year end videos Top 25 Videos of 2011

    Music videos accomplish what has never been done before in the history of media: They make experimentation a commercial enterprise. They afford musicians, filmmakers, and multimedia artists the chance to have their craziest ideas not only produced, but shown to a large audience. What’s more, in the age of Internet video, indie productions are now on equal footing with million-dollar productions. There’s no visual medium more diverse or creative than music videos. Thirty years after the launch of MTV, the format is not only alive and well, but it’s matured, expanded, and become a part of our global culture. When The Beatles, and later Mike Nesmith, laid the foundation for what we’d come to know as a music video, could they possibly have known how big this concept would become?

    The prevalence of online video has changed the way we watch movies, television… everything really. It’s not just the revolution that’s televised, but cute animals, skate tricks, accidents, celebrations, millions of memes in the making, and amidst all this chaos, brilliant, fun, and mind-altering visual art. On 1/11/11, we unveiled Cluster 1, a sister site to Consequence of Sound dedicated to filtering out the schlock and giving you only the best short films, animation, docs, and since we’re CoS, a ton of amazing music videos. In just under a year, we’ve posted over 1,000 of them, all handpicked.

    Now, it comes to the task of choosing 25 of the best videos we’ve seen all year. These aren’t just the ones that moved us, blew our minds, or made us lol, but a selection embodying the year in videos. Fancy dancin’ Thom Yorke memed his way across the internet, Beyoncé changed outfits like a kerjillion times, Gaga became a man and a fish and then checked into a fashionable mental institution, and while those mega-stars shook the world at large, countless others were wowing the small screen, trending through Tumblr, and becoming secret sensations. We’ve got indie sci-fi from Russia, the most awe-inspiring NSFW video you’ve ever seen, demonic puppets, ’90s sitcom parodies, and so, so, so much more. This was a good year.


    Each and every one of these videos is incredible. We hope you’re prepared. Just click forward. An audiovisual onslaught awaits you.

    -Cap Blackard
    Art Director/Executive Producer, Cluster 1

    25. Gentlemen Drivers – “Valdor”

    Catchy songs aren’t a problem for French electropop collective Gentlemen Drivers; party-thumping single “Valdor” certainly fits into that category. Its video, however, is a different breed beast. Think Peter Gabriel’s “Sledgehammer”, only set within a fake sitcom and featuring a Thanksgiving turkey that mutilates humans. Over the years, the Internet has stripped “bizarre” of its power. But sometimes, and this is rare, its true meaning bleeds through – literally and metaphorically, come to think of it. Here’s one such example. -Ted Maider

    Director: Allen Cordell

    24. Battles feat. Gary Numan – “My Machines”

    The Creators Project is a high-concept art initiative that’s been turning heads in the industry. So, when they decided to take on the music video for Battles’ “My Machines” and include guest vocalist Gary Numan, it was guaranteed to be an event. They didn’t disappoint. The video takes a thoughtless everyday activity (a man heads up an escalator with groceries) and combines it with an all-too-human fear of machines. Just what happens when an on/off switch doesn’t work? Who or what are we at the mercy of? As the horrific eye candy proceeds, the electronically driven rock of Battles adds to the impact and drama. With its slick look and clinical, high-contrast shooting style, “My Machines” leaves the viewer with a sense of unease and one incorrigible thought: Perhaps machines have more of an upper hand than we’d like to give them credit for. Creepy. -Karina Halle

    Director: Daniels

    23. Skrillex – “First of the Year (Equinox)”

    There’s a skill in building up and destroying atmospheres. For Skrillex, it’s commonplace. In the Tony Truand-directed video for “First of the Year (Equinox)”, a similar feat is accomplished. What starts out as a creepy snapshot of pedophilia ends with something else entirely. As the dubstep artist shakes up the track, the music video does the same, reversing everything you thought might happen in seconds. In a word: sinister. In two words: very fitting. -Joe Marvilli

    Director: Tony Truand

    22. Com Truise – “Brokendate”

    Will Joines directs this Blade Runner-esque film for Com Truise’s “Brokendate”, setting Seth Haley’s relentless, pulsating analog synths into Joines’s dystopian futurescape. This clip is dripping in nostalgia. In five minutes, Joines references a number of cinematic legacies from decades past—80s trench coat heroes, TRON-like retro-futurism, and VHS aesthetics—in his own neon-soaked noir, which casts the New Jersey producer as a shades-wearing, cigar-smoking, villainous mastermind. Cyber babes in dark lipstick wielding (quasi) threatening laser guns, glowing, wireframe pyramids on massive mainframes, dead bodies left to rot on the sidewalk—seems like the perfect visual corollary to Com Truise’s hazy synth odyssey. -Lainna Fader

    Director: Will Joines

    21. Rammstein – “Mein Land”

    Industrial metal isn’t exactly a genre known for its sense of humor. Rammstein is the rare exception. For the release of their greatest hits LP, Made in Germany 1995-2011, the band members shuffled their cards once again, showing their playful side in “Mein Land”. The party kicks off in 1964 with the group engaging in a hilarious Beach Boys parody. There’s surfing, dancing, and even a Baywatch moment for singer Till Lindemann. Hands down the best juxtaposition of the year.  -Joe Marvilli

    Director: Jonas Ã…kerlund

    20. Biting Elbows – “The Stampede”

    Music videos don’t always have to be rich with meaning (or girls with large posteriors). Sometimes, they can be silly and meaningless and still make an impact. Biting Elbows’ clip for “The Stampede”, simply titled “Insane Office Escape”, gained global attention for its minimalistic, yet genius, plot: Dude steals something from work, kicks heaps of ass to get out of said office, and finally makes his escape by, drumroll, magic. It’s stocked with over-the-top action, bad karate, and tongue-in-cheek humor galore. It’s the kind of fun, goofball clip that undoubtedly got some of us into music videos in the first place. Plus, who wouldn’t want to dropkick their boss in the neck some day? -Chris Coplan

    Director: Ilya Naishuller

    19. Polinski feat. Big Black Delta – “Stitches”

    65daysofstatic’s Paul Wolinski knows how to make a splash with a solo record. As Polinski, his first solo record, Labyrinths, was preempted by one hell of a video for “Stitches”. Directed by Caspar and Josiah Newbolt with pixel art by John DeLucca, “Stitches” is an homage to the text-based video game adventures of yore… with a little bit of David Lynch thrown in, maybe even some Cronenberg. It’s a sci-fi detective story told in moody pixelated images and scrolling text. But “Stitches” doesn’t just take you into an old-school computer game; it takes you into the living room with Polinski. The entire video is framed in a television set, and the entire time, oh so very subtly, you can see Polinski playing the game in the reflection of the screen. It doesn’t get much cooler than this; it was our pleasure to unleash this video on the world. -Cap Blackard

    Directors: Caspar Newbolt and Josiah Newbolt

    18. Kate Bush – “Deeper Understanding”

    At first glance, Kate Bush’s video for “Deeper Understanding” is rather off-putting. Why would someone with her profound wit shoot a near-literal interpretation of the track’s lyrics? Simple, to ease the viewer in. Bush directs this intimate, voyeuristic affair, working with sly camera work and quasi-realistic tones that offer this artificial, detached aesthetic. Themes of loneliness and connectivity run rampant here, focusing directly on the crossroads of technology and social interaction. Perhaps this video is so affecting because there’s so much to empathize with here. Pretty timely stuff. -Chris Coplan

    Director: Kate Bush

    17. Radiohead – “Lotus Flower”

    People expect any new Radiohead album to be a game changer. We are to listen and contemplate Radiohead; we must understand the music. Yet, in the video for “Lotus Flower”, Thom Yorke reminds us that rock music is Dionysian rather than Apollonian, that he wants us to dance to his music. No longer the introverted auteur, Yorke shows a different side in a wild, unbridled, completely un-self-conscious celebration of the body. To all the young and hip kids who stand at a rock club leg-locked, take Yorke’s advice: It’s OK to dance. “Lotus Flower” also reinforces a frequent criticism of The King of Limbs: It sounds too much like a Yorke solo album. There is no band in this video. But Yorke has clearly amassed enough cultural capital to make a black-and-white video of him dancing in a warehouse, and it’s one of the year’s best. -Jake Cohen

    Director: Garth Jennings

    16. Miles Fisher – “New Romance”

    If you grew up in the early ’90s, the first few seconds of Miles Fishers’ “New Romance” will be a delight. Its sublime parody of Saved by the Bell almost warrants a spot on this list by itself. But the fun doesn’t end there. While the fashion and styles may be retro, there’s a sick sense of dark humor underneath the bright colors. Directed by Dave Green, the whole thing feels like the next Final Destination entry, only seen through the eyes of John Waters (Pink Flamingos, Hairspray). Not exactly your average afternoon special, but who doesn’t love chaos? Plenty here. -Joe Marvilli

    Director: Dave Green

    15. Is Tropical – “The Greeks”

    Kids say the darndest things. These days they also do the darndest things. Is Tropical’s video for “The Greeks” takes this idea to another level. In this Tarantino-esque clip, a neighborhood game of cops and robbers goes awry. Drug trafficking, torture, and terrorism follow, and it becomes apparent that the video is posing an important question for us to answer: What is the world preparing our youth for? “You only get what you give away,” as the song’s mantra goes. So true. While altogether a darkly comical video on the corruption of youth, it’s also a brilliant display of the power of imagination. Yikes. What does that say about us? -Summer Dunsmore

    Director: Megaforce

    14. Evelyn Evelyn – “Have You Seen My Sister Evelyn”

    Despite a 100-year-long history of differing techniques, animation is still one of the most innovative fields in film today. The latest example is director Hoku Uchiyama’s groundbreaking video for Evelyn Evelyn. A cartoon image is drawn by the duo into a fogged-up glass window. From there, the visuals come alive and move through the panes, creating the story provided by the song’s lyrics. While it looks like the work could have been done on a laptop, the condensation is real. It took a few trials to get the lighting right, but the result is well worth any trouble. Innovative, outside the box, and just a little bit weird? Sounds like Evelyn Evelyn to us. -Joe Marvilli

    Director: Hoku Uchiyama

    13. Manchester Orchestra – “Simple Math”

    They say life flashes before your eyes when you’re about to die, and this autumn car accident depicted here may be the best representation of that. A tumultuous past spinning in and out of reality with just enough time to recollect moments that matter. These loopy camera shots and mumble-core (tumble-core?) lip-synching add a unique and memorable flair to this heartfelt trip through Andy Hull’s past. -Jeremy D. Larson

    Director: Daniels

    12. UNKLE feat. Nick Cave –  “Money and Run”

    Rich men behave badly in UNKLE’s “Money and Run” video. Director Tom Haines mixes scenes of humor with horror in this short study of upper-class umbrage, from a tennis game gone wrong to vicious beatings in the street. Of all the violent vignettes, none is more strangely terrifying than the scene where a bare-assed man torments a cowering girl while wearing a Margaret Thatcher mask. Unsettling as they may be, they’re  disturbingly perfect visuals for Nick Cave’s urgent guest vocals. -Austin Trunick

    Director: Tom Haines

    11. Lady Gaga – “Marry the Night”

    For the past two years, the music industry has dropped their jaws at Lady Gaga’s Alexander McQueen-shaped decadence, and that fascination has hardly subsided. With her 13-minute directorial effort, “Marry the Night”, Gaga assembled one of the most pretentious and over-sensationalized videos in recent memory. But, it wasn’t like she didn’t warn everyone. Prior to its release, Gaga told MTV, “This will be the longest video I’ve released to date… the beginning of the story I never told you.” In her mind, this untold story would be that of rejection, at least that’s what she told Alan Carr. It’s never that easy for pop stars, though. Instead, the video ended up being a metafictional parody of herself. Between the narration, the obvious aping of Madonna’s Desperately Seeking Susan, and the dolled-up dreams of a fashionista, Gaga assumes the role of the headline-grabbing drama queen. Here’s the question, though: Was this all intentional? Is this sensationalism intuitive? If so, it’s a pretty smart move on her part. It sort of harkens back to the early days of Eminem’s career, where he was so self-deprecating and self-aware that nobody could touch him. What’s there to even say? Checkmate, we guess. -Michael Roffman

    Director: Lady Gaga

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