“The river runs wild, the veins to the heart of a city…”
Anyone who’s ever sat me down and talked about Australian music for longer than a minute or two knows that I have a few things to say about Australian Idol – not like in a fuckwitted Dave Grohl style, but in more of a supportive and even pondering style. I felt like it has brought us too much good music – Owl Eyes, Matt Corby, Bobby Flynn et al. – to be ignored as just a barren wasteland of talentless karaoke singers. There was something there, a medium that didn’t guarantee success but certainly gave enough exposure to substantiate an advanced music career, which many AI alumni now have.
It’s with this I introduce you to Buffalo Tales. The name itself may not be familiar, but perhaps Wes Carr is – the winner of the 2008 season, and perhaps the only winner apart from Guy Sebastian still actively pursuing music. He is set to release his debut album as Buffalo Tales at the end of the month, and this rustic gypsy-folk style marks a substantial departure from, say, Feels Like Whoah from his The Way the World Looks LP. The video, too, is striking and eccentric. It loosely follows on from the Blood and Bone video of last year, with both clips beginning with waking up and ending with a new journey seemingly ready to begin. Carr awakes in a forest, with three waifish girls ambiguously guiding him. Where shall it lead? I’ll leave that with you. Take a moment to breathe in the glorious location shots and the bizarre twist at the video’s end. Aside from that, I’m leaving this one entirely up to you. Make good of it.
“Said your love is known, I’m standing up on it…”
The album cycle for Bon Iver, Bon Iver, the wildly successful second studio album for Justin Vernon, aka – you guessed it - Bon Iver, is nearly complete. We’ve seen a helluva lot go on in that time – sell-out world tours, Grammy wins, Saturday Night Live parodies and a young lady by the name of Birdy taking one of Vernon’s tracks and becoming an adult-contemporary sensation on the back of it. For the intents and purposes of this blog, it’s also absolutely worth mentioning that the album also gave us some truly fantastic videos, including Calgary, Towers and Holocene – the last of those three even cracking my top 10 in the top 30 best videos of 2011! So, how does it all end for BI,BI? There’s one more video.
It’s for the last song on the album, a gorgeous late-night easy-listen with glassy synths and a sax solo. In other words, it’s quite a stretch away from what had been established about Bon Iver’s sound. In turn, the video for Beth/Rest sees Vernon and co. move away significantly from previous video efforts. In fact, I’d wager that this is unlike any other video that you’ll see this year. It’s a gorgeously bright parallel universe, full of blinding light and onesies that turn up out of nowhere and then are never seen again. It’s like a mix of an alien movie, that Harvest Moon game and arthouse cinema. Am I mad in that I genuinely want to know what the fuck is going on in this video? Does it matter? It’s fantastic, regardless.
“Past the lakes, to where Mount Beauty took my breath away…”
I’m at quite an interesting point in my life where a lot of Australian musicians that I admire and grew up with have turned into friends and acquaintances, people that I know and trust. Five years ago, as a nervous sixteen-year-old, I asked for Jen Cloher‘s autograph at a show she did with The Audreys, Ash Grunwald and Xavier Rudd. These days, I’m happy to count her as a friend. Her 2009 album, Hidden Hands, resonated with me like few other LPs did that year. When personal tragedy struck for me earlier this year, Jen was one of the first people I spoke to about it. Hell, her song Rain was one of the first songs I ever learned on guitar. In other words, Jen and I have a history – and I’m so glad that it gets to continue here.
Mount Beauty is the first song from Jen’s first album without her band The Endless Sea, entitled In Blood Memory. It starts with spiralling acoustic picking before drifting into a gritty folk-rock number, replete with Cloher’s great storytelling and bold imagery. The latter is particularly touched on in the Bec Kingma-directed video, which sees Cloher take her guitar out of the city and into the depths of the woods, through freezing waters and filthy tunnels. Not only does she look totally badass while doing it, but it adds layer upon layer of intensity and grit to the song’s dynamics. I love a strong narrative in videos, and I love it when it’s making a great song even better. Lord, it’s great to have Jen Cloher back on the scene. You should see her live next month at these venues.
I hope you enjoyed this horribly biased piece of writing. Hey, that’s what friends are for.
“Whenever I looked at a bearded man, it made me glad that I’d stuck to the plan…”
Okay, so I’m slightly late to the party on this one. Still, why would I EVER want to miss a video from the almighty bearded ones, known to us mere mortals as The Beards? We’re a few weeks away from their massive End of the World (For Beardless People tour, and I’m almost too keen to get amongst the madness in Wollongong. For now, though, this delightful animated romp will simply have to suffice – and that’ll do nicely, thanks all the same!
Our hero in the clip is a bearded dude who ends up in a nasty break-up due to his girlfriend wanting him to have a trim. Hell no, the beard won’t go. So, our hero gets out of the evil town of Shaverton and winds up in the Utopia of Beardland – a place for all bearded folk to roam free and in perfect harmony! Our hero has such a good time there, he decides to take the party all the way back to Shaverton. What follows is potentially the funniest final minute of a music video this year. No spoilers. You have been warned. Get bearded. Get bearded now.
“You’re the only thing alive that keeps me going, you’re like a time bomb in my heart…”
You know who’s a badass dude? Bob Dylan. Even into his seventies with his voice shot to absolute shit, this is a dude that could not care less what anyone thinks – and it’s this attitude that means that his most recent art is still able to evoke strong emotion, and even shock people. So it is with the imminent release of Tempest, Dylan’s thirty-fifth (!) studio album, the old bastard has riled up his fan-base with the release of what is possibly his best music video in the past twenty years.
Dylan himself has a very small part in the video – he’s seen strolling the city streets with a gang of rag-tags, including a Mexican thug and a Gene Simmons impersonator. As you do. The footage of Dylan’s walk is mixed in with the continuing story of a blossoming romance gone horribly awry, as a young man goes to great lengths to impress an inner-city beauty. It starts off sweet and charming, before turning very ugly towards the end – I’m not going to say how exactly, because even describing it blow-by-blow would not have even close to the impact of actually watching it happen. It’s similar to the shock of Spiritualized‘s Hey Jane video from a few months back. If you’re brave enough, this is a video that pays off in spades.
“That’s a wall that you cannot scale, so you’re forced to burrow under…”
Full admission: I’m a 90s kid, but I’m not THAT much of a 90s kid. Thus, the whole Aimee Mann thing passed me by at its peak. That said, I’ve really come to enjoy her work recently, particularly in the field of comedy with her episode of Portlandia and her improv work with Paul F. Tompkins. It’s great to see a musician that not only has a sense of humour, but a particularly sharp one, too.
So naturally, I was excited to hear about a new video from Mann, working with director Tom Scharpling, for the title track of her new album – which, for legal reasons, I definitely have not heard and will not hear until it is officially released. Here, she vents about the frustrations of the grind that comes with touring. Solving her problems – or at least attempting to – she buys a robot replicate of herself (played by Laura Linney) to do a bunch of things that she doesn’t feel like doing. Naturally, it goes sour – but it’s very quickly paced and really entertainingly done. Who knows? Maybe comedy was a true calling for Aimee – she could have been a killer sketch comic in another life, I think. If I recall correctly, Aimee was last out her with Ben Lee about 2 years ago? Let’s get her back out again! I’ll gladly attend – even if it’s her robot version.
“Ruby lips above the water, blowing bubbles soft and fine…”
Can anyone tell me where the hell that week went? Sorry for the lack of posts last week, and thanks for your understanding. I assume you understand, and if you don’t? Well, I can hardly help that. Moving on: Holy shit, Neil Young has a new record out this year. He’s had a mix of interesting and bizarre tunes on his last few records – Fork in the Road, a concept record about his car; Le Noise, an album almost entirely solo on electric guitar – and now he’s taken an in-road even further into oddity by getting the latest line-up of Crazy Horse to record a bunch of standards from the American songbook with him. He’s also put together a bunch of videos to go with the songs, made up of grainy archival footage – and Clementine is his latest foray.
This clip starts off innocently enough, with a loving mother in the kitchen going outside to see her three daughters. It’s from here that things become increasingly bizarre – the mother is a professional knife-thrower, and she uses her three daughters as target practice. No shit! Even when you’re watching it with the full consideration that the woman was a pro and no-one was injured, it’s still absolutely terrifying stuff to watch. The little winces and cringes the kids give when the knives come this close is really something else. This is a really creative and interesting project for Young and the CH dudes, and I hope it bears similarly delicious fruit further down the line.
“The man in the coonskin cap by the big pen wants eleven dollar bills….”
Time for a bit of On This Day trivia, starring the legendary Bob Dylan. OTD in 1965, Dylan inadvertedly created the first proper music video as an artform by filming an introductory segment to the Don’t Look Back doco, which documented his 1965 tour of the U.K. With some hand-written cue-cards and a cameo from friend and mentor Allen Ginsberg, the foundations for what would become the music video some decade or so later were laid down. Accidental genius – is there any better kind?
Done with one camera and little thought process, the video basically revolves around Dylan apathetically running through his cards, which themselves are often littered with puns or non-sequitors (my favourite is the one that reads WHAT? towards the end). It’s such a basic idea; and yet, it was executed brilliantly – as with most things Dylan was doing in the sixties. Everyone from INXS to Anti-Flag have jacked Subterranean’s swag over the years, but nothing comes close to the simple wonders of this clip. Mix up the medicine and enjoy.
“What they don’t know, they won’t mind, find them a foe for the fight…”
Look out, Art vs. Science – looks like your record is getting nipped at the feet. AvS may have six posts on this blog to their favour, but Dan Mangan is now in second place with five – this here post included – and it’s worth mentioning there’s a very good reason for this silver medal. Mangan is a creative mind and a wandering spirit – to my ears and heart, one of the most brilliant people working in music today, not just within the restrictive “folk rock” tag. I’m a huge fan, and he serves as one of my greatest musical inspirations. He continued to blaze this trail with his excellent third album, Oh Fortune, last year; but his great mind for bringing his songs to visual life had lead us to a great new clip to one of my favourite songs he’s ever done.
Post-War Blues sees a circle of politicians coming together, seemingly out of sheer boredom, to start a war (as suggested in the opening lyric of the song). The “War on Evil” is revolted against by the children it affects, as everything that they love and express themselves through is taken away from them. Hell no, we ain’t gonna take it! Fuck that! The rebellion is a beautiful thing, and it adds another layer of excellence to this song – as if it needed more. Essentially, if you’re not a Fangan, you’re nothin’. Now get to watchin’.