The number of new artists working in the style of classic soul musicians like Marvin Gaye and Bill Withers has reached the point where we can safely call it a deluge, but British singer Christian Gregory sets himself apart with a knack for graceful, clean-lined melodies that’s considerably tougher to learn than how to dial in a convincingly vintage-sounding electric piano part. His new single “Won’t Get Nowhere” is chicly minimalist, but some bold application of delay effects gives it an intriguingly spacey quality and a slightly chilly feel that contrasts with its comforting soul hooks. For such a mellow song, the pugilistic theme of its video might seem jarring, but Gregory—an avid muay thai fighter—is adept at finding compelling contrasts.
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From Kendrick Lamar to YG, the West Coast has been working steadily to reassert its status as one of the epicenters of hip-hop culture, and two veterans of the scene have stepped up to contribute to the effort. DJ Nu-Mark of Jurassic 5 and the Pharcyde’s Slimkid3 have teamed up for an album-length collaboration, Slimkid3 & DJ Nu-Mark, that comes out next Tuesday on old-school standard-bearer Delicious Vinyl.
The second single from the LP puts their classical aesthetic front and center by flipping Darondo’s cult soul classic “Didn’t I” into a laid-back jam perfectly tuned for aimlessly cruising around L.A. in a sweet vintage ride, complimented by a trippy video that should connect with Cali’s current crop of dispensary-frequenting hip-hop heads.
Rapper Buck 65 has made his name on dense wordplay and music that pushes against expectations of how hip-hop should sound. Choosing to concentrate on abstract metaphors and dropping odd country-rap fusions years before “hick-hop” became a thing has kept him closer to cult status than mainstream success, but for his latest song and video, from his upcoming album Neverlove (out Sept. 30), Buck offers a glimpse at what might have been if he’d pursued a more pop-friendly route.
“After my wife left,” he writes in an email, “I met a girl who I was hoping would give me hugs and kisses. I was a bit desperate for affection. I figured I might get lucky if I made a song she liked, so I asked her about her taste in music. She listed off all the things she likes about the music she dances to in clubs and I wrote it all down. I still have the piece of paper. She mentioned lyrics with ‘la la la’ parts, four-on-the-floor beats, classic house music, mentions of birthdays and getting dressed up, ‘build ups,’ as she put it, shiny synth sounds, breakdowns, ‘rainbows’ (I wasn’t sure what she meant by that), and lots of hooks. It all went into the blender.”
LA’s Allah-Las are one of the few bands in existence that can come off as brain-meltingly psychedelic and totally chill at the exact same time. With the jangly guitars and vocal harmonies of a ’60s folk rock group and the hippie-fied, mind-expanding quality of a Carlos Castaneda book, they’ve spent the past few years instigating a cosmic takeover of the underground garage rock scene.
Their latest single, “Buffalo Nickel,” from their upcoming sophomore album Worship the Sun (out Sept. 16 on Innovative Leisure), is a fantastic place to jump on their trip. The video, made using the same handmade stop-motion techniques that were popular 50 years ago, makes a perfect accompaniment to the song’s slightly rough-hewn psychedelia.
Grimes’ music video for “Go” begins with David Hayter, a voice actor known for his work in X-Men and the Metal Gear Solid video games, reciting the opening lines of Dante’s Inferno in a gravelly voice: “Midway upon the journey of our life, I found myself within a forest dark…”
And from that moment on, viewers are in Grimes’ version of hell.
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Delta Spirit have a talent for recreating the feel of classic rock styles–particularly the more psychedelic ones–without sticking too closely to their aesthetic playbooks, which is a remarkable quality in a rock scene that often seems to have traded innovation for making the most accurate emulations possible of sounds from the genre’s past. The lead single from their upcoming fourth album, Into the Wide (out Sept. 9 on Dualtone Records), has a widescreen scope but is still packed with hooks, especially in the searing bent-note lead that soars over the composition.
For the video, director Andrew Bruntel goes for a similarly epic sweep, with a disparate cast of characters living very diferent lives on the prairies of southeastern Colorado. “If I could parse it down to one simple theme,” he writes, “it would be vulnerability. Vulnerability in friendships, in our relationships with family and with the pets/animals that we allow into our lives.” It’s gorgeous and triumphant and sad all at the same time, much like the song itself.
Anders Trentemøller is a Danish electronic musician who’s known for blending cutting-edge electronic production with dark and moody post-punk, resulting in tracks that can make a grown-up goth kid weak in the knees. For his last album, Lost, he took a more indie-friendly approach, collaborating with members of Lower Dens, Low, and the Raveonettes. On Sept. 1, he’ll release a set of remixes of Lost songs, including his own reworking of “Come Undone” featuring vocals by Kazu Makino of Blonde Redhead. The accompanying video, by director Andreas Emenius, pairs the track’s shimmering electro-funk with greyscale footage of a diver in slow motion, creating a moody, nearly abstract juxtaposition that the old Factory Records creative team would have been proud of.
Right after Nicki Minaj, Jessie J, and Ariana Grande opened Sunday’s MTV Video Music Awards with a performance of “Bang Bang,” MTV premiered the trio’s wardrobe malfunction-free video for the song online.
The video begins with men ogling at Jessie J as she exits a car, but she pays it no mind and enlists female onlookers to join her in showing off their Cadillac-like booties. Meanwhile, Grande twirls around in a Miami-chic bedroom, applies makeup, and belts into a megaphone—A-plus on the multitasking, Grande.
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After a solid decade as the go-to soundtrack for disaffected youth, emo has pretty much suffocated itself beneath a mountain of asymmetrical haircuts, metalcore breakdowns, and barely sublimated misogyny, and few people are in mourning over it. However, there’s a growing wave of young musicians who are throwing out the subgenre’s recent history and returning to the core values that defined it in the ’90s (before it was absorbed by Hot Topic), fusing punk’s energy and DIY ethos with the swooning romanticism of a teenage Smiths fan and the delicate melodies of a ’70s singer-songwriter.
Philly’s Modern Baseball is at the leading edge of this movement, and may be the most accessible to pop fans who don’t know or don’t care that there’s even an emo revival happening. Their latest single, “Pothole,” foregoes the pop-punk tendencies that define much of their material in favor of lightly fingerpicked acoustic guitar and nakedly raw vocals, to subtly powerful effect. The video, made largely out of footage filmed on one of their tours, highlights the energy that the band and their community of fans produce together at their shows, as well as the monotony of life on the road.
Shabazz Palaces’ 2011 debut Black Up had a luxurious sleekness to its sound and a fiery political charge to its lyrics—qualities that it shared with Watch the Throne, which was released just a few weeks later—but with far less concern for pleasing a pop-oriented audience. For their new album, Lese Majesty, the duo has responded to Black Up‘s surprising success by pushing even further out with even more political intensity, even weirder beats, and much weirder promo photos.
Lese Majesty isn’t as easily accessible their first album, with song structures that consistently refuse to follow standard pop blueprints. But beat-maker Fly Guy ‘Dai and MC Palaceer Lazaro (aka former Digable Planets member Ishmael Butler) make sure to provide enough hooks to help listeners get on their deconstructionist level. A lot of them come on “#CAKE,” which is the closest thing to radio-friendly that the album gets, with a warped take on an old-school electro-rap beat and lyrics that walk a line between club-friendly sing-along and psychedelic chanting.
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