Foster the People – “Houdini” (2011)
Daniels seem to have a very positive working relationship with the band Foster the People, with this being their second video together. Here the band plays themselves getting killed second into the video. They are turned into elaborate puppets controlled by the music studio. Very quickly they turn into a late 90s style boy band and everyone involved in the production couldn’t be happier.The marionette motif would turn up again in Swiss Army Man as part of Paul Dano’s education on life to Daniel Radcliffe.
The human body is a durable and pliable object. Slow motion is mixed with explosions and violent movement by the human body. The narrative is not overly complex but does have a clear structure. It should be noted Daniels are characters in the video but played by actors.
The Shins – “Simple Song” (2012)
Very overtly comedic with some sentimentality woven through it, Simple Song is probably the most complex video and my personal favorite of Daniels. Once again, the band are characters in the fiction of the video. A family gathers to watch the video of their deceased patriarch played by band frontman James Mercer. The story cuts between present day, where the adult children violently search the house for a deed, and the past, where we learn why these children have such a strong hatred of their late father. The line between past and present is blurred and eventually characters meet their past and present selves. In some moments the past is represented through home video footage, which I believe is standard film footage digitally filtered to appear like the older style of media complete with tracking line and static.
As always, and becoming more frequent and honed in their work, are the explosions of debris and dust with bodies flailing through the air. We briefly glimpse a singing corpse, tying back to the animation of the dead in “Houdini” and looking forward to Swiss Army Man. The video’s themes are heavily influenced by the work of director Wes Anderson, particularly The Royal Tenenbaums and The Darjeeling Limited.
Tenacious D – “Rize of the Fenix” (2012)
While there are the touches of Daniels’ personal style in this video, it is more heavily influenced by Tenacious D’s established comedic tone which was developed alongside their longtime collaborator, Liam Lynch. The premise of the video is that of a rough cut, not intended for public viewing yet. The video starts out normal enough but about a minute in we begin to see unfinished special effects, placeholder effects & art, and exposed green screen. Some images even have their stock photo watermarks stamped on them. Digital crowds of fans are obviously cut and pasted.
The lyrics and visuals of the video emphasize the slight negative aftermath of The Pick of Destiny’s poor performance at the box office. Tenacious D, having a very good sense of humor about themselves, don’t shy away from playing it up as if they are desperate for a comeback. The grand finale of the video where finished effects begin to return reminded me strongly of the work of digital animator Cyriak Harris. A music video where Daniels bring together technique and narrative in perfect synthesis.
Passion Pit – “Cry Like a Ghost” (2013)
Return to the woods and the nightmare of the aftermath of the party. The female protagonist exhibits spontaneous dance and movement. Reality blurs as the intensity of the party increases. Much darker, very little humor in this video. The focus is balanced between the dance of the character and the tragic story around her.
Right away the tone of this video stands in stark contrast to the majority of Daniels work at the time. It seems to go back to pieces like “Underwear” and “Pigeons”, but with more refined technique. Thematically the video deals with the dark side of the late night party atmosphere. A young woman has somehow ended up in the woods and reflects back on what brought her here. She engages in a series of meaningless one-night stands and consumption of alcohol. Her emotions are volatile and erratic. The exact chronology of her encounters becomes more blurred as the video progresses. Daniels never seem to pass judgment over her and the ending of the video leaves her next steps a bit ambiguous.
The story of the video is expressed through two modes. First, the central figure is overwhelmed with the sense of dance and gives into her body’s commands. She dances through scene after scene which is the second element. Through both practical and digital effects, the bars, clubs, and bedrooms erupt from all directions and form around the dancing young woman. Eventually, it culminates with three of her encounters acting as backup dancers to her central performance.
DJ Snake + Lil Jon – “Turn Down For What” (2014)
Likely the most iconic and well known Daniels music video. Here we have the core elements of what most viewers associate with the duo: Powerful and destructive human bodies, sexuality as a dangerous weapon, and lots and lots of dance. The central figure is operating outside societal norms and people react with real terror. However, they become infected with the same frenzy. The dark humor of the video places it as a funnier compliment to Daniels exploration of the dark side of the party scene.
Joywave ft. Kopps – “Tongues” (2014)
Daniels inverts some of their tropes in this NSFW video. We return to the woods where a group of people shed their clothes and dance about in the woods. They are stalked by hunters whose weapons launch clothes onto their victims. The nude revelers manage to turn the tide and begin stripping down their assailants. There’s even a star-crossed romance between a hunter and a nudist which turns into a B-horror film to bring the video to a close. A very interesting divergence from Daniels’ work up to this point. However, the explosion of clothes harkens back to the performance of Daniel Kwan in “Underwear”.