Author Archives: Chris

The Orphan, The Poet – “Invincible” [VIDEO]

Narrative: A man searches for a lost love.

Performance: The band plays in a brown room.

Song: Big, sweeping, blah.

Why You Should Watch It:  The earth tone/dirt/mud color scheme and song blend together into a muddy swirl of “meh” for me.  Blame the genre, I don’t love the Saosin post-hardcore stuff – though the production here’s pristine.  What I really want to feature with this video is the band’s performance.  Conceptually it’s nothing special, but visually it’s such a change of pace from the usual high energy, quick cutting, handheld feel that usually accompanies smaller bands’ performances.

Here, by staging the band in seats to start, the director builds a tension that releases when the lead singer springs to his feet at 2:07.  When the rest of the band follows at 3:41, we can see how tight they are as a unit.  The camera points it out; lingering in long, slow dolly shots.  These guys play with energy, with passion and with precision.

Good on them.  So many bands with flashy videos don’t even bother to get that right.

Chris Cullari | Beat-Play Ambassador Los Angeles |@Chris_Cullari | Music Without Labels & Beat-Play, LLC |

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P.O.S. and Astronautalis [VIDEO]

There’s been so much buzz around Odd Future recently that it’s easy to forget how many amazing MCs there are out there, spitting truth into a mic.

Two of my favorites for the past few years have been P.O.S. and Astronautalis.  I haven’t written about them yet because I haven’t figured out exactly what to say to do them and their music justice.  From a lyrical, musical and production perspective their records push the genre forward, and on stage, they’re beasts. Individually, they kill.  Together, they eat the audience alive.

There are so many great little moments in this video, but Astronautalis’ performance from 2:18 to 2:48 tells you all you need to know about the passion and energy he puts into his music.

I’ll be writing about them more in the future, but for now – enjoy.

By: Chris Cullari | Beat-Play Ambassador Los Angeles | @ChriswithMWL|Music Without Labels & Beat-Play, LLC

The Swellers [NEW MUSIC] [MUSIC VIDEO]

Just a quick heads up to fellow pop-punk fans: head here to stream what’s set to be one of the best releases in the genre this year, and check out the video below.

Narrative: A kid grows up and gets ready to leave home.

Performance: In a garage.  Perfection.

Song: One of the catchiest celebrations of nostalgia since “Good Riddance.”

Why You Should Watch It:  This one’ll either hit you right in the chest, or it won’t.  It’s a simple look back on a dude’s life as he gets ready to move away.  Nothing spectacular about the photography or concept – in fact, Saves the Day tackled similar material with the classic video for At Your Funeral”:

Much like the beefy, down-to-earth pop punk they play though, whatever The Swellers’ video lacks in flash, they make up for in heart.  If you’ve ever lived in a small town, had band practice in a garage, or had trouble saying goodbye, you’ll instantly connect with this.   You might even have a few hairs stand on the back of your neck at some point.

Either way, good luck getting the song out of your head.

“I miss it, too…”

By: Chris Cullari | Beat-Play Ambassador Los Angeles | @ChriswithMWL|Music Without Labels & Beat-Play, LLC

Tyler The Creator – She (feat. Frank Ocean) [MUSIC VIDEO]

Narrative:  Tyler falls in love with the girl next door and tries to woo her away from her boyfriend. Performance: Tyler raps as he moves through the video – on a bike, at a creek, sniffing his paramour’s panties. Frank Ocean hovers in the backyard.

Song: One of the less brutal tracks from Bastard. Ostensibly a love song.

Why You Should Watch It: Tyler’s made it known that he wants to be known for directing more than he wants to be known for his music, and the kid’s off to a good start.  Though it’s difficult to draw a consistent stylistic line between this and “Yonkers,” it’s clear he has an eye for visuals that compliment the music he and the rest of the collective produce. It’s especially obvious when you take into account the Golf Wang videos, the promotional spots for Bastard, and even the “Sandwiches” performance on Fallon – with its wandering hospital-gown zombie girl, garden gnomes and green ski masks.

While I can’t say for sure, I’d suspect the hand-drawn upside-down crosses and rounded, jaunty font used consistently across anything Odd Future is Tyler’s version of branding as well. If this is all the product of the same mind, it’s hard to argue against a consistent vision.

It’s impossible to say if Tyler’s developed a cinematic style to go with this content, but the sure-footed use of a tilt-shift lens in  “Yonkers,” and “She”s use of Steadicam in the bedroom sequences display an understanding of visual grammar. In terms of their pacing, the Golf Wang videos and promotional piece below seem to borrow liberally from an unlikely source.

I couldn’t place it at first, but after a couple views it clicked: they look like early millenia MTV promos. The cutting, the canned sound effects, the sketch-like content – an MTV tag could’ve come up on the end of any of those clips and I wouldn’t have been surprised.

This is part of what works so well in “She” – how it takes elements of music videos almost everyone of a certain age will recognize and puts them into an otherwise bat-shit crazy narrative. Of course the boyfriend character is a shirtless, Uzi-wielding punk, of course the adults are played by members in wigs, of course the object of Tyler’s affection meets him at the lake (even though whoever left her that instruction was clearly a creep). These things are all foregone conclusions drawn from dozens of gangster rap, Beastie Boys and cheesy pop videos, the way Tarantino knows from years of obscure Seventies films that dirty cops are named Scagnetti. It’s a reflection of the music: “here’s what I’ve been fed, isn’t it awful?” Is it a stretch to point out that his Twitter profile picture was one of him displaying a mouthful of chewed up food? It’s like he’s showing us the deranged, evil kid all these influences should have made him, but didn’t. Instead, he’s content to just rub our faces in it.

Of course, compiling references does not make a good video:

– but Tyler and crew just use the references as dressing, not the content. The content is all black-eyed obsession and suggested murder. Instead of casting himself as a hero (which, given the lyrics would be unlikely), Tyler is a grade-A creeper. Everything around him seems to be operating at various Lynchian levels of insanity and surreality.

No one here is redeemable, and considering the video ends with Tyler about to kill a girl watching the video on TV, it would seem that goes for the audience too.

By: Chris Cullari | Beat-Play Ambassador Los Angeles | @ChriswithMWL|Music Without Labels & Beat-Play, LLC

The Wonder Years – “Melrose Diner” [VIDEO]

Narrative: Backyard wrestler The Lone Wolf must defeat the The Evil Kraag to get his title and his girl back.

Performance: The band plays in the ring.  Singer Dan ‘Soupy’ Campbell performs from the audience and in closeup.

Song: Top shelf pop-punk from one of the best bands in the scene.  If you haven’t heard The Upsides, buy it here immediately.  No one’s more relatable, honest or hardworking and the songs are instant classics.

Why You Should Watch It:   The band is amazing and the effort is noteworthy – it’s a great example of applying a record’s themes (never giving up, victory through persistence) to a video concept and having some fun with it.  The video’s just a little too scattered to be a classic.

“Melrose Diner” seems to want to make up for its lack of flash by overloading it with content. The video starts as a wrestling promo, then briefly takes on the feel of a movie trailer before going into the song and Lone Wolf’s battles.  The action is frantic, but moves so fast it’s hard to follow until the final fight.  The video’s flat, unlit look is spiced up with filters throughout, and it works with the back to basics energy of the song but isn’t a highlight.  So why the recommendation?  It’s a perfect example of what friends can do with some perseverance and camaraderie – just like the album itself.  Everyone involved is clearly having the time of their lives, and that goes a long way.

Also, you’ll want to know these guys before they blow up.  They’re readying a new release, “Suburbia, I’ve Given You All And Now I’m Nothing,” that’s shaping to be as much or more of a touchstone than “The Upsides.”  Check out one of the new tracks below:

“Local Man Ruins Everything”

Honest, hooky punk, an album named after a Ginsburg poem, and a Simpson’s reference as a track name?  Sold.

Chris Cullari | Beat-Play Ambassador Los Angeles |@Chris_Cullari | Music Without Labels & Beat-Play, LLC |

Hollerado – “Americanarama” [VIDEO]

Number two: this time, a video from our neighbors to the north.

Narrative: Oh, my God!  Are they all trapped in boxes?

Performance: Jittery, jerky, all in one ridiculous take.

Song: Awesome.  Buy and bump the album here, or from your online retailer of choice.  “Juliette” is one of my favorite tracks from last year.

Canada, you’ve made up for Simple Plan.

Why You Should Watch It: OK Go aren’t the only band experimenting with awesome viral videos.  While it’s easy to shoot your friends being stupid on a Handicam, slap your song under it, and call it “viral,” you gotta give people something they’ve never seen before if you want your virus to actually infect anyone.  It’s gotta be something people watch and immediately watch again to figure out how it was done, then pass along out of amazement.  While the concept here isn’t as pure as a lot of OK Go’s work, you gotta figure Hollerado’s resources were a little more limited.  The strongest moments definitely come towards the end as perspective is played with, but the video starts strong and never really lets up.  The only real fault with the video is that it suffers from what any video with a “one take” concept suffers from: very little energy.  For as spastic and complex as all the movement within the frame is, it just a “motion picture” in the most literal sense of the phrase (something Kanye recently experimented with as well, though he had some stupid name for it).  Still, this is a case of pure substance over style, proving you don’t need a lot of money to make something awesome, just a lot of practice.

**Last minute update** Click the picture at the top of the article to visit the band’s website and see their NEW video for “Got to Lose.”  It’s another choreographed wonder – slicker and sexier, too!

Chris Cullari | Beat-Play Ambassador Los Angeles |@Chris_Cullari | Music Without Labels & Beat-Play, LLC |

Goot – “Pretty Eyes” [VIDEO]

Music videos are in a weird place right now.  No one really airs them, and as artists make less and less money, the bells and whistles of slick promotional materials become harder to justify.  Can’t knock it; that’s how it should be.  A musician’s music should always come first, but as a guy who loves the artform and enjoys making them, it’s kind of sad.  Artists still want nice videos, they just don’t want them to cost anything either, leaving us film/video/moving picture makers constantly challenged to turn out eye-catching work for free or with minimal resources.   The bright side is that the people who are left doing it are as passionate as the musicians.  We’re a slightly disturbed bunch, ready to put our rent on the line to do what we love.

This ongoing column will highlight videos for/by/with/from independent bands and directors making the most of what they have to kick your eyes and ears out yo’ head and earn a spot on your Twitter feed.

Narrative: Alex Goot meets a wide-eyed faerie and squires her through an episode of Dawson’s Creek.

Performance: Goot backlit at a piano.  It’s revealed he’s playing to the faerie at the end.  Meh.

Song: Cheez-Whiz pop.  For crackers, etc.  As far as talented youngins go though, Goot is one of the best.  He almost makes “Fireflies” bearable.  Almost.

He also plays all his own instruments and produces all his own tracks:

Kid’s been in the game since MySpace was popular (learn more about that here) and has not slowed down.  When the industry comes knocking, he’s going to make an amazing songwriter and producer if nothing else.

Why You Should Watch It: Because holy crap we live in a day and age where a camera available at Best Buy can be pointed at just about anything and make it look like   It’s a little miracle called the Rebel t2i, and along with its older brothers the 7D and 5D, you’ll be seeing its name in this column pretty often so click here and learn a little about the camera line changing micro-budget videomaking.  Granted, director Kurt Schneider has a solid eye and knows how to use locations, available light and attractive people to his advantage.  Images like the ones at 1:03, 1:18, and 3:23 don’t happen by accident.  They’re not beautiful in the “we spent thirty minutes composing this frame” way, but they feel honest.  They pluck at a nostalgic place in our brains, give us the feeling we’ve been there, like a handheld Norman Rockwell. The budgetary limitations are obvious – not everything is lit well, and there are occasionally double and triple shadows that look cheap – but for the most part, it’s a cute doc-style video that features some prettier than average pictures and will play well to its target audience.

Chris Cullari | Beat-Play Ambassador Los Angeles |@Chris_Cullari | Music Without Labels & Beat-Play, LLC |

Portugal. The Man – “Got It All (This Can’t Be Living Now)” [MUSIC]

Taking Back Sunday just released a new single today, and even though they’re no longer an indie band I was gonna make an exception, ’cause hey, they’re effin’ Taking Back Sunday with the original line-up and some of us greet that kind of news with excitement most people reserve for the return of major deities.

Buuut they don’t need the press and the song isn’t really that good (*cough* go here anyway *cough*).

On the other hand, Portugal. The Man also dropped a new track today and it’s awesome, so that’s what we’re going with.

These guys never disappoint – from their roots as a more experimental, heavier avant funk/jam band, to their more straight-ahead 60s and 70s rock releases like the almost unbearably good The Satanic Satanist – they’ve dropped album after album of solid material.  Clearly influenced by the Beatles here (I know, I know, who isn’t?), it’s safe to say their streak will be continuing.  Listen to those strings!

Also, to anyone who checks this out on a regular basis, apologies for the lack of posts.  Stay tuned, I’ve got something fun and a little different cooking that I’m gonna start next week.

Chris Cullari | Beat-Play Ambassador Los Angeles |@Chris_Cullari | Music Without Labels & Beat-Play, LLC |

Black Kettle – “Paint the Town” [VIDEO]

Yes, I’ve posted about these two before, but the response was so good the first time (and I had so much fun making these videos) that I wanted to highlight the second single off their new EP.

The version below is a stripped down performance featuring just the girls, keys, guitar and a drum machine.  The full track (and EP) are available on iTunes right here.

Fun fact: I spent three years at film school shooting on various rooftops in Boston, and this was the first time I ever got kicked off anything.  I guess Keeley and Kailynn just rawk too damn hard.

Chris Cullari | Beat-Play Ambassador Los Angeles |@Chris_Cullari | Music Without Labels & Beat-Play, LLC |

HelloGoodbye [MUSIC] [VIDEO]

Remember Drive Thru Records?  Label of amazing comps and the cool roster in the early 00s. Something Corporate, Allister, The Early November, Fenix, TX, New Found Glory, The Starting Line – hundreds of high school band’s hopes and dreams hinged on getting that golden arrow slapped on the back of their CD.  Unfortunately, they took a nosedive in recent years, and dragged a lot of good bands down in the wreckage of tangled contracts, unfulfilled expectations, and generally miserable business practices.

The last group they had a significant hand in launching was HelloGoodbye, an emo/pop hybrid that served as the hyperkinetic protozoa Owl City would eventually grow from.  They had a hit a few years ago – “Here In Your Arms” – that was almost tolerable, but Forest Kline’s unbearably nasally vocals and cheeseball lyrics put a kibosh to that.

After they moved God knows how many units for Drive Thru on the back of that single, the band pretty much vanished.  Every once in a while, there’d be talk of a follow up, a b-side would leak, or an interview would be posted, but otherwise, the group seemed pretty much done.  The attention I paid to all this was somewhere between “Oh look, it’s raining out,” and “Hey, a bird.”

This is where we’ll stop and take stock of my bad assumptions for a second: HelloGoodbye is a bad band, a dead band, a one-trick pony on a busted carousel.  All wrong.  So, so wrong.

Would It Kill You, their first release in four years – and on their own label, Wasted Summer – is an illustration of a band in the middle of creating something new.  By shedding the (literal) bells, whistles and AIM alert noises from their sound, the group has placed a spotlight on their songwriting chops and come out looking sharp.  Tracks like “You Sleep Alone,” come closest to falling backwards, but the dedication to trying clever new acoustic instrumentation elevates what could otherwise be a bleating electronic mess into a legitimately interesting pop song.

“You Sleep Alone”

In general, the production and arrangements on the album seem to take cues from Motown and 50s rock records with washy cymbals and reverb-laced geetars. Kline’s voice is still not launching any ships, but someone’s been practicing and it pays off.

I think it all comes together best on the last track “Something You Misplaced,” where the band takes a second to slow it down and really play with a unique melody.  The drums are still spastic, but the quiet, languid performance on top of them suggests an interesting new direction.

“Something You Misplaced”

As for Drive Thru Records?  Ugh.

By: Chris Cullari | Beat-Play Ambassador Los Angeles | @ChriswithMWL|Music Without Labels & Beat-Play, LLC