Sloppy Jane: ‘Madison Visual Album’ Review

The creative minds of frontwoman Haley Dahl and director Mika Lungulov-Klotz produce an awe-inspiring complementary visual element for their 2021 album


Mika Lungulov-Klotz

Dahl shown on a wall of televisions in “Wilt”.

There will always be something special about an artist that decides to turn an auditory masterpiece into something that the audience is able to sit down and then process in a whole new way. This transformative fusion of music and visuals has yielded timeless classics such as Pink Floyd’s The Wall, The Beatles’ A Hard Day’s Night, and for a recent example the breathtaking visual journey of Florence + the Machine’s The Odyssey in 2016. The same can now be said for Sloppy Jane’s 2021 album, Madison, which captures the essence of its own mesmerizing visual experience.

The element that separates Madison from the other albums is its ability to seamlessly incorporate the site of the album’s creation, Lost World Caverns, into its visual component. The start of the visual album takes the viewer straight into these caverns. The “Overture” introduces viewers to the driving forces behind the composition. As the shots pan over the spectacular rock formations of the cave and the musicians inside, it showcases their collaborative effort in creating a grand natural sound impossible to achieve in a typical recording studio. The scene ends with frontwoman Haley Dahl donning a headlamp and batting her hand to conduct the arrangement, almost acting as a bridge between the band and the caverns where they meet in the middle to create what is Madison.

However, no part of the visual album gives you a better understanding of the scale and size of the caverns than the first single off of the album, “Party Anthem”. This track and accompanying video use a handful of elements—both visual and auditory—that keep the viewer gazing in awe. From the blaring bass drum that bounces off the towering walls to scenes of couples embracing under them, it is a multiple sensory journey. The massive space of the cave feels just large enough to contain Dahl’s animated theatrical expressions and the accompaniment that roars with it. This track is then juxtaposed by the following “Jesus and Your Living Room Floor”, a slow piano ballad that keeps a tight shot on Dahl throughout.

Couples embracing inside of Lost World Caverns during “Party Anthem”. (Mika Lungulov-Klotz)

And tracks like the dark-singalong “Judy’s Bedroom” point out that Mika Lungulov-Klotz’s videography is not just limited to shooting large panoramas or intimate close ups but is a craft that closely caters to the narratives present. The video for this song, which is based on the true story of Judy Bruce a woman who was murdered by her husband in 1978, makes note of its connection to that era with a 70’s-style television performance thrown into the cave. The framing, shot in a 4:3 ratio, centers on Dahl while her ensemble of musicians and singers provide backing vocals. This gives the viewer that vintage notion—the feature even comes complete with lyrics displayed on the screen for viewers to sing along at home.

Bianca Castafiore” (titled after the bombastic opera singer from “The Adventures of Tintin”) starts with Dahl climbing out of a television broadcasting the previous performance and into a room full of dancing furniture. This short, wordless track is manifested through a vibrant, colorful, and surreal scene that matches the musical rollercoaster of  “whoo-hoos” to overtly chaotic imagery, once again showing how the visions of Dahl and Lungulov-Klotz are translated perfectly from audio to video.

Perhaps the most impressive part of the visual album is the excerpt for the nursery-rhyme-inspired “Lullaby Formica”, which is dedicated to the director Lungulov-Klotz. This visual accompaniment paints a shocking image of Dahl with her mouth pried open struggling with a dentist along with “kaleidoscope”-like shots carefully placed in between. At this point in the project, we start to see many motifs from Sloppy Jane’s previous album, Willow. It is also recommended by Dahl and Lungulov-Klotz to watch the videos from this project beforehand for context. These hints from the past come in many different forms—like when a $20 bill is removed from Dahl’s mouth that was swallowed in the “Mindy” video or the dancers in “Wonderama” dressed in the same outfits as in “La Cluster”. Dahl focuses on an interconnectedness between her projects explaining in a press release, “[the Sloppy Jane universe is] set in a world where everything that has ever happened is happening forever, and everyone gets to play every part.”

Haley Dahl shown in “kaleidoscope”-like imagery on the video for the track “Lullaby Formica”. (Mika Lungulov-Klotz)

The story continues on the jaunty title track “Madison” and the soul-crushing “Wilt”. There is a lot to dissect in these two videos which—much like the album itself—will reward multiple plays. From Dahl switching outfits with the dentist, who now engages in a slow pole dance, to the intro of “Wilt” where he is now laying down in the same hospital bed in “Lullaby Formica” completely trading places with her, there are many cryptic elements to unpack. This section ends with a powerful breakdown as Dahl stands up on the body of a bass drum in a crowded theater.

Then the album runs away from its climax and closes out with the nine-and-a-half-minute track “The Constable”. The visuals accompanying this track midway through are a real spectacle, showcasing an array of captivating shots featuring Dahl singing and dancing. These scenes resonate with the animated demeanor that hooked viewers right from the start of the album. During the bridge we see the members of the band start walking out of the cave repeatedly counting down, “10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1, Happy New Years!” The viewer will hear this repeated and fade out as they slowly make their way towards the exit of the cave, as the project they set out to make has been finished.

Dahl and the band in “The Constable”. (Mika Lungulov-Klotz)

While “The Constable” serves as the grand finale of Madison, there is one more track that follows: the transitory “Epilogue”. This song quietly sends off the album by showing Dahl pushing open the doors of a theater then walking off into a bright light ending the visuals as the audio plays. Much like its purpose on the album “Epilogue” signifies a continuation for what is next to come and highlights the themes that came before it.

Lungulov-Klotz did a fantastic job bringing Madison to the eyes of fans. Whether this is someone’s first experience with the album or their 200th time hearing it, they will be captivated by the beautifully surreal imagery that complements the emotionally grand music.


Watch the Visual Album Here: