“Astonished Man” is the lead-off track from A Man Alive (2016), the fourth album from Thao & the Get Down Stay Down (2003 – ). The song (and album) is about her relationship with her estranged father. The vocal groove and sharp beat drive the song. Repeated words and phrases emphasize the rhythm with the cracking drums. The simple guitar riffs and buzzing synth bass further emphasize the rhythms. The guitar is mostly choppy, but does include some swirling effects in the background. The music builds and breaks down and builds again. Throughout the song, auxiliary instruments add more texture to the song. There’s a shaker, tambourine and a cowbell-like sound from the percussion. Violins add to the atmosphere and intensity along with layered vocals.
The video creates a different kind of atmosphere, a seeming of murderous pursuit. It’s setting is the stage of a horror film, complete with eerie lighting, fog, skulls, stained glass, and dramatic camera movement to set the scene. The video highlights weapons like an ice hook, ax, chainsaw, butchers knife, switch blade, and tenderizer mallet suddenly casting shadows in the lightning or breaking through walls and doors. Thao sings to the camera alone, in parts with a prop knife in her head and covered in fake blood. She even appears headless on the floor, though the camera reveals her attached body underneath.
For further viewing, check out Thao & The Get Down Stay Down’s video for “Holy Roller” or more Video Appreciation posts. Feel free to e-mail suggestions for other music videos you’d like to see covered. And if you like these posts, consider buying my music.
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