Album Sleeves of the Month: April
10. Caer - Twin Shadow
Creative Direction: Unknown
Twin Shadow's now seventh album, Caer, has arguably gone under the radar, what with the likes of J Cole and Post Malone stealing the limelight. But the creative direction for his latest project is visually stunning.
Since his 2015 release, Eclipse, which sought the photographic skills of Milan Zrnic, Twin Shadow, aka George Lewis Jr, has been hard at work developing the latest concept for his new body of work, which has been credited as his most daring and confessional album to date. Not just in the packaging for the record, but also with the visual statements in such videos as "Little Woman" and Brace", which sought the artistic direction of Vlad Sepetov.
9. Pink Cloud - Launder
Design: Brodie Kaman
Perth born designer, Brodie Kaman, put his creative spin on the latest release from La-based musician, Launder. Kaman's experimental style, inspired by the DIY ethos of 70's and 80's punk magazines, is present on various record covers from bands such as Grim Lusk, Promiseland, Total Giovanni and Samantha Urbani.
The cover art, taken from Kaman's zine Shocking Wreck, exhibits just the right amount of mystery and trippiness to it, making it a perfect marriage to Launder's dream-pop soundscapes.
8. Dance Music - Mastersystem
Illustration: Jane Millican
Sleeve Design: Rob Hadfield
Abstract English painter, Jane Millican, adopts a unique approach to her way of working, focusing on the surface and brush-marks of paint. Millican produces miniature experiments with paint, which are then scaled-up and drawn using graphite, stripping the initial colour and concentrating on the marks of the paint brush instead, concentrating on the individual textures and where one shade meets another. These images are said to reference nearby places, locations in the North East, public urban spaces, and places at the edge of things.
Speaking on her work, Millican explained: "I just get a lot of pleasure at looking where the paint has been moved around… there will be something the paint has done all by itself that will be really intriguing", adding: "There’s some sort of beauty… I especially like where they remain abstract but promise to be something".
7. Howdy - Home$lice
Design: Steven Pirrie
Home$lice's tenure in the music industry has only been brief, with their debut album Howdy coming off the back of their last two releases, Young Creatives EP and Citizen Kane 2. For the Young Creatives EP released last year, the band thought it would be a good idea to release it independently, making and distributing the tapes themselves and seemingly shunning any help from labels who they admit didn't really seem up for releasing any of their music. But this also meant that they had complete control over the creative direction too, seeking the help of designer and friend Steven Pirrie for the cover.
Now with Glasbow-based independent label, Spiral Oh, the band have released their debut album Howdy, opting again for the creative hand of Pirrie. They cite bands like The Jesus And Mary Chain and The Amazing Snakeheads as influences, admitting that the latter were particularly responsible for their general attitude as a band. As far as their name goes, guitarist Scott Whitehill explained he'd been wanting to call a band Home$lice since he was in school, adding: "I thought it would be funny if it had a dollar sign in it, aesthetically. Because I wrote it down, and it just looks pure shite without a dollar sign!".
6. Down Time - Young Galaxy
Photography: Richmond Lam
Art Direction: Hotel Sport
Design: Adam Sajkowski
Canadian indie-poppers Young Galaxy sought a Montréal collective of creatives in the form of photographer Richmond Lam, and design studio Hotel Sport, for the cover of their sixth studio album, Down Time. And the design was meant to deliberately reference the title of the record. Designer Adam Sajkowski explained: "We loved the title because it has the potential to convey several meanings at once... the design direction is intended to reflect this ambiguity of meaning through a simple but also abstract gesture".
He added that the crinkled, plastic sleeve element of the design was meant "to suggest a physicality to the photographs... further emphasised through the subtle use of watermarks overtop, ultimately creating multiple layers of visual information".
5. Hippo Lite - Drinks
Design & Layout: Tim Presley
"A month spent in an old mill, river swimming, scorpion fear. No wifi. Night sounds, used frogs. Broken music, a crumble, a mysterious place. An album made for each other by one another with no piercing the bubble, the opposite of a typical recording experience". An unorthodox press release statement from the band, but nonetheless a brilliant introduction to LA-based duo, Drinks, if you're not already familiar. They are Cate Le Bon and Tim Presley.
For the cover of their second record, Hippo Lite, Presley, who's worked as an artist for his other musical project, White Fence, adopted a photographic/collage-style design: "I remember Cate and I had taken good film photographs while there, and... I thought why not use them? I've always loved the Fluxus art movement and also old punk magazines or zines like "Slash" or "Sniffing Glue" and the simple photo with text/streams of consciousness writing, so I wanted to try my version of a magazine/zine-type layout of our time spent there living and recording."
The music from Hippo Lite has a kind of playful simplicity to it, which Presley mentioned can be aligned with the general design aesthetic: "The stark simplicity relates to the cut and paste aesthetic of some of the recordings I suppose; sharp, cut, angular and well placed... framed. I tried many different ideas such as painting or a singular image, but neither of those seemed to fit with the music. Plus I really wanted to show the actual space we were in (South France, St. Hippolyte Du Fort). I thought that was important to see: humans in context with the environment".
4. Judge Not - Blitzkrieg
Painting: Lee Murphy
Leicester-based heavy metal band, Blitzkrieg, have been around for the best part of 35 years now. And while you might have thought that a band that had been going for as long as them wouldn't be as design-savvy as those more recently involved in the music industry, think again.
Their latest album since 2013's Back From Hell, Judge Not brings back the old-school metal artwork of Lee Murphy to the cover of the album and the accompanying single, "Reign Of Fire". Murphy has collaborated with the band since 1991, also producing the cover art for their 2003 release, Absolute Power.
Murphy's strange, demonic-looking creature is no-doubt striking, but the combination of colours and the classic "Blitzkrieg" logo provide this record with the perfect aesthetic that all metal albums should have. If the band can inspire Metallica, they can inspire anyone.
3. Birthmarks - Teen Creeps
Self-professed rockstar and certified booker, manager, designer, publisher, label owner and photographer, Damien Aresta has an impressive portfolio of talents. But his work with a camera is something we're concentrating on.
Aresta works mostly with a disposable camera, capturing all sorts of subjects from cats, to potted plants, to skateboarders and cars. But while his photographic work is largely candid, these shots help express the authenticity of real world scenarios, whether it's something in motion or simply stood still.
"Teen Creeps knew I was taking analog photography for years now. So they asked me to go through all my archive and choose some photos for the cover. I decided the this mask girl was perfect for some creepy teens". Taken 5 years ago, the shot for Birthmarks does a good job of juxtaposing the scariness of the werewolf mask and the feminine features underneath.
2. Yen Ara - Ebo Taylor
His first full-length on Brighton-based independent record label, Mr Bongo, Ebo Taylor returns with his latest project, Yen Ara. Taylor's Ghanian-born influences come to the fore both musically and artistically on this record. Tracks like "Mumudey Mumudey" and "Aboa Kyirbin" are rife with exotic melodies and beats, that demonstrate Taylor's knack for rhythm, having been in the business now for over 60 years.
Artistically, the concept for the cover was conceived from a book on Ghanaian street painters, explains representative Ben Makkes. The book, titled, Bloodywood - Ghanaian Film Posters From The Collection Of Mandy Elsas, features reproductions of almost 200 hand-painted Ghanaian film posters. Elsas motivation to preserve these works of art boils down to the disappearing facet of Ghana's historical art heritage, which over the years have given insights into everyday culture; some graphic and violent depictions, others powerful and vibrant.
For the record, the artist, credited as "Babs", took a still shot of Taylor and produced a painting in a similar style to that of Ghanaian street-art, incorporating striking colours and bold tones to an otherwise stale photograph, further capturing the 82 year-old musician in a much more heartening light.
1. Forth Wanderers - Forth Wanderers
Illustration: Ben Guterl
Guitarist-turned-artist Ben Guterl, of Forth Wanderers, provided the visual work for his band's self-titled second studio album, and debut on major label, Sub Pop.
Dubbed as "Indie Rock's Next Great Nostalgists", Forth Wanderers blend saccharine melodies with a youthful, cool-cat image that transcends the latest wave of humdrum alternative artists. Guterl's designs are deliberately unsophisticated, rough around the edges and lacking the conventional attributes of a band just recently thrust into the major label limelight alongside acts such as Father John Misty and Soundgarden, which are arguably weighted by high-budget productions and established art directors for their records. But this is them at their most earnest.
The DIY aesthetic they've adopted is present across the record when listening, just as it is when you see this record in a shop; a notable aspect of their guise that distances them from the high-profile arrogance that most bands tend to adopt, which actually makes you warm to them as a result.