Bubblegum goddesses. Wannabe Debbie Harrys. Dystopian mental illnesses. Solo rock shows in a mystical desert landscape...These are the videos that stood out in 2015 for their strangeness, abstraction, and beauty. And good tunes, of course.
1. Petite Noir - Chess
The Cape Town artist Petite Noir (Yannick Ilunga) sings cool, dramatic, hypnotic pop in what feels like a late-80s instructional VHS tape. The slowly bubbling (literally, bubbles) breakup song was the first single off Petite Noir’s first album, La Vie Est Belle / Life Is Beautiful.
2. Son Lux - You Don't Know Me
God, don’t you hate it when your boyfriend doesn’t understand you’re a terrifying bubblegum goddess? “You Don’t Know Me,” starring Orphan Black’s Tatiana Maslany, is creepy, but somehow relatable. Ultimately, says director Nathan Johnson says the video wants to explore the “empty rituals” of relationships, and to a larger degree, religion. “You Don’t Know Me” comes off Son Lux’s (Ryan Lott’s) fourth studio album Bones.
3. HONNE - Coastal Love
“Coastal Love” feels part fashion film, part white-collar crime, and part psychedelic deep-ocean love story. The words “I’ll be waiting for you, my love, on this New York City coast” play over images of a dark & dreamy Montauk motel. This is one of the few times I think, “If I’m going to pass out on the beach with a stranger, going in a lustful haze with a weird sea creature on my face might be the best way to do it.” “Coastal Love” comes off HONNE’s newest EP by the same name.
4. ABRA - U Know
Abra’s woozy R & B is paired with a ghost/love story between the Awful Records’ it-girl and skater Lil Phillips. The DIY-feely music video is a collaboration with UNIF clothing, and comes off Abra’s first album Roses.
5. Lower Dens - To Die in L.A.
Magic 8 balls, wannabe movie stars, Debbie Harry obsessions, and a dead buck floating in a swimming pool—such is the crazy world of “To Die in L.A.” by Lower Dens. The first single off Lower Dens’ second record Escape from Evil is a synth-rock dream of a vulnerable Los Angeles.
6. Unknown Mortal Orchestra - Can't Keep Checking My Phone
We start with the subtitle, “It’s one of those rare, unexplainable things,” which suits the video well, in the best way. The video—directed by Dimitri Basil—features a semi-sci-fi catalogue of mental illnesses and unexplained phenomena, including “Meteorite Sickness” and “Virtual Gender Disphoria.” The song, which is full of catchy beats and seemingly-simple lyrics, becomes complicated against the “trading deck” of the abstract, the dystopian, and the strange. Can’t Keep Checking My Phone can be found on Unknown Mortal Orchestra’s newest album Multi-Love.
7. Hurts - Lights
“Lights” is the age-old tale of being too fucked up and too alone in a half-populated bar. This time, instead of the classic random hook-up we get a graceful dance between matador and bull. This bar’s patrons also include a woman wrapped in a giant plastic bag and a zombie baseball player. “Lights” was the first single off the Manchester duo Hurts’s third album Surrender.
8. The Soft Moon - Far
Is there anything more angsty than dark alleyways, disfigured men, and speeding down the 101 in a blue-and-red psychedelic daze? Dark and nostalgic, the video doesn’t lose its depth. “‘Far’ is the realm where unconscious desires reign, and the darkest tendencies take root and flourish. There, the ‘hIDeous’ clone assaults the ego, the shadow self stalks the night, and a third Shroud embodies the two hemispheres locked in perpetual battle,” director duo Y2K explains. “Far” comes off Soft Moon’s album Deeper, which was released this February.
9. Alex G - Brite Boy
A soft tune called “Brite Boy” off Alex G’s newest album entitled Beach Music might suggest happy, carefree vibes. Instead, we get a dark cartoon by Elliot Bech, featuring cemetery rituals, desert funerals, and a watertower that welcomes you to a ghost town called “Fuck.” Beach Music marks Alex Ginnascoli’s seventh full-length album, and he gets weirder and darker every time. “Brite Boy” zines made by Bech himself will be sold along Alex G’s next tour.
10. LA Priest - Oino
It’s a strange desert landscape where curious beasts lurk in the canyons, and Sam Eastgate (aka Samuel Dust) plays high-pitched riffs in the desolate dirt. Directed by his brother Isaac Eastgate, the video was apparently inspired by their granddad’s story of “a man imprisoned in the desert who escapes by singing to a wizard.” I feel the mystic vibes. “Oino” was LA Priest’s debut single for a solo album eight years in the making. His album Inji is out now.
11. Silicon - God Emoji
A papier maché robot drives out to the middle of the forest to lay down catchy beats on the keyboard and the drums. Meanwhile, a weird dismembered pixelated head floats about an apartment building while a soft voice sings, “Don’t wanna go out on a Saturday night.” “God Emoji” is weird, but sticks with you through its abstractions and grooves. New Zealand multi-instrumentalist Kody Nielson’s debut album Personal Computer is out now.
12. Hot Chip - Need You Now
Hot Chip’s newest album, Why Make Sense? fits well with the music video for “Need You Now.” It’s strange, abstract, cyclical, and convoluted. A man runs after his double (or is his double chasing him?). He disappears, reappears, runs away, and is chased by a third double. Ultimately, however, the complex and the metaphysical fade into a simple story of refusing to let love go, as the words, “Need you now,” repeat themselves in the background. “Need You Know” is off the British electronic music band’s sixth album.
13. Julia Holter - Silhouette
Julia Holter’s “Silhouette” is jumpy, grainy, and indulgent in its shadows. It is also sentimental, nostalgic, and a melancholy kind of sweet. Holter sings, “He can hear me sing, though he is far, I'll never lose sight of him, a silhouette.” The song and the video remind me how love can make you crazy--sprawled out across your desk with nothing to do but turn the lights on and off, close and open the blinds, and write clichés about him in your diary. Holter’s latest record Have You in my Wilderness was released this September.
Text by Keely Shinners