Our third-annual album cover art feature uses interviews with artists and musicians to highlight the philosophical, thematic, and conceptual significance of great album cover artwork. THE BREAKDOWN    12 Collage + 14 Digital Illustration, Drawing, Design + 19 Illustration, Painting, Drawing + 8 Black And White Photography + 22 Color Photography +...

Born With Stripes is a chameleon of an album. It starts off with a catchy, pop -- "accessible indie," as I like to call it -- number, entitled "We Don't Know Who We Are." This album has so many varied styles (from blues to psychedelic to Indian-influenced) that I don't think this album quite knows who it is; but that's okay.

This first track and its two subsequent tracks have been on consistent rotation in my brain since I first listened to this disc. Track two, "I Like The Way You Walk," is a very inviting tune, and it does associate well with "We Don't Know Who We Are"; these two songs are from the same family, as it were. However, track three, "Bloodhound," enters the scene and all bets are off. This is the stone cold blues track of Born With Stripes. It is easily my vote for best track on the entire album. With lines like, "I'll need a bloodhound just to track her down, but she'll be mine again," and carefully-placed background "oooo-oooo"'s, it is difficult not to love this song. But that's the genius of blues; it is a stereotypically cool genre of music (and what a nice stereotype to have!).

The "West Coast Raga" and later "East Coast Raga" would fit in well as B-Sides to The Beatles' 1966 classic Revolver, with their sitar sounds, spiraling guitar lines, and hypnotic basslines and drum beats. These tracks stick out and clash with the other tracks until about halfway through these songs, when the listener gets enveloped by them; and, at that point, it is all aural gravy. A friend overheard me listening to "Bullfrog Blues" and said it could very easily be a lost Lovin' Spoonful track. On that note, I feel that "New Blue Stockings" has a Doors-y or Jefferson Airplane-y motif to it. So, the '60s are represented very well in this disc.

Time to take a break from the psychedelic video imagery to visit John Vanderslice, in a live collaboration with Magik*Magik Orchestra. This video for "Overcoat" is filmed in the studio during recording, and is from his album, White Wilderness. ...

What the hell happened to Akron/Family with their latest disc, S/T II: The Cosmic Birth and Journey of Shinju TNT? The album itself is quite enough of a departure from the band's previous works, but the videos are really something else. This new video for...

Spring 2012 marked the second time I interviewed Brooklyn indie/electronic cross-over musicians Bear In Heaven. Though two years had passed, the main underlying tendency of the interview was the same: staying on topic was damn near impossible. Stand in a room with them for ten minutes, and you'll realize that the trio, consisting of vocalist Jon Philpot, bassist Adam Wills, and drummer Joe Stickney, have some sort of superhuman attention-diverting capability that can suck all journalistic integrity into a black hole of joking and bantering. Humor seeps into all that they do, though it may not be evident by listening to their music in isolation. Instead, it is found in their tangential actions. Take, for instance, their latest record, I Love You, It's Cool. Its ridiculous title was taken in jest from a break-up letter written by the band's former fourth member, Sadek Bazarra. They also marketed the album with an ingenious tactic that involved stretching their entire record into an ambient drone track lasting a duration of three months, and their music video for "The Reflection Of You", directed by the force behind Wonder Showzen, John Lee of the PFFR art collective, can be unbearably nauseating with its incessant zooms. To sum it up: reactions to Bear In Heaven's sense of humor are polarized, and Stickney jokes that one person's comment on last.fm ("Fuck your ultra slowed-down hipster stream") summarizes many of the reactions to their experiments. It seems easy for some to write off Bear In Heaven's conceptually-minded artistic approach as pretentious and disingenuous, but I'd argue that would be misunderstanding the band members themselves. Their approach to music is hard to understand because they take themselves very seriously when they need to, but swing to the other extreme when they don't. In the interviews below, we're talking ideas; some good, some bad, many completely unrelated to the original intentions. But the point remains that you will either like Bear In Heaven's ideas, or you won't. If only it mattered, though.
Interview by Vivian Hua

 

2010 has come and gone, leaving in its wake a magnitude of amazing album artwork. This year, we decided to speak directly with the forces behind the album artwork about creative processes and inspirations. A massive feature with over 90 interviews with musicians and artists....

Frog Eyes have been chugging away at the indie music game for almost 10 years, and have crafted such an interesting blend of alt-punk-folk that it's hard to not see their influence everywhere. From bands like Wolf Parade, Handsome Furs and The Mountain Goats, to...