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.
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...

September 22nd officially marks the end of summer 2013 in the Northern Hemisphere — and to celebrate the passing of time, we’ve decided to create a timeline to forever remember the songs currently trending on our site, as well as take a look back on the music that has colored...

A staff-compiled list of some of our favorite songs from the year 2011, in no particular order or with allegiance to any particular style....

Calgary-based musician Chad VanGaalen is one talented dude, and his artistic skills are just as prominent as his musical skills. How fortuitous that he is in a position to animate a video such as this one, for "Peace Is On The Rise"! What you can expect from this video is...

Secret Cities are a psych-pop trio from Fargo, North Dakota. And much like the Coen brothers' film of the same name, Pink Graffiti is a wonderful dreamscape of complicit artistry and deliberate complexity. Though comparable to other pop savants such as Wolf Parade or Chad VanGaalen, Pink Graffiti stands out...

Don't look now, but Secret Cities, a trio (now quartet!) of music makers hailing from the Midwest, might have made the most enjoyable album of the year. Their debut, Pink Graffiti, is a laid-back, charismatic indie-pop album in the best sense, joyously constructed without being overly dramatic. This band is all about layers: layers of vocals harmonizing in and out, layers of acoustic, analog, digital sounds, and layers of lyrics that stick in your mind with the utmost poignancy. We got a chance to talk to the trio just as they finished touring the US about their album, about songwriting via snail mail, about the fact/fiction behind the movie Fargo and about how Brian Wilson is kind of a jerk!
What's the story behind Secret Cities? How long have you been playing together? Charlie Gokey: MJ (Marie Parker) and I have been making music together since we were kids. We met at band camp around 2001, kept in touch through the internet, then eventually started exchanging tapes through the mail. Alex [Abnos] joined around 2005 when we toured for the first time. I met him on the internet, and fortunately, it turned out he's not a murderer or a 50-year-old pedophile. Right from the start, we've never really lived in the same place. I only see Al and MJ when we're going to tour or record.

Can you explain the concept behind the album I've been hearing about? Gokey: I kind of forced this on everyone like a jerk. It's not like the whole album is about any one thing. There are just a bunch of songs about the relationship between people and music, the relationship between people and other people, and those relationships getting kind of mixed up. That sounds like an absurd, pretentious thing, but that theme just sort of developed naturally. When we were just starting to record the album, my girlfriend and I split up. Shortly thereafter, I saw that Brian Wilson was signing his new record at a nearby Borders. I felt compelled to go see him because I had written a little about him in college, plus certain songs he wrote were pretty intimately tied up with this relationship I had just gotten out of. When I actually saw him and tried to talk to him, I was shocked by how old he looked, how little he cared that I was trying to say something to him, by the reality of his personhood. After that weirdness, Brian Wilson became the central figure in my writing -- sort of an easy place to start in sorting through the intense emotions of that breakup and the process of making music.

Listen to "Pink Graffiti, Pt. 1" - DOWNLOAD MP3