Past Sunland Reading Lists


Sunland #1: Tipping Points
The point when something becomes something else. The beginning. The ushering in of a new genre, scene, technology that opens the floodgates. A look at what was in place that enabled/pushed/forced/supported something new to be born, and to take hold. How do specific things change everything? We’ll use the 90’s as the main focal point to explore this theme.  Speakers: Megan Jasper (Vice President, Sub Pop Records) and Eric Johnson (Tour Manager, Soundgarden, Pearl Jam, Neil Young). 

Everybody Loves Our Town, Mark Yarm
Girls to the Front, Sara Marcus
Heavier than Heaven, Charles Cross
Grunge is Dead, Greg Pato
Our Band Could be Your Life, Michael Azerrad

Sunland #2: The Convergence of Art & Music
A look at the connection between art and music, and at the artists, photographers, designers, and documentarians who helped define certain bands, scenes, and genres. We’ll also explore the symbiotic relationship between artists and musicians; at collaborative projects; at elements like album design, posters, logos; and how we remember certain iconic imagery from specific scenes and musical eras. We will also chat about musicians/bands who have a very distinct aesthetic or who’ve made art/design/fashion an important part of their own identity, and at artists whose work is defined by music. Speakers: Jon Kortland (Iron Lung / Feeding), Matt Sullivan (Light in the Attic Records), and Omar Pierce (1-800-Cherrys).

Wired Up!: Glam, Protopunk, and Bubblegum European Picture Sleeves 1970-1976
Less Than Zero, Brett Easton Ellis
Between Dog and Wolf: essays on art & politics
1000 Record Covers
Gig Posters, Vol 1 & 2
Factory Records: the complete graphic album
For the Love of Vinyl: The Album Art of Hipgnosis
Touch and Go: The Complete Hardcore Punk Zine 79-83
Punk is Dead: Punk is Everything, Bran Ray Turcotte.
Gail Buckland: Who Shot Rock and Roll
Fuck Your Heroes: Glen E. Friedman Photographs, 1976 – 1991
Live at the Masque: Nightmare in Punk Alley
Just Kids by Patti Smith
Beautiful Losers
Great Jones Street, Don DeLillo
Mystery Train, Greil Marcus
Wrong Side of Reno, The: Three Decades of Punk and Hardcore Music in the Biggest Little City
Listen, Whitey! by Pat Thomas (publisher: Fantagraphics)
It Came From Memphis by Robert Gordon
Black Leather Lucifer: the films of Kenneth Anger, Jack Hunter
Punk: An Aesthetic by Jon Savage

Some films too:
Blank City: New Cinema, New Wave, New York
Searching for Sugarman
Just Like Being There
The Nomi Song

Sunland #3: The Ladies
A look at women in music, but not the obvious choices. We want to explore some unsung heroines, killer ladies, and musical legends—women who changed everything—but largely remain in the shadows, or veiled in mystery, or simply haven’t received their due. We’d like to delve into the stories about strong women behind the scenes (as songwriters, inventors, producers, business heads); ladies just out of the spotlight (as musicians, back-up singers, opening acts); women that should have been stars or household names, but weren’t; trailblazing ladies and women who did it first (paving the path not just for other women, but igniting change or a lasting impact on music in general); and interesting female figures throughout music history.  We’d like to stay away from the big girl bands and amazing front women we know and love, to find and discuss—and bring into the spotlight—some women worth talking about. Speakers: Sylvie Simmons (legendary rock writer and author) and Aja Pecknold (Unified Field Collective, Fleet Foxes).

Reading & Resource List
America Over The Water – Shirley Collins
She Bop II – Lucy O’Brien
I’m Your Man: The Life of Leonard Cohen – Sylvie Simmons
Gender in the Music Industry: Rock, Discourse, and Girl Power by Leonard
Feminine Endings: Music, Gender, and Sexuality by Mcclary
Pink Noises: Women on Electric Music and Sound by Rogers
Controversies of the Music Industry: (Contemporary Controversies) by Bernet, Fischer, and Burriss.

*Lots more HERE too.

Films & Other
20 Feet From Stardom
Good Ol’ Freda
The Ballad of Geeshie & Elvie (New York Times Magazine)
The Girls in the Band 

Sunland #4: Evolution (Music’s Changing Landscape)
We’d like to look at musical mediums of the past, present and future—as well as how people discover and support music over the ages. Is the Gold Record dead? Is Spotify inherently anti-artist, or is that spin?  Are record stores dying, or making an amazing comeback? Where does the fan fit in on the spectrum? We want to look at music discovery and how people support the music they love (via purchasing habits, trends, new and old technologies). We also want to chat about myths, uncovering the truth behind how technology changes the way we listen and appreciate music (or does it?), and hear the panelists take on the resurgence of old technologies—records/record players, tapes, etc—and the worth of modern listening technologies. What does the future look like for music-fans, for artists, and for businesses that work in music? Speakers: Sean Bohrman (Burger Records), Steve Stevenson (1234 Go Records), and Richard Jackson (music veteran).

Reading & Resource List
How Music Works, David Bryne
Our Noise: The Story of Merge Records
The Label: The Story of Columbia Records
Do Not Sell at Any Price: The Wild, Obsessive Hunt for the World’s Rarest 78rpm Records
High Fidelity – Nick Hornby
Bill Graham: My Life Inside Rock and Out
The Last Sultan: Life and Times of Ahmet Ertegun
Clive Davis: Soundtrack of My Life
Cowboys and Indies: The Epic History of the Record Industry
Something to Air: Radio, Rock and the Revolution That Shaped a Generation
Hit Men: Power Brokers and Fast Money Inside the Music Business
Respect Yourself: Stax Records and the Soul Explosion
Sun King: The Life and Times of Sam Phillips

Films & Other
Steve Albini’s Face the Music Address, The Guardian 11/16/14
$2 Billion and Counting
Dave Grohl Doesn’t Effing Care About Spotify, Consequence of Sound 11/14/2014
Vinyl Revival, Diffuser 11/3/2014
Vinyl Records are Back, Newsweek 11/6/2014
The Future of Music Sales is Here, The Guardian 11/15/2014
Sirius XM “Pre 1972” Copyright Case, Digital Music News, 11/17/2014
Does Recorded Music Still Have a Chance, Chicago Tribune 10/27/2014
Will Music Be Free in the Future?, BBC 11/11/2014
The album is dead, long live the album, Financial Times, 2012
If you care about music, should you ditch Spotify, New Yorker, July 19, 2014
Muscle Shoals documentary (available on Netflix)
The Wrecking Crew documentary
Talk to Me: The Petey Greene Story


Sunland #5: Dropping Knowledge
This is a chat about the state and legacy of hip hop, from a Northern Nevada perspective. We want to explore how hip hop has shaped or contributed to the growth/creativity/expression in each of our panelists, as well as our community. We’ll chat about current themes in hip hop — cultural appropriation, the Grammys, activism and commentary-based messaging vs. party/high living motifs, artists that feel a responsibility to social causes/issues (like police violence, economic or racial disparity) vs ones that don’t, about the role of women/LGBTQ/other minorities in hip hop, and how other musical genres or cultural trends are influencing hip hop (and vice versa). We’ll touch on the role of djs, producers, beat makers, samples and hooks, the radio, beefs, and battles; talk about old school and new school — as well as independent and mainstream artists; about slang/phrases born in hip hop; and about pioneers, heroes, icons, trendsetters and geniuses.  Also, what’s happening now that’s exciting and who is pushing the boundaries. Speakers: Jammal Tarkington (Who Cares?), Demond Dowdy (Black Rock City All Stars), and Evynn Tyler (Franc Friday).

Reading & Resource List
And It Don’t Stop by Raquel Cepeda
Can’t Stop Won’t Stop: A History of the Hip-Hop Generation by Jeff Chang
Check the Technique: Volume 2: More Liner Notes for Hip-Hop Junkies by Brian Coleman
The Gospel of Hip Hop: The First Instrument by KRS-One
The Hip Hop Wars by Tricia Rose
When Chickenheads Come Home to Roost by Joan Morgan
Why White Kids Love Hip Hop by Bakari Kitwana
Anthology of Rap by Adam Bradley
Ego Trip’s Book of Rap Lists
The 50th Law by 50 Cent and Robert Green
The Dozens by Elijah Wald
The Lonely Londoners by Samuel Selvon
The Big Payback by Dan Charnas
How to Rap: The Art and Science of Rap by Paul Edwards
Hip Hop: A Cultural Odyssey
The Big Book of Hip Hop Photography
Back in the Days / A Time Before Crack by Jamel Shabazz
HIP HOP FILES: Photographs 1979-1984
Here I Am: photographs by Lisa Leone
The Boombox Project by Lyle Owerko

Films & Other
Rap Sheet: Hip Hop and the Cops (on Netflix)
Something from Nothing: Art of Rap (on Netflix)
Hip-Hop: Beyond Beats and Rhymes (available on PBS)
And You Don’t Stop: 30 Years of Hip Hop
Complex Magazine’s Best Hip Hop Docs
or 50 Best Hip Hop Shows & Movies on Netflix
Our Vinyl Weighs a Ton (on Netflix)
Amoeba’s Best Hip Hop films list
Straight Outta Compton Trailer
For an extensive list of articles on a myriad of subjects related to hip hop (radio, fashion, court cases and politics, the state of hip hop, women in hip hop, etc.), GO HERE.

Sunland #6: Breeding Ground – From Basements to Big Time

Featuring Nate Mendel from the Foo Fighters and Sunny Day Real Estate, Nate will talk about his own journey from picking up instruments as a kid, to finding his way in hardcore/DIY/all-ages scenes driven by punk ethics, to “making it” on different levels (including getting signed, releasing successful records, to getting to play on the largest stages to the biggest audiences in the world). How did his small town and DIY scene shape him, or continue to shape him? What’s changed (or stayed the same) now that he plays in a hugely successful outfit? What excites him musically or otherwise? We’ll also explore hurdles and obstacles faced, moments of happiness or hardship along the way, and projects or experiences he’s particularly proud of. We’ll also delve into what it’s like to be one of the few that climbed the musical ranks and get to make a living doing what they love. What has success enabled for them? What has it inhibited? Speaker: Nate Mendel (Foo Fighters/Sunny Day Real Estate).

Reading & Resource List
Our Band Could Be Your Life by Michael Azerrad
My So-Called Punk: Green Day, Fall Out Boy, The Distillers, Bad Religion by Matt Diehl
Taking Punk to the Masses: From Nowhere to Nevermind by Jacob McMurray
“Sonic Highways” documentary
To Sign Or Not To Sign: Artists Big And Small Face The Label Question by Allyson McCabe
Foo Fighters: Nate Mendel – Rolling Stone
Sunny Day Real Estate – AV Club
Diary Turns 20 – Stereogum

Special thanks to our 2014 Moderators: Clint Neuerburg, Kyle Bladow, Erica Wirthlin, Troy Falk and Jacob Rubeck, and our 2015 Moderators: Tony Walker, Kiki Brisker, and Adam Farnsworth.

Sunland #7: Death & Culture

For Holland Project and Sundance Books’ 7th Sunland event we’ll be exploring Death in Culture, including: artists that work with themes of death; seminal scenes in cinema; themes of loss in poetry; musical genres and histories that focus on losing loved ones; personal loss as a force for expression or motivation; and more (ghosts, superstitions, working with cadavers, subcultures obsessed with death and darkness, spirituality and mythology)! Instead of a panel-driven speaking event like our previous Sunland events, Death in Culture will feature 8 short presentations on the topics listed above. Each speaker will have roughly 5 minutes to present their topic or offer a story on the given topic. Together, each presentation will give a specific glimpse into the theme (Death in Culture) and a new way to think how we process death or how it appears around us in various forms within art, music, film, literature, and spirituality.

The goal is to explore a topic that is often off limits, hard to talk about, or manipulated, but one that everyone has had experience with, and in a hundred different ways. We wanted to explore both the seen and unseen ways it permeates our lives – even when we don’t talk about it or acknowledge it – and delve into how it plays into visual art, music, and pop culture as a theme, an expression, or a thread. Like all Sunland events, the simple takeaway is to really get into a topic, and have people leave feeling engaged, challenged, and interested to keep exploring, learning or thinking.

Reading & Resource List
Kiki Smith: A Gathering, 1980-2005 (by Siri Engberg)
Kiki Smith: Prints, Books and Things (by Wendy Weitman)
The Prints and Drawing of Käthe Kollwitz (Dover)
Joan Didion, The Year of Magical Thinking (2005) & Blue Nights (2011)
Death in Classic and Contemporary Film, by Daniel Sullivan, Jeff Greenberg
Death Poems, by Russ Kick
Empire of Death, by Paul Koudounaris
Grief and the Healing Arts: Creativity As Therapy, by Sandra L. Bertman
Haunted Theaters, by Barbara Smith
Photography and Death, by Audrey Linkman
Skulls to the Living, Bread to the Dead, by Stanley Brandes
You Might Remember Me: The Life and Times of Phil Hartman, by Mike Thomas
It’s Always Something: Twentieth Anniversary Edition, by Gilda Radner
Samurai Widow, by Judith Jacklin Belushi
Pryor Convictions: And Other Life Sentences, by Richard Pryor and and Tod Gold
The Chris Farley Show: A Biography in Three Acts, by Tom Farley and Tanner Colby
Andy Kaufman Revealed!: Best Friend Tells All, by Bob Zmuda and Matthew Scott Hanson
Andy Kaufman: The Truth, Finally, by Bob Zmuda and Lynne Margulies
Sick in the Head: Conversations About Life and Comedy, by Judd Apatow
Choosing Death: The Improbable History of Death Metal & Grindcore, by Albert Mudrian
Mortality and Music: Popular Music and the Awareness of Death, by Christopher Partridge

On British contemporary artist Damien Hirst
“A Brief History of Artists Grappling with Death”
We Asked an Expert Why People Believe In (and hunt) Ghosts – Vice Mag
10 Contemporary Artworks that Confront Mortality – Flavorwire
Damien Hirst and Four Other Artists Who Make Art About Death – Beautiful Decay
Death is the Mother of Beauty; Sally Mann’s Body Farm Photography
How Hollywood has learned to embrace the realities of death in film – Guardian
Long Live the Teenage Tragedy Song
Scandals and Secrets of the Supernatural: The Stories Behind Broadway’s Haunted Theatres

Body Farm
Flight From Death
The Day of the Dead
I Am Chris Farley
Richard Pryor: Icon
Robin Williams Remembered
Gilda Live
Man on the Moon

Death in Art, Metropolitan Museum
Museum of Death
Death Salon
Chris Farley- The Tragic Side of Comedy
John Belushi- The Tragic Side of Comedy
Phil Hartman- The Tragic Side of Comedy
Richard Pryor- The Tragic Side of Comedy
Andy Kaufman- The Tragic Side of Comedy
LOVE Gilda- the Legacy of Gilda Radner indiegogo video
Robin Williams- Live at the Roxy 1978


An Evening with Gloria Steinem, Sept. 20, 2016
-special feminist reading and resource guide by Emily Hobson and Erica Wirthlin can be found HERE

SUNLAND #8: The Music Video

Join Holland and Sundance Books for the 8th installment of our salon-style discussion series, Sunland. For this installment, we leave the cozy confines of the book store just this once to head next door to the Nevada Museum of Art to explore the Music Video: Statement-making videos, 1980’s to now. We will look at how the medium has evolved from the very first video that appeared on MTV in 1981 to the visual albums of Frank Ocean and Beyonce that came out last year. We will talk about how videos have been used to make a statement – political, social, personal – and how the unique mixture of music, art, and celebrity was able to carry these messages to the masses. From hunger, AIDs, LGBTQ and women’s rights, gun violence, racism, corporate greed, youth homelessness and more – we’ll get into the nitty gritty of the music video as statement art with some special guests (Leah Ruby, Christine Felch, Nick Minor and Sam Santoro, Omar Pierce and Sophia Pierce, Jeff Ray) to lead the discussion as well as some time to view clips from videos that changed and impacted our culture.

Check out the Sunland #8 YOUTUBE PLAYLIST HERE.

With suggestions from our guest speakers and members of the community, the Playlist was compiled. You’ll see videos delving into issues of race, police brutality, gun violence, immigration, abuse of power, economic greed, LGBTQ representation and rights, the dismantling or questioning of the patriarchy, abuse and bullying, sexuality, gender, womanhood, poverty, war, and more. It is not an exhaustive list, rather a sampling of videos meant to highlight this theme and show the power of the medium to make a statement, increase awareness, further a cause, or influence change.

You’ll see many “firsts” for on-air broadcast (first black musicians, first gay and lesbian kiss, first drag queens and gender bending/androgynous artists, mixed race relationships, and never-before-seen-on-tv images of sexuality and alternative culture); many banned or censored videos that MTV or BBC refused to air – and some that could only air after 10 or 11PM (many for their graphic nature, depictions of violence or sex); videos that raised significant awareness to a cause (AIDS, world hunger, youth homelessness & runaways, gay marriage); reoccurring themes that appear through the eras (police violence – Michael Jackson, Kendrick Lamar, Vince Staples; abuse of power – Killing Joke, Public Enemy, Rage Against the Machine, Run the Jewels, MIA, Pussy Riot); to female empowerment and “smashing the patriarchy” (from Joan Jett to Madonna in the 80s; to Erykah Badu, TLC ,Le Tigre, Tegan and Sarah in the 90/2000s; to now – Beyonce, Solange, Princess Nokia, to name just a few from each decade); and much more.


Below you’ll see selections from our speakers relating to theme. For instance, Sophia focused on abuse of power, Christine focused specifically on a 3-4 years in the mid-80s; Leah zeroed in on videos that represented female artists working to smash the patriarchy; Jeff picked films that made very different political statements; and Jeff and Nick focused on political aesthetics and symbology.

Sophia Pierce

1985 eighties – killing joke

1986 peace sells – megadeth

1989 Fight the power – public enemy

1994 cranberries – zombie

1996 Michael Jackson – they don’t care about us

1999 NIN – we’re in this together

1999 RATM – sleep now in the fire

2005 system of a down – BYOB

2008 Saul Williams – Sunday Bloody Sunday

2010 MIA – Born Free

2010 Against Me! – i was a teenage anarchist

2012 Kanye west – No church in the wild

2016 Formation – beyonce

Christine Felch

My focus for tonight will be the mid-80s and the things I remember being aware of as a teenager in Reno at that time.  Something to keep in mind while reflecting on this era is there was no internet.  In that, much of my knowledge of the world came from the music I listened to and the imagery connected thereto.  While the controversies of this time are tame in comparison to now, these artists blazed the trail for future freedom of expression.

Released in 1984, the videos for Killing Joke’s song, Eighties, and Time Zone’s World Destruction give an overview of the issues the world was facing at that time – with each video using snippets of stock footage of warfare, book burnings, current politicians, and nuclear war. In reflection of my teen years, I was most afraid of a nuclear war during those times.

Also released in 1984, FGTH – released their single, Two Tribes.  The video for the track was directed by Godley and Crème and portrays President Reagan and Soviet leader, Konstantin Chernenko fighting in a ring, as world diplomats and the band goad them on.  At one point Regan even bites off a piece of Chernenko’s ear.   This video was actually played several times at the 1984 Democratic Nat’l Convention.

Another issue which gained exposure through music was the anti-Apartheid movement and the imprisonment of Nelson Mandela.  In early 1984, Free Nelson Mandela – by The Specials AKA hit the airwaves.  The song and video’s upbeat, almost celebratory feel, was exceptionally effective in helping change perceptions of Mandela.  In 1990, Mandela was released from prison and in 1994 was elected president of South Africa and, thereafter, racist apartheid was dismantled.

Shot in Australia, David Bowie’s Let’s Dance video, featured Aboriginals, and makes statements against capitalism, racism, oppression, and the integration of one culture with another. Numerous references are made to the “Stolen Generations” – one such example, being a scene where a young woman scrubs the street on her knees in the middle of a busy street – a reference to Aboriginal children who were taken from their families and trained as domestic servants before being sent to white homes.

Shifting gears into a completely different direction, I wish to discuss yet another FGTH video.   FGTH clearly had a knack for creating controversy and in the original, uncensored version of Relax they craft an epic Caligulan tale of leather daddies, excess, domination, pleasure, debauchery, the seduction of a tiger and rough play.  Relax is a heaving mass of sweaty, hot men who mean business.  While it was nothing new to see a world dominated by men, what was new was seeing it dominated by overtly sexual, openly gay men.   

Sadly, sex was not all fun and games in the 80s.  A dark epidemic was taking hold in the united states in June 1981, the CDC reported cases of a rare lung infection  found in five previously healthy gay men living in L.A. Behind nuclear war, AIDS was the next scariest thing to me as a teen.  

When searching for music videos addressing HIV/AIDS during this era it became deeply evident what a stigmatized subject matter it was, as there are very few that are direct about the subject matter. One band to address the AIDS epidemic head on were Coil.  In 1985 they released the “Panic”/“Tainted Love”12” single, with all profits being donated to the Terrence Higgins Trust, an AIDS charity based in London.  The corresponding video to Tainted Love is overt and darkly direct in its message, as the main character degrades in to deeper sickness, eventually dying.  

Two years later, on June 1, 1987, George Michael released his first single off his solo debut album, Faith.  With a tough new look and his choice of single and corresponding video he clearly blew the teeny bopper label given while he was a member of Wham!  out of the water.  Tame by today’s standards, the BBC restricted airplay of the song to after 9 p.m., and many US radio stations refused to play it at all.  Amid concerns that the song was promoting promiscuity in the age of AIDS, Michael issued a statement saying, “The media has divided love and sex incredibly. The emphasis of the AIDS campaign has been on safe sex, but the campaign has missed relationships. It’s missed emotion. It’s missed monogamy. ‘I Want Your Sex’ is about attaching lust to love, not just to strangers.”

Madonna clearly likes to provoke thought and push the edges of controversy and I thought long and hard about what video of hers, if any, I would include in my list and I chose Lucky Star.  The video has no overt political message or scandalous tones.  I chose it because of its simplicity and what that video conveyed to me as a teen – her claiming an unapologetic power as a women.  In this video it feels like she is there for herself.  While tons of girls worshipped her fashion sense, I really think on a deep level they were also gravitating to her natural power and unbridled confidence.

My ending video is The Replacements Bastards of the Young.  The video is shot entirely in black and white, opening with a close up on a speaker vibrating to the song and pans out to a record player on top of two milk crates of records with a man eventually sitting on the couch in the foreground.  Once seated his body is off-camera, except for his arm which moves from time to time to take a drag from the cigarette.  As the song nears its end, the man gets up and kicks the speaker in and leaves.  The beauty of this video is that it was the bands’ punk rock as usual response to pressure by their record company to make a music video so they make a video where essentially nothing occurs.  What greater screw you than to use the very format you are objecting to in order to give a big middle finger to the music industry.

Playlist HERE.

Nick Minor & Sam Santoro

Run The Jewels feat. Zack de la Rocha – Close Your Eyes (And Count To F**k) (Official Video)

Kendrick Lamar – Alright

Vince Staples – Norf Norf (Explicit)

Grimes – Oblivion


Danny Brown – Pneumonia

Kanye West – Runaway

Frank Ocean – ‘Nikes’


Young Thug – Wyclef Jean

Leah Ruby

I decided that my rule for videos was only going to be female artists and videos that explode the paradigms of the contemporary patriarch.  There were so many more that I wanted to show the world in this context; this is just a small sample. Not in rock chronological order, or in order of importance – they are all important:

Pussy Riot – Make America Great Again

Joan Jett – Bad Reputation

Queen Latifah – UNITY

Cindy Lauper – Girls Just Want to Have Fun  (mostly because it is so culturally pervasive even today that there were several signs at the Women’s March that read “Girls just want to have FUNdamental rights!)

Romeo Void – I Might Like You Better If We Slept Together

LeTigre  – Deceptacon

Siouxsie and the Banshees – Spellbound

Eurythmics – Sweet Dreams

T.L.C.  – Aint Too Proud To Beg

Defined Lines – Zoe Ellwood, Olivia Lubbock and Adelaide Dunn

Lauren Hill – Everything Is Everything

M.I.A.  – Paper Planes (especially because it is a brilliant feminist continuation of a conversation about immigration that The Clash started with the song “Straight to Hell”)

PJ Harvey – 50ft Queenie

Deerhoof – Paradise Girls (because it is a fantastic reimagining of music video sexuality and human form)

Bjork – Human Behavior

Janelle Monae – Queen and Tightrope

Erykah Badu – Window Seat

Sonic Youth – Kool Thing

Jeff Ray

4 Films for that represent the theme:

Rock the Casbah, by The Clash.  1991. In this video, the Clash comments upon the Iranian Revolution. An Arab king bans Rock and Roll but the ban is defied by an Arab and a  Hasidic  Jew. Even though there are some buffoonery and awkwardness in this video it at least brings to light the tension between Western and Arab States. Thrown into the mix is a comment upon the division and conflict between Israeli and Palestine and maybe the solution is listening to Rock and Roll and driving around in a convertible. 

Ice Cube, It Was A Good Day (Part 1) and Yo Better Check Yourself ( Part 2). Directed by F. Gary Gray 1993. An epic and powerful duo of videos. Amidst all of the violence, that was often over portrayed in the media, vilifying South Central. Ice Cube wanted to write a song that showed that he and his friends had good days and that Compton and South LA was not always a war zone.  With the song was the tension that something was going to happen and it did in the second part. The second part, You Better Check Yourself, is a stark and direct video that takes place mostly in jail. Both of these videos was influenced and inspired by the Rodney King riots which had happened a year before these videos were released. Some things have not changed, and with the recent police on black and minority killings and the rise of Black Lives Matter, these two videos remain as important as ever. 

The Knife, Full of Fire.  Marit Östberg. In this short film, The Knife comments upon gender fluidity, queer politics, kink, and heteronormative dynamics, A very current video (2015) with a very innovative and somewhat subtle way of addressing these issues. Lyrics contain, the phrase,  “Let’s talk about gender baby. Let’s talk about you and me.” The entire album and tour were partly about this subject as well as breaking down the identity of being a music star. The Knife, who are Swedish sister and brother duo, Olaf and Karin, throughout the tour covered their face masks and hid behind the other dancers. Putting queer dance troupes and transgendered performers in front stage rather than them.  The Knife has a history of pushing boundaries. Pass this on, in 2003 featured a trans woman singing to a  group of football players. The Knife is one of my favorite musical acts of all time. My own music is inspired heavily by them.  

and for fun, my favorite videos almost in order:

Each of the first three videos features my favorite video directors, Michel Gondry, Spike Jonze, and Chris Cunningham. The music that goes along with this is also some of my favorite. Bjork and some of her videos are repeated as well, her being a part of some of the most creative videos ever created. I am sure I am missing a few of my favorites. This will do for now. *Videos that appeared in the above lists, are linked above.

The Chemical Brothers – Star Guitar, By Michel Gondry.

The video and film director’s brilliant train ride that matches the beats, rhythm, and melody of the song. There is even a how-to video where Michel explains how he did it by laying out fruit on a sidewalk.

Aphex Twin, Come to Daddy, By Chris Cunningham.

All of Cunningham videos for Aphex Twin are amazing in its beauty and general fu#$ed up-ness. Disturbing. He twerks your psych. This is the one that started it all. With Aphex Twin’s face planted on all of the kids and a Gollum-like monster thrown in for extra creepiness.

Windowlicker and Rubber Johnny ranks right next to this one. Don’t watch before bedtime unless you enjoy having nightmares.

The Beastie Boys- Sabotage, By  Spike Jonze

What could be better? Music I love, spoofing 70’s cop shows that I grew up with. In my opinion, the best music videos match the rhythm, feeling, and energy of the song with the visuals and this one does this perfectly. You are on a wild and fun ride with this video.

White Stripes, Hardest Button to Button, Michel Gondry.

Another Gondry Great. Again using matching rhythm with frames.  He used 32 identical drum kits to lay out this incredible journey. He mixed in some stop motion quick cuts that perfectly fit with the rhythm and energy of the song.

Bjork, All is Full Of Love,  and Joga By Chris Cunningham.

Both tied for favorite. Incredibly profound video on cybernetics.Bjork as a robot being built by a robot in a robot factory.  This was done before the film Machina, and the current version of West World, and perhaps Michel was pulling from the original West World, and various cybernetic based science fiction. This is one of a few of Cunningham directed Bjork videos. I also recommend Joga, he turns the beautiful Icelandic terrain into a first-person video game in brilliant color mixing 3 D like graphics with real video shots.

Enter the Ninja, Die Antwoord, Danny Michel

Their videos are arguably as good as their music. It is also a bit twisted Cunningham like. Yolandi and Ninja created Die Antwoord was an art project, and this comes apparent when their art is drawn all over and becomes part of the narrative. “All up in the inter web! 2009. “

Kendrik Lamar, Alright, Colin Tilley

Beautiful video filmed in black and white, with stark and rich scenes from driving by an ominous looking church to Kendrick Lamar floating super-hero like over an urban neighborhood. His message is similar to Ice Cubes, “A Good Day,” and that besides the world being fucked up and cops killing blacks, there still is hope and “we are going to be alright.” This became one of the songs representing the Black Lives Matter movement, with crowds often chanting part of the lyrics.

Fever Ray, When I Grow Up, Martin de Thurah

Stark wintry Swedish landscape, an empty cold pool with leaves, and a young woman dressed in a mixture of tattered clothes, and druid paint set the tone perfectly for this moody, mysterious song by The Knife’s Karin solo project, Fever Ray.

Erkaya Badu, Window Seat,  Directed by Erkaya Badu

Erkaya Badu filmed this guerrilla style. This controversial and genius of a video,  Erkaya takes her clothes off at the scene of President Kennedy’s assignation. She breaks down a barrier, exposing herself making her vulnerable and at the same time making the public revisit arguably one of the lowest times of United States history. In the end, she simulates getting assassinated  herself and discusses the groups who help each other commit acts of violence. She has reminded us of this past and to remember the present. Badu states, “The song ‘Window Seat’ is about liberating yourself from layers and layers of skin or demons that are a hindrance to your growth or freedom, or evolution. I wanted to do something that said just that, so I started to think about shedding, nudity, taking things off in a very artful way.”

Bjork, I’ve Seen It all, Lars Van Triers.

An excerpt from the already deep and emotional film, Dancer in the Dark from one of my favorite directors, Lars Van Triers.  Apparently filmed with over a 100 video cameras. It is expansive, and scenic, and cinematic.  The music version with Tom Yorke ( don’t think there is a video)  is a wonderful and perfect collaboration.

Radiohead, Burn the Witch, Director, Chris Hopewell

Radiohead is one of my favorite bands, and as much as I love Tom Yorke, I prefer not to have an entire video featuring him underwater or walking through stark architecture. This is a nice change. Using kids toys and animation. to tell the intense and dark story of burning witches. There’s a nice turn around at the end where justice is properly served when a bureaucrat  ( perhaps the one issuing the burning of witches) gets locked into a burning man/wicker man like structure and… burned.

Massive Attack, Protection, Michel Gondry.

Beautiful song ( featuring Everything But the Girl’s, Tracey Thorn) and equally beautiful and innovative video. In a seemingly one shot, the camera pulls in and out of an apartment building rooms through their windows, and in and out of people’s lives. It looks like the apartment building is part of a set with some twisted rooms that are sideways and upside down. In usual Gondrey style, he tweaks the scene a little playing with space, within space, and some of the occupants of the building laying on the wall, ceilings, and even staring at an animation of toy cars driving in a circle.

David Bowie, Lazarus, directed by Johan Renck, 2016

One of the saddest days In rock history is when Bowie died. At least he left this epitaph. A video as well as the entire album addressing his upcoming death.

David Bowie, Ashes to Ashes, Directed by Bowie and David Mallet, 1980. Pre-MTV brilliance. In this Fellini meets the future music film, part two of the story of the Space Oddity astronaut, now dressed up in a French clown suit, and thrown into a mental institution. Strung out. Beautiful and ahead of its time.

Sigur Rós: “Untitled #1”2005, Directed by Floria Sigismondi

Emotional and powerful song matched equality with an emotional video featuring a post-nuclear world left to our children.

Videos from the 80’s Not to miss. I remember watching the original MTV when it was MTV, with VJ’s who played actual music videos and gave us the music news. I miss the days of  Downtown Julie Brown, and Kurt Loder.  In the MTV hey day came some pretty fantastic and influential videos. Here are some of them plus a few pre-MTV videos.

Michael Jackson, Thriller, John Landis

Arguably the greatest video of all time is Michael Jackson’s Thriller. The release of this video rivaled the release of the original Star Wars films. Michael Jackson and his team did not disappoint. He pushed the level of music videos to the highest level. Making music videos more like mini feature films.

Peter Gabriel’s Sledgehammer, Directed by Stephen Johnson.  1986, One of the greatest and most creative music videos of all time also the most played music video in MTV’s history.  Claymation, stop animation, all sorts of animation is all thrown in here. The famous Brothers Quay did some of the animation. A literal interpretation of the sound which included an animation of a toy train and train tracks spinning around Peter’s head. Brilliant even to this day.

Bronski Beat-  Smalltown Boy, Directed By, Bernard Rose.

1984. The anthem to many who had to leave their town, family, friends because they were gay. A beautiful video to match the beautiful message. “The love that you need will never be found at home, Run away, run away,” Part of the journey ends up at a pool with the rest of his band mates, watching boys swim. The video shows that there is hope beyond the small town.

Cyndi Lauper, “Girls Just Wanna Have Fun, Directed By Ed Grilles 1984.

Beautiful in its wackiness. Genius pop song. And a call for the women’s rights to have fun.

Ronnie James Dio, Holy Diver. Directed by Arthur Ellis, 1983.

Fans of Game Of Thrones will find this extra entertaining. Castles, burning churches, demonic entities, and Dio sporting a sword and a furry warrior outfit. It is all here and perfectly metal.

Durran Durran, Hungry Like the Wolf, Directed by  Russel Mulcahy 1982

An 80’s list would not be complete without a Duran Duran song. This video was pretty cinematic, and a bit twisted featuring a bizarre mating ritual. This was part of the Duran Duran, video album featuring 11 videos that followed a kind of travelogue. This one took place in Sri Lanka, and referenced Apocalypse Now in one of its shots.

Prince, 1999,

Just a straight up video of him and the Revolution playing on stage. Just beautiful people playing beautiful music.  One of my biggest regrets in life is never getting to see Prince. Arguably the most talented pop star on the planet. I can only look at this video and imagine one of his live shows.

ELO, All Over The World, From the Film Xanadu. Directed by Robert Greenwald

Xanadu was one long 80’s music video starring 80’s icon, Olivia Newton-John. This particular song featured the classic dancer Gene Kelly mixed in with dancers wearing some of that interesting 80’s fashion. ELO also happens to be one of the greatest of the 80’s bands.

Talking Heads, Once in A Lifetime, Directed by Toni Basil, and David Byrne. 1981.

Love this Iconic, quirky video featuring David Byrne and his jerky nerdy dance. One of the best bands ever to come out of the 80’s. We still look to David Byrne as an icon of cool and culture.

The Smiths: “Stop Me If You Think You’ve Heard This One Before
Directed by Tim Broad. Morrissey brings in a legion of fans that look, well just like Morrissey. He and his legion are of course riding old style bicycles around town. They even  take a stop at the “Lads Club.” Very British, very nice slice of the life of a Smith’s fan in the 80’s.


We also asked some friends to list some videos that have been “impactful in their lives.” They didn’t have to be political or statement-making videos, simply videos that resonated strongly with them. Here’s what we got:

Robbie Racine

Chemical Brothers, Let it Be

Green Day, Redundant

Erica Wirthlin

Mogwai, Haunted by a Freak

The first one is the music video for “Hunted by a Freak” by Mogwai. This one might be filed under personal catalyst. I had not, and have not since, seen a music video that wrecks me so completely emotionally. I realize that sounds dramatic but, to this day, I can’t get pas the first minute without crying. I think why I cherish it, and why it was very important to me when I was 13/14, is because it has been so hard moving through life as emotionally vulnerable as I feel that I am. There’s always been this sense of danger interacting with the world as a sensitive person, but that music video (as upsetting as it is) in a way helped me celebrate that vulnerability. It can be a cruel world and people do terrible things, but I would never want to live callously. I never want to become, metaphorically, the person that would drop animals off of a roof to watch them die. I realize this is my own interpretation and it would be wildly inaccurate, but still, it was/is validating to connect so deeply connect with a music video.

Sigur Ros, Svefn-g-englar

Number two goes to “Svefn-g-englar” by Sigur Ros. I think this one falls under embracing identities. Growing up in the public school setting, people tell you to “respect everyone/don’t treat anyone different” and yet they never discussed which identities were at risk of being perceived “differently.” I think there was a lot of missed opportunity shutting down the conversation so quickly because, at the same time, so many minority students were being brushed under the rug. In particular, I always remembered that they would never allow the students who had special needs to interact with other students. I grew up in the dark when it came to learning- and other disabilities that others faced. And so, the first time I saw this music video, knowing that the actors all had down syndrome (because someone told me), I was really puzzled. The video alone is very striking and well choreographed but it was really the first time down syndrome had been made visible to me. It was so touching, and the kiss at the end really changed my perspective on who is/isn’t “allowed” intimacy in the public sphere. I suppose if anything it just highlighted my ignorance in a way, which I’m not proud of. Still, it is a beautiful if not slightly haunting music video.

Anna Kernecker

One music video that I will never forget is Pass This On by The Knife. I remember seeing this music for the first time after “coming out,” and it really was an opening for me into pop culture and counter culture. I’ve spent almost 10 years obsessing over them- I was always so impressed with how inclusive, politically correct, and issues they tackle through music, video, live performance especially because they are from Europe and don’t really deal with the same race relations that we have in the USA- I guess just how much they inform themselves? Their last album Shaking the Habitual was at first my least favorite album, but after reading about it and seeing them perform it live they somehow made it into a concert that was also very political. They performed this poem that also has always stuck with me.

Fil Corbitt

Виктор Цой – Кончится лето Kino (or Кино) is a symbol of artistic dissent under oppression that existed under the USSR. I think this video captures overwhelming bleakness really well.

Fionn Regan – Be Good Or Be Gone I really like this video because it’s a super simple concept that paints a really beautiful picture of Fionn’s world. His music is really intimate, direct and poetic all at once, and I think this video captures that really well.

Tucker Rash

Morrissey – Tomorrow

They Might Be Giants-Ana Ng

Grimes – Oblivion

Françoise Hardy ~ Nous Tous ~ 1963

Death Grips – No Love (Official Video)

Megan Kay

1) Fatboy Slim “Praise You” by spike Jonze. I was OBSESSED with this video as we’re so many people. It’s a really simple piece of performance art that caught everyone off guard, because of its authenticity, led by Jonze himself. It wouldn’t have worked if he didn’t participate and give it 110 percent, the performance is almost too satirical and exploitative, but once Jonze gets himself involved and is on the front line to be judged alongside the other dancers, is becomes something… else. It’s magic. It has really informed my documentary photography practice, I don’t think it’s right to take something from someone artistically without also giving something of yourself.

2) Radiohead, “No Surprises” by Grant Gee. This is an amazing performance by Thom Yorke, and even without knowing anything about the making of the video you as the viewer understand that you’re watching the product of a collaboration between two artists that required an incredible amount of trust. It’s so intimate, like a futuristic version of Sinead O’Conner’s “Nothing Compares 2 U” only more dangerous.