This happens to be a great week for the low-budget video, full of immediate grainy cinematography and big cheap ideas and strong visual sensibilities. For whatever reason, it’s been especially great for energetic rap videos. I loved the offerings from Big K.R.I.T. and Big Baby Gandhi, but I couldn’t find room for either one on this list. Here’s what did make it:
5. Bonnie “Prince” Billy – “I See A Darkness” (Dir. Ben Berman)
In the video for this weirdly sprightly re-recording of what’s probably his best-loved song, Will Oldham chicken-struts around some nameless European city (I want to say Prague, but I really have no idea), while the pupils of his eyeballs digitally fly off in different directions and Ben Berman films everything in classicist high-contrast black-and-white. The thing looks great, and the eyeball trick is funny and disorienting. But the real selling point is grandpa-dancing Oldham himself, displaying an utterly peerless weirdo charisma that’s just as hard to describe as it is to deny.
4. Father John Misty – “This Is Sally Hatchet” (Dir. Grant James)
In which J. Tillman successfully continues his post-Fleet Foxes reinvention as a Godard-film badass. In this one, he’s inexplicably wrapping a mutilated hand up in a rag while firing off a shotgun in a dilapidated basement as blaxploitation-heroine chicks dance around him. None of it makes the tiniest bit of sense (that pizza cut into a pentagram?), and all of it looks awesome. That shot, near the end, of an aviator-sunglasses-clad Tillman getting his cigarette lit for him, is an absolute all-timer.
3. Swizz Beatz – “Street Knock” (Feat. ASAP Rocky) (Dir. TAJ_TPK)
This probably isn’t actually true, but I can’t shake the impression that the Allen Iverson cameo here is the coolest thing that has ever happened, anywhere, to anyone. That guy can disappear for years, playing pro basketball in Turkey in a weird and pathetic Rickey Henderson-esque refusal to admit his own obsolescence, and generally make you feel bad about humanity. And then he can come back and ice-grill the camera for half a second in a rap video, and I’m ready to vote him into next year’s All Star Game. Without A.I., this is a fun and choppy and stylish rap video, full of notably well-dressed people, for a total banger of a song. With him involved, it’s something that burns into my brain. Also: Bonus points for AraabMuzik with the cymbals.
2. SpaceGhostPurrp – “The Black God” (Dir. ?)
Method Man’s “Bring The Pain” might by my favorite music video of all time: A no-budget attack on your senses that gets over on nothing but menacing immediacy and its star’s dangerous levels of charisma (and, of course, the eerie monster of a song). When I was in ninth grade, that clip would air every 10 minutes on the all-request music-video network the Box, and I’d watch for hours just so I could see it over and over. Nobody makes music videos like that anymore, but here’s one.
1. Explosions In The Sky – “Postcard From 1952″ (Dir. Peter Simonite & Annie Gunn)
There’s a simple concept to this one: A bunch of ancient archival photos recreated and turned into moving images. But with Simonite, Terrence Mallick’s cinematographer for The Tree Of Life, co-directing, it plays like a dizzily beautiful slow-motion seven-minute statement about the magic of life itself. I don’t know if I would’ve felt this way before becoming a father, but I can’t really watch those shots of the kid taking his first few tentative steps without wanting to cry.