“We all self conscious, I’m just the first to admit it…”
Last week marked ten years since Kanye West released his debut album, The College Dropout. It’s an album that remains one of my all-time favourite records, one that I continually revisit and sporadically obsess over. Although it wasn’t my first Kanye album – that honour went to the following year’s Late Registration – this record remains my pick of the litter. With this milestone – as well as the exciting news that Yeezy will be back here in May – I thought I’d look at one of my favourite Kanye videos from this era.
Yes, the imagery of Jesus Walks and the blunt-hammer satire of The New Workout Plan are fantastic in their own right. I could have easily written about either of them – but there’s something about the video for All Falls Down that I have always been drawn to. The point-of-view camera work is exceptional, as is the audio tweaking depending on where exactly Kanye finds himself. Even though they don’t really speak in the video, the relationship seems to explain itself between Kanye and the woman he’s dropping at the airport. On top of that, Kanye putting himself through the airport scanner remains one of my favourite moments in 2000s music videos. It’s a very clever and very striking video, one that hits the emotional nerves of the song. It’s a perfect complement – and a relatively simple clip that contrasts with the grandeur that comes with Yeezy these days. Not that I have a problem with that, of course. It’s just that sometimes I like to kick it old school. Maybe you will, too.
“They lowered a tow, that stuck in his neck to the gills…”
Here’s a ten-year anniversary that kicked me in the dick this week: The Mars Volta‘s debut album, De-Loused in the Comatorium. For all the flack that the band received in their later years, even leading up to the band’s demise back in January, a sold amount of said detractors can all agree that this record was – and still is – more or less untouchable. I mean, what a dream team! Rick Rubin producing. Flea playing bass. Jon Theodore on drums. Isaiah Ikey-Owens on keys. Need I say more? The album is an absolute punisher, the closest to perfection that the band ever got.
Only 2 singles were released from the album: Inertiatic ESP and this. The Inertiatic video was super-fun for its trippy take on the band’s extreme live shows, but I was always drawn to the subdued majesty of the Televators video. A mostly-animated affair, the video takes in what appears to be a post-apocalyptic city. The surrounds have been taken over by animals and something grand is forming… something bigger than you or I. That’s both metaphorical and physical, I should mention. The atmosphere of this clip is nothing short of incredible. For one of the more quiet moments of the album, it certainly knows how to delve into great levels of intensity. A remarkable visual interpretation, that serves as a souvenir of this iconic LP. Throw it on sometime this week if you get the chance. It sure as shit doesn’t sound like 2003. It sounds like the distant future.
They’re one of the most revered post-rock bands on the planet and they’ve just released a floaty, gorgeous new album called Valtari. On top of that, yesterday they were announced for the second annual Harvest Festival this November alongside former Featured Friday act Beck, Ben Folds Five, Grizzly Bear and a stack of other awesome acts – how about that? We have decided to celebrate by looking at 5 of the band’s best videos. There’s soccer, there’s little kids, there’s cold weather and there’s old people – and we’re only just getting started.
Do you really need an essay on this one? Naked! Running! La la la la! Go go go!
A wondrous, joyful experiment in which the band employed a dance company made up entirely of people with Down’s Syndrome. What they do over nearly ten minutes is so inspired and wonderful to watch. The love and the passion for this artform is truly conveyed, and it comes straight from the heart. It wouldn’t work any other way – with any other song, any other singer, any other dancers. Believe.
A great adventure in a bizarre alternate universe populated almost entirely by children. I really love how the video builds up in accordance with the song, leading to that spine-tingling crescendo. It’s cinematic in scope, breathtaking in location and wholly rewarding as an audio-visual experience.
2. viðrar vel til loftárása
Set entirely in slow motion, this is a romantic tragedy laced with hope that has absolutely no dialogue across its seven minute running time. It doesn’t have to – you know the old addage “actions speak louder than words” as well as I do. With an openly gay frontman in Jonsi, it felt like it was only a matter of time before this was addressed in the band’s videos. It’s done so beautifully – a young boy, out of touch with the world around him, plays with dolls and falls in love with a boy that rescues said dolls after they’re viciously thrown away by a homophobic father. Let it captivate you.
As wonderful as all of these clips are, I think I always find myself coming back to this gorgeous sepia daydream of senior citizens causing chaos in ther neighbourhood. It’s not sweepingly epic or emotional, but it’s just a simple release of bliss that has resonated so much with me ever since I first saw it when I was fourteen. The glee in their faces is just priceless. I can always associate it with this song; and that itself will always bring a smile to my face. What more could you ask for?
“I can’t believe that it’s over, I lost this one tonight…”
Hey, guys! Remember 2004? I sure as shit do. One of the many things that happened in 2004 was a Finnish pop/rock band called The Rasmus, who finally hit the big time with a worldwide hit, In the Shadows, after years of obscurity everywhere except their homeland. Of course, it didn’t last – most have assumed that the band split up or went back to digging ditches or whatever. Alas, no, they’ve kept making this music THIS ENTIRE TIME. Their latest self-titled album is their eighth album. Wuh? Wah? Heh? OK, now we’ve been dealt that blow, here’s another: While In the Shadows was a catchy slice of mall-goth pop, this is U2-aping radio rock at its most tragic. Oh, and it gets worse.
A modern-day parody/homage to Depeche Mode‘s Enjoy the Silence, vocalist Lauri Ylönen wondering around wearing a cape and a crown. Exactly why he’s doing that is never quite explained, and it doesn’t seem to really symbolise anything. It seems like it’s meant to represent some kind of isolation or loneliness or a lack of belonging or some shit. Now, the teenage angst thing is a big go-to for a lot of pop and rock music, but let’s not forget that Lauri is thirty-three years old. It’s got to stop somewhere, surely. This is truly cringeworthy as an attempt to get back on the charts, and I can only assume it’s going to crash and burn something chronic.
“Tried to make a move, just to stay in the game…”
Am a bit poorly today, unfortunately, so haven’t really had a chance to do very much blogging. Thankfully, I’ll churn this one out – in spite of my sickness, there is some celebrating to do! Keane will return with their fourth studio album, Strangeland, this May. Always a massive deal in the U.K., these guys have been consistently underrated basically everywhere else on the planet – and that’s something that never quite made sense to me. They’ve made consistently good records and make stunning pop music, and in their time they’ve made some pretty swell clips, too.
This here is my personal favourite of theirs, just because of its deceptive nature. It starts out as a very plain performance video, with just the three of them playing to a white backdrop. The camera turns, however, and suddenly there are completely different people playing the instruments. And there’s a LOT of different people – you’ll see an eskimo, a soldier, a drag queen, a scientist… Sure, it’s a very simply executed video, but it’s clever and cute and fun. Especially great for a band that is always seen as taking themselves too seriously. Now, excuse me while I go cough up a lung.
“Paranoia will implore ya, classic rock radio destroyer…”
The year was 2004, and I was slowly re-immersing myself in the greatness of the art that is music videos. I’d always kind of thought they were cool, but it was in this year that I really came to meticulously study them and try and figure them out. This clip you’re about to watch, from Canadian indie-rockers By Divine Right, posed a lot of questions in my mind the very first time I watched it. Naturally, the first: Why are there so many guitars? Quickly followed by: Did they do ALL of that in one take? And, finally: What’s up with those alpacas? I have since learned that three guitars just LOOKS cool, they really did do it all in one take, and I still have no idea what’s up with the alpacas.
There’s a lot to take in here, but essentially BDR show you exactly how much wild shit can go on with a few scenery changes, a huge imagination and… yep, just one camera. One take. That’s it, that’s all. That alone was a complete mind-fuck to me. In a way, it still is. All I can really say is that this was a game-changing video for me back in the day, and sadly the years have not been kind to the band at all – their last album was in 2009, and vocalist José Miguel Contreras has had a revolving-door line-up since the band formed way back in 1989. In fact, none of the band members in this clip, aside from Contreras, are actually still in the band. Bummer – that girl guitarist was cute. Canadian indie love, people!
“I’m going to carry you in. In my head, in my heart, in my soul…”
Here’s a clip that I was going to reminisce on before the break kicked in – a video that is, to me, one of the classic indie rock videos of the 2000s. Released in the wake of the phenomena that was Float On, Ocean Breathes Salty didn’t get nearly as much recognition as it deserved at the time in 2004. It’s certainly stood the test of time, however, giving a stunning visualisation to one of the many highlights of the Good News for People Who Love Bad News record.
Through jaw-drop visuals and wordless storytelling, we see the tale of a poor, fatherless boy unfurl into an unlikely friendship with an even more unlikely ending. The gradual builds and the smart editing allows this video to perfectly complement the song itself, bringing a whole new layer of context and meaning to the song’s themes. This video really caught me off-guard when it was first released, and I’m happy to admit that the first few viewings completely went over my head. That said, I’m now at the point where I can’t imagine the song without the video – and that’s got to be a strong trait.
“And he thinks there’s something missing, that there’s something wrong with him…”
I’m going to be catching Seeker Lover Keeper at several of their upcoming shows, and I’m very excited to be doing so. I thought just before I did that I might pay a bit of tribute to the individual ladies that make up the group – so you’ll see a Sarah Blasko favourite tomorrow and a Sally Seltmann vid on Thursday. For now, though, it gives me great pleasure to introduce the gorgeous Holly Throsby and what is actually one of my all-time favourite videos.
Released in 2004, Things Between People is a very, very simple video. It starts as a tiny white dot in the centre of your screen, before zooming into a street, heading all the way to the end and then reversing the process, occasionally cutting or restarting. Literally, that’s it. So why does it work? It’s utterly fascinating, for one. You can’t look away even though you know exactly where the video is headed. I also love the dynamic shifts that come with changing the colours, bringing it in after the first ninety seconds or so of black and white. It goes from cold to hazy to blissful and warm, and all it takes is a quick change of the colouring. It’s simple and beautiful, much like the song itself, and it’s a video that has stuck in my mind for years. There’s just something about it that I find totally unforgettable.
“On a summer day, you can hear her call…”
I’ve got a long-ass list of videos that take me back to the time when I was lost in a world of music and music videos, and you’re going to get plenty more of them as the blog progresses. Here’s another one of them, from those trippy summer-pop dudes Mercury Rev. I was very much a latecomer to their music, but really – isn’t this just a perfect introduction? An adorable video which sees the puppet animals of the forest coming together to discover the musical instruments left in the woods and then magically learn how to play them! You see that, ICP? That’s REAL motherfucking magic, y’allz! Anyway, great music and a really pretty video…have a look-see.
“Put your hands together and we’ll light this night, we’ll light this night on fire…”
I told you shit was gonna get retro! First the Beta Band, and now a Beta band of a different kind – Kentucky’s VHS or Beta, who first came to my attention in the glorious year that was…you guessed it, 2004. It’s another performance video, but what I love about this is how this kind of introduced me to a specific kind of coolness – the not-giving-a-fuck cool.
The guitarist swaggers about in his own little corner, always with a scowl on his face. The bassist is in the groove, but won’t crack a smile. The drummer is stonefaced as he blasts around a fucking sick electronic kit. The frontman – with thirteen-year-old me getting really excited at an Asian rock singer, “Wow! That’s different!” – stomps his heels a bit but he’s focused on one thing above all else – looking like a cool motherfucker.
Sure, it’s a bit contrived, but as soon as I saw this video I knew exactly who I wanted to be like – VHS or friggin’ Beta. Hell, I was so young I didn’t even get the reference in the band name! Not that it mattered – this is one cooooooool video.