Often enough I’ll come by a new band that I fall in love with. For example, Two Door Cinema Club rose like a Phoenix (who I saw TDCC with so pun completely intended) from the “Oh, who is this?” to the “I MUST SEE THEM FORTY TIMES” spot in my audiophilic heart. But I know myself, I often know when I’ll really like a band and when I’ll just listen to them on occasion. It’s usually something along the lines of TDCC, The Wombats, Imagine Dragons, etc. Basically pop-alt-synth-other-genre-infused-rock. So when I discovered Woodkid via Assassin’s Creed trailer, I was taken completely by surprise. If I had to sum up his genre in a word it would be…epic.
A bit of background first, Woodkid is the pseudonym for Yoann Lemoine. Lemoine is a French music video director, graphic designer, and musician. He, surprisingly based on his own style, has worked on videos for Katy Perry, Lana Del Rey, and my someday nemesis, T-Swift. He’s been nominated and awarded various music video directing awards as well. He was even nominated for a Grammy in 2013 for Best Music Video for his song “Run Boy Run.” Basically, the man is legit.
At some point in his video directing career prior to early 2011, Lemoine received a banjo from Brooklyn folk legend Richie Havens and launched his project as Woodkid. According to a Complex interview, Woodkid released his first EP with the single “Iron” a little over two years ago on March 28, 2011. “Iron” was meant to be more of an experiment with music videos than the creation of a new musician, but the song got hot fast being sampled by Kendrick Lamar, used in Assassins Creed: Revelations, and more. Just a couple weeks ago, his first album, The Golden Age dropped and has met with moderate success. I, however, cannot recommend it highly enough.
The Golden Age is, in Woodkid’s own words, a pop album. But it goes so far beyond what many would consider pop to be. “I wanted the form to be different than a normal pop album; I wanted it to be very cinematic and orchestral with continuity between the tracks,” Woodkid told Complex. This album transcends the pop genre. The orchestral production of each and every song is artistic, mysterious, and inspiring. It is a story; a tale of a child growing into a gallant yet hardened man. Each song plays differently into his formative experiences that seem at their climax in “Iron.” I’m not just speculating when I say this album is a story; there is an actual book that comes with the physical album.
My favorite song was “Iron” for the longest time but as I listen to the album over and over again (and then over again) I find myself drawn most to “I Love You.” It is the story of unrequited love and the shattering sense of self that comes with true heartbreak. When you aren’t sure why things never worked and how resentment is only a few easy steps from infatuation. Between the use of bells to mark the transition into the chorus, the haunting vocals, and ever-present mysterious melody I feel as if Woodkid himself is remembering and sharing a time in his own life when he felt the desolation that follows the rejection of love, especially when done so in a cruel manner. The lyrics, “Is there anything I could do/ Just to get some attention from you/ In the waves I’ve lost every trace of you/ Where are you?” imply that the person the protagonist once loved has changed in front of their eyes and not for the better. Still, he clings desperately to the lover he once knew and it is slowly hardening him into iron.
The video follows the style of “Iron” and “Run Boy Run” with the black and white motif but strays from the mysticism, at least for the first two-thirds or so. You’ll notice the shift as it is rather abrupt. The video begins with a Russian priest walking into a church to play the organ. When he turns to his congregation his eyes are sad, tired, almost dead even. What he says roughly translates to, “Today, I’ll tell you the story about a man who drowned in the cold waters of the ocean after losing the one he loved. This is the story about a man who died twice.” All this sounds incredibly melodramatic, but somehow the video stays just as captivating and powerful as his other work. Like I said, there is only on word I can think of that encapsulates Woodkid’s music. Epic.