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.
Liars' 2012 full-length, WIXIW, dwelled in doubt and anxiety, pressed against a curtain of murky fragility. Even if one only looks at the cover art for the band's latest follow-up, Mess -- a robust mass of multihued string that looks like the Love Forever Changes hydra head grew dreadlocks -- it's evident that in 2014, the band is in a more positive, confident, and even silly headspace. Mess's stock in trade is industrial dance music -- and although Liars' beats are as primal as they've always been, their music is now a little too emotionally in-check to properly identify as synth-punk.
Well, it's now past the supposedly prophesized Mayan apocalypse, and of course no obvious signs of eschatological judgment have been wrought down upon us, which was much to be expected. There is something else we need to address though, before we can just write this shit off for good. If you were paying any attention to what those of the neo-spiritualist ilk were saying for the last decade or so, the conversation always involved a shift in consciousness rather than a rogue asteroid raining fiery death from above. Nobody said it'd be instantaneous.
 
Prophecies regarding a sudden massive shift in the perceptual limitations of our species always struck me as being beyond improbable. Whereas I'd be the first to admit that more of us these days are getting turned on to the higher cosmic functionalities of our brains, I'd also point out that it's probably little more than a numbers game. There are more people, period. I'd wager that for every turned on occult-dabbling tripster, there are two new closed-minded evangelical sex repression nutsos. Occultist super freaks just don't proselytize, and they probably blew their money on drugs and albums rather than bribing politicians, so there's that. Our society still revolves around boring after all and will for some time to come. What the fuck are you going to do? But it's not like all hope for a revolution is lost, the times -- they are a-changin', after all. Terence McKenna foretold a spike in novelty leading up to 2012, and it's not like novelty hasn't been spiking. The great singularity might have to wait, but technology has opened up consciousness to a new array of bizarre potentialities, the implications of which we can only barely conceive of at this point. At the heart of all shamanistic extra-dimensional informational summoning rituals lies the evolution of language from spoken word to projected internal telepathic metaphor, the language of our dreams. Meaningful scenarios projected from mind-to-mind, manifesting as direct experience. It's where we're headed with all these interconnected smart phones, tablets, and such. A picture is worth thousand words and now we can send each other videos instantaneously with our shiny new synthetic telepathy. Videogames continue to increase in complexity replicating alternate reality scenarios in our heads ad infinitum. Think of how rapidly our lives have changed in comparison to our parents' and even our grandparents' generations. Your everyday world can now be filled with an increasing array of deliciously magickal shenanigans. Marijuana has now been legalized in two states, one of which just so happens to be my home state for the last 11 years: Washington. This is the biggest victory in the war of consciousness I've seen in my lifetime, and something I never saw coming as a cynical 18-year-old stoner. What no one's saying about this matter is that one of the fundamental tenets of Western occultism involves a focused practice of weed-based sex magick, which is now totally legal. People are going to figure it out eventually. Combine that with a wide array of art-summoning gadgets, and you're well on your way to re-programming yourself into the next age psychic stratosphere. In the next fifty years or so I'm sure we'll debate whether or not 2012 was the beginning of a widespread shift toward a higher order of knowing. Again, these things take time. People have been fighting for pot and gay rights forever, and the defenses have finally started to crack. LSD in next. More importantly, the fact that we're finally starting to recognize the environmental nightmare brought forth by our materialistic insanity is more than a good omen. I know what's been shown to me. We've dug ourselves a hole that we can only fly out of through a psychedelic mindgasm portal. It's where we're headed. The environment's going to force our hand on this one. The UFOs aren't going to just stop lighting up the skies, the storms aren't going to stop hitting and then where the fuck are you going to turn? Sorcery, that's where.
Say what you will about 2012, but since consciousness is comprised of linguistic information, the idea of a coming apocalypse in itself propagated some rather delicious undercurrents of sound rippling through the Akashic record this year. I've never written more than a top five list in my life, but when I was thinking back on the insane amount of mind-bending albums that dropped in the last 12 months, I was kind of in shock. Most of this stuff's fairly obvious, at least in my world. Was it people like Terence McKenna and his mechanized Timewave Zero prophesies, inspiring people like Grant Morrison to write the great Invisibles hypersigil, that summoned this record deluge of psychoactive soundscapes into motion? I have no idea. Did the Mayans get in every band's head and subconsciously encourage them to bring their A game in 2012 as it might be their final chance? Whatever happened, it appears a software update embedded itself into our collective psyche and we went berzerk. An aspiring mystic could use any one of these mind-warping albums to put a hex on their internal mind tunnel and help elevate our collective superstructure heavenward. One might now use these recorded sound patterns in conjunction with the aforementioned pot based sex tantra quite legally in a hip music town like Seattle if one were so inclined. I've been told by the gods that it's a very "time safe activity". Reach for the stars true believers, or to quote Seattle's THEESatisfaction: "Let the musicians, be your physicians."
 
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Matthew Dear + Michna

Michna's 4-track Moving Mountains EP comes out early next week on Ghostly International, and has remixed a track from labelmate Matthew Dear. "Earthforms" upholds Matthew Dear's dubbed-out vocal treatments while entering frequently into drum n' bass territory. Moving Mountains EP is the first release fom the New York producer in nearly four years, since 2008's debut record, Magic Monday. His single "Through The City On The Edge Of Forever" can be heard on Ghostly International's Soundcloud. Pacific Northwest folks can see him live tonight at Barboza in Sattle or tomorrow at Rotture in Portland. Both dates are with Breton. Full tour dates below, along with the original of "Earthforms".
Matthew Dear - "Earthforms" (Michna Remix) [audio:/wp-content/uploads/2012/09/Matthew-Dear_Earthforms_Michna-Remix.mp3|titles=Matthew Dear - Earthforms (Michna Remix)]

 

Liars further the weirdness of their new record, WIXIW, with this insanely bizarre -- even for them -- music video for "Brats". Animated by Ian Cheng, this is 3-D animation at some of its most crass; Elmer Fudd (?), Bugs Bunny (?), and a dumb dog rave to Liars' house beats while humping one another and bumping into Liars themselves. My favorite parts come towards the end, when Bugs (?) seems to be humping just about everything in sight and does backwards and forwards somersaults atop Elmer (?) like a gymnast on crack (!)! Equally good is when Liars start getting down themselves. Spasms and rag doll effects galore! This is disturbing genius! Below the jump, you will find further WIXIW news, album trailers, and the dark music video for "No.1 Against The Rush", directed by Todd Cole.

 

See Our Interview With Liars About WIXIW
Liars continue to compel me to no end. Truth be told, with these days and their compulsive relentless onslaught of auditory information, I almost expect to get sick of a band after album four or so. So I downloaded Liars' new album when it came out, but only listened to it a few times before I found out I was going to be interviewing them again. I then decided I should probably rectify that and listened to it like six times in a two-day stretch. Holy shit! WIXIW is a freaking classic which finds them again refining their prime directive of reinventing their prime directive, which has always been their forte. Six straight albums of genius. Not many bands can pull that off. This one's more aberrant but still uniquely them. Basically, they use more computer beats and effects than usual – kind of what you'd expect a band to do circa now. Difference is, Liars were always kind of doing that, so it feels completely effortless. Oh, how it owns. I had the good fortune of catching them live a few weeks back and had my mind psychically ass-handed to me by the sound druids in the sky. Liars are one of the few bands I know that you can definitely say are better live than on record, that still actually make great records. There are plenty of bands that excel face-to-face but can't pull it together in the studio, ever. The way the bass amplifier worship reverberated through their new beat-heavy cuts brought a sinister vibe to sound, rendering the whole scene that much more exquisitely delicious. When they dropped into the punkier cuts from albums like Sisterworld and their self-titled third disc, there was more raw power per inch being blasted from the stage than most metal bands ever conjure forth in their faux demon-worshipping careers. A ton of acts are using pure volume these days as a way to mask underdeveloped songwriting chops, but Liars do it right. Frontman Angus Andrew talks about that and other fun shit like dreams below. Dig.

 

Liars – WIXIW Teaser
"'Wish you' is a familiar and universal sentiment of longing and hope, but when misspelt becomes uniquely shrouded and difficult to interpret, which in many ways is representative of our music and the songs we wrote for this album." -- Angus Andrew, on the album title WIXIW

 

The relationship between ritualistic drumming and consciousness alteration is an age old tradition stemming largely from the overlooked shamanic cultures of antiquity. It should go without saying that viewing the supposed "triumph" of Western materialism thought over the more "primitive" concepts of animism is a retardedly short-sighted way of oversimplifying...

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