Friday, September 11, 2009

Battle for the light!

by Ryland Walker Knight

"Fireworks" by Animal Collective
video directed by Jon Leone

A couple years ago, Animal Collective released Strawberry Jam on this date. Some people, however, like me, already had the album thanks to the internet. Perversely, Jam was overshadowed by Panda Bear's Person Pitch, which came out the spring beforehand and, as far as I could tell or vaguely remember, kept cresting a (deserved) wave of critical adoration for a long while. Though getting annoyed at the continued devotion to Person Pitch, which I know some fans peg as "the best," is pointless, it still probably colors the fact that Jam is my favorite Animal Collective album. But, hangups aside, this group effort is the best sequenced album they've put together, always a make-or-break element with these dudes, and the most poignant for me. It's been getting a lot of air time this summer. Specifically, that middle pair of perfect ("For Reverend Green" helicopters into "Fireworks") keeps circling around my head, sending me into silly spins of contradictory emotions, making me dance with the door closed or reaching for that stretch just a little harder after a run.

So I went and found this video for "Fireworks" (again? I can't remember) and got obsessed with it independent of the song. When I said I was going to write about it, Martha asked, "What can you say about that video other than it's pretty?" Well, I don't really have much more, but, I do have some ideas about structure and repetition; about this as pop avant-garde filmmaking (see Kevin and Brandon's work at Moving Image Source for more concrete examples); about how cool it is to collage images on top of such a produced, layered soundtrack; about the joy of light bursting and drifting across the image; about fireworks' ephemera, like the fleeting kick of a pop song; about summer nights scaring babies with noise; about the fun of making art with friends; about the perceptual problems of music videos and how we've become accustomed to confusion; about step-printing; about the fade of memory, how it passes us by. I guess it's all about time: it falls away. Also, the song is all about those kinds (all kinds) of limits, which helps. One of the limits that pangs the deepest is the limit to our ability to step outside ourselves and let go of hurt in order to enjoy the bright spectacle of the world—that we have to fight for our fun.

Though on the global scale there has been little to celebrate in the past eight years, and a heart hangs heavy on this date no matter one's will to happiness, I think we each have plenty to memorialize with smiles today. If anything, if we indeed think of each day as a miracle, we can thank the rain that we wake up every morning. Every morning brings new light. The trick is to find your prism and fill your room with the refractions. To take pleasure in the private, the ordinary, the everyday accomplishments like brushing your teeth. The big stuff always stands out. What makes Animal Collective such a fun, dear musical act to a goof like me is that they're all about bombast and explosion—a real overflowing of life—but they sing about such little things. It's just that their puns and metaphors make it all bigger. Because the quotidian is important but reduction is never the goal; the goal is to take delight in every little thing, to build a better picture, to give rise to a fuller world. This song, and its video, help me with that. So, you know, never forget. I know you won't; you can't. Today is too big. Thank God it's Friday this year. Have a happy weekend! Go outside and dance with the sky!

[Don't forget about Mapping Monica!]


  1. I've been wanting to do some kind of rhetorical rant on a song as well. I'm glad you've set the stage here. Very inspiring.

  2. I can safely say based from experience that Strawberry Jam is one of my favorite avant-grade - I just hope the I will get the same feeling with Fireworks! I am about to watch it now! Thanks.