As someone who watches a ton of local music videos, ranging in quality from Wow! to Why?, I can tell you with a high degree of certainty that most productions are little more than a few buddies getting together and being silly or taking themselves way too seriously. And that’s fine –– great, even. Video is now the coin of the realm for most music fans, so everyone with an iPhone should be out there shooting something to promote his or her music.
Bands that take the time and, in many cases, spend the money to produce something worth watching should be celebrated. Below is our humble list of 11 videos that our critics thought were top notch. As always, this is just a fun exercise and a way to high-five some really cool guys and gals on a job well done. I’m sure we left out some great vids, but before you damn us online or on social media, check out the ones we did include –– then continue to save the world from your keyboard. Keep supporting local! –– Eric Griffey
1. “New Age,” Cut Throat Finches
“New Age” tackles the broken state of political discourse in these here United States. Instead of diving headfirst into a scathing diatribe, the hooky roots-rockers opt for a congenial “Nah, I’m good” rejection of getting sucked into the melee. A story about a grumpy Uncle Sam cosplayer (expertly portrayed by Lola’s Saloon owner Brian Forella) who has his curmudgeonly disposition piqued by the constant chaos on the news is intercut between clips of the five-piece rocking out in the old abandoned Isis Theater in the Stockyards and candid slow-mo shots of them laughing and generally goofing around, as if to suggest we’d all be happier if we just stayed out of it. Sadly missing are the band’s signature matching “CTF”-emblazoned Dickies work shirts. Zero stars.
2. “Till the Cosmos Fall,” Dead Vinyl
Evidenced by their video for “Till the Cosmos Fall,” Dead Vinyl’s capacity for slinky, slithering riffage and soul-searing hard-rock stomp is matched by their ingenuity with no-budget set design. “Cosmos” plays out onscreen like an homage to low-rent sci-fi classics like Ice Pirates and Starcrash or a Guardians of the Galaxy rip-off made in Wayne Campbell’s basement. The video stars the musicians as futuristic space rogues piloting a starship across a groovadelic cosmic backdrop and then driving a giant robot as it battles a comically crappy, cannily crafted kaiju (portrayed by mononymic Panic Volcanic/All Clean drummer Cole) across a quaking cardboard cityscape. The practical effects are literally made out of trash, and the result is a delightfully stoneriffic adventure.
3 “Lucky Smoke,” Ansley
Ansley’s gorgeous piano balladry gets showcased in this cinematic ode to taking the ups and downs doled out by the universe all in stride –– even when the stride ends in a broken high-heel and a spill down some stairs. Like most locally made videos, there are lots of fun “guess-where-this-was-shot” scenes, plus equally enjoyable cameos by local musicians and personalities –– a homeless Tony Diaz snatching Ansley’s wallet is one of the video’s best moves. If you’ve ever had a day rolling around Fort Worth that gets increasingly shittier, the sights combined with Ansley’s sound really hammer home the entire shrugging-shoulders-emoji reality of it, while the shots of Ansley belting out the outro let you know that no matter what, she rises above –– no matter what her luck does.
4. “Church,” Wrex feat. Juma Spears
Rapping about repping all points of Fort Worth’s compass, Wrex and Juma Spears wax philosophic about wins, losses, and weed pens inside the glow of cool-colored gel lights. The two MCs hold court at some late-night beer blast that features, among a crowd of blazed-face, blissed-out revelers, a school bus tinted in a shade of green reminiscent of good leaf and fat stacks. Like the song’s multi-directional southside/northside/eastside/westside boasts, Wrex and Juma’s party invites everyone to grab a cup and get down.
5. “Spacey,” Joseph Wayne Miller
Something about this strange assemblage of random and purposefully mundane imagery perfectly encapsulates the dry wit and self-deprecation of Joseph Wayne Miller. He delivers in deadpan this bouncy piano ditty about not being able to articulate the swirling confusion in his mind while standing in front of a strip-mall massage parlor, sporting a stark white suit and Elvis shades, as he fights the wind to keep his grip on a Mylar watermelon balloon. That is, of course, before he’s shooting basketball in a driveway (obviously on the “skins” team) with a heavily tattooed dude in a muscle shirt firing up a barbecue grill. Somehow, it just seems right.
6. “It’s Devi, Bitch,” Devi
Perhaps technically more video art than a “proper” music video –– nonetheless, the trippy retro 3-D computer animation created by artist Madie Braswell is a fitting visual backdrop for the slamming debut single from aspiring electro-pop diva Devi. Sensual, feminine, and powerful, the imagery effectively evokes the track’s arresting and seductive feel. A womanly form delicately twists its way through cascades of floating orbs and undulating pearloid helices, flowing and reversing, moving and dancing like Aphrodite born of fantasy and suggestive binary code.
7. “Oh My Dear Lord,” The Unlikely Candidates
Should you forget that Fort Worth is home to several major-label acts, TUC’s video for “Oh My Dear Lord” will undoubtedly remind you. For one thing, it looks very expensive, and that’s even before you see the hundos floating in the backlit depths of some seemingly boundless body of water. Frontman Kyle Morris swims after them, lit flare in hand, as his lyrics muse about the there-and-back-again, party-to-penance nature of the rock-star life. As Morris drifts after those increasingly ragged Benjamins and the water rises over his band, the metaphor for drowning in the pursuit of success weighs down like the ponderous crest and crash of a tsunami. The band’s response is to keep swimming until they pop above the surface, buoyed by the anthemic refrain of the title.
8. “Bad Bad Dreams,” iNcelta
Easily the darkest video on this list, “Bad Bad Dreams” is a grim depiction of the deadly intersection between drug abuse and domestic strife. As a throng of neighbors gawk with phones raised to capture the drama, a pair of cops burst their way into a house in the ’burbs to drag out a hysterical woman covered in blood, her husband angry and bewildered. The resolution is not that she ends up in the back of the squad car, but why, and the slow-motion shots and double-vision POV tremors make the narrative unfold like a slow-burn nightmare, one made unfortunately real when you dig past the garbage barge of Trump-related headlines and find the stories about the toll opioids and mental illness are taking on real people.
9. “Let it Burn,” Royal Sons
Simple, slow-motion, amber-toned black-and-white footage of Royal Sons performing provides the optics to accompany the first single from Praise and Warships, the long-awaited debut from these ’70s-infused heavy-bluesers. Multi-image tracers and slick editing tricks lean into the psychedelia as the altered visual time mirrors the liquid flow of the song’s warbly chorus-laden guitar line. The video’s aesthetic legitimacy is lifted by boundary-pushing DPI and professional-grade camerawork expertly stitched together by the band’s own rhythm guitarist, Johnny McConlogue, who conveniently is a video editor by day. All these elements combine to make for the equivalent of sneaking some of Timothy Leary’s own private reserves and watching a Sons’ show underwater.
10. “A Flickering Film that I’m Living,” O. Deletron
Seeing as how O. Deletron owes its existence to frontman Jason Flynn’s collection of Super 8 and VHS recordings of his friends and family L-I-V-I-N in the waning days of the last century, this list wouldn’t be complete without including one of the North Texas indie-rock supergroup’s songs. The video accompanying the track is probably the most O. Deletron of O. Deletron videos, especially considering singer Aaron Bartz’s lyrics came directly from watching each song’s footage. The imagery conjures an emotive mix of nostalgia, sadness, comedy, and joy with its disorienting, heartwarming footage of a messy, cake-splattered baby in a highchair. The video is laid over itself, and watching it gives you the sensation of one of those dreams where you can’t seem to find a comfortable point of view between direct focus and peripheral vision. It’s like trying to interact with a ghost, and the song’s autumnal jangle and shuffling tempo make you realize the inherent difficulties of inhabiting memories. The overall effect is that of an emotional laxative.
11. “I Can’t Help Ya,” Clay Perry (Ft. Ja’Rae)
“I Can’t Help Ya” has all the requisite ingredients for a hip-hop mega-hit: a thumping piano-driven beat, a name producer in YNIQ (Lil’ Wayne, Pitbull, The Game), an earworm sing-along hook, and high-level lyrical prowess over the verses. Perry, a heavily philosophical rapper, chose an outdoor theme for the song’s official video. Shots of gnarled trees twisting out of a leaf-covered ground interplay between soothing rippling waters and a rocky coastline –– no doubt a subtle reference to his album IKIKN and its concept of an enlightenment that can be found only on some distant shore. Inexplicably, three young men are seen running throughout the video, but running toward or away from something is never revealed, much like the wisdom Perry seeks.