Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Songs to Look At

The image above comes from a music video by Brian Jin, called Memories of a Song. You can see the whole thing here.

I am old enough to remember when MTV was new. It first went on the air in cities, and I didn’t see it until two years later, when my local cable system finally picked it up. I can’t remember the first video I saw, but I remember the excitement I felt. I was thrilled that artists and bands who would have been unknowns only a few years earlier were getting their music heard, and the best videos were also an amazing new form of artistic expression.

Of course, things are different now. MTV hasn’t been music television in many years. The big budgets that major labels once gave artists for their videos are long gone, and they wouldn’t make business sense now. So, that means that the artistry of music videos is gone forever, right? Actually, no. Budgets are much tighter now, but creativity still thrives. In fact, it may be that tight budgets are forcing artists who want to make artistic videos to be more creative than ever. This is the first time I have ever shared music videos on Oliver di Place, and I probably won’t do it often. But these five examples of the art demanded to be shared. Each shows a different way of marrying sound and vision. The music is quite a mix of styles. But the visuals, or visualizations if you like, are the point this time out. Let’s take a look.

Hilary Grist - Tall Buildings

Hilary Grist: Tall Buildings


I never thought I would be posting any videos here, and I don’t think this one had been released yet when I posted the song Tall Buildings before. But you can see why I had to repeat myself. Grist got some friends together, and built a miniature city out of recycled cardboard. The amount of detail is truly astounding, with cardboard people in at least some of the windows who can move by means of stop-motion animation. This city is such an astounding creation that it is being displayed this month at the Beaumont Gallery in Vancouver.

dogbrain - My Reprieve

My Reprieve from Jason Kessler on Vimeo.

dogbrain: My Reprieve


The video for dogbrain’s song My Reprieve is a short film, directed by Jason Kessler. I hadn’t heard of Kessler before, but he is apparently well known in the world of independent film. My Reprieve has the quality of an old Twilight Zone episode. This perfectly fits the song, about a man about to be executed, who is hoping for a last-minute phone bringing his pardon. The music has a woozy, disoriented feel, which is perfectly mirrored by the quick cuts in the film. The song comes from the album Nest, which includes a remarkable mix of musical moods, from classic R&B to songs that hint at Delta Blues. There are also a few more unclassifiable songs like this one. I will have more to say about this album in a future post.

Christine Leaky - Lovely

Christine Leakey: Lovely

[Not yet released, preorder here]

The video for Lovely shows a different approach to matching visuals to music. This one has images that are recognizable, people, flowers, and such, but there is no attempt to tell a story. Instead, what you get is a perfect matching of visual and musical mood. Christine Leakey’s songs have a breezy feel and a Brazilian lilt. The gauzy and sometimes abstract look of the video works perfectly.

Danaher and Cloud - Hey Banker, Hey Banker

Danaher and Cloud: Hey Banker, Hey Banker

[purchase new album here when released]

Hey Banker, Hey Banker is a protest song. Where a well wrought political song will tell a story to make a point to someone who may not have seen it that way, protest songs are written to energize a crowd that shares your position. The video is a slide show. The pictures do not move, but their sequence is brilliant and powerful. Images from the Great Depression, in black and white, alternate with color images of the here and now. The result is an statement of greater eloquence than even words and music can achieve. The song is a worthy accompaniment. It will be found on Danaher and Cloud’s forthcoming album Late Bloomers, which I will also have more to say about in a future post.

Drew Smith - Love Teeth

Drew Smith: Love Teeth

[purchase Fossils as a download]

I love well done animation, and Love Teeth, while clearly not made on a big budget, is a fine example. The video is the work of Korean animator Sohee Jeon, who I hadn’t heard of before. But, based on this example, I want to know more. Love Teeth, both visually and in the story it tells, has a marvelous fairy tale quality to it. I won’t spoil the ending for you, but this one needs to be watched all the way through. Drew Smith’s album The Secret Languages is due out early next year. Love Teeth represents the quieter side of Smith’s music. Based on a few advance tracks and what I have heard of Smith’s previous album Fossils, this will be one to keep an eye out for.