The 40 best music videos of 2012

After watching hundreds of this year's music videos, here are our visual picks of 2012

What makes a good music video? This year plenty of artists and directors have tried to answer that question but failed. However 2012 did see sound and vision come together to create something beautiful. Here's an audiovisual romp through 40 of the year's best music videos, some of which are high-budget and high-concept, and others rely on one small, perfect idea. There's live-action, stop-motion, 2D and 3D animation – and a whole range of musical styles to accompany them. In fact, the only thing they all have in common is they deserve to be seen and heard.

Did we miss out your favourite? Let us know in the comments box below or tweet us at @TimeOutMusic.

Written by Pete Ellender, Rachel Aroesti, Jon Clark and James Manning.

The 40 best music videos of 2012: 30-21

  • 30

    Kodaline – 'All I Want'

    Directed by Stevie Russell

    Far more upsetting than any music video has the right to be. A disfigured, orc-like man goes about his business with a dignity and friendliness that will bring a tear to your eye, while the rest of the world thwarts his every advance. Flipping humans. It has a happy ending, but you might not get that far.
    See Kodaline live in London

  • 29

    Will Young – 'Losing Myself'

    Directed by Henry Scholfield

    Will leads his army of clones into a nightmare dance of imitation through his hellishly modern life. Slick choreography and even slicker suits cement his reputation as the classiest popstar around.

  • 28

    BigBang – 'Fantastic Baby'

    Directed by Seo Hyun Seung

    Psy, eat your heart out: this is the most mental thing to come out of South Korea this year. We're pretty sure it wouldn't make sense even if we could understand all the lyrics. Simon Cowell could learn a thing or two from these kids.

  • 27

    Perfume Genius – 'Hood'

    Directed by Winston Case

    Provocative, confusing and tender, this clip only enhances Mike Hadreas's reputation as, well, a genius. The Seattle songwriter is held, made-over and generally looked after by a muscular man. Sadly it's over far too quickly. Enjoyably surreal, if a little unnerving.

  • 26

    Jam City – 'The Courts'

    Directed by Daniel Swan

    A seemingly random collection of gold objects does 360s onscreen over a black-and-white backdrop of some blokes playing basketball. This is 100 times shorter than the Olympic Closing Ceremony was, and at least 1,000 times better.

  • 25

    Antony and the Johnsons – 'Cut the World'

    Directed by Nabil

    Starring Willem Dafoe as a haggard every-boss, this 'Secretary'-style take on anonymous office life turns very dark very quickly.

  • 24

    Grimes – 'Genesis'

    Directed by Grimes

    The queen of electro-cool's 'Oblivion' video was so heralded in the first quarter of the year it almost qualified as a deity in its own right. So naturally Grimes disappeared to throw tai chi shapes and parade around Hollywood dressed like she'd come straight from a comic-book convention for her bizarre but hypnotic follow-up.

  • 23

    Etta Bond and Raf Riley – 'Boring Bitches'

    Directed by Frode & Marcus

    Etta and Raf’s homage to raving (or the refusal to do so) is an unhinged, joyous mess. Perfectly encapsulating the conflicting notions of abandon and drug-induced ‘fear’, as well as dancefloor rivalry, this isn’t one to show your gran.

  • 22

    Bob Dylan – 'Duquesne Whistle'

    Directed by Nash Edgerton

    Women sick of being harassed in the street by lust-struck strangers will love watching the idiot protagonist in this video come unstuck. Shame the song feels completely throwaway.

  • 21

    Stealing Sheep – 'Shut Eye'

    Directed by Rivkah Gevinson

    Things take a bit of a strange, almost Eastern-Bloc turn in this intriguing video. A heady mix of different animation styles and techniques, it fits the already rather discomfiting song like a particularly weird glove.
    Read more about Stealing Sheep