Counting down the most interesting sonic visuals of the year
For the holiday season, we have some of the best short-form pieces of work.
Some of the videos engaged with war, gun violence, anti-Semitism and eating disorders but many of ‘em didn’t tackle any particular issue and were just impressive pieces of eye-candy and/or art. The picks here include material from TikTok, a mini-doc, a musical history lesson, a comedy sketch, a fashion ad, the apocalypse, a Bowie tribute, two of the year’s biggest streaming series memes, a punk legend, revivals of a folk legend a garage-punk band, a collage of murdered children, Ukraine defiance, love in the Chinese mountains, traditional Indian dancing, pleas for record plants and mental health, an answer song about 50 years in the making and an interactive video.
alt-J “Hard Drive Gold”
A young woman quietly sits in a living room in a London suburb, hearing a radio announcement about impending doom. While her neighbors scramble or calmly accept their fate, she has another plan. To honor her late mum, a fellow athlete, she takes her urn over the mantle place, pours a bit of her ashes in her shoes and proceeds to run through the streets determinedly, carrying with a pole vault with her. She reaches a sports field, does her jump, just clearing it just when the bomb goes off. No matter to her- she stands fearlessly and watches as the dust cloud flies into her and consumes her. Makes you wonder if we’ll all face our end in a such a triumphant, honorable way.
VIDEO: alt-J “Hard Drive Gold”
Beton “Kyiv Calling”
Joe Strummer would be proud. These Ukraine punks sound like Gogol Bordello and sport lines like “Phony Putin-mania has bitten the dust” and “Come out of neutrality, you boys and girls” (to the rest of the world). The original lyrics about “war is declared and battle come down” don’t need any updating at all. To NATO they say, “forget it brother, we can’t go it alone.” Imagines of countrymen prepping for battle and scars left by the war are seen otherwise. You’ll note that there’s no comparable patriotic songs in Russia for their ‘military action.’ For other Ukraine agitprop music, also see “Odessa Orchestra Plays In Support Of No-Fly Zone For Ukraine” and “The Concert Between Bombs,” done by a quintet in a subway station.
VIDEO: Beton “Kyiv Calling”
Chance the Rapper “Child of God”
CTR’s mumble rap (remember, he wanted to revive Soundcloud) isn’t the star here. It’s artist Naïla Opiangah and her creative process that we get to watch. We get to luxuriate in some of the details of her painting a mural with abstractions of black bodies at play, relaxation. Ideally, we should have a nice long look at it overall as we would in a gallery or as we see Chance do here. If you’re really interested, you can see more of her work here. Good to see that CTR is serious about supporting visual arts, including Mia Lee’s work in his more recent “Ya Know” video.
VIDEO: Chance the Rapper “Child of God”
Chapel Hart “You Can Have Him, Jolene”
You might think shows like America’s Got Talent are corny, useless and doesn’t showcase real, substantial talent, but here’s a big exception. Almost a half century after the fact finally comes an answer song to Dolly’s lovelorn classic. Back in ’74, Dolly pleads with J not to take her fella but here, a black female trio happily flips J off. The show’s judges awarded them with the coveted ‘golden buzzer’ but more importantly, Dolly herself gave them a big thumbs up, as she should.
VIDEO: Chapel Hart “You Can Have Him, Jolene”
Congregation of Drones “Experimental Treatment”
Sadly, the amazing interactive video they created on Twitch ain’t active at the moment but if you go to their site, you can get a taste of their techie fireworks. Pauline Kim Harris does all kinds of wild techniques on violin captured on a smartphone which the viewer can then finagle with, changing the length of the clips and the direction you view it, using their mouse or finger to change the view, angle, width/height and perspective in a 3-D style, thanks to director Jesse Stiles who set up the proceedings to be created live with Max, a fascinating music/video editing platform. They promise more ‘non-linear videos’ in the future so you’d be smart to check back there.
Tony DeSare and Scott Bradlee “The Evolution of Piano from Bach to Adele”
Quite the history lesson here. In less than less than five and a half minutes, the duo go from Bach to Beethoven to “Chopsticks” (skipping over 1800’s Romantics like Debussy, Strauss) to ragtime to Gershwin to Tin Pan Alley to Jerry Lee to movie themes (Exodus, “As Time Goes By,” Beverly Hills Cop) to the Fabs to Billy Joel (twice) to Bill Withers to Elton to Bob Seger to Doobies to Journey to Van Halen to Coldplay to Adele. They keep landing on tear-jerking ballads and some pop goop (remember “A Thousand Miles”?) and they go for pop hits but couldn’t they have slotted in some love for other great keysmen like Little Richard or Thelonious Monk?
Grimes “The Making of ‘Shinigami Eyes’ (Vevo Footnotes)”
What’s impressive here is not just the detail (the throne made of bodies, the AI girl group, experimental ‘extended reality’ techniques) but also how she shouts out to all the amazing artists behind the scenes and actresses who made this high-tech creation possible. She even admits the flaws and shortcomings, saying that one of the choreography routines didn’t come off and a bunch of the footage was lost, leading them to last minute scrambling. Plus, you get footnotes to the surreal story line. And let’s say the obvious here: She was too good for Elon.
VIDEO: Grimes “The Making of ‘Shinigami Eyes’ (Vevo Footnotes)”
Lonnie Holley “I Went A Little Too Far (Mistreating Love)”
Lovely and sad avant-soul finds appropriate settings in lush, vast European atmospheres and stunning interiors.
VIDEO: Lonnie Holley “I Went A Little Too Far (Mistreating Love)”
Ho99o9 “Nuge Snight”
High tech CGI production meets shaky low-fi production for unsettling, mind-number entertainment, which would be huge with metal crowd if the band was white. This also makes you think they could not only score but also produce their own horror films. In some ways, they already do.
VIDEO: Ho99o9 “Nuge Snight”
Hybrid Bharatham “EPISODE 5 | Usha Jey Choreography | Uproar -Lil Wayne ft. Swizz Beatz”
Recommended by Ted Gioia, Indian classic dance style (Bharathanatyam) meets Lil Wayne’s 2018 hit “Uproar.” This might sound like it’s a cute idea or forced cultural mash-up but choreographer/dancer Usha Jey makes it look like Weezy had her in mind. See more of Jey’s work on her YouTube channel too.
VIDEO: Hybrid Bharatham “EPISODE 5 | Usha Jey Choreography | Uproar -Lil Wayne ft. Swizz Beatz”
As good as Clark is as a guitarist, Fish cuts him to pieces at his Budapest concert when she comes in half way through the epic 13 minute set-ender, “When My Train Comes In.” By then, the lights are flashing and going through the color spectrum and the sound is shaking everything as if the stage will fall apart or levitate.
VIDEO: “Guitarbattle: Samantha Fish vs. Gary Clark Jr. Winner is the audience ;-)”
The Kids In The Hall “Doomsday DJ”
Proof that this classic sketch show deserved its revival. In a stark solo bit, Dave Foley plays “Motormouth,” a makeshift jockey in a post-apocalyptic world thanks to a DNA mutation, though it could easily stand in for a new COVID strain or an upcoming MAGA riot. He’s in a dark, dank underground place, sounding cheerful and upbeat even though he doesn’t know what’s left of the audience out there. For his playlist, there’s only one record left, Melanie’s “Brand New Key,” which has a skip in it. As he plays it over and over, we see a silent dread in his face. Later, we learn of a horrific mutated birth that cost him the rest of his family and that no doubt feeds his off-mike mood but you can’t escape the feeling that there’s more to it. We can laugh here as a chipper hippie hit causes such pain and sorrow but there’s also something poignant and timely going on here.
Lightbringer Productions “The Way The Music Died”
A 16 min mini-doc from a UK perspective on how Spotify is killing income for artists. Singer Mishkin Fitzgerald and rapper David “Milky” Hooker attest that their lack of Spotify payments makes them feel like they themselves are worthless. Singer/vocal coach Georgia Train explains how songwriting has changed with the need for hooks/choruses at first 30 seconds and how our ears are now attuned to the way songs are created so that they can make it onto Spotify playlists. The film ends with this poignant quote: ‘People can’t live without music but the musicians can’t live.’
VIDEO: Lightbringer Productions “The Way The Music Died”
Alessandro Michele “As the dream begins…”
A Gucci ad featuring Snoopy, Miley, Jared Leto and other famous friends. Slightly decadent, mostly thanks to the lapping up food but not as steamy/sex as the Velvet Underground song that we hear, “Venus In Furs.” Could it be that this once-shocking piece of S&M rock is now tame enough to be in a fashion commercial? Maybe but even in the snippet, Reed’s tortured vocal and Cale’s sawing violin still take us back to the old feelings of dread, release, taboo and horniness that the song spoke of regardless.
Joni Mitchell “Both Sides Now”
From her surprise appearance at Newport Folk Fest, notice that while the band keeps their cool, the singers on stage can’t hold back tears. A brain aneurysm has made JM start from scratch to regain some of her musicianship and she’s lost her upper vocal range (as many ‘70’s singers have) but who cares? But what exactly is everyone on stage crying about? They’re overcome with joy, BUT WHAT ELSE? Disbelieve? Some self-knowledge that they’re part of an historical moment? Moved by Mitchell’s withered spirit? JM’s benefactor here is Brandi Carlile, who clutches her chest when Joni starts singing and at the end, BC falls to her knees and asks the crowd, “Did the world just stop?” For a few moments there, it seemed like it did.
VIDEO: “Both Sides Now” from the Joni Jam
ODESZA “Love Letter (feat. The Knocks) – Official Video starring Simone Ashley”
Ashley (of Bridgerton and Sex Education fame) is the star, as she should be, going through an ongoing heart squishing ritual of denial and debasement everywhere she looks (in chess, martial arts, wrestling, dance) , all hooked to a vocal hook of “you can’t break my heart ’cause I was never in love.” It doesn’t quite end with her on top but it still leaves her with some kind of moral victory.
VIDEO: ODESZA “Love Letter (feat. The Knocks) – Official Video starring Simone Ashley”
Jenna Ortega “Goo Goo Muck”
Next to the Kate Bush (see below), this was the most viral song revival in a streaming series. Ortega is brilliant throughout Wednesday with her deadpan stare that could melt an iceberg and her ‘goth snark’ (as her roomie there calls it) is freakin’ hilarious, all of which makes Tim Burton’s call to revive this TV classic a winner. By the 4th episode, the creepy sociopath is convinced to join a school mixer and we see her come out of her shell with a wild dance that Ortega herself insists that she came up with and is already the subject of several articles. As for the Cramps song that also gets a revival as much as the Addams Family series, it’s a fitting match of comical creepiness. You can’t help but think that somewhere in the depths of the netherworld, Lux Interior is smiling, though he might wonder, ‘why didn’t they pick ‘Human Fly'”?
Dancing is one of my favorite things to do. Along with gravedigging, conducting autopsies, and glaring uncomfortably. pic.twitter.com/q5sHhp82Rr
— Wednesday Addams (@wednesdayaddams) November 25, 2022
Otoboke Beaver “I Am Not Maternal”
Via a quartet of proud Kyoto punk grrls and a video created/animated by guitarist Yoyoyoshie. Full of manga and strobes and child-like mom/baby bonding, including one that ends in a double death, plus puppies, hearts, a woman birthing a dog, graffiti flashing by at 100 mph, angel dogs with devil babies, a reverse birth and a strange theory of evolution. It’s nutty, its fast paced and it’s perfect for the band and the song.
VIDEO: Otoboke Beaver “I Am Not Maternal”
Perfume Genius “Pygmalion’s Ugly Season”
Sure, it’s ambitious, sensual and weird, but as a slight detractor who wonders what the fuss is all about sometimes, it’s also kind of pretentious- as a poster notes, ‘don’t touch, it’s art’ Still, the surreal mode fits the music and it’s of a piece. When it premiered, out of the 105 views, 104 of us gave a thumbs up to the video, making me wonder who the detractor was.
VIDEO: Perfume Genius “Pygmalion’s Ugly Season”
Pink Siifu “Griptape’!!”
Relix and Aquarium Drunkard are two of the finest music publications out there but why can’t these psych/head destinations appreciate psychedelic rap like this? The video has Claymation with jiggling butts, singalong text with dollars signs and pocket books and an excellent hazy vibe. Perfect for 4/20 or at least an opening spot for Cypress Hill shows — they deserve it too as they’re a great live act.
VIDEO: Pink Siifu “Griptape’!!”
Peter Rugman “All The Bowie Songs in…”
An obsessive young fan on TikTok covers the Thin White Duke’s early career, year-by-year. The lad’s definitely talented and funny (should have his own series by now) but what’s most stunning is watching the series of videos and realizing how much Bowie changed EVERY… GODDAMN… YEAR, from pseudo-hippie to spaceman to proto-glam to glam itself. Sure, you gotta admire someone who’s restless and willing to fuck with their own formula but this is a great reminder of how ol’ Londoner really set the bar high with the whole concept of the musical chameleon. Ch-ch-changes indeed.
James Smith (Yard Act) “It’s Mental Health Week…”
The Mindcharity group set this up, pairing the Yard Act singer with Melissa Rose, an up-and-coming film-maker who frankly discussed her battles with bulimia with JS. Here, he’s sitting alone in a bedroom, doing a calm recital in rhyme. Rose was sidelined with COVID so Smith took up the work to put her thoughts/words into this moving little production.
Sadie Sink “Max’s Song”
THE musical moment on a TV (aka streaming) show this year, hands down and well earned. The Stranger Things scene where friends try to save Max, portrayed by Sink, from a netherworld monster with her favorite tune is high drama that’s totally appropriate to Kate Bush. But some snobby old Bush fans seem to actually think that unless you got hooked on the song when it came out in September ’85, you’re just a fake-ass bandwagoner. Screw them. Bush herself got some nice cash flow, chart action. plenty of new fans and hey, she’s more than cool with it. But why not some love for a classic 1950 Ella and Satchmo duet in another pivotal scene in the series? A: going back to the ‘80’s is cool, going back before the ‘60’s, not so much.
VIDEO: Max’s Song (Full Scene)
Joe Strummer “Fantastic”
Yes, you can be a punk fan and get misty over this old footage.
VIDEO: Joe Strummer “Fantastic”
Tukoh Taka “Official FIFA Fan Festival™ Anthem | Nicki Minaj, Maluma, & Myriam Fares (FIFA Sound)”
On the surface, it seems like a beautiful, moving, multi-cultural moment and a good dance groove. But FIFA is a shitty, corrupt, shameless sports organization and sponsoring country Qatar banned any form of solidarity with LBGT (not to mention alcohol) at the World Cup events. All of which makes the video uplifting and a nauseating façade at the same time.
VIDEO: Tukoh Taka “Official FIFA Fan Festival™ Anthem | Nicki Minaj, Maluma, & Myriam Fares (FIFA Sound)”
toe_mosito “#sueGOP #godKilledAllTheBabies #GOPClowns #guns #secondAmendment”
In the wake of the mass murder in Uvalde, Texas and the usual, empty, meaningless ‘thoughts and prayers’ bullshit courtesy of the 2nd Amendment festishers, this TikTok video shows up photos of all of the beautiful young children gunned down, set to Rex Orange County’s “Pluto Projector.” Seeing their smiling, joyous faces and knowing what happened to them is almost too painful to watch. But we should watch this, and remember. For some perspective, Insider now says that “firearms have become one of the leading causes of death for Americans of any age, and… they’re also the leading cause of death for children below the age of 18” and Gun Violence Archive clocks the number of 2022 US mass shootings at six hundred twenty-two as of December. All of which is disgraceful and frightening, but the title of the video here ignores the fact that there’s also some Democrats in Congress who are squeamish about gun safety legislation.
The Weeknd “Gasoline”
Things he likes at his dance party: nightmares, synths, car wrecks, gore, doppelgangers and a beat-down of an older version of himself. It’s even more unsettling that the giant bug monsters and body dismemberment in this animated “How I Make You Love Me?” video. And he’s right- he doesn’t need the Grammys.
VIDEO: The Weeknd “Gasoline”
Jack White “A Plea to the Three Global Major Labels”
A short speech that quotes the MC5 and lays down a challenge: “A small punk band can’t get their record for 8-10 months and I now ask the major labels…to finally build your own pressing plants again.” Majors don’t care about small punk bands of course and they’re not gonna sit in a board room and think “here’s a great way to get revenue that doesn’t include ripping off acts with streaming…” but you have to admire JW’s spirit. And not long after this video came out, it turns out that he’s getting his wish though it won’t help with a lot of the backlog issues.
VIDEO: Jack White “A Plea to the Three Global Major Labels”
Michael Winograd “Gazpacho Police”
Mel Brooks once said ridicule was the best way to knock the Nazis down to size. This works just as well with a conspiracy theory nut posing as a member of Congress who doesn’t even know how to properly invoke the brown shirts for no particularly good reason. Along with the lovely klezmer tune, you gotta love the animation featuring brain-donor Marjorie Taylor Greene as a chorus of Hannukah gremlins. And with Kanye (who’s got his own MTG connections) getting a hard-on for the Fuhrer, a song like this is even more important as a counter weight.
Jiang Xiaocun & Chunli Xiaohui “Love Song of The Nu People”
Numbering about 20,000 people, this group of linen-loving mountainous people in Southwest China are something of a mystery but their music is undeniably gorgeous as seen in this brief clip of this duo. Some blanks filled in by Sam Debell at World Music Network include how the song “deals with the culture of Love between young people in a traditional village setting. The Nu, along with most Yunnan ethnic groups are very shy about expressing their feelings and do so with musical instruments instead such as the boy playing the ‘Dabiya’ and the girl the mouth harp.” That last part might makes boomers think of that old weepy Jim Croce song. And if you’re curious to learn more about the Nu, there’s this Travel Guide site.
VIDEO: Jiang Xiaocun & Chunli Xiaohui “Love Song of The Nu People”
You can also stream most of the videos above on this YouTube playlist.
VIDEO: Rock & Roll Globe Best of 2022 Video Playlist