Music videos are more important now than ever before. As the music market has saturated with bands, anything that makes an artist stand out from the crowd becomes vital, and music videos are a great way for artists to distinguish themselves from the masses. Luckily, video technology is so cheap that the only limits these days are cash and imagination. Phoenix artists made a ton of great music videos this year, and we culled these 11 down from a list of around 30 finalists. Check out the best visual accompaniments to music Phoenix artists made in 2015.
MRCH - "Spin"
MRCH is one of the most exciting bands in Phoenix at the moment. The group has released a string of strong singles, culminating with "Spin," a chillwave indie-electro ditty that features an impressive stop-motion array of origami flowers, insects, and animals. The painstaking effort that went into five minutes of origami stop motion is nothing to sneeze at, and the result is a bunch of beautiful textures and colors and motions working in tandem to illustrate a beautiful song. DAVID ACCOMAZZO
Captain Squeegee - "Seek"
Fun fact: Parts of this video were filmed at the 10th Street Pedestrian Bridge, a popular photo spot that even has its own Foursquare page for some reason, and even made its way into Wolvves’ video for “Break Up Anthem,” among many other videos. But director Matty Steinkamp of Sundawg Media dresses up the bridge and other local scenery so well with X-Files-style post-production that you’d hardly recognize your own neighborhood next to the Biosphere 2 footage. Throw in some motorcycles, painter jumpsuits from Home Depot and borrow your buddy’s drone, and you’ve got a compelling guide on how to make a DIY production look surprisingly high budget. It’s perfect for this Muse-like piano ballad about falling in love with the blue-faced cousin of the Na’vi, making you feel "out of this world." (Groan.) TROY FARAH
Sam Means - "We're Alone"
Also featuring space creatures, but more along the E.T. side of things, is “We’re Alone,” directed by Too Many Mangoes duo Christopher Daly and Alex Antiuk. Means, known for being half of The Format alongside Nate Ruess, appears to be in a Heaven’s Gate gospel choir in this sparkly visual, which is a long way from the melancholy pop hit “Yeah Yeah.” This one falls somewhere between the delicate sentimentality of Sufjan Stevens and the nostalgic kitsch of Ben Folds. Given that 10 Songs, Means’ upcoming album, was recorded in downtown Phoenix, it’s hard not to imagine Means staring up into our speckless night sky, picturing the infamous Phoenix lights and visitors from abroad the Edgeworth-Kuiper belt. T.F.
Injury Reserve - "Everybody Knows"
Not all music videos need to be complex to be effective. Injury Reserve released Live From the Dentist Office this year, and each music video the group has released has its own charm. But "Everybody Knows," directed by Vibes n Stuff (whoever that is), is the best of the bunch. There's just one simply visual trick employed throughout the video — have the rappers stand/lie/jump/sit on a clear surface and point the camera up and see what happens. D.A.
Andrew Jackson Jihad - "Do, Re, and Me" Wait, this video also makes reference to the Heaven’s Gate cult . . . I’m beginning to see a pattern here. Anyway, it’s not often that a local band, even one as internationally appreciated as Andrew Jackson Jihad, has a celebrity appearance in their music videos. But “Do, Re, and Me,” stars none other than Nicolas Cage! Well, sort of . . . His likeness, animated by Deanna Rooney, does make friends with a church of psychic guinea pigs, promptly teaching them about evolution and baking pies. But then ol’ Nic “The Cagemaster” Cage drinks roofied tea, and wakes up imprisoned by the bishop psychic guinea pig in some kinda Resident Evil lab. Oh no! I don’t want to spoil the ending, but it involves El Jaula (The Cage) shooting lasers from his eyes and making out with his long-lost twin sister (who is also a stripper.) Ahh shit, I guess I just did spoil the ending. :( T.F.
Travis James & the Acrimonious Assembly of Arsonists - Everybody Lies (Truth Be Spoken) Is Mr. James not chameleonic? Yes, that is a real adjective, the only term that comes closest to describing the swashbuckling star of this video, who goes through a whirlwind of cross-dressing costume changes to prove to us that no one can be trusted. Not even yourself. Only Travis James, our equivalent of a crust punk Tim Burton, could get caught cheating on himself with himself. The video itself demonstrates solid ingenuity. It’s not a stretch to assume that half the props and gear used in “Everybody Lies” were dumpstered — the other half were borrowed from the long list of local creatives who made this production possible. His relationship to his Assembly of Arsonists is what makes Travis James a lot more genuine — and a lot more punk — than most of his contemporaries. T.F.
Harrison Fjord - "People I Meet"
Don’t you wish VHS tapes really were magical? Like anything supposedly cursed, it has to be obsolete and slightly misunderstood by contemporary society, which the old analog format has going for it. But there’s something about VHS that still doesn’t seem believable as an object of supernatural fetish, such as in Ringu. That movie was about as scary as Rubber. However, the video for “People I Meet” directed by Freddie Paull, comes close to putting you under a realistic spell. Something Vaporwave culture might be missing about the whole retro nostalgia is that an effective homage is about more than aesthetic. It’s an attitude more than a copy-paste derivative. And that’s something Harrison Fjord gets. Even if you strip away the lo-fi filters here, the roadtrips and performances at the Musical Instrument Museum do more than enough to flood you with nothing but warm vibes. T.F.
Playboy Manbaby - "Lizard People"
Playboy Manbaby's Robbie Pfeffer designed all the animation for the music video for "Lizard People," and the images recall a sort of Beavis and Butt-Head-type minimalism dosed with a healthy amount of LSD. "Lizard people running the government doesn't seem weird — people holding jobs and being a part of the world is," Pfeffer told us in 2013. He takes that sentiment and applies it to the animation of "Lizard People," which features a twisted newscast, an advertisement for "sexy babez," and a dinosaur that breathes fire. There's a twisted undercurrent to the funny visuals, making this video ripe for repeat viewings. D.A.
Good Friends Great Enemies - "Who You Are" This music video may be only 87 seconds long, but it's hilarious. Everything about it, from the contrast of the melancholy music and the tie-dye-wearing hippie singer to the slow pan to the chicken suit-wearing sax player, reeks of a band that doesn't take itself too seriously.
Numb Bats - "I Don't Know Why / To Die"
Produced by Michelle Blades, there's just something about this sparse music video that really brings out the lovable personalities of the three ladies in Numb Bats. Emily Hobeheidar plays guitar in front of a church sign. Bassist Sophie Opich rocks out in a stairwell. Drummer Mo Neuharth bangs the shit out of some drums and bursts out laughing. There's an infectious joy captured in this video, even though it's essentially just a band going throughout Phoenix and playing instruments in various locations. EDIT: It has come to our attention that Numb Bats broke up. That's a damn shame. D.A.
Luna Aura - "Dancing With Your Ghost" One of the few repeats to make it onto this last from last year's, Luna Aura once again proves her music video game is strong as hell. "Dancing With Your Ghost," directed by Cole Kiburz of Kachina Collective, takes place in a roller skating rink, and it tells the story of a guy who wants to win a stuffed animal for his lady and plays a bunch of video games and wins a bunch of tickets. There's synchronized roller dancing, hilariously bad arcade prizes, prize ticket confetti, and disco lights. It's a nostalgic theme for a modern song, and it's entertaining as hell to watch. D.A.
Honorable Mentions: Puscifer — "Grand Canyon"
Puscifer is hardly a Phoenix band, but at least part of this gorgeous music video appears to be shot in the McDowell Mountains, so it's worth taking a look.
Hot Rock Supa Joint — "Sensitive Drake Type Shit (High)"
Other than Ray Reeves, HotRock SupaJoint is the only musician in town that has released an entire full-length movie this year. Futuristic — "Feel Good"
This music video technically came out in 2014, but since it published after we made our best music video list, we're including it here. The first 60 seconds are tops, the rest is what it is. Gorky — "Super Drunk"
We don't want to ask how Gorky managed to shoot a raunchy, almost pornographic music video in Bedrock City, but we appreciate the results. Gorky is a Show Low band, so they're not technically qualified for this list. But no one else will claim them, so we'll step up to the plate. Zella Day — "Hypnotic" An honorable mention since Zella's from Pinetop. Not close to Phoenix (a consideration we have since we are called Phoenix New Times), but we don't see the Pinetop Press or whatever the local rag is called (if they have one) giving her much love. All we want to know is how they got a fucking horse for this video. That multiplies your production value by like 100 horsepower.
KEEP PHOENIX NEW TIMES FREE...
Since we started Phoenix New Times, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Phoenix, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.