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Top 20 Videos of 2020

by Staff

With budgets big and small, and a diversity of visual techniques, this is the music that looked the best to us this year.

With live music at a standstill for almost the entirety of 2020, the online audiovisual experience became a vital substitute. Stuck at home in great numbers, music lovers made do with what could be found online – and musicians and their creative friends did their best to make it worthwhile. Despite the pandemic’s limitations on production, and in many cases the eternal lack of much money, the PAN M 360 team found a lot of great music to look at this year. Here are our absolute favourites.

Sun Ra Arkestra: “Seductive Fantasy”

The autumn of 2020 saw the release of Swirling, the first new album from the Arkestra in 20 years. These dedicated disciples of the cosmic jazz king, led by saxophonist Marshall Allen since Sun Ra’s death in 1993, included a revisiting of the 1979 piece “Seductive Fantasy”. The video for the track, created by Canadian indie rocker and animator Chad VanGaalen, is a hallucinatory tour de force. – Rupert Bottenberg


Pottery – Take Your Time

The second single from Welcome To Bobby’s Motel, the excellent debut album from Montrealers Pottery, released last April and produced by Jonathan Schenke (Parquet Courts, Snail Mail), “Take Your Time” is a hyperactive dance-punk track that owes a lot to Andy Gill (guitarist of Gang of Four) and Devo, revealing in a playful way the darker side of recreational drug use. The music video, conceived, illustrated, scripted, and directed by the band’s drummer, Paul Jacobs, uses the imagery of the album cover, which the multi-instrumentalist also designed. A long work meticulously executed by Jacobs, who had mentioned in an interview that he was very happy to be able to marry his two passions, drawing and music. Welcome To Bobby’s Motel explores the kaleidoscopic and visceral world of a fictional character named Bobby, and “Take Your Time” is the video that brings to life the psychedelic and imaginary setting of his mysterious motel. – Patrick Baillargeon

Design, Illustration & Storyboard/Direction by Paul Jacobs
Animation & Production by Raised by Bears


Circles Around The Sun: “On My Mind” Live with Mad Alchemy Liquid Lights

Established in 1971, Mad Alchemy is an analog visual art project by artist Lance Gordon, inspired by the liquid light shows of San Francisco’s psychedelic scene of the 1960s. Since 2017, he has been adapting it into modern digital tech, while preserving the charm and magic of analog projections. He has performed at the Desert Daze festivals and for various groups from the current neo-psychedelic music scene, such as The Brian Jonestown Massacre, Temples, Toy, and Kikagaku Moyo. His visuals go very well with the jazzy, groovy prog atmosphere of Circles Around The Sun, which was originally a Grateful Dead tribute band. Somthing to blow your mind. – Louise Jaunet


Byg Ben Sukuya, MC Yallah & Jora MC: “Money Makes Money”

In 2015, the action movie Who Killed Captain Alex? introduced the world to the wonders happening in Wakaliga, the Kampala slum now better known as Wakaliwood. Ugandan filmmaker Nabwana IGG and his Ramon Film production team proved that enthusiasm and resourcefulness can overcome any budgetary limitation, and bring that spirit to their first music video. “Money Makes Money” is a public appeal to crowdfund an economic stimulus for the village of Bulambuli – and a chance to discover the amazing MC Yallah. – Rupert Bottenberg


Retorunose: “Haisen Session”

Even in a year with an unprecedented volume of musical performances filmed remotely, this improvised jam by Japanese jazzcore duo Retorunose is unforgettable. The drumming of #STDRUMS is seismic, the saxophone of Ruby Nakamuravolcanic. Together, they’re a force of nature, captured and just barely constrained by director Taro Maruyama at the indie art space Zengyo Z, in the suburbs of Tokyo. – Rupert Bottenberg


Arca: Nonbinary”

In order to illustrate her own transition, the artist Arca stages Alejandra’s symbolic gestation in an operating room straight out of a dystopian science fiction future – which is more or less almost here. She immortalizes this magnificent artistic rebirth by embodying the Venus of the next decade, redefining the concept of the diva for a new generation that is openly expressing its gender identity. Defining herself as non-binary, trans, and gay, Arca reverses the misogynistic clichés associated with reggaeton and participates in the growing momentum of Latin female artists called reggaetoneras, who are reappropriating the codes of reggaeton not to bend to men’s desires but rather to emancipate themselves. – Louise Jaunet


Backxwash: God Has Nothing To Do With This Leave Him Out Of It | Polaris Prize 2020

With the help of her artistic director Chachi Revah, Backxwash writes an open letter to her father in this video made for her nomination for the 2020 Polaris Prize. Feeling a demonic fever, she lets herself be guided by the spirits of her Tumbuka and Chewa ancestors. Undoing the chains of her past, she succeeds in asserting herself as a witch, a now timeless symbol of the archetype of the independent and rebellious woman. Trendy or not, more and more women are claiming the title, not only to cast evil spells against the patriarchy, but also to develop a new introspective and spiritual vision. In her book Sorcières : la puissance invaincue des femmes, Mona Chollet summarizes that they’re women “who dare to look inside themselves.” – Louise Jaunet


Sufjan Stevens: “Video Game”

Level up with “Video Game! Directed by Nicole Ginelli, the clip features Jalaiah Harmon, who choreographed her own dance based on the track by Sufjan Stevens. The teenager also created Renegade, another dance that went viral on TikTok. The Ascension, Stevens’ eighth studio album, he describes as “a call for personal transformation and a refusal to play along with the systems around us.” One movement at a time, we can incite change. – Roxane Labonté


Sheenah Ko: Wrap Me Up”

Last October, Sheenah Ko and her choreographer Brittney Canda won Best Choreography at the U.K. Music Video Awards, beating the likes of Beyoncé and Christine and the Queens. Despite its small budget, the team rose to the challenge of creating a realistic, poetic, and poignant clip depicting a support group meeting in a church basement. Without too much direction, we follow the evolution of an audience that goes from anger to benevolence in response to Sheenah Ko’s speech. The clip perfectly illustrates the process of healing inner wounds, which is not always just an individual task. It can also be a collective process, one that often remains invisible in the eyes of society. – Louise Jaunet


Shortparis: КоКоКо/Cтруктуры не выходят на улицы

“Les structures ne descendent pas dans la rue.” This slogan from May 1968, painted on a wall at the very beginning of the video, gave the title to this galvanising track. The group uses the animal metaphor as an illustration of worker exploitation. The rooster appears sometimes as flesh to be eaten, sometimes as a symbol of resistance. This association of man and animal gives rise to striking images, such as the one in which the bodies act as carcasses, or the imitation of the rooster crowing by the singer Nikolai Komyagin. The mere presence of the latter, magnetic and mannersome, would be enough to amaze. But this theatricality is at the service of denunciation, the track ending with the liberation of the workers. – Geneviève Gendreau

Video Credits: Shortparis
DOP: Ayrat Ramilov


OBI: “Slave We”

Shot without staging, “Slave We” bears witness to the extraordinary lifestyle of the artist OBI. We see him wandering through the Collège Maurice Scève squat in Lyon, where he currently lives among several hundred other African migrants. To hip-hop, electro, Afro-trap, and soul beats, he speaks of a feeling of being chained to the city, but also of the light and hope that are always present. However, he and his companions in misfortune wonder whether they have the fundamental freedom of movement. The words displayed in bright yellow add to the aesthetics of the video. – Roxane Labonté


Marzhan Kapsamat: “Korugly”

We should be thankful to everyone who made an effort to interrupt the remorseless flow of miserable news in 2020, and gave us all something to be happy about – even if just for a moment. Marzhan Kapsamat, a 23-year-old dombra player, got magnificently dressed up, grabbed her long-necked lute, and sat herself down in the middle of Kazakhstan’s Ozero Kobeytuz. The result was one perfect minute of pure, sublime beauty, which unsurprisingly went massively viral. – Rupert Bottenberg


Gojira: “Another world”

“Another world” highlights how the Internet can enable anyone to learn what they want. Here, the band decides to build a rocket! We then follow the four protagonists on their journey to the edge of space, where they arrive in front of a symbol reminding them of where they come from. A superbly animated clip by Maxime Tiberghien and Sylvain Favre. – Roxane Labonté


UNI: “Debris”

This year, the rock/glam art-pop band UNI presented “Debris”, a captivating video clip directed by Kemp Muhl (bassist of the band), and inspired by the films Man Who Fell To Earth, Nam June Paik, and Mandy, among others. The singer Jack James plays an androgynous alien, playing on gender roles in the style of Marilyn Manson on The Dope Show. David Strange, the guitarist, plays a warrior, and Kemp Muhl, an icy female leader. The numerous televisions (a complete wall and a double bass made of them) seem to denounce screen-induced numbness. – Roxane Labonté


Richelieu: Camion

Frame-by-frame stop-motion animation is always a source of wonder for me, not so much for the result as for the amount of work involved. And coming from an independent group like Richelieu, with obviously little means, the achievement is even more impressive. Not that the result is so unique, the process has been used many times, but it’s an inventive way to showcase a song that already stood out from the others on their last album and give it a little more scope. Difficult to match, but every objective was achieved with this video. 10/10. – Patrice Caron


Terrace Martin: “Pig Feet” (feat. Denzel Curry, Kamasi Washington, G Perico & Daylyt)

The tidal wave of protest for Black American lives this past summer will have reverberations for a long time to come, and far beyond the borders of the USA. Proving that the heat of the moment can be hot enough to forge steel, Los Angeles musician Terrace Martin and his friends set out to create “a work of truth” that would be a testament to the time and succeeded. Every one of the names at the end attests to how crucial it is. – Rupert Bottenberg


IC3PEAK: Плак-Плак 

Released four days after the launch of the album До Свидания (Goodbye), last February, this clip has already passed the 19 million-views mark! IC3PEAK’s tremendous success is matched only by their immense talent. The two accomplices produce their music, albums, and videos boldly, always slick and merciless. Between precision choreography and inventive direction, “Плак-Плак” allows no down time. The track denounces domestic violence by adopting the point of view of the child, then the mother. This results in powerful images, including a puppet theatre the size of a doll’s house, where the girl watches the drama between her parents in horror. The visceral bass, topped by the voice of Nastya Kreslina, angelic in the chorus, catchy and vociferous in the verses, complete our subjugation. – Geneviève Gendreau

Directed by: IC3PEAK (Nastya Kreslina and Nikolay Kostylev)
СG / SFX: Studio CG Company
Executive Producer: Maria Vladimirova


 

Bronson: Keep Moving

The third single from trio Bronson’s eponymous album, which features Australian producer Golden Features and American duo Odesza, “Keep Moving” is a visual representation of the chaos created by a company focused on careers, success, and profitability at the expense of people. The “Keep Moving” video satirically depicts the employees of the fictional BRONSON Inc., who “keep moving” despite the chaos surrounding them. The employees, all dressed more or less in the manner of Japanese salarymen, are thrown down escalators and assailed by an avalanche of office equipment and electronics before jumping out through a computer or mobile phone screen. Bodies are jostled dramatically in the office as the song unfolds unimpeded to the rhythm of mechanical pulses.

Produced by the Swedish collective StyleWar in collaboration with production company Smuggler and editor Noah Herzog, the clip is composed of archival footage of corporate videos that are manipulated and superimposed very subtly with computer-generated images to create a satirical and nightmarish vision of office life. The directors wanted to emphasize the hyper-generic character of a large company; the actors, costumes, props, sets, and especially the acting, everything is superficial and seems fake. Not lacking a sense of humour, the collective even makes a nod to the cover of Pink Floyd’s Wish You Were Here. With “Keep Moving”, StyleWar have created one of the most convincing and inventive of the music videos created during confinement. – Patrick Baillargeon

Director and VFX: StyleWar
Executive Producer: Elizabeth Doonan
Video Editor: Noah Herzog
Production company : SMUGGLER


Neon Dreams: “Sick Of Feeling Useless”

The Halifax duo, composed of singer and guitarist Frank Kadillac and drummer Adrian Morris, worked hard to produce this stop-motion video, taking precisely 2,477 photos! The band oozes nostalgia for the late ’90s and early ’2000s (when music videos were still available on music channels). As a vehicle for an important message, that we’re not alone in feeling powerless, detached, or blasé at the moment, the piece accompanies us through possible identity crises, in those crucial but liberating moments when we redefine ourselves. – Roxane Labonté


Solo Ansamblis: Baloje

This video, produced by the Lithuanian artist Dr. GoraParasit, captivates with its comic eccentricity. Creatures dressed in red vinyl firefighter suits emerge from the water and then, against a serene yellow background, perform zany choreographed movements, apeing videos of sea-park dolphin shows. The clip also features panels drawn by the illustrator Edvinas Špetas. From the album OLOS, released in February, “Baloje” is just as musically offbeat, with its final chaos of distortion, hallucinated guitars, wailing and bouncing rhythm. An audiovisual object of joyful surrealism. – Geneviève Gendreau

Script, directing & editing: Dr. GoraParasit
Producers: Damn Good / Dr. GoraParasit

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