When Tom Scharpling isn’t hosting the much-loved, free-form The Best Show on WFMU or interviewing the likes of Fucked Up’s Damian Abraham for his Low Times podcast, he’s directing charmingly low-key, ingeniously high-concept music videos. If all the former Monk producer-writer did this year was get erstwhile Death Cab for Cutie frontman Ben Gibbard to dress up like a raging reality-show bro — which he did for his “Teardrop Windows” video — then we’d have found a way to bestow a 2012 superlative upon him. But, no, Scharpling also gave Real Estate the most aggressive street team since Bad Boy in the late ’90s (“Easy”); dropped Nude Beach into a dark-night-of-the-soul episode of VH1’s Pop-Up Video (“Some Kinda Love”); cast Laura Linney as Aimee Mann’s “robot double” in the singer-songwriter’s “Charmer”; and for Mann’s “Labrador,” lovingly recreated ‘Til Tuesday’s “Voices Carry” video.
For all that, Tom Scharpling is SPIN’s Music Video Director of the Year. And in honor of that designation, we caught up with Scharpling not far from his Woodbridge, New Jersey, home and asked him to deliver verdicts on some of the year’s best, worst, and most baffling music videos.