“Bits of yellow paper, addressed from you to me…”
Here’s another example of when a performance-based video can score themselves a hall pass here at Y,WGAV! Perhaps you’re familiar with Michel Gondry; the legendary French director behind Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind and countless classic music videos for Bjork, Steriogram, Foo Fighters, The White Stripes, Kylie… just to name a few. It’s pretty safe to say that the guy is one of my heroes, whose work has shaped the blog’s motives for even existing.
When I found out that Love Letters would be his first music video in three years – following a Bjork clip from back in 2011 – I couldn’t have clicked fast enough. Although it quite literally centres around the band performing the song, I knew that there would be more to it. It’s Gondry, after all. He manages to find a way. After a few views, I was completely taken – it’s not what’s happening in the confines of the performance, it’s the scenery that surrounds it. As the camera spins, it takes us to a different, beautifully-painted backdrop. The concept is so simple, but it adds so much to the song. Dammit, Gondry, you’ve done it again!
“But if I was to say I regret it, would it change a thing?”
Sometimes, you just gotta break the rules. I’m usually pretty stringent on not including “performance” videos unless it’s an extreme circumstance. Yesterday, this video came out. I’d consider it pretty fucking extreme circumstances - Haim, the sisters doing it for themselves, have delivered one of the coolest looking pop videos in a damn long time. Like, the thing looks spectacular. And all eyes, naturally, are on them.
Yes, there are some simple performance shots, but that’s not what you’re watching for. Check out when the three are stripped of their instruments and deliver the song with some truly slick choreography as provided by one Fatima Robinson. That name may not seem all that familiar, but perhaps the videos for As Long as You Love Me by the Backstreet Boys and Try Again by the late, great Aaliyah do? That’s Fatima’s work. She brings a vintage style to the clip, all rhythm and popping limbs; while director Warren Fu (Daft Punk, The Killers, The Strokes) adds a sheen and a few well-tapped filters; as well as some sharp camera cuts. The best thing about If I Could Change Your Mind, overall, is the fact it’s a glossy pop video that looks fantastic and doesn’t include a single product placement. We’re kicking it old school here, and that’s exactly what fits.
“We all self conscious, I’m just the first to admit it…”
Last week marked ten years since Kanye West released his debut album, The College Dropout. It’s an album that remains one of my all-time favourite records, one that I continually revisit and sporadically obsess over. Although it wasn’t my first Kanye album – that honour went to the following year’s Late Registration – this record remains my pick of the litter. With this milestone – as well as the exciting news that Yeezy will be back here in May – I thought I’d look at one of my favourite Kanye videos from this era.
Yes, the imagery of Jesus Walks and the blunt-hammer satire of The New Workout Plan are fantastic in their own right. I could have easily written about either of them – but there’s something about the video for All Falls Down that I have always been drawn to. The point-of-view camera work is exceptional, as is the audio tweaking depending on where exactly Kanye finds himself. Even though they don’t really speak in the video, the relationship seems to explain itself between Kanye and the woman he’s dropping at the airport. On top of that, Kanye putting himself through the airport scanner remains one of my favourite moments in 2000s music videos. It’s a very clever and very striking video, one that hits the emotional nerves of the song. It’s a perfect complement – and a relatively simple clip that contrasts with the grandeur that comes with Yeezy these days. Not that I have a problem with that, of course. It’s just that sometimes I like to kick it old school. Maybe you will, too.
“A Nobel prize, a piece of string, you know what’s awesome? Everything!”
Hi, everyone! I’ve got good news and bad news. Do you want to hear the bad news first? It will make the good news even more good. Y’sure? Okay, bad news first: The LEGO Movie isn’t out in Australia until April. Because we CAN’T HAVE NICE THINGS, APPARENTLY. Still, there is some good news – until that fateful day when it’s finally here, we have the lead single from the soundtrack. It’s a combination of two of my favourite acts in the whole entire world: the delightful Tegan & Sara and the perennial friends-of-the-blog known as The Lonely Island. Hoo-fucking-ray! Ooh, wait. Sorry. Kids might be reading. Hoo-flipping-ray! That’s better.
Now, admittedly, the soundtrack music video can be a little lazy. After all, half the work is done for you when you’re taking footage from the movie – or, even more lazily, the trailer. Thankfully, some real Lego is involved with a video idea created by six-year-old Markus Jolly. It all blends together wonderfully – I’m particularly fond of the building montages. Reminds me of the joy that is Lego building. Sometimes, I completely forget about how cool it can be. How awesome, if you will. The wait may be longer for Aussies to get the movie, but it will make our popcorn-gnawing joy all the more fulfilling when it’s finally here. Word to awesome possums everywhere!
I’ll decide in a moment’s time, to turn away, leave it all behind…”
The contrast between the last two videos released from Moby‘s new album Innocents could not be greater. The Perfect Life, a collaboration between the big M and Wayne Coyne of The Flaming Lips, was as extravagant as you’d expect – all rooftop parties and mariachi outfits. This time around, however, we’re dealing with a much more lush and blissed-out song, featuring the dreamy vocals of Damien Jurado. It only fits that we’re dealing with a much more subdued and simple clip – but that doesn’t mean it’s not a wonderful thing in its own right.
Almost Home follows the adventures of a stuffed rabbit and his travels across the country. It’s filmed on super-8, Moby himself cameos as a limo driver and the whole thing apparently had a budget of roughly 10 bucks. It’s a very basic clip, interspersed with footage of Jurado busting it out somewhere completely unrelated to the story. I am simply warmed by its utter charm – Moby doesn’t do videos like this one very often. They serve as a strong reminder of not only how goddamn underrated Moby is, but how sometimes a little rabbit and some steady handheld work is all you need to win the heart of a music video blogger.
“People turn the TV on, it looks just like a window…”
2013 saw the inimitable St. Vincent finish her touring duties for Love This Giant, the exceptional collaboration album between her and David Byrne, and return to her solo work. Although, can you really quit David? Even though he’s nowhere to be seen in this new song and video, his presence is most definitely felt. Not only via the very Byrne-esque vocal lilts during the verses, but also through this delightfully Talking Heads-y video. Note that this is far from a complaint – in fact, it’s a credit to Annie that she’s managed to take this guidance in such a bold direction.
The video for Digital Witness is all about the colour and the rhythm. Let’s focus in on part one: The thing looks amazing. From Clark’s dyed-grey hair to the striking primary colours that blend and contrast in the clip’s environment, director Chino Moya (Bertie Blackman, Ladytron) really knows how to catch your eye. Which leads us to the second part: Every head nod, pencil roll and marching troupe is in sync down to the second. The pacing and the repetition recall the videos for Road to Nowhere and Burning Down the House especially, without managing to be a pastiche or a flat-out rip. It’s a fine line between influence and inspiration, and that has certainly been struck here.
Above all else, it’s just great to have St. fucking Vincent back in the game. Wait until you guys hear the new self-titled album that’s dropping in a few weeks – you’ll crap ya dacks!
David here, hoping you’ve had a wonderful 2014 already.
So, this is the announcement I was talking about last week. I figured I would give you lot the heads-up first. As we head into another year, I am here to let you know that, after March 2014, Yes, We’ve Got a Video! will be done.
A few things have influenced this decision, namely the fact that I got so busy last year that I couldn’t even see 2013 out. Now that my freelance writing schedule is getting bigger and bigger, not to mention writing a new Nothing Rhymes with David album, my once-frequent activity on Y,WGAV! has been seriously halted in the past few months. It’s nobody’s fault, and it’s certainly not a matter of caring any less about music videos or anything of the sort. Ultimately, I had to make the call. No sour grapes, no regrets, no nothin’. I have had an absolutely fantastic time running this blog, and I hope you have enjoyed reading it.
A huge, sincere thanks to everyone that has made this blog possible. From the wonderful artists, producers, directors etc. that fill this space with videos I want to talk about to the PR people that have kept in touch about new artists and guest bloggers, I’ve been really lucky to have a decent enough run with this place. Two Pedestrian.TV blogster nominations, a wonderful community of people who subscribe and interact, some truly world-class hatemail (hi, Kerser fans!)… I started this blog with no anticipation or hopes for anything greater, but that’s exactly what I got.
TL;DR – this is it! Let’s make it count! Thank you!
Welcome one and all, at long last, to the top 30 videos of 2013. I’ll have a bit more information for you regarding this year for Y,WGAV! on Monday – in the meantime, let’s wave goodbye to a pretty spectacular year for music videos from across the entire board. Thank you so much for reading! See you on the other side.
10. Panic! At The Disco – Girls/Girls/Boys
Directed by Djay Brawner
Geez, did it just get hotter in here? Yes, at the ripe old age of 26, Panic! At the Disco‘s Brendon Urie has never looked better – so why not celebrate that with a sensual homage to a classic video by D’Angelo? This is a completely superficial entry in the countdown, ultimately having no artistic merits beyond its smooth camera work and its nod to the Untitled clip. But, man… those EYES. Those HIPS. I’m getting all hot under the collar just thinking about it. The best way to go about the video for Girls/Girls/Boys is to simply indulge.
Read my original post on Girls/Girls/Boys here.
9. FIDLAR – Cocaine
Directed by Ryan Baxley
A few observations to be made about this video. Firstly: Holy fuck, how much fun did FIDLAR have in 2013? These kids rattled cages across the world and delivered some of the year’s most delightfully bratty numbers; including this one that closed out their self-titled debut. Secondly: Nick Offerman is one of the flat-out coolest dudes on the planet. Whether he’s down to the bristling mustache in character as Ron Swanson or he’s fully-bearded and working away in his craftsman’s studio, Offerman is a genuinely fascinating guy who is constantly hilarious. Combining these two was a no-brainer, as Offerman goes on a (literally) pissed-off rampage when he is fired from his job. Don’t fuck with FIDLAR and don’t fuck with Ron Swanson. There will be consequences.
Read my original post on Cocaine here.
8. Matt & Kim – It’s Alright
Directed by Jacob Lincoln and Matt Johnson
One of the greatest things about Matt & Kim as a musical act is the fact that everything they do feels like an event. This is especially apparent in their music videos – from fearless food fights to nudie runs and back again, there’s nothing that the dynamic duo won’t try. When it came to making a video for It’s Alright, one of the standout tracks of their Lightning album, it was clear from the outset that they wouldn’t take it lying down. Imagine our surprise, then, when they did literally that: tossing and turning in their sleep became an exhausting choreographer’s dream. A delightfully entertaining prospect from one of the most consistent video-making acts we have. Sleeping has never made you so wide awake.
Read my original post on It’s Alright here.
7. Brendan Maclean – Stupid
Directed by Brian Fairbairn
Of the four countdowns we have done of the best videos of the year, Brendan Maclean has been in the top 10 for three of them. And no, this isn’t some sort of conspiracy – neither he nor we are getting paid for any of this. Nope, it’s simply a matter of the guy constantly pushing the boundaries and thinking outside the square when it comes to his videos. After experimenting with the one-take format on Beat Me To It, the Mac locked up with the team of Brian Fairbairn and Karl Eccleston to present two very different stories. Stupid comes on at a party – of which Maclean is the only attendee apart from the person who is supposed to be celebrating – and he can’t help but get lost in the moment. The girl, however, decides that it’s her party and she’ll cry if she wants to. Things go to extremes for both of them and the result is one of the more weirdly wonderful videos that managed to take off in 2013. Stupid has become Maclean’s most popular video by a considerable margin. You’ll see why.
Read my original post on Stupid here.
6. Mumford & Sons – Hopeless Wanderer
Directed by Sam Jones
Stadium folk is dead and we killed it. But not before it let out one last dying cry – for the final single from their Babel album, the often-imitated-but-never-duplicated Mumford & Sons left its visualisation to four of America’s top comedic actors. If Hopeless Wanderer proved anything, it was that they were in on the joke this entire time. Yes, they took their songcraft seriously and put in serious mileage when it came to touring and performing. But no-one can be that gravely serious all the time. Even Thom Yorke has to shake the sillies out every now and then. This video was a wink and a nod, a knowing grin, a trace of irony and humour that cracked a smile from the normally miserable Brits. A hiatus was announced for the band in 2013, meaning this could well be the very last thing that they do as a band. They spent that moment wisely.
Read my original post on Hopeless Wanderer here.
5. FKA twigs – Water Me
Directed by Jesse Kanda
Few artists could make such an intimidating first impression – especially if they are as impish as FKA twigs. Once you’re locked into those eyes, it’s going to take all your power to draw you away from them. The video is conceptually basic, taking its cues from Nothing Compares 2 U arguably better than Wrecking Ball did (FKA didn’t get any open letters, at least). It’s the veers off her face that provide momentary breaks from contact, but once she appears again the eyes have grown even bigger. What is most impressive is how the animation and doctoring of FKA’s face is veering between the obvious and the just-too-close to reality. A challenging but engaging affair.
Read my original post on Water Me here.
4. David Bridie – Delegate
Directed by Mat Govoni
So, who’d have thought it? The guy from My Friend the Chocolate Cake managed to make the best Australian video of 2013. I sure as shit didn’t see that one coming – then again, I don’t think a lot of people did. How did we get here? Simple, really: For the most politically outspoken song on his new album, Wake, Bridie wanted to make the most politically outspoken video that he has ever done. A timely and at times foreboding video, it’s a very clear commentary on the treatment of asylum seekers in Australia – and let’s keep in mind this video came out before Abbott was elected in. The slow-build and the gradual pacing allows for the visual metaphor to really sink in, and its conclusion will most likely leave you with your jaw somewhere on the floor beneath you. Delegate wasn’t just the best Australian music video of 2013 – it summed up Australia in 2013 more succinctly and unfortunately than anyone else could.
Read my original post on Delegate here.
3. Major Lazer – Bubble Butt
Directed by Eric Wareheim
This is a combination of some of my favourite things – the directorial work of Jash/Tim & Eric alum Eric Wareheim and the music of Major Lazer, who delivered one of the best albums of 2013 in Free the Universe. Wareheim has worked with Diplo and co. on their Pon De Floor video back in the day, so it’s great to see this meeting of the minds once again. The end result is one of the best things to come from either camp in years – 2012 saw Diplo starting the Express Yourself movement through a wickedly entertaining video, and has continued on its legacy with a bombastic, brassy and proudly weird clip that could have only come from the mind of Wareheim. Although this didn’t spark any major moral outrage at the time of its release, that certainly doesn’t mean that the clip hasn’t rattled a few cages – a quick trawl through the comments section will show a myriad of outraged and disgusted viewers. It’s an intentionally provocative clip to conservative and well-I-never outragers, which will make you want to side with team Major Lazer even more. Above all else, though, Bubble Butt is an obscene amount of fun. It’s fully aware of how ridiculous it is. Moreover, it revels in it.
Read my original post on Bubble Butt here.
2. Anika – In the City
Directed by Kyle Whittington and Joe Broady
When I was putting this list together, I was given a tip to choose videos in which I could not imagine the song without the accompanying video. That was never more true than with the truly odd and celebratory video for In the City, a Chromatics cover as performed by little-known Berlin-via-Bristol artist Anika. I couldn’t tell you much more about her apart from the fact that she’s cut an album with Geoff Barrow of Portishead and Beak> fame. Then again, I don’t need to tell you much more – this is a video that speaks for itself. Exactly what it’s saying is anyone’s guess: It appears to be some sort of Cinderella meets Murder on the Dancefloor competition to win the heart of a fair maiden. It gets weirdly intense at points, too, all the while still being wickedly funny. If this song was played to me on its own, I would simply long for the tight calves, the tracksuits and the outraged reactions at being eliminated. The two are inseperable. Good luck trying to figure out what the fuck’s going on in the video for In the City – but you’ll need even more luck trying to forget it.
1. Bob Dylan – Like a Rolling Stone
Directed by Vania Heymann
2013 was a year of expecting the unexpected in a lot of ways – and, in the music world, this was never more true than when a video for Like a Rolling Stone was released some 48 years after it first came out. Bob has always had an interesting history with music video – his Subterranean Homesick Blues is oft-viewed as a pioneering concept clip, and even in recent years he has managed to keep things visually fascinating with videos for songs like Beyond Here Lies Nothin’ and the Y,WGAV!-charting Duquesne Whistle. Even with that taken into consideration, no-one could have quite anticipated where the video for Rolling Stone would end up. What we have here is a collection of flickering ideas and psuedo-realities rolled into a television set that you can flick through, perusing every aspect of what the song offers. There’s Drew Carey on The Price is Right. There’s Marc Maron talking down a guest on WTF using the song’s lyrics. There’s the Pawn Stars team talking shop. Hey, Danny Brown‘s here! Why the fuck not? You could have as many experiences with this video as you wanted – or as little. Hell, you can just watch the news reporter talk you through the song. Maybe watch a live Dylan performance thrown in for good measure. Whatever you may choose, you’ll end up with a very clever and genuinely wonderful video experience. The future of music videos is literally in your hands. How does it feel?