This year’s best videos

#1 Placebo – “Too Many Friends”, directed by Saman Kesh.

Saman Kesh is the best director working. Placebo is not the best band working. But this is definitely one of the most interesting and unique videos I’ve seen this year. Speaking to Videostatic, Saman Kesh explains: ”It was designed as a puzzle. I actually got the idea when somebody told me ‘Hey man, I love your work… I’m always not sure If my interpretation is right though, but awesome!!!’ I was kind of sad by this as I took it as ‘your shit isn’t clear motherfucker!’—haha. So, it weaseled its way into the writing as a “what do YOU think happened, viewer?” We originally had four answers, but we found it to be a bit too confusing, so we decided to compartmentalize them into A) Guys fault, B) Girl’s fault, C) We are wrong, you tell us”.

#2 Mazes – “Bodies”, directed by Austin of Vision Fortune.

Simplicity is king. Directed by Austin of Vision Fortune, this video explores the connection between moving and still imagery as several couples pose for photographs. Of the video Austin says, “The idea of the video came from the idea that we as humans are inevitably attracted to both moving image and still imagery such as photography and painting. The video explores and raises questions about the parallels between these two mediums: we see the subjects sitting as still as possible for these ‘video’ portraits, subtle nuances appear on closer inspection as we the audience see eyes blinking and twitching”.

#3 Co La – “Make It Slay”, directed by Andrew Strasser

Dem thirsty. Baltimore musician and producer Co La, signed to OPN’s infamous Software imprint, has released a hell of a CGI HD video centered solely around a champagne flute. Director Andrew Strasser on the clip: “‘Make It Slay’ is the kind of jam that inspires angles. When Matt approached me about making a video based around a champagne glass, the choice to animate freed any limits. This was also another opportunity to mix the message of carbonated ‘cola’. This video is full of references to 3D animation tutorial culture, but does not glamorize cyber culture. Instead it pits feat in idyllic artificial environments—beauty is your biggest enemy.”

#4 Death Grips – “You might think he loves you for your money but I know what he really loves you for it’s your brand new leopard skin pillbox hat”, self-directed.

Fucking with all the boundaries left, Death Grips are showing a.g.a.i.n. the path to free your mind.

#5 Beach House – “Wishes”, directed by Eric Wareheim.

It’s happening again: Laura Palmer’s dad lip-syncs to this dreamy Beach House track while riding a horse, surrounded by cheerleaders wearing horse masks in a soccer stadium?

#6 The Civil Wars – “The One That Got Away”, directed by Tom Haines.

“The One That Got Away” was the first single from Grammy nominated goth folk duo The Civil Wars—unfortunately they split up before their new album was released. Longtime directing champion Tom Haines on the video: “I wanted to create the idea of a character who was living on the edge of society, but that gave her strength,” Haines says. “She is vulnerable but adaptable, and sadly, seismic natural disasters seem to be increasingly something we may have to live with, so adaptability is crucial to survival. It somehow reflected the ideas of loss, regret and transience which echo in the song.”

#7 Scratch Massive feat. Koudlam – “Waiting for a Sign”, directed by Edouard Salier.

The video is set in some post-apocalyptic Thailand with boys lost in a Lord of the Flies daze. I love it. And Koudlam is the best thing that happened in 2013.

#8 Oneohtrix Point Never – “Still Life” (Betamale), directed by Jon Rafman

Extremely disturbing and extremely NSFW.

#9 Dean Blunt – “Felony / Stalker 7″, self-directed

искусство, обращенное спиной к зрителю, но силящееся объяснить ему выражение своего лица (за счет в основном обнажения боли, которое в то же время не считывается как жалоба).

#10 Pharrell Williams – “Happy”, directed by We Are From LA

You cannot watch this video and NOT want to dance by the end of it. Promise. Cameos include Odd Future’s Tyler, the Creator, Earl Sweatshirt, and Jasper, Jimmy Kimmel, Magic Johnson, Steve Carell, Jamie Foxx, Kelly Osboune. Pharrell Williams: “The best work comes from people who are motivated by crisis—when something stops the original idea, they respond by coming up with something even better. Existence is all mathematics, he says. There’s an equation for success in every obstacle.”

The Strypes’ Debut Album ‘Snapshot’ is an electrifying collage of the band’s own material

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The Strypes’ Debut Album ‘Snapshot’ Released Sept 9th 2013

Just under a year after they emerged with their first release – ‘Young, Gifted & Blue’, a set of vintage R’n’B covers – The Strypes are set to crown their phenomenal rise with the release of their debut full-length album – ‘Snapshot‘, available since September 9th on Virgin EMI.

Few bands have rocketed in 2013 as The Strypes have without the hype à la Haim. Entering the year on the back of praise for ‘Young, Gifted & Blue’ and swelling excitement surrounding their astonishingly explosive live shows, The Strypes released their major label debut single – ‘Blue Collar Jane’ – in April, shortly before playing a show at the legendary 100 Club in London, tickets for which sold out within the space of an hour.

They’ve since continued to tour extensively, including a set on the BBC Introducing stage at Glastonbury that saw the tent completely packed out. The Strypes will extend their reach even further this winter when they embark on a stadium tour of the UK and Europe with the Arctic Monkeys, taking in some of the continent’s premiere venues.

‘Snapshot’ – an electrifying collage of The Strypes’ own material and some of the much-loved throwback covers that pepper their live sets – is now available.

The Strypes Band
  • The Strypes (16-18 yrs-old) are 4-piece rhythm and blues band hailing from Cavan, Ireland, formed in 2011 by Ross Farrelly (lead vocals/harmonica), Josh McClorey (lead guitar/vocals), Pete O’Hanlon (bass guitar/harmonica) and Evan Walsh (drums).

    The group has spent the past 18 months launching their explosive R&B assault on the clubs and festivals of Ireland, the UK and Europe, viciously hammering out a no-nonsense blues repertoire drawing from the songbooks of Chuck Berry, Bo Diddley, Howlin’ Wolf, Little Walter, Slim Harpo and more with the passion and venom of British blues groups such as Dr. Feelgood, The Yardbirds, The Rolling Stones and The Animals.

    Having already been met with critical acclaim from greats such as Jeff Beck and Paul Weller and been tipped by NME as the No. 1 new band to watch, it seems things can only get better for The Strypes.

Nominations: UK Festival Award for Best Breakthrough Act

Eminem: The Great Confounder [npr]

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Eminem, in a still from his video for “Don’t Front,” a bonus track on The Marshall Mathers LP 2.

There’s this idea of Eminem as a reluctant celebrity turned recluse, who’s holed himself up in his Detroit mansion with more money than he knows what to do with. In this scenario he strives to go about his life as his civilian alter ego, Marshall Mathers — taking care of his daughters while maintaining his sobriety with the help of a select circle of lifelong friends. But there remains this insatiability about Mathers; a need to be puerile, to be a provocateur and to do it all in rhyme. So when he does step out of his bubble, and suit up as Eminem to record rap music for the public, the results are confounding and engaging — as they are on his 7th solo major label studio album, The Marshall Mathers LP 2, positioned as a thematic follow-up to 2000’s The Marshall Mathers LP.

Rap album sequels are usually a cynical nostalgia play or an attempt to reboot a career via course corrections. Tellingly, MMLP2‘s songs aren’t as conceptually groundbreaking as “,” as sensitivity-assaulting as “” or as narratively poignant as “,” from its predecessor. But that’s largely due to the fact that all of this ground has already been broken by Eminem himself. Still, on this new record, he eschews the overarching narrative of his past two efforts — this is not the horror shock-rap of 2009’s Relapse or the optimistic sobriety of 2010’s Recovery. Instead, he’s revisiting the ideas of the first Marshall Mathers album.

There’s the discomfort with fame, the eye-poking cartoon violence and, on “Bad Guy,” Stan’s younger brother, Matthew, who was just a sidenote over a dozen years ago, but now serves as a narrator determined to avenge his deceased brother’s suicide. “Bad Guy” is a worthy sequel and, much like the Dido-sampling original that launched Eminem into the stratosphere, it takes the whole song (and multiple listens) to understand the tale. It’s Eminem at his finest — experimenting with voices and tones, playing with words in a conversation and eviscerating himself by using an outside voice to amplify his doubts. (Though, on another song, he does refer to himself as “a white honky devil” and, on one more, admits “I ain’t as big as I was,” just after rehashing his 13-year old controversial reference to the Columbine shooting.)

As a writer, Eminem reminds us (because we severely forgot) that he’s perhaps the most technically proficient rapper the art has ever seen. He doesn’t just rap circles around other rappers, he draws ideograms around them, treating punchlines other rappers would trade their microphones for as filler, doodling never-heard rhyme couplets and scribbling from topic to topic with elongated and labored fancies of poetry that graffiti internal rhyme and assonance in a ridiculous collage. His white honky devil line in full goes: “I just happen to be a white devil honky with two horns that don’t honk / But every time I speak you hear a beep” — accompanied by a censor’s tone. It’s all total rap nerd stuff — he interpolates J. J. Fad’s “” and Hot Stylz’ “” on one song — and it’s totally necessary in a genre that’s built on words, but has seen words come to mean less and less with each passing year.

On “Rhyme or Reason” he illustrates one of the album’s executive producers, Rick Rubin as Yoda (complete with voice and syntax) and takes you into his writing process. “Can’t even find the page I was writing this rhyme on,” he raps. “Oh, it’s on a rampage / Couldn’t see what I wrote / I write small / It says ‘Ever since I drove a ’79 Lincoln with whitewalls / Had a fire in my heart / And a dire desire to aspire to die hard.'”

Some of his references are dated, but mostly in a self-reflective manner. On “Rap God,” he notes that he “Got a phat knot from that rap profit / Made a living and a killing off it / Ever since Bill Clinton was still in office / With Monica Lewinsky feeling on his nutsack.” It’s the ramblings of man who doesn’t seem to understand how he can disappear from the music landscape for months and years at a time and still have the biggest-selling album in the world (Recovery), much less be the top-selling artist of the past decade. His response? To dis marginally relevant rapper Asher Roth, take swipes at longtime foes Insane Clown Posse, offhandedly refer to Sarah Palin as a slut and treat a random celebrity as a target for nastiness every once in a while.

But, for the most part, where Eminem’s past vitriol was pointed at specific persons — his mother, his daughter’s mother, Mariah Carey, named bullies — he’s now aiming his venom at nameless adversaries. In a sense, it’s a sign of progress (he had been sued for defamation by everyone in the previous sentence who’s not a pop star), but the result is a messy outpouring of unfocused misogyny and rampant homophobia that’s incredibly uncomfortable to listen to.

The music doesn’t help much at times. Largely produced by Eminem and Rubin (without a single track from the album’s other executive producer and Eminem mentor, Dr. Dre, whose menacing, key-heavy sonics always gave Eminem the perfect sinister edge), there are obvious plays for pop relevance (“Monster” featuring Rihanna), arena-ready anthemic boasts (“Stronger Than I Was,” Legacy,” the “Call of Duty” tie-in “Survival”) and a number of genre-jumping off-kilter numbers (“So Far” and “Love Game” with Kendrick Lamar, the album’s lone guest rapper). It’s almost as if he’s trying everything to be accepted and unacceptable, all at once. Yet Eminem’s ability to be lyrically captivating through it all is astounding. At one point he raps: “My honesty’s brutal / But it’s honestly futile / If I don’t utilize what I do, though / For good at least once in a while / So I wanna make sure somewhere in the chickenscratch I scribble and doodle enough rhymes / To maybe try to help get some people through tough times / But I gotta keep a few punchlines.”

On “Headlights,” he talks directly to his mother, Debbie Mathers, apologizing for years of public vehemence. Coming near the end of the album, it’s an amazing moment. After spending an hour or so doing everything he can to blame everyone else for his emotional lot in life and harping on his daddy issues, he raps, “But I’m sorry momma for ‘Cleaning Out My Closet’ / At the time I was angry, rightfully maybe so / Never meant that far to take it, though / ‘Cause now I know it’s not your fault / And I’m not makin’ jokes / That song I no longer play at shows / And I cringe every time it’s on the radio.”

Despite being delivered via a chortle, “Headlights” is tender and vulnerable. And, hopefully, it emerges as the album’s centerpiece. Eminem has always spoken to alienation, both in his raps and musical choices. He’s long prospered by making pop music for the juggalo set and there are very few moments on The Marshall Mathers LP 2 where he actually shows personal growth. On “So Far…,” he wrestles with problems of fame — like being approached by a fan at a McDonald’s bathroom stall while taking a number two. He also complains about not understanding iPods and Playstations, or knowing how to download a new Ludacris song off the Internet. Lest he be confused with dad-rap, he confesses that he “turned 40 and still sag / Teenagers act more f—-in’ mature, Jack.” It’s engaging because he soungs like an eternal rebel coming to terms with no longer being “the youth,” but it’s also confounding because just this week he was honored as the Artist of the Year at the first-ever fan-decided YouTube Awards and doesn’t seem to get it. “Got friends on Facebook, all over the world,” he sings in a honky-tonk fashion. “Not sure what that means, they tell me it’s good / So I’m Artist of the Decade, I even got a plaque / I’d hang it up, but the frame is all cracked.”

At the end of it all Marshall Mathers, the man, and Eminem, the artist (and by extension, the alter alter ego of Slim Shady), are still taking steps toward being one whole person, almost a decade-and-a-half after they emerged onto the national scene. Oh “Evil Twin,” the album’s closer, he describes himself as a “borderline genius who’s bored of his lines” and ravages about twenty pop culture touchstones before ending: “Still Shady inside / Hair every bit as dyed / As it used to be / When I first introduced y’all to my skittish side / And blamed it on him when they tried to criticize / ‘Cause we are the same, b——.”

At one point, he sings “I own a mansion, but live in a house / A king-sized bed, but I sleep on the couch.” It’s no wonder. He’s got a lot of people to accommodate.