As our recent rundown of the 25 best Milwaukee albums of 2015 showed, a dizzying amount of great music was made and released in our fair city this year. In addition to the continually growing and ever-improving canon of recorded material put out by local artists in the last 340-plus days, Milwaukee has continued to up both the quality and the imagination of its music videos. As we prepare to say goodbye to 2015, Milwaukee Record wanted to take a literal look back some of the funny, weird, creative, and downright impressive visuals set to music this year. Here are our 15 favorite Milwaukee music videos of 2015.
adoptahighway — “Qualmness”
In adoptahighway’s video for “Qualmness” (the third installment in an eight-part video series for 2015’s A Fault), the chilling experimental compositions of Barry Paul Clark coalesce with the unique directorial style of Wes Tank and the incomparable location scouting of Milwaukier Than Thou’s Adam Carr to forge something strange, brooding, and visually striking. An odd beauty is culled from the city’s industrial landscape that perfectly matches the mood of the song and makes the final package as cold and unforgiving as the wintry shots it features.
Busdriver — “MUCH”
Yeah, yeah, we’re well aware Busdriver calls Los Angeles home. Yet with the frequency he visits, his regular collaboration with Milo, and the delightful music videos he makes while he’s here, it’s safe to call Milwaukee the veteran rapper’s home away from home. A little over a year after he and local director Wes Tank came together for the excellent “Motion Lines” video, Bus stopped in Milwaukee again to shoot the even better “MUCH” music video. Filmed in and around Tank’s former Riverwest home in just four shots that were stitched together, Busdriver ghosties a kid’s bike before roving from room to room and biking away again. Along the way, he encounters some dancers (local actress Becky Cofta and Cinnaminiatures member Casey O’Brien among them), passes some kids munching on Pizza Shuttle slices, and throws some cash on a bonfire local rapper MC Mikal is poking. Fake cash and cheese pizza budget aside, Busdriver and Tank—with help from respected local filmmakers and extras—managed an impressive and highly ambitious rendering that works directly against the song’s spend-y concept.
Casual Vocals — “You Are I Am We Are”
Before giving birth to a human baby this fall, Milwaukee (by way of Chicago) singer-songwriter Colleen Webb wanted to cast a music video for “You Are I Am We Are”—the first single from her yet-untitled 2016 record—into the world. Fittingly, the visual adaptation for a song Webb self-recorded in her attic studio was also shot and edited by her in the same space. Enlisting the mouths of her friends and husband to lip sync the lyrics and combining it with some public domain bicentennial-era propaganda footage, the video for the folky and faintly-Feist-like ditty is simplistic, but totes its fair share of sheen for costing literally nothing to make.
Dead Horses — “Ain’t Got Time”
It’s a battle of the elements in the moody and cryptic video for Dead Horses’ lovely 2015 single “Ain’t Got Time.” Water, fire, earth, and wind all make appearances at one point or another, giving tangible textures to what appears to be the universe’s most depressing dinner party held in someone’s attic. Created by Ryan Klassa, Louie Fisher, and Daniel Lindsay, the clip is brimming with striking imagery: a leaf-covered burial, the reflection in an old TV, a brick on fire, mud-streaked faces, and the eventual reversal of time and memory itself.
The Fatty Acids — “Worst Part”
There was a time, not too long ago, when The Fatty Acids were the new scramble-pop kids on the block. These days, the Fatties are veteran mainstays of the scene, still playing out a steady clip and inspiring an entirely new crop of Milwaukee musicians—and the video for “Worst Part,” from 2013’s Boléro, is a reminder of just how good the Fatties are. Created by filmmaker Kelly Anderson, the clip combines outtakes from past video shoots, live footage, and shots of random goofing around to create a thrilling, inspiring, and even bittersweet look back on a band that has been absolutely vital to the Milwaukee music scene for the past five years. It’s also a celebration of creativity and camaraderie—two things The Fatty Acids have never lacked.
Greatest Lakes — “Nothing Left”
Youth-fueled nostalgia is at an all-time high these days, but the fact remains that childhood can often be a scary, confusing, and lonely time in one’s life. The dreamy video for Greatest Lakes’ “Nothing Left”—from the band’s equally dreamy 2014 self-titled debut—captures those feelings perfectly as it follows a young boy dressed in a ratty rabbit suit running through an empty school, running full-tilt through an autumnal forest, stumbling through some crumbling ruins, and eventually ending up on a highly symbolic beach. Echoes of Spike Jonez’s Where The Wild Things Are resonate throughout the video, which was directed and shot by band members Brian Steinseifer and Josiah Werning. Still, some subtle touches—kicking a basketball inside a gymnasium’s bleachers, reading a comic book, pouring milk on those carrot sticks they always had at school—give it it’s own melancholy mood and identity.
Juiceboxxx — “Walking In Milwaukee”
Love him or hate him, it’s hard to refute the passion Juiceboxxx puts into everything he does. Beyond the albums he releases at an astounding pace, his relentless touring, and rowdy live shows that occasionally leave him bloody, the Juicer always puts a great deal of work into distilling his uncanny energy into his music videos. The Jack Packard-directed video for “Walking In Milwaukee” features Juiceboxxx, well, pretty much just walking through a rain-soaked Milwaukee and paying unique homage to his hometown by screaming shit into a mic mounted at the end of a pole affixed to the camera.
Kiings — “1984”
Affordable technology has made it remarkably easy to give a video a cinematic look, but giving it a cinematic feel is still a matter of good old fashioned talent. Director Damien Klaven proves he has plenty of the stuff in the clip for Kiings’ “1984,” from the duo’s 2015 album WWYDF. Bliss & Alice and King Courteen make appearances, but its the shots of WebsterX perched above the city like a glowering superhero that give the video a real kick.
Maritime — “Milwaukee”
Though exactly every song on Maritime’s latest album Magnetic Bodies/Maps Of Bones is better than the longstanding indie rock act’s unabashedly cheesy Milwaukee Day anthem, the Bob Purvis-directed video for “Milwaukee” does a wonderful job of capturing the abundance of wonderful people, beautiful places, and great things that make our city so special. With a wood-pannel “basement wall” serving as a wheeled portal, the viewer is taken on a guided tour of the city, including stops at Milwaukee Art Museum, Anodyne Coffee Roasting in Walker’s Point, 88Nine Radio Milwaukee, Acme Records, Classic Slice, Discovery World, Fuel Cafe, Mitchell Park Conservatory, Lakefront Brewery, The Avalon Theater, outside the Frank Lloyd Wright homes on Burnham, The Pabst Theater, and various other places.
The Midwestern Charm — “With A Lime”
Back in October, The Midwestern Charm hit the reset button and changed its name to Bad Wig. While the name change meant the garage rock band would retire all its past material in favor of new music, Charm’s work will live on in its records and a couple of magnificently morbid music videos. The last such video—the Brandon Domer-directed “With A Lime”—centers around a dude whose brain is under the control of an evil bee…or something. The garbage-eating protagonist is led to a Midwestern Charm basement show where campy catastrophe ensues.
Platinum Boys — “Downtown”
“Downtown” in all its wonderfully-sloppy, ’70s era glory gets perfect visual representation in this no-budget video shot, edited, and directed by TW Hansen. It finds half the Platinum Boys cruising around in a souped-up lime green Chevy with a trunk of narcotics, fireworks, and Sunrise Foods-pilfered Miller Lite as the other half of the band (dressed a police officers) chase them around town in an old squad car. Beers are chugged, pills are eaten, rubber is burned, and Mark Borchardt is forced off the road. True to the Platinum Boys’ rocker personas, the chase scenes and the car crash were filmed without securing permits or blocking off streets.
Rio Turbo — “Lip Service”
Officer Joe Peterson wasn’t just giving chase to his fellow Platinum Boys in 2015; as the frontman of the similarly sleazy (but more club-friendly) Rio Turbo, he was busy stalking through a decadent backstage area full of hangers-on, scantily clad dancers, pesky paparazzi, and beefy security guards. The video for “Lip Service,” from Rio Turbo’s self-titled 2015 LP, has all that and more, and pulls it off in only a handful of shots.
Soul Low — “Always Watchin’ Out”
Soul Low is the kind of band you’d like to take home to your mom: youthful, charming, dapperly dressed. But even nice guys (or, in the parlance of Soul Low, nice dads) have a hard time meeting that special someone. In the Matt Plain-directed video for “Always Watchin’ Out,” from this year’s excellent Sweet Pea EP, that elusive special someone finds their manifestation in another Milwaukee musician, NO/NO’s Cat Ries. Between VHS-tastic shots of Soul Low rocking out in a living room, Ries terrorizes two little kids, shoplifts a forty, gets high in a park, litters, stomps on a dandelion, gets high again, and, eventually, beats the shit out of Soul Low. A full day!
Tigernite — “Witch”
As one of the best songs put out by a Milwaukee band this year that’s also on one of the best albums put out by a Milwaukee band this year, it’s not surprising that the video for said song—Tigernite’s “Witch”—is also one of the best in Milwaukee this year. Director/videographer Kyle Arpke shot the video in the garage of bassist Eric Arsnow. Once shot, Arsnow edited the video by individually manipulating more than 3,000 frames, and printing out piles upon piles of black and white photocopies—even encouraging his son to color on some. The final product is a wild and somewhat spooky piece of film that perfectly captures the style and energy of what’s fast becoming one of the city’s most lauded live acts.
WebsterX — “Lately”
WebsterX has never been a slouch in the video department—see the clips for “Renaissance” and “Doomsday”—but he outdoes himself in the gorgeous, cinematic video for “Lately.” Written by WebsterX, Damien Klaven, and Cody LaPlant, and directed by Klaven and LaPlant, the video finds the tireless rapper emerging from the earth itself, stumbling through the gorgeous landscapes of Wisconsin cities Oregon and Cudahy, and finding his New Age Narcissism Crew (Kiran Vee, Lex Allen, and Siren among them) waiting to carry him—both physically and spiritually—even further. To be continued in 2016…