Can you believe it? Tomorrow is the first day of June 2013, meaning we’ve almost reached the halfway mark of the year. We’ve already been treated to so many great music offerings and amazing video accompaniments that the rest of 2013 is going to have a difficult time topping this first half.
I’ve assessed the most outstanding and visually arresting music videos released over the last few months and made a top five for you today. The following are what I believe to be the top five music videos of 2013…so far:
5. The Knife – “A Tooth For An Eye”
Usually at least one video a year makes my list for expressing a unique sound through the use of fantastic choreography, and that award this year goes to The Knife’s “A Tooth For An Eye,” the opening track from their first LP in seven years, Shaking The Habitual. The video takes its time introducing us to a dance that doesn’t kick into high gear until the lights go out, which is when we really see the human body’s true form. They dance along to The Knife’s steel drums and Afro-infused electronic beats, keeping the whole video in sync and captivating all of the senses.
4. David Bowie – “The Stars (Are Out Tonight)”
David Bowie is all about reinvention, but who knew that reinventing himself would mean using actors to literally embody these reinventions? That’s part of what makes the music video to “The Stars (Are Out Tonight)” kind of a marvelous thing. Starring Tilda Swinton as Bowie’s character’s wife and as a younger version of the rocker himself, the video is appropriately wild and exudes the yearning for youthful exuberance that practically defines Bowie’s latest album, The Next Day. The star appeal catches your eye, but it’s when the aesthetic goes for broke that the music video winks back at you.
3. Majical Cloudz – “Childhood’s End”
Minimalist instrumentation paves the way for deep, stinging lyricism on Majical Cloudz Impersonator. The track “Childhood’s End” is arguably the album’s strongest single, and director Emily Kai Bock wonderfully translates its musical aesthetic into a visual form. The monochromatic cinematography displays both an emotional and focal depth that you probably couldn’t achieve using color and provides a bleak undercurrent to the already chilling and explorative narrative.
2. Foals – “Late Night”
What at first appears to be an ordinary music video with Foals performing the track “Late Night” from their latest album, Holy Fire, in a cold and seedy bar turns into an eerie, deconstructive, and NSFW music video that’s one of the year’s best. The slow burn quality of the track is reflected in director Nabil‘s dollying shots and always-moving camera, inversely reflecting back on the video’s revolving themes of life and death. The perturbed rotation of situations occurring throughout the video is sometimes hard to handle but always tastefully and briskly executed, giving viewers a rather brilliant visual embodiment of what the track is really trying to say.
1. James Blake – “Retrograde”
James Blake’s sophomore record, Overgrown, is, quite frankly, growing on me. I chalk it up to Blake’s breathy and wonderfully executed compositions, which I’m consistently floored by with every repeated listen. But I probably wouldn’t have come to this conclusion had it not been for my introduction to the album via “Retrograde” and its accompanying music video.
Not only does the song itself scream for critical analysis, so does its music video. Director Martin de Thurah illustrates its complexity and hidden beauty using a spatial visual architecture not unlike those used by filmmakers Stanley Kubrick or Terrence Malick. Everything in the frame matters, and the documentarian aesthetic allows us, the observer, to piece together whatever subtext we believe is connected to the intended narrative. It’s cinematic and enormously interactive, a rare kind of music video that you just don’t often see anymore.