Yesterday, Beach House and Phoenix both dropped mindbending, huge-budgeted videos at basically the exact same moment; as soon as I got done writing up one of them, I had to launch into the next one right away. So, big indie artists: Pace your shit out a little bit better! Don’t drown us in interesting music videos! Maybe have a conversation with each other! The Phoenix video was an ambitious mess, but Beach House’s clip might be the best music video of the year thus far. You’ll find that one and four more great videos below.
5. Lulu James – “Closer” (Dir. ?)
You probably shouldn’t overthink a music video, but at the same time, you probably shouldn’t underthink it either. Every time I see a hazed-out indie video that’s just blobs of color moving around each other or repurposed Meg Ryan footage or whatever, I find myself wondering who in the fuck would ever want to watch it. So if you’re thinking of making a video like that, please take a good long look at something like this instead: Sparse all-white set, styling so vivid that it looks like studs are coming out of the singer’s fucking skin, and a star with the ability and determination to hold the camera’s attention for three minutes and change. It’s not rocket science, but you do have to put in some goddam effort.
4. Kate Boy – “In Your Eyes” (Dir. Kate Boy)
A triumph of planning and design. The people in the video are barely doing anything, but the immaculately put-together studio and the minimal cinematography focus your attention on them anyway. And just like that, you’ve constructed a certain enigmatic magnetism around yourself. (It helps if the song is this good, too.)
3. The Knife – “A Tooth For An Eye” (Dir. Roxy Farhat & Kakan Hermansson)
This one has grad-school upset-the-patriarchy underpinnings, but it works better if you don’t read the vaguely academic text that accompanies it and you just go in cold. The point — a small, tough girl controlling a roomful of sinewy dudes — still come through just fine. But it also works as a fun and loopy piece of nutball choreography and sparkler-vision. Also, all the faces in this video are great faces.
2. French Montana – “Freaks” (Feat. Nicki Minaj) (NSFW-ish) (Dir. Eif Rivera)
10 years ago, American pop music’s dancehall moment was great for videos, since directors like Little X figured out that Jamaican dances, when filmed right, are pretty much the coolest things in the universe. This video, for a great song that quotes late-’80s dancehall beats but makes them more hectic, has some of that. And it also has Nicki Minaj, wearing star-shaped pasties like it’s nothing, jacking off on a throne while some shirtless dude fans her. That is some fearsome starpower at work, and French could never hope to compete. Not even the dancer who apparently has pistols for fingers can come close.
1. Beach House – “Wishes” (Dir. Eric Wareheim)
Over the years, I’ve seen Ray Wise’s face turn up on tons of second-rate TV shows and more than a few B-movies (shout out to Jeepers Creepers 2), and I’m always happy to see it, for reasons that go beyond simple Twin Peaks warm feelings. I’m happy to see that face because the weathered heaviness and steely intensity it conveys are the reasons he got cast in Twin Peaks (and in Robocop, the greatest movie ever made) in the first place. In this video, that face has a near-impossible job. That face and, I guess, the Beach House song it’s singing have to give gravity and emotional resonance to the spectacle of a soccer stadium full of madly twerking cheerleaders and elaborately goateed martial artists and horse-masked buffoons. And the face pulls it off.