Another year of our favorites in Top Album Cover Artwork, and once again, we interview musicians and artists on the often-underappreciated work that goes into creating a product that not only tickles your ears, but speaks to your eyes and hearts. Album artwork, though often only viewed on tiny screens...

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.
Captured Tracks has figured out that the formula to creating a successful label is to have no specific formula: just do what feels right, and do it for the artists, not for yourself. The Brooklyn-based record label works hard at getting new artists exposure rather than getting themselves exposure; they've built up a reputation as a great label on word of mouth, and label owner Mike Sniper uses his intuition when making big decisions.
Captured Tracks Record Label Feature
"We're a young company going about the music industry in what we think is the standard way, but it turns out we've been doing it pretty differently. There's no ethos or philosophy, per se. We're not looking for our label to be the topic of a release; we want the artist to be the focus. If exploiting whatever C/T is helps get a new artist's music out in the world, than that's great." - Mike Sniper, Founder of Captured Tracks

 

Northside Festival
2014 marks the sixth year of Northside Festival, which is a three-day barrage of shows, both free and pay, across Brooklyn venues. On an annual basis, Northside does a nice job of including a range of up-and-coming bands across all genres in addition to the heavy hitters. Our favorites this year include some bands that are popular names on the indie tip right now, along with some garage rock staples.
Reviews by Ian King and Judy Nelson The War on Drugs @ 50 Kent (Sunday, June 15th, 2014) One of the most highly anticipated shows at Northside, with perhaps the exception of CHVRCHES, The War on Drugs have built a reputation as being an excellent live show. And these guys delivered. They were introduced as one of the "greatest American bands in the world" or some crap like that, which I think is stretch, but they sounded amazing. Seeing their rise to indie rock fame has been interesting to watch, especially since the departure of Kurt Vile and his separate rise to fame. Their show was solid, and they played a mix of songs from their 2014 album Lost in A Dream. Most of the crowd looked a little dazed, but perhaps it was a mix of the summer heat, weekend hangovers, or just general entrancement at the show itself. - Judy Nelson
"Pop music shouldn't always get a bad rap," says Top Pops!, a recurring selection of indie pop highlights across a selection of styles, updated every month to keep you on your dancing, shaking toes.
+++ FULL POST + ALL TOP POPS! COLUMNS + ALL MUSIC COLUMNS La Femme - French Band

La Femme - "Amour Dans Le Motu"

French band La Femme seem to be caricatures and stereotypes of their native land in the best of ways. One could certainly assert many things about the six-piece, which is ridiculously comprised of five handsome males and one handsome gal, but one could never, ever deny their sexuality and mad fashion sense. This year, they return with the unbelievable 10,000-track (just about) Psycho Tropical Berlin, proving that they are now way more than the surf/dance punk band they used to be. They're also one of the most energetic and playful bands you'll ever see live, so catch them on tour NOW NOW NOW -- and to prepare, get lost in the colorful haze of the incredible music video for "Amour Dans Le Motu", which seriously embodies the album title in its eight minutes of cinema. Apr 1 - Chicago, IL - Empty Bottle # Apr 2 - Omaha, NE - Slowdown # Apr 3 - Denver, CO - The Summit Music Hall # Apr 5 - Salt Lake City, UT - Urban Lounge Apr 7 - Portland, OR - Doug Fir Lounge Apr 8 - Vancouver, BC - The Media Club Apr 9 - Seattle, WA - The Vera Project Apr 11 - San Francisco, CA -DNA Lounge Apr 19 - Los Angeles, CA - Roxy Theatre May 2 - Austin, TX - Austin Psych Fest, Carson Creek Ranch !
Every year, we interview a number of musicians and artists about the intimate details and philosophical underpinnings of their album cover artwork. It's an ever-massive undertaking, but we make sure to include every genre, from doom metal to disco, minimal electronic to mainstream pop, with the intention of highlighting the best visual art, regardless of why or who created it. You can see entries from previous years here, and browse 2013's entries by either scrolling down or selecting a category below. > Narrative & Mythological Album Covers > Photographic Album Covers > Illustrative Album Covers > Mixed Media & Collage-Based Album Covers
Saâda Bonaire - Self-Titled Album Review (Captured Tracks)The information boom of the last 15 years has given people a thirst for crate digging. What started on illicit pirate blogs has blossomed into a healthy industry of re-issue labels, and still, the race is on, to find the dustiest, mustiest rarity that no one has ever heard. Captured Tracks are drawing ahead of the pack, with their Shoegaze Archive series and now the Fantasy Memory imprint, curated by the seasoned vinyl archaeologist Andy Grier, of Thieves Like Us. This binge of eclectic listening has opened our ears to totally unknown movements like European coldwave, minimal synthesis, mutant disco, funk, and every permutation of world music. In this rich and ripe polycultural climate, perhaps we are finally ready to receive the worldbeat exoticism of Saâda Bonaire. Even after 15 years of listening to absolutely everything, Saâda Bonaire are entirely eclectic. The project began at a club night in Bremen as a pop-art project between DJ Ralph"“von" Richtoven and two vocalists, Stephanie Lange and Claudia Hossfeld. Inspired by the cross-cultural fusion of Afro-Caribbean music in America, and Rai and West African music in France, Saâda Bonaire sought to combine underground dance sounds of its day, 1982, with their own local flavor, Turkish and Kurdish folk music. They recorded the lead single, "You Can Be All That You Are", which combines brittle synthpop and slippery digital funk with Middle Eastern instruments and detached, incantatory vocals. It's a stone-eyed groove, perfect to transfix the intercontinental, and all was going well. Unfortunately, it was the only single the band would record. Their A&R man for EMI had a reputation for going over budget, had spent five times his allotment on Tina Turner's Private Dancer, and was already three times overspent with Saâda Bonaire. EMI put out "You Can Be As You Are" b/w "Invitation" and pulled the plug, and the rest is history.
"Pop music shouldn't always get a bad rap," says Top Pops!, a recurring selection of indie pop highlights across a selection of styles, updated every month to keep you on your dancing toes. This month, the delightfully mysterious Connan Mockasin presents new tracks alongside soulful female musicians Tei Shi and My Midnight Heart, while Belgian Fog, Widowspeak, and Jungle. offer up more.
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Connan Mockasin

If you know what's good for the inner reaches of your unknown mind, get privy to to the music of indie pop's mysterious Connan Mockasin. His upcoming LP, Caramel, is an 11-track record of his spin on lo-fi, almost Ariel Pink-esque bedroom pop -- but Mockasin's spin is always a bit of a strange one. In his singularly cryptic way, he has described the new album's premise, saying, "It starts with the dolphin leaving, and the boss who is so in with love with the dolphin is sad, and then it kicks into the new album, and he is happier. But there’s a car race and a crash." Those of you who have heard his last record, Forever Dolphin Love, will understand the reference. Those of you who haven't... GET ON IT; he made it because his mother told him to. True fact. My interview with him will be published shortly -- but in the meantime, enjoy these two tracks or stream the entire record, out November 5th on Mexican Summer! Photography by Jen Carey
In our 2012 Album Covers of the Year feature, we once again get our hands on everyone we can. Through interviews with designers, musicians, labels, and plenty of others, we take a close look at just how many hands are in the pot when it comes to the album artwork process. Inside this feature are 98 album covers spanning a wide array of sonic and visual styles, each selected for its own unique contribution to the world. They are not ranked; instead, they are broken down into sections based on conceptual underpinnings or artistic mediums, and then are displayed on spectrums. Get started by navigating into any of these six sections: Geometric & Pattern-Based Classically-Influenced Narrative & Symbolic Photography & Manipulations Painting & Illustration Collage, Sculpture & Mixed Media You can also see last year's at 2011 Year-End Respect For Album Cover Art