As you begin to circle the drain of 30 (a true “what have you done with yourself” sort of age), a lot of things begin to make you feel old. Rock concerts where you keep anxiously shifting because of your lower back pain. Not recognizing most of the people on the MTV Video Music Awards. Feeling the urge to buy property.
One more thing that will make you feel old is The XX. This British co-ed quartet is all baby fat and smooth skin, but they’ve made one of the most sophisticated albums of the year. Whenever I listen to their self-titled debut I’m in shock that this record was made by kids who have barely entered their twenties. Kids, I tell you.
The XX makes remarkably restrained, darkly sensual songs. Singers Romy Madley Croft and Oliver Sims trade verses like morbid pillow talk against the backdrop of mellow beats and clean electric guitars. It’s subdued music, but it’s not suitable for the background — it’s music for a variety of nighttime activities.
Imagine your traditional indie rock singer. Stringy, too-long hair. A white Hanes t-shirt or Western-style outfit. The beginnings of an ill-considered beard. A lean build with perhaps the hint of a belly (because, if you haven’t heard, that’s how Brooklynites are rebelling against President Obama).
This is what you may picture when you listen to Diamond Rings’ track “All Yr Songs” — a sunny bit of lo-fi pop whose electronic handclaps have left me merrily bobbing my head all day. It’s clearly a loving work of bedroomy dance music, created with an inexpensive, motley array of instruments and a sung with a deadpan rasp.
But Diamond Rings pulls a bait-and-switch when it comes to image. Instead of the scruffy indie dude you may have pictured, we’re presented with a porcelain-faced Canadian — brushed with dramatic eye make-up and dressed in the finest clothes 1984’s Sears catalog has to offer. It’s Ziggy Stardust meets Kelly Kapowski. And the video itself is no less wacky — a playful and ridiculous collection of campy theatrics inspired in equal parts by Boy George and In Living Color.
I just wanted to prepare you for what lies ahead, so you can enjoy it on its own merits when you listen. And then maybe you can try to figure out what’s going on with the styling situation.
Here’s the clip:
If you’re interested in learning more, here’s an article about him. Fun fact: he’s assisted in his solo project by the drummer for one of my current favorite groups — Ohbijou.
I’ve been waiting for a long time to write about The Seedy Seeds on this here TV blog. As it is, I can only justify writing about music when there’s a video accompanying the song — otherwise I’d be straying a little bit from the point of the site (which, for the record, is to write about cute boys, dote over Tina Fey and periodically declare that Meredith Grey is a ridiculous trollop).
But now the wait is over — the band has finally made a video for their song “Drive Me To The Center,” off their most recent album “Count the Days.” It’s a galloping, synth-charged rock song that is a bit darker and tenser than most of their tunes. Most of The Seedy Seeds’ tracks have enough playful instrumentation and spirited delivery that it easily overshadows any sort of wistfulness in the lyrics.
One thing I like about The Seedy Seeds is that they have made the rare and risky step of embracing their cuteness (the boy/girl vocals, the kazoos, the banjos, the unrelenting optimism and affinity vegan baked goods) without seeming forced or affected. They just love making pop music in the Buckeye State.
But enough of me blabbing. Here’s their surreal clip for “Drive Me To the Center.”
Seattle-based power pop band Telekinesis is essentially just Michael Benjamin Lerner. He played all the instruments and wrote all the songs on their self-titled debut. They’re pretty fun live, especially watching Lerner play intricate drum parts while handling all lead vocal duties.
But the vibe on the whole album is much more fun-loving than some sort of bedroom dirge-collection. I tend to like the more straightforward rock tracks on the album (Foreign Room, Coast of Carolina), but they’ve made a video for one of the more mellow tracks on the album — the 50s-inspired, piano-driven “Awkward Kisser.”
The video is essentially an homage to Lars and the Real Girl (I’ll just say homage as opposed to clone), with Lerner strolling around the park with a euro-chic mannequin. It’s cute, as Lerner sort of seems like the nebbishy type who could try to pass off a plastic girlfriend.
I discovered Firekites through a great design blog I read. It’s a little odd that I read a design blog, considering the fact that I generally don’t care what things look like. I appear to have missed the gay gene where you’re supposed to have a flair for interior design (case in point my 30-year-old hand-me-down living room furniture).
But I watched the video and found myself much more carried away with the song than the video (which is, admittedly, pretty cool). The song is by an Australian band called Firekites and they make some subdued, mostly acoustic music that brings to mind Tunng or Sufjan Stevens (although is everything that is quiet compared to Sufjan? I think so. Oh well).
Metric is part of the big, bad Canadian invasion of indie rockers. It’s been going on for a while now, if you didn’t know.
Frontwoman Emily Haines is part of the Broken Social Scene collective (along with Feist, Jason Collett, etc.), but has gotten most of her fame from Metric — a heavy, synth-infused rock band that just released its new album Fantasies. This is the band’s first album in several years, with Haines taking off some time to record some solo material (brittle acoustic numbers credited to Emily Haines and the Soft Skeleton).
It would seem that she got the mellowness out of her system, though, as the new album isn’t lacking for energy. The best example is the single “Gimme Sympathy,” which you can find below.
If you get a chance, I’d recommend seeing them if they come to your town. The band’s live show is pretty stellar, with Haines stealing the show with her charisma and Tinkerbell-in-a-bug-zapper vocal theatrics.
Don’t you love it when you completely forget about a band you love and then, suddenly and dramatically, they’re back in your life?
Case in point — Noisettes’ new single “Wild Young Hearts” from their forthcoming album of the same name. It’s blends the band’s distinct noisy energy (that I love) with an old timey-jazz vibe. And singer Shingai Shoniwa is beautiful and charming as always — her presence is absolutely magnetic and I still don’t understand why she’s not a huge superstar.
Now that everyone’s finished contributing their music videos, the gang has left me to bat clean-up (<– sports reference!).
For the record, though, I do remember watching Total Request Live and even kinda-sorta having an investment who won. Hell, I remember Dial MTV — the no-frills precursor to TRL (which was probably followed by a nice game of Remote Control). But those were the glory days. The times before they devoted the shows to children giving testimonials to the artists and screaming over the music.
Meanwhile, my videos. There’s really no rhyme or reason to this — some of it is nostalgia-driven, some of it is stuff I just thought was cool.
Radiohead – Just
This video sticks with me as one of my all-time favorites. I like a good narrative in a music video. Plus, when this came out I thought the ending was really compelling. I won’t ruin it for you if you haven’t seen it, but teenage Dan was really into it.
When Marisa asked me to write about music videos for TRL’s last week, I contemplated my fraught relationship with the art form. I was a delayed arrival to pop culture, to say the least (I was still listening to the oldies station until eighth grade), and tended toward pretty safe mainstream choices. I’m not actually sure if any of these, other than “I Want It That Way,” were on TRL, but they’re each vivid musical memories. Unlike the bongo-accompanied rendition of the Foo Fighters’ “Learn to Fly” that’s currently emanating from beneath my living-room floorboards.
This is really the only one of these videos that I distinctly remember watching on TRL, and it was at an embarrassingly late age, too, because this video was on TRL during the only period in my high school career when I would have been at home at 3 o’clock in the afternoon to watch: Just before and after graduation. Yes, I was watching the Backstreet Boys (semi-obsessively, too), at the age of nearly 18. I am ashamed of that. But not too ashamed not to write about it on a website read by tens of people.
My friend Lisa actually taught herself this dance (without the help of Darrin’s Dance Grooves! I don’t think she slept when we were sophomores) and performed it, repeatedly, in our newspaper office very late at night. She’s a lawyer now. And I recall watching a making-of show on MTV that went into great detail about how the boys’ oh-so-realistic doll façades were accomplished. I think shellac was involved. Damn, they sold a lot of CDs. Back when people (other than Jesse) bought CDs. Eight years ago.
I did not realize Michel Gondry directed this! In high school, my friend Andrew used “Around the World” as the curtain-call music for the short play he directed (the cast was affectionately referred to as the Denver Nuggets because they had so little chance of winning the county-wide short play competition they entered that year) and at the end of the show, the whole cast just grooved for a couple of minutes. At one point the Fresh Prince dance was involved. No, not that one. The other one.
So when I was at church music camp in 1995, we were informed in one seminar that the Catholic Church had banned “Like a Prayer.” We were Presbyterians, so we went ahead and watched it and talked about the imagery. I, of course, mainly recognized Leon from Cool Runnings and wondered what was up with the burning crosses. (I was a sheltered 14-year-old.)
I was fifteen when Romeo + Juliet came out. And like every other teenage girl in those years, I absolutely loved this song, totally thought it was about my imaginary relationship with Leonardo DiCaprio, and wondered what sort of horrifying chemical contact lenses would be required to turn my eyes that color. And then there was the rest of the soundtrack, which introduced me to Garbage, Radiohead, Prince, and drag. If Australia has half the impact on me this movie did, it’ll be the greatest film of the last five years.
And one more…Oasis.
This is my very favorite song. And I like the video because it looks like the Rankin-Bass version of The Hobbit, and because visually, it feels lonely. The song has always felt like the opposite of loneliness to me, and I dig the contradiction. Also, I think Liam totally walks like that.
Ok, so while I may consume television and movies voraciously, I didn’t grow up with cable. And if I happened to be at a friend’s house who had MTV, we were much more likely to watch Beavis & Butthead, which did show music videos, but it showed about as much of the videos as TRL did, and I don’t think there was a lot of content overlap. If I remember correctly, Beavis & Butthead tended to watch videos that either “sucked” or were obscure metal bands.
So I have limited exposure to music videos. I first saw this video for “Once in a Lifetime” on the DVD that came with the fancy Talking Heads box set, and I was shocked that the people who brought you The Hills let this on the air, but apparently it was a well-played video.
Letting a bunch of art school graduates play with video effects on TV has never worked so well.