Kit Vale Presents “Pet”

Camera phones are exciting, and some of them are even high quality. But for serious photographers and movie-makers, it’s hard to beat an old-fashioned film camera. It’s an object with heft, gravity, and authority; bring one of those to a shoot, and your subject will know that you mean business. Film cameras are also beautiful objects – and they tend to make their users look pretty cool, too. In Kit Vale’s smoldering clip for “Pet,” her latest single, singer and songwriter Jen Simpson turns the lens of an old film camera on a man she clearly desires. She’s overwhelmed by passion and maybe under the spell of his beauty. But as long as she’s got her finger on the button, she’s in control.

The “Pet” video is a role reversal: usually, it’s the beautiful woman under examination and the man taking the shots. But Simpson is an experienced hand at turning expectations upside down. She’s defied stereotypes and erased boundaries as the frontwoman of Neon Bloom, the irresistible Toronto quartet band that found an unexplored middle ground between raucous garage rock and sleek synthpop. She opened ears and toured the globe with Machetes and The Never Evers, groups that always led with fearlessness. On her own as Kit Vale, she’s mixing blues-rock, radio pop, grunge, film soundtrack music, hip-hop and trip-hop, post-punk, electronica, and even a little doo-wop in unorthodox ways, following her instincts and extending her reputation as an innovator.

“Pet” builds on the success of “It’s Our Time,” an anthemic debut single that made her commitments to equality and social justice manifest. The new song is just as bracing and just as urgent, but it’s considerably more seductive. Over tough, distorted guitar and a muscular drumbeat, Kit Vale communicates longing, desire, and maybe a bit of menace, too. Similarly, she strides through the “Pet” video with a combination of swagger and sweetness. She’s clearly smitten with model Alex Ryfka, and Ryfka acts like he knows it. But she’s got a secret weapon of her own: a vintage Kodak Duraflex II camera. At the beginning of the video, it’s on a tripod, and there’s a tenuous distance between the filmmaker and her subject. By the middle, she’s got a Minolta around her neck, one hand on the camera, and another on Ryfka’s cheek. She’s getting up close, determined to get the shot she wants — and more.

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