Huddle up gang! We’re now two weeks into June and six months down the road you’ll already be reading our “Best of” lists for 2012 (should the impending Mayan apocalypse not ruin your psyche). But you shouldn’t have to wait until December to get a “Best of” list when there are already so many great albums and singles out in the first half of the year.
So I thought it’d be a good idea to rack up a “Best of 2012…So Far” list right now. For this list, I came up with ten of my personal favorite music videos so far this year. You might see a few of these choices again come year end, but I still find it hard to believe that there has been this much creative output just six months in. I found these visuals to be complementary, original, and downright disturbing, so get ready to feast your eyes on the best music videos of 2012…so far.
The Shins – “The Rifle’s Spiral”
What’s a “Best of” list without a stop-motion animated video? Do you know how long it takes to make one of these things? Anyways, The Shins have a knack for making these really relaxed songs with a bit of majesty, which the video for “The Rifle’s Spiral” clearly mimics with its cool temperatures, mystical characters, and grand scale. It’s creative to the highest degree, and the craftsmanship alone is worth a Top Ten spot.
Gorillaz – “Do Ya Thing” (feat. Andre 3000)
Damon Albarn may not see Gorillaz’ future, but we’re still hungry for more awesome animated collaborations like this one. Snagging Outkast’s Andre 3000 for a tie-in with Converse shoes, “Do Ya Thing” is a romp of a song, but the video is as equally obnoxious. We get a personal tour of the Gorillaz’ fictional pad, filled with toasting bloody ears, Andre 3000 collecting his own sweat, and Murdoc hilariously going down the stairs in a automated handicapped chair. The sound moves in and out of the house as if its diegetic, which adds to the overall love of the video for its attempt at wackiness.
OK Go – “Needing/Getting”
Like The Shins track, what’s a “Best of” list in any year without a track from OK Go? Ever since the one-take treadmill dance in “Here It Goes Again,” OK Go has been trying to outdo themselves visually by putting on a show rather than simply emitting the attitude of the song in question. This remains no different with “Needing/Getting,” which has the band miraculously hitting tubes and chimes and guitar strings specifically set up around a driving test track. Their videos always have a “How the heck did they do that?!” effect, and “Needing/Getting” is one of their greatest feats yet.
Cloud Nothings – “No Future / No Past”
The opening track to Cloud Nothings’ Attack On Memory is a suspenseful one, and the video for it perfectly suits that tone. We’re really only given two angles with which to make sense of our surroundings — one on a confused middle-aged man being dragged across the floor and one from his point of view looking upward toward the sky. The look of the man’s face and glowing eyes — along with the confusing shift in locations — throws us into a frenzy just as the song builds to its climax. Director John Ryan Manning leads us on a simple but effectively exhausting and discordant ride that makes for one of the more interesting visual representations of any song this year.
Jack White – “Sixteen Saltines”
The video for Jack White’s single is pretty much the amalgamation of all of White’s musical projects. “Sixteen Saltines” is perhaps the most NSFW video that’s actually SFW, involving a bunch of different scenarios in different visual mediums — mostly involving adolescents — that really raise your eyebrows. It’s a mash-up video in the least sense of the term, but it’s made rather easy to follow mainly due to its youthful energy. Despite its absurdity, Jack White seems to be having fun, and if there’s ever a case in which he’d need a kid to torch his car with him inside of it, “Sixteen Saltines” does the trick.
Jay-Z and Kanye West – “Ni**as In Paris”
I’m not usually a fan of artists simply laying their studio recorded track over live performances of said track, but that doesn’t seem to be the case with the video for the best track off Watch The Throne. The use of multiple mirror and kaleidoscopic effects and epileptic flashes greatly benefit the scene, providing a high-gloss rap video that actually makes you feel as if you’re right there, physically in the crowd. The addition of the clip of Will Ferrel from Blades of Glory is quite nice, along with some fancy editing chops and a sense of talent overdose that’s more likely to please than to dismay.
Here We Go Magic – “How Do I Know”
Directed by Sean Pecknold (brother of Robin Pecknold, lead singer of Fleet Foxes), the video for “How Do I Know” off of Here We Go Magic’s latest LP is a candy-colored, quirky, and pretty inspiring piece of work. Conceived in a very Wes Anderson-style fashion (right down to the angles and color palette), we’re told a story closely associated with the open and honest lyrical content of its creators. The idea of an innocent “human robot” girl dancing to the song while simultaneously being the central focus of anger is strangely poignant given the supporting characters’ tribulations. It’s the first video of the year to finally have storytelling come first, whilst visually complementing the music’s style.
Grimes – “Oblivion”
Now here’s a video where you could probably care less about what’s going on. Footage of a football game? That’s not much. That is, until you throw Claire Boucher, aka Grimes, into the mix. The fun, almost sultry energy and exuberance that she outputs as she performs in front of various locations in the same stadium exponentially increases the meaning behind everyone’s reactions, even as the dark and sinister beat of “Oblivion” plays on. It’s one of the best because it’s so alluring despite the initial effect, taking its sweet time (just like the track it’s complementing) to bloom into something wholly seductive.
Liars – “No. 1 Against The Rush”
Liars’ sixth studio record, WIXIW, is a haunting journey through electronic landscapes in the vein of Radiohead’s Kid A, and the track “No. 1 Against The Rush” is its greatest strength. The song and its accompanying video — another middle-aged man with a disturbing dark side — is superb for its ability to perfectly display the unsettling and uncertain nature of the album from which the track originates. Director Todd Cole really captures that essence by showcasing the seedy underbelly of LA almost in the same way Nicolas Winding Refn did for last year’s Drive, providing a sinking suspicion that permeates the video from beginning to end and creating a thriller that you didn’t quite expect to see after you hit the play button.
M.I.A. – “Bad Girls”
Riding on top of a car that is driving on its side? Well, “Live fast / Die young / Bad girls do it well,” so says M.I.A. She epitomizes every bit of that line from her best single since “Paper Planes” in 2007, and it’s pretty badass. I’m not suggesting that controversy always equals art, but her patriotic displays toward radical attitudes is something you simply can’t look away from. Love it or hate it, she at least knows how to get things done. “Bad Girls” — which is really just a way to display fancy bling and drifting neon-lit cars in what appears to be a war-torn nation — is not so much a political statement as it is prophecy for what is to conceptually appear throughout her next album and possibly the rest of her musical career. It manages to be cool to look at and have an agenda at the same time — much like the songstress herself.
And that’s all I’ve got! These were the ten music videos that really made my first half of 2012 that much more memorable. Can you think of any others that weren’t included? Let us know in the comments down below or on our Facebook page! There’s still another six months left in the year, which means six more months of great videos to be included in our year-end round-up. We’ll see you in December!