Friday, 30 May 2014

American Music Videos Think Large Even When They Want To Go Small

America thinks big when it comes to music videos. Much of this bigness is fuelled by its culture and the vastness of the country. One can just lose themselves in the hugeness of America, only to then reinvent themselves as somebody new. You can’t really do that in Britain because we’re too little and contained. We think small whereas they think big even when it comes to little things.
The music videos featured here are big in different ways. All are notable for the amount of effort that’s gone in. They are hugely personal but done on a scale that required time and manpower, not to mention calling in favours from pretty talented collaborators

Arcade Fire’s We Exist
Yup, getting the Amazing Spider-Man to cross-dress for a music video is a big coup in itself, but this one is more remarkable for being directed by Britain’s David Wilson. Wilson was just some quirky student making animated shorts in his bedroom and uploading them onto Youtube. He must have been good because his audience was really appreciative and big offers soon followed. And now he’s made a music video for Arcade Fire featuring Andrew Garfield. It’s weird how life works out.
It’s crazy to think that in the same month that Garfield is staring as the lead in one the most famous characters in popular culture, he is also a video in which he plays a vulnerable drag queen. Tom Cruise would never have done that in his time, but you can nowadays. There is something so great about that.
The Pains of Being Pure at Heart’s Until the Sun Explodes
New York City indie pop kids The Pains of Being Pure of Heart have produced a music video that will have grownups of a certain generation grinning from ear-to-ear. The clip recalls American cartoons that played after school in the ‘80s. These cartoons were often mass produced in Korean sweat factories by exploited Asians who’d painstakingly hand draw animated cells in return for food and cigarettes; all so American kids could be mindlessly entertained. These shows travelled to Europe and became staple viewing, too.
It’s the love and affection that’s gone into this video that makes so special. It’s done to perfection and immediately conjures up memories of when childhood consisted of pretty simple pleasures. The song is fabulous, too.
Clap Your Hands Say Yeah’s As Always
Philadelphian indie rock group CYHSY has created a song that is arguably the closest any band has sounded like Radiohead… well, at least like Radiohead before they lost their appetite for melody. It’s a really good song that’s emotionally affecting in ways that only American indie rock can excel at.
The video is a piece that shares its influences with the leftfield films of David Lynch and Gus Van Sant, presenting the life of an American bloke riddled with internal torture. Featuring surreal motifs of burning cars in motion, incomprehensibly open landscapes, grizzled barrooms with browbeaten patrons, isolation in busy places, and repeated images of gunplay, CYHSY has produced a song and video that ranks with the very best so far this year.

Sunday, 25 May 2014

The Weird and Wonderful Brighton Music Scene

Brighton is a coastal town in the south east of England that became popular with Victorian day-trippers from London wanting to catch some sun in the 1800s. Since then, its vibrancy has burgeoned as a settlement for liberals and hipsters, becoming a top residence for cool gay people and African-American expats specialising in soul food. Brighton is a hip place for hip people, but it’s also somewhere creative types with a will to be weird can go and be themselves. And nowhere is this better exemplified than in the music coming out of Brighton right now.
The Brighton music scene is rich and magnificently bizarre. Other British bands like Joanna Gruesome have shifted down there to tap into the creepy occultist energy said to be omnipresent in Brighton, while Brighton groups such as British Sea Power, The Go! Team and The Maccabees justify its standing as an important rock city.

Here are three of Brighton’s uncanny and emerging finest.
Royal Blood’s Come on Over
Royal Blood don’t seem weird enough to be placed on this list, but they are from Brighton, and they’re odd enough to have attempted an epic stadium rock sound despite only consisting of two band members. It took Led Zeppelin five members to create a sound this big, but Mike Kerr (vocals, bass) and Ben Thatcher (drums) do the job astoundingly well as a duo.
Royal Blood were featured on this blog last year as a band to watch, but they’ve since become a lot more significant, with the Arctic Monkeys hand-selecting them to be their support act.
Keel Her’s Rosswell
Keel Her is the creative sobriquet of Brighton bedroom pop performer, Rose Keeler-Schäffeler. Bedroom artistry usually refers to eccentrically hermitical types that make music in the confines of their own homes and rarely engage with the outer world. Keeler-Schäffeler is seriously esoteric; someone who is described as a UFO fanatic and genuine believer in extra-terrestrial happenings. This obsession defines much of her music.
The thing is that for all of Keel Her’s inaccessible private life, the girl has an enviable knack for producing blinding pop melodies. Her voice and style is pretty unique, but it’s Keel Her’s otherworldly rate of making music that sets her apart. Her Soundcloud page is updated at the speed of knots, with Keeler-Schäffeler adding song after song, all day every day. Some Hit, some miss, all are special.
The Wytches’ Wire Frame Mattress
The Wytches originally come from Peterborough but took refuge amongst the outcaste oddities of Brighton.  Their sound shares more in common with American surfer-rock, though; it’s their pagan psychedelic overtones that really put them in another league. They sound like unhinged kids in need of exorcisms, but the sheer brilliance of their killer riffs and stinging vocals makes The Wytches something to behold.
It’s stuff like this that ought to be making British music a powerhouse of integral individuality, but that’s not how things work in this day and age, unfortunately.

Thursday, 22 May 2014

-Music Videos on my Mind- Kasabian’s “eez-eh”

Getting indie kids dancing is an expensive and risky business. Indie discos typically attract smarter and snobbier kids, the kind that pride themselves on not being second-guessed. In a recent interview, Ministry Of Sound’s CEO, Lohan Presencer, recounts how British nightclubs were historically always built around “drinking, fighting and shagging,” but he and his colleagues managed a brand that made UK nightclubbing an upmarket phenomena. Yet Presencer candidly admits that his greatest career mistake was thinking the label could make money from indie disco by “flying over New York Electroclash duo Fischerspooner on Concorde, paying them $2m dollars in a bidding war, and then dropping them after their first single failed to reach the Top 20.” It’s best, therefore, to leave indie disco to chance rather than trying to industrially figure it out.
Leicester band Kasabian is keeping the major label (Sony Music in this case) drive to spin money from indie disco with their latest single eez-eh, and they’ve done an alright job of it. Whether it will turn them into millionaires (they probably already are) is questionable, but the song is fruitfully body-rocking in all the ways corporate indie disco should be.

Tuesday, 13 May 2014

-Music Videos on my Mind- Hollie Cook’s “Looking for Real Love”

Hollie Cook is true British rock ‘n’ roll royalty. Her old man is Paul Cook of the Sex Pistols, her mum is Culture Club’s backing singer Jeni Cook, her godfather is none other than Boy George, and she was frequently babysat by David Bowie. One suspects Sade must also have some elemental connection to Cook because the former’s style of fusing cosmically evocative soul with jazz and reggae pop influences is omnipresent in Hollie’s music, too.
Hollie Cook’s new album Twice (it’s her second one, after all) was funded through PledgeMusic donations, meaning it’s subsidised by her fan base who have been so smitten by the singer’s dreamy vocals that they’ve invested in her ambitions to produce music not stifled by corporate compromising. Cook’s music doesn’t sound revolutionary, instead, it harkens back to the records of early 1980s urban England, redolent of the sounds the singer was probably weaned on as an infant. It, therefore, sounds soulfully charged and deeply personal.

Tuesday, 6 May 2014

-Music Videos on my Mind- Night Flowers’ “Embers”

One supposes that the rock ‘n’ roll fight back of white guys with guitars in England will begin in the north and should eventually invade other territories. London will be a tough nut to crack because of its cosmopolitan nature and intensely urban ethnic makeup that perceives hip-hop as a more relatable brand of music. There is also the reality that London is economically eclipsing the rest of England, becoming this great big hub of prosperity while the poor folks in the north look on with grudges. The poor northerners are provincial types, unassimilated and proud, aghast at how the traditional English way of life is being infected by songs aping a ghetto flow. But in the end, success will be inevitable because no-one can keep ambitious white guys with guitars down. Lest we forget, the UK is the home of rock ‘n’ roll culture.
Night Flowers come from Hull, Yorkshire, but are growing roots in east London, taking the attack into enemy territory. Their sound has that classic 1980s fuzz guitar style, replete with ponderous riffs and beautifully harmonised vocals. They’ve also got one of those cool British low-key music videos in which five guys play out their song in a softly lit basement flat. The revolution starts here.