Xtra Mile Recordings Academy Awards 2016

The XMR music video alternative to the Oscars

– 27/02/2016 –


So of course the Oscars is happening on Sunday 28 February, and if you enjoy films at all you might be interested in either watching them or finding out the results. Now, we think the crop of Best Picture nominees are mostly pretty good this year – Mad Max: Fury Road is the epitome of action cinema, The Big Short makes finance and 2008's housing market crash a knee-slapping joyride, Room is a warm adaptation of a terrific book, The Revenant is brutal and unforgiving but picturesque, and we're very much looking forward to finally seeing Spotlight and Brooklyn. And they were good last year too, especially Selma and eventual winner Birdman, but there are definitely problems to be addressed in the film industry so we're not endorsing their categories until they sort their shit out.

Instead we're going to focus on XMR. Go over to XMTV – go on, it won't bite – and you'll get a great selection of videos from Xtra Mile artists. As a celebration of these excellent, sometimes underrated clips, we're going to give them some arbitrary awards (exactly like the Oscars, the Brits, and any industry award ceremony actually). Hopefully it'll be fun, not very serious, and you'll enjoy reading about, and seeing, some of these videos again or for the first time. Eligible winners must have been released to the public between February 2015 and February 2016. We've also thrown in some fantasy picks for the actual Oscars, because of course we know better. Enjoy this article? Why not share it with the social media buttons at the bottom? Or get at us on Facebook or Twitter with your suggestions for categories, choices and favourites.

And without further ado, your winners are...

Best XMR Music Video

'The Next Storm' – Frank Turner (Dir: Ben Morse – www.ben-morse.com)

The first proper video from the Positive Songs For Negative People album, this is a (relatively) big-budget, meaningful, thrilling promo. It features two heavy-hitters (look, look, a pun!) in Frank Turner and UFC fighter (and ex-WWE wrestler) CM Punk. Why's it right at the top of the stack? Well, with respect to all the other brilliant videos we have, it's kind of what you'd expect to win in such a category if this was a real awards ceremony. It's slick. It has a compelling story. It has star names. The acting from the leads convinces too – a legitimate athlete like CM Punk is taken down by fan favourite Frank Turner without it looking ridiculous. This is almost certainly down to the direction from Ben Morse, whose familiarity with the art of the squared circle, working with actors, and Frank's music, means he can pace the fight perfectly, and with his excellent technical team aiding him, the light and cinematography make it all look as real as necessary. It's also thematically appropriate, has great crowd interaction, and the Sleeping Souls pound that canvas with their dance moves, making it memorable, impactful and undeniably one of the best music videos this year.

Buy Positive Songs For Negative People from Banquet Records or iTunes. The demo version of 'The Next Storm' can be found on Ten For Ten, which is now available on CD and download. You can also get the download-only 'Mittens' EP with four non-album tracks: 'Least Of All Young Caroline', 'Little Aphrodite', 'Cleopatra In Brooklyn', and the Flanders & Swann cover, 'The Armadillo' (out 4 March 2016).

Movie equivalent: Creed (because boxing, rings, and underrated acting)

Oscar equivalent: Best Picture, which goes to Mad Max: Fury Road for its services to cinema. 

Best Actor in an XMR Music Video

Smiley as 'Death' in Ducking Punches – 'God Damn Coward' (Dir: Charlie Wallis –charliewallisphotography.co.uk)

Although Frank Turner as an Elvis impersonator – in a jumpsuit! – playing the smarmy lover comes close, Smiley playing Death in Ducking Punches' clip for 'God Damn Coward' gets to show a whole range of emotion. From beer-sipping depression to spring-in-the-step hope, he depicts Death as cursed by frustration, sadness, anger and, yes, fear. A day in the life of Death just isn't that great but the peaks and troughs are tackled with aplomb by Smiley. We especially like his flower-smashing desperation after being stood up. The costume is typical Grim Reaper, but clearly the man behind the makeup does his best to make Death seem human, and just as prone to pain and suffering as the rest of us. For that, this gets the award.

You can get the new album Fizzy Brain by Ducking Punches, which features 'God Damn Coward', from our shop on CD, vinyl or download. It's out 4 March 2016.

Movie equivalent: Leonardo DiCaprio in The Revenant (tortured, but with more range)

Oscar equivalent: Best Actor, which goes to Idris Elba in Beasts Of No Nation because he's amazing and should be recognised, instead of not being nominated at all.

Best Animated XMR Music Video

'The Ballad of Olof Johnson' – Trapper Schoepp (Dir: Nathaniel Akin – nathanialakin.com)

Telling the story of his ancestor Olof Johnson, Trapper Schoepp takes the American 80s edutainment video game The Oregon Trail and updates it with graphics that are like that episode of Community we all love. Back in the day, Swedish immigrant Olof did what all immigrants do: worked hard to make a life for himself and his family. He took the famous trail, in the dead of winter, having to dig a hole and live in it for months to survive the cold before eventually settling in the west of America. Think The Revenant with less bears and more howling wind and snow. Trapper says that the song and video reflect the hardships of our times, while also putting our own troubles into perspective. Animation (as we know from Pixar) can be entertaining on several levels and with the nostalgic imagery, the in-jokes for those who grew up with The Oregon Trail, and the fact that this is a true story, they all add up to an excellent and enjoyable animated short.

You can preorder the album Rangers & Valentines from our shop on CD, red vinyl, or download. You can also buy the download EP 'Olof, Ogalala & Other Oddities' which includes the album version of 'The Ballad of Olof Johnon', and four non-album tracks. 

Movie equivalent: I don't know.....Persepolis? Waltz with Basir? None of those are recent though. What about this year's 'should win but won't', Anomalisa? Animation with seriousness at his heart. Whatever that is.

Oscar equivalent: Best Animated Feature Film, which goes to The Lego Movie, making up for the complete snub in 2015...okay fine, Inside Out then.

Best Live XMR Music Video

'The Empty Frequency Sessions' – Northcote

In the spirit of a documentary, Northcote's excellent live acoustic performances – The Empty Frequency Sessions  – do a great job of introducing us to the material from latest album Hope Is Made of Steel. With short intros to each song, Matt Goud brings the viewer in gently before twanging the heart stings with his raw renditions. These thoroughly engrossing versions of the full-band album tracks are worth seeking out to complement the record. For the uninitiated, this is a perfect way to become acquainted with Frank Turner's current support act for his Canadian tour before you become fan in your own right.

You can buy the new album Hope Is Made of Steel on CD or download. You can see Northcote on tour with Frank Turner in Canada – see tour dates at our gigs calendar.

Film equivalent: Inside Llewyn Davis (not from this year, don't care...it was ignored last year)

Oscar equivalent: Best Documentary Feature, which goes to any of the brilliant nominees, but let's go for The Look of Silence.

Best Visual Effects in an XMR Music Video

Failure – 'Counterfeit Sky' (Dir: Kevin Margo)

A no-brainer from our point of view, especially as Failure's video for 'Counterfeit Sky' is directed by Kevin Margo who has contributed special effects to Marvel cinematic universe sequel, Thor: The Dark World. This planet-hopping epic brings you straight into the space-rock world of Failure, with a cyclical short that perfectly encapsulates the music. It's comparable to something along the lines of Interstellar in terms of scope, but within the relatively limited parameters of the music promo world. It'll have eyes out on stalks (especially if the planet had no oxygen and you believe the original Total Recall to be scientifically accurate).

Get the latest Failure album The Heart Is A Monster on CD, LP or download.

Film equivalent: It's probably most like Star Wars: The Force Awakens because this will benefit our SEO.

Oscar equivalent: Best Visual Effects, which goes to Mad Max: Fury Road because I don't understand how they made such a barren world pulsate like a festering, explosive wound and they should be rewarded for making me confused.

And now, we'll turn into the Grammy's for our second half, and make up some awards just to squeeze in some other videos we really like from the past year...

Best use of tired internet memes

Oxygen Thief – 'Is An Insult'

Oxygen Thief presents an outtake from 2014's The Half-Life of Facts sessions, and (face)plants it straight into a series of fail videos, mostly around that infuriating full-body guitar-orbit move that rock acts insist looks cool. To me, it's one of the worst excesses of nu-metal – which also included the white boy cultural appropriation of sports gear, dreadlocks, and rap – and so someone getting hit in the face while doing it makes me briefly happier. There are also snippets of Barry Dolan's performance on Fifteen-to-One, which seems a bit self-critical in context. Still, it's a fun video and makes the use of fail videos not just bearable but actively entertaining again, which is deserving of a real award, not just these silly fake ones.

Either pay what you want or download 'Is An Insult' from our digital shop. You can also buy Oxygen Thief's previous releases here.

Best use of a flag

Beans on Toast – 'The Great American Novel'

Flags are unnecessary except on a battlefield, and I hope we haven't got such a dim view of the world that we think we should wave them everywhere all the time...oh. Still, they do also look really cool, and I can't help but feel the US kind of won at choosing a flag. Beans clearly feels the same as it's the defining aspect of the video for 'The Great American Novel', no doubt shot on location, which also features backwards dancing; an impressive feat for everyone involved.

'The Great American Novel' can be found on  Rolling Up The Hill, out on CD or download now. Catch Beans on tour in the US with Will Varley and Skinny Lister in March and April 2016. Dates are here.

Best use of MORE DRUMS

Skinny Lister – 'This City'

This is ace. Skinny Lister's clips are generally pretty great, but this one adds a little ingenuity. Taking the awesome taiko drum talents of the performance group Kagemusha Taiko, they craft an entirely new rendition of 'This City'. Rather than just providing a visual element, the drums are incorporated into the song, giving extra oomph and rumble to the song. It's a lovely idea, looks fun, and sounds extraordinary.

You can find the original version of 'This City' on Down On Deptford Broadway, on CD, vinyl or download available from our shop. Skinny Lister return to the US with Will Varley and Beans on Toast in March and April 2016. Tickets and dates are here.

Best Lyrics Video Concept

Will Varley – 'The Man Who Fell To Earth'

Lyrics videos are sort of played out. They're popular, naturally, but there has to be new approaches. People enjoyed Frank Turner's 'Get Better', with him writing lyrics across old record sleeves and tour posters, but this transcends the form. Will (who does every video himself) sets up an elaborate series of ramps and obstacles for a single marble's journey. As the marble travels, it passes over handwritten lyrics to the song, almost in real time. It's a technical feat and must have taken a long time to set up each shot and edit the music so nothing goes wildly out of time. It's the DIY bouncy ball effect for the millenial generation, or something else Huffington Post might say if they continue to not pay their writers, the idiots.

Will Varley's new album, Postcards From Ursa Minor, is out on CD, vinyl and download. You can also see him, Skinny Lister and Beans on Toast in the US throughout March and April 2016. Gig dates and ticket links are here.

Best storytelling

Will Varley – 'Seize the Night' 

Another win for Will Varley! Will seems to get the point of a promo and continues to evolve his ideas for each one. 'Seize the Night' is the latest single, and using rough but effective animation, he tells stories of late night haziness and loneliness and...it's a little  nightmarish when all put togethere like this in such a ragged style. But that's why it's so effective. Think of it as the best animation winner if cool computer graphics didn't exist. Also, there's a guest vocalist on here you may know from the Best Video category. Superb work by all, and by all , we mean Will.

Will Varley's new album, Postcards From Ursa Minor, is out on CD, vinyl and download. You can also see him, Skinny Lister and Beans on Toast in the US throughout March and April 2016. Gig dates and ticket links are here.

Most Realistic Music Video

Franz Nicolay – 'Bright White' 

I just can't imagine being on tour with Franz Nicolay being any different to this. This is basically what happen with every band or artist,  right?

Franz Nicolay's 2015 album To Us, The Beautiful! is out on CD, LP and download.