Category: Video

Video exclusive: Sara Watkins' 'Take Up Your Spade'

Fiddler, singer and songwriter Sara Watkins often comes across as a favorite little sister, especially to those who have monitored her growth from an older-than-her-years member of the boundary-breaking San Diego bluegrass trio Nickel Creek to her subsequent family endeavors with brother Sean and her frequent solo outings with various collaborators, many of them at Largo in L.A.

Several members of her extended musical family have turned up on her recently released second solo album, "Sun Midnight Sun," and a couple also help out with the video for the album's closing track, "Take Up Your Spade," premiering on Pop & Hiss. The song itself is a gentle benedictory ode to the notion that every moment brings with it the possibility of renewal.

The video, also featuring Jackson Browne, Fiona Apple (one of those Largo regulars) and producer Blake Mills, consists of home-movie-like footage of the recording session, and backyard basketball breaks, at Zeitgeist Studio in L.A.

"I have known Jackson almost as long as Fiona," Watkins tells Pop & Hiss. "I met both of them at Largo. I just sort of found myself on stage with them, and both have become frequent guests at our Watkins Family Hour show" -- the monthly residency she and her guitarist-singer brother Sean have been holding at Largo for nearly a decade.

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Video premiere: Robert Francis' 'Perfectly Yours'

 

 

Any musician who has his first guitar bestowed on him by no less than Ry Cooder has to have some serious musical karma going for him. And it certainly can’t hurt when you learn your craft with the help of a player on a par with the Red Hot Chili Peppers’ former guitarist John Frusciante, who for a time took on budding singer and songwriter Robert Francis as his only student.

These distinctions give a sense of the forces that have helped shape Francis' approach to music along the way to making his new album, “Strangers in the First Place,” which Vanguard Records is releasing Tuesday.

His skill as a guitarist is in ample evidence on the collection, even though his intensely melodic pop-folk-rock songs often more strongly reflect other influences from U2, Coldplay and Snow Patrol. Even the ghost of the godfather of rock poets, Leonard Cohen, turns up in Francis' atmospheric, meditative song “Alibi.”

Cooder lends a hand on a couple of tracks, as does his son, percussionist Joachim Cooder, along with Heartbreakers guitarist Mike Campbell, Francis' sisters Carla and Juliette Commagere and drummer extraordinaire Jim Keltner.

Pop & Hiss is premiering the video for “Perfectly Yours,” a pulsing, gently soaring, pure-pop love song that has sonic traces of Angelo Badalamenti’s haunting scores composed at the behest of David Lynch.

To get things rolling for the new album, Francis will play a record release party on Wednesday for a hometown crowd with a gig at the Troubadour in West Hollywood. He's also landed a slot at this year's Bonnaroo Music 7 Arts Festival in Manchester, Tenn., running June 7-10.

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-- Randy Lewis

Johnny Depp, Natalie Portman star in 3 new Paul McCartney videos

Paul McCartney has directed new music videos starring Johnny Depp and Natalie Portman
A clip from a new music video starring Johnny Depp and Natalie Portman for a song from ex-Beatle Paul McCartney’s new “Kisses on the Bottom” album has leaked, one of three videos for the song “My Valentine,” all three of which will be officially released at an as-yet-undisclosed location today in Los Angeles.

The 25-second excerpt now up on YouTube is described only as “Johnny Depp Video,” and there’s no sound, just the actor and amateur musician doing sign language while cradling a guitar in his lap. It can be seen here:

Reportedly, Depp stars in one video, Portman stars in a second, and they appear together in the third. The Sun tabloid in England has a photo of Depp and McCartney chatting and other shots of Depp and Portman from what is said to be the set where the videos were filmed by Oscar-winning cinematographer Wally Pfister.

McCartney himself is said to have directed all three videos, inspired by an idea from his daughter, fashion designer Stella McCartney.

The full videos are expected to go live on Saturday. “My Valentine” is one of two McCartney originals on the “Kisses” album, which consists predominantly of vintage songs McCartney loved in his youth.

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Photo of Paul McCartney during his performance at the Grammy Awards ceremony in February. Credit: Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times.

Women objectify women in music videos too, researchers find

Lady Gaga and other female artists use sexual objectification of themselves in music videos, new study concludes
It’s official: Sexual objectification of women in music videos isn’t limited to those featuring male stars. A new study by two University of Missouri researchers has found that female artists frequently turn themselves into sex objects in their own videos, begging the question: “Ya think?”

“It has been known that music videos featuring male artists often sexually objectify women, but our study shows that many female artists are objectifying themselves in their music videos,” said Cynthia Frisby, an associate professor of strategic communication in the university’s School of Journalism. She conducted the study with Jennifer Aubrey, an associate professor in communication from the university’s College of Arts and Sciences.

“The images coming from these music videos are very powerful and influential,” Frisby said. “Young audiences may interpret these sexually objectifying images as important ways to be seen as attractive and valuable to society, especially with how pervasive these videos are throughout our culture.”

They looked at every video in Billboard’s Top 10 videos from 2006-2010 in pop, hip-hop/R&B and country music and concluded that the sexual objectification occurred equally across race boundaries, but that female country artists were the least likely to portray any type of sexuality.

“Despite numerous existing sexual stereotypes regarding black women,” Frisby wrote in the study published in the Howard Journal of Communications, “they don’t appear to objectify themselves any more or less than women of other races.”

The university’s synopsis of the study didn’t indicate what percentage of the videos they looked at were made by men or women.

Frisby and Aubrey did, however, find that female pop artists were portrayed in sexualized dance more often than those in the hip-hop/R&B videos.

“Pop videos contained a different type of sexual objectification than hip-hop/R&B music videos,” Frisby said. “While pop videos were more likely to contain sexual objectification related to movement, such as dance and the gaze that is likely to result from dance performance, hip-hop/R&B videos were more likely to contain sexual objectification related to styling and dress.”

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Photo: Lady Gaga from her "Bad Romance" music video. Credit: 2009 Interscope Records.

Lost George Harrison 'Sun' guitar solo on 'Material World' film

Martin Scorsese's 'George Harrison: Living in the Material World' documentary coming to home video on May 1
Tucked in among about a dozen bonus audio and video features on the May 1 home video release of Martin Scorsese’s documentary “George Harrison: Living in the Material World” is a session that’s bound to generate excitement among Harrison and Beatles aficionados: a missing George Harrison guitar solo from one of his most celebrated songs, “Here Comes the Sun.”

It surfaces during in-studio conversation between Harrison’s son, Dhani, longtime Beatles producer George Martin and his son, Giles Martin, who has overseen recordings used in the film and on an accompanying CD.

The three are listening to, and fiddling with, tracks from the original multi-track recording of “Here Comes the Sun,” one of the two Harrison songs on the Beatles’ “Abbey Road” album in 1969.

Giles Martin brings up the orchestral score his father created for Harrison’s song, noting that the elder Martin hadn’t done much composing previously for songs written by “the quiet Beatle.” They’re isolating different aspects of the track -- the strings, George’s voice -- when Dhani pushes another button on the studio console and up comes the sound of Harrison playing a guitar solo not included on the final mix.

“That’s totally different to anything I’ve ever heard before,” says Dhani, his eyes immediately widening.

“We never used that,” George Martin responds. “I’d forgotten about that.”

“I never even knew about it,” Dhani says.

That snippet is included in the bonus DVD material, but isn’t on the bonus audio disc featuring 10 Harrison tracks from his post-Beatles career, including early or alternate takes of several songs from his watershed “All Things Must Pass” solo album, some of his latter-day material and some covers. The CD will be packaged with the deluxe DVD-Blu-ray edition of the film, and sold as a stand-alone album.

Calendar will have a more extensive interview with Giles Martin and Harrison’s widow, Olivia, closer to the release date of the package, which will be available in two-DVD set and single-disc Blu-ray editions, and the deluxe version with both formats and the audio CD. It has been released previously outside North America, but because HBO screened the film domestically, the home video was delayed in the U.S. until May. 

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--Randy Lewis

Photo: George Harrison: Credit: (c) Apple Corps Ltd.

Pop & Hiss video premiere: Sharon Van Etten's 'Leonard'

Sharon Van Etten performs in L.A. in 2011

Crazy. In romance, the word is tossed around rather casually. Did you hear? So-and-so is crazy. Male or female, it doesn't discriminate. Rarer, however, is it actually indicative of behavior that's unbalanced. 

"Now you're a coward, sure," New York's Sharon Van Etten sings to a lover walking out the door in "Leonard," delivering the phrase as if she's ridding a cigarette of its ash. The narrator, at first, appears to the victim, yet emotions are far more textured than good or evil.

Van Etten's voice here sways, but as it rocks back and forth at lullaby pace, it's clear its vessel is standing still. Rhythms brush at increasingly hypnotic guitars, and a violin latches onto the abandonment in the matter-of-fact vocals. "Time is what I need," Van Etten sings, a truth rather than a plea, and an acknowledgment that it was she who "gave less." Everyone's a victim in this emotional prison. 

Crazy? Not at all. More like heartachingly complex. 

The song is from Van Etten's third album, "Tramp" (Jagjaguwar), and a video for it was released Wednesday. The clip portrays the drama as something that's long since passed, its images all sun-stained pale. The video is embedded below, and Van Etten will perform in Los Angeles on March 20 at the Avalon with patiently atmospheric rock band the War On Drugs. Tickets, including surcharges, are $24.50.

Continue reading »

PYYRAMIDS' 'Don't Go' video: Dragons, monkeys, oh my!

Music videos built around highly coordinated stunts involving cars, dogs or a Rube Goldberg contraption are certainly fantastic. But sometimes all you need for a catchy video is multicolored curtains, paper dragons, sparkly clouds and a cute little girl to work with all the props. Oh, and it helps if there's pizza too, a well-known motivator of humans young and old.

A video like the one here for Timothy Nordwind's side band PYYRAMIDS must be a walk in the park for the bassist whose day job is playing with video magicians OK Go. That band's complicated and fun videos are legend. (Nordwind typically takes a big role in OK Go's videos; in "Here It Goes Again," for instance, its Nordwind mouthing the lyrics, not lead singer Damian Kulash. And dare we say he's the best dancer of the group?) With PYYRAMIDS, he and singer Drea Smith have taken a decidedly more low-key approach but the results are winsome all the same. And how could they not be when a monkey hand puppet is involved?

Shot in a day on a stage built in director Ericka Clevenger's garage, "Don't Go" is an acid trip, but one built around a kid's world. The video's star, the 8-year-old Emillia (Millie) Sterkel, vamps, dances, lip-synchs and well, kind of spaces out in front of several imaginary landscapes that were created by Nordwind, art director Javier Mesa and a bunch of Echo Park friends.

Millie, lucky girl, got to take home any prop she wanted. A PYYRAMIDS rep tells us the band will be working with its young star again -- but they're still hammering out the details of her difficult pizza rider.

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PYYRAMIDS will play the Echo (with No, Future Ghost, Ivan and Alyosha) on Monday. The Echo is at 1822 W. Sunset Blvd., Los Angeles. 8:30 p.m. Free.

 

UCLA JazzReggae Festival premieres new concert video series

Video Premiere: UCLA JazzReggae Fest video series with Lee Fields
The outdoor concert season is still months away, but the UCLA JazzReggae Festival is already prepping for its Memorial Day weekend event. Now in its 26th year, it's become the largest student-run fest in the country and offers a two-day mash-up of hip-hop, reggae and yes, even a slice of actual jazz. To whet your appetite, the organizers have put togther a series of performance videos from last year’s festival, the first of which is premiering on Pop & Hiss.

The video includes a performance of horn-drenched soul courtesy of Lee Fields & the Expressions,  who played their weather-appropriate tune “Sunny” for a full crowd at last year's sold-out festival. Singing to an audience packed with locals in lawn chairs and Bruins sporting beach wear, Fields delivered a gut-wrenching love song backed by skintight rhythms from his suit-wearing six-piece ensemble.

Almost a year later, the 61-year-old Fields — who went from singing with Kool and the Gang in the mid-'70s to becoming an underground legend in soul music — is preparing to release a new record, “Faithful Man,” on March 13 via Brooklyn-based Truth and Soul Records.

The video series will be available on the festival's website starting in March and will feature footage from 2011 performers Little Dragon, the Miguel Atwood-Ferguson Ensemble and others.

Stay tuned for updates on the 2012 lineup and check out the video below:

 

Lee Fields -- 'Sunny' from JazzReggae Festival on Vimeo.

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Photo: Screen grab from Lee Fields' performance of "Sunny" at the UCLA JazzReggae Festival in 2011. Credit: UCLA JazzReggae Festival.

Paris Hilton commits audio treason with 'Drunk Text'

Paris Hilton

What do you get when you combine a bored celebutaunt with a cheesy perfume ad, cellular indiscretions and sub-par gym techno? That question will be answered within seconds of clicking on Paris Hilton's video for "Drunk Text," her cringe-worthy attempt at Shatner-esque spoken word. The track, a collaboration between Hilton and the Colorado-based production duo Manufactured Superstars, takes a poetic journey through her flirtatious exploits with a guy during a night at a club.

As the video graces us with shots of her ruby red lips and cracker-dry monotone, Hilton waxes poetic on the finer points of naughty cellphone communication. It goes something like this:

"You take the word 'sex' and mix it with 'texting,' it's called 'sexting'/When you add drunk sexting, the words just don't make sense/It's just a hot mess of misspelled obscenities, body parts and run-on questions I'm not sure what it means to ask."

Speaking to E! Online about the video, Manufactured Superstars (a.k.a. Brad Roulier and Shawn Sabo) said Thursday that the video had been leaked, that it was not ready to be released and that they were trying to remove illegal copies from the Web. We have an embedded version of the video below as well as a link to it here, but you might want to check it out soon, since we don't know how long either will last.

Continue reading »

Video premiere: Gonjasufi roams downtown L.A. in the 'The Blame'

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Categorizing Chula Vista-born singer-producer-yoga teacher-dreadlocked mystic Gonjasufi is a fool’s game. His is a sound that draws from nearly every kind of rhythm music out there: the strange post-dub world of trip-hop progenitors Tricky and Massive Attack, the deep, complex beats of the late hip-hop producer J Dilla, the surreal dub examinations of reggae genius Lee “Scratch” Perry and the rumbling bass at the center of it all.

Part of L.A.’s ever-expanding Flying Lotus/Low End Theory/Alpha Pup beat scene, Gonjasufi makes a brand of bass-heavy music that’s filled with texture and echo, laced with odd tones and wildly diverse instrumentation, from sitar lines that sneak into the corner of a track to humming church organs to melodic guitar riffs and cymbal crashes that sustain for ages.

His fourth release, “MU.ZZ.LE,” is technically an EP, but it plays like a complete album. “Skin” is spooky but hummable, with the kind of creepy noises that make arm hairs tingle. The nearly subharmonic bass tones in “Venom” will surely drive your downstairs neighbors crazy, with a beat so slow and rumbly that it sounds like a chopped-and-screwed version of a chopped-and-screwed track, so thick and wet that it nearly coagulates.

Through it all, the rapper-turned-singer-moaner weaves his voice and lyrics, often fed through a treble-heavy filter that makes it hiss like a megaphone. Note to glaucoma sufferers: Next time you take your herbal medicine, pop on “MU.ZZ.LE”; it seems specifically designed for the post-treatment affects. You’ll be seeing things more fuzzily in no time.

Pop & Hiss is happy to premiere the video for "The Blame," from the new record, below. The clip shows the mystic wandering in and around downtown Los Angeles.

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-- Randall Roberts

Photo: Gonjasufi. Credit: Screen shot from video to "The Blame."

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