frWe've finally made it to the bitter end of 2020, and believe it or not, human beings are still making amazing art in the midst of crisis and a pandemic. After a five-year hiatus, our Album Covers of the Year feature is back with a deep dive of artwork from...

Another year of our favorites in Top Album Cover Artwork, and once again, we interview musicians and artists on the often-underappreciated work that goes into creating a product that not only tickles your ears, but speaks to your eyes and hearts. Album artwork, though often only viewed on tiny screens...

It's that time of year again: the time where I remind everyone just how rapidly consciousness has been evolving in such an amazingly short period of time. The good news there is that the entire point to technology is to serve art. We'll figure it out eventually. It should be...

No one seems to be able to stop talking about Kendrick Lamar this year, and while we are no different from the rest in that regard, we've naturally made the effort, as usual, to put together an Albums of the Year list that is typically unconventional and probably features quite...

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
Chad VanGaalen Artist Interview
The story begins in a galaxy far, far away… "Intergalactic slavery going on within this closed system," says Chad VanGaalen, describing a fictional world of his creation. "I basically started making the planet... Then I was like, ‘Oh, it's going to be this mining community." Surprise, surprise, like that's never been used before..." And that right there is about as close to "conventional" as Chad VanGaalen comes. 2014's Shrink Dust is VanGaalen's first album in almost exactly three years. Described by its creator as a "sci-fi folk record", it takes the sound of its predecessor from 2011, Diaper Island, and, through the introduction of a pedal steel guitar, amplifies a certain country element that's been rumbling around in the background for a while. That influence appears as early as the first track, "Cut Off My Hands", which drifts in on a sweet calm that's reminiscent of the quieter moments of, say, Joel R.L. Phelps and the Downer Trio. VanGaalen album-openers can be deceptively mellow, though, and "Cut Off My Hands" is chased by the propulsive, television snow Madchester-ness of "Where Are You". Spiraling through it all are his trademark traits and nuances: the spectral vocal quiver, melodic pivots and bursts, the stretching of a single word like "evil" to the length of a sentence...
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.
Spectral Hypnosis is a recurring series, featuring mesmerizing songs for one to lose sense of time and space, mind and body.
SEE ALSO: FULL POST + ALL SPECTRAL HYPNOSIS POSTS + ALL COLUMNS

Factory Floor - "How Do You Say"

The music video for Factory Floor's "How Do You Say" is really nothing more than monotonous vocals, Nik Void's bouncing hair, and geometric projections upon an empty wall -- but this, in essence, is Factory Floor. Having just caught them on their national tour, I will say that this is techno for those who don't really feel the need to go anywhere over the course of a song or even a half-hour set, because when jogging in place looks and feels like this, it's somewhat enthralling enough. Directed by Factory Floor's Nik Void and Dan Tombs themselves. Releases are spread on two digital EPs and three physical 12 EPs, to be released throughout the month of April, featuring the original as well as a number of remixes; hear Daniel Avery and Helena Hauff's below.    
"Pop music shouldn't always get a bad rap," says Top Pops!, a recurring selection of indie pop highlights across a selection of styles, updated every month to keep you on your wiggly toes.
+++ FULL POST + ALL TOP POPS! COLUMNS + ALL MUSIC COLUMNS

Death Vessel - "Mercury Dime"

The type of song that just demands to be adored, Death Vessel's "Mercury Dime" flies through all jingle-jangling worlds of sonic pleasure, using titillating adjectives like "mercurily blue" to paint a scene that relates human forms to nature. Androgynously-voiced frontman Joel Thibodeau confounds and entices simultaneously on the band's forthcoming full-length album, Island Intervals, which comes out February 25th, 2014 on Sub Pop Records. This is just to wet your appetite for this neo-folk ambiance; catch them on tour this March.  
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.