ACL 2012: The Year’s 10 Best Music Videos

Hauschka!  Sigur Rós!  Flying Lotus!  Explosions in the Sky! A Winged Victory for the Sullen!  Matthew Dear! Beirut!  These artists and more turned to directors old and new, and their trust was rewarded with amazing photography, special effects and storytelling.  Seven of these videos were first featured in seasonal columns earlier in 2012, while three are new to this site.

The music video industry has greatly changed since the heyday of MTV.  Yet limited budgets and technological advances have created a home industry that hearkens back to the early days.  Money can only accomplish so much; one also needs clear storylines and stunning visuals.  Each of the following videos contains at least one of these elements.  These are the best of the best.

A Winged Victory for the Sullen ~ Requiem for the Static King (Part One)
Director:  Christopher Hewitt

A Winged Victory For The Sullen – Requiem For The Static King Part One (Official Video) from Erased Tapes on Vimeo.

This is not at all the video we expected to accompany this song, but something far more resonant.  A body may be captured, but the mind is free to wander.  Where there is rage, there is also yearning.  To the prisoner in this video, the butterflies represent the band’s title: a winged victory for the sullen.

Explosions in the Sky ~ Postcard from 1952
Director:  Annie Gunn

Postcard From 1952 from Explosions in the Sky on Vimeo.

If The Tree of Life were seven minutes long (and made more sense), it might look something like this. Annie Gunn’s gorgeous slow motion camera images reflect the full gamut of human existence.  The video really does look like a postcard from 1952, and it draws new attention to EitS’s 2011 album.

Sigur Rós ~ Ekki múkk
Director:  Nick Abrahams

Sigur Rós – Ekki múkk from Sigur Rós Valtari Mystery Films on Vimeo.

The 10th entry in the band’s Mystery Film Experiment turned out to be the finest, a meditation on being lost.  Dialogue and sound effects turned the video into a score.  Does the snail really talk?  Is the fox the man?  No matter how one interprets this story, its aftereffect is just as haunting.

Beirut ~ The Rip Tide
Director:  Houmam Abdallah

Beirut ‘The Rip TIde’ from Houmam Abdallah on Vimeo.

This video requires a bit of patience from the viewer, but it’s as good of a debut as we’ve ever seen.  A ship is sailing on what seems to be an ordinary, beautiful day ~ until the skies flood with ink.  If this is where the rip tide takes us, we don’t want to resist.

Matthew Dear featuring Jonny Pierce ~ The Middle (I Met You There)
Director:  Morgan Beringer

Matthew Dear – “In The Middle (I Met You There) [ft. Jonny Pierce of The Drums]” Abstraction from Ghostly International on Vimeo.

This video is a study in texture, form, and movement.  Patterns swirl and mutate; colors separate and blend.  Hidden in the maelstrom are shapes and shadows; the artist himself even seems to be visible in one frame.  It’s as if the landscape of the previous video had been frozen, then allowed to thaw.

Hilary Hahn and Hauschka ~ Bounce Bounce
Director:  Hayley Morris

“Bounce Bounce” by Hilary Hahn and Hauschka from Hayley Morris on Vimeo.

The dancing underwater creatures of this video imitate the playful playing of Hahn and Hauschka.  The swaying plants reflect the swaying of home listeners to the tempo, while the bounce of Morris’ stop motion animation vividly reflects the title.  This was a labor of love, and Morris’ effort shows.

Hundred Waters ~ Thistle
Director:  Martin Allais

Hundred Waters – Thistle (Official video) from Martin Allais on Vimeo.

Many influences are apparent while watching this video, all of them good: from Stephen R. Johnson and the Brothers Quay to Michael Gondry.  Unfortunately, things don’t seem to turn out too well for the horse.  It’s one of the year’s most creative videos, packed with ingenuity from beginning to end.

Dan and John at Meanred ~ Jammed
Director:  M-I-E

Jammed from M-I-E on Vimeo.

Who among us doesn’t harbor at least a nostalgic love for tapes?  They jam, they warp, they degrade, but we adore them just the same.  Thanks to many small companies, cassettes seem to be enjoying a recent resurgence.  This love letter to the format demonstrates that we’re not ready to say goodbye.

Flying Lotus ~ Putty Boy Strut
Director:  Cyriak

Flying Lotus – Putty Boy Strut (Until The Quiet Comes, new album out October 1st/2nd) from Warp Records on Vimeo.

One of the field’s most exciting directors returns with this parable of consumption.  Watching it is like watching a Dr. Suess book gone awry, or a combination of Dune and Akira.  The beauty of the video is Cyriak’s ability to imbue emotion into the little robots with the simple sweep of an animation pen.

Max Hattler ~ Shift
Director:  Max Hattler
Music/Sound Design:  David Kamp

Shift (by Max Hattler) from Max Hattler on Vimeo.

“Shift” looks like a hardware store in motion, a junk drawer gone rogue.  Sound design is the key to the video’s success; Hattler’s sights and sounds are meticulously synched.  As the appliances tire of their manic shuffling, the screen blinks, then fades to black, a fitting end to the year in music video.

Richard Allen

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