Top 5 Album Sleeves of the Month: August
5. Bulls and Roosters - Together PANGEA
Designed by: Kelsey Reckling
Together PANGEA have, for their last three records, adopted wacky illustrative sleeve designs; be it the crude scrapbook scrawlings of Living Dummy (2011) or Badillac's (2014) sombre portrature. For their third studio album Bulls and Roosters, the Californian four-piece sought the expertise of photographer, and partner of frontman William Keegan, Kelsey Reckling, for this very yellow shoot.
Kelsey: "Originally we had planned to do a few different color themes, but once I realized how much work needed to be done to create just one set, I asked William what color he felt represented the album, and he said yellow. We did end up doing a red version, which you can find for the "Better Find Out" single art."
Reckling had previously taken photos and built a smaller version of a yellow-themed room, before compiling a list of household items and other bits of furniture. A majority of the individual objects you see have a meaning in both William and Kelsey's lives, with some even referencing songs or themes from the album:
Kelsey: "That is Danny's (bassist) cat. The empty bottle on a pile of dirt represents themes in "Money On It" and "The Cold". There's a photo of Erik's (drummer) dad on the table, who passed away during the making of the album. And throughout the room, there's a bunch of dead yellow flowers William has given me over the last four years."
4. Sonorant - Koeosaeme
Designed by: Keith Rankin
Sonorant sees Japanese artist Koeosaeme aka Ryu Yoshizawa opt for glitchy electronics on his debut LP; with help from Orange Milk Records chief and visual artist Keith Rankin on sleeve duty. Heavily inspired by an old book of Japanese CG art, Sonorant is just one of a handful of records from the Japanese electronic underground that Orange Milk deal with.
Keith: "I felt the music connected across time to the sharp and chaotic but playful, almost innocent visual style. There is a character escaping through a portal on the cover, or traveling between worlds."
Almost like a technical blip in a dreamlike dimension, Sonorant's spacey instrumentation and erratic electronic spurts are imagined brilliantly by this illusory visual landscape from graphic artist Rankin, doing well to match the mood of the music with visuals.
Keith: "Lately I work frantically and then either forget what was going through my mind during the creative process or have to slowly figure it out long after the work’s done. I’m hoping to look back fondly on the Koeosaeme album in a few years time."
3. Collection - Soccer Mommy
Designed by: Justin Fargiano
For Collection, Sophie Allison aka Soccer Mommy consulted friend and photographer Justin Fargiano for the cover shoot. One of the most interesting things about Fargiano's photographic work is that his models are his friends, and this, he says, "helps to embed their personality into the environment to either externalise or contrast their essence".
Justin: "My background is mostly in filmmaking, so with my photography I see traces of narrative storytelling. I hope the frame invites viewers analyze the identity of the person in frame. As for other artists, I am really inspired by Tracey Emin’s confessional art, because despite her vulnerability when making work, we still do not get the whole portrait of who she is. I also grew up with Chris Van Allsburg’s illustrations, and I think he does an incredible job of merging environment with character. Cindy Sherman is also just a badass photographer and personal fave.".
Photographing the subjects in their own personal space helps to capture a natural shot too. Given complete artistic freedom from Allison, Fargiano chose to limit the shoot to her college dorm room bedroom.
Justin: "College is such a time for intense self-expression and self-discovery that the dorms become these hyper-stylized extensions of the student, like a readymade set... Sophie actually had these instruments around her room, so I really just pulled them into the frame. The Casio was a new toy of hers so we had to show it off. We were experimenting with just one or the other, but I gravitated towards having as much in frame as possible to create a cluttered feeling that I think my age can identify with.
Despite having no real idea as to what purpose these shots would serve for Allison, much to Fargiano's surprise, she decided to use them for the cover of her record. At just 19 years old, Justin Fargiano's style provokes a lot of intrigue, varying from abstract layouts and set-ups, to more stripped-down, personal photography:
Justin: "At the core of the photograph is really the human, and I think that the visuals need to complement".
2. Trash Generator - Tera Melos
Designed by: Unknown
Their sixth studio album, third under LA label Sargent House, Tera Melos have treated their latest record to a new design medium. Trash Generator utilises a contemporary collage look, deconstructing this bust with a cut-and-paste technique.
The faded ink, paper-strip-and-sellotape application plays with your eyes a bit, not forgetting the illusion of the human head with no eyes and merely a folded shirt for a torso. On the eyes, its a head trip. On the ears, equally so. The Sacramento outfit have been attributed with "math rock" and "post-rock" sentiments down the years, Trash Generator doesn't stray from its roots whatsoever.
Tracks like "Gr30a11" and "A Universal Gonk" certainly lean on the experimental side of the record, with "Warpless Run" and "Drawing" championing erratic punk noises. It's not often you are encouraged to judge a record by its cover, but the art for Trash Generator is definitely a palatable taster for the rest of the record's antics.
1. Orc - Oh Sees
Designed by: Robert Beatty
Formely Thee Oh Sees, Oh Sees have extended their 20 year legacy with yet another name variation for yet another album. But, for the second year running, have remained faithful to the creative hand of graphic designer Robert Beatty.
"Keys to the Castle", "Cooling Tower" and "Drowned Beast" appear to direct our imagination toward a covert quest around a dystopian fortress, like a cross between 40 Winks and Brian Cosgrove's 1989 adaptation of The BFG. Akin to the band's last two efforts A Weird Exits and An Odd Entrances, Beatty conjured up similarly weird and wonderful designs in his signature style of surreal subject matter and fantastical shades, gradients and colours.
Beatty's album-art is never not in high demand. In this month alone, the Kentucky-based artist has produced record designs for Kesha, Ariel Pink, and Dent May, all of which demonstrate his intellect with Photoshop apparatus. For a record like Orc, it seems only fitting they employ Beatty's craft to bind the visual and sonic elements of the record together in one complete package.