Is the year ending already? Guess it’s time to start the roundups. This week, Listed takes an entirely subjective look at the best music videos of 2009 – a year that made the medium rise from the ashes like a phoenix. Speaking of which...

15. Phoenix - “Lisztomania” (dir. Antoine Wagner) Let’s kick it off with one of the finest pop songs of the year, a track built from nothing more than hooks and pure joy. The video is a collection of travelogue footage, candid and planned band moments, and staged performance, but manages to avoid the trappings of all those worn ideas. Despite all the good times going on, the boys in Phoenix can barely crack smiles. Yeah, they’re French.

14. Jay-Z feat. Alicia Keys - “Empire State of Mind” (dir. Hype Williams)


A clear standout from Jay-Z's middling Blueprint 3, “Empire State of Mind” gets a sharp, straightforward treatment. As the Brooklyn rapper rolls down his never-ending list of landmarks, we get black and white stills to pull the disparate elements of the environment together. It may not be the most sensible clip of the year – they couldn’t get poor Alicia Keys a stool? – but it does make you want to go back to the greatest city on Earth.

13. Dirty Penny - “Declined” (dir. Spooky Ruben)


What do you do when you have less than no money to make a video? Pretty much everything, as demonstrated by Toronto’s Dirty Penny. While the song is apparently a rant against “teen soldiers, teen pregnancy, materialism, gluttony, Martha Stewart, and the Pope,” the video is more like an attack of editing software against your senses, with filters, superimpositions, stock footage, text, costumes and a phone booth (remember those?) competing for attention. It’s a 90-second Adobe tutorial hijacked by maniacs.

12. Fuck Buttons - “Surf Solar” (dir. Andrew Hung)


Bristol’s Fuck Buttons make music that could earn representation from any number of images, both mighty and miniscule, so “penguin tank” is about as good a choice as any. The clip itself is as hypnotic as the music, using motion, mirroring, and colour effects to their most extreme ends. Great trip, just don’t stare directly at it.
11. Blitzen Trapper - “Black River Killer” (dir. Daniel Elkayam)


“Black River Killer” was unsettling enough when it appeared on this Portland band’s 2008 album Furr; it’s a fairly sympathetic story of a homicidal drifter, who, through his own words, might someday earn redemption. The clip takes this first-person narrative idea further, denying the viewer the privilege of seeing the guy’s face, but at the same time displaying and exaggerating all other parts of his tale: the aftermath of crime, the sea of distorted faces throwing accusation and an oversized gavel that we hope will bring some justice down. Haunting stuff.

10. Bangs - “Take U To Da Movies” (dir. Dominic Allen)


If you’re one of those ladies that gets real stressed out at the movie theatre, call Bangs, and you’ll have nothin’ to worry about. He’ll pay for the tickets, buy the popcorn, hold it for you and make damn sure you don’t fall down as you walk through the door. As for his video, there are a hundred things wrong/awesome about it, but my personal favourite has got to be how the plot line ends about 90 seconds in. The movie’s over already? Refund, please!

09. Ramona Falls - “I Say Fever” (dir. Stefan Nadelman) & Modest Mouse - “King Rat” (dir. Heath Ledger) (NSFW)


If you see only two fully animated, animal-on-human-violence-themed videos this year, make it these. The first, from Portland’s Ramona Falls, shows us how the scent of a woman turns an Old West town into a psychedelic nightmare; the second, with music by Modest Mouse and direction by The Joker (clearly), the consequences of commercial whaling are made painfully literal through mere role reversal.

08. Matt and Kim - “Lessons Learned” (dirs. Taylor Cohen and Otto Arsenault) (NSFW)

  Let’s go back to NYC for some guerilla-style exposure at Times Square with Brooklyn duo Matt & Kim. Yes, everything but the final moment is real, and yes, it was a cold day, though due to pixelated censorship, we’ll never really know how cold. Either way, we thank Matt & Kim, who risked their physical well-being for our amusement, and the people of NYC, who showed some atypical politeness. This is usually the kind of idea that never survives that first pitch, but here it is.
07. USS - “Laces Out” (Live on TORO’s Garage Band) (dir. Tony Felgueiras)


We didn’t put in all our hard work over the past 12 months just to go unrepresented on a list of best music videos! Modesty be damned, we loved how this clip for USS (Ubiquitous Synergy Seeker) turned out, and we’d like you to know that. Ash Buchholz a.k.a. Ashley “Boo-Schultz”, and Jason Parsons a.k.a. “The Human Kebab, two young men from the Parkdale neighbourhood of Toronto, blend acoustic rock with a hip-hop beat, making something that sounds way better in result than in formula. Check it out.

06. Dan Deacon - “Paddling Ghost” (dir. Natalie van den Dungen)


I have yet to confirm this, but something tells me Dan Deacon was very, very happy when he saw the finished cut of this very DIY video. I’m happy just knowing it exists.

05. Flight of the Conchords - “Carol Brown” (dir. Michel Gondry)


The sophomore season of Flight of the Conchords on HBO improved on the first in almost every way, but the songs were so connected to the show’s plots and visuals that its soundtrack album, I Told You I Was Freaky, didn’t totally work. Thankfully, we have YouTube to remind us of their greatness; here, the choir of exes haunting Jemaine in “Carol Brown” are given a sweetly trippy treatment from veteran director Michel Gondry. He’s definitely reaching into his own bag of tricks, but with no other work from him so far this year, we’re happy with what we’ve got.

04. Fever Ray - “If I Had a Heart” (dir. Andreas Nilsson)


Karin Dreijer Andersson (here in her solo moniker Fever Ray) has made some of the most compelling music of the decade, but it’s admittedly difficult to tell what’s going on in pretty much everything she does. From lyrics, to live performances, to press pics and videos, her work remains about as oblique as art gets before it loses the plot. Don’t ask me what exactly has gone on at this haunted house, but I wouldn’t want to get any closer than a computer screen.

03. Vampire Weekend - “Cousins” (dir. Garth Jennings)


With all the talk of hype and upper-class background that swirls around Vampire Weekend like a dust cloud, it’s sometimes easy to forget how much fun they seem to be having on record. None of that is lost in this clip (from upcoming sophomore album Contra), courtesy of Garth Jennings, which throws continuity and transparency to the wind. You’ll want to dance along, even under the cold rain.

02. People Under the Stairs - “Trippin’ at the Disco” (dir. Chris Zamoscianyk)


I originally thought this clip was just “pretty good,” until I noticed just how much goddamn smoke was descending on L.A. hip-hop throwbacks People Under the Stairs. It’s a party in the dry-ice factory! Also, that crystal boot. The production designer deserves some kind of medal.

01. Lady Gaga - “Bad Romance” (dir. Francis Lawrence)


Here is the point at which Lady Gaga turns from a fame-eating tart into a full-blown, undeniable, gotta-watch-every-move star. Even if you cringe at the music, you still cheer her on, and the pop charts haven’t seen a female performer like that in years. Androgyny is debatably a part of her game, but tell me who else would have the balls to pull this off.