Hello June: Handshakes (Exclusive Video Premiere and Review)

Hello June: Handshakes (Exclusive Video Premiere and Review)

Sarah_handshakes 2.jpg

There is a photograph I have of my grandmother and me. It’s faded in the way that photos used to fade before they became digital things on glowing phones. Her head is tilted back, her eyes closed in laughter and her hair wrapped up in a towel. I’m standing there beside her, grinning. I remember it was only a few months after my grandfather had died. She was morose and inconsolable for a while. I’d said something funny, and I was pleased with how I’d cracked everyone up. Although I recall the picture being taken, I actually remember looking at the photo itself more than I remember the event. Memory is strange like that; it’s a story we tell ourselves about what we believe happened to us. It fades and becomes more vibrant at the same time. The skin tones are lost, but the contours of younger faces remain.

Produced and shot by the band members themselves, Hello June’s new video for the song “Handshakes” (off their 2018 self-titled album) seems like a meditation on memory to me. As the opening chords jangle and coalesce, the scene opens on singer/songwriter/guitarist Sarah Rudy. Like an old family photograph, she’s slightly out of focus. Then, in the delicate breath of her voice, the song begins to rise. With Rudy framed in the center of nearly every shot, the mood that the impressionistic visuals create is nostalgic and evocative. I feel like I can smell incense and woodsmoke as I watch it. The song feels extremely personal on its own, but the added visual element draws out this aspect even further.

There’s no fourth wall in “Handshakes.” Rudy looks directly at the camera, directly at the audience, asking us to feel something. The song means whatever it means to her. To me, Rudy’s lyrics disclose the memory of a specific episode in her history, although the effect is rather more evocative of a Proustian moment. Held and possessed within a sense memory, what Rudy tells us about her life is just as much about our own lives. All of us are occasionally transported into the frame of a memory and held there; it can wrap us like a warm quilt or soak us as cold as winter rain.

Rudy’s lyrics take us to the precipice of this experience by telling us her story. Yet, as almost half of “Handshakes” is an instrumental coda, we are left to fill in the rest for ourselves. Hello June finally delivers the wistful sentiment that has been building the entire song in a crash of warmth and longing. Meanwhile, the video’s impressionistic imagery tracks the music exactly. The effect is like a choreographed dance, with each movement and cut becoming part of the ongoing motion of the whole video.

At the end, the viewer leaves Rudy where she began: alone in a field. I have the impression that the wash of memory that has flooded over her recedes here, leaving her pensive and reflecting on how she got to where she is, how her experiences both contributed to and took away from her to leave her what she is now. There’s a bit of ennui in the final dissolving crescendo of the guitars and feedback. Perhaps much was lost along the way. More than anything unsettled, however, is a sense of peace with the world of the past.

Virginia Woolf once said, “I can only note that the past is beautiful because one never realizes an emotion at the time. It expands later, and thus we don't have complete emotions about the present, only about the past.” Hearing “Handshakes,” watching the video, and thinking about my grandmother and my childhood, I have to agree with Woolf.


EXCLUSIVELY FOR HTN FAMILY-

Check out the full video before it’s released to the public, right here:

Jake Dunn & The Blackbirds: Cosmic Americans

Jake Dunn & The Blackbirds: Cosmic Americans