Hello! This is writer Cecilia Johnson, announcing that today we have a special Friday Five for you. Over the last few years, I’ve gotten to know a particular group who always prioritize visuals alongside their music. Maple & Beech are a synth-pop/dance-rock band who started as a Tyler Tholl solo project and picked up Pete James Johnson, Nora Kain, John Knauss, Dan Lehn, Nick Syman, and Nicole Wilder along the way. They’ve been featured in Friday Five a whopping nine times, making this post their tenth appearance.
Maple & Beech are Friday Five faves, and today, they’re releasing a self-titled new album. The Maple & Beech release show is Sept. 21 at the Parkway with Har-di-Har. To celebrate the new album, I asked Tholl to write about five of his favorite Minnesota music videos, and he happily took on the guest columnist role. Here’s what he shared:
Tyler Tholl: Pop music and visuals have always gone hand in hand, at least in my mind. I was born in 1986, so music videos were at the height of their cultural significance during my childhood. Images from the classics — Michael Stipe’s wings in “Losing My Religion,” Sinéad O’Connor’s eye contact in “Nothing Compares 2 U” — were burned into my brain early on and still affect the way I hear that music. As videos have undoubtedly become less important to some listeners, I still adore them. It was hard to pick just five, but here are a few of my favorite Minnesota-made, music-related videos from the past year.
PaviElle French – MN Original (Season 10, Episode 3)
I’m a huge fan of PaviElle French. The interdisciplinary artist has delivered unforgettable performances with her neo-soul band for years, and recently, she wrote a symphony. “A Requiem For Zula” is a collaboration between PaviElle and the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra, inspired by French’s mother and her Rondo neighborhood in St. Paul. It premiered in February, but MN Original made a beautifully-shot short documentary about the piece for those of us that missed it. Viewers get to see what goes into a large-scale work like this, from intent and composition to rehearsals and performance clips. You’ll get chills.
Haley – “Future Maps”
At the end of 2018, one of my favorite singers made an instrumental album called Pleasureland. It’s fantastic. The singer, Haley, and a few filmmaker friends also created visuals for each of the album’s twelve pieces. Haley says that she was “personally lost for words in dark times” during the writing of the album; these visuals say as much or more than lyrics ever could. This is especially true in the video for “Future Maps,” a short piano/guitar/synth waltz filled with lovely ambient noise and room sounds. Haley cut together lo-fi home videos with glitchy VHS art, creating a mood that reflects the fragility and humanity in the music. It tells a personal story without using a single word and it’s absolutely beautiful.
Astralblak – “Wanna Be Saved”
This self-directed video from Twin Cities collective Astralblak perfectly captures the tone of “Wanna Be Saved,” a gorgeous track off of their 2018 album Seeds. “We offer sonics and visuals as odes to the importance of a strong and healthy sense of community,” reads the YouTube blurb. That mission statement is played out as we watch seeds grow into food that ultimately feeds a group of family and friends. The use of slow motion, close-ups, and slow zooms reinforce the song’s dreamy feel and intricate production. I love it.
Champagne Confetti – “Beach Hawk”
One of the most exciting live music experiences I’ve had in recent memory happened late last year at Public Functionary in NE Minneapolis. A Twin Cities supergroup led by Aby Wolf and Eric Mayson performed an unfinished version of Champagne Confetti, their ambitious neo-classical/R&B/ambient/pop song suite. Watching eleven people make music together is a special thing and can be a lot to take in at once, so I’m grateful that director Allegra Oxborough made this video for “Beach Hawk,” a tune that showcases the breadth of styles and sounds that this group can make. Oxborough cut together footage from several live performances, a fitting music video for a work that has evolved in public over a long period of time.
EHN JEY – “U Don’t Love Me (feat. The Nunnery)”
I love single-shot videos. I love dance videos. I love black and white videos. EHN JEY’s “U Don’t Love Me” is all of those things, therefore I love it. The song comes from the singer’s upcoming debut (under this name) and features contributions from The Nunnery and lukdlx. The video, directed & choreographed by EHN JEY and Amanda Leaveck, proves that you don’t need fancy effects or video trickery to make compelling visuals. I can’t wait to hear more from all involved.