Music videos have become an integral part of the music industry, and now they’re pretty much unavoidable, whether you’re in a social setting, flicking through channels at home or browsing the net - there always seems to be a little box of choreography, bright colours and music drawing your attention.
Now, not all music videos are good, we know this, so rather than wasting your time with cliche shots of sunsets and hair-flicking models, we’ve put together our pick of the best videos for some of our favourite featured artists. What’s more, we’ll be focusing on the people behind the videos - the directors.
The first director on our list knows how to make a video with impact. Whether it’s the shock factor of Autre Ne Veut’s “World War Pt. 2” or a surprising emotive reaction to Yumi Zouma’s “Alena”. This Brooklynite has a knack for storytelling, and her tales often lean towards the sinister with plenty of shadows, mundane settings and everyman actors which all adds to the unpredictable nature of Avital’s videos. A particular highlight for us is Yumi Zouma’s “Catastrophe”: set in a backwater American town much like any other with the usual characters (including a moody waitress, laidback cop and misfit kid), the film takes a turn for the supernatural and one by one the townspeople inexplicably faint. Even when you think you’ve figured out the source of the town’s curse, Avital delivers one last twist. In addition to her strong narrative, this director always ensures that every camera angle, movement and environmental choice fits the song perfectly.
It’s fair enough to say that the Irish production team Feel Good Lost are synonymous with creating high class, powerful music videos for everyone from Hozier to Fyfe to Seafret to Talos (yep, all of those are HumanHuman discoveries). One thing that the duo of Brendan Canty and Conal Thompson do really well in their videos is the slow reveal, such as in the Talos two-parter “Tethered Bones” and “Bloom”, in which rich camera angles and layered visuals convey a dark, twisted story of abuse, mental health issues and possible possession. The Feel Good Lost boys clearly don’t shy away from life’s tough topics as seen in the critically acclaimed direction of Hozier’s “Take Me To Church”; a bleak and emotive condemnation of the Russian government’s brutal criminalisation of homosexuliaty. Canty and Thompson’s ability to reach an audience need no more proof than the 307 million plus views on “Take Me To Church”.
From a viral video to something a little more unknown from rising director Charlotte Cassart, who took clips from her short film ‘Romance’, which was created for 'Ecole Supérieure d'Etudes Cinématographiques', to provide the visuals for French outfit POSTAAL’s debut single “Freedom”. As suggested by the film’s title, what we witness is a youthful romance overcoming obstacles to find a liberty of their own, and for a time the events seem to perfectly fit POSTAAL’s upbeat indie-dance. However, this video’s carefree appearance is only as a facade that the shock ending brutally strips away.
The video for “Quite Like” from HumanHuman favourite Her struck quite a chord with our users, in fact it was even premiered by Sodwee who described it as “a sensual/sexual face-to-face live on words with a beautiful creature.” As if the original song wasn’t genius enough on its own, the accompanying visuals courtesy of Raphael Frydman have brought this slick hit to a whole new level. It might be NSFW, but it’s also classy, mysterious and sexy: three words that could just as easily be applied to Her’s distinctive sound. What’s more, the video isn’t all long stares and poses (although those most certainly have their place), because the song also takes a short break for the French model to sweetly speak Her’s catchy lyrics, “I quite like your hair, I quite like your eyes, I quite like your breasts when you undress”. This is subsequently followed by a steamy glass scene, spontaneous dancing and flickering images of the video’s beautiful protagonist.
Many of the directors on this list have turned their hand to different forms of cinematography, including music videos, live recordings, fashion pieces, short films, documentaries etc., and that’s certainly the case for London-based Connor Gilhooly who has directed work for House of Fraser, Because Magazine, and Latitude Festival. What we’re really excited about though when it comes to Gilhooly is his work for UK alternative band Gengahr. Anyone who has watched the video for “Fill My Gums With Blood” will remember the romantic countryside setting, balmy lighting and pastel colours. It looks very much like any summer love story, which is sweet, but Gilhooly and Gengahr assure us that they’re not after sweet, as this seemingly innocent narrative reveals a dark side - namely, a vampiric casanova.
Gengahr also turned to the British videographer for the filming of “Heroine”, in which Gilhooly parodies the classic Sleeping Beauty on a theatrical black backdrop with projectors and red and blue lights creating an otherworldly atmosphere.
Back in 2014, Gengahr enlisted the help of these anonymous cinematographers to direct a supernatural trip for their single “Bloom”. This faceless duo (they literally wear paper bags on their heads) also boast a back-catalogue of videos for Maximo Park’s “Midnight On The Hill” and Swim Deep’s “Namaste”. It’s fair to say that The Marshall Darlings have a penchant for the weird and the surprising, a skill which came in pretty handy when working with recent feature Pixx whose music often has gothic tendencies. The spooky videos for “Deplore” and “A Way To Say Goodbye” seem inspired by The Brother’s Grimm’s fairy tales, with the shadowy settings, purposeful prop use and Pixx’s lornful looks creating an unsettling atmosphere.
It would be a tough task to find a director better suited to a musician than the divine pairing that is Kenny McCracken and Aurora Aksnes. As you can see from the McCracken portfolio page, his photography strikes the balance between strange and beautiful, between realism and surrealism, between disturbing and endearing, and for anyone who is familiar with Aurora’s delicate, ghostly sound it’s almost obvious that these two would work together. One place where we find the director’s artistry is put to very good use is in the video for Aurora’s “Runaway”. The snow scenes and frozen-in-time shots perfectly suit the song which is as beautiful and icy-cold as a fresh snowflake, and as The Clash so succinctly put it, “Beautifully shot, it neatly counterpoints the gentle fragility in Aurora's own music.” McCracken’s direction is as crisp, clean and flawlessly stylized as Aurora's crystalline voice, and we honestly couldn’t picture a better collaboration.
There’s something instantly recognisable about a Harvey Pearson shot, because it usually involves northern landscapes, crisp lighting and a sense that we’re watching scenes unfold with hindsight. Not only are his settings usually based in the North West of England, but so too are the artists who want to work with him, such as Aquilo, Låpsley and Oceaán. Pearson is currently based in Lancaster, a city that teeters on the edge of urban and countryside - a tempting combination for any photographer-filmmaker - and something that we see contrasted in his video for Aquilo’s “You There” (with it’s country walks, forest and lake) and Låpsley’s “Painter/Valentine” (with its graffitied walls, warehouse and cafe). Watching these videos, you’ll find yourselves fully invested in the live’s of the characters before you, and that’s where this director’s true talent lies: he makes you believe in his fiction.
As any artistic individual knows, trying to create something light-hearted without falling into the trap of cliches and predictability isn’t easy, but that’s exactly what this London-via-Lisbon director achieves with Loyle Carner’s ‘Ain’t Nothing Changed”. Captured on film here is the instantly recognisable Carner (who co-directed the piece) as an elderly man, but as he insists his life is exactly the same as when he was a young man. As you watch this rapping OAP and his white-haired best friend cosy on down for a classic sleepover, you can help but smile.
You can also take a peek through Retorta’s perspective in Oscar’s video for “Keep Breaking My Phone”, which happens to be a mild-humoured critique of mobile phone culture paired with a journey through the less glamorous parts of London. For this director’s slightly more pessimistic side, check his video for Prose’s “Run With The Faith”.
Here’s one director who’s already shaping up to be rather prolific in the world of music videos, putting out flicks for Blooms’ “If I”, Flint Eastwood’s “Find What You’re Looking For” and Gosh Pith’s “K9” all the last few months. Shane Patrick Ford’s larger-than-life tales are anchored by urban settings, crime and unlikely heroes, and yet he’s able to make these unsavoury outlooks appear romantic through the camera lens. For example, “If I” centers around a manhunt in Detroit’s backstreets, but the sunset-lit ending restores peace to the lives of his characters and matches perfectly to Blooms’ gentle lull of a track. Ford’s latest direction was for fellow Detroit natives Gosh Pith and their sonnet to lost youth “K9”. It makes sense then that our attention is drawn to three pre-teen friends whose one evening of rebellion portrays the inevitable transition from child to adult. However, we can call the end something of a triumph, as the kids ride of into the night, a trail of fireworks in their wake.