So many of the videos I watched that came out this week opened with the name of both the band and song title emblazoned by oversized type, making a grand introduction. Bizarrely, this happened consecutively with at least three music videos and it turned it into a game by the fifth or sixth instance – the prize taken away was a stark realisation of how imperative it has become to define and label everything we do in all aspects of our lives. Whether it is with work or relationships when you meet people or talk about them it seems like we immediately (and unconsciously) identify as someone’s boyfriend or girlfriend, a writer or an engineer, or whatever it is that you’re working as. It’s rare nowadays to talk to someone without being asked what you do within the first five minutes of meeting them. Yes, it’s an innocent talking point but does it alter a person’s perception of you and how they will then engage with you? The music videos that opened with the artist’s name lent themselves to greater skepticism, though it’s difficult to exactly pinpoint why. Perhaps it was because it felt like the song was being heavily marketed by their label by adding a sort of cinematic element, transforming the format of the video into something bigger.
It may also be due to the fact that this is the twentieth Videos of the Week and reaching this milestone is akin to turning twenty. You see things, everyday happenings – nothing overly dramatic – and you begin to look at them with a more critical and inquisitive eye. You ask more questions, it’s like being five all over again. “Why do people do this?” and “Why do we place so much emphasis or importance on that?” Recently, I’ve found myself asking a lot of questions about music and considering musicians’ intentions, especially now. Then I have to stop myself and try to take things, music videos in particular, for what they are and stop trying to define them in my head. Fortunately, this week, some really lovely songs were released to distract my brain from imploding with these twenty-something thoughts.
Radiohead – ‘Present Tense’ (XL Recordings LTD)
“Keep it light, keep it moving.” This line perfectly represents ‘Present Tense’, the current single from Radiohead’s A Moon Shaped Pool album. This is the second video released by the band that has been directed by filmmaker Paul Thomas Anderson and it simply shows Thom Yorke and Jonny Greenwood perform the song live with no frills, special effects or narrative. Watching Thom and Jonny be simultaneously connected and independently focused in their playing and singing on the song reminds us why Radiohead are an interesting band that garner mass attention whenever they put out new material. They seem to nurture each other’s creativity and appreciate the talent that each member contributes to the music. Even though this video is remarkably simple it is also incredibly striking and the song is an absolute treat to the ears.
The White Stripes – ‘City Lights’ (Third Man Records)
Michel Gondry is another filmmaker who has regularly collaborated with musicians and bands by directing music videos for them. His most visually inventive music videos have been the ones made for The White Stripes in the early 2000s, such as the stop motion lego video for ‘Fell In Love With A Girl’. ‘City Lights’ is the fifth video Gondry has directed for The White Stripes, and this one is special for a number of reasons, mostly because the French filmmaker made the video alone and without informing anyone, not even Jack White, and he sent it to Third Man Records during the week. White released Jack White Acoustic Recordings 1998-2016 – a collection of unreleased songs including ‘City Lights’, which was originally written for The White Stripes’ 2005 record, Get Behind Me Satan and it is the first new single from The White Stripes to be released since 2008. I really love the video because we’ve all spent an extra few moments in the shower drawing silly scenes whilst waiting for your conditioner to untangle unruly knots.
Whitney – ‘Polly’ (Secretly Canadian)
Whitney featured recently on the Electric Picnic edition of Videos of the Week, and they return jovially with the animated video for ‘Polly.’ The story follows a despondent man that goes from sitting on a bench overlapping hands with another guy, who shuttles the cartoon protagonist swiftly out of his car. On his journey he sets fire to a house and enters a strange sea on the sidewalk with animals floating past him. It’s abstract and requires a few watches to fully appreciate the details in the narrative. Fortunately it’s a really nice song so it’s a nice excuse to watch the video repeatedly.
Pavo Pavo – ‘Ran Ran Run’ (Bella Union)
‘Ran Ran Run’ is the debut single from Pavo Pavo, a Brooklyn based five piece with a musical style that veers towards lethargic synth pop with retro inclinations. They’ve signed to Bella Union and are due to release their introductory album entitled, Young Narrator in the Breakers in November. With this initial insight into Pavo Pavo, it feels as though there is a glimmer of promise with what they are capable of musically. Guitarist, Oliver Hill has described the songs on Young Narrator in the Breakers as love letters to the city they live in and how they are growing in that setting, as well as friendships and coming to terms with progressing from adolescence to adulthood. Meanwhile, they’re aesthetic is typical to what you would anticipate to compliment this genre; pastel colours, expressionless performance, table tennis and then day-glow bicycle riding.
Notable Mention… TOYing with time…
TOY – ‘I’m Still Believing’
This video and song really amused because here we are in 2016 and still there are bands creating songs that sound about six years too late to the golden age of indie. Then, there’s the band members who have adopted the styles of musicians from the 1990s, 1980s and 1970s respectively. I suppose that’s what happens when a band is formed in Brighton in 2010 by a former member of NME darlings, Joe Lean and the Jing Jang Jong. Toy are currently promoting their third album, Clear Shot which will be available from October.