Watch Shakey Graves’ New Video “Dearly Departed”
Shakey Graves has had a good year. His album, And The War Came, was named one of iTune’s best singer/songwriter albums of the year and one of the top albums of 2014 by NPR music critic Ann Powers. It also put Graves on Amazon’s list of “Artists to Watch” in 2015.
Austin-based Graves, real name Alejandro Rose-Garcia, takes hold of a distinctly old-time approach to music and brings it into the new era.
If we ignore the electric guitar, his Shakey Graves persona has the appearance and sound of a one-man band from a hardscrabble medicine show or county fair at the turn of the last century. Fans of both roots and DIY music will fall in love with his drum kit: a kick-drum built into a secondhand suitcase, augmented with a few drumheads and pedals. The cumulative effect is a very authentic, very minimalist roots music that leans heavily on folk.
At the same time, there are other elements of Shakey Graves that make for more than just another one-man-band roots revival. His soft, feathery voice seems more typical of melodic rock or the ethereal side of indie rock than to rootsy folk. Musically, Graves’ compositions are also sophisticated and inspired. Attempting mid-song changes in tempo and style have sunk many otherwise good acts. Graves makes these changes sound easy and uses them to good effect, such shifts almost instinctively grabbing listeners’ attention. These aspects, combined with a social media and technological savvy, have catapulted Graves’ reach and appeal beyond the typical modern day one-man band.
This successful blend of eclectic, even contrasting, elements has transformed Graves into a major cause célèbre in his hometown of Austin and is rapidly earning him devotion far beyond, including the musical big-time of Los Angeles and New York.
In his 2014 release, And The War Came, it should be noted that Graves splurged on a fancier sound. “Fancier,” in this case, meaning the addition of a dedicated percussionist and slightly less minimalist production values.
With the video to “Dearly Departed,” directed by CJ Vinson, Graves offers a clever and well-produced visual narrative to accompany one of the strongest tracks off And The War Came. “Dearly Departed,” is a classic break-up song, executed as a smooth folk-rock duet with vocalist Esme Patterson. Lyrically, it makes clever use of haunting as a metaphor for the end of a relationship (“You and I both know that the house is haunted. You and I both know the ghost is me…You and I both know that the house is haunted. You and I both know the ghost is you.”)
The video builds on that lyrical device, as both parties to the break-up are haunted by a ghost. The specters egg the man and woman on as they go through humorously exaggerated versions of the rituals of the modern break-up: stress-eating, destroying mix-CDs (in this case by trick-shooting), the night of over-indulgence at a local watering hole, the regrettable tattoo and general other silliness. Though, spoiler alert, the song title “Dearly Departed” works for the video on another level as well–do not look for a happy ending.
With the video to “Dearly Departed,” Graves continues a strong track record for not only doing what he does well, but showcasing it very effectively. If Graves’ 2015 is as good as his 2014, the next time we write about him, no back story may be necessary!