The Top Music Videos of 2011

15. Born Gold – “Lawn Knives”

[Dir. Alex Fischer & Ellis Bahl]

Throughout the last few years as GOBBLE GOBBLE, Cecil Frena has firmly entrenched himself as a major proponent of weirdo pop songs. “Lawn Knives” in particular was one of the weirdest, featuring some of the most surreal lyrical imagery the year saw. It was paired with an appropriately surreal video featuring a group of kids doing… something. There’s definitely some religious connotations to be made, with the Bible making an appearance and one particular little girl’s role in leading the troupe of children. It’s beautifully shot more than anything, and even if the narrative structure is unclear, the sinister nature of the whole ordeal is entirely apparent. It’s a fittingly bizarre video, for an entirely bizarre song.

Colin Joyce

14. Times New Viking – “No Room To Live”

[Dir. Brandon Reichard and Pelham Johnston]

Sometimes the simplest looking videos are the hardest to make. This video of Times New Viking carrying their equipment down the street from their house to their practice space, while being coloured in and scribbled all over, is strangely beautiful, and while it may look like fairly simple it was in fact a painstaking venture. The video features nearly 3000 frames, and every single one of them had to be coloured in. Around 40 artists from the area of Columbus, OH (TNV’s home) pitched in to make this video what it is. Even before knowing that, I was thoroughly impressed by the video’s charm, but after I heard the work that went into it and watched again, I was blown away.

Rob Hakimian

13. EMA – “California”

[Dir. Leif Shackelford]

Choreography and cool are two words that you would not usually associate with each other, but the video for EMA’s “California” allows singer Erika M. Anderson to act out the words of her song without feeling contrived. Anderson’s motions, in fact, seem completely natural, as if she were giving a rousing speech from the center of her heart. Behind her are impactful clips of poverty, religious iconography, and even fireworks, always threatening to wash out the entire scene in their overwhelming brightness. While some might watch the video and see nothing but a singer singing their song, there is an immediacy and a weight to it all that makes “California” seem like something more, showing good reason why this was many of our first experience with EMA and it led to her having a pretty great year. Yeah, director Leif Shackleford proves that little packages can make big impacts with this one, using the song as the star of the clip and Anderson as a most convincing method of presentation.

Philip Cosores

12. Lana Del Rey – “Video Games”

[Dir. Lana Del Rey]

For most of us, our first encounter with Lana Del Rey was watching the “Video Games” video, which was pieced together and edited by the singer, featuring grainy nostalgia clips of young people dancing, American flags, skateboarding, cartoons, Los Angeles, and actress Paz Del La Huerta falling down. And while a book could be written with all the commentary about the self-shot footage of Del Rey pouting her big lips and looking into the camera with a sort of distant sincerity, there is one thing that no one can deny: this video as much a part of Lana Del Rey as any music she ever records will be. Combining with the intimate vocals of the singer, the images are deeply affecting, making skateboarding seem like something that happened 50 years ago when times were simpler and more innocent. And, it’s quite an achievement to disassociate the viewer from fairly common sights through clever editing and a fitting soundtrack. But, most of all, “Video Games” is the clip that launched a career, and time will tell whether this is the beginning of a musical chapter or just another notable footnote.

Philip Cosores

11. Wye Oak – “Fish”

[Dir. Katherine Fahey & Michael Patrick O’Leary]

Not even the best song on Baltimore duo Wye Oak’s excellent Civilian, “Fish” is given one of the year’s finest video treatments. Recruiting fellow hometown artists Michael O’Leary, whose photograph makes a splash on Civilian’s cover, and Katherine Fahey, who painted the album art for their 2008 debut, the aftermath is a gorgeous bout of shadow puppetry, which takes a bizarre turn into Moby Dick-meets-Darwin territory. And if Wye Oak keep evolving at this rate, who knows what they will be capable of next time around.

Michael Tkach