“The smoke is clearing, and I can see it’s burning out…”
If you look closely at the most recent tour poster for Adelaide melodic punks Paper Arms, you might see a dude at the far right having a good old fashioned scream-along directly into the face of Josh Mann, the band’s frontman. “Gee, David, are you doing a none-too-subtle mention of the fact that you’re on the tour poster?” Why yes, dear reader, as a matter of fact I am! And the point of this story? Why, simply to tell you that I fucken love me a bit of Paper Arms.
This year, they’ve finally dropped their second studio album, the follow up to 2010′s positively bitchin’ Days Above Ground. In order to generate a bit more interest, the band have teamed up with Adelaide collective Passel Media to deliver an intense visual portrayal of the album’s opening number. It’s a single location of the humble dining table in the middle of the kitchen area, which seems to start off innocently enough as the start of a morning between a couple. That is, of course, until they start playing mind games around the same time that the drums kick in. I won’t give it away, but I can tell you this much: If you’ve learned one thing from this blog, it’s that actions can speak a shitload louder than words, and sometimes silence can convey more than a speech ever could.
“Time is changing me, I’ve got to get my life together…”
In popular Australian music, we seem to go through two back-and-forth stages: everyone is either selling their guitars to buy synthesizers, or selling their synthesizers to play guitars. In a period of the former, Tim & Jean ruled supreme – and, upon listening to their debut LP, Like What, rightfully so. Those hooks! Those keys! How delightful. Anyway, last year Jean Capotorto decided that he needed to take a break from music, effectively ending that synth-driven daydream and leaving Tim Ayre and the T&J live band to pick up the pieces.
For what it’s worth, they have adapted remarkably. The Lazy Calm, as the collective are now known, show a great ambition and drive to create something that’s substantially different from the T&J sound. This has transferred, too, into their video making. For a song standing boldly against substance abuse in indigenous communities, the band head to the outback with Jae Laeffer of The Panics and Delson Stokes Jr. of the Yabu Band, who both feature in the song. The location is breathtaking, the sentiment is strong and the whole affair reminds me significantly of Midnight Oil‘s iconic video for Beds Are Burning. Hell, we may well have ourselves a new iconic Australian video right here. A must-see.
“But you work in an office, and you’ve got other offers…”
I’ve gone on before about how much I adore Brendan Maclean. He was the first-ever featured artist on this here blog, he’s had two videos in my top 10 clips of the year (2010 and 2011) and… well, shit, I just adore the little fucker. Can you blame me? He’s just so endearing and brave and interesting and funny – on and offline. It all really seems to be coming together for him now – at long last, we’re going to get an album from this son of a bitch, thanks to the support of his Pozible crew (which you should totally check out over here) and the wizardry of Paul Mac on the production knobs.
To celebrate, Brendan has just released his fifth music video. I missed out on the last two, OnlyOnly and Beat Me to It – the former because I pretty much have a “no performance videos” rule, and the latter because it was released during vacation time. Sorry, B-Mac! Hopefully, I can make up for it with a glowing review for this wonderful clip – potentially the best of the lot. Here, Brendan ends up as the only other person at a party. Rather than make things awkward, however, he decides to have a bit of a dance. Wait… a bit? A LOT of a dance might be a bit closer to the mark. Meanwhile, the girl who’s thrown the party (played by Eloise Winestock) decides that it’s her party and that she can bloody well cry if she wants to. She gets sadder and sadder as Brendan gets happier and happier. What a beautiful contrast it makes, too. If he keeps it up, not to mention with The Great Gatsby finally coming out this year, 2013 will be the year of the Mac. Get on board.
“I like to create a dialogue, that leads everyone to intercourse…”
Morning! Here’s something new from and old buddy, producer and rocker extraordinaire Simon Berckelman. You may remember him as Berkfinger, the fearless leader of the late, great Philadelphia Grand Jury. He’s now a solo adventurer under the name of Feelings, and has just dropped his second single for this project. How very exciting! To go with the song, Simon has teamed up with filmmaker Erin McBean for a low-budget, Tim and Eric-esque affair that revels in its kitsch and uncomfortable oddity. Where else but Berlin!
In the video for Intercourse, Simon appears to have found himself in an Odd Couple-esque situation with… what the hell is that, exactly? Is that an arsehole on someone’s face? Is it a mouth made out of a thumb and index finger? Whatever the hell it is, it’s pretty disconcerting – especially when it’s jumping on the bed and creating all kinds of anarchy in the midst of an antique doll-house that both the unruly/untidy one and Simon have managed to squeeze themselves into. It’s daggy, it’s squirmish and it’s an absolute charm.
Shit is about to get well pointy, son! This time around, we’ve got crazy kids, crazy pep-peps and crazy dudes with sledgehammers. You have been warned – THIS is the second half of the top 30 videos of the year, and it’s fucking GLORIOUS.
15. tUnE-yArDs - My Country
Directed by Mimi Cave
There’s always been somewhat of a childlike wonder to what Merrill Garbus - aka tUnE-yArDs – does in her music. So why not bring in an army of tykes to visualise the opening track from her brilliant W H O K I L L record? As a matter of fact, you might not even notice when Merrill herself appears in the video – she blends in with their excitement and awe perfectly. Not only does this look like it was an insane amount of fun to make, but because there’s so many super-cute/super-awesome kids, you can probably pick out a favourite or two. I’m gonna go with old mate on the drums, the bald kid that’s REALLY getting into it. The popping-and-locking breakdance girl is a winner, too. Life-affirming awesomeness cometh in the form of tUnE-yArDs. The kids are alright.
Read my original post on My Country here.
14. Taylor Swift - We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together
Directed by Declan Whitebloom
A lot of questions got raised in the wake of this video’s release. Does T-Sweezy really need those glasses? Why are her bandmates all dressed up like woodland creatures? Is there a plot to this thing at all? You can probably answer all of them with a quick whack ’round the side of the head and an exclamation of “DUDE! It’s a pop video!” Of course it’s completely ridiculous and plotless. That’s half the fucking point! I’m like a fly going towards the zapper when it comes to Taylor’s videos, but I love this one the most for its knowing humour and its willingness to be just a little adventurous – the single camera format in particular is fantastic, and I wish more pop videos used it. A pleasure that was guilty as charged.
Read my original post on We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together here.
13. Dinosaur Jr. - Watch the Corners
Directed by The Director Brothers
For all his sour demeanour and his perceived lack of humour, I still think that J. Macsis is a funny dude. Doing a video like Over It, a parody of nineties skate videos, was solid enough evidence. But bringing in a guy like Tim Heidecker (of Tim & Eric and The Comedy fame) sealed the deal for me. Watch the Corners isn’t quite a “funny” video, per se; in the same way that Heidecker’s The Comedy wasn’t quite funny. That said, it’s a blackly comic affair about young love, over-protective parents and crossing over into the rebellious teen phase. It fits the song perfectly, and given Heidecker has less than 10 seconds of dialogue all up, his actions speak far louder than words in this context. Watch out for the pool and watch out for the final revenge on his daughter’s ex.
Read my original post on Watch the Corners here.
12. DZ Deathrays – No Sleep
Directed by Vonne Patiag
The DZ boys know how to make a lot out of a little – hell, prior to this clip, their best-known clip was a one-take for The Mess Up which was just the band doing as many shots as possible. And so, with a small pink backdrop and a comedy superstar, DZ manage to deliver a hilarious twist on a classic video, that being Paul Simon‘s clip for You Can Call Me Al. With Arj Barker taking the place of Chevy Chase, he takes the ball and runs with it, throwing in some ridiculous guitar shredding and bongo solos for extra measure. What you see is what you get with this one – and what you get is awesome lip-syncing, sledgehammers and PUPPIES! Don’t worry, the last two aren’t related.
Read my original post on No Sleep here.
11. Explosions in the Sky - Postcard From 1952
Directed by Peter Simonite and Annie Gunn
Photography and video have gone hand-in-hand forever. There’s been countless music videos that have been made up entirely of photographs, and it’s a really cool and interesting idea when done properly. What’s so fascinating about Postcard From 1952 however, is that it’s a video documentation of the moments that lead up to – as well as the moments that follow after – a photo being taken. It takes the concept of the song’s title and runs with it. The scenery, the costumes, the locations… it’s absolutely breathtaking. It goes to show just how much can go into a solitary moment, a flickering second in time that’s captured. Absolutely wonderful stuff. A true video experience.
Next week… the top 10! It’s all over, dude!
For its third consecutive year, we are back with the best videos of the year! 2010 was a big year for pop, with Lady Gaga taking the top spot. 2011 was an obvious winner, with Gotye and Kimbra facepainting their way to number one. What of this year? Well, it’s an incredibly mixed bag. I had a lot of fun watching and putting this list together, so I do hope very much indeed that you at least find a couple of clips that tickle your fancy. And really, with the amount of different styles and videos on display here, it would take quite a stern reader to not find any enjoyment in this countdown, if I do say so myself!
Alright, let’s begin!
With apologies to: Tom Waits, Childish Gambino, Killer Mike, The Black Keys, Gorillaz, OFF!, Hilltop Hoods, Kimya Dawson, Matt & Kim, Pet Shop Boys, Macklemore and Grizzly Bear.
30. King Parrot - Shit on the Liver
Directed by Dan Farmer
Here was a late-runner in proceedings, but one that scaled the ranks quite quickly – probably as fast as the blast-beats heard throughout the song itself. At a time when a lot of Australian metal dudes are just humourless black-clad fucks stroking their goatees, Melbourne’s King Parrot like to fuck with things just a little. They’re already out their enough as it is with their grindcore-influenced take on metal, but they push the envelope just a little further with this manic video. A limited-budget, once again, proves to have zero correlation with limited imagination. The best Australian metal video in years.
Read my original post on Shit on the Liver here.
29. Liars - Brats
Directed by Ian Cheng
There was always something about Liars that never quite sat right with me. I don’t know whether it was just an air of we’re-so-clever that ticked me off, or their drony monotone vocals that plagued their earlier material. Whatever the case, they have started to impress me more and more lately – and I can’t think of a better example of just how they have done this than with the truly demented video for Brats. At first, it feels like someone on acid playing around with a pre-internet animation computer program. Delving further makes it feel like… well, still like someone on acid doing something. But that’s almost the point. Using incredible motion capture work and a healthy dose of glitching weirdness, Liars are officially out of my bad books. Well played, boys.
28. Solange - Losing You
Directed by Melina Matsoukas
Her moment has arrived. Her time in the shadow of that sibling is officially over. Ladies and gentlemen, Solange Knowles has officially taken to the limelight after several false starts and poor career moves. She did it using this remarkable video as a platform – a technicolour pop dream, full of bright colours, big hair and culture shock. With her most dapper friends in tow, Solange takes to the streets of South Africa and brings her eighties-town beats and sharp fashion with her. This more or less completely encapsulated every thing that is wonderful about Solange – and, better still, what more is to come.
Read my original post on Losing You here.
27. Fiona Apple - Every Single Night
Directed by Joseph Cahill
Many would choose an array of whistles and bells to signal their return after several years in exile. Then again, Fiona Apple always has – and probably always will be – unlike those that would fall into the “many” category. How does she begin her first video in over half a decade? With a make-up artist carefully placing an octopus on her head. Because of course she did. Every Single Night sees FiFi quite literally getting back to nature – burying herself in snails, feeding a crocodile, heaving against an aquarium wall and snuggling up to some kind of centaur. It’s an intensely watchable experience, really; and one that really drives home everything that is fervently creative and wholly unique regarding Ms. Apple. About damn time, too.
Read my original post on Every Single Night here.
26. David Byrne and St. Vincent - Who
Directed by Martin de Thurah
From his shoulder-pad shrugging to continuously slapping himself in the face, David Byrne essentially pioneered the weird-arse dance for music videos throughout the 80s. Now in his early sixties, the man has still got the moves – and here, it’s essentially a case of him passing the torch. On the receiving end is Annie Clark, who we all know and adore as St. Vincent. After Byrne discovers her lying in the middle of the road, it’s time that he teaches her to dance. It’s not long after this that they get other people in on the jig – figuratively and literally. Really, this couldn’t have come from any other duo – it’s jolty and absurdist film-making, bringing out a true sense of oddity that sees two generations of weirdos meld minds and shake hips.
Read my original post on Who here.
Part two up next Monday!
“We can cry tomorrow, watching It’s A Wonderful Life…”
Should get this out of the way up top: DON’T LOOK DIRECTLY INTO JOHN TRAVOLTA‘S EYES IN THE ABOVE PHOTO. HE WILL TAKE YOUR SOUL, AND SECURITY WON’T LET YOU GET IT BACK.
Alright, now let’s focus here. Eyes down here, friends. We’re talking the horrific reunion of John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John today – specifically for a truly nightmarish Christmas album, imaginatively titled This Christmas. No doubt you’ve already seen some of the wreckage that this record has left in its wake, but it’s almost a given that nothing has been quite as glaringly evil and notoriously awful than the music video that the twosome put together for one of the songs from the record. Proceed with extreme caution.
Something I noted from the outset: Both of these guys are millionaires. Not quite in the same league – Travolta averaging about 160 mill, while ONJ is somewhere closer to 40 – but millionaires all the same. Why, then, did they decide to put aside maybe 20 dollars to make this video? Seriously, if you can afford a plane, you can afford a half-decent video. Hell, if you can afford the kind of heavy-duty hair dye that John is using on himself these days, you can surely afford a fucking half-decent video.
Anyway, this poorly-acted and plotless affair essentially revolves around John and Olivia getting back together for Christmas, as well as a stack of other families for no apparent reason. They just seem to be kind of tacked on in the second verse. I dunno. It’s all got this very artificial and creepy vibe to it, like they’re all part of a cult or something. I dunno, might be the Scientology wiping off on me. The dance scene near the end is particularly fucked. Maybe they all turn into aliens in the director’s cut? Who knows? All I can say is that it’s truly a Christmas nightmare we’ve got on our hands. Enjoy the fuck out of it.
“Took me to fire, held me to flames…”
Here’s something a bit saucy out of Sydney, starring a dear ladyfriend of mine in Hayley Foster, who you may recognise from her days in Chaingang. She’s still rocking out like the fierce alpha-femme that she is, but the music is quite different – a lot more Peaches than The Pretenders, if you will. With Laura Noir by her side, it looks like we’ll be seeing some big things from Twincest in 2013. Right here is our first proper taste of what’s to come.
In this feisty clip, the ladies trade hooks as a series of identically-dressed ladies surround them. The fast-paced choreography – kudos, Amrita Tennant - adds a dash of craziness to the mix for good measure. They sure do manage to pack in quite a bit into the song’s short run-time – and, I have to say, the thing looks absolutely massive for what was basically a shoestring budget. Fabulous debut effort, ladies – let’s keep it at this level of bootylicious for future endeavours, yes? Yes? Alllrighty then!