FRINGE MUSIC FIX's Best Music Videos of the Year

Posted by Adam Alexander on December 10, 2013 in Lists

Contributor Post

best music videos

Editor's Note: For our end of the year wrap up, we asked a few music video directors, directors of photography, and fans to compile their own top 10 lists. This list was compiled by Adam Alexander of FRINGE MUSIC FIX.

As is often the case with some of the best music videos, It’s often unclear what makes them significant or of a superior quality. Despite not quite being able to nail this down, I do know that it’s a very organic and natural process for me. One that, to be completely honest, I find quite taxing to put to words. While certain aesthetic tones, colours, concepts, themes, and styles may seem consistently present in many of my favourites, often times a video carries with it a very strange “x factor” that I find “just works." Sometimes a video resonates with me on a more personal level, as it reflects aspects of my own life or pertains to ideas or values that interest me. In that sense, this list may be somewhat revelatory of not only my taste in music videos, but as me as an individual.

After an onslaught of amazing envelope pushing, interactive, and remarkably creative music videos, 2013 has been one the most memorable years for the format since the launch of MTV in in 1981. Selecting 10 videos to present here was an extremely difficult task, which I did not take lightly. After much contemplation, reluctance and procrastination, my frustration prompted me to simply go with my heart. The moment I let go of logic and analysis, the task became quite simple. I soon discovered I had effortlessly selected a set of videos I was proud to proclaim as those that inspired, moved and entertained me most throughout the year.

Without further hesitation, I share with you my countdown of the very best music videos of 2013.

Prior to this year’s release of Arctic Monkey’s “AM” LP, Arctic Monkeys were an indie rock act that always instilled in me a very lukewarm reception. My first exposure to their new material was their animated video for “Do I Wanna Know?” Within the first few frames of the video, I instantly knew the group had tapped into something fresh, new and exciting, both musically and visually. “Do I Wanna Know?” initially starts off as a very simple black and white video that utilizes sound waves or lines to give us a visual sense of the song. As the video progresses, the lines become more complex and much more creative as they begin illustrating a series of amusing and detailed figures and characters. There are many things I love about this video, but what stands out most is its carefully calculated and well executed progression, from its very basic initial sequence to its busy climactic conclusion.

Being the wildly enthusiastic animation fan that I am, it’s easy to love Bat for Lashes’ wonderful music video for “Lilies." The video employs and seemingly pays tribute to many animation styles that are sadly but definitely included on the “endangered species of animation list." From puppetry and stop-motion to classical 2D animation, “Lilies” has it all. Being born in the 80s, I’ve seen the animated mediums of my childhood replaced with more cost effective computer generated methods. While I am a fan of this type of animation when done well, I can’t help but feel strong nostalgic feelings when watching these uncommonly employed methods. If that wasn’t enough, the video also possesses a very unique artistic style that brings to mind some of my favourite children’s fantasy films such as Labyrinth and Where The Wild Things Are. I can’t talk about this video without also mentioning my undying adoration of the always beautiful Natasha Kahn, whose endearing performance in “Lilies” ranges from uncertainty and fear and soon evolves into a state of enchanted curiosity and bewilderment.

Monarchy’s music video for “Disintegration” is an arousing visual feast. This video has garnered many repeated viewings on my part with its titillating sexual appeal and multiple themes that yearn for interpretation. “Disintegration” deals with many ideas such as the underlying darkness concealed beneath domestic bliss, sexual frustration, and the peculiarities of plutonic family life. My favourite sequence in the video involves a mosquito which lands on and begins feeding from Dita Von Teese, who quite clearly is not bothered by the insect’s boldness in the very least - in fact, her reaction is quite the opposite. One of the reasons “Disintegration” succeeds so well is that, while it’s clearly full to the brim with many different jaw dropping visuals, it never feels over loaded and is always very tasteful and classy, even in its most provocative moments. While the video is reminiscent of something Lady Gaga might release, it differs is in its absence of camp and silliness.

Relationships are tough. While many videos deal with this theme, few videos succeed as whimsically and honestly at depicting the valleys and peaks of dating as Passion Pit’s “Carried Away." The narrative never takes clear sides between the male (Portrayed by Passion Pit Frontman, Michael Angelakos) and female counterparts (Sophia Bush, best known for her role on One Tree Hill), instead, the video paints a very real and telling portrait of the ongoing effort, compromises, and communication that must be present for a couple to endure a long and happy life with one another. The video was quite appropriately released on Valentine’s Day. “Carried Away” has more relevant and important things to say about relationships in four minutes than Dr. Phil has shared in his entire career.

One of the most peculiar and memorable videos released this year. FKA Twig’s video is a surreal wonderfully coloured masterpiece that features a distorted and unsettling depiction of FKA Twigs herself performing. The effect creates an increased sense of emotion and is as equally unsettling as it is compelling. “Water Me” is certainly one of the most unique and visually intriguing videos of the year. I could say a million things about this one, but it truthfully must be seen to fully grasp its odd and inspiring artistry.

It’s a commonly known fact that people are often their own worst enemies. Poliça’s music video for “Tiff” quite literally takes this idea to the next level via its gritty, violent, and disturbing imagery. While the squeamish may find this one a difficult viewing, I found it to be a very powerful metaphor for the mental abuses and insecurities we impose on ourselves from day to day. The video sees Poliça’s own Channy Leaneagh brutally torturing an individual with a bag over their head. Their anonymity is not preserved, and in the video’s reveal, we receive one of this year’s greatest and effective music videos.

I’ve got a thing for mysterious and illogical narratives. While I can’t quite seem to piece together the glorious and enigmatic music video for Snakadaktal’s “Hung On Tight”, it is by far one of my favourite music videos of 2013. The video opens with a young man waking abruptly in a tub of freezing cold ice. As he emerges from his chilling state, we see that he has been wounded. As events develop, the plot thickens, but little is revealed about what exactly has gone down. In cases such as this, I prefer to not know. Some mysteries are best left unsolved.

Even after the revelation that this video was pieced together using stock footage including out takes from The Matrix, my adoration of this clip could not be hindered. Young Galaxy’s video for “New Summer” is an absolutely jaw dropping and stunning music video. Someone would be hard pressed to produce a clip that could serve as a better accompaniment to “New Summer” as this. A truly magnificent post-apocalyptic experience that brings to mind the cinematic qualities and aesthetics of other outstanding music videos such as UNKLE’s “Rabbit in the Headlights” and last year’s “Iron” by Woodkid.

What I love most about Lorde’s video for “Tennis Court” is what it doesn’t do. The video consists of a very simple single shot of Lorde looking particularly goth-like and gazing straight at the camera as the track plays on. Her performance is very deadpan, but also at times an air of whimsical sarcasm shines through. There are a few other small details that I absolutely love about this video. The choice to not have Lorde lip-sync any of the track’s lyrics with the exception of the “YEAH” is a great one. Instead, she subtly blinks to the track’s beat and sways to its flowing synths. One might even get the impression that, despite the fact that she is not singing along, her restrained performance may suggest that she is carefully contemplating every single one of the song’s lyrics. While these small details may seem insignificant to some, they are certainly aspects that set this video apart from the rest for me. The video’s other most valuable asset is in its lighting, which becomes increasingly more interesting as the track progresses. The placement of the lighting source is also integral to the overall effect of “Tennis Court." The video is shot in a dark room, with a strobe directly positioned behind Lorde. During key moments in the track, most notably during its main chorus, the strobe is brightly lit up, giving Lorde a glow which perfectly matches her holy pseudonym. The video is also perfectly suited to the song, as they are both very stripped and minimal in style.

“Pursuit” is quite simply put, perfect. From its jaw dropping cinematography, unbelievably long pan away shots, extravagant sets and costumes that combine different eras from past and present, and powerful imagery and metaphors, every intense moment of the video is exceptional. Brimming with social commentary from corporate corruption to the ethics of science, it is a relentlessly chilling and unsettling ride that I’ve found myself returning to time and time again. With each repeated viewing, I’ve always discovered something new. A detailed and tragic glimpse at a desolate and cold history and fate that unfortunately couldn’t be closer to the truths we as a society have already mapped out.

fringe music fix, top 10 music videos of 2013

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