Thursday, May 8, 2014

I tramp a perpetual journey

Note: this post has been literally been taking me months to complete. In addition to the usual blog lethargy, there's also been the problem that I keep getting so caught up in the actual work that I'm doing when I'm listening to music that I forget the part where I listen to new music. Not the worst problem to have, but it's mine.

Let's try something a little kind of not really different with this Musical Journey: an alternate history story. Traditionally, alt history stories are when you take an event in earth's history, and write about how history changes if it goes another way. In theory, that's an entire multiverse of fictional possibility. In actuality, what we get is a lot of stories about what if Hitler won World War II, with the occasional story regarding the American Civil War or War of Independence thrown in. That's not really the genre's fault; if you take an event people aren't historically familiar with, then you have to do a lot of explaining to justify the changes. And the average North American is a totally self-centered person (myself included); you can hinge an alt history story around the Boer War or something, but you'll have to work extra hard to make us appreciate it.

Which is all somewhat beside the point. What I'm proposing we do today is that we start with a song that I featured previously, with the stipulation that I can't choose any of the paths that I chose before. Will we create a resonate alt history that's the same, but different? Will it be a wildly divergent branch? Will it be more or less the exact same choices?

Let's find out. We'll start, once again, with Los Campesinos! -- Avocado, Baby. That song led to what's probably my favorite set so far, so let's see if we can recapture some of that magic.

Frightened Rabbit - Holy.  So: woman's on a business trip, finds God (?), or at least seems to take advice from some book, deserts the meeting, drives to the country, looks at the mountains, goes into the woods. Walks into the ocean and has the holy awakening, or, alternatively, drowns. It's a song whose video matches its lyrics, which is nice. The song never grabbed me, but it was nice enough; it was something I'd be happy to play in the background while doing other things. 

Metric -- Synethica. Oh God. It's doing this split/diverging mirror thing. It's like the horizontal equivalent of that White Stripes video for "Seven Nation Army."  It's kind of giving me a headache. The skeptic in me questions its function, as it seems to be there only to disguise the fact that they're shooting from a limited set. But then, at the 2:30 mark, it switches over to a sunset, and I'll admit, there's a nice sense of visual relief that accompanies the lyrics well. But then it's back to the split/ting screens. No thanks.

Bombay Bicycle Club -- Carry Me.  It's interesting. The video's essentially using stop motion and scribbles to convey a sense of artistic chaos; the music does the same, and it's really cool how they create a sense of stuttering in what's obviously a very composed song. Beyond that, the music's a little too... digital for my tastes. And while it's a nice combination of visual style matching music, the video part froze for a second, and I couldn't tell if that was part of the song or part of the medium, which seems like there's been a mix-up. The coda's nice.

I'm in Vevo territory now, which improves the variety of the links, but means that they're going to be much more "official" video releases. No, I'm not entirely sure what that means, but it sounded ominous, didn't it?

Two Door Cinema Club -- Changing of the Seasons.   I would never catch anything that was tossed upwards. That one scene would require about a dozen takes under my watch. The song is about a guy describing how he doesn't love his beloved anymore--after all, nothing says "I feel nothing for you" like writing a song about the sentiment. The music's a little too digital for my tastes, but I do appreciate being able to actually hear the lyrics on a first go. The video is a little nonsensical; a black and white press conference, which goes disastrously wrong. Our heroes flee, only to have their car mobbed by fans. It's okay; didn't blow my mind, but didn't actively offend me. I can see how it's a clear path hear from Bombay Bicycle Club.

Passion Pit -- Take a Walk. I usually don't like a percussion that's this heavy, but the opening works for me. The camera pans across various suburbia scenes, eventually heading into the woods, a farm, back to the city. I think the conceit here limits its emotional scope; there's only so much you can do with boldly declaring "I took a walk," at the end of the day. Of course, that's the whole point: the contrast between the dark economic despair of the regular verses, contrasted with the banality of the chorus. But the video doesn't help convey any of that at all.

Grouplove -- Tongue Tied.  Okay, we've definitely been stuck in the same genre for a while now. At least this video eventually has a lady singing. And I know this isn't the most gender-positive thing I've ever said, but whenever I see excessive eyeshadow on a guy, I immediately think of Johnny Depp. Anyway, it's definitely a gimmick video, where the idea is that the whole thing is being presented in reverse. We see a guy running naked from a bunch of masked men; eventually, we follow him back to a house party where he suddenly runs away; he kisses a girl, and eats a brownie. Only, it actually happens in reverse. Lyrically, not a lot happens; it's one of those "repeat the same line over and over" songs. Again, it's fine, but not particularly noteworthy.

Cage the Elephant. Shake Me Down.  I appreciate a video where something happens; an older man on a jog stumbles onto a portal that leads to his own memory palace--if a memory palace was essentially a giant pillow fort containing the memories of his childhood. I also like that it's a fairly young band using an older actor in the video; it might be more common than I realize, but it struck me as something different.  It's smaltzy, especially the ending, where he comes to terms with his now, but it's sweet too. I like it. The song, on the other hand, is fairly forgettable, especially in comparison.

Flobots. Handlebars. Flobots is a rock and hip hop musical band from Denver Colarado formed in 2000 by Jamie Laurie. I don't know what it means to add "musical" in there, but I guess we'll find out. Their single Handlebars was apparently very popular in 2008. The video is an animated, computer graphic thing. And the music is... rap and rock, all right. I kind of like it. It's got an escalation in lyrics that belies the sort of laziiness of the simple tone. And then everything accelerates. Okay, that was fun. And the comments are... interesting.

Weird Al Yankovic. Trapped in the Drive-through. I have a lot of fondness for Weird Al; it's not easy to get comedy cred among youths (well, my generation of youths anyway) without going extremely crude, and he doesn't, for the most part. On the other hand, an 11 minute video automatically makes me apprehensive.  It's a very, very detailed account of what starts as a boring day, set to vaguely epic music, which is the joke. At this length, it's really more an animated sketch that happens to be set to music. At 4:08, I don't know how this stretches out to full length. Never insult the server--just asking for extra spit with that burger. Okay, I can guess how it stretches out, at 8:00. It's a little tedious, to be honest, though it sticks the ending; while the mundane description is the point of the joke, that doesn't make it any more entertaining.

Okay, let's take this baby home with... okay, because I went to a Weird Al song, we've exited the realm of music and we're now closer to just straight up comedy. Fine. Here's the last song of the list, then, The Duck Song.    And dammit, in the first 15 seconds, I recognized the joke, only the version I heard had crackers and a bar. Adding music doesn't make it any more endearing, particularly. Okay, a little endearing. But still, not my first choice for how to spend three minutes. It's fine in a Youtube for Kids way.

And so, we've reached the end of our question. If we had gone through a different set of songs, everything would have been worse. Handlebars was good.

Later Days.

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