ACL 2018 ~ The Year’s 10 Best Music Videos

According to Billboard magazine, we are living in “the new golden age of music videos.”  While we wouldn’t go quite that far, we’re still happy at the thought of a visual resurgence.  After all, many of us retain fond memories of the first golden age, during which we could happily flip between MTV, MTV2 and FUSE until our eyes began to water.  Our annual video roundup owes a great debt to Amp (1996-2001), which invited us to stay up late to catch the best in abstract, experimental and electronic videos.  One of those artists – Orbital – is included in our current list, a comforting link between past and present.  Go back even further, and one will find the Jetsons watching videos on their watches in the 60s, a prophecy that has finally come true.

And now, A Closer Listen presents the ten best music videos of 2018, plus a just-released bonus!

CUTS ~ Dream Voyager
Director:  Patrick Blades

Music:  CUTS

This pixel-stretching video is unnerving yet alluring.  Seemingly benign images are pulled like taffy until they resemble alien invaders.  It all makes sense when one realizes that the video is inspired by sleep paralysis.  The track is taken from an EP released early this year on Village Green.  But there’s much more where this came from!

CUTS ~ A Gradual Decline
Direction and Music:  Anthony Tombling (CUTS)

The new CUTS album A Gradual Decline was just released this past week.  The first two videos from the project exemplify the use of visuals to educate and motivate.  The beautiful title track incorporates field recordings of collapsing glaciers; the slow-motion video, directed by CUTS himself, provides the visual evidence.  The follow-up “From Here to Nowhere” (shown below as a bonus) shows footage from Rich Horner’s viral video about swimming in a sea of plastic off the coast of Bali.  Each of these videos is mesmerizing ~ we only wished we lived in a world where they didn’t need to exist.

Director:  remi devouassoud
Music:  Michel Petrucciani – Silence

Our eyes are as beautiful as the cosmos.  This incredibly detailed video imagines the iris as a sparkling cluster of colors, floating gently in space, undulating in mild increments.  Such a simple concept, and yet so awe-inspiring!

Hatis Noit ~ Illogical Lullaby (Matmos Edit)
Director:  Yoshiko Akita

Music:  Hatis Noit

Erased Tapes brought new visibility and a wider audience to Hatis Noit when they signed her earlier this year and re-released her last EP along with this stunning video.  The artist’s voice is given color and motion, a visual representation of synaesthesia that creates its own thunderstorm.

L’étoile qui dévore les planètes (The star that devours the planets)
Animation by Damien Tran
Music by Alix Lhoumeau

Dispensing with live images, this video uses abstract imagery to animate its array of sound.  The music is percussive and experimental, the images reminiscent of 8mm projection.  Deliberate effort is made to synch sight and sound, especially in the active finale.

Director:  Páraic McGloughlin

Audio:  Páraic McGloughlin and Pearse McGloughlin

The first of three videos on our list to use Google imagery, “Arena” discovers patterns in layers, making streets move like jump-ropes and plazas spin like tops.  It ends all too quickly, but lends itself well to repeat plays, like a visual incarnation of a flip book.

Director:  Maria Constanza Ferreira
Sound Design:  Maria Constanza Ferreira
Additional Music:  Sae Heum Han

Maria Constanza Ferreira has been building quite a resume over the past few years, but we think this is her finest achievement.  The video starts slowly with a trip through a tunnel, but quickly explodes in a frantic cornucopia of color and image.  The sound design is exquisite, thick with weather and electro-acoustic dynamics.  It’s our favorite single video of the year.

Orbital ~ Tiny Foldable Cities
Director:  Felix Green

Music:  Orbital

Orbital returned in a big way this past fall with Monsters Exist, but in a sense, the brothers Hartnoll have never really been away.  Their influence can be felt throughout the electronic circuit in both music and image.  “Tiny Foldable Cities” is reminiscent of their 1996 breakthrough video, “The Box,” which continues to hold up well.  The technology may be different, but the appeal is the same.

Max Cooper ~ Platonic
Director:  Páraic Mc Gloughlin

Music:  Max Cooper

How much goes on in a single day?  This is the question asked by Páraic Mc Gloughlin while developing the “Platonic” video.  Nineteen hours later, he had his answer.  Condensed here to only a few minutes, the video bursts with visual ideas, the most striking being the sunsets that look like different parts of the day.  The track is taken from the album One Hundred Billion Sparks, and is but one of a series of intriguing works; we recommend the rest as well.

Sami Fitz ~ Dead Birds
Director:  WeCanMake
Music:  Sami Fitz

A track as unusual as “Dead Birds” deserves a video to match.  Miraculously, the WeCanMake collective not only mirrors the vibe, but enhances it.  The mainstream will likely never embrace such dark beauty, but we hold it near to our hearts, wondering what to do with the feathers.

Richard Allen

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