Yes, I still have plenty of favorites to go through on these pages from last year. Due to bouts of the flu and other such nonsense my schedule on getting these out has been delayed, but all the lists are locked in my head and must be released. I spent too much time thinking about them. This list has a definite order and it’s based purely on how much joy they brought me, how much I loved the song and the production value. Sometimes one of these values would trump the other. I couldn’t decide on ten so I went with twelve.
12. The Haymarket Squares-”Gateway Drug”
The Haymarket Squares released a fantastic video for this song which is both hilarious and educational at once–not unlike the greater body of their entire catalog. This song of course centers around the evil and madness of cannabis. It takes every stand up bit about weed, every known fact by those who have used it or those who have sought its decriminalization and condensed it into a brilliant three minute song. The funniest lyrical passages are what it leads to, things such as scholarly discussions about the songs of Britney Spears, munchies so intense that you’ll eat Cheetos off the rug, headphones, Floyd and unprotected hugs. In short it’s genius.
11. Sundressed-”“Best of/Worst of”
The song itself is one of their best so far, Trevor had sent me it a few weeks ago and I played the hell out of it. It’s also a very personal song, which is another aspect of his writing I like, and I suppose that’s the “emo” side of his writing, that he take deeply personal topics and completely rock out to it. Here, the song, is clearly about looking back on his struggles with substance abuse or his continuous battle to stay sober–and he’s been sober for a while now. The video is as visually interesting as the song itself is, which features great shots of Trevor singing, scantily clad women dancing, men dancing as though they were women and it ends up in a living room party with the band where everyone is half undressed and oddly (or not) only one person appears to be drinking. I don’t really need to tell you more than that, you can watch it above.
10. Banana Gun-”Mirror, Mirror”
I feel better that a song called “Mirror, Mirror” has been stuck in my head for nearly a year rather than one called “Dong” (it’s original title) I have to admit. The entire band has brought their A-Game to this particular effort. Whether it’s the guitar voodoo of Kevin Loyd and Nic Dehaan, the rhythm section of Ross Troost and Ian Breslin and of course that amazing sax of Kyle Scarborough–all five members have never sounded better. The video itself is a hypnotic look at the band recording live in the studio and nailing it, dark and intimate like the song itself, but filled with warmth. This is a cinematic reflection on perfection, just check out the video above.
9. Luna Aura-”Too Young To Die”
This video is very nearly as fascinating as the song itself and by fascinating, in this case I mean slightly terrifying. Luna transforms here appearance throughout every stage of it and displays that not only is her voice seductive, but her appearance is as well whether she has black, red or platinum hair with outfits to match different moods. That’s not the terrifying part, that’s the part that leaves you at ease, it’s the mannequins with teddy bear heads wearing masks that fill my soul with dread–and I’m not honestly sure why. The video was expertly directed by Matty Steinkamp of Sundawg Media and it is a visual stunner for sure, probably one of the best things Steinkamp has directed to date. The inherent creepiness contrasting with Aura’s beauty makes a lot of sense in light of how her music combines so many disparate elements to coalesce into an unusually beautiful chart ready tune, that is essentially about boys and girls and weirdness and the immortality of youth.
8. Emby Alexander-”Sleeping In The Library”
This was the video for the first single off Emby Alexander’s modest masterpiece Frontispiece. The video is as weird and quirky as the band and their songs are, using an effect that makes the video look like it’s a film from the mid-1970s it has an eerie, albeit appropriate tone to it. Throughout the video a mysterious shrouded figure runs or stands or falls in strange locations. These are the same locations found on Polaroid pictures falling out of the books at the library. The strange figure also appears in the library and there is lots of running. It all has a very subconscious, dreamy atmosphere to it, as artsy as it is exhilarating in motion and tempo. The imagery is filled with symbolic art, pigeons, a house show, an abandoned prairie house, a post fire forest, street scenes, a graveyard and vast endless fields–I suppose this is the type of dream you would have if you were literally sleeping in the library.
7. Captain Squeegee-”The Inevitable”
First of all, I’m a sucker for claymation, secondly I adore anything apocalyptic and finally, Captains Squeegee’s To The Bardos! was one of my favorite albums of 2013. Combine those all together and you have the makings of a hell of a video. It also makes me want a little claymation version of myself that I can glorify and or decapitate upon my whim. This video really does have it all: mitosis, the emergence of amphibious life onto the land, dinosaurs and their demise, the clay effigy of Danny Torgersen gets decapitated, there’s a lovely homage to the Black Plague, there are Aliens, Illuminati imagery, plenty of executions, the sinking of the Titanic and more than one apocalypse. My favorite moment though must be when an animated version of the band swims into the album artwork. I cannot say enough about the artistry of Johnny McHone, the mad man behind the mad band that made this amazing featurette.
6. Japhy’s Descent-”Owl”
I love this song and I love this video, the first in a series of videos from the new album Christopher Robin. This one is animated by the amazingly talented Tristan DeDe (Future Loves Past) who is splitting his time these days between AZ and LA. Also incidentally, the owl in the video now haunts my dreams–I’ve watched it so many times since they released it and that for a while at night every time I closed my eyes the owl was there. I almost want to get a tattoo of it. What is most impressive, video aside, is the transformation of this song from when it began to the single it is now, with an entire new layer of passion and depth to it. The guitar work here is phenomenal: Martin Sugg has never sounded finer, the percussive flourishes by James Sharp are stunning, the thumping bass of Brian Neil and of course Travis’ raging vocals are fantastic. This has developed into a hell of a rocker that I loved from the start, but now at the finish line I love even more.
5. Fairy Bones-”Waiting”
Apparently, the concept of the video is that a girl runs away from something mysterious and ends up at a very strange house party. The house party takes place at the actual house where the members of Fairy Bones live, practice and concoct their evil schemes on a daily basis, the video takes this to the next level. Upon arrival, the house is seemingly empty until the camera turns around to find lead singer Chelsey Louise hunched over the piano, grinning maniacally in the same room that was empty only moments ago. Strange masquerading dancers abound as Chelsey opens a door to reveal guitarist Robert Ciuca involved in a strange body paint orgy, then down the hall where it seems there is some sort of tribal rave, when she steps into a room that appears to have conspiracy minded news clippings all over the walls and drummer Matthew Foos summarily kicks her out. She is slowly moved out the back door by Louise and into a large crowd of masked freaks staring at her, the crowd is joined by the entire band all in different outfits now. The video is disorienting to say the least with the hand held POV camera style that moves in and out of focus. A thoroughly enjoyable and bizzare time held by Fairy Bones for one of their finest songs to date.
4. Samuel L. Cool J.-Slip and Slide
First of all, I love the Tamla-Motown/Stax era of music and all that it created, so it’s not much of a stretch for me to openly adore this funky soul revival squad that happens to have some of my favorite locals at the helm. I have to admit, though that I never thought a local group would even approach the idea of heading straight to the heart of R&B/Doo-Wop/Soul in quite this way–hell, most of the groups in this town that are deep into soul and a Motown sound are fronted by women, so this is refreshing. For a second thing, this record sounds like it was recorded in 1963, from the expert Spector like drum intro to the echo chamber vocals and it evokes a long gone era in American music, where pop culture phenomena like a Slip ‘n’ Slide would actually become fodder for songs, with a fair amount of innuendo. Samuel L. Cool J achieves this with perfection and it also happens to be catchy as all hell. This is as much pop genius as it is an homage to songs manufactured in the Brill Building and the addition of the female backing vocals and the sax solo are simply icing on the cake. The video reflects that perfectly.
3. The Thin Bloods-Peter Was a Virus
Probably one of the more genius videos of the year and it picks up right amidst The Thin Bloods previous video for “Marty”. Local luminary Danger Paul declared this “Video of the Year.” It is pretty goddamn great and completely absurd. Starring duelling brothers Chad and Nick Montgomery and directed by Ryan Lee Caldwell this video is just pure fun. It’s presented as a self contained movie with title screen, credits, plot and all. It’s a fantastic romp through the song as the antagonist “Peter” leaves The Thin Bloods video and essentially loses his mind, waging a war of aggression on the local streets against hipsters, skaters and anyone else that offends his senses until finally meeting his match and getting a beatdown. The song is great as well, one of the finer efforts from Twin Tumors Vol. 2, their sole release of 2014. If you haven’t seen this yet, please enjoy the above again and again, because you will want to, if for no other reason than it’s a fantastic concept short film with a great soundtrack.
2. The Prowling Kind- Melted Together
The Prowling Kind released a visually stunning video last year for their beautiful song “Melted Together” and it absolutely blew me away. It is a pure pleasure to watch and experience. I have to admit that I didn’t know what to think as the entire band rushes out of the rain and into Qcumberz Vintage Shop in Phoenix, I thought it might be just five minutes of them browsing and that seemed quite odd, considering how great their first video was and how conceptual this group is in all their work. Then, a minute in, Mickey Pangburn (vox/guitar) picks up a book of fairy tales and the cinematic level get switched to overload as she is transported to another reality that is effected by the objects that her bandmates peruse in the shop, unbeknownst to them. So as Jesse Pangburn (percussion), Erin Beal (vox/ keyboards), Zach Tullis (guitar) and David Maddox (bass) play with various things, the world that Mickey finds herself in is turned chaotic, claustrophobic and is at one point literally turned upside down (thanks to Beal for playing with a snow globe and creating one of the most captivating scenes in the video). Finally, Mickey is returned to the vintage shop thanks to Maddox turning the hands on a clock backwards. The direction of Frank Thomas is superb, as is the cinematography of Jason Sievers and kudos go to mediafarm.tv for the visual effects. This is an amazing video that is a pure delight to watch over and over again. Well done!
1. Captain Squeegee-The Factory
Early on in the year I didn’t think anything was going to be able to top the claypocalypse of their video for “Ineveitable”. Matty Steinkamp has directed what I consider to be his video masterpiece thus far with “The Factory, which is also one of my favorite songs from To The Bardos!. In December 2013 when I wrote about this song, I said the following: “The blaring of horns open “The Factory” and here we get weird quickly, like a circus on acid and Danny Torgersen is the ringleader, pirouetting on the center stage. It is here that the intoxication begins, the multi-layered horns, the music moving in and out of synch, there is a woozy, uneasy, drunken feeling that swirls your mind around. The song speaks of the hypnosis, the conditioning used by institutions to control and satiate the masses and yet the song itself is hypnotic and takes you right down the rabbit hole with it. “Hypnosis is essential for keeping you professionally slaves. Yeah we get paid, then forget that we are… Slaves.” It is as much an indictment against the system as it is against the uniformity of modern forgettable music and every measure is amazing.”
And now we have a video, where in fact they present something of a circus on acid with Torgersen as the ringmaster, which is the only way it could be, really. Just listen to the song, the birth of this video was embedded in the very music from the start and I suspect in the strange theatrical world of Torgersen’s mind as he set to write it. I must admit that Steinkamp was really outdone himself here, he’s been making quite a few great videos in the last year, but this raises the bar a hell of a lot. Presently, I would consider this his cinematic masterpiece and the video is indeed quite cinematic. The song itself takes on a new creepier dimension with the visuals provided for you. It is everything I imagined it would be when I first heard the song in 2013 and it just makes me smile to see it come to life.