Another half-year has passed, so it’s time for AP’s annual mid-year report, where we break down the best of the best so far, with the cut-off date of June 30. Stay tuned all this week for our reports on best albums, singles, videos and our most anticipated albums of the rest of the year.

Best Albums | Best Singles


ANDY BLACK – “They Don't Need To Understand”

I mean, is this video too perfect? It's like it was made in a laboratory. The clip for “They Don't Need To Understand” is at once stark and simple (B&W, performance based, few locations), yet over-the-top with its extreme close-ups of modern goth heartthrob Andy Black. It’s lyrics of self-empowerment are aimed at outsiders in a melodic croon that wouldn't sound out of place in a '50s ballad, an '80s pop-rock hit, or SiriusXM's active rock format. Black, of course, is the artist formerly known as Andy Sixx and currently known as bandleader of Black Veil Brides. There's a projection of a young Andy performing in his poster-plastered bedroom, reminiscent of the real-life environment depicted in last year's cover feature [AP 305]. In front of the projection stands Andy Biersack's modern day incarnation, in a smart suit. It's an arresting image alarming in its self-exposure. Lobbing criticism at the finely polished “We Don't Need to Understand” would be akin to calling a French macaroon “too delicious.” Sugary sweet to the last drop. Your move, Frankie Avalon. (Google him.) —Ryan J. Downey



I hold no loyalty to the Black Keys; my general opinion of them is, “That's a nice song for a car commercial, isn't it?” But I've found myself spinning their new album, Turn Blue, more and more lately, and that's completely because I caught the music video for “Fever” on Palladia one morning and totally loved it. Given how rare it is to see any music videos on TV nowadays, the “Fever” clip did exactly what a good music video should do: It got me to stop channel surfing. It's a send-up of those gross, disingenuous televangelists who appear on cable access every Sunday morning, convincing weak-minded folks to part with their Social Security checks in hopes of a better afterlife, including a real, working phone number that, when called, leads to a snippet of a member of the band prank calling their own record label. It's weird, and I have no idea what it has to do with the song itself, but I sure enjoyed it anyway! —Scott Heisel



It's a real-life Beavis And Butt Head adaptation on ETID's “Thirst,” which follows the hijinks of two gents around the band's native Buffalo, New York. Artist/Polar Bear Club merch hustler Bobby Griffiths plays the long-haired character; we're not sure who the other guy is, but he's a worthy sidekick. This video has all things laden with testosterone: sword fighting, air guitars, rooftop beers (and urinating off said roofs), wrestling, terrorizing a record store and 7-Eleven, lighting pallets on fire like it's Woodstock '99 and jerking off to nudie mags. —Brian Kraus


ISSUES – “Never Lose Your Flames”

Issues’ inspirational anthem “Never Lose Your Flames” needed an equally empowering music video to accompany its message. The clip isolates universal struggles of rejection and self-acceptance in storylines that resonate with many viewers—one in which a young man reveals his sexuality to a disapproving parent and another in which a girl struggles with self-image in front of a mirror while assembling an ideal look from fashion magazines. The song’s message of “[making] peace with your pain” and not giving up is painted with the same fiery metaphor as the lyrics, and it all concludes on a hopeful note that ideally resonates with the viewers who see themselves in the video’s characters. —Cassie Whitt


LA DISPUTE – “For Mayor In Splitsville”

You're not going to see any special effects, artsy lighting or lo-fi production techniques in “For Mayor In Splitsville.” You're not even going to see the band in the video. Instead, it goes back and forth between a man and a woman who have recently broken off their relationship. They're both trying to fall asleep alone, for what's probably the first time in a while, but they can't figure it out. They handle it in different ways: She cleans out the cabinets, bags up his clothes, moves furniture around. He rips the sheets off the bed, wraps her old shirt around his pillow, drinks beer. They're trying desperately to forget each other, all the while remembering each other so clearly, as we see clips of them back when they were happy: brushing their teeth together, sharing blankets. Everyone who's been through the dissolution of a relationship will recognize these scenes. The video's simplicity is what makes it memorable: It's a no-frills look at what happens when a relationship falls apart, each part narrated by a band who have no problem being overtly confrontational and deeply impassioned about life's toughest moments. Brittany Moseley



If hardcore is built upon the ethos of standing up for what you believe in, constant high energy and family-based camaraderie, then Lionheart’s video for their cataclysmic single, “LHHC,” defines the genre. Filmed at a free show the band put on for their hometown in Northern California this past January, the video essentially captures everything hardcore is meant to be: staying true to your roots. From the seemingly endless cartwheeling stage divers to those making the pit an immaculate landfill of thrashing bodies, don’t be alarmed if you end up moshing around your room before the end of the video. —Tyler Sharp


MODERN BASEBALL – “Your Graduation”

Modern Baseball are leading the pop-punk resurgence with their emotive anthem, “Your Graduation.” The track’s music video hits with an instant wave of existential dread, rushing through all the awkward phases of growing out of one’s high school life. But the looming anxiety is contrasted by an explosive, scream-your-heart-out sing-along with fans in the snow. The video has an aesthetic that feels oddly iconic for its young age, but still remains grounded with pop-punk staples like slow-motion kickflips and a crowdsurfing guitarist. Similar to Fall Out Boy’s “Grand Theft Autumn,” in 10 years, people will surely look back and say, “That was the video that started it all.” —Matt Crane


OK GO“The Writing’s On The Wall”

The new single from OK Go’s upcoming album is a breezy, ’80s-pop treatise that sounds like a New Order track with the synthesizers unplugged and the guitars goosed up in the mix (Peter Hook, red courtesy phone). When singer Damian Kulash sings, “I just want to get you high,” he genuinely sounds like he wants you to lay off your chemical dependency (pharmaceutical or recreational) and go walk dogs with him to elevate your mood. But if that doesn’t work, the video will help you shake off whatever ennui you have suckling your ear lobes. Forget art direction, this clip is all about engineering, given the amount of angles, trajectories, stage blocking and dept-of-field exercises employed: It feels like M.C. Escher directing an episode of PeeWee’s Playhouse. And when the final reveal comes through, you’ll be feeling a whole lot better about how you spent the last four minutes of your life. Nice one, lads. Jason Pettigrew


PARAMORE – “Ain't It Fun”

Paramore first set out to make a video for their endlessly catchy (and now Platinum-selling) single “Ain't It Fun” way back in the summer of 2013, but subsequently scrapped that version, unhappy with the final product. The band would go back to the drawing board last winter to produce a new version of the video, which arrived in January. Filmed in the group's native Tennessee, “Ain't It Fun” is a lighthearted and, well, fun adventure of a video, which showcases the group breaking an impressive 10 world records (including most records broken in a music video). It's bursting with the energy and attitude I love about Paramore, and it's one of the most creative videos released in recent memory. —Philip Obenschain