Top Ten Music Videos of 2020
I initially created this category to highlight the music videos released each year that resonated with me personally, made me engage with a song differently, or used an experimental film or animation technique that I particularly enjoyed. I think some of these videos follow those guidelines trivially, but others are excellent for their unusual artistry or sui generis ingenuity. If you know of any other, better videos, feel free to leave a link in the comments or reply to my twitter account.
10. Nonlocal Forecast – “We’re Smeared Across A 2D Surface (Part 0)”
To make the above video, Nonlocal Forecast (Angel Marcloid) collaborated with artist “MrDougDoug” to create a visualization of her musical nostalgia for the early digital era. And I can only say that this succeeds beautifully. Its polygonal rendering of natural environments mixed with digital-camcorder glitches captures the essence of the Nonlocal Forecast project’s conceptual mise en scène.
9. The Smashing Pumpkins – “In Ashes” Episode 2 (“Confessions of a Dopamine Addict”)
To promote and accompany CYR, The Smashing Pumpkins have released a short music film called “In Ashes” that acts as the music video for several tracks from the first half of the new album. In part two, we watch our hapless protagonists undergo a psychedelic trip sequence that lands them in some new difficulties in the forest. Besides being the most interesting of the “In Ashes” video series, it also stands out as the most oddly touching and effective Smashing Pumpkins video in about 20 years.
8. Ital Tek – “Leaving the Grid”
The video for the lead single from Outland features computer-rendered explorations of real streets and places in Japan. (You can find an interesting behind-the-scenes video containing the original footage here.) It perfectly suits the feeling of computer-age apocalypse Ital Tek has hinted at on his previous few albums in a visually interesting and technically impressive series of edited video sequences.
7. Tobacco – “Babysitter”
Tobacco has often employed music videos as an outlet for his interest in lo-fi mundane settings and disturbing non sequitur imagery, but “Babysitter” may be his most horrific visual to date. By “horrific” I mean horror expressed in the lexicon of the The Blair Witch Project: something unbelievably frightening made real precisely because of its amateurism. The crazy thing is that anybody could make this video with some friends on a rainy weekend, but probably no one could make it as effectively as Tobacco does here.
6. Oneohtrix Point Never – “Long Road Home”
The self-referencing, gender-bending, hypertextual video for Magic Oneohtrix Point Never‘s lead single tells a Genesis P-Orridge love story between a puppet bat and devil. It’s a brilliant work that resonates with the song’s themes as well as the greater idea behind MOPN.
5. Yves Tumor – “Kerosene!”
Although I was disappointed by Yves Tumor’s new album, the video for “Kerosene!” did act as some consolation. Its non-linear story, visual hyperbole, and ironically quotidian setting surprised me in extreme ways, and on top of that I felt that the video allowed me to understand the song itself in a new light, which is in my opinion one essential characteristic of a good music video. Watch it for yourself and see if you disagree.
4. Oneohtrix Point Never – “No Nightmares”
The weird dream logic and hypnagogic blurriness of OPN’s “No Nightmares” video above earns him another place on this list. This basically has nothing to do with the song itself though. The Weeknd’s bland vocal performance mixes with Lopatin’s best attempt at writing lullaby R&B to create one of the blandest tracks in OPN’s catalogue–and recall, this guy exclusively made Ambient and Drone music for about 5 albums! But the video’s visual poetry overcomes its musical failings by creating some of the finest dream sequences a Warp artist has envisioned since the “Match Sticks” scene in FlyLo’s Kuso.
3. Squarepusher – “Terminal Slam”
Okay, so this is basically Squarepusher giving the Aphex/Weirdcore “T69 Collapse” treatment to the Shibuya Scramble and hijacking all its ads and people in the process, and no it’s not nearly as experimentally exciting as that video, but it is still very cool in the genuine way Squarepusher’s music and aesthetic sensibility has been since he first came into the public eye in the mid-90s. In that sense I can see how this kind of video could be viewed as outdated in its view of Experimental Electronic music as technological terrorism, but there’s something in me (nostalgia?) that can’t help but watch this as a positive return to form instead of a rehash.
2. Baths – “Mikaela Corridor”
I think the central metaphor of this video resonates with my idea of what independent music means in the age of Instagram, music “journalism” monopolies, Spotify, and multi-millionaire pop. When art is commodified so inescapably, so entirely, it becomes a revolutionary act to make something detached from that system for yourself and for your friends and for your community.
1. Oneohtrix Point Never – “Lost But Never Alone”
The internet is a 20-something time machine of techno-angst. It’s an intertext highway. It’s the most embroidered tapestry we’ve ever worked on. And it’s inescapable. Watch OPN’s extended take on the “Jery get ipad” meme above.
By Isak McCune