Music Video

An Appreciation of the 360° Music Video

I have long been a fan of music videos, and I believe that one of the unfortunate consequences of the decline of MTV and other cable music networks is that we are unable to see the progress of a legitimate art form.  With this in mind, know that Rust Is Just Right will often try to highlight our favorite videos and techniques.  Today we will look at a specific form which saw a mini-renaissance of sorts, the 360° music video.

This specific technique is a variation of an old stand-by, the one-shot video.  It takes a remarkable amount of skill and planning to pull off a memorable one-shot video, because it has to balance between being simple enough to accomplish with one take while also portraying some event that will make the video memorable to some degree.  The 360° video is a particularly ingenious variation of the one-shot video, because its very nature creates the illusion of movement and allows the director to mess with the predictions of the viewer.  There is a sense of progress, even if the action does not necessarily move forward, and because the viewer is constantly anticipating what is happening off-screen, the director has time to prepare and come up with a surprise as to what happens next.

Last year saw two different takes on the 360° concept from wildly different artists.  The first was the video for “Inside Out” from clipping., which followed a CGI representation of the MC navigating around a street corner, with each line represented by a specific image that takes the place of his head.  It is quite entertaining, and also helps the viewer connect with the specific lyrics of the song.

The other video from last year which utilized this concept was Philip Selway’s “Around Again”.  The song title provides an obvious clue as to why the director went with this conceit, but rest assured the result rises above being a mere gimmick.  Here, the director plays with repetition of certain movements and actions as well as incorporating slow-motion, colors, and freeze-frames, which provide a stark contrast to the illusory movement around the track.

Now contrast these recent videos with two alternative rock videos from back in the day when rock videos actually got played on TV.  First, there’s Everclear’s bouncy and irreverent “Everything to Everyone”.

Now compare that to Saves the Day’s “At Your Funeral”.

The most interesting comparison between the two pairs is how the recent videos focus on a protagonist traveling around in a set track, while the camera in the Everclear video rotates without any clear target and instead allowing specific scenes to take the spotlight with each rotation.  The “At Your Funeral” video splits the difference by focusing both on a static shot of singer Chris Conley, keeping him squarely in the center of the frame as the camera rotates, as well as covering the major moments of a family’s life (in super-fast motion) with the camera’s unyielding revolutions.

Though all four videos use a similar approach, each is able to stand out in distinct ways with each yielding a memorable result.  The mere usage of this clever technique is not enough to guarantee a notable result, but it can help, and the director in each video utilized the concept to their advantage.  If anyone else can think of any other examples of this type of music video, we’d love to hear it, and if possible compare them to these instances above.

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Over the Weekend (Jan. 5 Edition)

Prepare yourself for a return to a normal work-week with new videos and other fun distractions…

Broken Social Scene just released a music video for the track “Golden Facelift”, which originally was recorded during the Forgiveness Rock Record sessions but received new life when it was included in a recent compilation.  Pitchfork has the story behind the song if you’re interested; otherwise, just sit back and enjoy this fan-made montage of all the horrifying events from this past year, with a slick BSS soundtrack.

The year 2014 was a bummer for a lot of people, but not for those who benefit from the rebirth of vinyl, as the recent boom shows no signs of slowing down with this latest year of sales.  While the pretty bar graph shows a significant increase in the volume of sales, it doesn’t provide the needed caveat that vinyl still represents only a small percentage of total music sales, because that would require more research and more complicated analysis.

You thought that just because we’re now in the new year that we were beyond the time for lists?  Well, think again, because Slicing Up Eyeballs has a list of the 100 best albums of the 80’s as determined by its readers.  I have to say, I was rather surprised that a website with that name would only list Doolittle as number three, but apparently that’s how democracy works.

Consequence of Sound has an excellent extended interview with Death From Above 1979’s Jesse F. Keeler, with topics ranging from a potential sale of host Sami Jarroush’s guitar to Keeler’s “Mosh Mondays” with his kids.

New York Magazine has an extended profile of the founders of Rap Genius, the lyrics annotation website, with an eye on their grand plans for the future.  Spoiler Alert: the guys are exactly the kind of dudebro assholes you would expect.

Here’s the perfect diversion for any Monday: a Tumblr that mashes up Morrissey/The Smiths lyrics with old Peanuts strips.

And finally, the Tumblr “Fuck Yeah Spoon” shared a brand new Spoon song that made its debut at a show in Houston a few nights ago.  Even though the fan-made recording is not album-quality, it’s clear that “Satellite” is a beautiful ballad with a nice chugging beat, and we will certainly be hoping for an official release of some sort in the future.

Over the Weekend (Dec. 29 Edition)

News, videos, and other end-of-the-year paraphernalia as you transition from one holiday weekend to another…

We gave the Rust Is Just Right staff an extra day off last week, so we’re going to combine our linkdump days this week and get to a couple of stories we neglected to share; we hope you didn’t miss us too much, and hopefully this makes up for our absence.

We’ll kick things off with a music video, as TV on the Radio just released one for the upbeat and frenetic “Lazerray” from their album Seeds, and footage of skateboard tricks somehow seems to be an appropriate take on the song.

For those in the mood for more music videos, NME provides a slideshow of the best music videos of the decade so far, and I’d have to say I agree with the number one and number three selections in particular.  In other “lists” news, Pitchfork now has their Readers Poll results up (which differs only slightly from the staff selections, for the most part), and Under the Radar has their Top 140 albums.  A more interesting feature offered by the latter is their annual Artist Survey; we enjoyed the one from Max Bloom of Yuck in particular.

Everybody heard about PAPER magazine’s “Break the Internet” issue for other reasons, but hidden within its pages was a fascinatingly hilarious interview with Snoop Dogg, discussing mainly his newfound passion for painting.

Stereogum has the video for a compilation that asked artists over the years a simple question: “Lennon or McCartney?”  I believe that the choice of one over the other says a lot about the person, but I shouldn’t have to tip my hand one way or the other.  I will say that Bo Diddley offers the best answer of all, however.

Elsewhere on the Stereogum site, they have a list of the 101 Most Anticipated Albums of 2015, and you’re correct we’re using it as a cheat sheet to remind us what’s coming out next year.

And finally, we recommend that you read this remembrance of Joe Cocker from Jason Heller of the AV Club, which does an excellent job of explaining the power of his voice and his unexpected influence on younger generations.

Over the Weekend (Dec. 22 Edition)

Some videos and lists and other fun stuff as you continue to put off Christmas shopping…

Last week we said farewell to one of our favorite late night comedy shows with the end of The Colbert Report, but that wasn’t the only great program that finished its run last week.  The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson was underrated for the entirety of its run, as few could match the creativity and anarchic spirit of its host.  Craig ended things with a bang on his last show, and it was nice to see this tribute at the top of his show.  Here’s the official video, though it’s missing an excellent second half as seen in this link.

The “Bang Your Drum” performance was an excellent followup to the latest rendition of the annual holiday tradition of Darlene Love performing “Christmas (Baby Please Come Home”) on The Late Show with David Letterman.  Of course, what really takes the performance to another level is the bari sax solo, but all the musicians are worthy of praise.

Once again, we have even more lists for your consultation.  Cokemachineglow has multiple lists for top albums, and then there are best videos lists from Vulture, PASTE, and Buzzfeed.  While there are several good selections, I’m surprised to see the absence of our personal pick for best music video of 2014, the haunting “Story 2” from clipping.

Song Exploder has an excellent interview with members of The National, who discuss the creation of “Sea of Love” for Trouble Will Find Me.  They really go deep into the making of the song, so all those budding songwriters out there should take note.

In a bit of unsurprising news, the Yeah Yeah Yeahs are “on a bit of a hiatus” according to Karen O.  But it sounds like it’s just down time and not anything signalling the end of the band, which is great.

The Replacements have released some new music, and to say it’s different than what you would expect would be an understatement.  Pitchfork has the link to the 25 minute jazz improve piece “Poke Me In My Cage”.

Daniel Kessler from Interpol’s side project Big Noble just released their first music video, providing a visual accompaniment to the soundscape “Stay Gold”.

And a melancholy farewell to Joe Cocker, who possessed one of the great voices in rock history.  His cover of “With A Little Help From My Friends” was a huge part of my childhood, and I’m sure millions of others could say the same thing.

The Airing of Grievances: Guns N’ Roses – “November Rain”

My first exposure to Guns N’ Roses* (and let’s be honest, “exposure” is the correct term to use when discussing GNR) was the music video for “November Rain”.  Originally, I only saw bits and pieces of the video from the various countdowns and clip shows that made up a large portion of MTV’s programming of the mid-90’s, though interspersed in that footage may have been their performance that one time when Elton John joined them for some reason.  Sure, there’s a strong likelihood that I probably saw a movie trailer that was backed by the strains of “Welcome to the Jungle”, but it never registered with me, so my first association with Guns N’ Roses wasn’t that they were dangerous hard-rockers, but overwrought balladeers.  I say that with the kindest intent possible, because as ridiculous as everything associated with “November Rain” is, I will admit that as a piece of music it still holds up–its movements are well-constructed, it actually generates some passion in the listener, and Slash’s guitar solos are damn good.

But man, that music video…

The saddest moment of my childhood was not when I found out the truth about Santa Claus, but when I realized that nobody could hear Slash’s epic guitar solo outside that church in the desert.  Of course I realize no one would actually hear it because there’s no audience out there in the desert, but it’s the fact that Slash’s guitar isn’t plugged into anything that rammed the message home.  And considering the noise from the helicopter swooping all around to capture that iconic scene, I doubt Slash could even hear himself as he poured his heart out into that solo.  NOBODY CAN HEAR HIS PAIN TRANSMITTED THROUGH THE PURE MAJESTY OF MUSIC!

That said, Slash’s “silence” definitely isn’t the only problem with the video–only Axl Rose could come up with a music video with a budget over a million dollars that runs for over nine minutes and have a narrative that leaves the audience confused as to what exactly happened, and not in a good way.  We can allow that the band uses a good portion of the video to show the fabulous orchestra that they hired for the song, flute and all, and we’re willing to accept the fact that for the sake of narrative this was a romance built to last since the bride-to-be could hang out and smoke cigarettes at a dive bar with the rest of the band (easily one of the strongest foundations a couple can have for their relationship).  We can even appreciate Stephanie Seymour’s wonderfully tacky wedding dress and the subtle nods to the various personalities of the other band members, like the fact that Slash forgot where he put the wedding ring but good thing Duff McKagan is there to save the day.  Still, everybody wants to know 1) Why the hell did that guy dive right into the wedding cake? and 2) What the hell happened to Stephanie Seymour?**  That’s what happens when you cram two acts of the narrative into the last 45 seconds of a video.  You end up asking questions like “Does Stephanie Seymour melt in the rain because she’s a witch?” and “Did these fuckers just pull the ‘this was all a dream’ trick?”

It’s easy to see that this video was the clearest example of the various symptoms that would plague the band for the rest of their career, and was but a microcosm of the ridiculous excess that would plague the enduring debacle that was Chinese Democracy.  Still, this song and video is a definite highlight when this time of year comes along, no matter how ridiculous and nonsensical the entire enterprise is.

Story Time: About ten years ago, when I was on break from college, I was hanging out at my friend’s house, and joining us was his girlfriend at the time.  She was a massive Guns N’ Roses  fan, and was extremely excited to see the video playing on my friend’s TV.  I took the opportunity to mention my various grievances with the video, namely the fact NOBODY CAN HEAR SLASH’S AMAZING GUITAR SOLO and the small fact that the entire video makes absolutely no sense.  This besmirchment of the good name of Guns N’ Roses was too much for her to handle, so she threatened me with eviction from the premises if I said anything else (note: if you recall, this was in fact not her home, but my friend’s).  So I shut up for a good two minutes, before I air-drummed one of those slow fills and sang “Bum Ba-da-dum Bum!”  Despite the fact that I was showing my appreciation for the music emanating from the television speakers, this was TOO MUCH for the woman, and I was yelled at until I left the house.

I don’t think I ever saw her again, and my friend broke up with her not long after this incident.  That’s how you end a story, Axl.

*It bugs the hell out of me that they write their name with the apostrophe after the ‘N’, but what are you going to do?

**Let’s take a second to acknowledge how well Stephanie Seymour has held up over the years as opposed to the trainwreck that Axl became.  Well done, Mrs. Seymour.

An Incomplete List of SCARY Music Videos

We here at Rust Is Just Right enjoy the Halloween season, especially since it gives us the perfect reason to indulge in our love of all things horror.  So, of course we’re going to use the holiday as an opportunity to show some of our favorite scary music videos.  We don’t think we have the authority to say that these are the scariest, or that these selections form any definitive list, but we hope you enjoy them in all their terrifying glory.

Before the revival of the zombie craze truly took hold, Phantom Planet made a great video depicting the making of a low-budget zombie horror story for their single “Big Brat”.

I remember jumping for the remote to try and change the channel as quickly as possible once the faces started melting and the shit truly hit the fan when I saw Soundgarden’s “Black Hole Sun” for the first time.

Before Daft Punk won the hearts of the people with Random Access Memories, they had the worst record sales of their career with Human After All.  This may have been partially due to their horrifying video for “Primetime of Your Life”.  Though they more than capably proved their point about the perils of eating disorders, the skeleton motif may have been too effective.

[So that we don’t stress your browser, we’ve got plenty more videos (including a few legitimately terrifying ones) on the next page.]

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Over the Weekend (Aug. 25 Edition)

Some fun stuff to flip through as you struggle to stay awake for another week of the Simpsons marathon…

In case you didn’t know, MTV aired their Video Music Awards last night, and I think the best way to sum up my feelings about the event is to quote AV Club writer Sean O’Neal: “Today is the 15th anniversary of me realizing I no longer care about the VMAs.”  Nevertheless, Sean himself printed a “recap” of the show, but this was based purely on skimming articles about the show.  If you’re still in the mood to talk about the VMAs, SPIN provides their own category of Worst Music Video and hands out their own award.

In a more substantial piece, SPIN also has an interview with Run The Jewels, and they talk about current events and race in America.  With that, you should also check out the new track released by clipping. in the wake of the events of Ferguson.

We’ve mentioned that Aphex Twin is finally releasing a new album with SYRO, and now Pitchfork has given us a quick preview of a longer interview to be published at a later date; among the most important items mentioned is the pronunciation of the album title.

And finally, Pitchfork decided to use one of the dead weeks in August to go full List-mania, with lists covering the best albums, music videos, and tracks of the last five years.  The fact that Celebration Rock is not the number one album pretty much calls the entire enterprise into question (and the fact that two of the three paragraphs written about the album are pure garbage is also another great hint), but if you’ve got time to kill, then I guess you could read it.

I will say that they are correct about how great Tame Imapala’s “Feels Like We Only Go Backwards” is.

Catching Up On The Week (Aug. 22 Edition)

For those of you looking for reading material during the commercial breaks of the Every Simpsons Ever marathon…

Everyone’s looking forward to the new album from The New Pornographers next week, Brill Bruisers, and they’re making the media rounds in preparation.  Be sure to check out their interviews with Consequence of Sound and Pitchfork.

Pitchfork also has this look at the early-years of Kraftwerk, a period in which the band had yet to find the style that would come to define them.

If you’re in the mood for a troll-tastic list, there’s this countdown of the Best Video winners from the MTV VMA’s.  You can tell it’s an awful list with its very first selection: a shitty argument stating that R.E.M.’s “Losing My Religion” is the worst in the 30 year history of the event.

[Ed. Note: “Sledgehammer” should be number 1, and “Virtual Insanity” should be 1a, with Chris Rock’s parody of the Jamiroquai video at 1b.]

Deadspin looks at the unlikely connection between the heavily-hyped FKA twigs and Air Supply.

AV Club has been doing a big feature about 1994 this week, and that includes a plea to listen to some Gin Blossoms.

And finally, The Guardian talks to several famous lead singers about the anxieties they face when performing.

Feats of Strength: The Avalanches

Every year brings some new rumor that The Avalanches are working on a new album, and each year we hold out hope that one day these rumors hold true.  It’s perfectly understandable, considering how beloved their debut (and so far only) album Since I Left You was.  I remember they first grabbed my attention with the memorable video for “Frontier Psychiatrist”, from back in the days when MTV2 showed music videos (yes, I’m of that rare age where I mourn the philosophical changes of both MTV (Original Recipe) and MTV2).  The concept was simple but genius: have each sample, no matter how esoteric or outlandish, performed by live actors as if part of some bizarre variety show.

It wasn’t until years later that I found out that they created another music video, this one for the title track.  While “Frontier Psychiatrist” has its charms and still makes me chuckle after all these years, in terms of sheer brilliance “Since I Left You” has it beat.  It begins with two coal miners stuck deep underground, when the faint strains of distant music begin to drift in, guiding the miners to a passageway out of the shaft.  The visual component perfectly captures the audio shift in the song, as the moment the miners open the trap door, the music swells to fully envelop the room.  We are then transported from a bleak world of gritty black-and-white to a much more modern dance style full of vibrancy and life, as the miners are greeted by two lovely female ballet dancer counterparts.

It’s at this point that we get to the main action of the video, as one of the miners seizes the moment and begins to perform an intricate and elegant dance, belying the expectations one would expect from his gruff appearance.  In that sense, it bears more than a passing resemblance to the Fatboy Slim video “Weapon of Choice”, which was released a few months before.  The dance of the miner captures the elation felt in both the music and the vocals; though the lyrics are “since I left you, I found the world so new”, the action focuses on the euphoric emotion and not the specific act (at least at first).

Everything seems to be going so well, but unfortunately reality has to intrude.  The other miner who stays on the sidelines begins to fade out, and he has to leave his friend behind.  The video ends with the epilogue of the returned miner informing us “Three days later, they dug me out; I never saw Arthur again.  But I’ll bet wherever he’s gone, he’s having a damn good time.”  It’s a melancholic twist that nonetheless maintains a certain sweetness, because even though his friend is gone, he can still remember that last moment of bliss.

Now knowing the full context of the video, the events depicted take on a new meaning.  It’s almost certain that the miraculous discovery of the secret portal is representative of the moment that the two miners lose consciousness, and that the events depicted in the dance studio are some sort of hallucination.  Even though this is purely in the realm of the imaginary, there are still touches that help ground the scene and keep it as realistic as possible.  One example is the inclusion of the two judges, who act as both witnesses to the events and as an audience surrogate.  Unlike the Christopher Walken/Fatboy Slim video, it seems in this case that there seems to be an interaction with the outside world.

However, it is when you consider the hallucination framing that you realize the  true extent of the heartbreaking nature of the surviving minor.  Notice how unsure he is of himself and his reluctance to join in, even though it’s clear he feels a strong urge to participate.  Even when the beautiful girl comes over to provide some gentle encouragement, he still can’t get over his self-doubt to fully join in and instead remains on the sideline providing the occasional tambourine beat.  This means that even in his fantasies, the surviving miner still retains all his insecurities and can’t indulge in his desire to be happy.  For some people, this hits a little close to home.

Even considering this probability, one can still take the ending as a joyous one if the lyrics are considered once again–“since I left you, I found the world so new.”  We can hope that as the surviving miner went on to live long after the events depicted in the video, that perhaps he took to heart the lesson that his departed friend taught him, that to find happiness one must take the opportunity and seize it.  It’s not just his friend that’s having a damn good time, but hopefully the survivor as well.

Feats of Strength: Modest Mouse

Modest Mouse will be returning next week as they launch a new tour in Portland, though we are still uncertain whether this is a signal that they will soon be releasing a follow-up to 2007’s We Were Dead Before the Ship Even Sank.  To mark the occasion, we decided to share a brilliant music video that you may have missed when it was first released.  Here, the band uses the familiar trick of playing the video in reverse, but here the technique serves to emphasize the emotional impact of the end.  It’s a real testament to the production that one would know exactly how the video will end, but still end up intensely moved.  So, fair warning: you may cry at the end.