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.
Stemming from a road trip director AJ Rojas took that spanned over a dozen states, the music video for Portugal. The Man's "Modern Jesus" is purposely treated to alternate between hi-def and lo-fi, as is paralleling the fascination which can be found in middle America's often gritty underbelly. A cast of memorable characters appear to leave indelible marks upon one's brain in "Modern Jesus": a grandpa dancing in a farm-like setting; bloody youth wrestling one another atop barbed wire; overweight and wheelchair-bound individuals repping the same taser-owning crew; the list goes on. This fascinating sociological portrait seems to serve as a reminder real life is often more interesting than fiction -- and that embarking on a creative journey without a plan can often lead to brilliantly unraveling realities.
In the featured interview, Portugal. The Man's bassist and back-up vocalist Zach Carothers speaks to his love for music videos, on working with friends, and on occasionally skirting record label rules to follow your own creative impulses.
"I have wanted to work with AG since our friend, Michael Ragen, introduced me to his work with Earl Sweatshirt a few years ago. He has an eye for the things that happen below surface, in bedrooms, in the streets and in our schools and captures it without prejudice. AG has a vision and it doesn't matter if you think the video could use more of John running because, in the end, he knows what he wants and always makes the right decision. A true artist." - John Gourley, Vocalist of Portugal. The Man
"Get Out," the first video from Circa Survive's third album, BLUE SKY NOISE, debuted today. It's a live/studio clip, so it's not as conceptual as their past videos, but the song is raucous enough to continue to whet the appetites of audience as they all...
Two years, a new album, and a major label record contract. Floridians Mayday Parade have just released their sophomore album, Anywhere But Here, their first on Atlantic Records. Leaving their Fearless family behind, though, hasn't hurt them one bit. Shortly after the release of Anywhere But Here, the band co-headlined two back-to-back tours -- Fall Ball and Take Action Tour. In the midst of the indie pop band's rigorous touring schedule, Redefine Magazine caught up with Mayday Parade vocalist Derek Sanders to talk about the tour, the Atlantic Records family, and the band's new album.
March 2010 Interview
How does it feel to be on Take Action Tour, a tour that's supporting non-profits?Derek Sanders: It really feels great. Touring already is what we love to do and what we always want to do, and to add the fact that it's for a great cause and you're just doing something good every single night... [is] really kind of unbelievable.
What's the biggest difference between Anywhere But Here and your last record, A Lesson In Romantics?Sanders: Well, the biggest difference is our second CD is on Atlantic Records. That's obviously different than being on Fearless. And we're older. We've grown as people, as a band.
What was it like recording for Atlantic compared to for Fearless?Sanders: Atlantic was much more involved, I guess. Fearless kind of let us do our own thing, you know? They kind of trusted us to do our own thing and have our freedom. We recorded in a studio only about 45 minutes from where Atlantic is located. They're very involved with the whole process. Kind of a good and bad thing. In some ways, I guess you feel like you don't have as much freedom with what you want to do, but at the same time, you hope there's a reason -- that Atlantic knows what they're doing and that it's going to help out with the whole process.
Are there any things you wish you could change about the way the album came out?Sanders: Not really. There are a few songs that didn't get picked for the album that I kind of wish had been picked over some other songs. There is a handful of song we did that never ended up getting recorded.
Are we going to see these songs pop up on a future EP or live set list?Sanders: A couple of them we actually went and recorded as B-sides. There's a song called “So Far Away” and a song called “The Memory.” Both we recorded, and they're on iTunes. But there's even a few more we recorded that we haven't done anything with, so at some point, there may be an EP-type deal or maybe we'll hold onto them until it comes time to do the next record.
You wrote most of the songs on the album this time around. Are there any that are particularly close to you?Sanders: There are a lot, definitely, but probably the [closest] is the acoustic track on the CD, “This Time I Mean It.” It's about an ex-girlfriend. We dated for two years. We were actually dating up until the point we went up to New Jersey to record. Pretty much the first week we were up there to record is when we broke up. And it was really weird, because that song was written when we were still together. It was kind of interesting, going through the whole break up thing and then recording that song.
What are your plans after Take Action Tour?
After this, we're going to the UK. Then it's pretty much going to be non-stop touring up through Warped Tour. I can't say for sure where it's going to be after the tour with Madina Lake in the UK. Nothing's been confirmed yet. But it's going to be good stuff up until Warped Tour.
Robert Francis has just dropped his second full-length record, Before Nightfall, but it's his first on a major label. And as he spends a few days in New York City with his cronies from Atlantic Records, the frosty November weather is just another reminder that he's thousands of miles away from his hometown and inspiration: Los Angeles.
"When you're in a city like L.A. or New York... they're fast-paced cities that can tear people apart," Francis explains. At only 21-years-old, Francis not only chooses his words carefully, but each one exudes insight beyond his years.
Insightful words combine with insightful sounds and vocals on Before Nightfall. The record steers clear of what other 21-year-olds seem to be peddling these days with vocoder voices and electronic beats. The music itself lends a fresh outlook on what can only be described as soulful alternative with a heavy helping of classic rock; National Public Radio (NPR) has already compared Francis to the likes of Townes Van Zandt and Steve Earle.
Francis' voice radiates an authentic, haunting sound that reaches not only into the soul of the listener, but into his own, as well. Every note drips with a drawling sadness of the past but simultaneously conveys an urgency to cultivate an optimistic future. A listener doesn't need to know anything about Robert Francis or his music to feel like he or she has been touched by his voice and his story.
Before Nightfall takes listeners through a 12-track chronicle of Francis' love life. "It's centered around a singular relationship that was set in L.A. that haunted me and consumed my life for about five years," reveals Francis.
While he has no problem identifying the inspiration for his new album, his boldness recedes when asked to identify who this muse is or the problems surrounding their relationship.
"A lot of the record is about growing apart from the person you love," says Francis. "Time changes people, especially when you fall in love at an early age and you both are still growing and changing. The theme of 'Junebug' is the dissipation of a relationship. There's a lot of nostalgia on the record for better times."
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