We don’t like to make sweeping generalizations about an art form as varied as the music video. However, we’re willing to bet that you won’t see a clip this year with better acting, better directing, or better footage than the video for “The Waters.” Everything about this short film is impeccably rendered and carefully choreographed to tell a moving story. Best yet, it’s for a new single track by a brand new artist you probably don’t know (yet): the New York City-based singer-songwriter Patrick Breen. His gorgeous, deceptively deep pop-rock song demands thoughtful treatment, and young director Solo Koo has done it justice.
Begin with the performances. Koo has assembled a cast of talented actors, including the fetching Claudine Swenson, who plays the role of a woman in flight from a problematic relationship, and Vincent Loretta (of the Break web series) as her glowering boyfriend, and model Connor Furst as a street hustler motivated by a private sense of altruism. Margarita Vidal plays a single mom, paralyzed in an accident and struggling to make ends meet – let alone pay for the medication she needs. Making a difficult choice, her son deals drugs to pay for his mother’s medication. Patrick Breen, too, gets plenty of screen time; he’s the concerned observer and the ghost in the machine of his invention. It might not seem possible that Koo could weave those narrative strands into a gripping tale that rewards re-visitation in just over four minutes, but the director makes the most of every moment he films.
Koo and Breen have set their story in contemporary New York, and they make the city glow. Crystal-clear overhead shots of the East River bridges and the sun catching on the sides of skyscrapers shadowed trips along alleyways to loading docks, bright brownstone interiors, nervous waits on subway platforms: it’s all quintessential NYC, and it heightens the drama of the storytelling. Breen looks absolutely at home in Manhattan twilight – a man poised to join the ranks of New York City storytellers.
Patrick Breen assembles his tracks with the same kind of care and attention to detail that characterizes Koo’s films. “The Waters” is pop, yes, but it’s a very adult version of pop; sophisticated and moody, with echoes of the Blue Nile and Francis And The Lights. Breen keeps his guitar front, and center – his warm, inviting tone remains his calling card – but he also decorates this lovers’ lament with artfully muffled machine drums, distant synthesizer pads, and backing vocals delivered in a soulful near-whisper. The result is a song that gets better and better the more you listen to it: a sweet seduction and an opening salvo from an artist we’ll be hearing more from soon.