Last updated on January 17, 2018
Lots of people want their songs and music videos to be surreal, but few can pull it off. Via Intercom‘s song and associated clip for “The Photographer” nail the balance between atypical weirdness and utter banality that creates truly surreal moments.
We’re premiering the video, so I’ll start with that first. The video is ostensibly a lyric video, but the lyrics are mostly difficult to read–they scroll right to left with the lines running away from the reader. It’s like the beginning of Star Wars out of a misaligned projector. The squinting I had to do for most of the lyrics creates an unusual atmosphere; the jolt of the occasionally-right-side-up lyrics makes the situation even more interestingly uncomfortable.
Once we get past the atypical lyrical presentation, there’s the nature of what’s going on around the lyrics: the members of Via Intercom are dancing inside a dollhouse with giant shadows creeping around outside the house. That’s weird enough, but the dollhouse is icy blue, the dancers are only partially present (no head, no legs, no hands), and the shirts of the dancers are contrasting colors to the icy blue of the dollhouse. Everything seems perfectly calculated to be weird. But it’s not overtly weird–it all seems plausible, as if this would be normal if not viewed through this specific camera lens. That level of unusual-yet-almost-usual is compelling.
If this were some psych-rock nugget, this unusual video might be par for the course. But the song is not some technicolor freakout–it is a measured, considered, detailed indie song. It’s almost slowcore in its arrangement, as a glacial-pace fingerpicked pattern is the main motion of the tune. Strings sway in and out, the occasional glockenspiel note hits, background vocals sigh mysteriously, and the whole song lopes onward under some unseen internal power. Pairing this slow-paced tune with the video isn’t jarring–it’s revealing, influencing how I interpret the video and the song.
The lyrics tell the story of a house party gone totally awry in a specific level of detail that adds another layer of complexity. Multiple characters weave in and out of the song. Tiny details are juxtaposed against sweeping emotional statements. Adding this level of lyrical detail on top of the songwriting and the video results in a unique, fascinating experience. It should go without saying that this is one of the best, most interesting videos I’ve seen in a long time.
“The Photographer” comes from Buzz Buzz Buzz Vertigo, which released in December.