In a bid to stay relevant, David Bowie released his newest video last week – a blood soaked hodgepodge of religious imagery for the song “The Next Day.” The song, like the majority of Bowie’s new album is strikingly unremarkable. That is to say it’s not bad, it’s just rather complacent. It’s the modern pop-rock equivalent of the color beige. The folks at Youtube initially thought it was a bit too racy for their site and took it down for a day, which was probably the greatest publicity boost the video could have received. It’s basically just a few scantily clad women and some over-anxious priests, and even though it stars Gary Oldman, he lost his flawless street-cred in my book when he starred in that horrendous The Unborn movie a few years back. In just under a week’s time, the video has garnered around 900,000 views, which is a mere fraction of what videos of cats riding Roombas get in the same amount of time.
In far more significant news for both the world of music and the world of the internet, some guy just published a cover of “Space Oddity” on Youtube that has over 1.5 million hits in less than 24 hours time. Of course, he’s not just some guy – he’s Chris Hadfield, a Commander on the International Space Station, and probably the coolest guy on the planet right now – or off the planet actually. Not only is this the first music video filmed in space, (which is kind of cool but I’m still waiting for the weightless sex studies to take place,) but this video conveys more actual emotion than Bowie has been able to emit in decades. Hadfield actually has a killer voice. He displays some brilliant range for a dude in space, and the look in his eyes conveys more sincerity in the lyrics than Bowie could have ever imagined. It’s really a remarkably beautiful thing and surely a video that many of us will still remember and want to throw on a year from now. Which coincidentally will be the exact same time that the world and the internet completely forget that David Bowie released a new album in 2013. Sorry D-Bo, but you just got out Bowied. You can’t fuck with cool shit in space. Watch both videos below.
For years, songwriters have created a multitude of beautiful tunes discussing the wonders of making love. Let’s see… there’s Bad Company‘s “Feel Like Making Love” and then there’s… hmm I know there’s a couple more. Anyway, the art of writing a song about fucking is a whole other enterprise, and to successfully do it without sounding like a total douche is a truly arduous task. In 2001, when Tenacious D released “Fuck Her Gently,” most artists threw in the towel. The song is a masterpiece, and encapsulates both the beauty and mystery of fucking in a sensitive and timeless melody. Any attempts at revisiting the topic have only resulted in failure, and most people (myself included) presumed that with Sonny Bono’s death on the hills of Lake Tahoe in 1998, the only potential candidate to create a worthy competitor in the category of Greatest Fucking Song of all time had long since passed. But some great things have happened in the free market of open expression over the past few years. Most notably there was Sarah Silverman‘s great tune about fucking Matt Damon, and of course Jimmy Kimmel’s follow-up about fucking Ben Affleck. But those were both so person-specific – they really lacked the universal fucking message that we could all unite with. Thus enter the incomparable Reggie Watts. Watts first showed the potential for championing the task a few years ago with the release of “Fuck Shit Stack” – a great tune about fuck, but not about fucking. But everything changed today, when Watts uploaded a new video to the awesome Youtube Channel, JASH. Entitled “If You’re Fucking, You’re Fucking,” Watts’ tune brings the topic to its only logical conclusion. By answering the mystery of sensual passion in such a direct form, he has uncrowned the D after their solid 12 year run atop the fucking song master’s throne. Love it and embrace it, for it will surely be at least another dozen years until we see such lyrical brilliance again.
It’s hard to keep track of everything The Flaming Lips put out these days. The last few years have been quite prolific – multiple singles and collaborations seemed to arise faster than most nerds like myself could even listen to. Let alone trying to eat through an entire Gummy Fetus to get to them. Thus it’s no surprise that with the release of their new album, The Terror, only weeks away, they suddenly decide to release an absurd video for “Ashes in the Air” – the collab they made last year with Justin Vernon of Bon Iver. If you’ve never heard the song before, then quickly imagine The Lips and Bon Iver together, and say the first things that comes to your mind. If you said, “Oh, I don’t know… some spun-out noise shit with Wayne Coyne singing about getting fucked up while Vernon echoes him in that auto-tune voice he likes to use…” then Bingo – we have a winner! Of course that’s what the song sounds like. Nobody would have given it the time of day if it was anything different. If they released some sort of barber-shop track with a hip-hop beat, people would have considered it a complete waste of their personas.
Which leads me to my point… When you have become an established artist, and have thus crafted a definitive mold for who you are and what you sound like, you are then in some degree indebted to your fans and yourself to maintain that persona. Sure, musicians need to evolve, but you should never turn your back on who you are. When I hear the RZA is producing a new album, I’m gonna be seriously disappointed if there aren’t some dirty analog beats in there. Bruce Springsteen better include some commentary on the underbelly of America on his records. And again, this doesn’t mean you should pigeonhole yourself into one limited fabric of sound, but you should never intentionally run from who you are. There’s a reason Phish fans didn’t embrace the happy-and-you-know-it vibe that was embraced mightily on their last album – despite their hippie-ish connotations, their music is not happy-go-lucky stuff. There’s a reason nobody gave a fuck about Gene Ween‘s solo record as Aaron Freeman – nobody wants to hear a guy do an album that is nothing but covers of some forgotten 70′s crooner when that guy is known for being one of the most original and inventive songwriters on the planet. And sure this isn’t a golden rule of music, because there’s plenty of notable exceptions. Radiohead‘s constant desire to reinvent themselves is one of the greatest blessings ever given to the world of music, and MGMT‘s diversion from dance-pop brought us a new realm of dark introspective material that teeny-boppers desperately needed to be exposed to. So no, it’s not a rule, but it’s a lesson. It’s something an artist should always consider. If you’ve become well known for music that is most assuredly you being yourself, then are you staying true to yourself when you attempt to stray from your notoriety?
Which leads me back to the video for “Ashes in the Air” – again, what’s the first thing that pops into your mind after hearing the song. “Oh, I don’t know… maybe some alien-astronaut kind-of-guy puts a baby in a meat-grinder or something, and there’s like naked, bloody people lying around… Oh, and that dude from Bon Iver’s head keeps like statically flashing…” Bingo! Enjoy…
Remember back in the 90′s… when anytime Spike Jonze would release a new music video, you instantly knew it was gonna be massively fucking cool? It didn’t matter if you didn’t like the band or even knew the band, you flipped on MTV and waited to see that Beastie Boys video for the 23rd time, or that Fatboy Slim video, or that Daft Punk video, or that Weezer video, or even that awesome video for “California” by Wax - remember that shit? Well we all know that these days MTV plays as much real music as KFC sells real chicken, but luckily we have a little something called the internet. And the greatest thing about the internet is you can get really fucking weird and people just go – “oh, it’s just that old internet.” This means that more and more actual artists are willing to get the epically absurd Eric Wareheim of Tim and Eric:Awesome Show – Great Job! to direct their videos.The originality of each production and the free range that the artists give Wareheim is honestly something that we had only seen with Jonze in the past.
The thing about Tim and Eric is that many people can’t see past the absurdity to realize that they’re truly conceptual geniuses – but I assure you, this shit is magic. Over the past 5 years or so, Wareheim has directed videos for everyone from Ben Folds to Depeche Mode, and I get more giddy each time a new one surfaces. Hell, I fucking hate Major Lazer, but I have probably watched their video 14 times over the past couple years. There is however, no doubt that his latest work is the masterpiece of his career so far. Last week, the video for Beach House‘s “Wishes” appeared, and it’s most certainly the greatest mash-up of lunacy and beauty I’ve ever seen in my life. The Dad from Twin Peaks and a blessed use of water bottle squirts – let’s start there. Let it consume you, and then go further down the rabbit hole with the rest of his Top 4 must see videos.
1) Beach House – “Wishes”
2) Major Lazer – “Pon De Floor”
3) Flying Lotus – “Dance Floor Dale”
4) MGMT – “The Youth”
This week M83 released the final video in their connected trilogy of epic mini-movies from tunes off last year’s brilliant Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming. While the initial video for “Midnight City” was met with much acclaim from anyone who laid eyes on it, the follow-up video for “Reunion” sort of squeaked out with not much fanfare – probably because that tune isn’t nearly as epic as its predecessor. But now the 3rd installment has appeared with the tune “Wait,” which is the dreamiest cut off the album and probably my favorite, and most likely will reach the fame of the 1st video. But all 3 are brilliantly produced by the team of Fleur & Manum, and front-man Anthony Gonzales has claimed that the videos are somewhat of a tribute to Akira, Village of the Damned, and Close Encounters of the 3rd Kind. The first 2 references make sense as the story line is about children with heightened powers rising up to a new age of human purpose, but I think the Close Encounters reference just has to do with the fact that he digs aliens and shit. All 3 videos remind me more of the Arthur C. Clarke masterpiece, Childhood’s End, which if you have yet to read – then go spend 8 bucks and read it today. Either way, here’s my interpretation of what’s going on with em. Here’s “Midnight City”.
Ok, so we’ve got this center where the government is collecting children who have exemplary powers of mental control and intellect – basically a more frightened version of the Xavier institute if you will. It’s not quiet a prison, but it definitely appears as if they’re held here against their will. So in comes this new little kid who seems to instantly be able to unify all the children in some sub-conscious mind-cloud. With the combined mental strength and motivation of the whole team, they are able to break free. Kids being kids, they make their way to an abandoned warehouse where they use their ESP to throw cars around and break shit. Then they go up on the rooftop and watch the sun set as they presumably haven’t had a chance to do that in a while and the sun seems to potentially provide the essence of their power. It’s also possible that they’re testing their true strength here and actually speeding up the rotation of the Earth and causing the sun to set earlier than usual, but that’s tough to determine. On to “Reunion”.
So one of the children didn’t escape with the others, and is now set up in a room where the evil government folk are manipulating her powers to use as a weapon for themselves. You can tell they’re using her for bad shit because her eyes go red here instead of that awesome stella blue. She locates the missing children and essentially explodes the inner divinity out of the youngest one to turn her into a homing beacon so that the bad folk can recapture them. This process kills the young girl, and the other kids are like “Fuck, we gotta get the fuck outta here.” They run away from their hunters til the one powerful kid from the beginning says, “Hold on, I think I got this shit.” At this point, the dark empowered child takes control of one of the hunter guys, and uses his body as a puppet for her own darkened attack. She lifts the SUV in the air and chucks it at the kids, but the little guy is able to stop it mid-flight. Then a few other super-kids show up, and with their combined power they are able to relaunch the SUV back at the hunters. This combined power of the enlightened children is enough to snap the darkened girl out of her manipulated trance. She takes off her wiring and gets out of there. The rest of the kids then go into a church and combine their sacred inner lights into one powerful force, and we see the sun rise. Perhaps insinuating again that they have this unified control of the sun or rotation of the Earth and that they are turning shit once more. To the conclusion – “Wait.”
All right, now shit gets really heavy. We’re in space and we see a mirrored pyramid shape floating around slightly reminiscent of the thing that held General Zod in Superman II, but more likely a reference to the monolith from 2001. With the faint image of one of the girls’ faces interspersed with shots of a galaxy in space, it appears that the children have now astrally projected themselves off of Earth, and thus perhaps they actually are the flying pyramid monoliths. Either way, we cut back down to a severely trashed city where the now lone girl who escaped from the last video is wandering past dead bodies and destruction. We see some guys brutally beating the fuck out of someone else and then we cut back to space where we see a massive explosion go off on Earth. This is the little girl exploding her powers out, destroying all the perceived evil of society around her and cleansing the Earth. We then see here walking the now completely barren world of nothingness where upon she extracts a drop of water from the land and begins the process of rebirth on the planet. Back in space, we see the true 2001 reference take place as the boy enters full Dave/Star Child mode – launching through the escalated motions of his existence as we see the DNA structure realigning. Cut back to Earth, where the young girl has now completely reformed things into a rain-forest paradise and has essentially become the new Mother Earth. She is the new creator and the new dawn of the next life of a cleansed world. At the same time, Star Child reaches his own next state of evolution, and in exhausted completion he and his monolithic pyramid self come crushing back into the Earth. The new age officially begins. Brilliant, beautiful stuff. Powerful sounds and imagery as we near the end of 2012 here. Kind makes you really want to hold tight to the people you love. And seriously, go read Childhood’s End right now – it’s essential for an understanding of modern human potentiality.
Low-fi as all fuck. That’s what sums up the latest official video release from the wonder-boys in Dr. Dog. Essentially their buddy took the first video he ever made as an awesomely young child and set it to the music of “Do the Trick” off this year’s Be The Void. You know those awesome Star Wars toys that you lost down a sewer drain when you were 5 and that are now worth several hundred dollars? Well this young entrepreneur had the motivation to make an entire stop-motion reproduction of Empire Strikes Back with them. Flash forward 30 years to where he adds a couple digital light-sabers, and suddenly the innocent imagination of that creation meshes perfectly with the honest reality and low-fi dream-scape that is Dr. Dog’s music. The embrace of the innocence is essentially the tying factor with both pieces of art here. This video isn’t intended to win any awards, or even to go viral – its only intent is to make you sit back and enjoy the wonders of youth and life and this goddamn friggin’ amazing band. Enjoy.
Ok, so this post might push me over the top into full cynical jackass mode, but that’s what I’m here for I guess. First off, I’m a big fan of Ben Folds, and I think it’s fantastic that Ben Folds Five are finally releasing a new album after 13 years apart. Could I honestly tell the difference between a solo Ben Folds song and a Ben Folds Five song? No flipping way, but regardless I’m happy that the old backing band is back together. Secondly, I dig the fucking Fraggles a bunch. I love to talk about the transcendental implications of their final episode – I bring it up all the time and it usually results in some half-cocked sneers of quasi-appreciation. And the 30th anniversary of the Fraggles is coming up, so it’s about time they got rediscovered. So instinctually, the idea of having the Fraggles in a new Ben Folds video seems perfect. His sped-up rag-timey piano licks are ideal for the fast movement head-nodding of these wacky, subterranean Muppets. The problem? The video sucks. Yep, that’s it.
While there could have been any assortment of different mini-story lines that could have played out in the 5 minute video, they basically use it as a simple re-introduction to the Fraggles. Here they are, they live underground (kinda) and they’re dancing to the song. Sure it puts a nerdy smile on your face, but any substantial message or story is completely abandoned for some Henson-head bopping. I understand that they’re not as well known as the mainstream Muppets, but still I was hoping for way more than “Oh, look it’s that dude.”
I watched the behind-the-scenes footage and the producer-ish dude said this: “Phil, the director, who’s done a lot of puppet based music videos, came in with all these huge ideas. Oh we’ll make it a Western, or we’ll do this… And we said a new Fraggle thing hasn’t happened in a while, and the simplest idea is the best, so let’s just rediscover them…” So basically, the director realized all the epic implications that could take place, but he was basically shot down. It’s like they made the video for some 14 year-old girls hearing Ben Folds for the first time, not for the dudes in their early 30′s who base their lives on twisted childhood memories. The thing is, I don’t know how many 14 year-old girls are really discovering Ben Folds for the first time – there’s no house beat and digital bass womp here, so why would they? All I’m saying is if you’re gonna do something really random and awesome, then you should cater to the folks who already know how awesome it is, not cater to the folks who only acknowledge how random it is. It’s like if somebody made a new Thundercats movie, but took out Mumm-Ra because they didn’t think he’d go over well with the kids.
Here, you decide if you really need to watch this a 2nd time after your initial viewing. Sure, the song is great – classic Ben Folds shit, but the video is booooorrrrriiinnggg…
Now in contrast, this video I could watch 2-3 times in a row…there’s a story, all the characters’ true personas are expressed. This is how you make a Henson-related music video. I’m calling do-over for Ben & The Fraggles.
So if you’re not from down South or a devout scavenger of all music that NPR finds new-worthy, then you may perchance have missed out on THE jam of the summer – “Hot Cheetos and Takis.” The Maryland kids known as the Y.N. Richkids totally own the junk-food hip-hop world these days with this jam that apparently some of them are unaware the world even knows about. As they begin to near 2 Million hits on youtube though, it’s quite clear people are paying attention. The track has reminded me what an avid fan I am of non-commercial songs that big up a specific food product line – true tales of product devotion if you will. I’ve put the Richkids at #3 on my Top 6 list of All-Time Non-Solicited Corporate Food Songs – here’s the whole run-down:
#6 “Oh My Dayum” – Daym Drops
So this fella loves to record himself doing reviews of shitty fast-food. The Five-Guys Burger sent him over-the-top in ecstasy though, and those geniusGregory Brothers from Auto-Tune the News turned it into the smoothest homage to melted cheese of all time. Summer 2012 has really been a prolific year for this genre.
#5 “Rock n’ Roll McDonalds” – Wesley Willis
The schizophrenic wonder man-child of lyrical innocence, Mr. Willis created hundreds of tunes over the same beat and chord changes. And while he has left this Earthly realm, we will be forever blessed with his magical music, especially this one honoring the Satan-Clown. My go-to track of W.W. is the follow up to this one, “I’m Slimming Down” but that has no place on this list.
#4 “Combination Pizza Hut and Taco Bell” – Das Racist
At one point in time this track probably would have topped my list, but then I became aware of just how incredibly fucking amazing Das Racist is, and this song that kicked off their careers has fallen wayside to the rest of their dope-ass tracks. Still, I’ve got a solid 14 runs of this tracked on my iPod – probably 12 more than most people were able to handle. Shit is hot though!
#3 “Hot Cheetos and Takis”
Despite listening to this song 10 times over the weekend, I still have no desire to try my first Taki, and I fear about what pain will be unleashed on my ass after devouring a bag of Hot Cheetos. But hot-damn, that dark Southern Crunk beat is off the chain! This crew has everything though – the raspy kid that sounds like MCA after a few blunts, the happy fat kid in a wife-beater, the stuffed-up kid who sounds like Q-Tip, and even the uber-hyped little guy with a high voice. This is some real deal thugged out corner-store shit. Pretty undeniable.
#2 “Eat It” – Weird Al Yankovich
How can you leave out a legend? I’ve literally been saying the first line of this song at least once a month since it came out in 1984 – “How come you’re always such a fussy young man? Don’t want no Capn’ Crunch, don’t want no Raisin Bran.”
#1 “Where’d Da Cheese Go” – Ween
Now sure this tune was originally written for Pizza Hut’s stuffed-crust ad-campaign, but it was viciously rejected by the Hut and thus deserves inclusion on this list. When placed together with Part 2 of the song, also known as “Bitch, Where Da Motherfuckin’ Cheese At,” you have a truly magical piece of art. This was an easy pick for my number one.
If you missed the boat 2 years ago when Ariel Pink finally blew up and dropped many a critics’ Album of the Year with Before Today, don’t be too hard on yourself. At the time, it almost seemed too hip for its own good, and those smooth retro jams seemed slightly insincere at first listen to some folk. But now’s the time to go back and catch up, because if not, you’re falling behind on his latest release Mature Themes. Summing up his vibe perfectly in the latest Spin, Ariel claims that “I knew that I was doing something that sounded like the trace of a memory you can’t place.” To me it sounds like music from some parallel universe where 70′s yacht rock made a perfect transition into 80′s pop music – like if Michael McDonald had managed to still stay relevant.
Despite the jumbled ego that he can’t help but emit constantly, Pink really is crafting genius smooth-pop that transcends any and all genre-era constraints. Try to hate it, but the shit is just fucking fly as all hell. This new video for “Only in My Dreams” isn’t ground-breaking by any means, but it continues the low-fi dreamscape which he so embodies. Presumably shot on VHS, and not really following any interesting plot-line, the video is as relaxed and casual as his music – as it should be. He wants some girl, but it’s not really working out – that’s it. Track is great though, so is the album, and the video makes you want to go dig out your too-tight Vaurnet t-shirt and short-shorts, grab a 4-pack of Bartles and James and head for the community pool. Dig it.
When Sigur Ros first entered the universe a decade ago with Agaetis Byrjun, it was positively like nothing I had ever heard before. It felt like ripping into a droned out My Bloody Valentine track, plucking away layers and layers til you have this stripped out essence of true ethereal drift. I used to lie on my bed with headphones on listening to it late at night and just quiver in serenity and joy. Since then the Icelandic magicians have floated in and out of some different tangent realms of their music, and frankly a whole album hasn’t been able to hold me like that first one. The Untitled album came pretty damn close, but Takk kinda sucked, and the last one felt lie it was only half-way complete. Luckily, I’ve been getting utterly floored for the past month or so by their latest offering Valtari. It finally seems like the companion piece to the first album that’s been waiting to be re-birthed for some time. The shit is fucking transcendent. Listening to it takes me to this blissed out nether-world, kinda like some place in a Bon Iver video. I guess that’s why Sigur Ros did everything they could to make sure the first 2 videos for the album then look nothing like a Bon Iver video.
Essentially, it’s like someone looked directly at my Top 20 list of things I don’t want to see in a music video, and took 2 of those ideas to run. Things Adam King doesn’t want to see in a music video #12 – A How-To video for the Heimlich Maneuver, and #5 – Shia Labeouf’s Balls. The Shia one I kinda get – sometimes you gotta drop some nuts for everyone to understand the pain of psychedelic addiction you’re trying to present. The Heimlich one just seems like a Monty Python skit with no punch-line. Either way, you can’t say the boys don’t try to go out of the conventional spectrum.
Here’s “Fjogur Piano”
And here’s “Eg Anda”