The idea that the multiverse is more akin to an art project than a science experiment (or an art experiment, if you're so inclined) is one of those Occult themes that typically gets dismissed by both overly scientific and religious types alike, even though it quite inarguably resonates now more than ever. One of the stranger aspects of human psychology that we essentially avoid touching in typical academic or spiritual discourse involves the fact that your average person now consumes roughly a hundred thousand times more art in a given year than they did even a mere century ago. We used to rely on mediums like galleries, plays, symphonies, and libraries to dispense our art, most of which weren't super accessible to people who weren't wealthy or close to an urban center. Now the fact that the internet and cable television beam recreational distractions into our homes 24/7 seems almost like a trivial afterthought.
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.
With wide-reaching arms and hungry ears, each of our writers has compiled his or her top albums of the year, for you to peruse our eclectic, atypical, and only occasionally overlapping tastes. You'd be well-served to check out every single record here.
Vivian Hua - dance, indie, pop, psychedelic, electronic Troy Micheau - metal, electronic, experimental, ambient Jason Simpson - pop, soul, electronic, ambient Ian King - electronic, ambient, instrumental, pop Peter Woodburn - ambient, metal, garage, indie Judy Nelson - dance, electronic, indie, pop, hip-hop Albums of the Year 2014
Pickathon Festival started out as a much more roots, folk and bluegrass-oriented festival. As those genres were gobbled up by eager indie-whatever kids looking to break into a new style, Pickathon adapted with the change. Although bands like Nickel Creek, The Barr Brothers, Shakey Graves and Della Mae hearkened back to the festival's old style, a surprisingly rock-heavy lineup was the face of the 2014 version of Pickathon Festival. Bands like The War on Drugs, Foxygen, Mac DeMarco and Brownout/Brown Sabbath were the big draws -- but looking back at it, you couldn't really tell much of a difference in the end. The 2014 version of Pickathon was still the excellently curated, family-friendly (and even more adult friendly) affair that the 2013 Pickathon, and every year before that, was. Pickathon Festival 2014The reason for that is that in this day and age where festivals are hardly differentiated by anything except for stage names, Pickathon sets itself apart from the rest of the musical wasteland by removing its wasteful tendencies. Everything happens at Pickathon for a reason. The end result means that the random stages set up throughout Pendarvis Farm are stellar and sound issues are rarely a problem. Many of the shows are recorded and broadcast live courtesy of a horde of volunteers, which also creates a massive musical archive in the process. Beer, medical attention, phone chargers and general information are all handed out by bright-eyed and cheerful volunteers who are as excited to be there as anyone else. The devil is in the details at Pickathon, stretching from wall art in the portable bathrooms to showers set up within earshot of a stage. For one weekend a year, Pendarvis Farm in Happy Valley, Oregon, becomes the happiest place on Earth for a few thousand people smart enough to know one of the best festivals in the country is happening on someone's backyard. There is every reason to trek down the dusty roads to any of the stages at Pickathon, and no reason to leave.
Pickathon Festival 2014

 

"Let’s cut down this forest with a buzz saw army of guitars.” Jordan Smith, of Diarrhea Planet

Diarrhea Planet

This year, it seemed like the Pickathon lineup was for the boys and girls of rock and roll. No band epitomized that approach like a double billing of the six-piece Diarrhea Planet. The band has four guitarists all shredding a pop sensibility through the power of metal and punk, and in the grand scheme of things, their music sounds like their name -- explosive and relentless. A band of this magnitude of rock can sometimes be a bit off-putting, but a smart time slot and the jovial approach the band takes live makes it seem like you are watching your best friend's band play its first real show. Pickathon Festival 2014 Their first set of the weekend began at 1 a.m. on the first night, with an apology to Gavin, the sound guy in the Galaxy Barn, for helping four guitarists and four vocalists close out the night. Once apologies were dispensed, Diarrhea Planet proceeded to relentlessly shred through their material, and despite the oppressive temperature inside the barn, the crowd responded accordingly. A new song devoted to the lost art of crowdsurfing had Pickathon attendees leaping on top of each other as the sweating, seething mosh pit took over the whole barn. When all was said and done, a hundred-plus people made the long walk back to their tents covered in a variety of different sweats, only to do it all again the next day. Diarrhea Planet’s second set at the famed Woods Stage Saturday afternoon was just as raucous. Although the cry for crowdsurfing fell on deaf ears, perhaps due to the gentle nature of the stage setup, the six-piece had no issue picking up the slack. Amplifiers were climbed on top of, crowd members were thrown on top of band member's shoulders mid-guitar solo, and outside of the fact that the sun was still up, it was hard to distinguish any less enthusiasm from the drunken barn burner less than 24 hours previous. At the end of it all, it could all be summed up in guitarist/vocalist Jordan Smith's approach to the afternoon, as he said, “We are playing in the woods. Let’s cut down this forest with a buzz saw army of guitars.”

 

Here is a quick summary of GOAT, and the story is meant to be taken with as many grains of salt as possible. GOAT originally hail from Korpilombo, Sweden, from a community that has a history of voodoo worship. At various times, the incarnation of GOAT has lived on for 30 or 40 years amongst members of this village, and now, the current incarnation of GOAT contains three members from Korpilombo, augmented by a few folks from Gothenburg. All bands need good stories, and GOAT’s is one of the better ones. A quick Google search of Korpilombo and voodoo yields nothing but GOAT-related results. Combine this wonky backstory with the fact that live, the members of GOAT all wear cloaks and masks and operate in a shroud of mystery, and it is enough to be almost too much of a schtick. But what makes the tradition of GOAT work is that the band doesn’t let this aura undermine the music.
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
A lot of the problem with viewing the universe as being comprised of matter comes with the idea that it's devoid of conscious experience somehow. More and more, little by little, we're starting to wake up to the insane limitations of this philosophy. Renders people humorless if you ask me. Nothing adds up, which creates profound existential desperation resonating throughout the collective psi-grid of humanity. There is no explanation for why anything happens, so we instead focus on how things go down in obsessive detail. Not to knock this approach, as it creates order by combining with the mystical chaos of internal infinity. Too much mystic psychic sizzle and you'll get torn to shreds, but when you look at only shared perceptual experience, you're editing out the vast majority of reality. It's all dark matter through those eyes. Endless blacked out pages on a declassified UFO report. What I've found is that by shifting models of reality interpretation just slightly from conceiving the world as being made of matter to one comprised from conscious experience, coherent macro concepts of conjoined narratives learning lessons throughout cycles of shifting lifetimes starts to take shape (which I talk about all the time on Facebook; friend me). When you start looking at things through the neo-Occult lens regarding the meaning of our existence as participants in a small cog of a much larger 5th dimensional art creation device, things begin to click into place on an even deeper level. Try it; it's fun. What works about this model is the fact that art is getting more plentiful and expansive by the day. Whether or not that was the purpose, that's what's happening. The average person now spends their time lost in a greater collective imagination in a way that wasn't even possible a decade ago. We've entered the era of the information addict. We're turning ourselves increasingly inward and tying together disparate narratives without asking why we're so unconsciously compelled to veer in that direction. I'm more helplessly entrenched than anyone, spending my time existent in my own celestial enclave of sonic enchantment. Fact of the matter is, more people are taking psychedelic drugs at this point in history than ever before. The loosening of the pot laws is just going to ensure that trend continues to spike upward. Unsurprisingly, this has created a congruent upsurge in fantastically brain-altering tunage. I can't even begin to keep up with it all, and I'm an obsessive music weirdo. For all intents and purposes, there are an infinite number of great albums being made every single year, but I'd say Joe Sixpack isn't truly aware of that fact. I can't imagine any of the records on this list sold a ton, which is sort of the problem and why you need geeks like me. Next time you want to trip out on the weekend rather than getting blitzed drunk, go pick up any of thesem and they'll serve to lift you on high rather than binding you to the lower dimensions. Now, I almost apologize, because there really should be more trip-hop and electronic freak outs on here in general -- that's where drug music is heading and has been since I was a kid. But I've listened to a lot of the higher profile releases this year and most of it was decent, and little of it struck me as sufficiently psyche-warping. I've got to dig deeper next year. I will say that Seattle's Debacle Records consistently brings the strange vibes (Editor's Note: See the mixtape they made for us earlier this year) -- and as if intentionally living up to our newly minted west coast weed city status, more great psychedelic albums came out of Seattle this year than ever, so this list is also a bit heavy on that because no one else is really talking about it. You've been warned.
This evening, the spirit of the '60s seems alive and thriving in the Crystal Ballroom. You can sense the remnants of bands like New Riders Of The Purple Sage or The Byrds, as you set foot upon the legendary bouncing dancefloor. It is a grand West Coast ballroom, in the tradition of the Fillmores; there's an epic chandelier, worthy of the Phantom Of The Opera, and Renaissance paintings al fresco on the walls. It's a classy place to see a real rock n' roll show. I don't know what it is about these ballrooms, but they always seem primed to go off. Maybe it's because they were designed for getting down, with wide open wooden dancefloors and killer sound systems. Imagine the surprise of the 1914 founders, if they could peer through time and hear the hardcore racket that would be pummeling out on a Wednesday night, nearly 100 years later. This was basically a double-headliner bill between two influential bands of different eras: Helmet, from the early '90s, and the most famous of the '70s school of artpunk, Wire. Wire, Helmet Live Show Review - Crystal Ballroom, Portland, OR
This audio-visual collaboration between Portland-based avant-garde metal outfit, The Body, and NYC mixed media artist Alexander Barton has been a long time coming, a homage to an enduring friendship. Combining their mutual shared interest in intensity, abstraction, and religious themes, the music video for "To Attempt Oneness" pits The Body's guttural, distorted screams and noisy, rumbling guitars against Barton's bleeding ink painting -- an extension of his earlier performance which used real pig's blood. The final product holds a viewer's fascination with its impressively slow and minimal unfolding, the most entertaining way possible to watch paint dry. To celebrate the very recent release of The Body's Christs, Redeemers on Thrill Jockey Records, we offer you a side-by-side interview with artist Alexander Barton and The Body's drummer Lee Buford, as they speak of music, aesthetics, and the world. The Body are currently on a nation-wide tour; dates at the bottom of this post.