After a bit of a break for the summer months, it’s time for the return of Videodrome, our semi-regular showcase for the best music videos around. Since the form has given the world game-changing helmers in both the blockbuster and arthouse realms, it’s always important to keep an eye on promos, and indeed, one could argue that there’s more invention to be found in the short form than there is in features. So, without further ado, the five best music videos we’ve seen in the last few weeks. As ever, any tips and suggestions are more than welcome.
Taylor Swift – “We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together”
Yeah, we went there. We have to say, we haven’t been wildly familiar with Taylor Swift‘s musical output before now, and haven’t particularly felt that to be a void in our lives. But at some point of late, we stumbled across her most recent video, which isn’t just the most guiltily pleasurable piece of bubblegum pop since “Call Me Maybe,” but also has a very nifty one-take video behind it. It’s fair to say that Declan Whitebloom, the British filmmaker behind the clip (who’s been behind a couple of other Swift spots, as well as promos for One Direction and Owl City, among others) isn’t exactly breaking new ground — it’s all essentially a Michel Gondry homage. But it’s also an incredibly well-executed one (the one-take stuff works beautifully, and we can’t spot the joins, if there are any), and it’s a whole bunch of fun. [Editor’s note: Really Oli? Taylor Swift?]
Bloc Party – “Kettling”
After a few years in the wilderness, with rumored band tensions and records of increasingly diminishing returns, British new wavers Bloc Party came storming back this summer with Four, their best record since their debut Silent Alarm. And for the new single “Kettling,” director James Lees (who’s worked with bands like Two Door Cinema Club and Wolf Gang in the past) has shied away from the more obvious implications of the title — which refers to British police tactic intended to defuse protests — for a brutal slice of playground life. It’s admirably unsentimental about school days, and Lees gives it a genuinely visceral quality that’s pretty terrifing, especially when it comes to the sting.
Grizzly Bear – “Yet Again”
Emily Kai Bock is rapidly becoming one of our favorite music video directors. The helmer grabbed our attention in the spring with the ace video for Grimes‘ “Oblivion,” one of our favorites this year, and she’s now back with the stunning “Yet Again,” from Grizzly Bear‘s excellent new record Shields. Seemingly influenced by “Carnival of Souls,” it features an ice skaker who, in the midst of a beautifully shot dance, plunges into the ice and wakes up in a semi-deserted funfair. She makes her way through the woods before getting a lift home where… things don’t improve much. It’s unnerving, beautiful-looking and genuinely distinctive, and we can’t ask for much more than that.
Aimee Mann – “Labrador”
When you’ve worked with Paul Thomas Anderson, one imagines your standards for music videos are higher than most, and we’d have thought that was the case for “Magnolia” soundtrack composer Aimee Mann. But comedian/director Tom Scharpling (of “The Best Show On WFMU“) certainly isn’t trying to compete with “The Master” helmer with his video for Mann’s “Labrador.” Instead, he decided to remake the video for “Voices Carry” by Mann’s old band ‘Til Tuesday (complete with cameo appearances by Ted Leo and Scharpling’s comedy partner Jon Wurster, and some really awful soft lighting). And even better, it’s preceded by mockumentary interviews with a pencil-moustached Jon Hamm brilliantly playing Scharpling himself. It’s about as amazing as it sounds.
Frank Ocean – “Pyramids”
There’s a few months of the year left, but we’re fairly confident that by the time December 31st rolls around, Frank Ocean‘s astonishing Channel Orange will remain the best record of 2012. The album’s highpoint is “Pyramids,” an epic, psychedelic ten-minute slow jam blending tales of Ancient Egypt and a Vegas stripper, and Australian director Nabil Elderkin (who’s worked regularly with Kanye West and Bon Iver, among others) has found the perfect absinthe-freakout visual accompaniment to the song. It’s not an unexpected take for the song, but the woozy comedown vibe is exactly what was needed. Watch below, but be warned: it’s NSFW.