2016 is destined to go down in history as a year of upheaval and distress, as sure a sign of the end of a certain era as 1969 was, only somehow more apocalyptic and unruly. It is impossible to look back on a year of such intense loss and chaos without sadness and anxiety, but as we head into the even more uncertain future of 2017, it’s important to think of the powerful moments we came together, of the high water marks in art and culture that gave us hope no matter how bleak things looked.
In 2016, Austin music in particular stood out as potent and vibrant, full of important artistic statements from acts new and established, from every genre and corner of the scene. Over this week, as we near the end of this Year of Failure, Ovrld will be celebrating the victors amongst us, the creators who prevailed and stood up and shouted themselves hoarse confronting the rapidly approaching void. We began with a look back at our favorite photography we ran this year, then we selected our 25 favorite songs and the 10 albums that stood out the most to us in 2016, now we’re showcasing the 10 videos we loved the most this year. For those who have been paying attention, Austin has been undergoing a music video renaissance, as the always vital film and music scenes have come together in new and interesting ways, with burgeoning auteurs working alongside our best bands. We feel this list not only showcases the best music videos the city had to offer this year but also gives a peek at some of the directors we believe will soon come to define Austin’s next film wave. And as always, most of the fun of these end of year lists is hearing what you would have picked, so don’t hesitate to let us know what you wish made it!
Sweet Spirit “Baby When I Close My Eyes”
Directed by John Valley
From the first unnerving googly-eyed turn to the camera that stares straight into your soul you’ll have the immediate reaction, “Yup this is a John Valley production.” On a roll with his eternally strange and always delightful videos, Valley brings one of my favorite elements into the mix this time round: puppets. Accentuated by the splendid lighting courtesy of Cordelaine Kline that paints the stark reality of a pregnancy test in a bright bathroom, the romantic mood of a car park proposal and the passion of a dining table tryst, all of which are quickly turned on their heads in a twisted modern commentary.
Exploring the issues that same-sex, interracial and low income couples face, eventually the camera pulls back to reveal it’s merely been a macabre daytime program for children. How far from the reality they see on screen every day is up to you to interpret. Visuals and themes aside, perhaps most interesting is that you’ll find yourself enjoying the Sweet Spirit number in ways you never dreamed possible, whether you’re head nodding right alongside the stuffed felt characters, foot tapping in unison to a villainous gay basher, or breaking out in dance with a mustachioed gold clad human butterfly. – Nate Abernethy
Holiday Mountain “Como Te Llamas (ft. Mexican Institute of Sound)”
Directed by Brittany Reeber
The video for “Como Te Llamas” is the closest Holiday Mountain has come to replicating the experience of their live show in a video and let me tell you, it’s an absolute fucking blast. Framed as the best workout class you could ever possibly imagine attending, the video for “Como” has Holiday Mountain’s frontwoman Laura Patiño and a cast of awesome neon-clad backup dancers of all shapes and sizes playfully gyrating, grooving, and generally getting wild. Delightfully physically expressive and self-confident, “Como Te Llamas” should be on everybody’s workout playlist. With Shutterstock logos intentionally left on kooky background images, the psychedelic expanding and contracting of body parts, and more than a little grinding on various fruit, “Como Te Llamas” displays the band’s (and director Brittany Reeber)’s unique, irreverent sense of humor and colorful, bold aesthetic. I challenge you not to dance while you watch it. – Kayleigh Hughes
Magia Negra “Enslaved”
Directed by Will Campbell
We’re still eagerly awaiting the full length release from Magia Negra, but in the meanwhile we’ve got their 2014 EP self-titled EP and this video for the single “Enslaved“ to whet our appetites. Artfully directed by Will Campbell and relying not just on frontwoman Lolita Lynne’s entrancing vocals, but also her mesmerizing performance, the video for “Enslaved” takes this song about reluctantly losing oneself to the whims of another and breathes visual life into it in unexpected and almost surreal ways.
Opening with a montage of barely clothed women posed as if for a sensual photo shoot, the imagery slowly evolves along with the vocal narrative as grabbing hands begin intruding into the frame, posing arms and legs, forcefully applying makeup, and ultimately drenching the subjects in gobs of beige paint. It teeters somewhere between playfulness and menace, and paired with the vocals slow acceptance of what at first seems like bad idea, creates a complex and enticing video for a song that itself is rife with layers. – Brian J. Audette
Basketball Shorts “Hot and Ready”
Directed by Rinjin
I wonder what the meeting entailed when Basketball Shorts and co-directors Jane Urban and Ryan Dight (aka Rinjin) got together for a brainstorm of the “Hot and Ready” video. Whether it went along the lines of “Let’s have a pizza delivery guy knock on the door, then he gets dragged into a party where people are making out and we’re jamming and then a dude gets covered in pizza topping and a chick starts hooking up with him and we just keep on rocking…” That’s essentially what the video involves. Though what better imagery to share with a song that’s under a minute and a half of fun videoed in someone’s backyard? The brothers Ben and Darren Shorts seem to hardly contain themselves and it wouldn’t be surprising if they promptly stage dived and began covering themselves with pizza ingredients. Could it be an allegory for that when you tap play on the video, and you’re shortly hit by a tasty tune, it’s like when you first open a pizza box and you’re greeted by a meal that’s literally hot and ready? Whether there are any further metaphors to discuss, when watching this video you know it was an enjoyably rad day. – Joel Greabatch
A Giant Dog “Sex and Drugs”
Directed by John Valley
The main reason John Valley’s video for A Giant Dog’s “Sex and Drugs” is so god damn perfect is because it emulates spot-on what it’s like to see AGD live. Their performances are always packed with energy, flare, gumption and grit, and yet also have an air of surrealism that begs the question, “How can this band be so fucking talented?” While Valley nailed it on capturing the bands essence, he also did a great job adding narrative to the song. The use of the snow globe ties in extremely well to the idea of the fear of wasted youth. I mean, people of all ages love snow globes, but there was a certain magic to them in younger years. A magic that is fleeting, just like when you shake a snow globe and it’s contents are gorgeous and interesting before it eventually becomes dormant — like a person in old age.
Valley created a piece of moving art with this video, which is why it’s easy to call it one of the best videos that came out of Austin this year — hell, I’d argue that it’s one of the best anywhere. Congrats to Valley and AGD for all the great work this year. Their art is moving and inspiring, and I can’t wait to see what 2017 will bring from both of them. – Ashley Bradley
Walker Lukens “Lifted”
Directed by Brad Montesi
The resurgence of music videos in the YouTube era has meant dealing with a lot of ’80s nostalgia, usually delivered via cheap faux-VHS distortion effects and purposefully cheap aesthetics. So it’s especially impressive that Brad Montesi’s “Lifted” clip for Walker Lukens’ manages to so perfectly recall Peter Gabriel’s iconic videos from the peak MTV era without coming across as cheap or unoriginal. It’s a spiritual successor to “Sledgehammer” rather than a lifeless carbon copy of it, the antithesis of that Clueless knock off some no talent hack got paid an ungodly sum to make for Iggy Azalea.
Much of that comes down to the little touches, like the random subtitles that seem like a translation of a translation at times, but also to Lukens’ committed performance. Lukens has a history of impressive video acting– I’d suggest watching “Kindle to Your Fire” on loop rather than La La Land, for instance– but here Montesi utilizes Lukens and his perfectly coiffed hair as basically just a prop and the singer still somehow manages to ooze charisma in every frame. Stylish, fun, inventive and warmly reflective, “Lifted” couldn’t have been a better match of visual and performer. – Nick Hanover
Francine Thirteen “Sovereign”
Directed by Dom G Jones
Francine Thirteen’s “Sovereign” video is a veneration of womanhood and the strength inherent in it. It’s a simple but luxe video featuring the queen herself, Francine Thirteen, and several other women decked out in gold with their bodies painted beautifully and delicately with glittering scales to emulate the snake that Francine so gracefully carries. Mesmerizing and authoritative, the women move their bodies with intention and stare with fierce wisdom. Director Dom G. Jones has a great eye for framing and composition, allowing the camera to fully embrace the power, beauty, and dominion of the women without ever verging on leering. “I do my work in the shrine and you better believe what I earn stays mine,” sings Francine, and the viewer knows to respect the seriousness of that statement. I think my favorite part is when the video gets extra visceral with some well-placed blood dripping. It’s such a rich and intense physical moment in a video that emanates royal intensity. – KH
Dem Beach Boys “(GOP) Ain’t Nuthing Ta F’ Wit”
Directed by Ryan Darbonne
When Ryan Darbonne first reached out to us about premiering his satirical hip hop clip “(GOP) Ain’t Nuthing Ta F’ Wit” by Dem Beach Boys in time for election week, we thought it’d be funnier to pretend we were bullied into covering the video in the interest of being fair. But a number of people took our statements to that effect seriously (including other Ovrld contributors), which should have been a clear sign of how absurd the political environment had become and what would happen November 8th.
Darbonne’s satire is so masterful because he barely had to tweak reality to reveal the insanity of the current GOP leadership. “GOP” blatantly appropriates a classic Wu-Tang Clan track to score a deranged white nationalist pool party, complete with a dancing KKK member, a stoic man mysteriously named Lil’ Clarence Thomas (RIP), and a barrage of mediore middle class white men. The joke isn’t that these idiots are harmlessly racist, but that everyone we consider harmlessly racist, whether it be co-workers or drunk uncles or old high school friends, blatantly coopted their way to the upper echelons of government and we were too polite to do a damn thing. On election week, we optimistically thought this would be one final send off to the most absurd GOP group in history, but now it’s half a step away from a documentary sent back to 2016 from 2018. – NH
Troller “Not Here”
Directed by Melissa Cha
Troller’s “Not Here” is the sort of strong, hypnotic, and sexy audio showcase that, in being translated to a music video, deserves an equally strong, hypnotic, and sexy star performance. Beloved Austin drag queen Louisiana Purchase delivers that and then some, completely dominating the frame in every moment that she’s featured, which is rightfully most of them. Decked out in black — collar, corset, gloves, stockings — she moves and sways in dazzling slow motion, as she mouths the words of the song in front of a theatrical red curtain for a crowd of masked observers. Her face expresses such an incredible and dynamic range of emotions, wrenching out genuine feelings from even the most stoic of viewers. Interspersed with the mesmerizing performance are scenes of Purchase being tied up by Domme Discordia. The video for “Not Here” is clear evidence of how seriously Troller, director Melissa Cha, Purchase, and Discordia all take hard work, aesthetics, and the deliciously complex lightnesses and darknesses of sex. It’s a stunning video and we owe them mightily for it. – KH
A.M. Feelgood “This Alley is Right Up My Alley”
Directed and Animated by Christopher Knisley
I feel like you’ve got two choices when making a video for an epic post-rock song: landscape montage or animation. Christopher Knisley’s beautifully animated video for A.M. Feelgood’s soaring “This Alley is Right up my Alley” opts for the latter and to great effect.
The video chronicles the journey of our humble, bearded protagonist as he is pushed down a hole and embarks on an epic astral trip through a monochrome purple and white expanse of fractal shapes and swirling lines. Before the trip is over he becomes engulfed in flames, launched through a 2001: A Space Odyssey-like worm hole, and quenched by a pool that strips him to the bone before reassembling him before our eyes, all lovingly in sync with A.M. Feelgood’s luscious composition.
As a companion to the song, the animation almost feels like a synesthetic experience or a visual hallucination brought on by the progressive build of A.M. Feelgood’s auditory epic. It’s a lovely marriage of music and visuals where neither does too much to intrude upon the other and in the end both serve to create something greater. – BJA