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.
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
Bumbershoot Festival signifies a lot of things for Seattle, but the main mark of Bumbershoot is that fall is upon us. The annual Labor Day arts festival in downtown Seattle traditionally comes with both good weather and the need for umbrellas, aka a bumbershoot. Bumbershoot’s place in music festivals across the nation includes one big distinction; it name isn’t merely the Bumbershoot Music Festival, but the Bumbershoot Music and Arts Festival. The addition of arts is noticeable, for as much music stretches across multiple stages in Seattle Center, there are just as many comedians, writing panels, art exhibits and impromptu busking performances on the festival grounds.

Gary Numan

Bumbershoot has always done a great job of getting some old school acts to show their face, and the crowd make-up is always funny because of it. Those watching Gary Numan were no different. Numan has been churning out music since the late '70s, but the majority of today's youngsters know him for the chart-topping hit "Cars" and its early, slightly rudimentary use of electronica in music. I am also one of those ignorant youngsters, aware of who Numan is and his contributions as one of the pioneers of electronica and gothic rock, but with really no idea what he truly sounded like outside of "Cars". To almost put Numan's performance in a nutshell, I'll direct you to the tweet I sent immediately into his set (ignore my typo please, and for my shameless Twitter plug, follow me here). As dusk set, the lights were blaring for Gary Numan, who even at the age of 55, contorted his body for dramatics at angles I haven't hit since I was four-years-old. Gary Numan was just heavy as shit, and it was awesome. Even "Cars", which he launched into about five songs in, was heavy as shit and all of it was unexpected for my ignorant ears. Gary Numan's performance was watching all the precursors for Trent Reznor laid out right in front of you, and almost seemed like a live-action History Channel viewing. Bumbershoot has always been the best about scheduling these kinds of acts, and it was the perfect way to end the first day of music.
As it is every year around this time of year, the music party that needs no introduction is upon us. For SXSW 2013, in addition to our own annual psych and dance-oriented house party (this year's is called FEEL YOU and comes with a handy-dandy mixtape), we've gone through and written up our top picks for official bands as well as our top unofficial showcases! Read on!
Youth Lagoon Trevor Powers' vocals remind me of Daniel Johnson both the physical sound and the earnest lyrics. Then he takes these simple melodies and opens them up inside lush, shimmering layers of live and electronic instruments. RACHEL HAYS
--- YOUTH LAGOON - WONDROUS BUGHOUSE ALBUM REVIEW 03/13 - 10:40pm @ Stubb's (NPR Showcase) 03/14 - 5:00pm @ 1100 Warehouse (Pitchfork Party) 03/15 - 4:00pm @ Hype Hotel (Stereogum Range Life) 03/15 - 5:30pm @ Red Eyed Fly (After the Gold Rush) 03/15 - 12:00am @ Club de Ville (Paradigm Showcase)

 

Poolside The band basically spells out relaxation with their name choice. Their music videos and album art reiterate that fact; the video for their song "Slow Down" is perfectly California cool. - JUDY NELSON
--- POOLSIDE FESTIVAL LIVE SHOW REVIEW MON, MAR 11 - 8:00pm @ The Mohawk (Transmission Entertainment Showcase, 912 Red River) MAR 13 - 5:20pm @ Cheer Up Charlie's (Spaceland Showcase, 1104 E 6th St.) MAR 13 - 9:30pm @ The Tap Room (School Night Showcase) MAR 13 - 1:30am @ Red 7 (Windish Showcase, 611 East 7th St.) MAR 14 - 1:35pm @ Flamingo Cantina (Under The Radar Showcase, 515 E 6th St.) MAR 14 - 6:00pm @ Sonos House (606 E 3rd St.) MAR 15 - 4:00pm @ Red Eyed Fly (Another Planet Entertainment Showcase) MAR 16 - 4:00pm @ Lustre Pearl (97 Rainey St.)

 

Flying Lotus Years ago, I was at SXSW and dying from crippling food poisoning. I was at the Warp Records showcase, more or less ready to die, when Flying Lotus took the stage and revived me. One-man electronic shows aren't always compelling, but with his tricked out beats, spastic visuals, and just general mythology, Flying Lotus is one of the best electronic solo acts to see. VIVIAN HUA
03/12 - 12:00am @ AMOA Arthouse at Jones Center (Plus an unannounced surprise performance!)

 

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
 
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."
 
AURAL DEVASTATION is a regular column about heavy music. Today, Converge reasserts their importance, and Pig Destroyer get covertly political, arguably. +++ FULL POST + AURAL DEVASTATION COLUMNS + ALL MUSIC COLUMNS

Converge

Few bands have remained as relevant and impossible to duplicate as the Massachusetts based metalcore kings Converge. Ignoring the insane impact that each member of the band has had in all aspects of the music industry -- from record label owning and producing to cover designing and playing in every band possible -- it isn't a very far stretch to call Converge one of the more important heavy bands to exist in the past 20 years. All We Love We Leave is the perfect example of Converge's ability to develop something new while still maintaining the familiarity of the whole assault of sound. See full post for tour dates.

 

AURAL DEVASTATION Because sometimes all we need is our ear drums shattered by the weight of music, the force of distortion, and the insanity of noise. +++ FULL POST + AURAL DEVASTATION COLUMNS + ALL MUSIC COLUMNS

Kabul Golf Club

Belgium's Kabul Golf Club sound like a less frenetic version of The Locust combined with a less sassy version of The Blood Brothers. This isn't meant in a bad way on either account. The band pulls in some grimy sludge that The Locust can't take the time to create and The Blood Brothers were too polished to want around. It is an oddly approachable jam that has a perfect low-cost music video to accompany their sound. They've recently released an EP called le bal du rat mort, and you can check them out further on Facebook and their website.