The Top 10 Videos by Austin Artists in 2017

2017 was an immensely challenging year no matter how you looked at it. In many ways, Austin was a city under perpetual attack, whether from our own governor, who urged other Texas towns to view us despicable heathens, or from the federal government itself, which sought to make an example of our city for refusing to cooperate with the increasingly more terrifying powers at ICE. And yet despite all that, Austin continues to thrive and grow.

Part of that is due to the resilience and strength of Austin’s artists, whose abilities to bring together and embolden the community were needed more than ever in this volatile year. Music in particular is able to unite people in incredible ways and in 2017 Austin musicians delivered on this to an incredible degree. We already showed some of that energy via our selection of our favorite photos from Austin music this year but it’s not just in the live sphere that Austin music shines. Giving Austin’s status as a film hub, it’s no surprise that the city regularly churns out phenomenal music videos and this year was no exception. Picking the top 10 videos by Austin artists in any given year is always a Herculean task but 2017 saw a particularly impressive array, ranging from the topical to the sensual to the downright freaky. Here are our picks…

Hardcore Sex “Shake Your Boogie”

Directed by Angela Herr

“Shake Your Boogie” begins with an introduction in French by a hip guy with doe eyes. From there, the overdriven blues guitar and smoky voice of Hardcore Sex’s Bear Ryan guide us through a mélange of characters enacting fetishes – from food, to domination, to cross dressing and furry  – against the familiar red curtain and disco ball of our beloved Spiderhouse Ballroom.

Further flipping the indie video script, it’s guitarist Brian Johnson who plays in the nude while Ryan is fully clothed. As couples make out and a girl pees in the men’s bathroom sink it becomes clear the video is all about subverting psychosexual gender and power roles, reminding us that 2017 was the year to celebrate our freak. As Ryan puts it in the first verse “make some love y’all, this a party.” – Allanah Jackson

Branden Rex “50¢ Wings”

Directed by Americio Siller

Branden Rex’s simple, unassuming video for “50¢ Wings” is my favorite Austin music video of 2017. On the cracked concrete of an old basketball court in one of the city’s many aging but welcoming neighborhood parks, the video’s protagonist pulls out his roller skates, adjusts his well-worn headphones, and proceeds to own the park with a deliriously joyful and brilliantly choreographed skate performance. It’s an ideal pairing of track and video — Rex’s breezy cool confidence soundtracking a completely original moment in a completely familiar location.

Rex and director Americio Siller made the perfect choice in casting Devon Hartley — whose low-key grace utterly dominates every frame. Like Olympian figure skaters past, he makes expert use of space and pulls off elegant high-level maneuvers. At the same time, like the best breakdancers, he is free, reactive and improvisational. It’s a video that proves that spirit, talent, and style will always be able to beat out high-concept gimmicks. – Kayleigh Hughes

Greg Vanderpool “Nowhere to Land”

Directed by Velcrowolf

There were far too many moments in 2017 where even just the act of putting on music felt like an insurmountable hurdle to me. The combination of heavy depression and a never-ending pre-apocalyptic news cycle mostly made me want to stick to the silence and dim light of my bedroom. Velcrowolf’s video for the already sublime Greg Vanderpool track “Nowhere to Land” almost certainly isn’t actually about struggling to escape the black hole of melancholy but nonetheless it serves as a clever and comforting depiction of that mood.

“Nowhere to Land” is a black and white stop motion masterpiece starring a couple astronaut action figures who just want to play some Belle Biv DeVoe but are viciously attacked by alien brain creatures. Initially, the visuals simply seem funny, yet there’s something profound in the combination of Vanderpool’s sorrowful and aching vocal performance and the shadowy depiction of the astronauts’ struggles. It’s as though the video is communicating that whatever dark thoughts tormented you in 2017, you can persevere too if you refuse to give up, whether that means getting out of bed to put on some “Poison” or some other form of necessary personal maintenance. – Nick Hanover

Sweet Spirit “The Power”

Directed by Ed Dougherty

Fronted by the indomitable Sabrina Ellis, Sweet Spirit know how to bring the theatrics to rock music and Ed Dougherty’s video for “The Power” captures this in all its bizarre, glam glory. Juxtaposed with scenes evoking both a cross between the gymnasium from Nirvana’s “Smells Like Teen Spirit” video with the indoctrinated masses of the film version of 1984 and what can only be described as a glam rock, dadaist disco, the video for “The Power” brings us a scintillating interpretation of a song that’s all about defying social norms and expectations. That it also features a disco ball-headed, keyboard playing robot is really just icing on an already extravagant and fabulous cake. – Brian J. Audette

Tinnarose “Aesthetic Anarchy”

Directed by John Valley

The influence of melodramatic icons like King Vidor and Douglas Sirk has been a subtle presence in the work of John Valley but with “Aesthetic Anarchy,” his collaboration with Tinnarose and dancer Hailley Lauren, technicolor melodrama takes center stage. The video is an explosive depiction of a romance gone wrong, told through Lauren’s masterful choreography and the band’s baroque music as much as Valley’s characteristically moving visuals. In its four minute running time, “Aesthetic Anarchy” weaves together a story as potent as any feature length Hollywood classic, without a single monologue. Tragic narrative aside, though, “Aesthetic Anarchy” is an inspiring work of art that’s beautiful not just in its vividness but also in the way it brings together three talented and vital artists from separate media. – NH

vvv “Spellbound”

Directed by Jake Eide

As much as Holodeck Records has come to define itself with its impeccable tastes in artists, the local label has also become synonymous with inventive, moody music videos. Jake Eide’s clip for the entrancing vvv single “Spellbound” is no exception, seamlessly grafting together a Hitchcockian paranoia narrative and Chris Cunningham-like visuals.

Shot in Austin’s downtown alleys and drainage tunnels, “Spellbound” makes our city seem more sinister than weird as an unnamed, mute protagonist pursues some white haired femme fatale who’s not what she seems in more ways than one. By the end, “Spellbound” stands out as one of the most visually interesting and haunting moments in the Holodeck catalog and a testament to how well Austin’s hippest label pairs with cerebral cinema. – NH

Kay Odyssey “Mountains in My Step” (NSFW)

Directed by Vanessa Pla

Inspired by their Homeric namesake, Kay Odyssey’s video for “Mountains in My Step” invokes a sensuous garden of feminine delights. Intelligent and seductively simple, the video empowers women with Zeus’ lightning— white-painted female bodies burn roses, caress fruit, crack eggs, paint nipples and lift lightning bolts to the intoxicating wash of moaning guitars.

By the end of the video, Zeus’ face is melted, sipped through a straw by a pair of sumptuous lips and finally replaced by an animated female Zeus throwing lightning. Kristina Boswell’s sultry but yelping voice repeats “I’m coming, I’m coming, I’m coming for you,” lighting rains on breast-like mountains, babies nurse, a high-heeled foot destroys ancient western men and this video illustrates 2017’s rise of the feminine. – AJ

Whiskey Shivers “Cluck Ol’ Hen”

Directed by John Valley

Whiskey Shivers have long been devoted to the music video as its own art form. They go above and beyond in their clips, and their mastery is on display in “Cluck Ol’ Hen.” Director John Valley moves you through a variety of feelings in its quick four minutes, and has created one of the most effective horror music videos I can recall.

The centerpiece is a heinous bird-person, ostensibly the titular “hen,” and the people who helped that character come alive deserve an Oscar. The layers of emotional resonance are deep, and elicit stronger feelings than most hour-long TV shows. I still can’t tell how I feel about the darkly irreverent ending, but the fact that I continue to wrestle with it is just evidence of how wonderful this short story is. Whiskey Shivers are great entertainers, and with the video for “Cluck Ol’ Hen,” they give us a lot to think about and marvel at, as well. – Carter Delloro

Troller “Nothing” (NSFW)

Directed by Melissa Cha

Amid Austin’s lush, golden oasis —  be it sun, beer, or queso — the folks at electronic label Holodeck have for several years now been building a dark, gothic and mesmerizing horrorscape of blackest black and viscous blood red. And in that effort, Troller is the label’s brightest shining star. The nine-minute video for “Nothing” is a stunning journey deep into the band’s twisted heart.

To the tune of sharp, eerie droning synths, our heroine draped all in white stalks through the night offering tokens to the ominous figures she meets along the way. The tension builds until Amber Star Goer’s possessed voice finally pierces through, as a ritual both sick and oddly gentle gets underway. Director Melissa Cha masterfully establishes and then manipulates the video’s atmosphere, layering visual textures in a way that compliments Troller’s own use of audio textures. “Nothing” brings a little bit of much-needed Twin Peaks to Austin. – KH

Christeene “Butt Muscle” (NSFW)

Directed by Matt Lambert

Austin’s mutant queen Christeene is a genius of perversion, with a body of video work that bridges the worlds of John Waters and Trent Reznor. But she truly outdid herself this year with “Butt Muscle,” a collaboration with director Matt Lambert that finally answers the question “What if Anton Corbijn remade Salo?”

Coated in a disturbing variety of fluids and grime, Christeene and her pervy pranksters barrel through a litany of unmentionable acts, making for a video that felt far more dangerous and subversive than any “offensive” work trotted out by a tv satirist this year. It doesn’t feel quite right to label “Butt Muscle” a political act, though, it’s more that Christeene’s sewer creature existence itself is incendiary in a way few performers this side of GG Allin have managed to be. But unlike Allin, Christeene’s work comes with industrial pop hooks that ensure that the songs will be seared into your brain just as permanently as the visuals are. – NH