Top 11 Music Videos of ’16

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Here are eleven electric picks that perforated the discord of 2016, and provided creative clarity and astute madness. There were so many wonderfully carbonated and uncompromising videos that almost made this arbitrary list (Tacocat’s “I Hate the Weekend” boasted volleys of streamers, Easter Island-sized gummy bears, and novelty wax lips while Summer Cannibals’ “Full of It” shredded and bayed). After deliberating for ten hours, Cinema Spartan came up with the eclectic, moving, and ultimately strange list below. In celebration of our efforts, we popped open an entire case of expired Martinelli’s sparkling cider.

 

11. “Told You I’d Be With the Guys” by Cherry Glazerr

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Cherry Glazerr’s nonchalant, bedraggled dystopia of finger-indented bread and sun-slivered kitchens is coolly cavalier. Directed by Riley Blakeway, the video’s narrative is both sinister and affected. The aesthetics of “Told You I’d Be With the Guys” are sterile and bright, but there is an uneasiness to the proceedings. The DGAF attitude, marbled with powerful bursts of energy, add to the weird unspooling of emotions. Clem Creevy cares just enough to let you know. Devouring a sandwich never felt so volatile.

 

10. “Starting Again” by Lisa Prank

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Lisa Prank dons an array of outfits, from mint-dashed sweaters to horizontal striped shirts in her effervescent video for “Starting Again“. The Seattle-based artist rocks her trademark crown, stomps the concrete in a smudged pair of Chuck Taylors, and cradles an adorable pup while an ever-changing assortment of font emblazons the screen. Here is a video that champions levity, conceptual fun, and being flat-out rad. Robin is legend.

 

09. “Drowning” by Mick Jenkins

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Mick Jenkins’ video for “Drowning” combines elements of bruised, unrelenting hope with throngs of pain and frustration. The artist’s droll, scathing, and almost satirical delivery aches when he asks “When the real hold you down, you supposed to drown, right?” The emcee bores into the uneasy past and tumultuous present-day politics of America, making bold and necessary reference to the late-Eric Garner when he gasps out “I cant breathe.” The accompanying video shows Mick Jenkins being pulled through dead leaves and broken twigs on his way to a likely demise. It’s a brutally important video, and one that deserves recognition in a damning 2016.

 

08. “Mexican Chef” by Xenia Rubinos

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Xenia Rubinos strikes a white hot match and throws it on a parcel of gunpowder. In an intentionally and aesthetically simple video, the artist uncorks a searing indictment of prejudices both overt and surreptitious. Rubinos dances along to her words, providing punctuated confidence and fearless pirouettes throughout the four minute video. This is the most scalding, time sensitive, and irrefutably important song of 2016. Party in America.

 

07. “I Don’t Wanna Be Here” by Gazebos

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Gallows humor (literally), guttural expressions of indignation and self-effacing barbs, observational awareness and insouciant cigarette flicking. Gazebos bound through a myriad of outfits, whir across several different settings, and maintain their serpentine energy throughout their video for “I Dont Wanna Be Here“. When Shannon Perry hovers over a bolt-jolted crystal ball and asks “What power do you seek over people?” in a terrific supernatural lilt, life does not get any better.

 

06. “Bones” by Ex-Girlfriends

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Mercurial abandon burns and sparks on this supernatural music video for Ex-Girlfriends’ “Bones“. A rattling, sentient skeleton waggles its hand across a server’s writing pad, brines itself in chlorine, and chills its sand-caked cheek on a warm beach. All the while, Tarra Thiessen, Heather Cousins, Christine Hill, Crystal Nava, and Monika Knapp cannonball into pools and light candle wicks. “Bones” is unafraid and capsized with madness, placing its unhinged narrative safely at our six spot.

 

05. “Baby” by Anna of the North

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This is all about colors: gobs of light slicing through hallways and bounding off of objects. Warm neon flecked across furniture and flooded through rooms. Combined with stationary and eerily placid surroundings, Anna of the North’s music video for “Baby” feels otherworldly if not entirely submerged in uncanny valley. There’s a contemporary sheen (deep red, almost Nicolas Winding Refn-like walls) that does battle with bulbous artifacts from our not-so-distant past (snow laden televisions and yellowed phones). With the affecting vocals marching over the peaceful, yet disquieting surroundings, “Baby” channels a very modern dichotomy of comfort and malaise.

 

04. “Moby Dick” by Gurr

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I couldn’t love this video more. The loose, staccato sidesteps and arm juts. Sincere reactions and minimalist colors. Gurr’s floor thumping dance-off channels Cat Power’s “Cross Bones Style” with its dynamically unpretentious choreography. “Moby Dick” is a glib, hair swaying ode to the power of unbridled spontaneity and happiness. There’s also some legitimate The Innocence Mission vibes that I’m nodding about. Watch this on loop for the ultimate serotonin boost.

 

03. “Everybody Wants to Love You” by Japanese Breakfast

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Blankets of lights, rolling quarters, and a fireworks finale worth of muted expletives. Japanese Breakfast’s video for “Everybody Wants to Love You” affected us on such a grand scale that we covered it, only recently, and lauded its use of locations and camerawork. Michelle Zauner meditates in plumes of smoke, tears apart food, and shotguns the shit out of a beer in a cathartic mosaic of nighttime excess. A+

 

02. “Shut Up Kiss Me” by Angel Olsen

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In “Shut Up Kiss Me“, Angel Olsen inhabits a moonless world where cars sit in windswept roads, seedy bars look desolate and forgiving, and the worn floors of rollerskate rings absorb the night air with indifference. She wears a crown of reflective, light-glossed tinsel. She bays, challenges, interrupts and demands. Here’s “Kiss Me” by Sixpence None the Richer as made by a machete and a handful of salt. In directing the video, Angel Olsen grabs from David Lynch and David Fincher, but she is still obstinately her own. This is one of the most directly fun and deliberately insidious videos of the year, where the singer, songwriter, and director demands your attention and will fucking get it.

 

01. “Because I’m Me” by The Avalanches

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Supercharged by transcendent, almost paranormal, electricity and soulfulness, The Avalanches’ video for “Because I’m Me” is a minor masterpiece. Using a stark, cold, and dismissively automated setting for the warm tumbling of horns and a succession of smoothly choreographed dance moves makes for the best, and most unpretentiously loving, video of the year. Director Greg Brunkalla punctuates the video with an ending that would make Spike Jonze smile. Everyone in 2016 needs this video in their life.

 

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Author: Rob Patrick

A member of the San Diego Film Critics Society, Rob created Cinema Spartan after he stepped down as the editor of a weekly. He has written for The East County Californian, The Alpine Sun, The East County Herald, The San Diego Entertainer, and the San Diego Reader. He has also introduced films with the Pacific Arts Movement. He co-owns two dire wolves, Buckley and Ruffin. At any given time, he can tell you superfluous hockey statistics. He is the chancellor of Tapatio, an advocate of iced tea, and an owner of at least 70 pairs of Vans.

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