Oneohtrix Point Never – “Still Life (Betamale)”
Visual artist Jon Rafman is more than adept at blending IRL and digital spaces, with artworks that explore the forced marriages between art and design. Earlier this year, he told Dazed how he seeks out the sublime online – an impulse which is taken to the bleakest and most savage extremes in the visual realm he created for Oneohtrix Point Never's looming "Still Life (Betamale)". Here, filmed and animated scenarios are merged, forming a fresh horror bourne from the detritus of our physical and digital environments.
FKA Twigs – “Papi Pacify”
Control flits between FKA Twigs and her lover in this gracefully-sculpted series of flowing portraits which waver in time to Arca’s grinding beats. Desire is painted and problematised in bold chiaroscuro with glittering textures, in a struggle to reach stillness and a dark-eyed tribute to sexual power-play. FKA Twigs is heavily involved in all of her visuals and co-directed this stunning video with Tom Beard, while Jesse Kanda created two other astonishing pieces for her September release EP2, “How's That” and “Water Me”.
John Hopkins – “Open Eye Signal”
Director Aoife McArdle takes us on a skateboard ride with an unreadable, bruised teen during this eight minute escape through dazzling natural and suburban vistas. The visuals capture the essence of this epic techno cut, as it slowly graduates from soft palpitations to forthright industrial beats, and moods of enchantment and despondency remain in delicate balance throughout. DoP Steve Annis deservedly triumphed in the Cinematography category at the UK Music Video Awards this year for his sterling efforts here.
Raffertie – “Build Me Up”
Half documentary short, half fiction, director Vincent Haycock cast the three real-life Mays brothers in this video, tracking them hanging on street corners, lighting blunts and engaging in sexual trysts. Interviews about the guys' daily lives are interwoven with the addictive, looped beats of Raffertie's luxe R&B; and while a little poetic license was taken with the final scenes, the video feels like a new experiment in conjoining music and film – always welcome, especially when shot with as much skill as this.
The Knife – “A Tooth For An Eye”
A young girl leads an all-male team through a joyous dance routine in this video which explores key elements of The Knife’s Shaking The Habitual. Fundamentally weak, ingrained genre role assignations are dissolved during the collective, physical experience. The power of movement to transform the mind and reawaken a primal sense of freedom is depicted astutely by Roxy Farhat & Kakan Hermansson.
Francis & The Lights – “Like A Dream”
In one immaculate take, the jigging dance of Francis Farewell Starlite (aka Francis & The Lights) is set aflame by director Jake Schreier's sharp use of silhouette and lens flare. The music and visuals draw you into a surreal dream state, where the Hitchockian finale seems to make perfect sense. Apparently it took just six attempts to nail this – astounding.
Le1f – “Spa Day”
I can't think of anything better than a spa day with Le1f right now. Tropical hues dominate smart styling on a fittingly steamy set, whilst our star wears his post-sauna sheen oh so well. Special props to director Jesse Miller-Gordon for a whole four minutes of half-naked people on camera without a single leering gaze. The “Spa Day” video loosens up this track from Le1f's Fly Zone mixtape, sneaking in touches of humour to colour it that little bit brighter.
Sky Ferreira – “You’re Not The One”
Hot, pulsating technicolor surrounds Sky Ferreira in Grant Singer’s after-dark visual for this brilliant pop song, which tells of longing and betrayal – but most importantly defiance. Makes me wonder if an ice pick could be the ultimate Christmas party accessory this year? Singer also made this freaky piece for The Soft Moon.
Seekae – “Another”
Director Ian Pons Jewell completed a trio of videos during his stay in Bolivia this year. The eery visuals for “Another” capture the aura of loneliness bequeathed by Seekae’s song and force it in a truly fearsome direction. The casting is spot on, the rhythmic edit superb. This piece shows how deftly a narrative video can enhance a song’s life rather than detract from it or confuse, even when the subject matter is worlds away from its lyrical origins.
Ciara – “Body Party”
The proof – if you were in any doubt – that Ciara deserves to be a true superstar. The R&B queen of ATL pulls out an array of sultry, commanding moves to her huge 2013 comeback cut. One scene channels Jamie Lee-Curtis’ True Lies striptease, but with better lingerie and less general awk. Against a swinging party background Ciara captures many more than just her fiancée Future's heart – and this video served the double-purpose of announcing the couple’s IRL romance.