Countless hours of childhood spent fixated on ABC’s Rage has permanently altered my brain; I sometimes still will be listening to music and be struck with a sense of when the track’s Artist and title would pop up on the screen, randomly set off by some particular song structure.
I have been watching more Rage this year than any other period since those days as a kid, and this has made me feel more aware of music videos than usual. We have had a fantastic year in all types of music, and subsequently we have a windfall of videos. In order of publication, here are some of my favourites from the year:
BROCKHAMPTON – BUZZCUT FEAT. DANNY BROWN
A very dynamic spread of visual production techniques for BROCKHAMPTON, BUZZCUT blends lens effects, filters, animation and neural network processing until all distinction is lost. Honorable mention to the ‘visualiser’ style videos additionally put out for each song that also use a neural network to blend photos of the group members’ faces, setting a rather disconcerting visual for the ROADRUNNER era.
black midi – Slow
The next sound of black midi felt like a big mystery. Their debut was exceptional, being so ambitious and experimental they’d already formed a lane, but it didn’t seem like they could get away with a sequel. Cavalcade turned out to blow Shclagenheim out of the water, every aspect was progressed into a new sound that I couldn’t have imagined. Slow is the urgent centrepiece, and even less expected than the new sound was getting visuals to match.
Glass Animals – Space Ghost Coast To Coast
Three for three so far to feature unabashed, clunky animation that I can’t help but feel comes back to Cool 3d World in some way. There has been an glossy, rude wave of this style over the last few years, and it was at this point I was feeling a strong trend continuing for 2021. But Glass Animals handle it with at least the initial pretence of subtlety, seamlessly working it into live footage rather than the typical rendered background to great effect.
BROCKHAMPTON – DON’T SHOOT UP THE PARTY
The tone was already strange, but DON’T SHOOT UP THE PARTY made it straight up unsettling. Camera glasses worn by Kevin give his deranged POV and take you as observer through a concerning set of events and spaces. If this is a day in the life of BROCKHAMPTON, it raises more questions than it answers.
Billie Eilish – Lost Cause
In a huge year for pop, among Adele, Taylor Swift, Lana Del Ray and even Lorde all dropping albums, Billie’s new look was one of the biggest moments. Now fully in the rhythm of self directing music videos, this is the first of her own visual work after the Vogue cover shoot that reinvented her image in light of adulthood. She wasted no time to seize groundbreaking agency of her own body despite the pop tradition of sexualized pop star teenagers.
Dua Lipa – Love Again
For one of the more modest hits last year from her show stopping Future Nostalgia era, Dua Lipa is not finished as the female alpha. Not many pop album cycles last for six videos, but riding an invisible bull in a bikini and black cowboy hat still captivates plenty of interest, in a retro Fergie or Shirley Manson way.
Megan Thee Stallion – Thot Shit
Megan confidently maintains her pace with one of 2021’s horniest videos; if you were shocked by WAP, maybe cover your eyes for this message to her conservative detractors. The intro and conclusion make for a good double meaning flex in reference to her aspiration to open an assisted living facility with the Medical Administration degree that she will graduate from in just a couple of days time.
King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard – Butterfly 3000
KGATLW have tried the feature length album music video once before, but 2016’s Nonagon Infinity project ran out of steam with just a few songs left to close the loop. Jason Galea is considered a member of the group, spending over 5 years as their solo visual producer; he has given them an excellent, idiosyncratic visual catalogue. But during the year following Nonagon they went on to release five more albums and he had to abandon the project to keep up. This time they assigned him to a few particular songs and commissioned the rest through their local scene. While the title track does maybe have Jason’s best, trippiest ever video; this entry refers to the entire visual album project that goes with each song on Butterfly 3000. Another highlight is Interior People, which is like its own anime episode encompassing the metamorphosis central theme of the record. Really each entry wonderfully serves its position in the first completed King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard visual album.
Purple Disco Machine – Playbox
Another anime-like, Playbox presents itself similarly to Daft Punk’s Discovery era animated narrative music videos; but with more fatalism. Meticulously drawn with equal parts TV-trope and tones of purple, this episode is as tight and stimulating as the energetic Nu-Disco it is set to.
Tyler, The Creator – JUGGERNAUT
Another Kanye West cycle effortlessly dominated Hip-Hop for the year, but to everyone’s surprise, his unfiltered, extended appearance on the Drink Champs podcast gave a rare glimpse of humility:
“& then u get Rocky dressing better than me, Tyler better videos, Drake more records, J Cole more backpack, Kendrick better bars”
It may be short, but JUGGERNAUT is no exception. Tyler is a true performer, the full package of rapper, producer, fashion designer and dancer. Who else could pull a Rolls Royce Cullinan monster truck chariot ridden by their other self?
Baby Keem, Kendrick Lamar – family ties
Lauded initially as the return of Kendrick Lamar in verse, Family Ties is also now the breakout from Baby Keem, outperforming even the Travis Scott feature that came before it. This collaboration with his cousin is among the first projects to come out of Kendrick’s joint venture media company pgLang. K.dot’s video projects have always been creative and ambitious, and now backed by his own production I hope to see more of this multimedia experimentation.
Amyl and The Sniffers – Hertz
Amy Taylor stars in this video like she fronts her band, dances like she sings and creates art like she lives. Somehow pairing aggression with vulnerability, the performance is raw, literally bloody and a great summation of the band’s stage energy. Shot and directed on film by music video auteur John Angus Stewart of PHC films, Hertz is a great example of his expertise in high modality visuals.
Triple One – BLOOD RAVE
Another visual collaborator of Amyl & the Sniffers is Serwah Attafuah, who is obviously in high demand. Operating out of Western Sydney, the self taught digital artist has racked up an impressive portfolio of, shiny and alluring 3d renders. These hyper feminine figures are her signature, and are an excellent accompaniment to this very conflicted and lustful track from Triple One.
Remi Wolf – Anthony Kiedis
This video looks like the project of someone who grew up in the 90s watching MTV and wanting to be a pop star. Remi flourishes down Hollywood Boulevard, but by the time she got there the world has fallen apart and the question sets in: what did it cost to get here? Maybe stardom was more of a fever dream and that flourish was more of a stumble.
bbno$ & Rebecca Black – yoga
Rebecca Black’s hit Friday was too early for its time, the viral popularity showed she had value to some audience, but we are just coming to realise now that it hadn’t fully found its home yet. It sounded weird at first, but bbno$ turned out to be the ideal collaborator; the TikTok famous rapper already had a tendency for drag, so dressing up as parodies of each other lands so well that I don’t know where to keep my eyes.
Pipe-Eye – Ancient 5G Aliens
The concept of Pipe-Eye’s latest album is to give various day dreams their own theme song as if they were TV shows. However, Ancient 5G Aliens feels more video game inspired, say Garry’s Mod meets PS2 era Grand Theft Auto. With cheaper production value than the rest on this list comes a very pleasing whimsical quality that serves the concept perfectly.
Aminé – Charmander
By this stage of the pandemic, we have all heard a lot about feeling trapped in the house, let alone in our own heads. For Charmander, Aminé has co-directed another classic that brilliantly brings to life the weirdness of mixing too much time at home with too many drugs; a maybe too relatable summary of the year that has been 2021.
The Lazy Eyes – Fuzz Jam
By November, its easy to think that all the best releases of the year are already out. The northern hemisphere is heading into Winter, so now is a great time to look out for Australian music.
Enter: The Lazy Eyes, who have been warming up as a trendy ‘underground’ psych band for several years now, with just a couple of short EPs all leading up to Fuzz Jam. This track proudly and effortlessly wears its influence on its sleeve, Tame Impala, KGATLW, and ORB are easily recognisable. The more you listen, the more jumps out until it starts to sound like early Pink Floyd as a jam band, or a Jack White remix of The Beatles psych era. The White Stripes are also relevant visually, in how the music video uses some manner of their signature tight, colourful, minimalism to essentially remake the iconic video for Bohemian Rhapsody. This is the single of a band who are going big for their debut album, coming early 2022; which gives me strong hope that there will be no lull in the incredible music and videos we have seen throughout 2021.