New York City!

It’s official. The travel information arrived in my email inbox this afternoon. I’m going to New York City…I’m going to New York City!

Thank God, that half year of tagging all photos of the city I saw on my Tumblr dashboard with “nyc2013” was not done in vain. Thank God, that story I wrote with my overflowing imagination about what it would be like to compete in the Big Apple will no longer be fiction, but fact. Thank God, it is me standing in the front of the room with my teammates, the trophy cradled in my palms, just as it was with the team from my school last year. This is, admittedly, one of the biggest things that’s happened to me in my life so far. Not everybody can say they won a state-level economics/forensics competition, and are bound to go on to Nationals at the beating financial heart of the world’s greatest city. It’s all finally happening!

I’ll be in NYC from noon of April 11th, to the afternoon of the 13th. With the segments of the timetable pieced together, we will have at least a whole day to enjoy the cultural and touristy splendor we can cram in. Wall Street, Times Square, and dining out somewhere awesome is definitely on the top of my to-do list! I’ve already been planning out in my head how to handle film rolls and X-ray security at the airports. Plus, funny thing is, my family’s already planned to come to New York City during summer vacation of this year. So, even if all the film turns out to be completely screwed up this time around, I’ll always have the next time!

I can’t wait! This trip is going to definitely necessitate an updated wardrobe, lots of preparation for the actual competition, and tons of hype. April’s going to be a huge travel and photography month for me. Las Vegas and The Grand Canyon during spring break, and then New York City soon after that! I’m actually still in the slog of March right now, with  more piano and econ competitions being chucked in every direction at me, so I can’t lose focus now and turn too happy-go-lucky. Not to mention goddamn school and my slippery-slope GPA. But the euphoria is just so great, you know?

And, and, the new Hurts album Exile which was released all of about a week ago, is the icing upon the icing upon the cake. It’s not quite what Happiness was, but I think all fans of music must accept the fact that quality bands’ sounds will always change, whether slightly or dramatically, with each album. Each album is like a different flavor, a different season: just a different phase of music and of life. Exile is darker, guitar-ier, a collective midnight cult chorus, as opposed to its more melodic, electro-synth older sibling. But I welcome the change.

Overall, it has just been a fantastic week. I do so much hope this warm draft will last a little longer before it has to go. New York City–just keep thinking about it! I get excited every time my mind spins back to it, which is about once every twenty minutes during the day. I am going places!

Miracle: The New Hurts Music Video

First of all, if I ever said that this blog was going to be exclusively composed of photography and travel, apologies firsthand. I may occasionally make a wayward detour into the other arenas of my life in which I am more or less equally passionate about, such as, by example of this post, Hurts.

Hurts is a relatively successful musical group from Great Britain. They are flawless. The two members that comprise the band, Theo Hutchcraft (vocals) and Adam Anderson (keyboard/synth/guitar) have never been quite pop or mainstream, so chances are you haven’t heard of them before. Not quite long ago, I wrote this extremely glowing encomium about them in the high school student newspaper, so me writing another long praise about them would be slightly repetitive. I’ll just say for now that I find absolute musical paradise with their songs and you should check out their Wikipedia or Youtube page if you want to know more. There’s no saying if you’ll have the same musical taste as I do, but for all the fangirling, borderline-obsessive ranting I am about to indulge in, you might want to click a couple links so you know what’s going on. Definitely watch the “Miracle” music video, because basically, the following is just going to be me reviewing it in its entirety.

So.

First impressions after watching the video: Dark like Theo said it’d be, quite good cinematography, had a little more plot to it than usual. I wish I could find that exact quote of Theo’s, but basically he said something like this:

The first album, Happiness, was a lot about love and loss–Exile is about heavier things, like sex and death. With Exile, we’re moving on to a more dark concept, which is what we’ve been meaning to do from almost the very beginning of our music.

I hope I didn’t butcher his words too much, but that’s essentially what he was getting at. And I definitely see it in this new music video. Not only did the song itself sound a lot darker (heavier drums parts, haunting collective chorus, lyrics in general), but everything was also visually more fatalistic. Black seemed to be the prevalent color of clothing, as almost everybody, save the angel-like woman in the bridge, was wearing shades of black and leather.

There were noticeably more scantily-clad women than in any of their music videos before. It was elegantly done, though, in true Hurts style. I speculate that some fans may hum at this new emerging style, but for me I don’t think anything was particularly that scandalous at all, so it’s okay. In Happiness, their trademark outfits for the dancers were all-black lace dresses: conservative because it was basically just a LBD like one a normal girl would wear to a party, but sexy because of the lace. I thought that was quite clever. Because, face it, sex sells. (That’s a whole ‘nother can of worms if we’re going to discuss sex appeal and the music industry.) But, evidently for “Miracle”, they moved on to dramatic, dark makeup (cat-eye eyeliner, black lipstick, earthy shades of dark maroon) and a lot of accessories. Black things all around the necks, arms, legs, etc. I think it’s quite interesting, the accessories in particular. Why all of that? What significance does it bring, aesthetically, to have an abundance of jewelry? Note that this is not an overbearing philosophical question. It’s more of one rooted in strategy and art. I’ll have to think about it, though, because for now the answer escapes me.

The long, unkempt hair of the dancers, their ensemble (black bras, shorts with garters, lots of shiny leather everywhere), and their general ritualistic and sharp movements had me thinking of Lady Gaga, weirdly enough. Maybe it’s the way all women dance in music videos, but I recall especially Gaga doing those sort of dance moves a lot. It’s a significant connection, though, because Hurts seemed to have a big religious motif as one of their central themes for “Miracle”, what with the angel-and-demon references, the black raven, dark color palette, and burning stakes. Lady Gaga seems to also dabble in religion (specifically Christianity, I think?) a lot. She’s got cross symbols everywhere on album art and headings, wears crosses all the time, and has religious lyrics. “Judas” being the one in particular that was extremely pious, albeit in the signature controversial way. Hurts has been mysteriously silent on the subject of religion, I think. Theo did say “sex and death,” not “sex and death and religion” when summarizing Exile. Hmm…more questions to think about. (This is one of the may reasons why I love this band. They really bring up the intrigue and the questions–at least for me.)

Speaking of religion, whaddup with the new Hurts logo! They finally got a logo, which I am really happy about.

Burning logo alter scene

 

It’s pretty spiffy. The two crosses (are they meant to be inverted? Non-inverted?) are tilted at an angle that forms an “H”: which, as I hope all people with functioning mental capabilities may recognize, stands for “Hurts.” It’s quite original, and I like it.

The logo also seems to bring in religion, once again, as a central tenet of their musical group though, with it being in the logo in such a definitive way. Is Hurts’ definition of religion more of a cultural representation of sin, darkness, death, and all the big struggles associated with these topics, or is it quite literal? Since they have been so silent on the topic of religion of the actual churchgoing sort, I assume it is the former. Either way, the presence of that new logo, especially in the (fantastic and skillfully filmed) last couple of scenes where it is constructed of wooden crosses and burning up in flames, seems to speak of cults, rituals, and the deep mystery that is often associated with such things. All in all, the “Miracle” music video brings quite an animalistic edge to Hurts’ previously polished, gentlemanly-brooding image, associated with, indeed, the targeted themes of sex and death.

Moving on to observations of the central players, aka the magnificent duo. Let’s start with Adam. I just love Adam so much. Poor guy–as Hurts is moving into an obviously more plot-driven music video format, there are less shots of him playing the keyboard and guitar, which kind of forces him to do other things of more trivial value. Since he doesn’t sing at all, he just ends up walking alongside Theo in multiple shots. It’s a tough life when you can’t sing, but are still very much involved in music–I would know! I love how they closed the video with a shot of him stringing the guitar in the elevator, though. I once knew of a very short horror story, and it went like this: Some supposed Hurts “fans” actually have no idea who Adam is and just call him the “piano guy.” Ugh!

Theo was brilliant as usual, brooding and suave, yet so heartfelt at the same time. I think his eyebrows are especially perfect. His face is so expressive. I have no other comments but the generic fangirling type, so I’ll just leave it. I did sense a hint of awkwardness in some parts of the music video, though, such as that not-really-but-kind-of-big-in-the-Hurts’-book PDA with that one dancer, and also the part where he kicked something in the underground abandoned subway (I think it was?). But maybe it’s because T&A don’t really engage in random bursts of physical activity. Branching out is good, though, as is exploring new territory. So overall, stamp of undying approval.

One last thing to talk about, and that is, the cinematography. Biggest kudos for the earthquake-sharp contrast of the two separate “scenes” of the music video. Number one was the dominant scene with the blue and other cold colors (underground subway, girl submerged in milky white liquid, roads outside, empty parking lot). Number two was the scene with the red and warm tones (logo alter, burning fire). From the very first moment that they flashed a snippet of the red scene when the drumbeat came in, I knew that the red scene would be the backdrop of the song’s climax, and that it was definitely coming. Like a literary device, it builds tension! The contrast was just awesome.

All the filming was top-quality, too. I supposed it’s to be expected, given that Hurts are legitimate, signed onto Sony Records and VEVO-usernamed and all, but in other videos I felt that the cinematography was definitely less advanced and less dramatic.

I got an especially a weird feeling because, after the music video had ended, there was that after-screen with all the little picture links to related Youtube content and there were several Hurts video thumbnails on there, for “Illuminated” and “Better Than Love”, etc. I just kind of looked at the images and thought, “Wow, it really is different.” In “Illuminated“, for example, there was basically no plot at all, just them singing. “Illuminated” also happens to be my favorite song from Hurts of all time and one of my favorite music videos too, mind you, so it wasn’t like I thought it paled in comparison to “Miracle.”

In summation, I guess the main thing to bring away from this new music video by Hurts is that their style is definitely evolving. And, heck, does that always have to be a bad thing? I certainly don’t think so! People always complain when things change on them–Taylor Swift going more pop, Tumblr changing their knickknacks yet again, the varying levels of popularity that bands and movies receive–but I think it’s precisely change that makes life so great. Change makes the world go ’round. Argument, however civil or base (it still amuses me why Youtube commenters are the most vicious mob-tearing ones of all–what is it about Youtube that brings out the collective worst in everybody?), is a sign of progress. Embrace it. Live in it. It’s pretty fun to observe, or initiate yourself!

By the way, sorry if you subscribed to my blog and weren’t expecting a huge winding review of a music video by some random British band you don’t know. This probably came a bit out of the blue–given that you’ve even read this far. Thank you for reading this far, though! I promise more photography and travel to come (I’m going to be visiting the picturesque campus of the University of Michigan in a few weeks. It’s probably going to be snowing and I will have the perfect opportunity to try film photography in the snow!) Alternately, if you happened to discover this blog because of Hurts, yay for that too! If you like photography and travel, do follow. And depending on more singles and more music videos, I may do more posts about the ever-wonderful Hurts in the future.