Top 10 Videos by Austin Artists in 2018

Austin is never exactly hurting for quality releases from local artists, but 2018 felt like a major growth year for the city, particularly for genres that struggled in the past to get recognition. It was a year where the city’s hip hop community got national attention from outlets like Pitchfork, where the historic overthrow of a shocking number of GOP seats in local and federal government fueled renewed punk vigor, where our best and brightest electronic acts continued to rack up high profile releases and placements. Austin was a force to be reckoned with in every way in 2018 and 2019 is primed to be even more impressive.

The music videos of 2018 communicated the city’s artistic growth particularly well. Some names that appeared more frequently in past years may have popped up less this year, but only because they graduated to more ambitious projects, from shorts to features to commercial work. And in their place appeared bold new visionaries, with vivid and unmistakable aesthetics, making it clear the future of Austin’s music and film scenes remains in good hands. Here are our picks of the best the city had to offer for the collision of sound and vision in 2018, and be sure to also check out our countdown of the ten best albums of the year here.

Thousand Foot Whale Claw 
“Black Hole Party”

Dir: Chris Rusch

Shot in the decrepit but still standing National Guard Armory near the Mueller area, Thousand Foot Whale Claw’s “Black Hole Party” video would be full of lurking dread even if no human ever appeared in it. But director Chris Rusch takes things ever further, matching the eerie escalation of the music with the steady march of an unnamed well-dressed man who enters the titular party via the trunk of a luxury vehicle. What he sees inside the building is somewhere between the gathering of interdimensional travelers in The Rocky Horror Picture Show and the glimpses of long deceased guests in the rooms of The Overlook Hotel in The Shining. Like the song itself, “Black Hole Party” is alternately triumphant and terrifying, eerie and ecstatic, vivid and vexing. Rusch could have taken the easy way out and thrown some psych visuals over the pulsing beat but instead he took the challenge of matching the song’s inherently ominous grandeur and succeeded with aplomb. – Nick Hanover

Shy Beast “My Stride”

Dir: Brittany Reeber

I was never going to not like Shy Beast’s video for “My Stride.” It has so many of my favorite qualities: neon tube lights in geometric patterns against a black background, a woman in a bold blue statement suit with a crisp blunt bob, extremely odd, slow and intentional choreography, lots of eye contact. It’s clear and clean, contemporary, minimal and extremely well-produced. As frontwoman Mariclaire Glaeser creates shapes and patterns with her body against her environment, director Brittany Reeber ensures that the camera remains unhurried, focusing intently on Glaeser and allowing her to control the pace and tone. The result, then, is that the “My Stride” video is deeply deeply cool, conducting the exact appropriate atmosphere for a song about the invigorating feeling of coming into your own and kicking ass. – Kayleigh Hughes

Mamahawk “Lioness”

Dir: John Valley

Right when you think Mamahawk couldn’t outdo themselves, they release the official music video for their track “Lioness”. Directed by John Valley, the song is beautifully captured and translated into crisp and high quality visuals. Futuristic images and an abundance of abstract scenes leave you exploring the new world that “Lioness” has created, full of expressive choreography and perfectly timed cuts, making this far more than your average music video. It’s always refreshing seeing artists work to release visuals that are as creative and artistic as the songs written by them. No matter what, Mamahawk always keep you guessing what direction they’ll dive into next. – Alex LaFuente

Abhi the Nomad “Mindset”

Dir: David Krause & Jonathan Swecker

Every artist has to put on a front to some degree. They have to exude an unwavering faith in their own abilities in order to go far, regardless of how much self-doubt is plaguing them at any given moment. But this year, Abhi the Nomad represented that far more explicitly than most artists ever have to, with his masterful LP Marbled serving as both self-expression and an attempt to prove he was talented enough to deserve the “Einstein visa,” in a brutally anti-immigration climate, no less. Co-directors David Krause and Jonathan Swecker bring that to stark life in Abhi’s “Mindset” video, dropping our hero into a video game where he must complete career challenges ranging from photo shoots to sponsorships, all while trying to convince people that his artist persona is not necessarily who he truly is. Abhi is forced to run this gauntlet while running lower and lower on energy, and while being tormented by his concerns over the intersection of art and commerce he’s being pulled towards. Then it ends, not with resolution but with a reminder that he’s going to have to do it all over again, and again, and again, and again. Was there any truer representation of the daily grind of life in 2018? – Morgan Davis

Wild Child “Think It Over”

Dir: Rob Wadleigh

The video for Wild Child‘s “Think it Over” proves outright that the band (or at least video director Rob Wadleigh) knew exactly what kind of song they had made. This is a straight up disco tune and a disco tune needs a disco video. Enter Shelby Donahue as played by band co-founder Alex Beggins, host of fictional 70’s dance music show “Dance Party All Night Club”.  

As Wild Child lead vocalist Kelsey Wilson plays with the rest of the band in the background, Beggins (as Donahue) swaggers through a crowd of dancing youngsters, attempting to make love connections that at first are denied, but that through the power of “Think it Over” eventually come to fruition on the dance floor by the video’s end. It’s a fun video for a fun song and is a nice take on the tradition of videos composed mostly of footage of the band playing to a crowd. – Brian J. Audette

Christeene “Aktion Toilet”

Dir: PJ Raval

Perhaps the most surprising thing about PJ Raval’s video for the Christeene banger “Aktion Toilet” is how appealing joining Christeene’s freak prairie cult looks. Sure, you’d be covered in who knows what kind of fluids most of the time, and you’d have to wear a mixture of day-glo speedos and Blair Witch artifacts and learn all of the choreography, but you’d be free from the shackles of polite society and social media brain drain and bills. That’s as much a testament to Raval’s ability to make Austin’s resident sewer diva seem right at home in a pastoral as it is to the state of affairs in 2018. On paper, Christeene’s urban grime shouldn’t work against a backdrop of natural splendor– her visual canon so far has skewed noir saturated and wet– but Raval’s eye for color and framing, and Aaron Flynn’s showstopping styling proves Christeene can make any habitat delightfully grotesque and that her camp is unlikely to run out of fresh and disturbingly unique ideas anytime soon. – NH

Blastfamous USA “Pull Up”

Dir: H.D. Stone

In a year that saw the ink dry on a heavily tax-incentivized deal for an Austin Apple campus and a cat cafe erected on the bulldozed remains of an Eastside piñata and party supply store, the feeling that city has changed, is changing, and is going to continue to change radically – and not in the interest of those already living here – has been inescapable. Blastfamous USA and director H.D. Stone harness that righteous anger in “Pull Up” and channel it into defiance. Zeale and Phranchyze rap and stunt in front of a black Cadillac, cruising around the East side like a marking of territory or the drawing of battle lines. Although the comic ending twist shows that real life is more complicated, the unabashed force and confidence is exhilarating, filling you with an energy to either party or fight, or maybe some weird combination of both. – James Fisk

Popper Burns “Sun Tan”

Dir: MJ Haha

Looking like the lost collaboration between George Méliès and Man Ray, MJ Haha’s adventurous and uncanny “Sun Tan” video for avant punk rogues Popper Burns immediately raised the stakes for Austin music videos when it appeared just three days into 2018. Haha threw a dizzying number of artistic diversions into the clip, from surrealist cardboard costumes to regal nightmare flattery to unhinged midnight prowling. But remarkably, “Sun Tan” never feels cluttered, instead it feels like a leisurely stroll through the demented thoughts of the band itself, in all their fluid, haunting beauty. It also served to announce Haha as the director to watch in 2018, and it wouldn’t be long before she raised the stakes yet again. – NH

Fort Never “Fly High”

Dir: Travis Hoggard

Fort Never’s video for “Fly High” is gleefully sinister. It begins with a close-up shot of frontwoman Chantell Moody, decked out in witchy attire with a hypnotizing skowl to match. As the camera pans out, the viewer sees shadows, ghosts really, of red flames seemingly originating from Moody’s core. Soon, Moody’s bandmates Deano Cotè and Timmie Rook creep animalistically in from the left and right of the frame. It’s slow and disturbing and mesmerizing, in similar and opposite ways as the horrorshow scenes that begin to cut back and forth — of the men painted white, shrieking and seizing in chaos exacerbated by skittering camera work. It’s as if they are Moody’s possessed servants. With “Fly High,” director Travis Hoggard cultivates a haunting supernatural atmosphere that always keeps Moody in the ultimate position of power, allowing her to dominate as the near-supernatural force she is. – KH

Big Bill “Last Meal”

Dir: MJ Haha

Had MJ Haha only made Popper Burns’ “Sun Tan” this year, she would have stood out as one of the most innovative and refreshing visual artists in the city. Yet MJ Haha went even further, creating Big Bill’s “Last Meal,” a magnum opus that served as the definitive artistic statement for both her and the band in 2018. An unexpectedly colorful journey through the last request of a death row inmate, “Last Meal” is stuffed full of more ideas than most directors have in a lifetime, nodding towards the stop motion heyday of Pee Wee’s Playhouse and early MTV stalwarts like Stephen Johnson and The Brothers Quay’s “Sledgehammer” video for Peter Gabriel, without being overly nostalgic or reverential. It’s no wonder Haha received accolades for the video on the festival circuit, “Last Meal” signifies the arrival of serious visual talent, leaving us with just one minor complaint: we need second (and third, and fourth, and fifth) helpings, immediately. – MD