Phédre is an avant-garde synth-pop duo from Toronto, though they have described themselves as less a duo and more a “loose, amorphous project that spontaneously sucks in any of their friends” who happen to be in orbit. Their self-titled debut album came out in 2012 with comparisons ranging from The Cramps to Ariel Pink, and Phédre returned last year with a sophomore release, Golden Age. The latest single from that release is “Sunday Someday” and its video focuses on a group of extravagant diners who enjoy tea cakes and live entertainment. It’s a softer, though no less mesmeric, hit from Phédre and the video only brings more liveliness and costume to it.
The camera pans across elite party goers in a black and white, sunlit scene. Though the visuals evoke turn-of-the-century opulence, the soundtrack is rooted in beachy avant dance pop with a vintage 80’s feel. Synth burbles like champagne bubbles popping here and there and quirky production flourishes disallow any real sense of comfort, though the music feels carefree. Both have echoes of their first single “In Decay” and its music video. It was similarly filled with glimpses of rich foods and shots of wild getups. But that party was a about messy excess – half naked bodies sliding over each other, goopy syrup, and slop – somewhere between sensual and grotesque. The party in “Sunday Someday” is pristine – fur coats, towering head scarves, an elaborate headdress constructed from glittering feathers. These disaffected party-goers aren’t participating in chaos, but creating a tense atmosphere of disdain to ease their jaded boredom. They’ve hired a dancer to entertain them while they eat, they ridicule and even trip their staff, but mostly seem concerned with their own banal conversations.
Daniel Lee and April Aliermo, Phedre’s core, play two of the elite characters, while their real-life friends, part of that “amorphous” contingent mentioned earlier, take on roles in cast and crew, from the servants to the cameraman. This piece is the result of friendly collaboration between art forms, with the involvement of musician Henri Faberge (of Henri Faberge and the Adorables), actress Briana Templeton, director Marianna Khoury, and more.
Phédre seems to be eyeing the sense of luxurious nostalgia popular among twenty-somethings today. While their 2012 album focused on wild, modern party culture, the aptly-titled Golden Age suggests a throw-back to eras gone by much longer ago. Like these newly invented personas, the record has more polish, but the contrasting synth waves maintain their lo-fi, exploratory aesthetic. Their critique of bourgeois culture and history is reflected in the last moments of the video, when the party goers eat poisoned cake in a subtle reverse of Marie Antoinette. Foam gurgles from everyone’s mouths, with April Aliermo gripping her throat as she chokes. By the clip’s end, everyone but the help is dead, face down in their plates. The music fades out as the servants hurry away in a satisfying final scene.
I can’t imagine what would be more fun than dancing to hypnotic, off-kilter pop music while watching the bourgeoisie get poisoned. Enjoy “Sunday Someday” below: