This year was an incredibly bountiful year in Milwaukee music. Meanwhile, the utter success of the 2014 Milwaukee Film Festival suggests the city is coming into its own, both in the ability of locals to capture striking and significant things on film, and in the populace’s ability to recognize and appreciate them. In the year that found Milwaukee’s music and film scenes each bursting at the seams with impressive output, it was only natural for elements of the two worlds to meld together and, as a result, bring about a renaissance of music videos in Milwaukee. Whether it was Milwaukee acts releasing videos or out-of-town artists enlisting local filmmakers to give their song a fitting visual component, we liked a lot of what we saw. Among the multitude of high quality, conceptually creative, or downright hilarious local music videos released this year, here are Milwaukee Record’s 15 favorite.

Begong Ava Begong Hele from Heather Hass on Vimeo.

Altos – “Begong Ava Begong Hele”
The video for this epic-length Altos single from 2013 has been kicking around for a while, but it wasn’t until this year that it was made available online. It was long overdue: Created by band member Heather Hass, the animated clip finds the 12 members of the transcendent post-rock ensemble (they’ve since increased their numbers) braving a high-seas adventure, encountering some underwater sea nymphs, running afoul of some diligent spiders, and finally undergoing an unlikely transformation. It’s as dark, fanciful, and expansive as the band itself. [Matt Wild]

Calliope – Casino (Official Video) from Victor Buell IV on Vimeo.

Calliope – “Casino”
There’s nothing subtle about Calliope’s brash, unapologetically psyched-out strain of rock and roll. This year’s ORBIS was filled with enough whirling organs, synth-drenched drone, and Jim Morrison swagger (courtesy of singer Al Kraemer) to fill 10 albums. Likewise, there’s nothing subtle about the video for the record’s best track, “Casino,” which features vintage headphones, 3D-damaged color palettes, and a sexy fortune teller. It all adds up to a wonderfully trippy tribute to fortune, fame, Las Vegas, and one of this year’s best jams. [MW]

Victor DeLorenzo – “Carry Me”
This year’s 551 project (brought to you by the ad wizards who put Milwaukee on the creative map by blowing up a car a few years ago) produced five different videos for five different artists, including Volcano Choir and Vic And Gab. Those videos are great, but the sleeper hit of the bunch is the one for Victor DeLorenzo’s off-kilter “Carry Me,” from his 2013 self-titled solo album. In it, the former Violent Femmes drummer finds himself stepping outside of his own video, contending with some bloody knuckles, and looking damn sharp dressed in black and red against an all-white background. It’s a minimalist, lo-tech video, but one that pops off the screen nonetheless. [MW]

Field Report – “Wings”
Marigolden, the outstanding 2014 follow-up to Field Report’s self-titled debut, set itself apart from its predecessor with the subtle addition of electronic scaffolding to the pillars of modern folk. The stylistic mishmash is most evident in “Wings,” and the song’s spacey animated video couldn’t express it any better. The third video berthed by the record—after “Home” and “Decision Day”—is a futuristic and out-of-this-world success from Erik Holman and Vassi Slovova of Milwaukee-based Blackbox Visual. Departed Field Report bassist Travis Whitty served as assistant animator and helped come up with the song’s environmental, true-to-lyrics visual interpretation. [Tyler Maas]

Galactic Cannibal – “Hate Everything More”
Galactic Cannibal, the short-lived experiment that combined pop-punk song structures with nihilistic lyrics screamed in an all-around brutal hardcore timbre, didn’t put out an album this year. However, the band’s only video—not counting clips of front man Peter J. Woods tackling strangers and breaking microphones at Galactic Cannibal shows—off its one and only album (2013’s We’re Fucked) came out in January. Beyond whatever was spent on fake blood, eggs, and peanut butter, the violent and low-art video for “Hate Yourself More” didn’t cost a thing to make. In it, Woods not-so-gently urges the protagonist to get his life together by shirtless-shoving him around Bay View landmarks like Humboldt Park and the Klement’s factory, then beating the shit out of him at the Borg Ward in Walker’s Point. It’s simple and cheap, but perfect for the since-dissolved punk project. [TM]

Heavy Hand – “Motherfucking Bobcat”
It’s safe to assume no band in Milwaukee put out as many music videos as Heavy Hand did in 2014. Though the group’s great Northwoods Knives spawned videos for four of the album’s nine songs, none were exactly costly or especially ambitious productions. As rewarding as videos featuring a guy dancing, another guy playing with devil sticks, and combining parts of each band member into one disturbing amalgam were, the band’s masked romp at a Racine petting zoo for the “Motherfucking Bobcat” video is a lasting lo-fi testament to how absurd, original, and just plain awesome Heavy Hand is. [TM]

Hello Death – “Settlers” from Erik Ljung on Vimeo.

Hello Death – “Settlers”
Hello Death’s sparse, haunting, and out-of-time folk finds a perfect accompaniment in this deceptively simple video, which seems straight out of M. Night Shyamalan’s The Village (minus the Twilight Zone twist). Directed by singer/stand-up-bassist Nathanial Heuer, the clip features a dozen plainly dressed women (band members Marielle Allschwang and Erin Wolf among them) taking part in some seriously hypnotic dough kneading. The band describes the video as a “meditation on life, death, and the meanings we create to navigate and understand our lives.” Who can argue with that? [MW]

Kane Place Record Club – “Sunshine”
Some videos—local or otherwise—are content to take a simple, minimalist concept and run with it. Then there are videos like Kane Place Record Club’s “Sunshine,” which goes all out with digital effects, animation, and whacked-out choreography. The John Roberts-directed clip finds a hapless protagonist going through what appears to be an intensely weird post-car-crash, near-death experience—one involving cartoon bluebirds, dancing surgeons, an M.C. Escher-esque underworld, a macabre courtroom, and a giant cat head thing. A bright white light this ain’t. [MW]

The Midwest Beat – “High Life”
Jangly, classic country number “High Life” is a stylistic outlier on The Midwest Beat’s eclectic Free Of Being. Despite the song being a strange fit beside folk, power-pop, and borderline psychedelic on the album, the visual representation of “High Life” is perfectly in line with the song’s tear-in-my-beer tone. The bleary bar-time track finds the band dancing shamelessly, eating cupcakes, and swilling the eponymous domestic brew in a dim tavern. While it’s devoid of anything resembling a special effect, the not-so-subtle love letter to the Miller product is just as cheap and satisfying as the beer it honors. [TM]

The Midwestern Charm – “General Drag”
It’s rare for modern-day videos to tell a story with a beginning, middle, and end. These short films are tough to come up with, and it’s usually easier to simply throw a bunch on random shit on the screen and see what sticks. Maybe that’s why the video for The Midwestern Charm’s “General Drag”—from this year’s Growing Pains—feels like such a charming throwback. Directed by Brandon Domer and written by Midwestern Charm singer-songwriter Connor La Mue, the video illustrates the classic story of boy meets girl, girl slips boy matchbook with her address, boy goes to soul-sucking job and runs errands for his satanic boss, girl gets ready for date, boy picks up shovel and…well, we won’t spoil the ending. [MW]

Scrimshaw – “Hoopula”
For the past few years, delightfully oddball trio Scrimshaw have gone against the local-music-scene grain with their lo-fi, Devo- and Ween-indebted geek-rock, tossing off ridiculously danceable songs about tiny belts, giant horses, and, er, donkey venom. For the video for “Hoopula”— from this year’s h/m+t=-h album—director Cris Siqueira takes a trip to a small town in Louisiana, watches the dancers of the Westwego Ernest J. Tassin Senior Center cut a rug, and sets it all to Scrimshaw’s herky-jerky ode to the end of the world. It’s simple, silly, and sublime. [MW]

Soul Low – “Blatz Beat”
After coming out of nowhere with its tremendous debut, UNEASY, last year, Soul Low spent the majority of 2014 playing out a shitload and writing new material. They were gracious enough to make Milwaukee Record a video for “Tammy”—the only new song Soul Low released in this year. As great as the debut Prop-a-Ganza installement is, “Blatz Beat” is nothing to scoff at either. Directed by Dan Black and shot by Phillip Hoffmann, the first of four videos the band has planned for its Kind Spirit EP (out in January) is a lighthearted anomaly on an otherwise serious effort. The second ode to a Milwaukee-made beer on this list shows the band and friends living it up in a north side warehouse with dresses, fur coats, costumes, and plenty of Blatz (which the band legitimately loves) in tow. [TM]

Sugar Stems – “We Only Come Out At Night”
Musically, Sugar Stems have a straightforward and timeless sound that has as much of place in the ’70s as it does on stage today. Similarly, the ambitious stop-animation video for “We Only Come Out At Night” is an impressive product that could’ve been put out in any of the last 40 years. Micronic World Studio owner/operator Mark Peterson (who is also a videographer for beloved Milwaukee media mainstay Rock And Roller Remote Controller) spent four months cutting nocturnal critters out of construction paper by hand, before animating and editing it all into a cute and creative representation of the standout song from one of the year’s best records. Of all the innovative and enjoyable visual efforts the city has managed this year, there’s nothing quite like this one. [TM]

Sylvan Esso – “Dreamy Bruises”
Yeah, yeah…Sylvan Esso isn’t a Milwaukee band. Got it. However, when a group puts a video into the world with the amount of Milwaukeeans in the cast and crew, and the overwhelming number of regional Easter eggs as Sylvan Esso’s Milwaukee-made video for “Dreamy Bruises” does, we’re listing the fucker. Filmed in July, when the synth-pop duo was midway through its quest for world domination, the video was mostly shot at a number of Bay View and Riverwest establishments (Honeypie, Fuel Cafe, and Sky High among them). Moreover, it was directed by locals Bob Purvis and Timm Gable, edited by The Fatty Acids drummer Cole Quamme, and features a laundry list of local artists, musicians, and people-about-town as on-camera talent. Milwaukee’s Sylvan Esso pride might have one degree of separation, but there are no modifiers necessary when claiming local connection to the “Dreamy Bruises” video. [TM]

Tapebenders – “Semantics”
If there were an “all-star” award for Milwaukee music videos, this year’s trophy would have to go to the Tapebenders’ “Semantics.” Produced by Frankie Latina (Modus Operandi) and directed by none other than Mark Borchardt (American Movie), the clip finds the Tapebenders (formerly Elusive Parallelograms) setting up for a sparsely attended show at the Cactus Club, only to take things to an unexpected, bloody level. If you’ve ever been in a local band, you can surely relate. Likewise, if you watch only one local video this year that features a head crushed by an amp and death-by-drumsticks, make it this one. [MW]

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