Songs for the future, songs from the past: Lana Del Rey and Riflemen


I’ve had a fascination with the artist Lana Del Rey in the past week.  Not only is her video for “Video Games” one of the most haunting music videos I have seen in a while, but she is gaining attention for her look, her name change, and her style trying to appear “too authentic.”  Lana Del Rey’s real name is Lizzy Grant and accompanying her previous attempt at indie fame were thinner lips and a more Americana look.  Indie music blogs are not sure what to say about her, not wanting to fully give credit where it’s due nor wanting to bash an aspiring singer for having been through a cycle or two through the record label machine.  Lana Del Rey has been using the same aesthetic in her videos for years and according to this GQ interview, she is not sure why now she is gaining so much attention.

I wonder if being an artist should be like being placed into a vacuum.  Maybe not – your work does go somewhere.  What I know is that isolation is the best manner of working and being creative.  Del Rey said in her interview “I don’t even do anything in real life. I just sit in my studio and write, I call my friends, I watch television. I don’t do anything.”  Artists keep to themselves to create work and whether it’s received at one time versus another shouldn’t make a difference.  If you follow post modernist critical theory, “good art” is determined by what it actually is (the medium), the context (the place in history the art is made public), and how it’s perceived by the individual or society as a whole.  It’s never a fixed absolute of analysis – how Picasso was first perceived is far different from how he is perceived now.  (I can’t tell you how happy I am that notes I took during a Post Post-Modernism lecture at 3rd Ward are finally being used for a blog post.)

Good art doesn’t have one shot – if it’s truly spectacular, it will gain it’s attention when the moment is right.  I think the work Lana Del Rey/Lizzy Grant has created is fantastic, but maybe I’ll always be a sucker for a Fiona Apple sounding ethereal starlet who obviously knows her way around Final Cut Pro, or possibly just iMovie.

Speaking of blast from the past and music gaining recognition a second time around, my friends Anthony Gerbino and Daniel Gdula a.k.a. Rifle Men had a video for their track “The Lake’s Alive” on a Nylon blog yesterday.

Riflemen was a project that Gdula and Gerbino worked on before I met them at Hofstra in 2006.  They had an unofficial EP Treewolf Is Dead for years and frankly, everyone loved it.  Even when I introduced their songs to my friends from Delaware by way of mixtape, they were hooked and asking for more.  Five years later, no one is sure if there will be more.  However, Treewolf Is Dead was officially released on Cantora Records (Bear Hands, MGMT) in January this past year and this video was placed yesterday.  Despite everything that has happened for indie music in the past five years, it’s still good. However, I have to say the video for “His & Hers” I first saw my freshmen year inadvertently defines my early college years.

Good will always be good. My friend Berto said it best: “Songs for the future. Songs from the past.”

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