Best Videos of 2012
It takes a little more to make a mark with a video now that every yuppie with a Digital SLR can produce delicious visuals by working with a shallow depth of field and a pretty smile. However, whilst the waters have been muddied a little, it hasn't affected the percentages too much; though shit now looks good, it's still shit when you shine a bright enough flashlight on it. Ok, I apologise for the dour beginning. We worked merrily week after week this year, sharing scores of terrific videos, and it paid dividends when compiling this list.
With the overwhelming amount of flicks we've enjoyed, we had to minimise the breadth of our search ever-so-slightly by excluding live performances and sessions. However, I felt that it would have been disingenuous to rap about videos without mentioning how fond we were of Bon Iver's Jagjaguwar/4AD session at Air Studios. It's easily our favourite session of the year, and we'd love to begin by re-sharing it for one last time.
30. Evan Caminiti - 'Absteigend'
From Caminiti's 2012 record, Dreamless Sleep it's 'Absteigend'. In a year when, from the top to the bottom, videos have been so high-budget and clean, it was nice to see something so simplistic and well-executed. The video displays black and white super 8 footage of a desolate industrial cityscape, placing an onus on subtlety and hypnotic repeating images. Though it's clearly aided by Caminiti's musical style, the video is both brooding and emotive.
29. Lorn - 'Ghosst(s)'
Hand-rendered, evolving images powered by VHS? It's like some kind of faithful dog returning home.
28. Freddie Gibbs & Maddlib - Shame
There's something blissful and organic about this offering from the soulful duo. The narrative is both quirky and dreggy, displaying a 'tag-in' type frequenting of a drug-festered flat, all before the return of an irritated partner. The acting is lackadaisical and solemn, which complements the deeper themes nicely.
27. Pete Swanson - 'Pro Style'
The video to 'Pro Style' throws me right back into sitting cross-legged in front of an undersized TV set with my thumbs wrapped around a megadrive controller, wrestling with a shit game. There's just something so frustratingly difficult about the video; whenever it makes any progress or evolves, it becomes even more taxing. Not only is this perpetuated by the nauseating colours and angles, but in the music of Swanson (ex-Yellow Swan).
26. Frank Ocean - 'Pyramids'
After the groundbreaking year that Frank Ocean had, there's so much to consider when you're working with his material. The fact that the depth of Channel Orange has been so intertwined with that letter is a shame, really. There was'’t much between his video for 'Thinkin 'Bout You' and 'Pyramids' but the dialogue and commentary present on the latter just helped it pip the former. Ocean stars in the NSFW video, which includes a motorbike, and a load of pyramids.
25. St Vincent - 'Cheerleader'
Here's the concept: Gulliver's Travels but instead of Ted Danson, let's have St. Vincent, and let's not go with fearful locals trying to pin her down, let's have casual gallery goers. This is a simple video that makes for very interesting viewing. Directed by Hiro Murai.
24. Grizzly Bear - 'Yet Again'
The Emily Kai Bock-directed video for 'Yet Again' by Grizzly Bear follows an ice skater as she has a bit of a breakdown. Dark and beautiful, much like the song itself.
23. The Shoes - 'Time To Dance'
Did that Jake guy seem a little 'off’' today or was it just me?
22. Animal Collective - 'Today’s Supernatural'
Danny Perez swooned in again for his umpteenth Animal Collective collaboration, this time dressing Avey Tare up in a manic clown get-up. The returning visuals of the buggy in the desert are vivid and memorable, juxtaposed nicely by the uncomfortable compositions concerning our clown. These themes are also reflected in the conflicted concept of the song.
21. Killer Mike - 'Big Beast'
There's a tip of the hat from Thomas C. Bingham and Killer Mike to the high-speed action flicks of the 1970s in this video. The incessant entertainment quantifies itself with car chases, axes and, as Mike puts it himself, "a fat black Clint Eastwood."
20. Woodkid - 'Run Boy Run'
There aren't too many instances when a child commandeering an army into war is acceptable, but Woodkid's video for 'Run Boy Run' is one of those rarities. Playing with the Miyazaki-inspired themes of nature vs. industry, the piece displays a child sprinting through a bleak landscape toward a pristine cityscape that resembles the sci-fi classic Metropolis. It places an emphasis on tone as to raw colour, like a souped-up game of chess.
19. Chairlift - 'Met Before'
Well, Jordan Fish has an ambition to "challenge (himself) with every video," and with this innovative effort for Chairlift's 'Met Before' his achievements have paid dividends. Set in a high-school, this is an interactive music video that has all sorts of varied narratives, different outcomes and possibilities, all controlled by the use of keyboard arrows. It makes the list.
18. Sigur Ros - Eg Anda
The Icelandic art-rockers were monumental in this department this 2012. They "gave a dozen filmmakers the same modest budget and asked them to create videos" for their new album Valtari. Whilst this made for some unbelievable endeavours ('Ekki Mukk'), I felt like Ragnar Kjartansson's Svankjmajer-type hyper-literal opener to the experiment was important. It all begins with a choking hazard...
17. MIA - 'Bad Girls'
Roman Gavras checked in with his vision and ambition in-tow to collaborate with MIA for the second time. Whilst it is crisp and entertaining, the videos defining strength lies in its unique visuals. Horses clattering through a desert landscape and MIA sat casually on a lopsided full-speed car, it's hard to articulate why it works so well. Go ahead and experience it yourself (if you haven't already). Now, about that budget...
16. Die Antwoord - 'I Fink U Freeky'
Showing themselves in their home neighbourhood in South Africa, Die Antwoord's breakthrough video for 'Zef Side' had a homely, tongue-in-cheek charm. Now a few years on, the 3-piece clearly hasn't run out of ideas. A flat composition allows for the funny ideas to flash by unpredictably, with punch-line after punch-line landing blows. Who else has children beating lion carcasses and snakes in place of cocks in their videos? Directed by Roger Ballen & NINJA.
15. Dan Deacon - True Thrush
When you're dilly-dallying over lists of this type, idiosyncratic ideas of this ilk are naturally attractive. Dan Deacon's flick for 'True Thrush' is pretty post-modern, beginning with the titles: Dan and Ben filmed a scene. It was shown to the next team. They had 1 hour and 1 take to re-create it from memory. The video that team made was shown to the next team, and so on and so on. As you can imagine, slowly seeing the concept become more dishevelled and unravelled is satisfying and humourous. With the repetition and confusion, it resembles an incandescent version of Charlie Kaufman’s Synecdoche, New York.
14. Kindness - 'House'
Sat at a Pianet T, Adam Bainbridge discusses his music with an adorable child named Ramon. In the video he breaks apart the content of his music, running through the layers in the piece like it were a trifle. Though it is conceptually innovative, it's shot like a seventies educational television show and in turn manifests a charmingly awkward atmosphere. This is yet another brilliant video from Kindness.
13. Lambchop - 'Gone Tomorrow'
The Americana outfit pierce the chart with a story-driven short to accompany their wonderful track, 'Gone Tomorrow'. The video depicts two aging wrestlers competing in an amateur exhibition set-up with Wagner looking like one of their trainers. With its terrific imagery and slow motion theatre, Director Zack Spiger has been able to intelligently catch an underlying feeling of sadness.
12. Odd Future - Rella
"Hopefully This Gets Me Closer To Being Metioned With Spike Jonze One Day And Hype And Not These Other Rappers I Hate That Shit" Tweeted Tyler, The Horse. Besides the controversy, this is another absurd offering from the collective.
11. Flying Lotus - 'Tiny Tortures'
It was good to see such a peculiar idea attract such mainstream attention, undoubtedly helped by a starring role for Elijah Wood. The bleak colour scheme and simplistic setting that begins the video is juxtaposed wonderfully as it progresses into the protagonist's dream world, which has unfathomable character. Flying Lotus made waves with 'Tiny Tortures'.
10. Jack White - 'Sixteen Saltines'
White has gazumped the industry time and time again with his quality of videos. He's had an evolving depth to his material in the last near-fifteen years, thus 'Sixteen Saltines'' director AG Rojas had some weird and wonderful sets of boots to fill (see: Gondry). He didn't fill them or aim to, but instead placed his own on the rack nicely. With feral children, a bound Jack, and no homework: hello dystopia!
9. Sufjan Stevens - 'Mr Frosty Man'
From his wonderful fence-perched performance of 'For The Widows in Paradise, For The Fatherless in Ypsilanti' to the stop motion unpredictability of 'Too Much', there's a reason why Sufjan Stevens attracts attention when he releases a video, and I couldn't help but list 'Mr Frosty Man'. The festive number inspired a George A Romero type claymation from director Lee Hardcastle. So, if you fancy seeing a snowman protect a child from a bloodthirsty zombie horde take a gander, though I do warn you: it has a dead-ending that smacks of 'The Twilight Zone'.
8. Grimes -'Oblivion'
This video is as fundamentally mumblecore as you're likely to get this year. The fact that director Emily Kai Bock’s treatment was something along the lines of "attend a college football game and a motorcross event, film them" ensures that its naturalistic depth is unavoidable. Though the cinematography is concise and attractive, the idiosyncrasy lies in the comparison between Claire Boucher's femininity and the Neanderthal behaviour that surrounds her. I hope that the ass at 01:12 felt really hung-over the next morning...
7. Spiritualized - 'Hey Jane'
When you were speculating that AG Rojas would creep up in the list once or twice, you were right. This boorish ten-minute entity displays a transvestite who is trying to fund her amiable family life with a not so amiable career choice, stripping. As you can expect, it attracts seedy environments, torrid situations and uncomfortable emotion. At 04:28 the pinnacle of the video begins; a single lengthy tracking shot that follows our leading character from the company of her child in a car all the way into a horrific fight. With deep themes and an unbelievable commentary, here's 'Hey Jane'.
6. Antony and the Johnsons - 'Cut the World'
It's hard to talk about this notion too much without patronising 'Cut The World', but there were a lot of great videos this year has that dealt with serial killers; is that what this post-recession mood period has brought out in us; an interest in the subtleties of murder? Anyway, Willem Dafoe stars in this wonderful offering as a blank businessman who is betrayed by his secretary, who quite astonishingly slits his throat. There have been themes of future-feminism touted about the piece, and on that subject Anthony had to say this: "It feels valid. I just want to be vigorous and participate as best I can, so other people feel confidence to do so. At the very least, it's going to provoke dialogue that's relevant to our times."
It's not for the faint-hearted.
5. Moonface – Headed For The Door
The videos from Heartbreaking Bravery have been unbelievably varied. You can take the eighties VHS shot dancer flick for 'I'm Not The Pheonix Yet' or the stylised animation for 'Faraway Lightening' and you'll see the breadth to the content. It's terrific to see Krug's ambition translating into the artistic substance of the videos.
The video for 'Headed For The Door' is both a live and stop-motion which is dour, yet visually stunning. It's directed by Marsha Balaeva, who has worked with Frog Eyes, as well this being her third Moonface piece. From the self-sufficient type-writer in the sea to the flooding landscape, I can only imagine the concept is grasped from the love-letter read in the song:
Dear Sara, I've heard that you turned into a goth, And I think that's great if that's what makes you happy, At home there are black boots with silver buckles that I don't wear anymore, You can have them if you want to, Also, I wanted to ask what, if anything, is fluttering in your heart, I wanted to ask if it has to be a black crow or a vampire bat or if maybe instead it could be a kite that has broken loose from a string that you are holding or a string that we are holding sometime when we were teenagers or maybe in our early twenties. Could it be a kite that has rollen over and over and over on itself in the sky like an unborn baby that is slowly turning into a god and then it turns black and then something we are not even sure we are watching then for sure absolutely nothing at all? Get back to me though if you have a chance, I hope you are doing well - X O X
4. David Lynch - 'Crazy Clown Time'
"Dee Dee lit his hair... on fire," "Danny spit on Suzy": this video is superb. What we have is seven minutes of unadulterated hypnotic madness, typified by psychological regurgitation and the glory of Lynch's uneasy narration. Directed by the man himself, of course.
3. The Shins - 'Simple Song'
After a lengthy hiatus, there was a visceral distrust of James Mercer and his drastic changes he'd made with the group and consequently, everything that The Shins released this year had to be so unbelievably tact and above all, good. So, it certainly helped that the video to accompany their single 'Simple Song' was so strong. With Mercer playing a recently deceased shit-father, the concept revolves around a family (played by his bandmates) squabbling over the contents of his will. Eventually, they're brought together with a dangerous with death (daddy just continues to be an asshole from beyond the grave). With its combination of slow-motion, home-video, crisp visuals – it's entertaining and really funny. It's kind of like The Royal Tenenbaums meets Brewster's Millions, condensed into four-and-something minutes.
2. Cloud Nothings – No Future/No Past
Directed by John Ryan Manning, Cloud Nothings' video for No Future/No Past' is consistently entertaining and encapsulating. Beginning with what you can presume is his death, the protagonists worried glances evolve into tightened grimaces as his hand clenches and frustrations manifest themselves. It maintains an ambition within the regimented bird's eye and p.o.v. cinematography until the end. The five-minute short ends on its most poignant imagery, with the risen body hanging upside down above a solitary tree.
1. Liars - 'No.1 Against The Rush'
Angus Andrew, Aaron Hemphill and Julian Gross: Missing.
In a year when the majority of projects were forged around larger budget concepts and more fluffy aesthetics, this video feels like a focal point. Working on the adage of 'it's usually the ones you least expect', Todd Cole's video for Liars' 'No.1 Against The Rush' shows a serial killer abducting band members one by one and wrapping them up in his dry-cleaning van. The whole concept is as meticulously forged as the protagonist’s method of cutting his nails wearing just y-fronts. Discussing the video, Hemphill said that the group like giving "complete freedom in executing a visual interpretation of a Liars song entirely based on their own reaction to the song, free from any factual references or creative input from us" – so that'd put the onus on Cole.
"I have always been more drawn to quiet films, but lately everything I write or pitch has a crazy car stunt or big explosion scene. I don’t know why. Hollywood is getting to me, I guess." How quaint?
What's so attractive about Cole's method to me is his genial balance between surrealism and clarity, whilst maintaining a loyalty to the band's identity. It echoes the thematic aims of WIXIW; to play with its sentiments of hope in the bleakest and most confusing instances. We’'l finish by echoing the videos defining message: END, BUT THERE'S NOWHERE TO GO.