Heartbreaking Bravery

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Tag: Music Video of the Year contender

The Fjords – All In (Music Video)

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There are times when all it takes for a talented, relatively under-recognized band to break out is a perfect music video. “All In” is one of those videos and should ensure that The Fjords name is firmly on the map. It wasn’t the only music video to impress over the past week or so, though, so, before heaping the necessary praise on that particular clip that it deserves, it’s time to give some others their due. Mark Ronson’s collaboration with Mystikal, “Feel Right“, was given an additional burst of unexpected energy through an unbelievably fierce performance from an unlikely star, White Poppy catered to their haziest impulses with “Confusion“, Buildings embraced lo-fi in “Watershed“, Short Skirts went the visual collage route with “Far Side of Mexico“, Jose Gonzalez continued one of 2015’s most unconventional visual narratives in “Open Book“, and Birdskulls found the perfect visual aesthetic for their 90’s-grunge worship with “Good Enough“. All of those are worth multiple watches, which also holds true for the title in this post’s headline.

As far as thesis shots go, opening on a machine designed to blur the gap between technology and reality tends to yield strong results. “All In” is no exception and winds up taking a startling route to a fiery, hyper-violent finish. After establishing the protagonist of “All In” has all the trappings of an outcast (a video game addiction, model trains, an artistic mind), the plot eventually reveals itself while steadily accumulating compelling subtext. In some extremely strong visual work, we see the protagonist (a young, unnamed boy) construct a backpack for his vintage video game system and fashion a belt for some of his more violently-minded game cartridges before walking over to confront a large gang of older oppressors loitering outside of a hot dog stand. He collects himself, calmly confronts their leader- one who laughs when he’s suddenly face to face with a plastic gun controller- and, after a brief moment of eerie silence, pulls the trigger.

What follows is an extraordinarily violent bloodbath that could be seen as a cautionary tale for technological advancements (in a manner that’s not entirely dissimilar from Alex Garland’s excellent Ex Machina) or a concerned treatsie on evolution. It’s jarring imagery with a heavy concept, to be sure, but it’s pulled off in a manner that feels more grounded than bombastic, lending it an overlying sense of genuine horror. A child is forced into gradually losing the remainder of his innocence, one murder victim at a time, without ever being portrayed as anything other than coldly detached in the process. “All In”, an extremely strong piece of heavily atmospheric electro-pop, provides the perfect soundtrack for the incredibly disconcerting sequence. As people are gunned down in what feels less like a revenge fantasy and more like a pointed statement, The Fjords found a perfect vehicle to act as an introduction-at-large for their shadowy, foreboding soundscapes. The song and the clip complement each other to a startling perfection, right down to the closing shot that preserves a sliver of the protagonist’s humanity. Brilliantly edited, superbly directed, and gorgeously lensed, it’s another clip for the ages- and it’s the new standard-holder for how to make an entrance.

Watch “All In” below and order All In here.

La Dispute – Woman (Reading) (Music Video)

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Centering a music video around a lone dancer performing a solo routine in 2014 is a bold move as it’s inevitably going to call to mind one of the most ubiquitous clips of the year. La Dispute went ahead and did it anyway- and the result’s one of the year’s most breathtaking achievements in the visual format there’s been in a handful of months. Rooms of the House was one of a select few records that made a deep enough impact to warrant a full review from this site and “Woman (Reading)” was one of its many standout moments. Unrelentingly powerful in its acute dissection of a relationship on the fringes of disintegrating, the song now has an equally striking video to match.

Yes, this is- as noted above- a solo routine from a single dancer but where it differs from Sia’s “Chandelier” is in the details. Where “Chandelier” was an intimate exploration of the boundless beauty of youthfulness on a private level, “Woman (Reading)” turns outward; it’s shame and struggle plays out in public. There’s still a strong thematic pull on isolation but it’s pained and forced rather than in tune with self-discovery. as the video progresses along with the story told in the lyric set, the fluidity of the movements decreases and the routine transforms from a relative lightness to a brute imperfection. The genuinely stunning cinematography (courtesy of Matt Vahey) draws back from the close-ups that are so prominent in the video’s first half as the change occurs, allowing its central subject greater freedom while suggesting a second narrative in the subtext; another character who grows more willfully distant as the character in frame self-destructs.

By the video’s end the dancer’s beaten, brutalized, covered in dirt and- more than anything- alone. In the final movements, there’s a glimmer of resilience in the acceptance of these facts, thanks in part to a masterful performance by Julie Ann Minaai and the intuitive direction (and editing) of Niall Coffey. In that moment “Woman (Reading)” completes its transformative experience both for the character and the viewers drawn in by the extraordinarily moving story played out in the video. It’s autumnal, it’s brave, it’s fiercely moving, and it’s unforgettable. Don’t let it pass by unnoticed.

Watch “Woman (Reading)” below and order Rooms of the House here.