’t have its own redeeming qualities. For me, its in the vividness of the imagery and the way that hazy (or not so much hazy as uncertain) childhood memories are evoked for me by the line “pissing in a sink, I think.” I swear the woman that lived in the next room in the communal apartment of my childhood, who I wholeheartedly believed was my Great Aunt (also uncertain on that now, after all these years, though I still continue to believe it, for lack of an alternative explanation for pieces of my memories, some including threads of conversations structured explicitly around the referent, Great Aunt, though what if that’s an inaccurate memory, too? My toddler years were so very long ago, after all!), had some incident in the apartment which afterward involved a lot of screaming by all parties about pissing in sinks. Maybe a fabrication of my imagination? What an imagination that would be, though… Doesn’t seem right to me. TMI again? Oops. Sorry.

3. The thing about what remains, in our society, of archaic poetry — that is, sung verse — is that there seems much more repetition in song than in printed, never-attempted-sung verse. Aside from ballads, most of today’s songwriters, even the best ones, adhere fairly strictly to industry conventions involving choruses, bridges, echoing of verses, and all that jazz. It’s true — We the audience do very much like the tantalizing hooks, mostly to ensure we have some snatch of tune stuck in our heads all day. We hate silence above all else, it seems (which is quite disheartening!). Repetition works. Poets do use it, too. And there are songwriters who use it less than others. (I dare you to give me example of those who hardly use it at all!) But in our inexhaustible taste for easily-devour-able material, written lyrics can seem not at all smooth, a bit jumpy, a bit coarse, a bit bogged down, to drag their feet more than slightly. Yet when we listen, we are hardly aware of the echoing. It’s a strange phenomenon, and I’m not entirely sure that I have a preference one way or another in terms of the written versions, in spite of all that obstructiveness.

4. Okay, I’m getting antsy and impatient now. Tennessee Williams references! You can easily connect them back to Ms. Theis’s comment about “verse plays” ; I once dreamt that Common Vs. Common was a band that came to play at my school ; I’m having too much fun adding punctuation to lyrics to find the best ways to enunciate the poetic in these lyrical creations, which we might otherwise overlook as too mundane for poetry (shame!) ; … long red socks and red shoes! Are you overwhelmed yet? Great!

Now on to the poems of our bleak cities, occasionally beautiful in their dreariness!

When all the world is dripping poetry, how easily we forget our concrete prisons.

 

The Boxer

A bruised full moon
Play-fights with the stars.
This place is our prison,
its cells are the bars
So take me to town,
I wanna dance with the city.
Show me something ugly, and
Show me something pretty.

Damn this place
— makes a boy out of me.
The ring meets my face
by the count of three!

An unwanted sun
pulls rank in the sky.
The boxer isn’t finished,
He’s not ready to die.
I’m attracted to the light,
I’m attracted to the heat.
It’s a violent night;
There are boxers in the street.

Damn this place
— makes a boy out of me.
The ring meets my face
by the count of three!

And damn this place
— makes a boy out of me
The ring meets my face
before an oak tree!

Dazed in the final rounds,
Dazed in the final rounds,
Dazed in the final rounds,
Dazed in the final rounds.

"I wanna dance with the city..."

 

City Middle

Karen, take me to the nearest famous city middle,
Where they hang the lights,
Where it’s random,
And it’s common versus common, la dee la.

Karen, take me to the nearest famous city middle,
Where they hang the lights,
Where it’s random,
And it’s common versus common, la dee la.

I’ve got five-hundred in twenties,
And I got a ton of great ideas;
I’m really worked up.
I’m on a good mixture, I don’t want to waste it.
I’m on a good mixture, I do not want to waste it.
I wanna go gator around the warm beds of beginners;
I’m really worked up.

Karen, take me to the nearest famous city middle,
Where they hang the lights,
Where it’s random,
And it’s common versus common, la dee la.

Karen, take me to the nearest famous city middle,
Where they hang the lights,
Where it’s random,
And it’s common versus common, la dee la.

I have weird memories of you,
Wearing long red socks and red shoes,
I have weird memories.
I have weird memories of you,
Pissing in a sink, I think;
I have weird memories of you.

I wanna go gator around the warm beds of beginners.
I’m really worked up.
I wanna go gator around the warm beds of beginners.
I’m really worked up.

Karen, take me to the nearest famous city middle,
Where they hang the lights,
Where it’s random,
And it’s common versus common, la dee la.

Karen, take me to the nearest famous city middle,
Where they hang the lights,
Where it’s random,
And it’s common versus common, la dee la.

I have weird memories of you,
Wearing long red socks and red shoes,
I have weird memories.
I have weird memories of you,
Pissing in a sink, I think;
I have weird memories of you,
Parking your car — you said, “I’m overwhelmed.”
You were thinking out loud, you said, “I’m overwhelmed.”

You were parking your car, you said, “I’m overwhelmed.”
You were thinking out loud, you said, “I’m overwhelmed.”

You said, “I think I’m like Tennessee Williams.
I wait for the click,
I wait, but it doesn’t kick in.”

“I think I’m like Tennessee Williams.
I wait for the click,
I wait, but it doesn’t kick in.”

I have weird memories of you,
Wearing long red socks and red shoes,
I have weird memories.
I have weird memories of you,
Pissing in a sink, I think;
I have weird memories of you,
La da da da …

I have weird memories of you.

On Fire

February 12, 2011

I want to get in the habit of posting at least every other day, even if I don’t have much to say or anything fancy prepared. After all, my life is music, everywhere you look, in each direction. So here’s a quick little playlist I pulled together on a whim. A special thanks goes to the crazy wiring in my brain, which went from free associating mellow to yellow and eventually somehow to Kings of Leon’s more-plaintive-than-expected crooning of the lyric, “This sex is on fire…”.

Do you have any idea how many songs there are out there that include some combination with “On Fire” in their titles?! Not to mention songs without “On Fire” in their titles but that nevertheless have it as a lyric? Or bands that are named for being on Fire? It’s cah-razy! Anyway, there were way more tunes than I realized even existed, by artists I already love (and therefore you should, too!)… so you won’t have to wish too hard to get a second installment.    :)

It will be quite a while before I get the hang of hosting tunes on my own (which will probably happen for real only when I secure my own domain), so we’ll be relying on the good graces of others for a little while. (Thanks for the bandwidth, guys! I hope you don’t mind too much. If you do, I’m very sorry about being annoying. But I’m probably not giving you that much additional traffic anyway, or if I am, y’all are set up to handle it, I think!) Actually, it’s very frustrating that I can’t upload anything music-wise while I still have space in WordPress (They’ll catch up with the times eventually, right? Space only gets cheaper with time, and attitudes toward music-sharing for the purpose of evangelizing artists only gets more liberal with time, right? …). I’ll have to get back in the swing of using Box for the interim. We’ll probably most often default to my m.o. on the first iteration of this blog — posting hilariously absurd music videos or artsy farsty, avante garde music videos to represent the songs in question as an entire package, with multiple registers of imagery. But today we’ll just send you elsewhere to check out the tunes, because, as mentioned, this is all so very frustrating and time consuming to the amateur music blogger. 

Sex on Fire (Live) – Kings of Leon

Your Head is On Fire – Broken Bells

Sophia – Nerina Pallot

It’s a Fire – Portishead

On Fire – Switchfoot