Picking my Top 10 movies for 2013? No problem. I only saw a few dozen new movies, so choosing ten wasn’t that much of an issue. But music videos? That’s a much tougher call, as I’ve probably watched a few hundred music videos in the last twelve months. And so many of them are good! Dormant for a decade or so, the world of the music video has come back with a vengeance, finally embracing the concept of being short films made to emphasize music that they seemed to be on the road to becoming in the ’80s.
Choosing just 10 that I’d consider the best meant that a number of great tracks didn’t make the list, like Alan Ferguson’s pop art spectacle for Janelle Monae’s “Q.U.E.E.N.,” the teaming of David Bowie and Tilda Swinton in Floria Sigismondi’s “The Stars Are Out Tonight” or Black // Doctor’s dingy, trashy, VHS-inspired take on Wavves’ “Afraid of Heights.” Heck, I could easily do a top 10 of animated music videos alone, from Team Spirit’s 5-episode length concept piece from Hannes Elltorp and Johannes Helgelin to Christopher Mills’ video for Young Galaxy’s “Fever.”
These, however, are my ten favorites. All of them work as individual short films, with a care and artistry that makes them definitely worth your time. So check out one of these next time you get the notification of some new Beyoncé “video album.”
10. Fake Blood
All In the Blink
Admittedly, I’m a sucker for a vintage scientific training film, but Fake Blood’s Bee Gees-ish track works so well with the splendidly-staged recreation of a lost research short works so well that I kept coming back for more. That they managed to tie it in with the song makes it all the more impressive.
9. Five Knives
Dir. Lance Drake
In a dystopian future, a young boy kicks a whole lot of faceless cop ass in this action-packed spectacle that feels like BATTLE ROYALE meets EQUILIBRIUM.
8. MS MR
Think of You
How do you do the old-school VHS look and not make it feel like a cliche at this point? By having it start with the look of a vintage public access performance, and then escalating into a mad spectacle of techno-chaos.
Just Blaze x Baauer x Jay-Z
Dir. Nabil Elderkin
A mini-epic in just over six minutes, Nabil’s music video about a group of youths in India at a sword-wielding grown-up in one of the most memorable shorts of the year, indended to promote a song or not.
In the City
Dir. Philip Di Fiore
One of the most unsettling music videos of the year is this short featuring a couple (Julia Stiles and Fran Kranz) on a vacation in the big city that causes the pair to question their trust in each other. Placing the storyline against the peaceful track by Caveman is a risk, but it pays off.
5. Beach House
Dir. Eric Wareheim
I have no idea about the sport being played here in Eric Wareheim’s amazingly-conceived video for Beach House’s hypnotic track, but it doesn’t matter. It’s a fully-realized vision of weirdness, and the casting of Ray Wise as the singer of the pre-game anthem is perfect.
4. Franz Ferdinand
Dir. Diane Martel
The SOV horror look is hard to nail, and it’s even harder to do without seeming as though you’re making fun of it and instead of treating them with the respectful eye of nostalgia, but Martel nails it with Franz Ferdinand’s track. It’s cheap, gory, and nasty, just the way we wanted our horror.
3. Yeah Yeah Yeahs
A prime example of where something that could be a gimmick can be used incredibly effectively, Megaforce’s tale runs in reverse, MEMENTO-style (or IRREVERSIBLE-style, if you like), and works so hauntingly with the drama of the Yeah Yeah Yeah’s track that it’s one you’ll be hard-pressed to forget.
2. Queens of the Stone Age
Dir. Liam Brazier with Boneface
The idea of the epic-length music video has returned to prominence, and no more is that more evident than with the 15-minute piece of animation containing 5 songs, with a trippy, apocalyptic storyline beginning with a bandaged man in the desert. It’s like the spirit of ’90s Vertigo comics come to life in musical form.
Dir. Phil Mucci
Seriously, just look at this thing. This is what metal is supposed to look like. Mucci’s music videos are always visual stunners, and this is a wild, sinister vision of color that shows him at the top of his game. His upcoming video for Das Muerte’s “All Those Delicate Cuts” looks like it brings the same amazing visual sense to the world of noir, and I can’t wait.
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