Sylvan Esso

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Best Music Videos of 2020*

*As far as we’re concerned, that is

It’s that time of year — just about every media outlet you can swipe at publishes a “Best Of” listicle. Books, movies, tv shows, songs, music videos, video games, Internet memes. Even lists of lists. You name the subject and somebody’s got a list.

Well, so do we. It’s a quirky little list, consisting of five music-related videos we enjoyed this year. Notice we said “music-related.” With one exception these aren’t really music videos, per se. And all are in some way reflections of the current pandemic. But still entertaining for all that. We hope they help lift your spirits.

So enough disclaimers already. Here’s the list:

5. Paul Simon “American Tune Til Further Notice”

We’ve already blogged about this poignant and intimate video by one of the country’s most enduring songsmiths. Simon’s “American Tune” takes us back to his 1973 album, There Goes Rhymin’ Simon, when “Kodachrome” was in heavy rotation on Top 40 radio. Though it’s missing the propulsive rhythm of that single, “American Tune” is arguably the better song. It certainly resonates with us in this plague year. Here it is again, twittering birds and all:

Paul Simon “American Tune"
Click to play on YouTube

4. Sylvan Esso “Ferris Wheel”

So here’s the actual music video we mentioned earlier. Well, sort of. Compared to some productions out there, it’s more of an anti-music video in fact.

This isn’t even the official “Ferris Wheel” video. Sylvan Esso made this one for the TBS program Full Frontal With Samantha Bee. We love the dogs (and the pig) running alongside this dilapidated pickup (fix that tail light, buddy!) jouncing along a dirt road somewhere in rural North Carolina.

It’s daft, mesmerizing and thoroughly enjoyable:

3. Rock Bottom Remainders “Don’t Stand By Me”

The Rock Bottom Remainders began as a charity fundraising act for a book fair in 1992. Amateur musicians all, the group included several literary superstars — Stephen King, Dave Barry, Amy Tan, Ridley Pearson and Scott Turow among them. They “played music as well as Metallica writes novels,” in the words of Dave Barry.

The Remainders performed off and on (mostly off) for the next two decades. Although they never produced an album, RBR marked their 1993 East Coast tour with (what else) a book: Mid-Life Confidential: The Rock Bottom Remainders Tour America with Three Chords and an Attitude. (If you can find the ultra-rare audiobook edition we produced, let us know and we’ll make a cash offer.)

In this video, the Ben E. King classic gets the full (virtual) Remainders treatment, with lyrics updated by Dave Barry for these troubled times. As always, the authors have employed a ringer to help raise the over-all musicianship. All donations go to help struggling booksellers and their staff members.

Don’t Stand By Me
Click to play on YouTube

2. Boston Dynamics “Do You Love Me”

Robots. Dancing. ‘Nuff said.

1. Little Kids Rock “Touch of Grey”

We’re loving this video, an update of the Grateful Dead’s one and only hit record. The Dead’s own video was kind of a masterpiece in itself, as we recall. But this collaboration of Little Kids Rock with the Rex Foundation has taken the jam band classic to a whole new level of awesomeness. With a stellar cast of guest musicians, including New Orleans’ own Trombone Shorty … we give you the video that we enjoyed the most in 2020:

Click to play on YouTube

The only thing there is to say
Every silver lining’s got a touch of grey

I will get by
I will survive

Robert Hunter
Rooftop Dancing stills

Sylvan Esso Goes Rooftop Dancing and Shares True Love

Our favorite electro-pop duo, Sylvan Esso, has a new single … and a video to go with it. As usual, “Rooftop Dancing” features Amelia Meath’s limpid vocals combined with Nick Sanborn’s electronic wizardry. Shot in our other favorite city, “Rooftop Dancing” radiates positivity … something we could all use right now.

Rooftop Dancing
Click to open video in YouTube

Sylvan Esso has this to say about their latest:

“Rooftop Dancing” is about the excitement of being part of a collective humming whole — a city that contains multitudes — with your small story shining softly amidst it. Cheryl Dunn was a natural first choice to make the video since she has been so brilliantly capturing the spirit of NYC for years. We are so grateful to her for collaborating with us and giving us a beautiful slice of what the city feels like today.

We hope you like it. Thank you for listening.

Our favorite excerpt from Amelia’s lyrics:

Sunlight beaming out over the bridge
We’re all running, outrunning death
Summertime breaking but we’re chasing it
Forever rooftop dancing

This song comes from the new album Free Love, which is due out September 25th. And if you do a bit of online detective work, you might be able to find another single and video from that same album: “Ferris Wheel.”

Or we can make it easy for you.

Sylvan Esso – WITH

It’s been a while since we checked in with our favorite electronic pop duo, Sylvan Esso, to see what they’ve been up to.

Turns out, a lot.

Last year they decided to set out on a limited run of tour dates as a ten-piece band, featuring eight musicians and friends. We were lucky enough to catch the opening concert of the With Tour at the Walt Disney Concert Hall in L.A. and it was wonderful:

Photo: Sylvan Esso via Facebook

If you weren’t able to attend any of the live shows (or if you’d like to re-live them), you’re in luck! A full-length concert film premieres on YouTube this Thursday, April 23rd at 9pm Eastern.

Here’s Amelia and Nick with a preview:

“We knew that in order to put on the best show we possibly could in a few short weeks we had to truly lean on and trust the friends we had asked to become part of our band. The end result – as with so many communal efforts – was much greater than the sum of its parts, in ways we could have never dreamed of. The world has completely shifted in a few months – the idea of togetherness rings in a different way. It was such a special moment that now feels like a signpost of how things were and how they could be again.”

Sylvan Esso hopes that this spirit of togetherness will inspire people to have watch parties to check out the film while maintaining social distancing. They invite anyone interested to head over to their website to sign up. They promise to send “send all the (easy!) details to you on Wednesday.”

We can’t wait!