Quickly rising as Detroit’s DIY pensive pop priestess, Stef Chura and her captivatingly peculiar lo-fi sensibilities shine and burn playfully in her latest video for “Spotted Gold,” the third single from her debut album Messes due out January 27. Chura’s candy-colored, battery acid coated disharmonious world beckons late 90’s MTV feels complete with pop-star commercialization and her signature voice, which teeters between collapse and eruption, finds its visual counterpart in “Spotted Gold.” The colors change quickly like the tuning of an old television set as does the wardrobes of Chura and her bandmates as if to But the most strikingly unsettling element is the montage of
The colors change quickly like the tuning of an old television set as does the wardrobes of Chura and her bandmates. But the most striking element is the montage of rapid-fire imagery depicting activities that are considered taboo (smashing a mirror) and bad judgment calls (pouring milk on a laptop) to completely self-destructive behaviors (drinking poison and playing finger/knife roulette) all of which end as badly as one might imagine. The aesthetic is clean, perhaps even sterile, but in Chura’s sugary torment, is messily sincere. It’s easy to interpret “Spotted Gold” as a mischievous night out or miscalculated reckless relationship but the lyrics: “Spotted gold turned black and blue” reveal that perhaps Chura’s sand-in-the-eyes, hand-on-the-stove universe is less of a lark than it is a tale of emotional masochism and that when a good thing goes bad, well, maybe we are more in control than we think.
No, your toaster doesn’t need a bath. Keep tinfoil out of your microwave and check out Stef Chura’s series of unfortunate events in “Spotted Gold” below:
There’s something unidentifiably exciting about Stef Chura. It would be an easy out to say her warbled, playful vocal contortions are the key to her aforementioned excitability, which are undoubtedly fearless and perfectly flawed. Last month, I referred to her vocal playground as one crafted by Karen O meets Johnathon Richman, but with the recent release of “Slow Motion” off of her up and coming album Messes, I can see how I quickly generalized her aesthetic. Chura creates space and fills it with confessionary uncertainty. What Chura is doing is entirely all her own.
“Slow Motion” encapsulates personal frustration and manages to make a lo-fi cry for clarity anthemic for anyone who has ever wanted to control the speed of their own reality. The lyrics “you bottle/me in your pocket and explode/give me something/and I don’t know what it’s for/and right when it starts/ to feel like home/it’s time to go” paints an universal exploration of impermanence in feeling comfortable with ourselves as individuals, as well as our comfortability as a piece of our respective social quilt. With Ryan Clancy on drums and producer Fred Thomas on bass, Chura’s vocals are practically framed by the jumpy, hazy rhythms allowing her to use her beautifully tortured voice to maim and repair parts of the song at her leisure.
The video, which is a desaturated Microsoft Paint snack party in Detroit’s UFO Factory bathroom (inarguably the most popular bar bathroom for selfies) poses Chura as an unenthused guest of honor surrounded by balloons, toilet snacks, and a listless oversized stuffed bear. Shot by internationally acclaimed digital artist and Detroit implant Molly Soda, “Slow Motion” is a vivid collaboration between wanting to feel part of a whole and wanting to fall apart, whisked together with whimsy and an old screensaver from the 90’s. The party gets tripped out and psychedelically rambunctious as the guests go crazy with silly string and happy face balloons that seem melancholic in context. The video is a play on party culture and for Detroiters, gives a voice to an iconic space while touching base with those deep-rooted sad girl vibes, that need someone like Chura to portray with sincerity and unapologetic malaise.
I’m in denial and am disruptively nostalgic at 3am on a Tuesday. While I struggle to retire my sundresses to the back of the closet, this seasonal transition has me hungry for that time a few months ago when I had tan lines and bite marks and could keep my windows open without complaint. My time machine of choice is Jamaican Queens‘ 2013 release, Wormfood. I’ve always considered Jamaican Queens as the “cool” band from Detroit (and what makes them cooler is the fact that I think they would hate that I said that). Ryan Spencer, Adam Pressley, and Ryan Clancy are Jamaican Queens: the band you wish you were in.
Wormfood captures, though paradoxically, a recklessly hazy lethargy that is exclusive to summer. There is an element of irresponsibility lyrically and in the squeezed and strained arrangements, like taking someone else’s prescription pills or having indiscreet public sex that makes the listener squirm with reflection. Honest and almost self deprecating, Wormfood is pleasantly shameless in its ability to wrestle with love, intimacy, and confessionary party fouls. Reminiscent of MGMT or sometimes Animal Collective, Jamaican Queens take the popular, palatable fuzzy, synth pop/rock aesthetic and knocks it over in slow motion, leaving a sweetly apologetic yet selfish collection of messy songs/feelings in its wake. In the opening track “Water,” Spencer admits: “I don’t want to spend time with her friends/I don’t wanna do things for her/I don’t wanna go down on her/I don’t wanna tell you it’s the end/ain’t love a trap/aren’t you a mess/you wear it well.”
There is something achingly personal about Wormfood. It’s that conversation you don’t want to have (but have had). It’s driving drunk, wishing you were straight. There is a hidden sadness that speaks to the strange social pool that Detroit kids find themselves flailing in (and maybe it has nothing to do with geography). It’s like pretending you’re drowning to get attention, even though you can stand comfortably flat footed on the lake floor, head above water. Wormfood represents a bleeding dichotomy between wanting to change and knowing you can’t (or knowing you can but will wait a few years until you get your shit together). Wormfood is a party, start to finish. But not like a ‘90s teen movie house party, rather a party where that girl you sort of know sort of almost died, and where you give yourself a pep talk in a toothpaste splattered bathroom mirror convincing yourself out loud that you’re okay, as demonstrated by the chorus of the closing track “Caitlyn.” “I’m sorry about the earth around you caving in/I’m sorry about the earth around you caving in/I’m sorry.” This sincere phrasing comes after the line “I’ve begun to think of love as an impossibility/do you agree?” A perfectly apt pairing of sympathy and complacency, which is what makes this particular collection strangely suited for feeling pieced together carelessly with chewing gum and being unabashedly intoxicated on summer, or in my case, autumnal dreams of the latter.
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