“Bits of yellow paper, addressed from you to me…”
Here’s another example of when a performance-based video can score themselves a hall pass here at Y,WGAV! Perhaps you’re familiar with Michel Gondry; the legendary French director behind Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind and countless classic music videos for Bjork, Steriogram, Foo Fighters, The White Stripes, Kylie… just to name a few. It’s pretty safe to say that the guy is one of my heroes, whose work has shaped the blog’s motives for even existing.
When I found out that Love Letters would be his first music video in three years – following a Bjork clip from back in 2011 – I couldn’t have clicked fast enough. Although it quite literally centres around the band performing the song, I knew that there would be more to it. It’s Gondry, after all. He manages to find a way. After a few views, I was completely taken – it’s not what’s happening in the confines of the performance, it’s the scenery that surrounds it. As the camera spins, it takes us to a different, beautifully-painted backdrop. The concept is so simple, but it adds so much to the song. Dammit, Gondry, you’ve done it again!
What’s up, friends? Thanks for coming back yet again and checking out our little dealio here, as we look back at the best visual counterparts to the songs of 2013. If you missed part one, you can check up on that here. If not, let’s get right back to it!
25. Unknown Mortal Orchestra – Swim and Sleep (Like a Shark)
Directed by Becky and Joe
This groovy tune from the part-Kiwi, part-Portlandian’s second album was certainly one of the more talked-about clips in the indie world this year. It’s safe to say that there was nothing out there quite like it – the imaginative team of Becky Sloan and Joe James (with the clever moniker of Becky and Joe) lured us into the life of a perverted puppet whose life manages to get weirder and weirder by the second. His surrounds and the people in it tend to raise more questions than get answered, but perhaps that’s why it’s such a strangely alluring clip.
24. iwrestledabearonce – Boat Paddle
Directed by Justin Beasley
It’s morphin’ time! In order to save the universe from a giant butt-faced monster – and that’s quite literally what it is, by the way – the guys and girl of IWABO suit up and use the almighty powers of rock & roll. You may have guessed that we’ve gotten to a silly section of the countdown, and you’d be absolutely right. Everything here is as cheesy and hammed-up as you’d expect; very much a reflection on how rare it is that the gang actually take things seriously. They’re just an outrageously fun band – if anyone deserves to be saving the world, it’s gotta be them.
Read my original post on Boat Paddle here.
23. Batpiss – Loose Screws
Directed by Chris Matthews
We all know how this one goes: Boy gets job, boy gets abused at job, boy decides to go on bloody massacre rampage. It’s the oldest trick in the book! Melbourne trio Batpiss pricked up eyebrows across the country with their cartoonishly graphic video, complete with a nod to one of the best videos of 2012 and a finale that no-one could have possibly seen coming. Major kudos to the make-up department, as well as the slab of extras whose campish overacting sell the video even more than it was already being sold. Yet another world-class video from Australia’s relatively-underground scene.
22. Cloud Control – Dojo Rising
Directed by Ian Pons Jewell
A truly international affair if ever there was one: Australian band based in the U.K. enlist London director for a video shot in Bolivia. Yeah, that just about checks out. While we’re at it, why don’t we throw in a dodgy, down-on-his-luck clown and a seemingly-sweet little girl who seeks revenge on said clown ruining her birthday party? Hell, why not? In for a penny, in for a pound. Gorgeously shot and splendidly strange, Dojo Rising proved to be one of the year’s biggest curveballs from a video perspective. It wasn’t what anyone was expecting, but it was sure as hell what we got.
Read my original post on Dojo Rising here.
21. Psy – Gentleman
Directed by Choo Soo-hyun
If 1,877,401,067 YouTube hits can’t be wrong, can 623,110,248? That’s the billion-dollar question, and the answer was a resounding yes. Sure, following up literally the biggest music video of all time was a big ask – but the K-pop superstar took it in his stride and kept things just as outlandish, as extravagant and as hilarious. Not an instant classic, but certainly one guaranteed to raise a smile everytime you see it.
Read my original post on Gentleman here.
What do you think? Leave a comment or an email; and we’ll see you next week!
“I’ll take you all the way, stay another song…”
Y’know, there is one way to make me feel like I haven’t achieved anything, and that’s to show me the successes that others have had when they were my age. For instance, Sophie Ellis Bextor – the focus of today’s lesson – was 22 (indeed, the age I am now) when she had her first worldwide solo hit. A top-five hit in eighteen countries at 22! Jesus. Ms. EB is 34 now and has three kids, but there was a period where she was probably the hottest woman in pop music – I’m talking both figuratively and aesthetically here. Although her only major hit over here – excluding Groovejet by Spiller, on which she provided the vocals – she’s managed to keep up a fairly respectable profile in the UK, consistently releasing albums and accumulating a strong following among the pop geeks.
That’s all well and good, yes, but today we’re here to hone in on what was the most-played song on European radio throughout 2002. This inescapable early-2000s floor-filler had enough going for it without any form of visual accompaniment – there’s a hook every seven seconds (pop geeks will get this), the production is flawless and SEB’s vocals are chic and stylish. With that said: Holy hell, the video made a difference. If one was to ever properly answer how to improve on perfection, they’d surely point to a clip like this. It remains one of my absolute favourite clips of the 2000s, pop or otherwise. And why? Because it’s so delightfully bitchy.
I’ve always been somewhat fascinated by the representation of the ego within pop videos – the males going for boastful and brawny; while the females tend to be more snide and vindictive. It’s more or less about asserting status, and this is very much achieved in the Murder on the Dancefloor video. Yes, it’s clearly a bit of a send-up and a parody of the ego representation, but it plays it straight enough that it could fall either way – especially to a younger audience.
A dance competition is happening, and the heat is on for SEB and her partner. She shows full intent on winning the thing from the very beginning, and cuts some pretty severe corners in order to do so. The cast of characters surrounding SEB are hilarious enough on their own, but their reactions when she manages to cut them out of the comp make them even better. There clearly wasn’t much of a budget for the video – perhaps there wasn’t much faith in her as a solo artist? – but it doesn’t take a genius cinematographer to make SEB look resplendent; nor a genius choreographer to make her look fantastic in the throes of the dance.
Really, we’re all winners at the end of this one. What a glorious bit of fun this one is. I wish I could have enjoyed it more at the time – at 11/12, I was too busy trying to convince people I was a heterosexual to have time for this. Only later did I appreciate the true beauty of Murder. With that came the silent envy over her young achievements, but it’s a double-edged sword I’m willing to wield.
“Spiraling down, biting words like a wolf howls…”
I’ve come to discover this clip from UK up-and-comer trio Daughter at somewhat of an interesting crossroads. This comes just under a month since the video was put online, as well as just under a month until their debut album, If You Leave. Noticing my timing makes me feel as though I am fashionably late, as well as quite possibly on the verge of something massive. Really, it’s a great feeling to have.
It’s not just the gorgeous song that’s gotten me all excited, which feels like Ladytron blending in with Explosions in the Sky. No, of course, the video is a wonder unto itself. Yesterday, we featured a video from Adelaide band Paper Arms which documented intensity taking its place in the spaces between, caused by a lack of intimacy between estranged lovers. The video for Still explores this further, going into extensive and intimate detail as a couple prepare to go to bed. They sleep in the same one, but go to bed at different times. That alone might not seem like much, but it’s beyond clear given their facial expressions that there is something well and truly wrong. This is beautifully shot and masterfully acted – especially impressive given the lack of dialogue. Fantastic stuff. Just between us, I think we’ve got something pretty huge on our hands here. So watch this, but don’t tell anyone… yet.
Happy New Year, everyone! Hope you’ve been having an amazing time with the new year, and that you had a fun and safe Christmas. I’ve been at Peats Ridge once again, having a blast. Have just had an amazing week of gigs, too. But no rest for the wicked – this time next week, I’ll be jetting to Melbourne for a week for my first-ever visit there! How exciting! Anyway, prior to our official full-time return in February, here are the best 30 videos from last year. There’s some fun, some sadness, some beauty and a few unexpected gems. Let’s dig in!
With apologies to: Beastie Boys, Ball Park Music, Wavves, Beyonce, R.E.M., Jebediah, Seeker Lover Keeper, Fishing, Alpine, Snakadaktal, The Black Keys, Unkle and Is Tropical.
30. The National – Conversation 16
Directed by Scott Jacobson
Deep down, don’t we all want to live in a world where Kristen freaking Schaal gets to be President? No? Just me? Anyway, this was a peculiar choice for the final single to be lifted from 2010’s excellent High Violet record – but it resulted in possibly the best video the band have ever done. An unrequited love story between Schaal and Mad Men‘s John Slattery, this is a fantastically done video which plays out more like a silent movie – the expressions on the faces, as well as the music itself, explains it all. Truly one of the best bands in the world, giving us a great way to kick off the countdown.
Read my original blog on Conversation 16 here.
29. Fireworks – Arrows
Directed by Thom Glunt
Gospel, the outstanding second record from Detroit pop-punkers Fireworks, was easily one of my favourite albums of the year. Not to sound discriminatory or anything like that, but I certainly wasn’t expecting the band to add a video of the year contender with the clip for the album’s lead track and lead single. Have I simply come to suspect that all pop-punk bands do is tour footage montages? Anyway, the band themselves are nowhere to be seen in this video – instead, they leave the dirty work to a particularly sadistic arch-villian. He’s hell-bent on eliminating a family, one by one – but not in the way you’d expect, and certainly not with the motive you would expect, either. Oh, the suspense!
Read my original blog on Arrows here.
28. Snow Patrol – Called Out in the Dark
Directed by Brett Simon
If you take a cliche and twist it slightly, what does it become? Original, or just a counter-cliche? Whatever the case, consider this old chestnut: a music video inside a music video. You’ve seen it done, from Jack Johnson to Fall Out Boy and back again. It can still be clever, but you’ll be damned if it’s not cliche. Consider this curveball, though: What if you, the creator of the music, were not allowed to star in your own video (within a video)? This is what happens to Gary Lightbody, as he attempts to weave his way back onto camera and win over the director (played by Boston Legal‘s Tara Summers). For a band that have often been dismissed as too serious or glum, this is certainly a surprising turn – and one you can be grateful they have taken, if it leads to more great videos like this. As far as counter-cliches go, this isn’t too shabby at all.
Read my original blog on Called Out in the Dark here.
27. They Might Be Giants – Can’t Keep Johnny Down (video contest winner version)
Directed by Mohit Jaswal
This one might cause a little bit of controversy. As much as I liked the concept of the official Can’t Keep Johnny Down video, which features Rip Torn doing what he does best (kick arse), I couldn’t help but be drawn to the charms of the video contest the band held to make a video for the song. Some great entries came forth, but I’m of the firm belief that not only was the winner the most deserving, but also the best video for Johnny that has been made. It begins with underpants on the ground in the forest. It ends with a frustrated man in the office. In-between, there are pools, coupons, motorbikes and a variety of other slow-motion escapades. How does it all come together? Fucking beautifully. So watch for yourself.
26. Mamas Gun – Reconnection
Directed by James Stoneley
A delightfully unexpected nugget of gold came in the form of this little winner from up-and-coming London groovers Mamas Gun, who I had never heard of before getting recommended this clip through the blog’s email address. It only took one viewing for me to completely fall for its charm, and I can only assume it will do the very same for you. The brightly-coloured adventure takes its queues mostly from Alice in Wonderland, but it’s by no means a direct rip. All things considered, it’s quite inventive – I love the multiple camera effects and the costume changes, as well as the fact that every band member plays something different. A joy to watch every single time.
Read my original blog on Reconnection here.
That’s it, gang! Thanks so much for reading, and I’ll see you for part 2 of 5 this time next week! In the meantime, feel free to submit your own favourites or comments on these in the comment section below, or over at firstname.lastname@example.org. Sound good? Great!