In today’s culture, size definitely matters.
As a rule of majority, we tend to take a mere glance at something before moving onto the next big thing. It’s just how the Youtube era works — brevity and catchiness are vital elements needed to grab viewers long enough for them to actually finish watching a video. If something is “too long,” the size of the hype needs to compensate for it. And if it does, maybe we’ll get around to it later. Until then, here’s “Gangnam Style.”
But then there are a handful of musicians this year that seem to be courageously attempting to change our incessantly growing ADD-attitude towards media. So far in 2013, musicians from Death Grips to Beach House have shown hope that short films in music might be the cure. Here are four videos to exercise your attention span:
Death Grips, “Come Up and Get Me”
Perhaps providing the best example of defying brevity and catchiness, Death Grips rung in the new year on January 4th by releasing a 13-minute long black and white short film for “Come Up and Get Me” that provides the viewer with a (mostly) silent and lengthy nine minutes of avant-garde footage before the track actually surfaces. It’s long, but it feels even longer as impatience for the track, “Come Up and Get Me,” wells inside of the viewer. Cut between recorded footage of boxing, cop cars, and Kim Kardashian, the film shows scenes of Death Grips hanging upside down in a hotel hallway, devouring flowers, handcuffed and drowning, and finally raging in a fur coat as the track finally explodes. The long span of silence attached to the strange scenes grants a chilling sense of anticipation and mystery that balances (and maybe even magnifies) the intensity of the song in a way that just couldn’t have been achieved in a four-minute long music video. While it takes some patience to sit through 13 minutes of an intangible story, the video does allow the song to be placed into another more powerful context and overall experience with the song.
Alexander Spit, “A Breathtaking Trip to That Other Side”
A couple weeks after Death Grips’ short film was released, Alexander Spit released a short film for the title track of his new album, A Breathtaking Trip to That Other Side. About a month prior to the short film’s release, he posted his Fear and Loathing In Las Vegas-styled music video for the single, where Spit drives a convertible down a long road while high out of his mind next to the grim reaper and a naked girl draped in an American flag. Taking the goofy adventure of the music video as a hint, I assumed the short film would burn with the same drug-induced party attitude. But the other side he takes us to in the short film isn’t the fun Hunter S. Thompson-inspired entertainment we see in the music video. If anything, it’s an ultra-horrifying and violently bad trip in Bat Country. The film is a grimy and harsh 17-minute long story starting with the worst-case scenario of getting beat up in the middle of nowhere while delivering a baby in a car. Spiraling further into hell, the daughter is continuously forced to make money for her abusive father both as a child and as a stripper in adulthood. The deranged story nears an end when she finally decides to leave her father and take the money as he’s passed out on a mattress. Only the story doesn’t actually end there— no, instead she proceeds to dance in the street until her life ironically runs full circle and a car runs her over. Alexander Spit’s album takes us on a trip from his Fear and Loathing-esque music video all the way to a shadow-drenched side that is far more reminiscent of Requiem for a Dream. It’s both engaging and hard to watch, but the album definitely feels a lot heavier after observing the songs relationship to the film.
The Knife, “Full of Fire”
In one word, your initial reaction from the short film for The Knife’s “Full of Fire” will be stress. Between their chaotic-sounding track and uncomfortable double takes and shots from a bird’s eye view, the short film can be described as tense from the first 30 seconds. Though from the beginning, the initial stress reaction is tied to the first character— an elderly woman who dresses as a man and stares into the mirror. Perhaps the most obvious theme of the film is the struggle between being the person you are presented as and being the person you believe you are, especially in terms of sexuality and gender. Aside from the elderly woman, we see vignettes of leather-covered men in lipstick and traditional families doing day-to-day tasks of cooking and cleaning. At one point, a female protestor is harassed and handcuffed by a female guard moments before they stare into each other’s eyes and walk away flirtatiously— handcuffs still locked. At another point, a professionally dressed woman urinates on the ground in plain sight. While the film’s plot is abstract, it does a good job of showing us how much gender and sexuality control our culture, and the underlying tension reminds us that this isn’t always easy.
Beach House, “Forever Still”
“Forever Still” is essentially just an outdoor Beach House performance in El Paso, Texas. It’s simple, it’s clean, it’s honest— it is an extremely fitting visual manifestation of Beach House’s music. The 26-minute long short film is earthy with faded colors and an occasional veil of smoke as Beach House performs in an isolated haven of dusk. Aside from the initial highway journey and late-night driving scenes, there are only a couple scenes abstaining from the band: a husky waking up from headlights, a miniature pony running by a fence. But Beach House doesn’t pretend to be anything but music – the visuals are simply a way to add another layer of atmosphere to their sound.
Amy Anderson is a Magazine Journalism major at University of Georgia. She enjoys reviewing music and film of all kinds, and hopes to add more to the experience of listening or watching by adding critical perspective and showing various sides to works that audiences love (or hate, or feel indifferent towards). As well, when writing features, she strives to offer a glimpse into the artist’s creative process or ideology through engaging stories or thoughts. Her goal is to offer audiences unseen insight on creative works while opening eyes to worthwhile music and art. Amy's current five favorite musicians— though it’s always in rotation— are Andrew Bird, Beirut, Björk, John Maus, and Milosh. Her "guilty" pleasure is Robyn— if you don’t like her, you’re probably just pretending.