We're almost through the 100 best music videos from underground, indie, and lesser-known artists! Today we start getting a lot weirder and more visceral, with haunted houses, strange experiments, and fascist games on the menu. Put on your headphones and dive in with us.
40. Hybrid, “Flashpoint”
Hybrid is a very DIY band when it comes to their branding, and “Flashpoint” is their most ambitious project yet. They’ve turned in a full-fledged science fiction epic pretty much all in house, and the results make for some very impressive visuals. Though it could have maybe be a bit shorter, it takes some great stabs at transcending the medium as few can.
39. Diamante, “Unlovable”
In a simply gorgeous video, Diamante plays a ghostly piano in the dark woods as men with lanterns search for her. Meanwhile, we get visions of her dancing with a lost love. There us something aching about the experience, like we’re watching a phantom trapped in a hell of their own harmed heart.
38. Animals as Leaders, “The Problem of Other Minds”
I would very much like to join the cult shown in “The Problem of Other Minds.” Please send my white outfit c/o the Houston Press.
37. Blind Channel, “We Are No Saints,”
I would very much like to NOT join the cult shown in “We Are No Saints,” which I’m pretty sure was the band’s point. Though written about Blind Channel feeling increasingly under pressure as they get more popular, the video has some angry things to say about blind faith.
36. Naima, “ThunderGo”
“ThunderGo” is a song about letting go of inhibitions. Director Morgan B. Powell crafts an erotic vision of movement in bodies, setting the action out in the street without shame. Horny and heartfelt can’t be beat.
35. Aesop Rock & Blockhead, “Flamingo Pink”
Aesop Rock is my personal favorite rapper, not the least because he always makes a great video. “Flamingo Pink” is a slow burner about finding meaning in garbage. It’s a potent juxtaposition since the song itself is about discovering your heroes are con men.
34. Powers Pleasant feat. Denzel Curry and ZillaKami, “Evil Twin”
Lonewolf brings us this gruesome combination of greatest horror hits. Lifting scenes from Silence of the Lambs and The Shining doesn’t make the video any less of a wild, unexpected ride. Plus, the track just slaughters its way through your eardrums.
33. Flock of Dimes, “Price of Blue”
Jenn Wasner’s always very cerebral, and this video co-directed with Graham Tolbert continues that trend. It’s all about the pieces of a person and how they add up… or don’t. “It can be difficult to make sense of the memory of your experience when the reality on the surface is always shifting—when the story you’re telling, or the story you’ve been told, unravels, leaving you with a handful of pieces and no idea how they used to fit together,” Wasner said of the song in a press release.
32. Ruel, “Distance”
Most of what makes “Distance” something to talk about is the unique, almost Disneyland set piece that Ruel sits on as he croons out the tale of a shattered relationship. It turns the whole thing into a weird exhibition that is plastic yet full of pathos.
31. Girl in Red, “I’ll Call You Mine”
If the phrase “be gay and do crimes” was a music video, this would be it.
30. Yeule, “Friendly Machine”
Yeule is well known for being something a little more than human, and their newest video lets all the weirdness leak out… sometimes literally. “Friendly Machine” sees them as a test subject either undergoing some calibration or breaking entirely. It’s difficult to tell, which is generally how Yeule likes it.
29. Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever, “The Only One”
It’s safe to say that a lot of us spent the year putting on a happy face that was at least partially a façade. Director Michael Ridley and Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever capture that feeling perfectly as a sentient, oversized smile tries to go on about his day. It’s hard to put a finger on why, but there is something really stressful about this video. You can just feel the cracks in sanity under the surface.
28. MNDSGN, “Hope You’re Doin’ Better”
A fitting companion piece to “The Only One” is the story of a sad panda just looking to connect. Ali Joel Burgess plays a bear desperately trying to claw his way out of an depressive funk with a trip to the playground with a neighbor, but all he wants in the end is to talk to his chicken friend. It’s a sweet, surreal tale that kind of sums up real life a little too well.
27. Party Favor, “Whenever You’re Around”
The best straight dance video of the year is easily “Whenever You’re Around.” It has the perfect mix of movement, style, artistic aesthetic, and poise.
26. Polo & Pan, “Requiem”
“Requiem” helps every narcissist fulfill their dream of being able to attend their own funeral. The setting is grandiose and yet strangely tiny at the same time, and the mood of the video has a playfulness that makes death feel like a joke.
25. Sarah Walk, “Nothing Compares 2 U”
Sinead O’Connor’s video for “Nothing Compares 2 U” is one of the most legendary minimalist visuals every done, so trying to craft a new version of the song in video form is a daunting task. Luckily, Sarah Walk makes it her own, and director Daniel Smith Coleman and lead actor Arne Gjelten manages to strike a new path in their reverse-time look at loneliness in the streets of Los Angeles.
24. The Joke Jay, “Most of the Tears”
I don’t have a lot of information on the background of “Most of the Tears” because all their promo material is in German. That aside, the visuals are a gorgeous combination of stark, heartbreaking faces and well-done camera tricks. Only the fact that the video seems to run out of ideas about halfway through keeps it from being higher up on the list.
23. Dear God, “Slamdance”
Just a good, old fashioned haunted house story is happening in “Slamdance.” Director Rebeca Ortiz pulls of a combination of Evil Dead 2 and cosmic horror as she torments Robert Ortiz with shifting specters and talking decorations. It’s a little hokey, but that doesn’t take any of the fun away from it.
22. North Kingsley, “Rifle in Thought”
Director Glen Matheny turns in a startling vision reminiscent of the great Mark Romanek with “Rifle in Thought.” Interspersed with shots of the band is a gripping game of chess between two boys that ends with a copy of Crime and Punishment being shot with a handgun. Taut and macabre, it captures the lyrics of the song perfectly.
21. Chad VanGaalen, “Samurai Sword”
It’s weird how many music videos in 2021 revolve around katanas. Or maybe it’s understandable and I just don’t get it. Regardless, VanGaalen himself put together an animated masterpiece about a quest to retrieve a beloved redneck’s samurai sword that is both well-executed and catchy as hell.
Tune in tomorrow for the last of the countdown!
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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.