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Coilguns Rethink Lyric Videos with “Anchorite”

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Coilguns have done the impossible. For their song “Anchorite,” they took maybe the most contemptible form of music promotion — the lyric video — and turned into something striking, atmospheric, and memorable.

To explain why this is such a monumental achievement, I want you to think back on all of the lyric videos that you’ve seen in your life. Not much comes to mind right? Words in a easily legible font drift over a “graphic design is my passion” background in time with the music, and maybe some part of the album art wobbles around aimlessly during the instrumental breaks. The same motions are repeated when the lyrics repeat. No meaning is added, nobody is entertained, and the music isn’t heightened by anything we’ve seen.

Faced with dwindling budgets and an audience expecting new content yesterday, the music industry threw up its hands and passed off glorified karaoke videos as acceptable. This is like getting a plate on top of another plate when you ordered a hamburger. Lyric videos fail at literally everything they are meant to do. They don’t tell you anything new about the music or properly illustrate the lyrics. They contain little to no craft or artistic inspiration. Most damningly, they are bad advertisements, as they are often lethargic and lack any memorable visual hook. Everyone loses.

Coilguns, bless their fucking hearts, refuse to lose. Instead of turning in an animated PowerPoint presentation, they delivered a goddamn nightmare. While “Anchorite” churns and buckles, the camera sprints across a nocturnal winter landscape, stalking around the exterior of blood-red barns. The frantic cinematography and fast-paced editing of these striking images alone would have made for a memorable, if sparse, music video, a kind of It Comes At Night on uppers.

You’d expect the “lyric” portions of the video to detract from the foreboding atmosphere, but instead, miraculously, they add to it. During the instrumental sections, the camera moves as if some predator, or serial killer, is closing in on the homes to inflict some unseen violence. The lyric sections flip this dynamic. Each word is carved into wood, warmly lit like the inside of the barns we see in the musical bridges. The text is crude, stretching out into hectic patterns as if they were made by claws or knives. So is the violence happening to the barns, or inside of it?

In the final moments of the song, Coilguns launches into overdrive, switching from a mid-tempo to full-on blast beats. This moment of sudden acceleration is the same feeling that you’d get when taking a wrong step in a dream and tumbling back into your bed, heart racing and brain thoroughly discombobulated.

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