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: 20-11

  • 20

    Hot Chip – 'Night and Day'

    Directed by Peter Serafinowicz

    When aliens eventually invade, there is precisely no chance in hell of it being this well choreographed. Or of them flying in on giant chocolate buttons piloted by Lara Stone. But those UFOs could totally turn into giant ying-yang symbols though. That's plausible.

  • 19

    Chris Cohen – 'Optimist High'

    Sometimes a project suffers when too much attention is paid to the minutiae. The opposite is very much the case here. This analysis of the atomic is as beautiful as it is educational. The bubbles, bugs, flowers and dog hair in Cohen's garden are all examined up close, and the best thing you can say about the result is that it's almost as beautiful as the psych-pop single soundtracking it.

  • 18

    Factory Floor – 'On Hold'

    Directed by AB/CD/CD

    Almost like a series of GIFs stitched together, the repeated actions in this video – smashing a plate, flipping a book, dropping a knife, blowing a bubble – are guaranteed to make you very self-aware for a few hours after watching, and mesh perfectly with Factory Floor's repetitive, rise-and-fall electronic pulses.

  • 17

    Tanlines – 'Brothers'

    Directed by Weird Days

    Singer plugs his latest single while sat on his sofa. So far, so mundane. But the constant camera pan adds a dizzying effect to this video, that with spinning and skewed perspectives feels exactly like the final moments before you pass out from drinking far too much. If you mind and eyes aren't already blown, check out

  • 16

    Bonobo – 'Eyesdown' (Machinedrum remix)

    Directed by Anthony F. Scheppard

    There's so much to see in this sci-fi, anime-influenced cartoon, you might forget to listen to the track itself. A feast for the eyes.

  • 15

    Gotye – 'Easy Way Out'

    Directed by Darcy Prendergast

    The French phrase is 'métro, boulot, dodo' – tube, work, sleep. Gotye uses stop motion to depict the soul-destroying existence of an office monkey losing the will to live. Easy to relate to, dizzying and, despite the bleakness of it all, charming. Think Peter Gabriel's 'Sledgehammer' video repackaged for the 99 per cent.

  • 14

    Trash Talk – 'Slander'

    Directed by Jim Dirschberger

    This warped animated short is a brutal and horrifying morality play about what will happen when you accept pills from a man you meet in an alley and then go to a hardcore show. Just say no, kids.

  • 13

    Lana Del Rey – 'Blue Jeans'

    Directed by Yoann Lemoine

    Artsy-fartsy, semi-Lynchian film noir for 2012 – with added crocodiles. The sheer luxury of the video only adds to the allure of Ms. Del Rey.
    See Lana Del Rey live in London

  • 12

    Woodkid – 'Run Boy Run'

    Directed by Yoann Lemoine

    The child-subconscious comes to life with touches of 'Pan's Labyrinth' and 'Where The Wild Things Are' in this beautiful monochrome video, full of scary monsters who emerge from the muddy ground to crown the young protagonist like a Viking lord. It helps that Woodkid (the alias of Yoann Lemoine) is first and foremost a music video director.

  • 11

    Plan B – 'Ill Manors'

    Directed by Yann Demange

    Tying in with Ben Drew's film of the same name, this is a full-blown, enraged assault on bourgeous preconceptions. Scenes from the 2011 London riots are spliced with 'classic' politics clips (like that one with John Prescott and the egg – it never gets old) in a scathing attack on the prevailing attitude toward urban youth. It's an impressively mature take on the problems of 21st-century London.
    See Plan B live in London