Best Indie and Underground Music Videos of 2021
We’re halfway through the best music videos from underground, indie, and lesser-known artists in 2021. This time, topics range from Mothra to river cults to pancake parties. Be on the lookout for local talent this time around!
60. White Cliffs, “Just Like You”
Normally videos with lyrics are disqualified from this countdown, but I’m making an exception for “Just Like You”. The Claymation aspects give it a lot more personality and fit well with the themes of the song itself. It would be nice to see the band tackle something a little more ambitious, but until then, “Just Like You” is a fun watch.
59. Girls’ Friday, “Earthquake”
Vera Ellen directed the video for “Earthquake” herself and called it “a story of fighting for true liberation.” There is no doubt that this is a frenetic visual story full of escapism and shadowy presences. Although the execution looks a bit like the video equivalent of a toxic material spill, there’s no doubting the sincerity and energy.
58. Madras Cartel, “Drift”
Directed by the band themselves, “Drift” is definitely the most stoned music video of 2021. That said, Eboshi and Contra specifically decided to celebrate BIPOC’s excellence and enjoy the fruits of their success, and he doesn’t. no doubt they succeeded. Loosely communist drug propaganda with an intersectional feminist twist deserves props for how many ding dongs it pisses off if nothing else.
57. Haerts, “Too Late”
The current video for “Too Late,” directed by Julian Klincewicz, is only mildly interesting. Singer Nini Fabi hops down the street against a collection of 70s camera effects. However, apparently during the filming of the video, someone started running towards the group with a gun and they had to flee to save their lives. Releasing a music video under duress puts you on my book list.
56. Zeal and ardor, “Run”
“Run” is a well-done descent into madness… or maybe just a well-done paddle into madness while playing Marco Polo. A man is surrounded by deranged inmates in hospital gowns as he tries to make sense of his own viscerally colored worldview. The song itself is a chainsaw, so be prepared to have your eardrums hurting.
55. Andrew Hagar, “Red Light Appetite”
Shot in one of our real-life Texas ghost towns, “Red Light Appetite” is a scorching Western vampire orgy of blood and metal. The music is thrilling and the gore is abundant. While nothing will ever surpass Goldfapp “Living” in the category of musical vampires, this one belongs to the top five of this subgenre.
54. Holy Sinner, “Couch Affairs”
Director Joey Muñoz deftly divides Hanna Cottrell into two supernatural beings, one of which is essentially a Cenobite stripper and the other resembling the greedy tycoon who likely sparked the first. The final product plays out like a duel of identities which is fascinating.
53. Blue Stahli, “Obsidian”
Directors Justin McGrath and Sydney Mills present the absolute banger that is “Obsidian” with a combination of landscape porn, alien obelisks and hallucinogenic imagery. It’s basically the most captivating screensaver ever.
52. She Lexxa, “IODV”
Music videos made exclusively for Tik Tok always tend to be quite random and rarely manage to create an involved story. For a beautiful and pure show, however, I can’t fault Elle Lexxa. His video for “IODV” is a superb collection of visuals and innuendo that are instantly compelling.
51. Merk, “Deep Dive”
Apparently, Merk likes to moonlight as a chef-themed DJ called DJ Ragu, which is objectively adorable. The video for “Deep Dive” shines a light on her other life in a series of party scenes that really touches a nerve in an ongoing pandemic. Plus, a pancake night seems really nice right now.
50. Shygirl, “Tasty”
I can’t speak for the rest of you, but with immunocompromised people in the house, the lockdown never really ended for me. That’s why I’m happy for a video like “Tasty”, which is just a decadent fairy tale of glamor and abundance. It’s times like this that we should remember that The Masque of the Red Death was actually a pretty cool party before everyone dropped dead.
49. Velveteen Echo, “Heart Undo”
Houston band Velveteen Echo turns into a wonderful music video with “Hearts Undo”. Director Lindsey Cooper-Trevino gives a day and night at the beach a Lynchian vibe as the group frolic against the waves. It all plays out like Benadryl’s most glorious dream.
48. William Ryan Key, “Face in Frame”
The former Yellowcard frontman has had quite the career full of bold ideas. This is clearly visible in the beautiful animated music video for “Face in a Frame” where paper animals frolic in an origami world. The sharp lines of the anime style mimic the sharpness of the lyrics, creating something very sharp.
47. Wet, “Only Water”
There’s a reason so many ancient religions revolved around rivers. “Only Water” masterfully captures a sense of pagan wonder as Kelly Zutrau comes to shore to join other women in eerie exultation. It’s a little spooky, but definitely moving.
46. Crazy and the Brains, “Punk Rocker”
I have no idea what’s going on in “Punk Rocker”, but it’s still one hell of a ride. Director Jak Kerley follows the group on a sneering ride through a frozen Jersey town in a semi-tribute to Iggy Pop. It’s safe to say that Kerley does it better, though, with gorgeous visuals and a real tension between dirt and opulence.
45. Insect Bites, “Borders”
A simple idea in the hands of a gifted director can become something awe-inspiring, and Derek Rathbun does fantastic things with just a little paperwork and the exquisite music of our very own Bug Bites. The group is slowly surrounded by strips of duct tape, including some killer shots of singer/guitarist Daniela Hernandez having her eyes hidden. In the end, the established boundaries become a straitjacket for the group.
44. Cassandra Jenkins, “Crosshairs”
There’s nothing too fancy about “Crosshairs.” The video follows Jenkins before going on an extensive drone tour of New York City in the winter, highlighting lyrics about a sense of isolation. It all comes back to a shot of Jenkins on the ground in the snow as if taken by her own loneliness. The sheer beauty and languorous movement of the experience sets her apart.
43. The Woman, “The Garden”
La Femme’s “Le Jardin” is a stunning cinematic journey through beautiful Spanish settings delivered with a wonderful psychedelic vibe. Although light on the narrative, the lyrics do enough heavy lifting to make the journey feel like something special. Even in a year when there has been a lot of heavy drone work and walking videos, “Le Jardin” stands out as one of the most beautiful.
42. Hiatus Kaiyote, “And We Go Slowly”
If you’ve ever wondered what Mothra would look like in a quirky Wes Anderson romantic comedy, wonder no more. It’s not even a joke. “And We Go Gentle” is heavily inspired by the famous kaiju, but with a little added human element to make everything feel a bit more grounded.
41. Live, “You, the Only Fish in the Sea”
Live bewitches in this magical adventure directed by Cole Daly and Ava Doorley. It has Singing Mountains, a weird sea creature, and lots of love. The video is almost closer to a hit indie game like Dear Esther just a musical moment, but Liv,e’s unmistakable voice never backs down from something so legendary.
See you tomorrow to find out more about the countdown!