Video Appreciation – Thao & The Get Down Stay Down’s “Astonished Man”

This groove- and beat-oriented song about tracking down the singer’s lost father is given a new perspective with a mock B movie horror video.

“Astonished Man” is the lead-off track from A Man Alive (2016), the fourth album from Thao & the Get Down Stay Down (2003 – ).  The song (and album) is about her relationship with her estranged father.  The vocal groove and sharp beat drive the song. Repeated words and phrases emphasize the rhythm with the cracking drums. The simple guitar riffs and buzzing synth bass further emphasize the rhythms. The guitar is mostly choppy, but does include some swirling effects in the background. The music builds and breaks down and builds again. Throughout the song, auxiliary instruments add more texture to the song. There’s a shaker, tambourine and a cowbell-like sound from the percussion. Violins add to the atmosphere and intensity along with layered vocals.

The video creates a different kind of atmosphere, a seeming of murderous pursuit.  It’s setting is the stage of a horror film, complete with eerie lighting, fog, skulls, stained glass, and dramatic camera movement to set the scene. The video highlights weapons like an ice hook, ax, chainsaw, butchers knife, switch blade, and tenderizer mallet suddenly casting shadows in the lightning or breaking through walls and doors. Thao sings to the camera alone, in parts with a prop knife in her head and covered in fake blood. She even appears headless on the floor, though the camera reveals her attached body underneath.

For further viewing, check out Thao & The Get Down Stay Down’s video for “Holy Roller” or more Video Appreciation posts. Feel free to  e-mail suggestions for other music videos you’d like to see covered. And if you like these posts, consider buying my music or donating to support Write to Remember.

Click “Continue reading’ to see the lyrics.  Continue reading Video Appreciation – Thao & The Get Down Stay Down’s “Astonished Man”

Art Appreciation – Kii Arens for Big Grams’ Self-Titled EP

Big Grams' EPArens’ uses gold-painted women to create seven idol-like trophies illustrating this Big Boi + Phantogram EP that exalts the Cardinal sins.

Kii Arens‘ (1967 – ) artwork for Big Grams (2015) is a series of trophies features golden women depicting the seven deadly sins. Rather than condemning these transgressions, the premise of this seven-song EP is a celebration. You can check out the all the trophies and descriptions on Big Grams‘ page.

  • Sloth – a woman covered with a sheet and smoking from a bong
  • Pride – a woman crowned with a tiara and receiving her own trophy
  • Envy – a woman holding a knife as she looks over her shoulder at another woman happily sniffing a rose
  • Lust – two women embracing and also appears on the EP cover
  • Greed – a woman dropping cash while drinking wine
  • Gluttony – displays a woman with her arms around a large ketchup-covered, crinkle-cut French fry.
  • Wrath – a woman crouching with a gun pointed up at another woman ready to come down with a chainsaw

Arens has also designed Eagles of Death Metal album, Heart On.  He has created concert prints for musicians such as Radiohead, Queens of the Stone Age, and Tame Impala as well. Aren’s has even had stints as a DJ, MC, guitarist and vocalist, and video director.

Feel free to check out more Art Appreciation posts or e-mail me suggestions for artwork you’d like to see in a future post. And if you like these posts, consider buying my music or donating to support Write to Remember.

Video Appreciation – Beach Houses’ “Wishes”

The band creates a dreamlike atmosphere for a stadium performance with lip-syncing, dancing, spraying, martial arts, fireworks, and horses.

“Wishes” is the third single from Beach House‘s (2004 – present) fourth album, Bloom (2012). Eric Wareheim, of Tim and Eric, directed and has a cameo in the video. It begins with a synthesizer’s bright chord’s swell, followed by electronic drums and a descending keyboard pattern. An older man emerging from a the stadium’s horse-embellished curtain. He sings to the crowd, but the vocals are a woman’s, low and drawn out. The crowd watches motionless.

Next, a guitar comes in to compliment the keyboard. Combatants with ball nets hanging from their waists are on the sideline. Martial artists spray water in their mouths. Then, three cheerleaders run through a horse-embellished banner on the field and do a routine as the coach sings on. The crowd begins cheering. Horse masks begin appearing in the crowd.

Synth bass, drums, and background vocals fills out the music. The martial artists take the field and do flips, spinning kicks, poi ball spinning.  The crowd cheers intensely.  They dance while spraying water (even mimicking urination), before tearing away each others pants and their own jacket as the cheerleaders gawk.

The music builds to a guitar solo. One cheerleader spins a guandao, security chases a painted streaker across the field, and the guys spins nunchucks and   a double-sided light saber. Another cheerleader dances with shimmering translucent wings.

After the solo, the music changes. It drops out from behind the singer for a moment, then kicks back in with a showering keyboard line and drums. Fireworks explode each time the music comes back in and the winged dancer keeps twirling, her wings enveloping her.

The music repeats the beginning of the song, but builds quickly. Two cheerleaders escort the singer to a horse, while the other and martial artist place flowers at his feet and another guy does flips into a step up to the horse. The singer finishes off the song and all are applauding, even using signs. The horse rears up as fireworks explode in the background to the end.

For further viewing, check out Beach House’s video for “Heart of Chambers” or more Video Appreciation posts. Feel free to  e-mail suggestions for other music videos you’d like to see covered. And if you like these posts, consider buying my music or donating to support Write to Remember.

Video appreciation posts this year highlight and seek female musicians to inspire diversity in our music playing and listening pursuits.

Click ‘Continue reading’ to see the lyrics.

Continue reading Video Appreciation – Beach Houses’ “Wishes”

Song of the Month – Washing Away’s “So Inevitable”

A sad ending that focuses on the bands break up, with water metaphors suiting Washing Away well. That band may be done, but the music lives.

We’ve reached the last Washing Away song in Part Four and this EP series. “So Inevitable” comes from the point of view of the dumped, with water body references throughout – clearing, pounding, separating, and providing perspective. The lyrical metaphors still seem good, so I didn’t change them. The melody was a challenge and my voice wavers a bit.  I think it works given the subject. This was also the first time I adjusted the equalization at all. I was getting some distortion on my S’s in “seems so …”, so I turned it down at 10K.

The music has a melancholy hook and plods along, building to the end.  There is a bit of a climactic moment as the verses reach the chorus, but it’s just a bittersweet taste of the unfulfilled hope of making it as a band.  This is the second song to include bass chords – the first was in the introduction on “This Game.” I used some consonant ones in the bridge to show a little optimism that there will be other opportunities to make music.

Check out more Songs of the Month and posts about Washing Away. Please e-mail me suggestions for my songs, too. And if you value Write to Remember, consider donating a dollar or buying my music.

Click ‘Continue reading’ to see the lyrics.

Continue reading Song of the Month – Washing Away’s “So Inevitable”

Art Appreciation – Nigel Evan Dennis for Clair de Lune’s Marionettes

Clair de Lune's Marionettes Album CoverMarionettes’ art features high-contrast monotone collages exploding in layers wrapped around the case, complementing the band’s high energy.

Nigel Evan Dennis began designing as Electric Heat the same year that Clair de Lune formed and released their first album, Marionettes (2004). He has done album artwork for bands including another Minneapolis band Pomegranates and rapper Common. Dennis’s other commercial work includes shoe advertisements and magazine spreads, such as Playboy layouts inspired by Tron:Legacy and Back to the Future, Part II. On his website, there are also links to his fine art prints and mandala-like hand-painted records. Dennis is a musician as well, composing a score and playing in the band, A Lull.

The album artwork for Marionettes is a bit rougher, but still has the energy of his other work. The main design in brown is an bursting collage of the band members, animals, trees, and towers.  Many birds, a gazelle, and a zebra are in the mix. while an elephant stands apart next to an Olde English “Shadow.” A water tower, bell tower, Leaning Tower of Pisa, and antenna towers peek out. There are also some odds and ends mixed in — an old camera, cassettes – (“CLAIR DE LUNE” on Side A and “MARIONETTES” on Side B), orange slices, a crown, and a windmill. Swirling cords, arrows, and stars ornament the imagery.

The base layer is a two-tone orange on the front and faded shades of blue and purple on the back. The are mostly splashes of paint, but there is a cityscape and skyscraper in the orange. The faded colors are mostly splashes, too, but there maybe a phone and “1982!!” in there. The inside of the booklet is even more faded behind the credits and likely just splattered paint.

The disc has a cassette labeled “CLAIR DE LUNE” that looks like it is falling across the disc, but the drops are birds and streaks are towers. The band name and album title appear vertically in the spine on the tray card. “Your body cant carry the [indiscernible] anymore!” is under that, ornamented by a skull and crossbones, hearts, and a spray paint spot.

Check out more Art Appreciation posts. Please e-mail me suggestions for artwork you’d like to see in a future post. And if you find value in Write to Remember, consider donating a dollar or buying my music.

Click “Continue reading” to see a poster showing the artwork on the outside of the disc, and watch the “Passenger View” music video in the same style as the album art. Continue reading Art Appreciation – Nigel Evan Dennis for Clair de Lune’s Marionettes

Song of the Month – Washing Away’s “The Last Straw”

The band is almost set to hit the recording studio.  This big show will put them over the top, but can it reignite the guitarist’s interest?

In “The Last Straw,” the band is nearing their big show that kicked off Washing Away‘s EP series with “Welcome”. They’ve got the songs and almost have enough money saved up to record an album, but it’s hard to tell if everybody is on board. The guitarist seems uninterested, but hopefully a successful performance will reignite his passion.  The lyrics are bit different from the original demo and now have the same chorus throughout the song and references the song title. I changed “money” to “savings” in the verses, because it sounded a little less silly. I also replaced “washes out to sea” with “fades from memory” in the last verse, because the line didn’t fit with the song even though the project is Washing Away.

Musically, there’s a strong rhythmic emphasis that goes with “break” at the end of the chorus. Also, the interlude is a reprise of the bridge to “Welcome”, referring to the big show, and climaxes violently before subsiding softly. I wanted the song under four minutes and the bridge was a bit long. I cut the interlude in half and took out the intro part that was after the first chorus. The introduction and last verse are a little different, too, with the bass and drums coming in after two measures of the intro and longer notes held out in the verse.

Check out more Songs of the Month and posts about Washing Away. Please e-mail me suggestions for my songs, too. And if you value Write to Remember, consider donating a dollar or buying my music.

Click ‘Continue reading’ to see the lyrics. Continue reading Song of the Month – Washing Away’s “The Last Straw”

Web Appreciation – Song Exploder

Song Exploder Twitter AvatarPodcast blows up a song each episode so the musicians can dissect the parts and provide insight into their influences and creative processes.

Song Exploder (2014 – Present) is a one-man podcast, where a different musician talks about a specific song. It singles out different tracks and songwriters — drummer, guitarist, bassist, singer, etc. — share their thoughts about creating it.

The podcast 99% Invisible (2010 – Present) introduced to Song Exploder, both part of Radiotopia,  It shared Episode 28: The Long Winters, which is fascinating and got me hooked. “The Commander Thinks Aloud” is a good place to start, because the Long Winters’ songwriter is an excellent storyteller. He talked about the subject of the song, including his experience flying, hearing about the space shuttle disaster, and imagining impending doom. He also speaks eloquently about the different instrumental parts and their progression in the music.

Looking back in the archives, I found songs from other good bands, like Blonde Redhead and the Album Leaf. Older episodes play the full song first, but it’s nice that they’re at the end of the episode now. Recently, Song Exploder covered a new song from HEALTH (whom I’ve written about here) and introduced me to bands I haven’t listened to, like American Football. The website has a lot of links and visuals you can’t get in a podcast, so I recommend both.

Check out more Web Appreciation posts and e-mail me suggestions for other sites to cover. And if you value Write to Remember, consider donating a dollar or buying my music.