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!

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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.