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.
Bear In Heaven - Time Between Music Video
As the Humans of New York Tumblr has been gracious enough to show the world, the population of New York City is one that is multi-ethnic, socioeconomically diverse, and resilient. Summarizing New Yorkers with blanket statements is difficult, but one thing is for certain: not a night goes by in The City That Never Sleeps that isn't worthy of documentation, exploration, and observation. For the "Time Between" music video, Bear In Heaven enlisted the help of director Nick Bentgen, who spent long nights hanging out with strangers and visiting the homes of acquaintances in Manhattan, Brooklyn, and Queens, to collect what must have been hours of observational footage. He then wove together an abstract piece of visual poetry, which plays off of the track's dramatic percussion to create a striking portrait of the beautiful and bizarre nature of New Yorkers. It's a video that just keeps on giving, views after subsequent views. In this highly informal, laugh-and-compliment-heavy Q&A interview with Bentgen and Bear In Heaven's fashionably late Jon Philpot, both banter about their thoughts on late night New York City, how confounding human nature can be, and what exactly defines a "best pizza". You can see our previous two interviews with Bear In Heaven here. Bear In Heaven - Time Between Music Video

 

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
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
 
The rambunctiously chaotic music of Portland's AU is translated into bright visual forms when processed by Japanese animator and video artist Takafumi Tsuhiya. Both the director and AU's frontman, Luke Wyland, speak below about their collaborations for this year's "OJ" and 2010's "Ida Walked Away", along with how they've each grown in that time period.

 

AU - "OJ" MUSIC VIDEO
"I believe there is something universal in [how] sounds correspond with visuals [that] is over the boundaries of language." - Takafumi Tsuhiya

 

Remix City Sifting through mountains of remix trash so you don't have to, in an attempt to find the ones that contribute to their originals. Today's post travels into Nordic territory, with an assortment of electronic jams bearing the handiwork of producer extraordinaire, Lindstrøm. 120 Days Pulsating lights and synths reflect a matrix...

Bear In Heaven go hyper warp-speed, a shade mustacheless, and definitely hi-resolution on their new video for "Reflection Of You," directed by John Lee of the PFFR art collective. Is it obnoxious? Kind of. But if you stick around to the halfway point, you'll be introduced to an awkward confetti-drenched...

AU's music is insane -- in a marching band out of a circus hall-of-mirrors kind of way. Senses of up and down and left and right are obliterated in maximalist fashion; their recent Into The Woods session utilizes quick cuts galore to highlight the Portland band's trumpet-sax-guitar-drum-keys madness. It matters...

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

 

This video, from Brad Laner's album, Natural Selections, takes images of cityscapes and reduces them to obscured, colorful geometric squares and rectangles. The shots are then edited so that the transitions between shots match up with the rhythms. Not terribly complicated, but the finished product is beautiful in a minimal,...