Over the course of 2019 I watched roughly 1,000 music videos, and there were some truly amazing ones. However, a lot of the best work goes overlooked, so at the end of the year I'm celebrating the obscure and wonderful. That means no Lizzo, no Billie Eilish, not even that awesome cover Marilyn Manson did of "God's Gonna Cut You Down." The entries here, with a couple of notable exceptions, have less than a million views in an effort to show off just how much great work happens further down the charts.
Let's get started!
40. Tacocat, "New World"
It's a Tacocat video, and that means quirkiness, loud colors, and irreverence. Truth be told, they haven't evolved much in their music videos since they burst onto the scene with "Crimson Wave," but this effort directed by Sean Downey and animated by Jean Pyle is still a solid entry in their oeuvre. If what you do is good, there's no shame in doing it for five straight years.
39. The Rocket Summer, "Morning Light"
Sometimes a music video just takes a simple idea and executes it so perfectly it utterly transcends its own minimalism. That's what happens with Dillon Slack and Ben Busch's lovely video for "Morning Light." It's the story of a flower that makes its way from the fields of California into the hands of someone who will appreciate it best, and it's all shot in a time lapse from the flower's point of view. It's very sweet and visually stunning.
38. Black Violin, "Showoff"
Performance videos with random other footage thrown in are usually pretty boring, but I couldn't help but laugh my way all through "Showoff." Maybe it's because I'm just desperate for any other pop violinists who are not Lindsey Stirling, or maybe it's just because it's Christmas and we get to see a woman doing acrobatic lightsaber moves. Either way, I can't overstate the smile "Showoff" put on my face.
37. Darro, "You're Not Insane"
This one comes with a backstory. Darro Chea was coming back to America from grad school when he was diagnosed with a brain tumor. The subsequent treatment required massive rehabilitation to allow him to speak and play again. "You're Not Insane," directed by Darro and Mike Monto, is meant to show the way you feel when you're sick inside but look fine on the outside. It's a powerful and fun video that has a truly happy ending.
36. Dr. Casper Darling, "Dynamite"
Control was one of the best video games of the year, and it also had my favorite music video moment of 2019. I'm going to explain the context of that in two long, nonsensical run-on sentences. Ready?
On her quest to stop a sentient radio signal that has possessed her brother and the Federal Bureau of Control, Jesse must pass through the Oceanside Hotel and Casino in Nevada, a mental travel depot to other worlds that runs entirely on the logic used by people suffering obsessive compulsive disorder. Before the final battle, she is greeted by a music video recorded by Casper Darling, the Bureau's missing head of research, who pumps up Jesse by presenting his cover of Mud's 1973 rock song "Dyna-Mite" where he has personalized the lyrics to apply to her.
God, I love this game.
35. Water From Your Eyes, "Adeleine"
There just aren't enough claymation music videos these days, and someone should really hire Abigail Austin to direct more of them. It matches the upbeat poppiness of Water From Your Eyes perfectly.
34. i_o, "Ghost in the Machine"
Got to warn you, from here on in this list tends to lean to the dark and weird. I'll try to put happy bright spots in, but this is what you get when the resident goth handles a year-end round-up. To start us down that path, here's director Leah Sims' gorgeous interpretation of "Ghost in the Machine." It's a lovely, downer cyberpunk love story that leaves you electrified but hollow. Enjoy its breathtaking visuals.
33. Davey Suicide, "Rock Ain't Dead"
Director Richard Villa III produced the only epic-length music video I ran across this year, and it is a nightmare of drug use and cannibalism. Imagine Rob Zombie's Lords of Salem mixed with an anime and you get an idea of what you're in for. Another fantastic, gory notch on Davey Suicide's headboard.
Tune in soon for Part 2!
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Jef Rouner (not cis, he/him) is a contributing writer who covers politics, pop culture, social justice, video games, and online behavior. He is often a professional annoyance to the ignorant and hurtful.