This is easily the best compilation of current various independent rock bands I have seen. That said, one must admit that there aren't that many indie video compilations anymore anyways. The rock video seemed to become passe in the music underground with the rise of turgid emo-pop and tepid R&B-based promotional pabulum spread over the various cable television "music channels." (Hell, even those channels themselves seem to feel pained to show videos, convinced themselves how impotent the medium had become.)
So now is a good time to bring the video back for up-and-coming, less commercial bands. Just like the upcoming comic book about Belle & Sebastian or the rise of hipster crafts culture, there are lots of aspiring, creative filmmakers out there probably just dying to create mini-movies and art films around the music of their friends and favorite artists.
Produced by Jayme Guokas, the label Happy Happy Birthday To Me steps out boldly with No Parachute: A Compilation Of Indie Music Videos, a very cheap (eight bucks), very attractively packaged, generous DVD. Featuring twenty-six different indie musicians and groups from a lot of different locales — and ranging in musical styles from the ebullient power pop of Palomar and The Maybellines, to the day-glo Latin bubble-gum of Entre Rios, to the friendly or disturbing folk-punk of Kimya Dawson and Hidden Cameras — it is a wonderful introduction to a lot of new music.
The videos themselves can be broken down into a few distinct categories. More than a couple seem like the sort of meandering but pleasant visual Dada you'd see at an animation festival, such as the opening "Labor Day" by Snoozer. But some use brilliant though cost effective animation to craft a compelling narrative, such as The Maybellines' fuzzy stuffed animal crime drama "Wait For You," and The Hidden Cameras' really depressing over-laid images of Victorian story-book-style childhood illness and vexation in "A Miracle." A few use more advanced computer design play, like Of Montreal's slick and creepily amorphous "So Begins Our Alabee."
A lot use homemade digital or hand-held camera footage and seem like something you'd see on a Public Access channel — such as Nixon's endearingly-homely Stephin Merritt love letter "Snow Day," Boyracer's kinda boring "Now We Have Everything" and "Who Pissed On Your Bonfire," and The Haywains' "Bye Bye Boyfriend," among many others. I have to admit that my favorites are the colorful ones with funny storylines or at least quick images to keep me focused, such as Palomar's hilarious "Albacore" (damn, I love Palomar; this collection is worth eight bucks just for this video of a great song), and My Favorite's sexy and sharply edited "The Happiest Days Of Our Lives."
We had this DVD playing while friends were over for dinner, and they mistakenly assumed just by casually glancing at the screen during our conversation that this was the video collection of a single group of directors, as the feel of the music (a lot of it mope-pop or twee or jaunty femme rock) and the recurring styles had a remarkable consistency. This is no criticism — the aesthetic is an enjoyable one, and the various artists featured here, both video and musical, have collaborated on making an unintentional movie that says more about the fecund creativity of our current music scene than the recent one-band movies about Wilco or Death Cab ever would.
Slurpy kudos to Happy Happy Birthday To Me for an excellent DVD compilation debut, and I can't wait to see the next round of vids they round up!