Their Bated Breath | Best 16 Videos of 2013

There were a number of good videos this year. And if any trends could be spotted it’s most likely two-fold. First, is the increase in violent-themed videos, but the other is in do-it-yourself videos that involve the artist with fans or the artist creating among the cities they live in. But in the final analysis, like all years, there are a variety of quality videos to suit all tastes. Enjoy the list. — Words/art by David D. Robbins Jr.

16. Angel Haze “No Bueno”
Director: Frank Borin
I think we’re all suckers for fan participation in videos, or at least in this case, folks auditioning to be part of the video. You won’t find Angel Haze herself anywhere, because the director of this video is content to let the lip-synching do all the entertaining. It’s good fun. And in a way the video celebrates the rapper herself, in that it’s made up of confident folks who don’t give a damn what you think about them letting loose. My personal favorites are the old man at the chess table who isn’t bad at keeping up with the speedy rap style, and the grey-haired gentleman getting down at 1:43 mark.

15. Ducky “Two Over Ten”
Director: Ben Dewey
What’s so special about this latest Ducky video? Well, it sounds great for one. But the video work that has the singer floating in a mason jar is quite cool. And she’s imminently watchable, so it’s smart putting her in front of a white background, with a hanging microphone. But the thing I enjoyed most, is how the video matches something about Ducky and her music that I’ve always been impressed with: Namely, she’s highly sexual without being overt. The slow motion of her dress rising, stopping just before you get to the delectables. Or how her phrases like “so, take me to your house …” appear on the screen in truncated forms like “TAKE ME” — giving them a hinted at sexuality. It’s gorgeous.

14. Tricky “Does It” feat. Francesca Belmonte
Director: Tricky
Sure, videos and photos featuring Tricky usually are presented in a sinister fashion, and this is no different. But he is great at creating a particular mood and vibe. There’s a sort of slacker cool here, with menace. Belmonte’s lips, in half-opacity, are projected over the top of footage of bombs dropping and riot police and other sorts of violence in neon-glow: “Where are the protestors? / The slogans and signs? / This will be a swift decline / I wouldn’t be caught dead in love / Would you fight for a cause? / Would you break all the laws?”

13. Weekend Sinners “Give Me a Taste”
In photoshop terminology, I refer to this style as neon glow lines. But that’s not the impressive thing. This video is impressive in its totality. The constant morphing, lines moving, scenes shifting, seems to balance out the languidly-delivered, sensual vocals.

12. FKA Twigs “Water Me”
Jesse Kanda
Anyone who has seen this video, doesn’t forget it. The extreme close-up reminds me of Sinead O’Connor singing “Nothing Compares 2 U”. But this video opens with FKA Twigs tipping her head back-and-forth quickly and mechanically like an alarm clock or metronome. The video forces severe concentration. Nothing to view but the singer’s face, her red lips moving, and digital tears. It opens with the memorably sad line, “He won’t make love to me now.”

11. Scout Niblett “Gun”
Director: Scout Niblett
Note to aspiring videographers: Cool ideas trump fancy cameras, schooling — well, everything. There’s nothing to this video, except Scout Niblett dressing up like Snow White. The combination of Scout fixing her fairy-tale collar underneath the heavy and ominous reverberations of her guitar is too cool. Essentially, Scout walks around a local fair, in costume, putting smiles on people’s faces. It’s great. One of the better moments is when she finds a plastic, blow-up guitar to play along to the actual scuzzed-up chords of the real guitar sound in the song.

10. Cat Power “Manhattan”
Directors: Greg Hunt and Chan Marshall
The video features Chan Marshall running around New York — going across the Brooklyn Bridge, meeting a street musician and dancers in the subway, walking in Chinatown, crate-digging in a shop, a salute to Apollo, a stop off for a drink at Max Fish on Ludlow Street, and Cat Power even goes for a shoot-around on a basketball court.

9. Ty Segall “Thank God For Sinners”
Director: Matt Yoka
A tangle of toes, fingers, arms, legs, writhe in an orgy both hellish and heavenly depending upon how you look at the video. The ending is a bit gross and disconnected from the rest of the video, but it kept me glued to the conclusion. Tongue anyone?

8. Wampire “The Hearse”
Raphaël Pfeiffer
This crazy 80s throwback song becomes the soundtrack to a dark and twisted tale of Stockholm syndrome. The story begins with a photographer shooting a bunch of glamor shots, in some bizarro cross between “Blow Up” and “Peeping Tom”. I don’t want to spoil the rest for you. Watch and enjoy.

7. Gesaffelstein – “Hate or Glory”
Fleur & Manu
It may not be a song at the top of your best of lists for 2013, but you cant deny the ingenuity of the video. The story begins with a young buck learning the rules of the streets, before he gets fed up, and gets his own idea. What happens next is just plain weirdness, but great to watch. The ending gave me a flashback to watching Carlos Reygadas’ 2012 film, “Post Tenebras Lux”.

6. Sallie Ford and the Outside Sound “They Told Me”
Director: Ben Fee
This video is conceptually wonderful. Mysteries unravel throughout, as information is withheld, with the big question mark being revealed at the close. Sometimes strangeness goes a long way. You don’t need to think too much about some videos, it’s just the creativity, style and storytelling that impress. This is one of those cases. The video begins with an overweight man preparing his face, suggesting he may be a transsexual. But a camera pan reveals he’s getting into some kind of prescribed outfit, part sumo wrestler, part Bavarian beer girl. Juxtaposed simultaneously is a sexy, slighter woman preparing in a similar fashion (after dancing around in her underwear). But we soon learn they’re in the same room, and it’s more than surprising when we learn what they’re both really there for. Note at the very end you get one last unexplainable reveal. Love it.

5. FIDLAR “Cocaine”
Director: Ryan Baxley
What do you get when you combine a fired wood worker (Nick Offerman/ aka Ron Swanson), a boatload of Mickeys 40-ounces going down the hatch, and what I presume is a prosthetic penis rigged for full-on streaming effect? Well, you get the good humor of FIDLAR’s video for “Cocaine”.

4. Yeah Yeah Yeahs “Sacrilege”
We’re treated to smalltown justice/injustice in this super video for “Sacrilege”. The story begins at the end, where we see model Lily Cole being burned at the stake by a vindictive bunch of townees. The story wonderfully unfolds backwards in flashback, so that by the video’s end you come to understand what’s turned the town into a mob against her. It’s old-school video making, and a comment on male culture.

3. Disclosure “When A Fire Starts to Burn”
Director: Bo Mirosseni
Really, what better way is there to explain what exactly happens on a dance floor when the DJ hits that one groove, at the right time, patrons feeling it, sweaty, just the right level of drunkenness … and it all feels like magic? Well, it’s cathartic. It’s like a spreading fire. It’s spiritual. This video is obviously tongue-in-cheek, but it still hits the point. The video is fun, clever — opening up with a black preacher who is working up the hand-held fanning congregation into a lather of head-nods and amens. Then they all get some “healing” and the voodoo/zombie dance freak-fest begins. It’s good stuff.

2. Bob Dylan “Like a Rolling Stone”
Director: Vania Heymann
Let’s face it, this video is the first of its kind — and it’s for a Dylan track that’s 48-years-old. It’s interactive TV, where you can flip through sixteen channels of simulated material. The channels look like channels we’re familiar with, but with a twist of name. There’s the CNN-looking one, a sports channel, a romance channel, a rap channel featuring the real Danny Brown walking around New York eating, and even a channel featuring Drew Carey hosting The Price is Right. No matter how you change the channel, all the people in the videos lip-synch to Dylan’s famous track. It’s marvelous. I don’t have the embed code for it, and on it would take me too long to figure out an alternative shortcode to use, so here’s a link to the official Dylan site, where you can spend hours playing around with the features.

1. David Bowie “The Next Day”
Director: Floria Sigismondi
A ton of Bowie cheek here. A devilish, yet priestly, Gary Oldman beats up a beggar before entering a nightclub of debauchery and revelation. He’s accompanied by a woman sporting her own eyeballs on a plate. “Father” Oldman nuzzles up to a prostitute (Marion Cotillard — who never looked more stunning — until she gets the stigmata of course) at the bar. There’s a self-flagellating sadomasochist, a knight, and a girl kissing the hell-burnt shriveled hand of a bishop in exchange for cash. There’s spurting blood, Bibles, booze, and a quasi-recreation of da Vinci’s “The Last Supper”. The entire song and video are about hypocrisy: “They can work with Satan while they dress like the saints.” In short, it’s fantastic. I’ve summarized my thoughts on the video, plagiarizing myself, but here’s a link to my full appreciation of it from earlier in the year.

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