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Videowatch: June

30/06/2011

This month in our combined video commentary / song babbling / general music rambling, we have stop motion,wtf-art, fantasy of many kinds and, most shockingly, a fair bit of bands playing music

BELLE & SEBASTIAN – COME ON SISTER

I’m not the largest fan of B&S as I’m not really bothered by their early days and only got into them once they got some studio sheen and detailed sound under them with Dear Catastrophe Waitress and The Life Pursuit, but I  love those two albums enough to have them on my radar from now on. Last year’s Write About Love was a slightly underwhelming, if still perfectly enjoyable, effort with a fair few standout tunes. “Come On Sister” isn’t one of them. It’s a fun little perky pop track but it has the same sorta-issue as most of the album: it’s the sort of B&S song they could write in their sleep and a wee bit too ordinary. I’d say the album would’ve had better single choices but I suppose Come On Sister does its work rather well – it’s certainly catchy as all.

The video’s a fun little charmer although the joke – band in ordinary dayjobs – somewhat wears itself out during the four-minute song.

BON IVER – CALGARY

Bed on a lake, births a woman, woman goes through a dark muddy tunnel, finds a man in a forest, finds lots of other people in a forest, watch burning flames on a river. Makes perfect sense.

My problem with not being able to talk about the new Bon Iver album, as mentioned in the previous post, continues. It’s a gorgeous album that I’ve been playing quite a lot at very specific times: early in the morning if I have to go out at that time, late in the night as I pass the time before going to bed, and most curiously during moments when I’ve had no desire to listen to music. The self-titled album is gorgeously soothing enough to work even when you don’t want to listen to anything: the soft sonic pillow that the songs are wrapped around somehow floats between just being wonderful sound and being something you get the most out of via active listening. “Calgary” itself is a gorgeous track and one of my favourite tunes of the year so far.

BRIGHT EYES – JEJUNE STARS

I’ve already talked extensively about the new Bright Eyes album before and “Jejune Stars” was already featured in the top 11 of 2011 article, so I’m going to just not say much else other than that I rather love the video. It’s a simple band video, doesn’t really do much and its only “gimmick” is a very simple one (fireworks + lyrics) but it pulls it off with such style that it’s just great to watch. Sometimes simple ideas work great.

COLDPLAY – EVERY TEARDROP IS A WATERFALL

I’m a wee bit conflicted about this track. I quite like Coldplay because despite being so vanilla and safe that one can read criticism about them and actually agree with it despite owning all the albums, they’re really quite good songwriters and they’ve got a rather nice backlog of genuinely good, stadium-sized pop songs. Nothing deep but something that simply works. And on one hand “Every Teardrop Is a Waterfall” takes the band’s usual inoffensiveness a bit too far and sounds a bit too obvious. It sounds great production-wise but underneath the surface churns a song that we’ve heard countless times before and seems a bit too desperate to be a massive stadium-sized hit moment. However, I watched their Glastonbury gig during the weekend where they decided to close their entire headlining gig with this. A daring move because you should never close a headliner festival gig with something brand new, but to my shock it worked. It sounded suitably epic and grand in a live setting, with all the lightshows and masses upon masses of people bouncing along and the band rocking it out on stage. It was actually a great, joyous finish. And thus we get the dilemma: “Every Teardrop Is a Waterfall” is a ridiculously obvious song to the point it sounds a bit too much even for a band that make obvious torchlight moments their forté, but at the same time it succeeds really well in what it was obviously geared to do.

Oh, to have the ability to just say “it’s rather nice” and be done with it.

Rather good video though. I’m always a big fan of stop motion and especially live-action stop motion music videos are something that always make me smile. The needless non-stop motion rock-out bits here and there somewhat wreck the pacing, but whenever we’re moving frame-by-frame the video works rather excellently with the song.

GUILLEMOTS – I MUST BE A LOVER

The obvious single of the album got a single release. Excellent. Guillemots are masters at genuine, unadulterated positivity and “I Must Be a Lover” continues that noble line. The great songwriting mixed with Guillemots’ typically dense production values give us one hell of a good gold nugget of music. It’s a shame it’ll probably leave only a very small dent in the charts in a really horribly unfair fashion because pretty much nothing but big pop acts benefit from the current digital single sales world in that respect – it kinda deserves more. And look at all the pretty colours in the video! There’s something quite charming in the video in general in all its “let’s grab a video camera and shoot you guys in the woods for a few hours” low-budget feel: it has a lovely pleasant feel to it. The star of the show is in the lighting effects though: lots of colourful lights mixed with the darkness of the night, which makes parts of it feel rather magical. Lovely.

LAURA MARLING – A CREATURE I DON’T KNOW

Single? Teaser trailer? Who knows. Marling’s back with another album this year nonetheless and this first taster from it makes it pretty clear she’s keeping in line with last year’s I Speak Because I Can, an album which I found ever-so-slightly disappointing after the excellent debut. I do have fully continued faith in her however, if only because her voice continues to be spellbindingly wonderful. More moody acoustic things in the future, it seems. Nothing much to say about the video really: looks nice and all, but very much something that doesn’t really intend to stand out and is only there to serve the song as it raises it on the pedestal.

NOAH AND THE WHALE – LIFE IS LIFE

Noah continue their journey in (becoming) America(n). “Life Is Life” was one of the songs I was more keen on on the somewhat disappointing and slightly awkward Last Night on Earth and I’m somewhat glad it’s getting a single release. Even more glad, I’m actually enjoying the video. Let’s ignore the utterly ridiculous intro that tries to make a watermelon the most dramatic, symbolic thing in the world (without anything it actually symbolises) and the general abstract plot threads. Let’s instead focus on the band shots where the band actually look like they’re having fun. Charlie even smiles as he mucks about with the microphone stand, looking livelier than ever. It’s a far better visual representation of the song than cheerleaders dramatically running through empty scenery: it’s an upbeat, somewhat naïvely joyous song and the band smiling and having fun really works with it.

Now that I think of it, all three videos so far from this era have been the exact same: great bandshots, paired with some weak uninteresting fluff in an attempt to visually portray the story/message of the song. In an ideal world, if they release one more single/video out of this album they could just ignore all the fluff and fully focus on the band.

THE SOUND OF ARROWS – M.A.G.I.C.

I’m mainly including this here because I’ve adored the song ever since its first iteration first popped into the world in 2009 and now it’s finally got a video, alongside some minor touches and tweaks just in time for the release of The Sound of Arrows’ debut (which I might or might not check out; never really got into anything else they’ve done). The song itself is an absolutely joy, the sort of tune that takes its inspiration from the magic of childhood imagination, the beauty of life and the awesomeness of 80s movie theme songs and revels in all three. It’s Pop Brilliance. I slightly favour the original mix myself but that might just be because I’m more used to it, the difference isn’t all that big.

The video, fittingly enough, fills the screen with the same grand sense of wonder and joy the song radiates. Well, after you get past the really goddamn depressing and scary beginning (or at least it is if you’re like me and find the idea of being a little kid who suddenly finds that all the adults in the world, including your parents, have disappeared completely a concept that is straight out of your worst nightmares). After it’s moved on from that it somehow manages to bounce to its feet and frolic in magic wonder, full of beautiful nature shots and fantastic monsters. Needs more whales soaring through clouds though.

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