Monday, October 11, 2010

THIS JUST IN: A Picture is Worth 369 Words!

Un bon croquis vaut mieux qu'un long discours
-N. Bonaparte


The artwork for an album is just as important to me as the music itself. It lends itself to creating an initial impression before listening to an album, and then after listening, you look back and maybe gather a new impression. Sometimes an album cover will be very simple and straightforward. Like just a picture of that band. This is usually a bad sign for what's inside. I have been wrong, but normally, if the band didn't get creative on the outside, the music lacks that same creativity and enthusiasm.

I could have done the "Top Ten Album Cover of All Time" kinda thing that a lot of music mags and sites like to do. You have likely seen those ad nauseum. I want to do it a little different. I want to share three album covers that I thought were interesting enough that they actually got me to buy and crack open a cd case and get me to listen to what was inside. Thankfully, the music was as interesting as the image outside!

The Birth
First off is the album Birth by the band Stardeath and White Dwarfs. This is just insane looking. That guy looks like he is scared and crazy and maybe also experiencing G forces in a centrifuge. It's crazy looking isn't it? But then when you listen to the album, it doesn't match. Or does it?

Download Stardeath and White Dwarfs - Age Of The Freak

The album has a Dark Side of the Moon feel to it. After listening to the album, I get the album cover. It makes sense. Maybe this image is how maybe you look in your minds eye when you go crazy. When you start to unravel. Maybe I am stretching! Well, that's what is says to me. One thing is for sure, it's an unforgettable album cover.

Y LA BAMBA - Lupon
I'm lucky, because I have access to bands and can ask a question or two about a song or an album. I recently emailed the PR for the band Y La Bamba to ask what this album cover for Lupon was all about. It doesn't NEED an explanation, but I just knew there was something deeper to this one. An older man with a strong manly mustache that has lightning coming from his eyes like tears. Then, if that wasn't enough, a cute kitty on his forehead whose eyes are shooting out the name of the band.

Let's listen to a song while we wait for the PR guy to get back to us.

Download Y La Bamba - Juniper

That voice right? Young and beautiful with a warble of an old soul. The harmonies with the others in the group make it seem dreamy. Heavenly.

Ok...I got the info about the cover. Ready? The man in the picture is the grandfather of the frontwoman, Luz Elena. She has never met the man, but his influence on her father, Guadalupe, was a heavy one. Luz says this about her father:

My father had a difficult time with forgiving my grandfather for his childhood dark memories. Carrying his frustration and anguish on his Kin...projecting guilt, resentment, and  confusion.

Her father's friends nicknamed Luz's father Lupon. The cat on Lupon's forehead represents Luz. It's her spirit-head on the third eye of a man she's never met. Trippy huh?

I wasn't expecting all that. That's what I mean though. You can hear that heaviness in the album, along with some hope and rebirth. Maybe heaviness is the wrong word. It's more like a melancholy sadness. Still, there is struggle. You can hear the struggle of woman surrounded by a family of men, the only daughter among many sons. Usually, the first man a woman ever loves is her father. Imagine a father with some daddy issues, and the affect that might have on a young woman.

When I first got the album Blew It Again, it was in a simple CD case with a white cover that had the name of the band and the album. It was meant to just get the music to reviewers and radio stations as soon as possible. I liked the album, had planned on writing about it, and then suddenly many months had passed. I was re-listening to the album recently and finally iTunes was able to load some album art. It's a young teen girl with a pony tail and a blue shirt that ends right past her nipple. Showing some "neathage," or at least I think that's what that is called. I never really thought much about the ripped corner. I guess I should have known it was a bit of censorship, but for some reason I never processed it that way. I just assumed it was some artistic touch. When I decided that I really wanted to write about this band, I checked out their website and found the album cover you see on the right.

I tried to contact the bands PR to get more info on the girl, the idea behind using that picture as the cover, I needed answers. Alas, no response as of right now.

The sound of the band is lo-fi gargage rock. Don't let this hinder you though. I am sure that when I say lo-fi garage rock you think it's gonna sound like crap? Not so. The band just does a lot with very little. It stays fun yet sounds beautiful. Check out a track:

Download Electric Tickle Machine - Gimmie Money

Curious about the bands name? I was too. Look what I found on the bands website:

I think it'd be best if I explained the rationale behind our name (which is not a euphemism for a vibrator). Electric Tickle Machine is meant to be a reference to the evolving relationship between humanity and technology, specifically the vessels through which we process and regurgitate our culture, art and entertainment.

If that's not enough to sell you on picking up this album, check out the video below. It makes me want to buy two copies on vinyl, frame one and hang it on my wall!

Electric Tickle Machine (live on KEXP at Cutting Room Studios NYC) from KEXP RADIO on Vimeo.

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