Top 10 Music Videos of 2018

As originally announced in a prior vlog, here are this blog’s picks for the top ten music videos from Oklahoma artists released in 2018. Think of it as a bonus list and companion piece to Jarvix’s Big 50.

10. "Obscurity" by Alan Doyle (dir. Lawn Chair City)

Hip-hop artist Alan Doyle enlists the help of comedian Evan Hughes to lip sync his single, “Obscurity”, to create one of the dorkiest tributes to Tulsa ever, and it’s just wonderful. Shot on location at various modern-day city establishments, the video captures Hughes hamming it up in broad daylight with serious faces and silly ones alike.

It’s a lot of fun, but it also says something interesting about Doyle’s outsider reputation. He frequently remarks in his music that his style is not a popular one, but he sticks with it anyway because it’s what makes him who he is. By filtering that notion through Hughes’s persona, he amplifies that contrast to the point of comedy, and everyone gets to be in on the joke.

(To get a view of Alan Doyle himself, don’t miss the cameo at the 2:28 mark.)

9. "Ducks" by When the Clock Strikes (dir. J.T. Ibanez)

Tulsa pop punk band When the Clock Strikes knows how to have fun, but what’s even more impressive is that the band knows how to have meaningful fun. The song “Ducks” riffs on the idea of not being able to get one’s “ducks in a row” as a means of grappling with day-to-day responsibilities and unpredictable curveballs in life. The video to “Ducks” takes this a step further by visualizing an actual giant, omnipresent duck. When it isn’t creeping around the edges of the protagonist’s consciousness, it’s an office prankster that interferes with an already stressful work environment.

Adding to the metaphor is that the protagonist seems to be the only one that can see this duck, which is not only funny, but also emphasizes how often struggles can be internalized, unseen by others. Like the band’s album, which gets an Easter egg as the workplace company name, this video has more depth than one might at first assume, but that doesn’t mean it can’t let loose and have fun. There’s yellow everywhere, from the abundance of rubber ducks to the balloons in the full band shots, and details like this fill the video with additional levity. Altogether, it’s a blast.

8. "Day Ones" by Grand National feat. Slyrex (dir. Sharp)

Shot at a local park with a posse of friends, the music video for “Day Ones” overlaps past and present to pay tribute to those that have stuck by and supported OKC rapper Grand National since day one. As a fluid slideshow of set pieces, the video toggles from modern high definition to a 1990s home video aesthetic, melding the two with hypnotic editing. Other details help the narrative along as well, like the retro boombox that appears inconspicuously in many shots or the title font, which makes reference to the television show Friends. The latter is especially fun, as it echoes the video’s concepts of friends, the 90s, and endurance through the decades all with one simple stylistic nod. There are other aspects to praise, like the framing of scenes and the swirling cinematography. Suffice it to say, though, that all of it goes towards the ultimate goal, which is to capture and elevate the music, and that’s what happens here.

7. "Song for Am" by Chrim (dir. Chrim)

Tulsa lo-fi synthpop duo Chrim spent the greater part of 2018 coming up with miniature songs and corresponding videos in a monthly series that experimented with animation, camerawork, and narrative. Arguably the highlight is “Song for Am”, a catchy 45-second number that deals in serious subject matter with hopeful, cheerful sincerity. Fans of Jack Stauber will immediately sense a similarity in style, but Chrim is comparatively less preoccupied with antihumor and has a vantage of its own. The video for “Song for Am” is pitch-perfect in matching the song, which thoughtfully conveys concern without using cliches or grave tones that often prove alienating to struggling individuals. Instead, the quirky DIY aesthetic is fun, using oddly specific usage of live action, animation, and puppetry. The video quality itself is also part of the charm. Old VHS effects and slightly out of sync audio reflects the lo-fi nature of Chrim. “Song for Am” wears its imperfections proudly, and sometimes that’s the most disarming approach of all.

6. "Carnival" by Nicolo Cron feat. Wesley Warhol (dir. Nima T)

The music video for “Carnival” kicks off with a straight, balanced shot of a small, centered television screen that splices the song’s music sample with vintage amusement ride footage. The shot sets a fairly flat tone that fans of OKC’s Nicolo Cron know can’t persist for long. Indeed, when the native hip-hop artist makes his appearance, the video slips into dutch angle cinematography that outright juxtaposes the opening. Nicolo Cron is here, and things are about to get topsy-turvy.

The video then proceeds to throw everything and the kitchen sink at the screen. The costuming alone is over the top, and that’s not just with Nicolo Cron’s impossible to miss Beetlejuice-style suit. Featured rapper Wesley Warhol (Baconomics) makes an especially iconic splash with his signature wear, which fits right in to the video’s antics. Meanwhile, some extras are dressed up as animal mascots while others are dressed down as carnival freaks. The bar and parking lot setting are a nice nod to the song’s concept of getting lit and more than a little crazy, but there’s so much going on screen that it takes multiple watches to appreciate.

This is in no small part owed to the frantic editing and abundance of shooting techniques, which speed up, slow down, warp, jitter, and reverse footage in a spectacular array of flash. There’s even this split second where Warhol steps out of a pool table before the rest of the scene fills out, and it’s details like this that subtly disorient viewers even while overtly disorienting them. For a song about a less than wholesome carnival as party metaphor, though, the dizzying video is a superbly fitting marriage and looks like a million bucks all the while.

5. "Sunset Boulevard" by Kali Ra (dir. Cait Brasel & Jonathan Shahan)

Sunset Boulevard is synonymous not only with Hollywood, but also with the delusion and facade that comes with it, thanks in large part to the 1950 film noir by the same name. OKC art rock project Kali Ra takes this symbol on as general metaphor in its 2018 single, “Sunset Boulevard”, and it works as quite the glamorous strut in its own right. The video, however, takes everything a lot further by applying that metaphor to an examination of duality to question even the nature of truth itself.

Take the backseat car scenes, featuring the two lead characters of the piece. It doesn’t take a film buff to see that their increasingly exaggerated behavior is set against a green screen, with dated stock footage playing through the back window. This is a seam that is meant to be noticed, not covered up. A brief hint is shown in the outset, where the video’s growing aspect ratios cycle from the black-and-white era of film to a more modern widescreen. What, then, is the reality of these scenes? Where does the acting begin and end? Do the characters realize they’re on a Hollywood set? Furthermore, isn’t everyone in society on a figurative Hollywood set of their own at times?

This is only the tip of the iceberg, as other clips are spliced in that use noirish, blue-hued imagery that further compounds the video’s musings. Some of it directly recalls the film Sunset Boulevard, and some explores gender identity. It becomes increasingly unclear if the two actors presented are, in fact, two separate characters at all. By the end, it’s clear that nothing is as it seems, which not coincidentally is also a lyric in the chorus to “Sunset Boulevard”.

4. "Carousel" by Me Oh My (dir. Nathan Poppe)

There’s nothing like a debut from a new band that leaves the audience wanting more. Last year, OKC’s Me Oh My put out its first EP, a teaser of but three rock numbers establishing a sound and image that promises much for the future of the band. Leave it to local scene legend Nathan Poppe, then, to capture all of that anticipation in a debut music video that’s designed to make viewers say, “I like it, but what did I just watch? And can I have more?”

The music video to Me Oh My’s “Carousel” is a fun, vibrantly colored romp that weaves strange ritualism in with its playground shenanigans. The opening imagery of the band’s overly dolled-up lead vocalist on bicycle gleefully ushering in three sinister, hooded figures really says it all. The handheld camerawork leaves little in the way of static shots, and when combined with the frequent use of slow motion and kaleidoscopic editing, the song’s waltz-like feel is given an extra layer of surrealism. This serves to further coat the video’s odd proceedings in mystery.

The song cuts shorter than a typical rock single at less than two minutes, wrapping on a final shot of the balloon cluster that serves as the video’s primary visual motif. Nothing is explained, though, except the end title, which finally credits the band after holding off from the start. It’s the cherry on the top of this eye-catching vehicle for a new band’s new brand, and it truly is one that beckons for more.

3. "Let's Go" by Flock of Pigs (dir. Imageline Studios & Jonathon Eldridge)

This one’s probably the most conceptually straightforward video on this list, but it’s executed with such nuance and adventure that it stands as one of the best of the year. “Let’s Go” by OKC genre-benders Flock of Pigs takes a psychedelic turn to immerse itself into the heightened plane of altered consciousness.  Simply put, it’s a song (and video) about tripping out.

The video jump cuts between an unpoliced late night campfire, a shadowy middle realm of consciousness, and all-out hallucination as it documents the band’s frontman’s epic inward odyssey. The warped trek through dreamlike worlds that make up the centerpiece of the video is accomplished through computer animation, which is likely where a good deal of the band’s Kickstarter money for this project went. These passages are largely abstract, with modest nods to headscratchers like Inception and The Matrix used as thematic shorthand.

The video and the song bring out interesting aspects of one another. The video might seem a bit too cartoonish if not for the gravitational music and narrative performance, while the song is made less self-serious by the video’s extravagance and visual gags. They work hand in hand to become a cohesive whole, and it makes the conceptual purity of it all surprisingly balanced for a video that features a bespectacled pizza slice playing guitar in a swirling tunnel of multicolored hands.

2. "Upside" by Steph Simon feat. J. Friday (dir. King Spencer)

The video to Steph Simon‘s “Upside” is a solid video in its own right, with quality crowd shots, slick editing, and upscale production. The video captures a block party in Tulsa complete with basketball hoop, grilled meats, and a bounce house. All generations from the surrounding neighborhood come out to strut their stuff on an impromptu dancefloor at the front steps of the mansion that serves as the video’s  backdrop. There’s a very important subtext here, though.

“Upside” is the lead single from Simon’s acclaimed hip-hop release, Born on Black Wall Street. It’s stuffed with symbolism about Tulsa’s once prosperous, black-owned Black Wall Street district that fell victim to the city’s infamous race massacre of 1921. “Upside” as a song also has some of these references as well as modern parallels to such 100-year-old behavior, but what about the video? Well, that mansion serving as a neighborhood common ground was owned by a prominent KKK Klansman in those days, and that’s pretty much all one needs to know to catch the video’s drift. This is no ordinary celebration of community. It’s an extraordinary show of black resilience.

Steph Simon has the vision to see that history is not a permanent record suited just for old textbooks. It’s a living, fluid continuum that ripples into the future, and its powers are subject to those that harness them. As the radio DJ says at the start of the video, “It’s a new goddamn day,” and every day is a chance to make history.

1. "Sandman/Boys Got to Go" by Broncho (dir. Pooneh Ghana)

 

Conceived as a short film spanning two lead singles, Broncho‘s music video for both “Sandman” and “Boys Got to Go” is a strange journey that channels the surreal as it spans from its suspenseful, nocturnal first half to its frolicking daytime second half.

Starring an older man of whose grizzled appearance the camera just can’t get enough, the video plays like a dream. It has broad strokes of plot, but ultimately, they serve little and mean little. This is more about tone than story, and it puts Broncho in a striking light. In white garb, the band makes multiple appearances in the video as an omnipresent force. In “Sandman”, the band poses an unspoken threat to the central character, who runs in fear from the quartet but cannot escape. Broncho simply appears in various places throughout the city in which “Sandman” takes place, watchful of the man, but never says or does anything overtly threatening. However, the band’s mere presence is often just invasive enough to be a discomfort not only to the character, but to anyone viewing the video as well.

Between the two songs is a long stretch of disquieting silence that lasts significantly longer than either song. It carries through the night into sunrise, following the man as he drives past city limits. This transition is the strangest part of the video, with lingering shots and strange, unexplained symbolism. The tune literally changes, though, as the older man finds a friend with which to spend a fun-filled day as Broncho retreats back to a lofty locale as white as the members’ wardrobes.

This double feature is nothing short of iconic. It captures two sides of Broncho, working off of its bad boy image and fun-loving music to provide an artwork that encompasses both with masterful direction. There are gorgeously shot, framed, and edited scenes from start to finish that lend a cinematic heft to the odyssey at hand. In particular, the use of color is quite remarkable. Pay attention to how little red there is in most of the video, and it will become clear why the few moments and objects that do wear a strong, vibrant red stand out so much. It’s also the same shade of red that colors the band’s album from whence these singles came. That’s some impressive detail, and it just goes to prove that there is, in fact, method to the madness.

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