Considering we’re a one woman operation here at kidwithavinyl (even though I tend to refer to myself as a hive mind or collective consciousness here as well as on social media for some reason), writing out end of year lists always pose itself as an arduous task. And this year, we’ve (there I go again) decided to make things even more difficult and add another category besides songs and albums: music videos. But, considering how many incredible ones there were this year, we couldn’t just ignore them. Though music videos can sometimes exist as sort of double edged sword – some can completely destroy an interpretation of a brilliant song, and some can breathe new life into an otherwise uninteresting track, confusing its purpose – the ten presented here are beautiful examples of how the right visuals can transform a song into something more substantial, carving out a space in time in order truly experience every feeling, every mood, every hidden sentiment the track has to offer. That, as well as the fact that they are nothing short of art in their own right.
10. Washed Out, “Hard To Say Goodbye” (dir. Jonathan Hodgeson)
Ernest Greene’s third album as Washed Out definitely stayed true to its name. Not only was the music delightfully mellow and charming in nature, but so were the images that accompanied every track, considering Greene’s desire to release a “visual album” as well as an auditory one this time around. Colorful and playful in tone, the use of live action, jumpy graphic designs, and hyper-realistic effects border on everything from the quirky to the unsettling, and yet, none of them feel randomly thrown together – in Mister Mellow‘s stunner, “Hard to Say Goodbye,” the movement of various images, colors, and shapes are orchestrated in such a way that they are able to perfect synchronization with both the synth and orchestral melodies as well as Greene’s gauzy vocals. The “redacted” protagonist moves through his complex world without a care, a white glowing orb in a sea of color, a ghost among people. It is also slightly reminiscent of both A-Ha’s “Take on Me” in its pacing and speed, as well as The Beatles’ “Eleanor Rigby” in its cut and paste visual style – all three videos examples of reality and reverie coexisting in perfect harmony.
9. Moaning, “Don’t Go” (dir. Michael Schmelling)
New Sub Pop signees Moaning recently announced that they will release their self-titled debut early next year, releasing first official single “Don’t Go” as a teaser for their own specific brand of post punk. The accompanying video for the track is both minimal and chaotic, due to its monochromatic color scheme and sporadic cuts to the trio and friends performing various random actions – applying makeup, dancing, giving impulsive haircuts – and yet it all feels seamless, the feeling of each moment absorbed into the clash of guitars and drums. In its short duration, the video houses tenacity and humor, angst and euphoria, aggression and softness, and those contradicting energies fit incredibly well with the similar nature of post punk, where calculated unpredictability suddenly becomes entirely possible.
8. The Lemon Twigs, “I Wanna Prove To You” (dir. Nick Roney)
Last October, brothers Michael and Brian D’Addario released their debut album Do Hollywood, a stunning project made up of colorful chamber pop and psychedelic rock. After releasing the videos for “These Words” and “As Long as We’re Together” shortly afterwards, they released the video for opener “I Wanna Prove to You” at the beginning of this year, and arguably remains their best video yet, mainly due to its humorous narrative. Director Nick Roney breaks the fourth wall at the beginning, explaining that he brought the “Twigs” to his grandparents’ house in Utah to live with them in the hopes to show them what true love looks like, and it begins on a whimsical note. To his surprise, however, what follows is the brothers slowly being assimilated into the family – playing board games and having dinner, even getting baptized – and Roney slowly being cast out, the jaunty nature of the song the perfect little ironic soundtrack to it all. In the end, a broken Roney leaves with his crew, his grandparents and their new grandsons the “Twigs” waving goodbye, smirks stretched across their faces.
7. Tim Darcy, “Still Waking Up” (dir. Meg Remy)
Ought frontman Tim Darcy released his debut solo album Saturday Night in February, with tracks leaning more towards rough, coarse indie rock rather than the poetic, intellectual art punk he’s brought to life in Ought’s first two albums (with another on the way next year). While Darcy tends to embody various personas throughout the album – the intellectual protagonist, the enraptured existentialist, the hopeful cynic – the video for “Still Waking Up” shows him as what he really is underneath it all – the hopeless romantic. Directed by U.S. Girls’s Meg Remy, the video shows a lovesick Darcy standing outside a girl’s window, serenading her. After a grainy, muted interlude of various blooming flowers, it focuses on the girl’s unimpressed, empty stare, afterwards showing her slowly closing her blinds and shutting her door, leaving Darcy alone in the cold, with only his guitar to keep him warm. Maybe it’s because the lyrics to his serenade are more piercingly forthright than starry-eyed and romantic, but the implicit, heartfelt nature of them mixed with the overall simplicity of the video assure us that his effort wasn’t entirely in vain.
6. SZA, “Drew Barrymore” (dir. Dave Myers)
SZA’s debut album Ctrl was a delicate balance of aggression, sensuality, frustration, and vulnerability, and offered up a treasure trove of singles – “Love Galore” and “The Weekend” are two in particular that are sure to be played with the same level of adoration for years to come, . Yet we couldn’t stop returning to stunner “Drew Barrymore” due to its soft yet eerie instrumentals, the direct, textured vocals, and, most of all, its honest and sincere emotional transparency. The video is sentimental and playful in tone, shot in a vignette style that casts a soft, nostalgic veneer on everything she and her friends are up to in the city – partying, pretending to walk on airport conveyor belts, hanging outside laundromats, sledding – yet its clear there’s also a sadness somewhere deep inside her, especially when it gets to the chorus, asking her lover if its “warm enough” inside her, clear that he doesn’t care about anything other than his own comfort. However, the video doesn’t show a disparaged or weakened SZA, rather the opposite – the people that care about her well-being are still there for her, the ending scene on the rooftop something all friends need to do at some point in their relationship. Meeting the actual Drew Barrymore isn’t bad either, but one thing at a time.
5. Alt-J, “3WW” (dir. Young Replicant)
The creative vision behind Alt-J’s entire discography has always been thoughtful and respectful to the people and concepts that appear within it, and the vision for their third album Relaxer was absolutely no exception. Each of their carefully crafted videos for “3WW,” “In Cold Blood,” and “Deadcrush” had its own separate plot and mood, with that signature confusion that Alt-J has trademarked over the years. “3WW” is perhaps the most ambitious of the three, with a dense, monochromatic color scheme and convoluted plot line left up to the viewer to understand. Set in Real de Catorce, Mexico, the video also features stunning villages and deserts, the backdrop to a love story that goes beyond the grave. The repetitive nature of the introductory instrumentals provide an eerie soundtrack to the village people carrying one protagonist’s coffin up into the desert, where another protagonist, the boy she fell in love with, takes on the task of carrying it the rest of the journey, fending off any predators that come his way. There are moments, like the scene with rabid wolves, where everything is in slow motion, yet still feels immediate in the way the camera pans in and around the action – a brilliant move, considering those little bursts of adrenaline appear numerous times throughout Relaxer.
4. Japanese Breakfast, “The Body Is A Blade” (dir. Michelle Zauner)
Michelle Zauner’s sophomore album as Japanese Breakfast strayed somewhat from the bittersweet, sentimental nature of her debut Psychopomp, a beautiful project inspired by and dedicated to her late mother. Soft Sounds From Another Planet was just that – a collection of otherworldly, eccentric tracks that, thankfully, still contained that giddy, energetic Japanese Breakfast sound while at the same time experimenting with new techniques and effects. It was incredibly difficult to pick from the videos released for the album, due to “Machinist”s futuristic aesthetic and “Road Head”’s quirky narrative, but we decided on the nostalgic visuals for “The Body Is A Blade,” simply because it is the one that directly connects the debut and the sophomore albums in subject matter. Old pictures of her and her mother phase in and out while Zauner swims in a lake, climbs jagged rocks by the ocean, and traverses fields, blade in hand to cut the tall grass in her way, all with a smile on her face. The video becomes especially powerful towards the middle, where the song falls into its menagerie of shimmering synth flourishes, seeming to swell and grow in power as the child and adult Zauner repeatedly swap places on screen. It’s a surreal video in many ways, but it is also ultimately one of hope and positivity, as Zauner acknowledges her past as something that has made her stronger today.
3. Porches, “Find Me” (dir. Nicholas Harwood and Aaron Maine)
When regarding it in relation to the torturous nature of anxiety disorder, the visuals for “Find Me” – the second single from Aaron Maine’s upcoming sophomore album as Porches – become both illuminating and a touch surreal, both especially true if you or someone you love suffers from it on a daily basis. In some cases, you wouldn’t even know for sure if that person was suffering from it at all, due to the lengths they go to hide it or make it less troublesome for the people they love. Maine frantically gels his hair, shaves, brushes his teeth, and works out before he leaves, though its clear that he’d much rather “stay inside” in bed, readying himself for something that seems immensely important. He repeats, however, that he is not really going anywhere, but he can’t let “it” find him, and we see him in various places regardless – he becomes a tiny red dot in the middle of a lush green field, a lone wanderer in a dark supermarket parking lot, a static figure while two other similarly dressed characters flail around him. However, it’s clear when listening to the lyrics (“think I’ll go somewhere else where/ I can sink into myself”) that explode through the dense wave of synth and glitchy effects, that he doesn’t want to truly escape from the affliction – maybe from a deep rooted fear that it may be impossible to do so – but instead escape to a place in order to allow it to consume him for a little bit without completely inconveniencing the people around him. The cinematic quality of the video, also seen in the video for “Country,” should be noted as well, for everything from the colors to the pacing of each scene point to something done with immense care and consideration for the specific feeling they chose to evoke.
2. Perfume Genius, “Slip Away” (dir. Andrew Thomas Huang)
No Shape, Mike Hadreas’s fourth full length album as Perfume Genius, is the first in his repertoire to completely abandon the ideas of fear and remorse, instead marked with a blaze of confidence for the life he has fought for time and time again, with a stream of unapologetic love and rapturous passion coursing through each track. The gorgeous video for “Slip Away” portrays the album’s overarching theme of love over hate, as well as the intimacy of close friendship, all expressed with a menagerie of baroque and modern instrumentals as the soundtrack. Hadreas, hand in hand with a female friend, dances, runs through fields, eats handfuls of peaches, and runs from demonic creatures, immersed in a Victorian inspired fantastical world matching the track in both grandeur and hazy iridescence – the colors are incredibly vibrant and saturated, and yet still somehow muted in tone, emulating everything from a scene from Shakespeare’s A Midsummer’s Night Dream to a Grimm’s fairy tale. It’s a beautiful, unique take on love’s ability to conquer every opposing force, and Perfume Genius has made it clear that it doesn’t matter if that love is romantic or platonic – both can empower you in countless ways.
1. Fleet Foxes, “Fool’s Errand” (dir. Sean Pecknold)
Fleet Foxes only released one official music video for their stunning third full length album Crack-Up, which was odd considering the lush imagery and dense poetry expressed in each of its eleven tracks. However, the ambitious and gorgeous set up for “Fool’s Errand,” directed by Sean Pecknold (brother of frontman Robin Pecknold) was the entire reason why we decided to make this list in the first place, so maybe one was more than enough. While the scenery is absolutely breathtaking – showing everything from grassy hillsides, desert sands, dense forests, as well as a rocky shoreline with jagged cliffs that could very well be the image on the album cover itself – it is the casting, costume design, and the unique choreography that makes this video exceptional, proving what a video for such an evocative track should be. Main lead Jane-Lorna Sullivan stands along the most aggressive and unpredictable environment of the bunch, as well as the most complicated of choreography, yet her sharp, powerful gyrations are in perfect balance with the nature of her surroundings, with a stoic determination seen each time we are placed in front of her piercing blue eyes, unable to look away. Sullivan even appears to be possessed by the music just as the sky begins to grow darker, falling to the ground in defeat and resignation. The video holds such suppressed, contained power that if the lyrics, music, and visuals are all taken in equally and simultaneously, what results is something close to transcendence, where human and nature can both be evoked in each other effortlessly.
photos by Sean Pecknold, Jason Nocito, Ebru Yildiz, Shawn Brackbill