Emily Wells Makes MAGNET A Mix Tape

New-York based Emily Wells took her mix-tape assignment for MAGNET pretty seriously, even going so far as to say she treated it like a grad-school assignment. But that’s just proof of Wells’ hardworking attitude: She’s credited as a performer, producer, singer and composer, and she’s classically trained in a multitude of instruments. Live performances usually have her switching off between keys, violin, cello, drums and many more. The results of all this hard work, musically and mix tape-wise, are well worth it. She recently signed to Partisan Records, which just issued her new album, Mama. Says Wells:

I woke up this morning singing Robyn’s “Call Your Girlfriend.” It gets in your head, and then you’re thinking about her dancing around in that giant warehouse, presumably in Sweden, and you can’t stop. You want to go back. Yesterday I somehow fell into a Lana Del Rey black hole as I started treating this mix tape like a grad paper. I was thinking about how videos can either make us feel like a band is letting us in on its jokes, as with Austra’s “Lose it,” or that we are removed spectators at the cinema witnessing drama, fiction and a huge budget, enter Lana Del Rey “Born To Die.” I started thinking about how a video can truly change and affect a song, particularly if both are introduced together. Take the addictive Azealia Banks’ “212.” I, like everyone, fell in love with this song and Ms. Banks immediately, but listening to it without the visuals is like listening to a movie while driving. You’re right there but you can’t quite keep the plot without the picture. You don’t want to. The song is the picture. The picture is the song. By contrast, a video can completely turn you off of a song you’ve loved for a while and make you wish you’d never seen the video at all. It has stolen the cool right out of a band and you want your own images back! I, for instance, had this experience with Mother Mother’s “Hay Loft.” So much of what I’ve been listening to these days is either old, or a mash-up, or obscure in some way. When hoping to find videos, I was met with a lot of still images, such as Outkast vs. Crystal Castles’ “Skewed Empathy” and awkward slide shows by fans, as with Esther Phillips’ “Try Me.” However a video challenges or elevates a song is not to be taken lightly, as YouTube has become the way of sharing music at the moment. I noticed this at a fever pitch while touring abroad last year, walking into a party in Holland where all the songs were coming from YouTube streams. In a medium so full of fan-driven content, it can be disconcerting as an artist to have such little control over the images being associated with your own music. Conversely, culling the internet for this project while simultaneously finishing up the final edits on a video of my own was inspiring and in many ways liberating. As dense and muddled as it might seem out there, making videos is still a wild-west art form, with a million critics and a lot of hungry watchers.

“Passenger” (download):

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“Passenger (Kid Koala Remix)” (download):

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El Guincho “Bombay”
I saw this about a year ago, and it absolutely changed music videos for me. It opened to me what a video could be. It is effortless while still being incredibly dense and full of odd and yet familiar images. It’s a little dirty, but in a sympathetic way. It’s full of humor yet evocative and strangely emotional. I love it! Video

Austra “Beat And The Pulse”
This video is at once dangerous and innocent, old and new, fast and slow. The women keep looking you in the eye and daring you to look back. I love the juxtaposition of the old-fashioned pantaloons and the modern production. Sorry guys, unlike “Bombay,” I could only find the clean version on. Video

Crystal Castles “Empathy”
This video is a great example of something not created by the band, but that absolutely should exist (video taken from Paris Is Burning). I saw Paris Is Burning a few months ago for the first time, and it has stayed with me and become part of my inner set of running images and dialog. It’s an important and rare documentation of the drag balls that took place in the ’80s in New York City that undeniably influence fashion and dance to this day. The pairing of these two things is gorgeous. Video

Justice “D.A.N.C.E.”
I chose this one because it’s creative and skillfully done and original. Plus, it’s so fun to watch. Video

Drake vs Lana Del Rey “Video Game Over”
Produced by Cranky Pills. Yes, I found this in my Del Rey black hole, but had to include an example of “the video/song mash-up.” Video

Serge Gainsbourg And Brigitte Bardot “Bonnie And Clyde”
This really has a “Music Videos: The Original” kind of vibe. They lounge around a sort of dirty bricked space, vaguely mouthing the words and smoking. Brigitte Bardot is made up and modeling varied weapons throughout, looking sexy. It’s a classic. Video

Karen Dalton “Something’s On Your Mind”
Karen Dalton wasn’t well known when she was alive, but there are a variety of videos to choose from when it comes to her songs. I chose this, not so much for the content of the video, but the song itself. There are other videos of her that show her face and the way she moved that I would recommend watching, but I’d recommend buying the vinyl before any of that. Video

Ballake Sissoko & Vincent Segal “Mama FC”
I saw Ballake Sissoko and Vincent Segal perform last winter in a crowded room in New York, the two of them on a low dark stage. I couldn’t see much of anything and while I was entranced by the performance, all I wanted was to see their faces and their hands, and how a Kora was played. I love this live video because it shows all of that so cleanly as well as a glimpse at their relation to each other and their instruments. Video

George Dalaras & Goran Bregovic “Sou Aksize Mia Kalyteri Akali”
Please take this opportunity to black out your screens. The song is incredible. Don’t watch the video. Video

Mali Salif Keita “Moussoolou”
I’ll end here with this one, which is both sonically and visually simple and graceful and without ego, tricks or putting it on. Video

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One Comment

  1. nannou_keruac
    Posted April 16, 2012 at 8:54 pm | Permalink

    great job emily! loved your insight and all the videos you posted!! can’t wait til the next!!!