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.
Los Angeles-via-Portland's STRFKR are a band people love to hate, but I like to give props where props are due. "While I'm Alive", from the band's latest album, Miracle Mile, may be my favorite song of theirs yet. Groovy basslines and sweet echoes of, "I love my life," are posi-well, but the track's prime attraction lies in a high-pitched vocal wail, perpetuated throughout guitar notes during the track's introduction and hook. Given the dynamic quality of the aforementioned vocal line, any successful require music video would need to acknowledge its brilliance with equal measure. Luckily, director David Terry Fine's collaboration with the Seattle dance troupe Can Can Castaways executes this with flying colors. (We're talking one of the swellest dance moves I've seen this year, next to the headless-arms-waggle at 2:05 of this So You Think You Can Dance number). Much like the life-affirming concept of the music video, stills from "While I'm Alive" are plenty nice-looking, but show off very little of its glowing essence, which lies in living movements both subtle and bold. In this Q&A with David Terry Fine, he touches on the experience of working with STRFKR and Can Can Castaways, as well as the appeal of body movement.
 
"Pop music shouldn't always get a bad rap," says Top Pops!, a recurring selection of pop music highlights across a selection of styles, updated throughout every month to bring you the best of the funk.
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James Blake - "Retrograde" James Blake is back with Overgrown on April 8th. Embedding this is a tricky feat -- as the last time I embedded a James Blake track with the following review, UMG scolded us and demanded the video's removal -- but nonetheless, here it is, for all of your soulful listening desires. Slight electronic texturing still exists here -- he hasn't given himself up completely, certainly -- but this is as soulful as we've ever heard Blake, and this track is most definitely a slow-burner and a grower, grower, grower.

 

Psychic Twin - "Strangers" (Polyvinyl Records) Psychic Twin seem to constantly deliver on impressive one-off tracks, and "Strangers" from their upcoming Polyvinyl-released 7" is no different. Upbeat synth frolicks and fancy fleeting vocals delight while entering the noggin hypnotically. Polyvinyl is really chasing the dance pop tip lately, and I'd personally say that Psychic Twin are one of their most exciting prospects. Unfortunately, these tracks can't be embedded right now, but you can enjoy "Strangers" via Soundcloud or hear additional Psychic Twin tracks we have posted here. They will be playing at our SXSW 2013 show; announcement coming Monday.

 

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
 
Attending Culture Collide is the easiest and cheapest way to feel like you have been around the world in just four days. When you watch two US bands open a show where groups from Singapore, Argentina and the Netherlands are also on the bill, you start to feel like the most worldly person on the planet. And night after night, numerous different countries were represented under one roof, giving people the opportunity to discover bands that maybe otherwise they would have not come across. Culture Collide deserves praise for making diversity the rule and not the exception. But if I had one suggestion for this young festival, it is to go beyond the comforts of the indie rock and electronic genres a bit. With bands flying in from countries like Peru and Estonia, it'd be nice to take the cultural schooling up a notch and invite bands who are giving new life to traditional sounds from their native countries. It didn't take long for American rock n' roll to start influencing music in other countries, but hopefully a festival like this will help more international sounds infiltrate the US. SEE FULL FESTIVAL RECAP
PHOTOGRAPHY BY Jasmine Safaeian, FILTER

 

Poolside

When Brazil's Bonde do RolĂȘ had to cancel because of visa issues, Los Angeles' Poolside stepped in to provide some tropical tunes and funky beats. While not as wild as Bonde do RolĂȘ, Poolside were a pleasant addition to the outdoor portion of the festival. With the sun shining, the duo was accompanied by a drummer and second keyboardist, and provided a nice warm up for a full night of dancing. The main stage would later see Niki & The Dove and of Montreal. Instead of taking an aggressive approach to dance music, Poolside provided a relaxed atmosphere with mid-tempo melodies and calming synth lines. Still, you couldn't help but feel like you were whisked away to some exotic island.

 

I'm a sucker for diverse bills on shows. I know less musically inclined or adventurous individuals take comfort in seeing the acts that they know, but I have always found that some of my favorite bands are the ones I was completely not expecting to see live. If anything, seeing different styles keeps concert-going fresh. That is why when A Place to Bury Strangers and This Will Destroy You AND Dusted came to town I declared it the best show of June. In no way was my excited ultimatum of fantasticness off from the truth.

 

June 11th, 2012 @ The Crocordile in Seattle, WA

Dusted

Dusted is the new solo project from Brian Borcherdt from Holy Fuck. It is a lo-fi project that is as far away from Holy Fuck's electronica driven dance beats as possible. Setting up under a fuzzy wash of light guitar droning, Borcherdt played a set of songs off of the new debut album Total Dust. Some songs were a little bit forgettable, but when Dusted was going, especially on songs "(Into the) Atmopshere" and "Dusted", the band was a grand surprise as the opener.

 

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,...

NYC-based foursome Asobi Seksu -- meaning "casual sex" in Japanese -- released its newest album, Fluorescence, on February 15th. The dream pop escapist melodies are made for cruising the coast with a lover or plunging headfirst into an icy ocean of emotion and despair, making the gauzy tracks a well-timed...