Album Covers of the Year 2014
In contrast to modern patterns in music consumption comes our annual Album Covers of the Year feature, where, instead of forgetting album artwork even exists, we hyperextend ourselves to assert that it is an artform that is vitally connected to the spirit of the music. This feature, which is divided at times into thematic elements and at times into artistic medium, incorporates interviews with not only musicians, but also artists involved throughout the artistic process. We pride this list in being diverse and multi-faceted, as well as philosophically exploratory. See all of our entries from previous years or get started by choosing a category below. Happy travels through the artistic universe we've crafted for you.

"What appeals to me is the potency in the image -- the object itself, or the mysterious atmosphere it holds. A truly beautiful image has the power open up this whole inner world; it's like a visual "key" that unlocks and fires up your imagination." - Alice Cohen...

Chad VanGaalen Artist Interview
The story begins in a galaxy far, far away… "Intergalactic slavery going on within this closed system," says Chad VanGaalen, describing a fictional world of his creation. "I basically started making the planet... Then I was like, ‘Oh, it's going to be this mining community." Surprise, surprise, like that's never been used before..." And that right there is about as close to "conventional" as Chad VanGaalen comes. 2014's Shrink Dust is VanGaalen's first album in almost exactly three years. Described by its creator as a "sci-fi folk record", it takes the sound of its predecessor from 2011, Diaper Island, and, through the introduction of a pedal steel guitar, amplifies a certain country element that's been rumbling around in the background for a while. That influence appears as early as the first track, "Cut Off My Hands", which drifts in on a sweet calm that's reminiscent of the quieter moments of, say, Joel R.L. Phelps and the Downer Trio. VanGaalen album-openers can be deceptively mellow, though, and "Cut Off My Hands" is chased by the propulsive, television snow Madchester-ness of "Where Are You". Spiraling through it all are his trademark traits and nuances: the spectral vocal quiver, melodic pivots and bursts, the stretching of a single word like "evil" to the length of a sentence...
tUnE-yArDs - Water Fountain Music Video tUnE-yArDs - Water Fountain Music Video
An appropriate follow-up to our feature on Experimental Music on Children's TV, Nor-Cal powerhouse Merrill Garbus of tUnE-yArDs leads listeners into similar notalgic territories with the music video for "Water Fountain". With the aid of director Joel Kefali, the group explores nostalgic backdrops of children's television shows, incorporating everything from dance routines and 8-bit animations to Peewee's Playhouse-style puppetry and hoaky scientists. In the Q&A below, Kefali speaks to the ease of working with Garbus and company as well as the benefits of mixing media.
tUnE-yArDs - Water Fountain Music Video tUnE-yArDs - Water Fountain Music Video
For "Peppermint", Julio Bashmore's collaboration with Jessie Ware, director Noah Harris offers viewers an abstract glimpse into his rave experiences and headspaces from the '90s. Using found and 3-D printed objects, Harris brings to life a maddening, undulating collage of female forms, gods, creepy babies, and old-school toys, closely synced and timed to Bashmore's erratic rhythms and Ware's delightfully repetitive vocals. Read on for an interview about the music video's chaos came to be.
The recently launched Tumblr blog, Experimental Music on Children's TV, is the work of Mike Haley from the cassette podcast Tabs Out. Though the project features contemporary shows, the most fascinating entries are YouTube clips of earlier children's programming. We see Mister Rogers playing an ARP Soloist (the Pro version was used by Vangelis and Tangerine Dream); we hear a frenetic, minimalist Philip Glass mini-opera for geometric groupings of animated circles in a Sesame Street short. Advertising composer Suzanne Ciani, a protégé of synthesizer builder Don Buchla and computer-music innovator Max Mathews, appeared on 3-2-1 Contact in 1980, to demonstrate the use of an Oberheim OB-X and a Sequential Circuits Prophet 5. REDEFINE chatted with Haley about the runaway success of EMoCTV and the inspiration behind it.
Experimental Music on Children's TV Blog (EMoCTV)
Focus on Plastic's groovy basslines and the squishy sonic silliness underlying this track, as colorful animations weave through neon worlds at hyperspeed. A curious cast of characters emerges to dance and swing around the occasionally displayed lyric, and this playfully psychedelic music video, illustrated by Dawid Krępski, is all too fun a journey. It pays homage to classic animations such as The Beatles' "Yellow Submarine" and Pink Floyd's "The Wall", working well with every element of the song's quirkiness, even when it breaks down into its killer sax solos. Anything goes in this twirling dancey tango.