Tag Archives: Kwabs

The 10 Best Music Videos of February

What Kind of Man Florence and The Machine 2

by S.L. Fevre, Cleopatra Parnell, Amanda Smith & Gabriel Valdez

After a year of writers experimenting with different features and articles, we’re bringing back the ones we liked the best. This means a return of our music video coverage. These actually take more work than anything else, but we love this kind of filmmaking too much to abandon talking about it.

What follows is our selection of the 10 best music videos from the last month, with some honorable mentions.

Please be aware that our #2 video of the month comes with a pretty severe trigger warning.

10. “Can’t Control My Love” by Total Giovanni
directed by Sherwin Akbarzadeh

Boy falls in love with girl. Boy sees how other boys treat the girl. Boy is inspired to reject the patriarchy by hallucinations of a glam band. Boy is rewarded with gummy worms. That’s not exactly how it works in the real world, but…whatever, it’s close enough.

9. “JAY Z: A Dissertation on the Diaspora of the Black Soul” by Goodbye Tomorrow

If you’re on board with the idea that rap’s going through a funk, you haven’t been paying attention to the right rap. There’s a conscience that’s returned to much of the industry, driven by the economic collapse of the middle class and recent racial violence. Goodbye Tomorrow’s first video is a trippy, angry lamentation on how African-Americans are portrayed in the media and how this portrayal carries over into everyday life.

8. “Champagne Kisses” by Jessie Ware
directed by Chris Sweeney

It all feels as if Bat for Lashes got hold of a Nine Inch Nails video and plastered everything over in pastel. There’s a dreamlike quality of yearning here, of not wanting to wake up from whatever dissociated feeling we’ve managed to trap ourselves in. It comes together in such a strange, bittersweet way. There’s a tone here that isn’t common. It feels like peeking into someone’s psyche where we shouldn’t be.

7. “Goodbye” by Who Is Fancy

This is a trio of videos, each to the same song. Each time, a different artist is presented as singing the song. The other two can be seen here and here. Each is guided through the exact same music video, made up and fashion accessorized closer and closer to the point of visually becoming a pop star. Together, the individuality of the singer is removed and replaced with a commercialized image. Just like the image at the end of each video isn’t real, we don’t know which of the three singers – if any of them – is the real one. It’s a clever commentary on modern pop and the identity of the singer has remained – up to this point – anonymous.

6. “Julia” by Jungle
directed by J & Oliver Hadlee Pearch

Jungle posted the #2 album of the year for us last year and you can hear why. Even better, they continue to put out some of the best dance videos to accompany these songs. The connection from song to dance isn’t always apparent, but it doesn’t seem to matter when the emotion of the dance takes hold. It’s not so much based on logic or narrative as how the dancers seem to feel the song, and how they interpret and communicate that feeling to the audience.

5. “Perfect Ruin” by Kwabs
directed by George Belfield
produced by Jessica Wylie

At least someone’s taking advantage of the snow. Filmed in the Swedish winter, Kwabs captures the essence of a lonely emotional journey, the way a moment of loss can both uplift and break the soul. It reflects the simplicity and beauty of the song itself – the instrumentation always complements, but never impedes, Kwabs’s voice. It’s peaceful, it’s contemplative, and it’s utterly beautiful to watch.

4. “Blame” by Denai Moore
directed by Simon Cahn

The best music videos reflect what appeals to us about music itself – they leave themselves open to interpretation. A young woman sits in the back of a police car. A man chases after. Is he trying to save her? Is he trying to catch her? Is he scared for her, angry with her? If he’s scared, is she being taken away unjustly? If he’s angry, is he trying to capture her or does he blame her for something? Is the police car trying to protect her or drag her to prison? There doesn’t even seem to be a driver. Even the end reveal is intentionally obscure. Has she caused a death, or is she dying? Is the whole thing a metaphor – she’s slipping away and he rages at this? We don’t know. We can’t know. And that’s what makes “Blame” – paired with its beautiful song – so important and rewatchable. What the video is about will always be a mystery, but it’s a mystery that communicates important possibilities.

3. “I Can’t Breathe” by Pussy Riot
directed & produced by Pussy Riot

Pussy Riot, the Russian punk movement that protested Russian president Vladimir Putin, includes the two members here who served nearly two years in Russian jails for “hooliganism.” There’s argument over what Pussy Riot stands for, whether they should serve as a voice of protest, and the same talking heads in our news media who called them heroes for standing up to Putin tore them down once they protested the United States’ own militant police elements, as they do here in a powerful response to the choking death of Eric Garner committed by a New York City police officer.

So call Pussy Riot what you want, but only do it after you serve two years in Russian jails, return to the country to be whipped by police, and take the Kremlin to the European Court of Human Rights.

THE FOLLOWING VIDEO CARRIES A SEVERE TRIGGER WARNING. SKIP TO OUR #1 CHOICE IF YOU DO NOT WISH TO SEE IT.

2. “Buried” by Shlohmo
directed by Lance Drake
produced by Danielle Hinde, Jessica Zeta

The best, most meaningful horror movie of the year may be this 6-minute music video. Where to even start? It’s a brutal depiction of a pregnant woman eluding and confronting the kidnapper she’s just escaped on the seemingly uncaring streets of a midnight Los Angeles. The style and imagery behind this is in turn beautiful and appalling. The ties on a bed. A brief glimpse of a missing poster, weather-worn and forgotten for months. The editing of flowers opening, that god damn cinder block. This is a brilliant and very, very tough piece of filmmaking.

1. What Kind of Man – Florence + The Machine
directed by Vincent Haycock
produced by Jackie Bisbee, Mary Ann Marino, Alex Fisch

At the end of this video, check to see if your entire body is tensed. No artist in her videos exposes the crazy dreams, alternate realities, and fears going on inside her head better than Florence Welch. We connect to them because we all have those things happening in our heads, we’re all possessed by these inhibitions and fears, we’re all convinced of constant rebirths and better versions of ourselves to the point where we can’t identify the true changes in ourselves from the false ones.

Watching a Florence + The Machine video can sometimes seem like therapy – it’s cathartic and dreadful, healing and existentially terrifying all at once. More than any of her other videos, this taps into all the different narratives happening in our heads, all the possibilities we play out, all the inner selves and the memories they embody struggling to get free. And as director Vincent Haycock pointed out, Welch is fearless. There’s nothing she won’t do in a performance. You can see that here. You can see what’s laid out before us that most of us wouldn’t dare, all the inner clockworks and those things we’re afraid to say and admit. If only we were all so brave.

Honorable Mentions

“Black Mambo” by Glass Animals

“Empty Nesters” by Toro y Moi

“FourFiveSeconds” by Rihanna, Kanye West & Paul McCartney

“I Luv It” by Sunny & Gabe ft. D.R.A.M.

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The Best Music Videos of 2014 (So Far) — #15-6

West Coast Lana Del Rey

by S.L. Fevre, Cleopatra Parnell, Vanessa Tottle, and Gabe Valdez

It’s been a great year (so far) for pop videos. Coldplay, OK Go, and Ariana Grande all feature today. If there’s something to take away with you, it’s that this is the year rap matters again, the year where it woke up, looked around, got fed up with what it saw, and decided to start doing something about it. You’ve seen that already in the countdown (if you missed them, here are parts 1 and 2 of our rankings), and you’ll see it again today and tomorrow.

-S.L. Fevre & Gabe Valdez

P.S. Due to music copyright law, we can only feature some videos here. It’ll vary by country. Click on each title to watch it directly on YouTube.

15. You’re Not Good Enough – Blood Orange
directed by Gia Coppola

80s Music belonged to my older sister, who listened pretty exclusively to music like Blood Orange’s. It’s a light, airy, emotive groove reflected well in Gia Coppola’s faux behind-the-scenes rehearsal. What makes the video is how Coppola’s technical precision translates into loose, relaxed visuals – by harshly overlighting the whole picture, she achieves both the crispness and color of an HD piece as well as the flatly lit, soft tone of watching a variety show on an analog TV with so-so reception.

Combine the behind-the-scenes aspect, with dancers warming up and wearing era-appropriate rehearsal clothes, and it all sparks the feeling of getting a glimpse into a relaxed practice run from another era. And yes, Gia Coppola is Apocalypse Now and Godfather director Francis Ford Coppola’s grand-daughter.   -Gabe Valdez

14. Summertime – The Head and the Heart
directed by Chad VanGaalen

Chad VanGaalen’s unique animation style initially hints at a simple, cutesy video. You don’t expect it to be as detailed or darkly humorous as it is, but it rewards repeat viewings. The macabre takes the video over later on as if you’re watching a gorier, er, Edward Gorey. In a year flooded with complex animation videos, “Summertime” stands out as one of the few vids that’s truly different, both for its fresh style and its incredibly wicked sense of humor.   -Gabe Valdez

13. Girl You Look Amazing – Nicole Atkins
directed by Laurel Parmet

When you’re a PhD and you spend the majority of your life in Alberta, Nicole Atkins’ imaginary date out resembles way more evenings than I’d like to admit. Her performance is genuinely funny (those eyes!) and the song kills (so does the album).   -Vanessa Tottle

12. Magic – Coldplay
directed by Jonas Akerlund

While Ziyi Zhang not being able to free herself from captivity doesn’t seem quite right to me (she was my pick as the Next Jackie Chan, after all), she gives a charming performance as Cecile, the damsel in distress in Jonas Akerlund’s Depression-era tale of dueling magicians. The silent film look gets the most out of Zhang’s capability for softness and Chris Martin’s chiseled persona, while letting the video communicate a complete story without ever getting in the way from the music.   -Gabe Valdez

11. The Writing’s on the Wall – OK Go
directed by Aaron Duffy, Damian Kulash Jr, & Bob Partington

OK Go became famous because of a lo-fi music video done in one long take, “Here It Goes Again.” It involved the band dancing across treadmills in a video choreographed by one singer’s sister. They’re OK musicians, but they’re trailblazing music video artists. One-upping their Rube Goldberg machine in 2010’s “This Too Shall Pass” is “The Writing’s on the Wall.” It takes one of their better songs, plays with perspective like a Magic Eye, and literally turns you on your head all in one long, mind-bogglingly complex take.   -Cleopatra Parnell

10. Work Work – clipping. feat. Cocc Pistol Cree
directed by Carlos Lopez Estrada

Rats in the head and curb stomping. This is old school rap and old school videomaking. It hits you hard and low, catches you off-guard, and contains violence without being violent. Social comment about the state of rap? Introspective psychological exam? Or all of the above? The video is filmed in one long shot that baits-and-switches you into something you don’t expect at all. I can’t think of very many music videos that have made me jump. Can you?   -S.L. Fevre

9. State of Grace – Talib Kweli feat. Abby Dobson
directed by Daniel Cordero

Talib Kweli’s been sitting on the fence between educative rap and boastful superstardom for a hell of a long time. I’d like to think this means he’s finally chosen a side. “State of Grace” is his most important video yet, a vibrant animation full of color and emotion, a monument to hip hop’s origination in protest verse, and a call for women to take creative power and control of their image in the hip hop community.   -Gabe Valdez

8. West Coast – Lana Del Rey
directed by Vincent Haycock

Lana Del Rey leaves her loving, caring beau for an older, rich man. She burns in Hell. That’s what this video amounts to. Metaphorical Hell, real Hell, or just a certain L.A. lifestyle? Her regretful, slowdown, ‘narco’ chorus ends in a chant of “I’m in love,” as if she’s trying to convince herself but doesn’t really believe it. It eventually takes over the song, her personality and the video to the point where there’s nothing of her original, laughing self left. The story in the video illustrates the evolution of selling out, not as a celebrity but as a human being, of replacing every original part of herself with the image someone else has projected on to her. It’s a stirring, thoughtful commentary to the feel-bad song of the summer.   -S.L. Fevre & Gabe Valdez

7. Problem – Ariana Grande feat. Iggy Azalea
directed by Nev Todorovic

This remains one of my favorite dance videos not just of the year, but of all-time. Grande, who’s extremely involved in the filming and editing of her videos, has found someone in director Nev Todorovic who she synchs up with perfectly. Earlier this year, I compared their creative relationship to that of David Fincher’s and Paula Abdul’s in the late 80s. In “Problem,” the framing constantly teases the viewer not just with Grande but with her dancers, too. The rhythmic editing style paces the music perfectly.

The video itself is filled with cinematic detail. Faux signal losses and swish pans keep the editing pace when a shot isn’t broken through a direct cut. Film scratches abound at the edges of the image, constantly drawing you to the center. A sort of psychedelic tunnel vision accompanies Iggy Azalea’s rap solo, in contrast to Grande’s trademark pinwheel and in visual complement to those swish pans and signal losses. Like the song, the video is cleverer by far than its simple pop housing would make you assume.   -Gabe Valdez

6. Wrong or Right – Kwabs
directed by Emil Nava

The story of dance is sitting there and feeling like you’re wasting away. It’s needing to get out and express yourself. It’s not caring what you look like. It’s doing it in places you shouldn’t. It’s finding other people to do it with you at a moment’s notice. It’s finding something more in that community, something you get through movement and feeling music inside you in a way that has to get out. It’s letting every frustration you have get to your fingertips and toes to shake it out. It’s impressing people one minute and embarrassing yourself the next. It’s about taking down the walls between people in a way that makes everyone in a room appreciate nothing else but moving and feeling music inside you that has to get out. It’s about falling down and maybe getting back up and maybe not. It’s about telling your story to everyone else in a way that makes them understand their own stories better. The story of dance is sitting there and feeling like you’re wasting away, and finally deciding to do anything else but keep on sitting there.   -Vanessa Tottle

Keep an eye out for our Top 5 music videos (so far).