THEIR BATED BREATH | 20 Best Videos of 2011

20. Mount Moriah “Lament” Director: Hueism Pictures
Comment: Okay, get a few friends and fans together and let’s make a video on the roof-top of a parking deck. Hope nobody calls the cops. This video is infectious. It makes you realize just how good it feels to be surrounded by folks who like the same music as you. Music should make you feel communal. It sure doesn’t hurt that Mount Moriah’s lead singer has a voice as pure as Dolly Parton. Her smile and exuberance is catchy. Makes me want to be there, dancing my ass off with them. “If this will be anything / Then let it be disaster / A mouthful of bees couldn’t stop me / From whispering I don’t love you.”

19. Teams vs. Star Slinger “Close To Me” Director: Jordan Kim
Comment: Here’s the inventive story of a poor-little alien who winks at a beautiful girl in a cafe. She of course wants nothing to do with this alien Casanova. In a rush to get out the door, she leaves her keys behind on the table. The alien gives chase, to give them back, but she fears the worst. Finally, he stops her. She kicks him in his alien nuts, at which point he drops the keys. She feels bad. What happens next seems like proper comeuppance. Or does it?

18. Parenthetical Girls “The Pornographer” Director: Zac Pennington
Comment: What exactly can you do with a widescreen shot of lead singer Zac Pennington’s face while he’s laying in bed? Well, the story is really taking place off-camera, somewhere about waist-high behind the letterbox. It’s hot. I still can’t decide when exactly the climax of this video occurs, but it surely has one. What a powerfully seductive track. Another one of those songs I missed for the Their Bated Breath “best of” list.

17. Little Daggers “King Corpse” Director: Matthew Prickett
Comment: What a cool idea from videographer Matthew Prickett. The story begins with a liquor-store robbery and a chase in hot pursuit. Sorta. Nobody is going to catch this wunderkind, speedster of a thief. But who exactly is that masked, er, man? It’s an interesting way to get some payback on an abusive employer.

16. Memory Tapes “Yes I Know” Director: Eric Epstein
Comment: Memory Tapes’ song starts of with light instrumental ambiance, like a kin to Bruce Springsteen’s “I’m On Fire”. (Listening to the beginning of the song, I caught myself singing, “Sometimes it’s like someone took a knife baby, edgy and dull and cut a six-inch valley through the middle of my soul.”) What happens next feels like a wild experimentation in just what you can do with a video. There’s a man with a hole in his hand, looking through it. In his kitchen, he stretches out like chewed bubblegum. In the end, the video transforms the man into something right out of the film “Artificial Intelligence”.

15. Purity Ring “Lofticries” Director: David Dean Burkhart
Comment: DIY videos are all the rage now. And I know some people think there isn’t much to it. But in truth, it’s about finding the right footage, editing it carefully to go with the music, and maybe offering a glimpse of something beyond the music. Burkhart uses pieces from a 1973 Swedish exploitation film, “Thriller: A Cruel Picture”, directed by Bo Arne Vibenius. It’s a revenge story about an abused girl, Frigga/Madeleine, who gets even. She was the precursor to Quentin Taratino’s eye-patched Elle Driver from “Kill Bill”.

14. Youth Lagoon “Montana” Director: Tyler T Williams
Comment: Youth Lagoon is hitting on all cylinders this year, with one of the better records of the year, “The Year of Hibernation”, along with having one of my favorite cuts of the year, the heartbreaking “July”. This is a perfectly toned video that seems to capture the nostalgic and amber qualities of “Montana”, and Youth Lagoon’s style for that matter.

13. Cults “Go Outside” Director: Isaiah Seret
Comment: Yeah, it’s not a track from 2011, but the video is. Seret uses footage from Jim Jones’ famous religious cult, Peoples Temple — which of course ended in tragedy in Jonestown. He met Fielding M. McGehee III, an expert on Peoples Temple history and the primary researcher for the Jonestown Archive, who allowed him to use additional previously unseen material. The result is a near-synchronized pairing of parts of the song with the mouth movements of the people from People’s Temple. There’s something eerie about it all because we know the tragic end, but in some ways it’s also a celebration of people’s lives.

12. Summer Heart “The North” Director: Alexa S.
Comment: There’s a strange sort of Alice In Wonderland quality to Alexa’s video, with its kaleidoscopic imagery, an insect in a web, a girl in rabbit mask walking through the woods and looking at herself in a mirror. In a way too, the video is about identity, reality and dreams. We follow the girl’s mask as it flies away on butterfly’s wings. Very creative.

11. Wintercoats “Working In A Dream” Directors: Brendan Canty and Conal Thomson
Comment: There’s beauty in simplicity. A little boy walks and climbs through the woods in Gougane Barra in Cork, dragging along a giant green backpack on a string. It’s too large for him to hoist over his shoulder. For half the video we don’t know where he’s going or what is in the bag. But when we see what it is, it makes for a colorful and pretty commentary about the joys of youth — and how it’s all too fleeting.

10. Battles “Ice Cream” Director: Canada
Comment: It says something about this Battles video that it has no nudity or offending imagery, but it has still been age-restricted by YouTube. A woman in a bathtub, licking a chocolate-vanilla ice-cream cone in slow motion, with increasingly quickening guttural sounds playing in the background will do that. There’s a furious pounding to parts of the song. Images fly by fast. Karate kicks, pine-comb-licking, hot filters … and mmmmm, ice cream and more licking. What better way to keep from getting all dirty, than to eat your sweets in the tub?

09. Bill Callahan “America!” Director: Okay Mountain
Comment: The first image of the video is a that of a crawling caterpillar in the colors of the American flag. It gets stomped on by a pair of cowboy boots, walking without a body. This entire song is so viciously undercutting. One of the best tracks of the year. Everything about it is “America, you are so grand and golden / I wish I was on the next flight to America.” Of course, it’s all sung with deep irony. So much about the U.S. is a facade, and Callahan is quick to point this out. His real heroes aren’t politicians, but rather guys like Johnny Cash. This song does to the U.S. what PJ Harvey’s “Let England Shake” does for the U.K. Of course, there will be people who call this kind of video as anti-American. But the point is if a place is really ‘free’, then people should be able to say whatever they want. And Callahan sure as hell does, and so does his video.

08. St. Vincent “Cruel” Director: Terri Timely
Comment: Yeah, okay so what will be remembered is this is a video about Annie Clark getting kidnapped by a family, put into a trunk (where she plays some sweet guitar licks), before burying her alive. But running underneath all of that is the notion of what society expects of women, and how we essentially kill off their individuality by places these stereotypes on womanhood and what it means to be a wife and mother.

07. Timber Timbre “Bad Ritual” Director: Olivier Groulx
Comment: This is no “Demon Host”, a video that should have been on everyone’s 2010 list, but it is good. There’s nothing so creepy as quick video cuts to blood-red flowers, lonely dirt roads, dark woods, scrawled writing in lipstick on a mirror, crescent moons, and a pair of pumps lying in the gravel. I swear, if you look closely in this video, the mouth singing to Timber Timber’s track is none other than that of Cold Specks, another wonderful Canadian singer-songwriter.

06. Frank Ocean “Novacane” Director: Nabil Elderkin
Comment: Images of women and nakedness fade in and out, imposed over the top of Frank Ocean himself, sitting amid opulent furnishings, while he lights up a spliff and singing, “Novacane, baby, baby.” The song’s about a ridiculous tryst with a porn actress wannabe-dentist the protagonist meets at Coachella, who just so happens to have spiked his joint with novacane. He wakes up at her place, and the scene turns into an orgy of women, cameras and cocaine. The video can’t obviously show all that, but we do get this hazed-out effect, that does well enough to illustrate a cloudy mind.

05. Lana Del Rey “Video Games” Director: Lana Del Rey
Comment: A bit of controversy follows Del Rey, as to who she was, and when she used to sing before she was the Del Rey we see now. All that being said, this video has over 15 million views on YouTube, and must be admitted as a well-crafted phenomena. It’s carefully edited, producing the desired effect of longing, nostalgia for old Hollywood stardom, with it’s popping press lights, faded Ektachrome stills and vintage video footage of youthful dalliance.

04. Tom Vek “A Chore” Director: Ollie Evans
Comment: What a badass track. Tom Vek plays a bespectacled host in this faux-vintage 60s-styled video for “A Chore”. A blonde actress lip-syncs, somewhat listlessly, trying to perform the song on Vek’s low-budget television show, “The Island”. Vek holds cue-cards of the song’s lyrics so the lady can sing the words. There’s a confusion about what’s real and what isn’t, while the lyrics cascade across the scene, “You have believed one time / Now you want more / And what you perceive as life / Is no more than a chore.”

03. Tim Hecker “Piano Drop” Director: Guylum Bardot
Comment: Hecker is about experimental as music gets, and this video provides an odd juxtaposition from his composition of deterioration to the images of a falling piano. The film footage is from an M.I.T. piano drop back in 1972. As the account of the time has it, the last bits of Chopin’s “Revolutionary Etude” were being played, ending with two dramatic final chords, as it was thrown off a building crashing to the ground below.

02. Lykke Li “Sadness Is A Blessing” Director: Tarik Saleh
Comment: The video stars actor Stellan Skarsgård, who has played many roles, including one as a paralyzed oil man in the gorgeous Lars Von Trier film, “The Breaking Waves”, and the more well-known role of an M.I.T. professor in “Good Will Hunting”. Lykke plays a woman who gets a bit tipsy and finds herself nearly escorted out of a fancy restaurant for dancing amid the tables. She loses herself in the feeling, as Skarsgård watches silently. Lykke has never looked sexier. Although, I might have preferred her to toss a table or two and walk out, as opposed to being consoled by the man. But that’s just the feminist critic in me.

01. Computer Magic “The End of Time” Director: Jesse Jenkins
Comment: When I first thought of doing a best of 2011 videos list, this is the first video that popped into my head. The concept for this video is adorable. Singer, Danz, leaves her small New York apartment dressed as a U.S. astronaut. She walks through Times Square, plays on a park slide, and then takes an elevator up to a rooftop. Our little sullen astronaut decides, perhaps tragically, to really reach for the moon. It’s a wonderfully shot video.

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