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.
Drawing from the beauty of the Pacific Northwest and one of the area's most majestic creatures, Rafael Anton Irisarri of The Sight Below and Thomas Meluch of Benoît Pioulard have breathed life into a new project, Orcas. On their debut self-titled disc, the two have created nine tracks of ambiance-heavy songs featuring a number of opposing elements, including light and dark, acoustic and electronic, textured subtlety and straight-forward hook.
In that spirit of balance, this bilateral feature places side-by-side interview responses and sample tracks from both artists, to dissect the strengths, weaknesses, and sonic tendencies both musicians contribute to making Orcas the rich collaboration that it is.
"Sault" from Lasted
Where Irisarri's soundscapes lay a gentle foundation for the work of Orcas, Meluch's work as Benoît Pioulard provides more accessible and structural elements, complete with singer-songwriter pop melodies. "Sault," from Benoît Pioulard's album Lasted, has guitar and vocal tendencies that connect to the piano and guitar lines of "Arrow Drawn," which is streaming below.
Rafael Anton Irisarri
"A Great Northern Sigh" from The North Bend
As The Sight Below, Rafael Anton Irisarri's compositions rebuild familiar emotions and spaces by way of minimal electronic soundscapes. According to Irisarri, "A Great Northern Sigh" has conceptual and thematic ties to the work of Orcas, as it also relates to the Pacific Northwest. "Almost like an audio postcard," he adds. "What can I say -- I'm deeply inspired by this region and wouldn't imagine composing our Orcas album anywhere else."
Chicago-based illustrator and artist Jacob Van Loon has recently taken inspiration from the films of Russian director Andrei Tarkovsky. Two of Van Loon's latest pieces, The Moguls (Stalker) and Let Alone A Planet (Solaris) -- named after two Tarkovsky films of the same name -- are chaotic and multi-layered mixed media works inspired by the content, moods, and color palettes of those films.
"I can't think of a director who has done more with film as a medium," says Van Loon of Tarkovsky. "I was dealing with the assignment of dense conceptual material during the painting process. I found it easier to speculate on the latent aspects of both films; the psychological confrontations posed by the pace, sound, and color."
Though Van Loon readily admits that both films felt initially inaccessible to him, the Q&A below will show how repeat viewings led to the gelling of his artistic style with philosophical and psychological interpretations of Tarkovsky's themes.