Album Sleeves of the Month: May
10. Oh Well - Pre Nup
Sculptures: Christina Kenton
Layout: Shauna Mae Hartsook
"Lyrically and musically, Pre Nup really plays with humour and fun while simultaneously exploring darker, more real-life themes. We wanted our band to be bright and colourful, but it's also rough around the edges and messy". Pre Nup's debut album, Oh Well, does a brilliant job of representing those humorous elements physically too. All of these individual objects in this shot were part of a set of miniatures from sculptor and self-taught painter, Christina Kenton, which were included in her piece, "Cigarettes and the Pianist".
Guitarist and vocalist for the band, Josiah Hughes, explained: "I love her art, because I love artwork — and album art — that you can stare at for a long time and find new details each time you look. When I saw it, I was blown away because it was practically tailor-made for us". He added: "My wife, and drummer of the band, Sara Jean Hughes has those exact shoes with shoe trees, and she was obsessed with posting playful photos with those tiny hands for many years online".
Hughes also admits that he recently quit smoking and drinking, so although the set was made as a separate piece of artwork prior to its use for the record, that element was also represented. The image, he explains, captured that colourful sense of humour: "The image is simultaneously cute, timeless and somewhat unnerving. It was just the perfect fit for everything going on in the album".
9. Kiss Yr Frenemies - illuminati hotties
Photography: Any ol' wedding photographer
Design: Katherine Bingley
Described as "Tenderpunk pioneers" from Los Angeles, illuminati hotties have married their sound with this stunning pre-wedding shot from the archives. The woman in question is the grandmother of Sarah Tuzdin, the solo artist behind the entire illuminati hotties project, from songwriting, to producing and mixing: "I went to my grandparents house for a wedding anniversary party a few years ago and they had their wedding album on the table - I was so taken with the composition of the photo and her expression immediately. Probably any ol' wedding photographer took it, and perhaps I'm over-romanticizing the past but they really nailed it".
Tudzin admits that the mediums of both music and art are not totally separate with this record. She explains: "There's the obvious tie that I came from my grandmother, and this music came from me, and we're all swirling in this human/art creationship. Aside from being a pretty entrancing image to me, it adds mystery and value to the album as a succinct collection of work". As captivating as it is, Tudzin explains that it wasn't simply thrown on there thoughtlessly to serve an aesthetic purpose, but more importantly it ties a "winsome bow" on the tenderpunk ideals of this new project: "There is a soft vulnerability captured in the photo, and at the same time, it shows a woman accepting her adulthood; a silent assurance. Packaged together with the rest of the design elements and other photos featured inside and on the back, it feels like it really gets at the whole intention of the music inside".
8. Naughty Naughty Violence - Canshaker Pi
Painting: Camiel Muiser
For their third full length, Canshaker Pi chose Petersburg Orderer singer-songwriter and guitarist, Camiel Musier - who's also a painter and great drummer - to put paint to canvas: "Around the time they asked me to do their new record sleeve I'd made some paintings. For their last record there was a picture, but it was a natural feeling for me to use this medium this time".
The band had called Musier in the day to ask for the sleeve, who was experimenting with different aspects of a "deep but light giving" colour of orange to frame the chaotic subject matter around: "I used the colour, it became of much importance for me, cause it gives a binding but violent effect in the energy of the work". The design process was not linked to the listening process, but Musier admits: "The band members are my friends, so there is definitely a connection and a conversation, although it's not directly about the works".
7. Stay Inside - Elder Brother
Kevin Geyer of The Story So Far and Dan Rose of Daybreaker team up again for their second studio album, inviting listeners on a far more personal journey than their previous release. Rose's hometown of Cape Cod, Massachusetts has long been affiliated with heroin abuse, and one visit back helped pave the narrative on the record. "Heroin use touches everyone in the area. Whether it’s a first hand experience, or it’s your friend, a family member, a girlfriend or boyfriend, a parent, a child, it’s rare to meet someone that doesn’t have their own story. And despite all of that, addiction is still stigmatized.”
6. Grip The Moon - Kraus
Design: Pat Kraus
Pat Kraus is a New Zealand-based musician and composer of experimental music. On this record, Kraus plays blokfluit, guitar, drums, organ and synth, and also supplies the artwork on the cover. He has also stated that he makes music for freaks, outsiders, losers and weirdos; meaning his demographic could well look like the deviant child on the cover, stealing money from his mum. Who knows...
5. Exit Future Heart - Dustin Wong, Takako Minekawa, Good Willsmith
Design: Daniel Castrejón
Exit Future Heart is a collaborative effort between Tokyo-based "abstract pop-duo" Dustin Wong and Takako Minekawa, and Chicago's "free music trio" Good Willsmith, released on Umor Rex Records. Graphic designer and subsequent owner of the Umor Rex label, Daniel Castrejón, designed this contemporary gothic, typography-laden sleeve for the group's first session LP.
Despite specialising in print media for the cultural sector, Castrejón's work comprises of book and magazine design, branding, music packaging, posters and leaflets. His work for Umor Rex goes beyond research and curatorial work, producing books, prints and zines that concentrate on art and media.
4. Soft Ware - Newmen
Design: Joerg Schmidt
Newmen's Joerg Schmidt produced the design for their latest record, Soft Ware, with a little help from Photoshop: "We created a digital color gradient, which was laid in the first step on three equal boxes and in the last step was tapered in perspective. In the end, only a few small color adjustments were made and the design for the cover was complete".
A simple enough design, but nonetheless striking, the colours on the cover refer to the band's musical palette of sounds. Schimdt explains: "Shimmering sounds appear alongside to electronic vibes. These reputed heterogeneous drafts of music fit together and a homogeneous sound-landscape builds itself up. This is pictured by the colors of the cover smooth fading into one another, while they are sharply surrounded by a black minimalistic framework".
Schmidt also drew a comparison between the cover and a store window, through its "perspective distortion". The two mediums, cover and content, are said to stand together in a "illustrative relationship", which he admits is open for ironic implications: "like the imagined Store Window, which remains as a non-transparent surface". But the album deals with topics such as the contemporary way of mediation of music and art: "One could say that "Soft Ware" finds its way to the consumer via the "Software". Music is something people more and more stream via Spotify and they put it into playlists. But mind the gap between the word units! It‘s not only a blank space, it contains the idea of a dialectic understanding of the aesthetics of goods, and in which way music is affected by the mechanisms of marketing and in which way it becomes more and more a product".
3. Nowadays - Palace Winter
Layout & Design: Stefan Björklund
Copenhagen-based designer, Stefan Björklund strips back Palace Winter's second album with this passive/aggressive cover art. The bright and moody sounds on the record are carefully paralleled in the artwork; the photography balances a dull expression with warm lighting, the colours are stale and vivid, and the typography juxtaposed.
2. Universalists - Yonatan Gat
Photography: Gigi Ben Artzi
Layout: David Woodruff
Creative Consultant: Karl Hofstetter & Sergio Sayeg
Director and photographer, Gigi Ben Artzi, was behind the lens for fellow New Yorker, Yonatan Gat, and his second full length release, Universalists. Gat has always brought his guitar with him, from his previous musical project Monotix, to his latest, within the record and actually on it as you can see.
This cover shot, captured by Ben Artzi, is probably one of the nicest looking photographs on record at this moment. There's a certain Hipgnosis element to it, reminiscent of mid 70's to late 80's Pink Floyd artwork.; the desert setting certainly helps, but the stark tranquility about this simple image helps it stand out amongst the bustle of typography-laden sleeves and bright colour compositions.
1. Wide Awake! - Parquet Courts
Illustration: Andrew Savage
Parquet Courts are no strangers to turning their explosive sound into an entire artistic body of work. Frontman of the band and lead art director, Andrew Savage, was nominated for a Grammy in "Best Recording Package" in 2016 for the last full length release, Human Performance.
This year, for Wide Awake!, Savage's creative prowess comes back to the fore with a brand new palette. In a recent interview with It's Nice That, he explained: "Historically, there’s a colour that I identify with the sounds on the record... The new one is an almost yellow heavy shade of red, and then a very strong green. The way they interact with each other is something that I feel from listening to the music. I was listening to the record non-stop while working on the artwork for it.”
The band are boldly evaluating contemporary society but making and song and dance out of it all the while, and Savage's playful paintings on the cover, and in a 15-page double art and illustration booklet on the deluxe version of the vinyl, translate these ideas brilliantly.