California Wives' debut album Art History is quite promising. The young quartet take on a variety of styles (shoegaze, post-punk, new wave, indie rock, electronica) and weave them into a sound that is easily recognizable, but also not derivative of any one particular band. We caught up with the group's singer and keyboardist Jayson Kramer and found out about his interest in the art of the album cover. While you're reading, be sure to check out the full stream of the album...
California Wives - Art History by Vagrant Records
Choosing the right artwork for an album has always interested me. You could lose your mind arguing over how much it really matters, especially in the Age of the Internet. As we started to finish up our debut record, I started thinking about what direction we should take. Luckily, we were able to work with Thomas Rennie, an amazing artist (and person, really), who had a great vision for our cover. The end result was an image and design that works closely with the sentiment of the entire record. So, for our AMG Pop List, I decided to take some time to go over some of my favorite record covers. I've limited it to eight to increase your internet surfing efficiency...so enjoy!
David Bowie - Low
This is definitely my favorite David Bowie cover, but it's also one of my favorite album covers from any musician/band. Even though I've seen this cover for years, it still catches my eye whenever I run into it. It doesn't hurt either that Low is such a great record. But seriously, look at that hair. And where are you standing, David Bowie? I'm pretty sure the atmosphere of Mars is uninhabitable...for humans at least...
Ride - Going Blank Again
Ride has long been a favorite of California Wives. There are some seriously great songs on Going Blank Again. The guitars really stand out on this release and so does the cover. It almost feels like an advertisement you'd rip out of a magazine in the 90's. I'm not even sure how the artwork ties in with the songs on Going Blank Again, but I'll never forget it.
Radiohead - In Rainbows
I remember when I saw this for the first time...probably pretty close to the same time I found out we could chose how much to pay for this record (and yes, I DID pay for it!). Since then, it's probably grown into my favorite Radiohead cover. I remember the booklet also having several variations of the cover artwork, all of which were fascinating to study. I've seen that same text on t-shirts, posters...pretty much everywhere. If Radiohead hadn't already separated themselves from every other band on the planet by that time, this record was the last straw. So for changing the way we think about consuming music, In Rainbows, I salute you.
Brian Eno - Ambient 1: Music for Airports
When I bought this CD, I rushed home and listened to it straight through with headphones, memorizing every detail of the packaging. It came in a matte finish digipak and I remember admiring the elegance of it all. I even became fascinated with maps for a while because of this cover. Brian Eno's approach to composition has always been an influence and this record was the beginning of my admiration for Eno's work.
Air - 10,000 Hz Legend
I love Science Fiction. Therefore, any architecture that resembles the dystopian future world of Bladerunner is good in my book. I'm not saying I look forward to living in dark, drab, and rain-soaked dystopia. But who doesn't love flying cars? 10,000 Hz Legend has been a favorite of mine from my college days. Now that I think back, Air was probably one of those bands that caused my tastes in music to shift from instrumental electronic music to pop songs with strong vocals. This cover is pretty strange, pretty silly, and pretty awesome.
Battles - Gloss Drop
I still don't know why I love this cover so much. But I really do love it. It must have something to do with the way the words "Gloss Drop" work with this gooey mess of silly string/bubble gum. It's totally fascinating, don't you think?
Interpol - Turn on the Bright Lights
It's hard to imagine Turn on the Bright Lights having a different cover at this point in time. Most of us who have followed Interpol throughout their career have this cover well memorized. It's dark, it's haunting, but it's also incredibly intriguing. It remains a favorite of mine even after all these years.
Wilco - Yankee Hotel Foxtrot
I picked this cover because of our roots in Chicago. These two buildings are the Marina Towers/Marina City, located on the Chicago River. I can't tell you how many people I've been with from other cities that have pointed to these buildings and said, "hey, the Wilco buildings!" Yankee Hotel Foxtrot has always felt closer to me because it felt like a Chicago record. I was proud to be from a city that spawned such a great band and such an influential album.