VOTD: “The Motherload” - Mastodon

For their song “The Motherload,” the high-concept metallers in Mastodon have come up with a deeply strange new video. It begins in classical metal fashion, with shots of hooded figures preparing for some sort of ceremony. The caricature of an ancient civilization and heavy red camera filter give it a bit of a 300 vibe. This is interspersed with images of the band performing in a large warehouse, with a contrasting blue tint.

Things get odder when we see servants carrying what may or may not be the Liberty Bell. In the foreground is one of the video’s main fixations, namely dancers exaggeratedly shaking their butts. The demented look from bassist/singer Troy Sanders at 1:12 says it all.

As the video progresses, the bacchanal gets wilder. There’s a close-up of a severed hand in a jar. There’s a man drunk with power, covered in beaded necklaces. There’s a giant, furry, horned monster.  After a while, the dancers come to Mastodon’s warehouse and engage in a dance-off. Eventually, the queen bee shows up, and her display sends the screen into a series of colorful psychedelic patterns. It doesn’t make a ton of sense, but the video’s sheer goofiness is worth watching for.

-Joe Ciccarello

VOTD: The Antlers - “Refuge”

Abstraction is at the heart of the Antlers’ video for “Refuge,” which eschews narrative in favor of visual effect. The emphasis is on color and light, which slowly shift in reflection of the song’s emotional content. This being the Antlers, that emotional content centers on loneliness and longing, with the occasional bit of uplift mixed in.

The first image is of the sky displayed in shades of black and white, its muted tone accompanying Peter Silberman’s quiet questioning. As the song heightens in drama, shades of purple and red bleed in. The imagery grows more cosmic, with a central beacon of light holding the frame. As the music grows more hopeful, signaled chiming guitar and trumpet, the palette brightens.

The use of ambiguity works well, providing an impression rather than trying to depict Silberman’s lyrics literally. The look is reminiscent of Darren Aranofsky’s film The Fountain, in which an outer-space feel was created by filming chemical reactions with a microscopic lens. I’m not sure how this one was done, but it has a similar creativity.

-Joe Ciccarello

VOTD: Alt-J - “Every Other Freckle”

I am very excited to announce that I received email confirmation that my copy of Alt-J’s new album, This is All Yours, shipped. I have very high expectations for this record, not just because of how ridiculously amazing their debut album An Awesome Wave is, but because the singles Alt-J has released for the new record have blown me away. 

This blog post is specifically dealing with the video for “Every Other Freckle,” but please also check out “Hunger of the Pine” and “Left Hand Free,” both of which are nothing short of stellar songs and videos. 

“Every Other Freckle” is a twisted, lust-fueled love song, with two videos to match. The videos are basically the same, except one features a male protagonists and the other a female one. Having separate videos, in my humble opinion, drives home the meaning of the song while keeping it relatable for the listener/viewer. To break that down for you: the separate videos allow you to choose whether you would rather see a woman’s or a man’s naked butt running across a beach. 

The lyrics of the song go from the light and fluffy musings of a lover who wants to “bed into you like a cat beds into a beanbag,” to the more lustful desires to “Turn you inside out and lick you like a crisp packet.” The video matches these two different sentiments by literally showing a cat falling into a bean bag, and juxtaposing that with primal images of bison running, cells separating, plants growing, and jellyfishes…jellyfishing.  

Alt-J’s intention with this video, I think, is to hammer home the primal side of love. If you want to get all English class on it, you can very easily say that the video is a comparison between humans lustful feelings and the laws of nature. All in all, this is another win for Alt-J, a band that I know are making their mark on music history. 

-Helen Hennessey

VOTD: Conor Oberst - “Common Knowledge”

Conor Oberst plays a tortured version of himself in the video for his regretful “Common Knowledge.” There’s a bit of meta-commentary, as an opening scene features Oberst reflecting on the filming and how it relates to an unnamed “incident.”

The song’s lyrics talk about a self-destructive acquaintance, saying, “If I had half his guts I’d want it, to chase that fatalistic comet.” The Oberst on screen seems to be the visualization of what he’d look like if he actually did so. He wanders around aimlessly, with shaggy hair and a bottle of booze and a cigarette in hand.

He takes a visit to his label, Nonesuch, and looks for a copy of his record. After finding it, he takes it home and gives it a play on the turntable. Something eventually shifts in his thoughts, and he takes out a pair of scissors and decides to give himself a haircut. Perhaps he has come to some realization, and wants to become the Oberst we know. Or maybe this is just part of a cycle, and every so often he is reminded of his talent and makes a half-hearted attempt to change.

-Joe Ciccarello

VOTD: Diarrhea Planet - “Platinum Girls”

With the band name Diarrhea Planet, wanting to avoid their videos is understandable. It’s instinct - don’t worry, I get it. But rid yourself of those dark thoughts, and allow yourself to enter a beautiful world of shenanigans and guitar riffs. The men of Diarrhea Planet have released a video that perfectly combines their Malcolm in the Middle style of hooliganism with the ironic realism for which they stand. 

Set in the front- and backyards of picturesque, suburban houses, this video has it all: men dressed in space suits being covered in shaving cream, creepy ice cream trucks, experiments with vacuum cleaners, and, of course, a whole lot of guitars. It brings you back to those carefree summer days when you and your friends sat around asking, “So, what do you wanna do?”, filling you with nostalgia, optimism and pure happiness. I’m not going to go as far as to say this video will bring world peace, but there is no proof yet that it doesn’t.  

-Helen Hennessey

VOTD: The Magic Numbers - “E.N.D.”

Slowly but surely, disco has been creeping back into our collective vocabulary. Hints of it were found in the new Jenny Lewis track “She’s Not Me,” and HAIM’s debut emulated the sparkling production of the ’70s and ’80s. But the newest Magic Numbers tune “The End” makes NO bones about what it’s going for. It’s velvet-Elvis-portrait smooth, with Bee Gees hand claps and violin straight out of that one Goofy Movie scene. Strangely, the other tunes on their latest record Alias go for completely different styles. “Shot In The Dark” is a jangly, roots-y strummer; “Roy Orbison” is full of doo-wop vibes. Moral of the story: the Magic Numbers are great at reinterpreting the musical past.

-Kelsey Butterworth

VOTD: The Both - “Volunteers in America”

What I would give to have Aimee Mann and Ted Leo as my wedding band. The duo’s new video for “Volunteers in America” shows just the kind of backyard gathering many of us wish we were hip enough to attend. A girl with a flower crown officiates an older couple renewing vows and the cuteness continues to escalate from there. The video celebrates love and connection through sundresses, hammocks, red solo cups, and a group sing-a-long. The Both, and this song in particular, is a long way from the solemn Aimee Mann hit, “Save Me.” Her voice maintains that strong hold on the crowd, though, even if it’s far less melancholy of a tune. 

-Emily Hirsch

VOTD: Bishop Allen, “Start Again”

You’re not going to watch a 4-minute music video of Bishop Allen and their friends hula hooping in slow motion, now are you? You are totally going to watch a 4-minute music video of Bishop Allen and their friends hula hooping in slow motion. Now that you know what the video is, nothing you can say will convince me otherwise. Just give the video a peek. Tell me you didn’t watch the whole thing. 

It’s just, it’s so… captivating. It’s so weird, and cute, and fun, and awkward, and artsy, and wow, 4 minutes went by pretty quick. Plus that song, that song was so catchy. I want to hear that song again. And I want to hula hoop. I want to hula hoop to that song. In slow motion. Let me go hula hoop. Do I have a hula hoop? Oh, you know what… I don’t think I even have a hula hoop. Now that I think about it, I’m really bad at hula hooping. I might have even hurt myself hula hooping that one time. Not really sure how I did that. Maybe hula hooping isn’t such a great idea.

Oh well, I guess I’ll just have to watch the video again. What’s that? They made a hula hoop video for every song on the album, and they get trippier the farther you get along…? Uh oh, there goes my day.

-Dylan Singleton

VOTD: Johnny Marr, “Easy Money”

Johnny Marr gets a Scorsese-esque treatment in the new video for his solo track “Easy Money.” A hyperactive camera follows him around for a tongue-in-cheek look at the allure of anything that promises to get you rich quick. The frame is filled with vibrant colors and glowing lights as rows of slot machines are surveyed.

Marr is often at the center of the action, looking directly into the camera. Sometimes he is entreating the viewer to join him in the madness. Other times he is warding the viewer off with a menacing glare. The best shot may be the one around the 45-second mark that has him lurking with his guitar in between two sets of slots.

The song itself is a fun piece of post-punk, with a bit of Gang of Four and a bit of Franz Ferdinand therein. You’ll have a hard time getting Marr’s voice saying “It’s money, money” out of your head for at least a few hours.

-Joe Ciccarello

VOTD: Twin Peaks, “I Found a New Way”

Twin Peaks is one of my favorite Chicago bands and now they have given me yet another reason to love them even more. The video for “I Found a New Way” makes Millennials yearn for a classic childhood movie, The Sandlot. The boys grab their gloves, bats, and balls, and head out to play ball against hot-headed bad boys. Even more impressive, Cadien Lake James (lead singer and guitarist), plays in his wheelchair due to breaking his leg while on tour with The Orwells this past spring. If you are looking for three minutes of nostalgia and a great song, you have found it with this video.

-Lauren Rosalanko