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Tuesday, May 27, 2008

The new Gnarls Barkley video looks like a Saturday morning educational video invoking. The 1970s, tomorrow and beaded yesterdays still to be imagined. This video about a group of friends who find a portal to another dimension says that the future is mystical and not technological.  It says that the future happens in Africa, however vague that is.


But what starts out an exuberant celebration for many becomes a strenuous journey survived by few. For the leaders, or the “brave leader” and his fierce girlfriend, exuberance becomes fatigue and anxiety, whittled down to reverence by the time we get to the end. The two remaining heroes kneel like sprinters before the do or that they set up at the meeting between worlds. Their victory offers more questions than answers.


These two heroes a man and a woman, are lovers, and champions. Maybe we are meant to understand that these two heroes are Gnarls Barkley, an odd couple “going on” to another world that the rest of the music industry isn’t strong or brave enough to enter. 


The heroism of the final duo is complicated by the gender politics and love relationship that the song and the video present. I wonder about what levels of love are meant and residing there in words that seem to be spoken by the male hero. The video put the words into the mouth of the lead man, and projects them onto the sometimes smiling, sometimes pained, sometimes pensive face of the lead woman. I wonder if the words about there “being a place for you too” are for her? Who exactly is supposed to get left behind gender of us to be left behind while male explorers forge forward again?  What divides her from the “lead man” what connects her to him? Their movements are similar, the framing of the video makes it seem that a love relationship connects them, but the words to the song, which seem to be about leaving someone behind while also projecting that person into the future seem to divide the two characters.


Most explicitly the command “don’t follow me” made in words that seem to come out of the portal doorway after the man jumps could be meant for the woman who follows and jumps through the doorway, just as athletically anyway. If the words come to the viewing audience from both of the jumpers… why are they timed between the two jumps? Is the woman actor or audience in this video?


Either way… I’m going to keep watching.


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Sunday, May 25, 2008

Weezer have always had a knack for making great videos. Spike Jonze’s early work with the band on the low-key but clever “Undone (The Sweater Song)” and the innovative “Buddy Holly” video that featured the band inserted into Happy Days helped put him on the map. Then there were Marcos Siega’s clips for “Hash Pipe”, with the band in sumo suits, and the excellent “Keep Fishin’”, which had Weezer appearing as guests on The Muppet Show. On Friday, May 23, the band added “Pork and Beans” to their list of video triumphs. Premiering on YouTube, the video is three minutes and 15 seconds of references to internet pop culture, most of which became famous through YouTube in the first place.


The band assembled dozens of these internet celebs and tossed them all into the same video, having most of the lip sync to the lyrics of the songs. The main performance in the video shows Weezer in a field in lab coats, performing amidst an ever-increasing number of Diet Coke-and-Mentos fountains. The sheer amount of references is astonishing, and the video quickly becomes an entertaining checklist as the viewer tries to identify the various bits. I got about 80% of them on the first time through. My favorite moments- drummer Pat Wilson creepily hanging around the Numa Numa headphones guy and Rivers Cuomo awkwardly giving Chris “Leave Britney Alone!!” Crocker a hug.


Sure, Weezer isn’t the first to combine a pile of internet references in one place. South Park did it to hilarious effect a couple of months ago, and that’s just one example. And yes, it will probably seem dated six months from now—it won’t have the staying power of the “Buddy Holly” video, that’s for sure. But since videos are often basically band-approved commercials for the music, staying power isn’t the point. Right now, and for the rest of the summer, Weezer has a surefire YouTube hit on their hands that will go a long way towards keeping their name out there as they promote their new album. It’s both funny and a savvy marketing strategy, so kudos to them.


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Friday, May 23, 2008
Little Dragon - Test

Little Dragon’s 2007 album never quite garnered the momentum it deserved despite the blogosphere hype that’s launched a hundred lesser careers and artists.  Singer, Yukimi Nagano, has a crystalline R&B timbre to her voice, like Erykah Badu re-tooled for one of those Nordic lounges constructed from cloudless ice sheets.  Almost every Little Dragon song (except the ultra-infectious “Forever”) doesn’t have the smacking immediacy of contemporary American R&B.  Their ballads are glacial and complex; their upticked tracks too whimsical and devoid of posture and cliché. 


For me, this video represents the charming details of making a lo-fi visual representation of a song.  It’s almost as if the video is a constant series of in jokes, like the washed-out pastel t-shirts that look as if they were suggested by someone’s mother so that everyone would “match”.  But there are other subtleties that can be visually arresting.  When Nagano skillfully taps out a rhythm on a tambourine, it’s actually sexy.  That’s hard to imagine in a genre where sexy usually involves butt floss swimwear dripping with off-brand corn oil.  Even the dirty mop-topped back-up dancers seem like a tongue-in-cheek nod to the arbitrary surrealism that passes for serious artistry in many videos.  I’ve also come to appreciate videos that eschew coldly angular choreography for something more spontaneous and individualized (or at least the appearance of individuality and spontaneity).  “Test” looks like it was a fun video to make; you can see it in the tamped down grins that crack through the faux serious faces they wear as they clumsily mime their way through the shrug dance of the Robert Palmer girls.


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Friday, May 23, 2008
AM - Old Song

You gotta hand it to LA-based songwriter AM, he chose his unfortunate stage name before the internet was a major concern and has stuck to it even though it has rendered him all but invisible to Google.  Here are some of the places you’d have been more likely to end up if it hadn’t been for us:


You’re welcome.


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Wednesday, May 21, 2008

The new Flying Lotus LP will be released on June 10th.  In my reckoning, it couldn’t come soon enough.  For some idea of where he’s coming from musically, here’s the video from one of the best tracks from his Reset EP. 


“Tea Leaf Dancers” provides a compact starting point for what makes Flying Lotus such a great producer and sound sculptor.  Flying Lotus’ sound is very much DJ Screw meets Tricky, with loops that knot in on themselves and a pillowy disorientation that constantly interrupts the forward momentum.  The video doesn’t so much tell a story as it does mirror the sonic mood.  In between sleep and consciousness, breakneck speed and stasis, the video has the effect of producing eye-flickering relaxation.  Okay, that’s probably just a fancy way of saying that it’s like slipping into a k-tunnel.  The unreal color and float-walk transport are narcotic and hypnotic, reproducing the same camera work that captures the light trails in sped up recordings of urban night traffic.  As far as narratives go, sleepwalking to the beach to watch the sunset isn’t exactly groundbreaking, but rendered with such dizzying simplicity and beauty, it doesn’t have to be.


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