Most of us have better video-watching experiences by falling into YouTube wormholes than we do by keeping up with new music videos as they come out. So with that in mind, let me start off this week’s column by introducing you to one. Kelefa Sanneh’s great New Yorker article about New York hardcore led me to start reading Tony Rettman’s new oral-history book N.Y.H.C.: New York Hardcore 1980-1990. And that, in turn, led me back to Frank Pavich’s 1999 documentary N.Y.H.C., a movie I’ve watched more times than I care to admit. New York hardcore is just one of the most visually compelling music subgenres and subcultures of all time, and Lord Ezec and Rick Ta Life are the sort of characters we don’t get enough in music anymore. That whole documentary is up on YouTube. If you’ve got a slow Friday ahead of you, go nuts. This week’s picks are below.
5. Action Bronson – “Actin Crazy” (Dir. Syndrome)
The green-screen CGI fever-dream visions, with the volcano apocalypse and the robot shark and the dunking on Godzilla, are fun. But somehow, the vision of Bronson’s real life that this video presents is even more baller. Bronson, we are to understand, employs two women whose entire job is to constantly follow around frantically lint-rolling his T-shirt. I don’t know why that’s so impressive, but it is.
4. Bob Dylan – “The Night We Called It A Day” (Dir. Nash Edgerton)
The film-noir era had only just ended when Bob Dylan first started making fake-Dustbowl windblown craggy trickster-traveler folk music, a scene that could not possibly have had less to do with deadly noir glamor. So there’s something fascinatingly awesome about watching Dylan embracing noir aesthetics now that he’s old as fuck. There’s also something fascinatingly awesome about watching him run from cops like this was an EPMD video from 1990.
3. Nedelle Torrisi – “Double Horizon” (Dir. Robert Schober)
I lived through every minute of the 1980s, and I don’t remember them being this adorable or this sexy.
2. Big Sean – “Blessings” (Feat. Drake & Kanye West) (Dir. Darren Craig)
Part of the fun of rap music is that its biggest stars don’t carry themselves like regular people. They depict themselves as superheroes or Norse gods. So even if “Blessings” is an A-list posse cut in brood mode, we get to see three of the biggest stars of rap right now stalking through black voids and ancient temples.
1. Kelela – “A Message” (Dir. Daniel Sannwald)
I am sorry to see Kelela’s waist-length dreads go. I thought they looked really cool. If they did have to go, though, I’m glad they could be sacrificed in the name of a head-spinning, beautiful, impossibly compelling vision like this video.