Whether ingrained in our minds from actual childhood or absorbed through some form of indirect cinematic conditioning, the suburbs are an often referenced setting, evocative and timeless, seemingly immune to retirement via cliche. And look no further than music videos for a variety of applications. The aesthetic is generally pliable; M83 has made a career out of channeling that E.T meets John Hughes teen angst of the 1980s, while others have favored a less romanticized 70s, or the baby booming streets of the 50s and 60s. The heartstring it pulls though, is always about the same: instant nostalgia and life soundtrack-like appeal. We’ve picked our favorite instances below:
Let’s just go and declare this one the blueprint, the most effective use of suburban high school life, and perhaps the most successful too. The guy on a hilltop flipping off the entire conformist town, the houseparty throwing chairs in the pool, kids TPing the neighbor’s house, and the infamous quickie market trashing…all gold. The piece has aged well, now almost ten years old. Only one drawback is that newfound sense of disappointment when you think of Billy Corgan then, and Billy Corgan now.
Spike Jonze doesn’t mess around. And with a concept this clear— the song and album are called “The Suburbs” — he was able to take that notion of growing up fenced-in between shopping plazas and schoolyards, and cross it with current-day backdrops and some rather unclear military involvement. The story Arcade Fire tells lyrically, and Jonze tells visually, are vague enough to intersect, and universal enough for all to relate.
Arguably the most affecting video of the year, from one of 2011’s brightest young acts, “Montana” drifts way back to blue-collar, war-era drama, detailing the struggles of a man coping with loss and regret. It might have come on too strong if weren’t done just right, and director Tyler T Williams nailed it with appropriate film-tone, wardrobe, and peak-perfect editing. With Youth Lagoon‘s Trevor Powers at 22, Williams at 25, and likely all of this video’s audience well under the age to have ever lived in its time period, “Montana” achieves a pretty unlikely, authentic flashback.
This one-shot ride through the woods so strongly recalls the eery feel of cult-classic Donnie Darko that it wouldn’t have been surprising if one of those bikers hit the brakes, removed his mask, and was Jake Gyllenhaal. “What’s A Girl To Do” launched Bat For Lashes‘ buzz cycle back in 2007 and probably still sees a spike in hits around Halloween.
While we’re talking costumes, this select from the teen-centric M83 catalog mastered the age-old underdog story—misfit girl wants the popular guy. So naturally, she night rides into some ghost-aided fantasy, and gets the last laugh with her dream man up in the sky.
More than a video, this is an entire interactive site. And unlike any of the clips above, it’s made up of real stories and actual home-footage. Welcome To Pine Point details the time-vaulted story of a little Canadian mining town in the late 70s/80s that was literally removed from existence due to failed industry. By clicking through its many pages, you get a true sense of Pine Point’s humble character—it’s like flipping the pages of a well-noted yearbook. And Besnard Lakes score, of course, captures that charm perfectly.