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.

As music fans and college radio DJs descend upon NYC this week, those of us who are already here are taking stock on the music scene as it stands. Last year, the CMJ Music Marathon saw a heavy representation from indie bands that were making their festival debut, such as Speedy Ortiz and Hunters, who then took off in the media instantly after. This year shows great promise, with buzz bands like Twin Peaks, PAWS, Gem Club, Blue Hawaii, and Adult Jazz playing, as well as stalwarts like Obits, A Place to Bury Strangers, and Cold War Kids returning the to fray -- along with the anticipated reunion of shoegaze legends Slowdive (and Low opening!). And, of course, it wouldn't be CMJ without a slew of brand new band hoping to get their big break. CMJ Music Marathon 2014 As always, the lineup for CMJ 2014 is diverse -- but something we appreciated seeing was that there seems to be an increase of girl bands and female solo artists. It is notable to mention that this year's CMJ has also extended its reach to large group of new venues, concentrated mostly in Brooklyn. Here are our top picks, though many more are listed on CMJ.com!

To pay proper homage to the musical grandness of 2013 and to usher in the new year 2014, we've once again decided to call upon our tastemaker friends to compile their favorite up-and-comers throughout the Pacific Northwest. Here, James Scheall, Cameron McCreery, and Katherine Humphreys of Seattle's stylish boutique shop and venue Cairo throw out their wide-ranging picks for Seattle bands to watch. Those who are interested in the Portland scene can also check out the list compiled by the innovative nightclub, Holocene, here.
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Cock & Swan __ soundcloud.com/cockandswan

Cock & Swan’s Ola Hungerford and Johnny Goss are a couple of weirdos making beautifully intricate, often kaleidoscopic pop music. Layers of analog synths and bass guitar provide a hazy, warped framework for Hungerford’s subtle, dreamy vocals to build on. Their 2013 LP, Secret Angles, sounds like something you’d find under a stack of scratched-up Boards of Canada and Broadcast CDs, in the best way. Trippy in the least annoying way possible. - CAMERON MCCREERY

Black Hat __ blackhat.bandcamp.com/album/covalence-ep

Nelson Bean's music as Black Hat exists somewhere in the strange, hazy middle-ground between dance music and noise. Harsh drums and lurching bass give way to droning synths and eerily beautiful melodies in a constant vortex of sound. There is a definite darkness to Black Hat’s music, but it’s more than just a gothy occult obsession; there is a very natural, very real darkness at work here, one that will draw you in and never let go. Hypnotic head nods 'til the end. - CAMERON MCCREERY

La Luz __ laluz.bandcamp.com

Melancholic oohs and ahhs drift sweetly from rain to the Puget Sound, sung by the harmonious spirits of La Luz, who are taking the foggy beaches and rainy side-streets of Seattle by storm. Not only can they hang ten with their epic surf rock shredder tracks, but they've somehow have perfected the balance of drifter sadness and hilarious campiness. Not to mention, they totally survived an insane car accident and have bounced back like it’s no one’s business. Pick up their cassette via Burger or their LP via Hardly Art. - KATHERINE HUMPHREYS

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
 

At first look, anything that is described as minimal, whether it be architecture, music, art, or even a way of living, is often also characterized as simple. However, a deeper examination can actually reveal a more complicated and challenging story, which proves that minimal does not always have a direct relation to simplicity, and that minimal can mean different things to different people. Such is the case for Austin duo Deep Time, who on their Facebook page describes themselves as "minimal weirdo pop."
When the two members of the band, Adam Jones and Jennifer Moore, talk about being "minimal," they refer more to the literal meaning of using limited resources, as opposed to the more known term of "minimalist music," which is defined by the use of repetition, ambiance, and often, electronics. Unlike the latter, Deep Time's music is considered minimal because they play the game of figuring out how to give life to their complex ideas knowing that they are limited to what they can do between two members.

 

"Pop music shouldn't always get a bad rap," says Top Pops!, a recurring selection of pop music highlights across a selection of styles. Austin's Deep Time get feminist, Shawn Lee has one foot in space and in the ocean, and Seams bring some math into surf.

Deep Time

A few seconds of Austin-based male-female duo Deep Time, and you know that they have a creative fire burning under their asses, and plenty of steez to go around! The contrast between rhythmic basslines of mega low-end satisfaction and the vocals of Jennifer Moore (Voxtrot, The Carrots), which switch between harmoniously playful and erratically yelpy, really carry this shit forth with a swagger and a lean. The record comes out today, July 10th, via Seattle garage/rock imprint Hardly Art. Miss Moore also wrote an essay commenting on an intentionally sexist (in the name of humor that was cursed upon some and entertained by others) review in Vice Magazine. See it HERE. See full post for tour dates and a video teaser of the album. Deep Time - "Homebody" - DOWNLOAD MP3 [audio:/wp-content/uploads/2012/07/Deep-Time_Homebody.mp3|titles=Deep Time - Homebody] Deep Time - "Clouds" - DOWNLOAD MP3 [audio:/wp-content/uploads/2012/07/Deep-Time_Clouds.mp3|titles=Deep Time - Clouds]

 

"Pop music shouldn't always get a bad rap," says Top Pops!, a recurring selection of pop music highlights across a selection of styles.

Psychic Twin

This adorable single from Illinois pop duo Psychic Twin comes as a part of Lefse Records' upcoming 7" series, which begins June 26th. Psychic Twin are kicking off the series with "Gonna Get Her" b/w "Deepest Part". May the reverb-laden, echoey vocals of vocalist Erin Fein whirl into your brainnnnnn as they remind you about the temporary, transient nature of all things and the importance of letting go. Each single will be limited to 500 copies, and will also be made available digitally. The next installments will include artists like Field Mouse, Sun Glitters, Mister Lies, an electronic side project of Matthew Cooper of Eluvium, and Big Search (Matt Popieluch of Fools Gold/Foreign Born).

 

Pre-order entire 7" Series From Lefse Records

 

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 + 6 Deluxe Packaging + 10 Fashion, Sculpture, Installation _____________________________    91 Album Covers For 2011 Best Of 2011 Album Cover Art

"Eery. Melancholic."
Dum Dum Girls - Only In Dreams
Art director Jeff Kleinsmith and photographer Shawn Brackbill capture the shadowy residue of an out-of-body experience.
QUOTES FROM: JEFF KLEINSMITH, ART DIRECTOR THEMES & CONCEPTS "Dee Dee from the band... had a very specific idea in mind, but I feel like it isn't my place to speak for her on this." CREATIVE PROCESS "There is a phenomenon called astral projection or astral travel which is the idea that there are two bodies - an astral body and a physical body, and there are some who believe that the astral body can travel outside of the physical one. There are some pretty famous photos depicting the astral body leaving the physical body, and Dee Dee wanted to make her own version with herself as the subject. Again, she would know better than I what this particular imagery means to her. Well, I LOVE the image. It is one of the most interesting images I've worked with in a long time. That's not exactly some high-minded insight, but it's how I feel about the image. Dee Dee never told me if it has personal meaning to her. I know she was going through some things, so it's possible that the image is directly related to that." THE EXTRAS "Tthe only thing to mention is the silver foil stamp on the front and back and maybe the old-style packaging. I'm referring to when LPs were first made, they were actually raw cardboard which was cover by a thin printed paper skin -- as opposed to printing directly on the cardboard. Most modern packaging is done this way, and this piece was done in the old style. Also, there is a 22" x 22" foldout poster inside along with a snazzy CD dust sleeve." Record Label Sub Pop Records The Artists Art Direction & Design - Dee Dee & Jeff Kleinsmith Photography - Shawn Brackbill Mediums & Materials Photography, Postcard, Computers