Monday, March 17, 2008

Sunless Shortlist: Best Covers

Okay, here are the best covers I have in my collection. If the worst covers was difficult, this list was damn near impossible. I narrowed down this list from around thirty or so albums. Here goes:

American Music Club - Mercury

Oh so pretty and a perfect setting for this album. I don't know what it is. I assume it's a real location. Pretty cool though, whatever this place is.

Beulah - Yoko

Ah, symmetry. Like a still from a Wes Anderson movie.

Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds - The Boatman's Call

I freaking love this cover. When I was a senior in high school, this picture of Nick Cave is exactly what I wanted to look like. Everybody else says he looks like a heroin addict. Well he was. I didn't care. I wanted to look like Nick Cave.

Serge Gainsbourg - Histoire de Melody Nelson

Yeah, so dirty. Okay so it's Jane Birkin, and she's 25 here. But the inference is that she's a very young girl. Lolita-ish. Pretty cool.

James - Pleased to Meet You

Looks normal. Upon further inspection, something weird is going on here. After looking at the similarly shot portraits of the band inside for a great long while, I figured it out. I'll let One of the Three explain it.

Modest Mouse - The Lonesome Crowded West

It look many months of urging from my friends to finally pick this album up. I kept picking it up at the store, but kept resisting. I don't know why. Judging from the cover, I assumed they were more like Spiritulized, or the Suede, or something.... stuff I was totally not into in 2001. Eventually I got it and loved it. Totally didn't expect the sound. It didn't fit the cover, so it kind of became iconic to me.

Pink Floyd - The Division Bell

Crappy album. Great cover. Storm Thorgerson is so cool. More than anything else about it, I love the mystery.

Rolling Stones - Exile on Main St.

I was obsessed with all of the pictures on this album for a long time. Even the pictures inside are fascinating and bizarre. Classic stuff.

Spoon - Gimme Fiction

Red Riding Hoods meets the Imperial Guards from The Empire Strikes Back. Yeah, it's all supposed to be a real look at Red Riding Hood, but it always reminds me of the Imperial Guards.

Wilco - Sky Blue Sky
Wilco's album covers just keep getting more and more fascinating. This picture just blows my mind. It's a simple black and white image, with a complicated image. It's the starkness of chaos, or something. Beautiful.

Sunday, March 09, 2008

Sunless Shortlist: Worst Covers

I had a pretty good purge of blog posts around New Year when I put together my year-end music lists. It was fun and a nice little challenge for myself. Since then, however, I've been pretty devoid of inspiration. I haven't been writing much because I have nothing to write about. Here's something.....

I am a pretty serious music collector. I collect the music, but I also love collecting the art that comes with the music. I don't do burned CDs. I'll burn them for you, but don't give them to me.

I was looking through my collection the other day and came up with the idea of finding my favorite covers, and my least favorite, out of every single album I own. It may have been the toughest couple of lists I've ever done. Let's start with my ten least favorite, ordered alphabetically.

Beck - Midnite Vultures

I really hate tight pleather pants. I really hate pink pleather pants. Here they are all up in my face. I actually skipped this Beck album when it was released. I don't think it was the cover that did it, but the cover didn't help. I finally got this album last year. Eh, it's actually pretty good.

Belle and Sebastian - Tigermilk

Oh I get it. It's a topless girl breast feeding a toy tiger. And it's called Tigermilk. How clever. Whatever.

Bright Eyes - Cassadaga

Hmmm, this seems vaguely familiar. I don't usually trust albums with gimmicky covers. My intuition is very acurate when it comes to Cassadaga. Dumb art gimmick. Uninspiring music contained within.

Eels - Beautiful Freak

Eels had everything driving them towards mid-'90's college rock one-hit purgatory. However, their sound had just enough character to make them last, even now. This cover really helped hold them back. If I just saw this cover in the record store without knowing the music is great, I'd throw it in that dollar bin with Seven Mary Three and Candlebox, just because. Oh God, the pictures inside are really awful too. E pretending he's crying while the rest of the band looks blankly away from the camera. Because you pose, you get no sympathy from me.

Flaming Lips - Oh My Gawd!!!

I know this cover pretty acurately represents the Flaming Lips sound of the time. Oh my, that does not make it good. This cover looks like something Robert Pollard put on his notebooks in high school.

John Wesley Harding - The Name Above the Title

There isn't a single thing good about this cover. When did John Wesley Harding join the cast of Martin?

New Pornographers - Challengers

I covered this one. Just so horrible!!

Supergrass - s/t
Supergrass is the ugliest band on the planet. Their x-rays make them even uglier. Seriously guys, love ya, but stay the hell away from my eyes.

Uncle Tupelo - Still Feel Gone

Yeah I feel bad about this one. Uncle Tupelo was one of my most influential bands. However, they really had some terrible album art. Seriously, woodgrain? I spent four years in a duplex with wood-panelled walls. Those same four years, I had an office with wood-panelling. It was enough to drive a man insane. This cover reminds me of those four years.

Tom Waits - Real Gone
Tom Waits really suffers here from having three killer covers in a row (Mule Variations, Blood Money, and Alice). He follows those great covers up with this one. Somebody got lazy, just like me trying to finish up this list.

Monday, March 03, 2008

All For February

We've been averaging two worthwhile music releases per month so far in 2008. I skipped my reviews for January (Magnetic Fields, Cat Power). I could go ahead and review them, but I don't feel like it. Both are pretty darn good. There, that's my review. Now for February, a couple of much bigger albums, both released on the same day. Let's get to it before we get too deep into March.

American Music Club - The Golden Age

American Music Club's 2004 album was one of this decade's musical highlights for me. One of my favorite bands reunites after ten years and releases a killer album. Love Songs for Patriots was like kicking the door down. It was perfect..... maybe the best reunion album ever. Seriously. Now AMC waits another four years before releasing The Golden Age. It's much more secure in itself. It really sounds like AMC.... not as classic, but still sounds focused. Weird too, since only two original members made it through the reunion to now. It's not perfect. There are a couple of weak cheeseball moments and the writing is a little lazy at times ("Who You Are" I'm looking at you). Good album though. Won't be taking over my ears like Love Songs for Patriots did, but I like it.

Mountain Goats - Heretic Pride

Now this is something I couldn't wait for. I intentionally refused to read any previews of this album. I think with Get Lonely I got a little too excited and was stopped in my tracks when I heard it. Great album, but it definitely took a while to grow on me. With Heretic Pride, I went in with no expectations. It worked, but not right away. Still I really had to listen to it a few times to get it. By now, it all sounds fresh in my ears. One of the songs dangerously balance on Graceland-era Paul Simon ("New Zion"), but most of the songs are stunningly beautiful. Songs like "San Bernardino," "So Desperate," "How to Embrace a Swamp Creature," and "Marduk T-Shirt Men's Room Incident" are perfectly cinematic, which is why I fell in love with the Mountain Goats in the first place.

Okay, so that my February summary. March will be the same, only two albums I'm excited about, both out on the same day (Destroyer and DeVotchKa).