First, here's one by Ramona Falls, the first from their sophomore release Prophet. Chicago director Thom Glunt (whose video for RJD2 was one of 2010's best) worked with Brent Knopf to create a story of a woman seeking to make contact with her dead wife.
Glunt says he and Knopf "wanted to make a story about a same-sex couple that wasn't the type of caricature often portrayed in media," but just two normal people who shared their lives. This, of course, helps ground the story of the widow creating a machine in her garage, having dug up her wife's ashes and using them in the process to commune with her in the Beyond.
When the living spouse enters the machine after making her new adjustments, she is killed by the electric currents running through her. Her life flashes before her eyes, in a combination of improvised footage and organic chemical reactions Glunt created under a microscope, inspired by Douglas Trumbull's effects in 2001: A Space Odyssey and brothers Peter and Chris Parks' work in The Fountain and Tree of Life.
Daniel Elkayam recently relocated from Portland to LA, but having directed Blitzen Trapper's videos for "Black River Killer" and "The Tree", he came back for a few days in September of last year to create one for "Girl in a Coat" with the band's drummer Brian Koch. Brian's grandfather was approaching his 100th birthday at the time, and the two had been spending a lot of time together. "Since my grandfather looked so much like an old version of me," Koch said, "it was natural for him to play me", at the end of his life, looking back on his time in the band and with his girlfriend.
Though Koch's grandfather worked as a meat packer in Los Angeles until he retired, he once strongly considered a career as a player in a swing band. His artistic skills were dormant for decades, but he proved to be a natural on film, needing almost no direction once they had moved the shoot outdoors. Koch himself is no stranger to acting, having a degree in performance from PSU, founded his own theater company before the band took off, been in Portlandia, and directed the band's video for "Taking It Easy Too Long".
Elkayam worked to drive home the video's theme of nostalgia and memory by taking Koch and his girlfriend on a road-trip to Fort Stevens State Park and back, and using film grain filters and lens attachments to give the footage a subjective feel. Koch's grandfather died in May, and Elkayam's also died recently, so the project was an poignantly personal one for both.
Hiro Murai is a Japanese American filmmaker based in Los Angeles. His treatment for The Shins' "It's Only Life" is a tale of an apocalyptic event perpetrated by faceless monsters, and a young boy, probably the only survivor other than James Mercer, who sings the boy parting advice as he is slowly dragged to his doom.
Murai's work often features distortion of the human body in some way (most recently, Annie Clark as a giant statue crumbling to pieces), sometimes inspired by David Cronenberg's work. He says the creatures in this one were inspired by animated film director Hayao Miyazaki's creatures, the Skeksis in The Dark Crystal, and the Port of Morrow album artwork itself.
Luckily for everyone involved, the production had the benefit of fresh rainfall, making the Portland streets and grass appear more vivid, but the rainfall magically stopped every time they shot. Still, James Mercer had to be dragged on the ground for hours at a time while singing his lyrics, through that wet grass.
Murai's videos sometimes get called "creepy", but he doesn't see them that way, especially not this piece. "All my favorite kids' movies have elements of darkness in them. Lots of the Roald Dahl books begin with a kid getting orphaned, and that's where the story really begins."